I stand in front of the walls, sweat beading down my face, the salt a bitter reminder of the events that have taken place today. A reminder of what yet remains.
Hundreds of men run past me through the open gates, panic and fear as visible in their faces as in a horse hunted by lions. Above, on the walls, I can hear the women of Troy lamenting as they count those who are running to safety. Further afar, in the bright open fields of the Troad, the dust of battle continues to rise, violent noises clanging in the distance but drawing ever closer.
I scan the field, looking for my adversary. It doesn't take long to find him, a single figure gleaming like a star in the sea of shining bronze outracing men and horses alike. I see his spear dip and dip again as it brings ruin upon my fleeing countrymen. He looks at me and yells in triumph, having found me at last.
It's more of a scream than a shout, a guttural, primal noise that resonates across the field. He begins to run towards me, racing with that unnatural speed on legs that have never tired. A jolt of fear jumps through my body and I shiver even as my body burns under the merciless sun. I take a quick glance back at the walls.
It's the same picture but with one clear difference. I see my father, Priam, and my mother, Hecuba, screaming at me. I can barely hear their voices above the cacophony of noises but it's clear that they're pleading for me to enter the safety of the city. I can feel my body shuddering as I struggle to stay put. Then I see her.
She's holding our son, Scamandrius, in her arms as tears fall down her face. She's begging me to return and I can hear her words as clearly as though she were standing by me.
"Please, for the sake of our son, please enter the city to safety," she cries. "I have lost my father and mother and all of my brothers. I cannot lose you. I cannot live without you."
My body begins to move instinctively to the city, to Andromache. I take a two steps to the gates before I am able to stop myself, my head hanging. I cannot bear to look up any longer, to see her tears.
"He's coming," He whispers again. "Are you ready?"
I hear Him, whispering into my ears, His shining light dimming the rest of the world around me. Golden Phoebus, my personal protector and patron, hovers behind me, infusing my heart with courage for the showdown that is fast approaching. He is so near that I can feel His very breath upon my shoulders, an aromatic smell that pushes away the stench of sweat and blood and death. But I dare not turn to face the God, not now, not with Achilles so near.
"I'm ready," I whisper back. "I know what must be done."
He places His hands upon me, pouring strength and vigor into my limbs.
"Good," He says. "Today, you will become immortal, either as the man who killed the invincible Achilles or the man who died fighting him. Songs will be written about you, and about him. Today, your lives are intertwined for eternity."
He's close enough now that I can see him clearly. His armor remains bloodless, a remarkable feat for someone who has killed so many, though his spear is dyed in red. Behind him, I see the grey-eyed daughter of Zeus standing in celestial gold and silver, dressed for war with an outstretched hand extending above Her champion. She smiles Her lipless smile at me and I hear the gates behind me close shut at last.
My fate is sealed. One of us will certainly die this day.