He likes to joke that the Eagle Bearer is Athena masquerading as a mortal, but Barnabas knows all too well how human Kassandra is.
It’s seared into his mind - the fear he felt as the Adrestia rounded on an Athenian ship in Megaris. She may be as ferocious as a wolf, but as she practically flies onto the enemy ship, locking swords with highly trained soldiers (not small island thugs like the Cyclops’s cronies), all Barnabas wants to do is throw himself between every sword that even dares to point her way. The need to protect Kassandra never goes away.
The rational part of him knows how foolish doing so would be - he is an old sailor with one good eye who hasn’t been in a real fight in years. Besides, Kassandra’s backup consists of the finest warriors in Greece - old friends and foes alike all fighting at the side of the legendary Eagle Bearer. More than a few end up realigning their loyalties to Kassandra rather than the Eagle Bearer.
They end up becoming his favorites in the crew, although he is more than happy to boast about Kassandra’s alter ego. But even as he sings the praises of the mighty Eagle Bearer, or Athena herself, as he drunkenly prefers, his loyalties are to Kassandra of Kephallonia.
It isn’t until he meets Leda that he realizes the reason behind all this - he loves Kassandra like a daughter.
An honest man, he told Leda as soon as appropriate to do so, begging her forgiveness that he had unknowingly replaced her.
A coward, he made sure Kassandra was far away from that conversation.
He asked Athena for wisdom and guidance, but the goddess was silent, and he berated himself for his blasphemy, even if in jest.
With the Adrestia anchored off the shores of Thera, long after his parental revelation (and subsequent decision to not make Kassandra’s life even more complicated), his dear Kassandra sank into the sand next to him.
The elaborate staff she had brought with her from the Isu ruins had vanished on the Adrestia as soon as possible, and Barnabas got the impression that Kassandra would have flung it into the pits of Tartarus if she could.
The rest of her weapons were conspicuously absent, except for Leonidas’s spear of course, but he could count on one hand the number of times the two were separated by anything more than a corpse.
She fingered the blade, slowly running her fingers along the edge, without even a wince as blood pooled from tiny cuts on her fingertips when she wasn’t as careful as she could have been.
“I had to kill him,” she said suddenly, “Pythagoras.”
“May the gods forgive you,” he murmured on instinct, wanting to console her without alerting the crew, not that she had allowed many on their voyage to Thera.
She had pulled some strings to call Nikolaos and Stentor to some border, gave Alexios clues to a cultist on a northern island, and convinced Myrinne to visit old friends on Naxos. They had sailed for Thera with the Adrestia manned by the loyalist of the Daughters of Artemis, their only lieutenant a defected Athenian commander, and of course, Herodotus.
“He wasn’t really.”
Barnabas made a gesture for her to elaborate.
“He wasn’t really my father,” she flipped her spear over in her hands, “just by blood.” She looked up from the spear to where Ikaros soared. The eagle had avoided her since they had exited the ruins.
“Nikolaos threw me from a fucking mountain, and I couldn’t bring myself to kill him. And it wasn’t out of fear of some godly punishment for patricide, even a step patricide. It was because he was once my father.” She tore her eyes from Ikaros to look back at her spear, “not that he’ll ever be that again.”
Barnabas nodded absentmindedly, unfazed by the venom in Kassandra’s voice. Her refusal to call Nikolaos anything other than his name, or general if she was particularly angry, was a point of contention between her and Myrinne, despite the older woman’s own lack of forgiveness towards the Wolf of Sparta.
Sensing her oncoming descent into dark brooding, he joked, “Further proof that maybe the gods don’t care for blood like us mere mortals, O’ Mighty Athena,” complete with a mocking bow, or as much as one could bow while sitting in the sand.
Kassandra shoved him, a small smile on her face. After a minute, she said, in a quiet voice, “I suppose that would make you Zeus, pater.”
He later suspected that she had waited until he had taken a drink of his wine to speak, as he choked and sputtered, but it wasn’t the wine in his throat that kept him speechless. The words wouldn’t, couldn’t, come, but thankfully she seemed to understand his wide eyes and wringing of the hands as she turned to look at him for the first time since sitting down, golden eyes sparkling and small smile stretching into a grin.
“You’re the only father that matters to me.”