Disclaimer: I do not own very much, certainly not any aspect of the Troy movie…
Eat, he says, and offers her pomegranate. Chance, fate, luck? She thinks not.
When she was younger, Briseis would picture the world of mortals as an endless labyrinth of catacombs. Her cousins, quietly thrilled with her enthrallment with tales, would tell stories of the catacombs in Greece, deep and dark places in the earth, where cowards would go to hide, to live, to die. She would think of the world as a series of intertwined catacombs, connected by fine threads of passages like a tapestry. Her homeland Troy was a haven, a dark and warm cave well protected by its structure, and all else outside was beyond the barriers of that haven – beyond.
The problem, she has come to realize, with catacombs is that there is never anything completely out of reach.
And so she is here, sheltered in a haven within a haven – the warrior Achilles' tent – and she is a stranger. In all other places in the Greek enemy camp she might believe herself to be still within the reaches of her haven of Troy, but under this wood she has been brought someplace else. She has never been a stranger in her own country; she has never so much as left her country, and in the refuge of her own mind, Briseis wonders if her vows to Apollo carry any weight at all: "I need know no home, for all I need is the love of the gods to guide me in my mortal path…"
Quietly, she likens herself to Persephone, stolen away and trapped in the underworld.
The queen of the underworld, she says silently to herself, was never one of her preferred goddesses, though they are all to be respected. She glances over at her companion to see if he has heard her, but he makes no gesture and has no response.
(On the plate near her feet is the food he has left her. Nestled surreptitiously amongst them is the pomegranate fruit. Within it is far more than three seeds.)
She stands shakily, and shifts her weight from one leg to the other. She can remember ever since she was small how she was instructed to stand straight and tall, her shoulders thrown back, because the weight of Troy's dignity rested upon the shoulders of the royalty. It was their vice to bear it. And bear it she has, but, Briseis reminds herself, she is not in Troy, she is in the realm of Achilles. And it is near to him that she walks, slowly, so that she can look on his face. How many men have looked upon this face as their last image of life? She decides not to consider it, for there are far too many implications, and her mind is cluttered enough.
It is then that she notices the blade within the folds of his discarded garments, glinting with dark promise. She tests its weight in her hands, grasps the handle, tries to find a hold on it that is familiar so that she may be comfortable using it.
Using it? She asks herself. On whom, Achilles? Briseis is deprecating: a priestess of Apollo, even if fallen and tempted from her purity with pomegranate seeds, is not the fated one to destroy this being.
He sleeps on.
She needs more courage. She has used it all up in the past two days, her stores ransacked and emptied by these invading Greeks, her walls left empty and naked for all to know "this was Briseis, priestess of Troy", and barely has words to match with her captor when he is awake and talking. "I thought you were a dumb brute."
As Briseis kneels by the plate at the opposite side of the tent again, she runs over the tale of Persephone and Hades again.
("Hades had abducted Persephone in hopes of making her his queen, but Zeus, king of all gods, demanded that the wishes of Hades –his brother- and Demeter –Persephone's mother- compromise, for Demeter was goddess of the cornfield and was causing drought for the mortals in her sadness." Priam looks at her with clear blue eyes. "Persephone was to return to her mother forever, but Hades proclaimed that she had eaten three seeds of a pomegranate from his orchard, and had therefore consumed the food of the dead, and could never truly return to the living".)
With care, she cuts the pomegranate into smaller pieces of succulent red fruit, their mere appearance suggestive. Briseis holds a slice in her fingers, slender, with a drop of juice slowly trickling, and contemplates. She stares at the seeds within the flesh.
She needs courage to do what she has to do. In a moment of odd, non-linear thinking, Briseis thinks she needs to first belong to this forbidden world of Achilles before she has the potential to escape it.
Cut his throat, is a whisper in her mind. Make your mark, your death will come anyway.
Briseis eats the seeds slowly, and then turns back to the pallet.
Do it, he says. She presses the blade against the skin of his throat.
"It's the simplest thing." A sliver of blue from beneath the shaded eyelids, and she knows that he's already awake, already calculating. She's made a gross miscalculation. "Do it."
Persephone lost, she thinks absently as he grasps her shoulders, you are Persephone lost. Her mind is curiously detached as she watches the sinews play like liquid iron under his skin, and she wonders idly, who is this man?
More importantly, she wonders, why did Persephone succumb to the underworld? Who did she come to accept it, to love it, to love Hades?
In one moment, Briseis is staring at the blade at this warrior's throat, and in another, in the moment when he retakes the control of this domain and pulls her under, she realizes that her blade against his throat is almost a farce. He is humouring her, is probably laughing at her in his mind's eye, because in his arms and in his grip, she knows the truth: he could break her into a thousand pieces with a thought, and toss them away into the sand. Briseis no more.
Damned pomegranate, she thinks, and then his lips are on hers.
He could break her – but instead he shifts closer to her, the hands that know more killing than touching pushing her further into the pallet, and she knows the mortal warmth of his skin. It is like the touch of the flat of a blade – full of foreboding promise for the future. He could break her – but instead he moves like water over her, a true Greek, and suddenly the cloth of her garments are lacking. And he knows, slowly drawing the hem up over her skin. He could break her – and he almost does, for in this unexpected and guile-induced mortal tenderness is wrapped a stone-strong desire that threatens to overpower them both, and because of it Achilles kisses her like an owner, then like a lover, and then like a broken man, and then all three together. She feels that it will wrench her apart before letting go
When he does lets her free for but a moment, she turn her head to the side. He takes her over like a wave, hands and lips and skin moving above her, on her neck and on her body. When she summons the strength within her, she wants to assert herself, refuses to be a Persephone and surrender to this ungodly pleasure, and states rather flatly, "You can't break me. You can't."
He does not stop: baring her skin, touching her skin, learning more about her than only her biting tongue (he has tasted that tongue) – nor does she stop him. He laughs, a bit smothered by her skin beneath his lips, and answers, "I can break you in a second."
There is a pain, sharp like a freshly forged knife, within her, and Briseis asks herself if Achilles is trying to prove his point, because if so, he can stop. But when he moves, this knife moves within her as well, and it spreads and fuses with the very core of her being and becomes a wordless pleasure. Lost in it, she hears nothing, not her own voice, not the outside, only his breath by her ear, and then, "I can break you, but I won't."
It goes on and on and on, and he holds her jaw from tossing from side to side. Briefly, Briseis thinks she might understand what Persephone may have been thinking in choosing Hades.
Achilles notices when she wakes – he notices even when she shifts in her sleep – and watches her as she tentatively shifts out from his loose grasp. He observes in mild curiosity as she shifts across the tent, her feet sinking slightly in the sand - priestess-no-more. With her back turned to him, she picks up a seed of red fruit off the plate, and takes a slow bite.