The feast was laid on a great table, and the heroes were invited to sit down to it. The king did not come into the hall before they sat down, but a table with food was set before the dais. When the heroes had feasted, the king came into the hall. He sat at the table, blind, white-faced, and shrunken, and the Argonauts all turned their faces to him.
Said Phineus, the blind king: "You see, O heroes, how much my wisdom avails me. You see me blind and shrunken, who tried to make myself in wisdom equal to the gods. And yet you have not seen all. Watch now and see what feasts Phineus, the wise king, has to delight him."
He made a sign, and the white-faced and trembling servants brought food and set it upon the table that was before him. The king bent forward as if to eat, and they saw that his face was covered with the damp of fear. He took food from the dish and raised it to his mouth. As he did, the doors of the hall were flung open as if by a storm. Strange shapes flew into the hall and set themselves beside the king. And when the Argonauts looked upon them they saw that these were terrible and unsightly shapes.
They were things that had the wings and claws of birds and the heads of women. Black hair and gray feathers were mixed upon them; they had red eyes, and streaks of blood were upon their breasts and wings. And as the king raised the food to his mouth they flew at him and buffeted his head with their wings, and snatched the food from his hands. Then they devoured or scattered what was upon the table, and all the time they screamed and laughed and mocked.
"Ah, now ye see," Phineus panted, "what it is to have wisdom equal to the wisdom of the gods. Now ye all see my misery. Never do I strive to put food to my lips but these foul things, the Harpies, the Snatchers, swoop down and scatter or devour what I would eat. Crumbs they leave me that my life may not altogether go from me, but these crumbs they make foul to my taste and my smell."
And one of the Harpies perched herself on the back of the king's throne and looked upon the heroes with red eyes. "Hah," she screamed, "you bring armed men into your feasting hall, thinking to scare us away. Never, Phineus, can you scare us from you! Always you will have us, the Snatchers, beside you when you would still your ache of hunger. What can these men do against us who are winged and who can travel through the ways of the air?"
So said the unsightly Harpy, and the heroes drew together, made fearful by these awful shapes. All drew back except Zetes and Calais, the sons of the North Wind. They laid their hands upon their swords. The wings on their shoulders spread out and the wings at their heels trembled. Phineus, the king, leaned forward and panted: "By the wisdom I have I know that there are two amongst you who can save me. O make haste to help me, ye who can help me, and I will give the counsel that you Argonauts have come to me for, and besides I will load down your ship with treasure and costly stuffs. Oh, make haste, ye who can help me!"
Hearing the king speak like this, the Harpies gathered together and gnashed with their teeth, and chattered to one another. Then, seeing Zetes and Calais with their hands upon their swords, they rose up on their wings and flew through the wide doors of the hall. The king cried out to Zetes and Calais. But the sons of the North Wind had already risen with their wings, and they were after the Harpies, their bright swords in their hands.
On flew the Harpies, screeching and gnashing their teeth in anger and dismay, for now they felt that they might be driven from Salmydessus, where they had had such royal feasts. They rose high in the air and flew out toward the sea. But high as the Harpies rose, the sons of the North Wind rose higher. The Harpies cried pitiful cries as they flew on, but Zetes and Calais felt no pity for them, for they knew that these dread Snatchers, with the stains of blood upon their breasts and wings, had shown pity neither to Phineus nor to any other.