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03 September 2004 @ 02:00 pm
FIC: 'Sparta', 7/7, R, various pairings  
Title: "Sparta"
Part: 7/7
Author: Osiris Brackhaus
Pairings: Achilles/Hector, Paris/Helena hinted, Odysseus/Penelope hinted
Rating: R
Warning: AU, humor, romance, violence
Summary: While Agamemnon and Menelaos still celebrate the capture of Prince Hector, Achilles despite his convictions has sneaked into the Palace of Sparta. Together with King Odysseus, he managed to free the Trojan Princes, although his encounter with Hector was less romantic than maybe hoped for. Now Prince Paris has gone missing, and while his brother, Achilles and Odysseus hope to find him before things turn too messy, another problem has emerged in the very heart of the Trojan camp: Mad at Achilles' final rejection, Patroclus has captured young Telemachos, demanding the Trojan's unconditional surrender...
Site: Fafnir's Lair http://www.morningchilde.com
Credits: To Beryll, for coming up with the most epic plot bunnies while lying on my stomach and then tying them to my leg and for being my constant muse and encouragement. To Kelly, for reliable beta despite the heaps of paper we currently hurl at her.
Author's note: I really am sorry for the gaps between the last chapters, but I also hope it's still worth the wait.

---


Sparta, somewhere beneath the palace, night.


Walking in silence, stopping at each corner, three men sneaked through the cellars of the royal palace of Sparta. In the lead, mighty Achilles with a lithe, predatory prowl that was a tell-tale sign of how much he relished the fact that he finally was out for blood again, even if it was merely a stealthy rescue.

Behind him, with much less enthusiasm, followed Hector, still bruised and soiled, unarmed and unclad. But it wasn't as much his physical condition or his lacking equipment that unnerved the Trojan Prince. Yes, he could have throttled his younger brother for sneaking off and endangering himself and the whole war. But then again, Paris had always had a talent for ending up in trouble, and almost always there had been a girl at the bottom of it. No, there were other things that gnawed at his mind right now.

A few steps behind them, King Odysseus sneaked through the basically abandoned corridors, wondering what kind of inappropriate and completely misplaced complication this new display in front of him would create. Admittedly, Hector could have chosen something less infuriating as first sentence a few minutes ago; but how should he have known what precisely had transpired between Achilles and his traitorous cousin? Luckily, that situation had been resolved before anything irreversible had been said or done.

With a soundless sigh, Odysseus closed his eyes, wiping the sweat off his brow. Seeing Achilles suddenly draw his sword at Hector had really been one of the things he could have perfectly done without. Luckily, Achilles seemed to have accepted the situation as it was, at least for now, looking rather happy and out for murder again. But now Hector was brooding, looking as if he had just butchered his parents and danced on their ashes.

Given tonight's apparent tendency to have all barely possible complications happen at once, Odysseus braced himself for the worst. He was convinced that those two mighty warriors still had several mighty issues to sort out before this night was over, and it already looked like it becoming the longest night ever.

----

Sparta, chamber of King Menelaos, currently occupied by his brother, night.


"Helen, stop dawdling and bring the wine!"

Despite the ungodly hour, the two kings still hadn't found rest tonight. Even though they had spent themselves pretty much with the two princes earlier on, sleep wouldn't come to them easily, and so they had decided on having one last drink before they would finally retire for the night.

The one last drink had turned into several, and yet still both men were feeling not an inch closer to sleep.

"Helen!", Menelaos barked impatiently. "Now where's that cursed bitch? Helen!"

"I am coming my King, I am coming."

Rushing into the room, her skirts carefully gathered up, carrying one of the few amphorae full of wine the siege had left them with, Queen Helen looked as if she had just fallen out of bed. Which actually was rather an apt description, for she had practically been dragged from her bed to serve the two Kings.

Still, she managed to carry herself with grace, and despite her hastily arranged hair and occasional sleepy blink, she looked stunning. Unfortunately, the two Kings noticed as well.

"Doesn't she look just gorgeous, my little wife?", Menelaos bragged as Helen filled up his goblet, laughing. "She'll turn an old hag soon enough, but now, she's just perfect."

Laughing grimly as well, his brother nodded.

"Oh, don't remind me of her sister", the King of Kings said, waving Helen to fill up his goblet too. "Klytaimnestra isn't a day older than your Helen, and she gives me toothache every time I see her." Shuddering with disgust, Agamemnon added: "That's what I call an old hag, despite her age."

Helen was just about to retreat to her chair in the corner of the room as Agamemnon grabbed her wrist, holding her back. His leering look wandered up and down her body, apparently most pleased.

"But you're right, dear brother, this one's a completely different matter."

Putting down his goblet onto the low table next to him, he gathered up her skirt to have a look at her thighs, appreciatively stroking her silken skin.

"Please," Helen whispered, her eyes almost closed as if trying not to see the rough hands grabbing for her. "Please don't."

But her plea only got her another, hearty laugh from the two Kings. Still fondling her leg, Agamemnon took her discomfort as invitation, his hand wandering up, deeper into her skirt.

"Ahh... If I only was eighteen once again...", the King of Mycenae sighed, his eyes glittering with malicious joy. "Your wife wouldn't be safe from me tonight, dear brother, though I am sure you would share with me, wouldn't -"

"NO!"

With an outburst, Helen was suddenly turning around, slapping her brother-in-law square across the face with all the force she could come up with. It probably didn't amount to much, for it only made Agamemnon's leering grin disappear, to be replace by a cold mask of rage.

"Your wife is insolent, brother", he said coldly, his hand holding Helen's wrist now white-knuckled with force, his eyes like iron. "I think it's been way too long since you properly gave her a lesson..."

"No", she whispered again, "I'd rather die than having your filthy hands on my body."

"Trust me, dear", Agamemnon growled menacingly, "That can be arranged."

Now screaming in mindless fear, Helen tried to get away from the King, but the man was just too strong for her despite his intoxicated state.
Rather amused by her futile attempt, Agamemnon rose to his feet, turning Helen's wrist hard enough that she crumbled to the floor with a pain-filled yelp.

"Who do you think you are, bitch?", the King of Kings growled at her, his face still a mask of barely checked rage. "Kings bow to my feet, and you dare defy me?" Walking around her, he twisted her arm even more, laughing at her pain.

"You are an animal, Agamemnon, you and that brute of my husband." Helen hissed through her tears of pain, "And I'll never again allow you to treat me like a slave."

"No? You won't?" Vastly amused, the King of Kings put his foot across Helen's throat, stepping down just hard enough to make her feel his weight. "But I AM treating you like a slave, dear, and there's nothing you can do about this. Nothing at all." Twisting her arm to remind her of the pain he could so easily inflict on her, he added: "We'll see how long you will keep up this insolent behavior. Pain is such a wonderful incentive to change one's mind. And seriously, you don't strike me as someone who has any balls, so I bet we'll soon - "

"Let her go!"

All eyes in the room turned towards the entrance, where all of a sudden and silent as a cat, Prince Paris had appeared. Unarmed and clad only in a simple servant's tunic, there still was a glowing confidence around him that would have made a seasoned warrior proud.

"What, by Hades, are you doing here?", Agamemnon exclaimed more confused than anything, not at all releasing his hold on his brother's wife.

"I am saving my Queen", Prince Paris replied coldly, gesturing towards Helen on the floor. "One last time, let her go!"

Despite an answer, Agamemnon only raised an intrigued eyebrow. This evening seemed to become more and more interesting every second. Twisting Helen's arm hard enough to make her scream, the King of Kings noted with malicious glee how Paris' face contorted in rage.

"No, Paris, please don't!", Helen yelped, but it was already too late.

With a coarse scream of rage, Prince Paris hurled himself at Agamemnon, who had just been waiting for the youngster to make such a thoughtless move.

----

Sparta, somewhere in the palace, night.


"Achilles?", Hector suddenly asked after a long time of hard-thinking silence. "We have to talk."

'All the Gods', Odysseus, walking behind him, exclaimed mentally. 'Now?!'

Halting in the dimly lit corridor they had been sneaking along, Achilles turned around, glancing at the Trojan Prince with only a hint of worry in his eyes. He definitely was in the mood for fighting and killing again, and whatever it was that Hector wanted of him, it'd better be important.

"Yes?", he asked, his voice low and full of urgent reminder they were in enemy territory and neither in the right place nor time for anything that usually began with the line Hector had just given.

"I - ", the dark-haired Prince began, his hands gesturing helplessly. "I have to apologize."

Achilles didn't react except for a slightly raised eyebrow, a sign Odysseus had learned to be the first warning that the blond warrior was getting angry.

"I - When I said I never had in mind that Troy would benefit of the two of us, I lied."

'Oh great', Odysseus thought, almost despite himself taking a step back from the two of them. 'Antagonize him, make him kill you right here and now. That'll sure sort out things once and for all.'

"Of course I was thinking that if you had a reason to stay, we'd better our chances." Still looking most awkward, Hector continued his confession. "But... I was glad I could be your reason to stay."

For a long moment, Achilles stood as if frozen in his place, then a tiny, hardly perceptible smile crept into his features. Shaking his head, he replied softly:

"You never change, Hector, do you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Honorable, valiant Prince Hector. You couldn't live with that tiny lie, could you?" Still smiling softly, Achilles walked over to the Trojan, grabbing his neck in a gesture that looked something like affectionate ownership. "But it also shows you respect me enough to risk my wrath, even under these circumstances."

A few steps away, Odysseus gave a soundless but deeply relieved sigh.

"Well, if I have ever lied to you", Achilles continued, the smile on his face now definitely fond and slightly amused, "I probably had a good reason to do so. But I don't remember, and I surely won't apologize."

Seeing Hector smile at his last remark, the Greek concluded: "Is that subject now finally sorted out? Can we go now and save your brother and live happily ever after?"

The Trojan Prince's smile vanished in an instant, only to be replaced by a squirming display of bad conscience. Just as swiftly, Achilles' grip to his neck turned from affectionate to forceful, his expression from fond to fierce.

"What is it?", the Greek asked, fuming. "Speak!"

"Achilles", Prince Hector started to explain, "you talk as if once this war is over, there'd be nothing else to worry about. But I'm a married man."

"So and...?", Achilles growled in a low voice, still holding the Prince as if either going to kiss him or break his neck.

"I - I honor my vows, Achilles, I love her."

"Now you remember?!", Odysseus unintentionally barked out loud, stunned at this truly needless complication. "Isn't that a tiny little late, dear?"

But both Achilles and Hector gave him such killing stares that the King of Ithaca retreated a few more steps back into the shadows of the corridor, his hands raised in a gesture of defense. Despite everything, this was not his place to meddle. In his mind, Odysseus could already see the Spartan guard slicing him up while the two mighty warriors 'had to talk'. Perfect, just perfect, he thought, keeping from biting his nails only by sheer force of will.

"It was just moments ago, when I took off your chains, that you said the same about me", Achilles stated, his voice cold, almost remote. Pushing Hector with the sheer mass of his body, he wedged in the Trojan between himself and the corridor's wall. "Now which time you were lying, Prince of Troy, about me or you wife?"

Almost wincing in both physical and emotional pain as his mangled body was so roughly treated, Hector shook his head, his eyes never leaving those of his lover.

"Neither", he replied flatly, "neither, if that makes any sense."

"No, it doesn't." Almost snarling with disgust at this somehow still unexpected revelation, Achilles urged on: "This is neither the time nor the place for split loyalties, and not for hesitations either, Prince Hector. I have made up my mind, as seldom as that seems to happen, and I know where I stand. But what about you? Do you want me, or not?"

"But... Of course I want you", Hector replied, "that's the whole problem!"

Achilles' mask of anger cracked and fell apart with a soft chuckle, a tiny, gleeful sound that still seemed to rock his whole body. Odysseus could hardly believe his senses. Leaning his head against Hector's shoulder, the blond warrior almost whispered:

"So I want you, you want me. Can't we just leave the legal details for another day?"

Confused at this unexpectedly simple and sensible offer, Hector didn't know what to say. So, instead of saying any more stupid things, he slung his arms around the blond Greek, holding him like the proverbial rock in his sea of broiling emotions. Then, after a long moment in silence, the prince asked softly:

"How can you be so sure we're doing the right thing? How can you be so fearless?"

Again chuckling softly, Achilles gently untangled their embrace, asking:

"Do you remember, in the cellar when you said you loved me?" Waiting for Hector to nod, he continued after a short pause: "It was then I remembered something my mother said when I set out for Sparta."

Almost laughing at the confused look Hector was giving him, he kissed him softly, adding: "Sometimes, mommy truly knows best. And despite all they say, I know when to listen to my betters, don't I Odysseus?."

Blinking in surprise at suddenly being directly addressed, the King of Ithaca replied somewhat mumbling: "Err, yes, you do. Most of the times, after all, if you give them the time to voice their advice."

"And what is your advice right now, my old friend?"

"We should hurry, Achilles. Hurry like never before."

And with a grin and a nod in the general direction of Odysseus, the Greek warrior turned back into the corridor, falling into a lithe walk further up into the palace. Left only with enough time to exchange a relieved if somewhat confused glance, both Hector and Odysseus shrugged and turned to follow their leader.

----

Sparta, chamber of King Menelaos, currently occupied by his brother, night.


"Oh you silly little brat!", King Agamemnon exclaimed almost cackling with glee. "Did you really think you'd have a chance against me? Being the pathetic little boy you are and after all you've been through in the last weeks? "

A few feet in front of the King of Kings, his already bruised face bearing a fresh, bloodied smear, Prince Paris lay on the ground, trying to gather his senses after the massive blow that had sent him to the floor.

"You're pretty, and that's about it." Walking over to the still-dazzled Prince, Agamemnon grabbed the boy at his chin, hauling him up to his feet. "You're just as sheepishly naive as dear little Helen over there on the floor. No wonder you two match nicely."

"Keep. Your. Paws. Off. Her!", Paris hissed, his voice all but choked by the King's merciless hand at his throat. He was gambling with highest stakes right now, the prince knew, but that was the only chance he had, given his meager physical condition.

"Ooh, I'm trembling!", Agamemnon exclaimed mockingly. "Mighty Prince Paris, hanging at my hand, has threatened me!" Frowning slightly, even in his intoxicated state of mind, the King of Mycenae noticed some important detail missing. "Where did you leave that useless brother of yours, actually? Did he abandon your noble cause or were you too weak to take him off the hook?"

In place of an answer, the young Prince spat at Agamemnon.

"You little rodent!", the King howled in anger, shaking Paris like he would have shaken a naughty child.

Still lying on the floor a few steps away, Helen watched with horror how her beloved, pretty Prince was at the non-existent mercy of Agamemnon just as she had been mere moments ago. She was just about to plead for his life, to grant that vile old man whatever he desired if he only left the Prince alive, as an odd movement of Paris caught her eye.

For unnoticed by the raging King, Prince Paris' hand had sneaked to the back of his servant's tunic, pulling out Odysseus' dagger he had hidden there all the time. And probably for the first time ever in her life, Helen did the sensible thing and kept her mouth shut.

"Oh, I will teach you manners, you insolent thing", Agamemnon raged on, "I will take you with me to Mycenae once this war is over. And during the day, I'll have a Trojan prince to scrub my floor, and at night, we'll - ARGHHL..."

His eyes wide with shock and confusion, Agamemnon's hands reached for his throat, trying to reach the dagger that had so unexpectedly appeared there. With a grim sneer, Paris drove the weapon deeper in, feeling flesh and cartilage snap, almost reveling in the sensation.
This was the moment he had so long been waiting for, so desperately been plotting all those hopeless hours in his cell.

Still the King of Kings tried to reach for the sword at his side, but life fled his hands fast. Already, his knees gave in, and his hold on Paris turned into a hold for support.

"I will go nowhere with you, you demon", Paris snarled, pulling out his dagger in a gust of blood. "For your last voyage leads you back into the hell you have spawned from, and I bet there's a lot of people waiting for you..."

Splattered with Agamemnon's blood, Paris spat one last time at the dying man and took a step back, letting Agamemnon finally crumble to the floor. Wiping the dagger clean on his tunic, the Prince tucked the blade behind his belt, scanning the room.

"Helen!", he exclaimed as he saw the Queen of Sparta lying on the floor. Immediately, he rushed over to her side, holding her tightly. "Love, are you all right?"

"Now I am", she replied, hiding her face at Paris' chest. "You saved me from the worst of fates, my love."

"Shh...." Gently taking a strand of hair from her forehead, the Trojan Prince held the young Queen. Never even once the thought that he had endured much worse in the course of the last weeks crossed his mind. "Shh, my dear, I would never let that happen. You're safe now, my Goddess."

Blinking up at Paris through a curtain of relieved tears, Helen smiled despite the sobs that ran through her body.

"What is it, love?", Paris asked, gently drying her tears.

"You called me your Goddess..."

Smiling at her guileless wonder, Paris bent down, kissing her. "That's what you are to me, lovely. I prayed for help, and you came. My Goddess."

"Silly", she replied softly, still leaning against the prince's chest. "But so wonderful of you..." Looking up again, Helen added with stars in her eyes: "My hero..."

"Paris?!" Almost skittering on the polished floor, Hector rushed into the room, immediately followed by Achilles and Odysseus. Stunned, he remained standing in the doorframe, staring at the display in front of him.

On the floor, lying in a rapidly spreading pool of his own blood, lay King Agamemnon, only partially clad, his sword still in its sheath at his side. Only a few steps away from the corpse, also on the floor, was his brother Paris, kneeling next to the Spartan Queen, exchanging sweet talk.

Whatever he had expected to find, that definitely wasn't it.

"What...", Hector started, halting as the whole situation just didn't want to resolve into something less incomprehensible. "What has happened?"

"You're late." Paris' simple statement was so dry Odysseus couldn't help but burst out laughing.

Rising from the floor, the young Prince helped Helen to her feet as well, saying: "Love, let me introduce you to my brother Hector, I do not think you've had the chance of meeting him yet..."

But greeting her apparent brother-in-law-to-be seemed to be about the last thing on the mind of the young Queen, for she restlessly looked around in the room. "Where's my husband?", she finally asked, "Where's Menelaos?"

All men in the room looked around, none of them finding any trace of the King of Sparta.

"He must have sneaked off as soon as he noticed things were going not to well", Odysseus finally declared, fatigue finally showing in his voice. "He always had a certain talent for survival."

"Like a rat", Paris spat, eyeing the body of Agamemnon on the floor. Gently taking Helen's hands off his arm, he walked over, kicking the corpse once again. For a heartbeat, he stood next to the body as if wondering what to do next, then he knelt down and started sawing off the dead King's head with his dagger.

"What are you doing there?", Hector exclaimed, shocked to see his younger brother acting so cold-bloodedly. "Paris!?"

"That's my dagger!", Odysseus exclaimed almost simultaneously.

"I'll get you a new one", Paris replied without once looking up from his grisly task, and Odysseus obviously refrained from driving that point any further. Then, finally, the young Prince had Agamemnon's severed head in his hand, holding it by the late King's many braids.

Looking around in the room, Paris found a brazier that seemed to suit his purposes. Followed by the disbelieving stares of the remaining people in the room, the Trojan Prince walked over and tossed the head into the glowing coals, watching the first curls of acrid smoke rising with a deep sigh of satisfaction.

"And about what I am doing here, dear brother, I am just making sure this monster is truly dead." Scratching his nose as Agamemnon's drying blood started itching, Paris added nonchalantly: "Better safe than sorry, you know?"

Looking at Hector who was standing next to him, Achilles couldn't help but snicker at the prince's open-mouthed stare.

"And you always told me Paris was the gentle, sensible one of the two of you", he remarked. Smiling fondly at the elder one of the Trojan Princes, he added so soft that only Hector and maybe Odysseus would be able to overhear:

"Liar."

----


Sparta, main gate, some time later


"Are you sure you want to stay here?", Achilles asked. "A city without King isn't the safest place to be."

But Odysseus only shrugged. He knew enough of people to know that it would be much worse if they left Sparta on its own. The chaos that would ensue as soon as the word of King Menelaos' disappearance and King Agamemnon's death was out on the streets would cripple the place worse than any war. And he had learned enough from Penelope to know that only rich people would pay well and that refugees only cost money.

"No, old friend, I think I'll stay here and try to keep up the peace in the city. After all, it's much more important that you show up there, presenting the Princes to King Priam and gather the laurels for your glorious mission."

Standing with them at the gate were Paris and Helen, both arm in arms as having been stitched together, Hector who finally had acquired something moderately decent to wear, and a few of the highest-ranking Spartan generals who, over all, were mostly relieved that the war was now over and they were all still alive.

"Oh no, Odysseus, now don't you try and downplay your part in this", Achilles replied, his mood splendid despite the fact that he hadn't scored tonight's winning kill and that Menelaos still had been seen no-where around. "We wouldn't have managed any of this without your help."

"Sure." Laughing softly, Odysseus added: "I was the odd guy, standing a few steps off, throwing in the caustic remarks. I bet that was what made me indispensable."

Joining in his friends light-hearted laughter, Achilles hugged the Ithacan King, turning towards the chariots that would bring them to the Trojan camp. In the east, the first sheen of dawn was already turning the night into a pale gray, and it seemed that the war was finally over.

Paris and Helen mounted their chariot as well, while Hector went over to Odysseus. Softy, the Trojan prince said while hugging the other man good-bye:

"Well, if it hadn't been for your caustic remarks, I would probably be dead now..."

Acknowledging Hector's words with a silent nod, Odysseus pushed him towards Achilles' chariot. "Now get on, this night has been long enough for all of us, and is still far from being over. I long desperately for my bed, and the sooner you leave, the sooner we all..."

His voice trailing off, Odysseus' eyes were fixed to the road that led towards the Trojan camp at the beach. All other followed his look, seeing a lone runner approaching them with high speed. The King of Ithaca frowned at the sight, knowing that such messengers never brought good news.

The others realized the importance of the moment as well, and dismounted to stand next to the King who was currently acting as interim regent of both Sparta and Mycenae. Silently, they all waited until the runner came around the last bend of the road, all of them equally anxious to learn which news from the Trojan camp would be important enough to dispatch a messenger.

As the runner approached the party waiting for him at the open city gate, he slowed his pace reasonably, confusion clearly written on his face. It was a Trojan soldier, but dressed as a parley messenger that would have allowed him at least nominally safe trespassing of enemy territory. If Sparta had been enemy territory any longer, that was.

Halting just a few steps in front of King Odysseus, the messenger was so unsettled that he even forgot to bow before the assembled royalty.

"I...", he began, breathing hard, "I have an urgent message for King Agamemnon..." His voice clearly showed that he wasn't convinced that this was the fact any longer.

"Agamemnon's dead, and Menelaos has fled the city", Odysseus declared mercilessly. "I'll accept the message."

For a second, the messenger blinked, then remembered who he was talking to. Falling onto one knee, he bowed his head, the rolled-up parchment of the message in his outstretched hand.

Definitely not in the mood for any of the possible news that parchment might contain, Odysseus took the message nonetheless. Reading the short note, his expression changed from displeased to deeply worried, and abruptly, he looked up from the message, sharply asking the runner:

"Who gave you this parchment?"

Even Achilles was surprised by the sharpness in his old friends voice. The messenger swallowed, then looked up and said:

"King Priam himself handed my that parchment, my King."

Odysseus features didn't light up one bit. "Did you see him write it?"

"Yes, my Lord", the runner confirmed. "I was in his tent right when he signed it."

A deep frown on his face, the King of Ithaca remained silent for long moment. Finally, it was Achilles who took a step forward and asked him:

"What does the message say?"

"It's a note from Priam to Agamemnon", Odysseus said flatly. "Offering unconditional surrender."

"But what's the problem?", Paris asked with a shrug. "Agamemnon's dead as dead can be."

"Aptly put, young prince", the King of Ithaca replied mirthlessly. "But why would your father issue such a message in the very first place, have you thought about that?"

Now worried as well, Paris kept his own counsel. Still frowning, Odysseus turned towards the messenger again.

"Who else was with the King?"

The runner, now rather worried himself, glanced from one of the legendary warriors in front of him to another. "There was this Queen of Ithaca with King Priam as usual", the messenger said, thinking hard to remember the moment he hadn't really paid attention to.

"Have you seen her child?", Odysseus asked urgently, relieved as he saw the runner nod empathetically.

"Oh yes. The child was there as well." Happy to be able to relay good news for a change, he added: "There was this badly hurt blond warrior in the corner holding the boy, he looked rather happy."

Instantly, he knew that he could just as well have told them that he had seen the child hanging from a pole by its entrails, for that news wouldn't have produce any different reaction.

"All the Gods!", Odysseus exclaimed, white as death himself, his eyes apparently darting everywhere at once.

"Patroclus, cursed be your name. I knew I should have killed you."

Achilles' words seemed to hang in the air like the end of the world itself. For several heartbeats, no one dared to speak a word, nor move, for it was all too obvious what must have happened. And those few who didn't know enough of the story did at least see that this was not the moment for silly questions.

Then suddenly, as if they had finished a silent counsel, both Achilles and Odysseus simultaneously rushed forward, jumping onto the waiting chariots. Before any of the other men could say a word, they had whipped up the horses to a neck-breaking speed, driving them down to the Trojan camp.

Stunned silent for a long moment, it was Hector who found his wits again first.

"We need more chariots," he ordered as if he had been commander of this place all his life, not its enemy or prisoner. "We'll have to be with them."

As none of the surrounding Spartans reacted, Hector barked: "HURRY!", noting with a certain relief that he still had a gift for commanding men as several scuttled away to do his bidding. Hector only hoped that they would arrive in time to prevent something terrible from happening.

----

Sparta, city wall, peasant's gate, about the same time

"Idiots", Menelaos snarled, looking down on the corpses of the two guardsmen he had just stabbed from behind. "With such morons at my gate, it's a wonder we haven't been overrun by spies and invaders a long time ago."

Cleaning his sword on the tunic of one of his latest victims, he silently cursed his elder brother for being such a fool. All his life, he had grown up in the firm knowledge that Agamemnon was the smarter one of them, slyer and far too devious to let any danger go unnoticed. It had been a good knowledge, a knowledge that had allowed him a rather carefree life in the shadow of his oh-so-ambitious brother.

But no longer.

His brother was dead, dead at the hands of the Trojan prince he had captured, the one they had abused to expensively over the last weeks. He should have known that the Gods never let anything truly good happen to mankind, Menelaos silently chided himself. But he had had his fun, and now he had to pay the price.

Not that he truly was worried, not at all. In the saddlebags of the horse he was just leading out onto the open fields, there was enough gold from his cities treasury to last him a lifetime or two, and he had always been very apt at arranging himself with the powers to be. He would miss being King, of course, but being alive was far more important.
And after all, there would be enough cities in Greece and beyond he would easily able to live like royalty, if only for the title.

Menelaos was just about to haul himself up the horse and disappear into the sunrise, as he heard one of the very two voices he had truly hoped never to hear again.

"Now look who's running out of his own city like a thief in the night", he heard Castor's cultivated voice from the shadows next to the peasant's gate.

"Is it because your big brother has lost his head or are you plain afraid that your wife isn't any longer going to let you treat her like a slave?", Pollux added from the other side of the gate.

Like ghosts coalescing out of mist, the two twin brothers of Helen stepped out of the concealing shadows, both of them armed with sword and bow, their long hair neatly braided. They looked as if going out for a hunt, and Menelaos had a very unpleasant idea of what prey they would be after.

"Didn't we warn you?", the left twin asked, his voice a gentle menace. "Didn't we explicitly warn you against mistreating our dear little sister on your very wedding day?"

Stepping between Menelaos and his horse, the other twin gave the King a feral smile.

"Didn't we promise you we would choke you with your own entrails if you hurt her?"

Menelaos knew he had little chance against these two. Not as tired as he was, not after all this wine tonight. Cautiously, he took a step back, but the other twin followed as if linked to the King by an invisible cord.

"You're not as bold as you were in the cellar earlier on, with the two chained princes", the twin remarked caustically. "Are you not man enough if your toys are not chained to a wall? Or is it because your brother isn't there any longer to break them in for you?"

Taking another step forward at the already shivering King of Sparta, Castor grinned in malicious glee as he noticed the barely controlled, utterly irrational urge to run from them. As if running would reduce the agony he was in for.

But what was rational or not had already long ago lost any weight to Menelaos. In his eyes, he felt like the proverbial rabbit in the stares of two snakes at a time, or a mouse that realizes it had been cornered by two well-fed, perfectly groomed and especially cruel palace cats.

"Run", Castor suddenly whispered, "Run from this city and never return. If your name vanishes from this earth, we might spare your pathetic life."

Of course, this was a tempting suggestion, and Menelaos definitely wasn't above a little groveling to save his life. But one of the twins still stood between him and his horse, pretty obviously making clear he wasn't going to let the Spartan King flee with the gold he had planned on taking with him.

Raising a perfectly arched eyebrow, Castor noted the King's longing stare, and glancing across his shoulder, he understood what still made the man hesitate.

"Forget it", he replied with a cold smile that would have even made Agamemnon proud. "If you run from your city, you run from your name and your title. And your gold."

Slowly, almost as if trying to delay the inevitable, Castor started drawing his sword, the soft ring of the steel sounding terribly loud in the early dawn. Hearing this made Menelaos wonder what it would sound like if that blade severed his head from his shoulders, and that finally made him decided that a life in poverty was still better than no life at all.

So suddenly, the King ducked away like a deer despite his bulk, and started running away from them as fast as he could, running for his sheer life.

Slowly stepping up to his brother, Pollux nodded in respect. "For a man of his age, he runs pretty fast."

"Run", Castor added with a malicious smirk, sheathing his sword again. "Run, fat little rabbit, run."

Turning towards his brother with a curious expression, Pollux asked with soft reproach in his voice:

"What was that about sparing his life? Since when do we do such things, brother?"

"I only said we might", the other twin replied evenly. "And I am pretty sure we will not."

Laughing, Pollux slapped his brother's shoulder. "And I was worried you had suddenly gone soft in your old age. So, we do run after him or do we give him a little more head start? After all, he's got to carry the weight of the two of us on two legs only."

"I'd say we follow him now. Won't do if he'd die of a stroke before we had had some fun with him. But who said we would run?"

"I thought...", Pollux started, but then trailed off as he saw his brother mounting Menelaos' horse. A plain evil grin spreading on his handsome face, he amended: "But then again, a mounted hunt might be much more entertaining..."

Lithely jumping onto the horse behind his brother, Pollux laughed with delight. Readying his bow, he asked: "So it's like in the old times, brother? You ride, I shoot?"

"Absolutely." Spurring up the horse into a leisurely canter, they followed the former King of Sparta, who was by now only a small figure, running across the hilly farmland. "And watch out for rabbits."


----

Trojan camp, tent of King Priam, dawn.



"What kind of man are you, Patroclus?", Priam asked full of bitterness. "What kind of man can do such a thing? Don't you have any honor?"

"Honor." The young warrior almost spat the word. He was sitting in a corner of the tent that made up Priam's makeshift palace, young Telemachos on his knees, sleeping fitfully after having exhausted himself, crying for his mother. "There is no honor, old man, it's only an invention of old men like you who want young men to believe that there's actually a reason to think beyond your whim."

"And?", Penelope asked caustically from the pole she was still leaning against. "Is there any more but your whim to your actions?"

"No." Patroclus didn't even bother to look up at her, as tiring as her blazing hate was in his eyes. "And no more is needed. Strong men shape their own destiny, and I am not willing to accept what I have now."

"And what do you think you stand to gain by this?", Priam asked from the throne he was still sitting on, loathing that he still hadn't had any idea on how to end this. "Eternal damnation?"

Achilles' cousin laughed tiredly, fatigue written across his feature. "Revenge. Nothing but plain, old revenge, and the hope I will one day be able to bear my name with pride again."

"Childslayer, whoa", Penelope snapped so tense as if she wanted to decapitate Patroclus with her voice alone. "I'd surely be proud of that name."

"Shut up, bitch!" Sharp despite his bone-deep exhaustion, Patroclus managed to give the Queen of Ithaca such a killing stare that she actually stepped back, biting her lip. "That is your child here, lying next to my dagger. Don't forget that it's not dead yet. I can only kill the little worm once, but never think I'd be above first chopping off a limb or two."

Woken from Patroclus' angry outburst, little Telemachos wailed and started crying again.

"For mercy's sake," Priam hollered from his throne, rising in helpless anger, "let Penelope at least feed her child!"

But Patroclus' in his shaded corner only snickered.

"I won't give away my only shield, old man, and you know this as well as I do. Soon Agamemnon's troops will be here, and all this will be over."

"You think?" Walking over to the warrior with a slight stagger that came from a night without sleep on a marble throne, King Priam stared at the blond traitor with almost hypnotic urgency. "Do really think my men will simply lay down their arms and wait for Agamemnon's troops to behead them?"

"They will do what you tell them...", Patroclus replied, but already there was a slight tinge of doubt in his voice.

Still walking stiffly towards the warrior, the King of Troy gestured with his hands like a priest in the middle of his sermons.

"They will fight none the less, like every man will fight for his life. And without a voice to lead them, there will be bloodshed like the world has never seen before. Is that what you want? Thousands of valiant men dead for your revenge?"

Snarling, Patroclus looked up, utterly unimpressed by Priam's attempt at appealing to his conscience. "Let me think. Yes. That is what I want. A bloody pyre to all Achilles had meant to me before he opened my eyes to let me see him as the stinking, selfish bastard he is."

"Achilles has nothing to do with this, young man"; Priam continued, his pale blue eyes like frozen fire. "This is between you and the Gods alone, and I doubt you have thought about them at all in your actions!"

Laughing bitter, the warrior shook his head. "Oh, Priam, please. Not another of your old-men's good-night- tales."

"The Gods watch your deeds as they do with every man, young warrior", King Priam continued droning, gesturing wildly. "And you should never forget that!"

There was something unusual to his energetic motions that caught Penelope's attention more than his speech, and it took her several moments to understand that he was actually gesturing at her behind his back.
So that was why the old fox suddenly had turned so active, Odysseus' wife thought with pleasant surprise. He's got a plan.

While King Priam went on lecturing an only half-heartedly listening Patroclus on his duties towards the Gods, Penelope tried to make sense of the pointing gestures the old Trojan flashed at her behind his back. Repeatedly, he pointed at a chest on the other side of the tent, then at his side.

Silently praying to Athena that she properly understood what the King wanted of her, Penelope silently but not necessary stealthily started moving across the room. Priam was making enough fuss in a sufficiently boring way that Patroclus should be distracted enough not to notice any movement that didn't look either aggressive or secretive.

" - and above all, Father Zeus watches on what mankind does, his eyes resting on all who - ", the aging King continued his unbroken monologue. Rather impressed that he was able to produce such a stream of words without even once pausing for a thought, Penelope reached a low table close to the chest Priam had pointed her to.

Leisurely filling herself a goblet of water, trying very hard to look bored and not hysterically nervous as she actually was, she looked around to see what her friend had wanted of her. Among the ordinary decorative junk that somehow seemed to clutter every throne-room, the only thing that remotely looked useful was a sheathed sword Penelope had seen Priam wear on high occasions but never use.

To her, it had always been some ceremonial heirloom, not a real sword, but then again, what did she know about swords? There were few things she had no knowledge in, but killing people and weapons definitely were two of them.

So if Priam wanted his sword, he should get his sword, she decided with a mental shrug. Given Patroclus badly maimed body, he might even stand a chance.
Slowly walking over to the chest, Penelope picked up the sword just like she would have picked up a broom or a blanket, walking over to the other corner of the room in no apparent hurry.

Priam might think her mad, but in her eyes there was another problem that had to be solved before they could attack the warrior, and that was her infant child lying on Patroclus' lap. She knew that a second of distraction would be enough for her to snatch the boy from him, but how to distract him sufficiently was the problem.
Thinking that she also would only have one single chance made her want to scream in frustration. Where was her husband when he was truly needed?

Glancing at Patroclus who alternately stared at the droning King in front of him and the wailing child on his knees with a look that was so filled with disgust it was almost comical, Penelope tried to think through her options and think real fast.

The blond warrior was still carrying Telemachos in his maimed right arm, while the long dagger he held was in his left hand. Cursing inwardly, Penelope suddenly realized that she should have paid better attention when her husband and his men had been training in the yard of their palace. Maybe she should have even insisted on learning at least the basics of fighting, then she wouldn't have felt so utterly inept right now.
If she survived to see another day, she swore silently to herself, she would see to remedying this.

Still King Priam continued his apparently endless sermon about Gods and men and duty, and Penelope's respect for the old man rose another notch. Being able to pull off such impressively charismatic speech despite just having signed his unconditional surrender and both his sons imprisoned and maybe dead was a feat she didn't think any other man capable of. An encouraging smile on her face, she approached Patroclus from behind, glad that he obviously considered her so harmless.

Her heart pounding in her chest so loud she was sure it must be heard all across the camp up to the walls of Sparta, the Queen of Ithaca sneaked up to Patroclus one step at a time, the sheathed sword loosely in her hands. All instincts in her screamed to drop the weapon and run, but her urge to do anything to help her child was stronger. She just had to do something, or she would go mad from agony.

When she was close enough to Patroclus that she could have touched his shoulder, Penelope felt like her heart must explode every moment, and she could hardly get any air so heavy was the fear on her chest. But then finally, the blond warrior noticed her, taking the course of action out of her hands as he turned around to face her.

"Woman!", he barked, his face dark with wrath as he noticed the sword in her hands. "What are you -"

"Catch!", Penelope called out, hurling the sheathed blade through the air towards King Priam, right along Patroclus' face.

Trained as he was, the warrior followed the object with his eyes, for a second unable to decide whether to drop the child or his blade to catch the flying weapon. And that was all Penelope had hoped for.

Lurching forward, she grabbed the blankets Telemachos was wrapped in, hoping her momentum would be enough to rip the child out of Patroclus' hands. But the young warrior despite his wounds reacted at least to this new, immediate danger. Though unable to direct a proper thrust at the Queen because of the odd, unexpected angle she was darting past him, he still managed to bring down his blade at least in her general direction.

Yelping in pain and anger as the dagger cut the skin of her back and shoulder, Penelope did the only thing she could think of right then and dropped to the floor like a sack of grains, probably saving her life with the maneuver. For Patroclus, well knowing to expect some kind of attempt to free the child, had wrapped the blanket around his right hand, making it practically impossible to yank the bundle out of his arm if he didn't let go.
But with suddenly the whole weight of Penelope pulling at the other end of the fabric, his crippled hand got violently squeezed. A wave of white-hot pain shot through his body, making him yell with anguish as his agonized muscles denied to obey any longer.

Still, he managed to vaguely keep his wits even though he had to let go of his corner of the blanket. Looking down on Penelope who cringed, fear-struck, in front of him on the floor, holding the screaming Telemachos close to her chest, he hissed:

"That, you stupid bitch, was your very last mistake..."

Raising his dagger, he took a step towards her, but stopped dead in his tracks as suddenly the tip of a sword rose to his throat from the side where King Priam was standing.

"NO."

King Priam, holding the unsheathed sword in his outstretched hand, managed to gather a stance so commanding that even Penelope blinked in surprise.

"One more step, and you will die", he declared firmly, the blade in his hand not even wavering the slightest.

For a heartbeat, Patroclus closed his eyes as if he had finally tired of the whole game, the opened them only to roll them in exasperation. Slowly looking up the length of the blade and Priam's arm, he finally stared at the aging King with such cold, blood-shot eyes that there was nothing even remotely human in the gesture any more.

"And of what would I be supposed to die of?", he asked coldly. "You don't think this old thing in your old hands is any threat to me, do you?"

"This is the sword of Troy", Priam declared pompously, "And I will not let you -"

Suddenly, Patroclus' hands snapped forward, fast as a striking snake, wedging in the blade between his bandaged right and the hilt of his dagger in his left.

"Let me what?", the blond warrior asked, grimacing with the pain, but holding fast nonetheless. With a sudden, violent shove, he almost rammed the sword hilt-first into Priam's chest, making the old man stumble. As Patroclus then suddenly pulled the blade towards him, Priam finally lost his foothold and broke to the ground, the sword of Troy slipping out of his desperate grip.

Panting and covered with sweat, Patroclus stared down on the two people on the ground, his face a mask of pain and hate. Slowly, as if not by intention, the sword he had wrestled out of Priam's grip slipped out of his hands, falling to the ground whiled Patroclus sighed with relief as the agony in his right hand at least partially subsided.

"And I always thought the two were smarter than this", he hissed, his words chopped off by his ragged breath. "I really had hoped I would be able to pull this off without such a mess, but you're leaving me no choice at all."

Taking a single, heavy step towards Priam, Patroclus now stood with his feet on one level with Penelope's face. Still holding her son tight to her chest, her mind was flooded with nothing but fear and the dire urge to kill kill kill this man. Nothing else seemed to have any weight any longer, and as she saw his sandaled feet right in front of her face, she suddenly realized that men and goats were not necessarily all that different.

Staring at the taut sinew that rose from Patroclus heel into his calf, and seeing the sword of Troy that the warrior had dropped all but directly next to her, she didn't even think twice.
She had gutted enough goats in her life to know where to start.

In a single motion, she would have sworn she could never repeat again, Penelope simultaneously pushed Telemachos under a nearby table with one hand while grabbing for the sword with the other. Throwing herself around on the floor, she swung the blade horizontally across the floor, in a wide arc a mere hand above the ground.
For a mad, split-second thought she remembered her late mother, chiding her to 'cut, not to chop' the meat she was preparing for meal, and then she watched with slightly detached disgust as the blade cut deep into the warrior's heel closest to her, even managing to nick the other. With a sound she would probably have nightmares of for the rest of her life, the Queen of Ithaca heard the sinew snap apart, and given her perspective, the towering warrior feel like a tree struck down by the fist of a God.
Not wasting any time on thinking, she was up on her knees, the blade in both her hands, tip pointing down.

Patroclus only had enough time to give her a confused stare before Penelope brought down the sword with a feral scream that alone would have been enough to freeze a lesser man's blood. Almost mad with fear that he still wasn't dead, she brought down the blade again, and again, not even stopping as a sea of lukewarm blood pooled around her knees.

Only when she felt the heavy, cool hand of King Priam on her shoulders Penelope finally relented.

"Dear, it's over." Priam's voice was shaky, but it still carried enough command to bring her back to her senses. "He's dead, your son is safe now."

At the mention of her child, all of a sudden Penelope rose, looking around for her still-wailing infant son. All but jumping underneath the table where she had shoved the bundle, she grabbed the child, holding him as tight as she could without having to fear she was suffocating him.

"Telemachos....", she whispered, "poor Telemachos..."

Sighing deeply with relieved tension, King Priam rubbed his badly aching wrist. Looking down on the body of Patroclus who still had the sword of Troy sticking in his chest like a giant nail pinning down a spirit of evil, the aging King slowly shook his head. What was this world coming to, he wondered silently, with warriors fighting like women and women fighting with the hearts of warriors?

All of a sudden, a commotion rose in front of the ship Priam had erected his makeshift palace on, and the old King already turned around to give this new catastrophe a fitting welcome. But to his endless relief, it wasn't Agamemnon and his army storming through the tent's entrance, but Achilles, sword and shield ready in his hands. Though admittedly, the noise he made would have made a small army proud.

"PATROCLUS!", he yelled, "You rotten son of a whore! Where are you?!"

Unable to let this perfect moment pass, King Priam only pointed at the cooling corpse on the ground.

"What...", the Greek warrior started with a stunned blink but was then himself cut short as behind him, Odysseus rushed into the tent with as much commotion as had Achilles before.

"Penelope?", the King of Ithaca called out, "Penelope!?"

Seeing his wife kneeling on the ground, splattered with blood and holding a suddenly surprisingly silent bundle, he probably expected the very worst.

"All the Gods!", he exclaimed, dropping to the ground next to his wife. "Dear, what has happened?"

Blinking at her husband in slight confusion, Penelope actually managed something like a shaky smile. Given the fact that she was pretty much splattered from head to toe with Patroclus' blood, the effect was all but reassuring.

"Odysseus, love", she replied rather gently. "Don't worry, I think it's only a shallow cut."

"Telemachos is hurt?"

Laughing softly, Penelope shook her head, almost dizzy with receding excitement.

"No, love, our son is fine, just tired and upset. And very hungry." Leaning over a little, she let her husband glance at the little boy, sucking at her breast with more angry insistence than anything else.

Now for the first time truly taking in the whole scenery, he looked at his wife again, asking in wonder and worry at the same time:

"But... all this blood... Have you been fighting?"

Before Penelope could reply anything, King Priam answered in her place with something like fatherly pride:

"Indeed she has. And she saved us all."

With a somewhat disappointed sigh, Achilles who was by now standing next to the Trojan King sheathed his sword again.

"But we also come with good news, King of Troy", the blond warrior said, a tiny smile in his face as he heard more chariots arrive at the camp in neck-breaking speed. "The war is truly over. Agamemnon is dead, and his brother has fled the city."

"He is dead?", Priam repeated, his relief almost palpable. "And my sons?"

"Your sons?", Achilles asked with an innocent smile, stepping aside as he heard the well-known steps of Hector approaching.

"Father!", the eldest of the Trojan princes exclaimed as he entered the tent, rushing across the place to embrace Priam. "Father. So good to see you alive."

"Hector!" Almost stumbling as he rushed to meet his son, Priam had just reached him as two more figures appeared in the tent's entrance.

"Paris, all the Gods, you live!" By now, Priam's voice was brimming with tears. "Paris!"

Again rushing to meet one of his sons, the King of Troy hearted his younger son as if he had just risen from the dead. Which, given his chances of survival, wasn't all that unfitting.
It took Priam a moment to realize that his youngest son hadn't come alone, and blinking with slightly too much relief and joy, he asked:

"And who is this young Lady at your side, my son?"

"Father", Paris nodded and pulled Helen closer to him. "This is Helen of Sparta, who will be my wife once we have held the ceremonies."

"Of Sparta?", the old King asked, kissing Helen on her forehead with a smile. "Helen of Troy, then, I think. Be welcome, my daughter. This dawn looks at us with all the Gods smiling."

Looking silently at his exceptional family reunion, Achilles didn't notice Hector approach until he felt the Prince's shoulder gently touching his own.

"Now tell me, great Achilles," Hector asked softly, a wide smile on his face himself. "Isn't this a better end to a war than just fields of burning pyres and crying widows?"

But Achilles merely shrugged, looking at the dark-haired Trojan next to him.

"It's bearable", he replied dryly, but the sparkle in his eyes belied his nonchalant words. This felt good, however little glory there had been gained for his name. "You live", he continued more seriously, "and that is what matters."

"Thank you, Achilles." Hector's words weren't meant to be anything special, but nonetheless, the Greek looked at him with surprise.

Then suddenly, a wide smile grew on his face, making Hector realize how boyish his lover could actually look if he stopped brooding for a change. "You are right, love, this IS better."

"Where is he? Achilles!", Priam's voice cut off their separate conversation. "Achilles, come here, I beg you!"

Gently showing the blond Greek towards the King of Troy, Hector followed in safe distance, already guessing what was about to come.

"Achilles, son of Peleus", the old man proclaimed, his eyes once again wide with emotion, only this time, it was deep, heart-felt gratitude. "Weeks ago, I was a man blessed by the gods, father of two wonderful sons, reigning over the most beautiful city of the Aegean. This night, I had nothing left but my forefathers' sword that trembled in my failing hands. But all I lost, you have given back to me."

Squirming a little uncomfortably at this praise, Achilles realized that he had never been subject to such personal and emotional gratitude. Being renowned for merely killing people kept others at a certain distance that apparently wasn't necessary when he saved people.

"Come to my heart", Priam suddenly exclaimed, hugging Achilles pretty much like he had bearhugged his sons mere moments ago. "Without you, my family would be no longer", he continued in a more personal volume. "So if ever you chose to live in Troy, there will always be a place for you under my roof and at my table." And with a sidelong glance and a tiny wink, the old man added: "And I am sure my eldest would also appreciate your presence..."

"Yes, I...", Achilles replied, trying hard not to squirm to get out of the old man's close embrace. "Thanks."

Laughing softly, Hector stepped up to them, gently prying Achilles out of Priam's hug. "I think we have all duly noted your gratitude, father. And what I appreciate and what not, that is only for me to decide."

"Oh, of course." Nodding but hardly able to conceal his thoughts, Priam set on to another speech, but was interrupted by Odysseus, holding Telemachos in his arm while an utterly exhausted Penelope leaned against his shoulder.

"Guys", the King of Ithaca stated loudly, "I don't know about you, but dear Penelope is asleep on her feet, and I am not feeling much better. I'll go now, wash my family and myself, see to my wife's wounds and then fall into bed. If anybody wakes me before tomorrow evening, I will have his head."

Nodding a silent good-bye, Odysseus left the tent, and he hadn't quite stepped off the ship as Paris announced that he and his wife-to-be were about to retire as well.

"Father, if you allow, we would like to find a place to rest and clean ourselves."

"Oh, of course, my dears. We will talk once both of you feel rested."

Also nodding a silent good-bye, the two walked away in silence, holding each other's hand, Helen's head resting against Paris' shoulder. There was little doubt that the Gods had destined the two of them to be together.

"And what about you two?", Priam asked all of a sudden, turning around to face Hector and Achilles.

"What about us?" Hector asked snappily, regretting his words as soon as they were out.

"Well, don't you two also want to spent some time... alone? Together?"

Seeing Hector puffing up his chest for a sharp reply, Achilles grabbed him by his arm, nodding towards Priam.

"King Priam, by all due respect, that is none of your business." Looking at the prince at his side, he added: "Though he still owes me a bath and a scrubbed back, but I think we will postpone that a little."

"You owe me...", Hector replied in an angry whisper, but didn't get any reply right then.

Instead, Achilles sketched a bow and showed his lover out of the tent, leaving Priam alone in his makeshift and currently rather messy palace.

"None of my business, tsk", the old King muttered, staring at the corpse of poor Patroclus. With a shake of his head, he decided that his throne-room currently was in no condition for him to feel at ease there and so Priam walked out of the tent as well, owlishly blinking into the bright new morning.

"Not my business...", he repeated, looking at the sun rising above Sparta. A sly smile grew on his old face, and with renewed vigor, he stemmed his hands into his waist, wondering aloud: "Actually, who's going to be King of Sparta and Mycenae now...?"


-----

The end

(Except for the epilogue, which is going to be posted right hereafter ;-))
 
 
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