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The Tenth Muse 10

Wiphitos studied the blade of his sword as he sat at the door flap of his tent. He gave the blade another few passes with his whetstone, then tested its sharpness with his thumb. The decision had been made; at dawn tomorrow they would descend upon the village he had spotted yesterday. Tomorrow night it would be roasted lamb for supper instead of stale bread.

A slave woman passed in front of his tent hauling water for her new master.

Tomorrow night may bring even tastier treats, he thought.

He couldn’t help but stare as she passed. Everyone knew she was the prettiest prize yet had by anyone on this campaign, but no one dared touch her for fear of her master. Not even the Great King would be so bold!

Sheathing his sword, Wiphitos inspected his three javelins, his boar’s tusk helmet, and his leather breastplate.

Not much chance I’ll come back with bronze armor. A village that size will have few if any warriors to guard it.

Several of his cohorts had managed to strip better armor and weaponry from Wilian soldiers they had slain. Most of the men Wiphitos had killed had worn armor no better than his own-or none at all. Still, he would be satisfied with a hearty meal and some gold or silver baubles.

Some men had gathered in front of the tent of Têleas. He was strumming his lyre while another man sang a song. The ship captain strolled over to join the fun. The other man was one of the better poets in the camp. He was extemporizing a bawdy song about Hêraklewês and the queen of the Amazons that had the crowd in stitches. Everyone egged him on to greater and more perverse exaggerations.

In the press of men someone shouted an obscenity and suddenly a space cleared between two warriors. Wiphitos recognized them-after all this time he could practically give the genealogy of every man in camp! The week before they had exchanged words over some trivial matter or other. Apparently the issue was not yet resolved.

In a second they were rolling in the mud, grabbing at each other’s throats. Wiphitos stepped in to pull the man on top, the larger of the two, out of the fight. Another officer restrained the smaller man.

“Enough of this! Save your strength for the Wilians-or do you want to stay here and dig latrines?”

The two men glared at each other. Wiphitos smashed the heel of his hand into the nose of the man he had restrained, then stood to challenge the other one. He dusted himself off and walked away.

It will be good to get these men out of camp for a while.

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