First chapter compares Odysseus and Foxface! The chapter title in Latin means 'Of Strong Minds'. Hope you enjoy- R&R! You can suggest comparisons for me to write, but I'm not promising anything. :)
"Like this, sir?" A young man with his beard barely grown in positioned his mallet over the iron nail. The man he spoke to was startled from his reverie; his burning, bright eyes suddenly focused on the young man from where they had been staring thoughtfully out over the wine-dark sea.
What Odysseus really wanted to say was, Why are you here, child? We have been at war for more than ten years and you are still young- boy, you should not be here! However, he simply heaved a sigh and ran a hand through his curly brown hair. "Yes, son, that shall suffice." He helped the youth drive the spike into the wood. Then the wily warrior wove his way through the carpenters, whose skills were rusty from years of destroying instead of building, and gazed up at his own colossal creation. The soldiers around him shielded their eyes with weathered hands against the relentless sun and called the machine a siege horse. They didn't think it would finish their task- no, they had been at Ilion far too long and seen far too much death to believe that one man's scheme would bring them success now. Odysseus, though he too had fought long and hard, had a glimmer of hope.
The Ithacan narrowed his eyes shrewdly. Bright Eyes Athene herself had told him of this mighty project. It was destined to work- Ilion was destined to fall. Was it not? Then he turned his craggy face towards the pyres. The burning pyres, where Patroclos and so many others had lain. "With all the sacrifice we've given- both eagerly and reluctantly- we are to win this war for certain. True, Bright Eyes?" the man whispered, "If it is not fate, can we still breach Ilion's battlements and carry Helen of Sparta back to Menelaus? Give me a whisper, grey-eyed Athene!" Only the wind sang an answer in reply, whistling in the hollow belly of the horse. Odysseus clenched his battered fists and faced his greatest plan once again.
The thing stood taller than three Danaans standing on each other's broad shoulders. Wooden planks were held in place with coopers' hoops and driftwood was hammered in with metal spikes. The horse's muzzle was now taking shape as the worn workers balanced on makeshift scaffolding and hammered away at the heavy wood.
"Odysseus!" King Agamemnon of Mycenae sauntered up to the horse's mastermind and spoke sharply enough that all the Achaeans and some of the Trojans must have heard his cries, "How many more trees shall we need to complete this project of yours, clever Ithacan?" Despite his tired voice and gray-tinged beard, the king's eyes shone with a bright, desperate hope and he smiled jovially. His royal robes billowed behind him.
"Ah, old friend," the rougher man greeted the Mycenaean, "perhaps but one more mighty tree need felling now- come with me!" They passed the place where Achilles had held Prince Hector's body and walked to a sandy plain where Odysseus had scrawled the plans for the wooden horse in the dirt. While Agamemnon knelt and scrutinized the figures and lines, Odysseus looked out over the ravaged forests. He reached down and shook the king's shoulder sharply. The richly dressed man stood hastily and followed Odysseus's pointing finger with his gaze to a tall Pontic pine. "That's the one, Your Majesty," the Ithacan said, "If that tree falls today, we can be preparing to carry out the final plan in two days' time." Agamemnon nodded and marched away, bellowing for men to advance on his newest foe- the innocent, sturdy tree. Odysseus grinned at the sight.
Soon the Greeks were hewing at the ancient trunk with their best blades and Agamemnon was satisfied with the attack. He once again approached clever Odysseus. "I presume you will lead the ambush." The addressee nodded once and was silent. "Then I shall allow you to choose your men, the ones that shall accompany you on the mission." Odysseus did not show any signs of gladness or excitement, but he did not hesitate to name off his first choices.
"Nestor, Ajax the Great, Ajax the Lesser, Palamedes, Diomedes, Neoptolemus, Menelaus, Achilles…" When the great warrior trailed off in thought, Agamemnon volunteered to go as well, but the other man would not allow his king to undertake such a risky venture. His honey-sweet bard's tongue soothed Agamemnon's wounded pride. "There will be more men to command on the ships, O king, and you must lead the first assault when we open the gates!" The high king over Greece was mollified.
'At least allow a few more strong men to go with you into the belly of the beast," Agamemnon ordered, chuckling at his jest. His hawk-like nose and sharp eyes gave him a vulture's mask as he surveyed the many soldiers. Odysseus, silent, accepted the men Agamemnon suggested until the nobleman pointed at one of the carpenters, one of Telamonian Ajax's soldiers. The clever Ithacan seized the Mycenaean's wrist and pushed the arm down from its direction.
"Not him!" Odysseus hissed. It was the young man who had been working alongside Odysseus on the Horse earlier that week.
"Is this wily man concerned for another's safety outside of his own family?" Agamemnon quipped. He was unaccustomed as king to being refused- let alone twice in one day- and it stung, albeit not as much as Thersites's taunts. "Young Phrysus is strong and loyal.
"Look, man! He is naught but a boy. Can you not see his youthful face? Look at his eyes- does any boy deserve to see and experience what we have all been seeing? Nay, Agamemnon- leave young Phrysus with the ships and out of this battle. He reminds me of my own child Telemachus." Agamemnon moved his gaze to another one of the battle-scarred Greeks.
"Odysseus, sir!" A carpenter bounded up the slope towards the two kings, clutching his side, sore from hard work. "The horse is finished and ready for whatever plans are in store!"
The girl from Two- Clove? – ranged through the forest. She was the same age as the red-haired female from Five. The two fifteen-year-olds were less than thirty meters away from a violent confrontation and only one of them knew it. The girl from District Five kept as still as the wind would allow her as the insane girl sought prey- not for food as the redhead's nickname, which was Fox, of course- would do, but for the sheer pleasure of creating death, an act of evil only humans revel in. Only a few humans at that.
She couldn't quite believe that Clove had not found her hiding spot yet. She thought her fiery locks would have been a dead giveaway- they had, for the most part, escaped from her ponytail and even now obscured her vision. Before Clove had come crashing through the trees, the girl from Five had been picking twigs and leaves out of her hair. The ginger tresses should have stood out in the green underbrush. Alas, human vision was fickle and Clove advanced, step by step, until she was barely ten feet from her fellow tribute. The brunette had never been good at tracking and stealth; at home in District Two only wimps visited those survival academies. Clove was a fighter- at age fourteen she had been enrolled and pummeling her opponents at one of the most prestigious training centers. No, Clove was neither a survivalist nor a tracker. Clove was a knife-thrower, an Amazon warrior.
The redhead cringed as Clove's dark boots paused directly in front of the bush she crouched underneath. With a sigh, the killer girl plunked down on the ground and fiddled with one of her knives. It still had the blood of that bloodbath from Nine on it, Clove saw. She grimaced. Blood was not attractive, so she scraped it off with one fingernail. Clove did not like dirty knives. For an extra bit of practice- not that she needed it or anything- the girl from Two hurled her blade across the sun-dappled clearing, lodging it in the heart of a sycamore sapling. Behind the formidable girl, the ginger gulped and stuffed her fist in her mouth to keep from squeaking. Clove had almost hit her in the head when she pulled back her hand to throw the knife. And, just a little bit scarier, the knife was buried at the same level the girl from Five's heart would be if she were standing. She held her breath as Clove popped her knuckles.
BOOM. A cannon fired and both girls flinched. Clove leaped up immediately afterwards, swearing loudly, and this time she did hit the other tribute in the face as she moved backwards. She glanced back towards the green bush, but then attributed the bump to a hidden stone as she wrenched her dagger from the tree.
"If Marvel gets a kill before I do…" Clove hissed warningly as she dashed away. Ever so slowly, the other girl dragged herself from the bushes, pinching her nose to try and stem the flow of her crimson blood. It wasn't broken- she had paid enough attention at the first-aid station in training to know that. Gasping and spraying blood everywhere as she did so, she sprawled out on her back in the scratchy grass. BOOM. Someone was crying rather loudly from the direction Clove had run. The girl from District Five rolled her eyes. A gleaming silver hovercraft lingered in the sky about a kilometer away from the coppery-haired girl for a time. She briefly wondered what was holding it up. Finally, it dipped down its wicked claw and picked up a boy- one of the Careers, by the looks of him. It reached down again after moving almost imperceptibly, this time lifting a tiny body- the twelve-year-old from District Eleven. Were those flowers raining from her fragile body?
The redhead knew what she was good at- she knew she had to finish what she had begun. The rope had been hastily stowed under another bush at Clove's arrival; it had come unknotted in the process. Her nimble fingers twisted the rope into a sturdy hangman's noose and tightened the opposite end on a bent tree branch. Next time she would not have to run or ide. Now her trap was laid and Clove wouldn't simply drive her into hiding and then walk away unscathed. The copper-haired girl silently disappeared into the dense trees. Her trap was set.
The surf was much gentler than it had been the night before, but its gentle lapping at his feet did not wake the wily Odysseus. He was yet unconscious from the beating he had received from Poseidon's winds and waves; his raft was broken to pieces and entangled in beached seaweed all around its former rider. The man's rough tunic was in tatters and his beard, beginning to procure streaks of gray, was caked with sand. His chest rose and fell in shallow breaths. Odysseus had survived Troy, survived the Cyclops, survived Aeolus and Circe- to be defeated by the sea which his people had conquered. He was near Hades' kingdom now. Thanatos was on is gloomy way.
The man moaned and called out in his deathly sleep. "Penelope…" He muttered. Death paused, cursed, and flew away on his black chariot as another figure emerged onto the beach. He hovered in the clouds- perhaps the man would still fall to his ebony scythe. He waited, unsure.
The woman who approached was, in a word, beautiful. In her mind, this 'Penelope' her handsome refugee spoke of could not compare to her beauty- the man would surely recognize that when he awoke. Calypso thought he was quite handsome as well- so lovely she desired to keep him. He would fall in love with her as she had with him. For two days the nymph had cared for the man on her white beach, for two days she had trickled water from her freshwater springs down his parched throat and held his head in her lap as she sang sweet love songs to him. Her voice must be prettier than this Penelope's as well. Calypso was the daughter of a Titan, after all. Penelope was a mere mortal.
At Olympus, two radiant goddesses stood before the almighty Zeus. One smiled softly and raised an imploring white arm; while the other narrowed her piercing grey eyes and slammed the gilded butt of her spear on the marble floors of Olympus. The reverberating racket and the goddesses' clamor hurt Zeus's royal ears. "Father, Odysseus is already the last living Achaean away from his home! Please, father, you must allow him to return to Ithaca!" Athene reasoned.
"O great and mighty Zeus, will you restrain the power of love?" Aphrodite purred, batting her eyelashes, "Allow poor lovesick Calypso to keep the man- he is but one mortal!" Zeus wanted to please his favorite daughter- she was the man's patron, after all, and he had her favor- but he knew the sharp arrow of love, as he had succumbed to Aphrodite's spell before. As the goddesses turned to squabbling once more, Zeus brought his scepter down on the clouds with a roll of thunder. Aphrodite quailed.
"Odysseus shall wake," he boomed, and both were pleased, "and he will remain with Calypso for a time- I do not yet know how long this time shall be." Now only one woman was happy. Athene screamed and in her immense rage she flew at Aphrodite. Her nails, worn from battle, still left formidable scratches on the love goddess's once-perfect face. Aphrodite cried and cowered behind Zeus's golden throne as a bit of ichor seeped from her wounds. Athene turned in a whirl of armor and strode from the room. No matter what that nymph or Aphrodite put her Odysseus through, Bright Eyes would keep watch over him.
Odysseus woke on a strange island. The lilting voice he had heard in his dream was singing a haunting melody and a strange woman was bent over him, her sun- lightened hair tickling his face. Calypso's bell-like laughter rang out as she realized that her prisoner had come to. The man was unnerved and he moved away from the nymph as fast as he could with his bruises and wounds and battered body. He hurt terribly and groaned as he settled again in the sand. The woman did not have fangs or claws Calypso did not want to hurt Odysseus. His voice was rough from disuse and the salty sea breezes had left his vocal cords even creakier. "Where am I?"
"Welcome to Ogygia, Odysseus Laertiades," Calypso's voice was musical. The man, however, did not take note of it.
"How do you know my name?" he cried. Why did this woman keep laughing? "Who are you, witch?"
"I am a daughter of the immortals, and an immortal myself. Expect things like this from us, clever Odysseus. I am Calypso."
She was nearer to death than ever before. There was no one else for her to steal from, aside the 'star-crossed lovers' from District Twelve. And as far she knew, they were still holed up in that cave- they weren't going to leave their supplies untended. All her food from that 'feast' was already gone. There were four of them left now and she was most certainly the cleverest of them all. Cato could easily finish off the boy from Twelve and neither Katniss nor Cato would escape a battle alive without eventually fatal wounds. If the girl from Five simply waited, life would be hers. She only had to wait it out. And survive.
In order to survive, one needs nourishment; the red haired girl did not have any of that available. Cato- she wasn't going to risk stealing from him. Anyway, he didn't have food for her to take some without it being missed. The only other option was to visit that cave. The girl decided she would risk it. Her snares had caught not tributes, but several small animals had triggered the traps. She wasn't going to eat raw meat, not yet. The District 12 tributes had plenty of sponsors and therefore they had food to spare.
She crept through the trees. The cave was well-hidden, but easy enough to find if one had traveled there before. Or if one saw the silver parachutes that routinely fell over the location. The redhead saw the rocks through the trees and dropped to her hands and knees. She couldn't afford to be seen- not when Katniss had those arrows still. She managed to crawl all the way up to the mouth of the cave without bringing the other girl springing from the rocks. Then her left foot dislodged a stone and it echoed into the cave as it fell. The girl was too terrified to do anything but cringe. But no one leaped from the mouth with knife or bow in hand. The red-haired girl listened for the sounds of breathing. Nothing. A sly smile crept over her thin lips. This was too easy. Feet first, the tribute girl slid into the cave. It was empty- no star-crossed lovers in the stone hideaway. She felt around with shaking hands. Again, nothing. She gritted her teeth. They had taken their supplies with them- the girl from Five hadn't expected her opponents to be so clever. Never underestimate your enemies.
Carefully, she crawled from the hole. There was no one in sight, but there! Footprints trailed through the decaying leaves. There was one set with one print pressing into the ground deeper than the other. It made sense, the fox-girl thought. The girl was stealthy and the boy was badly injured. She kept close to the trees while she followed their tracks. It would not do to have them see her approach.
A bird whistled, followed closely by another two-note call. Mockingjays and grooslings were the only birds the girl had seen in the arena and grooslings didn't whistle, so it must be a mockingjay. The girl from Five relaxed and went to move aside a branch. Then she heard voices.
"Use that when you need to communicate,' Katniss said, "We should use it every five minutes or so, to make sure we're both still all right." So the tune wasn't a mockingjay after all. It was a perfect bird whistle, though. The girl could have been the bird. Heart pounding fiercely, the sly girl leaned against a tree as Katniss tramped into the trees, So close. She lay on the ground and watched the boy, a bit angry. Their food was laid out right there on some sort of plastic covering, taunting the girl.
The boy sat quietly for a while and then whistled loudly. The process repeated itself several times. Then he walked away, towards the babbling river. The girl from Five didn't even try to take any food. He was back, though, within a few minutes and he laid a handful of blue-black berries beside the rest of their food stores. They must be edible- the boy didn't have any deceit in his wide blue eyes. He looked so babyish for a sixteen-year-old. When he disappeared again, the copper-haired girl dashed into the sunny clearing and began her raid. She scooped a bit of their cheese away from a large blob and snatched a roll. Then the berries. The delicious-looking purple berries. She carefully plucked the barriers from the top of the pile, keeping them in the same, natural-looking positions. With the berries rolling in her pocket, the clever girl straightened out the plastic the food was laid out on and retreated to the underbrush. Just in time- the boy arrived in the clearing as the other girl stepped out. He set another handful of berries with the diminished food stock.
The fox-girl laughed to herself as the clueless boy settled in the clearing once more and whistled the mockingjay notes. As he sat, the girl crammed the soft bread and rich cheese into her mouth. The food weighed heavy in her stomach, but she would rather have a stomachache than starve to death. The cheese lingered in her mouth, but the juice from the dark berries would soon wash that taste away. Now she took a berry from her pocket and rolled it between her fingers. It left a purple stain. Oh well- at home she had time to be organized, but the arena was just about the furthest from home she could get. She lifted the fruit to her lips- it smelled so sweet- and popped it into her mouth.
It was acrid- bitter as anything she had ever tasted. The girl from District 5 tried to cough and retch, but she could no longer move. Foxes were never meant to eat berries.
Hope you guys all enjoyed- drop a review! I've got a few more ideas on the way, but don't expect weekly updates or anything. No character will be 'compared' more than once, for your information. :) Thanks for reading!