The girl with the stark black curls and the alabaster skin sat alone at a single table.
Clarisse's father had a habit of taking in stray princes, but a princess? This was unheard of. The girl, still clad in her more elegant and regal dress, had not yet spoken to anyone, though she had been here three days. Well, Clarisse wasn't one to discriminate. It was time for her initiation, whether she was ready or not. Clarisse grabbed a goblet of wine. She strode over to the girl- Silena and hovered it over her head. She let the liquid fall. The wine ran through the girl's hair and stained her white dress. Clarisse let out a cruel laugh. The girl just sent her a glare.
"Welcome to Phythia, newb," Clarisse taunted. The boys laughed. The girl stood up and looked Clarisse directly in the eyes.
"Do you think it's funny?" the girl asked, her voice calm, "To humiliate the people brought into your care- the already disgraced. To make a spectacle out of those less fortunate than you?"
"I am the princess," Clarisse said, "I have every right-"
"Does that make it right," she flung back. Clarisse opened her mouth to respond, but found none. She was speechless.
"I don't know what to do with a princess," her father said, "I suppose that I could send her to Deidandra. But that would cost more gold than we originally got. Or marry her off: she's gorgeous enough that any sane man would take her."
"What," Clarisse said, "Father, what are you talking about?"
"She can't continue to live here," he stated, "we don't know what to do with her."
"She is to be my companion," Clarisse replied.
"But you are a princess-"
"I am a prince in every other way," she said, "I fight like a prince. I am heir like a prince. Do I not deserve this too?" Her father didn't protest.
"You did not consult me about this," Silena said lightly biting her lip.
"He would have sent you away," Clarisse replied.
"How did you know that I wouldn't have preferred that?" Silena asked.
"Then you would have left already," Clarisse replied nonchalantly, "it would have been easy for you to find somewhere else, what with your looks and charm. But you haven't."
"You're smarter than I took you for," Silena replied.
"You're braver than I took you for," Clarisse retorted.
"Why would you even want me as a companion?" Silena asked.
"You stood up to me," Clarisse said plainly, "No one else has ever done that. It's intriguing."
"You want to spend that much time with me because I'm intriguing?" Silena asked, obviously entertained.
"No one else is," Clarisse stated. Silena shrugged.
Nothing else was said.
"You will be a god," her mother told her, "I am sure of it."
"But what of Silena?" Clarisse asked, for the first time ever, questioning her (her mother's?) dream.
"She will die," Thetis said dismissively, "She is only mortal. You will be a god."
"Then I do not wish to be," Clarisse stated. Thetis' black eyes hardened; her daughter had never before dismissed her wishes.
"You do not know what you want," Thetis said, "You are young. Time will change your mind." Her eyes held a warning: Do not fight me. Clarisse did not that day.
The soft strumming of Clarisse's lyre filled the room, and Silena started to move her head in rhythm with it. Though she seemed not to know the words, the melody flowed through Silena and she sang along. Her beautiful soprano voice leaping from pitch to pitch with more grace than any athlete.
"Why don't you sing?" Silena asked as the sound died away.
"I sound like a dying goat," she admitted, "I think you do it well enough for the both of us." Clarisse started to strum again, and Silena smiled. She started to sing. Clarisse's skilled fingers danced over the lyre strings thoughtlessly as she listened.
Clarisse's mother sent her to training.
"All the great heroes have trained with him," Thetis said, "So shall you."
"But what about Silena?" she asked, "What-"
"Leave her," Thetis commanded, "She is not to follow you."
But Silena did anyway, and it made her heart sing like Silena herself.
Silena tasted of sunshine and figs as she pressed her body against Clarisse. They had done this many times, but it never got old. The feel of skin against skin, mouth against mouth, the spark of attraction and the climax. And always, Silena would fall asleep with her head craddled on Clarisse's stomach, and Clarisse would trace her collar bone, wondering how such a work of art could fall for someone as plain in appearance as she herself.
"Why were you banished?" Clarisse asked. She had known Silena nearly five years, yet never asked this question. Silena didn't seem too keen on telling this story, but she took a deep breath.
"It was a boy- a lord's son," she said. She paused, trying to constellate her thoughts.
"He tried, he tried to rape me," she said, "But I pushed him away. I pushed him to the ground harder than I had ever forced anything. His head hit the rocks. There were bits of-"Her heart seemed to stop at the memories and the light died a bit in her eyes.
"You know. He died," he voice died a bit, "I killed him. They banished me."
"But you were a princess-"
"It didn't matter," Silena replied sadly.
"He tried to-"
"I know, Clarisse," she said, "It didn't matter. I killed a lord's son. There would have been a rebellion, if the noble's sons weren't safe. Exile was the easiest fix."
"But you were royalty," Clarisse said, "And he was in the wrong."
"I was just a girl, Clarisse," Silena said, "I wasn't worth the trouble." Clarisse didn't understand. It must have shown on her face.
"I didn't matter, Clarisse," she said, "A princess doesn't matter."
"But what about-"
"What about you?" Silena laughed a bitter laugh, "You're the daughter of a goddess. You're the prophesized hero, they make exceptions for you. Not for me." Clarisse wrapped her arms around Silena in a protective gesture. Silena dug her face into her chest as the tears started to fall. Clarisse tried to think of something, anything to say, but found there were no words to comfort her. She held her hands on Silena's tear-streaked face.
"You matter to me," Clarisse said. Silena mustered a smile. She just held her tighter.
Three years with Chiron, learning to wield a spear, the art of surgery (which Silena was frankly much better at), three years of learning and laughing, camaraderie and making love come crashing down when her father's herald requests she comes to ask them to speak with the king about the on-coming war.
Clarisse promised to fight in the war, and she can see the distaste- the disdain in her mother's eyes.
You will not return. But Hector, Hector will die first.
But Clarisse only had one chance at this; she had no plans for becoming a god. She had to do this right. One life, full of glory and fame and Silena's soft lips was enough for her.
"Silena," she said, "when," because it was when, not if, "I am worried for your safety. If we lose- you know the rules of war." Clarisse knew that Silena too had seen the girls taken in the fields, the gorgeous girls on the dais and the men's hungry stares. Clarisse knew that Silena wasn't blind, and she knew that it would be her if the tables were turned.
"I am not worried," Silena stated. It took Clarisse a moment to realize what she meant.
"You did not wish to live when I am gone, do you?" Clarisse asked uncharacteristically softly. Silena did not respond. Her breath stopped, but she tried to ease the palpable tension.
"Then I will not rush it," she said, "What has Hector ever done to me?" Silena turned to her and grinned.
A girl with golden curls and hard gray eyes stands upon the dais, her shoulders high and her back straight. She is not beaten yet. Clarisse feels sorry for her, but she doesn't feel like there's anything she can do.
"Take her," Silena said urgently, "You know what they'll do to her. They'll melt the pride right out of her."
Clarisse stepped forward, "She is mine." Agamemnon, who had been eyeing the girl the most out of all of them, looked taken aback. But it was well within Clarisse's rights as Aristos Achaion. The men whispered amongst themselves, but nothing more. They could not overrule her wishes.
"Are you alright?" Silena asked the girl. In the tent, she let her confusion show. She let down her confident façade and let only her fear and skepticism show.
"We won't hurt you," Silena said, "I promise. We won't hurt you." Silena extended her hand for the girl to grab. She eyed it skeptically, but accepted it anyway.
"I am Silena," she said, pointing to herself.
"Silena?" the girl asked, as if a question. Silena nodded her head.
"Annabeth," the girl responded. Silena beamed. Then she poked Clarisse.
"Tell her your name too," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Clarisse," she said. The girl didn't smile at her as she had Silena. It didn't surprise her, though. Annabeth had seen her kill men- her own people. She shouldn't have expected her to like her. But possessively, she wrapped a hand around Silena's waist, just to remind herself that someone did. Silena kissed her lightly on the lips and Annabeth raised her eyebrows. But then she grinned. They all did.
Days of fighting and raiding ran together. Nights with Silena's dark hair against her chest, their lips and limbs intertwined seemed endless. Her days consisted of spears and final cries, pools of blood and bits of brains. The glory that came from a slain man. Silena's, of days in the surgeon's tent, friendship between herself and the men, and Annabeth. But nights were the true haven- a halcyon time between the hells of battle.
Years and years of fighting into the war, Agamemnon took a prize that would have been better left alone. Her father, a priest of Apollo came to beg for her return. He refused, and that was where the trouble began. Apollo was not a wholly benevolent god, not when his favored were threatened, wronged. Apollo was also the god of plague, which was what was sent upon the camp. Tens, hundreds of men fall before Clarisse does something about it.
The confrontation did not end well. Those with Agamemnon never did. Clarisse, once again, refused to swear the oath. Agamemnon decided to come for Annabeth.
"Mother," Clarisse asked-implored, "What am I supposed to do?" Her voice had caught in her throat. Angry tears started to flow down her face.
"They're taking her, my honor," she said, "It means- it means nothing, it means nothing to them." Her face crashed into her mother's high chest. Thetis, in an unprecedented display of affection, ran her fingers through her daughter's thick brown hair.
"I know," she whispered, her voice, normally like the sea beating against the shore, more like the soft, soothing sound of a stream, "They do not care, my daughter. But we can change that."
"How," Clarisse demanded, "Tell me how."
"Zeus," she said, "He owes me a favor. You will not fight. He can turn the tides of the war; make the Greeks suffer loss after loss after loss. They will be forced to come crying to you. They will beg you."
"Really?" Clarisse asked, her voice full of legitimate hope.
"Yes, my daughter," she said, "We will force them to their knees. They will pay for what they've done."
"I have talked to Agamemnon," Silena said, her voice hard, "I have foiled your plan."
Clarisse couldn't believe her ears, "You what."
"I saved Annabeth from the fate you would have left her to," she said harshly, "You would have let him rape her."
"You warned him?" Clarisse asked.
"You know," she said, "If you had let him, it would have been his downfall. They'd have honored me like a god."
"I know," Silena replied. There is a silence- a dangerous calm before the outbreak of a storm.
"Her honor is safe," Clarisse replied, "Was it worth it?"
"I couldn't betray a friend," Silena said icily, "Unlike you."
"Oh that's rich," Clarisse retorted, "The one who spilled my secrets to Agamemnon is lecturing me on loyalty."
"I had to," Silena said.
"You chose her," Clarisse said, "Over me."
"Over your hubris," Silena said with a sense of finality evident within them.
"My reputation is everything, Silena," Clarisse said, "I will not live much longer, we both know this. Memory will be all I have."
"The memory that would have left would not have been one that you would have wanted," Silena asserted.
She continued, "Do you want to be the woman who lets them rape others to further your ends? Do you want to be remembered only for death and vengeance and destruction! That is not the Clarisse that I know- that is not-"
"Silena," Clarisse shouted, "I just want to be remembered!"
"You will be," Silena said more compassionately this time, "But not for that. Never for that atrocity. Never as a tyrant. Let your memory live as the wonderful woman you were." Clarisse's throat tightened in guilt.
"She is safe then?" Clarisse asked, knowing the moment it came from her lips that it was a stupid question. Silena would not have returned if she were not.
"She is," Silena said.
"You are a better person than I," Clarisse admitted, remembering her own decisions.
"You left today," she said, "But you are back. You are Clarisse once more."
Clarisse took a deep breath, "Do not say that until you have heard all that I've done."
More men fall as the days continued. The Trojans gained more and more ground, and the malice of the men's words about Clarisse grew.
Odysseus, Ajax and Phoinix filed slowly into their dwelling. Silena invited them in, and they sat down at the table. Clarisse sat down and Odysseus looked at her.
He spoke of things, like gold and silver, horses, amour, chariots, and of course, Annabeth's return: the things that would happen if Clarisse returned to the battlefield. He told them another list, even lengthier than the first: the list of Greek casualties.
"The Trojans will attack at dawn," Odysseus said, "If you would like proof, you could always walk outside the walls and see their watch-fires for yourself."
"He hasn't harmed her," Odysseus replied offhandedly, "I do not know where Agamemnon found the strength, but he hasn't harmed your Annabeth. She and your honor wait for you to reclaim them."
"Is that the tale you're spinning?" Clarisse asked harshly, "That I have lost my honor? That I lost it myself?"
"Tomorrow the Trojans will break through, destroy the city and burn the ships," Odysseus said, uncharacteristically blunt, "Will you stand by and do nothing?"
"That depends on Agamemnon," Clarisse stated, "If he makes his right wrong, I will chase the Trojans to Persia if you'd like." Silena sent her a concerned look.
"Tell me," Odysseus said, fully aware he was about to sail into dangerous waters, "Why is Hector still alive? I do not seek an answer." Because Odysseus, he knew, Odysseus always knew.
"I merely repeat the question all the men have sought an answer to for the last nine years," Odysseus stated.
"You have stolen ten extra years of life," Odysseus said, "I am glad for you, Clarisse. But the rest of us are forced to wait about. This time for us is stolen, not from the gods, but from our wives and children. You hold us here. You have been given a choice, Clarisse. It is time you chose."
"You've done fairly blocking fate's path thus far," he said, "But you cannot do so forever. The gods won't let you. The thread will run smooth. It always does. I tell you as a friend, it is better to meet your fate on your own terms than on theirs."
"That is what I am doing," Clarisse said. The words seemed to physically pain Silena.
"Alright," Odysseus said, "I have said all that I have to say."
"I have something to say as well," Phoinix said. Clarisse feels torn. What if they try to play on her affection for the old man?
"Whatever you do," he said "I will stand with you, but I feel there is a story you need to hear."
"A long time ago, there was a king named Meleager. His people were under siege by the Curetes. In the beginning of the war, the Curetes were losing because of Meleager's skill. Then one day there came an insult, a slight to Meleager's honor by his own people. He refused to fight. The people offered him gifts and apologies hoping that anything might sway his favor. He stormed off to sleep with his wife, Saline, and be comforted." The man's eyes turned to Silena.
"At last, as the city was falling and her friends were dying, she could take it no longer. She went to beg her husband to fight again. He loved her so much that he agreed, and won a great victory for his people. But the wound was already too deep. Too many lives had already been lost for his pride. They gave him no gifts, no thanks. For their admiration of him had turned to hatred."
Gently, Clarisse responds, "Not until Agamemnon gives back what he has taken." Ajax seems torn. It must have taken a lot for him to even come, because, with Clarisse not fighting he was Aristos Achaion. But they look to each other and admit their defeat.
The three men leave together. Clarisse wrapped an arm around Silena, and they went to bed.
They awoke to the sound of destruction. The Trojans were attacking, just as Odysseus had said, and they were doing so successfully. Outside the tent, smoke filled air. The questions circulated.
When will she return?
When will she stop this?
She made the answer clear: when Agamemnon stops. Silena stiffened beside her.
"What has happened?" Clarisse asked. Silena looked to her in disbelief.
"They are dying," she sputtered, "All of them. They're burning the ships." She gasped for air.
"Ajax is dead," she said, "There is no one left to save them."
Clarisse's face turned white, "If they are dying, it is Agamemnon's fault. I told him what would happen if-"
"But what about last night," Silena interrupted, "he offered to-"
She made a throaty noise.
"He offered nothing. A few trinkets. He did nothing to make his insult right. He did not apologize."
"He is a disgrace," Silena said, grabbing Clarisse's arm, "I know that. The men know that too. But they do not side with him. They have loved you- honored you-"
"Honored me?" Clarisse asked with a bitter laugh, "Where was their honor when Agamemnon was snatching it from me? They made their choice. I shed no tears for them, any of them."
The smoke grew thicker.
"They were foolish, yes," she said, her voice growing more frantic, "But they're still our people!"
"Our people follow my lead, Silena," Clarisse said, "They fight no more."
"You are decimating yourself," she said, "It will blow up on you. People won't love you for this. You will be hated- loathed- abhorred-"
"Silena," she said, her voice sharp, "I cannot do this. Do not ask." She pressed her hands to my face, pressed our foreheads close.
"Please," she said, her voice dying, desperate, "Please. I know what I am asking. Please, Clarisse. Save them for me."
"Anything," Clarisse said, "Anything but this." Silena's face was contorted in internal conflict.
"Then send me," she said softly.
"What?" Clarisse asked.
"Send the Myrmidons, with me in your armor!" she said, "You won't have to break your oath, but the Greeks will be saved!" Silena's eyes had lit up within her Eureka Moment.
"It is too dangerous," Clarisse said, "You are not a fighter."
"I won't have to," she said- pleaded, "I will stay on the chariot, in your armor. They will think that it's you. Agamemnon will know you defy him still as your ghost scares the enemies away. There is no greater fame than this, Clarisse."
"Swear to me you won't fight them," she said, giving in, "You will stay on the chariot."
Silena intertwined her hand with Clarisse, "Of course not! I'm not mad! To scare them, just to scare them. You'll let me?"
Clarisse bit her lip, and then, she nodded.
"Do not leave the chariot," Clarisse asserted.
"I won't," Silena promised, "I'm not an idiot, Clarisse. I know that I'm no fighter." Clarisse finished latching on the armor.
"I love you," she said. Silena kissed her cheek before putting on the helmet. She did not say the rest, because there would be other tomorrows.
A body was carried in. The men were somber. Clarisse wondered who it might be, before she noticed the black curls.
"Silena," escaped her lips, a prayer that it was not so. The men looked to her in sympathy. She pushed her way through the crowd and clutched the body in her arms. Her throat constricted in frustration, anger, despair. The tears fell from her eyes.
"Silena, Silena, Silena, Silena," she chanted. The men left, in respect, but Clarisse did not notice. She just clutched Silena's cold, bloodied corpse to her own body, remembering a mere morning ago when she had lain with her and this seemed a good idea. She pressed a kiss to her forehead, hoping it might cause her to stir. It did not.
Clarisse knew only one thing: Hector must die. Her life did not matter. Her pride, her reputation, her honor, she had placed those in front of Silena's life, the lives of hundreds of men and now she did nothing but regret.
Only Hector's death and the revenge it brought mattered. The rest did not matter. The rest did not matter at all.
"I wish she had let you all die," Clarisse spat at Agamemnon.
Annabeth's eyes were streaked with tears, "You think you are the only one that cared for her! You let her die."
The words leave holes in Clarisse's heart.
"I hope Hector kills you," she spat.
Clarisse's throat constricted as she formed a bitter laugh, "You think I don't wish the same?"
"Please," Hector said, "Please, when I die, give my body to my family."
"No, you do not deserve it," she replied, "I will decimate you." And she stabbed her spear into his armor. She pierced his heart, and wondered if the pain he felt was half of what she felt because of him.
She pulled the body behind her horse, his face bloody, muddy and distorted by the time she arrived.
Clarisse ordered one of her servants to place her ashes with Silena's when she dies because in that moment, she knew it will come soon.
She gave Hector's body back to his father, finally finding a trace of empathy inside the dying organ that is her heart.
She marches into battle that day, hoping the end will come.
Her death comes like a breath of air after nearly drowning. Relief fills Clarisse's lungs as her last thought flies through her mind: Silena.