Eumaios and the Skunks (Part 2)

Michael O. Varhola

Read Part 1 of "Eumaios and the Skunks"

Eumaios rose with the dawn, dressed, and donned his foxskin cap. He looked at it briefly and, as he had many times before, regretted having killed the fox some three decades earlier. He had not thought twice about it at the time but, over the years, had come to feel that some of the animal's spirit still resided in this item and he hoped that it forgave him his act and considered that it had been a companion on his adventures. This cap marked him, in any event, as peltast, a light infantryman, and he liked those he dealt with to be cognizant of that. He armed himself with an old military dagger and a sturdy walking stick that could serve well as a cudgel and, even though he would certainly not need it, had in his haversack a leather sling and three or four stone bullets. 

Armed or not, Eumaios avoided killing anything at all anymore to the greatest extent that this was possible; most of the time this meant a couple of small animals a week, generally some of the feral chickens that roamed the island or maybe a rabbit, and he did this only to keep his strength up. Most of his diet consisted of olives, fruit, herbs, eggs, and other things gathered from the remains of the farm and the surrounding hills, supplemented with bread, cheese, or fish, and sometimes a meal purchased in the village. Eumaios especially liked roast lamb and, as this was something that he had not enjoyed since the last moon, decided he would have a meal of it during his foray into the nearby village of Kefalos. 

Eumaios's legs were always stiff in the mornings and he moved down through the wooded hills at a casual pace, enjoying the cool morning and alert to changes in the familiar landscape. He lived about half an hour outside of Kefalos, close enough that he could conveniently visit it when he wanted but far enough that he did not have to worry too much about having his privacy encroached upon. 

Kefalos was in a state of chaos when Eumaios arrived at it. At least half of the community's five-hundred citizens milled about in the town square or its surrounding businesses or streets, engaged in heated dispute over something with emotions ranging from panic to excitement. It