Nicias and Styphon got the Athenians and Spartans working together to fortify their position. Timocrates and Antiphas, the Athenian and Spartan seconds, worked side by side. Porocleon of Olympia had command of the 167 Spartan allies, members of the Peloponnesian League that had also been held captive in Athens for four years. Lesycles of Thebes did the same for the Athenian allies who came along for the ride.
Lesycles wanted to kill one in ten Spartans to send the message of what would happen if they did not keep the peace, but Nicias overruled him. He knew the Spartans would see that as an offense to their pride. If they gave their word for peace, that should be enough. The decimation of the prisoners would have only angered the Spartans to continue the war. Maybe that was what Lesycles wanted. Now, if Ophelia was to be believed, he was glad to have the Spartans standing out front to face the enemy.
Ophelia got left in her tent with the Athenian Tellis and Zeuxides, who had been a good friend of her husband. Zeuxides knew, but Tellis stifled his own shriek when Ophelia called and a man appeared out of thin air, or rather, an elf, pointed ears and all. Ophelia ignored Tellis.
“Yes, lady,” Labium said.
“An explorer? A scout ship?”
“No, lady. It is a patrol-transport.”
“Damn,” Ophelia swore.
“Trouble?” Zeuxides asked.
“Double trouble,” she answered, before she explained. “A typical patrol ship will be crewed by nine to fifteen Humanoids. They patrol the solar system where they are based, and keep watch on whatever colonies or outposts might be in operation. You might think of them as small ships that watch the coast for enemies or intruders. A patrol-transport is a bigger ship that can supply colonies with men, equipment or food stuffs. In a pinch, they can be used to transport troops to an outpost or colony that might be under attack. They might carry as many as a hundred Wolvs on a short trip.”
Zeuxides whistled. “If these Wolvs are as formidable as you say, and I do not doubt that, having seen the remains of the night guard—and no dead Wolvs, I might add, though they may have taken their wounded with them—that sounds like a lot to contend with.”
“But that isn’t the worst of it,” Ophelia shouted. “Patrol ships are not built for long distance travel. A patrol ship means they have to have come from a nearby star, and only a half-dozen would qualify, I would guess. Tau Ceti, or maybe Epsilon Eridani. They would be candidates, about ten to twelve light years away. That means we have a humanoid house staking a claim in our back yard.”
“When you say star, you mean…” Tellis looked up at the roof of the tent, swallowed and pointed… “Star.”
“What do you mean, house?” Zeuxides asked a question Ophelia could at least try to answer.
“Think of the Humanoid Empire like Greece, but with an emperor—a kind of high king, like Agamemnon was in the Trojan War. The houses are like cities, all but independent, but sworn in allegiance back and forth across the stars.”
“More medieval,” Ophelia said. “More complicated,” she clarified, since the men would have no way of knowing what medieval meant. “Like Megara is pledged to Athens in one way, has long term economic ties to Thebes, has other contracts with Corinth about shipping, and a long friendship with Argos. So, when Corinth attacks Argo and Athens comes to the aid of Argo, but Thebes wants to stay out of it, which way does Megara go?”
“Complicated,” Zeuxides got the gist of it.
“So, we have a house in our back yard, and you can be sure they are looking at our world as a world to feast on.”
“But what about us?” Tellis understood something. “We are living here.”
“They bring tens of thousands of Wolvs here, and those humans, Spartans and Athenians, that don’t get eaten would become their slaves. We need to discourage that idea from the beginning.” Ophelia brushed everything off the table in the tent and got out a map of the area. “Labium. Show me on this map, where they are and how many, as best as you know and what house?”
“House of Lachkar,” Labium said, as he stepped up to examine the map. “Isthmia?” Labium pointed and asked.
Ophelia nodded. “Corinth is the big spot. We are about here, just on the isthmus, down from Sidius. This is Isthmia in the middle between Corinth and us.”
“They are in Isthmia.” Labium tapped the map. He paused to catch the drool that tried to slide out of his oversized lower lip. “Best guess is ten Humanoids and about fifty Wolvs in the village. They have the villagers completely cowered, but have not eaten many yet. Less than a quarter league from here are twenty more Wolvs under three Humanoids. They are scouting the area, examining the flora and fauna, and specifically looking for military information. Your group of roughly eight hundred affords them a perfect opportunity for testing.”
“Tough luck on us.” Ophelia said, and stopped when she had a sudden thought. “Fifty, plus ten Wolvs still on the ship, plus twenty here, makes eighty. Did they explore the isthmus in the other direction, like towards Corinth?”
“I was just coming to that.” Labium sipped. “Twenty more, with three more Humanoids are headed in that direction.”
“Damn,” Ophelia spouted. “Who do we have down there? Bergeron,” she commanded, and a dwarf deked out for battle appeared in their midst.
“What? What?” Bergeron appeared confused for a moment. “Labium,” he acknowledged the elf before he turned to Ophelia. “No, before you speak. We got our eyes on the Wolv and a plan to turn them back before they get to the city.”
“You will do no such thing. The humans have to defend themselves. I won’t have any of your people killed defending the human race.”
Zeuxides stepped up and spoke. “Corinth has stout walls and a strong garrison.”
Ophelia shook her head. “Wolv weapons will make holes in the wall and they will run right in. As for the garrison, nothing disarms a man faster than panic. Better they check the city and decide to not try it without reinforcements. They could eat Corinth in a couple of days of feasting.”
“Keep me apprised of developments. If it looks like they are going to test the city, let me know. We will decide what to do when that time comes.”
Bergeron looked mollified a little. She did not say when that time came that she would not let the dwarfs fight.
“And my people?” Labium asked.
“Keep an eye on Isthmia and on that ship, and please ask Prissy to come see me.” She clapped her hands and Bergeron vanished.
“Miss Prissy is here?” Zeuxides brightened.
“Miss Priscilla and her whole troop have been following since Athens, and trying to hide,” Ophelia said, though her eyes stayed on the map.
“I told her it wouldn’t work, that you would know.” Labium grinned.
Ophelia smiled for the elf. “And you were right. Thank you for all you do.” She clapped. Labium bowed as he vanished.
“Miss Prissy?” Tellis asked that much before two lights zoomed into the room. One landed on Ophelia’s shoulder, though being a married woman, Ophelia had her hair cut short, so she had no locks for Priscilla to hide in. The other light landed on the map.”
“Flaves, old man,” Zeuxides smiled for the fairy who was Prissy’s husband.
“Zeuxides, young man,” the fairy responded. “Are you ready to go to war?”
“Always,” Zeuxides grinned, before Ophelia interrupted.
Zeuxides grabbed the man before he could run out of the tent, screaming. The elf he could accept. If he ignored the lip and the pointed ears, he looked human enough. The dwarf he could pretend was a short, stout man with an extra-long, untrimmed beard. Fairies, however, became too much. His eyes stayed wide as he stared at Flaves.
“Please get big. That might help our friend here,” Ophelia asked Flaves.
“Me too?” Prissy said in her ear.
In a moment, a very fine man dressed in armor appeared beside a most beautiful woman, one who appeared a bit shy. Ophelia watched Tellis take a breath and let it out slowly, as she introduced them. “Flaves and Priscilla, this is Tellis, Athenian from Marathon.”
Flaves bowed and Priscilla curtseyed because they were sensitive enough to know a handshake would have been too much for the man.
“G-good to meet you,” Tellis stuttered.
“So, tell me about the twenty Wolvs and three humanoids not far from here,” Ophelia said, having little patience for formalities.
“Of course,” Flaves said, and pointed at the map. “They have a physician who took the captive men and ran some tests?” He did not sound certain about the phrase, but Ophelia nodded. “I don’t know what he tested for, but he gave most of them to the Wolvs for lunch, after separating some prime pieces for the Humanoids. They ate it all raw. No one built a fire.”
“And their conversation?”
“They want to run more tests, and one is keen on testing the military strength you show. He figured out in the wilderness, away from the settlements, we are fair game. That was how he talked about you humans, as game.”
“Well,” Zeuxides said, plenty loud. “If they are hunters, they will not find us rabbits. We will be like the bear and turn on them to their end. Isn’t that right, Athenian?”
Tellis nodded, but he did not look at all sure.
“Yes,” Tellis said, as the two ran off.
“You should know,” Flaves said to Ophelia. “The travelers from Avalon are in Corinth, and so is the witch and her three cowboys.”
“Typical,” Ophelia said. “When it rains, it pours.” She let out something between a scream and a growl and stomped back into the tent.