You have been told “No”, have heard “No” uttered so many times by so many people that you’ve lost count. And all of them are still fine, going about their lives, haven’t died. Yet.
But you…one “No” was enough to doom you. Because of his power, his will, his (hateful, foul, terrible) light
After that day, you barely go outside.
Helen is one of the few who still speaks to you; she has experienced firsthand the power of the gods, their awful ability to bend humans to…
Helen understands something of what you’ve survived. Enough to sit with you sometimes, in the depths of the house, tucked away behind stone and wood, tile and linen, hidden among the musty shadows. She will bring you honey, cool water, figs.
Sometimes she will sing.
You take these kindnesses, tuck them away in your memories.
You love her for her care. In another life, this may have been enough, she may have been enough, but in this life, a life with kings and princes and gods, it cannot last long.
The future is always in motion. This is one of the first things you realized as you adjusted to your new ability.
Most events are variable right up until the moment that they occur. Others are possible, likely, probable. And a select few are inevitable.
Paris’ judgement was one such thing. When you first realized what he would do, what it would mean, you braved the light, tried desperately to warn him…and for just one cruel moment, it seemed like your father would hear you, could understand…and then his face smooths, and he laughs lightly as your curse rears its ugly head once more.
the visions begin and they never stop why won’t they stop sword bloodstained spear gleaming shields broken phalanx marching men screaming horses slaughtered Hector victorious Achilles mourning Priam beseeching Patroclus tricky Odysseus lost Agamemnon destructive Paris…
Andromache and Hecuba and Helen and Troy, beautiful Ilium, burning and Astyanax murdered and Helen and Helen and…
You retreat into yourself even more. You do not speak, not even to thank the one old servant who remembers you, who brings you food, because even if they do cannot understand you at this moment they still care.
They are your only constant, your only touchstone among the swelling sea of possible futures, of memories to come.
He is a Greek, you’re certain. The helmet, the armor, the sword.
And then you recognize his face. He has appeared in your visions – and dreams – off and on over the years.
It’s him…Nobody – or so he will name himself, in time. You know his story: the reluctant soldier, the clever one, the complicated one, favored by Athena, destined to fight for ten years and then to wander, struggling homeward for another ten.
But then you realize that you have never, not in all the cursed years, seen this meeting.
“Who are you?”
You can see the slightest hints of the divine touch around him, a faint sound of owl wings beating silently against frigid night air. At first you cannot speak.
But then you think of Helen and her mind and her will, and you stand up, your voice rusty from disuse, and you name yourself, and there is power in your name.
And the Greek – Odysseus, Odysseus is the name he uses most often – his eyes glimmer with recognition. Recognition and understanding. And then he bows.
“Forgive me princess, I did not recognize you at first. Despite appearances, I mean you no harm.”
You have seen him fight, and you have seen him scheme, and you have seen him kill, and you have seen him spin out his stories. You know him. And you know that he is not lying, not to you, now, in this moment.
The voyage takes forever. The voyage takes no time at all.
To while away the hours, you tell him what his story could have been, the most probable version of it at least. You tell of wind and waves and the gods’ wrath, of monsters both divine and all too human, of his swift wit and his destructive hubris, and of time, so much time, years spent journeying home. You speak and sing and weave stories, growing into your voice and your self – you even become angry with him for his future-that-was distrust of Penelope, and you express that anger, and he listens.
You have seen Ithaca, this rocky windswept island, so many times you have lost count. You never thought you would see it for yourself.
You step off the ship, buoyed from within, to greet the woman who has ruled this land for ten long years of war, ten years of listening and deciding and dissembling and cloaking power in a mantle, in a mask.
You think that, together, you just might be able to save someone else, too.