Xeo and Alexandros push on in pursuit of the Spartan army, who are half a day ahead of them. As they go, they question passing helots as to the makeup of the Antirhionian army and their Syrakusan allies. Nobody knows much, but it doesn’t matter—Spartans “are schooled to regard the foe, any foe, as nameless and faceless.” The Spartan view of warfare is “demystified and depersonalized” in this way.
The spartan view of warfare isn’t personal; they’re required not to view their foes in a humanizing way, which enables warriors to focus simply on fighting.
Alexandros and Xeo arrive at the port of Rhion a little after midnight on the third day of their journey. They pay a captain and his two hulking brothers to take them across the strait in a little boat, but when a Spartan cutter stops them, the captain takes their money and casts the boys adrift in the widest part of the channel. They start swimming. When Alexandros has an asthmatic fit, Xeo recites bits from The Iliad to keep his spirits up. Alexandros tells Xeo that the mind has many “rooms,” and they must not allow themselves to enter the room that is the anticipation of death. He thinks that the gods have dropped them there “to teach us about those rooms.”
Alexandros and Xeo bond through the frightening ordeal of being dropped in the middle of the strait by an unscrupulous captain. Xeo draws on his boyhood memorization of Homer to encourage his friend. Alexandros is clearly mentally stronger than he used to be, refusing to give up and not allowing himself to cave to fear by dwelling on the likelihood of death.
Alexandros asks Xeo to tell him about his survival in the mountains with Diomache and Bruxieus. Xeo tells him that by the second summer in the hills, he and Diomache were accomplished hunters and were thriving. They rescued two abandoned puppies who teamed up with them and made them even better trackers. But Bruxieus began to worry about the two of them growing “cityless.” He begins earnestly tutoring them in Homer and in virtues like compassion “which he saw diminishing each day within our mountain-hardened hearts.”
To further distract them in their perilous swim, Alexandros has Xeo tell him another survival story. Promoted by the Homer recitation, Xeo remembers Bruxieus’ attempts to rescue himself and Diomache from their “cityless” state. If they were isolated from a physical city, then he could at least instill in them cultural virtues like compassion, preserved in Homer.
But finally, Bruxieus decides that Xeo and Diomache must have a city. He wants them to go to Athens, the most civilized and welcoming city in Greece. One day they return from a hunt and discover that Bruxieus has died. After burning his body on a pyre, they undertake the ten-day journey to the crossroads before Athens. Diomache tries to make Xeo understand that she wants a husband, children, and a home. A passing gentlewoman, taken with her, has promised to see to Diomache’s housing and employment. But Xeo parts ways with her before they enter Athens. He wants to go to Sparta. Diomache is 15, and Xeo only 12.
In obedience to Bruxieus’ dying wish, the two cousins journey to the city. But Athens isn’t to be for Xeo. He knows that Diomache doesn’t love him as he desires, and she has adult yearnings for her own home and family by this time. Xeo only desires to become a Spartan. He seeks his new city there.
By the time Xeo finishes his story, it’s not yet dawn, the Antirhion shoreline is still not visible, and they are beginning to succumb to hypothermia. Alexandros swears that he will not abandon Xeo, whatever happens. An hour later, they collapse on a beach and sleep half the day. After a breakfast of raw eggs, Alexandros quietly thanks his friend, Xeo. They get moving again.
Xeo and Alexandros finally attain the far shore. The adventure, a test of Alexandros’s strength and determination especially, has cemented the two of them as friends and even as equals. They don’t linger long, ready to get to the battle.