Achilles must fight even the Gods to bring Patroclus to Elysium.
| "Sing Goddess, of the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus"
-The Iliad, Homer
I felt empty. Even as I strode of the wastelands of Hades towards the Elysium fields I felt incomplete. But every step I took I felt a little less empty, and slowly my stride turned into a jog which became a run. I did not stop. I did not stop for the mutilated shadows of the dead warriors, whose hands' stretched out towards me as I ran pass. I did not stop for the golden gate that guarded the entrance to the Elysium fields. I did not stop for the familiar voices that called my name. I did not stop for the endless meadows of plenty and goodness. I ran, following the tugging sensation I felt, if I could just reach it! I sped by faster than the east wind himself, eyes growing wide in horror as I realised exactly where the tugging was taking me- down to the bank of the river Lethe. Dropping to my knees in front of the dread river I grabbed my hair and smeared my face in dirt in grief. He was long gone. I had lost him again.
"I am sorry, Son of Peleus." I raised my eyes to the dark haired goddess standing beside me. I heard someone with my voice dully ask where he was and where he had gone.
"He has drunk from the waters of the river Lethe to return to the land of the Living. It was not his fate to die so young." Leaning forwards I wrapped my arms round the goddess's knees in the universal gesture of supplication. Whatever I asked of her she would not be able to refuse.
"My goddess, please let me follow him, I" I winced when I heard my voice crack, "I cannot be without him. Let me follow him, so that we may come to Elysium together and spend our days in eternal bliss."
The wife of Hades, god of the dead stooped to look me in the eyes, dark eyes full of concern. "My child, surely it would be far wiser to stay here in Elysium and simply wait for him? Years on Earth are merely hours in Elysium."
I clenched my hand tighter in her long Chiton. "My lady, I am not known for my mental prowess, I leave that to the King of Ithaca. I am a simple man but I know, and have always known, when men lie to me. I know, therefore, that you my lady do not tell me the truth of the matter." I spoke without fear, my worst fear had already come to pass, what more could the goddess do to me that would pain me more?
Breaking out of my hold of supplication, the dark haired Goddess ran a hand through her hair, looking almost haggard. (Haggard? Could a goddess look haggard?) Turning doe eyes on me, she sighed once. "I knew that you, son of Peleus, would not believe me." She rubbed her eyes, "He can not come to Elysium, Apollo will not let him."
I blinked once. Twice. A third. "Why does Apollo care?"
"The Elysium fields are for heroes who have died in honour" I nodded slowly, this was common knowledge.
"He said that Menoitiades did not die honourably. He argued that he was killed wearing honour he borrowed from you" Fixing an eye on me she waved her hand in a pacifying manner. "Sit down child" I had not even realised I was getting up, my body tensed with anger. "Many of us disagree; the arguing was so severe that it divided Olympus, till eventually we reached a compromise. Great Hearted Menoitiades will keep being reborn till he proves his worth enough to tilt enough of the Gods in his favour."
"Then let me help him! Please!" I leapt up, "send me after him! Let me be reborn with him, with all my memories so that I might aide him. I all I wish to do is help."
The Goddess stared at me. "Are you sure?" I nodded. "Very well then. I will set up a portal- a doorway of you like. She turned away from me, waved her hand and what looked like the entrance to a temple appeared. "Should you fail you will be returned here, and will be given the choice to go to Elysium or walk back through the doorway again. Do what you will, but know that no one will force you through that door, not even if you beg them to. Remember, do not let Menoitiades out of your sight, for when you do Apollo will strike, and he will kill him. Menoitiades' heart will be his undoing. Do you understand?"
I didn't reply, I had already turned to walk through the doors, and in an instance I was gone.
Persephone closed her eyes. When she opened them again she was standing before the Council of the Gods. "It is done. Although I want you all to know that this is wrong." She looked at Shinning Apollo, "I do not approve."
Apollo laughed and everyone in the room felt the gentle heat of the sun warming their faces whilst he did. "I do not seek your approval for this. If Menoitiades is as you say, worthy, then he only needs to prove it-"
"That is not what I mean."
Apollo went silent. A voice, like the sound before a storm echoed round the room, "Then what, oh daughter do you mean?"
Persephone turned towards her father. "Lord Zeus, I am referring, naturally, to the brave Hero Achilles. He does not understand."
The lady of Love, Aphrodite leaned forward in her seat, a laughing lilt in her voice "I believe he understands perfectly, he knows that he and Menoitiades shall keep getting reborn till his comrade proves himself. Why would you say he does not understand?"
A new voice broke the silence.
"What my Lady Persephone means is that he believes there is hope." All the gods' heads turned to the dark haired youth leaning against the entrance way to the hall. Standing up he strode in, running his hand along the bow strung across his sun kissed shoulder. "The fact is that there is no hope. None at all. You all know this." He eyed the gods, more than one of them incapable of meeting his piercing blue eyes. "The whole point of this is that some of you have taken petty offence to Patroclus and are therefore engaging in this whole game as some form of retribution. Patroclus is never going to reach Elysium, as all of you well know and, by dooming Patroclus you doom Achilles as well."
Golden haired Aphrodite spoke up again "and why should that be so, Eros? The men are close companions I grant you but the son of Thetis-"
"Achilles needs Patroclus and you all know it." Eros brushed back his dark hair from his face with a careless gesture. "And Achilles and Patroclus are more than just close companions as you well know. Or do you refuse to acknowledge love that does not have your hand in it?"
Aphrodite flushed prettily with anger. "I don't know what you mean."
Eros raised an eyebrow, "If you can tell me, honestly, that you do not resent Patroclus and Achilles because they found love without you, then I will be amazed. The whole reason you have sided with Apollo over this matter is because you dislike the fact, that despite all your attempts to the contrary, they still continue to love each other"
Turning away from Aphrodite in a dismissive gesture Eros addressed the King of the Gods, Zeus. "Patroclus is what keeps Achilles human. It reminds him of his mortal blood and prevents him from committing hubris. Achilles cannot live in a world without Patroclus. It would be an unspeakable cruelty. By allowing this cycle to happen, you are allowing Achilles to believe that Patroclus will be able to reach the Elysium fields. Achilles is tenacious; he will keep trying to save Patroclus as long as he thinks he can save him. To allow Achilles hope, in a world where there is none, is cruel. That is what the lady Persephone means."
Eros stopped, paused for a moment to consider, and then spoke again. "I will help as indirectly as I can; I leave now to consider the best strategy to help them both. I care not what you all think; I only care to do what is right." Turning on his heel he strode out the door way.
"Wait!" Persephone hurried after him, "I will come too, I cannot sit idly by and watch this happen"
"And I will come as well." Grey eyed Athena rose from her seat where she had been taking quiet council with Artemis, Goddess of the hunt. "This is wrong. I dislike the way that many of you are acting like spoilt children; it seems to me that some of you are throwing a tantrum because you cannot get your own way." Striding out of the hall, she bent down gracefully to pick up her Aegis and helmet, hot on her heels was the wine-loving Dionysus who had been contemplating his thoughts in the corner of the room, refraining from speaking and weighing up the best course of action.
Hermes the messenger God exchanged a glance with Poseidon, Lord of horses and both men stood up and followed the exodus out of the room. Hestia, Goddess of the hearth was not far behind, quietly slipping out of the room, like a shadow caused by candle flame.
Artemis, the virgin sister of Apollo, draped in moonlight stood up slowly, and padded, cat like, to the door way where she paused. "Today, something dreadful has happened." She turned to her brother who had half risen from his chair when he saw that she was leaving. "We have done many things together, you and I, battled monsters, protected innocents, hunted together, guarded the sky. But today-" Artemis' voice had a small quiver, her usual poise and grace slipping ever so slightly. "Today Brother, you have made me ashamed to be your sister." And with those words she fled the room, leaving behind her brothers' horrified and grief stricken face.
Father Zeus stood up and addressed the remaining Gods. "I remain neutral in this debate; I care not for either way, my only concern is that the fates remain silent on what we have decided. It makes me uneasy. Nevertheless I will stand by the agreement, should the time come that all the Gods stand on the side of Menoitiades and Pelides the I shall reconsider but till such a time come I will let it be." Zeus frowned, storm clouds gathered in the sky outside. "I do not like to see Olympus thus divided. It pains me"
War like Ares was the only one to answer him. "If they did not deserve it then we would not do it."
Zeus just sighed in response.
And in that moment the Division of Olympus was complete.
The first time they were reborn it was in early Rome. They were both cousins, as they had been the first time and they both grew up together as shepherds. And in his joy at seeing Patroclus alive once more Achilles forgot Persephone's warning. "Do not let him out of your sight, for when you do Apollo will strike, and he will kill him". It happened when Achilles least expected it.
One day after a particularly vicious argument with the owner of the flock the boys looked after, Achilles threw down his shepherd's crook and refused to work for the owner any longer. And though Patroclus tried to reason with him, Achilles would not be placated. So when night time came and the time for Achilles to watch the flock arrived, Patroclus put on Achilles' distinctive purple cape, crept past the sleeping Achilles and went out to watch the flocks. After all, he couldn't just abandon the sheep to the wolves, particularly as lambing season had just passed. "His heart will be his undoing"
Achilles awoke, with a start, to the sound of screams.
Running out of the hut where they lived, Achilles raced to the hill where the scream had come from. The scream that had sounded an awful lot like Patroclus.
Blood. There was blood everywhere and a single unmoving body. Patroclus ' body.
"I-I thought he was you" Achilles lifted his eyes from the scene his mind refused to process in front of him, to the owner of the flock and a group of men stood behind him. "I- I wanted to teach you a lesson- I didn't mean too!"
Achilles saw red and lunged. But he was unarmed and there were twelve men. What could he do?
When he was finally brought low, he had killed ten of the men including the owner, and was able to crawl over to his cousin's corpse where he held Patroclus' cold hand as he died.
"He was killed wearing honour he borrowed from you."
And then he was back in the Elysium fields again with the doors right in front of him. Achilles glanced around in hope that Patroclus would be standing by him. He was not there. He was lost again. And so Achilles walked through the doorway again.
He did not notice the group of dead warriors watching him as he did so.
The second time Achilles was born as a Hebrew Prince, as the son of Zedekiah, in the land of Judah. Whilst he was growing up his Father was made the puppet king of an enslaved people by King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. But always he looked for Patroclus.
Whilst walking in the market when he was on the cusp of manhood, Achilles observed the sale of slaves in the Slave market. This sale itself was not unusual, but still Achilles lingered, observing one slave in particular. He didn't recognise the face, but something told him he knew this slave.
"He's from Egypt." Achilles turned to a tall man beside him, wild black curls framed his face and he held a cup of wine in one hand. "A rarity it must be said, I expect he'll go for quite a lot, especially considering his intellect."
Achilles tilted his head, nose wrinkling as he smelt the man next to him, he smelt like a drunkard. "His intellect?"
The drunkard nodded, "yeah apparently the boy can read and write, he said to be an excellent scribe, especially as he can speak our language." Sloshing the remains of the wine around in his cup the drunkard looked thoughtful. "Think his name was Pratrockless or something?"
"Patroclus!?" Achilles suddenly became a lot more interested in what this purple clad drunkard was saying. "Are you sure?"
The man smirked, taking another sip from his cup "of course I'm sure. The bidding just started and they called out his name." Pushing past the man Achilles raced forwards to the slave market, to save Patroclus from slavery.
"You're welcome!" Came a sarcasm filled voice from behind him. The drunkard rolled his eyes as he looked into his empty cup, wishing it was full again. "The young people of today. So impolite" Tutting he strode away and was gone.
After a heated bidding war between the young prince and a shop keeper, Patroclus was handed over to Achilles with all pomp and circumstance.
Taking a hold of the rope that bound Patroclus ' hands together, Achilles led them away from the market to the palace and from there to his private room. Turning towards the slave he clasped a knife in one and advanced on him slowly, as he would a wild animal.
Eyes growing wide and dark skin paling, the Egyptian started to babble nonsensical words at the prince. All Achilles could understand were the words, "No" and "Please," mostly because they were repeated so many times.
Achilles shook his head, horrified at how frightened the man was. What the hell had the slavers done to him? "No, I'm not going to hurt you; I just want to cut your bonds." He gestured at the knife, if you want I'll give you the knife and you can cut them yourself. Alright?" Bending down, he placed the knife on the space of floor between them and backed away, eyes never leaving Patroclus '.
Snatching the knife up; Patroclus held it to his chest and retreated a corner of the room where he undid his tied wrists. Rubbing the chafed skin he raised his eyes to the troubled looking Blond in the opposite corner of the room. "Why did you not just cut them?"
Tilting his head Achilles tried his best to smile reassuringly at the Egyptian, "I don't want you to be afraid of me."
"Why what?" Achilles turned away from Patroclus to pour some water into a cup and held out the cup to him. "Drink up, you must be thirsty." He was taken completely by surprise when a hand shot out and smacked the cup from his hand, the metal clattering to the floor and the water spilling out all over his feet.
"Stop it! Just stop it!" Patroclus balled up his hands as if he was going to punch the Prince, "whatever you're planning just do it!" breaking up into sobs he brought his up to cover his face and slumped down in the corner, curling up into a ball. "Just get it over with."
Achilles had done many things, killed many men and seen many atrocities but the pitiful sound of Patroclus crying was the most terrible sound he had ever heard. Feet silent on the marble floor he walked over to the Egyptian, bent down and wrapped his arms round the sobbing boy. "I won't hurt you" Achilles shook his head and silently vowed revenge on those who had hurt his Patroclus this way. "I'll never hurt you Patroclus, I swear it."
Big dark eyes peered up at Achilles from underneath a nest of black hair. "I do not understand you. I can take punishment, pain no longer bothers me, but I cannot fathom why you are being kind. I am a-a slave" Patroclus almost spat out the word in his disgust, "I am your property you can treat me however you like, you could kill me and suffer no consequences. So why are you...?"
Achilles finished off the trailed off sentence. "You're upset because I am treating you like a human being, is that what it is?" Patroclus nodded. Raising a hand to brush a lock of Patroclus' hair behind his ear Achilles said tenderly "Because you are the only thing I care about in this God forsaken world." Ignoring Patroclus' puzzled blinking at him Achilles reached out a hand to help him up. "Come on, lets get you out of those rags, they're not fit for a prince's companion."
Patroclus took the hand.
And the years past and slowly the Prince and his slave reached the point of friendship that they had originally been, back when they were fighting, long ago, for another man's woman. And they grew and bloomed into men, and love. But it could not last. And it didn't.
Chapter Three BC 587
Slaves flinched in terror, men peered out of their doorways, and one woman who had been busy doing her makeup, smeared her kohl all over her face in shock at the sound of a slamming door coming from the royal quarters. Achilles flung his royal robes on his bed in fury and paced to the window, Patroclus bending down to pick up the robe Achilles had cast off and out it on himself in an attempt to try and get the creases in it right. Why was Achilles so careless with his clothing? Did he not know how much they cost? For God's sake they were in the middle of a siege, did he think they had clothing trees which had robes growing they could freely pluck from?!
"What the hell is my father playing at? He's playing with fire I tell you!" Slumping down the wall by the window, Achilles ran his hand through his hair. "Any fool can see that we are not going to win, so why will he not just surrender and try and settle for peace?"
Patroclus crouched down and out a comforting hand on Achilles shoulder. If you had seen him all those years ago in that market square you would not have recognised him now. Fed better than most of the nobles in the palace, much paler through spending hours indoors keeping Achilles company and dressed in Achilles' own robe, he was regularly mistaken for the brother of Achilles rather than his slave. (Although he was slave only in law.)
"You know your father is just trying to do the best he can-"
"It's not good enough!" Patroclus reeled back shocked into silence by this outburst from his friend. Achilles sighed, "Listen I'm just tired. Will you please just let me contemplate this...alone." Nodding once Patroclus rose and was gone. Achilles released his anger in the only way he knew how other than fighting, he picked up things and started throwing them.
Patroclus was still wearing Achilles' robe.
"He was killed wearing honour he borrowed from you."
Achilles was awoken by the sound of screaming. Instantly awake, years of listening out in the night to make sure the other person in your bed is still alive will do that to a person; he leapt out of bed and grabbed his sword, running bare chested into the corridor.
It was like Troy was falling all over again.
Everywhere men were fighting in hand to hand combat, women were screaming and cradling babies and children and permeating the air was the sickening smell of death. A horrific cocktail of the smell of fresh blood and raw flesh.
It was into the chaos that the Prince of Jerusalem stepped out, but in his sleeping attire he looked no more royal than the slaves, in the confusion he was swept up in the panicking crowd and carried down the hallway and out into the courtyard. Gathering his senses Achilles raced for the high curved wall of the perimeter of the city gate.
He had to find Patroclus.
After dispatching a few soldiers idiotic enough to challenge him Achilles reached the highest point of the city. He did not turn round. What point would there have been to do so? He could hear the screams of his people well enough and he could feel the heat from the fire the invaders had lit in the temple.
The flames from the burning temple lit the wild plains for miles around, illuminating the group of people who had evidently been trying to flee and had been caught by the Babylonians.
Achilles always did have good eyesight, and he would have recognised Patroclus blind, deaf and dumb. One by one his brothers were dragged in front of the king and had their throats cut. Achilles all but leapt from the wall. But he was too late. He was always too late.
A swish of a purple cloak, a spurt of red and Patroclus' lifeless corpse fell to the ground. By the time Achilles had got there all that was left were the cold corpses of his brothers and only friend. He collapsed to the ground tears streaking his cheeks as he desperately shook Patroclus.
"Patroclus? Patroclus! Get up! Get up. Please. Gods please." Bleary eyes focused in on the pitiful sight of his father the king surrounded by his dead sons "You did this! I told you to try and sue for peace! This is your fault!"
"He claimed he was the Prince Achilles." Achilles raised his eyes to the man that stood a little taller than the rest of the soldiers. A commander maybe? Achilles didn't care. "I take it he was lying." The Commander looked thoughtful. "Whoever he was he wanted to keep you safe."
Achilles coiled over Patroclus' slowly stiffing body, still garbed in Achilles' purple and sobbed.
A soldier looked at the commander, who quietly nodded, and raised his sword to impale Achilles.
The sobbing stopped.
The sonless King of the Jerusalem looked from his last son to the commander.
The commander smiled grimly "an act of kindness. Now." He bent down and picked up a sharp stick from the ground, "Hold still my king." He smirked, "This won't hurt a bit."
No one noticed the man clad in wine purple, with wild dark hair, watch with horrified eyes and no one noticed him disappear either.
And so it was that Achilles found himself by the door way again. Squaring his shoulders and with tears still freshly drying on his cheeks he walked forwards towards the doors when he was stopped by an hand on his arm. He wheeled around.
"Odysseus?" The same cunning that he had posed when he had been alive filled the King of Ithaca's eyes and a broad smile cut his face in half.
"The very same Prince of Ithaca" Placing a hand on Achilles shoulder, Odysseus leaned forwards to Achilles in a conspiratorial manner. "So tell me princeling, when are you going to come in to Elysium hm? Your friends are waiting for you; the feasts simply aren't the same without you and Agamemnon riling each other up! We've even begun to miss you beating all of us at sword practice!"
Achilles offered a bittersweet smile. "There will be no homecoming for me Odysseus, not until Patroclus is safe in Elysium too."
Odysseus' smile fell. "Yes I heard which is why I came. I alone of the other Greek commanders who went to Troy understand. I know that it is hard for you to accept but I want you to"
"No!" Achilles shrugged off Odysseus' hand on his shoulder "I will not give up! I shan't!"
"Will you let me finish!" Silenced by Odysseus' tone Achilles nodded once briskly. Odysseus continued. "If I knew Penelope was out there unable to reach Elysium I would do everything in my power to help her. You must believe me Son of Peleus. I love her. I would do anything for her. But- and this is what I want you to think about, if Patroclus was in the same position as you, and you in his, what would you want Patroclus to do? Because I know what I would want Penelope to do, and if you love Patroclus as much as I think you do then you would want the same."
"I would want him to go to Elysium and leave me." Achilles looked grief stricken. "But I can't. I can't." Turning on his heel he raced through the door and was gone.
Odysseus sighed. "I tried. Let the gods witness I tried".
Chapter Four Olympus
Pacing. Up and down. This is what Poseidon, Lord of the sea, been doing for the last three hours.
"Will you stop that?!" Athena looked up from where she and Eros had a map of Rome on the table. "You're driving me insane." Poseidon sighed and sat down, before tapping his fingers on the table in front of him anxiously. Athena rolled her eyes and mentally beseeched the Fates for patience. "That is not much better."
Poseidon rubbed his ever changing eyes, although at the moment they were the sea green you see in a sheltered cove on a warm sunny day. "I apologise Lady Athena, I am merely concerned about Dionysus. I have not seen him since the last reincarnation."
Athena glanced at her uncle, brows tight with stress. "Yes. It did seem to shake him. I'm just annoyed we had to send him at all. I had not realised the other side were going to play dirty. Trying to sell Patroclus to a shop keeper indeed, we're just lucky that Achilles happened to be in the market place that day!"
"You have no idea how lucky we were. You really don't want to know what the shop keeper had planned for Patroclus." Eros shivered in disgust. "Makes me feel sick thinking about it."
Athena looked horrified and Poseidon went a rather fetching green that complemented his eye colour very nicely.
The grey eyed Goddess spoke, "But he brought a boy afterwards. He couldn't have been more than ten, you mean to tell me that he-"
Eros cut Athena off with a simple "Yes." Poseidon turned from green to white and Athena looked like she might be sick.
Any ensuing conversation was cut off by what sounded like a toddler having a temper tantrum outside the hallway that the Pro-Patroclus Gods had commandeered.
"Get offa me. Letmme go. 'Cept you princess, you can stay."
The three gods in the hall exchanged glances, then as one they rushed out into the courtyard outside the hall, to see a rather interesting sight.
Dionysus appeared, being dragged along by Artemis and Hermes, both of whom were looking very put out.
"I am not paid enough to do this!" Hermes gave an almighty push as he huffed out the words and Dionysus moved forward a few more paces.
"You're not paid at all!" Artemis appeared to be wrestling with Dionysus and was rather red in the face.
Stepping forward Poseidon scooped up the wayward God, and carried him over the threshold of the hall, looking for all the world like a young husband carrying his blushing virgin bide to their new home together. Hermes and Artemis stumbled together and collapsed on the floor outside the hall. Poseidon was used to dealing with lithe nymphs who could turn themselves into sea foam, so the drunken God's wriggling really wasn't an issue. Although his drunken slurs and chat up lines were a different issue.
"Hey hey! Are your feet tired 'cause you've been running through my head all day?" The virgin goddess blinked up at Dionysus who was leering at where she and Hermes were collapsed on the floor. "Aw honey, you are kinda cute. You know I have really soft thighs, wanna see?" If the wine God's smile had grown anymore he would have resembled a leopard skin clad Cheshire Cat.
Hermes got to his feet almost shaking with muffled laughter. "Seems you have a suitor my lady."
Poseidon placed Dionysus down in a chair gently and turned to talk to Artemis. "Where was he?"
"The stables. He must have been there for days."
"days?!" Artemis nodded her head gravely, single plait swaying from side.
"Get. Off. Me. Now. "The four gods currently in discussion turned to see Dionysus clinging to Hermes' leg and slowly sliding hid hand towards the god's crotch. Hermes looked like a deer in the headlights. "Make him get off!"
Artemis gave her moon smile, full of mystery and unshared jokes. "Not so funny Dionysus being a pervert now, is it my lord?"
Dionysus looks confused. "What do you mean?" His grin returned "You mean he enjoyed it before?" "Looked up at Hermes he wriggled his eyebrows. "Come on. I did offer to show you my thighs. What more do'ya want?"
Hermes looked mildly perturbed. "No, that was Artemis. That was to Artemis right!?" Looking at the gods for confirmation all he received was hysterical laughter. Poseidon in particular had collapsed on the floor, evidently unable to control himself. Athena was not much better, the normally reserved goddess having just made it to a chair.
The laughter was broken by a whimper from the wine loving God. "Please." Tugging on Hermes tunic he resembled more a small child begging its father to save it from the monsters under the bed than the twenty year old male he physically looked like. "I just wanna forget. Please. Just make it stop."
Hermes bent down to the drunk god. "Make what stop, Di?"
"The cycle." Dionysus looked at his bare feet. "You didn't see the look on his face. He- They Broke Him! They broke the greatest Greek warrior! How could they?" Big watery black eyes peered at Hermes from underneath a black nest of hair. "I don't understand."
Hermes looked sad. "Neither do I Di. I don't understand either. Come on. Let's get you in bed." Bending down he picked up Dionysus, gently resting Dionysus' head on his shoulder, and supporting him with a hand under his back and knees, much like he had done when Dionysus had only been a child, and he his faithful guardian.
He walked past the silent gods; Dionysus' muffled sobs the only sound in the room, before he paused and spoke in a tone the other gods had not heard him use in a long time. The voice of the one who had killed the hundred-eyed giant Argus. "They will pay for this. All of them."
The gods watched in stupefied silence as he disappeared down the road before returning to the map on the table, determined that this reincarnation would be the last.
But what can the gods do against the invincible will of the fates, the mighty ones, whom even Zeus cannot order?
Chapter 5 -Rome 79 AD
This time Achilles was the slave. And he learnt the bitter yoke of slavery and endured it all- so he might see his beloved once more. He endured watching his village being burnt to the ground, he endured the salt mines, hacking away at the long years of his life and he endured being chosen as a gladiator and sent to a wealthy town by a mountain.
He endured it all for Patroclus.
This time, however the Gods were there. He may have not seen them but they guided him through it. Artemis protected him whilst his mother begged for his life, as his home burnt around him. Poseidon instilled the quiet patience of the sea as it wears away the cliff face in him whilst he was beaten by the slavers in an attempt to break his spirit. Athena wrapped him in her Aegis as he learnt how to put on a performance for a Roman audience. Eros simply watched his dreams.
And then he was in the arena. Fighting other slaves for the pleasure of freeborn Romans.
Golden haired Achilles had fought on the battlefields of Troy, he had laid low pious Hector, He had been-was still, Aristos Achaion, best of the Greeks. But this? This was not fighting. This was butchery.
And yet the crowed cheered. Cheered for their golden haired prince. The prince of the arena.
Inn the crowd a concerned father, silently watched this graceful killer and plotted.
"I don't understand? What do you mean I don't have to fight?"
"You've been brought Hercules. You're to be the guard of a young lady, and her father is quite protective of her. The deal is already done Hercules."
Achilles rolled his eyes; he was the great Achilles, reduced to pottering after some spoilt brat. Then he was in the atrium of the roman house, with cool marble underneath his feet speaking to his...owner.
"You are to protect my daughter at whatever cost, and to accompany her everywhere. Is that understood slave?"
Achilles nodded and looked at the ground. "Yes Sir,"
"Good, I'll let my daughter introduce herself." Turning on his heel his owner walked away to the exit of the house.
But Achilles didn't notice. There was Patroclus! In all his...maidenly glory?
It was Patroclus that Achilles was sure of. Yet he was clearly a girl. Was Patroclus the daughter he was meant to protect? Achilles could scarcely believe his luck.
"Hello. My name is Patroclia. I understand you are to be my guard?" Patroclia tilted her head at him and smiled reassuringly, "my father has given orders that all other slaves are to offer what ever help they can should you ask. As for us I'm sure we will be good friends."
It was him. The same dark hair and eyes. The same lean figure that belied the strength hidden within. The same kindness.
Achilles inwardly praised the Gods.
Never praise the Gods too early.
"Patroclia?" The word was breathed out, but Patroclia just smiled at him broadly.
"That's right! I've been told you're name is Hercules?"
Patroclia looked startled, like a wolf caught off guard by a lion. "No?"
"My name is Achilles."
"Achilles." Gods now even her eyes were smiling. Was it even possible to miss the way someone's eyes shone so much? "It suits you"
Achilles took the hand that Patroclia offered him and followed her further into the house, listening to her excited chatter about the house and the forum, and her promise he would visit it soon. But mostly her chatter was about the Festival of Vulcan the next week and how the family celebrated by feasting. Finally she turned to him; dark eyes meeting his vibrant green ones.
"I must confess I tried my best to dissuade my Father when he told me he was getting a gladiator as my personal slave, but he insisted. 'Only the best for his only daughter' he said. But I'm really glad he overruled me."
Achilles flashed a smile at her, (he wouldn't admit how long it had been since he'd actually smiled.) "I am equally glad, little one."
Patroclia turned to him in a flash, hands on hips and legs wide, "I am not little! Take that back you giant!"
Reaching a hand he bent down to pat the top of her dark curls, "But you are little, little one. And I am hardly a giant, I am only a little taller than average."
Cocking her head, Patroclia looked at Achilles quizzically. "You are not like other slaves."
Achilles had forgotten that in this life time they were simply mistress and slave. "I am sorry if I have been over familiar." There was a pregnant pause as Patroclia stared at Achilles as if he held all the secrets of the world, whilst he held his breath for the dismissal from her service that was surely going to come.
"I like it."
Achilles blinked. "You do?"
Patroclia nodded enthusiastically "Mhm, I like my slaves to have a back bone, it makes conversations so much more interesting don't you think? Anyway I am going to tell my father that I like you and you can stay. If you want to go find it, the slave quarters are at the back of the house- not that you'll be using them, you'll be sleeping outside my door." And with that Patroclia was off.
Achilles took this opportunity to collapse in a heap on the wall surrounding the house. Patroclus was here. Achilles' job was to protect her. The Gods must be on his side.
"So you've found one another again have you?" Achilles glanced to the side where the voice had come from, before scrambling to his feet and bending into a low bow.
"My lady Athena." (Who else could it be? Besides back in his war days he had seen Athena before, often in the company of Odysseus) Athena smiled reassuringly at Achilles.
"Rise young hero. I came to make sure that everything had gone according to plan. No one shall disturb us during this time Pelides." Waving her hand a chair appeared behind her and she sank into it gracefully, long white Chiton flowing down to the cool marble floor, Aegis tucked around her shoulders. Placing her shield and spear on the floor she looked the epitome of the word 'relax'. Waving her hand again Achilles found a chair behind him and he too sat down.
"So I have you to thank for this?" Achilles made a gesture with his hand that indicated the entirety of the house.
Athena nodded, before bringing her dark hair, tied in its customary pony tail to the front where she began to braid it. "I amongst other Gods have been watching Achilles, and we wanted to make sure you knew we are on yours, and Patroclus' side."
"Side?" Achilles had heard this sort of talk before. A long time ago, when he was still a Prince, inwardly he began to pray what he assumed was wrong.
"Some of my fellow Gods do not feel that Patroclus deserves to reach Elysium. This you know. What you do not know is that they are actively plotting Patroclus' destruction."
Wait. What? No.
"My lady this can not be." Achilles attempted to reason with the truth what he had already guessed. "Why would they do such a thing? I don't..." Trailing off at the sad look in Athena's eyes, Achilles grew angry, leapt out of his chair and began to pace. "How dare they?! How could they refuse to let such a good man as Patroclus into Elysium! He who made so many rich offerings to them!"
Athena attempted to placate the angry hero, "Achilles I know you are angry, and you have every right to be so but you are not alone."
Turning to Athena in one sharp movement Achilles cocked his head at her. "Oh yes because that's done me and Patroclus so much good! We're on what? The third lifetime? How many more must we suffer before their anger is assuaged? Huh?"
A voice that was not Athena's answered him. "You presume much Son of Peleus."
Athena's angered face told Achilles all he needed to know, he tuned on his heel to see golden haired Apollo leaning casually against a wall.
"How dare you come here Apollo." Athena didn't shout. She never did. She just silently seethed and plotted your demise. This was the war Goddess Athena. The Goddess of strategy and she would not let Apollo walk all over her. "You have the nerve to come here, to speak to Achilles?"
Apollo stood up straighter and smiled at the angry goddess. "I have as much right to be here as you, or do you forget who Patroclia's father prays to every night to protect his daughter? You are forgotten and unimportant in this new world Athena, Go back to your weaving" The scorn in Apollo's voice was obvious. Turning his attentions to a stupefied Achilles, Apollo continued, "You blame us Achilles, but we have done very little to interfere."
"Do not do this Apollo." Achilles turned to see Athena stretching out a hand to Apollo.
"I will do it Athena. Achilles deserves to know don't you think?"
Achilles looked vaguely confused. "Deserves to know what?"
Apollo's smile was positively predatory. "Patroclus keeps dying because of you. The fall of Jerusalem? Patroclus was wearing your robe for a reason; he thought that you might be able to escape if the Babylonians thought he was you. The first time he was trying to make sure you didn't lose your job. Even his original death was because of you and his desperate attempt to protect your shinning name."
Achilles paled. "No. It's not true. You're wrong." Turning once again to Athena he found her to have vanished.
Apollo shook his head. "No son of Peleus. I am the one who sees the future, I cannot be wrong. You know we do not even need to interfere to make Patroclus walk to his death. He goes to the altar willingly; his blood stains the temple steps, his self sacrifice for you." Apollo walked around Achilles. "And for who? The egotistical son of a powerless ocean nymph?"
A new voice spoke up as soothing as waves lapping on the shore line. "An ocean nymph perhaps, but powerless I am not."
Achilles breathed a single word. "Mother"
Thetis smiled at her son, before moving to stand in between him and the sun God, eyes flashing. "You forget your place Apollo. Leave. Now."
Apollo laughed, "You think to threaten me? The God Apollo? I am of the sun, Nymph, fear me."
"And I am his mother. Fear me." Achilles had never seen his mother so angry- he had only ever seen her when she was calm. Thetis was a sea nymph, and like the water she inhabited she had mostly two states, calm, deep but willing to help fishermen on the way home. This was the tricky sea, with its treacherous currents and hidden rocks that would smash a ship before anyone had even seen the danger. This was no water a mother would let her child paddle in. This was Thetis at her most lethal.
Apollo smiled, "very well nymph, I shall leave, but, son of Peleus? You will always be the reason Patroclus dies. I speak not as Apollo but as the voice of Delphi here, I speak the truth." And with a burst of light Apollo was gone.
Thetis turned to a devastated looking Achilles. "Oh my child. Come here." Opening her arms, Achilles fell into her arms, clutching her deep sea blue chition, still wet from where she had been swimming in the sea. "My boy, my poor boy. I am so sorry." Petting his blonde locks with a damp hand, she rocked him backwards and forwards as she lowered them both to the floor.
And if you had been watching as Athena was then, having returned from fetching Thetis, you would not have seen an immortal sea nymph holding a powerful hero, but a distraught mother comforting her weeping son.