Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 13
“I’ll have to talk to the captain, but I think that Panos here may be the only Greek speaker we have in the crew.”
“I’ll make arrangements, and we can add the costs to my shipboard account.”
Alexandria Royal Compound
Gorgias of Thrace looked out at the harbor and measured with a stick. It could be done. Not against a capable foe. Not against a Persian or even an Egyptian. But rumor had it that these were philosophers, mewling infants. Still, he was just drawing plans in the air, not doing anything real, not yet. But the prize…a ship like that, owned by real men, could rule the world. Gorgias was loyal to Ptolemy, but with a ship like that he could be king of Macedonia, Persia, even India or Carthage.
“Menes, what do you think?”
“It’s a fool’s quest, General. I’d rather go over the walls of Babylon by myself.”
“You don’t believe the rumors then?”
“That they are a bunch of western barbarians from the future?” Menes shrugged. “I don’t know. But I don’t believe that they can’t fight. No one who can build something like that can’t fight. Rather, no one who owns a ship like that can’t fight. If they couldn’t, someone else would have taken it from them by now.”
“You lack imagination, Menes,” Gorgias said. “It could be done.”
Menes shook his head at the general’s back and looked out at the ship.
Queen of the Sea, Alexandria Harbor
“Atum told me that Ptolemy is at Memphis?” Marie asked the locals. They were back in the Royal Lounge and taking a break from negotiations on resupply. Dag was present because his knowledge of environmental systems was turning out to be useful in terms of handling the unprocessed products of the environment — all the fungus and poisons and stuff that was in unprocessed fruits, grains and meats. Eleanor Kinney was in the room. She had done most of the negotiating on price and, as a demonstration, had arranged to have fresh loaves of brown bread served. Bread made from the local wheat and ship’s yeast. This bread didn’t have the ground rock from the milling in it, and it tasted a lot better.
The locals included Atum and Lateef, Dinocrates, Crates and two other merchants, along with Gorgias of Thrace, who was apparently in charge of the garrison of Alexandria. Marie listened to the Macedonian Greek pronunciation of the general’s name and it sounded like Gorgeous, which she knew was an ancestor of the name George, which brought to mind the professional wrestler called Gorgeous George. And if ever she’d seen a man who looked less like the iconic wrestler, she couldn’t remember it. This man had lank black hair and a heavy beard, a scar down one cheek and a nose that had been broken several times. He was also missing at least a couple of teeth and the ones he had were pretty ground down, and brown.
Dinocrates and Gorgeous George looked at Atum, who shrugged.
Then Gorgeous George nodded. “Yes. The battle with Perdiccas was over a month ago and things are getting back to normal in Memphis. We haven’t gotten word from Satrap Ptolemy, but I would guess he will be coming this way. As to the others, by now Alexander’s generals will be heading for the meeting at Triparadisus. From what we hear, the troops aren’t happy with Peithon and Arrhidaeus.”
Dinocrates smiled, then said, “Peithon and Arrhidaeus are apparently having difficulty holding the army together.”
“And such troubles couldn’t happen to a more deserving pair,” Gorgeous George said. “Opportunists, the both of them, and disloyal as well. We got word a day before you arrived that Antipater was expected there soon.”
“I wonder how they will react to news of us when it eventually reaches them,” Dag said.
Dinocrates seemed confused, then offended, and said, “They will know of your arrival by tomorrow night. The signal fires will tell them. We even know how to read and write.”
“I am truly sorry if I gave offence, sir,” Dag said and Marie translated. Then she added, “I’m sorry, Dag. I should have edited that or just explained, myself. They had an extensive network of signal fires and pony express to get messages across the empire quickly. I knew that, but I was so distracted by what General Gorgias just said that it didn’t really register. Within a week, two at the outside, they will know we have arrived, everywhere from Athens to the Persian Gulf.”
“What did he say that distracted you?”
“Antipater isn’t at Triparadisus yet.”
Dag shook his head in confusion. “So?”
Marie ignored Dag’s question to ask one of her own in Macedonian Greek. “Have Peithon and Arrhidaeus been forced to resign?”
“What? They will be forced to resign?” Dinocrates seemed shocked.
But Gorgeous George was wearing an expression of surmise. “No, not yet. When did that happen?”
“I don’t know, neither in our calendar or yours. Shortly before Antipater got to Triparadisus, the tensions between Eurydice and those two got so intense that they were forced to resign as regents and send messages to Antipater to hurry up. Then, when…”
Marie stopped speaking. She had to think. She could change history now, assuming the timing was right. The question was: should she?
Eurydice might well have Roxane and Alexander IV murdered if she got solid control of the army that had mutinied and killed Perdiccas. It wouldn’t be out of character for any of the players in this history to order or commit murder. Most historians agreed that Roxane had had Alexander’s other wives murdered, or at least had been involved.
On the other hand, Marie could be sure from her study of this time that if Cassander, Antipater’s son, got his hands on them, both queens and both kings would end up dead. And pretty horribly dead, at least in the case of Eurydice, although it was Alexander the Great’s mother Olympias who had murdered Eurydice and Philip in the timeline Marie had come from.
But Cassander was a snake. Even Antipater so despised his son Cassander that he gave the power to others instead of Cassander, and Antipater was no great prize either. Nor Antigonus One-eye. It might turn out that Eurydice and Roxane wouldn’t do any better. But could they do any worse?
Marie looked at the locals and realized that she, by herself, couldn’t change history. It would take the signal fires. “Here is our best understanding of what happened in my history about this time. As Antipater approached, Peithon and Arrhidaeus were forced to resign. Antipater came into the camp and was, in turn, captured by the troops loyal to Eurydice and held separate from his army.”
Dinocrates gave Marie a look, and Marie almost laughed. “Granted, that army probably wasn’t loyal to anyone. Say rather, the troops who had listened to Eurydice — or been bribed by Attalus — got hold of Antipater. That situation held for a while, I don’t know how long. Then Antigonus One-eye arrived, camped his army with Antipater’s across the river from the — call them Eurydice’s army — and Antigonus put on his fancy armor and fooled them. He crossed the bridge with just a few select cavalrymen, and gave a long rambling speech in support of Antipater, watching for the guards on Antipater to grow distracted. He was supported in his speech by Seleucus, who got the better part of the eastern empire for his bribe. Antigonus then rescued Antipater and somehow got him back to his side of the river and escaped himself. In exchange, Antigonus got possession of the kings and queens, and got assigned to go hunt down Eumenes. Which took him years, because Eumenes turned out to be a better general than anyone thought. I don’t know how detailed your codes are for the signal fires, but if you can get a message to Eurydice with that information, it might make all the difference.”
Gorgeous George was looking at her with disbelief clear on his face. Dinocrates pointed at one of the lights and the general’s eyes followed his pointing finger. Then he looked back at Marie and nodded.
“What’s going on?” Dag asked.
Marie explained. “We’re in a position to affect the outcome of the next battle in the succession wars.”
“Which adds a certain urgency to my question,” Dag said. “How will the generals react to the news of our arrival? And when will they learn of it?”
Marie had given those people who were interested a quick rundown of the wars of the Diadochi, the generals, and clearly Dag had been looking stuff up on his own. Marie tried to explain what was going on.
“You should have talked to the captain before you said anything, Professor Easley,” Dag said. Eleanor Kinney was looking daggers at Marie too.
“Does Captain Floden have a doctorate in ancient history that I’m unaware of?” Marie asked.
“He’s the captain,” Dag insisted.
“His authority on board this ship is based on the law from two thousand and more years in the future, and his expertise. He knows how to make the ship go where we need it to go. I would never dream of questioning his decisions on things like when to drop anchor or how many points to port we should turn. But he is not an expert on this time. I am! This is a political decision, and even in the twenty-first century his authority would not extend to that.”
“I’m going to have to report this,” Dag said.
“Go right ahead, young man. It won’t bother me at all.” Marie smiled, then turned back to the locals while Dag made his phone call.
“General Gorgias, what do you plan on doing with the information that I gave you?”
“Professor, is it?” he asked and Marie nodded. “The answer is, I don’t know. On a personal basis, I respect Antigonus One-eye as a brave commander. And as little use as I have for Peithon and Arrhidaeus, I have to respect that Antipater is the ranking officer in the Macedonian army. I think I will wait until Ptolemy gets here.”
Marie noticed a look between Crates and Atum, but didn’t ask about it. And Gorgeous George was still talking. “I was surprised to hear that the future thought so well of Alexander’s scribe. He’s won some battles, but I assumed it was mostly luck. He’s not general material.”
“History is quite favorably inclined to Eumenes,” Marie said.
“History written by Greeks. Eumenes is a bookkeeper and the son of a wagoneer,” Gorgeous George said, and both Crates and Atum rolled their eyes.
House of Atum Edfu
“Who can you contact?” Crates asked.
“That’s less the issue than what to say. I have friends among the merchants and an army is always in need of food.”
“Then Attalus, I think. He’s the one with the money, so he will be in touch with the merchants,” Crates said.
“Fine. I will send a message to a merchant I know, and have him talk to Attalus. But what should we say? I don’t like Antipater, and I am not all that enamored of One-eye either. But do we really want to put Perdiccas’ family back in power?”
“No, but that’s not what I think will happen.”
Atum looked at Lateef, then back to Crates. “What do you think will happen then?
“I think that it’s all going to come apart, no matter what we do. That being the case, I think we should encourage it to come apart quickly so that Egypt doesn’t get hit by the flailing parts of Alexander’s empire again.”
“So what message? Remember we are limited by the signal codes and the time it will take.”
The signal fire network that used bronze mirrors in the daylight hours was owned by Alexander’s empire and maintained in each province by the satrap of that province. So the messages of the government would go first, but after that the private merchants could use it by bribing the men manning the signal fires. All of which meant that if they wanted to send a message, they could, but it couldn’t be too long, and there was a good chance that a copy of anything they sent would be sold to anyone willing to buy it. The merchants were used to the system, so they used codes. Unfortunately, the codes weren’t robust and focused on matters of business, so sending something political would be more challenging.
Atum tried to explain. “It would be easy enough for me to tell Cleisthenes that a shipment of wheat flour would be delayed or arrive early, but telling them that Antigonus is going to steal Antipater away from the army with the help of Seleucus…that’s going to be harder. Even with the signals, it will be two days before today’s message gets there.”
“I know,” Crates agreed. “The message we sent when the ship arrived will probably be received in Triparadisus about now.”