CHAPTER 224

— Why? –asked Alexander confused.

— Why what?

— Why did Aki have problems with Perdikkas? –the blond couldn't understand this and it took Hephaistion a moment to think how to explain it.

— Alex, Perdikkas was obsessed with Aki –said his beloved— And he even tried to rape him.

— He did WHAT?! –exclaimed the blond outrage, the vein popping out. He knew about his friend's obsession, but this?— When? How?…What?!

— The same day I almost killed Krateros –answered Hephaistion.

— But…we were both alive –said Alexander confused— Why didn't you tell me before? Did you know about this then? By the Gods! But Perdikkas was our friend.

— Aki never said a word to me and I knew about this because of Chrys –answered Hephaistion wishing with all his forces he had known this before, that Achilles had trusted him this.

I understand why Aki kept silent but…I would have been able to help him if only I had known –he thought.

— I met Chrys again many years later, when he was an old man, and he told me many things...things I never knew, things happening right in front of me but…I was so busy that I never realized what was really happening. Perdikkas never forgave Aki for choosing Seleucus instead of him and, during that short campaign against the mercs, his anger reached unhealthy levels. Aki never let him be regent, never asked him for his guidance, never loved him and, for our friend, this was unthinkable, unforgivable. So, Perdikkas…

XXX

What he was thinking was crazy to say the least. It was treason. Achilles was not only his King he was also the son, the dear boy, of 2 of his best friends— But he forced me to do it –Perdikkas tried to convince himself, desperately wanting to believe he was doing the right thing, after all, even Roxanne had said as much. Achilles was too young and too arrogant, he didn't care for what he said, didn't respect him as his elder or as the friend of his fathers, placing his trust in a nobody like Seleucus of a lad like Antigonus' boy— Achilles is putting us all in danger.

He was not a spurned lover, he was a patriot, he would get ride of a bad King and would place Alexander's legitimate son on the throne. Yes, that was the right thing to do but, then, why was he so nervous, so scared?– Roxanne is right, what I am doing is not murder, what I am doing is for the good of us all —he lied to himself.

He accompanied Achilles around the camp with Seleucus and Demetrius, hearing his King talk about the future, about his plans, about what he would do— But there will be no future for him…There is no turning back now –suddenly, something fell in front of them and the first thing the King thought was that someone had dropped a box, but then, his uneven eyes doubled their seized and he saw it was a honeycomb.

Many things happened at the same time, everything as fast as a heartbeat. Bees came out immediately and Seleucus reacted first, he covered Achilles with his own cloak and carried him, running to take him out of there while Demetrius tried to kick the rests of the honeycomb away and Perdikkas looked for the man who had done this.

— Aki, are you all right? –asked the argyraspides, lying Achilles on the ground while Chrysaor ran to call the Egyptian doctor, but, to his complete horror, he saw his King fighting to breath, his lips turning into an alarming shade of blue— Aki, please Aki, don't give up, the doctor will be here in no time, you will be fine…

Seleucus was panicking, something it never happened to him, he squeezed his brain trying to think what to do, what had Achilles told him about his allergy, what had the doctors done in other occasions, and with trembling hands lifted the King's cloths, looking for the stings. The archihypaspistes' heart skipped a beat, he found for his absolute horror that several bees had bit his pale skin and he remembered clearly what had the doctor said, more than one sting could be fatal. He took out his knife, and tried to take the stings out, to do something, anything!

But it was too late.

Achilles clung to the archihypaspistes' cloths, Hephaistion's bracelets shining under the sun, watching Seleucus with naked fear in his uneven eyes while he fought with all his forces to breath. He was dying and he was aware of it.

— NO! You can't do this to me. YOU CAN'T LEAVE ME! –Seleucus screamed with all his forces, feeling a fear he had never experienced before gripping his heart, and he tried to think what to do, unable to accept the truth. He would never accept this! He would defy the gods if with that he could safe the only person who made his heart beat, to make him feel alive.

Demetrius arrived then, his arms and legs covered in bits but he froze in his spot watching that scene unfolding before him: Achilles suffocating and Seleucus holding him with all his forces as if, with this feeble attempt, he could avoid letting him fall into Death's hands.

— His… doctor is… coming… he is not far… –said Chrysaor without breath, after running, looking for the man but, before the Egyptian could reach them, Achilles had already suffocated to death in Seleucus' arms.

XXX

— Perdikkas killed the man who dropped the honeycomb to erase any evidence that could point at him –said Hephaistion, his voice trembling with emotion. He didn't witness that moment, the moment when his dear boy died, but he recalled Chrysaor's tears as he had told him about that dreadful day— But Seleucus always thought someone had planned this, and someone close enough to Aki to know…—a thick red tear slid down his cheek— To know he was allergic to bees…He…Seleucus never rest until he found out the truth….He was devastated, Seleucus…Chrys told me he didn't eat and didn't shave for days…

The Tzimisce had to make a pause before continuing, feeling a knot inside his throat, misery threatening to drown him, remembering his son's smile.

— Seleucus wasn't like you –he found his voice again— He didn't embrace the corpse and cry all night, Seleucus was in shock, he barely talked and was barely aware of what was going on around him. Demetrius was the one who cried and screamed, who held the body and didn't want to let him go, the one who went back to the murder's corpse and cut him to piece denying him a decent burial…

Alexander opened and closed his mouth, so many questions left frozen in his lips when he couldn't find words to express what he was feeling. He cried and cried, embracing Hephaistion, trembling in his arms, seeing with his mind eye the corpse of a boy he had loved as his own son, his son and Hephaistion's, watching again Achilles smile when he was 3 years old, a shy boy who had came to bright their lives from the ashes of Halicarnassus.

— What…what… happened then? –Alexander sobbed, his own crystal tears accompanying his beloved's sorrow. That was no way to die, and his precious boy didn't deserve that fate.

Aki deserved to be happy, to live a long life, to have children and be a great King –thought the blond, feeling Hephaistion's arms around him. His beloved was right, it was a sad…a terrible story, and he felt as if his heart were tearing apart— It was my fault…if I hadn't left him…my poor boy…

— What happened?…Mayhem happened –said his beloved, cleaning his tears, trying to calm down while caressing the blond's back— Aki never had a son and Roxanne's boy, Alessandro, was only 4 years old, so your high officers immediately started to fight over the Empire. Perdikkas was the one who had the strongest position, he even had your seal ring, taken from Aki's death hand and was of the idea of crowning Alessandro as King, but others, like Meleager, and a good part of the infantry, wanted to crown your brother, Arrhidaeus.

It took Alexander a moment to assimilate what was Hephaistion saying. Achilles had died and his officers were fighting over who should be crowned King? His son had died! The whole empire should have mourned him but they were fighting. Little by little his sadness was replaced by fury.

— But Arrhidaeus was half-witted! –that was the stupidest thing Alexander had ever heard. What happened to his men when he died? Had they all became fools? Oh! How he wish to go back in time and hit them all, to vent that burning anger over them.

— I know, but what can I tell you? –said Hephaistion, kissing his cheek— At the end they agreed that both should governed, Alessandro and Arrhidaeus, and Perdikkas would be the regent while Alessandro came of age –Alexander shook his head, he couldn't come out from his shock. Perdikkas did what?

— I can't believe Perdikkas did this –he was disappointed, sad, upset, angry and he didn't know what else… He would have never imagined that one of his closest friends, a friend like Perdikkas who had fought at his side for so many years, who had studied with him at Mieza, would be capable of something like this, of killing his own son and later become Regent. Perdikkas who should have protected Achilles, and instead, became his executioner. No. He couldn't accept this— This was Roxanne's doing, she poisoned his mind. I won't accept that Perdikkas did this by himself. It has to be that woman's doing.

Hephaistion knew what he was thinking, he knew because he too had thought the same thing many years ago. Perdikkas was also his friend, one of the very best, and he too had had a hard time accepting this, he had even thought Chrysaor was lying to him, but later he discovered it was all true.

— That, I don't know for sure, my love –said his beloved, softly— I wasn't there and I guess, we'll never know. Only Perdikkas could have answered us that, but…I can tell you something. I saw Perdikkas before he died and he…he asked for forgiveness –he fell silent remembering that night…

It was…not…enough…I am so…sorry…Aki…

— He killed my son! –exclaimed Alexander furious, moving away from Hephaistion— He planned it, and he killed our boy!

The Tzimisce fell silent. The blond would need time, the same as he, to fully assimilate this. He too needed years to fully comprehend what had Perdikkas done but, Hephaistion had chosen to believe that, even if his friend had done something terrible, he had repented at the end. He waited in silence until Alexander felt better, until he stopped crying.

— Alex, if you want, we can continue tomorrow or…

— No –the blond took a deep breath, cleaning his tears with both hands— I want… I need to know, please, tell me what happened then –his beloved nodded slowly.

— Then all your high officers and friends divided the empire among themselves –Hephaistion continued— Ptolemy received Egypt; Laomedon Syria and Phoenicia; Antigonus, Demetrius' father, received Phrygia, Lycia and Pamphylia; Lysimachus Thrace; Leonnatus Hellespontine Phrygia. Macedonia and the rest of Greece remained as Achilles had left them, governed by Antipater and Krateros and old Eumenes got Cappadocia and Paphlagonia.

— You are kidding me? –Alexander saw him through big round eyes— Are you saying that, instead of waiting for my alleged son to be a man they all divided the empire for themselves?

— Yes, Alex, that's exactly what I am saying –said Hephaistion. It was hard to tell the man who had conquered all this, the man who had made this all possible, that, after years of hard campaigns, his men divided everything in a heartbeat. But it was the truth and Alexander deserved to know— Now, in these modern nights, people called this period of time the Diadochi Wars. There were 4 wars in a period of 40 years and the first began when Perdikkas wanted to marry your sister Cleopatra.

Alexander watched him as if his beloved was talking nonsense, and this had to be nonsense. Perdikkas wanting to marry his sister? The same man who killed his son?

— Please, tell me this doesn't get worst.

— I'm afraid it does –said Hephaistion— Ptolemy stole your body, well, what he thought was your body, and took it to Egypt. Perdikkas mobilized the army but, before he could invade Egypt, Seleucus killed him.

— Wait. What? Why?

— This is a little complicated to explain –his beloved took a moment to think— During the partition of the Empire Seleucus decided to remained at Perdikkas' side, as his second in command. Chrysaor told me this story, he stayed with Seleucus because he was convinced, the same as him, that someone had planned Aki's assassination and Chrys wanted revenge.

The blond shook his head.

— Who would have thought your guard had more sense of honor than my friends –whispered Alexander with bitterness in his voice. Hephaistion squeezed his hand.

— Don't be too hard on them. In time you'll see that many of them had no other way to survive than this.

— If you say so –the blond wasn't convinced.

— Do you want me to continue?

— Yes.

— All right –Hephaistion cleared his throat— As I was saying, Seleucus was convinced that someone had planned our son's murder and his prime suspect was Perdikkas so, he stayed at his side wanting to investigate. It took him time but, at the end, Seleucus found the brother of the man who had thrown the honeycomb and this man told him about the heavy bag of gold that Perdikkas had paid for doing such an apparent harmless thing. That sealed Perdikkas' fate…–he made a pause—For years I thought the worst of Seleucus, I considered him a traitor, I hated him for killing my friend but…later I knew the truth.

— He truly loved Aki –Alexander blinked, fighting back the tears that clouded his eyes.

— He did. When Aki died Seleucus took my seal ring, the one my boy always wore around his neck, and Demetrius took my bracelets –said Hephaistion— They both loved him and that destroyed them at the end…

— But what did Seleucus do exactly?

XXX

— Leonnatos what I am telling you is the truth –said Seleucus to the now governor of Hellespontine Phrygia. He had come as soon as he could, looking to gain Leonnatos' support and risking his life if Perdikkas heard about his visit. But he didn't care. Nothing was as important as avenging Achilles— Perdikkas planned the assassination of Achilles.

— What you are saying, Seleucus, is nonsense –answered Leonnatos angry, pacing around his study. He was nervous and, for what Seleucus could see, this whole conversation had touched a nerved. But why?— Perdikkas is my friend, one of the best, and you want me to believe he killed the father of my granddaughter? Perdikkas was in love with Aki.

— Obsessed would be more fitting –answered Seleucus— And you know better than I how angry he was when Achilles never correspond his feelings –then he successfully left the governor speechless— Chrysaor, Achilles' personal guard, told me that your friend tried to rape Achilles.

Leonnatos looked at him through big round eyes— Perdikkas, how could you? –not even for a moment he thought Seleucus, or Chrysaor, were lying, he had known since years ago how Perdikkas begged Achilles to be his eromenos, later his lover and lastly to let him be his regent— He is right, Perdikkas was obsessed –but obsessed enough as to kill their King? He didn't want to believe this.

— I found a man who can testify that one of Perdikkas' agents paid his brother handsomely to throw a honeycomb in front of the King –he took Leonnatos' arm— Listen to me, I know you loved Achilles, Hephaistion and Alexander were your friends and thanks to Perdikkas your daughter is now a widow, that's why I came to you, because I was sure you would want to know the truth.

Leonnatos fell silent, overwhelmed by this new information. He didn't want to believe his friend was capable of something like this but—Perdikkas has changed, he is not the man I once knew –and one of the things that had Leonnatos angry was how his friend had treated his daughter after Achilles' death.

The now regent treated Roxanne as the only real Queen, with all honors, and continuously ignoring Sophia, even if she had bear Achilles' a daughter. And all this had made Leonnatos feared for his daughter's safety, especially after the mysterious death of Stateira and her sister Drypetis— Besides, there is also Olympias' offer.

— What do you want from me? –asked the governor.

— Your help to avenge Achilles –said Seleucus with barely hidden hatred and Leonnatos nodded.

— I may be able to do it sooner than you think –the governor hesitated for a moment but, at the end, he decided to trust Seleucus— The Queens, Olympias and Cleopatra, wrote to me, offering a marriage alliance. Cleopatra is willing to marry me or my older son, Amyntas, giving me an opportunity to seize the Macedonian throne.

Seleucus opened his eyes in astonishment.

— Why would they do that?

— Because I am from royal stock and they don't trust Perdikkas –answered Leonnatos— Roxanne is influencing him too much –he had to admit that— If I accept their offer, to marry Amyntas to Cleopatra, I will invade Macedonia and take the throne; then, my son's son can marry Achilles' daughter, and became King.

— Why would you do that? To betray Perdikkas? –he had to ask. This all was too good to be true.

— Stateira and Drypetis died recently –answered the governor— I don't know how but I suspect Roxanne had something to do…I fear for my daughter and her child, that's why I called her here with the pretext that I missed her, and I will protect her even if I have to betray Perdikkas –Seleucus nodded— Besides, if what you say is true, then, I will be taking care of a traitor.

XXX

— Don't tell me our Leon invaded Greece? –once again Alexander was in shock.

— Yes, he did. Leon was expecting Antipater's support but, Antipater was delayed and Leon…Leon and his army died near Lamia when the Athenian general Antiphilos engaged him in battle –Hephaistion made a pause. He had loved Leonnatos as a brother and, the first time he heard the news of his dead he had mourned him for nights— My sister was devastated and it was thanks to Seleucus' help that she managed to escape from Hellespontine Phrygia and go back to Pella with Sophia and little Ann. Meanwhile Antipater married one of his daughters, Phila, to Krateros and…

— And what about the Persian bride I chose for him? –the blond frowned.

— Krateros found a suitable husband for her and marry Phila –answered Hephaistion—Alex, almost all your officers left the Persian brides you chose for them in the first opportunity they had –that clearly didn't please Alexander but he said nothing.

— And Perdikkas?

— He first made Antipater believed he would also marry one of his daughter, Nikaia, but then, Cleopatra came to him offering herself as a bride as soon as Leon was dead. As I said, all this began the first of the Diadochi Wars. Antigonus the One Eyed accused Perdikkas of wanting to seize the Macedonian throne and they all moved against him –Hephaistion continued— Eumenes fought on Perdikkas' side in Asia Minor and, Eumenes' army defeated Krateros on the battlefield. Krateros died there and, I have to say, this made Eumenes the number one public enemy in Macedonia. They all, I don't know why, loved Krateros.

— I can't believe half the things you are telling me –Eumenes fighting against Krateros? If someone had told Alexander all this was going to happen when he was King, he would have never believed it.

— I know. Trust me, it was also difficult for me –said Hephaistion— I was with Bendis at that time and…to hear about this was… incredible. All our companions, our friends, brothers in arms, fighting each other savagely over your legacy…its almost obscene.

— It is –whispered Alexander with sadness.

— Eumenes lived a little longer –said his beloved— But he was betrayed and handed over to Antigonus the One Eyed and, Antigonus was pretty cruel with him. He starved Eumenes for days before finally sending the executioner…But that happened later. That first war ended with a treaty between Ptolemy and Antipater and, for a while everything appeared to be fine.

— Fine? Everything was a mess! –exclaimed Alexander.

— Wait a little, it's going to be worst –said Hephaistion and the blond saw him as if he didn't know who he was— Once I told someone that, of all the men who conquered Asia, none of us lived long enough to enjoy our exploits, and it's true. As you can see, Leon, Perdikkas, Krateros, even you and I, were all dead at this point. Antigonus the One Eyed, Lysimachus, Seleucus, Cassander…they were the ones who played this game of the Diadochi Wars, they became Kings…Ah! And Ptolemy. I guess you can say he was the only one who really enjoyed a prosperous life after all our sufferings in Asia.

— But what happened? And how is that Cassander suddenly became a major actor here? –Alexander was lost.

— I'll try to explain as best as I can –said his beloved— When Antipater died, he named Polyperchon his heir and, as you can imagine, this enraged Cassander and began the second war of the Diadochi. Cassander gained the support of Antigonus, Lysimachus and Ptolemy. Polyperchon's only allied was Eumenes.

— Zeus, Hades and Poseidon! –exclaimed Alexander— What a mess! But…why did Antipater do that?

— I suppose he didn't want to give the impression that he was founding a dynasty or something by giving the supreme command to his son –said Hephaistion— Antipater was old and never imagined what would Cassander be capable of. It was a difficult time where everybody saw enemies everywhere, and even a little pretext like this was enough to start a fire.

— But why?

— Alex, remember that your alleged son was alive and, the only way the Diadochi had to preserve their power was through treaties and alliances among each other. Every single change in the status quo began a war –his beloved explained— The Diadochi married their sons and daughters among each other, for example: Seleucus married Dametrius' daughter, Ptolemy one of Antipater's daughters, Demetrius another one of Antipater's daughters and Lysimachus married one of Ptolemy's daughters. They all tried to cling unto something that could legitimize their power and, when Polyperchon became regent in Macedonia, a man with no connections to them, they all went to war.

— Amazing…—Alexander had known them all, he had been their King, they all had obeyed him, and to hear they were capable of something like this was unbelievable— What then?

— Well, here I'm very close to answer your question of how Roxanne died –Hephaistion continued— As I said, she truly fell in love with Perdikkas and was badly shaken after his death, making one mistake after another. She and your sister, Cleopatra, ran away to your mother, and the 3 women sought refuge in Epirus. As soon as Olympias heard that Polyperchon and Cassander were gone to fight each other, she came back to Pella with a small army and executed your half brother, Arrhidaeus, his wife, your half sister Cynane, who was controlling him and causing serious problems, and many of Cassander's friends.

— She didn't! –Alexander was horrified. He had always known his mother was capable of many things, but this? To invade Pella with an army?

— She did –his beloved continued— Olympias' plan was quite simple. She wanted to crown Alessandro as King, thinking he was your son, and to marry him to Ann, Aki's daughter. But, as soon as Cassander came back victorious, he managed to judge your mother and put her to death for her crimes.

— Bloody Cassander! –exclaimed the blond truly angry. What had happened to the world? To his world! Had all people gone mad the moment he and Achilles died? He had never liked Cassander, they always had problems and that was why Alexander never took him with them to Asia, reason why he had lost his temper and smashed Antipater's son against the wall; but, even if he disliked him, he would have never thought him capable of this.

— Alex, I know she was your mother but in this…I have to agree with Cassander –said his beloved carefully but that didn't stop Alexander for looking at him as if they didn't speak the same language.

— And why on earth would you agree with him?

— Think this with a cold head –said Hephaistion, holding his eyes— Olympias, that by the time of her death had changed her name again to Stratonice, threatened Cassander, she actually forced him to act against her and gave him the perfect pretext to end with her life when she killed his friends.

— What happened to you? –asked the blond, amazed— When did you become so cold? –his beloved smiled sadly.

— When you live this long, you lose many things, my love –he whispered— Mercy is one of them.

They fell silent— He is right –thought Alexander— He has lived more than I can imagined, witnessed too much, suffered too much…I am no one to judge him.

— That bloody Cassander killed my mother, and then?

— Then, Cassander married Thessa and became the regent of Alessandro –Hephaistion continued— Around this time was when Antigonus finished with Eumenes and became quite a powerful man in Asia. Antigonus also killed your sister Cleopatra and gave her a splendid funeral…He even forced Seleucus to leave Babylon, his satrapy.

— You know? I never give a fig for Antigonus –said Alexander— He never was one of my friends, always in the dark and…he killed my sister and ended with my royal secretary…who would have thought that? –he murmured with sadness.

— Life is always more mysterious than fiction…—said his beloved— And then we have the third war. Antigonus proclaimed himself the protector of Alessandro and this forced Seleucus, Lysimachus and Cassander to join forces against him and his dashing son who became a very gifted general. They defeated Antigonus and Seleucus recovered Babylon.

— This is crazy…—the blond shook his head— But you never told me what happened to Roxanne?

— I am coming to that –said his beloved— When Alessandro's 14th birthday came, Cassander realized that, once the lad came of age he would lose all his power, so, he killed both, Alessandro and Roxanne…he also executed your bastard son, Herakles whom Nearchos was planning to support in his claim to the throne. And, as soon as they all heard about Alessandro's death, Antigonus, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Cassander…they all crowned themselves Kings.

The blond fell silent. He hated Roxanne, never met the boy she claimed was his son but, to know how they ended made him feel…strange— I trust Phai and most probably, Alessandro wasn't my son, but, if Cassander thought he was my son and still put him to death…he didn't think of me, not him not the rest, they forgot about me in the same moment Aki died –he had made them all rich and powerful but that didn't matter to them…They destroyed what he had achieved.

— What happened to your family? What did they do during all this turmoil? –asked Alexander and Hephaistion gave him a sad smile.

— Nick did a great job here and, it was thanks to him that they all survived –said his beloved— Nick knew Ann would be the target for all the Diadochi, they all wanted to be seen as the legitimate successors of your empire and what better way to achieve this than marrying your sisters, as Cassander did, or marrying Aki's only child. Your mother tried to do this and, for many years while Alessandro was alive, my niece was treated like his fiancée, but as soon as the lad died, Seleucus and Demetrius wanted to marry her.

— I can imagine why –said Alexander.

— Nick knew that, since Leonnatos was death, the same as Aki, it was he who had to find Ann a husband –Hephaistion continued— But my brother had no idea of what to do...

XXX

— Uncle, I think we should accept Seleucus' offer –said Sophia, now a beautiful woman of 28 years old. She never married again, didn't think it correct since she was Achilles' widow, she had been Queen and thought beneath of her to take another husband— He has always been good to us, and even helped us to escape after my father died.

But Nikandros shook his head, pacing around the house that had seen him and all his siblings, born. He was now 52 years old, but was still a good-looking strong man, just like his father had been. Antigone still lived, at her 72 years old she was still very active but couldn't cook as much as before because she was half blind.

— Sophi, Seleucus is old enough to be Ann's grandfather, besides if we accept his marriage offer, we'll be insulting Demetrius –said Nikandros.

— But Dris is a friend –his niece insisted— I can talk to him, he will understand.

— You are too naïve –said Nikandros, he wasn't angry but needed Sophia to understand their situation— Demetrius is no longer that boy you knew at Aki's court, he is a man of 29 years old, a commander and the crown Prince of Antigonus. To marry Ann would give them great power over the rest and, you think for a moment that Cassander would stay here doing nothing if I agree to give Ann to Seleucus?

Sophia fell silent for a moment and then, she raised her chin, as the proud Queen she had been.

— Uncle, I understand this better than anyone. Do you think I don't know that Seleucus and Dris want to marry my daughter because both were in love with my husband? –Sophia held his green eyes— I know the only person Aki ever loved was Seleucus –she had discovered this long ago, shortly after she married Achilles. It had hurt at first but, Achilles was good to her, always respected her and she had learned to accept the situation, hoping, maybe in vain that, one day, her husband would learn to love her— I think Aki would be pleased if his daughter marries him.

Her uncle watched her amazed. He hadn't expected this reaction— I underestimated her.

— I apologize, Sophi –said Nikandros— I didn't mean to offend you but understand, we can't take sides in this war or it will cost us our heads. See what happened to your father.

Sophia shuddered thinking about that, remembering her mother's screams and all the pain she had endured after the news of her father's demise— Mom was never the same after father died –in 14 years of war many had died, a man with power today was betrayed tomorrow and put to death. No one was safe, and just as now Seleucus was a powerful King next week he could be food for carrion birds.

— You are right –she nodded slowly— But, if Ann won't marry them, then who?

— If you agree I think she should marry one of my sons –said Nikandros. Vasthi had given him 2 boys after Hephaistion died, his older son was 2 years older than little Antigone and was named Hephaistion because of his dark gray eyes— I think it best because my son is not political important. No one will put him any attention.

— Yes. I agree.

XXX

— And Nick was right –said Hephaistion— Cassander wanted his son to marry my niece but, thanks to Nick's decision, they saved Ann's life and our family from being dragged into this war. Mom died 2 years later, the same year of Ann's 15th birthday and the same year she married my namesake nephew…Mom died peacefully in her sleep and I am glad she did before Lys.

— What happened to Lys? –Alexander was intrigued.

— Lys got married in Pella soon after he came back from Asia and had a son and a daughter –his beloved continued— He was 37 years old when he decided to fight on Demetrius' and Antigonus' side and was killed in battle, during Demetrius outstanding victory against Ptolemy in Cyprus. The lad was known later as Poliorcetes, the Besieger, after he besieged Rhodes for almost a year without success. But he was good…it was a shame my brother wasn't as lucky as he…

— I'm very sorry to hear about Lys –said Alexander, meaning every word. Despite his story with Lysanias, he cared deeply for Hephaistion's entire family and this news pained him— And Eni?

— Eni had the curse to outlive us all –said Hephaistion— Nick died at the age of 60, he fell sick and the fever claimed his life –he made a pause. How he had wanted to run to his older brother's side when he heard he was dying but…

I would have been able to go, but I was afraid…afraid to scare Nick, to see fear in his eyes and so…I did nothing –he thought with sadness.

— Phai, for what you tell me, Nick had a good life –said the blond, successfully reading his mind— And he died surrounded by his family –his beloved nodded, not trusting his voice in that moment— Don't be sad.

— I guess you are right –he cleared his throat— Of my nephews…Amyntas died fighting against Antigonus in the last war of the Diadochi, in the battle of Ipsus, the same battle that claimed the life of the 80 years old Antigonus… and this almost killed my sister. Eni suffered terrible during these years, first Leon died, then mom, Lys, Nick, her older son and, to make everything worst, young Demetrios, my nephew, wanted vengeance and allied himself with Seleucus…Everyday Eni feared to hear the news that her son had died and only her daughters comforted her…They and Ann, who never left her side.

— What happened to Cassander?

— Cassander died of dropsy at the age of 53, and Demetrius became governor of Macedonia, controlling also Greece and all the territories Antigonus inherited him –Hephaistion continued— But, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy invaded his possessions in Asia and soon Demetrius was left only with Macedonia and Greece. The lad…well, the man of now 38 years old, wanted to recover Asia and went to fight against Seleucus and Lysimachus in a 2 years campaign, leaving behind his son Antigonus. Demetrius was defeated in the battlefield and Seleucus took him prisoner.

XXX

— It has been years since the last time I saw you, kid –said the 72 years old Seleucus, approaching his royal prisoner. In his right hand he still wore Hephaistion's seal ring and, he saw, Demetrius still wore the bracelets, a little modified, his father had left to Achilles long, long ago. That almost made him laugh. After all these years and both were still clinging to the memory of the only person they had ever loved— When was it? When I married your daughter?

21 years had passed since Achilles died, he was now called Seleucus Nicator, the Victor, and was King of Mesopotamia, Armenia, Cappadocia, Persis, Parthia, Bactria, Arabia, Tapouria, Sogdia, Arachosia, Hyrcania, the whole region from Phrygia to the Indus. It had taken him years of struggles, years of wars and blood, but Seleucus had never gave up because there was only one thing he wanted and drove him to keep fighting, he wished to keep Achilles' legacy alive, he wanted to protect the kingdom Achilles had worked so hard to keep after Alexander's death and that was why he never gave up.

Demetrius saw his enemy with barely contained hatred. He was now 40 years old, still a handsome man, and had tried, for a very long time, to be Seleucus' ally, he had even gave him his daughter in marriage, wanting to fight side to side with the man who had cared for Achilles as much as he, but— If it hadn't been for him, Aki would have loved me –and for that, he couldn't forgive him.

— I am not a kid anymore, the same as you I am a King –Seleucus laughed before such bravado.

— Kid, if by your kingdom you mean Macedonia, I would think it twice because, last time I checked, Pyrrhus King of Epirus had invaded the place –said Seleucus— Right now your son is fighting for what is left and you are nothing more than my prisoner.

Demetrius clenched his jaw.

— I never understood why Aki loved you –he said with all the bitterness he was able to muster— You are a man of no honor, you never loved him and never understood what lay in his heart –in 2 strides Seleucus was standing in front of him, angry as he had been very few times in his life.

— Don't you dare to talk to me as if you know me –he hissed near Demetrius' face— You are the one who never understood Aki because, if you had, you would have fought for him, for his dream, for his kingdom. But you only followed your own ambition, always behind your father. Where were you when I risked my neck avenging him? WHERE?

— I was fighting against his enemies! –exclaimed Demetrius, furious— I also wanted to protect his kingdom while you were nothing more than a exile in Egypt.

— It was your bloody father who forced me to go to Egypt! –Seleucus reminded him.

— You are coward! You didn't deserve his love.

— And you are a fool who could never overcame the fact that Achilles never loved you –he was getting tired of this and, to see Demetrius was only a cruel reminder that, if it hadn't been for Perdikkas, Achilles would have now the same age as his prisoner— I'm sick of you Demetrius, I promise you, you'll never leave my domains alive.

XXX

— And he kept his word. Demetrius drank himself to death during his 3 years of captivity with Seleucus –Hephaistion continued— And Seleucus…he was killed at his 77 years old by Ptolemy's elder son.

— And Ptolemy? –Alexander wanted to know— You said before he was the only one who enjoyed the war spoils.

— Ptolemy became King of Egypt, he lived until his 84 years old and founded a new dynasty –said Hephaistion— They all founded dynasties and their sons ruled for years –that was something he never forgave them. Why Ptolemy's son rule and his son after him for many years to come, while his own son had to die so young?— Until…

— Until? What happened? –the blond urged him to continue.

— Rome happened –his beloved answered— Do you remember the city of my friend Publius? That city we didn't give a fig about? That small town lost in Italy?

— Yes –Alexander nodded— What about it?

— Well, they became a huge empire –his beloved continued— Rome, conquered Macedonia and defeated Demetrius' descendant, Persus, in the battle of Pydna. Rome conquered almost all of Seleucus' empire, defeating his descendant, Antiochus III, in the battle of Magnesia. Rome conquered Thrace, Lysimachus' kingdom and Rome conquered Egypt when Octavian defeated Ptolemy's last descendant, Cleopatra VII…Ptolemy's dynasty was the last to fall but it did. At the end, Rome conquered everything for what the Diadochi fought so hard for 40 years.

A long silence fell upon them once Hephaistion finished his story. So many things had happened, so much suffering, so much blood. It took Alexander less than a decade to conquer Asia and it took the Diadochi 4 times that time to fight over it— Phai was right, it is not a happy story –but it was their story.

— They ruined everything I did –whispered Alexander at long last— Dismembered the work of my life and destroyed my legacy and my family –he felt angry but he also felt sad and very disappointed.

— No, my love –Hephaistion kissed his cheek— They didn't destroy your legacy, your story, what you did and everything you achieved, will be always alive, a tale to tell generation after generation…More than 2 thousand years had passed and people still know your name and talk about your deeds.

Alexander smiled and kissed him.

— Phai…

— Mm?

— And what happened next? –Hephaistion laughed.

— You will have to ask Lucius, he would be extremely happy to tell you all about Rome –answered his beloved— Just remember that, once he starts talking, you won't be able to make him stop.

Alexander smiled. This was an incredible story but, everything that had happened to him since he opened his eyes and found Anaxagoras in front of him, had been extraordinary— There is so much to learn, so much to live for…

— Phai…you have lived so many things that I can't imagine how you must have felt when…How was to see everything crumbling around you? To hear about your friends' death? Your family? –only now the blond understood why this Hephaistion was so cold, detach, even cruel sometimes. He had seen everyone die, everything, including their kingdom…How was to live long enough to see empires rise and fall?

— It's terrible, Alex –Hephaistion was honest with him— Terrible beyond words but…time makes everything easy. Once everyone you knew died…it's easier but loneliest. It was only thanks to Anaxagoras, Lucius and Eric that I have been able to survive all these years…thanks to them and, to you –he caressed the blond's cheek— Your memory kept me sane for 2 millennia, our love kept me from becoming truly a monster.

Alexander took his hand and kissed the palm.

— You'll never be alone again, Phai –he swore— I will always be at your side. Now, I am truly yours, only yours and, even if our story did not have had a happy ending 2 thousand years ago, we can change that. We will witness history together, for now on. Now and forever –Alexander squeezed his hand.

— Now and forever, my love –Hephaistion vowed, sealing his promise with a kiss.

Time never stops, their friends and family had turned to dust, the world they once knew had disappeared, becoming the very fabric for legends and myths but, not even time or death would be able to destroy that link between them, a love that would never die, that would remain, even when modern civilization crumbled. Now and forever.

Within there's every little memory resting calm with me

Resting in a dream

Smiling back at me

The faces of the past keep calling me to come back home

Rest calm and remember me

(Nightwish, Rest Calm)

These are the sounds of the new Era…

Sounds that, from now on, we'll enjoy together…

till the end of time.

THE END


A/N: I tried to summarize the best I could the Diadochi Wars, there is A LOT of information about this period of time but, it would have been impossible to cover it all in detail. In A Macedonian Tale, we covered almost 20 years of Alexander's and Hephaistion's lives, beginning when they were 13 years old whereas the Diadochi Wars lasted 40 years. This means we would have needed at least another story of 237 chapters to tell it all.

Demetrius's age is deliberately wrong. As you may recall I made him 2 years older to match Achilles' age, so the real Demetrius was 2 years younger than I wrote when he died.

I know what you all are thinking and I would like to explain myself. This story could have been longer, much longer, just the Diadochi Wars could have had a story of their own, not to mention all the adventures Alexander and Hephaistion could have lived as immortals. Then, why did I finish the story here? The goal of A Macedonian Tale was to tell the entire story of mortal Hephaistion and to give the boys an opportunity to be together again. I reached my goal and, I think, its time to end the story or it would never end.

-o-o-o-

Dear readers, words fail me in this moment to thank you all for your support through all this time. It took me 2 years and almost 8 months to finish this little monster of story and it would NOT have been possible without your support. Every time I wanted to give up and abandoned the story, every time I got depressed or I despaired, I received one of your wonderful reviews and that gave me the strength to continue.

English is NOT my native language and for me is both difficult and tiresome to write in English and I never found a BETA brave enough to correct this story. Also, I know very little about Ancient Greece and about Alexander, my true passion is Ancient Rome, especially the late Republic (because of my infatuation with Julius Caesar). I am aware that this story is full with mistakes of both kinds: spelling and grammar and historical accuracy (not to mention continuity problems) and, all I can say is THANK YOU.

THANK YOU for giving me an opportunity to tell you this story, THANK YOU for reading it despite its many mistakes, and THANK YOU for all your wonderful messages, friendship and support. Once I read Mary Renault wrote about a Greek Alexander instead of a Macedonian King, well, I think I wrote about a Roman Alexander but I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me and, all that is left to say is as they used to say at the end of a play in Ancient Rome:

"If I have pleased you, kindly signify appreciation with a warm good-bye"

(or in this case with a warm review ^^)

Tere a.k.a. Zophiel