General Ptolemy lay in his tent somewhere in the far reaches of the Persian Empire, or what was once the Persian Empire. But that vast expanse of land now fell into the hands of his King, Alexander. No, not fell. That is certainly not the case. The land was won, through battles in which Alexander had done more than proven himself to his army. Much glory was now rested on the name of Alexander, King of Macedonia.
The camp was mostly quite, except for the sparse white noise that could always be found in any camp. Low voices of men not yet asleep, crackle of fire, gentle clink of weapons as troops did their rounds through the camp. Any soldier would tell you that this was as good as a lullaby, sung by their mother in a low sweet voice, to bring Hypnos to them. And yet Hypnos evaded Ptolemy.
The army had been abroad for a very lone time now, as Alexander sated his thirst for the exploration and conquest of foreign lands. But Ptolemy knew that the forces would stay abroad in the continent of Asia for as long as their King asked them. Alexander was loved by all. He could convince his men to follow him to the very ends of the earth and beyond. Their king was the very soul of the forces; he brought them riches, women, and glory. Ptolemy doubted he could do any wrong in the eyes of the men. But he knew Alexander too well and known him for too long to believe that himself.
Though the king was beloved in Ptolemy's heart as well, he knew Alexander's lust for glory, his obsession with the Heroes he longed to join, and his temper. But Ptolemy hoped that Alexander's golden qualities would overshadow his black ones. His spirit, kind heart, respect, truth, genuine good intentions, and maybe most importantly his vast ability to love, so deep and so strong.
Alexander was a great king.
Ptolemy was roused from his dance with Hypnos by commotion outside his tent, one that did not belong in the camp at this time of night. He sat up, straight as a spear, in his bed. Ears listening keenly, trying to decide if this was a result of a simple fight breaking out between two restless men, or something worth his time.
Until he heard the voices of Cleitus and Cassander rise above the din, shouting out orders. Two generals dealing in something usually meant it was something worth his time. He rose quickly and swiftly pulled on his chiton. He flew from his quarters out into the night.
It had quieted some since the upheaval had begun and Ptolemy first heard the commotion. He could see that many men were dispersing, returning to tents, some were off to patrol. More that what was normal were off to patrol. The situation had obviously been gotten under control.
Ptolemy approached Cassander, Cleitus, and a few other generals standing, heads together, faces taunt with concern. They all looked up at him as he came to a stop before them.
"What is it? What has happened?" he asked of his friends.
"A woman," Cleitus answered immediately, "found by a patrol not far from camp. She is a Persian from one of the northern tribes still in resistance. It is believed she is a spy."
Oh, yes. This was most definitely worth Ptolemy's time. This was even worth his concern.
"Has she been questioned?" he asked.
It was Cassander who answered, "She has not said a word. We chained the whore up and have her under guard. More patrols have been sent out. But most of the men don't know what has happened."
Ptolemy nodded. This had been handled well. No use in getting the whole camp riled up over a mere woman, who could simply have wandered unknowingly near camp.
"Has the King been notified?'
"Gather all the generals and we will go and inform the king as one. He will most likely wish for counsel as soon as possible on the next course of action."
The various generals dispersed to waken the few of their comrades that were not present.
Most of the generals had all gathered, when Cassander returned.
"Hephaestion is not in his tent." He reported "Nor does his page know his whereabouts. All he could tell me is that Hephaestion left much earlier this night and told the boy not to await his return."
Ptolemy nodded knowingly.
"Very well." He said and started to make his way towards the king's quarters.
Cleitus called out to him, "Ptolemy! What of Hephaestion? Should he not also be present?"
"He will be." Ptolemy said as he turned back to face his fellow generals.
"How will that be possible if he cannot be found?"
"I assure you Cleitus, any night that Hephaestion's page has been told not to await his return, if you find Alexander, you will most definitely find Hephaestion."
Hypnos, that fickle god, eluded Alexander as he sat at a table, surveying maps of his kingdom, and he told himself, what would soon become his kingdom. Yes, Asia would very soon be completely his.
No matter how foul of mood he was in, looking at a map of his ever growing land made him feel much better. Such bright opportunity would make any person feel better.
But there was one thing that could make him feel even better than his ever growing territory. And that one thing was now deeply asleep under the thick blankets of golds and reds and oranges covering his bed. His life, his heart, his soul….his Phia.
He could not stop the smile that spread over his face as he watched his beloved rest. Hephaistion's dark hair was fanned out over his pillows; his dark eyelashes tickled the top of his cheeks, which were still slightly flushed from their lovemaking. Hephaestion was on his side, one arm under the abundance of pillows covering the bed, one arm hanging over the edge of the king's bed. His torso was exposed and as Alexander scrutinized the lean bands of muscle wrapped around his stomach and the bulges on his shoulders, it was all he had not to pounce on his love and demand their previous activities to continue, long into the night.
But Phai was exhausted, and Alexander could not bring himself to disturb him when he looked so at peace. Perhaps he would simply slip in next to his love, mold his body gently to his Phai's and breathe in the sweet fragrance of his hair. That idea was just as appealing as his first.
Hephaistion shifted slightly and made a soft noise in his sleep. Such innocence from a hardened warrior. No, Alexander took that back, Hephaestion was not hardened; he had gentleness to his soul that could never be tainted. One of the very things that Alexander most loved about him. Alexander's smile widened. And he still had that silly, boyish smile plastered over his face when Ptolemy entered his tent.
"Sire-" his general began in a loud commanding voice.
But quickly Alexander lifted a single finger to his lips to silence the man, and then pointed towards the form of his other half, still under the spell of Hypnos, lying in his bed.
Oddly enough this sudden interruption of his musings in the middle of the night by Ptolemy did not concern Alexander. The sight of the rest of his generals filing into his tent did.
They had all witnessed his silent gesture to Ptolemy and now stood awkwardly in the presence of their king and his lover, a fellow general. Both in a state of undress, Alexander in nothing but a light robe, open at the chest, and Hephaestion naked except the luxurious cloth hiding his lower half.
Alexander spoke softly, hoping not to awaken his beloved; he knew how Hephaestion would detest having the entire core of generals and some guards witnessing him in his king and lover's bed. Alexander would do all to prevent his humiliation.
"What is it, General Ptolemy?"
Though his comrades' eyes were fixed on the man in their king's bed, Ptolemy looked and spoke directly to his golden king.
"Sire, the patrols found a woman outside the edges of camp. She is a Persian of one of the resisting northern tribes. It is possible she could be some sort of spy. She has been captured, chained, and put under guard. But she has refused to speak."
Alexander's mind was instantly working, analyzing the situation.
"I trust more patrols were sent out, as to capture any other Persians that may be lurking."
"Yes, my King."
"Do you not think that a counsel would be beneficial in this situation, my King? As to what course of action is to be taken." Cleitus spoke.
Alexander thought a few seconds, "Yes, I believe your right, General Cleitus. I would tell you gather my generals, but it seems they are all already here."
Alexander rose from his maps and documents, his robe of silver and green flowing behind him. He started his way towards the back of the tent.
"Sire," Cassander's voice stopped him, "this is a matter of great importance. Should it not be discussed promptly?"
King turned to face subject. A teasing smile stretched over his beautiful face.
"And do you, Cassander, suggest that I discuss this without my most trusted of generals?"
Silence, except a few snickers, followed the king's question. Cassander dropped his eyes from Alexander's teasing gaze.
Alexander could feel all eyes on him as he approached his occupied bed. Even as the generals came further into the tent away from the door, they all remained quiet, watching their king.
Hephaestion's face remain calm and peaceful, his sleep undisturbed by those around him. Alexander hated to wake him like this, but it must be done. With an audience.
Hephaestion probably would have preferred to have been shaken roughly awake and ordered from bed. So as not to seem like a coddled baby in front of others. But Alexander had more respect and love for him than that, and could not force himself to do so.
He bent down next to his love's face and gently placed a warm hand on Hephaestion's cheek.
"Phai, love," Alexander whispered as he moved his thumb in soft circles over his Phai's cheek. "Awake my Phai, my beloved."
A slow grin pulled at the corner of Hephaestion's lips.
"Xander," he said sleepily, "You are insatiable. But that does not mean we all are, love."
Awkward shuffling from the generals could be faintly heard.
Alexander smiled, "I assure you, Phai that is not the reason for this disturbance."
Hephaestion brought a hand up to cover the one Alexander had pressed to his glorious face. He continued to speak, eyes closed, mouth grinning.
"Ah, but was it not two hours ago that you assured me the same thing? That you simply wished for my opinion on a battle tactic you had dreamed up? And we both know how that ended, Xander, my king."
Alexander could not help but laugh. "No, I will not soon forget that. But it is important for you to get up, Hephaestion, you see-"
Alexander had wished to explain the situation to Hephaestion, but he was cut off by his love reaching up suddenly, grabbing him behind his neck and pulling their lips together. Alexander could not resist the passion in Hephaestion's kiss, and returned the affection enthusiastically, losing himself in the moment of bliss that always came when Hephaistion's lips were on his.
"Save your breath, love." Hephaestion growled, pulling away slightly, "You need not waste excuses with me."
The lovers were pulled from their reverie by a gently 'ahem' from Ptolemy.
Hephaestion ripped his face away, and his eyes instantly widened at the sight of an entire tent lined with generals, who just witnessed the intimate moment. A deep blush stained his face.
"You did not mention the audience, my king." Hephaestion growled again, but this growl was more anger and less passion.
Alexander looked apologetically at his mortified love. "I tried to tell you."
Though Hephaestion's face showed anger, Alexander could see in his bright eyes, those endless pools of blue, that this transgression would not be held against him.
As Hephaestion rose from the bed of his lover, Alexander grabbed a robe and held it out for his Phai to slip into. But Hephaestion, stubborn and just a little bit proud, as always, simply took the robe from the king and donned it himself.
Alexander could not help but be proud of him, though, as he held his head high while approaching his fellow generals.
The king returned to his seat at the table, as generals surrounded him.
"This woman," Alexander spoke to the room, "how was she found?"
The room looked to Cleitus to reply, it was his men who found her
"The patrol came across her, at the foot of a tree, cowering."
"She was hiding? Not running?" Hephaistion asked.
"Strange behavior for a spy. Someone trained to get information back to their commanders." Alexander stated.
"Anything else found? Soldiers, horses?" Ptolemy asked.
"No." Cleitus' brow furrowed, "Not even a horse."
"Bring this 'spy' to me." The king commanded.
The woman was thrown to her knees in the center of the room, hands still tied.
She was young, somewhat good looking. But she looked down trodden and tired. Her skirts and cloaks covered in mud.
"Who are you?" Alexander said without too much force.
"Why were you near our camp?" An edge grew in his voice.
A general stepped forward and gripped the woman by her hair, she squealed in pain.
"Answer your king!" he demanded.
Her lips remained unmoving. But her eyes shone in fear.
Suddenly Hephaistion stepped forward. He came to stand in front of her and removed the generals iron grasp from her hair. The room was silent. He squatted to her eye level, and touched her shoulder.
"Answer with the truth. And the king may be merciful." His voice was gentle, but with authority.
"You of all, Hephaistion, would know of the king's sweet mercy" Cassander's voice floated taunting across the tent.
Alexander watched the muscles of Phai's back, which he knew so well, tighten. But he said nothing. Hephaestion did not want Alexander to fight his battles.
Instead of retaliating, Hephaestion said to the woman, "Tell them." And stepped away.
For the first time her mouth opened, hesitantly. After a single reassuring nod from Hephaestion, she spoke.
"I have run, from my village, for my life." She went on to tell her tale of a false accusation of adultery, and her fate to be stoned. She begged only for a quick death.
The tent waited for Alexander's verdict. He contemplated it for a while. Many generals hoped for a new woman to be added to their platter to choose from each lonely evening.
"My King," Cleitus spoke up, "This woman can not be released. She could give information to opposing forces. She is dangerous."
"I do not fully agree with you general." The king stated.
Alexander's gaze met Hephaistion's. He could tell that Hephaistion did not wish death for this woman. There was something in his penetrating blue eyes that convinced Alexander.
"You will be free to leave." He finally told her. "You will be escorted away from camp, pointed in the direction of a town not far from here, and left to your own defenses. I cannot allow you to stay here because of the possible threat you impose. But I will not take your life, nor condemn you to the horrible death awaiting you at your home."
The woman's body sagged with relief. She showered the King with thanks and praise.
Alexander could tell that the majority of the men in his tent were unhappy with his choice. They felt she was simply a barbarian girl and should either be killed or given to them for their own entertainment. But she represented more than that to the king. To him the woman was him starting a new era with the so called 'barbarians'. He was using this instance to create new ties.
"My friends," he addressed his generals, "I'm surprised at the hysteria one lone woman can produce among you. What idiot of a Persian general would trust a woman to act as a spy? And then send her out unaccompanied, with out supplies, and without means of swift travel?" He laughed, "You are like horses tonight, caught in the dark and the tiniest of movements spook you."
Ptolemy grinned, "Perhaps you are right, my king."
"No, I am right Ptolemy." Alexander smiled. "Now I suggest that you all return to your tents, and your beds. There are drills to be run in the morning."
As the men filed out of the royal tent, Cassander said into Hephaistion's ear, just loud enough to be heard by many, "Don't you think that you, Hephaistion, might be a little too sore for drills on the morrow?"
Of course Hephaistion said nothing. It was his way, and he would cause no disgrace to his king and lover.
But Alexander's temper flared. He wanted to shout at Cassander that there would be absolutely no reason for Hephaistion to be sore by the rising of the sun. But for his love's sake he settled for a more subtle approach.
"Even the undefeated king of all the known world, wishes for he himself to be conquered an times, Cassander."
Chuckles resounded around the room. Cassander pushed his way out of the tent.
When they were once again alone Phai approached his Xander.
"You know, my king, they do say that you have only ever been defeated by one thing in this world."
Alexander grabbed at Hephaistion's hips and pulled him down to straddle his lap.
"And what is that, my general?" The king asked in low voice.
Hephaistion placed his lips at Alexander's ear, "Hephaistion's thighs."
Alexander laughed, "Too right they are." He stroked Hephaistion's auburn hair lovingly, "Now, you are fully awake, and I suggest that we continue where we were, not too long ago, without the audience."