The war begins.
| Chapter Four
It has been three days since they have set sail from Sparta. Poseidon seemingly has giving his blessing for their voyage so far in way of brisk winds and sunshine abounding. The ships where cutting through the Aegean Sea like a hot knife through butter. Soft clouds drift lazily overhead as they watch the world below them hustle about in gentle haze. A strange site they must be a great Greek Trireme with its single sail full of caught wind sailing along side the Egyptian Long ship, its three smaller sails full also though both ships had their oars out and were synchronized. The Egyptian ship has a lower prow and lower bridge; it more skimmed the waves then cut through them like the Greek ship. It sails are red with the outline of a jackals head on them. Hieroglyphs were painted on the sides of the ship just above the water line, as were to great eyes on either side of the prow. Both Ships traveled heavy, as they were filled to bear with stock for example, dried meats, water, grains and wine. Horses were also on both ships though the Egyptians had much more then the Greeks. A great cheer raked through the Spartans as they departed. They had escorted Queen Hellene’s ship on her way to Cythera, where she wished them luck and gave them the blessing of the Gods. She kissed Alexipolis on one cheek as she left.
They turned their ships towards Delphi when they had passed a Trojan convoy with ten ships strong. Greeks, Egyptians and Trojans watched each other as they passed by. Alexipolis watched as they passed the Trojans and was shocked to see Polydamas and Aeneas on the first ships that passed and made him wonder if any other princes of Troy may be aboard somewhere. Where Polydamas and Aeneas were, Hector and Paris were generally not too far behind. The next ship bore Prince Paris himself, the two seeing each other almost immediately and saluted each other. Though technically, the two kingdoms were not at war anymore ever since Haracles sacked Troy and killed King Laomedon for the treatment of Jason and the Argonauts. Since then Priam had took control of Troy and has since rebuilt his city to a glory it has never known before, building a massive and great wall around all of Troy.
The two stared at one another as their ships raced pass one another, Paris smiled a playful and crocked grin to Alexipolis. He returned the smile and continued to watch them remembering that king Priam has been trying to regain Heisone from Telamon ever since he came back from the Phrygian wars.
That meeting had been two days ago and since then nothing remarkable has happened, which in sailing terms can be a blessing of it. By mid afternoon the next day they should reach Delphi, as they followed the dusty hills of Pleistos valley at the base of Mount Parnassus off the coast of Corinthian gulf. Alexipolis walked to the prow of the ship were Kamenwati stood, leaning against the railing watching the landscape roll past. Alexipolis walked over and leaned next to him looking out into the hills
"You look troubled my friend, what thoughts have captured you this day?"
"The sun dies and withers as its journey into the west." Kamenwati speaks softly as he watches the coming dusk, "only to be reborn in the morning. What bothers me is that we are born into this company, and now as we travel we have not heard anything of the occurrences that brought us here. I wonder if not we are walking into some kind of ambush, my friend."
"You are right, we have heard nothing and yet we are here on the shores of Delphi looking for the Oracle herself. If some things hadn't happened earlier I would have giving this up for a wild goose chase." He paused for a moment then looked over at the Egyptian as he listened to the sounds of the oars moving in and out of the water, “But we should keep our eyes open when we land. My instincts are screaming to me as well."
Kamenwati nodded, looked up and put his palms together as he turned and nodded to the dying sun "Then we should prepare and bed early. We will march into Delphi instead of walk then."
Alexipolis nodded as he patted him on the shoulder.
"I will post guards tonight, and I will give the orders to slow down and allow your ship to come along side ours to allow you back over to yours."
He turned quickly and walked over to Xenippos and told him what he wanted done, who stood quickly at attention. With a sharp turn, he shouted orders, then men scattered around him to carry out his commands. The oars came up and the steersman began to angle the ship as the Egyptian ship slide up along side of them, slowing to match the Greeks speed, as their oars slide into the main hull. A gangplank was quickly lowered between the ships as Nomti leaned over the rail and yelled to his lord.
"My lord, have you decided to join us? With all the time you spent over there I was beginning to think that you where going to start losing all your civilized manners!" He laughed and held out his hand as he came half way across the plank as Kamenwati stepped up and looked over at him.
"I stayed over there so that I may have some time to myself without a fretting wet nurse being my shadow, Nomti!" He laughed as he took the other mans hand as he nimbly crossed across the plank.
"Of course my lord, but then who would be here to make sure that you don't day dream yourself into the after life without at least a sketph statue!" He helped his lord down and stood at attention as the other captains made their way over to him across the ship as the gangplank was removed quickly by the Greeks as their ship veered away from them.
"My captains, we will be making Delphi by mid afternoon tomorrow. Both Alexipolis and I noticed that nothing has happened since we formed as a company. I think that is a bad omen. So tonight we will post watch as for tomorrow we will go out fully armed and with a vengeance. Prepare the men, choose who is going out with us and have them bed down now!"
Nomti nodded and looked to Akhom who turned quickly and started shouted orders.
The oars slide back out as one and splashed into the water. With a fury the oarsmen lurch the ship into action catching back up once more with the Greeks. The Egyptians moved quickly as Akhom made his rounds selecting men. Some of them had to stop their duties and waited till a man could come and replace him then moved quickly vanished below decks. The captains followed quickly after inspecting those left above decks and finally giving the ship over to the steersman.
The night came in quickly over the Mediterranean as the full moon rose from its bed to look down upon the world, almost everything below its gaze was asleep under its soft comforting glow. The two ships moved across the water like ghosts in the night, gliding like a whisper, hardly a sound except for the soft splashes of the oars. The men on both ships slept quietly as the moon journeyed through the heavens and prepared for the rebirth of the sun. The guards walked intently holding weapons closely to themselves inspecting out into the darkness around.
The dawn finally came with no incidents during the night. Much to the relief of all of the men who stood watch preparing for some kind of attack, were more than happy to give their posts over. Finding still warm mats.
A dense fog had rolled in during the predawn morning. The soldiers had lit hooded lanterns that hung around the vessels, which allowed them tell where the other ship were. The fog was deep enough to obscure most the two ships from one another and almost the entire off the coastline they have been following.
The soldiers aboard both crews, where hoping that as the day progressed the sun would burn away the fog as it usually does this time of the year. It stayed with them, engulfing them like a mother in an embrace of gray as they sighted the docks of Delphi. They sailed into the harbor, finding it utterly emptied and seemly abandoned. They came to the dockyard as several men from each ship leapt to the dock with heavy ropes in their hands pulled the sailing vessels gently against the port tied off their ships to the large stone docks. Large wooden gangplanks were then dropped down as they prepared to unload the ships.
Alexipolis moved along the ship helping his men up from the oars as others moved quickly about preparing the ship to port. Xenippos walked to his lord and handed him a small chest that was quickly hung from his belt.
"Xenippos, prepare the men on the beach, keep them together, this unholy fog has stayed with us from last night. It is early in the year for fog like this." Alexipolis said as he tied his dagger to his belt and looked over his shoulder as Andrippos walked up to his sliding his bracers on his arms.
"Yes my lord, I shall leave a guard here also to watch the ships." He nodded and clasped his lord on the shoulder as he walked past him and started yelling commands and insults out to the men, mostly about them being dogs and their mothers hairless goats.
"I think he must spend his nights thinking up insults to allow his personal charm to shine on the men!" Andrippos said as he watches the captain at arms move about the ship like a hurricane of fury.
"Perhaps, but I always thought he spent his nights at your mother’s house?" Alexipolis said laughing as he dodges the playful punch his other captain gave. Then stood up and looked at him as he laughed out the remnants of his joke.
"I want you to see how our new friends are doing and make sure they will be ready to leave in a few minutes then join us when you are done."
"Yes my lord" Andrippos said as he turned and walked away.
Alexipolis stood and watch his men begin to arm themselves after they finished securing the vessel. He lifted his chest armor, tying the straps on the sides of the worked leather then moving the bronze shoulders plates into place the pleated leather straps fell to his thighs as he hung his plated belt around his waist and the armor itself. His bracers came next, sliding them over his hands. Next, he then leaned down tying the graves in place over his lower legs, the tops coming just above the knees. Finally his helm was placed on his head, though not fully. It was slid slightly back exposing his face as he lifted his war spear up. When he finished his men were assembled before the ship all-waiting for him in tight lines, he walked before them as Xenippos fell in line with him.
"They are ready my lord!" He said proudly as he always does.
All the eyes looked at their lord and waited for his words as he studied them.
"Men, we are at Delphi to see what the gods have for us! We are not invading Delphi so most of you will stay here but do not think that you are being left out for when we return we lash out into the heart of this mystery and strike true and without mercy!" Cheers broke out at that "Since we don't know what we are up against keep your eyes open and remember that you are SPARTANS!" He yelled the last part then the soldiers returned his yell as they hit their spears into their shields.
"I need fifteen men to come with me to Delphi, Xenippos will choose them and we will go after that." He turned as Xenippos moved into the ranks of the men choosing the men.
As Alexipolis started towards the Egyptian ship, and saw Kamenwati was walking towards him with fifteen men behind him. There were four Calvary and six foot soldiers and five archers all in formations, with the Calvary in the lead then the soldiers then archers in the back. Kamenwati nodded to Alexipolis as he came up to him and the two men clasped arms.
"A lovely day for a walk is it not?" Kamenwati asked as he looked around at the fog.
Andrippos came walking up to the Egyptian formation and nodded to his lord as grinned.
"My lord, all is ready, as you can see they are ready. Then let us begin our little outing?" He asked as he looked between the two lords
"Well now that we have your approval, Andrippos then by all mean lead us away so that we may bask in your glory!" Alexipolis said as he swept his arm wide towards Delphi.
"About time you have finally figured out who truly runs this command!" He laughed as Alexipolis kicked at him dodging easily enough then moved off towards Xenippos.
He leaned in and whispered into Xenippos's ear, which in return burst out laughing shaking his head. He held up his arm in the air then whirled his hand twice as he started off in direction of Delphi. The Spartans fell in marching formation behind their captain. Alexipolis looked to Kamenwati and grinned.
"Shall we go before we get left behind??"
"You Spartans are indeed a strange bunch, but I like you for that anyways, even if you are savages!" Kamenwati laughed and clasped him on the back.
He turned to look as Amisi came up behind him on a large black Arabian horse clutching the reins of another Arabian horse though this one was white.
"My prince your mount" She handed him the reins then looked over Alexipolis and smiled a breathtaking smile to him then just as quickly it vanished.
She whistled and led the horsemen past them as Nomti lead the rest of the footmen who nodded to him as he past falling in behind the Spartans. Kamenwati turned putting one foot into the stirrup and lifted himself up and over the horse then looked down at Alexipolis.
"Ride with me friend, our soldiers are in good hands"
Alexipolis looked at the soldiers moving away then back up to Kamenwati then nodded as an Egyptian soldier came running up to them holding then handing off the reins of a brown Horse already saddled. He followed suit of Kamenwati and mounted the horse, then flicked the reins as both lords spurred the horses into a canter making for the front of the column of men.
For an hour the soldiers walked in the gray purgatory of the fog, which made it hard to see much of the surrounding landscaping except for the stone road. Conversation began between the two sets of soldiers as they made their way, at least with the men who knew each other's languages. Kamenwati and Alexipolis rode lead and talked of deeds and homelands and other parts of the world as a deep friendship began to develop between the two men.
Almost as once everyone had to raise a hand to shade his or her eyes. As they realized suddenly that the fog had been lifted as sunlight flooded the area enveloping the temple grounds of Delphi. They had spent nearly a half-day enshrouded in the gloom of the fog. It was as if some kind of barricade kept the fog at bay allowing the sun to enshroud the sanctuary in a veil of light.
The temple grounds sit on a semicircle spur called Phaedriades that overlooks the Pleistos Valley. A small city surrounds the temple itself. Near the end of it was the amphitheatre, which sat directly behind the oracle. To side of the theatre is the temple of Apollo. Even from the far edge of the city the golden archer could be seen twinkling in the sunlight. Several other buildings littered the landscape, some halls and treasuries but the two main great buildings beckoned like beacons in the night. A cobble stone road weaved its way through the hills and buildings towards their destination. Great statues lined the roads, most of them were of Apollo but the plethora of the Gods was intoned also. The great temple of Delphi was on a slight prominence; entire structure was made of a brilliant white stone. Great columns encircled the temple; its white marbled walls and roof appeared to be a flamed in the sunlight. A large stripe of bright blue paint ran along the upper reaches of the outer walls and near the tops and bottom of the pillars.
The walls of the amphitheatre were about ten feet high at the lowest and raised nearly thirty at its peak. There were scenes of the great battle between Apollo and the serpent Python, and of Leto and Artemis and many others everything leading up to the climactic battle.
As the company made its way to the grounds a man dressed like a priest came running from the temple, his sandaled feet smacking the ground unused to such physical activities. His white robes seemed to glow in the daylight as much as his pale flesh did. Alexipolis and Kamenwati watched the man race towards them as they held up a hand apiece to keep their soldiers from rushing and over taking the priest. The man made it and nearly collapsed at the legs of the horses doubled over and trying very hard to catch his breath. He looked up with his dark brown eyes at the two men then they settled to Alexipolis as he struggled to stand. Alexipolis slid from his horse and put his arm around the older man easing the man to his feet.
"Take a moment and catch your breath, grandfather. There is no rush." He said softly as Kamenwati slid from his horse.
Nomti and Xenippos walked up to stand and either side of their lords watching the man struggle to breath. Slowly the man caught his breath and stood up, ran a hand through his graying hair wiping sweat from his brow as he turned to Alexipolis.
"Are you Alexipolis of Sparta?" His eyes were large and wide, a look of fright in them as he gazed at the large and heavily armed man.
Alexipolis gasped as the man spoke his name as Kamenwati and Nomti both made signs after seeing the reaction of the Spartan. Xenippos hand shoot to the handle of his Xiphos pulling the blade free a few inches as he spoke
"How do you know my lord? We have never been here before this day, speak quickly, before I take your eyes from your head!" Xenippos growled to the priest as Nomti's hand began to move toward his sword.
The priest never took his eyes from Alexipolis and took no notice of the others as he reached for the man. Alexipolis reached up and laid a hand on Xenippos's wrist, which calmed but kept the blade as it were.
"How do you know me priest? My captain is right I have never been here before this."
"Oh thank the Gods that you are here!" He cried as he lowered his head for a moment his long graying hair falling over his face and shook violently then rose it again "For the last month now the Pythia has refused to see anyone till you came. Exactly a month ago today a violent storm swept into here, and bringing this horrid fog with it. Then she suddenly screamed in an unearthly voice as she began spin around the room as if some invisible giant had her. The statues in the audience room began to bleed as this wicked laughter echoed through the room. After what seemed an eternity a soft light filled the room, and the Oracle stopped flying around and came softly to floor and one of the statues of the sisters of Fate turned and spoke in a voice that was both male and female and said 'That none may defile this sanctuary of time'."
The priest stopped for a moment, his body visibly shaken as he recalled the night, his eyes studying the ground at his feet. He didn't notice that all the men around him were utterly wrapped in his narrative he started speaking again.
"The Pythia cried deeply, and we rushed to her. As we came closer she screamed for us to stay back and away from her, that she has become unclean. She scuttled backwards along the floor away from her shaking her head, mumbling to herself. Her eyes bleed as did her nose and ears. The whole room smelled of turned tilled earth, wood smoke and blood. She crawled to one of the bedchambers deep within the temple. The only thing she said before she locked herself away was that 'exactly one month from this day at the head of a two headed column Alexipolis of Sparta would come and in his arrival would signal the coming war of the gods that will spill out into the world of mortals. When he comes, the lord of arms should come with them; there will be four of them. And the Prince of two souls.' And here you are as she prophesied; you and your people must come."
He clasped his hands together before him, and then looked at the men around him as if suddenly he noticed that they were a small army before him. Not only were those but there Egyptians side by side with Greek Spartans. His eyes grew wide again and looked on the verge of fainting. He turned and began walking back towards the temple his arms wrapped around himself.
Alexipolis and Kamenwati stood for a moment then looked at each other after hearing such a tale.
"What do you think? Do you think he is lying?" Kamenwati asked as he looked after the priest.
"What would he gain by lying? And it would be simplicity itself to find out if he were, simply by going to the temple itself."
"My lord, I sense no deception from him. Fear, yes, and he stinks of it but he at least believes what he is saying." Nomti said in his deep gravelly voice as he looked away from the priest to Kamenwati and then to Alex-polis.
"I believe his is being honest my lord, there was to much fear in him to be anything else."
Alexipolis looked at the men around him then off towards the retreating priest, then up into the sky. He nodded and removed his helm and stretched his neck, laying the helm on the saddle as Xenippos did the same.
"Alright, let’s go have a look and see what other tales we might hear today." He then turned to Kamenwati, " Andrippos and Amisi should stay out here in case something happens while we are gone."
"Agreed that way both an Egyptian and a Greek will be here to command"
Both Andrippos and Amisi looked at one another then back to their lords and nodded.
The four men turned towards the temple and the diminishing figure of the priest.
Quickly the soldiers in front whom heard the entire conversation quickly turned and gathered the other warriors around them repeating the story. Both Greek and Egyptian made signs to ward off evil as they said silent prayers to whatever Gods they worshiped as the fog around seemed to swirl and darken around them.
The quartet followed the priest down the path passing the giant statues that seem to look everywhere at once. Vibrant paint colored their clothes and skin. They ascended the great stairway that led up and into the temple. Inside incense burned in the many niches made into the walls. There were several braziers made of gold scattered throughout the hall that stood about five feet high tall and three feet rounded light the room. Small skylights opened in the ceiling allowing some natural light to filter in. The light that came in appeared like beams of light that crisscrossed the room caused by all the smoke in the room. A pool lay in the middle of the room that was fed from a ravine that came out from the wall in the form of a waterfall. The soft sound of the splashing water filled the room with the sound of deep chanting of priests in the antechambers of the large room. The room was forty feet by twenty feet with columns so thick that it would take ten men holding hands to encircle them. Several altars were carved from the walls that were stacked with offerings left by other patrons before them. Vines and plants grew in the trenches that ran the length of the room. The statues of the three sisters of fate stood by the foot of the pool as if divining the water.
They stood for a moment in the doorway to the temple, allowing their eyes to adjust then to simply marvel in the spectacle of the Oracle. Unhurriedly they look about taking everything in, in this sacred most place, since none of these men had ever been here before.
Xenippos looked to the back of the chamber just in time to see the back of the priest's robes trailing out behind him as turned down a corridor. He looked over to his lord and tapped him lightly with his elbow then nodded towards the direction of the retreating acolyte. Alexipolis nodded his reply took one last around as he started towards the corridor, but slowed as they passed the figures of the three Sisters of Fate. Kamenwati nearly crashed into Alexipolis as he paused at the statues of the fates, and then stood still staring into their faces. The Egyptian prince looked at the Greek then to the statues then back to the man, and then turned and looked at Nomti and Xenippos who both were doing the same thing. All of them trying to figure out what the Spartan lord were looking at. They all looked at one another as the sounds of water echoed around and the smoke of incense drifted pass them. Abruptly Alexipolis shook his head then started off once more leaving the three other men in confused silence; they simply shrugged and followed the man.
Under a great archway they passed through as their shadows danced in the flickering lights of the torches of the long narrow passageway they entered, leaving the filtered natural light of the main chamber behind them. The passage was nearly fifteen feet long and dimly lit as the air moved through the hallway made the flames flicker and weave. The soldiers' footsteps echoed softly as the moved down the way.
Alexipolis and Xenippos looked towards the walls and followed up to ceiling they saw Egyptian hieroglyphs, though they paid it little mind since neither one could read them. The Egyptians paused a few feet into the passageway once they noticed the hieroglyphs. Kamenwati stopped and began to read the writing; as he stepped towards the right wall leaned in, his long finger leading the way on the way then suddenly faltered and wavered on a glyph. His eyes went big as a look of surprise erupted on his face. He called Nomti over to him then stepped aside as he had him read the writing. Nomti's eyes grew wide at the words. He passed for several moment, finally he turned his head slowly to his lord and back again as Kamenwati arched his brow and nodded.
"I can't believe it, if indeed that is true.." Nomti words trailed off as Kamenwati smiled a crooked smile towards him.
He shrugged then and laid a hand on his captain's shoulder.
"Perhaps someday we will find out"
He turned and walked off to rejoin the others, his footsteps barely making a whisper. It took a moment longer for Nomti to follow suit.
Into another chamber they entered, rejoining the Greeks who were waiting at the entranceway look across the room. Both men had removed their helmets and cradled them in the crook of their right arms.
This room was quite different then the main chamber they had just been in. The expanse of it was actually quite small and the ceiling hung very low. There was sparseness to the room, for somehow it would it seem it would be lavishly endowed here. The priest stood by a curtain, looking back at them, a small opening between the curtains showed a veil behind it. His eyes seemed a blazed with fanatical delight at the looks on the soldiers' faces.
This room was twenty feet by twenty feet. The only thing that decorated the room was that the walls were utterly covered vines except for the benches of stone that were carved from it. Light poured and filled the room from the skylight in the ceiling that bathed the men in sunlight and casting the rest of the room in a din of placid shadows. A soft and feminine voice began to speak. It came from behind the curtains.
"Alexipolis, Kamenwati , Xenippos and Nomti" Her voice was gentle and flowed like a bubbling stream but seemed to fill the entire room, coming suddenly from every direction. "I knew you would be here, for the Gods needed a champion for this crusade"
The supplicant had separated the curtains as she had spoken. Only the shadow of her form could be seen through the veil. The beams of sunlight stopped inches from the veil, allowing you to see it but casting enough shadows that you couldn't see through the material. Her shadowed form appeared to be sitting on some kind of stool or chair and she was hunched over. The ceiling on the other side hung very low making her stoop upon the stool.
Each man sifted uneasily, as each man could feel her eyes on him even though none could see her eyes from behind veil.
"What is it exactly that they can we do for them?" Alexipolis asked as he stepped forward towards her his arms going wide, "what is it that we face? For all we have heard is nothing more than rumors, and yet since we left we have heard nothing nor have we seen anything!"
"A darkness from the north comes. A great darkness from beyond the mountains and from a great black forest is descending towards us. A fury of rage and hatred unlike any this world has ever seen before." Her voice seemed to dance in the room around them enveloping them "Great white ghosts dance in the trees the size of towers as they deliver sacrifices to their blood gods! Like shadows they move and kill."
At the mention of shadows Alexipolis and Xenippos looked at each other remembering Kaphalos and the shadows that appeared alive that surrounded him and that he gives the impression of talking to.
"Yes Spartans you saw the projected image of the enemy. To the north you must travel. Follow the Aegean and go beyond Greece and her borders and past the straits and once you go past the mountains you will make landfall. You will go farther then any Greek or Egyptian has ever gone before and you will need all of your strength and bravery for this mighty warriors."
"And what will happen if we should happen to fail Pythia?" Kamenwati asked as he stepped forward his strong face filled with curiosity.
"Then none of your men shall see their homes again nor shall they know freedom. They're souls shall wonder the world never being able to find the afterlife and be tormented by such creatures that you couldn't imagine. Then the hordes will strike south and into the hearts of both Greece and Egypt. For they need slaves and sacrifices to their gods. They crave power and riches. Their gods now know of these lands. The pain and fear that they will inflect in this world gorge them like an over fed lion after a fresh kill."
As she spoke, tiredness slowly crept in her voice with each sentence she voiced.
"What happened to you a month ago? What attacked you? Where it these things that we shall encounter?" Alexipolis asked as he studied her shadow.
For several minutes she made no reply nor did she make any movements. The room filled with a dreadfully deep silence. The men looked at each other as they waited.
"I felt only a small paradigm of one of their Gods powers. From the great North they reached out and defiled this temple and I.." She faltered.
Her voice trembled as she continued.
"He tried to cross the threshold of this sacred site but the sisters of fate denied it to him, for they neither work nor serve any God." Her voice trailed off, "But even then he still touched me with his unclean hands. He showed me paths of pain and blood he would give to me and all who stood before his wrath"
A soft sob escaped her.
"What can we do against such power? We are but mortal men," Kamenwati asked as the others nodded at his words.
It took several moments for her to answer.
"You carry the mark of the gods upon you. You are now more than simply mortal men. You are the striking arm of the Gods."
Her voice suddenly became silent as the shade of her head tilted as if she was listening to someone. She came close to the veil; her hands moved up along the material, which made them sway lightly, and called Kamenwati to her. He stepped forward and silently crossed the room, then leaned in close his ear against the veil. She whispered into the Egyptians' ear, the sound of her voice carried but not her words.
Kamenwati turned and walked back to the others, his face reveled nothing.
Xenippos looked down as the first tendrils of fog moved around his legs. Quickly his hand shot out to his lord as he nodded towards the floor. Alexipolis looked down and saw the fog beginning to roll in. At the same moment Kamenwati looked past them and saw it streaming along the passageway a gasp escaped Nomti as he saw the fog. It slithered into the room quickly unfurling around them and expanding.
As one, all four men looked around the room at once.
"You must go now, for he has returned! Remember what I have told you. To the north," Panic gripped voice as she spoke, her words coming faster' “No matter what happens here you must get past the mountains."
Suddenly an overwhelming presence filled the room. The smell of tilled earth, smoke and the coppery smell of blood washed over them. Darkness choked most of the light from the room.
The sound of swords being drawn filled the small room as Alexipolis, Xenippos and Kamenwati freed their weapons. Nomti pulled his great ax from the holster on his back and took a step back to prepare a swing.
Behind the veil, the shadow of the Oracle abruptly lifted from the floor. Her arms went wide on either side of her and her legs kicked wildly. She began to spin in midair. She went faster and faster as voice spilled out of her throat that could not possibly come from her spoke,
"Deres svak Guder knelte makten er Kells!" It roared vibrating the floor in its wrath.
"Kommet forbanne tåper kommer nord føler guddommelig smerten!" The voice boomed again, though it had an under tone that promised a lifetime of pain.
The four men looked at one another all shaking their heads for none of them could understand the words that were being spewed at them. They could only watch as the body of the Oracle begins to move as if someone grab a hold her and was shaking her at them.
The guttural voice coming from her shook everything in the room.
"Coward!!" Roared Alexipolis his voice echoed around the small chamber.
He leapt forward and took hold of the veil with his left hand and with a great pull ripped it down. The veil fluttered down as if in slow motion as it began pooling at his feet; with sword still in his hand, he looked up and beheld the Oracle.
The Oracle herself was middle aged, with streaks of gray that highlighted her waist long light brown hair. Lines of pain crisscrossed her face, as her mouth formed a large O was open as if in a scream but no sound escaped from her. She writhed, as her face was begun to turn purple. As they watched a milky form begun to envelope her light brown eyes. Her blue dress hung around her swaying in the air dancing faintly on stray currents of wind. The cloth around her waist look as if invisible fingers clutched her in a grip as indents in the fabric looked like imprints of actual fingers. Her fists wailing away on something that he could not see, each swing stopped just over her body as if it hit something solid.
The others had crossed the room in a heartbeat joining him on either side then came to an abrupt halt as they stared in disbelief at was before them.
"You want us? We are here before you, fight us, do not hold hostage this woman!" Alexipolis roared once more as his knuckles turned white, wanting to lash out his anger.
"Hvilke boks deg gjør virkelig krigere!!"
The voice came from her yet again, her lips looked stiff as if being forced to form words alien to her. A dark, deep wicked laughter erupted from her throat it echoed around them madly as if it were alive.
It went silent; when suddenly the body of the Pythia shot straight up and smashed straight into the ceiling, the sound of a terrible crunching resonance filled the tiny area as did the wet sound that came next. No sound did she utter as she was smashed against the ceiling yet again. She looked like a rag doll being thrashed about by an unruly child. Her blood rained down from her broken body as her limbs turned in misshaping directions. Spray from of her blood made a crimson shower over the soldiers below her as her continued to be smashed against the ceiling then the walls. The area around her stains the stones in red gore. All of them quickly put their faces down as the blood continued to rain down upon them, all of whom quite use to blood but never had any seen something like this.
The voice came again then, though this time it was as soft as a whisper seeming to speak in each mans ear at once.
"Deretter later sett hvilke utkjempe deg smått people legge tapper maur!" It paused for a moment then whispered again "Then lets see what fight you little people can put up brave little ants"
It laughed again as it began to slowly fade away.
All of them looked at one another then turned and ran back down the corridor, their shadows running ahead of them as the sound of their footfalls and gear echo around them. Out into the main chamber of the temple they raced, all of them leaping over the pool, without hesitation they burst through the archway then down the temple steps, taking several at once.
Kamenwati began yelling at the top of his voice and waving his arms as they sprinted along the path towards their soldiers. Several of the men heard the voice of Kamenwati and raised their heads, they gave a cry, and then both Greek and Egyptian leapt to their feet and raced towards their lords.
Alexipolis and Xenippos made it back to the horses. Quickly they pulled their helms on fully after they sheathed their swords, then lifted their spears and turned to Kamenwati.
"Quickly have your archers get into the middle of my men, they can protect them from any kind of air launched attacks." He said to Kamenwati, pointing towards his Spartans.
Xenippos ran over to the men and began getting them into a circle, as they crouched low bringing up their shields to bear as the spears leaned against it pointing outward making a deadly circular wall of death. In this form eyes could be in every direction at once. The men looked slowly around seeking a target to strike at their lords' command.
"NebiMdjai to arms!!" Kamenwati yelled calmly as he leapt into the saddle of his horse and then pulled his lance free from a holster. "Archers move into the center of the Greek position, they will be able to defend you, and you will follow Alexipolis's orders to the letter!"
He turned his horse as he looked around and surveyed the land then smiled. Most of the land around the temple was flat and open, which would allow his horsemen to be effective. The four horsemen cantered up to their lord as the six skirmishers came up.
The skirmishers left their swords sheathed instead, and then reached behind shifting their quiver of javelins to their hips as each man pulled one shaft free and ready. They jog quickly to the side of the horsemen, as they adjusted their long large shields, which vaguely resembled an old tombstone, tightening their straps of their shields to their shoulders.
Alexipolis looked up at Kamenwati, and reached up his arm as the other man reached down and they clasped arms, nodded to each other. Kamenwati turns this horse away him back towards his own horsemen.
Alexipolis slides his shield off his back and on his left arm, as he flexes his fingers around shaft of his spear as he jogs over to his men, the Egyptian archers behind him. They move quickly into the middle of the circle as the Greeks part for them.
Alexipolis jogs around the men, at least in the direction of the temple, then turned and looked at them his eyes moving to every man before he spoke. The man away from him turned to look towards their lord.
"Spartans! Today we face an unknown enemy! We don't know where they will come from nor what they will look like, but we are Spartans, we are Lions!" He yelled as his men struck their shields with their spears and cheered. "We have faced every enemy in the same fashion, head on and without fear!! We are Spartans and we are Leontiskos!! We are fearsome, and if we die today let it be a glorious death that will be sung for generations to come!!"
All the Spartans screamed and howled at the words their lord spoke, which still echoed around them.
Kamenwati turned to his men and at the same time Alexipolis gave his speech he began his own.
"We have fought and we have killed. The warm blood of our enemies has heated our own blood! I ask you again to spill more blood of whatever comes at us today. We will not know fear, as our deeds will be immortal. We will hold against whatever will throw them against."
At that moment the horse reared up as screams and war cries seem to fly all around them as if coming from within the fog itself.
"Anubis will watch and guide our arms to deal death with a wanton regard. We will teach them to fear us and we shall toss their black souls into the river Styx!!" A cheer went up amongst the Egyptians at their prince's words.
All around them dark shapes glided past them coming in and out of the fog, though never far enough to tell what they are, as the most unholy howling poured forth. The sound was like banshees or the dead lost to drown in the River Styx.
For ten minutes this went on, whatever was in the fog never revealed itself, other than the most obscure of shapes. The Greek and Egyptian warriors watched these shapes flitter and fly around them, though neither letting down their guard.
The screaming unexpectedly ceased and an all to familiar sound came.
"Shields up!!!" Xenippos yelled as he dropped to one knee bringing his shield up above his head hooking it above to the men's shield next to him.
In an instant the entire Greeks circle swept together to form a dome of shields, engulfing themselves and the archers under it. The screams of the arrows filled the afternoon sky, seeming to come out the fog itself, arching up into the sky then curving down and streaking down at the Greeks. The arrows struck harmlessly against the shields most deflecting and tumbling onto the ground.
Kamenwati turned towards the sounds of the arrows as his skirmishers moved to either side of the horsemen, each man clutching their weapons in anticipation of the violence about to be born.
Everyman on the field of battle feels his nerves begin to tingle. Can feel every droplet of sweat that always comes with battle no matter the weather itself. Can feel each second as it stretches in anticipation of bloodshed. To the song of the bird that seems to suddenly rise in volume. Or perhaps that is a memory since the only sound is the wind that moans softly and arrows that scream for blood.
Another volley of arrows came screaming again and hammered against the bronze shield with the same effect as before. That is when the howling and screaming din came again deep within the fog.
"Whatever is out there, I think is going to strike" Yelled Alexipolis to Xenippos as they both peeked out from under their enclosure as the shadows seemed to be coming forward.
"Prepare weapons ready!" Everyone rose to a crouch as spears slide between the openings of shields.
Suddenly the fog rolled back, as unbelievably tall and powerfully built creatures came bursting forth from it Their bodies where pure white. They had the shapes of man but nothing like any of the men had ever seen before. Some these giant men seemed to have some kind leggings on as other had loin clothes or where simply completely naked.
Their bodies where white with blue designs on them of bizarre patterns. They had long beards, some as long as their waists all had braiding entwined in. Their long unruly hair flew out behind them; this also had braids within them. Most of them had between mid-back to waist length hair. Some of the things had what looked like almost white hair; others had very golden hair, like beams of sunlight. Most had different hues of brown. Their faces had blue patterns that went over their eyes and noses.
Giant axes nearly the size of the things themselves were wielded, or swords as wide as a man's arm and nearly as long. They came screaming out, like ravenous wolves they came. They were also taller than any of the Greeks or Egyptians. In no kind of order did they march but flowed like an avalanche down a mountain.
"Brace yourselves Spartans!!" Cried Xenippos.
"Into lines!" Alexipolis commanded.
The circle dissipated and reformed into two straight solid lines formed, the front turning sideways ready for the impact to come their spears gripped tightly. Shields came up held firmly against their bodies as the spears from the second row were laid over their shoulders as the butts here against their shields. Feet dug into the earth for traction.
The Egyptian archers all drew arrows and fitted them to their strings and pulled back, tips pointed just above the heads of the Greeks before them.
With a great clash the creatures threw themselves against the Greek line. The power of these creatures astonished the Greeks, but the line held firm. The man things screamed in some kind of demon language at them as their great giant weapons slashed against Greek Shields as great sparks.
On the far right side a Greek soldier holding his shield yelling back at his foe when suddenly a giant axe blade cleaved the shield into two taking half the mans arm with it as he screamed in pain. The broken shield was ripped from his arm when the thing pulled his axe back, the shield stuck firmly against the axe black. The giant man looked down at had happened for a moment then back up to the man, his pale blue eyes looked astonished. The Greek forgetting his agony, let his left arm fall to his side his own blood running down his hand, shifted his grip on the spear. His dark brown eyes went wide as he growled, then screamed and with all his might drove the blade of the spear down through the others sternum. The chest exploded into a fine mist of blood, and a moment later the white creature coughed up deep black blood out of his mouth, that turned his chin black. The tip ripped out the back blood running freely down his back and lower legs. It screamed and looked at the shaft then dropped to its knees, coughed up more blood then fell over. The Greek Hoplite watched the giant go down then realized he had no weapon in his hand and was reaching for his sword when he heard growl and looked up in time to see a large blade arching over his head, whispered a prayer to Ares, knowing this was the end and laughed as the sword blade took his head and most of his left shoulder off. The soldier behind stepped over his fallen comrade and took his post in the line and drove his spear through the throat of the creature that just killed his countryman before him. The thing dropped it weapon and reached up to its throat trying to hold the blood in his severed arteries as he drowned in his own blood.
The Spartan neither paused nor looked down at his fallen comrade, but looked for another combatant. Emotions had no place on the battlefield.
Alexipolis was bracing himself as he looked up and down the line as more and more of these creatures throw themselves against the Greeks. He looked over at Xenippos who nods then with a great yelled.
As one the men heaved forward throwing all the creatures backwards and as one both the front and back rows stabbed forward impaling all the men before them. Then with a twist of the spear turns the blade inside the other men then as one rip out the spears back out. A sea of blood and gore explodes before them. A great scream of pain erupted.
Alexipolis smiles at the sound and looks forward, that smile faded as he watched the ones they didn't hit seem to suddenly seem to lose emotion and began tremble. Their eyes roll into the back of their heads as their mouths open and close silently. A horrendous cry erupts from them as they look up and towards the Greeks as their eyes roll madly around.
They charge blindly forward.
To the left the sound of horses could be heard, as Kamenwati and his four horsemen prepare for a charge. He had watched the first assault in amazement at the power and size of these things before the Greeks. He watched as the as they pushed them off them. He turned to Nomti
"Quickly take the men and circle out and behind them, as you move in use your javelins then switch to swords. Hit and run. These things are seem ungodly powerful"
At his words he heard a scream and turned to look as a Greek soldier impaled another one, but instead of falling down it instead grabbed the spear and with a bloodthirsty scream pulled itself up along shaft. The thing ripped the shield off the arm of the Spartan raised above his head began to bash the man's head and face in with it, even as other Greeks began to thrust spear points into its body. Finally when the mans face a bloody mush the creature howled like a wolf turned to find another foe the shield still held in his hands, when Xenippos turned slammed his spear through the open mouth, taking most of the back off. Without any emotion he turned back in line and brought his shield up in time to deflect another blow as the line reformed itself.
"Wait till I make my pass, then come in and attack and pull back and I will make another pass. We will keep that up as long as we can."
"Yes my lord" Nodded Nomti and smiled wickedly.
The Greeks pushed again and stabbed forward taking down another entire row of ghost creatures. Before his eyes they stood up again bleeding deeply and screamed in rage.
The Egyptian archers backed up as they watched the battle unfurl then brought their bows up. Almost every arrow struck, but it did nothing to these men, most didn't even seem to notice them sticking out of their chests arms and legs. They released another volley into them, though this time one of the men saw them, withdrew a small curved ax out. He reached and hurled it. With a lightening quickness it flew, and embedded itself deeply into the archers face with the force threw the man backwards.
They were notching another round of arrows when they saw movement to their left. From the shadows they saw their fellow Skirmishers moving quickly and quietly out and behind the monsters they faced as their prince circled his horsemen out then turned back around when they had ample room. With a Great War cry he kicked the horse into action.
With Kamenwati in the front the horsemen with Amisi directly behind him took a wedge shape form as they moved. They charged, and as they did so Kamenwati counted at least forty foes before them.
This makes it at least two to one odds in their favor, now lets see if we can thin that out some.
With another Great War cry he charged in.
Alexipolis saw Kamenwati coming in for a charge and noticed that these men hadn't saw them and were only fixated on them, so he yelled to his men
"Kamenwati is going to charge push as hard as you can then step back, let him charge then we charge back in, push again for he will make another charge! All the while do as much damage as you can to these creatures. Mercy is for the weak and we are not weak we are SPARTANS!" and with that the line prepared for the command.
Alexipolis watched Kamenwati come in and waited till right before he smashed into them he screamed
With all their might, The Spartans threw the other men backwards and off balance just as Kamenwati and his men smashed into them. The first man he hit he drove him into the ground pinning him there with the lance that he quickly let go as he passed him. He drew his sword immediately and severed the head of the man in front of him with the withdrawal swing. Amisi flew in behind her cousin her hair billowing out behind as her lance took of the top part of a man's head before her, let go of her lance into the throat of another man. The other horsemen did the same. In the first push eleven creatures lay dead on the field. Kamenwati led them out and turned them around again to prepare for another charge.
At that moment Nomti came rushing in as all six of the skirmishers hurled their javelins into the foe, making them turn towards them. Nomti looked out at Kamenwati as he began to turn them over to Alexipolis, and hurled another javelin as they raced back out. . The Greeks then rushed back in slamming into them from the side their spears finding flesh to bury themselves into. The white warriors screamed in rage and leapt into the shields of the Greeks in such a rage they took down three more Greeks with the surprise of their ferocity of their attacks, nearly tearing their limbs from their bodies.
Once more Kamenwati spurred his men into the fray just as the Spartans pushed them from their shields and leapt backwards. This time his blade flashed in a dance of gore as it struck into everyone he passed. This time one of giant warriors turned and grabbing a hold of a horsemen, and ripped the rider down from the saddle slamming him into the ground. The sound of bones breaking was the last sound the rider heard as his neck snapped. The warrior who pulled down the Egyptian whirled bringing his axe over his head as his hair wrapped around him and screamed spittle flew from his mouth, began to take out his wrath out on the corpse before him.
Nomti then struck the group once more and rained javelins down on them. Bring the white warriors in a chaotic mass. Kamenwati looked over his shoulder and saw that this time they took out another large group.
The Spartans once more rushed the white warriors, though this time when they struck with their spears left them in the bodies they hit. As one, they pulled their blades forth, a dark look passed over their faces and they leapt into the fray as the archers dropped their bows and pulled out their swords and charged in behind the Spartans.
Screams of the dying and the cries of rage filled the blood soaked battlefield.
Andrippos headed straight for the man who was still hacking away on the body of the fallen Egyptian horseman. The white flesh of the enemy warrior was covered in gore, only heard his charge seconds before Andrippos removed his head from his body. Even with the head gone the body continued to swing for several moments before joining its head on the ground.
Xenippos charged one; the creature took a huge two-handed swing of its axe, brining it over its back then smashing down into the Spartans shield. Xenippos side stepped as the creature was recovering from his swing smashed his shield into its face. Its face went up in a mist of red as its nose and lips smashed apart. It staggered backwards with Xenippos in close pursuit, with a thrust the blade of his sword slid in-between the ribs of the creature and slicing into its black heart. He turned before it fell and slashed his sword across the back of one of them who had his back to him.
Alexipolis had lost his shield and picked up another sword and was fight two handedly. He was deflecting blows and then coming in for the kill. Constantly moving and weaving he never slowed down but coldly and emotionlessly cut down everyone before him.
A man appeared before him and with a mighty roundhouse swing of a huge two-handed sword tried to take his head from his shoulders. Alexipolis bent backwards a watched as the blade sailed over where his head had just bend then rose up and in crisscrossing motions began to cut into the others chest. The thing was defenseless against his unrelenting attack when finally he whirled and with both swords took its head from his shoulders.
He turned quickly and looked around, his breath beginning to become labored as he looked for another enemy to engage. His eyes slowly moved across the killing field and noticed that no enemy was standing. The dead littered the turned earth, the wounded lay bleeding the living stand shocked and exhausted. He reached up and pushed his helmet up over his head so it revealed his face and allowed him to breath, which he did deeply. He heard a noise and turned to look seeing Nomti and his band walking over to them and behind them Kamenwati and Amisi was leading there three remaining horsemen back to the carnage. A shine of blood covered the Egyptian horsemen and their horses. A look of pleasure enraptured Kamenwati.
Alexipolis turned back, looking for his captains and saw them as they were walking amongst the dead stabbing their blades into the bodies and killing the severely wounded.
Suddenly a horn sounded, it was deep and haunting. The bodies of the man creatures began to shimmer and waver as turned to wisps fog and floated back to join the fog that still surround them but it to seemed to be retreating.
Slowly it began to recede as the setting sun began to bleed through. In five minutes all of the fog was gone and so were the bodies of their enemies. Kamenwati had dismounted his steed and was walking over to Alexipolis with his men in tow. He bowed to him and laid a hand on his shoulder, Alexipolis turned to him and smiled.
"The stories of your prowess are as true as I have heard!" He grinned, “I am most honored to be by your side in this."
"As am I to be by yours friend prince." He grinned back as he ran a hand over his face to remove sweat and blood and looked around "I was impressed with your tactic using Nomtis' men with the javelins in between your charges, that really helped us"
Kamenwati shrugged off the compliment and he too wiped the sweat and blood from his face before replying.
"When you had your men push them into our charge was that brilliant! I know that we will be devastating together!" He laughed and sang a few words in Egyptian "Now let us gather our men and the dead and head back to shore, before it becomes midnight!"
"I agree with you I would like to be back aboard the ship before to long." He turned to his men and raised his hand as he walked towards them "You men have done a glorious deed this day! I salute you and as do our comrades! Now let us tally not and gather up the dead and be gone from this wretched place, I think some wine calls to us this night!"
A mighty cheer went up as the men sheathed their weapons and put aside shields as they spread out to get to the unsavory part of battle. The sun was beginning to turn orange above them as the last traces of gray fled the dusk skies. The sound of birds began to filter around them again as did the normal sound of cicadas and other insects. The last of the day's light falls down around the land in a soothing and warm embrace.
Conversations began around as the soldiers moved amongst the dead, dragging the bodies of their fallen comrades into lines as others moved around the blood soaked grounds retrieving lost weapons and armor. They cleaned off the weapons as well as they could on such short notice.
Alexipolis moved among the dead, helping his men with their duties. This was one reason (Of many) that so many Spartan warriors respected and fought to be under his command.
Having dropped the last dead soldier into the line of the other four dead men, he glanced over and saw his lost shield. Chuckled softly to his self as he reached down and lifted it off the ground, straighten up then hooked to his back. He brushed the grim and dirt off his hands as he slowly scanned the surrounding area, watching his men move about.
He turned to watch the as the setting sun became a blood red orb in sky. Lower the sun sank behind mount Parnassus as the few clouds behind it ignited in shades of reds and pinks. He stood watching as the light on the ground withdrew with the sun across the land, as his shadow chased after the light. The cool crispness of the night gently enfolded her arms around the world in her black arms. Silently like a blanket being unfurled the stars winked into existence once more. The wind began to blow greeting the night and carrying upon it's back the scent of the Aegean.
The sound of the Egyptians came from behind, as they started their funeral rites. A chanting softly rolled out from them.
"BY THE GODS!"
Alexipolis whirled around to the sound of his men who had cried out. He as saw several of his men looking up into the night skies and pointing, their eyes wide and mouths open with the look of awe and disbelief.
His green eyes followed the gazes of his soldiers up into the night skies. His own eyes open wide as he saw what the others were locked onto.
The chanting rises and descends; faster and faster it came from the Egyptians. Like the tides of the sea, it washes over them saturating them and the night skies.
Alexipolis's head swam at the rhythm of the chanting, making it seem that the night sky seem to dance and sway around him. What had looked like a large shooting star flaming through the night sky suddenly turned and began to fall at them. For several moments it hurled towards them, everyone quiet as the chanting became more fevered.
As one a great gasp escaped all the Greeks. For above them the meteorite burst into a great fireball, great fingers of flame licked the sky behind it. Then without warning the flame froze, and then fell back upon itself. A thunderous boom cracked the night making the earth below their feet tremble.
Everyone looked down as they fought for balance, once the ground stopped it movement they all looked up.
Above them in the sky was a chariot. A team of six horses, pulling the chariot itself that glowed in an unearthly illuminating blue glow, carried it forward. With each step of the horses left a flame, which flickered in the wind then faded till the next step.
As it came closer it grew in size till the chariot stood nearly ten feet tall, the horses were nearly fifteen and were as black of the darkest pitch of night. It circled twice over their heads then landed upon the ground feet from the Egyptians. Fading patches of flame traced its path through the night sky. The horses cantered to a stop as they pawed the ground. On top of their heads of what like long slender headpieces that that had some kind of red fabrics streaming out of them. Their eyes glowed in the moonlight that now flooded the area, like that of the eyes of cats.
The timbers of the Chariot groaned its driver stepped off the base and set its sandal-clad feet onto the hard earth. With a single step he stepped around the back of the chariot and in clear sight. The man was nearly twelve feet tall. His shoulder length was that of two large men put together. His arms were the size of both of Alexipolis's legs that folded over his barrel chest. On upper arms are were serpents that wrapped around them, made of silver, and appeared to be actually moving. Gold bands reflect the moonlight, though they seem to glow softly within the light itself.
A black apron of sorts covers his stomach and covers over half of his left thigh. The blackness of the fabric moves faintly like a trick of the light, or a mist at night. He wore a deep dark blood red pleated kilt. In the fashion that Kamenwati and his countrymen wear. His clothes move and dance upon the winds that do not blow.
What took everyone's breath away was what on the shoulder of the man. For it was no human head. It was that of a jackal, its fur was a rust color, which covered his neck, head, snout and pointed upright ears. The headpiece that Pharaohs of Egypt wear, sits on the back most of its head. Its ears twitch a few times as its cold and hard eyes look over all before him. The eyes also reflect the moonlight in a haunting fashion, for they seem to glow in an eerie light.
In the faintest whisper Alexipolis said only one word
The God stared at him for a moment, as if looking into his very soul and then nodded faintly as if what he saw he agreed with then turned it's attention to the Egyptians. It walked with neither sound nor shadow.
Kamenwati opened his eyes as Anubis came to the other side of dead Egyptians lying on the earth and looked down upon them. The others living Egyptians continued the chanting. Kamenwati bowed deeply before his god then rose to his feet and walked to him. He stood before the God staring up into its eyes.
For several minutes this continued on. Anubis then turned towards the dead reached out his hand and at once the dead Egyptians sat up and looked around them, first seeing their prince then the God. All of them looked down at their bodies, and saw the damage done to them, a flutter of sadness crossed their faces, and then they sighed as they rose to their feet in an unnatural grace.
To Kamenwati the fallen Egyptians walked as the Prince raised his hands out, palms up. Each in turn kissed his palms and received a nod, then turned away from him and walked to the Chariot and stood in it's chamber and waited.
Kamenwati turned to his God once more and bowed his head. The god turned and began to walk towards the chariot, paused a moment and looked at the Greeks once again and raised his hand towards them. On command all the dead Spartans then too sat up, a moment of confused terror passed over their face then they saw Alexipolis once more.
They leapt to his feet looking at their captain then over to the towering creature. Anubis walked over to the Spartan lord and looked at him as he came, then a voice filled Alexipolis' ears, more like the whisper a deserts wind, filled his ears but he could hear words nevertheless.
"Spartan, fear not, I will return the dead to the River Styx. They will know the afterlife. Charon will take them across and the Gods will know their names." Anubis' voice was as cold and hollow as the grave.
Alexipolis nodded his head to the deity then looked to his fallen men; step before them and in a clear and steady voice said
"My fallen warriors, you must go now, and know that you died gloriously and honorable and your names will not be forgotten!"
The dead Spartans turned away from their lord, glancing over at their fellow soldiers then seemed to resign themselves to their fates and walked to the ethereal chariot, one by one the climbed into the cubby to stand next to the Egyptians soldiers.
Anubis turned back to his chariot, stepping up into making the timbers creak under his weight. The space within the chariot itself seemed to fit everybody in it without seeming to become crowded but remained exactly the same. He took up the reins and with a flick of his wrists the horses leapt into the air and shot into the sky like a shooting star except going in reverse, leaving behind a trail of fire and flames.
Xenippos came and stood by his lord watching the chariot streaking up into the sky, then as it turned into a fire ball, its great fiery tail streaking out behind it, then turned to him and shook his head.
"I am beginning to think that we are into something that is beyond what we have ever done before."
"Agreed old friend, and I think before to long that things will only become even more tangled." He sighed and chuckled "Now before anything else decides to show up let us head back to our ships!"
The ten Spartans soldiers left, reformed into lines, most still glancing over their shoulders up into the night skies. Kamenwati remounted his steeds, sluggishly as if he had just reawakened. He sat there for a moment as staring off into nothing as Amisi rode up behind him, trailing the horse that Alexipolis rode in on and handed down the reins to him, her eyes seemed almost the same as Anubis's when the Spartan grabbed the reins and looked up, it startled him but he showed no reaction to it and climbed up.
He looked at his soldiers, covered in blood and gore from the battle but still looked in good spirits after such an intense fight. He looked over to his Egyptian counterpart who looked as if still half in a trance, he cleared his throat. Kamenwati eyes dragged over towards him as a faint half felt smile parted his lips and stared through him.
"Are you ready to head back? Then I will have my horsemen scout ahead of us to look for ambushes." The Egyptian princes' words hung in the air for a moment then he nodded and urged his horse forward.
The horsemen spurred ahead and down the road quickly putting distance between the main party. The rest of the infantry fell in behind the two lords as the company began down the road.
Xenippos had moved his shield onto his back as they marched his eyes moving constantly along the horizon all the foothills. As his hand never loosened from the shaft of the spear that was resting on his shoulder, so that a moment’s notice he could jump into action if need be. On either side of them were the foothills of Mt. Parnassus making it a prime area for an ambush as they moved along the road that cut through them and down to the sea.
His eyes kept coming back to Kamenwati, he saw the look that he had, and knew all to well that look. He had fought several blood cults before and remembered that look they had when they had after or during blood rituals. His mind kept turning it over and over as to why an Egyptian god would come out here to collect the dead? Something is off kilter here. He clenched his jaws tightly in frustration. He would have to talk to Alexipolis about the events of today.
An hour’s march later they made the beach again. The lights from the campfires igniting the night skies around the docks where the main force had made base camp. The sounds of the turf ebbing and flowing carried to them on the winds and peppered with the scent of the sea. The Horsemen had already made it to the camp having riding the vanguard.
The men broke ranks as they marched into the fringes of camp, quickly moving off to join friends and groups. Chattering amongst the soldiers both Greek and Egyptian as tales of the event unfolded in several directions at once. The returning soldiers were also stripping off their armor and weapons and setting about the unbreakable rule of cleaning them.
The captains came and joined their lords as they sat down. Several Egyptians came over and took the horses used in the battle stripping them of their saddles and harnesses as others came with buckets and brushes and began to rub down the animals.
Andrippos dropped down next Xenippos after dropping his bow and sword onto the ground next to him. As he started to untie the straps on his armor he looked over to Alexipolis and laughed.
"My lord, you know, I believe you are the only man who could go to a temple and come away in the blood of battle! I can see why they keep you at bay at the feasts in Sparta; you would end up killing all the guests!"
Xenippos, Nomti, Kamenwati and Amisi all burst out laughing at his words.
Alexipolis sighed deeply and rolled his eyes at his captains words and removed his helm and looked down and over at him,
"Ah, Andrippos, when will you stop being my second wife? Of course you whine much more then my first one ever did" He look up as if looking to her, "Perhaps I should bring her instead if she weren't dead and leave you at home!"
Xenippos laughed at his lords' words and looked over at Andrippos as he jabbed him with a stubby finger.
"You would look good in a dress Andrippos all the Thebans would be clambering down your door!" He burst out laughing as did Alexipolis both hitting the ground and laughing till tears streamed from their eyes.
"I thought they did already!" Alexipolis cried between gasps of breath.
Slowly they began to regain their composure and helped each other back up. They looked over at Andrippos and started laughing again and threw their arms around him.
"Now you know even though I have my arm around you doesn't mean I want to have you as my wife!" Xenippos laughed as Andrippos punched him hard in the chest sending him to the ground, still laughing.
"Bah, your too damn dim to insult worthwhile my friend; you would simply take it as complements!" He said as he helped him back up into a sitting position.
"If you two old crones are all done bickering, I need a bath!" Alexipolis said as he turned to Andrippos then stood up.
He looked down at his captain then grinned broadly
"Next time perhaps we can go start a fight at the great library? We can find all the wonders and start a brawl in each one!" He laughed.
Xenippos and Andrippos laughed as they stood up both shaking their heads.
"Now," He paused and as he stretched out as arms and yawned, "We still have a ship to prepare for sailing. And we still need to bath then we can be on the way.
"Remember we lost several good men tonight, so make sure there is plenty of wine to go around." He said as he laid his hands on the Spartans shoulder and smiled then turned and began walking towards the sea.
Most of the men who were just at the battle had already stripped down and where already in the Aegean washing the dirt, sweat and gore from them as Alexipolis, Xenippos and Andrippos joined them. On the sands of the beach discarded clothes and sandals lay strewn about.
The Egyptians captains sat for a few moments watching the Greeks whom were washing themselves and wrestling. Nomti arched his brow as he turned to Kamenwati
"Well, they don't seem to be shy now do they?"
"No they don't indeed" He chuckled.
Nomti turned to Amisi and smirked at her.
"So, see anything that suite your fancy? Now that everything is on display for your enjoyment." Both he and Kamenwati laughed
She rolled her eyes at them and then looked to the heavens.
"Isis, why have you cast me with these worms?" Then she looked back to them and smirked wickedly "For they are little worms aren't they."
They both stopped laughing and stared over at her as she starting laughing in their steed. She stood up and looked at them both their mouths were open as they looked up at her.
"Careful boys, keep your mouths open like that and Andrippos's Thebans may find a use for you too!" She turned as began walking back towards their ship as she laughed heartily.
They looked at one another for a moment then they started laughing.
"I told you bringing her would make this adventure interesting!" Kamenwati said with a crooked grin.
Nomti only shook his head as he looked back at the Greeks who had since giving up bathing and an all out free for all was going on. Kamenwati stood up and stretched then helped his steward up to his feet. He looked over to the other as Xenippos lifted a man from the water and hurled him and another man laughing. He sighed and shook his head.
They started back for the ship leaving the Greeks to be Greeks.
Kamenwati boarded his ship and went below decks where a hot bath had been drawn for him and his personal valet was there to bath away the debris of the day away. He sank into the water and sighed pleasurably.
"Now this bathing."
Later that night after the bathing was finished and everyone found new clothing to wear. Beneath the ship in the main galley the three captains sat together in a closed off room, lounging on pillows. On the small squat table in the center of the room was piled with food consisting of lamb, grapes, vegetables and wine. The galley on the other side of the door was filled with snoring Spartan warriors and above decks at the stairway guards placed. In the small room the three men lean over their plates looking at one another as they talk, keeping their voices low so they will not carry and not to wake any of the sleeping men in the next room.
"The Delphic Pythia is dead, killed by the god. Well I can only assume it was a god, for who else can wield such power as that." Alexipolis said, as he looked between the two men, pausing to eat a grape, "Smashed against the ceiling by an invisible hand. Then from the fog these creatures come out of, these giants.
"What man goes into battle with armor or even clothes if it can be helped! They did more damage than anyone I have ever seen. I saw one ran through is a spear, he pulled himself further up and killed Atheom, nearly ripping him apart barehanded."
"They were all so largely built too, their arms about the size of my thighs. Their hair was a pale yellow to a light brown like I have never seen before. I have never seen anything like it." Xenippos said looking over to Alexipolis, who nodded in return.
"Which Egyptian god was that?" Andrippos asked after taking a mouthful of lamb.
"It was Anubis, messenger to the gods and bringer of the dead." Alexipolis replied to his captain.
"The thing that concerns me outside of the white demons is our new allies." Xenippos said as he looked in the direction of the other ship then back to the other men, "The Egyptians are a blood cult. I have seen the look they all had after the battle and when their god appeared, before on other faces. They all were unstable and untrustworthy."
He paused for a moment as he rubbed his shaved forehead.
“I wonder made it come and what kind of omen this means. They are not cowards in battle but what kind of rituals do they have and how will that interfere with our mission? With the lives of our own men's lives at stake?"
"I have been wondering same thing myself." Andrippos said remembering the look on them.
"Well my friends, it looks as if we have a precarious situation here. We will have to be prepared then for attacks from any side at anytime. I saw the look myself and I will admit that it startled me. I think they live half in the underworld and that can only come from the practice of blood rites. But for now we need their arms so will tolerate it for awhile and see what will come." Alexipolis responded to his captains then leaned back popping a grape into his mouth.
He stood up and stretched to his full length and yawned, and noticed that the wine was hardly touched. He nodded and grunted to himself knowing that all was said in a sober state of mind.
"Now let us go to sleep and in morning we will start our voyage north. Tomorrow will get up early to train before we leave. It may be awhile before we make landfall again so we will need to stay prepared."
"Yes my lord" Xenippos and Andrippos said in unison as they stood and began to clear away the food.