Now with Laertes they turned for home,

Odysseus, the herdsmen, and Telemakhos,

home to Penelope.

But ere long they left,

they encountered a great mass,

the kinsmen of the fresh-dead suitors,

all seeking revenge. When with a shout

the small returning party was seen,

a wave of the raw, untamed fire

of mobs swept through them,

and they ran with lowered spears.

Grey-eyed Athena, by Zeus' bidding,

now at the council of Olympus sat,

challenged by Poseidon.

"Thundering Zeus, we here on this

high mount of power shall all be here

'til time itself stops. We all share roles

on the mortal realms below, and do not

often have cause to come in conflict. We

all have our place, our specialty, which

is our right to do with as we wish. I do

not presume to trespass upon your skies,

you leave my seas to me. Always has it

been this way, as it should be. I speak

today to defend my realm and interests,

to preserve what is mine.

"Mortals

on the earth below lead such small, short

lives; scarce has a day passed before

their entrance and exit has been made;

in their life they pray to us, please us

with sacrifices, and in return we guard,

we spare a glance to guide or perhaps

counsel. So many there are, and so

insignificant most, that a glance is all

they receive.

"However, occasionally one

will come along of interest, one

worth noting, or one will be called

to our attention. Such was the case

of one Odysseus, raider of cities. At

troy he fought, and bravely and well,

but as he made for home, he made

a stop at the Kyklops' island, where

resides my son, Polyphemus.

"When

taking his leave, this raider hurled

insult and injury like you yourself,

Zeus of the Thunderbolts, do your

bolts when angered. In despair,

my son cried out to me from his land,

broken and bleeding, he cried out to me

to avenge him, to seek out he who

was the cause of his suffering, and

to keep from him the land he sought.

"I am the Lord of the Seas; they are my

dominion. I did all I could

to keep from him the land he sought,

yet still he made it home. I know

that another immortal force helped

him, nearly carried him past my efforts.

"Like a faithful hound, ever watchful,

ever seeking to do its utter best to

fulfill its duty, then to be able only to

nip at the heels of the prey when at

long last it approaches, but carried out of

reach, safe in strong, unwavering arms,

unyielding to the futile efforts of

the yapping hound, so were both

Polyphemus and I cheated of our goal,

the redemption of honor that was so

roughly torn from us, not only once,

but many times.

"And added to that

knowing that the saving arms saved

only for personal whims compounded

the injustice. For the arms that carried

Odysseus were Athena, in her wisdom

and guile, robbing us."

Far below, on the hills of Ithaka,

The wave of the mob crashed against

The rock island of Odysseus and his

Men. Then with a great battle cry,

Odysseus began clashing blades.

Grey-eyed Athena rose and spoke.

"Lord of the Seas, Earth shaker,

Poseidon, in me you see that

which bore Odysseus from your

deep sea traps, that which

withheld from you what you

wished, the reason being sound

or no, let each decide individually.

"For my part, I acted as would

have any here; Odysseus and

his family have for many

generations been faithful to me,

to them I give more than a glance;

in my eyes, they do not merely rise

and fade with the sun. Many

hekatombs have they given me,

and I intended, and still intend,

to recognize that and aid them."

As they fought, back to back,

Odysseus said to Laertes, who,

being fair far removed from

the energy and athleticism

of youth, gasped now

for each breath,

"Go, Father, go

and take the oar, go inland,

and plant it as I told you

it was to be planted." And so

Laertes in a sudden burst

of strength broke through

the ring of oppressors and laid

down his weapon in surrender.

The fighters took no notice

of him as he slipped away.

While the battles behind and

above him raged, he ran

with the oar. Seeing him from above,

Hermes swept down, to lend

him his sandals, and then Laertes

feet did swallow the miles, as

eagerly as Polyphemus did

swallow the men.

On Olympus

the council's blood was boiling

and in anger, the gods fought,

Zeus casting bolts, Poseidon

playing the sea in a symphony

of war, crashing and casting it

with ease. Athena met him

wave for wave, standing firm

in the onslaught, and returning

blows of her own.

Many miles

had Laertes run when he approached

a small village, cradled by the

mountains in a secluded valley;

tired and thirsty even with the sandals,

for his love for Odysseus blinded him

from his fatigue, and his single thought

had been to press ever farther inland.

At last reaching the village, he took the

main path, seeking notice, which

in the form a man with a tangled beard

was found. The man approached him,

arms crossed, and a great frown lay

upon his face as he gazed at

Laertes and the oar. At last he asked,

"Stranger, what winnowing fan is

that upon your shoulder?"

With a cry,

Laertes embraced the bearded man

and then thrust the oar down into

the soft earth. He ran about more,

though his breath came ragged,

and prepared for the sacrifice,

all the while telling the man of the

realm of Poseidon.

At once,

both Poseidon and Athena knew

what had happened, and upon the

earth-shaker came a great change. His

waves fell silent, as he paused a

great and mighty pause, with the faces

of all the others turned to him, and he said,

"Odysseus, tribute you now pay me,

tribute long due for such time you have

spent on my realm, but it is paid, and now

let us put this in our past. A fight of gods

is foolish, none can win. Amends have

been made, I am satisfied."

Odysseus

agreed, and when Poseidon saw that,

he turned the minds of the families

to gentler thoughts, and opened their eyes

to the truth of the lives their sons had led,

and Odysseus laid down his sword,

leaving behind his struggles.

Laertes

returned, and together, father and son

came home once more, one final time,

and all on Ithaka rejoiced to see

their troubles over.

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