Short Story | Greece

The Color of Eternity

Published: March 3 2021

Written by: Nanouk Kira, writer of Drakenhart

A short story about the Trojan war, and the events leading up to it.


   This story is set on the eve of the Trojan war. (Yes, that war they say was started for love. For one man’s wife was taken away and his brother Agamemnon saw this as a great excuse to finally start a war. Or something along those lines…)

  The Greek hero Achilles has been faced with the choice to go to war and die a hero, as was prophesized, or to stay home and stay alive. He has chosen to go to war and hence arrived at Aulis, in Boeotia, where the Greek armies gathered. But so far there has been no sign of leaving for the war anytime soon, and ‘patient’ has never been a word to describe Achilles.

   This story was based on the tales of Troy and Euripdes’ Iphigeneia in Aulis. However, due to some artistic freedom and partly for the sake of the reader, some liberties were taken with the material. I hope you’ll enjoy this retelling of one of the many events that took place in Boeotia.

  Red was the color of betrayal. And today the gods bore witness to one of the cruelest betrayals they might have seen in a long time.
But red was the color of so many things this day would stand for. I knew it as soon as I opened my eyes. Still inside the tent I could not see the sky, yet I swear I could feel it. Thick and hot. And dry as leaves that would spread fire if ignited by even only one spark.
Beside me Patroklos stirred in his sleep. His breath was a bit faster than usual, as though he felt it too, the atmosphere of impending doom. A feeling that something was about to happen.
But let’s not dwell on that. Proper Greek heroes do not dwell on feelings.

And a proper Greek hero I was.
The best of the Greeks.

  I got up carefully and left the tent. Outside the sunrise wrapped its flares across the sky. Red and orange kissing the dark blanket of clouds that hovered above the sea and island. Only after a few minutes I noticed two men walking towards me from the shore. Two of my men, to be exact, their gazes fixed on me. They were not even wearing armor, I saw as they got closer. And why would they, especially with the air already too warm and thick to breathe? We had been here for weeks now and still there was no sign that we would leave for the war anytime soon.
When they reached me one made a polite and not very elaborate bow. The other didn’t even bother. Both were older than me and we all cared little for such formalities. “Achilles, why are we waiting?” the one that stood straight up asked. “The men are growing restless.”
I would have loved to reply he should ask general Agamemnon who, apparently, was too busy doing whatever he was doing in his camp to care about the war he had decided we should all participate in.
Instead I shrugged. “They are warriors. They don’t grow restless. We will always be restless. I will inform you when we know more.” At my last words I felt a familiar presence appear next to my shoulder. Patroklos greeted the men, then looked at the sky...

A night sky with a red hue
“Not only the men seem to grow restless,” he said as the messengers walked away. “Even the skies turn the color of war already.”
I nodded and looked at him. On his lips the word ‘war’ sounded different than it did in my head. His voice grew low and deep, without him even noticing. ‘War’ was a growl on his tongue. A dark shadow from a cave where no creature could live.
Only when he raised his eyebrows I realized I hadn’t answered yet.
I crossed my arms and nodded to the camp on the top of the hill. “It is time that fool who calls himself general makes a decision. Does he think he can call us here and make us wait?” “Apparently.” Patroklos ran his fingers through his hair and looked at the sea, as though he could stand here for eternity.
I crossed my arms and nodded to the camp on the top of the hill. “It is time that fool who calls himself general makes a decision. Does he think he can call us here and make us wait?” “Apparently.” Patroklos ran his fingers through his hair and looked at the sea, as though he could stand here for eternity.
But I could not. And I would not tell my men again that I too had to wait. “I’m going to Agamemnon. This has taken long enough.”
Patroklos chuckled. “Good luck. You are not going to make him rush anything.” I gently punched his shoulder. “Thank you for the support.”
I smirked at the ground as I walked off. With every step small clouds of sand rose up around my feet. The lack of wind made these little sandstorms seem the only movement in the air.

I reached the encampment where Agamemnon resided, on the top of the hill. Here the air felt even dryer in my mouth. I stood still in between the tents. If the great Agamemnon had spotted me, he certainly felt too mighty to come and meet me. I crossed my hands before my chest and took a breath that would carry my voice across the island like thunder. I hoped.
“Where in this place is the Achaean general to be found?” I shouted. Beside the tent a servant looked up alarmed and then ran. Hopefully to fetch his master, but I doubted it. “Tell him that the son of Peleus is looking for him! My men are growing impatient. Asking me how much more time we must measure out on this expedition against Troy. Suggesting we leave now, or take the army back home and do not wait around for the laggard sons of Atreus!” I was especially pleased about my genius phrasing of ‘laggard sons of Atreus’. If that would not lure Agamemnon out I didn’t know what would.
But it did not. Instead a woman appeared from behind a tent.
“Son of the Nereid,” she spoke. “I heard your words within and have come out.” That much I had seen.
“And you are?” I replied, my eyes still traveling past the tents, searching for a sign of the mighty, and apparently deaf, king.
The woman stood still in front of me. “It is not surprising that you do not know me: we had no connection before now. I am glad to finally meet you.”
Great. “But who are you?”
“I am the daughter of Leda, my name is Klytaimnestra, and I am Agamemnons wife.” Rather her than me. But as his wife she could deliver my message loud and clear. “If he is not here to speak I will take my leave. My men and I have waited long enough for his war.” I started turning my back on her. Slowly. Very dramatic. Allowing Agamemnon to come out and stop me from doing so. He should, because I did not want to be the coward that fled. But maybe Agamemnon really hadn’t heard me and I was just putting up a show for this woman, a few servants and a windless hill.
“Please wait,” Klytaimnestra exclaimed. “Join your hand with mine, to mark the beginning of blessed marriage!”
To mark what…?

My foot slipped in the sand, as I quickly turned to her. “What do you mean? What marriage?” Klytaimnestra shook her head. “I do not understand your confusion. You are the one marrying my daughter, are you not?”
“I think I would know if I was.”
Klytaimnestra folded her hands, fingers digging into her skin. “I do not understand,” she repeated softly. “My husband told me to bring my daughter here to marry you.”
“Apparently he lied.”
I was such a good person. Subtle and comforting and all. I thought of how Patroklos would laugh at me, had he bothered to be here.
Klytaimnestra studied me, searching my face as though it held the answer and she would peel it off if necessary. It made me feel uncomfortable, so I did what I was good at. I straightened my back and roared again.
I felt like the whole camp could hear me, but he did not come. The only effect of my shouting was that the people that had been near suddenly all had something better to do. Elsewhere. “My husband does not like to be summoned,” Klytaimnestra said.
“Me neither. And I will not look for him. You can tell him me and my men will take to our boats and he cannot defeat Troy without us.”
As I turned to face the sea far below, a hoarse voice sounded behind me. I had always hated the sound of stone against stone and now I realized why.
It was the sound of Agamemnon. The man who summoned people as another would summon dogs.

“So eager to leave, are you?”
I stood still. Forcing a poisonous smile, before facing him.
He was old, I could only think as I watched him. His beard, black with streaks of grey, moved as he spoke. “Go, woman. Go to your daughter and tell her her husband has arrived.”
As he sent his wife off he focused his attention on me, weighing me with his eyes. “What brings you here?”
“You,” I cocked my head and returned his stare mockingly, “or rather the lack of you. My men are here for now, but we can depart if we don’t leave for Troy soon. And while you took your sweet time to arrive, your wife told me an interesting tale.”
Agamemnon let out a roaring laugh. “Listening to women sounds like you. Did you not hide with them so you did not have to fulfil your oath and join me?”
“I did not swear an oath,” I spat out. I took a step towards him and squeezed my eyes. “Not any oath. So why did you tell them your daughter was to marry me?”
“That is not your business.”
“You just made it my business by using my name. Speak.”
“You do not command me. You and I both have little choice but to obey the gods if we are to go to the war that will write our names into history.”
I would like to tell you I did not flinch, but that might be a lie. Maybe. No matter how much I called Agamemnon a deaf fool and an arrogant bastard, he was right about the last part. I could not leave now. Not if I wanted to make my destiny come true. And what path would I follow if not a destiny? Who would I be if not the best of the Greeks?
“Speak plainly,” I commanded, “if you dare.”
Now it was Agamemnons turn to flinch. Or I liked to think he did. Somewhere. Behind his beard maybe.
“Artemis demands a sacrifice before we will ever leave this island. She commanded this cursed lack of wind.” I scoffed.
“What sacrifice does she demand?”
“She demands my daughter.”
I let out a loud and humorless laugh. “Then you must have done a terrific job at angering the gods.” It wasn’t in the least bit funny that an innocent girl might lose her life over that. But still, maybe it was. Agamemnon, who even now had eyes of stone and gold that demanded the world to crawl before him, deserved this. Deep inside of me laughter fluttered. Like insects, hysterically wanting to get out and be spat in the face of one who believed himself so much more than me.
It was sickening.

“They punish you for your hubris,” I managed to say plainly. “But you cannot lure your daughter here by using my name and then kill her.”
“You sound like my wife…” Even before he finished his sentence I fought to remain where I stood. His words didn’t hit hard. I’d rather be compared to Agamemnons wife than to himself. It was the insult behind them that drove the fire through my veins. He meant to call me weak and sentimental. And by that he meant I was less than him.
“…she will demand I have pity. But I understand what calls for pity and what does not,” Agamemnon continued. “Like you she doesn’t get it.”
I curled up my lips, attempting a smirk. Instead I just showed him my teeth, like a predator. My fists would love to beat his face bloody until all the bones in his arrogant nose shattered. Patroklos would always call me ill-tempered. But wasn’t I right?
I swallowed the insults he threw at me, transforming them in my mouth to spit in his face again. “I see, we don’t get that you don’t care about your children.”
“I love my children. I would be mad otherwise.” He paused and his beard moved while he made no sound. “But what am I to do? Look at our army, the largest force this world has ever witnessed. And I brought them here. They cannot go to Troy unless I kill her. But if I do not kill her, Troy will remain and soon those barbarians will come to our shores to steal our wives and children. I am faced with a choice no man should have to make and I do not stand you mocking me, son of Peleus.”
I crossed my arms again and clicked my tongue when he was done speaking, still pushing away the urge to hit him. He would not see me care. “Do you want me to feel sorry for you? You could have spared yourself the speech. I will not. You should not have used my name. I am not your pawn to move.”
Agamemnon raised his eyebrows. “We are all pawns until we make our name.” “I’ve made my name,” I hissed, “your army would be nothing without me.” A blunt statement. But they did call me the best of the Greeks.
Agamemnon advanced towards me. He moved like a mudslide, thick and slow to the eye but treacherously dangerous. “And what do you propose I do?” He hissed as he reached me. “Give her to you after all, as a prize? You would love that, would you not? To have won a prize before the war even began? But you know no one wins without a fight, without risking all. Not even you.”
“Then do it.”
“You bid me to sacrifice my daughter?” Agamemnon put his hands on the belt around his waist. “Or find another way, for all I care. It is you who angered Artemis, not anyone else on these cursed shores. This is your problem and you should have left me out of it.” “Be careful with your words, boy.”
I scoffed. I wasn’t even sure what I really wanted him to do. We stood on the front porch of eternity. Or war, as Patroklos would call it. I could walk into the fires behind it and die, but never be forgotten. My name would be on the lips of every child that heard our story. My courage would be what inspired people to live, as well as to give their lives to a cause. But if Agamemnon would not kill his daughter, would that destiny fade? Would I fade? “Kill her for all I care,” I said coldly. “You know you will sacrifice anything in the end. Haven’t you always dreamt of the gold behind those walls of Troy?”
The mudslide moved in slowly. I could feel his urge to wrap his hands around my throat and be rid of me.
“Watch your tongue,” he croaked.
“I will watch nothing.”
And so I turned my back.

“That was one useless trip to the camp of our mighty king,” I said as I found Patroklos. He sat on a rock close to the shore, juggling a few stones in his hand. “Do not say I told you so.” Patroklos grinned briefly and raised his eyes to me. “I did not tell you so. You wouldn’t listen anyway.”
I sat down next to him and listened to the crashing of the waves. Again and again. How could those waves be such a legendary force without ever ending? That finiteness, was that just us? Just human beings, made like candles with a fuse too short to make the wrong choices. We had to run to achieve anything before we burned out. Only one chance.
had to run to achieve anything before we burned out. Only one chance. An elbow in my side pulled me back from my thoughts. Patroklos pointed up to the sky. Above the top of the island clouds gathered. The distant thunder sent a slight tremor through the air and I tasted the freshness of the coming rain.
“He has done it then,” I muttered.
The sound of disappointment in my voice was only an illusion. Of course. Created by the sudden cold wind, or the salty spray of the sea that landed on my skin. Or anything at all. Of course I wasn’t disappointed that this meant we could go to war. If anything I should be relieved we finally could go and burn again. For a second all was quiet. The sky black. Clouds stopped moving. The wind held her breath and even the waves did not seem to crash into the shore.
The next moment flames shot up from the hilltop and thunder rolled through the sky. I reached out and found Patroklos’ arm.
“So it begins,” I whispered.
His silence spoke louder than the thunder. I let go of him, as I probably should have done a long time ago. I could not ask him to burn with me. We shortly looked at each other when the first drops of rain kissed our skin.
Then Patroklos smirked. A swift warning that he was about to blow away the gloom of events with a few whispered words. I held on to his voice.
“How ironic. A war they say started for love can’t begin without offering a loved one.”
“Love? Really?” I gazed at him and felt the corner of my mouth curve into a smile. “Nobody came here for love.”
“Are you sure?” Patroklos threw a pebble in the sand before us, chuckling. “What expresses love better than Agamemnon killing his own daughter?”
“Literally anything.” I squeezed my eyes against the salty wind.
“So,” even though he spoke softly Patroklos’ voice cut through the wind and drizzle, “if not for love. Why was this war started?”
“Why does any war start? Because we want change. Because we need to get the gold and the glory. Because we do not want to die.”
Patroklos scoffed at my last sentence.
“What?” I repeated louder.
“Not saying anything.”
I kicked at his leg, slowly, allowing him time to move.
He turned away and my foot hit the cold rock. A bit harder than planned. I cursed. “We go to war, because we do not want to die,” Patrokles repeated my words. “Doesn’t sound logical to me.”
I rubbed my foot. “Did I ask for your commentary?”
“Someone has to give it to you. And they,” he nodded at the ships where our men remained, “will never call out their best of the Greeks.”

Patrocle, by Jacques-Louis-David

I got up again and stretched my back to look at the sea. Waves kept crashing into the rocks and sand with the sound of a force I longed to embody.
“We go to war, because we do not want to die,” I said slowly. “Because we do not want to perish and be forgotten. What is the purpose of existing if you just disappear after?” Patroklos sighed. As I looked over my shoulder he wrapped his arms around his legs and rested his chin on his knees. “Would you kill your daughter to go to war?” His voice reached through the rain as warm hands.
“I don’t have a daughter to kill. But if someone has to be sacrificed I vote for Agamemnon.” I know a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would have sufficed. But my answer was so much easier. “Would you kill your child?” Patrokles insisted.
“No.” I turned around as though to convince Patroklos of this answer. But it was not him I needed to convince. “Their war is so important to them. Agamemnon and his brother.” “Their war?” Patroklos raised his eyebrows. “If it is their war, why are we here?” I looked him in the eye and saw the clouds reflected in a dark shade. He knew very well why. But I could not blame him for trying.
“Why are we indeed.” I rested my knee on the rock and leaned in to join him in his cloud. And even in this weather and on this night it was surprisingly warm in there. “I’m here, because I would not leave you.” His voice sounded as though an invisible hand grasped his throat.
I clenched my teeth and pushed a wet string of hair out of my face. “I’m glad you are with me.”
Glad. Such a pathetic word. Why should I be glad? What even was the point of ‘being glad’ when there were things to be done?
And there were always things to be done.
The flames of the sky reflected in the pool of water that formed on the rock at our feet. A pool of red, the color of love and war. Betrayal and betrothal. Red, the color of eternity, if we managed to reach that before we burned out.
This would only be the beginning. I straightened my back to express that I was ready to do whatever it took.
Even if that meant burning out.

Thanks to Nanouk Kira, for writing this story. Be sure to check out her (Dutch) book Drakenhart