Book Excerpt, no. 2
This is the full chapter of which a sliver was previously posted. This is a long read. Those of you who do go through all of it, you have my thanks just for committing that much of your time and more so if you respond back with useful feedback. Only some revisions were made from last time. Again, I post this looking for feedback that I can use. I know people will think of what they will, but, from my end, there is only so many comments that can be of any utility to me and a myriad of others which, either are too flattering and do not discuss what is good, or too negative and do not discuss the bad and how it could be redeemed, that I can make no use of. I noted it before and will do so here again, I know the writing style employed here is going to earn me my fair share of demerits. My defense in that is, as posted before, that this was meant to mimic how other epic fantasies and mythological adventure tales were written. In particular, I take many cues from W. H. D. Rouse's edition of The Iliad. I do understand the accessibility argument and of needing to speak at the audience's level. It is partly for this I even post this. If anyone would like to make a suggestion in terms of writing style, I would ask those interested in opining that make specific reference to another popular mythology-based, epic fantasy or something similar that one might aruge assuperior in readability or relatability. If you suggest such, I will at least consider looking into that work.
I left, this time around, the footnotes (in brackets) in place. Unfortunately, outside a word processor, this does not come off as well here as it does there. Part of the reason for the inclusion of these notes, from my perspective, was the need to try and be authentic to the genre and the mythology and use names and places familiar to readers of and people knowledgeable to such at the time. So, for example, the very first note explains the meaning behind 'Ophioussan spirits'. Ophioussan derives from Ophioussa which was the ancient name of the island we now know as Chios. The term 'spirit' is a term long used in older literature to refer to alcohol, in this case, wine. Chian wine, in particular, was something coveted by the Greeks, particularly the Athenians. Other example of notes used are those regarding the standards and measures used by the Greeks at the time period of when the story takes place (circa 1200 BC) and the time period the narrator telling the story lived (circa 400 BC). For example, the Attic Calendar, loosely referenced in the work, is a lunisolar calendar of around 354 days. In this calendar, Summer was the beginning of the year while Spring marked the end. To the best I can find, the Greeks had no concept of the 'week' but did measure long periods of time by days, months, and years. For this, in my view, some of these notes are invaluable, while others are optional. Could these notes be eliminated or minimized? Within reason, yes. Personally, from my experience of reading some works, I would rather preserve the bulk of them if to ensure readers do not abandon the work as they feel they are not read up on their ancient Greek history and mythology, which, I again attest is not necessary to understand the main body of this work. My opinion notwithstanding, I will consider what people say about these notes.
Again, those who read through this preamble and the selection below, you have my thanks, and those offering useful feedback, more so. I will try to take comments in the best possible light and not automatically assume they were made with malevolence in mind. With that said, I hope you enjoy this selection.
When I had quaffed some fine Ophioussan spirits and offered up a heartfelt plea to Phoebus and his Muses for divine inspiration, rose my lulled brain into a rapturous state, a plain of reality hitherto unknown. Flashed many wild and fantastic visions before my eyes as if I had been admitted into the mind of the Gods. Ancient memories of bygone eras—the times when noble heroes still roamed the earth and put right what frauds, discord-sowers, and kinslayers put wrong—these were all revealed to me. So, too were many mysteries which plague many a thinking mind. Where did all the heroes go? Why do we only know of villains in our times? Where are the Gods to deliver justice? The answers to these puzzling questions were all made known to me.
When I came to, I fetched reed and parchment post-haste. Less I forget all that I had sensed, began I to dictate what Phoebus and the Muses had revealed to me. Even now, his lyre’s plucked strings and Calliope’s melodic voice ring in my ears guiding my lame hand and informing my waning thoughts. Lend your eyes then to what my ears have heard for a grand tale have I to regale you with. For I write of the times after the war in Ilium, the times after all the famed Hellenes returned home or not at all, back to their forlorn kingdoms, their homelands stricken with dearth, death, and despair in their long absence. I write of the times when the dreaded Thalassans scoured the Great Sea and brought doom upon our forefathers and all of civilization. I write of lion-gated Mycenae, of its wealth, its opulence, its might, and its downfall under proud and spiteful Orestes and how his rivals—the Heraclids—at last, secured their promised throne. I write of the courageous heroes, young and old, cunning and daring, from far and wide, who aided the Heraclids in their ascension and who ended the Thalassan’s reign of terror. And I write of that most auspicious point in all of history when the Gods themselves quit the mortal realm and retired fully onto Olympus. Through blessed drink, through solemn prayer, have I come onto the mind of the Gods so reveal all that this feeble hand can write.
Many a tale my reed intends to put down, but here it shall regale you with the story of her, Teleia, the Amazon, and her ward, Barsa. My pledge to you is this; to provide you, as best I can, the words spake, the deeds done, the sights beheld, the locations travelled, the thoughts conceived, all that has been revealed to me. But know this; there is a time and place for all things. Not all can be seen or heard at once. O, if life were so, it would be either all joy one moment or all sorrow the next. Not so! So, have patience with me and I promise to illuminate you.
Come with and let us, with our minds, wander off to Cyprus, to Cypria’s island. We come after the solstice, after the first new moon of the first month of the year, fourteen since the war in Ilium. We come onto the western end of the island, onto Paphos, onto the court of Agapenor the Arcadian, son of Ancaeus, him of two score and six summers. He survived the war but was lost thereafter like so many others. Found him sanctuary on Cyprus where he dedicated himself fully to Cypria. To this end, he built a magnificent bathhouse, a pleasure-palace, the Eromanteion, to his patron goddess. Earned Agapenor favorite status with Cypria as a result and came to be showered with many gifts, with many lovers, and much wealth by her. Alas, she could not preserve him from every ill for with the accumulation of wealth comes those wanting to take it away. Built Agapenor his own little empire in Paphos, and for it, he gained the evil eye of far-flung rivals. Chief among his foes were Baal of Tyros to his east and Ramesses of Egypt to his south. It is a myth that kingdoms are fashioned after one man. Births the man the vision, but requires many hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, to enact it. Needs a king a talented cadre of artists, scribes, smiths, masons, diplomats, counselors, and other skilled agents to maintain his kingdom. Amongst these must include loyal spies able to make war and sow discord amongst his enemies and to counter the self-same machinations and intrigue devised by his rivals. And this agent took the shape of her, Teleia, arms-bearer and ward once to Penthesileia, now a seasoned adventurer.
So came this Amazon onto Agapenor’s court. And what an imposing figure she was. Stood she nigh four cubits tall, with sinewy muscles and bulging veins about her limbs. Sported she the day-laborer’s dark complexion having spent many a day baking in the hot sun. In years, she was twice the age of a typical womanly bride but looked every bit as youthful as an adolescent girl. Her face was ovular with a refined nose, lovely lips, but with only one dark-colored eye. The other—bandaged by a crimson cloth—lost due to injury. Her hair was dark and long, braided and twine wrapped; oft she dressed it with freshly cut saffron, her favorite flower. Laid these sable tresses of hers over her right shoulder atop her traveler’s cloak, a woolen cloth dyed with the Tyrian purple, the hue of Baal’s land and embroidered with gilt thread around the edges. On the other side, draped over her left shoulder was her recurve bow of yew and deer antler. Strips of linen bound her hands to protect them from a calloused grip whilst her left wrist was a-braced with leather to shield against the bowstring’s lash. On her right hand, she wore a thumb-ring for which to draw her bow’s whipping thong whilst her upper arm knew a colored armband threaded with the colors of the setting sun—purple, lilac, red, and orange. This was her clan’s badge recognizable to none save her people. Over her body, she wore a Doric chiton, saffron-stained and of manly length barely reaching to her mid-thigh. This she wore, girdled with a crimson sash. Atop this, she wore a breastplate of leather horsehide which had it rings which linked it to a cowhide belt. From this belt hung—from her left hip—her deerskin quiver whilst on her right hip hung her labrys. And her shins were greaved with bronze atop goat-hide as her heels were dressed in booted sandals. Save for a pearl earring about her left ear and her flower-braided hair, Teleia knew not the finer accoutrements we press our womenfolk to wear for she was built for battle and oft dressed the part.
With her was odd-eyed Barsa, her ward and arms bearer, him nigh half her age—thirteen springs—and a head shorter than the Amazon. Sported him dirty-blond hair, always unkempt and bronzed peel, which, whence clean, glistened in the sun. About his face, he knew bejeweled eyes: the left alike flaming topaz; the right, alike shimmering sapphire. About his lips he constantly wore a mischievous grin contrasting markedly with Teleia’s ever dour face. And whereas she fancied after few trinkets, the boy was bedecked by them as if he were an Egyptian prince. About his arms laid gold armlets and bracelets, these ornamented with lapis, emerald, and carnelian beads. On each pointing finger, he wore a gold ring, one encrusted with amber; the other with blue beryl. Had each an intaglio design; the former with a roaring lion and the latter with a coiled sea serpent. By comparison, his feet were simply dressed and knew papyrus reed sandals. Like the Amazon, he too donned the Doric chiton, linen-made, indigo-stained, which left his right shoulder bare and exposed his hairless chest. Like her, he also wore a woolen traveler’s cloak, weld-dyed, which doubled as a hood to protect from sandstorms. About his waist was a bronze studded cowhide belt wrapped thrice round. This girdled a cheetah-skin which draped over his loins. There too, about his waist, wore him a satchel pack where he stored his playthings: his knives. And many knives the boy had, ten in all, of electrum, of silver, of bronze, of pewter, and of flint, of all shapes and sizes. Too, contained this pouch his sling along with many smooth rocks as ammunition. Over his right shoulder hung the Amazon’s short-sword housed in a oakwood scabbard whilst over his left shoulder he carried her wood-hide shield weighing of over eight mina. And he held fast to her spear—two cubits taller than he—which he used in part as a walking stick as a staff to command respect. So came this mirthful lad, this little emperor, alongside the Amazon.
Came them, with heralded fanfare, before Agapenor to deliver fettered Dolion, Baal’s most-trusted spy. Dragged Teleia this bound man by his collar with but one arm and dropped him before her liege kicking him till he lay prostrate before Agapenor. Arose the seated king from his throne to lord over his prize taking great pleasure in this troublesome man’s pain. Thanks, he gave to Teleia for achieving what all before her had failed to do. Hailed Agapenor:
“Amazon, a thousand praises! You who have honored us time and time again and delight us once more. At last, here lies Baal’s right-hand No longer will he be able to draw his bow to make hunt or hold his chariot’s reins to lead his army! For too long has this man been a thorn onto our side. No more! So, it is a glorious day for us, and a day of mourning for Baal. Let him rue it till his life’s end!”
Howled the insolent Dolion and snapped that culled dog at Agapenor:
“Savor your victory while you can, but know sobering defeat lies close by for Baal will avenge himself upon you soon. Mark me! You and your infernal brach and her odd-eyed cub will pay dearly for this!”
Barked Dolion his last for summoned Agapenor his men to bring the condemned man before his dungeon-master to put down that flea-bitten dog. Thereafter, called forth Agapenor his scribe, Kovo, his ever-drunk chronicler, to come onto his court and give testament to the Amazon’s latest exploits. Drew forth this man with staggered gait clinging to stylus and wax tablets. Before the presence of his king, offered Kovo this explanation to his sauced state:
“Sire, a pardon! For imbibed I fine spirits but for divine inspiration, to better record your lady servant and her young master’s deeds!”
Squealed Barsa. The boy, ever eager to spin a tall-tale, pled with his lordship to regale him with his latest escapades. Beat the boy his proud chest and spake thusly with strained voice:
“Sire, permit me to amuse you with another harrowing story of high adventure and masterful plundering from the annals of the exceptional Lord Barsa and his Amazon mistress, the Lady Teleia!”
Grinned and winked the Amazon to Agapenor and nodded him in response. They knew who deserved credit for Dolion’s capture. As Agapenor was pleased with his lady-servant’s labor, so he permitted the boy to entertain him. And this is the account the lad gave of his and the Amazon’s exploits:
“Milord, quit we—your loyal servants—your court but two months ago to payback your embittered enemy, Baal, for his constant pestering. As wanderers we came onto Tyros looking for that scoundrel, Dolion. Along the way, whilst meandering through the market and ogling the fine jewelry, spices, and other exotic wares, we came across, Didim, the town drunk. So much alike Dolion he looked as per the accounts known to us that we thought to make use of him for our purposes. After much convincing and much sobering, he agreed to work with us. We bathed him, clothed him, and trained him to be as alike Dolion. Our hopes were to use him to gain access to Baal’s court and make mischief in Dolion’s name. Time and effort it took to educate him, but it was worth the cost for we were received by Baal’s ministers and did the deed. With twenty talents of stolen Athenian gold and silver, we baited them and claimed to have this stored in a ship moored in the port. A lie of course, but they took it as truth. Walking back towards our ship, we managed to slip away from our hosts unnoticed as Didim led Baal’s soldiers onto our trap. From afar we watched as they slowly came onboard unaware of the explosive powder stores my clever mistress had set up set to explode. Didim did well and followed our instructions to the letter. He needed to less he join Baal’s men in the fiery death that awaited him. Took him straight to the waters just in time before the powder went off. Ah, milord, you should have seen it! Two score men blown to bits! Four nearby vessels sunk outright with a dozen more badly damaged—their hauls and sails ruined by the flying debris. So lay Baal’s port in ruins, no doubt taking many days and much manpower for him to clear up. O, how furious Baal must have been at his ministers for being duped and at Dolion for his double-cross. We know only of the last for not long after, he dispatched a fleet to Kition, that rogues’ outpost on the opposite end of your isle. This is where we had tracked the real Dolion based on reports of former comrades of his living in Tyros whom we made inquiry into during our time there. It did not take much to open their lips to us for the truth milord is this: Dolion was a two-timing scoundrel. Too many shipmates and too many patrons had he betrayed to get to where he was such that few were them who hailed Dolion as his brother. So, came we to collect on his dumb luck. We arrived on Kition just ahead of Baal’s fleet. Dolion was our aim, but we thought it possible to lay waste to Kition as well. So, we employed our double once again to sow more mischief and convince the people Baal was out to avenge himself upon them for harboring a fugitive. In this they were confused, dumbfounded even. They knew the real Dolion to be bedridden and nursing a grievous injury. We had to lie our way to their good graces and make them forget their hometown hero’s infirmity in favor of the one we made for them. Not long after, Baal’s ships arrived. With our Didim, we safely withdrew to watch the ensuing conflict from afar. There was no parley. Once Baal’s men had set foot on the docks, they immediately came to menace the people till they relinquished Dolion. They refused. He was their champion. And where before they did not believe our Didim, now, with Baal’s men present and on the warpath, they did. They were in the fight for their lives whether they wanted this fight or not. So, the two sides clashed. The real Dolion, scared out of his wits, tried to make off. He did not get far. We had learned of his location and merely waited for him to come out of his hole. When he did, we pounced on the rascal and gave him a such a good thrashing that he will never forget! There would be no escape for the wily trickster this time! So, we took him in and watched as Baal’s men razed his Kition under false pretense. Milord, we can happily report it lays in smoldering ruin, divested of the vermin it once quartered.”
Puffed Barsa his small chest and wore him his signature grin, pleased at the carnage he bore witness to. And hid the Amazon a blushing smile, proud at her accomplice’s deeds—minor though they were—to this great undertaking.
Agapenor himself was pleased and gave much applause to the boy’s exploits. O, but how quickly he took to anger when he noticed his caroused scribe fast asleep, taken by the grape. Seethed him:
“Kovo, you fool, awake or be drubbed! Caught you any wind of our brave Barsa’s tale?”
Slurred the soused fool:
“Milord, not a single draft for the lapped-up vine quieted me.”
Raged Agapenor: “You wish to be made quiet!? Have at you!”
Came Teleia to drunk Kovo’s rescue. Interceded she:
“Milord, take heart. Here, avail yourself to this record.”
Turned she to meet Barsa’s gaze and see his pouted lips. He preferred Agapenor to be beholden to his version of the tale instead of Teleia’s Unfurled Agapenor the scroll and read silently from it to himself. When he had finished, turned him to his scribe to berate him some more:
“Kovo, you are a better fool than you are a scribe! Thank the Amazon for she has saved your worthless life!”
Came the drunkard onto the Amazon to kiss her hands and feet profusely till Agapenor could not stand the sight of his pathetic groveling and dismissed him. Whence gone, he turned to Barsa and asked of him:
“Boy, go to and fetch us this Didim that we may reward him for his service to us.”
Bowed the lad and left him promptly. Alone with the Amazon, now he could talk directly with her. Heaped Agapenor much plaudits on her, recounting all that she has done for him whilst under his employ. Let us not dwell too long on all that he spake but rather give a briefer summary of the glowing terms he showered Teleia with. Praised Agapenor:
“Amazon, you have risked life and limb for us on many occasion, too many to speak with a single breath. Yet, at every opportunity, without fail, you forsake reward. Not this time milady! We will not have it!”
“It shall be the same this time milord. For this one seeks no profit for her labors. She is merely an instrument, the enforcer of divine will. That you benefit from this is to your advantage. Think not to reward this one with wealth. Whatever you tender onto her cannot undo the ties which bind her onto the Gods for always they shall come first, and you, last. Take heart then and save your treasure for yourself or your people.”
Still he insisted and replied thusly:
“We implore you, reconsider. If not for yourself, then for us that none call Agapenor an ungenerous gift-giver.”
Still she refused him and gave her this response:
“Milord, it would be better for you to make a donation to Cypria than to furnish this one with reward for even if you laid open all your coffers before this servant, it would be returned to you or the Gods in one way or another.”
Once more, pled Agapenor of the Amazon to accept some bounty, scurrilous or not, in honor of her long service to him. Pled him:
“Teleia, we beseech you, if not for yourself, then for your ward. Verily he would desire our largesse.”
Once more she denied his generosity with this rebuttal:
“Agapenor, you cannot own this one’s loyalty nor that of her ward. Their minds, their souls, their labors, belong to the Gods. Neither he nor this one desire kinship ties with you. Fret not though. That your retiring servant refuses fealty to you does not signify hatred for you. This one wishes you but peace and prosperity in all your days. O, but, take heed, Agapenor, less you forget yourself and the Gods bid your former servant to visit their judgment upon you should you fall out of favor with them. Be grateful instead for what fortunes you enjoy less you become arrogant and suffer for this.”
Agapenor knew of this day, this day whence the Amazon would quit her service onto him. Long ago he had contracted with her; he knew the limits of that agreement. Her servitude to him was never meant to be indefinite and both parties understood this at the time. But now, now that she was about to leave him, now he wanted to amend their deal to his own benefit. Methinks, this is the truer meaning of generosity—to abuse not another’s charity. Agapenor slipped dangerously towards doing just this. Rare it is to know good and loyal spies as her; far too many turn traitor or lend themselves onto their employer’s rivals. From her, Agapenor needed not fear this. It was not her confidence he hoped to keep but her service for none, thought him, could replace her in her ability to secure his wealth and empire by hunting down and eliminating his enemies. These were his worries, not hers. Her concerns were to the higher powers beyond herself and him to whom she was sworn to.
Continued the old king to brood and pout knowing well that today’s triumph was indeed fleeting. Sighed Agapenor:
“Alas, we are beset by enemies, many and powerful. Baal is wounded, and though emaciated, still lives Ramesses. We fear the injured jackal and the hungry falcon more for they are wanting. And now stirs the seas with these Thalassans, these doom-bringers, these boundless marauders who call no place but their ships as home. We are haunted by enemies everywhere!”
Once more he took to ancient history recalling the long trials and travails of fourteen years past the details of which will not be explored here. This is the Amazon’s tale; not his. Of one labor he cited in his musings we will revisit later, that of the aforementioned bathhouse and its construction eight springs prior. It was then that Agapenor first knew of the Amazon. Since its construction, this pleasure-palace has been the source of envy to his rivals for it has attracted locals and travelers alike. It is because of it, that Paphos came to know wealth and prestige. Agapenor reminded Teleia of her involvement in that project and noted his gratitude for all that she had done for him since. And he expressed the king’s dread that his city—which he had long fought to preserve—would be met with a quick demise either in his dotage or his successor’s nonage. Longed Agapenor, as all men do, for more mirthful times when he had strength and vigor to manage affairs on his own. Pulled the worried king at his greying hair and despaired:
“War, famine, pestilence, consumes much of the earth, mainland and island alike. Reaps men little but death. With every passing day, slips the world into further disarray. For Mycenae clashes with Athens, Anatolia lays barren, and even Egypt falters. These Thalassans, these unmoored people, only worsen matters. We have known peace and safety within our borders, but for how much longer? O, Teleia, we loathe your departure for you came to us as an answered prayer. When shall the Gods send another like you to deliver us?”
Answered the Amazon:
“Milord, there is little for you to do. It is far beyond this one’s power to save you from every ill that haunts you. Only the Gods or the Fates can deliver you. Either you accede to their prerogative or suffer for them, this the curse of mortality.”
Bowed Teleia and bade Agapenor farewell. Had she no qualms with him. What gain she may have secured for herself or for the boy, these fell to Didim, their happenstance comrade. Reward she did know, but not from Agapenor, but from her true patron, Hermes, Herald of Zeus. It was he who charged the Amazon to deliver Dolion onto Agapenor and bring ruin onto Tyros for the benefit of the Cypriots and their commerce. For this, he awarded her for alike Agapenor, the Gods wish not to be thought as ungracious with their favorites. This too we shall revisit later. I promise, it will be of value then. Have patience! For now, let us bid farewell to the Amazon and her ward as they leave Paphos and return to their home in Samos and to the belovéd relations they know there.
We come now onto a strange impasse which bids us to depart from Teleia for a moment and turn to develop her shadow, her antagonist. For he plays an integral part to her character, so must you endure to know his story. O, but his is a tale rife with death and bloodshed, of viciousness and depravity of which will haunt your soul and leave you with disgust. Aye, to know this man, even to know his works, will be to look upon the face of evil itself. Do not look away! You must gaze upon it! You must know what evil looks like if you are to love the good! So, it is that if you are to love the Amazon, then you must be made to know of the Thracian.
 Of Ophioussa, ancient name of Chios. Chian wine was highly valued in ancient times.
 Muse of epic poetry.
 Troy and the region around it.
 Grecian demonym for the ancient Greeks.
 In this work, the name of the mysterious Sea Peoples.
 In this work, an alternative name for the Mediterranean Sea.
 Meaning ‘of Cyprus’, an epithet for Aphrodite.
 Time and dates in this work are partially based off the lunisolar Attic calendar. In this calendar, the first day of the month is the new moon (noumenia). The first day of the year was the first new moon after the summer solstice (June 20-22). The Attic calendar begins in Summer and ends in Spring. The months, twelve in all, are twenty-nine to thirty days long. Sometimes a thirteenth month would be added every third year as a way to realign the lunar and solar years.
 Greek name for Tyre.
 Ramesses III (r. 1186-1155 BC).
 In the Attic System, the pechys or Attic cubit spans 18.2 in.
 A natural dye derived from the Murex sea snail native to the Lebanese coast.
 Gold, golden, or golden-plated, depending on context.
 A tunic worn mostly by men, consisting of a single piece of fabric. This was generally worn in two ways—Doric or Ionic.
 Lapis lazuli.
 Dyer’s weed, a natural, bright yellow dye.
 A silver-gold alloy.
 A tin alloy mixed also with copper, antimony, bismuth, and silver.
 In the Attic system of standards and measurements, a mina weighs 15.2 oz.
 Archaic for bitch-hound.
 In the Attic system, a talent weighs 57 lbs.