The Barmy Hellene 

His vacillating emotions welled out, words repressed; and the brief splutters of articulated speeches were sundered only by the laments and jeers of fifty thousand abashed hearts; the constant yearning to see their home one last time loomed over everyone’s minds. They had to make a choice; to choose between the path that led them to certain death or return home to see their loved ones before death – ending all lives naturally and impartially – takes its toll in due course of time. His mental faculties warred with each other in extreme and hopeless pandemonium. An amalgamation of boldness, irrevocable passion for exploration, clipped only by human mortality,  met a scornful defiance and discouraging resistance from his army. ‘The omens, sir, are ripe and favourable,’ says the high priest. He looks at him heaving a sigh of disbelief, for his journey seemed to end just when the Gods were ready to vouchsafe him his life’s desire – an opportunity to lead to the ends of the earth. Gathering his spirits, he climbs up a make-shift altar, a few feet from his tent on the bluff overlooking the river to the east. ‘Hearken, Macedonians! Nike is with us, men,’ he shouted, ‘Look east! what do you see?’. The men, disturbed by ongoing debates, stopped prattling at once in response to their sire’s call. ‘You, my men, are no mere soldiers; you are the future of the United Kingdom of Macedonia. Your children, your children’s children, their children, and the remotest posterity you can ever think of, will reap the benefits of your actions this day.’ he stopped short. The clattering continued; thousands banged their eight-foot dorus against the bronze aspides; some raised their Xiphos in agreement while others listened with apathy to their leader’s vain blandishing. The din continued for a long time until Asander, ordering a squadron of his elite to silence the gathering, harangued thus, ‘Stay quiet, you maggots. Your peevish clamour is demoralising the lot. You are burnt, that I know.  Do you not see your sire’s desires as your own? You, Xeonos, who saved your life when that Indian behemoth – the size of which we had never seen before – went on a rampage, crushing bones and shields alike? And you, Olympios, did it elude your conscience that you owe this man your life? You, above all, who have Alexander’s intense admiration? We have seen and done things that most people at home would never believe, even if it came from the mouth of their king himself. The Satraps we battled were feeble monarchs who abandoned their posts in terror of the combined force of your spearheads. We, as a battalion, have yet to face a real enemy. The Persians were but a glimpse of what was to come. And now that we have gone past them, our true enemy, my friends, is fear.’ Now in a deep sombre voice, ‘This is no mere king, he is the scion of Zeus, battling alongside such honourable men as you. Since when did we, the most formidable of all the Argives, learn to annul a God’s proposal? Darius was one man; he wasn’t a warrior king, Poros hid behind his Heraklean vanguard letting his Indian mercenaries into the brawl. But this young lad is neither the Persian nor the Indian. He stands and fights with you. He’s shown us that the war-horn is a mustering call even for a king.’ The crowd was silenced to death by this appeal. The man, sheathing his xiphos, stepped down from the raised platform, allowing his king to continue his canvassing.

His ears struggled to attune to the abrupt silence brought about by one his commander’s staunch bellows. He could distinctly hear the neighing of horses from a mile away. Thousands of filial comrades now eyed this 25-year-old adult, eager to learn his schemes, be it favourable or no. ‘Brothers-in-arms, I beckon you!’ he started, and the clamour in the valley was loud enough to throw a jungle off balance. ‘We haven’t had the time to acquaint ourselves with the outlandish events of recent times. Many of you, I reckon, who’d fought under my father – Philip – may deem my actions asinine, but I’m hamstrung without you. I may tread to the edge of Hades’ realm, but without you, I am just a wanderer. My strength is weakening by the day. But hearken, men of Macedonia! I had a vision – and it was testified by our high-priest, it is clearly the wish of the Gods that we continue on our mission east. The advance guard’s scouted a gorge and saw an incessantly lush country not far from here. Have faith in me, my brothers; we shall return! And with rich bounty, we shall!’ The din created an avalanche of unspeakable magnitude. Their shrewd eyes squinted and their muscles tightened as if they were battle-ready, facing an armed assault of Persian lancers. ‘Keep your shields high,’ he began after a short pause that was far from silent. ‘Your dexterity in warfare will be tested, for you shall face hordes and hordes of Barbarians from the very gates of Tartarus, and, who knows, death himself might smite your aspides if you don’t keep a watchful eye. And before you even stoop to gather the dead, Kerberos – the God’s dog – will devour your comrades. But, men, do not despair! You have been sent on a mission East, under the aegis of Zeus himself! Courage for our friends, our brothers! My cajolery will do little to satisfy your war-beaten and consternated spirits, unless, however, your hearts still crave for blood.’ A few men – on his left – started banging their leather hides with their xiphos, and the madness spread like wildfire! His entourage – including Seleucus, Ptolemy, and a few others – soon came to the rescue, accompanying their emperor back to the tent, lest he should get injured by the angry mob he just aggravated. The blighted landscape looked like an organised tribal carnival from above the cliff, and the Emperor’s intransigence kindled a wave of blind rage that seemed insatiable. Yet, they loved him for what he was, a man of hope, honour, and pride.

 

– Immortal Chiron

 

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