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Michael James

River Of Fire
Nikandros awoke in a daze. He found himself lying in a ferry that was slowly wading
through a dark, dreary river. The last thing he remembered, his home was being raided by a
group of malicious bandits. They were taking everything he had: food, gold, and even
Nikandros quickly sat up. It was all coming back to him. The bandits were abducting his
wife Korinna while he hopelessly attempted to fight them off. One of the bigger, uglier ones had
stabbed him through the chest. Nikandros started grabbing at his torso, but he slowly realized
that he felt no pain. In fact, he felt nothing at all.
The ferry had finally stopped at a pair of horrific looking gates. Not far from the gates,
Nikandros noticed a gigantic three-headed dog snarling and prowling. Everything was starting to
become very clear.
And here we are! said the ghostly-looking man who had been rowing the boat.
Welcome to your new home. Best get comfortable; youll be spending all of eternity here!
No! There must be some mistake! I have to get back to my wife, shes in danger! I cant
be in the underworld! I must go and save her! Nikandros yelled in a panic.
My, my, my! You are a feisty one! Usually the spirits that come through here are quiet
and emotionless. You, however youre different. Well, Id say youre out of luck as far as your
dear wife goes. But if you truly have a problem with it, feel free to take it up with the big man
himself! The ferryman pointed through the gates. The Palace of Hades lies directly in the
center of the underworld. Its a bit of a trek, but luckily you have all the time in the world!
The ferryman laughed and threw Nikandros through the terrible gates. As he rose to his
feet, he looked at the bleak hopelessness that was Hades domain. A feeling of emptiness crept
over Nikandros as he stared into this awful abyss, but he knew he had to press on if he wished to
save Korinna. And so he walked.
After what felt like a century, Nikandros reached the entrance to Hades Palace. The keep
was cold and uninviting, and dread coursed through his very essence. Nikandros approached the
main hall where he found the god of the underworld himself sitting upon his throne of bones. To
his right sat a woman who Nikandros identified as Persephone.
Why have you entered my palace? roared the fearsome God.
M-my Lord whimpered Nikandros as he quickly realized he had no idea how to
properly address a deity. I wish for a way back to the land of the living. The love of my life is in
grave danger and I must protect her.
A moment of silence fell over the hall. Hades gave Nikandros an inquisitive look, as if he
was expecting some sort of trickery. No one escapes my domain, the god finally responded.
Please, your grace! There are terrible men who will torture her and have their way with
her! I must save her! I will do anything you ask! Anything!
A look of intrigue came over Hades. It had been so long since one of his residents had the
audacity to approach him, let alone ask for a way out. Ruling over the underworld certainly
wasnt the most glamorous position among the gods and Hades had grown ill with boredom.
Fine, I propose a deal, said Hades. If you can bring me the sustenance I crave most, I will
transport you to the living world. However, you only have one chance to guess what I crave and
you must be quick about it.
Yes my lord, I will accomplish this task! Thank you! smiled Nikandros as he ran out of
the hall. He did not know if Hades was merely toying with him, but this quest was currently his
only hope of rescuing Korinna.
As Nikandros exited the palace, he saw an oddly familiar figure sitting woefully on a
decaying tree stump. Upon reaching this figure, Nikandros saw that it was none other than the
blind prophet of legend, Tiresias. Surely this was a sign of good fortune, for if anyone could help
Nikandros on his quest it was Tiresias.
Excuse me, Tiresias? said Nikandros. The figure looked up at him. Hello, my name is
Nikandros. Ive heard about your many prophecies. You see, Im currently on a mission and I
was hoping-
Ah yes, Tiresias interrupted. You seek something to satisfy the Lord of the Deads
hunger. And find it you shall. Look in the burning waters.
Uhh Yeah, okay. Burning waters. Thanks, Nikandros said disappointedly. Perhaps
Tiresias was not quite the prophet the legends made him out to be. As he turned to leave, he
heard Tiresias speak again.
Young one, you will need this, Tiresias said as he pulled out a dark, tattered shroud
from a carrying bag. Wear this to avoid being consumed for eternity. But be warned, you can
never truly escape.
Nikandros took the shroud and wore it over his shoulders. The prophets words werent
exactly inspiring, but they were more helpful than Nikandros had originally thought. He
remembered hearing stories about the underworld and how five main rivers flowed through it.
Those rivers were The Styx (on which Nikandros was ferried into the underworld), The Acheron,
The Lethe, The Cocytus, and The Phlegethon. The Phlegethon was rumored to be a river of fire
that led to the depths of Tartarus. Burning waters, whispered Nikandros.
According to the stories, the goddess Styx was in love with Phlegethon, but she was
consumed by his flames. Hades allowed her river to flow through the underworld parallel to The
Phlegethon so that the lovers would be reunited. So all Nikandros had to do was walk back to
The Styx and search for the flames.
As Nikandros approached The River Styx, he noticed an orange glow not too far in the
distance. He ran towards it and to his delight stumbled upon a roaring river of fire, burning
intensely. The Phlegethon truly was a sight to behold. Nikandros ran along the bank of the river
until he noticed a small patch of land in the middle of the fire. On the land, there stood one lone
tree bearing pomegranates on its limbs.
Pomegranates, of course! exclaimed Nikandros. The pomegranate was a sacred fruit in
the underworld. It was the very fruit that Hades had given to Persephone in order to make her
remain in his kingdom for a third of each year. That had to be what Hades craved.
Nikandros drew closer to the river, covering himself as best as he could in the shroud that
Tiresias had given him. The flames rose and danced violently, as if angered by his presence. He
closed his eyes and jumped into the fire, praying to Zeus that he would not be forever consumed.
His feet touched what felt like ground, and he sprinted as fast as he could towards the tree. The
flames burned all around him and he could feel the heat breaking through the shroud. He leaped
once more and found himself at the base of the tree. Without a moment to spare, he climbed the
tree and reached for a piece of fruit.
Before Nikandros could grab the pomegranate, the fire formed a vortex and engulfed the
tree, flinging him back to the bank of the river. Nikandros watched as his only hope of saving
Korinna was burned to ash.
Nikandros fell to his knees and sobbed. All was lost, his journey had been for nothing.
The flames of the river slowly died down until a small path formed which led to the patch of
land. Nikandros looked up and saw that one pomegranate had survived the inferno. Perhaps
Phlegethon had taken pity on Nikandros, for he too knew the despair of losing a loved one.
Nikandros quickly picked up the fruit and made his way back to the Palace of Hades.
You have done well, mortal, stated Hades as he took a bite of the pomegranate. I stay
true to my word, so I will fulfill my end of the bargain. You will be transported back to the land
of the living. Hades raised his hand and Nikandros felt his entire body jolt as if he were being
electrocuted. Light flashed all around him and he suddenly sensed that he was moving at a great
velocity. As he moved, his vision slowly faded to black.
Nikandros awoke in a patch of grass. Startled, he quickly rose to his feet and looked
around. He recognized this land. He was in front of his home. Nikandros saw that his front door
was broken down and he quickly ran through it. The house was as he remembered it, left in
dismay from the bandits who had plundered it. He quickly ran into his bedroom. What he saw
left him speechless.
Korinnas body lay naked and bleeding in the center of his bed. Dagger wounds covered
her body and the blade itself was left transfixed in her chest. Nikandros slowly approached her,
tears falling from his eyes. He removed the blade from her body and pointed it at himself. With
one swift motion, he slashed the dagger across his throat and fell next to Korinna. As he slowly
lost consciousness, one last thought flowed through his mind. Hades was true to his word; no one
escapes his domain.

The type of myth that I chose to write is a legend-folktale combination. I wanted to create
a legend that centered around an unlikely hero. Nikandros is not the son of a god, nor is he a
great warrior. He is an ordinary ancient Greek man who has a good knowledge of the stories and
people that came before him. However, he is extraordinarily determined and he uses his
determination and knowledge to complete a seemingly impossible task. His name comes from
the Greek words for victory (Nike) and man (Andros) and therefore means the victory of man.
Given the plot of my story, then name is meant to be ironic.
I chose this particular plotline because I am deeply interested in the underworld and I
wanted to tell a story about someone who did not lose their human-like determination even as a
spirit. Usually, the spirits of the underworld are somber and lethargic so I wanted Nikandros to
go against that standard and prove that even ordinary beings can have extraordinary traits. Plus,
the idea of breaking out of the underworld seems to have been an interesting topic for ancient
Greek audiences so I thought that would make for a good goal.
My story ended the way it did because most Greek myths (and obviously tragedies) do
not seem to have happy endings very often. There is usually some sort of lesson to be learned or
some kind of warning that the audience must keep in mind. The lesson of my story is that death
is inescapable.
My myth takes place in ancient Greece and that is the era that it is meant to reflect.
Violence and rape were not uncommon subjects in ancient Greece, and thus they are alluded to
in my story. Likewise, the ancient Greeks believed that the Gods had the final say in most things,
so I made sure that Hades was portrayed as someone who would not just let someone escape his
land. I also wanted the stories and myths that were popular in Greek culture to be prominent in
my story, so I made Nikandros very knowledgeable in Greek myths.