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Authors: Michael Livingston

The Shards of Heaven

BOOK: The Shards of Heaven
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For Samuel and Elanor, who are every reason



One world's history is another's fantasy. Today we might look upon Zeus and Apollo as wondrous figments of the Greek imagination, but I'm confident Homer felt differently. Indeed, he may well have believed in his history—filled with heroes and gods and goddesses both malevolent and benign—as surely as I believe in the history of George Washington, whom I wager I've met about as often as Homer met Athena.

A story, such as the one that follows, that takes as equal facts the existence of the Trident of Poseidon, the Ark of the Covenant, and the rise to power of Augustus Caesar, therefore, might be entirely history or entirely fantasy—depending on the reader's pleasure and perspective. Know at least that these events and the characters involved in them fit as seamlessly as possible into the timeline of what we think we know of these events. Juba is real. Didymus is real. So, too, are Pullo and Vorenus, Caesarion and Selene, and many of the rest. Actium was real. Alexandria was real.

And maybe, just maybe, so were the Shards.

*   *   *

For the reader's convenience, the following chart reveals the often confusing relationships between the families of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Dashed lines represent adoption. Further details may be found in the glossary at the end of this book.



I am all that has been, that is, and that will be.

No mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers me.

—Inscription on the temple of Neith at Sais, according to Plutarch





Hidden amid the shadows outside Caesar's marble-columned villa, the assassin Valerius gazed back across the valley to Rome. Coiled around and upon her seven hills, the Eternal City often seemed like a living thing, her old streets pulsing with life. But now, on this fading day, the city was quiet and still. Her ancient stones, alight with the reds of a setting sun, appeared to be weeping blood. Valerius saw in the image a sign of favor.

The dictator was dead. And the gods approved.

Caesar's blood, he did not doubt, still stained the tiled floor of the east Forum. Pushing his way through the astonished throngs of onlookers after the deed, Valerius had seen for himself the mangled corpse, wrapped in the tattered remains of Caesar's purple robes, and in his mind's eye the thick crimson pooled there was the perfect mirror to the strong light before him now.

Valerius' knife, which he absently turned over in his hands as he watched Rome's red walls slowly fade to gray, had not been among those that drank of Caesar, and he thought it a pity. The rich senators who'd done the killing were emotional men, ineffective at murder. Even with so many cuts to his body, Caesar had taken some minutes to die. The sprawled trail of blood on the tiles had told the tale. And though Valerius felt no particular love for the would-be emperor, he nevertheless thought it shameful that any man should shake out his last breaths under the eyes of dishonorable men.

Shameful, but little for it: Valerius was under no employ for that killing, and the man who had arranged to hire him only hours afterward would never have wished Caesar dead. Octavian still called the dictator “Uncle Julius” despite all the titles and glories that Caesar had won over his great-nephew's nineteen years. In the streets some citizens were even saying that Caesar had adopted the young man, that Octavian might well be his heir. That was certainly what Octavian seemed to think.

Valerius spit into the vines that gathered about the foot of the villa wall at his back. He knew little of politics himself: he cared for them only insofar as they affected his own movements. Heir or not, adopted son or not, Octavian was his employer now. So Valerius cared only that his employer's beloved uncle was dead and that he had been hired to see that Caesarion, the son of Caesar and Cleopatra, the only blood child of the now-dead dictator, would follow his father to the grave.

As he stopped to think about it, it seemed for a moment odd to Valerius that Octavian should wish the child of Julius such harm. The assassin had never seen the boy, but it was said that, aside from his slightly darker tone of skin and more delicate Egyptian features, Caesarion had every part the striking resemblance to his father. Then again, as heir of Egypt and the only surviving child of Julius Caesar himself, Caesarion did stand in line to inherit the world. And if Octavian thought himself rightful heir to at least part of that world … well, no price would be too high to see the boy dead.

Not that it really mattered. Octavian's reasons were immaterial in the end. Not like the hundred weight of gold Valerius had been promised for the killing.
was material indeed.

BOOK: The Shards of Heaven
4.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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