|Posted By||Topic » Fates Defied; histories Re-written.|
Posted: Tuesday, Oct 29, 2013 at 1:07 AM
Saheed walked into the lowered stage of the amphitheater with his two companions in tow, the painter and the gamer, Children of Bast both. A large table was set on a slope so that the audience could see the contents on its surface and several canvases stood behind it.
The effect was more akin to that of a traveling museum than a stage show.
"Hail to thee, noble sons of Lycia. This day I bring to you tribute in recognition to your greatness and the glory of your forefathers."
As Saheed spoke the gamer set a tray upon the table, a solid rectangle of bright blue and set upon it monotone figures of carved wood in the shapes of hoplites, spearmen and chariots and at the front of this army a single figure painted in lovingly minute detail. While the gamer set up his board the painter set upon his task and quickly produced upon the canvass behind the blue army the basic image in oils of a man set upon an equally blue background.
"Behold then, the subject, object and hero of our tale: Behold, the king of Lycia, mighty Sarpedon!"
The painter had finished the likeness, an image repeated a hundred times across the kingdom in painting and marble. The basti had captured his essence perfectly and the well-educated in the audience recognized the gaming pieces arrayed in the standard military formation of the Lycians with Sarpedon at its head and his loyal captain, friend and Cousin Glaucon at his side. No sooner had they recognized the formation and the scenery when the painter finished his second portrait, rendering Glaucon before a blue background as well.
The people applauded in appreciation of artistic skill and national pride. It was a new form of performance art they were witnessing, and even now the gamer bent invisibly behind the table and produced scenery behind Sarpedon's army, high walls that could be mistaken for no other: the walls of Troy.
"Lend me your ears that I may regale you with the story of the life, the glory, the death, and the mystery- the piece of the Epic that was Sarpedon!"
The audience applauded and cheered as the cherished tale was recreated before their eyes, the blue army of Lycians; the gold-bordered army of Myceans and the portrait of their king, Agamemnon; the violet-bordered army of Ajax; the orange-bordered army of Teucer; the flimsy walls of the Greek encampment; and lastly the red tray of the Myrmidons and the twin portraits of Patroclus and the eternal Achilles.
On Saheed went, narrating the story everybody wanted to hear. Sarpedon's final victory, his raid upon the Grecian walls that protected their camp and their ships. The audience cheered and children watched enraptured as the gamer moved with a sleight of hand as he replaced 'living' models with fallen soldiers, yelling at their parents that the little men were killing and dying on the table. The torches that had been set about the table to improve the models' visibility to the audience were removed and two larger scale miniatures were left representing Sarpedon and opposing him Achilles / Patroclus.
"And so it came to be that the Hector led a raid upon the walls of the Grecian camp, seeking to put his foes to the sword and their ships to the torch. In response Agamemnon mobilized Ajax the Greater, king of Salamis, mightiest of the Greeks, the strongest man in Hellas since Heracles walked as a mortal. And Ajax's half-brother Teucer, greatest of the greek warrior-archers.
It was during this battle that Sarpedon led his men to the front and broke through the Greek lines to the wall and took the ramparts, personally holding up the battlements and the first to breach the Greek camp. It was then that the (Mycenean) Salamisans were ordered to withdraw from the main gate to deal with the threat of the (Trojan) Lycians. This weakness allowed Hector to break through the Greek wall and fight Agamemnon's men himself.
The battle was fierce and sharp Teucer's arrow found its mark on Glaucus, forcing him to withdraw from the fighting. And so desperate Patroclus, determined to restore the Greek morale, disheartened in their whole from the withdrawal of Achilles and his Myrmidons, took his cousin's armor upon his body and hid his face under the great helmet.
So disguised Patroclus led the Myrmidons against the Lycians and met Sarpedon in personal combat. And there, the pretender was the victor. Sarpedon had fallen, Achilles' spear piercing his body and it was then that it happened, a moment the Aegyptians refer to as the dream. Sarpedon lay where he was in darkness, a voice called out to him, and that voice was his father, Divine Zeus.
"Rise my son. Rise from the dust and defy the Fates that would see your journey end upon these sands of Illium."
"It is indeed I, my son."
"I did not ask for thee, nor did I expect to see you come. Nevertheless I am satisfied to have seen you, once now, before the life left my eyes and I meet the boatman."
"You will not descend to the shades."
"That is no longer within my power to decide. Mighty Peleus' son has brought me low."
"You have not met your fate at the hand of Achilles. 'Twas Patroclus in borrowed armor who broke your people's nerve and proved your words true, that he who bested you would gain the greater honor for the deed. And you are there still. The borrowed spear yet lingers within your body and now only one choice remains for you. To fight on and reach for that immortality that may yet eclipse that of any man here present."
"What choice is possible in this darkness? I am dead, the voice still echoes in my ears, a resounding cry calling out to noble Glaucus to rescue my body and armor, and the cry is in my own voice fading."
"Are you not my son, fruit on my loins and that of your beloved mother. Was not proud Bellerophon your grandfather. Are you not the man who stood before mighty Hector and demanded an account from him, that he sent his allies to do his hardest fighting for him?"
"I was. Now I am just a shade en route to the Styx, hopeful of a merciful judgement that I may see eternity from the heavens or in Elysium. Have I not merited such from you and your council father?"
"No God has ever seen more piety than has been served upon the altars of Priam and his people. No king has shown more humility than Sarpedon. Your grandfather believed he was a hero of legend, and this was true. But he was arrogant and in his hubris he dared mount Pegasus and ascend toward Olympus. For this I rightly broke Bellerophon, slayer of the Chimera. And yet I lose heart that so great a king would accept his end so meekly. Your passivity is unworthy of a son of Zeus.
Say you that Alcmene was of nobler origin than your own mother, Laodamia? That the fruit of her union, Heracles, is inherently greater than you are? For make no mistake, Sarpedon, my son was indeed a Demi-God, and are you in any way less noble, less courageous and of a meaner nature than he was? You are my son."
"And I recognize you as such, father."
"Then choose not to speak it, stubborn boy. Embrace it!"
Time resumed its course, the wound was punched deep and now ambitious Patroclus pulled the spear from Sarpedon's body. As he tugged it loose the soul of the hero exited with the speartip. The weapon was free of the body but the hook caught on Sarpedon's armor and had not yet been pulled free.
The dream had ended and the heavens opened; a shower of bloody raindrops fell upon the heads of Trojans and their allies.
A thunderbolt struck from the sky and struck Achilles' chariot, slaying the only mortal horse in the team. Patroclus' men were in fear but the imposter Achilles held them fast for Sarpedon had been known as a hero and son of Zeus. This was a father's grief at his son's passing and nothing more, for Patroclus believed that if any interference were to be made it would surely have been to rescue Sarpedon from his fate and not merely to punish those who had brought his son low. The oracles had been unopposed in their interpretation: the Gods would not fight at Troy.
He withdrew from the body and ordered his men to take the armor as his lawful prize.
From high on, in Olympus, Zeus commanded Apollo. "My son is dead. Retrieve his body once the Myrmidons have taken their just prize, and away him to his home in Lycia."
The Greeks surrounding the fallen king and pulled off his greaves and vambraces. And when the time came and they undid the leather straps of his armor they found the spear still hindred them and pried it loose.
It was then that Sarpedon's dead hand frose from the earth and gripped the spear tip so tightly the Myrmidon could not pull it free.
The bare chest did not heave with breath and the color had left his body and so the men panicked imagining they were dealing not with a man who had yet to die but a shade risen from the dead.
The soldier tugged with strength but succeeded only in causing Achilles' spear to snap in half. Irrationally, the other soldiers moved to help their friend and five hands gripped the remeaining haft and tugged mightily at last pulling the spear from the fallen king's hand.
The spearhead had cut into the flesh as it was pulled away and the wound ran red. Red with blood that blossomed and turned to immortal ichor.
"He is yet living you fools!" Patroclus cried out. "Take hold of your courage and your wits anew and finish him!"
These words echoed in their panic and they brought heart to the Lycians. Bronze-clad Glaucus, arrow-shot and despairing of his weakness, turned his eyes to the heavens and prayed "Great Apollo, I raise my hands to thee and ask you aid me in rescuing my beloved cousin's body."
To which the God's voice echoed in his ear. "Your king's fate lies in his hands, and your own. Shall I go and retrieve his body, or will you dare, and retrieve his life?"
His heart lit with the promise of the oracular god, Glaucus found his wound sealed and rose with his host and pushed hard into the Myrmidon lines. The corpse's clenched hand ceased its bleeding and remained as lifeless as it had been when they had first stripped it. The myrmidons mounted a strong defense, but having taken Sarpedon's armor as Patroclus' prize and having neither orders nor reason to do otherwise they gave ground and allowed the Trojans to rally around the body and speed it back to Troy.
Patroclus clutched the broken halves of the spear even as he dismissed the soldiers who presented him with Sarpedon's armor.
"The man is dead, great Achilles." The soldier said, unaware of all others that Patroclus wore their leader's armor while the man sulked in his tent. "What we saw must be no less an omen than the rain of blood and the thunderbolt that struck down your horse. Sarpedon died, but he was yet a king and a great man, a son of Zeus. It is only fitting that such a man die grasping at life with power."
Patroclus stared at the speartip, trying to understand what he saw, seeing blood and ichor and not knowing enough to distinguish one from the other. "It must be so. Ready the men, push the Trojans back and reinforce the wall. I want the breach Sarpedon made into our camp, and the one Hector made after him, repaired at once. See to it that Ajax and Teucer's men linger to help you." His words were strong but they lacked heart, for Patroclus was preoccupied wondering if the Fates had indeed just denied him what should be a great victory.
On their way to the gates of Troy Glaucus urged his charioteer to go ever faster. The medicus would attend to Sarpedon, he knew it, and they would do so under the watchful gaze of his patron in the temple of Apollo.
Sarpedon's hand remained grasping, blood and ichor no longer sprinkling from his palm. He grasped tight and held his prize still, for it was not the spear that his body clinged to; Sarpedon had pulled back and even as the weapon tore through his hand his fingertips ripped his spirit from the edge that had stolen it from his body.
A week had passed and the war showed no signs of ending.
Mighty Sarpedon, ascended, Demi-God of Zeus, stood atop the topless towers and watched on as the Greek wall was rebuilt and another endless session of raids and counterattacks unfolded.
"Are we not to stay?"
"Our fate has been changed, on that day Glaucus. I was meant to die at the hands of Patroclus, and you by the bow of Teucer, perhaps. The fate of Troy is not to be decided by the presence of only one Demi-God, and we have an obligation to find answers for our own. The Greeks remain adamant and their supply lines remain intact across the Aegean, likewise the caravans that make their way to Troy. No side has managed to envelop the other: This struggle still has many years left in it."
"Will you not avenge yourself upon the impostor who took your armor?"
"Do you, Glaucus, seek to avenge yourself upon Diomedes who, using the friendship of his forefather Oeneus with our own grandfather Bellerephon, traded your golden armor for common bronze?"
"I will not."
"Diomedes in ages past received an armor crafted by Hephaestus himself. Tell me, did you know of this and in agreeing to the trade, hope to disarm the man?"
"I did not know of this tale. I saw only a man who claimed his grandfather had been host to my own, and that we should even as rivals honor and continue their friendship. I did this because it was right and in obedience to the way the gods set before us."
"And that is why we must pursue our own path, because the worth of a hero is not measured in armor valued at nine oxen nor a hundred."
"Then in what?"
"’Tis ours, the dignity they give to grace The first in valour, as the first in place; That when with wondering eyes our confidential bands Behold our deeds transcending our commands, Such, they may cry, deserve the sovereign state, Whom those that envy dare not imitate!"
At this speech the audience rose. Saheed had quoted Sarpedon's last known speech verbatim. It was the speech of a man to whom nobility was an obligation, to the gods and their subjects. They cheered and wept for these were the words of a beloved king who had brought his people to the world stage to stand with and against the legends of their day.
Saheed finished. "We have satisfied our honor, and our oath to the Trojans in this land. Now a greater calling pronounces our names. We must away to Delphi, to learn what my father truly intends from me, we will fight on. Trojans and Corinthians both will follow us for our names. And then, in time, the Lycians may indeed return to Troy."
Their show had finished and Saheed absented himself from his companions, allowing the two Basti to be approached by the lesser nobility present who admired the artist's painting and the children who pleaded with their parents for ownership of one of the armies presented.
They would sell well.
Saheed mingled courteously with the guests, accepting praise, adding a tantalizing word or two about news of other heroic deeds, and promising, always promising, to return and tell a new tale worthy of their hosts.
He did not expect the patrician who approached him, to rights he did not know him. But one such as him was expected and so Saheed smiled.
"The King lives then?"
"Every word I spoke is true."
"Then his highness recognizes that to break the siege will require more than brute force."
"It requires strategy. Wise Sarpedon breaks through the wall at one point-"
"-that Hector may breach it at another. Your objective is Mycenae then."
"The strength of Greece lies at Agamemnon's feet. While they lie there they are not at Hellas' door."
"Have a care, the ancient city stands for a reason."
"We will not be so reckless or so foolish as to threaten the three fortresses. Their stewardship of the gates to Tartarus is sacrosanct to us all. It is enough that we raid the shipments from Argos and Tiryns. Agamemnon's army will bleed white and then, when enough men have died, they will return home."
"Or they may resort to foraging."
"If they do they will run afoul the Amazons, and that outcome would be very much to my satisfaction."
The patrician nodded and Saheed made his way to rejoin his companions and leave Lycia. The Basti had spun common wood, papyrus and paint and weaved them into gold and he had passed on words that would soon see reinforcements brought to Sarpedon's camp. Their Demi-God awaited them.
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