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Thursday, August 23, 2007

PROGRESS REPORT #8: INTERLUDE

Alexander riding Bucephalos

EPITASIS: The part of a play developing the main action and leading to the catastrophe. GK: increased intensity

I've been keeping to my writer's schedule and working like crazy. Yesterday I finished Part V and today I began Part VI, some bits of which I've already written or sketched in, so I am hoping to sail along quickly. I'm already day-dreaming about the party I'll throw when I finally write THE END to this long, difficult Homeric saga.

I took a little break after my day's work the other evening and watched a movie I'd seen once before, "The Age of Innocence" starring Daniel Day Lewis, Winona Ryder and Michelle Phieffer. An interesting story about the very proper Victorian society of turn-of-the-century New York. In spite of the prissiness of the time, there was a lot of excellent sexual tension in this film, although I could have kicked the characters now and then especially that 'innocent' fiance/bride of Archer who turned out to be so devious!

The next day I had to write a scene for the Interlude (Epitasis) of Part V in which there is a hot scene between Ptolemy and his mistress Thais. I just love doing those sex scenes and choreographing the characters. (No, I'm not going to publish it here!) Unlike prissy May in "The Age Of Innocence" Thais was a world-renown courtesan who traveled from her home of Corinth all across Asia with her lover, Ptolemy, who was one of Alexander's Companions and alleged illegitimate half-brother. She's only got a small part in my novel but she's another of the most fascinating women in history, also given bad press by the historians, her main notoriety being that she encouraged the Companions to torch the palace at Persepolis, thus burning up all the Persian's holy books. Unlike some of the other more vicious women in "Shadow of the Lion" Thais proved to be a faithful companion and good mother to Ptolemy's children. And even though he had to legally marry into 'royalty' in order to have legitimate children to inherit his throne (he was the first Ptolemy of Egypt), she accepted her role as 'mistress' graciously.

I must explain here my use of "INTERLUDE" or, as I will call it in the final draft manuscript 'THE EPITASIS". At the end of each Part of my novel I have one of these interludes that takes the reader to a different part of the world where another character is plotting or an event is happening that will have a direct and often drastic affect on the outcome of the main plot. Ptolemy Soter is one of the main threads running through the tapestry of the story. I'd say he's the bright royal blue thread. I begin my novel with a "Prelude" (or Prologue) in which he is writing down the events taking place in Babylon as Alexander lies dying. And he appears throughout the novel, though not always actively involved in the main plot. The novel will also end with an "Epilogue" in which he appears and records the final chapters of Alexander's dynasty. Ptolemy's journals were one of the main sources for the historians (ancient and modern) recording Alexander's exploits and eventual death. Some of the historians claim he was 'self-serving' and slanted his journals to glorify himself. I disagree. From what I have researched I see him as a compassionate man, a faithful friend and loyal soldier of Alexander. He could have vied for command of the army after Alexander's death but chose instead to accept the satrapy of Egypt where he established the city of Alexandria as Alexander had wished. He also 'stole' Alexander's body and brought it to Egypt for burial at Siwah, where the King had wanted to be interred. (Alexander's body was still on display at the time of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, who was a descendant of the Macedonian royal family.)

So I have ended Part V with a scene taking place in Alexandria when Ptolemy has been called upon to join the coalition of generals opposed to the Regent, Polyperchon. Because he is married to the villain, Kassandros', sister, he is bound by family ties to take part. This is just a little bit of the final scene in the Interlude (Epitasis) of Part V.

* * *

Ptolemy stood and paced the room, while a deluge of doubts and memories poured over him, eroding the armour of his resolve, washing away the shell of his invulnerability until he was stripped bare and floundering in a sea of nothingness and rendered defenseless.

Should he pledge allegiance to Kassandros and join forces to expel the Regent? It was clear that Polyperchon made a weak link in the chain of command and so long as he remained Regent, the future of Macedon and the Kings was in jeopardy. He had already launched an attack on Phoenicia and Syria against Eumenes destroying the ships that were to be sent to Polypcheron’s aid. Antigonos now commanded the world’s largest army and had established his superiority over the satrapies. The aging general was in the strongest position of all the Successors to keep control. He knew Antigonos shared his belief in an independent kingdom. If he allied with Antigonos and the others to oust Polypercon, it would ensure Macedon’s future and the safety of Alexander‘s son until he was of the age to take the throne and rule on his own.

The foreign ambassadors had reported that there were rebellions and upsets in
some of the satrapies. In Media, Peithon had revolted, and there was unrest in Seleukos domain. Alexander’s empire was in danger of dissolving and the man in the strongest position to reunite them was Antigonos One-Eyed.
He recalled how once, as proud Companions of the King, they had all pulled together like a prize team of stallions pulling the chariot of a god. Yet as soon as their god, Alexander, had died, they had bolted like a team of unbroken wild horses. Ambition and greed had become their only cause. The Successors were living off Alexander’s bounty. (Eumenes had even used some of the royal treasury to fund his naval battles at Byzantium and Tyre.) Little did it matter to any of them whether Alexander’s world, the one they had fought so hard for, would be destroyed.


He thought back with great sadness to those long hours that led to Alexander’s death, how they had kept vigil at his bedside. Even now the scene was as clear as yesterday. Alexander had looked small lying on Nebuchadnezzar’s great bed under the high canopy. They had propped him on a heap of pillows to aid him in his breathing, and stripped him of his clothes because he was burning with fever. The only sound in that ponderous room was the light swish of the peacock fans and Alexander’s shallow gasps of breath. He had leaned over Alexander’s still form to whisper in his ear. “I swear an oath, my brother, that I will defend your empire and be loyal to you till the end of time.”


Alexander’s eyes had flickered open and he thought he saw the faint shadow of a smile on his parched lips. Alexander had moved his hand and squeezed his own slightly as if he had heard and understood. Then his hand went limp and the breath went out of him as his ka took flight.

“Oh Alexander,” he prayed, “look down on your earthly descendants. We are the survivors of your Empire. Help us.”

He repeated aloud the vow he had made to his beloved Companion and King. “I will defend your empire! Here was his answer. He knew what he must do. He picked up the stylus and wrote a declaration which he would send first thing in the morning.

“I commit my navy and my troops to your cause. In the name of Alexander we must preserve the empire and protect the Kings.”

* * *

"As on the peaks of a mountain the south wind scatters the thick mist...so beneath their feet the dust drove up a storm cloud of men marching..."
Homer "The Iliad" book III





























































































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3 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Bound by marriage alliance to that awful Kassandros - poor Ptolemy.

Nice snippet. Shows that his motives are more noble than some others'. :)

Adrian Swift said...

Wonderful story!

Fascinating era. I'm a big fan of Alexander's. Did he know he'd have fans for millenia?

I'm amazed at how much you know about the characters, their world, the events.

I can't wait for your novel to be available on bookshelves!

Adrian

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks for the comments. I'm on to Part VI now and have a pretty good grip on it so far. More snippets to come. It feels good! Been a long time since I was so into my writing of this novel and the story I love so much.