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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (6th Installment)

Part 6: King Priam’s Predicament

King Priam walked along the terraces overlooking the palace. He watched the fires, tiny in the distance throughout the city below, on the braziers that warmed the homes of his people, and the posts of the night watch. They flickered against the darkness like orange eyes that glared at him accusingly. Alcathous, his priest, walked beside him, saying nothing, but thought of Apollo and hoped that his sacrifice would appease the Sun god.

      Priam led an entourage of priests and soldiers, into the king’s council chambers when they heard voices.

“You would betray your family, and leave your sister vulnerable to the dangers beyond the walls of Troy for the daughter of a priest?” Said Deiphobus.

“I would die for Cressida!” Said Troylus.

When King Priam’s sons came into full view, they stood near the seat of the king at the far end of the pool in the center of the chamber. Stone seats lined the pool on either side, and pillars towered behind the seats. A large window behind the king’s seat provided a direct view of the Aegean Sea, and the moon swayed lazily on the dark surface of the water.

“This is madness!” Said Deiphobus.

“Madness is love.” Said Priam as he placed a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Come, Deiphobus, sit. We must talk.”

“What is there to discuss, father, when Troylus refuses to divulge anything.”

“Troylus is not our only source of information.” Said King Priam as he motioned a man to step forward. “This is Gordias of Phrygia, and he comes bearing news of Cassandra’s whereabouts.”

Gordias stepped forward, and identified himself as a member of Coroebus’ personal guard. When Troylus asked him why he had abandoned his master’s side, the Phrygian explained that Coroebus granted his men the option of returning to their homes, because he would not order them to embark on the perilous quest he had undertaken.

“ Cassandra’s journey to Mount Ida had not been a dangerous journey.” Said Troylus.

“Perhaps it had not been when she left, but I assure you that the circumstances have changed.” Said Gordias.

“Speak freely, Gordias. You are among friends.” Said Deiphobus.

Gordias recounted that Coroebus had led his men on a patrol of his father’s land when they picked up Cassandra’s trail. They had followed her, the priest, and a young woman to the banks of the Sakarya River where they revealed themselves to the small caravan, and inquired about their travels.

“She spoke of an imminent attack on Troy, but that no one would heed her warning.” Said Gordias. “And so it became imperative that she journey to Mount Ida to call upon the Mother Goddess for help.”

“Help with what?” Said Alcathous. “There has been no mention of war. Not from our spies or the emissaries of neighboring lands. And even if war is on the horizon, no mortal can challenge the will of the gods.”

“That is just it!” Said Gordias. “Cassandra intends to undermine the will of Aphrodite.”

A low rumble of conversations resonated among the soldiers and priests in the chamber. King Priam and Deiphobus exchanged furtive glances and then turned to Troylus, who remained silent.

“Did you know of this?” Said King Priam.

“No, father, I did not. I merely provided her with the horses. She had made no mention of her intentions, and I did not ask.”

“Our sister dares to venture beyond the walls of Troy, beyond our protection, and you don’t bother to inquire about her intent?” Said Deiphobus.

“What’s done is done.” Said Priam. “The important thing is that we find Cassandra, and have her safely returned to Troy.”

“Forgive my candor, father, but that is easier said than done.” Said Deiphobus. “She may have left Mount Ida by now, and we have no insight about where she is head to next.”

“A task that will prove most difficult, indeed.” Said an unfamiliar voice. “However, on this matter that is important to us both, I may have news that will work to your advantage.”

The men turned to the stranger. They parted to let him pass, and he approached King Priam. Troylus eyed him suspiciously, but by his attire and stature knew the man was royalty. His shaggy head of dark hair fell over his brow, and set in his stern face a pair of keen grey eyes.

“Othronus!” Said Priam. “I wondered when you would arrive.”

Othronus bowed before the king and then stood and faced Deiphobus. “It is an honor to meet you. I have heard many great things about your prowess on the battlefield. You are almost as renown as your brother, Hector.”

Deiphobus nodded, and asked him what he knew about Cassandra. Othronus revealed that messengers, and merchants from Phrygia had brought word to his father about a Princess of Troy traveling on horseback through the region. When he had heard that it was Cassandra, he asked his father to permit him to leave for Troy to assist in locating the princess, and to ask for her hand in marriage.

Troylus stood from his seat, astonished, but Priam spoke before he could protest. The men remained silent as the king drew himself up; strong in stature under the blue robes that matched his eyes, and his strong jaw evident beneath his well-groomed white beard. Despite his age he exuded confidence, but regardless of his poise, his face was grave.

“We find ourselves at a crossroads. We know the inevitable, yet we are powerless to prevent it. No city has ever faced greater peril, and will be destined to suffer a more notorious damnation than Troy.” Said King Priam.

He forgave Troylus for his part in aiding Cassandra’s escape, and asked forgiveness of Deiphobus for withholding the truth. He confessed that he knew all along about Paris’ intentions, and that Cassandra’s prophecies were not tirades of lunacy, but had in fact been the will of the gods.

“I have gathered you here, for here your questions will be answered.” Said the king. “It is now many years ago that a shadow of doom fell upon Troy. Whence it loomed we did not at first perceive. Warnings had been whispered, but ignored, and when the memory of the betrayals had faded beyond recollection we reveled in the greater wealth and splendor for which Troy is famous.”

Priam sighed. “Troy! Troy! The high walls, and vast riches! Vanity blinded our faults, and the gods now seek their revenge. Long has it been since the walls had been erected. But now, that which had been foretold by Apollo shall come to fruition. And in immense perdition the fate of our lineage is ordained to fall.”

“Father, what are you saying?” Said Deiphobus.

Then all listened as the king spoke of the gods, and the heroes, and the legend of how the walls of Troy would rise and fall. A part of his tale began in a distant land long ago, when Zeus fell in love with a maiden, and Hera’s jealousy caused a pestilence that decimated a population.

The maiden, Aegina, had been the daughter of the river-god, Asopus, and she bore Zeus a son. But when Hera learned of the impending birth, she sought to punish Aegina, and Zeus carried her off to the island called Eenoni that had not yet been inhabited, but afterwards came to be known as Aegina.

Then through the years that followed, Aeacus emerged as king; but since that history was recounted elsewhere, it was not recalled by Priam. For it was a long tale, full of deeds commendable and disastrous, and only briefly did Priam speak of the latter.

Of Hera, he spoke, her jealousy and wrath, and the retribution she inflicted by sending a plague, and a fearful dragon out of the depths of the sea. Aeacus knew that Hera remained bitter about Zeus’ love affair with Aegina, and devastated the land that bore her name. For more than a season the pestilence ravaged the island until all but Aeacus and his son Telamon had perished.

Thereupon Priam paused a while and sighed. “Generations of mortals are cursed to suffer terribly at the hands of the gods; for the actions of the gods echo through eternity like ripples in a pond that reach to distant shores.”

And so it came to pass that Aeacus stood before the altar of Zeus with his hands and eyes raised to the heavens in a tearful plea. He begged the god of gods to remember that he was his son, and when Aeacus saw a colony of busy ants he requested that Zeus replenish his land with people as numerous and hardworking as they. Finally, he appealed to Zeus in the name of Aegina, the mortal woman he loved most, and adjured him to deliver him from his plight.

Aeacus collapsed, and guided by his tears and broken breaths fell into a deep slumber, where he remained until a clap of thunder roused him the next morning. His son Telamon approached through the gates of the temple with a multitude of men on his heels, and Aeacus knew that Zeus had answered his call. He gazed with wonder and delight as the men approached, their armor the same color as the ants, and they knelt before Aeacus and hailed him as their king.

“Aeacus named them Myrmidons, after the ant—myrmex—from which they had sprung.” Said King Priam.

“Myrmidons? As in—“ Said Deiphobus.

“Yes, the very same.” Said Priam.

The men shifted in their seats, unusually quiet, and their faces grim. They had heard legends of the Myrmidons, the fiercest warriors in all of Greece with their unwavering loyalty, and unrivaled brutality.

At this the stranger, Othronus, broke in. “So this is what you fear, the Myrmidons!” He stood, and said, “If ever such a force dared to storm the walls of my city they would be met with a formidable military puissance as to drive them into the sea! And rest assured King Priam that should the day ever come that the Greeks arrive at your shores to make war, we will come to your aid.”

“I commend your bravery, and appreciate your pledge Othronus, but it is not merely the Myrmidons that concern me.” Said Priam. “For it is their link to Aeacus, and his descendents that dooms our destiny.”

“Forgive my interruption. Please continue.” Said Othronus, and he sat and listened.

Over the years, Aeacus had been renowned for his just and pious nature; both mortals and gods often turned to him to settle their disputes. Such a favorite was he of the gods that Apollo and Poseidon enlisted him as their assistant in building the walls of Troy.

Each built a separate section of the walls, and when they completed their task they ascended to Mount Olympus where they feasted on ambrosia and nectar. Aeacus, however, had been given wine and slept among the clouds where he dreamt of three dragons that rushed the walls of Troy.

The walls built by Poseidon and Apollo withstood the charge of the first two dragons, but when the third dragon rushed the part of the walls built by Aeacus it had collapsed. Aeacus woke with a start and conveyed his dream to the gods. It was then that Apollo prophesized that Troy’s collapse would come at the hands of Aeacus’ descendants.

And so it came to pass that Aeacus and his wife, Endeïs, daughter of the Kentaur Chiron had two sons, Peleus and Telamon. Peleus married Thetis, and it was at their wedding banquet that the dispute between the goddesses: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had originated. Their son Achilles, the notorious warrior trained by Chiron later emerged as the leader of the Myrmidons. Whereas Telamon fathered Ajax the Great, and Teucer with the Trojan princess kidnapped a generation before.

“What?” Deiphobus and Troylus said incredulously.

A thunderous silence resonated within the chamber, and all turned their eyes on Priam. He felt a sudden shame and fear; and he felt a great reluctance to reveal the truth that he had kept hidden for several decades.

“The arrogance and jealousy of the gods has bestowed a malediction on the sons of Troy to pay for the sins of our fathers. Even my progeny shall suffer at the expense of my faults.” Said Priam.

The king’s eyes glinted as he gazed upon his sons. When Poseidon and Apollo returned to Troy to be compensated for the building of the high walls, King Laomedon cheated them, and refused to pay. Angered, Apollo sent a plague, and Poseidon sent a sea serpent to exact their revenge.

Laomedon turned to the Oracles, and they promised him that Troy would be spared if he exposed his daughter, Hesione, on the shores of the Aegean to be devoured by the sea monster. The king agreed, and fastened her naked body on the rocks near the sea.

But before the sacrifice had taken place, the hero Hercules happened to arrive with his friend Telamon from their expedition against the Amazons. Hercules agreed to rescue Hesione in exchange for the horses that had been given to the Trojan king’s grandfather by Zeus, but when Hercules had slain the monster, Laomedon again went back on his word.

Hercules attacked the city, killed Laomedon, slaughtered all of his sons, except the youngest—Priam—who had been absent during the siege, and gave the maiden to Telamon whom he took as his wife.

When Priam returned, and learned of the abduction, he sent his advisors, Antenor and Anchises of Dardania to demand her return, but they were refused and driven away.

“I failed my sister when I neglected to embark on a campaign to retrieve her from the clutches of the Greeks. I will not permit my daughter to suffer a similar fate.”

Priam fell silent, and gazed out at the sea where the reflection of the moon goddess glowed. He prayed that she watched over Cassandra, his blue-eyed daughter with hair as fiery as her personality. He signed.

“The men of Troy, and its allies, are valiant men.” Said Deiphobus. “We will never submit to the Greeks, nor will we be defeated by them!”

“My concern at this time is not war, my son. We will stand against the Greeks when the time comes. My priority is your sister. She must be found, and brought back before a war arrives on our shores.”

“And what will become of Hector, and Paris?” Said Troylus.

“Their fate is beyond our control. But we have until their return to secure Cassandra. If she remains abroad when Hector and Paris return, then she will be as exposed as my sister had been when my father was king.”

Othronus looked at them doubtfully, and he bowed his head. “So be it.” He stood. “Then we must trust to such weapons, and the armies that we have. And at the least appeal to the gods with whom we still have good favor. Until then, we shall make finding Cassandra our priority, and pray we return before Hector and Paris.”

“Who will go?” Said Gordias. “For though Phrygia would come to the aid of Troy in war, we do not dare to challenge Aphrodite.”

“May the day not arrive too soon,” Said Deiphobus. “Though it is comforting to know that our allies will fight with all the means they have when the time comes.”

“Then be comforted now, prince of Troy, that I represent Kavissos, and lend my hand to search for Cassandra as well as to fight at your side.” Said Othronus.

“But what would happen if the Greeks arrive at our shores, and the search party has not returned?” Alcathous asked.

“We know not for certain.” Said Priam. “Yet we must be willing to endure this chance, as we cannot allow harm to befall Cassandra.”

“And who are they to be, the ones charged with finding Cassandra?” Alcathous asked.

“That seems to me what this council has to decide, and all that it has to decide.” Said King Priam.

“I will search for my sister,” said Deiphobus, “though I cannot bear this burden alone.”

“I will accompany you, brother, for it was by my involvement that she fled the city.” Said Troylus.

“Three mortals risk the wrath of a vengeful goddess to search for one woman with little chance of success, and the fate of Troy hangs in the balance? Quite the conundrum we find ourselves in, eh?” Said Othronus. “What are we waiting for?”

To be continued…

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (5th Installment)

Part 5: Hera’s Humanity

When they arrived at the entrance to the shrine on Mount Ida, the sun had lingered behind the mountains, and the shadows had deepened in the woods. Cassandra wondered if the Mother Goddess would accept her offering. Then she looked at Eenoni leading the way, and felt sympathy for the heartache she had endured. How could my brother have turned his back on the unconditional love of a devoted and beautiful lover? Then Cassandra remembered how she had rejected the affections of Apollo.

      They followed Eenoni into the darkness of the cave, and within minutes they appeared before a statue of the Mother Goddess. She towered over them, and the vibrant lifelike colors in which She had been painted glowed against the fires that crackled in the braziers.

      Calchas approached, and beckoned Arisbe as he knelt before the goddess. The servant stooped beside the priest and handed him the pouch she carried. From it, he gathered herbs and other contents that were unknown to Cassandra and Coroebus, and they watched as he cast the contents into the brazier that sat in the center of the cave.

      Soon, they gathered and squatted around the fire. They watched as the herbs blazed up, then smoldered and flung out thick white clouds of aromatic smoke. Eenoni whispered unintelligibly as the priest urged Cassandra to inhale deeply, and focus her thoughts. The dry, sweet scent filled Cassandra’s nostrils, and she felt her head sway as the heat from the fire intensified.

      Cassandra opened her eyes, and saw the flames flicker with strange colors as they cast long dancing silhouettes against the jagged walls of the cave. Her companions faded into the soft shadows, and even the statue of the Mother Goddess had disappeared.

      The darkness deepened. Cassandra’s sight had been stolen, but she did not panic. There came the soft sound of footsteps and the rustle of robes that betrayed the stealth among the shadows. She felt an unfamiliar presence, but felt safe when a gentle voice echoed from the darkness.

      “You have traveled at great peril to your safety, Cassandra. Even I cannot shelter you from the dangers you will face.” Said the Mother Goddess.

      “Then you know why I am here?” Said Cassandra.

      “I know the reasons why you have come, but I fear that what you seek is beyond the scope of my power.”
      “Then how may I save my people?” Said Cassandra. “You are Hera, the Mother Goddess of my mother’s people. Would you turn away a daughter of Queen Hecuba?”

“It is not you that I deny, dear child, but it was your brother’s judgment that has caused you this grief.”

“What if I were to reveal a truth that has been hidden from you?” Said Cassandra.

“I am a goddess. There is nothing that remains hidden from me.” Said Hera.

“Then you know the truth about Helen of Sparta.”

“The one that is rumored to be as lovely as a goddess?” Said Hera.

“They say she is even lovelier than Aphrodite.” Said Cassandra.

“Do not insult me, child.” Hera warned. “Now, what is it that you wish to divulge?”

“It has been widely known that she is the daughter of Leda, the daughter of King Thestius, but the truth about her father has been kept secret by a divine veil to protect Leda from your wrath.” Said Cassandra.

“What secret?” Hera insisted.

Cassandra lowered her head, opened her thoughts, and revealed a vision to the Mother Goddess that Hecuba had shared with her.

They watched as Leda had risen from her bed, where her husband, King Tyndareus slept undisturbed. As usual after their intimacy, he had fallen into a deep slumber; he took no notice of her movements when she left the bed.

She threw a light article of clothing over her shoulders, and wandered out into the courtyard to gaze upon the stars. She looked to the heavens for a sign of her destiny, but only a thunderous silence echoed. A dark blanket stretched from horizon to horizon, and the stars twinkled like diamonds set by divine order when distant rumbling pierced the calm.

A gentle breeze caressed Leda; she watched as rolling clouds gathered and lightning flickered behind them. She felt the approach of a numinous entity, and waited for her fate to change.

A strange shiver washed over her when she felt the presence of a man standing behind her. At first, she thought it was her husband, King Tyndareus, until she felt the unfamiliar hands rest on her shoulders. He massaged her upper back, and caressed her arms as his lips gently kissed the back of her neck. Leda felt his breath in her ear when he whispered a secret and then teased her earlobe with his tongue.

Her knees wavered; but Zeus embraced her, so that she could feel his manhood throbbing behind her as he splayed his hands against her flesh so that his fingers brushed her nipples and desire scorched her. He made her face him, and he bent his head down to capture her lips with his.

Leda worried that her husband would wake and accuse her of infidelity, but somehow she knew that she wasn’t being unfaithful. She looked into the eyes of the stranger, and they were unlike any she had ever seen. Lightning flickered within them, and they swirled with a hint of silver when he smiled and gently kissed her again.

He grasped her tunic, along her hips, and his hands slid up along her waist to expose her secrets and caress her lightly between her legs. He lifted her and she wrapped her legs around his hips; a swift movement and she was open, throbbing and eager. Then Zeus was inside of her, and the lightning flickered above them, and the rumbling of thunder shook the Earth with the deep pounding rhythms of his touch.

“Enough!” Said Hera.

Cassandra sat in silence as the Mother Goddess contemplated the revelation.

“So, Helen of Sparta is the progeny of Zeus, and a mortal woman.” Said Hera. “And what punishment would you have me bestow on Helen?”

“None.” Said Cassandra.

“None?” Said Hera. “And why not?”

“Because none of this is Helen’s fault.” Said Cassandra.

“Ah, but that is where you are mistaken, dear child. For if Helen had never been born, then perhaps the lords of Greece would have never agreed to an alliance, because she would have never married Menelaus, and your brother would not have a prize to claim.”

“The Fates determine those outcomes.” Said Cassandra.

“If you do not want me to punish Helen, then why are you here?”

“Helen is not at fault for the actions of Zeus. Nor is Leda.” Said Cassandra.

“Leda knew with whom she was consorting, and she knew that I was his wife when she engaged in the act to betray me!”

“She fell victim to the seduction of Zeus. How could she, a mortal woman, possibly resist a god?” Said Cassandra.

“You did.” Said Hera.

Cassandra paused, and remembered Apollo, the son of Zeus, who professed his love for her, and even though she felt compelled to accept him into her heart, she turned him away.

      “That is why I am here.” Said Cassandra.

      Hera remained silent.

      “Apollo came to me and when he fell in love with me, he granted me the gift of prophecy. I did not ask for it, I did not want it, but he bestowed it upon me regardless of my reluctance. Later, when I confessed that I could not reciprocate his love, he grew furious, and cursed me. He said that since a god may not reclaim a gift, then he had no choice but to allow me to retain the power of foresight, however no one would ever believe me.”

      Hera knelt before Cassandra. And while she pitied the Trojan Princess, she seethed with jealousy at the mention of Apollo. She recalled her fury against Leto, daughter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe, when her hidden beauty caught Zeus’ attention, and he seduced her in secret. Hera made every effort to prevent Leto from giving birth to her twins, Artemis and Apollo, and though she was powerless to prevent their births she had been determined to make Leto suffer.

      Now, she felt disquieted at the prospect that two of Zeus’ progeny, from his illicit affairs, were involved with the troubling events that threatened the fragile peace between Sparta and Troy.

      “I still do not see how I may be able to help?” Said Hera. “I cannot undo what Apollo has done, and even though I sympathize with your predicament, I am not inclined to prevent Paris from igniting a war.”

      “Why not?” Said Cassandra.

      “I am renown for my jealousy, and holding a grudge.” Said Hera. “Surely you wouldn’t expect me to betray my nature?”

      “But you are the Goddess of Marriage!” Pled Cassandra. “It is your duty to preserve the marriage of Helen and Menelaus. Even against the will of Aphrodite, and the desire of my brother.”

      “Do not speak to me about my duty, child!” Said Hera. “Besides, I have no bond with Helen that compels me to preserve her honor, and save her marriage. Not since she sought counsel when the many suitors had gone to Sparta for her hand in marriage, has she pled for my assistance.”

      Cassandra felt a tear race along her cheek.

      “No. I cannot help, and I will not interfere with the inevitable.” Said Hera. “Unless you have another request—“

      “I do!” Said Cassandra.

      Hera waited.

      “I wish to find Nyx, the Goddess of Night. Do you know how I may find her?”

      Hera contemplated Cassandra’s request. “You are relentless, aren’t you? Tell me. What do you hope you will accomplish by finding Nyx?”

      “Nyx is the mother of the Fates.” Said Cassandra.

      “And?” Hera said dismissively.

      “As the mother of the Fates, it is my intention to enlist her assistance with her daughter, Clotho.”

      “I’m curious, dear child. How do you intend to procure the benevolence of the Fates? They answer to no one, and are bound by their nature to ensure that everyone’s destiny is fulfilled.”

      “I will ask Clotho, who is responsible for controlling the major decisions in one’s life, to allow me to fall in love with Apollo.” Said Cassandra. “Perhaps then he may be compelled to lift the curse, and my people will heed my warnings and prepare for the war.”

      “It is exceedingly dangerous to manipulate destiny, dear child.” Hera warned.

      “I have no other option.” Said Cassandra. “I cannot ask Aphrodite, because I’m certain she wishes to fulfill her promise to Paris. I cannot turn to her son, Eros the god of love and desire, because his loyalty lies with her. I cannot stand by and do nothing. I must take this chance, regardless of the risk to my personal safety.”

      Hera pondered Cassandra’s predicament and instructed the mortal princess to look upon her.

      Cassandra opened her eyes, but still she could not see through the windows of her soul. Instead, she saw with the eye of her mind, and felt rather than saw, a luminous shadow rise before her. The radiance overwhelmed her consciousness, and it did her no good to shield her eyes with her hands.

      “You are not seeing me with your eyes, Cassandra, for it is not possible to look upon an Immortal in her or his true form.” Said Hera.

      “Then what is it that blinds me?” Said Cassandra.

      Soon there could be no doubt; Cassandra knew, the thought had been relayed as a whisper to her mind that only her soul could stand in the presence of a goddess in her true form. So incandescent was She that She imparted the impression of standing before the sun, and illuminated even the gloom that surrounded them.

      And when the veil of darkness had been shoved aside by Hera’s effulgent presence, Cassandra felt at peace. Hera motioned Cassandra to stand and the Mother Goddess admired the young mortal woman known as the second most beautiful woman in the world. Hera gazed into Cassandra’s bright blue eyes and apperceived her intelligent, charming, elegant and gentle nature. But beyond that, Hera recognized Cassandra’s determination, and decided to help in the only way her divine arrogance would permit.

      “Zeus does not yet know about your journey.” Said Hera. “He may soon learn that you came to me, and the dangers that lie ahead will magnify.”

      Cassandra remained silent.

      “Do you not see what is happening, dear child? These events are for gods and mortals alike the footsteps of doom. For if you fail, then Troy will fall. Yet if you succeed, then the power of the gods will be diminished, and it will not only be the end of the Age of Heroes, but it will be the end of the reign of the gods. And the tides of time shall sweep us away from the hearts and minds of mortals, slowly to be ignored and forgotten.”

      Hera leaned forward and gently kissed Cassandra’s crown, and unexpectedly the princess knew where her voyage would lead to next. A great light illuminated the cave then vanished and left all else dark, save for the small fires burning in the braziers. Cassandra stood before the statue of the Mother Goddess, gazing upon her lifelike image with wonder; for suddenly it seemed to her that she understood why the gods appeared in disguise.

      Her companions rose to their feet and hurriedly approached her. At length they explained that when she fell into a trance, an unseen force shoved them back before a mystical veil cascaded around her and the statue of Hera.

      “We heard everything, but we could not see either of you!” Said Eenoni.

      “I feared for your safety, my lady.” Said Arisbe.

      “By gods, I have never experienced anything so terrifyingly glorious!” Calchas interjected.

      Cassandra turned to Coroebus. He stood rooted, unable to withdraw his gaze. Cassandra searched his eyes and he searched hers, for they both knew with absolute certainty and terror that to achieve her objective, she would sacrifice her heart for a love she did not want, and as a consequence, he would have to do the same.

To be continued…

Friday, January 4, 2013

Love in the Age of Heroes: Ubiquitous Legends of Unrequited Love (4th Installment)

Part 4: Eenoni’s Agony

Sunlight fell between the pillars of Troy, and the servants shrank into the shadows of the corridors when they heard the thunderous roar of King Priam from his chambers. His fury could be felt throughout the palace when he learned of Cassandra’s escape, and though he believed that Queen Hecuba aided their daughter, he could provide no evidence to substantiate his suspicions.

      “Didn’t I tell you to not encourage her creative notions?” Said Priam.

      “She was just a child when she first talked to us about the scrying-bowl and prophecies.” Said Queen Hecuba.

      “And now look at what your coddling has produced. She thinks herself a prophetess, and has ventured beyond the city walls, beyond my protection!” Said King Priam. “You women do nothing but undermine the rule of a man in his own house!”

      Queen Hecuba stepped forward with a glint of rage in her eyes.

      “Be mindful of your tone with me.” Said Queen Hecuba. “I am the mother of your children, Queen of Troy, and the eldest daughter of the Horse lords of the Open Lands. I have raised our children to exceed the standards set forth by previous generations, and I will not permit you to question my methods, nor my judgment.”

      “Be that as it may,” said King Priam. “Cassandra is missing. Deiphobus has been unable to procure the whereabouts of Cassandra and Troylus from Cressida, and Calchas is nowhere to be found.”

      “How are Calchas and his daughter involved?” Said Queen Hecuba.

      “That remains unclear—“ said Priam, when a member of his personal guard knocked on the door to the private chamber.

      The King of Troy pulled the door open. Despite his fifty years of age, he remained an imposing presence even without his armor, with long white hair and a neatly maintained curly white beard. His bright blue eyes demanded to know what warranted the interruption.

      “My lord, there is an emissary from Phrygia. He bears news of Cassandra.”

      King Priam instructed the soldier to escort the emissary to his reception room. Moments later, the King entered the reception chamber, followed closely by Queen Hecuba. The Phrygian messenger bowed before him, and announced himself as Gordias, son of Adrastus.


In the dark corridors beneath the palace, Troylus arrived at the dungeon where Cressida had been held captive. At his behest, the guards lifted the heavy bars of the doors. They swung open slowly grumbling on their hinges, and Troylus darted across the threshold to embrace the woman he loved.

      “Did my brother harm you?” He asked. His eyes searched hers for any sign of pain. It was dark and cold in the chamber, and she shivered in his arms.

      “No, he did not hurt me.” Said Cressida. She avoided his gaze, and stared absently at the ground. You left me to face the humiliation of imprisonment alone, and then waited another day to free me while you slept in the comfort of your bed.

      “Come, we must leave immediately.” Troylus whispered.

      He cast a sideways glance at the guards. They watched him, but remained unaware that King Priam and Prince Deiphobus searched for him to question him about Cassandra’s escape.

      “Where are you taking me?” Cressida asked.

      Troylus did not answer. He helped her stand and they walked out into the long corridor, filled with shadows and the dancing glow of half lights from the few torches that lined the walls. The low ceiling gave the impression that it would collapse and trap them forever if they did not hurry, and reminded Troylus of his father’s wrath.

      Behind them, the cell doors shut, and echoed throughout the corridor as Troylus escorted Cressida through the darkness. He hoped that his cousin, Briseis, would be waiting for them when they emerged from the lower levels of the palace. She had provided him with a place to hide for the night, and though the accommodations had not been suitable for a prince, he endured the discomfort for Cressida.

      Again, Cressida asked the prince where he was taking her, but he ignored her request and led her up a flight of stairs. She stopped, midflight, and demanded to know his intentions.

      “There is no time for this!” Said Troylus. “My brother may return to question you again, and if he captures us both—“

      “Oh, you mean, the way he would have captured us both in my father’s home?” Said Cressida.

      “That is not fair.” Said Troylus. “You know that if I had been found in your home, alone with you, the scandal would have been worse for you than for me.”

      “It would have been bad for you?” Said Cressida. “Is that because you are a prince of Troy, and I am merely the lowly daughter of a priest?”

      “No, my love. It would not have been bad for me at all. You know that I care not about what others might say about me, and I don’t think in terms of status.” Said Troylus. “I only evaded capture for two reasons. First, I could not bear to think about the gossip that would spread about you, to have been found alone in your home with me. Second, I promised my mother that I would ensure Cassandra’s safety and escape from the city.”

      “So, your mother and her wishes matter more than me?” Said Cressida.

      “Nothing matters more than you, my love.” Said Troylus. “By being here, I risk the wrath of my father, so I am begging you to trust me. Now please, let us make haste before my brother returns.”

      “Why do you fear your brother’s return?” Said Cressida.

      “He cannot learn of Cassandra’s whereabouts.” Said Troylus.

      “And why not?” She asked.

      “Yes, brother, why am I not privy to our sister’s intentions?”

      Troylus and Cressida turned to see Deiphobus descending the flight of stairs with a group of guards behind him. Troylus took hold of Cressida’s wrist and led her down the steps. Deiphobus and his men gave chase as the lovers fled through the darkened corridors, and vanished into the shadows.


The sun had reached the highest point in the sky when Cassandra, Coroebus, Calchas, and Arisbe arrived at the foothills of Mount Ida. Light clouds circled the mountain, and obscured the apex where the shrine of the Mother Goddess had been since time immemorial.

      As they climbed, each pondered their individual concerns: Coroebus kept a watchful eye over the terrain, because he had heard of the creatures that lurked about; whereas Calchas wondered if the risk he took was worth the reward he had been promised. Arisbe clung to Cassandra as they rode on horseback, and hoped that Queen Hecuba would shield her from King Priam’s wrath once he learned of her involvement.

      There was a long silence. Cassandra turned and glanced in the direction of Troy, far and distant beyond the horizon. She could not see Troy as it was, but somehow saw the harbor with her mind’s eye. Emerging on the face of the shimmering sea were a thousand ships from lands she had only heard about in legend.

      They spread like a dark shadow; the resonance of ominous foreboding loomed over the fate of the Trojans. Most had white sails with blue markings she did not recognize, but at the forefront of the fleet soared a small group of boats with black sails.

      An unfamiliar voice echoed in Cassandra’s ear, and sent shivers along her spine. The first Greek to set foot on Trojan soil shall be the first to die in the Trojan War.

      Cassandra saw him, Protesilaus, the brave soldier who had heard of the prophecy of Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess at the Temple of Apollo as he leapt ashore and charged to his destiny. He had once been a suitor of Helen of Sparta, and though he had later been married to Laodamia, daughter of Acastus, he was bound by an oath to protect Helen’s honor.

      His comrades revered his courageous actions after he had slain four men before he fell to the sword of Prince Hector. And as Cassandra witnessed the brutality inflicted by her elder brother, a shudder ran through her body, and she felt Laodamia’s heartache. Cassandra saw Protesilaus’ body through the eyes of the grieving widow, and felt the tears shed by the young woman who had been robbed of the opportunity to give her husband a lifetime of love.

      Cassandra felt her soul being extracted from the body of Laodamia, but the Trojan Princess had been permitted by the gods to remain as an autoptic witness when Hermes returned with Protesilaus from the Underworld. Protesilaus stood before his deeply mourning wife, and she felt the warmth of his presence when he embraced her, and apologized for abandoning her in the name of eternal glory.

      They reflected on the fond memories they created in their short time together, but Laodamia refused to lose him a second time. She would not become a victim of unrequited love. When Protesilaus returned to the Underworld, she drank hemlock to kill herself and join him.

      “My lady, what is wrong?” Said Arisbe.

      Cassandra shook her head. She did not answer. She merely wiped the tears from her eyes and urged her horse to resume their climb.

      “My lady—“

      “It was nothing!” Cassandra lied, for she felt the burden of the war, and through the gift of prophecy bore witness to the tragedy that would come to pass.

      As they arrived at a clearing on the mountainside, they observed a young woman standing near a stream. A feeling of uneasiness washed over Cassandra. She froze and stared at the beautiful woman with long dark hair and green, dovelike eyes. She wore a long white tunic that billowed about in the breeze.

      Coroebus dismounted from his horse and instructed his companions to keep an eye out for anything unexpected while he talked with the mysterious woman.

      “I agree.” Said Calchas.

      “I do not.” Said Cassandra, peering at the priest with contemnible eyes asquint.

      Coroebus was taken aback.

      Cassandra glanced at the woman again, and observed her solemn expression. “Despite your handsome features, I daresay that your presence will not be as welcome as you might think.”

      Coroebus smirked as Cassandra dismounted her horse. “And what leads you to this conclusion?”

      “You are a man, Coroebus. You do not recognize a woman who wears the expression of heartache.” Said Cassandra. “Wait here.”

      The mysterious woman studied Cassandra’s movements as she approached. She observed Cassandra’s fiery red-hair and bright blue eyes, and noted that they were the only features she did not share with her brother.

      “I knew you’d come.” She whispered.

      Cassandra froze.

      “Do not be alarmed. I am Eenoni, the first love of your twin brother, Paris.” She said as she stepped forward.

      “First love? My twin brother?” Said Cassandra.

      “Yes, come. Come, all of you. There is much to tell.” Said Eenoni. Her eyes watered as she embraced Cassandra.

      They gathered beneath a tree along the riverbank and a comfortable peace washed over the group, save for Cassandra. Her sapphire-colored eyes were pensive, in a melancholy way.

      Eenoni handed her a cup of water gathered from the stream. She drank it, but did not taste like water for it was sweet like nectar and warmed her throat. She gave each of Cassandra’s companions a cup of the enchanted liquid and they consumed it with satisfaction, but Coroebus immediately grew suspicious.

      “This is not water.” He said and he leapt to his feet. “Are you a sorceress?”

      “I am no sorceress.” She said softly, seated beside Cassandra.

      “Then what are you?” He demanded.

      “I am a mountain nymph, associated with the Mother Goddess, and daughter of Cebren, a river-god. My name is Eenoni, and despite what future legends may claim, I am the first to convert water into wine.”

      Coroebus’ brow creased in confusion.

      “You said that you knew I’d come.” Said Cassandra. “How?”

      Eenoni drew a deep breath and pursed her lips. Cassandra studied her soft features, and searched her enchanting green eyes, because for all their beauty they reflected inconsolable pain.

      “We share a common gift, Cassandra, but beyond that, it is the fate of one man that intertwines our destinies.”

      “Do not speak to us in riddles.” Said Coroebus.

      Eenoni ignored the Phrygian prince, and held Cassandra’s gaze.

      “You have seen it too?” Said Cassandra.

      Eenoni nodded.

      “Seen what?” Said Coroebus.

      Eenoni turned to him and said; “I have seen the tragedy of love when gods intervene on mortal affairs.”

      “But we are servants of the gods,” said Calchas. “We are subject to their will, regardless of the circumstance or outcome.”

      “Will you believe that when the will of the gods claims the one person whom you cherish most?” Said Eenoni.

      “I serve the Sun-god, Apollo, and dare not question his—“

      “That is enough, Calchas. I will not hear that name mentioned again.” Said Cassandra.

      Coroebus and Calchas exchanged bewildered glances. Arisbe lowered her head, because she knew the source of Cassandra’s acrimony.

      “I don’t understand.” Said Coroebus. “What is it that you have seen, and whose fate binds you to each other?”

      Eenoni leaned forward, handed Coroebus another drink and revealed to the Phrygian prince, the truth about a prince of Troy. His name, Paris, had been given to him at birth, when his father ordered him exposed on Mount Ida to prevent a prophecy from coming to fruition. It had been foretold that he would bring about the destruction of Troy, and King Priam would not dare tempt the gods by ignoring their ominous sign.

      Paris, however had been found, and raised by the shepherd, Agelaus, and it had been on the slopes of Mount Ida where he met and fell in love with the nymph, Eenoni. During their youth, they frolicked in the mountainside and fell in love, and when they were sixteen they were wed on the very site where they found Eenoni.

      “You were married to my brother?” Cassandra asked incredulously.

      Eenoni nodded and relayed the events that had transpired, which explained why Paris had not spoken of his marriage when he returned to Troy. She glanced at Calchas and made mention of the banquet on Mount Olympus that Zeus had planned as a ploy for his own objectives.

      “What do you mean, for his own objectives?” Said Calchas.

      Eenoni reminded the priest that they lived in an era when demigods and mortals were revered as much as the gods and goddesses of Mount Olympus, many of whom were descendents of Zeus due to his many infidelities.

      Zeus needed a means to eliminate the Heroes without his direct involvement, and he manipulated the circumstances that led to the inevitable. He threw a celebration on Mount Olympus to commemorate the wedding of Peleus of Aegina, and the sea-nymph Thetis, and invited every deity and demigod save for Eris. Zeus excluded her, because he knew that by her very nature she would ignite a firestorm of controversy.

      Eris, the goddess of strife, threw the golden Apple of Discord into the party with the words “Kallisti” –“for the fairest”— inscribed on the surface. An argument ensued among the goddesses over who had a rightful claim to the apple.

      Ultimately, the choices had been narrowed down to three: Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, and each refused to relinquish the apple to the other two. When they took their squabble to Zeus, he made it clear that he did not want to take part in the decision, but knew one man whose judgment could be trusted.

Paris had a reputation, even among the gods, for his exquisite taste and appreciation of beauty, and at the behest of Zeus, Hermes escorted the three to Mount Ida.  

      They approached Paris, who waited for Eenoni on the very site where they now sat, but when she arrived, she could not be seen or heard. Eenoni stood, as if beyond the boundary of a bubble, and watched as the goddesses disrobed and allowed him to see them naked.

      Paris still could not decide, as he believed them to be equally, ideally beautiful, and turned away. He sat with his head in his hands when the goddesses chose to bribe him with the things that men truly desire most.

      Hera offered him power and the reward of ruthless ambition, lordship over all of Europe and Asia; Athena offered him glory and wisdom, which would manifest as skill in battle and grant him renown as the greatest warrior, but these choices he refused. Paris did not possess the ambition inherent in the heart of a king of kings, and he did not long for glorious moments on the battlefield. Paris Alexander, the doomed prince of Troy, had been born a romantic and yearned only for love.

      And so it came to pass that when Aphrodite offered the love of the most beautiful woman on Earth, Helen of Sparta, Paris sealed his fate and chose Aphrodite as the fairest of the goddesses.

      “I am truly sorry.” Said Cassandra.

      A tear fell from Eenoni’s eye, and in her emerald-colored eyes could be seen the depth of her heartache. She offered Cassandra an appreciative smile filled with sadness and they embraced in silence.

      “What in the name of the gods are you apologizing for?” Said Coroebus incredulously.

      “Don’t you understand, you jackass?” Said Arisbe.

      “No, I do not. Enlighten me.”

      Cassandra turned to Coroebus without releasing Eenoni. “It isn’t that my brother chose Aphrodite. What has broken Eenoni’s heart is that Paris chose Helen over her!”

      Realization dawned on Coroebus’ face, and he felt the extent of his idiocy in that instant.

      “How does this correlate with your troubles, Princess Cassandra?” Said Calchas.

      Eenoni clarified that Cassandra had tried, unsuccessfully, to warn her family about Paris’ voyage to Sparta. Although King Priam and Prince Hector believed that Paris had merely assumed his role as royalty, they did not know of his intention to seduce the Spartan queen, which would ultimately lead to war.

      Eenoni then turned to Cassandra and said with conviction. “You must not blame yourself for what is to come. The events you have foreseen had been set into motion long before your birth.”

      “But how do you know this?” Said Cassandra.

      “Because I am a nymph, and I can see beyond the boundaries of time in a way that you cannot.” Said Eenoni.

      “Then it is imperative that I see the Mother Goddess, immediately.” Said Cassandra.

      “Did you not hear what she said?” Calchas interjected. “This war is inevitable!”

      “Then I have another option.” Said Cassandra.

      “What option is that, my lady?” Said Arisbe.

      “No one believes me, because Apollo has punished me with a curse of being thought mad for not being able to reciprocate his love. Perhaps the Mother Goddess will be able to help me with this dilemma.”

      “Only Aphrodite or her son, Eros, has the power to influence love.” Said Calchas. “How do you intend on invoking the aid of the goddess that you wish to undermine?”

      “It is not Aphrodite whose help I wish to enlist.” Said Cassandra.

      She and Eenoni exchanged a furtive glance.

      “We must take you to the Mother Goddess, now.” Eenoni and Arisbe said simultaneously.

To be continued…