The epic saga of the ancient world—Tros of Samothrace—draws to a conclusion in this sixth—and final—volume. Julius Caesar has been assassinated and Queen Cleopatra of Egypt finds herself in a perilous position and desperate for allies to secure her power. Mark Antony comes into her life and once again the plotting begins and once again Tros is drawn into danger. Great perils will have to be overcome before Tros can safely feel the deck of his purple sailed, serpent prowed ship beneath his feet and a fair wind at his back. This is another satisfying helping from Talbot Mundy—one of the finest writers of this genre and much admired by some of it's most famous exponents including Robert E Howard of Conan fame. All six Tros adventures are now available from Leonaur in complementing covers in hard and soft cover.
It was race day; there was no doubt where to find Cleopatra that afternoon. The races had more effect than law and police on the behaviour of the Alexandrine crowd. The priesthood of Serapis might have felt happier, but the crowd would have felt insulted if the Queen had stayed away. Unable to compete with such a popular attraction, the priests had contrived to give chariot racing a vaguely religious significance; they had a row of reserved seats into which they filed with solemn ceremony. Royalty could not afford to miss the opportunity to arrive rather late and be more brilliantly ostentatious than the priests. True, Cleopatra herself was a priestess; on certain occasions she even wore the robes of divine Isis. But it was better politics to appear at the races as royalty, with the priesthood in decidedly subordinate position. Even Caesar, who also was a high priest, had taken that course.<br>
So Tros, too, attended the races, after his own determined fashion. Too indignant to feel tired, even though he had worked furiously all night long to save Esias's docks and repair yards from destruction, he submitted to be washed and dressed in court apparel by Jew-Esias's slaves. He could hardly even feel his wound, he was so angry. He took one last look at the smoking ruin of his trireme, gave curt orders to Ahiram, and had himself carried in a curtained litter borne by eight slaves, past the splendid temple of Serapis, to the royal entrance to the Stadium.<br>
Like the Baltic wife who was slain by a Roman arrow on the northern coast of Gaul, his beloved trireme, the finest war-ship the world had ever known, was dead. Dead. Dead. Have ships souls? He wondered. The loss might signify another new beginning, stormier, more difficult than ever, nevertheless a beginning.
Money and men he still had. To build a new ship, Queen or no Queen, would be easier than to get another such crew together. He would get that crew to sea again, at all costs, soon, on some sort of ship, to keep them disciplined. He was already storming the future. He looked the part in his gorgeous purple cloak, with the broad gold band binding his raven hair, and his sword in its green-and-vermilion sheath, with the jewelled sword-belt, one buckle missing.
The royal entrance to the Stadium was as elaborate as architects could make it. Fifty helmeted guardsmen stood like statues on either side of the mosaic pavement between the parking place for litters and the marble entrance steps.<br> Two junior guard-officers, wearing a year's income in gilded armor and jewelled belts and hilts, saluted Tros but flinched from facing him. He looked too angry, too important. They turned him over to the Captain of the Guard, Leander, a tall, bored exquisite with intelligent gray eyes, who was at pains to appear humorously gracious. He accepted Tros's sword with his own beautifully manicured hands, instead of letting a slave receive it on a cushion. He himself, with his own hands, laid it on a rack in the guardroom.<br>
"Captain Tros, I hope you bear me no ill will for having had to refuse you admission to the palace recently?"<br>
Tros eyed him, sure, if of nothing else, that what Leander craved was money; not promises or fair words, money. He knew how deeply the man was in debt, and how he loved his social position. So he snubbed him.<br>
"I reserve my ill will for my equals!"<br>
Leander winced. He was merely a parvenu aristocrat, his manners guided by the latest hint of royal favour and disfavour. Evidently word had filtered through the mysterious court channels of information that Tros was not yet in eclipse. Not yet. But Leander was an Alexandrine, and in favour with women at court. His retort was as prompt as an asp's fangs:<br>
"Equals? Has a pirate any equals? I suppose you do feel almost human since they burned your private navy! Have you learned who did it?"<br>
"If you knew what I know, Leander, you would ask fewer questions."<br>
"Omniscience! Was it envious Zeus with his thunderbolts? Did the great god burn your trireme to prevent you from raping Olympus?"<br>
"If I suspected you of having done it, Leander, you would be worth more."
"Feet first on your way to the embalmer. He at any rate would have a profit of you. Is it your duty to keep the Queen's guests gossiping at the foot of the stairs?"<br>
"Way for the Lord Captain! Kindly tread upon my shadow and immortalize it!" Suddenly Leander changed from spiteful raillery to a more familiar, friendlier tone. "Forget your trireme, Tros, and bet on Yellow in the big race; then you'll be feeling better tempered next time we meet. Bet early enough, and you may get odds of five to one, or even better. Red will be favorite, at odds on. Red's owner has been financed by a Roman moneylender, and the Romans have betted their last sesterce. But I think they'll lose their money. Let me do your betting for you." <br>
Was Leander worth buying? Tros decided he might be-possibly—perhaps. No Alexandrine courtier was very likely to be grateful; but easy money probably would whet his appetite for more, so it might be worth while to pretend to be fooled, with a view to the future. Yellow was probably the one chariot that could not possibly win. Leander would simply keep the money and laugh behind Tros's back. But later he might try another trick and find himself at Tros's mercy.