When Prince Mynes of Lyrnessus came seeking Briseis’s hand, he brought many gifts for her father: jars of oil and sweet perfumes that burned Briseis’s nose and made her sneeze; swaths of shining cloth, and, of course, caskets of jewels she would never get to wear. Her father chose him for her out of dozens of other suitors, after weeks of feasts, games, and competitions, all of which Briseis sat through silently as a shade.

“There’s no need for a bride to speak before the wedding,” her father said.

The wedding was in winter, Hera’s season for widowhood. As Briseis lay shivering on the far edge of her bridal bed, and listened to her new husband snore, she wondered if the gods had set the date as an omen.

By spring, the Myrmidons’ ships covered their shores, like fat, black geese. Their commander, Achilles, quickly bested Briseis’s husband in spear throwing, and presented her father with his sword. Then he gifted her brothers with crimson shrouds, before he took Briseis back to his tent.

He washed the blood from his hands before laying them upon her, but the scent of death and gore coated him like oil. When they laid together in his tent, between battles, he spoke to her as a groom would to his bride, and didn’t seem to notice when Briseis turned her face away from his.

Still, she wept when Agamemnon dragged her from Achilles’s tent into his. And when Patroclus came to tell her Achilles refused to continue fighting, she almost believed it was, in part, out of love for her. The thought was as pretty as the rosy-fingered clouds of Dawn, which always turn pale and thin once the sun fully rises.

When Achilles’s body burned along with Troy, Briseis wept again, and wondered which man, Trojan or Greek, would become her master then.

Morgan Want is a former journalist whose flash fiction has previously been published in Vine Leaves Press’s 50 Give or Take Anthologies.

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