13th Elaphobolion

Dykhomenion

Ah, much to write, and little time before our feast is again renewed, strengthened by the power of the Eye of Hecate as it blooms, madness-inducing, over this conquered, heat-ridden land. The city is mine; and Caria once again in the hands of its queen. Parmes and Perdiccas run to catch the fleeing Rhodian and his division of remaining mercenaries, who had fired all of the houses impinging the city walls to burn us and create diversion for their escape. My cavalry made the initial hot pursuit. They fired the city's walls late into the evening and fled, taking refuge at Salmacis on the heights. We stormed the city then, breaking through at the triple gate they had ceased then to defend, and attacked those who still remained setting fire to the houses, and slaughtered all that remained of the combatants. Myself took fifty lives of those battling within, and spared the non-combatants; but the city must be punished, and for this night and day, we razed it to ground. And I sent my Companions to scour the city for he whose city I had taken and stormed…. And he was brought.

I dismissed my royal guard, and sent out my hypaspists entire from my tent when he was brought, and ordered the shackles that bound him removed, so that he may come before me with some degree of dignity. I waited some minutes in an agony of anticipation for this moment, for since we had entered the gate, I feared that he had taken to the street and would be slain, all unknowing of his conquerer, and I without word to him or chance to offer mercy…. For even in my anger to burn the defiant town to rubble, there was thought within me for Mithradates, and came he then, abject, and without glance upward in my direction, took to his knees before the door of my tent and put his head down.

I bid him rise, using his own language, and he raised up his head. A long moment of regard did he take; it was to his credit that he did not gasp, but his face grew entirely more pale, and he, quite still.

"I greet you, Mithradates of Halicarnassos," I spake, somewhat more formally than I had intended. "Once again. I have taken your city."

"How…" he spake the single syllable, his voice cracking upon it, and closed his mouth again. Then, "You… you are he."

"I am he, as I told you then, though I did not expect you would believe me."

"It was an act…"

"It was no act," I shook my head, growing annoyed with his blank unbelief. "You are in the hands of your enemy, and he has overcome you. Your Hellene dogs have fled you, and you are helpless. Even now we have captured your people, and will disperse them as slaves to serve the obedient hosts of Caria under their legal mistress. The country is now in the hands of Basileus." It was, I had thought previously, a pretty speech, and yet now it sounded overwrought and precious, as though for some audience who was not in attendance. I ceased.

"Basileus," he breathed the word of Greek within the spate of Persian I had rendered carefully to him. "The same I held so close to me that rare night…" he held a single hand up to me, and it was beseeching. "What will you do to me now?"

At this, I rose, and stood before him, and took the beseeching hand into both of my own. My anger, I could feel, was not with this man, but with those who had advised him resist me. Could he have commanded them otherwise, and did he? Taking this token of his and holding it, I looked down into his shock-filled face that beheld me with great fear and… no small part of desire? and spake, "did you order resistance here?"

He bowed his head, "Yes, because I must. I was ordered to, though I knew we could not withstand for long."

"By Darius, who supplied you with none of his to defend you?"

"Yes, Memnon and Orontobates mounted the resistance, and were confident that they could kill you in a skirmish, for that was always their intent. And we would win by the death of you. All archers aimed their sights on you."

"And will you give them up now, and tell me all I wish to know of their forces, and of what lies to the west and south?" I held his hand hard, as though the texture of it could tell me the depth of his troth and loyalty. And just as before, when I had conquered him by lust alone, he became a small thing, and clung with the other hand to the back of my thigh, begging. And my heart sped for his beseeching, even while I pitied the brokenness of him, and he put his head against me, all beseeching, and his body was completely atremble. This was no warrior, and his will and spirit, in the most obscene manner, were conquered utterly. A sob shook him.

"Yes," he whispered, his voice breaking as he spake and went voiceless. "Had I known the face of my conquerer, it would have been long done, and done. I am already a dead man by the sight of your face, for all I have told you." He clung to me, cowed, and I took him by the shoulders, seeking to strengthen that which was now trembling with fear of his life.

"If you surrender and deliver to me all I wish to know, you will not die. Do you understand?" I raised his face to me, it were no different in its way than the abashed face of my courtesan as she stood in my hands the night of her disobedience. Tears came from him, shuddering, and I sought only then, to comfort rather than to punish.… and this must not be.

"You know all that I had spoken to you, that night we lay together… there is little more…"

"Of the persons of your defenders, of their strategy and the citadels they have available to them, and how they will flee. It is these I wish to punish, far more than you." I spake roughly then, for his pleading pressed upon me such that I was soft, and if he reached for me to caress, what might I do? Even now, the pressure of his body against my own had made my tension rise. "Get on your feet," I ordered him, and with some awkwardness he rose, relinquishing his grip upon my body. I resumed my place.

"Sit. Take wine, it is there." He obeyed, now an automaton. "I know how much you care for your wine. Now, let us talk of the Rhodian and his army."

Some long hours passed, and the wine had both calmed and restored him, and I had food brought for him. Apollion came to me at length, to report the last of the populace had been taken and camped for their removal, ten thousand of them at a rough count. I ordered him then to search within the captured for the family of Mithradates and his local courtiers, that they might be brought and taken before him and me for determination of their fate, on the morrow. By this hour, some sanity had returned to Mithradates, and I was relieved that we could continue with his confession.

By the morn, his family were brought, and missing from among them, his son, who had perished some days previous. Those who remained were his wives and the daughter of Ada, unharmed and unravished by her capture and detainment. I released the girl to her mother, for girl she was, hardly in the blush of womanhood, and with a small child in tow. For ransom of these, he surrendered his vast estate of goods, which I ordered taken and granted entire to Ada, and decided to grant his release into her hands at Alinda, where she could then restore government of Caria from the citadel there.

All this administrative detail seemed to march past him as though some long and tedious dream, for ever was his gaze upon my face, and often roamed across my form, and I were mindful at all times of his eyes upon my flesh. Even in his extremity and loss, his desirous nature upheld him, and I was flushed with the flattery of the eye of my prisoner upon me in such a frank way.

By then, the city had been burned entire, though it seemed that meant next to nothing to him; he spake to me long hours of all he knew of Darius, without the regaling of his love affairs now, but with far greater seriousness, and in the ensuing time grew more at ease with me. And then the hour came for him to be taken with the others of the hostages, to exile in Alinda, and made him to take his knee and to pledge his token to resist me not in my rule and campaign against Persia, and he did it, abjectly. And when I raised him from this, he spake,

"Have you nothing of passion left in you for me, Alexandrus?" he said in small voice. "Is there not an hour we could take again of love, now that you have conquered me?"

I was amazed. "What say you? How can you say this, I have taken all that was yours, and your family, and your city, and your people from you, and your future is destroyed."

"You take what is yours by might. I do not resist," his eye once again was bold upon me.

"You are mad! You are drunk." He shook his head.

"Not mad, not drunk. I have no right, I know, but I do know how much pleasure was derived in the conquest you had, was it purely a play, or was your heart in you when you lay with me?" His persistence was outrageous to me, and once again, my pulse fled apace and a flush crept upon my face. He held out his hand, pointing to me, recognizing the look of passion as it passed my face, "it is true, you are quickened by this, why not take what is yours by might?"

An unreasoning jolt of desire struck me, and I had aught to do but hold my ground. I felt the vulnerability of me, naked beneath the summer cloak I wore. His eye itself ravished me. I sought for words. "It is time to go."

"Basileus…"

"No!" I raised my voice. "It is time for you to go. If you value the mercy I have granted you, you will never speak of this again, to anyone, nor to me. And when called upon, you will order the surrender of the remaining cities on this coast under your rule. Those are the terms of my suit with you. Now go, and speak no more."

He rose, awkwardly, his face red with both shame and desire. And when he was gone from my sight I sat shakily, glad for the solitude. For my body was enraged with me, and in full revolt.

I remain at vigil this night, as the first party of prisoners leaves under Carian troop and a hipparch of cavalry, east, to Alinda. With a portion of my heart in tow. I saw no one, and touched no one, in the chill of my solitude; and remaining before me was the beseeching visage of Mithradates, and the feel of his begging hands clutching my thighs. Why, why had I not taken what was mine by might? By night's end, when my inner fury had passed, I realized why I had not: for I knew that because of my restraint, no dagger would bristle from his back, nor would his body be waked and burned for my moment of iniquity; my enemy were nearby, and his eyes would know all that I did. Until now, tolerating with curious silence my passions for women; but I knew they would not endure assignation with my prisoner.