It was a cold winter morning as two young women hurried down the road. The frost crunched under their footsteps. Their breaths were clouds of steam quickly dissipating into the frigid air. A thin sliver of light appeared behind them heralding the rising sun in his chariot. Ahead of them, perhaps over the next rise, lay the great city of Asteria, the cradle of democracy.
Antiope wore a white chiton belted to where it came down to mid calf. She wore an indigo himation over her shoulders to keep her warm. Slung over her left shoulder was her aspis, the large round shield that was her only armor. She carried her doru, the nine foot spear complete with “lizard sticker”, over her right shoulder. The rest of her belongings, which wasn’t much, and one drachma gold piece were wrapped in a light brown blanket. The bundle was suspended on the shaft of her spear. Blonde curly hair stuck out from under a Phrygian cap. Traveling in the winter countryside, she was glad she had a good pair of boots.
“Isn’t this exciting, Menalippe?” chirped Antiope. “Just think of the adventures we’ll have sailing to Latona to see the Oracle of Dragons!”
“Well don’t get too excited counting chicks before they hatch.” laughed Menalippe, “We haven’t been hired, yet.”
“Surely, they’ll hire us. They’re sending an entire squadron of ships.” replied Antiope amidst a cloud of steam. As she wiped her cold nose with the back of her hand, she glanced over at her childhood friend. Fortune had not been kind to Menalippe in recent years. She had been a student of philosophy and had set out to write a history of the Amazons. Then she lost her mother and this past year, she had lost her last aunt in a battle against the Nycenaeans. The family farm had been sold when her mother had died and Menalippe had gone to work tending goats for a cheese maker. She was perhaps the most literate goat herder in all of Valkae. Menalippe’s sandaled feet were red from the cold. “How are your feet?” asked Antiope.
“Tio, stop worrying about my feet. They’ll be fine. I’m used to working in the cold and the sun will be up shortly. Besides, it isn’t your fault the goats decided to make a meal of my boots.”
Aren’t these PEF markers adorable?
In addition to her sandals, Menalippe wore a brown chiton that reached down to her ankles. She wore a dark red blanket as a himation and another blanket of the same color was tied in a bundle and hung from the shaft of an akontia, the javelin. She carried three of these javelins. On one hung the bundle of possessions and supplies, on another hung her pelte, the crescent shaped shield. The third was unencumbered and ready to be hurled at a moment’s notice. On her head she wore the wide brimmed hat known as a petasos. It was a reddish brown, almost the same chestnut color as her hair, and it had the most unusual plumage.
Her bundle contained a threadbare chiton, a brush, a small bronze mirror, an ink stone, a few quills, half a dozen sheets of parchment, a water skin, a small knife, a small flask of olive oil, a crock for cooking, two wooden spoons, two wooden bowls, dried beans, some dried fruit, half of a garlic bulb, four small loaves of flat bread, a smaller crock containing cheese, and a small amount of salt (they had decided since Menalippe’s shield weighed much less than Antiope’s gear, that Menalippe would carry the food stuff), and three copper obols, which was equivalent to half of a drachma gold piece. Menalippe received one obol a week for tending the cheese maker’s goats. Had she lived in the city, she would have been surprised to learn that an unskilled laborer earned three obols a day.
Just as the sun cleared the horizon, they reached the top of the last rise and before them was Asteria with its walls gleaming a golden color in the morning light. Rooftops were ablaze with reds while the great white marble temple of the Goddess was the majestic centerpiece of the city. Amphitrite’s Bay lay at the edge, its water the richest blue Menalippe had ever seen.
“Oh, Tio, it is even more beautiful than I dreamed it would be.” said Menalippe.
“Well, let’s not stop now.” laughed Antiope. “We can be through the Western Gate within the hour if we don’t dawdle. I can’t believe you’ve never been to the city.”
“Once, I came here once with my mother when I was very little. I don’t remember the city at all. All I remember from that trip is a sweet sticky bun that was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.”
The NPC is being mugged
“Wait! Did you hear that?” asked Menalippe.
“What?” asked Antiope coming to a halt.
“A scream followed by a muffled cry.” said Menalippe. “It was over here to the right.”
“Should we take a look? This part of town looks a bit run down.” replied Antiope.
“Maybe that’s exactly why we should take a look see.” said Menalippe shifting her bundle and putting on her shield.
Antiope likewise unslung her shield and slipped her arm through the straps. Menalippe led the way into a narrow street. They could make out muffled cries and sounds of a struggle ahead. They cautiously stepped around a corner and came upon the scene of a mugging. The victim had a gag in her mouth. One thief was holding her down on the ground while another thief sat astride the woman pummeling her face. A third thief was going through the hapless woman’s bag. None of them were alert to being discovered. They seemed confident that no one would care what they were doing.
Menalippe hears a cry
“Hey, stop that!” shouted Menalippe. The thieves jerked to attention and stood up. Two of the thieves drew short swords. The third just stood still holding the woman’s bag. “Who are you to stop us?” said one who appeared to be the leader. “Yeah, you want some of this?” said the other in a menacing voice.
The leader stepped toward Menalippe. Menalippe hurled a javelin without saying a word. The javelin struck true and the thief was dead before her body crumpled to the ground. Without hesitation, Antiope charged the second thief. The thief lost her breath when Antiope’s shield crashed into her and a quick overhand thrust bit deep into the thief’s left shoulder. She dropped her sword and fell to the ground grasping her wound. “Oh, shit!” exclaimed the third thief. She dropped the bag and ran down the street as fast as she could.
Antiope and Menalippe rushed to the beaten woman’s side. “Keep watch, Tio.” said Menalippe bending down to tend the woman.
“Certainly.” replied Antiope. Menalippe removed the bloody rag used to gag the woman. She moaned. “How is she?” asked Antiope.
“She’ll live.” said Menalippe. “But I’m not sure if any teeth are broken. Her eyes are nearly swollen shut, bloody nose, probably broken, both lips split open.” Menalippe untied her bundle and reached for the water skin. “How is that one?” she asked pointing her chin toward the fallen thief.
“She’s unconscious. The shoulder wound is oozing blood. She’ll eventually bleed out if the wound isn’t staunched.” replied Antiope.
Menalippe unpinned the woman’s chiton and tore a small piece from the corner. “I’ll get to her after I tend to their victim.” she said. After soaking the cloth, she began to clean the woman’s face. The woman moaned as she struggled to keep conscious. “Potion…” she rasped, “potion, red bottle.”
She stood and looked where the thief had spilled the contents of the woman’s bag and spied a small red bottle. Returning to the woman’s side after picking up the bottle, she cradled the woman’s head in her lap and removed the stopper from the bottle. “I hope this helps.” she said as she slowly administered the potion between swollen lips. “Thank you.” the woman whispered after swallowing the potion.
They turn the corner
“We’ve got company!” said Antiope after hearing voices approaching. Menalippe quickly picked up her shield and javelins. She had just taken a position next to Antiope when three more thieves stepped around the corner.
The thieves had already drawn their swords. “Well, well, what have we here cluttering my street? You can place your things on the ground there and leave.” said one who appeared to be the leader as the trio strode forward.
“We can’t leave. We have two down that can’t move, yet.” said Antiope.
“That’s ok. We’ll take care of them.” responded the leader.
“No, I don’t think so.” said Menalippe.
“Look, hayseed, this isn’t the place to form ranks and bare your breasts to curry favor from the goddess. This street is mine. Get it, bitch?” The thieves started their charge. “This is MY neighborhoo… umph” The leader jerked backed in mid-stride from the impact of Menalippe’s javelin. Her eyes were wide with disbelief as she reached behind her and felt the javelin’s point protruding from her back. Her eyes then rolled back into her head and her body fell hard to the ground.
Antiope met the charge of the second thief with a charge of her own. After crashing together, Antiope parried the thief’s sword with her shield and stabbed her through the neck with her spear. Menalippe ran toward the third thief quickly transferring another javelin to her throwing hand. As she cocked her arm back, the thief screamed and ran away dropping her sword behind her.
The thieves aren’t paying attention
“We ought to think about getting out of here.” said Antiope wiping her spear point on the dead thief’s clothing. Menalippe put her foot on the dead leader’s chest and pulled her javelin free. “Not a bad idea. Let’s see if we can carry the wounded back the way we came.” replied Menalippe. They turned around and saw that the woman had rolled onto her side and was attempting to sit up. They rushed back to her side.
“Whoa, take it easy.” said Menalippe. “Do you want a drink of… Antiope, look, her face! The swelling is gone and the bruises are clearing.” Indeed the woman appeared to be healing right before their eyes. “Is this because of the potion?” Menalippe asked.
“Yes, the potion is is one of the best healing potions available.” replied the woman.
“Are you a healer?” Antiope asked.
“No, but a sorceress has to be prepared in case she is wounded by weapon or spell.” she replied.
“You’re a sorceress?” asked Menalippe as she tore cloth from the unconscious thief’s chiton for a bandage.
“One of the best?” chuckled Menalippe as she dressed the thief’s wound. “Seems like one of the best would have foreseen an attack in this neighborhood.”
“I’m a sorceress, not a prophetess. Besides, they grabbed me a few streets over. I was on my way to see an apothecary to buy spell components.” the sorceress replied sounding a little irked.
Again, they heard someone coming. Antiope and Menalippe stood ready. Two women came around the corner. “Friend or Foe?” shouted Menalippe. Startled, the two women raised bows and pulled back on the bowstrings. “Police!” shouted one of the women.
Menalippe and Antiope relaxed. “Are we glad to see you.” said Antiope. The two policewomen listened intently while Menalippe, Antiope, and the sorceress told their tales. Afterwards, they helped the policewomen drag the bodies to the side of the street. The bodies would be picked up later. The policewomen offered the weapons of the dead thieves to Menalippe and Antiope, but they refused. They took a chiton from one of the corpses and used it to tie the weapons and possessions of the dead thieves into a bundle. They took the wounded thief into custody. One of the policewomen picked up the wounded thief. The other, holding the bundle of possessions, turned to the three and said “This is a particularly nasty neighborhood. I would advise you to leave here as soon as possible.”
“Yes, ma’am. As soon as we gather up our belongings, we’ll be on our way.” said Menalippe. The policewomen trudged off with their unconscious captive, while Menalippe reassembled her bundle and the sorceress picked up her bag and belongings.
Menalippe nails a thief
“Is there is any way I could repay you for your help?” asked the sorceress when everyone was ready to move on.
“No, there’s no need. Just help someone else if you see anyone in need.” replied Menalippe.
“Yeah, we need to get a move on.” said Antiope. “We’re going to sign on for the expedition to Latona and we still need to find out where they are doing the recruiting.”
“Well, then I can help you. It so happens that they are recruiting at the inn where I’m staying. I’ll be more than happy to take you there.”
“So, you didn’t cast any spells?” asked Antiope as the three began walking down the narrow street. Menalippe recognized Antiope’s tone of voice and knew that her friend was about to tease the sorceress.
“Seems like someone who has spent years to become ‘one of the best in Valkae’ could have turned them into frogs or something.” teased Antiope. “Maybe there’s nothing real about magic.”
“You don’t know anything at all about magic. The time spent learning and preparing incantations, using the correct gestures and tones, requires concentration and a very strong mind to manipulate the raw energy that is magic.”
“Maybe you could have done something little, like turn them into crickets.” said Menalippe. She and Antiope began giggling.
“Crickets, you say?” The sorceress held up her left hand and wiggled her little finger. “Akpizedza dousell zeh!”
Menalippe immediately stopped. Her eyes grew wide with surprise.
“Why’d you stop, Menalippe?” asked Antiope turning to see the increasing discomfort in her friend. “What is it?”
Menalippe dropped everything and quickly held her hands up to her mouth. She opened her mouth and spat a live cricket into her hands. The sorceress laughed. “Perhaps you’ll have a little more respect for an all powerful sorceress.”
The astonished women looked at the cricket in Menalippe’s hands and then at one another. “How’d she do that?” asked Antiope. “I don’t know. She did something with her little finger and said something that sounded like gibberish.” replied Menalippe. She dropped the cricket, picked up her things, and they both hurried to catch up to the sorceress.
Three more thieves appear
“That was amazing!” exclaimed Antiope.
“You know, I could show more respect to an all powerful sorceress if I knew her name.” said Menalippe.
“Fair enough.” replied the sorceress. “My name is Eurydice.”
“Eurydice? Eurydice as in Eurydice, queen of the damned?” asked Menalippe with a note of timidity.
“Yes, as in Eurydice, queen of the damned.” answered Eurydice with a broad grin.
“Queen of the damned?” asked Antiope.
“In hell there is a place for the punishment of the very wicked. The nymph, now goddess, Eurydice rules there.” answered Menalippe.
“She’s not that Eurydice, is she?”
Suddenly from a side street, two women charged them. Antiope met the first one, while the second one bore down on Eurydice. Menalippe couldn’t get a clear shot without hitting Eurydice or Antiope. Eurydice struggled with the thief holding both wrists barely keeping the thief’s dagger from her throat. Menalippe charged to her aid. Using a javelin as a spear, she stabbed the woman in the side. The thief collapsed. Meanwhile, the hapless thief attacking Antiope had been knocked unconscious. In parrying the thief’s sword stroke, Antiope’s shield caught the woman on the chin and knocked her out.
Menalippe picked up the thieves’ weapons and hurled them down the street. “How about we sprint the rest of the way out of this neighborhood?” asked Menalippe. Antiope and Eurydice both agreed.
The Police Arrive
It was midday when the trio reached the inn. It was a three story building not far from the waterfront. The sign over the door read “The Dancing Goat Inn.” Antiope laughed and pointed out the sign to Menalippe. “Look, it’s your kind of place.”
“Just my luck.” laughed Menalippe. “I hope I’m not doomed to live amongst goats my entire life.”
“This is where we part company.” said Eurydice. “I’m going up to my room for some much needed rest and to finish healing. You’ll have to get in line with the others to see the recruiting officers.”
“Thank you, for guiding us here. You saved us a lot of time.” said Menalippe. “And we enjoyed your company.”
“Yeah, especially when you conjured up that cricket in Menalippe’s mouth.” added Antiope.
Walking down the street to take their place at the end of the line, Menalippe remarked “When we get in line we can have lunch.”
“That’s a marvelous idea.” said Antiope. “It reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”