Once, when I was still a child with a shaved scalp and a ponytail, you came at night to the room where I slept. Torchlight glinted off of the boiled leather of your cuirass and skirt. Here stood my father the hero, my father the king, the part of you that seemed so distant from the man who sat exhausted at meals eating nothing while mother tried to tempt you with cubes of cheese and mutton, as if you were any hard-worn laborer.
Here you stood, transformed into the figure I knew from rumors and daydreams. It seemed impossible that you could be close enough for me to smell olives on your breath and hear the clank of your sword against your thigh. The other girls woke at the sound of your voice, mumbling sleepily as they shifted to watch us. I felt vain. I wanted them to see you, see me, see us together. It reminded me that I was Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra, niece of Helen, descendent of gods and heroes. How easy it is to be a thing but not feel it.
Greatness slips into the mundanity of weaving, of pitting olives, of sitting cooped up in the megaron during storms and listening to the patter of rain on stone. I belted my garment and followed you out of my chamber and down the echoing stairs to the bottom story.
Flickers of firelight rumbled through the doors that led to the megaron. The servants who attended the fire through the night gossiped, their laughter rushing like the hiss and gutter of the flames. You led the way outside.
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I hung back at the threshold. I rarely left the palace walls, and I never left at night. Did you ever think a girl might, from time to time, have desires that outweighed her sense of duty? But you were right. I followed you onto the portico where you stood, tall and solemn, in your armor. We descended stone steps and emerged at last beneath the raw sky. Fragile dandelion moons blossomed here and there between the limestone juts, reflecting the larger moon above. The air smelled of damp and night-blooming plants. An eagle cried. The smell of your sweat drifted on the night breeze, mixing with horsehair and manure.
The combined scents were both foul and tantalizing. Suddenly, things were fresh and new.
You had brought me into the middle of things. We reached the place where the river cuts through the rocks. You began running. Ahead of us, voices drifted from a copse of trees, accompanied by the clang of metal on metal. I raced behind you, stumbling over the stones that studded the grass. We veered toward the trees. A low fog gathered over the ground, illuminated from above by shifting white streams of moonlight.
Needled cedar branches poked through the veil.
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I fell behind, gasping with increasingly ragged breath. Your footsteps crunched onto leaves as you crossed into the copse. I trailed after, one hand pressed against the urgent pain in my side. You turned when I was mere paces behind you. Ahead of us, your men stood in the thick foliage, enveloped by the fog.
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They wore bronze breastplates and thick felt greaves that loomed darkly out of the haze like tree trunks. Their swords emerged from the obscuring whiteness as they swung, metal clanging against metal as blades found each other. The soldiers seemed a ghostly rank of dismembered limbs and armor that appeared with the glint of moonbeams and then vanished into nothing. I cringed. Tears of fright welled in my eyes.
You were watching me, your eyes focused on my face instead of on the wonder before us.
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The fog came up, and look! I had to show someone. I tried to give you what you wanted. You scavenged through the leaf fall with rustle and crunch until you prized out a branch the length of my forearm. You tested its weight against your palm and gave it an experimental swing. I waved the branch back and forth, the way I thought they wielded their swords. It rattled in my hand. You plucked a dandelion from the ground and laid it across a fallen log. One strong, smooth motion. The dandelion was a fragile silver moon. I swung the branch up and out.
Its weight dragged me forward. I stumbled across a stone. How I loved the smooth motion of your arm as it moved through the air: the strength of your shoulders, the creak of boiled leather moving with your body. I strove to memorize your arcs and footfalls, but when you returned the branch to me, my fingers felt numb and strange around the bark. I flailed at the leaves and your shins until an accidental swing carried me off balance.
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My foot came down on the tiny moon of the dandelion. It died with a wet noise. Wounded petals lay crushed against the wood, releasing the scent of moist soil. You took the branch from me and threw it aside.
It was, you know. What I regret most is the children I never bore. I imagined them before you promised me to Artemis: strong boys and dark-haired girls with eyes blue enough to make Zeus lustful. One after the other, each thought-born child disappeared into forgetfulness after you bartered me for wind. Do you remember that? Perhaps you do.
My memories are still strange and partial, like a blanket that has been cut into pieces and then sewn up again.
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Stitches obscure old connections. The sense of continuity is gone. I no longer remember what it is like to have a normal recollection. I need this too. I cannot articulate the joy of reaching for memories and discovering them present to be touched, and brought forth, and described. I need my memories to transcend the ephemera of thought.
I need them to be tangible for the brief moment when they exist as gale winds shrieking in your ear.
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I remembered that night when you brought me to see your soldiers for a long time. It was one of the last things Artemis took from me. Why did you fetch me when you wanted to share that marvel? Why not my mother?
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