No time to write before this, for a visitation has occurred as we mount the final heights that bring us in view of the valley that encloses the bay and the grand vista of the great city beyond. A royal emissary greets us, and within, carried upon the traditional Carian transportation of hand-borne litter, is a queen of Caria, greeting me and offering me surrender of Halicarnassos. What change of tide! Surely Apollo has sent this woman to my hands, for she requests audience with me.
In my newfound appreciation of female beauty, I watch her with a certain hunger as she alights and is taken in hand by her grooms and conducted to me. Dressed in the richest of Asian finery, and endowed with gold is this the first queen I have met of foreign lands? And what of her husband, where is her king?
She is Ada, of the nearby city of Alinda, holding only that place as a mere portion of the legacy that is hers by heritage, and brings to me as proofs, her seals and those of her royal husband and brother, now dead and usurped by a relative, who rules Caria and has the Parthian Mithradates as his oligarch. For truly, from these things she shows me, she is Queen of Halicarnassos, and has right to surrender it to me. And more bizarre than this, she comes to me to offer me surrender of all of Caria, if I will take it from Persia.
When she closets herself with me and we are seated, I order meal for her and her party, who are assembled without, and at close approach, her beauty, though delicate and fine, is that of a far older woman, not fit to take as bride; and the tightness in my chest from beholding a royal beauty is somewhat checked. What if she had been a generation younger, and offered herself to me as bride? Yes, it would be yes. Even then, I found myself considering what age might have done to mar the fineness of feature and tightness of limb, what might it be to lay with a woman of such stature, such poise and wisdom, someone my equal? I find myself for the first time, alight with something akin to passion for a woman. It is the deep brown of her eye, the kindness of her demeanor, the delicacy with which she carries herself; this is nothing of men, its delicacy is only of women, and I have seen such of this in Bazrin, who is a beauty as her race goes, something in the gracefulness of movement that is musical. But in Ada there is something regal and spiritual added to it, something of a goddess, and this - yes, this I could love and caress.
For some hours in her presence, I listened enraptured by her tale of the woes of Caria under the Persian yoke, and when I enquired of her wherefore she brought it to me, her eye lighted on me kindly and she spake, "I am not ignorant of the will of gods, my child, and they have also spoken to me of you. It is they who send me to you, though I cannot speak of who or what my gods are, they point me to you as the hope of our nation, and our future. I have had instruction to submit to you, and to offer surrender of my nation, and adoption of you as my son. It is unfortunate I have no daughter to give you in marriage, for that daughter is long married to a son of Mithradates of Parthia, who serves the usurper."
"Mithradates -do you know him?"
"Unfortunately, yes. He is not quite of the same ilk as the Persian breed, but he is corrupted by their morality, and has a large appetite for castrated boys. That is not the practice of this nation, to turn a caste of males into a slave race of concubines and pages. I do not permit that practice here, and it is part of what offends us utterly about Persia and its people."
"But Mithradates is not of Persia, he is a Parthian how can this be?"
"He has adopted their dissipated and homosexual ways, and spends much of himself on pursuing greater excesses of pleasure. This is the reason the god is not with Persia, it is a nation corrupted to the heart with excess. If you have conquered here then you probably have been offered slave boys as compensation, no? Have you taken any?"
"Slave boys? Eunuchs? No, I was offered courtesans of the Persian race, and have taken two as peace settlement from Mylasa. It seemed appropriate, and I lack experience of women, so it was fitting."
"You have no wife as yet, this yes, I know," she said with some delicacy. Her Greek was flawless. "This is well known throughout the nations, and we have puzzled over who might be offered to you to make an alliance. I have yet to hear reply from the others who might surrender to you under terms of expelling Persia from this peninsula. "So, you have not yet been seduced into the easy sexual excesses of eunuchs?"
I bridled then, her intrusion into my personal life had come quickly and without warning. "I wish to know how this could bear upon your political terms with me as Queen of Caria., before I answer further."
She smiled, sweetly, disarmingly. "It is a misfortune I wish to spare you, child. You are very wise with the god, but the god does not instruct always in all ways. Perhaps there is something that might be done in the maternal role to advise you, if you would accept such from a foreigner. It is my land, and you cannot know all there is to know of this place. I wish to take you into my family, and to make you heir to the royal line by adoption; and for this, I must assume some maternal role. And that would mean advising you on such a thing as proper marriage role, and whom to marry."
"I see, " I replied. This was unbelievable to my ear! This woman appeared from out of nowhere, a wraith, one I was unaware existed! The Queen of Caria, a widow? And she would direct me to the proper person to marry? Surely yes, I owed great sacrifice to her unnamed god. I answered, with some discretion,
"I have not had a eunuch, no. Though I could not promise you I might not be tempted to one, I do find the practice of unmanning a boy to be barbaric and unwelcome. There is nothing of a man that should be kept from him, and there is nothing of growing into adulthood that should make a man repulsive should he take another as a lover."
"Then I see you have indeed not had a eunuch. For they are trained in such skills of pleasure that exceed that of many concubines, for they are schooled to it from early youth. They are hairless of body, and smooth of limb, stout with the fat of a boy, and winsome in beauty. To make them, they unman only the boys of the greatest beauty, which is a terrible shame for the nation. If you have desire for youth, which I know from your reputation, that desire which is conjured by a eunuch can be intoxicatingly alluring. I warn you of this, Alexandrus. You are not the first northerner to seek dominion in this land, and the Persians conquer mostly be seduction to dissipation. If you would be defeated, it would be by sexual excess."
"Madam," I replied, perhaps too quickly. "I would gladly seek a marriage with a noble in your country, and I assure you, I would be potent to the task. That is really all we need dwell upon now. Can we turn to less personal matters?"
She was unperturbed by my redirection, and she smiled wisely, knowingly, long at me before continuing her discourse. For an uncanny moment of uncertainty as I regarded her, I felt as though perhaps I looked into the imperturbable visage of Pallas Athene, visiting me in the guise of a queen, to warn me yet again of these dire threats I have heard already from Phoebus. My guardians, my gods and goddesses, standing in my path. I watched Queen Ada with a new fascination and dread, then, and eventually, the illusion of Athena passed from her and she became a queen again, lustrous in her finery, and picking delicately at the Sardis I placed before her. She hardly ate a morsel, and appeared sated with it. I poured her wine which she accepted with grace, and spilled a small amount of it upon my altar before sipping. She knew the obeisance to Dionysion, amazing! Perhaps - she was schooled in Attica
Or perhaps it was the Goddess. If so, I would honor her as such, and when she departed audience with me, I housed her as befitting a goddess, and placed a kiss upon her hand and knelt in respect to her royal position, before all of my leaders, and I introduced her to each that were available to attend. At this particular moment, Hephaestion was nearby, leading a troop of cavalry to where they could obtain their fodder, and I watched him halt to peer at the queen. His expression was unreadable, but I felt the hand of unease prickle my neck, my mistrust of him again took me, and I turned slightly away so as not to see him as he proceeded. In time, he did move on, behind my eye. His reduction in rank must be a severe pain, but surely not such a pain as exile! I had been in exile by Philip, and it was excruciating! I would have taken any small job in serving the army, rather than be removed from the action and from his regard. Clearly, Hestes did not think as I did.
Again today I closeted myself with the queen, and we took respite in our march to entertain her, and I convene my council in the evening to discuss all that we had done and said while closeted. Part of the discussions with Ada were done with Apollion and Parmenion, and they urged me to accept her suit, to find if such would influence the outcome of the approach to Halicarnassos and the Carian people. Part, also, of our delay, where the mercenary Carians that Ada intended to place into my service as cavalrymen and javelinmen, who were two days behind. We rest the army now.