The Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine Read Free Book Online

Book: The Pillars of Hercules by David Constantine Read Free Book Online
Authors: David Constantine
Tags: Fiction, Historical, Fantasy, Alternative History
popular with the mob, less so with his fellow archons, and every army or fleet he commanded was always skeptical until they’d seen him in battle. So to turn back before combat flew in the face of all his instincts. He knew he wouldn’t be winning any popularity contests now. In fact—
    “Next session of the archons might be your last,” said a voice.
    “Thanks for nothing,” said Leosthenes, continuing to stare out at the other ships in his fleet. They were sailing in two long columns, fifty ships a column, each ship a symbol of Athenian power, that power emblazoned upon each sail: griffins and dragons and owls and tridents stretching back as far as the eye could see. The men aboard those ships stuck together on and off those boats. They frequented the same dives, the same cathouses. And nine times out of ten, they voted together in the Assembly too. The rule of the rowers —that’s what Aristotle had once called Athenian government. The man who’d just spoken joined Leosthenes at the rail.
    “Just saying.”
    “That’s all you ever do.”
    Which wasn’t quite true. His faithful-if-sarcastic servant Memnon did a lot more than just talk. But it was the talk which Leosthenes found the most valuable. The white-haired Memnon had been born a slave to Leosthenes’ father, bequeathed by him to his son, and freed by Leosthenes when he was elected to the position of archon. But really, Memnon’s status had never changed—he was Leosthenes’ trusted confidant, the one who told him what no one else would, the only one who (even as his master rose through the jungle of Athenian politics) could always be relied upon for candid advice.
    Especially when it wasn’t welcome.
    “You got the sharp end of the stick on this one,” he said. “And if you’re extra lucky, they might even make you a scapegoat for all of Egypt.”
    “Despite the fact that I never set foot there?”
    “All the better.”
    Leosthenes smiled wryly, brushed a hand through a wave of his hair. It hung in brown locks down to his shoulders; between that and his hazel eyes, the joke in Athens was that it was too bad for him that women couldn’t vote, otherwise he’d be guaranteed a lifetime appointment among the archons. But personally, Leosthenes doubted that if women had the vote, they’d use it any different then men. They’d reward success (or what could be made to look like it) and punish fuck-ups. And the real question was who’d fucked this one up.
    “The Macks had inside help,” he said.
    “Of course they did,” said Memnon. “One more reason you need to watch your back on the council.”
    “You really think the rot goes that high?”
    “I think it’d be dangerous to assume it doesn’t.”
    Leosthenes nodded slowly. “What about these damn weapons?”
    “What about them?”
    Leosthenes spat into the ocean. “What else does Alexander have?”
    Memnon gazed at the sea as though he’d just been asked a question about the weather. “I daresay we’ll be finding out,” he said.
    Barsine ran a tight ship. She kept Lugorix and Matthias to a rigorous watch schedule: Matthias during the moonlit night, Lugorix during the sun-scorched day. It was while relieving Matthias one morning that Lugorix realized just how frustrated his friend was getting.
    “It was Athenian,” repeated the archer angrily. “Another trireme.”
    “I didn’t say it wasn’t,” replied Lugorix.
    “Then why sound so skeptical?”
    “Not skeptical, just obvious. The Mediterranean’s their lake . You saw a boat out here last night, what else would it be?”
    “So why didn’t she signal it? Why did she evade it?”
    “Because this is a Persian vessel and we lack a good explanation?”
    “Then why the hell are we going to Athens in the first place?”
    Lugorix exhaled slowly, watching the heaving waves. “Been wondering that myself,” he admitted.
    “Well, there you go then.”
    “So have you asked her?”
    “Asked her? I never even see her.

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