The camp fire burned a healthy orange as its flames licked upwards towards the sparkling night sky, every star merrily shining down on the would be battlefield their shine reflecting off the armour of his Myrmidons as they ate and drank around the fire. Achilles stared up at the stars laying back onto his arms, his belly full of meat and wine listening and smiling slightly as his men reminisced about everything from grate battles they fought in or their families back home at the coast. In truth Achilles new they were annoyed, they had been looking forward to a fight today, but thanks to Agamemnon they weren't even allowed to leave camp. So instead of fighting the Thessalans they had fought other members of Agamemnon’s conscript forces, Xeses had nearly beaten a man to death after he shot an insult about Xeses wife and children. On the up hand, he won't be insulting anyone else with a broken jaw.
'To Achilles!' Erastos said suddenly raising his clay cup. 'The slayer of the Titan's Bastard! And the greatest warrior the world has ever seen!' As one his men stood with their glasses raised.
'ACHILLES! ACHILLES! ACHILLES!' they chanted loudly before downing their drinks and sitting back onto their logs laughing amongst each other.
'And a toast to you! My warriors, I would rather fight by your sides than any army of thousands.' Achilles said sitting up and looking into each of their faces, he had only been permitted to bring fifteen troops, but they were fifteen of the strongest and fiercest.
'Here here!' Malous shouted raising his cup once again.
'Was the Titan's Bastard as big as the stories say my Lord?' asked Erastos.
'He was a lot smaller on his knees,' he smiled. His men chortled heartily as the wine skin was passed around once more filling each of their cups to the brim. Serving girls from Agamemnon giggled as the men winked at them and pulled them onto their laps. At least the women have fine taste in men.
'Greece is finally whole.' said Brackus staring up at the starry sky philosophically. 'Now every man woman and child can call themselves Greek.'
'We could always do that Brackus,' Achilles said downing his drink. 'Borders mean nothing, Kings and Queens and royal blood means nothing. At our heart every person born and raised in this country is Greek.' the men fell silent and every pair of eyes looked to him, even Erastos turned his head. 'The only reason we are here is because a fat greedy man wanted more land to rule, this is the way of the world my brothers. War is old men talking and young men dying.'
'You are our King my Lord,' said Arachus. 'We do not fight for Agamemnon.' the men all nodded in agreement.
'I am not saying that you do brother. I am saying that Kings will always justify murder behind noble words when all they really want is gold and the blood of their enemies. Nothing more.'
'If you hate Agamemnon so much my Lord...then why do you fight for him?' asked Erastos.
'The same reason you fight for me, patronage.'
'We fight for you because of our loyalty to you my Lord! It is our honour!' shouted mighty Octavius slamming a huge tanned fist into his breast plate. Achilles smiled.
'That's the truth,' sitting back Achilles pondered the question a little more deeply. Why do I fight? For glory, to have my name remembered, to live in the pages of history for a thousand years. That wasn't the truth, but he couldn't tell his men the truth. 'I fight for him because whether I like it or not, his enemies are usually ones worth fighting.' After a brief laugh several conversations broke out between them all and Erastos turned to Achilles.
'When will Patroclus be joining our ranks my Lord?' he said it so casually, so easily, when the idea of Patroclus fighting and dying repulsed Achilles.
'He is not yet ready,'
'Being trained by Achilles, kings would kill for such an honour. If your cousin is even half the warrior you are my Lord,'
'I said he is not yet ready!' he barked more harshly than he would have liked. Erastos looked shocked for just a moment before nodding and muttering,
'Aye my Lord.'
'Patroclus,' sighed Achilles. 'He is young my friend, he is yet to feel a woman’s touch, to feel the joy of raising crops, to appreciate the gift of family. He is a talented warrior but I will not cut his life short because he wishes to be like me.'
'Who would you rather wish him to be my Lord?'
'I wish him to be Patroclus, he is already a far better man than me.' Slapping Erastos on the shoulder a harsh bold voice barked over the crackling of the fire,
'Achilles you bastard son of a whore!' the Myrmidons froze, looked behind Achilles, their sword hands carefully drifting to their weapons. Firing to his feet Achilles spun to face a colossal hulking form of muscle and scars. His long auburn hair tangling down his back in messy strands, his chest bare showing the multitude of crisscrossing pale scars he had attained over his muscled body. The scar running down his right eye and stopping just before his collarbone was the freshest and most ghastly. As Achilles stared into those hard brown eyes they both smiled broadly before clasping forearms and pulling each other into a rough hug.
'Ajax my friend!' with his huge crushing arms wrapped around him Achilles felt as if all the air in his lungs were being pushed out by the massive man before he finally let go. Laughing Ajax smashed an open hand into his shoulder.
'You stole my kill this morning! I should have killed the Titan's Bastard!'
'Yes but the bastard of a Titan against an actual Titan is hardly fair.' he smiled as Ajax boomed a great billowing laugh.
'True enough my little friend,' anyone else couldn't have said that. Achilles was taller than most, but against Ajax's six foot seven bullish frame he looked like a child. 'These are the famous Myrmidons!' he said scanning each of the fifteen warriors in turn.
'Aye. Myrmidons, meet Ajax the Greater, warrior lord of Rhodes.' his men all stood and nodded greetings.
'So many stories of greatness coming from such puny men!' Ajax laughed at his own joke even though the Myrmidon's didn't. 'Not ones for smiling are they?'
'None are compared to you my friend. Come sit with us, eat, drink and tell me...how did you get that scar?' As Ajax sat the dead log he had chosen nearly broke in two under his massive weight, he laughed as a serving girl poured him wine and Achilles passed him a huge hunk of the stuck pig.
'Oh this thing! Got it just this morning. Had me a bet with one of Agamemnon's dogs that he would call you to the field after seeing the Bastard, when I went to collect my money he pulled a sword and me and try to take my head!' laughing even though it wasn't funny Ajax took a huge bite from the roast pork.
'Did you get your money?' asked Erastos.
'I always get what I want son, as for the Dog...lets just say he won't be playing fetch for a while.'
'It's a shame he missed, you would look far more handsome minus that head.' said Brackus smiling, a few others chuckled but when they saw the look of utter rage on Ajax's face they all stopped.
'Was that meant to be funny?' hissed the huge man. Brackus shook his head looking terrified; Ajax leaned forward menacingly before bursting out into a great fit of laughter. Achilles laughed too even though he knew he shouldn't. 'You should have seen your face boy!'
'At least his smart Ajax, any man stood against your wrath should look terrified.'
'True enough Achilles! So tell me...what was it like fighting the Bastard?' until the sun had risen and the fire had died Achilles and his men stayed up telling war stories and laughing with Ajax, wine flowing as easily as jokes as the sun broke the horizon and a new day began.