Disclaimer: I own nothing of Troy or anything related to it. The only things I own are things that you don't recognize, and more than likely there won't be many.
A/N: I'm taking some liberties with history, legend, and the movie with this. Well, I'm bringing creative license into effect, we'll put it that way. At any rate, I thought I'd warn you of it now.
Also, this is just an experiment, really. Should I get a good response, I'll probably continue, but right now I'm just kinda testing things, if you know what I mean.
Therefore, if you like it, the survival of the story really is dependant on reviews, lol, because this is just an experiment.
Anywho, off we go!
"Really, Andromache, the young Trojan prince is utterly divine. Shaped by the hands of the gods themselves!"
The sole princess of Thebe sighed, shaking her head. "Divine he may be, but this does not annul the fact that he is a womanizer."
"There are some things that a woman can overlook, if given the right incentive," the eldest princess of Lampsascus, Cloris, asserted with a wicked smile. Andromache nudged her friend's arm.
"He's younger than us both by at least three years. Maybe more!"
"That, also, is something I am willing to overlook."
"Incorrigible," Andromache muttered, shaking her head once more. Cloris rolled her eyes.
"Why must you use such large words? Only men care for such things." She said this as if intelligence were an undesirable thing. Andromache, however, was used to such responses to any show of intellect, and quickly tucked her mind away behind a mask of petty, frivolous thinking; the same way other women thought. Or were supposed to think, at least. Rather than answer the princess's accusation, she steered the topic artfully away from herself.
"You're engaged to the elder prince, what has you looking at his brother?"
"Really, Andromache-" Andromache didn't point out that Cloris was being repetitive, "the younger prince is the finer of the two. Prince Hector may be the Tamer of Horses and leader of the Trojan Army and heir to the Trojan throne, but Prince Paris is the attractive one of the two."
Ah, she thought. The elder is a warrior. Wonderful that I'm not marrying him, then. I want a man, not a fighter.
Of course, the rumor that her own betrothed had more than just female lovers had no affect on this thought at all. In fact, she struggled often not to think of it.
"I suppose I shall discover for myself soon enough. They will be arriving soon, or so my father told me."
"When will Prince Corydon be arriving?"
She managed not to sigh, but it was difficult: Prince Corydon of Mytilene was to be her husband, and it was a union she did not like to dwell on. Not, of course, that she would withdraw from the marriage agreement; she had a duty to Thebe, after all. She simply did not like to think of her future husband. All of the reasons why were beyond her.
"I'm not sure. Within the next few day, doubtless," she answered absently. She held out her wrist in a desperate effort to distract Cloris from all the talk of marriages and men. "My mother and father gave me a bracelet yesterday."
The ploy worked. Cloris gasped and snatched at Andromache's wrist, pulling the limb closer so as to better study the piece of jewelry. The mother-of-pearl, silver-accented bangle glinted in the torchlight, and the Princess of Lampsascus was enthralled. "It's beautiful!" she breathed. "For what reason did your parents give you such a gift?"
"No reason, really. It was my mother's when she was young." She did not mention that it had been given to her to honor her engagement, nor did she mention that it had been a gift her mother had received at her own engagement.
A wave a dizziness washed over her, and she inwardly cursed; it was the third time she had wavered during their short walk in the garden, and Andromache was beginning to suspect that she was ill. This was not something she wanted to admit to, in the least; she had always been a bit weaker than most women, physically, and it was a bit of a sore subject for her after growing up with seven brothers. Also, it would be quite rude to be bedridden on the day yet another envoy of guests would arrive.
For, thanks to its location, Thebe had become the meeting place for not only Andromache and her betrothed, but the Princess of Lampsascus and the Prince of Troy. The Trojan envoy was due to arrive within the day, the envoy from Mytilene within the week.
This wave of dizziness, however, did not pass as the others had. She wavered, and then her knees buckled, forcing Cloris to struggle to support her. After an instant or two, Andromache had steadied herself… for the most part.
"Are you well?"
Andromache offered her a forced smile and opened her mouth to assure Cloris of her well being, but a firm voice said, "She is not well, Princess. I am afraid my daughter is quite unwell." Anatola, Queen of Thebe, approached the two young women with a gentle smile, holder her hand out to her daughter.
"Your Highness," Cloris murmured, stepping away from Andromache as Anatola took her daughter's hand.
"Your brother is feeling off, as well. I believe the food was improperly prepared," Anatola informed them. The Princess of Thebe nodded in acceptance; the food had tasted slightly off during her luncheon with her youngest brother. Cloris, however, gasped in outrage.
"Surely you will exact punishment on the faulty staff that is to blame?" she cried. Andromache blinked, her nausea growing steadily now that she had finally acknowledged it, as Anatola stepped into the role Cloris expected her to.
"Of course, Princess. I myself shall see to their punishment." Cloris nodded her approval, and Anatola said, "I believe I shall now take my daughter to her chambers. She needs rest."
Cloris nodded and bowed. "I hope you feel well again soon, Andromache."
"Thank you, Cloris," she replied as her mother began guiding her out of the gardens and into the palace. After a few moments, she finally asked the question that was foremost in her mind. "You won't really punish the staff, will you? It was a simple mistake, I'm sure."
"I shall make inquiries, as I must, but it is doubtful that punishment will be needed."
"It was quite sudden, wasn't it, dearest?"
She smiled softly at the pet name. "It was," she replied. "I was dizzy before, but I never realized that anything was amiss until just a moment ago."
"At least you did not realize yours as your brother realized his. He was practicing his archery one moment, and retching in the bushes the next."
The princess giggled a bit. "Poor Othello! Was he terribly embarrassed?"
"No, he was the only one in the area."
"Well, he has that, at least." She glanced about her quarters, comforting, familiar, and inviting. "Othello and I were the only ones to be exposed to the foods that made us sick?"
She nodded as firmly as her dizziness would allow. "Good."
Anatola immediately tucked her daughter into bed, not dissimilar to the they way she'd done it when Andromache was a young girl. She giggled a bit over the idea. "I feel as if I were seven years old and bedridden with a case of the chills," she said, smiling up at her mother.
Anatola smiled down at her and kissed her forehead. "A mother will coddle her child for any reason, no matter the age." The queen rose and made for the door. "Rest well, dearest."
It was dark when she awoke, and the sounds of the welcome feast could be heard even from her chambers. Andromache rolled over onto her back and sighed, staring up at the ceiling. The Trojan princes had arrived.
Though, to temper the bad news with good, she was feeling much better. Not that she wanted to join the feast; if only this once, she longed for quiet. She sat up, peering around her chambers. They were lovely; her sanctuary. But at that moment, they were a bit lifeless and dull, though not quite confining. She sighed as her eyes wandered to the window. Seeing the gardens beyond, she decided to change and go for a walk in the gardens. If she was careful in choosing what she wore, she knew that not even the servants or slaves would recognize her. Not most of them, at any rate, and those who would see her were ones who would keep her secret.
She changed into a gown of her favorite color, a vibrant royal blue made of a fine cotton, imported from Egypt. She left her hair down, covering it with a white cotton veil, as was proper. Along the way, she stopped by the nursery and, after swearing the nursemaid to secrecy, took her youngest nephew, Andreas, along with her. He was barely two years old, and he loved Andromache with an affection equal to that for his mother. She had always had a special way with children, a skill that few women, even experience mothers, possessed.
When the gods curse us, they give us a gift to both comfort and torment us, she thought wryly. The ability to bear children was sparse in her family; her mother had been the sole exception. Horror stories of dozens of failed pregnancies and horrendously difficult labors plague the women of Andromache's maternal family, and she knew that the chance that she would be as lucky as her mother was very low.
"Shall we play a game?" she asked Andreas, who nodded vigorously. Andromache lowered him to the ground and said, "All right. The game is called mark, except we won't play it as the soldiers do. You'll not have a whip. You shall be the marker. Basically, you have to chase me, and when you touch me, I become the marker, and I must chase you. Do you understand?"
"I chase!" he cried, flinging his arms up in excitement. She laughed.
"Close enough. Ready?"
"All right. Go!"
Andromache started off at a brisk walk, exaggeratedly looking behind her and watching her nephew. He caught her in no time, of course - that had been her goal. Young Andreas scowled fiercely at her as he clung to her legs.
"No!" he cried, shoving at her legs. "Run!"
"I was running, Andreas."
"All right, but I have to chase you first." He sighed heavily, but relented.
"Fine. Chase!" And with that he was dashing away as fast as his pudgy legs would carry him. She took her time in catching him, of course, but when she did, he shrieked in delight.
"You run!" he cried, ecstatic at being the marker once again. "You run!"
With a small, playful scream, Andromache took off at a slow jog. Andreas was, apparently, satisfied with this, because he giggled and shrieked happily as he sprinted after her, teetering as his little legs carried him as fast as they would go.
They came to a small clearing, and Andromache stopped, whirled around, and lowered herself to a squat, opening her arms. Not a moment later, Andreas launched himself at her, and she fell backwards with him in her arms, laughing as Andreas squealed.
"Oh!" she cried, flailing her arms pitifully. "Oh, he has me! Someone help!"
"No, Amdroche!" he cried, covering her mouth with one small hand. She propped herself up on her elbows and gave him a mock-exasperated look.
"So you'll just attack me and be done with it?"
He hesitated, looking torn - he didn't want his aunt hurt, but they were playing a game! Then he said, "Yes?"
She sighed dramatically. "All right then. Goodbye, Andreas!" And with that, she laid back and stopped moving, her eyes closed.
Andreas giggled and shoved at her stomach, trying to get her to play, but she didn't move. It was a struggled to hide her smile, but somehow she managed.
"Amdroche," he whined, tugging at her dress. She still didn't move, and an edge of fear entered his voice. "Amdroche!"
"Andreas!" she said suddenly, grabbing him up and tickling him. He shrieked and giggled and squirmed as she tickled and teased him. After a bit of this game, the both of them calmed down, and Andreas curled on to her lap. She stood up and turned, thinking to sit by the fountain for a bit and enjoy the evening.
Unfortunately, there was a well-dressed, very unfamiliar man standing behind her.
Her cheeks suddenly felt quite warm as she saw his amused look, and she looked away, shifting her feet and her grip on Andreas. How long had he been standing there, watching her make a fool out of herself? She wasn't ashamed of playing with her nephew, but she also knew that it was customary for a child's relatives to hold small roles in that child's life; children were raised by nursemaids.
Andromache had always found this practice deplorable. If the child belonged to you, it was your duty to take care of it, not someone else's. Of course, Andreas did not belong to her, and thus her reasoning did not apply to this situation, but she stubbornly ignored it. She looked up at the man defiantly.
He, however, was not mocking in any way. Simply amused. Or, at least, that was all she saw on his - admittedly handsome - face. "Is he yours?" he asked her.
She looked him up and down for a moment. Tall, but she was tall as well. His body was much broader, however, than her own slender frame. He was very certainly a soldier. A high ranking one, if the fine linen of his clothing was any indication. He was also not nearly so obsessed with his appearance as most men equaling his rank were, however. She could see this from the way his mass of messy dark curls was pulled away from his face untidily, restrained by leather and gold clips.
He looked a decent sort, and so she answered him. "No," she replied, shifting Andreas a bit so that he was settled against her, his head on her shoulder. "He is my nephew."
"I see." He walked forward slowly, his hand clasped behind his back. "Do you play with your nephew often?" he asked, watching the little boy in her arms rather than her. She didn't know what to make of this.
"Yes, actually," she replied. "I believe that family should actually take part in a child's raising."
He looked up at her now, and she thought she saw approval in his eyes. "I noble belief. I commend you." He studied her for a moment, then stepped aside and gestured to path that wound around the fountain. "Would you like to walk with me? Your young companion may serve as our chaperone, I have no intentions toward you. In fact, I'm rather hoping you'll delay my return to the banquet with a prolonged discussion. We may speak of anything you like, so long as it is lengthy."
She thought, So, he is as unhappy in such social situations as I am. Perhaps I shall rescue him.
She inclined her head gracefully. "Andreas shall serve as our chaperone, sir, and I shall delay your return. It seems that you dislike such situations as much as I. I am expected there, as well."
He raised his brows and fell in step beside her. "Andreas, did you say?"
"I see." He was silent for a moment, his hands clasped behind his back once more, and a pensive expression on his face as he watched the path beneath their feet. He was a pensive person, she decided; at least, he looked very comfortable with such a thoughtful aura. After a moment he frowned slightly and said, "I didn't see you at the festivities earlier."
"I was ill," she explained. "I've only recently felt up to leaving my chambers, and did not wish to join in such activities."
The silence was a comfortable one as they continued their walk. Andreas was dozing on her shoulder and playing with the edge of her veil. After several moments of this companionable silence (odd, since she did not even know him; why would any silences between them be companionable?), she asked, "Did you arrive today?"
"Yes. I am finding Thebe to be quite hospitable."
"It is something we strive toward," she admitted, nodding her thanks for the compliment to her home. "Did you arrive with the Trojans?"
He seemed to oddly hesitate, considering his answer heavily before saying, "Yes. In a way."
She shrugged the shoulder that wasn't occupied by her nephew's head. If he had his secrets, it was no affair of hers. So she guided the subject away from that vein. "Other than our hospitality, how are you finding Thebe? To your pleasure, I hope?"
"It is quite beautiful here, yes. Your traditions are wonderful as well, some familiar, some completely new. Though I do miss the sea."
"Yes. We're near enough to the sea to hear it, let alone see it. I've always seemed to have a special fondness for it, though why, I've never known."
"You don't always need a reason to be fond of something," she told him. "I've never seen the sea. I wish to, but I never have."
"Perhaps one day you will."
Andromache smiled, but it was slightly bittersweet. "Perhaps. One day."
"You don't think you will?"
"Yes." She paused, considering her circumstances, then said, "I take that back. I will see it someday, but it will be unwillingly."
His frown was thoughtful as he said simply, "I see."
After several moments of that oddly companionable silence, the man stopped and turned to her. "It seems out chaperone is neglecting his responsibilities."
Andromache turned her head slightly and saw that Andreas had fallen asleep. With a gentle smile, she unpinned her veil and slid it off her head and covered her nephew with it. She offered an apologetic smile to her companion. "I apologize for the breech of propriety," she said, gesturing to her now veil-less head.
He waved her apology away. "Think nothing of it. As it is," he nodded back in the direction they'd come from, toward the festivities, "how many breeches of propriety are being committed as we speak?"
She frowned slightly, wondering what he meant. Seeing her look, he explained. "How many people are sneaking away from that banquet with intentions that are…"
Comprehension dawned on her. "Less than delicate?" she supplied.
He nodded to her. "Well put."
"Thank you. Yes, I imagine many of them are departing for that very reason." She wrinkled her nose, but said nothing more; it was a well known fact that men were more likely to commit such acts than women, and she didn't want to inadvertently insult him. Yes, he did seem the honorable sort, who didn't resort to adultery, but she did not want to take the risk.
"Loathsome, deplorable practice," he said, sending a hard look in the direction of the festivities. Then he sighed and gave her a mournful smile. "Alas, there is little two people can do to change hundreds of years' worth of practices, appalling or not."
"All we can do is attempt to lead by example."
"Something I strive to do at all times." Andromache surveyed him; he looked like the honorable sort who would, indeed, try to lead by example. However, he also seemed like the sort who was on the verge of following those deplorable practices before he found his honor. True, it may have been years ago that he was not so sure of his principle, but it was still there.
Not, of course, that he wasn't an honorable man now. In fact, he was very honorable. She merely felt that the experience was there, even if it wasn't recent or a source of pride.
She did not say any of this, of course - decorum still had to be followed. She merely said: "An honorable practice."
"Thank you." He looked up at the sky, then back to her and said, "Might I escort you to your chambers? Or, at least, to his? It's getting late."
She nodded. "I thank you for it."
He waved it away, but said nothing as they changed direction and walked back toward the palace. When they arrived at the entrance nearest the nursery, Andromache turned to him and said, "This is were I leave you."
He bowed to her elegantly, something which confused her, but she didn't question it. "Rest well, my lady. I hope we will have another opportunity to speak."
He sounded as if he genuinely meant it, and Andromache surprised herself when she realized that she agreed with him. "Yes, I hope so as well. Good night."
The man nodded to her and walked away. It was only then that she remember that she had never gotten his name.