Part 10. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Filthy Task

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A detachment of Praetorian Guards met Livius, Claudius and Claudius’ aides at the bridge over the Tiber and accompanied them through Rome to the emperor’s palace on the Palatine Hill.

As Livius was escorted up the palace steps, he glanced out at the yellow eyes of Rome by night, the flickering candles and oil fires, the thick shadows and the glow of torches illumining the obelisks and temples. He was home and he felt as excited as a small boy.

Claudius remained with him as the Praetorian Guards escorted them across the entry into the state room where slave girls and the patrician youth of the city drank and laughed together. But as Livius came in sight, the laughter ebbed and silence spread over the place like a shroud.

Cornelius, the chief of the Praetorians, came forward, and led Livius along along the corridors to Commodus’ private chambers.

This suite looked out on the palaestra. as though Commodus was truly happy as long as he was in sight of the gymnasium and his gladiators.

The spacious room was softly lit by oil lamps suspended on delicate clains from the ceilings and walls. Commodus looked lonely, a brooding figure in the shadowy chamber. Behind him on the cavernous walls were huge maps of all the Roman provinces.

Commodus did not look up, seeming not to notice that Livius and Cornelius had entered his presence. Cornelius glanced at the emperor, then at Livius. He withdrew, leaving Livius alone some distance from Commodus.

Commodus spoke in low tones, “Oh Livius. My friend – my brother! Why did you leave me?”

Commodus descended from the throne, moved slowly toward Livius. Livius hesitated only a second longer and than rushed to him. They embraced fiercely, then parted.IMG_0013-007

Livius, only now looking at his great friend, realized how much he had missed Commodus and all he represented. Gazing at Commodus, he found it hard to credit all the rumors and whispers Timonides had retailed to him at Ravenna.

“I am alone, Livius.” Commodus’ voice was odd, ready to break. “This is a fiercely lonely place I exist in, Livius. I try to lighten my terrible burdens with some pleasures– music, gladiators, excitements–and terrible talk starts about me. I imagine you have heard much of it–even as far away as Ravenna.”

Livius smiled. “I’ve heard whispers.”

Commodus sighed. “And I suppose you disapproved, too?”

“I didn’t believe everything I heard.”

“But you disapproved what you did believe?”

“It was not for me to approve. You are undoubted Caesar. You must become disheartened, tired–”

“Oh, I do, Livius, you’ll never know how tired I become. If it were not for my pleasures, I couldn’t endure it all…Still, I can see by your face that you don’t apporove.”

“You can’t see that, Commodus, for it is not there in my face. I have no right to censure you. You do not live as I would, but your tastes are not mine.”

“How I’ve missed you, Livius! Why can’t the world understand me as you do?”

Livius didn’t speak, and Commodus persisted. “What’s the mater, Livius, is it my fault the world does not understand?”

Livius shrugged.

“I need you here, Livius,. I am so alone. There is no one like you. No one I can trust. No one I can talk to, ask advice, speak my heart to. They all want something of me. I can never know what they’re thinking.” He smiled at Livius, great love showing in his face. “Only you, when you speak, I know it’s the truth–and for my good.”

“I have not wanted to be away, Commodus.” He spoke tensely. “I have been isolated. I have hear only rumors. What really has happened?”

Commodus’ face shadowed, tightening in helpless frustration. He spoke in a whisper. “Rebellion– the whole East has rebelled. Syria, Egypt.”

Livius shook his head, staggered. “Syria? Egypt? That is Virgilianus, Marcellus. It cannot be! They were soldiers with me. They were the most loyal.”

Commodus laughed in rage.

“They were loyal to my father. Now they are raising armies against me–against Rome.” he glared about him, eyes bitter. “They’re always hated me. Marcellus. Virgilianus. They’re waited all these years for the right moment.”

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Livius turned away, prowling the huge room as though it were suddenly a breathless cage. He was deeply disturbed.

Commodus said, “Even Sohamus has joined them.” When Livius heeled around, scowling, Commodus peered into his face, studying it. “He forced Lucilla to flee with him.”

At the sound of Lucilla’s name, Livius felt something flare inside him and he winced as if an old wound that had lain dormant were suddenly ripped open, raw and bleeding.

Commodus stared into his face. “And there is more, Livius. More I haven’t told you. The rebellion is spreading in your name.”

“What?”

Livius looking squarely at Commodus, their gazes clashing. In the deep silence, the remove sounds of the palaestra filtered through the heavily curtained windows.

At last Livius said in a quiet, hard voice, “Rebellion cannot be made in my name, Commodus.”

“Yet they are using it that way. Your name has spread over the whole East–as the new Caesar.” His mouth taut, Commodus quoted, ” ‘Bring in the new Rome–the Rome of Livius Gaius Metellus.’ And now there are echoes of that same cry in the North and West. Do you say you have not even heard it?”

“I do say that, Commodus. I remain loyal to my country, my Caesar, my oath.” He prowled the carpeting, staring at the map of the provinces, the shadowed walls, the old lamps, the emperor waiting. He heeled around, mouth bitter. “Why did you recall me, Commodus?”

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“I wanted to hear from your own mouth that you loved me still, Livius.”

“You knew that.”

“The whispers are shouts, the rebellion is real, growing.”

“Why do you call on me, Commodus? Where is your Eastern Army?

There was a protracted silence. At last, as Livius waited tensely, Commodus gave a weary gesture of his hand. “Our Roman legionnaires have been so long in the East, they are no longer Roman.” His voice lowered, becoming almost inaudible. “The Eastern Army has gone over to the rebels.”

Livius retreated as if struck physically, staggered by this news. Commodus straightened, eyes bitter. “Why do I call on you, Livius? Because you are the only man the Northern Army will follow in battles against–other Roman legions.”

Livius stared at the emperor inn the thick silence. At least he said, “This is a filthy task you impose on me–to throw Roman against Roman.”

“It must be done. if the empire is to survive, it must be done. And even more, Livius. It will have to be as in the old days old punishing armies. Cities destroyed. Evey living thing killed. Before the rebellion spreads. Before our enemies attack. The whole world must know we have again become the Rome of old.”

Commodus waited, but Livius did not speak. Commodus lowered his voice to a wild, urgent whisper. “We are fighting for survival.”

Livius was shaken. “That Rome should have to fight for survival.”

“It’s true! I haven’t told you all. I–have to behead the chief of the Praetorian Guards and–give that head to the people of Rome to–to quiet them. We are in desperate trouble, Livius–everywhere. Even here at Rome. We must show them that we are strong, that we will destroy out own people if they oppose us.”

Livius barely heard him. “I’ve fought a dozen battles alongside of Virgilianus and Marcellus. They were my friends.”

Commodus swung his arm in a savage, cutting arc. “Friends? Jackals ready to destroy us. No. No. Destroy them! What other way is there?”

Livius stared at the emperor in the shadowed room, feeling his face ache with the ruts pulled into it. “What other way is there?” Neither spoke because there was no answer, they had said it all.

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Part 9. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – The Barbarians in Ravenna

This series of blogs is specifically lifting portions of “The Fall of the Roman Empire” novelization which did not appear in the film production, mostly focused on Livius’ relationship with a German Princess, played by Lena Von Martens, and the fictional settlement of Germans (Macromanni) in and around Ravenna. The scenes were filmed, but they didn’t make the final cut. I hope someday to see a new DVD release which features them! In the meantime…

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When Livius strode into the market place, the Italians glanced up from filling jugs or drinking at the fountain. The blond savages turned away from the displayed wares in the stores, standing as if awaiting sudden doom as Livius approached. It has been an interminable time, but the Marcomanni believed no more in good now than they had on the day they entered Ravenna.

Livius slowed, feeling tired. He was aware of Xenia and Timonides close behind him, almost as if they were his bodyguard, ready to die for him, but not ready to allow him a moment of freedom, a full breath of air.

He glanced at Xenia from the corner of his eye. She no longer looked like a child though she was still a young girl. She had the look now of a woman, and he winced, knowing he’d given her that, driven into her arms, trying to find a forgetfulness that always eluded him. He never forgot anything, not even when Xenia screamed and in her anguished pleasure.

He drew his hand across his face, sweated. It was a failure, all of it.

Timonides gestured toward the market place where the crowds of blond and dark people were stirred together, yet obviously in now way integrated. He spoke hopefully, “See how well they live together, General. Blond and dark people–”

Livius was silent, grimly surveying the peaceful scene, a peace entirely of the surface, boiling underneath, ready to erupt.

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“Oh, Great Livius! Oh, Great Livius!”

Livius went tense at the cry of a young female voice. A blonde child, not yet twelve, hurled herself from a crowd of the barbarians, ran across the stones and clutched her arms about his hips, pressing her face against his body, kissing him.

“Oh, I’ve looked for you every day, ” she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks, “May I come and live with you now? Will you make me your own slave, until I am old enough for you to marry? I’ll be as no woman ever was for you. My whole life will be yours.”

Frowning, Livius lifted the child in his arms, holding her out at eye level, studying her. “Who are you?”

“Don’t you remember, Livius?” Timonides said when the child wept inconsolably. “She is Griselda, the child you saved from a javelin–”

“But you were only a baby!” Livius said, holding her in his arms until her sobbing ceased. “How you’ve grown.”

“Children grow fast,” Xenia said.

“And I will grow much faster now,” the little girl said, talking brightly into Livius’ face, stroking his cheek. “In this wonderful place you have brought us, I’ll soon be grown, and I’ll be lovely- and you will want me.”

“I’ll never be worthy of your loveliness,” Livius told her, smiling. “Are you happy here?”

“Oh, yes. It is heaven here. We have everything, and I remember when we had nothing, only cold and misery all the time. I worship you, sire. Not only for saving my life–but for all you have done for all of us.”

Livius, his eyes burning, kissed the girl’s cheek and set her on the pavement. “You run along and play and grow. Don’t ever speak of being anyone’s slave–except the man you love–”

“It is you I love,” she said. “I’ll never love anyone else.”

“Then you be happy,” Livius said, “For I love you.” When she was gone, he smiled for the first time in months. “A child. Of course it’s easier for her to adjust than for her parents. But maybe it will work, after all.”

“It is working,” Timonides said. “The parents will learn civilization, and the childen will forget they ever lived otherwise.”

Pleased, Livius gave Xenia and Timonides a brisk nod of approval as though they were responsible for peace and order in Ravenna, as though this whole experiment were somehow particularly theirs.

He turned and strode away from them, anxious to find new signs of the slow spread of success.

Xenia did not move. Her face was shadowed. Timonides laughed at her. “Do not be jealous, Xenia. It doesn’t become a princess….Besides, it was only a child he kissed.”

“A child today, “Xenia said, “Yesterday she was a baby.”

“Do not be jealous–”

“I cannot help that I am jealous. You are my teacher. You insist upon teaching me the ways of the Greek. The proud and jealous Greeks–”

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Part 8. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – The Tigress and The Soldier

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“You’re tired, Livius, “Timonides said. “You need rest more than violence. ” He smiled, “Even the violence of my little tigress.”

Livius didn’t look at Xenia again. He watched Timonides, puzzled. “Don’t you ever need anything, Greek? Aren’t you roused by animals like that?” He jerked his head toward Xenia, still without giving her a glance.

“I have my problems, “Timonides said. “The Greeks are a jealous, proud, race-conscious people. I am like that. I was like that. I learned a great deal from Marcus. I taught him much but I learned more from him. Resignation. Acceptance.”

“Lessons I’ll never learn.” Livius pressed his fingers hard against his eyes, seeing lights and prisms of color from the pressure. He stared a Timonides. “I’ve fought in battles for eleven years, and faced death many times. I have overcome much, many fears. Yet you seem more at peace, more certain of yourself than I am. Why?”

Xenia moved with the lithe grace of a lynx, soundless as a shadow. Timonides had grown accustomed to her presence, and Livius was too exhausted to care what she did. They were deeply absorbed and did not see her lunge suddenly, before Timonides could answer the imperium. She grabbed the sword. It whistled free of its scabbard, glinted in the yellow light as she sprang toward Livius.

The only sound Xenia made was the hissing inhalation as she threw up her arms to strike. It was enough, too much. Timonides swung around and thrust his arm in the same movement between Xenia and Livius.

Livius, roused by Timonides’ silent wheeling about, moved with the instinctive speed of a combat-trained soldier. He sprang upon Xenia, turning, and could only partially block the sword thrust.

Timonides bit his lip, face twisting in pain. The sword had laid open his upper arm. Blood spurted, spilling over his tunica.

Livius glanced at the slave, moved past him, reaching out with quick, deft movement, snatching the sword from Xenia.

In a fluid, continuous motion, he brought his other arm up, backhanding Xenia across the face and sending her sprawling.

Xenia struck a tent support, almost toppled around it, clutching at the wood for balance. Then she slid beyond it, moving into a shadowed corner, crushed, cringing, numb with physical shock as she watched Livius stalk toward her, blood-smeared sword red in his fist.

The fiery green passion of hatred died in her eyes and she slumped inward, watching dully for the death stroke.

Livius’ face was cold. He raised his sword over her.

From behind him, Timonides cried in anguish, “No! No!”

Clutching his blood-covered arm, Timonides ran to them. He caught Livius’ upraised arm. He shook his head, mouth gray. “I don’t want her punished, Livius.”

Sword still upraised, Livius stared at him incredulously. “But she tried to take your life. She’s wounded you. You must kill her.”

They both stared at the girl crouching numbly in the corner…

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Suddenly, Xenia slumped to the ground, sobbing.

Livius jerked his head around, staring at her in amazement.

From the ground the quivering girl whimpered, “I no longer want to be a warrior.”

Livius had already heard more than he could comprehend. He demanded grimly, “What is it you want to be?”

Xenia answered, but her voice was almost inaudible, as though all this were too new for her, feelings she didn’t understand and had no words for , and was almost ashamed of uttering. “A woman…I do not want to kill any more.”

Livius knelt, lifted her easily by her shoulders. He held her at eye level, inspecting her suspiciously. “Give up your arms and live in peace?”

Xenia avoided his eyes, mumbling. “I want—to live in one place – with one man – the way the Romans do.”

Timonides, tending his slashed arm, glanced up at this with a wry smile. “The way the Romans say they do–”

But Livius was staring at the girl. He lowered his slowly until she was back on the ground. His expression was a mixture – suspicion, disbelief and faint, replenishing hope.

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Part 7. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington- Taming the Princess 

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On the farthest reaches of the Danube frontier, the Roman legions found themselves filled with a despair, which for the first time in twelve centuries came from within. They had been cold before, faced overwhelming odds, gone farther from home, met defeat, but for the first time they huddled in the desolate marshes into which their pursuit of the Macromanni had led them, feeing cut off from hope, depressed and dispirited because whisper had it Commodus Emperor was ending support of the north campaign.

No man liked to enter such a swamp of desolation, but disciplined fighters went where the battle was. Never before had they faced the probability of abandonment by Rome.

There was no warmth in this chilled land. The marsh was wild, infested with death and unseen terrors, all of it blanketed with low-lying fog.

Behind the soldiers in a picketed prison pit, the captive barbarian women and children huddled together against the cold.

Livius moved past the prisoners, gazing at his soldiers but not speaking to them.  He went through the dank encampment, sharing the loneliness of his legions, but haunted  by something he had lost that most of them had never known.

A light glimmered from a tent ahead of him in the fog. He walked toward it without any sense of anticipation.

Through the slit of the tent-flap, Livius saw Timonides and the barbarian princess Xenia. Timonides was reading by the inadequate flickering of a swinging oil lamp. Before the Greek teacher, Xenia sat rigidly.  Her eyes glittered with sullen hatred. Holding a wax tablet and a stylus clumsily, she watched Timonides intently, trying to gather some gleam of sense from all he was teaching her.

When Livius entered the tent, Xenia’s eyes darkened. The look of hatred in them became even more intense. Livius saw that glitter impaling him, but ignored it.

When Timonides saw it was Livius, he put away the document from which he was reading. Sighing with relief, Xenia instantly dropped stylus and tablet.

Timonides stood up, a warm smile lighting his dark face. “I am teaching the princess how to read and write.”

Livius nodded, glancing at Xenia with a look of curiosity. She averted her gaze.

“I am teaching her Greek,” Timonides said with a smile. “That is my way of trying to make a Roman out of her.”

Livius exhaled in weariness. “A Roman out of her?” He paced morosely, both of them watching him. “This is a war without end–no matter what they say in Rome. You think you have Ballomar beaten, he disappears only to come back stronger than ever.” He heeled around, face gray with rage, his dark eyes fixed on the savage princess. “What sort of people are you, Xenia? You have no homes, no families. You live on horses.”

Xenia straightened on the ground. Her voice was tinged with contempt. “We are warriors–”

“Warriors?” Suddenly Livius stride over to her, grabbed her. He pulled her to her feet before she could struggle at all. “Don’t you ever yearn for a man?” He held her savagely against him, his face gray and taut, and no sign of pleasure in his eyes, his mouth a rash of rage. “To be held like this? To be loved?”

For a moment, breathless, Xenia pressed against him, her heart hammering, her untamed emotions violently and quickly roused.

Her fingers dug into his arms, she clung to him. But this lasted less than the space of a harried breath. In that time she was flooded with raging memories. She remembered the way she had gone on her knees to him, waiting for him to act the victor claiming his rights over a female prisoner. This was the treatment she understood, and even when she fought him–if she opposed him that night in that tent at Vindobona–she would not have hated him because there was no man even among her father’s people to match this splendid man. Her opposition would have been half-hearted, but her passions would have been of a violence he would never know in the effete cities of the South. She had offered herself, even if he were her hated enemy. Nothing could ever erase the memory of the strange treatment he’d shown her, acting as if she were not only unlovely, but not a woman at all.

Defiantly, she writhed free, hurtling her words and her hatred at him. “No! No.”

Livius stepped toward her. He saw Timonides watching them, but Timonides would not attempt to deter him, no one could stop him if he meant to take her. A man needed a woman, worse than ever in this desolate place, even a barbarian like this one.

Suddenly he spoke somewhat more gently. “Then what do you live for? Even warriors must yearn for peace?”

Xenia crouched defiantly, voice shrill. “Peace is for pigs. We live for victory.”

Livius pushed her away from him roughly. The sudden fire that had flared to instant life was even more abruptly quenched. He didn’t want her. He didn’t want any woman. It was a hellish truth he had learned, when you feel rage toward the only woman you could love, you hated all women with that same fierce intensity.

He needed something, but it wasn’t this half-wild creature. He drew the back of his hand across his forehead, for that instant almost overcome with dizzying weariness. His clothing was intolerable, the weight of his flat, short sword unbearable. With a tired movement, he removed the sword, place it on the table without even glancing at it.

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Part 6. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – Venus and Mars

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“I’d chose your love…If that makes me finally less than what your father believed me…then I am not fit to rule an empire…Without you, it would be nothing….I am empty and lost, and incomplete without you. I am chilled with cold when you pull away from me here.” He kissed her eyes, pressing his face into the luxurious texture of her faintly scented hair. “Only this is real.” He whispered against her mouth. “For the sake of all gods, let us be wise enough to know that.” His lips moved over her face, and her eyes, along the chiseled line of her jaw to her throat. “All else is half-life–emptiness…not living at all. Only loving you is real–”

Lucilla whimpered, a sound of anguish, no longer afraid of him at all, but filled with dread at the storm he had loosed to rage in her mind and her heart.

“That–is only my body…”She shivered visibly, trying to control herself by quoting her Stoic father. “But I am more than that. I can reason, I can rise above that.”

Livius kissed her with brutal hunger. “There is nothing above this. When the gods bring two people together like this–there is nothing above it for mortals…and not even the gods can help those who throw it away…for anything.”

Lucilla broke away from him, moved distracted  across the storm-lit platform, pressed against the farthest support.

She did not speak to him, but to the storm-clogged dark. “No. Not true. Not true. I cannot rise above this…I don’t want to….I don’t want to reason…I want to love him whom I have always loved–him only…” Thunder reverberated from the earth, rattled against the roof of the sky. “I won’t listen! I won’t hear other voices! I no longer hear any voice but his!” She tilted her head, her hair wild, her eyes fixed defiantly on infinite sky. She shouted her defiance, exultant. “Do you hear me, gods? I love Livius. Do you hear me, world? I love Livius.” Her voice lowered fervently.  “I’ll pray to Venus. Of all the gods, she’ll understand. She loved the god of war, didn’t she, Livius? And not even the ridicule of the world when she was hung in a net in his arms could change that–she’ll understand my love…I’ll bring sacrifices to her shrine. Venus will help us…The goddess is close to me. She’s always been because I’ve loved you so deeply, so sincerely, so forever…Venus loves me because I love you above all else. She loves me and she won’t let me lose you…”

She stopped abruptly, covering her face, sobbing into her hands.

Livius came to her, took her in his arms. Exhausted, she rested her head against his chest.

Her voice was lower, but she spoke with hope, as if purged from old doubting. “And in the morning, I’ll speak to Father. First above all he loves me—he’ll release me from my pledge–” She pressed closer, whispering, “Hold me, Livius, don’t ever let me doubt, don’t ever let me be afraid again.”

Lightning erupted in a violent streak, ripping the blackness from one horizon to another, but they didn’t hear it; they pressed closer and closer in the blinding whiteness.

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Part 5. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – A Higher Rank

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He held his breath, waiting. A second burst of lightning revealed her again.  Livius ran suddenly, going to the foot of the tower, clambering upward in the wail of wind.

When he came off the ladder onto the railing- enclosed platform, Lucilla for one moment remained posed against the sky, like some unutterably lovely statue of a goddess.

When she heard him, she swung away from her intense study of the vistas below her, and heeled around to face him.

For a moment, neither of them spoke, facing each other, removed up here from all the rest of the world, like two distant stars alone in a black firmament. The thunder shook the tower supports as well as the pillars of the earth.

Livius said, “Maybe I should have stayed away. I have no right–”

“I was thinking about you.”

He exhaled heavily. “It’s no good. I’ve known that, even when I was a boy. I knew then you were never intended by fate for me. Ever since I saw you again here, I’ve tried to fight it off –the way I feel about you….But I can’t…It seems all I have that’s good on earth–the way I love you….I love you, Lucilla. I’ve loved you–forever—as long as I have any memory of you, I’ve loved you.”

He took a long stride across the platform toward her. She fixed her gaze on his face in the darkness and sudden glare of white lightning. He took her in his arms, feeling her shudder.

Her face lifted up to his and he kissed her, more roughly than he intended because his love was so intense.

The storm raged, and yet was paled by the storm that had built for so many lonely years inside them.

Suddenly Lucilla cried out, wrenching away from him.

Livius stood, bereft, unable to move, staring at her. She had to come back to him, close in his arms, he was less than whole without her, and there was no longer any denying that she knew this now.

A savage shudder shook Lucilla and she turned away from him, going to the railing, almost as if she meant to walk out into space and end the brutal conflict inside her.

Livius walked to her, pressed himself against her, feeling her tremble, feeling the resistance against him go out of her. He pulled her about to face him.

Lucilla cried brokenly. She had no strength to fight him, only the desperate knowledge that she must. “No….No….No.”

Livius held her closer, whispering, “You love me–you know.”

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She tried to pull away, tilted her head back, her slanted eyes brimmed with tears. She spoke tiredly, as if her will and energy were spent, leaving her without spirit. “Yes, I love you. I want you. It has always been you. First. Only. Always. I want no other man…But I–I’ve been afraid, too, that this day would happen.”  The tears spilled, slow drops on her high-planed cheeks. He mouth trembled. “There were times–knowing it—I didn’t even want to live….Not without you…It made me doubt life—or any reason for living…Oh, I doubted life, but I–never doubted the way I loved you.” She stood straighter. “I am pledged, Livius. You know that. I promised by father—”

“Come away with me, “Livius said. “Now. Anywhere. Wherever a man and a woman can be alone.”

He eyes distended, her voice showed her shock. “I–am Caesar’s daughter.”

Livius tried to smile. “I’ll make a woman of you. That is a much higher rank.”

Lucilla shook her head, crying. “I couldn’t live that way.”

“I could. I could live any way, as long as it is with you.”

She breathed out, disengaging herself, leaving against the platform railing, slowly regaining control of her emotions. Her voice was truly incredulous. “Run? Hide? Give up everything?”

“What do we really have–on this earth–except each other?”

“Forsake our vows – our pledges?”

“Gladly. Gladly.”

There was such force, such power and need in his voice in his voice that Lucilla felt helpless against his will, his strength. “How long does this madness last?”

“Forever.” He drew her closer. “But even if only for a month – a week –”

“You’d trade your duty and your honor for this?” She stared at him, frightened. “And you are the man my father wished to be his heir.”

His laugh was bitter, tormented. “I’m not the man to take his place, Lucilla.”

“Of course you are. Father knows you’ll grow, learn–who else but you?”

“I don’t know. But not me.”

“You are the only man, and you’d throw it away like  this.”

“Let me tell you the truth, Lucilla. If I had to chose between being Caesar’s heir- or your love.” He shook his head, holding her closer, convulsed with a sudden shudder.

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Part 4. “The Fall of the Roman Empire” by Harry Whittington – Livius in a Storm

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The storm hung suspended above the earth, growling, flashing in livid white from black clouds ready to burst as night came.

Livius walked along through the encampment, glad for the early darkness over the face of the world. The soldiery, auxiliaries, the wings, the visiting dignitaries were all withdrawn to their quarters. Pale lights glowed across the castra, but Livius kept himself to the shadows.

He could not remember ever having felt so lonely, so abandoned. he felt the hot flush of shame crawl across his face, even in the chill wind. The emperor had silently rebuked him before the whole Northern Army, and gods knew he deserved it.

Lightening flared, but he strode on, wincing against its fire, but not slowing, not seeking shelter. The gods hadn’t yet created a storm to match the one going on inside himself.

How in the name of the gods had the good Aurelius ever considered him capable of administering the affairs of the civilized world? And worse, how could he even secretly have tried on that purple toga for size? What a stupid fool to imagine himself ready in the least way to replace the godly Aurelius. What did he know of the troubles of the empire, the commerce, the industry, the treasury, the building, the political dealings with the senate and the magistrates of all the provinces? He was no statesman, only a soldier, and he had proved to the world today, not even a very disciplined one. He walked faster, as if trying to escape his own hounding thoughts. He heard the sentinels on duty, but he moved past without glancing toward them. He heard the enlisted men off duty yelling and arguing, perhaps drunk on their sour wine. He did not slow his steps. He found a broken javelin. He paused, knelt, picked it up and walked again, holding it in his fist. It seemed to him this weapon was itself a symbol of the men who made the Roman army great. Marius had joined the metal point of the javelin to the shaft with a wooden pin that snapped when the hurled javelin struck; Julius Caesar had made the head, except for the point, of soft iron that bent on impact of a blow. Javelins used by Roman soldiers could never be used against them. These men had made such inspiring contributions to the army and the profession of warfare. What had he done?

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He swore back at the raging thunder. Much about the present day army distressed him, but he had no answers. It seemed to him the centurions had too much responsibility and authority, and they abused it. Still, Julius Caesar had taught that the centurion was responsible for discipline, and you could not weaken their power over their men. But sometimes the brutality and immorality of these petty officers sickened him. He had seen men flogged almost to death for misdemeanors. Men of the ranks had to bribe the centurions to avoid floggings, avoid extra duties, to get any privileges. Centurions had come to count on bribes as part of their income. and some of them became inhumanly cruel and vicious. He had no answers even for such a minor, yet far-reaching problem. He had been a fool to consider for one drunken moment the possibility of his becoming Caesar of the empire. The gods forgive him.

Livius flung his head back, staring at the storm-riven sky, needing to be purged of ambition,  vanity.

A metallic flash of lightening suddenly stood the encampment watchtower in stark relief against storm-torn sky.

Livius, gazing at the structure, caught his breath. At first he thought it was a hallucination, a need for his own anguished mind in his loneliness. Lucilla stood alone on the lower platform, as alone as he in the night storm.

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