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Under a Spartan Sky - Book Two

Copyright 2017 Robert Challis

Published by Robert Challis at Smashwords

Smashwords Edition Licence Notes

An original novel by under the pseudonym Robert Gregory, this e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people except under the terms set out by the publisher. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



Historical Note

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven


Offspring was not reared at the will of the father, but was taken and carried by him to a place called Lesche, where the elders of the tribes officially examined the infant, and if it was well-built and sturdy, they ordered the father to rear it, and assigned it one of the nine thousand lots of land; but if it was ill-born and deformed, they sent it to the so-called Apothetae, a chasm-like place at the foot of Mount Taygetus, in the conviction that the life of that which nature had not well equipped at the very beginning for health and strength, was of no advantage either to itself or the state."

Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus

The remains of forty-six men dating from the fifth and sixth centuries BCE, presumably executed by the Spartans, have been excavated at the so-called Apothetae. Our only source for the use of the site for state run selective infanticide is Plutarch, writing hundreds of years later. It therefore remains a very contentious issue.

Did the Spartans expose infants to die in some form or another? It is not unlikely given that there is widespread evidence of such practices throughout the ancient world.


Five years before the great invasion of Greece by Xerxes, of the heroic defeat of King Leonidas at Thermopylae and the decisive battles of Plataea and Salamis, a group of people were gathered at one of the few impressive public buildings in Sparta, the meeting place of the Gerusia. Of the twenty-eight elders comprising the Gerusia, only two were present, both men over sixty years of age as required by law, glancing a little uneasily at their visitors. The group meeting them were centred around a mother, Melissa, twenty years old, strong and attractive, with her unusually large new born baby held naked in her arms. Near her stood her husband Pheidon, forty years old, a solid powerful man of average height, just a little shorter than his wife. Melissa’s mother was also there, Eurydame, smaller and of lighter build than her daughter, a dark haired woman of around Pheidon’s age. Eurydame’s seven year old daughter by her second husband, King Leotychidas, stood by her side, curiously observing the proceedings. This was Lampito, a dark eyed, vivacious little girl. A tall, good looking, powerfully built young man aged twenty stood a little uncomfortably on the edge of the main group. His name was Aegon. His dark hair was fairly short, his beard stubbly, signs that he had only recently graduated from the Agoge.

Gylippus, one of the two elders, looked at Pheidon. "Who is the acknowledged father of the infant?"

Pheidon glanced towards Aegon who met his eye and briefly frowned. Pheidon responded with a ghost of a smile. "I acknowledge that I am the natural father of the infant," he said after a pause.

Gylippus turned to Melissa. "Your husband Pheidon then, is the natural father of the child?"

Melissa also paused before replying, glancing quickly at Pheidon and Aegon. "Yes he is. There is no doubt about it."

"Good," Gylippus commented, glancing to Arkelaos, his fellow elder. "When it comes to matters of inheritance and entitlement, it’s most important that patrimony is agreed by all parties." He glanced around the group, but in reality seeking out the only other adult present, Eurydame. "Then all here agree to witness that the child will be named Amiantos son of Pheidon?"

Eurydame nodded seriously.

"Then now, if you will permit us, we’ll proceed to the official inspection."

Gylippus and Arkelaus stepped right up to Melissa who adjusted her hold on the baby to assist the inspection. She exchanged a brief but significant glance with her mother Eurydame who stood immediately next to her.

"I think you’ll find," Eurydame said, "the baby is more than sound. My own husband, King Leotychidas, said he will be a great wrestler one day."

Gylippus smiled. "He’s a big baby. I pity you Melissa.

"I’m a strong woman myself," Melissa replied a little sharply.

"Of course," Gylippus replied calmly. "I’d expect no less."

Arkelaos used his hands to measure the baby from feet to the top of his head. "Six hand widths. This boy will be tall," he said, a note of tension apparent in his voice.

Pheidon laughed with a forced confidence. "Considerably taller than me, I think. He gets that from Melissa." He briefly glanced again at Aegon who lowered his brow slightly in apparent embarrassment.

Arkelaos continued with a careful examination, holding the baby’s face between his hands and observing the way the baby’s eyes met his own. His hand worked its way behind the baby’s neck and then explored the spine. He massaged down both arms, checking as he did the fingers of both hands. While apparently focussing on these parts, he glanced more than once down to the baby’s right foot and ankle. Finally he checked the baby’s legs and as his hands moved towards the right ankle, everyone in the group was silent. As his hand felt the ankle, it was impossible not to notice that the foot was turned inwards and pointing down in comparison with the well shaped left foot. He glanced at Gylippus.

It was Eurydame who broke the tense silence. "That is trivial. It will be bound in the correct position and exercised daily. By the time he enters the Agoge it will be perfect."

Arkelaos smiled in embarrassment.

Pheidon looked sharply at him. "He won’t be a great runner, but great runners don’t win battles. He’ll be a warrior like his father."

Eurydame added, "That’s what my husband, the King said. I think he’s already taken a liking to the boy. He almost sees himself as the grandfather."

Arkelaos and Gylippus exchanged another look.

"Well, the baby is very strong and everywhere else sound," Arkelaos said at last. "If you bind the ankle as you say, I’m sure he’ll grow to be a sturdy Spartan citizen like his father." Arkelaos glanced briefly at both Pheidon and Aegon.

"Very well," Gylippus said after a period of silence. "Your infant is officially approved. We will announce him to the Gerusia as Amiantos son of Pheidon, and he will receive the standard allotment of land."

Eurydame nodded approvingly. "I have another request."

Gylippus nodded.

"When I married King Leotychidas I gave half my own land to Melissa so she would never have to depend on others, and even at her tender age she has shown she is well able to manage her property. When you select the allotment for Amiantos find one close to hers so that it will be easier for her to run it for him."

Gylippus looked at Melissa. "Very well. I will personally supervise the selection of land."

Melissa smiled for the first time. "Thank you Gylippus and Arkelaos. I promise that one day my child will do great things for Sparta."

Gylippus smiled briefly in response. "I’m sure he will."


Twenty years later, the last fifteen of them unusually peaceful years for Sparta, Amiantos son of Pheidon and a number of his shaven headed companions bathed naked in the Eurotas river near the village of Amyklae preparing for their part in a ceremony. It was the morning of the third day of the annual Hyakinthia festival commemorating the accidental death of Hyakinth, the youth beloved of Apollo. In contrast to competitions, feasting and drinking of the second day of the festival, the third was more solemn, a day given over to sacrifices, processions and prayer. For many of the older people, the solemnity that year was intensified by the sense of communal foreboding occasioned by the small but prolonged shaking of the earth which took place a while before dawn. However, for this group of young men in their final year in the Agoge, fear of Poseidon’s wrath was the last thing on their minds.

For the powerfully built Amiantos, there could be no concealing a gash in his lower abdomen, a slash wound from a dagger received the previous night in a fight with other youths over his betrothed, the beautiful Kalliope. It had not yet had a chance to heal and a little blood seeping out left a pale, red trail in the current. There were also multiple lines of scratches on his back and face.

Amiantos’ friend Timaius loudly drew the attention of the others to the wounds. "Who were you with last night Amiantos? She must have been a mountain lion."

There was laughter as the young men inspected his injuries.

"You know that Leandros got beaten up last night?" Kastor contributed. "He looks like a whole gang has laid into him. His face is a mess. Do you know anything about that Amiantos?"

"Why would I know anything?" Amiantos asked awkwardly.

Kastor winked at Timaeus. "Well, I did hear from someone that Leandros got caught poking around where he shouldn’t have been."

"Who was he poking?" one of the youths asked.

Kastor was enjoying the attention. "I'd watch out Amiantos, you don’t want Leandros as an enemy."

It was not long before Kastor, keeping secret the involvement of his twin brother Lakis in the affair, had revealed the name of Kalliope. Amiantos realised that despite all the laughter, he was actually the hero of the story. Amiantos avoided any admission of anything, but after the boys were dressed and walking to the Temple of Apollo, it was now firmly established that Amiantos had caught Leandros with Amiantos’ girl friend and had beaten him brutally. Then he had raped his own girlfriend in punishment, receiving severe scratches to his own face and back in the process.

The fact that the bare bones of the story had been worked out, most of it correctly, made Amiantos very nervous. Surely it could only be a matter of time before he was called and brought to account. While fierce rivalry between the young men in the Agoge was encouraged, there were limits, and where real injuries occurred and the fighting became public knowledge, severe punishment was likely to ensue.

For the next two days, Amiantos was unusually preoccupied with his thoughts. First was Kalliope’s betrayal. Another girl, the ‘dark flower’ had been sent in her place. She had met Amiantos in a Helot hut on Kalliope’s family estate. Therefore Kalliope must have been behind the deception. Kalliope already had a lover, Leandros, of all his contemporaries the only one that Amiantos could say he really hated. Amiantos remembered bitterly what Leandros had said to him as they marched towards Tegea, goading Amiantos about Kalliope, when all the time he was secretly meeting Kalliope himself. He thought back to the night when he caught them together. There could be no doubt that Kalliope willingly gave herself to Leandros. She was there to meet Leandros, and with his own eyes Amiantos saw her accepting Leandros, taking him to the ground on top of her with her own hands. After this there could be no possible future with Kalliope. There could be no marriage ever to this beautiful, desirable, yet faithless girl. Amiantos had no illusions about his own attractiveness and desirability. He was oversized, clumsy, born with a deformity to his ankle. In contrast, Leandros was perfection itself, handsome, well proportioned, an all round athlete. How unsurprising, but at the same time how galling that she had rejected Amiantos for such a man.

And yet in the back of his mind, overwhelmed for the time by the burning sense of betrayal, was one simple question. Why had Kalliope’s servant Meriones told him about her meeting with Leandros?

The other concern occupying Amiantos’ mind was the official retribution for his violent assault on Leandros. At every moment of the day he was on edge expecting to be called. Whenever he saw a Spartan elder approaching he was sure this was the moment. More than once he saw the Ephor Aegon standing silently watching his group at training, and he was sure that Aegon’s eyes were on him more than any other.

However, on the third morning after the Hyakinthia, it was Amiantos’ own mentor Nikanor who took him aside. "Amiantos, you’ll come with me this afternoon. We have to see someone."

Amiantos asked no questions, knowing that finally his time and come, and Nikanor said nothing more. Later Amiantos met Nikanor outside his mess club before they proceeded to a country property a little out of Sparta.

Realisation dawned as they approached a large well built home and Nikanor explained. "We’re visiting Naobe, a friend of Kalliope’s."

If anything, for Amiantos this was even worse than his expected punishment and at once he rebelled. "I’ve nothing to say to Kalliope."

"In that case you’ll have to listen," Nikanor replied sharply.

As they entered the house, Naobe and Kalliope sat on a couch close together. Kalliope’s head was uncovered. Her hair was short, bleached and dyed that day, the lamplight enhancing the golden tone. Kalliope’s expression was serious and her eyes were fixed on Amiantos.

Naobe and Nikanor greeted each other, and after Amiantos and Nikanor were ushered to stools, Naobe began. "Amiantos, your behaviour has been despicable."

The attack caught Amiantos by surprise. As Amiantos felt that he, not Kalliope, was the aggrieved party, he launched his own attack. "I’ve nothing to explain. She was with Leandros."

"You’ve hurt this poor girl badly," Naobe came back angrily. "She has bruises on her back and buttocks, and bite marks on her neck. When she came home her robe was covered in blood."

Nikanor came to Amiantos’ defence. "That must have been Leandros."

Kalliope interrupted with apparent indignation. "It was not. It was Amiantos." She turned her eyes boldly to Amiantos. "You raped me. You were so violent."

Amiantos was immediately off balance. What did she mean that he had raped her? Surely she had encouraged him. The blood rushed to his face and he looked at Nikanor in embarrassment before replying lamely, "I wasn’t violent. I don’t think I bruised her."

Kalliope kept looking at him. "You’re an animal. You don’t know your own strength." Her eyes opened wide in excitement.

"Show them your bruises," Naobe said.

As Kalliope quickly rose to comply, Nikanor forestalled her. "It won’t be necessary." He turned to Amiantos. "So you forced this girl and hurt her?"

In confusion, Amiantos backed away from the truth, glancing quickly from Nikanor to Naobe. "She betrayed me. She was with Leandros."

"I did not betray you. I didn’t let Leandros touch me," Kalliope replied, her eyes challenging him to contradict her.

Amiantos was shocked by her denial and stared at her in puzzlement. It was Nikanor who again came to the rescue. "Leandros didn’t touch you?"

Naobe interrupted. "You heard what she said."

"I have it from several that he certainly did touch you," Nikanor continued calmly, "and Amiantos caught you in the act."

Kalliope turned to Nikanor and furrowed her brow. "So you’re saying it was all right for Amiantos to rape me?" Kalliope demanded. "If people are saying Leandros touched me, they’re all lying."

Naobe read her friend’s face and frowned. "Kalliope, if you were forced by Leandros you can admit it to us. We won’t blame you."

"I will not admit it. In any case Amiantos told me he didn’t want me." She turned back to Amiantos and looked at him curiously. "You sent Leandros in your place."

It was the turn of Naobe to be shocked. "You didn’t tell me this. What do you mean?"

She looked at Naobe dismissively, "It’s not something I felt like sharing. Leandros said that Amiantos lied to everyone about me." She looked sharply again at Amiantos. "He said you told everyone in his barracks I was a whore. He said you don’t like girls," She glanced at Nikanor, "that you only love Nikanor, and you sent Leandros in your place."

Nikanor looked at her quizzically. "Who brought you the message? Was it Leandros?"

"Yes it was Leandros both times," Kalliope replied carelessly.

Amiantos jumped in, for the first time addressing her directly. "You’ve been with Leandros twice?"

Kalliope covered her mistake with a show of anger. "You can’t deny sending me a letter with that fat Helot boy."

"I wrote a letter and sent it with Kreos but I didn’t say anything about Leandros."

"Leandros wrote it for you. He came in your place. He said you hated me and loved Nikanor, but you called me a whore to everyone. He said you sent him because he was your friend."

"Do you still think he was my friend?" Amiantos demanded.

Kalliope held Amiantos’ eyes but did not reply.

Nikanor turned to Amiantos. "You told me you sent a second message to Kalliope straight after you returned from Argos. What was the message?"

"It was that I wanted to see her, and she should tell me where and when," Amiantos replied.

Kalliope interrupted. "Yes and I agreed to meet you."

"No you didn’t. You sent a message back with Kreos that you couldn’t see me."

Kalliope looked at Nikanor. "He’s lying," she said, almost in the tone of a question.

Nikanor was thoughtful for a moment. "Kalliope, Amiantos, can’t you see what happened? Think about it. Somehow Leandros intercepted Amiantos’ messages to you. I think that someone has played you." Nikanor looked at Amiantos. "One thing I’m not clear on. You said the two of you met twice before you went on the Argos expedition?"

Kalliope again interrupted, "No we didn’t."

Amiantos started to explain. "I…," then paused, realising that a full explanation would mean admitting that he had met another girl twice believing her to be Kalliope. "I sent her two messages. The first was a letter then the second was after I returned from Argos."

Naobe looked at Amiantos in surprise. "Amiantos, you must be extraordinarily stupid. You sent two messages over two months and you never even saw her once? Just how long were you going to let that go on?"

"Amiantos, when we watched Kalliope in her chariot race at the Hyakinthia you told me you’d been with her twice before," Nikanor persisted.

Kalliope looked searchingly at Amiantos. "Why are you lying? Before the Hyakinthia, we’ve never even spoken." As Amiantos lowered his head, she glanced to Nikanor. "You see he’s lying." She turned to Amiantos again. "Tell them, were you ever with me before?"

Nikanor was intently watching Amiantos for his response.

"Tell them if you were ever with me before," Kalliope repeated.

"I was not," Amiantos whispered, avoiding her eyes.

At this, Nikanor got to his feet and none too gently grasping his scarred arm, pulled Amiantos to his feet and led him out the door.

Once outside and out of hearing, Nikanor rounded on Amiantos. "Why did you lie to me that you saw her twice?"

Amiantos took a while to respond. "Nikanor, I’ll tell you the truth. After I sent the letter, Kreos came back to me with a time and place to meet her."

"Then why didn’t you meet her? Over two months passed and you did nothing."

"I went there the next night. Kreos took me to a place on Kalliope’s family property in the dark, and there was a girl who said she was Kalliope. There was no light at all, I had no way of knowing it wasn’t her."

Nikanor looked at Amiantos in astonishment. "And you met this other girl twice?"

Amiantos nodded. "When I told you I’d been with Kalliope twice, that was what I believed."

"And you never suspected it was someone else?"

Amiantos thought to himself, remembering how the girl had refused to let him call her Kalliope. "I only knew it when Kalliope kissed me."

Again Nikanor looked at Amiantos in surprise. "When did Kalliope kiss you?"

"After I fought Leandros and the other two," Amiantos replied in embarrassment. "And again after I had finished with her."

"But she said you raped her."

"I was confused," Amiantos replied. "I thought she wanted it because she kept kissing me and pulled me down on top of her."

After a moment taking in what Amiantos had just told him, Nikanor burst out into laughter, to the acute embarrassment of Amiantos. Finally recovering himself, Nikanor asked, "Why didn’t you say this when she accused you of rape?"

"I didn’t want to embarrass her," Amiantos replied quietly.

Nikanor laughed again and briefly put his arm around Amiantos affectionately. "Maybe you would be the one embarrassed." Nikanor was thoughtful for a moment. "What did you mean when you said, after you fought Leandros and the other two?"

"While I was hitting Leandros, two of his friends attacked me. One of them had a knife."

Nikanor hissed in surprise. "No wonder she kissed you. The other two were waiting for their turn." Then, turning Amiantos around, Nikanor walked with him back towards Naobe’s house.

"Amiantos, I’ll try to give you some time with Kalliope to work this out. Use your time well."

Amiantos nodded seriously.

As they entered the house, Naobe was sitting with her arm around Kalliope comforting her. Kalliope instantly turned to Amiantos and Nikanor defiantly.

Nikanor ignored Kalliope and turned his head to Naobe. "I need to speak to you privately. Come with me."

"And what about that boy?" Naobe demanded.

"He can stay here with Kalliope," Nikanor replied.

"She won’t be safe with him."

"She’ll be safer than Amiantos," Nikanor rejoined. "Do you think he’d dare do anything in your house? Anyway we’ll be close by."

Naobe was still reluctant but Kalliope turned her head away and pushed Naobe in the shoulder, signalling insistently that Naobe should go.

Finally Naobe stood. She turned to Amiantos and pointed to the stool where he had been sitting before, "Sit there. Don’t make a move and don’t say a word." She looked at Kalliope, "If he does either, shout out to me."

"You think I’m scared of him?" Kalliope replied scornfully.

As Naobe walked out with Nikanor, she looked sternly at Amiantos. "Not one word, don’t even look at her, do you understand me?"

Left alone with Kalliope, Amiantos sat in silence with his eyes lowered in obedience to Naobe’s instructions. However, with his peripheral vision he could see that Kalliope was staring at him.

After waiting until she was confident the older pair were out of earshot, Kalliope opened up. "You know Amiantos, you really are a very, very stupid boy." She waited for a while to see if he would respond. As all he did was raise his eyes to meet hers, she continued, with a flash of excitement in her eyes, "And you are really like a wild animal. I think they should have you tied up on a chain."

Kalliope went to the door, glanced outside, then came back into Amiantos’ view again. As she spoke she stood a few paces from him, taking steps one way or the other calmly and casually as the mood took her. "You know I really thought you'd sent Leandros in your place. I was lying alone and scared in the dark in that little room. Maybe it's hard for you to imagine how it is for a small girl like me waiting alone like that for a big brute like you. You know you’re almost a giant. Then it turned out it wasn't even you, and he gave me the insulting story that you didn't want me and you'd sent him in your place. He told me that you’d said these awful things to your friends about me. I didn't like that you’d sent Leandros in your place and, I’ll be honest, I was really angry at you. Naobe told me about arrangements like that, and to be blunt, Leandros was going to have me whether I liked it or not. I’ll admit it was different at the Hyakinthia and I met him willingly, but I'd been watching you and Nikanor at the chariot course. You know you looked like lovers there, so engrossed with no time for anyone but each other. So I agreed to see him again.

Amiantos, you know Leandros really is a very handsome boy. I watched him win the running race. He is a complete athlete. His body is perfectly proportioned, he's so tall, and his face is truly beautiful. He's how I'd imagine Apollo to be, or Hermes. Not quite so beautiful just at the moment though, with the bruises and his nose a bit to the side."

Again she paused, apparently enjoying the annoyance on Amiantos’ face. She continued, "Even so, he’s still far better looking than you. Next to him, it reminds me of Hephaestos next to Ares."

Kalliope's insulting reference to Hephaestos, god of the forge, and Ares the war god were not lost on Amiantos, but in case he had missed it and to reinforce the insult, she explained, "I don't know if they teach you about religion in the Agoge, but Hephaestos was the big, ugly, clumsy blacksmith god who was lame. He always walked everywhere with a limp. Even though she didn't love him, they made the golden haired Aphrodite, the most beautiful goddess of all, marry him. It's no wonder she chose to make love to the handsome war god Ares."

Kalliope observed the subtle changes in Amiantos' expression, and could tell that he was biting his tongue wanting to reply.

She continued as if he had spoken. "Amiantos, if you think I’m trying to make you jealous, you really underestimate me. I wouldn’t do anything so childish, and anyway, I don’t care enough about you to worry what you think."

She paused again to see what affect her words might be having on him. As if satisfied, she went on, "You really don't need to be jealous of Leandros. He’ll never touch me again. When I sent Meriones with the message for you to come and watch us or the marriage would be off, all I wanted to do was shame you and show you how a real man takes a woman. And you know I was as surprised as you when those other two boys came out of the dark. They were going to take turns with me next I think. Maybe I ought to be grateful to you for fighting them off. I have to admit, I found that quite exciting, especially when that boy cut your stomach with the knife. But then you ruined it by raping me yourself. Worst of all, you bled all over me. I had a real shock when I got home and found my robe was covered in your blood. You know blood stains are really hard to get out." Kalliope paused and looked again at Amiantos. "You know, if you are going to be jealous, the one you should be jealous of is Naobe." She again paused to read Amiantos’ response. "You really shouldn't stare. You look like you want to eat me."

Amiantos dropped his eyes. Kalliope told him off. "Look at me when I'm talking to you. Don't they teach you any manners?"

Amiantos met her gaze again.

She resumed. "I like that you know when to keep your mouth shut. You are very obedient. Naobe told you not to say a word, and you followed her instructions, but you’re still a brute. You know you really hurt me with those big hands of yours. I still have bruises on my body. They’re all over my back. Do you want to see them?" She turned and began lifting her tunic but abruptly stopped. "I’d show you them now if I trusted you to keep your hands off me."

Amiantos’ only response was to frown. "I showed them to Naobe," Kalliope said. "It really upsets her every time she sees them. You see, she has soft gentle hands, nothing like yours."

Kalliope paused for a few moments as if thinking. "You know, I was wondering why you told Nikanor you’d met me twice before. Did you meet someone else thinking it was me?"

Amiantos dropped his eyes for a moment.

"I hope you didn’t hurt her the way you hurt me," Kalliope continued. "You know when a girl kisses you it doesn't mean she wants you to fuck her." She paused and looked calmly at Amiantos, pleased by how he had winced at her deliberate crudity. She turned her back on him to avoid him seeing the smile she could not suppress. "You need to be better at reading unspoken signals," she continued with forced seriousness.

There was silence for a while before she turned back and walked right up to him so she stood looking down into his eyes. "Amiantos," she said quietly. "If I accept you back as my husband, I won’t be willing to sacrifice anything I love." In case he hadn't taken her meaning, she added, "Or anyone I love."

Again she paused, putting her hand on his shoulder but looking over his head as if into the distance. "Amiantos, there's a spring near my house that forms a lovely little pool. I often go there before dawn to bathe. I sometimes imagine I’m a water nymph who belongs there, naked and free. Can you imagine?" She looked down at Amiantos again. His gaze remained on her, now in bewildered fascination. "You frighten me Amiantos, you really do," she continued, her eyes betraying excitement rather than fear. "I think when I bathe there tomorrow morning I shall be afraid you’re hiding, watching me, ready to hunt me down and ravish me again." She fixed Amiantos with the same wildness he had seen before. "You know if you catch a water nymph unaware, she becomes yours for life." She paused again for effect. "But if she catches you first, you become her slave."

Hearing the sound of footsteps, Kalliope glanced towards the door then bent down to Amiantos, turning the side of her neck to him, right next to his lips. He could smell the fragrance from her hair that he now knew was saffron. She whispered in his ear. "Amiantos, I know you can’t help what a big, ugly brute you are, but don’t expect me to take you back without a gift." Then she quickly crossed the room and stood on the opposite side just before Naobe and Nikanor came back in.

Instantly Kalliope was transformed. She rounded on Amiantos. "The marriage is over. You will never touch me again." Her eyes flashed anger.

Naobe looked at Kalliope. "Now young lady, I think you and I are going to need to have some words."

Kalliope went to Naobe, taking both her hands and turning wide innocent eyes on her. "Naobe, you'll protect me from this brute."

She glanced over at Amiantos and then quickly kissed Naobe lightly on the lips. Then ignoring Naobe's annoyance she stood close beside her.

She stayed beside Naobe, pressed against her, as Nikanor and Amiantos made their goodbyes and departed.

As they walked away, Amiantos glanced back to see that Naobe and Kalliope had come out of the house and were watching him and Nikanor walking away. The moment Kalliope saw him looking, she pressed close to Naobe again, taking her hand.

Nikanor and Amiantos walked on a little further in silence, then Nikanor ventured seriously, "We need to know who got to your Helot Kreos, and just what he was told. But to be honest with you, I think I know what the answer will be."

"Aegon?" Amiantos ventured.


"Why would it matter to him?"

"He gave you a bad time at the training camp and you came out of that too well. Who knows, perhaps he’s jealous of you. It really seems like he has a personal grudge against you. But I’m sure damaging you is part of his campaign against your father." He paused before continuing. "I’m afraid the gulf between you and Kalliope may be too wide to bridge. What did you say to her while we were out?"

"I couldn’t say anything. Naobe told me not to."

Nikanor looked at Amiantos and shook his head incredulously. "Amiantos, I’m trying my hardest to get you two reconciled, but you have to make some effort yourself."

"Kalliope and Naobe are lovers," Amiantos said.

"Well I think that’s obvious. How long did it take you to work that out?"

"I didn’t work it out. Kalliope told me."

Nikanor looked at Amiantos in surprise. "I thought you didn't say a word ."

"I didn’t."

Nikanor gave another quizzical look. "It doesn't matter. Naobe is a good influence on Kalliope. She’s level headed. She’ll be doing her best to bring Kalliope round. She still believes that you forced Kalliope, but she’s more worried about Kalliope’s reputation. We are going to put it around that Kalliope thought she was meeting you as her husband to be, that you caught Leandros and his friends when he was about to rape her, and drove them off."

Nikanor glanced at Amiantos as they walked together. "As you seem to be so good at keeping your mouth shut, that’s all you need to do and we’ll get the story out. If the truth was fully known, the scandal would be very damaging to your father."

They walked on in silence for a while.

"Nikanor, I don’t know much about girls," Amiantos asked suddenly. "What kind of gift can I get her?"

"Well I’m glad to hear you’re thinking that way," Nikanor replied. "I’ll find something suitable. But I’m not sure how you’re going to give it her. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with you. Perhaps you should wait a few days and send it with a Helot. And maybe a letter of apology. Girls like that."

"It’s all right. I’ll take it myself."

Nikanor looked at Amiantos in surprise.

"Can you do a favour for me?" Amiantos continued. "Tell my trainer tomorrow morning that I’m running an errand for you and I’ll be late."

* * * *

In the small hours of the morning not long before dawn, Amiantos lay on the ground in wait at a vantage point about fifty paces from Kalliope’s house. It was a pleasant night, not too cold, and there was a little light under the waning moon.

After some time Amiantos saw Kalliope exiting the door of her house. She looked around and instantly caught sight of the present he had placed shortly before, a small decorative pot of perfumed oil. He saw her pick it up and test and smell the oil. Then after a look around, she began walking quickly away from the house.

Amiantos followed at a distance, discreetly, silently, alert for the possibility of others who might be out and about.

She went down a pathway leading through trees to lower ground. She entered a clearing, at the bottom of which was a pool of water from a spring. Amiantos stopped at the edge of the clearing.

At the water’s edge she slipped off her clothes and entered the water. A few moments later she was out of the water, and under the half light of the moon she slowly turned around, scanning the boundaries of the clearing to see if she was alone. To Amiantos it really was as if he had stumbled in the dark on a water nymph unawares, and like young men in the myths, become bewitched by the more than mortal beauty before him. Mesmerised by what he was seeing, Amiantos remained motionless.

She stayed there a while, glancing in different directions. At one point her eyes stared directly at Amiantos, but as he was in the shadow of a tree she did not see him. She turned away again, and this time Amiantos slipped off his cloak, and broke cover running towards her. The sounds of his foot steps alerted her and she immediately turned and ran, naked, round the pool, and into the forest itself. Amiantos ran after her. Within a few strides he had lost sight of her so he stopped to listen. There was no sound, so she had stopped also. She must be very close by. Only a little moonlight penetrated the forest and Amiantos began moving forward, stealthily, silently, so that if she moved he would hear. He looked both sides of him trying to find where she was hiding. He continued for a while and began to wonder what had happened to her. Checking round the broad trunk of a tree, he heard the sound of her feet in the undergrowth. Before he could actually see her, she emerged from behind the tree and leapt onto his back, her arms wrapping around his neck and her legs clinging around his waist. Amiantos very quickly overpowered her and took her to the ground, kneeling astride her and pinning her arms to the ground.

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