Legends of Persia

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2nd in the Time for Alexander series. Ashley continues her incredible adventure in 333 BC as she follows Alexander the Great’s army on his journey across Persia. As a presumed goddess, Ashley is expected to bless crops, make sure battles are won, and somehow keep out of the daily journals sent back to Athens, while all the time searching for her son and keeping history on course.  

Alexander’s campaign against the mountain tribes in the Hindu Kush is given a new life, told from the viewpoint of a time traveling reporter. Ashley knows he’s on the most dangerous part of his fantastic voyage, but she has to walk the knife edge of history, keeping Alexander alive and not bringing the wrath of the Institute of Time upon her.

CHAPTER ONE

Mist obscured the mountaintops. The path I was following rose steadily and was worn smooth by the passage of hundreds of feet and hooves. Taking advantage of a pause, I bent and scraped some snow off a boulder. Next to me, Plexis stopped walking, stretched, then caught sight of my hands. “What’s that?”

“A snowball.”

“What does one do with it?”

I smiled sweetly. “One throws it! Catch!” I threw the snowball as hard as I could, catching Plexis on the chin. His expression of shocked outrage turned to one of calculating revenge. He scooped up a handful of slushy snow and patted it into a snowball.

“Like this?” he asked, cocking his head to one side. His clear brown eyes were guileless, his dark brown hair curled in ringlets around his high cheekboned face. He looked like a Raphaelite angel. Appearances can be misleading.

I dodged around the side of my pony. “Sort of.” I peeked over the withers and received a faceful of snow. “No fair!” I bent down and tried to make another snowball, but the stuff was melting as fast as it fell and was starting to turn to rain. I looked up at the sky, soft and gray as the belly of a turtledove. “Well, that was snow,” I said, licking the last of it off my lips. “Haven’t you ever seen it before?”

“No, I lived in Athens. It never snowed there. Iskander saw snow when he was a child in Macedonia. He was always lording it over me. He made it sound so wonderful.” His voice was wistful. “I never thought it would look like ashes.”

I was startled. “Ashes?” I looked at the snow differently now. The snowflakes, fat and gentle as feathers, did look like wood ash. I smiled. “The first time I saw snow I thought it was bits of paper. I was sitting downstairs, and I fancied the maid was throwing torn newspaper out the upstairs window. I rushed to see, but nobody was there. It gave me a shock. I must have been only four years old, but I remember it clearly.”

“There you go again with your strange stories,” Plexis teased. “I suppose I’ll ask you what a newspaper is and you’ll say, ‘I can’t tell you,’ and I’ll spend another day longing for death.”

I gave a shocked laugh. “You don’t really believe in the prophecy, do you? The oracle said I’d answer your questions on your deathbed, but did you ever stop to think that perhaps you’ll be disappointed?”

“No, and I have a list somewhere – a list of things I’m going to ask you, so you’d better be prepared.”

“Well, a newspaper is like papyrus with all the daily events written on it. A journal.”

“Like the one Onesicritus’s writing?” He wiped the last bit of snow off his face and pulled his cloak tighter around his shoulders.

“I don’t know. Is he writing one?”

“He’s sending all the latest news to Athens.”

“I didn’t realize that.” I frowned. Onesicritus had arrived a few weeks ago, as puffed up with self importance as a ruffled chicken. He and Nearchus were always coming into our tent in the evenings. I had wondered why Onesicritus asked so many questions of my husband and wrote everything down on a parchment. I was used to the scribes and historians. I hadn’t thought for one minute there would also be a journalist. “I assumed he was just one of Nearchus’s pals,” I said. Nearchus was the admiral of my husband’s navy.

“Nearchus is flattered by him. The city of Athens has hired Onesicritus to write about Iskander’s conquests.” Plexis narrowed his eyes as he stared at the sky. “Snow is such flimsy, wet stuff,” he said, sniffing. “I can’t believe Iskander made it sound so marvelous when we were young.”

He called my husband Iskander, as did most people. In time, he would be known as Alexander the Great, but right now he was simply Iskander,King of Macedonia, Greece, Egypt, and most of Persia. We were following him over the Hindu-Kush Mountains. The mountains were the Himalayas, and we were still on the lowest slopes. It was autumn, but winter was nipping at our heels, hurrying us along. We had hired guides to take us through the mountain passes because we’d been warned it would be difficult.

Alexander marched at the head of his army. With sixty thousand soldiers, it was a formidable fighting machine. It was also a city unto itself, full of men from different countries with different languages and customs, following Alexander like the tail trailing behind a comet. The army also had priests and whores, soldier’s wives and children, cooks, engineers, doctors, scribes, historians, diplomats, lawyers, botanists, astrologers, grooms, messengers, slaves, and – last of all – me.

I was born three thousand years in the future. I used to take a monorail to the city, and here I was, on foot, leading a pony. The city we were heading toward might have a gym, a courthouse, a bakery, a temple, a fountain, and then again, it might not. It might be just a huddle of mud huts near a sullen stream. One thing it would not have would be a Tele-time station to send me home. Home was here and now, early December 330 BC.

 
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Author

Jennifer Macaire

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