O' Death

Aristides - Dreaming of Sharks

“Why are you so melancholy, husband?”

It was only yesterday that he’d bested both Drako and Xenon to become the wrestling champion of the games, but Aristides found himself grumpy this morning. Eudora’s question got a wordless grunt as a response—Aristides himself was not quite certain why he felt this way after a day of career-defining victory.

Eudora rolled her eyes playfully. “The great Aristides is never satisfied. His son outshines all competitors in the javelin throw, his wife earns a new patronage and prestige, and he defeats his greatest personal rival and the reigning champion of the city, both in one day. And yet he wakes up moody and dissatisfied.” She prodded him lightly in the ribs, and Aristides squirmed away from the point of her finger with a smile.

“You are right. I should be happy. I am happy. But… something about yesterday troubles me. The bout against Drako was everything I hoped it would be. A true test for the both of us, something to thrill the crowds and put all doubts to rest, no matter which of us came out victorious. But with Xenon…” Aristides shook his head. “It was easy.”

“Should that not make you proud to defeat the city’s champion with such ease?” she asked.

Aristides grimaced, then shook his head. “Is a champion not defined by his contenders? I have no wish to defeat Xenon on his worst day. Only his best. Besides which, I was bested by Timaeus in the races as well.”

Eudora’s laugh was musical, and Aristides found himself smiling despite his sour mood. “Then you should find new contenders, husband. Or turn Xenon into the contender that you wish him to be. And perhaps you might do the same with this Timaeus. If you have strength to offer Xenon after defeating him, then Timaeus may have something similar to offer you.”

Aristides thought about that, nodding. “Maybe. And perhaps in doing so, I will find new depths to my own skill. I’ve heard it said before that in teaching and training, the teacher learns as much as the student. It may be presumptuous to offer myself as a teacher to Xenon, but perhaps as a training partner… thank you, Dora.” He smiled and kissed his wife warmly.

She laughed again. “Any man who would turn away the opportunity to train alongside you would be a fool, husband, no matter his feelings. Your contest against Drako proved that.”

“Women are not permitted to watch those contests, Dora.”

She smiled at him. “No, they are not.”

He laughed again. “I… heard… that you gave a wondrous telling of the Illiad. Korinna was hopelessly outmatched. Or… so I imagine.”

Eudora prodded him in the ribs again. “And you are not supposed to watch those contests, Aristides.”

“No, I am not. I simply… happened to be in the markets nearby. I overheard some bits of the story, and I heard the crowd discussing the competition as they left.” Aristides made a poor show of playfully pretending to be innocent.

“Korinna’s telling was good,” Eudora said, “but too traditional to win the contest this year. She has a strong memory, but a poor imagination. She will get better.”

Aristides grinned at her. “Perhaps you could offer to teach her, as you suggested to me.”

“I have no desire to aid my competition, unlike my foolish husband. I am content to win again and again, if it is my curse to do so.”

He laughed. She smiled. Silence descended, far from the first between the two. Both seemed comfortable in it, feeling no need to fill the silence with empty words. They simply laid in bed, watching the rays of the rising sun dance across the ceiling.

After a while, Aristides spoke again. “I had a troubling dream, Dora.”

“Oh? Tell me.”

“I was swimming, but could not reach land. I was dragged beneath the waves, and couldn’t breathe.” Aristides spoke slowly, concentrating on remembering the details. He knew some had already eluded him, but he tried to recall as much as he could. “There was a shark there, and it said it could save me if I pledged myself to Poseidon and became his champion.”

“And what did you say?”

Aristides rolled his head one way, then the other. “I laughed. I said that I respected Poseidon, but that I was not his champion. I said that I belonged to Nyx, and that I would not forswear her. The shark threatened me, saying that her power could not reach beneath the waves because the light of the moon did not shine there. But I told the shark… the light of the moon does not reach the caves, or into homes, or into the deep places in the forests. The moonlight is not the edge of her power. That all within shadows, all beneath the night sky, was her domain. And that included the deepest parts of the sea.”

Eudora frowned up at him. “It isn’t wise to taunt the gods, husband, even in your dreams. You should make amends to Poseidon.”

Aristides nodded his head in agreement. Eudora was right, he should make an offering to Poseidon to show the lord of the waves that he meant no disrespect. “Of course. I will have to find something suitable, though, and there is no time today.” He paused a moment. “Tomorrow.”

Eudora prodded him again. “It isn’t wise to wait to offer amends to the gods, either.”

He shrugged. “I know, but I do not wish to make a poor offering. Besides, I am not competing in the boat races, and neither is Angelos. The apology to Poseidon can wait a day, to make sure that I do it correctly.”

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