The stillness before the dawn

And after nightfall, in greek and trojan camp alike, the warriors gather around their campfires. They eat and drink after a long hard day, recalling their battles. The elation as a spear hit home, taking down their man. Claiming his armour, the spoils of war. The narrow misses, a spear whistling past their head to strike the ground behind them. Or perhaps into a comrade. They think on the men who fell beside them, spirits flown off to Hades’ halls. Or the men wounded on the field, being tended now. How many of those wounded will step out onto the battlefield at their sides tomorrow. A scream pierces the quiet. How many of those wounded will not survive the night?

They think of their parents, their wives and children. Will the trojans keep them safe behind Troy’s high walls. Will the greeks ever return home to see their families again? One man speaks of his son, just a baby when he left home. He is ten years old today. He does not know what his son looks like. Will he ever see his boy grow into a man?

HEIWF00ZAround the campfires they polish armour so that it will gleam bright in the sun. Pray it flash bright in the eyes of their enemies and distract them for that one precious second they need to launch a spear. Sharpen swords and spears, make sure the wood is still strong. Check over their shields and count the new dents and scratches where it saved their lives. Ask Zeus that it shall do so again tomorrow.

Then they sleep, or try to. Some cannot. There is too much that haunts their minds. Others, long years and many battles before this have trained them well to shut out all thoughts of war and sleep what few hours they can until rosy fingered dawn calls them again to battle. Dawn. Once a thing of beauty and wonder, of calm, now only holds dread anticipation.

In the morning they will prepare. Don their bronze armour with the clasps of silver, helmets with the horse hair crests. They will swallow their fear under the rush and din of battle. They cannot afford to let fear and thoughts of families distract them now. As they ride out onto the field upon their chariots, they can think only of battle. The rolling chariot wheels. The weight of a long-shadowed spear in their hands, ready to let fly. The men coming across that wide plain towards them. The war cry ringing from their throats, echoed back by the enemy.

And so too do we storytellers prepare for our day on the battlefield of Troy. We polish our words so that they will fly straight and true to the audience. Excitement and anticipation may war within us, but we will try to sleep well tonight, to be ready when rosy fingered dawn summons us. And we will still our minds, cast aside all fears of forgotten lines, feel only the weight of the spear in our hand and the weight of Homer’s words upon our lips.

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