Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pausanias 2: Preview

As promised another part of my story, told from the POV of Pausanias, nephew of King Leonidas and son of Prince Cleombrotus. Hopefully it's good. ^_^; This chapter takes place after the meeting of allies at the Isthmus of Corinth, but before the Spartan embassy makes its way to the Persian court (I admit the real-life timeline is changed a bit to make the story flow better). Enjoy!

Tegea 481 BC (E)

He could see the bronze of the needle glinting in the sun like a tiny, pulsing star, see Helios's rays slide along the thread as his father sewed him back together. "Most were killed," Sir Bulis reported as Prince Cleombrotus looped the thread again. Pausanias could feel the skin on his neck being pulled together with a lasso of fire. It was so painful he wanted to wretch. "Only one or two escaped. This was a planned ambush, though I don't know how the Messenians got all the way over here or could have known we were coming." "I'm going to find out," the polemarch growled, intent on his work. Around them the bodies of their attackers were strewn about the dusty road, their surprise attack quickly smashed under Spartan spears.

Prince Cleombrotus had been marching the regiment hard and fast, south and west and south again, past grassy knolls and scrappy villages, trying to make their way home to Sparta as fast as the march would allow. The polemarch had been in a helpless rage. He was furious with the Eurypontid king, you could tell in the way he muttered to himself, though for the sake of the troops he could not openly critize a commander. Cleombrotus was so caught up in thrashing the Eurypontid king in his mind he failed to see the real enemy right in front of them.

In fact, nobody payed attention to a group of Dwellers working a field with their short scythes and dusty old weel barrels, not an uncommon site in the somewhat arable land in these parts. It was Pausanias who noted their too dark skin, their overly beant posture. At first he told himself it was impossible: Messenia was stades and stades off, on the other side of the mountains. There was no way they could be all the way in Tegea. It was impossible. Yet when he looked again he saw their dog-skin caps, and then he know for certain. He stopped the march with a shout of "REBELS!" Everything happened at once, to fast to be afraid or even angry. The enemy, realizing their cover was gone, quickly amassed and charged, armed with nothing more than rusty field tools and savage courage. They knew their lives depended on surprise, the breif respite before the Spartans raised their shields and lowered the spears like some rudely-wakened hedgehog. Though they were fast, the Spartans were faster, and managed to cut down the rebels before they could do any serious harm. They were not fast enough however; more than one Spartan felt the cold bite of a rusty blade, including Pausanias, who took the worst injury. He hadn't even felt it. Only when the blood started gushing from his neck, staining his cloak an even deeper red so that it almost looked brand new did Pausanias know something was wrong. He had never never taken true wound in all the mock battles the army staged. He had been whipped, beaten and bullied like all boys in growing up in the barracks, but strangely iron was shy to his touch. Or rather the Spartites wielding it had no desire to stick him, even with blunted practice spears. Yet now suddenly the world grew red with pain, and an invisible harpy sucked the energy right out of Pausanias's body. The last thing he remembered was falling to the earth, and his fathers words coming back to him. "You all treat my son like a woman," Prince Cleombrotus had accused the royal mess one night. "He'll never learn to bleed!" Now he had. Finally the surgery ended.

"Well, that's it." His father sighed and handed off the needle and thread to his helot. "I've now stitched up every single member of my family." He straightened and cracked his back, then turned to address his servant. "Boil that needle in oil tonight and clean the instruments. If they don't shine, I'll beat you bloody." The helot nodded and backed away. It didn't matter that their own attendants had proven fast loyalty when they could have helped their bretheren; they were all the same to the youngest son of King Anaxandridas. Cleombrotus turned and thrust a finger at Pausanias's own helot, Endymion, who was holding the clay bowl full of the wine and vinegar used to cleanse the wound. "You! I don't want that wound getting infected. You change that bandage every day and keep the linen dry and clean. Sniff it every night for infection." Trembling, Endymion nodded. Cleombrotus frightened most Spartans, and the helots were terrified of him. Still, what the youth said next took real courage, especially now. " M-master? Sh-should we not b-bleed him to take the f-fever down?" Prince Cleombrotus looked both furious and baffled that the youth would dare talk to him. "My son's bled enough!" "B-b-but the ma-maesters say-" The polemarch's face purpled with rage. "Boy, you'd better run or I'll..!." Endmyion dropped his bowl and fled like a hare. Dazed as he was, Pausanias was glad. Prince Cleombrotus's threats were never empty.

With shaking hands Pausanias took the cloth out of his mouth and staggered to his feet. None of the men who had clustered around him helped him, but none was expeceted. The world spun and Pausanias gagged. His cloak was stained with blood and sweat and grass stains now, and he felt as if wild oxen had run him over. I cannot show weakness. I am an Agiad prince. Euryanax would want him to be strong. "You must never show weakness. You are a prince of the Agiad line," his cousin would often tell him after a whipping in the agoge. "You must always be brave." Anger helped. He was furious with himself for being so weak, furious with his father for treating him like a scab he could not pick off, furious with Prince Euryanax for not being there. But Euryanax was far to the West, solidifying a proper fleet for Sparta should Persia attempt to sail into Laconia's ports. That night Endymion tried to coax him to eat with black broth and hard cheese, but Pausanias was so sickened by the sight of pig's blood he pushed the bowl away. Or rather tried to. He was so weak he could barely sit up. "You need to get better, Master," Euryanax protested, spooning up the broth as trumpets sounded the call to evening prayer. "Here, just a little?" Pausanias finally accepted it, too weak to protest. By the time he had managed to down some food and stagger towards the assembly prayers were over. "Next time you skip Mass I'll strip your back bare!" Sir Amompharetus promised him as we walked past. He was Prince Cleombrotus's right-hand, and a cold man in all things, having no sympathy for anybody. The stench of burned animal fat from the sacrifice that clung to the elder's cloak made Pausanias fill sick all over again, and he retreated back to his tent to lie down.

Later that night, as Pausanis stood sentry--he had not been spared that-- a bent-back helot approached loaded with woolen blankets. "Master Bulis says it's not uncommon to get the chills,"the old man relayed. "The wound will heal better if you are warm, he says." Pausanias might have refused if only to impress his collegues, but his tent mates were all fast asleep, their feet blistered and bloodied from the forced march. "Tell your master he has my thanks." He was sorely tempted to wrap himself up right then and there, but firmly handed the blanket over to faithful Endymion, who had refused to sleep for fear his master would turn feverish. When his duties were finally over Pausanias kicked the next boy awake, then handed off his spear and shield to his helot. "Before you polish these, find out where my father's tent is, and see if Sir Bulis is on sentry duty there. I mean to return that blanket. Don't argue with me! I cannot show weakness. I am an Agiad prince."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

O&E Update

I admit updates have been slow lately, but I just came back from a whirlwind tour of Japan to interview the developers of a wrestling game, and my writing has been off from before and after. Plus, I am again shy about showing stuff to people until it's semi-decent. However, I think soon I will post another snippet from my work soon, so stay tuned!