Chapter 6 - Ismene-Eirene

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 part of that.

“So we have a meeting at Aphrodite House this afternoon,” Father explained.

That shows they are trying to ensure that whom they present as suitors are men Lady Aphrodite and Lord Eros know will be a good match.

“I understand. And while I am not sure I am ready so soon after Alkaios… I know your reasoning. So I will go to the appointment.” I agreed.

“Thank you for understanding, sweetheart. Why don’t you get ready? Your maid can help you.” Mother smiled.

“Alright, mother. I’ll be ready.” I nodded, standing up and letting my current maid lead me to prepare. At least I will be getting off the property.

Once I was dressed, my maid had finished putting my hair up and lightly doing my makeup with eyeliner, eyeshadow, and a tinted lip balm. I left with my parents to Aphrodite House. I was somewhat nervous. I had never sought advice from Lady Aphrodite or Lord Eros. I’m not sure what they’ll say. Part of me wonders if Alkaios was on my potential matches. And if he was… I don’t know how I’ll take it.

As we entered, a woman guided us into a sitting room. “Lady Aphrodite, Lord Eros. Presenting Leander, Elaine, and their daughter Ismene-Eirene,” she announced our arrival.

“Welcome. I am Aphrodite. Please sit.” the velvety voice of Lady Aphrodite greeted us.

“I'm Eros. Ismene-Eirene, here you can sit by me.” a warm voice greeted, taking my hand gently.

"Thank you, Lord Eros." I greeted him as he led me to a chair and sat next to me.

"Now I understand we are here to discuss love prospects for your future husband." Aphrodite started.

"Yes. I'm of the age that we feel I should begin looking." I answered.

"I see. Are there any suitors already seeking your hand you want to ask about?" Aphrodite asked.

"Well, no. Not at the moment. But I... I did want to ask about…." I tried to find the words to ask.

I felt the warmth of Eros holding my hand. He didn't speak. He didn't need to. The way he held my hand, like comforting someone who'd suffered a tragic loss. It said it all. Alkaios was my soulmate. I barely managed not to begin sobbing.

"Ismene…" Mother softly spoke, realizing what this meant.

"Eirene.." Father sighed sadly. Eros held my hand a bit longer as the room remained silent.

I sniffled and carefully dabbed the edges of my eyes with my fingers. "I'm... I'm okay. Let's continue, please." I nodded.

"Of course. I want to advise that love can blossom in the least expected places. No one expected my predecessor and Lord Eros to fall in love, but they did." Aphrodite assured me with a smile in her voice.

For half a moment, I thought of Andy. It had been such a brief encounter, yet he left a lasting impression. I tried to pay attention as Aphrodite and my parents spoke. I spoke a couple of times when asked something. But mostly, I didn't care.

Alkaios was my soulmate, and he died to save me. I'm sure these other men are lovely. I'm sure Aphrodite wouldn't suggest anyone that wasn't.

As we got up to leave, I felt someone stop me gently. "I would like to speak with Ismene-Eirene privately. We'll be just a few moments." Aphrodite assured my parents.

"Of course." My parents agreed, and then the door closed.

"Yes, Lady Aphrodite?" I asked.

"First, I want you to know that till you're ready, no one will ever pressure you. I won't allow that. Even if your parents think they have your best interests at heart." She started.

I nodded. "I appreciate that. I know my parents love me and worry for my future." I sighed.

"And second. During our meeting, I felt something. Your mind wandered, or from my perspective, your heart did. You were thinking of someone. A man that holds someplace in your heart. Though, at the moment, it seems small. But as I told you, love can blossom in unexpected places. Would you tell me about him? Keep in mind that I .see love in all forms. So what you feel may not be a romantic kind of affection." She asked.

I frowned a little, realizing she noticed that. Chewing at my bottom lip, I considered it. But this is Aphrodite. I should trust her. Even if my parents have preferred that I do not talk about the soldier, I should tell her.

"During the attack on my village. After Alkaios died protecting me, I wandered the streets, falling as I went. Eventually, I stumbled out onto a road. I heard a horse, so I tried to scramble away. But the horse stopped, and a soldier dismounted.” I started to explain, wrapping my arms around myself as the frightful memories returned.

“He was gentle and calm. He tended to my shoulder injury and brought me to the healer tents. And when I said I was cold, he removed his cloak and wrapped it around me. Though I was unconscious when we arrived, he ensured I was treated right away, and the staff knew to look for my parents and personal maid.” I explained. The memory of him, his kindness, deep masculine scent, and warm embrace pushed away the bad memories.

“I still have his cloak. I tried to return it when the army was marching back, but he didn't want it or at least didn't want me to go out there to bring it. He may not have wanted to draw attention to why he didn't have his cloak. I worry he got in trouble." I smiled softly, thinking about the cloak I kept hidden from my parents in a trunk.

I'm sure I blushed when I mentioned still having his cloak. My parents insisted that it be put away. But I always get it out at night when I can't sleep. It gives me comfort as I sleep. With it around me, I can only think of his steady heartbeat and warm arms.

"I see. And this soldier whose cloak you have, does he have a name? Who's House is he in?" She asked though I felt she somehow knew the answers.

"Andy of Ares House," I answered. I heard her gasp slightly but quickly recovered.

That’s a strange reaction. Is it so bad that he’s from Ares House? Or maybe he has a wife or betrothed?

"Lady Aphrodite? Is there an issue? As you said, it may not be a romantic interest. He just saved me and made me feel safe." I furrowed my brow, trying to understand. While Andy was kind to me in the darkest hour, I don’t know if what I feel is romantic.

"Oh no, it's fine. I know the soldier. He is a unique case, that's all. I hope that while you are in the city, you possibly see him again. He could use more friends." She assured.

I nodded. "I hope I may see him again. I wanted to thank him properly for saving me. Though I know father sent some of our finest horses to Ares House for all their army did for our village. But that isn't a personal thank you to Andy. And he deserves a personal thank you." I agreed.

"May the Fates be in your favor then. But you should return to your parents. I have a council meeting to attend shortly," She said, gently patting my good shoulder.

"Thank you for your time, Lady Aphrodite," I said, bowing my head before leaving to find my parents.

“What did Lady Aphrodite wish to discuss privately?” Mother asked as she linked arms with me to go.

“Oh, she just wanted to check on me. You know to be sure that this query about possible suitors isn’t being forced upon me. I assured her it wasn’t. I know you and father love me and wouldn’t have me marry someone I don’t wish to.” I answered.

It was true, even if it was only half. Given how my parents feel when Andy is mentioned, I didn’t feel it a good idea to tell them that Lady Aphrodite asked me about him.

“Oh well, that’s good. Since The Zeus proclaimed that marriages must be consented to by the bride and groom, more love matches have been made. But I also know that some parents still pressure their children into marriages they may not otherwise wish for. We love you, Eirene, and would never wish that for you. You could not care for a man who could not care for you isn’t the marriage we want for you. We couldn’t trust a man like that to take care of you and protect you.” Father sighed.

“I know, father. I know he wouldn’t wish me to live without love or affection close to love. But knowing that Alkaios was… well, it hurts. After all, I promised to live my life to my fullest and find happiness so his sacrifice will not be in vain.” I smiled.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find a man who could make me happy least of all I could love as I had loved Alkaios. But I will not cut myself off from the possibility.

“Could I go riding when we return home? I do miss getting to ride.” I asked, looking at my parents, hopeful.

“Yes, I suppose that can be arranged. I do need to work the horses anyways. I have a customer coming later to see about a horse. I need to have some selections ready.” Father conceded.

Comments (1)
goodnovel comment avatar
Karina Vazquez
I am starting to like this forbidden love story. The first 2 chapters did not hook me in but I am glad I kept reading.

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