09 July 2009

Thursday Excerpt: Jennifer Mueller

Thursdays on Unusual Historicals mean excerpts, and this week we're featuring one of our long-time contributors, Jennifer Mueller. Her latest is THE MOUNTAINTOP.

In ancient Greece men marry for money and land while finding their pleasure elsewhere. When Orestes saves a captured woman from slave traders, just what is she supposed to do when she doesn't feel like sharing?

Especially when she's literally ready to fight him over the matter.

Tericles grinned at the irony of the situation as he walked off. Soon Orestes stood face-to-face with the woman. With her this close, he could see her olive skin tanned darker by the sun. Her clear eyes, rimmed by thick black lashes and framed by sharp cheekbones, looked back unashamed. She was indeed beautiful. A veil of diaphanous yellow covered her from head-to-foot. Although interspersed by red glass beads, in no way did they disguise her nakedness. Under that light and filmy garment, Orestes could see she wore nothing. The veil wrapped around her and only her face remained bare.

Tericles grabbed the veil and ripped it from her body. Her eyes glared at the slave trader, but she still looked proud and stood tall as if dressed as a queen, making no attempt to hide herself. Long hair, black as night, flowing down her back was the first thing Orestes noticed.

Walking around her as if surveying the goods, like any buyer, he couldn't help but take in her stunning features. The woman should have been a model for the statues of Athena, goddess of war. Nothing of her figure spoke of idling around a house. She bore scars like his, from fighting. Spartan perhaps, as he reached the far side of her, he caught sight of her arm covered by a winding tattooed vine. The marks of a soldier, but not a Greek one; they used no such markings.

Above and below the elbow, fine gold bracelets decorated her arm, mimicking the winding tattoo. They were all she had been left with, and were delicate enough that they would have been destroyed in their removal. Tall and lean, her rope like muscles betrayed her active lifestyle, but the exercise didn't diminish the size of her breasts. No archer then; they would have gotten in the way.

Ilias, Orestes' youngest brother at sixteen-years-old, stopped behind him. "Help her, Orestes." His whisper low so no one else heard him.

"A younger brother, I take it. She would be a fine teacher before he marries and a fine mistress for you," Tericles announced.

"Give her back her clothes. I've seen enough, but if I’m buying her for my brother, can you assure me that she is untested by the likes of you? I would hate to think of my brother getting whatever you have picked up on your travels."

They feigned shock at the accusation. Orestes heard his brother gasp behind him. "I assure you we have not touched her since she came into our possession. Before that we will make no claims since she wasn't under our control. You never know about those Politicians' daughters, anything to cause trouble."

Orestes looked over at the woman as she finished covering herself. "What price are you asking?"

"Only the debt her father sold her for." They announced a sum. Orestes frowned. No shame showed on her face, only hatred. He didn't blame her.

"Which I assume was quite great and then of course, there is your fee for handling the deal."

Tericles and Herakles looked at each other for a moment. Perhaps realizing Orestes wasn't as naïve as they thought. "Are a Politician's debts ever small? She is more than worth the price we ask," Herakles answered, a slight waver to his voice.

"Oh, by the looks of her, she is worth more than the two of you put together. But do tell me, why is such a man selling off his daughter? He may have to pay her dowry, but there is prestige to gain in marrying her to a good family. There are other ways to pay off a debt, especially for the rich."

Orestes saw a slight grin appear on the face of the girl. She obviously enjoyed watching her captors squirm.

"We are selling quality goods, I assure you. You will be the envy of all your neighbors with a Greek slave that was once rich."

"And why would such an important, influential Athenian man tattoo his daughter in the manner of the Phrygians? You are not a Greek Politician's daughter are you?" Orestes asked her directly. The quick movement of her head to look at Orestes showed him she didn't expect to be spoken to.

"Of course not," she answered.