Reader. Writer. Romantic.

For the Roman Empire

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I walked down the aisle, feeling the scrutinizing gaze of everyone. I tried to hold my head high, ignore them all as I dropped to my knees before him, trying hard not to tremble. To be in the presence of the greatest man in the empire, what did I do to deserve this honour?

“Rise,” he ordered.

His voice resonated throughout the hall. I rose, holding his gaze for a moment. Any longer would have been disrespecting.

“Your name,” he said.

“Lavinia,” I said, my voice cutting through the silence.

“We have heard of your talents, Lavinia,” he said grandly, “And wish to employ your tactics to defeat the Goths.”

“My tactics, my Lord?” I asked.

“We have received intelligence that you have brought about the defeat of the Turks. Though it is unusual for a woman commander, it is our belief that to have accomplished such a feat is deserving of recognition,” recounted the Emperor.

“My Lord, that-that was a mistake. It was not my intent to go into battle,” I said, deferring the honour.

“All the more reason you should fight for Rome,” said the Emperor, “Your success will bring you great riches. Your failure will be your death.”

I knelt once more, very aware to the buzz around me that disturbed the silence.

“Your Imperial Majesty,” I murmured, “I will not disappoint you.”

“Caius!” bellowed the Emperor.

A handsome young soldier appeared at his side, “Father?”

“Lavinia, you shall have my eldest son for your husband if you succeed and become Empress of Rome. He will accompany you into war and make sure you have all the necessities,” instructed the Emperor.

“Yes, my Lord,” I nodded.

“Yes, father,” Caius said simultaneously.

I rose, exiting with full confidence.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

The journey to the battlefront was long and arduous. In that time Caius and I grew closer to one another.

“Lavinia…you are unlike any other Roman woman I’ve met,” began Caius.

“Is it because I fight?” I asked.

“Not only that. You are intelligent. I’ve never met anyone more educated, male or otherwise,” he said, “It’s admirable.”

“I’ve never met a general so optimistic,” I said, returning the compliment, “It’s infectious.”

He smiled shyly, “You inspired that optimism.”

I laughed, “No. Give yourself some credit.”

“Sir!” called a soldier, “We’re under attack! The Goths!”

We both snapped to attention. This was clearly a surprise attack. We grabbed our weapons and rushed out.

“Lavinia…if…” Caius started, his voice catching in his throat.

“I love you,” I said quietly, cutting him off.

He nodded and repeated, “I love you too.”

*********************************************************************************************************************************************************************

“It’s too much!” he yelled to me across the battlefield, “Retreat!”

I nodded and motioned to those around me to run, but made not effort to turn back myself.

“Lavinia!” he screamed, noticing that I hadn’t turned away.

“I can’t, your father-” I returned.

“He wouldn’t. Come back, I’ll beg for your life if I must. I must have you as my bride,” yelled Caius.

“Failure is not an option. To die in battle would be a much greater honour than returning in defeat,” I said shaking my head.

“Please, Lavinia!” he begged.

I kept fighting, unsure how much longer I could hold off the Goths as my men retreated.

“GO!” I urged, “Your father would not take it well if his eldest died in this battle.”

“LAVINIA!” Caius yelled, running to my side.

He grabbed me around the waist and dragged me off while fighting off the advancing Goths.

************************************************************************************************************************************************************

I returned to Rome in shame. I deserved this death sentence I was walking towards, but Caius could not see. He believed in the best of his father. We returned to court and recounted to the Emperor our failure in battle.

“What have you to say, Lavinia?” demanded the Emperor, clearly disappointed.

“I should have died on that battlefield with my men. If it was not for the stubbornness of your son, I would have,” I said annoyed.

“You should have died on that battlefield. What an honour that would have been,” agreed the Emperor.

“Father, please, have mercy on her. She is the most…she is irreplaceable. She can return to fight off the Goths, but had she died we would have to search for a new saviour. Give her another chance,” implored Caius.

“I will not go back on my word,” stated the Emperor coldly.

“Father, I implore you. Have mercy on my love,” begged Caius.

The Emperor shook his head and called for his guards. I rose with grace and did not resist as they led me out. Around me I heard the snickers of the same men who had scorned me months earlier.

“For the service you have provided to our empire, we will show you mercy,” said the Emperor.

A look of relief crossed Caius’ face, but the next sentence drained him of his blood.

“For that you may choose which manner of death you prefer,” said the Emperor.

“NO!” screamed Caius.

“Remove him,” ordered the Emperor.

Two guards came forward from my retinue and escorted him out, kicking and scream.

“I should like to die by burning,” I said, “I should suffer the way my men have suffered.”

“That is honourable of you, Lavinia. We thank you for all you have done, but we must do as was promised. You could not secure us a victory and for that you must give your life.”

“I understand, Emperor and feel no animosity towards you for your action,” I returned.

He nodded, “Your execution will be in one week. Make the necessary preparations. You may return home, escorted of course, to say your good byes.”

“Thank you,” I murmured, kneeling.

*******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

On the day of my execution, all of Rome showed up to watch me burn. My family could hardly keep back the tears, but I could not cry. I had to remain strong until the end. The executioner helped me up upon my stage and secured me to the stake, making sure I was as comfortable as I could be. The Emperor and Caius were present, watching over the proceedings.

“Lavinia, I love you!” cried Caius over the sounds of the excited crowd.

I offered him a smile, “Please do not be sad on my account. Please live, love and learn to forget.”

I was doused in oil and set alight. No matter how much it hurt I would not cry out. I had not stood by my men. This is what I deserved.

“NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!” screamed Caius.

He attempted to run and put out the flames, but was restrained by the guards. He fought hard, brandishing his dagger, wounding several men, breaking through to me, but it was too late. I was already dead.

“STOP HIM!” ordered the Emperor when he realized what was going on.

But before anyone could reach Caius, he had thrown himself onto the burning funeral pyre and immolated himself.

Image Credit: daRoz (deviantart)

URL: http://daroz.deviantart.com/art/March-of-War-Episode-5-Promo-Art-422661379

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