“Go, tell the Spartans, stranger passing by
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.”
“Get up.” Ligeia said. “Why are you still asleep? Get up now.”
My mother’s tongue was like a cracking whip. Each words was snapped out between her teeth, a sharp hiss. Why was she rousing me? Even with my eyes pressed shut, I could tell it was not yet daybreak. Only the thinnest shard of dawn sunlight sliced through the open shutters.
“Why must I get up?” I asked, mumbling through my blanket.
I was the sort of boy who enjoyed his sleep. There was no greater joy than wrapping myself in a thick blanket. It was not to keep out the night cold, that was unnecessary. My mother had fattened me up with hot mutton stew and fresh bread since the first hair sprouted on my chest.
Always, there was the memory of my father in the backs of our minds. He had been noble, a great warrior. A winter chill had stolen him from us. Fever shakes and a sweating brow had struck down the bravest man in Sparta, and the gods knew we had few enough warriors.
“Have you forgotten what day this is?” Ligeia asked.
She had a tremble of some burning emotion in her voice. What was it? Was she afraid, nervous, angry? I did not know and she fought to keep the feeling controlled.
“No, what day is it?”
I abandoned all hope of returning to sleep. Her tall, slender form leaned over the bedside. It was like a phantom presence, a shadow of threat. Ligeia bent to whisper in my ear.
“He returns today.”
How had I forgotten? We had waited years for that day to come and, when it finally arrived, I had not even noticed. Ligeia let out a howl of rage as I whipped the blanket away, never noticing that it landed over her head as I ran naked to the doorway.
Lycurgus was coming home. The Wolf of Sparta had returned.