The sun sat high in the cloudless spring sky, rays illuminating the green leaves above, hanging low across the track, branches drooping. Kastor reached up from the back of the cart to grab one, his mother, Melina pulled him back down, holding her hands firmly around his waist.
‘You’ll fall, be careful,’ said Melina, wondering how on earth he had survived these past eight years.
Deimos, sat at the cart's front turned and smiled,
‘What’s the boy doing now?’ he called.
‘You keep those eyes on the road! Like father, like son,’ said Melina. She rested her hand upon Kastor's head and ran her fingers through his golden locks of hair, pulling them gently through his many curls. He looked up at her with wide blue eyes, and then across at his father.
Deimos turned back around and pulled on the leather reins, the horse pulling the cart snorted in response as flies buzzed around its face. Its hooves clopped dully against the stones that lay scattered across the road.
Deimos was a short, round man, his face filled out, some might even regard him as fat, but he had always argued that he was well built. Melina, his wife and the mother of his son was all skin and bone as her father had liked to say, her narrow face framed by long black hair that flowed down over her shoulders to stop above her breasts.
‘Do you think there'll be much business in Delphi for wine?’ called Melina. Deimos glanced around for a moment, his eyes going from those of his wives and down to the many clay jars, crafted in Corinth and filled with some of the finest wines that could be found across the Greek world. They lay neatly stacked and balanced around her.
Deimos had wines from the island of Kos, to the grand city-state of Mende and most importantly of all, his prized wine, the wine from the island of Chios. Rich and zesty, in all its perfection.
‘I think we shall do splendidly my dear,’ said Deimos.
‘Isn’t it a temple?’ asked Melina. ‘Can the Oracle drink wine?’
‘Everyone needs wine! Even Oracles,’ replied Deimos, laughing to himself. ‘How else do you think she sees such crazy things?’
‘The gods?’ asked Kastor, who had been listening intently.
‘Well I guess you shall have to see for yourself,’ replied Deimos, as he looked back around and winked.
‘Will we really get to see the Oracle?’ asked Kastor as he looked up at his mother.
‘If we have any spare drachma, but I don’t think she’ll be what you expect,’ she replied.
The cart rumbled down the road. Deimos, looked up to the right at the forest-covered hillside, at all the many different shades of green and yellow.
As a bird tweeted above, he looked now to the right and looked down through the trees, to where at the bottom of the mountain slope lay the sea.
He marveled at its color, how blue it looked, and the way it seemed to shimmer as the sun fell upon its surface.
‘Look Kastor, the sea!’ called Deimos.
Kastor pulled away from his mother's grip and stood, he peered out and caught a glimpse.
‘I see it!’ he shouted. ‘Look mother, look.’
Melina put her hands up around his waist to steady him. ‘I wish you would be careful, Kastor.’
Kastor sat back down between her legs and looked up towards the forest.
Melina leaned back and began to fan herself with her hand.
‘I thought it would be cooler in the mountains,’ she muttered.
‘There, look- what's that?’ asked Kastor.
Melina covered her eyes from the sun and followed his gaze into the shade of the trees, ‘There’s nothing- wait, the shimmering?’
‘Ye-’ began Kastor as an arrow buried itself in his chest, he fell back into his mother's bosom, his hands clutching at the fabric of her tunic.
Melina held her breath as her eyes looked down pleadingly. 'Kastor?'
Deimos turned to see the arrow that protruded from his son and his wife sobbing hysterically as she held her arms tightly around him. Kastor coughed, blood and spittle fell from his mouth and down over his chin to soak into his white chiton.
‘Mother,’ he whispered, his hands stretching back and up over his head to try and grab hold of her, as his eyes stared ahead, the life leaving him.
Deimos leaped down from the cart and ran down its side until he drew level with his wife and son, he reached and began to lift himself up.
‘It’s alright, my love, mothers here,’ said Melina, ‘Kastor?’
Tears rolled down her cheeks, as she held to her tightly, the body of her son.
‘H-he’s dead.’ Melina let out a harrowing wail.
Deimos went to pull himself up, but a hand grabbed the back of his tunic, unrevealing it to expose his naked body, another hand grabbed him and pulled him down into the dirt. A swift kick in his stomach sent him sprawling, he attempted to stand but another kick bent him double and he fell to his knees.
‘Stay down fatty,’ said a gruff voice.
Deimos could hear the wails and screams from Melina.
Deimos went to stand again, a fist buried itself in his bare groin, and then another met his face. He fell again to his knees.
He could feel the warm ooze of blood as it dribbled down from his nose, and fell imprinted on the earth. His vision began to blur. Melina screamed as a jar smashed. 'Get off me,’ she shouted.
Deimos looked from where he knelt under the cart, he could see Melina being dragged from its top and thrown down hard onto the shards of broken pot.
She landed with a whimper. Their eyes met.
‘Deimos?’ she whispered.
Deimos gritted his teeth and went to stand once more. As he stood, he looked up to see his attacker, his face was bound in cloth, but for a pair of dark green eyes that stared back at him. He held a knife at his side. Deimos looked at its blade, then down at its handle, which was plated with enamel.
‘Please,’ mumbled Deimos.
The man took him by the throat in both hands, then leaned his head back and then shot it forward, their heads cracked together.
Deimos opened his eyes. The sky above was grey, rain was falling down around him, forming into puddles.
With a groan, he managed to sit himself up and look down at his naked form.
The cart had gone.
Then on the other side of the road, he saw Melina, she lay on her back, cuts across her naked body.
‘Melina!’ shouted Deimos. She didn’t move.
He managed to slowly stand and edge his way across to her until he collapsed by her side. She was dead.
Deimos lay a heavy hand upon her shoulder and shook.
‘Melina?’ he whispered. ‘Don’t leave me.’
She looked up at the overhanging tree branches.
A spot of water fell onto her forehead.
Deimos leaned across and looked into her eyes. They now looked up at him, explosions of hazel and orange. He thought they were as beautiful as the day he had met her, all those years ago in Thebes in the gardens.
He leaned down and kissed her lips, they were cold. ‘Melina.’
As the rain fell down to earth from the kingdom of the gods, Deimos took his beloved in his arms and stood.
Melina’s head fell against his shoulder, as he huffed and puffed along, bearing her weight.
Deimos didn’t know how long he had walked until he saw the house. A single beam of light, shining from around the outlines of a shutter. It was dark now. Gone was the sun and the skies of blue. The ball of fire had faded across the western hills long ago, and now darkness had descended as did the rains with it.
Deimos staggered into the small yard, dogs began to bark and snarl at him from within a small wooden shack, accompanied by the grunts of pigs. Deimos’s tears were lost in the rain as he laid his wife, his love, and the mother of his son down onto the wet and slippery earth. He steadily knelt beside her.
The rain was heavier now.
Light flooded out into the night as the door to the house opened. Partially blinded, Deimos looked up to see the outline of a tall man, a sword held in his hand.
‘Hello?’ came a deep voice.
‘Who is it pater?’ said the voice of what Deimos presumed to be a small child.
The man stepped out into the rain, a cloak hung over his shoulders, that drooped against the wet steps of his home.
‘Rhea, go to your mother, you don’t want to see this,’ he said as he towered over Deimos. He pulled the door closed behind him, plunging the yard into darkness.
‘Help me- please,’ whispered Deimos, through short and aggravated breaths as the man stooped down to look at Melina.
‘Call me Orion.’
Deimos could just about make out Orion's face through the gloom, he had a defined jaw, lined with the wisps of a beard. His eyes were dark, as was his hair, that fell in curls down to his shoulders.
‘There’s a room at the back of the house that we can put her in,’ said Orion. ‘She was your wife?’
Deimos looked down at the faint outline of Melina's face.
‘Yes,’ replied Deimos as he suppressed a sob. ‘They killed my son too, -he was only eight.’
Deimos began to cry.
Orion leaned over and rested a hand on his shoulder.
There were no words that could be said.
The door to the house opened, once again flooding the yard in light. Deimos could just make out a young woman. She stood tall, her hand resting against the wooden door, holding it open.
‘Who are you talking to Orion?’ she called out, her voice almost lost to the sound of rain.
‘A man, he’s lost his wife and son,’ replied Orion. ‘Help me, Anastasia. Tell the children to go to their rooms.’
‘Rhea, take your brother and play in your room,’ said Anastasia into the house.
‘But mother, what of the food?’ came the tiny voice of Rhea.
‘We can eat later, now be good for me and your father,’ replied Anastasia, as she stepped down from the doorway, closing it behind her with a rattle. She wrapped a shawl around her body and held it tightly to her skin.
‘I’m Deimos, fro-from Thebes,’ said Deimos, he held out a bloody hand. Orion shook it.
‘We had best get you inside, or else you’ll catch your death,’ said Orion, he swung his cloak around from his back and handed it across to Deimos. He took it, hesitantly at first, but then as a shiver consumed him he wrapped it across his shoulders, trying with care for it not to fall against Melina. He suppressed another whimper.
‘Orion, the children!’ whispered Anastasia.
‘It’s our duty, Ana,’ replied Orion. ‘We’ll put her in the back room.’
Deimos bent down and lifted Melina up, cradling her in his arms. Her hair fell across her face, covering her eyes.
‘Need me to help?’ asked Orion.
‘I’ve got her,’ replied Deimos. As he began to walk.
‘Follow me,’ said Orion. ‘Ana, throw some more wood on the fire.’
Anastasia with a sigh went back inside the house. Orion beckoned for Deimos to follow him, he led him around the side of the house, he had to hop across a wide puddle that had begun to form across the narrow path, that was blocked on one side by a small stone wall.
Deimos stepped across the puddle, his back foot landing awkwardly in it, but he did not care. His feet were already covered in cuts and bruises, the gods could cause him no more damage this day, he thought. Night had fallen, the only way of seeing was thanks to the dull glow of light that came from the house.
Orion now stood beside a small outbuilding, he creaked open the door and peered in. Deimos crossed to him, noticing the orchard that stretched up the length uof their garden. Big apples, hanging from the many branches.
‘I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do for her,’ said Orion. ‘In the morning we can go to the hill and bury her.’ He pointed up vaguely to where the apple trees disappeared up the slope.
‘I have no coin for the ferryman,’ replied Deimos.
‘I can lend you some Drachma, don’t worry,’ said Orion.
Deimos awkwardly carried her into the room and laid her down, on the flat of her back. The room was dusty, a broken scythe rested in the corner, as well as a scattering of old and broken crates.
Deimos looked up and down at her body and felt a pang of hatred for the men that had violated her.
‘I want to punish the men that did this,’ said Deimos as his hands clenched into fists, he could feel his body begin to shake.
‘In the morning we can look for them,’ said Orion calmly.
Deimos stood, he did not feel good about leaving his beloved in this spider-infested sty, but he knew he had no choice.
He followed Orion back out into the rain-filled night. Orion walked behind him and pulled the door too, he stooped and picked up a wooden bar and slid it across to lock it shut.
‘Wolves,’ said Orion, as he nodded and checked that it was firmly in place. They walked back around to the front of the house.
‘I need to find my son,’ said Deimos.
‘You will,’ replied Orion, as he stepped up to the door of the house and opened it. Deimos could feel the wall of heat as he crossed over the threshold. A fire danced, separated off from the room by a stone hearth at the room's center, its smoke billowing up through a hole in the roof. The room was cosy, the floor was covered in many overlapping fabrics and hay had been strewn across the stone floor. Anastasia sat at a table to the room's side, three empty cups placed across it.
‘Come and drink,’ she said.
Orion sat beside her, he picked up a jug from the side and poured it into the cups. Deimos could smell the familiar aroma of wine.
‘Are the kids not hungry?’ asked Deimos, as he sat across from Orion and Anastasia.
‘I gave them their supper and put them to bed,’ replied Anastasia.
A laugh came from behind a curtain at the room's far side.
‘Go to sleep you two,’ shouted Orion.
The room fell quiet.
Deimos pulled the cloak around him tighter, he had suddenly felt ashamed of his nakedness. How everyone had seen what only Melina had seen before. A wave of grief hit him. He felt embarrassed. He covered his face with his hands and wept.
Orion sipped at the wine.
‘Drink, it’s good stuff,’ said Anastasia as she drank from her cup.
Deimos looked down at the wine. It was dark in color. He picked up the cup and sniffed, it had a strong odor and one that he recognised. He took a sip. It was rich.
‘Do you like it?’ asked Orion, the edges of his mouth creasing into a smile. ‘Zesty don’t you think?’
Deimos swallowed, he placed the cup down and stared across the table at Orion and then at Anastasia.
‘It’s nice,’ replied Deimos. He wiped at the tears in his eyes and looked at Orion. He could get a better look of him now, his greasy long black hair that ran in curls from his head.
His green piercing eyes.
Deimos stood and flipped the table, sending the cups to smash to the floor. He darted for the door and kicked it wide.
Rain smashed against his face as he stepped out into the yard, greeted by the barking dogs and the grunting of pigs. He slipped and fell onto his face, he felt the prickle of stones and grit against his bare flesh. He attempted to stand but he was struck down from behind, and then again until the air left his lungs. He gasped and looked up at Orion, standing over him. A knife in his hand.
Orion gently caressed the knife along the skin of Deimos throat, its point nicking his skin until a bead of blood ran down his chest to be washed away by the rain. Deimos lay still. He looked at the knife and its enamel-plated handle.
‘You?’ said Deimos.
Orion smiled, stretched down, and slowly slid the blade into Deimo's stomach. Deimos gasped, as the bronze pierced his insides and slowly slipped out again. He exhaled.
‘A stomach wound is a slow death, it can take hours. Maybe even days, -I wouldn’t want you to be alone,’ said Orion.
Deimos groaned at the pain. Orion rolled him onto his front and tied his hands behind his back.
‘Where is my son?’ asked Deimos.
‘Trying to find a coin for the ferryman,’ replied Orion. He raised up the edge of the knife's handle and brought it down upon Deimos skull.
Deimo's head throbbed, he could hear rain, pattering against the roof.
He felt overwhelmed by the sensation of the hole in his stomach, with every movement, blood spilled out onto the floor around him. He could feel it matted and warm in the hair of his chest.
He knew he had to get off his front. He strained, with muffled groans until he lay on his side. He looked up to see a crack of light coming through the door, it must be morning he thought. Deimos managed to roll onto his back.
His throat tightened as his eyes met those of his sons.
Slumped beside him sat Melina, or what was left of her.
They had both spent a night with the pigs and dogs.