..............................Tales of Hyrkon: TRAVELERS FESTIVAL
...................................Chapter SEVEN


People are dreams I think, and among my dreams a promising morning has gone lost.  Fair weather has lost out  to black storm clouds rolling  over Aminias pastel keep. Should this surprise a traveler? I laugh - - forget the sputtering rosewood candle and glowing  braiser;  alone under a rain beaten awning  I watch stragglers splash between olive-wood doorways and  dart down marble passages.  Lost! A colorful lot last evening they now dress as woodsmen. I shiver in my  damp fleece vest, and from a rams horn  draw bitter mouthfuls of ale.  Being without motion  seems a pleasure as  Mercury vexes his most devoted; Aminias  mountain again tries throwing me - - what a traveling circus - -


Cibias,  dear Master Cibias, he of the royal clowns - -“


Artyphon, I spin - -  “Artyphon?” She  has sprinkled the reproach like dewdrops yet  mist appears nowhere - -   what of this clown?  I peer  north over the aspect where  cold and cutting fingers of rain climb  the straggle of meadow, ravine and  pine copse.  Tall beech and oaks bend to fresh  wind, scattering  wildflowers orange and red, thorn bushes yellow tinge  and wild creatures beneath them. Opposite that  gentle side  granite cliffs bank Aminias villa like the shoulders of Atlas. That's you pal - - and I laugh out loud  seeing all, but her.


Did I imagine?  Her voice quivers. What a terror you prove this morning, Master of waves. Mages quake as if a tentacled Erythraean sea monster so favored by Russas  tales emerged from Aminias fountains to torment us.”


A trill of motion catches flames  among lines  of  somber oil lamps.  “So there ye be  daring mistress of clowns - -”  I step briskly - - then  behind from a  solid redwood  sculpture of Diannas hounds.


Mis-abled yet again Master Cibias, turned fore while the swell rises aft.  When your toes cannot pleasure my breasts for even one nightfall how confused you become.”


“Damme  so it's Russas stories entrance you.  Show yourself wench!”  I start back, “and be disciplined for your boldness.”


Yes Master, as your hands may wish, though never from jealousy needed,”  her voice comes lowering as  again behind. “Think on your morning expedition, while I slept in a gentile womans arms.  Your song ruling me, but it demotes the  Balearic slave from his precious bean and scallop stew, disposes a  thrice religious Egyptian to make peace with our Berber enemy and deflates Eros  between daughter and father of far-off Brittany.  Hyrkon has few friends to the north.”  She slips between the bronze-based oil lamps,  my  silken slave  carrying a  rasher of fresh  steaming bread, but dressed  obscurely in sealskin bonnet, a pirates  wool and brown leather chaps. “And the perfumist wept, so  little did you vouch for her beauty.  Dear dear Cibias  two such mornings Minos Kingdom may not survive!”


Un-nerved I  snark, “you make pox of a pimple.” then  shrug off wet vest and sandals, and step up to the  slotted wooden  deck around the braiser. “I would not - - - rule - - you. But, with them, those, did I lack diplomacy?”  I circle the fire away from her. “I have sold herring sauce ferment to Spanish fishermen, and ash ax-handles to Macedonian woodsmen. But, now ampules of violets distilled betray me.”

“As they will any man.” Artyphon catches up to my tunic,  giggling. “Mycenae dishonored by  your blundering would have disdained Helen and twice-over launched all their ships.” Her nipples brush against my linen shirt. So close is her mouth to mine that I can breath her in.  She stands amused serving  bread crusts and olive oil mixed with goat butter.


Hands  squeezing  her shoulders. “ Pity fair words and fair lips  sold to a cold fingered Mitylene emerald merchant. I have had offers - - “ Her eyes gleam revenge as my hands shake.  How did you do that, your voice?”


All forgiveness master. The Medes call it 'throwing ones voice'. You speak in one high tone,  a riff of wind, but an object reflects as it sees fit  a lower tone others may hear.”


“Witchery! And sleeping my toes do not idly fondle your breasts - -   bewitching some say as you will not freely give them.”


Her brash laughing remains behind her eyes. “Indeed Cibias, by your own justice so praised by Dianne I  modestly sleep short-sword armed at your feet, safe  as in my mothers  couch - -  save for the assassins, the two I have killed before their knives found your throat;  our goddess smiles upon you as I serve willingly.”


So I think Artyphon finds only the truth useful and I find peace for today. Shall we murder each-other challenging  the vile Ethiop brew stewing there on the brassier? Coffee the  southern Napata traders name it.  King Minos calls it stork piss.”


We share a lounge warming beside the fire and daring the other a next sip of the bitter, black African liquid that would surely rip horns from Saturns head.  Honey mellows it like gossip truth, and tales from the womens quarter set us rollicking.  We are happy.  As public the fiery brazier privacy rules our eyes. Artyphon  allows that afternoon  many  travelers  will join a hunt in the rolling forested land to the west of  our hilltop.  


“I intend  on joining them,” she pleads, “unless  you have a better distraction.”


When horses grow decks I shall ride neck to tail beside you. Until then - -”  Indeed I have no better amusement , or perhaps none yet.  We finish the dregs, mouth to mouth on a silver bowl. She crushes against me, suddenly and leaves to join  the various  hunters of her Parthian childhood .  


I see them streaming from the hill; scouts,  woodsmen and horse grooms  accompanied by the tuners of bows and lances, an army sufficient to  turn a peaceful  hill-top  to a Bacchanalia of  blood sport.  Noise and excitement roiled the villas stables … as if landsmen viewed the next copse of  yew should their mount not throw them into nettles as the Pillars of Hercules. Remember - - remember hardly more than a boy King Minos  well-born sons and I had ridden a line of four-legged bastards to the Caucus, there exchanging a slaver-taken and trader rescued nubile throne princess for  a  mountain warlords favor. Sharp teeth and sharper ass had the little bitch. Her fathers tribe were cannibals, broiling their captures in iron cages.  Rank nether-land waif knew both pot and stew from the first; brave-faced and bound for feasting we were sure of it.  Yet  under a lightening storms cover  she broke our lock and  after a weeks hellish ride  we escaped with the favors of her ass, but noone of the warlords. So now I smile at Aminias blood-sport.   Travelers all.  they raced  to the hedges and thickets, and deviled  flower strewn meadows  horse-manes and tails flying to say nothing of slings and darts. Then Aminias villa became solitary.   and I was glad to be quit of them.


To seek the libraries and their secrets which famed Aminias as much as her supple flesh.  Serving maids hinted  that  villa libraries would be available to those who did not ride. Histories I  imagine, as a traveler never tires of his own exaggeration ;  I never tire of Alreks - - Bogges indeed!   The wooden decks of papyrus scroll,  inked papered silk,  etched gold and silver leaf built  into the  villas warp were  enclosed by glass walled rectangles.  Grass and aloe lawn open centers allow you the clear outside light when the weather agreed and the company of curious should fortune favor.  Layered  glass panes frame in rosewood  themselves equal a  kingdoms price.  Aminias libraries are a treasure deep as her eyes, smooth as her ass and precious as diamond pendents gracing her nipples.


The cooking library sat beside her kitchens, where volumes of parchment looked hen-pecked and food splattered from constant use at Aminias party schedule. The recipes are pictured, like tiny thumb-prints and the chef master points out a coconut, rice, egg and lemon sweet expressed in Babylonian script. Impossible he adds, for certainly the lemons would prevent the eggs from fluffing high.  Perhaps.  I don't mock it or him, but that very dish was served to me and to other officers of an Erythraean Sea trading vessel  moored along an ivory-laced Ganges River pier.   


Sailing alone on Aminias ocean I found  tecknos on the far western side of the villa.  Some wooden wicker  building made as if to be blown over. They  vied with solid stone redoubts  besides forges,  ox-driven bellows, water and wind-wheels, rooms of pulleys and gears and the stink of strange boiling liquids in blown glass. An alchemists haven. Rockets  displayed from the eastern trade-routes were prominent.  Such an impressive firestorm to honor Saturn and Dianne. Build them we tried;   sulfur, charcoal, pine-tar  and pigshit were the ingredients  commonly described, but noone  on the shores of our Sea had been able to make the enormous arching stream of light and heat as did the eastern rockets. Some of the Hittite warlords had explored their use against enemy prisoners, but I will not think of that horror.


 Overlooking  these mechanics  loomed  a star  observatory, sporting its geometry of beams  and metal-scribed angles,  tubes of glass beads and a  counting room with the largest abacus I have ever seen. Even during our feasting twenty men of a Median scribes guild  remained seated upon their leathers  and performed  unending  mathematics calculations.  Star maps trapped me for an hour, with a master tillers-mate from a Nubian galley. Chart he might and story he would, boast following brag of losing a toe on his left foot to a Nile crocodile before spearing it. A brave act followed by him and his crew running for their lives, as  crocodiles are sacred to the priests in those inland cities.  “Better a toe lost than be fed head first,” he chirped happily.


I  forced myself away, swearing to find  Aminias library of history - - -  placed I discovered  knowingly beside the womans quarter - - -  when I found myself lost in a tower. Teak stairs inlaid with sandstone  muffle footsteps and separate outer walls from the cylinder of inner rooms.  Each room bares carvings of  a different sexual pleasure.  Obviously  a roost just constructed, perhaps by one of Aminias many lovers. No excess spared  its mahogany gleams a piercing black,  bronze metal  framework and joins  still bright from the forge.  


The upward and downward spirals rose on opposite sides, and as I  retreat from the third level a womans voice, echoing  calls out from the center.  “Well now he finally arrives.  Cibias lost on land.  All seas bow to his star maps,  to a sailor  cruising the world yet  sconce stones and mortar about him baffle.  Neptune finds him in a tower not knowing up from down.”


The sound is uncanny - -  have I been led? “Insolent woman you speak sharply yet hide the provocative lips. What do you fear - - more ?”


Women fear a  fair-haired man who promises nine-parts, but delivers only the tenth!”  How light her tone,  ah yes,  now I see it. A chorus of laughter  filters through pearl-beaded curtain.  Human grace and forms dance beyond. “Come in come in dear Cibias. We are no whirlpool meant for your  bows destruction.”  


Did I expect to catch a step on Aminias? Poetry too … such arrogance and a casual style pulls my palm to daggers hilt, yet  ship may I be thrust  through the beaded curtain, into a company of strangers.  No whirlpool, yet a many armed squid of  headdress, belts, veils, wraps and tunics … a melee of colors and forms grasping for attention around and up in layers.  It's a  circular room  whose floors reach upward  ...  drafty, large and high, so high  three  open windows have cleverly snatched  the sun-stream cloud  mottling tans and blues and yellow colors of furniture and  woven birch  wall-hangings. Teak lounges  lay aside on the curve and layers rise  one through seven, bottom to top.  Orange wax candles serve the bookish, those scratching or reading or dictating to a scribe.  Rich Syrian hashish dominates  the smells beside crisp citrus tea;  every couch seems to have  two  steaming bowls. Forty  people … no  fifty  scatter among the curves and couches.  At the front , the lowest point - -


“Friend,” I say “I see history here, but too young for me.” Finding myself the object of some amusement, being at the bottom laughter trickles downward.  “A false step surely, for I search after the library of  ancient history.”


Ageless beauty. “Ancient history?” Aminias silky voice penetrates laughter.  “Most men search for   blameless young women. ” Ribald chuckling … “have you found any at the villa?”


Most gracious hetaera, history or  honest woman? None yet I would ride to the hunt.” Now the laughter was mine and Aminias blush colors her diamond  necklace.  


She'll have your virtue Cibias before you gain her rhetoric!”  Says  an old man lounging  in the first layer  and beckoning my company.  His wrinkled, hawkish  face  glows merry in it's age, but  sly in his faults.  Perhaps a shavehead, barefooted mage. He's  poorly attired in linen farm-spun excepting his ruby studded turban   - - should I know such a man obviously fermented by wisdom  whose eyes share nothing freely? The stagecraft captures me first.


Plain Egyptian curved back chairs and two women grace the small raised  waxed maple stage:   Aminias sits slightly behind the younger - - a queen if her crown does not lie - -  as if whispering  to her ear.  Golden hair covers it and emerald eyes sparkle over teeth white as her string of pearls. And stepping to the speakers platform her loosely covered breasts taunt any man who breaths.  


She looks about and gathers all.  Then to me. “The library room is above …  people  living the history before you.” Then to the far edge of the rooms top galley. “I am  Mary, Queen of  Genoa. The first of many I fear …” She brushes back the mane of golden hair   and binds it with a  silver grass-hopper beside a gold crown tipping ever-so-little to the pearl pins beside  her left ear.  Pure and unforgiving as a northern ice-sheet  she makes  much of little.   Without trying her cheeks and lips are red, throat tapered long  and  chiton  plain-spun  linen of kin or her own hand, but the fringes were Green Isle lace … most rare.  


I bow. “Your Ladyship grants privilege  ...”

She interrupts sharply. “Nothing of the sort does her 'Ladyship' grant, and better for you. Enough …  all may conquer equally at this court of travelers, as Nineveh and Susa exchange Babylon. First one then another rules her shallow seas.  Does the goddess favor  pale Assyrian or dark  Elamite? ”  She taps the shiny mahogany frame beside her with a ruby ring. “ We  are  all searching history as you yourself intended.”      


Sit down for Junos sake Cibias,” whispers the old man  “she is not for puppy love. And if you intend flogging her loins you need to beat every man in the hall.”


I sit. Stupidly. Give Genoa  its glorious protected harbor.  Add primeval and steeply rising forests. Give them a queen, as Sardinian traders agree ancient King Boud of the double-headed bronze ax had been killed in a Balerics raid. Genoas loss.  Do harbor and queen make a nation? The frosty land was known to traders as a nasty  backward weasel hole in a boars thicket. Their fisherman refused to sail north of the ice islands for cod. Most of the stone-jawed  farmers had no money to buy and no  clothing to sell.   Towns-people  lived  in  granite-walled villages , with strong-houses built on  layered  limed-gravel  platforms not monoliths.  Of small keeps, fearsome;  when fisherman turned pirate and  stole your property you didn't get it back.  A female goat was not  judged safe among the men , but surprising they  produced  worked bronze armour  men would put before a sword.  The source of that metal wisdom was unknown; no bribe of mine had untangled it.   Now a queen rules with pearl breasts and emerald eyes ever so watchful ?  She I did not know, but unmoving and unwilling to vanish Aminias sat beside her. She sat  as if such company …  of a Queen and a whore were the most natural event  since Venus and Galetea.


I  ask. “You know me?”


“All know what rough treatment you dealt the Messinian raiders.” She uncovered a slate and chalk sketching quickly our ramming of the Messenians. “Syracuse  storytellers already have you flying to the attack!”


“Mercury provides, my Lady,” I say to a chorus of chuckles rattling the walls. “But,  it's  properly said about my  brave ship and braver boyos. I might have hidden under the rowers bench.”


“Or  under his Parthian whore,” came a strident, back bench shout.


Baras of Gedes ,” hissed the old man. A villainous face of brows and teeth quickly filled his papyrus sketchpad.


I know the bastard.” Turning I shout to the ceiling. “Your ale was sour and skins untanned. I advised against the trade and the Hyrkon factor saved his silver.”


But, not your life pretty boy!”


I bristled. Ask the Corinthians about that, before drawing your sword.” Two  Syrian peltist sleeping on a side bench awoke, lead slugs ready fit to their slings.


Mary frowned and the laughter ceased. “Unneeded threats and unnecessary modesty.” She played with her pearl string necklace. “At a court of travelers all may know any,  lonely and desolate as may be their homes.  Have none  yet said this?” She smiled quietly. “Cibias bain of  Actaea  you trade with the Etruscans  offering such poor prices for their execrable wines some  Tarchna merchants have put a price on your head;  thirty Syrian electrum  stators.” A damped murmur circled the room, like a wave beneath seaweed; even most slaves were worth more alive than dead. Queen Mary demurred. “A year has it been since Etruscan murals distracted you from your precious Marsaii?” She cocked her head and waited for my excuse .. of which I had none making her  satisfied smile all the more desirable and I winced she catching a prick on my pride saying. “Since you don't visit my poor kingdom, leaving us to our own poverty and ignorance and the woman provincial from  no foreign attention  … I would have doubled that price ...”


Laughter rippled around the hall. Spoken well, by a ruler  I thought who must surely face a council. Most of the fifty people  filed the air with sharp little jingles and bawd. “Perhaps the Queen can train us all,” one  nut-faced Berber crackled.    Mary Queen  … preening. “Men find pleasure in different disciplines.”  More laughter abounding;  an entire row of  eight  rudely  clothed  and hooded figures fours tiers up did not laugh.  I thought most likely Syrians. Auditors of her performance, perhaps.  My thinking imagined she had been bought by a few Eastern kings of the two rivers to plead their case of  new conquest.


“Surely then dear lady I have come to buy back my life from a beautiful Princess.”


“Your mother was beautiful.” Damme how would she know …  “Indeed, Aminias has asked me to speak of exactly that travelers history, of how people have been condemned and  at  what price and  from whom they have purchased their futures.” Her sharp wooden heels no travelers delight snapped at the redwood planks. “Plainly spoken  I enquire which eastern kingdoms  drain and which western lands bloom from their blood.”  Golden words, so she  may having  so well chosen her tutor.  She spoke the hard won Cretan tongue with a Spanish accent, as if none remembered …  very well.


Aminias now rose and covering Marys shoulder with her gold scarf spoke easily. “Rest now fellow travelers and imagine while everything simple appears.” House servants appeared  everywhere with silver trays while fifty stories trailed the figs.


  The old man and I  beside him had picked couches down front to the left of the Queen and with a view of  ceder and pine treetops beside  the tower.  He said. "You appear to have forgotten me. Don't those trees in the window remind you of a certain afternoon in Lesbos?” I am Dayles of Rhodes, a driller of tunnels.”


Daeles - - Dalles - - I don't - -   damme the Trojan raiders, and I, but a boy!”  Most near rows were mostly empty and I liked the space  - - between my skin and the nearest blade.


Serving maids brought  glass wine  tankards   and  carved walnut bowls of almonds and grapes.   Aminias and the Queen served behind them, amphora of cherry-scented Chian wine as no man may complain service from his betters. Her lips serviced the old mans ear and none the wiser.


That scene so many years before flashed again. “They fell upon us, just as the sun rose and all your men carried redwood cords to support the new drilling. Bastards.”


Excepting the  ships boys your Captain had lent lest they corrupt with Lesbian woman alongside  older crewmen. You were to learn angle and volume formula, and to lay a plumb  not  toy with the maids. Neither we helpless nor the raiders knew you carried the long-spear.”


“How I remember now Dayles - - we sailboys  all shit our trousers.”  


“Cowards run. Brave men shit and fight, Cibias! Driving away their first assault you bought time for us to appear sword-heavy  through your spear-line.  Shocked to a stop,  they lost heart while we dashed among them - -  slaughtered most.”


“After ten winters we appear to defend again.”  


“The world is not empty of just men.”


Dayles  nipped at an ivory hash-pipe and shook his head. “I fear men of the future will find this time empty of both men and justice.”


Hash and opium pipes steamed and  across the room sailors greeted long lost comrades. Dice appeared and coins of every city.   A woven basket  and large rolls of papyrus had been pulled down beside the podium.  They rested just  behind the Queen,  now returned and she began to sketch.  Bold relief, yet something like a map appeared.


A square shouldered fellow in the shawl of a Hebrew raised his voice. “Prophets and judges my nation has. By whom  is this  oracle given to you?”


Who should know better, yet  she stooped to Aminias  who whispered. Then … “I was taken young,  traveled, loved, despaired … all  before my mind heard lies. Of speakers tricks my heart is bare as slate.


“Celt bitch,” came a curse muttered high up  from beneath a hooded robe.”


Mind your tongue sir; men are given , but one.” Her cheeks pink had a full red flush. “Dorian by my grandmother,  Citlec I am of a warcraft family born.  Better than most men  strove mighty Cadeyrn  of the double-edged iron ax who finally bedded her ! Citlec brazened  never to have bent her spine under his twelve stones. So continues our royal blood, my husband you all know marking his shield-walls first line and dying beneath four lances.”  The Queens head dropped,  as if remembering then quickly rising and her eyes glimmered. “Bestla  mother of cold brought me across deserts of ice and sand, where Helios begins and ends his journey and the men differ naught from ourselves as Nemesis would see all balanced.” She sketched a few dark lines,  goddess islands far west of the Pillars and oasis deep into the eastern plains. “Merope be blessed I thank her wisdom. African swamps dark beneath their canopy, ruled by monkeys  and deep wetted as before Sekhmet burned their green to desert I have ventured slaying both hooded serpent and  lion. Pygmies I dueled in the green canopy.” She threw off one shawl reveling a  tooth-marked shoulder scarred by  an arrowhead.  “All this  brazen-footed I traveled before first satisfying  a man.” She frowned. “How little we advance, burning first branch then trunk  and provincial  are the beds we choose.  See before you ravening Troas,  simpering Alashiya, sputtering Hyrkon  and Royal flaming  Egypt!”


Voices mutter. A side-bencher cracks his stave on the sandstone floor. “As we have been burned away,   through your eyes we see Genoa  fallen off the flat earth,”  cackled the careless knave.  Phoenician likely, by his  oak staves ironware  and  by a shark-tooth earing bred to the sea;  perhaps a man of Tarsus. His  wary companion  threw back  a red-dye  gamblers guild hood,  to reveal one black patch and one ruthless eye.  “I call auroch turds to mend your path. Genoa may indeed roll round as a womans breast  deceiving experience by motion, but  she's useless as a Lesbian tit!  That we could judge for ourselves.”


“Drusus, Druses,” exclaimed Aminias, squinting into the dim corner  “is that you?  How happy to see a bedmate alive. I heard the Rhone Celts  baked you in an iron skillet!”


Drusus rose and bowed as the murmur turned against him. ”Surely not before I may worship you a last time,”  he said.  Then chanced,  “had I not fucked all brains from the hetmans sorceress both eyes might have been boiled!”  His companion pointed with threat to the diamond-stud black eye-patch. “Poach the eye from an iron Hittite warrior  and it will return buried in your heart!”


I knew the slick dealing free-booter,  money-changer and factor.  Drusus had come with  Etruscan  traders  exchanging  marble for Cilician Gates tin; northern Phoenicians strap on money-belts tight as their asshole. Unable to exchange he  stayed in Cilicia when Fortuna bore the  first Thesallian and Kassite slave miners. They cheapened  the auction.   Drusus profited faster  in the Egyptian trade than  slaves died.  It was said truly once out of your purse,  Doric, Egyptian or Hyrkon stator  was always his.    


And while Queen Marys royal beauty ruled  undisturbed, yet for a moment I think  she may brashly take up Druses on his offer; a kind of  dice-roll static fills the room.  I speak quickly. “Perfection  in excess we  possess  this  rains-wept morning.  Some grifter may shuffle cups, but Queen Mary need not spy the bean. Let Eros weep, Aminias take her comfort and Nymphes hour  pass untroubled.”  Grunts of satisfaction ripple among  the benches;  authority hovers about Genoas queen as  squires about a maiden.  Lands west of the Pillars indeed!  Breathing and shuffling resumed and a round of hot ale served.


Then Mary continued.   “Such is the rule of  Our Sea. As the bowls of land and sky change places, rolling across the great tortoise back so the importance of nations  resides at the boundaries, sliding east to west.  Once, before our fathers fathers every river concealed a novel language and every city wall a new god, changing as a wind-devil changes desert sand.” Her voice lowered. “No longer such chaos;  past to future will flow.” Silence swept  smiles and voices from the room.  Kingdoms were  soundlessly and  bloodlessly vanishing.  “Syria will push over the ashes of Troy to itself be encompassed by the mountain Medes. Persians they call themselves, long-striding conquerors  yet only  the eastern boundary  not new endeavor. They become  the bone on which  stern Clio will chew.


A priest,  broad of  shoulder as ought be a  son of Neptune rose from the sixth level. “Speak no blasphemy over Troys ashes. Her lemon and cherry trees do not burn, but stretch to the Caucus forming Aphrodites bower. Black amethysts and orange garnet adorn her women. Mars own arms raised the western walls of Troy , and none may enter lest Polites and Memnon and yeah even Paris level their path.” He extended powerful arms toward a compatriot sitting beside him. “Mycenaeii have  driven their  bronze bore machines against our walls, but I have gutted them with ballistas,  flaming flint-tipped  blood-seekers thick as tree trunks.” He pulled a white linen toga tighter about his frame and leaned forward.  “Howling in pain the Greeks die and never will I stop defying them.  Before my blood brother Amphius I swear  my sons and I will winnow the seas never allowing  foul spawn of Mycenaean to enter the sanctuary of Troas!”


“Have you , but one cheek and one ear,” hounded Druses.


Neptunes speaker raged. “A son of scorpions,  to the East, Nebuchadnezzar bounces between Babylon and the Parthians. Should we fear the desert camel fuckers?” His green tunic  and half-laural of woven seaweed were marked by golden tridents.  “In times of the great rains our best  followed the two rivers north and there spread to the horizon  our black walled temples.  Dozens raised their dark worship, yet now.... now Troy alone remains. What man fears the remnants?”  Sitting down he removed a handful of pebbles  from his tunic and tossed them into the air. Flying... flying men recoiled, only to have the pebbles bounce like colored pipe bubbles from  floor levels to tables and couches. Some  guests caught them, snatched from the air and thrown again to much hilarity which replaced solemn, one or two splashing  in wine amphora till all the rubber balls as now understood lay scattered about the raised speakers platform. Boy servants scrambled to retrieve them like so many child whores  frolicking in the temple zukkrat of  Marduk and pen them up in a basket.    


Amusement overcame Aminias. “Note my dear Priest how your fortunes all lay beneath my feet. Did you think Chaos would save them?” She pointed upward, toward a pivoting strand of metal steady in the breeze by no means, but aligning toward the front. “Even rubber finds its way west!”  It was spoken as if  Moirae had just uncocked her shuttle fingers flying among  those human actions marveled as  woolen thread.  


“They … they could have gone anywhere,” stuttered Neptunes priest blanching white, between night black curly hair and beard. “Anywhere - - - ” he muttered  and fell back on his couch exhausted, as I thought fingering and squeezing one what bouncing balls ought to have been a random matter of the gods proved the Queens foil. How cleaver of Aminias to fortune such a companion.  


A robed, dark-skinned caravan traveler snapped a cobra-tail mini-whip at the tip of his staff, a crack that made Aminias jump. The old man dug nails into my arm. “Ancient of days, he carries the tribe in memory.”


Will he challenge Mary?”


His daughter? Surely you observed - -  Queen Mary is one of them.”


The ancients  arm  extended  sweeping the room and stopped, pointing at Amphius.  “Cretans lie, Lesbians blaspheme  and Trojans blunder.  Baal crucify your waste! We  desert Arabs brought all wisdom … from an Ethiopian cave.  Nippur, Lagash, Kish , Erech we spun from as if from the potters wheel, baked and glazed  only to see them crumble  into the  two rivers, crumble by the hands of Mesilim, Annadu and Luggal, crumble and by their childrens hand rise.  All such we gifted,  all you call nations and laws and number …  we have historians with  keeps in the Atlas mountains whose memories  reach from before  the  Tin Isle  ...” He grunted and wrapped his robe tighter. “They may speak seven nights before reaching those stories, but  once found dry was the channel!  Spain and the Tin Isle were one! We are the first of men, and the Bull of Heaven will storm from his Zikkuret to trample any who threaten that claim.”


“Impossible,” shouts a  Syrian gem merchant who has spinning between his palms a textured  globe that squeezes  changing shape as  his fist works. “None sailed the Pillars so early, but rode the eastern rivers to the Black Sea. First among travelers they were ours!”  Ring-studded  fingers play among the hills and valleys. Rubber from the Ganges no doubt, but  I wonder what  beyond amusement have his pearls told him?


His face has twisted harshly, yet  the Arab continues undeterred. “ And then, you creatures  living at the  new seas fringe  mawking for shells and being eaten by dogfish were raging beasts!  We tamed you to our dismay and receive this as returned value. But, the desert persists even should the night sky slide west. Do we dissolve in this moving aether?”

“Clay images of your lost power lay buried in that aether,” snipped the Queen. “Think not of its giving life, but of its hiding your frail childhood!” She circled in charcoal a  now lifeless region east of the  second cataract.  “Deceive if you must, that the rains swept across your fathers fathers  children floating them over what is now dead sand.” Queen Mary swept a green smear of paint across the African desert. “If you must, then pay the liars price  of long sleep you will.”      


“We drove out the Bogge!” He replied quietly.


A new younger voice breaks in. “Who cares if the Bogge  ate  or  were eaten in times before the times … “ he was a Captain of Troy glorious in pride  and bitter … “ instead, what by Zeus beard pushes the boundary westward! We stand by the very wall of  gods!”


All spoke a babble and none listened. Before I knew it I was on my feet. “We are not Bogge!”  A chorus of denials followed mine, as speakers sought  to remove their cities from  Queen Marys westward moving line. Shouting rattled about the room till Aminias  figure had curled into a shapeless motionless stump of  yellow silk.  Then .. one by one the voices  guttered and dropped away.


The Queen also had remained unmoved …  of  each cities salvation – extending her map westward beyond the Latin boot   she would have none of it.  A scratch of red-ochre  marked  cities  like Byblos sketched in charcoal  that had already burned … or … “Do you see, fellow travelers how the fires that once only burned our islands now, far from the sea  sweep away entire peoples? ” She walked to the far edge of her platform where a  low window overlooked fruit trees. “Accidental this destruction - - perhaps though Hephaestus willings does more good than harm to we humans.  I hesitate to blame the gods.  What is not accidental will be this ...”


She swept her sketch far to the west and north, beyond the pillars to the Tin and Green  Isles.  Then east to the great lake beyond the Black Sea.  I had seen  maps similar in my mothers library, and Minos had one wrapped about a huge round  marble boulder.  Any trader would know his own piece of the shores.  Then with red ochre she  swung three pointers  like prongs of Lokis flaming trident from Spanish Gaul, from  Dorian Mycennai and from  the Carpath Mountains  into Our Sea.  Where lay Damascus  and Egyptian Thebes she circled with a greased smear of  ground blue lapis.


“And where are we,” shouted the robed  Elamite caravan trader?  “Proud Babylon spreads her knees to our manhood.”


“You or I,” she said and laughed – a jaunty, uncaring laugh. “You will not last ten winters!”   She had taken up a smooth maple pointer long as her arm and now used it to tap the papyrus. “Before the ice-mountains and before the Tin Isle …  in times before all time  first of all you were, and now so are we.  But,  mother  to all children Hera is a jealous bitch. All, but your voice will vanish, if men leave voices in beaten gold sheets and fired clay.  Your children vanish.”  


“Vanish!” repeated a laconic high toned Spartan who simply ground one fist into another.


“Old bones!” He shouts, “old bones. You've been digging with those fools from Sidon in the sea-side caves. Have you found another elephant tusk big as a galley? I heard it was traded for two nights with an Ethiopian whore! Ha haha …  we are too smart to vanish since our bodies may fly away with our thoughts! ”  Sounds of his derision rattled against the walls and trickled out the windows.


“Gold, beaten and etched and old,” she responded, and  put a scratch through Damascus and Thebes and chanted …  


  “ What if our bones  with stones were mixed

  with  bones of Bogge all broke with sticks?  

  All … all … all … departed.”


 I thought she might peal off a strip of memory as I had heard before from memory readers.  They got themselves all pitched up with singing and chanting and then let loose  …  years, decades  and centuries of years fly by.  Instead  her breathing slows till you wonder where it might be  then the lips open and she just smiles primly. “But, in our time  we came thus, fellow travelers.”  I jumped – she  pointed at me and to the red stripe through Spain.  “Those who first came after the Bogge settled first in Our Sea. First to flourish, you Minoans  from Spanish Atlantis and first to die. The Greeks  have heckled you already, though you have swatted them away; they  will form up next in their thick lines and armoured columns.  Cretans have checked them for now at the southern islands, but  times  come when  plundering Medes ...” she held her pointer up toward two richly  dressed, turbaned and  black bearded  mages sitting at the rooms top row.


“Yes, yes  we know,” said the younger of the two, ”the stars speak volumes, and tragedy we can write out by the numbers.” He fumbles some kind of beaded string abacus . “Our native mountains taught isolation wisely, yet all ask what men are wise?  We expand to the entire southern sea. But, as  the Bull Taurus  rises in the midnight west so wealth advises over-reach with death and ruin and forgotten stones our history.  All that say the stars; be joyful in your city and grow your children, gentle your wives and feed your slaves.  We think the god is merciful.  All that known yet  wisdom escapes our kings.”


Silence. For who can speak against the stars?  Then a brooding discontent  sweeps  despair  from the room.  Drusus speaks willfully . “Who will deny the mages horrible pre-vision or deny their own nation stumbles as the Persians, yet who will not aspire for the golden chariot?”


Again the silence of fate.  Queen Mary broke open the silence by first removing her veil of blue and gold thread, the single diamond sparkling at her bare throat.  “Sad Medes! Your women raped and warrior nobles will die on  mighty ash Mycenii spear-points.  Yet as the boundary sweeps westward Greeks also cover their glorious  marble statuary with the blood of brothers.  Surging Italiots bloom like roses, grind ancients to ruin yet  die upon their own thorns.  Westward, dear travelers, blood upon blood  over all while the obvious is ignored. In the times before our times it was the changing face of  Bheur and Freyr and Aeolus who made lush the desert about Our Sea. Tastes of honey as these almonds taste drove dark Yaga to the land of  black Numidians.  Behind the goddess fashioned blue-painted mountain raiders,  drawing to themselves and civilizing  life.”


“We are both sailors and desert men,” objects the Arab. “Look no further than Aqaba to discover imperishable  Egypt. Ahgeless fame have we earned, and the worlds blood  carries our scribed cairns from sea to mountain.”


“Graves too.” Again the Spartan.


“Klytus”, whispered my companion. “No Greek will allow something from nothing.”


“You  slogged marshes wearing with wooden sandals, traveled across  oceans of grass and mountains of  forest where now beyond a hawks vision only sand lay hot and dead.  Does your memory serve you this far?”


“Southern Egypt was indeed green...”


“Far enough then.   As the ice-walls retreat to Boreas home so also the  new drawing of men is to the west and north.  Grass replaces ice and trees, gravel.  Can your minds eye see it? The boundary sweeps westward beyond the pillars no man knows.”


What of these Isle far to the west,” snaps a Damascus banker whose finger diamonds purchase empires. “Who has seen them,  landed they when and  which returned with the tale?”


All voices rumble; many in mockery, some via anticipation and a few of the hard-sailing rovers in fright. “None in this room, spites Mary. But, ask Cibias. One of his  storied mast-men married a dolphin which carried him in pleasures beyond the horizon.”


The entire room turns toward me draining glass bowls,  laughing and scowling,  sniggering and damning. “Some think our fish ferment designed by such far-aways. I invite all to buy a pitcher,  for the western Isles rain Bachus liquid not water and all stews doubly enlivened.” So I dodge the unthinkable, figs pelt my sealskin vest  and  chimes of humor ring like temple bells.  


Enough of the Syrenes tales.” A factor tattling her abacus - - a merchants well-breasted lover or a farmers goddess. “Why must Troy die? And Damascus! They now live brightly. Have the Hittites so pricked your purse that what is before you vanishes?


Ask why storks flood to the Tin Isle or salmon the Baltic?”  Mary of Genoa opened a chami bag and  threw hundreds of gold Assyrian coins onto the floor below the podium. “My bribe perhaps, yet  your children  will need them for the Ferryman.”  So  stiff necked  she gathered her wisdom. “Damascus? The wish fatten and the fat are slaughtered!  What butcher knows less? Neptunes priest himself has shown us  Priams death rattle. To their high palace they have gathered, and against all they have cast virile weapons of bronze. But, those weapons defy not fate, and bring the certainty of bouncing rubber spheres!  The boundary sweeps beyond and below  virile Troy so fates decree not justice.”


 Her  death-touched coins lay untouched, till two broad legged,  sturdy adventures came down each choosing one.  “Ithaca and  Carthage …? What  do gods demand that we  have not left to them?” Mary responded not at all.


A  Carian warrior rose,  by his badge a Captain and  thickly framed of mixed island blood. His  neck was scared and his face carried a noble Etruscan  nose. A   rovers narrow mouth little spoken for a thousand years,  power must have flowed through his city-state Kos, and  to his family long before the  grasping  Semite and Aryan  nations swelled around  them.  Had a long-ago Latin maid been ravished, or  did temple dancers seduce a simple Phrygian pirate?  His family could have stretched far into the past when the ice-walls still ruled and now he  looked  directly at the Queen.


“Kathroas son of Throas son of Kos.”  She refusing to pale and he broaching  arms  tanned from wear, thick and  battle-hardened and his leather sword-belt creaking. “Man of the east I  salute the senate of Kos and serve the city who pays best;  and I will not be slaughtered.”


“Will nothing bring blush to a  mercenaries face,” Mary prodded with an impish grin?

Kathroas cinched his swords leather belting. “We first of all warrior races discovered more wealth in protecting our neighbors  than in destroying them. How expensive  use of a mans - -  or a womans body perhaps  all can judge, but a mercenary judges most wisely.”


Laughter rippled through layers of  reclining observers,  pompous humor overarching, seeing the warrior throwing down covered in soft leather the mailed glove.  None could detect a smile as Queen Mary considered. “Protector indeed! Truly, you would bring war  hammering about the head of  Mars …  if that were enough ...”  Then  archly she smiled raising her arms. “Are we safe here?”


Kathroas unbalanced,  out of depth by his scowl, then measuring looking about the stone  chamber. “I see  real warriors about me, sufficient to protect  copper tubs in a Corinthian bathhouse .” Laughter rocked the chamber. “Should Pontian rovers swarm Panormous harbor then we … all Hykron Trade Council members, their factors and intermediates are lost.” He stared at a rank of bejeweled Syrian  bankers. “Sometimes the weak die well.  Cosian adeles sent me as blood price of such an attack, the revenge  being promised.  I will not die well , but die with my teeth clenched to the neck of  an enemy at my front.”


Queen Mary tapped her maple wand against the slate. “A price you say …  do you always bend the knee to whomever  pays best?”


“My city is old. Justice matters.”  he said,  the warriors face slowly darkening. “To none, but the gods do I bend a knee … to Cybelle, to Astate, to Baal and to my lady ...”


The queen turned her face quickly aside, resting her eyes on the Arab.   “I wish well to your families.  Are you moving them... well you must be for such concern.  Surely you have left them the times you have earned.  They will build before they crumble, but vanish they must. From Ethiopia you brought the carved edge and fired point.  Those were true.  But, the truth no longer served  as  you formed cities and cultures and rulers.”


“How can that be evil? Cities are not edges  nor people points.  We  brought the triangle to flooded land and built laws to replace the stone edges and  wooden points.”  


“Poseidon  does not know your law. As  he dashes north to play among the boulders of  vanished ice-walls  so to  follows the power of men.” She reaches into the basket till now untouched  and removes a polished  metal device of  gears and levers and sphere of quartz fitted to a bronze cylinder.  Sunlight blazes a shaft consuming it all glitter and brightness. She turns a wheel and parts mesh all moving within other parts. “And by this will the mens craft  be driven.”


“A toy,” shouts one black-bearded mage.”  


“Hecates blasphemy,” another. “Smash it!”


I stand  again feeling the loss of Cretan power. “We Hyrkons fear no tool. What became of us who have always swept  Our Sea, shouting 'wear away you brave boyos'  honoring  Aphrodites travel and her Laws of Trade?  Be it toy or machine , why cannot our hulls ride this  westward flow? ”


Dayles sharp elbow caught my ribs. “Expect little Cibias. She would rather eat your Cretan liver than dance bare-breast before the bull and dolphin.”

 Indeed Mary had found  full rage. “You  Cibias thrust pride and expose arrogance beyond your age; Mercury was never enough for you was he … swift and virile of movement yet you demand more of trade,  mistaking the fortunes of exchange for  just laws of the goddess.  Wooden men might follow, where tide breaks upon a strange shore, but you are men of blood  not by accident. Like creates like; your creations will not be human, but strive with humans.” She held the machine high above her head. “And  strive as you will, heartbeats will fail;  you will die serving machines  you cannot master beside the broken bones of Astarte and upon the cold breast of Aphrodite.”


Stricken Dayles his voice embers of a pale soul. “She freezes my heart;  where Cibias will flee the souls of our children?”


“Perhaps a soul is  more like open sea swells, and less the rocky breakers.”  


And he cries because his klans children and grandfathers were all buried in columns beside their cities granite liths.  One among many crossed by my trading path.  More among us found  tongues and lips and throats beyond the reach of sound.  Silence  wore the  brazen crown  ...  in that still moment  of bird-song and winds-breath and shadowing banners,  you see men understanding the worst  thrown up to their imagination.


  “Forever Babylon.”

  “Tyre births anew.”

  “Priams will survives.”


 On the protests ring and yet  I see fates watchfully bringing it into mental focus till  the shouts of  harridan - - witch - - cunt - - blasphemy - - whore - - atheist …  ring round the stone walls as Queen Mary and Aminias  rise, bowing  gravely to their guests  and veiling eyes  step back and vanish  through a concealed door.


Damme the women  smoked our brains,” sniffed a  Baleric sailor lodging his hashpipe, “but better than minstrels storied well with our time. Yo , Cibias, I'll take a vat of your fish ferment and  tonight ply a serving wench between tussles.”


Drusus brushes by me roughly. Saving the Queens conceit, I think  shuffling from the room beside  chattering  amused companions, ranks not among  the commoners business.