Bandits and Brothers and Twins






Ezra Azra
.





 
Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The two bandits, identical twin brothers, made their living by robbing travelers on the road.

They were not greedy robbers; nor were they ambitious. They were satisfied with having just enough for a few days at a time. And so they were not robbing every day. Sometimes, when they happened to rob a wealthy traveler, they would not be seen for days on end. This was their casual carefree life until the war erupted between their country, Troy, and Greece which was far away across an ocean.

The invading Greeks arrived to try to conquer Troy. The Trojan robber brothers had no qualms about abandoning Troy. They fled to find travelers to rob on roads far away from Troy.

The one brother said to the other, Let us stop here.

Good. We have been walking for two days.

That's not the reason. There's a more important reason.

What?

Look around.

The other looked around, and observed, A country road. Like any country road. When you have seen as many as we have---.

This one is much, much travelled- on. And recently.

The other looked around, again, more carefully. You're right, my brother.

Which means we'll be in business soon.

Unless much travelled-on includes patrols by Greeks.

The other spoke while kneeling on one knee and inspecting the ground in detail. He shook his head slightly as he spoke, Uh-uh. I am an expert in Greek tracks. None here. These are the tracks of honest travelers.

Good. The very best of victims. He drew his sword and struck and stabbed the air a few times. I'm starving. Come, my precious victims. Please, come soon. They sat on the ground.

The one said, We dare not eat before they come.

Eat what?

Oh, shoot! I keep forgetting.

We are quite far from Troy. You think marauding Greeks maraud this far?

Not if Troy falls. Then Greeks go back to Greece.

Hah! Troy will never fall. God Poseidon built Troy's walls to stand forever.

Then why civilian groups in urgent flight so secretly at night?

Just people looking for escape from war. When Troy wins, they will flood back as fast as they are running away to escape the war. Recall that bunch we infiltrated? Nothing on them we could steal.

Something strange is going on. These poor are organized. There's purpose in their movement. Like rats aware the ship is sinking, but being extra careful when, and at which spot to jump ship.

The rats have rights, since they are not the cause the ship is sinking.

Was I imagining, or were there those two hooded rats kept showing special interest in us?

Imagination. Too dark for me to see. All rats are drawn to stink. We stink. We haven't bathed in weeks.

I do not smell a stink.

Of course you don't. One stinky is normal to all other stinkies.

That stint in the Skamander river does not count as bathing?

Fully clothed and dunking deep in hiding from a lynch mob we just robbed, does not count as bathing.

Occurs to me, if signs of travel on this road are mostly from poor rats, we're going to starve to death. We'll have to look for business somewhere else.

We should have made a grab at that one they referred to as Princess. She was the likeliest to have a thing or two of value.

They also said she was insane. You disrespect an insane person, gods will jump on you from a great height.

She didn't seem insane to me. She knew precisely what to do and say.

Of course, she did. She wasn't mad like you and me. She was Princess Royal mad.

Princess or not, mad ones are best. They don't ask for pay.

Do not ask me. I haven't had insane or sane throughout this war.

Nor me.

So sad.

What? What's so sad?

I don't recall who was my last.

Which means there might not have been a last!

He spoke softly, lowering his voice, and speaking as much to himself as to his brother, Which means there might not have been a first.

You gods! Give me a break!

I remember! Cressida!

The other looked at him, speechless, a second or two, You're right! She was about to be my first. Her Uncle burst into the room and dragged, and kicked me out!

What's sadder, yet, is that our more pressing problem nowadays is getting food.

I'm hungry all the time. I haven't eaten enough in weeks. Much more of this, and I'll enlist in the Trojan army, just for food.

You'd better join up soon because the way the war is going, I hear, there might not be an army for much longer. He paused because he noticed an unfamiliar look on his brother's face. What?

Have we been here before today?

We've reconnoitered here the last few days.

Something else. A cave? A cave! There is a cave!

You're right! But that was so long ago. Whatever brings that cave to mind?

I do not know. We were a family? Hey! Wait a minute! I do know! The scent!

The scent?

This forest. The trees. We have been here before today.

When?

Miss Sneddon? Our Biology teacher? I had a crush on her. Remember?

Why would I not recall the only teacher did not say that you and I would not accomplish anything worthwhile?

Beside the point, though all of them are right, so far. Miss Sneddon said the sense of smell sometimes brings up a memory of a long forgotten happening. Remember?

No, I do not. But Miss Sneddon could have said it. Of all our teachers, she had the highest IQ. That, I remember.

And that's what's happening in me right now, right here. We have been here before today. I am remembering the scent of vegetation.

And what about the cave? How does the cave fit in?

I don't know. For a few seconds both brothers were lost in thought.

The one mentioned softly, in light humor, Remember Norman Linderboom?

The bully who made a point to always sit behind us in the classroom?

Oh, brother, do I remember him? We eventually got him, as tall and as big as he was. We got him.

Yeah, the bully who made a point of repeating what those teachers said of us.

Everybody celebrated when he accidentally drowned on Sneddon's class field trip.

An accident of which we were prime suspects of engineering.

The other suddenly jumped up. Shhhh! I hear something.

They hid. Two travelers walked by. Each wore a large backpack, and a sword.

Traveller, whispering, Stop!

Other traveler, What?

I smell sweat.

Of course you're smelling sweat. We're soaked in it.

Smells differently.

While you work on smells of sweat, let's rest a bit.

No. I'm tired, too. But let's push on. We can't be far from people. Better rest there than here.

You're guessing. I have travelled fifteen years to and from people. This is my first time on this road, because of the war. I do not know how near we are to people.

Could we be lost?

We are not lost. I know the stars. We planned this course a little farther East of Troy than usual.

Okay. I've changed my mind. Let's rest.

Good. I'm thirsty and I'm hungry.

They sat on the ground. They put their backpacks and swords on the ground. They took items of food from their backpacks and pockets, and ate and drank.

One traveler observed, casually, I broke my rule this time.

What rule?

I have not travelled anywhere abroad with less than five persons.

Originally, eight said they would join. Unseasonal wet weather interfered.

Just two would not have been a problem had the war not reached so far away from Troy.

I didn't expect that Troy would give up on protecting travelers.

It's helped, so far, that we detoured to this so far-off route.

It has. We haven't seen a Greek the last two days. But let's not think Greek soldiers are the only hostiles we can meet.

You're right. This is a road. It would not be here if there wasn't traffic.

I am too old for this. Returning will be my last trip.

Might be the last for everyone, if Arza's right. For once.

The seer? Blind old goat. He's not predicted anything that ever did come true.

Perhaps because he speaks in riddles no one can unravel.

I know. Like when he saw Troy's mighty empire on the banks of the Rubicon river.

I have heard about that prophecy. He prophesied that long before this war when Troy was prosperous. Has anyone unraveled Rubicon?

None that I have heard.

Wherever Rubicon might be, let's hope the blind old goat is right, because it means that Troy will win this war, and we can still conduct our trade.

Has anybody heard another prophecy since Rubicon from that old goat? My last was Rubicon.

I do not know of others. Rubicon was my last, too. Before this war.

Poor Arza could be dead. I wish a chariot sent by a god took him to heaven.

You know, this war means there's a real possibility we won't find buyers in any place.

I know. Especially for items ordered by one customer. In normal circumstances families assume responsibility. I've never had to deal with families in times of war.

Let's share the information of our goods, so that while we are selling our own, we might find customers for the other. I specialize in medicines. I'll write a list of illnesses for you.

I have a one-of-a-kind set of hat and gloves made for Lord-----.

The bandit twins entered, swords drawn.

The one bandit spoke, Stay calm. We don't want all your wealth. Just half of it. We're simple robbers. We would rather not hurt anyone.

One traveller jumped up and grabbed his sword, We'd rather hurt and kill you!

Both travelers attacked. In the ensuing fight, it was obvious that the travelers were outmatched.

The one bandit, almost impatiently pleaded, Give it up before we are obliged to hurt you.

The other bandit, in the same vein as his brother, We don't want all your wealth. We want only half.

We keep our weapons?

Certainly. No tricks.

The travelers exchanged looks of agreement. The one traveler, not caring to hide his relief, All right.

Everybody sheathed their swords.

The one brother offered, Go ahead and make the halves. 



Contact Ezra
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Ezra's Story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher