Chapter 8 - I Met You First
On the road to Sparta…
Somewhere in Ancient Greece
“Where were you last night, by the way?” Seth asked.
“Uhm. Had to take care of business,” I replied.
It was dawn when I came back to our camp and he was already wide awake. He didn’t ask me then for we quickly ate our breakfast and then packed up our things. We left before the sun rose for we had a lot of ground to cover.
Now, sunset is fast approaching and we were already close to Sparta.
“Business?” he asked, frowning.
I shrugged. “Had to relieve myself in the woods,” I explained. He only grunted in reply. Come to think of it, this was the first conversation we’ve had all day. Most of it was spent in silence as we traveled. Seth was deep in his own thoughts too. I could hear him muttering but I couldn’t understand anything since it was in another language.
As for me? My thoughts were occupied by the letters Dad wrote. I kept on thinking over and over again who Persephone was and why no one in the family spoke about her in the future.
Suddenly, I had an idea.
I nudged my horse closer to one of the guards sent with us.
“Who is Persephone?” I whispered.
The guard continued staring straight ahead as he spoke, “Persephone is the goddess of spring. She is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter.”
I cursed under my breath. Daughter of Zeus? So she was indeed a goddess! She was my cousin for crying out loud! I cursed some more as I tried to make sense of everything. Seth looked at me, a question in his eyes. I just shrugged in reply.
Perhaps this thing with dad and Persephone was another mystery for me to solve; another reason why I was fated to be here. Maybe they were actually all connected somehow.
If that was the case, then I’d be super lucky.
“Wait,” Seth called out.
Immediately, the guards stopped. Seth’s hand went to his sword and I unsheathed mine as well.
“What is it?” I whispered.
“Listen,” he replied.
And that was when I heard it. It was faint but was steadily getting louder and louder. It was the sound of a battle; of women’s cries and men’s grunts along with the sound of steel clashing against steel.
“Should we find another route?” I asked Seth.
“I think they are only few. Probably bandits. We can take them on,” he said confidently.
Well, alrighty then. A fight it is.
“Let’s go,” Seth ordered.
As if I have a choice!
He spurred his horse into a gallop and then we all charged towards the sound of the noise. Immediately, I saw several chariots and wagons and warriors locked in battle. Seth was right. Those who attacked looked like they were bandits.
They outnumbered the warriors wearing armor and more bandits were pouring out from the trees.
Seth was already way ahead of me. He just guided his horse straight into the fray and began hacking left and right. He fought like his sword was an extension of his hand. It was mesmerizing to look at. I could watch him all day and learn all his moves so that I could learn to fight like that.
Suddenly, a bandit came running towards me. That snapped me out of my thoughts.
I spurred my horse into action and brought my sword down in a wide arc. He jumped to the side and I tugged on the reins of my horse. The horse lifted its front legs and then kicked hard. This sent the bandit tumbling towards the ground. Zeus gave us the finest horses indeed for my horse didn’t panic or try to unseat me during the fight.
I finished the bandit off by swinging my sword again just as he stood up. Then, I went to the middle of the battle to help Seth. Once more, we found ourselves protecting each other’s backs just like in the gladiator fight.
“Behind you!” I shouted. Seth quickly turned. Quick as a flash, he reached inside his pocket and then a dagger came flying. It hit the bandit in his chest, exactly where his heart lies. He crumpled to the ground in a dead heap.
Our arrival surprised the enemy and that was to our advantage. I was able to bring down three more of them before a man, who I assumed was their leader, called orders to retreat. Looking at Seth and the carnage surrounding him, he must’ve brought down twice the number I killed.
The warriors that belonged to the caravan we just saved looked at us with a mixture of gratitude and of fear.
“Who are you?” one of them asked.
“We mean you no harm,” I answered quickly. “We are just travelers who came to the aid of fellow travelers for we were also travelling this road,” I added.
That seemed to put them at ease because several of them sheathed their weapons.
“Where are you from?” the same man asked.
“Athens. We are on our way to Sparta.”
“We are headed there as well. Are you one of the suitors for Princess Helen?” the man asked.
The moment I heard her name, my back went rigid. I was so caught up with what I found in the Underworld that I forgot my secondary mission: to find Helen and make sure she meets me first so she doesn’t fall in love with Paris.
Seth opened his mouth to speak but I cut him off. “Yes!” I answered. Seth raised an eyebrow but I shook my head, willing him to be silent.
Suddenly, a cloaked figure approached from behind the circle of protective warriors. He lowered his hood and I gazed into the face of an old man. The warriors around him immediately bowed their heads.
“I am Tyndareus. King of Sparta. And on behalf of everyone here, I would like to thank you for helping us,” the old man said.
After hearing his title, I bowed my head in respect as well.
“No need to thank us, your majesty. We just happened to go this way and have the capacity to help,” I answered. From the corner of my eye, I swear I saw Seth roll his eyes. I ignored him and continued to face the king.
“I heard that you are on your way to Sparta. I would like to request for your assistance. It is but a short way to Sparta but I’m afraid that we may be attacked again. My men are wounded and if that happens, we might not survive. You and your men are warriors with great skill! If you would do us this favor, I would gladly welcome you to my house as our esteemed guests,” the King asked.
I nodded. “We’d be more than happy to escort you,” I answered quickly. “We thank you for the hospitality you offer,” I added.
The king’s face was filled with relief. “Captain. Gather the wounded. As soon as possible, make haste for Sparta,” the king ordered. The captain, the man who spoke to us before, nodded and barked orders to his men.
“While we are waiting, I would like to introduce you to my daughter. Princess Helen of Sparta,” the king told me.
At hearing her name, my heart stopped and the breath was knocked out of my lungs. This is it. I’m finally meeting her first – before she met Paris. A scenario I only daydreamed about for so long. Maybe this time I have a shot at winning her heart, and perhaps at the same time, preventing the Trojan War.
I swallowed the lump in my throat and bowed my head as yet another cloaked figure emerged from the throng of warriors.
She lowered the hood and I gasped. This was the face that launched a thousand ships. This was the face Aphrodite considered to be the most beautiful in all the mortals during this age.
“Princess,” I whispered in greeting after several stunned seconds. She was truly beautiful. Even when she was a shade, she still had this effect on people. And now to see her in the flesh was just absolutely incredible.
I am actually running out of words to describe her.
She had hair the color of wheat and eyes the color of the spring. She had high, sculpted cheekbones and full lips that could bring a man to his knees with just one kiss.
I sighed as I took her hand and touched her for the first time. I brought her hand to my lips and kissed it.
“Delighted to meet you, Princess,” I said.
To my own ears, my voice sounded weird. Different. As though I was in awe.
“Pleasure is mine, sir…?” Even her voice was magnificent.
“Please call me Aidon,” I answered.
“Thank you for helping us, Aidon,” she told me.
“You’re welcome, princess.”
She smiled at me and it was as though I was seeing the sun for the first time. I resisted the urge to cover my eyes at the sheer intensity of this encounter. Then, she turned her back and made her way back to her chariot.
After that, me, Seth, and the guards, helped the king’s men. We helped treat the wounded, load the dead into a wagon, and lift belongings that were scattered by the bandits as they looted. We also helped fix some of the chariots that were destroyed by the skirmish.
Then, we made our way back to Sparta at a grueling pace. The sun was about to set and it was more dangerous on the road at night. Dusk had just fallen when we reached the borders of Sparta.
Seth nudged his horse towards me and motioned to the side as we neared the city. I followed him to the side of the caravan, away from earshot.
“I think this is where we part ways,” he told me.
“What?” I blurted out. Leaving so soon? I kind of enjoyed his company, actually. Maybe even ask him to teach me how to fight like he does.
“Yes. I have to go and find the thief as soon as possible,” he told me.
Back when we were still in prison, he told me that he was headed to Sparta for there was something stolen from him and that he had to find it fast.
“Thank you for all your help. I wish you find what you seek as soon as possible,” I told him.
He offered his hand and I clasped it.
“It was nice to meet you, Aidon.”
“It was nice to meet you as well. Please. Take some of the men with you.”
Seth shook his head. “Thank you for the offer but I’ll be fine. I have to stay inconspicuous anyway. I will just take this horse since it’s a great stallion and seems trained for battle. Makes me miss the one I have at home,” he said.
I nodded and squeezed his hand. “Good journey, brother,” I told him.
“To you as well,” he replied. Then, he smiled. “I don’t think this will be the last we’ll see of each other. May our paths cross again,” he said, winking.
Then, he nudged his horse towards the opposite direction and I watched as he slowly vanished into the distance.
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