This is the start of Book 2, as Clarestes is the son of Arestes.
|Chapter 1 - “Now we stand equally armed. I am going to beat you to death. Are you ready?”|
As Clarestes wearily finished the last of his tilling in a field late one day, he saw someone striding toward him. The approaching man was lightly armored, carried a shield and spear, and had a sword at his hip...or rather her hip, he noticed as she drew nearer and was unhelmed. She was young, but statuesque and tall, taller than most men, and so taller than he. She had shoulder length black hair and fair skin. Her sharp features and dark eyes held a hawklike arrogance, and a hawk’s fierce beauty as well. Clarestes thought it possible she was a goddess.
When near to him she halted. She looked not once at him as her eyes searched about.
“Slave, I seek Arestes. Bring me to him,” she commanded in accented, but easily understandable, Greek.
To Claretes, her presence had a disquieting eeriness. On her left cheek was a scar that looked as if it came from a sword slash. Upon her right thigh another scar ran long to under her skirt, and that seemed to have been caused by a battle wound as well. Prominent dark circles surrounded her eyes. Her eyes themselves spoke of menace. These were the only flaws to her beauty.
His brow furrowed at her appearance and her words. He said quietly, “I am not a slave.”
Her eyes finally fell upon him. She shifted her stance a little, as if preparing herself. She said, “Curb your lies, trash, or I will thrash you for your insolence. If you are not a slave, why do you do the work of a slave woman? For the pleasure of it? I am told these are Arestes’s fields. Now fetch me to him, with speed.”
Clarestes said, “These are Arestes’s lands, but I can not bring you to him.”
The woman looked about and she growled, “Where is he?”
“Arestes is gone,” he said.
The woman thrust her spear into the ground, then laid her hand upon her sword’s hilt. She said, “Be truthful, slave-boy, or your life will be forfeit.”
Clarestes said, “Apparently you never knew Arestes, as he never owned a slave. He held to the curious and little shared belief that people should not own people.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. She asked, “Why do you speak of him in the past?”
“Because he lies in Gaia, where my hands placed him thus, a turn of the moon ago,” Clarestes said.
The woman hissed, “I have heard no tidings of Arestes’s death. You lie to protect him!” Eyeing Clarestes, she said accusingly, “You are Arestes.”
He answered, “I am not, and although it is true that sometimes I lie, I have told you none as yet.”
The woman seemed to gain some of her composure back. She examined Clarestes quickly, then she said, “Yes, you are too young to be him...and too short...and your hair is not dark enough. My putrid father told me that Arestes looked very much like he does, as I do.” The woman’s mouth pursed and her eyes slitted. “Who are you?” she demanded.
Clarestes did not like the hard look in her eyes. Nevertheless, he said, “I am Clarestes, Arestes’s son.”
The woman now saw that Clarestes too had darkness around his eyes, darkness caused by one who mourns. Her eyes flickered with indecisiveness for a moment. But that passed and she said, “I came here to slay your father, but I think I will slay you now instead.”
He said nothing to this. The woman laughed and she said, “You men are all alike, especially the sick descendants of my father. You crave and desire above all else the terrified screams of your victims, yet you are every bit as cowardly when your time has come.”
After a time, he said quietly, “I have never taken pleasure in killing a man, and I am not afraid.”
The woman shouted, “Another lie! Behold, you can barely find your tongue. Actually, I change my thinking on that. You are probably too stupid to be fearful as I am but a woman. All right, boy, before I kill you, tell me what you feel now? I bet it is not more complicated than if you are hungry.”
Clarestes did not know how to answer this question at first. Eventually he said, “I am wary, no doubt. But as of late and presently, I feel only tired and saddened.”
“Liar!” the woman spat. “Always such from the line of my father! Always!” She ripped her sword out of its sheath with amazing speed and pointed it at him.
He raised his hoe and took a stance to defend himself. He said, “If truthfulness is what you desire from me, then I must amend my answer. For now I am afraid, as well as weary.”
The woman’s eyes flickered and again she seemed perplexed by his actions. She did not lower her sword, yet for a time she did nothing other than appraise him. Her eyes narrowed and she said, “Why do you not attempt to flee? You think you can defeat me with that slave woman’s tool?”
“It is my hope that I will not have to find out,” he said.
“You are going to,” she barked, throwing her sword aside. Then she cast her shield aside as well. She pulled her spear out of the ground and in a flash she snapped off its head. She tossed the spear’s point away leaving herself with only her spear’s shaft.
Clarestes nodded his head slightly. He likewise broke off his hoe’s cleave, leaving himself with only its shaft as well.
The woman smiled and she said, “Now we stand equally armed. I am going to beat you to death. Are you ready?”
Claerestes opened his mouth to say something, but in seeing her resolve, he stayed his tongue. He sighed, then nodded his head.
She cursed and attacked. Her blows against him were like a whirlwind as her staff whistled through the air. Clarestes retreated from her strikes, but in a measured way, and his staff too was like the blur of a hummingbird’s wings, as he had practiced with staves with his father so many times. He quickly assessed that this woman was every bit as strong as he, and certainly faster, so he called upon everything his father had taught him as a boy.
Nevertheless, he found her nearly impossible to defend against. She threw many different types of kicks and punches at him, in addition to her staff strikes. Her punches were strong and quick, yet they were the easiest to avoid. Her kicks, however, she launched with such amazing speed and power it was all he could do to contort his body, so as to not be flattened by them. And she quickly switched her stances for advantage, so he had to continually and rapidly change his own stances in response.
Again, fortunately for him, his father had done all of these things with him as they had practiced with staves as well. Indeed, she fought very much like his father, but Clarestes’ grueling, past sparring with his father was serving him well, as this woman could not land any of her punches or kicks. And he blocked most of her staff strikes with his own staff, but when he did not intercept them, he dodged them, and so her strikes merely sliced through the air, missing both his staff and himself.
As she attacked he withdrew more. He knew he could not stand toe to toe with her, so this was his only means of not suffering blows. He made one wide circle until they reached the spot in the field where they first met. There, one of her blows broke his stave. She sneered and struck out at him, but he caught her staff with his hand. She was very strong and did not let go of her stave, so he used her own firm hold upon it to his end. He strained and snapped her shaft in two, then he wildly ducked to avoid the whizzing reverse roundhouse kick she unleashed that missed his head by a less than a hand’s distance.
She threw her part of her broken staff aside in disgust. “So be it,” she growled. “I will kill you with my hands.”
Clarestes, winded, could summon no breath for words, so he merely nodded his head.
She gave him a mighty straight forward kick. He raised his hands that still held his half of her broken staff to block it, but her kick broke it in two and still had enough force that when her foot hit his chest he was winded by it, and thrown backwards as well. He stumbled, lost his balance and landed upon his back. As she leapt upon him, he planted his feet upon her torso and kicked her above and past him. He then rocked and sprang forward whereupon he landed on his feet, gasping for breath.
The woman somersaulted and twisted midair past him, then she too landed on her feet. Enraged, she cried, “You did that on purpose! You wanted me to alight uninjured! And you have thrown no blows at me! You play with me!”
Clarestes held his pained chest as he croaked, “Well, if what you say is true, you are my aunt after all. Also, I wouldn’t call this the merriest of play.”
To this the woman looked hard at him Then she screamed. Her chest heaved and her eyes rolled with madness. She screamed again loud and long. To Clarestes, her cry now seemed to be of torment, not anger. She screamed yet again, but not at him. She looked upward and screamed at the sky, or maybe the gods, or perhaps at nothing at all.
Then she raised her fists and was about to close upon him, but he stepped back. He brought up his open hands. He said, “I beseech you, no more. Please, do not fight with me any more, as I know not even its cause.”
The woman halted. Her eyes were still wild, but it seemed as if the anger in them was receding. Slowly she lowered her fists. She stood motionless for a time as if undecided as to what to do. She snatched up her shield and sword and he feared another attack from her, but she merely sheathed her sword. Then, without a word or further glance at him, she turned and strode away across the field.
“Wait,” he called out to her after he recovered from this surprising turn of events.
She ignored him as she continued on. “Wait!” he cried once more, then he ran after her.
When he reached her, she wheeled about while drawing her sword quickly. She said harshly, “Are you sure you don’t want to be done here?”
Clarestes raised his open hands again. He spoke, and she listened to what he said.
Chapter 2 - “Wha is dis?”
Twilight was falling by the time they arrived at Clarestes’ home. Earlier, when he told her that there were few homes and no towns within many miles of his house, she said she did not care. But when he said he had food, clean water, and wine, she agreed to follow him home. Her sharp cheekbones and very lean arms all but spoke to him that she had not eaten well for some time.
The only words said by her as she trailed him there were, “It is foolish idiocy to present your back to me.”
He did not turn around to answer her. He simply said, “A stab in the back does not seem to be you.”
He was not wrong for they arrived at his farm house without incident.
Once inside, he said, “Sit, if it pleases you.” He pointed to some large cut logs about a plain wooden table. The woman sat upon one of the logs.
She took some time to look around the farm house’s common room, which was spacious, clean, and lacked nothing essential, yet was otherwise modest and simple.
As he began to make the evening meal by restarting his cooking fire, she said, “If you attempt to poison or drug me, I will cut you down as I feel the first effects.”
He nodded his head and said, “Understood, I will not.”
His fire now burning, he spent a brief time reheating something. Soon he presented her with a bowl of hot stew and some warmed bread. The woman’s eyes crossed as she smelled the steam rising from the bowl.
She tore off a piece of bread and dipped it into the stew and then shoved it into her mouth. She chewed it twice and then her mouth went still, and the strangest look came over her face.
“Wha is dis?” she said through her mouth full of food.
With a small smile, he said, “It is drugless, poisonless barley porridge with vegetables and a little dried pork in it. It is free of spit as well.” Then his smile receded and he added, “I am sorry, it is simple, farmer’s fare, but it is the best thing I have on hand now.”
The woman laughed and she actually sprayed some of her food out of her mouth in doing so. Clarestes asked, “Why is that funny?”
She rolled her eyes and said, “I have never tasted anything as good.”
Clarestes looked at her, and his smile returned. He said, “I’m glad it pleases you. You may be happy to hear I have quite a lot of it, and as I am very sick of it and tasted hundreds of meals better, you may have as much as you can eat.”
“Good!” cried the woman. She picked up her spoon and started shoveling more in her mouth. Indeed, that bowl was empty within moments as she wolfed it all down with warrior-like efficiency, and warrior-like manners for that matter. Then she quaffed the cup of watered-down wine he had poured for her in one gulp. He refilled her bowl and cup and soon those were empty again. He thought, then he refilled her bowl yet again, but this time he filled it up to its very brim. He put the wine jug on the table close to her for her use.
When sated the woman looked around the house once more and then at him. She seemed subdued now, perhaps a little uneasy. He noted once again her youth (she looked about his age actually), and how much she resembled his father, except for that she was a beautiful, young woman, of course.
A sly expression crossed her face. Then she belched loud and long. Clarestes’ own father had never done so better (or worse) and this woman, much like his father always had done when he belched proudly like a child for all to hear, had that same self satisfied look of mischief as well.
When she finally could draw it out no further, she paused for a moment, then asked, “Pretty gross, right?” while nodding and looking to him for affirmation or approval.
He smiled and pronounced it, “Impressively disgusting.” She turned her eyes away from him and then, almost shyly, she smiled a little. “What is your name?” he asked as he laughed.
Her smile melted instantly. She said, “You need not know that as I am leaving.” She stood abruptly, paused for a moment, then said, “My thanks and true gratitude to you for the food and the wine. I am sorry I have nothing to pay you with, and that is no lie.” Then she picked up her shield, making to depart.
“Wait,” he said. “I was hoping to ask you some questions.”
“You’ll get no answers from me,” she said as she walked to the door.
“Hold, please,” he said. “Night is falling and currently bandits prowl abroad. You may stay here tonight if you wish.”
“I fear no robbers and that is not my wish,” she said.
“It is my wish,” he said.
The woman halted, then she turned to face him. She asked quizzically, “Why is it your wish?” Her eyes narrowed and she asked suspiciously, “Where would I sleep?”
Clarestes pointed to another room. He said, “I offer you my bed.”
The woman said seethingly, “Thought as much.”
He smiled and said, “I, of course, will sleep out here.” He pointed to the floor in the corner of the common room they were currently in.
The woman’s brow furrowed. She looked at Clarestes as if perhaps seeing him for the first time. Her eyes, he noted, seemed to not have the anger they held but a moment ago. She said, “Perhaps, you really are very different from the rest of us. Maybe it is because you have less of my father in you. I am glad now that I could not kill you. Nevertheless, I am leaving.”
She opened the door and had taken but one step outside when she stopped. She cursed in her natural tongue. She retook to Greek and said, “It is going to rain tonight.”
Clarestes thought this odd as it was the start of the dry season, so he went to the door as well. He looked upon the night sky. The moon and stars shone brightly, their light unhindered by nary a cloud.
“What makes you think that?” he asked.
“Can’t you smell it upon the breeze?” the woman said with her nose held high. She breathed in deeply through her mouth. “Can’t you taste it?” she asked.
“No,” he answered as he looked at her curiously.
The woman murmured more to herself than to him, “Yes, you have little of my father in you.” A brisk wind had picked up making the cool night even colder. Clarestes felt that easily enough, and as he looked at the woman, he saw that she was not relishing the prospect of being outdoors on a cold, and what she thought was going to be a rainy night as well.
He went back to the cooking fire. Fighting a smile, he said, “Again, you are welcome to stay the night.”
The woman’s mouth was clenched and she shook her head a little as she looked to the sky. After a moment, her head tipped back and she let out an audible sigh of displeasure of her decision made. She turned around and came back inside, closing the door behind her.
“You say I may have your bed?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “All that you need is in that room.”
She reached beneath her skirt and in a flash a long dagger appeared in her hand. “This is what you’ll get if you try to join me in it,” she said.
Clarestes raised his eyes to her, and then he put his gaze back upon the fire. As he neatened the fire up within the ring of charred stones, he said with a smile, “Understood. I will not.”
The woman went into Clarestes’ room and as she was closing the door, he said, “I wish to ask one question before you take repose.”
The woman paused just before the door was shut. She said nothing, but he could see one of her bright, piercing, dark eyes which watched him through its crack.
“I ask again, what is your name?” he said.
She said nothing to this for a time. She began to close the door the rest of the way, and he thought she was going to deny him her name once more, but just before the door closed she said, “Mera.”
Then the door closed shut.
Chapter 3 - “I mean, you are too...too...you.”
The next morning Mera opened the bedroom door and entered the common room. Clarestes was making the morning’s meal on the kitchen’s fire. Armorless now, Mera wore nothing but a toga. Her hair was disheveled from her night’s sleep and the dark circles about her eyes were lessened, so she looked even more beautiful than she had the day before.
She froze as Clarestes looked upon her. She said, “Take your eyes off me.”
“Forgive me,” he said. He lowered his eyes back down to the task of cooking.
She went to the door and opened it. It was raining, so she cursed there for a time.
“This meal is done. Will you sit and eat with me?” he asked.
Mera crossed the room and sat on a log. He made their plates, joined her at the table, and they began to eat their food.
After a while Mera said, “This is different from last night’s dish, but it is also very excellent. Again, my thanks to you for the food. And I thank you for the use of your bed last night.” She smiled a little as she admitted wistfully, “I had never slept in a bed before, and it was decadently soft.”
Clarestes knew that ordinary bed was nothing special and he recalled her praise last night, as well as this morning, of his simple food . He was gathering that Mera’s life was perhaps one of imposed rigor, or maybe poverty...or both. He smiled and he said, “You are welcome. You may use it again tonight if you wish.”
Her head snapped up at this offer from him. “I am sick of traveling in, and trying to sleep through, shitty weather. And that bed,” she murmured as she rolled her eyes. Clarestes chuckled. Then, as she returned to eating, she said almost threateningly, “Be careful with what you offer, boy, for perhaps I may.”
He nodded his head and said, “The offer still stands.” Then they ate in silence for a time.
He eventually said, “Mera, much of what happened yesterday and of the things you spoke of, have weighed heavily upon me. It is my hope to ask you some questions.”
She was silent. After a time she smiled and she said, “Now I understand why you invited me to stay last night. You may ask your questions, but I promise no answers.”
Clarestes smiled a little. He had many questions. Which to ask first? “Do you know who my father’s father was?” he chose.
“You do not know?” she asked.
“No,” he answered.
Mera nodded her head, but again she was silent for a time. She looked upon Clarestes as he continued to look away from her. “Why do you avert your gaze from me?” she asked.
“You told me to take my eyes off of you,” he said.
“Forget that,” she said. “You may look upon me now.”
He raised his eyes from his plate and he looked at her.
“I have the look of your father, do I not?” she asked.
“Very much,” he said.
She nodded her head again. She looked at him, in search of the truth. She saw that he was middling sized for these Greek men, and very well built. And unlike her eyes, or her father’s, his eyes were not of black midnight incarnate. His eyes actually looked very like the soft gray of twilight. They surely were different, she thought. There was something about them...something...that she could not put her finger on. “You do not have your father’s eyes,” she said, almost a little absentmindedly as her forehead crinkled.
“No,” Clarestes said. “These are the eyes of my mother. My father could see farther than men do, but my eyes do not.”
Mera shook off this distraction and her mind resharpened. She said, “I think your eyes see much, for a boy.”
Clarestes smiled but said nothing to this, so Mera said, “I have been stingy with my answers to you, but you have not been so with me.”
“You are my guest and perhaps blood related, and so I will answer any question you ask honestly, so long as it causes no harm,” he said.
Mera nodded her head. Her brow furrowed from thought and she said, “I need more answers from you before I can give your answer with assurance. What do you know of your father’s parents?”
“My father knew nothing of his mother or father, not even their names,” he said. “The knowledge of them was lost to perhaps all. His first memories were of being a slave in a King’s court. My mother and his eventual wife, Classindria, raised him, but she was not his mother. She also was a court slave then, although she cared for him not by command, but out of sympathy, for no one else would.”
Mera thought about this. After a time she asked with obvious puzzlement, “Your father joined in marriage with the woman who reared him?”
“My mother was but a few years older than him,” he said. “She was a child raising a child. And he loved her above all else. I do not think he ever loved another. Well before they were married, he lost all desire for other women. Once, he told me all women were mangy dogs in comparison to my mother, both in their character and in their beauty. Of those words he lived as I witnessed, for I never saw his eyes so much as stray fleetingly to another woman, so this I believe.”
Mera thought about this as well. She said, “So your mother was soft of heart. Was your father as well?”
Clarestes laughed and he said, “My father was infamous for his temper, but at times he could be such. Still, he was not nearly as kind as my mother. If he were alive he would readily admit to such proudly, but taken as a whole, he was a good man. His deeds and feats are sung of in Greece, as he did many dangerous labors for the good of its people, so that is a kindness of sorts. And to me, he was a good father, few can claim better. It is true what I said, he died but a turn of the moon ago. My mother died of the white plague but a turn before him. I was afar when they perished. She, he buried, and he I found lying lifeless in this very room. I miss both of them to heart’s break. I can not shake my distraught.”
Mera again noted that Clarestes’s eyes were surrounded by dark grief. Then to her surprise, he started to shed tears in recalling them. He did not try to hide them, nor did he seem to try to fight them either. He just let his tears fall, and this surprised her further. He must have seen the look of surprise on her face, so he wiped them away. He managed a small smile. “Forgive me,” he said. “I seem to have got something in my eye.”
Mera, as her eyes returned to her food, said off handedly, “You seem to have gotten something in both of them.” At this Clarestes’s current grief lessened, as this made him laugh.
Mera’s head snapped up and she squinted strangely at him. He thought she looked completely shocked by his laughter. He, of course, did not know why she reacted as such. He hoped he had not insulted her in some way.
He needed not worry. She was not angry at him. She, indeed, was only more perplexed by him.
She shook this off and she said, “All right, boy, with your food and your...hospitality?...Is that the right Greek word?...You have earned your answer, if you dare to hear its foulness. You want to know who your father’s father was? I know who your father’s father was, and is.”
Clarestes tensed from unease as he awaited her words to follow. Mera must have seen this and she nodded her head. She said, “Yes, it is as you suspect and fear. Your father’s father is Ares. Your grandfather is the most repellent being to ever walk Gaia or the heavens above. He is Ares, god of war. He is Ares, god of woe. I know this for he is my father as well, and more than once he braggingly told me he was the father of the fierce, greek Arestes. He swore upon this and I believed him. It is perhaps one of the few times he ever told me the truth.”
Clarestes slumped at Mera’s tidings. While Arestes himself had been completely uninterested and indifferent to his parentage, he and Classindria were - particularly because they surmised that Arestes was the son of a god or goddess. Naturally, due to Arestes unreliable temper and penchant for fighting, Ares was their prime candidate. Indeed, Ares’ very name was in his father’s name, all the signs pointed to such. Clarestes and Classindria also suspected that this is what Arestes’ mother had named him at birth, the only thing he ever kept of hers. Nevertheless, Clarestes’s soul was stricken by Mera’s confirmation of what had only been supposed. So he was silent for a time and lost in his own dark thoughts, as Mera seemed to be as well
He broke the silence by asking quietly, “Do you know anything of my father’s mother?”
She answered, “Ares told me she was a slave. He did not remember her name. Perhaps, he never even asked her for it. Just another example of his extreme charm. Anyway, that is all I know...”
Clarestes sat in stunned, cold silence at this. Mera was quiet as well as she ate. Eventually he asked, “Mera, why did you come here to slay my father?”
She said almost casually, “I came to slay him because he was a son of Ares.”
Clarestes’s brow furrowed at this and he said, “I do not understand. You wanted to kill my father to harm Ares?”
Mera shook her head and she said, “Ares cares little about his prodigy. Such a killing would be poor revenge against him.”
He asked, “Then why did you want to kill my father?”
She answered, “Because Ares’s sons all turn out as he is; brutal, sadistic, and stupid. To slay them is to better the world, I can think of no better way to improve it. As so, I have made this my lot. I will hunt down and slay my father’s sick brood. They, like him, deserve to die. Let me put it this way, boy...name a son of Ares that ever lived that was not a bane and plague to his fellow man.”
Clarestes searched his mind, and then he realized Mera was right. Well, mostly right. He could not come up with any who claimed to be the son of Ares who differed from how she described, other than his father, of course.
Mera ceased eating and her eyes narrowed. She coldly said, “I have already slain three who made plausible claims to being a son of Ares, but with your father dead, as of present, I have no more knowledge of any who are the direct offspring of him. So now I am aimless. Do you know of any? Tell me if you do so, and now.”
Clarestes’s eyebrows raised in concern. He said hesitantly, “Umm, I know of only one that is our contemporary and so still lives. You aren’t going to try to slay him too, are you?”
“Yes, of course I am,” she said. “Is this man not brutal, sadistic and stupid?”
Clarestes paused for thought, and then he said quietly, “As a matter of fact, he very much is…Although I suppose some would argue he is not stupid...”
Mera’s eyes lit up and she demanded, “Give me his name.”
Clarestes said, “No.”
She put down her fork and it became apparent she was getting ready to fight him. She said, “I will beat his name out of you if you do not. And thanks to you, now I am well fed and rested, so this time I will not fail...”
Despite her menace, he said, “No. It would be suicide for you to go after him. He is a king, and highly protected.”
She said with disappointment, “You speak of the Greek King Herdos of Kappolis.”
“Why, yes...yes, I do,” he said.
He saw Mera relax on her log. She asked, “And you know of no other who is a son of Ares?”
He answered, “No, and that is the truth.”
She must have believed him as she became calm again. She picked up her fork and resumed eating.
He watched her closely and he was suspicious. “Will you now attempt to seek King Herdos out?” he asked.
She said, “No.” He was about to ask her another question, but she cut him off as she said, “Yes, it is as you suspect. I have already done so and he is already dead. He was one of the three I spoke of.”
His eyes opened wide in surprise at this news. King Herdos, while definitely one of the cruelest and most vindictive kings to ever rule in Greece, wielded much power and he was feared. His city state was wealthy and, like all kings, he must have been heavily guarded. “How in Hades did you catch him alone?” he asked.
“I did not. He granted me an audience into his court to humiliate me. That was an arrogant mistake and I slew his whole court and guard to get to him,” she said simply and without boasting. “And that I have killed two others who were the sons of Ares as well is no lie.”
“Who were…” he began.
“They are none of your concern,” she said sharply. She continued in her normal tone, “But let me put you at ease, if you are not. I will not try to kill you again. You do not count as I plainly see now you are too far removed from Ares,” she added with a dismissive wave of her hand at him. Then she waved her hand in a circle above the table with the food upon it and she said, “I mean, you are too...too...you.”
Clarestes smiled at this, and then he asked, “May we talk of other things?”
Mera shrugged her shoulders as she ate.
He asked, “Since you know of no others who are Ares’ sons, are you going to return to your people? You are from Thrace, am I right?”
Mera smiled and she said, “You are sharp of mind for a boy. I am Thracian indeed.” Her smile vanished and she said, “But no, I will not be returning there.”
Clarestes was about to ask her why, but she cut him off by saying, “Another topic I care not to discuss with you.”
Clarestes smiled. There was something of an amusing brat’s personality in the way Mera was interrupting him. It made him want to tease her, and so he did so.
“We Greeks like to chat and talk while eating,” he said, smirking.
Mera said, “You goad me. That is the thanks I get for sharing what I know?”
Clarestes leaned back on his log and he said earnestly, “Share more.”
Mera said nothing to this and she ate.
He said, “There will be lunch in it for you if you do, and dinner too if you wish. And when you decide to leave, some coins as well.”
Mera said with disgust, “It is always money with you Greeks. Your offer of dirty coins as a reward makes me want to strike you.”
Clarestes’s eyebrows raised and he said, “But my offer of food does not? Alright, I could set you up with a pack full of food when you depart.”
By this time Mera had finished her food. She had gorged herself, again, and still she wanted more, as it was so good.
She fought with herself for a time, but then she said, almost sheepishly, “I would like more now.”
Clarestes jested, “I will get you more, if you tell me why you won’t return to Thrace.”
“Agreed,” she said instantly, as if she was afraid he would renege on this deal.
Clarestes’s eyes widened in surprise, and shame. As he stood to get more food for Mera, he said, “You need not tell me that to get another full plate. I was only joking. Holding back food as a bribe is not how we Greeks do.”
Mera answered, “Well, that is how we Thracians do. In my eyes it is the first thing that you have done that is not idiotic.”
Clarestes laughed as he returned with a brimming plate for Mera. She said as she ate, “I can not go back to Thrace as I left my shitty Amazon brethren against their will and in treason. It all goes back to my father. Everything there goes back to my father. They revere him as the most favored god. I, however, despise him like no other. He is horrid, you can not imagine how much so unless you’ve known him like I do. And I know him so well, perhaps better than any other mortal, except for my mother, as she has known him longer, and she is his daughter as well.”
Clarestes shrunk back at this admission and Mera must have seen this for she smiled at the audacity of her information. She continued with almost mean spirited glee, “Yes, boy, that is right. My mother is also my sister, as was her mother. I said before Ares cares little for his progeny? Perhaps I was mistaken, for he took great and twisted interest in our family line. He tried to continue that beautiful tradition with me.”
Again Clarestes was shocked by such incestuous foulness and again Mera seemed to take sadistic pleasure delivering such horrendous tidings. She said “Hmm, you are deft of mind and are following along so quickly. Yes, he tried to have me as well, but I did not give myself up to him as my mother and her mother did so in their foul lust and sick admiration of him. When he tried to rape me, he got what I promised you last night.” Then she pulled out her dagger from beneath her toga so quickly Clarestes did not even see her movement. She continued, “I stabbed him, and the coward went howling like a child back to Mount Olympus.”
Clarestes sat in stunned silence at this. Mera ate quietly for a time and then she said, “I left soon after I stabbed him, and as I was fleeing all near confronted me and tried to slay me, for they then knew of my blasphemous act. I had to fight my way out of our city to flee from my twisted sisters. I know I killed some of them. My mother was among those who tried to kill me. She, I injured severely, and she may have died from her wound, but this I do not know. Nor do I care, other than to hope I did.”
Mera reflected for a time, and then she said, “Besides to honor our bargain, there is another reason why it is good I share such with you. My presence here puts you in danger. Ares most certainly will seek me out in revenge some day. He may be doing so even as we speak. If he arrived presently, he most likely would slay you as well as me. And he could do so easily. Capable as you are, he could slay us both with ease. Again, such knowledge is good for you, as it will stir you to get me out your door...”
Clarestes said, “Such knowledge does not. In fact, it only encourages me to ask you to stay longer…”
Mera said, “Yes, you are as I suspect. You are an idiot.”
Through his laughter Clarestes said, “Maybe.” Mera’s head snapped up at this.
She said, “You are a fool. If he found me here he could kill us both with ease. He is as deadly as he is evil. That I have not laid my eyes upon his stupid face, or hear again any of his baneful and disgusting words since I stabbed him, I give thanks to the gods and goddesses every night before I sleep. You should do likewise. Anyway, as far as Thrace goes, there is no going back now for me, and I would never go back there again anyway, unless it would be to slay more of my foul Amazon sisters. Hmm, perhaps that is what I will do next. Some of them too have Ares’ blood, and almost all are vile as well...Hmm...I shall have to think about that some more…”
Clarestes was shocked by Mera’s contemplation of giving battle to a whole Amazonian city with such cavalier ease. He said with worry, “You can not do that! They will surely kill you if you dare to return.”
Mera looked at Clarestes and she smiled at his naive concern. She said, “I am a daughter of Ares, as was my mother and as was hers. He is in you but some, yet he is all I am in blood As such, killing is in my blood as well. I am just as broken as he is. When I die, then this world will also become a better place. I do not care if I die. Indeed, I seek it. I wish to die, but it pleases me that when l do so, it will be trying to achieve something of worth, which is to kill those who are like him, and like me.”
Clarestes recoiled at Mera’s words and he shook his head. He said, “That is wrong. You should give up those foul plans; your hunt for the sons of Ares, and your thoughts of returning to Thrace for revenge. You are seeking death. The death of others and death for yourself. Seek life now, Mera. Why not do that?”
To Clarestes’ words Mera’s countenance changed. Her thoughtful expression turned to one of vacant indifference and she said, “Look boy, I did not ask for your approval or advice as to my tasks. Keep your sage thoughts to yourself.” Then she stood up and walked across the room to open the door. There, she watched the rain fall.
Chapter 4 - “I have not laughed like that since...since...well since ever!”
Much later that morning as Clarestes was weaving at his father’s loom (as nothing could be done outside), Mera, who still stood looking out the open door at the falling rain, spoke her first words since she talked to him hours ago. She said, “It is very quiet and tranquil here. It is maddening.”
Clarestes chuckled and he said, “I am not very gifted, but would you care to hear some music?”
Mera turned to look upon him. She shrugged her shoulders in indifference.
Clarestes left the loom and retrieved his father’s twin drums. He began to strike them with his hands. He called up his favorite beats and got lost in the wild music. He was winded and sweaty by the time he finished. He looked upon Mera. She looked bored, but she said, “Very deftly done.”
He laughed. He returned the drums to their place, then retrieved his mother’s lyre. He said, “Perhaps this will be more to your liking.”
He began to play. He played a gentle tune, one that he had composed himself, and then he began to sing his words he had created for it.
For a time Mera watched him with a strange, unfathomable look upon her face. Then she broke out laughing.
Clarestes stopped singing and playing immediately. Mera laughed and laughed. He was surprised by her laugh as it was soft and feminine.
Nevertheless he was chagrined at her unbridled merriment. He asked, “What strikes you as funny?” He surmised it was his lack of skill as a musician.
She continued to laugh. She held her midriff and laughed so completely that she could not speak for a time. Eventually she got enough of a hold on herself to say between giggling gasps, “You sounded so much like a girl!” At these words she bent over with her hands upon her knees, laughing without relent again.
Clarestes blushed and got up to put his mother’s lyre away, but Mera’s words stopped him short. She said, “No! Let me have some more, please. I have not laughed like that since...since...well since ever!”
He was embarrassed, but once again he was moved by her lilting laughter. He stood there for a time watching her laugh, and then a smile came to his face. He began to play again.
Mera stood up straight and watched him intently. He began to sing. Her eyes sparkled with delight and then she began to laugh anew, while wiping tears of amusement from her face.
That evening after they had eaten and night was falling, Mera asked Clarestes, “Would you play your lyre and sing some more for me?”
Clarestes smiled and nodded his head. He thought, ‘I will play the fool for her amusement.’ He retrieved his mother’s lyre.
“Would you play that same song you played this day earlier?” she asked.
Clarestes nodded his head and began to play and sing. He expected Mera to break out in laughter again.
To his surprise she did not. She listened intently to his song and did not utter so much as a giggle. Her face looked serious and she sat very still on her log as she listened to his song.
When he was done and the last notes died away, there was nothing but silence for a time.
She murmured, “I did not notice earlier the words of that song were of heart’s loss. It is a beautiful song.” Clarestes nodded his head to her in welcome.
She arose, crossed the room and looked out the door. “The rain is ceasing,” she said.
Clarestes looked at her trying to determine her thoughts, but her back was to him and he could read nothing from its language. He asked, “You are thinking of departing?”
Mera said nothing for a time. She simply looked more at the last, intermittent rain drops that fell. Eventually she said, “Actually, now I am hoping to stay but one more night, if you would still permit me to.”
Clarestes smiled and he said, “You may stay as long as is your wish.” To this he saw Mera nod her head ever so slightly, and he thought he saw sadness in her nod.
He smiled mischievously and brought the lyre back up into playing position. He began to call forth his song again, but when it came time for his lyrics to be sung he stretched his voice up an octave, so that his voice warbled in a pitch that was absurdly high.
Mera froze as she listened. Then her shoulders began to shake and she laughed without control again.
Clarestes smiled and he continued to play and sing. As he did so he noted once again how lovely Mera’s laugh was...and he thought, ‘Of the two of us I am not the one who is making the most beautiful music now.’
NOTE TO ME - Mera originally was going to encounter Arestes. This is part of what I wrote for that, before I changed her to meeting Clarestes instead.
Again the woman laughed wildly. “Another lie!” she screamed. “Always lies from my brothers. Dishonestly is always at your very cores. You are an accursed bane to all and that is why I must hunt you down and slay you to the last.”
Arestes asked, “You believe you are my sister?”
The woman laughed maniacally. “Not very fast with the mind are you?” she said.
Arestes smiled and said, “Many, many times I’ve been accused of exactly that. That is what my woman is for as her mind is the finest I’ve ever known, or will ever know. If I really need to unravel something that clouds my mind I seek her wisdom.”
The woman’s eyes flickered for just a moment and she shifted ever so slightly as if this was something she didn’t expect. But she quickly reverted back to character and she said harshly, “Really? She is that wise? Perhaps after I kill you I will take the time to meet her.”
With these words the strange hold the woman’s presence that had been upon him was gone. He raised the hoe he had in his hand and growled, “No you won’t.”
The woman laughed, hoisted her spear and cried, “You think you can defeat me with that?”