The Bronze Age – Circa 1250 BC
What is happening?
The question burns through my consciousness like a rampaging fire – but even while the question impacts and my thoughts erupt into utter panic and terror, more questions roar…
Who am I? Where have I come from?
These questions are slowly answered as I relive a lifetime at unbelievable speed…
Early memories fly past… My first glimpse of the world when my eyes open after birth. The faces of my mother and father – faces that age through my childhood and manhood. I am still confused, for I do not know my parents’ names… I see recognisable places and events, yet I cannot name these either. Great, austere buildings. Illustrious encampments. Villages, towns and cities, the most spectacular being a mammoth walled metropolis… I experience being taught to ride; to hunt and fight with the finest bronze weapons; to read, sketch and make calculations… I feel the rise and fall of ship’s decks and the biting saline freshness of sea breezes. My body suffers the wrath of howling rainstorms and crashing waves… A conflict occurs – some attempt on my life – in which I and my bodyguards fight until the would-be assassins are slain and hot blood drips from my sword. This, I realise, was my first sight of death, my first killing… Next, there is the beauty of a girl, who grows from a childhood friend to a woman to my wife… Crowds bellow my name as I demonstrate my strength and weapon-prowess in feats of skill and combat…
But what is the name they are calling? Who are these people..?
I have sisters and brothers. My youngest brother is foolish. He takes risks and makes mistakes. He threatens his own life and the safety of everyone in the Kingdom…
Like an arrowhead being drawn from a deep wound, the facts gradually come to the surface. My father is a King, master of one of the greatest empires of the known world. But he has enemies – who seek to war against him, conquer his lands and take his wealth. All they need is an excuse to unite them…
And I recall now, that the excuse was given to these vermin by my foolhardy youngest brother. He fell in love with one of their women and stole her from her husband. Worse still, he brought the woman to the walled city of our father…
Almost ten years ago.
Within months of my brother Paris bringing Helen to Troy, the Greeks arrived in a vast armada of warships. Their leader Agamemnon began to assault the city with tens of thousands of warriors. More armies spread out into our country – annihilating every township and village they encountered. Siege weapons were brought in pieces to be reassembled to target Troy’s great walls. Greek fire – hideous, burning liquid death – was also carried over the sea to our shores to be unleashed… But the worst weapon of all those which Agamemnon brought was a monster…
Achilles. A warrior the Greeks revered as much as their fabled Herakles. The most deadly, most brutal, most sadistic creature ever to tread the earth in the form of a man. Some say he was born of the Greek Gods themselves and that his skin was invulnerable to attack – I know this to be a lie, for I made the bastard bleed…
My memories swirl and slow, until I am somehow reliving them at normal speed. I can feel each breath I took as if I were taking it again. The sweat on my skin, the ache of my muscles, the weight of my armour and of the sword in my hand, all this feels too real to be a memory. The stench of burning wood and flesh, of blood and gore, are stinging my nostrils. The clamour of battle – weapons clashing, armour cratering or splitting, flesh being cleaved, bones breaking, and the awful chaos of screams from the dying and wounded – is deafening my ears now.
I am back in Troy, except I have no control over my actions because this truly is a memory. I relive the horror and can do nothing to change it.
And oddly, I remember it all now, though the re-living goes on regardless.
I know who I am. I am Hector, eldest son of King Priam of Troy. I am the Champion of my father, the leader of his armies and, without boasting, I know myself to be his greatest warrior.
And I am about to die.
* * *
For nine years the Greeks have ravaged the lands of the Trojans, consuming my father’s empire voraciously. Yet their efforts to sack Troy and obliterate King Priam’s dynasty have met with utter failure thus far.
The one vulnerable part of our city had been the harbour region, situated outside Troy’s great walls. When the Greek vessels arrived and tried to close-in for a landing, we assaulted them from the docks using catapults. Stripping off their armour, hundreds of enemy swordsmen swam from their craft and attempted to overrun the docks – after an hour, their arrow-riddled bodies formed a huge, grim blanket across the azure water. A war of attrition by catapult and bow raged between the ships and harbour for weeks. Finally, upon learning that Greek warriors had landed in an inlet several miles away and were seeking to outflank the harbour, we fled the shore in apparent disarray… Like flies drawn to a rotten corpse, Greek soldiers swarmed onto the docks and into the surrounding streets. Some of them may have seen or smelled the spilled oil, and attempted to warn their leaders – nevertheless, most of them perished when we turned the harbour into an inferno.
Having ‘conquered’ the outer city, the Greeks sought to assault the walls of Troy. They had destroyed walled cities before and thought their war-machines would reduce the metropolis to rubble and ash. Hurled rocks shattered harmlessly against the city-walls. Blazing masses which flew over the parapets were doused quickly once they landed. Their archers sent waves of bronze-headed death at our warriors, who sheltered behind walls and shields, taking minimum casualties. The Greeks soon realised that the only way to defeat us was by sheer overwhelming numbers: to scale Troy’s walls by ladders or siege-towers and beat down the defenders, man by man.
Month after month, year after year, immense attacks crashed against the walls of Troy like great waves against a cliff. Hundreds of men died each time just trying to approach the inner city – cut down by arrows, catapult-fire, boiling oil and showers of rubble hurled from parapets. Those who managed to reach the crests of the walls faced merciless slaughter at the hands of our swordsmen, and the tops of the walls, right around the city, became stained crimson. At night, Greek wounded were treated in the camps around the harbour and their warriors prayed for victory the next day. Under the same cover of darkness, we used hooks on rope to haul their armoured dead into our city; metal was stripped from their carcasses to be melted and used; their clothing was gathered, in order to be set alight and dropped on attackers the next day; the naked bodies were cast back outside – and, over years, these formed ghastly, putrid mounds that the Greeks had to clamber across.
The gates of Troy were breached briefly on a number of occasions. Always the invading force would meet a far greater number of defenders and be slaughtered or driven back.
It was insane for the Greeks to keep fighting. Their losses rose ever higher, our losses were negligible by comparison. Agamemnon was forced to maintain an iron grip on his armies as their morale plummeted; it was common to glimpse the executions of deserters or dissenters. His savage personal determination was one of the two factors which maintained the war…
The other was the Greek monster. The hell-spawned thing named Achilles, who fought at the head of every major assault, and whose stature and dark nature chilled every Trojan’s heart.
He stood almost eight feet tall – dwarfing all his own comrades – and the hardened, muscular mass of his form was almost twice the width of any normal man. He wore heavy armour across his torso, arms and legs, emblazoned with the crest of a bull’s head. His huge helmet was also formed in the design of a bull, the points of its great horns reaching over nine feet above the ground. Before a battle, two Trojan captives would be brought out and have their throats slit – so that Greek servants could paint Achilles’ armour in fresh Trojan blood. Then this crimsoned giant, stinking like an abattoir, would bellow at his comrades until he stirred them into a frenzy and would lead them into battle like possessed beasts.
My first encounter with Achilles came at the breach of a city gate. I saw him, head, shoulders and chest above all who surrounded him, wielding a broadsword in one hand and a war-axe in the other. Two arrows had penetrated through gaps in his armour to pierce his flesh – the pain of these wounds went ignored. His weapons flew around him in huge sweeps. Men were sheared apart akin to wheat under scythes. Immense gory splashes were cast through the air every time his blades reached the end of a swing and changed direction. He laughed whilst he fought – his voice a booming, maniacal sound – and his eyes, visible through a horizontal slit in his helmet, blazed wide, tears of joy spilling from them.
Such incredible strength and deadly destruction was a potent drug to the Greeks near Achilles. They believed him to be indestructible and hoped their closeness to him might make them invincible too.
On that day, the pressure of our defending force drove the Greeks back out of the gateway and we sealed the monster and his comrades outside.
A year later, on a parapet, I met Achilles as he swarmed up to the top of a ladder.
A crashing blow from his axe sliced the head and right arm from a Trojan soldier to my right. I met the swing of Achilles’ sword with my own blade, held double-handed, and the muscles of my shoulders almost tore under the impact. Somehow I recoiled from the assault and was able to act even as the giant drew his weapons back to lash out again. Lunging forwards, I thrust out my sword and rammed its tip beneath the bottom of Achilles’ helmet. My bronze blade sank a finger’s length into his throat and he let out a garbled scream… before plummeting backwards off the ladder towards the Greek warriors below.
For two weeks, we believed Achilles had been killed by my sword-blow. But we weren’t so fortunate. He returned, somehow nursed back to health, blood-armoured, bellowing his warriors into a fury and leading another doomed assault…
* * *
The last day of my life.
My father and his advisers had been observing the Greeks throughout the war. After over nine years, they were exhausted in spite of new reinforcements, demoralised despite Agamemnon’s iron rule, stricken with sickness – spies reported that dozens died of dysentery each week – and ready to be crushed. It was time to take the war to them.
We had waited until the next major assault upon the walls. This began at dawn and ran on into late afternoon. Finally, the Greek officers signalled a retreat and the weary survivors began to head back towards their encampment. Even the giant form of Achilles somehow looked a little smaller – the set of his shoulders those of a man who has met defeat… Our reserve armies had been waiting behind every gateway for this moment. Now the gates of Troy were thrown open and we launched ourselves upon the Greeks as if they were cattle and we, ravenous predators.
The fleeing Greeks had been fighting for ten hours – we had sat resting, drinking and eating. Their strength was gone – ours was at its peak. Moreover, we were fuelled by almost a decade of growing hatred.
Dozens of Greeks died before they truly understood what was happening. Of the remainder, half turned to fight, the rest fled… And our spirits soared when we glimpsed one of the runaways to be Achilles himself.
I hacked into the Greeks at the head of a legion of my personal elite warriors. My first slash batted aside the sword of an enemy – he simply didn’t have the strength left to resist – and my second ripped his throat. A Greek’s sword clanged against the shield fastened over my left elbow, creasing it but causing no injury. I twisted about and thrust my long-blade under the pommel of this opponent’s rising blade. His breastplate was pierced by my weapon and his skewered heart stopped beating forever.
The brisk efficiency with which we slew the Greek defenders shocked even us. So little time seemed to pass before they were all underfoot and we were speeding for the invaders’ camp. Alarm horns were sounding ahead. From the long tents surged the rest of the Greek warriors – most were unarmoured, literally roused from their beds…
Behind our legions of swordsmen, thousands of Trojan archers lit arrows on braziers carried from the city, and fired their ammunition towards the enemy camp. Greek soldiers panicked at the sight of the descending clouds of arrows. Calls of fear were quickly followed by screams of pain when deadly burning shafts found homes in living flesh. Hundreds of enemy soldiers fell, to squirm and thrash or convulse and die. Tents around the Greeks ignited and began to collapse, dropping fiery fragments on anyone still inside. I saw one man run out of a tent, ablaze from head to toe…
Even as the second volley of arrows hit the Greeks, our swordsmen were reaching the outskirts of the nearest encampment. The warriors there were in such confusion, we didn’t have to slow our charging speed – we ran through them, and brought them down by brutal slashes of our weapons.
Once inside the Greek camp, the priority was simple. Not to kill every enemy, rather to destroy their supply tents first. Without food, medicine and other essentials, the enemy would become further weakened and vulnerable to a second assault, if this one failed to finish them entirely. Our spies had detailed exactly where the Greeks’ supplies were kept, and our forces split into units to eradicate each one in turn.
We had full advantage of the Greeks for over half an hour. Sheer disbelief at the audacity of our strike seemed to shake them to their very souls…
Until Achilles returned, having gathered a force to repel our attack – and the conflict changed from slaughter to a true battle.
Achilles emerged through a drifting pall of black smoke, his roaring cries urging his warriors forward. He met a Trojan captain and slew him with a single left-to-right sweep of his broadsword – the man was split in half at the waist… A group of archers targeted the crimsoned devil and a dozen arrows struck him. Ten shattered on Achilles’ heavy armour; one pierced his right shoulder, another sank in above his right hip. He ran at the archers, cutting aside swordsmen in his rampaging path, and started to hew the bowmen to pieces using axe and broadsword…
I screamed at him, certain that my destruction of this one adversary could herald the end of the siege.
“Achilles! Achilles – you bastard offspring of a Greek whore! Come meet the man who will send you to Hades!”
Across the distance of a hundred yards, his eyes met mine, and I instantly knew his thoughts. To slay the Champion of Troy, son of the King, would demoralise the attackers completely.
We ran at each other, oblivious to the combats raging around us, focussed solely upon our anticipated prey. Our cries were screams, deep and guttural, and although wordless they resonated with our deadly intentions.
I saw him raise his weapons when we came within thirty feet of each other. At the same time, I discarded my shield to clutch my sword double-handed. I recalled the crashing impact of his sword against mine so long ago, and knew I would need all my might to repel one of his blows. Better still, I decided, I must seek to avoid his swings completely. My only advantage was that his huge, immensely strong bulk could not move as quickly as my slender, more athletic form…
Then we were face-to face and his razor-edged weapons were raging down through the air to tear me apart—
I kept running and dodged sideways under his high right elbow. In an instant, I was behind him—
My broadsword was arced sideways to crash across Achilles’ lower back. His call became a grunting snarl of pain…
The impact sent him staggering forward. His armour split and I felt my blade thud into muscular flesh.
He turned, his voice now an enraged growl. I ripped my sword free – its edge ran with fresh blood.
The axe swept for my head and I ducked. Off to my left, Achilles’ weapon struck the side of another man’s helmet and sheared the top off his head. From my crouching position, I swung my sword for his right knee. His own sword came down and swatted at my blade, knocking my attack totally off-course and spinning me half around. The strength of that action stunned me – I was like a child duelling a mountain lion.
Instinct prevented me from dying in the next second. I had my back to him and so I lunged forwards, further away, whilst turning around at the same time. My next sight of the Greek monster was of the edge of his swung axe hurtling past my face, close enough to chill my sweat-sodden skin. He followed the axe-swing with a downward hack of his sword. I raised my long-blade as if to parry the slash, then shifted the angle of my weapon at the last moment…
The tip of my sword was aligned to Achilles’ arcing wrist. His own awesome strength went against him – he impaled his own forearm on my blade. My sword-tip burst from the upper side of his wrist and suddenly a foot-length of bloody bronze seemed to have grown from his limb. Achilles’ broadsword flew out of his pain-shocked fingers and spun over my shoulder…
He screamed in agony – a sound that was music to my ears, fuel to my molten hatred.
I heaved back on my weapon to tear it free—
But he clenched his empty sword-hand with all his strength and trapped my blade in a vice of muscle.
I wasted a second drawing back on the blade again. It was the last mistake of my life.
His axe struck me in the chest before I could attempt to do anything else. Initially, it felt like a severe punch – staggering me, making air explode from my lungs, blurring my vision. Pain pursued this confusion, seething out from where the axe-head was now implanted through my ribcage into my lungs, heart and spine. Every nerve in my body shook from the overwhelming agony; muscles spasmed uncontrollably; my brain, drowned by pain, could only respond by having my mouth emit an awful cry. Blood erupted up my throat and my scream evolved into a ghastly, drowning gurgle. My consciousness collapsed into blackness.
I did not surrender to death’s embrace – I was flung into its arms by my monstrous nemesis.
by Ian Thompson
Prince Hector, the greatest defending warrior in the epic Trojan War, is brutally slain by his nemesis Achilles… And finds himself reborn in an astounding new realm.
Traumatized by separation from his family, nation and world, Hector finds it hard to accept the prospect of a new life. His rigid codes of honor and loyalty make him feel as if he has abandoned his war-ravaged home. The beautiful Elsha of the Nemalite people, introduces him to an Elysium of kindness, harmony and magic, where living gods can walk among mortals. The Trojan Prince is enraptured by his new friend and the apparent miracles around him, and at first believes this world is perfect. He gradually learns of a grotesque force which holds the Nemalites under a thrall of fear and hopelessness. Hector cannot stand by and watch the horrors around him – he acts to save his new friends…