Crown of Blood
A/N: This is a spin-off of aspecific Greek Myth. It may be helpful to know the myth beforehand, but I thought that it wasn't too necessary, (although knowing who Achilles and Agamemnon are might put this more in context.) If you have any questions or anyone wants to find out more about the original myth, drop me a note or a review I'll be happy to add some supplementary info.
It's every girl's dream to marry a hero. And what more can I ask for when my father has arranged for me to marry Achilles? I had been so excited when Mother said we could visit the army camps where Father was staying. Now, she is lecturing me again on the qualities of a good wife as we follow Father's servant through the camp. "Iphigenia, your father doted on you a lot, but you mustn't expect the same treatment once you're married," Mother warns. "Remember, a wife should always be obedient to her husband."
I sigh. She has told me this countless times. Her lectures have become a daily routine since Father sent news about the arranged marriage. "I understand, Mother." She gives me a reprimanding look, sensing my frustration and restlessness from my tone. She has tried especially hard to brand these principals into my head ever since Aunt Helen ran away with that prince from Troy and left Uncle Menelaus in disgrace.
"But that said, daughter, Achilles is a great match," she concedes. I smile and hug her; I know this is as close as she will ever get to saying she is happy for me; Mother never reveals much emotion. I feel her tense at my sudden actions before slowly relaxing. This is my fault; ever since I was a young kid, I had always been closer with my father. Mother never saw the grass rings I made; I showed them to him first. When I first made a crown with flowers, he was the one who got to wear it. My first tapestry displayed my father. The first piece of clothing I had sewn was for him; in fact, I made another cloak for Father right before he left Mycenae. Whenever I rode horses, I rode with Father. I've never done much of anything with Mother; she was always a more distant figure, her prim and proper countenance serving as a barrier.
We are nearing Father's tent. He resides in the center, the servant tells us, because he is the elected leader of the Achaean army. I look to Mother, who nods her permission, and run ahead to see Father. I burst into his tent as if it were the throne room at home.
"Father!" He looks up at me without a smile; for a moment I think that he does not recognize me. Then his eyes soften and he attempts to put on a small smile. It must be the toll of having to organize some many people and heading such a large army. My grin widens—to smile enough for the both of us, as he used to say—and I embrace him tightly.
"You came," he whispers. Something about his tone, the hollowness in his voice, startled me. Of course I came…he had summoned Mother and I, after all, for the marriage he had arranged for me. Iam about to question him on his strange behavior when Uncle Menelaus comes in.
"Agamemnon, I hear Clytemnestra and Iphigenia have come." I sneak around to his back and hug him. He turns and looks at me; there was a glimmer of something strange in his eyes, but it was gone in a flash. "Ah, Iphigenia!"
"She's getting married," my father's tone is almost accusing, "to Achilles." I wonder why my own uncle would not know about my marriage, but quickly dismiss my thoughts. The Achaean army is about to set sail for Troy, so this is a rushed arrangement; besides, Father and Uncle are busy men, so it is only natural for trivial events such as these to slip their minds.
"Well…only the best for my favorite niece, huh?" Uncle Menelaus winks at me.
"Milord," I hear Mother's cool voice drift in before she calmly enters the tent, finally having caught up with me. "It is a very nice marriage that you have arranged for Iphigenia." Father merely nods, looking distracted.
"Brother, there's something we have to discuss," Uncle Menelaus says. Father nods and exits the tent. As soon as the two of them disappears into the crowd outside, Mother grabs me.
"Iphigenia, you have to leave," she whispers urgently, looking around as if she is afraid of being overheard. She must have seen my incredulous look. "This is a trap. I just talked to Achilles. Your father didn't set up a marriage between you and him. There is no marriage, or none that Achilles knows of. You're going to be sacrificed to Artemis." I wrench myself out of her grasp. How can she utter such falsehood? Father loves me; it is common knowledge that I am his favorite daughter. I give her a dubious look and race out of the tent to find Father, ignoring her shouts. He will, without a doubt, clear this all up. I found him with the help of the soldiers, who pointed in the direction of the forest. I can already hear Uncle Menelaus's voice.
"Is everything set up?" My father nods. "You are sure Clytemnestra will not interfere?"
"She doesn't know about this," my father replies. "I've ordered the servant not to tell his mistress. No one will interfere with sacrificing Iphigenia to Artemis." All of a sudden, my knees feel weak.
"Good. Finally, we can get a fair wind for Troy," states my uncle, not looking the slightest bit affected by the meaning of what he had just said. "And brother, do not even think to send her away. It's too late to back out now. If the army gets wind that you are having second thoughts, they'll storm your tent and kill her themselves, along with you."
"Well…only the best for my favorite niece, huh?" Uncle Menelaus winks at me.
Lies. All lies. Faced with the prospect of retrieving his beautiful wife, hedoes not hesitate to condemn me to death. This is the uncle I had grown up adoring and his accomplice is my very own father.
The walk back to the tent was laboriously slow. My mother had waited for me outside the tent, her face once again composed. She motions to a soldier, "This is Achilles, your 'betrothed.' You can ask him if you want to. He didn't even know about this supposed 'marriage.'"
"It's true. I had not known Agamemnon was using my name to lure you here so you could be sacrificed, but I refuse to let my name be tarnished. Since you are here because of me, I will protect you against any harm," he offers. Achilles is a tall, muscular man. His words and tone show that he's a true hero. It's every girl's dream to marry a hero.
I smile in resignation. Is such a hero to die defending me against the rest of the Achaean army? Am I to disobey and displease my father? Am I to be the reason that we can never reach Troy? Everyone has dreams. Mine will never come true, but why not satisfy at least a few others? Menelaus can have his wife back and the Achaean soldiers can finally sack Troy. I look to Achilles and bow my head in thanks. I already know my choice, but I still have a lingering question. "Honored Achilles, if I had been your wife, and as a wife would have obeyed your wishes without complaint, would you sacrifice me for a fair wind for Troy?"
He hesitates then replies, "No." Our eyes meet; we both know the real answer. A man who would half his lifespan for glory and hasten to Troy even though he knows he will die there, would he be stopped by a mere wife? That is the definition of a true hero.
"Thank you for your offer to defend me," I hear myself say. Agamemnon. Achilles. They would've been the same in the end. "It won't be necessary. I do this willingly. It will not soil your name." True heroes live and die for eternal glories, their achievements crowned in blood.
I'm walking towards the altar now. The priest holds the handle of the knife that is to be used for the sacrifice at my "wedding," except there is not a goat or lamb in sight. They must've decided it was pointless to keep up the pretense when I'm surrounded by people wishing for my death. They're right. What hope do I have when my own father is the one who orchestrates my death? There are only a few more steps left to the altar, only a few more steps until I embrace my fate. I pass Agamemnon and stop, only for a moment, to look at him. He does not meet my eye, afraid of seeing any hope or joy, I guess. Does he truly think that I do not notice the absence of my husband-to-be or the absence of the sacrifices? I resume my walk. I think back to my younger brother and sister. Orestes, he had taken Mother a whole day to bring into this world. I remember that had been my first time seeing a newborn child; I could not understand why he, or any baby, would cry after being given the wondrous gift of life. Perhaps they already knew the hardships and betrayals one must face in life. Perhaps they had known, even then, that we're all doomed to a bitter death. It takes so much to bring someone into the world of the living, so I suppose it is only right that my own father shall be the one to send me to the Underworld.
The priest asks me to close my eyes and pray earnestly to Artemis. I play along and shut my eyes, bracing myself for what is sure to come. I barely register a rough hand holding me in place before the dagger descends.
So this is how it all ends.
People say that death is a release; I don't feel much of anything, just a numbing pain as darkness slowly engulfs me. My mind does not process the prayer of the priest. Instead, I use the last vestige of my strength to force my eyes open. I turn as far as I can and look to Agamemnon. He is covered in splotches of blood…my blood. Is it even possible for blood to spurt so far? His eyes meet mine. My vision begins to blur and I cannot make out what he is feeling. Is he horrified or regretful? Given another chance, would he have chosen otherwise? That's when I realize that I will never be liberated; I'm dying yet he haunts me still. I'm falling and the rest of the world is fading, but I can still make out his general shape.
"Father!" I ran into the throne room, despite my nanny's warnings, wanting to show my father the flower crown I had made. The courtiers in the megaron shook their heads in disapproval.
"Iphigenia," my father smiled, ignoring the fact that I had just interrupted one of his meetings. I ran into his open arms. When he hugged me, I showed him the flower crown I had made. "It's very nice, Princess." He lowered his head and consented to wearing it.
What a ridiculous wreath that had been. For a moment, I reach out towards my father, wanting to take the crown off, but my hand is too weak.
So this is when it all ends.
How did you guys like that? Please drop me a review! (There may be some grammar mistakes...I'm so used to writing in past tense that sometimes they just slip past me onto the paper when I'm trying to write in present tense...hehe...)