Awakening as if from a dream I found myself unsure if my memory of the past day is reliable. I feel well, but am disorientated. My clothing is all in place, I have no golden wings protruding from my shoulders. Dawns light has reached the grove and I have stirred in forest growth bedding draped with a rich cloak. Bewildered, I rise and smooth my dark curled hair. Thirst and hunger mark the time for me, whilst I danced I neither drank nor ate and now here it is morning and my hunger suggests I have been here since dawn the previous day. Unsure what I should do, I head home. My parents may, or may not, have recognised my absence. I wrap the cloak about me, feeling strangely naked in my normal everyday Spartan dress, and begin to walk toward home.
As I encounter helots in the fields I encounter a strange sensation, it seems I am moving much slower than the others around me. I feel I am moving at a normal pace, yet those in the fields I see move at least twice as fast as I am. Shaking my head to remove the illusion I walk on toward the city. When I reach the outskirts of the city this sensation exacerbates which creates a deep sense of discomfort within me. I rush to reach home all the while preparing myself for the inevitable encounter with my parents, every moment the sun rises higher I am aware that my presence must surely be missed and a reckoning will be required. What could I say? I no longer truly believed that I had encountered a god, yet had I? I breathed deeply and continued my awkward approach homeward.
It seemed an age I negotiated the streets before entering my home by the, oddly, open front door. As I crossed the threshold and closed the door behind me, I realised the house was in uproar. Helots moved at a frantic pace and both my parents were standing appearing dumbfounded in the entry area. I ceased moving and stood still observing the scene. It seemed to take some moments before my presence was noted. This gave me time to further observe the scene, there had been an early morning disturbance that required more than the usual attendance of helots, the house was in disarray but not because I had not been here. My mother saw me first, I went to kneel and apologise but she caught me up in her arms and taking both my hands spoke reverently to me; ‘My daughter, we are overwhelmed, such blessing upon this house.’ Her eyes were wild with distant imagining, barely present at all. My father stepped in and took my left hand from my mothers grip. ‘Daughter, while you slept we have had a visitor in the early hours. He has made it plain he seeks your hand. This surprises us, as he is no ordinary man and spoke as one possessed, yet he has pledged his house to ours and we find it acceptable.’ I started to shake, from thirst and hunger I suspect but my parents thought it shock at the sudden proposal and rushed to seat me. I requested drink and food. They hurried our helots to serve and assist me. I gulped the at the wine to slake my thirst and eagerly consumed from the platter laid before me the goats cheeses, dried meats, olives and tomato. My parents sat and watched me eat as if they had never seen such a sight before, as though they had discovered what they thought was a useless pebble to them had been exposed as a rare jewel. Finally, my thirst and hunger was outweighed by their odd behaviour and my mothers announcement that there was a more than suitable proposal, I was driven to query.
‘Mother, whom has visisted this morning? Please tell me the news.’ My mothers face shone as she smiled in recollection, ‘Daughter mine, as you know we thought no easy match would be made for you yet this morning well before dawn the door banged incessantly, the helots raised and answered and stirred us from bed with announcement of the caller, we dressed and met him, dishevelled he was but clear on his intention which was simple, he desired your hand. We were eager to approve yet he pressed us to be certain, then gave us some strange terms but gods be praised, we have reached a beyond equal match for your hand.’ I waited patiently for my mother to continue then looked to my father who was terribly still. ‘Father, what have you to say of this match, who is the suitor to have our household in such uproar?’ My father stood still, wringing his hands and looking to Olympus. ‘Father, what say you?’ I prompted. I drank more wine and ate more, thinking all the while of the odd dream I had, perhaps it really was more than the imaginings of a devout supplicant. My father finally stirred. ‘Daughter, Cymone. The prince has come to declare himself and claim you. Yet, he speaks in riddles and I am concerned his father, our King, does not know of his intentions. I fear,’ his words were cut short by new rigorous banging on the front door. There was disruption in the house as a lush wrap was pressed upon my mother and battle dress for my father, no one attempted to manage my appearance which was surely a fright after my day of dance and sleeping on the rough. Finally the visitors were welcomed, the King, with his wife and son walking demurely behind him. It was obvious to me the King was in a rage but was tempering himself in the house of his honoured general, my father.
All knelt except me, no one seemed to notice but I found I could not move, except to nibble at my food and gulp at my wine. The King consumed a vast breath before speaking, all waited looking as if they assumed the worst. ‘My son, Pleistoanax tells me that he has extended his pledge of marriage to your daughter Cymone.’ I quietly washed my hands and gulped more wine. ‘He did so without first consulting his parents, yet there is no greater match for a prince than a King’s honoured general, especially to a daughter who appears to be blessed by an Olympian. I have come to seek proof of this outlandish claim since there has been no evidence to suggest such an alliance in the life of Cymone yet.’ At this point all eyes were now upon me. I set my glass down and rose, I moved away from the seating area and into the more open reception area of the room, I knelt, and I prayed to Apollo to assist me, this could all only have come about if his visitation with me were a true memory, therefore this was the match he intended. Words found a way into my mouth, I found myself saying ‘Lord Pausanias, your son is wise, the god of prophesy has commanded him to look to the blessed daughter of Thorax. You question the word of Apollo?’ I was horrified at the rudeness of these words spoken to my King but as I said them with all eyes upon me, my golden wings unfurled and the Lord Apollo appeared beside me offering me his hand. While I took it and raised myself to stand I looked to room and all had bowed before us. Apollo’s eyes were bright and mischievous as he looked upon me, ‘I delight in your new wings my beloved, I imagine the world seems very different to you today, you may call to me any time you choose if you need my words or intervention otherwise I will see you kneeling in supplication in our grove as I command.’ I smiled in response and nodded my agreement as I sensed he did not require more at this time, he was upon the stage presenting his prize to the masses and I would follow his prompt.
‘My Lords,’ he stated winning their favour by suggesting they were somehow equal in lord-hood as he. ‘We seem to have some concern around my visitation to your city. I came to recognise Cymone and point out my favour of her to Pleistoanax as he simply seems the only Spartan man worthy of her. Cymone carries my blessing as all can observe, is this the only point in question?’ There was much rustling of robes but not one dared raise their head nor voice any concern. ‘I thought I would not need to appear to you all after speaking with the intended bride and groom, yet as I have had to, I will make plain, Cymone’s hair will not be shorn like a sheep on her wedding day. Her luscious curls will remain intact as a symbol of my intact blessing of Sparta.’ There was silence, none of the brave Spartans would speak directly to Apollo. Ashamed of my people I found my voice, ‘Apollo, Lord of prophecy and herds, we the people of Sparta thank you earnestly and beg your forgiveness if any slight has occurred, we promise all will be made up to you as desired.’ Now the others stirred all as one, voicing acknowledgement of Apollo’s wisdom, grace and beneficence. Apollo himself was absorbed speaking to me in a tone I realised none but I could hear, he described our coupling in words that made me shudder and blush vigorously and he demanded my return to the grove at moons rise to complete the ritual we had begun.
Words errant satiety
image Helen of Sparta
Link to Daughter of Sparta: Part I