Lord of the Sea

Lord of the Sea

A Story by Ivan Mauricio Urrego

A mans sin for pride and greed for fame comes at a great prize.The setting is on the Aegean Sea around the Greek city of Athens with Greek gods involved.


The Lord of the Sea


Her curving sternpost rose as gracefully as the neck of a swan or the upturned tail of a dolphin and unlike the rest whose symbol at the prow was Athena indentifying each as a son of Athens, she had been gilded with the figurehead of Poseidon, pointing forwards with his trident. The figure seemed alive itself as if imposing his rage upon his enemies. She was splendid, and so was her lover.
   For her lover, almost everything meant nothing to him, but then Nileas hardly cared, so long as he went with his true love, she was now his only darling. To touch, to trust, to know that in every circumstance there she was, she wanted nothing more than guidance and caressing. She creaked but never cried, she was his mistress and he was her lord. She was Danais, his ship. And when she was not on the seas in the shocks of storm and battle, scouting or at the head leading her sisters at some oceanic brawl, she rested below, at the port of Athens, to the brimming ocean, whose weaves were always arriving, always beaching, on its grand seaport, the Piraeus.
    The winds seemed to always blow in his favor, every clash, every broil at sea, the God of the Sea, Poseidon, seemed to always watch over him, no matter the odds he was victorious, and victory had become his emblem of pride and like Danais she was dear to him.
     So there was nothing Nileas liked better than to ride the oceans and take his way through the deeps, feel the breeze, no frontiers, free as the wind, and the thrill of sea battle and delightful fame that came with each victory, galloping through the wind-swept valleys of perilous oceans, that surge and sway, far away from the state affairs of political animals. 




   The shining sea laid spread to him like blue mantles beneath the stars and at the prow of his ship, he stood and gazed at the gray swell of the ocean. Today, Nileas had a mission, like always win glory for Athens and sweet fame for himself. Except this day he had no ordinary task, much was at stake for Athens. Although Victory was always with him, for some reason this day he longed to be in his house at fabled Athens. He longed to be with his daughter. Nileas rarely left his ship’s helm. The tiller was worn smooth from his palms and sometimes he just simply pressed his nose against Danais’ hull. She had for him the resinous scent of home. Perhaps today Poseidon was not on his side, after many long years of seamanship he had acquired a valuable skill; one would say something more akin to a sixth sense at sea.
   Nileas fretted but then he considered, “The greatest glories are won from the greatest dangers”
Save for today. This day, the face of victory would change forever in him.

It was dawn; the Aegean Sea lay smooth as a burnished shield. The scent of salt burnt in his nose, and he could almost feel the spray of the ocean against his skin. He closed his eyes for a moment. Let it sink in; felt the cool of the sea breeze, the gentle breath of the sun upon his face. For a moment he forgot the armour upon his back, arms and legs; for a moment he did not remember the shield bracing his body strapped to his back, he did not notice the white sails dancing with the wind, shifting with each breath, with the skimming of the craft; and he did not heed any thought to the trusting sword upon his right side. He closed his eyes and imagined his arms were free and he wore nothing but a light tunic; he smelt the salt and felt the breeze, and remembered a better time. Walking down upon the sandy Athenian shores, his hands in his daughter’s shoulder laughing as the seagulls spun in acrobatic dances overhead. He remembered a peaceful day. His daughter and him had built once a sand fortress and used little rocks to play fleet wars, he was the Athenians and his daughter had been an invading force and their rocks had gone together in fierce battles. Athenians always won. But this time he did not know if Athenians would win, like he had always before; he knew war was not based upon mere manpower alone, but also on the strength and skills, the talent and experience, of the whole fleet. It was based on moral and strategy. And he had learned that a great portion went out to the hand of chance. But back then, the victory always belonged to the Athenians, simply because he had always before been victorious. He had rubbed his daughter’s fair hair, and ran with her to the surf. He would raise his hands and look down at the water chirming beneath and imagine he was one of those seagulls. Completely free and unfettered, with the entire world a possible destination. He would smile and laugh and his daughter would dive into waters and they would tumble about. Those times were long gone, since then he had wedded his ship and had gone to the sea, to fight fierce battles to feel the pride of victory, he had fought wild sea battles, and always emerged victorious.


His eyes opened. Everything came back to him again, so real. The creaking of his ship, the tips of vessels’ rams glinting in the sun. He could feel the hundreds of ships behind him, the thousands of crews, all wondering the same thing this time: will we breathe another day? This day he ached and longed for the good old days, when he was a young boy and did not worry about such things as fame and death, he did not fear death, nor his heart never urged for cowardice nor retreat, but he knew that almost half of the men behind him were not men at all, not yet, but boys: sixteen and seventeen and eighteen years old, called upon by him and Athens. He knew many innocent boys would die this day; but he was determined that his enemy, would suffer the same fate.

   The shores and ocean was silent except for the sound of rowing paddles. Far away in the shores A few birds picked at crabs between rocks, then flapped their wings and vanished towards the clouds. Nileas watched them go then turned around from the prow, stepped back a few paces, and looked into the eyes of his crew. The great walls of the Piraeus seaport were barely visible in the distance, where women and children huddled together, praying to the gods for salvation, keeping their husbands, sons, brothers in their minds and in their prayers. Many women and children would weep for lost men and family this night, but nothing could be done about that. He looked over the hundreds of soldiers and ships and spoke loud, voice rising with the sea waves against his back, splitting the airstream and breeze, carrying his words over the ranks:

“Sons of Athens! This will be a terrible day, not only for Athens, bur for the enemy as well. Do not be deceived: many shall die this day. Death comes to us all. What decides whether we are men or not is how we meet that death. We shall not fear that which is only natural to mortals, do not fear death, we shall embrace it. We shall kiss it. We shall smile as we fall! Many of you will not walk back to your friends and families, but the stories of your valour and strength will! If I live I will make sure of that, If not the gods will. You who survive will be heroes, you who fall will be legends! Look forward! Grit your teeth! Take up oars and swords, shields and arrows! How many times we have been Victorious?  Fierce Cretans we have defeated, Persians we fought, and always emerged triumphant! Remember who you are: we are Greeks; we are Athenians, and the sea guards us all!

Piercing, thundering cheering washed over the ranks; Nileas turned, faced forward, face aglow with an unhindered lighting. Far across the breaking water, spreading over the horizon, were hundreds of slender enemy ships heading straight towards him. Each ship was loaded with a hundred soldiers or more. He felt the breeze again, closed his eyes and said in a lowering voice “Poseidon, lord of the sea, you whose dreadful hand bears the golden Trident, you who shakes the ends of the earth, and lords over sea beasts and the darkest deeps, grant me glory this day, if it is your will”

   Far in the distance the enemy fleet was approaching like a swarm of bees in a summer’s day, this armada was an impressive sight, and neither Athens nor Nileas the less had expected such formidable force.

   As they waited for Nileas command, some of the marines began a war chant “Hail, Hail Healing Lord!” and if they were victorious they would sing the same paean at battle’s end.
   Amid the chanting, the trumpeter on the flagship turned the flaring bell of his instrument upchannel towards the Athenians. Lifting the bronze to his lips he waited for the command of Nileas. He took a deep breath and "“Now from the admiral,- the trumpet blew and his ship ordered bursting speed to the rest of the fleet. At a sprint they all raced through the ocean, frothing white water spurted from the oar banks at every stroke. And for the first time Nileas could see them clearly, a terrifying sight, this was not a disorderly mob he had sometimes faced. But Nileas did not hesitate, he never did. As usual, he was desperately eager to shine in the eyes of ever watching Athens. The enemy too swept forward after the trumpet signal, forging a wide line of unruffled water that separated foe and rival alike.

Before the enemy could reach them, The Danais with her rowers picked up full momentum cutting through the ocean like a gliding dolphin in the deeps, with her whole fleet formed like the tip of an arrow with rams toward their enemy. And indeed they looked like arrows at such speed. Up and down the steersmen adjusted their positions each holding his trireme level with the ships of either side.

The charge across the open channel with the onrushing of enemy ships broke the lines, rams gleamed in the sunlight and what followed was wreckage and bloodbath, ram hitting rams and ships, broken planks and sails ragged by rains of arrows, men in armor brandishing swords and spears boarded on the enemy ships. Others simply pitched their foes into the water and drowned as their ships sank or swamped. The strait became a killing ground. The clash of swords and shields merged with the growls of the waves. More than hundreds of ships locked in a struggling mass that writhed like a monstrous snake along the shore. An enemy fleet line toothed like saw blades brought havoc among Athenian ships, Nileas’ second in command was among those. Nileas looked for the rival chief but did not see him, he then launched Danais on a ramming attack and his ram hit so hard that it smashed through an enemy hull and lopped off the entire stern section, now his own ship was caught in the wreckage, his vessel could not recover from that charge. Athenians surged forward to his aid, closing up ranks, battle was joined all along the line. Nileas grabbed his sword and lost no time in endeavoring himself in the carnage, but as the battle went on, he began noticing how his own squadron started to sink. Athenian fleet lines were helplessly pinned against the enemy rams, these collisions further weakened the whole Athenian fleet. Gaps in the Athenian lines kept multiplying, the ranks were broken and ships scattered. When Enemy crafts had outstripped Athenians packs each captain fought his own naval battle..  Hundreds of bodies floated on the surface, morale was low, and his attempt of revitalizing morale was futile. Men were dying by the hundreds; his navy had been severely wounded. Oar banks were shattered and crews were thrown from their thwarts. Throughout the morning no more than forty Athenian ships held the line, resilient and unbroken like soldiers in the shield wall of a hoplite phalanx. His enemies were triumphing. He could not believe his sight. What would Athens think of him now? What would await him? The grim possibilities ranged from exile to decapitation, and all his past glory would be erased by this defeat, Athens maritime prowess would be deeply wounded along with his pride and glory beyond repair. The shame would be unbearable. Only one thing left, pray to Poseidon. He had always dwelled in his kingdom, he had always prayed to him, and he had always heard his prayers, after all he was one with the sea. So he prayed to him and the God heard his prayer like he always had, but as the sea has an endless appetite for the rivers of the world, so tempestuous Poseidon had an appetite for the most attractive women. So the god answered his prayer, except this time the god wanted something in exchange, a most darling prize. His only and beautiful daughter.

In the middle of the battle, as the sea roars grew louder a misty oceanic haze encircled him. A voice as deep as the oceans whispered to him. “I will grant you glory beyond victory, you will not be defeated ever again in a sea battle, as long as you agree to this oath, let me have your daughter, make her mine for as long as I please, so long as she stays with me do not attempt to break this oath, for my wrath will be upon you as no mortal man has ever seen”

   Nileas in his despair, seeing all his men dying, his fleet sinking and his glory at stake, agreed to the pledge and so the oath was now upheld by the Immortals. Poseidon would have his daughter.
     His daughter, a priestess of the Sea God was coveted not only by men but also by gods. She was splendorous like the moon, dark haired as night, eyes as blue as the sapphire sea, and lips that seemed sweet and red as the skin of an apple. She had a spring face, so youthful, and her figure a match for the immortals. Poseidon like his brother Zeus had a way with his lust. All this Poseidon longed to seize, to be his and appease his pitiless desire. And so in a humid haze Poseidon tore her away from one of his own praying chambers at Athens. Now she belonged to Poseidon, whose might marshals storm and furious gales, sinks ships and raises gigantic tides, but equally sends calm breezes flowing round the torrid earth or makes halcyon days for kingfishers to brood on the surface of the deeps. 

   A God always keeps his oath. A sudden storm ensued, for all the years he had been on the oceanic valleys he had never heard the roars of the sea growl so loud, nor seen such colossal tides, the tempest enveloped the rival fleet like shadows during a sundown, and the air was stale with Poseidon’s fury. Tides rose, gigantic, they appeared more like mountains rising from the oceans, and they fell on the enemy fleet like snowstorm in winter’s furor. Crippled ships fought to run away from the tidal mayhem .They were left scattered and battered by the wrath of the sea.

Now at long last the enemy lines broke up. One Athenian after the other gave chase to fleeing enemies. Eagerly they threaded their way through the rolling mass of ships, floating bodies and tattered crafts, hunters seeking prey. Enemy vessels crowded to escape on either side of the strait, like herd animals running from a pride of lions.

As sea room opened up in the strait, it became a series of duels of ships ramming against each other. Any left rivals who clung to floating wreckage died by the crush of ships clearing the narrows, the Athenians rowed about the field like fishermen circling school of tuna, spearing survivors with weapons or even broken oar shafts. Wrecked and capsized ships littered the sea, corpses covered the rocks and reefs.

   The golden rays of the setting sun gilded the struggle; only faint starlight illuminated the sea. The Athenians cheered up, and the air was filled with the thunderous clapping of men all across the channel, the men raised their arms and all hailed Nileas as their greatest admiral. Then a chant was spread from ship to ship until the echoes came back from the hills and the strait was filled with the sound of singing, their song was “Hail, Hail Nileas, Lord of the Sea!”

   But in the midst of the rising joy of victory, and the abounding glory that awaited him. Nileas tore away his cuirass in grief. And felt a guilt that overwhelmed the bliss of triumph, he felt it crushing him like rocks and boulders. His cobalt eyes turned waterish bright. He gazed at the sea and as he brandished his sword his knees gave way on the spot. He stared at his own reflection on the blade as if he was his own enemy. “What have I done? What have I done? His thoughts descended into profound memories of his daughter. A gallery of images in his mind, a blackness that pulled his conscience into his past, not being able to stop them they came forth, and he saw her face and he saw her eyes, and they would stare back at him as if they knew what he had done. She smiled at him. It was a smile full of innocence. And that same face would smile at him in every victory to come.

   Thus Nileas sin for pride and greed for glory had come at a great prize. From now on victory would have his daughter’s face.


© 2010 Ivan Mauricio Urrego

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i liked this alot a very interesting and creative piece..overall i thought you did an impressive job on this ... a very brillant write!!

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Added on January 19, 2010
Last Updated on January 20, 2010
Tags: Poseidon, Ships, Fleets


Ivan Mauricio Urrego
Ivan Mauricio Urrego

Brampton, ON, Canada

I'm a 21 year old artist who likes to write and I see writing as another art form to express myself, for me both have a lot in common whether it is depicted drawn or written they are two compatible w.. more..