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How The Stars Weep
by Megan Kruger
aged 15 from London
The moon was bright, and it made the sea-slicked deck glisten like a mirror reflecting the cosmos. His mother had been right when she told him that a Trojan sky on a clear night was a spectacle to behold. He felt that, if he squinted his eyes, he would be able to see the vivid colours of the galaxy beyond this world. But there was no time at all for that.
Edan was not here to sightsee; he was here to fight. On behalf of Menelaus and for the honour of all Greek men, he was determined to serve dutifully and bring victory to all of Greece. Yet the army was just a few hundred yards away from the shores of Troy, and he could practically feel the blood pumping at a brutal pace through his veins. He had never fought before.
Abruptly, the aged ship, staggering in its size, halted as it met the bay, and shouts were thrown up into the air. As though in a daze, Edan lowered himself from the boat amongst hundreds of other young men, easing his way down a rickety gangplank and onto the solid ground. Surrounding him immediately was a cloud of noise, muffling his ears and leaving him reeling. He allowed himself to be ushered towards the makeshift encampments being erected further up the beach, and nodded to his commander, stunned, as he was given his orders. Suddenly he wished he was back on his small, insignificant Greek island, wrapped in his mother’s arms in their corn field, looking up at their mediocre sky.
As Edan retired that evening, he dreaded the following day.
He awoke to the sound of war cries. The Trojans were pouring out from their city gates, hundreds upon hundreds of them, all adorned in gleaming armour. A burst of fear welled up in his throat and he had to suppress it, lest he should suffocate. Edan forced himself to leave the entryway of his tent and prepare for battle. He strapped on his chest plate and armed himself with a bow and arrow – he could not bring himself to fight face to face. He may be accused of cowardice, but he was afraid that his heart would not be able to stand the sight of another falling by his sword. At least from afar, he hoped he would not feel the pain he was anticipating so powerfully.
Edan followed the other archers to their pre-determined vantage point on a nearby hilltop, close to the battleground. Far below, the Greek army charged, and Edan swore he felt the sound reverberate in his skull. All these things about war he was sure he would never forget.
The archers began shooting, picking out targets in the crowd of Trojans. A few fell, but not nearly enough. Edan could see that the Greeks were vastly outnumbered. They were doomed before they began. As he hurried to nock his arrow and begin shooting, he felt an arrow whip past his ear and strike a tree in the forest behind him. The archers, too, were under attack. Before he could do so much as open his mouth to warn the commander, an arrow buried itself in his right thigh. His legs gave in, and he crashed to the ground, his chest heaving from shock. Within moments, he lost consciousness altogether.
Hours later, Edan came to, and the first thing he noticed was a desolate mood in the air. Vacant faces were scattered across the campsite, some of the younger soldiers with puffy faces and red eyes. It was apparent that they had suffered a painful defeat in the initial battle. That night was to be one of burial, mourning, and anguish.
The sun was setting slowly, tucking itself away behind the walls of Troy, and leaving the miserable army to see by the gloomy light of a dismal, darkening sky. Edan looked down at himself and inspected his wound. Cloth had been wound around his thigh to stop infection, and he could feel salve sealing itself over his skin as it dried- someone must have tended to him during the hours he was passed out. He felt lightheaded and utterly exhausted, the sensation made worse by the dull atmosphere, and the cold wind sweeping across the bay and seeping into his bones like ice water. He was pulled into sleep’s stifling embrace with agonising slowness.
Edan spent the next week or so resting, and allowing his injury to heal. Meanwhile, the Greek army was still fighting on fiercely. But with every day that passed, even more funeral pyres were lit. At least three ships full of soldiers had sailed to Troy since that first battle. The Trojans were stronger than King Agamemnon had expected, it seemed.
Guiltily, Edan thought of his comrades; while he lay on his infirmary bed recovering, there were others who fought on, and laid down their lives for Greece. So, when he was asked to fight again under the orders of King Odysseus, half way through the second week, he ignored the ghastly pain piercing his leg and the fright taking over his lungs, and agreed to go back into battle.
Apparently, a plan had been hatched. All Edan knew of it was that he found himself standing on the shore, with around fifty other soldiers, while they watched the huge naval ships sail back to Mycenae. The army was then ushered towards a great wooden structure standing at the Trojan gates. In the dim light of dusk, Edan couldn’t discern what it was exactly, just that it had four pillars protruding from the underside of the main body, and wheels. To his surprise, the men in front of him began climbing a ladder and entering into the belly of the craft. With tens of soldiers pushing impatiently forward from behind, he had no choice but to follow them.
Inside the structure, it was dark but for slithers of moonlight sliding in from slats in the wood. There was the smell of fresh sawdust and varnish potent in the air, stuffing his nose and making his eyes prick with tears. The men around him looked strong, with intense eyes and battle scars ragged across their arms. With a jolt of uncertainty, Edan wondered why he was here. Not only was he injured, but he was an archer, and a timid one at that. Edan had no idea what they were inside that wooden prison for, but he was convinced he wasn’t supposed to be there. There must have been a mistake.
He tried desperately to get the attention of the general, calling through the cavern and past the toughened warriors, but all he got in return were glares, and a glimpse at the back of the general’s helmeted head. A grunt sounded from beside him, and he turned to see a soldier looking at him.
He said, “Just relax, we’ll be there soon.”
With that, the stranger faced the shell of the room again, and fell quiet. Edan was bemused: he had no understanding of what the soldier meant.
Edan was jolted from his perturbed thoughts with movement. He could only speculate how long they had been in the structure for; the light slanting into the space was brighter, but that told him little of the time of day. A creaking of wheels was emanating from below, and the frame was trundling unsteadily forwards. Edan could hear feet moving, and shouts calling out. Inside the belly, all was hushed - the men who Edan remembered had been raucous back at the camp now had stony features, and the commander had a calloused finger pressed to his lips. It was the Trojans.
Anxiety choked him, and Edan started shaking. He was spiralling downwards, and fast. He was not ready to fight; he hadn’t practised properly. He wasn’t ready. Before he could begin crying out, he felt a hand on his shoulder. It was the same soldier from the night before. The man said nothing, but the act gave him a small comfort. Edan lowered his head into his own trembling hands, and tried to breath slowly and deeply. He wanted to see the stars again. Their constancy and presence made him feel safe.
Eventually, the wooden structure came to a precipitous stop, and the soldiers surrounding him began moving, heaving as one unit towards the trap door, leading to the ladder below. His anonymous companion stood to follow the others. Edan was the very last soldier left in the structure, cavernous now with the army out of it. His mouth was dry and leathery. He felt sick.
“What are you doing soldier? Get up and fight!” the commander bellowed at him.
Antipathetically, Edan marched to the trap door, and fell into line behind his comrades.
A cold arm of air stole the breath from his lungs as his feet hit the dirt beneath the craft. He caught a glimpse of it: an enormous horse, carved intricately and with astounding accuracy. The Greek army was inside the walls of Troy, at last. The soldiers around him darted outwards from the wooden horse, wielding their swords, and fighting the unsuspecting Trojan soldiers, who seemed to have hauled the horse into the city.
Jarring clangs of metal on metal rang in his ears, and Edan’s vision blurred. He remembered his older brother’s tales of battle, and how glorious it had all seemed when he was a young boy. Now, he instead felt only terror consume his heart, blood turning cold. He wasn’t ready for this.
His eyes focused on a figure moving towards him. The man’s face was taut and strained; tears stained his cheeks. For a fleeting moment, Edan wondered if this enemy soldier was the same as him; afraid of wounding others, afraid of becoming a murderer - afraid of death? The thought fled his mind as soon as it entered. He felt sharp steel pierce his heart. The man’s face was inches from his own. Their eyes locked, and Edan could see pain reflected back at him.
Edan fell to the ground, clutching at his chest. He didn’t even get the chance to raise his sword.
And as he lay there in the dust, with his life falling away from him, Edan held on to one last fading memory, of a play he attended with his family when he was a young boy; as the main character suffered from a fatal wound, the narrator read the words: “And as you lay with blood weeping out of your chest, the cosmos weeps for you.” Lying there beneath the clear, blue Trojan sky, he hoped that some star of this fated cosmos mourned for him, too.
Featured stories still to come.
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