Skedesa Spartacus's sister

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Chapter 3

When the day of the hunting came, to provide gifts for the goddess Kibella, the priest’s son and Zipper were up early and set off. Skedesa was ready and was secretly following them from a distance.

When the two men reached the river where boars gathered to drink water, they separated

She was astonished why they had done that. But she decided that Zipper was the more important person for her, and she followed him. He was approaching a marsh, and clearly he had decided to stay there and stalk the boars. He hid behind a bunch of tall reed and other plants, and he was looking around. A veil of sticky fog started to cover the marsh, and it made it difficult to see around clearly. Suddenly, strange sounds were heard. It seemed as if the water was boiling, and fearful roars and growls were coming.

“Those are not boars growling!” Skedesa thought. “There is something going on!”

Then in the fog she made out part of a shoulder and a man’s arm, but the man was not very similar to them. He had sharp long nails and very hairy arms.

“The forest monsters!” she thought.

She had heard thousands of legends about those creatures. They were merciless and they attacked every living being, even people. She took out her sword and rushed forward. Zipper was in danger. She joined him to warn him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked in surprise when he saw her.

“There are forest monsters around. Didn’t you hear them growl!” she said hastily.

“Yes, I heard growls, but what’s the mater?! And why are you here?”

“The priest’s son has laid a trap for you. He wants to have you killed”, Skedesa said in one breath.

Zipper looked at her in confusion, but he had no time to say anything, for at that very moment he saw how beside them an ominous hairy creature emerged from the frog, with outstretched arms. He raised his spear, made a couple of misleading moves and drove it into the monster’s body.

There was a muffled roar, and the creature took several steps backwards, diving back into the fog. Skedesa noticed movements and parts of hairy limbs. She brandished her sword violently and she felt it struck something and cut it off.

There was another moan and fast slapping on the marshy ground. The beast was retreating.

“Let’s look for the one I stuck my spear into,” Zipper said. “I must have killed it, and it may have fallen somewhere, several steps away.”

They searched for the monster, but did not find anything. They went further into the marsh, but there was no body to be found.

“Let’s go back. We can stick into the marsh,” Zipper said. “The water ghosts could catch us by the feet and take us to their kingdom under the ground. The creature that I stabbed should be there already.”

They rushed towards the shore, and he said:

“You must go. Get back and join the tribe. If the priest’s son sees you, I will lose the bet.”

“What bet?” Skedesa asked in surprise.

“The bet on who should take you in marriage,” Zipper replied.

“What exactly is that bet?” she asked.

“Whoever kills a larger boar will take you in marriage.”

“So that was it!” Skedesa said, slightly annoyed.

“What about my wish?! Am I a trophy of some kind?! I love you, and if I really want someone, it is you! And why did you agree to that bet at all?”

“That is what tradition dictates. You know that. If two men want the same woman, there is a bet.”

She nodded in sign of acknowledgment, but she did not intend to keep to any traditions.

“Now go. I don’t want the priest’s son to see you,” Zipper urged her.

“OK, but be really careful. I don’t want to lose you.”

Then she kissed him and departed.

While she was walking, she thought that even if the priest’s son was to kill a larger boar, she was not going to marry him. She would run away, far away, and after enough time passed she would call Zipper.

Yet her apprehension that it was a trap did not leave her. Of course, she had no intention whatsoever of going back. She stood a little aside, hidden behind the trees, ready to watch.

The fog had started dispersing, and visibility was already better. In about ten minutes the boars started gathering.

“To win, I have to kill their leader. He is always the largest one”, Zipper thought.

In a minute he saw the huge boar leading the herd, and he made for him among the ferns. He had to kill him with a strong and precise stroke of his spear.

He sneaked forward and when the beast approached to a distance of several metres, he suddenly sprang up and surprised him by driving his spear with all his might into the front left leg. He hoped to drive it right into its heart.

The boar let out an excruciatingly hair-raising and piercing guttural sound, and although it was mortally wounded, it went into a rage and sped right towards Zipper.

However, the man managed to jump aside instantly and prepare for a possible new attack.

But there was no such thing. The huge boar just made a couple more steps, and he dived into the mud, with a suppressed moan. Its head was unnaturally twisted, and its body heavily sprawling on the ground.

Zipper approached it just in time to see how the last sparks of life in the animal’s eyes sank into the chasm of eternal darkness.

To be on the safe side, Zipper pushed on his spear several times, to be certain that the beast was not to budge any more.

He was jubilant and exhilarated. He was convinced he was to win the bet.

Hidden behind the trees, Skedesa also witnessed the successful end of her beloved man’s hunting. She too was certain he was the victor in the bet, and she shared his happiness.

“Terks, Terks,” Zipper shouted the priest’s son’s name.

“Yes, I can hear you,” Terks’s voice was heard, after a period of silence.

“I killed a boar. Did you?” Zipper asked.

“No,” the priest’s son replied, “the herd ran away.”

“That means I win!” Zipper let out his victorious cry.

There was no reply from Terks. There was rustling in the marsh. Soon the fennel and the bushes parted, and he appeared. His expression was calm, but his eyes streamed barely concealed resentment. Still, he said:

“Well, congratulations! I see you killed their leader. Even if I had managed to kill another boar, it would definitely have been smaller than this one.”

“Let us rig out a frame, to carry it to the settlement,” Zipper offered.

“Well. I don’t know. See how bulky it is. We’ll have a hard time carrying it along. Let’s go back, and then I’ll send people to fetch it.

Zipper agreed.

They set off on the way back. Skedesa was following them closely.

“Let’s take a shortcut,” Terks offered.

“Where is that shortcut?” Zipper asked.

“Quite near. Between the rocks. There’s a path. We’ll get home very fast.

Zipper looked at him with some distrust, remembering Skedesa’s warning, but agreed, lest Terks would consider him a coward.

They approached a rock massif and took a path that was winding upwards. The higher they went, the deeper and more dangerous the precipice got. There was a multitude of small and larger stones that impeded their progress. But it seemed that Terks had frequently passed from here, for he was moving fast.

“Come on, don’t lag behind,” he urged Zipper.

But Zipper tripped and fell. He hit his knee on a stone and felt sharp pain. Blood trickled from the wound. He sat down to press on it. When he raised his eyes in a couple of minutes to look at Terks, the priest’s son was not to be seen on the path.

“Terks”, he called out, but there was no response.

Skedesa who had difficulty in following them saw how her lover was sitting and holding his knee, so she approached hastily.

Zipper frowned when he saw her again.

“Didn’t I tell you to get back?”

“Don’t be stupid! There’s some catch. Clearly Terks wants to kill you. Can’t you realize that? Where’s he now? Why isn’t he here to help you? Why didn’t he get back when you called him?”

Zipper thought on her words. He was aware she was right.

While they were talking, there was a rumble of falling stones.They looked up and saw pieces of rock flying down. Skedesa was lightning fast in helping her lover to rise, and they shot into a slot in the rocks. They clung closely to the rocks and watched how the shower of stones was falling, pattering like hailstone. When there were no more falling stones, Skedesa said:

“I am sure that Terks pushed the stones down! I told you he wants to kill you.”

“You must be right,” Zipper said, “but if I say that in front of the tribe, no one will believe me! And now if I overtake and kill him, they will blame me as the culprit!”

“We can help him to fall into the precipice,” Skedesa offered. “We’ll say he tripped and fell.”

“You think his father will believe me?!”

“Why not?” Skedesa said in surprise.

“Because I know him. He will make up a story to prove I am guilty.”

“What story do you think he’ll make up?”

“It would be easiest for him to say there was somebody that witnessed how I pushed him. Many of his servants can do that good turn for him. Then he will set the tribe against me, and he will want them to kill me.”

“Yes, perhaps you are right,” Skedesa said. “So what do you think we should do?”

“We’ll get back along the old way.”

“Can you walk? Does your wound hurt much?” she asked.

“It does, but I will make it,” Zipper replied.

“What about Terks? What do you intend to do with him?”

“Nothing for the time being. He must be somewhere around, over us, and he will see us.”

“So what? I saw you by accident, and I followed you. It is even better if he sees us together. He is clearly intent on getting me, and when he sees me, he will stop pushing stones.

They went downwards along the stony path.

There, almost on top of the rocks, stood Terks, a stone in hand, ready to hurl it. After he saw Zipper together with Skedesa, he restrained himself. Anger distorted his face, and he went red with fury. Drops of sweat triggered by malice covered his forehead.

“Skedesa, Skedesa, Skedesa,” her name echoed in his mind. He wanted her, but he knew he could have her only on condition that Zipper disappeared.

“OK. There will be some new chance and I will be able to find a way of getting rid of him,” Terks told himself when he curbed his anger.

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