As Maya and Hari reached yet another destination, this time, the Garden of Hersperides, Hari was struck with a thought as soon as they had arrived.
“Maya, we have been travelling for a while. It’s difficult to keep track of time with all the travelling but I am sure it must be more than a few days now. How is it that we don’t feel hungry or thirsty or sleepy all that much?”
“When we use Symantak, the gem erases our bodily needs for a while. We will start feeling hungry or thirsty in a while if we don’t touch the gem during that time. Since I have been holding it for so long, I also find that the answers to the questions I have spring almost instantaneously to my mind. Now, let’s focus on what we came here for. I assume that that tree over there has the apples we came for and the dragon coiled around it is many-headed Ladon who guards it. Now, how do we get it?”
“Fortuna’s blessing was clear. We need to also seek the blessing of Hebe to get the apples.”
“Let’s sit and pray to her for a while out of the sight of the dragon.”
As Maya’s prayers continued for hours on end, Hari grew increasingly fidgety in guarding her. Just as he was about to disturb Maya’s meditative trance, he saw a radiant young girl approaching. As she came closer, it was clear she was no ordinary mortal. It was in fact, difficult to look at her dazzling effulgence. She smiled at a gaping Hari and tapped Maya lightly on her shoulder.
As Maya opened her eyes, the girl spoke.
“Well done, Maya. Hebe asked me to answer your prayers personally and help you with your quest. My name is Zoe Nightshade. Hebe tasked me to help you by distracting Ladon so that you can get the apples as I helped Hercules, Hebe’s husband, many centuries ago.”
Maya and Hari glanced at each other in surprise and then in joy.
“What should we do?”
Zoe glanced at Hari before replying to Maya – “I can distract Ladon for only seconds. Both of you should keep out of sight while I do my job while the boy needs to quickly grab the three golden apples hanging in the tree.”
“Can’t we do it together?”
“No, he has to undertake the most dangerous part of the mission. This is Fortuna’s doing. Unless he does it, the plan will not succeed.”
Hari interjected to say gently – “I will be fine, Maya. Come now. We are wasting time.”
Both of them watched behind a tree, as Zoe approached a slumbering Ladon and hailed him loudly.
The dragon lazily opened one of his eyes.
“Come over here, I need your help in climbing to the top of this tree to get some cherry fruit on Hera’s command. It will take only a few minutes.”
The dragon seemed bemused by this request and came over curiously to see what Zoe wanted.
Sensing the opportunity, Hari raced across like a streak of lightning to grab the three golden apples and sprinted back to Maya.
The dragon almost immediately seemed to know about the steal and let out a bellow of rage. As he rushed at Maya and Hari in a blur of speed, Maya squeezed Hari’s hand before fingering the Symantak again. Maya had the vaguest sense that the dragon was mouthing words that almost looked like curses based on his furious expression.
As Hari and Maya once again found themselves outside the old lady’s home in 1910, Hari let out a whoop of joy.
(1) For those of you who want a bit more of background reading on Ladon, you can do so here.
(2) You can also read sample chapters of “Maya & the Mind Mystics”, my earlier published work featuring Maya and Hari here.