11. "Something Happened"

734 0 0

Centering Swift-Footed Achilles,
Warrior Prince of Phthia:

Something happened
     when I first brought Briseis to our hut,
something wonderful and odd.

     We became a family.

She and I and him and her,
     in harmony
          like four strings of a lyre,
     we played a chord that none of us could make alone.
               Or no two of us.
               Or no three of us.

Achilles and Briseis,
     Patroclus and Iphis.
Achilles and Patroclus,
     Iphis and Briseis.
Patroclus and Briseis,
     Achilles and Iphis.
          A new balance in the center of the world,
               a new calm
     amid the swirling chaos of the war.

     'Let's make this arrangement permanent,'
          Patroclus had proposed.
               'You will marry Briseis,
               I will marry Iphis,
          and the four of us
               will stay together
                    after the war and always.'

     Such a dreamer is Patroclus,
     such a weaver of possible futures
          that I began to believe
          in building the paradise he described.

And now comes Agamemnon to break our family apart.

     "Then I would have yours!"

My eyes plead with his.
     My tongue scrapes across dry lips.
"Surely you wouldn't want Briseis.
     She is smart-mouthed,
          and hardly fit for a leader of kings."

"Her mouth is attached to an overactive wit,"
     Agamemnon states.
"This was how you described her,
     when you presented me with the first pick of prizes,
          my rightful choice,
     from the raid on Thebe.
But don't think I didn't notice
     how quickly you claimed Briseis for yourself
          after I'd already taken Chryseis Astynome.
And for all the wit you say she has,
     Briseis bears no mark or bruise from your corrective hand."

     I pound a fist.
"There will be war brides aplenty
          when we sack high-walled Ilion,
     a surplus of women to compensate you
          three times over,
          four times over,
               for the loss of Chryses's daughter."
     I glance around the assembly for a supportive ally,
               shrewd Odysseus,
               Big Ajax,
               powerful Idomeneus,
          but no allies dare to stand by my side
               against the will of Agamemnon.

Agamemnon smirks,
     savoring my distress,
     swinging that damnable scepter
          that makes him the ruler over the rest of us.
"Some man's prize must be surrendered.
     Our far-sighted prophet has decreed as much.
One among us must leave this assembly
          bereft,
     empty-handed,
          unrecognized,
     unrewarded,
          diminished in the eyes of all Achaeans.
That one of us will be enranged,
          set afire by the will of the gods,
     with a blaze that feeds on the kindling of injustice
               fueled by an anger
          that the Muses will sing of for thousands of years.
I have such anger within me.
          You have all seen flickers of it.
     You'll not want to witness such a blaze go uncontrolled.
So will some other man step forward
     to volunteer an acceptable replacement for my loss?"

All eyes fall on me
     as the hackles rise on my neck,
     as my fingers wrap my sword hilt.

"No volunteers?"
     Agamemnon asks,
     almost gleefully
"Then I name Achilles,
          the man who called this ill-fated assembly,
     the man who prodded Calchas to speak,
               the man who pledged his personal protection
          to do whatever was required
     to shield the seer from my anger.
Let this matter be settled thus:
     One of my councilors shall captain a black ship
               across the shining sea
          to bring Chryseis Astynome home to her father
                    and
          to sacrifice a herd of cattle
               to appease Apollo.
     I will surrender my prize,
          but I will then receive Briseis
               as just compensation
          from Achilles."

My grip tightens on my sword hilt.

I could cut this man down
     like a weed.
I could chop this man in half
     like a snake.
He talks of anger?
     He has no idea what anger I am capable of
          if I allow Ares to guide my sword-arm.

     My body is already in motion.

          My sword is already leaving its sheath.

     Agamemnon is already bleeding from the throat
          in my mind's imagination

               until . . .

Someone grabs my hair from behind
          and pulls me back
     with a strength surpassing any mortal man's.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.
Please Login in order to comment!