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THEN Achilles put his shining armour upon him and it fitted him as though it were wings; he put the wonderful shield before him and he took in his hands the great spear that Cheiron the Centaur had given to Peleus his father--that spear that no one else but Achilles could wield. He bade his charioteer harness the immortal horses Xanthos and Balios. Then as he mounted his chariot Achilles spoke to the horses. "Xanthos and Balios," he said, "this time bring the hero that goes with you back safely to the ships, and do not leave him dead on the plain as ye left the hero Patroklos."’

‘Then Xanthos the immortal steed spoke, answering for himself and his comrade. "Achilles," he said, with his head bowed and his mane touching the ground, "Achilles, for this time we will bring thee safely back from the battle. But a day will come when we shall not bring thee back, when thou too shalt lie with the dead before the walls of Troy."’

‘Then was Achilles troubled and he said, "Xanthos, my steed, why dost thou remind me by thy prophecies of what I know already--that my death too is appointed, and that I am to perish here, far from my father and my mother and my own land."’

‘Then he drove his immortal horses into the battle. The Trojans were affrighted when they saw Achilles himself in the fight, blazing in the armour that Hephaistos had made for him. They went backward before his onset. And Achilles shouted to the captains of the Greeks, "No longer stand apart from the men of Troy, but go with me into the battle and let each man throw his whole soul into the fight."’

‘And on the Trojan side Hector cried to his captains and said, "Do not let Achilles drive you before him. Even though his hands are as irresistible as fire and his fierceness as terrible as flashing steel, I shall go against him and face him with my spear."’

‘But Achilles went on, and captain after captain of the Trojans went down before him. Now amongst the warriors whom he caught sight of in the fight was Polydoros, the brother of Hector and the youngest of all King Priam’s sons. Priam forbade him ever to go into the battle because he loved him as he would love a little child. But Polydoros had gone in this day, trusting to his fleetness of foot to escape with his life. Achilles saw him and pursued him and slew him with the spear. Hector saw the death of his brother. Then he could no longer endure to stand aside to order the battle. He came straight up to where Achilles was brandishing his great spear. And when Achilles saw Hector before him he cried out, "Here is the man who most deeply wounded my soul, who slew my dear friend Patroklos. Now shall we two fight each other and Patroklos shall be avenged by me." And he shouted to Hector, "Now Hector, the day of thy triumph and the day of thy life is at its end."’

‘But Hector answered him without fear, "Not with words, Achilles, can you affright me. Yet I know that thou art a man of might and a stronger man than I. But the fight between us depends upon the will of the gods. I shall do my best against thee, and my spear before this has been found to have a dangerous edge."’

‘He spoke and lifted up his spear and flung it at Achilles. Then the breath of a god turned Hector’s spear aside, for it was not appointed that either he or Achilles should be then slain. Achilles darted at Hector to slay him with his spear. But a god hid Hector from Achilles in a thick mist.’

‘Then in a rage Achilles drove his chariot into the ranks of the war and many great captains he slew. He came to Skamandros, the river that flows across the plain before the city of Troy. And so many men did he slay in it that the river rose in anger against him for choking its waters with the bodies of men.’

‘Then on towards the City, he went like a fire raging through a glen that had been parched with heat. Now on a tower of the walls of Troy, Priam the old King stood, and he saw the Trojans coming in a rout towards the City, and he saw Achilles in his armour blazing like a star--like that star that is seen at harvest time and is called Orion’s Dog; the star that is the brightest of all stars, but yet is a sign of evil. And the old man Priam sorrowed greatly as he stood upon the tower and watched Achilles, because he knew in his heart whom this man would slay--Hector, his son, the protector of his City.’

Next: Chapter XVIII