We pass fresh red pits, where diggers have recently gouged and fined their iron ore. “Off the ground, faire love,” I heckle, lest Loki sprinkle death-breath mushroom dust upon thee.”
Surely, she in obedience. Foresighted - - Leutra/Loutra/Lootre damned the word has not warned us. As shadows lengthen and sky blue turns scarlet the first caravans of wounded men wind uphill, their ragged stinking lines surrounding us. Colors reflect every tribe sworn to Priam … from Leutra hoplites to bow-rangers from eastern Black Sea swamps. Enemies too slipped among these forlorn as torn bodies confuse mercy with empathy. “My mother she comes to me …!”
Souls kanted, woe by Strymons path. The least injured lead, bell-ringing and begging silver coin & medicines. Behind, blood-soaked sobbing and weeping warriors hang from their horses ; loose-shredded mail or battered plate play their music of pain. Horse-born litters carry the hopeless - - such as not racked to tree-limbs - - and rude battle-field physicians ration hashish and poppy and willow-bark; sellers of same count land-holders coin before measuring a dose diluted by ground horse-shit. Noone stop their outrage and Artyphon bitterly binds my bridle so I meddle not.
“Warrior I …!” Dripping the end of life humours. “Up we fly, had I but two legs this travail smooths my stairway to heaven.” Carried at a horses side, his hung shield inscribes Syracuse, a western Isle city with no dog in this fight. “Deceive the boatman brave sir.” Rage. “He gouged me red I took his head - - - Mars slay me ...” and a hundred beside each more shattered than the next.
Ganymede blanches and vomits on another litter born derelict howling without a jaw. Artyphon upon her without mercy. “And you would rule, dear Princess? Bind up a wounded with opium paste.” She drags her from the horse and ripping her skirt pins Ganymede against a litter. Linked now, together they wrap an archers spear-torn gut and shove a hashish plug between his teeth so the screaming stops. Ganymede slaps her … and one clenched fist beats down the maiden, peculator not in ignorance, but presuming dignity not earned. Artyphons leaning, teeth at her throat folding together bloody jeweled fingers. “This coin every Princes pays for bowing subjects.”
My wineskin goes to another. Waving a bronze ax … “Feckin Spartan cunt phalanx chopped apart our shield-walls like legs of chicken ,” who walked because he had two legs needing, but one arm for the weapon. Who fought, where-fought, how-fought was quite beyond any among the damaged. They all pass as a rainstorm at sea, and as raw wind may crack a yard so our resolve feels battle bloodied strain.
Scouts return and lead us galloping to an overlook. “Ants on the beach, sar if ants be metaled!”
“Enough said, good yeoman. Put upon your 2nd mail vests and look to our flank.”
As they ride off Mykron and I measure what must become our battleground. Risky for us, an armed force stepping lightly. Mykron and myself, the two faithful archers, two of Loutras crossbows. We would fight. Alongside, two Leutrian traders venturing now atlatl-armed beside the Corsican and the Kings dragoman hatchet-bearing , booked and pitiless. And the women. Sure of their courage; not so the undetected, nearly a mist of leather and wool clad behinders, following, watching behind thick yew-trunks or hugging an orchard patch - - - bandits I think not without a boarshead; for city boys adventuring they seem tall.
“Sharper-eye archer. “Haven’t got behind us, sah, now have they…?”
“Not as I’d handle an ambush.” Words clog my throat. Cut-throats they, random prepared to strip-the-dead or whores coin-cracked muse by death-fucking a squandered wretched male ready for leaving his bloody shell. Only mist, any or all or ….
Still the rocky edge looms. Looking down Mykron says astonished. “Waves rise, surf hammers, look there two phalanx collide. See the fury! Yet Leutras beech all shell and no sand, all around the curve : ten leagues .,.. no twenty though divided by stanch redwood, dunes and promontory. ”
“He’s saying it’s a mess,” I snip to Artyphon. Same from our feet as our eyes, this downhill glory view of fates path ; one smooth curve from mountain into the very beach! “Note though the copse of salt-sand pine … and the two opposing lines of slingers ….”
“It moves ...”
“I think not kind lady.” One of our archers near tearful exclaims. “Tis the land of Titans reborn. I ken wood, in all fixtures and forms, but to tool wheels and gears so tall … no simple work of man!”
“Not a days work boyo; count that on Cybelles left tit!” Indeed, twas no landsman sight: the inland sea and solid quay curving beyond any one glance, built of fire-shell & sanded-ash mixed and supporting no fewer than fifteen moles.
Artyphon learns near in warning. “Tis not a native harbor dear Cibias, but a machine!”
Nine docks sported metal forges sprouting near seaward ends; clanging windmills towered from each brick-faced end. From the color-of-smoke exhaled furnaces cooked pig-iron and slough slag into the brine. Nine columns of smoke rose skyward. Each mole supported a wooden loading dock at its bayside and a raised cart platform on the sand above water-line. What do you call that sort of thing? Workers scampering about covered the beach like bees a hive. Workers and warriors set to different camps and different columns - - one set loads and gathers while another reams and burns.
Zeus beard, I think. Sweet ventures burned without a profit to any! “Fools,” I shout!”
Not Artyphon and she snides . “Where else can Mycenae stop Mars bronze blades at their source? Forgers must do a rough, slaggy melt on the ore down here, then ship the iron/glass matrix up the hill to Loutra for wood-roasting. Then final pounding & milling beside these windmills … ”
“Matrix? Is that a kind of weave , or puffery and wood-roasting? I know Ganges iron comes from the furnaces looking like bees honey-comb.”
“Your injuries have not taken the fire from your belly? Then Wodens hatchet, Cibias after I bleed desire from your every vein get an Indus whore to explain !” For this heckling woman despair us our one-part-of-ten! Zeus beard I got more of 'don't even ask' looking past me.
I must weasel, as with a Sidonian whore who will disclaim virtue till her wet ass slips off a faux Egyptian chair. “Trade secrets of Parthia, my be-jeweled? Has Parthia ever forged any, but a copper hand-ax?” She quivered at me like a cobra! A master has noone, but himself to blame when a wife or slave gets cheeky. “I have never seen Alreks steeling forge!”
“Once my brother Japhe traded up the Rhone, and Germans came from the woods to exchange for sugar and poppy. Something their druid runes demanded mixed into sour rye. “ She quants. “These are the people who will inherit Sumerian base-60 numbers?” I can only share her sad eyes. Then … “ German smelters hammered & melted the iron mesh right before us, in a furnace driven by the black burning rocks they mine … and 100 slaves at the foot-bellows! When iron burst its clay dam it flowed paces glowing white heat into baked clay baskets. Char was burned atop each pig to keep it square.”
“Price most foul,” I suggest?”
“One sugar-bag and one poppy-tun, per pig! Savages would have bankrupted Damascus, but sugar is cheap for the Indus growers, as sons plant and slaves harvest!” Scanning the port and deferring. “Who do you think controls this fling of quay,” she asked modestly?
A slant rocket lifts high to the south its lazy green tail nearly pointing at us. “More pointed,” I say plainly to Kings clever, “where do we point for our greeters, Dragoman? Is that flair for us?”
“Indeed Cibias. Yet our stone walls lay among the pine.”
“Fighting has spread beyond those, invisible, covering the entire seaside!”
“Disdain not a ballista or wall-archer as their crossbows my slice your throat! But, a greeting? Find that’s a happenstance of armed men we discover once on the beech. The mole work bosses, or harbor master or senior trade council member have decided already. Or if it's chaos the ships captains.” He meant money was sure to rule, if a ships captain thinks he may run-in for a cargo and escape seaward … or not!
“More west Cap’N toward the rocket!” A rocket misfire chewed by Ceberus ... fears the potion well drunk!
Motioning I shout, “enough?!” Or if true chaos, I think a rush of bronze tipped spears will decide! Fair enough, a rippling rush I imagine, but do not say. Have not imagined a meshed crunch of twig-breaking sandals snaking across our fore-view. And with such optimistic canter and boosted determination a line of slingers and bowmen appear as if risen from sand before us. Swiftly - silently, but without care their first wall of darts and pellets fall ten paces short.
“Balerics you bastards! Sold for the best coin!” His whip flickers from one horse-flank to another.
“I thought Yishharu of Syracuse bound them,” cries Leutras dragoman.
“Not since Corinth traders exchanged him tender Pict boys for an ox!”
Grey charger dashing a whorl, avoiding darts. “Off horse and behind the trees.” His shouts demanding, our Dragoman. “Spline the 1st head your bow revels!” He foresaw as I hadn’t imagined.
“They are five times our number.”
“Baals butt-fuck get a dart into that nest-of-seven!”
“Each leather armour by three and the outer skin boiled!”
“And twice our weapons.” Our archer pair let loose a brace pinning one leathered bastard to a pine-trunk squirting throat-blood. “Can’t stop that with leather,” he chimes … as a pellet dings his bronze half-helm knocking him dizzy.
Unless you run, a small squadron at sea against a flotilla requires parallel strategy. I round our thin line. “Deny them flanks, till we’re a circle. Then it’s daggers hand-to-hand into their joined ends.” I am doing as our Mime had lead Artyphon and the women. Get under the superior force and gut them out, while a few archers stand reserve tickling their eye-slits.
Indeed they extend rapidly, and as fast we encircle. I’ve picked the five men to sortee beside me while Artyphon and - - - like ye the goddess incensed prayer when a cave-bears stinking teeth is all you expect - - - like sleet-pellets from a Cilician rainbow, darts and arrows descend from the woodland behind us upon the encircling bowmen before us. “Heads down,” I shout “while companions sleet carries the enemy before us!”
Fall Greeks do! Leather-crusted chests trusted and rudely betrayed. Corfu lives bound to their silver Corinthian medallions drop like Lesbos autumn leaves. The surprise attack catches both sides unprepared. Yet we live, while the archer assault hedges, falters and then retreats over their own bleeding wounded comrades. Arrows continue to rain from above us and the stubble of green-brown bowmen each wearing a Leutra feather extends beyond the enemy picket. And in victory refuse to stop the enfilade. Paybacks!
From above a man steps for’ard, sporting shepherds hat now feathered, wool half-robe and leading a shaggy dog barking beside him. Hat tips. That is all. Redwood giants and black orchids cast dark into which having bartered our blood bowmen vanish. The enemy has also vanished before us leaving - - their dead and wounded.
“The Shepard … Alaksa,” morns Artyphon him unseen before she caught his sheepish grin.”
“Could have supported the Greeks … and slaughtered us.”
“Just whom do we support? Skala favors the Mycenii while Leutra, Priam!”
“Which day,” I manage. Belisama has probably already tried darting into Troys harbor with SanJans load of weapons and what food Kalikrates thinks trade-able. Priam rejoice. Yet Priams child and ally Carthage would slaughter Hyrkon hulls like gutting sardines! We step over groaning bodies. No siege this, with mercenaries on both sides and negotiators gambling … both are stripped and wounded peltests slaughtered. Horsemen ahead detect no ambush.
I call around . “Next boar will require we cut our own bacon!” Riding out our van spreads for the same reason. “Watch for the horsemen, Mykron.” That seems the next step, in a determined attack. We all chat anxiously, moving from redwood and elm and yew forest cover into a sandy between sprinkled with stunted ceder.
Forest behind, now and sand beneath horse-hoofs muffles, we pause among pine imaging consequences and adjusting tactics for a peaceful approach. At slow gallop and pack more tightly our horse advance thinking one body worth a pair of shields. “Watch that tree-line Mykron. Archers, put an arrow into that bushy patch. Artyphon near me ...” Horse-hoofs raise a cloud. Before us thirty paces clear crashing curls of briny surf emerald green. Every eye sees a hundred veiled enemy; bronze mail scratches iron blade.
Then black-bossed cavalry pour into our flanks. Mounts all mail-girded … crying local support! A Mitanni metal lace, yet Mitanni do not stampASTARTE into their helms! Lines straight corners square troopers wear the horse-hair crests, battle-spears and winged lion shield serpents of Assyrian knights, and ride heavy shouldered horses, not the swift sky-weight corsairs favored by Babylon charioteers. Fire-arrows shoot ahead - - to no effect that heavy armed column yet make sparking ground rumble. We snatch weapons to hand and fall grim-faced into a poorly armed box, while the dragoman and Loutra guide dash straight for the well-armored right encircling wing. The Corsicans mouth tightens, but his charger remains flanked of Ganymedes mare.
As if for certain two fires consume us, eight heavy leg chariots wheel out from behind a dune north and come hell-for-blood racing toward us , spears afront spraying surf and flowering a cloud of misty shells. Chariot boss all carry the Zakinthos viper. Two black mares shackle harness; each chariot fronts a burn-wood trident for winnowing horse-killers, and carries three cheek-plated warriors thick with arrow and spear-points.
We are so different, we three parties of Lesbos horsemen ; our own two men …. brave fools … the guide, but he did not fight; Dragoman and our guide extend long-armed greetings, wine-bags fly from the riders saddles. Then I recognize the Mytilene pendant and Parthian charger beloved of King Borophus of Lesbos. Twas the Pharohs gift, that stallion and Belisama just missed the contract by hiring a Haetera of sixteen ripe years promises not the novelty of unbudded twelve. Artyphon mind-reading … “sorrow away dear love my breasts your comfort, but more properly speaking he’s King of the Geras Sea.”
So much they did not care, but for the chariots! Their column turns at right angle to us and tightening streaks for’ard into the chariot maw. Occurs once a raw moment of cleaving and thrust. Sound explodes; a lighting-stroke that enter and leaves ground at the same shattered tree-trunk. Gore mists the front line of that moment; horses and bodies and chariot-parts fly above the gore. Very singular, when a hull disappears at sea. But, the sea is deep. Magick when the same happens on land. Pieces drift to earth, then the chariots have disappeared, ground into wet and bloody sand under the horse-cohort iron-shod hoofs. Nothing remains … of them …. SIGMA-stamped warriors.
Borophus re-rides the carnage picking at bones with his spear-point and wrestling a gold torque from an orphaned arm. Rest belongs to his riders and they do quick ravage. Borophus bridles elephant eared. … his cup-bearer has drawn up the royal pennant, and our guides disarm, dismount kneeling before him and our dragoman is talking fast.
Then Borophus dashes right by him and over to us. “Kolgerasnis Sea properly said as we are Russ,” he looks west & growls toward Artyphon. Points at the stained sand. “They fought well.” Holds up the gold torque. “Hetman at least!” Then lifts his faceplate exploding red hair while bowing curtly toward Ganymede. “I’m Borophus should you care for a night of debauchery … ! Respects to the Princess and congratulations. Karl is my boar hunting pal ; he’ll swive you good every afternoon so Arktos eventide we will see lots of each-other. Wedding announcements come with the Kings own gold stamp and that pinch-penny never wastes a nickel!” The whore-master winks! “Would you rather I bring a sister or a mistress or a wolf Amazon bitch can’t keep her back pinned to any bed?”
Borophus looked slitted death through me. Ganymede holds speechless. Then the King waves his arm seaward. “Harbor traffic is heavy today, but I'll get you a galley before sunrise. “Sargent, Sargent get your ass over here,” he shouts. A heavily armored man fled toward us. “ He'll see you to a walled beach pavilion we save for visitors.”
“We see your mens armour ruffled. Any action against thesomething away from the smoke?”
Borophus spit. “So you're the trader Cibias. Hyrkons dolphin … or the Mycenii seal-shit. Why don’t you fight among the Kings sons.”
Reeling .. from a crap-way Kings intelligence. “King Minos would have it different. So I serve port-to-port. Trade Council stamped my codes and medalians last season.”
“I heard Carthage shit silver … hahaha … and you settled down to a Parthian swive also tweet the robins. She it?”
“Only pulling a clean dirk from between your ribs … generous and most handsom King should you honor us with trade.”
“Handsom eh … hehehe … well fuck Jonahs clean whale .. or whatever the fish. Cherry-mongers usually don't care, but I'll see to it, their masts welcome at our moles. Visitors by sea are thankful for an uncut throat; they would sleep on slag.” That picture wagged his tail and he chuckled. “ A Princess rarely rides down the hill. Actually almost nothing rides downhill into my port !”
“Excepting the steel of-course ...” Borophus said nothing. “You must have Princes by the dozen, sailing in. Hot whores or hot-springs they favor this time of year … that or the knights,” Ganymede asks crisply? Borophus curses again not amused. “This Princess has no intension of riding up the hill. Can we assume the harbor is safe?”
Borophus leans into his leathers and extracts a silver-wound code-stick. “Mole-master needs this, or he’ll pike your belly into sausage!” Hands it over … “He’s a taler for certain, so don’t spite his mouth or lost leg.”
“I snatch greedy at the stick and smooth it across my arm. Salute. “Sir you honor Hyrkon. I will return this token before leaving port.”
“Ha hahaha what a fooler you are Cibias. Should you pair up again with that Skala bitch lady-maid to Ganymede. Sabeen ,… eh? Hear she’s un-skinned … but ripe as an August pear. Never both nipples covered and juice drips down her leg. Find her and I’ll see my code-stick in Hades before I take it from your hand.”
“My stallion rears high in a cloud of black sand. “I’ll find the hull, the mole, and the harbor and fate allows, but Laches dried tit and boney fingers could not snatch away this code-stick lest I drive it between her mordor eyes!”
“Which harbor,” the King spit cruelly? “Mythemna is filled with pissed-off fisherman and Trojan longboats. “ He cut a plug of black-tar hash and starts chewing. Rhodians took Nifia yesterday … for whom only Hephastus knows, and Crete has four birhemes at Vouno.”
“Conquest by a thousand snatches,” I shout.
“If they had one shallow-belly barge and two cranes to move ballistas onto the beach. But, they have not! It’s a vexatious shore. Grandfathers grandfather shook some tin from a local creek, but even Byblos scavengers gave it up!” Borophus face a mask of displeasure hiding among eyes flecked by terror. “ I wouldn't send Athena with a brass girdle to Mytilene, but here?” He turns to look at me straight on. “Trust me stranger, those thousand ships Helen-the-bitch launched when Paris convinced her to play the whore? Not everyone believes that Helen’s at Troy, but those thousand ships are all here!”
“Toy-boats! I call bullshit. Most were not armed galleys fit out to drive Troy under.”
“Ore buses mostly, “ grates Borophus. “Just clouds of Phonician ore-ships fit out to haul iron-bearing sand from Tyre to the Loutra charcoal ovens.
“Maybe so; I've heard of Greek steel, but the smoke is unexpected. What are they hiding?”
“Conquest,” returns the shout! Borophus yanks on his horses bit and spit. “Smart fecking Hyrkon. Just follow the Myceneii around. Where there's smoke there's a pile of dead islanders.” Feinting a salute - - and leaving us three spear-men - - he gallops back to his corsairs. Like an angry wasps-nest his troopers buzz around him sword hands ready for blood, and failing that permission they catch up their horses and sift toward the beach.
I ask his Sargent, “does Borophus really have that kind of control. Hector is still dashing about, burning towns on the mountain.”
“Only the weak towns burn, squire. Hector's a pussy.” The Sargent laughed harshly. I never told him I was anyones squire. “ We'll drive his chariot patrols off the hills before spring rains. Then push Agamemnons faggot hoplites behind them; ever try marching mud in a pigs-weight of steeled metal? Burned bones should make quite a pile … “ he chuckles meanly. Then he looked around for big ears. His face carved hard carved as walnut. “But, the Thebans … shit half of them fight for Troy already. Brothers, really ... something about a goddess Europa … beat my shit these mages and their Olympic hi-handers.” He points down toward the beach, “And they control one of the two free moles used by food suppliers; wine and olives trade their own weight in silver. “
“So we can't deal with Thebans?”
Sergent slaps his own steel-bladed weapon. “Figure it out squire. While Argos protects you don't go shy and hide your own sword.”
“Fine with us, I tell Artyphon as we follow downward the rough trail of Argos cavalry, “except we take a Samo-thrake trader off the Theban mole!” I showed Artyphon the code-stick with its silver-bossed Theban club and random sketched handle.”
“This from Borophus?” Artyphon exclaims. “Loutra allows its dogs a long leash!”
Glassing the polished oak. “Samothrake make random scratches, and think nobody else understands their matching trick,” I say.
“Perhaps no adults! I was taught that as a childs game by an Mede mathematician,” says Artyphon with a certain put-out air.
“Yo Hyrkons ...” Sargent and a trooper assigned to him direct us toward a pine-patch and the rough palisade nested inside. “It will be no game if Argos and Theban horse patrols fight over who gets to match that stick. You can figure that on this quay all codes are enemy spy-codes.” There ride only fourteen of us, including Ganymedes slave and a Loutra horse-trooper who might have defended us from a angry owl. 'Owl', I thought .. yes, interesting … nothing of the Athenians to be seen on Lesbos. Are they at war with Sparta already? “Itching for it master,” nuzzles Artyphon against my cheech while her hands folly my butt. Damned frow’ard wench …
Sargent stammers. “Can't take you there, squire oh no, certainly not; though Sparta is mud and will be forever. Athens, though ...” he ponders, “cultured people likely enslaved then escaped from Parthia. They have seen civilization and taken warm baths !” He shivers. “Archers would cut me down before I got within fifty paces.” We bustle about Borophus palisade and the gate swings open. “But, you got a nice place to sleep.”
Inside know and the splinted gates close behind us. Blood and broken weapons and bodies litter the courtyard … this keep-safe has been fought over … “Who’s your tutor, boyo,” spits a clean shave Egyptian wearing an Assyrian ear-stamp. He rode over from officers mess.
“Your sisters ass, when her mouth fails ,” I snit. He’s grinding blood from his sword pommel. I ignore him. “But, Sergent we need to board ship from that mole, the Theban mole.” I might as well have claimed to shit on Jasons golden fleece and have fucked Media raw from winter to summer solstice.
Caught in mid sentence … a brace of black-bossed chariots races by, and a dozen arrows scatter within our compound. A water-boy takes a shaft through his forehead and goes down yelping like a pup and squirting life.
“You missed that one,” I call to the Egyptian bastard and he buries his face in a pitcher of sour beer. I pull the body aside, to a wood-pile leaving a small silver coin.
“Right thing to do,” scratches the Sargent spitting toward the Egyptian. He was a native, but Ceberus chews on them also … Borophus didn't give us a mud hut, but he did give us three of them. We dismount and shielding each-others back walk in our horses.
Call it a beach side villa for rustics. A sleeping chamber , a cold water wash-room and a shit-house. Cretan pigs lived better. Dug outside the fire-pit boasted an bronze pot-holder and canvas cover. Three raised logs formed an eating table. So was the horse-stable. Viewed as one defense, a wood palisade surrounds all of it, stone towers hold each corner and the gate broken three ways holds double-bared handles and supports four covered benches with arrow-slits cut above. While we poke around a detail brought flat-bread a pork loin and pot of vegetables through the gate. Our villa was one of three set around a wind-mill driven brackish fountain , close enough to carry water buckets and far enough away for the unwelcome to be cut-down should the villa owners become unhappy or needful. Very well, for pigs in a sty. Very well for a trap. Rest … while a fire burns fresh sole. We vomit out brine mixed with blood, drain our wineskins and precious water gourds.
‘Look beyond’ I prod senses overworn. Moles. From below dune sight-line finds three identified by banner and crests. Below Hectors brazen silver-leaf vest Troy holds one, Spartans warrior the second with bright red lambdas riveted to bronze shields and then the 3rd … that Egyptian mole held by up-Nile Theban guilds, wire-framed glass shields and a reef of Pharaohs archers. Most neutral of the three Mykron and Artyphon conspire my guess. Buttoned up like Ras harem. It’s tarred, spiked and foot-trap beech platform sits three-hundred paces south and bent behind a copse of low pine scrub.
I have no better idea than to crash through and see who complained. Nobody complained when Mykron, Artyphon and I crash armed through the gate with Ganymede refusing safety carrying wineskins at her horses flank. I drift toward the pine copse and free of knowing eyes put on a dash the last sixty paces. The pines stand bushy thick, despite the carnage and I crash through them head-first and short-sword slashing like a boars tusk. It brings us to within hailing distance of the moles loading dock.
“Boyos astride! Make way for the trades of Hyrkon,” I shout whatever smoking stump pushed through crumbled ash - - feckin-A terror my brain revolves without finding a hanging-peg. Mykron flying a Hyrkon war-banner of snake and bull I give a short loud shout “Eureka,” crashing hell-for-leather ahead holding trade staff along banner in one hand, Artyphon the silver code-stick and Ganymede Prince Karls silver amphora. Short-spears bunch as a single thrust horses flank-on-flank. Defenders … bow-benders all … they could have done anything, the archers on the mole or the four Loutran knights that broke through pines behind or right flank joust-spears stoutly wearing the space between us.
I could have shaken my trade-staff till the lead-knights spear ran me through. Instead I flipped a twenty-obol electrum coin toward his spear-point. He had Hecates quick choice to make and he made the right one. Prince Karl unhelms and rides pridefully beside Ganymede. “Bold Lady, arrows fly and eqach one writes your blood on my soul.”
“My Prince, this helm is double-leathered, the 2nd taken from an archer, an assassin I tumbled at the foot of this very mountain!”
The Prince manfully sheathes sword to scabbard. “Our daughters will give me grey hair,” he proclaims covering her leather-clad breasts with his mail. Muttering … “Tis a mans work, this slaughter.”
Ganymede. “Tis a womans work, providing safe her lords domain.”
Prince Karl straightens up as a man stunned and bows, but Ganymede returns his head to her breast. “My Lords servant,” she pleads, “in all matters of rule and heart.” Artyphon veils to restrain her smile for she has trained well the young ambassador of Skala.
Prince Karl undone, and thus returns in power. Re-helmed! “Then damned be the spears, my Lady stride for’ard … see to your corsairs from the front. Besured we faithful knights never leave your shoulder uncovered!” He laces a steeled gorgot about her neck. “Return safe to me … to our festive and marriage bed by damned Zeus beard.” He bows a last time and yanks his chargers away … “ Rioting Bacchus we shall rip virgin goose-feathers to shreds.”
Those royal four gallop iron-footed destryers as Mykron and I, Artyphon and Ganymede and Dragoman dig cross the last forty yards of shell beach. Royals have been attentioned by the mole defenders and we meet no darts. A horn-blast greets us. Cheers instead of armed mates-in-waiting. At the loading ramp I find a second and third coin and seeing him front in half-helm, slide from my stud and provide the loitering cynic mole-master with my code-stick.
Betwix a rounding hash-pipe talk runs a pace. Patient, valiant, bored … a stumping man, the tin-shouldered mole-master drunk as he should be and still work, island born and strong of frame as an old man who younger had sailed with the Samo-thrace whaling fleet till a fin-back ate his leg. He had logged my code and bit the coin. “Cibias, eh ...” he read my name twice ...” you're a lucky man trader some dock-men wouldn't abide a Cretan.”
“Some Sicily fin-backs I hear wouldn't bother with Samo-thrake leg. They just bite-off the entire asshole.”
“Oh duyer hear that now,” he says grim-faced and flashes a curve-bladed Syrian skinner by my nose so close the skin wanted to bleed, but didn't. Then he laughs outrageously, “ … har har I ain't heard that one since a Sardinian whore told me it. Har har she was so funny laughing away while I spanked her then cleaned me out … oh my .. oh my... my dear dear woman.” He wipes tear from his eye. “We was t’gethr five seasons, raiding some, spice-running tuther and ketchin' the cod for winter she worked a jolly net with fish half our boat-size. We were happy, then Hyperboreans came ramblin’ in those straked longboats , blond hair crank bastards burned our town and cut her into four pieces. Oh dear me … where duyr say yur goin'?”
And words hardly spoken a line of blades-men swipe at the moles gate guard. Covering shoulders left-to-right and jabbing short-steel weapons they bore a bloody hole through three lives of spearmen. Thick alligator hide covered in leaf-bronze protects their legs and chest: a wicker and wool shield their backs. They drill a fountain of gore!
Then there’s us … the mole-master heaves greatly with his hammer putting-down the first with a flattened skull. “To your left, Cibias .. and right …!”
Ganymede deflects two blades then rolls into a corner where one man cursing and jibing for weakness only wearies her front.
“Catch his blade twisted round my shield. Ouooo the cutter hurts ...”
“Cut low,” shouts Dragoman, “for bare shins!” A bare Egyptian head leaching gore rolls at my feet.
I dodge, duck … the blade slices leather from my neck-band. Chopping his arm into shattered bone. “Got the bastard!” And a blade slices through the redwood deflector at my elbow. Only the leather pad beneath stops it! Drop to one knee, and catch the next thrust blade-to-blade. Artyphon had caught a warriors shoulder with her short-spear and cannot remove his thrashing body from the bronze point. Down, rolling together in blood they are protected …
Twenty inline, resolute and wilding, but our spearman discipline, reform, surround and drive them back. Prince Karls four men dash them from the rear, putting them between two fires. Twenty slashing blades well ordered become ten. Mole-masters war-hammer decides as he shatters one shield then another till bowmens arrows send three live of the twenty warriors running and The Prince does not follow.
None remain unbloodied. Artyphons opponent released to his fortune. Mole-master serving his wounded: physicians and potions, witches and mercenary Greek surgeons cut. He climbs the stone-front keep-safe. “They run the Macedon leopards.” Looking down at our battered van. “Fought well, for sailors … hehe … Borophus likes thee, so now what will ye have, faire Cibias?”
Go large I think. “To rejoin my ship and crew at Mytilene.”
“Oh sur yur won't be doin' that. Oh no Zeus beard the Trojans came by and burned Mytilene harbor. Burned it down to salt-water rotted pillars and picked apart most villas brick-by-brick. Happened yesterday. Two traders escaped and got in this morning that's how we know.”
“Was one the Samo-thrake?”
“He was. But, he isn't now, I mean a sailor. Zeus beard he got an arrow in his shoulder, lost the arm and don't own the boat no more.”
“Coupla traders from Mytilene.”
“Old hash-pipers meant for the bone-yard.”
“So contrary Cibias I’d think ye spy! Both ruffians sailed in as mast-men with a share of the hull. Crew showed them deference for such unplucked young. Brash men .. too young to pay cash, but they did as their mothers tit flows gold. Handsome smooth-face lads ... nearly look like boys to me, or girls but dress changes robes to chaps to Median trousers and I don't always see good any more. Anyways they're on the boat right now.” He points far out the Theban mole at a row of hooded spearmen.
Around a small grill of smoked sardines and fuming poppy-oil Ganymede, Mykron, Artyphon, Dragoman the two archers and myself form a packet with Prince Karls lances grounded behind us. Peering the glass, and allowing Artyphon fifty strides seaward floats indeed a fast-rigged, long-striding Rhodian cutter of seventy oars with mast-pole raked bow to stern.
“Couldn’t exactly make out the girls Cibias, but the vessel follows SanJans description. Yards swarm with mast-men and four stand the quarterdeck.”
Ganymede. “Sabeen has the cunt for it.”
Mykron. “Making pretty good time, to Mytilene and through the channel ... workmans labor st the Shepard launched them with a chariot thieved from Hector.” Sandal scruffs at the sand. “Spells out like a trap lest the Shepard launched them with Hectors thieved chariot or a Belisama salt like Tar stayed behind to navigate! ”
Artyphon. “Had SanJan cutters survived both Tira and Sabeen would have tacked for the Belisama.”
Clearly I see … nothing … “ thread to die now and we may live!” So we dart over the Moles stone-fringed ramp. Foursome, determined, lucky … I think , as in this swirling wind the winds-eye appears anywhere. We had got half way out through the press of slaves when both girls Sabeen and Tira linen-girt breasts fair into me, smash darting from behind a oxcart and blow breath from my lungs knocking me to the redwood deck while their four arms cover me in bawd.
Sabeen exclaims. “Oh you have become so skinny trader. Has the ice-bitch starved you? What have you not been eating will you fall apart and die on us dieting only fish and bread?” She has dressed in the torn and stripped rags of Greek sailors where anything might or might not be covered; both had covered almost everything, now one open layer atop another.
“Saviors you two,” I exclaim.”
“A male crew is so cheaply bidden. And ours at that”… being a curtsy Ganymede would admire.
“Tar ,” I ask, “Tar and the Sheppard?”
“Both now composed and we standing they clap hands. “An ancient letcher, that Tar he said given fifty younger years he would have us both in tow. Was he a snake?”
“Deadly. But he has sailed to the worlds end.”
“Father SanJans vessel agrees. He put her straight before the wind and outran an entire Mycenii squadron! Our sailor-boys loved his one leg as he stands the shield-wall!”
I scan better SanJans vessel, and see all canvas ready to be thrown. “Brave man. You have gathered people behind you … sure you have. We salute her as I stand and the sweet-wine amphora gaily passes round.
Tira killsjoy. “We have one hour or less.”
“Swiftly, yes, by all Cybelles craft. Argos horseman have attacked the mole twice today.” Tira was sobbing under her boyos sailor-blouse, windblown naked if not for the boys rough cloak. “Why are they so mean?”
“Sarkoy horse-slingers tried burning us out while you slept,” tales a scarred, but sturdy dockman. We taught them how a saddle busts your balls!”
Come to that, Europa entire have turned against Priam. “Do these hovel-bands see the Greeks as equals .. ha hahaha …!”
“Agamemnons gold - - part Silycian part Minoan part … scoffs a piratical black-footed mastman by his callous and by his foot fit for a hard death.
“It's what your father feared, when men cannot find their betters.” I turned to Sabeen. “Two hours sounds about right. We're put up in a villa a half-league south on the beach. If I start back now I can make your time.” I turn to go. “Did you get word of Mytilene, of your family?”
Sanjan bravely weary. “We returned from Skala by the coastal chariot road so widened by Hectors cohort. Returned just as the street mobs started to battle the Myceneiis. People killed and died for no reason. Mytilene was burning street by street. Father sent us to the boat with his brother and his gold. His brother took an arrow boarding … we never returned as the harbor filled up behind us with Trojan longboats. But, secrets? Our signalman got heliographs from the house till it fell. Our home is burned; the women are dead; father is dead. His Rhodian craft is very fast.”
“We must run very fast and very hard - - just as Tira advised,” I say to Sabeen fixing her eyes. Subtly was not an issue. “If trust allowed we’d join you here, but we need return to Borophus palisade as a matter of honor. Then we will make for this mole and your cruiser may Astartes sickle and the hammers of Odin visit our hands.”
Arguments drop away. Tira and Sabeen make for the SanJan, rushing through a phalanx of Egyptian slingers and spears while we scurry back to the moles tarred gateway. Moira and Horus conspire. From mole-masters keep I spy Sabeen and Tira reboarding their trade-cutter and we prepare returning to the Loutra palisade. I feel time slipping, wasting, and my own blood grows cold.
Argos scouts already appear at the beaches north end shuffling along the tree-line and they are shadowed twice-over by Theban heavy cavalry wearing greaves and breastplates and looking for a fight. Two moles closer a black-hulled galley has crashed into a pitchy oarship and both sit dead-water - - flames beguile - - as opposing crews hack bodies and shrouds apart. Scattering along the quay men fight single combat against other men; two approach me and I throw stones at them and they run. Dogs! Yet our two archers not twenty paces away engage two Athenians bolt-for-bolt. Purpose vanishes … chaos rules as what appears meant becomes accident without one intent one place one reason or one outcome, but a steady slippage into a blood-coated and purposeless melee of any against all.
Suddenly our horses appear, haltered by Prince Karls men as he pickets a single pikeman brazen for glory against a royal helm. The mole-master calls in two Argos troopers, and his horn-blast sends us all in a wild dash across the sand and into the pine copse. The distance was quite short without a column of troops to slow you down; the scattered spear-man we chop at with our blades and run beneath the horses hooves. With a shout to Ganymedes waiting watchmen I hit the opening palisade gate at full run. The Argos Sargent and his trooper sit by the washroom unarmed., while our group gathers ‘round the firepit. Coins hemp with time money and money life we arrange sword and spear-points sharpened and horses ready.
“Whose horse,” shouted Ganymede as I dismount and the group gathered round.
“Sabeen and Tiras I shout,” and Ganymede laughs. “Their ship is waiting. We have no time; take your spears , mount up and we will make a dash for it.”
The Loutra dragoman sits on a bench chewing hash-gum with the guides and emptying a copper handled flask of beer. His opinion of adventure was well-regarded by the hoplites. He would not fight, but takes the two guides and Ganymedes female slave out the back of the palisade with the two Argos men. As supplicants they would be safe as rough justice allowed, among the mixed hillside forces and under the threats of Loutra revenge. I give each a gold Syrian stator and wish them Cybelles grace.
The Sargent whacks me across the head and shoves a stiff Argos wood-stripped leather helmet into my gut. “A man in battle without a broken nose is a marked man. Don't fuck around, trader go straight ahead and spear the first man comes after you in the throat.”
“Do batter than that, Hyrkon bastard!” Borophus marches from the shower, lopside bronze battle-crown, loins girt in a daggered woolen wrap and hand squeezing a naked hardass whores cheeks. She’d take his best and give some I figured.
Smiling I unhorse and walk beside them. Slap the code-stick into his free palm and squirt a stream of my only remaining Chian wine into their mouths. Bend a knee. “Here’s the codestick King Borophus. Honor served! I see your troops are well-in-hand.”
He brays a laugh. “Brave as this one, an army I’d conquer the world , from green Isle to the Ganges River.”
“Some day some one may try. It’s a fail for a king, but philosophers will try.”
“Yes, in fact I have taught at academy, but master expelled me for the Hebrew heresy. Said gods like victory is soft, but the Moses-men buy iron to strike disbelief. Can you believe that?”
“My woman strikes me, and best you not let your own too free.”
“She shares my sword and my loins … what can I do?” Borophus hacked on a hash-pipe. “Leave that philosophy crap for your elders, Cibias. Your enemy sits before you. Good fortune … chop off the 1st mans balls … the rest will run!” We cross arms and he staggers away, shedding guards toward the four-story rock keep-safe he calls a castle.
“We try,” I shout. I say I'd try. Bodies close in. That leaves seven of us; the Corsican refuses to leave Ganymede flank uncovered. We seven , and against us a thousand arrows. The best body we can wear is an archers light leather armor. Hoplites behind walls consider us insane and will not release us till each holds a small silver coin beneath the tongue. Ganymede, Artyphon, Mykron, the Corsican and myself ; we belt chest-guards, cap our heads , hold our spears at port and break across the open villa gateway. Black pillars of smoke shoot skyward, at both hands but the path between pine copse seems clear and we beat for it at full gallop pounding through the loose sand and eating the spray. With howls of war around us tis riding into a Brahman Ganges void , till we see four horsemen at the edge waving us on, them bearing spears and watersnake-shields of Theban knights. Of the two Thebes … Egyptian well a 1000 seasons again uncountable and Thebes of Oedipus twas the Mycenii approaching.
Stopping didn't figure for the men hacked the arm from a stealthy Theban slinger and lead us straight on through blood-spray and the pines; I hear the shouts and bronze rattle of sword upon sword in front of us, and when we broke through the pine fringe we broke into a wild cavalry melee of flying bronze hatchets and buzzing lead sling-pellets. Around us a dozen men joined sword to sword, arrows darting from the mole striking bloody holes and streams of armored pike-bearing corsairs flowed into the battle from both ends. The Corsican rides behind me, and has sent his bolt through the cuirass of a owl-shielded mounted archer. I heard the grunt and looked back ; he had taken an arrow through the eye and was falling … A lambda-bearing swordsman swings into our path, and three spears rip off his head and send it rolling into spear-men who for'ard shields crossed pikes only to have hatchets swing from the side blowing apart their brains.
Front of our van I’m screaming and pounding on Ganymedes back to go faster. Such terror cannot be understood. You fight the shield-wall drunk and enraged, but the cavalry charge is more like fucking a woman who does not give , but makes you take her while she strikes blood from you and yet fucks harder every second ... our eleven horses rise and fall in n umber as companions join, unhorse to screaming or wing to another more hotly contested shield-wall. Wild berzerkers flail about the enfired mole-path spewing pellets of tar and bronze and lead and iron. Blinded yes, except by a 2nd sight all seem to bear! We hit that melee as a single spear-point shoveling wet red spatter before us and break through to the loading ramp already filled steaming gore of ripped, crumpled bodies. Stricken horse and transfixed hoplites continue to twist and fall screaming in the path we have cut through.
‘Oh you must die … but wait for tomorrow ‘ … my tutor … One instant I am stuck to companions among enemy weapons weeping guts, grinding down as suffocating thick as ocean riptides. Then a cordon of leather-arm red-hair mercenary spear-men seal behind us and strong arms of the dock-labor lift us to the planks. Only our sandals burn. Artyphons spear is shattered, the bronze tip of mine bloody. We whorl around to face iron helmed savages thrusting away the enemy. That's a hard thing, to realize when you no longer need to strike. Where my hand-ax would have fallen the red-hair now a wineskin douses his face spitting thanks for warriors before him hector so.
The Russ & Macedons wear iron breast-plates, stand four deep before the mole and from a leather waist-cup bore out in front of them twelve-cubit ash spears. Furies incarnate, they reeking death and killing everything coming before them. The mole-master himself was in full armor and carrying a Macedon cross-bow. He was laughing like a drunken idiot , a half-man half-bull in the shield-wall,
drinking from a bored bulls-horn and hooting “Ulysses, Ulysses to me to me !” Then shouting over his shield-bearer, “Eh Cibias get the women to safety while I find some assholes to eat!” Rage boils over, that battle rage. He laughs a maniacs wild laughter and strides toward center of the fighting.
The crash of bronze sword-edge across shield echoed along the now empty mole. Retreating toward the moles end, and the SanJan we watch the whole unreal scene, how a man poised to slaughter again with the sharp bronze blade was cut-down by a fellow ax-wielder in blood-spray. Column after column of spear-wielding corsairs crashed spear-point to shield along the whole curve of beach. Palisades burned fiercely. All the moles come under attacks, first by one Greek column , then the other and some I thought by raw, ravenous unmarked shields of pirates. Even the double-recurve Trojan shields sweep though open spaces along the quay. I cannot see who they fought and perhaps they did not know.
On the Theban mole workers and slaves have moved to the beach-side , working ballistas and slings to defend that end, while sailors had all returned to their crafts to protect against sudden seaward attacks. On other moles fires burn among ships. On ours mechanics direct a water-pump against some traders flaming bow, while Myceneii sailors afloat from a sunken galley are methodically hunted down in the wreckage and speared.
Sanjans daughters carrying their own cross-bows run down the mole to meet us. We have clothes on our backs , coin-sacks and our dirks. Argos hoplites have gotten a push onto the Theban mole and you could smell violence dragging its bloody hands closer. Shaved body Egyptian slingers cannot stop them. Mykron blocks an arrow directed to Sabeen and his shoulder bleeds like a pig. As we straggle toward the ship Tira and Sabeens crew have released lines and lifted anchor holding dockside by sheeting against the eastern wind. I carry Mykron at the end ... There's a kind of horror in what happens between certain destruction and possible salvation, because of-course those twins balance as humans and not as machines measure balance. Of the hooded men, all have gone below, to the bilge or novelty pump-room of threaded oar.
I allow‘tis looking myway! A human carries unjustified hope and even a trader must live in those two opposite worlds. Steps become very heavy for me and very long and very slow. I never feel the strike of a lead sling pellet. Then I believe we flew, but I remember Cybelle grace uncovering faire skin and slipping peacefully into a rush of cool water.
Philosophers argue what differs the Fates when life ends? Onboard and outward bound makes no difference to the shining light that appears just before death - outbound to the shades - a fight from the stern-rail - boarding pike against ballista as waves carry the strike-shafts from above to below the water-stripped hull or the shield wall standing five deep in frozen mud and reeking of shit and sour beer and piss-covered sweat as long-shafted spears prod and gouge and simper after your blood – oh no though you are frightened beyond sanity it's not the death that makes you vomit in fear , but the single cold thought of carrying on yourself, an unarmed, half-alive cripple while your comrades leave you behind. Behind, unwanted, and the enemy boots thud closer … Alrek says the Norsemen hold this Heil, an evil mans mark of corruption.
So dreaming Artyphon bedevils her love upon me. Rude glass cup … she forces willow-tea down my throat. It feels hot and tastes of the powdery residue witches say conceals every meaning , semiotic the knife-edge on which you rest and from which pain slips away. Artyphon says Sabeen Captains. Likely wench! We have been got up with a lateen-style ocean trader carrying a big slant sail and crisp Rhodian hull that runs from corsairs every week. Hull, mast ans canvas it claws after a stiff south-west breeze.
“Another day and he’ll find a path.”
Not Strymons dark stones I fear. ‘Missed that tack, I humm in judgement of unseen crew. A determined if uncertain sailor watch scratches for'ard from chaos. I know that myself, not mocking the fortune laying on a bundle of straw and feeling the hull overwork in chop. My head lay in Artyphons lap and screams; the Sargents leather and woven fiber helmet with glass beads has broken the pellets force and saved my life, Artyphon says, but I do not hear. I think death favorable, failing my task, failing Artyphon … but that's nothing after all if you are dead. But, the difference, when a robust Minoan state sent boat-loads of its young to prime a desired action and at that far-away island not one sword is carried among them.
Sticky, my arm smelling of sweat and mountain flowers; I stop bleeding. Boyos laugh , and appears a bench and canvas cover toward the ships stern. Mykron and Ganymede and Sanjans daughters so quickly over-proud to bear a tear sit around the tiller-man swapping tales they hardly understand of lee-shores, rocky and hard-won, and savage retreats from foul beaches as a bow-wave creams over the larboard rail. But, they have stood the line, steady and fired their bolts, setting bullhide and lemon-wood shields against bronze points and a man could do little more. Evening grew, but they jabber on, too young to be tired. And though the channel was narrow, and enemy bolts in array pick at our hull the navigator shuns safety. “On the cinnamon trade I’ve seen crocodiles long enough to span this channel,” he cranks. “Teeth crush your helm while arrows bounce away.
His track forms a dodge, skirt and a waffle; noone trust his hand steady as a waving barley field not yet beer. A rock-sling strung to posts dug channel-side sweeps away our four-man ballista. Yet as the moon come full SanJan breaks free of Loutra Bay into open silver sea. “Et one a’ those croc tails,” rails the navigator. “Not bad as Spartan gruel cooks, but worse than Athens pussy when you get the wench away from mother.”
For two days we fly an Egyptian mizzen and foresail. Sanjans clever Rhodian hull will let us do that, clawing back to the Mytilene harbor. We became part of a fleet tacking across the harbor entrance , neither wishing to be trapped inside nor desiring another to prevent us. Greek, Trojan, Syrian, Egyptian … like each craft waits for a twin. I wish that; the wish confounds by two Argos galleys, an Athens birheme, two black-sailed Trojan blockade runners and a high-tailed Egyptians plank voyager. Flattened at the waist for speed. A Carian cruiser its arrogant bronze beak twitching now this way, now that had somehow got between all five. Rulers do that – get between unruly subjects and backhand them.
“Baals asshole, Captain,” said Hekateas, “look at that Egyptian two-mast galley. I've never seen one trim for battle like that. Must be sixty rowers at least. And look at the banner; hooked crosses. That's Hectors war-bitch. with a bust of the raped nymph Alkippi as masthead.”
“It's certainly big enough to hold a chariot and horse-team. Can Hector imagine anything, but butchery?”
“He's supporting the Carians though, by blocking a side-thrust from the Greeks.”
Any warlord, I thought, wants to call the tune of battle. Not for long. The Carians were backing off, through the breakwater, making a fighting defense of it … had they tried separating Greeks and Trojans … while both Argos and Troas cutters maintained a stream of ballista firebolts toward them . The Carian was three times the size, but harassed larboard, starboard and bow they could barely hold off the boarding crews gathered on the cutters decks. Finally they pitched their dead overboard, turned tail and ran for Cos. Carian war-craft burning off the coast of Sicily … or Nordland … or the Ballerics ... I would not mock then as captains of Crete had seen that for a thousand years by 4 in the time of young earth , when the golden sails of Atlantis sailed beside them … before the volcanos.
I had never been told or read of a Carian running … our craft … a runner not a fighter with at that a full belly of trade ran to windward where Zepher himself could never run us down. We fought only the war of uncertainty. Those nights Teuter sat alone on the tiller-oar, navigating the northing wind while Sabeen nursed his wound.
Hello? Pure tears weep. We wept for lost companions pure tears in joy. A rough sea may extend mercy, when a rough pirate flanks your trading buss. Or a blizzard exhale air-of-pity from a lion crouching and roaring upon your trail. On our third night Belisama code-lamps glow through Lesbos southern mist and Her hull flies down upon us rudder keening and round shoulder bow wave scouring heaven.
Belisama and SanJan sail in line till daybreak when we come under the Belisamas lee and beach beneath a small overgrown temple; tis a narrow, rascal-deep cove on Lesbos rocky western coast so we pitched ashore and thew anchors bow and stern before any amenities. Natives fly from the too-long pier … a people once ambitious in trade, but no longer and we set bowman sentries ordered to fire last not first. Turned formal, release of command , and Kalikratus makes much of his logbook key transfer from his palm to mine.
“I see top-gallant yard repaired. Any trades to report, Kalikratus?”
“A blast snapped it. Split ceder and pine nearly replace redwood. Two wash-women exchanged for a canvas stitcher.”
“Trading two women for one may be viewed as presumptuous.”
“Two … refused to clip their nails and so washing sheared sailor-tunics to the left-side and to the right.”
“Hummm … a serious matter. And the one?”
“Sharp-eye and busy-fingered. Can patch with a needle in both hands, makes up for her lacking both feet taken by a pier-side dogfish.”
“Well chosen trade Kalikratus.”
“But, less than that of Troy.”
“No offense, Cap’N … you encourage venture! We gained, selling SanJans bronze, iron weapons and 60 baskets of limp cabbage, carrots and shrunken melons. We returned forty fists of garnet for the Hyrkon jewelers. And ten clear egg-size raw rubies. Theban glass-men will sell their first-born for such stones.”
“Worn down? Mycenii ships prowl like wolf-packs.”
“Not Priams men of Mars ; 1st warriors wear the glass of Egypt!”
“But, starving they?”
“Fat men eat always. Certainly Priams barley fields are ash and their nut-trees tinder. Nobody yet eats their shoe-leather, Cibias, but desperation approaches. Whose priests sacrificed & burned first daughters of royals, those babes are now eaten!”
This secret has sickened the crew, thinking they would starve on hash-plugs before eating their yard-mate. Fearing Diannas curse for their raw trade And cod never fails a sailor, cod or tunny. Such fear becomes a silent parasite draining a boyos elan. I succor them. “Fat lambs we burn for lost children, as for warriors. And Belisamas crew swims in sailors share of profit - - the goddess favor shown!” I must imagine a way they keep, grow that value for family and future” They howl at me and turn hymn to bawd the women not despairing, but cheering promise.
Evening lengthens. I think not Minos leg-tax - - not toss it to grasping Sidonian hetarea or the poppy-ravaged gambling dens of Syracuse. I call for strings; men from lower decks and three instruments appear. Tunes of the fantastic! A dove is released for a firearrow to pierce its breast. Ganymede dances, to mastmen flutes as a royal peace-hostage among all. Then joy for life breath still breathed exploding across hulls swarming with friends of a dozen adventures. Kalikratus and Faelon, Tar and Nikomedes, NaziBu and Pflur and Mykron. Blood-spilling wounds mend. Broken legs bind true. Curses die forgotten with exchanges of drilled pearls. Men jig on top-gallant yards and we sing Cybelles paean to the stars.