“Well may you shudder,” Ipsewas said. His grinning head was thrust into the cave of the shell. “That was one of Podarge’s pets. Podarge hates the Lord and would attack him herself if she got the chance, even if she knew it would be her end. Which it would. She knows she can’t get near the Lord, but she can tell her pets to eat up the Eyes of the Lord. Which they do, as you have seen.”
Wolff left the cavern of the shell and stood for awhile, watching the shrinking figure of the eagle and its kill.
“Who is Podarge?”
“She is, like me, one of the Lord’s monsters. She, too, once lived on the shores of the Aegean; she was a beautiful young girl. That was when the great king Priamos and the godlike Akhilleus and crafty Odysseus lived. I knew them all; they would spit on the Kretan Ipsewas, the once-brave sailor and spearfighter, if they could see me now. But I was talking of Podarge. The Lord took her to this world and fashioned a monstrous body and placed her brain within it.
“She lives up there someplace, in a cave on the very face of the mountain. She hates the Lord; she also hates every normal human being and will eat them, if her pets don’t get them first. But most of all she hates the Lord.”
That seemed to be all that Ipsewas knew about her, except that Podarge had not been her name before the Lord had taken her. Also, he remembered having been well acquainted with her. Wolff questioned him further, for he was interested in what Ipsewas could tell him about Agamemnon and Achilles and Odysseus and the other heroes of Homer’s epic. He told the zebrilla that Agamemnon was supposed to be a historical character. But what about Achilles and Odysseus? Had they really existed?
“Of course they did,” Ipsewas said. He grunted, then continued, “I suppose you’re curious about those days. But there is little I can tell you. It’s been too long ago. Too many idle days. Days?-centuries, millenia!-the Lord alone knows. Too much alcohol, too.”
During the rest of the day and part of the night, Wolff tried to pump Ipsewas, but he got little for his trouble. Ipsewas, bored, drank half his supply of nuts and finally passed out snoring. Dawn came green and golden around the mountain. Wolff stared down into the waters, so clear that he could see the hundreds of thousands of fish, of fantastic configurations and splendors of colors. A bright-orange seal rose from the depths, a creature like a living diamond in its mouth. A purple-veined octopus, shooting backward, jetted by the seal. Far, far down, something enormous and white appeared for a second, then dived back toward the bottom.
Presently the roar of the surf came to him, and a thin white line frothed at the base of Thayaphayawoed. The mountain, so smooth at a distance, was now broken by fissures, by juts and spires, by rearing scarps and frozen fountains of stone. Thayaphayawoed went up and up and up; it seemed to hang over the world.
Wolff shook Ipsewas until, moaning and muttering, the zebrilla rose to his feet. He blinked reddened eyes, scratched, coughed, then reached for another punchnut. Finally, at Wolff’s urging, he steered the sailfish so that its course paralleled the base of the mountain.
“I used to be familiar with this area,” he said. “Once I thought about climbing the mountain, finding the Lord, and trying to . . .” He paused, scratched his head, winced, and said, “Kill him! There! I knew I could remember the word. But it was no use. I didn’t have the guts to try it alone.”
“You’re with me now,” Wolff said.
Ipsewas shook his head and took another drink. “Now isn’t then. If you’d been with me then . . . Well, what’s the use of talking? You weren’t even born then. Your great-great-great-great-grandfather wasn’t born then. No, it’s too late.”
He was silent while he busied himself with guiding the sailfish through an opening in the mountain. The great creature abruptly swerved; the cartilage sail folded up against the mast of stiff bone-braced cartilage; the body rose on a huge wave. And then they were within the calm waters of a narrow, steep, and dark fjord.