The Torjan war was one of the longest and bloodiest wars the old world had every known. Over a ten year siege thousands died, their bones forever left beneath the walls of Troy. Out of this great conflict between nations...Two heroes emerged.
From the top of the sandstone staircase that lead up to the grand Temple Achilles could see for miles, the ocean to his left, the great city of Troy far off in the distance to his right. On the sea, from horizon to horizon, sails. Countless swathes of fluttering colour as Agamemnon's hoards of conscripts and farm boys came to a country they had never heard of to retrieve a woman they had never seen from a prince they had never known. Only fifty or so ships were beached on the golden white sand of Troy's beach, fifty had the black sails of the Myrmidons as Achille's soldiers poured from their decks like ants swarming over the Trojan archers and fisherman as they retreated back to their city. One had the bright red sail of Ajax, he had to smile. Never one to miss out on a good fight my old friend. Kicking the body of a dead Trojan soldier down the steps Achilles cleaned his golden blades with the cape of one, wiping the thick red blood of the Trojans from the gleaming metal.
When the dead man’s cape had done its job he moved and sat at the feet of the huge standing statue of Apollo, the old god's sandstone features worn away after centuries facing the winds, but so much weathering made the stone smooth and very comfortable to sit on. 'My Lord,' said a hard yet subtle voice from the huge open doorway of the Temple. Erastos looked down at his liege lord, pale face smothered in Trojan blood, spear as bloodied as its master, the black armour of the Myrmidons swathed in a fresh array of scratches. Yet those stark blue eyes still screamed out from the darkness of his appearance, as he moved to kneel before him Achilles removed his helmet to allow the soft breeze that drifted down the distant mountains run its soft fingers through his sweaty blonde locks.
'Erastos my friend,' Achilles said placing a hand on the crown of his head, the traditional greeting between king and soldier. 'How many have we lost?'
'My Lord it's too early for definitive...'
'How many,' he repeated with just the smallest bite to the end of his words. Erastos's face faltered.
'Thirty...maybe more.' his words were like an axe to the heart, Thirty of my men...thirty men I sent to their deaths. 'But my Lord, thirty men to take the beach of Troy! People will sing of this day!'
'Thirty men to slaughter a collection of fishermen, archers and Temple guards...' Achilles shook his head. 'They deserved better my friend. Their funeral games will be long lavish and full of great songs and as much laughter as can be mustered. I'll pay their charges to the Ferryman myself.' he said sheathing the bronze blades in their sheaths on either hip. 'Tell the men any treasure they find in there is theirs.' For the first time in almost ten years of service Erastos flinched, he normally took orders with a stiff nod and then they were done, but this time he lingered, saying nothing. Achilles looked to his general and grabbed him by the shoulder. 'Speak your mind brother; you earned that right with me a very long time ago.'
'My Lord...it's...Apollo is the god of the sun...do you think it right to defile his temple in this way? This war doesn’t not need the wrath of the gods involved too.' Achilles smiled.
'Twelve temples rest on this beach my friend, each one will be ransacked its priests killed and its treasures and livestock’s taken...the moment a god intervenes then come find me, only then will we talk of such things.' shaking him by the shoulder Erastos gave a watery smile before rising.
'Aye my Lord.' watching him as he rose Achilles caught a glimpse of the horizon, the walls of Troy nothing but a tiny smudge in the distance, but the great column of black stallions racing toward them stole his gaze from his general. Noting his look Erastos turned and jumped slightly at the sight, as if already readying himself to fight what was coming. Rising slowly Achilles stood beside him, watching them getting closer and closer, the hooves of the horses kicking up a great plume of sandy dust that swirled it's way upwards into the azure sky.
'Warn the men Erastos,' he said calmly. Without a word Erastos bolted into the dark temple, the sounds of rattling metal and cheering quickly stopped and the hushed sound of hurried footsteps taking position took over. Achilles shoved his helmet under his arm and slung his shield across his back turning he entered the temple feet slipping in the huge glassy puddles of blood that pooled around the bodies of the Temple Guard and the Priests of Apollo they had sworn to protect, the Priests throats had all been slashed, but the wounds were the jagged uneven cuts of nervous hands. Not the smooth clean lines of his soldiers, They killed themselves. It made sense in a way; they would rather die by holy hands than those of professional killers. The dark temple had only one tiny square window above the door that cast a great beam of golden light down onto the main alter at the correct time of day, this was the correct time, the great alter was illuminated in all of Apollo's glory. Yet Achilles and his men stayed hidden in the darkness behind the twelve circular pillars that supported the sloped roof.
Sitting below the alter Achilles heard the hushed whispers and the nickering of horses as the rather late Trojan reinforcements reached the temple and began to organise themselves. But one was in before the others, a tall man in elaborate armour and a grand gold and bronze sword in his hand, eyes peering over the edge of his shield. Interesting. Achilles thought as he watched the man slowly enter the temple, soon his men were behind him. All he had to do was click his fingers and over a hundred Myrmidons appeared from the darkness surrounding the small Trojan party, to give them credit they locked shields and stood ready for a fight even though they knew they were about to be murdered. 'You're very brave to follow me in here,' Achilles said leaning into the light. 'You must be Hector.' The leader stepped forward slightly, sword and shield still ready.
'What kind of men slaughter innocent priests! These were servants to the gods!' he raged.
'And now they can serve their gods in person.' Hector tightened his grip around his sword handle as he physically shook in rage.
'You must be Achilles.' he hissed threateningly. 'Leave this place! Go home know and all this will be forgotten! Your men will live and...' laughing loudly Achilles stood moving to get closer to the Prince of Troy.
'I just took your beach with nothing more than fifty ships of my men, why should I leave now when the rest of the war is still yet to come?' A few feet from him Achilles still couldn't really make out any details of his face in the dim lit Temple but he could see one thing in this man, honour.
'We will not release her to you! She is a princess of Troy now and...' he laughed again.
'Do you think we sailed all this way so Manelaus could scold his wife?' Achilles asked the dumbstruck Hector, he was sure the prince had never been spoken to like this before. 'Manelaus couldn't keep his wife, that is his own fault, not mine, or hers for that matter. I did not come here for her Prince of Troy, I came here for glory! Turn around and look out those doors, ten thousand ships from across the world are sailing here to fight a war that will be remembered for a thousand years. This is our chance to get our names written in history.'
'So you will fight a war for fighting’s sake? Kill for no other reason to be remembered!' bellowed Hector in shout as loud as thunder. You wouldn't understand.
'Go home Prince of Troy, you are outnumbered surrounded and helpless. Go. Go to your chambers, drink some wine, make love to your wife. Tomorrow this war will begin.' For a moment Hector's proud and chiselled face stood in confusion while the other terrified faces of the men at his back already began slowly moving towards the door. But soon he followed his men, mounted his horse and galloped off towards his city as the first wave of ships beached themselves.
'Sir.' said Erastos. 'You're letting him go?' Achilles breathed a long deep breath and looked to the sun, it was barely past noon.
'It's too early in the day for killing princes.'