Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Thanks to Tara at Midnight Ink for hosting this Blogfest. Read below and discover my characters' secrets. Shhhh... My entry follows:
A grove of tall trees enveloped the temple toward the western edge of the city under the defensive wall’s shadow. A dull glow emanated from within the temple, but Caenus did not enter. He found the rear of it in short order, though it was so dark back there that Selene could not even see it. He waited just long enough to curse his folly in coming, when he saw the hooded girl return. Slender fingers emerged from under the cloak and lowered the hood… it was she!
“Caenus, I needed to see you.” Her rubied lips spoke softly, reddish-blonde hair framing her alabaster face.
Caenus snapped. “Is that so? And, for what possible reason? You’ve obviously made your choice, Adriande… or is it… Kalliste?”
“Listen, I don’t have much time, and I have volumes to explain. I think I owe you at least that,” she said in hushed tones. “You have every right to be upset, but there are reasons… reasons for everything… First of all, my real name is Kalliste. I am from Samos, the princess of King Dimitri and Queen Sybilla. I did not reveal my true identity to you in Corinth because I did not want anyone to know I was at the games.”
“Quite an elaborate lie… saying that you lived in Corinth!” Caenus responded coldly. “How did you even know so many details of that foreign city?”
“My father has worked hard to build trade routes throughout the Aegean. And, since he had no sons, he always treated me as if I was to be queen of Samos one day. So, I was forced to learn all the trade routes. Corinth was a frequent stop in our travels.”
“So why have you summoned me here, endangering my liberty in this hostile city?” Caenus’ voice crackled with short patience.
“To summarize, I have been arranged to marry Makedon for two years. My father wanted me to marry a strong warrior prince to someday assume command over the military in Samos. But… I wanted to know if true love existed beyond the confines of arranged unions. I just wanted to see if there were any normal men in the world, outside of the circles in which I had normally traveled. My affections are not strong for royal men. The pool of eligible princes has always tended to be arrogant and self-centered. I would just as soon marry for love than for kingdom and empire.”
“What happened to you at the games? We shared a nice evening and then you disappeared. And furthermore, I ran into Makedon tonight… he said you told him about us? What gives?”
“Yes, my love… that day at the festival in the agora… he saw me talking to you! I had to tell him something. So I did. I told him you were an inconsequential goat herder who was trying to bark up a claimed tree… that you meant nothing.”
“Inconsequential, eh…?” His tone rose.
“Lower your voice. Someone might hear you. This kingdom has spies who roam like devil ghosts. But… but, don’t you see…? After that, I had to leave Corinth. He would have seen straight through me… He would have seen the extent that I had fallen for you.”
“But, what of the night we spent touring Corinth by chariot?”
“I risked everything to see you that night! If you remember, I kept pulling my hood tightly around my head…”
“So were they all lies… those sweet words you so delicately dripped into my ears?”
Taking his trembling hands in hers, she gazed deep into his core. “Would I be here tonight, if they were lies?”
“Well, you have my attention…”
“When I first met you, my dearest Caenus, I let myself believe, if even for those short days, that the fantasy of an alternative could be a reality. You have the qualities I desire most in a mate. I don’t want to marry him. I want to marry a normal man like you… with out all of this,” She opened her arms, referring to the Empire of Neapolis.
Caenus’ anger dissipated. He found himself engulfed in the emotion of the moment. “We can run away together, tonight, and live normal lives.”
Her face lit up. “I don’t need all of this… lands, kingdoms, empires, royal alliances… I could leave it all behind in an instant if I thought you loved me. I would be a goat herder’s wife for the promise of love eternal.”
“Oh sure, look how much good that did Helen and Troy,” Caenus laughed.
“I guess that did end badly, eh?”
“I must tell you something, though.” Caenus paused, a nervous flutter clutching his chest. “I am not… I am not really a goat herder from Iolkos. I am the prince of Iolkos. And, I apologize for not tel…”
Kalliste laughed. “Ahhh, but I knew that. I played along simply because you were trying to seem normal… that… is what won my heart. Most princes aim to impress with all of their pomp. And, as I said, I don’t care so much for all of that.”
“Perhaps stealing you away in the night isn’t the best plan. The last thing our kingdoms need is to fight a needless war against each other. Besides, there is but one thing to do when two men love the same woman.”
Kalliste raised her eyebrows.
“Winner takes all, fight-to-the-death.”
“What? No! That is ridiculous!”
“I am serious. I’ll challenge him tomorrow.”
“Absolutely not! All are here to attend a wedding not an arena event!”
“No other option exists. It seems to be the will of the gods. Since that day in the final stage of the tournament, the gods have seemingly willed another meeting between us… Makedon and me. You once spoke to me about fate and destiny. Well, I now hold them both in the palms of my hands.”
Ears perked, Ares cracked a smirk from his throne carved high in the Thracian peaks.
“Look at yourself! You are becoming just like him, all that I detest,” she spoke through her tears. “I would expect that sort of bravado from Makedon, but not from you. For Makedon, holding fate and destiny is to hold possessions and titles.”
They paced back and forth silently, meandering around the burial plots behind the temple. “These men here,” Caenus began. “Did they exit this life having accomplished all they set out to accomplish? Did they end up with the ones they truly loved? And, if they did not, of what importance was all else that they had?”
Kalliste shuffled quietly in the dark silence that swirled around them since the last word had been spoken. Breaking the uncomfortable pause, Caenus sighed. “I have too much respect for our families… surely all out war would ensue. Did it not for the Greeks and Trojans?” He took a long pause and continued, “My heart bears so much affection for you that I would rather see you marry another man in the safety of peace, than to throw our kingdoms and armies into the cross-fire between the gods who seemingly will this marriage and those who would oppose it in a test of power. Ares and Hades would love a fierce to-the-death battle to drool over, possibly leading to all-out war across our vast lands. Hades is always searching for new souls to claim.”
“Yes, and the God of War is a truly skilled instigator,” she added.
“Then, it is settled,” he said amiably, belying his true feelings. His face softened, demeanor saddened, for he had yet again lost to Makedon. The pain stung even more this time, the finality more unbearable. He felt as though someone was tearing his heart from his chest. But he also knew the alternative. And, besides, if fate and destiny were truly at play, and the gods intended for he and Kalliste to be together, then the opportunity would show its face in some other way. Conversely, if it was not meant to be… then, it simply was not meant to be. “I will show my support at the ceremony tomorrow with prayers and blessings of good will for you both.” They hugged warmly in the crisp night air. Kalliste turned, flipped the hood of her cloak over the top of her head and disappeared around the corner. A sudden, cold breeze whipped through the trees. Steps away from turning the corner himself, he felt a peculiar sense that he was not alone. His eyes, well adjusted to the darkness, scanned the unfamiliar landscape, but seeing nothing, he continued around the corner and returned to his lodging for some needed sleep.