I looked out the window of my room, gripping tightly onto the white marble balcony ledge where small tears lay. I looked down upon the many guards carrying a wooden casket towards a rectangular hole dug in the ground. I looked down upon the garden where death and grief began to swell. I can’t believe that Father is gone now, too. I already lost Mother. At least I have Ker, if that counts for anything, but she will be married to Ptolemy soon. I grabbed my ivory lyre and begun strumming the strings. Before I could play anything more than a scale,Ker walked into the room with Ptolemy trailing behind. She wore her usual floor-length olive green peplos with golden embellishments, her grey eyes clouded not with grief, but anger. She pushed her brown hair out of her face, and spoke in an enraged tone.
“Astarte, the execution is about to begin. You must get ready.”
“I will be down to the courtyard shortly, but first allow me some privacy,” With a slight nod, Ker left the room.
I went to my closet, and grab a scarlet chiton and a grey epiblema, and dressed into the garments. After washing the tear marks away from my ivory face and pushing my golden hair back, I walked proudly down the staircase to the courtyard. I clutched the epiblema and gazed into the sea-blue eyes of the supposed assassin. His brown hair was tousled and blood ran from the corner of his mouth. The sun shone with such radiance behind his head, a beam of straight light produced an aura around his being. The back side of his body was covered in multitudes of scars. Dirt covered his toned body that was hidden by a skirted loincloth. I was in awe by how strong he looked, the way his body moved swiftly across the granite marble stage and to the wooden structure with a dangling rope. I could not help my staring as a rather reflective object was hidden in the back of the loincloth, but my attention was quickly turned away by my sister.
“Astarte!” She scolded, “It is very impolite to stare, and especially at a criminal! If anyone saw you, they would think poorly of you!”
“I apologize Ker, I will be more careful in the future. I was simply studying the young man.”
Sighing, “I will see you do,” Ker glared at me.
The criminal met my gaze, his eyes brimming with satisfaction and his lip curved into a half smile.
“Auxibio,” the kingdom’s overseer’s, Catlos, voice rang clear, “Is condemned to death upon the accusation of assassinating King Boecio. Do you have any last words?”
“Indeed, I do,” the mockery on Auxibio voice was undeniably evident. “Pardon my shamelessness, but may I have better clothing?”
“Step up to the platform,” Catlos sighed.
Ptolemy walked on stage, “I, newly crowned King of Theben, vindicate my accusation with this dagger.” He held a silver dagger, with red blood dried on the blade.
A gasp rose from the crowd as Ptolemy brandished the weapon. A rope was fastened tightly to the neck of Auxibio, my sister’s eyes were glistening with something. Perhaps vengeance, hatred, or even thrill. I watched as Auxibio flashed another smile, and winked at me. Using the epiblema, I covered my flushed cheeks. As he stood above the trapdoor, he cleared his throat.
“I, Auxibio, am sad to say that I am going to miss you all.”
The crowd muttered insults to the hanging man. As the trapdoor opened, cuffed hands held another dagger and cut the rope. A thud sounded, as he hit the stage and began to run from the oncoming guards. He looked back my way with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“After him!” Ptolemy shouted.
“Put a price on his head!” A shout came from the crowd.
The guards ran after him, dodging the audience and raising their weapons. Behind the hill, they disappeared from my gaze.
Ptolemy was screaming at the guards as they filed into their ranks after their return. I never understand his needless nagging and how Ker could attempt to be remotely close to him, but I have never fallen in love if they are what people called love. I sat on a stone bench at a distance, listening intently as I stared at the surrounding garden.
“How could you imbeciles lose a wanted criminal?!” Ptolemy shouted at the guards as they hung their heads in shame.
“He was in the direction of the mountains, we didn’t consider trekking through the abandoned orchard. With so many weary men, a trudging journey would not have been wise, Sir,” a general, Onomarchus, stepped forward.
“You are very wise, Onomarchus,” Ker stepped forward, raising her hand to silence Ptolemy.
“Thank you, Queen Ker,” Onomarchus bowed his head.
“May I ask you remove your helmet?” She asked with a sly smile.
Removing the helmet, waves of golden hair were revealed, a white smile, and olive eyes. Onomarchus looked up at Ker with embarrassment.
“Astarte,” Ker beckoned me from the garden.
“Yes, Ker?” I asked as she took my hand and led me towards the general.
Compared to my petite, agile frame, Onomarchus was built for strength. He stood above me, smiling with gleaming white cuspids.
“Onomarchus, this is my sister, Astarte. She is named well after the Phoenician goddess. Our mother, Peitho, gifted her with such talents,” Ker introduced me as she brought me closer to Onomarchus.
“Astarte,” Onomarchus bowed his head and held onto my hand. “You are quite lovely, and I can see why you are named after such a gracious goddess.” He looked up flashing a smile worth six hundred drachma.
“Oh, why thank you, Onomarchus. You are very charming,” I said as I felt my cheeks grow hot. I felt ashamed for being so embarrassed and humiliated in front of many guardsmen.
Ker then shouted, “Guardsmen, you are dismissed. Ptolemy, come we must plan more tomorrow’s eve.”
As she turned to leave she smiled at me, the con-artist smile she was famous for. I looked up into the eyes of the young general. His skin was a dark tan, but his hair was shining in the sunlight.
“Your sister is quite zany.” He spoke up, grinning at me.
“I am far better,” I began boasting. “She cannot run in slippers, sneak out of a window gracefully at night, or convince a guardsmen to let her out for awhile.”
“Minx,” his laughter filled the air as I flashed him a smile.
“Oh, you have taken notice?” I giggled, my cheeks flushing a deep color.
“Pardon me, but you are far greater than the queen. You are more appealing to a crowd. She is so ghostly pale with her dark hair, but your golden waves make your skin glow and glitter in the sunlight. Your olive eyes are much more welcoming than her icy blue ones. Take no offense Astarte, but you seem older. You are more shapely than Ker,” Onomarchus bowed his head lower.
“Oh,” my voice came out as a whisper. “Thank you, Onomarchus.”
He bowed his head, and looked into my eyes, “I must be heading back to the quarters, I should not be keeping the guardsmen waiting. Will I see you tomorrow?”
“At the wedding for Ker and Ptolemy,” I replied. “If you attend.”
“I am most obligated to attend for perhaps I could steal a dance from only the fairest princess of them all,” kissing my cheek, he smiled sweetly, and walked off into the night.
I stood dumbfounded with rosy cheeks. He just kissed me! I began to walk towards the entrance to the castle, picking up my skirt as it dragged on the dead leaves and flower petals. I was unsure how I could dance with him in front of the entire wedding party.
I entered the palace and began to stomp up the stairs. Furious and blushing, I slammed my door shut and screamed. Ker began knocking on my door.
“Oh dearest sister, or should I call you the fairest princess of all?” Ker laughed.
I opened the door, “I fucking hate you! Why would you set me up like that?”
“Of course you hate me, you should be married soon. I was the eldest, Father granted me a choice. Your birthday of seventeen will be soon, you might as well get acquainted with someone of a class reasonable for you. Besides, your cheeks are still flushed,” she smirked with amusement but her eyes were cold shards of ice.
“Ker, my lovely white dove,” Ptolemy came from the staircase, the smell of wine following close behind him.
“Ptolemy!” Raising my leg, I kicked him in the jaw causing him to stagger backwards and tumbling down the stairs.
“Astarte,” Ker glared at me, her eyes sharp daggers, “You need to be a young lady. I have no desire of having a sister who cannot mind her temper and act like the princess she is.”
They all wanted a princess. An object of beauty, nothing but a statue of manners and principles. I will only play this game until I can get out. I meandered through my room. The moon shone brightly, filling the corridor with luminous white light. But maybe one more time wouldn’t hurt. I quietly slipped out of my room, but I slammed right into a thick wall of human flesh and muscle.
“Astarte!” Onomarchus exclaimed, “Minx! Are you sneaking out again?”
“I was planning on it,” I looked down, my foot
© Copyright 2017 Joli Hugh. All rights reserved.
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