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I started this story in a post some time ago, then never went beyond that first short blurb.  I can't recall why.  Maybe I forgot about it.  :)

Anyway, I've been working on it and here are the first two parts.  The initial section has been somewhat rewritten.



Gunnyduce, once a lochias (sergeant) in the army of Leonidas, stooped to enter the Simian Spartan barracks. The word "hovel" came to mind as he stood inside the entrance. The interior looked to have been systematically ransacked. Blankets lay helter-skelter. Bits of hardtack and half-eaten onions were strewn across the floor. A goat stood on a cot placidly munching a sandal. Two scruffy sheep were tethered at the back. Simians lay on and under the wreckage, some partly clothed, most not. Gunnyduce picked up a small brown jug and sniffed the contents.

"Thrice refined wine. No wonder the lads are under the weather." He uttered a cruel laugh and kicked the nearest body. "Rise and shine! Alert! Fire! Flood! Enemy invasion! Get your asses up and outside! On the double!"

For a long moment nothing happened. Then the Simians began to twitch and moan as long disused reflexes took charge. The goat snorted with displeasure and bolted out the door. The sheep began bleating in alarm. Gunnyduce walked outside and took up a position a few paces from the entryway. Eventually Simians began dribbling outside. One or two saw Gunnyduce and began to weep. The others simply collapsed, too far under the influence of vile booze to relate to any form of reality.


To say Gunnyduce was a hard taskmaster was to minimize the elements of cruelty and sadism hiding under a thin veneer of nastiness. Being a Spartan hoplite in his day meant something a very long way from tender mercy or even stern discipline. Trifling as his connection was with humanitarian ideals, his outlook became permanently warped because he survived the glorious battle at the Hot Gates.

Wait, you say. The Three Hundred all died. Well, in round numbers, they did. Three did not die. One, a veteran named Delos, fell from the cliffs during the last stand and found himself clinging to a broken mast, remnant of a Great King's ship smashed in an earlier naval battle. He washed ashore two days later. Another, whose name is not recorded, received a hard blow to the head and fell behind a heap of stones, to remain undiscovered in the later cleanup. Wandering witless, he fell afoul of an Athenian scoundrel and vanished from history. Likely he wound up pulling an oar in an Egyptian barge. The third was Gunnyduce. Sent by his lochargos (commander) to find a new source of water, he was set upon by brigands, knocked senseless, stripped of his armor and weapons, and left for dead.

Delos became a silent specter, haunting Sparta. People tried to befriend him but he would have none of it, shunning all human contact. His only companion was a mongrel mutt with no name. After a year of this, he and the dog disappeared. Later a traveler reported seeing such a pair in the wilds of Macedonia. They were probably eaten by the savages of that land.

Gunnyduce hunted down his attackers and reclaimed his equipment, save for his sword, which the brigands had sold to a passing Persian trader Surviving the battle the way he did and losing his sword was not as bad as, for instance, having been bested in combat by an Amazon, but though he found grudging acceptance in Sparta, no Hundred would have him, not as a lochias, not as a mere hoplite in the ranks. Embittered, he roamed the country, selling his sword to whoever had silver enough. And, later, during his bout with triple-refined wine, whoever had a copper or two. His new sword he found in the ruins of a seaside villa ransacked by pirates.

Known as the "old hoplite" in several city-states, he had not, in fact, passed his fortieth year when he took up the task of training Simian Spartans in the hard tasks of combat. Together he and they stormed Castle Grob in Hell and recovered the key to Hell's Back Gate. But that is a different story.


Gunnyduce enlisted two Simians, Archeron and Jokertayus, to haul buckets of water from a nearby well. Those buckets were upended over the semi-conscious forms of their brethren. Eventually, he managed to form the lads into a rough approximation of a military formation. Just as the last victim struggled up from his knees a pair of hard-bitten women stepped from the barrack hovel and took themselves off, snarling insults at their former Simian partners. Each led a female sheep. The sheep appeared anxious to put a lot of distance between themselves and the wretched refuse lined up in front of Gunnyduce.

"I have news," he said, in a low voice. Speaking in low tones makes people listen, even those who know they won't want to hear what is being said. He paused a moment, then continued. "The priests have declared you outlaws. Apparently your priest-like behaviors have alienated the few people who might have spoken in your defense."

The Simians stood mute.

Gunnyduce stalked around the quivering Simians. “Some are missing. Where is Raptorius?”

Archeron coughed. “Ah -- killed, your honor. Amazons.”

“Amazons? This far south?”

“They were – uh – on a pilgrimage. He was drunk. Wandering in the woods. The Amazons were sacrificing a goat at an altar to the Huntress. The goat escaped and they needed – some kind of animal to replace . . .”

Gunnyduce held up a hand. “I get the picture. What about Cowboyithius? Baltaro? The Amazons get them too?”

Archeron massaged his bald head with a grimy paw. “I dunno.”

“They went into the music business,” said Jokertayus. “Beatin' the drum on one a them bireme thingmies.”

“A nautical career. What a coincidence.” Gunnyduce produced a feral smile. "As outlaws you lot face execution. But the priests have offered one boon." A couple listeners perked up. Everyone else remembered what a "boon" might mean to the old hoplite.

"Oldguytukus -- you remember him from our adventure in Hell? He has a task for us. Guard duty on his trading vessel. I promised the priests that I would lead you out of Sparta, take up Oldguytukus on his offer, and see to it that you never, ever return." He smiled. "Now isn't that nice?"

"Um." Stanitos, the ugliest Simian, raised one hand. "What if we don't wanna go, your honor?"

Gunnyduce's grin expanded. "No problem. I'll turn you over to the priests. Stoning, I think, is contemplated, along with additional cutting and impaling."

Again, the Simians stood mute.

"All volunteers, I see." Gunnyduce's voice and demeanor changed. "All right! Get yourself inside that sad excuse for a barracks and grab whatever you want to take with you. You have exactly 100 heartbeats to do that." The Simians twitched. He held up a hand. "Our old pal, Donius Minimus, is sentenced to accompany you lot. Apparently his sins are equal to your own. He'll be along shortly."

"Donius?" muttered Dudeius. His eyes glowed red for an instant, then faded. "He'd sell his mother for a copper."

Gunnyduce nodded. "I believe it was half a copper. But he also fathered the lot of you. Surely you have some feeling for him."

A chorus of growls assured him that the Simians did, indeed, have feelings for dear old dad. "Inside!" He touched his wrist. "One hundred heartbeats. Starting now!"

Two hours later the Spartan Simians marched out – or more correctly, limped out, since none still had the special boots made for them during the Castle Grob affair. They were trailed by a single cart pulled by Donius Minimus, once a 4th level initiate in the the pantheon of Spartan gods. The cart carried bags of hardtack and onions, along with a bale of clothing and two boxes. One box contained Gunnyduce' possessions. The other was for camp supplies.

Gunnyduce walked behind the cart. He wore chest armor, a plain helmet, and had his shield strapped to his back, though he didn't plan on turning his back on any Simian in the foreseeable future. A spear served both as a walking stick and a goad for Simian slackers.


Raw Recruits

Sparta to the seaport of Gythium is roughly 700 stadia, which a raven might fly in a couple days, were the bird so inclined. Simians, lacking wings, had to travel nearly twice as far on a primitive track jokingly referred to on contemporary maps as a “road”.

At the end of the first day of marching the Simians made camp on a rocky promontory above the Eurotas River, which the road followed for some distance before branching off more directly toward Gythium. Once tents were erected Gunnyduce drew his sword and pointed toward the river. “Into the water! All of you. Strip off those rags. We'll burn them and hope any vermin die in the fire. What are you waiting for? Move it!” The Simians scrambled down the rocky embankment and shucked their filthy togs. Unmanly squeaks accompanied their descent into the frigid water. He nudged Donius with the point of his sword. “You too.”

“I can't. It's against my priestly vows.”

“You've been kicked out of the priesthood. Not that you ever really belonged anyway. Get going!” This time the sword point drew blood.

“I'm going! I'm going. Take it easy with that pig sticker.”

“The only pig it's been sticking is you.” Gunnyduce followed Donius down the bank. “Shuck that greasy robe.”

A swift kick sent the ex-priest plunging into the stream. Gunnyduce used his sword to pick up and fling all the Simian clothing into a heap. He then spent an hour walking the bank, enforcing a draconian cleansing. “Scoop up sand and rub it into your hair! Scrub your crusty butts with it!”

“But there's no sand,” wailed a quavering Simian. “Only gravel.”

“Then use gravel!”

It was a scraped and bleeding group that reassembled beside the road. Gunnyduce motioned toward a bale of clothing lying on the cart. “Get dressed! You'll find chitons of linen and undyed wool cloaks.”

Dudeius held up a faded gray chiton. “But these aren't suitable for Spartan warriors.”

“They're all thin and patched,” whined Stanitos.

“When you lot deserve better you'll get it. Meanwhile, get dressed! I'm ashamed to see Spartans in such a flabby state. We'll have to remedy that, starting tomorrow. Donius! Break out the cook pot. Archeron! Jokertayus! Start two fires. Burn your old rags in one. Cook on the other.”

“Can't we just toss the old clothes on the cook fire?” asked Dudeius.

“Of course you can,” replied Gunnyduce. He brandished an onion. “I'll just eat this with a bit of hardtack. You lot can eat stew flavored with your vomit and crap stained clothes.”

“Um. Right.” Dudeius followed Jokertayus toward a tangle of downed trees. “I'll help gather some wood for the fires.”

Donius stood by the cart looking lost. “What kind of – ah – what kind of stew shall I make?”

“Grab a couple onions,” suggested Gunnyduce. “There's a slab of meat and a sack of beans in that box. Use that for now. Down the road we can pick up some root vegetables and such for the pot.”

“I ain't much of a cook,” warned Donius.

“Well. You better figure out how to make a decent stew. If the lads don't like it they'll kick the crap out of you.”

“But that's not fair!”

“Fair? Fair is for philosophers. I'm working up a military unit. Ask some of the others for help if you need it, but get busy!” The old hoplite sheathed his sword and stretched. “Damn. I'd kill you all for a good cigar.” He grinned at the confusion evident on their faces. “Never mind. They ain't been invented yet.”



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53 minutes ago, Stans said:

How did we Simians fall into such condition?  Lazy, fat, and wearing vomit and feces stained clothing?   How appalling.  There must have been some outside force that turned us into such blobs of disgust.


Yep. Was called the "Obama Administration".

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Diana's Grove

Two days marching brought them to the village of Camlia. The Simians were billeted in an old barn. A meal was supplied from a local inn. Gunnyduce even allowed the lads a single cup of execrable wine, which they gulped down with evident pleasure. He also had a local merchant bring in a load of body armor, helmets, and shields. The leatherwork was stiff and brittle; the metal corroded and crusted with dirt.

Gunnyduce handed Dudeius a leather bucket half full of animal fat. “Forget the metal for now,” he advised. “Work grease into the leather. You want it soft and supple, not brittle like it is now.”

“Whew!” Dudeius held the bucket at arms length. “This stuff smells like rotted skunk meat.”

“Funny you should say that.” Gunnyduce produced a feral smile. “It's rendered skunk. Nothing better for softening leather. Don't eat any, though. It will rot your guts.”

Stanitos lifted one of the helmets. “This is junk! Persian junk, by the look of it. No cheek pieces. The face is completely open. No self-respecting Spartan would wear this.”

“You're absolutely right,” said Gunnyduce. “We're a little short of that kind of Spartan, aren't we?”

“Stanitos' face flushed red. “I – ah – I mean . . .”

“Sit down and get to work on your leather.”

Naturally, the Simians elected to scrape at the metalwork, spending only a few minutes slopping grease on the leather harness.


By noon the next day all the Simians were carrying most of their armor. Only Donius was allowed to place his on the cart. And that was only because he had to pull it.  After a meager meal of hardtack and moldy cheese, they set out again. It began to rain.

For the next three days the Simians lived on hardtack, barley soaked in water, onions, and bits of raw meat cut from the carcass of a wild pig Gunnyduce killed with his spear.  At some point on the second day, they managed to get lost. Archeron was on point. He led the way across an open meadow and halted in front of a dense stand of scrub timber.

Gunnyduce ambled past the dripping Simians and confronted his scout. “What's the matter?”

“Um – ah – I dunno, your honor.” Archeron made an uncertain gesture. “I can't find the road.”

“You've been off the road for the last ten stadia. What do you plan to do now?”

The Simian stood, open-mouthed, unable to conjure up a response.

“You could just kill yourself and spare me the trouble,” suggested Gunnyduce.

“I – ah – no.”

“You'd rather be trouble? Never mind.” The old hoplite pointed to the left. “Head that way. Sooner or later we'll either find the road or fall into the sea.”

“Yes, sir. Won't happen again, sir.”

“I'm sure it won't.” Gunnyduce smiled. “Your companions won't be too happy with you if they have to spend a lot of time lifting the cart over obstacles or dragging it over rough ground. Watch where you lead us.”

“Gods,” muttered Archeron as he limped off. “I'm dead – dead – dead.”

Gunnyduce stood in the rain, motioning the others forward. “Pick it up. Pick it up. It's only a little water. You won't melt.”

No one actually responded, but a low chorus of curses drifted on the wet air. Gunnyduce grinned even wider. Soon one or more of his victims would gather enough courage to try and kill their tormentor. He relished the thought of action. A little combat perked a man up.

Probably because of the incessant rain no one made an attempt on Gunnyduce life that day. The lads were also beaten down from the effort of lifting the cart over an endless parade of gullies and boulder fields. Archeron survived because everyone was too tired to kill him. And because of what happened that evening.

The small column drifted to a halt beneath the shelter of huge trees. Archeron managed a half smile as Gunnyduce walked forward. “We've found the road, your honor.”

“You've found a road. I don't think this is . . .” Gunnyduce fell silent. He examined the rough track for a long moment, then pointed to the right. “This looks to bend south and generally downhill. We'll go that way. Look for a place to make camp. Before the lads all drop dead.”

The road did indeed turn gradually south and slope downhill. After marching about two stadia Archeron found a small clearing next to a lively little stream. He halted the column.

“Looks good,” said Gunnyduce. He pointed to a circle of stones. “Been used before.”

Without orders the Simians began setting up camp. Donius broke out the cooking pots. Lads went deeper into the grove looking for dry wood. Jokertayus soon returned with an armload. He dropped the wood and pointed back the way he'd come. “You ought to look at what I saw back there. Looked like an altar to me.”

“An altar?” Gunnyduce sighed. “I should have suspected that. A grove of trees like this. A handy clearing. Running water. Let's take a look.” He motioned Jokertayus forward. “Go ahead.” No sense giving the lad an open shot at his back.

Jokertayus started off on a path obviously cleared for the purpose, though cluttered now with a good deal of litter and a few fallen branches. “Hasn't been used in some time,” said the Simian.

“That's bad. Whichever god the shrine belongs to will be pissed about that. And we don't have a decent sacrifice.”

Jokertayus glanced back, grinning. “I nominate Archeron. He's the one got us here.”

Gunnyduce was thinking the same thing. He nudged the Simian. “Let's see what we got first.”

The path led them to the left and into a clearing even larger than the one where they'd set up camp. Jokertayus halted suddenly. “She wasn't there before.”

“She?” Gunnyduce fetched up beside the Simian. “Oh. Her.”

The woman sat on a flat rock beside the tumbled stones of the altar. She rose. He robe was a cloud of black. A huge black and gray wolf stood somewhat behind and to one side of her.

“Diana,” moaned Gunnyduce.

Jokertayus stood as if in a trance. He'd seen the goddess once before, just outside the Back Gate of Hell. He hoped her robe would go all shimmery and transparent like her chiton had then. The lady had a lovely face, marred by a sneering expression. But her body was nothing to sneeze at. Holding his breath he waited for the show to begin.

“When are you going to trade those club-footed fools for a position in one of my legions?”

Gunnyduce shook his head. “I don't fancy campaigns in your realm, Diana.”

Her robe faded to a mere wisp. “There are other benefits.”

“Your lovers meet with grisly deaths. No thanks.”

Jokertayus, still not breathing, suddenly collapsed. Diana laughed. “Your warriors are naught but apes. Drunken apes.”

“Worse than that, I'm afraid.” Gunnyduce kicked Jokertayus lightly. “The ex-priest who begat them has a touch of demon blood. More than a touch, perhaps. Still, once trained and in shape, they fight well. Even our sojourn in Hell didn't faze them too much.” He regarded Diana with a baleful expression. “I don't fancy fighting creatures of darkness in hell-swamps. That first trip through the benighted depths of the netherworlds was enough for me.”

Diana glanced up at the leaden sky. “Is this any better? Rain. Cold. Half-demonic thugs for soldiers. And there are fell beasts in this version of reality, Gunnyduce.”

“I've seen them. Most wear the shape of men. Your journey is wasted, Diana. Go back where you belong.”

“Where I belong? You foul cretin! The Back Gate is closed to me. I must make my own way, both here and in the Nether Regions. You can't dismiss me with a wave of your hand.”

“Go, Diana. You do yourself no good here.”

The wisps of cloth morphed into black armor. “I will leave in my own good time.” She smiled, revealing prominent fangs. “You owe me a sacrifice. This broken altar and your presence brought me here. Blood will send me on my way.”

“I have nothing suitable.”

“Then I must take . . .” She stepped forward. “No.” Her laughter filled the air. “I have a task for you. One that suits your situation. Or shall I take your ape man as sacrifice?”

“I don't need . . .” He glanced at Jokertayus, still out cold. “What is this – this task?”

“A mere delivery.” Diana paced for a moment. She appeared troubled. “Perhaps “mere” is not the right word for it.” Seating herself on the flat stone, she went on. “I was given instructions by certain fools who sit in high places. A thing, an unnatural creature, was to be taken East. Returned to the cabal who created it. They lie under a curse which will only lapse when the thing is destroyed -- or they are – or both.”

“What are we talking about? A griffin, a harpy? Something out of a nether world?”

“No. A made thing. Though the power to do so sprang from those regions. Or from Hell.” Diana sighed. “My Amazons were taking the thing to Amphipolis, in Macedon.”

“I know of it.”

“In the forests they were set upon by brigands – Macedon seems rife with such. The Amazons were slaughtered. Not before they were tortured and raped. The made creature killed some of the outlaws and escaped.” Her eyes blazed. “I will send them such a fate. Their deaths will be remembered for a thousand years.”

Gunnyduce waited until the goddess calmed down. “Of the brigands' fate, I have no interest. What of your unnatural creature?”

“Ah. Yes.” Diana got up. “Here it is.” A shape the size of a large man stepped from the shadows. Gunnyduce cursed quietly. He'd never seen anything like it. Dark brown in color, the creature looked to be made of clay – slick and wet in the rain. As it stumped closer he saw that it was only a rough copy of a man. The lump of a head contained a pair of black spots where a man would have eyes. A slash approximated a mouth. No other features were visible. The body was the same. Like a man in caricature with no definition. Thick arms ended in mitten-shaped hands. It had a block-like body and stubby legs, all supported by heavy leather boots reaching to the knee.

“Gods!” Gunnyduce managed to stand his ground. “What is it?”

“A golem. A thing of clay animated by magic – the kind of magic humans should not play with.”

“I've heard of such. Drunken stories, I thought.”

“Most are. This one is no fable drawn from the bottom of a wine jug.”

“No.” The thing stopped a few paces away. It raised an arm in salute. “Greetingks, Gunnydoosy.”

Diana had the good sense to appear embarrassed. “I told him your name. He speaks with a funny accent. His thinking and speech are child-like. Yet, he is not without wit and he can fight, if the need arises. He slew several of the outlaws.”

“So you said.” Gunnyduce reached down and grabbed Jokertayus. “Time to wake up! On your feet. Meet our new companion.”

The Simian rolled to a seating position and put his back to a tree. “What happened?”

“You forgot to breathe. Feel better?”

“Give me a minute. I'm still dizzy.”

Gunnyduce grunted and turned his attention back to Diana. “We take this – this thing back to his makers and that squares us, right?”

“It does. I won't even ask you to rebuild my altar. Just deliver him to Sardis.”

“Sardis? In Lydia? That Sardis?”

“That Sardis.”

“Damn, Diana. That's a hell of a long ways. And it's in the Great King's territory.”

She patted his cheek. “I'm sure you'll do fine. You and OldGuytukus.”

“Um. You know about him? And our arrangement?”

“I always know where that bastard is. And you're heading his way couldn't be a coincidence.”

“Well. Yeah.”

“I have no interest in your doings. Just get the golem back to Sardis. Once there he can tell you where to go and who to contact.” She hesitated. “One thing. He lusts after practically every woman he sees. He'll make a pest of himself if you're not careful.”

“Lusts after?” Gunnyduce glanced at the monster. “Does he have the needed equipment for that kind of – ah – thing?”

She shrugged. “Not that I've seen. Still. It would be interesting if he did.” The Huntress suddenly reached out and raked her nails along his jaw. Blood dripped from her hand. “This will do for an offering.” She licked her bloody fingers and laughed. Cloak swirling out behind, Diana turned away and strode from the clearing. The wolf favored Gunnyduce with a knowing glance, then followed.

The old hoplite silently cursed his foul luck. Jokertayus struggled to his feet. The golem watched them both. “What's your name?” asked Gunnyduce.

Jokertayus laughed. “I didn't get hit on the head. My memory is fine. Jokertayus, that's me.”

“Not you, stupid. Him.” Gunnyduce pointed.

“Him? Oh – him.” The Simian gaped at the golem. “Who him?”

“Fick,” said the golem. “Fick is we. Who you?”

Jokertayus collapsed.

Gunnyduce sighed. “Make yourself useful. Fick. Pick him up and follow me.”

“We do what Gunnydoosy say.” Matching actions to words, the golem slung Jokertayus over a broad shoulder.

“Let's go introduce you to the lads.”



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4 hours ago, Old Guy said:

Delos is simply a name.  Not a Simian.  Ever.  And even being fictional, he is probably glad about that.  :)


I lean toward Gunny-do-chay, as in Mussolini's handle. 




LOL! Gunny is gonna love this handle ... erm ... because he loves Fascists ...  yeah, that's it :unsure:


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Training Days

Stanitos edged over to where Gunnyduce rested with his back to a tree. “What does that thing eat?” He nodded toward the golem.

“Fick?” Gunnyduce shrugged. “Ask him. I have no idea. Why? Are some Simians missing?”

“No, your honor. We – that is – I just wondered. He doesn't say nothing.”

“Maybe he has nothing to say. Others could profit by his example.”

“Uh – yeah.” Stanitos wandered away.


The arrival of Gunnyduce and the golem – with Jokertayus slung like a Saturnalia pig – had caused more than a little confusion in the Simian camp. It took the old hoplite several minutes and repeated application of the flat of his sword to quiet the bleating mob. His explanation was short and to the point.

“Jokertayus is okay. He sometimes can't remember how to breathe. The blocky clod carrying him is named Fick. He'll be traveling with us.”

The huddled mass surged and cackled like a flock of hens. Then Donius stumbled, or was pushed, out of the group. He stood blinking in the dim firelight. “What – uh – what is he?”

The golem evidently decided it was time to drop Jokertayus and did so – by rolling the Simian off his shoulder and letting the body drop. Gunnyduce stepped forward and kicked the still unconscious form out of the fire. He glared at Donius. “I told you his name. What more do you want?”

“But . . .” Donius pointed at the silent golem. “He looks funny – different – strange.”

“I'll tell you what's funny about him,” snarled Gunnyduce. “He doesn't talk out of turn and he follows orders.” He touched the golem's shoulder. “Got anything to say, Fick?”

The creature thumped his chest in salute. “We be clay. We got name. Fick. We run, fight, work when Gunnydoosy say. Got no mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam. Got nothing. No. Fick lie.” He touched his hip and a slot appeared. Digging with a broad hand, Fick withdrew an item and displayed it to all. “Got stone duckie. Fick love stone duckie.”

Some of the Simians recovered their wits, such as they were. Dudeius moved up beside Donius. “You keep saying “we”, sir golem, yet there is only one of you.”

Fick smote the side of his head, leaving an imprint that slowly faded. “Forgot to tell. Golem one but not one. Got Athenian philosopher, got Scythian warrior, got Persian dancer. Got other voices in head. Hard to hear think sometimes.”

After a moment of dead silence the Simians responded with a cacophony of questions. Gunnyduce roared them into silence. “Finish setting up camp! Donius! Food! Back to work!”

Fick moved to stand beside Gunnyduce. “Want Fick cook food? Sharpen spear? Want speak duckie?” He held up the little figure.

The old hoplite noticed that the golem's eye patches changed shape slightly as he talked. Now they thinned somewhat and took on a hardly noticeable arch. “Does the duckie talk?”

“Duckie no talk Fick. We ask one, two, fifty people talk duckie. Some do. He say nothing.” The golem tucked the stone image away. “Maybe duckie know number stars in sky, location Golden Fleece, where to get good cigar, Scotch whiskey.”

Gunnyduce glanced around. None of the Simians were close enough to hear. “Finding the Fleece would be a good thing, Fick, but don't discuss cigars or whiskey. They ain't been invented yet.”

Fick shook slightly, as if laughing. “We wander timelines in mind. We try stay focus.”

“Do that. Some of the lads are fairly smart once the booze is burned out of their systems. If they start thinking beyond the next fight or the next woman, we're all in trouble.”

“Right, boss. We play dumb. Like stone duckie. Listen. Watch. Say nothing. We shut philosopher in dark hole. We be Scythian warrior. Not dancer.”

“No. Let's not have any dancing.”


Rain continued on the following day. That morning the golem took up the cart handles and stood waiting for the order to move out. None of the Simians wanted to argue with him; the cart was a cast-bronze bitch to push. Donius limped into formation with the others.

“Donius!” grated Gunnyduce. “Your armor. Put it on. And since you won't be pushing the cart you can walk in front of it and clear away fallen branches, rocks, and such.”

Glumly, Donius donned his armor and took up his assigned position. “Stanitos,” roared Gunnyduce, “Take point. Move out.”

Fick plodded along all day without complaint. In fact, he said nothing, not even at the midday break. After a few hours the Simians stopped looking back to see if he was still there. Eventually they all sank into that mindless state common to soldiers plodding through incessant rain. For the Simians, of course, this was a natural state.

By evening a thoroughly sodden set of Simians arrived at a long deserted village. Most of the buildings were roofless and overgrown with brush. Stanitos led the way along a twisting path; all that remained of the main village street. As the last derelict structure faded into the evening twilight, he called a halt. Gunnyduce made his way forward.

Stanitos stepped to one side. “Been some recent traffic here, your honor. Horses come up the road and turned uphill.” He pointed to a recently cleared track leading away from the main road. “Looks like someone did a lot of work there.”

“Someone did,” said Gunnyduce. “Let's go that way. I believe it will lead us to a good campsite.”

“You already knowed this was here?”

“Of course. Get moving.”

His motley group slouched by, following Stanitos. The golem brought up the rear, pushing the cart.


The freshly cleared side road curved around a low hill and ended in a small field bordered on two sides by low buildings. One was obviously a barn. Fodder was heaped inside, behind low wooden walls, but no animals were to be seen. The other, larger building sported new roof tiles and freshly whitewashed walls.

Gunnyduce halted the Simians in front of the large building. “Here's home for a few days. Fall out, unload the cart. Get everything inside. Donius! There's a kitchen. Find it. Get to work on a meal.”

His charges scrambled to obey. The prospect of sleeping out of the wet seemed like a promise of heaven. Sore muscles and bones cried out for relief after marching over rough terrain and moving a heavy cart across that same ground. All hoped for a few days of rest. Most feared such was not likely to occur.

Fick rolled the empty cart into the barn and returned. “What about you?” asked Gunnyduce. “Can we provide food? Do you need rest?”

“Not we, Gunnydoosy. We take in air, sun, water. Philosopher, warrior, dancer fade away at times. To rest I wonder.”

Gunnyduce noted the sudden use of “I” but elected not to mention it. “Okay. Your post is on the hill behind the barracks. Report to me if any humans approach our camp.”

“We do what Gunnydoosy say.” Fick executed a creditable chest thump as salute and strode away.

“Gods above,” muttered the old hoplite. “Maybe he can set an example for the rest.” He laughed. “Nah. No way. None of those clods notice anything that ain't wearin' boobs.”


In the morning the Simians were roused at first light and driven outside by Gunnyduce wielding a short staff. “Form up!” he roared. “Outside! On the double!”

Painfully, his victims shuffled into position and stood at a cockeyed sort of attention.

“So,” said Gunnyduce. “So. I seem to remember providing you clowns with special boots designed to allow you to walk, stand, and RUN more or less normally. Where are they?”

Archeron glanced along the trembling formation and eased forward half a step. “We – ah – we ate them, your honor.”

“They tasted awful,” added Stanitos. “Boiled, fried, grilled. Awful.”

“Ate them?” The Simians all nodded. “Ate them.” The old hoplite raised his arms to the sky, as if beseeching the gods. “They ate their boots!” He might have been addressing those morons living on Olympus. Or perhaps his complaint was intended for the blue sky. Whatever. There was no reply.

Eventually he returned his attention to the huddled Simians. “OldGuytukus will be bringing new boots made in the same fashion.” His voice took on a vicious tone. “But you may have noticed that he ain't here yet.” He strolled along the formation, lashing out frequently to correct Simian posture. “Left face! Your other left Donius! Forward march! Left, right, left, right. Who feels like singing? Double time! March!”

Weeping with pain from abused muscles, the Simians stumbled out of the field and down the road. Gunnyduce roared out a song about a Syrian girl all dressed in red. None of the lads joined in. He then regaled them with verses about some 4F bastard named Jody.

Fick the golem was standing guard on a hilltop behind the main building. He listened to Gunnyduce with interest, but little understanding. The Scythian warrior part of him started singing his own version of the girl in red song. That pissed off the dancing girl. The two began arguing. Fick shut them down which allowed the philosopher to emerge. Other, indistinct voices tugged at his conscious mind, but lacked the strength to make themselves heard. They soon faded away. The philosopher was quiet, which annoyed Fick because in the silence he sometimes imagined thoughts of his own making. The idea of actually thinking frightened him. He shoved the whispering intruders into dark places and stomped around and around on the hilltop, the better to drown out vague desires bubbling out of the liquefied clay sloshing around in his head.


Near midday Gunnyduce strolled back into the field. He finished a leisurely lunch before the first Simian staggered into view. Donius was the last to arrive, crawling through the barracks door just as the sun sank in the west.

“On your feet,” ordered Gunnyduce. “Your brothers are starving. You should have had a meal ready hours ago. Move it!”

Donius dragged himself more or less erect. Clutching the door frame with one hand, he pointed at Gunnyduce. “You – you bas . . .” Merciful unconsciousness stopped his foolish mouth. Out cold, he toppled over, bashing his head on the stone floor.

Gunnyduce nudged the former priest with a muddy sandal. “There's a broken reed.” He grinned at the Simians. “I guess it's hardtack and onions for you lot.”

Dudeius rose and limped toward the kitchen. “I used to cook – not much good – better than nothing. Maybe.”

Jokertayus followed. Slowly, moaning with pain, all the Simians, save Donius, made their way to the kitchen. Gunnyduce shook his head and laughed quietly.

The golem came in through the back door, ducking his head under the frame. “Wagon comes.”

“That will be OldGuytukus,” said Gunnyduce. “About time, too.” He pointed at the unconscious Simian. “Take him into the kitchen with the others. Then you and I will go meet the old fart. Imagine his surprise at seeing you.”

Fick bent to pick up Donius. “Duckie watch. Listen. Fick watch. Listen. Say nothing. Learn good. Gunnydoosy watch? Listen?”

The ex-lochias waited for Fick to return from the kitchen. He led the golem out into the twilight. “OldGuytukus will bring Syrian wine, Phonetician beer, maybe Laotian Red – no, not that. Ain't been invented yet. Anyway, Gunnyduce drink wine. Beer. Talk too much.”

“Gunnyduce not learn good.”

“Yeah. Ain't it the truth.”




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5 hours ago, Donster said:

Stanitos. Sounds like a new tortilla chip snack food from Frito-Lay. :lol:

Zounds more like ein toilet bowl kleanink zoluzion!  Bwahahahaha!


Ich am pleazedt zhat Olde Gay haz vrekognized mein zkills az ein varrior.  Brave, fvearlezz, und schtrong are zhe markz of zhe zuperior Tjerman.

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1 hour ago, Itchie Crotchie said:

Ord Guyie makie newie stolie! Furl of clap! Simians noie abre to hord supeliol Samalai Walliol's fundoshi! He makie Helr Solen Dickress a walliol! It isie to raugh at! Dickress no fight wayie outie of lice papel bagie!



ACH!  Evfen mein olde fruend und komrad Itchiezan now inzults me?  Perhapz vou devfend deinselbst fvrom zhe Norde Korveanz ja?  Ich may evfen giv zhem zhe koordinatez fvor dein Gvreen Vinyl Zeatink Loundje ja?

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8 hours ago, Herr Soren Fick said:

Zounds more like ein toilet bowl kleanink zoluzion!  Bwahahahaha!


Ich am pleazedt zhat Olde Gay haz vrekognized mein zkills az ein varrior.  Brave, fvearlezz, und schtrong are zhe markz of zhe zuperior Tjerman.

So sayeth the creature made of clay.  You best hope and pray to whatever deity (or in your case, demon) you pray to that you do not encounter a stream to be forded or a heavy downpour.

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Plans Within Plans

OldGuytukus halted his cart upon catching sight of Gunnyduce and the golem. He waited for them to approach. “Looks like you've met up with Diana.”

“Damn,” grumped Gunnyduce. “Doesn't anything surprise you?”

“You would have except the bitch tried to foist the thing off on me. About a week ago.” OldGuytukus studied the golem. “I didn't actually see him at the time. Ugly ain't he?”

“Compared to what? He is made of clay.”

“Point taken.” OldGuytukus shook off a slight dread. “About Diana. We'd pulled ashore for the night. The wine jug was going round and we were telling the usual tall tales. I'd just started on our Castle Grob adventure when Diana walked into the firelight. She came up behind me so the first thing I noticed was that all my guys had suddenly fallen asleep.”

“Yeah. Your stories can do that.”

“Not this time. She laid an ice cold hand on my shoulder. Nearly gave me a heart attack.”

“Cold hands, warm heart. Maybe she really has the hots for you.”

“Right. I have it on good authority that her heart is ice. Really ice.” OldGuytukus shook his head. “Do you wanna hear this or not?”

“Go ahead. I'll try not to fall asleep.”

“A real comedian, aren't you. Anyway – where was I – ah – she waltzed out of the dark – straight out of the netherworlds I suppose. 'Got a job for you,' she says. 'You can ask anything you like of me – once the job is done.'”

“See? She has the hots for you.”

“With Diana, asking is one thing, actually surviving the getting is quite another. So I gave her a flat no. No way. She had no hold on me or my crew. None of us invoked her name or did any of about a hundred things that might require a sacrifice. She argued a little, not much, said she had something that needed to be delivered – didn't say what or where -- then she just snarled a threat or two and took off with her wolf pal. I thought maybe the bitch was up to something. She gave up too readily. Now I know why.”

Gunnyduce nodded. “Diana caught us unprepared for an encounter with a god.” He explained about the sheltered camp complete with a broken altar. “She wanted to take one of my Simians as blood sacrifice. In exchange for not doing that she blessed us with the golem. Fick by name. Fick, meet OldGuytukus.” The golem raised a hand in greeting.

“Does it speak? What must we do with it?”

“It does. Right now they – he – is listening and watching. I'll explain – no – I'll have Fick tell you about that crap. Later. Diana's requirements are simple. We deliver him to Sardis.” Gunnyduce turned on his heel and started back up the road. After a moment, Fick followed.

OldGuytukus fell in behind. “Sardis.” he muttered. “Why Sardis?”


“How are the lads doing?” he asked, as the golem and Gunnyduce unloaded the cart.

“We have a ways to go. None have tried to kill me yet. I'm gonna let 'em heal up for at least one day before we do any more training. You bring the boots?”

“Yeah. Boots, rations, decent weapons, armor. I need them aboard ship in about ten days. Can you make that?”

“Sure. They won't be in peak condition by then, but close enough to function as guards. I can continue to work with them as we sail. They were well trained and in decent condition during the Castle Grob affair. Once I whip them into shape, the lads will be fine.”

“Let's hope so.” OldGuytukus unhitched the mule and stabled the animal. Fick rolled the empty cart into the barn. By then it was fully dark.

Gunnyduce sent Fick back to his post on the hill. “Come back down at first light. Then you can explain your philosopher, warrior, and dancer to OldGuytukus.”

“We go,” answered the golem. He thumped his chest.

The two men went inside. A single oil lamp lit the main room. Snoring Simians lay in untidy heaps. Gunnyduce led the way to the kitchen. He swept the dirty plates and food litter off the table and poured two mugs of wine. “Tell me about the job you have lined up.”

“First explain your remark about Fick's dancer and – what? -- philosopher?”

“The dominant personalities in his head are a Athenian philosopher, Scythian warrior and a Syrian dancer. Sounds really confusing.” Gunnyduce dismissed the subject with a wave of one paw. “Talk to the golem tomorrow. You'll get a better idea of what I mean.”

“All right. I'm suspicious. Delivering a golem to Sardis sounds too simple. Could the thing be part of some scheme of Diana's?”

Gunnyduce shrugged. “Sure. How would we know? Maybe Donius could read some chicken guts. If we had some chicken guts.”

“Donius has probably eaten a lot of chicken, but I doubt if he ever learned how to read entrails. He thinks priests exist to steal offerings and fondle females.”

“And so they are.” Gunnyduce reached for the wine jug. “Want some more of this?”

“Gods, no. Don't these people drink beer?”

“Greeks in general aren't partial to the stuff.”

“How do you have civilization without beer?” OldGuytukus let out a disgusted sigh and reached for the leather satchel he'd carried inside. “I have a map showing a small island between Icaria and Samos. Some call it Pirate Isle.” He unrolled the map. “There is a sheltered cove on the south side. A single hill rises high enough to allow observation of vessels transiting the strait between the two large islands. Local pirates use it. Hence, the name.”

“So what's that to us? We going pirate hunting?”

“So to speak. The daughter of a merchant of Troy has been abducted and taken to that island – or so her father has been told. We're to take her back from the kidnappers. Alive, it is hoped. Between my crew and the Simians we should have sufficient men to do the job.”

Gunnyduce studied the map. “Can't be very many people on the island. It's too small.”

“My thinking exactly. I've had a man watching the place. His last report indicated that a small boat sails to Samos about once a week – evidently for supplies. He scouted the island about a month ago and believes the girl is being held in a fortified building at the base of the hill. Although the building could hold as many as twenty men, he puts their numbers at less than ten.”

“You think the girl is still alive?”

“Who knows? The father has strung out negotiations to give us time to try a rescue. The kidnappers are in no hurry. The ransom is to be in gold and the amount is not small.”

“Can he pay it?”

“Yes. But, naturally, he wants to keep his gold and get his daughter back. Our fee will also be in gold, but not near as much as the kidnappers want.”

“Well. Our Simians are always happy to rescue damsels in distress. Just make sure they think she has ample boobs and likes to screw Spartans. What does she look like?”

The merchant's representative assured me she was a healthy woman of about twenty. I suppose that could mean anything from a second Helen to a skinny wench with bad skin.”

Gunnyduce tapped the map. “This Pirate Isle lies just south of an island hopping route to Sardis. Neither of us believe in coincidence. Is this kidnapping Diana's doing?”

“Maybe.” OldGuytukus rolled the map and put it away. “Probably. Delivering the golem, I think, is a task she really was handed by one of the higher gods. This situation on Pirate Isle may have something to do with a scheme of hers.”

“Well, we have to go that way anyhow. You got any idea what she may have in store?”

“She's been after me to command one of her netherworld legions. But I don't know how the Pirate Isle deal fits in with that.”

“I got the same offer. What's going on that she needs us? I always figured I could boss a Hundred better than my lochargos, but a legion would be a different ball of wax.”

OldGuytukus nodded. “We both have history with Diana. We're survivors. She may think that makes us military geniuses.” He shrugged. “She is apt to act without due consideration. The kidnapping scheme may have been hatched in an attempt to take advantage of our voyage to Sardis.”

“We'll have to be alert,” said Gunnyduce. “And not just at Pirate Isle. And we need an edge. You got any special friends among the gods?”

“Not among the Greek pantheon. You know my only contact with the gods.”

“Hah! Yeah.” The old hoplite drained his mug. “I'm for bed.”

“Me too. I have to get back. My crew is altering the appearance of Sea Mist. You won't know her. Hopefully anyone looking for us might not recognize her either. It might give us a small advantage.”

“Can't hurt.” Gunnyduce hesitated. “We also have the golem.”

“Yeah. So?”

“According to Diana, he's good at close combat. I wonder if she's considered that in whatever is laid on at Pirate Isle? For that matter, he may know what she plans.”

“Would he?”

“I guess we can only ask him. What with all the spirits he has in his head, someone ought to have heard something.”

“Right. Whatever.”



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