Vengeance of the Destroyer
The old man forced himself to continue running toward Olynthus.
Abandoned by those who once promised loyalty, he was alone in the northern reaches of Greece. He had little time to think about it now; the trees of the forest dropped away to reveal a wide sloping clearing and at the bottom, Olynthus stood silhouetted against the sea. He had hoped to book passage on a ship bound for Ephesus.
The fates had turned against him, his war to save the Republic over. Why he continued to run was beyond the scope of rational thought, and his instinct for survival was driving him. Rational thought urged him to stop. His sons, his wife, now dead—such was the price of his involvement in Roman politics. Why run? What was there to run to? Why not just accept fate, accept his death? The exquisite freedom he could gain by death…
Behind him came the telltale sound of horses’ hooves thundering across the open grasses. With grey hair whipping wildly, he chanced a look behind at his pursuers. His foot caught on an old root; the glance back had cost him and caused him to tumble. Hitting the ground, he feebly tried to crawl forward, his old body betraying him as his strength was all but spent.
Surrounded, a ring of triumphant scornful laughter sounded in his ears.
“Take him to Talmadeus!”
From every balcony, every rooftop, and on the streets below, the rabble that was Rome cheered him with abandon.
A most noble chariot carried the victor of the Battle of Pharsalus into Rome. Drawn by four magnificent black Greek stallions, the new first citizen of Rome was welcomed by the plebeian masses. Men of his victorious legions held the people back, giving his procession access down Rome’s cobblestone streets to the Forum, the very heart of the city. Pulled by his chariot, a bloodied warrior woman in chains struggled to stay on her feet. At times she faltered, her body then dragged over the rough cobblestones.
Men of his legions strode far ahead, their polished armor glinting in the bright Mediterranean sun. Behind them, all manner of dancers bobbed and weaved ahead of his chariot, exciting the crowd. Vestal Virgins reaching into baskets to throw rose petals in his path.
Trumpets blared upon his arrival at the Senate.
Ah, the Senate, he mused, the last vestige of Republican Rome.
“Ave Caesar!” the crowd roared, cheering him mindlessly, enthralled by the spectacle.
In gleaming armor of red and gold, Caesar stepped from the chariot, stopping to savor the magnificence of the moment, the sweaty, hooting mob that was the poor of Rome cheered ‘til their voices grew hoarse.
Behind him, his chariot was guided away, the woman roughly pulled away with it. His men backed up on cue, allowing the crowds to run forward to the base of the steps leading up to the Roman Senate before their line reformed again.
Turning, Caesar strode gracefully up the marble steps, warily eying the assembled Senators as he did so.
The Senate, den of traitorous vipers! Many of them, through both flattering words and bags of gold, had lent support to the legions of Pompey in the Civil Wars. They would pay with far more than gold for their lack of allegiance to his cause.
He, not Pompeius, had brought Gaul forcibly under Roman control. While old Pompeius luxuriated in Rome, he, Julius Caesar, had fought to bring Britannia to heel.
When Pompey and the Senate ordered him home without his legions, Caesar knew he must take action or lose all his ventures.
Now he would allow the Senators to fawn and flatter with silver tongues pledging him their support.
Long ago, Caesar had found the allegiance of men to be like the shifting sands of the desert.
“Caesar, my lord.”
The eyes of the greybeards of the Senate shifted, taking in Caesar’s most loyal Commander. Tall, with light blond hair and hazel eyes, Antonius cut a dashing figure in his bronze armor. He was widely rumored to be a reveler, enjoying his drink and the company of beautiful women. To include, some said, Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Placed in command of a third of Caesar’s legions at Pharsalus, Antonius had distinguished himself further, proving his loyalty to the man many in the Senate secretly worried would end the 500 year old Republic by proclaiming himself emperor.
With a flashed smile of supreme confidence, Caesar turned his back upon the Senators. If any had designs to kill, now was a prime moment, surrounded as he was by the greybeards. His body tensed, readying itself for a strike.
Spineless these Senators, thought Caesar, unwilling to get their hands dirty, rather wishing others such as Pompeius do their dirty work.
Before him was thrust a crown made of laurel leaves by a now kneeling Antonius.
“Caesar Imperator!” The crowd chanted.
With the back of his hand, Caesar brushed the crown aside. No, now was not the moment.
“Caesar Imperator! Caesar Imperator!”
Again the crown was offered, again he brushed it aside. Even with his victories, Caesar knew he wasn’t yet powerful enough to claim the title of Emperor.
“Caesar Imperator! Caesar Imperator! Caesar Imperator!”
A third time the crown was offered, a third time brushed aside. Those who opposed him in the Senate had to be killed first, lest they become emboldened to strike.
One of his hands rose, the crowds fell silent in anticipation of his words.
“Citizens of Rome,” Caesar’s voice rolled off the marble, echoing through the streets. “Today we celebrate the addition of Gaul to our Republic!” The roar of the crowd rose to such heights it seemed the columned buildings themselves shuddered.
Both his hands rose, silence again descending over the masses. Dropping them, he gestured to two of his men below on the landing.
“And here,” he bellowed while pointing “I give you the former ruler of Britannia! The Rebel Boadicea!”
The tall woman was brought before the masses, forced to her knees; she was made to endure the taunts of the crowd while their spittle pelted her.
Again the throng fell silent, watching with baited breath as Caesar descended the marble stairs. With a deliberate movement, he drew his blade, the steel flashing in the light cast by the quickly setting sun. Before him, the woman stiffened, knowing death was near yet refusing to close her eyes. She would meet death like a true warrior. The blade descended and the masses roared, gleefully cheering the complete subjugation of Britannia to Rome.
Turning, Caesar paced up the steps again, smirking at the Senators as he did so. Upon reaching the top, he faced the throng once more while raising his bloody sword high for all to see. Slowly the people fell silent as the blade moved, bloody tip pointing East.
“The Bitch of Greece shall yield to Rome!”
The people roared their assent to this new war for conquest.
“See the people, Antonius,” Caesar instructed as the Senators parted before him. “how I have moved them.”