Chapter Six – The good, the bad, and the Akiles
Several hours passed and the sun made its descent into the horizon. The time was painfully long for Flavia, as she moved about restlessly in her chambers. The entire household was running amuck in preparation for the rehearsal dinner. Flavia could smell cooking meats and spices as they wafted through her open window. Her heart began to pound frantically when her personal body slaves came to attend her. Flavia’s mind was elsewhere as she let the slaves bathe and perfume her. With disinterest she selected a pale purple gown that shimmered when she walked. A veil was placed over her head and gave her an elusive appearance. Silver bracelets dangled off of her wrists. A lovely necklace studded with amethysts encircled her slender throat. Flavia looked at herself in the mirror. Her full breasts peaked through the top of the garment. The dress was fitted and made her luscious body a bombshell. The veil cascaded down and covered her silvery golden hair and added a hint of mystery to the sparkling wonder that stared back at her in the mirror. Flavia was breathtaking. The only thing marring her beauty was the tension in her face.
She met her father on the balustrade. Together they walked arm and arm down the large marble stair case. Guests had filled into the grand hall and chattered noisily. The sound died, however, as Flavia and Creon made their way down the steps. The crowd sighed and exclaimed at Flavia’s exquisite beauty. Flavia made eye contact with nobody and instead kept her gaze lowered on the floor. Her father led her to a table that occupied a raised platform in the back of the room. She took her seat on a cushioned chair.
“You look like your mother,” whispered Creon into Flavia’s ear. He placed a light kiss on her temple before taking his seat next to her. The compliment was deep and sincere; Flavia’s beloved mother was once considered the most beautiful woman of all Greece.
Queen Sapho made her entrance late, as usual. Linking arms with Brandos, he led her down the grand hall towards the table. She wore an exotic green dress that was shorter in the front and longer in the back. It was strapless and circular snake cuffs wrapped around her thin arms. A train of green silk and colorful feathers followed her and was attended by Taki, the short fat slave. Sapho wore a golden crown low across her forehead. Even the Goddess could not attempt to override Flavia’s magnificent beauty. Queen Sapho took her seat next to Flavia.
“You look like a dream, Flavia.” Said the Queen.
“Thanks, Sapho. Your dress is so-”
“It’s tacky and I know it, you don’t have to pretend that it looks good. This is the customary Kriskon style; I much prefer your simple looser gowns. It’s heavier than you think. I look like a bird.” Both Sapho and Flavia giggled at the dress.
“I disagree. It’s edgy, I like it.” Chuckled Flavia.
“You can have it. I’ll even give you Taki to carry the train.”
Slaves poured a light fruity wine and offered the goblets to the Queen, Flavia, and Creon. Brandos and Taki took their places by the wall where the other attending slaves waited. Flavia would not look at him, although he could barely keep his eyes off of her.
“Where is Akiles?” asked Sapho after a few minutes.
“I have no idea. He’s probably drunk somewhere.” Muttered Flavia. She picked at the food that was served to her. Quietly she smiled and accepted all the gifts and compliments that were showered upon her by the guests. Flavia really didn’t have much to say. While she hated Akiles, his absence at the rehearsal dinner was an embarrassment to her.
“There is another gift waiting for you.” Said Sapho as the frequency of guests bearing gifts died down.
“Oh? Sapho, you have given me enough already. I can’t except much more.”
“Nonsense.” Sapho waved her hand and beckoned Brandos forth. He bowed but never took his eyes off of Flavia. He looked incredibly handsome wearing a dark bluer tunic. It was statelier than his usual slave garb and the copper bands had been shined to brilliance. Brandos reached into his pocket and produced a crown made of white gardenias entangled in jasmine. Flavia gasped at the delicate beautiful crown. It smelled heavenly. She removed the veil and placed the crown onto her hair.
“I love it.” She said with tears brimming in her eyes. It was so simple; it wasn’t a costly jeweled cup or a heap of expensive silks. It was a little crown made of flowers. After Brandos had made his way back to the wall, Sapho shared,
“It was Brandos who made it for you. It’s his wedding gift to you, not mine.”
“He made this?” Flavia was incredulous.
“He sure did! He harvested the flowers after our little excursion and has spent all afternoon weaving it.” Flavia said nothing and continued to pick at her food. She did not, however, take the crown off. The evening continued on as such for another hour.
“Grahhh.”Grunted Akiles. Contrary to popular belief, he was not drunk, at least not at the moment. He stood with is tunic around his ankles while a pretty slave engulfed his cock into her mouth. She sputtered and choked but Akiles had a decent hold of her hair and held her stationary. His hips rocked furiously; he could feel the back of her throat. In due time, he felt his passion rise and burst. Akiles muttered an oath and spewed his oily see all over the face of the slave. When he released her she collapsed onto her hands and vomited. Her mouth was raw and bleeding. Originally she had refused Akiles, but he hit her for her insolence and then took her. It wasn’t long before Akiles was ready again. The slave was too weak to fight. He ripped open the back end of her gown and took her from behind. When she screamed in pain Akiles covered her raw mouth with a large hand. He could feel her tears streaming down her face. Akiles at least had the decency to pull out instead of impregnating the slave. No bastards on his name.
Akiles burned for Flavia. She was the one woman who had the audacity to refuse him. Many women were attracted to his good looks and primal sensuality. Those who wouldn’t come consentingly were taken against their will. He had been very patient with Flavia; Akiles took her insults and condemnation rather lightly. She would pay in the end. The slave that Akiles had fucked had huge tits and a little waist. Her face was fair enough and was framed by golden brown hair. The slave could not even hope to rival Flavia’s loveliness, but the few similarities she shared with the lady were noted by none other than Akiles.
He cleaned himself briskly. The slave lay motionless on the floor covered in a puddle of jizz and vomit. Akiles donned a white robe and raked through his glossy curls. In truth he had not planned on raping anyone this night. Akiles had arrived early and was as polished as he normally was. He took a detour through the colorful array of tents that he had noticed the other day. He noticed a pretty slave fetching water and he followed her. Akiles knocked her into a tent and had his way with her. And, as it should be after assault and rape, Akiles was parched. He helped himself to a large goblet of wine, and then another. This particular vintage had an oakiness to it that was quite unlike the light wines he was used too. Akiles decided to take the entire bottle with him. It was his rehearsal dinner! Why couldn’t he celebrate? Surely the queen wouldn’t mind if he drank one bottle of her wine. What he didn’t know was how strong it really was. He took one last look at the unconscious slave and saluted her. “As it should be!” he announced a little too loudly, evident of the alcohol’s potency. Akiles then left the tent and sauntered into the great hall with a bottle in hand.
Akiles made his appearance as expected, like an ass. It was only out of fear did guest move out of his way and greet him; his rages were sporadic. Akiles simply stumbled about and took periodic sips from the intricate decanter of stolen wine. Many people were appalled but they kept their opinions to themselves.
“My lady, my lord, my Queen,” slurred Akiles upon reaching the table at the back of the hall. He made an effort to bow but ended up crashing into the table. The bottle came down hard but did not break. Sapho’s fury flickered in her eyes as she noticed the pilfered vintage.
“Gods, Akiles! You are making a scene!” Creon had leapt from his seat to grab his future son-in-law under the elbow. Akiles simply smirked and allowed Creon to drag him to his seat. He fell into his chair his gaze fell lazily on Flavia.
“You look beauuuutiful, Flaviaaaaa.” Said the drunken Akiles.
“Thanks.” Muttered Flavia through gritted teeth.
“Excellent vintaggge, your Majessssty.”
“It is rather excellent, Akiles, although it would be greatly appreciated if you wouldst sober up!” The Queen reached across the table and took away the bottle. If Akiles had any more he would die of poisoning, although that wasn’t a bad side effect as far was Akiles was concerned. She even contemplated having him drink himself to death; Divine nectar was incredibly potent. The Queen waved frantic hand towards slaves and beckoned for food to be brought forth for Akile’s consumption. He ate slowly and fixed a lingering stare on Flavia. He could have sworn that Flavia’s rosy areolas could be seen through the filmy garment she wore.
With disinterest, Flavia watched as the entertainment began for the evening. Musicians played loud jovial music while scantily clad dancers wriggled about the hall. The guests had lined along the walls and watched in fascination. One by one the dancers would gently pull a guest into the center of the hall and dance with them. Brandos was among those few. He tried to ignore the stubborn tug of the little dancer. Her skin was a dark as midnight and large chocolate brown eyes pleaded for his attention. She swung her large hips and ample backside to tempt him. Brandos had no choice but to join with the dancers as another dancer grabbed ahold of his other arm. He was practically dragged. Jealousy sparked behind Flavia’s eyes eliciting the second response she had had since arriving at the rehearsal dinner, the first being the awe of the flower crown. Why am I jealous! Angrily Flavia berated herself for feeling jealousy watching Brandos dance with the slaves. His expression was blank although he moved his hips a little too closely to the black dancer gyrating in front of him. Flavia looked away.
Brandos couldn’t help but feel a bit smug with the dancers. He noticed Flavia’s wariness and on the inside he smiled; she did like him. He would much rather be dancing with Flavia and he really hoped that he would be allowed to do so on this night.
As was customary of Parosian rehearsal dinners, the affianced coupled would lead the guests in a slow dance. The First Dance was held at rehearsal dinners in Paros instead of after the wedding. Akiles had sobered up considerably much to Creon’s delight. He would have hated for Akiles to be stumbling around with his precious little girl. He dreaded that she would be soon marrying him but there was nothing else he could do about it. The musicians began to play a slow song. Akiles had risen and gracefully extended a hand towards Flavia. Without looking at him Flavia came onto her feet and walked with him into the center of the hall. Flavia and Akiles began to dance. It was slow and stately unlike the wild sensuous dances before. Akiles was a stealthy dancer and Flavia matched him with equal measure. Brandos hated every single second of it. Amidst one swirl Flavia caught a glimpse of the tautness on Brandos’s face. Ha! Who’s the jealous one now?
Many people filtered onto the floor and began to dance. Creon offered his arm to the Queen who kindly accepted. Sapho floated along with Creon who despite his years had not lost his skills. Taki had come forth after the Queen had risen and bent to remove the long train. There would have been no way Sapho could have danced if the train were still attached to her dress. After several long minutes the music had concluded signifying the end of the Parosian First Dance. Now it was acceptable for interchange amongst dancing partners. Sapho danced with many nobles as did Flavia. Flavia actually looked to have lightened up a bit, especially after getting away from Akiles. But nothing could take away the sadness that was etched in her eyes.
Sapho danced and whirled and laughed. She had drunk partners, sloppy partners, fast partners, and ones who got a little too friendly. She squealed with delight when she felt strong hands lace her fingers. She spun around and beamed at Brandos. “I was wondering when you would join in.”
“I wasn’t sure if slaves were allowed to join in the festivities.” Said Brandos with a small dash of contempt over the word slave.
“Well I guess that doesn’t really matter at this point. Are you having a good time?” she asked.
“I guess. I don’t exactly enjoy standing around and watching that bastard with my girl.”
“I could literally feel the hate coming out of you back there.” Remarked Sapho.
“Did you see how drunk he was? He came in like a total and complete ass; as if he wasn’t bad enough to begin with. He was so disrespectful and I have a hard time reasoning why Creon chose that mother fucker over all others.”
“Careful Brandos…” warned the Queen.
“Careful? What are you talking about?” Brandos was a little stumped at Sapho’s sudden change in tone. She went from being bubbly and jovial to quiet and secretive.
“If it weren’t for Akiles, we wouldn’t be here. It would make it much harder for you to win your case if Flavia actually cared for her bridegroom. Luckily, for you, he is just a mother fucker.” A tiny smile lit up Sapho’s face. Brandos spun her around and then the Queen vanished into the arms of another partner. Keeping time to the music, Brandos danced by himself for a few beats. The musicians played a lively waltz that proved to be too much for some of the guests. Flavia was unfortunately paired with an untried youth who kept on stepping on her feet. Politely Flavia tried to lead but the young man was determined to have his way. Flavia, ever saucy even in desperation, had half a mind to trip him into a large pot and be done with him. His foot caught onto the hem of her gown hard.
“Ahhh!” screamed Flavia. Wildly she flailed her arms trying to regain balance. Two strong limbs braced Flavia under her arms pits and she was equalized. Gentle but firm pressure was applied to her soft shoulders and Flavia twirled around to face her savior. “Brandos!” she exclaimed with fluster. Smoothly Brandos interlaced his fingers with hers and placed a hand on her trim little waist. He guided her amidst the quick tempo and the two of them danced the waltz as it was meant to be performed. Flavia was no longer annoyed with him, just confused. She did feel something for him. She really did.
“I’m sorry about what happened early.” Said Brandos quietly. The music had since calmed into another slow dance and Flavia nestled in close to Brandos’s chest. The aroma of the flower crown he had fastened for her was intoxicating. Flavia said nothing to Brandos’s comment and instead gently moved her hips. She didn’t know what to say! Sapho had made some brilliant points, and Flavia had spent all afternoon thinking about what she wanted. She was afraid of her future. Would Brandos hold true to his word and give her a comfortable life? Flavia had been spoiled and cosseted all her life; she doubted she could adjust to being the wife of a powerful slave. But, she had surmised, having less might not be a bad thing if it meant she could have Brandos. A realization had struck her cold in the face when Sapho walked out on her. A married life to Akiles would be a living hell. He would probably beat her and force himself upon her. The only difference is that Flavia would have a higher station. With Brandos, not only would she be treated better but she would be loved. He loved her! He did! He said it and even the Queen suggested it. Crazy little butterflies pingponged in her stomach. How warm he felt! How strong! Akiles was cold and clammy like a poisonous viper. Flavia felt at home within his embrace. Her head grazed his chest and she could feel his heartbeat pulse firmly if not even proudly.
“Brandos?” spoke Flavia against his chest.
“I—” Flavia was cut off as she was taken away by another partner. Akiles ripped her away from Brandos roughly. Akiles shot Brandos a look of pure venom and spat at his feet.
“Slaves have their place at the wall. Go now and I’ll forgive your lack of respect as a measure of generosity at my rehearsal dinner.” The noise in the room had quieted a bit as the guests noticed the standoff. Sapho’s eyes were alert and Creon’s expression was faintly alarmed. Out of instinct, Brandos reached at his side for his sword and was incredibly disappointed to realize that it was gone. Anger boiled his blood and a red fog clouded his vision. Brandos made for Akiles but Flavia beat him to him.
Flavia broke free from his arms and whirled on him. Throwing her hand back as far as it would go, Flavia struck the hedonistic smirk off Akile’s face with all her might. The force of the blow rendered Akiles to one knee and he grabbed his cheek. A large handprint with satisfying claw marks swelled red. A hushed awe fell about the room that then dulled into a painful silence. The guests were captivated by the ensuing debacle.
“RESPECT?!” she roared at her bridegroom. Flavia’s voice echoed off the walls. “You want to talk about respect, Akiles? You showed up late and drunk. You have behaved like a total jackass for as long as I’ve known you. You have disrespected all of my guests, my father, the Queen, and the head of her household. And you have NO right to speak that way towards Brandos. He may be a slave but he is also an honored guest. You do not own me as of this night, and I warn you, Akiles, if you ever disgrace or disrespect me publicly or domestically again, I will, by any means necessary, render you in such a way that you will never cause grief to any being on this planet ever again!” Flavia stood with her legs spread and her hands on her hips. Her breaths heaved in and out as a result of her linguistically pugilistic efforts. She seemed to emanate an aura of power that had left the atmosphere in the room hanging in distilled silence. Her vehemence was palpable as each word was barbed and directed lethally at Akiles. He kneeled on the ground with a stupid expression on his face. He clutched his cheek and he simply remained wide eyed like a goat about to be butchered. Even Brandos was shocked. His eyes had broadened considerably and seemed to be just as frozen as everyone else in the room. After a few beats Flavia stormed out of the hall. She marched up the marble stairs towards her chambers. The heavy wooden door was pulled open only to be slammed shut. The force actually caused a tremor in the palace.
Akiles was paralyzed in disbelief. No one had ever dared reprimand him before. He was too shocked to even move. Brandos twitched restlessly and shot Sapho a pleading look. She read his thoughts and softly shook her head no. Brandos clenched his fists and bit his inner cheek. He thought now would be a good time to kill Akiles and be done.
Creon was the first to make major noise. He made his best efforts to apologize and diffuse the trepidation in the room. He called for servants to transport the catatonic Akiles out of the hall. A slave tried to pull Akiles up by the elbow but the contact seemed to have roused him from his stupor. Rudely, Akiles pushed the slave away and rose to stand on his feet. He brushed off his tunic and muttered under his breath, “As it should be.” Akiles thundered out of the palace.
“I am deeply sorry,” said Creon mournfully, “Must be wedding nerves.” As if anyone was dumb enough to believe that excuse. One by one the guests left the hall as swiftly as they came. Only Sapho, Brandos, Creon, and a handful of servants remained in the empty hall. Food was fully plattered and wine was untouched; so much waste for what was forever known as the most entertaining rehearsal dinner in Parosian history. Absently, Sapho shrugged and reached for a goblet of wine. She drained it, ever wishing to help the cause. Creon had taken a seat and leaned forward with his head in his hands.
“I’ve doomed Flavia.” He muttered.
“What do you mean ‘doomed’?” asked the Queen.
“I never would have agreed her betrothal to Akiles. Akile’s father, Magnus, drafted a contract was I lay drunk as a sailor on his floor. I knew I shouldn’t have had so much wine but Magnus just had to invite me over on the day marking the 10th year of my wife’s death. In my idiocy I signed my daughter away. No one would take Akiles! I tried so hard to have the betrothal void but Magnus would not consent. There was but one copy of the contract and it was signed. Nothing can break a Parosian contract. Nothing except death.” Creon had paled considerably as he admitted his folly. Sapho showed a brief face of compassion and went to rub a small hand on Creon’s back. Brandos simply walked in small circles and digested the meaning of Creon’s words. It all made better sense now.
“What do you mean nothing can break a Parosian contract, my lord?” questioned Brandos. It was inappropriate for him to address Creon without asking permission first but it was moot at this point.
“Simply that. Nothing can break it. Even if the contract is destroyed, if there is as least one living witness who saw and understood the terms of the document, it is completely valid. Only the death of my daughter or Akiles would break it.” Said Creon.
“Can we not amend the contract?” asked Sapho slowly.
“I tried. I would have to obtain the document and Magnus’s approval. He wouldn’t even take my money, so desperate is he to be done with his own son!” Creon remained quiet for some time. After a few minutes he added, “I can only hope that Flavia slapped some sense into that monster.” The chair screeched loudly as Creon back away from the table. He made his excuses and fled to the solace of his personal chambers.
“Come on.” Said Saphara. “I’m tired.”
“Yeah.” Sighed Brandos. Saphara linked arms with him and the two of them walked out of the palace and into the colorful array of tents that made their entourage. Saphara had magicked a small blue tent for Brandos. It was lush and comfortable. Brandos removed his tunic with one hand along with his pants. Naked save for a wrap of cloth around his loins Brandos eased onto a large cushion. He braced his hands behind his head, closed his eyes, and fell into a dreamless sleep.