We meet again, Ada and I, and I prepare for an approach by stealth to Myndus. I have sent troops far afield to watch for attack by stealth from the west. I dine in private, late, with my guest the Queen, and we have drafted truce for the surrender of Caria, and have now a rough map encompassing its borders, including the surrendered cities and the great metropolis of Halicarnassos and surrounding towns, the harbor, and the islands of the Bodrum Peninsula. Though ample opportunity has been available, my guest has not resumed her exhortations to me about my habits or appetites; and I find this curious. Women are generally more insistent, but she is a listener, and draws me out to speak of my own interests, what I had writ of poems, and bid me read to her some passage or other from Iliad or Aeneid, which I also did for her. She had studied the Greek, but not, as I had suspected, in Attica but in her own land, with Greek tutors easily available, for there was a time when she had considered an alliance with my father and had sought to approach him, before her husband had been usurped. She wore the power in this land, for it was customary for the female monarch to rule in Caria, with her eldest brother as spouse and father to the female heir who would rule in her turn.
I commented to her, "I would find it most curious, and somewhat repulsive, to take my young sister Cleopatra to wife, she is an unruly and talkative child, and not at all to my taste."
She fixed an eye upon me. "So there are women who meet your taste, then, Basileus Alexandrus?" her smile was hidden, enigmatic, and with her gaze upon me I found once again my chest was tight and I withheld my breath. The presence of the woman was palpable; she must cow ordinary men with this gaze. I met her eyes levelly.
"Yet why have you come to this ripe age and as yet taken no wife? Do the Makednoi or Hellene races not fire your appetite?"
"You speak again of things I hold quite close to me, Highness," I spake, using her formal title. I was somewhat abashed at the wanton attraction that transported me when she regarded me; and I found myself wondering at it. This was not me and women - my neutral feeling of women was only altered by a frank view and direct solicitation, not a casual discussion over meal, and yet this woman, again, empassioned me, and I wondered about whether she was a disguise of the goddess Athene. I chafed to speak of it and ask, but refrained.
She gazed up at me brazenly. "If I wish to learn something, there are times when there is only one way to discover, and that is to ask. I am, though usurped, a ruler such as you. You may not be accustomed to such position of women in equality, but that is the nature of the nation you have now been ceded. It is ceded to you by me, and we are now familiars and family. I would hope, though brief in acquaintance, the large political alliance we forge and pen has merited me some degree of confidence of you."
I was uncomfortable in the extreme; and only knew one escape from such a sally; this was a military situation in some sense, and those, I knew how to rationalize. "I will answer you this way: I do seek a marital alliance in this land, and the solace of a woman of high station." Her gaze flickered at me, and had I time to contemplate what I saw there, I would say it was passion. For I felt within my own breast, passion. A frank and sexual passion, for this woman, though far greater in age, lacked nothing in beauty and charm, grace and sexuality, and I longed to touch her.
I was not wrong. She rose then from her place and stood before me, and without speaking, placed her cool and silken hands upon my face, and drew my gaze to her. Her eyes were full open, and glittering with an unspoken emotion that seized her. "Yes," she breathed, "you are very fair " and something akin to a gasp came from her before she relinquished her touch upon me and turned, rapidly, to resume her seat. It was some moments before her eyes met my own again, perhaps she did not trust herself to speak.
Nor did I, for with my meal forgotten before me, and a dining cloth draped across my thighs, I was grateful, for I had in that brief moment, become utterly aroused. It must be the same with her. Yet, I did not yet speak, and waited for the siege that had taken me within, to pass. At this moment I understood what my officers felt when encountering a fair and alluring female in the taking of a city. Though with me, it was not the helpless and pleading who appealed to me, but the powerful and mighty, arrayed in all finery. Was it her power of person and station that drew me, or the sheer symmetry of her neat brow, the exactness of speech, with the tone of eastern accent in her Greek? What had it cost her to withdraw when she touched me, I wondered? What rigidity of personal discipline resided in her that she could step before me and then withdraw herself with the recognition of propriety?
At length I regained myself, and took my cup into my hand. "I have been told this, more than once."
"You are descended from gods," she spake, with deep conviction. "Such perfection is not found in ordinary men, and there is nothing of the ordinary in you. This I can feel in everything about you. I could close these eyes and listen to you speak of grain, fodder, and siege trains, and be content of listening. It is this, in you, that I find so intriguing."
I was flattered beyond mere speech, and must say aught. "My Queen, if I may speak freely, you speak as though you desire me for yourself. You have no husband, and you query me once again on my desires. I must draw inevitable conclusion."
And her eyes flashed with recognition, and perhaps too, lust. "You wish for me to make some declaration? I am a woman, and without a man. However, the proper place for our alliance is as arranged. I hope that will suit you." And - nothing more.
Little more of importance was said. Tonight, before leaving with my party to meet the messengers who offer their surrender from the gate at Myndus, I took my favorite, Eli, to my bed, and as I spent myself aggressively between her thighs, the body I caressed was not that of Eli, and face I beheld was not that of the slave but one in my recent memory of the regal Carian beauty who had but placed a hand upon my cheek. And when spent, a moan of satisfied desire escaped me, all of my passion fantasized. Perhaps the wound of misbegotten lust of Hephaestion had finally fled me, leaving me in a fire of passion for something equally unreached and unreachable.