The Head of Thucydides


Episode Six

By Astra Crompton

They heard the surf crashing, could smell salt on the air long before they crested the hill to the beach. Their need to reach the ocean had been spurs in their flanks, the tides seeming to pull them onward inexorably. It was strange that the destination had been a stronger goad than the danger that chased them. After all, at the ocean waited a boat that would take them to safety.

The city had burned. They could still smell the acrid stink clinging in their nostrils. Every breath of wind against them seemed to find more ashes to blow from their skins and hair. Each strained breath of swollen lungs gasped like the fall of buildings. Even with the roar of the sea, Helena could still hear the screams of the citizens as soldiers burst into royal houses. Despite the cold, David still felt like he was burning, just as he had watched his father burn.

The metropolis had fallen. The soldiers of the August Senators had bashed down doors in the search of the opposition, faithful supporters of Demetrius, old royal households that might yet hold too much power. The soldiers had screamed of lofty ideals, of revolution, of fairness for the people. If that were true, why were so many citizens dead? Why was the city falling all around them, consumed by the angry flames the soldiers themselves had set?

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