My 6th grade Geography teacher inspired this story when he spent a week on Ancient Greece and...
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A Secondary Siege
To live through a siege is to live through complete chaos. As always the battle left me feeling hollow and broken. The men who had died all had families; all had lives to live and friends. I bid my farewells to the governing party of Babylos, said my goodbyes to the families of the men who were recruited. I knew the remorse would grip the hearts of the men I took. I wished them all the strength I had mustered into myself when I had been in their position.
“New recruits,” I yelled, “I wish you to line up outside of my tent so I can speak individually to each of you.”
Grudgingly they lined up, single file, fighting for a good place as to not have to stand in my presence any longer then necessary. I could understand them, I could relate. Whenever possible I had avoided Alexander.
“Chrio,” he answered.
“Chrio…” I whispered, using a stylus to ink his name into a papyrus scroll. “Chrio, you need not fear me, I refuse your submission, in fact; I want you to be defiant. It makes for better warriors. All I ask is that you respect me and your commanding officers.”
“You broke my spirit General,” he sighed, taking his time, “you broke many spirits.”
“I hate to hear it soldier,” I said, placing a hand on his shoulder, “I meant it not.” I spoke the truth though I doubt he believed me.
He walked away, followed closely by the second man. Each told me that the spirit of Babylos had been broken. I felt for each, as in my past I remembered a Siege. Phillip had waged war against Sparta, and like his father before him, came Alexander as if on cue. I was old enough to fight and old enough to kill. I had been in my prime, young and strong, prepared to fight to the death. I offered a tired smile to the last of the new recruits, inking his name onto the parchment. I heaved a sigh, as if I could use the breath to help me shoulder the weight of grief. Hephaestion and Hector came to council with me as we planned our next two sieges.
“For one,” Hephaestion said, “Sidon knows we approach, as does Tyre.” He paused, collecting his thoughts, “I think we should make siege on Sidon first.”
“Well put general. Sidon is weaker. Perhaps a victory will raise morale enough for us to take the city of Tyre, and raze the walls; we can also do some recruiting and recon some supplies. The only… complication I could think of would be how to get to Tyre. It is an island off the coast; easily a mile out!”
“Perhaps your wisdom and mind will pull you through? Or maybe the gods will send you word?” Hector suggested hopefully.
“Ares comes to me in my dreams during times of trouble.” I responded, “But he is a god, and has duties to his realm. It is not fair to rely on him when we have three smart minds working together.”
Lightning crackled outside, and when we looked out of the tacticians tent, right on the spot of the fire for Ares; there was a ring of black ash. Standing in the middle of that ring, was the god of war himself. He strode into the tent, brushing past Hector and Hephaestion as if they were nothing. He smiled at our map table, contemplating the placement of each piece.
“She is right you know,” he said, “relying on the gods is a horrible habit.” He moved one of the red “Persian” pieces, “You set out the strategy wrong; I fixed it for you.” He laughed a sound like clanging swords or shields, smiling wickedly. I offered him some wine, which he accepted. I could see the yearning in his eyes when I flexed my wrist to pour the wine. My vein was quite blue.
“Would you prefer the blood of my brothers and I?” I asked.
“Do not weaken your resolve. I want your blood, all of your blood; because my realm is that of bloodlust. I am here to talk; to answer questions.”
“This has to be a trick… there has to be a… a… stipulation or something!” Hector said.
“There is no stipulation, no trick.” Ares replied; looking somewhat wounded. I moved to give him my chair, but he declined it. He stood with his back to the rear of the tent, sipping his wine, “but you only get one question each.” He smiled at Hephaestion, “You first General.” Hephaestion contemplated what his one and only question would be.
“Will I marry Hippolyta?” He asked.
“Yes, you will.” Ares replied; easily, “But… you will suffer a time without her, and you will be tormented in Tartarus until she dies.”
“What did Hephaestion do to deserve Tartarus!?” I asked.
“Is that your question?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said without hesitation. I knew there had to be a darker reason; Hephaestion never did anything worthy of Tartarus.
“There is no reason other then that some of the gods do not favor you as I do, and they wish to burden your mind with thoughts of your love in torture. I was hoping that by asking Hephaestion for his question first, you would raise inquiry. His torture is for naught, and he will suffer for naught. I want you to know that if you do not worry; perhaps your life can be prolonged.”
“I must ask… What were Permenion’s reasons for murdering my king?” Hector asked. Ares raised his eyebrow, and of course; I did too. I looked to Ares to hear his answer and managed to look into his blood-red eyes.
“Permenion hated Alexander, but the story runs deeper. It may be best you all take a seat; especially you Hippolyta.”
“Permenion planned Alexander’s demise months before you joined the army. Alexander believed that you loved Permenion, and you trusted him. He was hoping to have you as an officer when he usurped the throne from Alexander. Now; this goes without saying that you hated Alexander. You had about as much deceit in your heart as Permenion, but your training made you hold your tongue. Permenion could not restrain himself enough, and thought if he killed Alexander he could take his place. I do not believe he suspected you to follow him into Alexander’s tent! That took guts Hippolyta; I will allow you this praise… So Permenion died in spite. He believed himself bold and strong enough to lead an army, when a girl was able to kill him.” Ares explained.
“My Lord,” Hephaestion interjected, “Hippolyta is no girl… she is a hero and… pardon me if I am wrong, but worthy of the gods as well.”
“Hmmm,” Ares smiled at my Hephaestion, a glint of laughter in his eyes, “I am one of the only gods who moves to make true relationships… and if Hippolyta did not belong to you…” he smiled at me, “Pardon me my lady, but I would have her as my immortal wife.” Hephaestions’ eyes flared with jealousy that made me smile. I hope he knew that Zeus himself could court me and I would still want him.
Ares pressed his lips together and smiled before leaving us. He was gone before I could even register the flap closing on the tent.
“I will not suffer months or even years of torment only to have you taken from me Hippolyta!” Hephaestion raved. I smiled at him, and then dismissed Hector; who left quickly to give us some privacy.
“How little faith have you in me? I would rather walk Asphodel until the end of time with you then live forever on Olympus with Ares.” Hephaestion frowned.
“But… he is a god… you would give up immortality… for… me?”
“I see question.” I laughed, reaching across the map table for an almond. I tossed the tiny thing into the air and caught it in my mouth.
“How generous,” He replied, grabbing an almond and doing the same. “Did I ever mention how much I adore almonds?” He put an almond between his teeth. “Want another one?”
I pushed the little almond into his mouth with one finger and smiled.
“I have two hands to get one myself… and no I do not.” I became serious, “Now enough games General,” his face fell, “How do you suppose we get from here,” I tapped the mainland of Tyre, “to here?” I asked, sliding my finger across the water to the island of Tyre.
“…Maybe you could… send a fleet?”
“Sending a fleet would be the predictable but…” I was nervous, “I will think about it while I sleep.”
Hephaestion and I left the Tacticians’ tent together and we went our separate ways for our sleep. That night brought me Ares, the god of War like many days after or rarely before battle. In that dream, he pulled me up behind him on his horse; a huge red-bay stallion with a black mane and tail; and we galloped off. He came to a skidding halt a little ways away, and helped me dismount; letting his feet drop to the ground right after mine.
“Do you know where we are?” He asked. Examining the shape of the coastline, I could see the familiar lines of mainland Tyre.
“Mainland Tyre…” I whispered. He smiled wryly, and gestured to some sort of commotion down on the beach. He pointed out a man in bronze cuirass with cropped black hair, and another man who was taller and had sandy blonde hair. Men slaved in the sun on the sand; and were pushing logs into the sea. They were building a bridge!
“Is this what I have to do?” I asked. Ares gazed down at the beach.
“Only if you want to; this is one of the two options, you see,” he snapped his fingers making a sound like thunder, and the scene shifted to me and Hephaestion at the helm of a huge fleet, looking quite noble as we cut through the water to the island of Tyre.
“Two options… that you have shown me… and I am to lead either operation,” I looked at him sideways, “Ts, I choose the first. Sending a small fleet like that against the Phoecian fleet would be suicide.”
“Have you thought about the end yet Hippolyta?” The war god asked out of the blue. I looked right into his eyes; no longer afraid of them, if I was ever I am not sure. I believe so though.
“Well my lord, of course I have… I wish not to leave this earth without first bidding my family a fond farewell for raising me so well… and I want to marry eventually.” I explained.
“Well there are two offers there for you.” He replied. I looked at him strangely and he smiled, tapping the pendant on my neck, “Hmmph… this is charmed now. After Hephaestion dies, you can just ask this pendant to let you pull him from Hades and spend a day with him… but be warned, it will only work after he dies, and only three times; then you will die.” He smiled, “And not here, it will be in Arcadia.”
“Thank you my lord. Am I permitted to sleep now? I have had a long and taxing day.”
“As you wish my champion; and do not disappoint me.” He slashed his hand across the air and disappeared in a cloud of acrid yellow smoke from the first time I had dreamed of him.
I coughed; waking with a start and walked out to tend to Bucephalus and Styra. Hector had her bridled and had that infernal riding sheet on her. I quickly unstrapped it and gave it back to Hector.
“You should know me better by now.” I laughed. Hector smiled; taking the sheet in his hands gingerly and passing me the reigns. Hector gave me a boost; as I was weary and not in the mood to pull out my stitches. I kicked Styra into a fast walk and let her stretch her neck. She wiggled; trying to step into a trot but I withheld her speed for the moment. She mouthed the bit in intolerance; she hated having to free walk. I relented; letting her go and she pushed into a trot. I collected her and sat to her rhythm; easing back and sitting