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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PROGRESS REPORT #35: BESIEGED



I've spent the last days writing and will do so again today. It's important for me to stay focused and work through the difficult chapter segments which are leading to the finale of the story. Yesterday I was still reeling over an incident at my writer's group on Monday night. I have decided that the best way for me to personally resolve this is to move on. At least until the toxic situation is removed from the group. I doubt very much it will change so long as this person is still attending as his issues are psychological and perhaps even pathological. I just can't expose myself to this any longer.

It makes me sad to have to step out of the group which I've belonged to so for so many years. But it's to save myself from future incidents and protect my Muse, because it takes me days after these encounters to get back my balance and to be able to think properly and proceed with this very crucial stage of my writing. I have to protect myself at all costs. And at this point my creativity is more important that being in the group and subjected to the unpleasantness this other person brings into the group.

Yesterday I was happy to get back to my waterfit class and I even picked up a strip of gym tickets so I can start working out again. Then I met another writer friend for coffee and we had a long walk back home. I spent the afternoon editing and taking notes for my novel and my travel web site. Today I'll be writing most of the day (the weather has turned foul again!)
and tonight I look forward to my novel writing class. My classes are the highlights of my week and always fun places to be. That's the way my critique group used to be. But not any more. So sad!

At this point in my novel, I'm setting up the siege of Pydna which leads to the demise of a couple of my precious characters and sets the stage for the final act of the tragedy. It's tricky putting your head into that of a military strategist. Having those notes about ancient Pydna certainly helped set the stage and I have reviewed my research notes regarding the sequences of events that lead to this final stand-off between Olympias and the antagonist Kassandros. Fortunately it's one part of the history that seems to be laid out clearly except for the time sequences, but I think I've safely got those covered. So today I'll continue taking notes and making additions to what I've been writing over the last few days. The weather, having turned gray and chilly again, makes it easier to sit at the computer and plod along!

Meanwhile, inside the fortress at Pydna:
Olympias lay on her couch contemplating the Soghdian’s strange snake dream. What prophecy was this? While she meditated, she was aware of the muted sounds of voices outside. Soon the sounds grew louder and she heard the ring of armour, the thud of feet and a rumble of guards’ urgent voices. Someone banged on the door. Alarmed, she called out and the door burst open. Commander Kronos entered. His face looked drained and drawn, ashen coloured as his beard.

“Madam, a day runner has brought news that Kassandros and his army have sailed into Dion. He bypassed Thermopylai by sea and is encamped at the holy precinct.”

Olympias stiffened and tried to hide her shock. Dion, one of Macedon’s most holy sites at the foot of Mount Olympus, was only a two-day ride from Pydna.
“What of Polyperchon?”

“The Regent has withdrawn his troops from the Hot Gates and has retreated to the mountains in Thessaly near the Epiros border.”

Until then, Olympias had considered Kassandros’ threats no more than one of the hundreds of tribal skirmishes both Philip and Alexander had successfully put down during their reigns. Even that old goat Antipater had little problem squelching these incessant clan quarrels. She’d had every confidence that Polypchercon and their allies would drive their enemy back. Now, reading between Kronos’ unspoken lines, she shouted, “We will not
ever surrender!”

Kronos stared at her with incredulity. “What are we to do then, Madam? We are greatly outnumbered here at Pydna and Kassandros has blocked the way through the Hot Gates, so there is no way Polyperchon can bring his troops back to Macedon.”

“He will find a way over the mountains through Epiros.“ Olympias got off her chair and began to pace the room.. “The insolence of Kassandros setting up his stand at Dion. He knows we can not fight him there because it’s sacred ground. We will have to wait until he advances north. Then we will set a snare and trap him.”

“But how, Madam? Where will we find more troops? Even the Epirotes have defected. Kassandros men have infiltrated their ranks and convinced them to return home. He has even sent envoys to Dodoni to treat with the young king, your grandson, Neoptolemos.”

“The wretched usurping swine!“ Olympias cursed. “How did everything turn so quickly? We had strong allies...”

“Hubris, Madam,” Kronos said. “ Polyperchon was too sure of himself. He didn’t count on Kassandros infecting his troops like the plague with promises of gold and glory. Kassandros has welcomed and rewarded anyone who defected.”

Olympias heard every word, but the news left her mute with shock. Half of her was thinking her own thoughts, plotting her next move. Macedon’s allies and even her own countrymen, the Epirotes, were now in Kassandros’ pay. How did it happen?

“ May vultures eat their livers!” she raged. Everything became clear to her then. She thought back on the omens indicated in Roxana’s strange dream. “We will sever the head of the serpent and save Macedon from its deadly venom,” she proclaimed. “Gods damn Kassandros.. We will not let him defeat us.”

“Winter is coming, Madam. We must leave here -- retreat to Pella,” Kronos urged. “ If you stay here, you risk starvation, or you’ll freeze to death -- to be sure a more merciful end, my Lady, than capture by your enemies.”

Olympias held her ground stubbornly. “Alexander survived worse in the
mountains of Asia. We will too!”

Kronos shook his head. “I beg you, Madam. Leave while you still can.”

“No!” she shouted obstinately. “We will stay here. As soon as it’s sailing weather, Eumenes’ warships will come with the new troops. I know he will not let us down. Eumenes will be faithful always to the Macedonian royal house.”

Kronos’ arms fell to his sides. He shifted his tall bulk and gave a resigned shrug. “Very well, Madam. As you command!”

After he went out, Olympias sat immobile, staring at the marble bust of Alexander on the plinth by her bedside. In the dim light she saw the shine of his eyes as he gazed back at her. She put out her hand to touch the sculptured curls. Her fingers brushed the cold marble. She remembered how, whenever she had caressed Alexander’s hair it always seemed to spark.

“My son!” she declared. “Polyperchon may be losing his battle, but we will not lose ours!” She remembered the bloodless victory she and the Molossians had at the Epiros border when Eurydike’s troops had turned and ran. She would rally her Molossions . They were fearless warriors and she knew they would stand by her. Nobody would dare fight the mother of Alexander. Kassanros’ troops would turn tail and run, just as Eurydike’s had.


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3 comments:

Sam said...

I'm sorry about the writer's group. I know what you mean though. When I'm upset, there is no muse, there is nothing but a rather unhealthy dwelling upon the problem that I can't possibly solve, but which, as you put perfectly, unbalances me.
I wish I could learn to let things slide - like water off a duck's back. Wouldn't taht be nice?

Anyhow, lots of (((HUGS))
And great excerpt!!!!!

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks Sam. Yes, I recall the words of my chinese tai-chai master:
"Keep your thinking!" and removing myself seems the best solution. I have a lot of literary connections here including my classes so it's not as if I'll be bereft of contacts. In fact there's no end of groups, classes or events to attend where I can rejuvenate my creative juices.
Settling in for another day of seige but also trying to convince myself a few hours at the gym would be a good idea!

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