May 7th, 2020


Way Back

Wednesday, August 23rd, 1214 BC - "There it is!" cried Lynceus in the bow of the Argo. Jason eagerly made his way along the benches of the narrow rocking ship from where he had been standing near the stern. Amidships he ducked under the humming sail.
   "Where is it?" he asked after seeing nothing immediately obvious.
   Bracing himself against the bow-post Lynceous point between two distant hills. "Just there, between those hills"
   Jason squinted against the salt spray. It didn't look like much from here, but he could just make out what might be a break in the land there.
   "Are you sure?"
   "Well, I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure." Lynceus allowed.
   Jason looked back behind them. The same wind that was pushing them along was also speeding their pursuers. About a dozen small Colchian galleys were under hot pursuit. He'd taken the golden fleece from them, now he just needed to get home with it. He looked ahead at the hoped-for gap. The Bosporus, the only route from the Black Sea back to the Aegean. It would be a near-run thing.
   He patted Lynceus on the shoulder, saing "good work. Let me know if it turns out not to be," and made his way back towards the stern.
   With a strong wind, rowing wouldn't add anytihng so the crew were mainly sitting idle, resting, nervously watching their pursuers or looking ahead. Many of them made eye contact with Jason as he made his way past them and smiled grimly. Just behind the mast, tightly bound in leather coverings, and lashed to the deck so it couldn't fly out by some mishap, lay the golden fleece itself.
   In the stern, by Ancaeus, the helmman, Medea was watching the pursuing vessels.
   "My brother is probably in command of them" she said to Jason. "He'll kill us all if he catches us."
   "We're almost to the Bosporus, love" Jason took her hand. She turned and looked at him lovingly with her blue eyes, the gold ringlets of her hair blowing in the wind.
   "I hope we make it" she said, wrapping her arms around him.
   The golden-brown coast seemed to inch by to the port side, the ship's left. The sun was high overhead, the wind steady. The narrow gap in the coast slowly got closer, but so did their pursuers.
   Finally they were coming up on the opening, a channel like a broad river, connecting two seas.
   "Can we sail in?" Jason asked Ancaeus nervously, for the wind, coming from the south-east was not blowing into the channel.
   "I fear not" Ancaeus grimaced.
   "Prepare to drop the sail and lay to oars!" Jason shouted. The men scrambled to their positions, and as they cleared the headland, he gave the order. They quickly lowered the boom with the sail and with practiced skill quickly got it furled up and stowed lengthwise in the ship, before jumping to their assigned oars.
   The ship groaned and bucked in the green water swirling out of the channel.
   "The current is against us today" Ancaeus reported apologetically. "Sometimes it flows in here, sometimes it flows out."
   Jason nervously glanced at the Colchian ships, which, still coming with the wind, were now quickly approaching.
   "Harder men, harder!" he urged. He wished he could pull an oar but another man jumping into the ordered symmetry of the established rowers wouldn't help. He glanced at the Colchian galleys, he could make out swarms of men on each one, and they were converging on the Argo. He looked at the coast and realized they weren't actually making any progress at all, they were gonig backwards.
   "How can we get in??" he asked Ancaeus desperately.
   "I.... don't know." he confessed.
   The Colchian ships were now only a few hundred meters away and could easily come alongside them since theyd only drifted further out to sea since dousing the sail.
   "This isn't going to work, raise the sail!" he shouted. Instantly the ment leapt up. They began lifting the boom while Butes was still astride it undoing the lashings. Butes got the last lashing off, the sail dropped and was immediately hauled taut. Butes slithered down the mast. Ancaeus dug in the tiller just as the sail filled and with a great lurch the ship came around into the wind. The nearest Colchian ships were close enough that they could hear their jeering, and a few arrows leapt into the air but fell harmlessly short.
   Jason watched helplessly as the mouth of the Bosporus drifted away.
   "That's the only way back to the Aegean and now they're guarding it!" he exclaimed, "how will we get back?"
   Everyone looked at eachother helplessly
   "We could beach the ship on the south-west coast and travel overland?" someone suggested
   "We'd never make it overland, there are fierce barbarian tribes there" someone responded.
   "There's a river" wise old Idas said slowly in a moment of silence, "called the Danube... I've heard if you travel up it, you can then travel a short distance overland to another river that comes into the sea on the other side of Greece..."
   Everyone looekd at him. No one had a better idea.

(Part of my ongoing retelling of the Argonautica, which jumps around a bit depending on what fits a topic prompt)