Francis Hugo's Bestiary of the Mediterranean World Page 16

1178B, 1902.ODY.1 from The Sphinx Library.

Hugo's keen drawings of the monsters of the Mediterranean would have no been sketched from on-board a vessel. The sketches were later compiled in his Bestiary of the Mediterranean World with ink on vellum, which became one of the most important drawings from antiquity.


The morning had dawned clear with a gentle wind that teased at the start of summer. Ariana sprinted along the length of the trireme, from stern to bow. Her feet sprung off the oars on their upstroke as she leaped between the side of the ship and the deck. She was now sixteen and her legs were strong, they could launch her lithe frame a good height in the air, enough to clear the head of the tallest rower. 
The sweat of the rowers and the salt of the sea mingled, fusing in the warm air, along with the distinct sweet scent of Circe as she sauntered on her morning walk towards the prow, tucking garlands of aromatic leaves behind the men's ears. The rowers were sailors from the island of Aeaea before Noble hired them. Well, in truth they were cutthroat raiders who happened to forage on the wrong island. Circe caught them in her woods feasting on one of her boars, and she gave them the choice of serving her or losing their heads. 
Ariana gripped the prow of the ship as it cut through the waves. The ship had been built for speed, and with the vigorous rowing it glided along the water like a shag ready to take flight.
"What do you think she really smells like without all those flowers?" Ariana scoffed. Francis averted his eyes and did not reply. He had been cowering near the breeze to relieve himself of seasickness, but also to hide from Ariana. Although they had been at sea for two weeks, Francis had not lost his appetite for sketching the coastlines. Ariana had a way of disturbing his tranquility. He knew she would ask him to join her side sooner or later.
"Well?" Ariana pressed. Francis rummaged his mind for an answer Ariana would find agreeable, but found nothing. 
"Great, you're in love with her too," Ariana said.  
"What would your mother say?" Circe said as she gracefully came to a stop near Ariana. She slid her narrow finger across Ariana's dark hair to expose a deepening growl. "If her precious little calf grew up to be such a miserable little creature." Ariana's eyes darted away and then her body followed. Only after Ariana had escaped almost out of earshot did she turn around and cry: "If you hadn't lost Odysseus in the first place, we wouldn't be here looking for him." Ariana knew her words would sting, but the sorceress was already in the middle of casting her rite.
Every morning Circe slung her thin staff in a graceful motion toward the sky and determined which direction to sail. Noble always scrutinized Circe when she preformed magic. He pretended to enjoy the morning light but Ariana could read his face and she knew he was trying to resolve a hypothesis. Noble will berate her as soon as Circe returns to the high-castle Ariana realized, as she pressed her knife deep into a wooden post.

After a while Circe came to rest near Noble at the high-castle of the ship. She sat like a playful cat, half lying and half alert. Noble leaned on the rail, placing his head in the shadow of the sails, and crossed his arms in a vain attempt to appear indifferent.
"To answer your next three questions," Circe told him lazily, "I saw the stars, the same number as yesterday, and the sky vanishes like a veil". Noble frowned. "And you spoke the same incantation as yesterday?" he asked.
Ariana squeezed her body between the sail and the rudder where she knew the crashing of the waves would drown out the conversation. She unfastened her sheepskin pouch and picked out a ball of yarn. She began her work and tried to forget Circe, Odysseus, and her mother. 

- fragment from a manuscript in The Sphinx Library