I can’t get the widget – humble apologies. If you have a Firday snippet up, leave your blog URL in the comment section. I got this idea from Gabriele (the Lost Fort). Thanks Gabriele!
In this snippet from ‘Time for Alexander’, I try to answer the question that has plagued historians for ages. ‘Why did Alexander the Great go into Bactria?’ Why not stay and rule Babylon, as he’d planned?
Ashley has been separated from Alexander for nearly a year, imprisoned in Mazda. She escapes and manages to make her way to Babylon in time for Alexander’s coronation. After sending him a message, she waits for him in a priestess’s quarters.
I turned back to the window. The sun was setting, and orange shafts of light glittered off dust floating in the air, cloaking the city in a nimbus of gold. The priests in the fifty-three temples of the city blew their trumpets as soon as the sun disappeared below the horizon. My skin prickled. Trumpets filled the city with their brassy wails. The last notes died away. The air seemed to settle, and there was a silence.
In the quiet I heard his footsteps and rose to greet him.
He hesitated in the doorway. He had changed in one year. His face was harder, and he was thinner. His skin pressed against his cheekbones, and his eyes were greener. The jaguar stared out of them. His mouth had a different set to it, one I’d never seen. His hair was cut short and lifted off his temples and the back of his neck in fine curls. It was no longer gold; it had reverted to its normal color, warm brown. It made his skin whiter. It turned whiter still when he saw me, and he stood quite still, not even breathing.
I froze. My breath caught in my throat. Then I felt the hot rush of blood in my cheeks and I swayed forward. “Alex,” I breathed, and fainted.
He caught me before I hit the ground. He hadn’t lost his extraordinary speed or grace. He picked me up and held me to his chest, calling my name until I opened my eyes.
“Is it really you? Are you back to stay?” he asked. He started to laugh, or maybe it was a sob. “Ashley of the Sacred Sandals indeed. Your nose is bleeding again.”
I looked down and saw the scarlet splash of blood staining my robe. I put my hand up and stanched the flow. “It’s just nerves. I have so much to tell you, and we have no time.” I could hardly look at him; everything I’d lived through in the past year was like an explosion inside me that I had to defuse somehow. I took a deep breath to steady myself. “We need to speak.”
“We can talk in front of her. We may need her help, and she has something important to tell you.” I wiped my face with the hem of my robe.
Nabonida paled, but to do her credit she didn’t try and wriggle out of it. She told Alexander everything she knew. While she spoke she took my soiled robe and handed me a clean one. I put it on and turned to Alexander. He was looking at me with a queer expression.
“Your body?” he said falteringly. He raised his eyes to mine, and I read the unspoken question.
I told him about our son.
When he heard about the baby his face twisted and he buried his head in my chest. I held him. I could feel him shaking, but when I saw his eyes I realized it was from rage.
Afterwards, Nabonida and I sat while Alexander paced across the room. His fury was terrible, but mine was equal to his, and our eyes met with a clash that could practically be heard.
“I will kill her.” His voice was as bloodless as his face.
“No.” I stood up and levelled my gaze at him. “No. You cannot kill your own mother. Send her back to her country.”
“No, to her own people. To Epirus.”
“Why can’t I kill her now?”
I shuddered, imagining what the Time Senders would do if Alexander killed his mother. We’d all be erased, including Paul. “Because the gods will take care of her. You have other things to do. We must go to Persepolis. We must get our son back. Please, Alex.” My voice broke. “I want my baby.”
He gathered me in his arms again and I wept. The energy that had carried me for days across the burning plains was deserting me. I was simply a mother who wanted to find her child.
It was as if a dam burst inside me then. The pain I felt threatened to overwhelm me, and I sobbed until my throat was raw. Finally the storm within me ebbed. I looked up, and saw that Alexander had wept too. Tears still glittered on his cheeks. But he pulled himself together and smoothed the hair back from my hot face.
“What did you name him?” he asked me.
“Paul?” His face fell. “Not Iskander?”
“I called him Paul Alexander.”
He tried the name out a few times then nodded. “I think I like it.”
I smiled. “I think you’ll like him, too.”
He bent over and kissed me gently on the lips, giving me goosebumps. “I love him already. We’ll find him. I swear it. If I have to go to the ends of the earth, I will find Paul.”
‘Time for Alexander’ will be available from Calderwood Books on September 23!