I remain closeted. Now Parmenion comes to me, and Nearchus, recently landed and greeting me from the coast where the supply ships are provisioning us once again for our march to Mylasa, and thence to Halicarnassos. A pall has descended upon my leaders, for it has come to them that I have spurned my newest appointee, Cothon, who was a great favorite of Parmenion; and none has been told the actual facts of the matter. My seniors question me once more, the moment after new success is made, and I am dark with rage. I dislike to write of this, Aristes. I dislike everything this night, and there is none and nothing I can turn to, to assuage. The god is not with me, and nothing sits well with me.
I am disgusted with myself; and with everything that meets my eye. A map sits upon the table in this shadowy place that is my palace in the field, and a lamp gutters there beside it. I stand on the verges of Caria, and know the place is mine, that Asia and all its Greek colonies are near to my hand to grasp. And I am weary of it all, weary unto death. Well that we have days of march ahead to the great city, so that I may stamp out my rage in some more useful fashion. I cannot meet the eye of my woman, whom I have used ill; what right had I to punish her for being woman? Must I make the same error a thousand times in a row, to raise others to a position they do not merit? To play at some drama in which the oracle of the god of this land, Schera, must become my slave? There is none about whom I am more enraged than myself.
All feel this mood upon me; and it seems there is nothing worth saying or doing; and yet, each day the thousand decisions of grain and of water, of arms or of clothing, pass into my hands and are done in a fashion of an automaton, some body animated by the god of administrative duty. They come to me, and stand in silence, they ask their curt question, and depart as quickly; all of them. None but the woman who has all reason to fear me, do not meet my eye; only she is so bold as to challenge. Even my seniors are cowed by this blackness, and this, I detest. And late, I turn to her, and she speaks, at this time her tongue is loosed, with a species of desperation, as though in anticipation of a sooner execution or other punishment I had not yet even threatened. I cannot take back what my tongue has spoke, nor undo those actions of haste and impropriety; my rape of her, if I am to be completely honest I had taken her as Hestes had taken me, all those years ago when I was a child, in a violent paroxysm of lust and possessiveness that cannot be undone.
She says I am of two minds, one of greatness and one of the opposite; and that the mind of the great king, the one she serves, is imprisoned at some times by this other. Perhaps it is what I speak of when I say the god Dionysion, the god of selfishness, sexual exploitation, pleasure and inebriation. That which has ruined so many leaders, and so much of the tyranny of Hellas in these centuries. It is this other that provokes me so utterly, and this other that was raised up to serve Olympias.
Is there wisdom in these things she speaks, Aristes? For it would seem to be, from my own counsel of myself. While I had Hephaestion always at my side, it would seem my worst self were him and not me. And what of Scheravasana? How can I right myself with her, who has done me no true wrong except to strike me, and to offend my vanity by spurning my gifts? Would I execute every leader who did not take an order just so, or who talked back to me? What of Xanion, now resumed his place after pledging his token and apologies? What of Seleuccus, consolidating a dynasty based upon the loosest interpretation of obedience? And what indeed of my love, languishing in Lesbos this moment, plotting his next act against me?
I took the evening with the woman, and once again we were in tenderness with one another. She clucked and fussed over the blemishes left by the memory of Mithradates' passion. Was she jealous that I had been satisfied in the bed of a man? Or was it something deeper and more significant here, as she hinted? She referred first to Hephaestion as the demon, and now to my unnamed assignation. How is this the demon? This is what I hoped to learn from her; but first, there was some ground to be regained in learning of woman, and I bit back my vengeful desire on her, and took her again gently into my arms.
I did not force myself upon her; I was chagrined with the memory of this, and could see the reticence in her, the shyness of one who had been injured, and waited, as I had in my innocence of women so long before (two weeks? Three?) for her to show me sign of passion that I would be able to respond to. I lay with her and hardly touched, but simply placed my arm around her vulnerable shoulder, and breathed upon her as she had so enjoyed, placed my mouth upon her neck, and waited for some sign of the quickening of her lust; and all I felt was some slight shivering as though with cold. And I spake to her,
"Have I done such to you that you have only fear in you for me?"
"I am sorry, Basileus. I do fear. I do not fear you, but what is in you." Her eyes were wide, and her flesh trembled.
I spoke low into her ear. "Please do not fear my rage, I do know how to relent. I did relent."
"Yes, you did," her voice was a hollow whisper.
"Let me make love to you as I had before intended," I spake, entreating. I wanted to do this thing, I wanted to be something other than the god of rapine this night, I wished to be that which could have a hope of being husband, rather than simply a thing of gross appetite and force.
Her voice came small from her. "But what of your appetite to take me unnaturally? Do you not wish this tonight?"
In truth, I did, for the more powerful climax I craved which I gained this way, but I did not say this. "It is not what pleases you, so I will not." Her look of surprise was unmistakable on her.
"Why not? I have in me the desire to do for others. That is one of my chiefest reasons for this very invasion into Anatolia. For the sake of Hellas and its oppressed cities here, the entire culture of my people and its allies and clients. But this is politics, let us speak of love. Please, Schera, teach me something of love tonight."
"What could I teach you?" she just whispered once again, but her voice grew strained with what I had learned was a passion aborning, and I put my hands upon her.
"Teach me what pleases you most," I spake, and she replied directly: her hands urged me downward to taste of her again. This, I could do. For when I slaked her this way, she grew compliant, and there was greater of satisfaction for me in entering her, for she was far more passionate. Perhaps there were women I had yet to discover, who would be greater even in their capacity for passion, who would arouse me more powerfully. But when I had spent myself in her and withdrew, there lay on my flesh the dark stains of blood that smeared themselves thence across her thighs and mine, and I was alarmed.
"What is this?" I spake. "I have broken something in you!" I began to rise, to take on my clothes and myself summon Paulos for help, and she drew me back; she was not alarmed or in pain.
"Come, come back, Basileus, all is well, I should have told you but I did not know it would come on tonight."
"What - come on?"
"That blood means merely that you have not ripened me, and my cycle has come."
"It causes you to bleed? I heard heard of some such but - I did not know it was so copious!" I was aghast, and even now rushed to find water and cloth to rinse the now-drying stains on my body, on hers. I did not return until the cloth was wet in my hands and I could apply it. I detested the stickiness of lifeblood upon my person, in my bed, it recalled me too much to battle. As I performed this task, so necessary to my sense of order and propriety, I found her smiling down on me, as I dabbed at the little places that were brown with stain. "What?" I spake, querulous.
"You are being so kind to me, it is a contradiction. I have just told you I had not got a child from you."
"So? Is that unusual?"
"Considering the number of times you lay with me during my fertility, that is most unusual. Do you not find it unusual?"
"I should have taken pregnant the second or third time you had me during that very week."
"And it did not happen."
"That is why the blood. The womb sheds itself when no seed ripens."
"And you think I should be angry? Why is this?"
"Perhaps - unhappy. Was this not to get a child?"
I shook my head. "Perhaps, perhaps not. Certainly so that I could know woman. Now I know more of woman." I set aside the cloth and approached her once again as she lay supine before me. "Perhaps I could know more?" I had recovered myself by then. And she beckoned me. For that hour, I could believe that the violence that had passed between us had not happened, and that I was no more or less than any other man, abed with his concubine. But this were not true; and on the morrow, we marched to take Mylasa, and on from there, to Halicarnassos to meet the hosts of Mithradates.
During this hour, too, Apollion found reason to interrupt my intimacy, and he too, registered on his face his satisfaction with seeing me in naked embrace with the female. I found this curious. He made his brief request, and hurried off, but not before his smile betrayed his appreciation for the form of the priestess as she lay in her pleasure's langour, embraced by my arms.
I had not considered this before; that this new action would improve the trust and approval of those whose trust I sought; and I wondered how one's sexual habit could influence the attitude of others? Is this because there is something he feels I share with him of experience and passion, as we share the experience of the struggle against our enemy and draw closer as a result? This making love to women is a form of battle, one of learning how to draw out the desire into action, when much is demanded but less understood; it is not direct in the way that a man's passion is direct. I lay with her in my arms for some time, unspeaking, considering the mystery that was the struggles I had endured with her - were they my limitations, or hers, or both? What might I do if I were not king, and what action might I have taken, had she been other than servant to me? This, I puzzled upon, for I had never had wife, or female servant I desired to have as equal; only my aristos, and it were easy for me to see them as equals -- or was it? I had thought so! If I were to love her, what would I do now? What say? At what moment does tenderness and solicitude change its nature and become love? Would I say, were I to know better, that I loved this woman? I knew that I enjoyed her, and that for the greater part, she pleased me; but there were ways in which she annoyed me deeply, and if I were to be truthful, it would not pain me to see her no longer, except that I missed her counsel, and the plainness of truth as she saw it. Her speaking of truth drew me as her body and passion did not; and perhaps that was why I lay with her, because it brought me closer to some truth I did not yet have, something that she knew of me I did not know, except with her. And there was, in the weight of her body in my arms, the shared pleasure of her climax, some consolation, some reassurance, and some slaking of my own lust. But it was not the same.
Again before she left me, she had to staunch the outwelling of blood from her; and there was something to me terribly unnerving about this gush from her loins. Yet it seemed to her as though it were nothing, like some normal thing no different from urinating; how little I knew of the sufferings and tribulations of women! But she assured me that, although there were some cramp that occurs when the dead ovum is cast off, there is little other pain. The haemorrhage was horrible to watch, like watching the gushing out of an artery in the final throes of the stroke of mercy, and I was relieved when she departed to her own place to tend to it. I spent much more time of that evening, before the reconsideration of Mylasa and my campaign against the capital besieged my thoughts once again, abed, considering all that I had learned, and since, writing of it. Considering, in fullness, what it was I desired of others, and how much of it was my passion to them, and how much, placed in me by others; how little I know of what I myself want.