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Authors: JJ Hilton

The Trojan Princess

BOOK: The Trojan Princess
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The Trojan Princess

JJ Hilton

Copyright
© 2015 2i Publishing Ltd

 

The
moral right of the author has been asserted.

 

Apart
from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, or criticism
or review, as permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, this
publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form or by
any means, with the prior permission in writing of the publishers, or in the
case of reprographic reproduction in accordance with the terms of licenses
issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction
outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.

 

2i
Publishing Ltd

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Chapter One
Andromache
of Thebes

The
sun beat fierce and steadily down upon Cilician Thebes, a small town nestled
between the mountains and the ocean in the far eastern reaches of the world.

           
Andromache watched the procession make its way down the hill from the window of
her private chambers in the great palace. She had been bathed and dressed, and
now she waited. The nerves of earlier had dispersed, replaced by a frustration
that it was taking so long for the Trojan guests to arrive. Her father, the
King, had come to her earlier.

           
“Andromache, my darling daughter,” he had said, when he dismissed her maids
from her chambers and beamed at her - for she knew, as did everyone in their
kingdom, that as his only daughter she was prized by the King above all of his
seven sons. “The King of Troy is making his way to us, and with him he brings
great news for your future.”

           
If Andromache had been surprised by the news, she had hidden it well. Her
mother had imparted on her all that she knew about being a queen – for
Andromache had always known she would be a queen – yet the thought of being the
Queen of Troy was so much more than she had imagined. When she had looked to
her future she had seen herself here, in Thebes, Queen and ruler of the people
she had grown up amongst, caring for the people that had so cared for her all
of her life.

           
She did not find the thought of marriage frightening, as so many other young
women might, but she found herself wondering as to what her husband would be
like. For that, she told herself, was far more important than whether he was an
heir. 

           
“People say he is the most handsome of all the princes of Troy,” Iliana, her
maid,  sighed as she had drawn Andromache her bath, “And the bravest,
too.”

           
“No,” Ilisa, her sister, and Andromache’s maid also, countered. “They say one
of his brothers is the most handsome, but –”

           
“Sister, you are wrong,” Iliana said, insulted by her sister’s correction. “The
brother of which you think is the most beautiful of the princes; but Hector is
surely the most handsome!” Before Ilisa could respond, Iliana went on; “But he
is said to be the bravest of the princes.”

           
“Yes, they say he already has the respect of all the armies of Troy,” Ilisa
said, lowering her voice conspiratorially, “And so many women have already
thrown themselves at his feet, begging for him to make them his wife!”

           
“And yet he refuses them all?” Andromache asked, slipping off her gown and
stepping into the bronze tub. The water, carried by her maids to her chambers
from the hot water springs, was still warm and it caressed her pale skin as she
sank beneath its depths. She dipped her head beneath the water and when she
resurfaced, Iliana clasped her long, dark hair and began to wash it, her
fingers soft and gentle.

           
“Perhaps they were not worthy for him,” Ilisa suggested, reaching for the
pumice stone on the floor and brandishing in Andromache’s direction. She nudged
her sister, and Iliana nodded in agreement.

           
“Surely they weren’t worthy,” Iliana readily agreed. “They were most likely –”

           
“Why would I be any more worthy than them?” Andromache asked.

           
She thought on it even as she spoke the words; her father would tell her it was
because she was heiress to Thebes and had a large dowry besides. Her mother
would gush and stroke her face, telling her that it was because she was a noble
princess. Her brothers would all have different answers, but Podes, her eldest
brother, and favourite, would pronounce that it was because she, of all the
woman in the realm, was the most intelligent.

           
“You are the most beautiful princess ever to be known,” Iliana offered, and Andromache
stifled a smile. So many suggestions, yet she did not know which, if any, were
why King Priam and his son were coming to her home to discuss marriage.
Andromache winced as Iliana dragged a thick brush through her hair, “Sorry, my
lady, but your hair must shine like precious metal if you are to win the
Prince’s heart.”

           
“And your skin must glow like the sun and the moon combined,” Ilisa said,
scrubbing Andromache’s skin raw with the pumice stone.

           
Andromache had tried to relax, her skin burning and her scalp itching with the
pain of the brush, letting the water cool around her. She thought of nothing
but Hector and King Priam, and when she had been bathed and changed, 
dismissed her maids and retreated to her balcony.

           
Now, as she watched the procession enter the town of Thebes, to much fanfare
and applause from the townspeople, she felt excitement fluttering within her
for the first time since she had heard of the procession departing from Troy.
She wondered what Hector might look like, and thought on Iliana and Ilisa’s
depictions of him. Could it really be true that he was the most handsome in the
kingdom? And the bravest?

           
Though she would hold her own counsel until she had met the prince, she felt
hopeful as she left the balcony and passed through the palace to prepare to
greet the King, his son, and her future.

 

*
* *

 

It
was to Cicilian Thebes and to its ruler, King Eetion, that the procession made
its journey along the shoreline from the majestic city of Troy, with a most
important proposition to discuss. King Priam of Troy was himself undertaking
the journey and, though he was by no means old, his beard was beginning to
grey. Having sired fifty sons and only the Gods knew how many daughters, all knew
that he was tiring of power and of the mighty weight of responsibility that
went with it. Even so, King Priam was not a man to send others forth to do his
bidding, at least not in such important matters as these. For he was making the
visit to see Eetion, not to discuss matters of trade and law, as they so often
had discussed in the past, but about the future. Priam was a King, and though
he had fathered a great many children, so few of them were legitimately borne
to him by his wife and Queen, and of these, he knew fewer still could rule the
mighty kingdom of Troy in his stead.

           
His handsome eldest son Hector, was such a man. He saw his younger self in the
prince: staunchly loyal and brave, with wisdom as well as courage. As his
rightful heir, Hector needed to be married and though there were many suitable
noblewomen in Troy who would have been honoured to make such a marriage, Priam
had turned his attention on the smaller kingdom of Cilician Thebes, and to his
old, loyal supporter, Eetion, whom he recalled had a young daughter, Princess
Andromache.

           
It had been just a thought at first, Priam recalled, this plan to wed Hector to
the princess he had yet to lay eyes upon, but it was a thought that had not
been forgotten. With each noblewoman that tried and failed to secure herself a
betrothal to Hector, Priam thought increasingly of Andromache.

           
He had sent one of his councillors to the town to meet with Eetion, on the
pretence of having discussions about trade, but Priam had tasked the man with a
far more important, and secret mission; to seek out the princess that had
lingered for so long on the periphery of his thoughts, and to bring back word
of the princess.

           
Priam had waited patiently, and when his councillor returned – and how anxious
he had been in the weeks he was absent! – the man was summoned directly to the
King’s private chambers. His wife, Queen Hecuba, weary of such plans and indeed
weary of her husband, excused herself from their presence.

           
The words the councillor had to tell him had been like sweet music to Priam’s
ears, for the man could only gush as he spoke of Andromache’s beauty and wit,
charm and manners. She had been raised to be a princess and she would make a
fine queen. Priam had sent at once for Hector, relayed his plans to his son,
and ordered the trip to Eetion with haste.

           
“Andromache,” he repeated under his breath, “And-rom-o-kae.”

           
And so the procession made its way to Cilician Thebes. Priam, usually so tired
and weary of making journeys now that he was no longer a young athletic man,
did not feel his usual weary self as the rooftops came into view beyond the
hilltop they were traversing.

           
Looking down upon the town with the small but beautiful palace at its centre,
Priam felt excitement in his blood. His eldest son - his heir - was to be
married, and he longed to set eyes on the face of the princess who would soon
become his daughter.

           

*
* *

 

           
King Eetion of Thebes was renowned throughout his lands for his generosity and
kindness, so it was with genuine warmth and respect that he welcomed King Priam
and his men into the palace.

           
Eetion had long known Priam, for they had both ruled over their domains for so
long, and there had been much discussion between them about trade and the
defence of their waters from the Greeks, whose men sought to control the
eastern reaches of the world as they did their own lands; with barbarity and
bloodshed.

           
It was not many kings who could boast of seven sons, Eetion thought, as he
introduced each of them to Priam, although he remembered the tales of Priam’s
own offspring – if rumours were to be believed, and Eetion did not like to
dismiss them outright, he had fifty sons and fifty daughters! And only a
handful of them legitimate! – but he did not voice these remembrances, and
Priam greeted each son with a handshake and they in turn bowed to him and
kissed his hands and the rings upon them, for Priam wore his wealth about him
like a proclamation of greatness.

           
Hector, Prince of Troy, and Priam’s heir, greeted Eetion with all the respect
he was due, bowing and kissing his own hands. Eetion beckoned for him to rise,
for he felt, though King for so many years now, awkward at the sight of such
patronage to himself. Podes, his son and heir, considered Hector and nodded in
approval. If Hector could earn Podes’ approval, then Eetion knew he was a
worthy suitor for Andromache.

           
“Come, come, you must be tired from your journey,” Eetion said, when the
greetings were done. He turned to Priam. “I have a feast prepared in your
honour, and the wines of Thebes that I know you are partial to.”

           
Priam smiled indulgently, but did not make to move towards the dining hall from
which the smell of roasted meat and aromatic herbs and spices drifted.

           
“But what of your illustrious daughter?” Priam asked, “Will she not be joining
us for the feast?” He looked about, as if he may have missed her. Beside him,
Hector shifted on his feet, and Eetion thought he looked uncomfortable faced as
he was with Priam’s bold words.

           
“Fear not,” Eetion said, smiling, shooting Hector another glance, and noting
that his expression remained guarded. “Andromache will join us shortly, as will
my dearest wife.”

           
“Ah yes, how is the great Queen?” Priam asked, distracted but pacified, and
allowed himself to be guided towards the dining hall by Eetion and his men. “I
heard she had been taken unwell some weeks ago.”

           
“She’s very well, very well,” Eetion answered, as they went into the dining
hall. The tables were laden with food and goblets of wine, and the men
dispersed to take their places. Eetion guided Priam to the high table at the
front of the hall, raised on a dias above the others, where Hector and his
seven sons joined them. 

           
When the men had been seated, Eetion deemed it time to introduce his wife and
daughter. The men stood as the Queen of Thebes entered the room in fine gowns
of blue, followed at her heels by Princess Andromache, looking radiant in
silken gowns of pure white. Her hair was fashioned in tiers of dark curls,
intertwined with bands of gold, and jewellery shone from her neck and wrists.
She smiled demurely as she joined the high table, and took the place beside her
mother, who sat on the right of her husband.

           
As Eetion raised a toast to the visit and to King Priam and his son, Andromache
looked furtively at Hector. He was indeed handsome, she thought, taking note of
his broad shoulders, dark hair and chiselled features. He looked as though he
might have been a statue come to life, dark brown eyes behind the locks of dark
hair, his body that of a lean warrior. His own robes were a royal purple,
bright against his bronzed skin, and he smiled when he caught Andromache
looking at him, so that she blushed and looked down at her plate.

           
Hector took this chance to look upon the girl his father wanted as a bride for
his heir. Andromache, he thought – such a beautiful name – aptly given to such
a beautiful princess. Her body was slender, only recently blossomed into
womanhood, and her eyes were dark and deep, her lips bowed and pink in her pale
face. Her hair seemed to shimmer in the candlelight, and a pleasant blush crept
onto her cheeks when she realised he was looking at her. He smiled again, and
she returned it, though hesitantly at first.

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