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


The fifty Fish - - - as  later we became known for the ivory salmon wrist-torque each received upon leaving Mary Queen of Hearts - - as SHE became known for the scorching Spartan-like  public exchange with her Carian warrior - -   and waiting until free of the  circular building - - - diverged in a riot of  flaming treaties and trade and marriage-like threats and syllogisms  formed and rising  as black mud-balloons exploding over  their Lybian salt tarpits  by caught flames flickering from yet other explosions. Unprepared to think, we Fish were unprepared to swim.


So stumbling I viewed the rush looming over and bent into the woolen coats of Dayles, the rough sheep-trading Hebrew Ben Rabbi and a trapped silky attired, but  wildly undocile serving maid from the tip of Morocco.

I was saying, “- - - but my ship the Belisama flies west as easily east so what matter where her hull is tarred ?”


Your vessel is just a machine, and the thoughts that formed her and hands that built her  still lie in Cyprus or Rhodes - - - or  Ur. What moves while standing still!”


Egyptian emeralds and Spanish gold? Each for half a year,” snarked Dayles  “while west winds shift to the east.”


Whichever way,” scoffs the wench,it ain't your mothers tit.  Escape I did, with a maidenhead to sell,” slapping an exploring hand finding what was warm, but not free. She exclaimed, “for my Mocs would have eaten the tar and boiled your crew. Them's the West for one who lived it.”  I knew not. So around us the debate boiled into the evening and shocked the returning hunters.  


Queen Marys  venture  indeed was the evenings sensation, as Dayles advised  provoking talk is the travelers cheapest currency. A Hittite prince hounded  her - - for Helles is West of Troy - -  but the blond Carian intervened, suggesting they pitch knives for fingers in the courtyard and that ended it.  By Diannas white unmastered thighs  abounded  gossiped lively stories; Marys soon faded before the amazing capture of a three antlered stag!  It had cost  two fingers of a ropeman and the eye of one retainer;  all three Latium princes were needed to hold the nets binding  ropes.  An archer finally put a bolt through its neck. Tonights vegetable heavy menu promised venison.  Noise and red wine flowed un-watered … while poppy-pipes smoldered.  Artyphon had taken fowl and a Temes  baker steamed goose in rhubarb-flavored clay.  


“Artic goose cannot compare to  their natural thyme and sage flavored  southern cousins,” piped Alrek who had joined us for evening meals. “But, no fish while one-of-fifty sits this very table. How hungry the salmon and how lonely the fisherman,” he bawded poetic and placed an uncut bean-size yellow arctic diamond upon Artyphons wrist. She flushed shoulders and face and throat. “May her fisherman grind and cut deep the  rough jewels faces,” and saying so Alrek winked at me, cracked off a fowls leg and dove in.  Friendships so bound, we drink and battle over Hyrkons wine-trade, Frankish split-yew looms, silting of Egyptian ports and unexpected boldness of Etruscan widows.  Anticipation broods over many  surrounding conversations, but remains unsatisfied and servants  carried princes to their beds.  


Another night passes without the women; how common  flesh, yet how different  soft voices trained by crones and maids, meadow and forest, mountain and seashore, kings court or the bawdy.  I spend the evening  at  Aminias observatory.  Etched  glass panes divide the night sky and long moving bronze protractors sight along any particular star.   You may sit on a turned wheel, viewing by reflectors  a  spreading Y  which measures  the  widening angle between two stars. Different  heavenly spheres I think, so different motions.  A Persian Mage even shows a glass that he says projects  the  stars-fields  brightness onto a gold plate.


“I see the stars bright spot. What happens if you adjust your machine to look at the moon?”


His face blanches. “But, the moon is not a star. Sin would wreak a terrible vengeance for his loss of privacy.”  I can say nothing.   He continues. “Do you think it was all foolishness, the Queens lecture, that  history flows east to west and machines will strive with the gods and defeat them?” He expects no answer, but his silver tipped quill writes commentary to papyrus scrolls.


“Learn  a task in the ships rigging .. it's not hard with beams and lines and pinions, block and tackle, knots galore while  easier to rip the girdle from Hera than patch  canvas during a gale. Now,  with that mans work sail to the Pillars and the wild ocean beyond asking again what moves west?   If you cannot entice one night from a  green eyed Balearic maid  you will be too desolate to answer!”  'Am I helpful,' I wonder? Here among the machines  I cannot swear to what I see, of shiny pin-pricks.  The mage says that silver powder soaked in pig-piss and then stirred with  unbroken egg  will  capture trickles  of starlight as black dots on a glass sheet.  He says that in five-hundred years, but this day and time  Saturn, Jupiter and the moon will walk the night sky together.   I ask how close they move together in the dome of the sky.


He responds questions instead of answering.  “But, did you believe her machine?  Shake beans in your palm and see what they say? Some objects turn within others and besides fooling the eye do nothing.”


“I know water-wheels work, and the Syrian compass. Cranes load my ship and ferments escape the witches glass maze.  And if a witch drinks her own ferment she may fuck you all night! Who is to say …? Now tell me about the sky dome.”


“Which one,” he says! “There are many domes … like onion layers vibrating in sympathy with human emotions. And the moon,” he relates with a nod, “is very close. But, every nation has a moon god … or goddess; how can  they all move the moon in the same way?”  He laughs. His favorite moon god is the Egyptian Khons, who as a Nile crocodile  spit  silt from a huge Nile flood and that spit flying above the aether became the moon.  A sharp eye can even still see the mud-splatters.  


“You tell me eggs  hide stars and our moon the splatters of mud. HA!” How can I believe a word he says? Does he play with my sight? Does Queen  Mary know as much about the movement of peoples?  


This morning I climb down from the villa, to the  flower-laced ravine where I saw the chamois and try to follow its tracks.  They lead to a vertical wall.  While I cling to a ledge , low vibrations creep up the hillside … I can see their dust trail … the vibrations of rock passing through my legs and running above me up the steeps. A few rocks clatter down, bounding between ravines and gulies each making its own cloud of dust. One strong shake follows the ripples of  Amphitrite who had brought down entire hillsides, a swift ruthless slayer she cares not for men or their building.  So the gods treat earth;  now quiet.  My heart pounds life;  you live. That's stops  me, so  I laugh. Impossible. Then shivering in a cold breeze I realize climbing is the only way out from where I stand; climbing straight up which no four  legged creature  can muster.  A man might, or woman changing four legs to two. Impossible!

Old men note the  earths shaking, but only to each other. An afternoon chatters about  clattering gold and silver coin in  games of chance.  Sailors all throw bones,  Egyptians discs of ivory, and from the mountains twelve sided figures of gold speckled quartz.    Etruscans scatter a handful of sticks,  or spin triples of slitted and boiled leather on a silver axle counting the overlays as they approach  the magic value of a circle. None  even that  know the calculations  understand.  Circles from straight lines …  cubes from glass beads and east vanishing in times vapor only to reappear as the west.  Though  chance makes fools of us I win four Egyptian stators; Artyphon is not near to deflect my foolishness as the women it's said work together,  bound by threaded silk to a huge iron loom weaving a new  mainsail for Aminias lugger.  She hoists sail, navigates shoals, plies the long-winded reach, everything , but the rowers bench - -  and laughter comes unstoppable.  How severely would the Belisama discipline a servant who plied these foolish waters?  Artyphon appears cotton wrapped and barefoot; no I may not touch as her bound hands are coated in aloe and blueberry creame.  She is serious;  Zeuses beard does Juno mock us. Minos has called for my company, she the  unwilling messenger. Tears.  Dumb from the wine I never laugh at her.  


Nightfall calls all travelers  to the floating porch. The air is  wet with mist, bright with stars and puts a chill on uncovered flesh. I am watching Artyphon dance. Oil-lamps flicker and servants move prudently with amphora of cherry ferment and platters of fish and the murmur of shared conversations.  Women and men by twos and three and fours have gone to colored shadows; hash and opium pipes  throw billows of fumes.  If the porch had nothing else it has those intricately woven and colored screens which hide only  certainty.  What if every action of the world were a throw of the bones? It's a great game Aminias plays with her human toys;   some wink slyly as you pass them.  But, I think there is not so much swooning lust among the couches. A sailor months from  a friendly port and weeks from roasted lamb would say  people  are eating fish together.  A predator … no I believe Aminias is none-such for she doesn't  kill her prey … if that is what we are here, but  she makes life uncertain.  


Minos rests just over there on down pillows beside the brasier. He wears a kings torque about his neck,  a short-sword as a king always may and his beard and grey-blond hair have been clipped.   Ginger scents the night air. I am sitting on  a carved oak bench  beside  three musicians. They dress in the manner of Babylon  –  headband, pastel trousers, shirts and soft leather boots, and  are  playing  love songs on  zither and lyre and  tambourine. Some listeners clap to the  ragged beats.  The woman wears a modest emerald pinned to her tiara, smells of  nutmeg and plays counter-notes on the  Indus  zither, and though it has been chipped in one piece from a mahogany plank and tunes lower  any note traveling through  it is surely female.


Enough for any man … too much. Music plays  the paean to Aphrodite and Dianne for  which Artyphon has  been  taken up with the four queens and their  council  in  the ritual  dance and I am minded the queens asked for her.  A space has been cleared and the teak sanded for their silk slippers.  Minoan custom bears a diamond torque on each dancers arm. They dance bare-breasted; a blade of jealousy passes through my chest, dancers free in layers of green silk so  thighs flash through the girdles,  and though not all are young their rulers cares have trimmed flesh to bone. In brazen openness they dance to the huntress.  Woven threads of   ancient fate  like gold threads holding pearls to their nipples thread to power and from power  wealth through the music so move their bodies  and  as bearers of the Goddess prize  they rule the night.  


I approach.  Minos plays with an ash firestick, charing the shaped tip then carving away all, but the deepest, hardest branding.  The work affects him so I say quietly, “Artyphon delivered your prod.”


“But, say not my message. She who rules all fears not the moments power, “ chuckles Minos winking lewdly  and beckoning me to his side. Two small glass boules of bitter ferment sit on the marbled wicker bench.   


Yes,”  I  respond without thinking, “if the moment is not all.” Are we are to exchange puzzles? Minos face puzzles before darkening.


Didikas and Yidini share their venture.” He drops at my feet two slabs of bloody boiled chest armour favored by Macedon horse.  



Their blood?” Minos sips from a boule and frowns. Eel-piss surpasses, but ferment drained my head rings. I kick away both leathers. “The King knows my joy to cover their right flanks.”


Minos nods, smiles grimly and lays a small ceder box on the bench. He  says to me. “You will need to kill twice, Cibias;  two men that's for sure.  I hope slaughter  ends there. ”  The king rushes in at me with his needs,  as with a spear. “You will do this for me and for Hyrkon. You will trade as you always have, and you will kill enemies as you have not.” Open the box what lays inside beside the freshly carved ceder smell; two  black pearl daggers  hand-grips carved as dolphins. “I would have split the tasks between Didikas and Yidini, but both lead yew-bowed horsemen in Crete,  against the last of  Olynthian long traveled and short lived plunders. So Moirai decrees. ”



 No. I deny the words. Mercury screams for silence;  my mouth is dry and fills with mud.  Behind me a flute is trilling,  weaving, staccato... like a silver lattice. A lyre joins its chords and two old men hum Demeters spring paeon.   A young womans riot of laughter sparkles in the night air. Of the dance I suddenly know nothing.


“Bakk!” Listening to my silence Minos harshly rebukes.  “Say nothing?  Do you believe noble birth is a gift not a  curse and kings blood wings of gold not a lead slug? By youth  and wealth  and fortune you have never fought  our peoples life before...!”  


I have stood the shield wall!”


Supported by pissing , vomiting fools.” Minos poached at his wine.  “When have you defied, trapped and driven down  the silent foreign blood-drinker? Trade is Hyrkon blood!” And blue will not leach from mine,  outraging  Shamash balance while sitting the throne of four hundred Minoan Kings the ruler of oceans does not say.  


Demands! “My Belisama is Hyrkons blood!” I shake my head in dis-belief. “What god has condemned me to evil?”


The same deity that gutted two  faceless Tyrians  laying  coals to Belisamas half-pegged hull, while you swived the daughter of a Gedes gold  factor.” Does my face pale? Minos reaches for one of the pearl-handled daggers, fondles and replaces it.  Music dances now, like the queens, sliding from one instrument to another, flute, lyre, zither, tambourine and below all the drumming of leather skins,... dancing sounds from one to another.  A man having drunk nothing nor watching dancers nor fraught with a blood feud could not follow those tunes all similar and all conflicting.  Minos says.  “The fates spin careless,  evil threads. Are you asking if a king  should feel guilt?  If not then  why blame a god for the war men wage one against another.”


From the chorus supporting the dancers come wailing cries of passion.  Minos face shows no surprise, no regret , no  emotion.  I defend, yet what can I say?  “Do I know these men”?


“You will!”


Bitterly. “As a wolf knows a rabbit. You bind me to this weight, because I am your son. This killing of a man … two men … this is nothing like war,” I say.


“Rabbits? For slaughter I have none.” Minos is confused at first, by what I said. “Are you asking if they are innocents? Far from it!  But, I will give you a war, against one Egyptian and one Syrian.  They met at Kadesh you know,  two hundred years ago. Egyptians and Syriano-Hittites driving chariots, thrusting javelins  and slaughtering each-other.  Ten thousands fought, thousands died.   Some men killed dozens; are you a different  man  than a warrior for killing only two?”


“If I kill dozens I kill none, for the sword kills by the dozen. Each dead surprises me.”


“But,  these two … you also  must surprise them,  deflect their weapon, drive home your own sharp point,  bleed them out.  Get away from the bodies as fast as you ever can. Is that like war?”


 Time  yes, I must have time, Chronos chained that I may think. “These men who  you say have earned the spear-point …  who have they killed to earn death?”


“Earned? Do you want that excuse, the reasons of trade to wash bloody hands clean? Do you think Hyrkon, brash and free  has earned one year of life from ageless Crete?” Minos wrapped his fingers together and the knuckles cracked. “Take from the ancient  dreams only what  may be written today on lifes wax tablets. Act or die;  time melts our desires.  Our nation state bronze clad breaths anew;   all other virtue is fantasy.”  


Was I to burn my libraries ?  But, I did not say this the truth being too close to one mans heart for another to share. “Yes will I butcher them.” My time, and as both bull and dolphin teach to act is life. “I was foolish my king.” Bowing to one knee and at this times collapse !


Minos slaps his knee and beams shameless royalty. “Well spoken Cibias of a true heart and of my blood.  Sing Mars paon well; treat the bloody butchers for matters rush! Last month the Egyptian harbor master at Heriklides,  by name   Amum, murdered  the Hyrkon Captain of the Ephesus.  Our citizen Tethycides  was slain and  our  cargo of  Pictish tin, fish-sauce  and cherry ferments stolen.  You knew him I believe, and loosed the doves for his virgin brides  wedding arrows. His crew are now dead or slaves, their trade goods thieved.  Sale of  those  new trade products we  must promote at Heriklides, as we have no trade  mission beyond the delta, up river  direct to  Pharaohs scribes. You know my eldest son intrigues with the older  glass guilds , but yet to no success.  The murders  carry this political weight; Amum is Carthage bought item, defended by Greek, Phrygian  and Carian mercenaries “... Minos paused …  “Zeus beard avoid  the Carians  as they forgive nothing and remember the worst forever.  Amum uses that  foreign iron  yet  does not serve his Pharaoh. With  Ramesses  have trade agreements.  Amum  has gone to war with us. Drive him into the Nile mud;  cut him down and by him wound Carthage.”


Silence fell between.  A servant woman brings  bowls of warm wine. “Kill first the Egyptian, as your trade bond covers the voyage to Herakleion.  Pharaoh expects his fish-sauce.  Bring blood justice to the cat bitches port and escape as you can.  Then you must find  him who murdered Asu, our Damascus agent.” Minos said this without anger or malice in his voice.  “Justice removes his life.” Harshly  the King rebukes  watching  dashes of Artyphons flesh  among the queens. “Justice due …  when innocence is removed.”


So the King choses his own virtue. Yet I would not dishonor myself to trade evil.  What has Aphrodite taught us in two-thousand years if not that?  In envy of what virtue did Zeus strike us down,  thrust up his burning rocks if not for envy of justice?  Stop … stop … I am watching Artyphon swirl. She has the  brazen pointed breasts  young woman  bear as a badge, having not yet born a child;  her nipples are unpainted, but she has used a single gold clip which has driven the flesh through which it is pinned to a hardened fury.  


“Yours for the taking, now Alcibiades. I would not tarry,” chuckled the King.


Agreed? Slaves are taken, my tutor had taught, but a woman is won. Teach that to the bacchanals and their flocks of drunken beauties.  I had sworn to beat her if she danced. She  must dance with the queens,  Artyphon  had said breathlessly and shamelessly throwing herself around my legs.  Dance with those long worshiped  beside Aphrodite, but dance for me. She pleads.  Then she had  stripped my purse to  visit a leering Egyptian silk merchant.  Now  blood boiled as  her flesh blazed beside the glowing queens and you could not imagine how they dared.


Cold as the fox killed cock. “How will I find  Asu killer?”


“Sail the land, said Minos, “Before anything, immediately after you leave Sicily you must sail to Hyrkon. The trade council meets, and will choose you … or not …  as a member.  Then you will  take the Belisama against  our enemies.” Minos had raised an ominous royal hand ...”I'll not make your life a vacation,”  he spared and  sunk back on the pillows.


But  the woman zither player  drew her veil showing fates blind eyes and bent toward me. “His name is  Melqart, a  dealer in gems.  More than a dealer since  he likes the fattest part of  any lamb.”  The woman smiled gravely. “His cutting house is in Damascus;  his traders sail from Berenike on the Red Sea; emeralds you know, mostly, but he will trade spice should he find it.  He's  moved from his city  manse and  now lives to the west,  far down the  street of Horses near the village of Aanjar.”


“Foolish of him, to surrender the safety of walls for obscurity.”


She  quieted the zither and whispered. “Asu  destruction was not popular among money-traders. They bared doors against the city;  Melqart was threatened.”  Now her Zither led the music and while the muse spoke she said nothing. Then … “Don't take him for a petty man;   he raped me  seeing through blindness and knowing  Hykron will come for him.  Physically he's powerful and does not perceive   Damascus walls as safety, but as cover for his assassin.  


“So he's waiting for me.”


It had got late with  cold mist swirling among  amphoras of cherry ferment and isolated, raucous and Persian devil laughter.  Minos had been carried off by two earnest councilors of the of the Sidonese queen. Artyphon was  pressed against me still flush from her dance, and wore only the  cotton and blue wool vest given to her by the  Queen of  Alexandria beside whom she had  whorled most royally.

We share a bowl of ferment. “Over there,” the musician councils stroking her lyre. Aminias playing Pans pipe. By her dark couch  an uncertain candle-flame  reminded one step through the waist-high brass woven grill pitched you into eternity … or  into whatever Cerberus had in store.  When you looked up the star patterns  dazzled in the black, but when you looked out  to where an entire world breathed you caught  the rare harbor mast-lights.  


When Aminias spoke we jumped. “Need a date, sailor,  or is your ship your lover,“ she said without meaning it. She was quoting the Trapezian  poet Amphion.   I don't know what kind of sophistication I had expected from a famous hetaera.


She first took the blind lyrist  into her arms , then both  joined a brash harmony.  Artyphon clutched my waist and I said. “How bold of you  froken. You  play a  sailors round from the green islands.  I know that because I heard it played on the leather pipes dead drunk in a peat-bog.”


“How do you remember?”  Aminias  and her blind companion sucked streams of black-hash smoke  from the stem of a water-pipe. “Who do you remember?”


“Remember? I remember being a spryling able to dodge  bronze hatchets,  so maybe Hecate blew the pipes-wind and I was dead, cause  our shield wall had just beat off  a screaming and pissing blue-painted tribe  of  Picts. ”


She was watching Artyphon jealously. “A shade will do your woman no good  -  same as it was boyo.  Did  yer have a woman to fuck after the battle?”


I stared at her for the longest time. “Call the  village Tailtiu.  Men fished and traded and pirated some, but a captured woman  was much adored and,  rather than return their newly gifted gold torques and a young man who fluttered her knees with kisses,  she was  likely to join the village joyously freed of her maidenhood.  Venus surely found rapture with the flowers woven to her statue, and Dianne must have  torn her own breast and shrieked dirty vengeance from her bowers of forest.  Who else could have led an enemy so quietly?”


Round us even the serving  Aminias maids rally; mens eyes  remember and grow dark - -   gold veined womens eyes swell green. Unhurried the story unfolds.  “Raiding  Picts ravaged our  village, while we worked the shipways careening  boats. A ravine and wall separate village from docks, and we saw smoke before we heard screams of the escaped and careless ravisher. They raped and killed most women  before we returned – butchered them like cattle, actually... I think they would have eaten them if we hadn't come on.”  


Artyphons  hand had gone round the grip of my dirk,  her nails  buried into my side. Aminias and her companion continued  lacing the tune  round-about  between streams of hash-smoke. I said. “We killed all of them; first at the shield-wall with ash spears,  where Fergus  tore white brains from their helmets four deep  and then at their boats with swords and clubs as the cowards and wounded tried to escape.  What it was … the Picts were too busy sorting out  bare female parts to mount an organized  defense.  My bow spitted four with oak bolts;  raging men dashed among them killing all, but  two.  Only two captures need speak,   We burned  out an eye from each;  then they led us to their village.”


Aminias music stopped. “Their women....?”


“We came over the walls at daybreak. Climbers scaled and fired the keep.  We  axed  all  males  not burned.  Women and  girls were brought back to Tailtiu.  I'd never seen  death  organized,  never seen it worshiped. Did you know it could be organized?  I guess the priests felt left out,  because they slashed the ears and set aside  four girls as  virgin sacrifice to Agrona. Three had their throats cut; I demanded the fourth  under guests rights … and blinded her,  gave her to an Irish women who lived through the  initial attack;  Picts  had killed her daughter.” And then … and then … promising  fair wind how I had raced through that awful telling I felt an alone-ness and  dirtiness .  I looked up and the women were watching me. “Such  a terrible time; I  shopped  a childs  pain,  not a man yet when that happened.”  I was still racing so I stopped.


The blind companion  face comes full into mine, betraying no sadness, saying ... “Travel mends, vagabond. I was accepted in Panormus  first as a healer,  then  by Aminias seeking second sight.”  Oh oh oh may the Goddess be praised,  Aminias  blindly played her music behind us.


We  walked among silk and glass and birch woven porches,  choosing whatever amused, but moving toward the sliding glass walls.  Artyphon was laughing a silly little girls laugh and scolding. “What a goose you were.  One eye? Oh my dearest master.  Guest or no guest,  a druid priest would have you slaughtered for removing one eye twice. Don't tell me … I don't want to know where you got the other eye, though not telling sours your warriors spirit... it is a warriors spirit my dear. Dear Alcibiades.  What a bad boy you were. ”


My head is lowered,  eyes  and mouth hidden behind by shoulder. “Minos has  chained and condemned me!”


“A free man may choose.”


“Do not tell me about freedom, slave,” I say bitterly and hear  swift evil in my voice. “No no … I did not mean ...”  Our bodies touch and rebound, brush together.  Artyphon whispering now against my face and and searching with fragile demanding hands.  I mutter. “A master demands what he wills while  a lover prays for devotion.”


Artyphon has crushed against me. “You have met Aminias before, no?  You never slept with her – well enough she drooled over you tonight...  you never sleep with anyone, that's what the servant girls say.  What do you hide? Well  Aminias has met you, judged you and measured you off like a bolt of Sardis silk!  Do this she says because you can do  only so much as she sees.  What a  dangerous person to know anything  more about you when to her the secret fringes of your soul give themselves up.”


'Firefly' , I think.  “Speak of yourself ,” I say roughly, pinning her wrists behind till she gives her mouth to me.  Her heart thumps against mine.  I burn for her wishing every surface  of her flesh open.   Open. Her hands  become more able and go  where they will.


Distance is noisy I find , trying to walk with Artyphon bound to me.  We find one open passageway then another of water stained redwood. She asks.”The act of love between man and woman … what number did the old ones give it?”


“You can read the ancient script. Sometimes you read over my shoulder,  making shadows in candlelight and anyway the number of love is very small … nine … so you learn nothing.” Immediately I regret this snide answer. But, Artyphon may not be humbled.


She whispers. “Before love, before the men were brought in from their hunting tents  the mages found no numbering.”


So my  tutor allowed, but thought the story false. We  continue whispering word puzzles,  which take us to darker rooms where  single oil-wicks light soft  wall sculptures of Egyptian gauze and silk -- couples brazenly entwined.  So walking becomes noisy, off the well-trod path, these private quarters.  Suddenly fresh breeze, as  leather soles  scruff across across waxed bridge beams.  Nothing below.  You will fall a long way if you fall between them. All the  wicks burned out and oil-lamps had faded. And finding a carved facade the slip-slip of leather across marble squares most like a blade across its sheath.  Moving lower artists  have colored rude stone walls with auroche and red deer spirits. Herds surround us  passing a  gigantic fireplace  of  white brick where black rocks glow a fierce red.  When this glow recedes the hallway divides up to a stairwell and high ceiling room where couples dance to Pans flutes and down to a narrow dark rough-plaster passage. Water-drops fall heavily in silence  and steps are more cautious and twice we take the less cautious leading now upward padding along a worn  limestone hall.  It's older here. The stone has been worked with flint tools  and cracks show out to the sky.


Songs of love count the numbers. We stumble upon it;  here  wind whistles through an out-of-the-way temple with  granite columns four-stories tall.  Torches spark. A ruined necklace spills a line of pearls. Steeled  leather buckled swords  hang beside  a marble altar on which a  warrior is fucking a queen laid out and bound as if by golden chains to the mating by the curves  and warp and color of her own body.  She has grasped and clings to his yellow hair,  facing him taking her own pleasure a wail like the North Sea wind through Stonehedge her smooth belly extends and stretches so scrapes of clothing flutter. Their thighs crash like blunt long-swords,  but soon turned by rough,  callous fingers  her ass  holds ripe and high for his pleasure demanded.  He's grunting like a pig, cursing in her ear while she strains her ass up to take more of him.  He  has crushed against her, has her  pointed breast  still  without a childs  mouth to serve now frozen to one hand tormenting  the nipple and she is biting  blood from his wrist to keep from screaming though  her high breathless scream does sometimes escape while he thrusts through her , pumping life into her and she shakes uncontrolled,  her body the warrior drives into thick and heavy, tastes of  a satyr ravage to spread his nymph_like victim, and her  not to be saved for all her power she will serve him tonight nearly invisible under the windblown torchlight.  


Leather soles they are silent devils and slip by. Our hearts are hammering -   they are like the gods we think how they use human flesh –  Queen and warrior  –  who are we by comparison?  Yet neither being able to pass less swiftly nor deny them the worship of our eyes  and  our  palms burn hand against hand.  Nails of the other hand Artyphon had dug into my neck.”


Shall we say between us what is so?”


Carian warlord I may never be.”


And queen should I, my knee bends only before you. Dear Cibias.”  What scene or Eros does not vanish in watching, they fade behind black glass panels one upon another and  we … what of we mere mortals gliding … shuffling … stumbling … to  an etched  glass wall  which intervenes completely , sealing away  the queens private pleasure and cool phosphorus starlight flickers inside it.  


Here opened an empty courtyard  with benches among the berry bushes and a  whale-oil glass glowing smoothly  above  the sliding panel to my room. I think of dark shores surrendered to wild beasts for a months caravan or a years, yet  venture a hillocks  whose far side glistens with a diamond city of traders and weavers and tinkers.  Is this youth or madness?  Above them and there and us  dark heaven holds the forms of all stars.  Her nipples once so public bold are now private to me and  Artyphon has wrapped  about like starstruck heaven.  I kiss her there and fill myself with her breath.  When the vest and girdles have gone away, flesh by flesh  her maidenhead shocks me, surprised I am not gentle and her teeth bite into my neck , but she does not scream.  “Mine”, I say without breath, no flesh too subtle or too private to remain unexplored nor will she cry out in pleasure.  Artyphons arms entangle; we swear ourself  one and  wrapped  in goose-down  I become hard in her again, fucking madly  till  surrendering to passion Artyphon says days later only five parts of her just pleasure had she  as I'd gone totally exhausted and she counts my breaths watching me fall asleep.