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31 May 2004 @ 09:49 am
FIC: 'Sparta', 1/(6?), R, various pairings  
Title: "Sparta"
Part: 1/(6?)
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Pairings: Achilles/Hector, Agamemnon/Paris, Menelaos/Paris
Rating: R
Warning: AU, humor, romance, torture, non-con
Summary: War-weary King Menelaos of Sparta is seeking peace with his powerful neighbor, the city-state of Troy. But when he heads home after the celebrations, he doesn't leave alone, but with the young Prince Paris hidden in his ship...
Site: Fafnir's Lair http://www.morningchilde.com
Credits: To Beryll, for coming up with the most epic plotbunnies while lying on my stomach and then tying them to my leg. To Mayetra, for being so kind and doing the beta despite all the work she has.

---



Intro

Three thousand two hundred years ago, the Mycenaean King Agamemnon had subjugated basically all Greek rulers, forging a nation of unparalleled power.
His army numbered many thousand men, but of the few of his men who are still remembered until this day, the name of Achilles rings with undiminished glory.

Agamemnon's younger brother, King Menelaos of Sparta, war-weary after many years of campaigning, is now seeking peace with his powerful neighbor, the city-state of Troy. Mutual celebrations are held to thank the gods for peace after so many years, and while all eyes rest on the two suddenly befriended Kings, one of them eyes a forbidden treasure.

For in the morning, when King Menelaos has left heading home to Sparta, the young Prince Paris is found missing, apparently abducted right out of his father's palace by the man they all had thought to have come seeking peace. Devastated beyond words at this betrayal and tortured by worry for his younger son, the Trojan King Priam swears to recapture his beloved child at all costs.

Thus, together with his eldest son Hector, he assembles an army to sail across the Aegean Sea, to rescue Paris and, if necessary, lay waste to the lands of King Menelaos and the city of Sparta.

But wise with old age, King Priam know all to well that Agamemnon will rush to his brother's aid if he sees him attacked, especially as the powerful kingdom of Troy has always been a thorn in the side of the Greek King of Kings. He knows that this will be a war that easily could ruin both realms, and he knows the Trojans are in dire need of allies among the Greek.

Also, King Priam is aware the he will only stand a chance if he keeps at least one step ahead of his enemies, and therefore enters Greece with only a few men at first, seeking allies at the oddest places...

----


Greece, Larissa, temple ruins above the sea


Many years ago, this place had been a temple, sacred to the god Apollo, ruler of the sun, the radiant golden god of courage and beauty. But never in all those years, this place had seen a display so pleasing to its god as it was right now.

Two young men, both sporting hair golden with the sun's touch, were fighting with wooden swords among the remaining columns. Swift and agile they were, darting here and there, laughing, stabbing, parrying, and slashing. Their skin shone like metal in the early morning's sun, and the deep blue of their tunics rivaled the shimmering azure waters in the bay down below the steep cliffs.

Suddenly, one of them halted their playful fight, his face suddenly serious, alert. He was the elder one of the two; a little heavier muscled, a little more tanned. Unlike his younger companion, he was barely breathing hard, and carried himself with the light-footed grace of a dancer.

His name was Achilles, son of Peleus, and he was the most renowned warrior of his time.

Taking up a spear leaning against one of the old pillars, Achilles stepped up to a place from where he had a better look at the path leading up from the beach.

"Visitors", he sneered, and then hurled the spear all the way down the hill where it impacted heavily in an old olive tree right next to the head of the first man walking up the path.

The man stopped for a second, his face hidden by the hood of the dark cloak he was wearing. But apparently, the gesture had failed to inform him on Achilles sense of hospitality, or he didn't care at all. For the man straightened up after a moment and continued his walk up to the old temple ruins as if nothing had happened.
There were a handful of soldiers following him, silent and carefully surveying the area. One of them, a tall man with dark curls stepped off the path and broke the spear out of the tree, the frown in his face so deep it could be seen all the way to the ruins.

He definitely was not convinced this was the right place to be, Achilles mused with the hint of a smile. That man may be smarter than most.

"Who is this?", the youth asked eagerly as he stepped up next to Achilles. "Do you expect anybody?"

"I expect a lot of things, dear cousin Patroclus", the warrior replied, playfully slapping the other man with this sword. "But not those people." Grinning, he attacked his cousin who reacted with well-trained parries. "But isn't what we don't know what makes life so interesting?"

Laughing, the two of them continued their mock fight for a while until they heard the steps of heavy boots on the old temple floor. Walking up to them with brisk steps was the tall soldier carrying the spear Achilles had thrown earlier.

He was still frowning, but there was a certain regal beauty to his otherwise rather prominent features, Achilles noted. And the way the soldier looked more wary and warning than aggressive made the Greek wonder who could possibly be inspiring such loyalty in such a stouthearted man.

"Is this the way the Greek greet their guests?", the tall soldier asked accusingly and flung the spear back at Achilles' feet where it clattered across the marble.

"And who are you, coming here expecting welcome where no invitation had been given?", the warrior asked with a cold tinge to his voice that indicated quite clearly he was not going to indulge such irreverent behavior.

But before the tall soldier could reply anything that surely would have further complicated the matter, the hooded man stopped him with a touch of his hand.

"He's not the one who's here to talk, great Achilles", the man said and stepped forward. Taking off his hood, he revealed the features of an old man, white hair framing a noble face dominated by pale blue eyes, huge and full of wits and grief. "Please forgive my son's antagonism, he's just trying to protect his old father."

This truly had not been among the things the Greek warrior had expected to see any of these days, and a sketched nod of his head made the old man continue.

"I am here to beg your help, great Achilles", the old man said, walking down a few steps to stand right in front of the legendary Greek.

"And who are you to think I would grant you any more than the time you have already stolen?"

A sly smile crept up the old man's face, though it never really touched his eyes. "I am King Priam of Troy, but I strongly doubt that my name will get me any of your assistance."

"King Priam of Troy", Achilles repeated genuinely intrigued. "You're far away from home, old man."

"Stop talking like that", the tall warrior suddenly hissed furiously. "He's a King, and you'll give him - "

"Hector." A calm word and a simple gesture of King Priam was enough to stop his son from talking on. "Please. You're just trying to protect your father, but you're not thinking and thus not doing a good job of it. And great Achilles here is just trying to protect his legend."

Deliberately, King Priam left the rest of the sentence unsaid.

For a long moment, nothing but the voices of birds and the soft murmur of the sea in the bay down below was heard among the ancient stones. Achilles stared in secret amazement at the old king in front of him, wondering if this man was truly as outrageously bold as it seemed or if his sly manners were just a very good disguise for an aging man's delusions.

Then finally, the Greek warrior asked: "So what do you want of me, King of Troy?"

"I want you not to fight for King Agamemnon, when he sends call to you to stand by his side in the war I am about to start."

This time, even Achilles didn't manage to keep his face impassive. "A war?", he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Against the King of Kings? Seems Hades has already claimed your wits, old man."

"No. Not against the King of Mycenae." There was a glimmer like steel in Priam's eyes as he went on. "We are going against his cursed brother, the King of Sparta, who stole my son in the morning after having pledged mutual peace the night before."

"Which is just as good as going against Agamemnon himself." Intrigued, Achilles scratched his back with the wooden sword he was holding.

"I'm not fooling myself into believe that you truly would refrain from fighting in a war that will shape the future of the Aegean. So while asking you not to fight for Agamemnon, I know I ask you to join my ranks."

The Greek warrior laughed softly, noticing with a certain amazement that Hector was still carefully keeping an eye on him. There stands a warrior who truly understands how dangerous I am, Achilles wondered, and yet he doesn't waste a single thought on being afraid. He might be a fighter worth more than just a single glance.

"I have to repeat my question, though, old man", the blond fighter said leisurely. "What makes you believe I would do anything but cut off your head right here and now? You know I neither care for kings nor their cities, and least of all for your son who lets himself be stolen like some pretty wife."

Instantly, Prince Hector drew his sword, stepping forward with the blade ringing in his hand.

"Hector!" This time, there was sharpness in King Priam's voice, and despite his age, it carried a surprising command. "No."

"Father, you can't possibly protect this... person!"

"I'm protecting you, my dear son." Turning around, the old man faced his fuming son. "I might already have lost one son, I won't have you throw your life away for such petty reasons as my honor. We're here to save your brother, and I will never beat the armies of Greece with these old arms of mine alone. And besides, he's not insulting anybody by stating the facts as they look to him."

Still, there was unabashed disgust in Hector's eyes as he stared at Achilles, who stared back just as undaunted if a little more amused.

"Go now, my son, let me talk to Achilles alone."

"But father, he'll...."

"He can break my frail neck by throwing that wooden sword from where he's standing any time. Hector, stop fooling yourself into believing you could protect me. Now go."

Reluctantly bowing to his old father, Hector sheathed his sword and left the immediate vicinity, though not without casting one last, scalding glance at Achilles.

"I'm an old man," King Priam continued as soon as his eldest son and the soldiers were sufficiently far away not to overhear their conversation. "I know I own nothing of value that would be of interest to you, great Achilles."

Walking a few steps, the old king looked down the cliffs and across the bay, smiling at the grand scenery. Achilles, still more intrigued than annoyed, followed him with languid strides, his cousin trailing behind them just close enough to overhear the conversation.

"Now what do you think you can lure me to your side with, old man?", Achilles asked after another moment of silence. "You wouldn't have come all the way to Larissa without a plan."

King Priam looked up at the blond warrior, a tiny, insecure smile on his sad face. "This place truly offers a spectacular view."

Following the old man's gaze, Achilles to his amazement found himself not looking at the sea, but at his cousin Patroclus leaning against an ancient column, looking vaguely bored, his blond hair flowing in the breeze coming up from the beach.

"This place was a temple of Apollo, wasn't it?", King Priam asked as if he hadn't noticed the Greek warrior's disbelieving blink. "You surely know that Apollo is the patron deity of Troy, just as he is yours."

"What are you trying to tell me, old man?"

"We both know about the importance of courage and beauty." Giving a soft sigh, King Priam turned back to gaze at the sea before he continued. "Look, great Achilles, a man of my age knows there's little treasure that truly matters. And the treasure I hold closest to my heart are my sons."

Looking at Achilles directly, the old King's eyes seemed to drill right into the warrior's head.

"You've met my son Hector, he's strong and virtuous. It is only natural that two men as great as you are will try to determine how they... stand towards each other. And we both know that trying to kill each other off is just one possible way of sorting things out, isn't it?"

Slowly, Achilles' eyes were growing wide with reluctant respect as he realized what the old king was up to.

"You can choose to fight against him on the battlefield, or with him." Again, King Priam left an apparently crucial part of the sentence unsaid. "It is your choice, though I doubt that you'd prefer the company of Agamemnon, his chubby brother or his charming if somewhat simple wife instead."

"You're a fiendishly cunning old man, you know that?"

King Priam smiled sadly, turning his gaze back towards the sea again. "We all fight with the gifts the Gods have given to us. And as my arms can hardly hold a sword any longer, cunning is the only weapon left I can wield."

For a while, none of them spoke, and only when Patroclus started restlessly shuffling with his feet, the King of Troy asked:

"Will you join us?"

This time, Achilles smiled. "I'll consider it."

"Don't take too long, great Achilles, we'll be leaving in three days."

Silently sketching a polite bow to each other, King Priam walked away, his bearing so regal that his simple clothes wouldn't fool anybody in believing the disguise.

"King Priam?", Achilles called after him. "You and my friend Odysseus would make a frightening team, you know that?"

Turning around on the old steps that led out of the ruins, King Priam of Troy smiled widely, nodding. "And now guess where I'm heading to next..."

----


Mycenae, Hall of King Agamemnon


"Brother", King Menelaos exclaimed full of excitement as he entered the hall of the King of Kings. "Brother, may the Gods' blessings be with you."

Cordially, the two men hugged each other, though Menelaos didn't notice the questioning glance Agamemnon gave behind his back.

"My brother", the King of Mycenae asked warily as they separated, "what brings you here, and in such splendid mood?"

Beaming happily, Menelaos searched for words and failed miserably, which gained him a distrustfully arched eyebrow of his brother. Trying a different approach, the King of Sparta finally said:

"Brother, do you love me?"

Hiding his appalled surprise behind a cordial smile, King Agamemnon asked honeyed:

"Since when has my commitment to you come in need of proof? Brother, is there any reason for you to believe I could do anything less but love you?"

Uncomfortable with the unfathomable tricky question his brother had returned instead of a plain answer, Menelaos made a discarding gesture.

"No, I mean, I ...." Looking up at his brother with shining eyes, he said: "I have to show you something!"

Again raising a warily curious eyebrow, Agamemnon nodded to his brother and followed him out of the palace. In the shade of the large building, a troupe of soldiers was resting after the walk from the coast to the palace in full mid-day heat. Among them, a low covered cart was standing, and it was there Menelaos led King Agamemnon to.

"Here, look what I brought from Troy!", the king of Sparta stated excitedly, pulling back the cart's canvas cover.

Looking at the tied and gagged naked young man in the cart, King Agamemnon fought down the instant urge to slap his brother.

"I know you like them young and beaten into submission, Menelaos. But I hope you haven't brought me out into this god awful heat merely to show me your latest toy."

"But -", Menelaos stammered, confused his brother didn't immediately recognize the young captive. "This is Prince Paris of Troy!"

"Oh really." For the first time really looking at the man in the cart, Agamemnon noticed that there truly was more to the boy than he had first thought. His undressed body clearly spoke of a warrior's training, if a rather lax one, and his smooth skin wasn't anything a farmer or a pretty slave-boy would be sporting. He truly had to be of royal blood.
All over the youth' body dark bruises marred his otherwise rather perfect appearance, and though caked with dried blood, his curly dark hair looked almost as if it had been carefully arranged to look passionately disheveled.

"Isn't he a gift from the Gods?", Menelaos asked, his voice quivering as he carefully ran a hand along the young man's shin. "I just couldn't resist..."

"I see." Though he personally considered his brother a very sick person, Agamemnon had to admit that the old simpleton had an eye for beauty. "He is -"

And then, Prince Paris opened his eyes.
Huge, dark orbs the color of polished dark-wood, filled with the strong will not to give in to his overwhelming fear, eyes like pools of defiance and sweetness all at once.
In his chest, King Agamemnon felt the shriveled lump that long ago had been his heart beat for the first time in what felt to him like ages.

"He is... gorgeous...", the King of Kings whispered in awe, taking a step closer towards the cart. He almost lost his step as Prince Paris tried to scramble away from him despite being bound, sending another wave of dark desire through Agamemnon's body.

"Brother", Menelaos asked, emboldened now as he saw Agamemnon agreeing on the immeasurable value of his captive. "Will you defend me against all enemies?"

"Huh?" Turning around, the King of Mycenae blinked at his brother as if trying to accept the fact that his little brother had just dared to ask a favor of him. "Defend you?" Looking back and forth between Menelaos and frightened Paris in his cart, slowly a nefarious grin grew on Agamemnon's face.

"Troy..."

"They will come to reclaim him."

"And once they're out of their walls, - "

"We will crush them!"

"And without an army to defend it, Troy will fall into my lap like a ripe fig! Finally!" Managing to suppress a jubilant hoot, King Agamemnon remembered that he wasn't alone and immediately regained his composure. "I mean, our lap, that is."

Clasping his brother hand and patting his shoulder, the King of Kings smiled widely at Menelaos. "My dear Brother, of course I will stand at your side. I will gather all the Kings of Greece to come and protect your city, and if the Trojans truly want war, we will wipe them off the face of the Earth forever!"

In his cart, Prince Paris whimpered softly.

----


Larissa, at the beach


Softly, the waves branded against the rocks that formed this part of the Larissa coast. In the shade of the steep cliffs, a lone woman was looking for shells in the shallow water, and somehow, Achilles wasn't really surprised to find her there.

Thetis, as mysterious as the sea, his gentle and nurturing and unforgiving mother. His mother, who knew the future and had guided him throughout his whole life, even if he hadn't always chosen the path she would have liked him to.

The already legendary warrior had been walking along the cliff to sort out his thoughts, to make a decision concerning his role in the upcoming war. And it hadn't been as simple a thing as he would have liked, for though nothing bound him to King Agamemnon, Achilles was deeply worried about his friend Odysseus.
The Greek warrior might have been able to convince the King of Ithaca to fight on his side in a war for personal reasons, yet Odysseus would never risk bringing Agamemnon's wrath upon his country. Fighting in the company with the young prince of Troy was enticing, though old friendships seemed to weigh heavier than new infatuations.

Achilles loathed the idea of facing one of his few close friends on the battlefield.

So as he spotted Thetis down at the beach, he knew his search was at an end. She would know an answer.

Walking down the cliff as light-footed as if it were a plain path, Achilles approached her with his heart pounding in his chest. Today, his fate would be decided, he thought as he walked into the sea.

"Mother", he said softly as he came up to the small basin Thetis was searching for shells in. "They have come to me, asking me to go to Sparta."

The old woman looked up, smiling at her son with just the usual hint of sadness in her eyes. "I know. I have known they would come for you the very day you were born."

Despite her knowing the unspoken question of her son, she went on searching for shells in the shallow pools between the rocks, trying to sound as if she didn't know of the importance of the moment.

"I am searching for shells, to make a new necklace for you", she said as if still talking to a ten-year-old child. "You loved those necklaces since you were a small boy."

"Mother, today I'm going to decide." Crossing his arms in front of his chest, Achilles knew that his mother just tried to postpone the inevitable. But he had to know.

"If you will stay in Larissa, you'll find a loving wife. You'll have children, and they will have children as well. And they will remember you, and you will lead a happy life." Sighing deeply, she looked at her beloved son, continuing: "But when you are dead, and your children's children are dead as well, your name will be forgotten."

Trying not to show how much this prophesy irked him, Achilles looked at his mother, who didn't smile even though he pouted at her like he had done when he was still a boy.

"If you go to Sparta, though, you will...", Thetis trailed of as if a new thought had caught her off-guard. Looking at her son, suddenly a smile grew on her face that truly reached her eyes for the first time since Achilles could remember.

"Mother?", the blond warrior asked, "are you all right?"

Tears brimming in her eyes but still smiling softly, she nodded, continuing her prophesy with silent wonder in her voice:

"If you go to Sparta though, you will gain immortal renown, my son. People will tell your tale for ages, and you will find your one true love." A tear running down her face, she added: "And you will live, my son, you will live."

"Mother?" With an insecure smile, Achilles took his mother's elbows, looking at her questioningly. "This is the first time you're not confronting me with equal options."

"I know, Achilles, I know." Nodding vigorously, with tears still running down her face, Thetis said: "The Fates are constantly changing, my son. And even though I do not claim to understand any of this, I know you will live."

Still insecure at seeing his mother wholeheartedly agreeing with one of his adventure, Achilles asked:

"So you want me to go?"

"Yes", Thetis replied, now finally crying tears of joy. "By all means, my son, go. You will return to Larissa one day, and I will be waiting here for you!"

----

Ithaca, Palace of King Odysseus


The soft hills of Ithaca were gilded by the late afternoon sun, and the air was filled with the constant buzz of countless crickets. Every now and then, the soft breeze carried the bleating of sheep up to the palace.
Many people had called the unwalled city of Ithaca no more than a cluster of farmhouses and King Odysseus no more than an ambitious shepherd. But then again, they still called him King and bowed to his power.

Thinking of her husband, the Queen of Ithaca sat on a terrace shaded by a balcony covered with grapevine. A sad smile on her regal face, she was rocking her newborn son's cradle with one hand, with the other she was spinning wool.
She loved these last hours of daylight, when the scent of ripening figs mixed with the delicate and yet sometimes overwhelming fragrance of the oleander flowers. It was the time of the day when the heat finally left the city, when the shepherds came home from the meadows, and Queen Penelope would sit with her husband, talking about the work they had ahead of them the day to come.

But her husband wasn't there, she thought with a deep sigh. Off again to serve the loathed King Agamemnon, to fight in one of the old man's greedy wars. Penelope knew that this was only one evening of countless more to come where she would sit alone on her terrace, looking across Ithaca, not knowing if her beloved husband would ever return. And yet, she couldn't help but watch the roads leading into the city, hoping to see him walk down the path as if he had just been away for a day, herding the sheep as he used to do in better times.

But like all the evenings since Odysseus had left, when the sunlight had almost faded and the first lamps were lit in the city below, Penelope knew she would have to spend one more day without him.

"My lady?", the girl servant who lit the lamps on the terrace asked softly. "My lady, there are visitors."

Looking up in surprise, Queen Penelope asked: "Visitors? Did they give you any names?"

"No, my lady." The servant shook her head, adding: "But they asked to speak to the King, yet when they learned he wasn't in town, the old man wondered if you'd be willing to grant him audience."

Noticing the servant's faint blush, the queen asked curiously: "What's it, Thalina?"

Blushing even harder, the young servant tried to stifle a girlish giggle behind her hand and failed miserably. Occupying herself with re-arranging the oil-lamps on the table, she calmed down a little before she replied: "The old man's got two very handsome warriors with him."

"Handsome warriors?" Setting down her spinning rook on the table, Penelope cocked her head, an intrigued smile on her face. "An old man with no more than two soldiers... Well, Thalina, tell him that he's welcome as long as he leaves his warriors in the hall."

The girl servant nodded and bobbed away, her long braid flying in the air.

Penelope smiled softly. Probably, she thought, this was just another travelling vendor who tried to either convince her of his wares or gain some privileges by acting nice to her. But all was better than another evening spinning wool. Gods, she might even take up knotting tapestries again if her husband was away much longer, if only to prevent a premature death by boredom.

When she finally heard steps approaching, Queen Penelope rose to greet her guest as regal as it befitted a queen, if only a queen reigning over a cluster of farmhouses.

Flanked by two of her guards, an old man was led onto the terrace, and it struck her odd that any tradesman would command such noble and polite bearing. This truly promised to become an interesting evening, she wondered.

"Queen Penelope", the old man said in greeting, bowing deeply. "May the Gods' blessings continue to be with you and your country."

"So you know my name", she replied without having missed the fact that her late visitor apparently considered her country already blessed. "May I ask yours?"

The old man, still bowing, nodded and said: "My name is Priam, King of Troy, my lady. And I have come seeking counsel with one of the few Queens who set their husband's mind at peace when he's abroad, for they know their country is in hands as wise and crafty as their own."

Stunned by both the fact of another King visiting her unannounced and the extraordinary compliments he was giving, Penelope for a rare moment was out of speech. Then, quickly regaining her composure, she said:

"Rise, King Priam of Troy, and be my guest. You must be weary, and I ask you to honor me by joining me for supper."

Smiling, the old king accepted the invitation. Not waiting for any servant to show up, Penelope swiftly brought another chair out from an adjoining room, offering King Priam to sit with her at the table.

"Now tell me dear uncle", she asked as she settled at the table opposite the old man, "how's your cousin Aishylos doing? I haven't heard anything of him lately."

"Neither have I", King Priam replied, a growing smile on his face. "For neither am I your uncle, nor do I have a cousin named Aishylos, at least none that I knew of."

Returning the old man's smile with a faint blush, the Queen of Ithaca nodded, accepting the man in front of her as the one he claimed to be.

"But you, dear Penelope, have your mother's eyes." Again, she nodded consent, smiling, as the king of Troy continued: "But I have to admit that you outshine even her radiant beauty."

Laughing softly at the old man's flattery, the queen finally saw a servant passing and ordered food for her royal guest and herself. Turning back her attention towards Priam, she asked: "And apart from flattering me, dear Priam, what makes you pay surprise visits to far away queens?"

"War."

Instantly, all cordial hospitality fled Penelope's face. Cold, almost hostile, she replied:

"War is not my business. You'll have to talk to my husband about that. And he's not here. He's at war."

Having almost spat the last words, the Queen of Ithaca was surprised to see King Priam still smiling despite her outburst.

"I know. I wish I had come earlier." Sighing deeply, the old king rose, walking a few steps along the terrace only to stop at the cradle. Smiling, with tears brimming in his eyes, Priam watched the sleeping boy for a moment, then said softly: "He's so beautiful. You know, I have two sons myself." Looking up at Queen Penelope with his huge eyes full of grief, he added: "At least, I hope I still have two sons."

Touched despite her anger by the old man's sorrow, Penelope asked: "What happened?"

"My youngest, my dear son Paris, was stolen right out of my house." Still watching Penelope intently, Priam continued: "The night before, we had celebrated our newfound peace with King Menelaos of Sparta. And in the morning, we learned with dread that, in the dark of the night, Menelaos had stolen my son and sailed away back to his home."

"That is...", Penelope stammered, completely stunned by the situation. She had never been particularly fond of Agamemnon's brother, but this was simply outrageous.

"If you have ever met his wife, poor Helen, you'll know how Menelaos treats those he pretends to love." His voice almost breaking with tears, King Priam blinked heavily, trying hard not to cry. "You know, there are nights, when I can't find rest, that I am haunted by what my poor Paris might have to endure. And then, - " Pausing as a sob finally strangled his frail voice, he forced himself to continue: "And then I pray to the Gods that they may grant a swift death to my own child!"

Abruptly turning away from Penelope, a deep sob shook the old man. The Queen of Ithaca, still stunned by the tragic tales unfolding in her usually so peaceful home, fought down the impulse to rush to his side. This was an aging king, after all, and it would suit her well to give him enough time to regain his dignity.

After a long moment, King Priam seemed composed enough to turn his attention back to his deeply touched host.

"I am very sorry to hear of this, King Priam", Penelope said as the old man nodded a silent excuse at her. "But I really cannot think of any way I could be of help to you and your cause, as much as my mother's heart would love to."

Again, King Priam nodded softly. Looking at the still sleeping boy in his cradle, he asked: "What is his name?"

"Telemachos."

"What a beautiful name." Smiling at the sleeping child, Priam added wistfully: "I only hope Menelaos will be too old when Telemachos reaches that age the King of Sparta apparently finds so irresistible."

Hearing the Queen of Ithaca draw in a sharp breath of anticipated terror, King Priam knew he had struck right at her heart.

"No", Penelope whispered icily, more stating a fact than expressing a desire. "No."

"But Menelaos line has always been famed for leading long, virile lifes, and then there is always his brother Agamemnon left." Casting a sidelong glance at the woman gazing at her sleeping son with terror-filled eyes glinting like steel in the low light, King Priam added: "And Agamemnon is rumored to entertain the same tastes as his brother, only with much crueler a humor."

"But by all the Gods", Penelope asked, looking up at the old king at her side, "how could I be of any help?"

"You could convince your husband to fight on the right side."

"I - ", Again stunned by the rapid turn of events, Penelope's mouth worked soundlessly for a few heartbeats. Then, firmly, she stated: "Odysseus would never side against Agamemnon, as much as he might loathe him. Doing so would ruin our country." Gesturing widely at the surrounding landscape, she added pleadingly: "You have seen Ithaca. We don't have walls built by the Gods, nor do we have an army whose steps shake the earth or heroes of legend. Our riches lie elsewhere, and we'd be utterly defenseless if Agamemnon turned against us."

"Yes, I have seen your country", King Priam replied gently. "And I have seen your riches. They are the gold of the wheat on the fields all around, they lie in wool, in wine, in wood and oil." Again looking at the queen at his side, he waited until he had her full attention before he added: "And in politics."

"Politics...", Penelope repeated as if savoring the sound of the word.

"Dear Penelope, given one condition, your country would truly be lost if Odysseus sided against Agamemnon. He would have to lose that war."

Her rapid thoughts almost visible behind her dove-gray eyes, the Queen of Ithaca stared at Priam for a long moment. Then, carefully, she said: "But you can't win. Not against all the Greek Kings that surely would be gathered at Sparta if you chose to attack, not against Agamemnon and Menelaos and Ajax and all the others. Not against Achilles."

"Penelope, among the two of us. We both know you're at least Odysseus equal when it comes to swift thinking. Don't you think you can find a way to convince your husband, and don't you think that with the two of you, we might just stand a chance?" Now grinning fiendishly, the old King added: "And don't worry about Achilles, dear Penelope. He's waiting in your hall downstairs, and he will fight on my side."

Once more, the queen's eyes widened as the consequences of the latest revelation came to her mind.

"Yes", King Priam confirmed, "Achilles will fight on my side. And against your husband, if need be, as much as he might loathe it." Adding a well-timed pause, the old man said: "And we both know how that fight would end, don't we?"

Still, Queen Penelope stared at Priam with wide eyes, but the firm set around her mouth told the old King that he had reached his goal.

"Queen Penelope, you will not only protect your son from becoming prey to leering old men, you'd also save your husband. And your country." Gently touching her shoulder, he asked: "Will you join me, Penelope?"

Several moments, Penelope didn't say a word. Then, abruptly, she turned around, yelling:

"Thalina!"

Swiftly, the servant girl appeared in the doorway, bowing.

"Thalina, go pack my things for travel. Fetch Emnos and tell him he'll be in charge. Pack your things as well, you'll accompany me and Telemachos. We'll be leaving at dawn."

"But...", the young servant stammered, completely at a loss. "But my lady, where are we going?"

Turning around, Penelope stared at the Trojan King, answering with a ring to her voice that was not so unlike the ringing of a just-drawn blade:

"We're going to war."

----

Ithaca, Hall of King Odysseus


While above, somewhere in the maze-like house that was called the palace of Ithaca, King Priam persuaded Ithaca's queen to join his side, down in the hall his two best warriors were engaged in a different kind of conflict.

Leaning against the frame of the huge, double-winged door that led into the palace, Achilles stared at the calm sunset, wondering what by Hades they were doing here. Odysseus was gone since days, summoned away by Agamemnon to fight at his side, protecting the city of Sparta.

And with Odysseus fighting for Agamemnon, there was little point in siding with the Trojans any longer, was there?

"Achilles, what are you thinking?", Prince Hector asked from across the shady room.

The dark-haired Trojan had picked a low stone bench to rest a little after their trip from Larissa to Ithaca, but now his curiosity was piqued by seeing the Greek warrior's even moodier than usual.

"That you're fighting a lost cause."

Even though there were several steps between them, Achilles thought he could hear Hector grind his teeth in seething anger. It was so easy to anger him, the blond Greek wondered, and yet so incredibly hard to provoke him to action.

"Fighting for your family is never a lost cause."

That Hector considered his companion incapable of understanding this most basic fact of life was clear in his comment. He had already pointed out several times over the last days that he found it most hard to trust a man who didn't commit to neither a wife nor a king nor a country.

Achilles only snorted disdainfully. Fighting for one's family might be an honorable cause, but in this case pathetically lacking of any glory to be gained. What glory could there be for being slaughtered at the gates of some far away city?

"But what is the old man hoping to achieve up there?", Achilles thought out loud, his restlessness making him pace across the hall. "Queen Penelope won't have Odysseus hidden in the folds of her skirt."

"My father is wise and cunning", Hector stated from his place in the corner. "Why don't you just trust him and see what the two of them come up with?"

"If your father was so wise and cunning, young prince", the Greek replied deceitfully soft, "how comes you invited the wolves into your house to steal your children?"

In the far corner of the hall, two feet in heavy boots smacked harshly onto the ground as Hector abruptly rose from his bench.

"Watch out what you say, 'great Achilles'", the eldest Prince of Troy growled just as softly. "You might be important for my father's goals, but don't think you can taunt me without risk."

"Not?"

Even though the fading daylight hardly showed more than his dark frame against the backdrop of the purple sky, Achilles' mocking smile was more than hinted at in his voice.

"Then tell me, virtuous Prince of mighty Troy, how many men did your brother kill before he was captured? Will they sing songs in his honor when Paris is long dead or will they tell stories of how he screamed like a girl when they carried him out of his -"

Stopping the Greek warrior in mid-sentence, a ringing blade swept out of the shadows, halting just a hair's breadth away from the blond man's throat.

Still a lopsided mocking smirk on his face, Achilles followed the long-expected sword with his eyes until he could make up Prince Hector in the gloom, his face a mask of barely controlled anger, his eyes burning. And yet, as the Greek noticed with a certain respect, the Trojan's blade was as steady as a rock in his hand.

"Stop it, Greek!"

Once more, Achilles smirk widened another notch.

"Or what? You're going to stare me to death?"

For several moments, Hector stared at his opponent as if trying to prove he actually would, then took down his sword with a grim set to his jaw.

"It's all so easy for you, is it?", the Trojan Prince asked loathingly. "No allegiances given, no obligations what so ever."

Stepping away from Achilles, out onto the wide garden that surrounded the 'palace', Hector sighed deeply.

"I'm not going to fight you, if that is what you wanted to find out", he stated, sheathing his blade again. "Unlike you, I know when not to fight, as much as I would love to."

Hector turned back to look at the Greek who was still leaning against the doorpost and smirked, though that smirk had lost much of its conviction.

"But don't you think I'd forget. I won't forget your words, and I swear to the Gods I'll make you pay." Answering Achilles smirk with a feral grin of his own, he added: "Before your time has come, Achilles, I'll look down at your body, and I'll smile."

Without giving the Greek a chance to reply, Hector strode off into the garden, soon disappearing out of sight behind an oleander hedge.

For quite a long time, Achilles watched the corner where the prince had disappeared, until he noticed another figure stepping out of the shadows into the doorway next to him.

"So that was Prince Hector", Queen Penelope said softly, looking at the nightly garden instead at the legendary warrior at her doorstep. "A remarkable young man."

"Queen Penelope." Bowing slightly, Achilles smiled at her fondly. "How long have you been... around?"

"Long enough." Smiling back at the Greek warrior just as fondly, she said: "My husband told me of a very wise woman who once said that what distinguished mankind from beasts was the ability to know when not to fight."

"Don't you quote my mother to me, dear. I know her better than you." Taking the Queen of Ithaca by her shoulders, he turned her around, looking right at her eyes. "Penelope, it sounds like madness, but you have seen them. These people have a chance to win, despite all the odds."

"I know."

Penelope's answer was only a little more than a whisper, but her confident note wasn't lost on Achilles.

"You are too much your husband's wife not to have a plan, Penelope." Looking at his best friend's wife with newly sparked curiosity, Achilles arched his eyebrows at her. "What, by all the Gods, are you up to?"

"Tomorrow morning, we'll come with you."

"You... We?"

"My son Telemachos, his nurse, and I."

"You can't - " Now staring at the queen in front of him as if she had suddenly sprouted horns and fangs, Achilles exclaimed: "We're going to war, for Ares' sake! Odysseus will never allow you anywhere near!"

"Well, my husband's not here, is he?"

There was this minute hint of a pout around Penelope's mouth that told Achilles he would either have to bind or bear her.

"And besides. Isn't Athena the goddess of wisdom and war-craft?"

"Penelope, you - ", Achilles broke off, knowing for once he was facing an opponent he truly couldn't fight. "Your husband will hunt me all cross the world and into the deepest corners of Hades is anything happens to you. Do you have any idea what you are doing to me?"

Smiling, the Queen of Ithaca nodded.

"You'll help me save them all. Loathsome, isn't it?"

----

End of CH1
 
 
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trin_chardintrin_chardin on May 31st, 2004 02:34 am (UTC)
Interesting concept... Would love to see how this turns out. ~.~
Abby: Bana- grungeabbycadabra on May 31st, 2004 09:26 am (UTC)
Achilles/Hector?

You know I'll be sticking around for this, don't you? Very, very intriguing.
LCMlcm on May 31st, 2004 10:52 am (UTC)
Very interesting idea. I'll love to see how it turns out.

Woot for the A/H!
Nyaartemicion on May 31st, 2004 10:33 pm (UTC)
...Wow!
Amazing start. I love how you've set everything up. Poor Paris. I would hate to be in the clutches of those two idiots. Your characterization is amazing for everyone. I can't wait for more. :)
cocainemusic on June 1st, 2004 10:28 am (UTC)
Hector/Achilles...uggh
Words can't explain what I'm thinking, this is like the first chapter-length Hector/Achilles, and the writing style interestingly new, Menelaus is a right bastard, I like it! Looking forward to the next chapter. This makes me want to hurry up and finish my community ^_^.
osirisbrackhausosirisbrackhaus on June 1st, 2004 11:17 am (UTC)
THANKS!
Whoa. Thanks, all you honeys.
This is really a warm welcome to find such sweet FB in my inbox coming home from work.
Thanks so much, and just to let you know, CH2 is already out for beta and hopefully ready to be posted around the end of the week.

HUGS to all of you,
take care,

Osiris