Selling the Deal
The arrival of a sea monster aswarm with monsters and sheep did not go unnoticed on the scrubby little island of Atlantis. The seventeen people who lived there hid down a well, and scratched on the slimy wall, with a sharp stone, cartoons of what they had seen: a thousand kinds of ugly. The pictures are still there now, inside the well.
They did not risk climbing back up for another look, so they did not see the arrival, later, of a squat, scruffy man, grimy grey with sea salt. He came in a wicker coracle made leakproof with tar. Typhon, Prince of Darkness, was cursing the loss of his Lucky Boy to the Hydra. The Echidna was weeping great drops of balsam, which brought her no comfort except to clear her sinuses. Not only had she witnessed the death of her friend the Lamia, she had lost two mortal children of whom she had grown foolishly fond. Dear Laelaps, too, was gone: now and then, Echidna threw a rock at Typhon for kicking the dog overboard.
So it took Xyno some time to make himself heard – to break the news: Hylas had fallen into the hands of pirates, and the pirates were asking a ransom.
“Raid Poseidon’s Kingdom? Are you mad?” asked Pythia, clattering to the ground between her bronze crutches. “Rob the brother of Zeus? Do you want to tell Them we’re here? Show the Olymp’s that we still exist? They will exterminate us!” She made a snatch at Panacea’s wallet of herbs, and grabbed a fistful of green leaves. She had grown addicted to the peace they brought her. She peered around her at little, dismal Atlantis, and wondered how to escape before these fools drew the attention of every god on Olympus.
The cyclopses put their hands to the smalls of their backs – remembering their imprisonment under the volcano, their years of hard labour forging metalwork for the O’s. “The Oracle is right,” said one. “We should go after the pirates, not the treasure.” The giants nodded but, given their deafness, they might have been agreeing with anything.
Typhon, too, was in favour of finding the pirates and smashing their little wattle ship to atomies, loosing enough fiery breath to burn them to the waterline. “You. Dogface. Take us where they are.”
Xyno rounded his shoulders, wrung his gloved hands. “Woffor? Woffor?” he asked fawningly. “They’ll kill the dear boy, they will. Said so. Kill the boy the moment they see anyone coming. Nah. Send Xyno. Fixer ‘n fetcher, that’s me. Fetcher ‘n fixer. Middle-man, me. Pug-in-the-middle. You just tell me where the God-of-Wet keeps his glitter, and I’ll fetch it up - all that shiny finery. I’ll trade it for Lucky Boy. I get caught? I get the blame. If I don’t get caught? I fetch him back. Your Lucky Boy. All fixed. That’s what my kind is for. Fixer ‘n fetcher, that’s Xyno.”
There was only small flaw in Xyno’s plan. He had assumed the Monstros knew where Poseidon’s sunken treasure lay.
Surely one of them had glimpsed it? - Ladon during his roaming? The Giants out searching for the Herb of Immortality? But no. The Cetus probably knew, but it had an intellect the size of a sea cucumber, and could not speak. The others had no idea.
Talos offered to search the seabed for it (as he put it, “to bweast the bwiny fowests of the deep, where cuwwents scatter, like autumn leaves, the wainbow shoals of fish.” But he added that it might take him fifty years to find the treasure.
In his frustration, Typhon spat eighty gobbets of clinker out to sea.
A whimper of desperation broke from Xyno. Panacea, hearing it, grew instantly fond of the little fetcher-and-fixer. Clearly he was devoted to the missing children and desperate to rescue them. “It is all right, Xyno,” she said. “There may be a way.”