Friday, January 21, 2011

Birthday Bash Blogfest


Thank you to Tessa Conte over at Tessa's Blurb for hosting this Birthday Blogfest. And by the way... HAPPY BIRTHDAY TESSA!! Many Happy Returns!

In this blogfest we were to post a portion of our WIP that featured a birthday celebration. My selection is from my currently querying project, Caenus And The Quiver Of Artemis. Make sure you click through Tessa's link above to see the other entries.

*****

Standing beside a large tent, Kranos waved his hand for the boys to join him there. Bright blue flags flew all around the agora, marking the boundaries of the royal celebration. Four large urns sent flames toward the midnight blue encasing the heavens.
     The king embraced his son. "Welcome, Caenus. I have waited for this day since your birth. Let us enter the tent together."
     Galen ducked his head in first to give the father and son ample space for their grand entry. Next, Kranos and Caenus slipped through the tent flaps to a raucous applause by nearly seventy people. In attendance were aristocrats and wealthy merchants and their sons of varying ages. Also present were the three generals and their sons.
     Alexis, stunning queen of Iolkos, smiled widely as her son entered. She had been sitting on a kline, braiding her dark hair over her shoulder, but rose to her feet when Caenus walked in. "Happy birthday," she said embracing him warmly.
     "Thank you, Mother."
     Awash in sepia tones from flickering firelight, the tent’s interior smelled of bears’ claws and lions’ breath. At the far end of the tent, two boars roasted over a crackling spit. In the foreground, a long table divided the tent equally. Younger boys chased one another, while young girls filled water goblets from large amphorae jugs they could barely wield.
     The din died to a whisper as the king spoke, "Tonight esteemed guests, let us celebrate my son’s emergence into the majority. No longer a boy, but a man!"
     The tent erupted in rollicking cheers.
     "Here shall he prove his worthiness," the king continued. "Send forth six young men of comparable age to test my son."
     Here we go, Caenus thought. Galen ran up first, followed by five other similarly aged young men, some broader, some thinner than the prince.
     Kranos clapped his hands twice. "Bring in the wine!" Two young girls appeared carrying a goatskin of diluted wine, which they emptied in to six tall clay jugs.
     "To begin the celebration, each boy shall drain the contents of their amphora jug to honor Dionysus. First to finish shall receive an olive branch," the king bellowed. "Boys, take your places."
     Each young man surrounded one end of the long table, grasping tightly their jugs. I knew my father had something strange planned. Caenus inhaled deeply, looking into the excited eyes of his competitors.
     "Ready, Go!" Kranos belted.
     Each young man hoisted his amphora to his lips and chugged the measures of wine and water. Some spilled from the sides of their mouths, soiling their tunics.
     First to finish was a broad shouldered general’s son. He slammed the jug down on the table and threw his hands skyward in victory. A scrawny aristocrat’s son finished second. Caenus finished third. Galen next. Amidst a ringing of applause, Kranos presented the olive branch to the victor.
     What had that been about? What was it meant to prove? Caenus wondered.
     His belly swollen with wine, the prince sighed. He studied his father’s face for sign of disappointment that he hadn’t won the wine-drinking event, but the king’s face offered no signs to be read. Nevertheless, Caenus felt the sting of disappointment.
     "All right, boys," the king continued, not even acknowledging the guest of honor. "The next event shall be an arm wrestling challenge to prepare my son for the Isthmian Games."
     The crowd fell silent. The music even stopped.
     Alexis approached Kranos. "Is there something you need to tell me?" she asked, hands on her hips, her eyes narrowed.
     "About what?" Kranos replied, annoyed at the question.
     "You’re sending our last son to the games? To death?"
     "Yes!" Kranos spoke above her to the entire crowd. "As many of you know, Iolkos has had a poor showing at the Isthmian games, losing two princes in the process. Caenus is now eligible, and he too shall compete."
     "Look at him!" an unidentified voice sailed above the crowd’s din. “He’s not ready! He’ll never win!"
     Caenus’ posture shrank as a cacophony of chatter criss-crossed the tent.
     Kranos blared, "Caenus will prove once and for all if my blood is weak or not. The House of Kranos is in his hands. For if he does not return, then the Fates have already cast his lot."
     Alexis drew close to her son and grasped his hand tightly, the warmth of her love passing through Caenus’ skin. "I won’t let you send him!" Alexis spoke sternly.
     The crowd’s collective voice again hushed to a whisper.
     "What did you say?" the king growled.
     Alexis stood in front of her son, a lioness protecting her cub. “Haven’t we lost enough sons to the games?" Tears rivered down her flushed cheeks.
     "It’s not your decision! The future of Iolkos rests in his hands. If he doesn’t go and win, he’ll be viewed as weak, as will the whole lot of us. We’ll never see a season unencumbered by assaults against the kingdom. Epirus smelled the stench of my fallen sons when they attacked. Did they teach us nothing? Simply returning from the games is no better. He must return victorious to erase all doubts!"
     A single clap pierced the silence. Then another and another. The staccato applause rolled to a thunderous ovation of the king’s words. The enthusiasm bolstered Caenus, yet made him no more confident than he had been.
     "Let’s get on with it then," Kranos bellowed. "Young men take your places for the arm wrestling competition. To the victor, another olive branch."