This is a chapter of The Trojan War, by C. Witt & F. Younghusband.
Meanwhile, from the watchfires of the Trojans streamed forth cheerful sounds of piping and flute-playing, which reached the camp of the Greeks and reminded them more than ever of the sad plight in which they were. In their anxiety for the safety of the camp, Agamemnon and the other chiefs determined to go around themselves and see that the watchmen were all on the alert.
Having satisfied themselves about this, they then held counsel together as to what it would be best to do, and Nestor said to the other heroes, “Which of you would dare to creep over to the camp of the Trojans and either overhear their counsels or else perchance take prisoners some of those who lie on the outskirts of the camp? Great renown would he gain who should dare to do this, and every chief would give him a ewe with its lamb.”
Then uprose the fearless Diomedes and said, “I will venture, yet would I gladly have a companion, for two heads are better than one.”
At the same moment, six others offered themselves, and Agamemnon said to Diomedes that he might choose the one that he preferred to take with him.
He at once decided for Odysseus, “For,” said he, “Athene loves him, and with him I should hardly fear to go through burning plowshares, for he knows a way out of all difficulties.”
The heroes armed themselves and went over the battlefield towards the watchfires of the enemy. Both were dear to Athene, and she sent them for their encouragement a good omen — a heron that flew right over their heads; yet could it only be recognized by its cry, so thick was the darkness of the night.
Hector, too, determined to send out a spy, and he offered the best chariot and the best horses that should be taken from the Greeks as a reward to him who would venture into their camp and bring him word back as to whether they were thinking of flight. This offer fired the ambition of Dolon, a young man of mean appearance, but a good runner.
He stepped forward and said, “I will go, but first swear that thou wilt give me the noblest of all, the steeds of Achilles himself. For the sake of these I will make my way even to the tents of Agamemnon, where the chiefs are doubtless at this present time assembled in council.”
Hector swore that no other than Dolon should possess the steeds of Achilles, and called upon Zeus to witness the oath, and Dolon set out on his way with an exulting heart, picturing to himself the magnificent chariot and horses of Achilles, and the pride with which he should stand on the chariot and drive the horses whithersoever it might please him.
Meanwhile, Odysseus and Diomedes were cautiously making their way forwards, when suddenly Odysseus stopped and whispered to his companion, “I hear someone coming from the direction of Troy, but, whether he comes to plunder the dead or to seek for news, I cannot tell. We will let him pass us and then turn and take him prisoner.”
The whole field was strewn with corpses, and they lay down among them and waited till Dolon had gone by; then they sprang up and ran after him. Dolon thought at first that they were some of his countrymen who had been sent by Hector to recall him; but when they came near and did not speak, he perceived that they were enemies, and ran as fast as he could in the hope that by making a round he would be able to regain the camp of the Trojans. But they cut off his retreat and obliged him to approach nearer and nearer to the camp of the Greeks.
Presently Diomedes called out, “Stand, or my spear goes through thee!” and at the same moment he threw his spear, but so that it did not hit him, but flew over his head, and stayed itself in the ground beyond.
Dolon stood still, his teeth chattering with fright, and when they came up to him he said between his tears, “Kill me not, but take me prisoner, for my father is rich and he will willingly ransom me when he hears that I am in your hands.”
Odysseus answered, “Think not now of death; but tell me why hast thou come out at night to the field of battle — to spy for news or for some other purpose?”
With a trembling voice, Dolon made answer, “Alas, it is Hector who has brought this trouble upon me. He promised me the chariot and horses of Achilles if I would bring him news about you.”
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At this, Odysseus smiled and said, “Thou trustest overmuch in thine own powers: none save Achilles himself can control those horses. But say, where is the tent of Hector? And how is the camp guarded?”
Dolon replied, “Hector and the other princes are in the midst of the camp, and the rest of the Trojans keep watch around their fires. But the allies are asleep, for they have no women and children in the city to guard.”
Once more Odysseus asked, “Are the allies dispersed amongst the Trojans, or do they camp apart?”
Dolon gave information as to where the several bands had encamped; and hoping to gain the goodwill of the heroes, he added, “If you wish to creep in the camp you will find in the outermost rank the Thracians and their king Rhesus, who has the most beautiful horses I have ever seen; they are snow-white and as swift as the wind. His chariot gleams with silver and gold, and his armor is of pure gold. But now, take me to your ships or bind me here to yonder tamarisk tree whilst you see for yourselves if I have indeed spoken the truth.”
But Diomedes looked darkly at him and said, “Thou canst no longer live, however much thou mayest beseech me. If we let thee go free, thou wouldst again come out against us, either as spy or as combatant. Only by thy death can we secure ourselves against thee.”
Dolon would have entreated still further, but his speech was cut short by the sword of Diomedes, and he sank down and died.
Diomedes took his clothes and weapons from him, and Odysseus held them up in the air, and said, “This booty we dedicate to thee, Athene; and now be with us as we go in search of the Thracians and their horses.”
He then hung the spoils upon a tree, that they might be able to find them on their return journey and take them home. They went on, picking their way through the corpses till they reached the place where the Thracians were encamped.
Odysseus perceived them first, and whispered to Diomedes, “See, there are the milk-white horses, and there must the comrades of the king of Thrace be lying.”
Diomedes drew his sword and, going from one to another of the sleeping Thracians who were stretched in front of their king, he pierced each one through the heart. Twelve of them there were, and the king, whom he killed last of all, was the thirteenth. As each was killed, Odysseus dragged him away by his feet from the place where he had been lying, so as to leave a clear space in front of the horses; and then he seized the horses and drew them forwards.
Diomedes would have continued his bloody work, but Athene whispered into his ear, “Do not forget that you have to return to the ships.”
The heroes then swung themselves onto the horses’ backs and galloped away. It was indeed quite time they did so, for the groans of the dying men had awoke one of the Thracians, and, when he saw what destruction the enemy had wrought among them, he uttered a loud cry of alarm. The Trojans heard it and they hastened to the spot and pursued the heroes, but could not overtake them.
The Greek chieftains, who were waiting by their watchfires for the return of the two heroes, were surprised to hear the clattering of horse hoofs, for they had but hoped at best that their comrades would return safe and sound, and little had they expected them to bring back horses taken as spoil. But joyfully were the riders welcomed when the firelight revealed the faces of Odysseus and Diomedes. They quickly dismounted and related all that had befallen them, and then all the heroes retired to their tents for the rest of the night.
The clothes and weapons of Dolon were set out in the ship of Odysseus and solemnly presented to Athene.