Troy part 2
9- Blood and Sand
Javelins slipped past shields. Swords shattered helmets and split skulls. There was a strange beauty to it all that slowed the present moment, allowing Orestes to see each strike from his enemies before it came. The young warrior, son of the invincible Achilles, seemed then to emulate him more than ever; leading the Myrmidons from the front he had driven a wedge deep into Trojan ranks, hewing down any and all that stood before him. Taking heart from his bold charge almost all of the Achaeans in the camp had taken up arms and likewise charged for the Trojans, driving them back. Shocked by such stiff opposition from an enemy they had been told would crumble to dust underneath them the Trojan militia had turned and fled, forcing the rest of the Trojan army to retreat and reform further back, allowing the Achaeans to prepare for battle in earnest.
With the impetus of their charge gone the Trojans began to feel fear creeping in through their armour and gripping their hearts. Men who had only an hour ago butchered the invaders and felt invincible now felt their legs weaken underneath them as the Achaeans gathered in full force, their minds set on victory and nothing else; for them it was either that or death, of that they were quite sure.
From the Achaean army swords and spears were smashed against shields, trumpets blew wildly and every man howled and roared wildly as if possessed. Yet the Trojan army could see almost nothing; the sheer blackness of the night engulfed the entire battlefield, and apart from the torches that dotted the Achaean ranks they could see nothing, furthering their fears. Then all at once the Achaean torches were put out and all sound died. For several minutes the Trojans simply stood there, unsure of what had happened and all the more terrified because of it. They could barely see more than four feet in front of them, and the clinking of their own armour was all they could hear. As silent as the grave.
Then they charged. Shrieking wildly and charging as one the Achaeans emerged from the night and shattered the Trojan line, butchering the terrified defenders in an orgy of blood and chaos. The Trojans tried to reform but as each moment passed more and more of their men fell, and it seemed that the entire line was about to collapse until Hector rode forward, his bodyguards at his side fearlessly following him into the horde of Achaeans before them.
Then he saw him. Encased in his black armour and followed by a band of likewise armed warriors, Hector recognised the officer from the beach as he hacked a Trojan to pieces in the blink of an eye. Raising his spear up in challenge he reared his horse back on its hind legs, bellowing at the officer to try and get his attention.
“Strategos!” He roared as he rode forward. The officer saw him coming and all around them a gap opened up; the fighting around them ceased as the soldiers paused to watch their commanders battle, both armies cheering for their respective champions.
Hector charged for Orestes, hoping to skewer him through, but the nimble warrior leapt into his path and knocked the lance away with his shield, all the while trying to cut Hector’s throat with his sword. At this he failed, and though Hector was knocked from his horse and left with only a sword to fight with Orestes’ sword strike had missed his throat and had instead glanced off of his helmet. As the armies either side of them roared approval and support the two commanders fought, neither man able to gain an advantage over the other. No one had ever seen anything like it, and by the end the stunned audience was silent, only the sound of steel ringing on steel resounding in the night.
Both soldiers had suffered minor cuts at the hands of the other, and now exhaustion had set in. Though he was the older man Hector was more experienced. He had had seen more battles and found it in himself to keep driving forward, pummelling Orestes’ shield until the warrior doubled over and dropped his splintered shield in a cry of agony, his arm broken from the punishment inflicted on it.
Hector took advantage of his adversary’s moment of weakness and roared as he stabbed down at Orestes, his blade piercing his neck through both sides and sending him crumbling to the floor. As the horrified Achaeans watched their champion bleed to death the entire Trojan army erupted in cheers, their roar accompanied by weapons being beat on shields and trumpets blaring. Deiphobus came forward and hugged his brother as soldiers stepped forward to protect their general. But the Achaeans made no move, the sheer shock of what had happened still setting in. Hector pushed his brother away and walked over to the lifeless body of his fallen enemy and tore away his armour.
“Look who has died by my sword!” He demanded as he held the bloodied cuirass overhead, gripping Orestes’ head by its hair and facing him to the demoralised Achaeans to truly let the message sink in. At the advice of his lieutenants Hector pulled the army back to the city, triumphant and praised by the army all the way. In their wake they left the Achaean army almost as lifeless as its fallen champion, and the Achaean camp was once again filled with the wailing and screams of the dying and the living, but this time they weren’t the screams of men with no hope, but of men with revenge in their heart. But even when others had come to terms with their loss or cried themselves to sleep Achilles’ shrieks could be heard echoing throughout the camp. If Hector had heard them he would have wept, both for what he had done, and for what he knew would happen because of it.
10-Blood is thicker than water
“I wasn’t there to protect him…it should have been me that fought Hector, not him. But now…now my boy is dead…” Achilles sobbed. Orestes’ body had been burnt along with the other fallen warriors, and two days had passed without Achilles leaving his tent, though his distraught shrieks and pathetic sobs could be heard by most of the men. Agamemnon crouched next to his friend in the sand, a cup of water in hand.
“Here, take this,” he said softly, offering it to Achilles. When he refused Agamemnon grunted and placed it in his hands, but the general simply let it fall to the floor, staining the sand…just like his son’s blood. His blood.
“No father should have to see his child die, least of all yours. Orestes was a fine man, and your grief, and that of all the Myrmidons, honours his memory.” Agamemnon said solemnly, his hand on Achilles’ bare shoulders, covered in sand and ash through mourning.
“His mother dead at childbirth, and now him killed in my stead…the Gods hate me, brother. I have no family left now; nothing survives me.” Achilles’ head sunk even lower and his hands cupped around the back of his neck as he began to softly cry. Agamemnon, as empathetic as he was, couldn’t help feeling agitated at his friend’s weakness when he needed to be elsewhere, or so he thought.
“But if anyone thinks that I’ll simply waste away in the shadows they’re a greater fool than that damned Hector. Send messengers to Troy; let them know that by the end of the week I’ll avenge my son’s death with Hector’s blood. Let the bastard live like there’s no tomorrow, soon there won’t be.” Achilles’ eyes burned with a fire that Agamemnon had never seen before. He nodded sternly and put aside his inner joy; though the death of Hector would tip the scales in his favour this was an act of revenge for someone who was as good as family to him, and it was a serious matter. Agamemnon hugged his friend, got to his feet and walked away, but as neared the door Achilles called out for him again.
“Another thing. I want a new shield, and new armour.”
“You’re either very brave or very stupid to come here, Achaean.” Growled Priam, his eyes fixated on the arrogant band of warriors before his throne.
“We are neither, sire. We came here under a banner of peace, and are protected in the knowledge that any action you take will dishonour your country, and be avenged by our brothers.” Replied the Achaean standing at the forefront of the pack. All 5 of them were armed for battle, covered head to toe in the terrifying black armour that still haunted the dreams of many Trojan survivors from previous battles. Such was their standing amongst the people of Troy that when they had marched through the streets of the city to Imperial Palace none had dared jeer at them, or even speak as they passed. Many considered them demons, as was seen in the distance that the royal court kept from them; only Priam, sat on his throne, and the guards that surrounded the Myrmidons were still in the same room as them.
“Speak your purpose, demon.” The King ordered curtly. The leader of the pack grinned wolfishly in response, almost to challenge his command before speaking.
“My Lord, Achilles, mourns the death of his son, the brave Orestes who died fighting Hector.” The warrior explained bitterly, his eyes dropping slightly; he had known Orestes, and missed him as much as the next man. But when his gaze met Priam’s again his light eyes shined with malice, and he smiled again as he spoke.
“In honour of his son, Achilles challenges Hector to a fight to the death. Before the week’s end he will be here, and before he leaves your son’s blood will stain the sands, just as his did.”
Priam regarded the messenger with contempt, but inside felt his bowels tighten and squirm with fear. Knowing full well the measures he would go to in order to avenge his son’s death, he could only imagine the sheer ferocity of Achilles when unleashed on Hector, and deep inside knew his son wouldn’t stand a chance. Brushing away his morose thoughts he stood up and regarded the messenger with contempt.
“And should I extend the same courtesy to every one of your men who has lost a brother, cousin or friend? What you ask of me is ridiculous; now leave before I lose my patience.” He barked, nodding at the guards around him who lowered their spears to face the Myrmidons. Unperturbed by the show of force that was barely more than a few inches away from their faces, the Myrmidons stood their ground and the messenger laughed softly.
“I’m not surprised that you’d refuse; after all, Achilles could butcher Hector in an instant. But before you dismiss us, hear the last bit of my lord’s offer. If you accept his challenge to combat then he swears that, regardless of who wins, his entire army will sail back to Achaea and not take arms up against your people. If, however, you refuse, Achilles will slate his thirst for blood with that of all of Troy’s sons, and will start by decimating every town, village and hamlet in the countryside. What should I tell my master?”
Priam sank into his seat, the words of the messenger weighing heavily on his mind. How could he send his own son to his death? Hector, his pride and joy and the champion of all of Troy. But if he refused then the death toll would be even greater, and his own people might turn on him. Under the arrogant leer of the messenger, under the ashamed gaze of his ancestors, Priam let his head hang low as a single tear rolled down his cheek, and he nodded.
The mighty Gate of Troy rumbles open, and out of it marches a lone warrior. Dressed in the ornate silver scale armour of the Trojan royal household and wearing the conical helmet adorned with a blue crest, the man needs no introduction; Hector, Prince of Troy.
Opposite him, standing vigilantly in full view of the crowd that throngs the walls, is Achilles. For hours he has stood there, awaiting the arrival of his opponent, but now he waits with anticipation as Hector crosses the distance between them. As he approaches, the young Prince observes that his adversary no longer wears the black armour of the Myrmidons, but something new.
His helmet is no longer like that of the other Greek infantry; his face is now clearly seen, with his nose and cheeks still protected by lighter plates. A solid red crest rises out of the centre of his helmet, flowing freely at the bottom of it and swaying down his neck, and two white feathers rise out from either side of the crest at the front. His old black shield is gone, replaced by an ornate shield of gold, decorated with superb symbols and figures representing the cycles of life, love and peace. An ironic design for such a tool.
His shins are protected by golden greaves, and besides a white tunic he wears nothing else, leaving his entire upper body exposed to the elements. Even his sword is kept away, left in its sheath strapped to the inside of his shield, almost as if he doesn’t intend to fight.
Standing opposite him with his spear and shield in hand, Hector stands at ease, unsure of what his opponent intends to do.
“You stabbed my son here,” Achilles says at length, pointing to the side of his neck with his free hand, “but that didn’t kill him. While you and your horde of barbarians celebrated his death he bled and choked to death, unable to breathe or even move because of what you had done until you manhandled his corpse and put him on display like a circus animal. I’ll repay you with interest, and by the end of this I’ll ride around your city with your head in hand, so that all of Troy will know that Hector is dead.” And with that the warrior charges forward.
Achilles jabs at Hector’s head with the rim of his shield, aiming to crush his skull, but the Trojan prince brings his own shield up in time just to block it. Even though his face is protected the sheer weight of the Achaean’s charge slams Hector to the floor, and within an instant Achilles is already upon, slamming his shield down on Hector’s head.
Or at least he would be if the Trojan hadn’t rolled away just in time to escape the bone crushing blows of his adversary. Realising that his enemy is too close for his long spear to be any good, Hector leaves it lying on the floor and draws his sword as he gets to his feet, eager to strike back at his wild opponent.
But try as he might, no matter where he strikes or whether he cuts, slashes or stabs, Achilles always parries the blow with superb form. And all without even drawing his sword…
As fatigue sets in Hector’s strikes become slower and easier to predict. When he draws his elbow back to stab out at his foe Achilles simply holds his shield flatly over his chest and charges forward, pushing the oncoming blade aside and crushing the rim of his shield into Hector’s chest, winding the Trojan and again sending him crumbling to the floor. But rather than deliver the killing blow to his breathless and seemingly defeated opponent Achilles simply paces around him, his breaths sharp and fast.
“Get up Hector,” he growls under his breath. “I’m not done humiliating you in front of your city.” Such is Hector’s exhaustion that he doesn’t even pick up his shield; he doesn’t have the strength for it anymore. Instead, he lets out a war cry as he charges forward, sword ready to be swung down on Achilles’ head in a killing blow. But the Achaean, fresh and clear of mind, anticipates the strike before Hector lands it and steps outside of the blow, and as Hector stumbles around as he tries to face his opponent Achilles slams his shield into the side of his head, flinging his helmet away and leaving the disorientated Prince to stumble around in agony.
“I’d say I’m about done now.” The Achaean mutters, and when Hector blindly swings his sword at Achilles the mercenary kills him in the blink of an eye; he slams his shield into Hector’s sword hand, crushing it and sending his sword flying. Before even bringing his shield back in he uses his free hand to unsheathe his own sword and draws it out and to the side, cutting Hector’s throat in one fluid motion. As the Prince collapses to the floor the blood soaked Achaean grips him by the hair with his shield hand and props him up on his knees. Even as Hector chokes and bleeds to death in front of him the mercenary begins hacking at his neck with his sword until the head is cleaved from the body. Letting out a cry of victory Achilles then mounts his horse and rides around the walls of Troy, holding Hector’s head by the hair on high all the while.
“Look who has died by my sword!” He roars for all to hear. The walls of Troy are silent.
By the time the Royal Family had burnt the body of their fallen Prince and retired to the Palace the sun had long since set, and only the flaming torches lit the way before them as Priam and Paris walked alongside each other to their respective chambers. Both men had wept long and hard for their loss, and even now their eyes were still red, but even so they had managed to compose themselves.
“Have you spoken to your brother since…” Priam asked, not wanting to finish the question. Paris nodded at first, but then shook his head, his face lined with stress.
“I tried. He’s….still not coming to terms with it. None of us are really but…well, I just think you should talk to him. Good night father.” Paris hugged his father and walked off, holding the tears back until he was lying in his bed with Helen, where he wept through the night.
Priam, however, wasn’t ready to sleep just yet, and decided to visit his distraught son. As he approached his son’s chamber the guards that had been posted at his door stood to attention, giving Priam passage into the chamber before blocking the doorway again. They had heard nothing but the weeping and shrieks of their young Prince since his return to the Palace, and secretly prayed that Priam would be able to set his son’s mind at ease and give them peace and quiet for the remainder of their shift.
For a few uneasy moments Priam stood at the foot of the bed, until finally he sat down next to his weeping son, who simply turned his back on him. Priam cleared his throat and was about to speak when he was interrupted.
“How could you do it, father? Your own flesh and blood…sacrificed like that.” He demanded, choking back the tears to berate his father. Priam bowed his head in shame when he spoke, his voice low and husky.
“Your brother chose to do it. He did it-he did it for the good of Troy.” He replied, his voice wavering and tears welling up in his eyes as he spoke. He turned and took his son by the hand, trying to smile. “I thank the Gods that you still live, my son.”
“The Gods? The Gods have cursed us, and I curse you. fu ck you, father, for letting him die like that. And fu ck Troy; it was never worth his life.” Priam sat in stunned silence at his son’s words, and after a few minutes of tense quiet stood and shuffled back to the door. But before he walked out he turned around and looked back at his son, the tears flowing freely down his face now.
“He did it for you, Hector.” And with that he walked out, leaving the grieving Trojan Prince all alone in Deiphobus’ bed, gripping his brother’s bloodied helmet and weeping through the night.
11- The enemy of my enemy
For months the war dragged on. Despite Deiphobus having taken to the sand against Achilles and having died in his brother’s name the mercenary general hadn’t sailed home, but had instead stayed in Agamemnon’s camp, constantly making preparations for the return journey but never enacting him. He may have supposedly avenged his son’s death, but it had not filled the void that was now his soul.
The Achaeans themselves were just as indecisive. Agamemnon, at Menelaus’ urging, had sent out small parties of soldiers to Troy in an effort to draw the defenders out into an ambush, but the Trojans had seen fit to either wait for the scouts to draw too close to Troy’s walls and decimate them with arrow fire or let them parade around the city all they liked. And all the while the Trojans grew stronger…
The mood in Agamemnon’s tent was palpable. Most of the assembled officers and generals were gaunt in the face from the rationing that had been imposed on the army and many were absent due to sickness. The price of war was taking its toll on the condition of the army.
“We can’t just sit around here anymore. We need to act! Each day that passes sees more and more of Priam’s messengers ride out to other Trojan cities and call for armies to come to their aid. If we just stay here we’ll be overwhelmed by a combined force of Trojans in our sleep…again.” Odysseus exclaimed, hesitating to mention the night attack in too much detail out of embarrassment, despite Achilles’ absence. Since no one had seen or heard him sneak into Achilles’ tent and knock him out he had managed to avoid blame for the incident, and it had instead been blamed on the mercenary’s excessive drinking. As for Odysseus, his revenge was satisfied; just as his men had to live with the loss of their comrades, so now would Achilles lives with the loss of his son. All’s fair in love and war…
“I agree with Odysseus,” announced Menelaus. “Let’s just take the fight to Troy. Assault its walls! If we capture them then our men can easily march into the city and the war will be over. I’ll have that b itch back and you’ll have the city.” Odysseus flinched at Menelaus’ blatant disregard for their soldiers’ safety and Agamemnon voiced his concerns.
“Firstly, the city’s walls are immense. Just constructing the necessary equipment to get on top of them would cost time and money, and as I understand it those are in short supply as of now. Secondly, we’d need to be at full strength if we wanted half a chance at storming the walls, and we’re far from that right now. We need a quick, decisive way to subdue the Trojans…and we need it now.” He declared bitterly, clenching his fists in irritation as he spoke. Ever since they had landed they had sent emissaries demanding Helen’s return in the hope that the conflict would have been avoided, but the stubborn Trojans had refused, and the recent bloodshed had made them dig in ever more.
“I can help you.” Came the voice of a newcomer; a tall, cloaked stranger that had entered the tent, guards either side of him. The entire assembly looked at him quizzically; he bore the look of a man in mourning, but his posture and the way he held himself in regard showed him to clearly be a man of nobility.
“Who are you?” Menelaus growled at the stranger. “And why the hell did you let him in?” He roared, turning on the guards either side of them. They opened their mouths in response but Agamemnon silenced them with his hand and motioned for them to leave.
“By the Gods, man, how are you still alive?” He asked, his voice barely a whisper.
“Do you know who this is?” Menelaus demanded, pointing threateningly at the unmasked stranger. Agamemnon nodded, and even as he spoke his eyes were fixated on the man before him.
“I’m surprised you don’t remember him, although when he was in our company you were drinking most of the time. Menelaus, this is Hector.”
12- Hell hath no fury like a Prince betrayed
The entire assembly stared at the Trojan Prince with shock and horror, all but Agamemnon and the bemused Odysseus, who simply laughed hollowly as he shook his head.
“Achilles fought a decoy…” his words trailed off into laughter, drowned out by the murmurs of the officers until Agamemnon silenced them.
“Why would you help us, Hector?” He asked suspiciously. The Trojan Prince lowered his head slightly when asked, and before he spoke Agamemnon knew it was to do with Achilles’ duel with ‘Hector.’
“Your friend is indeed right; Achilles fought a decoy, my brother. It was done without my knowing, because there’s no way I would have let it happen.” He had to clear his throat and pause for a brief moment to stop his voice from trembling, although the others knew that he was wracked with grief.
“I don’t care what happens to Troy. All my life I’ve fought for her, but no one thought twice about sending my baby brother to his death. It’s revenge I want.” He said curtly, his eyes glistening with both tears and a look of purpose. Agamemnon shook his head.
“I’ve already allowed for a duel in the name of revenge and it’s simply compounded by friend’s condition. I’ll not let you challenge him to a fight, even if you were to open the gates of Troy for us.” He replied, brushing away the request with his hand. Hector laughed dryly and shook his head.
“No, that’s not what I want. I want to see Troy burn, and my heartless father and that coward of a brother with it.” He whispered, visibly seething with rage. Once again, shock rippled through all in his presence, and again it took Agamemnon’s roar to quieten them.
“Very well, Hector. We’ll listen to your plan.” He announced. Hector nodded and explained, and as all present listened they felt their hearts leap with joy; an end to this chaos, at last.
Aeneas of Dardanus was a man of honour. The son of King Priam’s cousin, he was well known to the Royal Family not just for his distant relation by blood, but for his character; a man of tradition and honour, he had earned respect from his own people for his honouring of the ancient ways and of his enemies for his noble hand in battle. So it came as no surprise to the council of Dardanus when he offered to raise and personally command a citizen army to march south to help the beleaguered city of Troy in its struggle with the Achaeans. Marching at the head of his army of 5,000 newly recruited and trained soldiers, he felt a surge of pride; each step brought him and his men closer to Troy, closer to other men of royal blood and noble birth. The army was likewise in good spirits, as they were marching through a large, sloping valley with gorgeous farmland and other grassy mountains all around them. War may not be a beautiful thing, but at least seeing their country so would give the men more reason to fight.
But these joyous thoughts were cut short as the steady singing of the army that matched their pace turned to screams of agony and cries of panic; from either side arrows, javelins and rocks were being hurled down into the Trojan ranks, decimating the infantry. Aeneas called for his men to stand firm as his bodyguard began to surround him, though he secretly knew that an ambush on the march tied in with a militia force meant that he was at a strong disadvantage.
And as Aeneas considered the situation and what to do, the valley glittered with bronze as the previously unseen enemy emerged. From all around them armoured warriors appeared, slamming weapons against their shields and bellowing at the Trojans to weaken their spirit. Aeneas, seeing that his men were beginning to waver, grabbed a javelin from one of his befuddled troopers and aimed for the nearest Achaean. Even uphill his aim rang true, and as the skewered soldier tumbled down the slope to the feet of Aeneas’ men the other Achaeans stopped their chanting.
“See, they are just men, and they die like any others! Kill them all!” Aeneas cried, charging with his men head first into the enemy. Head first into certain doom. To glory.
It was still late when the Achaeans were at the site of the slaughter. The Trojans had made headway down into the valley and some had even managed to escape, but when the Achaean infantry had closed the noose around the neck of the Trojans the result was a brutal massacre. As per Hector’s orders the corpses were stripped of armour and weapons which were loaded onto wagons, ready to be taken back to camp.
“Cutting off their reinforcements? That’s not exactly a decisive strategy now, is it?” Menelaus sneered as he walked over to Hector. The Trojan Prince was overseeing the scavenging of the dead, and as he turned to face the Spartan King the flicking light from the torches all around illuminated his stone gaze.
“More than that. Much more.” He replied lamely before turning back and barking commands at the exhausted soldiers. Menelaus was about to reply when the sound of a horse and of the Achaean language were heard from the darkness, each hoof fall yet nearer to the unholy battleground.
“Prince Hector!” Cried a lone rider atop a superb charger as he rode up to the Trojan. Panting, the man dismounted and doubled over to catch his breath, all the while holding onto the reins of the horse.
“Steady boy, catch your breath.” Hector replied in fluent Greek. Menelaus cocked an eyebrow, surprised that the savage could speak his language so well.
“We chased down the survivors as per your orders, sire,” the rider explained, “and we managed to kill them, all but one. He dismounted from his horse and butchered the others. By the time I was there he had taken off and I was the only one left, but the fool left his horse. I figured you might want it.” The soldier bowed his head as he spoke, and Hector nodded firmly in response.
“Well that’s nice, 5,000 of your friends dead and you get a pretty new horse. How does this get us into Troy?” Menelaus demanded, fuming at the apparent triviality of this all. Hector, who was stroking and inspecting the horse, simply turned and grinned sheepishly, unnerving the Spartan King.
“Immensely, Menelaus. It helps us immensely.” And as he spoke his eyes lit up with madness, and the promise of revenge.
13- Ashes to Ashes
Exhausted, bloodied and stripped to his tunic, Aeneas stood before the war council, hands shackled together.
“You may be family Aeneas, but you know the customs of our people. No commander can flee the field of battle, and if what you say is true…you left your men to die.” Priam shook his head as he spoke, not able to believe the words as they left his mouth. The entire council was silent, and the glares of the assembled men, as well as the accusations levied against him, would have ashamed any man, but not Aeneas. He raised his head and stared at Priam intently.
“That’s not what happened, my King. When the Achaeans ambushed us I knew that there was no way we could win the day other than to try and fight our way out and escape. We managed to cut a wedge into them, but most of the army was cut off by enemy reinforcements and those that escaped with me were cut down. By the time we realised that our comrades were trapped there was nothing we could do for them…” Aeneas felt sorrow as he spoke, not for his own acts, but for the loss of so many of his countrymen.
“The enemy shouldn’t have known that we were there though. Someone is feeding them information, my lord.” At this the entire council roared disapproval, and the remark was enough to infuriate Priam to the point that he bounded out of his seat and motioned for guards to grab Aeneas.
“To think that any son of Troy would betray her is sacrilege, boy! Take him to the holding cells and keep him there. We’ll decide what to do with you later!” He barked as the guards walked away, Aeneas proudly refusing to be dragged and instead walking ahead of them. With that matter out of the way Priam sat back down and sighed deeply before pressing ahead.
“Is there any news on Hector’s whereabouts?” He asked. The council exchanged uneasy glances and for a few moments no one dared to speak, each man waiting for another to take up the task. Finally Asius stood up, the older man the bravest of all them.
“My King, we still have no idea where Hector is. Following Deiphobus’ death he was said to have ridden to the coast. I fear,” Asius cleared his throat nervously as he prepared to utter the impossible, “I fear that Hector may have travelled to the Achaean camp for revenge and fallen.” A grave silence followed Asius’ assessment of the situation, and the look of distress on Priam’s face was obvious. The grief stricken King felt his hand tremble as he rubbed his forehead in desperation.
“Why do you punish me so?” He whispered angrily, loud enough for only Paris, his only remaining son, to hear. The Trojan Prince was overcome with guilt yet again, and was inwardly glad when his father pushed aside his own grief, although only for selfish reasons.
“Hector is the greatest military mind the world has ever seen, let alone Troy.” He announced boldly. “If he has fallen…this war will claim many more lives. His fate, as ever, is in the hands of the Gods,” he said as he rose, followed by the rest of the council. As he turned and walked away his voice was hushed, as if he was speaking to himself. “Let us hope they are merciful.”
“This armour’s a nuisance! What do they call it, scale armour?”
“How’s this tiny shield going to help us when we fight?”
“Nice swords, at least.”
These were the comments that were uttered by the 3,000 soldiers under Hector’s command as they marched for Troy, dressed and armed in the weapons of their recently butchered enemies. The main Achaean force was marching well behind them, and as each step brought them closer to Troy Hector felt his spirits rise ever higher, and prayed to the Gods to slate his bloodlust.
“I have to admit that this is probably the best idea I’ve ever heard of. Suicidal, but definitely the best.” Odysseus remarked as he rode up beside Hector. Dressed uneasily in the armour of one of Hector’s cavalrymen, the Achaean King had demanded that he be offered a place in the initial force in the city, despite the risk.
“I did tell you that before you came, you know.” The Trojan Prince replied casually. Of all of the enemies that he had conversed with Odysseus was the most agreeable, not to mention one of the only ones that Hector would hold conversation with. Odysseus chuckled back, shaking his head.
“You do realise, of course, that if I survive this that I’m going to take credit for it? I’ll be damned if I come out alive only for the credit to be given to some megalomaniac.” He joked, to which Hector dared a smile.
“Given freely. History can forget me after this.” He said, his face turning harder and all emotion leaving his voice. “Now steel yourself to our purpose, our victory is at hand.”
From the walls of Troy cries ring out. At first the people of the city quail in fear, terrified that the enemy comes to attack their city, but as they watch and listen to the soldiers on the walls they realise that they are safe.
“Hector! Hector is returned!” The soldiers on the walls declare joyously, hugging each other and laughing as they see their champion returning to his city at the head of another army. With the news of Hector’s return made public the entire city comes to life, and within the hour all of Troy lines the city streets, eager to see Hector march through its monolithic gates once again.
And when they do see them open the throngs of people are even more jubilant; as the rugged Prince rides through the gate of Troy with his grizzled warriors at his back petals are dropped from the gatehouse towers, showering the returning soldiers with scented flowers. Ahead of Hector he sees his family awaiting him; standing at the forefront of their guards, slaves and noblemen is his father, a broad smile plastered across his tear soaked face. Next to him stands Paris, and on the other side Hector’s wife, Andromache, and their son Astyanax. As Hector nears them he orders for the army to hold, and he waits as his brother walks forward to take the reins of his horse.
Paris smiles weakly at Hector, knowing of the hate he harbours for him and the blame he rests on his shoulders for the war, but instead Hector smiles back at him. He stands in the saddle and takes off his helmet for all to see, and the crowds cheer; their fallen champion, or so they believe, has returned to them with an army of warriors ready for battle! But when Hector sits back down in the saddle he hurls away his helmet and draws his sword, and as he does so the entire army follows suit.
“For Deiphobus!” Hector bellows in Achaean as his sword finds its mark in Paris’ neck. The befuddled Prince crashes to the floor and screams mutely as his blood pours out onto the cobbled street of Troy, and all around him screams of panic echo throughout the city as Hector’s army turns on the true Trojan soldiers, securing the gatehouse for the incoming Achaeans. With his brother dead at his feet Hector rears his horse and points his bloodied sword at his petrified father who is rushed back to the Palace by bodyguards along with the rest of the nobility.
“Abandon your posts!” Hector roars as the carnage unfolds all around them. “Abandon your homes! Abandon all hope!”
Even from his cell Aeneas knew that something was wrong. Deep in the underbelly of the Palace, the holding cells were reserved for traitors and enemies of the state awaiting execution, and the cells resembled it; damp, with only a few torches lining the row of sparse cells, the only real light source came from the steps opposite the cells that led back up to the Palace. And screams, as well as light, were coming down.
“What’s going on out there?” Aeneas demanded as he walked up to his cell door and peered through the small window reinforced with iron bars.. The guard was seated on a small wooden stool at the foot of the steps, and seemed as uninterested in his job as he was in Aeneas’ query.
“How the hell should I know? I’m not out there am I?” He growled in response, apparently more angry at the reality of the situation than Aeneas for asking. The exasperated commander paced his cell back and forth, nervous about what was happening and irritated at his powerlessness.
“Himon! Get off your arse you lazy bastard, the Achaeans are inside the city!” Someone shouted from the top of the stairs. The startled guard simply gawped up at his friend, who rushed down the steps and pulled him to his feet. “Let’s go!”
“Wait!” Aeneas shouted, reaching out through the bars to the befuddled guard and his overbearing comrade. “Please, I beg you, let me out. The Achaeans will kill me if I don’t get out, and I have family in the city.” He pleaded with desperate eyes. Himon seemed to consider it, but his friend was forcibly trying to move him from his seat.
“We can’t waste time here damn it!” He bellowed as he slapped him before running halfway up the steps. Himon pulled a ring of keys up from the floor and began to search through them for Aeneas’, but eventually thought better of it and simply dashed them through the window of Aeneas’ cell before turning and running up to his friend. It took Aeneas precious minutes to find his key and unlock his door, but as soon it swung open the commander dashed out of his cell and up into the palace, intent on escaping the city before it became an inferno littered with corpses.
Aeneas emerged, not to see the fair city that he had aspired to once live in, but to a hell on earth. The setting sun and bloody sky seemed to prophesise Troy’s fate, and Aeneas ran to find the nearest armoury he could hear the screams of thousands of Trojans piercing the air from the city streets. The Achaeans were turning through houses and butchering all within. Soon they would begin to march through the city until they reached the Palace, and when that happened Aeneas needed to be long gone.
“What the hell are you doing?” A voice barked from behind Aeneas. The stunned commander turned around, newly acquired scale armour adorned on his chest, to face his inquisitor.
“Just tooling up.” He replied as sternly as he could; even with the crisis unfolding he knew that Priam might want to keep Aeneas contained, and he was wary that this old warrior may have been sent for just that purpose. But apparently not.
“Good, we need every pair of hands we can get. Come with me, I’ll take you to-”
“Soldier- what’s your name?” Aeneas asked, interrupting the older man, only to regret it. Piercing eyes fixed themselves on Aeneas with a look of rage, as if infuriated that he would interrupt him.
“Julius, King’s Guard.” He said curtly, his words carrying weight.
“Listen to me Julius; we can’t stay here. With the Achaeans inside the city we don’t stand a chance and you know it. All that’s left to do is escape the city and-” This time Julius interrupted him, although it was with a harsh slap first.
“Escape?! You coward! I’d rather fight to my dying breath than leave my brothers in arms behind!” He bellowed, and was about to deliver a heavier blow when Aeneas blocked the punch, gripping his wrist and drawing close to Julius.
“I am Aeneas of Dardanus, family to King Priam, and I am no coward.” Releasing his grip on Julius’ wrist he stepped back, grabbing a sheathed sword and shield from the armoury as he spoke.
“No reinforcements are coming to Troy, and with the Achaeans inside we’ll be slaughtered…we are being slaughtered,” he said bitterly. Julius bowed his head with rage, but continued to listen. “The only hope for our people is to take as many as we can and flee. The fleet is anchored near Troy, if we can reach it we can sail to safety, and our people will live on! We may lose our city, Julius, but we will live on.” He assured the older man, gripping his shoulders and looking into his eyes with desperation. Reluctantly, but with hope in his heart, Julius nodded.
“We must go to Priam first though and convince him to come with us, else no one will follow us.”
As they left the armoury and headed for the main Palace they could see the carnage unfurling in the city below them. Entire sections of the city were alight, and the streets surged with rampaging Achaeans. Aeneas was momentarily stunned, but followed Julius down the deserted corridor until they reached the broad steps of the gardens that led up to the Palace proper. As they ran up the steps and past beautiful gardens which would be soon steeped they heard a horse riding behind them. They turned just in time to jump out of the way of the oncoming horse and rider, who seemed hell bent on reaching the Palace at the top.
“That-that’s my bloody horse!” Aeneas cried, in surprise at what happened more than anything else. Cursing, Julius pulled the bruised commander to his feet and set off again, Aeneas at his side.
“Didn’t you recognize who that was?” He panted at Aeneas, who shook his head.
“I didn’t catch a glimpse at his face- who was it?” He replied, considerably more coherently than the tired bodyguard.
“Hector! And if I were to-” Julius’ words were cut short as a javelin skewered him, the head of it clearly punching through both sides of his armour. Coughing blood, the old warrior stumbled to the floor, grabbing hold of Aeneas and dragging him to the floor as he went down. Aeneas tried to get to his feet and face the new threat, and as he pushed the dying soldier off of him he could hear another horse nearing him. By the time the rider stopped Aeneas was on his feet, albeit shakily, and Julius was still bleeding out.
“The man who just rode past- who was he?” The rider demanded in Achaean. Aeneas, unfamiliar with the language, held his shield and sword at the ready, although the rider’s lack of aggression stayed his hand from striking out, as does his curious attire. Riding bare-chested and protected by merely his ornate shield, greaves and helmet, the Achaean seemed completely at ease with regards to the armed soldier before him, although Aneas could see the anger in his eyes.
“Who was he?!” The rider demanded again, pointing after the previous horseman. Aeneas, guessing what he wanted, uttered the word ‘Hector,’ at which the rider spurred his horse on with purpose, leaving Aeneas with his life. His surprise at this vanished when he turned around to see the entire Achaean army heading his way, but as Aeneas turned to flee to the Palace he heard Julius stirring.
“That-was that Achilles?” He gasped through mouthfuls of blood. Always a compassionate soldier to his countrymen, Aeneas ignored the impending horde and knelt besides Julius in an effort to comfort the warrior.
“When I tell the story it certainly will be.” He replied softly, gripping Julius’ pale hands with his own. The warrior leaned to the side and spat out a mouthful of blood before looking back at Aeneas.
“Save our people.” He uttered, before he began to sob and whine as all men do when death approaches. Aeneas couldn’t hold back the tears that welled in his eyes, and even when Julius had breathed his final breath he stayed by his side. It was only when his thoughts came back to the present and he turned to his left that he saw the Achaeans, now only a stones throw away. Ducking out of the way of a javelin, Aeneas jumped to his feet and slung his shield on his back before dashing up the steps towards the Palace, away from the corpse of his late comrade Julius, and away from the wild, screaming mass of killers that followed him.
Hector’s footsteps echoed out on the marble as he walked through the Palace into the room where his father and the rest of the nobility were cowering. Or at least, they were.
The shrine room was broad, with statues of champions and past Kings lining the sides. Several dozen men, women and children of class were huddled together at the far end of the room, but in the centre knelt his father. A large sanded square lay in the middle, with a statue of Zeus in the centre, and Priam in front of it, back turned to Hector, praying to the God of Gods.
“Why have you done this my son?” He asked at length, still facing the statue of Zeus. “Why have you doomed us all?”
“In the name of my brother, the warrior you so readily sacrificed.” He raised his sword and passed it over the crowd of nobles at the back of the room. “The champion you all so readily gave up!”
“Deiphobus was a champion. He volunteered to do it so that you could live…but I regret letting him make that sacrifice.” Priam said, turning his head slightly. “I have seen my boys cut to pieces before my very eyes Hector…I happily go to meet them.” He said softly, tilting his head to one side and pulling his robes down from his neck to bare his skin. Hector paced over to his father and circled him, stopping in front of and placing his sword down against the base of his neck, eager to fulfil his revenge. Eager to avenge Deiphobus once and for all…
“HECTOR!” The Trojan Prince looked up just in time to spot the javelin that nearly split his skull before jumping to the side. The javelin crashed into the statue of Zeus, drawing a gasp from Priam.
“You must be Achilles.” Hector mused. Achilles nodded and drew his sword, casting away his shield to make the fight fair between him and his opponent.
“I’ve come to avenge my son’s death, and this time I will not be deceived.” He exclaimed, to which Hector nodded.
“A moment please, I’m here to conduct business of my own.” He drew his sword up, ready to kill his father when another intruder called for him.
“Prince Hector!” It was Aeneas. Hector sighed, irritated at the constant interruptions.
“Gods be damned, what now?” He shouted. Aeneas, stunned and unaware of what was happening, had to assume that Hector was the one that had gotten the Achaeans into the city as part of some mad bloodlust, and that now he sought to wipe out the nobility of Troy.
“Please Hector, turn back the Achaeans! They turn through the streets, butchering all in their path, and now they come here! Save Troy!” He pleaded, but Hector simply barked a harsh laugh in return before sinking his sword deep into his father’s throat.
“Let Troy burn for all I f ucking care!” He shouted, ripping the blade out of Priam and pushing him to the floor as his blood sprayed out. Walking to Achilles, he held his sword out in challenge.
“Let us finish this!” He hissed, and the Achaean lunged forwards, stabbing out at Hector. The Trojan simply moved to the side, blocking his blow and preparing to trip him up, but as he passed Hector the Achaean swung his empty hand back, landing a heavy blow against Hector’s nose that burst it in a shower of blood. Stumbling back from Achilles the Trojan Prince spat the blood away and growled in irritation. Charging forward at Achilles he made a swing at the Achaean, only for his wrist to be grabbed by Achilles’ free hand and his sword plunged into his gut. Hector let out a cry of agony as Achilles dug the blade deeper and deeper until blood began to flow not just from the wound, but from his mouth. Finally Achilles withdrew his sword, and the fallen Trojan collapsed to the floor, his blood mingling with that of his own father.
By now the Achaeans had reached the Palace, and on seeing Achilles finally kill Hector they began cheering, chanting Achilles and singing praises to the Gods. Aeneas had been pushed onto his knees and had a blade to his throat. Turning to his countrymen, Achilles held his hands up to silence them.
“Myrmidons! Achaeans! My brothers; we have lost many of-” Hector let out a shout as he chopped at Achilles’ leg from the floor, the blade cutting through his calf and practically severing his leg from the knee down. As Achilles collapsed to the floor in a shriek of agony several of his Myrmidons charged forward, skewering the Trojan Prince through, killing him once and for all whilst others ran forward to bandage and support their fallen lord. But bleeding as much as he was, there was no hope for the mercenary…
Agamemnon reached out and caressed his friend’s face as tears came to his eyes. His dearest friend who had lost so much but nearly survived the war had been consumed by the conflict.
“Live by the sword…” Achilles panted sharply, drawing a weak smirk from his friend. Agamemnon stood up and looked at the back of the room; there stood the rest of the Trojans…dead men walking.
“Slaughter them, along with all of the people we rounded up!” He bellowed, to the jubilant cheers of his army. But as the Achaeans started forward Achilles reached up and gripped Agamemnon’s armour, pulling him down low.
“Let them….go,” he begged. Shivering and pale with the loss of blood, Agamemnon knew that his friend didn’t have long left, but the mercenary persisted. “Hector wanted Troy exterminated…don’t let him have that. Please,” he pleaded through his tears, “for me, brother.” And with that he passed away, ending a line of champions that the world had feared. As his men began to weep and mourn the death of their champion, Agamemnon stood up and stared over at the Trojans in the far end of the room. Picking up a sword from the floor he began to walk over to them, but his brother held him back.
“Honour your friend, brother,” he said softly, choking back his own tears when he saw Agamemnon starting to cry. He had been the one that demanded this war start, but now he had had enough of it. He had seen enough men die, and now it seemed that the war had consumed his brother, an idealistic man who had seen a vision of a greater Greece.
“Menelaus…” It was Helen. The woman that was the cause of the whole war. She walked forward from the other Trojans and knelt in the centre of the sand, next to the statue of Zeus. Now it was Menelaus’ turn to be taken by the red mist, and as he walked over to her he took the sword from his brother.
“Look at me.” He hissed as he placed the bloodied sword to her throat. She lifted her head and as their eyes met Menelaus felt his resolve weaken.
“Why?” He demanded, grabbing her head with his free hand. “Why?!” Helen began to cry, shivering with fear.
“I don’t know…I’m sorry. Please,” she said, reaching up and cupping his face in her hands, “please don’t kill our children. Do whatever you want to me, but not our children….” As she trailed off into tears Menelaus dropped his sword and knelt down in front her, embracing his estranged wife and crying as well.
The warrior had become the lover, and the philosopher the killer. Agamemnon could only smirk as he saw his brother fall into Helen’s arms, and then he sighed. What to do now? The entire Royal Family had been wiped out, yet he had to fulfil Achilles’ wishes.
“Who leads here?” He demanded, cutting through the silence of the room. None answered, and all that could be heard was the coupled weeping of his brother and whore wife. Again, Agamemnon looked at the Trojans.
“Who leads here?”
“I…I do.” Came a voice from behind Agamemnon. It was Aeneas. “My father is the cousin of King Priam…was…is.” He stuttered, unsure of grammatical normality at a time like this. Agamemnon ordered the Achaeans around Aeneas to bring him over, and he looked into the young Trojan’s eyes.
“Hector’s wife and child will be killed, thrown from the city walls as a sacrifice to the Gods.” He told Aeneas, not a sign of emotion in his voice. “You will take these vermin,” he motioned to the Trojans at the back of the room, “and the few survivors my men detain throughout the city. They would have been slaves, but Achilles…Achilles would disapprove.” He said flatly, not daring to look at the corpse of his friend. Aeneas nodded.
“You will sail away from here, and never come back. I don’t care where you settle, but it will not be in the lands of Troy or anywhere within my own lands, do you understand?”
“Yes sir.” Aeneas responded, past fears removed with the assignment of responsibility. Agamemnon sighed and waved him away, and with that Aeneas walked out of the Palace, out of Troy, and into the pages of history.
Aeneas hacks and coughs, spitting sand out from his mouth. Looking around him he sees that many of his comrades are dead, and as he drags himself to his feet the sheer heat and power of the sun shocks him, blinding his eyes momentarily. When his vision clears he sees that, though his comrades may be dead or unconscious, he is not alone on the beach, and further off sees a handful of natives. Waving to them, he’s gratified to see them smiling back, and sets off to meet them.
Hours later he finds himself taken to an immense city of unimaginable wealth and is dried and fed in a sumptuous palace. None of the natives speak Trojan, and as such the young commander, now the leader of his people, tries to communicate with his hands. Despite his best efforts the servants around him simply smile and nod, a sign that they don’t understand anything. Resigned to waiting for something to happen, he sighs and simply follows the servants as they take him through the palace to what appears to be the throne room. For, despite the lack of a King, there is a throne at the end of the room, an empty one at that. Curious as to what is happening, Aeneas turns to the servants, but they are gone and the door shut behind him. Instead Aeneas is left to his own devices, admiring the art and ornaments that decorate the room, but despite his adapt skills at navigation he has no idea where he is, and eventually grows bored of waiting and goes to observe the throne.
An elegant seat carved out of the darkest wood he has ever seen, Aeneas can’t help but touch it. Checking to see that no one is watching, he sits down on it and shifts around to make himself comfortable. He is, after all, a king of sorts now…
His thoughts are interrupted when the doors of the throne room open, and through them walks an entire entourage of warriors and dancers, all accompanying…her.
Skin the colour of cinnamon, with dark hair falling in curls around her head and framing eyes that are darker than the throne on which the stupefied Aeneas sits. She elegantly steps towards Aeneas, her petite frame modestly hidden with a white dress that accentuates her figure. Aeneas, for all his attempts at being friendly to the natives, is still sitting on the throne, and as she stops in front of him realises that there is no King; just this queen, and that he is sitting on her throne. Embarrassed, he rises to his feet, but the African queen presses a slender hand against his chest and smiles as he sits back down. Bowing her head slightly she pulls her dress up slightly, baring her legs as she sits on Aeneas’ lap and plays with his hair.
“Dido,” she purrs, pointing to herself. Aeneas smiles; a King of sorts, for sure.