.......................Tales of Hyrkon: book 2 .... COUNCIL of TRADE
Chapter Four

They might have been singing together, for the stiff guardsman call came “Hold up ye merries!” Ticking of metal armor caught their ears and a patter of brisk commands. “As ye were lads”, sharpened the guardsman patrol marching beside and off toward the hill.

“Better than 'a stator or your life' ” quips Joseph. They had come near half across the quay; it sat at the towns base and formed its foundation. Traders first and last steps were here. Hyrkonia had built it in the Minoan style … massive blocks of carved stone, cramped and fitted to each-other with lead and bronze shims. A hands layer of concrete strengthened above that and cobblestone finished the top.

On level ground bordering the quay were built workplaces of tradesmen: sail and rope-maker weaving shops, blacksmiths forges, apartments of translators and money-lenders, bakeries and vegetable-market stalls all painted in the ancient bright and erotic Cretan style as if the Minoan ancestors lived again! Wear had smoothed the rough edges. Farther back were the wine-shops, where young Hyrkonian women boldly mingled with sailors of a hundred sea-faring klans. Whores were few, but Minos encouraged children; a sack of silver stators and a Tyrian scrolled gold bar followed along every new birth. Climbing higher still onto the cliffs were the wood framed and cantilevered hetaera salons. Whale-oil lights glowed from their glass windows. Along the water, from either edge to the central mole bright-painted posts marked progress along the quay. It was wide enough for three horse-carts, hectoring slaves and a line of marching guardsmen, and rose ten cubits above the narrow black sand beach.

Japhe envied every painting and smooth curve. For eight-hundred years Hrykons quay had stood against Poseidons harsh breath, neither wave nor invasion ever piercing it. A living strength the men thought, and since death had passed close to all three so the quay was felt a respected fellow-traveler.

Now … though it delivered you from the pinched-in cliffs only the mole docking delivered you to the harbor. They had broken across the mole, onto a wood block surface and sharing a greeting stepped under an awning bright woven even at night from the guards-mens firepit beneath. The four guards were young Hyrkonians … lightly armored and dressed in heavy wool … friendly and casual , but standing an arms-length away as would any experienced swordsman. Fishing boats were pulled up below on the black sand. Beyond that line of single masts the harbor swung out before them. The harbor wind-vane – a massive balsa carved white-painted dolphin – rode high on the harbor light-tower. It's fins seemed to vibrate stretching above in all directions, but the brass beak pointed south.

The Parthian Japhe saw it. “Wind from beyond Macedon my friends. It blows forever, and would freeze our sea in August if it could only blow here.”

Below the vane colored shafts of light played on the mole surface. The light scattered away illuminating some two-dozen trade-ships riding at harbors anchor. Those and two of the sullen, beak-faced Hyrkonian warships whose blood red shields and manned crow-masts were even now exposed. In this weather and at night, all were tied to one of the two moles. All three men counted, and from the various hull cuts and woodwork all three noted home ports and individual captains banner if displayed. A clear experienced eye could imagine ship fitness … and all three men did.

“So why doesn't it?”

“Doesn't it what?”

“Blow my dear Japhe to Zeus high heavens?”

“Well surely Joseph I don't know. Doesn't your Javehe call hail on both cruel and the meek? Hades may freeze Cerberus anus and freeze us all – peasants don't plow wild onions; what-the-fuck wind blows as it wants most think!”

“And we have no effect? Why then do you flay fat thighs from sheep, sprinkle the blood over Zeus image and burn the offering?”

“Well yes, the mages insist, and who would chance to offend them? Do you really want to sail into Athos harbor with many-armed watery Ceto piling you onto the rocks?” Japhe spread hands, and gem-laden fingers twinkled in firepit flames. “Oh no my friends, better respect the mysteries.” Then Japhes eyes twinkled at Golr. “But, men do grow bold as our Kings court is large and his wife generous with favors. Freedom beckons for those with amazing wit. One of our astrologers believes he knows what drives the wind but, he is a most unlikely fellow to grasp anything. He is forever dizzy!”

“Dizzy? Yes a most unlikely wise-man.”

“But, for all that no fool. Even sober he tells the following story. We all agree the earth is round, eh, like a bird egg. How else can Helios chariot fly round above, every day as shadows grow and shrink ? And the earth must also spin two ways , since day follows night and at a slower pace summer follows spring-time. One fast spin one slow spin so says the dizzyman!”

“Well yeah Japhe, damme your eyes you may play the mage with us. Certain I've never understood how jaggy mountain peaks comport with a smooth round ball, but then again an eagle might think different. So yes, maybe, round this and spin that; but, our children learn as much from their atheistic, number-ridden Median tutors. What does the dizzy wise-man say about weather that is new?”

“He says the earth must wobble! Back-and forth, up-and-down … maybe wobble both ways at the same time! He says that wobbling earth makes him dizzy ! And he says the spinning earth carries winds along with it, but the wobbling earth pushes some winds from cold to hot, and some from hot to cold.” Japhe lowered his voice, as does a grizzled trader avoiding a hint of blaspheme. “Perhaps enough wobble he says to push back and forth the icewalls!”

Silence froze the men; all knew at least one klan whose year-long remembering extended to Poseidens mighty jest of freezing his own waves. Those ice-shelves retreated as they had for bronze-skinned Minoa or advanced for the Bogges in times before our grandfathers times. Believe the paeans, or you could see the tell-tale gravel-pits without a masons eye for building. “That's a very convenient viewpoint for a dizzy mage to have. Does he say why a spinning earth doesn't throw off its air? Will he predict sunshine today and rain tomorrow, according to his wobbles?”

“He will predict no such thing.” Japhes hands again find the fire-warmth. “But our King still pays him and the Queen has gifted him a fresh new wife. I believe his wobbles will never end!”

By now the sleet was pounding and the air heavy as wet lead. As one, the three men broke from the dry awning and descended a polished wooden ramp joining quay to groin. As Cretan sailors said, groin above and mole below … the mole was a concrete and rock mix peculiar to Cretan structures, expensively braised along the edge with wood planking and rising five cubits above the water. They had made two-hundred paces along the groin as it shouldered out into the harbor.

Golr spit, passing the leather flask of rye ferment popular among his chariot drivers. “ It's just too fucking cold to talk.”

The night harbor was new to Joseph. His senses were tuned as his steps lagged the other two men. Angry water now stained the bowl-sized wooded blocks they walked on. Boats strained at their lines and torch-heads rocked exposing spearhpoints of woolen-caped men at watch. Darkling as the harbor became toward the sea, farther and farther along until Poseidons sea-wolves might steal you beneath the waves; vanished – the groin grew bright with the light tower. Not much to see in the daylight – surely nothing like the underwater glass grotto the Atlantans had built into their Spanish swampland just before the water-wall had consumed them. But, a sparkle that said here men lived. And even at night, the Hyrkonian light tower showed only a dull glow till the glass turned your way. A Cretan master had cast the glass eye and died. Joseph knew that. Did any islanders retain the skill? The bright flame so mastered by the glass eye shown six leagues to sea on a clear night; each night it burned whale oil worth five silver pieces.

“What to make of it,” Joseph wondered ?

“Much of Hyrkon is pure extravagance”, barked Golr. “Syrian sparklers, black-iron you can't fucking hardly melt through, Nordmen, bamboo rockets from the slant-eye eastern traders … and this light-house , all a wealthy kingdoms toy. Wonder they don't import opium soaked koi-eyed woman from the east.”

“Toy … or with powerful traders a persuasive tool. 'Trade here', it says … demanded!” Joseph smiled a bit thinking himself too smart by a sheeps-ear.

Golr had thought about it. Hyrkonia had fresh water, a harbor, and a ship could always find it. “Matters little for a ships Captain trapped to the lee.”

“If Carthage is to the lee I'd rather sink,” laughed Japhe. “A spear may pinch a mans neck or a woman his ass. Hyrkon is Minoa writ small to allow for both contingencies,” suggested Joseph. “If my sister were not a blasphemous, split-knee red-necked whore I'd consider her lucky.”

“Then admit Cibias is not lucky! Trying to recover from Hephastus and the Mycenae, the Minoans strain every fiber,” replied Japhe. “I'd not play fool with them. Live small yet bargain broadly! Their old parchment traders lists are still in our kings library,” Japhe noted. “Would you believe olives, dry northern cod and tin! From a thousand years ago or two-thousand if you believe the best-sighted scribes reading chipped plaster copies!”

“Bakk!” Spit Golr.

“Perhaps then people know more,” Joseph persisted , “knew more when the world was young.”

Japhe stomping wet from his boots drew a long pull from his hash-pipe and blew away the thin stream of dreams. “Perhaps yes, in times before our fathers times. But the sea gods who care for neither Greek nor Phoenician nor Pharaoh as masters of the sea they were saw fit to burn them into the sea. What more destruction may Poseidon deal than first to allow the sea-wall, before sending his stone-tearing waves against it? What remains … big enough to balance Mycenae against Troas?”

Golr shook his coin-bag and pounded his trade staff. “Or just big enough to underwrite the Trade Council meeting.” And pealing laughter through the smoke they advanced arm in arm.