Vengeance of Orion

Free Vengeance of Orion by Ben Bova

Book: Vengeance of Orion by Ben Bova Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ben Bova
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction
of teenagers were lounging in the open gateway, their inevitable long spears resting against the stone wall. A few more stood on the battlements above.
    Inside, a broad packed-earth street led between buildings that seemed no more than two stories tall. The moon's pale cold light only made the shadows of their shuttered fronts seem deeper and darker. It must have been well past midnight. Hardly anyone was stirring along this main street or in the black alleyways leading off it, not even a cat.
    Polydamas was not a wordy fellow. In virtually total silence he led me to a low-roofed building and into a tiny room lit by the fluttering yellow-blue flame of a small copper oil lamp sitting on a three-legged wooden stool. There was a single narrow bed and a chest of cedarwood, nothing else. A rough woolen blanket covered the bed.
    "You will be summoned to the king's presence in the morning," said Polydamas, his longest speech of the night. With not another word he left me, closing the wooden door softly behind him.
    And bolting it.
    With nothing better to do, I undressed, pulled back the scratchy blanket, and stretched out on the bed. It was springy; a thin mattress of feathers atop a webbing of ropes.
    As I started to drowse off I suddenly realized that the Golden One might invade my dreams once again. For a while I tried to stave off sleep, but my body got the better of my will, and inevitably my eyes closed. My last waking thought was to wonder how I might make contact with some of the other Creators, with the Zeus who regarded the Golden One's plans so questioningly, with the woman who openly opposed him.
    But if I did dream, I had no memory of it when I was awakened by the door bolt snapping back. I sat up, immediately alert, and reached for the dagger that I had unstrapped, but left on the bed between my body and the wall.
    A serving woman backed into the room, carrying a basin and a jug of water. When she turned and saw me sitting there naked, she smiled, made a little curtsy, and deposited the pottery atop the cedarwood chest. Then she backed out of the room and shut the door. Outside, I could hear the giggling of several women.
    A Trojan man entered my room after a single sharp rap on the door. He seemed more a courtier than a warrior. He was fairly tall but round-shouldered, soft-looking, with a bulging middle. His beard was quite gray, his pate balding, his tunic richly embroidered and covered with a long sleeveless robe of deep green.
    "I am to conduct you to King Priam's audience chamber, once you have had your morning meal."
    Diplomacy moved at a polite pace; I was glad of it. The Trojan courtier led me to the urinals in the back of the house, then back to my room for a quick washup. Breakfast consisted of fruit, cheese, and flat bread, washed down with goat's milk. We ate in the large kitchen that fronted the house. Half the room was taken up by a big circular hearth, under an opening in the roof. It was cold and empty except for a scattering of gray ashes that looked as if they had been there a long time.
    Through the kitchen's open window I could see men and women going about their morning chores. Serving women attended us, eyeing me curiously. The courtier ignored them, except to give orders for more figs and honey.
    Finally we walked out along what seemed to be Troy's only major street, sloping gently uphill toward a majestic building of graceful fluted columns and a steeply pitched roof. Priam's palace, I guessed. Or the city's main temple. Perhaps both. The sun was not high yet, but still it felt much warmer here in the street than out on the windy plain.
    "Is that where we're going?" I pointed.
    The courtier bobbed his head. "Yes, of course. The king's palace. A more splendid palace doesn't exist anywhere in the world—except perhaps in Egypt, of course."
    I was surprised at how small the city actually was. And crowded. Houses and shops clustered together tightly. The street was unpaved, and sloped like a V so

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