Tomb of the Lost - By Julian Noyce



The man’s head moved back and forth as he lay in the bed. His lips moved, trying to form words, though no sound came out. He opened his bloodshot eyes at the feel of someone’s touch on his sweating forehead. A cool cloth gently dabbed at his face.

“Is that better my King?” a voice enquired.

Alexander ‘the great’ of Macedon opened his red eyes again and struggled to focus with blurred vision on the face peering down at him. He turned his head this way and that. There were a dozen faces there and he screwed his eyes up to see better. Faces became names as he recognised the men around him.

Craterus, Ptolemy, Seleucus, Nearchus.

They were the companions.

Beyond them a line of men filed past silently. For hours they had passed the Royal bed, believing their King to be dead, relieved to see him alive. Nothing could stop them from seeing him once more.

Earlier in the day two doorways had had to be knocked through the walls of the Royal bedchamber to allow the army access to him and as they passed one by one, not saying anything, Alexander weakly raised his head off the pillow but in his eyes they could see he recognised each and every one of them. Most of them were moved to tears, beyond words now.

The cool cloth was applied to his face once again but almost the instant it was removed new beads of sweat broke out. His body was soaked with sweat.

Alexander had become ill two weeks before.

He had held a special banquet for General Nearchus and had spent two days drinking the very strong wine. On the third day he had developed a fever and this, causing him thirst, he had drank even more. Over the weeks his fever had got progressively worse. He had spent one day playing dice, another listening to Nearchus as he retold the story of his voyage down the rivers of India and across the sea.

Today his symptoms were by far the worst. In the morning he had been hallucinating. Now his body was wracked with pain. A doctor had been called and after a thorough examination he had announced.

“I think his liver is failing.”

Craterus grabbed the doctor’s robe and bunched it in his fist.

“Help him!”

The doctor clutched at the fist but Craterus was too strong. The doctor was shaking his head.

“There is nothing I can do,” he whimpered.

Craterus drew his sword. The doctor yelped, twisting this way and that to try to free himself.

“There is nothing anyone can do. I’ve tried everything.”

“If he dies you will be next!”

Seleucus stepped forward and grabbed the sword arm.

“Python and I have been to the temple of the Gods. We have asked Serapis what is to be done. The answer came back that the King should be left where he is. He is in the hands of the Gods now. Leave the doctor alone.”

Craterus tore his eyes away from the physician struggling before him. He focused on Seleucus. Then the words sank in. He felt some of the killing lust leave him. He looked at the other Generals. They stared back. Each lost with his own thoughts. Craterus shoved the doctor away who yelped again and fled the bedroom. Craterus was trembling. He looked down at Alexander’s face.

For ten years they had been on the road together. Ten years of hardship and suffering. Ten years of glory and death. Ten years of war. They had not seen their homes, their wives, their families in a decade.

Craterus, his size and strength legendary.

He was a head taller than any other man. Was the only one of them who didn’t miss his homeland. He would follow Alexander to the ’ends of the earth.’

By now Alexander had managed to throw the covers off. Craterus felt his forehead. It was burning.

“I don’t think he has very long,” he told the others, his bottom lip quivering.

Ptolemy leaned in and whispered into Alexander’s ear.

“Sire it is time to choose your heir.”

Alexander heard and despite his delirium he managed to reach his other hand and remove his ring. His body was wracked with pain and he shuddered uncontrollably. With a supreme effort he pushed his hand up holding the ring in his fingertips.

“Sire. Who does it go to?”

Ptolemy put his ear next to Alexander’s mouth. The King rose up and spoke one word. He gave a last gasp and collapsed back onto the bed and lay still. His last breath escaped his lips slowly.

Craterus reached forward and