TFAI 1: THE ATTACK ON KARTHIGE

Another sample from the book ‘The attack on Karthige’, part of the ‘Through Fire and Iron’ trilogy. One of the first chapters of the book has been published along with the short stories included in ‘Soulflowing Fire’.

(Fallen warrior from the temple of Aphaea at Aegina, Glyptothek of Munich)

Karanos woke up long before the morning call, as he always did, and spread as much as he could in his bed, his legs and hands stretched up to the point they could reach. Then he curled up, bringing his knees to her chest, like a sphere, and held there for a few seconds, taking slow breaths. Then he spread again. He repeated this exercise a few more times, before deciding to stand up, while around him the others were also slowly waking up. He headed to the showers, but there his gaze was magnetized by the open window in the wall, where only the sunny and endless calm sea could be seen, not a single white wave on it, and immediately underneath the rocky southern shoreline of Lisantheia. He went close to the window and stood to watch the scene for a time. Iasinos came next to him, indifferent to the magic of the moment.  He asked him what assignment he had on that day, but his voice was faint in his ears. “Kitchens, and then evening sentry duty at the piers” he told him, and these words of his, the realization of his shallow daily routine, awoke him, and so he turned his gaze away to prepare.

***

Dekton was on his horse and slowly galloped to the west, to the city where he was born and grew up in and which he now saw in the horizon. Aigeialia, the city of the four hills, which he saw behind her tall gleaming walls. On the tallest hill, the third from the left, was the palace of the Great Archon of Aigeialia, his uncle. He would have to go there to see him the next day. Somewhere behind that hill was his parental home and his mother, whom he had not seen for four years. He smiled, thinking of how happy she would be for seeing him again. Next to him Ktesor accelerated with his horse to reach the head of the column, a phalanx of men that moved slowly, coordinated, proud, all of them veterans of Ypereia whom Dekton had led north, all of them now wolves of war. Their spears were gleaming in the light of the afternoon sun, their worn-down shields fastened on their backs, different emblems upon each one. Many had been lost, but it was as if they were returning with them, were walking next to them, after so long. Wine would be spilled on the ground for all of them on that day, until late in the night. When after some time they approached the Katypereian gate, upon the eastern wall of the city, it opened before them before they even reached it, to welcome them back. After four long years, Dekton was finally home.

***

Avitus was sitting on a big rock outside the cave entrance, calm, looking at the vrentiri he held, a sharp victrian dagger with a triangular tip. His face was not reflected on the blade, as it was of dark steel from the uplands of Trasamia in the south, and this steel had the colour of his thoughts. It was a tough day for him, for all the country, all of Victre. Taurmina had fallen. His father was dead. The future more uncertain than ever. He had to take revenge, and it had been decided he would do it with fire and iron. Around him silent men were arming themselves, were wearing their tight victrian leather cuirasses, were sharpening their vrentiri and gladmiri one last time. They looked ready. But were they ready? He would learn soon. Avitus took a deep breath, sheathed his dagger and rose. The Aegialii and the Lyndiones would pay for all that had happened. He approached the fire and in the light of late afternoon, drove his torch inside, to light it. Many of the others did the same. He turned and slowly walked towards the cave, raised high the flame he held in his hands, and went in. He knew that he would be followed by anyone who felt ready, anyone who was a proud Victrian. He knew that not one of all who were there would stay behind.