Pain was the first thing that registered in the mind of Paris' guard as he regained consciousness. What had caused his head to hurt so badly? He struggled to move his hand ever so gingerly to hold it and realized that the entire front of his body was pressed against something cool. Risking the further agony of having to actually use his vision, the guard opened his eyes. He was lying face-down on the marble tile of the palace floor. 'How did I come to be here?' he wondered dimly, forcing his eyes to focus on a bit of sunlight that was shining on the space beside him from some unseen source. He often had duties to attend to in the palace and sometimes those took place at night, but it was never proper for someone of his rank and position in the company of the guards to fall asleep in the palace.
No, it didn't seem quite right that explain the situation by saying that he fell asleep. Something else had happened. The guard sifted through his hazy memory, desperately trying to make sense of everything. He'd been standing in the dark – he'd been on duty the night before – when figures came running towards him. He hadn't been able to recognize them (nor could he remember exactly how many there were) so he had tried to speak. Tried to? Oh, yes; that was the reason why his head was killing him – before he could get out an entire sentence, one of them had struck him in the head. They obviously wanted to keep him from attending to his assigned job. What exactly had that been last night?
His pain became of little consequence to him rather quickly as the details of the duty he was supposed to be performing slammed into his mind, bringing him to cold reality: he'd been guarding Prince Paris' bedchamber! Had anything happened to the prince? The guard forced his aching body to move, pushing his hands against the floor and kicking out with his feet to try to get enough momentum to rise to his feet. As he squirmed around, he managed to shift enough to see the source of the sunlight: a window in the bedchamber, made visible because the door was standing wide open and the frame was splintered. Blind panic gave him the strength to stagger to his feet and stumble inside as he prayed to any deity for any one of many scenarios that varied between highly unlikely to impossible under the circumstances.
'Oh, Apollo!' The guard almost keeled over once more at the sights that he beheld in that room. Two Trojan guards – his brethren-in-arms – laid dead on the floor, their blood staining the tile red. Many parts of the room were in disarray. The closet doors had been flung open and several expensive garments had been torn from their hangings, now either dangling precariously or else strewn about on the surrounding floor. The bedding was turned down and its condition making it evident that some kind of great struggle had taken place on it. The top drawer of the bedside bureau was wide open. Most alarming of all was the fact that Prince Paris was nowhere in sight and there were no obvious clues that would indicate his whereabouts.
The guard's breathing grew ragged as he tore out of the room. "Help!" he shouted. "Apollo, save him!"
His call did not go unheeded. Three more guards quickly came from three different directions, drawn by the horror in his voice and his ominous words. "What is it?" demanded one of them. He frowned at the sight of blood seeping from the panicked guard's head. "In the name of the gods, who did this to you?"
"What happened to me does not matter now!" Paris' guard cried harshly as his hysteria grew. "The prince is gone. There are guards dead, doors broken – the figures in the night! They must have carried off Prince Paris!"
"By the gods!" gasped the second newcomer.
"Are you absolutely certain?" asked the first with hopeful desperation. "Could he not have just awoken earlier than usual and slipped out without you knowing?"
The guard stared incredulously at him. "And leaving parts of his bedchamber in disorder, killing two guards, breaking the door frame, and not caring that I was lying on my face in the corridor?" he snapped. "Does that sound like our prince to you? Our sweet, beautiful prince – oh gods, not Prince Paris! Spare him, please!"
"The king must be made aware of this," declared the third newcomer grimly, turning immediately on his heels and sprinting off.
The other two rushed past the guard to see for themselves the remnants of whatever took place the previous night, hoping that he'd just misinterpreted everything. They stopped short as they realized how accurate his depiction had been. "I think I'm going to be ill," the first choked out at the sight of the dead bodies. He had been in battles before; the dead bodies of comrades were, unfortunately, not an unfamiliar sight to him. However, there was a difference between dying on a battlefield and being brutally slain in what was supposed to be one of the safest parts of the city. "Whoever is responsible for this has surely earned the most terrible punishment inflicted in Tartarus."
"Who are they?" wondered the second. "They look familiar but I don't know their names. They weren't assigned to guard any member of the royal family – I know everyone who has that duty."
"I've only seen them a few times in passing," noted Paris' guard. "Perhaps they were pursuing the prince's attackers through the corridors and so came here."
The first stepped forward and rolled one of the bodies to get an unobstructed view of his face. "This is Titus!" he announced in shock. He let go quickly and rolled the other corpse, already guessing who it was. "And Philo is beside him. They are the personal guards of Lord Isidore." He paused, frowning. "In fact, they should be guarding him now. What were they doing in the palace so late at night?"
"The lord must have decided to stay in order to enjoy the festivities," concluded the second. "He needs to know about this as well."
Frustration mingled with the maddening desperation within Paris' guard. "Not right now!" he said impatiently. "This is horrible, but there is nothing we can do to help these poor guards. We need to be concentrating on what happened to the prince – and who did it to him."
"You're right, you're right," agreed the first though thinking of what terrible things could have befallen their kind prince made him sick. His eyes darted around the room as he surveyed all of the evidence, falling lastly on the bed. "Do you think someone ra-rape –" Oh, he couldn't bear to complete that sentence!
The second turned green and covered his mouth as Paris' guard let out a choking sob. "Maybe not," the second asserted, not believing his own sentiments. "His clothing – those are some of the finest in the lands. Perhaps someone was trying to rob him. The prince could have woken up while these people were here, causing the thieves to overcome him while he was still in bed. The drawer may be open because the prince was trying to retrieve some sort of weapon."
"More likely they attacked him while he was sleeping," sobbed Paris' guard in misery and guilt. How could he have let something like this happen? "Everything else was probably caused by his attempts to escape or defend himself against the intruders. No one other than a vicious monster could have sought to hurt Prince Paris in any fashion. He must have been so frightened to endure such trials!"
All three started at the sound of crying coming from behind the dressing curtain. "Prince Paris?!" cried the guard, feeling as if his heart was about to burst from the intensity of all the different emotions he was experiencing at the moment. He lunged forward and tore aside the curtain to reveal…
…A young servant boy seated on the floor, curled up into a ball and clutching a wooden goat in his hand. "Julian?" asked Paris' guard, recognizing the ten-year-old who always assisted the prince at night. "What are you doing here?"
"Lord Achilles took the prince," he replied hysterically through the tears and sobs.
The guard's blood seeped cold. Troy's beautiful, gentle, young prince who was still untrained militarily was now at the mercy of that brutish bastard? No, it couldn't be true. "How do you know that?" he demanded fiercely, stooping down and seizing the boy's shoulders, shaking him hard. "What did you see? Why didn't you go for help?! Speak up!"
"Stop!" protested the second, prying his comrade away from the clearly traumatized child.
For his part Julian didn't even seem to notice the violent actions or the intervention on his behalf. He rocked his body back and forth, his round eyes looking at nothing and yet watching the incomprehensible things he'd witnessed. "Lord Achilles took the prince," he repeated. "Lord Achilles took the prince, Lord Achilles took the prince…"OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
It took awhile to locate Lord Isidore. He was obviously somewhere in the palace, but not in one of the bedchambers designated for important Trojan nobility that stayed the night for different reasons. The best places to search after those were the discreet rooms spread across most of the palace that were reserved for encounters with the prostitutes. Reasoning that he would be in one near the royal quarters, a guard started knocking on doors as he pondered how the two dead guards ended up involved in whatever happened in Prince Paris' bedchambers in the first place. 'Titus and Philo must have heard him struggle with Lord Achilles,' he decided sadly as he rapped on yet another door and braced himself for another less-than-pleasant response. 'It was so brave of them to take that Greek on themselves with his reputation and all.'
Inside, Isidore was thrilled to finally hear someone disturb him even though he was in the middle of something. While he had no idea what time it was – the particular room, chosen only because of its proximity to the royal quarters, had no windows – he was certain that Achilles would have made his move by now. "One moment!" he shouted in the direction of the door as he thrust a few more times and groaned his release.
The prostitute remained still on the bed after the lord got off of him and put on a robe. "What are you waiting for?" snapped Isidore in disgust, throwing the young man's garment at him. "Get out of my sight. No – don't take the time to put that revolting rag back on. It isn't as if that body isn't available to anyone who wants it for a lot more than just a good peep show."
The young man dragged himself off of the bed and began to limp towards the door. "So now you're good enough to use the main door?" sneered the lord. "No one appreciates an uppity whore. Use the servants' entrance like the lowly piece of filth that you are."
Isidore answered the knock as the prostitute started down the corridor to the other door. He was surprised at what he saw; not at the unfamiliar guard – he hadn't expected Titus and Philo to be in a position to inform him after killing Achilles – but rather at the sunlight seeping through archers' slits in the palace wall. Morning had come without a word from anyone. That didn't bode well for his plan. "Why are you here?" he asked uneasily.
The guard bowed his head. "Your worthy guards, Titus and Philo, are dead, my lord," he announced solemnly. "They were slain while trying to defend Prince Paris from Lord Achilles' attack."
"Where is the prince now?" demanded Isidore in alarm. There was still a chance – if they knew the identity of the so-called assailant, then surely other guards must have interfered as well. The object of his twisted lust might very well still be untouched. 'Please tell me that he is still pure!'
"He is gone," the guard informed him, devastated. He watched the lord's face blanch. "That – beast – abducted him. The king requests that you oversee the investigation in his bedchamber while he accompanies a contingent of guards to the Greeks' quarters."
"Yes, of course." As he followed the guard to Paris' bedchamber, Isidore maintained a show of grief and concern on the outside while fuming on the inside. Those morons had undoubtedly cost him the boy's virginity! He would not be sorry for the deaths of two such incredibly stupid people. It was just lucky for them that Achilles dispatched them before he could get his hands on them; once someone proved to be utterly useless to Isidore, he made it a point to inflict an excruciating punishment for disappointing him.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
"Sire!" called a panicked Greek as he pounded on Odysseus' door. "Sire!"
"Yes, I heard you," answered Ithaca's king as he stumbled to the door, still a bit blurry-eyed from being awoken in such an abrupt manner. Opening the door, he asked, "What is –" before the words caught in his throat. King Priam and a band of Trojan guards came to view over his soldier's shoulder.
"Good morning King Priam and most worthy guards," he said politely as he straightened his back. "How may I be of service to you?"
"How indeed?" spat the king, his tone dark and feature distorted by rage. "So you dare to stand before me as if nothing has happened and carry on pleasantries! Give me one good reason not to behead you and the rest of the Greeks that remain in my realm."
"Rest of the Greeks that remain in Troy?" repeated Odysseus as a sinking feeling came to the pit of his stomach. "I know of none that have yet departed."
"Surely you are aware of the fact that Lord Achilles and his Myrmidons fled sometime last night," snarled Priam threateningly. "That lot aren't clever enough to think up a plan that would get them past my gates while they stole my son!"
"Not Prince Paris!" gasped Odysseus, forcing himself not to vomit. Achilles couldn't really have left him and his men in this mess, could he?
"My Paris is gone!" bellowed the king. "That barbarous animal has tainted his worth and robbed me of my right to command my child."
It couldn't be. Patroclus had promised that Achilles wouldn't do anything that would start a war – at the moment. Odysseus fought the urge to smack himself in the head as he berated himself for being so blind. 'Aren't clever enough, King Priam?' he thought sarcastically. Apparently he'd never dealt with Achilles' cousin. This wouldn't be the first time that the young Myrmidon had played with his words while acting as a mediator for Achilles.
"King Priam," he said aloud as respectfully as he could manage while letting his horror be heard as well. "I can assure you that neither myself or my men knew nothing of this heinous deed. We would not dare to mock your might by remaining here if we had. Any one of us would have informed your majesty in an instant if we knew, as Ithaca respects and fears the power of Troy. Please, I beg of you to allow me to plead our case before the throne and offer whatever help I can in rectifying the situation."OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
"I saw you," Green accused as he tended to Hook's injuries in the prostitutes' chamber. "You threw yourself at those two! Don't tell me that you forgot what they did to Yellow last week when they got their hands on him. You were the one who took care of him."
Hook groaned, glad that he was lying on his stomach so that his friend couldn't see the gleeful and hopeful gleam in his eyes. Explaining that would be tough and he didn't want to tell anyone anything about what he suspected until it proved to be true. "I had my reasons," he grunted.
"Insanity?" guessed Green flatly. "And you even kissed their feet! That probably just got them even more excited." His face softened. "You can't do things like that, Hook. You take care of us; we need you whole."
"I'm still in one piece," Hook assured him lightly even as he winced in pain as Green ran a hot wet cloth over his wounds. He turned his eyes towards the door as someone entered and hastily closed it behind him. "And where have you been, Freckles?"
"What happened to you?" asked Freckles.
"Just answer his question," Green said in a long-suffering tone.
Freckles groaned as he shed his bloodstained garment and grabbed a cloth. "With Lord Isidore," he informed them. "He – well, he demanded a lot of satisfaction before he would let me leave."
"Figures," Hook grumbled into his pillow.
"You'll never believe what's going on," continued Freckles, not hearing him. "Lord Achilles has kidnapped Prince Paris! It's true; a guard came to the door to tell Lord Isidore all about it. Apparently the lord's two guards were killed when they tried to stop him."
"How awful for the prince," commented Green as he soaked and wrung out his cloth. Bringing it back to Hook's body, he was startled to find that the other prostitute was trembling with tears streaming down his face. Maybe Hook had lost his mind if he was getting so worked up over this. Green himself wasn't sure if everyone should be as worried as they probably were if Lord Achilles was anything like he appeared to be the day before. "Hook? What's wrong?"
It took awhile before Hook could explain to them that the tears were brought on by joyful relief and the tremors the result of him trying to keep from laughing.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Odysseus stood with his head buried in his hands while he waited in a small room outside the great meeting hall where King Priam and Troy's nobility was preparing to call him. Curse Achilles for placing him and his men in this position! Had the man no sense of responsibility towards his friends? Love seemed to make him even more impulsive and thoughtless. Love; that was well and good for the Myrmidons, but the Ithacians were in a mess. Now instead of obtaining the peace that he'd been working so hard for, Odysseus had to decide if he'd rather have the Trojans or the Myrmidons burn Ithaca to the ground and slaughter his people. He groaned aloud at the thought, drawing even more furious glares from the two guards posted at the double doors.
He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he didn't notice someone else enter the room. The guards were stunned at the arrival of Andromache, Hector's wife, but she held her hand up in a silent order to remain where they were before either spoke a word. "King Odysseus," she greeted formally.
"My lady Andromache," he replied hoarsely, looking up. "Greetings to you this morning. I'm sorry that this encounter couldn't have taken place under more pleasant circumstances."
She cast an appraising look over him for a long moment, recalling his past kindness to her and Astyanax as well as the love in his voice as he spoke about his own wife and son. "You didn't play a part in what happened to Paris, did you?" she asked cautiously, almost confident that she hadn't judged him wrong but still not willing to leave it totally up to chance after what had just happened.
"No," he replied truthfully, looking her in the eyes. "Which I'm about to explain to the king. I wish you're husband was here, my lady, for I hear he is an honest and just man. He will be the only one who can set everything right again, him being the commander of the army and all," he added hastily.
"A messenger came during all the commotion," Andromache told him, her wise eyes still assessing. "Hector will be returning to Troy in two days, barring any unforeseen events."
Two days. Why couldn't Achilles have waited for another two days? Then again, knowing what he believed about Prince Hector's involvement in everything, the warrior would have just seen it as more reason for carrying out his plan that night. Odysseus smiled his thanks at her as he planned his next move. He had the words to keep him and his men out of the Trojan dungeons – or worse – until he returned. Then he could tell Troy's crown prince everything. After all, secrets and lies were what caused this situation in the first place; perhaps the truth could free them of it.
Not the entire truth, of course – some details would have to be slightly altered. Prince Hector didn't need to know exactly how much Odysseus knew of Achilles' plans, namely that he knew that he was set on spiriting Prince Paris away at some point. He also decided that it would probably be best to exaggerate the length of Achilles' courtship with his younger brother. All that truth would be hard to manage.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Troy was long out of sight by the time the sun rose over the Myrmidon ship. That was fortunate for everyone on board, including Paris: had someone from the city actually seen their ship sailing away, the Trojan army would have attacked with or without the leadership of their official commander, Hector.
Why then did Paris feel so mixed up inside? He'd spend the remainder of the night after the escape on deck in Achilles' arms, just enjoying the feeling of holding him and being held while looking out over the water in the direction of the city. The Myrmidons had left them alone for a long time, but once the sun had risen they needed to consult with their leader. Though Achilles sensed his confusion and was loath to leave him for even a moment Paris assured him that he would be fine. Now the warrior was speaking with Eudores while Paris sat on the deck beside Patroclus, who'd offered to keep him company.
"Are you all right?" Patroclus was now asking.
Paris nodded mutely, afraid that if he spoke the tears that were blurring his vision would spill over.
Patroclus wasn't fooled for a minute. "Then why do you look like you want to cry?" he pressed on. "You don't regret your decision to leave with us, do you?"
"No," said Paris, wiping his eyes in frustration. "I love Achilles and want to be with him. My life in Troy – I hated it and it wasn't safe, but…."
"It was the only home you've ever known."
There was more to it than that. "And what else?"
"My brother." Paris closed his eyes as the tears fell steadily. "I love him too and now I'll probably never see him again."
"Oh." Patroclus thought of the right thing to say. He knew of Achilles' suspicions and didn't disagree, but telling Paris about them – especially now – would be cruel. "If anyone has the means to come and see you once we get home, it's your brother," he said kindly, though his blood chilled a bit as he realized how true that statement was.
"But what if he tries to make me go back?" asked Paris, almost to himself. "I don't want to go back."
"The Myrmidons won't let that happen," promised Patroclus firmly.
That just brought up another heartbreaking concern in Paris' mind. "What if the Myrmidons won't let him even get off the ship if he does come?"
Patroclus put a comforting hand on his shoulder, wanting to end the poor boy's suffering. "I won't let that happen," he told him in a low voice. "If I'm there when he shows up, I'll make sure that he can get back to the hut." It wasn't as if he were promising that Hector would be left alone with him or that Achilles would even let him in the door. Paris needed assurances, not reality.
"Thank you," Paris whispered. He smiled ruefully. "I never had a friend before."
"You do now, and more still when you get to know the others better."
"That sounds nice." He let out a loud sigh. "Apollo, I'm exhausted."
"I don't doubt it," observed Patroclus before shouting over his shoulder: "Achilles! Eudores! Are you two done yet?"
The pair glared in his direction as they made their way over. "Have you no manners at all?" griped Eudores.
"Yes, and that's why I didn't throw anything at your hollow head," replied Patroclus jovially. "Cousin, you need to get some sleep; you haven't had any in over two days. Take Paris with you – this has been a long night for everyone, especially you two."
Eudores har-umphed. "I suppose you're right," he said begrudgingly, not wanting to admit that sort of thing to Patroclus. "We can handle matters for a few hours. Have a good rest, Achilles, sire," he added, nodding to Paris.
"Not 'sire'" Paris told him as Achilles helped him to his feet. "I'm not a prince anymore; I'm simply Paris."
"You do realize," said Achilles, slipping an arm around him as they headed below deck to the commander's cabin, " that it's not possible. There is nothing simple about Paris – neither being him or loving him."
Paris laughed and buried his face in Achilles' neck. "I'm sure I'll have something witty to say about that after I've slept for awhile."
"I'm sorry; I should have known that we'd both be dead on our feet after all that's happened," Achilles murmured. "In fact, I almost fell asleep last night after we made love. All I wanted to do was take you in my arms and feel you against me as I drifted off."
"We can do that now," Paris suggested, giving his lips a gentle kiss. "I've been wondering what it would be like to wake up in your arms like that. Let's pretend that we've just been together and fall asleep like you described."
Achilles nuzzled his neck. "Just pretend?"
"For right now," smiled Paris. "Although the next time we go to bed, I don't think I'll be satisfied with just pretending. No more pretending for us, Achilles; we can finally be together without fear."
They were free, Achilles realized as he opened the door to the commander's cabin and followed Paris inside. They could now spend all the time together that they wanted, talk to each other in a public place without fear of getting caught, and fall asleep and wake up in each other's arms. This freedom hadn't come easy and demanded a few sacrifices – the warrior sent a silent apology to Odysseus for all the trouble he was undoubtedly in, even though the old fox was capable of talking himself out of it – but he would do it again in a heartbeat.
Trials most likely still lay ahead, but Paris was finally with him and out of Troy. It was all that Achilles wanted and he was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that things stayed that way.
To be continued in Family Secrets
A/N: Okay, apparently I lied when I said that I'd cut this chapter in half if it got too long. Same old problem; no good stopping point and a lot to cover.
I'm revising Family Secrets, with the first posting coming no later than a week from this one. When I originally wrote that story, this prequel wasn't even a thought and I was still a fan fiction writing novice. My goal back then was to create a story where something major happened every single chapter and, while I still really like the story, that resulted in it being somewhat rushed and not as detailed as it could be. The revision will (hopefully!) be much more fleshed out and have more than just Hector's p.o.v. (even though he'll still be the main character), including a chapter at least dealing with Achilles and Paris' life after they get to Achilles' homeland.
The original version of Family Secrets will remain posted, since I hate when other authors take down the first versions of their stories after I've read the revision and found that I like the original better. Consider the revision to be an elaboration on events, as well as a way for me to fix a couple of continuity problems.
Last of all, thank you all so much for reading and especially for reviewing! It really makes my day to see that people are interested in my stories.