Many nights passed, and many of those nights were spent by Erestor within the lesser temple of Apollo. The main temple in Thymbra was inaccessible with war on the doorstep of Troy, and thus the priests and priestesses took their prayers to the smaller temple within Troy, hoping that Apollo or even his sister Artemis might hear their pleas.
It was under the guise of scribe and priest that Erestor had come into the city; he practiced these self-taught occupations in moderation to keep up appearances. Scribe was not far from the truth; his purpose – their purpose – for staying was to continue to document history until such time that the sea finally called them home. As of present, no gulls had informed them of anything, and so the journey he and Glorfindel had begun when Elrond had departed continued.
In the nearly empty temple, the sound of bare feet upon polished stone and the shift of fabric against the floor alerted Erestor but did not alarm him. Thus far, none had made it within the walls of Troy, save Trojans and those counted as friends. He could guess the identity of the visitor, but waited until they spoke to find out that his assumption was correct.
“I hope he answers your prayers,” whispered the voice of Cassandra. “Mine fall upon deaf ears.”
Erestor stood a little longer with his hands extended and palms open, though it was not from Apollo that he asked for guidance, speaking the words in his own language. After he finished he stepped back from the altar, upon which a carven statue of Apollo stood. The god was a model of perfection, unabashedly depicted in the nude, with one hand reaching towards his beloved sun. “Tell me what you pray for, and I shall ask for it.”
“I pray for my brothers, and they continue to fall. My nights are filled with the horrors of their deaths; Troilus had been the worst, and I thought Achilles a monster then. Now Hektor... his death is still fresh upon my mind as if it were yesterday,” admitted Cassandra. “I thought Achilles could be no more brutal than he had with Troilus – to kill upon the stairs of the temple of Apollo! To behead and disembowel an unarmed youth...” She turned away. “I fear now for Paris. He has taken Hektor’s place now, though his skills lack.”
“Glorfinnius could help refine his skills.” Why Erestor was offering such a thing now, when he had wanted them to keep from offering direct aid could only be explained by the tears he had seen roll down Cassandra’s face before she looked away from him. A weeping woman is oft no match for even the strongest man, be he Man or Elf. “He is a patient teacher and you have seen his bow work.”
“Even so, I am afraid that our city is doomed to fall,” said Cassandra. “Paris returned; Troilus is dead. Now Hektor is dead. The end is coming for us all.”
The way in which she spoke chilled Erestor. On the surface, he wanted to tell her she was being ridiculous. It sounded melodramatic. In fact, it did sound ridiculous – they were within a well-made fortress, and unless a way in was found, the Trojans would be safe. Something, however, nagged him. Some little bit of his mind felt how sincere she was, and how much she believed the words she had said.
Before he could offer comfort or advice, Erestor’s ears picked up on the faint sounds of panicked screaming. He and the soothsayer exchanged a brief look, and then ran from the temple only to meet Andromache as she ran up the stairs with her infant in her arms. “Achilles! Achilles has climbed the walls! The gods have forsaken us! We are doomed!”
While Cassandra took to the task of calming her sister-in-law, Erestor began to track the sounds of the horrified citizens of Troy. Though Achilles had been seen to have done more than most mortal men – and why not? thought Erestor as he ran, knowing the truth of the matter – that he managed to find a gap in the defenses was alarming for what might come. Everyone believed with Troilus dead that the city would fall, but the wall had always kept them safe.
“Maybe he flew over.” Erestor glanced to his left and found that Glorfindel had also heard the screams, and they now ran together as they approached the end of the bloody path Achilles cut through the city. “Split up?” Glorfindel had his sword drawn, and Erestor pulled the bow and quiver from Glorfindel’s back.
“It should never have come to us,” muttered Erestor as he hastily strapped the quiver over his robes. “We should have stayed in Kemet. Fishing in the Nile... farming in the marshes... all the pet cats anyone could ever want. No one ever bothered us there.”
“I had to dye my hair black the entire time,” Glorfindel reminded him. “That was bother enough. Are you ready?”
Erestor nodded, and they parted ways around a granary, each of them armed in preparation to fight the hero of the Achaeans.
It was to the left that Glorfindel went. It was the shortest route, and it gave him the advantage of being behind the warrior. It also made him more vulnerable; with Erestor having taken his bow, he was reduced to fighting at close-range. His mithril blade shined silver in the moonlight; though orcs would make it glow blue, it had not done so for some time – not since their visit to the Graeae, which had proved to be useless (and is a tale for another time).
Glorfindel did not step from the shadows; not at first. He meant to surprise Achilles, and with sword raised and unshielded for dexterity, he stepped just to where he should have seen him. The streets were lit by oil lamps, casting an eerie gleam upon the blood that had been spilt that pooled on stone walkways and seeped into the dirt along the roadside. It was a rampage – a complete massacre, and Glorfindel was determined to stop Achilles before any others were victimized.
He stepped forward, thinking that Achilles had perhaps entered one of the houses or was hiding between them. As soon as he was revealed, he realized the mistake he had made in the heat of the moment. He heard the breathing before he saw him, and attempted to move back. Achilles, if he was scaling walls around cities, was no stranger to climbing the side of a small building.
The Achaean made the attempt to leap down upon the Elf from the side of the granary, and caught enough of Glorfindel to bring him down onto the ground. It gave Achilles the advantage for only a moment, and by the time he had readjusted his blade to strike a blow, Glorfindel had rolled over, and put his legs together to kick Achilles down, thrusting his feet at Achilles chest.
Both warriors took a moment to recover and get to their feet. They circled and began that dance of destruction that has gone on for centuries. A jab there, a slice there, sizing one another up, waiting for the other to take the initiative. For several minutes, they crossed blades sparingly, distanced from each other, saying nothing. Finally, Glorfindel spoke. “Your campaign ends tonight, Númenórean. Too many have suffered your wrath, and your actions are not fitting a son of Elessar.”
“You speak strangely to me,” answered Achilles. “Yet I know one thing – your sword is drawn against me, and mine to you. Do you fight for Troy?”
“I fight for the side that is just,” Glorfindel replied.
“Then you are on the wrong side of that wall.” Achilles lunged, and the fight began. Each played to their strengths. As Achilles was used to short battles with sudden, unexpected movements, he used this tactic again. Glorfindel, however, fought with fluidity and grace, the sword merely an extension of his own arm. They battled on, metal hitting metal, the bronze sword of Achilles clanging angrily, while the mithril blade in Glorfindel’s hands sang out each note just as the Elf had predicted.
Evenly matched, neither could manage a successful strike to the other, and as the sun was driven into the sky by Apollo to chase his sister’s watch away, a crowd had gathered about them to form an arena. It was comprised mostly of soldiers, awed by the constitution of both warriors to continue, and by the beauty of the fight happening before them.
Erestor was not in this crowd. He had climbed to the top of the granary when the fight began, and stood there now with arrow drawn. He had kept steady in that position for the majority of the fight, ready to strike Achilles should he overpower Glorfindel.
He, too, had company. Cassandra had discovered him there, and brought her father and brother to the safety of the storage facility for them to watch the battle. “When you have a clean shot, kill him,” Priam had demanded more than once, but Erestor ignored those around him, concentrating solely on the battle below.
It was the dawning of the day that gave Glorfindel a sudden advantage. The bright sphere he believed to now be heralded across the sky by Arien announced its presence with a shock of light that caused Achilles to squint, and in that second Glorfindel used his might to knock the bronze sword from his hands.
They were down upon the ground, in the dust and the drying blood from the waning night. Glorfindel had Achilles pinned; the slim silver sword was pressed against Achilles’ throat, so that the neatly etched tengwar on the blade left an imprint upon his neck. “You are of the House of Elessar, of the people of Elros, Tar-Minyatar,” he said in a low voice. He wanted to slide the blade across the throat of the monster before him, wanted to pierce the blade through Achilles’ heart. But he knew somewhere that Erestor was watching, and long ago they had made a promise to watch over those who claimed descent from Aragorn and Arwen, for however long they lived in Middle-earth, no matter what became of the lands they once knew.
Sometimes, it was very difficult. Sometimes, it felt that ending the line was a much better proposition. Still, he had promised Erestor that they would always give each one a chance. “This is not your war. Surrender yourself; come with us and be at peace.”
“I never wanted this to be my war, but it is now. I am Achilles, and I do not surrender.”
At the top of the granary, Erestor had lowered his weapon, much to the annoyance of King Priam. “You have a chance! Kill him now!”
“He is not resisting; they are talking. I will not kill a man who is in negotiation.”
“Then you are a traitor.”
Erestor looked for a moment to Priam, trying to think of words to say that would appease the king. As he did so, he missed the movements of Paris, who came up around the other side of him and grabbed for the bow. “The gods will not take kindly to the killing of a man who is unarmed!” scolded Erestor as he attempted to wrestle hold back on the bow.
Priam, by no means a frail king, grabbed hold of Erestor’s arms, giving Paris the advantage of taking the bow. “This king does not take kindly to a man who has killed his sons.” Priam managed to hold Erestor back long enough for Paris to fire a single arrow down at Achilles.
On the ground, Glorfindel was still attempting to reason with the Achaean, despite his personal view of the situation. As he was talking, he heard the familiar whistle of one of his own arrows. He saw it; he attempted to shuffle both himself and Achilles away from it, and nearly succeeded. Achilles hissed in pain as the arrow pierced his ankle, tearing his heel open, and Glorfindel sprang into action, no longer as a fighter, but as a healer.
“Stay still. The more you move, the more blood you will lose.” Glorfindel looked around warily; had Erestor been the one to shoot, he would not have been so slow and would not have missed.
The blood poured out and splashed up from the ground like a vessel being emptied too quickly despite Glorfindel’s efforts to wrap the wound with fabric from his cape. Before he could do more to tend to the warrior, he was pulled back and restrained by a trio of Trojan soldiers.
“King Priam demands an explanation,” was all one of them would say as Glorfindel was taken from the place of Achilles’ death.