"Achilles! Achilles! Come quickly!"
Patroclus was shouting loudly as he ran through the Greek camp. He had dreadful news. The Trojans were attacking the Greek ships and throwing burning torches on to the decks. Dozens of Greeks had already been killed.
If Achilles had been there to fight them, the Trojans would not have dared to be this bold. However, Achilles was not there. After his quarrel with Agamemnon, the Greek leader, he had refused to fight and retired to his tent. Achilles looked up, startled, when Patroclus burst into his tent. "Our ships and our men are in terrible danger," panted Patroclus. "You must save them, Achilles."
Briefly, Patroclus told Achilles what had happened. Then he added: "We have not fought Troy for nine years to lose the war now! Only you can save us."
"No," growled Achilles. "I will not come!"
"But Achilles..." Patroclus protested. "Agememnon insulted me," Achilles said gruffy. "I will not help him now!"
Patroclus fell to his knees in despair.
"Then all is lost," he moaned.
Since Achilles had retired to his tent to sulk about Agamemnon, many Greeks had come to him begging him to return to the fight. Achilles had refused them all. He found it hard, though, to turn Patroclus away as roughly as he turned away the others. For Patroclus was his dearest friend. They were like brothers. So, when Achilles saw Patroclus weep in despair, he gave in just a little.
"I will not fight, Patroclus," Achilles repeated. "But I will help."
"How?" cried Patroclus, suddenly hopeful again.
"I will lend you my armour," Achilles told him. "When the Trojans see it, they will think I have rejoined our men."
This was marvellous news. The Trojans feared Achilles more than any other warrior on Earth.
Quickly, Achilles helped Patroclus buckle on his shining armour. Patroclus felt proud to be wearing it.
Achilles, however, had two warnings for him. "If you succeed in driving the Trojans away from our ships, do not pursue them back to Troy. And keep away from Hector!" Achilles added sternly. "He is the greatest of the Trojan warriors. Only I can match him in battle."
"I will remember," Patroclus promised.
"Make haste, then, and may the gods protect you, dearest friend," Achilles said.
Riding in Achilles' chariot, Patroclus sped back to the battlefield. He arrived to find the fighting was more savage than ever. The sky overhead was black with smoke from the burning Greek ships. The shore was littered with the bodies of dead Greeks and their upturned chariots. The air was filled with the ringing sounds of swords clashing with spears, and the shouts and cries of men locked in fierce contest.
However, when the Trojans saw Patroclus disguised in Achilles' armour, they became terrified. They broke off the fight and began speeding their chariots towards their city of Troy and safety.
"After them! After them!" cried Patroclus. He was so excited, he forgot Achilles' warning.
Patroclus and the Greeks set off at tremendous speed. Their chariots threw up clouds of dust as they chased the fleeing Trojans. They drove so fast that when they came within sight of Troy, the Trojans were still some distance from the city.
"We're catching up!" Patroclus cried in triumph.
Just then, a Trojan turned his chariot around and began driving back towards Patroclus. Patroclus recognised him at once.
"It's Hector!" he gasped. It was too late, Patroclus remembered Achilles' second warning. Frightened, Patroclus flung his spear at Hector's chariot. It missed.
When the rest of the Greeks saw Hector's chariot thundering towards them, they loosed a shower of arrows. They failed to stop him. Hector drove straight at Patroclus and with one blow struck him on the side of the neck with his sword. Achilles'armour stopped the blow from killing Patroclus, but his helmet and neck plate were knocked to the ground.
Hector was surprised to see Patroclus' face. "You are not Achilles!" he cried, and before Patroclus could move, Hector plunged his spear into his unprotected throat. Patroclus died instantly. His body tumbled off the chariot into the dust.
Hector jumped down, and began pulling off Achilles' shining armour.
When Achilles learned that Patroclus was dead, he gave a terrible howl of grief.
He was so overcome with sorrow that he fell to the floor of his tent. He pounded the earth with his fists. He sobbed. He cried out his friend's name. He wept again and vowed to get his revenge.
"Hector!" Achilles suddenly shouted in a thunderous voice, as if to make the Trojan warrior hear him. "You shall die! And after death, you shall be punished."
That night, Achilles did not sleep. He could think of only one thing: he must kill Hector and avenge his life long friend Patroclus. Hector also remained awake.
He knew that when he met Achilles it would be in the most savage battle he had ever fought.
That night Hephaestus, the god of fire and industry, was busy making Achilles suit of armour to wear in his battle Hector.
Next morning, Achilles found the armour in his tent. He put it on and came out fully armed and armoured for battle. The Greeks were very pleased to see that Achilles had at last returned to fight by their side.
When the fighting started that day, Achilles fought like a madman.
After a few hours, the Greeks could no longer count the number of Trojans Achilles had killed.
All the time, Achilles was looking for Hector. It was late in the afternoon before he saw him. By that time, the Greeks had fought their way up to the walls of Troy. The Trojan warriors were rushing back into the city and guards stood ready to close the gates as soon as they were all inside.
Hector, however, refused to come in. He stood outside the gates, waiting for Achilles. His father, King Priam, came on to the battlements and begged Hector to seek safety within the walls of Troy. Hector's mother, Hecuba, and his wife Andromache, also came and pleaded with Hector. Hector would not listen.
Then Hector saw a great flash of brilliant light not far away. The last rays of the afternoon sun had struck Achilles' brilliant armour. Nearer and nearer it came until Achilles could be seen thundering towards Hector in his chariot at tremendous speed. There was a terrible look of hatred on Achilles' face as he saw Hector.
Achilles' chariot swept towards the waiting Hector, and as it came close, Hector threw his spear. Achilles saw it coming and raised his shield. The spear hit it, bounced off and clattered to the ground.
At once, Hector drew his sword and came rushing towards Achilles. Achilles jumped from his chariot and sprang towards him, with his spear outstretched.
"Die as Patroclus died, vile Trojan!"
Achilles snarled. His spearhead went through Hector's neck. With a dreadful choking sound, Hector fell to the ground, dead.
There was a cry of horror from the battlements above as Priam, Hecuba and Andromache saw Hector fall. But their horror and grief grew even greater when they saw what happened next.
Achilles took his dagger and cut through Hector's feet from the heels to the ankles. He pushed a rope through the holes and fastened the end of it to his chariot. Then Achilles leapt into his chariot, whipped the horses into a gallop and began dragging Hector across the ground. Faster and faster the chariot went with Hector's body trailing behind it. Soon the body was torn, battered and black with dust.
Each day for many days after that, Achilles returned to the walls of Troy with Hector's dead body trailing behind his chariot. Day after day, King Priam wept bitterly at the dreadful spectacle.
At last, Priam could bear the sight no longer.
'I must forget I am a King, and humble myself before Achilles,' he thought.
The grief-stricken Priam left Troy and went to the Greek camp, taking with him many magnificent gifts. The gifts would be Hector's ransom, or so Priam hoped. When he entered Achilles' tent, Priam threw himself before the great Greek warrior.
"Have pity on me!" Priam wept. "Have pity, great Achilles! Give me back my dead son."
For a while Achilles said nothing. He seemed stern and unyielding. Priam pleaded with him again. He even kissed Achilles' hands, which is what servants did to show obedience to their masters.
At this, Achilles looked down at Priam's lined, old face and his sorrowful eyes, which were swollen and red with weeping. Suddenly, Achilles remembered his own father, Peleus.
'If Hector had killed me,' Achilles thought, 'my father would have wept for me in. the same way.'
The remembrance of his own father made Achilles take pity on Priam at last.
"Do not kneel to me, old man!" he said. "Do not weep! The body of your son shall be washed-and clothed, and you shall return with it to Troy."
Achilles kept his word. Priam received the body of Hector and took it home to be properly buried.
As he watched Priam leave, Achilles knew that the gods on Olympus would punish him for the dishonourable deed he had committed. He knew, too, what the punishment would be.
'I shall be killed here, at Troy,' Achilles thought. 'I shall never return home to my father, and he will not be able to bury my body, as Priam will bury Hector's.'
Not long afterwards, all this came true. Achilles was killed by Paris, Hector's younger brother, and his father never saw him again.