A bronze age, Greek Mythology based transformers story.
Part 1: Alcaeus and the Lion
The sound of thunder woke Alcaeus, not the slow rumble of the heavens when lightning split the sky, but something louder, sharper, and with an echo that sent every animal fleeing through the undergrowth, heedless to the hunter and his smouldering fire pit.
A large deer and its fawns leapt across his body as he turned to grab his spear, narrowly avoiding their hooves. Thunder at dawn, and with no clouds in the sky. He smiled, his quarry was close.
He crept through the forest, the lone figure heading towards where the thunder had echoed from, even as the trees were still and silent. He'd been tracking the beast for nearly a week, but each time he'd approached it, the beast had slipped from his grasp. But as a hunter he was nearly unsurpassed, and all creatures had a lair, somewhere to call home. It was just a matter of finding it.
Peaking through the tree-line, his hopes were confirmed, a rocky outcropping, with a cave mouth heading into it, the strange tracks heading in and out of it. It was the beast's home.
Lying in wait, Alcaeus stilled himself, making sure not to disturb the dried grass that lay beneath him, afraid even their rustling would give him away.
And then the beast stepped out of the cave, and he froze in fear.
No wonder the animals had fled: the lion stood a full six feet at its haunches, and with its mane could dwarf any man. Its skin and mane even shone in the dawn's light like it had been cast out of bronze. If it was still, he would have thought it a statue, but no statue could move like that, so much like the lion it resembled.
It sniffed the air and Alcaeus muttered a prayer to Zeus that it would not scent him as its tail twitched and it stared upwards.
Mercifully, it seemed the gods were with him, as the lion turned once more, and retreated back into the cave. And Alcaeus was able to breath and think once more.
This really was suicide, that's all it could be. He could still picture its teeth and claws, looking more like the short-sword he had tied to his belt than any normal animal. He pulled the weapon out, and tossed it from hand to hand, considering it's weight. The lion was huge, his sword wouldn't make a dent in the bronze hide. There was no way he could injure it like that.
And yet, he couldn't return. He'd sworn to his cousin he'd hunt down and slay whatever beast had been plaguing the lands, and if he broke the oath his life would be forfeit.
He couldn't outfight it, he couldn't outrun his oath. Which lead him to one option:
He'd have to out-think it.
It wasn't an appealing thought, but he had little choice, and no matter how deadly it was, it was a beast. Alcaeus had killed lions before, even if they'd been smaller and less armoured. He'd hunted boars, and their tusks now spanned his helmet. Every creature had a weakness, every creature could be slain. Even gods could be, he thought grimly to himself.
Crawling towards the cave, he racked his mind for ideas. He could set a fire, but would it even hurt a beast of metal? He could lure it off a cliff and hope the fall killed it, but he didn't fancy his chances.
The only thing that came to him was a slim chance: The beast had sniffed the air. It could smell, and if it could smell, it breathed. And if it could breath, then he hoped to all the Olympians that he could strangle it.
The cave was silent, the air still. For a moment Alcaeus thought the beast was lying in wait, holding its breath just as he had, to turn the hunter into pray. But he could see it, resting at the base of the cave, its eyes seeming to glow in the darkness, providing light where it didn't penetrate in from above.
It seemed to be resting, maybe sleeping with its eyes open. It at least gave him a shot as he hugged the walls, creeping as close as he could while the beast lay still. It wouldn't take much, just one jump.
He held his breath, and leapt.
The lion roared in panic as it got to its feet, Alcaeus grabbed a hold of its mane, pulling himself up its back, until he reached its neck.
Wrapping his arms around its neck, he held on tight, pulling towards himself, hugging the metal and trying to will it to break, to dent, to show some sign of weakness as he held on for dear life. The lion bounded around the cave, shaking its body to try and fling him free, but Alcaeus clung on firmly, knowing his life depended on it.
It reared up, slamming into the cave wall, and almost crushing him. He felt the air flee his body, leaving him gasping as he didn't let up, even as it tried to scrape him off.
As he coughed and spluttered for breath, he swore his ears were deceiving him, as the lion's roars gradually started to sound like speech. He refused to let go, until he was sure it was no illusion: "Will you just let go of me, you miserable creature!" The beast yowled in frustration.
This was no trick, he released it, slumping to the ground as it leapt away, turning to face him -- Oh Zeus, it's eyes really did glow. It crept closer, and he could see row upon row of dagger-like teeth. Speaking or not, this was the end.
"What in the name of all that's sacred was that for!" It roared at him, making his ears ring as his jaw dropped. The lion was angry, but it was speaking. No instant death, no sudden swipe or bite. Just... questions.
He breathed in, hoping nothing was broken. "You scattered the sheep of Tyrins, you crushed their cattle, you sent their armies fleeing..."
The lion stared at him, its jaw as slack as his, and then it sat on its haunches. "You attacked me over some animals?"
"Those animals were the livelihood of Tyrins' herders. The city's men spent days trying to find them all, and recover what had been lost." He was still unsure this wasn't a hallucination, he may have hit his head pretty hard. The idea of a conversation with a bronze lion was almost laughable. In fact, he couldn't stop himself from chuckling in hysteria.
"Wait, what's--" the beast froze, unsure at what it was seeing. "For what it's worth, I'm truly sorry about your animals, I hadn't intended to cause problems. I've been tracking down some enemies, but they've been evading me. The sheep just... got in my way."
It held out a paw, and Alcaeus grabbed it to both of their surprise, and got to his feet. He glanced around the room for his helmet -- lost when the lion had been shaking him, and fastened it to his head. "I understand that, although convincing Tyrins..." he laughed. "I don't suppose I could take a trophy, I swore an oath to return when I had slain you, and if I break my oath..."
The lion nodded, flexed its claws, and then bit one off, dropping it at Alcaeus' feet. "That should suffice? I wasn't planning on staying long, I managed to find a target anyway, and was about to head off, so you can claim you killed me." It chuckled a little, strangely at odds with its animalistic body.
"Thanks, this should work. But, if you'll do me a favour, you're hunting something. I wish to hunt it with you," he placed the claw in his belt, alongside his forgotten blade. "My name is Alcaeus of Thebes."
Narrowing its eyes at him, the beast frowned. "And I am Lionizer of Ibex. You accompanying me is a risk you shouldn't take."
Alcaeus nodded, "ordinarily I would agree. But I swore an oath to slay you, and the gods frown on oath-breakers." He grinned. "And so I shall follow you around until one of us dies, you or I."
"It will be you," Lionizer nodded, "But, if you wish me to be there at your death, I am not bothered, return when you have claimed your glory, and I will take you with me." The beast nudged him away, towards the mouth of the cave. "But when we hunt, do not get in the way. I've no wish to have your death on my conscience."
Allowing himself to be pushed out of the cave Alcaeus stilled his heart. He'd not felt a rush like that in years, the fear, the excitement. It was a thrill; and as he set off to return to his cousin, the lion's claw by his side, he swore he'd follow Lionizer's path, even if it took him to the gates of Hades.
Part 2: The Blood of Gods
Alcaeus' looked across the fire, meeting his cousin's eyes, staring him down as the guards watched them. "I have returned from slaying the lion, the beast is dead, it will trouble you no longer."
"What proof do you have that it's dead? You have no scars, no wounds of battle. I know you're a great and powerful hunter, but to make me believe you slew the lion without sustaining any injuries while it crushed cattle with its mere step?" He looked at Alcaeus with a snear of displeasure, which didn't surprise him. After all, they'd never gotten on with each other even before Alcaeus' exile, and now he'd shown up asking for aid... Eurystheus could be forgiven for not wanting another mouth to feed, especially one who couldn't work.
There was no sense in antagonising him further, Alcaeus drew the sword-like claw from his belt, throwing it to the ground in front of them both, the blade clattering as it landed. "The claw of the lion that plagued Nemea. Torn from its body, and presented here, to you King Eurystheus." He held his gaze. This was true -- even if the beast was still alive -- and he had no reason to think his cousin could sense his deception. Still, the heat of the great hall's firepit wasn't the only reason he sweated as the king stood up to pick up the claw.
"By Hera's glory!" Eurystheus whispered, turning it in his hands as he tested the edge, drawing blood. "I'd heard what my soldiers had said, but to think such a beast exi-" he paused, realising that admitting he'd assumed it had all been a legend, and that he'd sent his cousin off on an impossible task was foolish. "To think it could be slain without injury, given what they'd said," he finished.
Alcaeus saw a chance to boost his reputation, and went for it "It was no easy task, I admit. I only survived because I didn't fight it directly. Instead strangling the life from it between my arms."
Eurystheus nodded, still enamoured by the blade. "Something you're good at." This time he stopped too late, after he'd realised his folly. "I mean, dear cousin..."
The soldiers around the room readied themselves, loosening their swords from their belts as they waited for Alcaeus' response.
He just stood there, his knuckles going white as he held himself back. And then finally he spoke: "I have completed the task you asked, dear cousin. And now I shall take my leave. I find your city no longer pleasing." He turned away, leaving the hall before he did something he'd regret.
Lionizer checked his map again, drawn in the dirt outside the cave he'd so briefly called his base. It was a poor replacement for the computers of the Hyperborea, but he wasn't in any hurry to return until he'd found his quarry. Still, he really did need to practice using his claws for detail work, especially with one missing.
The peninsula was anything but regular which made it hard to be certain where things were, but he was pretty sure he'd got a good track of three large Decepticon signatures and two smaller ones. He was considering heading off to deal with them before the human got back, but everything he'd said about oaths had struck a chord with him. He wiped the dust, rendering the map illegible, and started to scratch a new one, determined to get better at it.
He'd barely gotten halfway through the coastline when he heard the human returning. He turned his head and called out, "Alcaeus?"
"Lionizer!" came the reply as the human stumbled through the bushes. He looked exhausted, and was covered in filth and grime. "You're still up for a travelling companion?"
"Of course, although I'd prefer one better scented," he waved a paw to the south, "there's a river there for you to freshen up in."
"My thanks," Alcaeus took a careful sniff of his body, "Mine and everyone else's!" He forced some laughter as he went southwards.
Intrigued, Lionizer got up and followed him, watching as he stripped off and bathed in the river. "You were gone barely a week, does slaying dangerous beasts not get you glory here?"
Alcaeus shook his head, "Tyrins has become far less civil place, my cousin is most unwelcoming." He dipped his face in the clear waters, smoothing his beard and hair when he rose once more. "The company of beasts is preferable."
Lionizer nodded, there was obviously bad blood there, something he understood all too well -- it was why he preferred to work alone. "The wilds are more comforting to me as well."
"But enough of that, tell me of your hunt. If I'm to accompany you, I should know our quarry." Alcaeus looked up from his scrubbing, still trying to remove the last of the filth.
This was a difficult moment. Lionizer racked his brain, trying to think of a way to explain it to a primitive: "I belong to a kingdom known as the Autobots, who have long battled against a rival kingdom known as the Decepticons. My king directed us to hunt down a Decepticon ship, which we found near your world. We battled, it crashed somewhere in the ocean. The enemies I track are those who fled the crashing of their ship, and have hidden out on your world."
"So, we hunt evil lions?" Alceaus nodded as he finished cleaning, donning his clothes and armour once more.
"Not lions, my kind can take on other forms. Even I have a second form, although it would be of little use to you." Lionizer let out a small roar of laughter, which just confused the human more.
"Changing form? Like the gods?" he asked as Lionizer bent down, letting him mount his back. "It's said that Zeus seduced many in the form of birds or serpents. My grandmother swore that he visited her once in a golden form."
Lionizer shook his head, just gently enough to let Alcaeus know it was just in disagreement, rather than an attempt to dislodge him. "We're not gods. While my armour's tougher, and my claws are stronger, I can still die to other mortals. Just like anyone else, I follow the thirteen high gods."
As Lionizer started running, heading south through the woods, Alcaeus couldn't help but exclaim "Wait, there are only twelve high gods!"
Lionizer chuckled to himself. This certainly would be an interesting journey.
"Wait, that doesn't make any sense!" Protested Lionizer.
Alcaeus laughed, "A metal lion is telling me that the gods don't make sense?" He hung tight to the mane -- each metal hair the width of his fingers -- and probed deeper. "What's got you so confused?"
"Well, you mentioned Hephaestus was born by Hera after she became jealous of Athena. But how could she have done that if Hephaestus helped with Athena's birth?" Lionizer shook his head again, leaping another small cliff as they bounded towards his quarry.
"Both can be true, the gods are greater than us mortals. Just like that story you told about Megatronus and how his name was forgotten. If it's forgotten, why do you know it." As much as Lionizer hated it, Alcaeus had a point.
He just sighed, his displeasure hidden by the wind whipping past them "We're getting closer anyway, a league at most."
"You're changing the subject. Also that's not good news, we're near Lerna. That place has been cursed for a while." Alcaeus suppressed a shiver.
Lionizer slowed his pace, "Cursed?" he asked as he came to a stop. "What is it? It could be a clue to who's causing it."
"The water of the lake. There's ruins there and the water was said to heal, but for months now it's instead only poisoned those who drank from it." Alceus slipped off Lionizer's back. "They said it was from the gods, but if it's connected to your Decepticons, that could explain it. Some have even said they've seen serpents hiding in the waters."
"A lake, that's not good news." They walked together in silence as Lionizer weighed his options. "I don't do well with water."
Lionizer nodded. "Like a stone. I'll have to figure some way to deal with them, hopefully without going too far into the water."
Another thought had occurred to Lionizer, but he kept quiet. There was little way to describe it to his companion, nor express how dangerous it was. He just had to hope he was wrong about the lake.
On the surface the water was clear blue, sparkling clean, no wonder people had thought it had healing properties. But light wasn't the only thing he could see, as he viewed the spectacle with senses Alcaeus couldn't dream of. And there it was, a purple welt, slowly spreading through the water. Pale and thin at this shore, but amongst the ruins across the lake it was a shining wound. A curse was right. "Energon," he muttered.
"Energon? Is that the fiend we hunt?" Alcaeus asked, already loosening his sword for combat.
Lionizer shook his head. "Worse. It's the food and lifeblood of my kind, but it's deadly to other species. And worst of all it can't be seen or felt by other's eyes."
He placed a paw on Alcaeus' shoulder, "I beg you, stay here. This may not seem a threat, but if you go there, death will find you."
"Death?" He looked across the waters. For a moment, Lionizer thought it wouldn't matter, that he'd still insist on coming -- and then he'd need to find some way to prevent it -- but instead Alcaeus released his sword and found somewhere to sit, watching the apparently deadly water and the ruins across it. "I'll wait, but come back swiftly. I'd rather not be here when I get thirsty." He smiled, which was a relief.
Lionizer laughed at the poor humour, and started off around the lake, keeping an eye out, trying to find the signal that had drawn him here. He just hoped he wouldn't need to learn to swim.
The ruins were quiet, mostly the shattered remains of homes and artificial hills. As he stepped across the bare foundations he began to fear that he really would be getting wet. He checked his radiation counter, using it as a makeshift compass as he headed towards the energon source.
There it was, a small pile of debris covering it, buried next to the lake, where it must have been seeping through. Lionizer scraped off the surface rubble, uncovering a large cylinder marked with the Decepticons' insignia: An energon refiner for certain. That meant there was a con around nearby, and one who'd at least tried to hide his fuel source.
That was a curiously principled move, lessening the likelihood the indigenous life of the planet would stumble over it. It obviously hadn't worked, poisoning the lake and all... but maybe there was a chance to negotiate.
He roared out a challenge, sending waves across the still surface of the lake and sending birds flying from the distant treeline.
And then sat, and waited.
His patience took nearly ten minutes to be rewarded, the lake rippling as something rose upwards, until at last the head and shoulders of a giant emerged from the water, striding towards the shore. "An Autobot?" an echoing voice emerged from the giant, which Lionizer slowly began to recognise as ma suit of armour than a cybertronian. It's base had originally been a Cybernaut, but now it had been augmented by endlessly writhing cables, each tipped with a snapping set of jaws. One pair even dragged with it some stone blocks, piling them on the shore to dry. "I didn't think you'd find me."
"I'm the best tracker of the Autobots," he smiled as he approached the figure. "Lionizer, and I think you and I may be able to find some common ground."
"Why?" The giant turned to look at him, although it was impossible to view who was piloting it through the shattered faceplate. "I'm just surprised you've not opened fire. It's what's kept you alive."
"You kept the energon refiner buried, even if it did seep into the lake. An attempt to preserve life that seems noble," remembering what he was talking to, he added: "For a Decepticon."
"Preseve life?" The armour started shaking, and after a moment Lionizer heard the bark of laughter emerging from within. "It's nothing of the sort!" A tentacle wrapped around the lion before he could move, squeezing him tight. More joined it, sealing off any chance for Lionizer to escape or resit "I just wanted to avoid anyone stealing it before I got the shuttle working."
Another tentacle moved to press a button on the armour's wrist. As if to echo the Decepticon's words, the water started bubbling, a muffled roar emerging as the dagger-like shuttle rose from the depths.
"And now," the armour hissed as it opened, the puny golden figure on the inside becoming obvious now, "You're not going to be able to stop me pillaging this world of anything valuable I can get my claws on!"
Alcaeus waited on the far side of the lake. He didn't move when he heard Lionizer's roar. Nor did he move when the giant had emerged from the depths. But once it entangled Lionizer, once the strange shape had emerged from the depths, he had no choice.
He tore off a piece of his tunic, placing it across his face. He'd had no sponge to prevent bad air, but the mask would need to suffice. He girded his loincloth, and made sure his sword was with him -- no matter how useless it would be.
Diving into the water, he started swimming across it. Death by poison was a risk, but he knew enough about what happened to captured soldiers to know he couldn't leave Lionizer to his enemy's whims.
Instead he made sure not to swallow any of the tempting water as he sped through it, heading towards the strange ship, or chariot, or whatever it was.
He just had to hope he'd be fast enough.
Lionizer struggled futilely as the con marched onto the shuttle, pulling at a rod that slammed the ship's doors shut, and activating the internal lights, revealing the mess of stonework and pottery that the con had recovered. It all seemed so useless to him. And that must have been obvious to the con -- either that or it just liked to talk. "I see you do not grasp the beauty of my collection. This primitive society has created such marvellous artwork. And of course, when it's destroyed by the Decepticon army, this artwork is all that will remain." It ran a tentacle across a stone carving. "And then its worth will be incalculable."
"You'd kill an entire people just to make money?" Lionizer spluttered with disbelief.
"Don't be so crass. I'd not be doing the killing, or at least not all of it. I just intended to take what I can, and make a profit from it." The con disentangled itself from the suit, leaving it -- and Lionizer -- paralysed. Instead it converted into many legged crustacean thing. "What do you think? "Octopunch's Cultural Museum," or "the Museum of Dead Civilizations?" It waved a claw at him in what may have been intended to be a grand gesture of magnificence, but what looked more like an attempt at grabbing attention.
Lionizer just laughed. "It's not going to matter, when I get free those relics will be returned to the humans. And I'll make sure neither you nor your con will get a chance to hurt them."
"The humans don't care. They buried them, threw them away. They have no worth except for what I place in them. And when I've escaped this miserable world, the worth I can get from others." Octopunch scuttled towards the exit, "Do not worry, I'm just going to recover the energon refiner, and then we'll be on our way." It yanked on the rod, pulling the exit door's mechanism, and opening the ramp
When he'd left, Lionizer kept struggling, trying to find a way out of the confining metallic cables, but it was hopeless. "Scrap," he muttered to himself, "I should have left a way for Alcaeus to call for help." If nothing else, the human could warn the others. Save his planet.
For all he liked doing things on his own, it obviously wasn't working out.
"Well you can give me a way next time," came a voice down beneath him.
Lionizer tried move his head, futilely trying to prove the voice was just a hallucination, that the human wasn't so foolish as to come into the death zone. "You lunatic!" He snarled.
"I know," Alcaeus muttered as he climbed up the giant armour, and tried to pull Lionizer free from the tentacles. "But I couldn't just leave you."
"But now we both die!" He protested, but the human wasn't listening, nor was he having any luck freeing him. "Just run, escape. You may still have a cha-"
"Vermin!" Bellowed Octopunch, eclipsing the doorway with the bulk of the energon refiner. "You brought a human aboard my shuttle!" It scuttled towards the armour, leaving Alcaeus with no option but to jump, hoping the pottery would break his fall.
It was a sharp, painful landing, but at least the pots were softer than the floor, especially now they'd become brittle with water.
Octopunch turned. Enraged by the desecration of his relics he roared wordlessly, his claws snapping at Alcaeus as he charged.
Running wasn't an option. And like this, the fiend had no neck to strangle, so he couldn't repeat that. He reached out for the nearest thing he could hold, the rod attached to the shuttle's door mechanism. To his surprise it came free, and he shut his eyes, swinging for the crab-thing as he felt death approach.
Thunder rang through the shuttle, and then there was silence.
Alcaeus finally opened his eyes, staring at the scene in front of him, the Decepticon slammed against his ill-gotten bounty, the stone and his shell seeming equally crushed. It moaned in agony, and then was still.
He looked at the rod in his hands, which now seemed more like a club, the head rounded but with a mouth to hold onto things. It had struck the crab like a thunderbolt.
Gripping it tightly, he ran up to the giant, striking at the tentacles still gripping onto Lionizer, breaking them off and freeing him from their grip.
Now liberated, Lionizer yanked at what remained of them, throwing them at Octopunch to weigh him down. "Are you okay?" He asked, looking closely at Alcaeus's eyes.
"That should be my question! With this club I'm invincible!" But he was already feeling overly warm, sweat pouring from his head. "I... just need to lean against something." He went to the wall, slumping against it. "I just need to rest." When did he get so tired. When did it get so dark?
He could barely hear Lionizer, he'd have to tell him to speak up, get him to explain what a bridge had to do with anything.
But that could wait until he'd rested. His eyes shut, and everything went black.
Edited by Tindalos, 11 May 2019 - 08:33 PM.