"Under whose authority have you come to take what the gods have ordained as mine alone."
- His Highness, King Euklideseus of the Hellon Valley. UCY 1642
The Treachery of Nikademos
The history of Lakonia extends long before the collective memories of it's inhabitants. Prejudices and house alliances run from feuds that long ago lost the context of their merit. Many good men lay in graves dug from the ambitions of self-righteous men.
Even these great histories of conflict pale to the tragedy of the line that culminated to the stories of Euklideseus and Nikademos. Two brothers born of a lineage that traces back to heroes such as the first Pythia, Leora of the Shroud and Aegememnon the Wise from the supposed great wars of the first peoples. At the turn of history, twin boys were born to the King of Lakonia and Nikademos proclaimed the eldest.
Such is tragedy that the more meek and mild one might be the eldest. Euklideseus was plagued with a jealous heart, and both were born with the ambition of their ancestors. There was no contest too petty for the pair, and it seemed that Nikademos remained one step ahead of his brother throughout their entire young life.
Lakonia existed in a deep valley, and the river Eurotas cuts the city into two parts. The greater valley was dubbed the Hellon Valley, and throughout time small villages have come to be tributes to the great city. The time of the brothers were at the very curtail of Lakonia's sovereignty and it was a period of much unrest in the entire land of Venisia as the Old Empire paint their maps in the blood of unbent knees.
It is within this labyrinth of skeletons and conquest that the story of Archidamos lays its foundation.
Deimos, father of the twins, creates footsteps larger than most for his children to follow. The Lakonians are a proud people with a history of domination in the greater valley area. Unwilling to compromise, unyielding in their sovereignty and with the guidance of the Pythia, they were unaccustomed to failure in war campaigns. The battles to hold back the Old Empire's advances were more fierce than any that had come before them. Tales tell of the valley floor littered in soot and dead bodies. The Eurotas ran red with the blood of the dead Imperials.
Tales of the Lakonian's have grown beyond reason with time. The struggle against the imperial oppressors speak of battles involving tens of thousands Imperials lives lost upon the terraces of Hellon. The name of Deimos became a ghost story that the Imperials would use to make their children behave. All of these battle culminated in the ancient city, as the old king refused to back down. His boys, strong and wise like their father took to the battlefield in the heart of the conquest. They became great warriors in their own right at the peak of the struggle. The cost of the battles were becoming so high that the Lakonians were certain that the Imperials would have to abandon their campaign.
The battle of Argos would become the stage that would define the next thousand years of Lakonian culture. The village of Argos was larger than most of the tribute cities, and it was a major source of resources for the Lakonians. Several attempts to take it had been thwarted in the years that lead to the final battle. The Lakonians sent the full strength of their remaining army to fight.
The battle seemed to favor the Hellonians, but chaos struck when the signals to retreat were sounded from the Lakonians. Nikademos, the traitor as they would call him in later stories. The man who sold out his father, and kingdom.
The trumpets had been signaled at the height of battle when three things had happened almost simultaneously. Deimos fell to an enemy commander, as his phalanx fell back while he stood his ground. Nikademos and Euklideseus were said to break the ground, and rend the skies in a clash that would be remembered for millenia to come. Finally, the Pythia was killed by an assassin in the small city of Delphi.
For the first time in his life, Euklideseus came out ahead of his brother. He would come to explain how Nikademos had sold their country out to the Imperials in a bid to retain his title as king after Deimos had been slain. The Pythia had been slain so that her powers as the Oracle couldn't be used to uncover the treachery of Nikademos. Euklideseus had been told of his brother's orders by one of the soldiers commanded to betray King Deimos with only moments to spare. In his rage, he had killed his brother.
As a symbol of good welfare towards the future of Lakonia, Euklideseus spared the sons of Nikademos, but stripped them of title. He would go on to negotiate the integration of Lakonia into the Empire, and the surrender of his people. In the negotiations his line would retain a hereditary stewardship of the Hellon Valley that would work alongside the Governor and the Senator of the region to maintain the peoples and their peace.
This line would remain unbroken for the next millennia. The progeny of Nikademos would eventually make their way back into the higher echelon of Lakonian society, but this feud would only increase in tempo through the years. Civil wars would flare up between those that claimed lineage of Euklideseus, and those of Nikademos, but eventually be struck down by the sitting steward with the help of the Empire.
"Take heed, sons of Euklideseus! There yet shall be a Prince, a Harbinger of my will. That you might find vengeance for the treason put before the gods. That you might burn away the old wounds to make way for new flesh. The Fires of the Pythia shall anoint thy words, and the poisons of it's fangs shall purify those that have been disgraced by the Divine."
Madea, the last Pythia. 1640 UCY
There was a boy born to a family that had long ago lost their true lineage, but the people told tales of their filthy blood. They called them the Nikademeans, and they were looked down upon even by the other farmers. The family owned a small herd of goats, and tended to a small farm in the fertile soil that rest at the bottom of the valley. He was born in the heart of winter, so they named the boy Archidamos.
The parents cared for the boy as best they could, and they raised him along with his siblings to work the fields. As he grew older, they would send him to tend their goats in the fields. There was a certain grace that he held, a quickness of wit that could not be denied. His father taught him to hunt, fish, and even a bit of reading.
When the boy was eight years old, tragedy befell upon the household of Jason, and his progeny. Guards came from Lakonia to the west, and raided the man's farm. They burned the crops that surrounded it and killed everyone in the small house. At the time, Achidamos had been sent off to tend the goats, so he had narrowly escaped death. The attack left him alone, though. They were close to the village of Delphi, so he made the trek to seek help from anyone he could find.
On his way there, a woman met him along the road. She seemed to have been in a hurry, but she stopped to listen to Archidamos. After his plea for help, she seemed very accepting of the plight, and offered to take him in under one condition. When he had grown, she would send him on a task, and he would have to see it's end no matter the request. Archidamos worried about what the woman might want, but he agreed for fear that he might not find another person to take in an orphan such as himself.
The woman, to his surprise knew much of reading and writing, so she continued to teach him in those regards. She also claimed to have walked the plains, and knew something of the Shroud. Even at a young age, she began to tell him of what she knew about these mysteries that had been left out of his childhood. The woman would also tell him of Euklideseus and Nikademos. The way that she spoke about them was incredibly strange. It was spoke with a tenderness, as if she knew them and were scared of what might happen were they to hear her talking of them. The woman was odd, though. He brushed it aside as a simple oddity.
As he grew older, the things that she taught him became much more intricate. She taught him of finances, of the politics of the Old Empire, and of the very ancient history of Lakonia. Regularly, she would teach him how to survive on his own, leaving him to fend for himself for days or weeks at a time. At times she would tell him where they were, other times she would lead him somewhere and force him to make his way back alone.
Most of all, the pair did not stay anywhere long. Archidamos would miss his family, but his life at this time moved at a quick pace, and it was hard for him to find time to truly mourn them aside from the occasional drifting condolence. The woman would explain that they could not stay anywhere for long because the guards would continue to hunt him, to try to kill him because he knew that they had committed atrocities. At the time, it made sense to the young boy.
In spite of being called a Lakonian by most, he would be almost fourteen before he actually visited the main city of Lakonia. The vastness of the city, and its wealth stunned him at the time. His fifteenth birthday was coming quickly at the time, and with it there was a change in his caregiver's strangeness. It was as if anticipated something that would not be easy.
Behold, my true and wretched form. The disgrace of Lakonia rests in it's atrocity."
- Madea, the last Pythia. 3053 UCY
Their trip to Lakonia did not seem without importance, because the old woman took him beyond the city to the mountains beyond that enclosed the Hellon Valley. The largest of them, Gaia Mount was their intended target. They toiled their way to the top of the mountain over the course of what felt like weeks to the boy. Unaccustomed to the cold, he thought that he would freeze to death on numerous occasions before they finally came to the an area near the peak.
Snow covered the ground, but it clearly seemed to have been made by humans. It seemed as though many years had passed since it was built, but there was still an alter that stood among the snow. The woman seemed lost in nostalgia, as she looked at the ancient stone that had made it.
"It has been so long..." She whispered, and all Archidamos could do is stand in awe as the years seemed to shed from the old woman.
Her hair became as silk and turned back to a deep black. Her face smoothed to what could only be described as a beauty beyond any that he'd ever seen before. Once she had reached the summit of the raised dais that stood before the alter, she turned back to Archidamos with a smile on her face. That smile turned flat as she seemed to suddenly remember him.
"This is where I was betrayed, Archidamos," She muttered, as her gown and skin began to glow.
"Y.. you are the oracle? The Pythia betrayed by Nikadamos?" Archidamos would ask her, barely able to collect his thoughts.
She would never give him a true answer to that question, she instead changed the topic, "There are precious few moments left for me, Archidamos. This attempt to convince you will surely destroy what little is left of my mind. Do you remember the promise you made me, when I agreed to look after you?"
"O... of course. I promised you a favor," He remembered, the feeling of anxiety all of those years ago. The promise he made in the face of survival. That fear, that uncertainty suddenly came back on the peak of Gaia.
"It is time that you honor that favor," She demanded. The image that she took seemed to shimmer in a way that almost seemed as if it might be about to pull itself apart. With a deep breath, she waved her hand to show an image of some ancient ruins, "You must go to Argos. Long ago, a man was buried in a crypt there. Find a way in, and your debt will be paid."
"How..." He started to demand, but he could not even hear his own voice.
Madea screamed a guttural sound screech that drowned out all other sounds, as the light that enveloped her burst forth in all directions. Slowly, her corpse would descend back unto a flame he had not noticed before. As the body caught fire, he got a short glimpse of her. It looked much more deformed that she ever had, even as an old lady. It looked as if some kind of demon had tried to wear a suit made of the old woman's skin. The flame took it, and he told himself that it must have been a dream, or some kind of misunderstanding.
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