Saturday, May 23, 2015
Hegemon Book 18. My Reunion with Helen
And so with a force of thirty Spartans, I scoured through the halls of Priam’s Palace and ransacked the Eagle’s Hall in search of Helen, but she was nowhere to be found. My feelings raced in anticipation of my encounter with her. On the one hand, I felt rage and wanted to kill her for the shame I had to endure at her hands. On the other hand, I could hardly restrain the joy of possibility meeting her again. General Banokles and a handful of men met us in the inner chamber of the palace. He hath betrayed my brother, and yet now, he stood to defend the honor of Troy to the end. But he was grossly outnumbered by my Spartans, and we slew the Eagles one by one. Banokles was a great fighter, but I was not a mean swordsman myself. Such is the training of a Spartan king. “You will die for your betrayal, Banokles!” I shouted. Finally, I lurched with my sword above and slew him. I cut off his head and ordered the men to deliver it to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, to avenge the death of his grandfather Peleus, who was killed by Banokles in the Battle at the River Scamander many years earlier. I finally found Helen in her bedchamber, or rather the one that once belonged to Paris. She stood there pensive before his picture like a statue carved from the finest marble of the Seven Hills by the hands of Hephaestus himself. “You have shamed me, Helen,” I said, “How could you have run away after that cowardly prince? For your sake, we have launched a hundred ships, lost men, and fought at the shores of Illium for a decade!” She slowly turned to me and spoke quietly, “Is it really me, Menelaus? Did I ever wish to be queen of Sparta? They say I am not even the daughter of Tyndareus. Is it too much for me to ask for…to be with the man I love in return for the throne of Sparta?” “And that man is not me but Paris,” I spoke, my anger clearly evident from my shaking fist. The other Spartans with me were clearly angry too. Here stood the king and queen of Sparta, but the honor in their relationship was clearly missing. It was hurting their pride, but for me, it was more a matter of the heart than of glory. I am no Agamemnon or Achilles. A greater man would have viewed this differently, or perhaps not…for what man can harden his heart against Helen. Perhaps, her true crime was not running from me but stealing all the beauty and affection of Olympus. I have never seen Aphrodite, but if I had, would she be as beautiful as the woman I see before me now? Would the narrow sunlight glorify her blonde hair and emphasize her perfect face in this manner? Only Zeus knows. But king though I am, I am but a mortal. “I will return with you, Menelaus, as a wife to her husband. Punish me if you will, but let me no longer be the cause of more bloodshed,” Helen concluded. But I could not bring myself to punish her, and so we decided to return to Sparta together. I forsook all my share in the spoils of Troy, for what treasure could be more important than Helen herself, if not her affection. Many years later, we would have a daughter together. Her name was Hermione, and she was a ray of sunshine much as my niece Iphigenia was to Agamemnon. She was radiant, but certainly nothing to compare to the otherworldly beauty of her mother. I would never sacrifice her on the altar, but then again, I am no High King. Often, I wonder if I am worthy or even want to be king of Sparta. Perhaps, I would be content to be a farmer lunching on cheese and olives by a humble hut with Helen by my side and no bitter memories of her betrayal, but fate would not have it so. I was king of Sparta, brother to High King Agamemnon, and she was the queen, who despite her gentle nature, hath caused more death than any woman in known history. Heroes of the era, Achilles and Hector, have fallen on the shores of Illium for her sake or perhaps my foolishness and blindness alone. A hundred men could not have dispatched those heroes, but fate and her beauty hath. The oath of the Hellenes…it was sad and yet awe-inspiring in itself. Yet, through the pains and toils of my life, I remained happy for the blessings of having her back.