Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hegemon Book 15. The Wrath of Achilles

Patroclus, as his name suggests, was a patriot. I hath only known him for a few years, but Achilles was his lifelong friend and so was Odysseus. It was said that Achilles and Patroclus would train together from dawn to dusk, and though they were only cousins, the bond between them was stronger than the brotherhood between me and High King Agamemnon.

And so when Achilles refused to lead the Myrmidons to battle, it was Patroclus who borrowed his armour, dressed up as Achilles, and led the Myrmidons to battle. Each Myrmidon was easily worth ten of the Trojan Eagles, and the Trojans feared them believing it was truly the invincible Achilles who led them. Banokles’s contingent hath retreated, and now, it was Hector who led the great white horses to meet Patroclus himself.

“Ah, so the great Achilles has finally given me the honor of meeting him in combat. It is a good day to die, but let it be the will of Apollo to decide which of us will fly to Olympus today”, shouted Prince Hector.

Patroclus did not reply, for fear that the Myrmidons would realize he was not truly Achilles but merely marched out to meet Hector in combat. Patroclus was swift. He could move much like Achilles for he hath trained with him for many years. I once bought Patroclus to the mountains of Taygetus, which we Spartans believe is home of the dead, but the brave young man scaled it as one would scale a tree.

Patroclus was a great fighter, but despite his speed, he was too young and did not have the strength of Hector or Ajax. After several parries, he fell due to a smashing blow from Hector and was slain. Soon, Hector realized that the man he hath killed was only a young lad and not Achilles himself, and he felt remorseful.

“What have I done,” Hector said, “I have slain the lad in belief that he was the great Achilles.”

So Hector ordered the body of Patroclus and the fallen Myrmidons returned in honor to the Thessalian camp where Achilles resided. He even restored the armor of Achilles, for he hath not gained victory over the great hero yet. Such was the nobility of this Prince of Troy. So different was he from his vile brother Paris Alexandros, my arch-nemesis.

Now, Achilles was inconsolable. His friendship for Patroclus was dearer than his love for Bresias and purer than the finest gold, and so he took it upon himself to avenge Patroclus’s death. To give him greater incentive to do battle, Odysseus asked Agamemnon to give up Bresias as a reward for Achilles’ return to battle on the condition that he killed Hector.

And so Achilles marched forth to meet Hector in bloody combat. Hector was fearless, but he knew of Achilles’ reputation, so before he went forth, he said farewell to his wife Andromache and his infant son Astynax lest he would not return victorious or even alive. He spoke of nobility to Achilles and said that if he should triumph, he would bury Achilles with honor equivalent to that of a Trojan prince.

But Achilles was angry beyond reason. Such was the purity of his love for Patroclus that he replied, “But there will be no burial or honor for you, vile Hector, for Patroclus is dearer to me than a son is to a father, more than a brother is to man. Your corpse will be fed to the crows and vultures, for your foolishness in believing you can slay one as the great Achilles himself. Come, fool! Come to thy death!!”

Hector was rather taken aback by Achilles’ crude comments. He had known the Thessalian Myrmidons to be rough men, but expected more nobility in a hero as Achilles, so he tried to reason with him, “Come now, hero of the Hellenes. It was nobility for all brave men to do combat and to honor one’s enemy as the heroes they are.”

“You are no hero, Hector! You slayed Patroclus, and your corpse will be defiled like the dog you are. Now, face the wrath of Achilles!”

And so Achilles and Hector met in battle. The two men were strong and quick, their skills above all other men on both sides of the Hellespoint. I witnessed that combat as no other combat before it, and I dare say any after it. Was Hercules himself as great a warrior as these two? I could not say. It was as though the gods of Olympus hath descended upon earth and fought before our mortal eyes. Perhaps, Achilles was Ares himself, and Hector his brother Apollo, for no man could fight like the two of them in that day.

Each sword clang was louder than a thunder, and each parry so masterful that the eye could not even see their swiftness. How they moved with such speed can only be ascribed to godhood, for it was not something a mere mortal as I or countenance. But Hector was older than Achilles, and the latter was filled with inconsolable rage, which doubled his strength and determination. Hector fought to defend his noble city, but Achilles fought for vengeance and honor. In the end, Achilles’ sword crashed over Hector’s shield and split it in half. The greatest man of Troy was slain. Surely, it was an omen from the gods that Troy must fall, as their champion Hector fell to ours.

Achilles tied Hector’s leg to his chariot and raced around the Trojan walls three times, leaving Hector’s body emaciated beyond recognition. None of the Trojans dared come out of the city walls to challenge him. At Odysseus’s command, the Greek ships re-occupied the shores of Illium again, and we led our forces onshore. Neoptolemus, myself, and Ideomenus captured the three sites on the Scamander River, while my brother Agamemnon slew all the Trojan soldiers in the Temple of Apollo. With Hector’s death, we were victorious again, and Troy was besieged.

King Priam offered a king’s ransom for Hector’s body. Hector was the greatest hero the Trojans had ever known, and he was also crown prince of Troy. But Achilles did not offer the body back even when Hector’s cousin and his lover Bresias begged him. His heart was hardened by the death of Patroclus, and he would shame Troy, pushing Priam’s honor to the dust for the death of his friend.

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