When the suitors came we thought things could get no worse; but then Odysseus returned, and doom with him.
I was a child when Odysseus left for Troy and spent my life the property of a man I did not know. The day the fleet sailed was one of festivity, even for the slaves, and I remember still the sight of the ships filling the harbor. From the high cliffs of Ithaca where we watched, white sails carpeted the water like apple blossoms, the bronze prows winked in the sun.
As the war dragged on and Odysseus’s hearth stood empty, the vultures began to circle. The suitors were courteous at first, but grew bolder every day that the sun sank over an empty, shipless, horizon. Telemachus, who used to strut around the manor like the princeling that he was, was reduced to skulking in the shadows, his dark eyes full of helpless fury.
As Telemachus did, and Odysseus before him, the suitors viewed us as nothing more than property to be used and enjoyed. In the same manner that they commandeered the house stores for their nightly feasts, with the easy, indolent, manner of aristocrats who from birth have never questioned their authority to command others, the suitors took us.
They were cruel, callow, venal creatures, and we hated them. I saw the same contempt, carefully guarded, in Penelope’s eyes. They eagerly awaited her completion of Laertes’s shroud, not seeing, as I did, her methodically unweaving the tapestry in the cold light of the moon, her eyes blank and pitiless as smooth stones dredged from the bottom of a dark river.
Then, Odysseus returned, and I saw fear enter the hearts of those who had before only caused, never known, fear. He and his companions stood before the suitors gleaming in firelit bronze. It was not a battle; it was a slaughter. The suitors cowered like hyenas denned by a lion. They fought, or they fled, but it did not matter. I watched them fall to the ground and be speared like fish, their eyes wide, mouths open, thrashing as if caught in a net.
When it was over, the gore and spilled wine spread over the tiles, filling the lines between with tiny rivulets of red. I saw no mercy as Odysseus surveyed the scene, only an animal, broken and wounded, capable only of hate.
I held the hand of young Melantho as we were led to the slaughter. Our knees were ragged and bleeding from scrubbing the halls, clearing away all evidence of the suitors and their end, our hands red and sore, but still we held tight. I shut my eyes and tried to think of cool, green, places where the sun shone, tried not to smell the tang of sweat and scared women.
The thick cords of the rope scratched my neck, and I was thirsty. Melantho was crying softly. As the rope drew tight I felt fear, and then pain, and then nothing.
submitted by /u/bleepbloop1990