.......................Tales of Hyrkon: book 7 .... Wicked IO
Chapter SIX


“SanJan!” Vine-woven stairs to pink mornings patio above creaked and rustled. “We thought the arrows had us!” The man has come down … godlike and goddess from a wooden floor above us. Living from dead we cannot tell and physicians already work on two of our number. A bloodied van … ours, and the guards that rescued hang breathless on 2nd floor pillars, sprawl over wicker benches or kneel beneath palm awnings. All thought of formality boils to vapor in the cauldron of battle. “We have only your mercy!”

He bows smiling. “Little did I imagine your street battle.” Wind has scattered mist. Beside him strolls a young ringletted beauty with hair rich in auger and deep in lust as our wine-colored sea. As he presents the frock covered girl. “This bold young woman is our daughter Sabeen.” She curtsies to no courts abuse. SanJan wears turban, Median silk trousers and a flowered cotton tunic into Horas late spring morning. His daughter carries an olive-wood handled amphora corked and sloshing with coffee smelling sharp as a vulva-shell.

For’ard she. “But, our Masters flame has mastered your enemies sah Cibias,” his daughter chirps. “Father speaks to Him while we chant to Lord Minos glory.”

I see aught, but her. Striding across exclaiming, “Damme Sanjan how can you fix a ruby that big in a turban that small? I'd pack such stone in an iron keep-safe and sell you glass beads for public appearance.”

“You have the pirates heart, Cibias” he says exchanging the clasp of bare hands. “But, it's the daughters gift – Sabeen -- a gift of her own trading mind and I'd catch her sharp tongue if I didn't show it.”

“Young for that ...” snaps Artyphon breasts pinned to my back.

“Young for naught ...” rues SanJan “except her fathers honor. That earth does not flame beneath her feet I have much wonder, yet my wife is a beauty also and a daughters berry falls close to the bush that grew it. ” And all gathered round us, at the cusp of morning and the patio edge while enemies howled at his walls and slave lead us beyond to freshen. Women slaves as much as any with brazen silk thighs and heavy nippled breasts.

Like his wife Daurj, actually a brash woman of the mountains who chose beauty with elan much easier than he. She has clipped her nipples and seeing Artyphons bare shares a biting gold-faced cobra. “There my dear that our husbands think us not savages.” We first drank a round of licorice flavored coffee then dust and blood and gloom massaged away in showers and redwood lounges.

Formal now, moreso … SanJan has us dressed-out in pale orange traditional Minoan skirts and shoulder-halters. We gather under hemp canvas yellow-dyed while boisterous singing chefs strip roast pig from its bones. Laughing I think Minos has chosen his factor well. Never met, yet I know this trader from afar and trust him. Banker, trader, adventure … a Damascus Zoroaster, born of a Zoaster woman and Peijg the Knossos wander and son-after-grandson of a ribald Kings consort when the island of Hyrkon lastly secured from hoovering Utica. I try gathering it up, and SanJan frowns.

Another young girl appears carrying a jug of curry. “This is our youngest daughter Tira.” Again a grace curtsie of coltish thin legs. SanJan laughs at my discomfort. “Belabor your bowl, Cibias for I see from our wives excited breasts they expect us to belabor them later. Ha haha … frost for the stone means snow for the hill. All Parthian tribesmen agree … ha hahaha ...” and he laughs into both coffee and wine with Artyphons veil covering eager lips.

Minoan books written before the fires counted Zoroasters as struck by the gods and wisdom-struck travelers across the great mountains. From of old travelers who had without fear met both of the old races. Sanjan had been a Syrian Kings factor while I was learning my craft; as judicial agent he had called shit down on the Satraps brother for murder and theft. He was imprisoned. With Assyrian heads rolling it was common crime and common injustice. Sanjan and his brother , a physician had previously earned the rulers favor and so got out alive, exiled to a fringe and the fringe he knew best dusted with the wiles of Hyrkon. From the center of the universe to the center of a dung-kicking war between Sparta and Ilium … Sanjan and Sanjan, traders extraordinary, and some said still connected to the Persian court. I had a small indirect exposure having signed contracts for baltic trades and later, provisioned him with horses and caravan to Sardis.

Minos had chosen their station after the theft of Helen and the troll of Mycenae raiders. Damascus and Mytilene tongues overlay, though a Parthian Black Sea lift - - pointing to the original spirits of discovery - - was never lost in Lesbos poetry. SanJans had repaired walls and added ballista towers, as they retained and rebuilt a crumbling bakery guild. Here they lived an unsettled life. Their wives were dark-haired Kurd beauties who served silver trays of sweet vegetables and fruit and humus. Daughters laughter echoed from inside hallways. Tall chestnut tress overshadowed the fountain around which we gathered those same shadows smoothing armored shapes of the guards.

I was saying, “surely you must take the cash, Sanjan. I'll be exposed here for days while the olives come in. And even then you know I'm bound to sail for Syria, not for home.”

“Exposed as what … blockage runners for Troy? Do you blazen that on your foreheads? ”

“Had the Greek patrol caught us two nights ago we would have had Spartan steel swords between our eyes.”

“Listen here my good Cibias, you are not stealing the clams pearl while at Mytilene. So take your time. Play the supplicant, taking sulfur baths under the goddess protection. You already dress like Persians and Greeks are as stupid as they are lazy and vicious. Oh well yes Thebans thunder about on their Thessalian horses, those that don't throw them into the cactus, but why will they scour hillside thorns for lame olive-hunters when they can injure their brothers at the quay?”

“Zeus piss on Greek cleverness. Borophus can call down Myceneii at will. They are pigs really all bristles and hooves and tusks once their nose gets to the swill. They don't need a Hyrkonian trader crashing into them before stropping their sword blades. Just give them a sniff, then you've got to run for it.”

“Nonsense! You've been at sea too long, Cibias,” said Sanjan pouring me another bowl of excellent Lesbian wine. “I'll have my daughters lead you to the first of the the boiling pools tomorrow. Boil and eat, boil and eat … that's what the wealthy Mede visitors do!”

“Really .. do you think...? Hummm I've never traveled out to the Mytilene olive groves.”

“You do business beside pleasure. Mytilene excels in beauty, and the olive packers are strung like pearl beads along the road between hot-springs. My daughters will show you ...”

“And when Myceneii heroes tire of bashing their own heads what then?”

“We have some protection from ...” Sanjan threw his hands up ...”Lydians, Phrygians, Assyrians, Cimmerians, Kimmerians … they all ride through on the mainland … they all claim to support Trojan interests . But, none can distinguish trade from tribute, and none has ever set a sail or supplied a hoplite!” He gestured casually to the walls – fitted thick gray stone - surrounding his courtyard. “A traders wooden walls fly much faster and so are much stronger than these.”

“If all birds were silver then huntmens wives would all wear gold.”

“Cybele preserve the clever trader!” Sanjan threw up his hands. “Do you know what I think will happen? Some snake-ridden two-bit island or ismus city-state will grab a profitable trade item for their own, and with that one item crush out the other traders. More trade equals more war-beaks! Splat to the well-being of most.” Sanjans eyes gleamed evilly. “Does that possibility remind you of anyone, trader? “

“Carthage, my friend” I laughed!

How SanJan taled, of the Syrian courts, intrigues and lovers. Passing strange, that Hittite or Carian rules were not earlier summoned to run the kingdoms while their wealthy played. Lesbos had feathered a different bird, but more feathered and more beaked … for all Hector might now stroll its byways. Bright afternoon sun has long dispersed Anatoles wit. After noon meal - - broiled whitefish - - our van was shown to an apartment unit on the second floor; hemp rugs guarded the doors and running water flowed sink to sliver-capped shower to piss-room toilet. Sabeen appears once, to deliver an armload of Egyptian cotton towels and has again misplaced the cover for one stiff brown nipple. She is perhaps 5 or 6 summers younger than Artyphon, and willfully absorbs all exchanges between men and women. I slap her mischievous ass, before Artyphon returns from a toilet. SanJan and his brother had learned well etiquette of their Syrian court and its Babylon designers; in this new house they expected nothing less. Un-moved, excepting Artyphon demanded her tribute we slept through afternoon, evening and night.

A flock of noisy storks flying north wake me on this warm April morning. Artyphon still sleeps under our goose-down cover. Sleeps … for demanding scratches I drilled her thrice into the matting. She still wore the gold cobra taunting me … and I would have no end of her till she cried in wanton pain. Shit … shower in by-damn hot water from the roof-irons , then splash of flowered lather and my bearding’s away. Clean face I would see every day suchlike. Out the window … below the courtyard has come alive. Sabeen waves from a fireside, among a dragon tiling of old Babylon. Mother-of-pearl shells are carved, then positioned and fixed by a boiled birch-sap. She giggles spearing a rack of sheep-ribs … mine to enjoy.

Mykron has noticed her attention. When I come to the courtyard he straddles falsely casual behind a laurel. “Ye still Cap’N of the exceptional Belisama sar, and be ye faithful to its crew not the wenching many Cap’ns take as common.” I just nod my head. Just. Nod. Faithful to the entire crew- and have I not already one demanding lover? Backing a yardsman feet mis-roped so hold to the woman who holds your blade!"

Later that morning - - after SanJan promises a surprise - - Sabeen and Tira deliver me to a cave beneath a warehouse building. They are to adventure and I to explore

“Try these,” they offer with pieces of candied dry figs.”

“Toenails of Ceberus,” I quiz?

“Nipples of Venus,” Sabeen whispers.

Better foresighted and blind I claim a tender stomach. We walk forever into the dripping darkness till breath grows heavy and air bright with approaching sun. Out onto the hillside , several hundred paces beyond SanJans villa we come to the hot springs and surrounding berry patch thorn-thick and shielded by a run-wild almond & olive grove. We strip berries red and blue and black into weave buckets, till laces strain, and sweat and scratches demand we strip and take to the sulfur water pool. Golden flakes of sun on golden hue water. Tira has just budded, breasts and cunt-lips still small, firm and un-inviting. Sabeen … Sabeen has bloomed and would cling to me. Faithful me.

“Sah Cibias you would take what you like.”

“Ha my young vixen as a Hyrkon Captian I will obey the trade laws.”

“Have I not polished the prize any trader would accept.”

“A prize indeed.” My eyes steeled. “You may exchange with contract. I see a companion not an exchange!” Tears streaked from her eyes to willing breasts. I will not ruin her … seizing Sabeens thighs strong as a bare leg Spartan girls thighs and I have taken them young, felt their struggle and felt their shocked pleasure … thrusting her away … and as with a wolf-bitch that snarls at leading males and will not mate we swim apart. Cybelle you bitch, yet we have berries for a week!

This wet underground cavern … gurgling and pitching cold, splashing fountains into the gravel base … the water supply for Mytilenes entire traders neighborhood. Should it be ruined … Sabeen has become rough-spirited and returning to the courtyard takes Tira into privacy of a 3rd floor apartment.

I am wondered. Leather-vested and armed Artyphon and Daurj have been sporting at the archers range with a pair of Baleric slingers. At swinging targets under 40 paces the slingers have won every pearl, as betting is measured. They have been stringing them about their neck. Fifty paces and longer favored the women and their arms both bear gold torques the slingers woefully lost. SanJan and I head for an iron-wrought door in a building aside. “The girls took me through this door , then underground to find the berries.”

SanJan scratches his chin. “So it leads to many treasures. Did my daughters show you any,” SanJan murmurs?

Trick question … more than 2 answers … by Sabeens behavior answer known. “None that a sailor might trade, for his companions are his treasure.”

SanJan smiles wistfully … perplexed. “How he wiggles and squirms, the Hyrkonian monopolist. Ha!” He points at me with a long, brown finger. “The host does all to avoid business, the gods may testify, but it seems we do come to accounts today. So tell me, if run I must I'd run better with how much?”

This time we take a more narrow passage, one carved into fractured limestone rock. Dry as rock repels water. Solid as rock until one winters cold breaks the fracture and the first step … Our passageway open wide and SanJan strides away lighting torches every couple steps. We stand crossing an underground storehouse. I cannot see the end, for SanJan stops where the stalagmites hang woefully from the ceiling. But, the racks of weapons three benches deep along the sides I can see quite well. Some of the trays hold greased wooden rollers for quick movement. Who knows when the battle starts? Most weapons are bronze-edged spears and shields, but the dryness allows racks of iron-bladed swords and axes their framed wooden nitch. I smell salted boxes and can guess they hold hard-won, expensive, complex bows of the eastern steppes.

“You work for The King as well as the Island king!”

“Asher Dan with fain , but without bribe gave my wife her freedom. Save for her woman slaves she came to my bed untouched.”

“These weapons are why you cannot leave this keep-safe .. though it becomes a death-trap.”

Looking me square-faced. “A man is judged by full-faith toward his friends. You know this ... ”

“Why so little armour?”

“On the plains of Troy wild boar feed on the Mycenii dead : gorge on them. Priams leather-workers have no dearth of piss or leather. Taught by visiting wounded , Sabeen and Tira are already skilled in the armours craft!”

Spins my head, that Sabeen may have been under her fathers orders … the rule of his first king to test my worth. “What if you can’t get them to Troy?”

“Every friendly trader takes a few. Will you take twenty hatchets and a dozen long-swords? I thought so! Slip into Priams harbor one shaggy evening and slip out by 1st watch. Greek raiders expect us to pack our largest fat-bellied galleys and loose everything to their well-timed patrol. Who times them anyway. We are aware of no spy. None-such easy targets do we give them and Mycenii weakens with every passing season.” SanJan appears satisfied, and douses the torches and he replays his steps. “I’ll see to the transport … your Belisama has a famous hull and men will fight for the transport just to stand on its deck!”

Breaking so many treaty rules of the Trade Council … “I’ll do it.”

“Tonight we will flay a special-fed calf - to be soaked in wine of Chios and roasted over hickory fire. A meal to die for.”

“Minos always reminds me that the Belisama carries goods to trade for … so your mission on Lesbos gets maintained.”

SanJan laughs. “And I expected from you shock for my dual venture and instead … well yes you are born and bred a trader Cibias; giving even exchange as your style. Even my daughter can see that,” SanJan observes sleuthing as we climb from the cavern and enter again the world of light.

I connect with Artyphon, who has exchange the slingers gold torques for the pearls I gifted her. The gold cobra peeks through her tunic and lace vest. Several of our back-packs had survived the street-battles. Artyphon brings to the table both the papyrus rolls which labels each type of trade item and each calculated value and waxed tables showing the calculation. I repeat some on her abacus, then return the papyrus so she could began reading. “From the Belisama four-thousand cubits of Scythian birch plank, one-hundred and ninety tanned sable-pelt, forty barrels of Brit salt cod, three-hundred dried Sinope sturgeon, three brass gear-sets from … from … “

“From the moons maiden!” I break in. “ Sanjan knows we can't say from anyone.” I had one of the flawless hand-sized marvels and passed it over for inspection. “Names get tossed around... if the forge-master knew his wife was regrinding and polishing his own throw-aways and selling them out the back door for festal-change he'd beat her silly!”

“The Cyprians still do that,” Sanjan exclaimed approvingly?

Apprising me a dirty look that kept me silent Artyphon continued. “One-hundred silvered mirrors and twenty-five bronze pulley-blocks both from Cyprus, three-hundred amphora of bitter cherries …. and … and two-thousand Chersonese bronze arrow-heads.”

Sanjan chuckled. “Oh yes the arrowheads hehe. Far better than sulfur springs to get the Greeks boiling! Oh yes how the Greeks love face-to-face gore and hate Priams archers. ” Sanjans man was marking his own papyrus. “But, what of the new products? Already Parthians brag about the ferment your Marsaii witches produce from their cherries. Some call it Parthian fire.”

“Cherry juice by the barrel I have, but the ferment … you know Japhe flogged me for a year with unreasonable price offers. I have, but three old flasks aboard the Belisama available for your consideration. I'd have them here now, but for transporting them across the quay. Can you send a vessel?”

Sanjan briefly motioned and a factor appeared. “As we speak.” Then he gave me a long look. “Rumor that most optimistic oracle also speaks of another ferment, of a long settled fish sauce that Poseidon himself would envy should a mortal serve it!” He waited while I said nothing. “ It is said to be a Hyrkonian product, brewed to subtle Hyrkonian tastes, but fermented by the same coven of Marsaii witches as the Parthian fire.

“We also have heard those rumors.”

Sanjan chuckled. “Should any of those rumors have a taste behind them we would feel advantaged for a sample.” Sanjan and his factor pass a whisper. Then: “And now may we know what you will accept from our stocks ...”

Artyphon continues primly. “Three-hundred uncut Kurd gems … thumb-size and by-the-glass flawless … two-hundred yellow and one-hundred red. Twelve waxed-sacks of Kurd hashish and sixty amphora of Kurd poppy-juice. Three-thousand five-hundred glazed ceramic jars of Mytilene brine olives. And two-thousand glazed ceramic jars of sweetened boiled peaches.”

Applause breaks out. Artyphon looks up blushing surprised. Culture differs, here unusual for a woman to read the terms-of-trade and Sanjans two daughters had gone to her side and listen. They stretch out smoothly, long-stem beauties fresh to womanhood as lavender blossoms in pale blue tunics. Artyphon concludes. “Factoring one to the other it's four-hundred obols owed by the Belisama.”

“Four-hundred and three,” says the younger girl. Her sister giggles, then agrees.

Sanjan runs his own computation saying finally looking at Artyphon. ”Be so kind as to argue with my man over the poppy-juice. He has an interest … but really it's a small matter. We both see close to twenty-four hundred sticks of silver. Zeus beard surely I will run like the wind! Sanjan.” he called to his equally named brother, “Sanjan have we been mountain hiking this spring? Can we bear-up under twenty-four hundred silver sticks? ”

“Very funny, Sanjan. You have caves under the courtyard, and a galley at anchor?”

“One of the new Rhodian birhemes.” His eyebrows raised. “I see you have decided on faster sails also.” His voice then lowers. “But, as you know that craft does not really figure. Not for our values.”

“True between us!”

“True among all traders, Cibias. A man who believes in the sky above cannot even think of it being false. Nine trading convoys have come through to Mytilene this spring. All, but two accepted Trade Council papyrus; even those two, a Kosian byrheme and greenwood Naxos cattle-buss left their wax-marks. Both will pay!”

“The Etruscans, of-course. The Phoenician terrify them, as a few small colonies have gone into the Latin coast south of them, into the Tiber River valley and sheep and oxen stealing abounds. Then the eastern caravan sailed over on a pair of Carian war-beaks . Tired men … red-beards and slant-eyed traders equally mixed. They had the usually silk and jade and ground glass. And some of this ...” SanJan poured a small mound of black grainy powder onto the table. “If I put an ember to this mound it will … it will flash and spit and make a huge bang! The word they use is explode !”

“Like ground coal and rust? Hot!”

“Most certainly.”

“A thrusting weapon?”

“Indeed opposite! They make toys with it … sparkling crackling toys to increase the length of a womans pleasure at sex. You would think ten-times ten is enough. But, the slant-eye traders do not belong to the Council. They know paper value, I think beyond what we can imagine, but retained silver bars. Travel they may from across the world, but no novelty for them. What about your trades?”

I smiled carefully. “Novelty? Quite the opposite. The Trade Council just chose to bind me . Oh yes the Etruscans and Carthage bitched, but Hyrkonian ferments are too valuable, the trades too risky and camel-riding bankers too greedy! Ha haha I thought about you while they grilled me. Now, my value and the Councils value are one.”

“Congratulations my friend. No trade can ruin you.” A shadow crossed Sanjans face. “Will Carthage allow you to port?”

“That, or answer to the Council! Damascus holds a kings random of Utica gold. And Damascus stays neutral if only for the strength of one city .. Babylon. ”

“Can Hyrkonia produce enough ferments to create a real market and real profits for its traders?”

“ You know Sanjan, those rumors you speak of claim fish ferments are produced in Marsaii, by some very unusual women. I can say very clever and very independent women. You may believe Lesbian females have their secret ways, unknown and uninvited to men, but they are chatterboxes, parrots and crows and starlings compared to the mountain froken of Marsaii.”

Sanjan allowed a brief smile. “By which you mean the Cybelles bones will decide. “

“If Aphrodite still finds pleasure in her devotes.”

“HA! A well told story, Cibias, with a good moral, that the gods make we humans wealthy as they will. ” Sanjans frown had grown to his entire face. “Then why dear friend do you advise the contrary for our contract? What has the goddess said to you.”

“My friend, the priestess of Aphrodite is no longer as she was. She has become wild as Satyr. ” I took one long drink from the wine-bowl. “She has returned to some earlier life , to a time before our temples held her eye and bound her safely to those giving honor. Aphrodite rebukes me, should I say more. But, I can tell you what you already know. After the age of Minos ended, and after the Myceneii had been driven back, we traders built a new thing around and over our Sea. We built it many places, not just in one place. We scattered the rulers of this new empire like chaff. Yes, rulers and servants fall like the winter leaves at Delphi. And yet we gave it one golden heart that bears the name of Damascus!”

Crashing came against the stout gateway, a clash of bronze against bronze and the shouts of armed guards. Presently two household hoplites marched across the courtyard to Sanjan. “Some of the traders sailors ,” they said pointing to us, “and in Mars own fury!”

We run to the gate behind them. Telemydon and two scouts were standing there, stripped to the skin and panting, exhausted. Poorly used. We banged open the smaller side doorway. They stumble in . “Captain sur, the Carians are leaving port.”

I hold out a wine-bowl. “Ceberus fangs , Telemydon, from the beginning.”

“Beggin the Casp'uns pardon there's no peace in the harbor, none but for the Carian warbeaks threatening to crush the first raised fist. So Greek and Trojan ships stayed separate. But, the Carians watched you, Captain.” Telemydons shoulder was bleeding from an arrow-point slicing across. “They knew you had gone to trading. Four hours ago barges brought water barrels to the Carian ships. That could have meant anything. But, when the onshore wind got up, and coxwains brought a dozen captains aboard their ships I knew they would run . By the time I got ashore the Carians were weighting anchor.”

“And the quay?”

He finished the bowl. “We never saw the Kings guards. Now, the streets are alive with peltasts, but Brogues archers brushed them off the quay. We can still get through. Are you coming aboard, Captain …?”

“Did they attack the Belisama?”

“No sur.”

“Were you attacked near the villa?”

“Swine and snakes … of serious warriors no sur, but ...”

“Very well! The attackers may not be Greeks at all, but thugs, jackals, noisemakers hired by a disappointed Lesbian trader. Do we miss our profit here, and take anothers leavings while they grow fat?”

Telemydon looked at me like I had lost my senses. “You won't protect the ship?”

“Without trade the ship rots! Damme every day our trades fix the hull to the keel. Chopping wood does not earn it! I won't be driven away by thugs. I'm here to make trades, Zeus damn the Greeks!” I turn to Nykodeme. “Belisama … she's your vessel now. She will open her soul. You're the first mate; put your hand on her. Take our archers here with you, and take the Belisama to open sea.”

“But, Captain ...”

“No debate! We do it this way. Teuter and Artyphon will stay with me. Take in what supplies you can during the second dog-watch. Then get her out before Myceneii galleys clog the breakwater. You should find a headwind for Chios and trade-ready items in the ships belly! Zeus beard don't lose money on your trading. SanJan will have a special shipment to onload … about what a dozen camel could carry, so pack it in! Seven days from now, at midnight we'll be back in the harbor with loaded barges. If not then, wait seven days beyond that! Zeus bones say you find us fat and drunk!”

Then I turned to Sanjan. “Your family ...” But, he was not hearing. I wheeled around to Nykodeme and the archers now gathered beside him. “Go!” With water-bags and extra quivers strapped to their backs they rattled into the wild city streets swinging freely the courtyard door and guards slammed it shut.

Wind whistled above us through the chestnut branches. I heard nothing, like the courtyards breath and soul had died. Then Sanjan broke into a long, painful laugh. “Minos trusts I will never desert my post. So here stay my brother and I and our wives.” His face had gone white as if blood had drained away. “Blood is life”. He said. “If gold like blood flows everywhere then it must always flow to its heart!”

“Just fucking run for it man. We’ll collapse the tunnels and recover them later.”

Wildly shaking his head. “Serving here I also serve Damascus! That heart is about to fail.” Sanjan was staring directly at me. I said. ”Life is more than blood and blood more than gold. Life is the book of a mans heart. I will not fail!”

I shout. “So you truly serve two kings?”

Then Sanjan shoots straight up. He is crying. Color returned to his face and he held his wife . “No! No my friends. I see the plan clearly now. Cibias thinks we should move all our shared golden value to Hyrkonia! Saying that, Sanjan has struck a breathy silence to the courtyard, and then bowing allows his wife to lead him away. How appalled am I to be thinking nothing of the sort!

Sanjans daughters … they have changed to newly stylish Persian dress and brought silver plates of fresh iced fruit. “Tira is young; she has not yet bled. I will care for her.”

“You will I am certain. I will do what I must and whatever I can protecting her.” That was a clue; night torches were lit. A cook-fire started. The Mytilene Trade Council factor quickly excused himself, dashed to the wall and vanished through a doorway. Sanjans brother gave me the arrow-head he just removed from our young sailor with assurance that the boy would live. Two of our remaining bowmen joined a patrol that swiftly rustled out through a gate.

Lamb roasts sizzles as light fails. Sanjans daughters Sabeen and Tira return to the courtyard with a folding table and hazily glowing quartz lanterns. They spread a papyrus map of Lesbos on the table. It used the Minoan style of showing equal height by closed line drawn from a starting point all-way-round and back again. Just as Creten engineers had done setting paths for aqueducts. The map marks in black ink the trail we will take tonight, and marked Mytilene and four neighboring towns by name and with a sketch of trade goods produced. Beside it, wax-packs of dry fruit-cake and twice-baked barley-bread gather for our journey.

Sabeen boldly points to the Mytilene symbol. “As you see honorable captain Mitylene produces almost as many marriageable women as it does jars of brined olives!”

“ Oh … and who says that, my respectful young woman?”

“Father does, and he is never wrong,” Tira the younger girl piped in. ”Do you not find my sister so?” And she does a pirouette flinging her Persian silk trousers in a colored rainbow.

“You must excuse my young sister honorable Captain.” Sabeen looked at me full face, and spoke with quiet authority. “She means well to play the vixen, but is without guile.”

Artyphon has been sitting close to my side; her hand now circles my arm. I said. “I see, oh yes … I see how a loving father might seek for his daughters safety. Marriage oh yes by all means … sometime … But, perhaps forest glades and Diannas nymphs can better protect her now. You must know how they dash about recklessly becoming strong and wise.” I had to fight through Sabeens huge liquid green eyes. “Those nymphs may protect her and protect you ...”

Tira came beside her ; Sabeen smiles quietly. “You tell wonderful stories Cibias... I wish joy to your virtue and wealth to an honorable Captain. Mother told us you will not crudely use our bodies, but act as a wise king to his subjects.” The bunch of grapes I hold … I cannot bite into them. Her eyes flicker. “You already know my desires … sample as you wish.” Sabeen bends over to mark the map trail that Tira then inks in. “You can't know all the villages we can show you, or all the traders. Father knows this. Yet even a king is servant to his realm.” She turned sideways brushing away bits of gauze that hide a swelling brown nipple. “Once anointed a King must take what is rightfully his.”

Bodies stood between Sabeen and Artyphon. I feel like two people standing together. I don’t move. Artyphon says, “What did your mother tell you?”

“Mother told us what father believes … that Troy will fall. Priam will become crushed bones and all of old Mytilene reduced to rubble. Greeks will piss on my family and our land will soak in blood. Unless taken away our skin will become parchment nailed to a warriors tent!” Her sister begins to cry.

I say. “Your father?”

“My family... six generations in Mitylene, that is our family. Moon worshipers from the mountains drove us here. Father came only a few years ago; he says he will die here! Fruit-trees will remain, but of the people only goat-herds and whores will remain.”

“What do know … how could you know of whores?”

Even the evening torch flicker could not make woman of her childs face. “Mother brought two Epheus whores to the villa. As our tutors. She said they were gentle women whose husbands had died young. They were blameless women who meant harm to noone. They remained from full moon to full moon. We watched and listened ….” Sabeen eyes followed me with concern. I must have looked like one of those penny-jugglers beside the stage of a tragic play, where all the world has gone wrong and gods die while the juggler never drops a stick. Then she said. “Tonight, we leave in darkness, with the setting moon … if you can be ready then honorable Captain.”

And Tira cried. “Come honorable Captain the lamb is ready.”