CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

"No!” Kat gasped. What the hell was he thinking? He wasn’t supposed to fight without Achilles.

“He got tired of waiting.”

“And so he put on Achilles’ armor and pretended to be him?”

“It was more than that. Patroklos was Achilles. He looked like him—moved like him—fought like him. He sounded like him. Even after he was cut down, I believed he was Achilles.”

Kat’s body felt numb and tingly at the same time. “And Patroklos managed it all on his own? They’re cousins, but they don’t look that much alike. We’ve been goddess-dupped.”

“Athena lied to me.”

The depth of betrayal in his voice shocked Kat. “My guess is that there was more than one goddess in on this scheme.” And then another, more terrible thought slammed into her. “Odysseus, who cut down Patroklos?”

She knew the answer before he spoke it.

“It was your brother, Hector.”

Kat’s knees went to water and she sat straight down on the dune. “Oh, god.”

“Hector is still alive, Princess,” Odysseus said kindly.

“How could this have happened…” she said, putting her face in her hands.

“Ajax. It was as if he was possessed. He bellowed a challenge to Hector saying that Achilles had finally come for him, and then he cleared a path between the two warriors. Hector killed him just before he and Patroklos began to battle.”

“This doesn’t make any sense. Achilles wasn’t going to fight Hector—he wasn’t going to fight anyone.”

“He’s going to fight Hector now,” Odysseus said grimly.

“What?”

“If Patroklos dies, Achilles will exact vengeance for his death.”

Kat stared at Odysseus, almost uncomprehending, and then a terrible shiver skittered through her body. “Patroklos can’t die. Find the reed and get it back to Jacky.”

“Jacky?”

Kat shook her head, as if trying to clear it. “Melia—I meant Melia. Get the reed to her.” She stood up, forcing her legs to work. “I’m going to find Achilles.”

Odysseus touched her arm. “Be careful, Princess. Achilles is not the berserker, and the berserker is not human. He will kill you—never doubt that fact.”

Kat nodded tightly and started to turn away, but his words stopped her.

“I know you and Melia are not what you seem, but unless you are immortal do not think you can defeat the berserker.”

She met his gaze for another moment before sprinting off. Her mind was totally focused on one thing—Achilles. She knew where he was. The weird way he’d slept through Jacky’s wake-up call made sense now.

Kat burst through the tent flap. The inside was cool and dimly lit—and Achilles hadn’t moved since she’d left with Jacky. She hesitated, looking down at his sleeping face. He was so peaceful, utterly relaxed and sprawled across the bed. His golden hair had fallen over part of his face, obscuring his scars and making him look so young that for a second she couldn’t breathe. She knew everything would change after she woke him, and she didn’t want to shatter things—she didn’t want to shatter him. Kat smoothed the hair away from his face and he didn’t stir. She kissed his cheek and his lips tilted briefly up. Then she shook his shoulder.

“Achilles, you have to wake up.”

She had to shake him hard before he rolled over groggily and blinked up at her.

He smiled. “Katrina, I was dreaming of you.”

The sweet look on his face made her stomach hurt. She braced herself and kept her voice calm and steady. “You have to come with me. There’s been an accident and Patroklos has been hurt.”

She watched him shake off the last of whatever had kept him asleep all morning.

“How bad is it?” he asked as he pulled on his clothes and started for the door.

“Achilles.” She caught his arm and he paused to look down at her. “It’s bad. You need to ready yourself. Patroklos is going to need you, and not the berserker. There is no battle here to fight,” she said slowly and distinctly.

“Yes, yes, I understand,” he said a little impatiently. “Where is he?”

“In his tent. Remember,” she added in a low voice as she hurried outside with him, “Jacky is a nurse—a very talented healer. So it’s going to look bad, but…”

Her voice faltered and she was unable to speak the lie. She couldn’t tell Achilles that Jacky could save Patroklos. Then she realized that she needn’t have been worried about what she said or didn’t say to him. Achilles hadn’t heard her. He was striding to Patroklos’s tent and she had to jog to keep up with him. When he saw the blood-spattered Myrmidons standing in full armor around the tent, silent and grim faced, Kat felt the shock that went through his body as if it were her own. He paused before he ducked inside the tent, bowing his head and taking several long, deep breaths. She touched his arm and his gaze met hers.

“No battle here to fight,” he said softly.

“No battle here to fight,” she repeated, as if the words held power.

They entered the tent. Achilles took two steps toward the bed and then the wet, awful sound of breath gurgling through blood hit both of them and he stopped as if he’d walked into an invisible wall.

Jacky glanced up. Her eyes went quickly from Achilles to Kat. “Did you bring it?”

“Odysseus is getting a reed,” Kat assured her. “He should be here any second.”

“I need it yesterday,” Jacky said.

“It’s a sword wound. He—they’ve been in battle,” Achilles said as he lurched forward to the side of the bed, inadvertently kicking a section of the discarded bloody armor. He glanced down. Kat saw the question cross his face, and then his eyes widened in recognition. “He was wearing my armor.”

To Kat Achilles’ voice sounded dead, but it somehow reached Patroklos. He opened his eyes and his gaze went immediately to Achilles.

“By the gods, what have you done?” Achilles said, reaching for his cousin’s hand.

Patroklos couldn’t speak. All he could do was struggle to breathe. His bloody lips formed the words Forgive me, and then his eyes rolled to show their whites before they fluttered closed.

“He wore my armor and led them into battle,” Achilles said in his dead voice as he watched the unconscious Patroklos try to breathe.

“We thought he was you, my lord,” Diomedes said from a shadowy corner of the tent.

Kat saw his eyes flash up at the warrior, and Diomedes moved his shoulders restlessly. “Everyone thought he was you. Even Hector thought he was battling you until he knocked off his helmet. Then he stopped and—”

“Hector!”

Kat had never heard anything like the coldness in Achilles’ voice. It chilled her through to her soul.

“Yes, my lord. It was Hector,” Diomedes said.

“So Hector has killed him,” Achilles said in the same, emotionless tone.

“Not yet he hasn’t,” Jacky snapped. “Don’t say that kind of crap. He might be able to hear you.” She didn’t spare a glance for Achilles, but looked at Kat instead. “I need the reed. Now. If Odysseus has it you have to go get him.”

Kat nodded and started back toward the tent flap, almost as reluctant to leave Achilles as she was freaked out by what would happen if she didn’t get Odysseus and the reed.

“Go. Find him,” said Achilles’ strange, cold voice. “Get what she needs.”



Kat had just turned when Odysseus entered the tent. Breathing hard he rushed to Jacky and handed her several long, hollow reeds of slightly differing, strawlike sizes.

“Will these do?”

“They’ll have to,” Jacky said.

And Patroklos stopped breathing.

“Patroklos! Cousin!” Achilles shouted, and began shaking his shoulder, much as Kat had done to awaken him moments before.

“Enough!” Jacky commanded. “Odysseus, get Achilles out of here.”

“I will not—” Achilles began to roar.

Kat moved to his side and touched his arm. “You’re not helping him like this.”

Achilles looked wildly down at her.

Kat kept her voice calm. “There is no battle here, Achilles.” She glanced quickly at Odysseus. “Take him out of here.”

Odysseus nodded, approaching Achilles carefully. “My friend, you must—”

“I need this room cleared, now!” Jacky’s no-nonsense voice broke in. “Everyone out except the princess.”

Kat saw that Achilles was set to argue, and she stepped between him and the bed. “There’s no time for this, and no way we’d be able to deal with the berserker in here. If there’s a chance of her saving him, you need to get out of here and keep yourself under control.”

Kat held her breath as she watched Achilles’ jaw tighten and his turquoise eyes darken in anger, but he gave a stiff nod and, followed by Odysseus and Diomedes, left the tent.

Kat turned back to the bed in time to catch a wad of clean linens Jacky had tossed at her.

“Climb up on the bed beside him. Try to keep the blood wiped up and out of my way,” Jacky said as she hastily inspected the reeds Odysseus had given her. Choosing one, she bent over Patroklos, a small sharp knife closing on his throat.

Kat clenched her teeth against rush after rush of nausea while she assisted Jacky in the tracheotomy. It seemed to take days, but logic told Kat that only minutes had passed when Patroklos’s chest began to rise and fall gently again. Kat drew a deep, relieved breath—then she looked at Jacky who was still pale and grim lipped.

“He’s breathing now. Isn’t he going to be okay?”

“It’s temporary. His neck’s sustained a lot of damage. This is a Band-Aid on a dam. It’s not going to last.”

“What do we have to do?”

“Get him to a hospital. With real doctors, and real medicine, and real surgery.” Jacky wiped her wet brow with her sleeve. Kat noticed her hands were shaking. “He’s gonna die, Kat. There’s nothin’ I can do to stop it. Not here—not now.” She pressed the back of her hand against her mouth to try to stifle a sob.

“No. No, hell, no. He is not going to die, not because of some meddling, goddess-be-damned scheme.” Kat opened the heart locket that dangled from the chain around her neck and shouted into it, “Venus! It’s an emergency. I need you now!” Kat held her breath, praying silently, Please, oh please show up.

In the center of the room a cloud of diamond dust exploded, and Venus stepped from the fading glitter. “Darling, what is it? I was sure Thetis said there wouldn’t be any more nasty sea surprises.” The goddess’s gaze traveled up and down Kat’s decidedly uninjured form. “But you look perfectly healthy. Katrina, you know I adore you, but you really shouldn’t waste—”

“It’s not me. It’s Patroklos,” Kat interrupted, pointing at the bed behind Venus.

The goddess turned and then gasped. “No! This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Kat stepped up beside her. “You knew he was taking Achilles’ place,” she said.

Venus’s beautiful eyes filled with tears. “It was a good idea. Patroklos leads the Greeks to victory pretending to be your Achilles. The war is over, and Achilles lives.” The goddess shook her head sadly at Jacky. “I didn’t mean for him to get hurt.”

“Save him,” Jacky said in a low, strained voice.

“Please,” Kat said. “If you didn’t mean for him to get hurt then you should save him.”

Venus approached Patroklos’s battered body. She pressed her hand on his forehead and closed her eyes. A shudder passed through her and she made a small, painful sound. “He’s going to die. This is beyond my powers to heal. It’s fate.”

“No!” Jacky yelled. “You changed fate before. Kat and I died, but you snatched our souls—you altered our fate. Do it again.”

“I cannot. There are some things beyond even Love.”

“No there aren’t,” Kat said firmly. “Love is stronger than anything—it has to be. You can save him, Venus. All you need to do is mix magic with the modern world, and you’ve definitely done that before.”

“What’s your idea, Katrina?” Venus asked, obviously intrigued.

“Give him a little of your goddess magic. Not enough to change fate, just enough to lend him some extra strength, and then send him to Tulsa. Let modern medicine change fate. They do it all the time.”

“My magic and your modern world… You may be right.”

“Saint John’s emergency room would be best. You know Tulsa—you could do it,” Kat said.

“It might work,” Venus said.

“Nothing will work unless you hurry,” Jacky said, lifting Patroklos’s slack wrist.

“Do you love him?” Venus asked her suddenly.

Jacky met her eyes. “Yes.”

“Then I simply must help you.” Venus smiled, kissed her palm and blew the kiss onto Patroklos, who shimmered briefly as if he’d been dipped in glitter. “Now, go with him and be sure you are the first face he sees when he awakens.” The goddess clapped her hands together and Patroklos and Jacky disappeared in a poof of glowing smoke.

Neither Kat nor the goddess saw Agamemnon, who at that moment backed out of the tent. They also hadn’t noticed when the Greek king had slipped within the tent, silently prepared to pretend regret at the death that should have been Achilles. Kalchas had brought him the bitter news of the masquerade after Agamemnon had already entered the Myrmidon camp, coming as soon as he’d heard that “Achilles” had fallen under Hector’s hand. By that time too many warriors had seen him. Had he turned back then he might have been blamed for the charade that had caused Patroklos his life.

But his irritation and frustration had vanished with the little scene he’d witnessed between the goddess and the two women pretending to be Polyxena and her servant. So the gods were actively orchestrating the war. He’d known it all along! Hera herself had probably whispered into his ear to hurry to the Myrmidon camp. Yes, he was sure he’d heard the goddess’s soft voice. And now he knew exactly what to do. Silently he left the tent and turned to face the Myrmidons who were keeping watch.

“Patroklos is gone,” he said solemnly, loving the irony in the truth he was only partially revealing. “Where is Achilles? He must be told.”

Diomedes stepped forward. “He has gone to the shore with Odysseus. We were to send word to him there.”

“Ah.” Agamemnon nodded. “He was trying to hold off the berserker in case Patroklos needed him. Well, that is of no consequence now. Your lord should be told.” Diomedes glanced over the king’s shoulder at the tent. “The women will be preparing his body. It is a house of death now, and no place for warriors.”

“But who will tell Achilles?”

“I am his king. I will tell him.”

Diomedes hesitated. “But, my lord, perhaps—”

“Perhaps,” Agamemnon cut in, “you should gather your men at the edge of the battlefield. What do you believe Achilles will do when he learns of his cousin’s death?”

“Sire.” This time it was Automedon who spoke. “Should we not prepare for the funeral games of Patroklos? Will he not be honored for his bravery?”

Agamemnon widened his eyes in exaggerated surprise. “Of course I would say he should be thus honored, but what do you believe Achilles will say? Or rather, what do you believe the berserker will say?”

The men muttered and Agamemnon smiled to himself.

“We will gather the men and prepare to return to battle,” Automedon said. Diomedes nodded in agreement.

“And I will give Achilles this grim news,” said Agamemnon.

Source: www.StudyNovels.com