Okay, I confess. I've been committing some pretty dreadful crimes of murder and mayhem lately. It's been a grueling task for someone like me who generally abhors violence but is still fascinated by crime and criminals. I was once in charge of the crime files of the newspaper I worked at, my first job as a fledgling journalist when I got out of high school. I ended up in the news-library instead of on City Desk covering the local crime scene, but my job was bios and crime files and I got to know about all the inside dope in the gang warfare and crime scene of the city.
Early on, I used to love Mickey Spillane books and read all of them. But usually I don't read crime or murder mysteries. I did find "Silence of the Lambs" fascinating in the way it was written and research. I love true crime stories such as "Compulsion" and Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood". And I do enjoy some movies about true crimes and stuff like "The Sopranos". Somehow, having to write about it now myself, I've become a little inured to it I suppose. When I had first started writing gory scenes for "Shadow of the Lion" I held back a lot and my workshop critics said "More blood! More blood!" Once I had to kill off an Athenian senator. He was an interesting character and I had described him well in the novel and much to my surprise then met a man who was an Athenian, who fit the description (physically) to a T. But when I got to know this particular person, he turned out to be a real jerk. This revelation happened about when I had to kill off the senator so I must admit I did the deed with great relish. Heheheh!
Now I'm getting down to the nitty-gritty of my novel, near the end when disaster looms at every corner of Alexander's empire, a lot of it propelled by his mother, Olympias, who is on a rampage of vengeance. Consequently, I've killed off a lot of people over the past few weeks and yesterday administered the final blow to a couple of my favorites. And there's more to come...
Here's a little snippet from the most recent turn of events...
Adeia-Eurydike, the 18 year old queen (wife of Philip Arridaios) who has staged a coup against the Regent Polyperchon, is now on the lam, trying to leave the country to get support from her ally, Kassandros, because her own faction has deserted her, all of them terrified of Olympias.
Adeia-Eurydike was captured at the port of Amphipolis where she had intended to board a ship bound for Euboeia, hoping to secure more troops there. Her own faction had deserted her. Nobody wanted to fight against the Epirote witch.
Her youth and arrogance had made her believe she could outwit her enemies, but Aristonous, the garrison commander, under orders from Olympias, sent Thracians to the port and they arrested her there without a struggle. Thracians were wild people, and easily bought. Olympias had offered them more gold than she had, so they had betrayed her.
“Woman, what is your name?” one of them asked in hesitant Greek.
“Are you the slut who claims to be Queen?” queried another. He looked her over as if she were one of the port whores.
They were tough, rugged men, half-clad in tribal tartans and animal skins, their naked skin showing off the swirls of blue tribal tattoos that Thracians bore to show they were warriors. One of them gave her a hard shove. She staggered backwards, then caught her balance and held her head high.
At first she tried to fight them, but before she could draw her sword they overwhelmed her and disarmed her. She refused to throw herself at their mercy and beg for clemency. Implacably she stood her ground. Defiant, she spat in their faces and mocked them, believing that Kassandros would by now have received her desperate messages and would soon invade Macedon and rescue her.
There was no way she would accept surrender, so she drew herself up and faced them fearlessly. “Don’t you know who I am?” she screamed. “I am Eurydike, daughter of Amyntas, wife of King Philip Arridaios.”
They answered her with grunts and insults spoken in their tribal language which she did not understand but she knew by their disdainful looks that they considered her little more than harbor trash. They dragged her away, oblivious to her curses and threats of vengeance.
She had hoped for splendor and victory, dreamed of her triumphant return to Pella, the flower-strewn streets, the Macedonian cavalry escorting her, splendid in their maroon crested helmets and flowing capes, their horses bedizened with gold. Instead, rough heavy hands bound her in chains and threw her into a two-wheeled cart as though she were a piece of camp baggage.
She was spirited away with a grim escort of heavily armed guards. At each town along the way sightseers stood in expectant clusters watching in silent awe, shamed by the sight of her, yet daring not to make a protest. She huddled in the cart bruised and humiliated; her head ached; her wrists and ankles stung, rubbed raw from the fetters. Now, on the threshold of her final defeat, she felt desolate, yet strangely indifferent, still believing that Kassandros would soon send help to free her. A vivid recollection came to her of that night long ago on the Sardis road when she and her mother had been beset by Perdikkas’ men; how once they had recognized her as Macedonian royalty, they had protected her. As the two-wheeled cart rattled and jolted over the stones, she recalled her mother’s saying ‘You were meant for great things. It is your destiny to rule as a warrior queen, not to grow old at the loom like other women. Your father should have been chosen as king, not Philip. If you had been born a boy they would have chosen you when he died . Now the gods mean you to right the wrong that was done to him.“ She felt a shiver of rage and grief. Surely someone would come and overpower her captors. Did they not recognize her as their queen, Eurydike? She heard a few hesitant cheers of “Long live Queen Eurydike! Long live King Philip!” and gruff murmurs of sympathy, “Poor maid. Forgive them, Lady. Surely they have done wrong.” Still, no one tried to rescue her. It all seemed unreal, dreamlike, as though she might waken and find it all a terrifying nightmare.
When they entered Pella three days later, she noticed the deserted streets, as if dread had seized the populace and kept them hidden indoors. She had heard rumors of Olympias’ blood bath, the arrest of dissenters and killings of Antipatrids clan members. Now she sensed the full realization of the tragedy, smelled the death. It’s certainty made her feel nauseated.
She was taken first to the palace where the guards escorted her to the audience hall where Olympias sat in state on the throne that rightfully should have been hers.
Olympias gave an order to one of the guards and she was shoved forward, the weight of her shackled wrists and ankles causing her to stumble.
“So! Here stands the valiant Adeia-Eurydike, child of a traitor! My men say they found you at the harbor about to board a ship, like a vermin steals aboard.”
Adeia held her head high. “I am Queen Eurydike, wife of Philip Arridaios, daughter of Amyntas, who was the son of King Perdikkas. Your husband, Philip, was my grandfather.”
Olympias’ face tautened with anger. “And your husband, my little trollop, awaits you in the bridal chamber we have prepared for your joyful reunion.” She smiled, baring her teeth, and with a dismissive wave of her bejeweled hand said to the guard. “Take her away. Her husband is waiting for her.”
They led her out, dragging her fetters, their dead weight chafing her ankles as she staggered in an ungainly gait between the guards. She was trooped through the streets of Pella like a felon going to an execution. As they approached the lagoon she saw the row of gallows where corpses of Olympias’ victims had been nailed up like rotting carcasses in a butcher’s larder. Most were no longer recognizable since the carrion birds and scavengers had had their fill of flesh. She glanced at some of the names painted on boards beneath their mangled bodies and recognized several as men who had led her faction. And under one, the name NIKANOR, SON OF ANTIPATER. Her heart sank. Even Nikanor whom she had trusted to help rally her men?
When I first started writing this novel, I felt emotionally attached to the first character I had to assassinate and cried after I did it. Now I'm nearing the end and I suppose I'm used to the carnage because I felt strangely unmoved by what happens next to Arridaios and Adeia, yet I am fond of them because both have been amazing characters to write about. Do real mass murderers become this detatched? (A scary thought!)
I just finished writing another blog on my "Conversations With Myself"
http://ruthakik.blogspot.com on the subject of "Making the Punishment Fit the Crime." I wonder if this applies to me? (LOL) But wait...I haven't finished yet!