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Historical Fiction
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Carthage Atlantica: An Alternate History
by Brandon Pilcher


In the wake of the Second Punic War, the ancient Carthaginians establish a new colony on the shores of North America.



Chapter One
Landing

200 BC, in an alternate timeline

The deckhouse door slammed open as the navigator barged in, his russet-colored face soaked with sweat. "Baal-Hammon be praised, we've sighted land at last!"

Isceradin's cup of wine slipped down from his grasp as he took in the sailor's words. It took his wife Arishat's lightning reflexes to catch it before it could shatter on the floor. Not that he would miss it too much if it did break and spill, since the liquid was well over halfway to turn...



Chapter Two
The Forest

It was not the first time Phameas had ventured into a forest. He, Isceradin, and most of the men who now made up their troop had trudged through more of that than he cared for when they were marching through northern Iberia and Gaul on their way to Rome. The muggy summertime warmth, the brushing of foliage against his face and limbs, and all the squealing mosquitoes which kept pelting his skin with itching dark bumps, were like unpleasant memories that had come back to haunt him after almost twenty years...



Chapter Three
Ambitions

Absalon cackled with triumph as he let the mancala beans he had won pour through his fingers, pattering back onto his side of the board like raindrops. “What is it the Romans like to say? ‘I came, I saw, I conquered’?”

Himilco grumbled as he rested his brow on the palm of his hand. “You say that at least as often as the Romans themselves.”

“Because I am always conquering you, that’s why!”

Himilco had to admit, his fellow Sophet had a...



Chapter Four
The Inu'naabe

These Carthaginians, as they called themselves, could not be any more different from any other people Sukamek had seen in his life.

Underneath their bizarre armor and clothing, their skin was various shades of brown darker than his own people, with some approaching a black color like that of his own tattoos. Their hair, whenever he got a peek of it under their metal helmets, had a frizzy, tightly coiled texture unlike that of any creatures he knew about, and some had it growing out of their faces a...



Chapter Five
Sundown

The sun had already disappeared behind the treetops on the far side of the beach, yet some dark red remained in the heavens that graded to black toward the ocean to the east. If Arishat had anything she would miss about life back in Carthage, it was being able to see the sunset from her balcony, watching the golden orb of Shapash sink behind the hills and scattered trees west of the city. It was not without good reason that the African continent was famous for its sunsets.

Still, she was thankful t...



Chapter Six
The Elephants

As Isceradin led Sukamek through the camp, the Inu’naabe kept stopping to marvel at the sights along the way, like he was a little child being taken to the festival for the first time in his life. When they passed a campfire with a huge hunk of beef roasting on a spit, Sukamek stood there gasping with widened eyes, outstretching his arms to measure the meat’s breadth. Were there no cattle here in this part of the world? There must have been deer in the woods, at least.

With the cook&rsq...



Chapter Seven
The Shaawanaki

Smoke from the central hearth hung thick within the council house, mingling with the odor of burnt tobacco on its way to flowing out through the chimney-hole in the bark ceiling. Hokolesqua, High Sachem of the Shaawanaki, had all his council seated on log benches around the fire while he presided over them from his oak-stump throne. Opposite him across the hearth stood the young scout whose report had prompted the meeting to begin with, while servant girls went around distributing bowls of berries and me...



Chapter Eight
Autumn

From the window of her new apartment, Arishat could see that the forest beyond the outer palisade was now ablaze with red, orange, and yellow foliage. So much labor had gone into transforming their camp on the beach into a town that she and her people had barely taken note of the shifting season. Through sunshine, wind, and rain, they had carved out a generous chunk of the coastal woodland, using its abundant timber to erect buildings which they plastered with white clay and roofed with thatch and bark. ...



Chapter Nine
Protectorate

Compared to its counterpart back in Carthage, the Sophet’s new villa was a humble single-story affair, perhaps half the size of the original. Some saplings and shrubs from the forest had been transplanted to decorate its front courtyard, and a rectangular pit had been excavated in the middle for a pool, but they had yet to cover it with tiles and put water in. Behind the whitewashed wooden columns that hemmed in the courtyard, the walls were painted blue and red with images of green palm trees and ...



Chapter Ten
Return to the Village

With a hiss like a great angry serpent, thick steam rose from the sizzling water. A while after it dissipated, Sukamek pulled out the iron blade from the trough of water and touched it to see if it was cool and hard like he wanted. He would still need to temper the metal a bit, as he recalled being taught, but he could already envision hafting this new creation to his old war club. Not even the mightiest Shaawanaki warrior would be able to withstand the piercing damage it could do, to say nothing of the ...



Chapter Eleven
Gold

Fallen leaves blown by a late evening breeze scratched the street of trampled earth in front of the three-story townhouse where Isceradin’s family had their apartment. Already, Shapash’s luminous orb had departed to the west, with the stars coming back to sprinkle the sky as they did every night. Somehow, it seemed darker than usual this hour, even with all the firelight from the oil lamps that hung by the doorways on all the buildings.

Before he entered the townhouse, Isceradin took ou...



Chapter Twelve
Brothers in Law

When the dried leaves crunched under Phameas’s sandal, he winced.

It was not that they hurt him at all, but they did make too much noise for his liking, and there were so many of them littered on the forest floor at this time of year. The rattling in the wind of tree branches that had shed themselves into naked skeletons did not help his mood in the least. Nor did the chill air that he could no longer escape no matter where he went in this new land.

The coming of winter would bring the ...



Chapter Thirteen
After the Raid

The closer Isceradin and Phameas got to the Inu’naabe village, the stronger the scent of smoke.

Isceradin’s heart weighed heavier in his chest. He was used to a certain smoky odor around the village to go with their cooking fires, but never this strong. Was there a forest fire burning somewhere nearby? It couldn’t have been the right season for wildfires in this kind of climate, too cool and not dry enough, but nature was always a capricious beast. Yet that was not the possibility...



Chapter Fourteen
The Senate

The flames of braziers standing between thick whitewashed columns brought golden light and warmth to the hallway, a sharp contrast to the foggy gloom outside. All the Senate of the colony sat on their rows of benches, gossiping among themselves while the Sophets Absalon and Himilco watched from their twin seats on the high dais opposite their audience. While Himilco gorged on bread and pomegranates from a Numidian servant’s platter, Absalon gorged in silence on the news he had anticipated since he ...



Chapter Fifteen
War is Coming

Hokolesqua, High Sachem of the Shaawanaki, carried a clay tray in his hands as he walked into the shrine atop his uncle’s burial mound. The calabash lamp it supported alongside the offering of fruit, venison, and Inu’naabe blood flickered with almost enough brightness to illuminate the shrine’s inside. The heat it gave off, though faint, was enough to melt the light dusting of early snow on the cougar-skin mantle he wore on his shoulders.

He laid the tray on the altar at the far e...



Chapter Sixteen
Sickness

Outside the apartment window, the world had become white as the peaks of the Alps.

What the Carthaginians would refer to as the frozen crystals of death formed thick sheaths over the roofs that ended with jagged stalactites of ice hanging on the eves, and it blanketed the alleyways at least as deep as a man’s forearm ran long. Only the tireless shoveling of Gallic servants, the one group of barbarians in Carthaginian employment who could tolerate the low temperature best, created streaks in t...



Chapter Seventeen
Medicine

When Isceradin approached the rear side of the wooden gateway in the palisade’s western side, a guard from atop whistled to him. “Where you headed, citizen?”

“Off to the Inu’naabe, as usual,” Isceradin answered. “My wife and child have come down with an illness, and we think they have better medicine for it.”

“If that’s where you’re headed, don’t be bringing any of those Atlanteans back home. The colony is on full alert. ...



Chapter Eighteen
Cartography and Strategy

After another dip of his pen into the bottle of black ink, Malchus drew an uneven line of dashes across the papyrus sheet. It would be the last of several he had already drawn on it, all of them winding between the range of hills and mountains he had indicated with triangular strokes. Once he had finished the last dash, he stood up from his chair and marveled at the work of art he had completed.

Above him, the ceiling rafters creaked, with the thatch layered on them shuffling and crackling. He poke...



Chapter Nineteen
Recovery

Like most of her fellow Carthaginians, when the first of the frozen white crystals had fallen on their colony, Arishat had thought them an ominous omen. And, in a sense, they were, for it was not long after when the sickness first attacked her and her daughter.

Now that a week had passed since her husband had given them the new medicine he had obtained, she did not dread to look upon the snow outside their apartment anymore. Nor longer did she still think of it as “the white crystals of death...



Chapter Twenty
Bedchamber Talk

Lying in his bed, Himilco took a sip of chilled wine and hummed with satisfaction. The wine was not necessarily the freshest in quality, having been brought over from the homeland back in the fall. However, if there was one advantage to living in a climate that saw snowfall in winter, it was that it was far easier to make and keep things cool, not to mention keep them for going bad. He had had a small hut built behind his villa where he would have his food stored amid harvested snow and ice, inspired by ...



Chapter Twenty-One
Springtime

It was after the second month of winter had passed when Arishat noticed her womb had not bled on time. Nor did it bleed after the third month, when the snow that smothered the world outside had begun to melt at last. As if that did not give her enough of a sign, her belly had begun to swell by that point. It was a subtle rise at first, one that Isceradin had blamed on her growing appetite, but then how to account for the swelling of her breasts as well?

Yet another month went by. With the land warm...



Chapter Twenty-Two
Loyalty

The coming of spring had done more than make the forest green again. It had painted the undergrowth with an even greater variety of colors. Vivid red, pink, white, blue, purple, and yellow flowers were all in full bloom in every direction Isceradin could look as he and Phameas marched down their well-worn trail to the Inu’naabe village. The fragrance of fresh nectar permeated the forest understory from this new growth, and birds which had flown back from their winter haunts tweeted songs in celebra...



Chapter Twenty-Three
Test Ride

Malchus gripped onto the parapeted edge of the wooden turret he rode in to keep himself steady. Like a galley over the waves, the giant carriage swayed atop the back of Mago, the mighty bull elephant, as he lumbered through the woods. The undulating motion had lolled Malchus into a queasiness that seeped down into his stomach while branches and leaves kept slapping him in the face and tugging at his hair and beard.

He would not let any of those minor aches and pains soil his mood. The pharaohs of o...



Chapter Twenty-Four
The March Begins

It was the first daybreak of summer when Phameas had to give his beloved Bodashtart a farewell kiss and depart for the great march to the west.

Some men, usually the young ones, looked forward to going to war. They would see it as their opportunity to earn glory and wealth for themselves and bring excitement into their lives. Not Phameas. He had already tasted more than his fair share of war under Hannibal, and the foulness of it would never leave his mouth. Especially not the coppery tang of blood...



Chapter Twenty-Five
Campfire

One afternoon in the mountains, they chanced upon a tall column of white water that roared from the lip of a cliff into a pool beside a broad, flat clearing in the woods. It was not the first time the expedition had spotted waterfalls on the march, but the ones they had passed previously were miniature affairs bubbling into streams compared to this towering, mist-shrouded giant. It was as good a spot as any to establish camp for the night, not least because it was more scenic than anywhere they had reste...



Chapter Twenty-Six
Skirmish in the Woods

The inside of the tent was still dark when Sukamek awoke, with the only light being a dim blue slit between the opening flaps. It was nonetheless enough to show Isceradin and Phameas curled up on their bedrolls in deep sleep, with the latter’s growling snore putting any bear to shame. At least it was loud enough to suppress any sound Sukamek might have made as he got up.

If the army’s rations had dwindled as much as Isceradin had reported the other night, the Inu’naabe figured he ...



Chapter Twenty-Seven
A Shaawanaki Captive

Isceradin had climbed out of his tent to meet the newly ascendant sun when he saw Sukamek drag a Shaawanaki by the hair into the heart of camp. Both Sukamek and his captive had blood spattered all over them, mingling with the sweat streaming down their skin. The Inu’naabe’s club, slung under his loincloth’s thong, also dripped ichor, drawing a trail of red dots on the ground.

Seeing all the signs of violence on his friend drained the blood from Isceradin’s head, turning it c...



Chapter Twenty-Eight
Betrayal

The day afterward, Malchus had the march through the mountains resume. As he had since the campaign’s beginning, he led from his turret atop the mighty elephant Mago, who along with his herd-mates tore and tramped through the vegetation, carving out the avenue that the rest of the army would follow. The turret’s constant rocking would make Malchus’s head spin and upset his balance a little, but he considered those discomforts a minor price to pay for the prestige and vantage of riding t...



Chapter Twenty-Nine
A Chance at Redemption

The flickering orange glow of the fire Isceradin had made for himself was all that allowed him to see anything beneath the cover of the trees after nightfall. It would be the second night in recent memory that he was to sleep anywhere without family, fellow soldiers, or any other human beings close by. The first night had come the day Malchus had banished him from the campaign, with his only company being a donkey from the baggage train that would carry his belongings.

Thus far, having the donkey a...



Chapter Thirty
Rescue

It was on the cusp of evening twilight when they found the city of the Shaawanaki.

Summer was fading away by then, with flecks of yellow starting to speckle the greenery of the forests a few days after the three men had crossed the mountains. The hike had been no less exhausting than earlier in the campaign, but at least the sweltering heat and humidity had become a distant memory, and the Shaawanaki and their captives had left a trail of trampled earth and undergrowth that had been easy to follow....



Chapter Thirty-One
Home

The forest beside the colony had turned pure gold by the time Isceradin and company arrived early in the morning. Unlike the autumn before, he was thankful for the growing chill this year, for the brisk breezes would wipe away all the sweat that soaked his body after so many days spent crossing woods, hills, and mountains. More than any other emotion, it was a cascade of relief that Isceradin felt as he lay his eyes upon the settlement’s walls for the first time since the start of summer.

No ...




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