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Homeward Bound


by viggomama

The ship rolled across the waves, the sea amazingly calm--a stark contrast to the turmoil of the Trojan War. Odysseus stood alone at the bow, Worry over the future of many creased his kingly brow, wishing to assure himself that some part of Troy survived the horrifying devastation brought about by the lust and greed of mortal men. Sadly, the loss of life to Greek armies was nearly as great as the losses to Troy. The only difference being that the Greeks were all soldiers, and in Troy it was men and women, young and old alike.

Hector— by Odysseus’s own reckoning was the most honourable man of the entire lot—even more so than Achilles or his cousin, the young, impetuous Patroclus – not much older than his own boy. Both of them were dead, same as Agamemnon, Menelaus, Ajax, and Hector and his father on the Greek side. However aside from Priam and Hector no other members of the Trojan royal house had been among the dead. He fully intended to keep it that way.

If he succeeded--if he had any power as a king he would see to it that the scattered survivors of Troy did not perish, for while he himself did not have the resources to rebuild, he could though, in the name of humanity see that they all did not die of starvation. He thought of the thousands of lost lives –such an unnecessary waste. Paris had been foolish, but Agamemnon had made fools of them all.

It left the bitter taste of remorse in his mouth and he no longer had Agamemnon or Menelaus to answer to, the council of kings that had been reduced to military puppets by an arrogant madman’s bidding had taken his example to heart and the armies forced by Agamemnon’s attempts to rule everything within in his reach had all peacefully scattered. All had departed for their homelands and all they’d left behind to fight this unnecessary war. All of them tired of even the thought of more war.

He felt an undue amount of guilt for it had been his idea that had brought Troy to its knees. An idea born of his desperate need to return to his beloved Ithaca, not considering the cost of life that had ultimately lain strewn across the beaches of Troy until it was too late. That affected his decisions, his own humanity demanding he do something to help them— and ease his own conscience. And it was there on that foreign soil in that final battle that his good friend had passed over to the Underworld.

If the gods disapproved they would indicate it somehow. They always had before. How long had they kept him from returning to Ithaca already? He found it difficult to accept that he’d been taken so far from his beloved Penelope for such a long time. Even now time passed him by rapidly.

Nearly six months had passed since he’d lit the funeral pyre for Achilles— child of a goddess— hero— warrior —brother-in-arms —friend. It was loyalty to that friendship that led him to do this. After what his friend had pulled at the temple of Apollo, Odysseus was certain that Achilles’ had died under the disapproving glare of the sun god. Therefore, he had kept his precious cargo hidden from the other ships that they came across. For safely ensconced in his cabin was Briseis, her virginity-- once promised to Apollo’s temple— defeated by the lust of Achilles, her belly now swollen with his seed.

Odysseus was determined to give her safe haven, for he had seen up close the peace that she’d brought to Achilles in his last days. He would see this young woman and her unborn child to the safety of his home shores .

He knew Penelope would welcome them with open arms and her open loving heart. They would be treated like family. He’d offered similar accommodation to Andromache and her son, but she as well as Paris and Helen were determined to see to the needs of their people as best as possible, to lead the reconstruction— whatever that might be— if any were attempted.

Paris—now ruler of what was left of Troy hesitated at first, but then he’d relented, for Odysseus was right—the remaining people of Troy would not look favorably upon her questionable union with the man who’d taken his brother’s life. The Fates had seen fit to bestow a pregnancy upon Briseis but those same Fates might also be inclined to be unkind. They might declare Helen barren—denying Paris any heirs. And… if something happened to Hector’s son… well, then, the child of Briseis would be not only of the Trojan royal line, but also a child with a lineage to the gods. The Greeks might even look more favorably on a struggling to recover Troy, should the kingdom rise from the ashes.

Although this was important, the only thing that mattered to Odysseus was that the child she carried would carry a piece of Achilles forward. He would welcome the chance to bear these good tidings to Achilles’ mother, the goddess Thetis, although she probably already knew. He suspected it was her influence that had thus far kept them safe on their voyage. Blue skies, fluffy clouds, and calm seas. He saw nothing but fair weather on the horizon. With a sigh he turned to head below deck to check on his cargo

Below deck in the captain’s cabin, the young woman stirred restlessly. The child moved impatiently within her womb, and once again Briseis silently praised the gods, grateful that they’d seen fit to bless her with her lover’s child. She prayed for a son, with blue eyes and golden hair. And it tore at her heart that her child would have to be raised far from her homeland. A child who with the right guidance would grow up healthy and strong. Odysseus would set a good example, many of his qualities reminded her of her cousin Hector.

She still worried about Paris, Helen and Andromache—when, if ever would she see them again, but her new protector was right, If Troy was to have any chance of recovery, all the heirs to the kingdom must be protected, whatever the cost might be. And safety for her child would not come on Trojan shores.

Briseis tossed back the blanket, rising, in nothing more than a nightdress and bare feet, taking a piece of fruit from a bowl on the bedside table. There was a light rap on the door and she knew it could only be one person, she first grabbed a shawl to protect her modesty. “Come in milord,”

Odysseus opened the door, and stepped inside, “How fares milady this morn?”

“Fine, and how does this day look?” She asked, smiling.

“As beautiful as you, little one.”

He could see what attracted Achilles to her. There was this glow from her very soul. Any man would be honoured to win even a smile from her, much less her heart. There was something about her that made him want to see her safe and happy. If he were not a devoted husband, well, even he might have been tempted. But his heart and loins only knew desire for one woman. His beloved, his beautiful Penelope.

Briseis smiled again, “I wish to thank you once again for all the care and consideration you’ve taken with me. I know I should be dead or back with the others struggling to survive.”

Odysseus let his fingers come up to caress her face. “It was his wish that you live, and I will not permit anything to betray that wish. I will say it again and again until you believe me. You and your child shall want for nothing. I give to you my protection as ruler of Ithaca and offer my guardianship to the child of Achilles. You shall think of us, Penelope and I as your family. Let me take the place of your uncle, you may be like a sister to my son, for you are almost young enough to be my daughter.

“Although I know you still mourn him, after a time and with the help of your child your grief shall ease, or so I do hope. You are much too young to let your heart die with Achilles. When the time is right, and your heart ready, Penelope and I shall arrange a husband for you.”

“You are too kind, milord.” She met his green-eyed gaze, she meant it. There weren’t too many Greeks that she found herself able to like, but Achilles had clearly respected and trusted this man, had always spoken well of him in her presence and although it would be the last thing Achilles would ever admit to, he had clearly felt a fondness of sorts as well for the King of Ithaca. And it was clear that Odysseus had felt the same brotherly affection toward Achilles, enough to offer his kindness to her.

There was sudden gasp from her, and Odysseus was concerned. “Milady, is all well?”

“Aye,” she replied. “The babe tis very strong, like his father. Just a very hard kick.”

His gaze dropped to the swell of her belly, he’d missed this with Penelope, had not been present for the birth of his son. Briseis read the unspoken question in his eyes, but also the unease as well at the thought of him touching her in an almost intimate fashion. She took the question from him, by taking his hand, “Would you like to feel the babe kick?”

He met her gaze uneasily, then she smiled again, “Do not be afraid…. Uncle.”

He smiled at her acceptance of his offer and let her guide his hand. She turned his palm downward, and he felt the strong thump from within her womb. “Achilles would be so proud of you.. He would have loved you more than he could have ever dreamed.” He said with certainty to both Briseis and the unborn child. “Had he lived he would have told you these things himself.”

There was a commotion in the corridor and Odysseus stuck his head out the door. One the crew shouted to him. “Land, your majesty. Ithaca is on the horizon.”

He looked back to Briseis, “Dress milady and come up on deck. No one will bother you.”

He left her behind to go up top. Excitement built within him. At long last he was seeing what the gods had denied him for so long and his journey was at last coming to an end. Before him, growing larger with every gentle sway of the ship was home.

Before him lay his kingdom— before him lay his beloved Ithaca. He would kiss the precious ground beneath his feet, and walk nearly forgotten streets on his way to the palace. He would at last see his boy, already nearly grown to a man. Tonight he would sleep in his own bedchamber, the warmth of his precious Penelope enveloped in his arms. He would hold her, kiss her and make love to her again and again. He felt the soft touch of a hand at his back, and he turned to Briseis, his arm going around her slender shoulders, “What do you think little one? There it is… The kingdom of Ithaca.”

Her insecurity still lingered, but she smiled up at him anyway, “Well, it will get me off this ship won’t it?”

“That,” he chuckled, “it most assuredly will.”

They stood together at the bow watching the land draw closer and closer in silence. Only when the boat came to a standstill at the dock did either of them speak. Odysseus offered his arm to Briseis, “Ready?”

She merely nodded, her eyes trusting as she took his arm and when her first footfall fell on the Ithacan soil, he leaned in to whisper into her ear. “Welcome home milady.”