The walls of the room shook with the tremors of battle. A flight of doves soared from the balcony of my chambers and into the cloudless skies. The carnage on the street below and the screams of terror and pain had not disturbed the birds at these heights. Only the rumble of danger from within spurred them out and over the golden rooftops of Troy. They dodged the plumes of black smoke that rose from the burning temple far below and flew toward the blinding sun.
I wished Paris and I could make a similar escape. Too late. There was no safe haven for us anywhere. I cradled his head in my lap, the blood trail from the corner of his mouth now dry. He had no breath, no life. Taken from me and flung to Hades or Elysium, I knew not which. My heart bled out slowly, my end mixing with his in a never-ending river of sorrow.
The sound of a thousand feet drummed up the stairs and onto the landing outside our room. The warriors began battering the door. They must have searched the entire palace before reaching these lofty corridors. They would raid every room and kill all within.
Now they were on my doorstep, their voices harsh and full of blood.
Barring the door and piling furniture against it in a heap would keep them at bay for only a moment. They would get in. There were too many of them bent on destruction. The soldiers had washed over the city like a bloody tide that was now lapping at my feet. The wave would soon engulf me right along with the skeletal remains of Troy.
The cacophony of violence faded to the background as I looked upon Paris, the fine curves and lines of his face still beautiful in the morning light. I stroked his golden hair, glad he would not be subjected to any more of this world, this life, or the tortures inflicted by the demons outside the splintering door.
The warriors continued their onslaught, eager to claim their prize. Before the door was ripped from the hinges, the assault ceased and the soldiers quieted.
“Helen,” a voice called. His voice. “If you come out to me, we will stop and no harm will come to you. If you do not, you know the price that must be paid for disobedience.”
A shiver coursed through me, and the air shimmered. I was all too aware of what he would do to me if I fell into his clutches again. The memories of his torments were still fresh. I cringed at the thought of his favorite punishment, the kind that happened in my bedchambers, only spoken of in undertones by my handmaidens.
“Helen!” His voice rose with anger. I did not answer and, instead, whispered words of love to Paris, even though he could no longer hear them. The voice outside the door grew ever louder and ordered the door shattered. The soldiers roared back to life, violating my chambers with each vicious plunge.
I gave one last look at my lover and settled my gaze on the besieged entry. The soldiers turned the furniture barricade into rubble before pouring inside and amassing around me. They watched me, cruel eyes hard as flint, and stood waiting for their leader.
He strode through the opening, dressed in purple befitting his station and armored in glittering silver. His gaze settled on me and then Paris. He smirked to see the son of Troy bloodied and dead.
“Come, Helen,” he ordered.
I did not move, only stared back into his harsh visage.
“Is it more punishment you desire? I’ve already laid waste to the city, all for you. And now you would deny me what is mine?”
“I am not yours.”
“You are mine and will always be mine. Now leave that disgusting piece of rotting meat and come to me.”
I felt his gaze, and the gazes of the savage demons, on me, waiting for me to obey. I tenderly adjusted Paris’s head so he lay on the floor, and rose to my feet. My gown flowed out behind me in the wind of the balcony, as if seeking to escape right along with the doves.
He smiled, watching my every move, no doubt making sure I was still as perfect as the day he bought me. He held his hand out. Maybe he hoped I would beg for forgiveness right then and there, prostrate myself and let him take me in front of his warriors. Never. Never again would I be his slave.
The billowing fabric hid the dagger in my hand. Before any of the men had a chance to move, I plunged the blade deep into my neck. His smile faltered as I fell. My heart’s blood rushed out in a torrent, assuring me a quick death.
I hit the floor hard next to Paris. His angelic visage was the last thing I saw as the darkness beckoned, taking me down into its cold embrace.