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By AJCulpepper All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Waking on Hesperia

Zorastres woke on the warm sand of a beach and for a moment he was al-most lulled back to sleep by the soft breeze and the gentle crash of the surf on the shore. Then the Leviathan came back to him, the screams of the Myrmido-nes as the trireme they’d been traveling on upended into the swirling mael-strom of Oceanus and Hekate’s echoing words promising it was not yet his time to die.

And that she could not save those destined to no longer live.

Jolted back to full awareness, his xiphos still tightly gripped in one hand, Zorastres scrambled to his feet to find himself standing on the Isle of Hesperia drenched in the golden light of the setting sun. Out across the surrounding waters he could see through the Golden Veil Between Worlds. Somewhat thinner than it should have been even on an Equinox, he clearly saw the raging storm and fearsome Oceanus but the waves that lapped against the shore were no more tempest-churned than if they were from a small inland lake.

Behind him, stretching in every direction lay a magnificent garden filled with thousands of trees bearing perfect fruit and in between to either side was a seemingly endless stretch of beach. Empty, lonely beach.

“No…I can’t be the only one.”

Slamming his sword back into its sheath, he started to the left but seeing what awaited him in the not-so-distant distance, he turned the other way and started running along the shore. Determined not to look back, he shouted his companions’ names. His boots sank into the wet sand with every pounding step, dragging him back, slowing him down, but he refused to stop.

Zorastres didn’t know how long he ran. The sun never seemed to move from where it sat on the horizon, making him wonder if it was the same one that Helios’ chariot pulled across the sky on the other side of the Golden Veil or something else. A vision or illusion cast by Hera or the Hesperides who tended her garden. It wasn’t until he was forced to stop for the fifth time, bent over with his hands on his knees, gasping for breath, his legs straining and tired that he noticed his shadow was turning but growing no longer on the sand. It was then that the full impact of where he was occurred to him. The Isle of Hesperia was the Isle of Twilight.

Turning to the horizon, he raised a hand to shield his eyes as he looked to the setting sun or more accurately, the sun that was setting in the Material Realm. Here on Hesperia, it merely followed the horizon as it passed from the Gate of Dawn to the Gate of Dusk where it would descend to pass through the Underworld before emerging from the Gate of Dawn once again.

Zorastres resumed his run with an added urgency to find someone, anyone. Hesperia wasn’t a place he wanted to spend the night and certainly not alone. He couldn’t imagine anyone else wanting that either.

As he ran, yelling the name of every man and woman who’d been on the trireme with him, he noticed a motionless lump in the distance. Forcing himself to run faster, he caught the gleam of a bladed bracer and his heart leaped into his throat. It was one of the EarthFolk. Stumbling through the shifting sand, the nearer he got he could see a mess of light brown hair and leather armor stained red.

“Lassa!” Skidding to his knees, he rolled her over. Damp sand stuck to her skin, rubbing it raw in patches like glass. “Lassa, open your eyes!”

With a shaking hand, he gently touched her face, patting her cheek. She was icy cold and her lips had a bluish tint. She wasn’t breathing. When it came to water, Lassa had always been the weakest. She hated being wet, could barely swim, was terrified of deep water, and got seasick. It didn’t seem right that she should die at Oceanus’ hands.

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