An Amazon’s Tale, Part Three

By Dick Yaeger

Chapter 11

“INCOMING” blasted repeatedly from a loudspeaker above us. The robotic warnings pounded my head and numbed my thoughts. A second explosion—this one closer—overwhelmed the shrill siren.

George pushed me to the ground, face down. He knelt beside me, his chest and arms covering my upper body.

“Cover your head with your hands.”

My stomach tightened. I closed my eyes tight to ease my throbbing head.

“What’s happening?” I said, spitting sand.

“Mortars. They’re after the planes. Won’t last. We’ll be okay.”

I counted. One. Was it closer? Two. I hugged the ground and felt it shudder. Three, then four. I was holding my breath. Five. I wanted to stand and run. Six. Then a pause

I exhaled.

The siren stopped, leaving a welcomed silence. Two helicopters passed low overhead.

“All clear,” the voice above us announced. “Report to your supervisor.”

The lunch crowd streamed from the mess hall in an orderly fashion without an obvious sense of urgency.

“Is it over, George?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Then shouldn’t we get up?”

“I’m sort of comfortable. How about you?”

“I’ve got sand in my mouth and ears.”

“You okay?” an unknown voice asked. I lifted my head to see an airman looking down at us.

“We’re good,” George said. He rolled off me and helped me stand. 

The airman gave a wink and thumbs-up to George as he left.

I brushed the sand off my clothes, wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, and spit several more times.

“We should shower,” I said, knowing George would take the comment as more than a bathing suggestion. I gave him a light kiss on the cheek. “Thank you.”

An hour later, the frightening episode seemed a distant memory. I wrapped a towel around me and brushed my wet hair. The heat and low humidity negated the need for a blow dryer.

George sat on the edge of the bed staring. “We need more mortar attacks.”

“What?”

“Uhhh . . . I asked if you wanted to go shopping.”

I turned toward him, puzzled.

He was grinning, still in a feisty mood. “Maybe take your mind off the bombing episode?”

“Sure,” I replied, calling his bluff. He hated shopping.

“There’s a small town a few miles from here—Sabzawar. Has a great bazaar.”

So that was what it took to get him to go shopping. I made a mental note.

“Okay.”

“Got a UTV I can use for a couple hours?” George yelled at two boots sticking out from beneath a dirty Humvee.

“UTV?” I whispered.

 “Utility Task Vehicle—modern version of a Jeep.”

An arm emerged and pointed toward a collection of desert-camouflaged vehicles. “That MRZR-2 has a full tank and just been serviced.” One of the boots shook up and down. “Sign-out sheet’s on the desk over there.”

“No air-conditioning, I suppose,” intending the comment for George.

“Got plenty, ma’am,” a voice under the vehicle replied. “No doors.”

“Automatic transmission though,” George said as he jotted on the sign-out sheet. “Want to drive, Chlo?”

“Am I allowed?”

“No one’s looking.”

“Humph!” said the dismembered voice. 

I was thankful the UTV did have a cover when we drove out of the hanger into the midday sun. The highway was in good condition and devoid of traffic. I felt at ease as we headed south along bare jagged heights on our right and family farm plots on our left. Crops of grapes, corn, and one grove of pomegranate trees ready for harvesting were recognizable, but others puzzled me. Were they poppies? We passed a muddy river meandering around sandy shoals. A man and a child herded three cows across knee-deep water.

Sabzawar’s two-story mud brick and cinderblock buildings— shops on the ground floor, homes on the top with corrugated metal roofs—suddenly closed in on both sides. The walls were bare. Potted plants sat on windowsills, and blankets aired over porch railings.

George parked and called to two boys of grammar school age. My Dari is poor, but George’s dialect seemed easily understood when he gave them each a US dollar to guard the UTV. They shook their heads with broad smiles as he explained there would be a similar amount if the UTV was undamaged when we returned in a couple hours. He was the perfect tour guide.

“You trust them?” I asked as we walked further into the town.

“Yeah. Shindand drops a lot of money here, so the locals generally go out of their way to be polite and helpful.”

We passed shops of every variety—those to repair a bicycle, motorcycle or pressure cooker, an herbalist, and the usual places selling rugs, jewelry, and fabrics. Tobacco and mobile phone vendors were plentiful. ANA soldiers in camouflaged fatigues carrying US M16s slung on their shoulders mingled with the locals. Merchants singled us out as American, and motioned us into their stores with broken English. A mosque was visible from any location. I felt safe.

The produce marketplace was a hodgepodge of makeshift stands and smells not unlike a California farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. Young wide-eyed children sat cross-legged beside piles of baked bread and ripe melons. Their unblinking stares made me want to buy from every one. Colorful canopies that shaded plucked chickens and butchered meat hanging from hooks prompted a memory.

“We need to buy a hammock, George.”

I expected a snarky retort, but he grinned.

“Let’s ask over here.” He nodded toward a jewelry kiosk behind a folded iron gate.

While George talked with the shopkeeper, I rummaged through a jumble of rings, bracelets, and circlets. Something draped over a lone mannequin caught my eye. Delicate gold chains encircled each breast with a pendant of three lapis lazuli teardrops that hung between the breasts. Four additional chains looped over the belly where a smaller pendent of the same type covered the navel.

“George, ask her what this is called.”

He pointed at the jewelry piece and asked the merchant.

“She says it’s a body harness chain.”

“Sounds like a bridle. Ask her what it’s used for.”

“Probably a leash.”

I glared at him.

She smiled when he asked.

“Dancers and special occasions,” he replied with a shrug. “Try it on.”

“No way,” I said, shaking my head. I was only wearing a long-sleeved white shirt stained with sweat. 

He snubbed my rejection and fumbled with the chain’s clasp until the shopkeeper helped. She looped it over me with a large smile, undoubtedly calculating how much she should raise the price for Americans.

George stood back and nodded his approval. “We’ll take it.”

What was he thinking? I had no when I’d wear I, or where, or with what. How could he?” Nevertheless, I liked it, and it would make a fabulous memento of our journey. I watched him hand over more cash than I’d ever pay for such a thing, and then gave him a bear hug and more-than-polite kiss.

The rest of the day was uneventful. On the drive back to Shindand, I pondered whether George’s sudden interest in shopping and buying expensive jewelry had a hidden motive. He was a pragmatic man, rarely succumbing to whims. Was his comment yesterday about being engaged more serious than I thought?

Later that night, he sat in a chair clicking through the Armed Forces Network TV channels. “Got a new book?” he asked without looking at me in bed.

“It’s one I read years back about Alexander the Great. Thought I’d brush up on his campaigns.”

 He stopped on an ESPN soccer match and leaned toward the TV. “Anything in particular.”

“I was wondering how he crossed the Dardanelles, once called the Hellespont.”

“How wide is it?”

“About three-quarters of a mile.”

“I assume old Alex didn’t think to bring inflatables.”

I rolled my eyes, but he was fixated on the TV and didn’t notice. “There were thirty thousand men, George,” I chided, ignoring his levity, “with horses, wagons, and tons of supplies.”

“Shit,” he mumbled at the TV.

“A hundred fifty years before Alexander, the Persian King Xerxes lashed six hundred boats together for a pontoon-like bridge when he invaded Greece.” I paused for a reaction to gauge his attention, if any.

With a heavy sigh, he turned off the TV, and climbed into bed. He took the book from my hands and dropped it on the floor.

“Good idea. That’s what I would have recommended.”

“Come on, George.”

“Does it matter? He got across somehow.”

“Right. It’s written that he threw his spear on to the Turkish mainland, and was the first to step ashore.”

“So what’s he do next?” He turned off the bedside light.

“Granicus.”

“What?”

“His first battle with the Persians at the River Granicus.” 

Chapter 12

The three boatmen stared at Eudora and me. They seemed amused by our predicament—having no coin to pay for passage across the Hellespont. Did they think we lied?

“Will you take trade?” I asked the nearest one.

His expression brightened with an affable nod. “Of course,” he answered without time for a thought.

“But there are three of us and only two of you,” another said.

I was slow comprehending what these three believed I offered in trade. Eudora was not. She ambled Yana up beside me and leaned over to whisper. “This filth will not lay a finger on me. Let us kill them quickly and take their boat.”

Her solution was tempting, but for the moment, I thought excessive. I dismounted and looked around the beach to assess our situation. The nearest cluster of men was a long bow shot away.

“Before you must decide which two will share our treasures,” I said to the boatmen, “allow me to offer an alternative.”

I untied one of the swords we had taken off the bandits we killed days ago, and handed it to him. “This is worth two gold.”

He took the sword and examined it. “It is rusty.”

“Aye, from the blood of many victims. The blade is fine quality. It will sharpen to an edge that will remove your beard with a single stroke . . . and a rub with goat fat will cure and protect from future rust.” I lied. The sword was of poor quality and useless for much more than hacking weeds, but the pretense allowed me a simple gauge of his skill as a fighting man.

“For a woman, you seem familiar with such a weapon.”

I didn’t reply but Eudora, who now stood beside our packhorse displaying her labrys, said, “As am I with mine.”

“Where did you get this?” he asked, swinging the sword in arcs, seeming to test its balance. His movements were awkward, not fluid as one experienced with a sword would demonstrate.

“From a foolish man.”

The boatman took a second measure of me, and considered Eudora who stood with pursed lips, her labrys in one hand, the other on her hip. He looked to his companions, now with glum faces. They offered no helpful words or gestures.

“I have a second of similar value,” I said, “that I will add after we are safe on the opposite shore.”

“Agreed, then,” he replied, appearing relieved.

 

We boarded the boat cluttered with coils of rope and long poles. While we calmed our horses, two of the men took to the oars, the third managing the tiller. The boat rode low in the water from the weight of our five horses, making slow progress. The water was calm, but with each stroke, the current carried us as far downstream as across the channel. I suspected the boatmen would have to haul the boat back upstream twice as far if they expected to return to where we departed.

“Not so,” the man at the tiller said when I asked. “By early morning, the current will reverse and take us back to the same spot.”

He had revealed another mystery of Nature that would remain unexplained. Eudora and I were children of Nature, accustomed to such secrets that demonstrated the power of our divine mother, but it caused me to wonder what other puzzles we would witness in the coming seasons.

The crossing was without incident. I gave the boatmen the second sword, and we continued our journey to find Alexander. With the sun setting at our back, we followed deep furrows in the ground caused by heavy wheels. Grass and weeds were trampled into the soil, tender saplings broken and crushed, never to become a craftsman’s table or a home’s roof.

Darkening clouds hinted at a storm, so we swerved from the worn path and took shelter beneath a rock outcropping for the night. While Eudora tended a fire, I thought of our mission. For the first time, I was restless. The size of Alexander’s army was formidable, more than I’d ever imagined. If they took a disliking to us, we would quickly become as another sapling stomped into the earth. And how could we evaluate the plans of such a multitude without knowing the mind of a single man among its thousands?

“We should come within sight of Greeks tomorrow,” I said, questioning if I should share my unease with Eudora.

“I am ready.” The flickering firelight revealed her smile. 

It rained before we woke. The air was damp, and a thick fog hindered our visibility. We continued in the direction of muddy wagon tracks that headed into a sun struggling to break through dense morning haze.

Soon we came upon women, children, and old men walking in the same direction, each burdened with a heavy load. Some rode in carts laden with unknown supplies, pulled by an ox. Their numbers increased as we slowly moved through them. They glanced at us, but seemed uninterested by our presence.

 “Where are you going?” I asked one woman in a group. 

“Our destination is unknown,” she said, her eyes focused on the ground in front of her steps. “We follow Alexander.”

“For what purpose?”

“We carry goods for his army.”

“Are you slaves?”

“No. We are free Greek citizens.”

“To what end do you struggle, then? Is it loyalty to your countryman Alexander?”

“Some hope to share the spoils of his efforts but others, as I, follow our husbands to comfort them and tend their wounds after a battle.”

I admired them in a manner. They endured a hard life, but seemed strong and determined with a goal. The way of Amazons was similar, but often lacked a goal. Did marriage inspire loyalty to a man and offer an objective? If so, what could it be?

A thunderous clamor came from the distance as we approached the crest of a hill. At its peak, the followers had stopped and gathered in a line watching beyond. We rode to the front and looked over a vast plane. A narrow river with steep banks flowed through its center. Two opposing armies stood on either side of the river banging weapons on their shields. 

“Mother help us,” Eudora said with a tone more of amazement than fear.

I was without words. Never had I seen so many men knotted together in such a small place. The boatman had said Alexander’s army counted thirty thousand. The force on the far bank seemed equal, if not larger.

“What are they doing?” Eudora asked.

“They are summoning courage,” a bystander said. “The battle will begin soon.”

In front of us on the near bank, a host of cavalry paused at the forefront. Thousands of foot soldiers spread from both sides, each armed with a shield their height and a pike three times that long.

“I see no archers,” Eudora said. “The enemy’s light armor is easily penetrated by arrows. Is their intention to thrust and slash at arm’s length with no armor?”

“The tall shields offer good defense against arrows,” I offered. “Perhaps it is the way men choose to fight against other men, watching the fear in his enemy’s face, splattered with blood.” 

“It is insane.”

Some horsemen carried tall banners of blue with a yellow sunburst at its center. I was drawn to one among the cavalry them who sat higher than his companions on an enormous black steed. He held his sword pointed skyward above his helmet that boasted a tall plume of red horsehair.

I pointed. “Could that be Alexander with the red crest?”

Before Eudora could answer, the man lowered his sword toward the opposite bank and the army charged into the river.

Chapter 13

Morning found me alone. George had left during the night without waking me, nor had he told me his plans. I was neither worried nor surprised. My thoughts drifted to the previous day that had started with a bombing and ended with pleasant shopping in a nearby town. Before arriving in Afghanistan, I had imagined the opposite—that the US Air Base would be safe and comfortable while the Taliban furtively hunted for easy American targets among local towns. I had a lot to learn.

The door swung open and banged against the wall.

“Morning,” George said. He removed his utility belt and handgun and laid them on the dresser. Why was he wearing his Kevlar vest inside the base?

I rolled over and sat on the edge of the bed. “Where’ve you been?”

“Ran a quick errand for the boss.” He went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. “Want to go find your Amazon bones today?” he yelled over the water’s noise.

“Of course.”

“There’s a small supply convoy leaving for the Farah airport in a half hour.”

“I thought we were going to fly.”

“This’ll give you a chance to see more of the countryside close up.”

“We’ll need a car when we get there.”

“Called ahead. All arranged.”

“And tools.”

“Taken care of.” He said something else muffled by the shower noise.

“What?” I yelled.

“Don’t forget your sidearm and vest.”

I sniffed the shirt I’d worn yesterday and tossed it in the corner. Boots, cargo pants, my favorite olive green multi-pocketed shirt from Banana Republic that I called my “explorer shirt” went over my vest, and a matching boonie hat completed my ensemble. While George slipped into yesterday’s clothes—he didn’t dry after his shower—I ran a brush through my hair, thinking it should be cut. He helped me adjust my belt and holster. I stuffed my cell phone, toothbrush, extra pair of shades, loupe, sunscreen, gloves, and two bottles of water into my pockets. You can never have enough pockets. 

We jogged to the assembly area and climbed into the rear seat of an armored Humvee leading a three-truck convoy.

“There’re some things back there that Colonel Higgins said you might need,” the driver said.

Two shovels, trowels, paintbrushes, and a screen for sifting dirt were on the floor.

“Great,” I said. “Please tell the colonel thanks. I was worried he’d forgotten my request.”

“He doesn’t forget, ma’am,” the driver replied as we pulled away. “That’s why he’s the boss.” 

George nodded and grinned.

“I had an exciting dream last night, George,” I said a few minutes later.

“How was my performance?”

“You weren’t there.”

“Not that kind of a dream, huh?”

“Someone else was there.”

He looked at me and raised one eyebrow. “Who?”

“Alexander the Great.”

“No kidding. Is he better looking than me?”

“I couldn’t see his face, but I knew it was him.” I rubbed my forehead, clawing back the details. “And something else.”

“Did he ask what your sign was?”

“I think I was an Amazon.”

“Okay, so he wanted to know if you worked out?”

“I was wearing the body chain you bought me in Sabzawar.”

“For a dance or special occasion?”

“And nothing else.”

“Now I’m dreaming.”

Had the books I was reading and my quest for support of an Amazonian alliance with Alexander’s army invaded my subconscious? As I stared out the truck’s open window at the barren brown sand and rocks flashing by, I smiled and hoped for a sequel.

“How’d you learn of this site?” George asked, interrupting my daydream.

“My father has a friend who works for UNESCO traveling the Middle East and documenting the destruction of historic sites. A local farmer approached him on the outskirts of Farah for advice on some bones that popped up when he was preparing land for a new crop.”

“Wanted to know what they were worth?”

“Right, the farmer was told they were worthless as the UNESCO guy believed. But later, he thought his conclusion might have been hasty. He got the site location, scratched around, and found tools with more skeletons near the surface. Still unable to convince himself the site was historic, he took a tooth from one skeleton, photographed the evidence, covered it, and erected a pile of rocks to mark the spot.”

I turned on my cell, swiped through photos, and pointed. “Right here.”

“Seems smart.”

“He sent the tooth to a lab in London for analysis. Carbon dating and DNA revealed it was two thousand years old and Eastern Mediterranean, probably Greek.”

“That doesn’t prove your Amazon hypothesis.”

 “By itself, no. I was always encouraged by the labrys in the grave, but when a friend at Stanford pointed out a pelvic bone in the photos might be female, it was a slam-dunk. I believe the tooth was from a different skeleton.” I pointed to other photos of the tangled bones of three bodies, a bow, labrys, and the pelvic bone.

“Shouldn’t you wait till some pros can examine the entire site? Not disturb anything.”

“The current state of affairs in Afghanistan makes it impossible to mount an extended excavation that would require months and lots of money. If I can show added physical evidence of my theory, I’m certain it’ll motivate an organization to take notice and spend the money.”

“Like National Geographic?”

“More likely a university or historical society. There are hundreds around the world.”

“So you want to get in and out fast?”

“Right. I’m not an archaeologist. I don’t want to damage or excavate the entire site, just get DNA samples from the other skeletons.”

Three hours later, we arrived at the Farah airport three hours later and went directly to the motor pool.

“MRZR-2,” I said when the sergeant pointed to our vehicle. “Good UTV.”

He looked at George and raised his eyebrows. George smiled and shrugged.

I was beginning to get in the groove of my new environment.

The site’s GPS coordinates were in my Garmin Tactix watch. In seconds, it located four satellites, and the arrow pointed three and half miles southeast, away from the airport and Farah. George drove as I monitored our track along the paved road.

The noontime landscape was free of shadows—flat and sandy with jagged outcroppings in the distance. Within minutes, civilization was in our rearview mirror. Ahead was desolation, devoid of the usual scattered houses.

 “I think the farmer lied,” George said, “and your dad’s UNESCO friend is either naive or hiding something. Nobody in his right mind would cultivate land out here so far from water.”

“Yeah, I remember thinking the same thing when I researched the site. I thought maybe the Google map was out of date.”

“The farmer was doing something else,” George mumbled. “Even poppies won’t grow out here.”

We stopped and pulled to the roadside. The site was seventy-two feet away. I jumped out of the UTV and ran toward the spot. My heart was racing and my head spinning with thoughts of making history, writing papers in prestigious journals, and being invited to speak to groups of esteemed scientists. I stumbled the last few steps, my hands trembling to pull up the photo of the rock pile on my cell. I looked up and spun around, scouring the ground for the distinctive cairn among the million rocks of all sizes. It wasn’t there.

Chapter 14

Never had I heard such a thunderous noise—the shouts of men, rumble of hooves, and clash of weapons. The din rose from the horde that stretched from both our left and right where we watched from a nearby hill.

The one with a red-crested helmet led cavalry down the near side into the river. Thousands of foot soldiers followed, leaping from the steep bank into turbulent waters churning with a strong current. Where the water was shallow, the infantry followed with ease. In pockets of deep water, they stumbled with their massive shields and long pikes, falling beneath the surface, then rising and pushed forward. Even horses faltered, but recovered to stay abreast of their leader on his huge black charger.

“It must be Alexander who leads,” Eudora said. She cringed. “Is he going to fight up the steep opposite bank with the enemy beating down upon him?”

“It is folly,” I mumbled to myself. Had we just found the Macedonian commander only to see him perish with such a thoughtless tactic?

On the edge of the far bank, the enemy cavalry waited, its numbers far exceeding those of Alexander’s. A host of foot soldiers, dressed alike in blue cloaks and leather helmets, watched behind the three-deep line of horses as spectators waiting for the drama to begin.

“The Persians seem at ease with their lofty position,” a nearby voice said.

“Persians?” I said, turning toward the voice of an older woman with a small child clinging to her leg. “Those beyond the river?”

She frowned at me and cocked her head in a disbelieving way.

“We are new to this land,” I offered with a simple smile, hoping not to threaten.

She looked me over, then Eudora, before answering. “Yes, those who follow Darius III who Alexander has vowed to kill.”

Her tone was unfriendly, yet I dared a second question. “And the tall leader with the red plume is Alexander?”

She nodded without facing my way.

I turned my attention back to the foray. Alexander’s cavalry lunged up the far bank, thrusting with their long pikes, a horse’s length out in front, denying the Persians close-range combat with their shorter javelins and scimitars. The sharp pikes easily skewered the leather Persian armor behind their small round shields.

Foot soldiers among Alexander’s cavalry impaled the Persian horses, toppling them to the ground and forcing their riders into hand-to-hand fighting with Alexander’s infantry that seemed more powerful.

I focused on Alexander as he advanced without fear, surrounded by both enemies and comrades, first with a pike until it splintered, then slashing with a sword. His enormous black mount threw its front legs high and forward, striking men on their head and shoulders. His advance left a broad trail of squirming near-dead bodies in the beaten-down tall grass.

“He and his horse fight like angry lions,” I said.

“He goes for their leader,” Eudora replied, pointing to a Persian who stood out among the host with golden shoulder pads, arm bracelets, and a pointed silver helmet.

The noble Persian was ready for the imminent attack. He parried Alexander’s first strike, then stunned him with an axe causing him to waver, about to topple from his horse. Another enemy screamed and charged Alexander from behind with a curved scimitar raised high above his head for a fatal strike. Alexander’s nearby companion severed the man’s outstretched arm with a single blow, and a second blow to his chest sent him to the thickening carpet of mangled bodies.

Alexander’s troops closed around him and repelled the Persians with increasing fury, their energized shouts clear above the clamor. A countercharge by the Persian cavalry failed. The Macedonian cavalry broke through the Persian cavalry’s line and fell upon its infantry. On Alexander’s left flank, a phalanx five layers deep pushed the cavalry back with an unbroken wall of shields and pikes. The front layer lunged forward, jabbing without hesitation, pushed by the rear layers. When a man fell in the fore, the one behind stepped in to fill the gap and keep the wall unblemished.

Suddenly, as if on command, they turned inward, pinching the enemy forces closer together. The Persians were about to be surrounded. They retreated slow at first, then faster. Finally, they turned and ran.

Shouts rose from those among us on the hill as the Macedonian army pursued the fleeing Persians, slaughtering them from behind.

“He won,” Eudora said with a tone of surprise.

“Queen Thalestris’ fear was well founded,” I said. “Alexander’s might is overwhelming, and his daring inspires awe.”

I marveled how the wall of shields rendered a perfect defense and the pikes struck more deadly and accurately than thrown javelins. If Alexander were to invade Byre Jus, no answer came to mind of how to overcome this technique. Amazons were superior than most with face-to-face encounters, and the accuracy of our arrows was second to none, but I shuddered at the thought of facing this enemy.

The followers and baggage carriers hurried from the hilltop, presumably anxious to learn if a friend or loved one had survived the carnage. I believed, however, that the Macedonian force had suffered little, their strength and skill had so overwhelmed the Persians. We waded across the river and through the bloody battlefield as followers and soldiers overturned corpses, wiping dirt and gore from faces, searching for a missing comrade. All scavenged the fallen Persians for useful items that could be used or traded for coin. Hundreds of Persians had surrendered, choosing hope for compassion over certain death. I wondered about their fate.

As daylight faded, campfires began to sparkle beyond the battlefield. We ambled in that direction.

“We should mingle with these people,” I said, “and learn of their ways.”

“How will we find Alexander among this many?” Eudora asked.

“Finding him will be easy. Knowing him will be difficult.”

We rode slowly among the campsites, unchallenged. Our attire was not strange and our three pack horses were a common sight. We soon came across a makeshift corral of horses that seemed a good place to spend the night. We hobbled our horses and spread our kit on the ground. While we chewed the last of our dried fish, we relaxed in the shadows and listened to the conversations of a group of men nearby.

“I heard that Cleitus saved Alexander’s life,” one said. “Cut off the Persian bastard’s arm.”

“A handsome reward awaits him, I’m sure,” another replied.

“And others, as well. Alexander has vowed he will grant freedom from taxation and public service for families of the fallen.”

“Aye, but not so for the Greek mercenaries who fought with the Persians. The traitors that yielded and pleaded mercy will spend their lives in the Macedonian mines.”

“As they should.”

The conversations faded as I struggled to keep my eyes open. As much as I wanted to listen and learn, I relaxed, proud that the first part of our quest had succeeded. We had found Alexander.

To be continued…

Dick Yaeger is a retired physicist, former Marine, and student of history and the Classics, much of which percolates into his books and short stories. When not writing, he might be found rowing, playing bagpipes, or working a piece of art at his forge. Visit his author page at www.amazon.com/-/e/B00APR4NPQ

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