Amore Et Bellum








Ezra Azra

.




 
© Copyright 2024 by Ezra Azra
Trojan horse before the gates of Troy.
Trojan horse before the gates of Troy.. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
 
It is a wartime night in a city in Ancient Times. No inside-home lights allowed to shine through windows and doors. No street lights. The strict curfew on pedestrians has been in effect for an hour-or-so.

Horsin, clothed heavily to disguise herself as male, walks furtively, slowly, along a dark street. She sits on a bench at the side of the street; an ox-and-cart rest stop. She carries a hidden weapon she will not hesitate to use.

After a few seconds, Cressida appears, walking furtively, slowly, from the opposite direction on the same side of the street. She hesitates, pauses. She sees Horsin. She walks to the bench, and sits, foolishly assuming the other person already sitting on the bench in the pitch-dark night, is the person she had been directed in the note to expect to meet. She carries a hidden weapon she will not hesitate to use.

Horsin, half whispering, "The Lady Cressida?"

Cressida, half whispering, "Yes. You left the note?"

Yes. Prince Troilus asks a meeting.

How do you know the Prince?

I work at the Palace. I am one of Queen Hecuba's ladies-in-waiting.

I am puzzled that the Prince requests to meet with me. I am reluctant to be here. I am here because I wish to not exacerbate the unpleasantness that already is between the Prince and me. He has the power to ruin what little chance I have left for a happy life.

The Prince says I am to inform you that he knows you and General Diomedes, intend to marry.

I am not surprised he knows. I am surprised he chooses to inform me through a servant such as you.

I can assure you, Lady Cressida, all servants such as I am in the Palace knew about you and General Diomedes long before Prince Troilus found out and requested me to meet with you.

If everybody knows, then why this secret meeting? He and I expressed undying mutual love. When I suggested marriage, his reply was we must wait until we win this war.

My Lady, that was considerate of the Prince. You are not aristocrat. Your marriage would have had to be in secret. If the Prince died in battle, you could not inherit anything.

I wanted marriage because I love him; not for an inheritance.

The Prince gave you a ring to seal the promise?

Yes.

Had he been the one to break that promise, you would be under no obligation to return the ring. However, Lady Cressida--

Here it is. Take it.

Thank you. I will give it to Prince Troilus the moment I am back at the Palace.

If it is within your Palace privileges, please tell the Prince that I have meant no disrespect. These are difficult times for women such as I. General Diomedes is willing to send me far away from this war.

I will let the Prince know. I, too, am in your situation. If some man offers to rescue me, I will not hesitate to leave Troy.

What is your name?

I dare not tell you, Lady Cressida. I am merely a servant. But I assure you, as a mere servant among the aristocrats in the Palace I hear and see things they should not let happen in my presence. Itís as if we servants are invisible and immaterial. It is quite likely I can serve you. I am willing, my Lady.

Thank you. You are kind.

My Lady, I have overheard many things about General Diomedes. If you wish, I could tell you.

Good things?

Good things to a wife, but not so good to a woman from the enemy camp, who is yet to become his wife. My Lady, how did you first meet General Diomedes?

It turns out he and Prince Troilus were acquaintances. They were chief officers when there were exchanges of prisoners.

Diomedes and Troilus, then, had seen each other many times?

Yes.

Did you meet General Diomedes in those times?

No. I knew about him from Prince Troilus. Prince Troilus deeply admired General Diomedes. Then, unexpectedly, a few days after Prince Hector's death, General Diomedes knocked on my door. It was as if he knew that with Prince Hector's death, all my hopes of marrying Prince Troilus, died. From our brief conversation on my doorstep, it appeared to me that Prince Troilus had spoken glowingly about me to General Diomedes.

And how long after that first meeting did a marriage with Diomedes come up?

Diomedes proposed that very day, there on my doorstep. I slammed the door on him, because I thought he was just another Greek deriding Trojans, on the death of Hector.

So, you were not aware who he was?

Not right away. He did not leave after I slammed the door in his face. He stood there and kept politely knocking and calling my name. Eventually, I let him in, more from embarrassment at neighbours coming out to look.

And once inside?

He said he loved me from the time Prince Troilus spoke of me. He asked me if I knew of the Prince's reputation of having had so many, many failed romances before me. My retort was that everybody in Troy knew. His father, the king, knew, and did nothing to discourage his son. Because the king turned a blind eye, all other Trojans accepted the Prince's dalliances.

Do you accept there is a chance that General Diomedes is using you?

How using me?

My Lady Cressida, our countries are at war.

I am not different from the many other Trojan women who are marrying Greek soldiers. Troy is losing. Those who do not marry now, before the end, will end up sex slaves to Greeks.

Shh. Someoneís coming. Across the street. See them?

Yes.

If they cross to this side, we separate, and leave. I will be in touch.

If they follow me?

I will follow them, my Lady.

Good. They are not coming this way How I hate this war!

Me, too, along with countless others. Lady Cressida, do you have no concern that your Greek husband will exploit you against Troy?

I'm not concerned because I don't know any secrets. I'm sure the Greeks already know more secrets about Troy than I. The men of Troy think women are best kept in total ignorance. Diomedes has promised that, when we are married, he will teach me to read and write.

What if your husband wants you to be a spy?

He'll have to teach me how. And he will have to be incredibly patient. Women in Troy are not allowed to go to school. And yes, I'll do it for my husband. As the poet says, "Omne pulchrum est in amore et bellum."

I've heard that saying, my Lady. There is a rumour General Diomedes has a Trojan woman lover working in the Palace. Have you heard?

No. But I am not surprised. We Trojan women all are desperate for husbands. If Troy loses, we'll be taken slaves; if Troy wins it won't be soon; by then we'll all be too old to be wives or slaves. I am not worried. General Diomedes has said so many times, he loves me and will marry me. Does Troilus know the rumour?

I'm sure he does not know.

How can you be sure?

Because I am that woman.

I know you are. Prince Troilus told me you are. Horsin! You traitor!


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