Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hegemon Book 21. The Trials of Orestes

And so, the Queen Clytemnestra hath seized power in Mycannae, the greatest city of Greece, and she hath installed her lover Aegisthus, that creature of incest, on its throne and imprisoned her own daughter Elektra. Is this the deed of the woman who said he loved her daughter Iphigenia? And in truth, Iphigenia was the kinder of the two, but I still think that Clytemnestra was a vile woman. Before she was imprisoned however, Elektra managed to help her brother Orestes flee.

My nephew Prince Orestes arrived in Sparta not many days later. I vowed to help him take back the throne of Mycannae, even though the Spartan army was much too small. It was at this time that he met my daughter Hermione and fell in love with her. For who could resist the daughter of Helen? She may not have her mother’s charm of a goddess, but it was more than a mortal prince could resist.

And though I was fond of Orestes, the brave young boy and son of the brother I respected much, Hermione was already betrothed to Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles and king of Thesally. A king’s word is his bond, and I could not go back on the promise I hath made to Neoptolemus, even though I was much angered that he took the wife of Hector, Andromache, for himself and dishonored her.

But at that time, there were greater things to worry about. In fact, up against the Mycannean power, Orestes may not even last, so I put these thoughts behind me.

But a hegemon’s son is bound to be a hegemon too. And so, Orestes asked that we set upon Mycannae and bring war to its doorsteps. I spoke to my Spartan officers, “Men of Sparta, I may not be born in this city, but I am your king. I am Spartan and proud to be one, but you need not follow me to Mycannae. Aegisthus is now the most powerful king of the Aegean, and this is a war for the honor of the Atreides alone.”

But Brasidas son of Lysander spoke up for his fellow Spartans, for he was a general of note and the man I trusted most, “King Menelaus, son of Atreus, we Spartans are the greatest soldiers the world have ever known, trained never to retreat, never to surrender. We will follow you on this just cause and bring death upon the traitor Aegisthus.”

And so in this manner, they followed me, but the Mycannaen army Aegisthus hath with him outnumbered the brave Spartans three to one. I was not afraid, and was about to order my men to charge when my nephew Orestes marched forward and shouted to the soldiers, “Men of Mycannae, wilt thou serve Aegisthus, that creature of incest, and call him thy king? Or wilt thou serve me and avenge my father, High King Agamemnon, the man who hath bought proud Priam to his feet.”

The Mycannaens saw their young prince, and they hated the usurper Aegisthus, so they decided to turn upon him. But Aegisthus asked to fight Orestes one on one, and Orestes decided to grant him a clean death.
Aegisthus was a skilled warrior, but a treacherous one too. He could see how well Orestes could parry his blows. Out of nowhere, he threw a poisoned knife at Orestes’s shoulder. The pain was but slight. Orestes recovered and continued his attack, knocking the sword off Aegisthus’s hand and slaying him.

Now, Orestes hath recaptured his birthright, the throne of Mycannae. He freed his sister Elektra, and the question was what he would do to his sinful mother Clytemnestra? For surely, a man must avenge his father, but what god could forgive a man who slew his own mother? Such was the dilemma that Orestes now faced.

But the young boy was decisive beyond his years, and so he uttered these brave words, “Arope hath betrayed Atreus, and now my mother Clytemnestra hath betrayed my father High King Agamemnon. Let the curse of Atreus end with me.” With these words, he stepped up to the throne and slew Clytemnestra.

Then, he spoke unto Zeus, “King of Olympus, listen to me, King of the Aegeans, as one king to another. I have broken thy law against matricide, and if thou shalt find me guilty, slay me!” He then slept for three days on an altar during a hard rain. There were many thunderstorms, and thunders, the thing of Zeus, hit nearby him many times but missed him by only a hand’s length. Then, the thunderstorm ended. Orestes was weak with fever but unharmed.

At this point, I spoke to the men of Mycannae and Sparta. “Aegeans, be my witness. The great god Zeus has judged my nephew to be a just and worthy king, for any thunder could have slain him thence, but it did not. Is there any man here who doth not agree with Zeus?”

And not a man stepped forward. At that point, I realized that the curse of Atreus was over.

My daughter Hermione took care of Orestes, healing him of the fever and poison from Aegisthus’s secret knife. It was clear that Orestes’ affection for her were not one-sided but mutual. Just then, Neoptolemus barged in and shouted at her, charging her with infidelity when he saw Orestes in her arms.

But Orestes was strong now and so he spoke these words, “Your father Achilles was a noble warrior, but you are not half the man he is. If you find Hermione blemished, then I shall marry her myself.”

But Neoptolemus was haughty, and he sneered, “Menelaus hath given her to me as a token of friendship to my father, who is greatest amongst all mortals and perhaps some of the gods on Olympus themselves. Now, that she hath dishonored herself, I will slay her and cleanse my name with her blood.”

But Orestes wouldst not allow that, and the two young kings fought for my daughter. Neoptolemus was the stronger of the two, but he was rather careless. At one point, Orestes fell, and Neoptolemus was about to slay him, when Hermione shouted, “No! I will do whatever you want. Only but spare him!”

Neoptolemus paused for a moment of shock, and during that split second, Orestes regained his sword, struck the son of Achilles in his spleen, and slew the great warrior. Finally, my nephew came forth to me in Sparta and told me of his intent to marry Hermione, and I was much impressed.

“You have defeated a hero of Troy and recaptured the throne of Mycannae before thy beard hath grown. What father can want a better groom for his daughter. Go with her, Orestes, for you have my blessings.”

In this manner, Hermione married the great Orestes, and for many years, we were content.

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