The motley ships heading north were all Sidonians rescuing Tyrians. It’s always the kings and nobles of any people who have rivalries and wars; common people of the same race will, at heart, be friends. They were all Phoenicians.
As well as Azimilk there were fifty Carthaginian envoys in the Temple, who’d come to celebrate an annual festival honouring Tyre as their mother-town just before we’d put up the blockade. I wanted to throw them all up against columns too; part of the Tyrian decision to fight us had come on their false promise of aid. I just let them go.
My bridge banged down in front of me, but I almost saw more clearly in my own mind, the downward fall of a white-chitoned form with bound hands, the vicious splash. And Tion’s face. I ran across the fresh-hewn planking with winged feet, feeling a handspan above it, Tion and the other Bodyguards right with me.
Summer had come full on and the heat of the sun was so strong it reminded me, awfully, of the heat from the fire consuming my first siege-towers. (They could not try that again, not when we had ships; we’d have sunk them all before they could throw the first torch.) We were ready to do the first step in the all-out assault: break the wall. Once that was done, we would attack three ways at once; into the breach and both harbours.
Of course it was poor Tion who heard about it the most. “It’s madness,” I said, pacing on the beach one morning as the sun was just coming over the ridge, while he stood with his usual patience. “Here I am, about to fight a great ship battle, or maybe more than one, against a city in which every single person, man, woman or child, knows how to swim. And I don’t!”
“May I suggest, my King, that I make my own way back to Tyre ahead of you with your fleet.” I saw what Mazalsas was thinking; the moment they saw us, the Tyrians would probably block up the harbours with triremes, rams outward. Finally, I thought, we get to do a real siege! But that would make it much more difficult for anyone and everyone to get in or out. I gave him leave and, when he asked, a little money, and he was gone into the Sidonian streets, as natural in his element as a fox in the woods.
The fringe of men on the wall went very silent. Presently the gate creaked open, and he came out with the olive branch in his hand and a guard of eight, his face with its two-pointed beard deadly grim, between two sheets of hair so blond it was almost silver.
What were you thinking? I wanted to say to him. But I knew what he’d been thinking: there was no king in Pella.
“Rebuild them and have the same thing happen over again?” said Ptolemy, as we sat together under the front awning of my tent on the shore, the evening wind cooling. It seemed strange to hear waves breaking on the shore as if nothing had happened. The sea and the earth are eternal; what do they care about the vagaries of people?
“Obviously we have to do something different,” I said. “But we’re not—”
The land-bridge was a quarter way across, and I honestly cannot say whether it was that which made the Tyrians start taking us seriously, or what we had done to the boat. It was a small loss, a few planks of wood and the time and craft needed to make it, but it was the very first loss they’d taken at our hands. Tell the truth I like to think it was the boat; but of course a general must be wary of his likes.
I had a dream of the Tyrians taking us seriously, a dream that was cloaked in purple and had sea wreathing all through it.
Polyeidas had been my father’s head engineer. “He can make anything, fix anything,” my father told me, and made me be with him and his students for a day when he decided it was time for me to learn about siege engines. Polyeidas had a carpenter’s hands but a philosopher’s mind, even if he did not have a rhetorician’s. There was that same curiosity about all things, in brows that had been knit forward for so much of his life that they’d pushed a deep farrow between them, as I saw in Aristoteles.
All these things I took into my mind to foment for a day, then made up my mind what to do. “We’ll send envoys under the olive branch, asking them to reconsider their position,” I told the command council. “I am going to show trust, as I mentioned before; Hephaistion will lead them; that is, love, if you are willing.” I had no son yet, but it was well known how much Tion meant to me.