Growing Up Livia
Written by: Caina Q. Fuller
beloved warrior in Rome. She now
leads a campaign against the followers
of Eli with a vengeance by attacking
the largest temple known to be in
existence located in Pella. It is this
missions success which will determine
whether or not she will be officially
named Romes Champion
Krikor, high Priest of the temple of Eli, cut down man after man, wondering how Rome ever became such a powerful empire with such piss poor soldiers fighting for her. Even though he hadnt touched a weapon in over three years he was still five times the opponent of these butchers that were attacking the order.
He made a conscious decision to give it all he had and began cutting down man after man as he urged the people to make a run for the safety of the hills where they could scatter. Some ran in blind fear while others begged him to lay down his sword and follow them. He refused, even though he knew he was betraying the way of love.
It didnt take long for the Romans to notice there was a wolf amongst the sheep they were slaughtering. They began to come after him. Each man expected to cut him down easily enough, but they were surprised to find he was better with a sword than any Elijan had a right to be. It was because they underestimated him in this way many of them died before their commander came to face him down.
The woman he was seeing now had dead blue eyes that he found disturbing. The way she was looking at him, or rather through him, sent chills down his spine. If only Krikor could know this woman was the daughter of the finest champion the cult of Eli had ever called friend
Instead of clumsily charging him, she approached him with caution, striking almost tentatively at first to test his skill. She was sizing him up. She was adapting to his own attacks as if she had the mind of a god.
And I thought all you Elijans did was sit around and talk about Eli while you played with the kiddies and nibbled on fruit.
Her voice was heavy and slick like oil. Her movements where sure and her reflexes were feline sharp. She was dangerous, and he knew that if he fell today he would fall at her hand. That was fine by Krikor, as long as he could take her and as many of her men with him as possible.
We do more than talk. We do our best to help the sick and abused. We try to show people that love is the way to peace for mankind.
Something happened in her eyes. Was it a flash of sudden emotion, or was it merely an involuntary twitch in the muscles around her lips? He didnt know what it was, but the mention of love had had a definite effect on her. She continued to circle him, but this time there was something different but what?
Im not here for a sermon. Im here to-
I know. Youre here to wipe us off the face of the Earth. Spare me the rhetoric. Ive heard it all before from your kind.
You have an awfully bold tongue for a peace lover, you know that? Livia said, irritation with the mouthy Priest rising within her chest, hot like acid.
Why drag this out? I have a better idea He allowed his voice to trail off as he waited for her to tell him her name.
Livia. Why dont we fight until we kill each other?
Correction there. Now it was she who waited for a name.
Krikor. Why dont we fight until I kill you?
Maybe Im not that easy to kill.
They clashed swords again, and for the first time in a long time Livia found in this Elijan Priest what she hadnt found in years of raiding and fighting: A worthy opponent. They fought long and hard, and Livia began to wonder if perhaps shed met her better, when suddenly he stumbled over the body of one of his fellow Elijans and fell.
She was on him like an eagle on a prairie mouse, but in her eagerness to run him through she threw caution to the wind and didnt see his foot coming up until it was too late.
She grunted in pain and surprise when he drove his foot into her gut hard enough to knock the wind out of her. She fell back, and before her head could hit the ground he was on her, his blade to her throat.
Livia did her level best to save herself but he was too strong in close quarters. The edge of his sword began to bite into the soft flesh of her neck. As she looked into his eyes the only thing she could see was Brigids face. The only thing she could feel was the guilt and remorse shed tried to hold at bay since shed killed the only one whod ever meant anything to her in her life.
I may die today Livia, but I will die with honor, knowing I saved the lives of my family and my people. Ill die knowing I rid the world of a sick monster. I hope you come to suffer for all youve done to us!
He pushed down on her throat even harder, trying to kill her, but Senetus came to her rescue. The pressure lessoned as Senetus drove his blade into the side of Krikors head, killing him instantly. She quickly gathered what was left of her strength and stood, blood pouring from a nasty, but not fatal, wound to her neck.
Senetus call off the attack. Have the have the remaining Elijans rounded up. Were taking them back to Rome.
But I thought we were-
Senetus stood to attention and Livia leaned against the nearest pillar, trying to collect herself. She watched as Senetus called off the attack and ordered the men to harvest the people to be taken back to Rome. Her eyes wandered to the heap that had been Krikor, the sting of his blade stabbing at her throat with a thousand tiny knives of pain. Her own blood poured down the front of her chest, and it had been that one man whod done it.
Ghita took hold of five-year-old Dorans hand and led him through the streets of Pella toward the tavern she was preparing to open. Shed resented being saddled with the child at first, even though she had been responsible for his mothers death, but as hed grown and looked up at her with the purest love shed seen since her own sons had been infants, the resentment had been replaced by love.
Now Doran gave her a reason to smile and laugh each day. He filled the void that had taken up residence in her heart the day she realized her sons were just as ambitions and avaricious as she ever had been, and were incapable of truly loving anyone but themselves.
Just like she had been.
Doran had been a blessing in disguise for her. Yes his mother had died in her plans to kill Livia, and that crime was unforgivable, but now he was her responsibility now. With each day that passed by she did all she could to make sure he knew he was loved and wanted and needed. They were happy, and she prayed diligently to the gods that nothing would ever happen to put their simple, joyful lives to an end.
Doran had changed Ghita like nothing else in this world ever could. Hed made her realize that there were more important things in this life than her greed and ambitions. It was this epiphany of sorts that had led her to spend hours crying over the pain she caused so many innocent people as shed ruined their lives to satisfy her lust for power.
Finally they reached the Inn. Construction had just been completed, and her employees were still stocking the kitchen and linen closets for the first day of business tomorrow. Because the next day was the festival of Dionysus, her business would get off to a good start. Everyone would be in costume, everyone would be drinking, and even more importantly, everyone would be spending money.
Gramma! Gramma, lookie!
Gramma was the closest Doran had ever tried to come to calling her Grandma, but she didnt care. She knew he was talking to her. Her eyes followed Dorans tiny pointing hand and her heart leaped into her throat.
The Roman flag was cresting the hill, coming into the village. Romans what was worse, was a smaller, black flag with two silver serpents intertwined around a sword dripping venom and blood flapped in the wind beneath Augustus flag. She knew that emblem well.
I see honey. Romans.
She picked Doran up and all but ran the rest of the way into the Inn, reaching the safety of the indoors just as Livia crested the hill. Had she seen Ghita, the older woman would have been dead.
Ghita locked the doors and rushed up to the only other person in the room, her friend and hopefully one day, lover.
Peter, she said, setting Doran on the counter. He took one look into her eyes and knew something terrible was wrong.
Whats the matter?
Livia is here.
He pulled Doran over the counter and smiled at the boy, not wanting to alarm him with what he knew about Ghitas worst enemy. Doran, I want you to go out the back door and over to Aunt Lysandras house, ok?
Doran frowned and looked back to his Grandmother. He was young, but he could sense something was wrong. But I want to stay here with Gramma.
I know you do sweetheart, Ghita said, moving around the counter to kiss him and assure him everything was going to be ok. But Gramma has a lot to do and I need to concentrate. Be a good boy and go to Auntie, ok? Shes making your costume for the party tomorrow. Dont you want to look nice and scary?
I guess so, he said, but he didnt sound very convinced. He went through the back door, and Ghita watched him until he disappeared into the back door of her friend Lysandras house across the alley from the Inn. Once she knew he was safely inside, Peter took her in his arms and tried to comfort her.
Theres no reason Livia ever has to know youre here.
You know shes after the Elijans. What if she plans to take up residence for a siege? She could be here for months. I cant hide in my room all that time. Doran will ask questions and-
Shhh Peter said, laying a finger across her lips to silence her. She was panicking, and even though shed told him her entire story with Livia, she knew he couldnt really comprehend the danger involved with just being around that girl. She had been bad when Ghita had known her, but shed gotten worse over the years. Rumor had it she once killed a man for looking at her the wrong way.
Go upstairs and wait in your room. Ill let them know that the Inn doesnt open for business until tomorrow.
Ghita found herself pitying his lack of understanding concerning Livia or even Roman soldiers for that matter. They will force themselves in here Peter. They dont care if were open yet or not. But Ill go to my room and pray she doesnt discover Im here.
Im sure she wont.
Ghita headed for the stairs. She was half way up when the door began to open. She rushed to the top, and then peeked around the corner to see who was coming in, but the door wasnt visible.
Im looking for a room.
Ghitas blood turned to ice in her veins at the sound of the familiar voice. It was a little heavier and more mature, but it was basically the same as it had been the last time shed heard it.
Im sorry, Peter said. Ghita could see the counter, but Livia hadnt come that far into the room yet. But we dont open for business until tomorrow morning.
There was silence, and Ghitas heart began to pound in her chest as she imagined Livia drawing a dagger plunging it into Peters chest. Instead there were only footsteps and Livia finally came into view.
She was older, but Ghita remembered every detail of the womans face.
Livia stopped in front of Peter and leaned in on the counter. I dont think you heard me. I said Im looking for a room for my officers.
Poor Peter, Ghita thought. She was just glad she wasnt speaking to Livia now.
Uh, how many officers to you have?
Only ten with me. The rest of my men will camp in the fields outside of town.
Livia began looking around, so Ghita eased back around the corner, not wanting to be spotted.
How many bedrooms does this place have?
Well take six rooms. That should leave you plenty of room for the festival tomorrow. Have some food prepared and sent to my men out in the field.
Livia audibly sighed, and when she spoke her voice dripped with sarcasm. She was sick of telling people her name.
Livia. My name is Livia. I should be easy to recognize. Im the only female to ever serve in the military in Romes history.
Sorry Livia. Ill prepare your rooms now. Pandara! Come out and take this young womans order please. Do you mind if I ask how long youll be staying?
I dont know. Well probably be pulling out the day after tomorrow. Well see.
A young, blond woman emerged from the kitchen and smiled at Livia. Her smile quickly faded when Livia only returned her warmth with a cold, icy stare.
Peter came bounding up the stairs and almost ran her over trying to get to her room. He pulled her down the hall and didnt speak until the doors were shut.
We should be able to make it. Tomorrow is the festival. Everyone will be dressing up and hiding their faces in masks, so even if she sees you, she wont recognize you.
Dont bet on it. Do me a favor.
Have Pandara take Doran away until Livia and her men are gone. Please.
Ghita, I really dont think thatll be nec-
Please Peter! Make sure hes safe. For me? Please?
Peter sighed and nodded. Alright. As soon as we close down for the night, Ill have Pandara take Doran to Amphipolis for a few days.
Ok. Thank you Peter.
Peter left the room to prepare for Livias men, putting her on the opposite side of the hall from her. She just prayed something didnt happen and she crossed paths with Livia. If she did, she was a dead woman.
Livia left her men to do what they would while she settled down for the night. The mood of the village was a festive one, though she was unable to enjoy her surroundings. This was no surprise to her. She was never able to feel anything anyway, so why bother pretending to have fun.
She thought of Rome, and what returning there would mean. This victory over the Elijans would surely mean she would be named champion. After all, shed just destroyed their largest temple. This was the kind of news that would raise her popularity a couple of notches among the Roman citizens. Becoming Romes champion was her second to last goal in life. It would come right before the throne as Romes empress. Would this finally make her happy?
She could feel herself drifting into sleep, and just as she was about to sink into blessed oblivion she heard a familiar voice. A voice that inspired rage within her. She forced herself to remain calm beneath the heavy, warm blankets of the bed while she listened to the voices in the hall.
There was a small boy yelling with glee Gramma, Gramma!
Then she heard the voice again, nearly a whisper but close by. She sat up; certain she knew whom the voice belonged to.
Ghita, Livia whispered. She jumped out of bed, still fully clothed. The only time she slept naked was after romping with Augustus or Ares.
Livia went to the door and pulled it open a notch. Outside was a middle-aged woman hugging a small boy. The boy looked familiar, and there was no doubt in her mind he was the son of her former soldier, Cadmus.
Ghita kissed the boy good-bye, and then whispered that she loved him. Once the child was gone, Livia eased from her room and stood behind Ghita, waiting for her to turn around and face her.
The End of Chapter Ten