Chapter 5

The Children of Leda

It was almost twenty years since the beautiful Leda was impregnated by the god Zeus. Nine months after their encounter, Leda had given birth to four children. However, Leda's husband, the king of Sparta, had demanded that the strangest fact of this labor was concealed from all those in the kingdom: that Leda had in fact given birth to an egg, which bore two of the children. The other two were born of natural births.

Leda had given birth to two set of children, both from different fathers. From her husband Tyndareus came a son, Castor, and a daughter Clytemnestra. From Zeus, and born from the egg, also came a son and daughter. The son was Pollux, who together with his brother were known as the Dioscuri. The daughter was Helen, who, coming from the seed of Zeus and the womb of one of Greece's finest beauties, had grown to be the most beautiful mortal ever to walk the earth. The tales of her beauty had spread from coast to coast, and among the great isles. Many had rivaled her looks to that of Aphrodite herself.

Tyndareus and his wife Leda watched their children from their personal balcony in their palace in Sparta. The four of them were now growing into adults and were relaxing in the garden together below.

"Our children have reached maturity, Tyndareus, look at them," Leda said as her royal husband stood with his arm around her.

"Yes, it is time for them to be married," he said with a hint of discontent.

"What is wrong? You do not wish them to be married?"

"Leda, think of it," he said, "Our daughter Helen is the most beautiful in all of Greece. There will be suitors from every corner of the land who will come to win her hand. Many have already written, expressing their wishes."

"Yes, Helen will be most desired. Yet Clytemnestra is older, though only by a matter of minutes. It is she who should be married first," Leda said.

"Yes," Tyndareus sighed, "And I love both of my daughters. But Clytemnestra was not born of the egg like her sister. She does not have the immortal touch. Who would marry her when Helen is the one they will all desire?"

Down below the four children lounged around the royal gardens within the walls of their Spartan palace. Helen was as beautiful as her growing reputation, with golden blonde hair, a perfect figure, and the smoothest skin a mortal has ever had. Her eyes sparkled with the light around her. Her face contained both vain beauty and thoughtful poise. Her sister Clytemnestra was less glamorous, though still very good-looking. Her hair contrasted her sister's with long, black curls. Her green eyes showed a hidden menace behind them.

Their brothers, Castor and Pollux, were inseparable. They looked very similar as well, both very muscular and handsome, both with short dark hair. The only difference between them was that Pollux was a little lighter tinge in his hair, and a godlier look in his eyes.

The four siblings were very close with one another. When they grew up they did everything together: games, studies, even sexual exploration. However their time together was drawing to a close, as the girls were reaching the age of marriage and would soon be whisked away to another kingdom of Greece.

"Well, well dear Helen," Pollux taunted as Helen sat upon a vine-covered bench, "From the sounds of it, your future husband is already on his way."

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, there are reports that the prince Diomedes from Argos has already left his home to see you," he answered.

"Oh, and don't forget Ajax of Locris," Castor piped up.

"And Idomeneus."

"And Agamemnon and his brother."

"You two are clearly having fun with this," Clytemnestra frowned.
"Don't worry Clytemnestra," Castor grinned, "Perhaps we will hide Helen in a closet when the suitors come, and one of them will marry you by mistake."

"Castor!" Helen scolded him.

"Seriously though," Pollux said, "Word has spread that you are to be married soon. Eligible princes from all over Greece are on their way here right now. There will be lots, so be careful Helen. And don't worry, we're here for you."

Helen smiled, "I am glad I have you two to watch over me."

"Everything is about to change, but not just yet," Castor said, "So I say, let us find some wine and enjoy these last few days we have together!"

The caravan from Mycenae traveled onwards toward Sparta. The caravan carried two brothers, the sons of Atreus. The older brother was Agamemnon, who was an ambitious and headstrong young man. He had a hard yet handsome face and had long, black hair. His eyes were of a very dark brown and he had a very prominent chin.

The younger was Menelaus, who was much more handsome and clean-shaven. Menelaus looked up to his brother, but was still his own man. He was more level headed and less passionate about such things as war and power.

The two of them sat leisurely together in their royal carriage, as they were the princes of Mycenae.

"Why does father send us both?" Menelaus pondered, "Surely only one of us can take the woman. Does he not worry that if one of us takes her, it will cause a rift between us?"

"Don't worry about that, my brother," Agamemnon said, "If you take the woman, I will not be jealous. I care not for women. You are the lover of them in our family. My lust goes to power. I admit this fully. I go purely for the alliance that this marriage will create. Sparta is a powerful city, and Tyndareus is a very influential man."

"Oh come, Agamemnon. From what I have heard of this Helen, even you will be won over by her beauty."

"If its beauty I want, I can have any woman in our kingdom. And a different one for each night."

"Very well," Menelaus laughed, "Then I beg you, if my eyes like what they see, consider passing the beauty over to me."

"Alright, Menelaus. Let us see what happens in Sparta."

Tyndareus was overwhelmed. Soon his city was being filled with suitors from the other city-states. They were arriving from all over Greece, all hoping to win the hand of his legendarily beautiful daughter. The king's people struggled to find room for all of these mighty princes and their servants within the city walls.

Helen spent a boring next few days meeting each and every one of the suitors. After so many, she lost track to who they were and where they were from. She noticed how stressed her father was. It would be him who eventually would choose who her husband would be.

Only a few of the suitors who came to see Helen actually stuck in her mind. On the third night of their arrival she sat alone in her quarters with her sister.

"There are a lot of handsome men out there," Clytemnestra sighed, "You have a lot to choose from."

"Yes, but they all seem so arrogant," Helen said.

"Surely there must be some who have caught your eye?"

"Well, yes, I suppose. The brothers from Mycenae are both very handsome, especially the younger, Menelaus. But they are quite full of themselves. Diomedes seems strong. And that young Odysseus, from Ithaca. I would like to see more of him. Have you found any to your liking?"

"None of them care about me," Clytemnestra said sadly, "You don't need to humour me. They are here for you, Helen, and you alone."

"Father will not let me marry until you are married Clytemnestra."

"Then father has some problems," Clytemnestra said as she slumped onto the bed and went silent.

Odysseus sat outside the meeting chamber leaning against the wall. He was a handsome prince, with a full head of dark hair, deep blue eyes, and a thin beard on his face. He leaned against the door, thoughts filling his head. He did not wish to be here, but he had no choice. And now the princess Helen had requested his presence yet again. He did not like the situation that was unfolding. He, and perhaps he alone of all the suitors, did not wish to be chosen.

The door opened and one of Helen's handmaidens waved Odysseus inside. There he met Helen again. She looked as gorgeous as the first time he met her. A woman of this beauty probably never had bad days when it came to her looks.

"Welcome back, Prince Odysseus," she said as she smiled, "We did not get much of a chance to talk when we first met. Would you like some wine?"

"Yes, thank you."

"So Ithaca. A beautiful country is it?"

"One of the most beautiful," he answered, "You should see it sometime."

"Perhaps I will," she said with a sly smile in his direction. Odysseus stirred uneasily.

"Princess Helen, I wish to tell you something, and I hope you do not take offense. I also ask that you do not tell anyone else of his conversation."

Helen sat back and answered curiously, "Alright. What is it?"

"You are by far the most beautiful woman in Greece, and perhaps the world. Yet I must admit I do not wish for your hand in marriage. I have come only on the urging of my father."

Helen was taken aback. This was not at all what she expected to hear. "May I ask why you do not wish for my hand?"
"I am in love with another," he admitted, "A woman from home. Penelope is her name. She is who I wish to marry. And though you are beautiful beyond poems, she has my heart."

Helen looked at Odysseus and felt a warm pity for him. "You are honest and kind, Odysseus. I hope you will be able to have what you want. To marry for love is not a privileged we all have."

"Thank you my lady," Odysseus smiled, "How is your father handling this?"

'He is worried, I can tell. There are too many men here, and they are not like you. They all wish to win me as a prize," she scowled, "He does not want to make this decision."

Odysseus nodded, thinking of Tyndareus's plight. "Do you think you could get me an audience with you father?"

"Well, sure, I could," she said curiously, "May I ask why?"

"I may be able to help him with his troubles," Odysseus said.