Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Athena's Illiad - Part 1


I've been working on a short story piece for a few months now. It is a retelling of the Judgment of Paris and the Illiad from the perspective of Athena. I'll be posting sections of it here for feedback and criticism. Oh, and yes, I did make the golden apple graphic to the right. Feel free to snag it and do whatever you like with it. I'm sure Eris would want it that way.

Athena's Illiad - Part 1

When mortals read the words of the poet Homer they hear one side of a very complicated tale. It is my opinion that all of the Gods were judged harshly by his laureled pen. As for myself you may be surprised to discover that I loved the city of Troy. Not as I loved my dear Greece, of course, but I never sought the destruction of Ilium. At least, not in the beginning. Troy was ruled by a dynasty descended from my beloved son Ericthonius. From this line I strived for generations to produce a hero that would be unmatched in skill and wisdom. A hero that would fight with heart and mind as much as hands and grit. Troy was also the home of my Palladium, a relic which reminded me of my first and best love, Pallas. I collected relics. In my goat skin bag were the Kista of Athens, Zeus's lightning bolts, and the head of the gorgon Medusa. I was the only God of clear enough mind to bear these tools of destruction. Had I only been given that most destructive of relics to begin with the war with Troy would never have happened.

When Priam's first son was born I knew that the seeds of heroism I had planted in the walls of Ilium had finally born rich fruit. Hector would grow to be a man of wondrous renown, not only for his heroic deeds but also for his quick and agile mind. I invested my time in insuring him a future of glory. If I had the wisdom so many praise me with I would have been less involved with the elder son of Priam and more interested in the growth of his younger son Paris. Paris was a vain and lazy youth with a slow mind prone to outside influence. If only I had seen! It was only ever my intention to preserve the peace of Greece. Alas, I could not see that far.

Not much is missed by the sharpness of my silvery owl eyes. At the wedding of Thetis to the moral Peleus I saw Eris slip in from the sidelines. I watched as she rolled that golden ball of chaos into the wedding feast. I knew instantly that it was a tool of death and destruction. It would only be safe hidden safely within the folds of my goat-skin aegis. I darted across the hall, swift as any bird of prey, and clutched at the golden apple. It had fallen at the feet of that dove, that violet crowned Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. I can see now that I was fortune's fool. Had I not been so eager to prevent chaos I would never had been its instrument. As it was, I snatched the apple from Aphrodite's silken hand just as she read its inscription: KALLISTI, for the fairest. Fast enough to make my head spin deceitful Hera was at our side, demanding the apple for herself, as was befitting the Queen of the Gods. Aphrodite insisted that the prize, having fallen at her lovely feet, was rightly hers. And I, overcome with terror at the chaos thrumming forth from the little golden ball in my hand, could only shake my head in disagreement with them.

If my father read the horror on my face, or could simply sense the overwhelming menace that the apple radiated I do not know. I only know that as swiftly as lightning he took the apple from my grasp. Would that he had kept it! Like a wryneck Hera slithered up to her husband. Did she not deserve the apple? Had it not come from her evening orchard? She flashed him her fox smile and petted his arms, cooing like a cuckoo that the apple should be hers. Aphrodite gasped. "The apple came to me," she pleaded. "Am I not the fairest of the Gods?" Zeus looked to me for guidance. "Give me the apple," I assured him, "and I will protect us from the dark fate that it promises." Mighty Zeus furrowed his brow. "I will not choose among you." He proclaimed. "But on the slopes outside of Troy is a shepherd named Paris who has proven himself to be a fair and worthy judge. Let him choose who shall claim the golden apple."

We all knew of this Paris. He was Priam's younger son and had recently judged Ares's bulls as finer than his own. Zeus seemed to think that this made Paris a fair judge. Aphrodite, Hera, and I knew better. In preparation to meet Paris Aphrodite shed her already sheer peplos and donned her golden girdle. Hera also freed herself of her purple vestments and elaborately braided her coppery hair around her golden crown. She readied a cask of gold and jewels to take to Paris. I understood then that to win possession of the apple, to save the fate of Gods and men, I would need to lower myself before Priam's son. I slid off my beautifully woven peplos and adjusted the aegis around myself for the sake of modesty. Hera laughed scornfully at my actions. Aphrodite rubbed love philters into her skin. What was she planning? And what could I offer Paris that would make him come to my side?

We found Paris resting beneath a cypress tree near his grazing flocks. Hermes handed him the apple and laid the task before him, eyes twinkling. Hermes seemed unduly amused by the entire embarrassing situation. But how could I expect him to understand the importance of that little golden apple? How could any of us have known just how terrible Paris's judgment would be?

Hera made her case first. She strutted about, every bit the peacock that she so admired. Was she not the fairest of Goddesses? And what gifts she offered Paris! The cask of gold and jewels would make him richer than all the kings of Greece, and I heard her promise him still greater power and wealth. Such was the domain of Hera. She promised war that would expand the power of Troy throughout Greece and eastward to Phrygia. I could not let her succeed. She would undo the peace of Greece and all that I had worked for. I strode forth, eager to make my own case. "Paris," I commanded, fixing him with my quicksilver eyes, "power lasts only a little while. I can give you fame that will last forever. Only I can make you a hero the likes of which men will sing of long after your temples are rubble and your body is dust. Only I can offer you immortality, dear Paris." Paris considered this, and I could see that I had won him from the claws of Hera. "But now I must hear from Aphrodite," said the youth. I swallowed hard, wondering what the golden Goddess of Love would offer forth. "Beloved Paris," breathed forth her honeyed voice, "Power is fleeting, and glory is cold. I offer you great love, my Paris. Love the likes of which the world has never seen. Love that will be sung of for as long as any hero tale could ever be, and love that is glorious while it lives. I offer you the love of the most beautiful woman in all of the world, Paris. She will love you fully, all of the days of your life." I knew that I was beaten. Paris was utterly transfixed by Aphrodite's promises. Paris proclaimed, "Power is the providence of my father King Priam. Glory is the hallmark of my brother Prince Hector. These are not of me. I pledge my troth with Aphrodite and declare myself a servant of Love!" Hera fumed, eager to leave. As Paris placed the apple into Aphrodite's hand I was filled with hope that the apple's chaos had been averted. Hera would not have her war, and what harm could come from the innocence of true love? What harm indeed.

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