The afternoon sky was dwindling down as the commotion of the day became less boisterous. There was a hush coming over the city that Hemera could not quiet place as she made her way back home.

War, she had been mulling over the meaning since she left the Queens presence. Would the Persians make it so far that Sparta would be called to defend itself. She knew the cost, the preparation. It was in her blood. But if what her father had heard was true victory would not be easy. The thought of fathers and sons not returning made her weary of the prospect of battle. The thought of a certain warrior leaving once more for glory made her shake any more thought of it away.

Still reflecting on her fathers note she ran right into a firm wall. Her footing lost she braced to be met with the firm ground. It never came, instead she was steadied by a pair of strong hands on the small of her back. Hemera's breath came out as she looked into the same blue eyes that seemed to fill her thoughts. Stelios

His lips quirked as if he was holding back a laugh, Hemera stiffened and moved away.

"I think if your head was not attached to your neck it would float away," Stelios grinned. "If half of our council thought with such ferocity maybe they could make more progress!"

At that Hemera snorted as she walked past him, her shoulder playfully knocking into his. "Not likely, the world would come to an end before the council can agree on one thing!"

"How has your father been?" He swiped a fig from her basket, biting into its flesh as his brows held the question.

"His nose deep in his books, preparing for the next meeting." She smacked his hand away as he made a grab for another. He grinned and made a reach for another, she maneuvered around him. Gracefully bending around with a soft giggle on her lips. It wasn't until they were both laughing with amusement at this familiar game they played that they stilled. Nose to nose their eyes met, both breaths coming out softly. So close, when had this game changed. She wished her heart would stop fluttering.

It was Stelios who stepped away first, a grin creeping back to his lips. He plucked a blade of grass that had been in her hair from this afternoon, a hot flush flooding her cheeks.

"You look like some wild Oread little one!" He twirled the blade in his fingers.

"Its been a long time since I've been a child!"She scowled, holding her basket close. She didn't know why it seemed to infuriate her at the thought of him seeing her only as a child, but she thought to throttle him into realizing it. Adding the thought that she had been in the Queens presence with grass sticking from her hair made her face grow even hotter.

His voice was no more then a whisper. "Your right," he moved closer as he plucked another blade of grass out of her hair. This time his thumb trailing along her cheek.

She turned on her heel and pointedly made an indignant huff as she made her way back home. Hemera did not dare look back at the warrior that stared after her, her heart pounding out of her chest.

ooOOoo

The next morning there was a commotion in the market square, as Hemera moved through the crowd that gathered for some spetical. But what Hemera saw made a shiver run down her spine.

A girl gave a helpless look as she was chosen to be an oracle, her hands gripping her mother as she was urged that she would be honoring the gods. Hemera gripped the hem of her dress, afraid that if she let go somebody would see her hands shake.

Yes, honor the gods, but she heard the rumors of the ephors, of their oracles. And she knew the hearts of men. No one would dare stop the ethos tradition for fear of offending the Gods. But what if it was not the will of the Gods, just the desire of men?

Her heart sank as she noticed councilman Theron not far from the girl that was being taken away, she saw the pass of a leather purse from the councilman's to one of the soldiers. Confusion hit her for a moment as she realized what a snake he was, what was he gaining from this, she wondered.

His wicked grin widened as his eyes met hers, making Hemera's blood run cold.

ooOOOoo

The councilman saw her eyes, the young daughter of his fellow councilman had hawk like observation and was very perceptive, a fiery spirit that demanded a firm hand. Something he wanted to relish breaking.

He had built the council with his bare hands, the youngest to ever hold a position, and one of the most respected. Although Hemera was a fine treat in of herself, it was her father's position and sway that caused him to want.

The sobs of Pythia were faint, but they rang in his ear like bells. He had warned her father of what might happen if he refused his offer for his daughter's hand, the old man thought he might call his bluff but to Therons amusement the ephors are always in need of a pretty trinket. Her angelic face and a fiery mane that flowed like silk would honor the gods, and he never gambled.

Hopefully Celeus would take more care with his daughter, he was a practical man at heart, although he heard his late wife softened him up a bit. Thereon would have him see the practicality and reason behind Hemera and his union. And if not the ephors would have another beautiful oracle to murmur drunken prophecies.

ooOOOoo

Hemera made sure not to make a sound as she crept out of her bed, her heart pounding as she moved quietly. She could not be caught, her hands were steady as she pulled her cloak tight, the night sky that Artimis provided was her shield.

She almost cried when she heard that her father had given Theron his approval for their marriage. Her shouts of protest could probably have been heard throughout the city. Hemera had never dreamed of marriage, although she was past the age where it was common to already be baring future warriors. The betrayal at her fathers command made her whole being shake. She could not obey this contract, she had always bended to her fathers wishes but to be used as a pawn by Theron to control her father was too much.

Traditions were that tonight the man would sneak into her chamber and steal her away, consummating their marriage. There would be no ceremony like other states would have. Spartan marriage was simple, cranial.

Her feet were light and she ran like Atlanta, and much for the same reason. Wind whipped through her hair, the moon her only light. She would be no mans object, not tonight. To the boatman she would go if her choice was forfeit.

ooOOOoo

The full moon swayed, disappearing into a black sky until it renewed itself. Stelios walked the wheat fields that glittered in the faint eve of the morning. He could still see the moon as the rosy hues danced from the darkness.

He had come out to the quiet country side, needing to clear his head. Hearing the news that councilman Celeus had given permission for Hemera's hand… he needed to be far away from the city.

Stelios had gone to Celeus yesterday afternoon, asking to marry his daughter. But the sad look that he cast the warrior made his heart sink, and anger flooded him with the knowing it would be Theron. Rage almost engulfed him thinking about his slimy hands on her body, he couldn't think about that now.

He stopped by a cool stream, cupping the water and splashing it over his head. Setios was deep in thought, remembering the woman smiling up at him with blades of grass sticking out of her hair. He realized that his feeling for her had come slowly, like thick honey and just as sweet.

He seemed to wander the same familiar path that he had taken, no longer going home but seeming to be pulled by some unknown force. It wasn't until he heard faint sobs that his reverie was broken.

Stelios stopped as he saw the woman kneeling further down towards the end of the spring, the gleam of the knife pressed to her chest.

"Gods give me courage," She sobbed.

"Hemera!" Stelios shouted as he ran to her.