A/N: After watching 300 I was devastated at the conclusion, but then my sister told me that it wasn't strictly historically accurate and that in Greek history a spartan warrior and two messengers were sent back to Sparta under orders from King Leonidas to convince the rest of Greece to defeat Xerses unanimously. Of course, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to allow two of my favourite characters, Stelios and Astinos, to escape the fate which befell them in the film. So I wrote this following story, loosely based on Greek history, about their journey with Dilios in completing the task with which they were trusted, and the troubles they encountered along the way.
I hope it does one of my favourite films of all time justice.
Please, please comment and let me know what you think - I hope you enjoy it. If you do then I will upload the rest of it.
The Great King listened with half an ear as the breath of those few that encompassed him drew their last. The malicious arrows of an outrageous betrayal had pierced flesh with little retaliation. And yet he had been as proud of his soldiers as a father might be at the birth of his first son. They had been resilient even in the face of hopeless annihilation. They had stood, as strong as the bosom of Greece herself, whilst pounded with stones of a foreign nature and had even succeeded in the extraction of some of these foreign blemishes from the pure foundations of their homeland; a foundation built on hope and determination…power was a quality which followed naturally.
But now he kneeled, against his own will, before a tyrant, as the fruitless moon arose early to stifle the blistering sun. He could not move. His muscular chest, once a symbol of national pride, heaved as his punctured lungs struggled to retain any oxygen. Droplets of sweat dangled tantalisingly on his forehead before dripping to the edge of his nose and falling to the stone bellow him. Here it mingled with the splattered blood of his friends, his brothers, as the deep red liquid basked in the sun.
He mustered the strength to tilt his chin towards the ever rising moon in the height of the skies. The grey stone of the formidable valley – known to Greeks as 'The Hot Gates' – towered above him on either side, bare of Demeter's vegetation, juxtaposed with the expanse of greenery which lay beyond the site (though this would later be destroyed by Persian movement as they tore their way through Greek lands). His vision was tarnished however, at the sight of Persian archers in tight ranks set across ridges in the rock, the sun glinting sharply off the pointed metal which the King knew would soon penetrate his already withered body. It was through sheer determination that he remained alive at present.
Never retreat. Never surrender. His father had taught him so much as a child; his country's most honoured code. It was with some nostalgia that he cast his mind back over his boyhood, but he was redeemed with pride – he had done the right thing. That most beloved King had amplified the meaning of each lesson in the sacred laws of his country. Yet he did not feel triumph now. Nor did he feel regret. He felt sorrow. It was a fleeting emotion unknown to him before, in all his learned strength. It grew like a large fish creeping slowly through the black waters of Greece until it consumed him. Grief for his men and the lives lost, all willingly sacrificed at his command without a moment's hesitation. Though the greatest sorrow was that he would not be present to fight in the final battle; for there would be one. A satirical smile flickered across his lips as he imagined the scale of suffering the Persians would endure if the pain of a mere 300 of his men had proved so much of a challenge.
The Persian King rose from his gold-encrusted throne, decorated with numerous jewels and precious metals. His black eyes narrowed as he observed his rival and his blood ran cold as he realised his first inclination to be true. The King had indeed been smiling through his brown beard, slightly dishevelled since his time at war. Could the King have one final hoax up his sleeve? This trickster? This daemon? He recalled the paltry occasions in which the King had succeeded in deceiving him. He shuddered before regaining composure, adjusting the gold which hung from his neck. He was a God for heaven's sake – this mere mortal was no match for his divine powers. He had tired of his games! With satisfaction he observed the bloodied flesh of the enemy's army from his vantage point…he would slaughter them all. A formidable fighting force, it was true, but all fell to bow before the God-King eventually. He spoke his final words to the King carefully;
'It was possible for you, by not fighting against God but by ranging yourself on my side, to have been the sole ruler of Greece.'
The Honest King gathered the remaining energy in his body, drawing as deep a breath as he could muster before he answered;
'If you had any knowledge of the noble things of life, you would refrain from coveting others' possessions; but for me to die for Greece is better than to be the sole ruler over the people of my race."
With a hiss the Persian gave the command for the archer's to fire, but he never removed his eyes from the rival King. He would watch the life sucked from him and he would enjoy it.
Much to Xerses' disappointment no flicker of pain or fear crossed the good King's face; such weakness had been trained out of him by the age of ten. Instead he drew up to his full height and flung his powerful arms wide so the Persians had his full bodily capacity to aim at. He saw the dark objects blot the sun as they soared towards him, heard the sharp twang as the string snapped on bows and closed his eyes.
He lay in the heat of last summer amongst the maize which lay in abundance just beyond the city walls. The light breeze cooled him as he lay next to his wife, caressing her perfect figure with rough hands. Gently he removed a loose strand of dark hair from her freckled cheek and she smiled. His heart leapt as she held his hand between hers and touched it to her lips as her eyes opened. She observed her husband with such a tender love that he was sure he had never felt happier. She suddenly started as hair began to brush her leg and their six year old son appeared from his hiding place amongst the golden corn, squealing with delight as his father tackled him to the ground. He lay still between his parents for some time, contented in the security of his father's big arms and comforted by the unmistakable scent of lavender which he associated with his mother. He nestled in her long curls while throwing his arms around his father's neck. The King opened one eye a fraction and his heart burst with renewed compassion for the child in his arms. He lay with his whole existence cradled in his hands and he was perfectly happy, the memory netted in gold forever.
With one final roar, still alive in his memories, King Leonidas fell amongst his 300 Spartan brothers; never to rise again and yet to live on…
The 3 warriors swivelled in their saddles as the roar of Hercules himself echoed around the lands, disturbing birds from their solitary perches as they squawked in the blue skies. The 3 men caught each other's eyes and all had been communicated between them. As they had reached a river, the water as still as the pebbles beneath the surface, they took a momentary pause in their journey. Their King was dead.
Astinos led his stolen Persian horse to the water and it gratefully drank the pure liquid. Had he been a weaker man, an Athenian perhaps, he would have cried. Oh! - how he would have cried, screamed, cursed the Gods for the loss of his father. As it was, he was a Spartan. All he felt was a blackened soul, filled with hatred for the Persian bastards who had murdered his own flesh and blood, his heart yearning for revenge. He had stood by his father for the past months defending his country and they had fought gallantly. It would not be in vain – he would not allow it!
'Do not fear, father, you will be avenged. I swear to Ares I will have the blood of Xerses!'
Stelios flicked his red cape bitterly behind him as he sank onto the large rocks on the riverside. He had tried to argue with Leonidas but once the King had his mind set on his idea it was near impossible to alter it, especially at such a crucial time. How he resented it! He hated his life – that he was here whilst his brothers lay mercy to the crows. He had fought bravely, beyond his own ability and with no regard for personal safety; only that of the man to his left. For the majority of the war this had been Astinos. He glanced briefly at his friend who although had his water bottle open and in the stream, was making no attempt to fill it. He should have been there! He should have died where he'd fought – he should have been awarded the beautiful death. How he envied those who had stayed, whose souls were now offered to Hades. To die for his country; there was no greater honour and he had, by some cruel twist of fate, been denied this.
'To be one of three to walk like cowards from a raging battle – what shame has befallen me! What pain I should have endured with my brothers!'
Dilios had only dismounted form his horse moments before and squeezed Astinos' shoulder affectionately before residing into the shade, leaning against a tree trunk sheltered beneath the fresh leaves. He couldn't begin to comprehend the resentment the boy must be feeling at the loss of his father, and at a comparatively young age too. Suddenly his King's face appeared before him, as clear as when he had left him on his final orders. He heard his voice unwavering and true as it carried its final command;
"You must go – with Stelios and Astinos. You have fought well but you have a gift of no other Spartan; you must recite what has happened here. The whole of Greece must know our story and the whole of Greece must unite against a common enemy. Remember us. Remember why we died. As our story lives on, as do we…as does our cause."
"Sire," he had stammered amongst pointless protests, "is there any message I should take…I should take to err…"
"to the Queen." The almighty man had finished for him. He reached around his neck and removed the charm which had resided there – a token of the concealed weakness, the unspoken love, "Nothing needs to be said,"
The apparition had disappeared prematurely before his eyes and Dilios checked himself. To his dismay he discovered his thin golden beard wet with tears. The eldest of the three and therefore the example to follow, he hastily wiped them away and ensured the ignorance of the others. Astinos crouched unmoving by the water. Stelios, his knuckles losing their colour as his hand was clenched tightly into a fist, was lost too deep in his own thoughts.
'Great Leonidas, my brother, my friend, my King; your bidding shall be done.'
He cast his gaze towards the skies and saw that the unforgiving moon had drawn parallel to the raging sun.
All was silent. The moon had finally presided over the withering sun, casting infinite shadows over the three Spartans as they slept. They had ensured they were free from the eagle eye of Persian scouts which they knew patrolled the land. In the security of a rare cave-like chasm in the earth, they had chosen to rest. They did not light a fire for the possibility of being found.
Still no man had spoken.
Stelios had perched on a thick branch; his knife was removed from his belt and he had proceeded to twist it maliciously in his hands, his mind still deep in battle. Astinos had rested his head on the ground, his eyes staring blankly up at the carpet of stars and he saw nothing – merely vengeful plans mapped out in his head. Dilios had crouched close to the ground, twirling rocks absentmindedly in his fingers. He heard the roars of warfare echoing in his head, the painful deaths of his brothers and the pitiful squeaks of slaughtered Persians. His King appeared again before him as he made to rest his eyes and Dilios' last thought before he drifted into uncharted oblivion was the necessity of a proper burial for each of his brothers.
So the three travellers, shocked by their own exhaustion, slept undisturbed. Dilios had his hand wrapped tightly around a scroll which was fastened to his person. Had they been more vigilant, they might have noticed the four hooded figures as they had followed them from the river. Had they been better rested, they may have woken from their slumbers as the figures approached, faces masked and black cloaks billowing out behind them. Silently and with great care, they surrounded the body of Dilios, his chest rising and falling with each breath.
In his dream Dilios had been the betrayer of Leonidas, leading the Persians round the old goat path, thus outflanking the Spartans. His subconscious screamed at the figure which resembled himself to stop, but he had no control. He saw the face of the Great Leonidas as he addressed him, his expression harbouring only a deep disappointment;
"Friend," he uttered, "may you live forever,"
One faceless figure reached down, producing an identical scroll from inside his robes. Dilios' twitching hand was removed and the scroll unclasped. Without a sound the replica was folded into place and the creature stood triumphantly. With a sharp hiss of satisfaction, they vanished into the night.
The Last Testimony and Requests of King Leonidas of Sparta…
It is not with regret, noble gentlemen of the council, that I have to write these words, nor am I regretful of the events which shall befall us today. I write instead with hope – hope that the brave warriors of Sparta complete their duty; that my assassination provokes a revenge mission.
I must first, however, justify my actions in standing against the Persian tyrant, Xerses. This man is no God, but a power-hungry mortal who will only cease his conquering when all of Greece has fallen. I, good sirs, cannot and could not have lived to watch Sparta, our beloved country, burn in the knowledge that such an abomination was allowed by us without resistance. If the Ephors had been obeyed this would undoubtedly have been the consequence.
So we fight and we shall die, but we have taken with us many Persians. And with our deaths, we pray to the Gods, may all of Greece rise together to defend herself from a terrible fate. May Spartan armies lead the full-scale stack from which no Persian survives. May each of us die with courageous hearts and great honour as my 300 have done.
On this note, I believe it befitting to request a hero's burial for each of my men as we lie at the entrance to The Hot Gates. Each man fought more gallantly than the Gods themselves and no honour awarded to them could convey the warriors they are.
I ordered Stelios, Astinos and Dilios to deliver this note and inform all of Greece of our endeavours. These three comrades fought the most gallantly of all and should be treated thus. I wish Dilios to lead the army to battle, as he has proved himself most valuable both as a tactical warrior and loyal friend. Astinos is to marry the most beautiful woman in all of Sparta, whomever he may choose. Stelios is to train new warriors, as his fearless talent saved many Spartan lives and killed countless Persians.
My son is not yet of age, but once he had passed Agoge he shall assume the throne. Until this time, I wish my brother Cleomenes – the 2nd King of Sparta – to take over temporary leadership of the country. I leave the task of appointing a temporary 2nd King to your noble selves.
My final request is simple and yet perhaps the most significant of all; remember us and remember what we died for. Continue our cause and fight till the death. For if we do this, we shall win a great victory.
Leonidas I, King of Sparta