Tammy Elizabeth Beth, a dark child; as she liked to call herself, once again blinked her large hazel and grey-speckled eyes to nothing but utterly pure darkness. She sat up stiffly and rubbed the back of her throbbing head.
"Mother?" She called out in a small voice, sounding weak and pathetic in the echo that called back to her. "Mother, are you here?"
'Of course she's not here... why would she be? Unless Grandpa's in town she can't be here before nightfall.' She thought bitterly. 'It's just like every other day. Is it morning or night, who knows? Just more darkness to continue my suffering.'
Tammy shook her head clear of thought and brought herself shakily to her feet. Looking around, it seemed as if her mother had paid a short visit sometime before, leaving yet another basket in her wake. She picked at the food inside. Her appetite hadn't woken with her. Tammy crawled around in a darker space, looking for the rest of her belongings. She wrapped her hands around a warm container and a small box.
She lit the lantern and blinked rapidly when the sudden change in light burned her eyes. She kept a tight grip on the lantern so as to keep from dropping it. When her eyes adjusted; Tammy set down her lantern and pulled her belongings close to her. She took headcount of her things, just like mother had told her.
'Doesn't seem like anything is missing...' She thought. Tammy watched the shadows of the small flame dance across the walls. Time must have floated by faster than she thought because soon footsteps filled her ears. She scrambled back, clutching her blanket and basket to her chest. Her doll lay inches from the lantern, shrouded in shadow as the footsteps neared, a petite figure shadowing the room.
"Tammy...?" A familiar voice said. "Tammy dear?"
"Mother?" She asked, slowly coming out into the light. She let out a sigh of relief. "You gave me a fright mother..."
Her bright, apologetic smile made Tammy's insides feel warm. "I apologize. I didn't mean to frighten you." She paused long enough to sit next to Tammy, fingering the doll that she now held in her hands.
"It's alright mother," Tammy answered. "I know you didn't mean it."
Tammy's mother stared lovingly at her daughter. "You're growing up so quickly. And you're growing to be quite beautiful too. Oh, if only your father were here to see how beautiful you are!" She said. Tammy blushed.
"Have you heard from father?" Tammy asked. Her mother's loving gaze wavered.
"No. I haven't heard from him since before you were born. And as far as we should be concerned, he's dead. There's nothing more to it."
"But mother-" Tammy began to protest.
"Tammy, I will hear no more about this! Do you understand me?!" Her mother's voice was full of warning and hurt. Tammy cringed.
"I-I apologize... I didn't mean to upset you." Tammy replied. Her mother let out a heavy sigh, but remained silent. She fiddled with her fingers absently, wondering what the day's lessons would bring.
Tammy leaned against the wall of the cavern, feeling cold and lonely once more. The faint fragrance of her mother was left behind. She put out the lantern and sat in the dark. Her refuge for her loneliness.
'I'm not so different from the dark.' She thought. Her unspoken words seemed to echo in her mind to accompany the silence of both her mind and reality. 'We're both lonely, and seen as only for what we are: darkness. Evil. Unspeakable acts of the world and of the gods creation. Neither of us were meant to be. My birth, along with the birth of darkness, was a mistake. A misunderstanding. A mishap. Something that should have not happened. We're worthless as far as the world knows or cares. Only the gods see us for our true intentions, for our despairs, and even they show little mercy to us.' Her eyes drooped, and the sounds of wails of a baby filled her ears from distant memories that breached to the surface of her mind. Fuzzy pictures drafted over the back of her eyelids.
"We're not so different, you and I." She said softly, her voice barely audible to her own ears. "We both desire a brighter light. But the cruel reality of it all is that we are nothing. We are the garbage of the world. And that is all we will ever be."
Bangs filled the air and cries joined them. These cries screamed anger and shouted pain and proved the wounded, to their dismay, to be left crippled and worthless in battle. It was not dark, nor was it light; the mere hours of Twilight danced across the sky and flashes of reds and greens could be seen here and there; scattered and mingling around each other. Metallic clashing sounds vibrated in the air that smelled stale with sweat and blood.
"FOR ROME!" One cry said.
"ROME!" A thousand voices echoed. There was another loud cry. A cry that spoke of their anguish and hate; yet it exposed their passion and their love for Rome. Hundreds of voices, all speaking at once, yelling and wailing; screaming and shouting filled the air for what seemed like only seconds; but what must have been a few days.
As the time buzzed by, the view in front of her became more and more atrocious. Blood was shed, splattered everywhere. It flew in her line of view and she could feel the drops of blood fall onto her. She grimaced.
'Where am I...?' She thought. A aching throb built up slowly in her head. And with every wave of new, pride filled cries, the throbs got worse.
There was a loud CRUNCH and a searing pain ran up the length of her right side. She felt her mouth open and a loud scream filled her ears. But it didn't sound like her voice. It sounded lighter. Dry and younger. But familiar. Definitely familiar.
A face appeared. A male. Young and quite attractive. A weird sense of comfort and ease ran through her.
"You're alive? Why is such a fair maiden lying among the dead if she is still alive? Why not run for shelter?" The man said. His voice was smooth. Slightly gruff, and very deep. It was like the soft fur of a rabbit brushing against her mind. And the pain became miniscule.
"I-I..." She began, but her voice trailed. There was a hot lump in her throat. It wasn't until then that she realized how long it had been since she had spoken. It seemed like decades ago. She opened her mouth to attempt to speak again, but a warm and sour liquid filled the back of her throat. She rolled to her side with great difficulty and allowed the acid to pour out of her, along with the large amount of blood that followed it.
She felt rough skin touch her own soft skin. The man had placed his hand gently on the small of her back. She felt her cheeks warm as shamed filled her. She felt little comfort being held in the strange mans arms.
"Don't fret, my pet..." He murmured in her ear as he slowly, gently, lifted her into his arms. "I will take care of you."
She wanted to fight, knowing that she shouldn't let some stranger cart her off; but she was so tired. And he was so warm. She found herself nuzzling her face into his neck, feeling sleepy.
Tammy sat up quickly, breathing heavily. There was nothing but silence around here, but something seemed off. What it was, she couldn't put her finger on it. She held her breath and listened; but there was only more silence.
She layed back down and stared at the ceiling of her cold and damp cave. Nothing seemed right. It was as if she hadn't even been in her own body.
And what was Rome?
Alexandria wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. The sun was beating down on her father's little farm, and she had been left by herself to watch over the fields while her father was away for the time being. He had gone to the town market that was now supervised by the Roman generals because of a law that was passed almost six years ago, after a bloody war left them defenseless against the Romans.
She scammed the surrounding area of land, which was fairly small since much of it had been taken away by the king, and all was peaceful. She ran off in the direction of the woods as fast as her fatigued legs could carry her.
Tammy scrambled back as the pounding of footsteps closed in on her.
"M-Mom?" She asked.
Tammy breathed out a relieved sigh. "What time is it mom? I didn't think you would be coming for a long while."
"It's about midday. Your grandfather won't be back for two days time and no one seems to be making any rounds. Blasted romans..." She paused and held her hand out to Tammy, and helped her to her shaky feet, leading her back to the farm. It was Tammy's first visit, and likely to be her only visit, so she wanted to make it worthwhile.
"Mommy where are we going?" Tammy asked timidly.
"To the farm sweetie. You'll be able to get a proper meal and rest and we can gather better supplies to hopefully make that cave just a touch more comfortable for you."
Tammy gave her mother a cautious look, as if she was still debating exactly how she felt about this.
"But... what if grandfather finds out?" She said in a small voice. Her mother didn't say anything for a long while, pulling her alongside her out of the wood and across the field. When she stopped at the rotting door of their makeshift home, she sighed.
"If and when that time comes, I will have a lot of explaining to do. But I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out. I'm a big girl Tammy, I know how to take responsibility for my actions when I need to. But for now... let's just try and make the best of this. Alright dear?"
Tammy thought for a moment, wondering what exactly would happen, before nodding slowly. "Alright mom..." She said quietly. Her mom smiled.
"Let's head on in, shall we?"
Octavian normally didn't like to be alone. He always made sure to have company around. Company of any kind. But today wasn't a normal day. Today he was back in the one town that he didn't want to be in, by order of his maternal great-uncle; Julius Caesar.
He had met a maiden here, and had taken her to shelter. He had courted her, and left, fearing that he would become attached to the feelings he had for the poor young woman. Or worse, that he may be caught courting a Plebeian. An offense beyond the control of even the great Caesar. No one would come to his defense for his crimes.
He let out a heavy sigh. He had hoped and prayed to the gods above that he would never have to come to this city ever again. But no matter how hard he prayed he had been force to come back to the town that he so despised. Caesar had told him he needed to marry someone so he could take over the the throne when his time was up. This idea wasn't very appealing to him, but he knew better than to argue with his Uncle. It was a suicide-mission.
He thought long and hard about what Caesar told him he wondered for a brief moment if Alexandria was still in the kingdom. If he had to marry someone it was going to be her no matter what. All these years and he tried to forget her but just couldn't seem to.
"Sire... you have been awful quiet. Is everything alright?" His trusted guard asked. They weren't very close, considering the facts of their positions, but they confided in each other when they needed to. He let out a shaky breath, refusing to look him in the eye and swallowed back his pain.
'' I need you to go into the city and find a maiden by the name of Alexandria...'' He said evenly.
"Who?" The guard asked.
"I am expected to marry, and she will be the one I marry. Go. Find her and bring her to me."
"But how will I know if its her sire... I've never laid eyes on her before.'' He asked Octavian.
''Trust me.. you will know, believe me.''
With that in mind off to the city the good guard went, to find a maiden whom he's never seen before in his life.
Octavian plopped into his lounge couch, thinking out loud to himself as he stared into the warm fire. "What will I do? How will I go about this? What do I say.. 'Oh I'm so very sorry I spent the night with you than left for years and left you all alone. Oh and by the way I need a bride.. would you do me the honors?' How pathetic is that?!" He huffed out his distress and ran a hand through his slightly curly, sun-streaked, blonde hair.
He stared into the fire, letting his anxieties and fears overtake his mind. He couldn't hide from them forever; since he wasn't like the great Julius Caesar. He rolled his eyes at the thought. He knew what his great-Uncle was really up too. But it was a death mission to confront him, or to tell anyone. And who would believe him? He was just the spoiled and supposedly jealous Nephew. No one cared what was really going on as long as things looked good. And even though they did, and Octavian found himself almost believing Caesar's lies, they weren't. His laws were based on ways to make sure that he could never be taken out and his opinions were biased and based on ways to better himself. Octavian's scowl deepened. He had a deep hatred for his Uncle, but a strong admiration and respect as well. And this seemed to balance out equally enough.
He closed his eyes, not thinking of his own intentions or achord. Everything that came to him, just came. He liked to think of it as little workers in his head scanning over his every thought and emotion and laying it out on a table for him to see and to feel once more. It was torment, and it killed him as thoughts and feeling that he thought he had long forgotten returned to him, but he knew that he could never stay as strong as he was; nor as confident or as keen witted, if he didn't look back on his mistakes and find ways to better himself through them.
'You see, that is what makes us different...' He thought, as if his Uncle could hear his very thoughts. 'I use my mistakes to my advantage. I will openly admit to them. You are a man of pride, and too much of it might I add. You refuse to admit to any mistakes that you've ever made, and pretend that they don't exist. Like they never happened. And that is what makes YOU the fool, my friend. You're the fool. And I am only the uncertain and clumsy man stumbling behind. But it is how it should be. Because this is how it must be. I am here by the will of the gods, as much distress as it leaves me. So take care; oh great and mighty Uncle, because one day, you will be the FOOL stumbling behind ME.'
Alexandria watched as her daughter inhaled every scrap of food that was set in front of her. Her heart swelled with sadness at the thought that this would still not be enough for her. No matter what she did, it would never be enough.
"How do you feel?" She asked in a small voice, almost missing the fact that she had said it in the first place. Tammy glanced up at her, pausing slightly as another rusted forkful of food was mere inches from her lips. She stuffed into her already full mouth and chewed rapidly, coughing as she swallowed. She took a sip of the water that was set in front of her before speaking.
"I feel great. Why do you ask?" Tammy's voice was raspy, as if she was losing her voice. Alexandria sighed and shook her head.
"It's nothing dear, I just wanted to make sure that eating all of this was not making you feel ill, that is all."
Tammy stared at her mother for a long moment, gouging out her response carefully.
"Alright..." She said finally. Then all was quiet again as she continued to scarf down the plate full that was in front of her. Alexandria smiled and patted her shoulder.
"I'll be right back, alright?" She whispered. Tammy mumbled something that she couldn't understand and she shrugged to herself.
She climbed the stairs to their store room. There were a few straw mattresses set off in the corner, and she was determined to get one to the cave as soon as she could. She felt herself strain under even the lightweight straw.
Tammy helped herself to some more of the food that was in the pots on the stove. She paused when she heard a door open and close again, but no one seemed to be coming in to intentionally interrupt her meal, so she skipped happily back to the table and continued to eat.
As she did so, she thought about her dream. Where had she been? Who had she been? Who was that strange man? And, most importantly, was it a sign?
One of the biggest lessons her mother had taught her was that everything could possibly be a sign. A piece of the puzzle that will bring you to your destiny. She hadn't understood the lesson very well, and it seemed to be the only thing she had ever had difficulty processing.
Her mother said that she was as smart as her father.
She also told her that she had her father's eyes and his chin and his smile.
The thought made her sad.
It wasn't often that her mother spoke of her father. And when she did, it was vague tidbits of information, most of which she said were already things that she knew. But it was different, hearing it from her mother. She always had a dreamy look in her eye as she gazed off into the distance, as if the story was playing out in front of her rather than it being from her memory. And she always looked younger too.
Tammy started to wonder who her father really was. Was he really as tall and broad and handsome as her mother claimed? She tried to picture it in her mind. Her father, that is. But she couldn't do it. It seemed off. And it felt off.
Maybe it was because she had never actually seen her father. Even as an Infant, he was never around.
Apparently he had left before he had any knowledge that her mother was ever pregnant with her.
She let out a heavy sigh. These thoughts unnerved her as much as they annoyed her and gave her a sense of white hot anger that she knew was irrational. She shook her head to clear it and focused on eating as much as she could before her mother came back to check on her.
Alexandria gulped, her throat burning as the small bit of saliva that she could muster slithered down her throat. She struggled to pull the straw bed along with her and had slipped and fallen into the mud a few times, but after a long walk and a possible strain in her ankle, she set the straw bed down in the back of the cave. She hated that she hadn't been able to get some good supplies to her daughter before.
Although, until she was about six, she had ran off and stayed in an abandoned home outside of the kingdom. It had been a struggle to get there and even worse trying to find her way back, but by the time she had managed to do all of it, Tammy was almost eight. and could practically take care of herself.
It hurt to think about all that she had put Tammy through. And all that she would eventually have to face.
Thankfully though, Tammy had been blessed by the gods with excellent reflexes, witts, and brains too. She definitely wasn't a typical girl of her generation.
Although she wasn't raised like any typical girl of her generation though either.
Alexandria took a deep breath before leaving the cool cave and stepping back out into the hot sun. She could almost feel the sweat boiling on her skin. She swallowed again, feeling her throat scratch against itself as she did so. And with another deep breath that burned her lungs, she took off across the field as fast as she could. Her legs burned, but she was able to make it there after an eternity.
"Excuse me, have you ever encountered a young maiden named Alexandria?"
The elderly woman glanced up at the noble through squinted eyes. She had been minding her own business in the market when he had placed his sweaty hand on her shoulder and politely demanded her attention, which she had been previously not giving him. She scowled at him.
"Not that I can think of, no." She said in a tight and breathy voice. He gave her a stern look and wiped sweat off of his forehead with the back of his hand.
"Ma'am this is of high importance of General Octavian, the Nephew of the great Julius Caesar. And if you happen to know this Alexandria then you must tell me where I can find her at once!" The nobleman said.
"Excuse you? Sir, I may be old, but that doesn't mean I know everyone. I may know an Alexandria, I may not. It is completely possible that I may have, in fact, met a girl named Alexandria at some point. It could have been yesterday. It could have been seventeen years ago! It could have been at breakfast this morning, but I don't even remember what I ate much less who I may or may not have met!" She paused, sticking her nose up snobbily and pointing a finger accusingly in his face. "And you should be ashamed of yourself! Expecting an elderly woman to do YOUR work! If you want to find this Alexandria girl, then go and find her yourself! Don't expect others to do it for you!"
The noble glared at her, but this woman was obviously not backing down. Had it not been so hot, and he; not so thirsty himself, he would have called out for a Royal guard to be rid of her, but; alas, he could not. He huffed out his frustrations and turned to walk away.
"Very well them Ma'am. However, if you are to hear of her..." He glanced at her over his shoulder with daggers in his eyes. "I advise that you tell I or another member of the royal council immediately."
Alexandria looked up from where she was doubled over by the door. Tammy was peeking around the corner, looking concerned for her. She straightened herself quickly, a wave of dizziness washing over her as she did so.
"Yes Tammy?" She asked, smiling as brightly as she could.
"Where did you go?" Tammy asked. Alexandria let out a small and light laugh, swallowing back the familiar bitter and foul taste at the back of her throat.
"I just had to run something out quick." Alexandria replied. Her smile wavered slightly when Tammy's eyes narrowed.
"Are you feeling ok Mom?" Tammy asked.
"Of course I am!" Alexandria pretended to be offended, but knew that she was not fooling her daughter. "Are you done eating?"
Tammy hesitated, and Alexandria could tell that Tammy was debating whether or not she should press the issue of her mother not feeling well. After a long moment of silence, Tammy seemed to be satisfied with her mother's answer, even if the suspicion still showed in her eyes. She nodded slowly.
"Good!" Alexandria lightly gripped Tammy's elbow, pulling her along. "Then you should get some rest."
"What did you need to run out?" Tammy asked.
"I just went to put a straw bed down in your cave."
"Why? I'm fine on the floor."
"Yes, but it's much more comfortable than the floor."
"But you never gave me a bed before. So why would I need one now? And won't grandfather get upset when he finds out?"
Alexandria paused outside of her bedroom door looked back at her daughter and whispered,'' Goodnight sweetie.''
"Tammy, it's been a long time since we've had a day when the Romans didn't do their rounds. And when we do, your grandfather is normally here. It's just the only time that I've ever gotten the chance to provide for you the way that I should have since you were born. I was scared and let what people thought of me get the best of me and cloud my judgement."
"But I thought you said to never listen to what others thought about you?" Tammy questioned, allowing her mom to guide her to bed and tuck her in. Alexandria heaved a heavy sigh.
"I know... I did say that. And I meant it. And everything else that I've taught you. But you have to understand... things are so much different now than since I was a kid."
"How are they different Mommy?"
"Just get some sleep sweetie... I'll explain more later."
Tammy looked about ready to argue, but a big yawn escaped her and she nodded reluctantly before allowing herself to drift off to sleep.
Alexandria stayed for a while and just watched as Tammy slept. She looked so peaceful, almost happy. The sight made Alexandria's heart swell and she had to force herself to step out of the room. She had remembered seeming such peace. But it had never been given to her or her father; the last of her family.
But she had come close to it. it wasn't a complete sense of peace, because there was always that small bit of uncertainty and anxiety in the back of her mind. And Augustus had told her that she had every right to mistrust anyone who made her feel uncomfortable. And the thought of Augustus tore at her, ripping her heart into millions of pieces.
She trudged back to the kitchen and sat down at the table, silent tears streamed down her face.
Her eyes opened slowly. She felt faint and couldn't move. She forced her eyes to open all the way to take in her surroundings.
She was in a large room. The walls were brightly colored and there were animal pelts and war medals hanging. There was a dark suede lounge sofa and matching recliners hanging out by a fireplace. The fireplace was large and made of brick and the fire sent waves of warmth over here. She could see the plain white poles of the bed she was laying on and the dark red cover above it. There was a purple curtain that was swept back allowing her to see this. But the other side was kept down, and she could see the outline of a door.
In the distance she could hear shuffling feet and muffled voices. She strained her ears to catch even a little of what was being said.
"You cannot just bring a woman into this castle! We have a duty to the king, and that duty has nothing to do with helping some poor, sickly woman! She is nothing to us!"
"I know Uncle, I know! But she needed help! I don't know what it is about her; but I had to help! I felt that I couldn't just leave her there to die!"
"You could very well have done JUST that Augustus! You are disgracing the name of the Romans! Getting distracted by a mere woman... that is HOGWASH!"
"Uncle, listen to me, I know what my crimes are, but please; try to understand-"
"I understand that my nephew, whether be flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood; or not, is not fit to be on the royal guard."
"No. It is decided. You are to kill her. You cannot keep her here, and this will teach you a valuable lesson that you must learn."
"Uncle Julius you can't do that!"
"To hell if I can't." A pause. "I'll be back in a few days time. I will have a guard check on you in two hours. If she isn't dead, then she will be held captive until my return. And I will kill you both."
There were some heavy footsteps that quickly faded. And then, silence.
She strained to hear more, hoping that it was over. But there was nothing. She tried to make a break for it, but her muscles refused her. So she slowly brought her muscles back to her own control and stood on her shaky feet.
She stumbled towards the door.
But it slammed open before she could make it there.
"You're awake..." The man said. It was the same man who had brought her here. The man who had saved her. She nodded slowly, wondering if she should be answering any of his questions at all. He took a small steps toward her, and she took a step back. Something rubbed against her leg. It was soft and smooth. She glanced down at herself. Silk pajamas.
"Are you alright? All that yelling didn't wake you, did it?" He asked. His face was etched with concern and it comforted her, even if she was mentally kicking herself for not making a break for it. Although getting past this burly man surely would not be an easy task. She reluctantly gave him a small shrug and his frown deepened.
"Then I must give you my sincere apologies. Neither I nor my Uncle meant to wake you." He said.
"I-It's fine..." She stammered. Her voice was hoarse and raspy sounding; even to her. She found herself glued to the floor as he approached and gently grabbed her chin, turning her head this way and that slowly.
"W-what are y-you looking f-for?" She asked him. He let out a small sigh.
"You're hurt." He said. Her look must have been full of puzzlement and question, because he hesitantly touched the sensitive flesh just below her eye, causing her to flinch violently and a throbbing pain around her eye. He opened his mouth to speak again, but she shook her head vigorously, asking him not to speak as she tried to soothe the pain unsuccessfully.
"I-Is there anything I can get for you?" He asked in a small voice. She swallowed thickly and put a hand on the edge of her collarbone, her fingers gently massaging her sore throat. He nodded in understanding and gestured towards the bed again. Hesitantly she allowed herself to be guided back to the bed, but not before she had a chance to catch herself in a small mirror on the dresser. She bit her lip, causing it to break and bleed.
'M-Mom?' She thought.
Her hair was a mass of dark brown, uncontrollable curls that draped down to her lower back. It framed her ghostly pale face oddly, making her look foreign to herself with a strange hint of familiarity. Her long lashes made her pale hazel-grey eyes seem wider than they actually were, almost as if they could pop out of her skull at any moment. And with her frail looking cheekbones, they just might.
The red silk pajamas she were wearing were a bit big, and covered her feet to where she had to step carefully to avoid tripping, and left just the tips of her fingertips show when her arms hung loosely to her sides. And yet, as distanced as she was from the mirror, she could see the grime and dirt on her yellowing fingernails.
She allowed the man to tuck her in, trembling. He gave her a soft and apologetic smile and she felt a warmth run through her as the tips of her mouth curled into a small smile.
"What's your name?" He asked, breaking the silence. She was silent for a moment, but when she spoke, she didn't take any more time thinking about whether she should say her name, or fool him with a new name.
"Alexandria..." She said in a small and insecure voice. His smile widened and his eyes sparked with a gleeful interest.
"Well Alexandria, I'm glad you trust me enough to share that with me. It's an honor to meet you. And if you heard anything that my Uncle said, then please ignore him, I will see to your well being personally. I won't let you hurt or suffer anymore." She felt her smile grow just slightly and her eyes watered as he spoke.
"Thank you..." She whispered. She let out a small giggle as he pressed a light and feathery kiss to her forehead.
"You're sincerely welcome." He replied. As he turned to walk away, she reached out her arm, grabbing his wrist, causing his concerned look to return.
"Yes? Is something wrong?" He asked. She thought about it for a moment, before deciding that if she was sharing information with him, that she deserved information of her own.
"What's your name?" She asked. He smiled.
Tammy sat upright in bed, breathing heavily. She didn't know what it was with these dreams, but they unnerved her. She took a few calming breaths before easing herself out of bed. Her muscles were stiff and she felt uncomfortable; yet it was the best nights sleep that she'd had since birth.
She leaned against the wall, pulling her knees close and throwing the blanket over her head. It was a simple woven quilt, and it didn't provide much warmth; but Tammy still felt a few beads of sweat trickle down her face.
Why was she having these dreams? Where were they coming from?
And why was she her mom in them?!
Julius let out a yawn. His reign had only been going on for two decades, and for well over half of it all he ever heard was complaints about taxes being too high or starvation. When was everyone going to realize that bringing more power to the Empire and conquering more land was more important?
And, much to their dismay; fighting cost money. And that was what taxes were for. If they couldn't afford it, they'd have to find another way to make up for it.
He hadn't been listening to anything that his Military Guide had been telling him. He wasn't even one hundred percent sure if this was the Captain of his Army or the Sargeant. This irked him. He should know this. But he wasn't going to ask and sound like an idiot, definitely not in front of someone so important. He rubbed his temples as a headache began to form and tried to listen to what he was being told.
"...And from there we could easily have them beat! It's so simple! And after we've conquered Gaul, we'll move into Spain. And once we do..."
"Alright, I get your point. So let's just conquer Gaul, and figure out what to do with Spain when we get there?" Julius interrupted, hoping to just get this over with. The man standing next to him, a smoothed out map on the table in front of them, stared at Caesar for a long moment before shaking his head; as if to clear his thoughts.
"Right, of course." He said in an even tone. He folded the map back up neatly, stuffing it in his pocket. He bowed stiffly before turning to leave.
"No. I will not be negotiated any lower than that! It's two-hundred Denarius or you can walk!"
"I'll be three pounds for two-hundred Denarius, and take an extra half pound for another fifty!"
Adam Beth had been arguing with the stall owner for a little over a half an hour; and he just wanted to go home. He had been away, staying with his brother Antony; for almost a week. He heaved a sigh as the stall owner stared him down, wavering; but not seeming to budge.
"You already have an answer. Now beat it!" The stallman said. Adam scowled, deep wrinkles forming near the corners of his mouth and over his brow. He leaned closer to the man, who he towered over by a good two feet, and spoke in a low voice; spittle covering the face that he was mere inches from.
"Sir... I am making you a pretty good deal... you'll get the money you want; and I'll buy more than I expected. You're only wasting my time and yours. Two hundred Denarius is too much for a pound, much less the three that I plan to buy. I have my daughter working the fields back home even though she's been sick for weeks because there's no one else around. I should be home right now, but I'm stuck here with you."
Adam opened his mouth to continue, but a voice behind him stopped him.
"Excuse me sir," The voice said. Adam growled to himself before turning to face the new voice. A man in shiny grey breeches a fancy tunic and a red cloak of nobility gave him a tight lipped smile. "Might I ask a question?"
Adam's eye twitched in irritation. "Who the hell are you?!"
The nobleman gave him a mock look of hurt. "I am the right hand man of Noblest of men, Sir Octavian! And you'd do well to remember your place in the presence of a Noble."
Adam rolled his eyes, but gave a brief nod of recognition. "You had a question to ask me?"
"Ah, yes." The nobleman's tight lipped smile returned, and a slight sliver of fear and distress welded inside of Adam.
Alexandria trudged back into the door, Tammy following close behind. In the week of her father's absence she and Tammy had been hard at work fixing the cave, and taking the roles of teacher and student.
She loved knowing that Tammy was safe and was no longer facing the dangers that she did living off in the Cave, but she worried about her father. He was never gone this long. And it terrified her to think of the millions of possibilities that could have stopped his return.
"Mother, there is someone coming up the road..." Tammy said in a small voice. Alexandria rushed over to the musty window, looking in the direction that Tammy pointed in. Indeed, someone was approaching the farm in a wagon. But there was something eerily familiar about this wagon.
"Tammy, you have to get out of here." Alexandria said in a quiet voice. Tammy wasn't sure if she had heard her right.
"Mother, who is it?" Tammy questioned.
"You have to go! Now!' Alexandria cried, her voice panicky. She grabbed Tammy's arm roughly and led her through the house, pulling her out the back door and dragging her away to the woods. She pushed her weakly in the direction of the cave and rushed back towards the house as fast as her failing limbs would allow.
Tammy paused, watching her mom struggle back to the house and trudge inside. She could hear the wagon drawing near and her eyes watered as she turned tail and ran. She had been through this area before, hundreds of times when her mother had taken her on survival lessons, but it didn't matter; it had been long ago and she was too emotional to care about what happened to her in this moment. She just ran. She just wanted to be as far away from that farm as possible, yet she wanted to run back to her mother.
Octavian rubbed his temples in frustration. It had been almost three full days since he had sent out his guard to search for Alexandria, and he hadn't heard any word on his search. He looked out of his bay window, looking at the darkening sky.
"Augustus." A voice, booming with authority said from behind him. He didn't have to turn around to know that his great-uncle Julius was staring him down. The silence in his steps, the voice and the fact that he hadn't heard the door open told him that much. That and Julius was the only one who still called him Augustus. In his mind, he liked to think that Julius was the only opponent that had a chance against him.
"Yes Uncle Julius?" Octavian said in an even tone. He couldn't hear Julius's steps, but he knew that he was approaching him because his mere presence made the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end.
"Have you made your decision yet?" Julius asked, breathing heavily down Octavian's neck. He shuddered.
"I need more time..." He answered, holding his gaze outside the window, not allowing Julius to have the satisfaction of seeing the fear and burning hatred in his eyes that he knew shone bright like fire embers.
Julius stayed silent, which unnerved him more than it would have if Julius would have just started screaming and yelling at him about being a spoiled and picky child.
He let out a small breath of frustration mixed with relief when he felt Julius's presence leave the room.
"Alexandria!" Adam called out. There was a brief moment of silence, causing a short growl to erupt from his throat. "Alexandria!" He called out again, louder this time.
"Coming daddy!" Alexandria called back to him as she barreled in through the door. She rushed out to the front room, giving her father a tired smile. She all but collapsed as he embraced her.
"Who is Octavian?" Her father asked in a gruff voice. Alexandria mustered up all of the strength in her legs to back up a step to look at her father. His eyes spoke hate and confusion. A look that he had never used against her before.
"Who?" Alexandria asked, racking her brain for some recollection of the name.
"Octavian. Who is he?"
Alexandria thought long and hard for a moment. "Oh!" She said with a small smile. "He's King Julius's great-nephew!"
Alexandria's brow furrowed. "And what?"
"And who is he to you?!" Adam's voice was building with aggression. Alexandria, frightened, backed away. She only stopped when the wall behind her wouldn't allow her to back up any farther.
"What do you mean?" She asked, puzzled.
"How do you know him?!"
"Then why is he asking around for you?!" Adam yelled, spittle covering Alexandria's face in the process. She ran her hand down her face to clear it away.
"What are you talking about?!" She demanded. Adam stared, silently watching on as his own daughter coward away from him. A strong pang of guilt washed over him. He took a step forward, only for her to hug herself closer to the wall.
"One of his noblemen came up to me in the market..." Adam said slowly, quietly. As if explaining it to himself rather than to her. "He asked me... if I knew an Alexandria. And the only Alexandria that I know is you... the only Alexandria that anyone around here knows is you. So I just thought... maybe..."
"Daddy..." Alexandria cut him off. "I get it. But maybe... just this once, you were wrong. Maybe there's a new Alexandria in town. Or maybe it's someone from the kingdom who conquered us all those years ago. But it can't be me. I've never met the guy."
Adam and Alexandria stared each other down for a long, silent moment.
"You're absolutely sure that you've never met this Octavian?" Adam asked her. She gave him a small smile.
"I'm absolutely positive."
"Why are we out here again Sire?"
Julius sighed. This isn't what he had asked for. He just wanted to sleep. His bones groaned with each movement and his head swam in unison with his nausea.
"I told you. I need a new bride." He replied to the Soldier.
"But your Highness, you already have over seventy-" He began. Julius waved a dismissive hand at him.
"Yes, I know that I already have a few more brides than necessary, however none of them have bore me a son. I need an heir."
"What about Sir Octavian?" The Soldier questioned.
"And he has yet to take on a bride himself." Julius pointed out. "Along with the fact that he is ungrateful, spoiled, demanding and has not one bone in his body that proves his worth to be my heir. If anything, he'll be lucky if he gets to play the position of the Regent if I die before my heir is of age." Julius snarled in reply. The Soldier gulped.
"Your Majesty!" Another Soldier called out, waving him over from where he sat atop his mount. Julius followed the Soldier at his side down the small declining slope.
"What is it?" Julius asked.
"It's a cave, and it looks like it's being used."
A spark of interest caused Julius to speed up his mount. His mind swam with ideas of things people could hide in a cave. Gold, jewels, and other untold riches could be just mere feet away.
Julius jumped off his mount, taking very little caution as he approached the cave. To his irritation, a few of his men were already stepping inside, gawking at whatever was inside.
She pried her eyes open, sleep trying to take over once more. She felt relaxed and rested and a pang of joy filled her heart as she turned her head up slightly to find Augustus's peaceful face as he continued to sleep; his arm draped about her.
She stifled a giggle at the thoughts that flitted through her head. 'You're such a silly girl!' She thought to herself. She trailed a finger along Augustus's bare chest, humming to herself. She jolted when Augustus shifted.
"Hmm?" He murmured, seeming not to fully comprehend that he was waking up. She lay as still as possible, hoping not to wake him. She watched him for a few long moments, but when he did not stir again, she began to pull away from him. She had almost made it out of his grasp when his grip on her hip tightened. She let out a small gasp as she was pulled down. She giggled as Augustus held her close.
"And where are you going?" Augustus asked in a tired voice, yawning.
"I was just going to stretch..." She replied.
"No. Later. Not now. Now, you're my cuddle bunny." He yawned, shoving his face into her impossible mass of tangles of hair on her head. She smiled softly.
"Alright, alright." She chuckled. "I won't leave..."
Tammy jumped up, knocking over the lantern that she had stupidly never put out and causing the bright light to suddenly pitch her into heavy darkness. Instinctively, she jumped away from the presence that made her feel threatened, grabbing her blanket and doll on her way. She smashed her back against the wall, as if to remind herself that it was there, and she bit down hard on her bottom lip to hold back a cry of agony as her spine popped in several different places. She crumpled into an awkward heap as she willed the wall to back up farther so she could distance herself more from the enemy.
Tammy threw the blanket over her face as she was blinded by a lantern being lit. She shook violently as she pressed herself against the wall as much as he could while sitting in the fetus position.
She could feel the blanket being removed and the light grew stronger as it hovered over her. She saw a shadow of a hand nearing, and jumped at it, clamping her teeth down hard. There was a shout and the light went out again as the lantern clattered to the floor. Pumped with fear and adrenaline, Tammy jumped up and ran towards the exit.
There were a few surprised yelps as she ran past a few men in camouflage uniforms. She ducked past their frightened horses and held her breath. Freedom was so close.
Tammy felt something heavy and blunt smack against the back of her head and she crashed down to the ground below her. The world spun and faded to black around her.
"Daddy, I'm fine..." Alexandria whined as he fussed over her.
"You fainted." He pointed out. "You're obviously not ok Alexandria."
"But Daddy-" She began. He waved a dismissive hand to cut her off. She scowled at him.
"You're officially on bedrest until you are feeling better. Understood?" He questioned, raising an eyebrow. Alexandria rolled her eyes, but nodded all the same.
She had been stuck in this bed for three days and as calm as she seemed on the outside, and how relieved she was to get some rest and peaceful shut eye, she was eating herself away with worry over Tammy's safety. She had to get back to the house so fast and didn't have a chance to make sure that Tammy made it back safely.
She had tried sneaking out in the middle of the night, only to find her dad sleeping in a chair right outside her bedroom. And as if sensing that Alexandria needed any more reason to worry, he boarded the windows shut too. She grinded her teeth together in frustration. How was she supposed to check on her daughter when she was locked up in a stuffy room of a rotting building?
Alexandria let out a heavy sigh and rolled over on her lumpy straw mattress. Nothing seemed to be going her way.
She just hoped that Tammy was doing alright without her.
'How much trouble can one girl, who is very well educated in survival and medicines; get into?' She thought.
A bucket of cold water to the face woke Tammy up abruptedly. She snapped upright, causing a shooting pain to explode out of her hip and course up her sides and crash into her shoulder blades. She acted on instinct, ignoring the water in her eyes, she jumped from where she lay and launched herself at the nearest being. She clawed at his face and chest with her yellowing and cracked nails. She jumped from the being she had been straddling and clawing at to the next guy who had come rushing forward. She launched her foot out and caught him by the jaw, making him stumble back into a table.
With the water no longer blinding her, she was able to take in her surroundings. At least ten men in red cloaks were advancing on her and the two she had attacked were started to come around once more. She tensed herself as she launched herself at another red-cloaked man; only to be caught around the waist from behind.
Tammy shrieked in surprise and struggled to free herself from the alien grip. Her surprised shriek turned into a painful wail as the grip tightened, pressing her already aching ribs together, grinding and grating her bones against one another.
She forced her muscles to relax and reluctantly allowed herself to fall back into the alien grip around her waist. She leaned her head back, ignoring the painful pops in her neck, to look up at her captor.
He was an attractive man, with chiseled and strong toned features. His pale grey eyes bore into her own hazel ones. She felt herself tense again as her breath caught in her throat.
"Now slow down there missy," He chuckled. "You're in no shape to be hopping around like that." With that he gave her another firm squeeze, pressing his entire forearm against her ribcage this time. She bit her lip as hard as she could in order to keep from crying out. The metallic taste of blood filled her mouth.
"You've been out the whole way here, and I'm sure you're very hungry." The man continued, letting go of her. The sudden change in balance caused her to flop forward, but a few helping hands picked her back up. The woman stood her upright, giving her a small; tight lipped, smile of apology, and led her back to the bed where she tucked her in. She stared at the man, confused and interested in his words. He stared back, his gaze intense. Tammy shuddered, the gaze making her feel uncomfortable.
"Well, are you going to answer me?" He asked, annoyance etched across his drawn face. She felt like she was shrinking more and more the longer he looked at her. "Are you hungry?" He repeated. Tammy nodded vigorously as her stomach rumbled. The man nodded back at her and sent a glower to his men.
"Four of you go tell the handmaids that she'll need clean sheets and bedding now that she's awake. Someone go tell the kitchen staff to prepare dinner, and the rest of you head back to your posts." He said with authority. The men seemed to jump to life and scrambled out the door to carry out their orders.
With the men gone, Tammy relaxed into the bed, glad to know that if she needed an escape that she was up against two people rather than twenty.
'If? More like when I need to escape...' Tammy thought.
"Watch over her until dinner is prepared. And when it is I want you to bring her down straight away." He said, gesturing to the female at the foot of her bed. "She is going to be sitting at the head of the table, by my side."
Tammy watched him walk away with a wandering eye. That is, until she felt another pair of eyes bore into her. She glanced over at the female near her.
She wore a faded brown gown with a stained beige apron that had probably once been white with a matching bonnet. Her striking blue eyes looked tired and faded against her graying skin.
"Are you feeling well?" She asked. Tammy nodded slowly, causing the older woman to chuckle.
"You need not be afraid of me. I'm here to watch over you, not to harm you." She said with a soft and exhausted smile that made her look four decades older.
"You're drowsy..." Tammy said quietly. The woman's smile faded a bit at the edges.
"Yes, terribly so. But that is no matter, because my job is not to sleep."
"Rest. You cannot do your job well if you are not rested." Tammy said, sitting up and patting the bed next to her. When the woman began to protest Tammy pulled at her arm, dragging her up so she could lean against the headboard.
"I'm Tammy." Tammy said with a smile.
"Rosalina. But everyone I know calls me Rose." Rose replied. Tammy put her hand over Rose's eyes; covering her world in darkness. "Now just what are you doing?" Rose asked.
"Sleep." Tammy said gently. Rose chuckled.
"I can't, I told you that." Rose yawned. Tammy pushed the covers up and tucked them up under her chin.
"Yes. You can."
Alexandria summoned up all of her strength and continued to write the words on the paper. Her bones ached and every movement caused shooting pains to run up and down her body in every which way.
She let out a small squeak as pain riddled through her as she rolled up the piece of paper. She had to get this out before it was too late.
She slowly made her way outside to stand next to her father. He looked like he was about to protest, but she held up the rolled up piece of paper and gave him an urgent look. He sighed and looked back out to the road as the wagon approached their farm. He didn't get all the way there before Alexandria was stumbling towards him, swallowing back her deathly sounding coughs.
"Please sir..." She rasped. "Can you make sure this gets to a Miss Tammy Beth..."
"And how exactly would I find this Tammy? I don't know her." The man replied with an even tone. She pleaded with him through her eyes.
"You deliver the mail, so you know everyone, and someone is bound to know where she's been taken off to. She looks like me in build and face with her father's hazel eyes and dark hair. Please... You're my last hope..." She begged. He nodded and took the paper from her.
"I'll see what I can do."