The goddess of buttercup.., p.1
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       The Goddess of Buttercups & Daisies, p.1
 

           Martin Millar
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The Goddess of Buttercups & Daisies


  Praise for Martin Millar:

  ‘Undeniably brilliant’ Guardian

  ‘The funniest writer in Britain today’ GQ

  ‘Martin Millar writes like Kurt Vonnegut might have written, if he’d been born fifty years later in a different country and hung around with entirely the wrong sort of people’ Neil Gaiman

  ‘Imagine Kurt Vonnegut reading Marvel Comics with The Clash thrashing in the background. For the deceptively simple poetry of the everyday, nobody does it better’ List

  ‘The master of urban angst’ i-D Magazine

  Martin Millar was born in Scotland and now lives in London. He is the author of such novels as Lonely Werewolf Girl, Curse of the Wolf Girl and The Good Fairies of New York. Under the pseudonym of Martin Scott, he, as the Guardian put it, ‘invented a new genre: pulp fantasy noir’. Thraxas, the first book in his Thraxas series, won the World Fantasy Award in 2000. As Martin Millar and as Martin Scott, he has been widely translated.

  Visit Martin Millar at:

  www.martinmillar.com

  www.twitter.com/MartinMillar1

  Also by Martin Millar:

  Lonely Werewolf Girl

  Curse of the Wolf Girl

  The Good Fairies of New York

  Ruby and the Stone Age Diet

  The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf

  The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

  COPYRIGHT

  Published by Piatkus

  978-0-3494-0715-9

  All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2015 Martin Millar

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publisher.

  The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

  PIATKUS

  Little, Brown Book Group

  100 Victoria Embankment

  London, EC4Y 0DY

  www.littlebrown.co.uk

  www.hachette.co.uk

  The Goddess of Buttercups and Daisies

  Table of Contents

  Praise for Martin Millar:

  About the Author

  Also by Martin Millar:

  COPYRIGHT

  The City of Athens, 421 BC

  Aristophanes, playwright

  Bremusa, Amazon

  Polykarpos, Tavern Owner

  Luxos the Poet

  General Lamachus

  Aristophanes

  General Lamachus

  Kleonike, Priestess

  Bremusa, Amazon Warrior

  Luxos

  Idomeneus of Crete

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Nicias

  Bremusa

  Nicias

  Metris, Wood or Water Nymph

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes and Luxos

  Bremusa

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Metris

  Aristophanes

  Idomeneus

  The Goddess Athena

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Socrates

  Hyperbolus

  Luxos

  Laet

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes

  Idomeneus

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Luxos

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes

  The Assembly

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes

  Luxos

  Bremusa

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Luxos recites

  Rehearsal

  The Final Day of the Dionysia

  Citizens Arrive at the Theatre

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  Bremusa

  Aristophanes

  The Goddess Athena

  Aristophanes

  The Play

  Kleonike

  The Play

  Aristophanes

  Luxos

  Aristophanes

  The Amphitheatre

  Aristophanes

  Pindar

  Bremusa

  The Assembly

  The Trident

  Laet

  Luxos

  Metris

  Aristophanes

  Luxos

  Glossary

  Afterword

  The City of Athens, 421 BC

  Aristophanes, playwright

  The agora was always busy. Everyone shopped there. Coins flew from mouth to hand, and from hand to till, as goods were bought and sold. Merchants shouted out prices, friends exchanged greetings and news, while the occasional small boy, on the run from his tutor, made a dash for the safety of the stalls. With the Dionysia festival almost due to start, it was busier than ever.

  Aristophanes enjoyed his regular visits. It wasn’t that he was particularly good at buying supplies, or running his household – he left most of that to his chief servant Epiktetos – but it was a fine place for observing people. Many events that ended up in his plays had their roots in the agora. People knew he was observing them. They didn’t mind. Mostly it gave rise to mirth.

  ‘Don’t let Aristophanes see you doing that, he’ll put you in his next comedy!’

  Sosinos, at his stall selling honey cakes, greeted him warmly. ‘Aristophanes, when are you going to put me on stage?’

  ‘There’s no actor handsome enough to play you, Sosinos.’

  The stallholder laughed, as he always did. Sosinos had a reasonable stock of cakes on display, which wasn’t always the case. After ten years of war, with no end in sight, supplies of everything had run low. Sosinos’s honey cakes were one of the few treats left in the city.

  ‘Haven’t seen you for a few days. Busy at rehearsals?’

  Aristophanes nodded.

  ‘How’s it going?’

  Aristophanes made a face, and asked Sosinos if he still gambled.

  ‘All the time.’

  ‘Then bet on the opposition. My play’s a disaster.’

  ‘Come on, Aristophanes, it can’t be that bad.’

  ‘It is. There’s more chance of the Goddess Athena turning up here with a supply of honey cakes than there is of me winning first prize this year.’

  Bremusa, Amazon

  Bremusa hung back while the Goddess Athena spoke to the Goddess Hera. Bremusa had been on Mount Olympus for almost eight hundred years, but she’d never really felt that Hera accepted her. Perhaps because she was an Amazon. Or perhaps Hera just didn’t like latecomers. There were many people whom Hera didn’t like.

  ‘I hear you’ve been talking to Helios.’ Hera’s voice carried the faint tone of disapproval that residents of Olympus were used to hearing.

  Athena smiled pleasantly. She was never intimidated by Hera. ‘Indeed. I asked him to provide fine weather for the Dionysia.’

  ‘Really? I never much cared for that festival. But then, I never much cared for Athens.’

  That was something of an insult, Athena being patron of Athens.

  ‘But perhaps they deserve a good festival,’ continued Hera. ‘The way things are going, it might be their last.’

  She smiled and went on her way, up the mountain. Athena looked
momentarily troubled. Hera’s barb had landed. The goddess knew that the war between Athens and Sparta was costing her city dearly. The Athenians may have had the finest navy but the Spartan army dominated the field. In the campaigning season, the Athenians were forced to withdraw behind their city walls, while the Spartans destroyed their crops and their lands. The city could not sustain that indefinitely.

  ‘Sparta isn’t doing that well either,’ muttered Athena, which was true. Ten years of warfare had almost brought both city-states to their knees.

  Bremusa followed Athena into the goddess’s mansion. When Bremusa had first seen the building, shortly after Athena plucked her off the battlefield at Troy, she’d been startled by its luxury. The marble columns, the pool, the Corinthian couches, the statues, the amphoras – all had been new to her, and startling to a woman raised among the frugal Amazons. She was used to it now.

  ‘It’s time the war ended,’ said Athena.

  ‘Aren’t they holding a peace conference?’

  Athena frowned. ‘It’s not going as well as I’d hoped. When both of their war leaders were killed, I thought they’d make some progress.’

  ‘Athens and Sparta have never had any problem finding new war leaders. Why not just let them fight it out?’

  The Goddess Athena was blond-haired and grey-eyed. That had been another surprise to Bremusa, the first time she’d encountered her.

  ‘The war’s gone on long enough, Bremusa. I love Athens but I’m also patron of Sparta. I don’t want to see any more destruction. They need time to recover.’

  ‘Maybe they’re weak and deserve to be destroyed.’

  Athena smiled. ‘Show some sympathy.’

  ‘I never gave up a fight.’

  ‘You’d have died at Troy if I hadn’t snatched you away before Idomeneus’s spear pierced your heart.’

  ‘I wasn’t complaining,’ said Bremusa, rather tersely. She didn’t like to be reminded of her defeat at the hands of Idomeneus of Crete.

  ‘I know. When I brought you to Mount Olympus you wanted to go back and fight again. But you’re an Amazon, Bremusa. Not everyone has your endless enthusiasm for war. Look at all these prayers from Greeks, asking for peace.’

  Athena indicated the great cedar-wood table in front of the shrine, on which, every day, her servants carefully laid out the prayers made by Athenians to the goddess. Each one was carefully transcribed onto a neat piece of parchment. There was one very large bundle; prayers asking for peace.

  Bremusa pointed to a smaller pile beside them. ‘What about those?’

  ‘Prayers for victory,’ said the goddess. ‘Not so many.’

  ‘Still a reasonable bundle though. Not everyone in Athens wants peace.’

  ‘The weapon-makers are a powerful lobby. They’ve got some ambitious generals on their side.’

  Bremusa noticed another pile of prayers at the corner of the table. ‘What are they?’

  The goddess sighed. ‘Prayers from Luxos.’ She picked up one of the pieces of parchment. ‘“Dear Goddess Athena. Please help me become a successful lyric poet. No one will give me a chance because I’m the son of a poor oarsman. I know I can succeed as a poet if I can only get started. You have always been my favourite goddess. Love, Luxos.”’

  Bremusa, rather grim-faced as a rule, couldn’t prevent herself from smiling. ‘He doesn’t give up, does he? How many’s that?’

  ‘Nine this week.’

  ‘Does he perform the appropriate sacrifices when he prays?’

  ‘No. But he did leave a daisy on my altar.’ The goddess stared at the tiny flower. ‘It’s not the greatest offering I’ve ever had.’

  Polykarpos, Tavern Owner

  The Trident had once been the busiest and merriest tavern south of the acropolis. While the wealthy citizens of Athens entertained themselves at their symposiums, the poorer citizens went to Polykarpos’s. It was cheerful, noisy and profitable. Polykarpos was an excellent landlord and he’d made the Trident into a welcoming retreat for friends, acquaintances, travellers, prostitutes, singers, dancers, drinkers and anyone else who needed a cup or two of wine after a hard day’s work. Athens was a hard-working city. The citizens believed in it. They strove to improve it. They were entitled to their leisure.

  Decline had set in some years ago. As the war dragged on, and the city suffered, so did the tavern. For the first few years, citizens had maintained their optimism. People might grumble as they were called up into the army, but they put on their hoplite armour, picked up their shields, and went away to serve loyally, believing in the promises of the politicians and orators. For a while, these promises came true. Athens already ruled a large maritime empire and at first it seemed they were going to get the better of the Spartans. Then came the reverses. The war started to go badly. The Spartans marched over from the Peloponnese and began destroying Athenian lands. Athenian colonies took the opportunity to revolt and stopped paying taxes. The city’s income began to shrink. The Trident was no longer such a happy place.

  Each year the situation had become worse. After ten years of fighting, Polykarpos was fortunate to serve a few customers a day. Those who did arrive barely had the money for a small cup of wine. Even if they had, the Trident often had little to sell them. Like everything else, wine was in short supply. Athenian vineyards had been destroyed, and there was precious little coming in through the port at Piraeus.

  The elderly citizen Methodios appeared through the front door. Polykarpos hadn’t seen him for a while, though he used to be a regular. He mended fishing nets down at the harbour. He took out a small silver coin and asked for a jug of wine.

  ‘Business picking up?’

  Methodios scowled. ‘What business? I’ve got no workers left. Every young man in Piraeus is rowing a warship. Even the slaves were freed so they could be recruited. There’s no one left to mend fishing nets. The only reason I’ve got a coin to my name is because I was called up for jury duty.’

  A young prostitute, momentarily hopeful at the appearance of a customer, looked away, disappointed.

  Methodios sighed as he sipped his wine. ‘I fought the Persians. Desperate times, but they weren’t as bad as this. How long can it go on for?’

  The landlord didn’t reply. Athenians had been asking that for years, and no one had an answer.

  ‘Some Spring Festival this is going to be,’ muttered the old net-mender.

  ‘Maybe something will come of the peace conference.’

  ‘Not likely, from what I hear.’

  Polykarpos had noticed a change in attitude among his customers recently. All of them had been involved in the war in some way or another. A few years ago, there had been no talk of peace. That might have been seen as bowing down to the Spartans, which they would never do. Now, people weren’t so sure. Even when news came in of the powerful Athenian navy destroying Spartan settlements, it wasn’t greeted with the same enthusiasm it once had been. The Spartans, after all, were busy destroying theirs.

  ‘It might help if our own politicians could agree among themselves,’ said Polykarpos.

  Methodios snorted as he sipped his wine. ‘Damned politicians. Only interested in lining their own pockets. I hate them.’

  Luxos the Poet

  Luxos rose, poked his head out the window, and smiled.

  ‘It’s a beautiful morning. Good day for writing poetry.’

  He busied himself with breakfast, which didn’t take long as the only food available in his tiny dwelling was a small scrap of stale bread, hardly enough for a child’s snack. Luxos, however, was used to going without food. In the poor part of the city, many people were hungry these days. Luxos’s poverty was more extreme than most, but he had an optimistic nature and was sure something would turn up. He was nineteen, orphaned, and apparently without prospects, but he had belief in his own abilities, and a great faith in the Goddess Athena.

  He addressed his stale piece of bread, quoting a few lines from Archilochus:

  If he keeps complaining of woef
ul misfortunes,

  No citizen will take pleasure in feasting,

  It’s true my noble soul has suffered in the roaring sea

  And my heart has been broken

  But to woes incurable,

  The gods have ordained the remedy of staunch endurance.

  So banish your grief,

 
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