Out for Air
Hephaistion laid at the edge of the large lake shaped like the world's oceans. The glowing moon cast pale light onto the water's surface as Hephaistion sprawled comfortably over Macedon, fingers trailing through the water. He stared across to the opposite shore mentally locating Troy. A cool breeze caressed his skin as he lost himself in thought.
The quiet moment was broken by a great splash in which a shadowy figure surfaced from the water.
"Alexander." Hephaistion called softly, instantly knowing the Prince.
Alexander turned and swam over to the edge, just out of reach. "What brings you out so late Hephaistion?"
"I could ask the same of you the same, but then, I suppose I already know." Hephaistion shrugged. "I wished for air."
"Is that all you wished for?" Alexander questions as he kicked lightly to stay afloat.
"I assure you that I did not have any ulterior motives Alexander. I merely needed to get out of the palace. It is a good night to escape, don't you think?"
"Of course. The perfect night for a swim." Alexander moved closer.
"Isn't it a bit cool for that?" Hephaistion wondered aloud.
"No, it's just right. Come join me. You shall see."
"I did not dress for a swim." Hephaistion started.
"Nonsense, what you're wearing is suitable."
"Catch me if you can." Alexander grinned as he pulled Hephaistion into the water.
Hephaistion sputtered as he surfaced. He looked around for any sign of Alexander, but of course there was none, not even a lingering bubble of air on the surface of the water. Two could play the prince's game. He shed the red sash that had been around his shoulders as well as his sandals and threw them to shore. Taking a deep breath he dived under the surface. The moon lit the water well and Hephaistion could just about make out the bottom of the pool.
Hephaistion had always thought that what lay beneath the surface of the water was far more magnificent than what was on the banks. Under the water there was a small city covered in a large glass dome. If you swam up underneath it, you could surface and breathe air that was piped in. But Hephaistion knew that Alexander wouldn't hide in any place so obvious. If anything the prince would have swum into the extensive network of underwater tunnels that ran beneath the palace. It was a little known fact that there was an escape network in place connected through the water.
If one could hold their breath well enough, they could swim and access almost any room in the palace. He and Alexander both had free reign of the place through the underwater tunnels. That meant that Alexander could be anywhere within the palace walls and could take hours to find. However he liked to think that he knew the prince better than that and was positive that he could find him. With a few swift kicks, he was in a tunnel that led towards the main part of the palace.
He moved swiftly through the cool water, every once in a while surfacing in one of the many air pockets to catch his breath. Soon he took a turn down a narrow dark tunnel. He stopped as his fingers brushed against the wall. If he didn't know where he was going, he might have panicked, but he knew the underwater passages very well. He took a quick dive downward and followed a sharp curve in the tunnel before floating up and breaking through the surface of the water. He was in a small manmade cavern beneath the palace. It was completely dark and the only sounds were those of the water lapping against the stone and his quickened breathing.
By memory alone he was able to pull himself up the ledge to a flat space and find the stairs that led upwards. Moving slowly, so as not to slip on the damp floor, he counted the steps. There were twelve and they ended at a wall. On the wall were rungs, one hundred and twenty eight of them before they stopped completely leaving no ledge or door to go through, just blank wall. It was very tricky; another set of rungs was an arms length to the right. You had to risk your balance to reach them and resume your climb upwards. It was for safety purposes as strange as it seemed. If an enemy followed somebody into the secret passage that led down to the underwater tunnels, they could only follow so far. With the utter blackness of the escape route, it was believed that they would either fall to their death or retreat, not being able to find whom they were pursuing.
Hephaistion easily swung over to the second set of rungs and resumed his upward climb. After another hundred and eighty rungs he pulled himself up on a level floor. This was a set of tunnels that ran between walls and rooms. It had been an exciting place to play for Alexander and himself as children. It was still very handy for getting around without being noticed. He slid up the hallway, passing a few offshoots and doorways. There was a small hidden room at the end of the hall, which he entered. A single candle was lit on the table, casting a warm glow over the small bed and bookshelf beside it that spilled over with books. This was the prince's most private sanctuary. Here he could escape anything, well, anything except Hephaistion. Not that he often tried to hide from his friend.
Hephaistion walked to the bed and stood on it. Leaping, he grabbed onto a beam on the ceiling and pulled himself up. Once he was balanced on the beam, he pushed open a small section of the ceiling to reveal the night sky. He emerged on the roof and grinned triumphantly as Alexander looked up at him.
"There you are. I was beginning to wonder what had become of you." Alexander grinned as he bit into a grape.
"You had surprise on your side Alexander." Hephaistion shrugged as he sat down beside the prince and snatched one of his grapes.
"I decided that if you wanted air, this was a much better place for that."
"How thoughtful of you. Was that your only intent then? To give me some air?" Hephaistion took another grape.
"Actually, I was more intent on taking it away." Alexander replied as he turned and captured Hephaistion's shoulders, drawing him into a deep kiss. The grape fell from Hephaistion's grasp and rolled off the edge of the roof as he wrapped his arms around Alexander. Alexander's tongue swept through Hephaistion's mouth catching the faint flavor of grape. Ripples splintered the water far below as the grape sunk slowly to the bottom of the water like a small black pearl but both men were oblivious.