1 Dystros

The month of marriage has arrived, and among the older of my veterans who had not done so, hurried to choose wives for Gamelion. There were many Greeks in the detachment that remained with me, and for them, this was the height of the festive season. I felt this holiday's approach keenly, for it was the time when I remembered with great pain, the murder of my father during the week of weddings, and my rise to the succession to replace him.

I had many dreams of his death, and of that time, which seemed in their own way more real than the hasty march we made from Didymos. Parmenion struck east, and I, southwest first, and then circling back through Adramyttium, and gradually the two halves of my army divided into discrete lines. There was a bluff overlooking a deep valley that we gained on the twilight of the second day, when the last of Parmenion's detachment was at length out of sight. It was here I had counted that we would begin to see the devastation of the spring harvest left by the generals of Ataxerxes before his death. But as we gained the rise, I saw what I had not expected: winter barley in full flower filled the valley; and wheat beyond, the entire farmland intact and as yet, uncut. The shoots were still young, much of it not yet ready for harvest, but there was food! And no garrison in evidence to protect either it or our military objective.

The arrogance and presumption of my enemy, that I would not have gained this far an advance in so little time, and that he would have time to have his people reap before I challenged them, was my fortune. It was a day of joy for me, after the brooding of the nights previous, and the grim faces and heavy words of those who had condemned my choice regarding Hestes, and whose rigidity solidified my resolve.

I leapt off Bucephalus and jumped into the open field of barley, rolling down the hill for some distance. Apollion dismounted and watched, reserved. I put my mouth on the ripening shoots, and breathed in the redolent smell of growing food. If this good fortune continued, then my original schedule for crossing into Lycia was not over-ambitious, and we could free the fleet from supply once we had taken Caria.

We now enter into central Anatolia, and the milk-ripe grain that we had plundered along the Troad ripened into plenty as we prepared for the siege of Sardis.

I knew I would have to release the men to marriage, and it was my full intention to marry, if there were a woman of sufficient station amongst the Licians. If not, then as Apollion counseled, I could practice for my Asian wife with a concubine, who could be induced to pleasure with adequate sums of money and the prospect of sharing the coveted bed of Basileus. I cajoled myself these nights, and found myself in bright imaginings of how a companionship might progress with such a woman.

And Apollion could well be right, for me to select one of strong limb and well proportioned, wide in shoulder and narrow in hip, perhaps fortunate enough not to be overly ripe in the breast, or athletic rather than soft. But to be frank with myself, I had to acknowledge it was the masculinity of a man, the violence in him, that drew me; just as it was the violence threatened in the very stance and visage of Olympias that drew me to her. It was my touchstone of familiarity. The very thought of a passionate struggle for dominion thrilled my senses, and I had waking dreams of the tumultuous sexual struggle I carried out with Hestes… this I do not need to belabor. I missed him, I wanted him, and every merest suggestion of similarity between a passing soldier on the field, a basso voice raised querulously, the flash of a brown, muscular arm by me while turning, and my pulse would race, a throbbing set into my throat, for a glimpse at my beloved. I was sick from it, and the sickness of his treason to me and the pain he had caused me so many times, in so many ways, seemed all forgotten. If only to have one look of regard! One caress, one kiss upon my neck, his sure hands upon me, knowingly drawing from me what I wanted more than any could know… I tormented myself with memory. Even now, as I write, passion rises in me and I am provoked with it. Is this how men are? Is this how they are in women? I had not truly felt this way about others, and I considered again what you had taught me of Phryxis and Helle. A woman in form of man, that was he. The ideal lover for a man who needed woman and could not tolerate its similarity to the one who had wasted him, in form of woman.

And this too, I remembered, and not without arousal. This is my confession, so how should I hide what is in me? There is none whose ear I can pour this in, and I have already burdened Apollion so greatly with the exploits of his normal man's passions - how could I give him of this - he could not tolerate it! He detested Olympias, and tales of my degradation would only infuriate him against her. I did not want to do that.

We rested the army on this hillside, and between my bouts of stalking, and receiving the accounting of the gathering in of the milk-ripe harvest of wheat, and the winter harvest of barley, we retrenched and rested before our siege. There were carts to rebuild, there were maps to draw, and there was more work to do among the men so that I could remove the traitor's claw from my back. And I remembered the traitor - the first and only traitor…

How did it begin? When did I first sense that the caress of mother-love was the scheming of a disenfranchised queen, plumbing the depth of her son's loyalty? How she took my loyalty with my innocence! When was I whole, that I would not shrink from the natural passion a man feels for woman that develops as naturally as the eros he feels for his teacher? There was none of that for me, for she kept my teachers from me as long as she could. And it began, as I well knew, at the breast. I could heartily agree with Apollion about this fixation of women, for it was not their wombs they valued most, but the source of nourishment they held out to all as temptation. This was her seduction of me, so early in youth.

She mothered several of my sisters after my birth, and ever did they spurn her at the breast, unlike myself. None of them were caressed as I, the eldest, and they suffered for it to the point of hatred. When she spurned them, she turned to me and I would reap from it, for she never weaned me in the way a mother is supposed to wean a child; she gave to me the milk she denied them, and all caress with it. Her goal was to remain ripe and productive, for the more sons she bore, the greater her value among the heirs. I was not strong as a babe, and so she used this to convince Philip and my nurses that I required her milk ongoingly and so she kept me at the breast, and my sisters grew dangerously thin.

My recollection of earliest youth was of you, when she had once again sent away a lesser tutor, with the tale that I was sickly and required her at the breast, that you broke in upon her door and found her naked in the bed with me upon her, but far too old to be pretended to be a babe. My very teeth were impaired by the lack of weaning. Those long hours when I stayed with her, long after she was empty of milk, my ears were filled with her sighs and her hands continually urged my mouth, bringing it back when it strayed or when I fell slack into sleep from relaxation, she forced me back awake upon her and grew agitated when I would not suckle, and then she would writhe, and withdraw me from her until I wept for the withdrawal of warmth. I gnash my teeth in anguish from this memory of this cruel withholding, and yet all I can feel in my body is that desire to be enwrapped and warmed again, and was only allowed to do so if I took again that intrusive flesh into my mouth as price to gain the warmth and protection.

Must I, to purge myself completely of this thing, be so specific in her methods of my seduction? This I wonder, and no small part of me suspects of these scrolls of closely guarded paper, what if I were to fall in battle tomorrow? What becomes of her, and of her children back in Pella, if they were to know? What becomes of me if I am taken, and this story in my remarkable hand, undenied and undeniable? A king perhaps, but not powerful enough or schooled in deceit to deny that this was my own work.

Yes, perhaps I must, it is my choice to do so, and in the writing, though I may burn it on the morrow, a purgation of sorts, of those things I cannot speak about, yet, not even to Apollion, lest it enrage him against her to destroy what I am as yet not prepared to destroy myself. And keenly at these times I am aware that I have the power, as king, to not only rout her but destroy her, and to take her life for all of her treacheries. But I know I do not have that in me to do. I have rage enough in me to cry out within myself, but not enough to act on this.

So for this brief span of glorious evening, while the wheat ripens and fills the air with its promise of plenty, let me write of the traitor who stole from me all natural love and put in its place a lack that could only be filled with the unnatural predilection that besieges me. There is nothing else for me but madness, if I do not slay the enemy that dwells within my flesh; this I know, and there are things that must be told to my dead tutor only, Aristes. How did you die, to leave me in this place of vulnerabilty, this open plain of solitude, from which I have no retreat, but forward into the breach for no good gain?

For she had no interest in my own comfort, and would remove it whenever I was not the thing she desired. Ever she would bring me to her naked, and require me to be the same, force me to unclothe for her, despite any inclemency of weather, and keep the shutters agape. This made me seek her more desperately as protection against the draught of winter, and even today I cannot stand the draught, for it calls back to me those times of forced nakedness where I had nothing to cling to but the sheer body that was the only source of warmth, the single source of pleasure. I clung to that warmth as though for life, and never would be rewarded with warmth until I had performed the task at hand, the provision of her whim and pleasure, the acceptance of an increasingly intrusive touch that left no part of me alone. This is how I learned to close my eyes against my weeping; in every hour of this prolonged intimacy a fear of what would happen next, accompanied by hoarse whispers and hurried entreaties… and there was no end to her requirement. Her caress wandered in time more boldly as I learned to comply in pleasing her, and she would reward me with her hand stimulating me until I responded, and persisted with her request, until at length she was herself satisfied and would spend me. The seduction of my flesh was a gradual and inexorable one, and started at the breast, always, for she must have what is her due, and in time, far more. Soon far more than warmth did I wish for release that she would give only with compliance, and I learned to comply, sometimes in wait for hours to be spent by her arbitrary hand.

Yes; for this is how she took me; her great pleasure was in her breast, which pregnancy itself provoked to a constant and ongoing desire; she would ever have one to be at the breast of her, and were there no child there would be lover to do so; I was an enthusiastic babe, and male - this somehow made a difference, for I believe she loathed her woman children. I only deserved and received the breast, and when I was not there, she would have a male to fondle, caress, and to drink from her as from the fountain of Hera herself. But it did not stay there, and when she was sufficiently barren of attention, she required of me greater service, for which I was not grown to provide. Though she would arouse me, even in the innocence of youth, I was nothing of a man that could enter her and give her satisfaction; in fact, the experiment of doing so, of pretense that she was taking me as a woman would a man, left me abashed at my inadequacy, and the lack of pleasure, both mine and hers. I was convinced from her disgust that I was made wrong, not to measure to her need, nor to fill her body with that which made her gasp with joy as I had seen often enough with her at bed with Pausanias, or even of Philip when she had him with her. I knew the measure of me, even then, and it was not of a man. So why this play? What purpose could it serve? Thus did her early requirement grow more demanding and nigh impossible of my flesh.

And when I refused her, regardless of how meaningless or unsatisfying the act, the rage purpled her face, and there would be the cold, the darkness, the silence. And so, lacking all reason and faith in myself, inadequate in the extreme, did I continue to try, and met with ongoing failure, both at pleasing myself and her, with no encouragement except the insistence to continue. What purpose? I can only guess, that she played at occupying me so as to keep me from others. She sought to draw me to herself as part of her own body, so that I would think of nothing and no one else, and she was right. That I would be a slave to the whim that drove her, that my purpose was not the purpose of my father, to place me at the head of the great army which he built, but kneeling, naked and trembling, striving futilely between the knees of a tyrant who could not, ever, be pleased.

In time, however, my manhood began to come upon me, and it was then that Philip discovered her predations on me. I nearly lost my place at his side because of this, but he blamed her, and that was when he exiled her. Every night I was parted from her I lay awake, wondering if by such and such a night, I had come to the point of maturity where I could do as she bid, that when I rose to her there would be the consummation I had never yet achieved for her. It was never consummation she desired, in the way of pleasure, but conception, and her appointments with me were timed to get a child from my own seed, a task nearly impossible until a certain age. I had not reached that age by the time Philip took me and sent her away, but was long past the age suitable for the training so long delayed, the tutorship in all things of culture and the world, and he pronounced me ruined.

That is the rage in me that remains! That I was wasted, and futilely, by the perverted design of a woman of endless lust of power; that I was not enough for her of myself to rise as king; but disposable, to be used only as a bearer of her seed, to invent another Alexander less rejected for the throne, and more empowered to rise against the king she hated, Philip. There was no desire for myself in her, there was little if any admiration, at any time, but that I reflected her, that my face and body were as perfect as her own, for she was vain and prideful of that! And she had many a sculptor and artist render she and I, as two parts of a single aspect, forged upon a single coin. This coin became a coin of the realm, for a time, and I despised it even as I worshipped her.

And so I must face this thing, this image of the past. And yet as I remember, the stain of passion has spread itself across me, and my body is electrified equally with loathing and desire. This foul appetite is what the body and speech of Hephaestion had staunched in me then, and every moment and day since; did I not see the familiar pattern, that I had been spared one depradation to fall prey to one more palatable to my pride? One more acceptable to my father, but not as something that could enhance my masculine power or will, but would subtract from it?

And finally I must ask, was there none who ever loved me for myself but you, Aristes,? And even in the depth of our nights together, was it eclipsed by love of power -- was it even you? I cannot know today, for those who appear to love me do so for what I hold, they do so for the love of my place and position, my leadership, my laurel and my crown. I cannot know what may be to me only, unless I become anonymous for a brief night, and seek abroad for that love that I could not gain. For even as I rose to gain the whole world, I could not please her, and she would not love me.

This, I became aware, was what I loved in the young namesake - he loved me, not knowing me, and loved me no less, knowing; who served me without asking, and gave me the thing I desired, with no hope of repayment. This, more than anything else, communicated love to me. And I could not help but love him in return, for these important gifts, given freely. And did he desire me, too, for me, because I am worthy of desire? That, I did not know. It was clear that he believed it; that he would accept me if I took him; but that is not the same as love. Many, perhaps thousands would accept me if I took them, as conquerer, or even as man, based on charm or vanity or beauty alone; that did not gladden me, nor make me feel loved. It was only when I was not what I am, or not seen to be; it was then that I could be sure to be loved.

This must change, Aristes, whether the campaign against Persia be disabled for a season; I must make this change.