Nine, almost Ten years and you would think that one would get used to the call to battle, but Hector never could. Sure he could put on a strong front. Put on his armor, kiss his wife and newborn son and head out to his chariots, but he could not shake the feeling that each day could be his last. Andormacha still lay in their bed, her face seeming blissful in the light billowing through the window ,seemingly unaware of the shouts of the men from the wall.
The Achaeans were marching across the field, silent. They weren't trying to sneak up, for no one can do that with such a myriad of men marching behind 46 captains. They came silently in such numbers to invoke fear. Hector left quickly and stepped out into the street where his chariot was waiting for him. Led by his two favorite black mares, he jumped in the beautifully made cart, where he was surprised to find his brother at the reins.
"Well met, brother." Hector said sarcastically, showing his annoyance at his brothers silence and possibly his hostility, though Hector figure he was probably upset with Helen. Paris turned and glared at him.
"Sorry, is my mood not cheery enough for you this morning? I could possibly smile, sing a song, tell a story, you can choose. But, since my life is on the line, well you can see my dilemma." Paris said meeting his brother's sarcasm and then jumping the bar by a notch. Hector had to give Paris some credit. The man was articulate and bested Hector in many debates, but his brother always seemed to come short when it came to his fighting skills.
"I didn't ask you to come, Paris." Hector said as Paris flicked the reigns and started off towards the gate, the horses trotting behind the line of marching warriors.
"No, but Helen did." Paris said through gritted teeth. "I dare say she may be getting bored with me."
"You would bend over backwards for that woman." Hector said with a chuckle, his mood unusually light at hearing his brother's pain.
"And I do. She cost me a fortune. Sometimes I wonder where my breaking point is with the woman." Paris said as they approached the Scaean Gates. The Huge gates were pulled open and the Warriors quickened their pace out, quickly forming ranks along the wall. Hector and Paris rode through to the front, the Warriors on either side parting for them. Hector turned his gaze aside, trying not to linger on anyone's face for too long. Some of these men knew him as a friend. Others merely trusted in his ability to lead them to victory.
Paris clicked the reins again to get the horses moving faster when he heard the sound of two powerful horses pulling a chariot at a gallop. They pulled into the opening right before Aeneas came plowing out from the ranks like a mad man, smiling from beneath his polished helmet.
"Morning, gentlemen." Said Aeneas with a flourish and a bow. Paris rolled his eyes.
"How many times have I-" Hector started.
"Told you not to try and play rhinos with the chariots? At least 50 times in the past year alone, Milord, but I must say that there is a sort of excitement to charging my horses and wondering if I'm going to hit something. I do say that it would make a fine sport." Aeneas said, still smiling despite Hectors scowl. The Achaeans stopped marching, still silent, their ranks marking the end of the battle field.
At the front of the Achaeans ranks stood Agamemnon and Menelaus. Menelaus paced back and forth like a lion trapped in a pit, his hand tightening and then loosening on his spear. His eyes were filled with hate for the man who had dishonored him, and stolen his wife. His eyes were only for Paris as he paced back and forth eager to sink his spear into Paris's temple and watch the light in his eyes go out.
Paris began to shake.
Hector glared at his brother with some deep hate that he kept hidden away for his brothers cowardliness. "Brother," Hector started, the word icy and cold in the hot, smothering air. Paris turned to look at him, his eyes glazed with an undignified fear. "Did you not steal a mans wife?" Hector asked. Paris did not reply. "Yet here you stand, cowering in hopes that other men will fight your battle and you will live. You are less suited for war than a woman. You are more cowardly than a sheep and sometimes I wonder what in the name of Hades Helen even sees in you!"
Paris glared at Hector, before looking back out at Menelaus who was pacing back and forth still. A look from Aeneas showed that Hector had probably hit the right nerve.
"What say you, prince Paris?" Hector asked, trying to sound calm and collected. Paris took a deep breath and said a quick prayer, dropping his reigns to pray to the gods of Olympus.
"I propose single combat between Menelaus and I. The winner will take Helen and all her wealth and the armies will part as friends and allies." Paris said. Hector smiled faintly, hiding it before Paris could see it.
"Well spoken, brother." Hector stood there for a moment. "Get out of the cart." Hector grumbled. Paris stepped out of the cart without another word, his arms folded across his chest, his beautiful face contorted into a look of pure annoyance. Hector could hear Aeneas jesting at Paris as he rode towards the Achaeans, his shield raised in a sign of momentary truce. He could hear his warrior muttering in confusion and the same on the other side of the battle field. Menelaus jogged out to meet him, strong muscles working beneath bronze armor. They met in the middle, and Hector dismounted his chariot. He greeted Menelaus with a small bow of friendship and peace.
"Prince Hector." Menelaus said coldly. Hector smiled genuinely being friendly despite the Achaeans' anger.
"Lord Menelaus. I come to offer a solution. One that may benefit both sides."