He felt a soft hand on his shoulder, gentle and warm. Slowly, he blinked open his eyes, looking into a perfect, blue sky, a breath of breeze playing at his hair. Ajax sat up and gazed about him, to see the two figures, shadowy against the brilliant sunlight, standing next to him, their robes swirling like water about their legs.
Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he rose to his feet to meet them. He recognized the first as Hera, the Goddess of Marriage, who was there earlier in the court of Zeus. But for some reason he could not unlock his eyes from the woman to her left, beauty in every form of her body, her face and eyes glowing pink and gold. He could easily guess that she was Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love.
He noticed Cameo stand up from his sleeping position as well, gaping at Aphrodite with a stunned, enchanted expression. She giggled playfully, curling a golden lock of hair around her finger. Hera shifted irritably, and spoke with a strong, commanding voice, attracting their attention away from the other Goddess, "Hello, you two. Perhaps you wonder why we have come to visit you-to speak privately."
Ajax and Cameo waited. The two Goddesses looked at each other before Aphrodite continued, "Both of us have seen the great love you feel for Elpida, Ajax, and have been now been determined to assist you as we can in your...journey, if that is what this shall be called."
Hera held out her hand, her palm up. Resting there was a simple, golden ring, a small, blood-red ruby set into it. "This is for Elpida...a gift of sorts." Aphrodite explained. "A woman that sets such love and determination into you must be special in a way."
"It is not just a gift," Hera said sternly. "When you reach Hades' realm and retrieve Elpida, then you shall place the ring on her finger and guide her back to the Elysian Fields with you. It will allow her soul to be transferred from the Underworld to the Heavens."
Carefully, Ajax took the ring into his own hands, inspecting it and running his fingers over the smooth, glistening gold. "Thank you, Hera and Aphrodite." he breathed, tucking it in his pocket. "I will repay you somehow-,"
Hera shook her head, raising her palm to him. "No, you mustn't. You are truly a fine symbol of Marriage, and it is you deserve to be repaid for all of your heroic actions on Earth."
Ajax bowed his head gratefully, holding his hand over his pocket. Just then, Hermes appeared behind the two women, making them all turn to him. "Zeus is waiting," Hermes announced, bidding them to a portal he waved open with his hand, leading to the Halls of Olympus.
Zeus gazed over them thoughtfully as the two men returned, Hera and Aphrodite following behind them. What trouble had they been up to? Zeus frowned as he watched Aphrodite sit in her seat, and then Hera in her own next to his; he would speak with them at a later time.
"So...," boomed Zeus, half smiling as his opposing tone and how that half-wit Cameo shrunk at it. How in the world did he become a hero was beyond him. "...I have decided to help you in the few ways I can. Hades is the King of his own world, which means I cannot overrule him myself. It is him you truly have business with...but you do indeed need my assistance, in a small way."
He paused, watching Ajax's anxious, waiting face. Ajax does really love that woman, Elpida. How curious. I would rejoice in being separted from Hera and her nagging voice for even the smallest amount of time. Zeus shrugged and continued, "Anyways," He stood, beckoning to them. "Come."
Pensively, Ajax stepped forward, closer to the form of the King of all Gods. "As much as I love my brother," Zeus smiled wrly. "He is cruel and cunning, and will do anything to retrieve or protect his prized souls." He pulled a sheild, gold, silver, and black, from behind him and held it out to Ajax. It was designed with the shapes of lightening, thunderclouds, and ancient runes, shinning amazingly in the afternoon light. "This is for you, Ajax. With it, you may walk in the realm of Hades protected. Though it does not make you invincible. Do not fall for his tricks. And above all, do not eat anything he offers you.
"You shall be off then-return to the Elysian Fields and at first light tomorrow you shall begin." Zeus finished, sitting back in his great golden throne.
"Tomorrow morning?" Ajax said impatiently. "Why mustn't I depart now?"
Zeus furrowed his brow, like great thunderclouds over his eyes. "Patience, Ajax! You shall leave as I say-night is amoung the darkest time in the Underworld. You would be lost before you arrive, to roam the maze of halls eternally. Light is when I am strongest, and the sheild will easily guide you through safely."
Ajax bowed his head, "Yes, Zeus. I am forever grateful for your help."
"Ha!" laughed Zeus lightly. "Do not thank me yet-I may be more trouble to you than help!" He waved his great, heavy hand. "Now go-I must deal with other matters!"
"Wait!" Cameo raised his hand. "What of I? How must I return from the Underworld without such a sheild?"
"What?" Zeus had to restrain a chuckle.
Cameo nodded, "Yes-of course I will not be sleeping and drinking in the Elysian Fields when there is adventure afoot...and my best friend needs my assistance!"
He looked at Ajax for help, his eyes pleading. Ajax sighed and turned towards Zeus, "Indeed, he must come."
Zeus frowned but nodded. "The shield will lead both of you back to the Heavens, as long as you stay to Ajax's left side."
Cameo beamed. Zeus grimace and continued irritably, "Farewell, now, men! I wish you good fortune on your mission. You have my blessing."