Any incongruencies with Greek culture or myth (e.g. who they actually married) are entirely mine, but the characters belong to the ancient authors. I try to make these glitches as infrequent as pssoble, but I'm no expert! Thanks for reading :)
Not a year after my father returned home, his hair turned gray. I suppose his adventured caught up to him. By the time his hair was completely white, he was gone. Not dead, but gone. One night I half-awoke to feel him brush back the hair on my forehead and kiss me. That was the last time I ever saw my father. My mother died soon after; the healer said it was a broken heart the killed her. Her last words to me were, "Secure your leadership- marry Hermione." Sure enough, my island kingdom would not be stable until I married, and I was betrothed to Hermione. The engagement was made when we were still children, but it could not be broken with both my parents dead. I would marry Hermione. She would become queen of these rocky shores. All the elders were delighted when I made the official announcement, and for a good reason: since the girl was of noble birth, the marriage would firmly secure my leadership.
The problem lay in the fact that I had no desire to marry Hermione. If I marry, I want my wife to be faithful as my mother Penelope was. If I marry, I vow to be as faithful as my father Odysseus was. We all know what Hermione's mother did- Helen went off with Prince Alexandros of Troy, and King Menelaus had to fetch back his disgraceful wife. Then they started a war, and my father was dragged off to fight. I still remember when Diomedes put me in front of the plow, foiling Odysseus's plan to feign insanity. I wasn't even walking when my father went to war. Ten years later, Menelaus, Agamenmon, Nestor, and the others returned, with tales of the storm that had separated the Ithacans from the rest of the Achaean fleet.
Almost immediately afterwards, our home filled with rude, disrespectful suitors vying for my mother's hand. They chased me away and I traveled to Pylos, where Gerenian Nestor told stories late into the night of my father's faithfulness, courage, and wit. The adventured of Odysseus gave me strength to return, but they also made me weep for the father I never met. When Pallas Athena came to me in a dream and told me that Odysseus lived, I rejoiced. There was still a chance that I could know my father. The knowledge gave my mother new heart also. She wove and unwove a shroud for my old grandfather Laertes, stalling for her husband's return. Only through the betrayal of her trusted maid Melantho was her ruse discovered. The next day cruel Antinous and the drunkard Eurymachus commanded my mother to choose another husband. "Pick one of us, woman!" they jeered, "Your husband Odysseus is dead." Fearing an attempt on my life, I fled to the rural home of Eumaeus the chief swineherd. Sometimes when I was younger, he would spin stories for me of Odysseus when he was young, as would my old nurse Eurycleia.
However, I was not Eumaeus's only visitor. A hunched, dirty, old beggar rose as the swineherd ushered me into the hut. I pitied the ancient man, who was probably run out of the village by Antinous's drunken cronies. Telling him to sit back down, I helped Eumaeus pull together a couch for myself. We made idle talk with me making subtle references to my father. Finally the beggar picked up on my thoughts. "I knew the wily Odysseus, young prince," he rasped, "not too long ago, he was at Phaecia planning to return home." Eumaeus and I were both overjoyed, but the man claimed to not know any more about my father. The truth emerged when Eumaeus took his leave to help the gangly young herders bring home the unruly hogs. Feeling awkward with the beggar staring at me, I turned to collect my cloak. When I faced the beggar again, he was gone. In his place stood a tall, strong man with golden hair and a richly colored cloak. Gone were the beggar's rags, replaced by a crisp white tunic. The man's- or god's- eyes shone with tears. I sank to my knees in awe.
"Which god has blessed me with his great presence?" I gasped. The man smiled sadly.
"It's me, Telemachus. I'm Odysseus." I could not believe it. Someone was twisting the knife in my heart, causing grief anew. What were the gods holding against me? I never disrespected any of them.
"If you're really my father, prove it to me now," I challenged. The man's eyes narrowed, just the way my mother said Odysseus's did when presented with a challenge. Did I just imagine it?
"I am Odysseus Laertiades, leader of the Ithacan fleet in the Trojan War. My wife is Penelope and my son is Telemachus. My patron goddess is Bright Eyes Athena- it was she who changed my appearance and caused your alarm. She also gave my son a mark on his left shoulder when he was born that takes the form of the aegis." It was truly Odysseus. After my mark had become the source of ridicule in training, I never revealed it to anyone.
"Father!" I stood too abruptly and promptly fell forward. Odysseus caught me, and we both began weeping like two women having hysterics; our cries mimicked those of the eagles that soar through the mountains. The minstrels already sing the rest of the story; how Odysseus slaughtered Penelope's suitors, reclaimed his rocky island kingdom, and convinced Mother that it was really him.
They do not sing of how Penelope had Father finalize my betrothal to Hermione immediately after the last of the bodies had been disposed of, or how I stormed out of the palace to bury the old dog Argos when Mother told me this. Now, that engagement is to be fulfilled and I will have to marry Hermione. They say she has her mother's beauty and her father's courage. Penelope used to be Helen's closest friend. I hope Mother's faithfulness, somehow, will appear in the girl I shall marry next week.
Grandfather loved to say, "Country before family, and family before self." Country before family runs in the family, otherwise Odysseus would not have left for Troy in the first place. Family before self was easy for my parents; my mother remained faithful and was able to dissuade drunken suitors from murdering me many ties and my father remained faithful for twenty years. How will it be for me to carry on the tradition, and put my personal wishes to the side in order to have a family and secure my position? Oh gods, I don't care if Hermione is the ugliest woman to walk the earth, but please give her the faithfulness of Penelope, and grant me the faith of Odysseus.
Grant me the faith to trust this decision is the right one.
The next chapter, the wedding, will be a little while in coming up- I have no idea about Ancient Greek wedding traditions! Well, reviews are treasured, and thanks again for reading. :)