Chapter 1

Prompt: Home
Title: Home Is Where the Art Is

When Mazaeus had surrendered to Alexander after the battle of Gaugamela, the king ordered Bagoas to go to Babylon and prepare a room for Hephaistion. It had been so long since they had slept on a real bed under a roof since they started their campaign, and Alexander wanted to make sure to give Hephaistion an exquisite place while they were in Babylon, a place he could call home.

He wanted to make it as an early present for Hephaistion's birthday that was approaching in a few months. Besides, Hephaistion deserved a retreat after the hard and successful work of building bridges over the Euphrates.

Bagoas was excited. He felt good and proud that Alexander trusted him. He was determined to show his great taste. As soon as he arrived in Babylon, he visited a treasurer Bagophanes with a letter from Alexander in his hand. The old eunuch ran his gaze slowly over Bagoas from head to toe. A pang of jealousy formed up in the treasurer's mind. He once was young and beautiful like this boy.

"So the King left you in charge of decorating a general's chamber?"

Sensing a tone of challenge from the man, Bagoas replied proudly.

"Yes, and as king Alexander explained in his letter, the money should not be an issue."

"Very well, let's go and pick a room for him. As you may know every one of the chambers in the palace is suitable even for a king."

"I already know which room I want for Hephaistion." Bagoas' firm answer made the treasurer raise an eyebrow.

Ignoring the old eunuch's sarcasm, Bagoas led the way straight to the room directly across from the King's chamber.

"Well, excellent choice. You know that I am the one who was in charge of decorating this room. I see some of the drapes are out dated, but we can replace them easily, and maybe we can add more colors and patterns to the ceiling as well. We also can replace the bathtub with gold plate"

"Thank you Bagophanes, I can take it from here." Bagoas interrupted an excited older man.

"You do not wish me to help you?"

"No, I believe I know exactly what he wants."

"I think you are making a big mistake."

Bagoas ignored the other man, and left the room to gather around the workers. He did not have time to waste if he wanted to complete the room before Alexander's arrival in the city.

First he made them clear the room. A large red carpet with complicated patterns that covered the entire floor was removed, and the exposed marble floor was polished. Whole walls and the ceiling that were coated with intricate decorative outlines with vivid colors were covered over with plasters. Large blue plates with traditional Persian patterns of cobalt blue and gold accented freshly painted walls instead.

Heavy drapes were taken down, and replaced with thin airy white fabrics. The room was completed with an ample sized bed and a small rug placed on the foot of it. The subtle colors of various shades of blues, grey and beige of the rug, and the repeating patterns from the plates tied the room together.

"What have you done?"

The treasurer's squeaking voice echoed in the room when Bagoas was making the final adjustment of rich red cushions on the bed.

Bagoas just smiled. He was certain about what Hephaistion wanted. He was trained all his life to sense what the master wished without even being told, it was one of his survival skills. He knew that Hephaistion would rather prefer a simple clean line of decoration instead of over flooding colors and flashy decorations.

"You will be punished by the king for ruining and trashing the beautiful room. I will make sure that the king understands that I was against it, and I have nothing to do with this."

Upset Bagophanes rushed out of the chamber leaving dazed Bagoas in the middle of the room.

Alexander did not know what to think of after reading an upset letter from Bagophanes. He wanted to trust Bagoas' decision, but the letter from the treasurer of Babylon sounded very serious. When they finally made an entry to Babylon through the magnificent gate of Ishtar being celebrated with cheers and a carpet of flowers, calm Bagoas and eager Bagophanes waited for them at the palace.

"King Alexander, welcome to Babylon. Let me show your chamber that I composed with some changes to make it more suitable for the great king of Asia."

The treasurer stepped ahead and guided Alexander and Hephaistion to the King's chamber. He opened the door and enjoyed the astonished looks of the king and his general. The room was the most luxurious and filled with rich colors and complicated patterns that covered every single space in the room.

"Now, Bagoas will show you the general Hephaistion's room, as I explained it in my letter, I have nothing to do with it."

Bagoas silently led them to the room across from Alexander's. The heavy wooden door was identical to the one of the King's chamber. However, once the door was opened, the interior of the room was completely different. Hephaistion's worried expression lightened up immediately and a broad smile crossed his lips.

"Thank you Bagoas, this is wonderful. It is perfect indeed."

Hephaistion thanked Bagoas while running his fingers along a cerulean silk cover on the bed.

"And thank you Alexander. I could not ask anything better for my birthday. I really feel at home here."

It was satisfying for Bagoas to see Hephaistion's happily illuminated face that well contrasted with the pale hard expression of Bagophanes.

Bagoas was even prouder when he saw Alexander spending every single night in Hephaistion's room. The king's chamber was merely used for an official meeting with Persian nobles. And he could not help but wonder if the reason why Alexander appointed Agathon as the new treasurer of Babylon was because of Bagophanes' misjudgments on Hephaistion's chamber.