Day 3: "When Time Stood Still"
In the meantime, they stayed around the public square, which was near the marble glazed Basilica where the council meeting was held. Merchants hawked their goods and children of all ages played in the marketplace. Again and again they sang...
"Then on the day when Artemis cries, then the ashes come falling down."
Troy could not help but hum the words of this famous nursery rhyme. Apollus and Barbarius chanted the words from memory and Troy finally joined in with the other little children with their games and songs.
Then, almost in an instant, everything seemed to change. It started as a sudden jolt, enough to get everyone to stop what they were doing. The songs faded into a stifling silence. Troy's heart raced as threads of his dream reappeared in his mind. Around him, everyone stopped to hold their breath. As quickly as it came, the small tremor stopped, and everyone went back to business like nothing happened. Troy waited for his heart to settle, unsure whether to be terrified of the earthquake or nonchalant like his brothers seemed to be. Remembering the dream didn't help him figure out how he should feel.
"My lord Odydus."
Troy recognized one of his father's personal slaves.
Odydus gave his attention to the slave. "Yes?"
"His most esteemed Majesty requests that you conduct the princes home." Odydus nodded his agreement, and the slave departed.
"Already?" Apollus exclaimed.
"I barely learned anything from this trip," Barbarius snorted.
"I think it is best that we leave," Odydus told the boys.
"But what about Father? Is he coming too?" Troy asked.
"No, he will be leaving later. He has important business to finish up, but do not fret; he will try to get home before dinner starts."
"Why are we leaving again?" Apollus asked.
"Now is not the time for questions. We must go at once. Your father did not really want to bring you boys and I fear a bigger tremor might be coming."
"But we cannot leave Father," Troy whimpered as his eyes began to moisten with salty tears. Troy only hesitated a moment before he raced through the maze of makeshift booths and straight to the steps of the Basilica.
"Wait!" Odydus shouted, but Troy ignored him and ran up the stairs. He hauled open the two large wooden doors…only to be stopped by a guard.
"What brings you here?" the guard growled, towering over him.
"I am the son of Acropolus." Troy was proud of himself for not letting his voice tremble.
"I see. May I ask what your name is?"
"Troy," he answered, fidgeting with his tunic. The guard—who at first looked so stern and cold—let out a quick smile as he glanced over at the King, who was not too far from the door. Acropolus must have noticed the cracked door and walked out to investigate.
"What are you doing, Troy? This is not the place for little children," his father scolded.
"Father, are you coming home for dinner? We do not want to leave you. Odydus said the tremors might start."
"They are very minor, son. There is no need to worry about me..."
"There you are, my Majesty," Odydus huffed out, sketching a bow. His cheeks flushed redder than the scarlet sash that wound across Acropolus' toga.
"Come on, Troy. Your father will come later," Odydus urged quietly.
"Do you love us?" Troy blurted aloud, tears now welling in his eyes.
"What?" His father's jaw nearly dropped to the floor. "Where do you get these silly questions from? Look, you do not need to be crying. Men do not cry. Do you understand?"
Troy shook his head side to side.
Acropolus sighed before kneeling till his eyes leveled with Troy's. "Wipe those tears and behave like a big boy and go home with your brothers," he said brusquely, and then he stood and returned to the council chamber.
As Odydus carried him to the chariot, Troy fought the march of tears that threatened to ooze out his long eyelashes. When seated with his brothers, he tried to cover his tears as if nothing happened.
"Why are your eyes red?" Apollus asked. He remained silent. It was the easiest way to not lie aloud. He must not let the others see him cry. That was deemed shameful.
The trip home turned into a silent affair. Odydus smiled in delight at the peace and quiet as he whistled the tune of the nursery rhyme. He stole a glance behind to find the boys dozing off in their seats, lulled by the horses' slow, gentle stride. If he could make it home before they awoke, that would be a wonderful thing.
The horses stopped short in the middle of the road.
Odydus clicked his tongue and twitched the reins, but the horses did not move. He held his breath as the horses began neighing loudly at one another, causing the boys to rouse from their nap. He snapped the reins again. Nothing. Before Odydus could summon his whip...the horses took off without warning. They moved faster... and faster! He yanked back the reins, shouting at them to stop, but they grew more possessed as each horse tried to break off in different directions, whipping the chariot back and forth. The boys rattled in their seats, the vibrations oscillating the brass chariot like a cymbal. This time they not only felt the earth shake; but also heard it.
Troy clutched onto his brothers as he relived his worst nightmare. His heart was pounding...his hands shook...his bones rattled. It was happening all over again, but this time it was stronger. Much stronger.
"Slow down!" Odydus exclaimed. Frantic, the horses, veered toward the booths where several aged women gathered.
"Watch out!" Odydus shouted, steering the crazed horses away. The women screamed at the approaching horses before taking flight into the streets, dropping their money purses. The earthenware vessels sitting on the tables toppled over. Pieces went flying against the sides of the chariot, hitting the horses against their legs, causing them to careen to the other side.
"Aghhh!" the boys shrieked. Buildings were shaking like toy blocks around them.
"We are going to die!" Apollus wailed as he clutched on the side of the chariot. Troy grabbed onto Apollus' sleeve for dear life, his palms shaking with the tremors.
Patrons and merchants ran in the streets, screaming and crying. Chariot drivers frantically swerved away from people dashing into the street only to collide with other chariots and wagons. Odydus watched in horror as the stone-paved road began to crack down the middle. The road was collapsing under the shifting earth as he struggled to grasp on tight to the reins.
The horses broke loose, causing the chariot to flip over on its side before it came to a deafening thud. Odydus was hurled onto the ground as the crowd began to stampede from behind. He tried to get up, only for someone to run into him, sending both men crashing onto the uneven road. His cheek slammed against the stone, scraping a gaping wound across his cheek. He crawled to the sidewalk. A donkey on the loose grazed his shoulder as it ran aimlessly into the broken cobblestone streets. He heard shouts in all directions. Then he saw the upturned chariot, its suspended wheel still spinning.
-End of Excerpt-
Author Notes: Thank you for reading my debut novelette which is currently available on Amazon. As a special courtesy, the full story is being made available on Fictionpress for all readers to enjoy. However tomorrow is the last day the full story will be made available on this site. For those interested in having access to the full book to read whenever, you can download your FREE Kindle copy tomorrow starting June 16th 12am CST on Amazon.