Sing, O Muse! Or at least hum a little.
They stood on the windy plain before the walled city: Odysseus, the shrewd captain; Agamemnon, tamer of horses, and Menelaos his brother, the wargod's friend; god-reared Aias Telamonias; and Ed. They looked upon the great doors of fitted planking, bolted tight to keep the town of Troy secure.
Ed sidled up to far-seeing Odysseus, his captain, and wiped the sweat from his brow. "What the Hades are we doing here anyway, chief?"
Cunning Odysseus took his gaze from stone-ringed Troy. "What do you mean? We are here to use reaping bronze to bring to earth big harvests. Do you cowardly look for a way to escape breath-taking death? The battle god's impartial, Ed, dealing death to the death-dealing man, and if it is our fate to fall before these walls clutching at dusty death, the gods will that I die in honor!"
"Yeah, but I mean -- she's just one girl, chief."
Odysseus, son of Laertes and the gods of old, blew air out of his nose in disgust and turned away.
Ed rolled his eyes and followed him.
It was ten years later. A decade-bedraggled older Ed squinted in the hot Trojan sunlight, down at the pair who had decided this patch of war-bared earth next to Ed's tent was the perfect place to take a dump.
"You guys ever think about digging a latrine? I mean, we've been here a long enough."
The soldiers just glanced dully at Ed and finished their business. At least, Ed reflected, one of them wiped his butt afterwards.
"Ed!" a brawny arm wrapped around Ed, and Odysseus, the raider of cities, reached around with his other hand to give him a vigorous noogie.
"Odysseus, glory of Akhaia! Good to see you again, chief."
Crafty Odysseus merely chuckled lewdly. Releasing Ed from the noogie, he chuckled again and nudged Ed in the ribs.
"Heh, Ed? Heh? Aias Telamonias, godlike and formidable, tells me he has found some comely women, untouched by savage war and the appetites of men. You want some? Heh?"
Ed dodged the next nudge. "Uh, well, maybe later, versatile Odysseus."
"Oh, you want boys, eh, Ed? Diomedes, lord of the warcry, tells me he has found --"
"No, no thanks, Odysseus, great in all men's eyes. But you know, I have been doing some thinking --"
"Eh?" The concept was alien to shrewd Odysseus.
"Yeah. About ending the war."
"Ah! I see!” Odysseus chuckled. Wait, Ed, though the wargod tug your arm. Heart-stinging anger carries you away; the Trojans are as yet too formidable for us to spill their guts like water in a full attack. As a stag flees the pursuing dogs, they--"
"Yeah, well, I was thinking more of a stratagem."
"You know, a plan."
Odysseus, master mariner and soldier, scratched his head. The horse thing?
Ed plowed ahead. "OK, so I know you don't like the wooden horse idea. But how's this. We can open negotiations with Paris over this whole thing. I mean, we've been fighting over one girl -- surely he's as interested in finding a way to avoid more bloodshed just as much as we'd all like to all go home. Can't we suggest giving him some tripods or oxen or whatever, in exchange for Helen's return? But the first step is to call a truce, and have him come out --"
"To fall into our trap?"
"No, to talk. To end this!"
"Hmmmm." The son of Laertes again scratched his head, but a gleam gradually brightened in his eye. "Ah, I see," he said. "I will suggest this to Agamemnon, ruler of the great plains, and to red-haired Menelaos."
"The plan of Odysseus, peer of Zeus in stratagems, is a wise one," said Lord Marshall Agamemnon. "And it grieves me that a sudden stomachache prevents him from being in our party this day. Tripods and softly-belted girls, a cloak with the skin of a gray wolf, a cap of weasel, a fine team of trim-hoofed horses, and plenty of sleek oxen. Also I give my cuirass, long ago a pledge of friendship from the Lord Kinyres, who heard of my fame at Kypros, with ten bands of dark enamel, twelve of gold, twenty of tin, and dark blue enamel serpents, three on either side, arched towards the neck, like rainbows that Lord Zeus will pose on cloud as presages to men -- these and more I give willingly to end the war, bringing honor to ourselves and fair recompense to the Trojans. Anger envenoms even the wise, and is sweeter than slow-dripping honey; it is time to put it aside, and enjoy the fruits of well-earned peace."
"Well said, O great son of Atreus," said Menelaos. "Let us no longer dirty our horsehair plumes with blood and dust. Justice is all we require, and Paris, an honorable man, a prince among men, cannot refuse our generous offer. See, even now he comes." Nestor, at his side, worn by the wrinkling years, nodded sagely and spat.
Ed craned his neck to see over Menelaos's shoulder. It was true. The gates of Troy had opened, and a small party of battle-jacketed Trojans, Paris at their head, trudged slowly and with dignity across the dusty ground, approaching the equally small group of Akhaians mailed in bronze.
A shout came from behind the Akhaians. "Paris! Braving spears and blood, towards kills and carnage, I come! Plunging death is coming at my hands!"
Odysseus, hero of battle guile and greed, swept past them in his chariot, racing towards the Trojans. Willingly the horses ran with foaming chests and dust coating their bellies, and as they came three tremendous shouts Odysseus gave, loud as a man's head could hold.
Paris and his escorts stood still for a moment, then began scurrying back towards the gates.
"Odysseus!" shouted Ed. "What the Hades are you doing?"
"Death is near and black, not at a distance, not to be evaded!" called Odysseus, the great tactician, as his jouncing chariot drew near the fleeing Trojans.
He leapt from his car onto the dust ahead of the Trojans. First he met Asios Hyrtakides, whose great roan horses brought him from Arisbe and the Seleeis river. Odysseus' bronze lancehead pierced his shield of bulls' hide and spilt his guts like water. Asios lengthened out like an earthworm as dark blood flowing stained the ground.
Next he hit Lord Antenor's powerful son, Arkhelokhos, in the liver under his midriff and unstrung his knees; that soldier, trained in every fighting skill, toppled, and his armor clanged upon him.
Agelaos, Phradmon's distinguished son, came at Odysseus next with menacing spear, for Athena of the sea-gray eyes, third born of heaven, urged him on, to see him conquered at bold Odysseus' hands. Odysseus thrust his spear. Straight through flimsy bronze and into the skull the spearhead crunched its way, demolishing the brain. Black night hooded him, and he rode never back to windy Ilion in proud triumph.
But now Paris and the other Trojans had regained the gates, and were soon safe in Troy, behind her rings of stone.
Odysseus, standing on the blood-wetted ground, bellowed his triumph.
"Well that's just great," fumed Ed.
Lord Marshall Agamemnon, Nestor, the Gerenian lord of horses, and great-lunged Menelaos stood speechless, their priceless gifts at their feet.
It was several days before Ed could bring himself to talk to Odysseus, that kingly man, without a sneer in his voice. Fortunately, Odysseus, unwearied master of guile and toil, was too involved in glorying in his kills to notice.
But finally the failed stratagem came up in conversation, as the two sat alone on the sand under the prow of one of Odysseus' black beaked ships.
"I'm just saying, if you have to break a truce, then break it when it can do you the most good," Ed was repeating. "You know, like jumping out from a wooden horse. Or at least wait until Paris is within reach of your spear, instead of going off half-cocked like--"
"Ah, Ed," said Odysseus, man of war with versatile wits, "Hot as I am for war, no mortal nourished on Demeter's meal, none vulnerable to bronze or stones, can make me lay down my spear like one who has never had the kidney to buckle on armor! The wargod called, and as a boar, baleful with pounding fury in his ribcage, I could not hold back."
"Well, that's just dandy then." Ed leaned back and folded his arms.
Cunning Odysseus put a companionable arm around Ed's shoulders. "Tell me now, O Ed, if you have any new stratagems in mind, by which we might topple the walls of this windy city, and return in glory to Hellas, where the dancing floors are wide. Not that horse thing, though. That idea was just plain stupid."
Ed shrugged off the embrace, and took a deep breath. "Yeah, well, I was thinking. It's kind of the flip side of what I -- we -- tried to do earlier. If we can't get Helen back, why not tempt Menelaos to choose another pretty noble girl to take her place?"
"Take the place of Helen, peerless among women in beauty, rival of Aphrodite, lover of smiling eyes?" Godlike Odysseus sounded unconvinced.
"Yeah, OK, so she's a looker. But, just between you and me, wouldn't you say she was a bit overrated? I mean, we saw her on the wall that day, and I have to say --"
"The rigors of her journey here, and the ill-usage--"
"Whyever. I'm just saying, if it wasn't for the honor of the thing, I suspect Menelaos would be happy to let her stay with Paris, and bed down with some other really hot lady."
Odysseus picked a bit of old gristle from his teeth. He examined it critically then put oit back in his mouth. "Hmmmm. Yes, I suspect you think right. Go then, Ed, and find a really hot lady for Menelaos."
The girl had to be a noble, or Menelaos would never accept her in Helen's place. As it happened, a perfect candidate was at hand in the camp.
To keep themselves busy while awaiting the fall of Troy, the Akhaians would make forays into the surrounding countryside, and burn a village now and then. Cassandra, King Priam's most beautiful daughter, had been taken in one such raid the week before by Peneleos, a good spearman, valorous, skilled in warfare, fathered by Lampex, best of men, a son of Laomedon.
Ed came to Peneleos' tent one afternoon. Peneleos bade him enter and offered him a cup of smooth gold, full of dusky wine. They drank, and Ed got right to the point.
"Hey, Peneleos, still got that Cassandra here?"
Peneleos scowled. "I do. Her father, King Priam, may be sage as a god in counsel, so they say, but he's slow to deliver the ransom for the princess."
"I guess he's got other princesses," Ed said. "And they say she was none too popular."
"I can believe that! She tells unwholesome lies till the sun sets in the west. I never heard such a one to talk. Still, I count it an honor to capture her. She'd been taken out from the walls one day during a truce, accompanied by an old guard and a lady.
I came upon them near the river. The guard faced me, but the gods planned his ruin. I drove my spearhead into the eye-socket underneath the brow, thrusting the eyeball out. The spearhead ran straight through the socket and the skull behind, and throwing out both hands he sat down backward.
"Then the lady flew at me biting, a woman shaped by heaven but full of Hades' darkness. I slashed her belly near the navel; all her bowels dropped out uncoiling to the ground. Then I, an only son with five sisters, peer of the murderous wargod if I do say so myself, took my prize, the daughter of a king."
"Yeah, you are a hero. Did you, ah..."
"You know. She's pretty, they say. And your captive. So, have you, you know.."
"Me? No, I'm a traditionalist, gay as they come. She is yet untouched by man."
Ed with blandishments and sleek oxen and dusky wine, tripods and gold cups, bought Cassandra from Peneleos, and she was summoned from the tent she stayed in.
Ed brought her before the great spearman Odysseus, his captain, who looked on her with favor.
"May I introduce you to Princess Cassandra," he said. "You said you wanted some high-born girl--"
"Yes!" said crafty Odysseus, smiling. "As the daughter of King Priam of Troy, with her beauty shall go a proud lineage of which Menelaos can boast. Go, Ed, and prepare suitable raiment for her."
Red-haired Menelaos, the wargod's friend, licked his lips.
"And she's rich, too, right?"
Ed tried to catch Odysseus' eye, but that man, loved by the immortals, seemed distracted. Cassandra stood on the beach before them, arms crossed and rolling her eyes.
Ed sidled up to her. "You seemed resigned to the whole thing," he said.
"Oh, please," she said. "You expected me to maybe beat the grassy earth with both of my hands as I pitch forward on my knees, with cries to the Lord of Undergloom and cold Persephone, while tears wet my veils? I don't see that happening."
Then her gaze flickered down to Ed, and her mood seemed to relent. "Listen, just so you'll know later, I won't hold any of this against you."
"Wife of Menelaos -- I mean, he may not be the guy you'd pick, and sure, he smells funny, but it's not like you royals ever get much leeway in these things anyway. You could do worse."
"That's not what I mean."
During this conversation, Menelaos had repeated his question, and Odysseus had finally roused himself. "Oh, yes, Menelaos, lord of the waters. She is indeed rich, and beloved by King Priam her father; her loss will be a bitter blow to the old man. And --" here Odysseus spoke more softly -- "it is said that Paris, flouting the laws of men and gods, thinks to put Helen aside, and take this woman his own sister in Helen's stead?"
Odysseus looked confused for a moment as he tried to recall the words Ed had given him, and his voice trailed off. His gaze was hungry on the young princess.
Menelaos laughed. "We have stolen his prize, and the cries from my bedding chamber will taunt Paris, that goatskin ponderous with wine!" He turned to Agamemnon, his brother, tamer of horses and ruler of the great plains, and nudged him in the ribs.
"Exactly," said Agamemnon. "And check out her ravishing pale ankles."
"Her best feature! Yes, I will take her in inconstant Helen's place, and bring peace to both ourselves and to Troy. Give the order to return to the black-tarred ships, for --"
As when a stallion, long in the stall and full-fed at his trough, snaps his halter and goes cantering off across a field to splash in a clear stream, rearing his head aloft triumphantly with mane tossed on his shoulders, glorying in his own splendor, and with driving knees speeds towards his desire, Odysseus, renowned among all Akhaians, lurched forward with an incomprehensible cry, throwing down his spear. He seized the girl in massive hands, strong as wind-buffeted oak, and drew her to the ground.
"Jesus Christ, Odysseus!" said Ed. Cassandra closed her eyes, resigned.
As shrewd Odysseus ravished her, Menelaos turned away, saying to Agamemnon, oaken-waisted as Ares, god of war, "Well, I guess she is no longer untouched by the, er, hand of man. Forget it."
Agamemnon sighed. "It's been a long time since Odysseus has seen Penelope. I keep telling him, find some nice boy, but he never listens."
"I just couldn't help myself, Ed. As when the lion, caged and tormented, breaks free at last from his captivity and leaps among the--"
"Oh, never mind." Ed knew better than to show anger against his captain. He put down the haunch of goat he'd been eating and wiped his greasy hands on his tunic. He wanted a paper towel.
"Have you another plan, Ed? Zeus gave me mastery in arms, and yet I cannot have all gifts at once." A bit of stringy meat dangled from Odysseus' beard as he talked. "Heaven gives one man skill in arms, another skill in dancing, and a third man skill at gittern harp and song; but the Lord Zeus who views the wide world has instilled clear thought in you. Tell me the best plan now, as you see it, for I know better than any what your gift is worth."
Ed sighed. "Well, I was thinking. We've got a lot of manpower, just sitting on their asses waiting for the next foray. Put them to work. Dig down into the earth --"
"Yes, dig down, down! And enlist the aid of our fallen comrades, now languishing in Hades, by Styx' corroding water. Yes! Go under earth's roof to the house of death! Akhilleus, of the Myrmidons, that lion-like son of Thetis, flower and pride of the Akhaians before Death took him; will the fertile earth detain him, as it does the strongest dead? With him freed from the dreadful house of death and fighting beside us again --"
"No, no, Odysseus, shrewd captain. My plan wasn't really to recruit the dead. I was thinking more of just tunneling under the walls, so our people could sneak in, open the gates, and allow everyone else to pour in and put an end to the city."
"Yes, well, that would work too."
The plan was put into effect. But of course Odysseus, renowned among gods and men, screwed it up. He directed the diggers to go deeper, in search of Hades, and neglected to shore the tunnel with enough beams of ash to support the weight of the earth above, and naturally it collapsed.
"I just thought, with Akhilleus with us again--"
"Yeah, yeah, Odysseus. I know. I know. I expected nothing less from you."
Odysseus shifted from foot to foot. "I bear some of the blame on my own shoulders. I will give you just compensation. Tell you what, Ed. We'll give your old wooden horse idea a try. What do you say? Knock yourself out."
"Ed? I was just thinking. Maybe it should be a large wooden lion. Or a fish. Or perhaps some kind of bird --" Odysseus' stubby finger poked at the figure drawn in the dust.
Ed rose from his crouch and threw up his hands. "Fine, fine, Odysseus, great in all men's eyes. Do whatever the Hades you want. I know you'll end up doing that anyway, no matter what I say."
"No, no, Ed!" Now it was the turn of Odysseus, raider of cities, to throw his hands up, in a warding gesture. "Forget I ever spoke, I beg you. I know that I have been partly to blame for the failure of your other plans, and I will interfere no longer. This I swear by Zeus, son of crooked-minded Kronos, and by Ares, crusted in blood, and by Poseidon, the blue-maned god of the sea, and most of all by Athena of the sea-grey eyes, hope of soldiers."
Ed, in spite of his better judgment, was impressed by the solemnity of his captain. He was determined not to show Odysseus how stirred he was, however.
"Better to swear by Hephaistos Gamelegs, the bandy-legged wondrous artisan, considering the engineering feat I'm suggesting," he said.
"Or by Artemis, the mistress of baying packs, her hair tied back, considering the hunting we'll be doing," said Odysseus. "Or even by Sleep, brother of death, sovereign of gods and all mankind, since we'll be working at night, while the Trojans lay and take the gift of the night in rest. Or by --"
"I said, 'by Hephaistos,'" said Ed darkly.
"Right, right, Hephaistos it is," quickly agreed Odysseus, peer of gods. "Go right to work, Ed. Just tell me whatever it is you require."
Odysseus, the shrewd captain, was good as his word, and the only hindrance he gave Ed during the construction of the massive hollow equine was his constant hovering about and his anxious questions.
Then one morning the rosy fingers of Dawn brushed the sky, and there before the gates of Troy stood the enormous horse. Speeches of relinquishment and esteem were made, and the deepsea ships of the Akhaians set out over the wine-dark waters. Minus the hundred hand-picked warriors who were tightly packed in the belly of the horse, numb elbows jammed into sweaty necks.
There was a long silence after the speeches, and then the soldiers in the horse heard voices below, and later the horse lurched on its wheels as it was pulled through the gate. Then there were more speeches, self-congratulatory this time, and sounds of music and wild debauchery as the Trojans celebrated.
The men inside waited quietly through the long morning, the long day, the long evening. Some breathed shallowly, sure that the Trojans would rip open the horse's belly in a bloody abortion. The seasoned soldiers took the gift of sleep. Others passed out from the heat and stale air, and two were smothered by their comrades when they became claustrophobic and threatened to begin screaming.
Ed was there. Nearest the door, at the place of honor that Odysseus had awarded him. He would be first out, first to join the Trojans in battle. How nice for him.
It was hot, and there was no room to stretch. Ed sweated, and tried to relax, and sometimes managed to worm his leather winesack up to his mouth. He thought about ice cubes and cold Cokes.
The night came down and shrouded the great horse. Inside, without the slivers of light that had leaked through the chinks between the planks, it was dark as Hades. It was quiet outside.
"Now?" asked the sweaty Akhaian -- a man of Phthia -- whose knee had been jammed into Ed's buttock all the time they'd been in the horse. Ed could understand that -- it was a tight fit in there. But he didn't appreciate how the man's hand so often found its way down there as well.
"Wait a bit longer," said Ed. "Let's make sure they're good and soused." Ed had no wish for a glorious battle. Let them escape the horse, and open the gates for the rest of the Akhaians, whose fleet should have crept over the salt immortal sea back to shore by now -- then he could stretch out in the shelter of the curved, high prow of the ship he'd come on, and just wait for the spoils of war to come to him.
Then, from outside, they heard a new sound.
The voice of a drunken man, from far away.
"Ed! Ed! Come on, open the doors already!"
Odysseus! "Shut the hell up, you imbecile!" Ed muttered. Maybe Odysseus would go away. Maybe he would shut up.
No such luck.
The men in the horse heard a pounding on the gates. "Come on, Ed! Open up! It's already dark! Come out already! Time for our wooden horse to shit out its secretly hidden soldiers!"
There was another voice, low and indistinct, then the voice of Odysseus, man of war with versatile wits, again. "Oh, leave me alone, Diomedes, lord of the cry war -- I mean warcry! I wanna fight." There was more pounding on the gates, and now the Trojan guards were rousing one another with queries and shouts.
The sweaty Phthian's hand returned to Ed's butt.
The men in the horse could now hear guards directly under them, and they caught mutterings of Greeks bearing gifts.
"Is that smoke I smell?" asked the Phthian.
"Shit!" Ed said.
Smoke sifted through the cracks in the planks, and the horse suddenly lurched a little to the left rear.
"Shit! Shit! Shit! Well, I guess we're going now!" Ed said.
There was a coil of rope tied to a pin in the wall in front of him. He grabbed it, and then reached down to unlatch the trapdoor under his feet.
"Let's go, then. Shit! Once down, we'll head straight for the gates, and see if we can get them open. Shit!"
Ed swung the door open and dangled his feet in the air for a second. His legs cramped and knotted as he stretched them, but down below he saw the guards and the flames flickering around the wooden horse's feet. With another "Shit!" he swung himself down.
He let himself down, hand over hand, until his feet touched the dust. At once his cramped legs gave way, and he sat heavily in the dirt. Then the Phthian and three other men dropped down from the rope above him, and as the Trojans rushed towards them they drew their swords.
More dropped down, and Ed found himself at the center of a tense mass of soldiery. He tried to stand, and clutching the shoulder of a beefy Boiotian he managed to stay upright.
Then the Trojans were upon them.
The sweaty Phthian grinned at Ed, then turned to the Trojans. "Die, Trojan dogs! Your death is upon you!" he bellowed, striving to shroud some Trojan in hell's night or else himself to fall.
The Trojans came at the group, spears raised. A spearhead broke the Phthian's cuirass at the joint and pierced his abdomen. Fallen in the dust, he clutched the earth with hand outspread.
"Shit!" said Ed.
"You may concede the game and give your souls to the lord of nightmare, Death," called the Phthian-killing Trojan to the Akhaians. "A thousand shapes of death surround you, and none of you shall leave the city you have come to plunder!" Then he called to his companions. "Have done with clammy dread, and rise to the battle before us! They are few, and alone, abandoned by their captains; and we are half-drunk and foolhardy."
The Trojans, aflash with brazen gear, came on them with long-drawn battlecries, like pitiless lions on cattle.
"Oh, this is just great," said Ed. He could see no way to get to the gates.
The Akhaians -- Boiotians, Ionians in long khitons, men of Lokris, men of Phthia, illustrious Ipeioi -- held hard that night, locked solid, man to man, like a sheer cliff of granite near the sea, abiding gale winds on their shrieking ways and surf that climbs the shingle with a roar; so the warriors gave battle to the aroused horse-breaking Trojans, while the horse burned bright above them.
"I never wanted to come to Troy," Ed panted to the nameless man to his right. He cowered, on his knees, his shield held shakily above his head. "I would have been happier at home, you know?" The man fell to the earth, a spear in his neck.
"I was never a soldier," Ed continued, now to the man on his left. "I never even wanted to be a cowboy, anything like that. I thought I had a nice life doing interior design, nice and quiet, you know?" The man he was speaking to suddenly knelt next to Ed, clutching his bowels as they uncoiled out of his gut.
"And then the hum, that flash of light, and here I am --" Ed's eyes were tightly closed, and wasn't speaking to anyone in particular, the din of battle, the cries of dying men, all about him -- "in goddamn ancient Greece! And then drafted!"
A man fell heavily across Ed as he crouched, spattering him with blood. Ed lay in the dust, the body across his waist.
"I never played with toy guns --" Another man toppled onto Ed from behind, and Ed lay still. A third man fell, draping a thigh across Ed's face. He could see nothing after that, but Ed heard the sounds of battle slowly die away as Zeus, master of cloud, willed the Trojans the upper hand.
Maybe they wouldn't notice him.
Maybe he could crawl out from under the bodies later, and open the gates. In fact, he had to do so -- the wooden horse trick was supposed to be the one that worked, right? Someone had to survive, to let the Greeks in. According to history, Troy had fallen.
Yeah, he would be all right. Just lie still, breathe shallow breaths, and wait.
Then a Trojan yanked on his right arm and pulled him out from under the bodies. Ed's eyes flicked involuntarily open.
"This one's still alive," the soldier said. He placed the tip of his short sword on Ed's breast and began pushing down. Ed grabbed the blade with both blood-slick hands.
"Let strong fire hide and consume the corpse, returned to us from Ilion," intoned Odysseus, glory of Akhaia. "Ed fought bravely even as Death's cloud enveloped him. Even as warm life ebbed from his bones, white-faced terror could not hold him. A brave man."
The fire lit the faces of the heroes -- sweaty, lined, and tired after ten years of war.
Agamemnon looked around. "Well, another failure, and we're no closer to victory. Anyone have any new ideas?"
"No," said brave Odysseus, "my Ed was the only one who did. When he wasn't telling his crazy stories of self-propelled chariots and metal birds, he had some good ideas. Of course none of them worked."
Everyone stared into the fire, watching Ed's bones crackle.
"Well," Agamemnon finally said, "What do you guys say we just go home?"
They all looked at Menelaos.
"What do you say, Menelaos?" Diomedes asked. "I mean, it's your wife we've been fighting for."
Menelaos kicked an ember back into the fire. "Hades," he said. "I'm sick of this whole thing, too. I'll get a likely-looking slave girl, tell everyone back home that it's Helen, that captivity changed her. No one disagrees with a king."
"Yet, losing a war.." said Agamemnon. "That's just so, I don't know. Dishonorable."
"We can tell everyone we won," said Odysseus. "Who's going to come all the way out here to check?"
Everyone smiled. "Crafty, Odysseus, very crafty," said Agamemnon. "Yeah, all right. Let's say Ed's wooden horse idea actually worked."
"Can we say it was my idea?"
"Sure, Odysseus. We'll do that."
Versatile Odysseus -- raider of cities, hero of battle guile and greed, peer of Zeus in stratagems, master mariner and soldier; yes, that kingly man, the great tactician, shining bright as the blinding Lord of Noon -- was now without his companion. He sighed. He would miss him.
And on his way home, he got thoroughly lost.
But that's another story.
x x x
Botched up the offer for this one not once, not twice, but three—count ‘em, three—times. Fortunately, Mr. McDaniel was patient with my fumbling impersonation of an editor. Fortunately for readers of this editor’s extra, that is. Tell me how lucky you feel on our BBS. -GM