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Be wary of those who claim to speak for the gods.

Be wary of anyone who claims to be able to interpret the divine words.

Whether they be the shaven-headed men of Kemet, or the priests of the god of the hammer and anvil. They are only men who claim to speak for the divine, whether their name is Ra or Isis, Gaea or Kronos, Enlil1 or Inanna.2 They claim to have the truth of your soul and what will happen to it after death. But everything is a lie, their gods are puppets of clay or stone, there is no real breath behind their voices.

Four times ten men, those were all who accompanied Zenobius. Wilusans, Thracians, Euboeans, all brought together by fear and the desire to survive. And he was made the leader, now that they had fled and abandoned their captors. He set course south, where he hoped there would be no monsters, and was followed.

But there was war everywhere, and sometimes monsters. They found burned and looted villages, and dead villagers, and once a battlefield full of corpses. It had been abandoned days ago, the corpses cold, the fires already extinguished, a few vultures and hyenas appeasing their hunger. The wounds of the dead were familiar to the eyes of Zenobius and his companions, but there were also things never seen by them, corpses of what seemed to be part lion, part bull (a lion's head without mane, bull's legs, and its torso was hunchbacked), corpses of something with the head and fur of a hyena, but with a figure strangely similar to a human. It even seemed that, when it was alive, it was able to walk on two legs.

Even among the men, their deaths were abnormal. Some appeared twisted, writhing, with crushed torsos and bent backs, others had their limbs torn off and farther away were those who were burned, not by fire, but by something that covered their skin with pale blisters that oozed a disgusting pus. Others had large thorns embedded, piercing their scale armor or their linothorax,3 hollow spines that looked like they were made of bone, uncomfortably claw-like. They could not imagine what kind of weapon used such a projectile, and with such force that it pierced right through bronze plates.

Two days later they found the remains of a campsite, by the standards they fought under the command of Hephaestus, but now they were all dead. Dead in their tents, lying down, covered by their blankets, dead on the ground, with signs of having crawled and scratched the ground with their hands, dead after an agony that made them bleed from the eyes, noses, mouths and every orifice of their bodies. The Choma4 was not unknown to hired warriors like them, but this disease was different, they had never seen signs of it before, blood running out of their bodies from their eyes and ears. There were a hundred or so of them, and there were signs that they were part of a larger army, but were abandoned, fear causing them to be left to die alone.

One of them, an Arcadian named Holeas, was brave or stupid enough to loot the possessions of the dead, while the others kept their distance. He returned with a bronze cuirass, a bronze helmet and two bags full of gold coins, which he always carried with him in front of the greedy looks of his companions, and slept using them as pillows.

Two days passed and they approached the shore and their salvation. But Holeas looked ill, his eyes sunk and reddened as he suffered from violent spasms, and he vomited blood. Then Zenobius made the kind of decisions that distinguish a leader from a mere boss. He slit Holeas' throat while he crouched down to eat. His possessions were left behind except for the bags of gold, which were distributed among all, yet Zenobius kept nothing, because he did not want anyone, not even the gods, to believe that Holeas' death was not to protect his men, but out of greed.

They finally reached a port, controlled by the followers of Hephaestus, and it was on a ship carrying grain and jars of oil that the fleeing people found refuge, and the captain of the vessel set sail, now wealthier in gold and with forty unanticipated passengers.

And as they sailed to Samothrace, Zenobius told his story to the captain, who in turn told it to his chief oarsman. This was an Egyptian from Memphis who believed in a God forbidden by the envious priests of Kemet, and when he returned home he told the story to his brothers in faith, and they praised the One who is One with the tree and the waterlily, the One who lives in the oases and in the jungles, the God who is wise and who does not involve himself in the battles of other gods, because he knows that flames and blood are the only things that await them and their worshippers. He waits in the forest, like a seed in dry ground that can wait for years, until rain comes and then sprouts, so will he. He will sprout to bring new life to a world ravaged by war and despair.

All this was written in clay, so that his word may be preserved.

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