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song of achilles chapter 8 random lines mostly in order

created Oct 23rd 2021, 18:12 by beyzaercan1



1893 words
5 completed
I ran. Away from the palace, down the path towards the woods, feet stinging as they slapped the heat-baked ground. As I ran, I promised myself that if I ever saw him again, I would keep my thoughts behind my eyes. I had learned, now, what it would cost me if I did not. The ache in my legs, the knifing heaves of my chest felt clean and good. I ran. Sweat slicked my skin, fell upon the earth beneath my feet. I grew dirty, then dirtier. Dust and broken bits of leaves clung to my legs. The world around me narrowed to the pounding of my feet and the next dusty yard of road. Finally, after an hour? Two? I could go no farther. I bent over in pain, the bright afternoon sun wavering to black, the rush of blood deafening in my ears. The path was heavily wooded now, on both sides, and Peleus' palace was a long way behind me. To my right loomed Othrys, with Pelion just beyond it. I stared at its peak and tried to guess how much farther. Ten thousand paces? Fifteen? I began to walk. Hours passed. My muscles grew wobbly and weak, my feet jumbled together. The sun was well across the zenith now, hanging low in the western sky. I had four, perhaps five, hours until dark, and the peak was as far as ever. Suddenly, I understood: I would not reach Pelion by nightfall. I had no food, nor water, nor hope of shelter. I had nothing but the sandals on my feet and the soaked tunic on my back. I would not catch up to Achilles, I was sure of that now. He had left the road and his horse long ago, was now moving up the slopes on foot. A good tracker would have observed the woods beside the road, could have seen where the bracken was bent or torn, where a boy had made a path. But I was not a good tracker, and the scrub by the road looked all the same to me. My ears buzzed dully--with cicadas, with the shrill calls of birds, with the rasp of my own breath. There was an ache in my stomach, like hunger or despair. And then there was something else. The barest sound, just at the limit of hearing. But I caught it, and my skin, even in the heat, went cold. I knew that sound. It was the sound of stealth, of a man attempting silence. It had been just the smallest misstep, the giving way of a single leaf, but it had been enough. I strained to listen, fear jumping in my throat. Where had it come from? My eyes tracked the woods on either side. I dared not move; any sound would echo loudly up the slopes. I had not thought of dangers as I ran, but now my mind tumbled with them: soldiers, sent by Peleus or Thetis herself, white hands cold as sand on my throat. Or bandits. I knew that they waited by roads, and I remembered stories of boys taken and kept until they died of misuse. My fingers pinched themselves white as I tried to still all breath, all movement, to give nothing away. My gaze caught on a thick clutch of blooming yarrow that could hide me. Now. Go. There was movement from the woods at my side, and I jerked my head towards it. Too late. Something--someone--struck me from behind, throwing me forward. I landed heavily, facedown on the ground, with the person already on top of me. I closed my eyes and waited for a knife. There was nothing. Nothing but silence and the knees that pinned my back. A moment passed, and it came to me that the knees were not so very heavy and were placed so that their pressure did not hurt. “Patroclus.” I did not move. The knees lifted, and hands reached down to turn me, gently, over. Achilles was looking down at me. “I hoped that you would come,” he said. My stomach rolled, awash with nerves and relief at once. I drank him in, the bright hair, the soft curve of his lips upwards. My joy was so sharp I did not dare to breathe. I do not know what I might have said then. I'm sorry, perhaps. Or perhaps something more. I opened my mouth. A deep voice spoke from behind us both. Achilles' head turned. From where I was, beneath him, I could see only the legs of the man's horse--chestnut, fetlocks dulled with dust. The voice again, measured and deliberate "I am assuming, Achilles Pelides, that this is why you have not yet joined me on the mountain?" My mind groped towards understanding. Achilles had not gone to Chiron. He had waited, here. For me. "Greetings, Master Chiron, and my apologies. Yes, it is why I have not come." "I see."  I wished that Achilles would get up. I felt foolish here, on the ground beneath him. And I was also afraid. The man's voice showed no anger, but it showed no kindness, either. It was clear and grave and dispassionate. Slowly, Achilles rose. I would have screamed then, if my throat had not closed over with fear. Instead I made a noise like a half-strangled yelp and scrambled backwards. The horse’s muscular legs ended in flesh, the equally muscular torso of a man. I stared--at that impossible suture of horse and human, where smooth skin became a gleaming brown coat. This is Patroclus. There was a silence, and I knew it was my turn to speak. My lord, I said. And bowed. I am not a lord, Patroclus Menoitiades. My head jerked up at the sound of my father's name. I am a centaur, and a teacher of men. My name is Chiron. I gulped and nodded. I did not dare to ask how he knew my name. His eyes surveyed me. You are overtired, I think. You need water and food, both. It is a long way to my home on Pelion, too long for you to walk. So we must make other arrangements. He turned then, and I tried not to gawk at the way his horse legs moved beneath him. You will ride on my back, the centaur said. I do not usually offer such things on first acquaintance. But exceptions must be made. He paused.  You have been taught to ride, I suppose? We nodded, quickly. That is unfortunate. Forget what you learned. I do not like to be squeezed by legs or tugged at. The one in front will hold on to my waist, the one behind will hold on to him. If you feel that you are going to fall, speak up. Achilles and I exchanged a look, quickly. He stepped forward. How should I--- ? I will kneel. His horse legs folded themselves into the dust. His back was broad and lightly sheened with sweat. Take my arm for balance,  the centaur instructed. Achilles did, swinging his leg over and settling himself. It was my turn. At least I would not be in front, so close to that place where skin gave way to chestnut coat. Chiron offered me his arm, and I took it. It was muscled and large, thickly covered with black hair that was nothing like the color of his horse half. I seated myself, my legs stretched across that wide back, almost to discomfort. Chiron said, I will stand now.  The motion was smooth, but still I grabbed for Achilles. Chiron was half as high again as a normal horse, and my feet dangled so far above the ground it made me dizzy. My fingers grew damp with sweat from clutching Achilles' chest. I dared not relax them, even for a moment. here was no path I could see, but we were rising swiftly upwards through the trees, carried along by Chiron's sure, unslowing steps. I winced every time a jounce caused my heels to kick into the centaur's sides. As we went, Chiron pointed things out to us, in that same steady voice. There is Mount Othrys. The cypress trees are thicker here, on the north side, you can see. This stream feeds the Apidanos River that runs through Phthia's lands. Achilles twisted back to look at me, grinning. We climbed higher still, and the centaur swished his great black tail, swatting flies for all of us. I jerked forward into Achilles'  
 back. We were in a small break in the woods, a grove of sorts, half encircled by a rocky outcrop. We were not quite at the peak, but we were close, and the sky was blue and glowing above us. In front of us was a cave. But to call it that is to demean it, for it was not made of dark stone, but pale rose quartz.  the centaur said. We followed him through the entrance, high enough so that he did not need to stoop. We blinked, for it was shadowy inside, though lighter than it should have been, because of the crystal walls. At one end was a small spring that seemed to drain away inside the rock. On the walls hung things I did not recognize: strange bronze implements. Above us on the cave's ceiling, lines and specks of dye shaped the constellations and the movements of the heavens. On carved shelves were dozens of small ceramic jars covered with slanted markings. Instruments hung in one corner, lyres and flutes, and next to them tools and cooking pots. There was a single human-sized bed, thick and padded with animal skins, made up for Achilles. I did not see where the centaur slept. Perhaps he did not. It was pleasantly cool inside, perfect after the sun, and I sank gratefully onto one of the cushions Chiron indicated. He went to the spring and filled cups, which he brought to us. The water was sweet and fresh. I drank as Chiron stood over me. He ladled out stew, thick with chunks of vegetables and meat, from a pot simmering over a small fire at the back of the cave. There were fruits, too, round red berries that he kept in a hollowed outcropping of rock. I ate quickly, surprised at how hungry I was. My eyes kept returning to Achilles, and I tingled with the giddy buoyancy of relief.  I have escaped. With my new boldness, I pointed to some of the bronze tools on the wall. I forget the barbarities of the low countries. His voice was neutral and calm, factual. Sometimes a limb must go. Those are for cutting, those for suturing. Often by removing some, we may save the rest.  He watched me staring at them, taking in the sharp, saw-toothed edges. You answer a different question than the one I asked. I stammered a little. Yes. I would like to learn. It seems useful, does it not? It is very useful. Chiron agreed. He turned to Achilles, who had been following the conversation. And you, Pelides? Do you also think medicine is useful? Please do not call me Pelides. Here I am--I am just Achilles. Very well. Do you see anything you wish to know of? Chiron guided us through the ridges near the cave. He showed us.

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