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Friday, January 09, 2009

PROGRESS REPORT #49: PLANNING THE NEXT MOVE

The Building of Alexandria

I did manage to meet my deadline to complete Part VI of Shadow of the Lion by the end of the year. And by January 1st I began planning my next move: the grand finale of the novel.
Aside from some editing on the previous writing, I haven't had chance to start Part VII as yet but I do have the time-lines figured out and made plans to proceed. Meanwhile, I had to stop and get preps done for my night school and memoir classes. In addition I'll be teaching two kid's writing workshops on Saturday mornings and that required some thought. I am familiar with pre-schoolers and the 11 - 13 age group, but 7 - 10 will be something new. I started writing when I was 8, by the age of 10 I was really hooked on it, so I understand the passion some kids can have. You can't 'teach' them to write. It is a talent you are born with and what I'll be doing is showing them how to develop that talent. Should be interesting and very challenging.

Artist's concept of the interior of the Royal Library, Alexandria

I went looking for books yesterday, in particular writing books. Found a good one for writing memoirs but none that gave tips on workshops for kids. I also saw a couple of the books Barack Obama has written and I want to buy them. And another by a writer from Afghanistan who has won an award. Then I also spotted a little journal for keeping track of your diet/exercise. Something I really need right now as I'm going to try and follow the G.I. Diet plan and see if I can shed some blubber. Unfortunately when I went to buy the books I realized I hadn't brought the gift certificate I got for Christmas, so I'll have to go back later and get them. Meanwhile, my friend brought me the G.I. Diet book so I'm making my plans to get started on that by Monday.
(Cleaning no-no's out of the fridge -- put the chocolate in the freezer. Gotta get rid of the icecream by Sunday night. Etc etc).

My 'resolutions' (which are usually the same every year) are more GOALS this time. I WILL finish Shadow this year and in a very short time. I MUST get back on track with the diet plan and exercise more. So far the nasty weather has kept me housebound far more than normal. First the snow. Now the rain. But yes...by next week the snow, slush and ice will be gone and some sun is predicted. And now I know that the pool that's walking distance from my place has waterfit EVERY day including two nights, I have absolutely no excuses. And I have my wallet full of gym tickets too. So...that's my game plan...and I'll try hard to stick to it!

The Pharos Lighthouse
One of the 7 wonders of the world.


Ptolemy had a game plan too...to build the city of Alexandria Egypt in honor of Alexander. The INTERLUDE (Epitasis) of Part VI takes place in Alexandria. Ptolemy has received a letter from his friend Seleukos that Antigonos One Eye has taken over the satrapies of Asia and forced Seleukos to flee into exile. In the following scene, Ptolemy hears that his friend's ship has arrived in Alexandria.

* * *
Ptolemy felt heavy hearted as he rolled up the papyrus scroll and replaced it in the cedar chest where he kept important documents. He was hot with rage. What megalomaniac madness had taken hold of old One Eye to make him think he could rule Alexander’s entire world?

“Damnation! Is there to be no end of strife?” He banged his fist on the table so violently it toppled the ink pots. Alexandria was a veritable paradise. It had been a relief, after the years of campaigning with Alexander, to retreat here to the Nile delta and oversee the building of this grand metropolis. And now it was being threatened.

He had at first regretted his alliance with Kassandros and Lysimachus against Antigonos One Eye, when the old general had threatened to invade Greece although for some months afterwards there’d been an uneasy peace. Now it seemed the Successors had no choice but to band together against him again. Without question, Ptolemy resolved that he must help his friend regain his satrapy. He knew Seleukos to be a man of great courage and integrity. They had been friends since their youth, served as elite Companions of Alexander, and had fought in all of Alexander’s campaigns. Seleukos had married the daughter of a Persian war-lord and embraced their customs. And when he had been given the satrapy of Babylonia, he’d been well received by the Persian nobility who liked him because he shared his opinions with them.

He folded his arms and rested them on the desk, taking a deep breath as he looked around his study with it’s alabaster lamps and shelves of scrolls and treasures from all over the world. This was his private retreat where he spent hours writing and reading, and planning the building of the city that had been founded by Alexander. The affairs of Egypt were mainly routine, so he had been allowed ample time to construct various buildings such as the royal palace and temples. The workers had already completed the long mole that connected the island of Pharos to the shore and construction had just begun on a monumental lighthouse. At present, he and his architects were developing plans for a Museion and Royal Library.

His reverie was disturbed when the chamberlain rapped at the door. “My lord, the
ship bearing Seleukos, satrap of Babylonia, has arrived and he requests an audience with you.”

“Let him in,” Ptolemy said. “ tell him I have been waiting for his arrival.”

Ptolemy stood to greet his friend, a courtesy he deserved. Seleukos was just as he remembered him. Both of them were now in their forties, and like himself Seleukos was clean shaven, his hair cropped to the nape in the style Alexander had made popular. It had been several years since they’d seen each other and Ptolemy noted that his friend’s thick coppery hair was, like his own, streaked with silver. Seleukos’ strong, tanned face looked haggard, his eyes lined with blue shadows. He was less lean than he had once been, but his body still had an athlete’s firm muscles. Seleukos had always been known for his brawny, wrestler’s physique.

Ptolemy laid his arm across his friend‘s shoulders. “So, you have been chased out of Babylon, have you?” He tried to make his voice light.

Always a man of great self-respect, Seleukos drew himself up and his brows lifted. For a moment Ptolemy glimpsed that same imperious face he had known in his youth. “I have not come running to you like a coward, with nothing to offer in return for your hospitality and companionship. You know me as a man who never threw down his shield in battle.”

Ptolemy smiled, remembering how Seleukos had once killed a bull with his bare hands. They’d had many adventures together and endured the rigors of battle while fighting in Alexander’s campaigns. Seleukos had commanded the prestigious argyraspides, the Silver Shields regiment, while he himself had been appointed somatophylax, one of Alexander’s elite bodyguards and deputies.

“Did you think I intended to forsake Babylon, once Eumenes was killed?” Seleukos said, scowling. “ None of us wanted to leave our satrapies. Antigonos lured Peithon from Media pretending he was offering him support as an ally. Instead he had Peithon executed. Then he ousted Peukestas from Persis -- Peukestas who was so well liked by the Persians.“ Seleukos’ face blazed red with anger. “Antigonos has taken everything for himself -- all the land, control of the satrapies, and the money from the royal treasury, 35,000 talents. I came here to petition you, as my friend and ally, to use your influence and provide your naval strength to help us stop him.”

“Of course, without question I offer you Egyptian hospitality, my friend.” Ptolemy knew Seleukos was a just man, and trustworthy. “Together we will forge a plan to prevent Antigonos from seizing any more of the lands. and force him to give back what he’s taken.” Ptolemy shook his head sadly. “I thought the warring was over. Now I see it is only the beginning. I did not foresee what would happen once Kassandros took control of Greece and Macedon. Now he’s married Thessaloniki and made himself Regent and I fear that little Alexander, the heir to the throne, is in grave jeopardy. At least when Olympias was alive, she protected the child.”

“Olympias had the heart of a viper,” Seleukos commented. “She committed frightful atrocities against the kinsmen of Antipater. She deserved her Fate. But what of the child and his mother?”

“Kassandros claims they are safe in Amphipolis.”

“But how can Kassandros be trusted?” said Seleukos. “You know how he hated Alexander and was eaten up with jealousy. Why would he now pretend to ‘protect’ Alexander’s son? Kassandros is like an adder in the grass. He’ll strike without warning.”

“The boy is eight now, and by all accounts a bright lad, precocious like his father was,” Ptolemy said. “I always regretted that I was not made guardian of the boy. It saddens me to think that little Alexander is fatherless and so often in peril, with nobody to defend of protect him from treachery. Here in Alexandria, my own boys play as children should. There is no treason here, no dangerous plots. I must confess, I am afraid for the child.” He remembered clearly five years before at the camp by the Nile after Perdikkas had been assassinated. He had spent a day with the child (against the Soghdian’s wishes) and taken him to his tent that night. He had sat little Alexander on his knee and told him about his father, read to him from his father’s favorite book, The Iliad. He recalled explaining the meaning of moira to the child. Little Alexander had asked if his father’s death had been his moira. And now he wondered, if the child of Alexander was destined to meet his father’s same fate at the hands of the very man who was suspected in his own untimely death.

“Do you think he’ll be fit to fill his father’s shoes?” Seleukos asked.

“Time will tell. Kassandros claims the boy will be given a proper education... if he lives...”


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