Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the reviews and positive feedback! I'm kind of a nut about grammar and the like, so to hear this is well written really makes my day :) keep the reviews coming! Anyway, let the excitement commence!
Disclaimer: I do not own Troy or any of the affiliated characters
Chapter 4: Desecration
A few hours later, Adara was close to taking Briseis up on her offer to help, even if it was only to hold up her dress. While wading in the shore, she quickly discovered it was rather difficult to pick seaweed with one hand and hold up her dress with the other. The hem was already soaked, but she didn't want it getting dirty. She'd tried rolling it up, but it just fell down again. All she was left to do was struggle and silently complain to herself. When she had picked a handful of long weeds, she decided to head back to shallower water and take the small ones.
"I think this ought to be good," she mumbled thoughtfully, trying to convince herself that Daan would be fine with the supplies she brought. It was getting to be late afternoon, but she couldn't shake a bad feeling, not from guilt about being lazy, but from knowledge of what these plants would really be used for: saving people's lives in the approaching war.
She made it back to the sand and dropped the many weeds into the basket Briseis had given her. Adara had her own baskets, but they had long since overflown with the other supplies on the list. Those baskets were inside the shade of the temple so as not to be damaged by the sun's heat. Adara looked down at the slimy, green and brown weeds and sighed, gathering up the hem of her dress in vain and wading into the water once more.
Only a while later, she returned to the basket to drop off another handful of seaweed. She decided to go back one more time, but when she turned to the water, the weeds were not what had her attention. It was the speck on the horizon, far to the west, but approaching quickly, that caught her eye. She squinted to beat the distance and the sun. Then, it took only a second to realize what it was. Her stomach dropped.
Forgetting all about her seaweed and wet hem, Adara ran as fast as her feet could carry her back to the temple, feeling herself practically flying across the sand. She wondered how she could've been the first to see. When she glanced up at the top of the temple, she understood why. They guard was looking to the east, at Troy, waiting for the signal that the Greeks were coming. The problem was that the Greeks weren't coming from the north, where they would be seen by Trojan lookouts. They had circled around making their trip a little longer, but almost ensuring a surprise attack.
Adara was flushed and breathing heavily by the time she arrived at the temple. "The Greeks-" she cut her own shout off, seeing no one. She remembered the time, and realized they all must be in prayer. She started to move forward to find them, but then became aware that she had no clue which room they were in, and she heard no noise to help guide her. She only knew that she would waste time by searching for them.
Instead, she took off up the stairs, adrenaline the only thing keeping her going. It felt like forever had passed before she made it to the top of the temple, where she nearly slammed into the lookout. He stared at her, bewildered, as she gasped for air. "Greeks," was all she could get out, and she pointed to the west. Now, the first ship was clearly visible and growing larger with each passing second, as were the countless other behind it. The sentry, a young man probably not much older than Carius - and obviously much less of a quick thinker - stood, mouth agape, staring at the ships.
"Do something!" she shouted, shocking him into action. He hurried over to the wall and picked up the horn, blowing three long blasts, then two short ones. Adara didn't know which sounds meant what, but she saw tiny dots that were guards on the walls of Troy start moving around, and heard the answering call. In a few moments, she knew Hector and Carius would be preparing the army.
She hurried down the stairs to the floor level of the temple, her knees almost buckling more than once. Looking out the entrance, she saw that the ship at the head was not slowing down to rejoin the rest. If anything, it was going faster, and to her horror, was almost at the shore. And still, she could find no one.
"How could they possibly not have heard that?" she said, continuing her search. She had assumed the point of the great horn was that all could hear it. Finally she saw a small staircase with lit torches along the walls. She heard light chanting as she descended, and she ran faster when she reached the hallway at the bottom. The words grew louder as she traveled farther.
In this part of the temple, and at the volume at which they were chanting, Adara wasn't surprised that they did not hear anything - but she was rather annoyed and disconcerted. Precious seconds were wasted as she ran for the doorway to the prayer room in use.
If it were any other day, she never would have dared to think about the consequences of interrupting a prayer session. But given the circumstances, she hoped Apollo would understand.
Even if Apollo didn't understand, the rest of those in the temple did. Adara's announcement and frazzled appearance had sent the occupants of the temple into chaos. There were frantic attempts to get to the exit, and not even Salus' bellows for order could calm down the mob. Adara watched as the head priest fought his way to the front to sort out the terrified crowd. As she herself was pushed out of the way and into the nearby wall, Adara knew the situation was hopeless. And apparently, it didn't taken much longer for Salus to figure that out either.
"GET TO THE TUNNEL!" he shouted, raising his voice so as to be heard by everyone.
"Adara!" Briseis said with relief a moment later when she found her. The younger girl was in the cattle-line to get out of the prayer room, but Briseis took her hand. "Come, there is another way out."
Adara, seeing how far she was from the exit and remembering with a sick feeling in her stomach how close the Greeks were to the shore, immediately followed her. A second exit was at the opposite side of the room in the corner in the form of a narrow, spiral staircase. The two girls ran up, feet and hearts pounding.
As they got closer to the top, the battle they heard outside on the sand grew louder. "Quickly!" Briseis urged as they reached the main floor and turned left down a small hallway that led to the entrance hall. Adara didn't need to be told twice, but soon discovered it was no use. The entire temple was swarming with soldiers, both Greek and Trojan, she guessed, from the sound of clashing swords.
The two girls huddled far back in the unnoticed hallway. From her position, Adara had a clear view of the statue of Apollo. "Please-" She started to whisper a prayer, then gasped and quickly covered her mouth with her hand. The head of the statue was now on the sand by its feet, where she could also see two shadows. Now, she heard voices as well. One was deep and nonchalant, but the other was Hector's. Adara rested her head against the wall and could have cried in relief. Hector meant the army, and the army meant they were saved.
But something was wrong, she realized as she paid more attention. Their voices were practically the only sound, and now they were gone too. She could no longer see their shadows.
All the fighting had stopped. It was quiet.
"Adara," Briseis whispered. She pointed across the main room to the unnoticeable flight of stairs that led to the tunnel. "If we continue to wait here, we're doomed to be found." Adara nodded her understanding and began to inch forward to the edge of their protected wall, though every fiber in her being was screaming at her to stay put. "On three, run as fast as you can," Briseis instructed as they looked both ways.
Again, Adara nodded. There was a time to be stealthy and and time to be quick. In broad daylight with the enemy all around them, the best they could do was run.
"One," Briseis began, her mouth dry. Adara's pulse quickened. "Two."
"Three." The voice that had completed their count was deep, mocking, and most definitely did not belong to Briseis.
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