Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. If they were, we all know the show would be very different.
Summary: Dean and Sam have been given a second chance to recover from their mistakes in their past lives, but some things are too ingrained, and playing a hand with all the cards dealt against you is a tough game.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to bungee and to mein twin, memphis86, for looking this over.
Notes: Sanderides is Sam's past life version and Alexion is Dean's past life version. This chapter is divided into two parts for length.
Chapter 4, part 1
Alexion forgave Sander for Cynane. There was nothing to forgive really. He let it go, and Gods only knew how much she needed Sander after Amyntas was put to the blade.5 The Prince had little of Cynane’s love, but he’d been her sole link to stability after Phillip’s assassination, and Alexander’s rise to the throne.
He couldn’t bring himself to begrudge her the link she had to Sander through their darling daughter, Adea. They were on a royal outing in the rooftop gardens, Babylon’s great pride and joy. Cassandra and the others were organized around Alexander’s queen, Roxana, simpering and pretending to love her. Alexion found the entire thing mildly amusing, but also incredibly depressing. Sycophants swarmed Alexander these days.
Alexion sighed. There was good food, he had the promise of Sander’s company later, it was best not to dwell on what he could not change. He smiled, watching Sander chase Adea through the blooming shrubs, scooping her up as she screamed with laughter and twirling her about.
“She looks like him more than me,” Cynane said, as she dropped down next to Alexion on a puffy chaise.
Alexion was about to answer when a smooth voice inserted itself into the conversation, “They will be fine features on a girl child.”
Alexion and Cynane looked up to see Fabius.
“Oh hello, Magister Equitum6, are you enjoying the gardens?” Cynane offered. Alexion’s eyes nearly dropped out of his head at the sound of her sharp insult. She should have learned to curb her tongue by now, but Alexander had always thought his sister’s acerbic wit was amusing. He could only hope Fabius didn’t erupt in the famous ‘Latin rage.’
Fabius laughed. “Hardly even so high, my lady, but you remind me of my manners. Forgive me for eavesdropping.”
And suddenly, like Sander, Cynane was won over. He grew increasingly more bored and annoyed as they babbled on about horse flesh, traveling around the Mediterranean, and fabric dyes. He didn’t have the first two words to contribute. All of the traveling Alexion had done was on the campaign trail, and one could hardly call that relaxing or fulfilling.
Fabius was the most well-rounded person he’d ever come across, and usually Alexion was brilliant with new people. He could make them laugh, and his looks did the rest for him. Something about Fabius just rubbed him in nine directions, and none them the right one. Sander caught his eye and despite his discomfort, he couldn’t help smiling.
“He’s your lover?” Fabius’ voice broke through his thoughts.
“Pardon?” Alexion looked up, Fabius watched him earnestly. Cynane had left.
Fabius chuckled. “Sander,” he nodded at the tall man, “He is your lover?”
Alexion was struck dumb. Everybody knew of his relationship to Sander, but it had never been put before him so baldly before, especially by someone he knew not at all.
“I—yes,” Alexion said after a long pause.
Fabius eyed him for a moment. “I’m sorry, I have made you uncomfortable.”
Alexion got to his feet and was silent for a moment, eyes sweeping the garden. He looked back down at the Roman. “I just wonder, what business it is of yours?” He walked off before Fabius could reply and joined Sander who was teaching a rhyme to Adea under the shade of a peach tree.
Adea’s eyes lit up and she threw herself at her father’s lover. He hoisted her up. “Hello, lovely.”
“Have you brought me candy?” she lisped out from the circle of his arms, cheek pressed to the bare skin of his chest. He looked at Sander above her head who was watching them with liquid soft eyes and before he could stop himself leaned in to press soft lips to Sander’s own.
Sander smiled and whispered against his lips, “Someone will see.”
Adea giggled at being sandwiched between the two warriors and thumped a fist on Alexion’s chest.
“Pay attention to me, ‘Lexion,” she said mangling his name. “Candy!”
Sander rolled his eyes heavenward and Alexion shook his head. “You eat so many sweets already, I’m sure if I was to take a bite out of you, you’d taste just like sugar cane.”
“Would not!” She thumped on his chest again.
“Well that’s good then,” he stated, voice serious, “because I have Melaka.” He placed her on her feet and offered her a linen-wrapped packet of sticky brown squares of molasses. She grabbed the packet and ran off to her mother who was speaking quietly with Alexander on the royal dais.
Sander groaned. “She’s going to drive all her maids to distraction tonight.”
“Oh come now,” Alexion shoved at his shoulder. “You remember how you were about candy at that age.”
Sander snorted and shoved his companion back. “If I may be so frank, I do believe you are talking about yourself!”
Alexion shrugged and allowed himself to lean against Sander’s side. He felt calm like this, surrounded by greenery with the warm sun beating down.
“Your wife will see us and then—”
Alexion shushed. “She won’t.” He looked up and scanned the garden anyway, eyes roving over the groups of merry-makers. Wine was flowing liberally despite the early hour. Ptolemy was playing a dice game with one of the courtiers with Antigonus egging him on. The rest of Alexander’s retinue seemed to have disappeared under the women’s skirts. It was not Cassandra’s gaze he encountered, but Fabius’.
Sander liked Fabius Maximus Rullianus. They could speak for hours on the subjects of geography and philosophy and history. Fabius said there were few Roman historians, mostly they studied their Greek and Persian counterpart’s texts. He was well-versed in Herodotus, Thucydides, and Pan-Hellenic history and he was especially fond of Xenophon.
“All you Romans are!” Sander laughed. “You live and love by your horses, how could you not revere the ‘horse whisperer!’”
“He wrote some excellent poetry,” Fabius replied.
“Oh poetry,” Sander rolled his eyes. “You should speak with Alexander, he has a great love of poetry, especially Homeric verse.”
“I don’t think your King has much time for scholarly pursuits these days.”
They were out in the streets of Babylon, Sander was giving him a tour. Alexion was busy with his wife, again. Cassandra had grown increasingly demanding upon her husband’s time, and while it irked Sander, he couldn’t fault her. Their first son had died in childbirth not two years past. Cassandra’s family suffered a surfeit of girls, and needed a male heir from their eldest daughter.
“Do you miss Macedon?” Fabius asked as they stopped to inspect a tanner’s wares in the marketplace.
“More than I miss Mycenae,” Sander replied honestly. “I have land in Macedon, inland in the farming country, I do not get to go there often.”
“No I should suspect not,” he bent over a sword belt. “My family does not have land, it is not allowed.”
“What?” Sander asked, surprised.
“The Fabii are one of the oldest Patrician families, and the law prevents Patricians from owning land.”
“But that makes no sense,” Sander said as they moved on to another stall. “Where do you get your income?”
“Trade, war, princeps sennatus—not all avenues are closed to us. It is true, many of the Equestrians are far richer than we, for they are not bound like the plebs to the city, nor us by the law.” He purchased a kid-skin saddle pack, the iron ring on his right hand glinting in the sun as he handed coins over.
“I will never understand your system,” Sander replied, mystified. “You change rulers each year, and yet their will is absolute—how do you get anything done?”
Fabius laughed. “We do not have as many poisonings as you Achaeans7”!”
Sander thumped him on his shoulder, but his eyes were smiling. “I suppose that is a virtue.”
They walked back to the palace for a light supper of bread and roast lamb. “I miss Rome terribly,” Fabius said after they finished eating. “I wish I hadn’t had to leave it in the manner I did.”
Sander rested his chin on his fist, but didn’t say anything.
“It was my own fault,” Fabius continued, “I could’ve waited for orders from the consul, but I was rash.”
Sander gazed at him. “The way I understand it, you won the war.”
“But at the price of my home.” Fabius stared off into space, lips tilted into a frown.
“Listen to you,” Sander said, tossing an olive pit at the Roman. “You were protecting something you love, and that is worth any price.”
Fabius was silent, but he nodded his head. Sander had resolved himself to be quiet for the rest of the evening if that was what Fabius needed, but the other man spoke up finally. “I like you, Sanderides.”
Sander raised his eyebrows. “I am glad.”
“No, I mean it,” Fabius replied, vehemently. “You are not like the others here, nor like any Roman I have met.”
“Perhaps, because I am not from Macedon or Rome,” Sander offered gently.
Fabius chuckled, graceful features lighting up. “You are very practical, and your Alexion doesn’t like me one bit.”
“Perhaps he is right not to,” Sander said slowly. “I am beginning to suspect you have designs upon my virtue.”
Fabius dipped a finger into his wine and looked up at Sander. “Did he romance you in the same bumbling way that I am?”
“Oh, far more bumbling and far less romance,” Sander laughed. “That has not been our way.”
“You love him very much,” Fabius said softly, sadly. Sander wasn’t quite sure what to do or say. He knew what Fabius wanted. He wasn’t a fool, he could see what was written in the Roman’s gaze. But he couldn’t give it to him. He didn’t even want to, as much as he liked and respected him, for all that he was a handsome young man.
“I have been with him since I was a mere fourteen turns, and while it has not always been a pretty courtship,” Sander paused, “he is everything.”
Fabius got to his feet, moving to quit the room. Sander hoped it would not be awkward between them the next day. Alexander wanted him to give Fabius a tour of the practice yards and he could hardly say no to his liege. He did not think Fabius would spit upon his host’s wishes either. He was almost startled when Fabius turned around.
“There will always be a place for you at my table in Rome, Sanderides of Mycenae, always.” He turned again on his heel and left the room, the crimson of his cloak flaring out behind him. Sander stood up and took one last look at their demolished dinner, blowing out a puff of air. Gods above, he’d never had to deal with that before.
He desperately felt like finding Alexion.
Alexion shouldn’t have left Cassandra’s side last night. He really shouldn’t. She was a good wife, for all the feuding she did with Sander, and she loved him. But he couldn’t help it. The night had been balmy and it was that day that Sander had given the damned Latin his tour around the city.
He didn’t like the way Fabius looked at Sander, or the way he laughed with him, or the way everybody thought he was a veritable Apollo reborn. If he was being honest with himself, he’d realize that a deep abiding hatred always welled up at the very sound of his name. It was unfortunate, because he was the only damn thing people wanted to talk about.
He left the room, quietly extricating himself from his wife’s grasp and pulled his tunic over his head, he barely bothered with his belt before he was vaulting over his balcony into the gardens. He just needed a walk to clear his head, and then he would go back to her.
That’s what he told himself anyway, he didn’t count on finding Sander staring out over the city alone, shoulders hunched and head bowed. He walked up behind him, wrapping an arm around his waist.
Sander turned in his arms, tucking his face against Alexion’s neck. “I told myself I wasn’t going to look for you.”
Alexion’s hand dipped down the back of Sander’s tunic, running over the skin of his shoulders. “Why?” he whispered into Sander’s hair.
“You were with Cassandra,” he replied simply, eyelashes fluttering against Alexion’s neck. The older warrior inhaled and gripped Sander tighter.
“You can always look for me when I’m with—”
Sander laughed and kissed the corner of Alexion’s mouth. “Don’t finish that sentence, you’ll regret it.”
Alexion ignored him. “Tell me what’s on your mind.”
Sander pulled back and smiled mysteriously, before laying a chaste kiss on Alexion’s collarbone. His tongue darted out between his lips, and then he pulled away again. “Don’t worry about it.”
He never went back to Cassandra that night, but woke up wound around Sander, his back sore from being contorted around the other man, and a pleasant ache in his thigh muscles. It felt wonderful, and yet horrible at the same time. He’d left Cassandra’s side after she’d pleaded with him to stay the night. She’d taken the loss of their unborn son very hard, and he wasn’t making it any easier by always abandoning her for Sander.
“You feel guilty,” Sander stated, no nonsense, into the soft wool blanket.
He nuzzled Sander’s back. “I didn’t realize you were awake.”
“Mmm hmm,” Sander rolled to face him, “I could feel the guilt like a tidal wave.”
Alexion buried his face in Sander’s chest before answering. “She gets lonely sometimes, I don’t—I don’t make it easy for her.”
Sander sighed, but allowed Alexion to continue.
“She asks for things I don’t have to give,” he said softly. It wasn’t anything Sander didn’t already know, but Alexion felt like he needed to repeat it. “I’ve already taken my heart and placed it inside your chest,” he whispered, palm over Sander’s heartbeat. He looked up and the other man’s eyes were soft.
Alexion wanted to apologize to him too. He knew he didn’t make it easy for Sander either, in fact, it was probably harder for his lover than it was for his wife. The words just wouldn’t come.
“I’ve got to get up,” Sander changed the subject. “I promised I would escort Fabius around the yards.”
Alexion collapsed onto Sander with a groan. “Don’t remind me!” It was childish to hate Fabius so, but he couldn’t stop himself and Sander with him—he feared the overtures that the Roman would make. Not that he doubted Sander, but with times like they were—well, he wasn’t even sure he could blame the young warrior if a dalliance with the hero of the Samnite Wars did happen.
Sander laughed, drawing him out of his despairing thoughts, and shoved at Alexion’s shoulder. “Get off me, you big lug, I’ve an obligation.”
Alexion bent his head to lick a swirl around Sander’s nipple. “You don’t really want that.”
“Oh Gods,” Sander moaned, back arching off the bed. “Alexion, that is not fair! I shall think on Fabius if you don’t stop.”
Alexion jerked upright. “You will not!” That was a horrifying thought.
Sander slid out from underneath him, grinning. “It got you up, didn’t it?” Alexion knew his expression was pouty and bewildered at the same time. He sat up, drawing the covers around him, and crossed his arms.
Sander found his distress hilarious, he was still chuckling as he dressed—first a tunic of unbleached cotton, then a banded belt in crimson, and a cloak to match. He made quite a figure. Gods above, he hoped that it was Alexander who had ordered the stiff-necked wardrobe, rather than Sander dressing to impress.
“Put some clothes on!” Sander told him, tugging on the folds of his cloak.
Alexion made a face. “Why?”
“Well you could parade naked in front of Fabius, and I’m sure you’d make him very jealous, but I’m also sure the palace courtiers would never look at you the same again.”
“What?” He was confused. “Make him jealous?” What in the name of Hades was Sander talking about?
“You’re coming with me!” Sander stated, exasperated. He yanked the covers off and went to shove Alexion out of the bed. Alexion could hardly let himself be man-handled, so it quickly devolved into a wrestling match.
Sander huffed at him as he tried to twist Alexion’s arm behind his back. Alexion dodged out of the way, catching both of Sander’s wrists, and rolling them both over. He jerked Sander’s arm at an unnatural angle, and watched, satisfied, as the other man winced.
“I only think on you, idiot!” Sander bit out between grit teeth. “I thought we understood that already.”
Alexion pulled off triumphant, stepping out of bed to look through Sander’s clothes for anything that fit. “I just wanted to hear you say it.” Sander sighed, pulled himself out of bed, and made a face at the state of disarray his clothing was in. Alexion thought he looked charming.
They took Fabius to watch the specialized infantry drill in the yards, Sander speaking animatedly with Alexion as his silent, brooding shadow. He didn’t feel any better about Fabius even after Sander’s declaration.
The infantry were casting spears at sand bags that hung from a rough wooden bar. Fabius was awed by the number that struck home. Alexion had to carefully reign himself in from making a caustic remark.
They went next to the stables. An entire string of Blood Bays had been brought from Abyssinia just that day. The stable-master and a clerk were going over them for the records. Fabius had hopped the corral fence before Sander or Alexion had even blinked, and mixed with the herd. The two Achaeans looked at each other and shrugged.
“These gems are wasted on you Macedonians,” Fabius said, looking into the eyes of the boss stallion.
“We can fetch a saddle for you,” the master stableman said, leaning on the fence, craggy face cracked into a grin.
“Nay,” Fabius declined, rubbing the stallion’s proud neck. “On another occasion, perhaps.” He hoisted himself up over the fence, gesturing at the two warriors to lead on. As they walked he asked about the Greek Phalanx, how it was made up, and its most effective uses. Sander and Alexion explained how the army formed an arrow-head to break and scatter the enemy lines.
They came to the sparring courts, where Philotas and Perdiccas were battering at each other with shields and spears, laughing every time the other got knocked off his feet. The rest of Alexander’s guard were milling about and jeering them on, waiting for their own turns on the soft sand.
They watched in casual silence as the point of Perdiccas’ spear came up in a kill-stroke against Philotas’ jugular. The other man yielded with a smile, wooden shield dropping in the dust.
“Who will go next?” Antingonus called, slouching on the fence rail. “Alexion?”
Alexion raised his palms and shook his head. “I’m busy.”
Fabius stared hard at him. “I will fight you.”
Alexion’s eyes jerked back to the Roman and the lounging warriors sprang to attention, waiting to see what Alexion would say. They sang of Fabius’ deeds far and wide, Alexion could very easily end up looking like a fool. His shoulders drew up tense and he had to fight not to look at Sander for assurance.
“All right,” he said finally. Fabius smiled and stripped off the rich green cloak he was wearing, accepting the proffered leather padding, as well as a shield and spear. Alexion had a stable boy fetch his gear from his rooms. The youngling returned looking harried, Alexion could tell he’d run into Cassandra, but he had brought Alexion’s wooden practice gear in perfect order. He pressed a silver piece in the boy’s hand, and watched with amusement as he scampered off to show the other lads.
He stripped down to his tunic and secured the studded leather padding around it, watching with narrowed eyes as Fabius did the same. The guard remained eerily silent, and Sander’s face was carefully blank. If he lost in their home territory—well, he’d never forgive himself. He was sure Fabius knew it. He shook himself of his thoughts and leapt over the fence, smoothing the unsettled sand with his foot. Fabius followed soon after.
“On your mark,” he told the Roman, stance easy and relaxed, hiding how tightly he gripped the haft of his spear. Fabius nodded, hefting his own spear in his grip before charging forward, spear raised high. Alexion spun, shield rising to deflect the blow, the crash was deafening. He grinned at the Roman and jabbed lazily at him twice before coming down hard with his shield. Fabius avoided the blow and returned quickly, blunted spear whizzing by Alexion’s shoulder. They sparred, meeting each other’s blows with the staffs of the spears, back and forth, circling each other in the sand. Fabius was good, no, he was excellent, but Alexion was already detecting weaknesses in his guard.
They came up locked, body to body, and Alexion used his superior height to thrust him away, slamming at him with his shield for good measure. Fabius struck back, clipping his cheek and nearly forcing him to stumble. Alexion narrowed his eyes and swung his spear in a crescent, causing Fabius to jerk up short, before following it with a fast jab to his stomach. They met with another deafening crash, Fabius kicked out, shoving Alexion back and away. He grit his teeth, the place where the wood had met his skin burning. Fabius was going in for a downward stroke, hoping to trip him up, when Alexion spun again. He hit Fabius across the cheek with the back end of his spear, following it rapidly with another one across his chest, and again to his stomach, quick enough that the other man couldn’t get his shield up.
Fabius expected another blow to his front guard, he never even suspected the spear snaking around his legs to pull his feet out from under him. He landed hard on his back, Alexion’s spear pressed hard across his throat, only a hair’s breadth from drawing blood.
The rest of the guard broke the tense silence by whooping, thumping each other on the back, like they had personally accomplished the victory. Sander was hiding a grin behind a fist and Alexion couldn’t help smiling at him. Transferring his spear to the same hand as his shield, he reached down to help Fabius to his feet.
“No hard feelings, Fabius,” a voice said from outside the fence. The two men in the ring turned towards it. Alexander stood leaning up against the fence dressed in a simple white tunic with only leather arm guards for decoration. “Alexion is our best.”
Fabius nodded, lips curling into a half-smile. “It was a good fight.”
Alexion drew him in to thump him on the back. “You Romans have gotten so good at your cavalry charges, you’ve forgotten the fundamentals.”
Fabius laughed and then said below his voice, “I can see why he loves you.”
Alexion took an abrupt step back, merriment leaving his face. Fabius cocked his head and smiled before turning to give his shield and armor back to its original owner. Sander quirked an eyebrow at him as he shook his head and swung himself over the fence. Fabius was a strange one. That was the only explanation. Saying stuff like that in the practice ring? Was he looking to get himself staked to the fence for his presumption?
“Well?” he asked his companion.
Sander shrugged. “Didn’t doubt you for a moment.”
“Oh?” he said, feeling Fabius’ eyes on the back of his head.
Sander looked over Alexion’s shoulder, his expression inscrutable. His gaze returned to Alexion’s face. “I’ve been fighting against you for years.” He reached out and clasped Alexion’s forearm. Alexion gripped his back.
Alexion looked hard at his face, wondering what was going on behind that smooth façade. He hated it when Sander retreated behind his walls like this. “Did he try something?” he whispered furiously.
Sander’s fingers tightened around his arms. “Don’t worry.”
Alexion sighed. “I don’t—I mean, your time is your own and if you wanted—”
Sander rolled his eyes. “Nothing happened, and nothing ever will. I don’t want anything to happen!”
Alexion swallowed, heart dropping out of his throat. “You—I—so much—”
Sander nodded and interrupted him, “I know.”
Alexion sighed and dropped his head, wishing he could lean forward into Sander’s embrace, but even Alexander would not be that forward with Hephaistion, neither could he.
He looked up again and caught Cassandra standing rigid behind Sander, arms clenched into fists and expression like ice. He felt his earlier unease rise to choke him. Sander saw his expression and turned, eyes falling on Alexion’s wife. He dropped his hand from Alexion’s arm and stepped away, expression cold and reserved.
Alexion would have to face this one alone.
Cassandra had come to the end of her tether. She did not share, and she would not share, of all things, her husband. Least of all with Sanderides of Mycenae, who was utterly without prestige or personality. He was a common warrior. A prince in Mycenae perhaps, but a nothing here in Babylon.
He had outstayed his welcome. Drawing her husband out of their marriage bed? She could kill Alexion for that, let alone that pompous and conniving Sander. But she was a smart girl, and she wasn’t the type to grin and bear it. Nay, she was a woman of action and words. And oh she had words, after the hollow way Alexion had looked at her when Sander had walked off, she had plenty.
She’d startled all of her maids by hurling all the crockery in her joint apartments with Alexion around. The first to go had been the Mycenaean imported vase. She didn’t even want to think of the kingdom, let alone having a part of it inhabit her living space.
Tulia and Livia, both slaves from Rome given to her by her parents, had cowered as plates and earthenware smashed against the walls. The very of audacity of Sander astonished her. She had set a condition, she had told him, that it would end when she married Alexion. And now, five turns later, she was still living in his shadow, still fighting for affection from Alexion that was, by all rights, hers.
Tulia was trying to sweep up the broken crockery, but Cassandra thrust her aside.
“Leave it!” she told her and stepped gingerly over the shards, to pick up her cape. She had a visit planned. Surely, Olympias would listen to her. The Queen Mother had been the one to broker the marriage between Alexion and her family to begin with.
She swept through the palace halls. Ordinarily she would’ve stopped and wished pleasantries on the courtiers she passed. The Babylonian princess and her retinue were sitting in one of the galleries gossiping and laughing, but she had no time for that. Luckily, the Royal Mother was in residence, rather than in Macedon, watching over the regent Antipater8.
She sped down the corridor towards Olympias’ apartments, cape snapping behind her. She paused when she reached the door and took a moment to compose herself. It would do no good for Olympias to think she’d come in a simple fit of rage. She knocked gently on the door and it swung open readily, one of Olympias’s slaves standing at the wait.
“Could I have a moment with the Queen Mother?” she asked in her most deferential tone. The slave lifted a finger telling her to wait and shut the door. Cassandra waited in the hall, hoping that Olympias wasn’t in one of her moods, and completely unwilling to see anyone other than Alexander.
The door whispered open and the slave stood back, gesturing her into the rooms. “She will see you.”
A girl led her to the sunken bath where Olympias was luxuriating, surrounded by maidens washing her back and pouring perfumed oils on her. Olympias gestured them away at the sight of Cassandra.
“You have a favor to ask, Cassandra,” Olympias said, stepping forward in the water, “I can see it on your face.”
“I—yes, my lady.” Cassandra dipped her head into a bow.
“Well, ask,” Olympias replied, no nonsense, arms crossed and eyebrows raised high.
Cassandra paused for a second before finally giving in. “My lady, I want you to talk to Alexander, see if Sanderides can be sent on campaign for one of our allies.”
Olympias laughed, not kindly, Cassandra drew back stung. She had not expected this reaction from the Royal Matriarch.
“Alexander will do no such thing, he is fond of young Sander.” She allowed the maidens to pour water over the rivers of still-black hair. Cassandra suspected that she dyed it.
“But surely some disgrace can be arranged and he can be sent away!” Cassandra sputtered.
“No,” Olympias said simply, pointedly and turned her back on the girl.
Cassandra breathed out, frustrated. “My lady, I do not see why he is so important.”
“He cements an alliance with the Mycenaeans, Cassandra,” Olympias told her, rising out of her bath, still glorious at her age in her nudity, “Whatever his failures might be elsewhere.”
“And while Alexion’s attention wanders to Sander, my belly fails to grow quick with child!” She wished there was more crockery to break.
“That is not Macedon’s problem, and until the day he ceases to be an asset to this house, I will surely not have him sent away.” An attendant wrapped Olympias in a gauze robe. She took pity when she saw Cassandra’s face. “Come, Cassandra, you could always take a lover of your own, someone high born, to give you a son.”
Cassandra gasped. “My lady, I assure you that my family would never sully their name in such a way.”
Olympias inclined her head. “Then it seems I can do nothing for you.” Cassandra nodded at the dismissal and showed herself out. She sank back against the wall in the hallway. Outwardly, she appeared calm, but internally she was seething. The little bastard had friends in high places, friends that she’d thought to call her own. She was foiled again.
Courtiers backed out of her way as she went back to her quarters, eyeing the manic expression on her face. She slammed her way back into her rooms and leaned back against the door. Livia and Tulia had gone, leaving her alone. She sank to the floor. If no one would help her get her way, she’d have to do for herself.
Sander heard rustling outside his door and looked up from his reading. He’d been back on his land in Macedon for a little less than a week, and he’d intended to keep up with all of the scrolls he’d missed during the exhausting campaign season. The servants never came to this part of the house at night. He snuffed out the thick candle, set the scrolls aside carefully, and got to his feet, listening at his door.
He heard it again, a quiet whisper of sound, like clothing rustling. Somebody was inside his house. A thief? His hand went for the knife resting on a table next to the door. He hefted it into his palm and then slowly opened the door, hoping its horrible creak wouldn’t give him away.
He slipped into the quiet hall, skirting past the light pouring in through the windows. There was a cloaked figure of a man standing at the end of the corridor. Sander had a knife to his throat in a matter of seconds.
“What are you doing in my home?” he growled, voice like steel, wrenching the man’s neck back. The man didn’t reply and Sander could only just make out his expression. “Well?” He pressed the blade in further, watching as shining blood ran in rivulets down the man’s throat. It looked black and viscous in the light.
He was about to demand an answer again when he felt a the white-hot pain of a blade slide in under his arm between his ribs. He gasped and dropped the blade from the first man’s throat. He hadn’t even considered that there would be more than one. A fatal mistake. His hand caught in the first man’s cloak, tugging it away from him, and suddenly the light hit design embroidered on it—the crest of Cassandra’s house of the book and snake. It would be her, he thought dispassionately as he turned and slashed across his second assailants face.
The man shouted and then shoved Sander away from him. He fell over a table with the giant porcelain bowl detailing the muses. It had been his mother’s. The crash it made as it hit the floor reverberated through the quiet house, but Sander’s own precious breathing sounded loud in his ears. He was losing a lot of blood, it was everywhere, the floor, his tunic, he could feel it sticky on his face.
“Master?” Asidula, the mistress of the house, came hurrying at the disturbance, cloak drawn up tight around her throat, and started screaming at the sight of Sander lying on the floor in dark puddle of blood.
“Run!” he told her weakly. “Run as fast as you can!” He coughed and felt more blood come up his throat. Asidula was already tearing through the rest of the house, calling for everybody to wake up.
Sander tried to pull himself to his feet, but was kicked to the floor a second time. The first man stabbed him again in the stomach, eyeing Sander as he writhed and moaned in pain feeling stomach acid and blood mix, his precious organs tearing. He looked up at the man, he could make out the faint outline of blunt features twisted into a scowl.
“Where is the honor in this?” he asked, hand trying to staunch the blood from his abdomen. It was a lost cause. He knew he was dead.
His murderer didn’t answer, just fled the hall towards the servant's quarters.
He heard the sound of the rest of the household struggling against the two men. They hadn’t a hope in the world. They were farmers, not fighters. The screaming intensified until it was ringing in his ears. He couldn’t see straight anymore, and the floor felt like it was spinning. He turned and looked out the large window, the moon was a large slice of lemon in the sky. As he coughed up more blood his thoughts turned to Alexion, who was supposed to arrive on the morn to stay with him through harvest time.
He would’ve liked to have seen him one last time.
1Babylon became the royal seat after Alexander successfully took the city in his war against Darius III of Persia during the Battle of Granicus.
2 Gens Fabia was the family bearing the nomen Fabius. They were one of the leading Patrician families in Rome, and had a near monopoly on political power during the Republic.
3 The Heracleidae were the many offspring of Heracles. Mycenae had been under the rule of the Atreid dynasty (most famously Agamemnon of the Trojan War), the Dorians, who in literature were viewed as the gathered Heracleidae, returned to Peloponnesus to claim what was originally theirs. I have no idea how exactly Mycenae had any tie to them, but whatever. They won basically, and divided Peloponnesus up, which began Mycenae’s decline. By Alexander’s time it would have been small and well into decline, a mere principality under Argos’s rule.
I have changed that to fit my story because I liked the idea of Sander being Mycenaean. In my version I like to think of the ancient Mycenaean strong-hold being given to one of the Heracleidae to rule. Hell, there were a lot of them. It’s not that far out of the question.
4 Herodotus of Halicarnassus was a Greek historian, the father of History in fact, he was known for documenting his travels and giving an account of the Greco-Persian War. Livy relies on him heavily at the same time that he criticizes him—Livy kinda was a bitch, though. The Heracleidae were mentioned briefly in Herodotus, but they are notably absent from accounts by Homer or Hesiod.
5 Amyntas was executed by Alexander when he ascended the throne.
6 A Magister Equitum is the second in command of a general, it literally means Master of the Horse. They could be Plebeians as well as Patricians. Fabius was the Magister Equitum for Lucius Papirius Cursor, who he offended when he acted without his orders, engaging the Samnites at Inbrinium and leading the Romans to victory. He was the hero of the Samnite wars, but Cursor called for his death on grounds of treason. Only the intercession of Fabius’ father spared his life. In this story he is absenting himself from Rome, waiting for things to cool down.
7 Achaeans were one of the three names used to collectively denote Greeks. Sander, by virtue of being from Mycenae, would have called himself an Achaean. However, Alexander and Alexion and the rest would have claimed descent from the Argives. The third term is Danaan.
8 While Alexander was off questing, he left Macedon in the care of Cassander’s father, Antipater. He would later prove himself untrustworthy, so it was just as well that ever-mindful Olympias watched him so closely.