He did not know how long he had been there, the time had slipped by without him noticing. There was a dull thud in his chest, but he didn’t feel the pain. He had been dreaming.
The searing heat of the afternoon was nothing compared to his dream in which he had been confined in a small place, trapped as flames rose all around him. He could smell his hair as it succumbed to the kiss fire. He would die there and perhaps that was what it was all about; perhaps that was Hades enveloping him. Petras did not welcome it although there was relief hiding somewhere. Soon it would be over. Soon it would all be finished. His role in the tragedy had reached its close and he welcomed it.
“Petras, it is me.”
The voice came through the flames, a cold draught of hope. He knew the voice was that of his father and he smiled for he would be reunited with him forever.
“Petras, don’t give in. Your mother wants to see you once more.”
Chronis was kneeling down besides the boy. In his hand, he carried a small flute. It had been fashioned from reed. Chronis reached forward to clasp the hand of the young one and in doing so he placed the flute within his palm. Almost immediately, the boys eyes opened.
“She is within that flute. Place it to your mouth and let your lungs provide the breeze through which she can talk.”
The old man’s arm was around the boy’s back and was steadying him into a seating position. The afternoon had fallen back into the previous silence only broken by the occasional chirr of a cricket.
“Breathe deeply and let her sing.”
Petras did as he was asked. His lips, though dry, met the flute and he summoned up the air from a place that seemed not to be part of him. When he exhaled, it was not the weak and fading action of a dying boy. His breath came as a storm racing through a valley, a storm that had intent. He was someplace else, high above and looking down. The sound of the flute had carried him to a place above the ground. He could see Joel moving along the dried river bed. He could see the rough camp of Pan with its offerings and he could see the trap that was being prepared; a trap that Joel was about to walk straight into.
Looking further back, he saw Erebus and Lucy. They too were heading towards a group of hunters who were hiding behind a stand of rocks. They couldn’t see the, wouldn’t know they were there until the very last desperate moment. Beyond them, and further back towards the heat-melted horizon, were the others. They would be hiding now, hoping to escape once more, wishing to survive for another day. An anger swept over Petrus. Only by making a stand could they survive this.
Somebody was moving towards the camp. The hunters had seen it but did nothing to arrest its passage. Petrus picked out the familiar blond hair of Aaron and knew what this meant. From within the camp came movement. A small horse with its rider trotted from within the perimeter and pulled to a stop in front of Aaron. The greeting exchanged suggested familiarity. Aaron turned back towards the place where he had come from and pointed. The rider nodded several times and followed the boy’s direction. Petras understood what this meant. He fell like a stone and woke to the face of Chronis.
“Did she speak?”
“Yes, she showed me things.”
“How do you feel?”
“I feel, well I feel…” Petras felt alive. He saw the blood on his tunic and felt for the wound. There was no pain. His hand reached inside the cloth and touched his flesh. His fingers skirted the area where the knife had plunged; there was no wound. “I don’t understand.”
“This is her gift to you,” the old man said. “Now you must help the others.”
Petras needed no assistance to stand. He gained his feet and stood in the sunshine with the belief that the inevitable could be avoided. The two of them walked in silence past the place where the scout lay dead and along the valley floor. Below their feet, below the thick shelf of rocks on which they walked, flowed an underground river that was beyond the reach of sun of man. The river flowed beneath everything but, in places, rose through fissures to provide sustenance for the knowing. The rocky enclosure where Pan had established his camp was one such place yet Pan and his children were unaware of the existence of cool, fresh water, a commodity that could be measured against life itself.
As Petrus and Chronis made their way to the place where the other groups were bound to converge, they did not understand that, like diviners, their footfalls were following the underground water course. They were equally unaware that something moved through the dark waters following each of their steps.