"Not even if you name Agamemnon himself . . ."
The intolerable gall!
The Olympian peaks of disrespect!
When my agents found Achilles,
he was wearing a dress,
aspiring to be a princess of Lycomedes,
and I made him into a warrior.
All that this man is
is only what I molded him to be.
All that he has
is only what I allow him to keep.
And now Achilles calls this farce of an assembly
to exchange practiced lines with Calchas
like two actors in a play.
Their performance needs work.
The seer's trembling voice,
the warrior's too-reassuring arm,
unsubtle glances in my direction,
all calculated for maximum effect,
"Not for a broken vow
does Apollo blame us,"
says Calchas now,
"nor for a missed sacrifice,
but for the sake of that priest,
whom Agamemnon offended
by refusing the ransom,
by refusing to free his daughter."
I tremble with rage.
So this is how Calchas and Achilles,
would attempt to lay at my feet
the weakness and disease
of other men.
"This is the reason,"
"This is why the far-striker inflicts such suffering,
and will continue to do so,
and will not lift this loathsome plague,
until Agamemnon returns the bright-eyed girl
to her father
without his recompense,
adding a sacred offering to Apollo
at his temple on the Island of Chryse.
Only thus might we receive the god's forgiveness."
They wait for my response,
and so I stand,
and in my hand
the gold-studded scepter of authority
swings to punctuate my words.
This I say quietly,
while the veins in my temples pulse
like distant drumming before a storm:
"The men are suffering
there must be blame,
there must be payment,
there must be sacrifice.
All this we can agree upon.
But then you say,
Agamemnon alone must bear the blame,
and then you say,
Agamemnon alone must pay the price,
and then you say,
Agamemnon alone must make a sacrifice.
But of course you do.
I would expect nothing else from Calchas,
this bane of a prophet.
In nine years,
I've not received one word of good news
from the gods.
Agamemnon alone can appease the lord Apollo,
and suggest the return of Chryses's daughter,
though I prefer her body,
even above those of my own wife.
Can this truly be the will of the gods?"
Calchas bobs his head meekly,
at a vision of my intended retribution.
But no special powers are required this time.
All men in the assembly,
seers and warriors and kings alike,
can see the death of Calchas in my eyes.
Achilles grips his sword,
tension concentrated in his hand,
and in the set of his jaw,
and in his coiled leg muscles,
as if he might find enough manhood
at any moment now
to test his bronze against mine.
Diomedes and Big Ajax position themselves
to intercept Achilles
if he dares to make a move.
Odysseus whispers into my ear.
"Hear me out, my lord.
Calchas has blamed you for offending the gods
you've blamed Calchas for offending his commander.
Which is the greater offense?
It matters not,
since both are offensive to Zeus's order.
If you must direct a sacrifice to Apollo,
some protector of the seer
must make an equal sacrifice to you."
This pleases me greatly,
as the words of Odysseus often do.
If only Apollo had made a seer of Laertes's son
instead of that rascal, Calchas!
I roar aloud to the assembly
like the lion that I am:
"If I'm to give up my prize
to benefit the Achaeans,
then some Achaean must prepare a new prize
as my just compensation,
to acknowledge the honors and privileges
to which I am entitled."
Achilles pretends to be ignorant,
unable to understand my request.
"The plunder has long been distributed
from our raid on Cilician Thebe.
There are no unclaimed girls."
I stand straight,
tall as Zeus,
and make clear my plan
to put Achilles in his proper place.
"Then I would have yours!"
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