Many of you know the story; Odysseus, hero of the Trojan War, making a perilous voyage home while his loyal wife Penelope fights off a bunch of horny jerks. Lesser known is the tale of two women of Thessaly, widows of the brothers Helices and Vortices, captains among Achilles’s Myrmidons (sadly, vulnerable in places other than the heel). The messenger god Hermes visited these two women in a dream, bidding them flee their homes and their own amorous suitors for the isle of Crete, where their story would inspire great deeds in others…
The golden-haired Braburna snapped the reins of her azure and white sports chariot, trying get comfortable beside her friend’s bulging sacks of belongings.
“By Artemis, Basalganglia!” she laughed. “You packed enough to fill a trireme!”
“You never know what you might need,” her sister-in-law shrugged.
“Like your diary?” Braburna offered. She had noticed the chestnut-haired Basalganglia writing on a papyrus scroll with her new reservoir stylus.
“Perhaps the bards will retell our story as an epic one day,” Basalganglia suggested.
“Rumour has it the Amazons are secretly recruiting in Crete,” Braburna said. “Perhaps Hermes means us join them.”
“Why not?” Basalganglia replied brightly. “Our husbands had the courage to die in battle. Why should we be denied the chance to prove ourselves?”
“Quite right, Basalganglia!” beamed the goddess-like Braburna. “On to Crete!”
She pressed a pedal on the chariot’s floor. Carrots dropped in front of the horses’ noses and the chariot shot forward.
That evening, Braburna and the once humble Basalganglia stopped at a roadside tavern. Its stable yard was filled with huge articulated ox-carts, while inside hard-bitten carters revelled drunkenly.
The wine quickly went to Basalganglia’s head and she soon found herself dancing suggestively with a young man in a pine green toga. During the dance, an argument grew overheated and Basalganglia feared a brawl was coming.
“We should leave this place,” she told her partner.
However, the young man misinterpreted these words. Once in the stable yard, he began to grope Basalganglia, in spite of her protestations. It reached a point that she was forced to strike him, but this only made him angrier and more determined.
Keen-eyed Braburna had seen this. Seizing her late husband’s sword from the chariot, she ran the young man through. Yet her expression darkened as she examined the young man’s toga.
“This shade of green is the colour of Atrocites,” she gasped. “The most feared general in Macedonia! From descriptions I have heard, this could be his son, Mendacites!”
“And who would believe he tried to rape me after the whole inn saw me dancing with him like a harlot?” the chestnut-haired Basalganglia squeaked.
“We have to get to Crete, fast,” the goddess-like Braburna said resolutely.
Two days later, the azure and white chariot reached the port of Orminium. To confound any potential spies, the women curled their hair using Basalganglia’s special hot coal tongs. On the quayside, vehicles queued up in front of a roll-on roll-off galley bound for Crete. But there was problem.
“I have too little gold to pay for the voyage!” Braburna moaned.
The friends split Basalganglia’s bronze collection to try and sell in Orminium’s markets. However, when Braburna returned to the chariot two hours later, she was still short of money. Then, the once humble Basalganglia rushed out of a nearby house with her chestnut hair unfastened and her dress cut revealingly short.
“I have the money!” she cried. “I found something better than bronze to sell.”
A blond, athletic young man, clad only in a breech cloth, was waving to them suggestively from his doorway.
“That’s Laetfes,” Basalganglia laughed. “An athlete bound for the Games in Athens.”
“Very handsome,” the golden-haired Braburna giggled, “In fact, he resembles Prince Achilles.”
Very soon, the azure and white chariot was safely inside the vehicle deck of the galley and the two friends were on their way to Crete.
Braburna and the chestnut-haired Basalganglia were as content as the Minotaur at a dairy farm when the galley docked at Crete four days later. But a nasty surprise came as their chariot rolled down the gangplank.
“There they are!” a voice roared.
Hoplite soldiers in green-plumed helmets were advancing towards the galley, and keen-eyed Braburna saw that Laetfes was leading them. He had been a spy for Atrocites!
Braburna pressed the chariot’s special pedal and they charged recklessly through the quayside. They tore through Orminium’s streets, not even slowing down for red oil lamps at junctions.
Laetfes’s troops mounted their own chariots, pursuing them doggedly into Crete’s hills. Braburna turned off the main road, trying to lose them. Instead, she came upon a murderously steep slope, leading down to a sheer cliff. The other chariots pulled up right behind, trapping them.
“Surrender, murderesses!” ordered Laetfes.
Fearful at first, Braburna suddenly became angry when she saw what Basalganglia was doing. “Is this any time to write your diary?”
“Absolutely,” Basalganglia said drily. “The last entry in our epic. They never do have happy endings, do they?”
Laetfes’s troops began advancing. Braburna glanced at them, back at the cliff, then at Basalganglia, stowing her scroll and reservoir stylus away in a sack.
She took Braburna in hand and looked her in the eye. It was time to write their own ending.
“See you by the Styx, Braburna.”
“I guarantee it, Basalganglia.”
The golden-haired Braburna heaved out the pin that attached the chariot to the horses. Before Laetfes’s disbelieving eyes, the chariot rolled backwards down the slope and plunged over the cliff.
At the base of the cliff, Hermes retrieved Basalganglia’s scroll from the shattered remains of the azure and white chariot. He passed it to the two Amazon scouts he had summoned there.
“Tell their tale among your new recruits,” Hermes told them. “The journey of the goddess-like Braburna and the once humble Basalganglia shall inspire women everywhere to break the shackles of home and hearth and die courageously, just as they did.”