Chapter 2: Kyros of Zarax - DATA-DUMP_S03.S02

Protagonist: Kyros of Zarax
Setting: Ancient Greece
Time period: VI century BC

Introduction video of the chapter: "IThe DDS is attempting to synchronize millennia old memories. Because the memories you'll explore are ancient, you may feel disoriented, even confused. You may also find it hard to discern reality from fiction. This is normal, please remain calm. Following the events we unlocked in the last sequence, you will now explore the origins of the Hermeticists tradition. You will follow the exploits of the Pythagoras of Samos, the Greek mathematician and scholar. You are one of his protégés, Kyros of Zarax. "

First memory group – HARMONY

I return to Samos a champion. The people are proud of my accomplishments, as though they had reaped the honor themselves. How gracious of them.

Memory 1 – ADAGIO
Pythagoras, my master, awakens me before dawn. I am fatigued, but happy to serve him. I owe him everything, starting with my victories at Elis.

I follow Pythagoras through the empty, quiet streets of Samos. Helios has not yet risen in the heavens and the chill of the morning still lingers.

Pherecydes, an acquaintance of my master, greets us. He is up early. Pythagoras says my performance at the games was nothing short of spectacular. I grin.

My master compares my exploits with those of Coroebus of Elis. Coroebus! Coming from anyone else, I would have laughed, but he is wise in all things.

Pherecydes' hands are soft and clammy when he congratulates me. He is a learned man, but he does not abide by my master's high moral and ethical standards.

Pherecydes leaves us. Like countless others, he will never experience the liberating power of abstinence and asceticism. I feel truly blessed.

We continue at a leisurely pace, quiet and contemplative. The people will soon forget I was their champion, but it is of no consequence, for I will not.

Samos slowly awakens. We enjoy a frugal breakfast— bread dipped in wine— at the agora as the morning chill vanishes. It will be a blistering day.

We are near the local smithy when Pythagoras abruptly stops and shuts his eyes. What has caught his attention, I cannot tell over the bustle of the city.

Pythagoras moves with increasing speed toward the smithy. He enters it and, gasping for air, urges the blacksmiths to continue their work.

My master's face glistens with sweat as he moves from one smith to another, paying close attention. He suddenly picks up a hammer and strikes an anvil.

The smiths drop their work to form a circle around Pythagoras. He takes another hammer. "Twice as heavy," he rasps, striking the anvil again.

"Listen! Can you hear it?" Pythagoras asks, his voice quivering. "See the difference?" The blacksmiths stare at him, dumbfounded. So do I.

Pythagoras continues to strike the anvil with hammers of various sizes. He is drenched, but a broad smile distorts his usually austere features.

We leave the smithy with ten hammers of different sizes. It is not yet midday, but the air outside is almost as unbearable as it was inside the smithy.

The load I carry makes every muscle in my body ache. My back burns by the time we reach my master's home. This heat is not helping. Helios is furious today!

As soon as we arrive at the villa, I drop the hammers next to Hestia's altar, in the enclosed courtyard. My back will thank me later.

The temperature in the courtyard is tolerable, but I recognize the look on my master's face. There will be no midday meal today!

Following my master's instructions, I place the anvil the blacksmiths have brought to the villa in the middle of the courtyard.

I hit the anvil, then hit it again, and again. Four strikes with one hammer, and then four strikes with another weighing twice as much. My arm is numb.

Pythagoras imitates the sounds the hammers make, his voice echoing in the inner courtyard. At dusk, he tells me to stop. Our work, whatever it was, is complete.

Memory 4 – ALLEGRO
Pythagoras, on his knees, draws lines in the courtyard's sand. He writes at a furious pace, then throws sand over most of his scribbles, only to begin anew.

My master writes for hours without rest, refusing any food or drink Theano, his wife, offers. Soon, notes and diagrams cover the courtyard‘s ground.

Slaves light torches. My master examines and reexamines his notes, occasionally adding a number or two. He mumbles words like "ratios" and "octaves."

Pythagoras barely touches the food Theano has prepared for the evening meal. "Everything is related," he declares. "Everything adds up!"

"The first four numbers,“ Pythagoras mutters. "The four elements... The perfect number!" He suddenly stares at me. "I see it now! The tetractys!"

My master finally sleeps. This will give me a chance to take a look at his notes. I should not be doing this, but I must read them!

Pythagoras‘ notes in the sand reveal a triangular figure with four rows; a large triangle formed by various smaller ones. His tetractys?

Memory 5 – PRESTO
Several men have gathered at my master's villa; renowned scholars and venerable elders crowd the inner courtyard. One of them leans on Hestia's altar! I glare at him until he moves away.

Most of these men share Pythagoras' beliefs in the fate of the soul. A few of them even follow his strict way of life. Unbelievers are also present.

They are skeptical when my master explains his theories. They do not understand what he means by "music of the spheres" or what the tetractys represents.

"There is geometry," Pythagoras says, “in the humming of the strings; there is music in the spacing of the spheres!" His guests stare in silence.

"Music," Pythagoras explains, "can be expressed as whole number ratios of the first four numbers, which form the tetractys!" Skeptics begin to leave.

Many guests, however, seem to grasp Pythagoras' hypothesis. I envy them. They question him, so they can better comprehend his theories.

Orestes, a learned mathematician, raises his cup to honor my master. "The tetractys is the sum of all wisdom!" he declares. "Praise Pythagoras!"

Second memory group – OPUS

We arrive in Croton three years to the day after I was named "Periodonikes," winner of all four festivals— for the second time! Pythagoras views this as a good omen.

Memory 6 – PRELUDE
Croton does not rival Athens in size, and its fortifications are nothing compared to those of Paraeus or Rhodes, but the reputation of its citizens is second to none.

The city is cast in a golden light as our ship approaches. Like everyone in our party, I cannot take my eyes off Croton. It is as if the city was calling to us, as if we had all heard its Siren's song.

Pythagoras is the first to speak, interrupting everyone's reveries. "After a long journey, we have finally arrived home. Here, in Croton, we will thrive!"

Word of my master's coming preceded our arrival, for representatives of the leading citizens welcome him at the harbor. They urge him to meet with the Council of Citizens.

We follow our guide through the city. Helios has disappeared, but the citizens of Croton have not yet gone home. A crowd gathers around Pythagoras!

I stay close to my master, gently pushing people out of his way as we make our way to the bouleuterion, the rest of his entourage in tow.

At the bouleuterion, more people await Pythagoras' arrival. There are hundreds of them! No, thousands!

Memory 7 – OUVERTURE
Members of the Council share Pythagoras' beliefs and value his wisdom. They urge him to speak to the city's youth.

Hundreds of young men and women gather before my master in front the palaestra. Older citizens have also come to heed his words.

Most in the crowd have tears in their eyes when Pythagoras completes his speech. I am also deeply moved, but remain calm.

The people of Croton cheer! Everyone in town, it seems, wants to talk to Pythagoras. They also want to touch him, as though his knowledge and wisdom were contagious.

The citizens of Croton pose no threat to Pythagoras, but I carefully observe everyone approaching him. One can never be too careful.

One man shoves a young woman out of his way to reach my master. I grab his arm and twist it so hard I almost break it. That should teach him some manners.

The woman, an athletic, olive-skinned youth about half my age, smiles at me. Her friends pull her away, giggling. I am going to like it here.

Memory 8 – ETUDE
The people of Croton readily follow my master's teachings. Word of his presence quickly spreads to neighboring cities and foreigners come seeking his guidance.

The academy attracts countless students; hundreds of men and women eager to follow my master's ways. They do not yet realize how fortunate they are.

A youth named Alcmaeon arrives at the academy. He is intelligent, but arrogant and undisciplined. For some reason, Pythagoras takes him under his wing.

I meet an athlete named Milo. This giant young man has seen me run at Nemea, and he wants me to help him become a champion.

Milo has already won the boys' wrestling championship at the Olympics. He has great potential and I am happy to teach him everything I know.

Contrary to Alcmaeon, who ceaselessly questions Pythagoras, Milo embraces my master's lessons. Surely, he will become the greatest athlete of his generation.

Pythagoras' philosophy reaches far and wide. More and more men and women adhere to his ways. I am gratified, but not surprised. He is, after all, a truly great man.

Milo brings honor to Croton, and to my master. He has won all four tournaments! I have mixed emotions about being surpassed by my protégé.

We celebrate Milo's victory with my master's family. It is an intimate affair, but Pythagoras, the master of ritual, turns it into a grand occasion.

I praise Milo and announce I will not participate in next year's games. Damo, my master's daughter, raises her cup. "To our former champion, and truest friend!"

The food Theano has prepared is worthy of kings, but everyone eats sparingly, as my master teaches. Only Alcmaeon drinks more than one cup of wine.

Milo's face turns red when Myia addresses him; a giant of a man, a champion, intimidated by a young girl! I feel for him. Myia is, after all, Pythagoras' youngest daughter.

Alcmaeon comments Milo's malaise. How tactless! I bite my lip, but Myia laughs, kissing Milo's cheek before disappearing into the kitchen.

Alcmaeon leaves, slamming the door behind him. For a long while, Pythagoras stares at the door, then he turns to us. "No man is free who cannot control himself."

Memory 10 – SUITE
We are on our way to the academy when Pythagoras abruptly stops. "Listen!" All is quiet in the early morning, save for the distant sound of yelping.

Pythagoras is surprisingly fast when he needs to be. I follow him toward the sound, and discover the owner of a young mutt beating it with a stick!

Pythagoras grabs the man's stick and moves between the pup and its owner. I stay close, keeping an eye on the aggressor. People begin to gather around us.

The mutt's owner moves toward Pythagoras, glances at me, and stops. He shakes his head and opens his mouth, but remains silent.

"Do not harm this dog!" Pythagoras' commands. The crowd around us grows. "This animal bears the soul of an old friend! I hear his voice in its cries."

It is not the first time my master uncovers proof of the immortality of the soul, but his extraordinary instinct never ceases to astound me.

"Of rational beings," someone declares, "one sort is divine, one is human, and another is such as Pythagoras!" People cheer.

Third memory group – GRAND FINALE

Many influential citizens of Croton are now devoted to Pythagoras' ascetic way of life, but some important elders continue to question his wisdom.

Memory 11 – TRIO
Alcmaeon, my master's favorite pupil, challenges his doctrines, again. The arrogant gados! Why does Pythagoras fail to see he is not truly one of us?

I share the morning meal with Damo and Alcmaeon, making it my duty to keep an eye on Pythagoras' daughter. I will not let Alcmaeon befoul her mind!

I am on my way to the gymnasium when I hear an animal howl. Its lament is unbearable! I soon find Alcmaeon in an alley, bending over a dog. He has plucked one of its eyes!

The beast's lament stops, but Alcmaeon brings a knife to its stomach. How dare him! Has he not learned anything about the fate of the soul?

A muffled shriek catches my attention. I step around the corner and come face to face with Damo. She has been spying on Alcmaeon! I can no longer hold back.

I reveal myself and strike Alcmaeon. Bones crack. He opens his mouth to protest, but I hit him again. Damo shrieks and grabs my arm, forcing me to stop.

I have to stand in judgment of my master for the harm I have caused Alcmaeon, but I am gratified to know that he will be held accountable for his immoral actions.

Memory 12 – ENSEMBLE
The last remnants of Helios' passing cling to the heavens as Alcmaeon leaves the city. I am glad to see him depart, but I fear he has already poisoned the minds of others.

"Alcmaeon," Pythagoras declares, "is no longer our brother." The hundreds of followers gathered around my master remain silent.

"Alcmaeon," Pythagoras continues, "is dead to us." As if on cue, women suddenly begin to weep, their dreadful cries echoing throughout the cemetery.

Pythagoras utters a solemn prayer for the deceased. Men lower their heads while weeping women tear their clothes and wound their breasts.

"Alcmaeon," Pythagoras says, "is dead." Helped by others, I raise the wooden statue representing Alcmaeon and bring it inside the temple.

I lower the statue in the coffin, as carefully as I would place the body of a dear, departed brother. My master kneels beside the coffin, blessing it.

The funeral procession slowly moves out of the cemetery. Unbelievers stare at us. I see scorn in their sneering faces; scorn, and no small amount of fear.

Memory 13 – DUET
The Council of Citizens organizes a banquet in Pythagoras' honor. Some of the richest and most influential citizens of Croton fill the banquet hall.

All of those attending the banquet are ardent supporters of my master's teachings. Those who oppose him have made it a point not to be here tonight.

Myia leads the dance. Milo, her husband, is surprisingly graceful as he follows each of her steps. I catch a glimpse of Pythagoras' thin smile. I have not seen him this relaxed in years.

A thunderous sound suddenly echoes in the hall. One of the columns has broken! It crumbles in a heap upon the floor. The ceiling is collapsing!

A massive stone block falls, crushing a poor slave. The screaming throng stampedes toward the only exit! My master is trapped!

Incredible! Milo stands under the ceiling, supporting it! I rush to his side. The weight is unbearable, but we are successful! We prevent further deaths!

Helping Milo save my master's life is, without any doubt, my greatest accomplishment. But I fear the column has been sabotaged. Hostilities are brewing!

Memory 14 – QUARTET
Dusk has settled by the time I lead Pythagoras through the quiet alleyways of Croton. I hope to avoid the throngs of citizens, for they are now more often hostile than not.

A shadow moves to my right. I draw my xiphos and raise a hand, alerting the four bodyguards accompanying us. I peer into darkness, but see nothing.

One of the guards screams! A dory runs through his thigh and he drops to his knees. Our assailants step out of the shadows!

Another guard falls, his throat slit. I block a kopis and ram my blade into an abdomen before breaking a cheekbone with the back of my cestus.

I lacerate an arm, puncture a lung, and amputate fingers, then step toward Pythagoras. I dodge a dory and run my xiphos between shoulder blades. A third guard falls.

Only three of them left! The last of Pythagoras' bodyguard stands beside me. Blood flows through his chiton, but our foes do not stand a chance. It is a massacre.

"Reason is immortal," Pythagoras mutters, "all else mortal." I only half listen to my master's prayer. These men were not simple ruffians, but hired hands! War has begun!

Memory 15 – SOLO
Those who do not accept our ascetic way of life— who refuse to honor their mothers, wives, and sisters— despise us. I see it in their faces every day. And I see it now, as I escort Pythagoras.

People gather around us. Angry people! They hate us because we are better athletes, musicians, mathematicians. But they have only themselves to blame. Undisciplined bous!

Faces are hard and words are harsh. The crowd turns into a mob! Hundreds of people follow us, shouting insults and throwing rocks and refuse!

We enter Milo's home, but the mob is relentless! Flames engulf the villa! The champion of Croton steps outside, followed by his loyal retinue.

I draw my xiphos to follow Milo, but Pythagoras grabs my arm, shaking his head. Myia moves a table, revealing a secret trapdoor leading to an underground pathway.

I light a torch and follow Pythagoras through the narrow opening. "May Zeus guide your path," Myia whispers, closing the door behind us.

Pythagoras had foreseen that this day would come. He had been prepared to leave Croton! My master is now safe, but I worry about those we have left behind.

Fourth (hidden) memory group – REQUIEM

Long years have passed since we left the shores of Croton; long years which have taken their toll on my master. Yet, he bears their marks with pride and remains as determined as ever.

Memory 16 (segreto) – KIRIE
We have explored the highest mountains, the entire coast of the middle of the earth, and the ancient cities of Babylonia and Egypt. Yet, my master's quest for knowledge continues.

We now find ourselves at the edge of the world. The desert is vast and unforgiving, but Pythagoras is adamant. He must explore it!

Helios is as relentless as my master. I wonder how long we can hope to survive in this accursed heat. Soon, we will lack water.

I have not had a drop of water in days. I can scarcely feel the blisters upon my skin now. Is my master wandering aimlessly, or is he following some divine inspiration?

I spot a man on top of a great sand dune. He holds a winged staff intertwined with serpents, but remains motionless, like a statue. Is he real? Am I dreaming?

The stranger wears a sheep herder's clothing, yet his bearing is kingly. Each step I take could be my last, but Pythagoras moves with the speed of a young athlete.

I barely make it atop the dune. I am on my knees, fire burning my lungs, when the stranger greets us. "I am Hermes Trismegistus. I have found you."

Memory 17 (segreto) – AGNUS DEI
I am on my hands and knees, fingers buried into the burning sand. My head is pounding. I strive not to collapse, yet my master, an elderly man, stands beside me.

How can Pythagoras be suddenly so filled with the breath of life? A moment ago he could barely put one foot in front of the other. Does he not feel Helios' fury?

I manage to raise my head and look up at Hermes Trismegistus— a king in peasant's garb. He raises the winged staff above his head.

In a sudden movement, Hermes strikes the staff upon the ground. It digs deeply into the sand in front of Pythagoras. Unbelievable! The serpents upon it move!

The serpents turn their heads toward my master, hissing. It cannot be! As one, the serpents speak! "You are a worthy successor."

There is something emanating from the staff— an invisible, indefinable force. Around me, the desert sands begin to shift.

"We hold the key to life's mysteries," voices say in dissonant unison as darkness suddenly engulfs me.

(Hidden) Memory 18 – BENEDICTUS
I awake parched and feeble. I feel hot sand underneath me and open my eyes to see the wide, green leaves of a palm.

Water dribbles from a piece of cloth my master holds over my mouth. I swallow every drop, even though each one feels like a handful of dust.

Gradually, I regain my senses. Hermes is no longer with us, but Pythagoras proudly holds the staff with interlaced serpents— LIVING serpents!

One of my master's thighs is now made of gold! It is supple as muscle, yet solid as metal. How can this be? A new aura surrounds him, a new power.

Decades of cares have vanished from Pythagoras' face! He almost seems like a young man again. No, like a young god!

"This relic," Pythagoras says, "has been passed down since the dawn of time." I grimace, barely able to look at the serpents upon it.

Pythagoras puts a reassuring hand upon mine. "Our journey is at an end. You have served me well, old friend. Now begins a new chapter in our lives."

Fifth (hidden) memory group – ENCORE

The princess of Arcadia, a savage beauty, refuses to marry any man unless he outruns her, and whoever she beats must die. Many suitors have tried their luck, and failed.

(Hidden) Memory 19 – A CAPPELLA
What kind of woman could best so many men? I am no longer in my prime, and I am no fool, but I must meet this woman and race her! I must!

I seek my former master's wisdom. Pythagoras believes I will find what I need to win this woman's hand in an abandoned temple honoring Aphrodite.

I am not even halfway through the mountain when a mighty blizzard hits. I am cold and tired, yet my quest is only beginning.

Famished and freezing, I reach the top of the highest peak, where lie the ruins of Aphrodite's forgotten temple. I can see it now! Just a few more steps...

I stumble forward and crumble. I try to move but there is no strength left in me! There is a power emanating from the temple. Something I have not felt in a long time.

I raise my head. Bits of ice cling to my face as I behold— No! A nude woman of unearthly beauty appears through the falling snow! She seems unreal, like the immaterial soul.

Ignoring me, the woman moves toward the temple, unhindered by the freezing cold. Impossible! She walks through the temple's wall!

(Hidden) Memory 20 – HYMN
I feel Helios' rays upon my skin. I remain motionless, basking in the warmth for a while. Then I open my eyes to find myself in the middle of an orchard.

I hear footsteps and hide behind a tree. A young woman with long, flowing hair strolls in the orchard. The same woman I saw enter Aphrodite's temple!

The woman is flawless, like only a goddess could be. She seems tangible now, moving with purpose, each new step more graceful than her last.

I reveal myself and greet her, but she does not heed me. Instead, she plucks a large apple from a nearby branch. She does it again, and then carefully selects a third one.

I follow her. Only a few steps and we are out of the orchard, standing in front of a magnificent building bathed in bright, golden light: Aphrodite's temple!

The woman steps inside. I follow. She hides the three apples under the statue of Aphrodite, behind the temple's main altar. Why can she not see me?

I awake covered in snow. I no longer feel my limbs, but I somehow manage to crawl inside what remains of the temple. There, where the woman placed three ripe fruits, I find a single, golden apple!

(Hidden) Memory 21 – SERENADE
King Iasius of Arcadia, a boorish old man who ceaselessly barks at his subjects, welcomes me to his court. The prospect of his daughter marrying a former champion pleases him.

King Iasius warns me that no man can beat his daughter, and that losing the race means losing one's life. He arranges for me to meet her— one last chance to change my mind.

In the gardens, my heart pounds as I await Atalanta, the virgin princess raised by bears who became a fierce hunter, a Calydonian hero, and a slayer of centaurs!

I spot a group of maidens behind the branches of the olive trees. As they approach, the young girls seem to fade away, for I only have eyes for one: Atalanta!

She is magnificent! Surely, Atalanta's beauty rivals Aphrodite's! My face gets warm when she smiles and greets me with a rich, warm voice.

Atalanta places her hand upon mine! I feel the blood pumping through my veins. For an eternity, she gazes into my eyes, as though exploring the very depths of my soul.

Atalanta does not want me to race her! She could not live with herself if I died, but I know I cannot go on living without her. I must win her hand! Or die trying.

(Hidden) Memory 21 – FUGUE
The race is about to begin. Atalanta avoids my gaze. She knows I could die, but she will give me no quarter. It would not be honorable.

I try to breathe normally, reminding myself that I have won countless races against the mightiest runners in the world. But no race has ever been so crucial.

It begins! I run as fast as I dare in this early stage of the race, but Atalanta is already several paces in front. Sweat dribbles from every pore, yet I lose sight of her!

I put a hand on the golden apple and utter a silent prayer to Aphrodite. I almost ram into Atalanta! She has stopped running! She stares ahead, confused.

I am tempted to help her, but Atalanta regains her senses and— Incredible! She overtakes me! I touch the apple again. She stumbles! I run past her.

My lungs burn, my legs hurt, but Atalanta outruns me again! Once more, my fingers brush the apple. Atalanta shrieks and falls to the ground, but quickly recovers.

I win the race! As I regain my breath, Atalanta approaches, smiling. People will soon begin to call me Hippomenes, the man who beat Atalanta!