Chapter Three – A colorful intrusion
Flavia sat at the small wooden desk in her room. Her back was bent over and her soft eyebrows knitted in contemplation. Lightly she tapped a quill against her luscious lips.
Oh to be my water I would drown,
But for the anchor that sinks,
No, no, no. Argh! This poem doesn’t even make sense! Thought Flavia to herself. The voluptuous maiden spent hours crafting poetry. She was quite talented and had accumulated a modest amount of fame for her work. Flavia placed her smooth hands on the edge of the desk and pushed herself up to rise. Gracefully she drifted to the large window overlooking the sea. With her eyes closed, Flavia took in the fresh air and let out a big sigh. Still, her eyes remained shut. She heard noise. One blue eye fluttered open and Flavia looked to discover where the noise had come from. Off in the distance a brightly colored caravan was making its way through the tiny coastal town.
“What?” she mouthed quietly. The procession was large. Mules, carts, people, and covered wagons all bustled down the sandy streets. Flavia donned her sandals that she had kicked across the room earlier and ran down the stairs in search of her father.
“Daddy!” she began breathlessly. Flavia’s father was sitting in his office going over trade documents.
“Yes, plum?” he answered without looking up from his work.
“Are we having visitors?”
“There is a caravan of people making their way towards our home. How many guests did you invite to the wedding?”
“A caravan?” This time Flavia’s father stood up and made for the door. The two walked briskly to the front of the house. Slaves opened the massive door so that Flavia and her father could exit the palace. The caravan had stopped and was waiting for them at the gates of their palace. Flavia’s father turned to look at her quizzically.
“Zeus’s balls…” muttered Flavia’s father under his breath. He started walking with slight trepidation to the procession of people at his gates. A trumpet began to announce a fanfare.
“Greetings to Creon Tiresias Papodakus, Grand Magistrate of Paros. Her Royal Highness Queen Sapho of Kriskos has come to wish good tidings towards the oncoming nuptials of your daughter, the Lady Flavia Kay Papodakus.” Rang the official announcer. Brandos could feel his heartbeat quicken; Flavia was just beyond the gate!
Being the suave politician, Creon was only fazed for a moment. “Yes, yes! Welcome! Open the gate for Her Majesty Saphie!”
“Sapho.” Corrected the announcer.
“Sapho! Her Royal Majesty Sapho!” Creon let out a nervous chuckle but managed to put on the guise of a gracious host. With arms outspread, he welcomed the caravan into his palace as the slaves pulled the gate open. Slowly, one by one, the people filed in to the courtyard. Creon and his daughter walked towards the front steps of the palace and waited. A litter of multicolored sheer curtains made its way towards the base of the palace. All the slaves and servants bowed in respect for the Queen. All except for Brandos, who was permitted to walk along side of the litter. It was set down gently. Brandos walked towards the front and pulled back the sheer curtains. He extended a hand and helped pull Saphara out. He was slightly stunned at her change in appearance. No longer was she wearing a red robe, but a regal gown of yellow silk. A crown encrusted in jewels nestled into the curls atop her head. Saphara faced Creon.
“My noble Lord Creon, it is a pleasure.” She fell to a slight curtsy as she was royalty. In turn, Creon bent into a bow and Flavia swooped into an equally graceful curtsy. She rose up shakily however. It was at that moment that she felt the heated gaze of a pair of unusually icy blue eyes on her skin. Flavia returned the gaze and was unsettled. Awkwardly she lost balance and had to reach out to a column to brace herself. For several moments, she stared back at the tall, dark slave. Heat flushed through her cheeks as chills raked down her spine. Her lips parted in surprise.
“I must be sick.” Flavia whispered. She turned and fled.
Brandos smiled. She had seen him. Oh, how beautiful she was! He didn’t know that it was possible for a woman to be that gorgeous. Full breasts, curvy hips, flawless skin, luxurious hair, sparkling eyes. Gods, that mouth! Brandos wanted nothing more than to march up those stone steps, rip off that dress, and press furious kisses to her mouth as he pressed something furiously elsewhere.
“Your Majesty!” boomed Creon. He had swooped down and kissed the outstretched hand of the Queen. “I thank you for your thoughtfulness of my daughter’s wedding. Flavia is most—” Creon twisted around to wave his daughter down and noticed her absence.
“With all due respect, Lord Creon, I am exhausted from my travels. The trip was arduous and chaotic and I would love nothing more than to relax and to revive. I will have your slaves show me to my chambers, if you do not mind.”
“Ehhhhh, Your Majesty,” intoned Creon gravely, “With all due respect, no notice was given towards your arrival and I am afraid that---”
“WHAT?” interrupted the Queen. A look of pure shock lit up her aristocratic features. Sapho stamped a tiny foot. “I sent three missives informing you of my arrival! How is it possible that you didn’t receive anything?”
Poor Creon began to wring his hands and his face reddened considerably with embarrassment. “Your Majesty, I beg your forgiveness to this offense. I will have my slaves put together suitable accommodations immediately.” He blubbered.
“No, no, no, that won’t be necessary, my lord. We Kriskons are self-sufficient; I have my own tents and accommodations. We will camp within your courtyard.” Announced Queen Sapho firmly.
“Your wish is my command, your Highness. I will have my slaves assist. Is there anything I can provide for you?”
“Taki, bring the list.” A rather chubby slave hobbled through the ranks up to where Sapho stood. Bowing with creaky knees, he rose and handed the list to Creon, and then left. The list was long and lengthy. Creon’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head at the demands. Still, he smiled and bowed. Sapho, with an air of regal dignity, fell backward onto the litter and motioned to be lifted. She looked over to Brandos who stood with a soft smile lighting his features. He turned to look at her feeling her gaze. “Brandos.” She called.
“Yes, your highness?” returned Brandos with sarcasm. Frowning, Sapho replied, “As chief slave and as my personal body guard, I leave you in charge to see to the construction of this camp.” Sapho closed the curtains of the litter before Brandos had a chance to retort. Throwing his head back to the sky and clenching his fists, Brandos screamed on the inside. For Flavia. The thought whisked through his brain. And so, Brandos swallowed his pride and began to bark orders to the slaves and servants to start making camp.
It was really quite fascinating to watch the construction of the camp. This Kriskon culture clearly stressed bright colors! Flavia watched the colorful mess from atop one of the many balconies that crested the palace. Tents of orange, purple, pink, and yellow were all being thrown together. Carts and mules were pulled together, and slaves and servants ran back and forth with arms laden with supplies. Queen Sapho’s tent was large and a deep purple in color. Flavia watched as thick carpets were shaken and fluffed before disappearing into the voluminous tent. The tall dark slave with the unsettling blue eyes seemed to be in charge of the household. His deep voice bellowed swift commands. Back and forth, he sent the slaves scurrying to fetch this or that, or to clean, or to simply move out of the damn way. Flavia remembered the chilling gaze he sent her earlier. Those crystal eyes seemed to pierce into her soul, and she welcomed it. Welcomed it? A slave had the audacity to stare directly into her eyes and yet it was she who backed away? Did he notice? Did he have any idea of heat that seemed to radiate down through her core or of the tingles that shot up her back? Gods, was she premenstrual? What was she feeling? As if he could hear her thoughts, the slave turned to face where Flavia was positioned on the balcony. Brandos bent his back into a low bow and rose to flash her a dark smile. The smile lingered for only a few moments. Flavia’s full lips parted slightly in distilled surprise. Tentatively, her lips moved to form a small moue. Flavia spun around on her heel and fled again.
The day waned and the cool ocean breeze was welcomed as the heat of the sun broke. The sky took on a mellow hue of violet and pink fluffy clouds wisped along the horizon. The kitchen slaves had been going crazy preparing a feast for the surprise guest. Ingredients and supplies were already running short as goods were already being baked and prepared for the oncoming wedding. Creon ordered that the very best of everything be served at dinner and then blustered about making sure his palace was spotless. He had given his secretary the hefty list of demands to worry about.
Dinner was to be served at 6 o’clock sharp. Creon, being of utmost punctuality, gritted his teeth as he and his daughter sat at the table for several minutes past 6. It was almost 7 when the Queen decided to make her appearance. Sapho entered the spacious dining chamber decked out in an evening gown of gilded silk. It was fitted and snug and a band of green trim laced around her middle. A golden crown nested in her auburn curls.
“My apologies, Lord Creon. I fear I may have overslept.” The words poured out of Sapho’s mouth like wine out of a decanter.
“No, no, no, your Majesty! I knew how exhausted you were. Please, be seated.” Creon rose to pull out a chair for the Queen. He was beat to it though but the tall menacing slave that seemed to accompany the Queen wherever she went.
“Don’t mind Brandos, my lord. Everywhere I go, he goes.”
“Ahh,” began Creon. He had motioned for some slaves to delve out some wine. Sapho took the proffered goblet and enjoyed the chilled fruity beverage. “So tell me, your Highness, of Kriskos. I must admit I am not too terriblely familiar with the Kriskon way of life.”
“Kriskos has always been isolated and private. It is a rich and fertile island close to three days east of here. Because we are able to produce everything we need to survive, trade has never been a necessity. But, Kriskos has come under new management, so to speak. It is a new dawn for Kriskos; for too long have we been separated, it is time to venture out and expand the economy through trade.”
“New management?” inquired Creon.
“Me.” Answered Sapho. Flavia smothered a grin as she looked at the practiced calm on her father’s face. “Kriskos has never had a reigning female monarch. As I am the only surviving child of my late father, King Brukos, I have come into the throne.”
“Forgive me, your Majesty, but Kriskos sounds to be a very, how shall I phrase this, liberal, island nation.”
“Ahhh my lord Creon, it is with that attitude that has kept Kriskos in the dark ages. Women can rule just as well as men, if not better. Our customs might seem strange to you, but, and as I am learning quickly, I find many of your customs to be strange as well.” Sapho tilted her head back slightly and took another sip of the wine. Her gaze never left Creon’s, and it was at that moment that she decided that she did not like him very much.
“You Majesty, what are some of the customs of Kriskos?” This time it was Flavia who asked. Her voice was melodious, smooth, and bubbly. Flavia looked incredibly gorgeous this evening in a dark blue silken gown. Her tresses were carefully coiled into ringlets and small flowers were arranged into fragrant folds in her hair. Flavia’s large blue eyes were alive and sparkling above rosy well-defined cheek bones. It was hard for Brandos not to drool.
“Oh where to begin?! Kriskos is not very different than the other island nations of Greece, just quiet. For the past three years I have been building ships and have been working towards expanding trade and diplomacy. We are mainly a culture of artisans and scholars. As we have been kept in seclusion for so long, an army was not necessary. Of course, that has now changed. We have a modest military, but the emphasis of the culture is still on the arts.”
“I noticed how bright all your tents were. I’ve never seen so many bright colors all together!” exclaimed Flavia.
“Ahhhh yes. We have several plants native only to Kriskos that provide the dyes to make all those wonderful colors. I have brought several bolts of multicolored fabrics in addition to dyes to trade. A trunk of these fabrics should have been deposited in your chambers as a wedding gift.”
“I’m afraid I haven’t received anything yet.” Muttered Flavia.
“No? Oh, well I guess we will have to rectify that. Brandos,” called Sapho. Brandos was standing over by the wall a few feet away from the Queen. He walked towards the table in measured strides but his gaze was not on the Queen. Flavia reached for the solace of her cup to shield her from the penetrating gaze of the slave.
“Yes, your majesty?” rumbled Brandos. His voice was like chocolate, deep and rich.
“After dinner, will you personally attend to this matter? The trunk of gifts should be in my personal tent. I would like for Flavia to have it as soon as possible.” All the others at the table missed the small wink that Sapho flashed at Brandos. A small smile split his face at the Goddess’s intent. She was giving him the first opportunity to be alone with her! Brandos nodded his consent and slowly turned his face towards Flavia. Their eyes met, and he bowed. Flavia, with a courage that she didn’t know she possessed, didn’t flinch away this time. Instead, she actually smiled at the slave. There was nothing about his gaze that seemed threatening. Something was there, but it wasn’t a danger to her. Creon noticed as well.
“Your majesty, is that entirely proper that your slave give Flavia these gifts? I can have my own slaves fetch them for him.” Said Creon firmly.
Sapho chuckled. “Brandos is my right arm. He might be a slave but he is second only to me. There are several precious and rare items in that chest. Upon going over the inventory, I have noticed several goods missing…”
“Your majesty, are you insinuating something?”
“Not at all, my Lord Creon. It is possible that some things were lost at sea. Perhaps it is my wary Kriskon nature that prohibits my trust; however, Brandos can be trusted.” The words of that last sentence were pushed. The concerned look on Creon’s face vanished as a new sensation of understanding swept through him.
“Of course, your majesty.” Said Creon jovially. Confused at his sudden change in demeanor, Flavia looked over at her father. She looked back at the Queen with knitted brows. Sapho simply shrugged and took another sip of wine.
Achievement Unlocked: Paternal Consent. Score one for Brandos!
The dinner continued on normally. The first course was served. It was a light salad of fresh greens and nuts, followed by the main course of lightly seared phile. It was only after the dessert course had ended when things started to shake up. The weevil of a secretary that had the nerve to offend Brandos entered into the dining chamber. He swept into a bow before announcing,
“Forgive my intrusion, your majesty, my lord and lady, but Lord Akiles has arrived.” Flavia swallowed back a groan and tensed her shoulders. Brandos noticed and felt himself tense as well.
“This just seems to be the theme of the day!” said Creon a little too loudly. “Unexpected—” Sapho’s mossy brown eyes narrowed as she shot Creon a dark look. Creon finished, as the smart man that he was, “Unexpected, yet welcomed visitors.” Sapho nodded her acceptance and released Creon from her gaze. Lucky for him the wine was good, or else she might have set him on fire by now. “Send him in.”
“At once, my lord.” The secretary bowed and rose with his nose pointed haughtily in the air. His beady eyes scanned the room and narrowed on the slave. They widened in realization. Both the secretary and Brandos stared at each other and the room was polarized with a tense energy. Saphara noticed this and relaxed into her chair while the other occupants of the dining room waited for lighting to strike. The secretary bent low towards Creon’s ear. “I beg your pardon, my lord, but this slave- UNHHHH.”
“Ahhhhh!” Flavia screamed in surprise. A large decorated vase that rested on a shelf above the door of the dining room had fallen off and landed right on top of the secretary’s head. It cracked and he landed with a thud into a pile of food. Luckily, the clay shards did not break his skin, although he would have a nasty bump and a hard time remembering things… Brandos let out a sigh of relief. The Goddess simply turned around in her seat and nodded towards Brandos.
Slaves entered to remove the unconscious secretary and to clean up the mess. In no time at all the dining room was rectified. Akiles was sent for and he was finally admitted. Akiles wafted into the room. He wore a simple white toga that contrasted starkly with is olive skin. His heavy sandalwood cologne could be smelled by all even with the lingering scents of food. He sauntered over to Flavia and bent to kiss her hand. Flavia didn’t even look at him, nor did she give him her hand. As usual, he took her hand form her lap, pressed a deep kiss into the inside of her wrist and muttered, “As it should be.” His breath was hot and grazing. Akiles kissed her wrist again and this time licked her palm. It really was disgusting to watch. Flavia recoiled from his offensive tongue and wiped the slime off with a napkin. Still, she refused to look at him. Akiles, not the least bit bothered by Flavia’s revulsion, took a seat opposite of her. He sat down crooked and relaxed onto the table with one foot up. He waved his hand towards the slaves and a goblet of wine appeared in his hand. He didn’t even notice the Queen sitting at the foot of the table.
“Akiles, allow me to introduce you to her royal highness, Queen Sapho of Kriskos. Your majesty, Akiles Papkus, my future son-in-law.” Creon at least had the decency to look embarrassed at Akiles’s usual lack of respect. He cleared his throat and hoped that the Queen would not be too terribly offended. Akiles straightened and swung his legs off of the table. Sapho sat demurely with a fixed stare on the unruly individual. Akiles glided around the dining table and lowered into a bow, and kissed the hand of the monarch. He left his usual traces of slime all over her elegant hand.
“I don’t believe I’m familiar with Kriskos.” Said Akiles as he hovered over her hand. His deep hazel eyes searched her mossy brown ones and felt an unsettling amount of energy banking behind them. Queen Sapho smiled and continued to add to the queasy feeling in his gut.
“We are a quiet island, my lord Akiles, not unlike Paros; however, in Kriskos, guests sit at the dinner table properly.” She withdrew her hand and turned to face Flavia. Sapho could see the smile hiding in the creases of Flavia’s eyes and nodded in affirmation. Akiles had no choice but to return to his seat a bit dismantled. He did, this time, sit down most properly.
The dinner concluded with Akiles, as it should be. In truth, he was a charming individual. Strong, handsome, educated, there wasn’t much to dislike about him at first glance. Akiles was a monster and he hid it well. He pushed Brandos to the limits of his reserves to not rip his throat out on sight. Flavia left early as usual, having stomached as much Akiles as she could in one serving. She pushed herself from the table, made her excuses, kissed her father good night, and then left the dining room. Brandos couldn’t help but admire the way Flavia’s shapely ass moved within the soft confines of her dress.
“Brandos,” said Sapho. She leaned back into her chair and motioned with her fingers for Brandos to come close to her ear. He bent and she whispered, “The trunk is in my tent. It looks big but it’s not as heavy as you think. Now would be a good time for you to give it to her. Don’t stay too long…” Sapho winked at him. Brandos was a little too eager to get the trunk and it was evident in the way he nearly ran over two slaves.