By the time Elyssa’s spies brought word of her uncle’s traitorous alliance with Perdiccus, Phrygian mercenaries were already raping women in the street. Melqart’s incestuous love for her mother made the young princess an irritation to the high priest. She knew her knowledge of his crimes made her so much fresh meat for the invading hoard, if he found her before she could escape the city.
The crunch of splintering doors echoed behind Elyssa, as she fled through the secret passage from the palace to the Hippodrome. This tunnel had been built to allow the corrupt priesthood to pursue their perverted pleasures, unseen by the public.
A certain odor told Elyssa she was nearing the royal stables; but this was not the smell of horses. In scores of pens that once held prized stallions, naked girls now reached out to her, crying in a dozen languages. The thought of a leering crowd watching these wretches race around the great track, harnessed to chariots, turned Elyssa’s stomach; but her desperate plan was not to free them, but to join them.
Elyssa knew Melqart had ordered a guard to escort his precious livestock safely out of reach of the Macedonians, to the sacred city of Asseopteras, to the south, where he had their permission to continue his barbaric sport. Knowing how his races horrified her, he would never send his agents to look for her among his own fillies!
“Elyssa, we must hurry!” Her lover, Antiodes, keeper of the stables, kissed her hard, but hastily. “Your messenger told me of your plan. I will meet you in Asseopteras, my love! Then, we will finally be free!”
Ripping off her gown, and throwing it into the sewer pit, Elyssa dashed to the cell Antiodes had unlocked. The big youth beat back its frantic occupants, and slammed shut the metal door, just as they heard the boot steps of the approaching guard.
The princess kept her head bowed, like the others, and prayed that none of these soldiers would recognize her. Thank Hera she seldom consorted with the lower classes!
She and the other women were bridled, shod, chained together, and marched out, shivering, into the night. The shame she felt was mixed with the irony that her best disguise was to wear nothing, at all!
The guard rode, while the slave drivers, annoyed at having to walk, mercilessly whipped any girl who faltered. The women’s legs burned at every step, from the heavy, bronze muscle-building training boots locked on their feet. They could not speak, even if they dared, with the choking bit strapped between their teeth.
In the hot afternoon sun the convoy finally entered the broad plaza of the sacred city, a great column of smoke from burning Tyre rising above its towering monuments. Here, at least, would be refuge from the invaders - better than the ravishment suffered by the Tyrean noblewomen the fillies once envied.
The dark cells of the newly-constructed Asseopteras Hippodrome were blessedly welcome, after the blazing torture of the road. The fillies collapsed on soft hay, still bound, and locked in hooves. Elyssa wondered, dully, whether survival was worth this torment. But love was worth it! “Antiodes!” she thought. “Soon, I will have you in my arms!”
Elyssa was shaken awake by rough hands. The familiar, hated voice of her uncle greeted her. Proud, even in her nudity, the princess stood and glared back through the bars at him. “You have your triumph, traitor. Do what you will with me!”
“It is not for me to say,” said Melqart. “A filly obeys only her owner.” With that, Antiodes stepped forward.
“I told you that we would be together, Elyssa. You will be the most precious pony in my chariot team!”
Her eyes followed the long line of his body down to the whip in his big hand. “Yes, master,” she said, her voice now soft, and her head properly bowed.