Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What the gods demand

Below is an excerpt from my historical fantasy manuscript, Virgin Unknown.  Iphi is telling a young girl what happened to her as a child.  Remember what it takes to win the favor of the gods -- sacrifice.  

            “Then the soldiers came.” 
            The girl stirred beside her and looked up.  “You were raided?  By sea people?” 
            “They were sent by my father.  The soldiers took me to a city called Aulis.  There, the fleet was assembled to rescue my Aunt Helen from Troy.  But the winds wouldn’t let them leave.  My father Agamemnon, head of the fleet, had ordered me brought there.  That’s what I overhead the soldiers saying on the ship we sailed. 
            “The soldiers weren’t cruel -- I was a king’s daughter.  Looking back on it, they knew what would happen, but only the king’s hands could do it. 
            “It was the most glorious sight my childish eyes had ever seen.  The pathway ended at the altar, which was on a cliff overlooking the sea.  The ships!  A thousand ships, floating in the water.  Their sails weren’t filled, but still, to see the greatest fleet in the history of our people!  I can still see them today, when I close my eyes.” 
            “This story isn’t going to end well, is it?” 
            Iphi sighed again.  Now she did close her eyes, but what she saw in her memory chilled her. 
            “The soldiers set me on the stone pavement surrounding the altar, then walked quickly away, their duty over.  My father stood there, alone.  He was in his gleaming bronze armor.  The light shone on his shoulders, as if twin suns rested there.  I squealed with delight. 
            “His face was odd.  I couldn’t see his eyes.  They were normally bright and alert, but it was like they were sunken within his eyelids.  His cheeks were sallow.  And the whole left side of his face twitched.  Know these as the signs of madness. 
            “He lifted me with my baby cloak onto the altar with his strong hands.  He spoke gently, told me how he loved me.  Then he tied my wrists to that hard surface.  He kissed my forehead.  His face twitched again. 
            “Then he picked up an axe.  He hefted it in his hands, getting ready to strike.  That’s how I remember him:  Insane, eyes hidden, axe in his hands.  I was scared.  My own father.”  

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