The Tale of a Troy Boy

"After such kind prayers have been made on our behalf, I would very much like to know who our guests are. Where have you come from? Where are you going and what is your business?" said Nestor passing more wine in Telemakhe and Mentor's direction.

"Most honourable King Nestor," began Telemakhe carefully putting down her wine cup and bowing deeply. "Our home port is beneath Mount Neion on the island of Ithaka, though we are not on Ithakan business. This is a personal quest and these good sailors have agreed to help me in its fulfillment. My name is Telemakhe. I am in search for news of my mother, the Sovereign Odysseus, and I shall journey the wide world to find it."

"Gracious me, I thought I could see your mother's form and manner within your own. How like her you have grown," exclaimed Nestor.

"We have heard in turn how each hero of the Trojan war has either returned home, or fallen in battle or some other happenstance of Fate. We have eagerly listened to many stories in hopes that even one may contain some word of Odysseus' fortunes. Sadly, such information remains elusive. No one seems to know for sure how she may have met her death: whether upon land or deep within the rolling waves, by human hand, Nature's harsh forces, or a deity's awful retribution. I have heard it said that you fought beside my mother when Troy was taken. Please, if you have any love for Odysseus at all, do not spare my feelings and tell me truly how things were for her in those days."

Nestor looked long and hard at Telemakhe. He quaffed deeply of his goblet of wine. "Troy, you take me back to all the troubles we faced there. Rough days in battle around Priam's town and more rough days aboard ship." Nestor shook his head.

He said, "So many good people died there: that big hearted oaf, Ajax; the nearly divine Achilles; his dear friend and ours, Patroklos; my own dear son, Antilokhos, he was killed saving me. No son should die on his father's behalf, but rather a father for his son. This is a long and miserable story of nine years of suffering. We tried everything to finish that war. Your cunning mother in particular provided us with many military stratagems. She and I were so close when in council or assembly, we were often of the same mind. However, on that day we plundered Troy, the deities must have had some mischief in mind for us. For what comradeship we Argives felt for one another before was dissolved.

"First a fight broke out between the children of Atreus. They called us to assembly at sundown, ridiculous hour. Who can think straight, after all, when weary from battle? Menelaus wanted to head immediately for home. Agamemnon, fearing Athena's wrath, wanted to stay and make offerings. The two fought as you would expect siblings to, but not as commanders should, not before the troops. In the end nothing was resolved, everyone simply went to bed wanting it both ways, confused anger putting our people on violent edge.

"At dawn half the Akhaians packed up their ships to leave. The other half decided to stay behind with Agamemnon; their fear stronger than their longing for home. I led the fleet with Odysseus, Diomedes, and Menelaus across a gentle rolling sea with a steady breeze behind us to Tenedos. I had hoped that the change of scenery would bring us all to a calmer state of mind. We held what rites we could on Tenedos' shores. Nevertheless, Odysseus felt that she should have stayed with Agamemnon in his sacrifices to Athena, her deific supporter.

"The next morning she left to rejoin Agamemnon. I continued with Menelaus and Diomedes for a time. Upon the fourth day we made port at Diomedes' home, Argos, where we performed proper sacrifices to Poseidon. Menelaus and I then parted ways due to a foul wind which blew my company to Lesbos where we stayed for a season and learned much of the native's farming methods. When next we put to sea we had nothing but clear sailing back to Pylos where we have prospered from the knowledge we gained abroad.

"So this, brave Telemakhe, is the tale of how I made my way home from Troy. I have not seen any of my compatriots whether for good or ill since that time, though of late I do get the odd call from Menelaus."

On the Second-Hand.

Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps