Historical Fiction Sad Funny

The streets are exploding with joy. The world’s most beautiful woman on the arm of their beautiful, if slightly disappointing, prince. Helen and Paris. They glide over Troy’s stone-hewn streets, effervescent like a picture drawn by the gods.

Even Hektor smiles. Hektor, who is usually far too serious to let himself be swayed by public spectacles. Hektor, who is commonly known as the less-disappointing prince.

“Look, I’m just saying –”, I start, fruitlessly. For the fifth time.

“I know what you’re saying, Kassandra”, Andromache admonishes me, “Threats of death, fire, and destruction. And, for some gods-forsaken reason, we should also be careful of horses. We’ve heard you loud and clear.”

“Not clear enough”, I mumble, “And it was a wooden horse.”

“Alright, Kassandra. I will make sure to remove all toys from your general vicinity”, Andromache jests mildly.

I drown my tongue in a large sip of wine. I like Andromache. She’s like the boring sister I never had. Usually, she is supportive and kind, which counts for a lot when in the vicinity of a walking disaster zone such as Paris.

But like my father Priam, mother Hekuba, and my ever-so-sensible brother Hektor, she doesn’t want to hear about my vision.

Paris wades amidst the adoring Trojans. All the while Helen is firmly clinging to his arm as if she is incapable of walking by herself.

“He’s such a fool”, I mutter.

Andromache tuts.

“He fell in love. It happens to the best of us.”

“Okay, listen”, I say, my voice growing sharp, “Has it not occurred to you, or anyone else for that matter, that seducing the wife of king Menelaos might be a bad idea?”


“Menelaos who, may I remind you, rules the kingdom of Sparta? Which is famous for its navy? Which sounds like a pretty convenient set-up for taking your wife back from Troy, the coastal town?”

“That’s –”

“And did you know that Menelaos’s brother Agamemnon rules Mycene? Between them, they have more troops and more alliances amongst the city-states than Paris, bless his heart, can count to?”

“That’s a bit harsh.”

“Back in the day, Menelaos made all other competitors for Helen’s hand swear an oath of loyalty to him. Even Odysseus, the guy who –”

“I’m sure that oath was more of a metaphorical sign of friendship…”



She sighs.

“I appreciate that you and Paris haven’t always gotten along.”

“That’s an understatement. At his marriage ceremony to that river nymph, he made me sit in the splash zone!”

Andromache continues without acknowledging my, admittedly childish, interruption.

“And he can be a bit of an airhead, I’ll give you that. But it does not behove us to gossip about our new sister-in-law’s affairs before we’ve even met her.”

“I would hardly call concerns of a military invasion gossip,” I protest. Andromache shrugs.

“You don’t like your brother’s new girlfriend, so you’re making up a big conspiracy theory about why we should send her back to Sparta.”

“I’m not making anything up, I –”

“Has it ever occurred to you that we should support Helen’s choice to leave a husband she doesn’t love? If she’s happy with Paris, we should be happy for her. Just like we were happy that Paris and this weird river person could go their separate ways after their relationship had run its course.”

I look at Helen, whose white arms gleam in Troy’s unrelenting sun. She seems tired and disoriented. Her fingers are still firmly locked around Paris, and I can see every bit of Aphrodite’s will wrapped around her body.

“Yeah. She seems really happy”, I say drily.

Andromache sighs.

“Not everyone is as emotionally repressed as you, Kassandra.”

“Excuse me?”, I protest.

My sister-in-law shrugs.

“Remember the man who came courting you a while ago? I personally still think that –”

“That was Apollo”, I interrupt her indignantly, “Who is, like, a trillion years old and is, by the way, very creepy for hitting on a teenage girl.”

The visions started just after I told him to shove his flattery where the sun doesn’t shine. Coincidence? I think not.

But unfortunately, the gods don’t accept returns on the powers of prophecy.

“And here you go with your wild stories again”, Andromache says quietly, “Handsome as he was, there is no way that man was Apollo.”

I can tell that I’m worrying her.

Andromache always grows quiet when she’s worried. She isn’t a screamer or a fighter. She accepts things. She just… stops speaking. And, over time, her thoughts become harder and harder to read until her eyes are as black as the night sea and you’ve lost your guide amidst the waves of her mind.

You lose people like that. If they think you’re crazy and that they can’t help you. So, you contort yourself into something they can more easily understand.

I move closer until we stand shoulder-to-shoulder, our soft gowns touching.

“I don’t want you to think that I’m making all of this up”, I whisper, “Imagine you were in my place. Imagine you’d seen your home in flames and thousands of Greeks storming the streets, massacring everyone you’ve ever loved. Wouldn’t you want to warn people?”

“Of course, I would”, Andromache says, “And you have warned us.”

“But you’re not listening! You think I’m some kind of gossip!”

“I don’t – I mean…”

She takes a deep breath.

“What you’re saying is just so unbelievable. A war like that would destroy the world. There would be nothing left except for death and fighting. The gods can’t want that.”

“The gods…”

The words rest on my tongue, and I don’t know what to do with them.

“Kassandra, I grant you that you’ve been right about little things before”, Andromache says in that soothing tone Hektor likes so much, “But those predictions were the product of you being an observant, smart woman. They have nothing to do with fate.”

“Do you not believe in fate?”, I bait her.

“Of course I do. But fate is the remit of Zeus. Us mortals have no say over it. We cannot know it and cannot change it.”

“Can’t we? What if we send Helen back to Menelaos?", I suggest, "And we could write a letter saying that Paris is a selfish idiot and not very capable of assessing risks and that Helen was probably being controlled by the goddess of love, who really needs to find occupations other than causing havoc amidst the mortals –”

“Even if I believe you”, Andromache interrupts me, “You wouldn’t avert the fate you saw.”

“And why not?”

I sound more desperate than I want to. Like a child screaming into a sky full of gods.

“Because Paris won’t send Helen back. And Helen, from the way she looks to me, won’t return to her husband. And Priam, old and kind as he is, won’t force anyone to do anything.”

Andromache smiles.

“And don’t act like you don’t love that about your father. He never forced any of you children to become anything other than what you are. But kindness can only save as much as it destroys. And perhaps here, your father’s kindness will let Paris and Helen destroy their happiness rather than save it. But it is their decision.”

“It’s a stupid decision”, I mutter.

Andromache laughs. Then she taps her hand on the stone bannister.

“I have heard tales of Helen’s husband. This king Menelaos. He does not sound like a man who easily relents”, she finally says.

“So, Menelaos won’t be swayed by a mere letter if he’s looking for an excuse to start a war”, I finish her thought. Andromache shrugs.

“Nobody goes to war over love. They are ruled by contradictory emotions. Men go to war over hatred, greed, anger, or loss. And there are plenty of reasons to feel those.”

“Then what can we do?”, I ask, and I mean it.

I saw a thousand ships break the waves at the shores of Ilium. I saw walls of corpses piled outside the tents of the invaders, a labyrinth of flesh rotting in the sun. I saw our streets running with blood, white gowns drenched with it. I saw Hektor’s broken body dragged behind the chariot of a man as tall as a mountain, whose face was full of fury and tears.

My beloved brother. Who made me dolls when I was a girl and showed me how to fix them when they broke. Who still listens to every fear I have even if he doesn’t have anything to say that could help me.

Who married the best woman I know.

The images lie heavy on my stomach, like a child I am trying to withhold from the world. They lie behind my eyes and sometimes I want to scream until I can find a moment’s reprieve in madness.

Sometimes I look at Hektor and think he’s already dead.

Andromache lays a hand on her stomach. She and Hektor have been trying to conceive for a few moons now. I try to look away when the visions turn to her and her child.

“We can be happy with what we have, sister”, she says and takes my hand. Such simple words.

The notes of flutes, lyres, and kitharas weave around the stone towers of our city. The sun god has decided to bless us on this day and as much as I want to call it a cruel joke, I also cannot ignore the gentle way in which the warm joy of his rays caresses my dark skin.

I close my eyes and raise my head into the sun. All I hear is music, tempting my soul to leave its shell and float and dance across the dusty planes that stretch all the way to the sea.

Life feels eternal and all-encompassing.

But then I open my eyes and I see the yellow flowers spread across Paris and Helen’s parade, as bright as a carpet of fallen stars. Elecampane, the flower that will become the symbol of Helen’s beauty. So like in colour to the yarrow the soldiers will rub into their seeping wounds as they bleed and die on either side of Troy’s walls.

When I was a girl, growing up in the palace, I thought that there was nothing outside these gigantic walls. That the whole world was encased inside our city, and that we were floating through the heavens on our eternal search for Mount Olympus, where we would be welcomed into the gods’ realm of milk and honey.

Hekuba likes to tell stories. When I was a child, they always made me feel better.

Now, I know that no walls are impenetrable. And I don’t know whether I pity or envy those around me that don’t.

I turn Andromache’s warm fingers within my palm and the thought tastes like ashes in my mouth. 

May 30, 2023 10:13

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08:10 Jun 04, 2023

This is brilliant Adrienne. I do have a soft spot for Greek mythology but even without that , this really sucked me in. Perfect to leave it where you did as well, as we know what is to come.... Devastating. Love the line "Her fingers are still firmly locked around Paris, and I can see every bit of Aphrodite’s will wrapped around her body." Most engaging story I've read here in a while.


J. D. Lair
16:54 Jun 05, 2023

Could not have said it better myself Derrick! You are an awesome writer Adrienne. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!


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Kathryn Menefee
00:36 Jun 26, 2023

Really enjoyed this--the dread was palpable and the descriptions were great. Loved this line especially: "The images lie heavy on my stomach, like a child I am trying to withhold from the world."


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Peter Wyatt
14:05 Jun 08, 2023

I am only vaguely familiar with Greek mythology, but I got the gist enough to get the premise. The clear fluid writing kept me interested to the end. I also appreciated the sprinkled humor. Particularly liked the line about being in the splash zone at Helen and Paris's wedding. My one criticism is that the story might be a little heavy in dialogue. I say that, because the parts of the story I enjoyed most were Kassandra's narration which included some really great descriptions. The section where she describes the looming disaster come to min...


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Shannon C.
22:52 Jun 07, 2023

Beautifully written story! You really sucked me in, as well. Love your descriptions and your flow with their conversation was amazing!


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