Summary: Andromache reminisces about her betrothal to Hector and their first meeting.
Disclaimer: The characters belong to Homer & Warner Brothers (and their sister, Dot). No infringement intended.
It was not in my nature to be impetuous. As a child and well into those waning years of acceptable virginity, I was a solemn and serious figure at any function where my presence was required. I do not know if I acquired this characteristic in those early years that many adults have difficulty remembering, or if it was branded upon me in the womb in the manner of a wretched deformity.
I did not see my serious nature as a flaw, but to my chagrin, my brothers seized upon this perceived quirk of mine and wrung every last possible drop of amusement from it.
I was teased and taunted in that affectionately cruel manner all lone sisters must know, prodded by my seven siblings to indulge in simpering girlish behavior precisely because my wont was anything but. On many occasions, they almost had me believe their lives were sadly lacking due to my staid and reserved nature. And when I relented and acted the fool to please them, the results were so horrid that they urged me to never do it again. In a perverse turn of my own, I would repeat my exaggerations of a brainless and petty princess when it would be embarrassing for them to have others witness me. My tender years allowed them to forgive me; a real blessing for, upon reflection, I could be a monstrous nuisance if I put my mind to it.
Though my solemnity was judged to be a flaw by my boisterous brothers, it was deemed an asset by my parents, out of whose sight my departures into childish torment always took place.
As King of Thebe, my father Ëetion both suffered and benefited from Troy's looming presence to the northeast. Our cities were allied through trade and goodwill, and we could rely on Priam and his might in times of trouble. Yet my father had to be circumspect about his own ambitions lest Priam take displeasure at any overt signs of independence. Consequently, an alliance of another sort became an immovable part of the Council's agenda. Loyalty and tribute were not enough. A joining of flesh and blood was decided to be more binding currency. This group of men with whom my father deliberated matters both large and small decided a marriage would not be amiss.
It was not until much later that I learned of the intense negotiations and almost callous obsession with which they were conducted. Had I been aware of it at the time, I should have been more frightened than I actually was. Mind you, I was not entirely ignorant of the necessary cold-bloodedness inherent in all politics. I have yet to live in or hear of a royal house that did not contain that particular parasite, and I always thought it an amusingly grim meaning to the exalted term "royal host." Suspicion and cynicism became as a much a trait as the color of one's hair or how one chose to pass a rainy day. It led men and women to act like one diseased, though there were no overt signs of illness.
I tried not to feel fear every time the swarm of advisors disappeared behind closed doors with my father, but it was impossible to retire to my loom or tend my mother's gardens when my future, my life, my maidenhead were being bartered by a clutch of old men who had long ago forgotten what youth was. To their minds, very few people knew how to act in their own best interests without their valuable guidance. Certainly not a girl who had yet to reach her seventeenth year.
Priam himself did little to allay my unease. A mighty warrior in his prime, he had gained as formidable a reputation for wielding a scepter as he had done with a sword. My father was a firm sovereign, but when I imagined Priam, a clenched fist formed in my mind. There was no escaping, no arguing, with the Trojan king. His rule was absolute, his will unyielding, and his fury — when aroused — implacable.
And I was to be given to this man's son, his heir. A man who would have been raised and molded in his father's image.
My handmaidens sensed my mounting anxiety, despite my best attempts to keep my own counsel. In their supposedly well-meaning way, they plied me with wildly romantic tales of my likely husband, using every power of persuasion except a charmed potion. Never had a name fallen upon my ears as much as Hector's did during those weeks of nuptial wrangling. So rapturously did they proclaim his skill with the prized steeds in Priam's stables that I asked — quite convincingly ingenuous, I thought — if he was indeed the only man to whom the gods had seen fit to give the gift of taming horses.
The contract was agreed upon and sealed, Thebe and Troy taking great strides toward the other in kinship. Those old men may have thought the hardest work was behind them, but mine had only begun.
If I had felt overwhelmed and weighted down by the abstracts of an imposing family awaiting me in Troy and the responsibility that would settle on my shoulders like a mantle of stone, the ensuing details of the wedding itself threatened to consume me utterly. Had my brothers' wives all suffered the same ordeal? Felt this odd mixture of anticipation, dread, and stark fear?
Not only were all eyes fixed upon me and my appearance, but the stars needed to be observed with unblinking devotion. Though all earthbound souls seemed pleased with the proceedings, the will of the gods could not be ignored. Just how the priests would interpret any celestial mischief was one of the blessed few diversions I allowed myself. How exactly could a shooting star be deemed propitious or dreadful was not my decision, but as I stood surrounded by servants and pricked by a thousand pins, I wondered if this was all for naught should Zeus or some other immortal wish differently. I could be their instrument for war or the unwitting object of some lusty god's desire.
As is evident, my mind took some fanciful turns during that frantic period. Even though I confessed nothing of what I thought — somehow, I was certain that admitting rapine by Ares had crossed my mind as a viable alternative to Hector would not be greeted by the Council with any humor whatsoever — my flock of handmaidens sensed some shift within me. Naturally, they leapt upon it like old women on gossip and proceeded to dissect me to get at the truth.
"What a rare light in your eyes, Princess!" they exclaimed. "Upon the gods, we have never seen you so flushed before!"
I hadn't the heart to tell them that my rosy complexion came not from passionate daydreams about my future husband, but rather from being startled by their sudden appearance as they persistently and repeatedly swooped down on me, and was forcibly kept within their close, nearly suffocating, presence.
Talk of Hector increased tenfold, the many tales and rumors about him gushing from these good people like a spring-swollen stream. I knew their intent with such tactics. They had glimpsed what they thought was a chink in my walls — my daydreams — and connived to bring them tumbling down. The weapon they wielded was persistent talk so full of guile that I soon realized they were adopting the maneuver of wearing down my defenses rather than mounting a full, blunt assault.
That I was even beginning to think in such martial terms gave me some pause, for my mind had rarely likened situations to battles and sieges. Yet considering that many hours of my day began to consist of nothing but my soldier-groom's battlefield virtues being extolled, it was hardly surprising.
After some endless and exhausting days of this, I was inclined to pick up a sword of my own and dispatch these irritating natterers. I envied Hector, for surely, as a man, he was not being subjected to the same torments as I. Besides, what tales could be spun about me to him? My own colossal virtue had not occurred until now — the sheer amount of patience I had exerted to not indulge in widespread slaughter.
I smiled at this thought. Despite some half-hearted musings on what I could even say to this man beyond the stiff, formal and obligatory salutations, I had settled on few that satisfied me. I now believed I had accidentally discovered a perfect one. And part of me could not wait to say it to his face.