The Greek word used is modern Greek, to catch just how the text would actually look. All main premises are supported by mythology, and as for the minor ideas- artistic license.
My husband left me for a promise. The promise was made for another woman, for the pitiful Helen of Troy whose sly whispers pulled back a thousand sheets. I am not fooled by that woman. Slatterns may change the sheets, but all know just what has happened in those dark rooms. She stole my husband from me, as she has done for all too many nights.
First it was the whispers. My husband, my Agamemnon, would murmur a name in a dream. It would never be mine. When awake and looking at me, undoubtedly longing for Helen to be with him tangled in bedcovers, he remembers to say "Clytemnestra"- but when he sleeps, it always was "Helen." Helen, Helen, Helen- no beauty can compare. Her face launched a thousand ships, they say- it is a lie. A thousand ships were boarded for her face, perhaps, or were stocked for that body always draped in delicate folds of cloth- but they sailed for the promise in her eyes, that warm assurance in her smiles. Even then, the supporters of Menelaus did not sail with thought of the perfect rises and falls of Helen.
They sailed with the winds of my daughter's last breath.
My beautiful daughter, apple of my eye- and of her father's. She would have been a beauty, my daughter. She would not have rivaled Helen, born of Leda. Leda is a famous mother, of course. Zeus, as a swan, opened her legs. Later, she laid eggs. Four, by some accounts- two, by others. It was four, and I can tell you this truly.
Castor and Pollux, those famous twins, were hatched, each from their own egg. Even hatching, they moved as if they knew just what the other was thinking. They left their fragments of eggshell, but not proud Helen, born of Leda and Zeus. She kept hers, that her suitors might wonder. Did her father's swan form give her that graceful curve of the neck, those sultry eyes, that powerful body, those graceful movements? She laughed, deep and rich, and smiled- but never answered, and never told of her sister.
I am Clytemnestra, sister to Helen, sister to Castor and Pollux, born of Leda and Zeus, wife of Agamemnon, who leads the Greek forces to Troy, and mother of the late and beautiful Iphigenia.
My daughter, my darling girl, was far too beautiful to live alone. Electra was elder, and has her charms- but she too doted on Iphigenia. Electra would braid her sister's hair as they gossiped with their handmaids. Electra would leave to try the family charm with the men. She is the niece of Helen and granddaughter of Zeus- and the boys don't quite know it as their eyes follow her. Orestes left us long ago to live in exile, but I never knew my son. He knew Agamemnon best, and would probably chase Helen if it would not anger his father. In my experience, men do little thinking with their mind- except one man, perhaps.
Aegisthus is everything my husband could not be. He has no adulations for Helen. He looks as me and worships with his eyes, as if I truly were a demigoddess living as a mortal. He is beautiful, and so full of words. He tells me of things, when Agamemnon would only roll away to snore and dream of Helen. Still dark-eyed from the night and all the darkness can entail, he whispers to me. Even now, when daylight breaks harshly into my home, he is soothing.
The blood is on my hands. He has promised to take the credit- I asked him to, for I want no glory. I have no illusions. I have done no good deeds today. Today, I killed.
For Iphigenia- for the traces of blood that still wake me from sleep with sobbing gasps- for the way that my husband did not look at me when the priest's dagger flashed in the air- for the way that he sailed away, onward for Helen- for the way that I lost my Iphigenia that the Greek army may have winds for their sails- for how my daughter gasped a choking breath as droplets of her blood reached far, far into the crowd- for how her mouth hung open, even after she kept a brave face for me, for her sister, for those she loved- for how she still didn't hate her father- for how she couldn't see me, her mother, as the sacrifice brought her to her knees- for the many deeds of Helen- for Paris, for his lust- for how I remember in too much detail my daughter's slow descent to the ground- for how she landed in a heap, and no one straightened her until a later cut on her arm drew no flinch- for the Gods, that they may turn their heads to see that I will not lose my daughter on their whim, whatever power they have- for me.
I am a demigoddess, sister to Helen, wife to the man who lies bleeding at my feet, one long choking breath away from dying. He did not cry out (thought Iphigenia did, just a small whimper that few heard- she was as brave as any Greek soldier, when she saw that knife arcing at her through- except any soldier would have defended himself, or flinched as Agamemnon did), but his eyes were wide with a satisfying fear.
His prize of war is a princess, by her carriage- she is not afraid, not this proud girl. She is calm, even with his blood pooling beneath her feet, with the chains dangling from her wrists slack- Agamemnon has let go, and only struggles to hold onto breathing as he lays facedown on the floor, with a gaping wound through the flimsy cage of bone that protected his heart.
She looks at me. Her eyes are already dead, as if she has seen too much- but what can a princess have seen? Looking at her, I am aware of the horrible smile that has taken my lips into a curving bow, of how my hair is a nimbus of tangles, still unbrushed from the night before, that my grip on the axe has turned my knuckles pale.
How dare she judge me, princess of Troy, of the conquered land, of the place Helen fled to? How can she be so calm, when it is clear that she is near death? I know that I will kill her- blood will touch my hands a third time, a last time, to stop that look on her face, that horrible look that tears where the blood pumps in my body.
The axe moves through the air, momentum carrying it with my arms when I recognize that hopeless and dull look in her eyes.
She has been betrayed.
She cannot defend herself. She has no weapons. Even if her hands were not bound in chains- she knew that death was imminent. She could have stepped away- but Aegisthus is here, with a sword. The girl freezes for a moment, unsteady on her feet, but the force of the blow makes her fall- fall-
Clothes flying up, oh so slowly, her hair (brushed oh so many times, a nervous habit I recognized) floating on the breeze and catching the light, lips parted, with a tiny murmur escaping her self-control, eyes staring far beyond me, until she landed on her back, the gaping hole in her chest matching what I felt.
She was like my daughter, this princess. She had done no wrong. She may not have even wanted to shelter Helen, that damned vixen- should I visit Hades in the worst of his realms, and I know I shall be far from the Elysian Fields, Helen will be low with me. We both have killed, sisters with blood to mark what remains of our spirits when Atropos makes her cut. This little princess, this defenseless girl- she was my Iphigenia again, an innocent who knew just when her end would come- except my husband had brought the princess from Troy as a prize, a Helen that he could own, a woman he could call Helen all he pleased without worrying of a wife's bitterness.
I drop my axe. The blade that Aegisthus helped me sharpen cuts into my husband's back, drawing a final flinch before the carcass is still. I am on my knees, hand caressing the cheek of that beautiful princess- and she stares at me and through me all at once, as though she had known this had happened.
She dies as I finger-comb her hair, again and again, just as I had done for Iphigenia. She gives a final gasp as she stills. Even after Aegisthus had taken away the manacles that bound her wrists, she asked for no comfort. She instead loosely clasped her hands, running a weak finger over the heavy marks cut into young flesh.
For the first time- she sees only me, not the many other images that seem to flit in and out of her attention, gripping butterflies that bring her joy, fear, or pain. "Θυγατέρα," I say, but I do not deserve to call her daughter, or to hear what she whispers in return. I only deserve to ease the pain I have caused another unwilling sacrifice. If beauty is the best gift to give unto the gods- Aegisthus has already taken my husband's body away, but I bid him to wait. First, I plait this princess's hair and croon a lullaby, the one that had made little Iphigenia ease into sleep. The Trojan princess stiffens, the claim of death that happens- perhaps she had known just how long Lachesis had measured her life to be, had known since Clothos began the thread that marked her life- but that is foolishness.
I have delivered the gods a great bounty. They have taken my daughter, my prize- half of a demigoddess, a full flower in her beauty. I have given them Agamemnon- and the young innocent whose carcass lay at my feet. Aegisthus took her away, and did not comment that Iphigenia's favorite flowers were woven into the still princess's hair. He promised her a good burial, so that she may rest in the Elysian Fields, so that she and my daughter may comb out each other's hair and make plaits, and maybe revisit that favorite lullaby…
The gods want beauty as a sacrifice? I shall give them a sacrifice worth a thousand winds, ten thousand ships, every dirty bedsheet that Zeus or any other unfaithful man has ever created, every dalliance that made Hera's heart burn with envy and shame that thoughts could stray to another woman while she lies naked in her husband's bed, every cry of every warrior who say death coming too soon, every bit of fear that the sun would never rise for them again-
I will give them Helen, should our paths cross ever again. Her beauty shall be enough- when they have her none will die again. Then, I will lie by my Aegisthus, and darken his eyes with promises and secrets that are written on every rise and fall of my body, and he will wonder at the graceful swan curve of my neck, my sultry gaze, my powerful body that he knows more than intimately, the graceful moments that he remembers in his dreams when he whispers my name as if it is fire searing his throat-
I laugh, rich and deep, and smile- I am Clytemnestra, and laugh that at that foreign princess's whisper that my Orestes, my son, will kill me. I love my husband, my Iphigenia, my Aegisthus- and now myself. Let Tartarus have my soul, when death comes for me- but any could see that mine was the only course, the only way. When Hades himself, the dark god, the kindest of them, takes me away- I will see my husband again, and have him back again, and he will see only me.
For now- my Aegisthus holds me, and stains my robes anew with spatters of darkening red, and we promise and promise- is it a sin that 'forever' is a lie when my Agamemnon will look only at me, with the power that I have proven? Soon, my lovely- soon all will come to pass, and I will croon a lullaby to lull my wayward husband to dreams of me, and no that I kept my promise, that promise I made that last time he shared my bed- my husband was not also Helen's. He was mine, and will be mine.
My Iphigenia laughs, laughs that her flowers again come in bloom, that they will be braided into another princess's hair- and that her father will bring her back flowers so beautiful to weave in her dark long hair for when she will seek a husband of her own, to love and to cherish, to have and to hold- to love and to kill, because I do means so little when said in the shadow of Helen of Troy, whispering slattern, sister and enemy- but Iphigenia puts her hair in my hands, to braid so I can love her and pet her before her father comes back with some grave announcement about just how long the winds will take to carry his armies to Troy, to that fickle temptress.
My husband returns, and glances long at the bright flowers and her brighter smile, and says that the gods have asked a great price- and he looks at my daughter, who runs to show him the pretty flowers in her pretty hair and to beg a husband- and I know that he has taken too much, and that the red that graces my hands will be there for today and tomorrow, that the stain was there that long ago yesterday when my daughter bared her throat to the priest.
I sing Aegisthus a lullaby, and he waits for the skies to darken until the night is a moonless spread of black- and the night is upon me and my husband is forgotten for the new temptation, of both what will be and the whispers that will follow, the soothing whispers that tie me to life and to waiting for my son to come and deliver me to my Agamemnon.