26. NEAR TO IOLCUS AGAIN
The sun sank and the North Star appeared. But that star brought no rest to the Argonauts. The breeze that filled the sail died down so they furled the sail and lowered the mast and then, once again, they pulled at the oars. All night they rowed, and all day, and again when the next day came. Then they saw the island that is halfway to Greece the great and fair island of Crete.
It was Theseus who first saw Crete—Theseus who would later reach Crete on another ship. They drew the Argo near the great island because they wanted water, and to rest there.
The great king Minos ruled over Crete. He had the island guarded by Talos, one of the race of bronze men who had lived on after the rest of the bronze men had been destroyed. Three times a day Talos would stride tirelessly around the island.
Now Talos saw the Argo drawing near. He took up great rocks and hurled them at the heroes, and very quickly they had to take their ship out of range.
They were weary and thirsty but still that bronze man stood there ready to sink their ship with the great rocks that he picked up in his hands. Medea stood forward on the ship, ready to use her spells against the man of bronze.
His body was made of bronze and so he was invulnerable but in his ankle there was a vein that ran up to his neck and was covered by a thin skin. If that vein were broken Talos would die.
Medea did not know about this vein when she stood forward on the ship to use her spells against him. That huge man of bronze stood all gleaming up on a cliff on Crete. Then, as she was ready to fling her spells against him, Medea thought about the words that Arete, the wise queen, had given her that she was not to use spells and not to practice magic against the life of anyone.
But she knew that there was nothing wrong in using spells against Talos, for Zeus had already doomed all his race. She stood on the ship, and with her Magic Song she enchanted him. He whirled round and round. He struck his ankle against a jutting stone. The vein broke, and the blood of the bronze man flowed out of him like molten lead. He stood towering on the cliff. Talos stood on his tireless feet, swaying to and fro like a pine on a mountaintop that the woodman had left half cut through and that a mighty wind blows against. Then, emptied of all his strength, Minos’s man of bronze fell into the Cretan Sea.
The heroes landed. That night they lay on the island of Crete and rested and refreshed themselves. When dawn came they drew water from a spring, and once more they went on board the Argo.
A day came when the helmsman said, “Tomorrow we shall see the shore of Thessaly, and by sunset we shall be in the harbor of Pagasae. Soon, friends, we shall be back in the city we left from to get the Golden Fleece.”
Then Jason brought Medea to the front of the ship so that they might watch together for Thessaly, the homeland. Mount Pelion came into sight. Jason was overjoyed to see that mountain. He told Medea again about Chiron, the ancient centaur, and about the days of his youth in the forests of Pelion.
The Argo went on, the sun sank, and darkness came. Never was there darkness such as there was on that night. They called that night afterward the Pall of Darkness. To the heroes upon the Argo it seemed as if black chaos had come over the world again. They didn’t know whether they were adrift on the sea or on the River of Hades. No star or moonbeam pierced the darkness.
After a long night the dawn came. In the sunrise they saw the land of Thessaly with its mountain, its forests, and its fields. They cheered at its sight. They raised the mast and unfurled the sail.
However they did not go to toward Pagasae. For now the voice of Argo spoke to them, making them tremble. Jason ,Orpheus, Castor ,Polydeuces, Zetes ,Calais, Peleus ,Telamon, Theseus, Admetus, Nestor, and Atalanta, heard the cry of their ship. The voice of Argo warned them not to go into the harbor of Pagasae.
As they stood on the ship, looking toward Iolcus, sorrow came over all the heroes. They stood there in utter numbness for a long time.
Then Admetus spoke—Admetus who was the happiest of all those who went in quest of the Golden Fleece. “Although we may not go into the harbor of Pagasae, nor into the city of Iolcus,” Admetus said, “we have still come to the land of Greece. There are other harbors and other cities that we may go into. In all the places that we go we will be honored, for we have gone through dangers, and we have brought to Greece the famous Fleece of Gold.”
When Admetus said this their spirits came back again to all of them except Jason. The rest had other cities to go to, and fathers and mothers and friends to greet them in other places, but for Jason there was only Iolcus.
Medea took his hand, and pity for him overcame her. Medea could understand what had happened in Iolcus and why it was that the heroes might not go there.
The Argo went to Corinth . Creon, the king of Corinth, welcomed them and gave great honor to the heroes who had faced such labors and such dangers to bring the wonder of the world to Greece.
The Argonauts stayed together until they went to Calydon, to hunt the boar that ravaged Prince Meleagrus’s country. After that they separated, each one going to his own home. Jason came back to Corinth where Medea stayed. In Corinth he had news of what had happened in Iolcus.
King Pelias now ruled more terribly in Iolcus, having brought down from the mountains more and fiercer soldiers. Æson, Jason’s father, and Alcimide, his mother, were now dead, having been killed by King Pelias.
Jason heard this from men who entered Corinth from Thessaly and because of the great army that Pelias had gathered there, Jason could not yet go into Iolcus, either to take revenge, or to show the people The Golden Fleece that he had gone so far to get.