June 16th, 2018

Unfinished not-masterpieces

So while I'm bashing _External Relations into shape, I'll dig deep and see if I can find anything I haven't snippeted before. Have you seen this one? It's vaguely connected to the Zombie story.

Gates of Hel

Adrasos ran up the steps and burst through the entrance.

"What have you done?" His voice was tight with rage, he was nearly shaking with fury.

His stepfather looked up with a sneer. "Something that took more nerve than you'll ever have you pathetic little tin soldier." He had the sapphire pectoral on the table before him, defiling the God's jewelry with his soft manicured hands. "Get out. Yainni, throw him out."

Poor Yainni hesitated. Not as dumb as he used to be, he understood how his residency here depended on the old man's charity, and the old man doted on his clever son-in-law. Adrasos turned and stalked past Yainni and the big man followed in his wake. No small coat in the hallway. Peep isn’t home. Adrasos walked back out the big double doors. Magnificent, once, flaking paint and warped, now. Adrasos stepped to the side and sank down on the stone step. There were a few things he could do to minimize the horrors that were about to happen.

Starting with Yainni.

He pull out his coin bag and dumped part of it into his hand, held it out to the looming hulk. Poor Yainni. Not a mean bone in his oversized body. The Imperial Guards would see only a threat, to be dealt with as permanently and quickly as possible. "Wine. I'm going to need a whole lot of wine to drown this. Go down to Michan's they're cheaper. Get as much red wine as that will buy."

The big man took it, and trotted happily away. It was his kind of errand.

Stomp and thud behind him.

"Hello Grandfather."

"Boy, you should be learning things from that man, not fighting with him all the time. He's the cleverest thief in all of Minos. He'll bring our family back into money and social prominence."

"Better that Mother had never laid eyes on him."

His mother's father reached out and slapped him.

"You think because the God King favors you, you're anything but a fancy dressed version of our household guards?"

"He seduced the dowager queen and stole her jewelry. For that he has condemned the entire household."

"Only if you talk, boy!"

Adrasos looked at him in disbelief. "How do you think I know! The dowager queen went to her former husband and confessed her sin, and then mentioned the missing jewelry. I was on duty, and slipped out, hoping it was some other slick con artist who had wormed his way into her boudoir." He looked around a heaved a sigh of relief. Parthenope trotted around the side of the house. His youngest sister. Half sister. He wished she didn't look so much like the pretty boy seducer.

"Dras! You're home! Why? Look I got some flowers for Mama."

"Peep, your papa's done something really bad, and  . . . "

Time had run out. The Ekasi had given him a few minutes to remove the littlest and most innocent. With her beside him, the guards were moving in.

He knocked his grandfather flat, grabbed his collar, grabbed Peep's arm and hauled them down the steps and to the side. The guards charged in. Yainni had not even shut the doors, let alone locked or barred them. Screams and crashes rose behind him. His grandfather started cursing as well, as he was dragged further away from his ancestral home. Peep was wiggling and trying to twist away, Adrasos couldn't deal with them both. He heaved the furious and flailing old man into the arms of his cronies, crowding up to see the excitement. He picked Peep up and carried her down the street, down to the little plaza where they couldn't hear the screams.

She was red faced and shrieking by then. "Let me go! What are they doing to Mama! What are they doing?"

"Your papa stole something he shouldn't have. The God King is very angry." Adrasos looked around at the heavy footsteps. Gestured, even though Yanni could hear now. "Sit down Yainni. Have some of that wine."

The big man had been a servant of the house since he was abandoned as a child, no doubt when his parents finally realized their strapping big boy was deaf, dumb, and lacking in wits. Adrasos's earliest memories included the teenaged Yainni, following him everywhere, sharing in his wonder over the discovery of caterpillars and bird nests. He was smarter than he’d been before the Great Overlap, he could hear and speak, now. But he was also . . . different. And he still had no head for wine. He would be snoring on the bench shortly. Perhaps, just perhaps, he would escape the retribution.

Peep wrenched her arm away, tears running down her face. "Why didn't you save Mama?"

"Because she is old enough to know right from wrong, and chose to do wrong."

"But it was Papa that did it."

"She knew. Not that it matters. The whole household will be punished. I had permission to remove you, if I could do it without warning them."

"You knew! You . . . you're part of the raid!"

He grabbed the back of her tunic as she rose. "Yes."

 "But what about Hecuba and Despoina?" She sat back down suddenly. "Adrasos, Adelphie was there, visiting Mama."

He closed his eyes in pain. His other sister, married just a few weeks ago. He took the jug from Yainni and took a swallow. Yainni rolled backwards off the bench, onto the dirt. Adrasos set the jug beside him and stood up.

"Well, let's get the bad news." He could hear the marching feet, getting closer. The crowds were getting quieter.

"I can't look." Peep hid her face against him. He looked between spectators and saw all the household guards on their feet. The stepfather's hirelings had been more for show than actual ability. Paid in room, board and a bit of coin, they'd been swept up with the rest. They looked a bit roughed up.  Gennadios himself was wobbling all over, his pretty face bleeding.
The women of the household were clumped. His mama, Adelphie, the Cook Hecuba and the maid Despoina. Three other women he didn't recognize, probably whores the guards had brought in. The women were all roughed up to, but not in the way of the men. As quick as the raid had been, Adrasos tried to tell himself they probably hadn't been raped.

More than once or twice. Several of the guards didn't think a raid well conducted unless the women had been tainted. Others didn't think women had any magic, and thus couldn't have it taken away. The more educated knew raping women didn’t do anything to their power directly, however much their distressed emotions made its usage problematical for a while after. But they wouldn't have bothered arguing with the ones who did believe.

The Ekasi—Commander of a hundred—caught his eye and gestured.

"Right. Come on Peep. Let's see what's going to happen now."

She grabbed his hand and clung, and they followed behind the prisoners amidst the curious crowd. At the gates of the Imperial Courts building, the crowd slowed and clustered. Adrasos wormed through and led Peep up the steps.

Heliodoros ascended to the bench as he walked in. Grandson of the God King, his father the second son, his uncle the former husband of the straying former queen. He surveyed the scruffy collection, ending with a long look at Gennadios, who was trying to clean his face around a broken nose. Did he think his pretty face could sway a God? Not that there weren't plenty of rumors about the Gods and what they did and did not do

"You are charged with Treason against the Gods. You are charged with Theft. What is the evidence, Ekasi?"

The Ekasi stepped forward and produced the pectoral. The sapphires shown coldly on the cloth.

For this eleven lives are forfeit. Thirteen if Yainni and Grandfather don't use their heads. Fifteen if the Gods think I took advantage of the situation.

Heliodoros flicked a glance his direction. Adrasos paled and tried to stop thinking.

"Do you have anything to say in your defense?"

Gennadios staggered forward a step. "But, she's been discarded. She isn't the wife of a god anymore. She gave me the gems, they were hers."

"Once touched by divinity, a queen is never open prey for another. Occasionally she may receive permission to marry a mortal, but you are already wed. And the jewelry was not a gift."

He picked up a paper and dripped a bit of blood on the bottom of it. "For this crime the household of Gennadios is sentenced to death."

He let the silence hang for a long moment. "However, in view of the extreme service rendered to the Gods by a son of the household, the sentence is placed in abeyance. The household will be ejected through the Gate of Hel, never to return, on pain of death. Take them to the Gate."

The soldiers muscled the stunned people away. Adrasos wiped his eyes and walked toward the podium.

Heliodoros stepped down and met him halfway.

"Brother-in-half, Comrade. Of course I could not kill your family, not even him. Will you go with them?"

"Yes." Adrasos could barely force the words past his tight throat.

"You'd better get busy, then. You only have until sundown. And Adrasos? You and your little sister here may return. If you can. Perhaps you'll come back some day and tell me what lies on the other side."