“What are you doing with that sword young man?” Cicero raises an eyebrow.

“I’m going to shove it through your gullet of course, wretch.” This raises laughs from the armed men surrounding them. They are clad in heavy armor and wield myriad instruments of death, a stark contrast to the light traveling clothes of the man and the woman.

Helena raises her fists slightly. This makes them even more insolent and ravenous.

The leader continues growling wolfishly. “And then we will take your woman.”

“Wrong on two accounts, firstly she’s not “my woman”, but my dear and lovely wife…”

“Yeah, yeah… I’m sweet as swine on Sunday, but get on with it and tell these shit-buckets why they should leave us alone.” Helena snaps at Cicero.

“…secondly when you try, and I do mean try, to hit me with that blade, I will take it from you and kill you.” It not what he says but the way he is not surprised at the arrow that flies towards him from the assembled mob. He snatches it from mid-air and throws it down beside his feet. It pierces a road stone.

They stop laughing.

“I am going to tell you a story. I won’t bore you with many of the details, but this is something you need to hear fellow soldiers. It may save your life to listen to what I have to say.”

“Do you always have to?” Helena sighs.

“Let’s not let the current situations dissuade us from a bit of drama. Besides it looks like they’re ready to tune in.”

Helena rolls her eyes.


"... and the sun-god so loved his daughter and admired the courage of the suitor that he gave them his blessing. Love eternal."

Helena whispers. "That's not quite how I remember it."

Cicero continues tapping the hilt of his dagger.

“I’ve lived through thousands of lives worth of strife and always been a killer when awakened. During my history of violence I’ve become the warrior consummate, undefeatable and undying.”

“In between my many deaths I was called a sorcerer, a warlord, an alchemist, an assassin, a seer and an advisor to a many a great men.” He stresses each profession boisterously, seemingly savoring the memories.

“I’ve seen to the darkest parts of myself and sometimes I like what I see. I have to. I have become dangerous and bitter beyond belief.  So any man that raises his arms against me today and somehow lives to see tomorrow, better heed this promise; I will come for you and your blood and make them not be!” Cicero lowers his voice so that only the closest of the mercenaries can hear the rest of his words.

“So go away peacefully and live.”

They let them pass averting their eyes.

After a few minutes of walking in silence Helena bursts into a giggle fit. “I can’t believe that it worked!”

“Me neither.” Cicero smiles raising his hands crookedly in a mocking gesture.


The almost-men waiting in the underbrush are eager to chase their prey, but a firm voice subdues them.

“We will follow. They will lead us to the Spiral.”