Guide Task Force Bride (Mills & Boon Intrigue) (The Precinct: Task Force, Book 5)

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But there was a far greater calamity to follow, one which may well bring my house to utter ruin and rob me of any livelihood I have. A mob of hangers-on are pestering my mother with their unwanted attentions, and these suitors are actually the sons of those who are your leaders here.


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They slaughter our oxen, our sheep, our fatted goats; they feast themselves and drink our sparkling wine - with never a thought for all the wealth that is being wasted. The truth is that there is no one like Odysseus in charge to purge the house of this disease. Yet how gladly I should undertake my own defence, had I the force at my command! Think of the gods! Have you no fear that they may requite these iniquities on your own heads?


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My friends, in the name of Olympian Zeus, in the name of Themis, who summons and dissolves the parliaments of men, I beg you to let me be and grant me leave to pine in solitary grief - unless by any chance you think that my good father was so cruel to your soldiers, whom he led, that you are trying to repay me with equal cruelty by the encouragement you give these parasites? If only it were you yourselves that were devouring our treasure and our flocks, I think we should be better off. For in that case we should not have far to look for compensation.

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We should simply dun you up and down the town for the restitution of our goods till every item was repaid. A wave ofpity swept through the gathering. You are wrong. For three whole years - in fact for close on four - she has kept us on tenterhooks, giving us all some grounds for hope, and in her private messages to each making promises that she has not the slightest intention of keeping. On her loom at home she set up a great web and began weaving a large and delicate piece of work. It is a winding-sheet for Lord Laertes. For three years she fooled us with this trick.

A fourth began, and the seasons were already slipping by, when one ofher women, who knew all about it, gave her mistress away. Send your mother away and make her marry the man whom her father chooses and whom she prefers. In that respect, I grant she has no equal, not even in story. For of all the Achaean beauties offormer times, there is not one, not Tyro, nor Alcmene, nor Mycene of the lovely diadem, who had at her command such wits as she.

Yet in the present case Penelope has used those wits amiss. Think, first, what I should have to pay Icarius if I took it into my head to send my mother back to him. And finally my fellow-men would cry shame upon me. You may take it, then, that I shall never give the word.

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For a while they sailed down the wind with outstretched pinions, wing to wing. But as soon as they were directly over the meeting-place, where the sound of voices filled the air, they began to flap their wings and wheel about, glancing down at the faces of the crowd with looks foreboding death. And it is to the Suitors in particular that I address my reading of these signs.

For them, a great calamity is rolling up.

Odysseus is not going to be parted from his friends much longer. At this very moment indeed he may be close at hand, sowing the seeds of a bloody doom for the Suitors one and all; which means disaster to many of the rest of us who live under the clear skies oflthaca. Cannot we stop them before it happens? Consider Odysseus.

Has not everything fallen out as I warned that self-reliant man when he embarked for Ilium with the Argive army? I said it would be nineteen years before he got home, after much suffering, with all his comrades lost, and that no one would know him when he did. See how my prophecies are coming true! Run home and read omens to your children, or they may be getting into mischief. And leave me to interpret these signs. As for Odysseus, he has met his fate abroad; and I wish you too had perished with him. No doubt you expect a handsome present for your house, if he is in a generous mood. But let me tell you this; and what I say holds good.

If you, his senior, with the wisdom of the ages at your disposal, misuse your eloquence to incite this young man to violence, in the first place it will be all the worse for him, and there will be nothing he can do about it; and for you, old man, there will be the extremely unpleasant consequence that we shall impose on you a fine that it will break your heart to pay.

Not till that is done, can I see the young lords giving up their unwelcome suit. They come to nothing and only get you a worse name than you had. Meanwhile we stay, and instead of seeking other brides, each according to his station, we feed our hopes from day to day on the thought of the incomparable prize for which we are competing. The gods and the whole people here have heard my case. If I hear that he is alive and on his way back, then I might reconcile myself to one more year of this wastage.

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Mentor was an old friend of Odysseus, to whom the king had entrusted his whole household when he sailed, with orders to defer to the aged Laertes and keep everything intact. He showed his good will now by rising to admonish his compatriots. Mind you, I pick no quarrel with these unruly Suitors for the crimes they commit in the wickedness of their hearts. No, it is the rest of you sitting there in abject silence that stir my indignation.

Yet not a word have they had from you m condemnation or restraint! Odds or no odds, it would be hard on them to have to fight about a supper! So what you suggest is nonsense.

But enough of this. It was your command that I should sail across the misty seas to find out whether my long-lost father is ever coming back.

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But see how my countrymen, and, above all those bullies that besiege my mother, are thwarting me at every point! No fear, then, that this -. It is only if you were not the true son of Odysseus and Penelope that I should think your plans might come to nothing. Few sons, indeed, are like their fathers.

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Generally they are worse; but just a few are better. So forget the Suitors now and dismiss their plots and machinations from your mind. They are fools, and there is no sense or honour in them. Nor have they any inkling of the dark fate that is stalking so near and will strike them all down in a single day. You, meanwhile, will soon be off on this journey you have set your heart on. Go home now and show yourself to the Suitors. Then get provisions ready and stow them all in vessels, the wine in jars, and the barley-meal, to keep your men fit, in well-sewn skins.

Meanwhile, I will soon collect a crew of volunteers in the city. And there are plenty of ships, new and old, in sea-girt Ithaca. At the palace he found the ruffianly Suitors skinning goats and singeing fatted hogs in the courtyard. Let me see you eat and drink with us as usual. Or it may occur to him that the fertile soil ofEphyre is worth a visit.

Ifhe too takes to seafaring, he may stray from home and be lost like Odysseus. And what a nuisance that would be for us! All the extra trouble of dividing his property between us and presenting his house to his mother and her bridegroom! There too, shoulder to shoulder along the wall, stood jars of mellow vintage wine, full of the true unblended juice, waiting for the day when Odysseus, for all he had suffered, should find his home again.

And let it be good stuff, the best you have, next to the vintage you keep with such care for your unlucky king, always hoping that he may dodge his fate and walk in one day from heaven knows where.

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Fill me twelve flagons and put their stoppers on. Not a word to anyone else! Get all the provisions together, and in the evening I shall fetch them myselfwhen my mother has gone upstairs for the night. Sit tight where you are and guard your own property. Telemachus then rejoined the company in the hall. Disguising herself as Telemachus, she went up and down through the city, picked out her twenty men and passed them each the word, instructing the whole company to forgather by the good ship at nightfall. The vessel itself she begged ofNoemon son ofPhronius, a prominent Ithacan, who was glad to let her have it.

The sun sank, and darkness fell in all the streets.