22 Dystros

I review all that I have writ, and have spent hours sitting with Memnon. He has shown the treason to our leaders. From my mind of complete doubt, I spake.

"Are there among you any who believe I suffer from the delusion that I am Zeus, that I should not be opposed, and that I tyrannize our country, my army, and my leadership?"

"Question yourself not, for Hephaestion's view is that of an exile talking in bitterness," Apollion spake. "It is normal for Hestes to resent your power: he always has. He has not even the power of his own speech at times, but runs on without counsel. He envies everything of excellence in you; for he wishes to be like you. All of us here know this. But in this he threatens us all, and in his plots with those who oppose your actions, he is beyond our compassion."

Parmenion opened his mouth and shut it once again. "Speak!" I urged him, as I spied his hesitancy.

He shook his head. "He should not be beyond our compassion. One should go to him and explain your position to him. His defiance does no one good."

I took to my feet. "Go to him! To plead for righteousness that is self evident! The enemy harries us from the sea now Parmenion, what are you thinking?"

He fixed his eye on me. "They are driven back, the fleet has secured the sea, and we are a day by ship from Mitylene while we are here. There will not be other chance; he sets himself up as enemy, and you refuse to smite him. Your only choice is direct negotiation for his cooperation."

"My only choice!" I raged. "My choice is to intercept his treasonous letters, to restrain him further, and place him into a more permanent confinement until he learns not to defy me further!" The eyes of my men were on me.

"No - your choice is to execute him for his plot against you, or to ignore the plot as no plot. Since you do not execute him, there is no plot and you cannot act against the non-existent plot. He is bold with certainty that he is safe from your wrath, and that his intimates too are safe from your wrath. You must convince him they are not, and that he is not."

Memnon nodded in agreement. "We can send anyone of your choosing. I will myself go."

"You are good choice, Memnon, but you are wounded. In Mitylene they have Helinarcchus the Cretan physician, and he has done much with battle wounds, and you would not need to ride at all. But I cannot spare your counsel. I will send for Helinarcchus to come to you here, and you may rejoin us south when you are better from this."

"You cannot afford to ignore this," He said darkly. "And I doubt any other would be successful in turning his revenge back from you."

Parmenion this time nodded in agreement.

"You two - you have it all agreed to, do you? Memnon, I say no."

"And I say yes," Parmenion spake. I stood.

"He is the only one who can set these things aright, child."

"Child me!"

"Don't - not among us, Alexi. Do not be foolish. What is your objection to sending Memnon to Mitylene? He will be gone two days by ship!"

"I will not see him further if he goes," I spake, suddenly. My own words surprised me. They all stared into my face.

"What are you saying, child?" Parmes spake softly. "Is this a vision in you?"

I did not speak. They turned to one another. "It is a vision in him," Apollion answered for me. He knew from the look upon me, and my sudden, irrevocable silence. The god had come on me, and bid me be silent. I stared at my men, and within me I cried out. If they send Memnon, I will not see him further, and he will die. This, I could not stop, I must not interfere. The god calls him back to him, and will not be denied. Though king, I could not change this, or turn him from whatever death had been ordained. To do so would be defiance. Defiant enough I felt!

They counseled among themselves, and I withdrew, and spake not, and lay myself down. After some time I grew aware the sound of voices ceased, and I opened my eyes. Parmenion leaned into my face and placed a hand upon my brow. "Child…" he spake the single word.

"Uncle," I replied, and at the speaking of the word tears sprung to my eyes and I wept.

"What is it? We need your decision now. Are you faint? Do you sleep?" How could I tell him? I stared at him, searching within myself for a word the god would let me speak.

"What shall we do? We must send him" he spake again.

"Then do as you will," the words barely escaped me.

"What do you will?"

I shook my head, vehement. "Do as you will."

Parmenion threw up his hands. "Apollion, what do you make of this?"

"He is without speech. It is not his to decide; the god decides now."

"Well then what do we do? Alexi can't you rise now and counsel with us?" He paced, I could feel his towering presence come and go back and forth before me, but was not with him, I was far away, in the hands of the god, and barely aware of anything but the grossest speech addressed to me. I could not return.

Memnon spake next. "We can defer this; there is no need to pressure him, he is in distress, let us leave him to it, does he need his woman do you think?"

Apollion stood. "Just so, she is a comfort to him. I will get her. Basileus -- what say you, do you want your priestess?"

I thrashed about somewhat, and might have said "no" but no word was said. He went out, and presently the cool enticing hands of the now-strange Persian woman were on me, unrecognizable, and urgently caressing me as though by some accord of unspoken passion. And still I did not return to my self, there was some relation of my mind to my body but I could not draw them closed to stir completely to waking consciousness. She placed her mouth hot upon mine, and I did not respond to it, and then placed it upon my sex, but this I hardly sensed, and did not rise or feel arousal. I could sense at distance, somewhere, the woman grow angry and passionate with me, and then worried, and then fearful, and then still. And when she was still, I seemed to sleep, for some time appeared to pass; when I woke again I opened my eyes and found instead of her, the deep and troubled gaze of Apollion as he sat upon the edge of my bed.

"I am going to get Paulos," he said flatly. "You are in some cold fever, your flesh is cold, and yet you behave as if in fever. Basileus!" I thought perhaps he would slap my face, and I winced, preparing for the blow. He too had grown angry - why were they all so angry? This I could not comprehend.

"What has happened? What is the hour?" I whispered. I sensed some terrible thing had happened. "Philip -- there was blood on his chest… was he stabbed?"

Apollion stared, eyes gone wide with fear. "Philip? What are you saying? - Alexi! It is I, Apollion. Wake!"

I sat up. "Something has happened, " spake I, and looked at my hands. "Blood - there is blood everywhere. Who wiped up all the blood?" I tasted of my hands, and they were not salt; there was no blood. "Where is Hestes? Where is my mother?" I waited in his presence, annoyed by his expression of dismay, and looked quickly to the door. "Is she expected?" I felt the quickening of my pulse in the expectation of seeing my queen. Some part of me knew that the words I spake made no sense, but they had a strange compelling logic as they were uttered, which convinced my mind. And bursting from my mouth next was this further revelation, which crushed me with its clarity: "A traitor has struck my father down in my very arms!"

My second took me bodily by the shoulders - how strong, he, I thought while his hands closed upon me - and pressed me back down onto the bed - his strength in that moment was greater than mine, and I thrashed a few moments longer, but without sincerity; then embraced him in a paroxysm of grief. "The king is slain!" I cried in a great voice of despair, and my words echoed outward to the camp. My voice sounded strange to my ear; I discerned it as not of the child Alexander but of the man I had become. Did I not recall until this moment what occurred that night? When was that night?

With a sudden energy of purpose, I leapt from my bed, and pushed away from his beseeching hands. It became urgent for me to learn the day and date, among the bematist's papers, the maps, the calendars… yes. It was this day, this date, two years ago, and on this date once again, a traitor seeks the life of the royal house. This cannot stand unpunished!

"Send for the rest of the council. I go to reconnoiter Miletus, and we will need to bring in the fleet for supply before sending them back to Vergina. We press on."

Apollion's look of relief was palpable. "Your state has frightened all of us, Basileus."

"What frightened you?" I moved my eyes to gaze at him directly, and a species of fear lingered in his eyes.

"The passion you fell to. It has been a night and half a day."

"What - half a day?" I strode to the door and the sun was high over the crags to the east. "I must have been tired."

"Your priestess came to us in distress and said you would not lay with her, that she had offended you somewhat, and Memnon took to his bed for a respite while you slept. And a letter - from your enemy!"

"Which enemy, Darius? Or the enemy within?"

"Darius."

"Did you break the seal?"

"Of course not."

"Then return it to him, with the following letter." I took from my papers a letter, which I had already penned.

"You know what his missive contains?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied, the voice of the god certain in me. "Nothing that I wish to read today. He will have my answer soon enough."

Apollion pressed on. "And Mitylene? What of Mitylene?"

"I will speak not of that," I countered. "Memnon will go if he goes, Memnon will not go if he does not go."

"He wishes to go."

"Then he will go."

"Basileus!" he cried again. "You are still not yourself!"

"Then he will go," I repeated. "I will say nothing more on it."