One of the challenges for the collab contest was creating our main character. After discussing with my team what we wanted her personality to be like, we ended up with Daphne, a cunning Greek princess with a thirst for revenge and a reverence for her matron goddess, Hera, I wrote this short story, using her lifestyle, actions, thoughts, and her challenges to describe her in a unique and colorful way.
Heir of Argos
A prayer to Hera under my breath, I ran my slender, olive skinned fingers through my hair, cursing its ridiculously short length and mentally listing it down as another sacrifice for my beloved throne.
The sun burned my eyes as I squinted bitterly into its glaring blaze. Had it been three or four days since I had fled from the castle for my life? A curse slipped my lips. A day or so mattered not, but I chastised myself for loosing track.
As I shoved my way against the throngs of Grecians, fighting for the right to walk through the crowded marketplace, I wondered if the sisters of Fate laughed when dangling their scissors dangerously close to life threads or if it was as boring as any other job. I sure hadn’t been laughing when my father was murdered, my throne stolen right out from under me, and my life threatened within an inch.
Resisting another curse on my lips, I swiped a crust of bread from the stall a distracted vendor and popped it into my mouth before it could be missed. Needs more butter … and garlic, or maybe a good quality olive oil, I thought bitterly. I hated how much I missed the rich foods of the palace and my warm silk sheets. Already the simple chiton I barely had time to don before my life or death flight days ago was thick with dust and its hems soiled with the filth of the common streets. I hadn’t realized how dirty the Under was in Argos. It disturbed me, but, then again, I was royalty, and these were only commoners. Surely they didn’t miss the cleanliness they had never known. I, however, did greatly.
I clutched the dark metal amulet around my neck as I dodged a speeding chariot. It blazed violently through the streets with little regard for pedestrians, its rider shouting for the crowd to “make way.” It was with a good deal of self control that I didn’t jump out and curse the soldier at fault, demanding that his punishment be severe for nearly killing Argos’ crown heir. Except, I, Daphne, daughter of the late and rightful King Peleus, wasn’t heir any longer; at least, according to my wretched stepmother and her shallow, cowardly son I wasn’t.
A lump rose in my throat as I remembered the still form of my father lying in a sea of black sheets, an unnatural, green glow in his skin. I had known what had killed him—poison. It had been more obvious than that Zeus was debaucherous. But with the physicians in my stepmother’s purse and the King’s guards quacking with a fear I found repulsive, no one had said a word more than, “It was a terrible tragedy.” My fist clenched with the memory. Two days after that, I had found myself violently awoken by a faithful servant warning me to flee for my life.
That night, shivering in the bitter cold of a spring rain, and huddled under a scrawny olive tree on some gods-forsaken farm, after I had left my beloved home behind, I clutched my father’s amulet to my chest and prayed with all the strength I had left to Argos’ matron goddess—Hera. I had prayed and cried myself to sleep, miserable and alone, but I dreamt of a beautiful woman, full of grace, power, and terror. She glowed like the morning sun but spoke with a storm that could shake the Underworld. “Meet my servant on the shore of the North sea. Sing my song and take my blessing from the sand. The key to your throne lies in the Garden of the Hesperides: a golden apple from my sacred tree as a token of my blessing to be taken to Argos. My favor has found you worthy, now you prove yourself true,” she had said.
I had awoken with the words burning in my mind. They were cryptic but they were my anchor. It was a plan and a blessing, and I had needed both.
Three or four days later I found myself here, at the outskirts of Argos’ sprawling lands in the Under, the last province of the Kingdom of Argos before its boundaries ended. To get here, I had stolen a horse at midnight and hidden myself in a shipment of hay; my food I had stolen from farms and my water had been drunk from a stream. I hated every second of it and wished for an easier plan, like driving a dagger through my stepmother’s back, but I knew Hera had something better in mind. If one couldn’t trust their goddess, then in whom could they?
Hastily, I touched the scrolls beneath my dirtied chiton to assure myself they were still there. I had used the little money I had snatched from the palace in my perilous flight to buy these blank scrolls and a few small bits of charcoal. Then, in the late hours of the moon, I had put my royal studies to good use and drawn a couple crude maps. They weren’t the best I could do, and it had been hard to suffer through making something less than perfect, but I knew they would do exactly what I wanted them to—get me accepted by the traveling cartographers I hoped had stopped here to rest.
I spotted clean chitons for sale through the bustling bodies and felt myself subconsciously reaching for the money I had already spent away. A snarl left my lips. I wish I had at least bathed in a stream before this day.
I reached for the comfort of my thick hair, wishing also that I could brush it before I remembered it was gone. Another lump rose in my throat. It had been with weeping and gnashing of teeth that I had cut my long, dark hair in hopes I could pass as a boy; the gender would give me greater freedom for travel and would keep me relatively safe. However, in order to travel freely, I would have to join the army. It was with great revolution that I had considered the option. Physical combat had never been my strength and I didn’t exactly delight in sleeping with rows of dirty, crude soldiers, most likely having to change in front of them and bathe with them, which wouldn’t go over well seeing as there was only so much you could do to hide the feminine physique. But there was one more option that would give me even more freedom in travel, along with privacy, good food, and a warm bed every night.
Finally, with a heavy jolt from a burly stranger and a curse to him from my lips, I found myself staring at the tent I had searched so valiantly for—the traveling cartographers. My heart beat wildly in my chest and I hummed with pride. The cartographers had left Upper Argos days ago, mentioning that they were traveling to the north sea. I had feared I wouldn’t catch up to them in time, but I had. It would seem Hera was looking out for me.
Running my fingers through my hair again, and praying to Hera that I looked like a young boy, I pushed aside the tent flap and was instantly assaulted by the bustle of the map artists. It was a wondrous tent and instantly my heart soared at the prospect of traveling with them.
A sly smile decorated my full lips and I turned up my sharp buttoned nose, my blue eyes glinting darkly. The first step of my plan was complete—the first step towards taking back my throne.
I hope you enjoyed this short story with Daphne. I found it extremely fun to write a scene where the sole purpose was to describe the character in question using the most natural, subliminal ways possible.
The last Part in this series will be the climax scene of this story!
Thanks for reading
—Effie Joe Stock
*All the writing depicted above was written by Effie Joe Stock, using basic ideas from the rest of the team*