Chapter 20

Nov. 16th, 2009 11:11 am
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[personal profile] aemilia
Loukas didn't attend the trial; he said he wasn't well enough -- and it was true that he didn't feel at all well -- but he actually couldn't bear the thought of seeing Cyrian or Alexia. The rest of the House went, even the slaves shirked without fear of reprimand. Loukas welcomed the silence.

Poppy stayed behind as well to offer food or medicine or wine or anything he could think of to distract Loukas. Loukas accepted each dish, taking a bite or two before pushing it aside.

He sat, waiting for the afternoon to pass, watching from the window. But when they finally returned, he remained in his room, instructing Poppy to report he was still feeling poorly. It might have been better if he'd left off that last bit as it guaranteed that Myrrine would come check on him.

“Would you like some tea?” she asked, pushing his door open.

He considered sending her away but nodded instead and cleared the cups Poppy had brought from the side table to make room for a new pot.

“I hope you like lemongrass,” she said her brow furrowed.

“Love it.” Loukas managed a smile, accepting the cup and taking a sip; it was far too sweet. “How was the trial?”

“Longer than I'd expected. I don't know why they bothered with all the evidence and testimony and things. Everyone knows they're guilty.”

Loukas took another long sip of tea and watched the leaves swirl around the bottom of the cup. “And the sentence?” he asked carefully, keeping his expression neutral.

“Beheading, of course, that's the traditional punishment for traitors.”

“For all of them?” Loukas asked hoarsely.

Myrrine's look turned pitying and she patted his arm. “I heard a rumor that the Damatrys woman was your friend.”

Loukas set his cup down so it wouldn't betray his trembling fingers. “Something like that.”

“I'm sorry.” She patted his hand.

He nodded, his throat to thick to speak.

---

He was going to avoid the execution as well, but as soon as the family had disappeared around the corner at the end of the street, he went to his wardrobe. He pulled out his most enveloping veil, one that brushed the ground and obscured his face. It would be uncomfortably warm, but he did not want to be recognized.

He jumped and turned at the sound of the door, but it was Poppy, yet another tea tray in hand. He grimaced and set the tray aside.

“We're going out, I take it?”

“I have to,” Loukas said, apologetic.

“I'll get my hood.”

---

The crowd lining the Rhodos Imperatos was in high spirits; executions were always popular. Loukas skirted around the edges, Poppy keeping close on his heels. The conspirators were kept in carts, more like cages on wheels. The thick iron bars were as much to protect the prisoners from the rowdy crowd as to keep them from escaping. The Civic Guard kept the mass of people from pressing in too closely, but the rabble hurled invectives and refuse as the black draft horses pulled the heavy carts up the thoroughfare. Loukas slipped through the press of bodies, ducking and elbowing as sharply as needed to make a path. He lost Poppy, heard the eunuch's shout to stop, but Loukas ignored him. There were two cars. In the first, Cyrian stood, wearing the unbleached tunic of the condemned. Behind him Tzykalas lay unconscious and Halkias wept, but Loukas didn't see Alexia. Loukas slipped away, hurrying to the next, lengthening his strides to keep up with the bouncing carts.

He stumbled into a large man who held a rotten apple poised to throw.

“Watch it,” he snarled as Loukas struggled to regain his balance.

“Sorry, sorry,” Loukas said, panicking; the second cart was already passing. He grabbed ahold of one of the bars, using it to pull him through the press of people.

She was huddled towards the front of the cart, close to the driver's bench, the one place that afforded some protection against the flying rocks. Andros was there, too, his knees pulled to his chest.

“Alexia,” he cried and she turned, looking for him in the sea of faces. “Alexia!”

She spotted him and tried to rise, but the wagon hit a rut and she fell. On her knees, she crawled to Loukas. Her hair had been cut above her chin to make a clean blow for the ax; it fell in her face, sticking to her damp forehead and cheeks. Blood trickled down the side of her face: one of the rocks had found its target.

“Loukas! Loukas, what are you doing here?” She reached through the bars to touch his face.

He tripped on a loose cobblestone, went to one knee, and was nearly lost in the crowd. With the strength born of desperation, he pushed himself up, knocking over those in his way. He reached the cart again, which now drew close to the scaffold. Actors in garish make-up pranced across it, one leaping onto the block to make obscene gestures at the crowd.

“I'm sorry,” he said; his face was wet and he scrubbed it with his free hand. The noise of the crowd washed away his apology and he wasn't sure if she'd heard him. “I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.”

She placed a hand over his where it griped the bars, squeezing until her knuckles were white. “It's all right. Loukas, please,” she struggled to speak as tears chocked her, “give me the last rites. They'll hang my body from the walls, but pray for me.”

“Hey you, get away!” One of the guards had noticed Loukas, and prodded him with the butt of his spear. “Get away or join her.”

Loukas let go; Alexia's wan face peered out between the bars. “I promise!”

She nodded, waving farewell. The mob closed in around him and he lost sight of her as he was jostled away. Poppy caught up to him, taking him by the shoulders. He allowed himself to be led; Poppy didn't stop until he had them out of the crowd, steering them down a narrow alley which twisted behind the basilica, out of sight of the scaffold.

The crowd erupted anew, and Loukas knew the condemned were being led up to the block. His vision blurred and he wept. Poppy stood by a moment and then tentatively reached out to pull Loukas to him. Loukas clutched the front of the eunuch's tunic.

“This is a gross over-familiarity,” Loukas choked out, his nose running.

Poppy said nothing, letting Loukas cry himself out. Loukas shuddered as each subsequent roar indicated another traitor had met their death. By the fifth, Loukas had stopped crying, his chest aching.

“We should go,” Poppy said, the first thing since they'd entered the alley. “The crowd will be in an ugly mood.”

Loukas nodded, wiping his nose gracelessly on his sleeve. He followed Poppy automatically, senseless of his own surroundings. Poppy hurried him through the streets, avoiding the first of the crowd to depart.

At home, Loukas changed and washed his face. Poppy inspected him after.

“How do I look?”

“Cool as marble,” Poppy judged. “The hair could use combing, as usual.”

Loukas gave a weak hiccuping laugh.

---

The messenger came three days later. Loukas was in the stable, grooming Rayna. He was surprised to see the purple livery of the palace, and he took a breath to steady his nerves and went to meet the her.

“Arist Kommenon Iereus?” At Loukas's nod, the girl said, “You're summoned to the palace.”

“Why?” Loukas's throat was dry, and he swallowed to wet it.

“The empress's business,” the messenger replied with a slight shrug.

Loukas left with Poppy, sending a slave to tell Iereus. Had Procopia decided to bring him to trial for his own part in the conspiracy? He'd saved her life, but she'd needed saving, at least in part, because of him.

Procopia again wore her imperial garb as he entered her audience chamber. She looked up as he knelt before her, getting stiffly to his knees; the pain of his healing back had faded to a dull ache, but it still twinged if he moved to fast.

“Arist Iereus, do rise.” She reclined on a half-couch, a young slave cooling her with an expansive feather fan. “I'm glad to see you in one piece. More or less.”

“And I, you, Empress.” He rose at her leave and came to stand before her.

“Do you know why I've called for you?”

“No, Empress.”

“You have served me well and at great personal cost. Such loyalty deserves reward.”

“None is needed,” Loukas said hastily, weak with relief.

“Of course not. Duty would demand the same of all my subjects. Yet somehow I don't think many would have done what you did.” She waved to her attendants. “Leave us.”

They quickly retreated, closing the doors behind them.

“Cyrian made you an offer to gain your support, did he not?'

“Yes, Empress.” She arched an eyebrow to encourage him. “He promised to annul my marriage and to make me the archon of Kommene.”

She didn't look horrified; she didn't even look surprised. “My brother over-reached, but I do think he may have been right about one thing. You weren't born to be a wife.”

Loukas smiled wryly. “I never wanted to be but the Mother does with us what she will.”

“Ah, and you're pious, too,” Procopia marveled, her tone gently mocking. She reached under the couch and pulled out a folio, leafing through the papers. “This contract formally annuls your marriage to Iereus, by reason of misjudgment by the Archon Kommene. I will not dictate to her may inherit her House, but my blessing is no small thing. And you would not be a widow, but a free man.” She paused, scanning the document. “I haven't signed it yet.”

Loukas swallowed. “Does Archon Iereus know?”

She shook her head. “The decision is yours.”

He held out a hand and she gave him the document. He could pick out the crest of Kommene, but to his eyes the page looked the same as his marriage contract and was just as indecipherable. “Could I ... have a few days to consider?” he asked finally, handing the parchment back.

She cocked her head to the side, studying him. “You're a strange one, Loukas Kommene. I thought you'd be delighted to reclaim yourself.”

“Then why didn't you sign it?”

She laughed. “Fine, you may take a few days.”

Loukas bowed and retreated.

---

Iereus was waiting for him when Loukas returned.

“What did the empress want?” he asked as Loukas handed Rayna's reins to a groom.

“She wanted to thank me for my small part in her rescue.”

“Small part,” Iereus snorted. “She owes you more than she would like to admit. Has she given you nothing?”

Loukas shook his head. “Nothing but her good will. Which I am glad of. She might not be so generous.”

Iereus nodded once in reluctant agreement. “Perhaps so. Surely there was more to your audience.” They took the wide steps up to the house, and though the day was warm, the sweat rising on the back of his neck wasn't due to the heat.

“Nothing of note, Husband,” Loukas said and smiled weakly. They passed into the cool atrium, the water in the shallow pool rippling as a breeze passed across its surface. “But there is something else I would like to discuss with you. Ask of you.”

“What is it then?” Iereus said curiously. “You've never hesitated to make your desires known before now.”

“Well I haven't quite gotten my strength back, I'm sure I'll be back to my usual ways soon enough.” Iereus climbed the stairs to his study and Loukas followed, hesitating at the door before entering. “In truth, I don't think you'll like my request. I want to sacrifice a goat to Theros. For Alexia.”

Iereus's face went from amused to stony in the space of a breath. “Absolutely not.”

“She deserves final rites.”

“She was an enemy of the state and a traitor.”

“She was my friend.”

“Yes, and look at the mess she got you into.”

Loukas crossed his arms, angered by Iereus's flat refusal. “She's died, there's no point in holding a grudge. You've won, be content with that and let me put her spirit to rest.”

“Grudge? Oh no, dear boy, this is no grudge held for a social slight or insult. She nearly destroyed this House, I hope her spirit wanders for the rest of eternity.” Iereus finished, his voice raised, nearly shouting. He turned and stalked to the window.

Loukas waited, repressing the urge to shout back, and eventually the hotness drained from his limbs. He crossed to Iereus and leaned in to rest his forehead against Iereus's shoulder where it joined his neck. Loukas could smell his sandalwood perfume and the sharp scent of sweat.

“Please,” Loukas said, the word soft and muffled.

Iereus neither pulled away nor welcomed the touch. Finally, he said, “Were you lovers?”

The question caught Loukas by surprise. “What?”

“After you were taken to the palace, Nika told me you'd seen her without my knowledge. I had hoped the clandestine meetings were merely political.” Iereus's laugh was bitter and self-deprecating.

“She was a sister to me, and I a brother to her,” Loukas said earnestly. “I have often been foolish but never adulterous.”

Iereus twisted to look Loukas, his dark eyes uncertain. Loukas willed him to believe, and he must have, because he took Loukas's face in his hands and pulled him in for a kiss.

“No goat,” Iereus said when he'd broken the kiss to take a ragged breath. “But you may light incense and pray for her, if you wish.”

Loukas didn't reply with words, but pressed eagerly against Iereus, while at the back of his mind he wondered if this would be the last embrace they'd share.

---

The Church of Theros Death-Bringer had enjoyed an influx of new priests and priestesses: orphaned children, wives who'd lost their husbands, unmarried sibling who could no longer be supported. They wore the black tunics of new initiates and took Loukas's cloak wordlessly as he stepped within the dark building. They didn't speak or look at him directly; he felt as though he walked among the voiceless shades. The sanctum was thick with the scent of oil and stale incense.

There were other petitioners, all plebs who gave way before him. He walked slowly to the front, wishing his hard-heeled sandals were silent on the stone floor. He knelt before the altar and lit a stick of incense, the smoke rising in curling ribbons.

An elderly priestess wandered over, and he pressed a silver piece into her hand. She muttered a blessing over him.

“Please, mother,” he said. “See that Alexia's soul makes it to the House of her ancestors.”

“Of course, of course, my son,” the crone muttered. “She is at peace.” She set a gnarled hand on his head. “You should be at peace too.” Her eyes were blue-grey with cataracts and her words were worn with repetition, but he found comfort in them anyway.

He said one more prayer and lit a stick of incense, watching the smoke curl and twist around itself. He stayed until it had all burned to ash.

---

He exited the church, his veil pulled over his face. Poppy held the door open for him and he stepped blindly through it.

“Excuse me, Arist,” a startled voice said as he nearly ran them over. Loukas's stomach turned over as he recognized the voice. Eleutherios. “I did not see you.”

Eleutherios stepped back, not wanting to give offense to the wife of a wealthy archon. It was obvious he did not recognize Loukas, his gaze cast down respectfully. Loukas stepped back, his mouth dropping open, but he did not speak.

His brother's face was drawn and there were shadows under his eyes. He looked older, more than the change a year would bring.

Loukas found his voice. “Do you not recognize me, Brother?”

Eleutherios started, as though he had been burned, and he met Loukas's gaze. His features hardened and his eyes became guarded.

“Arist Iereus? Is that your name still or have you found a new one?” Eleutherios affected the bored drawl of one of the courtiers.

“Kommenon Iereus, yes,” Loukas agreed. “Were you afraid it had changed?”

“I'd heard rumors that you sought to change it,” Eleutherios, his eyes narrowed.

“Yet here I am with the same.” Poppy was at Loukas's elbow; they were blocking the flow of traffic into the church and would soon draw a crowd if they did not move. Instead of biding Eleutherios farewell and departing, as Poppy wanted him to do, Loukas took the sleeve of Eleutherios's tunic and tugged, pulling around behind the church. Eleutherios resisted, then followed.

When they they were no longer visible to the traffic in and out of the church, Loukas stopped.

“Say what you will, Eleutherios. Accuse me to my face.” Eleutherios reddened in anger and, Loukas thought, embarrassment. Eleutherios had never liked direct confrontation. “Whatever foul rumors you have heard, they are probably true.”

Eleutherios scowl faltered at Loukas's rueful words. He hesitated, biting his lip. “You were in league with Cyrian.” He made it an accusation, but his shoulders were hunched uncertainly and he dropped his gaze.

“Yes.”

“I can hardly be surprised,” Eleutherios said coldly. “Your tendency to deceit is already well-known to me.”

Loukas laughed at that and at Eleutherios sullen expression. “It was less deceit than ineptitude. And when I realized all that I'd done I paid a high enough price to undo it. I think even you would have to agree.” Loukas reached up to adjust his veil, more as a nervous gesture than out of need; the silver circlet held it firmly in place. Eleutherios started and his gaze fixed on Loukas's hands. Loukas no longer wore the thick bandages around his finger, but the skin around the base of each finger was still red and freshly closed. Loukas fought the urge to hide his marred hands as his brother's eyes widened and his face went white.

“If I had been truly treacherous,” Loukas continued wearily, “you would not have the opportunity to accuse me of it now.”

The bells in the high church tower began to ring to mark the fourth horai and midday, the smaller bells' high notes ringing after the deeper tones of the great bell. Neither of them moved while the bells rang, as though they were held there by the sound.

“My apologies for interrupting your prayers,” Loukas said when the last note had died away.

“Hm?” Eleutherios said, seeming dazed.

“The church,” Loukas waved to the massive building behind it. “I presume you came to offer your prayers and not by accident...?”

“Oh.” Eleutherios shook himself a little. “I've come to pray that Theros bless my engagement. I am to be married.”

Loukas swallowed hard, a marriage would confirm Eleutherios's place as the elarchon of Kommene; only one child could take wives. “A god of war seems a strange choice to bless an engagement,” Loukas observed.

“You'd understand if you'd met my bride to be,” Eleutherios said, his tone plaintive. He wrinkled his nose. “Dorotheia Gikas.”

Loukas remembered her from court. “The one with the teeth?” he asked, gesturing to his own to recall the pronounced buck teeth of the daughter of Gikas.

“That's the one,” Eleutherios sighed and then leaned in to whisper, “she smells of garlic.”

“Her House is one of the oldest in Edessa.”

Eleutherios's unhappy expression didn't change.

“And she's rich,” Loukas tried.

Eleutherios's frown deepened further. “A cold comfort.”

“On the contrary, some would argue that gold is the only comfort that counts.”

“They dodn't have to take Dortheia Gikas to bed, though.”

Loukas laughed. “That's not what I heard. Apparently she's found admirers enough.” He put a hand to Eleutherios's shoulder to forestall argument. “Perhaps your next wife will be more attractive. You'll have more than one, remember.”

“Easy enough for you to offer comfort; your husband is attractive enough.”

“And he smells of perfumed oils,” Loukas offered philosophically.

Eleutherios laughed and then sobered as though he'd forgotten himself and he again grew cold. The moment they'd shared, forgetting all the antipathy that had passed between them, was over.

“I should return home,” Loukas said. “Iereus will be wondering where I am.”

“Keeps you on short leash?” Eleutherios sneered, but the words didn't sting any longer.

“Goodbye, brother,” Loukas said and, with one last glance over his shoulder, he left. He heard Eleutherios call out a faint farewell.

“That went well,” Loukas said to Poppy as the navigated the busy street back to the garden district.

“Yes,” Poppy agreed. “Much better than last time.”

---

“I need you to take dictation,” Loukas said to Poppy when they'd returned. “Would you mind running a message for me?”

Poppy shook his head and settled at Loukas's writing desk, laying out a sheaf of paper, ink, salt and wax. “What would you have me write?”

Loukas cleared his throat. “Hail Empress Procopia Amira, Archon Edessa, Ruler of the Seven Territories and Sovereign of the Amarna Ocean.” Poppy raised an eyebrow, but took it all down in a clean and even hand. “I, Loukas Kommenon Iereus, give greetings.” He waited for Poppy to catch up and then said. “I must decline your offer.”

Poppy held the quill above the parchment and looked up. “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Loukas said, and he was.

Poppy copied it down and then asked. “And then...?”

Loukas shook his head. “That's it. Finish it with all the necessary forms.”

When Poppy had done so, Loukas stopped him before he could seal it. “I want to sign it myself.” Loukas took the quill, its grip unnatural under his clumsy fingers. He dipped the nib in ink and set it to paper, tracing out the letters of his name. He dripped ink across the page in a constellation of spots. The signature was a shaky and illegible thing, but it was his. He dusted the page with salt and blew on it, finally folding it carefully and sealing it. He gave it back to Poppy, who's expression was impassive.

“It's done.”

Poppy tucked the letter into his tunic. “I'll take it directly.”

---

House Iereus was one of the first Houses to leave the city for the summer. Poppy, in his usual efficient style, had Loukas's things pack quickly. Unfortunately, that left Loukas to Myrrine with hers.

“Where would I be without you, Loukas?” she asked, handing him another chest to take out to the wagon.

He grunted a bit under the additional weight. “You'd be here for the rest of eternity. You'd never get all this stuff loaded by yourself.”

“Hush, you.” She shooed him on. He rolled his eyes and did as she bade him.

The morning was warm and clear, the spring rains had subsided, though the stones in the courtyard were still wet as he carried the trunk out. A slave took it from him, tucking it neatly among the rest.

The House departed by midmorning. Rayna whinnied in anticipation; she hadn't gotten enough exercise during the winter season. He resolved to get her back into top shape out in the groves. The wagons rolled out with the deafening clatter of wheels and hooves on cobblestone.

The markets they passed were noticeably emptier from the year before, but still bustled. The vendors seemed to shout twice as loudly to make up for the loss. Loukas closed his eyes as they passed through the gates. He would not see Alexia among the bodies of the condemned, refused to remember her as carrion.

But soon they were beyond the stench and the noise of the city. The fields were turning green with the recent rain. Loukas kicked Rayna up to a trot, bringing her to the front of the line. She tossed her head, wanting to run, but he reined her in. Iereus cast a glance at them, the corner of his mouth quirking upwards. The circles under his eyes had faded, and he looked freer. Rayna wasn't the only one glad to be out of the city.

Iereus set the his heels to his horse to they rode knee and knee. “And where are you going in such a hurry?” he asked, his tone teasing.

Loukas considered the question for a moment. “I'm going home.”
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(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-11 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
eh, I actually have an account, I just don't feel like signing in :P but anyway, I discovered this story over on lj, someone recommended it, so I gave it a shot. I was instantly hooked. Your writing is near perfect in what I'd imagine an actual published book would read. There were very few spelling/grammar mistakes and you followed concisely with no plot holes. At least I didn't catch any.

All the characters I enjoyed reading about immensely. Especially Loukas, of course, and Iereus. I'm not gonna lie, I wanted more scenes with them two. But what we got was still great; a few kisses, then consummating, and a handful of talks and so on. That brings me to a question. Is this story complete? Because you have no more entries, and this could be an ending, but you never said 'The end' or anything to where we know its the end. Honestly, I'd rather it not be the end since I really want MORE!! Even an epilogue would suffice for me :)

Okay, I got sidetracked. Iereus, I loved throughout. He shows that he's stubborn, tough, and goes by what he believes, no matter the circumstance. He's also protective.

Loukas, to me, has some faults. At first he seemed like a little childish in the ways he handled things; his brother, the reading thing, and I'm sure there's more. But despite that, you could clearly see that he was driven hard to do what he was supposed. The whole bit where he chose to finally sleep with Iereus seemed rather sudden and out of character. I know you explained it to a reviewer, but I still feel it was that way. I think it would probably be less sudden/out of character if you had more inner conflict over the situation. Him weighing his options, and realizing that he did have to do that. Or perhaps have a bit more outside influence. I know Poppy said a few things and then Nikka, but I think a little more would've made the decision seen more... real? I also felt that the whole 'hiring someone to maim his brother' thing was very, very out of character for him. He had never showed any kind of hostility that would make him stoop to something like that. I actually thought he was just joking without humor, like when we say your going to do something but your really just angry and its all talk. So when it was serious, I was shocked. And disappointed. I did try to see how I'd feel if I lost everything and was in his place, but I still couldn't quite grasp him actually going through with it as if he really was going to. And then the fact that he was going to, if Poppy hadn't stopped him. It just didn't fit him. I don't know, it may just be me, and I'm not thinking more in his shoes, but I do feel that you could've at least gave something that would explain that better than just him believing his brother was at fault. because what we'd need to see is WHY he'd actually go to the point of hurting his own kin and hiring someone beforehand. Do you know what I mean? I'm not trying to be mean or anything, just explain that I felt both those parts were just out of character is all.

The rest of Loukas seemed like someone who grew to be more selfless. At first, him deciding to side with Cyrian seemed too quick (more inner conflict again might've helped, but it wasn't completely needed here) and a bit selfish. Did he really believe that Cyrian would make things better? In the beginning, both him and... was it his mother or friend? But anyway, they talked about the Percepta (no idea how to spell) but anyway, they talked about how she handled the hunting thing, and it seemed to me like they all agreed she'd make a fine empress. he got to know her as a person, which you could see he didn't completely agree with but he didn't feel like she was unjust. And Cyrian as a friend. To me, his decision panned down to him thinking saying yes would help him get his position back and to be safe. He was only thinking about himself. But maybe that's not the case, and the things that were happening swayed him that decision. Then later, selflessness came and he changed his mind, helping the empress and also Iereus's life and house. So he seemed to grow from the beginning a lot, which is good :)

Now, onto whether or not this is complete. Is it? God, I hope not. but I'm not sure what else there needs to be said. Hm. Anyway, great story. I'm so in love with it, and once I started reading it, I couldn't stop. It's truly amazing and you should consider getting it published some day. Or at least publishing something. And sorry if I seemed a bit, nit-picky over those one scenes. I get that way sometimes, lol. I didn't mean any offense though.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-02-11 09:40 pm (UTC)
tmelange: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tmelange
>>Honestly, there's just not much interest from readers, you know?

I think your story is excellent, but you have to remember your audience. People who read original slash tend to want to see a relationship as the core of the story. As well as you handled every aspect of this story, that one intangible *thing* that would vest a reader in a relationship rather than in Loukas as an individual character swept along by events, is missing. If you changed that one thing, you'd have readers in droves. For instance, Iereus -- if you want the readers to truly care about Loukas picking him over every other concern in his life, you have to give us something special about the man and his relationship with Loukas. As it stands, Loukas is just one of four lowly wives, and he's given up everything to stay in that position. It seems almost surreal. It's hard for me to root for that as an ending. In any event, that's my opinion. If you were to make Iereus a little younger, and instead of spending so much narrative on the wife politics and concentrated instead on the development of a special relationship between the two guys, you'd have more success.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-19 10:27 am (UTC)
lorax: A Stack of Books (Default)
From: [personal profile] lorax
Forgive me for taking so long to comment.

I'm really glad that I found this. It was a fascinating read, and I'm a bit sad to see it end!

I think my favorite thing about the story was that the characters were all flawed, and we see that while the majority of this is told from Loukas' POV, the story likely would have looked so very, very different from the perspective of any of the other main characters. Loukas colors how the story is perceived, what we see as important, what we register because we see it how HE registers, and all his prejudices and assumptions come through in that beautifully, which makes for a good, tightly POV'd story. He's a selfish character, and he grows slowly, and it's a very nice thing to go through with him.

Aside from that, the world building is still just fantastic and my favorite thing overall. I love how we see their system of politics at work, their marriage system, the ambiance of this world, the callousness that is the norm, the difference in the cultures when we see the main cast interacting with those outside of their regular world.

I'm looking forward to seeing more in this world if you continue it, but if not I'm eager to see where you go next. Great job, and thank you for sharing.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-01-05 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
mah, what are you talking about?
not enough interest, my ass.
Anyone who's read your story knows it's a goldmine.
If you have new ideas, new books in your head, just write.
You write, we read.
More stories, more readers.
Interst grows, good stories eventually reach everyone.
So, I write this in hope you'll write more.

And, uh, congratulations on finishing this story, it was a pleasure reading it.
Btw, abou tpublishing, well.. the thing is tha tmost authores write several books/stories before they catch the eye of the publisher.
you sounded quite pessimistic there, so I thought you should have more confidence in your writting.
Practice makes perfect.
Good luck!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-02-11 09:30 pm (UTC)
tmelange: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tmelange
Congratulations on finishing an intriguing story! i loved the careful plotting and the great characterizations. The one thing I would say about my own personal taste was that I was never convinced of any particular special affection of Loukas for Iereus. The whole...romantic basis? ... basis for conflicting loyalties? ... reason for Loukas' change to a willing wife who has accepted his extremely restricted lot in life? ... was missing for me. The plot was engaging but the underlying motivation, the grand feelings that would change a person's perspective seemed absent, in favor of a sweep of events. The one person Loukas seemed to truly love (alexia) for most of his life he betrayed most thoroughly, and with no thought as to the consequences for her. I did really like the story, but I can't quite...love it, though thank you so much for writing and sharing.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-02-10 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Just letting you know that I read and enjoyed your story. Wonderful plotlines and tight writing. I'm going to agree with another commentator though and suggest that if you had more of a focus Loukas' sexual/romantic relationships you might have a larger fan-base. (Actually, I'd like to seem him end up with Poppy.)
Thanks for writing. :)

LOVE LOVE!

Date: 2011-03-09 07:36 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I came upon this though the slash pile on lj and just read this from beginning to end non-stop, I couldn't stop! I absolutely love this story, it felt realistic (as much as a fantasy can be) and the characters believable. I loved how you showed the change in Loukas and his struggles, he started out as selfish and petty and then grew to be selfless for the ones he cared for. Your story took me on a journey and I'm sad to see it end because I would definitely like to Iereus and Loukas's relationship grow. Anyways just wanted to thank you for sharing and tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and love it.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-05-13 04:31 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Really lovely, and a truly rich world that you've created.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-10-25 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I adore this story :) this is the second time I've read it and it still grips me completely. Your characters are so three-dimentional, so easy to like, they're just superb. It's also refreshing to read well-written original slash with an actual plot. You're a wonderful writer and I'm glad you've decided to share this story freely, it's one of my favorite online.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-26 04:20 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I started reading the story in the evening and here I am at 5 am. That was very engaging story, full of twist with a good solid plot. I am dissapointed though, that Loukas chose to remain a wife. I don't understand his decision, because it wasn't the life he wanted(hell, is there anybody who would want that kind of life?)and he wasn't in love with his husband. It is actually sad, because IMO he did it out of twisted sense of duty/gratitude; it felt for me like he just gave up.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-27 06:03 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Hi, I`ve followed a reccomendation from the slash pile here, have just finished reading your story in one go. Don`t know if you still check your comments on this, as it is a bit older already, but I try to get better about letting people know I read their stuff and if I enjoyed it/what I thought of it.

So, here it comes:

The worldbuliding is great and very solid, as is the plot with the political intrigue. I always dig a real plot istead of just lots of relationship drama and romance, so that`s a HUGE plus. Really, that was the part of the story I enjoyed immensely and while I guessed a few of the plot twists, it was still everything but obvious how it would end.

So, overall it was a really good read and you have a nice style, too. I could imagine the landscape and city really lifelike.



But the end kind of left me with a bad aftertaste.

I just can`t see what it was that drove Loukas to choose the life of the youngest/lowest of four wifes and give up all his ambitions and goals, especially as I didn`t see much affection between him and his husband (or the rest of the household) that could expalin this.

I mean, from what I could gleam of Iereus few scenes with Loukas, he only married Loukas because of political/business considerations and more importantly, their realtionship stayed pretty much on that level. They didn`t even talk much and there didn`t seem to be anything deeper between them besides maybe respect and in some instances an understanding of mutual benefit.

What the hell did make Loukas choose this kind of life over what he could have had and sorely regretted loosing?
Superior ethics and morals are good and fine, but he didn`t seem to be too happy with his lot before, so why was he suddenly inclined to choose exactly that? Self-punishment, or what?

Why did he choose people who were neutral to cordial (oldest wife and red haired wife, forgot their names) or really condescending and lording it over him (Nika) over his best and pretty much only friend from childhood on, wha was, as he himself said, was closer to him than any of his blood relatives?

Alexia didn`t even ask him for details when he asked her for help/money, worked throughout the story to better his position (and hers with his, but what`s wrong with that?), was his friend even after he had betrayed her and her co-conspirators, didn`t even curse his name on the way to the execution Loukas was responsible for...


And then in the end his husband berates him for wanting to do proper death rites for her (instead magnanimously allowing him to pay her his respects in a smaller way) and his brother is as much as an entitled asshole as before and THOSE things make him come to the conclusion not to take up the offer of the empress?

Why? House Iereus/his married familiy was safe by that point, so what was his motivation for staying in a place that he didn`t seem happy in before?

It seemed to me less as if he was happy in the end and had found his place in the world, and more as if he had just given up on achiving what he wished.
Like Nika, who also had to bury her dreams with marriage. That`s not even bittersweet anymore, just plain sad.

I hope you don`t take this as a critic of your writing or anything - it is your story to tell as you like it!
At least, and that has to be worth something, I can honestly say that it DID move me/evoked feelings in me. It`s just not the kind of ending I enjoy.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-06-29 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Thank you for your answer! After I send the review I worried that I might have been to harsh, it`s just so hard to get the right inflection in written communication, especially as english isn`t my first language. So, I`m glad you didn`t take what I wrote badly!

I think it`s totally ok to let it stand as it is. You can`t make every reader perfectly happy and it`s not as if I thought it was crap - quite the opposite! I read it all in one go, the plot had me on the edge of my seat and if I hadn`t been invested in Loukas` fate I wouldn`t have written this rambling comment. :)

I guess I`m just not that big on the "grace in acceptance" thing. Stumbled over it in a few other stories as well and it always kind of freaks me out. I can accept it, if there is a really good, well-reasoned build up to it, but I don`t care for it much even then.
Not that endlessly, stupidly resisting without compromise is better, but I do like characters in a position such as Loukas to end up a bit more... how do I say it... emancipated?
Personal taste, really.

Awesome

Date: 2015-10-27 03:49 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
This story really blows me away. I really wish for more, but I know how demanding life can be. I hope everything is well on your end and wanted to say this is brilliant. Don't stop writing even if this is the end of this verse. Xoxo

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Aemilia

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