Sunday, December 2, 2012

A couple conversations of Cassandra

Because, why not.

On Ransoming Hector's body:


The remaining sons of Priam had tried to talk him out of his plan.  To go out into the Greek camp with nothing but another old man and a mulecart laden with treasure was madness they said.  They had failed.

"What do you say, daughter?"

Priam asked to Cassandra, standing well back and silently watching the conversation.

Cassandra was about to speak, stopped herself, took a silent moment to compose herself, and then said, "You know that any prophesy I make will be disbelieved.  You know that, even with that knowledge and even fighting to believe, you won't be able to believe it.  Such is the nature of my curse.  So, even though I know what will happen, what does it matter?"

"But," Priam said, "there is no such curse on things you say about the present and the past.  I'm not asking for your visions, only your advice."

"You want me to ignore the fact that I know what will happen and say what I would say if I didn't know?"


"Very well," Cassandra said.

She thought for a long time.

"Troy is lost," she began.  "One doesn't need future sight to know that.  Hector was our last hope against Achilles and with him all hope for the city died.

"We should be thinking about evacuation.  When these walls fall the Greeks will kill or enslave any they find here.  The Greeks hardly surround this city, for more than nine years we've been getting in supplies and arms and allies, it's time to get people out.

"When the Greeks are not looking we should get out as many subjects and allies as we can.  Whether it takes them a week or another ten years this city is doomed, and all inside it when it falls will be enslaved or killed.  It should be our duty to make sure as few are inside it as possible when it falls.

"But we can't leave.  If the royal family disappeared the Greeks would know something was going on an any escape would be doomed.  So we'll all die or worse.

"We all know these things, we are all doomed.  So what does it matter if you die in the city or in the Greek camp?  Now that your death is certain, you need no longer fear it.  These," she gestured to her brothers, "aren't trying to save you.  You can't be saved.  They're trying to save themselves grief."

"And what about you?"

"I don't want to see you die, father.  But as a woman I'm more likely to be enslaved than killed, so, ignoring what I know of the future, I'll probably see you die no matter what.  I'd rather it be later than sooner but..."


"But it can't be stopped, so the only question is how it will happen.  Without using prophesy I can't tell you if you'll survive this mission.  What I can say that is I want my brother back."

"I do too."

"And if I can't have him back I at least want a proper burial for him.  I don't want to see him desecrated another day."

"Nor do I."

"If the Greeks will kill you no matter what, and we all know they will, then all that you risk in this mission is having them do it while you're trying to accomplish a great deed, rather than cowering after our walls have been breached.  What you hope to gain, the return of Hector's body, seems much greater than what you risk.

"So, if I couldn't see how this will end, I think I would say: do it."


Outside the Trojan horse, while the rest of the city sleeps:


"I know you're in there.  You don't believe me of course, you think it's just a guess in an attempt to make you reveal yourselves.  You don't believe me because I only know you're in there because I've seen you coming out.

"No one believes what I learn from prophecy, such is my curse.

"No one else knows.  One did, our greatest soothsayer, but Poseidon is on your side and he had him killed.  His sons as well, just for good measure.  After that few dared speak ill of the horse, and it was brought inside.

"Helen suspects, but while she might like some of us she's on your side.  Though Aphrodite is on ours and she has her hooks in that girl deep.

"So really, you and I are the only ones who know you're in the horse.  I guess that makes you the only ones I can talk to.

"You won't believe this, you'll think it's some kind of trick, but I know you won't say anything.  If you did I'd have evidence, not from prophecy, that there were invaders in the city.  Then I could raise the alarm.  Then I could be believed.

"But you won't say anything.

"So listen.

"It's been a long ten years.  I've watched those I love die, just as you have.  This used to be a great and peaceful city, sitting as it does on two trade routes.  Our harbor was a stopping point for all ships that traveled this way.  And we're on a land trade route too.

"It used to bustle with life, and countless languages were spoken in our markets.

"We were at peace with all.  Before my brother took Helen with him the last war we had known was Herakles' when my father was but a boy.

"It was a beautiful place that would have welcomed you with open arms.

"These days it's filled with mourning.  Death has become a way of life.  War is all anyone knows.  Trade continues, as it must, lest the people starve, but the war changed everything.

"The city you sack will not be the city you went to war with ten years ago.

"This is a broken city full of broken people.

"And you let them think they had won.

"How cruel is that?  To let them celebrate the end of war just before you strike the death blow?  To give them their highest moment just so you can bring them down?  To let them think peace had come at last only to take it all away?

"I'd ask you for mercy.  But I know there will be none.  So let's just take this moment of peace, together, to enjoy the calm before the storm we know is coming."


[Rewriting Greek Myth Index]


  1. I always had a soft spot for Cassandra. So typical of the Greek gods: give a flashy gift to impress a woman, then turn it all to mud when she doesn't fall at their feet.

    Ariadne, too.