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Monday, August 22, 2005

SLAYING DRAGONS

"It is the writer's privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honour and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The writer's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail."
William Faulkner (1897- 1962) Speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize, Dec 10, 1950.

There comes a time in everyone's life (even our fictional characters') when we must face danger and confront the 'dragons' that threaten us. I'm heading for a place in my novel, a huge crisis which will ultimately threaten to destroy Alexander the Great's empire. How will my characters react when faced with this peril? Will they turn and run? Or will they ride out bravely and slay the 'dragon'?

In the last chapter segment, Polyperchon, the Regent of Macedon, has called upon his friend Commander Kronos, and confided in him about the dilemma he must face. Will there be a war or can a peaceful solution be found?

While they dined, their conversation did not stray far from the interests of all military men. Kronos questioned Polyperchon regarding the Greeks.
"I thought I could win the whole of Greece to my side by proclaiming liberty and offering to support them to overthrow the oligarchies," Polyperchon admitted ruefully. "I should have dealt with those accursed Athenians straight away but I believed truly that they would accept my peace-offering. Instead it seems they are showing their backsides in defiance."
Kronos asked which city states were included in the uprisings. How had he learned of Kassandros' conspiracy?
Polyperchon looked regretfully at his dinner plate and confessed that he had put too much trust in Kassandros. "I thought him a braggart, something of a madman, but never a traitor. I should have had him removed immediately after Antipater died, but what scandal would there have been if I'd done this during his father's mourning period?"
"Gods!" Kronos muttered. "What has besotted your mind? We all knew not to trust him! My opinion, since you asked it, is to seek a compromise, otherwise it's too late for anything except all-out war."

The conversation continues. Polyperchon outlines his plans to Kronos.

"I must preserve the peace in Philip and Alexander's names," Polyperchon said. He stood, and began to stride the room. "I will have to deal with the traitors straight away."
"Kassandros' brother, Nikanor?"
"Nikanor is away at the northern border inspecting garrisons. Now he's under the protection of Kassandros' faction I won't be able to touch him without creating more conflict. Because the Antipides are the most powerful clan in Macedon, if any of Kassandros' clansmen are harmed it will surely cast us into a civil war."
"Who will you deploy to Greece in command of the advance force?" Kronos asked.
"My son Alexandros. He's the one I can trust more than any other," Polyperchon said. "And I will go myself to meet with Phokion."
Their conversation was interrupted when the youth, Drakon, came with a plate of figs and walnuts. He saw the boy pause furtively as he set it down on the table, his ear obviously turned to listen in on their discussion. Polyperchon waved him away. The squire glanced back at him with an insolent look. Polyperchon frowned. He must take the boy aside later, admonish him for eavesdropping, remind him that anything said in the confines of the Regent's quarters was not to be repeated outside. This was a royal squire's sacred trust.
He sat on his chair, his arms folded, and said confidently. "The traitors will be dealt with swiftly. Kassandros must be punished for his hubris."
Kronos put down his knife and leaned across the table. "Polyperchon, take care!" he said.
"Cut off the serpent's head and the body will die," Polyperchon replied bluntly.

Because I am writing from a historical plot, I already know the outcome, although the way each character reacts to the situation is my own interpretation. I know that I am taking them step-by-step into a situation that will eventually lead to tragedy. What would have happened, though, if Polyperchon had reacted differently, if he had been the powerful Regent that his predecessor Antipater had been? Would that period of history be changed?

While I ponder the next moves my characters must make, I am feeling somewhat distracted. A week ago I found out that my dear friend (someone I am so very fond of) is in the hospital fighting a dragon of his own...Cancer. He's putting up a brave fight, and we, his friends, are there to support him with prayers and positive thoughts. We had a long, beautiful talk on my last visit, just like we used to. He asked me if I thought he was going to make it.
"Yes," I said. " Of course you will! This man is a survivor. He must believe, live in hope, that soon he will be well again. We must all believe that, and never give up the fight. Prayer and faith and hope are the best ways to slay this dragon.

"Offering dragons quarter is no good,
they regrow all their parts & come on again,
they have to be killed."
John Berryman 1914 -1972 "Henry's Program for God" (ibid 316)




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