Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 21


September 27

Eurydice listened to the report of the maid, and as she listened a fury grew in her heart. She had trusted Seleucus. He was an older man and had seemed to understand what she was going through with Philip, and what she was trying to do with the army and the regency. But he had been agreeing with Antipater, calling her a spoiled child and a flighty little girl, too stupid to be anything but a mattress, and not pretty enough for a good mattress.

Now, she believed. Now, she believed every word Attalus said about the ship. “He shall not cross!”

“What?” the maid asked. “Who shall not cross?”

“Never mind, Damaris. You have done well.” Eurydice gave the girl a silver coin. The who was Antigonus One-eye, even now marching his army up to the river. She now understood that if Antigonus crossed that little creek, she would lose her bid for power. She couldn’t count on Seleucus.

“Damaris, have my armor brought. And call my personal guards.” As the girl turned to go, Eurydice added one more command. “Quietly, Damaris. No fuss, no fanfare.”

* * *

Two hours later, dressed in his armor, Antigonus One-eye rode toward the little bridge with a dozen picked men following him. And there across the bridge, came a girl on a large chestnut charger. It had to be Eurydice. What did the girl think she was doing?

He reached the bridge and was met on the other side by twenty horsemen, with Eurydice in the lead, wearing full armor.

“Clear the path, girl. I’ll speak to the army.”

“Not unless you have their pay with you, you won’t!” shouted the girl. “We’re tired of false promises!”

Ignoring her, Antigonus walked his horse onto the bridge. She did the same. The bridge was only ten feet wide. There was barely room for two horses to pass one another, if both were cooperating. And Eurydice wasn’t cooperating. She angled her horse so that he would have to go through her to go on. Antigonus was six foot two and heavy, all of it muscle. He had one eye, and in armor he made an impressive figure.

Eurydice was sixteen years old and barely over five feet tall. She too wore armor, but the difference in size made her stand all the more impressive to the watchers. Also, her horse was just as big as his, and it wasn’t going to be pushed aside, not with her on its back. He would have to knock her down to move the horse and he could see the troops behind her. They would have given way before him, but with the tiny girl sitting her horse before them unmoved, they wouldn’t.

He knew all that, and it just added to his frustration. Antigonus was not a man to be balked. He felt the anger building, but he didn’t try to control it. He reveled in it.

“Get out of my way, you spoiled little whore!” he bellowed.

She just sat there. Then she grinned at him like she had tricked him. Like she was winning.

He lifted his mace and swung. She brought up her shield cat fast, but it made no difference. Antigonus was every bit as strong as he looked. His mace hit the shield and knocked her off her horse. There was a loud splash as Eurydice hit the water below the bridge.

“Traitor!” shouted a voice. “He attacked my wife!” It was Philip, the idiot who mumbled numbers at state dinners, bellowing like he was Alexander. He even sounded like Alexander, at least a little bit. And he was running at Antigonus, having somehow escaped his caretakers.

Then it was a melee at the bridge. Antigonus had just enough rationality left to order Philip captured before he was in the fight.

With Eurydice in the water, no one knowing how badly injured, and his troops holding onto Philip, the army was in no mood to hear anything Antigonus might want to say.

They wanted his blood.

First were the horsemen who had been with Eurydice. They charged the bridge and when they couldn’t get across because Antigonus was in the way, they went into the creek and chopped at his horse’s legs. One of them reached down, grabbed Eurydice and pulled her back to their side of the creek. And suddenly Antigonus was going into the water, as his horse reared with a spear in its gut.

* * *

“What’s happening?” Seleucus shouted. He had seen Antigonus approaching the river and moved to the porch to be there when Antigonus got there. The porch was where they would stand to address the army. Then Eurydice had ridden by, heading for the bridge in full armor and he realized the plan had gone awry. Now it sounded like a battle had broken out next to the bridge. “Fuck.” He turned and ran to where the troops were holding Antipater.

Everything had gone all wrong, but in the confusion he could get Antipater back across the river to his army. And then the old man would owe him. He’d pay too. Seleucus would see to that.

He reached the holding area and the guards were as distracted as he could hope. He grabbed a second horse, and told Antipater, “Come on! Now, if you want to live!”

Antipater looked at his son who was looking scared, but still said, “Go, Father!”

Antipater climbed up on the horse. By now the guards were noticing. He and Seleucus rode them down, the ones in the way, and headed for the creek.

* * *

“Shoot!” shouted Attalus. He had a dozen bowmen waiting for just this. He had almost lost them when whatever it was had happened at the bridge, but he had managed to keep them here.

Now, as the two riders came galloping at them, the bowmen fired. They hit the men, but the men were in armor and the wounds were shallow. One shot hit the horse Antipater rode, however. It went down and rolled over the old man.

* * *

Antipater lay on the ground after the horse rolled off him, and tried to breathe. Blood bubbled out of his mouth as he exhaled. He couldn’t feel his legs, but his chest hurt and his head hurt.

Then the darkness came and nothing hurt anymore.

* * *

Seleucus started to turn his horse, saw the mess that was Antipater, and rode for his life. He saw Attalus and the bowmen. He started to turn toward them, then he saw Attalus’ face and fled.

That man wanted him dead. He might have killed Antipater for politics, but he wanted Seleucus dead with a passion that Seleucus had rarely seen in years of bloody war.

He turned his horse and sprinted for the river. He took two arrows before he got there and his horse died crossing the river, but he made it.

* * *

Antigonus came up with a bellow and looked around. He was still angry, but he had spent years as a general of Alexander. He could think through rage.

It was over.

He wasn’t going to get across the river, and neither were the others. By now, the Silver Shields who had remained with Perdiccas would be forming on the far side of the river and nothing was going to cross the river in the face of those men. Bellowing his rage, he turned his back and made his muddy way out of the river on his side.