Eumaios and the Skunks (Part 4/Conclusion)

Michael O. Varhola

ultimately pointless war, and so they had come to this accommodation. The opposing token armies had battled each other to a standstill, a draw was declared by the priests of Hermes and Helios and the other officials tapped to judge the contest, and a peace treaty that had been drafted in advance was duly signed. Animals were even now being sacrificed in celebration and a feast for the combatants was being prepared on the beach. Hundreds of men had been wounded, some with compound fractures or other serious injuries, but, miraculously, no one had actually been killed.

Eumaios sighed wearily. He figured that a more detailed message clarifying the situation had probably been delivered in Kefalos soon after he had left to prepare for his overnight odyssey, maybe even soon enough that he would have learned of it if he had gone back down through the village rather than up through the hills. He staggered over to the main road and, by the time he had painstakingly walked about two miles, was overtaken by a pair of merchant wagons headed to the far end of the island. He knew some of the young guards and, after promising to lend his efforts to the defense of the little caravan if it was molested, clambered up onto one of the wagons and kept as vigilant a watch as he could throughout the long day. It was past dark by the time the caravan reached the vicinity of Kefalos and Eumaios disembarked near the path off the main road that led up to his home.

The old soldier had stiffened up in the ride back in the rocking wagon and was completely exhausted during the last mile up the rough path through the wooded hills, and at one point had been sorely tempted to just crawl into the underbrush and go to sleep. By the time he made it back to the yard in front of his ruined farmhouse he could hardly move and was afraid he would pass out if he tried to make a fire or even eat or drink anything. He decided not to sleep in the open air and opted for the security of his cellar home. He staggered over to the trap door enclosing the stairway, unlocked the padlock securing it, and swung the panel open and, as he did, a number of his cats came to greet