10 Dystros

We prepare for the encirclement, and a single corpse, that of a member of my dozen hand-picked vanguard, lies beneath a horde of feasting carrion birds on the slope behind us; the body of the would-be regicide. My fever, the vomiting, and the diarrhea have subsided enough for the gleam of fever madness in my eye to abate; and I can feel a greater ease in my men. It was an anxiety in them that I could be susceptible to poison at all, but a relief and release to find that the Divine Alexander could not be felled, not by a single arrow; or a metaphorical arrow in the form of ergot-infested bread.

We burned the prisoner with full ceremony, whose name was Vargazones, a Trojan name, and I had his brothers brought to me (he had no sons - I would have spared him and chosen another if he had had sons, even if not taken) and acknowledged the sacrifice he made willingly in behalf of them. They were then freed to travel into the Troad, and I released them into the hands of a messenger party to bring them safe to Troya and thence to Troas to inquire of Memnon. I would have my answer concerning Memnon within two days with good fortune and no rain, or there was some possibility he would return to us from his bed of suffering of his own accord.

I did not have to interrogate or threatening anyone in my review; I simply explained to the chiliarchy that my leadership had been threatened in several quarters, by my new regime with Apollion, and that I knew a regicide lurked, ready to strike. And very rapidly there arose a clamor of anger and anguish about me as the men rose up against the regicide among us, and their eyes accused one another. In this heated moment where the crowd of men grew indignant and loud to my words to them, a cry rang out and this one, this Xenotropon, came forward and prostrated himself. His speech was brief but eloquent,

"It is I who was sent to you, Basileus. I cannot raise myself up now, for I see that those who sent me did not plan to kill a god, but rather a man, and you stand before us where you should be dead. I for one am glad, for I had always doubted before today, and I may go happily to the god knowing that I am not powerful enough to kill the one who is divine."

"What have you to give as your reason?" I spake unto him, advancing to where he knelt, his face averted in shame from my stare.

"My reason is in error, Basileus! I was sent by Pausis, who now lies a skeleton on the plain. And his plot were known. He did not believe you divine, as I now know!" The soldier's voice cracked, and all murmured in sympathy with his words. "And I am glad!" he cried, "that I was not powerful to cut you down, and that you live!"

A roar rose from those around him in the clearing where I stood facing him.

"As am I," I spake, to the great approval of these onlookers. "And if it were anything less than regicide as the plot, I could spare you; but treason against my person is treason, whether by yourself, or at the behest of another, and you must die."

He bowed his head. "Be swift," he said aloud; and I was swift with the sword to the artery on his neck, and he spilled upon the ground, to my deep regret. I knew there were others who sought my life; but I did not know who they were. He believed, and perhaps rightly for him, that the conspirator who sought my life was Pausis, and no other. The conspirator, in fact, I was quite sure of, though I could have nothing but my own counsel with the god to tell me -- it was my love.