Lionslayer’s Woman by Nhys Glover

Posted on Thursday, August 8, 2013



14 September 81 CE, The Island of RHODOS

Galeria hurried along the cobbled streets of the inner city with Orpheus at her side, trying to stay in the shade of the buildings. It was nearing midday and the sun was fierce. Helios, or Sol as her own people preferred to call him, had been over-zealous in his attentions to them in the last few months. The unending heat this late in the season was crippling. She felt the sweat dripping down between her breasts and wriggled as it tickled her clammy skin.

The Graecians believed that when Zeus took power for the Olympian gods he divided up the land between his children. Helios was not with them at the time and so missed out on his share. Later he demanded what was rightfully his and was awarded any land that rose from the sea. Then, an island beautifully arrayed in wildflowers and butterflies of all colours rose from the oceans of the Aegean and Helios happily accepted his prize, knowing he had the most beautiful place on earth to call his own. He shone his light on the island to show his divine favour from that time on.

Another tale told it slightly differently, having Helios fall in love with Poseidon’s daughter, the beautiful sea nymph, Rhode. He shone his light on her and the island rose from the sea. Helios and Rhode had many children, and later their grandchildren built the cities of Kamiros, Ialyssos and Lindos, and named them after themselves.

Of course, that was long ago and the cities built by the grandchildren of a god were not the grand places they once were. Not even the city of Rhodos was. It was no better than the fallen Colossos, the huge bronze statue of Helios, which had once stood overlooking the entrance to their harbour. Back then, it had been considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But an earthquake had felled that great monument hundreds of years ago, its remains left strewn around the harbour shore never to be removed, as decreed by the Oracle of Apollo. So now, the monstrous, green pieces of the fallen god littered the port, making for points of interest for travellers but adding nothing but more traffic hazards and a bittersweet reminder of past glory for the locals.

Yet even if Rhodos was no longer as great as it had been in the past, for Galeria it was still magical. Not for the manmade structures, but for the beauty of the natural world. That had not changed since the island rose from the sea covered in wild flowers and butterflies.

Her family was lucky to own a small villa on the slopes of the hill on the outskirts of the city. It overlooked the aquamarine Aegean Sea and benefited from the cool etesian winds that came in from the north. If it required a long walk in the predawn darkness to get to their ludus every morning, it was worth it. After all, exercise was good for the body and mind. And the walk home in the late afternoons was always a time to be enjoyed, talking philosophy with her beloved father and anticipating the tasty meal Mater and Galerianna would have waiting for them when they reached their destination.

‘Little Potnia, you should have let me go to the agora this day. It is hot enough to fry eggs on the cobblestones!’ Orpheus grumbled in his deep voice that was oddly disconcerting for such a short man. But what the Greek slave lacked in height he made up for in width. He was as solid and muscular as a bull, his neck so thick it made his head look too small for his body.

Galeria giggled at the idea of frying eggs on the stones. ‘You’re funny, Orpheus. You should have been an entertainer instead of a house slave, and please stop calling me Potnia; I’m no goddess.’

‘Potnia means mistress or lady in my tongue, which is what you are to me. My little lady mistress.’ He grinned at her in his disarming way that left her unwilling to chide him further. He would do as he chose. He always did. And he had right from when he’d come into their service when they first moved to Rhodos ten years ago. Then she had truly been a ‘little’ girl of nine years. Now she was slightly taller than Orpheus was and at nearly twenty, was a woman grown. ‘Little’ no longer fitted her, just as ‘Potnia’ was a grossly exaggerated form of address for one such as her.

‘I needed to get out of the ludus,’ she said instead of further argument. ‘My students had all gone home for the day and I needed to stretch my legs. I feel so cooped up in that small, airless room and you know how much Pater loves the bean stew from the market. ’

‘You have more students than your father. You should have the big room, not him.’ Orpheus grunted as he swatted away a lazy fly that was hanging around his head.

‘I’m merely the litteratus, and the boy’s higher education that Pater provides is more important than what I do.’

‘The payment is the same. It is not what is taught that differentiates your classes; it’s that you teach mainly females and your father all males. Women are equal to men, so your father teaches, just as slaves are men, not mindless property, so why is that not reflected in their education?’

Galeria shot the slave a surprised glance. ‘Equal in mind but not in society. Be careful what you say in public, Orpheus. Rome doesn’t approve of those who talk of equality, either of men and women or of slave and master. Pater is always very careful how he phrases himself. You should do the same.’

‘I’m sorry, Little Potnia, I forget myself sometimes. You are wise to remind a foolish slave of the realities of the world in which he lives. Theories are one thing; realities are always another.’

Galeria hated to hear the bitterness in Orpheus’ voice and she hated that she had to be the one to put it there, but her father walked a fine line as a Sophist philosopher. So much of their beliefs, which had fitted perfectly with the values of the old Republic, were now at odds with Imperial Rome. The emperors regularly banished philosophers from Rome when they felt their ideas threatened their power base, and they thought nothing of having them executed if they continued to cause unrest. Her family had left Rome voluntarily when Vespasian had begun to banish offending Philosophers in ‘71, and they had not returned to the city since.

Just as they turned the last corner and finally met up with the wider street that led into the centrally located forum, a disturbance drew Galeria’s eye. Over at their edge of the forum in one of the outermost porticos, men were gathering – pushing and shoving – to get a better view of what was going on.

This wouldn’t have been remarkable as it was the spot often set aside for the mime performers, the lowest form of entertainment. It was the terrified screams that marked this as something different, something more ominous than a simple lewd and explicit mime performance. Orpheus was immediately on guard, drawing his short sword and attempting to step in front of Galeria. She wouldn’t allow it. Striding around him, she hastened closer to the disturbance.

Normally, an upper-class unmarried woman like her would avoid such situations, and if Orpheus had his way, that was exactly what she would do right now. But there was something about that scream and the men’s lecherous laughter that turned her blood cold.

As she strode toward the gathering, a sudden space was formed between the solid bank of male backs and through it, Galeria caught a glimpse of a tall girl-child being bent forward by a rough oaf as he tried to mount her from behind. The girl screamed and fought like a wildcat, her tunic torn from her body in the assault.

Before she could think better of it, Galeria waded into the crowd determined to save the girl from the violent assault. She was only half-aware that Orpheus had pushed in beside her clearing the way for her.

‘Stop this at once!’ she yelled loud enough to get over the male voices. For a moment, all fell silent as they took in the sudden and unexpected entry of another female into their midst. The silence lasted no more than seconds before she was ignored for more interesting pursuits.

That was when Orpheus slashed out with his sword, drawing blood from the men closest to his mistress. ‘My Mistress says stop! Do as you’re told, scum!’

That got their attention. The crowd backed away. The attacker stood up and turned to them, his uncovered erection suddenly going flaccid. The girl cowered away as best she could, still held by her rat’s nest hair by the oaf.

Another man stepped forward arrogantly, his clothing and ornately styled hair and makeup marking him as a mime. ‘Mind your business, woman! This is my slave. I do what I like with her. She won’t perform as she should so she’ll perform in other ways. I’ll get my money’s worth out of the worthless bag of bones one way or another!’

‘This is a public thoroughfare. Such behaviour is unseemly!’

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Genre – Historical Romance

Rating – PG

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Website http://nhysglover.com/


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