Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Alexander (the Great)
Genre: AU, Drama
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Alexander, Cassander, Hephaistion, Ptolemy (, OC).
Summary: When sent off to meet and negotiate with a foreign leader, Hephaistion soon realises that things are about to get very difficult – not only to his king, but to himself as well. Soon Alexander himself learns of the insult made against him – both as a man and as a king.
Warnings: Slash, violence, death, rape.
Beta: Leonida (huge thanks for betaing this story – and for all the great reprimanding and schooling you have given me ;) I will be a lot better writer when I learn to please your eye!)
Author’s Note: I am sorry this chapter took long time in coming! Blame the Real Life being too possessive of my time. But here it is, chapter 2! More action for you people to devour. I hope this shall be a good read (remember to leave me a note of what you think ;).
And, naturally, mighty thanks to my beta, Leonida! (When you find a phrase in the text that surpasses the rest in quality and beauty: that is her doing :) I am just shamelessly using some lines she gave me...).
Stone walls rose from the sand before them. At first, it had been impossible to discern where the featureless desert ended and the city began. Now, as he rode closer, Hephaistion was able make out the lines of the battlements, towers rising to reach for the sky beyond.
Rhadia was a fortress. Thick, high walls, powerful gate…Hephaistion had seen many such places before, every time with a same result: a defeated city yielding to Alexander after a fruitless battle. Yet for once, there shall be no battle, no long, pointless siege. He was in good moods, to be honest. If all went well, he would be back at Alexander’s side within a week.
The army halted before the gates, forming precise lines as they were trained to. Commanders approached their general, ready for further orders. “I will enter the city with two phalanxes of men, and one third of the cavalry,” Hephaistion spoke. “The rest of the army shall wait outside the walls.” This was not the best move, tactically, but he had very little choice the city was small, and bringing his entire force within the walls would have been unwise. His men were great enough in number to take care of any problem that might occur.
The commanders nodded, dividing to carry out their orders. Alone Hephaistion sat mounted in the head of the army, his eyes yet again scanning the city before them. What awaited within these walls? He would find out soon enough.
Hephaistion stood in a wide hall, surrounded by pillars that hid the rest of the space into shadows. He could sense people standing there, feel their dark eyes staring at him and his companions, whispers echoing in the silence. The noise of the city was distant now, a constant far-away humming.
Fingers around the shaft of the flag flexed unconsciously. Suppressing a groan of frustration, he kept his expression neutral. He knew when he was being toyed with – and this certainly was one of those times. All he could possibly do right now was to wait, not to show his irritation, and get his task delivered so he could return to his own.
Their wait had turned into matter of hours. A servant that had escorted them through the city was now long gone, after telling them to wait in the throne room. He had said the lord of their city would be with them soon. So far, there was not a slightest of sign that such a thing would occur.
The honour guard of dozen Macedonian men was shifting more than previously. All of them kept their silence, following their leader’s example, but Hephaistion could feel their ire rising. A young interpreter beside him tried to copy his calm appearance, but betrayed it by fondling the material of his clothes constantly. Besides that, the nervous eyes kept darting from shadows to the visible entrances, speaking volumes.
Hephaistion returned his gaze to the grandiose throne before him. His mind turned inwards, he did not actually see the rich decoration, which he had been eyeing up for too long already. Longer he waited, more assured he grew of the fact that the meeting would be far from pleasant. The lord of the city – perhaps not a king, but the highest authority nonetheless – was no doubt was no doubt taking every last ounce of pleasure he could from making them wait. Men such as that never stopped annoying Hephaistion.
Take it easy, he reminded himself harshly, making sure he allowed no sign of his thoughts slip through the mask of serenity he wore. Let them play all they like: they shall realise their loss, sooner than later. I have not spent my life among the greatest leaders and teachers of the Greek world for nothing… Yet the report I shall deliver to Alexander shall not be the most pleasant one!
A moment of silence followed the heated debate inside Hephaistion’s head. The voices from the shadows were suddenly hushed, as if waiting for something to happen at any moment. His own senses alert, Hephaistion drew to his full height, shifting the flag in his hand. Willing or not, Alexander shall have his city, he promised to himself as the heavy curtains behind the throne moved aside.
The high lord of Rhadia made his way to the throne. Expensive and rich garments fluttered as Mazaces – a name Hephaistion has already learned to dislike – halted on the edge of the dais, his eyes directed at Hephaistion. His appearance spoke of little but haughtiness and pride, his eye cold and scornful.
To his contradictory pleasure, Hephaistion had to accept the truth that the mission he had been send to perform was going to prove to be more difficult than he – or Alexander – had expected. Yet I was chosen for a reason, and it is simple: I can do this. Before he was able to speak, however, Mazaces made his first move.
Lifting his hands up dramatically on his sides, the lord of Rhadia bellowed with low, booming voice: “Ah, great Alexander’s hordes have finally arrived!” His Greek was terribly pronounced and accented, but Hephaistion understood the meaning behind the words themselves. Still he refused to show any kind of ill reaction, standing his ground, maintaining his calm, passive mask.
Noticing his guest was not offended by the statement, Mazaces seemed to drop all the pretence of a friendly meeting. He lifted his voice again, speaking with his own language, making the court laugh. People had edged closer to the centre of the hall, lingering among the pillars, curious yet afraid to approach the Macedonians fully.
The soldiers behind him shifted nervously, and Hephaistion glanced at the interpreter, waiting the younger man to inform him of the earlier words. All he met was a pale complexion and a fearful look. When he opened his mouth to question for a translation verbally, the interpreter shook his head frantically. Hephaistion frowned, a first visible signal given by him during the short meeting, and turned to look at the smug face of Mazaces before him. The man was more than likely aware of the fact that Hephaistion was ignorant of his earlier words, and that merely lifted his self-esteem before the Macedonian general.
Pushing aside the unpleasant feeling in the back of his mind, Hephaistion met the other man’s gaze calmly, representing himself and his reason of being here. Alexander’s flag spoke volumes of on whose behalf he was standing here, yet for once it had not the same effect on people as usually. Yet it gave him enough self-assurance to go on, despite the loathing looks cast at him. “You spoke earlier of your willingness to surrender to king Alexander without resistance,” he paused, allowing the words to be translated by the rather shaky man beside him. He was about to continue, but Mazaces’ expression stopped him from doing so. Well, my point is made. I hope he does not wish to make a fool of himself.
“’Surrender?’ Surrender?!” Mazaces repeated, his face turning highly amused. He let out a sound between a laugh and a shout, then said something else, again with his own language.
This time Hephaistion gave the interpreter no chance to cower from his task: his eyes boring at the young man were enough to make him stutter out the words. “He said… The lord of Rhadia spoke that… He merely said he would not cause Alex-- king Alexander,” the boy corrected, seemingly to himself, “no harm. But if Alexander shall come and cross his lands, he shall be treated as an enemy.” He did not correct the informal way of speaking on the second time, too hasty to get the words out of his mouth.
Hephaistion drew very still. His eyes turned hard as the ice on the mountains, his breathing even and tightly controlled. There was not a single moment he did not understand what Mazaces’ words meant; and the lord, too, knew this.
The air seemed to freeze between them, both sides holding their breaths in dread. Hephaistion’s eyes shifted, their colour seeming to absorb darker shade from the shadows of the hall. He did not move a muscle, yet his gaze was enough to make Mazaces shift uncomfortably. It must have also been the moment, when the lord of Rhadia truly realised that the handsome man before him was more than good looks and strikingly blue eyes. Let him wonder, Hephaistion thought bitterly. He will soon regret his words, way or another. I am not going to stand idle while my king is being insulted – however subtly! Yet he knew his own situation was not the brightest possible: they were far inside the city, surrounded with enemy warriors. Their main-force stood outside the gates, and the cavalry was far outside the palace. To put it mildly, they were trapped. The only straw I have is that Mazaces is not fool enough to attack us. For sure he knows that Alexander’s answer would be swift to come, and not lightly delivered…
Mazaces was the first to make his move. His hand moved to a sword hanging on his side, the movement slow, almost cautious. He took a step towards Hephaistion, drawing his weapon, three stairs and two feet separating them quickly turning into nothing.
Hephaistion stood his ground, yet his heart sped up its speed. Surely the man would not dare to harm him! A negotiator of a foreign ruler…
The sword moved, cutting through the air swiftly. The impact, when the blade collided with its target, made Hephaistion blink. The red-and-golden flag of Alexander fell to the floor, cut in half just two inches above the hand holding it upright. The men of honour guard moved behind the Macedonian leader, but the local soldiers were already on the move. Hephaistion did not have to turn and look to confirm his companions were restrained with force besides their efforts to fight back. So was this your plan all along, Mazaces? If Alexander actually came here to claim what is his, you would invite him to a snake’s nest and make sure there was no way out? Hephaistion met the lord’s eyes when a sharp tip of the blade settled to the skin of his throat.
Mazaces was visibly unhappy as Hephaistion refused to show no sign of fear or surprise. He turned his face towards the now completely terrified interpreter, slowly speaking. His voice was low, dark and ominous, promise of something Hephaistion did not wish to think and linger on. When the lord of Rhadia was finished, he kept staring at the young man until his words were translated.
“He said…” the boy sniffed, his eyes wide with growing panic, trying to bring his mind into enough focus to deliver the message to his lord. Hephaistion’s encouraging look helped him to go on, and he swallowed, drawing a deep breath before continuing again. “’You walk into the city like an oppressor you are. But as easily as the flag of your king’,” this word had been spat in disgust, Hephaistion guessed, “’is cut down, I can slit your throat: for in my eyes you are an enemy. A foreigner coming to our land, thinking we shall submit like frightened sheep. You shall soon see how wrong you were.’” The interpreter shivered, eyeing the Rhadian soldiers in fear, knowing they would all die at any moment.
This man is either beyond reason, or then a fool enough to not see he is bringing his own death upon himself, Hephaistion thought. If I was to die… Alexander shall never forgive such a crime. He tried not to go on with the thought, all too well knowing what the news of his death would mean. His fingers clutched the broken shaft in his hand. ‘If you were to die, Hephaistion, even if Macedonia was to lose a king, I would avenge you, and follow you down to the House of Death.’ The words had been spoken a long time ago, before Alexander became the king of Asia, yet Hephaistion knew their meaning had not vanished; most of all, he feared for an opposite. “I shall warn you only once: surrender, or you will feel the full power of Alexander’s army.”
The manner which Hephaistion spoke his king’s name with made the other man narrow his eyes, his sword shifting slightly on the bared throat, drawing blood. It must have aroused a suspicion in Mazaces’ mind. Hephaistion cursed his lack of concentration, and wished this lapse would fall on his own benefit. If not, he hoped Alexander had enough sense in his royal head to keep from doing anything stupid.
“I can make you a slave with a less than a word,” Mazaces replied, this time in Greek.
“Back off,” Hephaistion ground out, “or you will regret. And I do not tend to give empty threats.”
Mazaces looked as if he was thinking of this, but his eyes betrayed the expression: his mind was far decided where it concerned Hephaistion’s fate. Then he turned to his soldiers, giving them orders with a steady voice. Then he turned his attention back to the Macedonian, grinning predatorily.
“My lord!” the interpreter shrieked in terror while two foreign soldiers grabbed him by the shoulders. “He is going to kill the men within the walls, close the gates! And –” A blade flashed quicker than the sentence was ended. Blood stained Hephaistion’s face, his eyes following as the young man fell to the floor, his head barely hanging from his shoulders.
A wet touch of steel on his neck brought the general’s attention back from the dead interpreter: he hadn’t even realised the sword had been removed. Warm blood flowed down the smooth surface, staining the front of Hephaistion’s clothing. Mazaces resumed his earlier grin, probably amused by the increasing fire of wrath that surfaced in the blue eyes.
“I think we understand each other perfectly enough without him,” the lord pointed out, not bothering to glance at the dead man whose blood stained their feet. “I wish that the rats in our dungeons are enough company for you until I have finished with the rest of the filth you brought into my city.” His words were still a bit unclear, but Hephaistion had spent enough time among people who knew little Greek to catch the point. Mazaces nodded at a group of soldiers standing nearby, and removed his blade when Hephaistion was effectively restrained.
Hephaistion gave a worthy fight, knowing it was his last chance to show a sign of resistance. The men cursed his attempts, words foreign to him, and finally the struggle was ended with a handle of a sword colliding with the back of his head. World turned blurry, his mind barely making out the sounds of a battle from the hall they had just left. Alexander’s men fight to the end, he thought, trying to get free, to find death in the glory of a battle, to die Alexander’s name on his lips.
Another strike to Hephaistion’s head sent him down to darkness, just as the last Macedonian shout echoed on the stonewalls.
to be continued…
Chapter 1: Assembling Plans
Chapter 2: Negotiation
Chapter 3: A Macedonian
Chapter 4: Bow before your King
Chapter 5: Trial and Mercy