It was a time of myth and legend… It was a time of the hero.
On the ancient Greek island of Mykonos there was strife and chaos. The Persian armada was rumored to be on the warpath and Mykonos was lying directly within its wake. The citizens of this sleepy little island feared for their lives and for the welfare of Greece. The hero Hercules had landed upon its shores only a week ago bringing the news of the invading fleet. He had estimated that the warships would swarm upon the ports of Mykonos within the month with an estimated armada of over a thousand sails. They had planned to use Mykonos as a launching birth for their assault on the motherland of Greece herself.
It was a fiery blaze that illuminated the night sky as if a torch had set the horizon of the Aegean Sea ablaze that had captured the attention of the sentry set high upon the cliffs. The sun had set hours before, but you couldn’t tell that by the fire that now ignited the sky. Ringing the giant bell of warning all of Mykonos was aware that the Persians were now at their doorstep. The warriors gathered along the beaches and the archers placed themselves along the lines of the cliffs that overlooked the bay, readying themselves for war. The first sail was spotted and then another, and another until the sea was swarming with the colors of the Persian Empire. Fear set in at the vast amount of ships dotting the horizon, causing many to abandon their posts to flee the onslaught of death they knew would soon overcome them all.
Only Hercules stood upon the shore looking steadfast and imposing with his sword in hand and a giant shield upon his left arm. The commanding officers steadied their soldiers, preparing them for battle. In what seemed like only moments since they were sighted until the first volley wroth forth from the lead Persian ship. Hundreds of giant balls of flame thundered across the sky towards Mykonos, crashing into the fields and warriors alike, reaping death and destruction wherever they struck. Hercules and the generals called for the battalion of Catapults to launch their volley in return but the Persian armada was just out of reach of their most powerful of weapons.
The Persians sent small incursion crafts to hammer at the Mykonian soldiers from paltry boats that had made it unscathed to their beloved shore. The two armies traded volleys most of the night but the defenders of Greece were running out of their flaming arsenal and the Persian Armada seemed to have an unending supply. Even though the Persian Ships were immense and deadly, the Mykonians were able to keep them from landing their full invasion force upon the beaches of the bay. But they knew this was not going to last long. The many skirmishes had begun to deplete the ranks of the Mykonian army, ever weakening their positions, it was only a matter of time.
The invading army was relentless and the fiery rain fell throughout the night. Destroying any building the hellish tendrils could reach. An elder villager approached Hercules and told him that he had seen the defeat of the Persian Army, but only if the hero would turn his back upon the battle and seek another way to attack the horde of death lying off shore awaiting to descend upon them. Hercules tossed the man away from him telling him that he was the great Hercules and he would never run from a battle! A soldier that had been fighting by his side explained to Hercules that this man was not an ordinary man. He was the village Seer, a sorcerer of sorts and had been known to see the future and should be heard.
Hercules stood and surveyed the battlefield, assessing the dire situation that had befallen them. Turning on his heel Hercules gestured to the elder to follow him into his command tent. Upon taking a seat at the war table the elder explained that Zeus had given him the gift of sight as a child and his visions were never wrong. He continued to say that he was shown that the end of this war would only come about if Hercules would leave the battlefield immediately and seek out the help of an unknown ally far away.
Conferring with his generals they all came to the conclusion that this battle would be lost if they did not receive help soon, so Hercules inquired of the elder what quest he must partake upon to win this day. From his canvas satchel the elder drew out an ancient map of Greece and the islands that dotted its surrounding waters. Carefully unfolding it he pointed to a small island due south of Mykonos, to the volcano on the island of Santorini. He told Hercules his quest will lead him to the mouth of this once very active volcano, but has lain dormant for many a year now. The elder spoke of a being that lived at the mouth of the great crater and only he would be able to help the Greeks against these invaders. He told Hercules that his journey must begin immediately or all would be lost, for time was not their ally this day.
The crossing to the volcanic island of Santorini would normally take five days by ship but the elder told Hercules he must make the passage in two days and no more for the battle would be over in three if he did not complete his quest. Hercules being the hero he was born to be was ready to leave immediately without preparation. One of Hercules men said he knew of a swift fishing boat his father owned that was birthed at the mouth of the bay. Sending men ahead to prepare the boat for the journey, Hercules readied himself, giving the final orders he would relay in this war. The generals feared for the safety of their armies and for the land upon which they defend, when the their champion left them that fateful day.
Into the night Hercules rowed, not stopping for one moment, even to quench his overwhelming thirst. It was more than a day and a half into his journey and Hercules was finally able to see the tip of the island of Santorini and he was already exhausted, dehydrated and fearful his aching muscles would give out and he would fail the people of Mykonos. He still had doubts that this journey was for naught as he did not know the old man nor of his supposed powers of sight. He pushed on, propelling himself through he turbulent waters that surround this volcanic island straining the sinew of his tightly wound muscles to their point of breaking and beyond, because he is Hercules, son of Zeus, and he will not fail as long as he draws breath!
He reached the shores just as the sun had risen across the sea and collapsed on the sandy shoreline in utter exhaustion. Rolling onto his back he prayed to his father for strength to go on. Hercules closed his eyes and thought he could not make it without sleep, exhaustion readying to take him into its embrace when suddenly a giant bird appeared high above him. Soaring and circling in long swooping arcs and slowly descending upon his position. Hercules had thought it must be a vulture coming to rend the flesh from his body as he felt sure that death was upon him. But it was not death this day but only a giant pelican, flapping its wings in defiance to the gravity that sought to bring it down to earth, quickening its pace as it slowed itself into a graceful landing beside Hercules. It sat there for a moment looking at Hercules lying there with beads of sweat running off his body. Hercules began to laugh at the folly of asking Zeus for help and that it was a only a pelican that arrived at his side. Feeling he must be a joke to his father to provide his son with this kind of sign.
Then the pelican arced his head closer to Hercules, nudging him with his beak. Hercules felt the strength in this bird as it rested its powerful beak under the prone body of the hero and lifted him into a sitting position without any effort. A small leap and flap of its wings landed the bird onto the bow of the boat Hercules had made his journey in. It reached into the boat and plucked the water skin from the bottom and tossed it at Hercules. Hercules caught the skin, opening its spout to drink greedily until the skin was empty of its contents. “Is that better?” asked the bird in a low basso voice. Startled, Hercules leapt to his feet eyeing the pelican cautiously. “You can speak?” asked Hercules. “Obviously hero, my name is Petros Pelicanus. I am the king of the pelicans!” Petros walked around the edge of the boat, removing items from the craft one by one, tossing them onto the beach until he found what he was looking for. The bag of food that had been provided by the soldiers for Hercules journey. Petros ripped the leather-bound package scattering its contents onto the sand. “Eat Hercules and we will discuss why you have come to my shores”
Hercules and Petros sat at the water’s edge as the situation of Mykonos was discussed. Hercules explained he had been on a quest to find help from this island and that he was not sure what it was that he was seeking. Petros sat silent, listening to the tale Hercules wove and the dire need that the Mykonian people had need of a solution to their imminent destruction. For a long time Petros sat there staring out into the ocean appearing to be seeing something Hercules could not. “I can help you Son of Zeus” Petros said finally. “I see the terror and reign of destruction these Persians seek.” Looking at Hercules he continued “Their hunger for conquest will not be satisfied with Greece, they will not stop until all the world is under their rule” and with a finality he added “They must be stopped… here and now, before their disease can spread!”
The ground around them rumbled and shook. The volcano began to belch smoke and flame high into the air around it. “It is time you left this island Hercules for it will not be habitable much longer, your quest is completed” and with that Petros spread his mighty wings and launched into the air heading straight for the volcano! Hercules stood watching the King of Pelicans fly with great speed toward the spewing volcano, disappearing into the noxious cloud of smoke and ash that belched from this great giant of the earth. The volcano shook, unleashing its fury upon the island as molten rock and ash burst forth from the gaping maw of this titan! Hercules scrambled onto his boat and pushed away hard from the shore as the molten lava ran down the sides of the mountain face. Certain his new ally Petros was swallowed up my the now very active volcano.
Hercules rowed as fast as he could away from the island that was now beginning to tear itself apart, when from out of the flame and debris flew Petros, followed by thousands upon thousands of his kin. Their once regal looking beaks distended and bulging from weight they seemed to be carrying in their mouths. A ripple of heat emanating from each of these giant birds as they flew over the head of Hercules pushing their powerful wings onward increasing their speed. The sky was temporarily blackened by the passage of these creatures that were heading back the way Hercules had traveled from towards Mykonos. The sun was beginning to set along the horizon and he could see that each of the birds were aglow with a fiery heat, making their bodies shimmer in the waning light.
The last remnants of the flock of Pelicans was lost to his sight many hours ago now as Hercules rowed as fast as he could, his energy returned to him once again. With renewed vigor he pushed on through the night and into the following morning. Far in the distance Hercules could see a haze of smoke blanketing the horizon ahead of him. He pushed on moving his arms in a cyclical manner. Increasing his speed in hopes and prayers that what he was seeing was not the destruction of Mykonos. It wasn’t until late that afternoon when the sun was high that Hercules had come upon his first piece of wreckage floating in the waters before him. The peaks of Mykonos were looming ahead of him and the debris of the once mighty Persian Armada laid out before him, smoking and burning in the setting sun.
A crowd of Mykonian warriors had gathered upon the shores of the bay to greet Hercules as he ended his journey back from the Island of Santorini and its raging volcano. The crowds cheered and danced as they celebrated the return of their hero, clapping Hercules on the back and raising him in their arms high above their heads in honored revelry. When the din died down Hercules asked what had happened, his most trusted General Acacious relayed the tale to him. He had spoken of the third day of the siege. They had all but run out of the catapult arsenal and had thought that all hope was lost as more and more Persian incursion crafts had made it through their defenses and the Mykonian ranks were fighting to exhaustion and defeat.
Acacious spoke of that night as he prepared a plan of retreat when a glow appeared on the horizon approaching from the South of the little Greek island. Within minutes the flock of flaming Pelicans roared overhead and out into the Bay heading straight at the invading Persians. They flew at the ships, dropping their fiery payload down upon the vessels of the immense Persian Armada. The molten rocks from the depths of the volcano itself had ignited the boats instantly, erupting them into giant balls of fire, consuming the ships and crew alike in a savage barrage of death. Of the thousand ships the Persian arrived in, not one survived the flames of this attack. Charred remains of both human and ships alike floated onto the shores of the once sleepy island of Mykonos as the once mighty Persian naval armada was no more.
Acacious said that after their bombardment the birds then flew to the cliffs overlooking the island and have been there since they arrived. Hercules peered towards the cliffs and began to make his way there with his army in tow. Arriving upon the cliffs of Mykonos Hercules approached Petros and his clan, noticing that their beaks had distended and created pouch like sacks beneath their chins from the great burden they had carried for such a great distance to save the people of Mykonos. Hercules knelt on one knee before the giant Petros Pelicanus, his army and villagers alike following suit. They honored their saviors with gifts of gold and jewels and baskets upon baskets of fish. The birds in turn lowered their heads in a proud manner showing their respect for the bounty bestowed upon them and ate heartily.
It was from this day forward that the clan of the mighty savior of Mykonos, Petros Pelicanus made their home upon the island. Ever vigilant, watching and protecting their newly adopted home from high upon the cliffs overlooking the bay. This day was celebrated year after year since the great battle and the birds are honored to this day for their service and sacrifice. The beaks of the birds remained extended and never regained their once magnificent regalia but to them it was a small price to pay for doing what was right.