Chapter 2: Storm Clouds
The foamy waves ebbed in and out, stealing bits of sand before spitting out what the sea discarded. The tides told the story of restless waters. It was the sea that teemed with life yet in an instance claimed the lives of souls into its watery deep. It would intertwine the lives of many men in a loop with no end that flowed seamlessly like the waves. The familiar sounds of waves crashing against the beach were followed by the groans of men in constant movement. A large cargo ship bobbed in the waves as the last anchors were loosened. The captain shouted orders to the men who were carrying the amphorae into the cargo hold.
"All aboard the ship," the captain announced. With nods from the crew, the stout captain assumed his position on top of the deckhouse. As the collective sea of heads bobbed in agreement, nobody seemed to notice a man on horseback approaching the dock.
"Wait, you are not to be departing today," he shouted, before jumping off the horse. He ran up the ramp to face the befuddled looks of the crew. "There must have been a mistake," he said, panting.
"What is the meaning of this?" the captain muttered. He stepped back down onto the deck.
"Oh captain you have to hear me out please. You are not delegated to leave the island nor are this crew. There is a letter from the king that the docks are to be closed today."
"And who are you? His Messenger?" he scoffed.
"Why yes," he answered briskly. "They have reported rough waves at the lighthouse five miles south of Cyrene's port. It is best to ground the ships till the weather is fair." The captain looked past the Messenger and went on with his commands to loosen the anchors.
"Did you not hear a word I said? Look at the clouds for yourself." The captain rolled his eyes and looked up at the cloudy skies looming over the southern horizon.
"You do not understand! We have planned this venture for some time. If we catch the trade winds we can make it to Ephesus in no time. We can even get there before the storm starts."
"Just wait it out. Please. There is no need to go against the storm," he said in a pleading tone. All eyes were on the captain.
"I have sailed through several storms in my time and I never lost a soul. Why do you doubt me now!" he snapped.
"What do you want me to tell the king? That you defied his mandate!"
"Well, this letter from the king earlier denotes otherwise," the captain said flapping the parchment in his face. "Besides this cargo cannot wait much longer. We must keep our promises." With that he ordered a chest to be brought before the Messenger. A slave opened the wooden chest. Golden coins filled to the brim.
"Think about it," said the captain with a crooked grin.
His limp body rested on the couch with limbs hanging loosely over the sides. The man gazed sadly at the pallor face of his grandson that the oil lamp illuminated.
"I wish you could hear me Troy. I know you are alive in there," he said, heaving a sigh.
"He could not hear you father," Acropolus said bitterly. "I have sought to protect this sovereign island nation, but I failed to protect my own son. He is my youngest. Apollus is all I have now since Barbarius is lost at sea," he said, shaking his head.
A female slave entered into the atrium from the left wing. Her curls spilled over her shoulders as she stopped to give a slight bow. "Dinner is ready my lord."
"I have no appetite for any of it," the King replied swiftly.
"Your Excellency, what about the dinner party for tomorrow?"
"Cancel that too!" he answered sharply. The slave girl stood there speechless.
"Just go!" he barked. The slave shuffled out the room with her head bowed low. As the two men huddled over Troy, Apollus came in through the vestibule unannounced.
"How is he?" Apollus asked sheepishly. The two men turned to acknowledge the young man in their presence.
Father hesitated before answering. "He is still breathing, but shallow. Hopefully the doctor will be able to make it in time before the storm." His expression darkened in the shadows. "Why are you returning so late?" father asked, raising his voice.
"I just came back with some friends. We went to town and then we rode back here on horseback," he replied, shrugging.
"You were supposed to come home sooner. While you were out prancing around your brother lays broken!"
"You make it sound so bad. And no, I was not prancing around. I am here, am I?"
His father shook his head. "You cannot afford to be irresponsible Apollus. Something could have happened to you, and then what? Besides were you not supposed to be with your brother?"
"Since when did I have to be his guardian?" Apollus questioned, growing defensive.
"Well since you are the older son still alive, you should act like it!" father said sharply. "And do not speak to me that way. I am still the king of this domain. You walk around as if nothing is wrong, while you have no idea of what befalls your brother. Pretend like you care for once!" he snapped. Apollus stood there quiet for a moment. His father's tightened jaw and narrowed eyes seethed with condemnation. He was not used to feeling ashamed.
"Sorry, father," he said in a low voice.
"You need to apologize not just to me but your brother," he said pointing to Troy. Apollus eased his way closer to the couch where his grandfather still hovered over.
He leaned in, before sucking in a breath. "I never meant for this to happen to you, Troy," he whispered. His lips quivered. "Sorry." His greenish brown orbs glistened with tears. "I should have been there." Rumbles of thunder broke the deafening silence between them.
The grandfather ran his fingers over the cloth wrapped above his brow. "Just hold on Troy. The physician is coming," he said softly. A pair of slaves came to redress the bandaged cloth on his head that was soaked with blood.
Then the room went dark. A burst of wind howled from the open skylight, blowing out the remaining flame from the oil lamp. The three men huddled closer to the couch.
"I fear that the physician will get caught up in the storm," father said. Flashes of lightning lit the dark room in a brilliance of blue light. Apollus shuddered at the sight. He never did like lightening growing up.
"Quick, bring in the candles!" father demanded from a nearby slave that was carrying the discarded bandages. "When is the physician coming?" he muttered aloud.
Thunder shook the room. Moments later a dissonance of raindrops pelted the tiled roof. Sheets of water poured from the skylight, filling the impluvium with rainwater. One of the female nurses made her way through the dark to feel his wrist.
"I have no pulse from him," the female nurse said, sighing.
Grandfather nudged his shoulder. "Wake up Troy. The physician is coming. Hold on for me. Please!" he begged. A moment later a series of knocks sent the grandfather jolting up from his hunched position. Before one of the slaves could open the door, the grandfather was already scrambling to open it. The physician was waiting on the other side, shivering. His hair which was almost all gray slicked over his ears. Through all the years of practice his face showed little wrinkles. The man's sandals squeaked with every step across the mosaic tiles, leaving a trail of puddles in his path. After a slave handed him a towel to dry off, he crossed to where the boy laid in the center of the atrium. The physician clasped his cold hands over the boy's limp wrist. He sighed before moving in closer. Standing over him, he placed an ear against Troy's chest, listening for the faintest thump. He nodded, ushering a collective sigh of relief from the Acropolus and the grandfather.
"He is still alive but in critical condition. He has a serious head abrasion, where some bleeding occurred. His legs…" The doctor's voice trailed off.
"Will he be able to make a full recovery?" grandfather asked.
"Maybe… I cannot say for certain now. Only time will tell. But if he does wake up from his deep sleep I cannot guarantee a quick recovery."
"Do you think he will be able to do the things he used to do?" Father asked.
"Again he has the potential to pull through whatever storm that he faces. Everything looks fair except his head and the legs. Even if he does wake up from this deep sleep he might never walk again." Apollus bowed his head, while father turned around to clear his throat.
Grandfather turned to the physician, "Thank you for your time." As the storm raged on, the father and grandfather would converse with the doctor. They spoke in low tones as if Troy could hear their words.
"He will never walk.'"
"He might not make it pass a week."
"Treasure every moment you have with him."
Their voices faded into the howling wind and rumbles of thunder. Meanwhile, grandfather stood by the side of Troy as the night wore on. As Troy clung to life, grandfather did something he had not done in a long time. He bent over to kiss his forehead. The thin skin of his brow was cold to the lips. The storm was slowly weakening, and soon dawn would break. But there was no telling if he would see the dawn.