Chapter 22: To Delphi They Go
The goddess of dawn, Eos, stretched as her radiant golden hair swayed in the horizon, signaling the new dawn.
The wagon, holding control over the entirety of Thebe’s destined fate slowly began to move. The people who awakened in the early dawn wore a groggy countenance on their faces as they mounted their horses. As the brass wagon was loaded with heavy materials, the horses rested often along the way, tiring out constantly from bearing the heavy weight.
Behind the wagon, Eutostea rode on a horse. There was not anyone who did not know that she was a princess, but nevertheless, she covered herself with outerwear with intents of not wanting to draw any more attention than she already had. The horse she rode on bore the color of the midnight sky, its glossy mane a testament to its good health, and it was so mild-tempered that though she had only ridden it a few times, it never once snorted at her.
The road to Delphi, which was considered to be the center of the world, was like that of a spider web. No matter what place you started from, one always ended up at Delphi, which was located on Mount Parnassus.
The fastest route from Thebes involved cutting through a mountain ridge. Mount Parnassus was known as the Mountain of Gods. The mortals could not see its shape from where they currently stood.
Vineyards stretched out beyond the outskirts of the city they were passing through. At each clay-walled dwelling along the way stood at least one olive tree, the beloved tree of Artemis.
Upon seeing the party of travelers with clothes different from the farmers drenched with sweat that took up the entire road parted to the side and made way.
Soon, the vineyards of their hometown connected to a vast expanse of fields, and it was at that moment that Eutostea truly felt that she was leaving Thebes… and maybe forever.
To make haste and arrive in time for Apollo’s festival in ten days, the travelers kept a tight schedule. After four days without a bath and sleeping on the road, Eutostea washed her face in a brook near the pathways.
The dirty ground was stained with droplets of water. Eutostea dipped the tips of her leather shoes into the clean water of the stream. She was in desperate need of a bath and her mind unconsciously gravitated to her two sisters who habitually took one to two baths a day. She was sure they’d be freaking out. She had managed to convince them to stay despite their vehement refusal and early protest. It was for the best.
…Once again she was reminded that she had truly left the palace.
Her heart was empty, as if a cold wind raged from within.
While she sat down near the stream and dazed off vacantly, a man walked up to her.
“Are you uncomfortable, princess?”
It was Paeon, the soldier leading the wagon. He had been hired by King Aphelius.
Paeon looked haggard and tired. He’d been tasked to deliver the tributes safely, follow a tight schedule so they arrive on time, and look after her. It was tedious work. In principle, it was more appropriate to look after the princess more carefully, but he had been unable to focus on the details due to the strenuous schedule laid out in front of him. Even so, he managed to check up on her without a word of complaint.
Not wanting to show any weakness in front of the man hired by her father the king, Eutostea wore a blank emotion and replied with an ‘I’m fine’ whenever the soldier came to check up on her. She needed nothing and requested only for conventional things such as how much longer they had left in their journey.
Paeon placed his palm against his forehead and sighed. He turned his gaze towards a spot in the distance before parting his lips. “We’ll soon arrive in the small city of Kiriakion. We’ll spend a day recouping there before we continue our journey. We’ll make it in time for the festival.”
Eutostea nodded. “I see.”
“I’ll obtain a private room for you when we arrive in the city. Though we’ll only be staying in Kiriakion for one night, it would be good for you to go sightseeing. I’ve already informed the others.”
Paeon added the last sentence to subtly hint that Eutostea enjoy herself comfortably and to have fun.
Eutostea was grateful for Paeon’s kindness and gradually started wanting time to herself. As if he had read her made, he quietly made his way towards the stream and left her be.