Continued from Part 9
I release the hand of Hermes and look around.
He has returned me from the Well of Souls to the Temple of Apollo, where my Quest began.
Apollo had demanded an offering, which turned out to be my Pride.
Eventually I turned it over to Zeus, who —
instead of destroying my Pride — reformed it into a Key.
This opened the door to a confrontation with Satan, from which I escaped bearing…
Apollo’s ejaculation make me feel a little ridiculous.
It seems overkill to tap the power of Olympus to acquire something I could buy for a couple bucks at the corner pet shop.
I don’t even know why I got it; or frankly why I went down the Well at all.
I start to apologize to Apollo, but he cuts me off excitedly.
Apollo: It is he! Sminthus lives!!
You have done it!!!
To my shock, the proud god kneels at my feet, tears in his eyes.
Apollo: I had not thought it possible, but you have both wakened and cured a deep shame I had all but forgotten.
I am forever in your debt.
Now I’m really confused. Was Satan really so petty as to steal this God’s pet mouse? And isn’t Apollo’s gratitude just a little over the top?
But that is nothing compared to what happens next.
Apollo: O Sinthus my father, long have I missed your counsel. Your absence has been an ineradicable stain on my heart. I rejoice greatly that you can once again take your place of honor beneath my throne!
Earnest: Um, sorry to interrupt this touching reunion, but I thought your father was Zeus, not this mouse.
A. And who are you to question my filial piety, O follower of Christ who takes shelter in my temple?
E. Hey, no offense. I’m just a little rusty on my Greek genealogies. What exactly is your relationship to this mouse?
Apollo grows thoughtful.
The mouse runs up his shoulder and chitters in his ear. Apollo glances over at me and sighs.
A. Very well, Sminthus.
You are right, as usual.
The least we can do is grant our rescuer the truth behind our relationship.
Apollo gets up and paces the floor of the temple.
A. I was not always as you see me, mortal.
When my people first came to these shores, I was but a young god, of few attributes and barely tested in battle.
My temple is built atop a much older shrine dedicated to Sminthus here.
It was not exactly a peaceful takeover, but over the centuries we came to understand one another.
He became like a second father to me.
I came to greatly value his wisdom and compassion.
When that earthly temple was destroyed, he disappeared and I thought him dead.
I had always blamed myself for not preventing his death.
Now I blame myself for not seeking him out…
The mouse — Sminthus? — interrupts with angry chittering.
Apollo ducks his head in embarrassment.
A. As you say, Sminthus.
Perhaps you are right.
It may be that your captivity served a higher purpose.
Our new friend here may have great need of your strength in the coming battle.
I try to stifle a laugh.
Apollo glares at me.
Sminthus chitters soothingly to calm him down.
Apollo takes a deep breath and closes his eyes.
He seems to be counting to ten, or X, or whatever.
He opens his eyes, and picks his words carefully, as if speaking to an idiot.
A. Tell me, mortal, how many centuries do you think you would have lasted in that Well before losing your sanity, if not your soul?
Surviving even five minutes there took all my self-control.
To have lived down there for multiple lifetimes, without any hope of rescue…
Apollo nods, satisfied.
His face softens.
A. In truth, we Olympians would have fared no better.
Hermes himself dared not accompany you, lest that atmosphere corrode his powers.
Fortunately, Sminthus and his ilk are made of sterner stuff.
I look at the mouse with newfound respect.
He nods acknowledgement, then chitters softly to Apollo.
Apollo looks troubled, and whispers back.
This looks like it will take a while, so I head over to the buffet table with Hermes to grab a bite to eat.
Maybe a quarter hour later I hear that strange whistle again.
Hermes disappears briefly, returning with Artemis on his arm.
She gives me a quick smile and a half-hug, then runs over to her brother.
I hear her cry of delight at she greets Sminthus.
More surprisingly, I hear his reply!
S. It is completely true, my lady.
And I owe it all to my new friend over there.
She turns to look at me.
And seems vastly amused at the shock on my face.
Artemis: Have you forgotten that I am also the goddess of animals?
My brother asked me to share with you the gift of speaking with the Elder Ones, to aid you on your next Quest.
I am so busy covering up my embarrassment, and trying to figure what she means by Elder Ones, that I almost miss her last word.
E. Wait, what? My next Quest?
Apollo: Indeed. You have successfully vanquished your Pride, only to discover that the true battle will require a much larger Army.
He turns and gesture to the tiny mouse.
Apollo: Meet your first recruit!
End of Book II: Redeeming Ares
Stay tuned for Book III…