In finest of gold with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires glittering and sparkling, I was the epitome of power. For years, people brutally killed; to place their stinking arse on me. Ilíthioi* (Idiots)
The curtains parted to reveal the sun shining in the clear blue sky. Trumpets sounded announcing the arrival of King Lycus. With him, Prime Minister Aeson arrived. As the crowd filled the vast open space, I hoped there would be some entertainment. My court was huge; a semi open rock structure designed to suit the humid weather of Snetha. King Lycus made himself comfortable on me, his chlamys* (short cloak worn by men) draped on my arms.
The cases in the past few days have been unimaginative. Someone stole something; someone did not pay for something. The breeze brought along a scent of wild orchids. It belonged to only one person in the entire kingdom.
Gaia looked horrible. Her peplos* (inner garment for women) was visible through the torn chiton* (light tunic draped as a dress). Her ebony hair was tangled and messy. Her delicate body was bruised. Hermes was brought forth by the soldiers. What?
He was the Prince, son of King Lycus’s first wife. Despite being a strong man, Hermes made no move to overpower the soldiers. I liked his control.
“Miló* (speak),” King Lycus roared.
Gaia bowed her lovely head and murmured. “Vasiliás* (King), your son has ruined me. In the dark hours of yesterday’s night, he forced into my chambers…”
Her agony made me want to console her. She sobbed into her dainty hands. Gaia was the King’s third and latest wife. The marriage took place less than a year ago. From what I’ve seen, King Lycus loved to possess anything beautiful. He had me decorated five times much to my delight.
“Vasiliás,” Hermes called attention to himself. I listened eagerly. He was my favorite of them all.
“She lies. I was nowhere near the chambers of the Vasílissa* (Queen).” After a small pause, he added. “I can prove it.”
“He is lying,” Gaia wailed showing the reddish-purple bruises on her wrists and arms.
King Lycus turned to Aeson. The Prime Minister said nothing. He rarely did. The system in my court allowed citizens to act as jury. The slaves brought two jars and some pebbles. The jurors would listen to both the parties in my presence. They would then drop a pebble into one of the jars showing support to the accused or the accuser. Strange how I never got a chance to say who I liked to sit on me.
“I ask for Proteus, Vasiliás. He is the proof of my innocence.” Hermes said in a clear voice, his head high. I could see the crowd was taking sides. Whom would they support?
Gaia bent her head. Proteus was her brother. He lived in the palace training the boys for the military. Would he support someone else over his sister? King sent for him and glared at the crowd that grew louder by the second. Tall and lean, Proteus arrived through the side doors.
Bowing to me, he looked at Hermes and Gaia. His face revealed nothing.
“I see you haven’t left for the border yet. Vasílissa has accused Hermes of forcing her. Hermes says you’re the proof of his innocence. Miló.” King Lycus rumbled.
The court fell silent around me. I noticed Aeson slip away silently. Where was he going? Why?
“I was about to leave, Vasiliás.” He replied. I shivered at his tone. It was hard.
“Vasiliás, Hermes speaks the truth. Sygnómi* (pardon), Gaia. Accusing Hermes is not as easy as killing the zográfos* (painter).” Proteus continued.
What did the zográfos have anything to do with this? Uh oh.
He was a marvelous looking man with a bronzed physique. He was also closer to Gaia’s age than King Lycus could ever be. They said he vanished one night. The King announced a price for those who found him. No one yet claimed the gold.
Gaia turned to look at King Lycus. He fidgeted, his bulged body settling hard on me.
“Proteus dear, only if you asked me.” She whispered.
“Only if you talked to me before accusing Hermes,” He shot back.
I watched the exchange with a growing sense of unease. Or was the King restless?
“I do not accuse, Proteus. I utter the truth.” Gaia emphasized.
Proteus gave a short laugh. “All of last night, we were discussing the strategy if the Namors were to attack us. He did not move for a second.”
Another invasion. This time by Namor. King Lycus was worried for his safety; well, the safety of the kingdom. They fought for me. Sitting on me was important.
Gaia turned to the crowd, pleading. “Why would I humiliate myself? Would I not make sure Hermes was alone if I was to blame him? Hermes has been dear to me since the time I stepped into the palace. Would I do that to him?”
To say I wasn’t confused would have been wrong. Who was the guilty party? How would the jurors decide?
“Vasiliás, I have always respected Vasílissa. I pledged my sword for her safety.” Hermes said. Yes, he did.
“Vasílissa, can you tell us what happened last night?” Proteus asked taking over.
Gaia widened her eyes in horror before nodding. “It was new moon yesterday. I woke up to find a presence looming in the dark. It was a… man. He pressed a hand to my mouth. I tried to move and found my wrists and ankles bound to the bed. He then…”
She hiccupped, unable to say more. Could Hermes do that to her?
“You do not sleep with the torches lit,” Proteus said.
“How do you know it was Hermes? Did anybody see him leave? Did he speak to you?”
Gaia stared at her brother in despair. “This piece of the tunic is from his dress. It caught the hook of the bed. He removed the binds from my wrists and left immediately. I… I was dazed.” She showed a piece of green fabric to the court. I remembered that tunic.
“It got stolen a week ago. My slave will vouch for it.” Hermes replied. The word of a slave hardly carried weight. Oh, Hermes!
King Lycus was ready to speak when Aeson walked in from the west side of the court. “Vasiliás, let me present to you the real culprit.”
The soldiers dragged a bruised man to the court. He looked similar to Hermes and was about the same age, in the twenties. And, he was wearing the green tunic!
“I got a message about an intruder in the palace. He was caught hiding in Vasiliás’s chamber.”
I wanted to wring his bloody neck. How dare he touch the Queen! Gaia looked ready to faint. Hermes lurched towards the man, but the soldiers held him back. Proteus was the only one who did not move. Still, I saw his muscles coiled, ready to strike.
The man cowered, shrinking at the sight of the murderous look in the crowd. “Éleos* (Mercy) Vasiliás! Save me!” He fell at my feet. I wanted to kick him.
“Behead him.” King Lycus thundered.
The man cried. “Éleos! You promised to save my life. Oh, Vasiliás, I followed your orders!”
For a second the court stood still. No one could believe what they’ve just heard. I too froze in my already frozen form.
“Pséftis* (Liar). Guards, take him.” King Lycus yelled.
Aeson stopped them. “Vasiliás, he has the royal emblem that allowed him inside the palace. Not stolen, but given.” After a dramatic pause, he added. “It belongs to you.” He showed the emblem to us.
The crowd and I were too shocked to react.
Proteus suddenly pulled out his sword. “You villain, my sister loved and married you knowing you are thirty years older. Why do this to her?”
“Guards, arrest them all.” King Lycus shrieked. I winced at the tone. He was afraid.
Not a single soldier moved.
“Guards!” He roared again. What was happening?
Hermes sagged, pain etched on his face. King Lycus glued himself to me if it was possible. I hated not being able to get him off me.
Gaia stopped her brother. “No Proteus. I want the jurors to know the reason.”
“Why, father?” Hermes asked. “Wasn’t murdering mitéra* (mother) and the previous queen enough for you?”
What? The King murdered his wives?
Aeson spoke. “As a loyal Prime Minister, I stood by you, Vasiliás. Even when I knew you poisoned my sister because she dared to question your lust for young men, I said nothing. Not anymore.”
“Bloody traitors!” King Lycus finally got off me the sword glinting in his hand. They shouldn’t let him touch me again.
He lunged at Gaia. “The three of you have conspired against me. Traitors!”
At a signal from Proteus and Aeson, the soldiers held King Lycus. He tried to kick them. But his large body refused to cooperate.
“Oh Vasiliás, how could even think of such a thing!” Gaia sobbed.
“I’m not you, Vasiliás.” Hermes replied.
Turning to the crowd, Gaia began in a sad voice. “I beg mercy from Hermes for tarnishing his image. I would also reveal a secret that my burdened heart cannot bear anymore. Zográfos did not disappear. Vasiliás stabbed him to death when zográfos wanted to end their liaison. I helped him bury zográfos’s body. No one knew about it. I am guilty as him. Any punishment, I accept.”
She went down on her knees bowing to the court.
“Behead the Vasiliás.” The crowd chanted, ready to trash the King until death. I wished they would kill him. I would have if I could.
“Stop!” Hermes shouted. “Your judgment is accepted. Do not stain your hands with his blood. I apologize for the humiliation caused to the citizens of Snetha.”
Naturally, they accepted Hermes as their new King. The crowning ceremony would come later. I looked forward to having him occupy me.
“Hail Hermes!” The echoes filled my court.
He stopped them again. “Vasílissa, accept my apologies. You will continue to be our Vasílissa. The sins of the Vasiliás do not taint you.”
We were all elated. Hermes was proving to be a great leader. Proteus helped Gaia to her feet. They stood together as the beheading of Lycus was scheduled for the dusk. Lycus cursed everyone in my court until the soldiers dragged him away. Good riddance.
Aeson placed his hand on Hermes’s arm in support. Hermes looked like he needed it.
The stars twinkled in the dark sky. The court was empty except for me and the strong pillars. We were all silent, lost in thought. Curtains danced in the breeze when the scent of wild orchids wafted around us. What was she doing here?
“You were amazing, Gaia, my love.” He murmured. I knew that voice.
The sound of goblets mixed with the splash of spirits reached me.
“Dears, the man has been silenced. He thought we’d spare him for betraying Lycus to us.” Another voice spoke.
“You’ll make a great Command in Chief, Proteus. Aeson got to avenge his sister. A good day it was.” Gaia laughed as Hermes pulled her close.
I suddenly felt cold.
“I’ll leave you two to enjoy.” Proteus chuckled and walked away taking the goblets with him. Locked in an embrace, they fell into me, breathless from heady kisses.
“Gaia, you have been tarnished in the eyes of the public. They may not be kind to you.” Hermes was serious.
“I’ll be in mourning. They wouldn’t dare. Only you matter to me, Hermes.” She whispered as they settled firmly on me. Her hair shone in the dark as she melted into his arms.
“Remember your promise, Hermes? Now love me on the throne.” She teased.
Hermes murmured something about it being his pleasure.
My muffled disgust got lost in the cries of their ecstasy.
Chlamys- short cloak worn by men
Peplos- inner garment for women
Chito-light tunic draped as a dress
This is an entry for #TheTrial, a Claws Club exclusive event for #Legends-4.
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