"It's, erm, lovely," said Hephaistion, turning the metal object over in his hands. "What is it?"
Perdikkas took another swig of unwatered wine. Hephaistion looked hungrily at the krater in his friend's hand, but due to his delicate condition both Alexandros and the physician were adamant that he stay away from the alcohol. If ever I needed a drink, it's now. "It's a cuirass! See the royal sunburst worked on the breastplate?"
All at once, the other Makedonian officers and soldiers were crowding around, cooing over how precious the workmanship was and how positively adorable the baby would look in it. Hephaistion had long since stopped trying to point out that the infant was hardly going into battle from the cradle, or that it was quite possible he would bear a girl.
Damn you, Alexandros! he thought. I was stone-cold drunk when I agreed to this, and I never thought Kalanus' potion would actually work!
In fact, he barely remembered the conversation that had started it all. They had been at Ekbatana, at some drunken komos hosted by Krateros, a going-away bash before the man left for Makedon. Alexandros had been weathering much scorn over the Susa weddings, far more than he had taken over his campaign wedding to Roxane, and he was weary of hearing that he should take a nice Makedonian girl for a wife. No doubt he had also been hearing it from his mother as well; the old harpy had been at him to settle down and start producing heirs for twelve years or more.
One moment Hephaistion had been minding his own business, the next Alexandros was kissing his hand and mouth with the fervor of a Thracian pony in heat and announcing to the guests that if they wanted a pretty Makedonian as his queen, that was precisely what they were going to get. Drunk himself at the time, Hephaistion had gamely played along.
He had had no idea how serious Alexandros was, or exactly how far he planned to take this. Once he came to the sober realization that Alexandros was, in fact, not kidding, Hephaistion reflected that it really was not a good idea to say no or impossible to him.
For sake of the empire, he could no longer fit into his armor, his ankles were swollen like pig's bladders, his back was killing him and Drypetis could not stop laughing at him. Alexandros, if I didn't love you so much, I'd kill you.
Ptolemaios shoved a crudely wrapped package into his hand. "Here, unwrap this one next."
Considering the quality of the gifts given so far, Hephaistion was not so certain he wanted to. A roomful of Makedonian generals cooing over an impressive array of baby clothing, stuffed animals (Zeus, was that gray thing really supposed to be Peritas?) and infant-sized armor was enough to make even the most hardened warrior nauseous. If only he was not in his third trimester, he might then have had the excuse of morning sickness to cover his revulsion.
At least Alexandros had taste. The rocking horse he had installed in the royal nursery looked just like Bucephalas.
He looked at the parcel in his hand. Gaudy blue elephants on a bright saffron background. Typical tacky Persian wrapping paper; the officers had probably sent that little tart Bagoas out to purchase it. And knowing Ptolemaios, the gift would probably be a scroll of some sort. Unwrapping it, Hephaistion confirmed his suspicions.
"And look," said Ptolemaios, as Hephaistion undid the ribbon and unrolled it, "it's illustrated. It's the latest in Athenian baby books. Thaïs has the entire collection."
Hephaistion glossed over the pictures to look at the title: Lysis Has Two Daddies. "Charming," he whimpered.