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Triumph of a wooden horse

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During the ten years that we spent on the shores of Troy, I was caught up in the war madness that raged between those of my homeland, Greece, and the Trojans who held the fair Helen in their clutches. Before, I had thought war glorious, as I bid my sweet wife farewell, and departed for Troy. Regrettably, my high esteem for battle has lessened a good deal, for I have witnessed favored comrades falling, and the gruesomeness of war-fare with all its gore and tragedy. In the last weeks before the ending of this long struggle, I stood on the shore and gazed towards the black ships, and towards the west, where Greece lay. I long for my home. Many times I believed the world, which bore only darkness, contained no beauty of life, no promise of a future road to stretch far ahead of me. Sitting around the fire in the evenings however, when my fellow soldiers and I conversed with one another, I recalled the moments of strength as we banded together and charged against our enemy with the winds sweeping out across the coarse plains, piercing battle cries ringing in the air. And this heartened me, as I resolutely determined that my fate could so quickly turn from death, to victory. As the golden sun lowered in the vast blue fields one day, King Odysseus of Ithaca, one of our finest Greek leaders, called a council and proposed a plan to the high king and war-chief of our army. Here, my country’s fate became certain, though we did not know it at the time, and hence, our men began building a massive wooden creature—an “offering for Athena.”

The horse towered high above the maples and firs, higher than the walls of Troy that had kept our men out for so long. In the sunlight, the smooth sides of this structure resembled a brilliant bronze, and we marveled at this entity that we had crafted. We all hoped that victory was across one more field of combat. We prayed this bloody war would cease. Fervently I prayed that King Odysseus, whose schemes were cunning, had devised a strategy that would succeed this time. The day we finished the wooden horse, Odysseus assembled the army and he circumspectly chose a band of men to accompany him into the hollow belly of the colossal timber steed. Seeing him beckon me forward, I felt a tremble of excitement in my heart. Joining Odysseus and the rest of our men who would be the first behind Troy’s imposing walls; I sensed that adventure was to come. After this gathering of the Greek army, torches were taken up and within the hour, our village of huts that had been our home these past ten years, flamed and smoldered beneath the foreign sun, and became a charred heap of rubble when the fire abated at last. King Agamemnon led the rest of the army to the black ships as King Odysseus’s faction and I stood on shore, and watched as the vast fleet sailed into the distance. But we knew they would be close at a nearby island, when we crouched in wait, in the hold of the wooden horse. When a rough cord flew up to the open door in the side of the stilted creature, I followed my comrades up into the darkness that waited above. There was much clattering and pandemonium as we settled ourselves in the extensive void, and at once, as I knelt in a corner near King Odysseus, I felt the weight of my armor bear down upon my body. When at last all fell silent, I knew that the stiff wait had begun, the outcome of it resulting in either a triumph or failure.

The belly of the horse was relatively dark, but since it was still light outside, faint daylight sprinkled in through the insignificant cracks in the walls, and I was able to catch the shadowy figures of my comrades. As I sat quietly, listening to the call of the birds outdoors and sometimes wishing I too could be with them, the heavy blanket we each cloaked ourselves in, to muffle the clattering of our armor, provoked an uncomfortable warmth so that it was impossible to be at ease. The stench of us all so tightly packed in together filled the air, slightly sickening me so that I even longed for that rancid salty smell of the nearby ocean. My chest tightened with held-in breath. We expected at any moment to hear a band of Trojans approaching our timber horse to curiously investigate, given that this was part of Odysseus’s plan. Before the fading light of day had disappeared, we heard voices outside, and discerned, by the sound of their gruff pleasure that that they belonged to the Trojans. Unnervingly, it felt as though the air was as taut as the strings of a lyre, and my breath burned in my chest as I tried to hold it in, listening to the men who had been our enemy these past ten years. Waiting outside, one of our men, who hid in the tall grass, had been assigned to convince the Trojans that our horse was indeed not a trap, but a peace offering to the goddess Athena. By the tenor of the high and chagrinned voices of the Trojans, I knew then that our man had been caught. To our great relief, after a while of talk below, there was activity to be heard on ground and suddenly the wooden horse lurched, and began to rattle and clamber over the vast Trojan plain where so many had been slaughtered. The plan had succeeded, but would we triumph still yet?

While the timber creature in which we sat was hauled over the rough field, I and those around me and I began to feel jarred in every part, and we were utterly bruised by the time we stopped at last, before Troy. A thunderous crumble invaded our senses as part of the stone wall fell, and we knew with mirthful hearts that the Trojans had made a hole in their wall, so that the massive steed might easily enter. This meant an uncomplicated entry for our fellow soldiers, who were to join us in time, behind the walls of Troy. The air was no longer silent, but rather, it rapidly filled with cries and laughter of our merry adversaries, who believed they had won, and rejoiced blissfully at the thought of the upcoming festivities. Hearing a few about me laugh softly, I alleged that they were imagining how the Trojans’ jubilant shouts of triumph would soon turn to screams of sinister terror. At last the hold, in which we waited darkened and we all held our breath, not daring to stir, as the city of Troy slipped into a peaceful slumber. After what seemed hours, we heard our man who had been captured, but allowed into the city, call up to us, and King Odysseus opened the door in the side. Quietly, one by one, we slipped out, I among the first to clamber down. Our shadows danced on the walls of the temple of Athena, and the echo of our footsteps sent a shiver through my being, as I joined the main body of the group at the entrance. The end of Troy had begun.

With stealthy steps, Odysseus led I us towards the tall gate, where we could already hear the quiet commotion of an army outside. Our army waited to stream in. I drew out my sword as a Trojan guard came forward suspiciously, and I made end of him, while another comrade did the same to the other couple of guards who approached hurriedly from their posts nearby. Hence, the darkness which still protected us, momentarily obscured the shadows when our immense Greek army crowded in through the gates. Hastily, we took hold of torches, lit them, and at once began to sweep out across the city as the light of the morning sun spreads across a valley. Bleary Trojan warriors, unarmed and unprepared, appeared in the doorways of the buildings all around, and started in shock as we Greeks swarmed to them, bringing them down with spears and swords. Screaming with terror, women with their children in tow tried to escape as they watched their husbands fall, but when several of us set our torches to their houses’ roofs, many of them were crushed beneath fiery timbers. Still yet, flames engulfed other shuddering girls and their small ones. Fellow Greek soldiers dragged some survivors towards the ships, and still others plundered houses and made away with the extravagant and sumptuous items and food of the family. I caught a few prisoners and herded them outside the walls of Troy, but as I turned back, my heart grew heavy when I perceived the black sky tinged with the glow of the fire, that devoured the city which we had tried to take for so long. Wails and screams of the devastated Trojans rang through the air, sounding like the cry of lost spirits with no place to rest. While I stood there on the beach, I knew, with a surge of wretchedness, that war shadowed everything, and though it brought glory, it also brought tragedy and loss. Then, I turned towards the sea, away from Troy in its misery, and remembered my sweet homeland—Greece. The moments in the Wooden horse had been long, but at last triumph had come, and now I could return home.




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