[A.n] I have come across a bit of a plot hole in the previous chapter. If you happen t spot it, could you let me know, please? Thanks.

Elana stowed her pack, under a rock on the outskirts of Patrae. Her horse Xanthos, had this time been stabled with another, at stalls near the city of Panormas, situated on the north coast of Achaea.

She carried only the essentials, mainly hidden on her, in various pouches.

The only intel on Theia's whereabouts came from Perikles' reports from the last time he was in the city. She had waited until nightfall before making a move. She simply entered through the main gate, since there was still some traffic passing in and out. She waved her falsified papers to the gate guard as she passed by, showing that she was a citizen of Patrae.

Elana assumed that Theia would be kept in the city dungeon, at the prison, along with other spies, informants and traitors who were awaiting the death penalty.

So, that is where she headed now. There should be a skeleton guard force at the prison, but Elana had no idea how many that would consist of. She wouldn't take the chance of entering before only the night guard remained on duty.

Rather than waiting around, Elana took the opportunity to scout the walls, windows and exits, for any signs of weakness or disrepair. Depending on what state Theia was in would depend on how they would exit the building. After walking around the prison, in the shadows for about the tenth time, she decided that the front door would have to do. It seemed that the Patraeans certainly took good care of their public buildings.

She sighed and then wondered where she had picked up that habit. She raised her hood and waited down an alleyway.

Midnight came and went before she stepped back in to the moonlight. She had watched the guard change and spotted five men leave the building while only one entered.

A few moments later Elana approached the door, she pulled out Koradeas' pick set and began to work on the lock. It was not as easy as Koradelas had made out. A few minutes passed before the door clicked open. Like a silent spectre, she stepped in to the shadow of the building.

"Who's there?" The guard called and peered out through the door. The last thing he saw was the glint of a knife, before it penetrated his armour and pierced his heart. The spectre pulled out the knife, as she lowered his body to the ground. Elana dragged the corpse in to the guard room and behind the desk, then locked and bolted the door behind her.

She stalked the corridors of the prison, in darkness, until she found a stairway down to the dungeon. A single door had been lit by a single torch at the end of a low and narrow tunnel. Elana peered through the bars built in to the door, to see a circular room with three cell doors and one guard, sat, asleep on a stool. The guard was extremely pale and wore a filthy chiton. The cells keys hung from a wrist. Elana picked the lock as quietly as she could and once in the room she withdrew her makhaira and whacked the guard hard over the head. He slid from his chair, and hit the floor with a soft thud, unconscious. She slipped the key string from around his wrist.

Pulling the torch from the wall, she held it to the cell window nearest to her. An elderly man was sprawled out on the floor, seemingly half dead, his breathing shallow. She didn't think he would make it out of there alive. She reluctantly moved on to the next cell. When she looked through the bars a man appeared at the opening and stared at her, eyes wide and blood-shot. In the flickering torchlight, she could make out handsome, yet sallow features of a middle-aged man.

"Who are you?" he rasped.

"I'm not here for you." She made to move on.

"Wait, I can help you."

Elana stopped.

"I have information that may be of use to you."

Elana turned to face the man, without saying a word.

"If you get me out of here, I will tell you everything I know. You must be here for the informant, if not for me or him," he gestured to the previous cell, "so I will assume you are from Thebae, since that is where she was passing information on to."

"Well done, but you know too much. Maybe I should kill you, now?"

"They will kill me at sunrise, anyway," he said, desperately, his throat was so sore, Elana could barely make out what he was saying, "I value my life and would like to experience plenty more of what this world has to offer…"

"I know you must be a spy or an informant, otherwise you wouldn't be here. By your accent, I'd say you are from Achaea, but they wouldn't imprison their own spy, so you are most likely from across the strait. Aetolia, am I correct?"

"Yes, you are. I will tell you everything. Just unlock this door!" he banged on the door so hard he staggered back, shaking his hand. "Oww," he said, rubbing it.

"Alright! I believe you…" Elana sighed, again. "Stand back." She inserted the key and turned. The door unlocked with a satisfactory chink and swung open with a loud creak.

Elana didn't take a moment more, before moving on to the next cell. She held it up to the bars and saw a vaguely familiar face.

"It's good to see you again," Theia spoke, quietly.

"I wanted to be here sooner, but there were preparations to make, since Achaean scouts are scouring the countryside for me," Elana said, while unlocking the cell.

Theia took a step forward and stumbled to the ground.

"Put your arm around my neck," Elana said, helping her up.

"Here, let me help," said the stranger and now ex prisoner. He placed Theia's arm around his neck, "You go on ahead, in case any guards turn up."

"Good idea, but don't try anything…" she left the threat unsaid.

"Where will you take me? I have nothing left here now. Everything I owned has been taken from me," Theia cried out, "All because I wanted to break Sparta's hold over Patraea…"

Elana led the way back through the narrow tunnel and up the steps. "We had feared the worst. We know how much you've sacrificed to help Thebae too, even to go so far as to almost die for what you believe in."

Elana stopped and thought for a moment, when they entered the guard room. "There is no way we can give you back the life you had here. But we hope to help you make a fresh start at least." Elana looked at Theia in the torchlight. "You have a place to stay, a horse and a job, as a spy for Thebae. We've also provided you with a few necessary items; clothing and basic equipment. And by we, I mean Cadmus and I."

Theia fought back more tears.

"Thank you, Elana," she said quietly, and stared at the ground in front of her feet, as if she felt underserving.

Elana placed the torch in a wall bracket. The two bystanders looked on curiously.

Just then, there was a knock at the door.

"Quickly, put the guards armour on," Elana said to the ex-prisoner.

"Theia, you wait in here," Elana guided her to a room nearby.

Elana then stood beside the door and waited for the spy to finish getting dressed.

Thud, Thud, Thud, the guard outside banged hard.

"He's probably sleeping," said a muffled voice from the other side of the door.

The disguised spy placed on the kranos of the dead guard and walked over to the door to open it.

"What took you so long?" said the guard, supposedly doing the knocking.

"I was sleeping, thanks."

"I told you so," the other guard said smugly, "why are you wearing that?" He gestured to the kranos.

"Well, I thought you were someone trying to break in."

"Oh, right, yea,"

"What are you doing here anyway?" The spy had backed up to the desk and the two guards had followed him away from the door.

Before either one could answer, Elana had snuck up behind them. The spectre banged their heads together and they fell to the floor in a heap.

"Let's go," she said, and waved them out, "Stay behind me."

They would have to exit the polis by going over the wall. The main gates would be closed by now.

The trio stuck to the shadows. Thankfully there were very few guards on patrol. It seemed that most of them had been called up to fight Athanas.

They had to wait a few minutes while a couple of guards walked by, extremely slowly. Elana thought she had seen one of them with his eyes closed.

She shook her head. 'Must be my eyes playing tricks on me.'

Most of the city was in darkness, but for the West wall, which was lit up by the moon.

The east wall was where they were headed.

"Elana," said Theia, "I don't think we should go that way. It will be too dangerous."

"Perhaps you're right. It's going to take some time to go over either the north or the south wall though, and it means walking back around the city, which will take some time."

"I agree with the girl," the lone male chimed in.

Elana didn't want to argue and she could see their point. Maybe it was too much of a risk.

"We'll take the north wall then, we're already closer to it than the south wall."

The buildings along the South wall dropped shadows that the trio used to hide in.

They waited, as the light from a guard's torch flickered its way past, along the walkway atop the wall.

Elana then threw up a hooked rope, that eventually latched onto the ledge with her third try.

"Hurry now, up you go," she gestured to the armoured escapee.

He clambered up the rope slowly, taking a break near the top, before eventually hauling himself up over the edge and disappearing.

Elana looked at Theia, then back up.

"You next, then." She helped Theia up, as far as she could reach. Elana just had to wait, while the figure wormed its way up the rope. She could clearly see that the Patraean woman was in rough shape.

Theia also rested near the top and a moment later Elana made out the handsome features of the Aetolian spy, his arm reached over the ledge and began to pull Theia up.

Elana quickly scrambled up the rope in seconds and pulled it up behind her, before hooking it on the opposite edge. "Down you go now," she said, seeing that the spy had removed all the armour and wore only the prison guards blood stained chiton and sandals.

He winked at her before hopping over the side and grabbing onto the rope.

"Okay, Theia, put your arms around my shoulders and hold on tight." Elana carefully positioned herself with her back away from the city and holding onto the rope she jumped back, letting the rope slide through her hands until her feet hit the wall and she gripped the rope again.

She did this a few more times. Each time, Theia seemed to grip tighter around her neck.

Hitting the ground, Theia released Elana, who rubbed at her throat.


"Stand to the side," Elana said, then whipped the rope, the hook released its grip on the wall. She then whipped it again and pulled hard. The hook jumped over the edge and landed behind her.

She rolled it up and tied it to a loop on her belt.

The spy ran a hand through his matted, greasy hair and looked much more relaxed now they were on the other side of the wall. "Which way?" he asked.

"In to the woods. We'll make our way south east, around the city, and to the equipment I have hidden."

It was slow going, they had to walk through farmland and marshland, almost getting stuck multiple times before reaching the edge of the forest. Once there, Elana led them to a grove of ancient oaks and then to a grouping of rocks.

"Wait here," she said and disappeared behind the rocks. She returned with two packs, a couple of canvas pouches, two drinking amphorae and a makhaira.

"Take a pouch each. They contain rations." Elana handed each of them a pouch. "And take an amphora each."

"Theia, take this," Elana said, handing her the second pack. It contained a bed cloak, a clean chiton and a pair of sandals.

She turned to the spy and spoke, "Sorry, but I was not expecting to be bringing back an extra person."

"Ah, don't worry about it, sleeping on the earth will be a *** lot more comfortable than that stone floor."

Theia placed the items in the pack and threw it over her back, while the male spy tied his amphorae and pouch to his waste belt.

"Let's go," Elana said, after placing on her own pack.

They reached safety once inside the Korinthian border.

"There's a stream nearby, where you can refill your canteens and get a wash. Then we'll get some sleep.

Elana pulled out a spare krater from her pack and refilled it at the stream with the others. She also changed her chiton. Once washed she began to collect firewood, leaving the other two to finish bathing. Elana reckoned they could both do with a good long soak.

By the time the others returned from the stream, Elana had a fire roaring and a couple of big logs for them to sit on. They both looked better already, refreshed, yet she now noticed how tired they both looked.

Theia rubbed her hands near the fire, to warm them and the Aetolian spy held his chiton over it. It looked to Elana like he had tried to scrub out some of the blood.

"You should eat now, before we sleep, or you'll feel even weaker in the morning. And we've got quite a way to go yet," Elana advised them.

They pulled out the dried fish and pieces of bread from their pouches and began to eat.

"Perhaps this is a good time for me to introduce myself," said the spy, between bites, "My name is Hektor, of Thermon."

"Khaire, Hektor. I am Elana, of Thebae."

Theia looked at Elana, then at Hektor and then back to Elana. "My real name is Thalia," she began, hesitantly, "formerly of Patraea. Khaire, Elana, Hektor." She nodded to each of them.

"I was wondering why you hadn't left already, Hektor," Elana said, curiously.

"I'll be honest with you," Hektor started, "I doubt I'd be welcomed back in Thermon. I failed in my duty and they most likely think I am dead by now. But truly, I don't have anywhere else to go." He stared in to the flames for a moment, before looking Elana in the eyes. "Did you know that you two are the only people I've given my true name to, in twenty-five years?"

"That's incredible," Thalia said, looking surprised and sorry.

"And I take my debt seriously. I will repay you, one way or another. Until then, I will help you in any way I can." He finished.

"Well, my gut tells me to be wary of you," saidThalia.

"You are right, of course. You've no reason to trust me. In fact, you know as well as I, that Aetolia and Boeotia share no love for one another. And things have only been exacerbated, due to Dionysos' campaigning there." Thalia and Elana nodded, understandingly. "Even Thermon's leaders were worried. But as luck would have it, the Spartans unknowingly spared us, by turning Thebae's attention towards them."


Thalia knew Hektor was hiding something, Elana could hear it in the way she spoke to him.

"You know something, don't you?" Elana asked bluntly.

Hektor unwrapped the filthy wool, that bound his foot and reached between two toes. He pulled out a tiny bronze cylinder and flipped open the cap. "This was why I was passing through Patraea. But those Patraeans were rounding up every spy and informant that entered the city. It was chaos. And they wouldn't listen to me at all."

"What is it?"

Hektor unravelled a small but long piece of parchment. "I was delivering this to Elis, from Thermon. It was a reply, denying Elis aid from their Dorian allies in Aetolia."

Athanas hoped that they had bought Elana enough time. He began to pace again, much to the annoyance of Kalliope, who walked over to him and physically sat him down, he produced no resistance, as she lowered him to the log.

"You're worrying too much," she said, sternly.

He looked up, only now registering her presence. "But she's two hours late already."

"Yes, but, you don't know what kind of condition the informant is in."

"Of course, I hadn't even thought of that," he said, putting his head in his hands. "I'm not thinking straight."

"You're not thinking much at all." Kalliope sat beside him. "I believe that we were on such a high, after defeating the Patraeans, that with all you're worrying, you're drained." She picked up the water amphora beside Athanas and handed it to him. "Drink this and get some food in you. You'll feel better"

"Thank you, Kalliope."

Kalliope quickly picked up her bow and notched an arrow, when she heard leaves and twigs crunching underfoot. Then relaxed when she saw Elana enter the clearing on horseback. Trailed by a young woman and a middle-aged man, riding together on another horse.

Athanas finished drinking his water and stood up, before he noticed Elana dismount her golden palomino.

His right hand automatically rested on the pommel of his xiphos, when the middle-aged man began to dismount. "Who is he?" Athanas gestured, with his free hand.

"I will explain everything, but to Cadmus alone. Just know that I trust this man," Elana said, seeing the suspicion on Athanas' face.

Athanas removed his hand from the xiphos but failed to relax. "Fair enough, but I'm not sure that you understand my concern."

"Of course, when our every move has been compromised, it's hard to know who we can trust."

"It's not like he could do anything now anyway," Kalliope said, stepping beside Athanas. He is essentially a prisoner. But if you're that worried, then you can keep an eye on him."

Koradelas entered the clearing and immediately ran between Athanas and Hektor, withdrawing his xiphos in the process and pointed it straight at Hektor's throat. "No one is supposed to know that we are here!" He kept his voice low, yet menacing

Elana chose that moment to reveal the bronze cylinder. "Hektor has provided me with intel from Aetolia." She held up the cylinder between finger and thumb, for everyone to see. "This is between him, me and Cadmus, no one else."

Hektor put on a thoughtful expression, clearly not worried by the sword at his throat, he said, "There is something I can share, which may help matters somewhat."

Koradelas lowered his xiphos. "Let's hear it."

"While I was back in Thermon, I overheard a diplomat from Elis, telling the Arkon that Sparta had sent an envoy… Elis will supply two regiments of hoplitae and over three hundred skirmishers and slingers."

Elana jumped back on to her horse. "If Elis intends to join Sparta, then we must get this information to Cadmus, as soon as possible,"

"Rest first Elana," Athanas said, finally relaxing, "Another night won't hurt.

Elana dismounted. "I agree," she said, reluctantly. She laid her bed cloak beside the smouldering campfire and sat on it.

"Koradelas, I trust Elana's judgment and this new information is highly sensitive..."

"Make one wrong move and I'll cut you down without hesitation."

"Then, could you show Theia and Hektor to the physician's tent, please."

"Yes, Lokhogos. This way." He hrmphed and removed the sword from Hektors throat. Athanas knew his eyes burned holes in to the back of Hektors head.

Athanas and Kalliope sat back down on the log, Elana lay opposite.

"Where were we?" Athanas said, looking at Kalliope.

"Here." Kalliope handed him a piece of flat bread.

The next morning Elana rode for Thebae with Hektors message. The rest of the army marched, ever slowly, like a giant snake slithering through the countryside. With no more trouble on the horizon and the phalanx in high spirits, Athanas relaxed and fell asleep in the saddle.

"Khaire, Athanas." Cadmus said, looking up from Athanas' report.

"Khaire, Cadmus." Athanas said, wondering whether he had spent more time in this office than in his own home these past few weeks.

"Your report is fairly thorough, yet it is lacking detail in certain areas." Cadmus' eyes traced the wording on the scroll once more. "Particularly where your own role is concerned."

Athanas rubbed the back of his head, his nails scratching at his scalp. "I thought it best to include only what was necessary, keep it brief."

"Be that as it may, here," Cadmus unravelled a second scroll that lay on his desk, "is a report from your second, Koradelas, with input from Kalliope and Markos. This arrived here with some urgency this morning, before your official report arrived."

Athanas looked down at his toes, secretly hoping that their report would be positive.

"There are a few specific points I'd have liked to have been made aware of."

"I'm sorry, kyrios."

Cadmus sighed. "It says here that you thought up the strategy for the ambush, with no input from the others. With only a basic map of the area to work off." Cadmus looked up at Athanas, "Presumably while everybody else was sleeping."

"Yes, Cadmus." Athanas said, lifting his eyes from his feet.

"Another thing it says here… the length of the ambush… It was extraordinarily short. Leading to the least number of casualties that Thebae has ever received during a battle."

Athanas chose this moment to sit. "I had not known that, kyrios."

"You also omitted the fact that you were having some trouble with your men. All the captains under you, reported signs of ill-discipline among the men leading up to the battle. But of course, that is to be expected due to your young age." Cadmus closed his eyes in contemplation.

Athanas locked his fingers together and looked through the window behind Cadmus. The city stretched to the near distance. His eyes followed the main plaza straight down to the main gate, beyond it lay some farmers houses among the fields, which stretched up to a wooded area in the far distance.

Cadmus' eyes opened. "I was approached earlier by an elderly soldier named Tychon." He took his time speaking.

"Why did he come and see you?" Athanas was a little less optimistic this time, ears burning red.

"We had a bit of a catch up." At Athanas' look of confusion, Cadmus continued, "He also gave me his version of events, in which, he speaks highly of you."

From confusion to surprise, that was the last thing Athanas expected. "What did he say?"

"He told me that you have earned his support, along with those rear rankers under his command. He has never been led by someone so young, yet so skilled."

"I am honoured to receive such praise from such a veteran such as he."

"For someone who has seen as much blood spilt as Tychon, I can say that I understand where he is coming from, when he calls you a naturally competent leader. I am proud of you, Athanas."

Athanas didn't know what to say, so he stood up from the chair. He held back his watering eyes and gulped hard. "Thank you, Cadmus."

Cadmus walked around the table to stand in front of Athanas and hugged him. "Your father would be proud of you and I know if he was still alive, he would be here in my place."

Overwhelmed by it all, Athanas finally let out his tears, holding Cadmus tightly.

A few moments later, they let go of each other.

"One last thing, Tychon has decided to help you get the rest of the men in-line." Cadmus winked. "Dismissed."

Athanas automatically walked to the only place in Thebae he knew his friends would be. He wondered about the history that a mercenary such as Tychon and a Boeotarch of Thebae could have had. He entered a very different Kyllaros that evening. Shutters were closed, a fire was roaring in the hearth and patrons were sat about it, drinking warm wine. Steam rising from their kylix, a large wine cup.

Koradelas sat at the bar with Kalliope, he turned as Athanas walked over and offered the seat beside him. "I'll buy you a dink."

"Thank you. It's not the same in here without that lot, is it?" Athanas said, looking about the room.

"It certainly isn't."

"Two hot Kretan reds, please," Koradelas said, nodding to the barkeep.

"Coming right up."

"Thank you." They both said, as the bartender placed down two jugs of the steaming golden-red wine.

Athanas caught the eye of the woman who served them and quickly looked down at his drink. Kalliope nudged him. His cheeks quickly grew warm. He continued to stare at his drink, peering through the steam. Instead of his reflection, the face of his wife stared back at him. Athanas was about to ask Koradelas if he could see her, when she slowly disappeared and through the steam he made out the figure of his child taking his first steps. He remembered feeling the hand of his wife on his shoulder, she stood beside him, smiling. "Kallistos…" she called. Athanas then appeared, picked up his son and threw him in the air. The laughter, so pure and innocent would never be forgotten. A chill rose up his spine, as the liquid turned a murky red. The image swirled in to Athanas on his knees holding his child. Kallistos, unmoving and expressionless, felt cold and stiff in his arms. His wife's lifeless body lay face down beside him. A shadowy figure then appeared in front of him, a spear raised. As it made to strike his child it swirled in to Cadmus, hand outstretched to help Athanas up. He felt a hand on his shoulder again, "Athanas…?" Koradelas' voice echoed in his ears.


He looked around rubbing at his forehead, his eyes slowly focusing on Koradelas. "I don't feel well."

Kalliope placed her hand on Athanas' head. "You are burning up and you look pale."

"Let's get him home. Probably needs a proper night's sleep, he should be fine in the morning."