Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Virgin Unknown -- Start of Chapter 3

Below is the start of chapter 3 of my historical fantasy, Virgin Unknown,  a retelling of Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris.  It's set in ancient Greece.  

            Iphi bent over and looked in the mirror that was fixed to the wall, inspecting the work on her lips.  Years ago it would cheer her to look in this polished bronze -- the one bright spot inside the temple -- though afterwards her legs would tremble as she wondered what it was about her that made her father willing to come at her with an axe.  But now she could idly look at her tinted reflection and speculate on what some tall women thought as they tried to make themselves attractive to men. 
            Such thoughts did not concern her. 
            She straightened and turned to Melinta.  “You smeared some outside my upper lip.” 
            “Sorry, mistress.”  The words sounded anxious, and the girl grimaced.  She was holding up the shaped piece of horn that had some of the damp red powder on it -- the fruity smell of the berries long since gone.  Normally Iphi would be doing this herself while sitting in a chair, but she had thought up the idea of having these young hands touch more on her lips if she had to speak or sing too long during a ceremony.  It would take practice, though, to trust her to do it while blood was flowing on the altar. 
            “Daub off the excess, without taking off the red from the lips themselves.”  Iphi tried to speak normally, not wanting to distort her lips while giving instruction.  She bent over again and held still while the fine linen cloth dabbed at her.  “Now try again.  A ritual ceremony will not require you to rush; simply make every movement with great deliberation, and it will look natural.” 
            Melinta frowned in concentration, but the touch of the horn on the lips only felt marginally less awkward.  Iphi also frowned when she looked in the mirror again.  “I thought your hands would be more nimble than mine, but look at this.”  

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