Briseis has only heard this voice in stories, in nightmares, in a boy waiting for someone to return. But the shock is only momentary. She is tired of gods and of their games and of the lives they throw away carelessly, like scraps to a dog.
What do you want?
If Thetis is bristled by her indifference, she makes no move to reveal it. The goddess stands tall, hair whipping wildly around her face, skin the color of the moon in the night sky. Her eyes regard Briseis closely. Interest? Disgust? Pity? Briseis doesn’t know, doesn’t care. In the abyss of death, there should be only silence, but Thetis has never cared for rules.
“It was you who made my son abandon the war. Achilles, he would have fought vigorously, had it not been for you.”
Briseis laughs at this woman, this goddess, but the sound is distorted by the ocean waves.
You and I both know you are wrong. But what of it? Your son is a legend, and Patroclus forgotten. Just as you wanted. Then, as an afterthought - although Patroclus deserved the honor more.
“I should have let Pyrrhus kill you earlier.”
Does it matter when he did so? I am already dead.
“So you are.”
A beat, a breath, and silence.
For a moment, Briseis could swear she heard crying, but the sound was guttural, raw, more like the sand than water.
Have you come to punish me then? Briseis asks, amused.
“No. Only to see you.”
And watch me suffer?
“You are not suffering.”
Only a goddess would so boldly make a claim like that.
“Are you scared of her?” Briseis once asked, watching Patroclus clench his fists, his jaw tightening. He had looked at her, meeting her tenacious gaze with a calm one of his own, then looked beyond her. (He always did that.)
“I am. But -” he had paused. The sun that day was hot, suffocating them, throats dry. “Not for the reasons you think.”
She had left him alone after that, using the heat as an excuse.
Why are you not with your son?
“He will be fine on his own for a few moments.”
Are you proud? You raised two monsters.
Thetis says nothing and Briseis says too much. But the line has been crossed, no turning back now, and Briseis waits for the inevitable. She waits for the pain, for her muscles to burn, for her throat to catch fire, for her heart to feel even an ounce of what Patroclus must have felt that day, bleeding and gasping at the gates of Troy.
It never comes.
“Briseis. If you see Achilles, my son, tell him” - the goddess stumbles, rare - “I forgive him.”
In the midst of waves, she hears her name one last time. The life is slowly leaving her body, she realizes, when the tidal shadows of the ocean begin to turn red with her blood. But even that will soon fade. In a matter of hours, minutes, the sea will return to a calm blue and her existence will dissipate, forgotten.
Then, she remembers him – best of men, best of the Myrmidons. Remembers how he saved her life not once, but twice. Remembers how he saved all of the Greeks, unworthy though they were. Remembers how he will not even get a gravestone.
Her stomach churns.
Patroclus! I’m sorry. I could not do anything for you, after all you have done for me.
The ocean is a difficult enemy, and she wonders what would have happened, had the Trojans been against the sea rather than the Greeks. A swift defeat, to be sure. The volume of spilled blood would remain the same regardless, but perhaps her friends (two boys on a beach sit together, their breaths measured, and she turns away) would not have died.The people talk of their heroes in the skies, their figures etched into constellations, but never of the sea and the strength that lurks there.
At last, her senses begin to dull. Who would have known it would take this long to die? Briseis smiles, the last of her strength gone.
Wait for me, my friends.