|Shines Too Brightly
Author: Michaela King PM
NOW COMPLETE! Cassie's life takes an interesting turn when she moves to Rome - she is fraternizing with Olympians, juggling suitors, and learning bit by bit what she can about her parents, who died mysteriously when she was a baby.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 23 - Words: 34,810 - Reviews: 123 - Favs: 80 - Follows: 25 - Updated: 10-30-07 - Published: 10-13-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2026968
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The first time that they appear in text, Latin or Greek words will be italicized. I've tried to make their meanings obvious, but if you can't understand, let me know and I'll gloss 'em.
Chapter 1: Dawn
Apollo's team of brilliant horses charged over the horizon, illuminating the many rooftops of Rome. Although it was early in Juno's month, a fog had settled in the city, filling the houses with a damp chill. Cassandra's home on the Palatine Hill was no exception. Cassie shivered and hugged herself as she stood barefoot on one of the balconies of her uncle's mansion. Unlike most, Cassie was not blinded by Phoebus' bright rays. She gazed up at the radiant god, appreciative of his warmth. Sensing her eyes, he found her and smiled benevolently. He extended his golden arm towards her, and magically blew her his words as if they were kisses. I will come for you at night. Cassie lowered her long black eyelashes modestly. A pink blush colored her olive Mediterranean skin as she turned to pass through the flowing white gauze curtains to her bedchambers. Apollo laughed.
An ancilla had not yet been in to help Cassie prepare for the day, which was not surprising since it was only just dawn. She pulled a peplos over her head, fastening the cream cloth with golden pins. She tied a thin ribbon about her slender waist, but folded the top of her dress over so that it could not be seen. A mousy servant girl came into the room, carrying a tray of bejeweled hair combs and exotic perfumes.
"Lady, no! Let me dress you!" The girl, who did not seem to be more than fourteen years, set the tray onto the large bed quickly and rushed to make sure that Cassie had tied her belt correctly. "Which comb would you like in your hair today, lady?"
"I can do my hair myself; I am only a few years your elder," Cassie protested. She had always felt awkward when slaves dressed or washed her.
"Nonsense. Lord Demetrius would have me punished if he knew!"
Knowing that the young ancilla was not going to concede her duty, Cassie gave in and selected a simple silver hair comb. She hummed a lilting tune as the slave pulled her soft blonde waves up neatly. The girl chatted to her happily about the gossip of the town and the upcoming festivals—which ones they were, Cassie wasn't sure; she'd only been in Rome for a few days. Her parents had both died when she was young, so family friends and slaves raised her until she reached a reasonable age, at which she would be able to take care of herself. Now that she was seventeen, she moved from Greece to stay with her uncle, Demetrius.
"…and I am not sure, but I think Jason will be there. My mother says he will kiss me the next time we meet!"
"And it is the truth," said the woman who had just entered the chamber. She was stunningly beautiful, with a curved figure and porcelain skin, and long yellow locks forever tousled with the winds of loving. She held the same knowing regard as did Apollo, and the way she seemed to light up the room told Cassie that she was in the company of a goddess. Gesturing towards the girl who'd been doing Cassie's hair, "My daughter, Thalia," she said. Thalia grinned, knowing that she'd tricked Cassie.
"Oh, good Grace!" Cassie addressed Thalia. "If I had known…" Thalia only giggled and bounced onto the bed. "Lovely Aphrodite;" she acknowledged the goddess.
"Dear Cassandra, you rival Helen in beauty now. The same fair tresses and delicate roseate lips, but your eyes are so striking, like your mother's."
"My mother had brown eyes."
"Did she? I get everyone all mixed up sometimes. You know the one I speak of, though. Your father's mother. Blue and green and gold…" This subject hit a lump in Cassie's throat.
"I know little of my genealogy. I was too young to learn about anyone but my parents."
"Do you mean to tell me that you do not know any of your own ancestors?"
"No one has ever spoken of them. They fear it will pain me," Cassie admitted.
"Your entire life, Cassie, you have been seeing us," Aphrodite seemed to change the subject, but Cassie nodded along anyway. She had been seeing gods since birth. Never before, though, had she seen any Olympians, only minor deities. Never before had she spoken to any. "Well, daughter, you will know the reason for this with time. This subject, though, is not why I am here."
"You are going to shoot me. You will have your fair son pierce my heart with a golden arrow."
Aphrodite laughed musically. "Not yet, darling. I have come to help you."
"A few moments ago, you saw Apollo." Cassie nodded. "He felt you could see him, so he sought you. No mortals can see gods, Cassie, unless we wish it so. But you… you saw him first."
"Am I not mortal?"
"Your story will unravel with time. But now you have caught the attention of Phoebus. In passing, he told me about you. He was taken with your looks; in fact," Aphrodite divulged, "he said that he has never seen a young woman made so much in my likeness." The goddess looked pleased with herself as she looked Cassie over again.
"He told me he would come at night."
"And he shall."
"So this is what he meant? He wishes to come and…"
"Yes. Apollo has had many lovers, and he is not accustomed to refusal."
"But I am not ready to—"
"Hush, child. I have given you strength. Apollo will proposition you; he will seduce you. Do not give in. It is not your time. Wait for love."
An ancilla walked into the room, carrying a set of combs and a bowl of grapes. "Lady Cassandra, you've dressed yourself already! I was sent to wake you early!" Invisible to the slave, Aphrodite smiled and reached for Thalia's hand. They both disappeared instantaneously, their laughter echoing in the room even after they were gone.
"Who sent for me?" Cassie asked.
The ancilla offered Cassie the grapes. She declined, still feeling uncomfortable with the people now surrounding her. "Lord Demetrius. He says he has planned traveling for today."
"Where are we to go? Will we be back before tonight?" Maybe she wouldn't be at home when Apollo came.
"Why's that, miss? You've got a young man here already?" The woman chuckled as she opened the curtains. "Although, if I may say so, I wouldn't be surprised. There are lots of fine juvenes here in Rome, and with your looks, they'll all be clamoring to get a hold on you. Once we get you out and about, that is."
Cassie followed the ancilla down corridors and courtyards to the alcove of the lares and penates. There were statuettes of his uncle's patron gods, and fruits, flowers, and coins had been presented as offerings. The slave woman patted Cassie on the back, saying "Pray now, dearie, and when you are finished, they will be done packing the carriage." With that, she left, leaving Cassie to worship alone.
Kneeling, Cassie first prayed to Juppiter and then to the lares and panates. Once the formalities were completed, she was free to worship whomever she wished. She spoke to Aphrodite. Beautiful Venus, grant me ease of mind. I am worried about tonight. I am afraid he will be able to enchant me; he is a god, after all, and an Olympian. You said to wait for love… but what is love? Maybe I will feel admiration; will he convince me that is love? I feel so close to the gods; you have helped me press on through life, though I lay bereaved since before I was ten summers. Is this a kind of love? Cassie pulled in a breath of air, a gasp. She opened her eyes to find tears balanced on her lashes like dew, and felt a flush of anxiety over her nose and cheeks. Quickly, she dried her eyes and stood. Old Philomina, the slave who had raised her, had always said that tears quench only fools. The maiden dusted her knees and made her way to the front gates of the house.
Here stood her uncle, directing slaves, who had been fitting a few trunks into the curtained carriage. Demetrius was a large man, heavy-set but not overweight, with a beard black as coal and a ruddy complexion. A violet stripe, belonging to a magistrate, ran down the front of his otherwise white toga.
"Ah, dear Cassie!" His deep voice rang out with laughter. "Your beauty is more welcomed than even the bright sunrise! What a lovely prize you shall make!"
Cringing at this reminder of Apollo, Cassie did not even catch the bit about a prize. She smiled and asked, "Where are we going, Uncle? Are we to journey far?"
"No, no, my sister's daughter. We are simply crossing the city."
"Are we to be away long? Why have we packed so many trunks?"
"Oh! They are filled with gifts! I have carpets and oils for our hosts! We will return before nightfall, surely. I wouldn't take you on holiday so soon after your arrival. "
Disappointed, Cassie let herself be helped into the carriage by an overeager servant boy. The space inside was severely limited due to her uncle's size, but Cassie did not feel uncomfortable. Demetrius promptly fell asleep, his head leaning on the wooden wall and haunches taking up the rest of the bench. Cassie shared hers with the servant, who was wont to steal a few glances in her direction. The few times that Cassie caught him, she grew frightened that she had a smudge on her nose or that her hair was falling out of its pins, like a harlot's. So that he wouldn't see her, she stared out of the window for most of the ride.
The journey was bumpy. The stone-laid roads were often uneven, and the carriage had to stop frequently because of crowding in the streets. Morning, it seemed, was the best time for shopping in the Forum; slaves were out buying food for the day, and other vendors were counting on the fact that no one wanted to be out past noontime on a hot June day. The air was filled with the buzz of talking voices, topped only by the occasional shout or snore from Uncle Demetrius. Not too much longer, and they were out of the city gates, traveling along an even rougher dirt road in the countryside. Finally, they stopped in front of an enormous mansion.
Demetrius awoke with a start with the stopping of the carriage. "Ah, yes, we're here then. Come, treasure. My colleague's summer villa." Cassie followed her uncle as he went to wait at the door. A thin, haughty slave opened up and let them in, his attempt at a smile more a leer than anything else. A jolt of electricity went up and down Cassie's spine, and she hoped to go back to Rome very soon.