Disclaimer: This is a love story and an adventure, a modern take on The Odyssey, set in a mythological past where all of the world’s pantheons coexist. It is my first full-length novel, that I wrote in high school, circa 1993.
The Nomad represents a much younger and less experienced Nick Alimonos, but also, a time when I was more passionate, confident, and brash. If you can get past the warts, I think you’ll find plenty to enjoy. Thank You.
The next morning, I was quick to mount my faithful steed early, so that I would not be mobbed by my many votaries. Like the wind I did travel over land, for my stallion was of sacred and Olympian descent, and no beast or fowl on Earth could match his speed. Like the thundering of Zeus’ chariot wheels did the hooves of Thunderfoot equally quake and move with untiring and unyielding speed. By noon, I had reached the top of my mountain abode, and looked down upon all the land governed by the King.
Climbing to my humble home, I found the serenity and peace I once cherished. And yet, I was unable to meditate or be at peace. I thought, perhaps, I longed for the comfort of a woman’s touch. But I did not. And this baffled me, for as a man of nature, I had no desire for any material thing. I had eaten a good meal and did not thirst. Of the things I owned and valued, my horse and ring, I had both with me. Yet, I felt, that there was something I left behind, and that without it, I would never be whole. Within me there was an emptiness, a piece of my soul that was cold and barren. Deeply disturbed by these emotions, I prayed for a dream to reveal the secret of my longing.
I awakened suddenly that night, having drempt that I was wrestling with the son of Ares, the demi-god, Phobos, and was unable to best him. And then I noticed it, that the walls of my room were as empty and shallow as I. Till the coming of Dawn I lay restless, my feelings turned to torment. It was as though I had never known life nor lived it. I breathed and walked, and yet, felt no more living than the kouros, a man made of stone.
Looking out upon the horizon, I knew my destiny would lead me to the king’s palace, and knew without question, there I would return.
The day was warm and bright, and the chrysanthemums bloomed and the little birds sang, and I knew that Persephone had returned to her mother Demeter from her time spent in the Underworld. As I journeyed to the king’s palace, I chose to take an indirect route, so that I might cross through no village and keep unnoticed in my arrival.
When I saw the palace from afar, I dismounted and left Thunderfoot in a wooded olive grove, then threw my tunic round my shoulders and cautiously approached from the side. In this way, I hoped to find the King, so that I might tell him of my troubles without the knowledge of the old and stodgy oligarchs. As I walked, I came across the royal stables. Here were the charioteers and equestrians from Macedonia who tended to the royal mounts. It was there that I saw Clytemnestra, her rags muddied, clutching the reigns of a large horse upon which a young maiden sat, dressed in a short chiton, her golden tresses swaying in the breeze. At the sight of her, my heart raced, for I knew that it was Seline.
Clytemnestra was instructing the princess on how to ride a horse. Seline, all the while, attempted to balance herself upon the animal riding side-saddle, and as the horse trotted, she looked as if she were about to fall. Finding this amusing, I watched as she was eventually thrown face down into the mud. At first, I thought she might rise with tears or fury. But, to my surprise, she lifted herself with laughter, and seeing this did Clytemnestra laugh also. Seline was not hurt. But her hair, face, and clothes were soiled. After that, Clytemnestra told her that she should bathe immediately, for a princess should never be as filthy as a peasant. But Seline refused to listen and tried to leap upon the horse again. She lost her footing, however, and fell now backward into the mud, and I laughed again. Covered like a hog she arose, chiton sticking to her skin, globs of mud falling from her hair. Undaunted, she attempted to mount the horse, and it was apparent she had succeeded earlier only with the help of her maid servant. Finally, after many failed attempts, she accomplished the task and for several minutes rode free.
With the wind brushing against her she raised her arms defiantely and cried out in triumph. And as I looked, I found myself sharing in her newfound joy. Then suddenly, her bare heel kicked inadvertantly against the animal’s side, and the horse galloped too swiftly for her to control. Unable to halt the beast, she tugged on the reigns managing only to steer it towards the fence.
Immediately, I broke though the wooden boards in my path and leapt onto the field to intercept them. The horse charged blindly against me, but at the final instant before impact, bucked, tossing the loosely seated girl from its back. With my godly strength, I pushed the horse aside, and caught her in my arms. Our eyes met and in hers I saw a spark of remembrance.
“You . . . saved me,” she murmured.
“Those Macedonian breeds can be temperamental at times.”
“Have we met before?” she inquired.
“Yes, I am Dynotus.”
“You were the man I spoke to last night. But if, if you are Dynotus, what are you doing here? I thought you returned to Mount Olympus, to your home amongst the gods?”
I lifted her as I stood, saying, “I do not really live among the gods. Actually, my home is quite near to here, in the Taygetos.”
She smiled and replied, “Could you . . . put me down now, please?”
“But of course,” I studdered, doing as she asked.
“So you don’t live on Mount Olympus with Zeus and Athena?”
“No, Seline, I am not a god. I am only a man.”
“My father told me of your modesty. I am grateful that you came to help. Thank you.”
Then, I looked into her glimmering eyes and fell speechless. Being the son of Zeus, I could take anything from anyone. But, in the same instance, this made me feel apart from humanity.
“You really should go and clean yourself,” I said at last.
She blushed. “Yes, I should.”
As she strolled back to Clytemnestra, I called out, “If you like, I have a beautiful horse. He can take you to a river nearby and you can bathe there.”
She turned to look at me, combing a dirt stained lock from her eyes. “I adore horses! But they do not seem to share the same fondness for me. Is he gentle?”
I cupped her hands in my own. “As gentle as you, fair princess.”
“Yes, I would like to see him.”
I then whistled loudly and summoned the mighty Thunderfoot. Seline looked at him in awe. “He is so beautiful. His mane is so soft and white. I have seen no horse his equal. May I ride him?”
“If you wish,” said I, picking her up by the waist and gently placing her on its back. It was then that I realized, no man or woman had ridden my horse but I, and it was strange for Thunderfoot was a divine animal, a gift from Zeus, and would not lend himself to mortal hands, or so I thought.
“Do you wish to see the river now?”
“Oh no! I dare not!”
“She knows her place!” said Clytemnestra, accosting them suddenly. “The princess is not allowed to leave the palace grounds unless escorted by her father.”
“But Klea!” Seline objected, pouting, “He saved my life! Surely I’ll be in safe hands, with him. He is the son of Zeus, after all!”
“Well,” said the maid, “I don’t know about this. I’ll have to go ask your father.”
“Go ask and we’ll wait for you here.”
When Clytemnestra was far off, Seline turned to me with a devious grin, saying, “All right, let’s go!”
“But I thought you did not want to . . .”
“That’s just because of Klea. She’s hovers over me like an albatross. I had to wait until we could get away.”
“But your father . . .,” I began.
“Oh, my father is a stuffy old man. He keeps me locked away in the palace night and day! There is so much I don’t know and want to know! I haven’t any idea of the world or of anything in it!”
“Your father is a good friend. I cannot disrespect him.”
“Please, Dynotus, I want to roll in the grass and play in the sea . . . and I want to run naked in the gymnasium like the wives of the hoplites!”
“Seline!” I exclaimed, grabbing her by the ankle, “you are a princess. Such things are not for you.”
“What good is it to be princess then? Everyone envies me, my clothes, my jewelry, the palace where I live, and yet they don’t understand; I live no differently than an outcast, than a prisoner! I want to see other kingdoms, all the ones I’ve heard about: Thebes and Athens, and Olympus! All I know is outside my window, a small part of Sparta. And this must be the most boring place in the world with all the men living in their barracks or off fighting some war. I wish I could live in the barracks too, maybe become a hoplite myself . . .”
“Believe me, you don’t want that. Besides, women are not meant to fight. Your battle is maternity, in giving birth.”
“Did Tyrtaeus write that drivel? What about Athena, she wears armor and a helmet and carries a shield!”
“That’s different. She is a goddess.”
“And Artemis has her bow. Even Aphrodite fought at Ilium in the Trojan War.”
“You know the words of Homer?”
“I memorized the entire epic poem, both the Iliad and the Odyssey. What else is there to do when you are caged in your room like some animal?”
“You’re not like any woman I have ever known . . .,” I murmured softly.
Then she pierced my soul with her eyes, blue as the Aegean and penetrating as a hoplite spear. “Please, Dynotus, we haven’t much time. Once Klea comes back, it will be too late, and I’ll never know a day of freedom.”
Seline rode while I walked beside her, leading her to the river. Through a dirt path and over jagged rocks we went, between the olive trees and the eucalyptus. The stream we came to dashed against many layers of jutting stones, and there I helped her to dismount as Thunderfoot began to graze.
“Here we are,” I said. “Skotino, the dark river.”
Seline let her chiton slip off her shoulders and it fell as if loosely fastened, bundling round her ankles. As Spartan women did not wear undergarments, I was forced to look away, out of respect for her and her father. But she responded to me, “Do not be timid. Have you not seen thousands of women before? Do not the Spartan women show their thighs in public, and exercise with the men in the gymnasium as Lykourgos decreed to ‘produce in us habits of simplicity and an ardent desire for health and beauty of body.’?”
“It is true what Lykourgos said,” I answered. “But you are different, you are the-”
“I know. I am the princess!” she interrupted, wading knee deep into the current.
I spied upon her then as she splashed her sides gently, but her simple beauty did not manifest lust, but rather, a feeling of awe and reverence, an uplifting of my spirit as on the wings of Daedelus.
“Have you brought me here to make love?” she asked bluntly and unabashedely, a strand of hair lain wet across her cheek as she faced me.
“No!” I stammered. “I did not mean to mislead you.”
“Do you not think I’m beautiful?” she asked, river droplets glistening from her skin, revealing herself to me proudly as a sculptor would his korè.
“You are fair as any goddess,” I answered truthfully.
She smiled. “What hubris! But I suppose it’s alright, since your father is Zeus.” And then she pouted. “So then why do you not wish to make love to me?”
“I cannot,” I replied. “You are Demaratus’ daughter. It is forbidden.”
Seline and I parted ways without as much as a kiss. It was not that I did not want her. But in that she was a virgin princess, fornication with me, who was not her husband, would only defile her and make her a whore. Regardless, there was a greater than the pleasures of the flesh. I wished to wake each morning to find her resting in my arms. I yearned to share with her my home and all my life’s experiences. Yet, more than anything, I longed to do something special for her, to give her happiness, and to know that it was I who did so.
Several nights passed and I could not sleep, knowing now what it was that troubled me. One day, as I was gathering pomegranates from my garden, tortured by the icon of a bathing Seline as if stamped like a drachmae under my eyelids, a Muse took pity and gifted me with inspiration. Hence, I summoned my steed and rode to the port of Gythio where I met with Phoenician traders from Biblos. And from them I purchased sheets of papyrus and ink for writing.
For Seline I did compose a letter, the words being those of the Muse but with feelings my own, for I had little knowledge of writing. Then in the moonlight I crept along her balcony window and left the letter there for her to find. When she awoke the next morning, she stepped out on to the ledge and found a flower and a scroll. Curious, she lifted the flower to her nose and opened the scroll, which read thus:
With how melting a glance does she look towards me, more
Tender than sleep and death; nor are such sweets idly
proffered. But Seline answers me not, but wearing her
garland like some bright star shooting across the sky or golden
sprout or soft plume she strides with feet outstretched . . .
grace sits on the maiden’s tresses . . .
Were she but to look at me . . .
coming close to hold me with her soft hand, quickly
would I become her suppliant
After this, I returned one night to gaze at Seline’s empty balcony. Even in that darkest hour I found her, standing with candle in hand. And she called to me, “Dynotus, how I cherished what you wrote and read it if not a thousand times!”
“Seline, how do I find you not in dreams at this hour, when even satyrs pause their reveling to slumber?”
“Oh, but I dared not sleep for hope that you might come again unto my windowsill and this time catch you in an act of love.”
“And how do you know that it was I who sent you such doting words? Would any man be so foolish as to open his heart to a woman, to reveal his very essence and remain unshielded, like a naked breast against a spear point?”
She cast me a mischievious smile. “I did not say that they were doting words, Dynotus.”
“Then it is true that I am but the deliverer of the scroll. But the words belong to the Muses.”
“Do not the Muses come when they are summoned? Summoned by the yearning and aching of men’s hearts?”
“Tell me. Do you patrol your bedroom like a centurion watching for a thief? Is it passion that keeps you awake, or is it fear?”
“It is both. The passion that churns for you and the fear that you might not come again.”
“Then I pray this churning continue so that passion might thicken and become . . . love.”
“Dynotus, will you ask my father to marry us? I cannot know joy without you. I can’t breathe without you. I can’t live without you. The day you caught me in your arms, I knew that I would be your wife some day.”
“Should your father give me his blessing, I will marry you. Till then, pray to Aphrodite.”
“But no, Aphrodite is for love, and Hera for marriage.”
“But what is marriage without love? We should ask for both.”
“No, Dynotus! You are the son of Zeus. And Hera, his wife and goddess of marriage, despises all Zeus’ sons that are not her own. Your mother was Alcmena, a mortal woman, was she not?”
“Then praying to her will be of no use. Let us venerate Aphrodite, and that which Pandora’s Box did not release.”
“And what is that?”
And so there I slept beneath her balcony, and when Dawn rose I did wake and enter the palace. There I sought the King, and found him on his throne. As always, Demaratus was delighted to see me. He greeted me warmly and asked, “Dynotus, my friend, what brings you here?”
Now, I was filled with fear, and kneeling before him did reply, “I have come to tell you my wish, that which you granted me the night of the banquet last.”
“Excellent!” he replied. “And for what have you decided to ask?”
“It is the one thing, the one thing that shall give me joy and happiness all the days of my life. I implore you, do not deny me this one wish!”
Demaratus laughed. “This is quite unlike you, Dynotus! Do not hesitate. Whatever you desire, I shall gladly grant. Do not fret.”
“I humbly request your daughter’s hand, your daughter, Seline.”
The King sat stunned for a moment, and then his smile turned to an angry scowl and his face pale and aged “. . . my daughter? You wish for my one and only daughter? She is the only person, the only thing left in this world that I love. Of all the women you have defiled, the only virgin, the only thing I know that is young and pure, all that I have left in the world that you have not spoiled! No! I will never allow your lecherous hands take from me my daughter! As if you could not go and satisfy yourself with all the whores in the village, you would dare come here and rape my precious Seline and make her one of them! I say never! You will see my death before your limb shall ever know the love of my young and innocent daughter! Go now and ravage a pig to satiate your appetite, and may I never suffer the sight of you within my hall again!”
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