A Bearer of Bad Tidings
Penelopos held Telemakhe on his lap. She was already in her warm flannel jammies and her father was carefully combing the tangles out of her moist curly locks.
One of the guests approached Penelopos. "Sir, it is important that I speak with you," he said.
Penelopos indicated that he should seat himself nearby the table. "We will be feeding Telemakhe soon and sending her to bed before the feast," Penelopos explained.
"I am Palamedes from Menelaus' court. I have been sent to fetch you to his domain. Helen has been abducted and we need all of her former suitors to abide by their promise to protect her as you yourself arranged. It is most urgent that we make plans to leave immediately."
The prince gazed incredulously at the messenger. "I believe it is Odysseus to whom you wish to speak. She is the one who arranged that oath and not myself. If you like I can fetch her and you can repeat this message."
Palamedes ahemed and harumphed uncomfortably, then composed himself. "Yes, I would like to speak with Odysseus in all haste. Could you make the arrangement?"
Penelopos grimly grinned shaking his head. He called Eurykleia, the nurse, to take his beloved daughter into her care until he returned. He then left for Odysseus' dressing room.
Odysseus was carefully bedecking herself in her formal evening attire. Keeping oneself looking royal while caring for a small child was a chore. Often she wore comfortable washable clothes with just enough regalia for her people to recognise her and her position.
Penelopos watched her from the door. As an artist he had never expected to wed royalty and become a prince himself. Yet, Odysseus sought him out. She appreciated his vision and glowed with an inner beauty that he could spend a lifetime capturing in any number of media. How easy they found it to say "I love you" to one another from the very start. Now he had the awful task of passing on bad news.
"Ody, Ody, I have something to tell you," Penelopos began. "The guests are messengers from King Menelaus' court. Helen has been abducted and they mean to take you with them to help fetch her."
Odysseus stopped abruptly. The sash she had been wrapping around her waist she let drop. "Fetch her! I wouldn't be just fetching her. Her lineage nearly caused a war amongst greedy suitors. This too would be war." Odysseus covered her face with her hands. "They want me to join in their war. I have a family. I have a small child. Why would I want to be a part of this insanity?"
"If you hadn't mediated Helen's marriage in the first place, we would not have met," Penelopos reminded her. "Helen's father agreed to arrange our introduction if you helped forge a sensible agreement amongst her wooers."
"I don't care. I am going to find a way out of this. I love you too much to join such senselessnes." Odysseus stood erect, a fierce tear flying across her face and into her hair.