A New Olympian God
Back in the tavern, noon.
“Άντε ρε Αθηναγόρα ξύπνα όμως!” (“Oi, come on now Athenagoras. Wake up!”)
—Whrrr— A harsh noise coming from Athenagoras’ noise is the response to my words. He is sleeping peacefully in the tavern. To be frank it is quite funny watching a tall, sturdy, rather hairy, full on masculine guy sleeping soundly like this. He has compacted his body looking like a crescent moon. His back makes a nice curve. He has rolled on his side sleeping with one arm and leg on top of the other. He is indeed funny, but he must wake up, I must wake him up. We must go to the camp; I have some training to do. And he has some soldiers to train. What a great sleeping warrior we are blessed to have in our city!
“Hey, commander, general Athenagoras. Would you like to wake up? Please! Huh, my pretty sleeping beauty?!”
It seems my efforts are going to waste. I have to use other means if I want to wake him up. Well, they say violence is always the solution. So, I better let the words go, and use my hands instead.
“Kindness ends here my sweet boy!” I whisper in Athenagoras’ ears
—pow— I punch him at the back. Not very hard. I am extra careful aiming for his upper back to avoid damaging his ribs. I try to hit near the bones, so he will not be injured or anything.
“Whaaat?! What is it?” he wakes up immediately from his deep slumber. He lifts one of his arms in a poor effort to defend himself. Even though I have already hit him.
“Pretty slow! COMMANDER!” I shout to give him a hint about his surroundings. He will recognize my voice and he will understand that he is not in danger, as I am here.
It is one of the few times he is completely defenseless against a punch, an attack in general. And not only mine! He knows very well how to protect himself, how to defend against any kind of attacks. But right now, our sleeping beauty could not do anything other than that petty reaction.
“It is me, Alexandra. Come on, wake up already. We have things to do!” I grab him by the arm he had lifted.
“Alright, I am up. Is it time already? I should not have drunk until that late last night. I need more sleep. How am I supposed to train anyone with so little sleep?!” Athenagoras says that he is up, but he is still lying on the bench. He is starting to get on my nerves, just a little bit.
“For a sleeping man who has just awoken, you sure are talkative. So, what do you think? Can we move on? Or do you need more sleep that desperately” I am messing with him, but I really want him to wake up and start moving. I must train to be as strong as ever to help Isocrates with whatever he needs in Athens. Athenagoras needs to train those few young men otherwise our army has little to no future. We will have left our city unprotected.
“What is it?” he does not care for what I have just said. It does not matter to him. He takes his sweet time. Oh, wait! He is moving. He is now sitting up straight on the bench.
“Bravo, Athenagoras. You have learned to sit. What time is it, you asked! Time to go, I am getting bored standing here watching you like stupid. Stand up! We have to go! The sun is near its peak, it is almost right above us.” I tell him once more to hurry. I really need us to get moving but I know he will take it easy. So, I simply like to act a little pushy. I do not think he minds at all.
“Who would have thought that the time for you to order me around has come! Hahaha! I am up now soldier! Hahaha! Let’s go!” He is standing up, finally! He yells soldier right at my face and right after he pats me on the shoulder. This guy! He has easily dismissed my words and he is now messing with me in return. He is answering back cheekily but not in an angry manner. He lets out light laughs in an irreverent way.
“Alright, let’s go, commander!” Still, that is the way we are doing things sometimes. And this time is one of them. I have no reason to be angered by his mockery as I know that he did not mean to truly disrespect me.
“You are still persisting in calling me commander. Hahaha! After, all the things that we have been through together soldier?!” He continues the sneering for a little while. But if I want to be honest, he is not entirely wrong. We have met as commander and soldier when me and Isocrates had joined the army serving at Athens main soldier force of our own free will and choosing. And it stuck! However, he does not call me soldier anymore like he did right now to mock me for still calling him commander. Sometimes I just say it, I have no particular reason to call him like that, but it just happens naturally. It is not like I do it all the time either.
Both I and Athenagoras are exiting the tavern. We are heading to the camp of Athens main military force. Me, for training. And he, to train. I have just completed the difficult task of waking him up from a long night of wine drinking.
“Were you sleeping in the tavern as well?” Athenagoras askes me as he grasps the door handle and turns it to open the door for me. The commander watches his manners around women! Hahaha, I am not going to mention anything. Of course, he is not flirting with me. Actually, he is extremely careful when it comes to manners and overall behaviour around others. Strangers or not, as long as he has no reason to act differently, he will be polite. The problems start when the relationship between you is not exactly what you would call friendly. Like his relationship with Diomedes whom he does not respect much, if not at all. Opening the door for a lady is what he would casually do. Should I blush, commander? To be honest, I feel nice that he does this for me. But not in any sort of erotic way.
“No, I did not. Only you could stay here drinking wine till the crack of dawn. I have left before sunrise. I believe it was somewhat later than the middle of the night—”
“Thank Zeus, it was not at the middle of the celebrations!” Athenagoras makes a joking remark. Though I still do not know if he can really remember when I did leave.
“So, I see you remember what was happening yesterday, despite the heavy drinking. And I have thought that you had not noticed I was still there after I had stopped drinking with you and the other drunks.”
“No! I mean, I was drinking a lot, but I can clearly remember you talking to a woman covering her face with a hood when you have left the table.” So, he does remember what was going on around him last night. Pretty impressive commander.
“Then you talked to some other people from the gathered crown, and you returned to our table. To make a fuss! You acted like you were drunk. Not that you caused any inconvenience, but you definitely caused a slight commotion. You made everyone turn his gaze upon our table. You have drawn the attention.”
I had my reasons for doing that, but I will not tell anything to Athenagoras yet.
“Yes, I guess I did act like this.” I say as I am scratching my head.
“What? Do not tell me you are embarrassed?! Hahaha!”
He has noticed me acting somewhat nervously when he brought it up. It is not an easy thing doing the moron in front of people. Still, this is not the real reason behind my so-called embarrassment. I do not want to accidentally reveal anything about the woman with the hood. She asked me to keep her identity hidden from everyone else besides me and Isocrates.
“No, I do not mind. Pretty much everyone was drunk, so they did not mind as well. But even if they did mind, then I do not care at all. They can think whatever they want of it.” I try to shift the discussion away from the mysterious woman I was talking to in the tavern.
“Do you mind perhaps?” I ask to make him think of something else.
“No! I do not, commander. Rest assured.” We are back in funny. That is good.
I am generally considered an upfront person, a wild woman as they like to call me. I do not mind either. So, me asking Athenagoras directly, if he minds, is not considered suspicious. A success no matter how you look at it!
“Alright, soldier. I better be! For your own good.” I yell at him finishing with a slight smile, a meaningful smile like I am implying something. I am fulfilling my role in the comedy. We bust out laughing
We are walking silently for a while now, following our previous laughs. Athenagoras looks tired, I bet he is thinking of a good sleep after training the youths in the camp. Yes, he is daydreaming. —Fufu— I laugh on the inside. I do not want to break the silence. I am thinking of a way to help Isocrates with being a god. I have become the mediator between humans and god Isocrates since I proposed to do so yesterday in Agora. But what am I supposed to do? I cannot just convey words, simply tell him what the others wish for. There must be a way to assist him. It might be better if I ask him how to be of help. How do I tell him though? He is not in Athens anymore. I cannot pass by his house and ask. Zeus has taken him in Olympus. The only way to speak with a god is through the priests. You must pray in the temple. And if the god in question wants to speak with you, he will connect with the priests in order to communicate. However, this does not happen often. In reality, it is quite rare for a god to speak with a human. They usually speak privately to the priests, and then they speak with whomever was praying, conveying the god’s words. But I cannot let that be the standard in Isocrates’ case. I must find a way to directly talk with him whenever I want to. I cannot count on the priests, I have to do it on my own.
“Now that I think about it—”
We have both spoken at the same time. I think I should go first.
“So, what about Agora. Will there be a meeting today?” I ask Athenagoras resuming.
“No, there will be no meeting today. It was not decided yesterday, but I do not think that anyone would have gone even if a meeting was being held.”
It is kind of an unspoken rule. After a long night out in the tavern, Agora ceases its operations for the next day. We need a break to recover after all that wine! But we are in a non-ordinary occasion right now with Isocrates, gods and the priests. The religion is facing a tough time. We are crossing a complicated era. Many things are changing rapidly, day after day. So, the rule can be broken easily. After all, there are decisions that need to be made. Procrastination to relax is not going to help. Of course, it only matters for the people that matter. Not everyone in the crowd gathered in Agora has a strong opinion or something important and useful to say. So, it really depends on the eminent people of the city. Obviously, everyone can still say their opinion, if they want to. We have democracy, freedom of speech. But do you really want to talk if you have nothing to say. I would not!
“But why are you asking about the meeting anyway. You have achieved what you wanted in yesterday’s meeting, haven’t you? Being the mediator between humans and Isocrates without much trouble. I think it went quite smoothly for you. Why would you be interested in another meeting today, Alexandra? Do you have something else in mind?” He continues with his reply since I did not say anything.
“Well, I do not have anything specific in my mind. I am just asking you because the others might have something they want to discuss, because you might. Indeed, I am the mediator now but that does not mean I should lay back and relax. Isocrates will need my help and I must be prepared.”
There was not much of denial in Agora when I proposed to be the mediator, and it was a big surprise. I expected Diomedes to resist at least. But no one reacted at all. They accepted it at once. So, I did not really think of what I have to offer as a mediator. I did not have to argue about it.
“What do you plan on doing? You cannot casually pay a visit to his house anymore!”
“I do not know yet what I can really do with the mediator thing, but I have faith in myself. I will think of something in no time! You do not have to worry about me. I will figure it out!”
I state, somehow enthusiastically but in actuality, right now I am out of ideas. I do not want to ask Athenagoras for some, because I do not want to involve him. I have to be the mediator, only me. He is a man that I trust, there is nothing he has ever done behind my back. And he would not choose to betray me now. I am not afraid of that. I just want to be the mediator by myself. Having Athenagoras on my side acting as the second mediator along with me will certainly bring trouble. They would have something to say about my decision to trust him. Why him? Are we planning something? And similar sorts of questions. Να μου λείπει! (I do not need that!)
“Then, will you visit the temple to talk with him?”
“I am not sure it will help. You know, the priests and the communication between gods and humans are a little tough. I cannot let the priests handle the matter. I do not want them to convey Isocrates’ words. I must hear him myself. We must talk directly. Also, some privacy would be much appreciated, but I can do without it. Though I prefer not to!”
I have already rejected the idea of talking to Isocrates in the temple. There will be no real conversation between us. How can I talk with him now that he has become a god?! Think... Think of something. You do not have much time.
“Yeah, you are right. The temple is not the right place for a mediator to talk with the god he wants to. But can you not find another way to properly speak with him?”
“Thank you, commander. You were really helpful. How did you resolve my problem like that?” I tell him while I am lifting my arms overhead in a state of supposed bliss.
“Alright, come on stop it. Let’s get serious now, we have to think.”
Of course, we have to think. No! I have to think. I am getting slightly nervous when I should not. Alright, maybe I can talk about it with Athenagoras to find a solution. After all, I can trust him and so does Isocrates.
“Fine! What do you suggest would be a good alternative? I can communicate with him only in the temple. How can I speak with a god avoiding the priests?” I have decided to ask Athenagoras since he might help me talk to Isocrates.
“Should we ask Meletios? He might now something we do not.”
“No, no. We do not have that time. The sooner the better. I cannot afford going around asking people for a plan. I will think of it. Now that you are informed you will help too, but that is it. We will not say anything to anyone else.”
I cannot let everyone know what I am doing as the mediator. They will start intervening or even try to replace me. No, they should not learn anything. I am the mediator, and I will do as I see fit.
“Alright, only you and me. We will think of something together. Do not let it affect you too much. Take it easy and the right idea will come to your mind.”
Athenagoras is doing the gesture to calm down with his hands. Well, he is not completely wrong here. I have a responsibility but there is no need for me to start overthinking. I will find a way to connect with Isocrates without the priests. I will find a way to talk with him. I will find a way to directly speak with a god, whatever it takes!
—Fwuuuuuu— I am huffing!
“You are right! I will calm down and think it clearly. We will come up with something.”
“Why don’t you talk to his mother? You know his family more than well enough. You can, no you should ask her to help you out. You will tell her that you need to directly talk with him, and she can demand to speak with her kid alone. If the priests accept her request, then I think the rest is an easy matter from there on.”
“This is not a bad idea. Actually, it is a very good one. I can do that!” It is indeed a solid plan. It can work. I will talk with Isocrates’ mother, and we shall go from there.
Athenagoras also gave me another idea. There is one more person I can ask for help, and I think he might prove more useful than Isocrates’ mother. Still, I will use his idea too. It only remains to see if the plan will work out. I hope so, because it seems like a good idea you will not easily have again.
“This is great! Now I can focus on training and leave anything else aside.”
“And still no thank you despite my great idea. It seems to me that you still need some training, soldier Alexandra. Am I wrong?” Athenagoras, the commander is joking once more. Well, I will show him some good training in my response. Let me show you!
“You better be prepared this time, commander!” I say somewhat inwardly in a low voice while turning my body towards his.
“With my best regards!”
—pow!— I punch Athenagoras right in his stomach. Tch tch! Unprepared once more! Maybe I should give him a proper lesson now that he is well awake. He is not wearing any military garment. And I am not referring to clothing. He has no armour or anything similar to cover, to protect his body. He wears only his brown tunic. He is naked in terms of battle. Let me attack then!
“Here are your thanks. In fact, thank you very much!”
My first hit had him good. He coughed and folded his body. I rotate my body in high speed, after I have regained my stance from the punch earlier.
—Btaaan!— He stops my kick with his elbow. He has lowered his body because of my previous hit. He did not let my kick connect. And he managed to hit me in return. By hitting his elbow bone, only I have received damaged from the kick. He might have received my first attack, but he had the required alertness to defend against my second effort to strike him. My kick was a total failure! You are still the commander here.
—Aahhh!— I let out a light scream of pain caused by the impact of his elbow bone in my foot.
“You have thought that you could bring me down with these quick, light attacks. I am not so easy, Alexandra. You should know better. I trained you for battle. Did you believe that your commander would have let you down like that? Never! —Hahaha!—”
Athenagoras is laughing proudly as he is standing straight. While my first hit, the punch in his stomach has landed, the second one, my kick, was truly a disaster. He is clearly the winner, but I have expressed my gratitude. So, everyone is happy, I guess!
My foot touches the ground again after the kick. I am still feeling the pain from the collision. I am putting more strength on my other foot to stand. It really hurts right now that I am putting pressure on it by standing. It is a sharp pain, but it will go away soon.
“This time I have lost. This fight goes to you, I have to admit that. But I think my punch left its mark on the battle, and your stomach! What do you think, commander?”
My punch has hit its target with great strength and precision. I do not know how much force he was able to put in his abs to prevent the damage. Nonetheless his abdomen is now red in colour, the bright red of beaten flesh. I can see that from the slightly ripped tunic around the area where I have hit him. It will become a bruise for sure later on. I tease him as much as I can. To be frank, I am a little frustrated that my kick was so lackluster. Not in terms of power, but in terms of thinking and efficiency. I need more training!
“It was definitely a hit. I will not, I cannot deny that. It is a fact, but if you like to hear some facts. How about you second hit, the kick. Not only it did not hit its target, but unfortunately for the striker it caused him pain in return. What about that?”
He answers back. He is telling the truth. I messed up with that second hit of mine. Athenagoras probably saw my inability to properly stand on this foot earlier, after performing the kick.
“Maybe next time?!” I say and I am shrugging my shoulders to respond with ignorant attitude as if I am not quitting. Even though I have already retreated for the battle.
“You will have plenty of opportunities to take me on. Whenever you want! This is one of your traits after all. And it is a good one. You are a fighter that is. And I am not saying that because of your ability to fight, but because of your attitude towards defeat. It does not bring you down. It does not get the best of you. You continue to fight. You train, you prepare yourself for the next one. You evolve! You do not just stand there defeated, lowering your head. You are fierce in nature.”
Now my teacher is praising me! When me and Isocrates had joined the army of Athens, Athenagoras was our commander. He was a general in ranking position even from back then. His abilities in battle are something else. He trained us with conviction and passion. He was certain that I would become a great warrior with proper training. Both in mind and body. He was saying that I have the spirit of a warrior. And he is repeating it right now, at the moment right after I have lost to him. I think I was his favourite child, his chosen soldier. I see him as a mentor when it comes to battle and fight attitude. From him I have learned many of the things I know and use. Techniques, skills that I developed through years, methods and abilities to stand a better chance in fights and battle against even the strongest of opponents. My father was not the man who loves fighting, so in that aspect I have replaced him with commander Athenagoras.
“And you are a good commander. I have still a lot to learn from you, despite the years have been passed. But please remember that you are not invincible either. I do not want you to end up badly injured from one of my strikes because you overestimated yourself. Alright, commander Athenagoras? I need you alive to teach me.”
I add in the end of my sentence. It was a mix of a warning for the upcoming fights of ours and a somewhat hidden, still present, proper thank you for believing in me and raising me as a warrior and soldier.
“Alright, soldier, enough of the flattery it will not earn you the right to stand on my side. So, you are better off without it. I will train you anyway, because I need you alive to be your teacher.”
Athenagoras responds finishing his sentence in a similar way to show me that he understood my remark and accepts my respect returning it back. He also stops the exchange of kind words with a little humour. It was the right choice, a good call before the thing had become awkward. We are in a good level of communication after all these years, so I believe it would not have continued for long either way. We are not the kind of people to praise each other in an endless cycle of masked words. Our words hold a meaning, they hold weight. They are true words, not simple flattery. We would not have said them after fighting otherwise!
“Fine! Come here. Let me see your injury. We should better treat it, if it looks serious.”
“Injury? Oh, you mean from your punch. It is no big deal.”
“Well, let me decide that after I see it myself. You have taught me to never underestimate an injury occurred in battle. I thought you really wanted to teach me!”
I tell him in an angry manner. Now is not the time to show his resistance to pain. Or should I have said his masculinity?! Men can be obsessed when it comes to that. Especially that, it can easily bring out the stupidest part of their selves. They must prove themselves with the stupidest way possible, in a matter that only they are interested in.
“Look, it is okay. You have hit your foot earlier, and I guess you are alright now. It is the same with my injury. It is red because this is the natural reaction of the body when the skin is irritated. Other than that, I feel only a slight pain in my abdomen, muscle pain. And I believe that is to be expected after your punch in my stomach, completely out of the blue.”
He is a little irritated as well aside from his skin. He emphasizes that I have hit me without warning, and nonetheless I am still complaining about him not taking seriously the injury. Alright, if he wants it to be that way. Then...
“Fine, as you wish! You are a grown man you can make your own decisions.”
“I think you should worry more about your foot. Can you walk to the camp? Even worse, can you train? It looks like you cannot press it.” He has noticed that I could not put pressure on it, but I am alright now. I can stand on both feet with no additional pain.
“No, I am fine. I can walk, it does not hurt anymore. The pain went away.”
Hah, I am smiling. I remembered every time me and Isocrates, back in our childhood, has hit each other on a mock combat, and we were saying the little magic words to make the pain go away, mimicking our parents.
‘Έλα να το κάνω μάκια να περάσει!’ (‘Let me kiss it and make it better!’)
It is funny, for a moment I picture me and Isocrates, in our adulthood, in our grown-up bodies, but still acting as big kids saying the words to each other. Could it be Athenagoras in Isocrates position? I imagine him as a small kid. At least I am trying to! I cannot really picture the commander acting like that. Neither I can imagine how he was as a kid. Right now, I am trying to create a mix of his head with a small body as an image of him.
“What? Why are you smiling? Are you lying?” Athenagoras’ voice interrupts my imagination, everything is lost in no time. Haha! I turn my head to look at him noticing his sturdy, big body being in total conflict with my imaginary picture of him as a small kid. Back to reality!
“No! No, I was just imagining things— I was thinking of something. Not anything that matters anyway, just random thoughts crossing my mind. My foot is fine, I am not lying. I can walk. Let’s move, we need to reach the camp at some point.”
I make a few steps to get closer. To show him that my foot is completely fine, that I have no difficulty in walking. And to...
“Here, wrap this around your abdomen to cover your injury. You cannot wander around the streets with a ripped tunic.”
—Hrrrats!— With my hands I am ripping off a piece from my himation that I am wearing over my shoulders and on top of my tunic. Usually, most women wear a long enough tunic reaching below the knees to cover their legs. But I am wearing a man’s tunic which is basically the same thing with only one difference, it reaches above the knees to allow for better freedom in movements. And that is why I prefer it. Therefore, I had no excess of fabric to take from my tunic. Hence the only solution left was to share some of my himation. It is a light and short one that I am simply wearing because I like to have something draped over my upper body and especially the sensation around my shoulders. I do not wear it to keep me warm. And I do not wear it the usual way either; over one shoulder and under the other.
Athenagoras grabs the piece of fabric from my torn himation and ties it around his abdomen.
“Alright, that settles it! I am completely fine now. It also suits my style! We can move on happily.”
The white piece of clothing I gave him from my himation looks like a belt on his brown tunic. He says that he likes the style, but I do not think he really means it. A simple brown tunic is all he cares for, as far as dressing concerns him. Still, he is not a cave man. His tunic, despite simple and uninspired, is always neat and tidy. Not to mention the fact that it went through a tough night of excessive drinking and plenty of movements! And not only it has withstood this hardship, but even more. He slept on a tavern bench wearing this tunic which is not washed-out either. Now that I look at it, his tunic has a nice, vivid brown colour. No, I have to admit it. This tunic is quite excellent for a bare-bones one.
“It would have been better, if I have worn a himation with patterns?! Would you prefer it? I have one knitted at home. I will bring it for you next time! I hope that you do not mind the coloured ones. You can let me know if you have any specific preference in mind.”
“We can always try it. See what suits me better!”
We both laugh. We are joking, but if we were serious and he wanted to try wear a himation, then I do not think he would really mind asking me for help. I do not know this for sure, but his neat appearance makes me believe it. It is actually the first time I am thinking of this. Enough with the unusual, weird thoughts...
We continue our way to the camp. We are going to be late if we do not move. Not that I should care. I am just going there to do some training. He has some soldiers to train.
Some time has passed since. We are passing through the streets of Agora to reach the camp. Agora is like the center of the city. Not like, it is the center of Athens! Here we are gathering to hold meetings and make decisions concerning every important matter affecting our city. There is the market to which Athens takes pride and Agora owns its name. Traders from other lands come here with their ships and carriages in full capacity to sell their goods. Or even buy sometimes from the citizens who also come here to sell their local, hand-made products. This is the place where you can buy and sell all sorts of things, even exchange in the grand bazaar located at one side’s end. The countless stalls of Agora have everything you could think of, everything you could wish for. From different types of food to several drinks for you to consume. From papyruses to parchments of all kinds for you to read. Anything! There are also many theaters to enjoy plenty of plays, dramas and comedies surrounded by the houses of rich, eminent people with great influence in the city. There are philosophical and ordinary schools for you to join and learn various things. And academies of great teachers such as Socrates and Plato, for you to learn more about the great mysteries of life, to expand your horizons in a never-ending journey of knowledge. Last, but not least, is the tavern. The city of Athens could not be without the old way fun. If you have been there last night, then you know pretty well what happens in the tavern. If you have not, there are plenty of nights for you to discover the many pleasures which are offered by the city of Athens. A city bustling with life!
“Is not it a shame that only a few women are here walking on the streets, shopping and nothing more?!” Athenagoras makes a rather painful remark about the city.
“Yes, it certainly is! Our city has seen better days for sure!” It is the ugly truth, unfortunately. The city used to be full of life, and its streets used to bustle with life as well. But right now...
“Those days were not long ago though. What has really happened to our city?” He is glooming about the current state of Athens. He is wondering with sadness filling his very eyes.
“We did not do anything wrong. It is not our fault. It is just a tough time we are going through. We have to keep fighting for our city. It is in our hands to make it better!” We have not left Athens. We have not given up. We are still here! I cannot stand Athenagoras' sorrowful look, so I try to cheer him up.
“Usually at that time several ships would have arrived at the port unloading the trader’s many goods in order to exhibit and sell them here in the stalls of Agora.” He is reminiscing of the old glorious times of our city Athens.
“And it will happen again like it used to. We will help. We will save Athens! Our city, the old habits will return, we will bring them back!” I continue my efforts to make him feel confident. I want to raise his morale, but he will not listen to my words. Well, no more gentle for you commander.
“Now stop crying! You will drive away the other women. Or do you want to sadden them too, and cry together?”
Athenagoras faces me abruptly!
“Since you mentioned the women. I remembered that I did not ask you about it. About the woman with the hood back in the tavern. She was covering her face effectively, but even so it was clear as day that the person hiding was a woman. Who is she?”
No more sorrow for Athens, that was quick! It means my words served their purpose, but they did not serve me. Athenagoras asks me the question I wanted to avoid. And I thought I had succeeded. I guess I had so far, but the situation has changed. It cannot be helped. I will tell him that I cannot tell him!
“I truly cannot tell you who she really is, trust me. I have to keep her identity hidden, even from you. No one else besides me can know! It is for her safety. I am not doing that to keep secrets. I am doing it to help Isocrates, and her role is of vital importance. I cannot tell you anything! I am sorry Athenagoras, I will not speak!”
I do not believe that Athenagoras would not be able to keep it secret if I told him. However, it is not a personal matter. There is also someone else involved in this, and she has asked me to hide it from everyone. Athenagoras or Isocrates it does not matter, even though they are close friends. I cannot risk it. I will do as I promised. I have to make it clear to Athenagoras that I will not tell him even a single word. No hints or assumptions. No nothing.
“Alright, calm down this is not an interrogation. I am just asking! You do not have to answer me, if you do not want to.”
“And I am thankful for that, because I wanted to avoid question regarding her identity the most. I am glad that you believe me, it is for the better if I do not say anything to you. At least for now. I will not keep it a secret for eternity. Actually, the passage of time will unfold the truth, not me. The time will pass, and the secret will be revealed by itself. I will not have to say anything. You will learn about it when you see it unravelling before your eyes. Thank you for trusting me, Athenagoras.”
I tell him to reassure him that I am still trusting him, but it cannot be otherwise. It is not a matter of who I trust, since it is not a personal secret. I cannot reveal anything.
“I understand it has to be done this way. I will not persist. After all, it seems you have already made up your mind. Knowing you, I prefer not to try do any convincing on my part. You do not change your mind once you have set it on something. You are not that kind of person. I will save my energy for something else.”
He is looking around.
“Since we are here, we can take our time and walk for a little longer, more freely. We can stroll, just a little bit.”
Because he was reminded of the past times. Because he was reminded of the good times of Athens, he is in a somewhat reminiscent mood. He feels a little sentimental, but he tries to keep it inside, only for himself to know. He will not openly say it. He wants to walk leisurely on the streets of his city. He wants to enjoy his city. Not for a little bit. And not ‘since we are here’. It does not matter it is not as glorious as it used to be.
“Do you not have an army to command and train?” I ask Athenagoras in a way suggesting him with clear body language that we should get going. I tilt my head slightly on the side. I am raising my eyebrows. I open my eyes a little more. I lift my hands and stare at him.
“You know very well that they have not joined the army because they wanted to. It is mandatory, an obligation that needs to be done. Even if there is a single soldier truly willing to be in the camp, then I believe he can accept the fact that the general was a little late.”
He immediately replies. He is slightly irritated that I implied that we should keep going instead of taking a stroll as he suggested.
“Even if I am actually late, because the sun is still right above us. It is still the middle of the day. I think we have the time to afford a walk. Do you not think so?”
He continues in the same manner. Alright, I get it! You want to go for a walk. Fine, we will...
“Alright, as you wish. We can move slower, but no detours. We are heading to the camp! Remember? Now that, in a way, I have solved my problem with the communication between me and Isocrates. Since I now have a plan, at least! I really need to get some training done.”
“We will not just wander around aimlessly. I will also look for some things that I might need to buy as we pass by the stalls.”
He says and we continue our way— No! Our walk through the streets of Agora.
Athenagoras approaches a stall with multiple species of fish.
“It looks like you have got a good catch out there in the sea.” He talks to the man behind the stall acting all proudful.
“I guess the city still has its good days in certain things.” I add directing my words to both men.
“It is decent.” The seller does not look like he is happy with the quantity.
“Do you cook any?” He asks the seller while retracting his smile, not entirely though. A stall of fishes did make him smile!
The seller nods in agreement.
“Of course, I do. And they are as fresh as they could have possibly been. Straight from the crystal clear deep blue waters of the Aegean Sea!” He says afterwards filled with pride, more than Athenagoras’ initial one for the catch.
“Then, I will take two lobsters in stick!” He responds in the same energetic way. Now that he has found his other half...
Athenagoras went and ordered the expensive choice among all the possible options. The seller should certainly feel happy after this. He has various types of fish on his stall. Έχει μπαρμπούνι, κέφαλο, κουτσομούρα, σκουμπρί, σαρδέλα και γάυρο, καλαμάρι, χταπόδι, καραβίδα, λαβράκι. (There is red mullet, striped mullet, striped red mullet, mackerel, sardine and anchovy, squid, octopus, crayfish, sea bass.) Those I can discern. In fact, I do not think there are other types. Still, they are quite plenty for sure. And he has a large number of each species on the stall.
The seller goes to his grill which is located further to the left behind his stall. The woods underneath it, are already burning hot. He is placing the sliced open, shelled and cut in pieces lobster on top of the grill. —Hwssshh!— the food is sizzling! Me and Athenagoras are waiting impatiently to taste it. To be frank, it looks delicious! The white insides of the lobster taking a light colour as it is being cooked. Oh, the smell being released upon us! It is nice, very nice! Just from the looks of it being grilled; it makes my mouth water!
“Did it all come from one ship?” As we are waiting for the food to get ready, Athenagoras asks the seller.
“No! No, it did not. Although it did not take too many ships, just one more.” The seller is unsatisfied with the amount of ship needed to catch these fish. And it really shows on his face.
“Two is not a few either for such a catch. I guess the ships were around half capacity, far away from the usual.” Athenagoras agrees with him and adds to his misery.
“Usual? What usual? We have years to see a ship coming back full, after it went fishing!” Athenagoras’ words aggravate the seller.
“I think it is better if we let the man do his job.” I am intervening to prevent any bad development in the events. Athenagoras would not start a fight, but if the seller had done so, then he would, at least had defended himself. And if the seller had persisted, then he might had hit him. The Athenians are quite irritable this period of time. Athenagoras knows that and he wants to change it, but the seller is not aware of his intentions. And a seller going against a general, the commander of Athens’ army...
I put my hand on Athenagoras’ chest, a little lower actually, to pull him back. He does not react which means that he understands. The stall does not hide my hand, but I made sure not to do any weird movements that could be considered hostile. Starting a fight in Agora is not a rare occurrence, thus I did not want the seller to think that we are going to do so.
“I will go and watch the fish as the lady said. I will be back in a moment. Sorry about that, for raising my voice.” He smiles it off.
“No big deal.” I say, smiling back at him.
“It is fine. Athens will see better days in the near future. You can count on us.” Athenagoras declares.
“Here, two lobsters on a stick.” A woman appears holding our lobster sticks, stretching out her hands to give it to us. I grab the sticks, “That will be ten drachmas.” and Athenagoras pays the woman.
“Thank you very much.” The seller and his wife, probably, thank us and we continue our full-fledged stroll since we are eating handheld food now.
“Do you know whom you were yelling at?” We hear as we are walking away from the stall. The woman is mouthing off her husband, now for sure, seller who did not recognise Athenagoras and have spoken to him inappropriately. Well, to be real, the seller did not say anything bad in particular. Still, he forgot his manners around customers, and he also did that to the wrong person. It is strange that he did not realise he was speaking to Athenagoras, nonetheless. However, Athens is a big city with many residents. It is impossible to know and recognise everyone. Also, many people have only watched Athenagoras in his warrior uniform and know him as the army leader, a soldier of Athens. Even so, we are talking about Athenagoras here. His body structure is quite unique, one that stands out hence it is easily distinguishable. At least his wife was up to the task, she has recognised him effortlessly. And she has made sure to let everyone in the near area know.
—Hahaha!— I am laughing as I am chewing the tasty lobster. Athenagoras is simply walking as he is savouring the food.
“How is it?” I ask him about the food while I continue laughing lightly.
“It is great! Very good! The seller might feel disappointed with the quantity of fish he has, that the fishers are catching now. Still, the quality is the same. Absolutely delicious lobster, a pleasant meal that is!” He answers as he grabs and pulls a piece of the lobster from the stick. He then eats it making a happy face to reveal, no to emphasize his words.
“Yes, it is truly delicious! The flavor is indeed great! And it is carefully cooked as well. The lobster has been prepared properly and nicely. Not too much on the seasoning, and the salt is also fine. The smell is nice, the colour too. Every piece is the right size, each bite is an explosion of taste! Taste of a fresh fish! Truly a delicacy!”
I am acting like a food critic right now. But actually, no, I do not! I simply like to put some thought on the food I am eating. I simply like to do that sort of... thing when I taste something. Athenagoras has another bite from his stick. He does not say anything to my commentary, because he is well aware of my habit. He, on the other hand, enjoys eating the food without much talk. He does not share any of his thoughts when he is eating, unless he has been asked to like I did earlier. He is not devoid of opinion about what he is eating, although rather than speaking of it he prefers to stay focused on the meal instead. It takes up all of his attention!
“Thief! Thief! Do not run! Come here, come back!”
A young girl passes right between us running as fast as she can! A man looking like a seller, a different one, is following her.
“Stop her! Catch her!” The man shouts desperately to me and Athenagoras pointing his finger at her.
“Please, stop her! She is a thief!” The man cannot possibly run anymore. He is out of breath.
“I will go. Calm him down.” I plainly tell Athenagoras and go after the girl...
Hello, author-san here (or author-kun, I have not decided yet which one to choose). Time for some clarifications— No, no! History time, yeah! So, αγορά means market in modern Greek AND in ancient Greek it means the place where everyone (not exactly, only men citizens of Athens were allowed) gathered to discuss and make decisions about matters regarding public life. When historians refer to the agora of Athens in particular, they capitalize a (I suppose since I am not a historian myself to know for sure).
In this story we expand the boundaries a little or a lot (you, the readers, are the judges of this). Agora (always written with capital a) includes the gathering place, the market as well, and many other things explicitly described by Alexandra earlier above. So, Agora does not comply with the traditional rules.
Himation is essentially a type of cloak, an outer garment acting as a wrap that ancient Greeks usually wore over the left shoulder and under the right. And sometimes on top of the tunic.