An orange cloak billowed horizontal, while its wearer struggled to keep to his feet. A continuous gust of wind fought against him.
Once he'd made it to the crest of the ridge, Perikles surveyed the land before him. The army at his back came to a stop. They had marched in to Lakonia over the Parnasos mountains. A valley lay below that wound its way to Sparta itself.
Thick smoke flowed high in to the sky, Perikles covered his face with his cloak. The horses reared at the site of the flames, where crops burned. This was the third village they had raided near Sparta. Soon the Spartan citizenry would come to defend their lands and their helots. The phalanx had been deployed on a hill nearby, while light cavalry raided storehouses and pillaged homes.
"Strategos! We've cleared the area."
"Take up your positions to the right of the phalanx."
A horn sounded in the distance. Perikles could see clouds of dust in the wake of his scouts, the thundering of hooves filled the air.
"Strategos, the Spartans have mustered and are preparing to march to meet us."
It should be an easy battle, against a small number of Spartan elites. They would not wish to field the rest of their citizenry, that would leave Sparta with very little manpower. Perikles had no intention of weakening Sparta any further. No matter what Dionysos wished. He rode out to meet the Spartans, with his standard bearer, shied bearer and second in-command. He stopped in a central flat space, in the middle of a burnt-out crop field, the Evrotus river roared not far behind.
Through the smoke Perikles could make out the Spartan Strategos and his entourage steadily walking towards him. Their armour glistened. A red and white horse-hair crest sat atop a shining bronze Corinthian kranos. The Strategos also wore a bronze muscular cuirass, white pteriges with red linen edging and bronze greaves and bracers. His Aspis was held by his shield bearer, it was trimmed with gold in a triangular pattern and faced with a red lamba on a white background.
Perikles had to make a deal with the Spartans. With an army at his back that outnumbered them five to one, he was sure they would agree.
The Spartans stopped when they were within talking distance.
"Khaire, Agesilaus, the second. Basileus of Sparta."
"Khaire, Strategos Perikles," said Agesilaus, gruffly.
"You know you can't win this fight."
"We can try."
"Not until we have reached an agreement."
The men in the distance looked restless, they wanted Perikles and his men gone from these lands and they wouldn't hesitate to throw their lives away in the attempt.
"Just tell me what you want, mercenary."
"I want an end to Spartan hegemony in Hellas. Starting with freedom for all Messenian helots."
"For hundreds of years Messenia has lived under Spartan rule. Sparta would starve."
"You will survive and I'm willing to help. Cadmus has allowed me to make a deal with you."
"I will listen. What kind of deal could Thebae possibly offer us in return for Messenian freedom?"
"Thebae is willing to provide you with all of Sparta's food until it has the capacity to produce food of its own. You can keep all lands and peoples in Lakonia to do with as you wish."
"I can tell you now, the council will not agree to these terms."
"Then let me give you something to help sway them." Perikles took a scroll from his pack and handed it to the King. The hoplitae to Perikles' right took out a small decorative chest from his pouch and handed that to one of the Spartans that stood beside their King.
"Do you know what this is?"
"No, I haven't read it."
"This is a declaration of peace, on behalf of the Theban-Arkadian alliance. Why, when you could finally end Sparta right now, with one final battle?"
"Cadmus reveres Sparta, as do I and many others that make the decisions. We shall never forget our ancestor's bonds."
"This war was never our intention. But King Cleombrotus would not allow Dionysos to sign the peace accord on behalf of all of Boeotia." He shook his head, to dislodge the memory.
The small wooden box was handed to Agesilaus, who opened it. "If you think to placate me with a petty gift…" His eyes opened wide at the glowing light of the objects set inside.
Three gifts stared back up at the awestruck King, suddenly lost for words.
"A brooch of a mask, hand carved out of pure silver by Mycenaeans of the ancient past." He took it out, slowly, revelling in its beauty as it shone brightly. He replaced it back in the chest once he'd finished examining it. He lifted out the next item. "A golden scroll… heavy." He lifted it up and down in his hand.
"To signify a lasting peace between our nations."
"And finally, we have a pair of silver armbands, for a spartan woman, carved with the lambda."
"These gifts are simply tokens."
"I will take the treaty and the gifts back to Sparta and talk this over with the council. Expect a personal response, we will send runners to arrange a meeting with Cadmus."
"Very well. All fighting shall cease while the negotiating takes place. You have my word."
"It looks like we don't have much choice."
"It seems not…"
The Basileus of Sparta turned about, his royal red cloak fluttered behind him while he limped back to where his army awaited
Perikles took his time marching back to his own men. He knew the Spartans would be watching him, they would not leave until they had lost site of the mercenaries.
Lysander and Alexios were waiting for him at the top of the hill. They looked on as the news spread through the Spartan army that there would be no fight. Some discipline was lost, but quickly regained.
"We seem to have a deal for now and they will negotiate the terms of the peace with Cadmus."
"Excellent," said Alexios, "can we go back and start drinking now?"
Perikles saw the hopeful glint in Alexios' eyes and didn't want to disappoint him, but he'd have to get over it. "We march on, to Messenia. By the time we get there, the helots will have been freed and Dionysos will be expecting us."
"So, what are we doing, going to Messenia?"
"We will be watching over and participating in the construction effort."
"Construction… of what?"
"The restoration and reconstruction of the ancient city of Messene.
"That sounds like a lot of work," Alexios said, his voice went quiet, at Lysanders stern gazem.
"Are we expecting any trouble?" Lysander chimed in.
"It is quite likely that not all Spartans will be as agreeable as Agesilaus has been."
"While the possibility of an attack exists, we will defend the freed peoples of Messenia, with our lives if necessary." Lysander nudged Alexios in the arm.
"…Yes, we will." Alexios rubbed his arm.
"Very good," Perikles said, absentmindedly, staring off in to the distance. "In fact, the first caravan from Thebae should get toarrive at the site the day after tomorrow." Perikles finished. "Move out.".
"Forward, march!" His captains called. The sound of thousands of footsteps rumbled throughout the countryside.
Dionysus scanned over the planned site of Messene, where once the free city of Ithome had sat atop the mountain it was named after, for a thousand years. What remained of the ancient city was all but salvageable.
Hundreds of helots and periokoi had dropped their tools and followed Dionysus' phalanx as it marched towards the mountain. Most of them looked confused, some of them seemed afraid.
"Kyrios. Kyrios?" A slave ran towards Dionysus, his guards quickly blocked the scrawny man's path, who simply ran in to them and fell back on to his bottom.
A look of contempt quickly came and went from Dionysus' face. "What can I do for you?" He must at least keep up some sort of caring visage.
"Is it true that you are here to free us? There are rumours…"
"It is true." Dionysos nodded and moved on.
"Thank you, thank you." The young slave ran off again.
That will spread like wildfire among the people. All Dionysus would have to do now is prepare for the Spartan retaliation, which would see to their demise once and for all.
Later that evening a horse and rider trotted lazily up to Dionysos.
"Make haste, won't you?!" Dionysos' patience was wearing thin, he was always on edge lately. He wondered why… On second thought, it was Perikles that was a thorn in his side. How he hated that man. If it wasn't for Cadmus' authority, he would have slain Perikles a long time ago. Sending thugs in to that inn, had been a mistake. He had severely underestimated Perikles' drunken brothers.
"Strategos… Strategos?" The scout said, timidly.
"Report, man!" Dionysos barked, with barely a flicker of movement.
The scout took a deep breath. "The roads are clear; the hills over-looking Messenia are clear. There is no sign of a Spartan army, Strategos."
Dionysos fingered his beard and furrowed his brow, deep in thought yet again.
The rider waited a short while, before he hesitantly turned his horse about and rode back to his designated patrol route.
"Then what is keeping them," he thought aloud.
Oblivious, Dionysos slowly strolled in to a large tent that had been erected for him. It had been adorned lavishly in red, gold and blue drapery. An ornate, cushioned chair sat in one corner, behind a foot rest. In the centre of the room a sturdy looking wooden table stood. A map of Messenia rested atop it, among various tomes and scrolls. Beyond curtains lay a large four poster bed, draped in fine silk. Scents burned in a pot that stood on a bedside table.
At least he could wait in comfort, whether an attack came or not. And Perikles would not arrive until tomorrow evening. That's if Perikles had defeated the Spartan army in Lakonia. He secretly hoped Perikles had been killed in battle. He sat deep in the chair, put his feet up and closed his eyes.
Some time had passed before Dionysos opened his eyes again, night had come, and someone had lit the candles that were dotted about the tent.
"Strategos?" A guard peered through the tent flap.
"Yes?" Dionysos said and rubbed at his eyes.
"A rider approaches, it's not one of ours."
"Keep him waiting for a moment." Dionysos rose out of his chair and straightened out his clothing, armour and hair.
At exiting the tent, he could see at once that this was one of Perikles' scouts. The rider was dark skinned - perhaps a descendant of the Nile Delta. His hair was black, long and straight, it glimmered in the flickering light of the torches. He was also clean shaven and wore a dirty, yellow chiton.
"What is it?"
"I've been sent ahead of the army to inform you of Perikles' arrival this night.
"I had not expected him so soon. The battle must have been over quickly."
"Oh, it was quick." The rider smirked.
"Is there anything else?"
"You had best return to your phalanx then."
The riders face fell. He turned about his horse and walked it in the direction from which he had come.
Dionysos smiled to himself. The mercenary had expected hospitality, at least a place to set up his tent in the camp, for the night. Well at least Perikles is useful for something. Dionysos shook his head to dislodge the thought and returned to his tent.
Perikles sighed, he had not been looking forward to his meeting with Dionysos. The phalanx had set-up camp on the plain, not too far from Dionysos' army.
He would not bother with a torch this night. The moon was surprisingly bright and extraordinarily large. The path was lit up, all the way to Dionysos' tent.
Two guards accompanied him. One carried his shield and the other carried the Thebae standard, the Wings of Ares banner hung below it. He knew what Dionysos expected of the mercenary, - a term he used as an insult - so Perikles would do the opposite. Especially after the return of his scout. Initially he knew Dionysos would appreciate the formality, done on his behalf.
Perikles carried a copy of the terms that he had presented to Agesilaus the second. That was Perikles' biggest worry. Dionysos had already left for Messenia when Cadmus had called an emergency meeting for the Boeotarchs'. It had been an underhanded move on his part, had Dionysos gotten wind of his plans he would have done all in his power to stop them.
Perikles looked to the guard.
"We're here, kyrios."
"Ah, yes." Dionysos' tent was but ten paces away. His guard peaked through the tent flap on their approach. Presumably to make Dionysos aware of his arrival.
A few moments later the man himself stepped out of the tent. He hesitated a moment. "…Khaire, Perikles."
"Come through. Your bodyguards can await you outside."
"Dismissed, you two,"
"Yes, Strategos." The standard was planted in the ground in front of the tent, perikles' shield was placed against it.
'A little too gaudy for my taste.' Perikles thought. "It smells pleasant in here. What scent is that?"
Dionysos leaned over his map. "Enough small talk," he gruffed. "Tell me of the battle with the Spartans."
"Before that." Perikles passed the scroll across the table.
"What is this?" Dionysos said, his brow furrowed in confusion.
"… I have not read it."
Dionysos' eyes moved across the scroll, his jaw clenched, his brow furrowed further.
Perikles hesitantly took a step backwards. Dionysos' face grew redder and redder as his eyes scanned further and further down the scroll.
Perikles started to back out of the tent. A moment later the scroll was replaced by a kopis, the table had been flipped and the sword was being swung uncomfortably close to Perikles' face. He had only half expected Dionysos to flip out like this.
"Get out!" Dionysos' voice boomed. "I will not stain my rug with your filthy, mercenary blood."
Once outside the tent he picked up his shield and drew his sword. The guard faced him, spear raised.
"Leave him, I have been waiting for this, for a very long time."
"Think about it," said Perikles.
"There is nothing to think about, I Just want to see your lifeless body at my feet."
The two began to circle, looking for an opening.
"You've heard the rumours coming from the north. We need Sparta." Perikles tried to reason with him.
"I can take care of any threat we face." He swung his sword, only to have it stopped by Perikles' shield.
Perikles' bodyguards came running over, wearing only chitons and wielding only spears.
"Stay back, this is nothing to worry about." Perikles portrayed more confidence than he felt. He had an advantage when it came to speed, but when it came to reach, height and - he wasn't too ashamed to admit - strength, he was disadvantaged.
Some of Dionysos' men also ran over at the commotion. It seemed they had no intention of defending their leader. They had already started making bets. Entertainment such as this was few and far between.
"Fight me! What are you waiting for?" Dionysos took another swing, at what he had thought was an opening. Perikles jumped back, out of reach.
"Guard throw me your doru." Perikles could at least keep Dionysos at a distance. Dionysos in his rage, had thought to neither equip himself with a helmet or shield.
'I hope this works.' Perikles stuck his spear between the large man's knees and pushed on it, lifting a leg and taking him off balance. On his way down to the ground, Perikles struck the spear over Dionysos' head, knocking him unconscious. "Someone take him back inside his tent."
The tent guard approached the body. "You. Help me carry him inside." He gestured to the nearest bystander,
who looked crestfallen. Presumably he had lost his bet.
"Could you pass on a message once he awakens… tell him that if he carries on like that then he will be stripped of his command."
"Yes, Strategos." The tent guard picked up his leader under the arms, while the soldier grabbed hold of his ankles. Together they unceremoniously removed their leader from the scene.
Perikles' bodyguards picked up the standard and detached him from his aspis. The three of them then made their way back to their own camp. Clouds had blown in and blocked out the moons light, so Perikles had to pick up a torch from the side of a tent, to light the way.
Perikles sighed, "Well that didn't go as planned."
"His time is up; the boule will vote in a replacement."
"Perhaps Arkimedes will be promoted to replace him."
"But he would lose his command of the army. And it is a fact that he is the most adept general in all of Hellas. We need him as much as we need the Spartans."
His guards nodded in unison.
The next evening the first caravan arrived on site. Carts full of tools, resources and food, were pulled alongside hundreds of labourers, builders and craftsmen. All from Thebae. An architect rode his horse, at the front of the procession. His clothing and jewellery spoke for his wealth, while his saddle bags, bursting to the brims with the tools of his trade, spoke for his profession. The pang of guilt that struck his heart quickly passed, he missed his family already, but the enormity of the opportunity presented to him fought to overwhelm him. He could not turn down the chance to design and create an entire city, who would?
The flat-topped mountain filled his field-of-view, even from this distance. His mount came to a stop at an area of flattened grass. 'This'll be an ideal spot for my tent,' he thought. A couple of carts pulled up beside him, laden with more equipment and supplies. "Kyrios, why have we stopped?"
"We'll get everything set-up here."
"But the site is still some distance away," the cart driver said and traced a path with a finger, all the way to the side of the mountain.
"This is a great spot, the view is excellent, I can see the entire site quite clearly. And anyway, we don't need to go up to the site until the drawings are complete, so don't worry about having to travel so far."
"Khaire… Sylvestros, yes?" A man in a red chiton had approached the architect.
"Khaire, kyrios. How can I help you?" Sylvestros said and dismounted.
"I am Perikles, commander of the army, tasked with security during construction of the city."
"Ah, very nice to meet you, Perikles. It is not a problem for me to set-up camp here, among your soldiers?"
"That is perfectly fine. Every seventh day I will be conducting a meeting with you and the heads of the respective trades that are involved here. Minutes will be taken, and the report will be sent back to Thebae at the end of every month."
"Very well." Sylevestros nodded. "I feel very secure in the knowledge that our safety is in your hands, Strategos."
"Kyrios." Perikles nodded in return and walked away.
Once his tent was erected and the equipment had been set-up inside it, Sylvestros decided to take a look at the site from atop the mountain. He didn't bother asking his assistants to go with him, they would only moan. He would also prefer to be alone, to soak up sights and sounds of the place. Inspiration would reinforce his creativity, though he knew he was limited with the designs of the structures to be built. The style would be like that of Thebae. Except he would be following the system founded by Hippodamus of Miletus. Every building would share the same orientation, set within a grid.
Once at the top of the mountain he looked down on the site, ruins of ancient structures remained. Some he would hope to rebuild. As he stared down the valley, ideas and forms swam through his mind. He pictured exactly what he wanted to create there. It was some time later and night was falling when he finally thought he had better return. His assistants would be lazing about without him around.
His assistants were asleep when he got back to the tent, he didn't want to wake them, it had been a long day. He walked inside and sat on a wooden chair, at a drawing desk. Blank papyrus and drawing utensils had been laid out ready for him. 'At least they had done some work while he had been gone,' he thought and smiled.
Now he would begin to draw. Draw until the early hours of the morning, when he would fall asleep, still sat there in his chair. His face rested on his latest blueprint, so when he finally awoke to the rumbling of carts passing by, his face was imprinted with the designs. He knew that, because when he walked down to a nearby stream to wash, there were plenty of stares and sniggers aimed his way. He noticed that huge amounts of stone, wood and marble were already working their way up to the base of the mountain, where large stockpiles had been formed. Yet nothing would be built until his drawings were complete. Splashing his face with ice-cold water quickly refreshed him and he was ready to get back to work.