It is always important to show grandeur in the first contact, to guarantee some respect. After completing the task, I said goodbye to Sarpedon and went to the small lodging where I was spending the nights. I get up before dawn by the rooster crowing. The reinforced breakfast was wheat porridge with goat’s milk and dried figs, as well as bread with a little wine.
After getting dressed I went to the stable to get Bálios, my magnificent golden-haired steed. According to Homer, Bálios was given to Peleus by the gods, which was later used by his son, Achilles of light feet, in the plains of Troy. I would like to name him Sugarfoot for his gentle riding, but I respected the name given by his former owner, whose history is not relevant at the moment.
The day had dawned cloudy and I soon arrived at the Heliodoros farm. It was the time of harvest of olives and grapes, the road was full of workers and wagons coming and going. The mild climate and the smell of the grapes made riding more pleasant. Surrounded by vines and plentiful workers I soon realized that I was in the right place. The messenger from the previous day came to meet me and took me out to the courtyard. The house was huge, perhaps the largest in the region.
– One moment, I’ll call Heliodoros.
I knew Heliodoros only by name. I never saw him, but Sarpedon commented that he was someone important and rival to the leader of Megaris, so I already knew what to expect. He was certainly a very influential person not only for his wealth but also for the militia he had at his disposal. I was able to count at least fifteen soldiers prowling the property.
– So are you Kassandra? – Said Heliodoros, a tall man, without a beard, gray hair and with a purple ἱμάτιον (Himátion – Tunic of wool or linen used by men and women).
– Greetings my lord.
– Come, let’s walk while we negotiate. Do you have any idea why I hired you?
– I wouldn’t say I accepted it.
– Well, didn’t Bulis give you anything yesterday?
– Yes, but I like to assess the risks before taking a job.
– Don’t bother me misthios. Your name was carefully referenced by someone I trust. I know you will accept my proposal. But you didn’t answer me, do you have any idea why I called you?
– You are someone important to the polis, you have many slaves, properties, a private militia and since you are not the leader of Megaris I would say that you are trying to weaken local politics and then take it for yourself.
– You’re a smart girl. Too smart, I’d say. But I need the strength of your fist, not your mind. Currently Megaris has a good relationship with Athens. I know they are financing a coup to institute democracy in our polis and use us as a spearhead in its expansion throughout Hellas. This threat needs to be addressed. I see growing instability in our world and a war can hurt my business. I have a good relationship with the Lacedaemonians and I want to keep that as it is. Hippárinus, my political enemy, must be demoralized. Your mission is to invade the fort on Mount Geraneia and steal the treasure hidden in it. In addition, it is necessary to expose the dead soldiers in some way, the choice is up to you. This will affect his reputation as a treasury manager. I’ll take care of the rest.
– Invade a fort, kill all the soldiers and steal the treasure of the polis! It does not seem like a feasible mission for a single person.
– Aren’t you interested? I pay you ten times what was advanced to you.
– It’s a good amount.
– The fort is not very well guarded, I would say that there are no more than twenty soldiers per shift. You don’t have to kill everyone, just what you think is enough to terrorize people. About the treasure, there is not much since not all of it is kept there. The chests are located in the central room. One is enough. Bring it here in the before the dawn, so no one will see you. Your payment will be taken from there and don’t even think about running away. A hundred drachmas. You are smart but you are only one, my militia will look for your head even in Hades.
– You really know how to intimidate someone.
– I hope you’re here before tomorrow morning. Until then don’t look for me, I’ll be busy all day. Bulis will be at your disposal for any help. See you later misthios.
– Chaire. Well, now I know your name. Bulis. Nice to meet you, Kassandra.
– You are someone of few words, aren’t you?
– I only say what is necessary. I have no time to waste. What do you need?
– At the moment just a worker’s outfit, I don’t want anyone to see me as a threat. When I get back, I may need more things.
– When you get back, just ask any soldier for my name.
After the quick and uncomfortable “negotiation”, I decided to inspect the surroundings disguising myself as a grape collector. The small fortress is located in a high region around seventy stades (12,950m. 1 stadium = 185m) west of the city, surrounded by dense forest in its northern and eastern part, by a precipice in its western part and palisades in the southern part. I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as going to a symposium, but did it need to be so complicated?
While walking through the forest I saw many goats and a pack of wolves. As much as the region was covered, it would run the risk of attracting attention with the noise of the animals if I’d choose to go this way. The precipice was impossible to climb, even if he knew how to execute with some mastery. Besides, I couldn’t just walk in the front door. After touring the region I set up a plan in my mind and returned to the farm to look for Bulis.
– And then?
– I need a slaughtered pig, a cart and amphorae with kykeon (psychotropic drink based on wine, barley, goat cheese and fungi).
– Do you really think I’m going to just enter a fort through the front door and kill all the guards like I’m harvesting wheat?
– Watch out your tone misthios.
– You need to help me help you. We have to try to get the guards drunk.
– How will you make them drink?
– I’ll do it, don’t worry. The pig I need for until the end of the afternoon.
– Pig, kykeon and a cart. But what the fuck do you want to do?
– To bring a chest full of drachmas, of course! Ha ha ha!.
– That’s not funny. I get the beverage and the cart as you requested.
– No problem, I’ll be back soon.
– Where are you going?
– Take a walk, don’t worry, I’m not going to Hades today.
Whenever you have drachmas in your pocket it is advisable to go to a ταβέρνα (tavern – bar or restaurant). These are good places to catch information. At that moment I needed to know more about my contractor. There were not many taverns in Megaris, so I went to the one I used to go, Akraion.
– Καλημέρα (Kalimera – Good morning) my lord. What good wine do you have today?
– Good morning misthios. A pleasure to see you again. Smooth or strong?
– Look at me my dear Kadmos, what do you think?
– You look like you are going to fall hard on the floor if you drink something without eat anything.
– You’re right. Here, see what you can get me with two drachmas.
– Leave it to me. Here, try this one, I only offer to those I trust, Chios wine, finest ones.
– In Chios people really know how to make good wines. Demeter blessed those lands.
While I eating my sardines with bread and olives, I listened to the conversations that hung in the air. Only vulgar matters came and went, sometime someone showed some concern with the expansion of Athens by the seas and the construction of the walls that connected the city to the port of Piraeus. It made me start to understand my mission better.
The domination of Athens over Megaris with some sham democracy would bring trade sanctions to any enemy polis, which would weaken Heliodoros’ ties to the Lacedaemonians. They just wouldn’t expect sanctions to be applied years later, but against Megaris itself. Innocent, right?
When I thought my meal would have been in vain, I found some light when I went to pay Kadmos.
– An owl (allusion to drachma coins minted in Athens). They were difficult to see, but they are becoming more common. – Commented Kadmo
– Want to see owls? – Said a drunk man beside me. – Go to the port. Heliodoros’ men were looking for Athenian drachmas. Exchanging turtles (allusion to drachma coins minted in Aegina) for owls, chimeras (allusion to drachma coins minted in Abdera) for owls, too many animals.
– Interesting. – I concluded.
I decided to take a walk in the port to check the information. I pretended to be looking for those who were exchanging coins from other polis for Athenian drachmas. Shortly I discovered that the information was correct, but that the men had already left two days before. Their description matched those of Heliodoros’ men. As I check my coins, I realize that they were all owls. Mere coincidence or a sign of the owl-eyed daughter of Zeus? I saved that information and returned to the farm.
– Chaire Bulis. I see you have the pig and kykeon. Come on, help me put the amphorae in the cart.
– How can a shit drink and a dead pig get you to loot the treasure?
– Well, a magician doesn’t reveal his tricks, but don’t worry. If the plan doesn’t work, at least I have one last meal. Ha ha ha! Come on, have a laugh.
– I am not paid to laugh or to do your job, now get out of here and come back when you have completed your mission.
– Okay, not everyone was born to smile.
Still dressed as a peasant, I went to the fort with the cart pulled by an ox. By the gods, how it was difficult, it took me more than twice the time necessary to make the journey than if I were with Bálios. I confess that I couldn’t resist and I tried tasted a little kykeon, but just by opening the amphora the smell made my stomach to sink. The stupid Bulis brought me the cheapest one.
Occasionally I saw some strange movement in the woods around the fort and at each step the drachmas in my pocket became heavier and heavier. I left the pig hidden in the middle of the woods about five stades away from the fort’s south gate. Then I went towards the gate with the cart kicking out the wheel when suddenly:
– Shit! By the gods! Is there no one here to help me?
A woman alone with a broken cart in the middle of the road, do you think no one would appear?
– What happened? – Said one of the guards who came out.
– My cart wheel just broke.
– What a pity. – Said one of them.
– You say this because it wasn’t with you. And now? I need to make this delivery.
– What are you taking?
– Kykeon, an order from a local farmer. Helioboros, I think.
– Heliorodos. A great μαλάκας (malaka – son of a bitch. What about you accent? Where are you from?
– Eleusis my lord. Please, I need help, my husband will be furious with me.
– Husband? You looks like a slave.
– Put your hand on me and Diodoros will cut off your head.
– Speak like this once more and I will cut yours.
– I apologize. Please keep an eye on the cart, my husband must not be far away. He told me that he would go to the city and find me nearby. I need to call him. By the gods.
– Let’s take the cargo into the fort. When you come back talk to us. What? Do you think we’re going to drink that shit? Either we take it inside or you are left without delivery and without a cart.
– It’s all right. Thank you very much gentlemen.
Then I pretended to head towards the city and went back to the farm to get properly equipped. I managed only to eat a porridge and a hard cheese that would have to sustain me until dawn. As I put on my cuirass I heard a quick conversation in the next room.
– Is she gone already? – I recognized Bulis’s voice.
– I don’t know. – Answered one of the guards. – I haven’t seen her since she left with the cart.
– It does not matter, gather the men, we will leave shortly. Make sure that everyone does not wear the Heliodoros emblem.
The dots started to connect and I had an epiphany. When I finished dressing, the soldiers had already left. I said a prayer to Zeus and went to fetch Bálios at the stable. It had started to get dark, but luckily it was a full moon night and the light was enough to guide me. Like a lightning bolt I rode close to the fort. The goats that had been screaming before were now all ready to sleep, but not far away a pack that was prowling the region. Everything as planned so far. I uncovered the dead pig, sliced it into pieces and threw it along a path to the fort’s gate. I didn’t even have finished it and the plan start working.