by Laura Mason
For as long as I've kept this record, it has been about Alexander's life, not my own. He is my life and my king; why should today's entry be any different? Shall I burn a lamp to write about scolding the squire who broke my helmet strap while polishing the buckles? Or should I instead record that today Alexander received Nabarzanes, one of the generals responsible for betraying Darius to his death. For all we know, perhaps he is the very man who struck the botched blow that took Darius' life, which should have been Alexander's prize.
The Persian arrived, tarted up as they all appear to us. Though he seemed a shrewd man, careful with his words, he brought an array of gifts -- bribes, really, of the most outlandish nature. Of course he doesn't understand that Alexander requires none of their pomp and luxury. What we have captured from Darius and Alexander uses, the elaborate tents from Issos and such, are tokens to impress the conquered peoples. No Macedonian ever yearned to sleep in such a rig.
There were horses, in gaudy bridles with gold. And there was a boy -- a eunuch boy, equally decked in gold, obviously another bribe. Property, just like the horses. Alexander frowned to see him, but the interpreter claimed the boy was there of his own free will, having served Darius until his death.
Nabarzanes signaled and the boy approached, falling to the ground as the Persians all do, and refusing to meet Alexander's eyes until he startled him out of such slavish behavior by calling his name. That started me a bit, for I hadn't bothered noting his name. Yet Alexander had done so, and had remembered the pronunciation, despite his difficulties with the Persian language.
While I thought these things, Alexander was smiling reassuringly at the boy. It had to be from the kindness of his heart, for he didn't believe Nabarzanes' tale any more than I had. He immediately asked the interpreter to question the boy.
That question led to the boy speaking in Greek -- heavily accented, though Alexander complimented him. Well, with his own difficulties mastering language, it must have seemed amazing that this slave had been taught so much. Surely Darius didn't require such learning in all his whores and concubines. It made me suspicious, frankly, and I resolved to have all the gifts Nabarzanes had brought carefully searched for hidden weapons.
But Alexander didn't share my concerns, though he questioned the boy for being with the man who murdered Darius. He was caught up in regrets over Darius' death -- and in admiring the boy's beauty, I'm sure. Well, looking does no harm. He's been offered such things before, by those who don't understand him. He'd never dirty himself with a hireling. Whatever this Nabarzanes believes, Alexander has no need for the cold embraces of a professional -- and no desire for what masquerades as love, but is really acting and practiced skill.
Nabarzanes was sent on his way, pardoned, and doesn't seem likely to cause more trouble. The horses and other bribes were sent off with my men, who have searched them and found nothing dangerous. And Darius' boy -- well, he was found this evening in Alexander's tent, where he had been waiting since after dinner. I was pleased to see that Alexander, being no fool, searched him for weapons when he found him there, but it seems the boy merely thought he was wanted this evening. I teased Alexander for misleading him. The boy's Greek is not as good as it seemed, which will only make it more difficult to put him to some real use in the camp. But that isn't my concern, thank the gods.
Now that I glance back at what I've written, it seems I could have saved my ink for another, more significant day. Aside from recording that another fallen enemy, once-treacherous, gave his allegiance to Alexander -- oh, and of course that my helmet buckles are still tarnished -- there was nothing of import to record today.
Back to the Mary Renault fiction page