Burned yet again, we drop back to repair, and I take a day of respite for Dionysion at the very least. On the morrow of our night of passion, Ada appeared once again before me at the early morning hour for breakfast, looking no more tired than at any other time, immaculate once again in purple robes of regal finery -- I had granted her a bounty of clothes and jewels upon our alliance which her seamstress had been busily cutting to make new for her in honor of Basileus, and the first of these was completed and displayed now. I would have delighted to place my lips against the arch of her delicate nape, but I refrained. Yet there was that in her that was pure regality, and she had nothing and no one to answer to for our night together, nor of any complication to our alliance, for it was all well and good for us. And besides, none of my council would have believed me had I denied having her to bed, so lovely was she, and so desirous were they in their hunger of her beauty; that they had to fantasize, with energy, of Alexandrus abed with her, for they would not be entitled to her.
In our day of leisure from attack at the wall, our rebuilding, I brought Apollion to me once again and we had wine, in an easy but private audience. He cast a quizzical glance upon me.
"I wish to tell you aught and not take too much of time in it, for I could talk for many an hour about something that itself lasted fewer hours than it takes the moon to set." A worried look passed his face.
"This is not about Hephaestion, I should hope."
I shook my head. "No, naught of Hephaestion, though I would perhaps inquire of him to you."
"No, let me say what I have to say. This night I waked to make love to the queen Ada."
He scrutinized me. "I thought perhaps this had yet happened, her adoration of you was so frank, I naturally concluded."
"No - it were decided that she would adopt me rather than seek marital alliance, she is many a year, perhaps a generation, older than me."
"Just so, but she seems to know her mind, and her tastes . You are definitely to her taste, Basileus, her looks at you are ravenous in the extreme. Like the Queen of Amazons, but with more restraint."
I chuckled. "Yes. I perhaps did not notice it until she placed herself in my arms entirely, I am slow of women still."
"But . Not with your concubines, certainly."
I wanted to argue - because they are servants, they are slaves, of course I can take them! But did not. Instead I spake, "Your prescription is a magical one."
"My - "
"The suckling of breast and female organ, most gratifying for them, and none the less gratifying for me in due course, I should think. Like the javelin, I have a skill in it - perhaps it is related to the throwing of the javelin . Do you suppose?"
He blushed deeply. "I - I could not say. I have not known other javelin-throwers to be so brutal also with the sword as you; you are good with every arm."
"And gradually grow skilled with the tongue. That woman -- that woman is magnificent." I could not think of better word.
He grinned, his discomfort dispelling. "I had been hoping you would not disappoint us all and pass her up, there is a look on a woman who has passion in her, it can nearly be smelled, and she is of that kind. How many times did you have her?"
I tried to count. "At least several. She prefers to be the rider rather than the horse, too, which I found quite exciting for a time. There is a pleasure all its own to being ridden at hot gallop by a female "
"That, I would like to see. What breast on her, what neck! Even for barbarian races, she is a fine woman."
"What do you mean, barbarian? There is nothing of Ada that is barbaric, not of body nor of soul, Apollion."
He bridled. "Surely you do not believe that these Anatolian races are our equal of civilization?"
"And why not?" I retorted, stung. "What is less civilized in this woman than in me, or you?"
"Well, for one thing, she was married in youth to her own elder brother. That is repulsive, it is uncivilized!"
"It has been done in Parthia and other areas of Hellas as well."
"Yes, but not legally! It is an offense to the god, and breeds monstrous creatures!"
I shook my head in disbelief at his superstition. "Apollion, school yourself in truth, not rumor. There is nothing of the barbarian in this lady, and lady she is ah what sweet lust she has upon her "
Apollion's normally-impassive face followed my words with an unnatural keenness, and when I faltered, he urged me onward, "Tell me all of what transpired, Basileus. Of this, I am of a listening ear; for I will never have such a woman in my bed."
"You are yet young, Apollion, stranger things have happened."
And stranger things did, too, for as the moon rose malevolent once again to reveal the iniquities of the besieged against our engines, Callisthenes came to me late, and in a state of agitation not soon forgot. "Basileus," he kneeled, far more obedient this night.
"And how may I serve you?" I stated with some heavy irony.
"I would not disturb you, and yet "
"What? What!" I groused at him, rising stiffly from my seat. "I need aught to ease my spine from this weary sitting. Don't just stand there, do something for my back!" I pressed him into service then, as my courtesan was not with me, to anoint me in the area of my spine where bruise and mark of arrow had marred me, and to relieve the hot ache of my back from its damage. Callisthenes was good at physician, and many a time I would have made him go to the doctors for training, but he fancied himself a builder of engines, and historian. So he would be. And he nursed me, and I asked him to tell his tale.
"Basileus, first of all, I wish you to know I have a new wife and am very pleased, she is quite fertile and enthusiastic, so I have no need of other wife or concubine "
"What? Why do you speak of concubines?"
"Only that your concubine was found in my tent after council ended tonight, naked in my bed and waiting."
Had I not been naked myself and covered with the redolent paste of the aromatic herbs, I would have leapt up.
"Which one?" I turned, and over my own arm, craned my neck to stare at him.
"The one with the long hair and prominent nipples. Eli yes, she called herself Eli when she fastened herself upon my thighs."
"Did you take her, then?" I spake, my voice thick despite my other effort.
"Basileus, you think I am mad, to touch one of your women? She is fair, certainly, but not fair enough to die for."
I uncraned my neck and relaxed. "Good then. I suppose tomorrow I should have to have her flogged for disobedience. Did she hope to gain coin by this I wonder?"
"No I doubt it. She said enough to me to make me believe she was unhappy that you had taken another and wished to satisfy herself abroad. She chose me due to my light hair, she apparently finds it fascinating . I imagine of all of your leaders, I am the one who resembles you closest, by hair and eye color."
"With the exception of my double. Perhaps he could double in my bed."
"That would not be bad idea, Basileus."
"Callisthenes, I am not in good humour for that kind of banter," I spake to him. "Let these jests drop. Have Apollion take the woman Eli and bring her to me, now. Oh- and the other one."
And so, late, some hours past now, I summoned the courtesans to me, and bid Apollion take my servants out so I could be alone with them. They began to disrobe, both, as though for perfunctory service to my bed, and I halted them. "This is not a night for that," and they looked at each other, confused.
"My commander Callisthenes comes to me after chasing you from his bed, Elibatan," I spake, plain. "Now, I must punish. In what way is most fitting to punish you for straying and embarrassing your king in this way?"
She said nothing, her eyes dropped from my face to some place on the floor before me. "Shall I banish you? Flog you? Have your female parts severed from you?" A look of sheer repulsive horror overcame her, and she at length spake.
"I had to do something, Basileus, for you would not lay with me these three nights."
"You can't go three nights without having a man in you?" She shook her head, vigorously.
"Amazing, this," I spake, and looked to the other. "Can you two not slake one another rather than reap dissension and disobedience among my officers? Does that not afford you adequate release?"
"It is jealousy," spake Bazrin. "She was jealous of the beautiful queen who left your tent so satisfied. She wished to have some satisfaction of her own when you did not call for her."
"Let Eli speak for herself!" I was annoyed and weary; but her attempt at seduction of Callisthenes had intrigued me somewhat more than angered. Eli did not speak for herself but stood, cowed, and I must raise her chin and look into her eye; her insolence in some odd way, aroused me. A softness came on me for her, and some desire as my hand touched her delicate face. She searched my expression wildly. How could I stay angry at that fearful and childlike countenance? A pain came on me for the remembrance of Schera and her moods. Should I not have predicted this?
"I will do thusly: I will try to provide a regular source of satisfaction for Eli as much as battle will allow. But let there be no sulking over foreign queens!" Despite my displeasure, the nearness of the beautiful girl allured me and I loosened the cloak upon her shoulder and let it drop to reveal her naked , and embraced her, taking the smell of her into my mouth and nose. Shortly, the two were abed with me once again and we made up for the times they missed me while I was in battle, at the maps, and entertaining the queen. And handled Eli roughly lest she think I had forgot her offense to me; but as before, she thrived on this streak of cruelty I showed from time to time, and it enflamed her to aggress upon me, and she did, until I placed her inescapably beneath me and ravished her in view of her companion. And next turned to Bazrin and ravished her somewhat less forcibly. And every moment of the time, I was in my inner sight striving with utter abandon against the holy beauty that was Ada; I knew that whatever days remaining we spent in sojourn, I must have her again forthwith. Dionysion held undisputed sway with these my servants, and I was a different man, far greater in desire and passion with Ada, the man I desired to be, moreover perhaps it were Zeus himself; but not the god of rapine, certainly not. At earliest opportunity, then, I promised myself, I would have her, as I slaked the women who had become my charge and my obligation.
And of Halicarnassos: And I wait in vigil and prepare for the dawn to rise, we will launch assault final upon them, and take them. And oh - will I burn them as they have burned us! My ultimatum is in my hand and ready for Apollion to deliver personally; the catapults and rams will start early against them. I watch, and wait for the dawn.