It was said that mighty Zeus pursued by an eagle took refuge with Leda, and gaining her favor, mated with her.
In her radiant age, golden Helen smiled to hear them say it.
For what eagle would dare pursue mighty Zeus in his sky. He was the hunter. He pursued implacable Nemesis, the goddess of retribution. She was the unending justice of mighty Zeus himself. Her nature was to give what was due.
Great Zeus was not due yielding. She acted according to her nature.
She fled. She became a fleet foot doe. Great Zeus became a stag heavy musked with the rut. She became a lioness and sought to snap his neck, but he became the lion with his phallus of barbs. She took to the sky then as a great golden swan. Mighty Zeus became a radiant swan too. In the air, she surrendered to him what was his due. In the air they mated. With his phallus, he drove his seed into divine retribution. With their cries, they ripped shreds of the air and troubled the waters that had been olive smooth.
The egg that implacable Nemesis bore was given to fleet footed Hermes, who brought it to weary Queen Leda in the fever of her child bed.
It dazzled her. The golden curve of its shell. The enigmatic gleam of the gods. She held it in her arms and she loved it as she would her own child. Greater, for as the egg cracked, Helen smiled at her from within it.
From that day forward, Leda gave suck to Helen herself and gave Clytemnestra to the wet nurse.
King Tyndareus came to her. Leda said, "Great Zeus, he came to me in the form of a swan and I was helpless before his desire. He put his seed into me and from that seed came this egg."
King Tyndareus should have recoiled to be told that he'd but of late worn the cuckold's horns, but he could not turn away from Leda with Helen suckling sweet at her plump breast.
He rediscovered Leda's beauty in what was desired by mighty Zeus. Was it any wonder that Castor and Pollux were born but nine months later. As King Tyndareus had Leda put Helen aside to lie next to them on the bed that he might rut with her.
Heroes then they were. They too were called the sons of mighty Zeus.
Only Clytemnestra was mortal born. She was given to the wet nurse. She wept and she fussed, and was fussed over by each nurse in their turn. Leda, in her moments, found fault with them all.
Helen was not given to infant's cries or childish demands. Why would she? She took what was her due, and if others thought that a toy or treat might be theirs, she'd smile a terrible smile, and say, "I love you."
That toy or treat was then hers, but then it always had been. She might cast it aside broken a moment later, but it was always hers.
It should be understood that she was as beautiful as words may say. Her hair grew waved bronze as a glowing wing at sunset. Her eyes gleamed as golden as a lioness. Her body moved as sure and strong as a doe. The shape of her bowed lips or the arch of her clear brow was not the point. The point was the glow to her smile and the sure grip of her hands as she took up what was hers.
Helen grew up as the second born daughter of the Queen. She was given the education that was due her. She was taught the bow and arrow. She was taught to cover herself with olive oil and wrestle in the sands of the palaestra. She was taught the thigh slapping dances of the Spartan people.
She learned numbers and the names of the gods. She was told her Father's name. She smiled and did not give her Mother's. That was not knowledge due to her teachers. Helen only gave what was due. She acted according to her nature.
Her chariots won races. The horses ran until their hearts gave out.
Her arrows struck the mark whether it be birds of the air or the beasts of the field. They turned their breasts to her prick.
It was not enough.
As her breasts budded, she grew to wanting, but she not yet found the name of it.
When the King of Athens came to visit the court of Sparta, she learned its name. She had but lately finished with her first blood. Having been cleansed of the stain of a woman's lot, she was allowed to sit at the table with the great hero, Theseus.
He was no longer young. His arms were strong and his thighs firm. He danced the thigh slapping dance with Helen, laughing. She looked into his eyes and she saw the surging sea. The blood of the gods called to itself. She wanted him with his clever tongue and knowing eyes.
As the moon rose sickle thin and wanting, she gathered her bow and her arrows. She went down to the sands of the palaestra. Theseus was waiting for her. She put aside her bow. She took off her chiton. She oiled herself slowly with olive oil. They wrestled in the dark. She did not give in. Not until she wanted to give in. Until she wanted to wrap her strong legs around him and take his phallus into her.
She reveled in that push. It hurt, but she had heard that it would be so. Running hurt. Wrestling hurt. Pain gave way to the splendid motion of the sea.
Theseus was not young.
He knew what he was about.
Even in the first occasion of her desire, he brought her to the satisfaction that was due her. She smiled up at the night stars that it had been so.
As he lay spent beside her, Theseus said, "You'll be the death of me."
Helen bent to taste the tip of his phallus. She said not in a whisper, but in a voice that was true, "I love you."
They left that night for Athens.
Now in later years, it was said that Theseus left Helen safely with his mother while he went on a fools errand.
He went on a fool's errand. He taught Helen all he knew of desire. He demonstrated to her the use of a clever man's tongue. He showed her the place where the pearl of her desire rested within her. How best a phallus might tease and please at that pearl.
Helen, never one for halves, wanted more. She ever wanted more.
So it was that she was riding Theseus when her brothers, Castor and Pollux, came to rescue her. She rode him faster then until they both cried out like sea birds in release. He brushed a thumb along her cheek and said, "So, it's time then?"
She kissed him in answer and facing the young heroes, Theseus died a hero's death. Although, who can say if canny experience might yet have won the day had he not spent his fool's quest all the night teaching Helen all that he knew of love.
She was taken home then and sequestered away in a tower.
Leda wept. "It's not her fault."
Clytemnestra spat. "It is her fault."
Helen could not be troubled with faults. She acted according to her nature.
As she grew round with child, Clytemnestra said, "She brings shame upon our house." Helen smiled and said nothing. She could have soothed the dark river in Clytemnestra's eyes, but that was not what she was due.
As everything for Helen, giving birth was easy. It hurt for a time, but that was quickly done. She played with her little girl, Iphigenia. For as long as it pleased her to do so.
When Clytemnestra yelled, "Why don't you pick her up? She's screaming." Helen smiled at Clytemnestra and waited. She didn't have long to wait. Clytemnestra picked up the girl dandled her. She crooned. Iphigenia gurgled at Clytemnestra. Helen watched as her almost sister lost her heart to her child.
It was much easier once Iphigenia was Clytemnestra's child. It should have meant that there was more time for hunting and wrestling, but Tyndareus kept her safe in that tower. Helen watched the birds in the sky. She could be patient. She gave everything its due. She acted according to her nature.
Great Kings and Princes flocked to the court of Sparta. They had heard of her great beauty, desired by a hero of a later age. Tyndareus said, "When she was kidnapped as a mere child, Theseus left her in the care of his mother." He called Theseus' mother, Aethra, as witness.
The old woman bobbed her head. "It is so."
Helen was brought down to the feast. She looked upon the Great Kings and Princes, heroes every one. They stood there lithe and young in the flush of their power. She could not have chosen. She wanted them all. She said simply to the trembling air, "I couldn't possibly choose." She reveled in the ensuing brawl in her honor. In her lack of choice, she teased herself.
In the dark of night in her tower, fair Aphrodite appeared to her. "I've come to see what all the weeping and blood is all about."
Looking upon her, Helen wanted more fiercely than she had ever wanted in her life.
She said, "Oh, I love you." She knelt at gracious Aphrodite's feet and with hopeful hands she lifted the drape of her chiton. "I give you freely what you are due from every living thing. All my love." She paid homage to sweet crying Aphrodite with her lips and tongue. She praised her pearl with her thumb. Sweet Aphrodite placed her hand upon Helen's head in blessing while her other hand sought the wall. Helen applied all that she had learned from Theseus and her homage was pleasing to the goddess of love, who cried out as a dove might do.
When sweet Aphrodite had received all her due, Helen rested her head against her thigh.
Soft Aphrodite's hand brushed along her cheek. "Ah, Love. You are terrifying."
Helen nuzzled her face against that hand and turned up to look upon the face of love. "Please, I love you with all that I am."
Soft Aphrodite laughed. She picked Helen up as easily as one might a child and laid her upon her bed. Sweet Aphrodite repaid Helen's homage for homage then. What she had learned from Theseus was as a child's toy for what she learned at the hands of fair Aphrodite.
When the sun made his encroach at the window, golden Aphrodite rose from their bed. She smiled and gave to Helen's ever longing lips one last kiss, and was gone.
Helen stretched and went to stand bare chested in the window to watch the men who fought for her hand.
Since she did not really care one way or another, the giving was easy.
Agamemenon won her. She was pleased. Agamemnon was pleasing. There was an odd twist to his lips that she liked. But in the end, she was wed to his brother Menelaus, who had not even come to woo her himself.
She looked upon Menelaus somewhat in disbelief. If it had been her nature, she might have wept. She might have pleaded with King Tyndareus to wed another.
She watched the heros vow to defend her honor and each other.
She shrugged and she wed him. She thought it might be interesting to take what she did not want. She took him on the night of their wedding. He was dull and filled with delight.
In the morning, she went hunting. She took down a swan with her arrow. She killed a great stag with fourteen velvet points upon its rack. As the sun reached the height of the sky, she was faced with a lion. She killed it with a single arrow in the eye. She walked back to Sparta with her spoils. Her horses dragged them in the dirt behind her.
She watched to see if they would take her point.
King Tyndareus abdicated in the favor of the new King and Queen of Sparta. Queen Leda wept to see her baby so crowned.
Helen shrugged. She could accept the gifts that she did not want as well as the ones she did. She was kind. She suggested Clytemnestra be wed to Agamemnon with the odd twist to his lips.
Clytemnestra took her child, Iphigenia, and went with him.
The turn of the years went by. Menelaus gave to her gold. He gave to her fine jewels. She wore both with indifference. She could not be so purchased.
Menelaus' mother scoffed at all these riches. "These should wait until you have had a child." She whispered to her women that Helen was barren and should be set aside if Sparta could still be kept.
Helen smiled. She only gave what was due. Menelaus was due no children of her body.
This was not to say that she did not go round in her time.
She sat at Menelaus' table, as it was his table now. She offered hospitality to his guests that came to gawk at Helen of Sparta.
Heroes sprawled at their table. From time to time, in the dark of night, she would meet them in the throne room after the wine had been drunk and the feasting done. She made them sit upon Menelaus' throne and she made thrones of them. She rubbed that throne in the sweet of her desire until it stank of it. Three times, she grew round with it. It was only their due. Those heroes who came to her. For whom she became.
Three times, she spent a time in her tower and considered the costs and found them pleasing. Her heroes were sent what was squalling due them. All was according to her nature.
Menelaus smiled sadly and gave her chains of gold. As if she could be purchased with chains.
Helen hunted the wild places. She waited as the earth in winter waits for the spring to come.
A delegation from rich Troy came to the court of Sparta. Prince Hector came with his young brother, Prince Paris, who had grown up spending most of his days at the flute and the harp among the flocks. His cheeks were fresh. His eyes wide as he looked upon her.
Helen wanted him.
She met with him in the thicket. She took his hands in hers. She whispered into his lips, "I love you." She took what she wanted. He was young, but as eager to learn as she was to teach. She lay upon the sweet smelling grasses thick with narcissus and took his phallus into her. She met him in the stables upon the sweet hay and taught him the pleasures of leather. His youthful thrusts gave her splinters. She met with him in all the wild places and made use of him as a wild thing might do. She made use of his lips that were used to playing the flute. She made use of his hands used to playing the harp. She made use of all of him.
The more she had of him. The more she wanted of him.
When it was time for him to go, she gathered up the gold and jewels that Menelaus had freely given her and met Paris upon his red sailed ship to the consternation of his brother.
As they arrived in the city of Troy, she looked upon it and she said, "Oh, I love it." She loved that gracious city with its fair towers and walls. She went into it. She smiled at old Priam. She smiled at worn Hecuba. She was in love with everyone and everything.
When Menelaus came with the fleets of the Mycenae, there was no question of returning Helen. Was she not Helen of Troy. They could no more return a daughter of their house than return fair Helen of Troy.
It was a marvelous time. Men died before the city and they were incandescent in their beauty. Every one of them a hero. She lay with her Paris and she was fecund with love. Fecund and flat bellied, for a child was not his due.
Prince Hector fell and Helen watched his body dragged around the city. His infant cried as he suckled at the breast of lean Andromache.
That night, mighty Zeus came to her. They stood together on the wide walls of fair Ilium. He kissed her forehead. He said, "I've very proud of you."
She looked at him suspiciously. She had no use for his pride. They stood together in silence and watched the funeral fires.
When the day came for Paris to take his place on the battlefield, she held him tightly in her arms. She kissed him sweetly. She said, "I love you with all that is in me." She sent him into battle. She watched him fall. She watched his funeral fire. As his funeral games played on, her gaze fell upon his younger brother, Deiphobus. He was pleasing in her eyes. She welcomed him to her empty bed and he filled it.
Soon after, the Mycenae left. She looked upon the wooden horse they left behind. She neither wanted it nor did not want it. It was not hers to have. The Trojans rolled it into her city. She brushed her hands along the wood. It was poorly made. She whispered to it as a lover might do, but it was not hers. She did not want it.
That night, when it opened, she walked the streets of her city.
The Mycenae were within the wide walls killing and looting. The air twisted with the sound of dying.
The towers of fair Ilium were on fire. The heat of it lifted the fabric of her chiton. Tears streamed down her golden cheeks, she was so filled with love. She could not have loved Troy more than in that moment as it was dying. It was according to her nature.
As she came face to face with Menelaus on the burning street, he held a sword to her throat. He said, "I should kill you."
In that moment after all those years of boredom, she wanted him. She said, "I love you." She pushed aside his blade. She walked past his sword and she took what she wanted. She had him in the street as fair Ilium burned.
The Mycenaeans looked upon Menelaus in disbelief as he held her tight. She smiled then and disbelief faded as frost does before the sun.
She gave him a daughter from that night, Hermione. She was clever and she was quick. Helen dandled her on her knee while Clytemnestra starred with her dark river eyes. "What of Iphigenia?"
For a moment, Helen could not remember who Clytemnestra might mean. She shrugged. "I have made my choices. I chose the conceiving of her. A great hero spent himself in the giving of her life. From that moment, her death or life were not my choices. Agamemnon bears that burden. How fortunate that I gave you him."
What came of that, had nothing to do with Helen. Except that it had everything to do with her. But she was not there to see it. She cared nothing for what she could not see and feel and touch.
Menelaus grew old as men will. She kissed his wrinkled cheeks and closed his eyes. She did not say goodbye to Hermione. Her daughter did not need golden Helen's farewells.
Shimmering Helen picked up her bow and her arrows. She set off on the road of night. She came to a crossroads. Dread Hecate stood there holding a lamp up for radiant Helen to see.
Dread Hecate said, "Which way do you want to go?"
Gleaming Helen stood there for a long time in thought. She set off on her way, having decided what she wanted to do next.