Not everyone joined the migration by any means. Some were too old, too defeated or so stripped of story that they wanted nothing but a flickering, twilight existence. Some refused to leave the graves of mates or ancestors. Some fancied becoming Prince of Monstro after Typhon was gone.
But a huge and motley circus of monsters – from massive Typhon to the small white blob Hylas had trodden in - did emerge into the sunshine next day and turn north towards the Land of the North Wind.
“The O’s will see us!” fretted Panacea, covering her head with her shawl.
Hylas, too, wanted to break away, hide and be solitary again. He had nothing in mind but to get away from Talos and the whole monstrous rabble. He gave a start when he saw the Oracle watching him. She gestured with the flick of a hand - as if she had read his mind and was saying, ‘Go, yes! Go on!’
He would have liked to say goodbye to Thoősa, but she was busy retelling stories to monsters. So he resolved simply to slip away unnoticed - pick up his old life - find Heracles and make amends for his disloyalty.
A hand touched him on the shoulder and, for a moment, he tumbled down a chute of dreams...
“I must return to my post,” said Phantasos. “To my posting. The sleepers of the world go dreamless while I tarry here. I will be missed.” He spoke quietly, as if confiding in Hylas something he did not intend to tell the others. The Dream-bringer was surely not planning to walk away without a word? What kind of way was that to behave? “Do you know which way is north, Hylas?”
“I do at night. Castor taught me, so I could steer the Argo if everyone else fell asleep.”
“Good. You were best to travel at night anyway. Lead them to Hyperboria, boy. My postal maps do not show it, but you may find it, I think. Your dreams resemble your father’s. Sometimes a boy inherits more than hair colour. ”
“Never mind, never mind. Just lead them to Hyperboria, boy. They will follow. I have planted the seed in their minds that you are lucky.”
Hylas stared at him, nodding his head. What an absurd idea. He told Phantasos yes he would, but he never for a moment meant it. Little Hylas lead a thousand kinds of ugly to the top of the world? Heracles would have laughed himself sick. At the first opportunity, Hylas would slip away – escape this menagerie of monsters and get back to worshipping the true gods like a good devout boy; he did not want the Olympians mistaking him for a Titan-lover.
No one gets hunted, uglified, pinned under mountains or turned to stone unless they have done something to deserve it. And who speaks ill of a Hero, unless it’s a coward? Heracles had never killed anything or anyone, unless it was for a good reason. Hylas fingered the crown of laurel round his brow, resolved to throw it away, then hesitated. Well, in a while maybe.
The previous day’s mention of Heracles, had got the refugees back on to their favourite topic.
“How many women has he had? Two hundred? Three hundred?”
“Leaves children around the world like others drop dandruff! Never stays to bring them up.”
“He killed the Great Piggywig. In Erymanthius, you know? Finest boar in Hellas. Left sixty piglets fatherless. And not out of hunger – hunger you could understand, right? No. For sport.”
“Oy! Do I not know - I the Nemean Lioness - do I not know the grief that skinner trails behind him? The day he flayed my mate and made me a – “
“day…frayed…made,” said Talos, practising rhymes, and begged the cyclopses to make him lips more elastic, more apt for poetry. He was planning an epic poem, he said, entitled The Twelve Thousand Cwimes of Hewacles.
At one point, the Echidna clutched Hylas to her grease spattered breast and cried, “Poor boy! Poor little lad! Serving that bully Heracles. Did he beat you often?”
Hylas did not say yes. But he did not say no, either. He challenged no one to a fight for slandering his magnificent master. He did not tell them how Heracles had wept tears and searched field and forest for his beloved armour-bearer. No. Hylas kept quiet, hating himself for it.
So when he glimpsed the river rushing through the landscape ahead, he saw it as the finishing line: the place where he and Monstro would part company.