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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…

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