My foot tripped over a bulging tree root and my entire body trembled with the effort it took to stay upright. I shook off the feeling of despair that began to ooze its way through my veins and continued running. My sodden sandaled feet plunged into the swampy grounds, which slowed me down further. With each step, I had to pull my feet from the greedy mud. I nearly toppled over with each tug. My breath was fast and the icy winds barreled into me with a ferocity that only a god could possess.
Eventually, I saw a darkened area in the distance. I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the pouring rain that was being whipped around viciously. The area ahead appeared not too far off from where I was.
That must be it; It looks massive enough, I thought, hopeful of the promised shelter. Nothing looked the same with this storm. I could not recognize a limb or bush through the fog and surge of rain.
The closer I went to my destination, the stronger I could feel the cold stings of the weather batter my chilled skin. With each footfall, the weight of my body grew. As I neared the shadow, I could feel the hope in my soul brim. Suddenly, the shape emerged and before me there stood the end of a fallen tree. The giant roots were flailing in the gusts of wind. They reached into the sky, acting as a beacon for the gods. The disappointment of this barricade blanketed my vision and I inhaled sharply, trying to relieve myself of it. I must stay focused.
As I realigned my heart with my quest, a torrent of sharp tingles ran through my calves. My feet were already sunken in the muck to just under my knees. I fell forward with such force that I sloshed myself and planted my hands into the same fate. I fought to free them before they too, became sunken inside. I flailed, much like the roots of the tree in the sinking ground. I clawed for one of the fallen branches and tried to use the end to push against it, but it would not catch.
Just then, hardened lumps of ice began to launch down toward my corner of horror. I felt them scrape against my raw skin as I dug the branch deeper into the ground. It finally seemed to take hold as a large chunk cut into my cheek. I ignored the sensation as I heaved my body out of the mud, falling forward onto the branch. My legs were barely working, numb from the cold and the incredible compression. A shaky breath escaped me and I stood, scurrying away as fast as I could.
My wife’s face entered my mind and I broke out into a run, once more. I sprinted towards the other side of the fallen tree and made my way forward. It would take some time to find the right route again. The tree obscured the one I had been on entirely. Another lump from above cut into my arm as I looked for something familiar with Calista’s shared hope keeping me focused.
I ran and ran until each breath I took felt like piercing claw marks, scraping down, marking my throat raw. I heaved and coughed with the pain bubbling out. Spittle mixed with the rain began to rush down my face. I looked ahead and kept moving, focusing only on getting to my goal. One foot sunk into the ground and then the other. I kept running, feeling the weight of what I had to do.
A gust of wind threw me against a nearby tree and then shoved me forward. I tried to stand and fight against the sudden onslaught of breeze, but it shoved and pushed me to the side. My foot felt a small slope and I angled my body away with every ounce of strength I could muster. My attempt did nothing and the small slope became steeper and came faster as I slid clumsily down. It began as a drunken sidestep and became a full tumble as the wind shoved one last time. My hands flew in front of me, trying to protect my numb body. It didn’t help. I slammed into boulders and trees and bushes. I fought to gain my footing and my hands clambered for anything to hold on to, but they just flailed until they met a rough surface and then flailed some more.
I saw my fate before I felt the pain tear through my skin and clothing. A massive briar patch of mighty thorns and thickened webs of vegetation lay before me. I collapsed into the patch with the force of a beast. I lay there with the rain making small pools along my skin. My vision darkened.
I opened my eyes slowly as the rain continued to pour and the wind whipped around me. My clothing was darkened by mud and mixtures of my blood. The moonlight also showed me visions of my torn skin and the entanglement I now found myself in.
I continued to lay there, watching the flashes of light followed by their deep bellows. I thought of my Calista; Thoughts of the day we had our new foal born and a horse that disappeared into the distance as I looked over our farmlands. Boreas, himself, had come to ensure the birth of this blessing to us. He gave us the fastest, healthiest, and most powerful horse I had ever owned. My father, who taught me everything he knew of training these wild creatures, looked on our new member as a gift that no one else had heard of from this god.
In our village, Boreas had been hard on us through the cold months. His North winds blew heavily and stayed freezing for much longer than our neighboring villages. Life as a horse trainer became a struggle with many deaths throughout the frigid winters. The village began to doubt my abilities as the horses were weak and died easily. Then Boreas gave us that blessing. We were able to rebuild our stock. We provided horses for so many in our community. For him to bless us, my family, with this beast, was extraordinary.
When my Calista became sick, my world fell. Life became grey and I cared not for a thing outside of her well-being. Weeks later, her cheeks regained their color. The consequence of my standstill was set, though. I caused the death of our beloved horse. I neglected him greatly. That was just a few days ago. This horrible storm began on the edges of our farm and then seeped into the village. Stone walls were ripped from their guard and the weak spots in homes were fragmented. I knew who was to blame for Boreas’ fury. His rage was thorough and it violently unfurled in front of me in the following days. I understood what I had to do.
My shaking body tore from the thorns, peeling away from the briar patch. My numb feet held me upright, just barely. I stumbled forward and looked around for a clear path. I could either climb the slope back up or maneuver around the thicket of thorns. I squinted through the rain and could just make out a path toward the one I was traveling on earlier. It was not as steep as the one I unwittingly took. I hobbled on as the thunder shook the ground beneath me and the rain ensured my body would not warm for a long kairos moment.
I followed one trodden route after another until I slowly began to recognize the forest around me. I was back on the main path and I was very close. I see a curve in the route and know the waters of Ilissos are just beyond this last stretch.
“I am here, Boreas!” my elated breath booms out through the gelid night. My hands raise to my chest as I feel the hope in me rise desperately. I lunge over fallen branches and leap over bushes and roots. My body flies toward the merciless waters. The edges of the river were thrashing with the beat of Boreas’ will. I sprinted toward the platform, where the altar stood upright. I fell, my knees grinding into the stone. I forced myself up again and straightened my back, holding myself just as rigid as the altar. I raised my hands. My fingers spread out and pushed forward as if they could touch the feet of the god I sought to appease.
“BOREAS!” I screamed. “BOREAS! I have brought no sacrifice, but I bring my life. I have neglected that which you have provided. I offer only what I can in seeking your reprieve! Anything!” I was met with more roars from above. A rush of wind propelled me forward onto the altar. My hands splayed out in front of me to stop from crashing entirely into it. Blood streaked across the stone in peregrine glyphs. I withdrew immediately, fearing further desecration.
At that moment, a small red beam suddenly emerged from the right. I looked through the rain and saw the glows of orange and red just above the treetops. The rain began to dissipate as well as the ferocious winds. I breathed. The rain became a mist and the wind danced softly on my skin. I glanced back at my blood smeared across the altar and raised my hands to the growing crimson sky.
“Boreas! I hear you and I thank you!” I cry out to the North Wind. I lower my hands and feel the warmth from the sun’s vision hit my skin. Helios is on his way.
My journey back was mostly quiet, besides the droplets of rain slipping from tree branches and falling to the saturated ground. The forest seemed to sigh with relief as I walked on, thankful for my intervention. The miry woods would dry in the sun’s heat and it would be like this raging night never happened. I held my arms close to my body, awaiting Helios’ higher climb in the ether.
I made it back to the farm, where Calista was tending to the cattle. When she caught sight of me, she began to run and words came from her lips, although they were so quiet, or I was too far away, only the wind knew of what she said. I smiled at her terrified look, knowing I was a sight to behold. She stopped, just short of where I stood, and would not lay her hands on me, the concern on her face was apparent.
“Do not worry. I am not mortally injured. As you can see,” I say proudly, lifting my palms to the space around us. “We are forgiven. The blood of a poor and foolish trainer has satiated the wrath of a god. Boreas is mighty and merciful!”
Calista cupped my face, which was full of blood, mud, and tears. She smiled at my words. Her pride in me showed on her features.
“Perhaps,” she began warmly, “we should help my father in Ithaca. He is growing old and with the deaths of so many of our horses now, there is not much here for us. We can take our cattle there and support a smaller farm.”
“I could hold a libation for Boreas to support us through this winter and then when the snow melts, we could go,” I agree with Calista. She nods at me and takes my hand to lead me to our home.
“I think we are very fortunate, Philoetius,” her warm breath mingled with the morning breeze. Another small gust of wind glided over my tormented skin and carried away all thoughts of pain or concern. I had angered a god but my actions and cries appeased that god. I felt justice fill my soul. There was pride to be had in loyalty.
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