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


Two noons pass of sleeting rain. Officers grumble, Artyphon whisks us to a stone sheep-warren where swept straw and rough wool hides cannot separate us. Lambs seek Artyphons breasts to nurse; brash of them. We eat one in safron sauce the 2nd night. Third morning we gayly appear among Amathus market swarm , mingling with farmers and city cooks to wrangle, to trade and buy and eat. Pewter casts many of the platters.

Artyphon measures both plate and owner. " Who but the Cilicians can access so much silver and tin?"

I ask. "Does the Assyrian King still control the Silesian Gates?"

Most hauty. "As our moods control the sky, dear Cibias", and she wrestles beneath my tunic. Anvil thunderheads built high to the east, a forerunner, an outcast before Hesperis evening veil has fallen. Distant thunder rumbles across the breakwater. Phoenician bitch Mara rises against us as if Troas manhood fails and Egyptian ravishers do her pleasure. Before the vote I am entering the log. Should the ships crew fail to follow my lead I will sail for the Kings sake with whomever mans the yards. I fear for the rope-boys in a short handed sea-fight; exposed bowmen they will be and die first. Between black-whorled streamers night serves a full moon bright as a lantern behind Sagittarius that we may follow to the south. Ship-flags snapping jaunt in the gales southerly wind. Bacchus could sail us to the Nile! Log signed and dated.

Then I look round from the binnacle seeing men gather. “Who hides his face,” I shout to the rustling of bare feet moving nearer and the chip of sharp blades on ivory as men will do. Before the firepit with fresh logs blazing and ale ladled out to every crewman and the sounds of long swells crashing in every ear. “What have you Telemedon and Brogue, NaziBu and Drubya?”

“Seeking the Cap'Ns word!”

“To lie or cheat?”

“Steel our courage!”

“Just so ye bronze-armed virgin fucking pounces!” I gather up pounding the traders staff and myself jabbing bright feathers to the black sky speak brashly. “Bloody handed bastards do ye fear Selene and Tanit those broad titted bitches?”

“NO, ”... the roar recoils as a whiplash.

“You hear Poseidon rattling the gates of your soul …. you feel Boreas sharp edge snatching skin from your faces … your feet quiver as virgin Cymopolea grasps our wooden hull not your manhood and shakes it like a Medusa shakes frozen bones.” I am shouting at them and the smashing of bronze against linden-wood and their own shouts fly about me as so many hand-ax of bronze. “Can you feel it boyos, the gods boiling madness? The gods want your feckin-A assholes fleeing their wrath across the breakers.”

Dropping to a knee I hammer on the thick wood decking. “Would you have fat-bellied Belisama dripping profits of silver coin to Asian Kybele? Do we wile away useless days with a hull full of cargo, a hull as fat-bellied as Selene carrying three sons of the satyr Pan !”

“NO … we'd see her deliver to be swived again!”

“Truly then, we have vengeance to take against the Egyptians of Heracleion, and I've prepared a gutful of bronze for those thieves. They left the Ephesus crewed by your brothers dripping in gore! But, think not they now leave you in peace; what of Drests killer? Did the same breast not nurse that bloody maw? ” I pound the traders staff. “ Would you have the Phoenician assassin strip courage from our hearts and bronze from our sword-hands as he stripped the blood from boyo Drest veins? And alone heavy-tit whores pile his black silver life beside their couches!”

Shouts from the assembled crew … “Let the staff speak...”! As I willed I finish, pegging my sword to the thick teak decking. “Seek the raven,” I shout.

Fleet Mercury pushes me for'ard much as I push the crew. Such is my excuse, so in the clash of weapons did the Belisama boyos decide. The philosophers study, mathematicians sandbox or bards forest recess had nothing to do with it; a hot blooded response flows among the billowing gray fumes of hash-pipes as a sustained rumble – voices and spear-butts, sword-hilts and curses … I pass round the traders staff and to the top of it where beads might be strung to silk thread so were the pearl beads rudely strung. Men sew them into their tar-jacket pockets, and a prudent tillarman might own two dozen size of young womans nipple stiff and prime and smooth each bored with a pinhole and on which value a careful man might live a year.

All now regards to the ships treasure, shared out to family when a man died, those pearls like mens decisions property of no one man, but of the ship. Artyphon counts the vote. Her voice is raised though in truth any man of the crew could have told by sight. Four beads strung to the heron feather, two by the owl and ninety five to the raven. By Zeus beard we would grasp his lightening with a mans hard fist, and dash upon the sea to our enemies despair.

By Nestais root mens proud feet have boarded first … food and water come aboard last. Oak casks rumble deep into the hull to be double bowsed against ribs by the sternest hemp rope. Strips of roasted goat-haunch are passed around. Fish we store dried, pounded to remove the oil and salted. Waxed lemons and oranges hang below-deck from the cross-beams respecting Karpos oracle as were glass bowls of honey-poached pork. Always our water is strained through clay and boiled so following the Medes wisdom. What bearded oracles will they be should ever they fly the low Parthian hills to gain power. Our sweet cooked fruit we store in teak. So all the goddess have proscribed – rules strict as silver horns thus I first took to the sea. She had proscribed against casting augers as if fortune were to be tested against Her will; She will not have it!

My ears are scourged … to the load bearing crew I cry: “you drink like swamp people … you eat like jungle monkeys … your surgeons cover their incisions with moss, like the Bogges! The feckin-A Bogges …..! Ye stink to heavens stone gate and crack sinew from Ceberus foreleg! Brave boyos,” and the chant rebounds. At the last great-shouldered NaziBu pours buckets of sand and water over our fire-box and the Captains flag of snake and dolphin and fire set flying. Tillmen, oarsmen, mastmen … sinewy crew each strapped to a task say little about our careful preparations.

“Figuring to sail as no man has, all the way up the Nile and out the top to the Erythrain Sea …if indeed the Nile springs from Africa, Captain?” Tar has been over the side to peg and rosen a split plank. Or will the Pharaoh meet us mid-sea for breakfast!”

“Do you want to eat Egyptian crocodile?”

Telemydon and Mykron who stand near laugh out loud. Tar persists. “This month or next. Four days a man may sail to the Nile; if we play the nightingale not the crow yet another four days to trade our goods. Eight days in all.” He spit out a gob of black tar. “But, we put in food for two months. Spare yards are stowed and spare line enough to rig the shrouds twice over.” Tar chews on his hemp plug. “Begguin the Cap'ans pardon crew thinks something happens after those eight days like there's an asp after a mouse.”

Tar finds a crew in his own experience; I chide him. “A crew so old will string couches along the moles, not lusty paws about the yardarms.” Sniggering abounds. I finish: “Does the crew favor chewing shoe leather and rope should storms drive us west?”

“ There be storms of water and storms of men, if you see the slope in that swell.”

“Shove that swell back in your gob!” Tar I believe speaks for weaker men and I stand before him. “The crew? By Zeus' damned beard they will clap on the lines and pawls tight as Minervas girdle. The crew voted ...”

“Arrh and a tarry crew they vote for Egyptian trade, Captain, for the crews silver and the chances any shipmate takes making a trade. Does he wrestle on the Queen of Punts pillows or catch Atropos eye …”

“No sailor boyo on the Belisama ever back away.”

“Aye Sur, shy men never sailed a Hyrkon ship and never showed their ass to the old bytch of fate.” Tar chews on a toothless gum. “ She's a lovely darlin' when even one gold stator is hiding up her arse; tan the haughty wenches ass red we would for that one stator. What we wonder is what else besides trade happens during the trading days?”

Minos Minoan spirit lays heavy on my chest, breathing a task, barding a channel pump. “If I say we chew the juice from Crocodile gizzard while fucking a river cow ...?”

“If there's a spec of gold in the juice or a fist of silver in the cow then not one man will lag.”

“You will count silver by the trunk!” Believe what you will, I think, leaving Tar for the aft hatchway where the placement of a few last barrels of brine pork needed trimming. Many believe as I … that a man weaves his own fate. Fulcrums appear ivory-laden balanced heavy with power; should I show the crew a bloody-minded plot? The harbor-master skulls around; an ale-barrel comes up the side and his shouts wishing our beak prod Poseidon red asshole. He wishes an immortal harbor tax and sailors returning to pay it!

What of the Kings task, should we return? I think of the bloody-handed Egyptian for whom I come; he now breathes deeply of life and his coming death already weighs on my heart. What vintage does the trader bare? Of the Belisama I feel a longing for her pure ocean race, the sing of sail and whisper of water along the lee rail. Bare feet thunder across the deck as a brace of mast-men race to untangle a shroud.

Elisedd the rowmaster has got blind drunk and strapped tight by his leather rowers belt is balancing atop an oar one arm wrapped round a shroud and stinking like an Amphipolis boar. “I fear not the lion nor the river-cow.” He is screaming madly. “We leave Cyprian assassins behind, and run the Belisama like a nymph. So bend yer backs boyos from the following swell green bottom to its sky-blue crest as if Zeus dick was tickling her asshole ... and never stop running till Nile mud slogs us down to poling .”

A mast man shouts. “I'll sail up the Pharaohs arse before I pole.” Satisfied of blasphemy he snickers, “Less I find his sister first har har … har!”

“Yur pole ya blue-skin bastard,” a tillerman sang out. Then ...

“Swells and bells and oarsmans drum

It's hell they raise from hell they come lightly formed

wet combers lift the mermaids tit away ye virgin arse

But drop your ass in a salty pit.”

Elisedd howls, drains a horn of ale … and then pitches ass-first off the oar over the hull crashing head first into the harbor swill. He goes down twice … till an oarsman fishes his limp body alongside by a brass-hooked boarding pike. A leather vest blunts the sharp edge and Elisedd comes alive sputtering and swearing to fall upon Aphrodites virtue at the first chance. Bad luck some rattle, but for many that raises a signal of sorts as sailor boyos hold their superstitions … a blundering officer hoists the mastmens spirits. NaziBu finds busywork weaving together stork feathers gathered by the mizzen crew into a phoenix claws and beak and masthead wax soaked … brailed into a pin on the signal mast. Elisedd has hardly been shaken dry when the heavy slow strokes of the oars-drummer began. And the call! Once to the heart-beat three times … then again, and again. Rope masters find their knots, carpenters their last splice and for idlers a quietness , a waiting and general movement along the pumps – should all evils befall us. . Rowers and mast-men time last details into balance.

There beyond the breakwater wave curls open-mawed high as the crows-nest. Tar stands his station, gnarled paws rootlike buried in hemp. Old man, but as a proud man might beating the bronze load clamp closed on a block and tackle. Belisama hull shudders; vibrations have started flowing up from the ironwood keel, like notes from sea-nymphs in whose sweet voices melodies belie the storm.

“Slot Sar,”echoes the lookouts call.”

Once to the heart-beat three times … then again, and again. Vibrations have started flowing up from the ironwood keel, like notes from sea-nymphs in whose sweet voices melodies belie the storm. The wind backed trifles to the north-east … piling water into the harbor till it burst out freshed, breaking the swell for that moment … yes ... it was to be now. Men set to the stern windless and the aft anchor rose larboard to the hawse. The same men race the stern coming round driving the fore windless and lifting the anchor out of the mud. But, the wind not being to our favor the mastmen kedge

us out from the dock one – two - three- anchor-lines and brutish work between the muddy turnstiles and swinging anchor crane.

Torches burn at the harbor-masters shack, sulfur yellow and clear bright whale-oil green. Those lights are a holding onto, the sailors last touch of land. Yet only boat lengths off the quay your guts squirm and tighten feeling something of the winds breath pulling you for'ard, while it shakes the smooth swell.

“Slot Sar,” again shouts the top gallant lookout. I order the shout each time both lookouts see a break in the swell line approaching. Belisama will hit such of break or broach in the comber and take us down. NaziBu attaches an oil-pouch and raises the phoenix; for a moment it flares brightly, wisping flame and smoke and hope.

Against your face , yes, still cunning mast-men feeling for the slightest purchase snap a foresail into the breeze. Notus breath catches the foresail, that breath a misty wind running near to the water where Neptune ruled both sea and air with his long handed swells. Arms jerk tight on the shrouds and necks stiffen as Belisamas hull stiff spiny keel a treasure, yet even that plinth of ironwood and glass rod shivers shooting for'ard. The oar-drum quickens and oarsmen dip their ash rods to the sea. Our bow headed up, throw-off the luffing mainsail canvas and begins easing toward the breakwater. I have taken two-turns of a binnacle line, but give it up to Artyphon daring beside me to rush steers-men footfalls, straining upon bronze pintals our prayer to Dianna and curse to Jove for there be no escape , but mastery to the pleasures of Nereids groaning submission. Fuck her or die.

Blood rushes to my face as we edge along the first ridge of breakwater stone. Is meter counted and poetry remembered? To what god do I swear? What grape-vine have I ever tended? I shout something at the past, perhaps to sturdy Mykron. Waves now rise high on the larboard side smashing down into a pelleting spray that promises no quarter.

“Slot Sar,” snaps the sharp demanding call.”


Oarsmen bend groaning yew to a break-back stroke. One of seven deckside oak pins slips popping from the center knee. Damme will we gallop into her, thrust our bow to the whales maw boasting Kelpies spire looming above all brazen to the gods will. I lunge beside Mykron now first on the tiller and with two turns of a belt strapping me on beside him as if one man could drive for'ard the prow himself.

I shout “Now” to the men holding reef on the foresail and it snaps like Zeus thunder into the slot. As if another were speaking, shouting, “raise starboard oars; pull yur bastards pull” … to the larboard …

Who could hear above Poseidon rumble? Then I remember nothing but the wail of wind and fist-smash of green combers rolling along, seizing the hull bodily, foaming white above burying bodies lashed to and lashed by the deck. Bleeding hope by the spear of Mars and Aphrodites bare breast our hull slices for'ard brazen in cold surf bow-wave dashing high as eye-eating gulls from boiling mizzen and spray-drenched sprintyard to the death-green and stringy seaweed mats tailing from our stern.