Oenone's choice

"So you're wounded Paris? And you come to ME for aid?" said the mountain nymph coldly.

"Oenone – for the love we have shared!" groaned Paris "The poison of Philoctetes' arrow burns in my body; I am dying!"

"Dear me" said Oenone "Why haven't you gone to Helen's bed? Surely the women you deserted me for can heal this grievous ill?"

"No Oenone; only your knowledge of herbal healing can save me" Paris gasped "I – Helen was a madness! I do not know why I deserted you; I have never known such happiness as I did before I was chosen by those wretched goddesses to judge between them…. The last ten years has been dissatisfaction and no fulfilment of the promise I embraced in my cursed infatuation!"

"Get out you cheating scum" said Oenone.

The slaves who were bearing their Master picked up the litter and Paris cried out in agony as the poison coursed through his veins.

Oenone bit her lip.

"Wait" she said "I will heal you. Lay him down" she directed the bearers "I will give you a draught to slow the poison; it will also make you sleepy."

Paris drank it gladly; if it was a poison that would kill him quickly he cared not. The pain was unbearable; what other pain might be expected from a wound caused by an arrow dipped in the burning blood of the hydra, after all?

oOOo

"Oh Cybele, goddess of the Mountain, tell me what I must do?" Oenone prayed "I must heal him; I love him still though he killed our son; I am willing to believe that he did not recognise Corythus. But he is a burning brand; and if I heal him, what is to prevent him from leaving me again and pursuing Helen?"

"You must do as you see fit, my faithful nymph" the voice of the earth goddess whispered in the stones; a stridulant sound like the rubbing together of pebbles in a streambed.

"I have to heal him; because once he loved me; and I will always love him" said Oenone, tears flowing down her face.

She prepared the herbs, some to be applied directly to the wound, others for Paris to drink; and she wept to see the beautiful body of her fair young shepherd hardened by the practise of war. She induced him to drink however and saw as she also smeared the ointment onto his wound that the relief came quickly; even as the ointment rich in honey and comfrey drew forth the poison from the wound and the angry red lines radiating from the ragged scar lessened.

oOOo

Naturally the restoration of the firebrand Paris was of no little interest to the gods.

"She was supposed to be unforgiving after he abandoned her so cruelly!" said Zeus in amazement.

"Well I always have YOU back when you stray" said Hera.

"And you can't fault her choice" purred Aphrodite "Such a NICE little body!"

Most of the other gods glared at her; it was the bribe of the most beautiful woman in the world that Aphrodite had offered Paris which had lead to the Trojan War in the first place. Now was NOT a good time to remind anyone of her partiality for the Trojan Prince.

Aphrodite made a moue and sulked prettily.

She knew she was sulking prettily because she took a surreptitious peek into Ares' polished shield to check.

"He can't be permitted to live" said Athene "Enough of this carnage has been done; even good Ares is….er, moderately satisfied" she changed what she had been going to say "And even Ares must acknowledge that the heroes are too exhausted to do war efficiently."

"A point; I grant it" said Ares with some chagrin.

"Then I had better….."Zeus reached towards the thunderbolts. Aphrodite gave a little shriek.

"Oh NO, mighty father! He has far too cute a backside to…." She subsided as everyone glared at her.

"Please excuse me, mighty Zeus, but may I make a suggestion?" Eos of the rosy fingers spoke up.

"Speak then shy goddess of the dawn!" said Zeus pompously.

I wonder if Hera is ever going to tell him that he has a beer gut thought Athene inconsequentially.

Eos spoke. She was inclined in Paris' favour, having had one of her sons killed by Achilles.

"To the north there are lands that have none of the glory of the gods interacting in their lands – or at least, only hairy barbarian gods with unpronounceable names. They have strange names for Helios my brother and Selene my daughter and they know nothing of heroes. We might solve the problem, permit Paris to feel that his love for Oenone and hers for him are commemorated and bring the glory of Olympus to far flung barbarians" she began; and outlined an idea.

Zeus listened.

"It might work" he said dubiously.

"It will work" said Eos "And when it does you owe me big time, father Zeus; no mucking about with pedantries next time I ask a favour for a lover."

Zeus scowled and thunder rumbled; he had thought it quite funny to grant Eos' request of immortality for her lover Tithonus whilst adhering to the absolute letter of the request which had not included asking for everlasting youth too.

Eos had disagreed.

oOOo

Paris gradually regained his strength; and tenderly Oenone cared for him, and nursed him; and willing went to his arms to love him on the soft short sheep-cropped grass of the meadows on Mt Ida.

And for a while it was idyllic.

He had been at the centre of politics once, however; and that was hard to give up; and at times Paris would glance out at the rest of the world from a coign of vantage on his mountain home and sigh gently.

Oenone wept in private for she knew that he longed for more then her gentle love and the bucolic pleasures to be had amongst the shepherds and their flocks.

But she had him still for a while; and she would not show him a face stained with tears but would do all she might to show him a happy welcoming face in the hopes that it was enough. And some days it seemed that it was.

After one tender night following a most enjoyable dance, the couple lay, watching the rosy fingers of Eos stain the eastern sky; when that roseate goddess herself walked out of the sky into the glade where they lay in each others' arms.

"Not MORE goddesses after my husband!" said Oenone in disgust.

"No gentle Oenone; I come but to offer you and your husband a chance to shine in the heavens and dance for all eternity" said Eos. "Together forever; able to watch over large portions of the earth and marvelled at and worshipped by many" she added cunningly for Paris was not looking convinced. Dear me, she could see what Aphrodite saw in him; nothing left to the imagination there.

"It sounds good. What's the catch this time?" said Paris.

Eos sighed.

He had learned rather too well; perhaps she really ought to be honest.

"Some of the gods think you ought to be killed in case you go roving again" she said bluntly "And this is a compromise I offered."

"Why did you offer it?" demanded Paris.

"Oh you are very suspicious; how sexy it makes you look….er, I mean, excellent that you are wary" said Eos. "I offered it because I don't like Achilles and nor do you. As simple as that."

Paris considered.

He turned to Oenone.

"Shall we accept?" he said.

Eos squealed with delight.

"You asked her! You asked her! Now I'm allowed to give you a lot more freedom!" she said "That you may meet in human form too as well…..you may be in human form for a day at midsummer, so long as you don't leave the – well the place you must be; and trust me, where you'll be staying that's a very long day indeed!"

"If they want to kill you I don't think we have any choice" said Oenone. "We accept; what does it entail?"

"Should have asked that before accepting" muttered Paris; but he did not make an issue of it, proving that he was getting used to being married again.

"As Oenone is the daughter of a river god and as you are a firebrand you shall dance in the heavens as rivers of water and fire" said Eos. "Come north with me; and you shall dance about the earth and as you dance I will change you into dancing waterfalls and firefalls."

They followed her, able to move at Olympian pace; and as they danced gradually they became insubstantial curtains, he a red and orange flickering flame and she a cascade of green; and the Northern Lights were placed forever in the heavens.

And in the summer when there is no darkness to be found the northern lights, immune to cold, might meet and embrace and reaffirm their love before resuming the wild dance of coloured light that causes so much wonder amongst mortals.

A/N the ancient Greeks have no legends about the Northern Lights since generally they are not visible so far south [though they have been seen in Rome in historical times] so I thought this would fill a deficit; and besides I've always been sorry for poor Oenone.