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the last lament of the sun
shamir nandy
page 04:09
 
 
 
 
 

She shook her long curls, and took a breath. And then emptied her already empty stomach again, wincing as her throat burned under the abuse. She checked on Gally, and then looked around. She saw people straggling off, less were moving than had before. Only a handful remained, wailing and screaming, lost to madness, pain, and always – desperation. She glanced over at the Julian Gate, and saw only fire. Far to the north, she could hear guttural screaming born of a thousand voices, the direction of the Salarian Way . The road of Roman triumph. She would see soon enough, she would know what they meant to do with this city. It was never the conquest the Goths had hoped for, they had picked the apple, and it was rotten. They had come to rape the maiden, only to find a whore.

Lucia laughed bitterly, and looked at the crippled survivors. Either they would come, or they would die after hours in pain. Lifting Gally, she hefted the axe again, and began walking to the nearest screamer. Let there be mercy in the house of the suffering.


now

Lucia woke to the incarnadine light of morning, such as it was. Or perhaps it was noon , with the sky tainted as it was, perhaps light only filtered through during the brightest hours of the day. She sat up slowly, for some reason trying to shake her hair clean of soot and dust. She wiped a hand across her mouth, and wasn't surprised to find it streaked with blood. She could feel crusted blood around her lips, and she contemplated leaving it there. Instead, she grabbed a handful of dusted rock and scraped her face clean with it. There was fresh blood to join the old, but at least she was clean of it.

“Lucia.”

She tried her voice; it seemed like years since she had heard it. She had often been told what a lyrical voice she had, and had thought nothing of it. And now, as she spoke her own name, it sounded nothing like she remembered. Hoarse and rough, it was the dry scrape of metal across rock she heard now, and nothing else. And why not? She had lived through hell, she was bound to die in it, what need had she of voice? Constantine had brought them the meaning of hell, and a century later, Rome lived it. She moaned then, the only words left to her. What else did she need?

“Gally.”

She whispered it, and her sanity came crashing back to her. Gally, he was free, he was safe. It was only her now, and her life had been lost even before Alaric came thundering through the Salarian Gate only a day before...


before

Lucia shook her curls out, laughing as the drained water seemed to land everywhere except the basin. She laughed again as she thought how angry her mother would be.

“This is not a time for lightness!” she had proclaimed just that morning. Flavia had tended to the dramatic ever since Cato had died – in the provinces of all places. Lucia sighed. It had only been a year since her father had been killed, but to die so close to Rome, when he had spent years of his life fighting in Afrika and Britannica, it was just ironic. He had served his required term, and had stayed on. Not the son of a political appointment, he had nevertheless risen through the ranks until he fell victim to infection, taken from a wound in a pacified land.

Lucia's mother of course, had taken that a sign of the times. Backed by her husbands modest wealth and increasing influence, she had hosted legates, prelates, and once, even a senator at dinners since. The sword that killed her husband, a true Roman (of course) had been wielded by one of the new citizens, and so began the speech. How the Roman empire had been weakened by it's subjugate races, how the unclean served in the legions, how Honorious was a woman, the bitch emperor, as she called him.

Lucia laughed with the memory. Anyone could call Honorious a bitch emperor, it was only the truth. It seemed like even Honorious knew it – his politicians all did. Still, Lucia had new respect for the Emperor. Ever since the city was sealed after news of consumption in the country, there had been rumours of raiders taking advantage of the military isolation to ravage the countryside. For once in his life, Honourious had lived up to his name sake, and taking the Praetorians, had left to scourge the country of the outlaws. Again of course, her mother would find the worst possible perspective, insisting she had heard ‘credible' reports of him riding to Ravenna , as if in need of safety.

Lucia rolled her eyes at a mother that could not see her, and sat on the edge of the bath, unstoppering a decanter of olive oil, and lightly working down her legs. Ravenna was nothing more than a fortress, albeit a decadent one at that. If the Emperor wanted safety, no place better than Rome . Finishing with her legs, she wiped the excess oil off with a towel, making sure the short, soft hairs remained flat against her legs. Slipping into a white cotton tunic, she slowly dried her curls, and worked her way into the living room.

Little Gally was the first to notice her, of course. The servants went out of their way to avoid the boy and anything he wanted, and Flavia was to busy screaming about imperial purity to worry about a little boy – except of course to show him off as a pure Roman of military tradition.

“Galius, a proud name, as befits a proud heritage!” Lucia herself was touted as a good Roman woman of pure blood, but she couldn't help but notice that the politicians her mother introduced her to seemed much more interested in her hips and her first swell of breasts than her lineage.