Achilles sat at his cousin's side, absentmindedly stroking the slightly clammy hands with his thumbs. Patroclus was awake, but they just sat together in comfortable silence, enjoying each others' companionship. They made unspoken promises that they'd never worry each other again. Achilles told himself that he'd never let anyone take his most precious friend away from him again. Their eyes met and Achilles, not wanting to break the sanctity of the moment, whispered.
"Never do that again. You are not allowed to die until long after I am in my grave."
Though he was weak and shaky, Patroclus smiled brightly and said, "Achilles, I do believe you will outlive us all. Even Hades himself quivers at your name."
He broke off in a massive coughing fit that left him gasping for breath and clutching at his chest, his smile morphing into a grimace of pain. Achilles could only watch helplessly and wipe at the boy's forehead with a cool, damp rag.
"He will die a most painful death, I promise you, cousin," Achilles snarled.
Patroclus sat up quickly, too quickly. He bit back a moan and Achilles pushed him back down.
"No, cousin," he cried, "He's a good man."
Achilles stood up. The words echoed faintly. He's a good man. He's a good man. Briseis' words returned to haunt him. And what does anyone know about good men? There are no good men in the world. There's only the bad and the worse. And I am not even those. Then he thought back to that red line, stark in contrast against Patroclus' skin in the morning light. And he once more hardened himself, blocking out the uncertain musings and the strange flutters of doubt pulsing against his heart.
"No, he's not."
Hector woke to an intense burning in his wrists. Using the wooden post in front of him for leverage, he pulled himself onto his feet. The sun was well on it's way to noon and Hector's back was already glistening with a light sheen of sweat. Everything hurt and his head was spinning. It hurt to breathe, to swallow.
He recalled the rhythmic breathing that had always calmed him down. His teacher had taught him the technique when he was just a boy, first learning how to swing a sword and ride a horse. Two deep breaths in, one shuddering breath out. He thought only of his breathing, even as he felt the eyes of seasoned warriors bore into his back. In, in, out. In, in, out.
He heard the sands shift behind him and closed his eyes. Twice in. Once out. He didn't even flinch when he heard him. Achilles.
"You deserve to die, Trojan. Many and many painful times over, and I would carry out the sentence that I have set out for you. But someone told me that you're a good man." Achilles swung around the pole, careening into Hector's vision. Then the Greek leaned in close and whispered, "What makes you a good man, Prince of Troy? Is the blood you spill any less dirty?"
Achilles grabbed Hector's hair at the nape of his neck and shoved his head none too gently against the post. "What makes you so good?" Hector had no reasons, no explanations for the Greek. In fact, he knew he was in no way a good man. He had killed many people and destroyed many lives. Did it really matter if he was doing so for country or duty or family?
When Hector remained silent, Achilles stalked away after one last wrench on his captive's head. Hector heard the command to begin with ten lashes very faintly as his mind was already retreating within itself. Again, he focused on the rise and fall of his chest. Anything to get him through the painful ordeal honorably, or die in the attempt.
You cannot cry, he reminded himself. You have given up so much and lost even more. Do not let them strip you of yourself. Of what makes you a Prince of Troy.
He knew of the coming pain and had steeled himself against it. Hector knew pain. But it still did not prepare him for the first stripe. First, the force of the blow rocked him against the post and he grunted at the heavy slap. Then the pain came, burning and hot, making his hands clench and his toes tingle. He ground his teeth together, refusing to let a sound come out.
Then before he was composed again, the second lash struck, lower this time. Hector gasped, but again made no cry. The pain came sooner this time. And it burned fiercer and the bite remained in memory for far longer.
Then another. Hector had never been hurt like this before. Who would dare to whip a prince? It was illegal to injure nobles, let alone royalty. As a child, he had had a whipping boy. His father had never laid a hand on him. Another blow. In battle, he had received wounds, but none had ever been so calculatingly deliberate. Indeed it was rare that a man could lay hands on Hector, Tamer of Horses.
Another blow. A groan escaped his lips before he could take it back and his short, trimmed nails found purchase in the calloused skin of his palms. Another. It was no wonder that Paris turned out the way he did. Discipline is key in everything, every action and every thought. And Father certainly was not agreeable in disciplining his youngest son, a mistake that had cost the city greatly. Another. Paris' whipping boy was a miserable child, constantly plagued with the fear of another beating. And Paris never seemed to learn.
Another blow. Hector, on the other hand, hated the sight of the pain of others, and after a few initial beatings, he made an utmost effort to never cause another. Another. Now he understood that pain. The terrifying anticipation of every blow. The knowledge that he was helpless and alone. The acceptance that the end would come when the master said it did.
Another. And then nothing. Hector waited and nothing came. A breeze blew lightly and it was only then that Hector could feel the wet rivulets streaming down his back. He let out his breath in a huff, not realizing that he had been holding it. He unclenched his cramping hands and felt the warm touch of blood in his palms. That wasn't so bad, he told himself. You will live.
"Have you had enough, Trojan? Will you answer me?"
Hector let out a choked laugh but made no reply.
"Let's see how he can take ten more lashes."
More? There was more to come? When the thrashing came, Hector couldn't contain his tears and whimpered in torment and disgrace. He no longer seemed to have control over his limbs, his arms straining and writhing against his bonds, his legs heavy and unresponsive.
Then it stopped again. Was that ten? Hector had no idea. Everything was hazy and clouded.
"This continues, Trojan, until you beg for mercy and call me your master. Will you answer?" Achilles demanded, his voice haughty and arrogant.
"Fuck you, you son of a whore," Hector breathed, no longer able to restrain his tongue.
"What?" Achilles roared, "What did he say?" None of the man answered, knowing Achilles' wrath didn't expect any reply. "Give me that!" he shouted, his true feelings breaking through the facade of calm he had pieced together for the last few days.
Then the blows rained down again, stronger and faster than before. Too fast for Hector to draw breath. Despite his promises, he was soon screaming and shouting and crying incoherently. His back was past being on fire. The pain was a monster, threatening to overtake Hector's senses but not giving him the gift of unconsciousness. Or death.
"This ends when you beg me to stop," Achilles snarled, words halting at every blow. No longer were the men jeering. Only the man crying. It seemed as if the whole camp had gone quiet but for the agonized cries of a man past the point of bearable pain and the hiss of the whip which so brought his torment.
"Please, prince! Beg for mercy!" Someone in the crowd pleaded. It was too much. This was going too far and Achilles was blind to it. A chorus of voices soon joined that one, urging him to relent. "There is no shame!" "Call him master!" "Please beg leniency!"
For all the calls, no one entreated the lord to end the whipping. They knew nothing would sway him at times of temper.
Hector thought there would be no end to his suffering. By this point, even if he wanted to beg for mercy, the pace of the lashes and the lack of air from his screams had rendered him speechless. condemned to stay at the post until the embrace of death which was hopefully soon to come. The thought of thus was sickly comforting. Death was infinitely preferable to the life open to him now. His only regret would be leaving his family. Andromache. Astyanax. He only hoped that he would see them in the next life.
Raise him well, my darling. Teach him honor is not taken with war and battle. Train him in the arts of the mind. Let him not touch a sword. Knowledge of warfare brings nothing but grief. Tell him not of my fighting prowess nor of my successes on the battlefield. Make sure he turns from violence. Maybe we will meet once more. And if that day comes, I will beg for your forgiveness.
The next lash was aimed at his thighs and Hector lost his already unstable footing. He sagged down, his arms extended and yet limp. A few more lightning-quick blows and Hector lost his senses to a welcoming black.
All Achilles could see was red, lost in his rage as he was. The hand that wrapped around his wrist shook him out of his trance and he rounded on the offending man, fist drawn back for a reprimand.
"Achilles!" Eudorus shouted. Achilles quaked when he realized he had almost punched the living daylights out of his cousin.
"Patroclus!" Achilles shouted with equal ferocity, "What in the name of Hades are you doing here? Go BACK!"
"Can you not see that he has lost his senses?" Patroclus demanded, displaying a fury that Achilles had rarely seen from the fun-loving boy.
"Continue this and you kill him!" Patroclus squeezed Achilles' wrist harder and entreated his cousin to stop his madness, "Is it our way to torture the helpless, Trojan or not? This is against everything you have ever taught me. Give me the whip, cousin."
"You defend this fucking man? One who tried to kill you?" All the fight went out of Achilles and he dropped the whip in shock. "Why?"
The look upon his face was so lost and bewildered that Patroclus felt a need to go comfort his beloved cousin. "Resume your duties, brothers," he quietly commanded, "Eudorus, cut the prince down and see his wounds treated and cared for. I would not have him in pain, if at all possible."
Eudorus looked at the young man, who, though injured, stood as tall as any man, hugging the king of the Myrmidons. He spoke so powerfully that Eudorus would never again doubt that the slight youth was not a lion. He carried himself majestically, so alike his older cousin, and Eudorus knew that he would be as great, if not even greater, when he came of age. Though he was higher in command than Patroclus, he deferred to him with a nod and acquiesced to his orders, noting that no other Myrmidons had challenged the younger either. They had seen him as a lion as well.
Wow, I wrote all of that in a span of two days. If this is what finals does to me, I should have finals every week. But seriously, this history final is gonna kick my ass. Please wish me luck because I desperately need it.
Again, thank you for sticking with me. I'm horrible with deadlines. Yup, guilty. But I hope you enjoyed the Hector!whump as much I enjoyed writing it. Next: let's talk about Paris. Not my favorite part of this story, but I think poor Hector needs a bit of time to recover. Everyone who favorited/reviewed/followed this, I love you. Sending much love. Mmmk, till next time!