.......................Tales of Hyrkon: book 5 .... Death in Egypt
Chapter Four


Me! Bound for the beasts heart I worry the Bellisama. "Pawl out the mizzen, Lucus the mist has made it soppy. You there, idler, take a stone to that redwood plank or your hides my purse-string. Rope-boy , tend ..."

"Mind yer do less evil than good," patters Tar and I stand down, swill from a wineskin. Bite the apple, Cibias. If only I knew so well as my officers. Quiet bastards they ken my mission yakking forced marches and weekly trades about the foredeck like mice. If they only bore Minos weight! Cibias you fool what are you thinking?

Teeth of the crocodile,” Cap’N !

Teeth, Ibis and Pelicans beak. Frogs horn bigger than a bears jaw.”

I am dim. Riddle me boyos what fanged beast threatens more than a mad human ? ”

Tpah! Trust your enemy to follow. A strange frothy mist ye barge into, Cap’N. Look! Our outer harbor is clear."

Has the air corrupted over sand? Water currents, but from where does the sand flow? What vapor can escape these dry sands ?”

Bull shit you babble. Air tastes like the oily skim above salt-oil Libyan ponds.”

Tastes like snake poison. I once sucked out sand-viper venom from a bit alkhemist mate; he lived, but lost an arm.”

Hood of a cobra.”

“Off you go then. Just piss off faithful Artyphon, drinking and whoring some nubile Heraklytus wench and you will pray for the fangs.”

I didn’t say this. “Artyphon has passed childhood. Can I defend against every ship that sets sail …? I think of a rogue trading venue ... matters arise I cannot solve.

Idlers start working the larboard bilge-pump. Third cedar strake from the bottom always the litters runt. See Cibias you remember the craft! Terror drinks the life out of you, that’s what I think terrified. Look around, Cibias. Tar and Eliseed howl laughter into a fuming jade hornpipe. Ribald patter; how I fear Egyptian death and yet thrust to the very core. “Cybelles mercy then upon me, for I know not what mischief my task requires.” Task, mischief … butchery.

For three thousand years , while men watch and tremble desert lions and river cobra stalked their Nile prey; practice of those aeons ought to make danger certain and discovery common. Life shed in an eye-blink. Who am I to challenge gods old when Our Sea was young? Cold sweat skims my body. I will teach at academy thinking this small.

I’m ready, Cibias. Make me happy!” Artyphon and her wax tablets prattle like a mime; I intrude, snatching her tit, thumbing the nipple for such amusement is expected of a mans freely traveling woman. "You know your place on this voyage!"

Of her bare arm and huge diamond torque and ring the dark-skinned south Egyptian rowers say nothing. Her silk bandanna and sandals silver inlay shine. I think of a scale with humans balancing … what cannot be weighed. She, Hecateas and Amums slave wait with me to board the lugger; it hovers on our starboard lee. When their officers quit reviling Amum for his lust, and bitching transport price their crew smashes the empty ale barrel, snatch twenty skins of Sicilian dry red wine better than they know and row our van toward the Royal dock.

Long beaked ibis line the bronze bollards. Traders and slaves bustle the luggers narrow deck and our sandaled feet must skip strakes where bronze nails expose. Queer, to be transported as a noisy favorite, on a silent venture of blood so balanced that my cleverness buys a wet red stain on the marble should Pharaohs men ever puzzle it.

First oar-strokes set water simpering along the luggars side . Roped planks smell of old rot somehow unexpected: fresh water worms. Artyphon disdains quiet. “How wrong headed is very wrong? Do you see? Well … don’t talk, but I must … if you want the wood sold at market price then clobbering Amums is exactly the wrong path. He is the market and the way he watched my breast for the slightest hint of bud shows him a man with his calculator between his knees. I would have dusted his treasury. Do you see, Cibias … Cibias!”

Yes dear heart … truer words … ”

Cybelles virtue ! How can you speak of words when you have heard none of them. Your head mires in this damnable mist, eyes and ears reaching out no farther than your nose !”

The rowing master hides a dirk beneath his left shoulder, and both mastman aloft carry an iron stave along the right leg. That one hooded bastard Our situation … you aware … my dear one ...”

Polers and oarsmen vastly grunt against the ever more shallow water. Two men on the tiller sport skin the texture of tanned leather, and while no hood protects them each sport white cotton vest and turban. Fellow rowers wear loin-clothes nothing else. I know the building of a trap, for I have taken lynx and martin and sable and none fools and their domain. How am I now still above water not a fool in my own?

Artyphons hand flutters against my sex. She leans against me and whispers. “ Enjoy your public liberty kind Cibias.” She stretches full length against me pressing her chin into my neck. “My body will demand its share in private.”

Whenever not dear heart?” Artyphons fist digs my belly and I grunt.

“When you are dissembling against Pharaohs wiles. The men you weapon in bronze have diamond eyes and silver ears. So you must show clever a poor man. Perhaps brag on the stories of Pharaohs manhood and exploits in the womans quarter.”

Of which I know none; men ken nothing of this.”

Well women do,” Artyphon snips, “and his dragomen such lubricious males are wont to hear it.”

As you wish dear heart for the bards song of love, but I fear time runs short. Even Helios stumbles. Yet there’s time for the tale of Pharaoh and the lusty crocodile goddess.”

I mumbled that blasphemous tale, to smiling mast-mate and dockman equally. Yet Pharaohs kingdom stumbles where the Niles end began. Rowers ache the long pull as sour-rye zombies. As if Aphrodite has them blind, ax wielding Punts stare through us with blank white eyes and dancing mummers play drums, tambourine and silver flute . Guards churn stupidly. Two live-aboard whores skitter up from the bildge and fuck idle mastmates. My right fist has gone numb;

Artyphon seeing my fail snarks brashly. "Snatch Fortunas tit dear master." I throw ivory dice tumbling - - - quickly losing two silver Aleppos. My heart hammers, leather-shod foot tingles for all the times a vipers fang has struck and missed. Foreign gods rule bodies, but goods and money and death all meet right here. Do you see the blasphemy of such disorder?

Hekateas must sense my fear. “No place to run, Sar, but room for the bold mans brass.” Amums slave loops my arm with his, and spreading his fist raises a wickedly puzzled flint edge beside his ear.

Touching the slaves hand … “You've won over the man.” Artyphons eyes take in the waterfront. “Something they may offer you, a mistake dear master , they may offer you time.”

Strung tight as a cross bow; exhausted in a riptide. Amums lugger docks directly below Pharaohs manse, from which without distraction of business a ruler and harem may view his port. If the port is truly his not Carthage! Out-rowing a scribes rainbow painted barge and landing, we skitter up the wide pink marble steps onto which the luggers gangplank is lowered. Sixty steps below, the royal quay has been fashioned into the base of this huge sand-dune. Chipped limestone, carved marble, sawn ironwood and Phoenician ceder logs all play to the purpose of pharaohs power. Cranes , winches and pully-farms abound for the three slots into which ships lay for service.

Could be Hyrkon or Rhodes,” Hekateas observes. To the left nested a palm shaded sandstone patio where Captains may take their leisure or a womans flesh while ship holds empty. It’s a traders scrabbled bazar and merchants game. Many are the ships willing to chance the factors wiles for the pharaohs unclaimed gold. Slave boys and girls abound – to be used for coppers – and on rich-decked craft many did.

But, Minos harbor-master would never abide layabout Captains. Hyrkon quay is short three moles ; he’s too tight with a sesterce. Not pharaoh !”

I point above. “We want to go up there.” A guard troop marches right, along a slab path to mud brick barracks prodded into a leveled rise of sand and near enough to defend the dockside. It’s rough quarters for a royal troop, though painted a striped pastel. “Soon the dockmen forget us the better.

We stride up the limestone slab path. It’s wide enough for two porters to pass and watched over by guardhouses at three levels. Breathless we make the royal manse , a level below the top, a sea of marble and pastel tents and populated by a smatter of house servants, two bearded Greeks, a pair of hooded scribes and their spearmen.

Taz of Kolym,” I claim. The scribes sleep. We sign over as Rhodian bronze merchants, spit on the Greeks long shadows and need no encouragement to pass them by.

They never asked what proud tunnels you bore,” snarks Artyphon.

I would have put them on you, dear heart.” Her fist buries in my ribs. “Carry on lightly indeed, for mischief lies ahead.”

At the top Herikliteas spreads out to our left, the harbor directly below and aside us small goatskin tents scatter everywhere. A Bastet priestess lounges on a plush folding stool covered with gold-tinted sheepskin. A chattering idiot squats beside her.

You will come with me.” Excepting a gold Ankh about her neck, naked white skin shines when she removes her cotton robe and rattles a tambourine basket of silver leaf. She leads us into a tent , bright with gold threads and rug heavy. Proud bitch she kneels exposing her sex. “Take what is yours Cibias, and I will not expose you.”

I remove the leather quirt from my silk belt. “You will have what the goddess prays.” Oil the leather, my tutor always said, and bleed the ass. So I sharply serve stripes to her muffled cries and measure pain. Patient Hekateas … watches and waits, then serves himself to her shrieks of pleasure. Leaving the tent Artyphons lip bleeds and hands sweat cold into mine.

We are shaken, but need not. “That's coming it high Sur, if ya don't mind my saying,” Hekateas observes when I drop a Hyrkon electrum stator into the priestess basket.

What would you have done,” I ask?” What story Hekateas may tell the shiop I cannot say.

He says … “Legs tired from the steps and head worn from mimings excess ...” scratching his crusty beard … “I'd distract,” he muses warmly. Then laughing as if he had mounted Dianne in her sleep. “Yee haven’t been generous tailing just what your task be. Danger methinks, Cap’N , and the whore proves it, but I’ve no mind to pry. I serve Cybelle as do yee. Yet, see my fancy And my art. I wove a couple silk cobras for the bastards.”

Light scatters over the basket of woven tunes. I tease. “A womens sperm-catcher!”

Hehe that be a chance, Sar. There's a drop of shellfish poison in each glass eye that won't make the owner who squeezes it happy.” He chuckles. “Would only paralyze a strong man for a couple days, but might kill a bitch like that!”

Poison silk? Drop one in my paw!”

Here … but don’t squeeze the loop. There’s a crust on the poison paste easy to break.”

I imagine … damme how the colors deceive.” I jiggle the loop in my hand - - Artyphon will not touch it - - before passing it back. Plain faced I give Hekateas chest a solid rap. “Enemies everywhere! Though you have mastered venom , let me pick the fight, Hekateas if fight there will be. See them, there and there … give scribes and guards nothing to watch!”

Fast talk cools my sweat not a weed-stem and we didn't stay alone for long. Four light-armed spearmen and two factors converge guiding us under a rough wool tenting stretched between palms. Still the Egyptian air breaths fire. The small oasis grows, stretching high above and before us into a widing ravine. Limestone caves crust above; water bubbles cold from a rock fountain and beneath our feet trickles away into dark volcanic stone . Chestnut trees and yew reach high above us and breathing becomes an un-natural pleasure in mild air. Small gardens of leek, onion and garlic nest among yellow beets. Faces show through the leafy sloughs ; men have stolen Nile water and hidden made a home. When blue sky appears above our path opens into a long hazy valley pebbled by reed, flower and wheat-covered marsh. A trails smooth ribbon winds among the features. Far in the distance an arm of the Nile shimmers in mist.

That way to Gizeh,” pouts a leather helmet spearman. “When hetmen take their lovers to view our pyramids that is the path chariots take.” He scratches a beardless chin. “Men say Apis strides that path to view the Sphinx.

Then what men built the bitch-cat?”

No men!” We walk to the edge of palm-shade - - amazing - - before a strengthened guard turns us back.

The buyers are ready for you,” chimes a robed eunuch. We stride only 20 paces and from sandy air the bazzar appears.

Messengers give me silver council trade stamps for my staff and a goatskin of sour wine. From behind the tents slaves whip stalls and tables and auctions callers palmwood deck. "Make way for the Pharaohs buyers, make way!" Our foreign companions offer fine manners with over-priced pearls. Ra gives and gets, his trade royal in tone was surprisingly democratical to any buyer with coins. Desert caravaner bid against Pharaohs chandlers for tools and hard goods shipped inland. A fat, savage sun-burn Gaul rolls bones against a silk-and-cotton Damacien for a Cilician tin-forge; stream-banks of the Teymes lay virgin. Such does Cybelles sweet trade make of mens wars.

Still Jan'ah surprises me coming down from the cafe having finished her afternoon meal. Our eyes flicker one to another. She has no part in my planes, such plans as I had, but comfortably takes a place among crowing merchants, with the young whore she has brought as consort.

My vision snatched by her form, a spoiling cunt for a darkly naked moment else I unclothed. Harshly. "Will the bitch do my bidding?"

Cibias, Tarza . A mans study if I do not miss my target. Watch her clever bidding groomed by a southron style."

Artyphons relaxes head in my lap and mouth to every pleasure ... I groan. Three or four cargoes go to bid; Jan'ah preens as Tarza abacus handy snatches the odd price for baskets of cloth goods plain valued, but artfully stitched. Surprises judged as contraband sell quickly, before tax farmers have a say. Bidding again Tarza snatches a dozen Corinthian iron blades gathered under Jan'ah own parasol dyed blue and red; beeming success her jade pipe reeking billows of gray Ethiopian hashish passes between us.

"Has Tarza not my rent? Now Cibias act swiftly, for Roi, the Theban paymaster comes a prancing." He's a bitumen-black southern Egyptian and arrogant as Ras piss.

"What's this, so far above Pharaohs dock a foreigner, shifty and lean without introduction?"

Honor to Pharaohs servant ...” I bow. Factor, priest-eunuch, merchant prince … less than a vizier, more than a craftsman he can finger-count base-eight, base-ten or base-twelve like Mede astronomers all equally well into the thousands and subtract it a back again when figuring his expenses. “May his mast sail a hundred maidens.”

Crafty eye, he strikes back. “Enough spun sugar from King Minos strong arm.” He exchanges an ivory and silver-banded hashpipe. The fumes plead harmony, yet he speaks briskly to me. “Yes yes, we shall do our figures now.”

Artyphons emerald sparkles. “Pray disturb not my good master, sir, with trifles.” Artyphon snaps, palming an ivory and olive wood abacus . “Make your accounting with me!”

Cat smiles crosses Rois face. “Do I speak to a veil or a face?” Artyphons layed silk scarfs peal back revealing pouty lips and pearl wrapped throat. Rois eye twitches, un-nerved, and he sighs miserably. “Should your counting match your bedcraft I am ruined!”

How merciful of Pharoahs servant,” Artyphon simpers coddling the emerald at her throat.

Rois eyes fix on the gem. “Does your accounting please all?” A lesser priest sits behind him twitching an abacus and scratching wet clay tablets, but he unguarded drops a stylus into the sand.

Master trusts me with the cyphers. What calculation should not favor me? Your factor, good sir is not trusted with papyrus,” Artyphon quips politely. Rois face flames red.

Suddenly Jan'ah hisses,” Sinnarsur!”

He comes swinging out of a side tent peltest silver leaf kilt slapping the poles and dismissing me with a glance. Solid and large , curly oiled black hair and beard he spares no concern for the small. A white cape is strapped to boiled leather shoulder armour; bronze bracelets and waist bucklet clatter. Royal bastard, perhaps or son of a satraps sister, Sinnarsur obviously led the hired guard of short-swordsmen … mixed in race and ill-tempered in the mix. “The ferments, Roi … a week late, but finally,” he says roughly. “Pharaohs scribe already sent two messengers; I'm sick of those eunuchs drooling.” A hard eyed Carian holds second, and leads Thessalians tattooed in white whorls about the nose , and tough sharp-eyed Corinthians who had soaked in Minoan blood from spear tip to blade guard.

Wait no longer commander,” I advise humbly. “Our ship docks at the royal mole - - as we speak” Again I have dressed for trade, in a Rhodian tunic and leather vest usually worn by factors of men wealthy in exchange.

Sinnarsur curses, pushes a scribe before him and slips through the tent flap. Small beans not worth his time. Mercenary iron, the Carian Captain didn't see it that way. His eyes screwed into me and wore under his breath. “Keftiu ...”

Quickly I respond in traders Egyptian. “A Rhodian citizen, good sir, factor of the ships Captain who remains with honorable Amum aboard the trading vessel.” I bow deeply. Rhodian, Sires, yes and Argot on my mothers side.”

Eyebrows frown together. “The fuck you are; Keftiu … Minoan snake, “ he shouts.

A Corinthian officer joins him. “I know the eyebrows and the ears … big eyed and slant-ear vipers … before you cut our throats and beat us out of the ruined cities … we had you crushed under our feet, pissing in your fresh water.” Greek hate of Minos reborn rips at his belly. His hand grasps the hilt of his short-sword. “A Spartan trader has been through the garrison.” Pointing at me. “Seen every trader worth seeing. Perhaps trading Cyprus and Crete he knows something of this man.”

Artyphon steps for'ard with womanly boldness. “Matters of trade my good sirs above such petty issues of who was born where.” She unbundled papyrus sheets, wax tablets and her abacus. “I speak for the Trade Council where gold is always the only issue.”

Corinthian and Carian a pair they leer openly. “You think those wax tablets protect your wet ass?”

From poor men...”

Poor men ...” Both hoplites rattle the sword hilt. “Fuck the bitch,” Carian mutters ignoring Rois grimace. Too cleverly I observe people making and watching profits are not the same.

Pardon sir many pardons,” interrupts Hekateas. He steps forward, groveling hump-backed as only a large awkward man can grovel. “Please take these … good luck charms from Rhodes that make a man twice the man with the next woman he seizes!” He holds out the silk cobras in his flat palms. “These are charms of poppy-laden lustful Astarte, with dust of oasis violets not smudges of water-drinking bitch Aphrodite!”

Unexpected, implausible, the offer caught a hitch in the Carians movement. He looks to his companion which is fatal . “Enough” the paymaster squawks and crossing fingers at his hoplite Captain. “Pharaoh assigns me first rank, to multiply his money. The Carian share of taxes will be generous.”

Sinnarsur has again come out of his tent at the captains shout. “Alright with the fucking noise... bastards … scribe, get your ass to the money tent with this .. this … whore whatever her nation. Look, their ship is being brought to the dock.” He grips the hilt of an iron tipped flog. “Who wants to slow down unloading Pharaohs property?” Motioning toward Artyphon. “Ignore the Lesbian bytch she's not worth your trouble.” He sees no challenge, grabs a corked wine-jug and returns through the tent flap to his work.

Take the charms,” suggests paymaster Roi, looking for any out. “Let our business unfold and first be done, Captain. Then away from us, you and the sailor may finish your own.” And grumbling a Sargent took the basket of woven cobras and each man took to a different path.

Artyphon launches at the paymaster. “We have little to calculate . Three hundred barrels of fish sauce at seventy silver minae per barrel that's” …. her abacus rattles … “nineteen hundred and four gold stators.” She produces a clay tablet repeating the calculation, baked, sealed and signed by the Egyptian factor in Hyrkon.

Is it really three hundred barrels you intend to deliver? I have heard you ship can carry no more than eighty.”

Count barrels yourself as the crane lifts them from our hold. While you count I need not remind you of the five silver flagons of Marsaii cherry ferment. “See here, the second tablet signed and sealed. Two hundred ninety gold stators per flagon plus … plus four Hyrkon electrum for each till returned. The silversmith Proctorus would beggar his daughters for the craft of his pewter. ”

Roi inspects both tablets , and on each chips a fragment off the flowery rims. “Shell baked in as required.” Apprising the Belisama just knotting its cleats to the quay. “I would not have thought any ferment worth this price, nor that such a round nosed vessel could weather a storm. There , the first barrels are lifted. We must open one for tasting, though it be Pharaohs only and together let us count from dockside.” He starts away then turns back to me. “You would not have a … a sample of the cherry ferment, now would you ….”

I slip a fist size cut quartz vial from my tunic. “A careful servant you are.” He sips, sips again , smiles and returns the vial. “Amum indeed tells the truth.”

We cut the brew with enough opium to stun a lion. Artyphon and Roi pad down the stairs. My throat goes dry so I can't spit … light shatters to fragments before my eyes and I cannot see … until I see a man striding forward, a blazing man just wanting the piss-soaked shield wall, the shouts of kin and thrumming of bronze blades before marching down on those bastards, cutting off the butt-fucking Myceneii leaders, mulching the rabble to gore piles of shattered brains and guts. None of this vision Sinnarsur knew; how could he even guess, a man who had always conquered? That slab-faced Carian mercenary sat across from me on a padded bench drinking sour beer and smirking while casks lift free of the hull. The second of the five flasks hover above a wicker basket. Pharaohs chariots waits for loading as soon as pewter bottoms touched the quay.

My eyes deceive perhaps, but the cargo is as she says,” Roi mutters in amazement.

Count them again rags a black-tooth mercenary to the guards and scribes about the wooden and brass money boxes.

Artyphon and Roi agree. Dismissing the complaint Roi begins the counting out of payment. The Carian recounted every gold piece with unamused leer, the stark complaisant leer of a man who can always take back whatever he has given. Whether his job or personal pleasure he had no intension of my shipping out that money. He would bide time … now, the payment accounted in filling two small ceder boxes of gold.

Have we a price on the lumber,” I asked Artyphon?

Two silver minae per three boards.”

She had robbed the bastard. As we dicker, she and Hekateas board a departing longboat and muscle toward the Belisamas stern. “You will wait here,” Roi says sourly.

She will do as I say!” I point to the loading cranes. “The last two flasks need watching, as they were stored in the for'ard hold, and tricky to maneuver. My factors know the rope tip and flog!” I tipple from the small green flask and again pass it to Roi. “Off loading the lumber will then take much more time, and no reason to tempt lawless rovers.” I say casually, scanning the quay, “Hekateas, Artyphon take back one coin box to the Belisama and watch over those last two flasks.”

Trapped before his own trap, I see helpless anger rake Rois face. Fuck you Carian no matter what happens and his leer turned sour as summer beer. The other box I strap to Amums slave Seth now serving me. “Neither the bitch nor the money leaves,” snaps the Carian.

Artyphon hesitates, “Perhaps ...”

Perhaps the Captain wishes to answer to Pharaohs cobras should cracks or spills empty those last flasks. Nothing like the sight of gold stators to steady the winch-mans arm.” Hekateas moves swiftly. “ Get along now, woman,” he cages dropping a cobra tallis into the surprised palm of Roi. “Men can finish this business.”

“Mens fortunes, Cibias.”

Serve your fortune and return to me. I know nothing else of value.” Artyphon wrist-blade cuts her finger - - she smears blood on my cheek. “That forgives all mercy. Enough!”

So Artyphon and Hekateas leave me atop the Pharaohs dune, under Egypts blistering sun, between bloody minded factors and bloody handed leather helmet guards. I knew a man with golden skin who died under a Celts iron blade. My Kings task my own and in confusion I see a sudden clarity. “Bring the woman.”

Shadows grow. Above the docks the palm and sandstone patio provides relief. Jan'ah sees to the setting. Marble benches are placed and a slave-girl brings iced wine. Ice in an Egyptian summer; you could get used to the luxury. I rent a pastel tent and set it beside Jan'ah, with striped awning. With the tents she engages two young girls from a mixed-breed full-breasted northern Egyptian woman. She preens her blonde hair, this rare breed of haetera come down from a blue stripped washed villa in search of money.

As we dicker and I bite nipple clip onto a bare breast. Legend arrives while at distance below and away Artyphon and Hekateas board a departing longboat. The two become one I cannot say how. Compatriots loved, they cannot see me, but wave ... and oarsmen muscle them toward the barrel marking Belisamas portage five-hundred paces from the quay. My attention follows till recoil.

You can master her later,” the haetera primps. "A simple matter as even now her sex sweats and button swells."

Who are you to say?”

I’ve watched you.”

From a hood?” I snatch a tit and slap it raw. “You will pray for it.”

She pleads silver coins, for viewing the pleasure of her carved noble face, plays the abacus and refuses to fuck until she speaks with her father. She meant not today or not me, as she returns in a bleached silver-threaded robe without interest in a Hyrkon for whom none can speak. I carry her into the tent, trip legs putting her back to the rug and knees spread … struggling then willingly spread like goats butter on chestnuts , her pleasure thrusts give rug-burn she moans loudly for another.

I roll her thighs snakelike .. she scrambles away. “Once bitten twice shy.”

As you like it!”


Catch her hair if I dare behind the neck and yank down. She tumbles helpless … slide her over my knee and sharply discipline, slapping her cheeks red and prime and dripping . Twist the wrist-knife from her hand every cherry woman has one. She knows her master, lifting the ripe virgin ass. Of a womans three cherries, the last taken is the sweetest. I take this pleasure of womans dry flesh. Tis evil I’ve done , but evil done without mercy and shes cries while her body shakes, face buried in the wool mat and arms stretched outward trembling in sex without control.

What is worth taking from a woman prudent men leave behind. Outside heat wears into our bones; I sit beneath the awning wearing a loincloth and tunic and sipping iced orange from a silver flask. Guards that left me to pleasure have yet to return. From a carry I arm with dirk and wrist-knife. And in meditation I plan moves and plan again. The young girls giggle and whorl around me. They appear untutored, of an age when nipples first bud, slim, but properly-fed with black hair and almond eyes. Neither wear the veil, so they are not yet whores; both sport a woven dread-lock on the right side to which a glass and copper catfish amulet is braided. They blush when I praise their beauty and serve cold wine, wave swan-feathers to drive off flies, dance and recite Ethiopian love poetry while far below winches bent, creak and groan unloading the Belisamas lumber at the pharaohs quay.

Slaves sweat blood, grunt their work-chanties in a dozen dialects and the children laughed at them - and you think 'what do children laugh at?' Ahh … they laugh at whatever does not frighten them. So these children - no doubt well-tended daughters of a wealthy man, who had fallen from Pharaohs grace and lived perhaps to see his family sold off around him. A city can be like that … or a forest. Is there a tree in all of Egypt besides the damnable palms each hiding a dozen scorpions? I thought how precious that Gaelic oak , traded away for an eye-blink yet plank enough to frame and build fifty Cretan villas.

One of the girls had come close. I feel her sweet breath, and like from a dream I awake: a fools dream of forest, rivers and laughing children. The law of trade discourages such foolish thinking as a man gathers nothing from his own emotion. Good and bad, but especially good futures rides on the fair trade exchange. Heat crosses to me from the girls body as in a dream, I am staring at an empty marble dock! The Belisama moves as a cloud moves away from me, away and edging out toward the harbor. I smile.

Zeus beard; good for Nykodemes. Amum must remain unseen, below-decks during the transfers and no drama will entertain his death. Yet there comes a terribleness to it, that had come to me in the last cool hour before dawn. On my orders he had been bound inside an empty beer-cask which then was filled until his thrashing ended and screams were no longer heard. How did I think about it? Death is terrible … Amum found a terrible death, that of an assassin not of a warrior. The wailing of his spirit for retribution – for so Egyptians believe – would not trouble my sleep. I see Sinnarsurs death, if death becomes him or my own approaching and taste the swift exchange of iron blades, life in the heat of a struggle as gods prefer not the shades cold hand. Fear has me and my hand freezes to my tunic.

Fumbling at my belt-pouch I find and hold up a gold coin, to the older girl.”What would you do for this coin? As much as you do for Sinnarsur and he pays you bronze?”

No,” she said with a little girls sad abstract absurd way. “You are not Sinnarsur. You're Cretan.”

I hold up two gold coins. “And for these?” We whisper, she bows, jumps up saying something to her sister and runs off toward the Royal paymasters tent.

My tent now empty, and the slave who might dream of some snake-infested desert shithole resting beside me with his oak staff. A much older slave stops before my tent, accompanied by two hooded men carrying a leather chest. But, woolen hoods to not prevent silver grasshoppers from clasping their long , ancient silver hair.

For the trader from an old one.” They beg grace and share bits of smoked fish. “Ice in summer is winters coming warmth. Does the kings son understand?”

I am a trader!”

Trader? The old ones speak with the kings son Didikas, and well does he trade their diamonds while fool Cibias follows the tit whoring away life with Yidini. The old ones would hear his excuses!”

My ferment …!”

Your ferment smells of fish.”

No ...” I am about to say when a wave of nausea strikes me. I vomit colors, see haggard Cronos traveling and about to approach me. Hyperion rising heat has drained life from the harbor; everyone is sleeping or fucking who can sleep or fuck. A line of children has gathered chanting and shaking tambourines and rattles. Voiceless I wave. A small van has arrived, spilling slaves and factors and peltasts as it approaches.

You Cretan,” comes the bellowing shout! “What is this shiit?” The older girl has returned with Sinnarsur and his Carian guards Captain.

I am your coin,” she chants and throws a poisoned charm on the rug beneath her.

Sinnarsur spits, his scarred hand fondles the younger girls ass. Then he kneels, nibbling her chin, raking her skinny legs and bare bony knee drooling … rises. “Used, but tender. I’ll take the sport!” His eyes stalk the scene , threatening unspoken evil and his guard stiffens, standing apart yet in cowed obedience still bound to his masters tow.

I form up and bow. “A Cretan humbly respects Sinnarsurs power and offers these two girls as a small sign of his appreciation.” Rhodian pretense is dropped like a hot bread-iron.

So Cretan it is, eh bastard?” His thin Assyrian eyes squint into slits. “Fucking bakk!” Thinking on killing me, where and how the unprovoked kindness took him back. He rattled a pair of bones in his left hand. “Both, huh … tight little bitches aren't they. You get tired?”

With the bellowing of his chest and squaring of his legs I see the death he has planned for me. One moment of foolishness I beg from Anu if justice be mine. “I bear witness to my better.”

Damn straight you do! Smarter than the last one, Cretan I'll give you that.” He grabbed the older girl by the ass and pushed her toward the tent. “This bitches handler charges six coins – better have the slave give me the money-box.”

“Some shaved ice also...” I reach behind me, “ … topped with honey-dates.” As my hand separates leather flaps of the ice-chest , the space between two tents is violently thrust aside. Hot wind gusts through .

The blast furnace air whispers ‘CIBIAS’. From the opening and plowing a sand furrow forges a double line of spearmen . Full helms and greaves flash silver piping; breastplate and shields carry the auroche-horned logo of ancient Crete. “Arete” shouts their war cry! Surging hoplites carry my pulsing blood and they plunge straight toward me. I whorl to warn Artyphon and Hekateas, but my legs and arms respond in a slow motions thrill as sleep will make a man act slowly. Their faces rotate into my view and neither seems aware; her red lips smile, their eyes peacefully follow a thrush skating among palm fronds.

S-u-r-r-e-n-d-e-r n-o-t!” Sinnarsur and his Carian guards Captain do not move, frozen to their last desire. Mouths open hands astray … what to make of a sword that I cannot reach time moves so uncertain.

The Carian squeeking. “w-h-a-t-g-o-d-k-n-o-w-s-w-h-en-t-he-w-i-n-d-b-l-o-w-s”

Spears plow for’ard toward my heart , in two rows making a spear-shaft no shield may defend and no sword may disown I am before death. Sand boils about their iron-shod feet. My head explodes, kaleidescope of breathless colors they become mine. All breathless in waiting. So sweep the hooded, silver-hair old men.

Hoods thrown back and ruby eyes carving sight. Their speed as lightening bolts, frosted breath like scythes and fangs like lions cutting and slashing at the spear-shaft, flying space between spearmen and me.


Evil grinning complexions they howl and sinter life from ivory fangs. How living blood scatters and armoured faces once grim now twisted in agony and fear.

M-y s-w-o-r-d ...” I shout soundless into the hooded face that sweeps me away, into the oasis palms. “M-y s-h-i-e-l-d ...” I plead into the blood-mist of slaughtered spearmen impaled on an old mans ivory jaw . Snatched away into the air-stream I feel no binding, no force though gripped by the old man I must be. We fly over sandy rills and down the valley of swamps. Silver threads ripple and gleam. Limestone cliffs pass every more quickly. Grazing red-deer smell our passage and flee into the reeds.

Minos,” I cry. Above, mated swan hear my call and finding a warm stream bank ruffle down and flee north. Along the swamp valley and through the kaleidescope dreams most silent wings carry me . “F-a-r a-w-a-y n-o-w ?”

Faster than a peregrine, one scene gives way to another. An ancients lisping drool ... “Not as we know time.”