12. "Alternate Plans"

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Centering Hera,
Queen of the Gods:

Apollo can't be stopped,
     not when he gets this way,
     not by me.

     Zeus could intervene
               but
          if Zeus has a plan for this war,
     he's not shared it with his Olympian council.

So I'm forced to act in my own way
     to save the Achaeans from destruction.

     I stand atop Mount Ida,
          above the Troad plain,
and at my urging,
     Achilles calls the leadership to council.

     "In a dream,
white-armed Hera came to me.
          She favors our expedition,
     and is pained to see
               so much untimely death,
               so much loss from our ranks,
               so much enduring glory
                    wasted
          on a battle against camp fever."

"I knew I detected the hallmark of your handiwork,"
     says the goddess of crafts,
          Athena,
     looking over my shoulder,
               disapprovingly,
          into the Achaean camp.
"Does my Aegis-bearing father know what you have started?"

"Zeus knows all,"
     I say with a wink,
          and I watch her thin lips tighten.
     Athena is her father's loyal daughter.
          She knows I'm lying.
          However,
               it's a lie she has no choice but to believe.

We have a truce,
     Athena and I,
          which has held for nine years of this war.
     And I am about to put our alliance once more to the test.
"Watch as the mortal heroes dance to my drumbeat!"

"Agamemnon alone can appease the lord Apollo,
     you say,
          and suggest the return of Chryses's daughter,
     though I prefer her body,
               her mind,
          her skills,
     even above those of my own wife,
          whom I have grown tired with.
Can giving her up really serve the will of the gods?"

     Athena smirks.
          A private smile,
     as Agaememnon reminds her of someone else.
"Oh, how it must pain you
          to support such an insufferable . . . warlord."

I do boil a bit on the inside
     at Agamemnon's resemblance to Zeus,
          but manage a shrug.
     Agamemnon will get what he deserves,
          and so will Zeus.
     My revenge is no thunderbolt of whims.
          My revenge is more a more painful blow
          delivered in the fullness of time.
"Agamemnon is necessary to this war."

     Athena blinks.
"Is that what Zeus says?"

Again with Zeus!
     Again with Zeus!
          Again with Zeus!
     Does this goddess not have thoughts of her own?
"I mustn't disclose anything to you,"
     I demur.
"In such matters, your hands are tied
          for as long as your Palladium stands
     in the Acropolis at Ilion."

Athena glares at me.
     Real passion!
     Genuine anger!
     Her hands are indeed tied by the will of Zeus
          but mine are not.

Achilles's grip tightens on his sword hilt.

     His body is already in motion.

          His sword is already leaving its sheath.

"Go to him now,"
     I urge.
"Zeus's plans will be shredded
     if Agamemnon's blood is spilled."

     Athena pauses.

But only long enough to meet my eyes.
     She doesn't like being ordered about.
     She doesn't like being my pawn.

Then down from Mount Ida she flies,

     and I watch with satisfaction.
Zeus has his plans,
     but so do I.
          SO. DO. I.

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.
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