OK, First of all I would like to say that this is my first ever attempt at writing, and I tried soooooo hard on this, so please, keep that in mind, and be kind. The story is written about the Captain and his thoughts, centering around the march and the fight. I would also like to say, that all of this information is factually correct. (Meaning spartan women being married at 18 tradtionally, and men at around 21, Spartan warriors who died in battle, and women who died in childbirth being the only one to get headstones, men becoming full citizens only at 30, and then finally being able to move into their homes and recieving land, and slaves to work it -note, they DID have slaves, they out numbered spartans 10 - 1, hence the need FOR spartans to be so strong, so if they rebeled, they could take care of it- - i'd also like to point out that until a spartan turned 30, they lived in the military baracks, and their familes lived with their parents-, there being multiple captains in the spartan armys, and how soldiers were only relieved of military service at 60, etc.)

I wrote this is mind with the captain, and his actions towards his son, and hoping that it might explain his slight hostility and distance from him, but then his final freakout at his death.

And please, please, pleaseeeeeeeee review/rate/message. even if it involves critism. as i said, it is my first time, so try to be kind, but it would mean sooooooo much to me to know what u all think. Thank you.


Softness...

That was one of the few memories he had left of her now. One undeniable, unforgetable feeling, that haunted his lonely nights, and echoed through his empty mornings.

He was her son.

He had her eyes... Her smile... Her laugh...

Her softness...

But why was something that he learned to love in her, so maddening in him? Was it that he was too much his mother's son? Was he too much like her? Or was it simply that he was nothing like her at all, yet her presence still hung around him, guarding him, protecting him, shielding him. Haunting him...

He smiled. A looking of wanting – of reassurance, of approval - as he looked to his father, his sole surviving parent, his one connection to her.

Astinia...

That dangerous name.

Seldom heard, echoing rarely from his lips, but always from his heart.

How long has it been since I lost thee? How long since I felt thine lips?

He would give the earth and the stars to see her one last time. To feel her burning body pressed against his. The touch of silken skin. Of sweet moans – soft and gentle... like her.

What he wouldn't pay to hold her one last time. To see the sweat glisten on her beautiful body. To hold her close to him by the fireside, kissing, caressing her. No words were spoken... No words were needed. Being together was enough. Feeling each other's hearts beat, knowing that hers beat for him as his did for her.

If only he had known...

If only he had known how cruel a trick fate would play on him... play on them all.

To give him a light. A hope. A shining star through the darkness. A final chance for peace... And then tear it away at what should have been the most joyous moment in his life.

His deepest regret was that she only got to hold him that one time. To hear his gentle cries, the proof that he had breath, for just that little while. He would gladly have given his life in exchange for hers. She was everything that he was not, that he could not even try to be... And she would have loved their son the way he should have been. The way all Spartans should have been. Strength be damned. He would have had it. Was she not strong? Was she not true? And brave? And loyal? Was she not Spartan??

She was all of these things, yet she was so much more.

Never constrained, never contrived... She could feel, more than anyone who had ever lived it seemed certain to him. Had she not taught him? Had she not taught him what it was to love? What it was to feel? And what it was to hate...

To hate so utterly and completely that it takes your soul, and freezes your heart, carrying down to the very marrow of your bones...

Not her. Never her.

Hate the world. And everyone in it. Everyone who still drew breath while his beloved's chest did not. Frozen in time, as his life had become since she passed one final time across the River Stix.

Hate... Even sometimes his for son... His son that was the only thing left of her... Indeed, the only thing left of him. Of what he once was, and could never be again...

He had taken her from him. She had given her life, for the price of his. A bargain well worth it, in her mind for sure. Yet how could he ever forgive him? How could he ever forgive her for... How could he ever forgive himself...?

Yet it was not within his control. His head knew that, yet his heart would not allow itself to listen to reason.

He should have been able to protect her. He swore that to her, and to himself long ago, when he first loved her, when he first gave her his heart, to be held forever in her keeping, never to be gifted to anyone... save perhaps her son...

She had been young. He knew that. They all knew that. Much too young by Spartan traditions to be made a bride... Yet not too young to be watched by the Euphores... To be watched even by himself.

For a year he walked in her shadows. Secretly watching her, guarding her, protecting her, waiting for the time when he could talk to her, hold her, love her. For he dared not do the first, for fear he would not be able to resist the second, and finally make her his bride. A year he waited. And yet three more he still would have had to endure. And endure it he would have done. To make her his bride, he would have walked to the end of the world, and slain every man and creature in it to prove his love, and ensure they were the only ones left in it.

For it seemed to him that that was the only way that they should be together.

He was old. Almost thirty. Almost a decade later than Spartan men were accustomed to marry. Almost ready to be made into a full citizen. To be given his own land, his own home, his own slaves, and to move out of the baracks, and into his new life for the first time. Well on his way in his military career too. He was a good soldier. One of the best. And this was an even greater achievement when judged by Spartans high measures.

Not that he was arrogant. He was simply realistic. He knew what he was, as did all others. One of the elite personal bodyguards of his king, and his friend, he would soon be named a captain when another retired. Proximos was nearing his sixtieth birthday, time when Spartan soldiers were officially relieved of their duty, and became respected members of the council.

And someone would have to take his place. And that someone, he was certain, would be him.

But she was still young. And still desired. And still beautiful.

Barely entered into her fourteenth year when he laid eyes upon her for the first time, when he had caught the first glimpse of the beauty that would haunt him for the rest of his life. If he had known then what he knew now, would he still have given his life so freely? Would he have given his whole heart and being to her, to have it ripped away not more then a year later?

Yes. That much he knew for sure. He would trade nothing for the time he had had with her, little as it was. For it was the only truly peaceful time in his life, otherwise so filled with war and hate. And that peace carried still with him today...

A year he watched her. A year he waited. Studied her, wanted her, loved her. From the instant he laid eyes upon her, he knew. Knew that she would be the only one to ever capture his heart. And she was. Ingwe be damned, she and her sons could burn in hell forever for all he cared, his heart only had ever lain with one... Her. And then her son after her.

She was beautiful. Blessed by the gods, some would say. One of the gods he would say. More beautiful then Aphrodite, and more deadly to him then Hecate - she ensnared him from the first breath, and he had never been freed. It was a tortured, welcome captivity.

But her beauty would also have been her downfall. For he was not the only one watching.

High in their mountain, cut off from the world, the Euphores plotted and schemed. Bided their time, waiting for when she could be taken. Waiting for their chance. For long had they watched her too, longer even still than he, for they had known her since childhood, and foreseen what her beauty would be.

He looked like her. Astinos, her son.

He had his father's dark hair, but everything else, everything else was hers. Her soft brown eyes, that even when twisted ablazed with anger, were still so soft and gentle. Her fair skin, and soft lips, like two pillows he would have collapsed onto night after night had fate not been so cruel to her. And he had her spirit, too. Gentle, but strong. Kind, but hard. Though being a man, he would have to grow to learn to hide those qualities, as all Spartan men did.

Only her crimson hair remained hers alone. Darker then blood, yet brighter then night, it fell thick and long and dark across her shoulders, down her back, whistful locks caressing her face.

What he wouldnt give to feel her body beneath his once more. Shy, and naive, and timid, but so eager to learn. To feel her soft skin, her velvet, amber lips, her soft warmth. He could image no greater feeling, and he would trade it the world to have it back.

A year he waited, until finally, he waited no more. He was made captain. He was celebrated. A festival. A look. A dance. And in that moment, under the moonlit sky, he gave a silent plea of his heart to her, and with a knowing smile, and dancing eyes, her sons eyes, she accepted.

Meetings.

In alley ways, dark corners, hiding from prying eyes, sneaking to see eachother, as was Spartan tradition, but had become so much more for them.

And finally one night he could stand no more. He wrote a letter. A letter that he had never written the likes of before, and would never write again. A letter he would have been flogged for writing, yet he cared not. So much was the longing and desire for her in his heart, his mind, and the calls of urgent burning desire that he could contain it no more. And that night he pledged his undying, unending love for her, never once looking up or reading what he had written, for fear that he would lose his nerve or at last come to his senses and realize what he had done. And there, on that paper, on that night, he pledged his heart eternally, and asked her to become his wife.

He never asked her about the letter again, and she had never mentioned what he had written, but he had often wondered whether it meant as much to her as it had to him, fearing the answer that it did not. He looked for it after she died. Wondered if she had kept it. He hoped she had. But he had never found it. This never lessened his opinion of her, knowing that she would have burned it, to protect him from it falling into the wrong hands, yet he could not help but feel a little disappointed (in spite of himself) that she had not hidden it away and saved it, as a mark of their love. Or maybe she had, and had simply hidden it, where no one, including himself, would ever find it. None-the-less, it drove him crazy that he would still never know...

"They want me."

That was all her reply said. That was all it had to say. He knew what she meant. It was as he had long feared, that those monsters would steal her away, from her family, from her home, and most of all, from him.

It seemed there was nothing he could do to stop it. He would slaughter them all if it would help. Indeed, he would slaughter the world if he thought he could protect her, go against the gods, and man, and anything else the divine could throw against them, but none of it mattered, for she would still be taken, and it would all be in vain.

But maybe not. Maybe there was hope still. The king had a solution. He was not divine, and could not go against the Euphores, servants of the gods, but he was cunning, and had a plan.

"Marry her." It was his intention already, but now could save them both.

"Lie. Tell the Euphores that she is ruined. You made love many times since your secret affair began, and now she is bearing your child. She's no good to them that way. By their own laws, they cant take her. The Oracal must be a virgin."

Of course that was nonsense. Though a virgin when first brought into the holy circle, the Euphores had the needs of men, and the hearts of hell, and they never stayed maidens long.

The other problem with this plan, was that she was not with his child. Indeed, he had never made love to her at all. He had thought about it. The gods only knew how long he had thought about it. And he wanted it. More than anything in the world at that time had he wanted it, but he contained himself, never allowing his needs to disgrace his beloved's honour. He would have no man question her virtue, and the king's plan of public disgrace irked him to the bone.

But it was the only way. And he knew it. She knew it, too.

And so when he told her what the king had said, she cast her arms around him and kissed him soundly, barely silencing the laughter and delight that echoed from her lips.

"You're not upset?" he questioned her, confused by her reaction. He understood little about women, this he had always known, but his ignorance was growing by the minute.

"Why should I be? The plan is brilliant, and it is our only chance at being together..." Her tone slowly changed, as the gravity of the situation was laid heavily upon them.

"And your father?"

"What of him?"

"Won't he be rather... upset... by all this?" He chose his words carefully, but still not managing to express the correct emotion of her fathers temper. He knew him well. Well enough to know he had a hideous temper, and did not like men around his only daughter.

"Probably." Her tone was matter-of-fact, and she did not blink for a moment. The only sign of emotion on her ever-changing face was the hint of a grin, kept well-hidden, at least for her standards, and her shining golden eyes, glistening even brighter than was usual.

"We'll be married, and there's nothing he will be able to do about it. I don't care. If he tries to take me back, the king can stop him. He may control me, but his majesty still controls him."

And she was right. He knew it, and Leonidas knew it, just as he knew that he would do it, if only for his friend's and captain's sake.

"Besides, if I am bearing your child, he'll have a hard time selling me off to the highest bidder - now won't he?"

Cheeky little girl. She would have gotten a swift smack from her father if he had heard that, and indeed one from any other suitor that would have heard her speak so disrespectfully of her elders that way, but she had his heart so utterly and completely, that all he could do was respond to her sweet, delighted kiss.

And so they made love. And he wived her, the true Spartan way, and when the Euphores came and tried to collect her, they were met with an angry, daughter-less father, and found her a pregnant wife. But they were not in the position to complain, and were forced to leave with another, lesser prize.

Almost 3 months they were married before the news came to him.

A child. Their child.

And so they celebrated. And they continued to make love by the fireplace, on the soft skin rug. Continued to kiss and caress, and love eachother from near and from afar, and as her stomach grew, so did their love, until it encompassed all things around them.

But their joy would be short-lived.

For her labour was long and arduous, and at the end, all her hope was spent.

A son. Healthy. Strong. Perfect. Would you expect anything less of a child born of her body? He would pass the test of the Euphores easily, and his heart was at ease.

But it would not stay that way for long.

He had fought on the battlefield so many times. Slain so many countless opponents, and yet, it was not until this very moment, that he realized how much blood there was in the human body.

And it would not stop. It pooled on the bed and around her, and yet as it did, in her eyes and in her face, there was content.

And when she held her son, there was joy, and love, and when she looked at her husband, there was peace.

For she knew that her time had come. She had brought new life. New life that would live, and grow, and serve Sparta well. She had fulfilled her duty, and by gifting Sparta with a son in her place, and had earned a tombstone on her grave. Only men who fall in battle, or women who die in childbirth are given this honour and this right, for they give their life for their country, and in their way, for freedom.

And when the room was cleared of all else, for there was nothing left that they could do, and when for the first time since childhood the great Captain had shed tears, she did not turn away, with disgust or unfeeling. She smiled. Not a cruel, vindictive smile, meant to torture and hate, but one of kindness, and compassion, one of her very soul. When he begged her, pleading with her in vain not to leave him, she brushed her deathly white hands across his face, and forced his blue eyes to meet her brown.

"Do not cry, my love, for those whose time has passed. Only rejoice, for I have given you a son, and so begins with his life, a new chapter of yours. Love him, protect him, care for him as I would have, had I the chance to see him grow. Let him have brothers. And sisters. And a new mother, who will love him, and cherish him as I would have done. Find a good woman who will take care of you, for you my love, will always need it. I no longer will be here to do it. Much have I given you these years. My heart, my body, my soul, and now, my very life, to bring you what you desired most. Now, you must do these things for me. If there was ever a part of you that loved me, then you will do this now. Say no more, for I will hear it not. Go only on with your life, and never look back at the past, as more than a dream. Your reality is what is to come, for if you do not, then I will never rest in peace. Do this for me now, and take care my love."

"No, I cannot!!" He begged, and cried, and pleaded for her to remain, to take back the oath she made to him, bound in her after life, and in their love. But it was all in vain, for though he held her and begged and wept, it was too late. Once she had spoken, she closed her eyes for the final time, and never opened them again. It seemed to all near that night that a terrible cry rose out of that house, more terrible then any animal caught in the cruellest of traps, and then all was silent. The captain would have no comfort that night, not even from his own young son, who he could not even bear to look upon. He was his mother's son, and the reason she no longer drew breath.

Long the Captain grieved, naming his son for his lost wife as reminder of her memory, and testament to her sacrifice. But when his son was old enough to speak, and some of the pain had ebbed, the captain fulfilled the oath his wife had sworn him to make, and took a new wife. Ingwe. He shared no bed with her. He would have no women lay where his wife had. Astinia, and Astinia alone was his wife. His love. His life.

Ingwe was simply a promise fulfilled. And he seldom lay with her, never making love, only fufilling some of Aphorodite's more carnal desires. He was not gentle. Nor did he care to be. Only when he could no longer bear the loneliness, in a drunken stupor would he wander into her room, always calling for his dear sweet wife, always believing it was her, always dreaming and imagining it was she who lay beneath him, but it never was. Nor did he ever stay the night, instead stumbling back to his room, into their bed. There, alone, he would cry - for his betrayal, his lack of faith. She held his heart still, and no other could touch it.

He had no great love for Ingwe's sons, the three she had bore him. They remained soley hers. Bastards to his mind, and to his heart. Reminders of his betrayal, though that betrayal lay only in his heart, and his heart alone. He was not cruel to them, but neither was he kind.

He had only one son. Astinos. Their child. And he grew, and so did the Captains love for him. He did not hate him, as he did the first nights, but he was hard on him, protecting him, trying to make him strong, stronger then his mother. Wanting to never bury the last piece of her that he still had – the last piece of his heart that he still had.

And upon seeing the headless body of his own young son, he went drunk with rage, thinking only of the promise to his wife, a failed promise - made long ago, to protect and watch over their child. Only now he thought of murder and hate as the spear drove through him, as he pulled it in further, delighting in the pain of his body echoing the pain in his heart.

'I have failed you. I have failed you both. Forgive me, my wife. Forgive me, my son...'

As he collapsed to the ground, only one thought echoed in his mind, only one image in his heart. His dear sweet Astinia smiling at him across from the River Sticks, holding tightly onto the hands of her beloved son...