A.N: Wow, I really didn't expect such a great response, thank you so much for reviewing! Due to popular demand, I am adding this chapter, I think it feels more complete this way in any case. So here is Achilles' perspective, starting where Briseis left off. Enjoy!
One is such a lonely number…
-Madonna- Open Your Heart
I was not lying when I said she was unlike any woman I had ever met, and I have met more than my share of women of that there is no disputing.
True, when I first laid my eyes on her she was cowering in a corner like so many others, and at first glance she seemed like any other simpering female I have honoured with my attentions. But appearances can be deceptive. She feared to let me touch her, but I suspected she was more wary of my gender in general than of who I really was. A priestess of Apollo, that made more sense, avowed to a life of celibacy, how virtuous. Obviously disdainful of men if she was so eager never to lay with one.
And more intriguing yet, not only a servant of the gods, but a niece of good King Priam himself. Therein lay my answer. Trojan royalty. Encouraged her whole life to walk with head held high, to demand everything and to receive it without delay, of course she would have no respect for men, she needed none, they were all there to bow at her feet and adore her without question. Our lives do not seem so different when you look at them closely.
Oh she may not respect other men, but she would respect me.
Except that she didn't. Not truly. Not yet. Surprisingly still aloof, but yet there was a modesty behind it. She wanted no fuss over her, no attention, she made no demands, gave no orders, expected nothing and asked for nothing. When that tedious Agamemnon took her from my tent she struggled against him yes- but who wouldn't, the man's stench could overpower a sack of maggots- but when I offered to part his empty head from his flabby hide she bade me stop.
"Too many men have died today! If killing is your talent, that is your curse, I don't want anyone dying for me."
Now there was an odd thing, most women would squeal like pigs in heat if men wished to fight over them, but not this Trojan priestess. She was beautiful, that fact is undeniable, she had pride but she did not clamour so as others did. I was intrigued. I had to have her, and I am Achilles, to be denied nothing. I and my Myrmidons have carried this war for that ungrateful simpleton Agamemnon, and still he presumes to give me orders as if I were one of his mindless soldiers and takes from me what is rightfully mine. It would not do and he knew it. I promised him death, and Achilles does not go back on his word.
How dare Agamemnon, how dare he? To give the priestess to his men? As if that would somehow allay my anger, he is more of a fool than I gave him credit for!
The thought of the priestess in the hands of other men disturbed me more than it should have, and more than I would have admitted, but I knew she would not fight back.
And I had been right, there she was, being tossed between the clay-brained rabble like an inflated hogs bladder for amusement. It boiled my blood, though I dwelt not on why, what did it matter the reasons of my heart when these cowards dared to lay their hands on my property? I took her back and I have no qualms with my methods, whether Agamemnon or his men do means little to me.
She still would not let me touch her, until I was on my back and she holding a knife to my throat. Things have an interesting way of working out.
I can feel her glaring at my back. She's bewildered. I am both myth and reality, legend and man. She does not yet know how to discern between the two. She called me a monster. For her, killing is a brutal heartless endeavour on a distant dirty battlefield far removed from her comfortable lifestyle. For me, it is my life, my passion, my talent, sometimes it can be the most caring thing one can do. Ending a miserable existence, ending someone quickly to alleviate their suffering, very few of the men I kill are righteous men, and mercy is wasted on the wicked.
But she is not wicked, and she is one of the few that deserves my mercy. She had never felt the touch of a man before, and with every touch of my hand a new person was emerging, a woman, a girl no longer. And she revelled in it, and I revelled in her. I will admit here, in the darkness and secrecy of night I have never lain with a woman who has made me feel the way she did, and I have taken virgins before so the explanation does not lie there. True her innocence was refreshing, and her emotions were pure and honest, but something within me reaches out to her in a way I do not understand.
When I lay with her the rest of the world, this pointless war, the blood on my hands and my sword drained away, there was only me, and her.
The life of a warrior, or to be more precise, the life of Achilles is a lonely one. It is from my own choosing and I have no problem with it. I allow myself an emotional bond to Patroclus as we are kin, and I respect mother's word above all else- why else would I be here?- but I have never settled down, never thought of family, of being tied down. It never appealed to me in truth. What is a family that will in the end leave me, or I will leave them, and my legacy will follow them to the grave, when my name could be etched in the annals of memory and history for all time? This is why I came to Troy, to fight Menelaus and Agamemnon's petty war, so that I could earn my immortality. I never factored in a royal priestess from behind the gates of the enemy.
But with Briseis, living in peace and security does not sound quite as loathsome. To fall into her body whenever I pleased, to find the empty places inside me fill up with her in my arms, to have no other cares than the movements of our bodies together. No that does not sound so loathsome to me at all.
I know she thinks of it also, what woman doesn't, priestess of Apollo or not. I have opened her eyes to the possibilities of men, and now her mind is exploring the potential. I would not let her think that she has tamed me to a life of commitment, I commit to nothing but the blade in my hand, but it feels good not to be thought so hollow for just a moment. She is not sleeping yet, so I turn back to her. I wonder if she still thinks of me as such a beast, she looks as if she is still reeling from my revelation. The legendary Achilles, care for someone? I did not give away much, but the fantastical ideas of women will take wings and soar if given the opportunity. She will be considering names for our children and what our house will look like. I am content to let her. What are her idle fantasies if it pleases her, it might warm her disposition somewhat. I had always fancied the name Neoptolemus for a son…
"You may sleep without fear. I would not presume to wake you discourteously with a blade across your throat, what a host would I be?" I jest dryly, and I see her discomfiture, she does not seem to know whether to feel guilty about it or not. She is wondering whether, if she had not initiated our confrontation by 'threatening' my life, whether I would have still made her into the woman she now is. For one of such royal bearing she has little confidence in her allure as a woman.
I lift a hand lazily and run my finger along her jaw line. Her skin is like silk compared to my own callused and war-worn hide. She closes her eyes slowly and leans her head into my touch, so I raise myself once more into a sitting position and allow her to lie against me, her petite frame fitting into the contours of my body like pieces of a puzzle.
I didn't really realise, or perhaps I just didn't dwell on how lonely it was to be the one, the greatest warrior in the world. Mighty Achilles, in pursuit of glory at any cost. Yes, I've even killed women, of course I have. Would she sink into me so readily if she knew it? I have met them in battle as if they were my equals and they fell at my sword just the same, and I felt no remorse for their deaths. They sought glory from mine, why should I not take the same from theirs? But I respected them more than the men I killed, for their courage. The Amazons especially, so self-sufficient, so set against men and yet so similar in their ways to ours. They are perhaps the only women who would dare to draw a blade against me without fear. Apart from Briseis of course. It is a bitter world I live in, much is expected of me, and oftentimes it becomes tiresome. There is none my equal, none who can give me a challenge, no matter how great in size they are. I demonstrated that many months back against that oaf Boagrius. One thrust of my sword and he was dead, what sort of champion is that? But perhaps there is one who will prove worthy enough to at least to postpone his death long enough for me to work up a sweat.
I dismissed Hector in front of Briseis, I would not wish for his defeat to shatter her expectations without fair warning. But it is well known to me that he is Troy's finest warrior, and I am the worlds finest. It seems inevitable to me that we will clash sooner or later, to truly cement me in legend I must defeat all who could oppose me and Hector is perhaps my greatest threat. It is true I could have killed him easily the day we first arrived on this spit of land, but where would be the challenge there, with him surrounded by my men and winded from earlier battle? No, the glory will be fully mine when he is ready, when he has worn out his welcome on this earth, when we come together face to face alone, and it will truly be a battle worthy of legend.
I wonder what Briseis will think of me then. She could never love me, it would be foolish to even entertain the notion. I go against all that she believes in, I am a sworn enemy and it will more than likely be I who decimates her family and destroys her home, I doubt I am worthy of love. I will not lose sleep over it. I have not needed love thus far, I do not need it now. Love is a weakness I cannot afford, I have many enemies who would not hesitate to use it against me.
And yet a part of me is bitter at that. Why should I not have love? I am Achilles, nothing is to be denied me, and yet I am denied love. I have never paid much attention to the gods, mostly they exist to torment miserable mortals who fear them and beg for their help, the gods only interfere in the lives of men for their own entertainment or gain, I have no need of them, but perhaps deep down is a part of me that cries out for Aphrodite's blessing, to find contentment with another just for a moment. Am I not worthy of that?
Briseis is looking up at me with eyes that shine the rich colour of burnished bronze. The cut on her bottom lip is closed but still swollen, it makes her lips look bee-stung and quite inviting.
"What are you thinking Achilles?" She asks softly, and I raise my brows a little. In the short time I have known her I have noticed she is hesitant to initiate a conversation, especially with me. Something shown in my face from my absent wonderings must have aroused her interest.
I pause to consider the question. Musings really, nothing more, nothing of importance, especially not to her, I decide.
"You don't need to know." I answer, more brusquely than I meant it to be.
She looks a little hurt. I frown internally; I have done her no great injustice. Why does she care so much about my irrelevant ruminations anyway?
"I would like to know." Now there are signs of her nobility creeping through again, no-one unused to having their way would prod so, I am sure.
"It matters little." I murmur dismissively, idly thinking that hair does not usually smell so good, or feel so soft, especially when one lives in a dusty little place such as this.
"It matters to me." At this I frown and pull away, looking down at her in puzzlement.
"Why? Why do you care?" She is infuriating, but in a tolerable way, unlike Agamemnon, who is infuriating and ignorant, two of the worst traits, along with cowardly and lazy. First, she cannot look at me, then she will suffer me, next she holds a knife to my throat, then encourages me to sleep with her, after which she snarls at me, and now she cares about the thoughts in my head! Is there any way to win against this woman?
She hesitates a moment, as if unsure of her own heart. Then she looks up at me and smiles weakly.
"Because I care about you Achilles." She almost whispers, "You have risked much for me in the short time I have known you, and at first I believed you had a darker intent. But if what you have said tonight is true, then I can certainly not resent you, in fact, I am more than grateful. And I wish for you to share your mind with me, if it would please you to do so."
I narrow my eyes slightly. In another moment her mood will have swung again, and she will be trying to beat me to death with my dinner platter. But I suppose for now, there would be no harm in humouring her, since her words have a strange warming quality that tingles my skin, though why that is I could not tell you.
"I was merely pondering what I lack, and why I lack it. And whether or not it matters that I do." I say absently as I settle back down into bed and her now familiar weight rests against my chest and shoulder.
"And what is it that you lack?" She prods, I purse my lips, but answer her nonetheless. It is no weakness to speak ones mind after all, and I never fear to say anything to anyone if I think it.
"I suppose, I lack peace. I lack security. I lack love. I lack contentment. And I lack immortality." It was an honest list. But which was important? She must know my mind,
"And which of these do you consider matter?" She asks gently. I frown. I have given it no thought. That which I lack I either do not need or have not yet accomplished, but it is sure that I will, when it is the right time.
"Security is overrated, I have no qualms with moving where I must, doing what I must." I shrug.
"And the rest?"
She is becoming a little too invasive for comfort, but what will it hurt, if she angered me, if I wished it, death would come swiftly for her. But I know in my heart that I would never harm her, or see her harmed. It is perhaps that knowledge which concerns me most of all. I would gladly die for this woman, I just don't quite believe it yet.
"Peace is for the lazy, those without ambition, I will have peace enough when I am dead. When my fate is secure."
"Do you have an answer for everything Achilles?" She asks and I can hear the smile in her voice without looking to see it. I look anyway.
"Yes. Though sometimes it is disputed. That is not my concern." She laughs a little and I favour her with a smile of my own before looking back up to the tent door, where I can see the moon through the slits in the material.
"And what of love, of contentment?"
"I have survived without them thus far."
"That was not my question."
"Do they matter? To others perhaps. But what knowledge does a heart have of love that has not loved? What does a man know of contentment if he has never been content?"
"You are quite poetic in your melancholy Achilles." I can hear her smile again, and wish to look upon it again.
"It is not melancholy, it is fact."
"I find that more melancholy still."
"Well you priestess, have you ever loved? Have you ever been content in an embrace, so that if the gods unmade the world at that very moment, you would be in good spirits?" She is silent for a long moment, and when she does answer, her voice is small, timid, wary of the repercussions.
"Not until tonight."
I am silenced. I lay my head against hers and feel the soft caress of her breath on my bare chest.
And I understand.
Now to those who know the true myths of Achilles, they will know he did indeed have a son called Neoptolemus, who killed Hector's son Astyanax, but as that is not part of Troy and not part of Wolfgang Petersen's vision (or perhaps more accurately David Benioff's) it serves as a knowing wink to those who know the myths. I hope you enjoyed Achilles' perspective, not just on Briseis but on his world in general. I have only seen the movie once, and that was last Saturday, so I hope Achilles is not out of character, I did my best! Probably a little less satisfying and sappy conclusion, but this is Achilles we're talking about he's not really the most fluffy of puppies. I'm looking forward to seeing your response, as this was in a slightly different tone to Briseis'. Thank you for reading!