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Tears Flow on the Face that Launched a Thousand Ships

It was while working on a tapestry of the war happening outside these walls that the princess Laodikē suddenly burst in through the doors. Aithre jumped back at the sudden noise, dropping the red fabric in her hands, while Klymenē narrowed her shrewd eyes at the princess before returning to aiding Helen in her work. Helen herself turned towards the interruption, ready to ream her supposed sister-in-law, but her eyes widened suddenly at the sight before her. Helen carefully arranged her face into its now typical blank expression, unwilling to let her handmaidens see her in any distress. In the guise of princess Laodikē stood Iris, goddess of messages and rainbows, which to Helen meant only that once again her life was being toyed with.

“Sweet sister! Paris is off to duel the king Menelaus for your hand. We must go see!” cried the not-princess. And, reasonably, Helen knew that this was some trick. It could not possibly be so easy for her to go home to Menelaus, to their daughter Hermione going through life without her mother. There was not a chance that this could go well for her, not with Iris here, not with Helen’s cursed life. She knew this all, and yet just the chance, the hope, was enough to have her on her feet running as fast as her legs could carry her towards the gates, uncaring for propriety with bare feet and tears running down her face.

Helen arrived at the gates a mess, chest heaving. She nearly jumped out of her skin when she felt fabric cover her. Klymenē had covered her, and shifted so she was blocking Helen from the view of King Priam, his council, and many nobles of Troy. Aithre was behind her, gently fixing Helen’s hair and nudging her ankles so she would place her feet into sandals. Helen welcomed any kind touch from her handmaidens, especially now as the vicious whispers of the councilors filtered through to her ears. The men said nothing they had not before in the last decade, unoriginal and dull as they were to Helen, but to hear herself called a whore with Menelaus so near ignited an anger she had not felt since her capture.

“Sit with me, dear child, and let us speak,” came the calming voice of King Priam. As had become commonplace since her arrival in Troy, Helen obeyed the king with a smile on her face and fear in her heart. It was no secret that the royal family despised Paris. Helen wasn’t so stupid as to not realize that her life and all it’s comforts in Troy was dependent on how the king viewed her. He was the only bit of defense she had against the noblemen, and on occasion even his sons, including Paris.

As she sat next to him, he took her hand in his and continued speaking loud enough for all to hear, “The gods are to blame for this mess, my dear Helen. Not you.” With the nobles chastised around her, Priam turned more serious.

“Now, tell me, Helen. Who are these men?” Helen looked out beyond the walls and saw her country and kinsmen for the first time in far too long.

“There is Agamemnon, son of Atreus. Next to him is Odysseus, son of Laertes, the king of Ithaca. I see Ajax not far off from him, as well, that giant of a man…”

——————

Helen made her way to the bed chambers of Paris as the vile Aphrodite instructed her. Her heart was still hammering in her chest as she recalled just how close Menelaus had been to killing her kidnapper. Reasonably, she had known the whole time that it could not possibly be so easy. From the moment that the goddess Iris had come in the disguise of princess Laodikē, Helen knew this was some sort of trick being played on her by the gods. Her life, as always, was in their toying hands. But she had been desperate and wanted that hope. After a decade of living at the whims of the fool Paris, she had to cling even to the slim chance that she could go back to Sparta, to Hermione who had now lived a decade without her mother. Did her daughter even remember her, she wondered?

“There you are, my love!” Exclaimed Paris without a care in the world. He lounged across the sofa, a goblet of wine in his hand, dangerously close to spilling with every gesture he made. A lascivious smile was on his face as he looked Helen up and down.

Her heart hammering from the fear of Menelaus’ death now shifted to anger as she took in Paris’ leisurely stance and words. Did he not realize what he’d done? Paris had lost, Helen was rightfully Menelaus’ wife once again. Paris had given the tired Achaians the perfect reason to continue the war, and even more than that, he had dishonored himself and his house. There would be nothing to stop the Achaians from slaughtering everyone, from slaughtering Helen. She had been frozen in shock at the duel when Paris had abandoned his place, knowing that if the Achaians won her life would be entirely in the hands of Menelaus now that the house of Priam and the character of Paris was utterly shamed. Menelaus had loved her once, but ten years of separation and war could have changed that, even if her leaving was not by choice. Her life was on a precipice, the entirety of Troy was balanced on a blade’s edge, and here was the “godlike” Paris drinking wine and begging for a married woman to please him.

“You disgust me,” Helen spat without thinking. Paris looked shocked that she had spoken up, and sat up, spilling some wine on the floor. He gaped like a fish, struggling for words apparently, and Helen took the chance to continue her tirade, bolstered by Paris’ lack of response.

“I wish you had died out there! You should have, you know. You’re a disgrace to your family and all of Troy.”

“Now Helen—“

“I’m embarrassed that it was you who kidnapped me! Isn’t that something? I wish anyone else had done it! At least if Hector had been the one to take me I could rest easy knowing he was an honorable man.”

“Don’t compare us!” Paris yelled, and he was on the move towards Helen, but she was too infuriated to notice or care, “Don’t ever compare me to my own brother when you’re mine! That’s eno—“

“Do you even care about anything? You claim to love me, but you don’t care that I had a life before this. You don’t care that I have a daughter,” and on the word her voice broke alongside her resolve, tears pouring down her face,”…who I love and miss.” Paris’ angry expression softened at this, yet again Helen ignored him and continued, now sobbing.

“You care for nothing and no one but yourself. If my father ever had any love for me, he’ll strike you down and let your name and legacy be forgotten. You’re nothing but a coward and a raper!”

And just as suddenly as she realized what she had said, she was on the floor, the stench of wine all around her. Looking up showed Paris, with heaving breaths and hands shaking, any compassion he felt for Hermione and Helen’s separation vanished with her words. Helen could feel something wet dripping down her face, but made no move to see if it were wine or blood. She had overstepped. In her anger, she had forgotten just how she had survived for ten years in enemy territory, playing nice and playing dumb, obeying everyone and holding her tongue. Seeing Menelaus today had made her hope, and in her hope she was careless, she now realized. Her only consolation was that she had said nothing the rest of the royal family wasn’t already thinking about Paris.

“Listen here, woman. I have no control over the gods and their gifts,” Paris spat the final word with such vitriol that Helen remained frozen to her place on the stone floor, knowing that she was what he was referring to. “It is by their command that you are my wife, and their command that I left the battlefield. We are all at their whims, our fates predicted long ago.”

Paris grabbed Helen’s wrists in a crushing grip and yanked her to her feet. Helen couldn’t stand him, couldn’t stand his touch, but couldn’t escape him either. Her meager attempt at making him let go only led to Paris practically growling, one hand shifting to grab her throat, thumb just over her pulse point, and the other gripping her chin painfully so as to force her to look him in the eye.

“You are mine. The goddess of love herself says so. You are my wife, and no one else’s. Never forget your place here.”

They remained in that position, staring into each other’s eyes, until finally Paris’ temper faded. His grip loosened, the hand gripping her chin shifted to begin petting her hair.

“You’re beautiful, Helen. My wretched silver tongue harlot of a wife, you are so beautiful I want to weep looking at you. I love you, I will always love you.” His declarations of love continued on repeat, each one punctuated by a kiss on her throat, collarbone, down to her breasts. Helen whimpered in fear and pain when he grabbed her by the hair, and it spurred Paris on.

“Tell me you love me, Helen. Treat me as a wife should and rejoice in what the gods have given us. Join me in bed, my beauty.” His touch was gentle now, nudging her to lay down, and when she had he stood above her with tears in his eyes.

“Tell me the hatred of my family and people is worth it. Tell me this war and all this death is worth it. Please, Helen, gods please, I’m sorry. Tell me you love me as much as I love you.”

And those words were said so desperately that Helen took pity on Paris and herself, and allowed herself for the night to try and forget Menelaus and how close he had come to rescuing her. As she had for the past ten years, Helen lied to herself and to Paris both because that was all she could do to stay sane anymore.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Classic Literature, Drama, Fantasy, Fiction, Flash Fiction

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