Excerpt #3 My Work in Progress The Last Carthaginian Part 1:In The Wake of Hannibal

Hannibal’s brother Mago is not pleased that Indibal the priest of Tanit and Ba-al Hammon has demanded the sacrifice of his bast friend Gisco’s child, compelling Gisco to desert to the Romans.
It had been a week since Gisco had gone to Khart Hadasht and he had still not returned. This was not like Gisco. Say what you will about his quirks, he is as reliable as sunrise. He is also the best man I have for training new recruits and for resolving disputes among the soldiers. I couldn’t imagine why he was taking so long to come back.
“Memon, what are you doing here?” I asked the executioner when he rode into our camp with a priest of Ba-al Hammon and several other officials from Khart Hadasht.
“We have come to lodge a complaint against your lieutenant, Gisco son of Gisco,” replied Memon.
“What has he done?” I asked.
“He has taken his wife and children from Khart Hadasht without permission,” said Memon, “and when he was last seen he was heading north toward territory held by Rome. He drew his sword against us and threatened to cut anyone down who tried to stop him. We had no choice but to let him go on his way.”
I was truly puzzled. “But why would Gisco do that?” I asked.
The priest spoke. “Indibal, the Rab Kohanim of Ba-al Hammon and Tanit has had a vision and divined that the God and Goddess are demanding a sacrifice, a perfect male child. Gisco’s younger son has been chosen. Gisco has chosen to defy the gods.”
“What?” I cried. “This is madness! There will be no human sacrifices to the gods while the House of Barca rules in Spain! My brother Hasdrubal will agree with me and so would Hannibal if he were here. You can tell Indibal that if I hear of any such observances, I will personally burn his temple down, with him inside of it! Now go back to Khart Hadasht, all of you. I will deal with Gisco.”
They left. But what am I to do about Gisco? He may well be in Roman held territory by now. If he’s allowed to go through with his intentions he can do us a lot of harm. Even he is not so naïve as to believe that the Romans would grant him asylum without asking something in return, and he has a lot to offer them. He must be stopped. If we can find him before he contacts the Romans we can assure him that there will be no child sacrifice and persuade him to come back. I’ll send Mazeus after him, Gisco likes and trusts him. Once he contacts the Romans we will have no choice but to find him, bring him back and crucify him as a traitor. This truly galls me. A pox on those cursed priests!
I left Hamilcar son of Mazeus in charge of our camp and took a unit to Khart Hadasht. Something was seriously amiss if the priests had decided to revive the practice of child sacrifice and I decided to get to the bottom of this. Accompanied by about a dozen men I strode into the Temple of Tanit and Ba-al Hammon unannounced and demanded to see Indibal.
If Indibal was shocked to see me, he did not show it. His demeanor displayed no emotion at all. His tone was calm and self-assured as he asked me why I had honored him with a visit.
“I want to know why you are insisting that a child be sacrificed to Tanit,” I said. “You know that my father frowned upon that practice and so does Hannibal.”
“When this child, Hanno, Son of Gisco was born, his parents brought him to our temple to be blessed, as is the custom,” said Indibal. “That very night I saw a vision. This child will die in the fire that destroys Carthage. He will be an old man by then, but if he lives, that will be the fate of Carthage, to be burned to the ground by our enemies. Many babies die in their first few months, and I was hoping that he would die, but since he did not, and actually seemed to thrive, I knew that he must be sacrificed to save Carthage.”
“But even if it is the fate of Carthage to be burned by our enemies, why would destroying this child change anything?” I asked.
“It would invalidate my vision,” said Indibal. “I fear it is too late now to save Carthage. It would have been a very small sacrifice to prevent a huge destruction of our city and our people. I will not live to see this destruction, nor will you, but now Hanno will. He will be destroyed. Scarcely any will survive.”
“So you had an evil vision and you tried to sacrifice a child in order to invalidate the vision.” I said. “I would advise you to stop having visions. Child sacrifice is strictly forbidden by my decree, and if you violate this order you will meet the same fate as your victims. I swear by all the gods to that!”
“I have seen your fate, Mago son of Hamilcar,” he replied. “You will not live to see the end of this war, and you will leave no children.”
“That doesn’t matter,” I said. “My fate is in the hands of the gods as is the fate of everyone else. Disobey me, Indibal, and your fate will be in my hands and it won’t be pleasant!” I turned to leave without making the customary obeisance. Melqart preserve us from mad old priests!

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