Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 23
“Why, certainly, we will. Home to Macedonia.”
And there was the threat, all but open, all without saying anything that she could point to as a threat. Eurydice clamped her mouth shut on her rage.
Roxane moved next to Eurydice and leaned in. Putting her mouth next to Eurydice’s ear, she said, “Perhaps it would be best if you went with them. That way each army has one king and neither army can afford to let their king die.”
And there she was again. The wife of Alexander the Great, the woman who might not be as brave as Alexander, but was certainly as smart. The subtle bedroom adviser who had encouraged the marriages to Persian wives, whatever the rumors said about what happened later.
“I will go to my husband.” Eurydice considered. Perhaps if Plistarch was held as hostage for her safety…Then she looked at Cassander. No safety there. “Let Plistarch go home to his family as well, Attalus. I ask this in the name of my husband, the king.”
“And I affirm the request in the name of my son, the king,” Roxane added quickly.
Attalus looked at Eurydice, then at Roxane, and after a moment smiled. In a voice that could be heard across battlefields, he proclaimed, “The king’s regents being in accord on this matter, I yield to their will.”
Eurydice smiled, but that smile hid fear. Now the kings would be separated and there were those stories about Roxane. Stories that she had connived with Perdiccas to murder Alexander’s other wives. How hard would it be for her to send an assassin?
“Come, sister,” Roxane said, for the first time using that familiar name. “Let’s go pack. You will not go to your husband and king empty-handed, with no good clothing.”
* * *
Philip was held tight by the blanket and the ropes. He couldn’t move, and in strange way that made him less tense. But he was scared. Very, very scared. As scared as he had been when his father had wanted to marry him to that Persian girl. Alexander had stopped that and taken care of Philip. After Alexander died, Eurydice came and took care of him. He had to marry her too, but that wasn’t so bad. She knew him and knew he didn’t like being touched. He’d even been trying to let her touch him since they were married, but it always made him feel tense. Like he needed to get out of his skin. Now he was scared that they would hurt her. She understood and he needed someone who understood, because most people didn’t. And without that understanding, they would kill him.
Philip had always known that he was different. Aristotle had seen what he could do, as well as what he couldn’t. Aristotle had shown Alexander, and after that Alexander looked after him and kept him close.
He had to save Eurydice, but he didn’t know how. He could calculate the volume of a cube. He could figure out the weight of the world, if he had the tools. He could look at Aris, wandering the heavens and know where it would appear in a week or a year. But he couldn’t find the numbers to tell him how to save Eurydice.
His thoughts ran in circles, and he couldn’t control where they went.
* * *
“That was clever of you, Eurydice,” Roxane said as they mounted the steps. “They can’t –”
“I heard you the first time,” Eurydice said, fear clearly making her angry. “But you could always send assassins to kill me.”
“But I won’t. Because once you’re dead, I lose half my value.” It was true too. Not quite as true as Roxane tried to make it sound, but still true. If Eurydice and Philip were to die, Roxane would still have value as a symbol of royal authority. But as long as Eurydice was alive somewhere, losing her would lose Attalus all claim of legitimacy. “Attalus might want you dead, Eurydice. So might Olympias or Cleopatra. But I don’t. You, alive and hale, are the best hope for my safety and comfort.
“We need a way to prove to one another that a message we receive is from the other. Something that Attalus or Antigonus can’t counterfeit. Because, you must realize, Antigonus and Cassander will want me dead.”
Eurydice was looking at her in surprise. “Why should we want to contact each other? Fine, I am safer while you’re alive and you’re safer while I’m alive. But –”
“To send warnings, of course. I am your best spy in Attalus’ army and you’re my best spy in Antigonus’ army.”
“Fine. All we need now is a spy in Eumenes’.”
“Cleopatra,” they both said together. They started packing. Roxane pulled out a set of gold bracelets that Alexander had given her in Babylon and slipped them to Eurydice. “In case of emergencies.”
It wasn’t a talent of gold. Barely two pounds in a dozen bracelets, with uncut gems on them. But it was something, something that Eurydice could use to bribe a guard if she needed to.
Suddenly Eurydice’s head came up. “I have it.” She went to a chest and pulled out several sheets of papyrus, at least twenty. Each sheet was blank on one side and had numbers and formula on the other. “They are Philip’s. Put anything you would write me on the back, and I will know it’s from you. When I write you, I will use Philip’s scribblings on the other side to prove it’s from me.”
* * *
When Roxane and Eurydice came back outside, they found a syntagma, two hundred fifty-six men of the Silver Shields arrayed before the lodge. The force was divided in half. Roxane looked over at Kleitos and lifted an eyebrow.
“They have appointed themselves your bodyguards,” Kleitos explained, and Roxane looked out at them. They were grizzled men, these soldiers who had fought for Philip II before Alexander, and for Alexander all the way from Macedonia to India and back. Hard men, who had grown old on campaign.
“Well, half yours and little Alexander’s, half Eurydice and Philip’s.”
“Who’s paying them?” Eurydice asked.
“I’ll be paying the men guarding Roxane,” Attalus said. “Cassander will be paying the ones guarding Eurydice.”
Eurydice and Roxane looked at each other and each gave a very small nod. It wasn’t that Attalus or Cassander were trustworthy, but Cassander would want Eurydice safe as long as Roxane lived and Attalus would keep Roxane safe as long as Eurydice lived. Everyone understood. The rules would change as soon as one of them died.
* * *
For two more days the two armies sat on opposite banks of the little river. For two days, soldiers defected from each to the other. Arrhidaeus and Peithon both crossed to Antigonus’ side of the river on the twenty-seventh and almost a thousand men had followed them since. On the other hand, almost eight hundred of the men who had followed Antipater to this river crossed over to Attalus’ side.
At this point, Attalus had seven thousand men in his army. Antigonus had five thousand in his, and Cassander had four thousand who were officially under the command of his little brother Plistarch, and at least half under the command of Arrhidaeus and Peithon. Seleucus had a couple of thousand of the men in Antigonus’ army who would follow him. Together they had a larger force than Attalus, but their command and control was weaker without the old general Antipater to hold them together.
The armies separated. Attalus heading southwest to the coast and the island of Tyre, Antigonus and the rest heading north to face Eumenes.