Summary: Twenty years after defeating the Mycenaean invasion, Troy is a powerful, leading kingdom on the edge of the Aegean Sea. King Hector rules wisely and fairly. But the unity achieved during the war has not lasted and brotherly love has given way to bitter hatred and jealously, driven by thwarted ambition.
Disclaimer: I own none of the characters from the Illiad as depicted in the movie Troy.
Hector, King of Troy, slayer of Achilles, master of horses, captain general of the Dardanian League, defender of the sea and vanquisher of the Mycenaeans, entered the council chamber of the Palace of Troy and walked slowly to his throne eying the cold stone seat with distaste. The hard stone was not kind to his aging bones and muscles. Sometimes it was a supreme effort not to fidget and stretch when seated on it.
Standing beside the king's throne to his left was Polyadamas, his oldest and most trusted councilor. Facing the throne, arrayed in two rows on both sides of the hall, were all the council members, nobles of Troy and commanders of its armies. Hector sat down slowly and stared at them, examining their serious, elderly faces. Old men we are all, he thought. Where are the sons and sons of the sons?
He looked at the empty chair to his right, where Astyanax would have sat had he lived. But his son was dead these many years in that silly accident, fallen from his horse on the hunt. There had been no others to replace him.
What shall become of the city when I'm gone?
Long habit helped him banish the thought quickly as he focused on his advisors.
He looked at Polydamas. "Tell me what you have learned," he said.
"My king, the rumors are true. Our spies in the east have confirmed them. The prince Paris has left his estates, which you granted him, and is travelling among the eastern tribes, recruiting men for an army."
"And the watch? How did he slip past the watch we placed on his estates?" Hector asked sharply.
"It appears he bribed the officer in command of the watch detail. The officer has since been brought back to the city in chains. He awaits your sentence, as is Oenone," Polydamas added.
"Paris' lover," Hector said. "She is here?"
"Yes, my king."
"Has she spoken of Paris?" he asked, though he knew the answer already.
"No, my king. She remains fiercely loyal to him. She refused to speak to my officers." Polydamas hesitated. "Would you have us use other methods to urge her to speak?" he asked.
Hector shook his head. "She will not betray him. There is no purpose in causing her indignity. She has never wavered in her loyalty to my brother. Not even when he abandoned her for Helen." Hector saw several of his councilors frown when the name of the former princess was mentioned. One spat on the floor, in disgust or to ward off evil.
Polydamas said tentatively, "and what of Paris, my king? He must be watched."
"He will be. Send more scouts to the east to report on his doings. Increase the patrols in our eastern grazing lands. Order them to watch for any signs of approaching large armed parties or scouts from Paris' forces. And send emissaries to the cities of the league. Let the Lycians and Dardanians learn of Prince Paris' doings. They must not accept any embassies sent by him and they are to prepare to send their forces to defend the league against a rebellion, if necessary."
Aeneas rose slowly.
"My king. I must speak of the events to come, after the prince is defeated."
Hector smiled thinly. "We have not even begun to fight yet, Aeneas, my brother."
"And yet, we will... You know this. As we did twice before, so will we a third time have to deal with the treachery of Paris. This must be the last time. The prince your brother must be stopped from ever rebelling again."
Hector rose. "You would dictate policy to me, Aeneas? You would tell me what to do with my own brother?" In his mind's eye he saw Paris as a child, running around the palace, screaming in joy as his older brother chased after him in their games, or Paris hiding in the stables, where he found him and promised to protect him against their father's wrath. And Paris, asking for his help when he took Helen from Menelaus; Paris, eternally irresponsible, immature and selfish. His brother, whom he loved above all others.
Aeneas did not flinch. "I would advise you, as is my duty, on how to protect your kingdom from danger. If another rebellion is allowed to spread, who can tell what the outcome shall be. There are always those who are dissatisfied with their lot and will rally behind change, even if it is the wrong kind of change offered by a false leader. If enough rally to Paris to present us with a real challenge, would not our enemies try their luck while we are distracted? The Cilicians from the southern coasts may drive north against our allies. To the east are the Hittites. Our allies for the moment, true, but what if an opportunity not to be missed presents itself? And let us never forget that many among the Mycenaeans across the sea still yearn for revenge. For them that war never ended."
Hector cut him off. "The Greeks are divided and leaderless. Since Agamemnon died no other leader has succeeded in uniting them. They are no threat for now. As for the Hittites, you would believe that the king of the Hittites, father of my new bride, our ally by marriage and common interest, would break this bond for an opportunity to ally with an unreliable, weak minded, vain prince as my brother?" He sensed Aeneas almost wincing, flinching from his bitterness as he denigrated his own brother. He knew that the council did not share his guilt over Paris. But he would never stop believing that he had failed to sway his brother from his self-destructive course. What would father think of us now, my brother?
Aeneas remained adamant. "My king, the Hittites may find Paris an easier man to influence as king of Troy than the strong king that sits on its throne now. With Hector gone and Paris king in Troy, it is the Hittites who would become the leading power in the region, with control of the sea coast of the Aegean and the league. Troy will be reduced to a tribute paying subject kingdom under a weak and unworthy ruler."
Hector stood up. "Enough." He looked at his other advisors. He knew they all thought as Aeneas did, even though none dared to speak up. He could not blame them, for he too agreed with him. The kingdom could not afford another bitter civil war that would tear loyalties apart, weaken it from within and expose it to danger from without. If Paris was indeed preparing another rebellion it must be crushed, quickly and swiftly, before it had a chance to mature. Despair flooded him. Paris, my brother, what have you become? I do not want to fight you.
He swiftly closed the meeting, knowing that Aeneas and polydamas would follow his orders without further need for supervision, regardless of their personal misgivings, and send out the emissaries and scouts. He left the room quickly and went back to his private apartments. At the entrance to his chambers he waved back the attendants that followed him everywhere to stay outside. To the left were the chambers of his new wife, Ullalima the Hittite, a young, cheerful girl of twenty years, who had already had one stillbirth. He did not love her, but she did amuse him and was able to cheer him occasionally. Yet she was no soul mate or trusted confidant. What could he find in common with a girl so young? There was only one person that he had ever fully trusted and she had been dead now for nearly a decade. He entered her old chamber and knelt before her likeness, etched on the wall.
"Hello, my love," he said. Andromache looked down at him mutely, but he could hear her warm, happy voice welcoming him, beckoning him to unburden himself.
Night lay on Troy. Here and there people could be seen walking the streets, striding quietly on nameless errands. Restless animals, herded inside the walls until dawn, sounded off in the holding pens near the gates. Torches burned at the temple entrances, for the gods were always awake.
The house belonged to a merchant who had once fallen foul of the throne. It was of average size, similar to many others in this part of the city, an area reserved mostly for merchants and some of the lower nobility. Kind words from a princess had interceded on the merchant's behalf and saved his life and livelihood. In gratitude, he had offered her the house as a domicile when she left the palace, not exactly banished but no longer welcome either. She had lived here quietly ever since.
Hector strode down the street quickly, covered in simple robes borrowed from a palace guard. He stopped outside the house. There were no burning torches in this part of the street and darkness masked the street. No lights burned within either. Yet Hector was certain she was awake. Haunted by her own private demons she would pace the floor for half the night before finally succumbing to sleep.
She opened the door almost immediately when he knocked and stared at him mutely as he removed the cowl from his face. Her beautiful face expressionless, she stepped aside to let him in. Inside he stood in darkness as she walked in front of him to light a single torch. Then she turned to face him, sitting down on a bench by a small, unadorned table. He sat on the other side, aware of her appraising stare, so unsettling in a woman so sensual.
"Why have you come?" she said.
He heard the deep bitterness in her voice.
"Helen," hector said roughly. "Do not assault me with your sadness. I come to see how you fair and to seek your help."
He saw her smile slightly. Even now, in near darkness, and after all these years, he could feel her beauty softening his mood.
"Mighty king Hector needs the help of Helen, accursed princess, banished from the palace?"
"Your apartments in the palace still wait for you. And there are those there who will be glad to see you return," he retorted.
"A few perhaps, but most will stare at me as they did before, with hatred and suspicion in their eyes. I brought the Greek army in my wake. I am Helen, the wife of Paris, the prince who nearly caused Troy's fall and I am also wife of Paris, rebel against the lawful king of Troy, who some say whispered rebellion in his ear. And now, finally, I am Helen, abandoned wife of Paris, the object of jokes and scorn. That is how most of them see me, do they not? Perhaps I am not banished, King Hector, but neither am I welcome. I am only tolerated to live and stay in this part of town because of your grace to me."
He did not wish to argue with her. And she was not wrong. She frequently saw things more clearly than most men. She had always been intelligent, and experience had granted her wisdom. Yet she seemed trapped by fate to lead a life of deep unhappiness and be the source of so much more for others.
"Paris is raising an army and means to rebel again," he said without preamble.
She stared at him, stiff with surprise.
"He would not. He would not dare. After the slaughter you inflicted on the army he raised last time; Even my love is not that stupid."
"He may be," he said sadly. He watched her as she thought it through.
Finally she spoke again. "You want me to help you contact him."
"Yes. For the sake of the kingdom."
She laughed and rose from the table. He watched her move slowly away to turn around and face him, her robes hinting at the still lithe figure beneath.
"Only you would come to ask for my help for the sake of the country."
"It is still your home. Troy gave you shelter and fought a war for you."
"And for that I shall owe a debt for the rest of my life," she said. "I tried to be a loyal princess of Troy. I denounced my husband when he plotted his coup against you and I denied him support in his later rebellion, when his army met yours and was defeated on the slopes of Mt. Ida. Have I not proven my loyalty, my gratitude?"
He hated being harsh with her. His compassion for her always got in the way. "Forgive me. I know your heart and I know where your loyalty lies. I have always known, Helen. But there are many who say you only aided us because Paris was betraying you with his old lover, Oenone. A woman wronged-".
"I do not care what they think. I never cared, "she retorted hotly. "You are the only one whose opinion I have always valued and whose respect I seek. What do you think, Hector? Do you believe I betrayed my husband to you out of spite and hatred, great king of Troy?"
He rubbed his tired eyes and nodded his head slowly, heavily. "No. I know you grieved terribly when Paris went back to his old ways and betrayed you with Oenone. I know your heart. Despite what Paris did you were torn between your loyalty to your husband and your loyalty to the city that gave you shelter and you chose Troy. I know the price you paid for that choice."
"And now you would have me pay it again."
"Helen, I do not know what you mean," he said, genuinely puzzled. "Between you and Paris there is little left now. You cannot sacrifice that which exists no more. I only ask for your help in protecting the city. Despite your estrangement, you may still have some influence with him. He may respond to an appeal you make for the sake of old times. The chance is small, but it is worth taking. I ask that you write to him. Tell him I know of his plans and that I do not wish to fight him. Ask him for the sake of his own life and in the name of his love for Troy and his former love for you to desist."
She stayed silent for a while and Hector watched her, pity warring with the harsh demands of kingship in his heart.
"Former love… you say," she said softly.
He stared at her, unsure at first of what she meant. Slowly, it dawned on him.
"You are in contact with him already?" he almost spluttered in his surprise and anger.
She nodded briefly.
"How?" he asked.
She looked at him without fear. "He came to see me."
For a moment Hector was speechless.
"Three times he has been here," she added calmly.
He rose to his feet, his anger swelling. The sense of betrayal, of being caught by surprise... The king must always know what is happening in his city. And he had not known. How long had Paris been sneaking into Troy? Had he come to see her, or had he come to plot with other would be conspirators, using the excuse of visits to his wife as a cover? And she had kept his secret.
But Helen rose and came to him quickly. She fell to her knees before him. "I swear on my life that I did not know he was planning another revolt. He came to see me three times and each time it was….it was…"
He looked down at the beautiful woman at his feet, tears in her eyes, and realized with astonishment that despite everything she still loved Paris. She must have been hoping that his visits meant he was returning to her, though she had to know how unlikely that was. Anger warred with pity within him as he understood the trap she was in. Her tragedy was that she had never wavered in her love. As for the prince, his infatuation with her had long since faded away.
He knelt down and looked at her. She was crying freely now. He reached out to touch her.
"I thought, I thought… he might be rediscovering his love for me. I thought he might come back to me and that I could convince him to come to you and perhaps make peace between the two of you. He said he would talk to prominent people in the city and sound them out about making his peace with you. I let him use the house to meet them."
"A happy ending," he softly murmured. He hugged her tightly and she leaned into his embrace.
"He used you, Helen," he said gently into her hair.
She did not reply at once but kept on holding onto him. Eventually, she disengaged and pulled back. She sat on the floor next to him, staring sadly at the stone floor. "I have wanted him all my life, since the first moment I saw him. Nothing has changed that."
Hector remembered that brief, happy interlude, when Paris, enthralled with his beautiful new wife, organized festivals and games for the city, and Hector, always doubtful about the union and apprehensive about the Greek response, nevertheless allowed himself to be pleased for the young couple in their happiness and watched his father as he blessed the union. Father, what do you think of your sons now? Would you have forgiven Paris after his first revolt? What would you have done?
"I am a foolish woman," Helen said quietly, tearing him away from his thoughts.
He said nothing. He thought of what he would do if someone had told him he had a chance to be with Andromache again.
"I allowed my love to use me to conspire against you and the city. You should put me in the cells of the citadel."
"I will do no such thing," he said quietly.
"But you must. You must crush this revolt before it goes any further. How many sympathizers must he have in the city by now? How many armed men has he smuggled in or suborned in the city guard? Don't you see? He could strike at any moment." She had recovered her composure, he could see, and was thinking rapidly now, despite her obvious despair. By the Gods, what a woman! What a fool you are, my brother, to have left her.
He shook his head. The king and brother in him may have been uncertain what to do but the general that he always had been could make a clear estimate of the situation. "No," he said with certainty. "He would not have gone east to raise an army of mercenaries if he believed he could enter the city quietly some night with a small group of companions and engineer a quick coup."
"You mean kill you and assume the kingship."
He stood up. "Yes. That would have been the easier, simpler plan. But he must not have obtained the support he hoped for here. Though it is possible that he will try to combine a military campaign, a siege of the city perhaps, with support at the opportune moment from those few who do favor him inside the walls." He was thinking aloud now. Perhaps he could save Paris yet by acting quickly.
He turned to Helen. "You must tell me whom he met here."
Helen did not know all the men Paris had met in her house. She knew it was not a large number but she had stayed in another part of the house at Paris' request and had not seen them. She told Hector that she thought at the time Paris had asked her to stay away because of her unpopularity in the city.
Hector thought. If he still wanted the throne, what would his brother's preferred course of action be? He was no great general or soldier. He had proven that many a time in the Mycenaean war and later on in his first rebellion. Hector had had no difficulty in defeating him and his army by the slopes of Mt. Ida. Perhaps he should have killed him then. But he could not bring himself to do it. Instead, he had released Paris to live in retirement, under observation, on an estate east of the city.
If Paris was determined to try again, his preference would be for guile and deception, not the uncertainties of open military revolt. So perhaps there was a way he could snuff out this new rebellion before it started. If he could convince Paris there was a chance for a quick, easy coup, lure him back to the city, then it might be possible. But he would need Helen's help for that. As he looked at her, consumed by anger and sorrow, tears streaming down her face, he understood that she would always love Paris. But he could see that the last veils were removed from her eyes. To be used cynically in this way, to have her emotions coldly taken advantage off, had finally freed her from any lingering hopes that Paris might care for her still. Hector knew she would do as he wanted.
The Merchant Kadamas was a Hurian and had been keeping a house in the city for over twenty years. His caravans brought back valuable goods from the plains of Mesopotamia to Troy every year. He was away now, leading a caravan far to the east and south. Hector had chosen his house as the location from which to observe the gathering at Helen's house across the street. He stood quietly behind a wall in the house, the warriors from the palace guard standing motionlessly beside him, peering out through the half-opened door. Earlier they had seen two men enter Helen's house across the street but Hector had not moved. This morning, on the pretense of sending her single servant out to the market, Helen had sent word that Paris, who had been hiding in her house for two days, had arranged to meet this night with five men who wanted to help him get to the throne, unaware that two of those men were loyal officers of Hector. Only three were truly dissatisfied nobles and officers, two of whom had met with Paris before in Helen's house.
The quiet night air was disturbed only by the sound of stray cats and dogs roaming the streets, but they all seemed to stay away from this corner of the city, as if aware of the tense group of men in hiding. Hector wondered if anyone who was paying attention might deduce that something unusual was happening here because of the absence of any animals. Then there was no more time for musing. One by one the conspirators appeared and slipped quietly into the house. An interval followed. Then Hector saw movement in a window. A hand appeared and waved quickly up and down three times, Helen's pale skin lighted faintly by the glow of torches from the nearby city walls.
Hector motioned to Polydamas, standing beside him. Polydamas whistled quietly.
Hector moved, the guards surrounding him. From the other side of the street another group, led by Aeneas, rushed to the house.
Apollo, protect my brother, I beg you.
Now. The guards charged the wooden door, drawing their weapons and hacking it open. Shouts sounded from the inside.
"Alive. I want Prince Paris to stay alive," Hector bellowed needlessly. He had personally and carefully briefed all his men earlier.
Aeneas had already pushed his way inside the house. Shouts and sounds of weapons clashing came from the rooms ahead. Hector made his way in, sword in hand, two guards flanking him.
He saw a body lying close by the door, blood pooling underneath it; Edouklas, an officer of the watch of the eastern quarter of the walls. The other conspirators must have stationed him by the door as a guard. His abdomen was bloody, cut open by several sword trusts. The sickly sweet smell of blood flooded the room. Hector wasn't surprised to see him. Helen had identified him as one of the men Paris had met here before.
He moved past the body and into the main room. There were two more bodies here, one of them a palace guard. And on the floor lay Bythanias, a senior clerk of the palace, a guard holding a spear to his throat.
Where was Paris? Where was Helen?
"Aeneas," he called out.
"In here, my king." The reply was immediate.
Hector turned around and went out to the central courtyard. Before him was the entrance to the servants' quarters. He went to it, then froze still in the doorway.
Paris was standing by the opposite wall, facing the crowded room, Helen held in front of him, a knife to her throat. On the floor lay wounded another conspirator. A guard stood next to him with a foot on his chest. Close by stood the two loyal officers who had pretended to be conspirators. One of them was missing an ear and blood dripped from his head. The other appeared shaken by his failure to protect the princess from harm, the reason they had been there in the first place.
Aeneas was standing in front of Paris, his spear pointed at the prince.
Hector moved into the room to stand beside Aeneas. He knew Aeneas as well as he knew himself. Above all, the man was loyal to the city. Aeneas was thinking that he should kill the prince despite the king's orders, and risk his wrath and falling out of favor, to save the city.
"Paris," Hector said.
His brother looked at him wildly. Hector searched the face for the boy he had taken to the hills to teach him how to shoot a bow; the teenager who ran to greet him, hero worship brimming in his eyes as he returned from battle. He saw only a scheming, bitter and fearful, middle aged man standing before him, desperate to live.
His brother stared at him, blind hatred and fear in his eyes.
"Paris…" Hector said again, gently. If he could get him to surrender, all might still be well.
Reason slowly came back into Paris' eyes. Hope filled Hector. Yet Paris still held on to Helen tightly. Helen's face was expressionless. Her body still. Suddenly she spoke. "You must kill him, my king," she said quietly, as if the two of them were having a private conversation amidst the chaos. "The city cannot suffer through another rebellion. As long as my husband is alive there will be those who gather around him and use him to weaken the city." She jerked slightly as Paris moved the knife, pushing slightly into her neck.
"Be silent," he bellowed.
"Kill him," she repeated, louder. The knife nicked her neck. Behind him Hector heard one of the guards gasp as royal blood spilled to the floor.
"Kill him," Helen shouted, despair, fury and fear all at once in her voice. She pulled forward, away from Paris, headless of the knife at her throat. It moved forward with her, drawing a long gash in her neck.
Aeneas and Hector sprang forward, Aeneas' spear reaching towards Paris.
"No." Hector shouted. The spear penetrated his brother's side. Paris screamed and jerked away. Helen, drawing away from him, fell to the floor, blood flowing from her neck and her face
Paris slammed against the wall behind him, holding on to the spear. But Aeneas twisted it away and out. He moved forward and raised it to stab Paris again.
Hector moved to Aeneas, sword rising. He struck him on the back of the head with the flat of his sword just as Aeneas stabbed forward. The spear jerked in Aeneas' hand and pulled upward and the blade stabbed Paris in the throat, penetrating deeply. He seized the spear with both hands, blood spurting around it, and fell to the floor. Hector cried out in anguish and moved to him.
His brother looked at him with fear in his eyes, thrashing as blood poured out of his throat. Hector grabbed the spear and yanked it out. More blood came gushing out.
"Paris," he said helplessly. His brother's arms flailed. Hector seized his right hand and held on to it. Slowly his brother's movements became slower and weaker. Eventually he stopped moving, his eyes still staring at Hector.
Behind him Hector heard coughing. Still holding on to Paris' hand, he turned around. Helen was sitting on the dirt floor. Her gaze fixed on Paris, her face unnaturally pale. The right side of her face was incised by a deep cut and her neck was sliced deeply. The knife must have cut deeply into it when she fell away from Paris. She waved Polydamas away as he tried to place a cloth to her neck. Her hand was pressed firmly against the wound. She moved her gaze to Hector and deliberately removed the cloth from her neck. More blood immediately spurted out.
She looked at him, trying to speak, coughing.
"No more cities shall fall for me," she said and went into another bout of coughing. Blood gushed from her mouth.
She lay back on the floor and closed her eyes. Helpless, the men gathered around her. Was it remorse on Polydamas' face as he watched her dying? He had been among those who pushed to get her out of the palace.
Eventually the blood stopped flowing.
Standing behind Hector, Polydamas spoke quietly. "Now the Mycenaean war is over at last," he said.