EMBERS FROM AN UNQUENCHABLE FIRE

 

by Araddion

© 2015 R. Keith Peck

 

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Part 1

How can one escape that which never sets?
-- Heraclitus

 

The spear cast fell short. The weapon slithered along the ground, coming to rest just a few paces away.

The light of the setting sun tinted the bitter point of the spearhead the color of blood.

He knew what this meant.

Nursed by wise-women and reverent to oracles, Achilles intuited his death would come soon. But he remained indomitable. He was Achilles. What choice did he have but to be indomitable?

His poem would end. All poems must end. The tears would flow. Still, he must act.

So, when the shadow fell across the spear he'd stooped to seize, defiant rage kindled within him. Rage not against the slim, armored figured who stood between Achilles and the setting sun, but rage against the mysterious poet who dreamed an ending for lion-hearted, lusty Achilles.

Rage.

Achilles' moved as graceful as a dancer and thrice as fast. He grasped the spear. He launched himself at the Trojan, jerked forward as if the syllable uttered by the unseen poet were a spell of compulsion. If, in order to defer death, Achilles must surrender to the poem, then he would surrender. It was the supple sapling which survived the gale that destroyed the ancient oak tree.

Lo! Lion-like Achilles leaped and roared;
the gore-spangled spear, spitting fate's ultimate word,
blazed in the brazen sunlight; blood was its verdict.

Achilles reversed the spear so that the point threatened the cuirassed youth who'd earlier cast it and now stood frozen, emanating shadow. Tall-towered Troy, and the open gate through which this sally had issued, lay too far away for sanctuary. The Trojan knew it.

What words did the oracle speak over your crib?Achilles wondered.

As Achilles, indeed roaring like a pride of lions, charged the youth, brandishing the Trojan's own spear, the doomed warrior drew his sword.

Valor versus indomitability.

What words would the invisible poet chant?

Time flowed slow as cold honey.

As Achilles bounded across the doomed youth's shadow there passed one moment when the Achaean looked into the eyes of his Trojan nemesis. All helmets must leave the eyes uncovered. The Trojan was young. Perhaps a bare stripling when the thousand ship armada swarmed out of the west and filled the narrow Hellespont. A stripling who'd watched the fleet ground and disgorge an endless tide of bronze-armored Achaeans. A boy who'd vowed, if fate let him, to free his homeland of the invading enemy.

Achilles thought, I weep for you. Not your fate to be the slayer of Achilles. You will have no fame. No fame, no glory, no renown in the bloody centuries to come. You will die, mourned only by the men and women who loved you. After your body is burned you will be ash, and the wind will scatter you. Poor boy.

Only a foolish youth could fail to recognize the armor of Achilles. Young eyes whitened with fear. He was fully cognizant of his grave error. He'd engaged Achilles, the greatest Achaean warrior, casting his spear at a man he thought unaware and distracted. Hoping. But the poet wrote that his spear would miss, thus sparing Achilles for another kind of death.

But the Trojan youth knew he was about to die.

Perhaps this young man had his own poet. Perhaps, somewhere beyond the world, chanting poets dueled with hexameters instead of spears. If so, the young man's poet was more inept than the one who authored Achilles. There would be neither beauty nor pathos in the young man's death. Merely blood, spilled so that the savage earth could grow more drunk.

The spear trembled like lightning in Achilles' hand. He hefted it. His roaring became the scream of a pouncing panther. Atop Troy's walls, spectators' hearts quailed. Mourning began even before death was inflicted.

Achilles thrust into the T-shaped opening of his opponent's helmet. There the death-rose blossomed. Grim petals of blood and slivered skull and specks of brain opened to greet not the dawn but the gloom of everlasting night.

For an instant the Trojan emitted a high, keening sound, a noise Achilles had often heard. He supposed it was the mournful cry of a young man realizing there would never be sons, a lover, a welcoming fire flickering on a hearth he could call his own, and an old age of benign contentment.

As Achilles charged past he heard the body fall to the dust like an ox sacrificed to Ares. War, an iron-hearted master, had taught Achilles that death never, ever came instantaneously. Or free of pain. Achilles, cold hearted so that grief didn't break him, listened to the dying youth's rasping, bubbling breaths. Accusations? Each agonized noise was a grim poem singing of the final feelings of meat that had once been a man, of a psyche still alive though blind and trapped inside savaged flesh, of a once-vibrant youth who now was conscious only of the ebbing of his blood. Of the slowing of his heart. Of the grinning gulf opening around him.

All these things Achilles keenly felt himself. He did not have the liberty to indulge in empathy. Him, or me. His spirit or mine. Hades will have him, or me.

Thus ended a young man, valorous, of princely, beautiful form, name unknown. Extinguished. Blood pooled upon the earth, and the earth drank.

Achilles thought, Someone save us all from this madness!

The battle clamored, and it was to the battle that the poet turned Achilles' intention.

The Trojan sally had caught this Achaean detachment unawares, but these Trojans had proved to be puny warriors these past ten years. Already broken, they raced towards the open gate in the city wall. Brass trumpets sounded the retreat. Cries of distress floated down from Troy's high walls.

"Hold, Achaeans, hold!" Menelaus' voice boomed across the field. "We have driven them off!"

Achilles spat. His hand clenched round a phantom throat. Fool! He despised Menelaus, Achaea's famous cuckold. If the laws of gods and men could be set aside, Achilles would gladly thrust his sword under Menelaus' cuirass and end the life of that mewling, squawking fool!

The mysterious poet chanted defiance and so Achilles defied.

"Forward!" roared Achilles, raising his sword to beckon his comrades. "Let's end this!"

Achilles seized any chance of victory. Menelaus? A man of supreme prevarication. He had allowed the Trojan prince Paris -- a beautiful man, and if the Cretan dancers were to be believed, endowed with a mighty weapon between his thighs -- into Menelaus' palace. Menelaus' wife, Helen, a rapacious and vapid tart, had taken one look at Paris and liked what she saw. The pair fled to Troy. Menelaus, after drying his tears, had whined to his brother, the arrogant Agamemnon. It was Agamemnon, scion of cursed cannibals and murderers yet himself the most puissant of the Achaean princes, who had called for war against Troy. Menelaus' unmanliness had resulted in Achilles' presence here, on the broad and dusty plain of the Troad, shadowed by Mount Ida, fighting for the return of Menelaus' beloved strumpet.

Achilles cared neither for Menelaus nor Helen nor Agamemnon. He was here for the only true immortality available to a man: fame and renown. He must do his utmost, the oracles had told him, so Achilles' mysterious poet would have rich grist for his mill.

What could be more glorious than storming the citadel of Troy itself?

Bellowing, Achilles charged towards the gaping gate. Alone, which suited him. Glory was his to possess and he was loathe to share it. His legs pumped, carrying him across the plain. His armor clinked and sweat ran from beneath his helmet.

The oracle had told a younger version of Achilles that he would die before the final victory over Troy. So be it. Let it be known, now and forever, that Achilles in the moment of his death had been the very first Achaean to enter the stone bastions. Let it be known that it was Achilles' sword who first spilled Trojan blood on the city's streets. Since death while young was Achilles' fate, let his blood stain the courtyard of King Priam's palace. Let the smoke of his funeral pyre rise so high that every kingdom on Earth would see it, and wonder about the indomitable spirit that once was a man but now was smoke and ash.

Achilles charged, emitting his blood-curdling battle cry, brandishing his blade.

His poet was fickle.

The retreating enemy, panicked by Achilles' fierce, solo charge, scampered towards safety. Unskilled at victory the Trojans were unsurpassed in a rout. The survivors fled within the gate and the gate itself was closed and barred just as Achilles came within range of the bowmen atop the city wall. The archers, eager to claim credit for slaying the greatest Achaean warrior, unleashed swarms of darts. Thwarted by the closed gate, Achilles caught three dozen arrows on his shield as he retreated. He could only roar insults in reply. The Trojans responded with jeers as he retreated beyond bowshot.

"Muster! Form up!" Menelaus called from his preferred duty station -- well to the rear.

Menelaus' detachment, part of the leaguer thrown by the Achaeans around Troy, reassembled on a low hummock some distance away from the city. Menelaus leaned on his shield near the edge of the pit where the watch fire would burn.

As Achilles approached his commander he felt as if a smith were hammering his heart into a cauldron seething with poison.

Through the slit in his helmet Menelaus' eyes blazed at Achilles. Achilles wasn't a subtle man, so the chief cuckold was fully aware of Achille' disdain. Menelaus was also aware that no one, except maybe Ajax, the crazed butcher, could best Achilles in a fight. Menelaus could call out Achilles, but the duel would end only in Menelaus' death. Menelaus was impotent with Achilles too.

Achilles gripped his sword hilt and -- contempt emanating from his eyes -- dared Menelaus. Speak! Speak, you coward! Eunuch! One hot word and the dust will taste your blood!

But Menelaus, cunning in his cowardice, affected not to see the challenge, and left Achilles seething with unexpended energy.

The Trojan sally had scattered Achilles' comrades far and wide. Menelaus brooded until the detachment's rank and file was complete. No casualties. The muster was completed just as the final droplet of the Sun, glowing like molten bronze, gleamed on the western horizon. The stars revealed themselves. The Moon like a great silver shield peered over the rim of the world.

"Good work," Menelaus barked, "driving them back. A bit undisciplined."

Achilles bristled. His open palm hovered near his hilt. Say one more word. Say it! So the blood-rose on your face will replace the memory of the blood-rose on the Trojan youth's face!

""We will set the night watch. You, Achilles, will take --"

This was too much! Achilles bellowed. Not distinct words, simply a sound of absolute refusal. Wanting every Achaean warrior on the Troad to understand, he roared a clear message so loud that distant glens on Mount Ida echoed with his defiance.

"I will do no such thing! For two unbroken weeks you've kept me on the night watch, and that is enough for me! You will find someone else to command your watch! I will dine in my tents beside my ships tonight, if for no other reason than to celebrate the dawn of another year of your war!"

Achilles allowed Menelaus no chance to retort. He whirled and marched off, head held high. Menelaus, not valorous but discrete, directed Antilochus to take command of the night watch.

Brooding as he trudged across the plain, Achilles watched the horizon snuff out the final crimson spark of the Sun. A cold fist squeezed his heart. A bloody sunset implied a bloody sunrise. This war was interminable. Achilles still remembered when, upon the arrival of the Achaeans on these shores, old King Nestor had set up outside his tent a pole which he notched at sunset, counting the days it would take for them to triumph. The notches soon covered the first pole, so he'd set up a second. Then a third. And a fourth. Achilles had been a boy then. No longer. Here in the Troad Achilles had seen over three thousand sunsets.

"How many more do I have?" he murmured into the thickening gloom.

Far off wolves howled.

Bonfires flickered to life atop Troy's towers and on the blood-stained plain, casting feeble circles of light. Tiny gold coins sinking into a limitless dark sea.

We are led by fools! raged Achilles. Why have I given my life to these men?

The distant wolves ululated a reply: Fame and renown everlasting.

But do these things matter? Achilles shivered. For that thought was heresy itself.

The howling sank into nothingness.

The thousand-ship fleet was grounded on the shores of an estuary south and west of Troy. A long palisade enclosed the massed biremes; the palisade might be useful to fend off raids but, Achilles feared, would be unable to withstand a full assault. If the enemy ever grew manly enough to essay one.

Within the palisade a city bustled. Armies required smiths to mend armor and forge weapons. Recently healers had been summoned to the camp. An illness had begun spreading amongst the warriors, causing great uneasiness; some murmured about the wrath of Apollo. Oxen and sheep were crammed in pens to feed the warriors. Other appetites must be addressed. Supple youths with moist lips and wanton eyes waited, eager to service the lusts of the men in exchange for gold.

Making for his own ships, Achilles passed tent after tent, pitched in front of the beaks of the biremes. Bonfires blazed, filling the encampment with red and gold light. Butchered oxen turned on spits. Fat dripped and sizzled. There were shouts, and lyres played and syrinxes warbled, and hammers clanged.

Achilles, fists clenched, stormed past Agamemnon's huge tent. He heard the arrogant high king, overlord of this venture, wheeling and dealing with a reedy-voiced man. Chryses, the priest of Apollo, come once again to beg for his daughter. Poor woman, she was one of the many concubines the Achaeans had taken during the war. Agamemnon had appropriated her for his own bed. What Agamemnon ought to do, Achilles thought, was restore Chryses' daughter to the priest and thus rectify the wrong. Not cling foolishly to one's pride. Why could Agamemnon not see this?

It was Agamemnon whom Achilles loathed most of all. Vain, haughty man. Why had fate placed Agamemnon in charge of this expedition? He was ruthless and, sprout of the god-cursed Atreides vine, would defy all law and convention to work his own will. Achilles hated Agamemnon for the personal dishonor done to him even before the start of the war. To still contrary winds keeping the Achaean fleet from setting from Aulis for Troy, the madman sacrificed his daughter upon an altar, luring her there by promising her that Achilles would marry her.

A liar. I've sworn fealty to a liar.

Only the sight of Patroclus, smiling, warm, strong and beautiful, bathed in the light of a bonfire, quenched Achilles' anger. Patroclus, thickly bearded now, had been for all of Achille's life the steadfast man the angry young Achaean had wanted to become. Healer and warrior, lover and friend.

In his youth Patroclus had been resplendent like a newly-minted coin, but it had been his goodness that had drawn Achilles. Patroclus' youthfulness was now gone, the morning star overwhelmed by masculine sunrise, but his goodness remained. Healing balms, soft tales designed to soothe his savage beloved, wise counsel and warm comradeship. A man far more kingly than Agamemnon or Menelaus, a strong man with a naked chest enriched by thick whorls of fur. Patroclus' shoulders were wide and his waist trim, his thighs bulging and his calves strong. There were scars, too, but these were marks of honor to men of war. Patroclus was a great fortress of wisdom and patience into which Achilles could retreat from the madness of war.

"Well, golden one," called Patroclus. "Eluded both fate and the night watch? Good to see."

"Not dead yet," replied Achilles. When Achilles had shared the words of the oracle with Patroclus those many years ago the Patroclus of that time had simply swallowed once and clapped Achilles' shoulder. It was unnecessary to add anything to that gesture. Each knew the heart of the other without the need for words.

Achilles looked into Patroclus' eyes, which twinkled from the bonfires burning all along the strand. "Our time is close, isn't it? You feel it, the same as I. The poet writes. The end of the scroll draws near. The heroes die. The audience weeps." And then forgets. But this heresy Achilles kept to himself.

"Forget tomorrow," said Patroclus. "It does not exist until the sunrise."

And then, in words that escaped him the way sparks fly heavenward when a log cracks open upon a hearth, Achilles told Patroclus of the young man he'd killed earlier. Of his supple form, of his beautiful eyes. of the awful moment when he realized he was doomed. "His soul --"

"-- if he has one," interjected Patroclus. "Always the great question."

"It's in the underworld right now." A disorienting thought. "Moaning. Howling. A shade. A withered flower. He was beautiful, like you. And now ..."

"Night may be here, beloved," said Patroclus, "but do not let it become a time of darkness for yourself."

"I want to find a path on which we could walk forever together. If I could take back the choice I made, I would. If I could unswear my oaths, I would. Because the choice I made will sever me from you forever. I will be a shade in the underworld. Alone." Here Achilles' heart almost broke. "If I could go to the underworld, fetch that pretty young man, and bring him back, I would!"

Patroclus smiled. "Let me banish your darkness, golden one! I've been arranging entertainment these past weeks. Now you can enjoy it." He extended his hand. "Come. Let me show you."

Achilles willed his black tide to ebb.

Patroclus drew Achilles to him, put his arm around the younger man's shoulder, and directed his attention. Spitted meat roasted in the bonfire outside their tent. Near the fire a pair of Cretan dancers rehearsed. Their lithe bodies, naked and trimly muscled, gleamed with oil. Their hair was lustrous and black and braided with gold. The pair flashed eyes and their motions kindled lust in Achilles' loins.

"No music?" asked Achilles. "Who will play the lyre?"

"I will," said Patroclus.

At that moment another youth appeared almost, it seemed, between one flicker and another. Perhaps he had stepped around the bonfire. He was well-formed, his skin lustrous. Black ringlets tumbled to his shoulders. This young man wore a cloth wound around his midsection. His smooth body, in its symmetry and suppleness, demanded to be used and reused in the act of pleasure.

"Let me play for you, my lords," said this youth. He held up a lyre, richly carved and decorated. His head was cocked to one side, as if listening intently to unheard music.

"Let me hear you play," said Patroclus.

The youth strummed on the lyre. It was not a melody but a harmony which made both men shiver. A harmony as delightful as a cool mist on a hot day.

Achilles patted Patroclus' buttock. I would very much like to play with him.

"You may play for us," said Patroclus. He glanced at Achilles, mischief in his eyes. "If our dancers have no objection ..."

Clearly the dancers had no objection. Their rehearsal had ceased and they stared with frank lust at the youth. Their genitals had swollen and the Cretans had ever so slightly thrust them towards the lyre player.

"Very well," said Patroclus. "Wait until called. There's a chest over there. Seat yourself and rehearse." To Achilles, as he pulled the younger man towards the tent: "Were you wounded?"

"No," said Achilles, lifting the tent flap.

But as Patroclus removed Achilles' greaves he discovered a gash on the calf. Patroclus ordered Achilles onto a bed and mixed a concoction of pungent herbs and strong wine. The remedy stung when applied. The cure was more painful that the wound. Patroclus hands stripped Achilles naked, then continued to soothe other places on the warrior's body.

"My great lion," murmured Patroclus in Achilles' ear, "is now my great housecat."

Achilles, grinning, stretched on his bed. He patted the covers. "Join me. Love before dinner?"

"Dinner, then love," said Patroclus. His eyes, roaming Achilles' pleasing form, left no doubt that there would be much love made in the tent tonight.

Roasted meat, brought to them by servants, filled the tent with its smell. Achilles sacrificed to the gods, pouring a libation, then bowing his head and intoning a prayer. After this, Patroclus lay with Achilles on his bed, dropping slices of meat into Achilles' mouth. Smiling, Achilles returned the gesture. From time to time their greasy lips touched. Patroclus told old but never stale jokes to further lighten Achilles' heart. And, sometimes, when Achilles chewed, eyes shut in contented repose, Patroclus kissed his beloved's eyelids.

Achilles sat up and reached for a wineskin.

"Not too much wine," Patroclus said, watching Achilles pour purple wine into a chased silver krater, the bowl where wine and water were mixed. Achilles half-filled the krater, then poured cool water from a bronze flagon. A cup apiece washed away the remains of dinner.

"Those dancers," murmured Achilles as he held the cup to Patroclus' lips. "My blood burns for them."

Patroclus drank then took the cup. "The camp is full of them. They were the best who have not already been ... engaged." He held the cup to Achilles' lips. "Though I could have had twenty more only slightly less beautiful."

"I could satisfy twenty," laughed Achilles, taking the cup. He let Patroclus drink. "But the lyre player ..."

"I've not seen him before," said Patroclus. "But he brings fire to my soul! I wonder if we can bed him."

Achilles remembered that form, silhouetted against the fire. "I'm sure we can both enjoy him. He doesn't seem the kind who says no."

Servants took away the remains of dinner and gave them cloths to clean themselves.

Patroclus rose. He lit incense in a small earthenware dish, grinning. "We'll have a special night." He disappeared through the flap of the tent.

Achilles folded his arms behind his head, breathing the incense. The scent intoxicated him. He felt the way one did on an unendurably hot day, when one sighted a deep pool shaded by trees. Surcease. Lightness. Relief. He laughed at nothing at all, and many of the lines of worry worn into his face melted away. His organ filled with blood, lolling against his thigh. He cupped his testicles and grinned. They brimmed with seed. This would be a lusty night.

"Patroclus!" he barked. "Hurry up!"

Patroclus returned lugging a chest. The three youths followed. For an instant they seemed shy, there eyes roaming everywhere but on the naked man stretched out in front of them. Then Cretan eyes, dark lustrous orbs, black-ringed in the Egyptian style, feasted on recumbent Achilles and his swollen organ. The spellbound youths breathed the incense and lasciviousness suffused their postures. They arranged themselves to perform. Delicate tongues wet pink lips. Slender chests rose and fell rapidly. Small, pert buttocks, displayed as they prepared to dance, demanded caresses.

Patroclus sat the chest in a corner of the tent. The lyre player, who alone of the group seemed demure, averted his eyes from Achilles' organ. He seated himself upon the chest. He strummed once, frowned, then tuned his instrument. A second strum met with approval. Patroclus refreshed the incense, then stripped naked and joined Achilles on the bed. The men entwined themselves in the other's arms, and kissed with great warmth.

The lyre player fascinated Achilles. "Play," Achilles ordered. His eyes took in the honey-colored skin. In the golden lamplight it looked smooth as polished bronze. Minute scintillas of light danced in his night-black hair. Thoughts of possessing that wiry and graceful body swarmed in Achilles' mind.

"What should I play?" The silky voice was husky from the incense.

Achilles grasped his phallus and grinned. "A hymn to Eros!"

The lyre player bowed his head. "I will do my best," he said modestly. The notes began flowing from his lyre, a sweet tune but swift and urgent, with subtle arpeggios hinting that a celestial ending awaited the proper moment. Achilles' and Patroclus' spears stiffened and throbbed. The shadow of Patroclus' erection danced in the firelight on Achilles' skin.

"Dance!" Achilles called. "And praise Eros with your bodies!"

Unseen poets and doom-chanting oracles and wolf-haunted war were forgotten. All that remained in the tent was music, and beauty, and hearts bursting with desire.

The power of the sprightly music took charge of the lovely Cretans. They moved like sparks spiraling skyward from a fire. Fore one moment they were pure spirit, candles floating on a dark and endless river. Uncreated. Potentiality. Then they entered the material world, smiles blossoming on their faces as the fabric upon which divinity had embroidered exhortations to delight draped their pure spirit and became clothing for their unquenchable souls. The dancers discovered within themselves boundless capacity for delight, finding in their own heat an echo of the fire from whence they came. Their hands fluttered in languid strokes over their smooth torsos and shapely legs. It was good to be flesh; much could be learned, it seemed, and taken back to the primeval world of spirit and fire.

The lyre player's music bade each dancer discover the other. Here the Cretans discovered the purpose of beauty. It kindled desire for union and the necessity of sex entered their art. One dancer reached for the other. Wondering caresses explored golden skin and curious hands traced sleek muscles. Eyes devoured the beauty of the other but there was no satiation of that appetite. Discovery became adoration, adoration became worship, and worship became lust.

The music, disembodied yet beautiful as the dancers themselves, drew them, naturally, to lewdness. Lips brushed lips. Small gasps oozed between the lyre player's notes. Mutual erections rose from nests of obsidian pubic hair. Fingers teased small nipples. Cocks dueled between flat bellies. Gentle hands weighed testicles like a vintner appraising spring grapes.

Even at full arousal neither youth approached in size the pulsating weapons of the entranced warriors.

The music swirled. The youths cavorted round one another. Gazelles? Fishes? Serpents? It was hard to describe. At the behest of a deep chord, one dancer turned the other around and explored buttocks with a trembling hand. Another chord, and the dancers reversed. Gentle fingers discovered rosebuds hidden like treasure between amber-colored globes. As slim fingers explored each other's tight clefts, the music told them that this enticing bud was one of those hidden patterns woven into the fabric of materiality. A secret of the divine world could be rediscovered within. Black-rimmed eyes opened wide and mouths gaped. Fingers probed puckers, fingers stroked shafts. A language was being fashioned. Beads of oil formed on the tips of their cocks. On gossamer threads the beads descended, swaying as they danced.

Entranced as he was by the myth the Cretan youths enacted, Achilles found the lyre player just as beguiling. From time to time the warrrior's gaze left the dance and caught the lyre player's eyes sinking down as if shamed to be staring at the hard shaft of the famous Achilles. His diffidence inflamed Achilles. He must have that one.

Patroclus closed his fist around Achilles' erection and murmured in his ear: "Which one?"

"They lyre player." Achilles' breath was short and his heart clamored like a raging battle.

Patroclus laughed. "He is special, isn't he? Let's save him for later. The Cretans first. Which one?"

It did not matter. Both had eyes brimming with whorish fire. And buttocks such as theirs invited any man worth his salt to mount them, to penetrate them, to rule them, and to seed them. In this moment Achilles didn't want one Cretan. He wanted to have two cocks so he could mount them both.

Achilles pointed at the left-most Cretan. Patroclus rose and brought the youth to Achilles' bed.

"Come hear," said Achilles, extending his hand.

The youth smiled bashfully. He chewed on one finger for half a heartbeat. When he joined Achilles he smelled of musk and sandalwood. He stretched upon Achilles, his weight insubstantial. His body was warm and moist. Achilles' smoothed back the hair. Eyes locked. The Cretan quivered when he saw the passion blazing in Achilles' eyes. He sighed when Achilles caressed his ear. Achilles' lips brushed the youth's forehead, then the eyes, then fastened to soft lips. Tongues fluttered like spring butterflies. The dancers cooed as Achilles' finger pierced and oiled his anus.

Patroclus went to his young Cretan, clasping the young man by the shoulder. The dancer stared at Patroclus' enormous erection. Neither man nor youth said anything for many long moments. The youth's mouth gaped open. Fear? Slowly his eyes rose to meet the lust burning in the bearded man's own. Not fear. Awe.

"You are many men, all combined into one," murmured the dancer. "I cannot take such an organ. I am no PasiphaŽ."

Patroclus smiled. He'd heard similar objections before, even a few times from the young Achilles. They were easily pushed aside. His lips brushed the youth's and his fingers explored the cleft. "You are PasiphaŽ. Don't hide it from me. I see the kinship in your eyes. You hunger for the bull. My cock will bring you delight greater than you've ever known."

Bashfully, the Cretan kissed one of Patroclus' nipples. Patroclus picked up the youth and straddled him on his sex. The tight cleft embraced that vast organ, which protruded far beyond those graceful curves. The dancer's testicles sat astride the battering ram.

"I will try," said the Cretan.

Precum smeared the base of the dancer's spine as Patroclus carried him to his bed.

Achilles rolled, planting his dancer on all fours. The rose beckoned. He knelt, took a buttock in each hand, and peeled apart one of the sweetest peaches he'd ever seen. He kissed the rose. The Cretan emitted a long shuddering sigh when Achilles' tongue penetrated. Achilles poured a stream of olive oil on his shaft. He was too hungry for artistry. His appetite must be assuaged. He lodged his head against the bud and sank in with a groan of thanksgiving. The Cretan squirmed and squealed, overwhelmed by the penetration. Achilles seized him round the waist as he felt the youth's rectum struggle to eject the invader.

"No, no, beautiful one," Achilles breathed, shifting from knee to knee as the youth's anus squeezed. Each spasm invited him to make a baby within the Cretan's tight channel. "You need this as much as I. No, no, no. Don't try to escape me!" His voice was hoarse. Achilles would breach this youth's gate and the citadel beyond would be his to rule.

Achilles thrust and embedded himself. This youth was tight, and Achilles murmured a prayer to whichever god had made it possible for male to copulate with male.

The melody seized Achilles' balls and he began to churn. His strokes were long because he wanted this embodiment of beauty to feel the energy that beauty created in men.

Patroclus, in his bed, pinned his dancer on his belly. He mounted, air puffing in his nostrils. As his massive organ battered open the tiny iris the dancer's head shot up and his back arched. The youth babbled a prayer, begging that he might survive this. Patroclus' muscles bled through his flesh as he advanced. The youth flailed and kicked as inch after inch of Patroclus' erection speared him. He struggled. He emitted strangling sounds. He bucked and reared like an unbroken colt. Patroclus murmured softly, stroking the youth's flanks, praising the brave youth as he advanced ever deeper. When the youth feared he would burst he begged for mercy. None was available.

When at last Patroclus' pubic hair slid into his crevice, fear evaporated and the dancer felt only triumph. "Please never take this out of me!"

"I shall father a minotaur within you, beautiful one." The bearded warrior ground against his conquest. The youth's legs parted, his knees dug into the bed, and his buttocks rolled upwards into the man's thrusts. Delighted gasps escaped the youth as Patroclus worked to make good on his promise.

Achilles, thrusting up his own young man, envied Patroclus' Cretan. Achilles was a man now but he remembered with great fondness the pleasure of being young and being penetrated by Patroclus.

Patroclus' dancer panted, staring in white-eyed pleasure at nothing at all as Patroclus' sawed away. Patroclus grinned at Achilles. "Do me proud, golden one. Show him you are the lion and he is the cub!"

For many minutes the two men pounded their conquests, while the lyre player wove his melody. The smell of sweat and sex mingled with the incense and the song.

Achilles filled his Cretan's guts with seed far sooner than he wished. Invisible fingers seemed to massage the base of Achilles' spine, seemed to penetrate Achilles and massage him from within. He blamed the lyre player. Magic crackled in his tune.

After coating the youth's guts, Achilles kissed the back of the sweet neck, locks of black hair tickling his nose. He praised the dancer. His beauty. His passion. His sweet buttocks. His tight chute. His mother for giving birth to him and his father for siring such a desirable slut. Then Achilles withdrew his cock. Semen dripped from it. The dancer rolled to look at it. It remained tumescent and it surged with the lyre player's rhythm.

Patroclus succumbed to the same spell. With a great snort he poured power and glory into the Cretan's tight channel. He collapsed. For a few moments he lay atop the youth, recovering. The youth sprawled beneath him, glassy eyed, tongue protruding, a stupid grin on his face. When Patroclus stood, his eyes glowed red as the setting sun, and his long, thick spear thrust from his groin, armored with seed.

"Leave us," he bade the Cretan. "You've earned your gold. And a reward."

Patroclus' Cretan grinned and clutched his belly. "My minotaur!"

Patroclus and Achilles laughed.

The youths, strands of semen crawling down their inner thighs, scampered through the tent's flap, giggling. The lyre player's eyes followed them, then returned to watch the two men. His tune continued.

"It is now you and I," said Patroclus. "And you, golden one, are all that has ever mattered to me."

"You are dearer than brother," said Achilles softly.

Patroclus knelt on Achilles' bed and crawled over the prone warrior. Briefly their lips met. Far longer their eyes exchanged unspoken words. Neither could resist the hunger for the other. Patroclus kissed Achilles' neck and then, as the warrior surged against him, slipped his tongue into his ear.

"Take me," murmured Achilles, parting his legs and wrapping them around the older man.

Patroclus' lips explored Achilles' torso, teasing nipples into spikes. His tongue wrote obscenities on the muscled pectorals and he drank the rich musk pouring from Achilles' armpit. He slipped down and engulfed Achilles' organ in his mouth, breathing the funk of sweat, and tasting the slime resulting from the union of man with youth. Achilles hands locked on Patroclus' head and guided him.

They kissed again, as the music grew insistent, and their weapons fought between their bellies and their hands sought curves and muscles which , though long familiar, must be touched to reassure that the other one was still alive and vital.

"Inside," begged Achilles. He only felt whole when Patroclus was sheathed within him.

"Whore," said Patroclus softly, grinning and caressing Achilles' locks.

"Only for you, my rutting bull. For everyone else, I am the lion!"

Achilles' spirit soared as Patroclus lifted his thighs. He gripped his knees, pulling his legs back. His breathing increased as fingers touched him, entered him, oiled him, and opened him.

"You are narrower than my Cretan," grinned Patroclus. slipping four oily fingers in and out of Achilles' anus.

"No man but you."

In younger days, Achilles' wrestling companions had warned him against taking Patroclus as a lover. The man had a reputation as being both virile and enormous. It is not good for a youth to take on a man hung like a Thessalian bull for his first lover, ran the wisdom in the gymnasium. But those who warned Achilles did not understand the lion-hearted warrior, for whom any warning was an invitation. Grunting as Patroclus opened him, Achilles remembered the day he had secretly followed the man -- who trained him in the art of the sword -- all the way to a mountain spring. Hidden beneath bushes, grinding his swollen organ against the grass, Achilles had watched Patroclus bathe. Even in the cold water Patroclus' organ was indeed the fabled monster. When, wordlessly, Achilles had crawled from beneath the bushes to crouch on the bank, offering himself to the giant male presence, the monster had surged forward into a titan. Their first coupling had revealed to Achilles how like pleasure pain could be.

"Still the lion," murmured Patroclus. "But now let the bull rule you!" He nestled himself between Achilles' buttocks.

Achilles' eyes fluttered as Patroclus' gargantuan head pried open his pucker. He grunted but he did not cry out. This supreme act had become not simply natural but necessary. Every breath escaping Achilles' begged for more. Begged for another inch. Begged for girth. Begged and pleaded to be filled. Patroclus entered slowly but without pausing. He too hunger for this masculine union. So hot was Patroclus passion for Achilles that, if he did not retain mastery of his desire, this act would end too soon, in spurting gouts of seed.

The lyre player's eyes were slits looking into a furnace. His fingers strummed, each note drawing the two warriors together.

"What I want most," grunted Patroclus, "is to be inside you forever. I don't want to be two. I want to be one!"

Achilles intertwined his fingers with Patroclus'.

Paroclus' giant testicles rested against Achilles' hard buttocks. Now joined, they coupled urgently. Even brutally. They were Achilles and Patroclus, not Achilles and Briseis. Thrusts came like sword strokes. Muscles armored them against the unbridled passion of the other. Lust need not be restrained. These were males. Let the fire burn hot. Let the rut rule them.

Their sex became sorcery. The lyre player's tune grew frantic, even strange, replete with unknown harmonies. He gazed wonderingly at his lyre, then at the coupling men. The debauched melody absorbed into itself Patroclus and Achilles as if the pair were stray notes. As if the lyre player's tune was ecstasy oozing between the coupling men.

Like storm clouds the two warriors churned. Fists pounded flesh. Groin pounded buttock. Cock stabbed butt. One spit. Then the other. Bellows became roars became prayers. Eyes clenched. Throats growled. They breathed in the other's breath. They drank the other's sweat. They chewed skin. They begged. They howled. When they had exhausted this repertoire, they repeated. They were a knot that tied itself.

The lyre player's wrap was tented by his erection. If a glow appeared to radiate from him that must be a trick of air now hazy with incense and rich with the scent of men enthused with lust.

Cock thrust. Sweat trickled. Butt gaped. Achilles and Patroclus blended like light from neighboring campfires. Top and bottom, parts of a transcendent whole.

I would never give this up, thought Achilles. I would be like this with you forever.

I'm bound to you, thought Patroclus, by ropes stronger than fate itself.

Do you feel as if you are yourself? Do you feel as if a poet pronounces a rhyme, and you must obey?

I feel as if I am a song, sung by an unknown man, and all I can do is be one note following another, a foreordained pitch making a foreordained transition to another, a melody seeking that part of another's harmony, until my song ends, and in silence the eternal stars weep.

I'm a poem about the glory of Achilles. But I want to be a poem about the glory of Patroclus!

I'm a song which asks, "Why am I merely a song?" But this isn't right. I want to strum the notes myself. I want to make a song about the glory of Achilles!

I'm a fool. Glory? Fame? Where's the glory in the service of incompetent kings? I want to be in our service. Ot you, dearest being to ever walk this weeping world. To be your boy forever, bound to you with chains of sweat and semen! Escape. I want escape!

There is no escape, beloved, except this bliss we make and share. And if that is all I can have, I am the richest man ever to exist.

The great moment arrived. Together they shuddered. And if their combined howls could be heard from one end of the encampment to another, no one paid it the least mind. Such sound had been commonplace. Achilles was an aspect of Patroclus, and Patroclus was an aspect of Achilles.

Achilles, wracked by the ultimate pleasure, hot seed streaking his torso, prayed. Escape! Let any god who might hear me, heed my words! I want escape for me and my beloved!

Their minds communing, they offered their semen to that which they most loved. Achilles sacrificed his seed for the entire cosmos of men loving men. Patroclus, pouring enough semen into Achilles to fill a wine sack, offered his own essence to the muscled warrior, his own personal cosmos.

Orgasm was the only rebellion possible against inevitable doom.

A long moment as lover and beloved lay conjoined by flesh still thick with lust. A moment of slimy union, visceral and real, the most sublime moment of sex.

But where had the music gone?

The lyre player had laid his instrument aside. His radiance was now palpable. His skin resembled a stream of honey through which dawn glowed. He stood. His loincloth fell. His erection was substantial but no challenge to the two men. He crept through the smoky interior. He sat on the bed and gently caressed Patroclus' back. Patroclus' looked at the youth, lust rekindling in his eyes.

"Escape can be achieved," murmured the youth. "And even, if you seek far enough and pay the price demanded, liberty."

Achilles lowered his legs. He felt wet between his buttocks. Patroclus discharged like a stallion.

The youth continued. "Escape is always possible. I can release you."

"How?" grunted Achilles.

The youth groped between Patroclus' legs. The man's testicles sagged with the weight of unspent seed; war and death's immanence imbued men with the need to deluge the world with life. The youth tugged gently and Patroclus slipped free. The bed creaked as he moved aside. His organ lay in an arc against his thigh, gleaming and twitching.

Achilles felt as empty as a bay when the tide ebbs. He rose to his elbows. A warm, hazy smile sprawled over his face as the lyre player stood Achilles' cock upright. Gentle fingers weighed his testicles. The youth smiled, satisfied with their weight.

The lyre player murmured, "Both of you have the organs of a true warrior." He knelt between Achilles' thighs and anointed the shaft with his tongue. He moved from the weeping slit down the pulsing urethra, then upwards, drawing back the foreskin to worship the moist head. Smiling, eyes hazed as if he'd taken the poppy's narcotic, the youth gathered semen from Achilles' belly and with reverence coated the shaft.

"I'll find heaven in your gus, won't I?" grunted Achilles, eyes roaming the wanton youth's gleaming skin.

"And I wager," said the lyre player, "I'll see the father of gods and men, when I have you inside me." He squatted over the shaft. His eyes rose. Lids fluttering, he sank down, emitting a sigh of deepest contentment. Semen curled on his ring as he took Achilles' bludgeon to the root.

"Who are you?" whispered Patroclus, nuzzling the youth's ear and caressing the curve of his buttock. Where he touched the skin, the radiance within glowed brighter.

"I am the bond, and since escape is my opposite, I am that too," said the lyre player, riding slow and steady. He took in a great lungful of air, breathing in the mingled scent of semen, sweat, and oil that was Achilles.

Achilles struggled against the blazing urge to soak this youth's guts with seed. He was exquisitely tight inside, and he squeezed and teased in a way that made a man want to do nothing but empty his testicles, rest, and make love again.

The lyre player looked over his shoulder at Patroclus and at the great organ now rising like an Egyptian obelisk. "If you wish to escape, we must make a bond within me." A spasm of pleasure quivered through him.

"What do you mean?" asked Patroclus, his hand stimulating himself.

The lyre player leaned forward and kissed Achilles. The warrior's hands stroked the silken flanks. Golden warrior and supple youth were a tangle of kittens deeply engrossed in play.

Gasping, the lyre player said to Patroclus: "This will be simple for me but more acrobatic for you." He took Patroclus' rod. Using it as a tiller he guided Patroclus behind him. Patroclus' hands crept around and stroked the lyre player's nipples. The youth paused his task, aflame with fierce passion. Then he shook himself as if recalling a duty. He laid Patroclus' weapon alongside Achilles' shaft and pulled the bearded man to him.

"This is impossible," breathed Patroclus in the youth's ear, feeling the youth's back move against his chest, feeling buttocks against his organ, feeling beloved Achilles' already embedded and moving.

"Everything is permitted," murmured the lyre player. He eased back a bit so that his cleft encompassed the head. His straining ring nudged against Patroclus' sopping meat.

"Escape?" breathed Patroclus. His hand sought Achilles' and found it. Fingers intertwined.

"Escape. Now fuck me!"

Patroclus speared the luminous youth. Patroclus lodged himself in the tight channel. Achilles groand. The constriction was nothing like he'd ever enjoyed before. The lyre player squealed -- not a cry of pain but a hymn. His head lolled back against Patroclus, his back arched, his butt speared by the twin weapons of two bonded warriors. Light burst from him as if oil had been cast onto a bonfire. The youth seemed more like flame than flesh. Though he was very much warm, wet, succulent flesh.

Patroclus' eyes reflected the youth's radiance and Achilles understood his beloved saw the same radiance infusing his.

Through their cocks each felt the other's throbbing heart. They were chained by the bond of the lyre player's butt.

Patroclus slid his free arm round the youth. He thrust deep. His testicles came to rest against Achilles' sack.

The battle began. The warriors stabbed, their two swords dueling in a slender sheath. The lyre player moved, graceful and whorish, back and forth, up and down, grinding his hips in a lustful dance. The men grunted with pleasure, the youth praised unseen things, and the souls of three softened and -- molten gold and molten silver flowing into a crucible brimming with molten iron -- alloyed into transcendent ecstasy.

Achilles was, for the first time in his life, something that was not a warrior. He was an instrument of something higher, and the droning chant of the poem that guided his fate was drowned in the grunts and cries the trio emitted. He clung to the feeling of Patroclus' huge balls, sweat matting their fur, pulsating against his own. Their twin organs throbbed in oiled unison within that sweet tunnel. These moments of urgent thrusting, of striving towards the ultimate,gave far greater pleasure than the actual spilling of seed. If only the gods would allow him, Achilles would live in the act of rut forever.

Both warriors fought against their desire to vent semen. Their eyes pleaded with the other to prolong this trinity. Neither had ever faced such a difficult challenge. The youth moved as if he was the air where two thundering storms merged. Lightning lashed their hearts.

Their grunting and groaning sounded beyond their tent, causing knowing grins and lusting caresses to be exchanged through the encampment, causing a pair of semen-daubed Cretan dancers to be slung over shoulders and carried giggling into another warrior's tent. Countless erectons rose and countless men knelt, offering their butts in an act of worship to the throbbing lifegivers.

The illuminated youth, writhing, cried like an eagle. Fluid leaking from his cock rained upon Achilles' belly. Achilles stared at the young man's slim organ, trembling in front of his his face. A man's cock was a magical thing. His mouth watered.

Beloved. The word echoed to and fro between Achilles' and Patroclus' mind.

"The road up," the lyre player gasped, rising high so that the squirming cockheads almost escaped him, "is the road down.". He impaled himself on the shafts.

Like a bursting cloud the lyre player's cock erupted. Coruscating light blazed across Achilles. The youth caught the glowing wine and held it aloft. Luminescent threads swayed between his fingers. One of these he dangled over Achilles' lips.

Achilles' drank greedily. Suddenly his heart galloped faster than the horses of Helius and he surged towards the great abyss of orgasm. His lips drew back in a rictus --

Quick as a hummingbird, the youth fed Patroclus his share.

The storm burst.

A lightning bolt rent the veil between the worlds.

The warriors surrendered and became ecstasy's willing captives. Achilles roared so loud his orgasm must have been heard -- perhaps feared -- in distant Troy. Patroclus' own cataclysm shook the tent as if a gale had blown in from the Aegean. The two were a pride of lions asserting their sway over the territory. Twin torrents of semen united in the lyre player's guts.

Achilles didn't feel as if he simply crested a wave of delight. He felt as if he shot up the curving surface of some titanic, continent-devouring monster, the final wave that would sweep out of Oceanus and obliterate the weeping kingdoms of men. There was no end to the height and nno end to the semen he yielded to the lyre player. Multi-colored lightning stabbed, as if a rainbow had been broken into a thousand shards and cast into the face of the Sun.

Ever higher. Beyond the clouds. The Moon sank beneath him, and the Sun beckoned like a father welcoming his son home.

Patroclus?

I share this same glory!

Patroclus. Be wise!

Here is wisdom. What if orgasm is the natural state of some great being?What if orgasm is spirit, and it knows itself only by fucking the material cosmos?

Then ... it is as good to be flesh as it is to be spirit.

Infinity cocooned Achilles.

He saw an enormous pinwheel of fireflies turning slowly beneath him. Around him, embedded in the black, other luminescent whirlpools spun, marking with each turn the passing of eons.

Fear? Achilles did not fear. He was Achilles, son of Pelleus. With him, united cock to cock, was Patroclus. In this state, it was not possible to be afraid.

The plunge began. Achilles whirled amidst columns of spiraling vapor. He tumbled in howling vortices. They reversed him, his inside turned out, his outside turned in, as if a glassblower inhaled his molten product.

A fogbank parted.

Daylight. Birdsong.

The three stood in a wind-swept expanse of grass. They were separate, and it seemed separation was the most brutal torture ever devised. Above them, a sparse herd of crisp white clouds chased one another in a blue sky. At the side of the bright Sun stood the rind of the Moon.

Rind? thought Achilles. It should be full.

Where were they?

 

continued in part 2