Disclaimer: I still don't own it, I checked.
Claimer: Only Andromeda, her family and the characters of the Cynurian army and any other characters you don't recognize from 300.
Rating: Rated T for minor language, violence and bloody/gruesome material
Author's Note: Hi everyone! Thank you for the reviews on the first chapter and oh my gosh there have been so many visitors! Please, please review! Please! Ok, so now that I have begged, there are a few things I need to point out so I don't get flamed (please, no flames. It makes me sad). First, I realized I did not put the year, so I will remember to do so from now on. Also, keeping with the AU theme here, I know that Spartan men went to the agoge at seven years old however, because it ruined the whole friendship thing between Andromeda and her companions, I have the boys in a type of training schedule instead of being sent away for many years, and they complete their training at 18. Completely AU, yes, but also completely necessary. Also, I think Stelios was supposed to be older and married, but for the sake of this story he isn't and I made him slightly younger, not by much though.
Okay, so on you go to reading and reviewing (please =D).
~Chapter Two: Breaking Rules~
481 BC- August 21
Astinos and Stelios were the greatest companions I ever had. Astinos was three months older than me, being born in February. Stelios was five years older than the two of us. Today was his 22nd birthday though he looked nothing like a man. His hair was long and rested on his shoulders, the dark blond matching his tanned skin and well-muscled body. His eyes were a piercing blue. In fact, the only thing the three of us had in common was our eyes. Stelios had grown to at least five foot eleven inches as estimated by Astinos who already stood at five foot nine inches and was only seventeen. Naturally, I had to be the shortest of the three, standing at five foot six and a half inches.
Today, Stelios beamed with pride. He had completed his training three years ago while we still had one more year. At eighteen, all men completed training, and in this case so did I. My uncle had followed my father's orders to make sure I was properly trained and ready for the throne if the need arose. Stelios and Astinos had been delighted, but not all Spartans thought as they did. To them, it didn't matter where I came from. I lived in Sparta now.
We were with all our friends today and Stelios was the man of the hour. He was radiant and though he enjoyed the celebration, he kept close to me and Astinos. The others wondered why he stayed with us when there were others his age. His response had been that we had more brains than some and besides, we were the youngest which meant we were a lot more entertaining than everyone else.
In truth, Stelios was as much a child as Astinos and me. While he was sometimes more serious than the two of us, Stelios was just as lively, entertaining and crazy as us. When Stelios was around, everyone smiled and had a good time. He knew how to make us all laugh.
Astinos and I were too busy deciding who was going to win a wrestling match that we did not see Stelios approach us from behind and grasp us by the shoulders. We both jumped and then laughed out loud. It was getting late in the evening and the celebrations were almost over. Stelios led us away from the match and towards the entrance to the city.
"So my friends, what glorious adventure should we go on this lovely night," he said with a mischievous smile. I raised an eyebrow.
"Well, we could go to the stables, set all the horses loose and watch the city go into frenzy," I suggested nonchalantly, examining the moon as it shined over the city. I looked over at my two friends to see their expressions and then suddenly, Stelios began laughing so hard that he had to use Astinos for support.
When he had calmed he turned to me. "I was thinking something a little more diplomatic."
"You want to be diplomatically mischievous?" I asked and Stelios just continued smiling. Even Astinos couldn't help but laugh. Then I added, "What were you planning, a horse ride underneath the moonlight?"
Stelios stopped walking and seemed to ponder this. "You know, that sounds like a great idea." I laughed lightly.
Astinos turned to us. "How about a race first? Last one to the stables' is a rotten egg." And then, before we even answered, he ran so fast Stelios and I didn't even have time to register what was going on. We galvanized into action and began running down the path, but Astinos was so far ahead of us we knew we would never catch up. Then suddenly, I ducked to the left and took a shortcut I knew. I hopped over a low fence, ran through someone's backyard, up a small hill and over another fence. Then I made a sharp right and skidded to a halt in front of the stables just as Astinos arrived. Stelios came in last.
"That-was-cheating," Stelios panted, pointing at me as we all tried to catch our breath. I looked up at him smiling.
"No, it wasn't," I argued pointedly. "No one said anything about having to use the path. So I improvised."
Astinos laughed and opened the large wooden doors and ushered us into the stables before someone saw us. "Well, that's the Cynurian part of you I guess."
I just shrugged and walked over to my beautiful black stallion, Erebus, which literally meant shadow. He neighed softly as I opened his stall and grabbed his reins. He knew he was going for a walk. I paused before attaching his reins.
"Are you sure we should be going this late?" I decided to ask my friends. "It's almost dark out."
I saw Stelios finish knotting the reins on his horse and he turned around, still smiling. "You're not afraid of the dark are you? I mean, you've got us. Nothing will try and grab you."
He made to tickle me but I gave him a shove and closed Erebus' gate behind me. Stelios and Astinos leaned over the gate as I finished tying Erebus' reins.
"I just meant that I shouldn't really be out this late."
Astinos shrugged. "It's not like this is the first time we've snuck out of the city this late- even later. Besides, no one will even notice us missing."
Stelios nodded. "My sister saw us leaving the party," he told me. "I'm sure if anyone asks, she'll tell them that we've gone off somewhere and not to mind since it is my birthday."
I smiled at the pair of them and rolled my eyes. "Fine then let's go. I've got a great spot I want to show you two."
In the next instant the three of us had left the stables, walking slowly, quietly to the edge of the city where the golden wheat fields would muffle our sounds. When we were clear of everyone and all the buildings and paving stones, we mounted our trusty steeds and took on a fast gallop before anyone noticed a thing.
After five minutes of galloping away from the city, we paused and surveyed our surroundings. We had headed south, which would lead us to the shores of the Middle Sea and a few cities we didn't care much to visit. But I had the city of Trinisa in mind, an hour and a half gallop away, where the most spectacular sight awaited us on the coast. I turned southeast and Astinos and Stelios followed. We reached our destination after almost two hours, having stopped for a rest and to slow the horses.
We approached the shores of Trinisa and set our horses to a slow trot. I led my two friends up a hill and when we rose to the top, the sight below us was breathtaking. Our small hill was actually the point of a larger cliff top with several others surrounding us. Below, the stunning Middle Sea rippled out until it touched the horizon, its blue waters turned black against the night sky. The only source of light came from the moon which shone in all its' brilliance, illuminating the coastline. It was one of the most spectacular sights we had ever seen.
"This is the beauty of Greece," Stelios whispered, as if it saying it any louder would make it disappear.
Astinos remained quiet, but when I looked at him, I could see the reflection of the water in his eyes, the moon shining in them, giving them a strange glow as his dark black hair framed his youthful face. He had a faint smile about his lips and it took me a moment before I tore my gaze away from him. I noticed Stelios staring at me and I knew why. I had stared at Astinos for far too long and Stelios wasn't one to miss an observation. He remained quiet though and I was thankful. The three of us remained in quiet contemplation for a long while before Stelios broke our thoughts.
"Come my friends, we should head home."
How long we had been standing there, I did not know. Astinos and I turned our steeds away from the sea and joined Stelios. He turned to me then and said, "That was the most beautiful birthday present I have ever received."
I couldn't help but smile and then the three of us were off, heading home in the darkness, hoping all the while that we had not been found out.
It was nearly midnight when the three of us entered Sparta again and we moved so silently through the streets, no one would have noticed our presence. Of course, we were not so lucky. We had entered the stables and brushed our horses quickly, stalling them for the night. Then, Astinos and Stelios insisted that they walk me home at the very least, Stelios saying because it had been his idea to drag me out so late and Astinos saying if we got caught, at least we'd all get caught together.
We were mere seconds away from my uncle's palace when we saw the shadows of some people playing out against the paved courtyard. Angry voices could be heard but not understood. Stelios motioned that I stay still while he got a closer look. A second later he reappeared, and for the first time that night, he was not smiling.
"We are in some serious trouble," he informed us and I swallowed hard.
"No, I am," I said, my voice hard to keep from cracking. I knew I was supposed to be home before dark and that I should have never left the city so late, and my adventures with my friends had been tolerated while I was a child. But I was seventeen now, old enough to understand rules. And everyone knew I hated rules.
I made to go out and announce my return but Stelios grabbed my wrist and pulled me back. "Callisto, if you go now, you're telling them you know you broke the rules," he told me.
"But I do know that my dear friend," I replied.
Astinos stared at me. "You know they'll punish you," he warned, his voice strangely concerned. I knew my punishment would be the lash. Stelios' brows were furrowed.
"We go together. After all, it was my idea," Stelios reasoned. Then, a small smile played on his lips, one Astinos and I did not understand. "It is my birthday after all, and I think I may have a plan to get us out of this one."
Two minutes later, Astinos, Stelios and I sauntered into the city again, this time talking loudly, singing and laughing. Stelios was in between Astinos and me, playing the part of a drunken birthday boy, while his two friends held him upright.
The angry voices seemed to die down and then we were suddenly met by a barrage of councilmen, my uncle and my aunt, half of them carrying torches. Stelios' sister, Lysidia, was among them. She saw us first and gave us a look that was something in between disappointment and relief. Strangely, my aunt Gorgo had a similar look. My uncle however, looked far angrier than I had ever seen him.
I was still trying to work out why the councilmen had arrived. Of course, it wasn't the whole council. Some of the elders along with Theron, head of the Council, were there.
"Would you care to explain why no one has seen hide or hair of you for the past four and a half hours?" Leonidas breathed. I had been wrong- he was beyond angry. I swallowed the lump in my throat and told myself that of all the lies I had to tell, this had to be the most convincing one I ever told.
"We were only outside the city walls…when Stelios decided to wander off," I said humbly.
"So why not call the guards to get him?" Theron questioned and it took everything in me to remain calm and not glare at him. I refused to even look at him but kept my gaze on my uncle.
Fortunately, Stelios decided that this would be the perfect time to intervene. "Why are we standing?" he slurred, releasing his grip on my shoulder. "I want to sit."
It took everything Astinos and I had to keep him upright. Finally Dilios, who had arrived but a moment ago, relieved me of the duty and caught Stelios by the shoulders.
"Come on, let's get him to bed. He'll need to sleep off the wine," he commented and I was almost entirely sure that he knew of our mischievous ploy. Astinos had no choice but to follow, leaving me alone to the mercy of the Council. Lysidia also followed, glancing back at me and giving a nod of approval. The ploy seemed to have worked.
I turned to my uncle. "I'm sorry, but we didn't want to disturb anyone. We went after him and he kept running away, then he fell asleep while we tried to haul him back here. You saw how intoxicated he was."
Leonidas seemed to extinguish a little. "Next time, at least tell someone where you're going. Then there won't be a search party looking for you and your two companions." I nodded and said nothing more as my aunt Gorgo led me into the house. I said nothing to her but went straight to my room and listened at the window. I could hear Theron talking with my uncle.
"Your Majesty, she may be your niece, but you cannot overlook this very unbecoming behaviour she has been exhibiting," Theron argued in a hushed tone, though I caught every word of it.
My uncle replied calmly, "I have not overlooked a thing, Theron. I believe this time it was an honest act of looking out for a friend."
I laughed inside. My uncle was smarter than that. He knew the three of us were lying, but he played into our ploy nonetheless-at least for my sake. Theron, however, was questioning.
"You don't really believe that nonsense," he muttered.
Leonidas sighed. "You saw the boy with your own eyes. I think you can make your own judgment."
Theron took a moment to answer. "Very well Sire. But I would advise that you keep an eye on her. After all, it is very unlike a woman to always be seen in the company of not one, but two, adult men. She is not a child anymore, my King."
I could imagine my uncle staring Theron down. "They are merely friends, Councilman. My niece knows what she is doing. Now, I think it's best if you got back to your family, and I will get back to mine."
"My Lord," Theron said and then there was only silence. It took not two minutes before footsteps could be heard in the hallway and they stopped in front of my door. It was open and my uncle didn't hesitate, though it was probably because he saw me sitting on the floor against the balcony. How I had ended up on the floor astonished even me, but all I remember was that I was holding onto the balcony posts and feeling very angry.
My uncle knelt down so he was staring at me level. I looked deep into his hazel eyes.
"I'm sorry." I could say nothing more and hung my head.
"Where did you go this time?" he asked me softly instead. I looked up at him again.
"Do you really want to know?" I asked quietly.
He nodded. "I really want to know."
I sighed. "Well, I wanted to give Stelios a really pretty present and I couldn't think of anything but I remembered a place I had been to," I recounted. It wasn't the whole truth, but it sounded more reasonable. My uncle's eyebrows were raised though, so I knew he didn't care about the back story. "We went to the coast of Trinisa to see the Middle Sea."
Leonidas shook his head and sighed. I knew he was beyond disappointed. "Stelios wasn't really drunk was he?"
I shook my head. "No, we made it up. We got back and saw the search party…and we knew we'd be in trouble, so Stelios invented the idea that we had gone searching for him after he had gotten drunk and wandered off."
My uncle stroked his beard. "Well, he played a very convincing part."
"At what part did you figure out he was lying?" I ventured carefully.
My uncle cracked a smile. "After he shot you a backward glance as he was being dragged away by Astinos and Dilios."
I smiled a little. "I'll have to tell him that," I pondered aloud.
"Andromeda," my uncle started. He was the only one who used my real name. I knew what he was going to say but I had no chance of stopping him. "You're nearly eighteen. It's time you either chose one of them to spend your life with, or stop hanging around them."
"But we're best friends. We'll always be best friends. Besides, Stelios likes someone already!" I covered my mouth. I had said too much. Stelios would be expected to get married very soon and that would leave Astinos and me, although we were sure Stelios would still be around. And my uncle knew that while I hung around Stelios and Astinos, everything was alright, as much as the Council saw it unladylike. But with Stelios out of the picture, being alone for countless hours with a single man, roughly the same age as me spelled disaster. We would either be expected to get married or no longer associate with each other. I was beginning to understand where the Council was getting their ideas. It wasn't that they didn't want me to be around my friends, they wanted me to choose one.
I huffed and stood up, turning away from my uncle. It wasn't fair. Life in Sparta wasn't fair. In that moment, I wanted to go home more than anything- to my real home in Cynuria. When my uncle understood that I wasn't going to talk anymore, he left and closed the door behind him. I had never hated my life more than that day. Little did I know that life for me in Sparta was about to get more difficult than I could have ever imagined.
A/N: Chapter two done! I've got most of this story penned, and I'll be needing all your help later on to make some important decisions about the plot. But for now, R&R and thank you so much to all of you have already reviewed! Hope you enjoyed and as always, constructive criticism is a writer's best friend (but no flames please).