“So,” I said when they fell silent for a minute, “you two knew each other when you were alive, right? In Troy? What was it like?”
The quality of the silence changed. I peeked through half open eyes to see Cassandra and Helen share a long look.
“I’m so sorry,” I stammered. I couldn’t believe I’d just asked that. “I didn’t think about… You two must want to forget all about—”
“It’s okay,” Helen assured me, collecting some pink powder onto an angled brush. “There are days I would give anything to drink from the Lethe.” She paused for a second before putting the blush on my face. I closed my eyes instinctively. “I think about it every morning when I wake up. Just forgetting all those horrible things. But all those people died for me. It wouldn’t be right to forget them.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” Cassandra said as though reciting a familiar line from a familiar argument. “Menelaus was bound to attack Troy eventually. He was greedy. You were just—”
“A convenient excuse.” Helen’s voice was bitter.
“What happened?” I asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”
“You’ve heard the stories, I’m sure. You’re a daughter of Zeus, so you understand better than most the way people can change around us.”
“It’s not change,” Cassandra said. “You just bring out the—”
“I understand that,” Helen replied. “It’s still not something ordinary girls would have to worry about. But then we’re not ordinary, are we, Persephone? We’re lucky.”
I looked at her, and she saw that I understood.
“I was taken from my husband and daughter and given to Paris as a prize.”
“You had a daughter?” I shook off my surprise, remembering how different things were back then.
“Hermione.” Helen smiled fondly. “The last time I saw her was her ninth birthday. I imagine she’s down here somewhere, but she probably drank from the Lethe to forget me. They all hated me in the end.”
“You were just a scapegoat,” Cassandra reminded her.
“I wish they would have just listened to you,” Helen replied.
“Even without the curse, my brother was too much of a moron to listen to anyone.”
Helen of Troy had a pretty crazy life. She was conceived when Zeus raped Leda….as a swan. Her half brothers were Castor and Pollux, the gemini twins. The twins were also demigods, but the way it broke down with them is that one of them was a full god, the other was a full human.
As a child she was already lovely and turning heads. When Theseus and Pirithous made their pact to marry daughters of Zeus, Theseus chose the then ten year old Helen. The two kidnapped her and stashed her with Theseus’ mom for safe keeping then went down to the Underworld to try to abduct Persephone. We all know how that went.
Meanwhile,Helen was rescued by her brothers and returned home where she was later married off to Menelaus. She had a daughter named Hermione, and by some accounts an infant son when she was taken to Troy by Paris. Sources are conflicted here as to whether she went with Paris of her own volition or was abducted. Either way, her disappearance was just the excuse Menelaus needed to go to war with the very wealthy kingdom of Troy. The Trojan war was fought for ten years before Troy fell, and Helen, according to different accounts, either captured, killed, or escaped with Paris.
I always felt sorry for Helen so I tried to portray her as a sympathetic character in my story and give her a happier life in the Underworld.