Briseis escaped from the camp before the army had left the ruins of Troy, and darted towards it, weaving through the destruction and remains on the ground.
She refused to stay there, to be handed around from man to man as they die or lose the women they want and claim her in exchange. If she was to die, or to be enslaved by circumstance, she would remain here and do so.
The army left. She hid behind one of the larger standing ruins, peeking out until the last ship sailed out of view and the other forces left on foot. When even the blurred shapes on the horizon vanished from view, she relaxed enough to remove herself from her hiding place and explore the city, crying when she found the remains of the dead and dragging them underneath rocks to protect them from the animals.
The city was ruined. She barely kept herself from screaming when she found more burnt supplies, and she flinched when what she found was covered in blood. At last she found some scattered cloth and food. It was enough that she would not starve this week, though if she could not find more soon, death would continue to follow behind her.
When she finished searching the remains of the houses, she made her way towards Apollo’s temple. It was ruined, as most of the temples were, but it was one of the last areas she had to search in this side of the city. She would not take anything from the temple itself, because she would not risk the doom of Apollo falling on her, but she hoped there might be some goods scattered around it.
She was bent over, searching under some of the rubble, when she heard a cry from the direction of the temple. She turned, determined to search for whoever it is that needs help, when she saw a figure step through the ruins towards her. Chryseis continued to make her way forward, trying to soothe the child she held.
“Briseis,” Chryseis said, clutching the boy to her chest. “You did not take ship with the Achaeans, than.”
Briseis noticed the boy’s hair curled the same way Chryseis’s did, though his coloring was different. Agamenon had not been scared of Chryseis’s father’s wrath the same way he had Achilles, then.
“I did not wish to be passed from man to man as they died in their wars any longer, so I ran from the camp while they were preparing. They have been gone from home long, they will not remain here to search out one concubine.” Briseis looked back at the child, who was struggling to get free from Chryseis’s grasp. “Agamemnon is gone as well.”
Chryseis closed her eyes and took a breath. “That is a relief to me.”
“He wished me to be his concubine after you were ransomed, I am glad he is gone as well,” Briseis said. “What will you do now, with the city destroyed?”
“I will try to keep my son and I alive long enough for others to return and rebuild a small settlement, at least.” She glanced over her shoulder at the temple. “There is food stored here that my father stashed before the city was sacked, and there is a herd of cattle to the east that was not slaughtered by them. We will have enough food to last for some time.”
Briseis nodded. “As long as no more plagues or armies strike the city, you should fare well enough.”
“And what do you intend to do, Briseis?” Chryseis relaxed her hold on her son. “What will you do in these ruins?”
“I had intended to scavenge through the ruins and try to find enough to make a home for myself here,” she answered. “I can make my way from here if you wish me to, however.”
Chryseis shook her head. “I think we have both been taken away from places too many times to wish that on any other woman.”
Briseis nodded. “If you do not wish me to leave, what would you have me do?”
Chryseis stared at her for a moment and then spoke. “I would have you stay here and help, if you wish. While there would be three of us to feed instead of two, the work will be easier with two adults to take responsibility for it.”
Briseis looked at Chryseis and then looked at the infant. Finally, she nodded. “I will stay, if you will permit me to help with things other than finding food for the three of us. I do not wish to be just a servant.”
“You do not wish to be a servant, so you take more work from me?” Chryseis laughed. “I would be a fool to refuse your offer, though I hope we can have a relationship less defined by who does what work.”
Briseis looked at Chryseis, who met her gaze. “You told Agamennon that you were interested in being no man’s wife or concubine. What did you mean when you told him that?” She tried to keep her hope off her face, but her years as a concubine had been lonely. These ruins promised to be even lonelier, if she was wrong.
“I meant that I hold no interest in being any man’s wife, not that the Achaeans cared about that.” Chryseis shrugged. “That does not mean I hold no interest in any relationships, merely that I hold no interest in being the pretty captive who serviced him or any of his men in bed.”
Briseis laughed, causing Chryseis and her son to smile. “I too have no interest in being the pretty captive who serves men in their beds.”
“Perhaps this will progress into something beneficial for both of us in that case.” Chryseis paused and turned around, back towards the temple. “Come. There is room and food enough for both of us to shelter in the remains of my family’s home, and we can keep a watch on the sea from here.”
“Do you think they will return?” Briseis asked, looking over her shoulder at the sea.
“I do not think so, and I do not think the Gods will permit them to,” Chryseis answered. “But I did not expect the war to last this long either, or for it to result in the city being destroyed. I will not leave it to fate, but instead will keep watch from here.”
Chryseis’s son cried in her arms again, and Briseis nodded. “I will return to your home with you and your son, and help you keep watch. I do not wish to be captured again either.”
Chryseis smiled again. “And we will see how things change from here.”
“We will.” Briseis felt the urge to kiss her and see how things had changed already, but resisted.
Chryseis began to lead the way through the rubble.
Briseis followed, carrying the food and cloth she had found through the ruins towards her new home.