It was so dark. And even though Patroclus had never been afraid of the dark, he was terrified. It seemed like the emptiness was going to devour him; the dark like a cold, silent beast, just lying in wait to pounce. He was screaming at himself to move, to run away as far as he could. But he couldn't move at all. There was nothing wrong with him. At least, nothing that Patroclus could tell. But he still could not move. His body did not respond to him. And it scared him so much.
He was trapped on the floor and he could feel his chest heaving, hear his breath quickening and rasping in panic. He had to be hallucinating because he could swear he just saw the darkness move. Thin, winding tendrils twisted together, tendrils that were, if possible, even blacker than the inky blackness behind them. It crept towards him slowly, only prolonging what Patroclus knew in his heart to be a painful demise.
So close. Oh gods, it was so close. Get away now! Patroclus could feel cold fingers grabbing at his legs, trying to pull him in close. He strained against his invisible bonds desperately even though he knew it was futile. Then he could move. It came as such a surprise that for a moment Patroclus forgot why he had wanted to in the first place. By the time he looked back at the dark, it was already upon him and he was trying to scream.
Patroclus jumped up in his bed, chest heaving and slick with sweat. He threw off the light blanket on top of him, frantically patting at his torso and checking his body for any traces of injuries or shadows. There was nothing and he let out a huge sigh of relief. Everything had been a dream. Other than his rapidly beating heart, there was nothing wrong with him. But everything had seemed so real. When he was fighting the Trojan, the sword that had slashed him had looked so sharp and the pain! The pain had been agonizing; it was nothing like what Patroclus had expected. He remembered wishing for death as an escape. Thank the gods that it was but a dream.
He quickly dressed and went out of his tent. He was looking for Achilles to tell him about the wild dream when he noticed that the camp was silent and dark. The Grecian camp was never silent or dark. Even at the dead of night, when the night watch were almost asleep and at their breaking point, the camp was alive with sounds: multiple whispers from sleepless men bled together into a very gentle, never-ending buzz, the heavy snores of men lost in their dreams, the sharp cracks of embers rising from the fires and occasionally the soft clanking of armor being cleaned.
Patroclus made his way towards the biggest tent in the immediate area, hoping that his cousin was not away. The foreboding atmosphere of the camp scared him; he was looking for the comfort of his family. As he roughly shoved the flap aside, he was almost blinded by a flare of light shooting out from a fire in the tent.
Throwing an arm in front of his face as his eyes adjusted, he noticed a still figure sitting on Achilles' bed. A strong, sturdy shadow that could only belong to one person. Patroclus gave a little bow at the sight of his cousin and when he gave no response, Patroclus walked toward the bed. He sat down and took Achilles' strong hands into his own. They were cold and clammy, not the hands of a healthy warrior.
"Achilles? What are you doing? Where is everyone? Achilles!" In his fear, Patroclus fell back to childish whining, his tone was one of a spoiled prince. When no reply came, he reached for the still shoulder. Then Achilles moved. He swiveled around slowly to look at Patroclus. And that look froze Patroclus, striking fear into his heart, fear greater than any he had felt before. It was the worst look you could receive from a loved one. A horrible mixture of disgust and disappointment. That look made Patroclus want to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness, apologize for whatever he had done wrong.
But he just sat there, staring at his cousin, unable to make a sound.
"Patroclus. You should have stayed. Again and again. You always find a way to ruin everything!" The quiet rebuke quickly turned into a venomous hiss that sent Patroclus cowering in fear.
Trying to stay away from his cousin, Patroclus edged out of the tent as fast as he could, desperate to escape the oppressive, dark atmosphere that Achilles' black mood created. He ran towards the waves, ignoring the loud yells that demanded him to come back, to stop being such a coward. Stand for your wrongs as befitting of a man! The cries echoed in his head as he entered the white, foaming surf. He walked further into the water, despite the fact that he could barely swim. When the gently lapping ripples slapped his face, he pushed forward off the sandy bottom, intending to fling himself to oblivion. He fell into a raging storm. Gentle became fierce. His body was being pummeled from all sides, thrown around like a dirty rag.
And he realized he didn't want to die.
He fought furiously but to no avail; the sea was not willing to give up its latest victim and it held him tightly. Sinking below the surface, Patroclus tried to beat his legs through the water, his efforts slowed and sluggish from being underwater. Panic overtook him when he couldn't make it up; he knew that he was going to die.
It will be so much easier to let go. After a little bit, there will be no more pain. You will be at peace. Safe at rest. And so he relaxed. He stopped fighting and twisted along with the water, letting it wrap around him like a blanket. Letting it rock him back and forth and back and forth.
Back and forth. Almost as if he was in a cradle. His mother rocking him when he was a baby. Patroclus stirred, his vision blurred and dark. This wasn't real, was it? Why couldn't he see? Was he blind? He opened his mouth to cry out for help but all that came out was a weak groan.
"He's coming to, brother."
"Stop, Paris. We will not harm him while he is of no threat to us."
"Look at you! You were close to death when I found you and he's the reason why. If it weren't for this bastard, you would never be here! If we don't silence him, he will draw attention to us and in your state, fighting anyone is not an option. So don't get in my way and do not tell me what to do!"
Paris' brother, Prince Hector, seemed to scoff and told his younger brother that he had never been close to death. Patroclus started as Prince Hector spoke right next to his ear, "Will you scream if I do not gag you?"
Patroclus cleared his throat a few times, trying to gather enough spit in his mouth to make his voice strong. He tried to keep his countenance calm and resolute and his voice from quavering as he asked, "What will you do to me if I do?"
"You need not worry," Prince Hector reassured him, "We are not in the habit of killing the helpless young. However, I would have to silence you by force. It would not be pleasant." The prince gave a small laugh devoid of any amusement.
"That is not necessary. I agree to comply with your demands and in-"
"You agree to comply?!" The other prince scoffed, his voice coarse and loud compared to Prince Hector's gentle tones. He stomped towards Patroclus who was tied facedown on a horse's back and completely vulnerable to anything Paris could do to him. He jabbed Patroclus hard on the side, making the injured man wince in pain, desperately praying that the others didn't notice, "You are not in any kind of position to agree to anything. We are your captors. Keep that in mind when you think of doing anything stupid. If it weren't for my brother, I would have you ca-"
"Paris, please," Hector's voice was tinged with irritation and Patroclus couldn't help but gloat at least a little as Paris fell into a sullen silence. And so their little party traveled on. In a tense, gloomy silence broken only by the occasional clacks of hoof striking rock. And now that he was without disruptions, Patroclus could only think about an escape and how impossible it would be.
Hector was impressed. The boy had maintained his dignity throughout their journey. He showed no weakness, no terror. Truly the cousin of Achilles. But now he was worried for the boy. He was obviously in pain, letting out very soft gasps whenever the horse's gait became uneven. Hector sincerely wished that they could slow down and let the poor lad rest but there was no way that was going to happen. Achilles could be tracking them right now with his band of Myrmidons and at the rate that they were going they would have no chance. So the boy would have to find a way to deal with his pain.
Hector looked away from him and turned to Paris. Or rather, to Paris' straight back since the younger prince was stalking ahead of him. No doubt he was still offended. His shoulders were drawn up and his neck held stiff in indignation. Hector really should not have rebuked him in front of the other boy. But, Hector thought fiercely, Paris should not have been acting like such a child!
Sighing, he turned his attention back to his captive. He didn't think that the boy was still conscious so he was surprised when he asked, "What are you doing?"
Hector almost giggled at the absurdity of the question. Then the smile quickly deflated as he suddenly remembered that the boy had no idea what had been happening for the last few days. And it was his fault.
"What's the last thing you remember, boy?"
"My name is Patroclus," the boy said in a slightly offended tone. He fell silent for a while, thinking, "I remember… I think that I was leading my – the Myrmidons to battle. The Trojans were coming but Achilles didn't want the men to fight. I led them into battle against his will. Oh gods, he is going to kill me! What do I do?"
Hector smiled. Despite the boy's supposed maturity, he really was just a child. Desperate for approval and too disobedient for his own good. "Do you not remember anything about the battle?" The boy replied that he had not and Hector decided to tell him everything. Well, anything that could explain the situation they were in currently. He wasn't sure that the boy would keep his promise to be quiet if he found out the truth.
"I led the attack on the beach. During the fighting, you must have been injured. Achilles must have noticed you were missing and he came to find you. Once he joined the fight, I ordered my men to retreat. My men made it but I was not as lucky. I fought your cousin and he won. After a day had passed, my brother came for me."
"How do you know that Achilles is my cousin? It is a fact that we did not advertise to many."
Because your cousin's faithful general told me after I cut you down. "While I was captive, I heard some men speak of your cousin's worry for you. The whole camp was praying that you would make it. And even if I didn't overhear the soldiers, it wouldn't have been impossible to guess. He obviously cares about you more than anything."
That brought a small smile to the boy's face. "Do you know what's wrong with me?"
"You were fighting one of my men and he laid your chest open. At the camp, I heard you had a horrible fever and your wound was festering from the heat. Does it hurt?"
"Hardly," the boy hung his head, in shame or fatigue, Hector did not know.
Hector tried to not sound pitying or consoling as he continued his story. The boy didn't need to be ashamed of himself. "I was nearby when you were dueling my man. I was surprised you held up for so long. He is one of the most skilled men in my regiment. It was quite the battle. He was probably twice your weight! He could have probably killed you by falling on top of you!" Hector let out a delighted laugh as he created this giant, infallible character.
The boy gave a half-hearted chuckle and then proceeded to kill the light mood, "Are you going to kill me?"
"No! What gave you that idea?"
"My name is Patroclus."
"Boy. Once we get to the city, you're free to go. Don't make any trouble until then and we should be fine. Understand?" When the boy didn't confirm, Hector could feel all of his patience leaking out of him.
"Patroclus! Fuck! Paris!"
Paris was still upset. How dare Hector, his brother, take the side of a Greek? I should have just left him in the camp for a few days. Teach him a lesson. He acts like he doesn't need me. Without me, he would still be tied up! He snuck a quick look back at Hector and the Greek. And now they were talking. Like friends.
In his anger, Paris was horribly disgusted by his brother. Always making peace and befriending the little people. Always stopping in the streets to give alms to beggars. Always helping the servants in the palace. It had always annoyed Paris but this time it was beyond infuriating.
He directed his anger towards the small rocks in his way. Angling his foot sideways, he made sure to kick the stones with the sole of his sandal. No point in injuring himself. He could still feel a small sting through the thin sole as he punted rock after rock as hard as he could, imagining Hector's face being battered to pieces.
He was snapped out of his fantasy by Hector shouting for him. He sauntered over to the pair slowly, making it clear that he was not to be called back and forth like a hound. A quick flash of exasperation crossed Hector's features making Paris quiver before he reminded himself of his own unhappiness with his sibling.
"Why are you stopping?" Paris demanded as he marched over to Hector.
"Paris, he lost consciousness. We need to get him down right now."
When Paris didn't move, Hector took it into his own hands to untie the knots holding the prisoner's limp form to the horse. He laid the prisoner on the sand and started to tear off his tunic. Even in the dim light of the rising sun, Paris could see the dark stain of blood, spread wide over the cloth bandage wrapped around the prisoner's chest. Hector reached over and ripped a strip off of Paris' shirt, ignoring Paris' cry of protest. Paris sat back and glared at his brother. Showing so much care for a Greek.
"Hector, let's just go. I can see the palace from here!" Well, a very far-away block from here. Hector ignored Paris and kept on bandaging the prisoner's wounds. Then, Paris turned around. A small group of riders, kicking up vast amounts of dust. Heading straight for them.
I am sorry it's been so long. This chapter was really hard for me to write. I just had no idea what was happening in my brain. I'm not that satisfied with this chapter but please bear with me. Thanks for reading!