Odysseus might have killed Ajax.

This morning, nearly the entire army gathered near the commander’s camp for the opening of the Achilles Honor Games.

I went with Polites, Misenus and Euryalus.

When we arrived, Agamemnon was standing on a small wooden platform, flanked by Nestor, Diomedes and Odysseus on one side, Menelaus, Ajax and Eumelus on the other. Diomedes was holding Achilles’ breastplate.

Most of the other commanders were surrounding this platform.

We were able to push ourselves to within about fifty meters of Agamemnon until our rank ran out.

I ran into Achaemenides when we were moving through the crowd. He didn’t say anything to me, but gave me a very serious nod. -I think he was trying to infer that we shared some kind of secret knowledge. I 'knowingly' nodded back.

After about a half an hour, Agamemnon began to speak: “Fellow Achaeans, three days ago, we suffered an immeasurable loss. Achilles, son of Peleus, was a man without equal. Unmatched in courage, unmatched in skill, and unmatched in loyalty to our cause, the Champion of the Achaeans will be dearly missed!”

These comments brought a restrained, somewhat unconfident cheer from the crowd.

Personally, 'Unmatched in loyalty' seemed a bit strong to me.

Anyway, Agamemnon continued: “And so my fellow Achaeans, we are unmatched in our grief.”

He then paused and lowered his head.

Many of the men around me lowered their heads as well.

After a few moments of quiet observance, Agamemnon perked up again and shouted loudly: “But, let us not forget, Achilles was a man of action! And knowing this, we should not be paralyzed by the tragedy of his passing. No! Instead, we shall be invigorated by his spirit!”

This brought some louder, more confident cheers.

Agamemnon then motioned to Diomedes, who raised Achilles’ breastplate high.

Pointing to the armor, the Commander-in-Chief belted: “And so, to commence these games which we hold to honor the Champion of the Achaeans, we shall give his armor to the man who most embodies his spirit!”

Agamemnon took the armor from Diomedes, held it aloft, and cheered: “Our new Champion, the Custodian of Achilles’ Spirit, is... General Ajax, King of the Salamisians!”

In response, the crowd let out a strangely uneven cheer.

Unfortunately, Ajax and Odysseus stepped forward to accept the armor.

It seemed as if Odysseus hadn’t heard Agamemnon’s announcement at all.

Nonetheless, Odysseus and Ajax were both beaming. That is, until they both laid hands on the prize. Looking perplexed, Odysseus and Ajax began to pull at the breastplate. -However Agamemnon, who also looked perplexed, seemed reluctant to give it up.

The small audience on the platform was stunned.

The crowd was equally befuddled. Some men cheered. Some gasped in disbelief. Some even booed.

As the tug-of-war between Odysseus and Ajax heated up, the noise from the audience grew in intensity. Slowly, the crowd began to surge forward.

Seeing that things were about to spiral out of control, Agamemnon yanked the breastplate back, and yelled at the top of his lungs: “CEASE THIS MADNESS!”

A hush fell over the mob.

It was obvious to all (except possibly Odysseus), that Agamemnon had intended to give the breastplate to Ajax. However, I could tell the Commander-in-Chief was now uncertain of what to do.

It would be awkward for Agamemnon to slight Odysseus in front of the entire army. Furthermore, the crowd didn’t seem very supportive of his first choice.

However, Ajax had been selected as the Custodian of Achilles’ Spirit, and it would be equally, if not more difficult, to retract this honor.

Agamemnon stood in silence, clutching Achilles’ breastplate for nearly a full minute.

Whispers began to spread through the crowd. -I knew Agamemnon had little time.

Fortunately, Menelaus acted for him.

In a move that surprised the entire army, Menelaus stepped forward, laid his hand on the breastplate and addressed the army in a shrill, squawking voice: “Achaeans, only one man can wear Achilles’ armor. Only one man can guard his Spirit. -We will have a duel to decide who that man is!”

Menelaus nodded to Odysseus and Ajax: “We will have that duel, now.”

This was the first time Menelaus had spoken publicly. In fact, it was the first time many of the commanders had actually heard him speak at all.

And now, not only had Menelaus addressed the entire Achaean army, he had just announced an impromptu duel between two of its highest commanders. -Every last soldier was stunned into silence.

All eyes fell upon Agamemnon.

The Commander-in-Chief looked at his brother, at Odysseus and Ajax, and then at the crowd.

Slowly, Agamemnon began to nod. Starting with a slight tilt of the head, Agamemnon began to nod more and more vigorously. When it seemed that he couldn’t nod his head with anymore conviction, Agamemnon shouted: “Yes, yes, yes! This is how Achilles’ would have wanted it. This is in his Spirit. General Odysseus, General Ajax, you will duel for the armor of Achilles!”

Agamemnon then commanded: “Clear a circle!”

I immediately ran to Odysseus’ side. I met the General as he stepped off the platform.

Odysseus was befuddled. His face was white.

I could tell the General hadn’t the slightest idea why he had just been instructed to duel Ajax for Achilles’ armor. I tried to speak to him, but he wouldn’t take his eyes off Ajax. No matter what I said, Odysseus would just nod as he blankly stared across the circle.

In moments, Odysseus and Ajax were standing, readied to duel, surrounded by the entire Achaean army.

Odysseus was a nervous wreck. I had never seen the General look like this. Rocking back and forth, he kept placing his hand on the hilt of his sword, adjusting his shield or tilting his helmet. -He couldn’t hold still.

Ajax on the other hand, was as cool as ice. In fact, the look on his face was one of expectant pleasure. Despite the circumstances, you would've thought Ajax had just begged Menelaus for a chance to fight Odysseus. -Ajax hardly moved at all.

Shortly after the combatants had been readied, Agamemnon stepped into the middle of the ring, and announced the plan once again: “General Odysseus and General Ajax will duel for the armor of Achilles. The winner of this duel shall be proclaimed the Custodian of Achilles’ Spirit! May the Gods bless you both!”

Backing off, Agamemnon then signaled for Odysseus and Ajax to commence.

I was ringside, and was therefore able to watch the action firsthand. However, due to the size of the crowd, most of the army couldn’t see the fight. -And, looking back, that was probably for the better.

The fight was over before it started. -Odysseus won.

Drawing their swords, Odysseus and Ajax approached each other slowly.

Then, just as they reached striking distance, Ajax bowed.

Unfortunately, Odysseus was a bit on edge.

Reacting to Ajax’s sudden movement forward, Odysseus swung his sword and leapt back. Odysseus cut deep into Ajax’s exposed shoulder, audibly cracking his collar bone.

Ajax fell with a loud cry. Blood gushed from his wound.

Odysseus stepped back. His expression was a mix of horror and disbelief.

Hearing the cry, the crowd pressed the circle tighter. -Some Salamisian officers broke out and rushed to Ajax’s aid.

Ajax was moaning and rolling back and forth on the ground. -He looked very pale.

Agamemnon was noticeably disturbed. However, without missing a beat, he grabbed Odysseus by the shoulder and led him back onto the platform.

Holding the breastplate aloft, he shouted to the assembly: “Odysseus, son of Laertes, King of the Ithacans, is the Custodian of Achilles’ Spirit, the new Champion of the Achaeans!”

Although there were few cheers from those that had actually seen the 'battle', the rest of the crowd roared with approval. -Excepting the Salamisian contingent, of course.

Anyway, that's how Odysseus became our new Champion.

As Agamemnon proclaimed his new title, I could tell Odysseus was still dumbfounded. However, as Agamemnon and Menelaus strapped Achilles' breastplate onto him, the General began to smile.

The men were going nuts.

Soon, Odysseus started to get into it, pumping his hand in the air and waving to the crowd. It was several minutes before Agamemnon was able to speak again.

When the crowd had finally settled, the Commander-in-Chief addressed the issue of Ajax, who was still lying in the dirt, moaning as his men bandaged him.

“My fellow Achaeans, although the Gods have blessed us with a new Champion, our brave General Ajax has been wounded.”

The masses sighed.

Agamemnon continued: “Therefore, we shall postpone the Achilles Honor Games until the morrow. Let us take this day to honor Odysseus, King of the Ithacans, Champion of the Achaeans, as well as our fallen comrade, Ajax, King of the Salamisians.”

More cheers.

With that, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Diomedes and Nestor abruptly left the stage. Odysseus tried to follow, but he was intercepted and overpowered by a mob of adoring fans. Lifted upon their shoulders, Odysseus was carried back to the Ithacan camp for a night of compulsory revelry.

As the majority of the crowd followed Odysseus’ parade, I watched the Salamisians soberly escort their injured general back to their own camp.

I spent the rest of the day trying to minimize the impact of the celebration centered in ours.

Although a majority of the men must have heard Agamemnon’s original pronouncement, no one seemed troubled by the sudden switch that conferred the honor to Odysseus. Maybe it’s because the decision was resolved in a duel. Perhaps it’s because so many thought Odysseus was going to be chosen in the first place.

At any rate, Odysseus’ popularity has gone through the roof. More than twenty generals have stopped by today to congratulate him personally.

I have yet to speak to the General myself. -I think I’ll wait for him to return from his ego trip first.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my Zeus... What a climactic duel!

9:38 PM  
Anonymous Chibi said...

That's an interesting take on Greek folklore...Try to bring your language closer to the literary style of the time - even though it takes a lot of effort to do so. Good luck!

6:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh My Charmed!! that was an interesting take on the original story. i liked the contrast in language that you used but i too agree with Chibi. Try also to stick to the more native language used in the original story. Have Fun!!

11:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home