4. The Fatal Crown

 by Ptolemy Lagides
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As we left Pausanias’ corpse, Alexander sipped a goblet of wine in his quarters at the palace. He gazed out of the window and across the Aegae skyline, and it seemed to him that the night was blacker than usual. A chill ran down his spine. Noticing it, a servant standing by the fireplace threw more wood onto the fire. There was a knock at the door.
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“Enter.”
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Olympias stepped in. Her eyes were red and her face drawn. Alexander had not seen her since leaving the theatre and he was alarmed to see her in apparent distress.
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“Mother…” he said, in concern, walking towards her.
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“It’s alright,” Olympias said, but her voice was weak and tired. After pausing to gather herself, she said, “Today went well. Yes. The Greeks acclaimed you, and the people are quiet. When you speak to them directly, they will love you. Alexander’s* act of homage was an unexpected bonus… It will give Amyntas** much pause for thought…”
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“Good, but I don’t care – mother, you should rest.” Olympias smiled sadly.
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“The time for that has passed, my child. I shall never rest again.” Alexander looked thoughtfully at Olympias before stepping away from her.
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“So… this was your work.”
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“Yes.” Alexander embraced his mother tightly. Olympias folded her arms round her son and in that moment forgot how strong and ruthless a woman she was meant to be and sobbed.
.
“I hated him,” she admitted, “I hated him very much… but believe me when I say, I never wanted this to happen.”
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“Neither did I, but it was necessary; father brought what happened upon himself when he married Cleopatra,” Alexander said. He looked his mother in the eye, “I wish you had let me take charge of the assassination.”
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“How strange,” Olympias laughed through her tears, “I am the one crying, yet it is you, Alexander, whose judgement is clouded. Think. If it ever became known that you assassinated your father your authority would be undermined and the the possibility of your own assassination increased ten fold.”
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“I fear no one,” Alexander replied, softly, “In any case, we are Macedonians, murder is a way of life for us.”
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Olympias smiled at her son’s word play, and nodded. “Indeed…” Just then, her head dropped and her body wavered. Catching her, Alexander guided Olympias to a chair.
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“Forgive me for making you stand.” he said, anxiously.
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“It’s alright, quite alright…” Olympias replied, “It has been a long day. That’s all.”
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“Stay with me tonight,” Alexander said, “Let us sleep together.” Olympias smiled.
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“I will not miss any opportunity I get from now on to embrace my son,” she said, as if to herself. “Soon you will be gone, and who knows when I will see you again?” Alexander opened his mouth to reply, only to be interrupted by another knock on the door. A counsellor entered. Some of the king’s Greek guests wanted an urgent audience with him. Alexander was minded to tell them to wait until the morning, but his mother persuaded him to go – “The impression that you make on them now will help define how their city acts towards you in the future,” she said, “Reluctance to appear will be interpreted as a sign of weakness.”
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Acquiescing to her will, Alexander left the room. Olympias sat in his quarters for a few minutes, her eyes closed as she listened to the murmur of voices in the palace courtyard three floors below. Upon a moment, she heard a cup being put down on a table behind her; she turned round sharply. Hephaestion sat in a shadowy alcove of the room. He acknowledged her with a friendly nod. Ordering the servants to leave Olympias stood up.
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“How did I do…?” she asked him, once the last servant out had closed the door behind him.
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“Very well.”
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“Do you think he believes…”
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“… that you masterminded Philip’s death? Yes. You spoke very convincingly.”
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“Good. I meant what I said, though; I wish I had masterminded it. I hated Philip very much…”
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“Well, as per our agreement, you have the next best thing – the blame for what happened. I have put the word out that you were probably behind Philip’s death. You had the motive and,” Hephaestion paused and chuckled, wryly, “notwithstanding the fact that you have few friends in Macedon, the power, too. Here’s to people being convinced by the first fact so that they do not consider the second falsity for too long.” Hephaestion raised his cup. Olympias joined him, and took it.
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“Thank you for letting me,” she said, “I still shake when I remember how we argued over this point. No one will ever fight more strongly to keep a poisoned cup taken than you, Hephaestion; you have my thanks.” As Olympias drank the wine, Hephaestion stood up and bowed.
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“I thank the gods for the day I became strong enough to arrange Philip’s assassination instead of just thinking that it needed to be done.” Hephaestion said, “And you may be sure that my strength remains. I will never cease to do all that I can to honour your sacrifice.” Taking the cup back, he drained it and walked towards the door.
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“Oh,” he added, “I almost forgot.” Hephaestion walked back to the alcove and picked up a dirty grey bag; opening it, he pulled out a gold leafed crown.
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“To complete the illusion.” he said. Olympias took it.
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“That will now be the work of a life time,” she said, turning the crown in her hands, “And will take many more actions than just this one. But, I too will not fail to do whatever needs to be done in any respect, and whatever the cost – in blood, hate, or treachery. All for Alexander.”
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“All for Alexander.” Hephaestion repeated. Handing the bag over to her, he kissed Olympias on the cheek and left the quarters.
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* Alexander of Lyncestis
** Philip II’s cousin who, by virtue of his being the son of Philip’s elder brother Perdiccas, had as good a claim to the Macedonian throne as Alexander himself

To be continued…

  • The list of chapters can be found here

Categories: Ptolemy's journal | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “4. The Fatal Crown

  1. And so the plot thickens. “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…” >KB

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