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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Love and Again - 12. Chapter 12: Lines in the Sand Part V

Well, this will be a controversial chapter.

Lines in the Sand- Part 5

By W.L


Egypt was merely a stone throws away, but there remained one major obstacle to Alexander's conquest and dominance of the Mediterranean Sea, Gaza. The fortress was situated in the lands of Canaan, a tributary state of the Persian Empire. After their departure from Egypt, the descendants of Lot had grown as a semi-independent regional power with trade networks that extended from the Pillars of Hercules to the Straits of Bosporus. The conquest of Egypt by Persia was made possible by the Persian allies in Canaan, whose naval strength could be relied upon due to extensive training and capacity of their ships. Their theological consensus in a monotheistic principle led them to become allies with the dutiful payments of tributes from these Canaanite traders to the Persian Empire.


Alexander, having seen Hephestion skills at sea, made his lover the commander of his flotilla in order to fight the well trained forces of Canaan. Though, Alexander had seized the key port of Tyre and a sizable portion of the Persian navy; Darius still has 1/3 of his fleet and more ships from his allies the Canaanites, who had not spurned Darius after his loss at Issus or the decisive defeat at Tyre as Alexander's generals had hoped.


At this juncture, Demosthenes, the elected leader of Athens, had to recall the Athenian navy in order to conduct operation against Sparta. Alexander was infuriated to lose a quarter of his fleet, when he was facing two major navies. Yet, he saw the big picture and knew that Demosthenes needed the ships or else the Delian league would be cut off from Corinth by Agis, the king of Sparta. Still, without the trained naval veterans of Athens, Alexander merely had slightly superior numeric forces, which only saw the brief siege of Tyre. The fleet was made up of Macedonian, Rhodesian, Cretan, and Asian recruits with no solid loyalty or trust in one another due to long held differences. Hephestion was the only man that he could remotely trust with such an important undertaking, even if he has grown to fear the prowess of his partner's abilities.


Facing Alexander was a determined foe on land and sea, numerically inferior, but strategically situated and experienced. Gaza was one of the ancient world's best defended fortresses; the walls towered 100 feet high and 20 feet in depth. There were archery towers every 20 feet of the circular wall. Finally, the entire area was sloped from the fortress location, which means that any invading army must attack facing stones, spears, and arrows uphill.


On the coast, the Canaanite and remnants of the Persian navy were guarding the mouth of the port. The surrounding harbor was safe for the unlimited trade of grain, which can sustain the fortress indefinitely.


This battle would not be simple and it would be immensely costly for Alexander. The commander facing him was named Batis; he was a seasoned veteran of the Egyptian campaign. About 10 years ago, the Egyptians had tried to fight against the Persian Empire's advances and had nearly succeeded, but their forces were cut off from their naval support. Their Pharaoh had disappeared; some believed he was getting allies in Nubia for a new campaign against the Persians. Alexander and Hephestion both took notice of the rumors and began planning the coming battle and its aftermath.


"Ah! Noble Hephestion, what future do you see for our ventures?" Alexander softly said as he began to recover from a formidable three hour engagement of lovemaking.


"I see the land of Canaan and Egypt, both made one under our hands" Hephestion replied with as much gentleness as Alexander had given.


"I see the cost of empire in front of me; many of our men will not survive this battle, nor perhaps us" Alexander accentuated "We face a foe with fewer numbers than we have faced many times before, but who holds all the strongest places. They have a powerful navy that is well trained and grain from Egypt that could feed their troops forever. The slope of the hill would make bombardment difficult, an assault perilous, and a cavalry charge deadly. Batis has the support of the local Canaanites, who will be surrounding us on all sides as we enter their lands. Yes, they have no major army, but their bands zealous fighters are enough over time to cut off our grain supplies from the port of Tyre, which must come by land."


"What manner of king is Alexander, who sleeps to my side? You were unflinching at Gracinus, you were indomitable at Issus, and you were an example to all. Do not fear what fate may portend; let our cold blades cut a path to the future if there is none in the present" Hephestion spoke with renewed energy.


The two lovers parted, one by land and one by sea, each ready to place their lives in harm's way yet again.


On land, Alexander arrived to the cold welcome of local villages in the lands of Canaan, when his army began to forage for food and other material for the upcoming engagement. Darius had ordered the local lords to give no quarter or trade with Alexander. The people were already unreceptive to the Macedonians due to the stories of Alexander peculiar relations with Hephestion. In their religion, Alexander was viewed with disdain and Darius knew that. While, the Persians may have similar sexual practices; their Zoroastrian tradition were similar in condemning such acts as the Canaanites along with their view of a singular god. The marriage of several Canaanites women to the ruling Persian royal family also alleviated their fears and encouraged a sense of belonging under Persia. The famous story of Esther is among the many in this age.


Alexander knew that the relationship between Persian and Canaanite was far too strong; even if he could win the siege, he would lose the war long after the battle. After the years of plotting and manipulation by his mother and lover to secure his throne, he had learned the finer traits of gathering support.


A scouting party of Alexander had returned to his encampment with the common foraged or stolen food and supplies from local villages. It was a common trait of war; Persian, Greek, Macedonian, Egyptian, and others have done the same for centuries. Along with the food, there is usually a wagon train of slaves for every village visited.


Philoxenus had been instructed to act according to Alexander's plans and they sought many beautiful young males from the nearby villages.


Philoxenus spoke upon seeing Alexander inspect the goods and slaves, "Oh my lord, I have brought with me many youths of refined beauty. As you gaze at their slender naked bodies, whom would you pick out to share your bed tonight in the absence of lord Hephestion?"


Alexander in mock outrage cried out, "Oh Wicked Philoxenus, what horrendous deed of man or beast have I done to deserve this? These youths are tender and pure; they had not desire to come to our camp or to sleep with our men. Shame shall be on you, Philoxenus!"


Alexander ordered the boys released immediately and he gave each of them 10 Talents of gold along with fine robes and horses to head back to their own villages. Before the boys were set free, Alexander ordered Philoxenus to be brought in front of him in front of his commanders.


Alexander in anger spoke, "Philoxenus, you have dishonored yourself with your lust and hedonism. We are the army of Macedon, not a band of slave traders or pimps. It may be expected of the Persian army if they should conquer a land and seek out the most beautiful youths, but it is not honorable pursuit. I have no choice, but to answer such disturbing actions with death."


Parmenion and Cleitus immediately cried, "No!" in unison. All the commanders supplicated in front of Alexander, pleading for their friend, Philoxenus.


Alexander having seen his officers' supplication "changed" his mind, "Philoxenus, you have disgraced yourself and our army. The proper course would have been death by the sword, but as other "better" men have begged for mercy, then I shall grant you a reprieve from death. Remember this day and remember you owe me your life."


After the Canaanite boys returned to their villages, word began to spread of Alexander's generosity and prohibitions against the traditional forms of Greek and Persian sexual practices with youthful boys. These boys spoke highly of Alexander as a king of great wisdom and mercy, who was a giant in their eyes. The elders of the villages still sided with Darius and the Persian Empire, but the common people would not join in on the guerilla war that had been planned by Darius and the Canaanite elders against Alexander's overland supply trains from Tyre. Alexander had achieved his objective of securing popular opinion without wasting blood or money.


Yet, the price would be dire. Two nights after the dramatic theatre with the Canaanite boys, Philoxenus had arrived for an audience with Alexander. He had grown to fear what will come about with the new shift in policy that Alexander had taken against his kind.


"Oh! Great King, I understand the needs to satisfy these conquered people as you have asked me to act out your deception. However, I fear your new policy may harm many of my kind. The world does not understand the boy-lovers: the Greeks praise us and demonize us at the fancy of their people's taste, except for the extinguished Thebans, who protected us without fail. I fear that the Dorian heritage of Macedon will no longer protect us. Please great King, show us mercy!" Philoxenus pleaded.


Alexander was moved, but he knew that his new policies must stand, "Philoxenus, my friend, I am sincerely sorry for what I must do. I have to drive a fissure between your people in order to maintain relations with the Canaanites and the newly conquered Persians. Their religions are based off one God, an anomaly onto itself, and they have a strict view of allowable pleasures. By doing this, I have eliminated one more claim that Darius can make against me and lifted the fear from these peoples. If I had not done this, even if we won every battle and every war, we would never be able to attain a lasting empire."


Philoxenus was excited by Alexander's words and replied, "My king, may I have the ability to speak without royal protocol or military rules?"


Alexander in looking deeply at the man said, "Yes."


Philoxenus began, "You are wrong about giving in to them. You think by offering my kind as sacrifice that it would appease these zealots. No, they will not be satisfied, because their ultimate desire is to eliminate all things that are not pure in their eyes. By appeasing them, my king, you are merely giving them credence for their beliefs."


Alexander nodded, "That is their way, Philoxenus. We cannot win this war with an entire nation against us out of fear that we will take their children for sexual pleasures."


"Have I ever done such a cruel and mischievous deed, except that singular time you asked me to gather those boys? NO! I have been honorable to all my lovers of whatever age or nation that they may belong to. There is a baseless fear in their argument," Philoxenus said.


Alexander in deep regret told him, "Philoxenus, I am sorry for what had to be done. I promise you that your people will have a land to call their own after my conquest of the world. With such strong foundations, you can thrive and live."


Philoxenus in sadness replied, "I know you have your reasons my king and I am grateful for your generosity. Yet, I know that they will not be satisfied by such appeasements. What shall happen after you die? Unless Lord Hephestion has been endowed by Hera, there is no heir to protect us from your new allies. There is no heir to protect you either, my king. Your love may not be forbidden by these zealots in the near future, but what is the difference between the words "a man lay with a boy" versus "lay with a man" except one word and a temporal definition at that. Today, you separate our traditions, boy lovers and the man lovers, into two branches. If we had remain united, then we would be like a tree standing forever against time, but divided we are mere branches for the fire of the religious denizens that you have allied with. I shall serve you to the end of my days as I see in you the best of both our branches, the raw love of youth and the powerful wisdom of age; however I warn you now that upon our deaths and forward to the next generation hence, these new allies will turn on both our kinds. We will be divided and they will seek our destruction."


Philoxenus left Alexander's tent and Alexander was stupefied by the knowledge. In his haste for unity, he had not thought the future completely through. Aristotle taught these utopian principles to him about honor and beauty, but what are they in the face of history?


When Alexander reached the fortress of Gaza, he was exhausted from thoughts of the past, present, and future. The army was arrayed for a siege, which he began in earnest. Batis had done much work to increase his defenses; he had built a series of earth works to impede the Alexander's advancing army and had fire archers ready to burn their foes to ashes.


For 20 days, Alexander and his commanders attempted to break through the fortress of Gaza. Three assaults were thrown back with large casualties to Alexander's troops. The siege engines that he had brought from Tyre could not get a proper angle of inclination for throwing missiles and rocks at the enemy fortress.


Hephestion had his issues at sea, he could not break through the static defense of the harbor or engage the numerically inferior fleets of Persia/Canaan. The men were restless with their ineffective encounters against the enemy. Hephestion could not break through and hoped Alexander had better luck.


On the 21st day, Alexander had devised a brilliant new battlefield tactic and was inspired to create a new siege weapon. In standard sieges, the siege weapons were limited to how they may incline to adjust angles up to 45 degrees. This set a limitation on how the catapults may hit targets at a distance and especially against target with a higher placement than the catapult. Alexander designed a new free range launcher, by changing to a more flexible wooden material and extending the launch extension in redesigning siege engines to compensate for the variable target distance and height. The final product was able to finally launch barrages against the fortress. One specific element of nuance was the use of incendiary hollow stones that were launched from these siege engines.


After a sustained assault of rocks, Alexander was satisfied with the breach of the large wooden and metallic gate. Alexander ordered a complete charge into the city. In the heat of the battle, a stray arrow hit Alexander's shoulder, but he remained unfazed by it. The army was triumphant.


Upon the lost of their citadel, the naval support surrendered to Hephestion at sea. Alexander had single handedly won the day.


Batis was dragged out of the city with his tendons tied through an iron nail attached to Alexander's chariot. Alexander wanted to demonstrate his will onto the new conquered peoples both to satisfy his need to inspire their fear and their acknowledgment of his greatness. Hephestion witnessed the gratuitous act of the ex-Persian commander being dragged to his death.


The fortress of Gaza was sacked and every man above the age of ascent was executed per the order of Alexander. The wealth of the stronghold was spread to all his men and the sailors that had served under Hephestion.


Word soon came that Darius had used this time to amass a might army of 250,000 men awaiting Alexander in the heart of the old city state of Ur. The army of Macedon numbered merely 50,000 after the casualties of the siege, but their spirit was far greater than their numbers would reveal in strength. Alexander had inspired his men with his courage in the battle; his fearlessness after being shot with an arrow had shown his men that he was worthy of their devotion. Alexander told his men to enjoy themselves in Gaza and rest well for the battles of tomorrow.


Alexander was triumphant and fearless to everyone in sight, except Hephestion, who had noticed something else in him that disturbed his very soul.


That night, Hephestion made a simple inquiry, "My love, what manner of the Gods' will have you been undertaking?"


Alexander replied, "I am no longer a man, my love. I am a God onto myself; I will protect everyone around me and all lovers from here to eternity. I will not allow anyone to challenge my authority. In Egypt, I will ask to be named as Heir to the Sun and Pharaoh; you will be a consort of the Sun. Eternally, there will never be a day for which our love will set."


Hephestion was now viewing a new man in front of him; never in any of the lover's lifetimes has either seen this strength against denial. Perhaps, Alexander has taken to heart what Philoxenus had said, but he simply does not wish to accept it. He wants to change the world for the better and his mission is clear. He must become a God among men and use his force of will to reshape mankind to prevent the future that Philoxenus had foreseen.


Copyright © 2011 W_L; All Rights Reserved.
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

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