Summary: Soldier of the Mist


The Foreword describes how the proceeding story is a translation of papyrus scrolls found in a corner of the British Museum. After detailing the chain of ownership of the scrolls, the discussion turns to the problems with translation. Latro writes in abreviations in archaic Latin and has attemtped to transcribe place names in Greek as he hears them. This results in problems such as Latro's referring to Spartans as 'rope makers'. In the remainder of the Foreword, the translator provides some context for the place and time the events took place. It is signed G.W., implying Gene Wolfe is the translator.

Note: Each chapter (so far) seems to cover (more or less) Latro's journey for one day. Note that this does not necessarily mean that he journals every day.

Part One

One: Read This Every Day

Latro awakes in an army camp, not knowing who or where he is. His head is bandaged. A healer comes and tends to him, telling him that he was found near the shrine of the Earth Mother (Demeter) where they fought Thought (Athens) and the Rope Makers (Sparta). The healer determines that Latro forgets everything of the day when he sleeps, so he gives Latro a book and stylus so he can write a daily journal.

Latro is in the camp of the army of the great king (Xerxes I of Persia). The time seems to be a short while after the Battle of Plataea in 479 BC with the Persian army in retreat after its loss.

Latro meets the black man, another mercenary from a far land. The black man becomes his companion. But he meets someone else - a river-man/god (Asopus). Latro offers him his sword as a sacrifice, but the river god returns it, re-tempered and strong.

Two: At Hill

The army has made it to Hill (Thebes), which was an ally against Athens and Sparta. Latro sees a statue of the Swift God in a fountain and loudly prays to it. This commotion is profitable with he and the black man collecting coins from the spectators, although it finally causes some of the city elders to spirit him away to the temple of the Shining God (Apollo). The priest demanded payment before the oracle could prophesy about Latro, so a slave girl (Io) is brought to the temple as payment.

While the oracle starts her prophecy, Apollo steps forth and talks to Latro. Apollo will not heal Latro because the injury occured in the Great Mother's temple, but he does prophesy about Latro.

Three: Io

Latro awakes and learns of two new people who have joined him. Apollo's oracle in Thebes ordered both to accompany Latro: Io, the slave girl summoned to Apollo's temple, now made a slave to Latro and Pindaros, a poet who was one of the men present at the oracle's prophesying. Pindaros relates the oracle's prophesy to Latro and interprets it for him. According to the prophesy, Latro is to offer a sacrifice of a song to Apollo. Also, he can only be healed by visiting the cave temple of Demeter at Lebadeia.

The entourage sees a dance start nearby on the shore of the lake. Pindaros surmises that it is for the Kid (Dionysus) and it would be best to join in. Even as the army moves on, Pindaros, Io, and the Black Man join in the dance while Latro watches.

Four: Awakened by Moonlight

Latro awakens just before dawn. He is naked and a beautiful woman sleeps next to him. She is also naked. Latro goes to wade in the lake. On the shore he sees people sleeping after the festivities. Among them walk a woman with a bow (who could be the goddess Artemis).

After Latro returns to shore, he finds Io. She engages in conversation with a rather long-winded priest. The priest is eager to teach and tells of how the same gods have different names, depending on the worshipers locale and the purpose of the worship. He then tells the story of the Kid's origin.

While the priest is talking, Latro again meets up with Pindaros and the black man. He also talks to the woman he woke up with and learns her name is Hilaeira. After the priest finishes talking, he leaves to lead the worshipers back to the city. Latro, Pindaros, and the black man start for Lebadeia. After stopping at a house for a meal, they see a group of armed men.

Five: Among the Slaves of the Rope Makers

Latro and the party have been bound and have been taken as slaves by Rope Makers on their way back to Sparta. Someone takes his scroll book, but the serpent woman (A Lamia?) retrieves it and presumably kills the thief.

While being led along the road, Latro sees an old, back man sleeping near the side of the road in a vineyard. He is allowed to go over to the man, though no one else can see who Latro is talking about. When Latro touches the man with his knee, suddenly the gathered onlookers can see him. The old man is roused and claims to be the King of Nysa (Silenus).

Silenus is convinced to play a song on his flute and Latro is compelled to sing. The song loosens the slaves' bonds and they dance to the music. After the song is over, Pindaros tells Latro that he has fulfilled two pieces of the oracle's prophecy.

Six: Eos

Latro sees the Lady of the Dawn, Eos, who writes her name on his book. He later meets Cerdon, who is the chief slave of the Rope Makers and allowed Latro to leave the road to see about Silenus. Cerdon tells Latro that the slaves are from the Silent Country, south of Rope. They want to rebel from their masters and would like Latro to help lead them and be their chief priest (which would be ironic, since the slaves patron deity is the Great Mother, who cursed Latro to begin with).

After Cerdon leaves, the serpent woman appears to Latro and asks for Cerdon. In an odd inversion of Latro touching a god to be 'real' to others around him, the serpent woman explains that she needs Latro to touch or give her intended victim something so that he can be 'real' and can have him. She asks what Latro might like in return. He replies that he would only like to sleep and dream of home. The serpent woman cannot do that, but says fauns can and would ask if she meets one. The serpent woman also tells Latro she is a daughter of Enodia (Hecate).

In a bit of a pun, Latro says sleep would not come to him, though he saw Sleep at the edge of the firelight. Pindaros comes and they discuss their predicament as slaves. He promises to find some way to gain their freedom. Latro asks him about the serpent woman. He say she is a monster of a kind Heracles was supposed to have driven off. Pindaros leaves, Io lays down beside him. She thinks she has been punished because she ran away to join Latro-she lied when she said she had been given to him. Latro says that the god may have wanted her to go with Latro, saying "The gods are not at all like us, little Io."

Part Two

Seven: Beside the Beached Ships

Latro awakens in a small tent shared by the black man. He soon meets his new master Hypereides. Hypereides owns and commands three ships. He shows Latro his ships and soon tells him about a battle he was in near the island of Peace (Battle of Salamis). Hypereides left Latro in the charge of one of his sailors, Lyson. He let the black man remove and clean Latro's bandages, leaving Latro to finish reading his scrolls.