.......................Tales of Hyrkon: book 4 .... AMATHUS
Chapter Seven


A chain of Belisama outriders circle our van, celebrate each treasure and hurry us home like the last porridge in a woodsmans iron pot. I think … eight noons, a long week, have we ventured so far among these dusty hillocks? Forest and swamp nearly past memory, though our scars remain … By afternoon labor overcomes and we walk sweating horses, but our van has reached the flats west of Amathus. Companions for the ship swarm about us, with tamborines and wineskins, as we were first whore aboard after a sail from Troy to Gedes! Men we had left at the ship long for the adventures twice told. How sailor boyos met and klanned among land-faring traders. We travelers pass about gifts from trappers and farmers and woodsmen, those gifts bright fossil clams dugs from windswept hillocks to thick, straight yew and redwood staffs for the carvers and bow-wrights. All gather thickly –- a crew united raises worship to aeons aged Thor, mighty Zeus and Cybelle and Bacchus about the cook-fire and its smell of warm ale, boiling bacon-pea porridge and ox.

So risky was our venture judged by those remaining with Belisama, that a sacrifice has been planned. Sacrificial fatted smoke to lost shades or to new wealth as the Fates see fit; Telemydon and Faelon and Elisedd had seen to the ancient and formal reception. Some 20-square platter of meadow have been flattened, and a whole bullock split to the fire. Carpenters, a mason and ships idlers have erected a rough framed stone alter on which a curling leather lounge, waxed walnut post sculpted after Mercury and iron roasting basket have been raised. Such against odds rises the material face of a return sacrifice. No word to the rancid patter of Loki and Bacchus, no curse to Moiras wastrel threads for the sea stretches away and winds shift by Chronos will and yet men live!

It please the goddess; bright tragic hymns; fickle smoke of safron ; the rams horn wail; a doubly-veiled priestess and court balance on oak boards edging the alter floor. With cries of golden necromancy they summon to worship. Her court sheathes in red stripe tunic, white silk chiton and yellow-squared linen strophion , while she … Venus daughter now if ever oiled, creame-toned flesh naked from the veils bottom golden threads to woven silver sandels. Embracing fawns rapture, noone recons whether common whore, merchantmans daughter or nobles virgin spawn. She passes the laurel leaf crown among our sailor-boyos and burns a fat bullock shank to the goddess.

All men take voice to the seamans paeon, Mercury-topped post sparks lit to fire; the priestess cry of 'bull-leaper' rings over our ships assembly. “Belisama traders return safe.”

“They have not the dress,” murmurs to my ear. “What leather belt shall they tighten … ?”

“I have seen the paintings, dear Artyphon, yet again once in person where mountainsides protect old ways. But here, my crew will find manhood, such needed more than the belt. ”

And so almost before words spoken a young tillarman, wearing the laurel leaps upon the alter. His eyes flash green. “Conquest I intend, and may the priestess find her own sausage,” he shouts to a roar of ascent. Then slipping his sandels, bowing to the priestess and his shipmates lashes out feet flying toward burning Mercury, whose flame now reaches a forearm. Two steps away he leaps … high, higher, yet Mercurys flaming disk catches him low on the belly, him screaming and contact throws scorched body to stone alter –- an alter now bloodied and rough and without mercy. Such he received, a noble, honored, but horrid wound. His companions dash to his aide, and a libation of poppy-juice is fed him before carried from the alter to be swathed in aloe mash and tree-moss, then wrapped in wine soaked linen. So does Venus reward her consorts.

Hush –- speaks the goddess. Then Mykron leaps from beside me to take place, stripping his tunic and bearing the laural crown.

“Mind your jib,” I shout and for such wisdom Artyphon knuckles my ribs; women so favor their own sex. The laurel crown is now crushed and burned as a lost city of Babylon, and I snatch that might hold a promise.

Mykron snickers my way, stalks the alter rudely and lusty brushing by the priestess court. “Leaping is for boys, mounting for men,” he challenges and pounds straight for flaming Mercury.

All believe he will run dirctly as if through the post. Unforgiving walnut will smash himself insensible, so awkward does his approach appear, toe-dancing from left-to-right while pelting for'ard. Yet at the last moment he leaps head-first … not feet first … a spring-rush of his legs upward above and over the burning post, Mercurys flame far beneath his head while airborn flipping chest-over knee. Other side of the fire he has come full circle, landing safely on both feet with proud head to the sky. One scorching gaze in preparation does he privilege the priestess.

He spares not a moment. The priestess his, and stepping beside her whorls body and will to the leather couch. Mykron slides the entire length of her body, penetrating her private pleasure. Her knees have spread wantonly while the conflict of bodies has produced only one cry from her lips … one sharp cry before her moaning begins. As all nature requires, the priestess court cover the writhing couple with their tunics and facing outward extend their own silk fans and bodies. So does Venus reward her own consort!

“By Zeus beard Mykron has found himself a wife,” I prod to Artyphon and kiss her lewdly.

She unrestrained. “If she fairs not escape and he can convince the father.”

“Mykron has her liberty well served, and Belisama crews leather pouches will see to the fathers contract.”

“Pray he sees to her pleasure.”

“And she to his heart.”

I might have cursed a wolf-beast on Dianna, for the red face and throat Artyphon dispairs. “All a woman knows is a mans promise before bed, where his will is satisfied. Later, when a males more pragmatic mind returns sorrow may hasten … as did Jason at first ply faith to Medea.” How cold will my hammock swing tonight?

Cruelly. “And Nephil to his red-hair shades?”

Artyphon wails. “Whose fortune, but a hero to love two such burning-hair sylphs who, but for the hated of Zeus would have delivered of both children.” And she has wrapped faithful arms about my chest crying out upon my shoulder to an unknown god. Such hopeless more than sufficient for her female guard against whom any prudent husband is without power. Artyphons women spirit her away, moving across the mole straight for the boiling salt baths.

Most crew have left Mykron and his lover to other, more discrete and obscure and hidden devices and I pray a horse barn where the mares will snicker. Rusa and I wander toward the docks having divided a large amphora between wine and steaming cut beef.

“I hate the Mycenaii way, of companions following the couple.”

“Well Cibias, uncertainty advises little here of-course. I believe that's the core of it.”

“Tis mostly so,” snarks an old tillerman. “ The Scythian couple newly wed take her fathers chariot team far into the wildlands, where the man may pervert his womans modesty at all leisure. Such is the barbarian solution. ”

Our Median physician Ptlvas ruffles his silk tunic finding otherwise. “Anu imposes the opposite in Ur,” growls his deep voice, “where experience is vested upon the youngest women. Every well-born cunt must earn her temple coin. Then humble yet lascivious, on her marriage bed she trains the husband in all delights of her sex.”

So virginal Dianna and lustful Astarte would grow their worship. Amathus city bell rings the hour before midnight. Barding turns to our inland trading venture; I would sleep days beside Artyphon, but stories have preceded me. “All in order sur,” reports Rusa all eyes and ears. We have eaten and drunk for hours since returning, yet he inspects me for damage. “No bolt through the ass I see, Sur though men say you had a fight of it.”

“Loki must have planned the venture,” I chuckle. If I might ever bard what better time? “Twas fearsome struggles, brave Rusa your land-roving compatriots gambled. Panthers black as night and huge, their claws fearsome and fangs the length of a Lesbian dildo!”

“Not much bigger than those sur,” huffs Brogue, as several crew favoring eat-and-walk have joined us.

“Gods perhaps, but some have rattles, ribs and swivels. Not a man can compete.”

“Little time we had for women,” I snap back. “Snakes fanged of acid silent as a shade and long as grapevines sought us for their childrens food. Baby vipers are birthed alive and deadly as humans. Minitaurs and Titans, no less hurling bolts of tree-trunks and oak-griped hammers the width of iron anvils. The darkened sky shook fiery flaming rocks from its unknown recess and lightening drove clefts through stone mountains.”

Mastmen take up Diannas paeon and a drunken fellow shouts. “Plead otherwise, Cap'N Sar , but the lands-women no doubt worse.”

“Say you the truth, mast-man of sinewy limb. Amazons fit for battle, a deadly lubricious grip, gold hair and lips, ivory breasts and ruby nipples, their thews steeled fleshy bronze , swollen slit sucking like Charyptus despise ye hope all who enter !”

My companions roar comedy till blasphemy reaches to the roots of Yggdrasil. “The stories are all false , and tonight around the ale-pot I will lie ten-times over that they may grow not just false, but epic!” Breeze cool, company amiable I quickly run through discovery, attack, repulse and political darkside.

“Too bad about the boy; he died sword raised in the shield-wall.”

Telemydon grunts. “Maybe the Norlanders are right, and a brave man lives again every morning to fight and every evening to drink and fuck.”

There is nothing to say of a dead boy never lain a maid. “We completed business. You can see from the leather carries we have the sails.”

“Long as they never sail against us,” Rusa says gruffly. Telemydon laughs loudly. Both considered the leather carries strapped between donkeys for the sails. “I see we have new trade for the Egyptians. A half dozen of their galleys have been in and out of the harbor. Creepy as cobras.”

“What of the musician, Nephil. Did the bolts take him also?”

“Not the mans luck, bravely as he fought bolts sought his eyes, but nipped only an ear.”

“I hear the King of Assyria lost an ear in combat, but him being young and hearty part grew back!”

Shock near spills me from my feet. No common sailor companion of the mighty it cannot be. But, from the Kings mission I strengthen. “Then Fate gifts equally two brave men. After the battle, Nephil rode off with a troop of horsemen some senator ruled, headed for Tomassos. Do you think he will play-the-mummer for them?”

“Right fast with the bones he was.”

“And the batons, wood or metal-head.”

“Bronze spearheads his sword cleft in two,: remembers NaziBu, staggering and falls to a bench asleep.”

“Faster than a magpie with the flute.” Pipes, heads and wine bowls nod. My crew-men believe nothing beyond the mummers skill and drink to his two dead women.

“Evening sur, and a late one it is.” Telemydon has busy eyebrows and he raises them back, almost to his ears. “Those cat-fucking Nile bum-boaters are the foulest, the worst dirty-eyed bunch of scum I've seen since the lepers we saw last year at Kos. They try to put a crew-member aboard.”

“Yes they did with a phony trade-badge. We threw him into the harbor.”

I thought 'no surprise' … they know we're coming. But, there was little time for meditation. Though it had got late, the sails – as direct profit to the crew – were quickly storaged below-deck. Mast-men took great amuse by my story of the many-armed fans the mountain sail-makers used to test their newly sewn sailcloth. I toasted the hetmans butt about his still missing guardsman. Flames make their shadows while moon-rise clapped silver over copper colored bits of the sky. Dockside blacked ox-leg still sizzled beside a relish of beets and pickles. Mykron on the priestess had ventured another better sheltered domain and noone pestered after them.

Telemydon the laconic chief mast-man is flaying off hand-size slices of ox and passing them about. He knuckled his vastly amused forehead. “Evening sur, and a late one it is.” Telemydon has busy eyebrows and he raises them back, almost to his ears. “We've looked since first-light , throughout the guards, but can find nothing of the watchman or the masters daughter.”

“She was the one you think?” I remember something myself of infinite pink wet heat. “What part of her are you looking for?”

“Surely the for'ard part of that wench – the part that threatened to lower every mast in the harbor,” snickers Telemydon. “Did she leave even one aloft?” Several crew cheer and pound their bare callus-crusted feet with approval.

Brogue is shouting, rapping a chime on the binnacle-bell. Two men run to his calling, then with less hearty legs run back to me. “Sur sur … we've found Drest.”

Crewmen rush toward the voice with the even thudding of bare feet. Yet a sailor boyo can tell by the dull sound, heh yes came the rush of calloused bare feet, but none happily so plaintive the tone it must call shades of a dead man. Sea winds moaning train a boyos ear , so hearing that moan as many times as I then your heart must grow cold. The sailors voice that in silence bid farewell to warmth in the land of the living ! That seaman voice as long and low and lonely as ships bells calling lost … lost again … lost in the desolate Nordland fog. Artyphon must have known or imagined or felt the cold damp skin... a long keening moan escapes her lips. Found Drest … surely they have.

Repose … from exhaustion … all anyone wanted. Drest is brought aboard , hung from a fishnet and returned to the death-cold water. Birds and crabs will have no feast. Then stripped of power, all sleep. Twas next morning when Artyphons forced stretching bruises my flank and prods me into response.

In Cerberus jaws forever cold forever hungry Drest has returned to his ship. Oarsmen get a cinch about the wet-drenched body and even now are lifting it over the hull-rail. Calloused hands move it below, to a bed of salt. Wearing rough sailor togs Drest is laid out on in a seamans canvas coffin, his visage a strange twisted shape , sightless eyes wide open, cold as a clam and bloodless, his throat cut ear-to-ear. No heroes paeon ever rushed life from his body. Sailor boyos with never the fear of gore move up from the fire-box to see, from where I may not move … the heat of it. I swill hot ale till my throat burns. The driftwood fire gathered at sea before we made port crackles merciless, with rainbow sparks and a sharp-edged heat.

Finally I join the watchers .. such a craven death it turns my stomach and I vomit over the rail turning back to the crews long worried faces and Brogues pinched seaman voice. “We found him beneath the gangway, sur.”

“Gangway? No trousers?”

“No trousers … we found them floating beside him. And we also found his money purse wrapped around his wrist.”

“And, his weapon. His sword is still in its leather shoulder-strap.”

“Well, yes sur it is strange enough. He was a sturdy man, and might have defended himself. Villains have come cross the hull before, against us and we have cut them down.”

I think about it, how a man defends and point to his slashed throat. “ Have you found the knife that did that?”

“No .. nosur I …” Different people feel different about handling the dead. Mykron and an oarsmen grasp the body arm and leg ,... and flip it over. “”Feckin-A Zeus beard Sur ...” There, at the base of his spine, a thin-bladed assassins dagger with a cats-paw handle. It was buried to the hilt, the sort of knife a paid assassin would leave behind as much for the terror.

“Get that fecking thing out of the man,” I grunt. The blade comes out … bloodless.

“Not much for a womans caress,” says Mykron bitterly. “But then again what man raises a wall against bare tit or welcoming open lips?”

“He was on guard duty, Mykron,” I say harshly. Then feel stupid. “As a guard, was the man likely to be on-guard? Not likely as you say against a womans attack! I'd think noone came by the mole and slipped aboard, bypassing all our guards. I think noone came over the hull … on the Temes I saw an assassin try it once – coated in pig-fat against the cold. His teeth chattered; he was still shivering when I put an arrow through his gut! Of-course every assassin has a brother. Or a sister.”

“So you think ...”

“I think we will form up into watches and search the ship for any missing item or part. Anything personal broken … or a part of the ship, thieved! Need not be a big thing. I think somebody … one of the whores had an item stolen, hidden away. Or she was caught like the vixen searching where she had no business. Either way, when Drest wanted to search her he got distracted, then slaughtered for his trouble.”

“And if nothing is missing? If the killing was just a message to the entire crew --- beware.”

“Then she or they will be back!” I look down at the body. “Or not, depending on how we take the message! I didn't know the man well. Does he have property or a family?”

“A good man, Drest. You remember Captain he was with the landing party at Delos when he led in the horsemen to rescue our first mate.; Phoenician raiders were crawling all over that Oracle . His shield never uncovered me … Drest was a scrapper all right, but he never spoke of a woman or family.”

I shiver and my mouth goes dry. “No place, landside for a sailors bones to rest. Dirt makes his spirit restless.”

“The ferryman will not hold it against you.” Mykron passes on a pour of coffee that was making its way around the deck. “Remember Captain he was one we picked up from the shipwreck off Gedes.”

“His personal property … did he have any?”

“Well now a sailors property Captain … that's liable to be what he has between his belt and his coin-pouch.” Mykron chews on that a bit , wondering perhaps if he had enough – “As to personal … he worked in ivory, sur and I believe he has carved walrus tusks below. But, now that you mention it Drest had look-out duty much of the day before. He was up in the crows-nest, where a mans eyes work, but sometimes not the brain. Fingers can work there too … maybe there could be ...”

Mykron shrugged. He would have liked to say more about a man who did his job … and suddenly was no more. Sudden loss makes part of a crew-mans long memory, and though he wouldn't talk about it something needs payback. Deck planks shiver under me. “Perhaps I should make certain.” I rattle up a shroud, and while the evening lookout hurtled down a stern-line I managed to the foresail tackle where bronze bolts bound the pulleys to a foot of mast. The crows nest sits above, a sturdy oak-framed wicker basket spongy and forgiving that may be gripped knees and elbows while eyes remain on the sea. The easiest way in , to a salty tar is crabbing up between two shrouds and then arms wide flip ass over ears and tumble over the rim.

Gulls fly below, a long fucking way down to a hard-bone deck. Lookouts may see as far as you want or as far as you need. The Amathus harbor entrance boils in white sea-foam. The swell heaves landward a right angle to the channel, cresting over the northern tip in a wild green plume. Takes little practice lining surf to the channel and following its arrow running beside and over the breakwater. There, at the breakwater, while it boiled Calypso could not have thrust through it! Farther out, where the winds belly ripped apart island mists lay skeins of long-breathing combers. Pontis wind had those combers by the ass, jacking them up and rounding them while it pushed and pushed … across and beneath whose blue face though watery appeared as hard as opal writ unbreaking mountainous green shoulders of Poseidon.

Breakers riding upon the swells or swells formed from the breakers … say what you will about breaking waves, it's the prodigious green swells that hunt down the misfortuned sailor and drive him under. I timed one to one-hundred and eighty pulses, as did the second. The height, by shadow from crest to bottom at least three times the length of my vessel. I write those numbers to wax and skid the tablet down rope. No man would strap on a ships shrouds and choose that sea as adventures lover.

I feel another hand-weight grip the rail. “Wery wery dangerous breakers, sur” says old man Tar, the crazy old man who men say had sailed off the earth. No name mind , but his Brit home and why he seemed now like a new man I do not imagine: Tar of Avalon. He sang out upon coming up to me not by mast-pegs, but by the starboard shroud and swinging over a leg so coming it upsidedown and sharing the yard.

“There's up and down to rip ur planks and

down below are deeper danks heh.

The sea s s-so rough it seize your hide

And down below to hell ye ride.”

“Play monkey with the masts ye may, but I wouldn't sing that to the boyos.”

“Even after you mount the bitch, sea-nymphs are a hard ride.” His jaw clenches a pipe and the breath of his mouth fumes black hash smoke, clamping down like a furnace door since he has no teeth – Carthage raiders got those as well as his fishing smack before we boarded off the chalk coast and cut them down; patched him up. That he had sailed far south beyond the Pillars, of that nobody doubted. I am surprised he could still climb … and stand his watch … but knotting hemp twists he could splice your arm into your leg.

“Beyond the breakwater … out there … it's a white wall, Tar...”

“Aye. Mind the gate, Captain,” says he, “it's wery easy to miss!” He leans far over the rail, now counting … “With toes and fingers miss the peak cause swells grow high as wells dip weak hehe.”

“Gates … wells...? Gates in the breakers? ”

His whole body twists around.' “Wery like the storm I saw with the Egyptian Tutwan, sailing master and keeper of Pharaohs ironwood keel. Not be many like him!”

And following that name follows a long silence. Perhaps he remembers how much round a round water-world he has sailed? Long pull from his jade hashpipe and he passes it over before the flame dies. Syrian hashish, a black tar plug from the eastern mountains rocks my heels. Then mouth billowing that smoke Tar bards. “Tutwan , what a high-masted bugger he, and me a sail trimmer signed on from the Eastern sea. Ship a round-bottomed bitch of India teak. 'Sail into heil', says he which the gold-crowned Moroccan buggers call it hurricanae. We joined and sailed that fierce wind across the western ocean where they came out from island bays.”


“Fiends of hell!”

I stop him. “West you say, sail west from the Pillars you find islands?”

“O the most par'full kind sur. They breathed evil swarms … mosquitoes and evil people, whole fleets of them muggers with flint hatchets and dugout canoes burned from tree-trunks so big they could swallow a ship! ... hoho ...”

“Crabs twelve legs,” I curse for such barding.

His mouth pinches tight. “NO decent men been that far west, oh no.” He winks slyly. “None decent, but we war ,... into the hatch of Caribs they called themselves and bloody mawed cannibals they were eating our dead raw though our hatchets made bloody work of them from dawn till dusk and still they came.” His breath runs short of his memory and I prod him.

“Tillar, sail and yard the Belisama bends to your craft. But, this westering venture … men say your ship went lost, when winds blew you round and round the Canary Islands. Sunk and clinging to a shark-bound log you never lost the eastern shore, but went crazy drinking salt water and watching the sun too long.”

“Ey' Ca'tan men do say ...” and Tars face goes all cadgy, like an old man will when he admits his own slow falling down and everything crazy and then if unbelievers stray himself moves beyond. “Temperate men do find the Canaries be they live long enough I'll stake a platter of scallops to a starving bugger on that one. West ye gods … as far west as they are willing to sail.”

“Never sailed to them myself, being favored of the north-sea, but I have heard stories and seen charts from reputable Captains. Strange goods too, like a yellow fruit they called bananas, and tree-bark that relieves pain. I'll follow your tail, Tar till mermaids arise.”

“Ha ha that ye may sur.” Mermaids he may see, scratching at his beard. “'Course Sar there's west and afterward more west. Yer know sur there be island beyond the Canarys; the snarky Spanish Phoenician call them the Azores. Natives there live well off, grow what they eat and fuck what they will without king, mage, Pharaoh or warlord telling them otherwise. Freeborn sailor-men can envy them.... follow them too for a reason. Well reason we had; Tutwan the scribe heard there were golden lands of plunder not too far west beyond them.”

“That's west of west of west … doesn't get flat out there does it Tar? I mean flat at the end ...”

“Oh no Sar there be smooth oceans like a farm girls thigh and mountainous oceans like a Ligurian whores tits, but no end to any of it ...” He chuckles … “They say the Phoneceii once sailed there from the green western islands. Bold bastards half Minoan half seasnake, but I've never spoke to the man that did.” Returning his pipe he taps it on the nest-rail and belts it tight. “Visited the Maltese grave of the Minoan who sailed west before the gods. I counted four silver hooks, Cap-N sur near that grave, hooks tarnished, but still twisted with line-loops; silver still not looted, cause a sailor boyo knows wrong. I guess each man who left one been west more west again, cause I left my own, a silver fish-hook taken from the belt of a dead bastard Carib.”

“You keep more …?”

Tar just smiles a toothless grin. “Why men wouldn't go there if they knew I never understood, but that's what we reached for and by damn by Zeus beard and the gods hairy asshole we found them just about the time a storm from the east struck us to a sandbar.”

“Happenstance and coincidence do not strengthen a mans story, bard as he may.”

“Ey Cap'N!” Tar pulls hard on the billowing pipe-stem. “ Our fault sailing in late summer … damn storm raised its swells above our mast and stayed on our stern for a week! We were catching water, then heading for the south of Morocco , and the tall ironwood trees and the monkey men that cut them down. But reach as we might, for the winds do blow crossway south we could not reach. Blow west it did and us before it, like a leaf or a man running from a rabid fox we ran from those pillars of blacksmiths clouds. And when storms blew themselves north we addled south and there … “

The old man drifted … humming an old chantey and clicking his gums against an ivory blade-grip. He was staring far out as if he could even now see … “There sur , seaweed and sea-grass like a eastern meadow and tree-trunks big as a galley and sharks … the hammer-heads you see here rare enough feeding on dead birds from the storm come through before us … there first we see rain-clouds, so we take to th3e gunny-boats and pull! Pull for two days, till a breeze caught us. We tacked to the clouds and the trees beneath them and then beneath them beaches of swept white sand.”! Sure of dry death the gods save us little did we know their minds.” Tar kneels in the basket, his face pale and arms weakened by some outward thought. He dreams some, I think, the old Tar, then. “White dazzling from north to south , stream bearing gravel beaches, some and behind them a smoky, tree-bound islands. We chose one. Fruits and berries grew beyond the dunes, enough to eat at any mans hand. Warn't no mountain, like Olympus, but we crew thought heaven lay before us.”

“Men think different about the gods home … some think it a whorehouse lined with honeyed ale and skinny-leg virgins.”

Tar bristles. “There be no virgins within those islands, but evil sharp-breasted tarts like vipers under stone.”

“You fuck 'em?”

“The few we caught … more than a few at first. Bitches tight and oily, fight you with their sharpened conches, but suck you dry if keeping their filed teeth out of your own throat. A few tit-slaps taught that lesson as they be meek and succulent. Then we met that reef underneath the women – what made 'em lead us on … there beneath were the men cannibals, the barbarians, the savages, the braided hair bastards that called themselves Caribs.” He bit hard into the pipe-stem. “Steaming hoards of them, though no Hades would breed their bastards, Sur and once disarmed none thought we could ever leave that tangled smoky hell.”

“Smokey, you say .. were those the silver forges spoken of by the Nord sailing masters of Atlantis?”

Tar spit! “We didn't find enough silver to pinch a whores nipple! Half the smoke was steam rising from the jungle and the other half was from the burning . Carib slaves , most men slaves black as Babylon them not eaten yet cut and burned jungle patches to clear them before planting. Only thing was, the slaves got fed well! ”

“So they planted fields around their castles and keeps ...”

“Castle … keeps? Like nothin' I ever et' Cap'un … what they planted. Slaves and Caribs both, they called 'em corn and peppers and squash … the peppers like red and green fire in yur mouth once bitten. As for the castles , warn't no castles, Captain or manor, temple or keep or villa. I never seen a wall, nothing a civilized man would live in or sacrifice by.” Tar chews his pipe-stem. “They throws up skinned tree-trunks, wraps 'em cross-wise together at the joints with leather strips and further up makes a grass roof.”

“Won't keep you warm ...”

“Don't keep out the snakes neither,” chuckled Tar harshly, “ smallish devils those red and black banded, and f ace-biters those tree-climbing whip-tailed yellow rattlers.” He arched his wrist with two fingers as fangs. “Smoked leaf of the tabacce kept them away, and when the hashish ran out the tyanacce leaf made a poor replacement. Same with hand-signals. We caught their jabber after a while, and Carib hetman talked about a huge river big as an ocean they sailed. They were tan as dates, but not bitumin black like the slaves … and they claimed bronze men with metal hatchets came down their sacred river from snowy mountains and drove them out.”

“A river .. like the Nile?”

“Oh Sar we made hand signals … drew sand maps … and they Caribs laughed at what we made of the Nile. Their sacred river would swallow the Nile like a trickle. Big magic and big men so they still thought, tying up their hair with yellow and red birds-feathers and binding it behind with a beaten gold nugget. For savages Sar they came it mighty high; that's how they come north still thinking they were big juju. They would have had us roped and trussed and planting beside them, excepting they were afraid to spend a night on our boat sealike as it had become smelling of the African spice they claimed to smell like dead men alive, but we think of as cinnamon. Cap'n Tutwan had a bag … smoked it with his hash and that saved our lives, keeping Caribs away. But, they still ate nine of us, each an Egyptian scribe. Privileged buggers all those cotton-shirted fat buggers gorged on bananas and tunny and beer they had storaged away from the working crew.”

“German priests will do the same, but any sailor boyo with a ship is a free man.”

“Ey', very likely, Sar. So come one moon-lit night we escaped. Storm blasting, so the Caribs inside their wigwams. We escaped by the rule of ten by ten and awayho. Gates in the breakers, Sar, gates or slots.” He blows out a giant cone of hash fumes. “Them Caribs … they knew lots of ways to cook up their enemies, but they didn't know numbers,” he said. “Dumb as oak stumps with numbers of how the water moves and the stars. How they ever found the islands … they musta just run outa men to eat and women to rape and kept floating ... ” Another black billow of smoke slides away, as he slides away down the shroud on hands horny as oak-buttons . Why is the last dream, before waking up always a nightmare ?

Awake? You think so. I never ask Tar how his ship returned … but, I put the glass on those swells and wait. Zombies , Tar had said the Caribs called dead men alive and I long to know should we challenge the surf would that also be our own end. Belisama new watch appears, of men with sharp eyes and faces hardened by water that screams at them unseen and just before my knuckles and ears fail me I see the smallest gate open for the count of ten as wave breaks upon wave leaving … nothing! Horizon stretching combers will not produce gates, but fractured waves … A man could try to run oar-less before that sea with ever so small stay-sails and four men to the rudder. A man might escape through the gate into such a sea. None would follow. I drop to the deck.

“A fine story while my food gets cold,” Cookie saws out mournfully. His scorched lamb wrapped in hot bread drops into my paw. “When the belly works bad ideas sleep,” he says.”

Three bites finishes it. The crew watches with hawk-eyes cruel and slanted toward Drest. I turn away from the body looking out toward the harbor entrance through a maze of rocking masts and hulls. “Yes search by all means,” I shout. Search by all notions for Drests Murder. But, after search I think we should do Drest honor before gods and men … and bury him at sea!”

Crew silent by fury, our chief steersman beside me gasps out loud! “Living follow the dead, Sar?”

I say, “NaziBu, we might get a flaming prow out into it, by a clever tack, eh and give the sea-bitch some of her own. Honor Drest and melt silver into our own pouches.”

NaziBu fumbles words and extracts a lyre-like beaded copper plate from his pouch. It spins at the tip of his finger, then drops between his palms where caught , all three beads have hooked the bottom of their cut-out. “Cursed our arse, he did,” he grumbles harshly glancing at Drests body and pointing far off. “Look like a womans ass they may, those rolly breakers, smoothed and wet and curvy all set for your pleasure ,” he said with ferocity. “but, what if she won't be ridden? You can't hold a course when the wave breaks over the side and our hull gets knocked flat by the cross-wind. Then the back end of a swell sucks you down and tumbles you over and over …. a one-fucking-way trip to the dark river .”

“You think a pig snout looks like a womans ass.”

“Let us not decide the shape of a woman ass under-water, where not a coin may be found for the ferryman,” grumbles Telymedon.

“You are pessimistic without need, Telymedon. Clasp the womans arms behind her thusly and struggle ceases. She knows her master. Likewise, four of five breakers scratch Hades, unmanageable, cut-throat like that. But, the fifth will be mastered, slide into your grip without struggle, a compliant wench. So thrust out to meet it … backs bent to the oars with a bare mast, rowing to the froth near enough then throwing a fat spinnaker at the wind just so. Hull steady then, an Egyptian fulcrum turning vastly on your rudder, Agronas fierce strife may grant a moment to bowse and clew the mizzen ever so fore and aft ...

“No matter how she likes it, just on spite bitch will shiver your waist throwing legs and arms akimbo if she can...”

“Always,” I laugh harshly. “But, clasp her so … 'course she must be by-the-stern already … hahaha... very much so.”

I have nothing more to say. We search the Belisama for what evil the murder may have left behind. Nothing. The whores guild got word and sends two women indignant and brash and full-breasted, blowing storms of words to assure us none of their guild have ever hurt man, beast, god, tree or ship. They threaten to flog any gentlewoman, and fuck to oblivian any man dare cross them! We sing the paean to Aphrodite – and sacrifice one of our three goats.