Ancient Rivalry


“Alketas, no, stop that!”

Deep in the heart of the countryside, in the country of Macedonia, a mother’s voice could be heard shouting from a small house in a small town. The mother appeared to be scolding her son, who was attempting to go toward the fire in the middle of the house. Alketas promptly sat down, angry at his mother.

“I only wanted to help!” He cried, waving the small twig he’d been carrying in an attempt to throw it on the fire. It was a cool autumn’s day and the fire was going down. His mother shook her head fondly, reaching down to ruffle her son’s hair.

“You know the fire’s dangerous, darling, and I don’t want you getting hurt.”

Alketas sulked, moving away from his mother’s hand. He was only five years old and his father was rarely around, having joined the forces of King Philip’s army against the Persians. Alketas knew he was young, but he was determined to be the man of the house and care for his mother while his father was away. The problem was, she would never let him, even with the most simplest of jobs. He was always sent to play with the other children of the town, told to have fun while he could. He didn’t WANT fun, he wanted to be grown up and go help his father as soon as he could. Watching his mother as she moved towards the field to milk the cows, he wandered after her, picking up an extra bucket on his way.

“No! Alketas!” His mother laughed, noticing her son behind her. “Go play with Matthew, he’s out today!”

Alketas ignored his mother, continuing to toddle towards the nearest and most gentle cow. He already knew how to do this, having done it once before when his mother had showed him, allowing him to do the work he wanted to. Patting the cow gently to let him know he was there, the animal mooed lowly, and then continued eating the grass. Alketas grinned, placing the bucket under the cow’s udders and slowly moving his hands around the soft teats, gently squeezing them. As the milk squirted out and straight into the bucket, Alketas let out a squeal of delight, glancing over to his mother, who was watching. She smiled, coming forward to take charge.

“I’ll continue doing that, you can go play now.” Reaching for the bucket, Alketas pushed her hand away in frustration.

“No! I want to do this. I want to help!” Bursting into tears, he pushed his mother away and then went to the other udder, still trying through his tears. His mother sighed, picking up her own bucket and then moving to the nearest cow, still keeping an eye on her son. Alketas himself was concentrating, pulling and squeezing on the udders gently, watching as the milk went down into the bucket. He stopped crying after a few minutes, resulting in a few sniffles as he squeezed out the last of the milk the cow had to offer. Stepping back, he patted the cow on the side again as a way of thanks, and the cow mooed gently back, walking away from him. Alketas proudly picked up the bucket and made his way over to his mother, who’d already milked the rest of the cows while Alketas had done his job.

“Look what I’ve done!” He exclaimed, giving his mother the view of all the milk he’d managed to collect. She smiled, taking the bucket from him.

“Well done, darling.” Pouring her son’s bucket of milk into her own, she smiled even more as she noticed him watching intently. “Want to take your bucket into the house?” She offered, handing him his now empty bucket. Alketas nodded furiously, taking his bucket and running back to the house, almost tripping in his excitement. His mother had finally given him a job! He hurried back into the house, placing the bucket down where he’d taken it and looked up as his mother came in, carrying the full bucket. She placed the bucket down and looked at her son, who was waiting eagerly for his next job.

Laughing, she straightened up.

“How about we both play a game instead, hmm? Sounds fair to me, as neither of us get any jobs done.”

Alketas frowned, but reluctulantly nodded, wandering back over to the fire, shivering slightly. He didn’t have any toys, and his mother was usually exhausted from working so games with her usually weren’t as fun as with other children. Sitting down, he glanced up at her, wondering what she had in mind. She smiled down at him, glancing round the small home.

“How about a game of hide and seek? Sounds like fun to me, and I know you love playing that game with Matthew when he comes out!”

Alketas grinned, knowing he’d be able to find his mother easily, as he knew all the hiding places in the house.

“You hide first!” He cried, jumping up and placing his hands over his eyes. He only knew up to ten but that’s all he needed. He started counting, hearing his mother move away from him.

“...7, 8, 9, 10, ready or not, here I come!” He laughed, moving his hands away from his face. Glancing round, he turned in the direction he was sure he’d heard his mother go. All he could see was the table and the bed he and his mother shared. Laughing, he ran over behind the table, and seeing as his mother didn’t appear to be there, ran round the back of the bed. He’d found her, and she laughed.

“My hiding place was far too easy!” She grinned, getting up from where she’d been sat and dusting herself down. “Alright, I think it’s your turn now.”

Before Alketas could move, there was a sudden scream outside, the unmistakeable sound of a woman’s scream. And then more joined in, with cries from toddlers. Alketas jumped, and his mother ran to the window. What she saw evidently scared her, because her eyes widened, and she ran over to her son, picking him up and running to the only cupboard they had, placing him inside. Tears started streaming down her face as she looked at her son.

“I want you to stay here, okay? No matter what you see, I want you to stay inside and keep quiet. Keep quiet and stay still until you hear the noise go away, okay?”

Alketas nodded, scared. He’d never seen his mother cry before. She started closing the doors and Alketas pushed it open, refusing to let her close it.

“Mama, what about you?” he asked, and his mother shook her head, letting out a sob.
“I love you, darling. Be brave.” She placed a kiss on his cheek and then closed the door fully. Alketas opened the door a little so that he could see what she was doing. He watched as she ran around frantically, trying to gather all her things amongst the cries and screams outside. She stopped in her tracks as a shadow fell in the house from the doorway, stopping any light from entering. Alketas moved slightly and quietly to see who it was.

“Well, well, someone’s trying to escape before we can get to her?” A soldier that definitely wasn’t of Macedonian origin snarled in the doorway. Alketas’ mother shook in fright, not replying. The soldier suddenly lurched forward, grabbing her by the neck. Alketas let out a gasp, quickly covering his mouth, and luckily not noticed by the soldier. His mother was struggling, and the soldier was joined by another two who did nothing to help the struggling woman. The first soldier’s nasty grin that he’d kept from the start disappeared, and he shoved her against the nearest wall, moving his mouth closer to the shaking woman.

“Well then, what’s a pretty young woman like you doing in a house on her own, eh? Where’s your pretty little husband?”

Alketas’ mother was still crying, but she looked down at the soldier with contempt and hate in her voice.

“My husband is in the military, killing vile Persians like you who terrorise towns for no real reason.”

The soldier holding her laughed cruelly.

“Well he’s clearly not doing a good job, else we wouldn’t have been able to get to this town.” Tightening his grip on her throat, he moved his mouth closer to her ear, breathing just loud enough for Alketas to hear from his hiding place.

“So...any children? I’m under strict orders to kill everyone in this town, and you’d make our job so much easier if you told us where your children were.”

Alketas’ mother was a very good actress, for she shook her head in fear, her hands flying to her belly to signal that she was with child. The soldier noticed this, and let out a small laugh.

“Well then, I’d better finish off the job, hadn’t I?” Throwing her to the floor, he withdrew his sword. As she trembled on the floor, he pulled back the sword and then plunged it through her belly, ignoring the piercing scream she emitted. Alketas, still in the cupboard, started shaking, keeping quiet. The soldier withdrew his sword, wiping the blood off on the now still woman’s clothes.

“Vile Macedonians...” he muttered, and left the house with his fellow soldiers, going back into the yells and screams outside.

Back in the cupboard, Alketas let out a small sob, not daring to move. He sat and waited, covering his ears slightly to stop listening to the screams. He waited, sobbing in the same position until it was dark. Removing his hands from his ears, he listened. Not a sound.
Pushing open, the cupboard, he let out a cry, and ran to the corpse of his mother. Falling down next to her, he let out a cry.

“M-m-mama? Mama, please wake up. The bad guys have gone now. You can wake up now.” Shaking her limp arm, he cried louder. “Mama! I’ll go play with the boys, I’ll stop doing chores, please wake up!”

She didn’t move, and Alketas sobbed harder, falling upon the body, heaving out sobs. He stayed with his mother, sobbing, until he eventually ran out of tears. Sitting up, he wiped his eyes, and then stumbled outside the house. The sight that met his eyes wasn’t a pleasant one. The street was littered with corpses, all people he’d once known. As he moved out, in search of anyone alive, he looked around, even finding Matthew amongst the corpses.

“Hello?” His feeble voice rang out, and was unanswered. Finding a wave of fresh tears, he became hysteric, starting to run. He didn’t know where he was going, he just knew he had to get away from the scene. He ran as fast as his five year old legs would carry him, running past forests and lakes, until it was almost dawn, and he finally came upon a village that seemed untouched by the Persians. He dragged himself to the nearest house, banging on the door, still in tears.

It was answered by a kindly looking old woman, who took one look at the sobbing little boy, and immediately put her arms around him. This was good timing, as everything around Alketas immediately went black as he fell unconscious.
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Here's my prologue of the thing. I hope you like it. Comments would be welcomed ^__^