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Some Enemy Exults
By Dr. M. Leona Godin
*Editor''s Note: This is a pre-prequel to Dr. Godin's "The Lost Myth of Tiresias's Womanhood" and the prequel to "The Sword of Tiresias" stories.
In that heroic age, when the Immortals mingled and mated with mortals, the lands of Hellas suckled cataracts and chimeras. Wild men led skinny cows and curly-haired sheep over sharp-peaked passes into narrow valleys ruled by river deities, who shrank and overflowed their banks according to their whims. The Cyclopean-walled cities of Argos and Thebes, Athens and Mycenae warred and re-warred. Towards these battles and away drifted the Company of Zeus’s Thunderbolt.
Zeus’s Thunderbolt had marched against Thebes and lost two men. From the village on nearby Mount Kithairon they’d picked up two boys. Tiresias and Archilochus were kept close but not made to feel like slaves. They flung spears as often as they made cookfires for their commander Ixion and his two captains, Rockbreath—whose real name was Sisyphus but whom everyone called Rockbreath on account of his strange habit of sucking on stones, and in order to distinguish him from the other captain who was also named Sisyphus. It was a popular name in Corinth, from where they both hailed, a thing Tiresias and Archilochus learned in their many passes through that city, which lay at the crossroads of the world.
Ixion only fought on the winning side of any conflict. When the wars that others fought for lands or honor were won, by one side or the other, Ixion took his men first to plunder the vanquished town by force and then to eat up the winning town with booty. Tiresias and Archilochus travelled with Zeus’s Thunderbolt from Boeotia to Arcadia, from the land of Pelops to the island of Minos and back again. They visited Delphi and made love to priestesses who swam in vapors by day and wandered the streets at night. Every prostitute was a priestess of Apollo in Delphi, every whore a nymph of the goddess Athena in her city. When they sailed to Knossos the brothels were packed with dancers looking for bulls to jump. On the island of Lesbos Tiresias and Archilochus were officially freed, and celebrated in the House of Erato.
In that happy home of the muse, where all the pretty boys and girls sang and played the lyre, The Rinna twins were famed above the rest. Though nearly identical, the keen eye could detect the differences. Every man or woman seeing Erinna could not help but admire her lovely dark honey curls and shining black eyes, but once the gaze was caught by her sister Corinna, it could only struggle feebly to be released. Like a helpless fly in the well-wrought web, its efforts were not taken seriously.
Archilochus alone had the power to move freely. He gently put his lips on Corinna’s forehead after her song and, without a word took from her the lyre and tuned it lazily.
“Let’s have a good one Archilochus! Sing the one about the lion! No! No! The one about Narcissus! Yes! No! Daphne! War! War! If we have another love song we’ll vomit! Titans! The Blinding of Argos!” Every voice took up the clamor for his song, but in the end they would all be satisfied with what he gave them. His love songs were mixed so raucously with war and his war songs so entwined with love, that it was hard not to appreciate them, whatever your tastes.
Still, Ixion, ever the commander, would have his way. His battlefield voice boomed above the rest, Lets have the shield song lad, or I’ll take back your freedom and sell your pretty-boy arse to the Lady Electra for a fat gold coin!” Lady Electra roared with pleasure at the idea of placing such a jewel in her collection. A brothel could never have too many beautiful warrior-poets lying around.
Archilochus stood and, inclining his head at Ixion, sang:
A servant of Ares and the Muse,
I walk unprotected, with heart, alive!
Some enemy exults in my excellent shield,
I left her, not willingly, under a bush.
I saved myself and ran!
I found my new shield in the House of Erato,
Jewel-eyed Corinna protects me.
Behind her gold curve I feel safe,
Tucked in her silver strap I am brave!
Some weeks after the frenzy of Erato’s embraces climaxed and ebbed, the company of Zeus’s Thunderbolt mustered. They were to sail to Ilium to join forces with the Trojans and move as one towards Phrygia to help Mygdon protect his people from yet another Amazon invasion.
There were the usual sad farewells with the Rinna twins, but there would always be others and the getting and letting go of such entanglements fueled them for the next battle, wherein the last romance would loom large until the bloody carnage wiped the memory clean. Then there would be nothing but the incredible elation of aliveness, and the intense and not-to-be-denied need to
find a new pretty prostitute to prove that a body still sucked air, not dirt.
On the ship to Troy, Ixion presented Tiresias and Archilochus with the swords they had received out of the sacred corridor of the twin gods on the day their town had fallen. Ixion had sometimes used Tiresias’s blade in battles and said, “That is a lucky sword. I’m sorry to give it back. But you boys have worked hard and earned your freedom. As a token of my appreciation and in a gamble that you will stay on with us, I thought to return the swords we found you sad country bumpkins with on that cow hill.”
As they strapped on their swords, Tiresias felt a pang of regret at having wandered so far from home. It was not a new thought. The shame of his mother and sister being taken into slavery before his very eyes still burbled up vividly when he thought of it, though it was true that he thought of it less and less as his life as a mercenary solidified into routine, a thrilling and terrifying routine to be sure, but still, the patterns emerged. There was a mindless blank to those constantly shifting moves and pitches. Only in war play (or love play) could Tiresias let go his fretting. So he lived for those moments, and the blankness they offered.
When they arrived in the land of Phrygia, they found a small Thessalian contingent who called themselves The Centaurians. They fought from atop their beasts and were so fluid in their saddles it sometimes seemed the two, man and horse, were one terrible creature. These ferocious men knew Ixion, who was also from Thessaly. They laughed at him with his company of foot soldiers who “fight from the ground like mice”.” You could see that Ixion held his tongue with them in a way that seemed painful.
On the eve of the great battle with the Amazons, Zeus’s Thunderbolt, along with all the other companies, sat drinking and boasting while deer and rabbit roasted cheerfully on a hundred spits. Tiresias and Archilochus sat with the two Corinthian captains. As usual Rockbreath was clanking his stone about his teeth. Tiresias always found the sound unnerving, but he never said anything, since he found everything pre-battle unnerving in a way that felt shamefully unmanly. “Why do you suck stones, Rockbreath?”
Rockbreath spit a glinting red veined crystal onto his massive palm. It looked like the scrying ball of a village crone or an eyeball plucked out of its sightless socket.
“It is beautiful,” said Tiresias.
Rockbreath stared at his mouth-craft and mumbled, “Making beauty is what I was bred to do. My father is a master jewel smith, but these hands of mine were made only for wielding the sword and the spear.” He popped the crystal back into his mouth and spoke with it in his cheek. “I thought I had been scorned by Hephaestus. Turns out my mouth had inherited something of the family skills, or perhaps I’ve learned from sucking so many whores’ nipples.”
That was as many words as Rockbreath ever spoke in one sitting, so Tiresias turned his reluctant attention to the other Corinthian captain who was talking to Archilochus. Sisyphus spoke everything blusteringly, “They say they brought in the Centaurians because they did not trust our human legs to do the job. I don’t think our fine commander would have come, had he known the Thessalian horsemen would be here.” He inclined his head in the direction of a cookfire whereat Ixion stood. “There is some bad blood between him and his once-kin, doubt it not.”
Archilochus said, “But Ixion would do nothing he did not want to do.”
“That is true, Goldie Locks, but what if he were caught between the rock and the whirlpool?”
Sisyphus paused, pulling hard on the wineskin. “He does not want to fight alongside those Thessalian beasts and he does not want to retreat before a battle. He has always prevailed because he chooses carefully. I have been fighting with Ixion since I was younger than you boys and I have never seen him choose wrongly, so that he need never call a turn tail or lose many men. It is how he maintains morale and loyalty in such soldiers as us. But this battle is different. He came to subdue naughty bow-slinging wenches and finds himself in the sack with vengeful kinsmen.”
Tiresias felt icy fear run along his spine, but Archilochus, ever the loyal optimist, said “Well then we will fight like Zeus’s Thunderbolt. We will strike and disappear. The horselords will not get near us or our commander.”
As if on cue, Ixion sauntered up to their fire and snatched the wineskin that was passed up to him. Tiresias saw weary resignation in his commander’s face that had never been there before. Ixion said, “We have word that there are more Amazons than expected. It is not even certain that they are all horse wenches. We hear there are some Scythian horsemen along for the ride. Mygdon—may the gods shrivel his cock for this—kept close-teethed on the matter. He still will not admit the odds may have shifted away from him and he fears a riot. I have never told you men to hang back, and may Zeus strike me down before I ask you again, but this battle is not for us.” His brow folded over his furious green gaze. “We will not force it.”
Not a single stunned syllable emerged from their gaping mouths. Ixion turned his back on them and walked on to the next fire.
Archilochus was the first to say what they were all thinking. In a solemn whisper he said, “Did Ixion just give us permission to break ranks if the battle turns?”
They all sat staring at the fire as if the answer had its voice in the flames, until Tiresias could stand it no longer. “Yes,” he said and walked off in the direction of the palisade. Built by Mygdon’s slaves, it was topped with soldiers pacing and peering into the blackness that was tomorrow’s bloody plain.
Archilochus had popped up and followed Tiresias so that now they snaked through the fires side by side. A few cat calls emerged from the flickering faces, “Ahoy lover boys, come on over to our side!” “Hey there pretty laddies, don’t go off alone! Give us a show!” A few hands reached up drunkenly to grab ahold of Archilochus, but he swatted them off with his usual relaxed manner. “Find someone your own age old goat!”
They sat atop the low wall in a dark segment between torches. Tiresias had brought a skin of unmixed wine. He usually refrained the eve before a battle, but tonight everything felt different in a way that was far from pleasant, and he could not tolerate the clarity of thought that pierced his skull. They passed the skin, wordless for a little while, then Tiresias asked, “Archilochus, would you ever consider leaving Zeus’s Thunderbolt?”
“Tiresias, I owe my life to you a hundred times and more, I feel that we are brothers. I will remain with you as long as I am able.”
“It seems we must make a show of fighting this battle, but let us get out quick and run back to Boeotia. Perhaps I can reclaim my throne, or perhaps we will live out our days as simple shepherds.”
“Alright Tiresias, we will fight for your palace if it still remains standing, or we will find ourselves a couple of shepherdess nymphs and take them as our wives. Mine will be plump and wild in bed and yours will be slim and as noble as a queen. With our star-eyed nymphs we will make great open love under rarified twinkling skies...” Archilochus continued chanting of Amazon princesses and gilded-nipple goddesses, of silvery water nymphs with webbed feet and sea flowers tangled in their hair, of slender green-limbed Dryads and lithe spring naiads with tresses the colors of Tyrian-dyed threads…and so in this way, Tiresias allowed his worries to be lulled, as he had so many times before.
Tiresias awoke into full sobriety, head ringing with the pipes. Instinctively he buckled and clasped his armor and strapped and belted his weapons. By the time he’d slung his sword over his shoulder, his misty head had resolved itself into clear crisp excitement. He threw his tiger’s pelt about him and looked over at Archilochus. Despite the boar-tusk helmet and the black panther skin, despite the sword whose hilt glinted darkly behind his shoulder and the ferocious gleam in his eye, Tiresias thought, “Damn him, he still looks pretty as a girl!”
They trotted off to take up spears that matched their grip and joined the others. Tiresias felt as lusty for blood as the rest. Thankfully it was always like this. Once there was something to do, the fear evaporated.
If Ixion had any worries in his own breast, he kept them hid and was as thundering and outrageous as ever. His giant voice could be heard throughout their camp and beyond, “Have you ever seen a one-breasted wench before? Well, let me tell you, despite their mammarian deficiency, these Amazons still perk up one’s prick so that you don’t know whether to fight them or to fuck them!”
“The fucking will come hard on the fights heels this battle!” They all laughed.
“That’s right Sisyphus. We won’t even have to bother washing off the blood for these gruesome ladies.”
Tiresias shouted war cries and bawdy Amazon jokes with the rest. Eventually speech gave way to bestial yells, “Ahai! Ahai!” Tiresias shouted with a thousand mouths.
Tiresias and Archilochus hopped over the low wall and saw the riders as dark forms in great clouds of dust. The vanguard had already set out and they could see javelins flying above the billows and hear swords clashing. Ixion was always carried into battle in a make shift chariot-litter, a bar and a foothold held up by two of the company’s strongest, so that he had the vantage point and could bark orders until the final clash came wherein he would jump down into the fray and fight with the rest of them. He was perhaps twenty feet in front of Tiresias and Archilochus, so that as the arrows hit him and he fell, they could have no doubt they had come from behind. Then all Hades poured forth foul strife.
Tiresias and Archilochus ran after Rockbreath who had somehow come out of the ambush prepared. He had already circled and gathered men around him with several Centaurians pounding down on them. He shouted for them to launch their spears. Many of the horses fell, whinnying and kicking. Some of the riders had legs crushed beneath their beasts but most had been falling off horses since they could walk. They jumped clear and sprang up, blades flashing.
Though the Centaurians had the advantage of horse and surprise on their side, they did not have the great palace-forged weapons that the Thunderbolts wielded. Two Thessalian swords shattered on Tiresias’s, and the shocked horror in the poor bastard’s eyes was something not to be forgotten. One of them managed to run away. To the other, Tiresias gave a clean death with a sharp slice through his neck that sent the startled face flying.
Archilochus threw his spear at what seemed to be the last of the horsed assassins. The rider went down with his horse. He jumped up, but a sword thrust into his back sent his shocked limbs radiating out like a starfish. Then they curled and he flopped on the blade until the point withdrew, leaving behind the smiling face of Sisyphus.
The remainder of Zeus’s Thunderbolt stood blinking amidst the corpses of friends and foes. “I have a mind to see these Amazons up close.” said Sisyphus as if they were still talking around the cookfire. “Rockbreath, I believe is with me.” Rockbreath did not disagree. “But we will think nothing ill of any of you if you decide to hightail it out of here. Brave Ixion is dead and there is no more company of Zeus’s Thunderbolt without him. We are dismissing you from any further obligation. He touched his fists to his heart and then his head in salute and turned away.
Taciturn as ever, Rockbreath merely nodded and walked off in stride with his fellow Corinthian. A few companions fell in line behind them but more saluted in their various ways and jogged off alone or with a partner to claim some untraveled route away from the carnage.
Mygdon’s allies had roared past the Thessalian assassination like a river over rapids. But now they seemed to be getting forced back. Tiresias and Archilochus set out to beat them to the wall and away, when a shrill cluster of war whoops struck their ears. They turned to look, and saw a band of wild riders break out and make towards the little party of their former captains and companions. There were two dozen riders to a handful of the men formerly known as Zeus’s Thunderbolt. They could not resist helping.
Tiresias and Archilochus crept in and took two pale ponies in the rear, sending the riders flying backwards. They looked in astonishment as the warriors somersaulted and landed on their feet, poised to fight. Tiresias and Archilochus were stunned by their beauty and their nakedness. Ixion had been wrong to disparage Amazon breasts. They had a perfect pair each and glowing strong limbs to match.
Archilochus made to speak as winningly as ever he had, with no effect. They could not (or would not) understand. One of them threw a javelin at Tiresias’s head and missed. She grimaced and reached behind her half-moon shield to take out another. Tiresias was not slow to grasp the movement this time. Spearless, he rushed at her before she had finished and they toppled head over heels. He had thought to grapple the weapons off her and then…who knows what he was about doing in that blissful blankness? Take her right there on the battlefield?
Whatever he may have run to her for, the fight was for death. She rolled away from him and sprang up, eyes flashing. Tiresias had seen the look that says, “No Mercy!” in countless less attractive eyes but none more deadly. She tried to jab the javelin into his heart but he chopped it with his sword. She tossed the butt away and reached for her blade. She thrust it at his vitals and, having thrown off his shield in his headlong rush at her, his only defense was to move. He stepped aside but not quick enough. Her blade grazed his hip and the blood poured out and ran down his leg. He knew it was not mortal, but it looked bad. The girl threw back her silver head and laughed. This was not going to end well.
Tiresias hacked at her sword while she hacked at his face, tried to jab the point into his eyes or plunge it into his heart. Still, he did not really want to kill this girl. He would have preferred to get that little sword away from her and carry her off the battlefield as precious writhing booty. In a corner of his vision he saw Archilochus in a similar predicament but he was still all smiles. Tiresias wanted to say, “Stop smiling Archilochus! These bitches are out for blood!” but he couldn’t form the words amidst the grunts and grimaces.
Finally he chopped the girl’s blade in two and she howled in frustration. If Tiresias thought he had gotten off easy for even an instant, the feeling was torn asunder when she ran at him with the nasty splintered remains of her sword aimed straight into his gullet and would have burst his windpipe if his sword had not been longer than her arm. Instead of ripping his throat, it raked its jagged red course down his chest as she sank around his blade splitting her own thorax in two.
Tiresias threw her off his blade with a shudder. Then his bulging eyes met with a more grievous sight. Somehow Archilochus had let his she-wolf in. Perhaps he had thought that once he’d wrestled her sword from her that she would be weaponless or harmless or perhaps he could not in his heart believe anything so lovely could hurt him, but whatever the reason the little blade that was shoved into his vitals came as a sorrowful surprise to Archilochus, lover and beloved of all things beautiful.
The vision came as a pain such as Tiresias had never known. He howled and ran at the victor who grinned maliciously at him. But if she had any thoughts of fighting this madman with a sword, she put aside her courage and ran. She was picked up by a companion and they rode off yipping and shrieking. Tiresias knelt by his friend’s side and stared into those shocked clouding eyes. “Oh Tiresias, she was so lovely…” Archilochus made a pained face. “How could she be such a bitch?”
Tiresias’s eyes had already started pouring forth tears when this remark, delivered with the perfect timing of the natural born entertainer, set him choking with laughter. “Damn you Archilochus and damn you again. What am I going to do without you?”
“Not nice Tiresias. You may not curse me in my final moments. You will pray to the gods for my safe travels to the Underworld, or I shall not be your friend in Hades.”
Tiresias called upon every god he knew to bless the lonely journey of his best friend, and hoped he had finally given comfort to Archilochus, the faithful comforter of Tiresias’s now lost soul. When the enemy hand took hold of Tiresias’s shoulder and showed him that his sword no longer belonged to him, the shade of Archilochus had already shaken loose of its body.
#Unreal #Fiction #Myth #Legend #Folklore
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