Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Troy belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Wolfgang Petersen/David Benioff/Homer.
Author's Note: The verse in the summary quotes a fragment of Sappho's poetry, as translated by Julia Dubnoff.
The distaff whirled, and thread spooled from her hand.
“This is not the end of your hopes, my girl,” said her mother. “Don’t worry. There are many men here in our own Thebes who would…”
Her mother’s voice faltered. Would what? What would the men of Thebes do?
Hopes. Her hands hesitated, and a snarl formed in the thread, which she would have to pick apart. Hopes? What hopes, when they had all died on the lips of the Trojan messenger?
Her hands stilled.
How offhandedly he had said it. “With regret, Priam the king of Troy must tell you of his son’s changed mind…”
How her father had looked. How white her mother’s face had become. How filled the women’s rooms had been with whispers and names, how easily everyone had known where and why and how.
They whispered that she had been rejected. That she had been thrown over. And for who? For a woman who dressed and walked like a man, who kept the company of soldiers and looked, immodestly, into the eyes of any male who cared to turn his face to her, free or slave.
When had he seen this woman? Where, and why? No one would tell her. Her mother would not speak of it, and her father had never spoken of anything, not to her. So she was left to listen as well as she could to those others who knew and talked among themselves when they thought she could not hear. She heard it from her maids, from the slaves, from the soldiers who came and went from the palace and did not see her where she stood with her head down.
She did not understand the things she heard. A woman who lived like a man? A leader of men and the conqueror of cities? A black helm and a red cloak, a spear in her hand where should have been a spindle and distaff?
How was it that a woman could live like that?
A woman who did not lower her eyes for the men. A woman who commanded and was obeyed. A woman who did not stay in the women’s quarters, but strode the battlefield, feet bloodied and shield high, as if she were Athena Promachos herself.
A woman she had been discarded for.
In her room, the room in which she slept with her nurse, were two red cloths. One to make the dress, the clothes she would have worn for her wedding, and the other for the veil, which he would have taken from her head in their nuptial bed.
And in her hands, now, the wool that he would have worn, the thread that she would have placed on the loom and then dyed red to make his marriage clothes.
Who would wear it now?
They talked of this woman as if she were a Gorgon. War-hungry and cruel, they said, who made lovers out of her bodyguard and ate the flesh of her dead. Who had seared off one breast in the manner of the Amazons, who was
an Amazon, who rode a horse bareback and straddling in the most obscene manner.
Who had, they whispered, received him personally in a despoiled temple, without veil or demurring, her face bare to his.
What did she look like?
She herself had seen him only once, the day he came to Thebes with his father, when he had been a young man and she a child. How dark his hair, how gentle his eyes! How beautiful he had been, the tall youth of the runner’s physique.
How her heart had stirred, when her mother had told her that that young man had come back, ten years later, looking for a bride.
To nothing, now. Nothing.
Did he knew what she looked like? Had he ever seen her, though she had seen him only once? Did he know that she had long, dark hair, her mother’s hands? Did he know that she was considered fair in her city, that her teeth were good and her skin unblemished? Did he knew that hers was a family that ran to sons?
Did he know that she had once seen him, and prayed to the daughter of Dione, to the Cyprus-born, to one day be his?
If only he had seen her. If only she had been bolder, had been more like a woman in love, if only she had found some way to show him her face. Perhaps then he would not have found it so simple, so painless…perhaps then he would not have…
Her fingers gripped the spindle and distaff, crushed the fragile threads.
A woman who held a sword, who led armies to victory.
A woman nothing like her.
How brightly her life had shined, as if the Sun gleamed in the predawn before her. Wife to an honorable man, peerless among his race, and then, someday, queen of her new home, mother to a line of kings.
Mother to his sons.
All gone. Tell you of his son’s changed mind…
“They say he couldn’t wait to go back,” they whispered in corners, down tables. “They say he went home long enough to tell his father to send to Thebes, and then he was off again, on the first ship ready for the voyage. They say he sailed all the days and the nights, without sleep…”
“And that he took her gifts,” she whispered to herself, finishing their gossip, “gifts of wooing that been in his family for generations…”
“Daughter?” Her mother was looking at her strangely. “Daughter, were you speaking?”
“No, Mother,” she said, and bent her head again.
“Don’t worry, Andromache,” said her mother tenderly, as if to a weeping child, “you are young, and beautiful, and your dowry matchless. We will find you a husband such as make men like Hector fade to dust.”
Her heart clenched. Hector,
it cried, Hector.
“Yes, Mother,” said Andromache, and the snarled thread fell to pieces in her hands.