The heavy corded muscles in his arms rippled as he rowed his small boat across the surface of Lake Tunis. Once he reached the eastern shore, he climbed out and stood regarding the low-laying stone structures of the city. There were people everywhere he looked. A steady stream of men and women passed each other in the streets, while here and there, citizens stood chatting.
This “city” was very different from his homeland. There, dark skinned men and women camped at night and roamed across the landscape during the day. The men hunted with spears, while the children ran around laughing and playing, often pointing at the small herds of hopping mammals. But gradually, the numbers of human dwindled until it was rare for him to see another living soul as he kept himself alive.
He had found a ship once he made his way to the coast, and he had traded his labor for passage. They sailed across the ocean, months of both fair and foul weather, days when he wondered if he would ever see land again, when they finally docked. He was amazed at this new land, filled with huge creatures with elongated noses and ones with long necks. But here too, humans were few and far between.
But while on the ship, he had heard tales of a city on this eastern shore of a lake, a city that teemed with people. And so he had made his way there, to Carthage, where he soon found work. He spent his days in hard labor under the warm sun, but his nights were spent in a cheap tavern, where his long deprived soul absorbed the company of humans.
One night, he overheard an old man spinning what seemed to be tall tales of beautiful women. He leaned back to better hear what was being said.
“The island is just overrun with them… the most amazingly beautiful women I have ever seen, of all shapes, sizes and skin tones,” said the man.
His companion shook his head. “You’re daft. No such place exists, or we would all know about it.”
The first man smiled, the curve of his lips somehow mysterious as his eyes took on a faraway look. “It’s a place of legend, ruled by the King of Tyros, Agenor himself.”
The other man sputtered. “Now I know you have taken leave of your senses. The King was lost at sea many a year ago!”
A wry laugh rung from the teller of tales. “Nay. I saw him for myself, surrounded by a guard of the island most beautiful and most dangerous women. He allows men to come and mate with these women, to produce children.”
“You’re insane, old man! This missing King is on an island with beautiful women, and he allows men to have sex with them? This whole story is just ridiculous!” He threw a coin down onto the table to pay for his drink and then quickly left the tavern.
Matari rubbed his chin. He once had a wife, with whom he had hoped to raise a family. But she had disappeared like so many others. And he had not had a woman since. This mystical place the man spoke of sounded like a paradise, with females ripe for the picking.
He left his seat to settle in one across from the old man, his rich baritone voice merely a quiet rumble. “I am Matari. Tell me more of this place.”