"...I go bewildered in a mist of prophecies."
-Chorus, Aeshylus's Agamennon
Outside the temple, Troy burned.
Distant cries reached Cassandra’s ears. She needed no true sight or prophecy then to comprehend the sounds. The last of her city’s warriors, those not murdered without honor in their beds, were fighting and dying in the streets.
Slowly, painfully, she crawled back to the goddess’s statue, wrapping her arms once more around the cold stone and kissing those alabaster hands. Odysseus had aided her by decrying Ajax’s actions and allowing her to flee back into the temple, but the gesture had bought her only a few moments before Ajax or another warrior returned.
“O Lady,” she whispered through bruised, cracked lips. “Pallas Athena, hear my prayer. I am your priestess, and I have been abused. Listen, O Goddess, to how the Greeks have insulted you. Shall your temples be defiled, your priestesses dishonored? Shall your suppliants be dragged from your sacred halls and abused in the streets? I beseech you for protection. I beseech you for vengeance against Ajax the Greek. I beseech you for aid, Athena.”
She rested her cheek against the statue’s knee, too weary to stand. Her eyes ached from the smoke and her own futile tears. “Hear my prayer, Ageleia.”
A warm hand stroked her hair then, gentle and tender as a sister’s. “You call me protectress of the people, and yet Troy burns,” Athena observed dryly.
Cassandra kept her cheek resting against Athena’s knee. Her breath caught in her throat, hope so sweet and strong that she nearly choked upon it. Troy was doomed, but perhaps some of Troy’s people might yet be spared. Andromache and Astyanax still lived; perhaps Athena could find some way to shield them from Troy’s fate—
Visions came to her then, swift and merciless. She heard Andromache say, sorrowing, “Falling down—down—all broken—and none to pity.” She saw a much-older Andromache extend her hands to Helenus, and the look in his eyes as he clasped her hands and said with no trace of irony, “All hail Queen Andromache.”
The images ceased, leaving only anguish. No escape for her little nephew then, and Andromache and Helenus were destined for other shores.
“Troy was doomed once my brother chose Aphrodite’s gift, my lady,” she said, voice hoarse, and then corrected herself. “It was doomed the moment Eris set that apple among you. My lady, I know this was not your will.”
“No,” Athena agreed, and there was such rage in her voice that Cassandra shivered. “It was not my will that I could not save your city or your people.” Her hand stilled on Cassandra’s hair. “Or you, my little priestess. I could not save you from my brother’s curse.”
Or Ajax’s abuses, Cassandra didn’t say, but the goddess seemed to hear her nonetheless, for in the next moment Athena said, “I swear to you on the river Styx, little priestess. I shall deliver such misery upon Ajax that his suffering will be remembered for eternity.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Cassandra said. Another vision came and went quicker than a breath. Ajax’s great suffering would have made her smile with bitter satisfaction, had she had anything in her heart but grief and despair.
“Come with me,” the goddess said. “Themyscira will be your sanctuary.”
Life on Themyscira for Cassandra was quiet and solitary. Hippolyta had greeted her with a respectful welcome, and given her a small house by the sea and the promise that she would not be disturbed. “No man will ever abuse you so again,” Hippolyta had sworn. “You are safe here from man’s cruelties.”
So Cassandra tended her garden, coaxing marrows and radishes from the earth, watching as her trees yielded figs and pomegranates. Birds, exhausted from their flights across the sea, often came to rest on the shore. She fed them seeds and bread, saw their future flights in her mind’s eye.
Each day she walked the beach and watched the waves surge towards the shore and retreat. Some days she praised Poseidon, who had aided Athena in her vengeance against Ajax. Other times she cursed him, for he’d aided the Greeks in the war, tricked them into bringing the horse and its deadly cargo inside Troy’s gates.
Time flowed oddly on Themyscira. Before Cassandra quite realized it, months, then years, then decades had passed. After a century or so, perhaps more, perhaps less, Cassandra became aware that one Amazon was disobeying Hippolyta’s orders and intruding upon Cassandra’s privacy.
The next day Cassandra pretended to sleep beneath the pomegranate tree that overlooked the beach. In truth, though, she watched for her visitor.
Soon enough the nearby bushes rustled and a girl peered through. It was Diana, Hippolyta’s daughter. Cassandra saw the girl’s eyes bright with curiosity, the intent look on her face. So the princess of the Amazons was curious about the last princess of Troy. Cassandra pretended to sleep, and soon enough the girl slipped away, back to her mother’s side.
That night Cassandra prayed to Athena as she always did. “Thank you for your mercy, O Goddess,” she whispered. “Thank you for this sanctuary. I worship you with every breath and in every moment.”
When she dreamed, she dreamed of the future, fragments of experiences that left her waking with a moan, her body drenched in sweat and her heart racing with a mingled joy and sorrow. She had seen Diana grow into a young woman, no, a warrior, seen friendship shift to love, and that love to disbelief as Cassandra spoke a prophecy.
She pressed a trembling hand to her lips, where she could taste still their first and final kisses. Cassandra wept for the first time since Troy had fallen.
“Athena, Athena,” she called. “Have I earned such unkindness? Must Apollo’s curse steal even the sweet uncertainty of love from me?”
Athena did not answer her. Alone in her house, Cassandra bowed her head and tried to forget.
The visions were seared upon her mind though, like a brand. For weeks she watched Diana stand alone on the beach, in plain sight but not approaching, her pale eyes fixed earnestly upon Cassandra’s house.
At last Cassandra broke as she knew she would. What use was fighting fate? Hector had gone to his death with honor; she could bear this promised grief with equal dignity.
Diana sat upon the beach, her head resting upon her knees, half-dozing. When Cassandra approached, Diana lifted her face towards her like a flower searching out the sun. Her young face went slack with brief wonder. Then her pale cheeks flushed and she bit her lip, expression suddenly shy and uncertain. The look didn’t suit the confident woman Cassandra remembered in her visions.
“Come,” Cassandra whispered, holding out her hand. The moment stretched before her, impossible to fight. Diana’s hand would be warm from the sun, she knew, and callused from handling weapons. “It is the day.”
“The day?” Diana echoed, puzzlement and awe in her gaze. “The day of what?”
Cassandra tried to smile, and was not entirely certain that she succeeded.
“The day upon which we are to meet,” she said, and gave herself over to love and loss.