My nose wrinkled as my sleep was interrupted by the smell of smoke and the ringing of alarm bells.
“Miss... Miss Ismene-Eirene… you need to wake. The village is under attack.” My maid’s fear-filled voice filled my ears as she shook me gently.
“Rea? What? What’s going on? What time is it?” I asked, sitting up.
“The village is under attack. I don’t know by what, but we must evacuate. Your parents are waiting.” she said, pulling me up by the arm. “Hurry,” she said, pulling me along.
I suppose I should be used to this. It has been the way of my life since I was born. I was born without sight and have never been without my parents or a servant guiding me. Though generally, it was not in such a rush. I could hear yelling outside and hurried to keep up. I didn’t know what had come to attack our village, but I didn’t want to be here when it got closer.
“Yes, let’s hurry, Rea.” I agreed.
“Rea… Eirene… over here. Hurry. Leander and Eline are waiting.” the distressed voice of Alkaios called out to us to my right.
Alkaios has been my closest friend since we were young. And recently, that friendship has started to become something more. Alkaios is always so sweet, doting on me. Alkaios’s family has always worked for mine, and he recently pledged to Poseidon. I think because it is the House my family always pledges. I have the feeling.. the hope that maybe he will soon ask my father to marry me.
I can feel my face flushing as I even considered the notion of me marrying my friend. “Miss Ismene-Eirene are you okay? You are flushed.” Rea asked as she hurried us over to Alkaios.
“I’m fine, Rea,” I assured her as we reached Alkaios, and I felt him take my hand.
“Hurry this way. We need to catch up with the others. The soldiers are starting to arrive to drive the beast off.” he assured me, but his voice still shook.
Whatever this was, it was something frightful. I nodded and let Alkaios lead us away from the house.
“Eirene!” my father’s voice called out.
“Ismene!” my mother’s panicked voice joined him.
Alkaios hurried us in their direction before suddenly stopping. I could hear a roaring sound hissing, and then I felt the immense heat of a fire.
“Get behind me!” Alkaios shouted, putting himself in front of me.
“Father!? Mother?!” I called out, worried for my parents.
“M’lord… m’lady go! I’ll see Eirene and Rea to safety!” Alkaios urged them.
I faintly heard my mother cry out ‘no,’ dulled by the sound of something crashing under the monster. Based on where we started and the turns we’d taken, it sounded like it had knocked down one of the barns. I could only hope the horses were not inside.
Alkaios tightened his grip on my hand. “This way,” he said, leading us around the destruction.
“Please be careful, miss. Alkaios, watch where you are guiding Miss Ismene-Eirene!” Rea instructed, her voice filled with panic.
“We’ll be fine. Just all stay close together.” Alkaios suggested.
If only his words were valid. We hadn’t gotten much further before I heard the strange sounds of whatever monster was closing in on us. I heard a crash behind me and Rea’s scream.
“REA!” I yelled, turning my head, wanting to turn back. But Alkaios pulled me forward.
“We need to keep moving forward. I’m sure Rae is okay, but there is rubble between her and us,” he explained though his tone didn’t assure me that he genuinely felt she was okay.
I could feel hot tears streaming down my face as I worried for Rea. What if the rubble fell on her? What if the monster had gotten her? She was far more than a servant to me. Far more than my eyes. She was my dear friend.
As Alkaios pulled me along, I said a silent prayer to any of the old Gods and Goddesses to protect Rea, my parents, and us. To save us from this monster that ravages our small town. I’m not sure how much it will help, but it was all I could do. It helped me focus on anything that wasn’t the strange cries of the monster, the cries of people injured, and the distinct iron smell of blood in the air.
As we tried to find our way, I tripped and stumbled more than once. Alkaios was always there to help me and try his best to encourage me to keep going.
“Just a little further, Eirene. We’ll find your parents and Rae at the evacuation point.” he urged.
I wanted to believe that. I honestly did, but even though Alkaios tried his best to remain calm for my sake, I could hear his fear. But we continued till I fell again. My right leg felt like it was on fire, and I knew I was bleeding as I could smell the fresh blood.
“Eirene..” Alkaios called, but his voice trailed off, and all I could hear was the heavy rumbling footfalls of something behind me.
I listened to a roar as my head turned, and I felt grateful that I was blind. This way, I could not see what monster was about to kill me. I couldn’t help but scream as I waited for the inevitable killing blow.
I felt something large and sharp rake across my shoulder, but something impeded it, stopping it from getting too deep. But it didn’t come. At least not a killing blow.
“Eirene… run.” Alkaios coughed, his voice coming from in front of me.
Alkaios ...he put himself between the beast and me. I realized what stopped the monster from probably slicing me to shreds. I felt a warm liquid squirt across my face leaving the distinct and pungent smell of blood to fill my nose.
“Alkaios… no… I… you…” I couldn’t even form a sentence as I began to cry.
He’d saved my life. But at the cost of his. He was my first love. I thought he’d be my husband.
“R...run.” he choked out, and I could hear him coughing. It sounded wet. Then I realized he was probably coughing up blood.
I tried to reach for him, to hold him, anything but the monster roared and hissed, and Alkaios was out of my reach. I stumbled to my feet, trying to find a wall or anything to hold onto as I backed away. I think even if I weren’t blind, I would not be able to see as I fled.
My eyes were stinging with tears as they flowed uncontrollably down my face. I fell so many times. My clothes ripped each fall, and I’m confident I was bleeding and bruised. I tried to follow the sound of voices.
“Soldiers…” I whispered in relief. The monster would be killed or driven away from the town if soldiers were here.
“Help!” I called out. “I’m over here!” I shouted, waving my right arm as my left hurt too much from where I’d been attached to rise.
No one answered my cries. They didn’t care. “Get out of the way, girl.” I heard one command kicking me away as I stumbled in the path they were taking.
I hurried back, just avoiding getting trampled by their horses. I heard another rip to my clothes as a warhorse snorted. I guess it must have stepped on it while I tried to move out of the way.
There were still some screams of pain and fear, so I knew the beast wasn’t far. It was moving away from the ruins of the village, but I could smell fires in the distance. The soldiers and those brought to help us must have started them. If I can follow the smell of the fires, I may be able to find help. Possibly find my parents.
I stumbled on a piece of rubble and called out in pain twice. Once when I hit the stonework rubble, and another hit the ground on my injured shoulder, holding the wound, I started sobbing. I wouldn’t be able to get to the fires on my own. And the soldiers passing me hadn’t wanted to help me. I was going to die. Alkaios gave his life for me, and in the end, it would be for nothing.
I heard the sounds of horses coming closer again. I cried out in fear. This time I tried to scurry away, to not be in their way. The sounds faded, but I could tell from the smell and the sound of a warhorse breathing that one was still near. It had stopped.
Wait, it has stopped?!
“Are you badly injured? I can take you further back to the healing tents of Lord Apollo.” a rich deep masculine voice spoke out.
There was a calmness to his voice. He didn’t sound panicked in the least. I am sure I must look a fright to him. Following the sound of his voice, I raised my head. My hair was wild from the chaos the village went through. My clothes were ripped and stained with blood and dirt. Cuts and bruises probably covered me, especially my legs and hands, and my shoulder felt like it was on fire.
A cursory glance at my milky-white eyes, which I’m sure wasn’t focused on him, made it clear to him that I was blind. That him coming closer meant he would help me. I just hoped he wouldn’t be like the other soldiers.
I reached for him, trying to put my hands on his chest. I had no idea whom I was reaching out to, even as my hands found his chest and moved up to rest one hand on the side of his neck, needing to feel his pulse to be sure he was alive.
“I- I don’t know...” I managed out. “My shoulder and leg hurt so much and...” I tried to explain. But tears came anew as I remembered the screams and metallic liquid splattering over my face.
“All I can hear is screaming, and all I can smell is blood,” I said, my voice shaking.
His heartbeat. That is what I needed to focus on. I couldn’t see anything, never could see anything. But I can feel, smell, and feel. That is what I needed to do. I let out a sob as I felt his calm, steady pulse, relief, and weariness washing over me. If the soldier was peaceful, it meant it was over. It meant that people would be safe now. God, I hoped Rae and Alkaios were safe. But in my heart, I knew… I knew Alkaios was dead.
“I’m...” the soldier started to speak. I’m not sure why he paused.
Maybe because some crying, dirty, bleeding blind girl was feeling his pulse.
“I'm Andy." he finally finished. "I am here to help. I'll try my best to be careful, but if you allow it, I will pick you up to take you to the healers," he explained, his voice never wavering.
“Andy…” I repeated shakily, thumb still slightly pressed into his neck.
My breathing slowly matched his pulse, trying to control myself. However, I was still a mess, with tears running down my face.
“Thank you, thank you,” I said, shaking and leaning into his chest as what was left of my energy left me. “I- I can’t make it there myself. I’m sorry.” I said.
"No need to apologize. The chimera has been chased further away, but the area is still unsafe." he dismissed.
"I'm just going to grab something from my horse for your shoulder," he said, reassuring me.
He slowly and carefully moved away, ensuring I would stay upright without him. At least he seemed to be thinking things through. And he sounded confident that I was safe right now, though honest, by not telling me I was completely safe.
"A chimera..." I said softly.
That explained the terrible sounds. A mix of roaring, shrieking, hissing... I shuddered, and even a fool could probably tell I was thinking about what I had heard.
"Okay..." I said softly, sitting up on her own but wavering.
I did my best to stay upright though I wish he hadn’t needed to move. It was nice to have someone for support, and I could no longer feel his steady pulse. I could hear his footsteps go not far away before returning, tearing something as he walked. When he returned, I leaned on my good arm, unable to hold myself off without the support.
"This may hurt, but please hold still," he warned.
I could hear the ripping of fabric before the sting of him bandaging the deep mark from the claws to try and slow the bleeding. Then using the rest, he gently shifted my arm into a sling to take pressure off the injury.
"Do you have a name? Is there anyone I should tell them to look for to notify them of your status?" he asked as he worked.
I didn't collapse—pride or the fear that if I collapsed, I’d die kept me upright. And even then, most would do the same as me. I called out in pain but gritted my teeth, flinching but not pulling away. I whimpered in pain as he set my arm in the sling, but well, I’m not a soldier.
"I'm Ismene-Eirene," I said softly. "I... I go by either one," she said. "My parents are Leander and Elaine, and I was with Rae and… and Alkaios,” I answered, holding back from sobbing when I mentioned Alkaios.
"I hope they're okay,” I added, though my tone wasn't hopeful.
I shouldn’t be here right now. I’d been told to head directly to the commanding officer for the unit upon arrival. I wasn't supposed to stop. Lord Ares wanted me to see and learn but not take risks. It didn’t matter that part of my gifts made me more robust than most. I could still be injured, and I could still die. I’d kept my eyes forward as my small unit moved through the ruins. I tried to ignore the cries around me. I kept reminding myself that it wasn't for me to clean up and tend to the wounded. But then something told me that what people tell me I should do doesn't always make it right. I’d been the one to notice her. To witness her stumbling. The others kept moving forward, and I should’ve too. Yet something told me to stop and help. So I broke from formation, and here I am, tending to the wounds of this blind girl. I don’t even know why I told her my name is Andy. Only Diokles calls me that. I’m not particularly eager to lie. But then again, it isn’t a lie. Andy is a sho
I don’t know how long I’d been out. I had restless dreams. A mixture of remembering the sounds of the chimera attacking, Rea screaming, Alkaios telling me to run, and the smell of his blood, my blood, for that matter. I relived the feeling of fear and desperation as I tried to navigate my ruined village. But then the fear faded, and I felt safe and could feel the steady rhythm of Andy’s heart beating. Andy?!I suddenly woke up, sitting up, trying to figure out where I was. I last remembered being on Atlas, supported in Andy’s arms. “Eirene...” I heard my father’s voice call out to me moments before I felt him pulling me into a hug. “Oh, my sweet daughter.” he sighed in relief, hugging me tightly. “F...father? Oh, thank the gods.” I sobbed, hugging him as tight as I could with my injured arm. He is alive. My father is alive. I felt fresh tears sliding down my cheeks, releasing my fears for him. “Is mother… is mother okay? What about Rae?” I asked, fearful of the answers. “Yo
We’d been fighting and driving the chimera back for four days before it was finally far enough into the mountains that we couldn’t go after it. Now we were marching back. Some soldiers would return to their posts while my unit and I returned to the capital. As we rode in formation, I was alongside the commanding officer at the front. I’d tried not to think about the blind girl during the fighting. Though I found my mind wandering to her in the hours, I rested. Holding the mati my elder brother had forged for me in the mortal realm.Often I’d found the mati would give me a sense of warning, of foreboding when someone had ill intentions. Often I felt this when my father or Eugenius would speak of my future. I also would feel it around town and even among the soldiers of Ares. Their fear of me differed from the evil I felt from my father and Eugenius. But with her, with Ismene-Eirene, the girl with two names, the mati didn’t give either of those reactions. It felt warm, like when I’m
Two months. That’s how long it took to get things settled in the village, and mother recovered enough to travel. We’ve begun to settle into the estate in Olympia. I’m still learning my way around the house and the property. I haven’t started to explore the city, not that my parents would let me anyways. “Eirene? Can you come and sit with us?” Father called me into the sitting room with him and Mother. Carefully finding my way with a cane, I managed to find a chair. “Yes, father?” I asked. “I know that much has changed for us. And that you are still mourning Alkaios.” Father started. “But given your age and, if anything, recent events showed us, we want to ensure you’ll be taken care of if anything happens to us.” Mother added. I frowned, knowing where this was going. “We don’t want to arrange a marriage in which you wouldn’t be happy.” Father quickly said. “Of course.” I nodded, taking a calming breath. I know they want to protect me. And to them, having a husband is
Yet another tedious session of the council. Mostly arguing about taxes and how much each House charged for its services. Poseidon argued that the fees Apollo, Athena, and Ares billed for the chimera attack on a village predominantly made up of members of his House were far too high. Zeno is still a young Poseidon, only having taken his title ten years ago. Well, young by some standards, I suppose. Diokles is the youngest council member but has the most power, literally and figuratively.“Lord Poseidon, that is enough,” Diokles stated in his rarely utilized commanding voice.The whole Parthenon went silent, from the council members to us heirs down to even the scribe that documents the meetings. Electricity was in the air making even the hairs on my
I was so happy when we returned home, and they allowed me to ride. Of course, that was dulled when I realized I would be confined to a pen on an older mare used to teaching children to ride. Father excused himself, probably not wanting to deal with my annoyance, as he headed to another enclosure to prepare horses to show a customer coming by, leaving my mother and a servant standing by the pen watching me.“Oh, I hate how he allows this...” I heard my mother sigh nervously. I know she loves me and, at her core, just wants me to be safe. But her overbearing behavior is going to drive me insane. She was always hovering over me as a child due to my condition. And it only became worse after my brother died. And now it has tripled since the chimera. I can't f
It felt strange talking to her like this. Not odd in a bad way. But I can't place the feeling. She's not afraid of me. She wants my company. Very few wanted my company, and even fewer were women. As she made a point about leaving, I looked up at the sky and realized the sun was going to set soon. Which meant it would be dinner time at Ares House. "I should. It is getting late. But I should also wait for Dio to finish his business. I did arrive with him." I sighed, looking into the distance, and saw Dio talking with a man I assumed to be her father. Dio was indeed a strange man. I'm unsure what he was playing at by introducing himself as Dio to her. Or when Dio intercepted Elaine to give us more time to speak alone. "I hate to say this, but if he loves horses half as much as my father, they'll be there until dinner is cold,” she said with a chuckle. She has a nice laugh. Wait, did I think that? "I could call someone to show you around. I wish I could show you myself if you w
It was that thought that stayed with me the rest of the week. Even as I entered my childhood home of House Zeus for my Sunday lunch with Diokles, it was one of the rare days I was given no tasks. Diokles had always insisted, even when he first came here, that we have a meal together on Sundays. He told me that in the mortal realm, his family would have Sunday meals together with whoever was able to attend. Eugenius felt this was good practice for me. He, of course, wants me to carry on the long-standing alliance between Ares and Zeus. But nothing about Sunday lunch with Diokles is business. It's just a chance to relax. Sitting in the dining area waiting for Dio, I found my mind returning to Ismene-Eirene, again. I need to stop that. But she said she wanted to see me again, to speak again. I don't know how or if I should. I am not shopping for a wife, and I know my father and Eugenius would probably not approve of her, given her blindness. Though they may be talked into considering h