Acheolous -- The Fallen River God By: Tyvara
Acheoleous had never grappled with a man like Hercules before. Considering the man was a mere demigod, empowered at only a fraction of what a full god possessed, while Acheolous ruled the rivers as its lord, this should have been easy. He should be off with Dejanira screwing her pretty, brown head off. Instead he'd battled for a day in the form of a bull until Hercules had grappled his head into a lock. After shifting forms to the speckled serpent to escape the hold, he attempted to poison the foolish mortal, show him the true power of a full god. Nevertheless, after a ferocious dance of slithering, striking, and evading for a second day, Hercules eventually captured his head with a stick, rendering his fangs useless. Now, Acheoleous fought Hercules in his final and favorite form, a giant minotaur. The battle had raged for hours, with neither gaining the upper hand, only the continual clash and retreat of their match.
They faced one another from opposite sides of the arena they'd formed throughout their scuffle. Every breath burned in Acheoleous' lungs, but Hercules dripped puddles of sweat, his muscles twitching from overuse. The demigod can't continue this battle forever, then again, neither can I. He'd been through two forms already, granted they were weaker, Acheoleous hadn't expected to wrestle for three days straight. Still, he'd been beaten twice and the anger grated him like a fiery itch he couldn't reach.
"Acheoleous," Hercules' brow furrowed and shone from the sudor drenching him, "Do you relinquish your claim on Dejanira?"
"You haven't bested me yet, Hercules." Spittle foamed at his mouth from dehydration, and he licked his lips in a futile attempt to quench his thirst. Three days away from the river is taking its toll. "She's my right to claim as river god. You have no reason to interfere." He lashed his taurine tail against his thighs, cracking it like a whip. My river, my rules.
"Dejanira called on me for aid," he wiped the shine away with his palm. "That's reason enough."
"You foolish mortals, when will you learn not to meddle in the dealings of gods!" Unable to contain his anger any longer Acheolous rushed his foe. His head low, horns aimed at Hercules' chest.
Right when he should have impacted, his hooves dug into the dirt as Hercules gripped his horns, slamming him into a stop. He tried to toss him to the ground, but Acheolous' possessed a thicker neck as a minotaur. Hercules couldn't topple him like he had in his bull form.
Using his arms, Acheolous grabbed Hercules around his torso and lifted him into the air, throwing him over his head to land somewhere behind him. Turning to face Hercules again, the demigod lay on his back, and Acheolous charged forward aiming to skewer the man where he lay.
This time Hercules gripped his horns and snapped him to one side.
The force torqued Acheolous' entire body with an earsplitting pop. His head spun, and for a split second, he couldn't see. The next moment of awareness, he lay on his side, a painful ache filling his head. I lost.
Across from him, a full body-length away, lay Hercules, his chest rose and fell in heaves. The battle had worn on both of them. Neither came away unscathed.
Acheolous shifted his weight to lift himself from the ground, but his muscles shook, and he remained. His vision doubled from the effort, and his nostrils tinged with the metallic stink of blood. Bringing his hands to his head, Acheolous felt around for his wound. Luckily there's no death as a god, but injuries are still a big pain in the ass. When he gripped his horns, he found that one had nearly split apart at the base, hanging askew like a limp limb.
Hercules shook as he struggled to sit.
In an effort to rise first, Acheolous tried to push himself upright, but Hercules beat him by a few seconds.
They stared at each other in silence. Neither moved, save for the undulating swell of their chests as they breathed.
"Will you," Hercules began, "release your claim on Dejanira?"
Acheolous gripped his broken horn in both hands. With a disconcerting creak, he severed the horn from his head, tossing it aside. A loud thump signaled its landing in the dirt. "Take her." He sighed, sitting with his hands between his bent knees. "She's been too much trouble already."
A happy squeal resounded from beyond the arena, and Dejanira bounded from behind a tree. She ran to Hercules, her dark hair flying behind her like a rippling flag. Embracing him while he sat, she burst into tears.
Definitely too much trouble for a bit of pussy. Struggling to his feet, Acheolous' head had already begun to clear. The blood from his horn had all but clotted and stopped. More than anything he craved to return to the water of his river. I need rest and a nice soak after all that.
A short tug at his hand caused Acheolous to turn. By his side stood Dejanira's companion, the small, childlike nymph, Naiads.
"Could I take your horn, Acheolous, since you threw it away?" Her tiny voice squeaked with meek suppliance.
He nodded. "It's of no use to me anymore. Do what you please with it. I'm going home." Without another word, he returned to the comfort of his river.
Naiads scurried to the horn and gathered it up, its large size almost greater than herself. But her small stature mattered nothing to her kind's strength, and she lifted it with ease. Carrying it to the river, she washed the horn free of blood. While she rinsed out the center, Dejanira and Hercules stood at her side.
"What are you doing, Naiads?" Dejanira's tear-streaked face quirked in curiosity. Now free from her intended betrothed, Naiads' mistress displayed emotions other than dread. A fortunate sign.
"It's a gift for the goddess of plenty, for helping us recruit Hercules to free you from the hands of Acheolous. She did us a great service that deserves to be honored."
"What will you do with such an ugly thing?" Dejanira scowled at the horn as Naiads brought it onto the shore to dry.
"It's only plain because of where it came from. I'll fill it with flowers and fruit that we pass on our way to Amalthea's home. That should make it beautiful enough for a gift."
Dejanira shrugged. "Whatever suits you, Naiads, my dear, but I want to leave this place. I am free of Acheolous. I don't wish to stay here a second longer."
"Yes, mistress." Naiads hurried to comply, following behind Dejanira and Hercules as they led the way back to Amalthea, the goddess of plenty. As they traveled, Naiads wandered back and forth across the paths, plucking the most beautiful fruits and flowers and filling the horn like a nest.
Throughout their journey, the horn of Acheolous lost its ivory color, turning brown and withered like a dried-out husk. Because Acheolous could shift his form, he wasn't a true minotaur, and neither was his horn, a true horn. When they reached Amalthea's home, Naiads presented the browned horn filled with a myriad of flowers and fresh fruit.
The matronly former nursemaid of Zeus gleamed, clutching the horn to her chest. "What a beautiful gift. I would have gladly pleaded with my grandson to aid a fellow nymph without reward, but your gift pleases me greatly. It's a cornucopia of delights." Her eyes lit up at the word. "Yes, a cornucopia, rather fitting for the goddess of plenty."
"Indeed, my lady." Naiads replied with a smile. "I'm glad you agree."
According to the book, Acheolous was a river god who battled Hercules for Dejanira. He could take the form of a bull, snake and a minotaur. While in his minotaur form he lost a horn. The horn was recovered by Naiads who filled it with fruit and flowers and presented it to the goddess of plenty. This became the first cornucopia. Also, from the blood that spilled from Acheolous' severed horn, sprang the sirens. I didn't include this, but I assume it happened after everyone left the scene. The Greeks sure did like creatures springing from blood. The sirens aren't the only beasts with that origin story.
No surprise at the inspiration for today's story. Although the beginning is told from Acheolous' perspective, the story felt incomplete without the part about Naiads and the cornucopia, so I included it.
Thanks so much for reading.