02 | The Price of Poison

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JEZZA DIDN'T KNOW HOW LONG she stayed there like that, the world tilting on its axis, bile and fear rising like a tidal wave in her throat

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JEZZA DIDN'T KNOW HOW LONG she stayed there like that, the world tilting on its axis, bile and fear rising like a tidal wave in her throat. She wanted to become separate from her body, a slivering wraith that would close its cold fingers around Calix's throat. Her mother had taught her never to wish death upon someone, but she'd never met someone more deserving of Thanatos' scythe. If that made her a sinner in the gods' eyes, then so be it. 

Calix was already sinful enough for both of them. 

Half an eternity must have passed before she could stand on her feet again, and it was then that Jezza realized she'd spilled her basket of olives. The metal collar around her throat rattled as she bent to pick them up, and like a curse, an omen of worse things to come, she heard heavy footsteps coming in her direction. She froze, waiting for the shadow of one of the master's whips to descend over her head and split open the flesh of her hands, but nothing came. 

Jezza froze, the breath caught in her throat, and looked up. It was her father who stood above her, golden hair gleaming as bright as the cobs of corn that lay in the fields to his right. His face was neither young nor old, kind nor cruel. He simply was, like the titan god of time, Kronos, and Jezza had never known anything else. 

"Jezebel," Eritreus said, his voice like granite scraping against limestone, "your mother's calling for you."  

"My mother?" Jezza growled, climbing to her feet, the fruit long forgotten. "You mean the one whose tongue you had ripped out?" 

"Those were Calix's orders, not mine."

"This is your house!" 

"And she is my slave!" Her father's chest was heaving up and down, his face the same shade of red as Calix's chiton. "To do with what I will."

"Is that what you told her when you forced yourself on her?"  

Eritreus backhanded her across the face, his knuckles digging into her flesh. Her teeth closed on her lower lip, blood spurting from the wound, but Jezza refused to fall, and straightened, holding the left side of her face. 

"Careful, girl. Bastard or not, I won't suffer your disrespect."

Jezza's blue eyes, identical to his, gleamed with holy fire. "What do you know of suffering?" 

Her father jerked away as if burned. He turned away, a faint breeze ruffling the many folds of the sapphire dyed chiton that was half draped over one of his shoulders. "She's down by the Eurotas. You know where." 

"Won't the masters stop me?" 

"No," he said, the first flicker of guilt crossing his face, "they won't." 

This was her father's power as a general in the King's armies : the ability to command men and women alike. The truth was that he could have stopped Calix from extracting his cruel punishment on her mother if he wanted to, but he didn't. He knew that everything he had came from his brother Damen, his title, his rank, his house. If he were to fall out of favour with the King, we would lose all of these things. 

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