NOTE: This story was written "off the cuff" and it just suddenly took a life of its own. So I thought I would test it out on the Fanfiction readers to see how it's received. Hope you enjoy this first chapter.
The BLACKSMITH'S SON
Hidden deep in the doorway, the shadowy eyes watch anxiously as the guards are diverted towards the sound of the scuffle mounting in the grand hall. The haste departure of the guards opens the opportunity for three men hidden under their thick cloaks to enter into the chamber rooms without detection. The hidden stranger withdraws further into the doorway upon hearing the rumpus laughter and voices echoing down the corridor.
"I tell you the Astragali rolled on a seven!" zealously argues Coenus, "Philotas' heavy laughter turned the bone over onto the three."
"You should have known better than to gamble against Perdiccas" teases Ptolemy, "Never play against a man who brings his own pair of homemade knucklebones to a game."
"Perhaps you lost because your head was dizzy with wine?" adds Alexander, "Had you been more sober, you may have been more evenhanded with your throws."
As the small group of men finally reach the prince's door, Alexander turns to his comrades. "Health to you all!" laughing as he slaps a hand over Coenus' back, "Perhaps you will fare better next time my friend."
"Alexander!" chimes in Ptolemy, leaning on a wall to steady his spinning head, "The night is still young. Why not invite us in to join you in a cup of wine."
The other men enthusiastically respond in agreement.
"Yes Alexander, one cup." winks Philotas, "Of your very best wine!"
"All of you know we are expected early on the training grounds" warns the Prince, "My father will be there with Parmenion to test us on the new maneuvers we had learned early this week."
"Alexander!" once again calls out Ptolemy pushing himself off the wall, now aware of the open vacancy near the Prince's doors, "Where are your guards?"
"Strange that they are not here!" joins Perdiccas, as he looks down both direction of the hallway.
"These new guards are proving to be useless" annoying declares Alexander, "They know better than to leave their post!"
With a look of concern, Ptolemy steps up to the prince, "Surely you do not expect us to allow you to enter your rooms alone!" states the oldest comrade of the group, "I must insist you let us come in with you."
"I agree!" adds Philotas, "I do not like the eerie silence looming in the air. It is too quiet."
"AH!" dismissively states Alexander, as he waves his hand at his friend, "You sound like my old nursemaid. I will be fine!"
"Well then at least offer us a drink for our efforts" insists Coenus, "One drink and we will be out of your hair!"
The young prince looks out at the sea of concern and anxiety on all of his friends' faces. "Very well one drink no more!" He then pushes opens his doors with his comrades closely following behind his heels.
As the Prince enters, he hears the sound of broken glass. Ptolemy immediately grabs hold of a torch to add more light to the dimly lit oil lamps burning in the chamber. Swiftly, out of the corner of the room a man leaps to grab hold of the young prince. Another man steps up wielding his sword lunging at Perdiccas, but the prince's comrade is readily prepared with his own weapon. Perdiccas along with Coenus take on the assailant at once. Alexander throws his elbow hard into the stomach of his attacker causing him to fold over. The young prince quickly swings his own dagger at the man's neck. Philotas and Seleucus spring into action diving on top of the third man taking their own knives to him.
"Spare him!" orders the Prince as catches his breath to see Philotas go in for the final deadly blow, "We will need information from him." In a surprise move, the intruder quickly grabs hold of Philotas' dagger and slices his own throat. All at once the men gather around the prince to stand in defense as more footsteps are heard rushing towards the door. It is the Prince's guards arriving to late as they find the three attackers lay dead soaked in their own blood. The prince looks to his companions with a sigh of relief as they all survived the ordeal unscathed. He throws an arm around Perdiccas, who stood the closest to him, "Well do you all still wish for that drink?"
The palace alarm goes off as more guards are called to the Prince's chambers. The hysteria from the attempted assassination allows for the stranger in the doorway to slip away unnoticed. He casually strolls away trying to conceal his irritation of the fouled plan. The man walks among the chaos of the palace without question. He looks briefly down the hallway leading to Alexander's room and resolves to try again. The stranger will attack when the prince is alone and more vulnerable.
The visitor exits out of the palace heading towards the stables. At that moment, King Philip brushes past the stranger barking orders to his personal guards as he dashes to his son's chambers.
Several days later
"Do you think your mother will be sending another courtier to your rooms tonight?" quizzically inquires Perdiccas as he tries to keep in step with his comrades, "How many will that make this month?"
"Five!" exclaims Ptolemy, the older of the group of young men trying to keep up with the Prince, who was briskly making his way to the village market, "Five beautiful women from various exotic nations. Only the best for our prince!"
"My mother meddles quite too often in my personal affairs!" replies the young prince, unable to conceal his annoyance, "She wishes for me to take a lover, a minion who will compliantly do her spying for her. " He sighs under his breath, "I have no time for such nonsense."
"Well then may I have this one if you do not find her to your liking?" chimes in Seleucus, "No need to waste money spent on a woman of the night!"
Alexander turns to this comrade with laughter in his eyes, "I will be sure to send her your way. I have no need for my mother's handouts."
"Of course you should have her, so long as she is blind, deaf and mute", teases Perdiccas, "Why should not Alexander take pity on you and offer her to you!"
Seleucus, the youngest of the group but the strongest and fiercest, throws an angry glare at his friend, "Do not think so highly of yourself Perdiccas, I have heard many of the young women in court grumbling their personal dissatisfaction with your ability to perform!"
Suddenly, Perdiccas, the blond haired blue eye, brawny man lunges onto his taller but lankier comrade into a playful wrestle. Quickly, the young men throw themselves into a nearby grassy plain teasing and tackling each other unmercifully.
Ignoring the playfulness of their comrades, Ptolemy reaches out to drape his arm around the prince's shoulder, "Will there ever be love in your life Alexander?" silently whispers the taller, broad-shouldered and beak nosed man, "How long have we known each other? I have yet to see you in love with anyone?"
Turning to look confidently upon his trusted friend, the Prince swings his own arm around Ptolemy, "When I find that person I will know. As I trust the Gods with my destiny, I do so also with my heart."
With a fun-loving laugh, "Always the Gods, Alexander!" smiles Ptolemy, "Well then so shall I my friend. I do believe they have great things planned for you!"
Giving his friend a swift side hug, he turns to look at his other friends wrestling on the grassy plains, "Come along! Cleitus will not be to happy if we further delay our arrival!" calls out Alexander, staring out at the towering sun, "He had expected us before daybreak and now it would appear it is almost high noon!"
Hastily the two boys tussling on the ground gather themselves and jump to their feet. Having just left the training area of the royal guards, the boys were restless and winded up for some activity. Before the break of dawn, the prince's closest friends had been pulled away from their normal regiment of early morning drills and ordered to accompany Alexander to the market. All morning the young men stood restless lingering through the training grounds waiting for the Prince to emerge from his meeting with his father. With their lack of exercise, the young men were now eager to let loose their stored up energy.
Perdiccas steps away from his friend, giving him another playful shove before running towards the others, "What does the old dog have planned for us today? I would much rather be out training with the cavalry guards."
"You can barely stay on your horse!" chimes in Seleucus throwing a slight jab to his friend's ribs, "Perhaps you should first master riding a mule and then work your way up to a real horse!"
"Ah, unlike you, I do not find a mule as my object for desire", retorts the blond haired blue eyed boy, "That was a mule you had on all fours of your cot back in the barrack, was it not? What was her name?"
Seleucus scowls at the thought but quickly responds, "You should not speak of your mother so harshly!"
Once again the two young men hit the ground but this time with less playfulness and more physical punches. Alexander and Ptolemy rush to pull them apart once they realize an actual fight was ensuing between their comrades.
"I have said enough!" orders Alexander, intolerant for any objection, "If you two do not stop this useless bickering, I swear by the Gods, I will have you sent back to help Andros clean out the stables and latrines!"
Throwing his own distained look at the pair, Ptolemy dusts off and motions the others to follow. He then walks up to the Prince again, "So what does the old general have planned for us in the village?" questions the older friend, "Surely it is not for lessons in public relations. That cantankerous old man has as much personality as the bottom of my sandal."
"Nay!" chuckles Alexander, "He wanted us to review some of the new weapons that Miltos had made for my father's royal companions. A special type of sword, lighter and easier to handle."
"So he will teach us how to fight?" excitedly cuts in Seleucus, "I would prefer a hand to hand combat than the use of a javlin."
"True!" agrees Perdiccas, "The use of a sword is always more personal".
"Do you mean to say you two would rather join the phalanx?" teases Alexander "Have you already forgotten my father's mantra for battle?" The Prince stands apart from his friends and gives a mocking glare as he tries to coarsen his voice. He then raises his finger pointing to each of his comrades, who join Alexander in unison, "The companion cavalry is the hammer boys, while the phalanx is the anvil." The men roll in laughter almost into tears. The King had been drilling this battle plan since they were babes and ever more now as soldiers in the Macedonian army.
Finding his wits, the prince regroups his friends and leads them back on the trail to the village market. "We are running far too late now! Let us go!" announces Alexander.
"Cleitus is a marks sword man" chimes in Ptolemy, "I am curious to see what Miltos has created for the royal companions."
"Perhaps we may walk away with a weapon of our own!" wishfully states Perdiccas, "Especially if they are as unique as you say they are Alexander."
The young men enter the village and are immediately taken in with the bustling activities swooning around them. With the success of King Philips' consolidation and domination of the nearby territories of Paionian, Thracian and the Illyrian, not to mention the control of the gold mines in the town of Crenide; Macedonia had transformed itself from a small obsolete farm village into a large and thriving Greek state. Under Philip, Macedonia had grown and developed into a formidable force both politically and militarily. The Greek world, especially the Athenians, was finally coming to take notice of the Macedonians' greatness and richness. The Macedon state, could no longer be ignored, they would be recognized either by diplomacy or by force.
Recently the King had moved his final residence from Aegae to Pella. With this move, the city reflected a new modern age of the King's desire to make the Greek state take notice of his small nation. No longer were they the "barbaric" natives who were submissive to its surroundings. Macedonia was a state of the future built from the best army, largest treasury and the most ingenious leaders the world has ever seen. Pella would soon stand as the mecca of the Greek world.
As the boys enter the city, they are hardly recognized by the villagers going about with their daily lives. Dressed only in a plain chiton, typical for a young solider training in the military, Alexander reflected nothing of nobility and far less the Prince of Macedonia.
Relishing in the anonymity, Alexander happily strolls through the lively city. Rarely, is the Prince given an opportunity to venture into town without the large procession of his personal guards. Typically, the Prince's visits to the centre city were always part of some grandiose affair. There have been many a times when Alexander sought to intermix with the locales unseen and anonymously. On more times than not, the young prince simply longed to be just Alexander. As of late, he was especially growing more unease with the politics and internal rife involved at Court. Outside his close circle of friends, the Prince was finding it more difficult to meet people who wanted to be associated with him as Alexander, rather than the son of King Philip. With the recent attack in the palace, the Prince had grown ever more to distrust any stranger who approached him.
However, today, Alexander was dismissing his concerns of late and allowing himself to relax and enjoy his little adventure in the city center. The energy and liveliness of the market sparked the prince's senses into complete excitement. He spins around glancing at the activities and people around him. Alexander takes in the sounds of the merchants calling out their bargains, the fresh smell of pastries filling the air, and the tasty scent of roasting meat. The city is alive. The Prince is briefly distracted to the sight of slave drivers calling out prices for young men and families captured by his father's recent campaign. Alexander sighs in frustration to the thought that his father's triumph and successes were leaving him very little to look forward to when he becomes king.
Alexander feels a hand on his back from Perdiccas, who directs him towards Miltos' tent. The young men walk over taking in the scent of freshly baked bread and the sight of fine young women; they cannot help but be amused to all the activity buzzing around them. Their senses go into overdrive, especially for the Prince who had grown accustomed to his tutor, Leonidas, rugged Spartan way of life.
"Cleitus is probably frowning all over himself" jokes Seleucus, "I can see him standing over Miltos' table growling like an old woman."
"Our delay is no fault of you!" adamantly states Alexander, turning to look at his comrades, "Father had insisted on a morning counsel to discuss the final developments of Mieza and reorganization of my personal guards."
"Your personal guards?" confusingly inquires Ptolemy, "What other issues do you have with those who currently watch over you? By Zeus Alexander, I swear they can be…"
"Be calm my friend!" smiles Alexander, "Father had thought to make some small changes, nothing more." Since the attack in the palace, his close comrades had been unyielding in their requests to supplement his guards. The young Prince had come to appreciate the loyalty and devotion of his friends and had sought a way to show his gratitude.
"Well I look forward to heading back out to Mieza" interjects Perdiccas, cutting Alexander's thoughts back to the present. "I look forward to a wonderful affair with a local village girl."
"Father has called on Aristotle to come back and instruct us" proudly responds the Prince leading his friends into the crafts area of the market "Aristotle will be here to …."
Alexander trails in his words as he catches a glimpse of a young man walking across him. Immediately, his companions follow his gaze and the focal point of the prince's attention.
"Who is that?" whispers Perdiccas following the handsome youth briskly whirling away from them "I have not see seen him here before?"
"He is well dressed" observes Ptolemy taking in the fine material of the clothing worn by the young man, "He is no servant. Look at his dagger that hangs off his belt."
Alexander subtly gazes at the beautiful gold hilted sword with its embedded jewels. "If he is of nobility than why have I not seen him at Court?" silently questions Alexander, thinking more to himself in disappointment, "Surely he must be a foreigner."
"He does not look to be a Macedonian that is for certain" states Ptolemy, taking in the posture and mannerism of the boy, "By the look of how he carries himself, I would say he was Athenian."
"Athenian?" jokingly inquires Seleucus, "How many Athenians do you know you old gaff!"
"In Pella?" retorts Alexander, "An Athenian has as much interest in our "barbaric" ways as we do in their old and daft city." Alexander tries to conceal his interest as he stares to the ground. He steals a look to find the young man jokingly interacting with the local merchants. The young man seemed comfortable engaging and conversing with the vendors.
Alexander's thoughts are broken as Ptolemy places a hand to his shoulder. "We must go!" states the older friend, "We need to find Miltos and Cleitus. I am sure the old goat is wild with rage over our excessive tardiness."
Coming to an agreement, the young men press forward and walk up to Miltos' tent. Upon reaching the blacksmith's pavilion, they are each greeted warmly by a well built sturdy man. In his prime, Miltos had been a renowned swordsman of King Philip's royal guard, until his injury during the battle against the Balkans. No longer in possession of a military career, Miltos took up his family's blacksmith business shortly after his father's death. As a former solider, Miltos understood the needs of a solider in battle. He had come to appreciate what every soldier needed in their kit; a well balance, easily manageable and well crafted weapon. Miltos' reputation for creating such unique and exceptional weapons had earned him the title of King Philip's personal blacksmith.
"Joy and Health Alexander!" calls out Miltos throwing a heavy arm around the young man. "Cleitus has been detained momentarily by Parmenion." explains the blacksmith, pulling the Prince in playfully rubbing his head, "Old Parmenion has sent Cleitus to supervise the arrival of the "secret" shipment from Thellyan. The merchant leans over and whispers among the boys, looking carefully around him, "I think these are the catapults your father has been anxiously waiting on!"
Miltos throws a cheerful laugh and gathers the young men towards his workshop behind his tent. "Come let me show you what Cleitus had planned to give you boys for use in your training as Alexander's personal guards!"
"What?" cheerfully exclaims Alexander's comrades together in complete surprise, "What?"
"Is this what you were discussing with your father this morning?" smiles Ptolemy, unable to contain his personal excitement, "US…Your new personal guards?"
"We are to be made your companions?" energetically cries out Perdiccas "When? How?"
It is Miltos who quickly responds, "It would appear that the King has newfound confidence with you band of renegades. He seems to believe you will all serve well to guard our prince here!" He looks to each man, "Undoubtedly you have all proven yourself worthy to the King with your most recent performance in the palace. I would agree you were all very brave!" nods the blacksmith in approval, "The King has asked me to provide Alexander's new companions with a weapon befitting their new status."
"Father had thought with us going to Mieza next season, you would serve well as my guard, being that we would be so far from Pella." explains Alexander, "I was in absolute agreement with my father."
"By Hades Balls!" exclaims Seleucus, still in shock, "Really we are to be your personal guards!"
Alexander is glowing with pride. "It would appear there is no secret I can keep from you all. This promotion will hold true for Hector, Philotas, Coenus, Nearchus, Leonnatus and even Cassender."
"Well then" smiles Miltos, "Take a look at what I have created for Alexander's new companions." The blacksmith proudly leads the boys through his tent into a makeshift shop located in the back area. Arranged out on a large table were twelve beautifully crafted daggers. Each double edge triangular blade was cast with a high grade alloy. Embedded in the center of the blade were small ornamented pieces of various alloy metals. Engraved at the lower end of the blade was the Vergina Star. The blade was covered with a hardwood decorated grip. But the most expressive aspect of grip was the jewel-studded hardwood pommel. A matching scabbard equal to the design of the hardwood-steel pommel came with each dagger. The daggers were exquisitely designed and truly created for a soldier worth his honor and virtue.
"You have outdone yourself" states Alexander in amazement, "They are a work of art, a masterpiece."
Recently arriving to Pella, Hephaestion was taking his father's advice and trying his best to acclimate with the people and the city during his time in the city. It had been almost eleven years since he lived or visited Macadonia. His family had left the small state when Hephaestion was only 5 summers in age. His father had been given the daunting task of serving as the Macedonian diplomat in Athens for King Philip. Having been raised most of his youth in Athens, the young man was visiting the market place with newfound eyes. The contrast between Athens and Pella's culture and citizens captivated the man's interest. Pella was definitely not Athens, but undoubtedly the Macedonian city exuded a strong sense of character and charisma to it. His father had requested his son accompany him for the winter season in the small Northern Greek state as he announced his retirement from the Macedonian army to King Philip. The short stay in Pella would allot Hephaestion's father sufficient time to finish off some loose ends and close out his personal affairs. Though his stay in Macedonia was to only last until the end of the season, Hephaestion could not help but look forward to his return to Athens. The young man was scheduled to return to Athens to begin his teachings at Plato's Academy. He had high hopes of beginning his courses in law and philosophy.
As the youth peruses through the various merchandise, he is amused with the liveliness of the city. He had come to the marketplace hoping he would meet some of the locals and in the course find a retirement gift for his father. He was also growing restless lounging at their estate since their arrival several days ago; Hephaestion believed a little sightseeing of the city centre would be a welcome change of pace. The young man was anxious for some form of adventure.
As he walks among the different vendors, Hephaestion becomes aware of a group of young men entering the market place. At the forefront, leading the boys was a stocky well built youth with striking dark eyes and golden hair. Hephaestion focuses on them as they take in the goings-on and madness of the centre city. Enthralled with the striking good looks of the golden haired youth, Hephaestion had not realized he was aimlessly walking towards the small group. Suddenly catching himself, he turns abruptly avoiding a head on collision with the young men. Hephaestion quickly heads to a nearby vendor selling ceramic vases to conceal himself under the extending canopy of the tent. But as he draws back in the background of the vendor's store, he follows the group with his eyes as they head towards the craft area of the market.
Sensing he was now a safe distance from the boys, Hephaestion gathers his pack and follows them into the directions of where the blacksmiths were located. Unbeknown to the young man, he too was being followed closely by another who had trailed Hephaestion to the marketplace.
As the young men walk out of the Miltos' tent, there was still no sight of Cleitus. For a moment, the young men stood taking in the hustle and chaos of the merchants and of the market. The soft giggles and the distant laughter of a small group of young women catches a few of the boys' attentions. They all look up to see across from them an assembly of young girls out on their daily shopping.
"Very beautiful!" murmurs the group's self proclaimed "philander". Ptolemy gazes his sight at a young brunette, throwing a caviler wink, "Only on a gorgeous day like this does one find the most spectacular views!"
"I agree!" chimes in Perdiccas, "there seems to be a swarm of succulent items here for the taking."
Alexander laughs gently at the predatory lust exuding from his friends. "GO!" chuckles the young prince, but with a stern warning, "Do not stray too far. Cleitus may be here any moment!"
Having no personal interest in approaching the women, Alexander opts to stay back at Miltos' tent. As he watches his friends enthusiastically pursue the young girls, Alexander calls into mind his recent conversations with his parents. With his seventeenth birthday rapidly approaching, both of his parents had been persistent in their efforts in voicing their strong concerns over his lack of desire to take "every" courtier sent to his bed. The young Prince was well aware of his parents' growing agitation with his lack of interest with taking a lover. However, Alexander held no desire to engage in any form of superficial relationship. His parents pushing and annoying hints were taking their toll on the young prince. But he held fast to who he was and had resolved he would make his own decision on his heart. Contrary to the preposterous rumors circulating that he was developing into an androgyno, Alexander was not deterred. He refused to relinquish his control over his decision on the lovers sent to him by either of his parents. The rumors regarding his sexual status held no affect on the young prince. Alexander was self assured that he had more than proven his masculinity through his military intelligence, courage and fearlessness both on and off the field. There was no refuting he was driven with confidence and ambition befitting the heir of King Philip; he was destined for greatness.
In reality, however, Alexander truly had no personal objection to the girls or boys sent to him; undoubtedly they served their purpose of satisfying his general needs. But in Alexander's mind, there simply was no person who matched his charisma or aspiration for glory, a hunger for a life beyond reality. He had dreams of reaching the ends of the world. With such drive and personal belief, the young prince held no room for another person less worthy of his own personal convictions. He had other objectives in his mind. Alexander had plans of fulfilling his own destiny for glory.
Miltos' laughter brings Alexander out of his thoughts. The old blacksmith watches in enjoyment at the three newly appointed companions trying to impress the young girls. He shakes his head in disbelief as he leads a captain from the phalanx into his tent to show him the new sarissa recently delivered from Illyrian.
The young prince keeps an eye on his comrades flaunting over themselves onto the young maidens. Distracted with his friends' childish antics, Alexander fails to see the table behind him laid out with various knives and daggers. He bumps into the unstable wooden display causing a few of the daggers to tip over to the ground. Cursing to himself for his foolishness, Alexander kneels down swearing under his breathe as he gathers the weapons covered in dust.
"Joy to you!" states a soft voice above the prince. Alexander grimace at the thought that he had to now face one of Miltos' customers.
Slowly Alexander places his hands on the outer edge of the table to raise himself up. Instantly he is greeted with a pair of piercing cerulean eyes staring confusingly at him. The young nobleman he had been gawking at now stood before him like a gift from the Gods. The man was striking. He wore his short auburn hair loosely. His clean shaven appearance brought out his obvious sun burnt nose. The young man well dressed in a soft white chiton draped over with a blue chlamys. Briefly neither man utters a word as they stare at each other; suddenly feeling awkward and out of sort to the moment.
Earlier on, Hephaestion had lost sight of the attractive group of men. Though slightly disappointed, the young man takes in the sight of the various short knives and daggers displayed at several of the vendor's tents. He examines several of the blacksmiths' merchandise inquiring as to the quality and craftsmanship. While wondering in the craft area, Hephaestion comes to the decision that his father, a life long military man, would fine great pleasure in a well designed and constructed dagger. He visits several blacksmiths and ascertains that King Philip's personal blacksmith held a shop in the marketplace. Hephaestion inquires further as to the King's blacksmith and is then led to the direction of Miltos' tent. As he draws near the tent, Hephaestion is stunned to find the same young golden haired man tending the merchandise.
Finally, it is the young nobleman who breaks the gaze to look clumsily down at the table.
"I .. am looking for a gift for my father…" stutters Hephaestion, "I have visited several of the other blacksmith here and they all agree you would have the best quality, if not the most original and exceptionally designed daggers."
Immediately Alexander notices that the youth spoke eloquently. He held a distant accent but not the typical burly rough tongue of a Macedonian citizen. Rather he had a soothing almost calm tenor to his voice. Alexander delighted in the sweetness of the words that came from the man's lips.
Hephaestion looks across at the young blacksmith. There was no question of the merchant boy's radiating beauty. He held strength in his dark eyes and his blond hair only glowed like rays of sun beams over his tan body. The muscular features of his strong arms under his highly pinned chiton proved that the man was athletic. He had the look of Apollo to him, he had a godlike appearance. Gauging from the plain chiton worn by the boy and his ruffled looks, Hephaestion presumes he was either a servant or perhaps the son of the blacksmith.
Hephaestion blushes as he catches himself staring longingly at the youth behind the table. He searches out his next thought, "I was told I could find King Philip's personal blacksmith here?"
"Ah ah yes!" responds Alexander stumbling in his words. "You… are correct. This is Miltos' shop." He then quickly scans over the table realizing immediately that the weapons laid out were noticeably of a poorer quality. Alexander turns to the other tables and instantly takes in the gold hilts and greater value of other daggers laid out on his far right. "Perhaps those daggers on this table may be of more interest to you." describe the young prince as he swings his hand into the direction of the far off table. "Miltos… he is my father's blac… I mean my ahh…..These may be more to what you are looking for over here sir!"
"I am looking for a unique gift" casually explains Hephaestion, "I was hoping to find a good quality dagger one that would show my appreciation for my father."
"Well I hope these may be to your liking?" softly states Alexander, trying to not stare at the man in front of him, "If you do not find what you are looking for… maybe we can have one made …. specifically for you."
"Are you Miltos? You seem quite young?" inquires Hephaestion, studying the young man before him, "I do not mean to be presumptuous. I mean… perhaps he is your employer?"
"Well… yes.. I mean no… yes… no" stutters Alexander sorting though his mind for the best answer. The young prince momentarily wavers on his final response. At that moment, Alexander resolves that he would lead the boy to believe he was Miltos' son. Curiosity took hold of the Prince as to whether the young nobleman before him would find interest to him without the pretentious or uneasiness of his status as a prince. Alexander was intrigued to see how this stranger would take to him if he was simply a blacksmith's son. He found nothing to lose with his little charade. "Actually, Miltos is my fath… my father. He is showing me the trade."
"It is an honorable trade!" smiles Hephaestion, "Especially if you are the personal blacksmith to the King."
"Alexander!" bellows a voice from across the way, "Alexander where are the others?" A loud rustling sound is heard from across the away as the prince's friends scramble among themselves to greet the old commander.
The young prince goes ghastly pale as he struggles to find a solution to his awkward predicament. He looks to Cleitus then to the others as they swiftly make their way towards Miltos' tent.
"I have not seen anything of real value here in the market" comes a voice from behind the youth talking to Alexander, "I am not surprised the merchandise here is of poor quality… made by these barbarians!" An arm wraps around Hephaestion as the other man places a kiss on the nape of his neck.
Hephaestion stands stone faced to the unexpected affection. He slightly pulls away from the other man's hold never removing his gaze off Alexander. Behind the Prince, he could see his friends and Cleitus settle around him having heard the offensive remark.
"Pericles what are you doing here?," unnervingly questions Hephaestion, as he scans around the men standing behind the blacksmith "What do you mean? I have found many exceptional and well crafted items here."
The other man steps up along side Hephaestion paying no attention to Alexander and the others behind the table. "I followed you here. Your father had said you were visiting the market. But I do not see why, I have seen nothing remarkable." continues Pericles, "How can you say the goods in this little village is comparable to those found in Athens?"
"Pella is a growing and bustling city!" argues Hephaestion, immediately sensing the annoyance and anger swelling on the men behind the blacksmith, "It is the sign of the times Pericles. Have you no appreciation for the tidal of wave of changes coming our way. Macedonia is quickly growing to become a powerful and large Greek state." He then bends his head sharply at his friend, "Did you come here to give me grief?"
"Of course not! I just wish to be near you," whispers Pericles trying to close the distance between him and Hephaestion, "Since my several days ago, you have been somewhat aloof." Pericles finally looks to Alexander and the others, taking in their attire; he gives them no further regard. He moves in closer to Hephaestion's ear, "For myself, I cannot wait until we are gone from this place and back in Athens" states Pericles, making no attempts to hide his repugnance, "There is nothing here.. no culture, no form of civility." He again looks across at Alexander pitifully, "And their accents… these Macedonians… they are not Greek!"
Ptolemy and Perdiccas make a move to lunge over the table, as Alexander places his body before them. Hephaestion instantly turns to face Pericles, "Have you no shame! No respect for our fellow Greeks! As you insult these people… you also insult me. Have you forgotten I was born here!" He then turns coldly with this back to this friend, "Perhaps it would be best that you go back and I will meet with you later." Pericles stares around at the men in the tent and moves back from Hephaestion, "You are not them" nodding his head to the men before him as a reference point, "You are more Athenian than a Macedonian." Then with little humiliation he swings away from Hephaestion and walks briskly away.
Alexander is astounded at Hephaestion's handling of his friend. The young prince makes no comment on the verbal exchange to save the young man's embarrassment. To his surprise, the youth leans in on the table, "I am sorry for Pericles' insolence", staring at Alexander and at the young men surrounding him.
"I would not concern yourself…" quickly replies Alexander, but he is cut off.
"He was out of place and rude!" firmly states Hephaestion, "He does not always think before he speaks." He then looks away somberly, "I am beginning to tire of Pericles' antics" murmurs the young man under his breathe.
Alexander reaches out unaware of his conduct, "No need to apologize." Suddenly feeling the eyes of his comrades burning behind him, the prince collects himself realizing that they were not alone, "Perhaps you can come back tomorrow. " Alexander turns half way around to glance at his friends, "I know we have more impressive daggers and knives in the back." The prince looks out at Miltos now standing near him. Gauging by the bemused expression on Miltos' face, the old blacksmith had heard his entire conversation with the youth before him. "Come back tomorrow and I am sure we can find you something befitting your father". Miltos responds with a nod as Alexander gazes him for reassurance.
"Alexander!" interrupts Cleitus, trying to decipher what has transpired, "Alexander, we have business to tend to. I do not wish to idle the day away…."
"Yes!" quickly responds Hephaestion, "I can be here at tomorrow. Should we meet the same time as today?"
"Alexander!" orders out Cleitus, motioning the others into Miltos' tent, "What is the meaning of this delay?"
"Who is that?" inquires Hephaestion staring firmly at the tall commanding man with the crumbled look of anger shading over his face. "Is that Miltos? Or your master?"
"My master" chuckles Alexander, humored at the idea of the old guard as his slave owner. "No.. No … he is my…."
"Alexander!" bellows out the old general, as he holds the tent flap into Miltos' work area, "Let us go!"
The prince turns to growl at the commander, "One moment!" he barks back, "I will be right there…" Alexander looks up red faced to Hephaestion, "He is no master to me. No is my….my… Uncle!"
"Well then you must go!" states Hephaestion with a large grin. "I shall meet you tomorrow then!"
"Yes tomorrow" excitedly replies Alexander. Now sensing the immediate departure of young man, he leans over the table and quickly grabs his arm, "Wait! What is your name?"
Slowly the young man turns with a cheerful laugh, "Hephaestion!" placing a hand over Alexander's, "Hephaestion Amyntor!"
With a glowing smile again ignoring Cleitus now looming behind him, "I am Alexander!"
"Good to meet you Alexander son of Miltos. I look forward to seeing you again!" With that, Hephaestion slowly pulls away and merges into the crowd of the market place.
Again thank you Stella for your thoughts (I know I was going to hold off on this story) and a big Hug to Marielina! and Petey you rock!!