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‘You will not get to meet your friend, the ore merchant,’ said Theron. ‘He came by two days ago and left this for you.’

He reached under the table and produced an article, about twice the size of a fist, wrapped in pigskin hide.

Alastor loosened the knots and found a heavy rock: a lodestone. There was a map scratched on the inside of the parchment.

‘Your friend said to tell you, and he showed great regret, that he cannot supply metal ores, not this year, not ever,’ said Theron.

‘Did he say more, where he was going?’ asked Alastor.

‘No, but he looked feeble, as if afflicted by some cursed illness. He undertook the journey to give you that which you hold in your hands,’ said Theron. ‘He said something about making amends for disappointing you.’

Alastor considered the lodestone and then the map. The tale his merchant friend had once related, came back.

‘That’s right,’ said Theron, having read Alastor’s expression. ‘He said you’ll know what needs to be done.’

Then, having reached a decision, Alastor gulped his drink and sat down at a low table while Theron prepared a meal of roast pork, barley bread, figs and wine.

Alastor’s room, smelling of smoked timber and leather, was small, about the width of outstretched hands, and the length of a man’s height and a half. A window, with a shutter to keep out the weather or a tossed torch, sat high on one wall. And in a night such as this, the shuttered window will also keep out the wolves. A second window, this on the slanting roof, let in the moonlight, though the moon itself was not in his line of sight. An arrangement of ropes and pulleys allowed him to draw a sliding door over the opening but, with the window shuttered, Alastor decided to keep the roof window open.

The furnishing was Spartan: a wooden pallet for bed, and by its head, a wicker basket and wooden chest for storage. An oil lamp, made of pottery clay, rested on the wooden chest which also served as a stool. There was also a ewer of water and a small basin. He decided against lighting the oil lamp, for the moonlight sufficed and, moreover, he did not relish a smoky room.

Alastor dropped his sturdy wooden staff on the brackets set on both sides of the door, barring it from the inside. He removed his baldric and sword; the labrys, his trusty double-headed axe; and, his heavy waist belt. Rolling his shoulders and twisting his neck, he eased off the numbness and felt light and comfortable.

He pulled out a himation from his roll, for use as a cover when the night turned cold, and patted and straightened a bag to serve as a pillow. Dressed only in tunic, he stretched out on the bed. Remembering something, he sighed and bent his knees to his chest, and undid and kicked off the sandals.

‘Ah!’ He moved his toes and relished the cool air soothing his soles. Suddenly, tiredness sneaked up and dragged him into sleep.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***

Context: Just a little peek into how the ancient Greeks (might have) lived.

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