Chapter One: 326 BC – 323 BC
Hephaestion looked over at Alexander the Great as he sat staring at a hand drawn map of the river. His toes sank into the fur carpet that lined his tent. The others had just left with orders to gather their men. He too was given orders but Alexander seemed troubled, a rare moment.
"What's troubling you? You may be able to hide it from them, but I see right through it," Hephaestion confessed his concern.
His eyes never left the map, "do you think we'll grow old together? Watch our sons learn what places we've been able to conquer, or what tough enemies we've fought."
This candidness didn't shock the companion, but it did have odd timing. "I think we will. After this we should return home. The men are tired and they're losing their confidence. This jungle is a heartless place." Hephaestion moved closer to him and gently started to massage his shoulders, "you've already done more than Macedonians could ever dream. Let's return home and enjoy the spoils of it all."
He shook his head, "Once I defeat King Porus we can keep marching east. The ends of the maps!"
"Of course," he nodded in agreement. "We are outnumbered. We've lost so many men to the snakes…the sickness…and exhaustion. The men will rise up if you push them further from home."
Alexander was irritated by this, "I know the state of my men…I know we are outnumbered. Please tell me something I don't know..." his fist pounded the table that threatened to break. "Get your men together and prepare for battle."
Hephaestion sighed and moved away from him and grabbed his helmet before leaving the tent.
Once he had left the tent, he too prepared for battle. He put on his clothes for battle and looked over the plan for attack one last time.
Outside his tent his horse was waiting for him. "Bucephalus," he whispered like a lover to his black horse. "Are you ready to ride today?" The black horse had been with him since leaving his homeland. The once deemed unbreakable horse was the only horse he could trust to ride into battle. He gave a nod of his large head before Alexander was set to ride and join the march of his men toward the river.
It was a tactic Alexander had used in the past…his signature move. The army would be split and two sides would ride around the battlefield to strike from behind…trapping the enemy. The unknown factor was the elephants. King Porus's army used elephants to ride into battle. The giants could crush anything in their path.
This was in no way an easy battle to win. Hephaestion was right about their numbers. They were greatly outnumbered and that was why his strategy was important.
He took his men up stream while others faced a direct crossing of the river. With Coenus going the other side, they stood an even greater chance of surprise and eventual victory. As he passed around the battlefield he could hear the chaos and wondered how Tauron was doing against those elephants.
Bucephalus raced harder and faster knowing Coenus was probably ahead on the right wing. He turned his head one last time and nodded to Hephaestion before splitting off from the cavalry to take on Porus. The chaos was already pushing the Indians towards the elephants for protection, but amid the chaos…the elephant soldiers were turning on their own.
He was scouting around and checking the field while also searching for Porus. His sword was tight in his hand and the reigns in the other. "Where are you…."
Porus charged Alexander with his sword out and he responded with his own sword drawn. With a grin he rode away realizing he had wounded Porus.
The mistake he made was turning his back on the king. Hephaestion had always kept a close eye on his leader.
"NOOOOOOOO!" The scream came from his gut as he saw the king with his sword raised and charging back to him.
Alexander could hear his scream over the battle and turned to see his enemy rushing toward him. In an effort to dodge the blade he accidently fell off his horse and dropped to the ground. He shielded his face with his left hand until he got up to his feet.
Porus's army was soon falling apart around him. Elephants were dying as a result of his men's victory. Instinctively he knew he was done for and dropped his sword…his shoulder bleeding profusely.
"Surrender. I surrender! Please. You can have it. You can have it all."
Alexander's men took hold of him while they helped him off the battlefield to treat him.
He was taken away and given water to drink, but he pushed them aside. The men were cheering in victory and they were set to contain the elephants left and enslave those left standing.
Porus was taller than him, but he kept his eyes down. He was waiting for it…for Alexander to either cut his throat or stab his chest.
"How do you wish to be treated?" he said almost at a murmur.
The shocked king dropped to his knees and began to beg, "Like a king! Please, I beg! Treat me like a king!"
To the surprise of his men and King Porus…Alexander the Great nodded in agreement. "I will own all of this, but you shall still rule your kingdom under my direction."
There was something about the king that Alexander admired. Perhaps it was his strength or his ability to take him by surprise in that one moment. Whatever the case…Alexander had mercy on him.
The toll on his army was staggering…a little over a thousand men were lost and more injured. Upon seeing Hephaestion they embraced each other closely and tightly.
"I saw his blade. I feared you wouldn't hear me in time," he confessed to Alexander's ear. "Now that you've won…please tell me you've considered going back home. We lost so many men now…and there are more that will not survive another battle. Their motivation is lost. They need to see their families again. Some have sons that are as old they were when they left. They grew up without their father…without their brothers."
He looked into his lover's eyes. He saw past the blood on his cheeks, the dirt in his brow and the sweat in his hair. "I love you Hephaestion, but you know more than anyone else that I can't stop. We must move on. We cannot let those thousands of lives be in vain! Can we?"
There was a look of disappointment on the companion's face as he finished his speech. He thought of all the men…Hephaestion would have to understand.
"No, but how many more will die if we keep digging deeper? You had a close call today…and Bucephalus is weak. Since the battlefield he hasn't been able to stand on his own. Might be an injury…might be old age," he was afraid of breaking this news.
"Bucephalus?!" Alexander pulled away from him and rushed through the lines of wounded and found his old friend resting on the ground…panting hard from being forced to try and stand. He got down on his knees and petted his head.
"It's okay, I'm here," he said softly to calm the black beauty.
The eyes of the horse seemed to bore into his…pleading in his own way for the pain to leave. It calmed down a little with his owner's gentle touch and eventually he passed on.
Alexander could not hide his tears as he lost his trusted companion. By the time he got to his tent he was inconsolable and Hephaestion was there to ease his sorrow.
With a gentle kiss he then let the great leader rest his head in his lap. There was nothing he could say to calm him, so he stayed quiet as darkness fell. The tired troops turned to their beds and the lights went out.
Once he calmed himself from his crying he was able to speak again at a whisper:
"I do fear they'll turn against me, but it's just so hard to stop. We'll be making history Hephaestion. School boys...like we were, will learn about what we did here. These men will be heroes when they return home. I want to return home too…only with no regrets."
"You can't possibly regret anything," he touched his cheek and rubbed it with his thumb. "You are the smartest and most adventurist person I know." He looked down at him as Alexander was starting to get up. "You are my Achilles," he leaned in and kissed his perfectly soft lips.
"And you…my Patroclus. I couldn't do this without you. Let's not talk about tomorrow yet, okay?" Alexander laid back down on his bed and smiled as he joined him there.
"Did you see those elephants? Incredible…Imagine if we had an army of those beasts? We could beat two armies at once. They could guard the entire empire." Hephaestion knew Alexander's wheels were turning.
"That would be something. What if the elephants turn against us and trample the city?" he looked over at him. "I saw the way those elephants turned on their keepers."
"Yeah, guess you're right about that." He noticed his eyes were closing with sleep. "Night Alexander."
He smiled and put a hand through his hair, "good night."