Lysander treked day and night, Ares' mythical staff leading him along the way. It had been weeks since he had seen the War God, and he began to doubt the honesty of the dark armoured Immortal and his strange staff, that guided him around every city and deeper and deeper in the dense forrests.
His feet hurt, and his legs ached, the soles of his thin leather shoes had worn to pieces, so he walked barefoot across the soft woodland ground. He had not seen a soul since Ares had gifted him with the jeweled staff and hunger for some real cooking began to set in. Lysander felt like tossing the evil staff into the stream and starting over again, but spell woven into it kept him from doing so, attaching him to the amazing piece of wood and it's dark, lustrous gem.
Lysander paused in the evening twilight, the darkening shadows deepening about him. He could hear singing, the most beautiful trills of voices floating on a sweet and gentle breeze. The staff itself seemed to tremble at the pause in his step, urging him to push onwards. But the voices were so enchanting, irresistable.
He continued to stand, hanging on the rise and fall of each note, the volume increasing as it seemed to near. In the shadows, there was shifting, and from them emerged a group of Nymph women, twirling and singing, eyeing Lysander with their round, liquid eyes.
Caught in a trance, he danced and sang with them, yet as he neared them, they pulled away, melting into the murk of the increasing night. Drunken with their enchantment, he chased after them, the mirth of their song and giggles leading him through the forrest to a riverbed, rich with silver moonlight. There they waited, ready to pull him into their trap.
"Wait!" came a cry, so gentle and sweet. The spell seemed to snap from him, the fog which enveloped his mind clearing. He turned, to see another Nymph woman, surpassing all the others in her great beauty. Auburn hair fell to her waist, silky like water as she walked nearer. Around her forehead she wore a crown of thorns and thistles, and rose petals, like tears, caught in her ruby hair. Her deepest of green eyes were only slightly tarnished by anger and irritation, as she walked to her three fellow sisters, boiling with bitter rage. "What do you think you are doing!" she exclaimed.
"Ayistis, you have ruined it!" complained the smallest one, placing her hands on her petite waist. "Mustn't you ruin everything?"
"You all have been told to quit your tricks many times. Most of all you should know that, Deroneya." her voice was calmer and smoother.
"Ha!" scoffed another, taller and more slender. "So? Since when have you cared in our doings?"
Ayistis was silent, her expression hard and forceful. The tallest flicked back her golden hair and walked away, disappearing into the creek water, the other two hurriedly following.
The remaining pair of eyes returned to Lysander, tugging at his heart. "I must apologize for them. It is a game of their's-they can simply not be stopped." She paused, looking over him and continuing, "It appears you have walked for centuries. Would you care for some food and drink?"
Lysander eagerly nodded, allowing the stunning Ayistis to take his hand and guide him through the forrest. He could not see where he was going, but a hum of a chorus of instruments and voices could be heard, like an echo.
She led him closer and closer to the sound, until the trees opened to reveal a clearing lit with golden flames, dark figures dancing merrily about it as they sung. Lysander soon realized that many of the figures were unhuman-a Centaur, several men who appeared as goats, and more beautiful Nymph women. Many brought him both plentiful food and drink, filling his stomach and quenching his thirst. The mix of thick wine and merry music made him dazed and gay, twirling hand in hand with many of the Nymph women. The night passed as a blur, yet Lysander could remember distinctly when he took fair Ayistis' hands and danced with her till he was too tired to do so no longer, and afterwards landing a kiss on her full, red lips.
Lysander woke with an aching head, swirling with the after-affects of drunkenness. He opened his eyes, the early morning sky grey with clouds. The bonfire which had once been before was now a great pit of ashy logs and golden ambers. The air was still and silent, and no one was about expecting the nymph Ayistis, who sat at his side gazing over him.
He sat up slowly, her beauty brightening the whole day, it seemed. He looked into her deep, green eyes, like emerald gems set into her full fair face. Lysander smiled, and leaned into kiss her once more, but she stood before he got too close, and offered her hand for him to stand as well.
As he did as she beckoned, he realized Ares' staff in his hand, pulling at his arm with such force, reminding him of the journey which was to be accomplished, vengence to be brought. After a night's rest and fine food, he felt invigorated and eager to be on his way once more, a sense of duty returning. And then he looked to Ayistis' face, as if her eyes, sad and somber, knew what he had in mind.
"I must be on my way." Lysander said quietly. "There is something I must do...,"
"No," her voice was strong and pleading, she inched closer to him, her aroma like spring roses filling the air. She cried, begging "It is something that you mustn't do. Don't do it!"
Fury inflamed him. How could she tell him that it was something that he mustn't do? How did she know? She saw the anger in his eyes and stepped even closer to him, her voice softer, melting away his rage and annoyance, "Stay with me. Don't go! It will only cause ruin!"
Lysander shook his head, "I am sorry, Ayistis. I must."
He leaned in and kissed her once more, forcing himself to come away from her. Her eyes wavered with tears, "Vow to me you shall return," Ayistis demanded, tightening her hand around his.
"I swear," Lysander nodded, and with one last look, he ripped himself away and followed after his staff into the woods. He thought he saw a woman with golden hair and amazing beauty to rival even Ayistis' following him from the corner of his eye, but turning and gazing about, he realized he must just be seeing things.
He stepped from the canopy of the forrest and into the sunlight, looking onto the great city, crowned with the towers of a Palace. "You have now arrived," a thunderous voice said behind him, making him jump and turn. Ares in his dark attire stood there, towering over him.
"You had a few doubtful moments, but you have almost completed your bidding," the God continued. "The killer of your father was a masked warrior, correct?"
Lysander swallowed, a flood of memories returning. They made him vengeful and bitter, ready to fight. "Yes."
Ares contained a chuckle at how easy this plan was working, how gullable this young boy turned out to be. "I have made a discovery. This masked warrior was infact Prince Kelos. Kelos had now become King at his own Father's death and rules this piece of Greece. He murdered your father. Cruel, evil man. You shall kill him."
He felt fire and rage burn through him, he would kill Kelos, as daunting as the killing of a King seemed.
"With my help," Ares smirked.