Title: Donjeta and the Sea — Chapter Two — An Unusual Visitor
Codes: Ff, rom, viol, magic
Summary: A strange visitor comes to Ithaca, and Donjeta takes to the sea.
Penelope came to see me—and she almost never came to see me.
"Donjeta, you need to prepare. Put on your finest clothes and come to the house, to the main hall."
"OK. Why? What's going on?"
I sat on a terrace set against the family cottage on the hill above the house. I wore a light woolen tunic, my legs bare. I was watching the harbor, the ships pulling in, the distant waves churning against the shore. A breeze blew, carrying the smell of flowers and the songs of birds.
"Mentes, an old friend of my husband, has come to visit. I will introduce you as Telemachus's wife. You will smile at him, play the good wife, and maybe sing him a song."
"You will not mention any of my—other guests."
"Of course not, ma'am."
Penelope had many male guests. She plied them with wine and wealth, and her fading beauty. Her biggest attraction, though, was the fleeting hope for the crown of Ithaca, once held by her husband now lost at sea—if she would only marry some man and pass on her wealth and influence.
Foolish men. She had one ambition, and that was for her son, my husband and master.
"I will send Eurycleia to help you prepare."
She turned and left. I went inside the cottage to choose a dress and await my friend.
I chose a dress finely spun, the color of the sea. Eurycleia wrapped a brocaded belt around my waist, then placed a simple gold chain around my neck. A large blue stone hung from it.
"This necklace was crafted by the gods."
"I'm sure of it. Perhaps the work of Apollo, or even Hephaestus. Only an undying god could make something so fine."
I looked at the necklace. It was well made, but surely not beyond human skill. She went on.
"It was given to Odysseus by his father, taken in war in some foreign land."
Eurycleia turned me around facing her.
"You're a vision, Donjeta, as beautiful as any goddess."
I smiled. She embraced me and kissed my cheek. She stood back, holding my arms. She stroked my face.
"We needn't hurry," she said.
"Not now, Eurycleia. We'll head down to the house. Walk with me and tell me what you know of this Mentes."
Mentes was a chieftain of the Taphians, a land of warlike men, pirates and slavers. He had been a bosom friend of both the late Odysseus and his father, a partner on many raids. I looked at my necklace. Had it been taken on such a raid? Had it been pulled from the neck of a grieving wife, crying for her dying son, soon to be taken as a slave, soon to be raped?
I entered the room and greeted my husband, bowing my head.
"Telemachus, my dear husband."
"My dear wife. Mentes, friend of my father, this is she."
Mentes sat at his right hand in a chair only slightly smaller. He was old and weathered, with a trimmed gray beard and many scars. He was stocky, but even in his long, rich tunic, I could sense his strength. He spoke, his voice deep and resonant.
"Indeed young prince. She is all you promised."
Then he spoke to me.
"Donjeta, I'm told you have a beautiful voice. Would you sing for us?"
"Yes, dear friend of this house."
"Good. Perhaps my fine host would provide you with a lyre."
Telemachus nodded, and it was done.
"What should I sing?"
"Whatever the muse inspires you to sing."
Penelope, sitting opposite Mentes, broke in.
"Sing of my husband. Sing of Odysseus, and his cunning, his exploits. Sing of the riches he brought us, the lands conquered, the armies brought low."
I had been taught many such songs.
"Where should I start?"
"Wherever you want."
So I sang of Odysseus, man of cunning—pirate, raider, and thief. I sang of his courage—and knives in the dark. I sang of his generosity—and woman dragged screaming from burning homes, handed over to his leering crew. I sang of all these things, and more. Telemachus and Penelope watched, their eyes glazed from wine.
Mentes sat still, peering at me with the slightest smile. The flickering firelight caught his eyes. They were gray.
"You go to the prince's chamber?"
It was Mentes speaking. He had found me in the hall, well into evening.
"Yes. He has requested me."
"I heard a story, Donjeta."
"That you tried to kill the prince on your first meeting."
"You shouldn't believe every rumor you hear, dear Mentes."
"Oh—but this rumor I heard from Zeus."
I got quiet. I didn't know the full measure of their barbaric gods, but I knew not to question Zeus. He went on.
"How has a daughter of Antiope been taken by one so—well—whatever Telemachus is? Surely he hasn't conquered the spirit of an Amazon."
Had he—conquered my spirit? He'd taken my body. Mentes went on.
"When my dear sister heard that you were trapped here, she was overcome with rage—and embarrassment, but Poseidon raised his voice! He's a friend of this family, my silly uncle, and Zeus forbade my sister to come."
Who was this man? He went on.
"However, Zeus did not forbid me. For you see, dear Donjeta, I'm not what I seem."
And he was not—or she was not, for he became a she, before my eyes transformed; tall—a hand taller than the tallest mortal women; beautiful—beyond compare, beyond description; dark haired, with bright flashing eyes. She reached forward and touched me, the gentlest caress down the side of my face.
"Oh dear Donjeta, why have you allowed this?"
"I was afraid they'd kill me. Once he'd taken from me—that—what was left to fight for?"
"Your kind has never been afraid to die, and yes he took from you, but he did not take all."
I said nothing. She went on.
"Come Donjeta, the spirit is still in you. Yours is not to die here on rocky Ithaca, not from old age, a silly wife to a sillier man. Think of your mother and your sisters! Hear the cry of the horses! Come Donjeta, let it rise within you. Sharpen your knives. You were born for bloody war."
And I was. I felt a thrill pass through me. She must have seen it in my eyes.
"Yes Donjeta. That's it. Feel it."
She kissed me. Her eyes flared up, and she kissed me on the mouth.
"My father and my uncle must never notice you."
"I thought Zeus saw all things."
We hurried through the town. I held a knife and wore a horsehide tunic and leggings, trimmed with the fur of steppe foxes, all provided by the goddess. We could hear the cries of alarm behind us. Our absence was noticed.
"He sees all things, but he doesn't notice all things, and he mustn't notice you. My uncle will be angry enough when he finds you've fled, but perhaps not so much that they turn their full attention on you."
"Will they kill me?"
"Ha! My uncle perhaps. Zeus will take and rape you, then his wretched wife will kill you."
"We must find you a ship."
late in the evening, in Ithaca. I grasped the knife.
"And Donjeta, don't kill the prince, not so far from home, not under the gaze of Zeus."
We reached the harbor and found a likely ship, long and dark, deep hulled, a trading vessel from Ephesus far from its normal routes. Its crew was absent, however. Only a lone sentry stood on its deck.
"You!" the goddess shouted.
She stepped forth into the torchlight, and she had changed again. Her garb was like my garb, horsehide of the steppe. Her hair was long and free like mine. Her eyes were my eyes—even if still gray.
"Do you set sail in the morning?"
"Aye, if the winds are right."
"Who is your captain, and where is he sleeping? We would take passage with you."
"Ardys the Maeonian commands this ship. He sleeps tonight in the house of Hesiod."
"Then we're off to Hesiod's."
Back into town, and straight into a group of the prince's men armed with torches and swords, rushing down from the house. Damianos led them.
Damianos spoke first.
"Donjeta! What's the meaning of this? Why are you dressed like that, and who is this woman?"
A smile passed over the goddess's face. I could see her crouch, just the tiniest bit. She looked so eager.
"At them, Donjeta! Send their souls to hell!"
She didn't need to shout. By the time she'd finished, I'd already plunged my knife. Then her, like a whirlwind among the men, cutting them down in groups of three and four.
It was Damianos I'd stabbed. He looked at me for a moment, wide-eyed with terror. Then he crashed and died.
I stepped forward, ready to kill the next, but there were none left. The goddess smiled at me.
"Sometimes I get carried away."
We arrived at Hesiod's, and the goddess changed again, a Greek woman, tall, but now in a bronze breastplate and helmet. One hand grasped a crackling thunderbolt. The other held a shield, embossed with the face of a gorgon, its eyes writhing, its edges fluttering with living snakes. I turned away, lest I die.
She pounded on the door.
"Hesiod! Send out Ardys the Maeonian. Athena commands it."
Ardys came forth, a tall man, balding, with a hawkish nose. He covered his eyes, looking away from the goddess.
"Gather you sailors, Ardys, for you sail tonight. Forget waiting for fair winds. Row if you must. Take this girl and bring her home, far beyond Troy, beyond the clashing rocks, to the open skies, the realm of my sister. Do this Ardys, and you will have my thanks, and my sister's too. If you fail do not fail."
Ardys fell to his knees.
"We'll meet at your ship in an hour."
"You're not coming?"
"Zeus would wonder at my absence. I'll watch over you, best I can, but you're sailing over my uncle's domain. He mustn't notice you, so I must stay clear. I'll visit you again when you're home in the domain of my sister."
We sat in the mouth of a cave high up the hill, watching the harbor below and the trail of torches as the Ephesians prepared their ship. The goddess had winged me here through the sea breeze. An olive tree clung to the steep slope beneath us. We heard, in the distance, the bleating of goats.
"You didn't know?"
"Ah. Yes. I'm Athena, but call me Pallas. All my friends do."
She smiled at me, again wearing the guise of an Amazon, looking so much like my sister Tueta. I reached over and stroked the soft hide of her tunic, and her softer breast beneath.
"Donjeta! Few mortals would dare!"
But I didn't stop. I ran my fingers around her breast, and stroked where her nipple must be. We kissed, the deepest kiss.
"Donjeta, bold Donjeta, you've truly awoken. You are magnificent!"
More kisses. I began to unlace her tunic. She helped me, pulling it off, and exposing her perfect breasts. I leaned to them. I kissed and sucked. Then she took my hands, grasping both in hers, and put them—there.
Another kiss, another perfect kiss, her most delightful tongue. I went down.
A breeze blew into the cave, carrying the smell of the sea, the wide sea—and my distant home. I felt a chill, but her body was warm—as I ate her. Her eyes fluttered and flashed. She cried out.
When we arrived at the ship the prince was waiting, armed and armored, backed by fifty men.
"Donjeta! How dare you!"
Pallas whispered in my ear, "You mustn't kill him. The gods, my father, my uncle, would notice the death of a prince."
I stepped forward.
"Telemachus, you stupid man! Let me pass. I no longer wish to be your wife!"
He looked at me, wide-eyed. Pallas stepped up beside me, crouched, eager to strike. I drew a deep breath. My heart skipped a beat. He gave his order.
"Take them! Bind them and bring them to my room!"
Pallas laughed, a freakish, cackling war cry. She pulled a long knife and leapt among the men, dealing horrid death. Ten fell at once, then ten more. Cascades of blood shot from gashes and stumps. They cried out in terror, overcome.
I leapt at the prince, over his bronze tipped spear, catching him, swinging around him, my legs around his body, my knife at this throat.
"Stop! Or I take his life!"
They all stopped. Even the goddess stopped.
"Now—I'm getting on that ship."
We were miles out when dawn crept over the horizon. I gazed back at Ithaca, just a small speck clinging to the gray western sky. Again I stood on the rear deck of a ship next to a cruel captain. I walked forward, looking over the crew at their oars pulling hard. They looked up, catching their first full sight of me, lit by the rosy red sun. I saw that look in their eyes, and again, one had that look more than the others.
"Captain, who is that sailor, the one with the red beard and the scar over his eye?"
"Zopyros! To me! You'll be my assistant for this voyage. You will see to my comfort. Now—your first order, bring me a whetstone. I wish to sharpen my knife."