Stephanie Thornton The Conqueror's Wife

ISBN 13 : 9780451472007

The Conqueror's Wife

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9780451472007: The Conqueror's Wife
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Praise

Also by Stephanie Thornton

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

EPILOGUE

Cast of Characters

Author's Note

Further Reading on the Empire of Alexander the Great

Readers Guide

Excerpt from The Secret History

About the Author

PROLOGUE

Alexander deemed himself a god, the mythic descendant of Achilles and the son of Zeus, and entire nations fell to their knees in ecstatic worship of him. But he was no god any more than we were nymphs and dryads, benevolent four-hoofed centaurs or vengeful three-headed chimeras.

He called himself Alexander the Great and claimed that he conquered the world. But he would have been lucky to conquer a stinking midden heap populated by swarms of biting flies had it not been for our cunning and daring.

Alexander founded cities of culture and learning, and named them after himself in a fit of hubris. But he razed more cities than there are stars in the sky, slaughtered their men, and burned their ancient palaces so that the four winds carried the gray ashes to rain down upon lands more distant than Alexandria-the-Farthest.

He claimed that the earth trembled, mountains quivered, and oceans overflowed their shores at his approach, but without us, Alexander would never have mounted a single golden throne or worn the coveted eagle diadem of Persia, much less the combined crowns of Greece, Egypt, and India.

Like Achilles, he sought glory and everlasting fame, and beseeched the gods that his name would echo throughout history. Yet so many of his baser deeds have been forgotten, or retold to forge him into a hero worthy of epic ballads.

But that is only part of the story.

It was because of him, and for him, that we did great, and also terrible, things.

Just as Zeus sat in his throne room atop Olympus, surrounded by the gods of violence and light, the goddesses of desire and the hearth, so too was Alexander surrounded by us.

His lover.

His sister.

His wife.

His soldier.

We were murderers and poisoners, innocents and warriors. And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.

Instead, he was a god.

CHAPTER 1

336 BCE

Aigai, Macedon

Thessalonike

I thought the wedding feast a threefold gift from Olympus: We celebrated our newly made political alliances, dined on more Delian honey cakes than I could stuff in my cheeks, and witnessed the return of my golden brother from his scandalous exile. Yet in the days to come I would wonder if we had offended the gods or if perhaps the Olympians merely found our petty lives tiresome after the extravagance of the marriage ceremony. Regardless of the cause, the three old crones of Fate set their rusty shears to cutting countless lifestrings after that terrible day.

The morning began with a banquet of dried apricots, flat staititas topped with sesame seeds and goat cheese, and crusty loaves of olive bread meant to symbolize the fertility of the recently deflowered bride—one of my barely known half sisters—wed today to a dour client king of Molossia.

“You have honey on your cheek, Thessalonike.” The youngest of my father’s seven wives and his current favorite, Eurydice, pursed her cinnabar-stained lips at me from across the women’s table. “And I think you’ve had quite enough apricots, lest they make you plumper than you already are.”

I rubbed my sleep-heavy eyes and licked away the sticky sweetness with my tongue, earning stern glares from all my father’s wives and a lopsided grin from my half brother Arrhidaeus.

“Like a frog, Nike,” he said, bouncing in his seat and clapping his fat hands before him. The son of a common Illyrian dancing girl, Arrhidaeus was twice my ten summers, but his mind remained that of a child. Despite his towering height and broad shoulders, he was allowed to sit on the women’s side of the hall because none of the men would have him.

“Or a salamander.” I laughed, letting my tongue flick between my teeth until Eurydice kicked my foot beneath the table. I scowled, wishing my pretty stepmother were still confined to her chambers with her infant son, where she couldn’t nag me.

The last apricot drizzled with honey beckoned, so I shoved it into my mouth before Eurydice could swat my hand. This afternoon would include endless recitations of Homer’s moth-eaten poems and prizes of gold bullion for the finest sculpture celebrating the marriage alliance between Epirus and Macedon, but I was hoping to sneak away to watch the javelin throwers and pankration matches. If I was lucky, maybe the pankratiasts would break the rules and try to gouge out each other’s eyes.

If I were ever a naked and oiled pankratiast—which I never would be because I had the misfortune of being born both a girl and royal—the first thing I would do was go for the eyes.

In fact, Arrhidaeus had long ago shortened my name to Nike—the rest of my name proving too cumbersome—and it suited me to share the name with the winged goddess of victory, for like Nike I loved to win above all things.

“Come,” Eurydice said, standing and smoothing the elaborate pleats of her woolen peplos. “We shall continue our weaving until the men return from the arena. Then Philip has granted us permission to listen to the poets.”

I stabbed my finger inside an olive, wishing I could do the same to my ears when it came time for the recitation. I dropped the pit to the ground, then winked at Arrhidaeus before I crushed the salty green flesh between my teeth. My half brother didn’t notice, being too busy digging with a tiny silver spoon into a pomegranate. Eurydice swept off in a cloud of violet perfume. No one noticed—or perhaps cared—when I didn’t follow. My father’s youngest wife had pretensions of being a dutiful matron, but Eurydice was better suited to gossiping about the latest fashion of beaded girdles or how much her recent treatment of foul-smelling ceruse had whitened her skin.

“Follow me,” I whispered to Arrhidaeus, casting a furtive glance around the hall.

“Where?” he asked. His thick lips drooped into a frown as he gave up on the spoon and used his fingers to fish the last juicy red seeds from the pomegranate’s husk.

“To the arena,” I said, pulling him from the table even as he licked his scarlet-stained palms. “I’d rather pluck my eyes out than spend the day weaving.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “Don’t hurt your eyes.”

“I won’t, my Titan, at least not if you hurry.”

My half brother grinned at my name for him. The Titans were immortal giants with tremendous strength (although they’d been overthrown by the Olympians, which I chose to ignore). Regardless, the nickname was kinder than the others my father’s court called Arrhidaeus: “donkey face,” “walnut brain,” and “half-wit.” Several of the nobles’ foulmouthed sons had felt the sting of my slingshot in response, so now they held their tongues when I was nearby.

I glanced at the courtyard’s columned entrance, the wilted olive branch that announced the birth of Eurydice’s son still tied to the plinths, and saw that my eldest half brother, Alexander, and his boyhood companion Hephaestion had arrived, their hair damp and complexions ruddy from the baths. Their heads were bent in deep conversation—one the color of a lion’s mane in summer sunshine and the other with curls as dark as a crow’s wing in winter. Their claim on each other’s affections was well-known throughout the palace and they’d walked in each other’s shadows since Alexander’s recent return to Aigai following his exile. Despite that, most of the women—and some of the men—now swiveled in the direction of my beautiful, scandal-laden brother, several holding chunks of bread suspended in midair as he and his friend passed.

Hephaestion’s chiseled features softened as he stooped to whisper in my brother’s ear before striding toward the table on the men’s side of the courtyard, its walls decorated with a fresco of a griffin attacking a stag. Alexander arranged himself stiffly on a dining couch, his tawny hair parted in a severe line down the middle, and his lips curved into a frown as he glanced at our father’s empty dais. My brother’s return had inspired continuing whispers that Eurydice’s newly delivered infant son would supplant him as our father’s heir.

Life had been simple until my father married Eurydice of Macedon, her belly already swollen with a boy child, or so she had crowed to anyone who would listen. Perhaps it was a result of the wine or the summer’s heat, but at their wedding ceremony Alexander’s blood had almost been shed after Eurydice’s father had offered a public prayer to Zeus to grant my father a new, full-blooded heir. Alexander, born of Philip’s Macedonian and Olympias’ Epirean blood, had leapt from his seat in a rage and thrown his cup of wine at Eurydice’s father, causing my father to draw his sword. There was a collective gasp of shock as my father lunged forward, presumably to stab his own son, but instead he tripped on the edge of his couch and fell face-first to the ground. In the outrage that followed, Alexander and his mother were forced to flee from Aigai, leaving me bereft of both a brother and the woman who had raised me after my own mother died giving me life.

Alexander had been ordered home for the wedding, though our father utterly ignored him now that Eurydice had birthed his fully Macedonian son. Olympias remained in exile, abandoned in Epirus with only her devotions to Dionysus, her famed pet snakes (which I adored, especially the spotted leopard snake I’d taught to tickle my feet with its tongue), and her hopes of one day seeing Alexander on the throne to keep her content. And that meant Eurydice remained in control of my father’s household.

And in control of me, at least when she was paying attention.

We were almost to the doorway when a strong hand encircled my wrist. “Sneaking off again, Thessalonike?” Hephaestion’s voice held an undercurrent of laughter. “I should return you to Eurydice,” he said, popping a stray date into his mouth and chewing it thoughtfully. “I heard her mention an important tapestry, something about a design of Athena’s defeat of Enceladus involving thousands of very complicated and extremely tiny knots.”

I groaned and fell to my knees on the hall’s black-and-white checkered mosaic. “Please, no. I’d rather you killed me first.”

“No, Nike,” Arrhidaeus said with an emphatic shake of his head. “No killing.”

“Is my sister threatening another dramatic death?” Alexander asked as he stepped forward, his shadow falling on me. “What is it this time, Thessalonike? Impaled by Persian swords? Ripped apart by lions? Drowned by Scylla and Charybdis?”

“Nothing so glorious,” I muttered. “Death by weaving.”

Alexander, my golden half brother and descendant of both Heracles and Achilles, shared a grin with Hephaestion and laughed, leaving me scowling and Arrhidaeus’ brows knit together in consternation so I had to pat his arm to reassure him that all was right in the world.

“Are you two going to release me or return me to my doom?” I asked, folding my arms in front of me.

Hephaestion tapped his chin. “She’s a demanding little thing, isn’t she?”

“Always has been,” Alexander said. “When her mouth isn’t full of sweetmeats or honey rolls, that is.”

I stuck out my tongue at him. Some people stuttered in Alexander’s presence, fearing his mercurial temper and the aura of the gods that clung to him, but I’d spent the full ten years of my life in his mother’s household and knew that the man before me had recently been a boy who drooled in his sleep and kept a tattered copy of Homer’s Song of Ilium under his pillow, believing it would imbue him with the power of Achilles.

“If you’re going to continue insulting me,” I said, “then Arrhidaeus and I are leaving for the arena.”

“I’m sure that will go over well,” Hephaestion said, glancing heavenward. “Surely no one will notice Philip’s daughter at the men’s games.”

I narrowed my eyes in speculation. “They won’t care if I’m accompanied by my father’s son and heir.”

A dark cloud passed over Alexander’s features. I’d forgotten for a moment the talk of Eurydice’s son supplanting him, but the storm passed as Hephaestion threw his arm around Alexander’s broad shoulders. “You,” he said to my brother, “must accompany your father into the stadium, but perhaps Arrhidaeus and I can escort young Thessalonike.”

Alexander didn’t answer, but he looked past us to where my father entered the courtyard, every guest lifting a terra-cotta skyphos of wine in his honor. Before my birth, the poets claimed that the birds sang of Philip’s beauty, but now a livid pink scar ruined one side of his face, a battle wound from the siege of Methone that had also claimed his left eye as a spoil of war.

“If you go to the arena, go quickly.” Alexander’s own eyes—one the pale blue of a spring sky and the other the darker hue of an oncoming storm—remained shuttered as he tugged my blond curls, identical to his own. “Your secrets are safe with me, little sister.”

I shrieked with glee, then grabbed Arrhidaeus’ and Hephaestion’s hands and dragged them from the hall, my blue himation flapping behind me while Arrhidaeus’ chortles of laughter chased us on. Through the palace courtyard with its potted quince trees and then the apricot and pomegranate orchards, beyond the southern Sun Gate and the shuttered agora—its stalls closed in preparation for the glorious spectacle awaiting us—and then to the amphitheater nestled into the base of one of Aigai’s rolling hills, its autumn grasses muted to a dull gold. Crowds of men swathed in furs already jostled for the best view of the naked wrestlers and javelin throwers, but we found seats near the bottom row. My eyes bulged to see my eldest half sister, Cynnane, seated nearby with her husband, Amyntas, a lone woman among a sea of men, her crinkly curls somewhat tamed by a sheen of olive oil and her body dressed not in her customary short chiton but in a refined peplos that flowed all the way to her sturdy ankles. I hadn’t seen her since the birth of her daughter a few months ago, and women weren’t allowed in the arena, but Cynnane wasn’t a proper woman; she’d been instructed by her Illyrian mother in the ways of war, traditions passed down by the chieftains of their family for generations.

I ducked behind Arrhidaeus, glad for the shield of his hulking shoulders, for although being near Alexander never tied my tongu...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)...

We are the women who loved Alexander the Great.  We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.


330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED

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Description du livre Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. État : New. 208 x 137 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for strong and determined female protagonists (Historical Novel Society) and a sprawling historical saga (Renee Rosen). We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers. And without us, Alexander would have been only a man. Instead he was a god. 330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny. His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander s heart.and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side. Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy. CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED. N° de réf. du libraire AAC9780451472007

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Edité par Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2015)
ISBN 10 : 0451472004 ISBN 13 : 9780451472007
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Description du livre Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. État : New. 208 x 137 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for strong and determined female protagonists (Historical Novel Society) and a sprawling historical saga (Renee Rosen). We are the women who loved Alexander the Great. We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers. And without us, Alexander would have been only a man. Instead he was a god. 330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny. His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander s boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia s throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander s heart.and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side. Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy. CONVERSATION GUIDE INCLUDED. N° de réf. du libraire AAC9780451472007

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