Well, Ajax isn’t dead. Neither is Hector.
About noon, a large congregation of commanders rode up the hill to about halfway between our camp and Troy.
Although our entire army wanted to see this duel, the commanders only let a handful of the senior officers join them for the spectacle. Odysseus, who was in especially good humor, asked that Polites and I join him. –Polites had the wine.
Hector was a little late.
About twenty minutes after we had arrived, Hector rode up with an entourage of about fifty men, one of whom was Paris. The sight of Paris caused some grumbling amongst our generals, but Agamemnon quieted them down, saying something like: “We aren’t here to do battle, we are here for honor!”
It was almost unsettling to see how the commanders of each side were so cordial to one another.
Anyway, there was a big to-do of announcing and posturing between Ajax and Hector that lasted about fifteen minutes. -By that point, our men and Hector’s posse had formed somewhat of a circle around the two, about ten meters in diameter.
There was a lot of shit-talking. Hector kept shouting that Ajax wasn’t much of a substitution for Achilles. Ajax would respond that Hector was just flattering himself.
Some of their jeers were pretty funny. I guess that Ajax was feeling some nerves, because in response to Hector saying “Don’t worry boys, I’ll have you home well before dinner!” he quipped “Yeah, well boys, I’ll have you home well before breakfast!” –Polites gave me such a look that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
I guess that it might have been the wine, because Odysseus thought it was pretty funny too. He began to laugh, but checked himself after a sharp look from Agamemnon.
Anyway, just when it looked like they would never fight, Polites had the balls to shout: What is
this?! –A fight or a debate
Polites had forced the issue. Hector and Ajax both heard him, and at that, they turned and squared off.
The battle was remarkable, and I have to admit that Ajax was a lot tougher than I had expected.
Hector and Ajax rushed at each other. They crashed, swung their swords, crashed, kicked, crashed, tumbled, crashed, punched, and crashed some more. After about ten minutes of this, the two of them rolled away from another, stood up, dusted themselves off, and then went back at it again.
Hector was an extremely offensive fighter. But, Ajax was equally as good at parrying his blows. There were some good hits made on each of their parts, but these were invariably kicks and punches, or bashes with the hilt or shield. -Neither Ajax nor Hector seemed able to really capitalize on any advantage.
The men on the sidelines were going crazy, shouting encouragement and advice.
And the fight went on.
And on, and on…
It started to seem unreal, and the roar of the audience began to die off.
Still, the fight went on.
Eventually, shouts of encouragement turned to whispers of disbelief.
After about forty minutes, the breaks were becoming longer than the struggles, and I seriously began to wonder if one of them would simply expire from exhaustion rather than by the other’s sword.
And then, after an hour of clashing, scraping, punching, kicking, cutting, and yes, even biting, the duel finally ended.
There was no victor. Yet, there wasn’t a loser either. It was a tie.
Regaining some strength from what must have been a solid five minute break, Ajax and Hector rose, and turning towards the other, charged with renewed strength. However, this time as Ajax raised his sword above Hector’s head, his knees -which apparently had been forced to work beyond their threshold of exertion, suddenly buckled.
Hector, who had had some practice by this point, raised his shield to receive Ajax’s blow. But, instead of receiving a sword, he received the full force of Ajax’s face.
This might have been a fatal error for Ajax. However, Ajax’s face struck Hector’s shield with an almost suicidal force, the kind of force that Hector might have successfully dealt with thirty minutes befor. However, after a full hour of battle, Hector couldn’t begin to absorb the blow.
The result was that Hector himself buckled under Ajax’s face, and the two men flopped violently down into the dust.
Hector splayed out flat backwards, making no effort to break his fall. It looked as if a massive dead tree had fallen directly into another massive dead tree and breaking the other’s trunk, brought the second down with it. And, just as the upper part of a tree hits last with a whip, Hector’s head made a hollow thwack as it lashed the earth.
It was this sickening sound that announced the end of the epic fight.
At first, it seemed that Ajax’s face plant might have defeated Hector, however, as he made no effort to rise from Hector’s chest, it became apparent that Ajax had knocked himself out with his blow to Hector’s shield.
For almost a full minute, no one moved. Then, somewhat meagerly, a few orderlies stepped into the circle. Keeping their heads down, they shuffled up to their respective general’s side.
Everyone was spellbound. -You could hear the wind.
Ajax awoke with a gut-wrenching moan. He pushed himself off of Hector, and rolling over, slowly propped himself up. His face was caked in blood.
Looking at the scene, Ajax waved his hand and sent off the orderlies. His men quickly retreated, however Hector’s men seemed a bit reluctant. But Ajax stood up, and they too backed away. Ajax then found his sword and picked it up. He turned to Hector who was now beginning to moan.
It looked like it was the end of Hector. Ajax raised his sword. -Hector opened his eyes.
And then… Ajax started to laugh. Hector started to laugh too. Ajax dropped his sword, and fell over next to Hector, just laughing uncontrollably.
With that, the fight was ended.
Eventually, the two combatants helped each other up, dusted themselves off, and patted each other on the back.
Ajax gave Hector his belt, and Hector gave Ajax his sword. The two embraced like old friends, and then turned and walked back to their men. Soon after, everyone began to disperse.
That was it.
The fight was all the talk around the fires tonight, and Polites had a great time orating his version to an audience of about two-hundred of our men.
As everyone had assumed that there was going to be a funeral for Ajax tonight, the men seemed genuinely pleased with the outcome. -The celebration in the Salamisian camp was riotous.
The only person that didn’t seem to be having a great time tonight was Odysseus.