26. “The Aether Speaks”

137 0 0

Centering Clever Eurybates,
Chief Herald to Agamamnon:

We entered the hut.

          I don't remember entering the hut,
               but we must have,
        because we are in the hut now.

  We'd been drinking with the Myrmidons.
               This I remember.
       We'd had a mission to accomplish,
          as Talthybius kept reminding me
               between swallows.
     And now here we are in the hut,
               as if taken there
            by an act of the gods.

Achilles sits in front of us,
        the swift-footed slayer of many men.
     Our mission is to take something from him,
          as Talthybius kept reminding me
               between swallows.

             Something of value,
         but what?

     Some bauble of gold?

          A pretty gemstone?

Something that lives and breathes,
          I'm pretty sure.
     Does Achilles keep exotic animals?

"Why are we here?"
     I whisper to Talthybius.

"You're here for me,"
       a girl answers,
  which is not how the herald process is supposed to work.

          People always get that wrong.

     See here,
        once more,
Agamemnon is like Zeus on high.

     He speaks to me
          like Zeus speaks to the Aether.

     And what is the Aether?

          The Aether is for the gods
               as air is for mortals.
     The gods on Olympus need it to speak,
          like Agamemnon needs me.

          Don't worry too much about the Aether
              or its nature.

       Just know that mortals can't see or hear the Aether.

                         Well.

             Most mortals can't.
           Seers can,
                and those with divine blood,
          and those who are about to die.

     And sometimes the Olympians bypass the Aether
          and take on mortal guise.

When a message is spoken on high into the Aether,
     that message must be transferred from Aether to air
          by a herald:
             Iris, who leaves rainbows in her wake,
             Hermes the Traveller,
             the Lord of Dreams,
                  or some other messenger,
          and from the air
             the message travels
                  through mortal ears
                into the mortal skull.

     In just that manner,
          Agamemnon entrusted a message to me,
                    his Aether.
               I speak the message only to Talthybius,
                         the air.
          and Talthybius brings the message
               to its mortal recipients.

                    This,
               all this,
          I attempt to explain
     to the girl.
"Are you a seer?
     Or do you claim immortal blood?"

          Her confusion at my voice,
     her mystified expression,
       prove why the Aether needs the air.

     "Or maybe you're about to die,"
               I consider,
          having omitted that possibility.

Then Achilles is on me,
     carried by his swift feet,
  with his man-slaying hand to my throat
       as Phoenix and Patroclus fight to hold him back.

     The air does nothing to defend the Aether.

          The air is too busy throwing up wine.

"Achilles, stop!"
     shouts the girl,
  and the swift-footed slayer of many men
          crumples
   into a sobbing, heaving ball,
     and I wonder
          at the power this woman has.

Perhaps she's a goddess in mortal guise.
     That would explain why she talks back to the Aether.
     That would explain why our mission
          is to return with her to Agamemnon on high.

       I tap Talthybius on the shoulder.
"Tell the goddess to come with us,
     but try not to anger Achilles."

     "You try not to anger Achilles,"
  Talthybius retorts.

"I am the Aether,"
  I remind him.

     "I never get to be the Aether,"
  he grumbles.

     On breeze-shaken feet,
          in a breathy voice,
     Talthybius relays the message
               and
something holy and immortal
     completes is passage
          from Agamemnon on high
               to his Aether
                    to the air of mortals
                         to the ears of Achilles
                              and into his skull.

               "Take her,"
          he moans,
       from his balled-up position
             on the floor.

     Patroclus kisses the girl goodbye.
"From Achilles as well,"
          I hear him say
     as they embrace.

Phoenix grunts in her direction,
        not disrespectfully,
     I'd say.

Then Briseis comes willingly.
     Her shoulder is a steadying influence
       as I guide her over the undulating floor
  through the spinning room
     to the shifting doorway.

Before we exit,
     Achilles sits up
  with a fresh blaze in his eyes.
     "Clever Eurybates,
          noble Talthybius,
  know that my quarrel is not with you,
         but with the one who sent you.
     Bear witness to your master,
            thus I swear upon the gods,
          that when Agamemnon again needs my aid
               to ward off the destruction of his army,
        he'll call for me in vain."

"He says he's quit,"
     Talthybias translates
          and I,
       as the Aether,
  have a new message to relay
     back to Agamemnon.

It's a rough day to be the Aether.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.
Please Login in order to comment!