Author's Note: Okay, so this is my third shot at Greek Mythology. Please, give it a try. Leave reviews. I hope you enjoy this. Critical reviews are accepted. =)
Written in the Stars~ A Novel of the Twelve Olympians
Athens, Greece—227 BC ~Prologue
"Mariam," a tall blonde woman exclaimed, as her footsteps echoed down the marble halls of the Parthenon. "Our father has summoned you."
Mariam stood by the columns that held the roof of the Parthenon before turning to her younger sister, Danaë.
"Why does he wish me to come to him, Danaë? Does he know I have not pleased him? Is it because of my refusal of Alecto?"
"Yes," Danaë nodded slowly and sighed. Her long white gowns flowed in the breeze as it came through the doorway. "Father knew you would be here, praying to Zeus. He says the gods will refuse to help you unless you marry Alecto."
"How does he know the will of the gods?" Mariam demanded, fiercely. "Because he is wealthy, does not mean he has the power of the immortal. The gods would punish him for it!"
"So he believes otherwise," Danaë chuckled. "He knows Aphrodite has put this match into play. You and Alecto belong to each other. Sister, I know he will make you happy and you shall raise his sons and be a good wife to him! Trust him, Mariam."
Mariam kissed her sister's cheek and quickly ran down the steps of the Parthenon. As she ran, she lifted up the hem of her dress so she would not trip. She often wondered how Danaë had always been so wise. She must have been blessed by Athena or then was a demi-god, like Perseus and Hercules. When Mariam came to her father's rooms, she slowed her running and dropped the hem of her dress and opened the wooden doors.
Demaratos sat on his perch—almost god-like. Mariam dropped to her knees, lowering her eyes to the floor as she paid homage to her father. Demaratos glowered at his eldest daughter before pouring himself a glass of wine. Mariam waited for her father's fury and anger to strike upon her.
"Do you know why I have summoned you here, Mariam?" Demaratos inquired, venom seething through his teeth like a black Cobra snake from the Nile.
"No, my lord," she whispered, avoiding his piercing glare. "I know nothing of this invitation…"
"THIS IS NO INVITATION, YOU WRETCHED BITCH!" Demaratos bellowed, throwing his silver goblet of wine against the wall behind Mariam. "HOW DARE YOU REFUSE ALECTO? DO YOU WISH TO END ON THE STREETS?"
Mariam restrained her tears as best she could by releasing a breath as she saw her father's feet inches away from her.
"Alecto and I are completely alienated from each other, my lord. How is it possible for me to marry someone I do not love?" Mariam inquired.
"Do not be ridiculous, Mariam! This bond between you and Alecto is not of love but to preserve your well-being and safety! You must learn your place in this society, Mariam. You are only a woman…nineteen and not married. Bless the gods; your mother would be horrified to call you her own if she knew you were not married to Alecto. It was her dearest wish! YOU REBUKE YOUR OWN MOTHER'S WISHES?"
"No, my lord, I do not rebuke them—"
"Then why do you refuse to marry Alecto?"
Mariam paused and held her breath as Demaratos circled her like a vulture.
"Why, Mariam?" he mocked. "Are you not pleased with him?"
"No, I am not pleased with him. But, he is a very kind man, my lord…but is not one for me."
Demaratos cupped Mariam's chin, forcing her head up roughly. She felt fear rush in her veins as his cold, dark eyes glared into her green ones. It was as though the wrath of Hades was upon her. Demaratos released her chin and smacked her cheek with the back of his hand.
"Get out of my sight and think of what you have done!" he demanded. Mariam got up quickly and ran out of her father's library. She ran down the marble halls to the balcony that over looked the city and the sea before bursting into sobs. Her arms trembled as she supported herself against the wall. It was nearly noon in Athens and Mariam could see the market and how thriving it was. Near the temple of Aphrodite, she saw many women praying to the goddess, hoping for love and marriage…possibly children. Once her tears quieted down, Mariam let out a deep breath and continued staring out towards the ocean. Her eyes moved around the city until she stopped at the main gates of her rich, fine house. Horses stood in front, neighing and occasionally stomping a foot down. There were two older men in front, sitting on whitish grey mares and there was a young man in the center with two other soldiers behind him for protection. The sentry came billowing out of the door to greet the arrived guests. Mariam knew this all too well.
It had been arranged months ago that Alecto son of Adrastos would come to Athens to meet his betrothed. She rolled her eyes at the sight of him…his dark shabby hair was unkempt and his features covered with dirt and grime from the long road. Alecto almost looked like a Roman more than a Spartan, with his dark hair and tanned skin. The most she knew of Alecto's family was that they were a wealthy family in Sparta. He would be able to secure her well-being and so she could live prosperously. Why on earth would she want to move to Sparta? Her sister was here…her friends, family and her entire life had been in Athens. She would most certainly not want to live in a city that was notoriously known for wars and their men fighting in honour of Ares, the War God. Even hearing the name in her thoughts sent chills down her spine…for he rides on a chariot pulled by Fear and Terror, and if you do not behave and obey my rules; he will come for you, Demaratos threatened when she was a little girl.
She shut her eyes and prayed for wisdom from Athena. Surely, the goddess would grant her that, Mariam thought. Perhaps if I do marry Alecto, love may grow in time. Mariam pondered. She suddenly wondered whether Kyra, her mother ever loved her father; since she hadn't known much of their relationship. Since Mariam could learn to walk, she had been taken care of by a governess. She rarely ever saw her mother and when she was just a small child, Kyra had been accused of adultery and fornication against her marriage. Kyra had been stoned to death outside of the house of Demaratos. Mariam knew she could never forgive her father for being such a spiteful, cruel man. Before Alecto could see Mariam, she hid behind a pillar. As she did, she could hear her father's loud, obnoxiously robust laugh as he greeted the young man from Sparta. Just as Mariam started to go into her own little world, Danaë rushed up to her—grabbing her arms and pulling her back inside and to the main courtyard where a feast was prepared for the hungry, tired men.
"Must you be so hasty?" Mariam exclaimed.
"You would not make Father furious again would you?" Danaë snapped. "All you can do now is try to please our father and make him happy."
"…and here she is, your beautiful betrothed," Demaratos said, loudly as he entered the courtyard. Mariam's eyes looked to Alecto. He certainly had a warrior's build to his body. Alecto was strong, muscular and tall. When Alecto walked up to her, she felt her words caught in her throat and chills down her spine as he kissed her cheeks. His full lips had been moistened after a drink with her father and he smelled of wine, dirt and sweat—which had been rather unpleasant for Mariam.
"How long will we have the pleasure of your company?" Mariam inquired, as kindly as she could.
"Until the wedding ceremony," Alecto responded. His voice was strong, dark and had a powerful tone to it. Mariam felt something flutter through her when he spoke. Perhaps this arrangement had not been such a cruel play. "My men are starved from their long journey, my lady."
"The slaves have prepared a feast for you and your kin, my lord. Eat and rest, and if there is any way we can provide and make your stay more comfortable, please have use of the slaves. They are under your command." Mariam said, sweetly. She glanced at her father who nodded in approval.
"You are kind, my lady," Alecto concluded. He nodded towards his men and they all sat down to eat. The maidservants brought out pitchers and chalices of wine for the men as they were entertained with music. When her father joined the men in the courtyard, Mariam curtsied before leaving the men to business. She found her sister Danaë in the gardens.
"How was your betrothed?"
"Far more handsome than I assumed," Mariam confessed, with a heavy sigh. Danaë smiled and continued picking hibiscuses. "Perhaps Aphrodite has blessed him with a man's beauty and lust for passion in bed. I do not wish to be abandoned. Do you suppose Alecto will agree to stay in Athens?"
"Mariam, he is Spartan. Surely, he would want to return home to show you off and fuck you by night." Danaë said, bitterly. "Though I wish you do not abandon me."
"Watch your tongue." Mariam snapped. "What if I cannot bear children? Will he be displeased with me?"
"All men grow displeased if women cannot bear sons, sister. So, their other option is to take as many mistresses who are willing and produce heirs by them."
"Illegitimate children cannot succeed their fathers as heirs, Danaë. Gods forbid," Mariam scoffed. "How many tetradracmas do you suppose Father is paying Alecto for this wedding and to sell me off like a cow?"
"Plenty," Danaë responded. "He wishes Alecto to be pleased with this family and so he shall be."
Oh dear gods, Mariam cried in her thoughts, do not abandon me while I need you now the most.