MY MOTHER paced her room. She had changed from her blood-stained gown into one of purple and gold, colors that would remind Octavian that she was still Queen of Egypt. But even the new pearl necklace at her throat didn’t disguise the fact that she was a prisoner. The red plumes on the helmets of the Roman soldiers waved in the breeze outside every window, and when my mother had tried to open the door to her chamber, soldiers were posted there, as well.

We were hostages in our own palace. The halls that had rung with my father’s songs now echoed with the gruff commands of hurried men. And the courtyards, where evening was beginning to fall, were no longer filled with servants’ chatter. There would be no more dinners on candlelit barges, and never again would I sit on my father’s lap while he recounted the story of his triumphant march through Ephesus. I pressed closer to Alexander and Ptolemy on my mother’s bed.

“Why is he waiting?” My mother paced the room, back and forth, until it made me sick to watch her. “I want to know what’s happening outside!”

Charmion and Iras implored her to sit down. In their plain white tunics, huddled on my mother’s long blue couch, they reminded me of geese. Geese who don’t know that they’ve been penned for slaughter. Why else would Octavian be keeping us under guard? “He’s going to kill us,” I whispered. “I don’t think he’s ever going to set us free.”

There was a knock, and my mother froze. She crossed the room and opened the door. “What?” She looked at the faces of the three men. “Where is he?”

But Alexander scrambled from the bed. “It’s him!” He pointed at the man who was standing between Juba and Agrippa.

My mother stepped back. The blond man with gray eyes wore only a simple toga virilis. Although extra leather had been added to his sandals in order to increase his height, he was nothing like the man my father had been. He was thin, fragile, as unmemorable as one of the thousands of white shells that washed up daily along the shore. But what other man would be wearing the signet ring of Julius Caesar? “Then you are Octavian?” She spoke to him in Greek. It was the language she’d been born to, the language of official correspondence in Egypt.

“Don’t you know any Latin?” Juba demanded.

“Of course.” My mother smiled. “If that’s what he prefers.” But I knew what she was thinking. Alexandria possessed the largest library in the world, a library even larger than Pergamon’s, and now it would all belong to a man who didn’t even speak Greek.

“So you are Octavian?” she repeated in Latin.

The smallest of the three stepped forward. “Yes. And I presume you are Queen Kleopatra.”

“That all depends,” she said as she sat down. “Am I still the queen?”

Although Juba smiled, Octavian’s lips only thinned. “For now. Shall I sit?”

My mother held out her hand toward the blue silk couch with Iras and Charmion. Immediately they stood and joined my brothers and me on the bed. But not once did Octavian’s gaze flicker in our direction. He had eyes only for my mother, as if he suspected she might grow wings like those on her headdress and take flight. He seated himself while the other men remained standing. “I hear you have tried to seduce my general.”

My mother threw Agrippa a venomous look, but didn’t deny it.

“I’m not surprised. It worked on my uncle. Then on Marc Antony. But Agrippa is a different kind of man.”

Everyone in the room looked to the general, and although the power of kings rested on his shoulders, he glanced away.

“There is no one more modest or loyal than Agrippa. He would never betray me,” Octavian said. “Neither would Prince Juba. I suppose you know that his father was King of Numidia once. But when he lost the battle against Julius Caesar, he gave his youngest son to Rome and then took his own life.”

My mother’s back straightened. “Is that your way of telling me I shall lose my throne?”

Octavian was silent.

“What about Caesarion?”

“I am afraid your son will not be able to take the throne either,” he said simply.

Some of the color drained from her face. “Why?”

“Because Caesarion is dead. And so is Antyllus.”

My mother gripped the arms of her chair, and I covered my mouth with my hands.

“However,” Octavian added, “I will allow them a burial with Marc Antony in the mausoleum that you have prepared.”

“Caesarion!” my mother cried, while Octavian turned his eyes away. “Not Caesarion!” Her favorite. Her beloved. There was heartbreak, and betrayal, and a mother’s deep anguish in her voice, and that was when I knew the evocatio had worked. The gods had really abandoned Egypt for Rome. I wept into my hands, and my mother tore madly at her clothes.

“Stop her!” Octavian rose angrily.

Agrippa held her arms, but my mother shook her head wildly. “He was your brother!” she shouted. “The child of Julius Caesar. Do you understand what you’ve done? You’ve murdered your own brother!”

“And you murdered your own sister,” Octavian replied coolly.

My mother lashed out with her feet, but Octavian easily avoided her wrath.

“In three days, I will sail with you and your children to Rome, where you will take part in my Triumph.”

“I will never be paraded through the streets of Rome!”

Octavian gave Juba a sideways glance, then rose to depart. When he reached the door, my mother cried out. “Where are you going?”

“To the Tomb of Alexander, the greatest conqueror in the world. Then on to the Gymnasium, where I will address my people.” He turned, and his gray eyes settled on me. “Shall your children come?”

I ran from the bed and fell to my knees at my mother’s feet. I wrapped my arms around her legs. “Don’t send us with him. Please, Mother, please!”

She was shaking uncontrollably. But instead of looking down at me, she was watching Octavian. Something seemed to pass between them, and my mother nodded. “Yes. Take my children with you.”

“No!” I cried. “I won’t go.”

“Come,” Juba said, but I wrenched my arm from his grasp.

“Don’t make us go!” I screamed. “Please!”

Ptolemy was crying, and Alexander was pleading with her.

At last she threw up her hands and shouted, “Go! Iras, Charmion, get them out of here!”

I didn’t understand what was happening. Charmion pushed us toward the door, where my mother embraced Alexander. Then she came to me, touching my necklace and running her hands over my hair, my arms, my cheeks.

“Mother,” I wept.

“Shh.” She put a finger on my lips, then took Ptolemy onto her lap, burying her head in his soft curls. I was surprised that Octavian waited so patiently. “You listen to whatever Caesar says,” she told Ptolemy. “And you do as you’re told, Selene.” She turned to my twin brother. “Alexander, be careful. Watch over them.”

My mother stood, and before her face could betray her entirely, Charmion shut the door, and we children were alone with our enemies.

“Walk next to me and keep silent,” Agrippa said. “We go first to the Tomb of Alexander, then on to the Gymnasium.”

I held one of Ptolemy’s hands in mine, and Alexander held the other, but it was as if we were walking through a foreign palace. Romans occupied every room, sniffing out our riches to fill Octavian’s treasury. The carved cedar chairs, which had graced our largest chambers, had disappeared, but everything left was being taken. Silk couches, cushions, ebony vases on towering silver tripods.

I whispered to Alexander in Greek, “How does he know these men aren’t stealing things for themselves?”

“Because none of them would be so foolish,” Juba responded. His Greek was flawless. Alexander’s eyes were full of warning.

For the first time, Octavian looked at us. “The twins are handsome children, aren’t they? More of their mother than their father, I think. So you are Alexander Helios?”

My brother nodded. “Yes. But I go by Alexander, Your Highness.”

“He is not a king,” Juba remarked. “We call him Caesar.”

Alexander’s cheeks reddened, and I sickened at the thought that he was speaking to the man who had killed our brothers. “Yes, Caesar.”

“And your sister?”

“She is Kleopatra Selene. But she calls herself Selene.”

“The sun and moon,” Juba said wryly. “How clever.”

“And the boy?” Agrippa asked.

“Ptolemy,” Alexander replied.

The muscles clenched in Octavian’s jaw. “That one’s more of his father.”

I tightened my grip protectively on Ptolemy’s hand, and as we reached the courtyard in front of the palace, Agrippa turned to us.

“There will be no speaking unless spoken to, understand?” The three of us nodded. “Then prepare yourselves,” he warned as the palace doors were thrown open.

Evening had settled over the city, and thousands of torches burned in the distance. It seemed as though every last citizen of Alexandria had taken to the streets, and all of them were making their way to the Gymnasium. Soldiers saluted Octavian as we approached the gates, with right arms held forward and palms down.

“You can forget a horse and chariot,” Juba said, surveying the crowds.

Octavian stared down the Canopic Way. “Then we will go by foot.”

I could see Juba tense, and he checked the sword at his side and the dagger on his thigh. He was younger than I had first assumed him to be, not even twenty, but he was the one Octavian trusted with his life. Perhaps he would make a mistake. Perhaps one of my father’s loyal men would kill Octavian before we sailed for Rome.

We waited while a small retinue was gathered, some Egyptians and Greeks, but mostly soldiers who spoke Latin with accents that made them hard to understand. Then we began the walk from the palace to the tomb. Every dignitary who came to Alexandria wished to see it, and now Octavian wanted to pay obeisance to our ancestor as well.

I wished I could speak with Alexander, but I kept my silence as I had been instructed, and instead of weeping over my father, or Antyllus or Caesarion, I studied the land. Perhaps this will be the last night I will ever see the streets of Alexandria, I thought, and I swallowed against the increasing pain in my throat. On the left was the Great Theater. I tried to remember the first time my father had taken us there, climbing with us to the royal box that was erected so high it was possible to see the island of Antirhodos. Beyond that was the Museion, where my mother had sent my father to become cultured, and professors had taught him Greek. Alexander and I had begun our studies there when we were seven, walking the marbled halls with men whose beards fell into their flowing himations. North of the Museion were the towering columns of the Library. Half a million scrolls nestled on its cedar shelves, and scholars from every kingdom in the world came to learn from the knowledge stored inside. But tonight, its pillared halls were dark, and the cheerful lamps that had always lit the porticos from within had been extinguished. The men who studied there were making their way to the Gymnasium to hear what would become of Egypt now.

I blinked back tears, and as we reached a heavy gate, a Greek scholar whom I had often seen in the palace produced a key from his robes. We were about to enter the Soma, the mausoleum of Alexander the Great, and as the gate was drawn open Agrippa whispered, “Mea Fortuna!”

I noted with pride that even Octavian stepped back. I had sketched the building a dozen times, and each time Alexander had wanted to know why. He wasn’t moved as I was by the luminous marble dome, or the beautiful lines of heavy columns that stretched like white soldiers into the night.

“When was this built?” Octavian asked. Instead of turning to either Alexander or me, he looked at Juba.

“Three hundred years ago,” Juba replied. “They say that his sarcophagus is made of crystal, and that he’s still wearing his golden cuirass.”

Now Octavian turned to my brother and me. “Is it true?”

When I refused to answer him, Alexander nodded. “Yes.”

“And the body?” Agrippa asked Juba. “How did it come here?”

“Stolen, by his cousin Ptolemy.”

We passed through the heavy bronze doors, and the scent of burning lavender from a tripod filled the empty antechamber. Torches blazed from iron brackets on the wall, sputtering in the rush of night air we’d let in. The priests here had not abandoned their duties, and an old man in golden robes appeared.

“This way,” he said, and it was clear we were expected.

We followed the old man’s footsteps through a maze of halls, and the soldiers who had chattered all the way there like monkeys, without ever once pausing for breath, were silent. In the dull glow of the priest’s lamp, the men regarded the painted exploits of Alexander. I had sketched these images so many times that I knew them by heart. There was the young king with his wives Roxana and Stateira. In another scene Alexander was lying with Hephaestion, the soldier he loved above all others. And in a last mosaic he was conquering Anatolia, Phoenicia, Egypt, and the sprawling kingdom of Mesopotamia. Octavian reached out and touched the painted locks of Alexander’s hair.

“Was he really blond?”

The priest frowned, and I was certain he had never heard such a question before. “He is depicted on these walls as he was in life, Caesar.”

Octavian gave a small, self-satisfied smile, and I realized why he had wanted to come. Facially, there did not appear much difference between the painting of Alexander and Octavian. Both men were fair, with small mouths, straight noses, and light eyes. Now Octavian imagined himself as Alexander’s heir, the next conqueror not just of Egypt, but of the world. Hadn’t his great-uncle, Julius Caesar, already begun the conquest for him?

We reached a flight of stairs descending into greater darkness, and I heard Ptolemy whimper. “It’s only a few steps down,” I whispered, and when I saw that he was going to protest, I put my finger to my lips.

The priest led the way, and the only noise was the whisper of our footsteps and the crackling of torches. Juba was the last to descend. When the door swung shut behind us, my brother let out a frightened cry. Immediately, Alexander put his hand to Ptolemy’s mouth.

“Not here,” he whispered angrily. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

But no one was paying attention to Ptolemy. In the dimly lit chamber, the men’s gazes were fixed on the crystal coffin of the world’s greatest king. The air smelled heavily of embalming spices: cinnamon, myrrh, and cassia.

Octavian approached the coffin with hesitant steps, and the priest pulled back the lid so that everyone could observe Alexander as he had been. There was a gasp of admiration throughout the chamber, and even Ptolemy wanted to draw closer.

“Only thirty-two,” Octavian said. The king’s face was beautiful in its three-hundred-year repose; his arms against the muscled cuirass were still pink with flesh and strikingly large. Octavian called Agrippa and Juba to his side, and although Octavian’s hair was a similar gold, it was Juba, with his broad shoulders and impressive height, who most resembled Alexander. In the poor light of the tomb, I studied the Numidian prince. From his hobnailed sandals to his scarlet cloak, he was every bit a Roman soldier, and only his long dark hair betrayed his ancestry.

“Agrippa, the crown,” Octavian said, and from the folds of his cloak Agrippa produced a thin golden diadem of twisted leaves. Octavian placed it carefully on Alexander’s head, and as he straightened, he caught sight of the Conqueror’s ring. He bent closer to inspect it, and when he saw that it had been engraved with Alexander’s profile, he announced, “This shall be the ring of Imperial Rome.”

“But, Caesar, that belongs—”

Agrippa turned, and the priest’s protest died on his lips.

Octavian held the stiff hand of Alexander, but as he tugged on the ring his elbow swept back and there was a sickening crunch.

“His nose!” the priest cried. Octavian had broken off Alexander’s nose.

There was a moment of terrified silence. Then Octavian exclaimed, “What does it mean?” He spun around. “Shall I send for the augurs?”

“No,” Juba said.

“But then what does it portend?”

“That you will break the Conqueror’s hold on the world and reconquer it yourself,” Juba replied. His dark eyes gleamed, and though I thought he was being sarcastic, Agrippa nodded.

“Yes, I agree.”

But Octavian didn’t move, and his hand with the golden signet ring was frozen over the king’s body.

“It can only be a good sign,” Agrippa repeated.

Octavian nodded. “Yes…. Yes, a sign from the gods,” he suddenly declared, “that I am the successor of Alexander the Great.”

The priest asked meekly if Octavian wished to visit the rest of our ancestors. But Octavian was too full of his prophecy.

“I came to see a king, not a row of corpses.”

I looked back at the shattered face of the great man who was responsible for the long reign of the Ptolemies, and wondered if Egypt would have a similar fate.

Although Juba and Agrippa had proclaimed the breaking of Alexander’s nose a good portent, Octavian’s retinue fell into an uneasy silence as we made our way up the stairs through the Soma. But the throngs of people in the streets—soldiers, Alexandrians, foreign merchants, even slaves—were loud enough to wake the gods. The soldiers were rounding up every Alexandrian they could find.

“What’s happening?” Ptolemy worried.

“We’re going to the Gymnasium,” Alexander said.

“Where Father gave me a crown?”

Juba raised his brows. Although Ptolemy had only been two and could not have had many memories from that time, he clearly recalled the Donations of Alexandria, when our father had seated himself with our mother on a golden throne and proclaimed our brother Caesarion not just his heir, but the heir to Julius Caesar as well. That evening, he’d announced his marriage to our mother, even though Rome had refused to recognize it. Then he’d given Alexander the territories of Armenia, Media, and the unconquered empire of Parthia. I’d received Cyrenaica and the island of Crete, while Ptolemy became king of all the Syrian lands. Although the Ptolemies wore simple cloth diadems bedecked with tiny pearls, our father had presented us with gold-and-ruby crowns, and this was what had stayed in Ptolemy’s memory. Only now, those crowns were being melted to pay Octavian’s men, and we were the inheritors of dust.

Alexander’s lips turned down at the corners, and I knew he was fighting back tears as well. “Yes, that is where Father made you a king.”

We approached the Gymnasium, longer than two stadia, and a murmur of surprise passed among the soldiers. Surrounded by shaded groves, the porticoes had been carefully plastered with gypsum so that even in the moonlight they glittered. But Octavian didn’t stop to appreciate the beauty. He twisted the ends of his belt in his hands.

“Repeat to me what I wrote,” he instructed.

Agrippa quickly unfurled a scroll he had been keeping in his cloak. “First is the matter of the city itself,” he said.

Octavian nodded. “And then?”

“The matter of how many citizens will become slaves in Rome.”

Octavian shook his head curtly. “None.”

Agrippa frowned. “Your uncle took a hundred and fifty thousand men from Gaul. When Marius …”

“And what did he get for it?”

“Spartacus,” Juba broke in contemptuously. “An uprising of slaves who didn’t appreciate what Rome had given them.”

“That’s right. There is enough gold in the queen’s mausoleum to pay every man who’s ever fought for me. This time, we don’t pay them in slaves.”

“And the men who wish to take women?” Agrippa asked.

“Let them pay for whores.”

We reached the steps of the Gymnasium, and a phalanx of soldiers with heavy shields formed a wall between us and the people. Suddenly, I couldn’t go on.

“What are you doing?” Alexander hissed.

But I was too afraid to move. Armed men surrounded the Gymnasium, and I wondered what would happen if Octavian decided to set fire to the building. There would be chaos, women and children crushed as men scrambled over their bodies to escape. But their paths would be blocked by Roman soldiers. The doors would be barred, as they were at my mother’s mausoleum. I stood at the base of a long flight of steps, and Agrippa came to my side.

“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said. “Caesar wouldn’t have kept you alive this long if he intended to kill you tonight.”

Of course not, I realized. He wants us alive for his Triumph.

I followed Agrippa’s red cloak up the stairs. Inside the Gymnasium, thousands of people fell to their knees in silent obeisance.

Octavian quipped, “I see why Antony liked Egypt so much.”

“You are Pharoah,” one of the soldiers remarked. “They’ll dance naked in the streets if that’s what you wish.”

Juba smirked. “I thought the Egyptians did that anyway.”

For the first time, I saw Octavian smile, and as we mounted the dais I wondered if Alexander felt as sick as I did. Our father had told us how Octavian had ordered the massacre of every last captive at the Battle of Philippi. When a father and son had begged for mercy, Octavian determined that only one should live and ordered the father to play morra with his child. But the old man refused, asking for his life to be taken instead, and nineteen-year-old Octavian himself had wielded the blade that executed him. And when the son wished to commit suicide, Octavian had mockingly offered him his own sword. Even my father, no stranger to battle, had seen only cruelty and single-mindedness in this pretender to Caesar’s throne.

When we reached the top of the dais, Octavian held out his arms. He wore only a simple tunic of chain mail beneath his toga, and I wondered again whether there was a brave Alexandrian who might give his life to rid Egypt of its conqueror. “You may rise,” he said into the silence.

The sound of thousands of unbending bodies echoed in the torch-lit Gymnasium. All along the perimeter, next to every window and heavy cedar door, armed soldiers stood seven deep in case of revolt. But the people stood silent, and when Octavian began his speech I saw men holding their breaths in anticipation of what was to come. When he explained that there would be no taking of slaves, that the city could not be blamed for the errors of its rulers, and that every soldier who had fought against him would be pardoned, the silence remained. “For Egypt does not belong to Rome,” he announced. “It belongs to me, the chosen heir of the Ptolemies. And I always protect what is mine.” Women shifted their children on their hips, looking to their husbands in confusion. Octavian’s cruelty was known throughout Egypt.

It was the High Priest of Isis and Serapis who broke the silence. “He has even saved our queen’s youngest children. Hail, Octavian the Merciful, King of Kings!”

“Octavian the Merciful!” the people shouted. Then one of the men took up the cry of “Caesar,” and the Gymnasium reverberated with it.

“What are they doing?” I shouted to my brother in Parthian, certain that was one language Juba didn’t know. “Why are they chanting his name? He’s a conqueror!”

“And now he’s their savior,” Alexander said bitterly.

“But our father.” My eyes burned. “Antyllus and Caesarion. Don’t they know?”

“Perhaps. But they’re thinking of themselves.”

Octavian held up his arms, and the cries immediately died away. Then Agrippa stepped forward and explained how the wealthy villas around the Soma now belonged to Rome.

“The statues of Kleopatra and Marc Antony have been spared by a generous donation of two thousand talents. Those who would like to spare their own works of art, perhaps even their own villas, may have their chests of gold talents ready when soldiers come.”

“Greed!” I whispered angrily. “Octavian will make them pay for the very bricks they’re walking on.”

“But Alexandria is saved. The Museion, the Library—”

“For whom? For what? These Romans don’t even know how to speak Greek!”

The people beneath us were cheering, even the men who would pay two-thirds the value of their villas to Caesar in order to keep what was rightfully theirs. Octavian, flanked by Juba and another soldier, descended the steps of the dais. Immediately a path through the Gymnasium was cleared as the citizens of Alexandria stepped back.

“Follow me,” Agrippa said gruffly, and I wondered if this was the moment when someone would attempt to kill Octavian. My father would have risked everything to do it, but as we made our way through the frightened silence, nobody moved. A child cried in his mother’s arms, and somewhere in the mass of people a man shouted, “Hail, Caesar.” But when we stepped outside the Gymnasium, Octavian’s cloak snapped in the breeze; he was still alive. No one had risked his life for my mother. I could feel the bile rising in my throat, and I didn’t even have the strength to hold Ptolemy’s hand as we made our way back to the palace. Soon, we would surely sail for Rome.

“Is there anything I forgot?” Octavian demanded. Though he was small, he walked with confidence through the streets, unafraid of the dark corners along the Canopic Way. Forty soldiers surrounded him, their enameled cuirasses reflecting the light of the moon.

“Nothing,” Agrippa promised. “It was the right decision to let the temples stand. The priests will never incite rebellion.”

“And the people?”

“They called you king,” Juba said. “They will find the gold talents to ransom their villas, I have no doubt.”

Octavian smiled, but as we reached the palace, his steps grew uncertain. In the courtyard, a woman was screaming. She ran toward Octavian, and in a single, flawless motion his forty soldiers joined shields.

“Caesar!” she cried. “Caesar, there is news!”

“Put down your shields,” Octavian ordered.

I glimpsed her face between the armor of two soldiers and cried, “Euphemia!”

“Princess, your mother! You must come. She is dying!”

Agrippa looked to Octavian, and neither of them stopped us when the soldiers parted and I ran with Alexander and Ptolemy through the palace. I don’t remember if anyone followed. Perhaps there were a hundred men, or perhaps we were alone when we reached the open door of my mother’s chamber.

“Move away!” Alexander shouted at the servants. “Move!”

Inside, there was a sickening silence. My mother, in her purple gown, lay peacefully on a couch in the center of the room, her smooth skin gilded by the candlelight. On the floor, Iras and Charmion rested their heads on two silk pillows, looking as though they might be sleeping.

“Mother?” I crept forward, while behind us Octavian crowded the doorway with Agrippa and Juba. When she didn’t move, I screamed, “Mother!” My brother and I ran to her. “Mother,” I pleaded. I shook her by the shoulders, and the crown she had carefully placed on her head struck the floor with a hollow clank. Below her, Charmion didn’t stir. I took Charmion’s hands in mine, but the aged fingers that had taught me to sketch were cold. I grasped her arm and reeled back at the sight of two puncture wounds. “Alexander, she used a snake!” I turned and saw Octavian and Agrippa standing in the doorway, surrounded by soldiers.

Juba rushed to my side and felt for my mother’s heartbeat, then bent down and felt the necks of Iras and Charmion. “How do you know it’s a snake?” he asked quickly.

“Look at her arm!”

Juba rose swiftly to his feet. “There are asps in this chamber.” He turned to Octavian. “Seal off the room!” he ordered. “Selene, Alexander, Ptolemy—”

“No!” I moved closer to my mother. “A snake-doctor could drain the wound!”

But Juba shook his head. “She’s already gone.”

“You don’t know that!” I cried.

He looked to Octavian for an answer.

“Find a snake-doctor!” Octavian ordered sharply.

The white-haired soldier next to him didn’t move. “But, Caesar,” he whispered, “you have what you want. She’s dead. And in ten months you can march into Rome—”

“Silence! Find a snake-doctor and bring him here at once!”

Juba took my brother’s arm, knowing he would have less of a fight with him. “Stand at the door,” he instructed sternly. “There is at least one cobra in this room. Do not step inside.”

We waited at the entrance to the chamber, and Alexander looked like one of my mother’s statues, thin and pale and immovable.

“It was a lie,” I whispered in Parthian. “He was never going back to Rome in three days. He wanted her to die. He wanted her to commit suicide.”

A snake-doctor arrived, and his black skin shone in the lamplight as he worked. My brother remained silent, and I could hear the rush of my heart beating as I watched him. He located the wounds on Mother’s arm and made a thin cut above the bites. Then he pressed his lips against her skin and attempted to suck the venom from her body. We watched for what felt like an eternity. Then, at last, he stood up. His lips were red with my mother’s blood, and I knew from his face that we were orphans.

Alexander asked quietly, “Will our mother be buried in her mausoleum?”

Octavian raised his chin. “Of course. She was the Queen of Egypt.” But there was no remorse on his face, not even surprise.

“Will you really keep the children alive?” Agrippa asked.

Octavian’s eyes swept over me the way they had swept over my mother’s treasure. “The girl is pretty. In a few years, some senator will need to be silenced. She’ll be of marriageable age and make him happy. And neither of the boys has reached fifteen years. Keeping them alive will seem merciful.”

“And Rome?” Juba wanted to know.

“In a few months, when affairs are settled here, we’ll sail.”

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