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The Tenth Muse 16

“But he speaks our language?”

The Great King of the Achaians paced from one end of his tent to the other. Once more, he studied the wax tablets the ship captain had given him and the curious markings on them. They were like nothing he had seen before. Nor could his scribes make anything of them. Even if he could read, this was no form of writing anyone had ever seen.

“After a fashion, O King. His accent is nearly impossible to follow at times, but he seems to take my meaning if I tell him something slowly and loudly enough. It’s clear he isn’t Achaian, but-as I said-he has even less mastery of the Wilian language.”

“The Wilians have many allies, Wiphitos: Carians, Dardanians, Thracians-the list is endless. They may speak a dozen or more languages in their ranks.”

The king took another look at the tablets. He sighed, then set them down on a wooden table.

“Could this be some kind of coded message?” the king pondered.

“That was my thought, O King. That’s why I brought the tablets to you. If Wilios can expect further reinforcements from more distant lands, I knew you would want to know.”

“Indeed.” The king frowned. The last thing he needed was for the enemy to gain reinforcements. If it weren’t for their allies, his forces would have the Wilians outnumbered ten to one. As it was, they were at an evenly matched stalemate that seemed to go on forever.

“Treat him decently-for now. Put him to whatever work you may find for him to do. I’ll discuss the matter with some of the other kings and have him brought before me presently.”

“As you say, O King.” Wiphitos saluted and exited the royal tent. The king became aware of the sound of whimpering.

“As for you,” he addressed the young girl cowering in the shadows. “You will have to wait until this mystery is solved.”

She shuddered, uncomprehending. He knew the bare rudiments of her language-it was the language of commerce and diplomacy, after all, and he was the Great King.

“You stay here,” he said. Then: “Tell me your name.”

“Ashtinamas, daughter of Pihas.”

“Daughter of the shining one, eh?” he said in Achaian. He tried to pronounce the name she gave him, but the sibilant gave him trouble.

“Astynomê,” he finally said. “That will be close enough. Astynomê, daughter of Khrysês.”

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