We have delayed the weddings until the completion of our march, as we are late on my original schedule to make siege upon Miletus. We have taken on some of our sailors to provision for us and I bring a small force for the siege to the heights - they will meet us further on to the next destination on the coastline, Iassos, and continue on as we assemble for siege under me. Parmenion takes the remainder of the army. Apollion I keep near to me, and Memnon stays at our base in the delta until the physican comes from Mytilene and works to cure him. He needs rest.
Our fleet is emptied and I retain the cargo ships which ply across from Lesbos at Dycalion. They have been filled from the tribute of Thessaly. I have 300 men with me.
I take Apollion into my tent hurriedly as we prepare for the siege, and lay my hand heavily on his shoulder. This is the first time we have truly spoken privately since Abydos, and it is time to bring him entire into my confidence, to know where I stand with him.
"There are intrigues and secrets I must entrust you with, now, Second, and if you cannot bear them, then I must ask you to surrender your place. For you have decided that I am immortal; now you must decide whether I am wise as well. What say you?"
"I wonder, today," he replied, quickly this time, "why it is that you constantly address yourself to this point about trust when I thought I had proven that? Nothing of what you speak to me in privacy has gone to anyone else "
"Except my desire for small breasted concubines."
To his credit, Apollion grinned at me, and I knew we had a new intimacy and trust between us. I clapped him on the shoulders in approval, I embraced him. "You know you did me good, and my greatest thanks."
"Despite her petulances?? All the camp heard your shout that night."
"The arrogance of her sex!" I cried, piqued, other topics forgotten for the moment.
"They are dreadful to the sword, " he nodded sadly, "you deny them at your own risk at those times, and there is only one thing, argument will not work. You must fall upon them. It is an amazement to me, but it is the only thing that works."
"I fell not upon her that night!" I spake, indignant.
"No, and she may never let you rest for it. I am sorry, Bas - Alexi. But I foresee this. She is a dark thing, and she is bold by lust of you. She worships you in every way, and it is near to obscene."
"What mean you by this? Obscene?"
"My - my own women, have spoken to me of her."
"How many women have you that follow my army?" I inquired, curiosity gaining the best of my discipline.
"I - I had best not say."
"Three? Five? Ten? Did you take any of mine?" I jested.
"Perhaps I have one or two that were meant to go to you," he evaded me. "You should take one or two more, of concubines, so that the first will not gain excessive pride of her place."
"I don't want more women. You know what I want."
"You want a fair and violent youth, blooded and reeking of battle tears and blood lust. You want what you yourself become in battle, what is so admired of you by those who love you most."
"Just so. I am glad you speak plain. And that which I want, I cannot have now."
"You could, if you desire it."
I shook my head, emphatic. "No, if I were to lay so much as a hand on any young enemy sent to me, even if he were to kneel and place his - no need to dwell on that -- if anything of this nature were to occur, I will have lost all confidence from Memnon and perhaps even Parmenion. They believe I have an illness of the lusts that places me in danger to them. Hestes has convinced them that I am ill with it, and place myself in danger, so I must never been seen to do it."
"You are immortal, you are not in danger from men you bed. Even if they are the enemy. And if so, I will defend you."
"No, no danger from any. Except perhaps Hephaestion."
He nodded. "Just so - they should see the relation of it. The only lover who has attacked you was him."
"And were Hephaestion to lay with me again it is likely he would sever my very organ from my loins with his teeth, so angry is he of my infidelity."
Apollion regarded me closely. "You grow more realistic about him in time. I can see this aspect of him."
"He has won one small battle - he has guaranteed that my elders will abandon their trust of me if I pursue another male warrior to consummation."
"And so ?"
"And so I must seek in secrecy for that which my lust craves. I speak plain so that you will guard my place and keep my troth."
"Secrecy? For what, an assignation? Where?"
"That is --"
"A day's ride on Bucephalus."
"Three days!" he cried.
"All right then, if we stop to rest, two."
"Three!" How can you go from here like that! No. No I can't have that happen. I will not do this siege with three hundred Companions without you. It will fail."
"Before the siege is engaged, then."
"There is no time."
"After the siege is ended then."
"When you are settling the town? How can I hide that you are missing then?"
"Tell them that I am getting my concubine with child during her monthly season, and must not be disturbed."
"Isn't that how long those things take?" I laughed aloud at him. "That is how long it seemed this time!"
"Usually three to five."
"Or, tell them I met the Queen of the Amazons abroad, and she wished to found a race of warriors from my loins, and I had to please her ten nights in a row and am too tired from my bed of love to emerge by day, lest I disturb the race aborning."
"They would want to see this Queen of Amazons. Either coming or going."
"That might be arranged" I smiled wickedly.
"Now, what else is there of import?"
"I wish to know of Cothon, what he whispers to you. He casts his eye boldly, and I wish to know what this means."
"Oh." He withdrew visibly. "Yes, there is some problem with Cothon. Even last night as we settled the camp, he spake to me of you, and yes -- there is a problem."
"Do you think I should just take him and be done? Raise up another to usurp you, Apollion, because I enjoy the smile in his eye, and the shape of his hip? How many Hephaestions can I create this way? I wonder what it would be like, to have another ambitious regicide to entertain me by night."
He replied, to my surprise, once again his counsel quick. "He says to me that you have a passion for him, and that he feels it, and that he imagines himself soon to be a favorite of yours, and wished to know if you had mentioned how you feel about him, and what it meant, his being raised to council."
"What did you say?"
"I said that there were only two choices, he could be in your council or in your bed and not both. That is, assuming you would have him at all."
"And his reply?"
"That that was not true of Hephaestion, and that you would make an exception due to your attraction."
"Just so, this is how he would think. So that you know, he is pleasing to me, but his personality is not very mature - he is a mere 18 winters in the house of Eristarchus, and still pursues the dreams and pleasures of a child despite his other skills, which I see he does not value. I would not have him were I NOT Basileus, and were I not king or leader here. He is one to watch and feel pleasure in the watching. And that is all. Do not tell him this!"
"Ah, I see, then it is well."
"All he imagines is what is in his own mind."
"That is all I wish to know."
"Then, let us plot and plan for the Queen of Amazons to visit to me so that I may pleasure her in Mylasa this next week hence, but first, bring Cothon to me."
"I think this is best done and quickly done," I said, warming to the task. It would be to me as though I had changed the course of the past, and turned Hephaestion from me before he laid caress upon my corpse!
Cothon was in high color when he was brought - it was late in the evening and he was near to retiring. This would be the time of summoning for an assignation; this is the time I summoned my concubine usually - he could not fail to know this, and I did it purposefully.
He knelt. I looked down upon him from my seat, and considered, some of the larger words of scorn I banished, and tried to think of him as like to myself, ambitious and determined, yet, thinking too greatly of himself and his own ambitions to understand.
"So, Cothon, we meet in privacy."
"Yes, Basileus. You asked for me."
"You have wished to come to me before this?" I spake, all ambiguity.
"You mean --"
"Privately. Of yourself, as a man, to pay a call upon a man."
"Well of course. But you are Basileus, I cannot presume to simply call on you."
"And yet, that is exactly what you have just done!"
"I have?" He shook his head. "No, I was summoned by Apollion who brought me, did you not know that?"
"What do I know, only that Apollion tells me?" I countered.
"He did not tell you he was summoning me himself of his own accord?"
I shook my head, determinedly. "It is a mystery as to why you are here."
"Because Apollion brought me."
"And does Apollion deliver men to me?"
"Deliver? What do you mean deliver?"
"Does he deliver my eromenos to me? Is this what you are to me tonight?" I raised my voice just slightly.
He flushed, scarlet. His emotions were easy to read, and deep confusion and desire were mixed upon the palette of his face then.
His voice emerged, cracking. "Is that what you wish, Basileus?" He trembled visibly, as if with some bright imagining.
"What does it matter, what I wish? You have decided what I wish. Should I not simply do as you decide?"
"What?" He shook his head. "What do you mean? Of course, it matters what you wish!"
"Surely! You are king!"
I pointed to my chest. "I am?"
He grew angry with me and the flush of desire was drowned by the ice of anger. "Basileus, I do not understand, why you summoned me here and why you speak of eromenos to me."
"Ah, we are in the same position then, you should understand this quite well. You see, here is my problem."
"Yes. I do not know why Apollion came to me and summoned me to you, Cothon. And why he spake to me that you had chosen me as your love and that I was soon to be your favorite in your bed and in your heart."
"Apollion did that?" He was enraged, then.
I held up a hand. "He told me you had decided you were for me, and that you would serve me as eromenos, and inquired of my personal sentiments directly of him. Who is Apollion that he should serve you this way, unless he is your second, and you are king? And then to presume to know my heart, and in effect, through your pronouncement to him, to summon me to you?"
He stood and trembled from head to foot, his passion humiliated in his loins.
"You see my problem?" I inquired, quietly, while I watched Cothon.
"I - I spoke boldly "
"Yes, too boldly."
"I thought that would turn you to me."
"So you thought."
"I thought - you might want me."
"You know my law."
"Your law!" he spake then, too quickly for reasoned thought. "You have broke that law!"
"And so? I had to invoke it again due to my error. I have spoken of these things, and we have sat at council. Did you not sit with me and hear the rude detail of how Hephaestion betrayed me because I both raised him up and lay with him? That he gained too much of ambition then? Are you utterly deaf to this dilemma that requires law?"
"I - I did not think --"
"Precisely. You did not think. Cothon, how much do you value your new place?"
"Do not take this from me, Basileus - due to incautious speech!" He knelt again hurriedly, sinking to his knees, bowed his head in obeisance, and pressed his hands together. He is a fine looking man, and I considered him with his head bowed. Beseeching me. I realized then how dearly I love beseeching at some times.
"Put yourself on your feet, I do not require obeisance, only respect." He rose, awkwardly, the passionate glow gone from his countenance; leaving only fear and abashed amazement. I kept my expression impassive, but a softness was on me for him; and I knew I had to hold fast to my decision, or remove him from his place, and send him from me. His abashedness softened me, his high color made me wish to relent with him; but this could not be. I could not let my softness for a fair soldier cloud my judgement with him or break my train of discipline, as it had with Hestes. This, this is my weakness and undoing, to see my own emotions in others and to act out their wish in my wish. These things cannot be; I must learn to be harder with them.
I dismissed him as quietly as I could, with reassurance that if there were no more comment in my direction, that none would know and no consequence would ensue. Though his attitude betrayed some great fear, clearly he had spoken to more than Apollion, and most likely, I suspect, in writing. Gaining the personal favor of the king is a great thing, and would embolden one to write abroad with many loud sentiments. I did not make his humiliation greater by querying him on this. I need only make it clear from my brief audience that he was not summoned to me for assignation or personal favor; and after he was dismissed, I made some great show of bringing my concubine to me. I had some planning to do for my escape in Mylasa, and she would be my help in this. But before we spake, I did my duty and served her as was her nightly portion, for her passion was upon her for me, and she could not remain slaked from the previous night. This duty grows heavily on me, and is less of passion and more of obligation day by day, and I yearn for my escape. It is not female I want.