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The Tenth Muse 15

Pihas barely had time to wash the blood from his hands before spying yet another wounded villager. He lumbered across the street and knelt beside a teenaged boy clutching his side, doubled over in pain. His mother hovered over him, sobbing. The priest of Apaliunas ripped open the boy’s tunic to reveal a gash, no doubt made by some Achaian spear. He asked the mother to find bandages as he emptied his water skin onto the wound.

By the time Pihas had returned from offering the morning sacrifice at the temple, the Achaians had already descended upon the village. The damage had been done; all Pihas could do was try to ease the suffering of the survivors.

Pihas stitched up the wound with needle and thread, then wrapped it in the strips of cloth the mother had no doubt ripped from her bedding. He wiped sweat and grime from his face with the back of his forearm. His hands were bloody again. He wiped them clean on the end of the boy’s bandage and sat down in the dust.

He had helped as many as he could. Taras was dead, stabbed in the gut like the boy in front of him. There was no sign of Ashtinamas, Tuwatis, or Sam.

Apaliunas, what have they done? What have they done with my girl?

An old man shuffled past. A little girl-his granddaughter-held his hand. They both looked ancient with worry.

There’s nothing for them here any more, Pihas thought. Others will be leaving, too, as soon as the dead are buried.

The mother cradled her injured son in her arms and the three of them sat on the ground, devastated, broken, and numb.

“Take care of your son,” the priest said. “He’s all you have left, now.”

Pihas glanced at the temple at the top of the hill. Not even filthy Achaians would loot a temple…would they?

Astinamas is all I have left. And by all the gods, I’ll get her back!

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