Recipe for Scrumptious Brownies
4 oz dark unsweetened chocolate, 2 sticks sweet butter, melted. Melt chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler and add melted butter. Stir well. In another bowl, mix 4 eggs and 2 cups granulated sugar together until creamy.
Note: I used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup light brown sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Blend chocolate/butter mix with sugar/egg mix and add 1/2 cup of flour. You can also add a cup of crushed walnuts or pecans if you like.
Butter and flour a rectangular baking dish. Pour in batter and bake in a preheated 350°F (220°C) for 25 minutes or until middle is set. Do not overcook! Let cool and cut into small squares.
Note – I eat these hot out of the oven, when they are still gooey – I take a chunk and put it on a scoop of ice-cream!
Excerpt from The Road to Alexander
We walked through the doorway to find Darius sitting pensively on his throne.
He was taller than I’d expected. Most of the people I’d met were of medium height. Darius, when he stood up to greet us, towered over me. He was nude, except for a golden chain around his neck. Nudity was so common that I’d ceased to be aware of it. The soldiers went around unclothed, and in the villages children were nude. Persian men wore very brief loincloths. Women wore robes or belted a cloth around their waists, although slave women were often naked. Alexander chose the Greek mode, which meant he wore a pleated tunic or slung a short cape over his shoulders. Today he wore his tunic.
Darius’s hair was long, black, and wavy, brushed back from his high forehead. He was clean-shaven; the beard he wore on ceremonial occasions was in his hand. It was made of finely knotted black silk.
He looked at his beard and then placed it gently on the seat of the throne.
“It’s yours now,” were his first words to Alexander.
“You can keep it.” Alexander’s voice was neutral. It almost sounded like pity, and I looked at him sharply. So did Darius. For a second his eyes flashed, and I saw a glimpse of the king he’d been.
“Thank you.” His voice was careful too. They talked about the battle, verbally dancing around each other like fencers. Neither gave the other any advantage, but there was an undercurrent of sadness in Alexander that I could not fathom. Darius was puzzled as well, because after an awkward silence, he motioned toward the table where a tray of fruit sat. “Would you like some figs? They’re fresh. I imagine you’ve been living off dried ones during the march.”
Alexander said, “No thank you.”
Darius nodded. “Ah well. How’s Statiera?” It was almost an afterthought.
“She’s well. She’s ruling Babylon.”
He looked surprised. “Oh? And your mother?”
“I sent her back to her own people. It was either that, or kill her.”
Darius froze. I held my breath. He turned his head very slowly and looked at me for the first time. He had long-lashed, honey-brown eyes. Vanity prompted him to line them with kohl, making them appear even larger and more brilliant. His face was dark and his eyes were lighter than his skin, like a lion’s eyes. And like a lion he blinked and looked away from my gaze. “So you knew,” he said.
“Why did you think I came after you?” Alexander’s voice rose, a note of anger in it.
“Oh, I suppose I’d guessed.” Darius shrugged and took a plump fig. He squeezed it appraisingly and then put it back in the bowl. “You want the babe.”
“Where is he?”
“Is it true she’s a goddess?” He wouldn’t look me in the face and I found that disturbing.
“It is.” I was startled by Alexander’s answer, but even more startled at Darius’s next question.
“Tell me when and how I shall die, Goddess.” He was staring out the window, bracing his hands against the sill. His body was all flowing lines and muscle. I couldn’t help admiring his physique.
I looked at Alexander who nodded once.
I drew a deep breath. “You’ll be killed by someone you trust before the summer ends.”
A shudder ran through his body. When he spoke his voice was broken. “The child is in the hands of a Bactrian satrap. I gave him to a caravan going east. He’ll be in Bactria in the spring. The babe is marked by the goddess. He’ll come to no harm.”
I put my hand on Alexander’s arm to steady myself. “Why?” I whispered.
“Because of the oracle,” said Darius. He sighed and then looked at me at last. “When Olympias came to the city she had the babe brought to the temple of Marduk. She was going to sacrifice him. An oracle told her that the babe would be her downfall. In a way, I suppose it was true. However, my astrologer said that if the babe died I would lose everything that was dear to me. I love my daughter Statiera more than all the gold in this city. And I love her more than my own life. How long do you think she would have lived if you had found out that your child had been sacrificed on the altar of Babylon’s god? Now she is the Queen of Babylon. The babe is safe, but the prophecy said one more thing, Iskander, about you.”
“What did it say about me?” asked Alexander.
“It said to ask her.” He pointed at me. “The oracle said, ‘All Iskander’s questions can be answered by the child’s mother.’ It claimed she knows all.” Then he turned to the window again. “Ask if you dare,
Iskander. I did.” His voice was almost inaudible.
I would have run out of the room, but Alexander caught my wrist. He bowed to Darius, and made me bow too, although Darius had his back to us and was staring out the window. Alexander knocked on the door, and Lysimachus let us out.
“He can see anyone he chooses,” said Alexander.
“Anyone?” Lysimachus looked surprised.
“Anyone. He’ll be trusting no one now.” He looked at me with flinty eyes as he said this, and I quailed.
When I got outside the palace, I gulped the air. The atmosphere had been suffocating. Darius was doomed.
I had hated Persepolis from the moment I’d entered it. Perhaps it was the emptiness of the city. No one had ever lived there. There were no women, no children, only Darius and the soldiers. Or maybe it was the pall of smoke that hung low in the sky. Thousands of men were clearing the bodies from the battlefield. The dead soldiers were being cremated, and the smell was ghastly. Darius had lost nearly half his army. The rest of Darius’s men had either been absorbed into Alexander’s army, or if they wouldn’t swear allegiance, sent to the mines as slaves.
Alexander brooded as we walked. Several times he made as if to speak, but each time he fell silent. At first, I wondered if he were thinking about the men he’d lost, and their families’ grief when the news arrived. Then I saw him looking at me out of the corners of his eyes, and I realized he was thinking about what Darius had said.
I reached out and touched his arm lightly, meaning to comfort him, but he flinched.
“All right, that does it!” I stopped in the middle of the path and folded my arms across my chest. “We have to talk about this. It will do no good for you to go on sulking.”
He spun around and faced me, his eyes blazing. “Sulking? Sulking, am I?”
“Yes.” I glared back at him, but I couldn’t stay angry long. My eyes softened. “Oh Alex, I’m sorry. I never should have said anything to Darius. It was a mistake, I admit. I regret it and I wish you had never made me do it.”
“Made you do it? I made you do it?” His anger was terrible to behold. “I told you not to!”
“You nodded!” I was furious. “You nodded your head like this!”
“That means ‘no’!” He sputtered. “Everyone knows that!”
“I forgot,” I said miserably. “I’m sorry. Where I come from that means ‘yes’.”
“Where do you come from?”
I shook my head. “That means no, where I come from. And I can’t tell you.”
We stared at each other. Alexander’s face was paler than usual, his forehead damp. “The gods are playing with us,” he said slowly.
“Perhaps it’s true.” I couldn’t face him anymore and I turned my head.
“Oh, no, you don’t.” He took my chin and made me look into his eyes. “How do you know he will die by the hand of someone he trusts?”
I shivered. I would have to tell him, and by doing so change the course of history. A sharp pain was starting in my toes and I wondered if it was the erasure that was beginning. In a moment I would disappear. Probably writhing in horrible pain. I glanced down, expecting to see my feet disappearing but no, it was just Alexander, standing on my foot. “You’re on my foot,” I said, pointing.
He cursed and stepped backwards. “I need to know. Are you really an oracle?”
I shook my head. “No, I’m not. I’ve never even seen an oracle, and I don’t know what they do, or how they act. When I was in the palace, all I could think of was my baby, and that Darius had kidnapped him. I was angry. I said something I regret. If it turns out to be true, we’ll talk about it then. Right now I’m just glad to be out of there and away from him.”
“He was a great man,” said Alexander.
“But you’re a greater one.” I touched his face and then pulled him towards me and kissed him. “And you’re the best kisser in the world. Who taught you?”
He opened his mouth to speak then snapped it shut. “My mother was right. All women are sorceresses.”
My mouth twitched. “For once, she was probably right.” I linked my arm through his, and he didn’t pull away. He was not convinced and was still angry, I could tell. He hadn’t forgiven me, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d have some serious explaining to do. Bleakly, I wondered what I could invent.