The outer wall near the triple gate is breached, and as we gain in strength against them and destroy their edifice, the attacks from the city grow more numerous. During one of these actions, while the phalanx draws forth yet another tower to throw against the new, inner wall, I find myself in fantasy of Mithradates: hovers he near to the garrison, cowed by the violence that surrounds him, the smoke of the fires burning all round, the flocks of arrows falling from the sky like summer birds? In the morning, in dismissing the women from my bed before dawn rose, I found myself in curious reverie of him, and the stealthy retreat I made from him. Did he see the token I left for him on his pallet? I had left a coin of my new realm there, a piece of silver with the bold visage of Herakles, and ALEXANDROS embossed on the reverse. Would he know, could he know?
Had he ridden out with the mercenaries I would fain have captured and spared him, but he, like the Persians, did not ride out. I rehearse in my mind the audience we would have upon the capture of the city, which I feel is quite near to hand. The towers have been toppled, and the curtains between them are crumbling, and the defenders grow more desperate and we, more determined. We lack wood, and they know this, and they concentrate their every effort upon burning us. The garrison is nearly in our grasp, and I direct the siege to its outer wall.
Refugees escape south, and surprise! It is my Greek messenger and his fellows, running now south to the next city with news. I bring him to me once again for questioning, and this time, his indignation and resignation tell me all: he did not honor my bargain with him - what is wrong with these hard-headed Greeks, they must serve their conquerers so? Are we not more Hellene than these? And after interrogation and torture, I see him stoned, with some satisfaction within me. He had brought correspondence to Mithradates, certes, but what he brought were other missives that were kept safe from me when he was originally captured. Thus, their excellent preparation here, and the deaths we endure in our skirmish.
My wound pricks me, and I am annoyed. This garrison will burn, this city - too, will burn for its defiance. There is a species of rage in me that is not quelled in mounting attack against the walls of the city, against joining in the battering and leading the Companions in harrying the defenders as they sally out from the triple gate. Many die, and dozens of our wounded are dragged back with arrows bristling from them, with wounds all far more serious than my own. Those as slightly wounded as myself return to the field with mere bandage to staunch the seeping. As do I.
When I am not at war I am at the maps with Aristobulus, and Parmes, and more and more frequently, Hephaestion, as he takes command of the building of new siege equipment and more protective canopies from the excess leather of tents not in use, to protect the siege engineers from the arrows of their assailants. The volleys are constant, and more than 50 of our infantry are missing one eye, in two cases, both, for they resumed the field after the first wound and received the final blinding blow. I give Hestes full rein in developing what innovations he can.
I have a proud moment, not one of lust or of personal desire for him, but for his skill in innovating. It is this I began so early to love in Hestes - his sheer excellence of invention. I was proud, and let the pride beam from me when we sat in council, and I bitterly regretted my banishment and my treatment of him. His recall was right, I could see now. He was with me, and was against me only in the matter of his passion for me, and in the murderousness of his brutal jealousy. Was mine not similar, though? How would I behave, or think, were it to be reported to me that Hephaestion had brought one of my pages, Leonattus or Hermolaus, to his bed? They were the most beautiful of the youth in my entourage, and both revered him. I had long wondered whether Hestes, like myself, wandered in his lusts, for often did I see his eye upon the youth as they came to serve us, and more than once lose the topic of discussion when one served us at meal, as though the mere presence of the body kneeling before him to adjust a sandal or to fill a cup with wine had transported him into a reverie. I often felt a severe discomfort at such times, and would turn my eyes away. What would I have done had I come upon him in his tent, with the youth kneeling between his knees offering him his mouth?
Yes, I would have grown enraged. Was he less entitled than I? I had not thought of it; for at the time I took my first hostage and bid him please me, it was a passion of the moment, and I thought not of Hestes only that he would not interrupt or in other way discover. And I might have struck out at him, or at his eromenos as he knelt. I found the reverie strangely arousing, and realized that the discussion around me had ceased, that I had grown still, and that Hestes regarded me with the utmost of curiosity; for he alone knew what the expression on my face signified: lust. I drew myself back to the present by sheer force of will; but his eye continued to return to me, and the concentration I had previously had upon our planning had been broken. Accordingly, I dismissed them all, which left the one I could not dismiss, Ada, alone in my tent, with my servant, who I sent to bring a meal for us, when she consented to dine.
And we dined, this time with far less conversation and far more lingering looks, as I found myself fascinated with the deep brown ringlets of her hair, not yet marred by fading or the grey that comes upon women in Hellas so soon. Carians may be more robust of their looks in age, or perhaps this queen exaggerated her seniority her hair were tightly braided here and there, and free-flowing elsewhere, and was drawn up delicately to show advantage to her delicate neck, on which I pined to place my lips and taste of the salty brine that was her sweat. Yes, a passion was upon me, mixed passion of the ardor of Hephaestion standing so near to me and so intent, within smelling distance; and of the still and regal appearance of her Highness, this day arrayed in yet another resplendant costume of some bright red, satin substance that invited the sense of touch. One of the colors that drew me more than any other. My color, the color of Ares.
With the departure of my dusty and armored chiefs, a more delicate bouquet reasserted itself within my tent, and I learned it was from her, the scent of neroli roses gathered in the mountainous zones nearby; and I adored it. I found myself in frank reverie of the sculpture of her lips as she sipped at wine, and I lifted my glass with regularity to gulp down solace for the thing I desired before me. Her conversation was light, unlike the previous, and we spoke of music and of language, and of the pronunciation of rare tongues of these lands: she knew eight tongues in total of Asia, and two of Europe, and I gasped when she explained to me something - in my own dialect of Makednoi! This itself intrigued me more deeply, and I desired nothing more than to prolong the inanity of conversation so that I could worship the melodious tenor of her speech, in whatever tongue she choose to speak it. Ah, the passion for a woman I had so despaired of having! and it fell upon me like a fever, unquenchable.
By the time the small cake that was our only confection, were brought and consumed and the sacrifice to home and hearth and Apollo were made, our eyes were for one another completely, and I, in my usual fashion, must needs speak:
"My mater and Highness "
And she replied, "yes, my philios and Highness "
"Why must it be philios? Can t not be, philos?"
She smiled, sweetly, accepting, and at the same time, enigmatic. "What is it you desire of me now, Basileus Alexandrus? You wish to join your house to mine?"
"Not quite a house," I lowered my eyes - embarrassment? I, who chases and kills with no hesitation, who has taken the surrender of kings? I?
"I wish first of all in no way to offend."
"There will be no offending done tonight . I assure you, Basileus."
"Highness, then let me say, in deference to your seniority, you are passing beautiful, and I am smitten."
"Smitten, even so!"
"Yes, there is little else I can consider right now but the contemplation of the rare texture of your skin and my lips upon it."
"Ah, the poet in you has arisen today " she replied deftly.
"Less the poet and more the suitor, can this not be? Must we be coy? You regard me with a bold eye, and I am fair." I rose. I was at my leisure dress, which kept my chest and torso bare, and no cloak in the blank heat of this southern place, and her eyes followed my movement and took in my body. "Is there not somewhat of me you would wish to know further?" And I stood, before her, suppliant to the goddess. Bare handsbreadth from me she sat, composed, and she raised her eyes to mine, now standing over her.
"Oh, much " she spake in a small cry, and I raised her from her seat, so fragile, so thin and delicate, like an insubstantial creature of perfect rendering, and of such smells of intrigue and richness that I placed my mouth upon her hair, her neck, her cheek, and she twisted in my arms and fastened her opening mouth, gasping, upon mine, hungrily, and pressed her hands against my breast, beseeching. I drew her into a paroxysm of embrace. She pressed herself into me as though to crush herself would release her, and I moved apart her clothing to find the flesh that must be beneath; and released her breast from it. It would seem in such a brief moment, she stood nearly as naked as I, her flesh belying her age, for she stood naked as though a girl of teen years, unfaded and not lacking bloom, she was a beauty entire, and I knew that to please her I had to do what would please me not, and took between my fingers the delicate bloom of the nipples of both her breasts and squeezed, and she writhed, throwing herself again upon me. I then put my mouth upon the hardening jewel of the one, and then the other, while her hands beseeched me. And I sat back on the bed with the now-naked queen upon me, hungry in her desire and so urgent to passion that she would mount me directly. This I would not have, and lifted her to place her properly beneath me.
I had not been aroused in this way by woman previous, though I had before performed this selfsame rite, it was only with my love did I feel this rush of passion and need; and it made me joyful even as I thrust myself with urgency into her moist and ready loins. Oh she was ready, indeed, unlike the trim concubines, there was a softness both and strength within her that drew me in and held me into her interior, utterly different in some unnameable way. I lost myself to the lust of this sensation, and trembled to my feet with the rising flame of passion in me. I was consumed.
I saw what I had so desired to see these many nights of fantasy, the disarray of my queen as she lay beneath me, abandoned, her limbs locked with my own, and her thighs pressed hard against me as she strove for that moment of release that approached us both with an intensity like that of pain. Oh, how I wanted her then my heart pounded in me, my wound stung, and nothing stung me worse than the urgency in me that drove me into her; for in our striving she spake, low and then more loudly, with utter abandonment, in her own tongue, something of unknown meaning but that sounded as though she called a name, 'Bethsame', over and over, urgent and rhythmically with the rhythm of our love, until she grew incoherent and the paroxysm of her climax drew a long and tortured moan from her lips, and another from my own. And I kissed her, taking her face into my hands and placing my mouth tenderly upon her own, to mingle the breath of our satisfactions together. It was magnificent, and she, magnificent. I whispered it to her, my breath still coming quick in me, my heart tripping hard, 'magnificent, oh, my queen,' and she oped her eyes to me, and smiled, the smile replete with satisfaction.
This night is the night I felt and had the passion of a woman as a man truly knows passion for a woman, and I knew she felt the same for me. Her lust was undeniable. Much more did we have one another this night, for I could not let her go simply then - this first foray was the mere spending of the tension of the days of our longing for one other. Later there was the moment of slow caress, and she did mount atop me this time, as she seemed to desire strongly, for it gave her greater of her own climax to steer me into her from beneath; she was far more skilled than concubine, a long-married woman and widow, with years of practice to satisfy the various appetite of an aggressive king. I was ready for her, twice, thrice, more - as she did not easily tire, and the climax of the previous hour did not dull her appetite for the next; and I was endlessly pleased with both the appetite and sensuality in her; she was all that fantasy demanded, my queen. And when she left me, dissheveled in her regained finery, her hair in tatters and her breast still bare and revealed to the waiting night, her walk loose-jointed now from her release, I was waked and full of the passion of the god and utter joy of her, her taste was all over me, and her smell on me, and her vision entire in my eye, and so I vigil, and write, with the bouquet of her sex upon me, and redolent.
We caressed one another for many hours, long after our passion was spent, in gentleness of hand and face, arm and breast and shoulder. I had never had this passion peaked in me in this way, except by Hephaestion, in those languid hours of embrace and tenderness, and when we had fulfilled one another entire and lay in this gentleness. Remembering this loss and this joy, now renewed in me, tears came out from me, spontaneously, for the final release of an unspent passion that had known many months - nay, many a year of frustration when my love of him had soured into pure possession and ownership of me; this was what I had initially loved so utterly of him, the peak of pure and utter passion, and the tenderness of warm embrace in the aftermath, that succored us in all of our youthful pains; and once again I had found succor in her arms, and release entire from the spending in her flesh; and from the look of her and her great languor, she too, the release of many a year of frustration and forced abstinence.
Truly, our alliance was forged, and well ploughed our mutual lands. I am yet waked from it, and upon the sun rising, we rush them with four new towers fresh-built by Hestes; were that the look of completion were wiped from me in the morn, for he will surely know when he spies me, that I was spent; and I am loath to hurt him.