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 Notes: Everyone alive after all the intense action in the latest chapters? Good. Now, some more action! Hehe. I am spoiling you people, but what can one do?
Now, then, as I don’t have any clear details of the battle that took place in India (by the movie, that is), I have to make up some things myself (read: a lot). Hopefully no-one gets angry or anything. Try to enjoy! Corrections are always a nice thing, too! But, however it is, have fun!
Many thanks to Kitt of Lindon of betaing this!
#The end can come swiftly at times. Without a warning, like a silent wind passing the night. Our campaign in India came to a sudden halt, unexpected to all. We had had battles against the tribes, before. Countless of them. But finally we had to face the full force of our enemies, deep in the jungle of India. Alexander’s plan was good, as usual. But things do not always go as we would like them to. This one battle proved it to us.
And the losses… They almost became irreplaceable.#
The main-forces of the army were taking their places. In ordered lines, the men on foot marched forward, with their generals ahead of them. The ones in lead shouted commands to the still, oppressing air. Spears were like a waving sea among the trees; knives, shields, and swords shone in the rays of light that pushed itself through the holes in the canopy above.
Cavalry hung back, waiting for the right moment to move forward. Alexander had already mounted Bucephalus, staring motionlessly to the forest before him. His expression was distant, and everyone tried to leave him in peace: their King needed his moment.
Hephaistion watched Alexander, marking how the men kept a certain, respecting distance from him. Do they think he is asking the favour of Gods, and therefor do not dare to disturb him? That if this moment is harassed, the Gods will abandon us and we shall lose? Of course he is praying for Gods, but not in a manner his men think. He is not that divine, after all. He is as much of a man as we are, flesh and blood. Gods listen to him like they listen to any other. An ironic smile made its way to his features. Once he had thought Alexander divine, like everyone else. But that dream-like belief had long vanished. He merely saw a man, preparing for a battle of his life; one more of them. Is there no end for this… March after another, rest in some nameless place, then marching again. And then a battle. The smell of blood will cling to you for days, and the groans of the wounded lull you to sleep. And then we must find the will to go on: to head out into another battle. It is a circle we have been in for years now. At times it seems that the end of the world is escaping us, taunting Alexander to come further from home to find it. How such an ill fate fell upon us–
A shift beside Hephaistion awoke him from his spinning thoughts. He looked aside, meeting familiar features – momentarily grim with concentration. He looked away from Ptolemy to gaze back at Alexander, his mind lurching to its distracted, agonised paths. Ptolemy probably saw this, moving close enough to settle a hand upon his shoulder. The grasp was firm, somewhat dulled by the armour beneath.
“What are you thinking? Nothing pleasant, I can tell,” the general asked with a low voice, his eyes trying to catch Hephaistion’s. It was like a game, the other trying to avoid his eyes as he attempted to claim the blue ones. As the game drew on, Ptolemy decided to change his tactics. “Hephaistion?” he said with a different tone, which did not belong anywhere near a battle-field. This caught Hephaistion’s attention, however, and proved him victory.
“I am a bit distracted, that’s all,” Hephaistion answered quietly, eyes daring to meet Ptolemy’s. “The battle before us… They say that the enemy is great in number, and more so in strength. Archers, elephants, spears…” his voice turned as fearful as his thoughts at the moment.
Ptolemy frowned, pondering how to deal with this. “You are not afraid, are you?” He gained no answer, but the way Hephaistion’s eyes gleamed told him enough. “Have faith in Alexander,” Ptolemy reassured him. “He always asks us to conquer our fear. And you have done that for him before. Do not despair now: our force is great as well.” They all knew it was a great enemy before them, but yet they marched on, to bring glory and victory to their homelands – whatever those were. To bring glory to Alexander.
Before Hephaistion found his voice to answer, Alexander blinked, as if waking from a sleep. He looked about him, watching the silent preparation of his men, then turned and guided Bucephalus forward. He came to a halt before Hephaistion and Ptolemy, the shared look between him and his lover drawing in length. “Hephaistion, take your side of the cavalry along the river, and advance the enemy from that side. Ptolemy, you go with him.” The men standing on the ground nodded, Hephaistion’s eyes never leaving Alexander’s. The king nodded, pulling Bucephalus back without another word. “Men of Macedon! We ride forth, to victory and everlasting fame!” Alexander raised his sword, gaining shouts from his men, and then his part of the cavalry went forth, his eyes momentarily meeting Hephaistion’s before he passed beyond sight.
“Prepare!” Hephaistion called out to the men, his voice even and strong. Horses were mounted, weapons checked one more time, flags and banners lifted to the air. Hephaistion walked to his own horse, finding Ptolemy already standing beside his. Their arms brushed together as they met between their mounts, shielded from view for a moment. “I –” Hephaistion began, his head bowed in indecision.
“We shall find victory,” Ptolemy said softly, his hand unable to resist a temptation to touch the other’s waist. “Hold on to your courage and faith in Alexander, and you shall overcome every obstacle on your way.” He fell silent, his hand moving to touch the skin of Hephaistion’s thigh. “Be careful,” he whispered finally. “You are not alone, remember it: I shall watch for you, as you watch for Alexander.”
Hephaistion actually smiled, his own hand moving over Ptolemy’s. “Gods are with us,” he uttered. “But what gives me more comfort is that you ride with me today, Ptolemy.” He threw the other a smile, the earlier agitation gone from his eyes. Then he lifted himself to the back of his horse, waiting long enough for Ptolemy to do the same. “We ride to Alexander!” he shouted, raising his hand, and the cavalry moved forward, shouts of men still ringing in the air.
The sound of hooves drove over all else, faint sounds of snapping twigs and rustling leaves joining to the concert of noise the cavalry arose when moving forward. In this land, there was no cloud of dust to raise and fill the air, which Hephaistion found quite pleasant: he could actually breathe freely without a fear of choking to the sand. Yet the warm, humid air made it difficult to inhale evenly before starting to feel out of breath. Branches lashed at his exposed skin, making the sting remain long after. Yet this all was simply a foretaste of a battle that lay ahead. One they would soon engage in…
A glance to the side told Hephaistion that Ptolemy was still next to him. The other’s face was determined, his eyes focused at the forest before them. What the other man was thinking, Hephaistion couldn’t tell. Maybe he is facing his fears at the moment, subduing them before we hit the enemy. Or maybe he feels no fear and merely counts all the different ways to slay those against us… Another stolen look gave him no answers, but he continued with his current line of thoughts. What Ptolemy thought was always a challenge for him so solve. Alexander was plain enough to read, since they had known each other from childhood, but Ptolemy… He was a question. A dare Hephaistion was not able to step aside.
On his side, Ptolemy glanced at Hephaistion, making sure that the other was not looking at him at that moment. He was well aware that he had received more than one look since they had set off, and the mere feel of the blue eyes upon him made his skin crawl. At the moment of action, all the signals between them seemed to intensify. Maybe it was because they had to be alert, their senses on the edge all the time, until the battle would be over. However it was, Ptolemy could not shake off the feel the other’s gaze left in its wake. Focus, he snarled to himself, trying to force his thoughts elsewhere. If you enter the battle this distracted, it means certain death. He was not sure if he was reminding himself or the general beside him, but the outcome was sure: his mind was no more in ease.
Out of nowhere, a lonely rider came to their path, calling out and riding directly to Hephaistion. The cavalry halted immediately, recognising one of their own, curious glances directed to the swift exchange between the soldier and their commander. Ptolemy guided his horse beside Hephaistion’s, his ears sharp and eyes narrowed. It was easy to tell that there has been a change in the plan, for there was a deep, worried frown on Hephaistion’s face. The general nodded, drew a deep breath, and then turned to seek Ptolemy. There was a revealed flash in his eyes as he spotted the other man near him. “Alexander has commanded us to join with him immediately, on the centre. Our fronts will not hold out for long,” he spoke softly but urgently.
Ptolemy nodded, worry entering his mind. How great is this enemy in number and strength, if we are already in a severe danger of losing our infantry? Or has something gone wrong? He pushed his thoughts away as Hephaistion called out his orders beside him, the cavalry moving into position immediately. It took another second from Hephaistion to turn his horse and urge it on, thunder filling the air as the cavalry moved forth.
Time seemed to drag by, miles drawing in length as they raced on. Their pace slackened when they had to divide to move through a dense area of trees, making Ptolemy bite his jaws together in suppressed frustration. They could already hear the battle ahead: shouts and screams and other noises they were too afraid to name. Horses pricked up their ears, snorting in alarm, but their riders pressed them onwards, anxious to get to their king.
As they broke into a more open section of the forest, Alexander’s cavalry approached them from the left. “Hephaistion, to the centre!” Alexander’s voice called out, the leaders meeting as their men united. For a moment Hephaistion rode side by side with his king, but soon the black horse began to draw ahead. “Come Macedonians! Ride!” Alexander shouted, drawing ahead of the cavalry, proud and strong in the eyes of his men. And the Macedonians rode, blind to all else but the man in front of them.
But the dream was soon shattered as the cavalry came within sight of the battle. Horses halted and reared, their neighs like shrieks of terror. Hephaistion’s eyes grew wide, scanning the desperate fight before them. Elephants rose like towers ahead of the soldiers, arrows and spears flying through the air, occasional spray of blood staining the men next to its source. The shouts were clear now, filling his ears, single words separated here and there. Screams were cut short, or echoed in the air long after, joining to the cacophony.
Alexander shifted, anguish on his face. Hephaistion stole a glance at him, easily guessing what the other was thinking. They had to go forth and help, to join into that death-battle before them. That was what Alexander wanted to do. Hephaistion knew he lacked the strength to do so, on his own. But beside Alexander he was brave – he could do it. But there was still one obstacle to win before he could go forth and carry out his lover’s will. “The horses won’t go!” he called out, his own mount shaking and tossing its head. “On foot!” he commanded, knowing it would be the only way to move forward. The horses perhaps had enough sense to stay behind, but the men would push forward, beyond reason.
None of the cavalry dismounted, however, as calls came from the front of the line. Crateros was commanding his men to pull back. They watched, as if in trance, the army of Alexander abandoning their posts, terror upon their bloody faces. Alexander also saw this, and it broke his heart. He guided Bucephalus forward, his expression almost dreamy. Bucephalus snorted, tossing his head to a side, visibly nervous. “Come, Bucephalus,” Alexander encouraged the horse gently, lifting his head to look at the sun gleaming down on him from a hole in the canopy. Looking down to the ground, he saw his own shadow, sitting on a great mount. Then he leaned down, cheek pressed against the horse’s neck, hand smoothing the black coat. “It is only sun and shadow,” he continued, voice soft. “You and I, one last time, Bucephalus…” The horse snorted, but it did not act as afraid anymore.
Alexander sat up, lifting his sword, his voice almost unearthly as he addressed his men. “Isn’t it a lovely thing, to live with great courage, and die living in an everlasting fame?!” he shouted, making the cavalry look back at him. Hephaistion’s eyes were glued on him, something shifting in them. He knew what was coming. “Come, Macedonians!” he called out, riding across the line of the cavalry. “Why do you retreat?” he asked in turn, first retreating men on foot advancing them. “Do you not want to live forever?! In the name of Zeus, attack!” With that, Alexander rode forward. It didn’t seem to matter to him if he went alone or not: he would fight.
Hephaistion looked after Alexander, tears deep in his eyes. Ptolemy halted beside him, watching the king make his way, his sword lashing out on enemies. “Attack!” Alexander’s voice boomed over the noise, clear and almost divine.
“Alexander!” Hephaistion shouted in return, trying to get his horse to move. But the animal merely neighed in terror, leaving its rider helpless to do anything.
Men lifted their heads all around the battle-field. The generals, a moment ago retreating, turned on their heels to fight again. Alexander rushed past them, fighting and advancing, lighting up the pride and strength in their hearts again. Soldiers rushed to the Indian enemy, the vision of their king still burning in their eyes.
Alexander’s advance halted, however, as he met he Indian king. It was a majestic moment, both the horse and the elephant rearing up, facing each other on the open. In the eyes of the Macedonian army, Alexander seemed to be the greater one of the two. The moment was broken abruptly, an arrow flying through the air. It grazed Bucephalus’ neck, embedding itself deeply to Alexander’s chest, sending him falling to the ground.
Time froze. All movement seemed to cease. Hephaistion broke it with a harsh cry, awaking the army, “The king is down!”
“To the king!” Ptolemy echoed him, uncontrolled fear gripping him. Hephaistion cried out, such pain in his voice that it made even the horse under him move forth. Army lunged forward, driven by this new goal, and the cavalry followed Hephaistion, the animals eventually more afraid of their riders than the beasts ahead. The battle soon turned into madness, Alexander’s army driven by such rage that it made them forget all reason. They just needed to get to their king, avenge him…
Hephaistion pushed his way through the enemy lines, not bothering to stay and fight. His mind was solely upon a thought to find and be beside Alexander. All else mattered none to him. Only Alexander… The impact surprised him, giant trunk of an elephant pushing him off his horse. He rolled on the ground, dazed, sword firmly in hand and trying to clear his head. An instinct warned him beforehand and he lashed out at his enemy, making the other man fall. He scrambled back to his feet, feeling unstable. Alexander. Think of him– The train of thought dissolved into a rush of pain as something hit his leg. He actually screamed, his mind burning with sudden agony. He wasn’t sure if he heard a bone break, his entire left leg going numb. Falling to the ground, he stroke out and hit the enemy with all his remaining strength.
Hissing in pain, Hephaistion ripped off the axe still loosely embedded to his upper thigh. He could smell blood, not sure if it was his own. Pain was all he could feel, throbbing in the synch of his heart, each beat making his shudder. He couldn’t breath, either, every motion agonising. Shifting on the ground, trying to get up or even move, Hephaistion grit his jaws together to keep another scream inside. Tears burned his eyes, unwanted but there. “Gods…” he gasped, his voice alien to him. He had no strength, no power left, and with a shuddery breath he lowered himself to the ground, tangled hair sticking to his sweaty face.
Increasing shouts woke Hephaistion from his pain filled doze, and he lifted his face, pushing back his hair with shaking hand. He saw men gather into a line, battle now further away. But his eyes, unfocused but determined, glued at a shield that was carried through the lines. Alexander lay there, unmoving, only his eyes revealing that he was actually alive. Hephaistion let out a pitiful whimper, trying to drag himself closer, his entire body shivering with pain he could no longer feel. His eyes lost their focus, his vision engulfed by glistening tears. Maybe he is dead. I can’t see… Maybe it is just my mind, playing me… Alexander! I must go to him. Get back to his side. I have to be there… He collapsed back to the blood-soaked leaves, sobs wracking his body. He longed to go and follow the shield, to touch him like the others did. But he could no longer feel his fingers, buried to the soil beneath him…
It was some time after, when Ptolemy had made sure that Alexander would be taken care of, that he returned to the battlefield, his heart wrenching at the sight before him. There was no words in his mind to describe the battle. He would make those later. At the moment, his concern lay elsewhere: he had not seen Hephaistion since the cavalry had moved forward. He had expected the other man to be on Alexander’s side, or to appear there fast after Alexander was taken to safety. But as that had not happened, fear had pushed him back here. He refused to even consider a possibility that Hephaistion was dead. He was merely… occupied.
Ptolemy did not call out the other’s name, forcing himself to stay calm. His horse pulled and snorted behind him, but he held tight on the reins, dragging the unwilling animal behind him. After long minutes passed, and he still had not found the other general, the need to call out for him was almost unbearable. Where are you, Hephaistion? Would you even answer, if I called out? Gods, where are you… He spotted Hephaistion’s horse some time after, temptation to call out almost overwhelming. The animal stood shivering, alone, and its ears flattened. There was some blood upon it, but not enough to kill the last remnants of hope in Ptolemy’s heart. He did not stop to soothe the horse, knowing it would be only a waste of time. Yet it gave him a possible direction to search for the horse’s rider.
Dead lay everywhere, mutilated and bloodied bodies, their smell making Ptolemy sick. He forced himself to go on, telling himself that Hephaistion was near, that soon they could both leave this horrid place behind for good… He also promised to himself that he would make Hephaistion pay for his long, frustrating search. Oh yes, what a joy it would be, to make the other man repay all his trouble. The image was broken, however, and all his thoughts of repayment forgotten, as his eyes fell upon a familiar body. Reins fell from his hands and he ran forward, kneeling to the soaked ground with a jarring impact.
Ptolemy’s fingers were trembling as he gently moved the dark, bloodstained hair aside, then pressed his hand to the other’s neck to feel for pulse. It was there, erratic but strong. “Hephaistion?” he whispered, his hand gently shaking the other by the shoulder. The smell of blood was fresh here, making him cringe, but instead of drawing away he leaned closer and tried to find the source of blood. His hands froze on the wounded leg, trembling increasing. The injury was hideous, blood and torn flesh barely hiding the bone beneath. He touched it gingerly, warm blood staining his fingers. Hephaistion’s body jolted at the contact, a pained moan escaping from him.
Ptolemy looked up, trying to see someone who could help him. A doctor, another warrior… Anyone who could do something to help him to aid his wounded companion. But it seemed that no-one was near enough, a few men walking on the far side of the field, probably checking for any living enemies. A tight pull on the edge of his chiton drew his gaze back down, his eyes growing wide as he met two hazy blue eyes.
“Ptolemy…” Hephaistion whispered, his grip almost desperate. His breathe was painfully laboured, the pain slowly returning to him. “Ptolemy,” he repeated, his eyes turning shiny with new tears.
“Quiet,” Ptolemy hushed, leaning closer. “Lie still. I will take care of you.” He was not sure how, but he would. Even if he had to do all by himself, and carry Hephaistion back to the camp.
“Alexander,” Hephaistion moaned, trying to get up, gazing at the direction where the men had carried his lover. There was despair in his voice, tears falling freely now.
“Alexander shall be fine. He is already taken care of,” Ptolemy tried to calm the man before him, grasping him firmly. If Hephaistion would continue this for long, he might do some irreparable harm to himself. “He will live,” he continued, knowing what Hephaistion needed to hear. “Men like him do not fall so easily. He will live, and then continue on, like always. Gods love him too much to allow his glory to diminish.”
Hephaistion halted for a moment, his body shaking. Then he turned back to Ptolemy, burying his face against the other’s chest. Ptolemy pulled him close, holding him for a moment until the broken sobs ended. Slowly he shifted the other so that he could undo a belt around his waist, then shifted the limp body again. “This is going to hurt,” Ptolemy informed the other quietly. Hephaistion merely nodded, his hands tightening their hold on Ptolemy’s front, his eyes closed and face pressed against Ptolemy’s body.
Gently as possible, Ptolemy slid the belt around the wounded leg, above the injury. Then he tightened it, hoping it would cut off the blood-loss somewhat. Hephaistion hissed in pain, his body going tense, then breaking out to shivers. Ptolemy finished his task quickly, his arms visibly welcomed as he held the trembling body close to his. After a moment the pained gasps stilled, Hephaistion falling back to unconsciousness.
#I was afraid then, that I had lost him. Possibly lost them both. Because despite my bold, reassuring words, I was not sure if Alexander would make it. I knew him to be strong, but sometimes Hades took the better of even the strongest ones… As I sat there in a soil, his blood all over me, his each, unsteady breathe giving me another small spark of hope, I wondered how we had got here. Middle of a jungle, thousands of miles from home, I held in my arms a man who by right should have been beside Alexander at that moment. So many years were behind us: years of joy, innocence, love, endless travel – and war. Thousands of people we had conquered, hundreds of cities now hailed us and called Alexander king – some years before never heard his name.
But that day, as I finally carried Hephaistion to the camp, I understood how little that all meant to me, in the end. Had I lost that all, the only thing I would have missed was the thing I miss most even now – Hephaistion. His loss would have been unbearable, not only for me but for the whole army – to the world Alexander had created. It felt strange, but I accepted it, knowing that denying it would mean denying a truth. And such a thing never sat well with me.
We did not lose Hephaistion that night – not in India. There is a right time for everything, I learned. And when his death finally took place, it was such a blow to all Macedonian world. The problem was, eventually, that some realised that only after…#
to be continued…