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The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri

 

Overview: Alexander the Great's sudden and unexpected death has left the largest, most formidable empire the world has ever seen leaderless. As the fight to take control descends into ruthless scheming and bloody battles, no one - man, woman or child - is safe.

As wars on land and sea are lost and won, and promises are made only to be broken, long-buried secrets come to light in the quest for the true circumstances surrounding Alexander's death. Was he murdered, and if so by whom? Could he have been sowing the seeds of discord deliberately, through his refusal to name an heir? And who will eventually ascend to power at the helm of the empire - if it manages to survive that long?

Can one champion vanquish all...?

 

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri Book Chapter One

 

ARMIES ALWAYS COMPLAIN, Ptolemy mused, stepping out of the boat and over a severed arm washed up on the eastern bank of the Nile, but this one has more cause than most. With a smile and a nod he acknowledged the Macedonian officer, ten years his junior, in his mid-thirties, awaiting him with two horses; a mounted escort stood a few paces off, the rich glow of the westering sun on their faces. ‘They are ready to talk, I take it, Arrhidaeus?’
‘They are, sir,’ Arrhidaeus replied, offering his hand as Ptolemy slipped on the mud edging the blood-tinged waters of Egypt’s sacred river.
Ptolemy waved away the proffered help. ‘The question just remains as to who will lead their delegation, Perdikkas or one of his senior officers?’
‘I spoke with Seleukos, Peithon and Antigenes; they agree that Perdikkas is the obstacle to peace and, therefore, if his intransigence continues, he needs to be removed.’
Ptolemy grimaced at the idea, rubbing his muscular neck and then clicking it with a swift head movement. ‘It would be better for all of us if he can be induced to negotiate sensibly; there’s no need for such extreme measures.’ He gestured up and down the riverbank, strewn with bodies in various states of dismemberment; the work of the river’s many crocodiles. ‘Surely having lost so many of his lads trying to cross the Nile he will see sense and withdraw with a face-saving compromise.’
‘He’ll never forgive you for hijacking Alexander’s funeral cortège and taking it to Egypt; his officers don’t think he will come to the table unless you give it back to him.’
‘Well, he won’t get it.’ Ptolemy grinned, his dark eyes twinkling with mischief. ‘Perhaps I’m the one who is being intransigent, but it’s for my own sake; interring Alexander’s body in Memphis and then moving it to Alexandria once a suitable mausoleum has been built gives me legitimacy, Arrhidaeus.’ He thumped his fist on the boiled-leather cuirass covering his chest. ‘It proclaims me as his successor in Egypt and I fully intend to stay here. Perdikkas is welcome to whatever else he can hold but he won’t get Alexander back and he won’t get Egypt.’
‘Then my feeling is that he won’t be at the negotiations.’
‘Unfortunately, I think you’re right. He was a fool, was Perdikkas; he should have kept the body in Babylon and concentrated on securing his position in Asia rather than attempting to get the whole empire by taking Alexander home to Macedon. Everyone knows that Kings of Macedon have traditionally buried their predecessors; he wanted to be king of us all: unacceptable.’
‘Which is why you were right to take the body.’
‘It wasn’t just me, my friend. You were the one in command of the catafalque; you allowed me to steal it from Perdikkas.’
‘It was a pleasure just to imagine the expression on the highhanded, arrogant bastard’s face when he heard.’
‘I wish that I’d actually seen it, but it’s too late now.’ Ptolemy sucked the air through his teeth, taking his horse’s bridle and stroking its muzzle. ‘That it should have come to this,’ he confided to the beast, ‘Alexander’s followers killing each other over his body.’ The horse snorted, stamping a foot. Ptolemy blew up its nostrils. ‘You’re wise to keep your own counsel, my friend.’ Ptolemy looked over to the Perdikkan camp, a little more than a league distant, hazed by the heat and the smoke from many cooking fires, and then heaved himself into the saddle. ‘Shall we go?’
Arrhidaeus nodded and mounted, then eased his horse into a gentle trot. ‘Just before I sent the message for you to cross the river, Seleukos guaranteed your safety in the camp and said that you would be allowed to address the troops. He’s very keen to come to an accommodation with you.’
‘I’m sure he is. He’s the most ambitious of Perdikkas’ officers; I almost like him.’
‘And I’m sure that he almost likes you.’
Ptolemy threw his head back, laughing. ‘I’ll be needing as many almost-friends as I can get. I imagine he’ll be looking for something lucrative: Satrap of Babylonia, for example – should the post become vacant and we get rid of Archon, Perdikkas’ nominee, that is.’
‘I would say that is exactly what he wants. Like all ambitious men he can see opportunity even in defeat.’
‘Perdikkas and his allies may have lost to me here in the south but not in the north; they still haven’t heard that Eumenes defeated and killed Krateros and Neoptolemus.’
A conspiratorial smile played on Arrhidaeus’ lips. ‘If they had then I’d wager that they would not be in the process of assassinating their leader should he not agree to talks.’
Ptolemy shook his head, frowning, unable to suppress the regret he felt at the murder of a fellow member of Alexander’s bodyguard, seven in number. ‘That it should really come to this and so soon; once we were brothers-in-arms, conquering the known world, and now we slip blades between each other’s ribs, and all because Alexander gave Perdikkas his ring but then refused to name a successor. Perdikkas the Half-Chosen now becomes Perdikkas the Fully-Dead.’ He leaned over and clapped Arrhidaeus on the shoulder. ‘And, I suppose, my friend, that you and I must bear a lot of responsibility for his death.’
Arrhidaeus spat. ‘He brought it upon himself by his arrogance.’
Ptolemy could see the truth of that statement. In the two years since Alexander’s death in Babylon, Perdikkas had tried to keep the empire together by assuming command in a most highhanded manner purely because Alexander had given him the Great Ring of Macedon on his deathbed saying: “To the strongest”, but neglecting to say exactly whom he meant by that.
Ptolemy had realised immediately that the great man had sown the seeds of war with those three words and he suspected that he had done so deliberately so that none would out-shine him. If it had been an intentional ploy it had worked magnificently, for the previously unthinkable had happened: Macedonian blood had been spilt by former comrades-in-arms within eighteen months of his passing. Indeed, war had flared almost immediately as the Greek states in the west had rebelled against Macedonian rule and the Greek mercenaries stationed in the east had deserted their posts and marched back west. More than twenty thousand had joined in one long column and headed home to the sea; they had been massacred to a man, at Seleukos’ instigation, at the Caspian Gates as a warning to others seeking to take advantage of Alexander’s death.
In the west, the Greek rebellion had been crushed by Antipatros, the aged regent of Macedon, but not without considerable difficulty having been defeated and forced to withdraw to the city of Lamia and there endure a winter siege. It had been the vain and foppish Leonnatus who had come to his aid, breaking the siege, but he had lost his life in the process thus becoming the first of Alexander’s seven bodyguards to die. Antipatros had regrouped back in Macedon and, with the help of Krateros – Macedon’s greatest living general, the darling of the army – had defeated the rebellion and imposed a garrison and a pro-Macedonian oligarchy upon Athens, the city at its head.
With the west secured, Antipatros had then declared war on Perdikkas for marrying and then repudiating his daughter, Nicaea, at the same time as conspiring to marry Kleopatra, the full sister of Alexander. And thus the first war between Alexander’s successors had commenced with the diminutive Eumenes, Alexander’s former Greek secretary, and now Satrap of Kappadokia, supporting Perdikkas. But Eumenes had been unable to prevent Antipatros and Krateros crossing the Hellespont into Asia due to the defection of Kleitos, Perdikkas’ admiral. Underestimating Eumenes’ martial abilities, Antipatros and Krateros had made the fatal mistake of dividing their forces: Krateros had been despatched to deal with the Greek whilst Antipatros had headed south to confront Perdikkas. But the wily little Eumenes had shown a degree of generalship that had not been expected of a man who had held no significant military command and, despite his former ally, Neoptolemus, switching sides, he had defeated Krateros, killing the great general and the treacherous Neoptolemus in the process.
This fact was, as yet, only known to Ptolemy as it was his navy that controlled the Nile and he had prevented the news getting quickly through to Perdikkas’ camp: had they known of their victory in the north and that Antipatros’ army was now between them and Eumenes, their willingness to make peace might have been severely dampened.
And thus was Ptolemy a man in a hurry.

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