Merlin the Archer, part 4: Slave Warrior


Slave Warrior

I was going to go and leave my honey pot with Akil the barterer and then visit with the villagers in the marketplace, for it was Ock’s day when all came to trade and talk. But I didn’t really want to go into town and see all those people right away, so I stopped above the trail on a hillock and slept for a few hours. When I woke, the sun was trending lower over the sea. I knew there would be maybe two hundred people in the town for Och’s day and night.
But when I drew near, I changed my mind suddenly, or maybe it wasn’t so sudden. Maybe I was planning it all the time. I stashed my honey jar under some roots and went behind the village to where the land fell off into a ravine. The back of Awa’s temple stood atop an outcropping of rocks overlooking the defile. A little trail wound up through tumbled stones bigger than a man to a small door at the back. I stood below pondering my next move. I told myself to turn and go around to the village square, to the people, to the young men drinking vanna and bir. But I found myself climbing up the trail.
I came to the door and she was there, sitting on a low stone bench just inside. She had been watching me from above, I realized. Alta said nothing, but beckoned me in. There was a room, simple, with a bed of straw covered in soft sheep skins. A house snake slithered away to its wall hole and drew itself through. She stood in front of me. She wore only a loose, dark red cloth around her waist. Her full breasts were bare. Her long, black hair framed her face. Her eyes pierced me like lightning arrows. She took my hand and placed it on her breast. At once I was enflamed. I offered no resistance.
She was unlike Pelopa, or even Belit. She did things with me that I had never guessed, with her mouth, her fingers. I was fully in the moment with her, her student, her sacrifice.
When it was done, she put her finger to her lips and led me to the door. Night had fallen. I went down the trail in the moonlight. I found my honey jar and walked around to the village. There was a fire in the marketplace and people, mostly men, sitting or standing. Two drummers played and an old man strummed a bazu and sang. Men danced, arms linked together, faces bright with drink. I brought the honey jar to Akil. There were big cups of bir being drunk and goatskin bladders of vanna as well. The old man sang lewd songs and songs about goddesses who ate young boys alive and songs of war and sad songs of the sea. Sea songs are always sad, because U-Dan falls in love with men and women and children and takes them to be with him in his depths. Tarn’s fate. The vanna soon made me cry for him. The old man sang the long tale of the one -eyed giant and clever King Odassu.
I drank much more than I should, for I also felt a deep pain from having gone to the Goddesses’ temple. The drink made me want to go back again, though I knew this would not be wise. So I danced and sang and drank more and more. The drink made me stupid and I remember reeling around, falling down over a log.
I woke slowly. Someone was prodding me in the ribs.
“Wake up, you fool.” A man’s voice hissed. “The Big Man has been here!” I bolted upright. There was a shape standing over me.
“Who are you? “I asked groggily. My head was pounding. But the shape was gone. I stumbled to my feet. Oh, the vanna! I was still drunk. The marketplace was empty, cold and dark. The stars were bright, but the first hint of light was outlining the mountains to the east. I panicked.
The Big Man! Where? I was confused. But I quickly thought: the gods have told me this. Pelopa! The witch has cursed us!
I ran across the open marketplace and found the road. I ran as fast as I could in the growing light. It was two hours walk to the house, but I would get there far faster at this speed. My heart raced with fear. The witch!
I knew as soon as I saw the house. I found Pelop face down in the door. Mata’s little body was inside. Pelopa was gone. I took my bow, which was in the new room, my arrows, my sling, my flint long knife, and a wulfen spear. I pulled Pelop inside next to my child. I took a burning ember from the last of the fire and set the thatch ablaze.
Then I ran back down the trail. Like a deer in full flight, but with the heart of a wulfen, I raced to the cove near the town. Too late. I saw the brakka clearing the point, sailing south. I yelled with all my fury, at them, at myself, at the gods, at Alta. My voice echoed from the cliffs, but was blown away by the sound of the sea, the screeling of gulls, and the dawn wind.
I turned back and made my way around the still sleeping village until I came to rocks behind the temple. I crept up through the stones until I got to the doorway. I stepped inside, my knife in my fist. She spun to face me. In two steps I was at her. She fell on the stone floor. I walked through her blood and took Awa from her perch above the offering bench and smashed her on the floor. The stone shattered. She can’t hurt me any worse than she has done, I thought: if she kills me, then, so what? She is no goddess worthy of the name.
I came out the front of the temple and descended to the village. The villagers still slept. From Akil’s stores I took vanna in skins, my honey jar, and three loaves of bread. Then I went back down to the cove and slid a jana into the waves and rowed out beyond the point. The brakka was gone. I raised the sail.
A curse on the gods! My destiny would be my own from now on. The jana skipped over the wave tops and I headed south. My anger was stronger than the curse of the goddess, or the power of U-Dan, or any god or witch. I would find Pelopa and have my revenge on the Big Man.

6

Perhaps I missed the brakka in a fog, or failed to find the right port in the bewildering maze of big and little islands that lay near and far from the coast. Maybe the Big Man and his minions had simply gone on past the islands to begin with. I had no way of knowing that. I frantically sailed from island to island, my heart rising and falling like the waves with the rounding of every point. Many of the islands were tall, like the tops of sunken mountains sticking out of the dark sea. Small houses and huts clung to nearly vertical cliff faces and terraces designed to catch the rain from squalls held tiny slivers of gardens high above the waves, perched like emerald bird’s nests. Some islands were bigger and had natural harbors with fair-sized fishing towns strung out on outcroppings above the blue waters. I landed at a distance when I could and stole up on each place of habitation, trying to see if the brakka lay at anchor in the clear waters of the countless coves, not wanting to be found out by my carelessness. I also stole food and drink from empty houses and from the marketplaces of ports I first determined were big enough and well visited enough to be safe for sea-travelers. I was caught in the act of spying and stealing several times and I was chased by local men and had to escape back to the jana and the safety of the open sea, or had to hide in caves or under bushes until the men had stopped searching for me. My body got cut up and bruised from the scrambles. As the weeks past I felt myself getting tougher and stronger from rowing and sailing as well. I was determined to find Pelopa if it took me forever. If she was dead, then I would have my revenge on the Big Man and her other captors. In my anger, I may have been losing my mind as well.
But as will happen with all such passions, my sharp sense of urgency slowly wore out, like a raging fire dying down to smoldering embers. A sense of drying bitterness seeped in and bit by bit replaced my hope that I would find Pelopa. Awa had taken everything from me again. I swore no more allegiance to the goddess. In the future I would outwardly give offerings if circumstances required, but my heart was cold to the Goddess. I had broken her image; I had killed her witch- priestess.
As I drifted on the waves at night, or slept on the sand in some lonely cove, I watched the stars above and wondered what they really were. They were said to be gods. But my solitude fueled my doubts. Maybe everything, the sky and the earth, people and their god tales, was just the way it was, and the gods, if there were such beings, didn’t bother to entwine their desires into the lives of ordinary people. People themselves were capable of cold, easy murder and shameless brutality’ even I was. There was no need for vengeful gods. But I had one unanswered question that kept coming back to me and made me feel that my mind might break down. Who was the man who had told me that the Big Man had been in Mirat? There was no one when I looked around after hearing the voice. I wondered if it had all been a dream. But if so, where did the dream come from? Then, there was also the man who had given me the flint knife when I was bound as a slave. The whole problem made my head reel, and I tried to put those thoughts away as much as I could. For I denied and turned from the gods, yet who had warned and aided me? Perhaps just other wanderers such as I was. I couldn’t say.
I kept searching for Pelopa, working ever further down the rock-bound islands and the endless coast. Finally I came to where the islands stopped and I was swept by north winds for days along high cliffs. I soon ran out of the last of my stolen bits of food and the only water I could drink was the dew that dripped from my ragged sail. Only luck saved me from being drowned by a big storm or a great swell, or perhaps the cruel gods were playing with me despite my turning away from them. The coast turned to the west and had a great many dangerous points. I struggled to keep the jana heading west, towards the setting sun. Then at last I passed a great, storm-lashed point and was blown again to the south.
The winds carried me across a long fetch of open sea, where the waves grew higher and longer between. Whitecaps and breakers were all around me, and I worked hard to keep the steering sweep and the sail matched to hold the jana pointed downwind. Despite my being in the middle of the wide ocean, the wind became hot and dry, and the sun burned like a pitiless fire. I was growing faint with hunger and thirst. At last a great island with a tall mountain at its center loomed up ahead. At first I thought it was a vision, but it grew steadily more real and my hopes began to rise. There was a strait between the mountainous mainland and the rugged island. The currents pulled me toward the strait, where the clashing waves made whirlpools, which sailors say to be the abodes of great, pitiless sea-snakes. Somehow I came through the strait under high waves and I made a ruinous landfall in the crashing surf of a rocky beach of the mainland. The jana broke apart as it was dashed on the rocks. I struggled ashore through the whitewater and climbed to a low dune thinly covered in saw grass. Across the wind-blown strait I could make out the white houses of a large town clustered on a point of the big island.
I had managed to hold onto my bow and quiver from the broken jana, but I had nothing else but a drinking skin with a little rain water in it. I looked around. A low plain of short hills and scrub -bush land lay eastwards towards the base of tall, bare mountains. I had a moment of longing for my pine-clad home with its plentiful game and clear, cold streams. I would be lucky to find vipers or stringy rabbits to kill and eat here. I set out with my bow.
I saw a line of low trees in the distance and made my way there. They were desert trees, with only handfuls of thorny, dull leaves. The stream along which they grew was dry, but here and there were tiny pools of barely drinkable water under the twisted roots. I filled my skin and drank. I looked for animal sign in the sandy ground and found the tracks of a wild pig and followed them downstream, back towards the coast. The tracks were fresh and I hoped to come in range for my arrows. I came up a low ridge. Not wanting to be seen by the boar, I crept towards the crest of the ridge on my belly, slowly drawing myself up to see the lay of the land ahead. What I saw made me instantly flatten myself as low as a lizard.
Just below, down the other side of the ridge, lay a long, curving beach. On the sand were drawn six large brakkas, sails furled, oars shipped. There were hundreds of men on the shore, lying under scrub trees or standing near the brakkas. The men were of a type I never seen before, short and dark, with curled black hair and beards. They wore various tunics of leather and some had hats made of something that glistened like bone in the sun. There were spears stacked in tripods near cooking fires, and a small herd of sheep was penned amongst the trees. I pondered who they might were. Not traders; they were surely a war party. I had never seen such a large group of warriors before. I had only seen small bands of slavers and other armed men in twos or threes, never two hundred or more of such men. I quickly decided to crawl back down and quit this place as fast as I could.
I slid back and turned. There was a spear point in my face. Two men loomed over me. I squinted up at them. The spearman was grinning. The other looked serious.
• “Tercho ba!” He barked at me.
My heart raced What did he mean?
“I was hunting a pig.” I stammered.
“No hunt,” he said, in my language, though it sounded funny. “No hunt. Spy for Karfu’.” He pointed across the strait to the white city on the island.” Karfu’,” he spat. The spearman had stopped grinning. He looked bored, like he’d just like to run me through and take my bow and sling and be done with it.
The speaker, who was taller than the spearman, with a short black beard and heavy eyebrows, kicked me in the side.
“Up! get!” He ordered. I got to my feet.
“We take you to Adilos”. Spearman prodded me with the butt end of his spear and made me walk ahead of them down the embankment to where the brakkas were drawn up and the cooking fires burned. I could smell meat burning. I was hungry in spite of my fear. Let me eat before I die, I thought. A crowd of rough- looking fighters gathered around as we walked into the encampment, laughing and making crude jokes at my expense. I could understand about half of what they were saying. “A new whore for us!” “You’ll get thirds, drunken fool”. Their tongue was close to mine, but with other words mixed in. They were mostly strong-looking men, with ox-skin armor and boar-hide greaves on their legs. Many carried short swords and copper-headed axes. A few were better dressed and wore helmets of boar’s tusks bound together by cordage. Many were young men, no older than my six and ten summers. But the leaders, and there seemed to be a group of them, were older, maybe in their twenties. The camp was filthy. There was offal lying about on the bedding and broken vanna jugs and beaker cups.
They pushed me down the beach to where a group of men was sitting in the shade of a thorn-covered tree. The speaker kicked me from behind on the back of my knees and I fell on the sand, though I caught myself before falling on my face. I looked at the man in front of me. He was older than me, though still young. At once I saw that his eyes were strikingly grey. He was as handsome as some of the others were not. His leather tunic was tooled and padded. He wore a ring of cypros on his wrist and a long, thin bone was tied in his curly black hair.
“A trach, Adilos.” Said the speaker. “He was on the ridge watching us.”
“Trach?” said the man. He looked at me, sizing me up. He wasn’t a big man. He was thin and wiry, like me. “Looks like a young girl!” he flashed a smile, and the others laughed.
“What are you? “He asked, sneering and grinning.” Do you spy for Karfu’”?”
I didn’t know what to answer, so I said nothing.
“Can you talk? Can you understand us?” he demanded.
“I can talk.” I said.
“The trach talks!” he said loudly. Once again, the others laughed. “Tell me, trach, before I let my men have their way with you, what were you doing watching us?”
I didn’t have an answer other than the truth.” I’m hungry. I was hunting a pig. I saw its tracks coming this way.”
The man nodded at one of his men, who turned away and then returned with a bloody bone with only scraps of charred meat left at the ends. The leader pointed at the ground and the man threw the bone into the sand in front of me.
“There’s your pig. Eat!”
Despite their rude laughter, I reached down and grabbed the bone and sucked on one end. I hadn’t eaten for four days. The man raised one eyebrow.
“I believe this young girl is hungry, that’s for certain. Have you got a name, trach?”
I spat out some uneatable bit of gristle. For some reason I heard myself saying, “Pelop”.
“Where do you come from, Pelop the hungry?” The man was relaxed, but he fingered his copper knife with his right hand.
“The wind blew me across the open water.” I motioned with my head towards the strait.” I don’t know where I am.”
The man, who was plainly Adilos, reached back with his left arm and took hold of a staff that was leaning against the scrub tree. He swiftly pulled himself to his feet, like a deer standing. I put down the bone and slowly stood up. I was about one length of a man in front of him. The others drew back a little, forming a circle. Adilos grinned at me.
“Can you fight, Pelop the Hungry?” He suddenly feinted with the staff. I flinched. The men laughed.
Adilos began to circle to his right, playing with the staff in his hands. I mirrored him. I knew I had no chance of escape. If he wanted me to die, I would die. One of the men leaned on a spear. He was a length to my right. I darted my hand down into the sand and threw a handful in the man’s face and grabbed his spear as he put his hands up. Some of the men clapped and shouted. Some tightened their hands on their weapons. Adilos grinned even wider and held up one hand to stay them from killing me.
“Pelop the trickster! Well done, little sea-gypsy! “
He swung his staff around swiftly and tried to hit my knee, then reversed and jabbed the other end at my face. I jumped up and parried the staff with the butt-end of the spear. He came again, knocking the spear almost out of my hands, but I held on and hit back as hard as I could. My spear broke in the middle and I was left with the butt, which now had a jagged tip. He swung the staff again, cracking me below my elbow. I grimaced and drew my hand back in spite of myself and I lost what remained of the spear. It skittered away across the sand.
Adilos stood tall and tossed his staff to one of the men. He reached to his belt and drew out his fine copper knife. He calmly handed it to the same man. Then he advanced on me, his arms hanging loosely. I bent forward and matched his footwork. But he sprang at me and caught me with an elbow to the ribs and then a quick punch to my face. I staggered back, blood pouring from my mouth and nose. I threw myself at him, trying to grapple with him, but he slipped my attack and hit me on the side of my head. I fell and rolled in the sand. I was stunned by the force of the blow. I tried to get up. The world spun. Somehow I got up again and ran at him wildly. I grabbed him around the waist and he fell down, but now he was laughing. I was exhausted, dizzy with lack of food, done in. He pushed me off and stood up. I was down. He reached out with his right hand.
“Get up, Pelop the sea-gypsy.” He said. I looked at him. He was proud, but not evil, I thought. “Wash yourself off in the sea and come and eat. You can fight for us.”
I took his offered hand and he pulled me to my feet. I stumbled past the men, one of whom clapped me on the back. I made it to the water and fell in. The coolness revived me. I washed the blood from my face. I had a couple of good scratches, but otherwise I was unharmed. I came back up the beach before Adilos, who was once again sitting in the shade. He motioned me to sit down.
“Well, you can’t fight with a spear or your fists!” He laughed,” What can you do?”
“I can shoot a bow.”
“Show me.” He said.
Speaker brought my bow and quiver. Adilos squinted down the beach. “Hit the prow on the last ship. Stick it.”
I stood and looked. It was about thirty man lengths, or a hundred and eighty foot lengths. The prow was a curving upright about a foot and half wide. It was a difficult but not impossible shot. I had made that good of a shot before, but I could easily miss it, too. I nocked an arrow and gauged the distance, felt the breeze – not too much wind. I raised the bow high as I drew the arrow back, the curving wood making little groaning sounds with the strain. It was a heavy bow, very strong. I lowered it until I had the range. Then, trusting to my eye and instincts, I let the arrow fly. It arched slightly as it sped down the beach toward the brakka. By great luck, it stuck in the upright, though a little lower than I thought I had aimed. A handful of men cheered the shot with appreciation.
Adilos, who had stood too, put his hand on my shoulder and said, in a not unfriendly voice, “I think you have a new name, sea-gypsy: Pelop the Archer.”

I put my hand over the side of the brakka and washed the blood of the sacrifice to Are’the Striker, the God of War, off my hand and arm. The oars dipped and the rowers strained. The old blind seer had slit the throat of the goat and run his knife under its belly, pulling out and feeling the entrails even as the animal still kicked and jerked. The seer mumbled in some strange language and finally said,” There will be victory… and death.”
“To Victory!” Shouted the warriors assembled on the beach in their battle gear. In the dancing light of the fires they shone like red ants. They clashed spear against shields and raised their fists. No one had shouted “to Death”.
The white walls of Karfu’ dimly showed in the predawn light as the ships slid into the cove. Though we had sworn a strict vow of silence until the fighting started, the sounds of oars being shipped, hulls grinding into the beach, the clatter of weapons, and splashes of men jumping into the water was undeniable. There were forty or more fighters in each brakka, so well over two hundred warriors followed Adilos up from the water’s edge to the town on the heights above. There was a shout or two from the houses, which quickly became a clamor of alarm. A young boy named Lukos, shorter and scrawnier than me, had been at my elbow since before we shipped out across the strait in the mid night.
“Will we be alright? “He had asked nervously as we rowed in the darkness on the gentle swell. The sea-water dripped down the oars when we raised them forward to set our stroke.
“Yes, if we don’t get a Karfu’ arrow in our throats!” I laughed.
What was the point? We had no choice. We were following Adilos to war with Karfu’. I had no objection. Pelopa was gone. I was far from a home I didn’t want to return to. Why not war? Adilos was a good leader, brave and smart, it seemed. Lukos and I were to stay back, anyway, with our bows, and guard the brakkas, along with the other boys. It seemed to me that many of the warriors weren’t much older than I was. But I was new. I wanted to see how it was done. I wanted to see what took place. I couldn’t fully understand why Adilos was attacking Karfu’. It was over some slight to his town of Hedra back across the strait, near the bare mountains. The King of Karfu’ had taken his sister or she had run away with him.

Adilos, standing on a shore-rock, his bearded face silhouetted by the dawn, raised his fist and yelled, “Dyaus and Are’!”
A roar from two hundred throats went up and our warriors charged up the slope into the town. Adilos ran first. He waved a long sword of metal, the like of which I hadn’t seen before. It was tin -copper, bronze: harder than copper. I had seen knives of it, but never a sword. He wore his boar’s teeth helmet and a double layered ox-hide shield. He ran on bare feet, as did we all. His manhood hung free, as was the custom for all fighters, but his chest was protected by a breastplate of hide.
The first men reached the houses. Scattered Karfu’ans emerged from their doorways, swinging clubs and short swords. A few surprised people, just woken from their sleep by the shouts of our fighters, threw rocks and crockery from the rooftops. Animals stampeded, trying to get away; pigs and chickens ran underfoot, dogs howled and cringed in the corners where they were trapped. One of our men grabbed a torch and soon thatch and wood was blazing here and there, and amidst the thick smoke and roaring flames the cries and shouts of the dying and the killers was like hundreds of wulfen howling and as brittle as hundreds of crows scolding. I could hear cries of fear and the rallying shouts of the Karfu’an fighters. There was dull clatters of stones as walls collapsed in dusty heaps. Our warriors ran in groups up the narrow alleys between the houses, killing and looting and burning. I saw women and men and even children falling from cruel blows. Warriors came back to the brakka carrying young girls. They dragged them by their hair and bound them, and threw them into the brakkas. There was blood on everyone. Women and children were screaming; death screams, screams of hatred and despair, and cries for mercy. But it was not an hour for mercy.
Soon much of Karfu’, which must have had at least two thousand people in it, was burning in the light of the breaking day. A column of dark smoke rose in the air like the cloud of a smoking thunder- mountain. People seeking refuge ran from the alleys out into the fields. Some were cut down by archers. The commander of my brakka, Kurgan, a lout with arms the size of legs, shouted at me to shoot at the refugees. I saw one figure running through a small field on the slope above the brakka carrying something and I took dead aim. I was about to release my arrow when I realized it was a woman carrying a baby. I changed my angle and shot the arrow pointlessly up into the smoky ruins of Karfu’.
It was now two hours past dawn, and our men were falling back to the brakkas, weighted down with loot and slaves. Adilos came out last, still shouting at the defenders of the citadel and brandishing his sword. His right-hand man, Orestus, had a woman slung over his broad shoulder. She was clawing at him, trying to escape, but he was far too strong for her. He grinned and made his way to the brakka. Then there was a loud cry from the main street of the town. Adilos looked back to see a big group of Karfu’ans coming out together, armed with spears, bows, pitchforks, sticks, and slings. These were the fighting men of the town, awake and armed. They were coming out to take care of us.
They had us seriously outnumbered. Our whole plan had been based on surprise. Now we’d have to fight a hero’s battle to determine the winner, or try to flee with our booty in the brakkas. But there wasn’t going to be time to do that before they fell on us. They came down the slope below the houses towards the beach. Two of the brakkas were pushed out into the water, but the other four were stuck on the sand, for the tide was falling, and our men had no choice but to turn and face the warriors of Karfu’.
Then I saw him, their leader: a foot taller than the rest, his red beard already stained darker with blood. The Big Man. There could be no mistake. He was striding at the head of the Karfu’ans, carrying a long war-club. On his head he wore a ram’s skull fashioned into a helmet. Its long curving horns only made his huge size that much more formidable.
Orestus dumped the girl on the beach. Adilos stepped out and pointed his word at her neck and shouted, “If you want her, come and get her. She has been spoiled by you scum. She is now worth nothing to the Adilonai! Still she is my sister, and you owe me for her honor. You owe me your filthy blood, pirate!”
“I will take her!” yelled the Big Man in his deep voice. He sounded like he meant it. Men drew back in spite of their battle lust. The Big Man came forward steadily, as if he was walking down to pick up a bucket or a jug of vanna. Adilos stepped up between the Big Man and the girl.
“Oh, you will challenge the Big Man?” said the hulking giant. He spat with contempt at the feet of Adilos.” Then you will die.”
All the fighters on both sides stopped and watched. This was the Hero’s Battle. On its outcome the day would turn.
Adilos held his sword in his right hand and dragged a piece of sea-net in his left. The Big Man swung his club loosely, a grin breaking slowly across his face. The two circled each other, feinting and jabbing, but not making much contact. Adilos was crouched down to make a smaller target for the Big Man, who made a big one. The heat of the day was rising and the sweaty fighters moved in the shimmering heat waves so that almost looked like they were floating above the sand. The girl moaned and lay dazed between them. Suddenly, the Big Man took a huge step and slammed his club on the girl’s head, caving it in. Blood and bones splattered up on both the big man and Adilos, who stood stock still for a moment, looking at the dead body of his sister.
That stunned moment was all the Big Man needed. He jumped across her body and hit Adilos in the head with a full swing of his club. Adilos’ head twisted sideways and he fell, his boar’s teeth helmet shattering into shiny little pieces that flew through the air, and he put not even a hand out to arrest his fall. The Big Man stood tall, arched his back backwards and let out a long, loud war- whoop. He pulled off his rams-head helmet and held it up above his head. Then he turned to our warriors, who had begun backing down toward the ships.
But I had moved up to the front rank of our men. I now stepped out and shouted at the Big Man,
“Where is my woman? You took her from Mirat.”
The Big Man squinted at me. He was acting as if he might not remember her. Then he smiled most foully and said, “Yes, from Mirat. The pretty one with the baby? A present from the priestess. Her skin was soft. She squealed like a little pig when we had her!” He laughed. His men rattled their shields with their spears and laughed and shouted, “Kill him! Death to the Adilonai!”
“Well you didn’t have her, because I cut your cock off!” I yelled. Silence fell for moment, then a ripple of murmurs of surprise. The Big Man stared at me, turning red.
” I am your slave-boy, “I said, “Remember me? The priestess is dead. Now die with my memory the last one in your head. I send you to the Land of Shades!”
I quickly raised my bow and shot an arrow deep into his chest. He looked up in disbelief, but my rapid second arrow stuck him in the gut. I walked calmly toward him as he stood there, stunned, and put a third arrow through his right eye. His hands clutched at the arrow, but the damage was done. Then I shot the next arrow into the throat of the closest man in the ranks behind, and then another. Now our men cheered and charged at the Karfu’ans. They raced past me and the Big Man. He still stood, stupidly, blood pouring from his face. I picked up Adilos’ sword and strode to him and plunged it into his heart and drew it back as hard as I could. Blood gushed from the sword-wound. He staggered a step and fell face down on the sand. I looked down at him for a long moment. Then the noise of battle roused me and I looked up the hill to see the sack of the town of Karfu’ in full swing. For a moment I fought back a wave of dizziness. Then my head cleared and I ran up the blood-soaked slope, screaming a war-scream, holding the Adilos’ bronze sword above my head. Vengeance on Pelopa’s killers and all those who had harbored them! I let the blood-mad spirit of Are’ the Striker flow in my veins and knew nothing for the rest of the day.

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