Girls' night out birthdays are the best: appy's for dinner and the latest Star Wars movie - in the theater! (I have kids, going to the theater with another adult is always a treat.) And cake. Can't forget about the cake. :) The weather could've been better, but last weekend was early February, and I live in Canada, so expecting anything other than snow on a weekend would have been a silly assumption. Highway and city maintenance crews were out in force, though, so the roads were better than the weather wanted them to be.
For happenings this week I'm happy to say that Warrior, Book II of The Centurion's Woman trilogy, is completely approved and driving forward on its way to print! My pre-printing reviewers have all already started demanding Book III, so I must've done something right. (Insert a sigh of relief here.)
And now I'll stop babbling so you can get on to the bits you're likely waiting to read... the conclusion of that short story set in The Centurion's Woman's world: Part 6 of 6.
6. The Important Parts
The men staring with awe jumped to the task and lifted up then slid the stone lid on top of Ixor’s casket. The men who’d stared with disbelief or shock joined the looks of awe as Alex came around the end to look inside and see what had been left there for her to find. Some food and a single change of folded clothing had wasted to useless at the far end, but the bottles of wine – Alex counted fourteen – were still sealed and barely dusty. Alex smiled that Verus had put in more wine than anything else. Opposite the food, at the same end where Alex was standing, was a small stack of six oilskins that were each wrapped for correspondence and sealed with wax.
Alex opened the four letters from her children first, reading their goodbyes and about the things they thought were important enough to write down for her. The fifth letter was a collection of sentences, written poorly by many hands, and was from all of her grandchildren. The sixth letter didn’t have a stamp in the wax. Alex pulled out one of the wine bottles and cut the seal with her knife before removing the plug. By the smell, the wine hadn’t turned to vinegar. By the taste, Verus had given her some of the best his family could offer. She sat down and rested her back against her casket, leaning on the engraving of her own name, and then opened the final letter.
I know you will find this, Sister, so I made sure to pack only things that are important for your journey.
Alex laughed and took another drink.
You’ll be proud to know that your family simply thought I misplaced you, and looked for no less than twelve days before understanding that you were gone. To be honest, if I hadn’t seen you go, I would’ve looked for longer.
I don’t know what to write that I haven’t already said. I’m the one who convinced D. that we should all write these letters for you, though, so have to write one also. I admit that doing so has made breathing harder to do. I love you very much, Dear One, and
Alex stopped and drank deeply at the small section of blank page that followed the final, unfinished paragraph in Verus’s flawless script before attempting to read the next words in her son’s tidy writing.
I’ve written my letter already, so won’t bore you. I found Uncle this morning. He’d been working on your letter. I’ll be certain to see the page wrapped and sealed, and leave the stamping blank so that you know he was the author. I hope now he’s with you again, as he never recovered from losing you while he was here.
Alex set the bottle and letter aside, rested her elbows on her knees and covered her face with her hands. After a moment crying alone, Magnus’s arms wrapped around her and she cried onto his shoulder. He ordered most of the men out, to bring crates for the unopened wine, and set the few remaining guards to cleaning out the wasted food and clothing.
Once Alex could speak again, she conversed with Magnus regarding the few points of further proof he wanted to confirm before actually fully believing her claim to being that Alexandria Avilia Augusta. She spoke with him freely, too emotionally drained to care what details she was sharing of her life from three hundred years ago. Once the crates arrived, she stood up and loaded the wine herself. She noted that some of the bottles clinked instead of sloshing, but knew Verus too well to think of looking at what was inside while she didn’t have complete privacy. If he’d gone to such trouble to hide things, she could respect that.
The sun was just starting to set as they emerged from the tomb. Adellexia had been quietly conversing with Verus, staying out of the way, and looked crestfallen when she saw Magnus looking around for her. She switched to embarrassed when she saw that Alex had seen her, and quickly passed the sword back to Magnus.
“In your remembering, you said that the Celsus you knew was your friend?” Magnus asked Alex quietly.
“Closer than a brother,” Alex confirmed.
“Was he a citizen?” he asked, the common class discrimination flaring up in the conversation.
“His family was patrician, with very few betters among all families in all the Empire,” Alex replied. Magnus looked taken aback.
“This Celsus is a freeman,” he stated, avoiding looking at Verus. “Calleous did not speak highly of him,” he added. Alex glanced down at the corpse Magnus had just mentioned, and then looked up at Magnus with her eyebrows arched.
“You should listen to your niece’s accounting of Calleous before you put any weight on his opinions,” Alex advised.
“You may be correct,” he mused.
“I usually am,” Alex answered, startling Magnus out of his thoughts.
“Will you be my guest?” Magnus asked suddenly. “My home is a day’s journey from here. I’m certain Xia would appreciate having you, as well. Due to the late hour, we won’t leave until tomorrow morning. You’re of course welcome to come, and stay for as long as you wish.”
“I would like that,” Alex smiled at him.
“What shall we call you, though?” he asked, clearly excited that she’d agreed. Alex could see that there would be many nights recounting family history, and couldn’t actually say that she wasn’t also looking forward to doing just that. Probably she could get Verus and Adellexia trained properly before the war came, as well.
“When Adellexia prayed earlier, in the tomb, she called me ‘Old Grandmother,’” Alex turned her smile to where the younger woman was trying to not obviously fawn on the armorsmith as he appeared to be describing the detailing of the hilt to her, leaning close to show her something.
“Old Grandmother,” Magnus repeated, following her gaze with his own as he tested the name.
“That’s an accurate description of me,” Alex chided, making Magnus glance a grin at her before frowning at Verus again. “You know, my husband wasn’t born as Augustus, or as a patrician,” she started, pulling his attention back. “His original name was Traversi, and he was an equestrian.”
“Really?” Magnus blinked in surprise, his attention riveted at the hint of more family details.
“His initial name was Ixillius Traversi,” she tapped the brass plate on the collar she was wearing. “He was disowned shortly after finding me. He married me, not having a clue who I was when he did, and my father honored the decision even though Ixor had been disowned. Octavian Augustus himself claimed Ixor as a relation, and then my father adopted him, so that we could stay married.”
“There has to be more than that to the story,” Magnus replied once he realized that Alex was finished.
“There is,” Alex smiled at the young couple, catching them in the moment when their hands touched and they suddenly couldn’t look away from each other. “But, as my father would’ve said, those are the important parts.”
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!