"What?" Hector snapped. Receiving no answer, he glanced up at Paris and followed his gaze to the oncoming horde. "No no no," he whispered. It was too soon. He quickly calculated how long it would take the Greeks to overtake them. Achilles would be upon them in less than five minutes at this rate. His mind raced as he sorted through the available options, none of which had a good chance of everyone making it out alive. Lost in his reasoning, his fingers slowed, barely tracing the makeshift bandages.
"What do we do? Hector!" Paris was panicking. There was no way that they could take on so many Greeks. They would be cut to pieces or worse. He needed Hector to do something, anything! When Hector returned his attention to the Greek's injuries, Paris realized that he needed to take charge.
"Hector, leave him. Get on the horse now!" Paris jumped onto his mount and pulled him to attention.
Hector shouted at his brother to leave, "Bring help, Paris! Find Ajax!" When Paris didn't move, Hector slammed a heavy hand down on the mare's hindquarters. The poor thing screamed and bolted for the palace, racing for safety. Hector pulled out the sword Paris had give him and pulled the unconscious body up against his chest, leveling the blade at the boy's throat as the riders pulled up. The circle parted as a resplendent black charger rode through. "
Oh, Prince Hector, now what do you think you're doing?" called an amused voice, though it was belied by the man's tenseness. He had no weapons in hand, but then again, he also had ten other men with him.
"Achilles," Hector said, hating how his voice broke, "Let me go or I will slit your boy's throat."
Achilles only smirked, infuriating Hector to no end. He thinks I won't? He touched the boy with the blade, drawing a thin line of scarlet across his neck. Everything froze. Hector saw Achilles' face twist in anger and for a second, those perfect, sculpted features were horrifyingly grotesque. The warrior's eyes flickered past Hector and Hector knew he had lost. He spun around, knowing that anything he did would be futile and caught a heavy boot to his neck.
He fell to the sand, dropping Patroclus, dropping the sword, hands cradling his abused neck. He rolled onto his knees, forehead planted on the ground, gasping desperately, hyperventilating when no air was passing through. When he coughed, sand spiraled up, mingling with the sweat and tears on his face. He hadn't even caught his breath when another foot slammed into his gut. Then another to his chest.
Hector curled into a ball, trying to protect himself, so the Greeks attacked his legs and back. Then the hits stopped. Through the fog and weariness in his head, Hector heard bells. Warning bells. Bells to call soldiers. Bells to alert the king. But it was too late.
They bound his hands and tied the other end to a saddle pommel. A voice and a sharp slap startled Hector, pushing him away from unconsciousness and towards pain.
"Die or live, it matters not to me, but for your sake, run. It's a long way back and the sand will mar a pretty face like yours." Hector had no idea what the stupid soldier was talking about when he was yanked forward by his wrists. With no way to catch himself, he was dragged on the ground before he scrambled up, panting and spitting out grit.
For a while, he thought he was walking on mud; the ground under his feet felt bouncy and soft. But he realized that his legs were just numb. Hector stumbled forth, grimacing as the horses picked up their speed.
Achilles was furious. That bastard had hurt Patroclus. The lad was sitting in front of him and Achilles was doing his best to spare Patroclus from the jolting gait. I can't even protect you in my own tent. Achilles hated himself. He was a failure of a cousin, a guardian, and a king. He harshly berated himself as the sun slowed peeked over the water.
"My king, I don't think your prince is going to make it."
Achilles started. He hadn't even noticed the young rider pull up beside him. He didn't even realize how long they'd been riding until he looked back and saw no glimpse of the Trojan walls. "How much farther do we have to go?" he asked.
"Well, assuming you want to avoid talk of last night, we would need to go around the encampment. I'd say it would take another half hour at our pace," the youth rattled off, clearly nervous but wanting to impress his liege.
Achilles weighed his options. he wanted to get Patroclus back to camp for medicinal purposes but other troops would report on his passings to the idiot Agamemnon and he would undoubtedly mock Achilles about the Trojan's escape to the end of his days. Deciding that his cousin's health was more important than his own pride, he commanded the column to head through the camp. The horses paced in excitement at the sight, eager for breakfast.
It was still fairly dark out and not many men were awake. But the few men who were up, probably on watch, raised such a ruckus about the recaptured prisoner that bleary-eyed soldiers began to poke their heads out to catch a glimpse. They didn't dare to touch the Myrmidon prize but one brave soul in the crowd gathered enough courage to throw a clump of sand at the Trojan. Encouraged, everyone else grew bolder until someone threw a ball rolled of horse manure at the prince's face. It splattered all over his cheek and into his hair and mouth, the force of the projectile knocking him to the ground.
Achilles watched him fall, unamused. He expected the prisoner to stumble back up because the horses certainly were not stopping. So he was more than slightly surprised when Hector just lay there, being dragged across the sand on his face.
He called to his men, "Get him up and back to camp."
He spurred his stallion forward and left his soldiers to take Patroclus back to the tents. He dismounted, cradling the limp body in his arms and laid him out on his own fur pelts. Eudorus hurried in and they stripped the boy of his clothes, preparing him for examination.
Eudorus ran his hands over Patroclus' pale skin, checking for contusions and broken bones. After a few moments of impatient grumbling on Achilles' part, Eudorus turned to address his lord. "He ripped his stitches, but you did a commendable job of bandaging it. I doubt any infection had a chance to set in. His fever has not returned so I believe that he's not in any danger anymore. You also kept his blood loss to a minimum. All Patroclus needs is rest. He should be up in no longer than half a day or so."
Achilles sighed in relief and clasped his friend on the shoulder, pulling him close. He didn't say anything but he knew Eudorus understood his apology. And Eudorus did. He looked at his lord with compassion and forgiveness and returned the embrace firmly. They stayed that way, completely still for a while. Achilles reveled in the caring touch. It had been so long since he'd been held in such a way.
They broke apart at the sound of the men clambering into camp, shedding the light armor they had donned for their small mission. Some man lit a small bonfire and everyone congregated in the small clearing around it. Achilles watched them, his arms crossed over his chest as he asked, "Is the other boy fine?"
"His head will be aching when he wakes, as will his jaw. He woke while you were away and wanted to stay on watch until you returned, but I took the liberty of giving him a sleeping draught." Eudorus paused. In a fair attempt at nonchalance, he added, "The boy is terrified, Achilles."
"Terrified? Of what?" Achilles replied, wondering where the prisoner was. Why are those men being so slow? I don't have time to waste waiting for my own soldiers.
"Of you. For himself and for me. When he was conscious, he asked me if you would kill him. I told him that it wasn't my position to presume what's on your mind."
Achilles was stunned. The boy thought that he would execute his Myrmidons so freely? Achilles hand-picked all of his Myrmidons with the utmost care. He made an effort to know all of his mens' names. He asked after their families and did his best to make sure they were cared for. He whirled on Eudorus and asked, "Do all the men think of me as such, as such a monster? I have done nothing to-"
"Achilles, your men would die for you. Not out of fear or obligation, but because they both respect and love you, as such they would an older brother. Agathon is young. He's been raised by stories of the legendary Achilles. Stories of your strength, your prowess in war. He doesn't know this side of you. Will you talk to him?"
"I will, brother. After," Achilles promised. He turned his attention back to his men. He was about to yell at them when two men dragged the prince to the middle of the semicircle the Myrmidons had formed.
The Trojan had not fared well. He was unconscious, the only things keeping him up were his captors' strong arms. One man, Silaes, offered an explanation, "He couldn't go any further. Agamemnon's men were hindering us so I threatened them in your name. They ran off but by then, he," and at this, Silaes nudged Hector with his toe, "had collapsed."
Achilles squatted, while holding his breath, to study the prince. He was astounded by the prince's peaceful countenance. He looked so serene and calm, utterly belying his physical state. Beautiful. Achilles sighed and his next inhalation brought the overpowering odor of manure and a much-needed clarity.
"String him up on the post. Get some sleep. We gather once more when Patroclus awakens," he ordered. Then he turned and followed Eudorus.
They walked in to the sight of a naked man scrambling around, searching for his clothes. Achilles raised his eyebrows, watching the spectacle with amusement. Eudorus couldn't contain his mirth quite as well and let out a short bark of laughter. He startled the brunette youth who looked at the pair in horror before rushing to kneel in front of them. He went down on one knee in the expected traditional display of submission but began swaying on unsteady legs and Achilles had to reach out to support him.
The boy flinched almost imperceptibly away from Achilles' touch, making the warrior frown. The boy thanked him but now the king was in no mood for worthless profusions of gratitude. He scowled and loudly asked why the boy was nude.
The poor thing flushed and stammered and tried to cover himself with his hands while keeping his balance. Eudorus, still grinning like a sun-struck idiot, shrugged off his long, outer tunic and tossed it to the boy who glanced up at Achilles, and after getting nothing but an icy glare, quickly pulled the warm cloth over his head.
"Eudorus, leave us!"
His second-in-command pouted, "Must I, my lord?" The boy looked up in surprise and a hint of fear at the insubordinate response but his fears were temporarily assuaged when all that Achilles did was grab Eudorus by the arm and shove him outside.
Then the boy seemed to recognize his predicament and his relief turned into full-fledged terror. Achilles didn't blame him. He was stuck in a tent with a frustrated, angry killing machine with a tendency to act first and think later. But Achilles was a different man off the field. In fact, he was saddened by the boy's opinion of him. He'd be lying if he told himself that he didn't enjoy his title as the best warrior in the world, but that wasn't all that he was.
Carrying on his charade, he kept his face devoid of emotion as he stalked around the child. For Agathon really was a child. Barely of age, his initiation of war had only passed but a few days ago. And what an initiation it had been. The Myrmidons had taken the beach before the rest of the Greeks had even landed.
The boy had sandy, brown curls that he was growing out, though at the moment, they only brushed the nape of his neck. He had an open, innocent face, big eyes, and the last remnants of baby fat were giving way to a grown man's features. He was tall and lanky, like a colt with too many limbs to keep track of. Really a child.
"Explain what happened."
"I-I don't know, my lord. I can only remember Eudorus waking me. Please, my lord, is Patroclus well?"
Achilles ignored the question with more than a little tinge of guilt. He fixed the boy with an intimidating stare and asked him, "Do you remember the vow you took when you became one of us?"
The boy hurried to answer, "Yes, my lord. Accepting this brotherhood as mine own, I, Ag-" He began to recite.
"I did not ask you to repeat your vows," Achilles interrupted, "I merely asked you if you remember them. Now, I want you to tell me what I, as commander of the Myrmidons, have the right to do to those who shirk in their duties or do not uphold their promises."
"Anything you wish, my lord," the boy replied quietly. He sounded resigned, accepting of any punishment Achilles chose to mete out.
"So say that a man made a promise to his king and he then broke said promise, allowed harm to a brother and then, on top of all things, failed to properly receive his king," Achilles said, pointedly eyeing the boy's tunic. Though the last charge could hardly count as a misdemeanor, he went on to say, "These are all grave offenses. How should a king proceed?"
"It is not my place, my lord."
"Don't feign obeisance with me, Agathon! Answer the damn question," Achilles barked back.
In the same flat, soulless voice, Agathon said, "The oathbreaker should be publicly punished and subsequently executed."
"That seems excessive." Silence. "Is that what you need me to do, Agathon? Achilles asked. He needed a response. And though he knew he was being very cruel, he had to make his point. The boy would not be forgetting this lesson.
The boy's shoulders were shaking and he could barely keep his balance though he wasn't making a sound. They boy shook his head almost reluctantly.
"Look. At. Me," Achilles demanded, punctuating each word with heavy implications. Gods, I'm a horrible person. But the boy has to learn. "Do you want me to punish you in front of the men? And then execute you?"
The boy looked up, tears brimming over in his eyes. His nose was running but he made no attempt to wipe at his face. His voice broke as he said no, still shaking his head back and forth.
"And how do you want me to punish you? A flogging? A branding? Should I give you to Agamemnon's men?"
At that, Agathon couldn't control his tears anymore. They spilled over, turning his face into a wet, quivering mess. He made broken, choking sobs. He clearly tried to stop but was proving incapable. He looked down in shame, at his failure.
Finally, Achilles gave his act up. He knelt down in front of Agathon and took the trembling, sweaty hands into his own. "I will not punish you," he promised, "I will never harm you. Not only am I your lord, I am your brother, your protector, your friend. I do not take death lightly and I cannot imagine the day that I will kill a Myrmidon. You are family now, Agathon, and I love my family." Achilles pulled the boy to his feet and clasped him tightly, pretending not to notice his wetting shoulder. Achilles rubbed the boy's back, shushing his sobs like he would a baby.
They stood there, rocking back and forth until the boy's body stopped sharking. "Now go and find some of your own clothes. Join us when you have composed yourself." He patted the boy's head, kissed that curly hair and pushed aside the tent flap.
I am so sorry, you guys don't even understand. I feel really bad about this, what, six month hiatus I went on? And it's not even that I didn't have the damn thing written because it's been written ever since September but I just didn't want to post it. So yesterday's Physics class was really boring and I went over my draft, revised a bit and here it is.
Sorry, this probably isn't even interesting. But thank you for sticking with me, new readers and old. Millions of thanks to that anon who encouraged me to get off my ass and post something.
Also, I realize that this chapter seemed really out of place and not related but I thought we needed to understand Achilles' love for his men. I don't even know what I'm saying anymore. Ok, bye. Wish me luck on the next chapter. Again, my heartfelt thanks. Tons of love 3