The double was suitable, though not very flattering to my famed beauty of face, he was in most respects similar - in height, in coloring, and in hair, and could be taught to parade as I before the troops, making viewing at a distance seem plausibly Alexandrus.
Mylasa sends a scouting party and shortly thereafter, a dispatch is attempted from the south gate, and is run down when out of sight of the walls by the Companion cavalry, and brought before me.
A Greek. Mercenary and a combatant, from my assessment. I addressed him in his own tongue - Attic. "You are attached to the garrison, or hired here?"
He eyed me, an air of contempt about him, and I waited, patient, for his speech.
At length, he glanced again at my quietude and shrugged. "What is it to me, now? My wage is lost. I am hired."
"By Mithradates of Halicarnassos?" I enquired quietly, gazing carefully. Surprise.
"I was told of this," he spake. "You have the oracle at your command. Apollo himself speaks to you, and nothing is hid." He dropped his eyes, and were I to command him, he might have knelt, for the Greeks in the main were lately of the superstition that I was their great hero, Herakles, or even the god, Zeus. What if I were to doff the eagle feather and take on the skin of a bear, would they then worship Herakles and Athena for his sake? Though I had had my share of Nemean lions at the hunt. Perhaps one day soon I could take to the lion hunt again
"Mithradates, then," I repeated, and he assented. "And you go to him?" It was not truly a question.
"You know this already. To tell him of your terms, and of your forces here."
"What if I were to give you other message - - would you take it to him, without speaking of it to him?" My words surprised me somewhat, for the god had inspired me anew.
"You would let me go?" He was amazed.
I shrugged. "Why not?" He shook his head, unbelieving. "Of course, I will need to read all of what you carry, and perhaps, take aught of them it would depend."
"I could refuse."
"Then you would die."
He nodded, matter-of-fact. "I will not refuse. My wage is lost. I would not lose my life in addition."
"Very wise." He then surrendered his dispatches, and I read all, lest the more innocuous be of more actual importance -- and they were not. Ileus had little guile.
With some speed, and out of the prisoner's presence, I copied out on like paper the substance of Ileus's message by imitating his hand, and added in several sentences with careful language, that lessened the threat by some significant magnitude -- estimating my force at somewhat weaker, my demand as lesser, and most important of all -- changing the disposition of my troops, and the direction of my intended approach to Halicarnassos. I added also that they remained well supplied (though they were not) and had no present need of help. Sealing this new sheet I gave it into the hand of the mercenary and with it, some significant payment in Makednoi gold.
"If you deliver all herein, there will be another salary for you at the end of your journey, and mercy to your fellows, at your surrender at Halicarnassos."
"And if I do not?"
"You will be slain on sight, wherever you are. Apollo will let it be known to me." I winked at him, and he drew away, abashed.
"I will do it," he spake, taking my gold. He left almost immediately, I am sure, with some question in his mind, but I was not concerned. No matter what he told Mithradates when he gave over his letters, he would tell him of his meeting with me, and that I named him. Would my king be then intrigued?
I am waked, tonight, uneasy with the weight of decision, and the reversal of my intention to Hephaestion. Was I correct? If he defied me once again, at length, would I have the strength to put him to the sword? It had seemed so easy in the case of these others, distant to me as aristos, not members of my house or family . But Amyntor, how could I ever look into his eye again, if I had put his son to death? And how could I live, having done so? My waking dream, abated during the time I had eclipsed his face with that in turn of Schera and of Mithradates, his passion eclipsed by theirs, and mine for them, returned to me in force, and a passion came upon me that was violent in the extreme.
Taking myself from the place of siege, followed at distance by two of my hypaspists, I stalked upward to the rocks, with them following discreetly. I made an altar in the rocks, as I had done that night, the last night I had argued with Hestes, and burned incense to the god, and burned the herb of vision to Apollo for my own meditation. Would he favor me here, would he give me victory against my enemy and lover who awaited me after this siege were done? Mithradates would take to arms, and for this I must prepare.
As I sat in meditation, the dream came on me once again, and I dreamed the moment that my love embraced me. How could I live without that regard, and were it true regard for me? What was love? I asked myself this question surely it was something other than pure desire, or satisfaction of a wanton lust. But I did not know; and had never truly known it, Aristes. If I persist in my campaign, would I find therein, something that the world at large describes as love? Perhaps I had never loved, and this was the lack I felt, that I would reach for something lesser at all times, an intrusive lust of him who had harmed me more than anyone, and who entertained the one I loved the least. I must remember this.
In the swoon of my obeisance to the god, he came in vision to me, dressed much as he was that night, not for war, but assignation. He knelt before me, but at distance, as penitent kneels before a fiery altar, and spake, his hands beseeching one another.
"Philos, my king, my only love," he spake, in passion, I beg for only mercy and permission to be near you, and to behold you. I live for the moment that you may relent, and in the hope yet of caress by you."
I regarded him, and all of his body spake of the passion on him, he was overtly aroused, but stayed quiescent, yet radiant with the passion that seemed to engulf his exterior in a sort of flame. "You cannot know, being you, what it is to behold or to adore you, but trust me, it is something I will not recover from; this is too great."
In my vision, I stood in the place of the altar of Apollo, attentive and yet unmoved, as though no emotion touched me. I saw him as I did so briefly that night -- from above Alexander, uncompromised.
"I will not take you to my breast again, Hestes," I spake, sober.
"But I know that you yearn for me as I yearn for you -- let us not be in pain for one another, Philos. I beg of you." He wept.
I shook my head, resolute in myself, in a manner I rarely felt except in the presence of the god or possessed by him entire. "This cannot be, the oath is made and cannot be unmade. The mercy I offer you is to allow you to serve in another way, in my service still, but not in my council and not as Second. This is the most you will have of me. You may take Memnon's leadership on the sea and in the cavalry, to use your best ability, but there will be no more eromenos, and no more undue favor. Your treason to me has lessened you, your own power and ability are the only things that keep you free of my wrath. I challenged you beyond your capacities, and for this I atone to Apollo, who loves you for the beauty of your art and other excellences."
The vision of Hestes bowed its head. "There will be no more than this?"
"Only the promise of reconciliation in another life, that we may hold each other dear in true esteem, perhaps as lovers in some fairer day: not this."
He covered his face with his hands, weeping bitterly. "I did not want this!" he cried out, in pain. I did not feel then, that pang of suffering I had so often felt when he wept and wheedled. I was as cold as stone, calm.
"No, and neither did I," I spake. "I did not want to hold my father while he bled out his life in the height of his glory, nor accede to leadership on his murdered corpse. I did not want to hear of your assignation with my mother while he lived, and how you both betrayed my innocence by seduction, one and then the other, in my tender youth."
The open countenance of my former companion showed pain, remorse, and somewhat else. "But what of that? You are the son of the god, Zeus himself, and not even Philip. He, like Philoctetes, like Laius, reared you only to your leadership, and until his death was tolled by Fate. Zeus himself deposed his own father, and under great oppression. This is the fate of gods, and Titans."
"And do not gods too have pain and emotions? Things that may be, in time, too great to bear? Do they not?" My voice at last showed emotion I lately felt.
My question, loud in its implication, hung between us in the air. "Yes, of course," he spake. "But it could not be more than you could bear. Being invincible, those of us mere mortals will ever strike at that divinity to prove it to be so. We cannot help it."
"That is your excuse?" I was amazed.
"I could not help it; your excellence is so far greater than my own, I must test it."
"Test it not again, if you wish to live and serve me."
He did not reply, but with some suddenness and flurry, the vision ended, and left me with the slight ache that henbane left in me after vision of Apollo.
"Oh Hestion," I cried within myself. "If it is only my excellence that draws you down, will you then die of that which is unworthy of your envy?" I wept, alone.
And morning came, to reveal in careless repose, the exhausted forms of my hypaspists, sprawled amongst the boulders of the cliffs. I walked between their senseless, sleeping bodies, and returned to my tent to prepare my final demand to Mylasa for reply. I wished not to wait for result from Halicarnassos. If necessary, I would break the wall to spur them.
We have little time to guarantee security to our northern frontier. Thence, to affairs of war.