THE MAIDEN'S ODYSSEY is set in the 8th Century BCE. A young captive named Nerissa survives her slave ship's passage from Asia Minor to the Greek island of Ithaca. Purchased by an aristocratic family, she first encounters Homer when he recites The Iliad at a banquet where she's serving. Once her master Theoton discovers Nerissa's keen intelligence, he involves her in his plan to introduce democracy. When Theoton's fortunes turn, Nerissa's sold off to a man of a much different stripe ...
It was a moment’s work for Chymides Eight-fingers to release Nerissa’s leg iron. By the time she’d struggled onto bare, cracked feet, every surviving slave was standing. If they hadn’t pressed so close against her, Nerissa would have fallen at the ship’s first lurch. She could feel her shin bones threatening to crumble. Judging from gnawed marks in her splintered plank, she’d been more than two months on the Thallia. Chained in its reeking hold, she’d seen out her fourteenth year.
When the captain on that first day out of Tyre offered an easy voyage, she’d refused a soft berth in his cabin. She’d stepped aboard more or less a virgin, but it wasn’t that. With so much lost already, one further torn place in Nerissa’s body mattered little. Still, virtue mattered much. Captain Hycron’s eyes were hard like the new coins made of silver/gold electrum. Every time he spoke, a foul mist of half-digested garlic spewed from his mouth. His oiled beard was split in two like some lust-maddened satyr. She wouldn’t shame Father’s memory by rutting with this goat.
How many nights had Hycron plagued her fitful sleep? In Nerissa’s dreams, his face loomed at her like a black cloud blotting the red sky. Just as it had darkened at her insult the instant after she’d rebuffed him.
For all his rude appearance, Hycron seemed to pride himself on manly beauty. At the height of all his many qualities, Hycron saw himself as the reborn Adonis. Nerissa knew that to this depraved man, the offer had been more than generous. Not only a straw pallet by his bed and food from his own table, but the godsend of his skill in the bedchamber.
From the back row, a Thracian sailor jested underneath his breath. Capable in many languages, Nerissa heard him say the captain’s face turned the exact shade of an ass’s unsheathed phallus. Fortunately for the sailor’s pock-marked hide, Hycron’s hearing wasn’t sharp. He’d flayed men for much less.
For once, Hycron mastered his rage. It would be far beneath him to force this girl into his quarters. Nerissa’s face might be exquisite, a faultless Aphrodite, her eyes two gentle pools that pulled men in their innocent, blue depths, her complexion like the finest Theban marble, her silken hair the color of honey mixed with melted butter, her body just now at the moment of perfection, a budding wonder untouched by men or time… but he could have her any day he wished. He was Zeus aboard this ship and she a friendless slave. After a few days in the hold, this girl would beg for the rare honor of being his receptacle.
Instead, Hycron jerked his forked beard at an older girl he’d bought the day before they sailed. The Tyrean broker claimed that she'd been captured deep in Scythia, the daughter of a chieftain. Her face, if not as delicate as Nerissa’s, possessed appealing luster. Her onyx eyes aroused him with their promise of exotic pleasures. Her long hair was the blue/black color of ripe Minoan plums. Her voluptuous form would have tempted Tantalus to leave his eternally beguiling grapes. Hycron usually preferred lithe maidens, but a well-padded bedmate would make an amusing change this trip.