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February, 27 BC

 A FEW months after our return from Capri, Octavian dedicated the Temple of Apollo, and the feast that followed lasted until the early hours of the morning. But it was nothing compared to the reception being planned for Tiberius and Marcellus, who had both turned fifteen recently and would now celebrate their coming-of-age during March’s festival of Liberalia. Julia insisted on new tunics for the ceremony, and wasn’t satisfied with the bolts of cloth we had purchased over the winter holiday.

“This has to be something special,” she’d said as February drew to a close. She’d begged her father to let Gallia take us to the Forum Boarium, where barges from Ostia unloaded their goods. This way, we could barter for cloth before any other woman in Rome had a chance to see it. He finally agreed a week before Liberalia, and with seven of the Praetorian guards we followed Gallia into the cattle market.

“How can anyone stand this?” Julia complained, holding up a ball of amber to her nose.

“This was your idea,” Gallia reminded.

“But look at these people. They’re so poor.”

Gallia gave me a weary look. “Welcome to Rome.”

Unsatisfied with Gallia’s response, Julia turned to me. “Have you ever seen so much dirt? I’ll bet these people don’t even bathe.”

“It’s their work,” I said. “They can’t help it, dealing with cattle all day.”

“Even so.” She passed her hand in front of her nose. “If my father wasn’t so obsessed about his reputation among the plebs, he could have ordered the bargemen to just bring their cloth to the Palatine.”

The odor of cattle excrement really was overwhelming. On either side of the road, concrete apartment buildings teetered three and four stories high, and I wondered how the inhabitants could live with such stench and noise around them. We passed the bronze bull that occupied the center of the marketplace, and Gallia warned us to watch for cutpurses.

“You never know what sort lurks around here. And sometimes—”

A woman screamed on the other side of the Forum Boarium, and suddenly people were running. Julia grabbed my arm. “What is it?” she cried.

For a moment, we couldn’t see anything; and then a space cleared in the middle of the Forum, and Gallia shouted, “Bulls!” The guards fanned out around us, but as the two animals charged, the soldiers scattered.

Julia and I pressed ourselves against the side of an apartment building. As the bulls drew closer, Gallia shouted, “Move!”

But there was nowhere for us to run. I closed my eyes as the first bull charged past us through the open door of the apartment building, missing us by a hairsbreadth. But the second bull lowered its head. It had no intention of following its brother, and as it ran toward us, Gallia’s screams rang out like a whistle. Then, suddenly, the massive bull staggered, and from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a blond man with a bow and arrow on the balcony of an adjacent building. A second arrow pierced the air, then a third and a fourth. The bull bellowed with rage, turning to see where the attack was coming from. In those precious moments, a soldier leapt forward and speared the beast with his metal pilum.

The bull collapsed at Julia’s feet, and when I looked up again to see the blond bowman, he was gone. But men were still shouting in front of us, and two of Octavian’s guards leapt over the bull and dragged us away from the building. Above our heads, the first bull was roaming the balconies.

A crowd of shouting merchants were warning anyone inside the building to flee. The bull didn’t understand its confinement, and in its anger it was pushing its horns into the rails and ramming the walls again and again. Then there was a terrible crack, and the bull looked up as if it sensed what was about to happen. The balcony gave way, and in a shower of concrete the bull fell to its death where Julia and I had been standing. There was a moment of shocked silence from the crowd, then a sound like thunder rumbled above us as the upper stories began to crumble.

“Go!” one of the guards shouted, and the men ran with us before we could be engulfed in dust and debris. When we stopped to look behind us, the upper floor of the apartment building was gone.

Julia began to shake. Our tunics were covered in dust, and merchants from across the Forum Boarium were running to see what had happened. “The man on the balcony….” She trembled. “He saved our lives.”

We looked to the apartment balcony where the bowman had been standing, and one of the guards approached the building. As he reached the door, he stepped back quickly. “Gaius, Livius, take a look at this!”

We followed the men to the door.

Fastened with the same type of arrow that was used to fell the bull, an actum had been posted about the mistreatment of slaves on the Aventine. At the bottom of the sheet of papyrus, written in hasty lettering, the rebel had added:

So long as freedmen and slaves are forced to live in buildings made of thin brick walls and concrete mixed with more water than lime, there will be deaths, and those deaths stain Caesar’s hands.

There was a frenzy of excitement as people around us realized who the archer must have been. The guards Octavian had sent with us burst into the building and raced up the stairs.

Julia gripped my hand. “Do you think he’s still up there?”

“No,” Gallia said. “He’s probably long gone.”

“But what could he be doing here?” I asked.

“Many men keep several apartments,” Gallia said. “This could be his third or fourth home.”

When the guards returned, they were carrying bottles of ink and a copy of the same actum that was posted on the door. The eldest of the guards introduced himself as Livius. His short gray hair exposed the hard, chiseled planes of his face. He looked first at Julia, then at me. “What did you see when those arrows killed the bull?”

Julia hesitated. “A … a man on the balcony.”

“And what did this man look like?”

“I couldn’t tell.”

Livius’s eyes bored into mine.

“I couldn’t tell either,” I added swiftly. “A bull was headed right for us!”

“Why?” Gallia asked. “What has the landlord said?”

“He tells us he’s never seen the tenant in that room.”

“But someone must have rented it!” I exclaimed.

Livius smiled slowly. “He says that money simply appears whenever the rent is due, and that men don’t ask questions in the Forum Boarium.”

“That’s true,” Gallia offered.

“It may be true,” Livius returned hotly, “but no man is invisible. Someone has seen him. Someone in that building. And when Caesar hears of this,” he warned, crumpling the Red Eagle’s actum in his hand, “the men he sends won’t be interested in excuses.”

We began the walk back to the Palatine, and Julia whispered, “Marcellus and Alexander will never believe this. I told them they should have come with us instead of going to the Circus!” Her fear had turned to excitement with the appearance of the actum, and even though our shopping trip was aborted, she remained in high spirits. “We’ll return tomorrow,” she promised gaily. “And we can show them where we were almost killed!”

“There may have been people who died inside that building,” I chided.

“And there would have been two more if the Red Eagle hadn’t saved us!”

When we returned to Octavia’s villa, Julia wanted everyone to know how we had almost lost our lives, and that evening in the triclinium, she repeated the story. “That’s when the Red Eagle saved us,” she said breathlessly.

Her father lowered the scroll in his hands. “What?”

Julia looked uneasily at me before turning to Octavian. “It was him. He shot the bull just as it was coming toward us. Didn’t the guards tell you?”

I could see that Livia was growing enraged, but Octavian remained perfectly calm. “And how do you know it was the rebel?” he asked evenly.

“Because the same kind of arrow was used to hold the actum to the door.”

Marcellus whispered severely, “Stop talking.”

But Octavian was already on his feet. Obviously the guards hadn’t told him. When they’d reported finding the Red Eagle’s apartment, they had failed to mention the fact that the rebel had saved Julia and me. Octavian seated himself on Julia’s couch and put his arm tenderly around her shoulders. “So he saved you.”

“From death,” she said. “Right, Selene?”

I nodded.

“And did you get a chance to look at him?”

I could see Alexander and Marcellus holding their breaths.

“I … I don’t know.”

“This is very important,” Octavian said gently. “See if you can remember.”

Julia frowned. “Yes. Yes, I did. He had flaxen hair and strong arms.”

Octavian stood. “Thank you,” he said. “Tomorrow, buy whatever silks you would like.”

Julia grinned, clearly proud of herself.

That evening, in the privacy of my chamber, I railed against Julia’s foolishness. “What’s the matter with her?”

My brother sat on his couch and shook his head.

“A man’s life is at stake!” I cried.

“And it may be someone she loves.” He leaned forward, and his voice dropped low. “Marcellus wasn’t at the Circus this afternoon.”

“What do you mean?”

“We went together, then he asked whether I wanted to have a little fun. I thought maybe he meant he was going to visit the fornices, so I told him no, but he was gone for so long even Juba and the Praetorians couldn’t find him.”

“None of them?”

“Only seven were with us.”

“So what did they do when he returned?”

Alexander gave me a long look. “They warned him that if he ever did that again, our trips to the Circus would be finished.”

“They must have been furious. But where did he say he went?”

My brother turned up his palms, and I noticed how large his hands had grown. He was taller than me now. Women had begun to stare at him in the streets, and Julia liked to run her fingers through his hair and ask for his opinion on her tunics. I wondered what kind of husband he’d make, but couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from him. What if Octavian decided to send him back to Egypt and keep me in Rome? Or, worse, send us to opposite ends of Rome’s vast territories. He was watching me with the light amber eyes the two of us shared, and their expression was anxious. “He didn’t. Marcellus just elbowed me in the side and said, ‘You know.’ Is it possible he was the bowman, Selene?”

I thought back to the afternoon when the bull had been charging us and I had caught only the briefest glimpse of a man on a balcony. “His hair was golden. But I was too far away to see his face.”

“Well, what if his performance in the ludus is just an act? What if he’s smarter than any of us give him credit for?”

I thought of Marcellus—laughing, silly, always quick with a jibe—and shook my head. “He’s brash enough for it. But you’ve seen his writing in the ludus, Alexander. It can’t be him.”

“Handwriting can be disguised.”

“But you’re forgetting that there’s Magister Verrius as well. They both have the same light hair and eyes.”

“Except Magister Verrius wasn’t the one who went missing.”

“How do you know? He could have left the ludus as soon as we did.” We stared at each other in the lamplight. “Magister Verrius or Marcellus,” I said, “Julia has all but given him away.”

“What do you think Octavian would do if it was Marcellus?”

Fear, as cold as ice, traveled down my spine. “He would kill him,” I said with certainty.

My brother closed his eyes. “You need to speak with her.” He looked at me, and his gaze became intense. “She needs to understand what she’s done.”

As a reward for the information Julia had given him, Octavian allowed silks of every color to be brought to the Palatine, fresh from the barges of Ostia. Julia directed the merchants to Octavia’s atrium, where Livia couldn’t spoil the fun. But before she could begin choosing, I pulled her aside and whispered harshly, “I hope you understand what these silks cost.”

Her black eyes widened innocently. “I only told him the truth. You saw him, too. He was probably a slave. He had hair like every other German or Gaul.”

“With access to the Palatine, and Capri, and rich enough to keep apartments across Rome? What slave do you know who has that kind of wealth?”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re not that foolish,” I said cruelly. “Of course you do. There are only two men on the Palatine who fit that description. Magister Verrius and Marcellus.”

She blinked slowly, as if considering it for the first time. Then her eyes filled with tears. “No … It can’t be.”

“Why not? Yesterday, while we were in the Forum Boarium, Marcellus disappeared from the Circus, and the gods only know where Magister Verrius was.”

Her hand flew to her mouth. “My father would never suspect them—”

“Of course he would. And even if he didn’t, then Juba would. He was there when Marcellus left and even he couldn’t find him. And Juba reports everything to your father.”

“No.” She backed away from me. “It can’t be Marcellus. Why wouldn’t he tell me?”

I raised my brows, given what she’d already done.

She panicked. “But what does he care about slaves? He likes to gamble on horses and have fun.”

“What about the Temple of Isis?” I challenged. “He cared about those slaves.”

“Because they happened to cross paths! He’s rash and foolish.”

“And idealistic,” I reminded her.

“Why, Selene?” The distress on her face was real, and I almost felt sorry for her. “Why did I have to tell my father?”

“Whatever you do, keep your silence from now on.”

“But what if it’s too late?”

We both looked across the atrium, to where Octavia and Claudia were marveling over the different silks. Neither of them appeared worried. “We would know if Marcellus were being accused.”

But when the festival of Liberalia came, I wondered whether I was wrong. Octavian was an actor. If he wanted to hide his suspicions from his sister, how hard would it be? He appeared in time for Marcellus’s dedication and seemed to be enjoying himself. He even led the way to the lararium, where Marcellus took off his bulla and offered it with wine and incense to the Lares, asking that the spirits guide his transition to manhood. But I noticed that Caesar’s arm was around Tiberius’s shoulders, and that Livia’s mien was less dour than usual. “Shall we proceed to the Capitol?” Octavian asked jubilantly.

Julia was dressed in a silk tunic of the deepest red, and her hair was arranged in a golden net sewn with seed pearls. But even though Marcellus couldn’t keep his eyes off of her, she was pale with worry. “What’s the matter with my father?” she whispered. “Why is he so interested in Tiberius suddenly?”

I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to guess.

“You don’t think—?”

I put a finger to my lips. “Not here.” I held up my green tunic to keep the hem from getting dirty as we walked, and I shivered in the cool March wind.

“Would you like my cloak?” Marcellus offered.

“Alexander is carrying one for me.”

“Well, perhaps you should put it on. There are bumps up and down your arms.”

I felt embarrassed that he had noticed such an intimate thing. My brother handed me my cloak. We had purchased enough cloth from the merchants of Ostia to outfit a garrison, and Marcellus smiled when he saw me in my new silk. “Very handsome.”

“Julia’s cloak is new as well,” my brother pointed out.

I glared at him.

“The Princesses of the Palatine,” Marcellus flattered. “And what more fitting tribute to a pair of princesses than Liberalia?”

He was joking, of course. As we reached the bottom of the Palatine, a procession of boys passed by pulling a cart with a towering statue of a phallus.

“What is that?” I cried.

“Haven’t you ever seen one?” Tiberius asked snidely.

“The boys are the Salii,” Julia said, ignoring him. “Liberalia is a fertility festival.”

“Like Bacchanalia back home,” my brother prompted.

“But what are they singing?”

“No one knows,” Marcellus said delightedly. “The song is so old that the meaning has been forgotten.”

The young Salii were wearing the sort of bronze breastplates and shields that even Juba, who dealt in antiques, would have considered extremely old. No one had fought in such outfits for centuries, and I wondered how the boys could even walk. As the stone phallus rolled by on its cart, women tossed rose petals in the air, clapping and cheering as if the statue were the fertility god himself. Octavian had forbidden us from the festivities of Liberalia the previous March, telling us that we had only a few years to study in the ludus and the rest of our lives to celebrate Liber Pater and his splendid endowment. Now I saw what he meant. When we reached the Capitol, a second giant phallus had been decorated with flowers and mounted on the Tarpeian Rock. Julia giggled, and Marcellus asked my brother what he thought it would be like to have a pair of colei that big.

“Painful,” he replied.

“Not as painful as what’s about to happen.” Marcellus heaved a sigh. “Welcome to the Tabularium.”

The Tabularium was a solemn place, with a façade of peperino and travertine blocks masking a stark interior of concrete vaults. It was the Hall of Records where Marcellus and Tiberius would proudly register themselves as citizens, but none of the men who passed us smiled. Liberalia meant nothing to them down here, where Rome’s scrolls were guarded like gold and the sun never penetrated its labyrinth of vaults. An old man in a toga took us into a chamber where the names of the most important clans in Rome were etched into the walls. He fetched the scrolls of the clans Julii and Claudii, and we waited in the dimly lit space while Marcellus and Tiberius read the names of the men who had come before them. A reed pen and ink were produced, and the old record keeper instructed each of them to sign at the bottom of his clan’s list. By the time we emerged into the sunshine, even Octavian had had enough of the gloom.

“I should build a more cheerful office for them,” he mused. “Would you like to make that your first contribution to Rome, Tiberius? I will gift you the denarii to rebuild the Tabularium.”

Tiberius was genuinely grateful. “I would like that very much.”

Julia returned my panicked look. Then Octavian approached Marcellus and clapped him heartily on the back. “And what about you? What will be your first contribution to Rome?”

“How about a new Circus?” Marcellus asked eagerly.

Tiberius laughed. “Don’t you think you gamble enough?”

Octavian was displeased. “Perhaps there is something else you would prefer.”

Marcellus looked desperately from his mother to his uncle, considering their passions. “What about a theater?”

Octavian smiled. “Better.”

Tiberius clenched his jaw, and I saw Marcellus exhale.

“The Theater of Marcellus. That shall be my gift to you.”

“And Selene can design it!”

Everyone turned. I held my breath while Octavian regarded me with his inscrutable gray eyes. “How old are you now?” he asked suddenly.

“My brother and I are thirteen.”

“A very mature thirteen,” Octavia put in. “She designed the mosaic floor in the Temple of Apollo, and Vitruvius has her working on the Pantheon.”

Octavian shaded his eyes with his hand. “So why didn’t Vitruvius tell this to me?”

“Because she’s a girl,” Livia said, “and her place is at the loom.”

“It’s a beautiful mosaic,” Octavia retorted. “Girl or no, her skills are useful to him.”

Octavian considered this. “Where is he today?”

“Working on the Pantheon,” she told him. “After that it will be the Basilica of Neptune, the Saepta Julia, your mausoleum, and my portico.”

Octavian turned his attention back to me. “When do you come up with these designs?” he asked curiously.

“In the morning, before ludus. Vitruvius takes me with him sometimes.”

Octavian seemed to find this funny. “And what do you do?”

“Measurements,” I said firmly, refusing to let him dismiss my work. “I’ve also laid tiles.”

“What?” Livia sneered. “Like a mosaicist?”

“Yes. If the mosaicist needs help or direction. I also want to learn for myself.”

Octavian regarded me for a moment. “A princess who doesn’t mind work.” He looked meaningfully at both Marcellus and Julia. “Something my own family can learn from.” There was an uncomfortable silence before he added, “It sounds like Vitruvius is busy enough with his projects. If he wishes you to help with my nephew’s theater, I see no problem with that.”

Livia’s mouth worked into a tense line, but Marcellus smiled triumphantly at me. On our walk to the Forum, where he and Tiberius would exchange their boyhood togas for the white toga virilis, he whispered, “That was very well done.”

“What?” I asked guilelessly.

“Your talk of laying tiles. My uncle tends to keep people around him who are useful.”

“So you’ve said. And what about you?”

Around us, flutists played, and children sang songs to Liber Pater and his consort Libera, whose blessings would make them fertile once they were married. In Alexandria, we knew Liber Pater as Bacchus, though I had never seen so many garlanded phalluses even in Bacchus’s temple. Marcellus smiled conspiratorially at me, a flash of white teeth in a handsomely tanned face. “I’m his sister’s son. The heir and the spare”—he glanced at Tiberius—“remember?”

Tiberius leaned over my shoulder and said softly, “Be careful. Your secrets are making Julia jealous.”

I saw Marcellus tense, and when I looked behind me, Julia’s eyes were hard as stone. That evening in the triclinium, she wanted to know what we’d been whispering about.

“Who your father will make his heir,” I replied.

A harpist began to play, for wealthy patricians and their young wives had come to celebrate the heir and the spare’s coming-of-age. Julia moved closer to me on our dining couch. “And do you think my father suspects Marcellus?”

“He’s giving him the denarii to build a theater. How suspicious could he be?”

She nodded slowly. “So you weren’t talking about the Red Eagle?”

I sat back. “Why wouldn’t I tell you?”

“Maybe you think I’m not trustworthy anymore.”

“If Marcellus ever said anything to me, you’d be the first to know.”

She watched me suspiciously. “My father is a very good actor,” she said. “I’ve seen him lie to Livia as if his words were pure as gold.”

“I’m not lying,” I swore. “I would tell you if I heard anything. Haven’t you asked Marcellus yourself?”

“Of course. He always denies it.”

“Well, Marcellus never confides in me,” I said glumly. “He talks to Alexander.”

This settled her a little. “Just because my father was being generous today doesn’t mean he isn’t suspicious,” she admitted, toying with her food. I had seen Julia lose her appetite only once before. “Do you know what they call understudies on the stage?” She didn’t wait for me to answer. “Shadows. And if my father has even the slightest suspicion that Marcellus isn’t shadowing him, that will be the end. I will marry Tiberius, whether he’s my stepbrother or not, and Marcellus will disappear.” I realized she wasn’t angry with me so much as she was angry with herself, and her eyes gleamed with tears.

“Perhaps he isn’t the Red Eagle,” I said hopefully.

But Julia simply looked toward her father and didn’t reply.

In the hour before dawn, shouting echoed in the atrium, then the sound of hobnailed boots filled the halls. For a moment, I was in Egypt again, huddled with my brothers on my mother’s bed on the day of her death.

“Alexander!” I pushed away my covers.

He jumped up. As we rushed to put on our cloaks, I could hear Marcellus’s raised voice in the hall. Alexander flung open the door. Octavia, Vitruvius, Marcellus, and his sisters were standing in a circle outside Marcellus’s chamber, watching the soldiers move in and out of the room. When Marcellus saw us, his face lost its color.

Agrippa was there. “We found him at the Circus,” he said. “In the fornices.”

Octavia covered her mouth with her hand.

“It’s not what you think!” Marcellus protested.

“So then what were you doing?” Octavian emerged from Marcellus’s chamber, and his look was violent. “Not writing acta, I hope.”

Marcellus stepped back. “Is that what this is about? You think I’m the Red Eagle?” I could see he wanted to laugh, and might have if the accusation hadn’t been so serious. “Because I leave at night to visit a few lupae, you think I’m a traitor?”

Octavia shrieked, “You were visiting dirty lupae?”

Vitruvius put a calming hand on her arm. “Every boy has been there.”

“Not the heir of Rome!” Octavian shouted.

Juba appeared from Marcellus’s chamber, wiping his hands on his tunic.

“What did you find?” Octavian demanded.

“Just a few lewd paintings.”

“I told you!” Marcellus cried. “You’ve seen my work in the ludus. Do you think I could really be responsible for the acta? I don’t have the patience!”

Octavian considered this. “Perhaps you are too secure in the belief that you will be my heir. Remember, Marcellus, I loved Fidelius as well,” he said, reminding him of the young soldier he had killed outside the walls of Rome. Then he turned to his sister. “Keep a better watch on your child.”

The halls emptied of soldiers, and when Octavian’s men were gone, Marcellus moved toward his mother.

“I don’t want to see you!” she cried, pushing him away.

“But it’s not what you think. Mother, just listen!” He leaned over and whispered something in her ear that made her step back and look at him anew. “Please don’t tell Octavian,” he begged.

“Everyone back to your rooms,” Octavia ordered. “Go to sleep.”

But the vestibulum was suddenly filled with a woman’s cries for help, and everyone froze.

“It’s Gallia,” Marcellus said, recognizing her voice. “I’ll bet they’ve taken Magister Verrius!” He glared at his mother. “I guess any blond on the Palatine will do.”

Gallia burst into the hall, looking as if she had run all the way from her house at the bottom of the Palatine. In a weeping tirade, she confirmed Marcellus’s fears. “What has he done? Was it something he taught?”

“No,” Marcellus said angrily. “There’s information that the Red Eagle looks like a Gaul, but they haven’t found him yet. So now anyone with light hair is suspect.”

Gallia looked to Octavia.

“It’s true,” she said quietly. “My brother was here searching Marcellus’s chamber.”

She gasped. “His own nephew?”

Octavia raised her chin. “No one is above suspicion.”

Gallia put her head in her hands. Even that night at Gaius’s villa she hadn’t wept. But the sobs that racked her body made everyone turn away. Her own pain hadn’t been enough to break her, but now that it was Magister Verrius….

Octavia put her arm around Gallia’s shoulders and told Vitruvius to fetch some blankets. We followed her through the hall into the library. There would be no ludus in the morning, and there was no use telling us to go to sleep. A slave arrived to light the brazier, and we sat together around the fire, drinking warm wine and huddling in our cloaks. Marcellus looked the worse for his night.

“He’s probably been taken to the Carcer,” Octavia guessed. “They’ll search his rooms, and when they don’t find anything to suggest he’s a traitor, they’ll set him free.” But she hesitated. “He isn’t a traitor, is he?”

Gallia put down her cup more loudly than she probably intended. “I have lived with him for nearly a year. I think I would know if he was the Red Eagle!”

Octavia nodded. “Then once they’re finished going through his scrolls—”

“So let them read! I hope they enjoy Simonides and Homer!”

The fire crackled in the brazier, and an uneasy silence settled over the library. Vitruvius returned with blankets and warm ofellae, but no one felt much like eating.

As dawn broke over the sky, doing its best to lighten the leaden clouds, little Tonia put her head in her mother’s lap. “It’s time for ludus,” she said. “Why aren’t they going?”

“Because there’s not going to be any ludus today. Antonia, take your sister back to your chamber.”

Although I would certainly have argued with my own mother, Antonia rose quietly and did as she was told. The ensuing stillness in the room felt crushing.

“Did you hear about the theater?” Octavia asked to fill the silence.

Vitruvius nodded. “Caesar has approved of Selene’s help,” he said quietly. “I look forward to seeing her ideas.”

The conversation lapsed into silence, and just as my eyes were becoming too heavy to keep open, a shadow darkened the doorway.

“Verrius!” Gallia cried. She rushed from her seat and threw her arms around his neck, searching his face for signs of torture.

“He wasn’t there long,” Juba assured her. “The soldiers searched his rooms and didn’t find anything.”

“Of course they didn’t!” Gallia said harshly. “What did they do to you?” she asked tenderly.

“Nothing. Juba arrived to get me out before they could even put me in chains.”

Tears dampened Gallia’s cheeks. “Thank you, Juba—”

“So nothing was found tonight,” Octavia cut in angrily. “Not here, not in the ludus, and not in Magister Verrius’s home.”

Juba’s gaze did not waver. “Those were my orders.”

“And what have you been ordered to do next?” she demanded.

“Inform you that Octavian is resigning from office.”

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