"Love-quarrels oft in pleasing concord end;
Not wedlock-treachery." John Milton 1608-1674 "Paradise Lost" l 1008
It's cold and wet out there again today. Is there no end to this winter? In spite of Spring flowers in bloom and the lovely cherry blossoms budding on the trees, it's still so bleak and wintry. I can only dream, that just two months from now I'll be in Venice, and soon after that heading for sunny Greece.
To break the tedium of the ghastly weather, I thought I'd post some 'hot stuff' to warm things up a little. So here's a chapter segment from my novel Shadow of the Lion. This novel is mainly concerned with the squabbles between the Successors in the years following Alexander the Great's death which will utlimately end in disaster for the dynasty. There's not many parts of the novel where I can include tender love scenes, sex and desire, so I make the most of it when the opportunity arises.
In this scene, someone has attempted to poison Alexander's young son. Iskander and his mother Roxana have been staying in seclusion at the old palace of Aigai in the mountains where the Regent, Polyperchon, thought they'd be safe while he was away dealing with uprisings in Athens. Macedon is on the brink of civil war. Now this has happened, and Polyperchon realizes he must send the boy and his mother away to Epiros for safe-keeping in the care of Alexander's mother Olympias. He and Roxana have been carrying on a clandestine affair, both for their own self-satisfying reasons. Here is a scene between them culminating a series of events that almost ended in the murder of the child.
It was late by the time Polyerchon went to Roxana’s chamber. He knew she would be waiting for him and he steeled himself against the scene he imagined would take place when he told her he was sending her away again. He expected resistance, tears to which she had always been prone.
The guard at her door admitted him without hesitation and he entered into the lamp-lit room. She was waiting for him, pacing the room. Hands on hips she turned to face him. Under the thin fabric of her sleeping robe her naked breasts rose and fell as she caught her breath. He saw the fear in her eyes more clearly than before.
“What news do you bring, my Lord? Have you caught the murderous wretch?” She scanned his face anxiously for an answer.
“He was dead before they got a confession out of him. They’d slit his throat, cut out his tongue.”
She let out a gasp. “Who? Tell me his name so I can put a curse on his grave.”
“His name is Drakon. He was one of the King‘s bodyguards.”
She stiffened and drew back. “Drakon? The one who is Lanike’s grandson?” Her face contorted with rage. “I was certain that horrid old woman had a hand in this!”
“I have questioned Lanike,“ Polyperchon said. “She swore an oath she did not do it. She begged me for clemency.” He spoke quietly trying to calm her. “Lanike is not capable of murder. She has always been a trusted member of the royal households. I believe that the orders came from Kassandros.”
“Isn’t it customary to put to death those family members who’s kinfolk are guilty of murder and treason? This was an act of treason. They clearly meant to kill my child!”
“The sentence of death for the kinfolk is only when it is proven without a doubt and decreed by the Assembly. I believe that Lanike is innocent. I have banished her. She has already left Aigai,”
Roxana blinked, obviously astonished. “You let her go?"
“Undoubtedly the boy was an agent sent by Kassandros. We must be cautious because there may be others.”
“When you find these evil-doers let me be the one to mete out the punishment.”
“You? Such things are not your concern,” he rebuked her. “Leave Macedon’s affairs to me.”
She turned to him with a defiant look on her face. “This is my affair! Someone tried to kill my child! I will avenge this. I am quite capable of seeing to an execution. I have done it before.”
He peered at her through narrowed eyes. “Murder, my Lady?” Her knew her passion for control, recalled the tales that had gone round the camps of her angry tirades and verbal battles with Alexander but he had not, until then, thought she was capable of killing.
“We Soghdians are taught the art of revenge while we are young,” she
Taking her chin, he forced her to look at him. “Who were your victims?”
Her expression was sullen, her eyes veiled. She turned away imperiously. “There have been several,” she stated bluntly.
His heart chilled at her words. He thought of Medea, the murderous queen of the old legends. Like Medea, Roxana was a foreigner, and just as Jason had been smitten
by Medea, he had loved Roxana since he’d first laid eyes on her on the Soghdian Rock. Now,
for the first time he saw how dangerous she could be.
She stood before him, implacable and splendidly daunting, her face a stony mask.
He saw the cold glimmer in her eyes. Her intensity appalled him.
“You must promise me that you will not meddle in the affairs of the country. Do not exact revenge on Lanike or anyone else you might suppose was responsible for attempting to harm your child. It is my concern, as Regent, and I will see that those who are guilty are brought to justice.
I am sending you to Epiros straightaway,” he said quietly. “Olympias refuses to come to us, so we will go to her. I have sent a dispatch to Commander Kronos. His men will meet you in the mountain pass. You and the child will leave in the morning with an escort of my most trusted guards.”
She stared at him with a look of cold suspicion. “You’re sending me away again? For how long? What if...gods forbid...you don’t come back?” She clung to him fiercely. “My Lord, I have waited in vain for you every day. And now you are here -- only to leave again.” Her voice was husky, thickened by the tears that had welled in her eyes.
He brushed her cheek with his finger. “You will be safe in Epiros. None of your enemies will dare trespass in Olympia’s realm. It is to our benefit to have an ally such as Alexander’s mother. It will only be for a little while, then I’ll be home again. Fear not. I will win this war with Kassandros and settle the disputes with Athens. Then all will be well again.” He took her hand and squeezed it. “Let us enjoy one last private night together,” he suggested, hoping to appease her.
Her face softened as he reached out to her. “May the Gods grant you a victory, my Lord, so that you may return soon.”
He took her face in his hands. “You and the child are precious to me, Little Star. I promise I will not forsake you.”
“Your continuous loyalty to me and my son will not be forgotten,” she said.
She touched her fingers to his lips. “When we both return to Pella, promise we
will be united forever.”
He broke away from her. “I have spent much time pondering this,” he said. “We
must keep this affair secret. Olympias did not take another consort after Philip. She dedicated her life to her son and to denouncing his rivals and enemies. She will expect the same from you.”
She spun to face him, her cheeks flushed. “I am not Olympias!”
“True. But she is. And it will be best for both of us that she does not know of this. Not yet...At least, not until little Alexander ascends the throne. Then we will be able to live together freely.“ He knew, even as he spoke, that his words had a hollow ring to them. He saw how she was stabbed with disappointment. He had promised her marriage vows. Now she would see it was all a guise, designed to satisfy his own lust and ambition.
She whirled away from him, trembling with indignant rage. “I will be no man’s concubine, languishing the long hours away waiting for someone who might never return. Am I no more to you than a campaign prize, easily cast off and just as inconsequential?” she demanded.
He felt regret for himself as well as for her. “It would be foolish for us to wed now,” he said. “We must wait.”
She spun to face him. Her voice was deadly cold. “With or without you I will see my son on the throne of Macedon.”
“For now, I can only promise my loyalty to you and your son -- that I will do my utmost to protect you.”
She shot him a dark glance and opened her mouth to protest. He caught her by the wrist and stopped her words with a kiss. She struggled to free herself from his embrace
but his arms tightened around her pulling her body close against his own. He yearned to possess her. How long had it been since he had last touched her? Weeks? Months?
“Leave me!” The flat of her hand struck his cheek in a sudden stinging blow. “I
won’t lay with you again unless you promise me more than that.”
He stood swaying, shocked by the suddenness of her attack,
but her irrational anger, her wildness, excited him as much as when he faced an adversary in battle. His body ached for her, unleashing a fierce torrent of lust. He felt
intoxicated , as though he had drunk an aphrodisiac. He dug his fingers into her shoulders, felt the searing warmth of her flesh.
Like a rabid vixen, she fought him violently with teeth and nails. He could feel her body convulse with rage as she thrashed about and tried to free herself from his grasp.
“How dare you!” she panted, her voice rising to a shriek.
“Be silent!” he growled. “You‘ll alert the guards.”
He flung her over the bed and mounted her and with one quick movement ripped away the gauzy fabric of her gown. He tasted blood, aware that he was bruising her lips with his teeth as he brought his mouth down on hers. Her breath came in gasps and she let out a ragged cry as he kneaded her breasts and fought him more, her nails grazing his flesh. He straddled her and grasped her wrists, pinning both her arms down. She cursed and spat at him. Her fury only excited him more. He forced his tongue into her mouth until finally with a muffled cry, she surrendered, returning his kiss with equal fervour, pressing against him in an urgency that only excited him more. He took her as he would take any barracks whore -- rough and savage, thrusting into her, his breath coming hard. A stab of pleasure pierced him and he groaned and collapsed on her trembling as his seed exploded into her.
When he came to his senses he was lying beside her, panting. They lay side by side in a tangle of sheets, bathed in sweat. She neither spoke nor moved. Her flesh felt hot against his though the room had grown cold. He drew the covers up over her naked body. Lying on his back in the dimness, he felt her warm breath against his neck.
It was growing light when he got up, belted on his tunic, and started across the room. At the door he lingered, and glanced back at her as she lay sleeping. He watched the slow rise and fall of her breathing. In repose, her face was serene. She looked as young as a maiden, and just as vulnerable. His battle with her had been an easy one to win. That which lay ahead would be more difficult. ““Farewell, my Little Star,” he whispered, “May the gods grant us a victory.” Then he went out.
"Who lives without folly is not so wise as he thinks."
Francois, Duc de La Rouchefoucauld 1613 - 1680 "Reflections: or, Sentences and Moral Maxims" 1678 (l 209)
"As the ancients
Say wisely, have a care o' th' main chance,
And look before you ere you leap,
For as you sow, ye are like to reap."
Samuel Butler 1612- 1680 "Hudibras" 1663 pt 1, l 501