1. The Conqueror by Judith E. French

1. The Conqueror by Judith E. French

Author:Judith E. French [French, Judith E.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Medieval
Published: 0101-01-01T00:00:00+00:00

At dawn, the first morning of sunshine in weeks, Alexander said his good-byes to his wife and mounted leisurely; giving no indication that today's routine would be any different from the day before. He rode back toward the horse pens and met with Hephaestion.

Together they led squadrons of Companions back along the road to Taxila for several miles. Then they turned upriver and rode hard for the spot where the Jhelum narrowed. Long before dusk, they were well hidden in the thick forest that lined the river. Alexander knew that there were enemy scouts on the far banks, but by the time Porus received word that they were crossing, it would be too late.

Through the early hours of the evening they waited, standing beside their mounts, talking in whispers. Alexander stroked old Ox Head's neck and scratched the tender places on his belly. The black charger sniffed and rubbed his lips against his master's cheek. Alexander slipped him a sugared date, and the horse nibbled it daintily.

"It's time you retired Bucephalus," Perdiccas advised.

"It would break his heart if I left him behind when I rode into battle."

Ptolemy laughed softly. "For an old man, Ox Head's still got what counts. Half the foals born this spring were black as Hades."

"No wonder. Alexander reserves every choice mare for that stallion," Hephaestion said. "Bucephalus is in more danger of collapsing in the breeding pen than in battle."

They laughed and joked, swapping boyhood stories and tales until the weather turned and thunder rumbled in the distance. "We're in for a bad one," Hephaestion warned.

"We've crossed rivers in storms before." Alexander moved among his officers, giving last-minute instructions. Fording a flooding river in darkness was never easy, but he soothed them by saying, "Surprise gives us the edge we need."

Lightning struck a tree less than a mile away, and Hephaestion laughed above the pounding rain. "Alexander's relatives are lighting the way for us." Hephaestion swung up onto his tall bay and moved into position at the head of his regiment. Ptolemy and Perdiccas did the same, and Alexander led them through the trees toward the river crossing.

The fast-rushing water quickly rose to Bucephalus's withers, but the sand beneath his hooves was solid, and he plunged forward faithfully. The scent of battle was in the black's nostrils, and the years seemed to fall away from the old horse. Alexander spoke to him reassuringly.

The far bank was a line of faint trees illuminated by flashes of lightning. Rain fell in deafening torrents, muffling the sound of his army. Alexander drew his sword as Bucephalus neared the river's edge and climbed the muddy bank. The trees swayed before the fury of the storm, but no enemy troops barred their way. Alexander grinned. Porus's scouts were lax on such a night, and it would cost him a kingdom.


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