Chapter 1 - ElenaI run my hands over my beautiful braid, the sunlight reflecting on my blonde hair. Antonia, Father's servant, carefully entwines delicate blossoms into the braid. My silk toga flows elegantly over my curves, tied with a beautiful blue sash at the waist. Today, a godly festival will be held at the temple, and I will be attending.
Antonia finishes adorning my hair with flowers, and I shoo her away. "Go, slave, for I have no need for you anymore!" I exclaim, waving her out of the room. She scampers away, hunched over. Her outfit is stained and dirty. Revolting.
I place my jeweled headdress on my head, and look at myself in a piece of glass. I'm gorgeous. I slip on my shoes, and exit the dressing room.
Father is waiting for me in his chariot. I climb in, and we set off. We pass servants and common people, kneeling on the side of the path. I turn away from them, turn away from their grimy garments, from their beady eyes, from their pleading faces. They're just townspeople. We're royalty.
Father taps me on the shoulder. "We're here, my beautiful Elena," he says, and I slip out of the chariot.
The festival is small, only for the royal family. Trays of delicious food are carried by servants, and I take a grape and savor it. Father goes to drink wine, and I'm left to observe the sacrificial altar.
Soon, everyone will gather around and watch as a pig or other animal is sacrificed to the gods. It will be cooked, and the meat is offered to the gods. It is my first religious ceremony. Father says that we will get to eat some of the meat afterwards, and it will be delicious.
But he steps on the puddle of blood.
Everyone freezes. Thunder rumbles in the sky, and the air around us grows heavy. Father's face darkens with anger, and contorts more than I've ever seen it do before. He lifts a finger and points to the priest.
"This man has soiled the holy blood of our sacrifice!" he shouts, his voice deep. "The gods are angry. You will pay."
He rushes toward the priest, and everyone else follows, sweeping me along with them. I'm pushed toward the altar, toward blood, toward a dead sheep. I don't want to go there. What are they thinking? The gods are angry - we should be getting away!
Rain suddenly begins to pour, and lightning strikes a tree in the distance. Father grabs the priest and orders his guards to lock him up when we arrive back home. I cover my head with my hands, trying to shield my beautiful hair from the downpour, but my braid gets soaked anyway. We climb into the covered chariot, all of us dripping with water. I sneak a glance at Father. His face is stony.
"Father?" I tentatively ask. "What will happen now?"
He doesn't look at me. "The gods are angry, Elena... we have contaminated their meat, we have put shame on our land... and I am afraid that the gods will seek revenge."