Thursday, July 23, 2015


Greco-Roman culture extended up along the north shore of the Euxine Sea, though Roman sovereignty was iffy at best. Local kings enjoyed quite a bit of leeway. Although ostensibly clients of the emperor, they worked their own rackets too. One such king was Heracles the Fifth, who ruled a small but wealthy holding just to the right of the Crimea from his snug, little capital of Pariakis. Another Siracuse it was, with all the pleasures of major Hellenistic centers, though distilled to smaller size. It had marble. It had granite... a jewel-box of an amphitheater and a slave market featuring Scythians, Radiant Alans, Circassians and all the other exotic breeds found throughout the Cimmerian world. The palace, a half scale Tivoli, though due to the opulence of the place, few noticed it's diminutive nature, was a bad boy's playland. And Heracles the Fifth was a very bad boy indeed. He had two wives, Calpurnia and MuccaFea. The former engaged in a notorious affair with her wild, centaur stable boy and the later given to staging vivid tableau vivants. The only problem was some of the slave 'actors' could not assume the necessary poses and had to be killed and cracked into position, thus negating the 'vivant' part. But you can't have everything.

The king played with slaves too. Used them for fish food... hag fish and lampreys to be precise.  Had a big, cement pond, down in a dim, artificial grotto. Candles in cylindrical, blue glass 'vases,' I guess they were, threw a weak, watery light across the faux cavern walls of an already damp, chilly space. 

Next there was the water, usually placid til they threw something in. Then it roiled with the slick, snotty, oozing bodies of primitive, snake, eel, headless fish wannabes. Like wriggling, manically mobile intestinal tracts with round, sucking, tooth-filled 'mouths' at one end.

The king, Heracles the Fifth, saved the show for special guests and sometimes those he sought to intimidate. They'd come down after dinner, an obscene event in its own right. Torch bearing slaves led the way, followed by scent girls swinging silver filigree balls filled with perfumed wax. Not being 'normal' free people, they had no dignity or modesty and were kept bare, though in quite prime condition. 

Each guest had a small dish of raw, cut up fish. They'd laugh, toss some in and watch the loathsome, basically headless monsters go wild. Then the king would say - Care to raise the stakes a bit?..... Well born ladies giggled with delight, as their husbands and papas guffawed the way complacent big shots always do..... He'd wait a few heartbeats, the king, I mean, using the time to carefully appraise his 'stock.' Then he'd lift his hand and point a carefully manicured finger right at the victim. You. - he'd say. Go have a bath. Shoo shoo shoo, jump in.... This time the 'bather' was a scent girl. She blanched, moved not a muscle and stood there..... The king, in a low threatening voice said - The alternative is 'the griddle.'..... The pathetic girl nodded and stepped toward the edge. The king said - Any  of your kinsmen bound here will be set free. Now jump before I stick a knife up your ass!.. His dinner companions loved the tension and drama almost as much as the hellish scene to come.... And she did it. She jumped. A few of the matrons actually squealed with glee.  At first she tried to paddle about. Then she gave out with a tiny 'yip,' as the first hungry 'worm' grabbed hold, signaling the rest. ... One to the neck... One took an eye... Three to the buttocks, as she shrieked and rolled on an angry bed of flesh eaters..... The noble-folk  watched in silence.... When it was over and her shredded, skeletal carcass sank to the bottom, a glossy, well fed gentleman said - Remarkable, Majesty. Simply remarkable....His ruler moved closer, put his arm on the man's shoulder, grinned and said - Enjoyed that, did you?.... The man nodded appreciatively. Then while his head still bobbed, the king said - Have a closer look... and pushed him in... No one made a move, or said a word, including the man's daughter, lest they join him... The fish ate very well that night, very well indeed....

And for months to come, the king and his royal family savored their exotic treats. Hag fish and lampreys have a sweet, smooth silky taste. But a slave snuck down to the underground pond one night... a yet to be freed kinsman of that unfortunate scent girl, her brother, I think... He tossed bits of fish to the 'murderers' and watched as they ate. But his gift was infected with parasites, sea-worms of a most lethal and infectious sort. Three weeks later the first little royal bastard died. They thought it was cholera, but it wasn't. Worms like human flesh too. By the time of the summer solstice it was over. Heracles the Fifth and all his closest kith and kin were gone. Rome sent another to fill his throne. For legitimacy's sake they called him Heracles the Sixth... and he was even worse.

Now there were no vampires, or other night crawlers in tonight's tale. And I'm just a disembodied spirit you haven't met yet. But I know a bit about what transpired back then, for I swam with the hag fish and lampreys too.

Good night.


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