Under Feet of Clay
Labors of Aedikles
Accounts vary regarding the number and nature of the Labors of Aedikles, but the following ten are generally regarded as the core of the Labors, and their order is largely considered to be fixed.
The Rage of Anxi
Already known for having a temper and loving the fruits of the vineyard too much, Aedikles returned from a battle one day and drank deeply of a goblet cursed by Anxi. His mind muddled by the god, the Fury of Pittacae either in a drunken rage or in a fit of hallucination slaughtered his wife Megara and their three children. He awoke the next day coated in their dried blood and begged his divine father Xiphios for a means to restore his standing after such a heinous deed. The Thunderer revealed through the oracle Rhodention that Aedikles should undertake great labors at the behest of each city, and that when these seven were completed, new tasks would be revealed from on high. And so Aedikles began in his native Pittacae, asking the King for a task no other could complete.
First Labor: The Hydra
Seeking atonement through impossible deeds, Aedikles was tasked by the King of Pittacae to depart for their eastern port city of Hycalius, which was plagued by a nine-headed beast dubbed the Hydra. The task was simple enough; Aedikles was to slay the creature. However, each tie Aedikles sundered the neck of the beast, two more grew in its place. Unable to defeat it with his sword, which melted in his hands from the creature’s blood, he took up a great club, and leaped from neck to neck, cracking the skull of each head without sundering it, before finally dragging the body to shore and burning it. The process scorched out of existence a great forest, as the putrid poison seeped into the ground.
Second Labor: The Cyclops
With his task for the King of Pittacae complete, Aedikles departed his homeland for Cleobonomos, to discover that the city was engaged in a war against an orcish horde lead by a mighty Cyclops named Turganthippik. Upon his arrival, the general of the defending army begged the hero to end the Cyclops’s wrathful siege. Unable to approach normally due to the thousands of orcish warriors, Aedikles had to learn the artifice of a gnome, and disguise himself as a statue given in honor of the Cyclops’s victory. Accepting the great prize, the Cyclops placed it in a position of honor behind him at a victory banquet, only to have Aedikles break out of the thin layer of bronze and destroy the monstrous general as he gorged himself on wine and pork. Leaderless and disorganized, the orcish chiefs began fighting among each other for leadership of the army, and the Cleobonoman defense was able to route the now divided armies.
Third Labor: Nemiode Lion
Continuing north, Aedikles made his was to Dikethaleos, to find the city closed. From the shut gates, he demanded an audience with their leader, who appeared atop the gates. Aedikles would learn that an entire unit of cavalrymen had been devoured by a lion that emerged from the Nemiode, a branch of the Great Forest. Aedikles could earn the city’s blessing by slaying the beast, though its skin was tougher than iron and its teeth able to break mighty shields of bronze. For eight days, Aedikles tracked the creature, and for two days he fought with the Nemiode Lion, unable to crack its bones with his club. Finally, he realized when there was blood in the lion’s mouth that only the creature’s exterior was invulnerable. Finally, he dove into the creature’s mouth, drew his nearly broken sword, and cut his way free. From this, Aedikles shed his breastplate, and fashioned a cloak of the lion’s invulnerable hide for himself.
Fourth Labor: The Living Flame
Departing from the newly freed Dikethaleos, Aedikles met one of the captains of Biasophoros in the harbor, and asked what task he could levy for the great city on the waves. The captain informed him that there was a ship lost at sea with an ancient ember from the forge of Purosphuros himself that was to light the newly constructed lighthouse. However, a great and wicked sea creature had sunk the vessel, and without the ember, the light would never shine. Aedikles departed on the ship, and where the creature struck, he dove underwater. However, he knew he couldn’t swim to the bottom of the sea in a single breath, so he tied a great millstone around himself, and sank with the stone. There, in a chasm, he saw the mighty ship, sundered in two, with the divine ember slowly burning the wood despite the waves. He descended, only to learn that the ember was itself a living being, which was displeased at having been sunk. By the living flame’s own demand, it would only join Aedikles on the journey if he offered “fire’s greatest friend” in return. After refusing a wooden club and a charcoal stick, Aedikles realized what he needed to do, and gave up all his breath to the creature. Satisfied, the fire elemental wrapped itself around the drowning Aedikles, and rocketed him to the surface, barely avoided drowning. With the ember back into a smoldering coal, Aedikles delivered the creature to the priests of Bias at the lighthouse.
Fifth Labor: The Farthest Pillars
From the Lighthouse of Biasophoros, Aedikles made his way to Solon, where he again asked for an impossible task to perform for the city. Desiring nothing more than unlimited trade routes, the city tasked him with finding a way through the great sea south of Calopius. On an exploratory bireme, Aedikles reportedly saw foreign lands no Calopene ship has laid eyes on since, and reached a mighty stone structure. Relying on his massive strength, Aedikles sundered the stone and pushed the two lands apart wide enough for two ships to pass through. The great and terrible dark sea beyond churned in rage at being discovered, but his labor was complete, and the merchant princes returned him once more to Calopene shores, making landfall in Periandropolis.
Sixth Labor: The Archtree
Always proud of their navy, the feat that the cunning citizens of Periandropolis voted for the heroic Aedikles to complete was to harvest and bring back one of the legendary Archtrees of the north, along with a tool that could be used to sculpt one. So tasked, Aedikles trekked north and entered the forest until the sun was choked out by the branches of the primordial trees. Fighting his way through half-tree ogres and wicked spawn of dark masters, Aedikles reached the base of an archtree, but had no means to cut it. Luckily, he also heard a call of distress, to find a local nymph named Mnesmaenia being assailed by a giant. Dispatching the giant, the nymph offered Aedikles a reward for his heroism. After resting his aching body in the healing waters of her spring, he informed Mnesmaenia of what was necessary. Trusting the hero with a blade that could cut down both nymphs and archtrees alike, she gave him the head of an axe once known as Xulotomos. Now able to chop through the archtree, Aedikles felled it, and lashed it to a pair of black horses provided by the nymph, dragging the prize back to the Temple Top and offering it and the blade only to a priest of Xiphios for safekeeping. From this tree, the Periandropolans would carve their sacred trireme, the flagship to spearhead any major naval battle.
Seventh Labor: The Chariot of Pallas
After being turned away from Chilones, told that the time for his deed was not yet ripe, Aedikles walked the plains north of Pittacae, waiting for a sign. When Ganphoros appeared next to him to offer him a task, he was eager, though it was a potent one. Pallas had need to depart to a distant, eastern land, but would be gone too long for the Sun Chariot to rise and set at the appointed hour. As such, it was tasked to Aedikles to pilot the great golden vehicle, and so trusted, he managed to wrangle the great horses of flame and reach the appointed gates by evening. It is said that this ride struck his once dark hair a fiery red, and darkened his eyes. He was returned from the heavenly vaults to the top of a mountain, where he would meet his next patron.
Eighth Labor: The Ancient Dragon
Atop the mountain, an ancient dragon with bronze scales met Aedikles and informed him of a grave threat lurking on a southern island. Unable to face the beast in his true form, the dragon made a request of the hero to join him while he disguised himself as a fellow adventurer. Thus, Aedikles made alliance with the dragon Honorius and flew on dragonback to an ancient manor on a forgotten island. There, they slew the resident beasts and the fell presence within. Even the Champion of Calopius would never say what he faced, but Honorius remained there to ensure the seal would remain forevermore.
Ninth Labor: The Hounds of Thantadeus
At long last, Aedikles was allowed to meet with the high priest of Chilones, and his task was revealed. The elven enclaves would open a gate to the underworld for him, to perform a task for the Bonelord himself. Once there, Aedikles was granted audience with Thantadeus, and instructed to round up his three guard dogs that had escaped, that they might return to guarding the shades trapped in the dismal abyss. The mighty Nissan Hell Hounds were near impossible to track as they were invisible, but ultimately with his learned cunning and raw wrestling strength, Aedikles was able to wrangle the three hounds and drag them back to the Ivory Castle.
Tenth Labor: The Departure
Finally, Aedikles emerged from the underworld to find himself in the wild northern forests. There, Xiphios himself descended to task his son with one last duty. He was to press beyond the sight of the gods, to the realm where Ladon rested in the endless mountains. Ultimately, fighting his way through wicked dragons and other beasts, Aedikles made his way to the edge of the mountains and saw a world beyond. Having seen and done the impossible so many times, Aedikles was permitted at long last forgiveness and deathless entry to the halls of the gods, joining the Anthrotheon and burdened with a terrible secret from Ladon’s own lair.