At the Hot Gates


At The Hot Gates

The newest work by Donald Samson
From AWSNA Publications

It's the year 480 BC and the greatest army ever gathered in the ancient world is on the march to conquer all of Greece. An irresistible force, they are destroying whatever dares to stand in their path. One man steps forward to stop them, followed by 300 companions. His chances are next to nil; yet he goes. This man is Leonidas. And his companions are Spartans. They go to stop the Persian advance and meet their destiny at the narrows known as The Hot Gates....


They trotted me along, roughly, yet not unkindly. We came into the clearing where the camp was settled. I could smell the food on the cook fires. The strong aroma set my stomach off and it began to growl loudly. I was shamed by it, but had no way to stop it.
"Hungry, boy?"
A Spartan admits no weakness. I remained silent.
"You'll have to steal what you eat."
"And if you're caught, you'll be beaten."
So what was different? I'd been stealing food since I turned seven and was taken away from my mother and my sisters to live with the other boys. My brothers had all gone before me, so I was proud when my turn came. We all stole food in my agela. They never fed us enough. They expected us to steal and to learn how to do it without getting caught. The punishment was a flogging—for getting caught, not for stealing. Stealing was how I had stayed alive following the troops. I'd been trained well. I didn't need to eat, anyway. I looked up at my captors. They were smiling in their beards, as if reading my thoughts. We entered the camp.
"Look what we caught for breakfast," Hamides called out. Eyes glanced up. Many stood and walked over to us. I knew what they wanted to know. I looked around, and, although he was the reason I had come, I dreaded seeing him. For the moment, though, I was saved this disgrace.
"Shall we roast him whole?" one asked.
"I say cut him into little pieces and boil him in a stew. He'll feed more," another said, picking up a knife and testing its edge. "I'm tired of barley cakes. Let's make a black broth out of him."
Their expressions were somber and I could not hear joking in their words. I broke into a cold sweat. One of the men came over to me, peered into my face, and pinched the skin over my ribs between his hard fingers. When I didn't react, he pinched harder. I stared defiantly back into his face, pressing my lips together, but I never flinched. He could rip the skin off, I wasn't going to make a sound.
He snorted and let go. "Spartan flesh makes a lean meal," he commented.
"Give me a fat Persian!" Now there was lots of laughter, and the somber mood I had felt was lifted.

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