Grigori Karpin
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8 August, 425 BCE

Temple of the Many Hands Society

Euboea shifted his grey woolen cloak as he sat at the head of the table. The bronze circlet atop his brow tilted as he sat forward, he adjusted it brushing his long brown hair away from his face. Around the table sat the thirteen elders of the Many Hands Society, the wise cult of the Hecatoncheires. Their ages ranged from the young thirties to the most ancient at sixty-two years old.

Despite his youthful appearance, his was the seat of leadership. As the son of Briareos, highest of the Many Handed, he who watches over humanity, his was the right to claim leadership.

The noise in the meeting room was incessant, the elders holding several simultaneous conversations, interrupted only by the servants pouring of wine and serving olives and feta.

Euboea took a cup from a servant and received wine, bring it to his lips. He drank slowly, letting his tongue savor the richness. But when his cup was drained, he turned it over on the rough table. Sunlight filtered through the slotted skylight above the table, making the spilled droplets of wine shine.

The conversation had not been quelled by his presence. The words came at a clipped pace, overlapping one another, several of the elders gesturing in animated fashion.

“Enough.”

They did not hear him, still lost in their anxious mutterings.

“ENOUGH.”

The room grew silent, all eyes on him. He waved the servants away and waited for their absence to speak again.

“I have called this meeting to discuss our plans in the face of these momentous times.”

“Do you have a plan, Euboea? I have seen no mention of a plan!” The older man at the far end of the table slammed his cup to they wooden table. “We quibble, we debate. We sit in quiet contemplation for your father and his family’s wisdom to grace us. But we do not plan! The world is burning!”

“Calm yourself, Asklepion. There is no need for such rash words towards your master.”

The older man’s opened slightly and his mouth looked ready to begin again, when another held out his hand in front of the older man and patted his arm.

“Wise Asklepion only speaks of what we are all anxious, Euboea,” said Mattias. The younger man’s wiped wine from his short black beard. “Athens and Sparta’s peace has not lasted and the Kings of Sparta command their spears forward again. How long before dread Sparta burns the whole world in their pursuit of domination?”

Euboea waited a moment for the man to continue, but when he did not, the Master spoke: “It is not solely Sparta that craves control over the Peloponnesus. Athens too is bloodthirsty in its attempt to ‘defend’ against the Spartan aggression. They both pull in the smaller polis to this conflagration. So, it is not as simple as defending against Sparta.”

Asklepion spoke up as soon as Euboea has finished. “But it is Sparta that is scant ten miles to our south. Sparta is the greater threat to our survival.”

Euboea took an olive from the platter and popped it into his mouth. He chewed the meat and spit out the pit on the ground. “Your focus on Sparta wouldn’t have anything to do with your many friends in the Athenian bible families, would it Asklepion?”

“My loyalty is to this temple!”

“I have no doubt, that you will have ample time to prove where your loyalties lie, Elder.”

The old man sat very still at hearing his master’s words, but after a moment spoke again. “It is only the survival of the Temple that concerns me, Master. If we ally ourselves with Athe-“

“Enough! Cease your prattling! You have ever sought to tie our fates with the Delian League throughout the many years of this conflict. Despite my unwavering demand that we remain independent from these fools!”
Euboea stood and paced at the far end of the table. “We cannot be seen as taking sides in this mundane conflict! Our goals, our very principles, demand that we focus on the ordered progress of mankind. Progress that can only be sought through the light of my Father!”

Jocasta spoke next: “If we can stop posturing, would you tell us what you intend to do?”

Euboea took a breath and nodded at the Elder. “You’re right to chastise us, Jocasta. Too hot, our tempers of late. My apologies, Asklepion.”

“As am I, Master.”

Euboea sighed and bent to pour himself some wine. “I propose we call the missionaries back from Hellene society. And once the faithful are secured here at the temple, I say we withdraw from political life entirely. At least until these aggressions have played themselves out and some status quo is reestablished.”

Several of the Elders took in breath sharply. Mattias and Jocasta shared a look, she shook her head.

“Euboea, you cannot be serious!” Mattias said. “Such an action would be in contravention of the scrolls. We are to minister to the peoples of Greece and guide them to their pinnacle, in the light of Briareos.”

“I’m well aware of what the scrolls say, Mattias. I wrote them.”

Euboea took his seat and sipped from his cup. He brushed at some spilled wine on the table. “Despite the fact that we have not taken an action before, we cannot trust these bloodthirsty men with our wisdoms if they would use them to annihilate each other.”

The Elders were quiet at this, looking at one another. Euboea spoke again: “I will not force you to do this, I propose we vote on it. But know that I speak with my Father’s authority. Due consideration was taken in this proposal. What say you, Elders?”

Jocasta raised her hand. “I will support this proposal. Let them kill each other and leave us well out of it.”

One by one, eight other Elders raised their hands and spoke in support. Euboea noticed neither Mattias nor Asklepion voiced support for the proposal.

“So be it, you Elders have spoken. Issue the correspondence today. Get our people home as soon as is possible.”


That evening, after the messengers had been sent to each of the great cities, Euboea stood on the Temple’s roof. He looked out at the dark plains of this land he had spent the better part of a century in. Jocasta approached from the stairs and sat on the bench next to where he stood.

“Athens and Thebes will be displeased with this action, Euboea. But I am most worried about the weight of this day’s decision when thinking on the Spartan kings.”

“I know. Sparta has ever been keen on learning our secrets for their advantage. I remember when Leonidas convinced me to visit his palace and tried to ply with wine and then threats. We almost came to blows…”

Jocasta rose and stood next to Euboea. “They will take this as an insult. Personally to their royal selves.”

“If they do, so be it. If needs must, I can do much damage to their vaulted palaces to cow their rage.”

Jocasta looked at Euboea, holding her gaze on his face. He did not return her look, instead looking to the Southwest and Sparta.

“They have never fought such as me.”

ProjectHeca

12 February, 424 BCE

Temple of the Many Hands Society

Euboea clapped hands with the newest arrivals, two missionaries from Thebes.

“Has everyone arrived safely?” one man asked.

“For the most part, yes. The emissary you’re Sparta never returned home, and I fear the worst of poor Clemenestra. She may be doomed as her namesake, I cannot tell,” Euboea responded.

The man shook his head and shouldered his bag, heading into the temple. Exactly one hundred priests and priestesses of the Society were back under the Temple’s roof for the first time in a decade.

Euboea noted a dust plume coming from the South and heard the frantic clip of a horse pushed to its limits. Soon a chariot carrying a woman in dark woolen robes like himself and a man in rough leather armor stopped mere feet from the foot of the Temple stairs.

Clemenstra stepped down from the chariot and stumbled. Euboea sped to her aid and helped her up, embracing her before she could speak. Her breathing was ragged against his neck.

“Master, they are coming.”

“Who, Priestess?”

“The Spartans, they mobilize their troops, at least a thousand spears and head this way. They said it was to counterattack the Delian league, but I fear they will come here.”

“What happened to you?” He looked at her bruised face and the way she stood favoring her right leg.

“Brasidas killed the messenger when he came months ago, and they locked me in a cage.”

“Brasidas… that is not one of the two Kings.”

“Nay, he is a general but all of Sparta follows his word. He leads the contingent headed to the North.”

She shook as she gasped the next words: “But it was the kings who had me tortured for weeks. Left almost to starve and then beaten again and again. They wanted our secrets, our magics and rituals.”

“Oh my daughter. I should never have sent anyone to their court. Brutal apes, these Spartans be.”

“I told them that I could not teach them our ways, that they would have to submit to your teachings the way we all do. But they did not believe me. This kind Helot took pity on me a week ago and freed me from my cage.”

Euboea looked at the disheveled man, his armor rough and his hair wild. “Thank you, stranger. I know this was a terrible risk.”

“Damn them all, they treat my people as cattle and encourage the young boys to torture and kill us for sport. I could not bare to see them treat a priestess in such a manner, even though your ways are not my own.”

“Come inside, both of you. Rest and drink. There will be time enough to tell me of the news.”

ProjectHeca

One week later.

The Council of Elders had damned him for a fool for this decision but it was their own vote which made dictated their course. Euboea looked down at the thirty or so men and women finishing the wooden spike barriers surrounding the Temple. In front of the barriers was a trench 5 feet deep and another 5 feet wide. The Spartan chariots would not fare well with these preparations. He would force them to fight on foot, under a barrage of arrows and his followers magic.

But if Clemenestra is correct and a thousand spears come this way, my children will have difficulty holding them off.

From the lower halls of the Temple he heard the local forge masters at their work. Never before had the Many Hands needed weapons and armor.

He sat on the edge of the Temple roof with a thump. Held his head in his hands, and took a shaking breath.

We must resist. Too much effort has been laid in these halls to give up now. And my Father, absent once more. Damn his faceless indifference. A hundred years I have made this place my home, I will not let the brutal bastards take it from me.

He stood and walked down the stairs, picked up another sharpened log and carried it towards the barrier wall. As he lashed it to the structure he saw the large dust plume from the south.

Not long now.

ProjectHeca

The next day.

Easily a thousand spears stood but s hundred yards from the barrier and trench. Forming a wide circle, their shields held edge to edge, bronze spearpoints catching the early morning light.

Behind the line, Euboea could see a short stocky man in brilliant bronze armor. His shield on his back, as he rode a horse from unit to unit.

So this is dread Brasidas. He does not look like much. But if half of what Clemenestra has told me is true, he is a master strategist and spear fighter in his own right.

Euboea looked to the roof of the Temple, seeing 5 priests and priestesses holding their hands up and chanting. The arrows had been burning to ash as they arced towards his followers’ positions.

Let them come on foot, and face us as equals.

Suddenly, the Spartan shields were held high above their heads as they rushed towards the trench. At fifty yards he raised his palms outwards and let arcs of flame fly toward the Spartan line. Two dozen fell screaming, then another. But the line kept advancing and suddenly they were at the trench.

He let the first Spartans climb down into the trench before he called, “Now, my children!”

Twenty or more of the priests and priestesses started chanting in the old tongue, and a wall of blue flame erupted from the trench. Two hundred Spartans fell in seconds, and Euboea thought: Let it be enough.

But Brasidas has other plans, he screamed to his men and wide wooden planks flew across the trench and hundreds of the bastards were climbing the barrier.

“Spears!” Euboea called to his children and fifty men and women in rough bronze armor stepped to the barrier and began trying to hold back the tide.

Euboea picked up and spear and threw it with all his might, barely missing Brasidas and pinning two Spartans to the desert earth. He picked up another spear and approached the barrier. Charred, the barrier served less protection than he had hoped and several Spartans were chopping at the ties that bound the logs.

He ran to the weak spot just as the bindings were splitting and kicked with all his might, sending ten men flying into the now diminished flames of the trench.

But his kick was too strong, and

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