T5A

by AB

Chapter 14

Babylon

"What is it?" Triton saw Andreas leave for the balcony and then return looking worried.

"Nothing. I'll tell you later, but for now let us enjoy this." Triton nodded.

"What is it? What happened?" Triton fired as soon they were alone.

"Thank you for the evening." Said Andreas, sitting on Triton's bed.

"Stop it." Triton cut him off.

Andreas sighed. "I just thanked you for…"

"I know what you're doing, stop it. Just tell me what he told you in the phone call."

Andreas recounted the phone call conversation.

"That's weird…A gift? What gift? Where is it?"

"I don't know what it is any more than you do now and apparently, on my bed in my room back…home." Triton was left in complete surprise when Andreas just snuggled up to him. If he talked it'd ruin the moment of affection, yet his curiosity burned bright.

"Who is he? The person calling you." He asked a few moments later, while still in Andreas' arms.

"I do not know but I have a theory."

"What is it?"

"The past few months…if not before I've been feeling a very weird sensation. As you know each Immortal has a unique sensation he or she gives off to any other Immortals when near. The sensation primarily declares one is near and then also declares one's rough age and knowledge. This sensation cripples me every time. The owner of it must be…ageless and beyond any Evil I have ever encountered before. Yet the Immortal has not once shown themselves to me. I think the person calling me is that Immortal."

Triton mulled it over in his mind before replying. "Do yo think…he might be…I mean…" He did not even want to say it.

"He who killed George and Maria's kids? I do not yet know but possibly yes."

"Will you take his head?"

Andreas gave no reply, instead he turned side closing his eyes. Triton knew he would not be getting anything more from him then.

Days turned to weeks and weeks to two months, School started after Christmas break and their second educational trip of the year was a day away.

It was a Sunday evening and come Monday they'd be going to Athens' National Archeological Museum.

They were in his room, almost at the end of another narration of his life.

"Wait. So, from Egypt you made your way to Trapezounta, Hephessus, Halicarnassus, Ilion and then to Athens via a merchant's ship? And this is all in around 1260 B.C.? Why do I know Ilion?" Triton scratched his head.

Andreas chuckled, "You know it by another name from a very famous epic." He hinted.

"Very known epic? I'm drawing blanc here."

"Troy, you know it as Troy." The look on Triton's face was as if he had restarted all functions.

"But…wait…you mean…you were there? For the Trojan war?" He asked in awe, his jaw slacking.

"Not all of it, I left Troy just prior to the siege but I did see the armies of the Greek city states arrive. At the time it was by far the largest army I had ever seen. Recent studies have called it World War Zero…they are not wrong. It wasn't just Troy. It was every Greek City-state against the nations of Anatolia with all their combined allies and mercenaries with Troy as its battlefield, but not its only battlefield." Then came myriad questions from Triton.

"I can tell you this much. I know the Iliad involves the gods and it is in part the Ancient World's History of what was then considered Ancient but there were no gods and it didn't happen because of a woman."

"Was it then you stopped believing in Gods or God?"

"No, it was some hundred years later I realised it when I climbed at the top of Mount Olympus and I saw no Palace of the Gods, no Gods or deities. Nothing but rocks, clouds, and harsh weather. It was forbidden to climb Olympus; the gods would strike you down for attempting to invade their domain. Or so it was believed and the priests made sure that belief was reinforced and enforced. In truth I think I stopped believing in gods when I was considered one and I had the audacity to believe it myself."

"So, are you from Egypt, then?" Triton probed into the final part of Andreas' life, and the starting one.

"No, I will tell you that bit later, if you have not guessed it yet." Triton shook his head.

"Tomorrow, then?" It was as much a question as it was a realization. Like realising you are nearing finishing a good book. You want to but you don't want to at the same time, a sense of loss is inevitable, even more so when the book is alive and your friend.

"Indeed. You know it's funny. I don't think I've ever told anyone of this or how I first died."

"Too painful?" It was more a statement than a question.

"Yes, both how I died and what I lost." Andreas nodded. "You should probably be going home. School tomorrow."

"You have battle with another Immortal, don't you?" Triton sighed when Andreas nodded.

"Don't worry, I'm not done yet…" Andreas assured him seeing the increasing concern in Triton's face. "Besides...the dreams...I'm hearing a voice in them now. A voice speaking in a language I cannot understand and yet I understand her."

"Her?"

"Yes, The owner of the voice."

"What's she saying?"

"Well understand may be an exaggeration but I think she wants me to know that I am my self's worst enemy, that sacrifice will be needed for…something? And to go where it all begun for the trials." Andreas paused with intent after "trials" he wanted Triton to ask.

"Trials of what?"

"I think the trials of the Gathering. But I have no idea what it all means nor what she's referring to in "Where it all begun.""

"Perhaps where you are from? Where you first died? Isn't that where it all started?" Triton guessed.

"I don't know but we'll find out soon enough." Triton furrowed his brows but said nothing.

"Before My return…no, from now on I won't backtrack. After my world had collapsed in fire and water, after my first death I was found days later drifting afloat by an Egyptian merchant's boat. When they learned what I had died in and how I was still alive they decided to bring me to Tanis, and from there to Memphis. At first, they were kind people who had rescued me but as they discovered my…gift they used it to make me into something I wasn't. A living-God, Horus incarnate. And through me they amassed wealth that almost rivaled the Pharaoh's. They had to kill me a few times to prove I was Immortal but what are some sword wounds. I didn't know what I was, I had no one teach me into the ways of my kind so I came to believe it, my divinity. Eventually the fisher and trader family turned stupid rich priests faded away into obscurity but I remained, for 300 years I was a Living god, a God-Child, Horus' apparition on Earth. The gall, the hubris…Over time I was transferred from Memphis to Luxor where I enjoyed luxury beyond luxury and where "my" priests supplied me, and them with an endless supply of young girls, boys, and women. There was much I did not know back then…I mean I was only a kid, I had died a fifteen-year-old, I did not know the kind of training those…-he sighed- "offerings" underwent before they ever reached me, or what happened to them after.

"Then one day another Immortal shattered it, he managed to sneak in the palace, and assassinate me, well the palace was also my temple so it was holy ground so he couldn't take my head but he did kill me, then the guards killed him and to everyone's terror, including mine he came alive as well. The whole affair aided a rival cult's efforts into declaring me a false god. This led to the Pharaoh ordering my execution. Some of my priests and acolytes succeeded into helping me escape to the Nile delta and from there to what is today Middle East and from there you know."

There was silence for a moment or two. "I can't imagine what it would do to me to die in what we now consider the late bronze age, come back to life to be worshipped as a god…I don't think anyone cannot be arrogant in a situation like that so I am not going to judge you for it. Who taught you Immortal stuff? How to fight, not to kill another Immortal in holy ground and so on?"

Andreas hugged him impulsively for a moment.

"I had a lot of training from before my death in terms of sword fighting, melee combat and so on, but an Immortal found me when I was in Tyrus, a Phoenician port and while he could have easily taken my head, he chose to train and teach me. I remained there for two months and I haven't seen him since. He is probably long since dead."

They spent the rest of the night with Andreas detailing him everything from when the fishermen and traders found him to where he had left it off last time until it was time for Triton to return home and prepare for sleep and school next day. In truth Triton could barely hold his excitement and his fear. Tomorrow he would learn of Andreas' origin, even if he had his suspicions. And he feared for what would come after.

"You are going to tear up holes in the road, calm down." They were boarding the school busses to the Museum.

Mathew giggled at Andreas' comment on Triton's overexcitement. "Pity they are breaking us up into grades for smaller groups."

"Yeah, because which teacher or guide wouldn't love several hundred teen boys in one large group to tour around the museum." Andreas quipped.

Mathew poked his tongue out at him before leaving for the buss his grade was going in.

Half an hour later they were disembarking outside the white and ochre rectangular building with the various marble steps leading to the columned entrance.

"You know, I am as old as I am, I've seen this building being constructed and I have not once gone in to see the exhibits. I mean…I lived through those years – he chuckled bitterly- but now is as good a time as any, and there's a rather interesting exhibit in here, from my place of birth, depicting me and my younger brother no less." Triton froze dead on his tracks, his eyes almost out of their sockets.

"Wait, you mean…" Andreas cut him off.

"Let's go, before the teacher has to call us for slacking behind." Andreas walked slow at the rear end of the student "convoy" going inside the Museum building.

"You know, I'm not stupid." Triton whispered to him. "Your change is visible to anyone who knows you."

"I know. But what would you do? If your world was gone in under five minutes, your mother, father younger brother, older sister…betrothed, culture, society…everything gone in five minutes but you persist three and a half thousand years later. Well more like 3700 years but who's counting. I have avoided that place and anything to do with it ever since the Egyptians found me. It hurts too much, yeah?"

"Is it pain, really or is it something else?" Asked Triton, standing next to him so no one would listen in over the chorus of unruly teens.

"What else could it be?" Andreas shrugged.

"As you know I like to read books, a lot. – Andreas chuckled- so, I've been reading a bit on psychology, Freud, and the likes. Could it be you are, for the first time in your…long life, afraid? You have been through so much, most of it traumatic and now? Now you are required to relive it. All of it. So, are you afraid?"

It took a moment for Andreas to reply. The line of kids in front of them waiting to enter the Museum thinning out.

"Maybe."

"Well, don't be. For one thing you're not alone, and for a second…it can't hurt you, again. It's done and over with, remembering it and/or recounting it to me won't hurt you and who knows it may even help you, some."

"Thank you." Andreas smiled. "I don't know, maybe you're right, it still hurts like a motherfucker when I think of it, but maybe you're right."

They moved through the exhibits with the guide and teacher giving them information for each one.

"I can't believe you met the guy." Triton whispered while viewing Agamemnon's gold death mask.

"Yeah, I didn't even know that was important until the twentieth century. When the news of the discovery of Mycenae came I was like "Yeah so? I've known that was there since ever, hell I've walked in it while it was still a city." Andreas shrugged making Triton roll his eyes. "I mean they still haven't discovered the whole city and site yet." Andreas chuckled.

"You know where all the skeletons are buried don't you?" Triton commented.

"Literally." Triton laughed, seeing his friend being witty again.

As the trip progressed this became one of many similar conversations and Andreas became more and more stressed the closer they got to the Museum's second floor.

"Why does it stress you out so much? I mean the second floor has only two areas. The Pottery and coin collection and some of the frescos and items from…" Triton stopped mid-sentence as it finally came to him, understanding of Andreas' origins.

"Yes., now you understand. I am from Santorini before the eruption, and that eruption took away everything from me." Bottomless sorrow was detectable in his voice.

Triton waited for the right moment when the teacher wasn't paying attention and as he took the rest of the class to the large pottery collection rooms, and grabbing Andreas from his wrist took them to the Santorini Exhibition.

The exhibition was made of several -half destroyed- frescos and items found in the Acrotiri excavation in Santorini.

The frescos were displayed as they would have been inside the houses they were found in.

Andreas stood in front of one of the frescos, a hand extending out as if to touch it.

"That's you and your brother?" Triton asked looking at the two boys depicted on the fresco playing boxing or the equivalent of it, bronze skinned with long Rasta-like black hair in locks.

"Yes." Andreas' voice broke. "Andromachos, Andronicos, Andreas, I've called myself a lot of names over the centuries…but my original name was and is Aranare. Man, who fights or Man, who wins. It is funny, your name, Triton. Triton was the mythological child of Poseidon and Amphitrite, god, and goddess of the Sea…my brother's name in our language meant "Child of the Sea." Fitting that one of my two new brothers is named similarly to my biological one." Triton was left speechless.

"I was born to a Merchant and blacksmith family in Atlati, city of the sea. I had a younger brother and an older sister. My sister was married to a court merchant in the Royal Palace and I was destined to marry the King's daughter. She was second in line to the throne and…my father had plans for her younger brother, heir to the throne. He was an ambitious man, my father. Best father anyone could wish for, he cared and loved us all very much but he had plans for us. My sister gave him access to the court and the connections that came with it and my marriage would solidify my family's place in it. If his plans to assassinate the Prince came to fruition he and then I would rule Atlati. He had succeeded in receiving a Royal decree making our family's forge the one to supply the army with weapons and armour. And he and his brother, my uncle were the only ones in Atlati who knew how to make Oricha, a metal far stronger, more durable, and flexible than bronze…or even iron for that matter. If the volcano had not destroyed everything I would have become King Consort, my father and uncle would have built an army to rival any in the known world and Atlati would first conquer what is today called Cyclades and Crete and from there mainland Greece, Asia Minor before extending ever outwards. My father's plans were to conquer even Egypt but alas in five minutes it all vanished into history and mythology." Silence fell for a moment as Andreas finished talking, and just stared at the fresco.

"Hey, can you give me a moment, please?" He asked Triton, not taking his eyes from the fresco.

"Sure." Triton nodded.

"Eranawae…I never got to tell you all good bye or how much I loved you. Oh, brother how much I've missed you, your cheekiness, your playfulness. You loved the sea so much, you would have made the finest sailor and sea-merchant in all of the Mediterranean Sea…I can still hear your voices in my head, you, mum, dad and sister…I miss you all so much…" Andreas, his voice breaking closed his eyes smiling at things only he could see.

Triton let him be silent for the rest of the duration of their visit and in the ride back to the school and home.

"Atlati…name's different, but my god, it existed?" He broke the silence as they entered his room.

"It did, but not as it's fabled to have been. It was technologically more advanced than most other civilizations back then but we weren't aliens or had electricity or whatever. In an age of bronze if you had a metal alloy closely resembling what today is called "Damascus steel" but different and named Oricha or Orichalcum you are going to be more advanced than most, if you have irrigation and sanitation pipes, and toilets and the likes you will be thought of as more advanced. And despite all of that, it still went up in fire and smoke."

"Your blades, they are from back then?"

"They are." Andreas released one of the blades from the bag sheath giving it to Triton who touched it with some sort of religious awe painted in his eyes, like touching the body of a god.

Doesn't…smell like steel, doesn't feel like it, this is as light as a feather. And so sharp…"

"I do sharpen them daily." Andreas smiled.

"So…" Triton's voice faltered. "What happened?"

"The Earth decided she hated all of us and optioned to eradicate us in one fell swoop by puking shitload tons of ash, molten rock and a volcano that blew up a fucking island. That good enough? No? Didn't think so." Andreas teased wanting to avoid answering. "Look, I'll tell you just not yet, okay?" Triton nodded.

"I will tell you, when we visit A…Santorini. It is the final piece, isn't it?"

"No, making you a mortal is. The Gathering is near, you said so yourself. You told me according to Immortal legend you can make a choice if you pass the trials. You can wish for Mortality." Triton corrected him.

"Near could be tomorrow or in a thousand years from now."

"You've had the dreams before?"

"Yes, but they only lasted days, this them lasting for months is new, and irritating."

"Why did they stop the previous two times?"

"I have no idea. I'm guessing the Gathering failed? I had a vision today, while looking at the fresco, that's a thing now I guess. My brother transformed into a semi-naked woman telling me to go where it all begun and asking if the fifth would be the one? I'm guessing fifth time, so the Gathering has failed four times, but I've gotten dreams two times."

"So, it could be nearer than you think. Just, please, promise me you won't…" Triton left out the end hanging.

Andreas did not reply immediately.

"The strange Immortal sensation has increased in frequency as well, but he never shows himself to me."

"You know what he's doing, yes?"

"I do, trying to drive me nuts, and off balance, but if he is the one who killed George and the kids, boy oh boy do I have plans for him." They continued talking well into the night.


A month and some change later they were in the ferryboat on their way to Santorini. It had been a ten hours trip and Santorini was finally in the horizon, the sun rising behind it, bathing it in red and gold hues.

"Come with me." Andreas shook Triton gently. The boy grumbled waking up.

"Come with me, it's time." Andreas told him enigmatically but Triton knew what he meant, causing him to nearly jump up from the bunk bed.

Andreas walked them to close to the bow of the ferry boat, Santorini visible and closing in on the left side.

A moment's silence later Andreas started speaking.

"Me and father had just returned from a ship to Heracles' Gates, you call them Gibraltar now, trading items and information, I was back home on the main island, what remains now, greeting my siblings and mother and father was still in the docks in the central island, when the Earthquake started. We had been gone for nearly six months you see, mother tried to calm me and brother down, telling us how the earthquakes were frequent now and not to worry. Her voice got blanketed by a thunderous roar coming in from deep in the Earth, under the waves. I run outside to the veranda to see a thick pillar of ash coming out of the volcano. It all happened in the blink of an eye. First, I remember seeing thunders and then…complete silence, everything was silent and still.

"Then, *BOOM* I have not ever heard another sound as loud as this one, then everything went silent again for a bit, but I remember a nudge on my shoulder, turning to see my mother holding my brother by the hand and then the smaller island on the center of the caldera, housing the Royal palace and much of the docks of Atlati blew up from within and below. This wasn't St. Helen's or Krakatoa or Hawaii or Etna…in an instant the whole center island blew up into pieces, sending house-sized boulders as far as some of the other islands in the Cyclads, a huge tidal wave crushed on the main island and the force of the eruption caused much of the main island to collapse into a landslide into the caldera. Then the pyroclastic flows came as the remnant center island collapsed in on itself, under the waves. The Pyro flows came boiling the water around us. A wall of boiling hot ash, molten rock and glass shards enveloped me, my brother and mother, who by some miracle…or curse had this far survived the fall down into the sea." Andreas' voice broke, tears streaking down his face.

"You know what the worst of it all is? It's not how I died being roasted alive or losing everything and everyone…no, it was hearing my brother and mother's screams…their screams…oh god the screams, seeing them turn into ash and charcoal colour, the tears in their very eyes evaporate from the bristling heat…their screams…and my brother pleading our father and the gods to save him…" Andreas begun to cry in heaving sobs. "And I remember all of it. I have no right being alive, and what have I ever done to deserve living through that? Remembering it all." Triton could do nothing more than hug him close, his head on Andreas' shoulders, crying along with him.

"They remained dead…I wish I had, e very hour of every day since."

"Andreas," Triton shot up, something having clicked inside. "You know what this means? Thunders before the eruption?"

"Normal, isn't it?" Andreas shrugged.

"No, thunders come after, particles in the air, but before? What do we know about Quickenings?"

"Impossible, the whole of Atlati was holy ground, dedicated to Poseidon and Ares."

"What if it all connects? You being "his creation"? Him giving you gifts, you still haven't shown that to me yet, by the way. What if he fooled two immortals who knew not to not kill each other in holy ground into doing exactly that? What would have happened then?"

Andreas' eyes dilated open, "the force of the eruption would have intensified…unknownfold over…" Andreas removed something from his bag showing it to Triton who grabbed in his fingers pointing it to Andreas.

"This? This is what you found in your room? This is identical to what my father found in both Eva's and George's bodies, the runes are different but the bone is similar or same."

"He did this to make you into an Immortal and we know at least of Vesuvius being the same sort of eruption. He has been grooming events since god knows when. He is behind it all."

Andreas was left looking Triton, speechless.

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