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the last lament of the sun
shamir nandy
page 08:09
 
 
 
 
 

Lucia didn't care anymore, she just wanted out of the city. Gally stirred against her, starting to kick, and she impatiently quieted him. She felt bad about it, but all they needed now was out. It was then that she heard it. An ominous thunder. She had no idea what it meant, but the ground under her feet started to shake. She had lived in the city all her life, she couldn't understand it. She knew she didn't like it however. She heard yells in the crowd – some people understood what was going on. It didn't matter to Lucia, right now, she didn't want to be here. She had become enclosed however, and she'd have to fight her way out. The thundering grew louder again, and all of a sudden there was a great sigh from the crowd. Helplessly, she turned, and looked north.

She saw Hell.


now

Lucia came crashing back to the present, and it took her a moment to remember where she was. It seemed she had made it to the outskirts of the city now. She couldn't even remember when she had last eaten. Of course, matters could be worse. She's seen cannibals tear human flesh throughout the city, and for awhile she had thought that had been the worst of it. But in her flight from the Salarian Way , she had seen people eating their own flesh. Of course, the barbians had forced them to. That didn't make it any better. What made it worse, was in the days after, she had watched the gibbering mad eat their own fingers of their own volition. In the broken city of Rome , sanity was nothing more than a legend echoing softly through the empty streets, home now only to the dead and the dying.

She would make the crest of the hill tomorrow, and perhaps see a sunrise. She looked back at the heart of the city, knowing how exposed she was now. It didn't matter. There would be sunlight above the darkness. There always was. Wasn't there? She regressed through the broken strands of her mind again, knowing she was drawing closer to something. Something her mind had torn itself apart to hide, rather than remember – and invite madness.


before

Lucia still had the axe, even after her business among the crippled. She didn't need it, she had no illusions about her chance in a fight. To even wield the axe, she'd need both hands. And she wasn't about to drop Gally. She had stood amongst the dead in the Julian plaza, and had felt fear wash away from her. She couldn't leave through the gate - it was obscured was fire and smoke, and she doubted the Visigoths would leave it unguarded. What she did see now, was something happening in the north. They had entered through the Salarian gate, and she saw a hungry glow in the north – tonight the barbarians had gathered. She would know why.

Rome was home to more people than all the savages in Germania . They couldn't stay to kill them all, althought they would no doubt try. Lucia was tempted to flee, just to hide somewhere. But she couldn't do that. She needed to know, why. Why Rome ? She could understand this was perhaps a sacking, but there would be no reason to linger, no reason to ruin. Only later would she understand they never came south for money. They came south out of hate, and they put all of the middle empire to fire and the sword. Maybe she would take heart in the fact that the eastern armies crushed the Goths, Honorious died in Ravenna , and the Western armies finished any thoughts of an independent Germania for centures to come. Maybe she would understand everyhing if she knew that Alaric, their great ‘visionary', died four months after they put Rome to fire and the sword.

Maybe she would, but she could never know the future. For her, there was only the present. She tucked Gally away in the ruins of house that she knew belonged to one of Tertinia's distant relations, and crept onto the roof to look onto the Salarian Square .

Under Alaric, the slaves had opened the Salarian, and the barbarians had thundered into the plaza. In fact, their vangaurd swept throught the city, followed by the main body in waves. For hours, only drogue riders held the gate. Had Lucia not fled, and waitied, perhaps both of them would have lived.

But she didn't and a day later, the Salarian Square was the site of the Barbarian's triumph. Where Julius Caesar had been crowned with the Laurel Wreath, were Africanus had a continent named after him, where uncounted victories were celebrated, Alaric sat in attendance. Lucia could see, she had good eyes, and she knew Alaric didn't want what was happening before him. If she had good eyes, she could see those of others - and his were quietly weeping.

Even if he didn't want it, he didn't stop it. She saw it that night. They delighted in torturing people. After, she would hear from crippled and broken survivors – “Senator Oppius stood for Rome . He was true to the end!” Lucia watched it that night. She saw the truth. Yes, Oppius stood for Rome against Alaric. And that's all that was true.

Alaric told him to kneel, and everything ended there.

Everything.

Everything that mattered.

Alaric closed his eyes, and two monsterous men threw Oppius on his back. Yes, Lucia saw him stand against the barbarians. She saw as they held held his arms, and their dogs ran, biting and tearing at his crotch in a read heat.

Still Oppius stood. Not for courage however, he fell with Rome . He screamed, he begged for mercy, he shamed Rome . Did Julius, Tiberius, any true emperor die like this? No. And Oppius wasn't an Emperor. He promised a new era, and with his death, he brought it. He taught an object lesson to Rome : Die hard and crying, and make it a long time coming.

So he stood. And Lucia would hear stories about his bravery for days. But she saw the truth of it. He stood, and he looked at his crotch, and he never screamed, only a keening wail. Then he sunk to his knees. There were no spears, an arrow took the right eye. Never both, the left must bear witness to that which would come next. And more would come - eyes weren't enough, not for a senator. Not for any of Rome 's children.