I’m taking part in the 500 words a day challenge by Jeff Gouin.
“Whether you’re writing a novel, planning out your autobiography, or working on a short piece of nonfiction, forget about all the details and begin with the most important part: the end.
Think ahead of how you want this thing to wrap up. What do you want the reader to walk away with? What’s the big idea or one-liner you want people to remember forever?
Start with that, and when you’ve got 500 words, you can go back and fill in the rest.”
So here’s the last two pages of my story – not sure whether it’s a novel, novella yet – The Oracle’s Vision. It will be probably go through some editing over time but I know that’s the end. Funny, I hadn’t known which brother was the bad guy until today. 😉
Cassandra, bending over the cradle, was humming a lullaby for the twins. She was grateful she was granted a few months to get to know her daughters, the next generation of Apollo’s line after her, who should never have had children.
Cassandra wouldn’t deny she had loved their father beyond reason. She had given him everything, even though she knew she’d lose her connection with the gods. Hadn’t he used this weakness to control her powers? And yet, even now, she couldn’t hate him. In fact, she loved him still, despite what he’d done, in spite of the consequences for her, for their daughters and for the empire.
There was a reason why people said love is blind. There were reasons why the Pythia wasn’t meant to love a man. Thus it was that Megara and Penelope were born of love and treason. But they were innocent. They shouldn’t have to pay its price.
Cassandra’s choice was for her daughters and yet she knew with certainty that neither would understand, no more than her sister. Iphigenia hadn’t spoken to her since the announcement months before. If Cassandra couldn’t blame her sister, she would have liked to explain why it was necessary. Maybe someday Neb would be able to convince her.
She turned at her brother’s call as he entered the room. Theseus understood, the healer within, knowing that this was needed to help mending the wounds. Neb, of course, knew why. He was a priest after all. Even Darius agreed that it was the only way, though he argued against it. And what choice did the sovereign have? If Alexander wanted to keep together the empire he had salvaged, he had to agree to it. To end this conflict, the young emperor had made compromises his father would never have considered.
“You know they will be loved.”
Theseus had sat next to her and taken her hand in his.
Darius and Persephone would make wonderful parents; in fact, they both loved the girls already, although Persephone was already pregnant with their first child. And Theseus would love them too, he would teach them as well that the ways of Apollo’s line not be lost.
In the end, this pained her the most. She wished her sister could forgive her nieces her parents’ double betrayal. Hephaestion had betrayed the empire but Cassandra had betrayed her sister, by accepting that her death would cement the peace.
“You can’t worry about her today.” Theseus said before kissing her cheek, something he hadn’t done since he was 8 years old. “Iphigenia knows very well it’s the only way. And she hates that she knows it.”
“I wish she’d come.”
“You know she can’t.”
She knew that; it had been her argument. Let the empire know that the sovereign is just even though his brother and sister-in-marriage had caused a war. The girls would be spared but the mother betrayed her calling. It was true; she had.
And that was the last vision she had been granted by the gods: her death to bring peace to the empire. That allowed Alexander to lift the proscription that had weighed over the lines of Apollo, Hera and Poseidon for centuries. She would pay the price gladly even though she was scared. As if in answer to this, Nebuchadnezzar came in and spoke softly.
She took a deep breath and stood, helped by her brother. In the end, Cassandra found she was glad to be blind; she didn’t see where they were going. She didn’t see the executioner though she felt his hand when he took hers from Theseus’s. She just felt the warm sun of midsummer on her face. And it was comforting. Her father still looked upon her in mercy. The crowd fell silent when she stood on the platform.
“Is there anything else you wish to say Cassandra of Macedonia?”
Alexander’s voice was as cold as she had ever heard it. She hadn’t known he would ask. She probably should have.
“What I did, I did for peace. I hope the gods forgive me.”
“So be it.”
The executioner placed an arm around her chest, almost lovingly. It was almost a tender embrace. He quickly planted the knife from the back into her heart. She gasped but the pain was gone almost as soon as it appeared. Peace was worth the price.