I remember this special day. This day when I came at Pella to become a royal page. I didn’t know at this period that this day would change my life forever. I was so oblivious and innocent. Yes I remember…
I am thirteen, tomorrow I’ll go with my father to Pella. I am really nervous, My father will present me to the court to become a page. Since my ten years old, father prepared me. I feel pride but also fear. I don’t know what will be my new life.
I leave the house and go through the fields. Running to my favorite place. I have the feeling it will pass a long time before I could see it again. I arrive near a river. I walk along the bank until I stop in front of a hidden place. The vegetation opens on a place in circle. A little cliff sits on top of the place where waterfall sinks into a pool. From everywhere vegetations close the place making like a refuge, a temple. I always came here, a place where I forget the rest of the world. Where I can hide my treasure and all my secrets.
Behind the waterfall, a cave is hidden. In this place, I put my treasure in. An altar to Aphrodite that I made by myself is in the middle. My mother put me under the care of Aphrodite when I was born. I decided to honor her memory in building this altar. The base of this one is a rectangular and big stone lying. I remember how much I suffered to bring it in. On this one a oval and black stone erected. Pelopidas said me once that somewhere else Aphrodite is honored under the form of a black stone. Around I put some shells to decorate. And I brought a scarf in silk that owned to my mother and dress the stone with.
Nobody knows about it. Sometimes I suspect Pelias to know. But, if it is the case, my father’s slave never betray my secret.
Each time I can, I came and bring incense and lilies to the Goddess. My father always says that Lilly is the favorite flower of my mother.
I drop off the lilies on the altar and light the incense. Because it is a special day I brought other offerings to the Goddess : a ear of wealth, a branch of olive tree, cherry blossoms and roses. Four of my favorite things I love on earth with the wind and the sound of the waterfall. I bring too a robin in a cage. To offer its song. I know my offerings are modest. I have no gold or money. But I hope Aphrodite will like them.
Today I pray the Goddess to give me the strength to honor my father and my mother in my new duty. I say her my fear to leave this place and my hope too. I ask her to take me under his care in this new life. Today I stay longer that I used to do. I know I will not come before a long time. And a lot of feelings turn in my head and confuse me. I feel excitement but also a knot in my stomach.
I have never left my father before. It seems so strange in a way. Usually, it is my father who leaves and me who waits his return. Life changes of course I know that, I am not stupid. But it doesn’t mean it is easy. I can’t avoid to feel some kind of sadness too. I sigh. It is time to leave. I open the cage and take the robin in my hand. Like me his heart beats strongly with fear. I caress the bird whispering reassuring words. Then opening my hand I free the bird. I look at him as he flees to turn back home. Envious of its freedom, I wonder when I shall be free to came back too.
With regret I leave my little temple. To my surprise, Pelias is here, waiting.
« I will bring lilies and incense every week. I shall pray for your safety, Little Master. »
I know I am thirteen and I have not to cry. But in hearing his words, tears invades me. With a sob, I run in the arms of Pelias and cry like a baby. In silence, Pelias holds me and rubs my back to calm me like when I was a little child. Pelias was always there. I have never saw him like a slave rather like a member of my family. I shall miss him so badly. I know he knows, and me too, I know how he feels.
« Your father waits for us. »
I nod and go back home. On the way, I cross villagers working in the field. They say me hello and wish me good luck to Pella. Some young girls run to give me flowers. A woman gives me bread and another one a cake. The same thing arrives when I met the shepherds. Offering me milk and cheeses. I am so moved. I know all of them since my birth. All these gifts and kind words touch me so deeply. I never realized until now how important my father and I we are for them. I smile. I feel like the hero of some old legend. I look at all these faces and promise to myself to not forget them.
I arrive home. Father is waiting for me at the entrance of the villa. I can see Pelias and my father exchange a look. It was always like that. Pelias playing always the role of the mother I have never have. Reassuring father and protecting me all the time. Sometimes, I wonder what kind of relationship they really share.
But my thoughts flee as my father hugs me with force without a word and takes me with a smile in the villa. It is time for our last meal together. Tomorrow will be a new day.
Pella finally ! After a nice journey, my father and I arrive to Pella. Pelias accompanies us. Crossing the town, the first thing I see is the temple of Aphrodite. Good omen ! I look at Pelias in smiling. No words are necessary. He returns me a smile knowing well what I thought. A beautiful day !
Until I know for whom I shall work, my father and I will stay in the house of a friend. A general called Antipater. I never meet him until now. We have to wait before to meet the King, I ask to my father if I can go to Aphrodite’s temple. He agrees to the condition Pelias goes with me. Together we cross the streets of the city that leads to the temple. The city is really big and living. I am so amazed by all. The shops, the people… All is similar but so different in the same time from where I lived. We arrive to a place who opens to the temple. The place is limited by Cherry trees. I smile the blossomed trees are so beautiful. Close to the temple, I stop under one of them. A light wind makes fly some petals of cherry blossom. They fall on me like snow. I smile and hold out my hand to grab some of them.
I turn my gaze. On the stairs of the temple, a blonde teenager looks at me strangely. I go upstairs and cross his way. He follows me with his eyes without saying a word. What a strange guy ! In looking at the temple, my thoughts turn away from the boy, mesmerized by the beauty of the place. I blush in thinking to my modest altar. In seeing inside the offerings brought by other people, I realize how poor is the rose I hold. Reading my thoughts Pelias says :
« As modest as your offering be, this is an offering and the Goddess will love it. »
I smile to Pelias. I put my rose to the altar and add the petals of cherry blossom I have kept in my hand. I look the beautiful and impressive statue of the Goddess. I thank her for the peaceful journey and ask her humbly to protect my father and Pelias on their way back. When I leave the temple the boy has disappeared. I can’t help myself to remember his particular eyes : a green one and a brown one. So unusual ! I never saw that before.
Back to the house, I meet Antipater and his family. The man has three daughters and seven sons. With so much people, the house is full of laughs and animation. Hephaistion feels a little bit perturbed at first. But quickly he finds his mark. The evening is nice and so living with all this people.
Later, in my bed I think about tomorrow. I will meet again the King and I am so impatient. Behind the King I know the man. A man I like. A man with whom I played when I was little. I never see him in his duty of king. Will he be my friend yet ? My father comes and sits on my bed.
« Are you nervous ? »
I nod without answering.
« Don’t worry Son, all will be fine. »
He kisses my forehead.
« Sleep now. Tomorrow will be a long day. »
I close my eyes. And under the loving look of my father I fall asleep.
Open mouth, I look at the palace. It is an incredible place by its beauty and what it symbolises. I am proud to be here and to walk in by the side of my father. People say hello to my father with deference and sudden I realize the place he holds in the court of Pella. I look at my father with other eyes. He is so discreet at home, never talking about his duty for the king.
We enter in a place who looks like a reception room. In the room, there is already other boys with their fathers. I recognize Cassander. I say him a wave hello. In response, he nods at me with a smile.
But my attention goes somewhere else, the King enters in the room. In seeing him, without thinking I am about to run to him like I do when he comes in my home. Only just, my father stops me and sends me a severe look. I blush realizing what I was about to do. I have forgotten where I am.
But the scene didn’t escape to the King who laughs and winks at me. I smile to Philip while my father rolls his eyes in trying to keep his serious. The boy who accompanies Philip, looks successively at the King then my father and I with a mixing of surprise and questioning. Crossing his gaze I recognize with surprise the boy of the temple. He follows Philip and sits on the same couch. I realize at this moment who he is : Alexander prince of Macedon, son of Philip.
The ceremony opens and follow a short welcome’s talk then Philip reminds us our duty as page and asks us to make vow of allegiance to the King and the Macedon. One after another, we are called to receive our assignment and to say our vow. After that the boy called join a space reserved. Strangely I am the last to be called. When I heard my name my heart jump in my chest. I swallow. I feel the encouraging hand of my father. I look at him and cross the room in a dignified way despite my trembling legs. Philip looks at me with a watchful eye as I walk. I stop in front of him.
« Hephaistion son of Amintor from today you will be the page of… your king. Now pay allegiance to your King. »
I look at the king with a big smile. I am so happy to have been chosen by him and with proud I say aloud :
« I swear to serve and obey my King and the Macedon in all circumstances . »
Then I go by the side of the other pages. I am now a royal page and the one of the King. On the other side of the room I can see my father. On his face I can read the pride too but also a part of sadness. And that’s worry me. When I look again to the King, I see the Prince who stares at me. I can’t help myself to blush under his intensity. During the ceremony, I could feel more that once the Prince’s eyes on me. And that make feel nervous. Why, for Aphrodite’s sake, does he looks at me like that ?
When the ceremony is over. I join my father, he welcomes me with a big smile.
« I am proud of you, Son. You did well. Come with me now, I have a surprise for you. »
I look at my father with astonishment. He leads me outside the room. There, Pelias is waiting ; beside him stands a young boy.
« When I entered as royal page, my father offered me Pelias to accompany me in the palace. I present you Moeris. From now, he will be your personal slave. He will take care of you. »
I look at the shy boy hidden behind Pelias. I come to him and take his hands.
« Welcome Moeris ! I am so happy to have someone of my age with me. Don’t worry I will take care of you too. Thank you father ! »
Some days later, my father and Pelias leaved Pella. I start my duty as royal page. More than once I have silently thanked my father to offer me Moeris. This one has a gentle nature and grace to him, my life was easier. The King wakes up at dawn, his schedule is really busy and I have a lot to do. I didn’t think the life of a king was like that. By his side I learn how a kingdom is ruled. I work from dawn to lunch with the King then he sends me to train and to learn the art of war with the other pages. Even if my life is exciting, the days are so long. I finish my duty often so exhausted that I have not the force to eat or bath. In this moment I appreciate the help of Moeris so much.
During the training, it is nice to be with other teenagers. Sometimes during the training, the Prince come to see us. In the end, all my comrades go to greet him. But I feel too shy to do it. I just look at him from afar and nod at him to say hello. But that’s all. Sometimes when I leave he gives me some appreciation about my training. That’s make me happy and in the same time I feel so clumsy in front of him. I thank him and leaves. My comrades are not bad with me but I feel apart. Maybe it is because I have been chosen by the King himself. But I feel they all have some retained in front of me.
That is the reason I prefer to be with the King. What I learn by his side is so exciting. The only person I don’t like is Eumenes. This one treats me with some kind of disregard. I suspect him to be in love with Philip. I surprised him more than once to follow Philip with such a loving stare that I finally pity him. So I bear with him despite his acid remarks he sends me from time to time.
Today, I have a surprise. In the middle of the morning, Philip brings me outside the city for a ride. Only the two of us. It was so funny to see the expression of Eumenes. We laugh like two schoolchild playing truant.
Philip leads me on a hill who overhangs the city. He looks at the city and says :
« Look at this Hephaistion ! Is it not amazing ? This is my kingdom and one day, all this will own my son Alexander. Don’t say him I say that. This brat is sometimes a little too much arrogant. »
I look at Philip, I can feel some bitterness in his voice. But I say nothing.
« Do you know I could have been your father ? Your father and I fight for your mother when we were young. Your mother was the most beautiful woman on this earth. So beautiful that she could make blush even Aphrodite. You have her beauty Hephaistion. And that’s a problem. »
I look at Philip with surprise.
« A problem ? I don’t understand. »
Philip laughs and adds :
« That’s the part of the problem. You have not realized yet, haven’t you ? »
« Realized what ? »
« Since your arrival in the palace, my office is become like a castle besieged by an army of suitors. You are worse than Helen of troy, Hephaistion. You trigger such passion around and you don’t even realize what happens. »
In hearing this words, I blush so deeply and I am so confused. I never imagined…
« It is really embarrassing. I… I didn’t know. »
« Yes and that’s the problem. You are a smart boy Hephaistion. All these past months I could judge your different abilities. And I know how gifted you are. But you are so innocent on this point of view. Even a ten years old boy is more aware of this question that you. »
« Oh ! »
« Oh ? It is all you can say. You know how much I love your father. That’s the reason why I took you under my care because I knew he was worried about you. But I have never thoughts that your beauty could be such a source of conflict between my officers. »
« I am sorry. I don’t know what to do. »
« I have written to your father to explain the situation. Him and I agree on a solution. You have to choose an eraste to put a end to all this. »
« No ! I don’t want this. Please ! I beg you Philip. Maybe I am clumsy on this question but I have ears and I heard some boys who have an eraste and what they do. I don’t want to have… to have… »
« Sex ? »
« Yes. With someone I don’t love. I want to find my Achilles. I want to devote myself to him. »
To his surprise, Philip caresses his face and smiles.
« You remind me so much your father at the same age. »
He sighs and adds.
« I agree to let you time to find a lover. But if the situation becomes worse with my officers, I will be the one who will choose your eraste. Do you understand ? »
I bow my face and answer :
« Yes my King. »
Hearing me using his title, he sighs :
« Don’t pout like a child ! It is not my fault if you are beautiful. But if you seduce foreigner ambassadors or orators as easily as you did with my officers I can predict you a great career like diplomat. »
They see and heard horsemen come to them. At their head, Cleitos who doesn’t seem glad.
« Philip ! Are you a fool to leave the city without escort ? »
Then seeing Hephaistion, he adds sardonic :
« In bringing with you… the Angel of contention. »
« Calm down Cleitos ! The boy has nothing to do with my decision. »
Cleitos looks at Hephaistion with a lustful gaze.
« Why don’t you give him to me and put a end to this silly war ? I should have great pleasure to make his education. »
For only response, Philip and Cleitos heard a horse flee.
« Hephaistion ! Cleitos follows him from afar but don’t push him, understand. »
« You are too weak with this boy… like with his father. »
« Pouah ! Always this silly jealousy Cleitos ! It’s the past and none of your business. Do as I ask ! »
« As you wish Philip. But I can’t help myself to think you are wrong. »
Cleitos follows Hephaistion while Philip goes back to the Palace.
I run as if I am pursued by a demon. I need to find some peace. At this moment I miss my father and Pelias so strongly. I would like to have never leaved my home. But it is impossible. So I head to the only place where I know I will find back the peace : the temple. I dismount as soon as I am at the bottom of the temple and run in the stairs. In front of the Goddess I fall on my knees. By chance there is no one in the temple and I can let my tears run without restriction. I talk to Aphrodite and say her all my talk with Philip. I ask her to help me to find my Achilles. I don’t want to be touched by a man I don’t love. This sole thought make me shake in fear and disgust. I let my head fall on the ground and beg the Goddess for his pardon having only my tears as offerings. How long did I stay on the ground, sobbing ? I don’t know. During all this time, I didn’t pay attention to what was around me. Then finally I dry my tears and leave the temple. On the bottom, Cleitos is there holding my horse and his one.
He didn’t say anything about my state, but I could feel his gaze on me. Without a word, we run back to the palace, while on the top of the stairs, hidden, a young man observes the two riders leaving.
The full moon is high in the sky. I thank her to have lightened our way during our escape. I look at Moeris, he prepares some food for our meal. I couldn’t take much. So we have only bread and some fruits. We eat in silence. I thought to Philip and close my eyes. I feel so bad, I feel like a traitor. I take a terrible decision but I have no choice.
Having not found a lover, tomorrow Philip will have to choose an eraste for me. The problem with the officers has become worse. Some of them have even fought cause of me. Cause of that Philip has taken the decision to put an end to all this. I have tried to change his mind, but nothing worked. I lost my temper and shout that I prefer to die rather than to let an unknown touches me. I only win to be banished in my room for two days. I use these moments to prepare my escape with the help of Moeris. And at night we fled together.
Moeris kneels in front of me and holds me out my food. But I refuse with a wave of my hand. I have a knot in my stomach. I can’t eat.
« Try to eat Master. You didn’t eat anything since two days. That worries me. »
I see his concern and caress his cheek with a smile. I like him so much. I would never thank enough my father for this meeting. Days after days, we have learnt to know each other and I think of him more like a friend than a slave. I confide all to him. I trust him so much.
« You are so kind with me Moeris. You are certainly the only person that I can trust except my father and Pelias. »
He blushes and smiles.
« I know that in bringing you with me, if we are taken you will share my punishment. So promise me to hide you the best you can if we are found. »
A the same moment I say that, we hear some noises. Yes, sounds of horses. Maybe some thieves. I stand and take my sword ready to fight and tell to Moeris to do as I said. But he refuses and stays behind me. I have no time to argue, a group of riders is already in front of us. I hear my name. No, not some thieves, but men of Philip. I recognize the companions with whom I train. The one called Ptolemy dismounts and says :
« We came to bring you back to Pella son of Amintor. »
« Sorry, say to Philip it is out of question. »
« It is not Philip who sent us. »
His answer takes me aback.
« Not Philip ? But who ? »
« Me ! »
I see the men move aside to let pass Alexander. I am surprised, I can’t say anything. Then, without leaving his gaze from me, he gives order to dress the camp for everyone. I swallow with difficulty. I feel my head spinning. And all become black…
Some voices coming from afar :
« What does it happen to him ? »
« He refused to eat since two days. »
I recognize the voice of Moeris. The feeling of a hand on my hair stroking slowly. I sigh and whisper :
« Dad ? »
Hearing laughs, I open my eyes on Alexander’s face. I realize that i am lying on Alexander’s laps. I sit up straight as if a bee has bitten me. I feel so embarrassed. Around me the hilarious faces of the Alexander’s companions.
Ptolemy winks at me and says :
« Don’t worry man, Alexander likes to play doctor. »
I smile tentatively even if I found the situation strange.
Moeris holds me out a plate and pleads with me for eating. I do it more to please Moeris than by hunger. I swallow with difficulty each bite. Seeing that, Alexander says :
« Maybe you worry too much. Maybe there is other solution than to flee. »
« I don’t see any other one. »
The image of a stranger touching my body almost makes me puke. I stop to eat.
« I don’t want… I don’t want to… »
« To be touch by a man you don’t love. »
Alexander adds. Hearing my own words, I stay open mouth by surprise.
« Yes. »
« If I say that I have a solution but you have to follow us to Pella, will you come with us ? »
« Why should I have to trust you ? »
« Because I think you have no other choice. Your decision is just a delay but doesn’t solve anything and will give birth to tensions between our two fathers. It is not what you want, isn’t it ? »
« At least could you let me until tomorrow to think about it and to answer you ? »
« Of course. Night is a good counselor. »
When I wake up the tomorrow. Only Alexander was awaken but I couldn’t see him anywhere. Certainly he is relieving himself somewhere else. I walk in the clearing to observe the sunrise when I heard a voice :
« Have you take a decision ? Will you come back to Pella with us ? »
He lays against a tree.
« Can I entrust you ? »
« I shall not deceive you. You have my words. »
Looking Alexander fixedly in the eyes in a tensed silence, I answer :
« I came back with you. »
« Wonderful ! »
He wraps an arm around my shoulders and brings me back to the camp.
« It is time to wake up the marmots and to breakfast… »
When I arrive in the private room where Philip receives his officers, are there too Alexander and his companions. I feel terrified to say the truth. I look at Alexander wishing something, anything who can save me. The Prince has refused to say him how he intend to save me. And I don’t like this situation at all. I feel impotent and weak in the middle of this room under the gazes of all this men. The only one who didn’t look at me is Alexander. He avoids all eyes’ contact with me. But Ptolemy smiles to me and I thought maybe it is part of his plan. I take a long breath to calm me and wait.
Philip explains the situation. He said with severity how he is deceived by the attitude of some of his officers. So to put a end to all this, he has decided to give an eraste to Hephaistion.
« To avoid all jealousy among my officers, I decide to give Hephaistion… to my own son Alexander. »
The sentence exploses to my ears. I look successively at Philip and Alexander, I can’t believe what I heard. What is this joke ?
Some officers protest saying that Alexander is too young. The King confirms his decision and without delay closes the assembly.
I profit of the confusion to leave and run to a garden to think about all this. I feel so stupid. I hear paces behind me, knowing well who is there without turning I say :
« You know that I would never agreed to that. You made fun of me. You said you wanted to help only to make me fall in your trap. I don’t want to have an eraste. You betray the trust I put in you. I will never believe you again. »
Alexander says no word. I turn to face Alexander.
« You don’t answer ? Maybe because you realize the ridiculous situation in which you put us. »
« Ridiculous ? I don’t see something ridiculous. »
« Really ? Are you nuts ? We have the same age and only thirteen years old. »
« I have already killed my wild boar. You haven’t. I am already a man. And in this respect, I can take an eromenos. »
« You are short. »
Alexander bursts out laughing.
« What kind of pathetic excuse is that ? You seems to run out of argument, Darling. »
« Don’t call me that ! You have not kill a man yet to pretend to be my eraste. »
« But I am a prince… And what if it was the choice of Gods ? »
« What ? »
« Think about it. The first time I make a wish to the Goddess, I met you and the second time when you wish to find a savior I was there. It can’t be a coincidence. It is the will of Aphrodite.
« Her will ? What was your wish ? »
« What ? »
« The first time we met. What wish do you ask to the Goddess? »
Alexander blushes but without giving in he says :
« I ask to find my soul mate, to find my Patroclus. »
« Oh ! «
« Hephaistion, I know our situation is out of norm. But I ask you to listen what I have to say to you, please. »
« I listen. »
Alexander takes a long breath and looking at Hephaistion, he says :
« The first time I saw you, you appeared to me behind the curtain of cherry blossom. A rain of petals surrounded you and dressed your hair of a blossom veil, while you held in your hand a rose whose the delicate tint was so similar to your skin. You looked like Eros himself. Your smile like an arrow drilled my heart. Your laugh, by his soft and pure music, enslaved my mind. And when I cross your eyes so beautiful I knew I was definitively lost. What could I do in front of such a perfection ? During the training, you seems so distant. And I didn’t dare to go to you. I felt so imperfect contrary to you. With my father you seems to share a link that I wasn’t able to built between us. He praises you so much and holds you in great esteem despite your young age. How could I win against you ? How could I make you understand what you represent for me ? I know what I do. You are pure. So innocent sometimes. I take advantage of it, I admit. But it was my sole way to make you realize my presence. You avoided me so much. I don’t say it is an excuse. I don’t ask you to love me. But at least would you like to be my friend ? Learn to know each other and make abstraction of this eraste’s story. »
Even if Hephaistion didn’t want to admit it, he is moved by Alex’s words. But he is too stubborn to give up so easily and answer, irritated :
« How could I ? While we are talking, all the court knows already the news. »
« Don’t worry ! Knowing the court in Pella as I know it, soon enough a new scandal will drive the gossip on other than us. My father wants to send me with some of my friends in Mieza to learn under the care of Aristotle. As soon as we will go there everyone will forget about us. »
Hephaistion sighs. What is done is done. And he knows that Philip will not let him another choice.
« I have my conditions. »
« I listen. »
« Promise me to not demand to have… sex with me. » — He says blushing.
« I promise at one condition, accept at least that I could kiss you. I don’t want to loose face in front of my friends. »
Hephaistion looks at Alexander with suspicion, but he can’t see only sincerity in this eyes. So he agrees with a sigh.
With a smile Alexander holds out his hand.
« Come on ! I will show you my room. »
In taking his hand and choosing to trust him, I sealed my destiny. At this instant, I didn’t know that I took the first step to a long path together that would bring us to a new world.