5. Friends

I.
After escorting Thaïs back to the royal palace, I walked a few streets north to my brother Menelaus’ home. Long before I arrived, the sound of music and laughter told me that he was making good on his promise to celebrate Philip’s death.
.
Opening the front door, I stepped into the courtyard and almost onto Erigyius as he had sex with a prostitute in front of me. The courtyard was crammed with men drinking, whores plying their trade, and musicians try to sing over the noise. There was even a dog fight taking place at the far end. I looked down at Erigyius’ whore as she panted and cried, and thought of Thaïs. It was a bit unfair. As a hetaera she did more with her clients than just have sex with them. Just then, a nauseous feeling took me – Why? I wondered, Because of Thaïs? No, it must be something else because that didn’t make sense.
.
“Ptolemy!” a deep voice boomed. It was Craterus, at nearly six and a half feet tall and with muscles the size of barrels, he was a true giant amongst men. He strode across the courtyard, causing men in his path to scatter as he did so. “Menelaus is upstairs in his bedroom! Perdiccas, Laomedon, and Nearchus are with him, too. Apparently they have the best wine.”
.
“Why aren’t you up there?” I asked.
.
“I was on my way when I saw that Menelaus’ servants hadn’t removed his flowers from the house. Some one was about to use one over there as a mini out house. I knocked him out and took the plants out back. I’ll go upstairs when I’ve seen to the other flower bowls.” As well as being a giant and senior officer in Alexander’s army, Craterus was also a lover of flowers. I never would get used to the tender way with which he treated them.
.
Leaving Craterus to his task, I made my way to the bedroom. There, all the talk was all of how glad we were that Philip was dead and what we hoped to achieve in the new, Alexandrian, future. For my part, very annoyingly, I could not get Thaïs out of my mind. This annoyed me. I didn’t know her. I wouldn’t see her again. Why was I so concerned about her? I drank more to try and drive her from my mind; I made up a rude song about Philip and his boy lovers; I wrestled with Craterus and traded joke insults with Black Cleitus when he turned up but none of it could remove the thought of that strange woman from me.
.
II.
It was in the early hours of the morning that Hephaestion arrived at the house. Most of us were either asleep in a drunken stupor, unconscious, or dead (two people died of over drinking that night) when he came. Gliding noiselessly through it, he came upstairs and shook my shoulder.
.
“Forgive me, Ptolemy,” he said, glancing round, warily, “I would like to talk to you.”
.
“Has something happened?” I asked.
.
“No. I come with a message.” I got to my feet. My head throbbed lightly but I had been too distracted by the thought of Thaïs to get really drunk. We walked downstairs and, collecting two torches, left the house through a back door and stepped into a side street. A stray dog barked at us and ran away.
.
“Firstly, I must apologise,” Hephaestion said, “I lied about the message…” Confused, and alarmed, I shot him a sharp glance and felt for the sword that I was not wearing.
.
“It’s alright!” Hephaestion said, seeing my hand move, and raising his own in a gesture of peace, “I came to make an offer to you; one that befits Alexander’s best friend.”
.
“His best friend? That is you, Hephaestion.” He blushed.
.
“You know that that is only the beginning of what we are to one another,” he replied. “Of the king’s friends, you are the greatest.”
.
“Hm. I thank you.”
.
“And now that he is king, Alexander’s need for your friendship will not lessen but grow. Especially as you are very popular in the army.”
.
“Again, I thank you,” I said, “But Hephaestion, what are you getting at? What is your offer?”
.
“Olympias offered you gold to join her conspiracy,” he said, “I want to offer you my friendship and my loyalty in the days and years ahead. And I will give them to you if you agree to help Alexander—”
.
“I don’t understand you,” I said, “Like you said, I am his friend. I would do anything for—” As I spoke, it clicked; I laughed, “Wait… you’re asking me to be your spy,” Hephaestion looked down at the ground, guiltily.
.
“Yes, I am.”
.
“Why?”
.
“You know how it is with kings,” Hephaestion began, “They come to power, they kill anyone who might be a threat to them. They rule, and they continue to kill anyone who might be a threat to them. This is what Alexander will do. And he will not only kill his enemies, if he feels the need to, but friends, too…”
.
“So if I spy for you – for Alexander – you will stand up for me should I ever fall foul of him.”
.
“Yes.”
.
“If anyone else had said this to me – anyone – I would have considered their words a threat. Not you, though, Hephaestion; you do not dissemble – not to your friends. If Alexander accused me, you would be a very influential advocate to have; I will do as you wish. But know this, I would have done it anyway for I want Alexander to succeed in all his plans. I am his friend.”
.
“And a good one, too; thank you, Ptolemy; from the bottom of my heart, thank you.” Hephaestion leaned forward and embraced me tightly.
.
“This means a lot to you,” I said, “Why? I do not doubt that you will be making alliances and agreements with other people at this time. I am not so very special to you.”
.
“You’re right, I will; but you are special… one day, I will tell you why. For now, I must go – As you surmise, I have other people to see.” I watched Hephaestion make his way down the side street. My body twitched; it knew what I wanted to do next before I did. I ran after him.
.
“Hephaestion-!” He stopped, and turned. “Alexander’s hetaera – Thaïs. Do you know her?”
.
“Yes.”
.
“Do you know who is she with tonight?”
.
“Yes, the Brute.” He meant Archippus, one of my fellow Cavalry Companions, nicknamed for his brutal way of fighting and living.
.
“Him-!” I exclaimed. “No woman should be allowed near him. He killed his wife.”
.
“Thaïs will be fortunate if he doesn’t kill her. He beats her, you know; not around the face where it can be seen, but on her body. I have seen the bruises.”
.
“Does Alexander know?”
.
“No. I haven’t told him; I don’t want him to be distracted. I’ve told Thaïs to refuse Archippus’ money, and I’ve told him to treat her kindly or else. She refused to listen to me and he has been happy to take his chances. I am busy enough as it is; what more can I do?”
.
“Nothing… nothing, I suppose.”
.
“Maybe when things have quietened down…” he said, thoughtfully, “Till then, she is on her own. Goodbye, Ptolemy.” I bowed and bade Hephaestion farewell. Stupid woman, I thought, but in that moment, I knew that this was not the end of the matter.

To be continued…

  • The list of chapters can be read here
Categories: Ptolemy's journal | 1 Comment

Post navigation

One thought on “5. Friends

  1. Well, I am right here where I usually am, on the edge of my seat.>KB

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: