20th Elaphobolion

Aristes,

Many days of hard travel have passed, and we prepare to strike the coast. There has been no time to write as we forced-marched through the barren areas of Bodrum away to the more populous towns to the west. But write I shall, for I wish to preserve a journal of this campaign and its doings, for myself. For now there is the third death, and third omen about which I am loath to investigate, and I fear once again for my life and my leadership. For Mithradates lies dead, and it is said it is by his own hand, opening his arteries to lose his lifeblood. He never did arrive at Alinda, for he was found dead in the camp enroute, only a half a day's ride from Halicarnassos where we departed; and when I inquired of Cothon as to where Hephaestion had been keeping during this period, he could not tell me, for he had loosed the guard after I had appointed Hestes to the building of new siege towers.

I have convened council once again, though lacking Parmes who has now taken the Thessalians and Agrianes to Sardis for resupply and to prepare for the fall campaign against Phrygia. In this council I brought forward my philosopher, Xenothrates, to interpret the great omen that lay above us on the mount near our camp: a white eagle, who has not moved the length of the day, and the shadow of the eagle falls directly upon the threshold of my tent. When the shadow of the eagle fell upon my threshold, the messenger came from Halicarnassos, where the garrison is still assembling and building anew. When they were together with me, the mere ten now, I spake.

"There has been a death among the exiled leaders. It is said to be suicide, but my suspicions again are raised, as they have been previously two times. First, in the case of Pausis, second, in the case of Scheravasana the concubine, and now in this third case, the satrap of Caria who had been given safe passage to Alinda in the care of his sister in law, Ada." I looked gravely from visage to visage of my leaders. My eye stopped at Apollion, who stared at me fixedly, with a stunned expression on his face. "What is it, Apollion?" I spake, annoyed.

"There is such I should seek your counsel on in privacy, Basileus, and urgently if you would grant it," he spake with such emotion on him that I dared not refuse him. I stepped without and took him by the arm, and he whispered into my face,

"It was him."

"What was him?"

"Mithradates!" His voice rose beyond the whisper and I checked him. "It was, was it not? Do not evade, Basileus."

"Yes, it was him."

"And - now he dies. Why?"

I shook my head. "I do not know, I merely suspect. Did you only now divine this, by this coincidence of circumstance?"

He nodded, mute, his face still registering shock.

"And as far as you know, no other has ever learned of this."

"I have never told anyone any detail of any of your assignation. Though I regret it bitterly," he added.

"Do you believe Hephaestion learned of this?"

"How could he have? That is not possible!"

"Could he have overheard any of what transpired in my tent during the surrender at Halicarnassos?"

"No. The only ones who could have heard aught in your tent were the royal pages, and whoever was standing duty that evening, they do not depart from you when they are standing guard outside. So - the hypaspist guard, or the page who attended you during that time. Do you recall who that was?"

"That small one of the weak chin…. Sostratus, I think, yes. He watched on me that night, and was somewhat piqued at the great volume of wine the satrap drank. The man consumed quantities -- yes, it was Sostratus."

"And what of the relation of Sostratus to Hephaestion? Would he have spied upon you for Hephaestion? Has he an attachment to him?" I began to see where Apollion headed with his suspicion, then dismissed it.

"No… I can see his drawing erroneous conclusion from some small detail of information given him, but for him to set one of my selected to spy upon me - it is insupportable!"

"It is insupportable to consider that your own aristos, Pausanius, struck a dagger into the heart of your father, Basileus. But he did."

I shook my head, denying him. "I cannot afford to think with such gravity of suspicion on everyone! Let Sostratus be, he is a boy yet, and has no conception of plots. Let us return to council, and see what we can learn of the death of Mithradates and send letter of condolence on behalf of his grandson to queen Ada and her daughter."

And so we rejoined them. Tonight, as darkness descends upon the Middle Sea beyond us, and the roaring of the tide is upon us, making our supply ships founder, I wonder whether this were the right thing to think, and to do. I cannot very well call Hephaestion before me and ask me whether he had once again put a dagger into one I had loved if he had no knowledge of it. All I can be certain of is that Mithradates died by violence, before any word of consolation were offered him in his exile and reduction of his estate. And for this, tonight, I grieve.

Yet other correspondence comes while I pen this one missive, that brings a contrasting joy to me; this one long delayed from Corinth, that you had been found and were not dead at sea; and that there is some small hope that this now-great volume of my thoughts and confessions will get to the tutor who inspired all of this introspection within me.

Oh, the joy I feel tonight at the knowledge that you have not yet been consigned to Hades, Aristes! If I called you to me, would you follow me down the middle sea and replace my bumbling Xenophrates? How did you go by ship in such stealth, that would convince a seafaring nation that you had perished by sea, when only were lost by months of misadventure?

I rush to complete this set of thoughts, and plot what kind of security might be introduced to deliver this to you; for the moment, I will be content of knowing that it will find its way to your hands, and that I will receive comment in due course from you.

Oh be well, Aristes, my dearest tutor and friend, and know that I strive to be something more than what I had been made, that with great success in hand I go on to face my enemy in his home, at Babylon. Achilles may yet remove the one intrusive arrow from his heel!

Alexandrus Basileus