Endless Waltz
by Karen

Dust clogged the air whirling around in a mingle cloud of sand and grit. The wind coming in from the south turned into a steady stream blowing directly into the rider's faces.

`If it was this bad on horseback,' Methos thought, the hem of his cloak wrapped over his mouth; `then it must be sheer torment to the common soldier forced to wear out their own boot leather on this gods- cursed marathon overland march.'

Meanwhile, the fleet had been left under the command of seasoned veteran. Sailors were left to guard the ships upon their return. The ships were docked in a sheltered cove a fortnight's travel back near the isle of Tenedos. Methos did not envy them. He felt nothing except for the biting dust, the wind, and the movement of the horse beneath him. The bay gelding snorted and chomped on the bit when he suddenly drew the reins up tight and gathered into a ball in his fist. The rider directly ahead of him had come to abrupt halt, and as he opened his mouth to grumbled about the sudden halt, he all but swallowed his tongue when he looked up and saw the reason the column had been ordered to halt. They had arrived.


The city and its legendary golden walls sprawled atop an earthen embankment. From the Greek's vantage point coming down from the top of the foothills afforded them an excellent view.

The walls were not made of gold as the rumors and market gossip had led them to believe, but they were massive. The dying light of the setting sun made the walls gleam a buttery gold. Banners of purple and yellow fluttered in the wind, and soldiers lined the walls dressed in conical helmets and glittering armor.

"A hard nut to crack, and no mistake about that," Odysseus remarked, shaking his head. "We knew that," he added over his shoulder, noting the fixed gazes of the others assigned to his column. "Relax. It is not as if we expected to take the miserable Trojans as we did the outlying provinces in one fell swoop."

Ajax, his eyes rolling back in his head until the whites showed, grinned, his expression fixed. He turned to the king from Ithaca and let that statement sink in, once it had, he laughed, the sound coming from deep in his barrel chest. "Hah! Hah! You said it, man! We shall fight harder, longer, we mighty men from across the Aegean, and let no one man among the enemy say otherwise!" To glory!"

Ajax spurred his horse on with his heels and urged the animal down the trail, his green dyed crest on his helmet flying out in the wake of his passing.

"Is he always like this?" Methos muttered under his breath, leaning to his open side and spitting on the ground, the foul taste in his mouth.

Believing that no one had overheard his remark, Methos was startled when Achilles leaned towards him, nearly falling out of his high saddle. "We make allowances for Ajax, because we could not rein him otherwise."

"Make no mistake this will be hard fought battle, one that will be remembered and for the poets to sing centuries after we have all gone to dust," Menelaus said.

"I swear, you are all glory-crazed madmen. It is a good thing your skulls are all made of bone. I like a battle campaign as much as the next warrior, but this isn't one that can be won with a headlong reckless charge, trumpets blaring and banners streaming." Methos replied.

"And what would you know of organizing and implementing a battle campaign, young man?" Agamemnon asked, his dark eyes slits underneath his helmet. "Give us some credit for having more than bone in our hands. This campaign has been carefully planned, we certainly were given enough time as it by the gods of Olympus while were forced to endure the pinch of hunger, and the torment of thirst at Aulis. Do not try my patience."


Once the wagon trains loaded down with the supplies, weapons, and baggage caught up the vanguard, bonfires were set to burn. The long plain that the Trojans used to plan their grain and and other staples to provide food for their growing population blazed with light as if seeking to outshine the stars in the night sky.

The fields were deserted, the crops left untended. A city of tents spread over the plain, their flap billowing in the wind like the wings of birds. No tent was to be out of sight and call of each other, even the largest pavilions for the commanders.


"It will be the height of arrogance to assume that our enemies have not had time and the resources to prepare for our arrival. We shall have to make our strategies accordingly.` Odysseus remarked, studying the a map of the plains and out defenses of the city from the map lying spread on the wood n folding table in front of him.

"As you can see, the city is constructed with a commanding view of the headland, and its earthen embankments afford it protection from a sea-based attack.

"These Trojans are famous for the skills on horse back and ," Menelaus interrupted. "What if they attempt a sortie?"

"They would have to open the gates to allow a column of men on horseback to ride down towards the plain to have any hope of sortie to do the most damage." Agamemnon said.

"From what our spies have been able to tells us their skill on horseback is formidable, but they have a peculiar conceit, they always use two pair of matched horses while driving a chariot." Odysseus remarked.

"We knew laying down a protracted siege would be inevitable," Agamemnon said.

"Ajax is already overseeing the raising of the siege engines and will distritubute the cross-bows and swords to the soldiers."

"This has gone far beyond redressing an old wound to wounded pride,"

"If not for Helen's sake...." Menelaus blinked and wiped the grit of travel and fatigue from his with the back of his hand.

"Be honest with yourself, man, Helen was merely the excuse we used for this war." Odysseus said.

"As much as I hate to admit, my friend, you have the right of it, Meneleaus muttered. "Do, you? No, I have no right to ask. But do you think they have killed her?"

"I can not say, her abductor may have kept her alive long enough to offer up as a trophy of war, or she may have been killed already. Perhaps she was not meant long for this world." Odysseus remarked.

"Let us hope the gods are more generous with our enterprises."

"Protracted sieges are successful usually by dint of either waiting out the opponent or starving them out. We have enough in the way of food supplies, medicines and wherewithal to hold out several months."

"Do you think it will take that long?" Menelaus asked.

"You've seen their defenses." Agamemnon remarked, rolling up the map and stuffing back into the wooden chest set beside his cot. "Best weather for battle is a downpour. Rain dampens bows and ruins powder. War is so much nicer when arrows fall short of their mark and cannons will not fire. My old drill sergeant taught me that."


The council chamber had been stripped of layers of gauze and silk drapes, the wooden panels of carved oak and ash lining the walls that for as long as anyone living or dead with the walls of Troy could recall had depicted the long lineage of King Priam's family, were soot-stained and peeling. Servants, whose task it was to dust, burnish and maintain the carvings and the decorations were either dead or sent had been dispatched on more urgent tasks.

The people of the city had been issued warnings of the way the invading Greek army had first been sighted coming around the headland island of Tenedos, and now months later, were either fleeing into the highlands to the north or hiding behind thick, barred doors of their homes, and subjected to a curfew for the first time in recent memory.

"Bring my eldest son to me, " King Priam ordered.


"Hector," Priam greeted.

"These Greeks, what do you know of them?" Priam inquired, leaning back in his golden thrown, rubbing his temples were the golden circlet pinched his forehead.

"I doubt not this shall try our mettle. Our city has subjected to other invasions, and we have faced all enemies down., they have to come beat down the walls, take and ravish our women, and steal our treasures, and our horses. Yet, who has remained to shout the victory cry. We remember, we remain," Hector reassured his father and his king.

"You lighten my heart even as it seems to me that we our nearing our end. Our house goes back many generations. It seems I shall be the last. Priam

"Never fear, Sire! Hector hastened to reassure his father, "If this be the last days of Troy, we shall make them ones to remember! Bards will sing of our deeds down through the centuries. We will live again long after we are all dust."

"I wish I had your optimism because I can not see it. I feel blind."

"As well you should, Your Majesty." Cassandra shoved aside the double doors opening onto the audience chamber. She ignored the shocked cries of herald who stood at attention beside the urns and amphorae used to hold rush lights.

"Cassandra, you are not welcome here. Why are you not attending to your duties in the temple to Apollo?" Priam snapped.

"I shall return there hence, but I came to deliver a warning." Cassandra replied, tossing her mane of black hair over her shoulder, the mass of it had come loose from the ribbon and pins she used to bind it up.

"Let her speak, Father," Hector nervously laughed. "It will do no harm to at least let her have her say."

"Very well," Priam relented.

"I could not help but overhear your last remarks, Sire. It would seem that you also foresee the time coming when the city shall burn and our walls torn down."

"I mistake your gift of glimpsing the future and has no more art to it than peeping at keyholes," Priam laughed.

"Father, you know that is not true." Hector muttered under his breath.

Hecuba, sitting in her chair set beside her husband's throne, quietly working on her needlework, looked up at this and turned a stern glance on her eldest son and husband. "Time will come when we all say, why did not listen when we had the chance? We will curse and wail and tear our hair out by the roots. By then it will be too late."

"Now you tell are a fortune teller, Hecuba?" Priam asked, a catch in this throat.

Hector laughed, smacking his sides with his hands. "Why all this talk of gloom and doom? Battle is about to joined and I for one eagerly await it! Let our enemies do their worst! We shall outlast them, We have outlasted other forces arrayed against, and who is here to tell the tale!"


The armies drew back on either side and in the space between Paris and Meneleaus faced each other.. Apparently, in the confusion of battle, someone with a cooler head had come to the sensible decision to let the two with the most to gain fight out it alone.

Paris struck first, hurtling a spear direct at his opponent's chest and Menelaus caught on his shield. Menelaus responded in kind, hurling his own spear, falling short of the mark. The only damage Paris took was a tear in his tunic, but did not wound him.

Menelaus cursed and drew his sword, but it broke. Undaunted and unarmed he leapt from his saddle and seized him by the crest of the man's helmet, and dragged him off his feet. He would have dragged him, but through the intervention of Aphrodite, who caused the strap to tear and come loose and Paris was gone.

Agamemnon looking on, could only shrug and with a sidelong glance at Odysseus, standing beside him. "So much for settling this through a contest of champions."

"Your brother is able warrior, but he has let his emotions get the better of him." Odysseus remarked.


The battle wore on, the end always in doubt . The orderly lines of mounted soldiers, the phalanx of archers lined up in rows like they had been planted there, sending a hissing spray of arrows up towards the Trojan soldiers on the walls, and covering themselves with shields, when the Trojan archers responded in kind.

Methos, tugged on the strap of his own helm and spurred his horse into the melee, the battle coming alive around him. He heard hoof beats, boots slogging through the muddied and bloodied dirt. The scrape of steel of steel on steel, like harsh music to his ears.


Hector , standing on the walls, looked down at the chaos of battle, armored bodies moving across it like the tides of an ocean swept by storm. He rubbed his hands together as if they were chilled. With a loud baritone voice Hector ordered up a company of men, chariots and horses and ordered them saddled and ready. It was not by sheer chance that his people were famed for horse-breeding. It was not for him to stand aside and let others do his fighting. He must be in the forefront of any battle, yet having just come from a tearful meeting with his wife, Andromache, he realized what her anguish would be when he died.


On the battle field Hector was eager for the fight and as the gates opened Hector spurred his war chariot to greater speed, leaving the others to choke on the dust in his wake. His shining bronze helm was everywhere, mowing through the Greek ranks like a scythe through a wheat field and one Greek warrior after another fell beneath his bronze spear. When evening came, the battle for a time, ended, and found the Greeks pushed back almost to the line where their ships were docked.


She perched atop a barrel once used to store extra arrows and fletching for the Trojan archers, a woman whose auburn mane of hair was barely contained by her helmet, braced her self on a parapet and drew herself up to her full commanding height. The other defenders maintained their positions on Troy's hill fortified walls, but even so they could not keep from stealing glances at the queen of the Amazons. Queen Philomena and her tribe were allies of Troy and every year paid an annual tribute and visit to Troy. When the call had gone out to summon defenders to the city, she and her warriors had been the first to respond.

"Son of Leto! Achilles! Greatest of Greek warriors! Where is your courage now? Drained in the bottom of clay cup of wine! Can your hear me! I know you can! Hah! If that is the best you can throw against us then we have little to fear!"

"Making herself a target, but with good effect, if nothing else it will make Achilles think twice before he comes against us again. You could not pay me enough to stand there and shout insults at our foes," Hector said, leaning up against a wall of the parapets and glancing at the Amazon queen with admiration and a little fear.

"Coward! A dog fighting in the streets over the choicest bones has more wherewithal than thou does!" She raised her arms straight up to the sky as if daring them to shoot her down where she stood. Pausing a moment to catch her breath, the queen ranted on.

"Next time, when you face battle send the real men into to do the fighting, and not overgrown boys!"

"Should we get her down from there?" a archer asked Hector, who shook his head in reply. "Not just yet."


Bitter. That was all that Achilles could say not even seeing the lees of the sour wine that filled the bottom of his clay cup. His tongue has lost any feel and sensitivity to be able to tell the difference between a good vintage and one that left something to be desired. His eyes were red and puffy, and crinkled around the edges. Achilles hair hung in mattered tangles around his face. He felt utterly disgusted with him self. Battle was as glorious and glittering as he had imagined it would be. His best friend Patrolcous had died, killed in the fighting by the Trojans' champion, Hector, and put to the indignity of being dragged around the walls of Troy while the assembled warriors and soldiers of his fellow Greeks could do nothing but stand by and watch. Achilles had felt such rage, such a driving, unthinking need to avenge his friend's death that all he saw for many hours afterward was a hazy red mist, the blood boiling his veins. It had all been leeched away. Achilles spent the time inside his tent alternately sleeping and drinking, then sleeping away the fuzziness of drink. Now there was nothing left to drink.

"Two different fates are carrying me on the road to death. If I stay here and fight.... There will be no homecoming, but my fame shall never die," Achilles whispered.

"The Wheel of turns and turns, and you fall from grace. And since by fate the strong are overthrown, weep ye all with me." Odysseus entering the tent, wrinkling his nose at the mingled odors of unwashed body, sweat and sour wine.

"Achilles! How goes it with you!" He greeted the younger man with a wide grin stretched across his lips and a rag tied over his mouth to block the worst of the stench. "Come now, man!

"Get out!" Achilles snarled.

"I will not." Odysseus, snapped, and then knelt down in the dirt, his hands clenched into fists in the fabric of his robes. "Why do you crouch here in your tent like an cripple when there are battles to be fought and glory to be won?"

"Where is glory? When all I taste is ashes?" Achilles snarled. "My best friend, Patrolcous is dead.

"If you will not fight, we cannot allow that fabulous of yours to sit in its cedar chest gathering dust.

"Damn it, Man! Forgive my bluntness! But it as if the death of Patrlocus has sapped every ounce of fighting spirit out of you! Do you want that to get back to our enemies!

Do you want Patroclous death to have been in vain?"

Achilles straightened and looked the ruler of Ithaca in the eyes for the first time since his friend died, and ember of his old fighting spirit returned. "Not in vain," he whispered.

"I do not know. Do what you will with the armor."

"Whom among is most deserving?" Odysseus asked, cocking his head to one side, thinking the matter through. "Diomedes or Ajax, I think.

"Do what you think best," Achilles replied, "You always do. I have not the art."

"The gods are fiercely angry with the Greeks because of this," Odysseus. "I thought you would like to know that in order to appease Olympus we have arranged a lull in the battle by allowing King Priam to ransom for the body of his son, Hector."


Methos took the opportunity offered by the commanders preoccupation of encouraging Achilles to come out of his tent and rejoin the fight, to slip and do a little reconnaissance of his own. In the confusion, he finally came upon an abandoned gate in the side of the walls facing towards the ocean, the faint echo of the surf pounding against the earthen hillside like the heartbeat of a giant. In a better mood and circumstances he would have wagered a large sum of money on which would take the city down faster, the Greeks army or the sea. He had brought a torch with him, and by its flickering light he realized he had stumbled across a servant's entrance. Feeling a bit reckless, Methos, he was in unique position. Go forward or go back and report his discovery. Looking back over his shoulder. "Why not" he muttered under his breath, `If nothing else I can always say that I'm here on courier business if anyone questions my presence.


Cassandra, the priestess of Apollo, knelt in front of the bronze tripod, her black hair sliding down her back like a silken cloak. He hair stirred in the wind that came through the open door. In her left hand she stoked the coals with an incense stick. Her free hand drummed a steady rhythm on the floor in time with the beating of her heart.

Cassandra knew she needed to concentrate on the ritual even more than she usually did because she was a priestess of the Sun god, Apollo, and she should not allow herself to feel any resentment or bitterness due to the fact that god had turned his face away from her. It was difficult. Apollo had come down from Mt. Olympus on many occasions to express his admiration and love; making her feel giddy and overwhelmed.

Now, the men fought for their lives in this war, and everything Cassandra ate or drank tasted like ashes, the prayers to the gods went unanswered. It was as if the Gods had all gone deaf and blind.

"Why will they not believe? Why do they cast me aside? Apollo! It is Cassandra. I implore thee, heed my voice,! There was a time, a time not long past as we mortals reckon things, that wit and the talent granted to part the mists of time, and catch a glimpse of the what is and the what may be and see the future. Bah! True sight. It is still true, verily. A gift, a curse! But how wretched hast thou made me feel knowing that my future sight is still as sharp as a blade but it draws blood. None of my kin or my people will believe me!" Apollo! Answer me!"

She had warned King Priam about the impending doom she had seen; her waking hours and the time she spent in sleep were spent tossing and turning and cursed by visions of her beloved city of Troy in flames, the walls torn down, and everything she knew and loved destroyed. The gift she had taken as such a joyous gift, the gift of long sight, or prophecy, was now a curse. The worst thing about being able to see the future was knowing there was nothing one could do to affect the outcome. She could have resigned herself to that, it was the fact that no one believed her when she told them of her visions and her predictions of the future. "I can not endure this curse!" Cassandra hurled the incense stick and then the golden sun disk wildly where she absently watched it shatter into a hundreds of tiny pieces on the wall and sank to the ground once more.


"Granted, I know little of the customs of your people, but it seems to me that in time of war, people should be saving their gold trinkets and not breaking them against walls." Methos curled his lip and bent over to pick up a handful of golden shards, allowing them to trickle through his fingers like sand on ocean shore. A few of the sharper pieces cutting through his flesh, drawing blood. The small cuts instantly sealing over leaving tiny white scars. He dropped the shards and glanced around the small temple.

"How dare you enter a sacred temple! Leave! Now!" Cassandra shouted, gasping, unable to get air into her lungs for a moment from sobbing.

"I was not trying. I was sent to deliver a message and I got turned around in here. If you could but direct me to the audience chamber...." He was aware that his mission was incomplete, and there was no telling what the grief-stricken Achilles would do if left to his own devices. They had both been charged to deliver the body of Prince Hector to his father King Priam for burial, but somehow Achilles managed to get turned around and Methos had found himself drawn to the temple.

"Why should I help you?" This world is filled with sorrow," Cassandra snapped.

"I may have come at a bad time." Methos backed up a few steps, feeling an odd but compelling urge to go nearer the woman, to grab her by the shoulders and shake the truth out of her, until the bones rattled. At the same time, he had an equally compelling urge to run away as fast as his feet would carry him.

It was at that instant, when she turned and showing him the lines of her profile to him, and finally completed the turn so she was staring right at him, and through him. Methos felt a tingling at the back of his neck, the fine black hairs bristling. In other circumstances he would have dismissed the sensation as nothing more than his instincts warning of danger, but this was different. If pressed give an answer why it felt that way.. Methos doubted he would have been able to give a coherent answer. In the back of his mind, he could have sworn he recognized the ivory skin, the huge dark eyes, like pools of inky blackness. It felt like bees had taken up residence in his brain.

"I remember you," Cassandra muttered, memorizing the sharp bones of his face, the curled lip and the piercing dark eyes that took in everything around him without giving anything of the man behind that smooth mask. She knew something in that should jar loose a buried memory, of a time in the steppes; but it would not come clear.

"That is not possible." Methos shook his head, clearing it of the cobwebs.

"I remember, it so clouded, my memories. My dreaming and waking hours have become mingled together I do not what is less real, reality or my dreams."

"My lady," Methos tried, glancing around for the open door to discover if guards were posted nearby.

"A open plain, a campfire, a village of straw and mud huts. Do you remember?"


"Damn you!" Cassandra raged, nails digging into the flesh of her palms. "The raid, horses sweeping down, the raiding, the killing, the fires burning on the plain" She allowed her words to trail off and in the uncomfortable silence she drew a angular shape on her left cheek. "You had a blue tattoo painted here, I remember. You never asked me my name when I was your slave."

"What is your name?" Methos asked, puzzled.

"My name? Cassandra." What do they call you?"


"Well, Methos, do you have any idea of how much I want to see you dead?"

"I am beginning to," Methos whispered.

"I do not know why you have come here," Cassandra whispered. "But you had best leave, because if you do not, I will kill you myself."

"Now?" Methos admitted that he was curious how she would go about killing him for he saw no weapon, no poison; also a bit unsettled when he recognized the fragrance she used to scent her hair.

"No, not now, not like this. But I will find a way." Cassandra replied, once more turning her back on him.

"So be it." Methos left the temple and darted through shadows until he came to that back entrance he found to gain access to the palace, as silently as the shadows the concealed him.


"Will he fight?" Agamemnon asked, when he caught sight of Odysseus marching back from the tent of Achilles.

"Doubtful," he replied. "We have earned a brief respite, a time to gather courage and strength for the next push but it will not last forever."

"What are our chances?" Menelaus asked.

"Again doubtful, "Odysseus replied. "The gods play with the fates of even their favored mortals like pieces on a chess board."

"Indeed," Agamemnon agreed.

"I have thought of a plan, by which we might yet emerge with a victory in this contest." Odysseus said.

"This plan of yours..." Agamemnon trailed off, and looked down at the mud on his boots, trying to follow the trail that older man had in mind.

You have heard of the Palladium?" Odysseus asked.

The statue of Athena the Trojans are famous for?" Yes, what of it?"

"Why we make a wooden horse, they bring it inside the walls, but the horse interior will be hollow and inside will lay hidden a army of handpicked soldiers, and then the walls will fall." Odysseus concluded, wrapping his raw, chapped hands in the fabric of his tunic. "We send it as a peace offering to the Trojans and then pretend to strike camp as if were giving up and apparently set out for sea."

"It will be a ruse?" Menelaus asked.



The priest, Lacacon was the only hold out, the voice that warned the people, to anyone that would listen 'to beware of Greeks bearing gifts, and to his surprise his warnings were echoed by the priestess, Cassandra; but both were shouted down. The overall mood of the citizens, that this wooden horse was as a peace offering and the long war was at last over.

The Trojans dragged the huge wooden horse into the streets of the city and up to the temple of Athena and rejoiced in their good fortune and returned to their homes in peace as they had not been able to do for many years.

At midnight a cunningly hidden side panel in the wooden horse's flank opened and out poured an army of Greek warrior, fires ignited in the sleeping streets of the city. By the time the Trojans awoke and realized what was happening, Troy was burning.

Trojan defenders pulled on their armor, snatched up weapons, or anything they could lay hands in the initial surprise, but it was too late and too little, yet they fought on. They knew it would be an unequal battle, too many Trojans had already fallen and both sides were desperate and despite the tide of battle, turning like that of the ocean below the castle, the Greeks could not be beaten back anywhere, and when morning came what had been the proudest city in Asia was now a smoking shelled out ruin.


"I knew you would return," Cassandra smiled, leading a heavily veiled smaller figure by the hand. A gust of wind coming in through broken windows like eyes in a skull, blow the hood away from the small figure's face. "Iphegenia, bring your hood up around your face."

"What is the girl doing here?" Methos asked, interested in spite of himself.

"You saved her from being offered up as a sacrifice to the capricious gods, were else would you expect her to be. Out there, "Cassandra gestured to the east and beyond the walls, as if her sight could travel distances and through brick and stone, and dirt walls. "Out there with the Greeks?"

"We are all exiles now." You are planning your escape from this burning city. "

"What do you want?" Methos demanded, folding his arms over his chest.

"Take us with you," Cassandra replied.

"Exile will come as a welcome chance after these last few years." Methos muttered under his breath.

"You say that now. You talk out of the side of your mouth. With one hand you give and with the other you take. Come the miles and years down the road to exile, and you will change your tune." Cassandra remarked.

"Is everyone here touched with madness and gut-wrench curse of foresight? Methos snarled. "I'll tell you something for free, I nauseating sick and tired of it!"

"Death will be no release." Cassandra breathed, her breaths coming in ragged, choked gasp, her face lined with soot and the tracks that tears made as they rolled down her face.

"I don't know it's been pretty good to me so far."

"How do you figure?" Cassandra asked.

"I do not have to figure anything. I just know. I'm on very intimate terms with our friend, Death."

"Indeed," Cassandra remarked, arching on delicately plucked black eyebrow.

Methos laughed, a wry twisting of his thin lips. "Have you realized by now whom your trusting to get you out of this gutted shell of town, `I am Death."


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