13 Dystros

We have entered the city, which has surrendered. Our first task was succoring the people, who were expiring in their places. The old, and the infants, and the weak children lay dead. I cursed their satrap for his ignorance and cruelty. This is not how Alexandria is founded! The innocents only were the ones who suffered here. I took him in hand and demanded his reason, and his reason seemed to justify continued defiance rather than ambivalence, or capitulation. Then he would die.

These were men who cried out to be sent back to Hades for their punishment; who should never rule, and who themselves are rife with passions they do not control but entertain, day and night. Who have no feeling for those they make to suffer, except that it inconvenience them. I kept him alive for the time it took to determine what he knew of Samos, and what of the troop movements he had been told. So arrogant was he in his conviction of prevailing, he had not even burned the letters sent him by the Darius's mercenary chief at Halicarnassos - and they were housed there, in force! And all of their intent for northern Anatolia was writ plainly and eloquently in their detailed, Persian manner. They were nothing if not thorough with record-keeping, and I learned all in one pillaging of this satrap's mean little palace in the heart of the town.

I put myself into his home as headquarters, and had him detained in a house under guard, a house in which the children had died and spewed out the last of their life onto the floors, and no one remained alive there. Xanion loved such service, to make the ruler grovel in the dirt and discomfort of the place he had made his people die; but I had to remind him that the god required only the exercise in humility, and it was a barbarian that tortured in kind those who tortured others. I am sure when I was not present that he spent his time threatening and cajoling him, if not whacking him astride the buttocks with his sword or poking him with his pike. Xanion has a taste of cruelty on him I find perverse to witness.

We did not sack the town, for its priests all had capitulated long before and had been imprisoned by the satrap. Delaleuccus was this beast's name. Most of them lay in despair in their gaol until released into their temples, which had been sacked by the soldiers of Darius's garrison before they fled before my host. Not a single soldier remained in the town, since they had run in the evening of our encampment along with the wealthy who took as much of their treasure as they could. We took only the wealth of those who had fled, and the remains of the treasure from the town and of the satrap - which itself was extensive. I wondered, then, why he did not leave; had he been the only one who had knowledge of Darius's host, and remained fast? Stupid, more like; he must have known that he would die when we took him.

I left one division to fill the garrison at Ephesos, and appointed the chiefest of the priests to serve as satrap, the one from the temple of Bel Marduk. For this negotiation, I brought Scheravasana, arrayed now in traditional costume she had fashioned for herself, of the priestesses of Bel Marduk; and allowed them to speak privately while I waited. When they emerged, the new satrap, Asharay, the priest, made low obeisance to me and called me Shah; and I questioned him.

Scheravasana replied in his behalf. "This is the ancient name we recognize of you - it is Shargon, the great king."

"I am no Shah," I replied, irritated. "Please address me hereafter by my title: Basileus, and my name is Alexandrus, the third of this name to rise to leadership. It means defender of men. I will defend you, and that is why I am called this."

Again Asharay made low obeisance. "The god wills it! Long have we awaited liberation of our land from the hosts that plague us, and we thank you most abjectly for that liberation, Sh - Basileus. In this I will serve you, but I am no governor merely a humble priest."

"Your governor will come to you from Makedon, and if you have problems, be seen to take them to the general of the garrison, who will serve you in matters of the town, and will serve me in matters of the army. If you do not do this, and if you raise your town against me further, I will have your life, and the lives of those who serve you. Who do you have to offer me as hostage against your word?" The man raised himself with some dignity.

"Hostage?" he queried. "How can I send my servant to you as hostage? I will send him as priest to guide your hand and advise. Hostage?" Schera made a swift but subtle gesture to him, and he halted his speech.

"I require you to give into my hands the one you value most, as a guarantee of compliance with my word," I restated, this time more slowly.

"Prisoner?" he said, shaking himself. "You wish me to give you the prisoners?" Schera made an imploring look to me, and we stood aside.

"This cannot be, Basileus," she said in Greek. "They will put themselves into a fire rather than submit to any worldly authority as hostage or prisoner - they allowed themselves to be taken here, because they awaited you, but would not accept confinement even from your hand. This gesture is meaningless and offensive. You should have him give you his firstborn son, or his daughter to wife; that is what they give as token of obedience."

"Barbaric!" I replied to her, but considered for a moment. "I don't want any more sons or wives right now."

"This would be his hostage, or the equivalent."

"No prisoner then, Priest. But I will double the garrison in the town. There will be 3,000 infantry posted here, and 1,500 horse of my reserve. The town is otherwise prosperous, and can afford to graze horse on these fertile hills."

He nodded then, with enthusiasm. "Your soldiers will find themselves in comfort here."

I left him, and Schera attended me, with my remaining vanguard, and the replacement for Xenotropon. It was time to leave Ephesos, and to turn south and west to the coast once again; to meet the hosts Delaleuccus had awaited with such confidence.

Tonight, Scheravasana was bid in the open air to perform a sacrament for Bel Marduk, and I helped her build a small cairn to commemorate the dead who had been sacrificed and burned for the siege of Ephesos, and burned exotic smells we had been given in quantity from the priests of Bel Marduk. The smells and the ritual delighted me. And upon our retiring into the house of the satrap, who would be executed on the morrow before our departure, we fell easily into the new ritual of lovemaking.