Chapter 20

Another fifty years has gone by. Among the natives it is the same old thing. Good leaders come, good leaders go, bad leaders come, bad leaders go. But with each passing year they seem to be more stable, though always squabbling with each other. I have had eight native lovers, and produced thirty-two children. Again, some of them were women that had already mated with my companions. So we have increased the percentage of their Olympian genes. The only thing of interest to report is the mischief my son Herakles has been into. For many years he would not even look at another woman. But then he saw Deianira, the daughter of King Eurystheus, who was said to have been the descendant of eight Olympians, including myself! Well, actually it was nine, not including myself! But all of these people want to claim they are descended from me. Anyway, when Herakles made it known that he wanted to marry the girl, her father said "Whoa! Wait a minute! She is reserved for one of the Gods, perhaps Aires, but no mere man can marry her!"
2 "I am no mere man!" Herakles answered, "I am a son of Zeus! I have his power and glory."
3 The King sat back. He was a mischevious man, and actually had desires for his daughter himself, which she rejected. He wanted to get rid of this suitor and thought of a way. "You will have to prove to me that you are a God," he answered. "I will put you to twelve tasks. If you can perform each of them I will give you permission to wed my daughter. But if you cannot, you will have to depart and never return again."
4 "There is no task that you can put before me," Herakles answered, "that I cannot perform, if it is within reason. If you ask me to bring down one of the stars from the sky, only Zeus can do that!'
5 The King nodded. "If you believe any of my tasks are undoable," he agreed, "you may ask the Gods. If They agree with you I will choose another. Now, for your first task. There is a great lion that is devouring my flocks and my cattle and even my people to the north. Many have tried to slay it and only become its supper. Go and destroy it, and my daughter will be closer to being yours."
6 Without hesitation Herakles hurried off. But he found the task more than he had bargained for. The lion was extremely swift and powerful. Time and time again it avoided him by leaping away and darting off. Herakles was getting very irritated when he heard chuckling from a nearby tree and looked up to see his old friend Creos.
7 "I suppose you could do better?" Herakles complained.
8 "Well, considering this lion is actually the descendant of one of your father's people that took on a lion like form and mated with its mother, even I would have a hard time dealing with it! You've got to use your wit, my dear friend, rather than your speed and your strength. You'll never catch this thing in the open. Follow it to its den. Then, while it is gone, dig a passage out that would be big enough for you, but too small for it. Then, when it returns to sleep off its kill, block the den with great stones that even it would not be able to move. Then go in through the passage that you have created, and slay it. In the close quarters of the den it will not be able to escape you."
9 "Oh, I wish I had your wit!" Herakles cried. "What cunning lies in that mind of yours!" Just as Creos had suggested Herakles prepared his trap. When the lion returned he rolled in his boulders and blocked them tight. When the lion awoke and found he could not leave, he battered the barrier relentlessly, but it held fast. Herakles entered through the passage he had made and strangled the beast by putting his arm around its neck. When the lion was dead he skinned it, cut it up, and threw it out through the passage he had made. He then roasted it and with the people that it had tormented so long, devoured it.
10 He put his great helmet inside the creatures head and made its skin into a robe, which kept him warm and comfortable in the worst weather. He returned to the King, who was terrified, thinking the lion had come to punish him, and hid in a great urn. But when he heard it was Herakles praised him for doing this good deed for his people and set his next task. He sent Herakles to kill the many headed hydra that lived in the swamps of Lerna. Now Herakles knew well of this beast. Many had tried to slay it before, but merely ended up its dinner, because whenever you cut off one of its heads two sprang up to replace it. He knew he could not defeat the hydra without help. So he went to the nearest temple and asked Zeus to send Creos. That evening Creos arrived and listened to Herakles' tale of woe. "I might have just the thing!" Creos answered, and flew away. A little while later he returned with a sword. "This is one of the last of my people's weapons," he explained. "It shoots a powerful beam of energy that will cut through anything. It also sears it. If you cut off the hydra's head with this, they will not grow back. The only problem is the power crystal is nearly spent. It will only work a short time before it explodes. And you dont want to be anywheres near it when it does! If it starts beeping get rid of it quickly!"
11 Herakles took the weapon and after some searching found the hydra. For hours they fought until the hydra had but one head left. Then the sword began to beep. Herakles fought on, finally severing the last head! With great effort he hurled the sword away. It landed on a mountain called Vesuvias which promptly exploded, doing much damage in the area. When the King of that land heard of the cause he sent an emmissary to King Eurystheus, demanding restitution. I insisted that the request be honored because the king sending Herakles to destroy the hydra had caused the incident. But this was not all of the troubles the King got for sending Herakles on this mission! As proof he had destroyed the hydra Herakles brought back its teeth in a sack, and presented them to the King. The King had a sculpture made of the hydra and the teeth put in it. But the stone at the base of the sculpture was not sound and as his mother was walking through the garden one evening, the sculpture collapsed, falling on her and crushing her! But this would happen some time later. In the meantime, he set Herakles another task.

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