There is nothing worse after being exhausted than having to swim in the cold open sea with heavy armor. My teeth were chattering from the cold, my whole body was shaking, my legs ached and my arm was spasming. Through bodies and wreckage I swam in search of something to be able to support myself and the mental confusion increased with each movement. I prayed to Poseidon to save me, “Not today, not today, I beg you great Patros“. Suddenly I came across a vessel. Enemy? Ally? I did not know. With all my strength I started to climb the stern. The rain had stopped but the wind was blowing hard and made it difficult for me to climb. Still on the parapet, I noticed strange people and a sail with the face of a bull. Wrong ship. I had climbed a Samian vessel, but ahead I see the Cephalopod coming in for combat. If I continued outside, I would return to the sea in the first collision.
– Prepare for impact! – Said the captain of the ship.
Luckily everyone was looking ahead, no one had seen me, I jumped on the deck and I applied a rear naked choke on the helmsman, a small but strong man. I dragged him hard and threw him overboard without anyone seeing me because everyone was aware of the imminent collision. On the tiller I turned it with full force to starboard (right) to facilitate the Cephalopod’s collision in the center of the hull. Everyone turned around and that was the moment when I was most sure that I would die. At least half of the crew was about to attack me with darts, arrows and axs. As I jumped through the trapdoor towards the oarsmen we had the collision. It was perfect because the water rose quickly and I soon had to go back to the deck. An ax thrown on the ground was my weapon in that assault and I stuck it in the back of an archer ready to shoot. The weapon was not very sharp and would serve me better if used as a club and so I attacked my next victim, but if I knew that whoever was about to die by the enemy hand was Nikephoros, I would have waited a little longer.
– Misthios! – He said to me with astonishment.
– Stand up.
I reached for my executioner and in a jolt lifted him up.
– Go to Hades! – I Said.
I just kicked him overboard. His last expression was of terror and then he sank like a stone, without any reaction. I ran to the Cephalopod to see how Isocrates was doing when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in the back of my neck and I went out.
One of the strangest sensations anyone can experience is waking up after passing out and my first sight was of seagulls. Damn seagulls with their damn screams. It was already next day morning and I was lying in a tent without my armor and with pain all over my body. Sitting down to take a drink of water required me as much effort as swimming in the open sea. Next to the water I saw a tray with dried apricots, olives, cheese and bread. At the end of the quick meal I heard footsteps and a maláka opened the tent bringing the sunlight that blinded me for a moment.
– Good morning misthios.
– Who are you?
– Are you okay?
– I’m alive, I think.
– That’s good. When you’re ready, go to the ship. Captain Diókles wants to speak to you. Here, wear this.
I dressed the peplo (female tunic), I left the tent and understood the situation. Victory. In an instant, the eyes turned to me, a strange sensation. Some raised cups and shouted my name with smiles. One of them gave me a bottle of pure wine and a skewer with freshly roasted lamb meat. As I went to the Cephalopod Demetrius came to meet me:
– Kassandra. So that’s your name. If I ever have a daughter, that will be her name. Take it. Keep my dagger.
– What is happening?
– Go talk to the captain.
And so I went to find Diókles.
– Kassandra. I doubted you. I apologize.
– I do not understand. I just remember going back to Cephalopod and get knocked out.
– You were hit from behind by an ax and came to pass out at the feet of your blacksmith friend, who took care of you until we reached the beach. We put you on deck, but you didn’t lose much, the battle was already decided at the time. At the first rays of sunlight, the few surviving Samian ships retreated and then we returned to Tragía. You promised to be responsible for half of the ship’s casualties and you did so, if not more. You set a ship on fire and I saw you turning the helm of our last victim. I don’t know how you managed to invade that vessel, but the important thing is that you were essential in the victory on our flank. That trireme had managed to escape our block and it was about to attack us. We achieved victory and Athens will keep control of the Aegean islands. It will take a long time before the next rebellion takes place. Furthermore, your name reached Pericles’ ears. I’ll be glad to introduce you for him.
– Thank you, captain. I will be glad if I introduce myself to Thucydides. Don’t think I forgot it.
– Of course misthios. Take your payment already with your extra drachma, as promised. Please, take a look, these were the spoils captured by our men. Choose whatever pleases you.
– Look at that shield. Worthy of the Aegis of Athena. A bit heavy, its former owner should be someone very strong. I will need to get some training to be able to carry it in battle. Look at these details. The Medusa’s embossed head is capable of paralyzing anyone with fear. The snakes are made of bronze. Isocrates needs to see this, not any blacksmith has the ability to do such a job. The edges have some colored stones. Magnificent. From the smell, the wood used is cedar and the handles are made of goat leather. A shield like this is certainly worth a year’s salary. But I’m not going to sell it, so much sweat and blood to stay alive that I better use it. I don’t want a trouble with the gods. I have no doubt captain, I choose this one.
– Perfect misthios. The mercenaries will return to Athens tomorrow morning. That means I won’t see you again, at least for the next few days. It was an honor to have you by my side, but you are very stubborn, Kassandra. I know you work better on your own than venturing out with an army. Don’t be offended, but I have no interest in hiring you again, unless it is to solve private matters for me.
– No problem captain, I learned some lessons in the last few days.
– Kassandra. I saw what you did to Nikephoros. Be careful when you return to Athens, the Alcmaeonidae will look for you, as I must not have been the only one to see what you did.
– He first threw me out of the Cephalopod captain. I swam for a while and then managed to invade that ship. I don’t ask you to believe me because that won’t change what happened, I just want to have my conscience clear.
– Okay, but it doesn’t matter now. You are alive and he is not. Take it, sideritis leaves, you will need for the return trip. Take care. Farewell.
– Chaire captain.
Upon returning to the tent, I met Isocrates.
– Chaire Isocrates.
– Hello Kassandra, are you better?
– I’m alive, that’s what matters;
– You came towards me, screamed for my name and then you were hit by an ax. What do you have there?
– Look, a beautiful Aegis I won as a spoil. If you ever want to be a master blacksmith you will have to know how to make one of these. Diókles told me that you took care of me while I was out. Thanks.
– I have to thank you too, you protected me most of the time and had patience when others would not. War is not my business.
– You get used to it. I thought so too when I started in the business, but that’s a story for another day. Take it, to your workshop.
– What is it? Kassandra, it is too much money and I already got my payment.
– I said I would have my extra drachma and I got it. Besides, Diókles gave me an extra amount passed on by Pericles, but don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret. Keep that, it should be enough to buy what you need.
– My gratitude will be eternal, Kassandra.
– Gratitude does not put food on the table, so become the best blacksmith in Hellas and give me some discount whenever I go to Aegina.
– Clear. I will take these memories to my grave. Kassandra, when you went to fight that big guy he said you were going to eat a swordfish, but you disappeared and came back all hurt. What happened?
– You know, sometimes a fish has spines and we choke. But enough talking. Let’s participate in the athletic games, we have to celebrate this victory. Then I will try to talk to that young man called Thucydides, they say he tells stories and I would like to hear them.
I remember the rest of that day as if it were yesterday, a short experience of what it would be like to be in the Elysium. Athletic competitions, abundant food and a good talk. These are rare and brief moments that make life worth living. No matter how heavy and painful a job is, I know that in front of prosperity the immortal gods put sweat to test our courage. And it doesn’t matter how hard and steep the path may be, when a man reach the summit the easier it becomes, though before it was hard.
The following day the mercenaries returned to Piraeus. We left early in the morning, shortly after sunrise. The mountain tea that Diókles had given me came in handy. The winds were favorable and we managed to arrive at the beginning of the evening. I took Isocrates to Kapeleia as he would only be able to return to Aegina the next day.
– Kassandra. Great Kassandra. – Said Aegidius. – Good news spreads fast and your deeds are already in the mouth of the people. Here, this is on me.
– Give another to this young man too. Isocrates is his name. You will hear a lot about him, an aspiring blacksmith and about to become a father.
– Blacksmith? So you own your private blacksmith misthios? I heard you talked to Pericles in person. Tell me everything.
– I’ll tell you, but before give us something to eat, see what you get with three drachmas.
– Okay, three.
– Would you like to go to the theater with me? I would like to see this Antigone.
– So you do appreciate art misthios?
– I don’t know, I need to see it to criticize, right? In addition, I had the opportunity to talk to Sophocles. An interesting man. Some Alcmaeonidae looking for me?
– Actually, yes. How do you know?
– Take a glass and a sit, it’s a long story.
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