15th Anthesterion, Mylasa
The eye of Hecate rises malevolent over the quiet crag of the mountain fastness I now hold. They are ready to relent, and dare not attack. A party of scouts has left the city and we allowed them to parade, to review our assembled ranks, now busy at preparations for a small Olympiad to keep my men fit and sharp while they wait, and while we tarry to resupply. We will soon greatly need what is left of stores in Mylasa, and of their treasury, which I am sure, from their reticence to surrender, is intact. Had they attempted to spirit it away we would then have it, but they were not that stupid as to try to escape with treasure. We were not quite so fortunate at Ephesos. I sense the ripeness of the moment, and as the evening draws close and dark under the shining eye of night, yet another message comes, and I receive it with Apollion in my tent, and with my concubine near to my hand, who has once again been ministering to my body in healing fashion, for I have had some trouble with my sleep. I rose from my bed, where I lay naked to receive her massage of my back and limbs, and took upon myself something of clothing to receive the messenger, another spry youth of whom I was unduly proud. This communication between the reclaimed cities of Anatolia works well, and it is mere days between communications with the major holdings and garrisons, almost as efficient as what could be hoped in Vergina or Pella, though it were a fortnight and more most times for news from Pella, as the ships plied. A letter from Seleuccus! This would interest me much.
"Aristes and Basileus, I greet thee!" he wrote in his formal and flowery style. "I bring you news of success in establishing garrison at Sardis, and our adjustment here is a good one. As you may know I was not happy of your disposition of Hephaestion, and he has writ to me of this. Many of his words, I say, were harsh in the extreme, and I beg you to forgive him as he was your most beloved of friends, far more even than I or your uncle or Memnon. Think of this, and for my sake, consider what banishment may be warranted for the death of a foreign enemy. I do not mean to question or to offend, but ask you to consider in retrospect how much value Hephaestion has been to all of us, how proud you have been of him in his accomplishment, and how beautiful and proud, especially was he of his prowess in the fleet. Can we waste these things for pride or for envy? I beg your indulgence, Basileus, for I too have offended you and found some measure of mercy here. I know you are merciful in your might, and no one can question the unlimited extent of your might.
This has been hard for us who grew up with you and suckled upon the same breast of Pella, we who were so familiar that we stole freely the bread of each other's mouths, and exchanged the very clothes of our backs when we lay upon the hillsides during the feast of Eleusis. This familiarity is all too tested when the god intervenes to challenge us to greatness. The god has called you! The jealousy has lighted all our eyes, for did we not dream so many times that we each would be vouchsafed for greatness? You, the youngest of us all in this generation, and the laziest at lessons, and look how great you grow! This is truly the hand of Apollo. But this is what we see and know, and are abashed that you hold us to account so soon. Give us time to adjust to this new regime that Zeus has thrust upon us. We have no signs and visions to guide us, only Thee, Basileus. We count on you overmuch, it makes us fear the man in you, perhaps that man will slip from his high place, do you see? We never wished for you to be passed over for the laurel or for the crown, but did we think that you would be called to the great Anabasis Cyrae? What are you, that great soul that rose from among us, our small friend whom we ignored too many times, and teased for the girlishness of your locks and fair skin? Is this our king? Do you see, Alexi? Do you see how limited the mortal vision?
Do not be angry with me for such plain and base speech to you, but I miss my friend, Hephaestion, and know that he suffers great pain to be parted from you. I beg you indulgence in his case, and will do what I can to atone for my own behalf. I did not mean to stand against you; only that my personal feelings cloud my judgement, and I leapt to his defense.
If you desire and deign to reply, I will send much tribute of the late barley corn to gather for your next campaign south. Perhaps when this city is settled, you would take me back among you to lead, for I too have a taste for battle, and grow fat with lying at bed with these two new Pergamon wives, I cannot tell you how hard it is to get them to fatten up so that they me be something of taste to me. After childbirth this may be different, as women do change themselves and grow a bit more fat with children.
If you would have me with you, I am always ready. Please write me news of Memnon, I know that his injury from the Granicus still ails. Will he recover? Would it be well for him to come to me in this fair place? We have some good physicians still here, trained in Corinth.
Your devoted satrap
I found myself amused at this note of Seleuccus - he would get one of his wishes, but I would not release him from Sardis. Did these think that cajolement would loosen me? Am I permanently a boy to all of them? All this talk of gods and power, I was not moved by it, not this night. My body ached still, my skin was hot from the exertions of the woman to wrest the knots of tension from me, and the rest of me cooled unnaturally as I sat unclothed and considered. I asked her to leave me then, and sat with Apollion.
"Your wound heals nicely," he commented inanely. Almost without thinking my hand went to my left shoulder where the scar puckered, pink and promising now. "It will not show scar when you bare your breast a month from now."
"Oh, you hint that you wish me to throw javelin again at our contest no, not until I am pure and unmarred. That will not be this dykhomenia." He shook his head in wonderment.
"You are vain of your body, Basileus. There is nothing of shame in scar. You cannot ride to battle and lead without enduring blemishes. What is this of shame of you?"
"What matters that to you? That I am vain of my body's appearance. How many times have these bookish men taken up clay, or paint, or coal, and taken down an image of me, and what would they do if they perceive some passing wound, would they portray it in marble and ship it back to some temple of Artemis? This is my reticence of showing myself outside. A thousand of a thousand men may gaze upon my form and be abashed. It is different for others."
He shrugged. "I don't think that is the reason."
I flared at him - "what do you think the reason is then, Socrates? Why ask if you have answer already?" I was piqued.
He lowered his eyes. "It is not that important. Merely that, it is somewhat of you that reminds me uncannily of Olympias. It is somewhat of her in you."
"Do not remind me that I am like Olympias. What of her, how like am I to her?" I disliked this discussion more and more, but could not help myself but to ask.
"Actually, quite like in some ways, and utterly unlike in others. But not truly, just in some attitudes and thoughts. About beauty, and posterity, and the opinions of others. It makes you seem conceited, beyond your mere position as our leader and king. Must it be conceit that surrounds you rather than your passion for the god and the will of the nation?" His question, though the words were impertinent in the extreme, was good-intentioned, and betrayed to me his comfort with confronting me.
And I considered. At length I grew cold and drew on somewhat more of clothes, and asked my servant to bring me wine. I had been taking wine more frequently, to see whether this would cure something of my insomnia. It had not, but I had drunk much and still was not sleepy or still. The desire for action, for battle, for sex, all rankled in me and I acted on none of it. My body was wracked with contradictory desires all of which went unfulfilled. I did not bed my concubine, these nights, almost as though I feared the returning hand of Hestes on the flap of my tent, at the exact moment (just as Memnon, and Apollion had done) with the uncanny instinct he had, he would come unannounced just at the climactic thrust where groan of release escaped me, and forever would I be condemned by the pain in his eyes at being expelled from my bed in favor of a slender barbarian girl who was nothing of passionate. Thus my desire was unslaked and my pain in myself of anticipation, grew. And this was wrong, wrong in more ways than one; yet I did not correct it. Each time the unobtrusive form of my servant slipped into my tent, or sweat-reeking messenger blundered in, I yearned for some human contact, some embrace that would release me from the trap of my own body, and there was nothing. I touched nothing and no one, except that Schera dug her priestess fingers into the taut muscle of my shoulders and failed to release from them the anger and frustration of a lifetime of inner oppression. She did not mewl at me for frustration of her lust; and did not throw herself on me this time; It was a minor amazement, but she were quiescent to my will. Great things get ready to occur, and she knew somewhat of them.
Another vision came on me, this time while the woman was kneeling at my side and plucking at the tautness of my spine after a hot night of correspondence and calculations, where I sat too late up, she came to me in the morning, and in the swoon that often accompanied her ministrations - some herbs that affected me strongly she placed onto my flesh and they tingled and in this vision, Hestes it was who knelt at my pallet, and reached with matter of fact boldness to arouse me with caress, and place his mouth upon my sex. Ah! This I could see almost as though real, and I waved my hand to wipe away the image before it roused me truly. Yet this vision did return, and roused I did become, and inwardly I spake, 'this cannot be, this cannot be, leave me be, Hestes, do not touch what is not yours to have " and my hand pushed against the arms of the priestess as she pressed her thumbs into the muscle of my buttock and produced some slight spasm of pain in my leg.
"What ails you there, Basileus?" she said meekly.
"Do not - it cannot be, do not touch there " I mumbled, unclear as to whom I addressed. I opened my eyes and found to my chagrin I had risen to the vision and throbbed with it.
"You are excited," she said simply.
"Do not be concerned," I spake quickly, and moved away from her hands. "You should leave me now."
"What is it? I could help you "
"No! Leave me now, I will not lay with you."
"But why is this? Am I unclean?"
"No " I grew impatient. "Just - not now. I am feeling ill. Let me be now. Do not make me order you away."
She left, quietly, her face marred by some inner offense at being sent off from the bed of one ready and aroused. Clearly she could conclude that she had offended me and that I was tormenting her deliberately. In her absence I fell again to reverie, and the vision returned entire as though uninterrupted, as before, and I beseeched him to leave me, though nothing in me wished the vision to end, and I was seized by vision entire, until the climactic moment, where I could not refrain from placing hand upon my flesh and spending myself from the vision. I slept once again, and endured long and querulous argument, it would seem, with the shade that was the memory of my lover, about the necessities of abstinence with him, and my desire once again to extend trust to him I did not have in me to extend.
And here I sit. The dilemma of all I wish not to do lies before me. I have sent communication to Pella and to Vergina, wherever Antipater may sit (for he goes from one to another place, while his second Antigonus writes for him wherever he is not,) with the selfsame letter in each, to maintain the orders as given to them, and to exercise caution in response to Olympias, but always to show royal respect. And the hardest thing, that she must request directly of me any involvement she wishes to have outside of specific audiences she will be allowed, and etc., as I specified in a long list of harmless activities she could indulge herself and not threaten the nation. It was a useless act of diplomacy - she would find a way around it, I was certain.
And to Hephaestion, somewhat more, his recall to the position as the relief commander for Memnon, to go directly to him at Samos and attend him and accompany him to the camp before we move onward southbound. He may join the campaign to Phrygia and be away from my side, yet close to Parmenion, but that I had not decided and did not speculate.
And to Seleuccus, to commend him for both diplomacy and leadership in his place, and congratulating him on his marriage, promising a bounty to him upon accepting a Trojan as wife. And to some swift calculations as to how much I might afford to distribute as bounty to all of my officers, if they were to take wives of the Anatolian nations.
And is this not enough? No, not even halfway enough, for my soul remains sick in me; and I am dissatisfied with myself, and frustrated not to advance in force to the next before this city is settled. Mylasa holds forth with its fortification and supplies; and I vow that I will break them when they are breached, as a lesson to their neighboring cities. I despise long and destructive sieges.