Past the trees lining the water’s edge, they came upon a great field. The wind blew waves of wild grain and the scent of spring water from the clusters of berries and trees dotting the golden terrain.
The marines marched across the field in formation, with Hanno at their head. Only a thin pillar of smoke on the field’s far side hinted that the peninsula might be inhabited. When they reached its source, the smoke had disappeared. They found no charred wood or grass, not even a speck of ash.
“Probably buried the fire,” Bostar noted.
“Make sure we post sentries,” Hanno ordered.
They spanned the field in an hour’s time, returning with only enough light to declare the grasses uninhabited.
The winds had inflicted no damage upon the rest of the fleet, and not a single loss had occurred since they’d left the port of Carthage. This Mapen sang of when the helmsmen gathered at a bonfire lit at the center of the natural harbor. He neglected to mention the repairs fast underway on the king’s trireme to replace the foremast and sail.
A narrow inlet led from the harbor to the edge of the field, and there the fire marked the line where even the highest tide could not reach their tents.
“Almost reminds you of Carthage,” Bostar remarked of the inlet.
Hanno noted it as well, the way the channel allowed for a double-protected harbor. He could see the walls, the planks of docks, the stone monuments and statues in this virgin city.
The king raised his hands in greeting, and to calm the cheers of the tired men and women gathered before the bonfire. Cooks had readied a collection of bread and meat and wine, along with a few berries and fruits they’d harvested from the field and declared safe, stretched long in a series of low tables.
“Welcome, my people, welcome. Welcome to your city. Let it be known now and to the end of the ages as the city of the Libyphoenicians!” Hanno declared.
The pipers played and the people cheered, until Hanno raised his hand once more.
“What’s its name, king?” Mapen asked.
“The torches of the Pillars of Hercules could not hold it. So let us name it the torch we carried for our people, an incense burner for all travelers,” Hanno said. “I name it Thymiaterium.”
The pipers played again, and Mapen sampled the name three times in a one-word song before quieting.
“We have traveled far, and traveled well,” Hanno shared. “For some, the journey is at an end. For others, let this be our rest.”
All grew quiet. Some looked away.
“Africa is ours,” Hanno declared. “We will not be deterred. Not by pillars, and not by wind.”
Many had witnessed the king’s failed challenge against the cyclone. Those who had been on his ship stared into the fire with the cold surety of veteran sailors. They went as their king bade. The others worried over their fate.
“So let us eat and drink this night. For tomorrow we plant the seeds of Thymiaterium!” Hanno proclaimed.
“Tanit be praised, for Melqart is here!” shouted Aba.
Mapen repeated his single-word song while Jabnit played the pipes.
“Let the sacrifices please the heart of Baal Hammon!” Aba sang.
Hanno left the priestess to her blessings. Bostar had not joined in the celebrations. Hanno took up a wineskin and a cup full of fruit and dried pork and searched for his friend.
The thousands gathered on the beach lit dozens of fires. They reveled and sang, and made good on Hanno’s proclamation that seeds be planted on the yielding ground.
Hanno found Bostar at the tree line, bow in hand and his eyes upon the dark field.
A waxing moon cast a dull glow on the wheat and grass, along with the flickering orange of torches from the nearby marines.
“Thought I’d take first sentry duty,” Bostar said.
Hanno nodded, and held out the wineskin. “There’s men enough to do this work. Unless you wanted a moonlit moment alone with Janan. Is he on duty too?” he asked.
Darkness hid Bostar’s reddening cheeks. “Janan is not on duty.”
“Come now, you two need to celebrate with the others.”
“The king needs to celebrate as well.”
“The king does not need to pretend he—” Bostar tried to say.
“The king is not weak,” Hanno interrupted.
Hanno knelt down and plucked a kernel from a low growth of wild-growing wheat.
“This land is fair,” he said.
“It will not hold them all,” Bostar noted.
“No. It will not.”
“Ten thousand at the most. As grand as these fields are, the natural harvest might only serve them a few weeks. With fish added to that, it will be suitable.”
“There’s time enough to plant before winter.”
“And that will be the reason ten thousand can stay. But we have more than ten thousand.”
“The crews will be happy for the lighter weight. And we’ll leave three triremes behind for defense.”
“Then we will set out again.”
“And how will we advance beyond the winds?” Bostar asked.
“The king is not weak,” Hanno said.
“I miss her too, Hanno. Elissa would be pleased at what you’ve done for your people,” Bostar said.
“I shall defeat the winds, Bostar. I shall defeat Suffete and the Council and all the nations of Greece and the Empire of Xerxes if I have to,” Hanno snapped.
“Greece! I know of this people!” came a voice from the blackened field.
Bostar and Hanno crouched into defensive positions, arrow nocked and sword drawn.
“Show yourself!” Hanno commanded.
“What sort of sword is that?” the voice asked.
“Come closer and you’ll witness it better.”
“Tell me your name first.”
Bostar tilted his bow side to side, but found no sign of the hidden intruder. The voice came from one direction, then another, echoing rather than speaking. It was a woman’s voice, cheerful and confident and apparently unafraid.
“And what name would you have?” Hanno replied.
“No-no. I spoke first. It would be rude for you not to name yourself first,” said the invisible woman.
“You are intruding on our camp.”
“We are both guests and travelers, so no guest-right exists. But I suppose you’re correct. I have not made a camp and you have, so I’ll approach as guest.”
The grass parted several paces in front of Hanno, and there a dark-skinned woman stood. Torch and moonlight revealed her round face and deep brown eyes. Her long hair lay tied beneath a headscarf, and she wore a thin tunic of golden hide and fur, tied at her waist over her muscled form.
“I am Liva,” she said, and smiled.
“The runner from the beach,” Hanno realized, recognizing her shape.
“Your ship moves fast. I’ve never seen a ship like that. Now you.”
“Now I what?”
Hanno and Bostar did not lower their weapons. Liva raised her empty hands to calm the men, and took a step toward them.
“I ask for the right of a guest. I name myself Liva. I’m terribly sorry for sneaking up on you, but I needed to understand your tongues and see if you understood the nature of people,” Liva said.
“The nature of people?” Bostar asked.
“That guests are named and welcomed, not eaten or sacrificed.”
“We don’t sacrifice guests,” Hanno said.
“That I saw, which is why I approached you. I have stories to share, and I know you do as well.”
“You challenged the wind. You did it wrong, but you made the challenge. Few have done that before.”
“You know of those winds?”
“I know many stories. I’ve heard all the tales of all the villages along the coast. One of them is of a ship from Greece that went to fight a great battle then faced monsters and bandits on the long return journey. Do you know this tale?”
“We know of Greek storytellers,” Hanno admitted.
Liva clapped her hands. “Wonderful! Then you have more stories of your own people?”
“How do we get past the winds?”
“Mistral and Scirocco?”
“Those are the names.”
“But you haven’t named yourself.”
“I am Hanno, King of Carthage. This is Bostar, my companion,” Hanno announced.
“Greetings, Hannokingofcarthage. Greetings Bostarmycompanion,” Liva said with a nod. She then spoke in a language the Phoenicians didn’t understand.
“What was that?” Hanno asked.
“It means I see you,” Liva said, and repeated the words.
“How did you learn our tongue? You are not Phoenician.”
“Nor Libyan,” Bostar added.
“Not the Libyans we know at least.”
“I know your words because I heard you speak them,” Liva explained. “This is how I know many tongues and songs and tales. And I’ll tell you this. I know the language of the winds as well.”
“Then how do we defeat them?” Hanno asked.
Liva laughed. “You can’t defeat the wind.”
“I am Hanno.”
“I thought you were Hannokingofcarthage?”
“That is my full title.”
“I see. Well no wonder you haven’t been able to speak with the winds, you have too many names for them to speak back.”
“We heard them speak. Scirocco said we could not pass. Mistral said we could not go,” Bostar noted.
“The winds are jealous. That’s the tale I’ve heard.”
“Where did you hear this tale?” Hanno asked.
“I’ve heard many tales, from an old man who sang a song about a Greek traveler, to a rag-covered woman who spoke of a flood that sank the world. A man with a spirit of madness told me of a mountain made of fire and smoke, and a young warrior told me he once wrestled a bird from the air and that this bird told him how to speak to the winds in exchange for its release.”
“Then tell us this tale.”
Liva shook her head. “You have many tales to share as well, yes? You look like a people of tales.”
“We have our legends.”
Liva clapped her hands once more. “And a language of many words. It is a fine language to speak. So I make this deal, as guest, that I will speak with the winds on your behalf and tell you the tale of how to calm them. If you take me with you.”
“We have no room for passengers,” Hanno said.
“Aren’t you founding a village here? Replace one of them with me,” Liva proposed.
“You learned to speak Punic just by observing us?” Bostar asked.
“I’m good with words.”
“She could be of use with other villages, Hanno.”
“Oh yes, I am a fantastic translator. I can speak to winds or man or even beast, though I’ve struggled more with the beasts since they don’t understand the rights of guests and people.”
Hanno ground his teeth.
One of the marines on sentry spotted the three in conversation and let out a call. With reinforcements coming, he ran to his king with torch and spear in hand.
The renewed light revealed all of Liva’s form, along with the dagger hidden on her belt. She did not flinch before the encircling fire, merely smiled.
Hanno and Liva locked eyes a moment.
“What trust do I have in your peace?” Hanno asked.
Liva shrugged. “Only my assurance that I speak truly. I’ve learned your tongue. Let me learn your tales on your ship, and you will learn mine,” she said.
Hanno nodded, and sheathed his sword. “Agreed,” he said.
“Who is this, my king?” asked one of the marines.
“This is Liva, our fleet’s translator,” Hanno answered.
“Hello,” said Liva. “So where’s your ship?”
The marines looked at their king.
“This way,” Hanno said.
He turned back toward the beach. Liva followed, with the marines and Bostar staying close.
“I’ve never seen ships like that. The big sheets used to catch the wind, that’s amazing. But it’s no wonder the winds are jealous of you,” Liva said.
“The winds have not complained before,” Hanno noted.
“I’ve never met a wind myself. I wonder what they have to say.”
“I thought you could speak with them?”
“I can. I just haven’t before. Ooh, you do have a lot of people.”
They passed the bonfires full of singers, where Jabnit and Mapen spun about the revelers. Their mother had long since retreated to her tent, placed at the spot she claimed would one day host a new temple to Tanit.
No one save the handful of sentries monitoring the tide stood near the triremes.
“Sixty ships,” Liva counted. “How is one of these made? I’m sure that’s an interesting story.”
“Craft, not story,” Hanno explained.
“A craft is just a story with a purpose. A specific purpose, though, as all tales have a reason.”
Hanno put his hand against the drying hull to stop Liva from progressing further. He frowned, but then broke out in laughter.
“That is one of the truest things I’ve ever heard,” he said. “I’ll tell you the tale then of how you board my ship. You use these planks and you climb. An interesting story, is it not?”
“Useful, but not very interesting,” Liva said.
Hanno laughed, and climbed onto the deck. Liva, however, stayed on the beach.
“May I?” she asked.
“Do you want to join our crew?” Hanno replied.
“Crew.” Liva tasted the word. “Yes. Yes, Liva a part of the crew. I’d like that very much.”
“Then I name you to the personnel of this vessel. You can come and go as you please, but you obey the helmsman. Now come aboard, Translator.”
Liva applauded, then hurried onto the deck. Bostar came behind her, along with a pair of marines.
“This is the bow,” Hanno said.
“The front of the ship. And the mast!” Liva said. She dashed past the repaired foremast to the ship’s middle, running her hands across the smoothed hull. “I heard the many names of the ship’s parts. It’s polished. I didn’t know it would be so soft to the touch.”
“Better to pass through the waves,” Hanno noted.
“That is an interesting story, this polished wood passing through the waves. And now I’ll be a part of it!”
Liva beamed a smile and continued her inspection toward the stern.
“You have oars too. The long paddles used to push and steer the ship, yes?” Liva asked.
“We store them below deck in case of rain,” Hanno explained.
“And what is this?” Liva examined the post supporting the ship’s lizard-like tail, and nearly tripped over a woman sitting in the dark.
“It’s the ship’s rear end. Who in Hades are you?” Artemisia asked.
The helmsman sat with her back against the railing, a wineskin atop her outstretched legs.
Hanno hadn’t spotted Artemisia until they nearly stood atop her. The marines held their torches high to banish the shadows concealing the Greek woman.
Artemisia blinked against the light.
“Liva, this is my helmsman, Artemisia,” Hanno said.
Artemisia took a drink from her wineskin.
“Nice to meet you,” Liva said with an unreturned smile. She knelt face to face with the woman. “You look like you have many stories to tell.”
Artemisia glared at Hanno.
“Can I sleep here?” Liva asked.
“No,” said Artemisia.
“Not here specifically. How about below deck? Show me below deck — I’d love to sleep there.”
“Stinks down there. Sweat and salt.”
“Oh that sounds like something interesting to smell.”
“You’ll soon tire of it.”
“Come, Liva, let us leave the helmsman be and explore the rest of the ship,” Hanno advised.
“I’m looking forward to our shared story, Artemisia,” Liva said in parting.
Artemisia clunked the back of her head against the railing.
Hanno led Liva into the lower decks. Their baptism under the waves had cleansed the planks, though the smell of man and salt still clung to the air.
Liva rapped her knuckles against the steps, against the benches, and the secured oars.
“It is a well-made vessel. How far have you come?” she asked.
“Ten days’ journey,” Hanno answered.
“I can walk far in ten days. But even at my fastest I couldn’t outpace this ship. This will be an interesting story indeed.”
Hanno found himself smiling as well.
“I believe even the Greeks might find it interesting,” Hanno added.
“Oh, won’t that be nice. I’ve learned of Greeks and maybe they’ll learn of me,” Liva said.
“All of Africa will soon know of Hanno.” The king frowned. “We have much work to be done. Rest well, Translator. Tomorrow we will see if the winds yield to your words.”
Liva sat at one of the rowers’ stations, enraptured by the feel of the hull.
“Sorry, yes. Goodnight,” she said.
Hanno returned to the top deck, where he met Artemisia and the other marines, Bostar shadowing him as ever.
“Make sure she doesn’t leave,” Hanno told the marines.
“The bounty of Africa spread before us,” Artemisia slurred.
“Africa is mine. This is simply a part of it.”
“A good part of it,” Bostar added.
“Just make sure she doesn’t leave.”
Bio: I once snuck into a castle. It wasn’t a terribly good castle. In fact it was quite old and broken, but it had a shut door I wasn’t supposed to go through. Yet through it I went. I climbed an ancient wall I shouldn’t have climbed, wandered across borders without using the approved path, and was handed a silver trophy for a contest I wasn’t allowed to enter. From my time growing up in the Missouri Ozarks to my travels abroad, I couldn’t help going places and doing things I probably shouldn’t. Perhaps more of those doors needed 'Keep Out' signs, or if they did have signs they should have been locked, and if they had been locked they shouldn’t have hidden such amazing things that made going through them so worthwhile. I currently live in Springfield, Missouri, where I teach Marketing, study History, and, alongside my wonderful wife, make a valiant attempt at passing through the doorway of writing.