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Sunday, January 28, 2007

O CONSPIRACY!

"O conspiracy!
Sham'st thou to show they dangerous brow by night,
When evils are most free?"
William Shakespeare 1564-1616 Julius Caesar Act II, scene 6, l 77

"The venom clamors of a jealous woman
Poison more deadly than a mad dog's tooth."
Shakespeare The Comedy of Errors 1592-1594 Act V, scene 1, l 74

While I've been writing about the local crime scene on my other blog
(The Pig Farm Murders) http://ruthakik.blogspot.com
I've also been watching my characters in Shadow of the Lion plot a few of their own.
I've always loved the tragedies, from Shakespeares' Richard III (the first Shakespeare play I saw on stage) to the Greek tragedies which I've read and watched on stages here as well as performed in the ancient theatres of Greece. Perhaps that I why I was also attracted to crime stories (real life stories rather than just murder mystery novels), because there is such a great sense of tragedy. What happened on the pig farm is not only tragic, but horrific beyond comprehension. It not only affected the helpless victims, but tore the hearts of their families, friends, and every one who has read or heard the story.

My play, The Street, was a modern tragedy of drug addiction and yes, death too. My w.i.p play House of the Muses is also a tragedy based on the life of the poet Sappho. My novel, Shadow of the Lion, is very much a Homeric tale, a Greek tragedy. Like Shakespeare's tragedies, the stage is strewn with bodies before the closing curtain. That's the way it was. Conspiracy was rife, and in Alexander the Great's world, blind ambition, greed and murder brought his dynasty to an end.

As I'm not a suspense or murder/mystery writer I have to work hard to untangle the intricate sub-plots and intertwine them with the compicated politics of the time. Slowly, I'm building to the crescendo which will eventually bring us to the conclusion of this epic saga. There have been conspiracies and murders all the way through, beginning with Alexander's suspicious death on page one. Now we are reaching the point in the story where all hell is about to break loose.
Here's a little sample of what's to come...

Recap of the story so far:
Adeia-Eurydike, the 18 year old wife of the titular king, Philip Arridaios, (Alexander's mentally incompetant brother), has sworn to avenge the wrongful killings of her parents and wants to claim the throne of Macedon for herself and rule on her idiot husband's behalf. She has invited a group of her faction to a secret meeting place and plots to oust Polyperchon, Regent of Macedon, and futher her plans to be the sole ruler of the country by eliminating the 6 year old son of Alexander (his only heir) who shares the throne with her husband.
This is a scene from Part V, Chapter Forty-Four

They gathered in the dim-lit hut around a table of thick rough-hewn oak. She stood before them, her stance bold, brazen and addressed them in a clear, strong voice.
“Men of Macedon, Friends, I have called you together to share some dire news.”
With her usual sense of drama, she related the information she had received from her agents in Asia Minor and Greece, emphasizing the importance of swift action.

“The time is nigh when I will govern in my own name, as I have sworn on the graves of my mother Kynna, and my father Amyntas, who was the rightful heir to the throne of Macedon. The time is right for us to act now in the name of the King, my husband, to overthrow the Regency. Polyperchon is morally corrupt and ineffectual as a
leader. He must be ousted from power before Macedon is destroyed.”

She stared at them fiercely and waited for their response. They sat forward in their chairs, looking at one another. For awhile there was no sound except for the fluttering of the tiny moths that swarmed around the table lamps, and the hiss as they flew into the flames.
At last, one man spoke up. “How long since you have heard from Kassandros?”
She turned to a shelf and picked up a roll of papyrus. “This letter came some weeks ago. He’s preparing his fleet to sail on Attika.” She wondered how much she dared divulge to them. In truth, the dispatch had been sent by one of her agents, not Kassandros himself.
“Perhaps we should confer with Kassandros first?” another suggested warily.

She responded in a firm, indignant voice. “No. I am speaking on behalf of my husband, the King. You have my royal word that what I am putting forth has the vice-Regent’s approval. We swore an oath on it long before Kassandros departed from Pella.”
She had, in fact, not heard from Kassandros in some time, though she had carefully pondered her bargain with him, and was certain he would approve of her actions.
“And Nikanor? Why is he absent?”questioned one of the Lynkestian tribal lords.

She had purposely not invited Kassandros’ brother because she resented his efforts to advise her. “He is away inspecting the garrisons at Amphipolis and the eastern borders. I’m certain he would approve of us advancing his brother’s cause.“ Her hand gripped the scroll defensively and she rapped it against her palm. “Are you with me? Will you agree to support me?”

Their weather-worn faces considered her shrewdly. As she spoke, she strode about, restless as a young lion, the fire-light flickering in a golden aura around her. As long as she should live, nothing greater could ever happen to her than to take the throne of Macedon for herself. Dressed in her leather cuirass with its burnished lion-head buttons, proud and implacable as a valiant warrior-queen, she faced them with her challenge.
“Even Ptolemy has pledge his support to Kassandros’ cause. The time is nigh.
Polyperchon is preparing to leave Pella with his troops. This is our chance to act.”

She saw how they looked upon her with admiration. The older men who had
known Alexander in his youth would remark later how they had seen the same spark of zealousness radiate from her, and how, uncannily with her mane of copper-coloured hair
and intense grey eyes, she appeared to them almost as an apparition of their dead hero.

Fuelled by her ambitions, she raised her voice as if she were a general addressing the troops. “During Polyperchon’s short term as Regent he has caused dissention among the clans of Macedon and disaster on the country. Now he is leading us to the brink of civil war.”

The council considered the grave dangers to the country that she outlined.
Their voices buzzed in conference. Finally, they thumped the table with their fists and raised their wine-cups. “You have our word, Madam. When it is time, we will rally the troops and fight for you.”

In one accord they saluted her. “Long Live Queen Eurydike!”. All pledged their loyalty to her, convinced that she promised them the same glory that they had known with Alexander.
She sat back in her tall chair and took a deep breath of relief. She’d had no doubt they would be easy to persuade.

“Between ourselves, we must plan carefully. As soon as Polyperchon leaves Pella we will act. Tomorrow you must each go to your own clan, find those who will support us in this cause.”

As the men filed out of the lodge, she called aside the young cadet, Drakon. Since their first meeting with Kassandros at the Antipides hunting lodge, after Antipater’s death, she had kept her eye on him, had her spies find out everything about him.
“You are a King’s guard, grandson of the Soghdian brat’s nursemaid?”
“Yes, my Lady Queen, until they were moved to Aigai. Now I serve King Philip Arridaios.”
“There is no need for your service in Pella now, then. My husband will soon leave for Greece with Polyperchon‘s war party,” she said. “I have a more important task for
you.” She glanced quickly round to be sure the others had left the room, then handed him a scroll sealed with the royal signet. “Here are your new orders. Say Polyperchon sent you.”

His cold, dark eyes fixed on hers. He hesitated, caught off guard perhaps, but who could resist her persuasive charm, her zealousness? She pressed a small packet into his hand. “Speak not of this to any of the others. This is your special mission as ordained by your Queen. Fulfill it and you will be richly rewarded.”

He swallowed and gazed at her in silence a moment. Her offer of money and honour were irresistible to an ambitious youth such as he, one who had lost his father in the wars and his kinsman by treachery. She knew he sought revenge for these wrongs. His eyes narrowed. Behind his neatly trimmed beard his thin mouth twisted in a wry smile.

“What are the contents of this packet, my Lady?”
She gave him a guileless smile. “Every child loves sweet cakes. These have been especially prepared so don’t be tempted to sample them yourself.”

He balked at first, but she quickly reassured him. “I dispatch this knowing that their discovery may purchase not only your death but mine too. But you must do this...for your uncle Kleitos who Alexander murdered. This will be your revenge...and mine.”

His mouth pressed tight. He hesitated and she saw that his hand which held the packet was shaking.
“You will be held in honour and a generous reward is offered. The boy is undoubtedly a bastard. All who knew Alexander, can testify that the Soghdian’s child bears no resemblance to him. If Alexander had lived to see him born he would have never acknowledged the brat as his rightful offspring. Where is the proof? Who can say for certain that the bastard is even one half Macedonian? He looks Persian through and through. Could he not just as easily be the illegitimate spawn of the Soghdian’s Royal Cousin, that Persian dandy who claims to be the royal Court Advisor? I am Macedonian, with true royal blood. My own father was wrongfully accused and robbed of his right to inherit the throne. Therefore it is my right to rule.”

She saw that his brooding eyes were bloodshot from the wine. She wondered if she had made a mistake recruiting him for such an important intrigue, asking him to risk death.
He stared past her into the dying embers on the hearth. Finally he looked back, raised his right hand and said, “I swear by Herakles that I will serve you and my Lord Kassandros with honour.”
“Whatever happens, remember you must not reveal to anyone the contents of this packet. Nor must anyone know it is I who sent you. Swear on the sacred stream of Acheron you’ll keep this secret.”
“My Lady, I swear!”
“Take the back roads to Aigai. Don’t draw notice to yourself. Polyperchon is too preoccupied now to care whether one single guard is missing from his duty. When you deliver your new orders to the garrison commander there, tell him anything you wish.”

After he left, she stood by the fire-blackened hearth and pondered the bargain she had made with Kassandros. He had not sent word to her for months. It was time to act on her own.
* * *

"And thus I clothe my naked villany
With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil."
Shakespeare Richard the Third 1592-1593 Act 1, scene iii l 336

"Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes."
Shakespeare Hamlet Act I, Scene ii, l 56

4 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

No wonder our history books at school glossed the Diadoch Wars over (after devoting a nice long chapter to Alexander), the time is such a mess. :)

Wynn Bexton said...

You better believe it. This part of my novel is so complicated, all the political intrigues (the part I wrote about Adeia Eurydike is fictionalized but as she was plotting her little heart out it might have happened.) So many sub-plots going on. It's been tricky to write. But I think I have untangled most of it and can move forward.

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

...the Greek tragedies which I've read and watched on stages here as well as performed in the ancient theatres of Greece.

Oh, what a truly fabulous, sensational opportunity, Wynn!

I've been researching life in ancient Sumer, and Mesopotamia in general, for a book I'm working on and I immediately thought of you and all the painstaking research you've done for your wonderful historical fiction.

I've always loved history. It was one of my favorite subjects in school. The words you write, Wynn, have a way of breathing life into times long past. :-)

Wynn Bexton said...

Daisy, I've done some research into that part of the world too. In fact, the 'model' for my character Nabarzanes, the Persian Court advisor, turned out to actually be from Iraq (Baghdad, near ancient Babylon of course) and will tell you he is NOT Arab but SUMERIAN. Actually he looks exactly like the carvings found on the frescos of ancient Babylon. I refer to him as "The Babylonian."
(He was a fugitive,fled to Jordan and was exiled here because Sadaam had killed his father and was after him too.)