Read Fall of Kings Online

Authors: David; Stella Gemmell

Fall of Kings (8 page)

BOOK: Fall of Kings
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“The risks are high,” Priam agreed. “But look at what we face. Our enemies
outnumber us; our trade routes have been blocked. In the spring the Mykene may
come to our shores in the thousands. Then we will need the
all the allies we can muster. With the blessings of Thera we can hold those
allies steady. You think I want to expose Andromache and Kassandra to the perils
of the winter sea? I do not. But I see no other choice.”

“Then I will go, too,” Hektor stated.

“What?” Priam stormed. “Now,
would be nonsense and you know it.
If word got out that
were on the Great Green in a single ship, every
Mykene war fleet would be mobilized. No. I have already promised King Ektion
that you and the Trojan Horse will ride south to Little Thebe. Enemy armies are
ravaging his lands. They need to be crushed or at the least forced back.”
Stepping in, he patted Hektor’s shoulder. “Have faith, my son,” he said. “Aeneas
is a fine sailor, and I trust him to master the perils of the sea.”

“It is not the sea…” Hektor began. His words tailed away, and with a shake of
his head, he walked out onto the balcony.

Thirsty now, Priam called out to Polydorus. The door opened, and the young
soldier entered. “Fetch wine!” the king ordered.

“Yes, lord, but you said—”

“Never mind what I said!”


Hektor stood out on the balcony, taking deep drafts of air into his chest.
Then he returned to the Amber Room. Pausing before Priam, he said, “As the king
orders, so shall it be.”

With that he turned toward Helikaon, who rose from his seat. Hektor gazed
upon his old friend and felt a deep sadness sweep over him. This was the man his
wife loved, whose son she had borne. Forcing a smile, he said, “Take care,
Helikaon. And bring Andromache safely home.”

Helikaon said nothing, and Hektor understood. No promises could be made, for
the Great Green in winter was hazardous enough without the added perils of
pirates and enemy ships.

Stepping forward, Helikaon embraced him. Hektor kissed his cheek and then
pulled away, turning back to his father. But Priam was not looking in his
direction. Instead he was gazing hungrily at Andromache. Without a farewell to
his wife or his father, Hektor left the room.

He paused outside and leaned against the wall, feeling the cool of the stone
against his brow. The turmoil in his mind was like a fever, and his heart was

During the campaign in Thraki, all he could think of was returning home to
Troy and to the woman he adored. He knew that Andromache loved another and that
Astyanax was Helikaon’s son. Yet when he was with his wife and the boy, he could
put those hurtful facts out of his mind. He had never considered what it would
be like when Helikaon was in Troy as well, knowing Andromache’s heart belonged
to the Golden One and not to him, knowing the child who called him “Papa” was
really another man’s son.

Hektor had spent all his young life trying not to be like his father,
treating other men with honor and respect and women with gentleness and
courtesy. When Andromache had told him she was pregnant with Helikaon’s child,
he had accepted it, knowing he could not give her sons himself. But then he had
not known her; they had scarcely met. Over the years he had grown to love her
deeply, while she still thought of him as a brother, a good friend. He never had
shown her how much that had hurt him until today, when she had spoken so
blithely of bringing Helikaon’s boy, Dex, to the palace. And now she was to set
sail with her lover on a long journey by sea, where they would be together all
the time.

Never in his life had he wanted so much to throw himself back into the war,
to fight and, yes, to kill. At this moment war and perhaps death seemed
wonderfully simple. It was life that was so hard.

He looked up. Coming toward him along the corridor he saw his brothers Dios
and Paris. They were speaking together in hushed tones. Dios saw him, and his
expression brightened. Then Paris saw him, too. Despite the sadness in his
heart, Hektor could not help smiling as he saw that Paris was wearing a
breastplate and carrying a bronze helm under his arm. No one, he thought, could
look more ludicrous in armor. Paris always had lacked coordination, his
movements clumsy. To see him masquerading as a warrior was almost comical. Dios
was wearing no armor, merely a white tunic and a leaf-green cloak.

“Well, what did you decide without us, Brother?” Dios asked, his smile

“Nothing that need concern you, Dios. We talked only of Helikaon’s planned
voyage to the west.”

Paris pushed forward and stared up into his brother’s eyes, his expression
angry. “You will not send Helen back to Sparta,” he said.

“Why would we?” Hektor responded, surprised.

“You think me an idiot? That is what Agamemnon demanded. That is what caused
this stupid war.”

Hektor sighed. “I do not think you an idiot, Paris. But you are not using
your mind now. The demand for Helen was merely an excuse. Agamemnon does not
want her and knew when he made the demand that Father would have to refuse.”

“I know this!” Paris snapped. “It does not alter the fact that Agamemnon has
used the refusal to gather allies. Therefore, to accede to his demand would
weaken the Mykene alliance. Not so?”

Hektor shook his head. “Not anymore, Paris,” he said. “Had we agreed at the
start, then yes, perhaps our enemies would not have been so numerous. Not now,
Brother. A king is already dead, and a queen has been murdered. This war will be
to the death. No drawing back. Either Mykene will fall or the Golden City will.”

“They will come here, then?” Dios asked. “We cannot stop them?”

“They will come from the north, from the south, from the sea. Agamemnon,
Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus…” His voice tailed away. “And all the lesser kings,
bandit chiefs, and mercenary bands seeking plunder.”

“But you will be here to defeat them,” Dios said.

“If the gods will it, Dios, then yes, I will be here. As will you, my

Dios laughed aloud and clapped Paris on the back. “You hear that, Paris? You
are going to be a hero.” Taking the helm from Paris’ hands, Dios placed it on
his brother’s head. It was too large and slid down over his eyes.

“It is as if great Herakles himself has returned from Elysium!” Dios laughed.

Paris dragged the helm clear and threw it at Dios, who ducked. The helm
struck the wall and clanged to the floor. Paris lunged at Dios, grabbing his
tunic. Dios staggered, and they both fell. Dios scrambled up, but Paris grabbed
his ankle and tried to drag him back. Hektor smiled, and his thoughts went back
to the days of childhood. Dios and Paris had always been close. Dios unruly and
disobedient, Paris quiet and scholarly—they were an odd pair.

Priam’s voice suddenly thundered out. “What in the name of Hades is going on

The two brothers ceased their wrestling and climbed to their feet. Priam
advanced down the corridor, his face flushed, his eyes angry. “By the balls of
Ares, are you morons?” he shouted. “Sons of Priam do not squabble like

“Sorry, Father,” Paris said. “It was my fault.”

“You think I care whose fault it was? Get out of my sight, the pair of you.”

Dios and Paris backed away. “Whose is this?” Priam asked, pointing to the
dented bronze helm.

“Mine, Father,” Paris told him. Priam hooked his foot under the brow of the
helm and skillfully flicked it up in the air toward Paris. The young man reached
out hesitantly, and the helm struck his fingers. With a cry of pain he leaped
back, and the helm once more bounced to the floor.

“I must have been sick with fever the day I sired you.” Priam sneered,
turning on his heel and striding back to the Amber Room. As the insult echoed in
the air, Paris looked crestfallen.

Hektor picked up the fallen helm, handing it to Paris. “He has much on his
mind, Brother,” he said.

“Perhaps,” Paris answered bleakly, “but what difference does that make? When
has he ever missed an opportunity to humble his sons?”

Dios stepped in and curled his arm over his younger brother’s shoulder. “Do
not take it so seriously, Paris,” he advised. “Priam is old and increasingly
frail. With luck we will both live long enough to piss on his funeral pyre.”

Paris grinned. “That is a happy thought,” he said.

The three brothers walked out of the palace into the midmorning sunlight.
Dios and Paris set off for the lower town, and Hektor made his way back to his
own palace. There he found little Astyanax with his nurse, playing in the
gardens. The child, dressed in a small leather breastplate and helm, was bashing
a toy sword against a shield held by the nurse. Then the boy saw him and cried
out, “Papa!” Dropping his wooden blade, he ran at Hektor, who dropped to one
knee and caught him, flinging him high in the air and then catching him.
Astyanax squealed with delight. Hektor hugged him close.

“Will you be the monster now, Papa?” Astyanax asked.

He gazed into the child’s sapphire-blue eyes. “What does the monster do?”

“He kills people,” Astyanax told him.

Hektor lifted the small helm from the boy’s head and ruffled his red hair.
“Can I not just be Papa for a while and give you a big hug?”

“No!” Astyanax cried. “I want to kill the monster.” Hektor put the boy down,
then dropped to his knees.

“You can try,” he growled, baring his teeth in a snarl and giving a great
roar like a lion. Astyanax squealed and ran back several paces to hide behind
the nurse. Then, waving his wooden sword, the little boy rushed at Hektor.





Plouteus the merchant had fallen in love with Troy during his six years in
the city. Despite being a foreigner, he had been accepted warmly by his
neighbors and treated with courtesy by his fellow merchants and had come to
regard the Golden City as the home of his heart, if not his blood. He was
considered a lucky man, for his ships always seemed to find a way through the
blockades, bringing silks and spices up from Miletos and even smuggled copper
from Kypros.

Life was good for Plouteus, and he gave thanks every day at the temple of
Hermes, offering white doves to the winged-heeled god of merchants. Ten times a
season he also made sacrifices to Athene, guardian goddess of Troy, and once a
year he made a donation of ten gold ingots to the temple of Zeus the All-Father.
Plouteus was above all else a man of religion and piety.

He also was known in his homeland as a man of steadfast loyalty, a reputation
he had been proud of all his life. Until this day.

Plouteus sat quietly with his guest in a secluded corner of his garden, a
brazier burning close by. The visitor was younger and slimmer than the portly
Plouteus, and where the merchant was ruddy-faced and friendly, the newcomer was
hollow of cheek and cold of eye. A chill breeze blew across the garden. Dancing
embers whirled up from the brazier. The newcomer swore softly. Plouteus saw his
hands brushing at his blue cloak and guessed that a hot ash had settled on the
garment. Plouteus rubbed at his eyes. Bright sunlight made them water and caused
his head to ache.

“It would be warmer inside,” his guest said.

“Yes, it would,” Plouteus agreed. “But out here, in the cold, Actonion, no
one will hear us.”

“You already know what is required,” Actonion said, tugging at his thin black
chin beard. “We need speak no more of it.”

“You do not understand the nature of the task you are suggesting,” Plouteus

Actonion raised his hand, wagging his finger. “I am
nothing, Plouteus. I have brought you instructions from your lord. Your king
desires the death of an enemy. You and your sons will kill this man of evil.”

“Just like that?” Plouteus snapped, reddening. “My boys are brave enough, but
they are untrained. And I, as you can see, have fully enjoyed the fine foods of
Troy. Why is it that we are asked to do this? Why not men of blood like
yourself? Why not soldiers or assassins?”

The newcomer’s cold eyes hardened further. “So,” he said, “now you seek to
question our master’s wisdom. You worm! Everything you have here Agamemnon King
has given you. You swore to serve him in any way he desired. Now you balk at the
first danger.”

“It is not the first,” Plouteus said, defiance in his voice. “My sons and I
have gathered information, sent reports. We have risked our lives many times.
But once we have accomplished this task today—if indeed we can—our usefulness
will be at an end. Can you not see that? When our troops come in the spring,
would it not be valuable to have loyal men
the city?”

“Of course. And we will have them,” Actonion replied. “You think you are the
only spies in Troy?” He rose from his seat. “As I have told you, Helikaon is at
the palace and meeting with Priam. When he leaves, he will walk back down
through the lower town. You and your sons will waylay him and strike together.”

“He has been kind to us,” Plouteus observed sadly.

“So I am told.” Actonion sneered. “You have dined at his house and made trade
deals with him. He gave your youngest son a pony on the day of his manhood.
is why you have been chosen for this task. We have tried sending
soldiers. We have tried sending assassins. Always he has eluded death. He is
cunning and crafty, and he has strength and speed. But few men seek to protect
themselves from their friends.”

Actonion drew his cloak around him and stepped away from the brazier.
Glancing back, he said, “Once it is done, get down to the beach as fast as you
can. Take any wealth you can carry.”

“Will you be on the ship waiting for us?” Plouteus asked.

“No. I shall remain in Troy for a while, but you will not see me again,
Plouteus. Well… unless you fail. Agamemnon King has little time for those who
break faith with him. Now best prepare yourself. You have a friend to kill.”

BOOK: Fall of Kings
13.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
Just Human by Kerry Heavens
Bound To The Beast by Alexx Andria
The Wanigan by Gloria Whelan
Spellbinder by Collin Wilcox
The Penitent Damned by Wexler, Django
Clover's Child by Amanda Prowse
Scout by Ellen Miles
Goblin Quest by Hines, Jim C.