Paris lifted his head and looked into the waves. He scowled when he smelled the stench of burning flesh coming from the beach. The Greeks were burning their dead in large piles, sending black, foul smoke spiraling into the heavens. He cursed the Greeks. He hoped - no, he knew - that all of them would head straight down to Tartarus, lower than the realm of Hades, to be tormented forever.
Paris had been scouting the Greek camp for hours now and he was sure he knew the basic routes of the patrols and the schedule of the watches. Hiding on the crest of the sand dune, concealed behind a small shrub, he watched the small figures mill around the tents.
Right after the disastrous duel outside of Trojan walls, Paris had saddled his horse and rode towards the Greeks, following the light imprints Achilles' chariot had left on the ground. He didn't know if his father even knew he was gone. And Helen. Beautiful Helen. Paris prayed that she didn't think he had abandoned her. I have a chance to fix things. To make things better. To ease my father's mind. To save my brother. To do something that I can be proud of. A son that a king might be proud of.
He cringed at the memory of his fight with Menelaus. His cowardice had shamed his family, had shamed Troy; the look on his father's face was pure disappointment. Then on, every word spoken to Paris was cold and unfeeling. His father no longer held any expectations for the young prince. Hector had been the only one to try to comfort him.
Right after the battle, Paris had slunk off to his chambers. Once he had quietly shut the gilded door, he threw off his armor. Chest-plate, greaves, scabbard, everything was tossed carelessly to the cool, stone floor. He curled into his bed, not caring that his hair was matted with sand, knowing he was covered with grit and dried blood. He pulled the sheets over his head and watched a rust-colored shimmer go up in the air, lightly dusting the expensive silk with blood.
He laid there, desperately willing his body to relax and his mind to rest. Unfortunately, they wouldn't. I can't even win a fight against my own body. Some warrior, Paris thought bitterly. He continued to berate himself until he heard a light tap at his door.
The sounds of victory and celebration resonating from the feasting hall grew louder as the door opened, only to dim once more.
"Brother. And why are you not dancing and drinking?" Paris questioned, trying, and failing, to keep a neutral tone.
He felt his brother's weight settle on the mattress, tilting the bed to the left. Hector sighed, whether out of exasperation or sadness, Paris didn't know.
"Paris, why are you hiding in your room?"
"Don't mock me!" Paris cried out, clenching his fists, " You know perfectly well that I cannot face anyone. Not now." Paris barely managed to keep his tears from falling and his sobs from being heard. His voice wavered on the thin line separating sorrow and indignity.
"Why, Paris? Because you did not fight well? Because you could not best Menelaus? There is no shame in losing to a more skilled and experienced soldier."
"Do you know how many people died because I could not?"
Hector grabbed Paris' shoulders and pulled him close. "Look at me. Look!" Paris reluctantly, and with much difficulty, raised his head to stare into Hector's eyes. A strong, resolute gaze that held such compassion and love for the younger. "Do you think that the Greeks would honor their promise to leave? They would have stayed, even if you had killed Menelaus yourself. They are here to conquer Troy and kill anyone in their way. They are here for glory. That is what this whole war is. A miserable quest for glory by fools who do not know the meaning of the word. And as for our men, they are headed to the Fields, far better off than they were in Troy."
Hector stood up and opened the door again, peering into the courtyard. Paris followed him, curious about his brother's interest in the emptiness. His question was soon answered when three figures holding a large tub came closer. Two strong, muscled slaves, set apart by their bare torsos and feet, led by a pretty servant girl, struggled to balance the heavy container, filled to the brim with steaming water. Paris could hear her scolding the slaves for being so slow.
Hector had run forth to help the steaming slaves. The servant had protested, stating that he shouldn't be lowering himself to perform such menial labor. Hector laughed them off and grasped the edge; Paris could see the slaves' faces relax in relief as his brother's strong arms took the brunt of the weight.
They eased the tub through the door and set it as gently as possible against the wall. The slaves immediately backed away and stood near the doorway. Hector saw the growing anger on Paris' face and sought to console him, "Paris, I took the liberty of asking a bath to be drawn for you. You need to clean yourself if you wish to join the banquet."
"I have no wish to celebrate and no appetite for food."
The stony silence was broken by the girl, taking the opportunity to ask the princes if they needed anything else from her.
At the sound of the sweet voice, Paris turned to look at her. She was a beautiful young girl, her womanly curves beginning to show. Her round face was framed by small wisps of brown hair that had escaped from the hair gathered into a bun at the nape of her neck. Paris could not stop looking at the hem of her short tunic dress, could not stop thinking about what was underneath the flimsy cloth. Her full lips. Her eyes.
Eyes that only looked at Hector.
Hector turned to look at Paris questioningly and Paris saw the girl's lips drop and her eyes lose their sparkle as she regarded the blood-stained prince before she forced a fake smile. Before Paris could say a word, Hector said, "No, thank you. I think we can manage. You are dismissed."
The girl pouted, but moved away, beckoning the slaves to follow her. They bowed their heads in respect before departing.
Paris didn't move, glaring at his older brother. Hector, with a teasing lilt to his voice said, "You do realize, Paris, that I could order you to wash up and come to celebrate."
Paris knew that Hector was joking, but the constant reminders of Hector's superiority were wearing his patience thin. Hector. The admired. The strong. The powerful. "Yes, my lord," Paris mocked, pretending that Hector's words did not sting at all.
He stripped off his clothing and stepped into the bath, letting out a gasp at the heat. He sunk into the water, the warmth enveloping him like a blanket. "Stop clanking around and join me."
Hector picked up the armor strewn across the floor and laid it carefully on a small bench. He pulled his robes over his head and folded it on Paris' bed. Ever the neat, disciplined commander. He took a washcloth and some soap and began to wipe Paris' back in methodical swipes. He admonished Paris softly to remember to clean and hang his equipment. Paris pretended to listen because he knew that if he didn't, Hector's small lesson would turn into a long lecture about the importance of keeping armor in good condition.
The water sloshed dangerously, close to overflowing, as Hector clambered in. He grabbed Paris, spinning him around so he could wash his dirty hair. Paris relaxed under the ministrations of Hector's strong fingers, running through his hair. He had slumped back against Hector's chest, his mind finally quieting as his brother muttered along to himself. And Paris felt safe. Safe enough to let his guard down. At peace with himself. Knowing that if there was to be trouble, he would be protected under the arms of his savior.
Paris had gone to the banquet. He did not remember much. There had been wine. A lot of it.
And now, all Paris could think about was how he had lied to his brother. How he never told him the truth about why he was so upset that day. It was not because he had lost to Menelaus. It was not because hundreds of Trojans had died.
He had crawled. Crawled on the ground like a dog begging his master for scraps. In a desperate scramble for his brother. In front of two armies. In front of his father. In front of Helen. To Hector. In that moment when he had fallen, all he could think about was how he didn't want to die. So he had run from death. Too cowardly to face the Underworld.
Humiliation and remorse overcame Paris and left a slimy, thick film in its wake. He tried to rid himself of his pain by physically shaking his head.
And now his brother, his savior needed saving. So Paris would go as far as it took to return the favor which had been given to him so many times.
He slowly moved around the Grecian camp, coming from the western ravine next to the temple. When he heard voices nearing, he stopped his progress to scurry behind a small, dried shrub. A group of four soldiers were bantering with each other. They paused and undid their belts, letting out loud sighs as they urinated onto the sand. Paris turned away in disgust, only to have his attention captured by one word: Hector.
"Do you think he's as good in bed as he is on the battlefield?"
"If he is, I can go beg Achilles for a turn. He can afford to share since he already has that angel from the temple."
"I'm not sure she's an angel anymore, not after spending a few nights with Achilles!"
Loud, raucous laughs erupted followed by some lewd noises and more laughter.
The one man who had stayed silent throughout the conversation suddenly spoke up, "I wouldn't recommend speaking about this in the earshot of any Myrmidon. They are like little bitches, following every command of Achilles. But they are vicious bitches. I think they would kill you."
"And Achilles," another man chimed in, "I've heard that he is the most ruthless man in Greece. He does not tolerate any disobedience. He kills everyone who dares to engage him, except for those who he wishes to enslave. But even they die by his hand eventually. If they grow too old to fuck or too boring to torture."
"Just a few days ago, some men tried have fun with the girl. Achilles fought them all off with only a stick. He killed over a dozen men but no one did anything about it. No one dares to raise a hand against Achilles."
"I heard that most soldiers run away when they see him headed in their direction."
They fell silent as their thoughts all turned to the same thing. The prisoner. "That poor bastard."
The man who had first voiced his concerns about their gossip shook his head and said, "No one deserves what is coming to that man. His tortures will be talked about throughout the ages. He is as good as a dead man."
"Well, now! Why do you hold any sympathy in your heart for the enemy! He's the damn leader of the Trojans! He deserves everything that is coming to him."
The jolliness of the group had long dissipated and left behind a somber mood. None of the men could muster up a happy thought after acknowledging the future pain of the Trojan prince and they walked back to camp as a silent troop.
Paris was going to save his brother. That night.
Thank you for reading! And thank you soso22 and Spiritblaze for reviewing. You guys have no idea what this means to me. I never knew that writing was so difficult. I seem to get writer's block every five minutes. Anyways, untill next time!