Fall of the Trident @lord22
Dark Signs

Chapter Four: Dark Signs
It was morning, some weeks later, when Arkantos met the youths at the northern perimeter. They ranged from Kastor's age to Zethos' and not all of them were eager. Some of them would be growing up sooner than expected, some late. Arkantos them into the training grounds he'd established. A new barracks had been erected to replace the one that had fallen into disrepair. Now the men were drilling in the yard. Each one carried a nine-foot-long spear and wore a huge shield of wood. They bore leather rather than metal armor. But under Zethos' instruction, they were making great strides.

Even now, they were thrusting in unison and practicing maneuvers. While still on the basics, they were strong enough to hold a position. Zethos himself was walking before them, clad in full armor, one hand clenching a sword at his side. On his helm was an iron helm. "The enemies of our people are many and of every kind. It is the nature of savages and barbarians to envy the greatness of Poseidon's Empire.

"But you are Atlanteans.

"When they come against us, they shall be impaled on our spears like waves against the rocks of the land."

Arkantos was not overly fond of the comparison since it implied the inferiority of the sea. Even so, as Zethos drilled the men, he appreciated the man's capabilities. Eventually, Zethos came to him, and Arkantos nodded. "Our militia appear to be advancing well, Zethos."

"Yes, sir," said Zethos, looking to them. "They are eager to fight and fast to learn." He glanced at the others. "Who are these?"

"These men are the youths from the northern villages; they will be joining with you for the training," said Arkantos. "I want this island capable of waging war when the time comes. As it will." He looked to where Mynus was observing as well. "Mynus, what news is there of the fortifications?"
Mynus nodded. "We have erected the walls and towers as you desired, Arkantos. However, are you certain this is necessary?"

"Of course," said Arkantos. "Even if these pirates do not warrant it, you must have fighting men."

And so the training continued, and Arkantos busied himself with construction and preparations. A watch was kept overlooking the sea at all times on the cliffs, and Zethos drilled the men constantly. Soon towers were erected on the approaches made from wood quickly. Stone would have to come later, but archers were posted within them.

Another week passed, and Arkantos felt his first sense of homesickness. He wondered how Kastor was getting on, and if the boy felt he'd been cheated somehow. The glory of battle was something all young men sought, and so they should, but Arkantos had wanted him to wait a bit.

Messages arrived from Krios, indicating that several pirate ships had been sighted. Most had been off the shore of Atlantean islands. Troops were dispatched to reinforce them. Arkantos' junior officers were eager to escape his shadow.

It was not one he'd cast by design, and so he did not begrudge them it. And then, one day, a man approached Arkantos as he sharpened his spear.

"Admiral?" said the man.

"Yes," asked Arkantos, looking up.

"A centaur is here to speak with you from afar." said the man. "He claims to represent his people."

A centaur? That was unusual. Arkantos knew that centaurs dwelled on this island, of course. For the most part, they kept to themselves, except for certain festivals. Arkantos had been forced to fight centaur clans once or twice in his career. The business had been unpleasant, to say the least. They were great marksman, and could move so quickly they were hard to engage.

The worst of them had a tendency to carry off beautiful maidens for their own ends. The better ones took after the legendary Chiron, reading stars and speaking philosophy. Much like men, they could be despicable and noble. Though there were fewer shades of gray among them.

"Let him come forward," said Arkantos.

The centaur was one of the younger ones, galloping forward toward him. He had a short, black beard and curly hair, and wore a quiver and bow over one shoulder. As he neared, he bowed his torso respectfully. "Greetings, Admiral Arkantos, I bear word from my people. In a dream, the Goddess Aphrodite appeared before us and commanded that we come to your aid."

"Then you centaurs are welcome among us," said Arkantos. "If you are ready to aid in our mutual defense, I will need you as scouts. Seek for any sign of our enemies. When they arrive, we must be ready."

"It shall be as you say, of course." said the centaur. "I will bring news to them. However, you should know that we have read the signs. We see a time of great catastrophe coming, a time when the gods themselves may come under threat."

"Are you certain?" asked Arkantos. "Such predictions seem... extreme. I had thought the war for Troy was coming to an end."

"Troy is but the beginning." said the centaur. "A symptom of a divine conflict long foretold by the fates. What was once before may be again. And what is may well pass away forever."

Arkantos nodded. It was never wise to disregard prophecies. Then again, it was also never wise to break one's moral code in an attempt to prevent them. Best to just ignore the matter and act in the interests of Atlantis. So he spoke politely and organized the scouting with the centaurs.

On the preparations went, and no sign came of the pirates. Arkantos began to wonder if he was not jumping at shadows. Even so, the work he was doing was important, even if no pirates were coming.

"The temple is progressing well," said Arkantos to Mynus as they walked before it.

"Yes," said Mynus. "It will take some time to complete, but not too long. Our efforts were blessed. With luck, it will appease the gods and ward off any further enmity."

Over the past few weeks, the ruins had been cleared of moss and vines to reveal pillars and flagstones. Pillars that had been toppled were set back up, as the damaged stone was replaced. Even now, a wooden skeleton had been erected to finish the roof. The statue of Zeus stood at the far end.

The Patriarch of the Gods had been restored some of his dignity.

Soon enough, Arkantos found that he had less and less to do. That was one irritation of command, if everything was going well, you needed only to watch. The temple continued to be built, the men continued to drill.

Then, upon the day of the construction of the temple, Arkantos was looking down from the cliffs onto the sea. Zethos was beside him, and they saw it. A fleet of ships, bearing black sails and a red symbol upon them like the horns of a minotaur.

It was a symbol that burned in Arkantos' mind like a brand. He'd seen this symbol in his dreams, but not yet the one it was made to represent. He'd change that someday.

"Look there, pirate ships!" said Zethos.

Arkantos did not let his rage show beyond tightening the grip on his spear. "Those might be Kamos' pirates. Quick, back to camp. We'll prepare a welcome they won't soon forget."

And back they went. Soon enough, the militia was rallied as word was sent to the centaurs to watch. There was an unbearable scurrying that Arkantos oversaw as men gathered their spears. Soon they were assembled, and then there was just the waiting.

Arkantos paced, wondering if Kamos himself was here.

It would be a blessing from the Gods, indeed if he were to have his chance to avenge his wife. Even so, Arkantos doubted Kamos would come personally with so small a force. The Minotaur King did raid personally, but only with vast armies.

"Arkantos, the enemy is approaching." said a centaur scout.

Arkantos almost smiled as he took charge. "Rally the men, prepare for battle. Get the women and children into the town center and have the archers stand by. We must prepare to face the enemy."

And so the final moments came as people took their belongings into the fortress. The newly assembled hoplites formed up, readying their spears. They had been trained well, and Arkantos was confident they would be enough.

He arrayed his army beneath the gaze of the watchtowers, with the centaurs ready to fire from the trees. More waiting, and then the pirates rounded the corner and halted. They numbered a smaller amount than Arkantos had been expecting, far smaller. As they looked at the Atlantean lines, they faltered.

Obviously, they had been expecting an easy victory and a lucrative sack. They would find nothing here, save an early grave.

"Charge!" called Arkantos.

Arrows were loosed en masse into the pirates, whose spears and light armor did them little help. Many fell in moments, and then the hoplite formation hit them like a tidal wave. Their lines buckled and faltered, most dying or fleeing in moments as spears pierced them.

"The enemy are retreating!" said Arkantos, not willing to give them time to regroup. "After them, let none escape!"

The Atlantean army pursued the pirates, but could not overtake them. Kamos' pirates went lightly clad, for the most part, and it was difficult to keep the ranks in order. By the time Arkantos and his men reached their camp, he found them assembling for war.

They had been pitching tents moments ago, and their ships were all moored on the beach. They hadn't even come to Arkantos with their full force. Did they really think it would be that easy?

Arkantos was actually insulted. If they'd put any effort into this, they'd have known there were defenders on this island. Instead, they'd delayed until he'd been able to train up a significant militia. And then they hadn't even come down with their full army.

He noted an Anubite rallying them.

"Form up!" called Arkantos. "Prepare for-" And then the sky went dark. Looking up, Arkantos saw a vast black thing in the sky, like an eye of fire. It was shooting down toward them even now. "What is that... Draw back quickly!"

His men obeyed orders, and they pulled away. Even as they did, however, it struck. A meteor descended and smashed into the midst of the pirate camp. Others fell soon after, and the enemy was scattered. Flaming stones burned and smashed them. Each collision smashed vast craters in the earth. Their ships were hit and blasted to splinters, sending vast waves into the air. The earth shook with the barrage as tree were thrown apart.

At last, it was over.

Dust was in the air, and Arkantos and his men stared at the shattered remnants of the camp. Had they been a bit swifter, that should have destroyed them. Arkantos praised the gods and thought about what the centaur had said.

"What was that?" asked Zethos.

"The wrath of the gods," said Arkantos.

"What... what happened?" asked a man. "Why would the gods unleash such an onslaught for mere pirates? Even ones ruled by Kamos."

"I do not think they were targetting our enemies," said Arkantos. "It may well have been a warning." Then he moved forward and turned to the soldiers. Raising his spear, he shouted aloud. "Victory is ours, well done men!"

There was a cheer of victory, as Arkantos moved to Zethos. "Break camp and load the ships. We sail for Atlantis with the tide."

"Already?" said Zethos. "What of the construction-"

"They are at the point where they can continue it," said Arkantos. "And you've taught them enough to defend this place. Make sure they know to keep drilling, I'll send some men to take your place when I get back.

"This rain of meteors means something, and I must consult the Temple of Poseidon."

Zethos nodded.

The pirate attack had been... disappointing, all things considered. For the first time in his life, Arkantos felt genuinely old.

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