In The Wake of Hannibal

I have finished my first draft of my new work in progress In the Wake of Hannibal.
Gisco was a real person. He traveled with Hannibal on his epic journey across the Pyrenees, through ancient Gaul, over the Alps and into Italy. He was in Hannibal’s inner circle and was with him at the battles of Ticinus, Trebia, Trasimene and Cannae. We know of him through an anecdote of the Roman historian Livy, which I used in this book.
“Our camp was on a hill and we watched as the Romans mobilized their troops. It was a huge mass and I must have looked awe-stricken because Hannibal came up to me and asked me what I was thinking. ‘They must have twice as many men as us, Commander!’ I replied. Hannibal grinned. ‘But there is one thing they don’t have that we do.’ He said. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. ‘You see all of those men out there?’ he said. ‘Among all of those men, there is not a single one named Gisco!’ Mago, Maharbal, Carthalo, Solylus, Hanno and Bromilcar all began to laugh. Word of Hannibal’s jest spread and soon everyone was laughing. I hoped we’d still be laughing at the end of this day!”
Nothing else is known about Gisco or his ultimate fate, but novelist’s license gives me the right to tell his story.
Hannibal’s predecessor was known as Hasdrubal the Fair. Hasdrubal the Fair ruled Spain for eight years after the death of Hannibal’s father Hamilcar Barca. This Hasdrubal ruled as much as was possible by diplomacy and he engineered matches between his key military personnel and the daughters of important princes among the Spanish tribes. Hannibal himself married Imilce, the daughter of an important official in the city of Castulo. Our Gisco has submitted to an arranged marriage to Sansara, the grand-daughter of the chieftain of the Volciani. They have a daughter shortly before Gisco leaves for the journey to Italy with Hannibal. Gisco finds Sansara very attractive but he isn’t very satisfied with the marriage because Sansara scarcely speaks a word of Phoenician.
After the battle of Cannae Gisco accompanies Hannibal’s brother Mago, with whom he has been friends since childhood, back to Carthage. It is Mago’s task to attempt to get the Carthaginian senate to provide more supplies and reinforcements to Hannibal. He dramatically pours out the 200 or so gold signet rings,, collected from the Roman dead at Cannae, onto the Senate floor. But things are not going well for the Carthaginians in Spain, so Mago and his reinforcements are sent to Spain instead, and Gisco goes with them. He is reunited with Sansara after more than two years and finds out that she has born him a son, and has named the child Gisco after his father. Sansara soon becomes pregnant again and bears a son they name Hanno. Hanno is an especially beautiful child, which unfortunately draws unwelcome attention to the infant.
“In winter I returned to Khart Hadasht (New Carthage) to find Sansara big with child. Within a month she had our second son whom we named Hanno. Our little Hanno was a most beautiful baby with fair skin like his mother, grey eyes and chestnut hair. He attracted attention wherever we went. The child’s spectacular beauty made me uneasy because it is well known that beautiful children attract the evil eye. As it turned out, the evil eye Hanno attracted was not a phantasm but was all too real. It belonged to Indibal, the high priest of Tanit and Ba-al Hammon. With all of the ill-omened events that had occurred, Indibal divined that there must be a molk, or gift, made to Tanit and Ba-al Hammon in the form of a male child, and this child must be the most perfect and beautiful that could be found. The sacrifice would appease the gods and reverse the tide of disasters that we had been experiencing.”
Soon Gisco is summoned from Mago’s camp to meet with Indibal, the high priest of the temple of Tanit and Ba-al Hammon.
“The next day I climbed up to the Byrsa and entered the temple of Tanit. I was ushered in to see the high priest. Indibal sat on a golden throne. He was dressed in a long robe, richly embroidered with images of birds, animals, sacred plants and heavenly bodies. He was a short man but his striking and elaborate head dress rendered him imposing. The smell of incense hung heavy in the stagnant air. There was a larger than life statue of the goddess Tanit, a serene smile on her face, like that of a mother contemplating her sleeping children. ‘You sent for me, Holy One?’ I asked.
‘Yes, Gisco, son of Gisco. Welcome. You are blessed of Tanit and of Ba-al Hammon.’ He replied in a high-pitched, nasal voice. ‘You are the one by whose sacrifice Carthage will be saved.’
A strong feeling of anxiety came over me. ‘I don’t understand.’
‘You must have perceived how the gods have turned away from Carthage in the past year. It has been divined that Tanit and Ba-al Hammon demand sacrifice, and that this must be a perfect male child. We have made a search and you are the only one who possesses a child of this quality. I know that this is not an easy thing for you to do, but your nation demands this sacrifice of you and it must be carried out.’
I was utterly stunned! ‘No. I can’t permit this. My wife is not Carthaginian, she won’t understand. It would kill her.’
‘Your wife, Sansara, is blessed among women.’ Said Indibal. ‘Tanit will favor her with whatever she desires.’
“No!” I said. ‘I can’t. . .I can’t.’
‘Gisco, son of Gisco. Refusing the gods is not an option. Our entire nation is at stake. Bring the child here at dawn tomorrow morning. You may go.’
There is only one way for Gisco to save the baby. He must escape from New Carthage with his wife and children and defect to the Romans.

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