The First Farewell.
Festivals were not a rare event in the city that was blessed by duel gods. Musicians frequently lined the streets, soft music mixing with salty sea air and the tang of foreign spices, spirited dancers somehow keeping in time with a rhythm that was always spontaneous. Often, the celebrations centred around the gods, and there would be performers retelling the great escapades of Apollo or Dionysus in one of the many forums or theatres.
There was nothing religious about the festival fever rolling over Troy this night, Hector thought with a touch of bitterness as he wove through the growing crowd of revellers, impatience shining in dark eyes as he had to dodge yet another drunken townsman. He did not begrudge them all their high spirits, although he was starting to believe that those who lived within the city walls would celebrate anything if it meant cheap drinks and a fun atmosphere, but it was frustrating that the enjoyment of others would so hinder him in his hunt for his younger brother.
Of course, if Helenus had been a good little prince and stayed in the palace like he should of, then Hector wouldn't be in a situation where he had to search each and every bar in Troy in order to track him down in the first place.
"If Paris is allowed to go to Sparta, he will only bring back with him disaster. Send someone else, Hector. I'll even go if you insist."
Words spoken many moons ago haunted him as he searched on. Helenus never went on diplomatic missions if he could help it, something that frustrated Hector to no end. So obviously intelligent and swift in thought, Helenus never the less always avoided the barest hint of responsibility. Hector had almost attempted to convince Priam to allow Helenus to go to Sparta instead of Paris based on that fact alone, but there had been something in the way that Helenus had spoken that Hector hadn't trusted, a hidden motive that was not quite as deeply buried as it should have been.
But then, perhaps Helenus had not been trying to hide anything at all. A veiled warning without the veil. He'd believed that Helenus was wrong, that there was nothing Paris could possibly do that would bring forth the doom that both Helenus and Cassandra seemed insistent on. Paris was only one man, after all.
He will only bring back with him disaster.
The Trojans were celebrating tonight the return of Paris from that very mission, and his union with the Spartan queen, Helen.
"You're brooding, Hector. Has no one told you that your wonderful brother just got married today?"
After having searched for Helenus for almost three hours, it was almost exasperating to be found by him. Hector would have passed the particular bistro that Helenus was standing outside of by if his younger brother had not called out to him, the small bar was generally too well regarded and upper-class for Helenus' liking. Leaning against one of the supporting pillars, a welcoming smirk in place, Helenus easily fit in with the commoners, blending in in a way that should not be possible for someone of such noble breeding. Hector doubted he'd ever know exactly how Helenus managed it, removing the other man from the palace did not rob him of his elegance or beauty, and yet he was accepted here as he was back at home. Perhaps even more so.
"You should be at the palace." Hector did not bother to rise to the obvious bait left by Helenus. "A family celebration is hardly a proper gathering when several of the King's sons are not present."
"Ah, so Troilus managed to escape as well, I gather." It didn't surprise Hector to find Helenus hardly repentant. "But surely you have not been searching for me half the night simply to remind me of my duties as one of the lesser princes of Troy?"
So Helenus had known. Just like he most certainly knew exactly why Hector had been searching for him in the first place.
"You said Paris would bring back with him disaster." Hector moved away from the crowd, taking a place on Helenus' left.
"I was obviously wrong, just as everyone believed." Although said lightly, there was a hint of mockery in Helenus' tone. "After all, Paris didn't bring back disaster, he merely brought back a woman."
Silence fell between the pair, as Hector fought to come up with some sort of response, only to find himself failing miserably.
"They will come for her," Helenus said finally, eyes never leaving the dancing parade of people before him. "Not because Helen herself is all that important, but because she is the excuse the Greek kings have been waiting for." Hector studied his younger brother's face, searching for any sign of emotion, some hint of what was going through the other's mind. But Helenus had started to grow wary of others studious eyes, particularly as he was discovering that they often held contempt and disbelief instead of the usual reverence children of Apollo were graced with.
"You have seen this in a vision?"
Especially when those eyes belonged to ones brother.
"No. Apollo never gives anything definite enough to actually be of any actual use." There was a hardening, underlying anger there that was the first real flicker of emotion that Helenus had let slip during their entire conversation. "Visions are not needed when that knowledge is painted so vividly on the faces of everyone in Troy."
"They are celebrating the return of Paris and his union with Helen."
"They are mourning for a lifestyle that they know is about to be irreversibly changed. Look at them, Hector. They dance with steps dictated by desperation; they spill wine easily and with abandonment as it drives away thoughts of spilt blood. Red wine on cobbles is far preferable to red blood on the sands."
This time, when Hector looked out onto those partying on the streets, he saw his Trojans through Helenus' eyes, unshielded by a desire to keep up the pretence just a little longer. It was almost as though he was seeing them through one of his father's thick dining glasses, the bodies and faces distorted by the angles and alternating hues.
He had hoped that his people would have been spared this knowledge for some time, at least.
May Paris be damned by the Gods for bringing this down upon them all.
"Have you sent yet envoys to Aeneas? Memnon? The Amazons are bound to us to come if we call." It was all said with such casualness that any passer-by would easily believe that the two were commenting simply on the fair weather.
"Our father believes that war can still be avoided, and that contacting our allies is not yet necessary." Helenus' resulting smile did not even come close to touching his eyes.
"That wasn't my question, Hector. I know exactly what our father believes."
For a moment, Hector allowed himself to wonder exactly how far in esteem Helenus had fallen these last few months in the King's eyes that he would so openly speak in a negative tone about Priam. Few outside the immediate family knew that neither of the twins were favoured anymore by their once doting father, fewer still that Paris was the cause of the faltering relationship. Helenus' prophecies concerning Priam's newly found golden son had left many questioning the prophet's talents, as his visions of war and destruction were too violent and surreal for any sane person to ever quite properly grasp, even if they had a desire to.
People were already beginning to doubt Helenus, as they were Cassandra. But unlike Cassandra, who was pretty and witty and almost always the talk of the town, Helenus was too important to have his voice lost under a cloud of rumours and questionable sanity.
If there was to be war against the Greeks, and Hector had known the moment that he had heard the news of Helen's 'abduction' that there would be, then Helenus would be pivotal to the Trojan cause. The priest of Apollo held an innate intelligence and ability that surpassed any of the other Trojan princes, and it was an intelligence that had nothing to do with his connection to Apollo and everything to do with the fact that Helenus saw the world through far more cynical and shrewd eyes than anyone Hector had ever met.
"Aeneas should be meeting with one of my representatives as we speak." Hector had a feeling that he was being tested, as Helenus tended to know everything that was going on. It was almost interesting, how the younger brother was challenging the older one. But then, Hector reflected, as a small, knowing smile curled on Helenus' lips, Helenus was not one who trusted so easily, anymore.
"Good. I thought you would have, regardless of what our fool of our father seems to believe."
They stood then in silence, Hector watching the crowds as Helenus slowly began to drink from a large mug of ale that he had somehow acquired during their conversation.
"Helenus, I want you to promise me something." It was only when the latest group of dancers has passed by and the table to their right had emptied, that Hector spoke up again. Helenus made no move to acknowledge that he had heard him, but Hector knew that he was listening, all the same. "I want you to speak no more of your prophecies to anyone other than myself." Helenus remained quiet for a moment, silently studying his drink.
"You would have me doom our people."
"No, Helenus. They will not see truth in your words, and that will drive you mad." He was worried that Helenus was already partly there, as it was. "You will not doom them, but they will most certainly doom you." His tone had become softer with his last few words, and Hector hoped that Helenus could see the genuine worry that lay in them – a worry that was not just for the Helenus that Hector needed if he were to win this war, but the Helenus that was his favourite brother, as well.
"I can't just turn them off, Hector. It doesn't quite work like that." Helenus' tone was cutting. "Do you honestly believe that I feel honoured to be walking down the streets one moment, then caught up in some twisted world where everything is burning around me the next?" The façade slipped for just a moment, as desperation seeped partially through the cracks. Helenus suddenly looked his age, years younger than childish Paris and unreliable Deiphobus, not that much older than irresponsible and brash Troilus.
Yet so much more aged than the three of them put together.
But before his thoughts could develop any deeper, the indifferent mask was quickly rushed back into place, and a sardonic smile that Helenus had taken to wearing more often lately seemed to seal away even the hint of a younger, less cynical version of the prophet.
"Promise me, Helenus." Quiet. Determined. Almost a plea. Helenus tilted his head to the side, a deliberate mockery of Paris' 'I'm thinking really, really hard' pose that Hector would most likely have found exasperatingly amusing in any other situation.
"Only if you buy me another drink. A strong one. I think I'd quite like to get drunk, tonight."
It was, Hector had to silently agree as he called for two of those overly strong drinks that Helenus seemed to so like, far preferable than returning to the palace and having to deal with the celebrations there. The pair talked no more about the war or the marriage, no more of Paris or Helen or Priam. Instead, they pretended as all of Troy did, that even if only for tonight, their fair city was still blessed by the gods.