Title: Witness of Love and Gods
Author: Del Rion (delrion.mail (at) gmail.com)
Fandom: Alexander the Great (movie)
Rating: M / FRM
Characters: Alexander, Bagoas, Cassander, Cleitus, Crateros, Hephaistion, Ptolemy
Pairings: Alexander/Hephaistion, Hephaistion/Ptolemy (implied Alexander/Roxanne, Ptolemy/Thais)
Summary: Movie-fic. Ptolemy told much about Alexander and his life to the generations after, but there are also many stories that shall never be repeated...
Warnings: m/m -relationship, violence, character’s death
Author’s Note: Here we are again, with a new chapter.
In a part of the chapter where Alexander gives his speech, some of his lines have been left out at some points of the discussion. I hope that does not trouble you too badly. Watch the movie again to get the right impression of the scene, if you like! You know what happened in that scene, anyway…
Enjoy, and remember to review me (through the site or directly)!
This chapter was updated and at some parts re-edited to its proper form 28th of October 2005.
#After the night of Cleitus’ death, we all lived in a constant doubt. We held our breaths and walked around like ghosts. No man dared guess Alexander’s mind: I dared not to approach him either, even as my thoughts kept me awake at night. Hephaistion gave me little information of the king’s current state of mind, and I feared to ask more. I know Hephaistion visited Alexander the day after, but Alexander still asked him to wait.
So we all waited.
Those who opposed Alexander most defiantly passed their venom forth, setting ever more men up against their king. But many kept their peace, knowing that Alexander was swift to anger. And after events like this… None knew how he would react.
I knew that the way Alexander would react meant a lot. To all of us. If he would have swallowed the insults spoken against him and turned back as the men demanded, he would have lost both his face and his respect among his generals – even if the men would have celebrated momentarily. On the long run, Alexander would have been forced to give in his power to others. And if he kept his mind, it would rise a new wave of arguments. People would be needed to put silent, and that would mean even more malcontent among the soldiers. But it would also prove to this army, once and for all, that Alexander was the king, and none would go against him.
But what the Son of Zeus would do, none knew at the time. As Hephaistion visited him a few days later, Alexander’s thoughts still remained a mystery. Yet one thing had happened: Hephaistion had regained his self-confidence. Of what I heard, he even forbid the queen from seeing her husband. A bold act, I must admit, but nothing less I would have expected from him – or Alexander. Hephaistion alone was aware of the heart of Alexander, and knew that the other man needed peace – for now.
But soon the king made his mind of his course of action, and that showed to both Hephaistion and myself what we had truly achieved…#
Men were gathering, as they had just been summoned by their king. Nervousness hung in the air, worried glances shifting this way and that. Like sheep, Hephaistion thought almost ironically as he watched the mass move past him. But even his mask of calmness failed at some point, the feel of his thrumming heart against his crossed arms giving him away. What will he do? Today, he will tell it, no doubt. Glancing up at the sun, Hephaistion sent a swift prayer to the Gods. He knew Alexander would do the right thing. But whatever it was that he would do, it would seem wrong to a part of this army…
A beard that had grown for several days was rough against his hand as he moved his fingers up to his chin in a thoughtful gesture. It made him smile, the mere idea of himself with a beard. He hadn’t looked into a mirror for quite some time, that was for sure. Greater things invaded his time – and mind – than the mere fact that he was not keeping himself as fit as usual. Sighing, Hephaistion tilted his head to the side, easing some kinks in his neck. He was stiff all over, tense and tired from the worry of the last few days. I can only hope it will get easier after this, he thought moodily. But somehow he suspected that things would turn worse, if nothing else.
“What are you thinking?” a voice whispered from behind Hephaistion, making the general turn his head in alarm. A pair of laughing eyes met his blue ones, and Alexander’s warm smile spoke of mirth. “You seemed so far away, and I couldn’t resist…” he explained, his features calming, seriousness returning to his eyes.
“I should have seen you coming,” Hephaistion murmured, giving the other a small smile. Then he gazed back at the men, the soldiers still passing them by without further interest towards their actions. With a calming breath, he turned around to meet his king.
“Worry not, Hephaistion,” Alexander whispered, his tone reminding the other man of that far-away night at Gaugamela. “We are only at the beginning. It is all about fear. I see it now.” With that, Alexander took his own path to the head of the group, leaving confused Hephaistion behind.
What is he going to do? Hephaistion pondered, taking an alternative route to a place beside a cliff. Before he emerged from the crowd, he was able to see Ptolemy, standing on the edge of the crowd, his face a mask of patience and calmness. But Hephaistion was able to see that the other was as nervous as he was – maybe even more so. After all, this was Ptolemy’s game… A game indeed. Soon we shall see if Alexander plays along with our rules, or those of the others.
Ptolemy raised his head as Hephaistion stood beside him, giving the other a nod. His eyes spoke a different message, one that Hephaistion alone could read. “Soon,” he murmured, watching from the corner of his eyes as other men took their places beside them. Most of the generals were spread among on the crowd, with their own units, only few standing on the front, facing Alexander.
Standing so close to Hephaistion that their skins almost touched, Ptolemy found it difficult to stand still and observe the people moving around. He could smell Hephaistion, the scent of the other making his heart beat even faster. With an annoyed scowl, he drove such thoughts away from him. I had better drop such ideas, for now. There is no reason to inform Alexander about the feelings I have towards his lover. At the moment all I have left to place reliance in is that Hephaistion spoke the right words and made Alexander decide to take the path we wanted: one that would ensure his survival…
Alexander stood before them, taking in the sight of the world spreading out before him. From the high cliff they were standing upon, he could see the uncounted miles before them. So much to see and venture: to explore… Slowly, the king turned back to his men, regarding them carefully. There was no hint of hesitation on his face, which told those closest to him that he had made up his mind. “Of course you have fears!” Alexander shouted suddenly, his voice demanding undivided attention. “We all have fears! Because no-one has never gone this far before!” He pointed at the land opening before them. “And now we are weeks from the Circling Ocean, our route home. We will build a fleet of ships and sail all the way back down the Nile to Egypt. And from Alexandria, we shall be home within weeks!” he explained excitedly, his eyes burning with inner fire.
Hephaistion recognised that look, and by the way Ptolemy shifted beside him, the other had also realised what was coming: Alexander would press on. Just like they had wanted. But it did nothing for the fear in the pit of Hephaistion’s stomach. This was going far too easily…
“There we will be united with our loved ones, and share our great treasures and tales of Asia, and enjoy our imperishable glory until the end of time!” Alexander shouted, hands in the air, reaching the end of his speech.
Ptolemy looked at the men behind him, the silence that filled his ears almost painful. He glanced at Hephaistion, finding the other staring adamantly at Alexander.
Shouts rose from the back of the group, distant in the ears of those who most wished to hear them. “Follow Alexander!” But the rest of the men stood silent, tired, bowing their heads. None dared to meet their king’s gaze.
“What?” Alexander asked in disbelief. “Silence!” His posture lost its sudden self-assurance, his eyes trying to meet those of his men.
“We are with you Alexander!” shouted the men at the back, giving voice to the expectations Alexander had had just a while ago.
As Alexander spoke again, Hephaistion’s expression froze, his eyes still settled on Alexander as the king attempted to use the same tactic as at the battle of Gaugamela: speaking directly to the men in front of him, showing that he knew them, as persons, individuals. But this time they did not respond to him in kind. This time, they raised no weapons towards the sky, nor did any shouts meet his words. Only the men on the back kept shouting, telling Alexander that they would never leave him. But all the others were silent.
Ptolemy glanced at the men around, trying to will them to understand that Alexander would go forth. It had always been his desire, and he would not be turned from that path.
“You are breaking my heart!” Alexander exclaimed, his voice matching his feelings. “You men, afraid?”
There was no direct reply, but most of the men turned to look back, murmuring something. A tall man dove through the mass, standing up on a visible place among the men, looking uncertain. “Crateros!” men shouted, seemingly glad that the man had stepped forth.
“My king,” the general began, somewhat hesitantly. Alexander looked at him, surprise and confusion mingling on his face. “I don’t like complaining. I won’t tolerate it in any of my units,” Crateros stated, his voice growing stronger as he went on. But it was easy for him to speak, with the men’s support behind him, Ptolemy thought angrily. This promised nothing good… “I’ve lost many men. Young men, never been with a woman. Some died of disease. Some were butchered in Scythia, on the banks of Oxus.” He halted, and the men around him nodded in approval.
Alexander looked at Hephaistion, their eyes meeting. Their previous conversations were running through both of their minds, and Alexander’s eyes turned into stone. Hephaistion tore his gaze from Alexander’s, his steady eyes seeking out Crateros. Guilt was building in him, and not for the first time he hoped he was doing the right thing – had done the right thing while persuading Alexander to go on as his “dream” demanded.
The general kept speaking, voicing the thoughts of the men. Hephaistion admitted in his mind that he knew the other’s words to be true: how many men now around him had been with them from the beginning? He had fought all those battles Crateros spoke of, and bore many scars from them. Yet he lived, still. He had no desire to fight another battle, kill another barbarian, or cross another river. But if Alexander would take that road, so would he. And I have pushed him back to that road, he reminded himself bitterly. It was I who chose for all of us.
As Crateros finished his speech, men shouted in agreement, turning to face their king, waiting for response. Alexander allowed his eyes to rove over the lines of soldiers, considering his next words carefully. “Crateros!” he shouted, his voice almost hoarse. “Good Crateros! Who better than you to speak, most noble of men? But you know there is no part of me without a scar or bone broken. By sword, knife, stone, catapult, and club, I’ve shared every hardship with all of you!” he spoke, pointing at the men before him.
“You have, my king, and we love you for it!” Crateros replied, his voice shaking. Men roared around him, nodding. “But Zeus! Too many have died!” he continued. “You have no children, Alexander…” he halted, hesitating. Many noticed the glance Alexander gave in Roxane’s direction. “We are just humble men and we seek no disturbance with the Gods. All we wish for is to see our children, and our wives, and our grandchildren one last time before we join our brothers in that dark house they call Hades.”
Alexander was silent for a while, turning around to gaze at the land opening before him. “Yes, you are right, Crateros. I have been neglecting.”
Both Ptolemy and Hephaistion turned around from the men, looking at Alexander in surprise. For one horrible moment, they thought Alexander was going to give in. To turn back as his men wanted, and in the same time prove the generals that he could be controlled this way.
“I should have sent you veterans home sooner,” Alexander continued, turning back to the men, “and I will. The first of you shall be given silver shields.” Men bellowed, hope blooming in them. “And then every man who has served seven years will have full pensions from our treasury!”
Men shouted, their voice excited, waving at their king. But Ptolemy did not join to their celebration, doubt entering his mind. Something was out of place. Quick sideways glance at Hephaistion beside him told that the other man did not share his intuition: there was an unhappy look on the beautiful face, blue eyes solely glued at the king.
“Respected, riched, loved,” Alexander went on, his movements waking another series of shouts among his men. “You’ll be treated by your wives and children as heroes for the rest of your lives, and enjoy a peaceful death.”
Ptolemy frowned, thoughtful. He was sure his friend was planning something, for his current actions did not match his previous words. Alexander did not give up of his plans this easily, especially if they concerned his dream to conquer the world.
Hephaistion, on his side, looked even unhappier. What are you planning, Alexander? Don’t you see you are playing with fire? One wrong move, and all our worse dreams will come true. He shifted, moving closer to Alexander.
“But you dream Crateros!” Alexander suddenly went on, making Hephaistion halt in his tracks. “Your simplicity long ended, when you took a Persian mistresses and children, and you thickened your holdings with plunder and jewels... Because you have fallen in love with all the things in life that destroy men!” Alexander cried out, almost as if in desperation. Hephaistion turned back from Alexander, knowing what was coming. The end he had chosen for them. “Do you not see? And you, as well as I, know, that as the years decline and the memories stale and all your great victories fade it will always be remembered, you left your king in Asia.” Alexander took a deep breath, looking at the men before him. “For I will go on, with my Asians!”
There was a shocked silence, as the king’s words slowly sunk into the minds of his men. Ptolemy glanced around, seeing the tension build in the people around him. Then the fist shouts rose to the air, accusations filling the air. Many voices spoke of Cleitus, suspecting that those who would return would never reach home alive. Insults were directed towards Alexander, yet some men still kept their silence, knowing better than to speak up against their lord. But Ptolemy, as well as all the other generals, knew that there were far too many who were ready to oppose their king.
“All I ask is a one more month!” Alexander cried out. Asians moved to their king, ready to defend him if the need would come.
Some soldiers even dared to point directly at Alexander, shouting him to shame. Men pushed forward, some with weapons in their hands. Hephaistion swiftly turned around, pushing one soldier back, seeing the anger on the other’s face. “That’s your king!” he shouted, hoping it would be enough to make the nearest men fall back and understand it would be only worse if they attacked Alexander.
But enough words had been said to enflame the army. Some men mocked Alexander’s state as a son of Zeus, some spoke of death of Cleitus, of conspiracy, and tyranny. Then a corpse of an animal was thrown to Alexander’s feet, and that was enough to make the king unleash his anger.
Hephaistion moved after Alexander as the other dove into the mass of men, trying to both restrain Alexander and keep the others away from him. All the time Alexander challenged his men to come and face him, to kill him, but none moved forth to attack.
As Ptolemy watched this from the side, knowing that many would lose their lives because of this feud, he couldn’t keep thinking that they had succeeded. Alexander would go on, and remain as a king. He had shown his power, and for now, it would keep his enemies at bay…
Long after the men had split to their own tents and units, Hephaistion returned to the place of the meeting. A wind that gathered on the lands below made his hair sway, swirling the garments he wore around his body. His thoughts seemed to be one great myriad of plots, one mingling with another and leaving him in utter confusion.
Alexander had calmed down soon after he had left his men, and his mind had stayed adamant. What tomorrow would bring, no-one knew. And at the moment, Hephaistion did not wish to think of it. Nothing of it. He wished his mind to be empty, rid himself of all thought and deceit…
“It is done.”
Hephaistion merely tilted his head, closing his eyes as he felt Ptolemy halt beside him. “What if…” he spoke out, but then stopped, deciding not to ask.
“All will be well,” Ptolemy assured, his hand resting upon Hephaistion’s shoulder. “Men will die, as the sparks of mutiny must be taken down, but it will ensure Alexander’s survival,” he continued steadily.
“Alexander spoke of killing someone?” Hephaistion questioned. “Because of the insults of today?” Ptolemy nodded. “You might have nothing to do with it?” Hephaistion asked quietly, his eyes narrowing in suspicion as he glared at Ptolemy.
“I mentioned it, perhaps,” Ptolemy gave in, a secret smile upon his face. “But it matters not. Someone would have brought up the matter, anyway. And there are some who are now ready to kill Alexander. You know that as well as I. And they must die,” he pressed.
Hephaistion nodded, sighing. “Better them than Alexander.”
Ptolemy also nodded, letting his hand drop to his side as they gazed over the darkening land before them. No words were spoken, and as the silence continued a moment, a shape shifted in the bushes some distance behind the couple.
As Cassander walked away and reached a safe distance from the two, he snorted, glancing back at the two other generals. “So, that is the kind of game you play, Ptolemy?” he smiled. “Well, two can play it. You’ll see.” Then he turned and walked back to the camp.
to be continued…