The hour was late when Paris felt himself woken again, though this time he required no cloth to shield his eyes, for the sky already darkened. He tested his vision slowly, even so, pleased to see that opening both eyes and glancing about the room did not pain him. He tested his shoulder again, and was relieved to feel that still no pain came from it. His head felt clearer at the moment, so he did not think that any sort of tonic addled his brain. Perhaps his body was truly on the mend.
There was no one in the room with him, no sign of the doctor or the slave girl. He was hit then with a sudden compulsion to run, to get up from the bed and steal away out the door, into the potential safety of the city streets. He'd managed to sit up before talking himself down into caution – obviously Menelaus was not going to leave him unguarded. There were probably guards stationed outside the door, and it would be foolish to attempt to get past them.
Not to mention that sitting up made him feel slightly woozy. He doubted he'd get far even if he did attempt to flee. No, for the time being it would be smarter for him to remain here and rest, though he did think it would be wise to test his limits while he was here alone. He swung both legs off the side of the bed, his feet dangling towards the floor. Taking a deep breath, he slowly slid himself to the ground, his toes touching the cold granite of the floor.
He stood for a moment, assessing how he felt. He gave his head a moment to clear, for he felt light headed for a few seconds. That feeling began to pass, but was soon overshadowed by an intense tingling sensation in his legs, and he leaned forward over the bed, cursing his limbs. Of all the time for numbness to occur! He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, given that he had not been up on his feet in days, but still. Leaning on his arms only made the pain from his side flare up, and he quickly shifted his weight to the non-injured side, intent on waiting for his legs to regain feeling before attempting to take a step. Just then he heard the quick steps of booted feet coming down the hall, and he felt his heart speed up, fear stealing through his body. Hadn't the healer said he'd be expecting a visitor tonight? Of all the times for Menelaus to come, now was the absolute worst! His arms felt weak and his body felt like it was cast of stone, for try as he might, he could not manage to swing himself back up into the bed. The footsteps stopped then, and Paris was certain that his visitor was standing in the doorway.
"Well, I must admit that I did not expect such a warm welcome," came the snarling voice of Menelaus from behind him, and Paris could not believe his ill luck. He remained silent, refusing to give in to the king's taunts despite his shameful display. "Here I heard you were still unwell, and now when I come to look for myself, I see you upright, offering me a view I simply cannot resist," Menelaus stated, moving quickly behind the prince.
Paris steeled himself for what he was sure was to come. He had vague memories of Menelaus taking him once before, though luckily at that time he'd been so injured that he did not remember much of the encounter. He doubted Menelaus would be foolish enough to allow the same twice.
The Spartan king reached out, one hand sliding smoothly down the back of the young Trojan. Oh, but the boy's skin was flawless! A little too flawless, he thought, and decided he would have to rectify that at some other time. For now, though, he would enjoy it. "How many days has it been now, young Paris, and no sign of Trojan retaliation? As I thought, your father sacrifices you for the safety of your people. How noble of the king."
Paris hated the way his throat constricted at Menelaus' words, not wanting to believe them. His father had not abandoned him, had he? Despite feeling as though he were something of a disappointment to Priam, he knew his father loved him dearly, and Priam was not the sort who would sacrifice someone he loved.
"Even without Priam's leave, I had expected to hear word of your brother coming for you by now." Menelaus continued his verbal taunts as his hands slid over Paris' back, up across his shoulders, back down, creeping lower but not yet crossing the line. It was almost as though he was waiting for a reaction from Paris before moving on. "Come now, little prince, I'm sure you thought similar? Your brother has always fought your battles, has he not? It is not Paris of Troy whose name strikes fear into men of distant shores, is it? Unless they be merchants with beautiful wives, of course," Menelaus snarled, one hand clutching Paris at the back of his neck.
Paris couldn't stop the groan before it came out, the pained response to the king's digging fingers in his neck.
"No, you are nothing more than your brother's whore, always moving in his shadow, always finding a way into his bed," Menelaus ventured, not entirely certain of the truth of his statement, but he remembered the way Paris had bristled at the mention days earlier. "Not that I blame Hector, of course, for who in their right mind would object to such a willing and beautiful partner?"
Paris did not want to give Menelaus the satisfaction of a response, but he couldn't stop his head from shaking despite the fingers buried in his neck. He would not stand to hear Menelaus speak of Hector in disrespectful tones.
"Ah, there's no sense in hiding the truth from me, little prince. I know exactly what you are," Menelaus ground out, his free hand snaking around to Paris' front, roughly grabbing the young man's cock. "See how already you grow hard from the mere mention of your brother's name. How shameful," Menelaus jerked the appendage roughly, causing Paris to issue a pained cry. Yes, he was enjoying this desecration of the Trojan much more already than he had the other night.
Paris wished he had the strength to pull himself out of Menelaus' grasp, but his body was weak still from recovery, and he was indeed shamed to do nothing but stand there and allow the Spartan's abuse to go on unchecked.
"Does your brother's wife know, little prince? Your father? Is it common among you Trojans to bed your siblings? Perhaps you even learned it from your father himself?" Menelaus laughed, amused at how Paris' body stiffened in anger. Apparently the boy still had some fight in him.
"Don't speak of my family," Paris said in barely more than a loud whisper. He knew he ought to ignore the Spartan, that he was playing directly into Menelaus' hands. But the king went too far.
"I will speak of them as I see fit. Tell me then, is it just your brother who sinks himself into you, or does your father follow suit? Perhaps that is why the gods cursed your family and took your mother early, to save her from the depravity of the men in her life," Menelaus spoke with a nearly giddy glee, overjoyed at the exchange.
Paris burned with anger and humiliation at the Spartan's words! How dare he cast such accusations upon his father! And to speak ill of his mother – it was more than he was willing to endure. "Do not speak of my mother," he ground out through clenched teeth, his limbs burning with a rage-induced fire.
"The more you protest, little prince, the more it appears true! Nonetheless, it matters not whether your father seeks pleasure from you, for I know your brother does. And you are all too willing to give him what he desires, aren't you? Tell me, did you swallow Hector's seed before we fought, little prince? Did that give you the strength to face me in battle?" Menelaus leaned heavily upon the Trojan boy, the fingers on Paris' neck now moving to curl in his hair, pulling his head back. The Spartan laughed when he saw the look of hatred that burned in the Trojan's eyes – that look spurring his own cock to full erection.
"Well then, Paris of Troy, let me show you how we Spartans fuck our whores, and rest assured there will be no sweet words or tender caresses like you are used to from your brother," Menelaus stated as he released Paris' head, pulling the fabric of his tunic aside as he positioned himself against the Trojan prince. With a well guided thrust, Menelaus' cock roughly penetrated the younger man, causing Paris to cry out in pain. The sound was sweet to the Spartan's ear, who placed both hands about the prince's hips, fingers crushing the skin, pushing and pulling Paris' body as he saw fit, no regard for the prince's cracked rib as he slammed the boy hard into the bed. Every cry from the Trojan brought him closer to ecstasy, until finally with a loud cry of his own he emptied himself into the prince, his fingers clutching Paris' skin so tightly they were bound to leave claw shaped bruises.
Fully sated, Menelaus shoved the boy away, arranging his tunic back over his front. Yes, this time, looking down at the crumpled form of the body he'd just violated, the combination of blood and cum trailing down Paris' leg left him feeling victorious and well spent. Satisfied with his actions, the king turned and left the room, leaving the prince slumped helplessly over the bed. He swept past the guards, heading for his own chambers.
One guard bristled as the king walked past, though luckily for him none caught his actions. It took all of Anton's control not to jump from his place against the wall, drawing his sword against the monster who stalked the hall. Menelaus was not exactly a quiet man, and Anton had heard every word spoken against his countrymen. He knew it would be suicide were he to leave his post and fight his way to Paris. There were seven other guards lining the halls – he could not hope to fight them all. His heart sang with sorrow and grief for the youngest of Troy's princes, and just as much for the elder, for what could possibly be done to repair such damage?
While it was not explicitly stated knowledge, it was not exactly a well kept secret either, that Paris sometimes shared his brother's bed. Anton did not judge the brothers, for what others did in private never concerned him. But to hear the relationship used so cruelly against Paris now was a blow even he felt, and to hear such blatant disrespect spoken of the king and his late wife burned a fire anew in Anton's blood. Menelaus would pay for his words, Anton would make certain of that himself.
Luck would have it though that not long after the king stole away down the hall, Anton saw another figure coming from the same direction. Some slave girl, by the look of her, and he could not help but turn his head to watch her as she entered the room Menelaus had just exited. He strained to listen, and was rewarded by her softly spoken words. "Shh, I should not be here." Why then was she there? Anton would have to pay attention to this particular slave. She may possibly be the key they required to unlocking this puzzle of a rescue mission.
"But when are we getting paid, captain? Already we've waited a month, we have families to feed, sir!"
"Where is our money? Was it all spent on Troy?"
"I'm not working another day until I see some coin!"
Numerous voices rose in anger and frustration, and the army captain was clearly irritated to hear of it all. "Enough! I have already given you my answer, which is to say that I have no more knowledge than you of why our pay has been delayed. Rest assured, men, all of us are feeling the sting at the moment." Captain Antonius crossed his arms and glared out at the men before him. There had always been a large population of helots in the city who trained in arms, but more existed now from the expectation of war with the Trojans. He understood that payment for these men was at the bottom of the list in terms of importance, but they still deserved something for their work.
"I bet the money's all gone to pay for the coming feast, hasn't it? Have you seen some of them merchants, the wares they peddle? Every day I see more of it go into the palace!"
"I can't even feed my family, and the palace is being stocked daily! This is unfair!"
"Unacceptable and unfair! Something must be done!"
Christos looked calmly at the other side of the room, his eyes meeting those of his twin. He hoped Theoderi was paying as rapt attention as he was, for this news of non-payment to helot soldiers was perhaps the single most important thing they'd heard since coming to Greece. He was rewarded by the sight of his younger twin raising his eyebrows, acknowledgement of the pivotal information they were acquiring.
The captain sighed and shrugged, and Christos wondered if non-payment was something that occurred often. "I will speak with the treasury again, but in the mean time please keep your tempers in check."
"I'd keep my anger in check if I could keep my hunger in check! Hard to do that without food."
Theoderi looked around him at some of his fellow new recruits, seeing the worried looks on their faces. Nothing like starting a new job only to hear that no one has been paid in a month. While his heart went out to the men attempting to make a living for their families, his mind rejoiced at the news. The men were already well on their way to a riot – they would only have to provide but the smallest of sparks to set off the explosion.
Not much else was spoken of at the assembly, and once they were dismissed Theoderi made his way to his brother, who was deep in conversation with an older soldier. Theoderi got close enough to listen, but did not wish to intrude. He heard Christos ask if these monetary issues were common, and the answer was that while they didn't always occur, if happened often enough to be concerning. Usually the lateness of payment never lasted this long.
Christos thanked the man before coming to meet with his brother, and together they left the assemblage area. They both had the night off, and were planning on joining some of their fellow soldiers at the tavern. Anything to continue stoking the fires of frustration and rage. But first they would walk through the market, stopping to exchange information if it was clear enough to do so.
They did not speak on the way to see the citron sellers, words unnecessary at the moment. They knew exactly what each other happened to be thinking. Theoderi saw the stall ahead, and briefly touched his brother's arm. "Why don't you go inquire about some citron, brother. I have seen something else of interest," he inclined his head towards the stall that housed the oil sellers. Christos nodded his approval. "Interesting indeed. I will be ahead if you finish before I." With that said Christos resumed walking, while Theoderi stepped into the stall lined with bottles of oil.
"Hello my friend, is there anything I can help you with?" An older man rose from a stool, venturing forth to meet with Theoderi.
"Yes, my good man, there is. I have been sent on behalf of captain Dimitrious," he began, hoping the man was not overly familiar with all of the captains, as he'd just made the name up on the spot. "We require a vat of oil for the barracks."
"Again already? I just sent one not three weeks ago, you should have no need of another for at least a month," the shop keeper eyed him warily, and Theoderi saw an opening.
"Yes well, I don't know how much you've heard lately," he began, leaning in closer to the man and speaking in hushed tones, "It's not entirely for the barracks, you see. None of us men have gotten paid in over a month, and many have no stock at home. The captain wished to take matters into his own hands and arrange for a barrel to help the men out," he explained, and he saw the merchant's eyes light up.
"No pay in over a month? Again?" He shook his head in disgust. "What are they doing with all our money? You know, I actually heard that a few merchants have had wares taken with promise of later payment, but time has passed and nothing is sent their way. A sad state of affairs," he said, and Theoderi nodded.
"Indeed. The captain was hoping you could possibly arrange a lower price, for the men's benefit," Theoderi stated, "as he also fears that what we do have may possibly be taken for the palace, what with the impending visit and all."
The merchant's face frowned at the mention, before nodding his approval. "I will do what I can for you all. Let us pray that these times will not last long."
"Thank you, friend, truly you are a great boon to the soldiers. Might I arrange to pick it up tomorrow?" Theoderi asked, and the merchant nodded. "Thank you. The captain has said to charge it to the army's allotment, and he will sort it out with the financiers himself." He nodded to the seller before leaving the stall, pleased with his handling of the situation. All that was left was discussing with the others how best to store the oil until it would be needed.
He saw Christos still at the stall of their countrymen and hurried forth to join him, sharing news of the oil purchase. "I have asked for it to be ready tomorrow, so we will need to figure out a place to keep it," he ended the update with the question, and Niko rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"Allow us to scout a place tonight where you can leave it tomorrow and we will pick it up and bring it back here. It is nice to see we are all thinking similarly, as Alexander bought a small portion yesterday before leaving, taking it back to the boat for testing."
"Brilliant," Christos stated, pleased to hear that experiments on how to best utilize the oil could be conducted in private. With that matter settled, the twins took leave of the merchants, making for the nearest tavern where their fellow recruits had agreed to meet. It was time to begin planting the seeds of a revolt, and they had only a few short days in which to do it.
Hector watched as Maxim and Silviu fiddled with the combination of oil and flames, seeking how best to utilize the flammable liquid. He had been pleased when Alexander had revealed the idea, claiming that a merchant stall full of oil was near their kinsmen. Truly a blessing, for having access to such a material would indeed only prove to be helpful.
He lingered above deck for a while, watching as the sun slowly dipped beyond the mountains and night began her slow creep across the land. He found his thoughts settling on home, wondering how his wife and son fared with him gone again so soon. Truly he prized Andromache, for she had strength of character to rival his own, an independent spirit that guarded her against dark times. He longed to be with them again, fearful that his boy would grow and reach some pivotal moment without him there to bear witness. It was a difficult balance, duty to both of his families. Luckily for Hector, Andromache understood the depths of his love for his brother and did not seek to come between it, provided it never sought to become between his love for her. He would gladly praise the gods for sending him such a wonderful woman, as their courtship was not one that either of them had chosen.
He thought back to the very first day he had learned of the arrangement, his father precarious in his offering of the news. While his father did wish for his happiness, there were certain sacrifices Hector must be willing to make, Priam had explained, as the crown prince. Unlike Paris, Hector could not marry for love, but would have to make the best of a political arrangement. He'd been young on their first meeting, only sixteen years of age, as had she, and it had not exactly been the most pleasant experience. Not that it had been necessarily unpleasant, of course, but there had been zero chemistry between the two youngsters, who'd spent the majority of the meeting in awkward silence, listening as their parents spoke. By the end of the day Andromache's eyes held nothing for him but daggers, and Hector had been far too intimidated by the mere idea of marrying her that he'd shied away from her gaze. Luckily both parents had agreed to an engagement period of two years, giving the kids time to work on their frosty relations.
Their second meeting three months later was slightly better, and they even managed to speak a few sentences to one another. But the real breakthrough had not come until their fourth meeting, three months before they were to be wedded. They were forced to spend the afternoon together in the garden, and Hector had tried his best to appeal to her apprehension, plying her with verbal confirmation that he knew exactly what she was feeling. It was then that she showed her true nature, bursting against him with anger.
"You don't understand a single feeling of mine, and I cannot believe that you would even presume to understand! Our situations are entirely different!" Andromache railed against Hector, fury burning in her eyes.
Hector stood his ground, confused and frustrated. He'd only been trying to be nice – what on earth was she getting angry for? "Andromache, I did not mean to offend you, truly."
She huffed in irritation. "You are so consumed with only yourself, with only your situation. You can't see mine even though it stares you in the face." She turned from him then, angry eyes glaring at the garden. She should not be so angry – many a young woman would do anything to be in her position. And truly Hector did not seem like such a terrible person. Yet she hated empty platitudes and that was all he seemed willing to offer her.
Hector felt like giving up – what was he supposed to say? "I do not know what you wish me to say to you, Andromache. I am trying to understand you."
She shook her head. "Would not the first attempt at understanding require asking for an explanation?"
Hector frowned at her words. "I'm sorry, I don't follow you."
She sighed and turned to face him, and her eyes had lost some of their fire. "Just because you don't wish to marry me, that does not mean you understand what I'm feeling."
"I never said I did not wish to marry you," Hector began, but Andromache was quick to silence him.
"Oh don't pretend. Why would you want to marry me? Because your father tells you it is a good match? You don't even know me," she said.
"Then let's get to know each other," Hector stated, still frustrated. Why was she making this more complicated than it needed to be? "I'm sorry that you are so unhappy with all this."
"Stop apologizing! You apologize so often, but this is no more your doing than it is mine," she said, and for once he said nothing in reply, instead intent on listening to what she had to say. "Our pending union does nothing for you except give you a wife, while it strips me of everything and everyone I love. I'm sure Troy is a lovely place to live, and I'm sure you have many friends here, but I will have nothing, and no one. I am not eager to leave my home with not a piece of it to bring with me."
Hector watched as she turned from him again, walking a few paces away to sit on a bench, staring at the wall. Was that it, then? Was the answer really so simple? He walked over to the bench and sat down beside her, reaching out to take hold of her hand. "You are right, Andromache. I do not know how you feel, for I will not lose a thing I hold dear. Please accept my apologies for not asking what ailed you, I was wrong to assume I understood."
To his surprise she graced him with a smile, and squeezed his hand back. "I accept your apology, now that you apologize for something that is in your control. I do not mean to insult you, your family, or your city, prince Hector. I am just pained at the thought of leaving mine."
Hector stared her in the eyes for a moment, the first time their gazes met and held without any hint of wary distrust. "That is a sentiment I cannot fault you for, Andromache. I fear the very thought of ever leaving my family, and here you are, set to leave yours, with no friend to welcome you. For that I apologize as well, for I should have tried harder to befriend you before now." Truly, this couldn't be so hard, could it?
Andromache seemed pleased with his answer, and continued to grip his hand. "Then let us not waste further time as rivals, prince Hector."
Hector grinned. "You don't need to continue to call me prince, if we are determined to enter this marriage as friends."
Andromache grinned back. "Oh I disagree. In fact, I think I would prefer it if you began referring to me as princess." At that comment Hector laughed, while Andromache kept a straight face. "I was not joking."
Hector sobered, wary of offending her so soon after they'd made peace. "Apologies, princess."
At that she did laugh, and Hector stared at her in confusion. "Oh I was joking, Hector. Although the title doesn't sound so bad now that you've gone and said it." Hector grinned in relief. Perhaps she would not make such a terrible match after all.
"They are ready for you below, captain," Maxim called to Hector, interrupting his thoughts.
Hector turned from the side of the ship, nodding his thanks to Maxim before following him below deck. Alexander had been busy for the past few hours, working with Lysander on producing a map of the city, marking out important areas. Now that it was as ready as it could be with the information they had, it was time to begin making preparations and plans.
Paris awoke during the night, his side throbbing, but his arm feeling okay. He could not, however, ignore the pain down below. It was as though his shame had physically manifested itself in his body, rage and embarrassment both burning him alive. His skin felt as though it were torn, and he was grateful then to be lying on his stomach, and not his back. He remembered exactly what had just occurred, though he wished he could forget. Menelaus taking advantage of him in a weakened state, the worst insults levied against his family. How he wished for the Spartan's head hacked from his body.
He shifted slightly, wondering how late it was and how long he would be allowed to remain here come the morning. Would Menelaus order him back to the cage, now that he was out of infection's grasp? Paris did not think he could stand to be cramped in there any longer, not after Menelaus' treatment. As he glanced about the room he saw the slave girl, sitting slumped against the wall. How long had she been here? Why was she here? He vaguely remembered her entering the room after Menelaus had left, and a sudden flush settled on his cheeks as he remembered that she had spent a good deal of time gingerly cleaning him up, carefully wiping the mess of Menelaus' penetration away. He couldn't help the embarrassment that came over him just then, though it should not matter. She was a slave, far below him. What did it matter what she witnessed?
The more he tried to tell himself that, though, the worse he felt. This girl had shown him nothing but kindness, and he was so quick to cast her aside because she was not a noble? Usually he was not so ill-mannered. He'd always been polite to the slaves back home in Troy. There was no need for him to begin treating them poorly when they may now be his only hope for help.
He continued to stare at her, silently wishing for her to wake up. The late hour, coupled with the feeling that it would be difficult to get back to sleep through the pain he was feeling, left him eager for conversation and answers. He laid his head on his arm, eyes trained on her in case she woke. Luckily for him he did not have to wait long.
With a start she jerked herself awake, head snapping up to look around the room in a momentary panic. Realizing the hour she seemed to calm down, and that was when she stood up and stretched. She looked at Paris then and nearly jumped, surprised to see him staring back. She met his eyes briefly before looking down, and if there had been a light in the room, Paris would have noticed her blushing.
"Come here," he whispered, and she glanced at him fearfully after hearing his command. She looked around the room, as though reminding herself that they were alone. Slowly she moved toward the bed, eyes still downcast.
"Can I get you anything, prince Paris?" She asked, her voice a barely audible whisper.
"What's your name?" He asked her, though he felt certain she'd heard it before.
She hesitated before answering, as though wondering if she ought to tell him. She did in the end. "Effi, my lord."
Paris was fascinated that she spoke to him with respect, given his situation. "I am hardly a lord here, Effi."
She moved closer at his words, looking around again before sitting on the floor by his head. "I remember you during your visit. I knew you when you were a lord here. If you don't mind, I would prefer to address you that way."
He was surprised that she spoke so openly, but then he remembered her questioning of the doctor. Who was this girl? Was Helen's polite treatment responsible for her odd behaviour for a slave? "I suppose I can allow that," Paris replied. "You were Helen's, were you not?"
She nodded. "Yes, my lord. I was the one who helped her arrange her meetings with you," Effi explained.
"I remember you now, Helen spoke well of you. She thought of bringing you with her when she left," Paris stated, not sure why he felt it important to share. Perhaps he wanted her to know that he did not wish to cast her off simply for being a slave.
"She asked me if I would come," Effi replied, and Paris was surprised to hear it.
"You said no?" Paris asked, shocked.
"I did not think it prudent," Effi explained, "It would have been difficult to arrange."
Paris was silent for a moment, digesting the information. He couldn't imagine the idea of turning down some semblance of freedom from the abuse of Menelaus. "I appreciate your aid in that matter, then."
Effi met his eyes for a brief second before turning away. "It was for the best. Had I left, who now would take care of you?"
Paris smiled at the comment, and wished then that she would not be so afraid to look at him. "I suppose you are right. I am lucky you are here."
A moment of silence passed before she rose to her feet. "I should go, but I will return in the morning. Please, try to rest." She kept her eyes averted as she left the room, and Paris was saddened to see her leave. At least he'd finally had the chance to speak with her, solving the mystery of her apparent interest in him. She had sacrificed her own potential freedom to see Helen safely away, and now she would see to his comfort whenever possible.
Paris decided at that moment that if his brother came for him, he would not leave Sparta without the girl. She had more than earned her freedom.