Chapter 2: 326 BC - 323 BC
My name is Alexander. I am far from home in the hell that is the jungle. My men are close to leaving me in mutiny, but how can we leave when we are this close? It's been raining nonstop….the miserable rain. The gods must weep for the lives that been lost on campaign. These men that I had come to know and care greatly about…they have lost their lives for me, for this quest.
Ahhhh, the sweet voice of Hephaestion sings to my ears as his hand rests on my shoulder in concern. The soldiers stand around in silence as they wait for me to hear their concern.
"It's been raining for seventy days and nights! We are tired and we yearn for home. Please! Let us return home to see our families before it is too late…." Coenus went on and I listened.
I had already seen the warning signs and I had finally pushed them to the breaking point. Our numbers were low and another battle would destroy us if the enemy was fierce. This was a tricky situation and as it pained me to do this….I knew we could not continue like this…moral was too low.
I cleared my throat and looked at the men as they were eager to hear this.
"We have come very far…we have seen success and we have all experienced great loss," I continued. "We still have a long journey ahead of us…" I paused, "as we march for home."
I had never seen such happy faces and celebration. Some were too in shock to move. Hephaestion slowly turned to me and was careful not to show too much excitment, "I think you made a good decision on this. I know how much you want to continue."
"I've tried, but I cannot convince them to go any further. We must turn back," I put my hand through his hair. "I just hope I've made the right decision today."
It wasn't long after this that reinforcements came. They also came with troubling news…the Mallians the Oxydracians were laying aside their differences in order to fight us. Those two armies combined would be a lot to handle…I needed to prevent them from joining forces to destroy us.
We were able to make great timing by reaching them in just five days down the river. It seemed we had come accustomed to the rain and knew no different. Sailing down the rivers however was treacherous, and the boats didn't always hold up with the current and rocks.
Once we made landfall, plans immediately went into place and we destroyed our first city in hopes of setting an example for the other tribes.
I split my army into three this time and my forces would march through the desert to surprise the Mallians and put them fleeing in the direction I wanted them to go…which would be right into Hephaestion. Ptolemey would be three days or so behind my army.
We were unstoppable. We went from town to town and killed them all. Raid after raid left us hungry for more. Victory was so close we could taste it. My cavalry was small in number, but when the infantry came it was an easy win. Mallians were running back to their city for protection. When they ran…we gave chase.
"TO THE CITY!" I raised my sword and pointed it in the direction of Multan.
All I heard before racing to my horse was that Alexander was dead. We were some four days away now and news came of the battle at the Citadel. Alexander had slain the leader and met a tragic death shortly after. All I knew was that he was…or could be dead. I refused to believe it until I saw with my own eyes.
I could barely rest to give the horse a break, but if I didn't I'd be stranded in the desert. Nights were sleepless as the possibilities haunted my every thought. Not here…not in this Hell. Not this soon.
So many thoughts were going through my head; I constantly prayed to the gods that he was still alive.
On the fourth day I came upon his tents and jumped off the horse. I rushed so quickly towards them that I wasn't' even recognized and they thought I was an enemy. I pushed through them till I was down at his side. There were blood soaked bandages over his chest. An arrow pierced him and he looked close to death, but he was ALIVE!
"I thought you dead," I finally got out the words as I took his hand into mind and held it to my chest. "I rode nonstop once I got word eight days ago. I should have been here…I should have fought with you. Were you being reckless again? Alexander…must you forget you have no heir? You can't afford to put your life on the line like this!"
He opened his eyes to me and could see I was covered in sweat, my skin rough and eyes wet with tears. "Let's go home," he simply whispered
I smiled, "Home. We are going home. Don't you dare give up on me baby."
He reached out for water and I helped him to drink…holding his head up as I poured from the skin. I rubbed his cheek and promised to look after him now that I was here. Already I could hear a familiar voice shouting from a distance…Craterus.
I huffed before leaving the tent to address him. "What is this about Craterus? Must you disturb the king while he's resting?"
The other officer glared seeing me there, "Things are going to get crazy if they believe he's dead. You KNOW this, Hephaestion."
As much as I hated the man…he was right. "I hope you're not asking him to ride a horse just to put some rumors to rest."
"No…no, nothing like that. But they do need to see him and the sooner the better. We can put him on a boat and let them see that he is in fact alive. Once he's well enough we can go further."
Taking him down the river was a horrible idea! The rivers were dangerous for men in perfect health. "It sounds too risky," I folded my arms.
"Then let's ask what he thinks. We'll let him decide for himself."
I didn't like the idea of this…Alexander did not need him barging in and asking questions about the moral of his men. "I don't think we need to be bothering him with this silliness." I stood before him with my sword drawn.
"You wouldn't dare…" he glared at me and pulled out his sword.
Our swords clashed and we were fighting each other. The problem was much larger than talking to our sick king. Craterus and I always battled each other and now we were past the tipping point. I wanted his blood on my sword. I managed to cut his arm, but he knocked my sword out and we battled on the ground until some of the other soldiers separated us.
Craterus wasn't listening to me and continued to Alexander's bed.
"Alexander, the men believe you're dead. We must do something! They need to see you to restore their hope. Without you….they think they will never see home again! Please, we need orders."
He sat up and was visibly in pain.
"We need to be on the move anyway…We'll finish going down the river. Put me on a boat and the men will see. Then, Craterus, I want you to take your men to Carmania right now. We will cross the desert and meet in Susa."
I nodded because I was glad that Craterus was venturing a different way. I looked at him and waited for him to leave before I sat down with him and checked his head for a fever.
"I'm fine. Please…enough of this!" he whined and was reaching for some food.
I handed him the bread and sat near him. "I don't know how you can stand Craterus…Earlier I almost…." I stopped and sighed knowing he didn't need to hear this. "I'm sorry; I guess I'm just tired."
I collapsed next to him and fell asleep.
1 Year Later
He was sweating and refusing any medical attention. Alexander rushed to Hephaestion's side upon hearing he was deathly ill. Once he got into the room his friend looked pale and near death.
"OUT! OUT! EVERYONE OUT!" he shouted to the people at his bedside.
They quickly scurried out of the room in fear of what he'd do to them.
"Tell me what's wrong? How can I fix this?" he got close his face and asked him.
"I'm sick…it's just a small illness. I'll be fine. I just need some rest," he reached up and cupped his cheek. "and I'm cold…hold me?"
It was risky for Alexander to be close to his friend as he was deathly sick, but he wasn't about let him suffer.
"I've got you. I'm not letting go of you," he said sweetly and held him close to keep him warm as his body shook.
"I love you, Alexander," he whispered to him with his eyes closed. "Perhaps….in the Elysian Fields we will be together. That we won't be bound by these customs and we'll have that dream."
"Yes," he smiled. "Our sons will play together while we stay heroes, forever young and rich. We can still have that dream, baby. Don't leave me…not like this. Not now…we have so much ahead of us. I love you Hephaestion."
Alexander kissed his head and realized he wasn't moving. He sat up and shook him in a panic. "DOCTOR! DOCTOR! NOOOOOOO!" he screamed out and tapped his cheek to wake him up.
They pushed him out of the way as they tried to revive the sickly man. It was useless…Hephaestion had succumbed to his illness.
Alexander took his passing with great difficulty. He banned music and every surrounding city had to mourn along with him. Alexander could not part with his friend…even as he grew cold and stiff. In his grief…he was able to give his dear friend a funeral fit for a king.
The doctor he held responsible was executed swiftly along with offerings for his departed friend. While everything was being prepared…the king shut himself in his room for many days and refused to eat or speak to anyone. This was the greatest loss in his entire life and one he was not prepared to face.
"I made a promise to you," he spoke while his eyes were closed. "I will keep my promise."
Despite the many theories….it was grief that killed the Great Alexander of Macedonia. When the grief became too much, doctors feared he was partly insane. Hellebore was used then to treat his depression and eventually an accidental overdose killed Alexander just one year later.