A Bloodline of Kings

CHAPTER ONE
Fourth Child 383 B.C.


a

She lifts a hand to wave off the swarm of gnats, as the cart plods along the dry rocky path. Marnike, seeing her wave as a summons, rushes over the stones to her side, “Madam, is there something I can get for you?”

“No, no, Marnike, unless you can shorten this ride, get this incubus baby out of my belly, or...” but Eurudike’s voice trails wearily. “No, Marnike, there is nothing I need.”

The cart jerks as the mules pull it forward across a seam of rock. “Maman, maman, are we there?” The voice of a six-year old girl calls from inside the cart.

“Shush, Eurunoe, don’t wake your brother. You must nap a while longer.” Though how she can nap under the still heat of the cart’s canopy is beyond Eurudike.

Beside Eurudike, the driver shifts, spits to the side of the road, “Your pardon, Madam, but while we’re moving slow, we are moving steady. We should make the city before nightfall. And we’ll be stopping at the woodmen’s village when the sun is at zenith.”

Eurudike knows her present condition is temporary. After four months away in Larissa, she should be pleased at the return to Aigai. But she feels anger. This is not the return for which she longs. Rather than trudging back to ancient Aigai, she would have them all marching on Pella to regain the whole of their lands.

How can anyone be angry for two long years? But she is. Two years in which they have held only the rump of their kingdom, while others have despoiled their wealth. Two years of hearing condolences, excuses, patronage from official friends—like the Aleuadai of Larissa, that rich, large ruling clan, the proudest of the Thessaliotes, yet unable to offer more than sympathy. Two years of plotting revenge on Argaios or, more importantly, since he is a mere puppet, on the Olunthians.

And when they reach Aigai, the sight of her husband, the king, won’t assuage her anger. True, she will learn the extent to which his separate mission to Epeiros has succeeded, and his latest letter claims much, yet he is ever optimistic. In her view, he will remain who he is, the fumbler who lost them their throne.

When she was young, and her father gave her to Amuntas to seal the alliance between the highlands and the lowlands, her expectations had been grand. She knew she would face the scorn the lowlanders feel towards the highlanders, especially for those highlanders whose lands march to the borders of the Illurian tribes. But wasn’t her blood from the royal houses of Lunkestis and Orestis? What were these Temenidai, for all their pretensions, but latecomers from the far south to the Argeadai clan of the Makedones? And are not the highlanders true Hellenes? True to the ethos of an older time?

Yes, high expectations. Though she was young, barely of an age to marry, and Amuntas, even then, was past his prime, still he was the new king. And she was the wife of his kingship, the queen. Her children would rule. Not his first family, despite their pure Temenidai blood. Those great dullards, having too many cousins as ancestors.

Eurudike smiles wryly at her reveries, tries to imagine that eager girl she had been. To be honest, she despises the bitterness in which she dwells. She had been a happy child. She longs to feel meaning for herself more than being simply a vessel for her male children.

The baby moves within her, perhaps pricked by her thoughts. So you’re a manchild, too, Eurudike thinks. Three children already, and now a fourth. Well, this will be the last. The image of Amuntas’ lined, sagging, hairy body comes to mind. Yes, the last. He doesn’t have it in him to father more, not like that bestial Bardulis in his mountain lair, still fathering warriors even though the Illurian was an aged man, older even than Amuntas.

Tiny fists pummel inside her, and she gasps. Marnike, trudging beside the cart, reaches up a hand to steady her, “If not today, then tomorrow, I think this child will come.”

Silently she agrees with Marnike. The baby has dropped, ready now to push its way free of her. Well, she will be glad to be free of him, even if it means pain. Isn’t pain of some kind always part of being alive?

The baby becomes quiet after its shifting, and Eurudike returns to her memories. Amuntas always maneuvering, trying to hang onto his throne, needing some outside power to prop him up, to hold the kingship around which all the wolves circle. Now it is the Spartans he courts, the revulsion flowing within Eurudike. Spartans to counter the treacherous Olunthians. Before the Olunthians he had sought support from the Athenians. And it had been the Thessaliotes who had rescued them in their first year from the depredations of Bardulis and his tribesmen. Always someone to help.

This need is because he is no more than the first among equals within his own lands. All the lowland chiefs quarrel incessantly. What leadership can you expect from a family that kills its own brothers, nephews, cousins? Still, Amuntas is a survivor; one of the least branch of the Temenidai, yet king late in life even if he must wrestle with distant cousins.

A memory of Amuntas laughing and proud at the birth of their first son, Alexandros, comes to mind. Laughing, head thrown back, bristly beard jutting, his favorite horn mug with its mouth of gold raised high, “Madam, madam, you do me honor. We will secure our children in these lands down through time.” A vain boast he had made. But even in her bitterness, that phrase from her husband the king, “Madam, madam, you do me honor...” has the power to please her.

Up ahead a rider comes slogging back down the pathway, past the struggling column of carts, peasant spearmen, and retainers. She can see the rider is not from the column but is one of her own people from Aigai. As the rider comes closer, she realizes it is Ptolemaios, and her interest quickens. He has seen her party and urges his mount forward.

“Queen Eurudike, the king has asked me to see to your welfare.”

“Ho, cousin, you come alone. Is it your sword that is to see to my comfort or is your command more sweeping than mine?”

Ptolemaios laughs, “Neither, dear lady. I am only the token of the king’s good earnest, and could not for myself think of anything more pleasant than to see to your care.”

“I fear you spent too much time in Athenai learning to compliment women.”

“I assure you, cousin, that the men of the south think of good women only in terms of bloodlines.”

Thinking it little different in the north, Eurudike responds, “And what do they think of bad women?”

“If accomplished, as charming companions; if not accomplished, then they don’t think about them at all.”

Ptolemaios’ good humor refreshes Eurudike, making her feel both queen and woman despite her stomach’s gravid girth. Yet why good humor, knowing how much he, like her, resents this near exile? “So, how do you propose to help our journey along?”

Ptolemaios waves in the direction of Aigai, and Eurudike sees his servant coming leading fresh horses. “If your maid assists you, I thought we might mount you on that gentle mare. I have food and drink awaiting at the village which is just beyond the bend, down the hill and out of these trees. From there, we can make Aigai earlier than this cart.”

“Perhaps you are god sent, Ptolemaios.” Turning to her woman, Eurudike says, “Marnike, tell Kleipha to come up and stay with Eurunoe and Perdikkas. Then you help me ride with Lord Ptolemaios.”

b

“I tell you, Amuntas, these Spartans will make harsh taskmasters,” Derdas mutters.

“Derdas, you are young,” the king smiles easily, nodding in the direction of the porch, where Eudamidas, the Spartan commander, is in council with his officers, “they are powerful now, and will do to break the Olunthians for us. You know what they have done in Epeiros. Alketas is driven out. Yet they do not understand the north; do not understand what makes the Epeiriote king an ally of Athenai. In time, Alketas or another of his family will regain his throne and rule Epeiros. So, in time, we will regain Pella, riding on Spartan backs. Yet they will not remain to command in strength in the north, and in due course we will prevail because we are the north.”

“I would still feel better if Medeios had been able to lend his family’s strength.”

“The Aleuadai must face their neighbors in south Thessalos. They have enough on their hands. Before long you will hear them pleading for our help against their cousins.” Amuntas smiles again, thinking of the pleasure it will be to aid Medeios of Larissa, both to repay the kindness of the past and to possess the strength to help friends. “So long as you and I stand together, Elimiote and Makedone, we will outlast our enemies.”

Eudamidas abruptly dismisses his men. “Set a smile on your face, Derdas, we must again pay court to the might of the south,” says Amuntas. The Spartan commander comes striding across the large reception room, his boots rapping their progress on the floor’s mosaic. “My officers tell me that inadequate ground has been allotted for our encampment.”

“Our apologies, Eudamidas. Let me have one of my companions arrange that your force stay on the grounds of Herakles’ temple. I fear we have been too casual for you,” Amuntas suggests brightly.

“Wherever, so long as the ground is well drained yet clear water is within easy reach.”

“Certainly. That is what recommends the temple. You will experience some strong winds at times, but in this warmer weather your men will find it refreshing.”

Eudamidas nods, “So it may be.” He turns to Derdas, “You have riders out scouting as I directed?”

“Yes, my own people. I have also sent a body of mercenary foot to the crossing at the lower Haliakmon. They might as well earn their keep.” “Good,” a tight smile crosses Eudamidas’ face, “We could use a stronger force. We can't expect our main body this year.”

“I’m sure they could be here this year if you Spartans didn’t feel required to overawe the Boiotians,” comments Amuntas.

Eudamidas grimaces, “We've been through that. We are enough for what we intend now. You doubt that you will regain Pella this year?” “Please don't think my observation a criticism, commander.” Amuntas smiles readily, “For my part, I can no more stop speculating than water can stop flowing downhill.” Yet Amuntas knows that the Spartan is thinking who is Amuntas to complain or, even, scheme. Given how useless the Makedones are at war, with their heedless gentry horsemen and their cloddish cowardly peasant foot. Spartan valor, discipline and arms give Sparte the right to decide fates and command others. “I realize the advantages you bestow by assisting us to regain what is ours. And the advantages you also gain by preventing Olunthos and its allies from becoming overmighty.”

“As the first state of the Hellenes, we have a responsibility to assure stability,” responds Eudamidas. “Certainly, commander. And a stable north gives no leverage to Athenai while offering Sparte a safe road to Persia,” smoothly agrees Amuntas. How little the Spartans understand the north, thinks Amuntas.

Derdas, restless with these trite niceties, interjects, “I will rejoin my troops tonight. You can count on the weight of my horse to screen the army. In two days, I will want to cross the Haliakmon to secure new grazing. That will also put more pressure on Olunthos.”

“Excellent. We will be able to follow you once Amuntas' foot and his queen have arrived.” Eudamidas is pleased.

“Derdas, you will stay long enough to greet Eurudike?” asks Amuntas.

Derdas laughs, knowing how nervous Amuntas is over the smoldering Eurudike. “Cousin, I am at your side through whatever food you serve to feast your companions, but then I depart.”

Feeling relief, Amuntas is again struck by how much he relies on Derdas. How strange are ways of the gods, who determine where friendship will rest. Derdas is a contrast to Amuntas—for the Elimiote king is intense, dark, brooding, easy to anger. Physically, Derdas is short, bright eyed, full of energy, and at age 29 almost thirty years the junior of Amuntas. Ten years ago, Derdas killed the then king of the Makedones in answer to an insult. In so doing, he made way for Amuntas. They have stood by each other ever since.

A clatter of sandals follows the pattering of bare feet in the corridor. In a moment, the boy, Alexandros, rushes in followed by his panting tutor. “Ho, father, the column is in sight and mother is in the lead with Lord Ptolemaios.”

c

Kleopatra watches from the recesses of the stairwell. Torches light the feasting room where Amuntas offers to his guests boar haunch, pigeon, roast deer, and lamb with the breads, cheeses and fruits of his lands, all awash with wine and ale. Amuntas himself is roaring with laughter, as the clan leader Iolaos leads the group in a bawdy lowland song. Contradictory emotions move in Kleopatra. Satisfaction that the servants are efficient, for they are under her hand. Mild derision at the foibles of men in drink. Pleasure that Amuntas is again in Aigai. Resignation that Eurudike will again assert her own management of the household. Certainty that Amuntas must be told that his wife is in labor. Yet none of these emotions are for others to see or know. For Kleopatra, it is enough if those who are not Temenidai feel awe for her and that those who are Temenidai feel either reverence or dread.

Was she not the wife of the last two strong kings of the Makedones— father and son? And her own boy, son from the second marriage, briefly enthroned only to die. Yet she made certain her granddaughter was given to Amuntas, even as he sheltered Derdas, her son’s killer. Her boy, really a fool, so young, arrogant, certain of himself and his authority as king—as if kingship alone created authority when, if truth be known, a king must expend great effort to gain and hold authority or he won’t be king for long. Yes, she knows what kingship is. Thus, Amuntas needs her, as she needs a king.

Still she watches, not ready to interrupt. Amuntas is doing one of the things required of a king. He is charming the powerful into obedience. However much Eurudike writhes in producing this child, it is only a fourth child. If a girl, then a coin for alliance. If a boy, he is a long way from the throne and, possibly, trouble for the successor, as her first husband's brothers were for him. She admires Amuntas, though he probably doesn’t know it. Others, like Eudamidas the Spartan or her granddaughter, Eurudike, may feel contempt for Amuntas, but Kleopatra knows that Amuntas will hold the throne as long as he has life. Beneath that bulk, that gray, that smile—he is tenacious and guileful. He will ride the wild horse that is the Makedones. If thrown, he simply remounts.

The long song is over. Amuntas, beaming, yelling obscenities, is bringing Iolaos two mugs abrim with red wine. That’s right, thinks Kleopatra, bind Iolaos to you. His family has been a pillar for the Temenidai since the first when the three brothers came down from the mountains. Iolaos, who tries to knock some skill and bravery into those crowds of peasants you summoned; Iolaos, whom you need to secure your rule.

Kleopatra steps forward. On seeing her, the men quiet, like sheep under the shepherd’s gaze. Ptolemaios points Amuntas in Kleopatra’s direction. “Lady Kleopatra, what news?” shouts Amuntas.

“Queen Eurudike's labor has begun, my king.”

Immediately, Ptolemaios, Derdas, Iolaos and the others raise a cry, “King Amuntas, may Zeus protect you and your own; may the child of your loins be born strong and with the favor of all the gods.” Those without cups in hand quickly grab up theirs and in near unison the northerners in the hall down their drinks, then scream a piercing war cry. Eudamidas and his officers, not to be outdone by a barbarous libation, declare their own praise of the father and his child—but in the refined phrases of southern Hellenes. Laughter, jokes heavy with sexual humor, soon wash through the room.

Throughout, Kleopatra stands regally, waiting. Slim, erect in posture, tall for a woman, hair piled high in silver abundance, she is an arbiter of behavior.

Amuntas breaks away from the group of couches and its crowd of men. He is drunk but not far gone. “Well, Kleo,” he says softly, familiarly, “how does my lady bear up?”

“Eurudike will bear this child as well as the first three,” dryly replies Kleopatra. “You may want to visit your children and let them know your concern.”

“Yes, she is a good bearer of children. Yet Gugaia died hard trying to give birth to our fourth child,” Amuntas reminds Kleopatra of his first wife. Those words leave much unsaid. Three boys of that first union, estranged from their father. Not any father, but a king. Not boys any longer, but men. Men who gave covert support to their father’s rival, Argaios. A fact that Amuntas has chosen to ignore, though the sons have been secretly warned to be gone from Pella, back to their rural estates, before their father arrives with his Spartan allies. Amuntas’ words usher to mind the contrast of his two families.

“Eurudike is not Gugaia,” asserts Kleopatra. “She is a tough mountain woman for all that she is queen and lives in the lowlands. Come, leave your drinking companions. Find your children. Be ready to see your wife when her ordeal is done.”

d

“Kleipha, Kleipha, bring more hot water. Hurry, girl, hurry,” Marnike calls impatiently to soothe her own misgivings. Eurudike is at a crest of hurt, loosing inarticulate exclamations of feeling. Then, the trough beyond the crest, a moment to gasp air, and the pain starts rising again. “You're doing well, dear lady, doing well,” croons the midwife, “the baby is coming, not much longer, push now lady, push, that's it, harder now, push.”

Marnike joins the chant, her mouth by Eurudike’s ear, “Push, push, you’re almost there, push.” A wild hand of Eurudike's is grabbed and squeezed, held, while the queen’s moaning climbs. Push is the pulse beat of pain.

Then the baby is in the midwife's hands, red, seeming wizened, slimy. The cord is cut. An angry, furious cry proves the baby's health. Though Eurudike takes little notice, as her body pushes out the after-birth.

“You have a boy, dear lady,” coos the midwife. The women in the room raise the cry of a manchild. The goddess Hera is invoked, as is the kindness of the Moirai. The midwife sprinkles herbs in a cup as Kleipha pours the steaming water. The cup is given to Eurudike's lips. Other herbs and water are mixed to begin sponging mother and child.

Eurudike lies aching, her genitals, hips, legs numb in parts and in parts throbbing, but all distant now. Sweat cools. She is tired, ready to rest. But a part of her mind is still active. She had known, a boy, another boy. Three boys of hers to secure the throne in her line.

A small wet mouth is put to her swollen breast. The sudden touch creates happiness, relief. No longer queen, she is mother.

e

Amuntas sits on the floor of his daughter's room. Alexandros and Eurunoe sit on the day bed facing their father. All are dressed in white wool chitons. They are waiting for the nurse to finish dressing Perdikkas. They are also waiting for Kleopatra to summon them.

“What name will you give the baby?” asks Eurunoe.

“Well, if the baby is a girl I thought Adea after my mother or Berenike after your mother's mother. If a boy, then Philippos.”

“Why Philippos, father?” asks Alexandros.

“Do you remember the history of our family?”

“Yes,” says Alexandros, though there is doubt in his voice, “Wasn’t Philippos the enemy of King Perdikkas the Second?”

“That Philippos was both brother and enemy to Perdikkas. And brother to my grandfather. But I am speaking of an earlier Philippos. The kings of old were from Perdikkas the First to Argaios to Philippos to Aeropos to Alketas through the regency of Menelaos to Amuntas the First to Alexandros—your namesake and a great king—to Perdikkas the Second to Arkhelaos to the time of troubles and pretenders to now, my reign.” Amuntas pauses, smiles, proud of being king, proud to be of this bloodline of kings. “That earlier Philippos is the one whom I would honor. Let me tell you a story of his time.”

“In those days, we ruled the regions of Pieris and Emathis from here, holy Aigai near the Haliakmon river. The same lands that have stood by us while Argaios pretends to be king in Pella. When Philippos ruled, it was before we defeated the Eordi. Our firm allies then, as now, were our cousins, the Elimiotoi. And, in those days, we could count on the other cousins, the Lunkestoi and Orestoi, your mother’s people, for then, of course, we were all more closely related.”

“A people named the Almopes lived in the basin of the Upper Astraios River, bordering Emathis. There had been many disputes over grazing, hunting, feuds and rapes. As always, we Makedones were growing, thriving, while the Almopes were an ancient, barbarous people still clinging to dying gods. The disputes gave rise to war. Philippos led our people against the Almopes. He cleared the basin, forcing the surviving Almopes to disperse. A part of these people climbed the mountains of Barnous and, reaching the other side, were welcomed by an Illuroi tribe.”

“The Illuroi, learning from these fugitive Almopes of the wealth of the Makedones, made common cause. A combination of Illuroi kings and a prince of the Almopes led countless warriors into the Astraios basin. Philippos had returned here, to Aigai, to lead the purification ceremonies. A general named Kallias was overseeing our new settlements when the wild tribesmen swept into those lands. Many of our people died. Kallias rallied our fighters and held the valley mouth long enough for many to escape, but then was overwhelmed.”

“The Illuroi entered Emathis for the first time since we had joined Pieris and Emathis into our kingdom. Panic reigned. Many fled. King Philippos sent word to our cousins for aid but did not wait. He rode forth, with his infant son, leading a small band of companions. As he rode, he held up his baby boy Aeropos to be seen by all the fleeing bands of country folk. With each passing stade as each group of refugees was met, they, seeing their king with his infant prince, stopped running. Men, women, boys, and, yes, even girls, turned, stripping limbs from trees, picking stones from creek beds, they followed their king.”

“Soon they were a host, angry, righteous, determined. Near Mieza, they found the Illuroi and Almopes. And with the sight of the enemy, the day, which had been gray, rainy, saw the clouds part, letting the sun of the Makedones pour down, blinding our enemies. Philippos and our people did not hesitate. Though the Illuroi are terrors as fighters, berserk in their glorying of Ares, that day Herakles joined his children, the Makedones, and we slaughtered the heartless raiders, pursuing them to the very banks of the Astraios.”

“And so Philippos regained all that was lost. And the people had a new pride and sense of being favored by the gods. For the remainder of his days, Philippos ruled wisely over a peaceful land.”

Kleopatra, standing at the door, claps her hands in praise. Having the attention of the trio, she says, “My king, your queen is ready to receive you. I have Perdikkas waiting for you as well.”

They follow Kleopatra and her servant, who is holding a torch, down the corridor. At the door to the next room, the sleepy three-year old Perdikkas, in the firm hand of his nurse, Toli, joins their procession.

Together they reach the birthing room where all is now placid. The women of the household have dispersed, their duties and ceremonies over. Amuntas enters the dim lit room. His wife is tired but alert, lying on the couch, the infant asleep beside her. Marnike sits on the floor next to the bed, smiling. “Ho, little mother, you are well?” asks Amuntas. Seeing Eurudike nodding, he adds, “So, have you given us a boy as you expected?”

“Yes, Amuntas, you are a begetter of men,” even now there is an edge to Eurudike’s response, for the compliment references his first family as well as the royal family.

The children crowd in. Perdikkas is least inhibited and quickly touches the infant, “Ma, me not the baby any more; now me have a baby.” The claim is greeted with laughter from all.

f

Marnike sits carding wool in preparation for spinning. Eurudike lies quiet on the day bed, thankful she had ordered it brought out to the porch so she could feel the breeze. Beside her, tucked into a cradle, the baby Philippos sleeps. Distantly, they can hear young Kleipha playing hide-and-seek with Eurunoe and Perdikkas. But this scene of domestic lassitude is a facade, for within Eurudike feels turmoil.

She relives in her mind the departure of Amuntas. There stands her husband, big, bluff, hearty with the assurance that Pella will be his within days. The Spartan, Eudamidas, is mounted, looking down on Amuntas with that air of an eagle disdainful of a crow. Yet it is Ptolemaios, lifting her son Alexandros easily into the saddle of his mount, who seems the brightest, clearest. It is this realization that makes her tense: that if any one of them should die in the coming attack, she does not want it to be Ptolemaios.

Ptolemaios of Aloros. Whom she has known since she was a child. Ptolemaios, her cousin. Why him?

Has she ever known Ptolemaios not to be right? Not to do what needs doing? Not to be certain of himself? Not to be able to command others or, if junior in rank, not to lead by example?

Eurudike thinks back over the years. When she was twelve, her uncle had come visiting with his family. At the evening meal, the betrothal of Ptolemaios to Apollonis was formally announced. The men talked of Apollonis’ dowry; how well her lands in Orestis matched the lands held by Ptolemaios. In addition to lands already granted in Orestis, Uncle took that moment to grant Ptolemaios his great estate in Aloros. Wealthy through his father, wealthy again through his wife’s dowry, handsome through the grace of the gods, with the blood of the Temenidai in his veins through his mother, he could easily have been a distant, haughty prince. Yet to her, he was attentive, finding as much pleasure in their conversation as in the conversations of his peers and seniors.

Eurudike’s father, Sirrhas, was a prince, warrior and hunter of high renown, so his regard for Ptolemaios, both as nephew and as a man, spoke well for Ptolemaios’ future. The day after the marriage announcement, before the men departed to hunt, Ptolemaios asked her to display her riding skills. Skills in which she trained for her indulgent father. Despite her anxiety at performing before the men, especially Ptolemaios and her father, she still controlled her horse exquisitely, putting the animal through intricate steps then racing over hurdles as if she, too, were a hunter and warrior. Their praise had warmed her, for her childhood was not long in praise. Ptolemaios had helped her dismount, holding her hand firmly as if she were to be his bride.

Now, in her late twenties, married herself, she believes there is a connection between the two of them that goes beyond kinship. Perhaps the warmth of her feelings is no more than sympathy, for Ptolemaios is recently a widower. Only one child survives his marriage to Apollonis, an eleven year-old boy named Philoxenos. She has no strong impression of the boy.

Perhaps Apollonis had too little northern blood and too much of her mother’s people. The mother, a southern Hellene whose father had played court to old King Alexandros. Perhaps that explains the early deaths of all but one of Ptolemaios’ children.

“Madam, will you want to dye this lot red?” Marnike interrupts her reverie.

“Yes, if we use the alkanet roots that came from Miletos it will give us a brighter red than the madder.”

Marnike nods, “There is enough of this fine wool for several garments. Are you thinking of clothes for the children?”

“Well, no. Perhaps a matching chiton and himation for the festival of Dionysios.”

“All red?”

“Accented with black piping and tassels. For the fibula, my heavy gold pin that has the enameling of a raven.”

Marnike mutters something softly disapproving to herself, and settles back into the rhythm of her work.

Smiling inwardly at Marnike’s doubts, Eurudike is again struck by how few want to think beyond tradition. Perhaps it’s that the passage of days seems unchanging and unending to them. For herself, she sees ceaseless change. Rarely dramatic, but constant. A philosopher might argue that she catches only the surface of things and that behind the surface are principles of trueness that never vary. Well, she lives in the world of men. Men and gods. Their living, struggling, dying are her concern. What exists beyond death or beneath the surface of life she will learn in time. She will leave that until then.

Beside her, the baby stirs. She hopes he will not wake for he seems greedy for her milk. She touches a finger to the swollen nipple beneath the fabric of her robe. Tender but not sore. Within an hour or two her breasts will want that hungry little mouth.

She is glad that he is the last child. She can see an end to the constant demand of children, to the drag of them upon her skirts, upon herself. There is wonder in how they grow. Aleko now off with his father to wars and not yet eight years old. Aleko who is so solemn and big eyed. Eurunoe with her wavering cries, her shyness, her desire to hide. Perdikkas who is into everything, whose chubby legs are always in motion from the moment he wakes until he collapses in sleep. Perdikkas the impetuous—how she loves the boy. If she had been a boy she would have been Perdikkas.

Now this one. She looks at the baby, restless in his sleep. Who will you be, Philippos? Like Perdikkas, he seems active, alert. With only a few days out of the womb, who knows who he will be—if he will even survive the wilderness of childhood ills. Well, with Aleko and Perdix in front of him, he will be no more than a princeling if he proves himself useful and an exile somewhere if he isn’t.

End of Chapter 1




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