"What is your name?" He stated calmly as he carelessly disrobed. I watched him through the small tear in the leather. Breathless. His sword hit the furs with a soft thud and I felt the priestess catch her breath.
I, of no Blood
I'd lain in the yellow grasses as the Greeks claimed the beach. We received no warning about the incoming storm, and by the time that we heard the earthy clangs of the bells, it was too late to run and there was no one to save us. The dry, narrow strip of field was my only calling refuge. Some in the group chose to run – the trails of blood sliding down the sandy slope were the fruits of their labor. My heart burned from the ache and from the sun as I lay in that grass. Thick dust forced its way down my throat, yet I could not cough for fear of discovery – they were mere spans away from my refuge. I repressed my coughs and my breaths as thick tears traced their way down my cheeks due to the effort. I could not breathe. I dare not breathe. I watched Helios mercilessly drag his light to the west as I lay there in that grass. The monsters were putrid. The haze of dirt and heat clouded my vision, but I could hear their brute tongue as they erected leather domes and makeshift dwellings. They laughed and praised one another, grease and sweat glistening on their bodies. I faintly saw the etching of a horse on their tarps and cloths. Before the heat claimed me, I saw the royal priestess, Briseis, being carried towards a nearby tent, the largest in the local encampment. She looked to be breathing, but I could not trust my eyes. I turned fully from my belly to my side, remaining as low as I possibly could. I shut out the sound of the world around me with my head sandwiched between the ground and my hand. And I prayed.
The sun, ever so present, remained to greet me. I had fainted for only a few moments. The dry earth scorched my feet as I shifted slightly, aiming to alleviate the weight across my back. The majority of the men had moved to erect the opposite part of the camp, and I could see that the tent harboring the priestess was largely free of outside loiterers. The back of the tent faced the rocky hills to the east, yet I could not make the journey to the hills – it was still too light and I would be spotted without hesitation. The large tent did provide the only thing I needed, wanted, and longed for – shade, from the sun and the Greeks. I shifted my head to see the men retreating to their ships for provisions and decided to take the chance. I slowly rose from the grass, taking care to remain as low as I could. The brown of my dress blended easily with the sand as I paced the few meters to the back of the tent.
Faintly, I heard the returning voices of the Greeks. I was only halfway to the tent when I heard the voices. Without hesitation, I ran, wildly. I couldn't be taken captive. I ran and ran and, finally, reached the tent. Immediately, I dropped to the ground as thick dust and sand swirled around me. My breathing was not my own as I felt the nonhuman beating of my heart. I clapped a hand over my mouth to lessen the noise of my breathing, and I listened. I listened for any sign of alarm at my sighting. I was paralyzed with fear, with terror. I listened for over an hour.
I heard no rise in volume, nothing. My heartbeat subsided and my breath was again my own. I untangled my legs from under me and stretched them towards the rocky hills of the seaside. Oh, never was there a greater feeling than safety, even this modicum amount that I had achieved. I drew closer to the leather of the tent and wrapped my arms around my legs. My faint happiness was suddenly brushed away as I contemplated my next journey. I had nowhere to go. The gates of Wilusa – Troy, in my tongue – would have been sealed by now, and any neighboring village would attack at the sight of me. Even if I were to escape the camp unseen, I knew that guards and scouts lay in wait for any lone wanderer. As well, the Trojans would kill any dark figure emerging from the Greek camps. I had no place to go. I was not sure if the Trojans would send a messenger to somehow rescue captive, Trojan citizens, but I knew that I would not benefit. I was not a Trojan. I was nothing to both sides, neither a Trojan nor a Greek. But, Troy was my home and, as my vision clouded, I knew that I had no hope of returning.
I heard a whimper from inside the tent, and I realized that I had forgotten completely about the priestess Briseis. She, of royal blood, trapped in that leather dome of suppression, and I, of no blood, free within a scope of dark terror. I did not hear any other sounds from the tent, and I knew that her captors had left.
I had to try.
"Mistress Briseis…" I whispered with a voice choked and sore from dust, my cheek flattened upon the leather. She did not reply. Again, I attempted. Again, no reply. I reached up to my hair and pulled out the blunt, metal pin that secured my hair to the top of my head. My hair, ungraciously, fell over my eyes as I turned to face the leather to my back. I lightly felt the tent for a wooden, support beam and smiled slightly when I felt a beam a hand-span away. After a quick prayer to no god in particular, I pierced the leather near the beam until I had a tear that equaled the length of my tiniest finger. I froze for a few moments and fastened the pin and my hair back onto the top of my head. My finger traced the tear, I exhaled, and moved to look into the tent.
My eyes met the bruised hands of the priestess where it was fastened to an inner beam. I was directly behind her. Apart from a wound on her lower cheek, she did not seem to be greatly injured and her breathing was constant. Her knees swung nonchalantly as she looked about the tent. I followed her line of vision to explore the tent, myself. Dark baskets chocked full of gold, bronze greaves to my left, a polished breastplate to my right, spears upon spears upon spears across the dark tent, dark furs on the sand, white furs on the bedding, fragrant smoke, and all things warrior. I called to the priestess once more.
"Mistress Briseis…" Her head snapped to recognition as she seemed to hear my voice. I smiled and called once more, "Mistress Bri-…" My tongue was stilled as the leather flaps of the tent were pulled aside. Briseis looked immediately to the entrance as I quickly retreated from the hole in the tent.
Thank you for reading! I'd love for comments about possible directions that the story could travel.