The Death of Paris
May 18, 2004
Summary: Oenone, the lover of Paris, was taught the arts of prophecy. Although she foresaw the death of Paris, he still leaves her for Helen. Years later, when Paris is mortally wounded, he remembers her promise to heal him. Oenone must decide his fate, yet she is blinded by her bitterness...
Disclaimer: I (obviously!) do not own The Iliad, or Troy, the movie. Several references were used in writing this story: The Trojan War, by Bernard Evslin, A Fair Wind for Troy, by Doris Gates, and The Iliad, by Homer.
Author's Notes: As usual with Latinized Greek names, spellings vary. I've used most of the Latin names: Oinone then becomes Oenone, etc. The biggest difference lies in the substitution of the Greek 'k' with the Latin 'c' and the change to the endings of the names. For example, Korythos becomes Corythus, Philoktetes becomes Philoctetes, and so on. Although this story is true to history/myth, I've taken some liberties with it, as usual with historical fiction. For those of you intelligent enough to catch it: yes, I have made Paris my tragic hero.Chapter 1: Bitter Tears of Farewell
She saw the beautiful Helen at his side and watched painfully as he reached out a hand to stroke the golden hair. When Helen's eyes darkened with love, she understood only too well what it was like to fall under the melody of his voice, the charm of his touch. Had not she, herself, succumbed to the desire that he awoke in her?
Paris...oh Paris, how could you forsake me? It was as if a thousand daggers drove themselves into her heart.
Yet she understood it too well, looking on the face of Helen. Her heart despaired; how could anyone resist this vision of temptation, the most beautiful mortal woman in the world?
The scene changed, to all the ugly glory of war. A battle raged outside the walls of proud Troy, and men died. She saw the invisible hands of the Gods wage war on each other through their mortal instruments; saw the madness of Ares come upon the Trojans so that they fought unceasingly even when they should have fallen, even when they had been fatally wounded.
Blood, death, and terror. It was all around her, surrounding her, the dances of death and the blind fury of battle, both a thing of beauty and yet a monstrosity. The years may pass and the weapons and the people change, but forever men devise new ways to kill each other.
She heard the sounds of battle, the harsh grating ring of swords clashing, the hissing of the arrows as they flew through the air. Worse yet were the cries of pain from the dying, the roars of mindless anger, and the noise of armored men grappling and seeking only death—for themselves, or for the enemy.
Finally she saw what she had been waiting for. She saw her beloved, mortally wounded on a battlefield weeping with blood. Crying out, she strained to touch his unconscious form, seeing the blood soak through the layers of clothing, staining his armor red. He lay disregarded on the battlefield, just another one of the fallen. She yearned to wake him, to assure herself that he would not die as mortals do.
Her heart beat frantically, with shaking hands she tried to rouse him, but she was invisible, a ghost from the past, no more, no less. She would not let him suffer this way...he would not die with her by his side. Only it was Helen that he had left for, Helen whom she had seen standing besides him.
It was too late, too late...
- o - o - o - o -
It was the middle of the night but Oenone woke in her bed, shuddering and full of fear. The copper taste of blood was in her mouth and she gagged, visions of the battlefield and gore still repeating in her mind.
Paris...where was he? The bed was empty besides her, cold and undisturbed. Oenone rose from the bed, clothing herself quickly in a white drape of fabric. The glint of silver in the moonlight caught her eye, and she felt herself calm for a moment. Without looking, she knew it was a small teardrop of clear stone, entrapped by winding silver leaves. He had given it to her the day they were married, here on the mountain of Ida. She, the water naiad, daughter of the river Cebran, and he, a simple shepherd.
Nothing was so simple now. Remembering the scenes from her dream, Oenone's soft smile vanished and she hurried forward when she found Paris. He stood by the open window as he had been wont to do in the past few nights, looking up at the stars. The moon was full that night and the light poured down lovingly on his face, emphasizing the smooth curves, the poet's mouth and noble features. His dark hair blended with the shadows and he stood unmoving, even when Oenone called him.
"Paris..." She reached up and laid gentle hands on his shoulders to attract his attention. Ever since that foolishness with the gods he had been like this...distracted, thoughts far away, so much so that had he had nearly lost that troublesome ewe in the past week.
He finally turned around to face her. "Oenone, I must leave for Sparta." It was just that, unadorned, with no explanations, no other words than the plain statement of a fact.
It was the moment she had feared ever since he had returned. Finding that her throat had choked with tears, Oenone closed her eyes and turned away from him, hugging herself as she struggled to gain control of her emotions. Paris, like most men, listened even less to women when they cried.
When she opened her eyes again, he had turned back to the window again, looking at the moon. The cool night breeze ruffled his hair. Oenone shivered, but it was not from the cold.
"It is for her, the queen of Sparta, Helen," she said as calmly as she could manage.
"Yes. She was promised to me by Aphrodite, when I gave the Goddess of Love the golden apple," Paris replied. "I have told you the tale before."
"Helen, another man's wife," she strove to remind him. "She is a queen, and the kings of Greece have sworn an oath to protect her."
"She was promised to me," Paris said again. "I shall have her, the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Paris, listen to me," Oenone said, giving way to her tears. They shone in her eyes but she refused to let them spill. He stood before her, as beautiful as he always was, but cloaked with the shadowed glow of arrogance. Oenone looked at him and knew that he had forgotten her, that he would leave her and his son for this woman that Aphrodite had promised to him.
"You loved me once," she whispered to him. She made him face her and then, reaching up, kissed him gently, with all the pain and sorrow she felt in her heart "Can you not heed my warnings now? I have learned the art of prophecy; I have seen that your death will be terrible if you should sail for Sparta."
"What is your gift of prophecy against the will of the gods? I tell you, Oenone, that Helen has been promised to me by Aphrodite herself, and I mean to have her. Husband or no, such a treasure will be mine."
Oenone thought of her sleeping son, only six years old, and of how he would bear the loss of his father. If not love, then reason, perhaps, could sway Paris, she told herself, but her heart was full of doubt. "Paris, she is the Queen of Sparta, wife of a powerful king and much-admired amongst the Greeks. They will fight to defend her. If she is, as you say, such a treasure, a war will be started over her." She did not say that she had foreseen it.
"You forget, Oenone. I am a prince of Troy, and for Helen I will claim my birthright. Forty-nine brothers I have, and the men of an entire kingdom behind me. The king my father will not deny my request, not after I have spoken to him."
"I know this," Oenone said, grasping his arm. "I have see it, but I have also seen what will come of it. Blood, Paris, and death...will you sacrifice a thousand men for the sake of this mere woman, Helen? Two thousand? Three? How many will you commit to this cause?" Looking into her husband's face, she knew it was useless to continue on. He was mad in his love, so mad that he would not care who died, as long as he had Helen.
"For the love of this woman, Paris, you will die! Can you hear me not? I have dreamed a true prophecy, and too have seen you fall in battle, wounded by the weapons of Heracles!"
"So you will say, out of the jealousy of your heart. I have long lived the shepherd's life here with you, with nothing greater than a naiad for wife. Yet I know that I am a prince of Troy, I have heard from the Goddess of Love herself that Helen is to be mine, and all you can speak of are your prophecies!"
"If not mine, then at least heed the Oracle who spoke at your birth. Why, Paris, why did your parents cast you out, rather than raise you as a prince? Ill words were spoken over you, that it is your actions that will lead to the fall of Troy. Do not seek to set yourself above the gods, Paris!"
"Oenone, my heart is set upon this path, and I shall not be swayed from it by your sour words. I am glad, glad that this has passed, for it has shown me the true face of one whom I thought I had loved."
"Paris..." The tears overflowed at last and Oenone began to sob, but rather than feeling Paris' comforting arms around her, she only heard his bitter laugh. "Paris, why will you not listen? I speak not from envy of Helen, but for love of you..."
"Speak no more, Oenone," he said coldly. He went into their bedroom and shut the door. The argument had woken their son, and Oenone could hear Corythus calling for her, questioning. Oenone was left to wipe her tears and calm her son.
When she had entered the bedroom again, Paris seemed to be already sleeping. Yet as Oenone slid under the blankets, she saw his eyes open. Although he was tense still with anger, she turned to him and rested her head on his shoulder, curving her body around his as they had so often done.
"I know that you will go to her, and there is nothing that I can do. Only, perhaps, this one last thing. When you are wounded in battle, Paris, come back to me, for only I can heal you and save you from death. Promise me this, Paris, if nothing else," she pleaded.
He turned so that his back was to her, but she knew that he had heard. As her arms circled him and hugged him tight, she thought of the familiarity of his warmth, the slender muscled strength of him, the feel of his dark hair against her cheek. She had always known she loved him more than he loved her.
"I love you, Paris. Remember your son Corythus, when it is she that embraces you so. Remember the love that we once shared, the quiet love and simple food that gave us all the happiness in the world. When you have seen the horrors of war and walked amongst the bodies of dead men under the sun, remember our green pastures and the wildflowers swaying in the breeze. When your hands have become calloused from the use of sword and weapons, remember how you had once touched the softness of a lamb's fleece."
His breathing was even and deep, and from long experience Oenone knew that he had fallen asleep. Only this knowledge gave her the courage to whisper these last words to him, when he could not hear them. She reached out to brush against his cheek. He was so beautiful in sleep, when all the cares of the world went away and his lithe limbs were sprawled in childlike abandon.
"One day, some day, remember me, Paris."
- o - o - o - o -
She watched the sunset rise the next morning, from the same window that they had quarreled by. When she had risen, the spot besides her was cold and empty, as was her heart. Her love and faith, what power had it against the shallow allure of beauty? In the end, Paris had chosen faithless love.
Oenone did not need to look for him on the mountain to know that he was gone. She swallowed her despair, but in its place grew only bitterness, like a slow poison in her heart.
- o - o - o - o -
A/N: Please review! This is just part of five, but beginnings are important, and I'd love to hear how you think I did with this. I know there are more chapters to read, but if you have a spare moment or two to review this one...
Oh yeah, after my friend Robert's review, I realized I forgot to say some things. He thought I was historically inaccurate, but the truth is, this story isn't based purely on The Iliad alone. I also have more sources to cite: Quintus Smyrnaeus: The Fall of Troy, by Smyrnaeus Quintus, translated by A.S. Way, Greek Lyric IV: Bacchylides, Corinna, and Others, edited by David A. Campbell, and Mythographi Graeci, Vol. I, by Apollodorus, edited by Robin Wagner.