The man atop the mountain however did sense the figure slowly making its way to the summit where he stood, chained to his boulder for all eternity. And in this figure he could feel the warm buzzing of salvation creep through his bones. So filled with relief at the thought of freedom when the rays of the sun fully fell upon his form he felt none of the usual fear and trepidation. For with the sun came the horrid caw of the giant eagle, and thus came the torment of a millennia, but for the first time he didn’t even flinch as it slowly swooped down and began to methodically peck out his liver. As always when his punishment came due, he was forced to live out his shame in all of its fearsome glory. But today Prometheus felt not the agony of the action, but hope that soon the figure would arrive to release him.
Since man had first crawled from the mists of Mount Olympus, Prometheus had been there, and in their time of need it was he who passed down the secret of the God’s- the secret of fire. Prometheus, who had helped Lord Zeus overthrow his father and ascend to the throne as Father of Gods and man, was disgraced by his actions. In his righteous and indignant anger, Zeus cast Prometheus down from Olympus and forced him to be shackled to a large stone for the rest of eternity. And every morning, when the sun cast fully upon his body, a large eagle would descend from the sky and eat his liver only to have it re-grow when the moon cast its rays upon him, to show his fierce displeasure. Though trapped forever upon the mountain, Prometheus foretold that two people would find their way to him. The first was Io, once a lovely princess who began a torrid love affair with Zeus much to Hera, Zeus’s wife’s unhappiness. When Hera found out about Zeus’s infidelity she confronted him and found not a lovely princess but a pristine white heifer. Knowing Zeus to be a liar and trickster she asked her husband if the heifer was a gift to her, and knowing no way out he said yes and doomed his lover to imprisonment in the shape of a cow. Homeless and alone Io traveled around the land, until she came upon Prometheus trapped and in pain. Prometheus spoke to her and foretold that soon she would find true love and be released from her present form. Happy at last she returned from her mountain and all he said came true. His second visitor, whom he knew was climbing to him now, was Io’s descendent, the hero Hercules. So as the eagle shook the blood from its beak and cawed to the heavens in praise and thanks to Lord Zeus, Prometheus silently whispered, “Climb quickly hero, fast and true, for soon this will be over.”
On the side of the mountain, hanging precariously while searching, for his next handhold, climbed the legendary hero, Hercules. Born the half mortal son of Zeus and Alcmena, great granddaughter of Io, Hercules had faced great trials that would have and had broken the normal man. Being the bastard son of Zeus, Hera had made him her personal source of anger and wrath, from the day of his birth when Hera sent to serpents to kill the swaddling child, til the day she drove him insane and caused him to kill his wife and sons, Hercules has tried to fight his way to redemption and peace. Since the day he slew his family, Hercules has taken on larger and more epic quests, some say in an effort to find the one quest that would best him and finally allow his soul to rest in Hades with his lost loves on the Elysian Fields. As he struggles to climb the rock in front of him and keep his ghosts behind him, tears stream freely down his noble cheeks. As his hands are cut to the bone, and blood slicks the rocks before him, he does not hesitate or slow. His single minded purpose of conquering the great peak drives him onward and upward, not knowing what awaits him at the summit just knowing he must get there. All day he climbs, never considering the danger of falling, higher and higher, until night falls and dawn breaks again. For three back breaking days he has climbed, and for three more he will continue until finally the top he takes.
When finally Hercules pulled himself up over the edge and saw the man chained to the boulder, it was only about an hour until the sun would settle its fiery gaze upon him. “My Lord Prometheus, is it you?” Hercules asked in a hushed, reverent tone, lowering his eyes immediately.
“Brave Hercules, beware. Soon the great eagle shall come to feast upon my liver, but fear not, I have foreseen your coming. At dawns full light it comes!” Prometheus warned.
Hercules surveyed the area in vain search for a weapon, but found nothing. Shrugging and stretching, as if this is a normal occurrence, Hercules braced himself and waited for the beast to come. Soon dawn raced over the peak and with it the harrowing cry of the avian nightmare. Feeling a plan form in his mind, Hercules ducked behind the boulder being sure to stay out of the suns rays. As the bird began to circle Prometheus’ head, Hercules bided his time til right as the bird was about to strike and leapt on its neck. The eagle, taken by surprise gave into the instinct to turn its head and try to peck at the annoying human, giving Hercules the opening he was looking for. As the bird began to try and grasp him in its massive beak, Hercules grabbed it by the wings and planted his feet on the base of its neck. With a tremendous groan of effort, Hercules pulled as hard as he could until he heard the satisfying snap of the mighty beast’s wings. Shocked with pain the eagle began to franticly flail about, trying to roll over and crush this impudent man causing all of this grief. While the bird began its somersault, Hercules flipped forward at its beak and latched on with a crushing grasp. Landing on his feet and holding the beak in his large hands, Hercules stared deep into the majestic creatures eyes and with a warrior’s bow of the head, he snapped the bird’s neck. Letting go of the beak Hercules slumped to the ground to regain his breath as the eagle kicked its final death throes.
As soon as he regained his composure, Hercules walked over to Prometheus to see how to free the fallen god. Prometheus stared in admiration and gratitude and said, “Great hero, thank you for your deeds today, but I fear that the challenge has but just started for these chains were forged by Hephaestus, the Blacksmith God. Neither mortal strength, nor weapon can break that forged by a God. Perhaps your efforts are all for naught.”
Hercules stood silently surveying the chains and his immediate area, when inspiration struck. Walking over to the eagle’s corpse, Hercules apologized to the spirit of the beast, and grasped one of the extended talons. With one last whispered prayer for forgiveness, he wrenched the talon off of the leg and walked back to the boulder. Figuring this beast to be a creature of magic, Hercules used the talon as a chisel and his fist as a hammer to pound against the god forged chains. Within three mighty blows the chain first cracked and then suddenly shattered. Free after so very long, Prometheus stood rubbing his once shackled wrists and ankles, allowing the sensation to flood back in. “Hercules, the foretelling of your coming was as I envisioned it, now I must grant you the only boon I can. In return for your saving me from endless torment, I shall spare you from yours. Give me the talon you have taken from the beast, and I shall fashion it into a device you can use to speak to your dearly departed family,” the Firebringer said in a solemn, business like tone.
The hero stood torn, he had not rescued the mighty Lord Prometheus for a reward, but because it had to be done. But the opportunity to talk to his wife and sons, to say how sorry and sorrow filled he has been, to explain that Hera had poisoned his mind, driven him mad. With firm resolve he said, “Lord Prometheus, my actions were not driven by greed, or the search for reward. To accept such a reward for only doing what is right, would be both wrong and demeaning. But knowing all of this I cannot say no.” With tears in his eyes, he bowed his head and passed the talon to Prometheus.
Prometheus took the talon and stared intently at it. After a moment, he passed his hand over and under it, muttering a strange incantation in the tongues of the god’s. When he at last raised his gaze from the talon to Hercules eyes, he smiled a small smile and thrust it directly into Hercules chest. Shocked, and with the very essence of his life running down his stomach, Hercules slumped to his knees and mouthed a silent why. At that Prometheus began to laugh, a deep full belly laugh, like a bully after beating a smaller child in the streets of Athens. Slowly his body was infused with a shimmering incandescence, and began to shift into the form of another. When the shimmering ended, instead of the noble Firebringer, there stood the visage of the Norse God of Mischief, Loki.
“Poor, stupid Hercules, always out to right a wrong. Only half a God, and half a man, though not enough of either to see through a simple ruse. Don’t you see? It wasn’t Hera that caused you to slay your family. No moron, it was I! Don’t you see? The rules have changed, and now the time has come for me to reap the benefits! But worry not; I am a god of my word. Go now to whatever afterlife you heathens believe in and talk with your precious family!” Loki shouted at the husk before him, following the invisible trail as Hercules soul flew off into the other world. With another mocking laugh, Loki turned into a cloud of locusts and disappeared into the sunrise.
On a different mountain in another realm, a great eagle shook the blood from its beak and flew off into the sun, leaving a man chained to a boulder by God forged chains. As the skin on his stomach began to stitch itself back together, the man waited patiently for the day the hero Hercules would come and free him from his chains and pain. Little did he know that in this new world, the punishment of the gods would last until the end of time, long after the gods themselves fell from power.