Another day’s walk up the river and I found a village or a reasonable size. It had its own church and looked to be bustling with activity. But most important of all it had a long jetty sticking out into the water with a number of boats moored to it. As I neared the settlement some of the smaller children spotted me and ran to meet me, they laughed and giggled as they came towards me. The sight of children free and not besieged made me smile and I laughed with them and gave them some of the bread that I had brought with me. By the time I reached the village it seemed like all the children had come out to greet me.
The language that these people spoke was different from any that I had heard before and communicating with them was impossible. So instead I merely pointed towards the boats at the jetty and said boat, slowly and loudly. Two of the children looked at each other and ran off, the rest drifted away slowly as I sat on a tree sump just outside the village and waited for something to happen. Shortly though the two children brought a woman from the village to see me. She was dressed in the fashion of Troy, with exotic colours and long flowing robes that clung to her figure in all the right places.
I stood to greet the woman. I bowed my head as was custom in Sparta and waited till she acknowledged me. “Iiwy neferankh” the woman said, “I am Aneksi.”
“I am Helen, thank you for meeting me.”
“It is no trouble lady; it is I who should be honoured to meet one such as yourself.”
I paused for a moment. This woman, this Aneksi, she thought she knew something about me which I had not told her. I wondered for a moment what it was that she had called me and what language it was.
“You ponder the words which I spoke to you, neferankh. It means perfect life in my land. It is the term we use for one such as yourself.”
Almost as a knee-jerk reaction and still confused I asked, “One such as myself. And what would that be?”
Aneksi stopped for a moment, “Oh what is the word” she muttered to herself, “the language of you Greeks is so clumsy I forget your…” She trailed off as she continued searching for the word. “Elf! That’s it; you are an elf if I am not mistaken.”
The shock on my face must have been all that was required for her to know that she was right. “Come Helen, do not worry about your secret. Few in my crew will recognise you for what you are save one, and he is an elf anyway.” We both chuckled and Aneksi led me to her ship and as she did so I examined her more closely. She was uncommonly short, even for a woman, but she was broad shouldered. Her steps were firm and lacked the usual grace of a woman, yet she still commandeered the attention of a woman. She had long red hair as well, which fell past her shoulders but not quite to her waist. There was something different about her which I could not quite put my finger on.
We walked through the village quickly as it looked like it might rain, and sure enough, just as we reached to boat a light drizzle began to fall. The boat was small, with only ten oars on each side though whether each oarsman pulled one or two oars I could not ascertain until I went below decks. That part of the design was strange, in those days to have your oarsmen covered on a single tier ship was considered decadence not required to protect mere slaves. There was no mast on the ship, signalling that it worked out of a local port. It was perhaps sixty feet long and twenty wide; a snug fit for all aboard, and even more so once I got bellow and saw the cargo it carried.
Aneksi led me along the deck of the ship past barrels and boxes which were all lashed to the boat with thick, strong-looking rope. Near the rear there was a hatch with a ladder down to the deck where the oarsmen were. As my guide opened the hatch a cacophony of sound erupted from below which I had not noticed before. I jumped a little and Aneksi placed a hand on my shoulder to reassure me, “The men are quite safe my dear. I have hand picked every one of them from the free peoples of this world. Most of them already have wives too.” Aneksi winked at me and somehow that made things ok.
Aneksi descended the ladder and I followed behind. There were twenty men seated haphazardly between twenty benches. There was a narrow isle through the middle of the ship which led toward another bench. The noise which I had heard from above was the sound of twenty men cheering and shouting as some played games of chance, others told jokes and talked and still a few others swung from the roof of the ship almost as if they were racing. The bench at the far end of the ship was occupied by a single man who was quietly sitting reading. What he read was not a book though; it was a scroll of thin paper with no language which I had ever seen before. Indeed what was on the page did not look like a language at all but instead an organised series of pictures.
Four or five paces back from the ladder was a doorway which Aneksi opened and ushered me through. As I passed Aneksi I entered a small but comfortable cabin with a large bed to the right and a desk with four chairs next to it to the left. Neither the desk nor the chairs were large but they and the bed still took up most of the room. In the small space between the bed and the chairs, backed against the wall was a bookcase with a large number of scrolls crammed into it. “This is my cabin which, if you care to join us, will be yours.”
Before I could protest the door to the cabin opened and the man who had been reading entered. “Kamose.” he said smiling and inclining his head toward Aneksi, “Senankh.” As he turn toward me and bowed.
Aneksi lent toward me, “Sentankh mean ‘sister in life’. It is how Egyptian elves greet each other.
I looked my brother in life in the eye and replied, “Sentankh” bowing as he had done.
Aneksi and the elf both broke into laughter. The elf leant back into the oar deck and shouted something in his native tongue and the deck erupted with laughter. Aneksi spoke to me, “You just called him your sister.” I erupted into laughter with the rest of those onboard the ship.