Suicide and Polynikes quickly kill two Egyptian marines who are guarding Xerxes’ tent. The rest of the party pours into the interior of the tent, fighting through a crowd of prostitutes and some eunuchs and setting things aflame. Finally, they reach Xerxes’ vast chamber; he and his advisors are in council. As the Spartans charge, exotic birds somehow spill out of cages and fly amidst the confusion. The chaos created by the birds throws off the attackers just enough and gives his guards just enough recovery time to protect Xerxes.
The story jumps from Dienekes’ discovery about love to some of the climactic action of the entire battle, as the raiding squad successfully infiltrates Xerxes’ tent and goes after the king himself. Having been profoundly impacted by the lesson that love is the opposite of fear, it is implied that Dienekes is motivated by a deep affinity to people.
The Persians fight ferociously. Xeo is nearly felled by a battle-axe hurled in his direction, but it gets stuck in the ridgepole of the tent. Then a mass of Egyptian marines pours into the tent. Alexandros is one of the few who’s still fighting at the fore, and Xeo watches as a scimitar takes off his friend’s hand as he’s preparing to hurl his spear. Dienekes is there instantly, hauling Alexandros to his feet and ordering them out of the tent. Xeo and Suicide cover their fellows’ desperate escape, but soon run out of weapons.
After a lifetime of struggling to establish himself, Alexandros has proven himself beyond question to be one of the bravest. The squad doesn’t succeed in killing Xerxes; their mission appears to be headed for disaster.