Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1539801-Runes-of-War-Chapter-two
by Ronin
Rated: 18+ · Sample · Fantasy · #1539801
The story continues.
Chapter Two

         The feast was held in another great hall. Much similar to the throne room, at least in size, past that the differences were day and night. A great table ran the length of the far wall where in the middle of the table sat a great chair. Chairs lined either side of the smaller throne. Tables about ten feet in length and three feet wide lined next to each other in lines, with breaks to make aisle ways. In the center of the hall was a great open fire pit ringed with large sandstones that help absorb the heat of the fire. There was fifteen feet separating the pit to the nearest tables, which also made it a prime area for people to gather. In the corners of the room were life size statues of Agamemnon in battle armor holding a lance and in great robes, holding the olive branch in his hand. Hanging from the walls, which spanned thirty feet in height, hung the emblems of the different regiments of the Mycenaean army on great tapestries in bright red and hung nearly all the way to floor, the emblems in black. Torches lined the walls every five feet, the flames swaying lazily back and forth in the crosswinds. Vents were opened to allow the smoke to escape while allowing fresh air to enter. It also made for an interesting show of the dancing shadows. There were four doors, two on the sides that lead into the kitchens and deeper into the palace. Another one, behind the throne, led to a large waiting chamber and from there to Agamemnon's personal quarters. The last door in the front of the room was for the guests it was larger then the other three, to allow the flow of human traffic to move easily in and out.

         Servants began to fill the room, brining great platters of meats, vegetables and fruits. Piled to overflowing on each platter on the tables that were the closest to the fire pit. Large jugs of wine and beer crowed another table, while there would be servants carrying jugs to refill empty cups wondering the floor.  Musicians began to set up in the far corner, with flutes, lutes, piccolos like instruments, they were all dressed in short tunics and short kilts, all in blue and whites. Shortly the room began to fill with music to compete with the smells of the food. Incense was then lighted in small coves in the walls, the smells seeming to enhance the food and the music.

         The doors to the feast hall were opened by servants and latched to the wall. The servants took up posts on either side of the doors. Eight palace guards took up posts within the hall, dressed in light armor of white leather straps and long floor length white cloaks. Their helms hand long spikes on the sides near the where the ears are that pointed out for nearly twelve inches. They carried no shields and only Xiphos.

         Guests began to file in, people from all around the great cities of Greece. Many of the rich merchants also were invited. Most people from the same regions drifted together and with their closer allies. The Spartans where the second to last to enter the room led by the commander of the armies and his closest warriors who took a table nearer the end of the room and closest to the doorway. After everyone was seated and the room had fill with the chatting of everyone, the doorway behind the throne opened and the counsel members of the city filed out and stood behind their chairs along the main table and looked at the doorway they just entered. From the door came Menelaus, the brother of Agamemnon, sweeping into the hall. He was a large man, nearly six feet tall and built like a rhino. Though a rhino that is well fed. He wore long purple robes, with gold trimming and a white sash. His light green eyes took everyone in the room and seeing his commander nodded to him then moved to the right side of the throne, looking back to the doorway.  Agamemnon moved past the doorway and into the room, holding his hand up as cheers broke out amongst the crowd as everyone stood. He paused a moment and bowed his head towards everyone and moved to his throne. He was dressed in golden robes that were trimmed with red with a white cape draped over one shoulder. His hair was pined up on the side with bands of gold and braided down his back. The two brothers looked very similar except for the height difference.  He took his seat then looking around once more as everyone else took theirs'. He looked over to his brother and nodded who returned the gesture.

         "My friends and honored guests welcome back to Mycenae and to this feast!" Cheers broke out, "As you have known we have been having border disputes with the Macedonians for some time now."

" Bastard curs!" Someone in the hall called out. Laughter followed the remark.

Agamemnon laughed as he rose from his seat holding his hand up then patted the air and cleared his throat.

"Yes, well they are that indeed, and you will be the first to put them down." More laughter, "But tonight I have great news! Through great campaigns I have brought the king of Thasos to his knees." The hall grew quite at his words, his eyes scanning the room, soaking in the rapt attention. "With my battle plans and my sword I led the forces of Greece to victory. In tribute to my prowess and greatness I was given forth the scepter of Thasos!" With a great show he pulled the scepter from beneath the table and held it high for all to see.

Xenippos nearly jumped from the table at Agamemnon's words, only because Alexipolis laid his hand on his captain's arm, stopped him from leaping up and throttling that fool of a king.

"That lying sack of wine! He has never even set foot on Macedonia! We have shed our blood and lost brothers in arms there!" He growled from clenched jaws, the furies of Hades igniting within his eyes, as his hand reached for where a sword usually hung.

Alexipolis touched him softly on his forearm again and his captain sat down from his mid stance. Without taking his eyes off Agamemnon he spoke softly so that his voice wouldn't carry.

"Sit before someone sees you, this is not the time nor the place to start a fight my dear captain. Seeing as this is his holdings and his armies and we are not even armed, unless you would prefer to bite his ankle off??" A chuckle escaped from Xenippos at his words "Also we mustn't make our King look bad in front of everyone. For remember that we are his champions and will we may not like everyone here we must remember our place."

"Yes my lord, I am sorry my lord!" He said quickly dropping his head

"Do not worry about it, besides I think that windbag his finally ran out of breath, so let us enjoy the night" he patted him on the shoulder as he stood joining the rest of hall.

The crowded hall broke into cheers as the music sprang back into life, as female dancers came out the door that Agamemnon had come out of. They wore partial tunics that covered their chests with bronze chains that wrapped around their waistlines with small coin like charms on them that made soft sounds as they moved. Their partial skirts flowed out and behind them revealing most of their lower body. They had neither shoes nor sandals and seemed to dance in no particular ordered fashion. They floated out the reach of patrons with wondering hands without losing stride. Behind them came the servants laden with more food and wines moving amongst the guests.

Menelaus stood and moved like a Titan through the crowd, which parted for him though he didn't really seem to notice, he smiled and patted many shoulders along his way, taking great swills from his mug of wine. He swaggered like a bear, though a bear that smiles like a snake. He came to the table of his men who stood up and saluted smartly their arms resting over their hearts and bowing their heads to him as he returned it to them.

"I am glad to see you are all well! I also see that the raids went quite well indeed" He grinned largely, "You know that the bravery and feats you achieve, my pride, are being spoken all around. That the only thing that outshined my Spartan Leontiskos was of course Achilles and his men." He laughed deeply as he slapped Alexipolis and Xenippos on the back.

"We fought on our honor and yours, Menelaus! Also, Achilles sends his regards and thanks." Alexipolis smiles as he talks, "But nevertheless what a campaign it was. To the city gates of Thasos itself we fought the Macedonians, wave after wave. Ares should be happy with all the soldiers we defeated, the blood that was shed!" He paused for a moment and looked down "Aischra was lost though. An arrow took him in the throat. We held a pyre for him and mourned him. We have his sword and shield for his eldest son."

"But at least he died with honor!" Menelaus sighed at the news, and poured a small portion of his drink to the floor. Then looked up once more and waved a servant over giving drinks all around then sitting down with them. He leaned back in his chair and looked at each man for a moment before he spoke again.

"The weaponry will have to be sent to his middle child. A terrible event happened while he was out. It would seem his youngest son one morning several months ago had gotten up before anyone else and went to the temple of Poseidon to find all the priests slaughtered. From what his other brothers said he came out screaming and muttering to himself and seeing things that weren't there then attacked them when they tried to take a hold of him, killing the eldest brother. They ended up having to run him through with a blade to stop him. God-awful scene. The priests where all cut to pieces and put into some kind of symbols. The temple itself was desecrated and sacked."

The men at the table all look shocked at what they all just heard. They all knew the children of Aischra and knew that was something none of them would ever do. Then there were the desecrations of the temple; they wondered what had made this happen.

"That is not all, for it would seem that these acts having been going on all around Greece and as far as Egypt. Every time, the bodies are put into these bizarre symbols, the temples desecrated with scorched earth around it." He paused to drink more of his wine, then running his hand over his mouth. "There have been several sightings, though it would seem they are all in Egypt, none have been seen here. They said that out of an unnatural fog that moves against the wind come these large screaming white demons. They seem to glow white with blue designs along their bodies and seem to move with inhuman speed and fury.  They howl at the night and were said to have blue eyes."

"And where did you hear this from??" Alexipolis asked enjoying the story though he wasn't sure he believe such things.

"It was a family of peasants that was awoken and had snuck out when they heard something and said they saw the fog coming in off the Nile." He shrugged and leaned back more into his chair, " Of course who knows how much of it is real, but if such things are out and about I will need you to investigate them"

He held up his hands and looked at them all

"I know you just got here, but I will need you to head back to Sparta and re-supply. Take a couple days for you and your men."

The men around the table all nodded to their lord and king and thumped their chests.

"One last thing, my friends, a convoy from Lexicon is coming"

"Who??" Alexipolis asked as he arched his brow

"His name is Kamenwati, and he is a son of the pharaoh. He is reputed to be one of Egypt's most glorious warriors. He leads a crack troop called  NebiMdjai."

"By the gods, what do we need them around for?" Asked Andrippos as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"What help will they be? We have no deep tombs for them to stand in. Wait a tick, we will need the ships unloaded!" He laughed at that, as did several others at the table.

         Menelaus laughed heartily at those words and shook his head, took another drink, as did his men. Leaning forward on his chair he looked at them for another minute and chuckled.

He was quite different then his brother, he had shorter light brown hair and wore no beard. His face could convey mirth and laughter but was mostly stern and strong, but he had the eyes and the heart of his brother. He craved power and wealth. He had made quite a name for himself in the earlier wars against the Hittites and when he and his brother fought trying to unite the Greek people as one nation.  His troops respected him and for his battle concepts as he did for the men sitting at this table with him. Menelaus felt sorry for throwing his men back into the field, but if something was indeed loose in the world. What would the world think of him and his warriors, his Leontiskos, his pride of lions, were to bring it to an end! The thoughts of such renown were as intoxicating as the wine he was drinking now.

If this is true and we can crush this conspiracy and with the Egyptians to be witnesses, by the gods!

That was the reason he allowed them to come, for he had been hearing these stories for sometime. He has personally seen the desecrations in several temples. He cared little for what happened in Egypt but they would serve his purpose quite well indeed.  He shook his head to bring himself back to the present and looked back to his men.

"Normally I would agree with you but not this time. We will need to work together on this and get to the bottom of this conspiracy. It is probably some kind of cult from the east or down from Africa. I want it crushed and leaders dragged back to Sparta. Do I make myself clear?" He looked at each man starting with Alexipolis then around the table and ending with him. Each man nodded and in unison replied "Upon my honor"

"It will be done my king! We shall work the Egyptians and show them what true warriors are like." Alexipolis nodded then smirked to Menelaus

"Show them what the difference between lions and jackals are!" Laughed Xenippos as he made growling noises and bit at the air, jumped up and ran around the table a couple times growling then Andrippos jumped up making rodent sound and ran from Xenippos several times around the table.

Everyone burst into laughter, pounded on the table and took big swigs from their drinks. Most of the hall quieted down at the outburst of the Spartans, as most heads turned to the table. Most shook their heads at the spectacle of the soldiers chasing one another but they were after all Spartans and they were a strange bunch, frightening as hell, but strange nevertheless.

Menelaus stood, spread his arms wide and once all his men were looking at him he smiled.

"My sons, my warriors, my lions! We are Spartans; we are the most fearsome of all warriors, bar Achilles and the Gods" He slammed his hands down on the table "Now this is a party enjoy yourself and ravage the night!"

The Spartans all cheered then, grabbing their drinks and finishing them off and clapped each other on the back. Once again the hall quieted down again as the Spartans cheered and laughed. Though many made sure that the Spartans were not preparing to tear into them.

  Menelaus laughed

"Enjoy yourselves, my friends! For this may be our last festival for some time. That is an order!" He saluted his men and they returned it.

He tipped back his glass once more then took his leave and intermingled with the other guests as he made his way slowly back to his brother, leaving only Alexipolis, Andrippos and Xenippos together. The three men looked at one another then moved to the buffet table loading their plates up with food and having some servants bring some wine to their table, sitting close to one another.

         "Do you believe this story that Menelaus has told us today?" Andrippos asked as he loaded his mouth with meat looking back and forth between the other two.

         "Why would he lie?" Xenippos said and shrugged lightly " He cares only for wealth and power, what would he stand to get if he lied to us? We have been in Macedonia and heard nothing of these things but perhaps we could see what we found around here."

         "That would be wise indeed. We'll have the men gather what information they can while we prepare the ship tomorrow. It would be to obvious if anyone of us where to ask questions." He looked at his captains and nodded.

         "Yes my lord." They echoed each other and returned the nod.

         Andrippos looked over shoulder to the long table at the back of the hall towards Kaphalos who sat near his master like a dog.

Perhaps not like a dog, more like a snake whispering soothing lexis into a receptive ear, he thought to himself, how could he call himself a man while he licks the heel of more powerful men.

He shook his head at that then suddenly froze. The shadows behind Kaphalos seemed to abruptly move to their own accord, though there was nothing present to cast them in the direction of the man. He blinked and looked again yes there they were indeed. Kaphalos' eyes took on a glazed look and seem to turn his head slightly towards the shadows. Andrippos reached over at Alexipolis and grabbed his arm then nodded towards Kaphalos. He heard him gasp then heard it from Xenippos as he looked over to see what everyone was looking at. The shadows crept over to him, and like fingertips seem to move over his head and face as if caressing him. The shadows behind him seem to almost take on the ethereal form of a man, and then quite suddenly it looked over to the Spartans as if it knew it was been watched. What seemed to be a mouth opened wide at them perhaps like a hiss as it began to withdrawal from Kaphalos, it's fingerlike apparitions uncoiling from his head and the shadows dissipating in the light of the hall leaving no trace of it's presence. Kaphalos it seemed either had no knowledge of his visitor or was acting quite well for he turned and began talking Agamemnon.

         The soldiers turned to one another trying to fathom what had just happened. Alexipolis recovered the fastest his brow arched as he spoke.

         "By the gods what in the name Hades was that?" He shot a glance over to Kaphalos as he spoke.

         "I don't know, my lord. It seemed that the shadows themselves came to life and there was nothing even casting the shadows there!" Xenippos whispered as he too looked back over.

         "Should we approach Kaphalos? Tell him what we saw? Or should we simply slay him?" Andrippos asked he cast dark looks upon the man in question.

         "No, we will wait and see what comes of this. In case he doesn't know what is happening or even if he does know what that thing is we should alert him that we seen it and him. We will leave Kreatos here and have him follow him everywhere he shall go. He has a cousin that is here and she will let him into the palace." He looked to his captains who nodded to him, " Strange days are on us and we shall keep a close guard all around us indeed."

         The next morning came with no further intrusion though the Spartan soldiers have not eased their guard. They packed up what little they brought, oiled their weapons and all the leather on them and were just preparing to file out when Menelaus swept into the room, everyone snapped to attention the moment he appeared. He looked them over making sure that they were keeping their equipment in good order then nodded more to himself then to them, as he moved amongst the Leontiskos. As he did so Alexipolis stepped forward and put his fist to his chest and nodded.

         "Good morning my lord!"

         "Good morning Alexi, I see you are all ready, good. Remember head to Sparta and refit, visit loved ones then wait for the Egyptians to arrive."

         "Yes my lord!" Alexipolis nodded

         "Be sure to send Helen my love and tell her I have not forgotten her."

         "It will be so, besides it would be nice to talk to her again." He looked out the window for a moment then back to his king.

"Indeed, she had asked of you awhile ago, when you were off to Macedonia." He paused for a moment then laid his hand on Alexipolis "Take care my friends, strange things are afoot and remember that the gods only favor the strong. I wish I could join you but I must sail out to Pylos to meet with Nestor about some matters of state."

"Yes my lord, it will be as you say"

"Take care and may Poseidon keep you safe, I shall sacrifice a bull for your safeguard."

The Spartans all bowed to their king and then filed out of the room and through the many corridors till they were almost to the great doors when Kaphalos seemed to suddenly step out of the shadows of the tapestries for a moment his eyes appeared to glow like a cats. It took every ounce of willpower for every man not to reach for his sword but instead most just kept looking forward and ignored him. Alexipolis, Andrippos and Xenippos looked over at him then Alexipolis spoke,

         "I hope you do not miss us to much while we are gone"

         "I don't think it shall for to long, warrior. Perhaps, the Gods in all their infinite wisdom shall grant us much more time together." When he spoke he barely moved and his face almost seemed of wood.

         "Perhaps, but then again, to be with us you'd have to be a man." He stared back into Kaphalos's eyes. For several moments neither moved locked by sight till Kaphalos looked away, turned and walked back into the palace.

         The Spartans walked out of the palace and into the bright Greek sunshine and felt as if it cleansed them of Kaphalos's presence. Alexipolis walked calmly to the front of his men as his lieutenants fell in on either side of him and quickly making it to their harbored ship the people of Mycenae moving out of their march. The other contingent of Spartan warriors left at the ship began at dawn readying it. The main sail was already up and swaying in the morning gusts, water replenished and food restocked. The Decks scrubbed and polished, roped twined up and readied by the time Alexi and his men arrived at the harbor. Most were oiling their armor and weapons as Alexipolis walked up the gangplank and surveyed them. He stood for a moment looking at everyone.

         "Set sail as soon as possible. We are heading to Sparta and make as good time as soon as it is safe. Xenippos, you come with me." He spoke as he started down below decks. The men jumped as his commands and within minutes the trireme was cutting a wake through the cool Aegean waters. Below decks the two walked to prow away from the crew and leaned in together.

         "When we get back allow the men three days rest then start them back into training. I have some ideas I want to go over with. "

         "Yes my lord, there are several ideas also I would like to go over with you." Xenippos said as he nodded as he rubbed stubble of his hair with his hand.

         "Alexipolis, what the hell happened last night? What are we walking into?? Spartans working with the Egyptian soldiers, something is terribly wrong. Every warning in me if raging!" He clenched his jaw muscles and looked over at his lord then off again.

         "Don't worry about it, my friend. I know what you mean something is going on here and I will find out what it is." He laid his hand on Xenippos' shoulder as he spoke, "And with these Egyptians watch them, but do not dismiss them I have heard much glory of them. We.."

         "My lord! Come above quickly!" Someone on the upper decks yelled. Both of them ran for the stairs and blinked as the sunlight hit their eyes, they shielded them with a hand and looked around. Before the ship a large whirlpool began to whirl as the ship came to a stop before the raging waters bobbing on the waves that were being produced by the cyclone. Alexipolis ran to the prow of the ship hand on the each side as a large wind came up sweeping around as the men had to hurry to grab anything to hold onto as the wind raged around. The wind began to gain more momentum as it began to howl, lifting some of the men off the deck, most being whipped about as they held onto whatever they could grab.

         "Hold tight! Do not let go!" Screamed Alexipolis as he strained to stay on the deck, his arm muscles straining and bugling as water pelted his face. Squinting his eyes looking back and forth between his men and the whirlpool. From the heaving seas fish began to hurl from the water as if they were trying to escape from something in the depths of the sea. Great forks of lightening erupted in the skies as great dark clouds rolled in, obscuring the sunlight. Men screamed as a horrendous clap of thunder shook the world, their ears ringing.  The trireme danced dangerously on the water as waves of the sea exploded over the sides. Then just as suddenly it all stopped, the screams of the men echoed as all other noise stopped. Bodies hit the decks as the wind plummeted down; everyone slowly stood on shaky legs and shook their heads. The Spartans looked around still not wanting to let go of the handholds. The Aegean Sea stood with a glass like smoothness the clouds also remained motionless, though were the whirlpool was the cloud opened as several rays of light poured out and enveloped the area. It seemed the world held it breath as Alexipolis struggled to stand back up his eyes scan the area. His hair and clothing soaked and clinging to him, he stood fully up and studied the water were the light hit on the water. Suddenly everyone gasped as they took a step backwards their eyes opening wide as they stared at the titanic head of a trident emerged from the water. The head of it was twice the size of the ship. Water ran down and between the forked spikes as it emerged from the water. For several minutes the shaft rose from the sea, with what looked like all manor of creatures of the deep swimming and dancing around the shaft of the weapon. Finally a hand came out of the water, a gold bracer clasped around the arm that followed the hand, the bracer looked as if waves moved along it. Next came the top of a head that pierced the water. The hair was whitish green a crown of corals perched on top. Dark deep sea green eyes emerged slowly under bushy white- green eyebrows that stared directly at Alexipolis as water ran down the face and drained within his long beard. The man came to a stop at his chest; a brilliant white toga came over his left shoulder, even with only that bit showing he had to lean down and over to look at the ship. Seawater showered the men on the ship as the great god Poseidon lean over them. His eyes studying everyone like someone who stops to watch a group of bugs scuttling around. Alexipolis stood to his full height before this god then bowed deeply to him (for even a Spartan must respect the gods), the rest of his men fell to their knees before the god, though Xenippos did make it to a half kneel.

         A crooked smile parted Poseidon's lips at the sight before him. He watched as Alexipolis walked closer to him, his gaze never wavering from his.

Perhaps Zeus has made the right choice in this mortal man as a champion.

The God of the sea thought to himself as the lord of the vessel came within feet of him standing on the prow to look directly at him.

         "Mighty Poseidon, great Lord of the sea, what honor is that we have the pleasure of your presence here before us?"

Remember to breath Alexi, breath.

Alexipolis thought to himself.

         "I have come to you with a quest bestowed from Zeus himself. I know you have heard of the tales of the events that have been spreading through the lands."

His voice seems to echo and come from every direction at once. His face seemed to be made of alabaster, thought that material would show more emotion then did the God of the Seas as he spoke for his face remained smooth.

         "Yes I have. Our king, Menelaus has sent us to investigate these happenings, we are to go to Sparta and then meet up with a prince of Egypt and his guards. From there we would probably decide on where to start from, my lord."

         "Indeed, once you have meet with the Egyptians, head north into the wild lands. A great darkness is coming from there, and you will need to be prepared for anything. Take nothing for granted out there. We will do what we can to aid you along the way."

         "Yes, thank you my lord. But may I be so bold as to ask why you would have us be the sword arm of the gods?" He arched his brow as he asked then looked around for a moment, "Should not Achilles, Odysseus or perhaps even Ajax be on this mission more then us? We are only soldiers of Sparta."

         A great laugh came from the sea god then, and then his face gave the impression of becoming mortal. A great sadness appeared to come over him for a moment; a fleeting thought that only he could see. He looked back to Alexipolis and studied him for a moment before a spoke.

         "Their destiny is already determined and shortly their fates will become intertwined in time. Glory and death walk hand in hand with many soon. But for you, and the fate of your men, the Fates have yet to say. For it is clouded; in factors yet to be played out."

          "By your command" Alexipolis bowed deeply once more to the god that he spoke to.

         "Indeed, take heed and may this be of use."  From the water a small object arose. The bit of light reflected off it and danced twinkling like a star in the night sky. It came over slowly rising and felling, as if it rode a current of wind that did not blow. Alexipolis held out his hand as it drew closer to him, it dropped into his palm. It was a small amulet; it had something that looked like leather cording, but felt like algae. The amulet looked like stone but felt like a metal, with a picture of a kind of fish he had never seen in what looked like it was devouring its own tail. It was hollowed in the centered and on the top there was what looked like a clawed foot holding the cording in place. Alexipolis's eyes looked from the amulet to the mighty God across the way from him then back again.

         "Thank you my lord, I am your eternal servant." He placed the amulet into an inner pocket in his robes. When suddenly the wind began to pick up again though not nearly as powerful as before. This time it swept in whirling faster and faster, starting to make a funnel around the great god Poseidon. The wind brought up the water; encircling the deity within the wall of water as wind rose up and down and slowly obscuring him then without any warning the sea appeared as before the encounter with the Olympian. The birds appeared in mid-flight the sun dissipated the clouds and the tide rolled back in.  The wind went back into soft gusts from the south. Gradually as wakening from a dream the Spartans shook them selves awake once more, awed from what they had just witnessed still enveloped them, as they rose and looked at one another. Xenippos also regained him self and look at his lord who stood looking at the spot where the deity had been, then back where the soldiers stood still full of wonderment and then remembered his place.

         "Man your posts men, this is no time for lollygagging!" He roared as he stood full and started pushing the men back into action, "We have to get back to Sparta still and I will allow quarter" He nodded to himself as the men took up their positions.

He strode over to Alexipolis and laid a hand on his arm and waited for him to return to himself. Which he did in a moment as his eyes lingered for a moment out to sea, then turned to his Lord and nodded.

         "Take us back to Sparta, Xenippos" Then turned back to the sea and leaned against the prow.

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