Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hegemon Book 13. Battle by the River Scamander

Whilst Diomedes battled the gods and subdued the Thraaki, our war with Troy on Trojan grounds began in earnest. Odysseus led the navy, and he destroyed much of the proud Trojan fleet with Greek fire, a substance that continued to burn in the water. Meanwhile, Achilles, Agamemnon, and myself marched to the River Scamander where a large Trojan force led by Prince Hector was assembled.

Achilles was the first to run towards the enemy with the Myrmidons, while his father Peleus guarded our flank. These men were hardy soldiers worthy of Achilles’ leadership. It was said that the Myrmidons were descended from ants.

At one time, Thessaly was hit by a terrible plaque, and much of their inhabitants had died. Peleus’s grandfather asked to sacrifice himself to Zeus to save his people, so Zeus turned the king into a fish. And when the people ate from this fish, they were healed, but there were so few of them. So Zeus turned the ants by the altar into Myrmidons, whose descendants fought for Thesally to this day. I do not know if the fable was true, but certainly they deserve the name “ant people” for the Myrmidons could fight armies far superior to themselves in numbers.

Achilles moved like a god. He was so swift that none of the Trojans could touch him. Perhaps, it was for this reason that we all thought him invulnerable, though we would later learn that he was not. He slew the Trojan soldiers who stopped him in their rafts by the tens, and once he landed, Achilles threw a spear that struck a man to the statue of Apollo, the patron god of Troy, missing Hector by only inches. No Achilles would not have Hector die by a mere spear throw. He would save him for greater glories.

But for those of us who were not war gods like Achilles, the battle was brutal. I missed an arrow by less than two steps, and my life would have otherwise been forfeit. Achilles’ father Peleus was less fortunate. He was slain by a Mycannaen general Banokles who had defected to Troy for its gold.

Achilles’ son Neoptolemus (or Pyrrhus as some call him) arrived at the flank too late to save his grandfather. Achilles wept, and let it be told, that one such as Achilles rarely did. His friend Patroclus was by his side. There were no words to be said between them. Patroclus was simply there for Achilles to share his sorrows. But by the end of the day, Achilles was no longer prince, but king of Thessaly.

Hoping to avenge the death of his comrade Peleus, Agamemnon and the warrior Ajax pursued Banokles. Banokles was a great warrior in his own right, and he was aided by his bodyguard Kalliades. Agamemnon fought like the lion that he was, but he was no match for the two of them. Just then, Ajax leapt to his rescue and slew Kalliades. Banokles escaped by a cat’s whisker.

Banokles was now beside Hector, having been promoted to his right hand man. The Trojan fleet had been crushed by Odysseus at the Hellespoint, and Odysseus hath now landed on the shores of Illium once again.

Hector did not engage us immediately, but that night he led a sortie against our camp and slew a great many of us. By the time, we woke up, Hector was retreating. Agamemnon followed him but was injured by a surprise attack of Banokles’s archers. Luckily, the injury was not too severe.

Achilles and Ajax soon followed, and once again, the Trojans were defeated. We had the larger army, and soon Hector realized his forces could not keep the Scamander so they retreated. As Hector’s forces fled behind the walls of Troy, our army captured the Great Temple of Apollo. There, we found a beautiful princess Bresias, who was a priestess there, and curse be the day we found her, for she was the start of all our problems, much as Helen was mine.

Achilles looked at Bresias in a way that he never looked upon my niece Iphigenia, comely though she may be, and those eyes said that she was his. That was when I knew problems would arise, for we Greeks have a saying, “Love is blind, and possession is madness.”

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