Helen: Chapter 2, part 2

Click here to read part 1 of chapter 2.

When the nurse finally accompanied Helen into the main hall for the celebrations, Clytemnestra was already there, but Tyndareus was not, nor were their new guests. Disappointed, Helen moved toward her sister, who was currently circling the hall in a half-hearted inspection of the room. Helen slipped her hand into Clytemnestra’s and joined her in looking over the festive additions to the room. Gauzy golden fabric had been hung over and between the usual tapestries – well out of the way of the torches, which had all been lit, as the sun was obscured behind thunderclouds – making the room seem to glow. Numerous polished platters of food covered every surface. Musicians tuned lyres and harps.

“There are more musicians than usual,” Helen noticed.

“They are going to great trouble with the entertainment for Hector, I imagine,” Clytemnestra commented sagely. “I heard that there will be dancers later tonight.”

“I don’t understand… no other land’s princes come to stay with us, and Father doesn’t usually stay so long away from us. Why do we do all of this for the Trojans?”

Clytemnestra sighed. “You were very young the last time Father voyaged to Troy. He was gone for a long time – not as long as this time, but longer than I can recall him being away in any other kingdom. I don’t know why any more than you do, but there is something about Troy that makes it special to him. And Helen, don’t ask such questions in front of the Trojans. It will seem ungracious.”

Helen did not understand why she should have to be so gracious, but she was excited to have a brother at last and would rather not insult Hector. With this in mind, she agreed to show only happiness and hospitability in the Trojans’ presence.

Lightning flashed. It must have struck an arm’s length from the castle, for the shimmering fabric decorating the walls lit the room to impossible brightness. It appeared like all lightning, powerful but fleeting. It was over before Helen had a chance to properly admire the effect. The room seemed unbearably dim in comparison, with torches as the only source of illumination, although she liked how everything seemed to glitter. While the gray clouds grew darker outside, the hall felt like a cozy, dreamy nymph-dwelling.

Clytemnestra and Helen, completing their first circuit around the hall, met their father’s brother Icarius at the main entrance. They each received a cordial greeting from him, then a warm embrace. Their affection for him was nothing like what they felt for their father, but still very strong.

“Is Father coming out soon, Uncle?” Helen asked, unable to contain her excitement.

“As soon as he can, little one,” Icarius answered, patting Helen’s cheek lightly. “He had a few matters to see to before the feast – needs to get caught up on the past year before he can get back to running the kingdom. It’s a lot of information to study, but don’t worry. He knows how much his daughters want to see him.”

Icarius excused himself, joining a group of the Spartans who had accompanied Tyndareus to Troy. He had grown up with them and missed their company in the past months. A goblet of wine in his hand, Icarius was soon exclaiming and laughing as animatedly as any of the Spartan warriors.

Another half an hour passed, and neither Tyndareus nor Hector had yet appeared. Helen wondered whether it would be more polite for Tyndareus to arrive first, making him present to welcome their royal guest, or for Hector to come out and wait for the king of his new host country. She wondered if their opinions on the matter would be the same.

She would have asked Clytemnestra, but her sister had claimed a sofa and was currently picking delicious-looking morsels from a golden plate at a leisurely pace. The plates of gold, Helen’s nurse had told her, were special and few, nearly always reserved for the royalty. Helen only saw them brought out for feasts; she was provided ceramic and silver dishes for everyday use. It distracted her momentarily, seeing that golden plate. They were so polished, bright, rare, that she loved to eat off of them. She began to wander toward the food, in search of her own golden plate. When she found it, she would, as always, briefly inspect her reflection. It was not often that she had the chance to see herself in a plate’s surface, and the novelty always amused her.

Helen had hardly begun her treasure hunt when she heard Tyndareus’ arrival announced. She did not wait to see him, but sprinted toward the door, weaving between bodies when they blocked her way. Her small, perfectly formed feet (her nurse had commented on the shapeliness of her feet many times as she did the laces on Helen’s sandals) carried her swiftly to the entrance, where she ran headlong into her father’s arms. He staggered back one step as her force hit him, chuckling deeply.

“I’m so glad to see you, dear daughter. You look lovely. What a pretty belt of ribbons.”

Her father always noticed things like that. Helen smiled broadly. “Thank you, Father.”

An especially loud crack of lightning resounded through the room, flashing several times before it was gone. Startled, Helen gripped her father’s arm until the lightning stopped. The scowl on his face made her nervous. It was the expression he always wore when a thunderstorm became particularly violent, or a lightning strike was especially close.

That one, drawn out bolt signaled the end of the storm. The rain soon abated to a few drops here and there. Once Tyndareus had said a fond hello to Clytemnestra, he made his way to the head of the long table in the room’s center. Some of the men sat with him. Tyndareus promised them his full attention once he had taken advantage of the food, and they laughed, their spirits no doubt lifted by the ceasing of the rain. In no time at all, the clouds had melted from the sky, leaving them with a view of a lovely twilight.

Twinkling pinpricks of stars were slowly dotting the sky, soon to be filled with thousands of bright lights, when Hector led the Trojans into the hall. …To be continued

Helen Update: More to Come

If you’ve missed my previous posts of this untitled Helen of Troy novel, you can read chapter 1 here.

All my inward debating about posting my Helen of Troy novel has led me to conclude that more is needed to capture the desired amount of interest from readers. I don’t think I will post the entire novel – that still seems not to be the best option – but I definitely intend to share more of it. I’m thinking the first three chapters or so – perhaps up to four, although I believe 25 pages is the publishing industry norm for a sample of a manuscript. Three chapters should get me to 25 pages easily. In fact, I believe I’ll reach that mark in two chapters; depending on how far the plot goes in the first two chapters, I may still post the third. Thoughts? I’m sure anyone who is interested would rather read a bit more than a bit less.

Now I must ask for a favor: if, when you’re reading Helen, you can think of any friends who would enjoy it, I ask you to direct them to the posts of the chapters. I want my writing to be seen, and that seems far less likely to happen if it isn’t recommended by those who read it. I’m grateful no matter what if you’re reading my blog, but you’ll be more likely to be able to read the whole novel if I have a slightly larger following urging me to put the whole story out to read. (And publishers might be willing to pick me up as a previously unpublished author if they know there are people who want to read my work.) Thank you!

Teaser from Helen of Troy novel!

I started today, at last, on a new writing project. I haven’t written enough yet to post a selection a few pages long, but here’s a snippet of what I have done so far:

Sometimes, she thought that if a siren were to beckon her, she would follow the voice creating the most beautiful music, as she had always heard it told, and live in the ocean with them, singing and playing.

I’m fairly certain that this sentence will not look the same once the rewriting happens, but for now it’s an image I like. Helen as a girl dreaming of being an enchanted sea creature.

If you’d like to see more, I might post the results of the next few days’ writing over the weekend.

Making Plans

As I reread a wonderful novel written by Virginia Woolf, her pure talent for writing inspires me once again to want to spend all of my time writing. For some reason she stirs up my desire to create, which often gets lost when I feel satisfied simply appreciating the words of others.

Of all the ideas I store in my head, part of my Helen of Troy story rises to the top, and fills my mind, and aches to bleed onto a virtual page through my keyboard. I tend to do lots and lots of research before delving into such a project, but I think that this time I might just start with what I already know and then, later, fill in the parts that need to feel more authentic to the time in which it is supposed to take place.

My idea for rewriting the Helen story is simple: I want to make her a warrior. The idea came originally from an episode of Xena Warrior Princess, believe it or not. In that episode, Helen was very nearly a non-person. She barely had a personality at all, and she was quite incapable of doing anything for herself. It annoyed me so much that I said to myself, “I’m going to write a version of the Trojan War that portrays Helen as a strong character.”In all likelihood someone has already done something similar, but that wouldn’t stop me.

I have yet to decide whether she will be Helen of Troy, Helen of Sparta, or both.

And, rather unrelated, I’m planning to participate to some extent in NaNoWriMo this year. If nothing else, it would be pretty awesome to get a whole first draft of a novel done in a month.