Agamemnon raised his blade high above the map. He sneered in rage and his features twisted with malice and spite.
Troy would burn.
He slammed the blade down to the table, lifted it high again, and struck again, enraged tenfold every time the point of the knife missed the spot on the map marked "Troy."
He refused to allow his brother's image to float beside him, refused to picture the silent young boy who used to follow at his heels, never speaking, never whining, never failing.
There had been no words that day. That day he had seen his brother fall. Only agony. Menelaus had fallen and only a bestial cry had been ripped from the god king's throat. Now it was no longer about conquering Troy. Now it was about revenge. His brother was honor, his brother was loyalty, his brother was dead! Dead, and Troy would burn for it!
And did that she-devil feel nothing? Did she watch from her high walls and feel relieved? Relieved that her husband had been killed over a coward?
Agamemnon cackled at the thought of wringing her neck, of pulling her hair from her head and sliding his blade into the soft feminine flesh of her stomach. Maybe… maybe before he even did that, he would show her what such betrayal truly warranted.
His eyes glowed and his body surged with an arousing fire at the thought of sinking himself into that young body. Of hearing her screams of fear and pain as he took what he wanted, what would exact the vengeance upon her his brother so deserved.
Troy had taken everything from him. His honor, his soldiers, and his brother.
Hell did not know what payment it would receive in blood from the enemies of Agamemnon.
There was no rest for the king that night.
Hector did not sleep that night. His muscles sagged in defeat and weariness but were resigned to his wakefulness, knowing somehow that this would be his last moment in such a peaceful beloved setting.
His thoughts lingered on his child, sleeping soundly before him, safe and well. He would stay that way, too, Hector made sure. He trusted his wife, knew she would do as instructed, and make a life for herself and their boy of which they could be proud.
He did not think on his wife, did not reflect on the times he'd spent, wooing and courting her. The pain was all the more acute then. She was so beautiful and so loving and so perfect, and he did not wish to leave her. Hades' Halls were a poor substitute for his life as it was.
Hector clenched his fists as the familiar doubt pervaded his sense, made him question his conviction to die for Troy. He could run now, could take his child and his wife and leave now.
No. I can't…
Tears filled his eyes. Love for his country and his countrymen, the need to protect them, was ingrained in him and he could not leave them to die on the swords of the Greeks. Not even for love of his family.
Paris then came to his mind and he looked up in anger. It was Paris' fault that this was begun. Paris, who would abandon Troy if it meant he could be with the woman he felt he loved.
Paris had abandoned Troy already.
The tears spilled from Hector's eyes and the warrior prince choked, placing a hand over his mouth as he gagged reflexively. He almost fell to his knees and managed to pull himself to the balcony that overlooked the city from his room.
The tears began to slip from his clenched eyelids and he felt them burn their infrequent trails down his cheeks.
Paris was his brother. Paris had been, throughout his life, a more constant companion even than his wife. He had held Paris in his arms when Paris was smaller than his own son. He had watched Paris grow and even now, he still watched his brother grow. That was the cruelest trick of the gods so far. That Paris, his little brother, along with his son, continued to grow and change and live. And he could not watch as they did. That the people he loved would continue through life and that he would not be there to help them, to share in their sorrow and their happiness and their anger and everything in between.
He had forgiven Paris long ago, for he loved him. And Paris had begun to show remorse, to humble himself before his elder brother and father, and even those who were considered beneath him. He barely looked at Helen, and when he had looked at Hector before he went into battle with Menelaus, there was fear and guilt in his eyes. He tried to sound valiant, tried to sound confident in his sacrifice, but the tremor in his voice had given him away. The tremble in his fingers and the hesitance in his posture had revealed him to his brother.
And in that moment, he was ten years old again. Dared to jump from a high wall into the waters of the large sea by his peers. And all Hector had said, then as now, was, "You don't have to do this."
And he had done it. Both times, Hector expected something terrible to happen, and stood nervously by, waiting to intervene, to save his brother and pull him from danger.
Except this time, he'd jumped into the sea and pulled Paris from drowning at the expense of the life of Menelaus.
The Spartan king's eyes flashed before Hector's vision, betrayed and world weary, tired of war and of death but needing – needing – the honor that had been ripped from him. Those same eyes had twinkled with laughter at Sparta, shone with the vivacity of drink and good company. Those kingly arms had opened in welcome to all soldiers, Greek and Trojan alike.
Looking into that same face as an enemy once more had been more painful for Hector than he'd first anticipated. Menelaus was not using this as an excuse for land, he was doing it for his honor, which was compromised because of Troy's – Paris' – deceit. Honor, to him and to all Greeks, was honest. And Hector respected honesty.
Hector killed honesty.
He should not have died by Hector's sword.
Many should not have been killed by Hector's sword. And now, his death must atone.
Paris' heart clenched as he watched the great Greek body loom over his cousin, pull her brusquely into his arms, try to drag her along with him. His eyes widened and his hand shook. He would not let any more of his family die!
With no preamble, he pulled an arrow from his quiver and took aim. He heard Briseis' cry and knew that he was helping her. The arrow flew.
The man's ankle was hit and the shot achieved what he needed. The soldier jerked away from Briseis. A choked gasp escaped his gaping mouth and his body spasmed.
"Paris!" Briseis cried, but Paris ignored her. The face of her captor had suddenly become clear to him.
Achilles, murderer of his brother and the reason for Troy's defeat. Anger and fear, an uncontrollable rage surged through him and he quickly ran to a better vantage point and redrew.
"Paris! No!" Briseis cried, crawling towards him desperately.
"You think of your sword and you think of his sword and nothing else…" His brother's voice filled his ears and he released the second arrow. It hit the great warrior's chest and he stumbled, sword raised. Paris drew again as Achilles ripped the arrow from his body, eyes wild and bestial. Paris' anger gave way to fear. Achilles was moving towards him with the intent to kill, those eyes were on him and only him, that sword ready to taste his blood.
But Hector needed vengeance, his city needed vengeance, his father needed vengeance. For that was all Paris could give them, after having so horribly wronged them.
Paris shot. Again, it hit, and again he stumbled.
"Paris, don't! Please!" Briseis' shouts did not hinder him. If anything, they urged him to keep shooting. Was this what he had caused? The destruction of his home, the death of good men, the dissolution of his family? Was this what he had done?
Was this what he had sounded like when he had first taken Helen back to Troy with him? As the world of his life was slowly burning down around him while he was too gloriously ensconced in his selfish love to notice?
Paris' face contorted in guilty rage and he pulled back the drawstring, wishing it would pull tighter, wishing the arrow would fly truer, wishing it would tear Achilles better.
He released a third time and Achilles barely flinched, now moving only by sheer force of will. Paris hated the sight of it. As Briseis pulled herself to her feet and ran to him, Paris pulled back a final arrow and took his aim.
Apollo, guide me, please, guide me to this victory, give me this chance to take what he owes my family and home, give me this chance to atone…
His eyes narrowed and he locked gazes with Achilles. And in that moment, he saw loss and humanity, he saw pain and anguish, he saw a man.
He released the arrow.
The warrior stood, frozen in that single moment, staring blankly ahead as though looking for something that wasn't there, something that had gone that should not have. And then he fell. Briseis ran to him and Paris waited an eternity as she watched him die, ignoring her cousin as he called to her and tried to pull her away. As the sounds of the cries of women and children and men echoed in his ears, as the sounds of soldiers killing and burning and raping, dying, filled his ears, as the sounds of his city, his home crumbling down around him, because of him, danced and spread in his mind like the fire that consumed it.
This was what love had caused.