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Peter Alan Orchard
Historical adventure set during the Trojan War.
It is the Bronze Age. On the plains of Ilion the Akhaian army under Agamemnon, fighting to capture the city of Priam, is trapped between the sea and its own defences.
Kindulos lives a quiet life on the island of Lemnos, painting pictures on richer men's walls for a living. One morning the earth begins to shake and in a moment his world changes.
Under Kindulos's running feet the island rippled. He was gaining on the women uphill, through the scrub, over the groaning and sighing of the smith-god's forge, over the seething heat below the rocks of Lemnos.
He paused to catch his breath. Beyond the hill the sea breathed, calmly as if asleep, blue-grey, soft and innocent, spread out under the sun. The sharp fragrance of thyme rose around him, the fresh leaves crushed under his bare feet. Was this the last time he would smell it? Would this be his last day before the brutal cut and the eternal darkness?
The women were coming again, hunting him down. Their voices shrilled against the sky, ringing in triumph, the bronze-tongued screeching of the priestesses whose duty it was to kill him to save the people. Kindulos stumbled on, terrified, empty of hope, his chest heaving. Was this his portion of life, he wondered as he ran, to die up here at the throw of the dice? Would his thin trickle of lifeblood satisfy the god of the mountain, Hephaistos, forger of worlds?
Hephaistos was shifting. The god who fell to earth generations ago and toiled, crippled for eternity, under the fire-mountain of Lemnos, was bursting the walls of his forge, blazing and roaring, shuffling the island on his colossal sweating shoulders. It was always the way that one man would die and the chosen women would relish the sacrifice in revenge for an insult from an age older than memory, when the island men had deserted their wives for foreign women. The revenge had been slaughter, the husbands had been replaced by the crew of Jason's Argo and it was Jason's descendant Euneus who sat on the throne now.
Today the god had entered the women of Lemnos again and marked Kindulos for sacrifice.