The black ship glided across the water as if it were a great sea bird skimming the surface with the tips of its wings. Amid the bustle of activity, Wiphitos stood quietly at the prow, lost in thought. Supplies were running low-again. How long did his betters think this expeditionary force could last on what could be pillaged from the countryside?
He kept his reservations to himself, of course. His duty was to serve the Great King, and it might still be that he would grow rich from the spoils of war in the end.
The storm had kept him and his crew at the encampment yesterday. Today, he was happy to have the rolling sea under him once more. He followed a seagull as it flew toward land and caught sight of a flash of white in the distance: the sail of a tiny craft hugging the shore. No doubt a fisherman and his crew heading home with the day’s catch.
He fingered the hilt of his sword and scanned the coast to the east. He dared not take the ship any closer, even though the setting sun behind him would blind anyone spying in his direction. He gazed up at a sailor high on the mast, hugging the wooden beam like a squirrel in a tree.
“What do you see, Klytios?”
“Decent farm land. Sheep and cattle. A few fishing boats.” He paused. “Two or three large houses among the smaller ones. There’s gold to be had, I’ll wager, and other finery.”
“And girls who still have all their teeth!” a sailor called from the deck, to the obvious approval of all.
Another sailor shouted, “Shall we take it then, my lord?”
Wiphitos pondered the question. The village didn’t seem to have much in the way of defense, but with only one ship they’d be hard pressed to get all the booty back to camp.
“Not now, Têleas. We’ll return tomorrow or the next day with more ships to haul the loot. No sense leaving the job half done.” He looked back to Klytios. “Good work, lad. The king will be pleased to know this village should be a worthy prize.”
The captain studied the horizon. Plenty of time to return to camp before sunset. He gave the order and sailors scrambled to trim the sails and turn the ship back toward the north.