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 I WOULDN’T let him be buried without a mausoleum, and because Octavia feared that the last of the Ptolemies would end her life by suicide, she wrote to Augustus, and he approved. My brother’s body was kept in the Temple of Apollo while workers from the Pantheon, the basilica, and the baths worked day and night for three months to finish. And in the time it took to build his tomb, I saw no one unless they came to me.

When Marcellus first heard the news of my brother’s death, he’d sworn vengeance on Livia and even Augustus, but I’d warned him that if he spoke a word against his uncle, he would suffer next. It was better to wait, I told him. To bide his time until he became emperor. But as winter melted into spring, he was still angry, and even when the Red Eagle posted acta across Rome denouncing the imperial family as murderers who treated their guests like slaves, killing them off with impunity, he wasn’t satisfied. No perpetrator had been found for the crime, and though Lucius survived and could describe his assailants, nothing was done. No one spoke of how Alexander had been found in Lucius’s room. It was as if their love had never existed.

I ate alone. I worked alone. And when I asked Octavia to move me from the chamber I had shared with Alexander, she placed me next to Antonia, who came to me at night and brought me food.

“Do you think you will return to the triclinium?” she asked.

It was April, and I shook my head. “Not until the mausoleum is done.”

“But it’s finished,” she protested. “His funeral is tomorrow.”

I blinked away my tears. The priests of Isis and Serapis had embalmed my brother’s body, and I had gone to visit him every day in the temple. What would it be like not to have him near me? “I’m not sure the tomb is done,” I said.

“But what will you do?” Antonia cried. “Work on it forever?”

I turned and looked at her. She had her mother’s gray-eyed innocence. “Yes, I will.” And I would make the mausoleum my second home. When Augustus returned and married me off to some decrepit senator, I would leave my husband as often as possible. And when he’d go searching for me, he’d find me sleeping by Alexander, the two of us together in a marble eternity.

Antonia’s eyes filled with tears. “But it isn’t natural.”

“No. And neither was my brother’s death.”

The funeral began on the Palatine, and as the procession wound its way through the streets, thousands of people came to see the murdered Prince of Egypt. He was borne on a bier, carried by slaves, and preceded by the imperial family. I walked at his side, while Lucius and Vitruvius walked behind me. I could hear Lucius weeping, the deep, heart-wrenching cries of a man completely gutted by grief, and if I hadn’t been so embittered I might have gone to offer him some comfort. But I had no reserve of sympathy left in me. It had been cut away with Alexander’s life.

As we reached his mausoleum on the Appian Way, I wondered which of the people among us had been responsible for my brother’s death. But everyone’s mourning appeared genuine, and whenever Octavia looked on Alexander, sobs racked her body. An Egyptian embalmer had disguised the wound across my brother’s neck, and if not for the thin layer of gauze across his face, Alexander might have been sleeping. The beautiful curls he had taken such care of were still dark and lustrous, topped by his pearl diadem. He was the last of the male Ptolemies and my only hope for returning to Egypt. He was my twin and my closest friend. And now, his short life was over.

We entered the cool recesses of the tomb, and Julia stifled a sob with her fist. The marble plaque she had purchased to celebrate our birthday hung above the sarcophagus. When Castor, who was mortal, had died, his immortal twin chose to join him in the sky. They were the Gemini, and now Alexander had gone to Elysium to wait for me.

The priests of Isis and Serapis lifted my brother’s body from the bier into the coffin, singing Egyptian hymns that no Roman would recognize. And when I placed my book of sketches in Alexander’s sarcophagus, I saw Vitruvius cover his eyes with his hand. As the lid was lowered my knees grew weak, but Marcellus steadied me, and I saw Juba flinch as if something about this disturbed him deeply. He regarded us from across the chamber with eyes as hard as onyx, and I thought, If justice truly exists in this world, my brother will be avenged.

Then Roman hymns were sung, and Maecenas read a long poem in honor of the Ptolemies. Even Tiberius was shaken. His eyes were red as if he’d been weeping, and when he placed a heavy wreath at the front of the tomb, I noticed that his hands were unsteady. But when the ceremony was finished, I could still smell the oil of cedar and myrrh used to perfume my brother’s body, and as long as it lingered, I wanted to remain in the mausoleum.

“Selene,” Lucius said when all the others had left and were standing outside. “I’m so sorry.”

I didn’t say anything to him.

“I’m sorry it wasn’t me. Because I know that’s what you wanted.”

Tears welled in my eyes, and my guilt became unbearable. I took my brother’s lover into my arms, and the pair of us wept together. “It was the will of Isis,” I told him, which only made him weep harder.

“But why?”

“I don’t know. Only she knows.” When our tears were spent, I looked at Lucius, and I was sure he had aged ten years in those three months. “There’s a reason you weren’t killed,” I said. “The gods are saving you for something great. You have a patron.”

“But what does it mean without Alexander?”

What did anything mean? I let him walk me out into the sunshine, and I felt angry with the world, with the sun for still daring to shine when my life was so dark.

Although everyone expected I would rejoin Octavia’s meals in the triclinium, I remained shut away in the library, sketching additions to Alexander’s mausoleum and the shrine I wished to purchase for him in the Forum.

One afternoon Julia came to the library with a letter. She could see that I was working on something for Alexander, but she interrupted me anyway and said, “You should see this.”

She offered me the scroll and I read, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” They were Plato’s words. I looked up at her.

“For you,” she said quietly.

“From whom?”

“Me.” When I was silent she continued, “We will find whoever did this, Selene.” But her words died away at my look.

“It’s been four months,” I reminded her harshly.

“I know. But my father won’t be emperor forever. And when I become empress, I swear to you, there won’t be a plebian in Rome who doesn’t remember Alexander. But you can’t go on living this way,” she pleaded, “afraid of being happy, afraid of the light.”

“It makes me happy to be in the dark,” I told her.

But Julia gave me a disbelieving look. “You go to his mausoleum every day. What do you do?”

“I plan. I work!”

“And how much more work can there be?”

“Plenty. I want to build a shrine.”

“That’s fine,” she said. “And then what?”

“Maybe a statue,” I said, giving back her scroll. “Possibly a bust.”

“And where does it end? What will you do? Spend until your treasury is gone?” She was shaking her head. “It’s too much, Selene. You have to live. When my father returns—”

“Then I’ll be forced to live. Only I won’t have to worry about being separated from Alexander, because he’s already gone!”

Her lower lip trembled, and she pushed Plato’s words toward me. “I’m sorry,” she said, though for what I wasn’t sure.

I watched her leave, then summoned two of the guards to take me to the Appian Way. As we walked down the Palatine, Juba saw me and stepped forward.

“What?” I demanded. “Are you here to kill me as well?”

“I hope you’re joking.” He glanced uneasily at my guards.

“Augustus saved my brother like a bull for the slaughter, so why shouldn’t I be next? And who better to do the job than you?”

I turned to leave, and he whispered something to the light-haired guard. The man nodded gravely, and, as we left, I didn’t bother asking him what had been said. But when we reached the mausoleum and I saw what had been done, I spun around.

“Who did this?” I gasped.

The light-haired guard replied, “Juba.”

Next to the sarcophagus, in the only light of the chamber, stood the most magnificent statue of Alexander that any sculptor could have crafted. He was sculpted in marble, with eyes painted brown and hair that clustered in perfect ringlets around his diadem. I went to the statue and touched his face, his nose, his lips, his chin. It was as though he were alive, and nothing I could ever have commissioned would have equaled what this artist had done.

I approached the light-haired guard and asked him, “Are you sure?”

He nodded. “We helped him bring it here.”

Deep humility and regret silenced me, and the dark-haired guard whispered kindly, “There are many men who will miss your brother. You are not alone.”

“Then you don’t think Juba killed him?” I whispered.

The men exchanged looks. “Princess, why would he kill a man he was helping to support?”

When I didn’t understand, the dark one explained. “Who do you think has been putting all that gold in your treasury since you’ve been here?”


Both guards made a face, and the light-haired one said, “Maybe she gave you a couch and food, but it was Juba’s denarii in the Temple of Saturn. We should know. We counted the coins.”

I looked from one guard to the other. “But … but why?”

“Maybe he felt sorry,” the dark one speculated. “His mother was a Greek. Captured and sold into slavery when she was young. It was his father who freed her. Then both of them met their end the same as your parents. He knows what it’s like to lose a kingdom and have to work even for the tunic on his back.”

I thought of all the gold my brother had squandered at the races, and the times when I had purchased furs and silks without ever questioning how the money had appeared. Then suddenly an image came to mind of the Greek statue that Juba had found for the Pantheon, and a deep flush crept across my cheeks. Gallia had thought the Venus looked like Terentilla, but that wasn’t why Juba had wanted it. There had been a tender expression in his eyes when I’d caught him looking at me that afternoon. Perhaps his help had been charity at first, but now….

As I hurried back to the Palatine, I tried not to think of Juba’s full, solemn lips turning downward when I’d accused him of Alexander’s murder. How many times had he watched me pining for Marcellus? And how could Marcellus have understood our suffering?

That evening, I decided to appear in the triclinium. For more than four months, I’d worn only black, but Gallia picked out a tunic of deep violet and gold, something my brother had once praised when I wore it, and commanded me not to weep while she brushed soft azurite above my eyes and a little ochre on my lips.

There was a surprised murmur in the room as I entered, and I noticed with a pang that the table where Alexander and I used to sit was no longer there. Instead, it had been moved next to Octavia and Vitruvius, and this was where Marcellus and Julia were reclining. Immediately a space was made for me next to Juba, whose strong profile was silhouetted against the candlelight. As I took my seat, there was an uneasy silence.

“Welcome back,” Claudia said, and each person offered a quiet welcome. Then, slowly, conversation resumed, and it was as if I had never been gone. They were careful not to laugh too much, and even Tiberius held his tongue. But it was Juba who concerned me most, and finally I turned to him.

“I was wrong,” I said.

“About what?” he asked shortly.

“You. I underestimated your … your generosity. And the statue of my brother was very kind.”

“It wasn’t for you. It was for Alexander.”

I flushed. “Either way. It was very thoughtful and—”

“Make no mention of it.” He stood. “It is time for me to say valete,” he announced. “There is a great deal to prepare if Augustus is approaching.”

“He’s coming back?” I exclaimed.

Juba regarded me gravely. “With fifty thousand members of the Alpine Salassi.”

“As prisoners of war?”

“Slaves,” Tiberius said. “Although only Juno knows where they’re going to fit in a city already swimming with Gauls.”

Everyone looked at me, and I realized why I hadn’t been told. They didn’t want me to panic. They were afraid I might take my own life the way my mother took hers when everything was lost and Augustus was on the horizon. From the first time he had seen us in Alexandria, Augustus had known when my brother would die. A grown son of Marc Antony and Kleopatra would be a rallying point across the empire; a threat not only in Egypt but in Rome. There had never been hope of returning to Egypt no matter how hard we worked to become useful to him.

“Why don’t you come with us?” Julia asked quickly. “Marcellus and I are going to the theater.”

I shook my head.

“You should go,” Octavia prompted. “It’s a Greek play tonight.”

“Sophocles,” Marcellus said.

“No. I think I will go to my chamber.”

Vitruvius gave a meaningful look to his son, so I wasn’t surprised when someone knocked on my door that evening and it was Lucius.

“Did your father send you?” I asked.

For a moment, Lucius considered lying. Then he admitted, “Yes. But I would have come anyway.”

I let him inside, and his eyes grew big. It was a little Egypt, with rich swaths of red silk hanging from the walls, and bronze incense burners in the shape of sphinxes. An ankh hung over my couch next to an image of Isis. I no longer cared if I upset Augustus or if the slaves wrote to Livia about my chamber. What more could be done to me? What else could I lose?

“So is this what Alexandria is like?” Lucius asked.

I laughed sadly. “A pale imitation.”

He seated himself on my leather chair, casting about for something to say. “I guess you’ve heard that the Senate has voted to give Augustus tribunician power for life. That’s even bigger than the consulship.”

“Yes. He owns the world now.”

“But not you.”

I looked up.

“No one can keep you from drawing, Selene. No matter what happens, you’ll still have the support of Octavia and Vitruvius. And do you know what Julia and Marcellus are doing? They’re making plans to build a house for foundlings, and they say it’s in honor of you.”

“Did they ask you to tell me this?”

“No.” This time, his answer was firm. “But I lost a great friend, too, and some days, even when I don’t want to carry on, I do.” He blinked rapidly. “You know that Augustus arrives tomorrow.”

Immediately, thoughts of Augustus’s death returned, and I wondered whether someone might assassinate him.

“There are reports that he’s sick,” Lucius went on. “We all know that he’s never been strong. Even the mild weather in Iberia hasn’t been enough to keep him in good health. When he comes, please don’t do anything rash.”

“What makes you think I would?”

He gave me a long look. “You aren’t known for your prudence.”

“Perhaps someone else will do it for me, then.”

“You are the last of the Ptolemies, Selene. There is no one else after you whose veins carry blood of Alexander the Great and Kleopatra. Be careful, or everything your grandfathers fought for will be snuffed out.”

“It already is.”

“No. Not unless the last Ptolemy dies.”

When word was sent ahead from the walls of Rome that Augustus was about to enter the city, we gathered in the Forum, and I thought of Ptolemies who had come before me and wondered what they would do. I knew what my mother had chosen, an honorable suicide over ignominy. But what would she have done if she were standing on the steps of Saturn’s temple, wearing a Roman bulla and waiting to greet the man who had murdered her family?

I searched the temple steps for Juba, who had come here every month to deposit denarii in a treasury chest for Alexander and me without ever telling us. When I couldn’t find him, I asked Agrippa.

“He’s been sent ahead to inspect the spoils. The Cantabri left behind thousands of statues.”

“Why? Where did they go?”

“They chose death over slavery,” Agrippa said solemnly.

Next to me, Gallia’s blue eyes narrowed, and I imagined how difficult it must be for her to witness a second subjugation of her people.

The war trumpets blared, and from the sound of the crowds lining the Vicus Jugarius it was evident that the army had arrived. I felt someone squeeze my hand.

“He’s coming,” Julia said, but there was a nervousness in her voice that made me wonder how happy she was.

Drums beat out a rhythm to the approaching horses’ hooves, and Octavia shouted, “There he is!” White horses with red plumage came into view, and then Augustus, the triumphant conqueror of foreign lands, appeared at the head of his army in a golden chariot. I could see at once that he had lost weight, but a muscled cuirass disguised his weakness, and the paleness of his face was covered with vermilion. Livia rode behind him in a chariot of her own, followed by all the generals who had really won the war. The crowd worked itself into a frenzy as thousands of Gauls rolled by in filthy cages and soldiers held up urns of gold, amphorae, and silver rhyta.

Augustus stopped before the Temple of Saturn. Because no one wanted to hear the misery of the weeping Gauls, soldiers rolled the cages into the courtyard of the Basilica Julia, where they’d be kept until the prisoners could be sold. Augustus descended from his chariot, and the cheers that rose as his victorious generals gathered around him must have deafened the gods. Agrippa held out a golden laurel wreath, and I turned my head, disgusted by the spectacle. Instead I watched the soldiers outside the basilica as they attempted to organize more than five hundred cages. It was madness, and from my vantage point on the steps, I could see more soldiers hurrying from the basilica to help in the fray.

But as I watched, I realized that the supposed reinforcements weren’t soldiers. The men were dressed as legionaries, in the right sandals, crested helmets, and scarlet cloaks, but black masks covered the top half of their faces. I gasped. The Red Eagle had come to free the Gauls! The men were working swiftly, opening cage after cage and instructing the prisoners to remain where they were until the signal was given. Somehow, the Red Eagle had come by keys, and as lock after lock opened, I could see the prisoners rushing to the sides of their cages.

Then one of the soldiers on the temple steps followed my gaze and saw what was happening. “They’re escaping!” he shouted, interrupting Augustus’s Triumph. “The prisoners are escaping!” he cried.

From across the courtyard, one of the masked men looked up and realized they’d been seen. “Go!” he shouted, and though he’d spoken in Gaulish, I was familiar with the word from Gallia’s reprimands. The doors were flung open and thousands of prisoners began to flee. Panic ensued in the basilica’s courtyard, and the liberatores discarded their masks. Soldiers, uncertain who was on their side and who wasn’t, fired arrows indiscriminately into the crowd. One arrow struck the rebels’ leader, and I saw him clutch his shoulder in agony.

“He’s been hit!” I shrieked.

Gallia rushed forward. “Come back here, Selene!”

“But he’s been wounded!”

It didn’t matter that I ran. Everyone was moving, and it was impossible to remain on the steps of the temple. Smoke rose from the rooftop of the Basilica Julia, and a woman screamed, “The basilica’s on fire!” While thousands of people ran from the flames, I rushed toward them. A woman with two children in her arms warned me to turn back, shouting that the fire would take the entire building. But I followed a trail of blood into an abandoned shop, and I heard a man behind the counter breathing heavily. I rushed to him, but as soon as he saw me, he turned his face away. “Go!” he growled.

“I’m here to help you!”

“How? By getting yourself killed?”

“No! There’s a tunnel. It leads to the House of the Vestals, and from there you can escape.”

“Then tell me where it is, and get yourself out of here.”

“I can’t describe it. You’ll have to trust me.”

He hesitated, and when he turned, I covered my mouth in shock.


“Who did you think you would find?” he asked grimly. “Marcellus?”

I ignored the sting in his words and bent over him. He was losing a great deal of blood, and I ripped my tunic to make a bandage. My hands trembled when I touched the heat of his skin. “But the man who saved us in the Forum Boarium was blond. Even Julia saw him.”

“And there are such things as wigs,” he said sharply.

“Then what about the actum while you were in Gaul?” I tried not to think about the sudden wetness on my tunic, though I knew it was his blood.

“There are others who seek an end to slavery as well.”

I was aware of my hair brushing his chest as I tied his binding. It took several knots before it stayed in place.

“That’s enough,” he said gruffly.

“Where is the point?”

He drew my eyes to a bloodied shaft on the floor, and though my stomach clenched, I could see that its point was still intact. Nothing remained in his body, but if he wasn’t stitched soon, it might not matter. I offered him my arm, and he took it without complaining.

“Can you run?”


We rushed through the Basilica Julia. Smoke was beginning to fill the halls, and Juba leaned more heavily on me than he probably intended. I could feel he was weakening, and quickly I tried to recall one of Vitruvius’s sketches. The basilica housed law courts, offices, and shops, and the Vestals had wanted a tunnel from their temple so they could reach the shops without being seen. But to which shop had it led?

“Are you sure you know where you’re going?” he demanded.

“I’ve seen the sketch more than a dozen times.” I led him inside a silk merchant’s taberna and looked around. The shop had been abandoned, and customers had fled without taking their purchases. I grabbed a woman’s tunic and flung it over my shoulder. I would change before we reached the Palatine.

“Where is the tunnel?”

“I don’t know! But it’s here.”

Juba stepped behind the counter, where a heavy curtain covered the wall. With a flick of his wrist, he swept it aside, revealing an open door. He stepped inside first, and when he was sure that it was safe, he leaned on my arm and allowed me to guide him. There was nothing inside to relieve the darkness, and as we hurried, I felt my way along the wall.

“You should change,” he said.

I stopped walking, and though I knew he couldn’t see me as I undressed, my cheeks grew warm at the thought of him there. I remembered the last time I had stood in my breastband and loincloth in front of him. We had been in the Blue Grotto, and I had tried to keep myself from staring at his half-naked body in the water. “What should I do with the bloodied—?”

“Give it to me. Now hurry.” As we continued down the tunnel, his breathing grew more labored.

“Where will you go when we reach the temple?” I asked.

“To the Palatine.”

“And how will you explain your wound?”

“The soldiers were shooting at everyone,” he said shortly. “They’ll simply think I was in their way.”

“But will Augustus believe it?”

He didn’t reply, though when we reached the end of the tunnel, I thought for a moment he might say something more. Instead, he reached down and offered me his dagger.

“What’s this for?”

“You don’t remember your first trip down the Palatine alone?”

“But that was at night!”

“And do you think that criminals disappear in the day? I’ll be behind you,” he promised. “But you must leave first. When the path is clear, I want you to whistle. Then start walking. All the way to the Palatine.”

My hand trembled violently as I took the dagger. I slipped it safely beneath my belt, then opened the door and stepped out onto the marble portico outside the Temple of Vesta. I was shocked to see that the entrance was empty. Everyone has gone to see the fire, I thought. I whistled immediately, and when I heard the door open, I began to walk. Gallia knew where I had gone, and it was possible that Tiberius had heard as well. If I returned to the Palatine with Juba, only a fool would fail to realize what had happened.

Throughout the city, men were rushing to the Forum. Even merchants were abandoning their stalls to see the fire that was consuming the basilica. It took all my resolve not to turn to see if Juba was still behind me. When I reached Octavia’s villa, there was no one on the portico, and I knew at once where everyone must have gone. But before I could reach the platform in front of Augustus’s villa, Gallia came running.

“Where is he?” she cried.

I thought of Juba bleeding inside his villa with no one to help him, and did my best to look unconcerned. “Who?”

Gallia gave me a long look before whispering, “Juba!”

I leaned closer. “How do you—?”

“I have been in his confidence since the Red Eagle first appeared,” she said quickly. “Who do you think posted his acta while he was gone? Is he safe?”

I told her what had happened, and her face went pale. “Stay here, and say absolutely nothing.”

I panicked. “But where are you going?”

“To find Verrius.”

I mounted the platform and tried to avoid Augustus’s interested gaze. Immediately, Marcellus and Julia cried out.

“Where have you been?” Julia exclaimed.

“I was caught up in the rush,” I lied, hoping I was as good an actor as Augustus. “I didn’t know where you went. And when I looked back, everyone was gone.”

Augustus studied me. It had been a year since he had last seen me. “They thought perhaps you’d been crushed,” he said.

“Of course not! I escaped.”

“But hundreds of people were trampled,” Julia said. “Did you see?”

I shook my head.

“Then you must have seen the Gauls escaping from their cages! It was the barbarian invasion all over again,” she said breathlessly.

Augustus watched for my reaction, but I refused to give one. Then he turned abruptly to Livia and said, “I’ll be in my chamber.”

Octavia rushed to his side, and I noticed that both Agrippa and Tiberius were absent.

When Augustus was gone, I looked to Julia. “Is he sick?”

“My father has been ill since Iberia. He says this afternoon will be the death of him, and he’s told Agrippa to find the Red Eagle whatever the cost.”

“I heard the Red Eagle was wounded,” Marcellus added, “and Tiberius thought you ran after him.”

“He’s a traitor. Why would I do such a thing?”

“That’s what I said. But he thought you would try and escape from Rome.”

Although all I wished to do was run to Juba’s villa, I remained on the hill and watched the fire burn. When at last even Julia was tired of the show, she asked Claudia whether there was to be a feast.

“No. Your father needs his rest. Perhaps in a few days, when the Red Eagle is dead, there will be a celebration.”

Julia looked at me. “Will you dine with us?”

“Not tonight. I’m not feeling well,” I lied again.

I hurried back to my chamber, hoping that Gallia would be waiting for me, but the room was empty. Then I spotted something dark peeking from beneath my pillow. It was a small black box. I picked it up and read the note that was attached. “In case tomorrow never comes,” it said. I opened the hidden box and took out a necklace of pink sea pearls—my mother’s last gift to me. The one I had given to Juba to purchase Gallia’s freedom. Tears blurred my vision as I put on the necklace. He must have left it in the morning, not knowing whether he would survive the day. And now, his fate was up to the gods.

I paced my room, desperate for any news, and when Octavia returned, I asked if she’d seen Gallia.

“She’s gone home,” she said, and I noticed the half-moons beneath her eyes. She looked drained, as if she’d stayed up for nights on end without sleep. “A fever is spreading through Rome,” she added, “and Gallia tells me that both Magister Verrius and Juba are ill. The physicians say my brother may be suffering from the same sickness. But you are safe.” She reached out and caressed my cheek. A tear wet her finger, and I noticed that she was crying as well. “Shall we pray?”

I followed her into the lararium, where she lit a cone of incense and we knelt before the gods. She whispered her prayers to Fortuna, and I made my silent ones to Isis. I promised all sorts of things to the goddess, swearing to marry whomever Augustus chose, even if he was vile, so long as she would spare Juba’s life. And I vowed to endure my suffering in silence. I would not complain. I would not be embittered. If she would grant Juba’s health, I would never weep in self-pity again.

But the night passed without word, and the next morning, Gallia was nowhere to be found. I paced the library until Vitruvius put down his stylus and insisted I go outside for fresh air. “If you are worried on behalf of Magister Verrius, you needn’t be. I saw him this morning and he looked well.”

“You did?” I cried. “Where?”

Vitruvius looked at me strangely. “On the Palatine. Coming from Juba’s villa.”

“And what did he say?”

“That Juba is ill.”

“And was Gallia with him?”

Vitruvius shook his head. “No. Not that I saw.”

I hurried onto the portico, hoping to catch a glimpse of Magister Verrius, but the only person hurrying toward Octavia’s villa was Agrippa. When he saw me, he smiled.

“Excellent news,” he said triumphantly.

“Has the Red Eagle been caught?”

“Even better. He’s dead.”

I felt my heart stop in my chest, but Agrippa went on.

“Two men caught him last night attempting to post an actum on the Temple of Apollo. He was already hurt, but they ran him through with a gladius as he fled.”

Suddenly the world was spinning. It was Alexander’s death all over again. “And is … is there a body?”

“No. But judging from the amount of blood he left behind, there’s no chance that he survived.”

He went inside to share his triumph with Octavia, and I held on to a column to keep myself from falling. I had to find Gallia. Gallia or Magister Verrius would know what had happened. I raced to the bottom of the Palatine without bothering to demand a guard. I banged on Magister Verrius’s door at the end of the street. When no one answered, I peered through the windows, and a child who was passing by stopped to stare at me.

“There’s no one there,” he said.

“How do you know?”

“I live next door. They haven’t been back all night.”

“What about this morning?”

The boy shook his head.

“Not even Magister Verrius?”


I took the shortcut back up the hill. I didn’t dare to approach Juba’s villa, but I went to the Temple of Apollo to see for myself. A group of Praetorians were gathered at the entrance, and I recognized two of the guards as the same men who’d accompanied me to Alexander’s mausoleum. They were talking quietly between themselves, admiring the stain across the marble steps. It was just as Agrippa had described it. No one could lose so much blood and survive. I could feel my throat beginning to close, and the world was growing dark around me when the light-haired guard from the mausoleum shook my arm.

“It’s only blood. Nothing to be worried about.”

“Who stabbed him?” I whispered.

“We did.” He pointed from himself to the familiar dark-haired guard beside him. “I expect we’ll both be amply rewarded.”

I felt sick to my stomach. Suddenly, nothing made sense anymore. When I returned to Octavia’s villa, I shut myself in my room. Charmion, Ptolemy, Caesarion, Antyllus, Alexander, both of my parents. And now Juba; the man who had cared for me all along, protecting me, writing about the injustices I cared passionately about as well, all in the guise of the Red Eagle. It no longer mattered to me whether I lived or died. I lay down and closed my eyes, hoping that someone would steal out of the shadows as they had four months before, only this time, that it would be my life that ended.

But when I awoke, the sun was still high. No one had come to murder me in my sleep. There was noise in the atrium, and when I opened the door, Octavia and Vitruvius were whispering. They stopped when I appeared, and both of them looked at me.

Octavia approached. Her face was full of concern. “Augustus would like to see you,” she said.

“Really?” I asked indifferently. “Is he angry?”

“I don’t know. He is very ill, Selene. And preparations are being made….”

I could see she was on the verge of tears, and I softened my voice. “He has always recovered.”

“But this time it’s fever. He’s asked us to bring you.”

When I nodded, she released her breath. She had expected a fight, but I no longer cared what happened to me. I followed her into Augustus’s villa, where dignitaries crowded together in the atrium, and even Julia and Marcellus were there.

“He’s asked to see you,” Julia said nervously. “Do you know why?”

I shook my head.

“I think you’re going to be married.” When I didn’t react, she went on fretfully, “No one knows who it is. I don’t think even Livia knows. But he’s making all his plans. He’s even given Agrippa his signet ring.”

“The one belonging to Alexander the Great?”

She nodded.

“So Agrippa’s his heir?”

“Until Marcellus is twenty.” I could see the fear in her eyes. “Oh, Selene.” She took my hands, but I didn’t move. “Whatever happens, I am here. It will be all right.”

Octavia guided me to the stairs and pointed upward. “The first door on the right.”

I mounted the steps, and as I approached the door, I was aware of a rushing sound in my ears. But why was I afraid? It didn’t matter what future Augustus decided for me now.

I opened the door and realized that I wasn’t entering a chamber, but Augustus’s office, Little Syracuse. The walls were adorned with maps and scrolls, and where there weren’t books, there were statues. A pale-looking Augustus was seated behind his table, hunched over like an old man trying to fend off the cold. With his hand, he offered me a seat.

“Kleopatra Selene,” he said.

“Emperor Augustus.”

He smiled at the title, but didn’t disagree. “Do you know why I’ve called you here?”

I didn’t lie. “Julia says it has something to do with my marriage.”

“Yes.” He studied me. “You’ve grown very beautiful in my absence.”

“Many things have happened in your absence,” I said shortly.

He raised his brows, but instead of growing angry with me, his voice became strangely regretful. “Yes, they have. And once we die, what we leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”


He nodded. “And I have not woven much happiness into your life, have I?”

I dug my nails into my palms to keep myself from weeping.

“Before I die, I wish to change that, Selene.”

“Are you going to bring Alexander back from the dead?”

He hesitated. “You understand, I hope, that a grown son of Marc Antony and Kleopatra would always be a risk to the stability of Rome so long as he was alive.”

“The stability of Rome, or the stability of your rule?”

“Is there a difference?”

“He never wanted to be Caesar!”

“Many men have no intention of being Caesar. But when offered the opportunity by discontented senators, how many would turn it down?”

I bit my lower lip.

“I did not bring you here to discuss death,” he said quietly. “I brought you here to give you a new life. You had a very fine education in Egypt, and in Rome you have proven yourself capable of rule. If you will accept a dowry of five thousand denarii,” he began, “I wish to make you Queen of Mauretania.”

The study began to spin so quickly that I gripped the sides of my chair. “I don’t understand,” I whispered. “I thought that Juba—”

“Is ill? Yes, but he’s young and very strong. Men like him recover quickly, and he’s waiting for you in the other room.”

I stood so quickly that my seat nearly toppled over.

Augustus smiled. “At the end of the hall.”

I don’t remember whether I ran. I must have, because when I opened the door and Juba took me in his arms, I was breathless. Immediately, I inspected him for signs that he’d been wounded again. “I don’t understand,” was all I could say. “I don’t—”

He put his finger to my lips. “The men at the temple were mine. There was no attack.”

“But the mess—” I whispered.

“It was bull’s blood. I think I’m going to survive.”

“And your shoulder?”

He pushed his tunic away so I could see where Magister Verrius had neatly stitched him closed, and in the bright light of the chamber, I knew there’d never been a more beautiful man. From the time I’d been taken from Alexandria, he must have known that Augustus had intended me for him. Then I thought of the times he’d seen me weeping for Marcellus, and the many times I’d goaded him for being nasty when all of it had simply been an act to keep away suspicion, and my eyes began to burn.

“I hope you’re crying with happiness,” he said, “and not with disappointment.”

“How could I be disappointed?” I cried.

“Perhaps you wanted someone else.”

I ran my fingers through his hair. “No.” I searched his eyes, which were filled with kindness, and I drew my fingers over the handsome contours of his face. “I want you.”

“Me, or the Red Eagle?” he asked cautiously.

“Perhaps both.”

“But you know that the Red Eagle is gone,” he said. “I’ve done what I can in Rome. Someone else must continue the fight.”

“Like Gallia?”

“And Verrius, and many other good people. But Augustus would have suspected it was me eventually. So I’m afraid your Red Eagle is dead,” he said with regret.

“Dead?” I asked him. “Or just flown away to Mauretania?” When he didn’t say anything, I added, “I suspect it’s the latter.”

“There will be no more rebellion. No more daring acts of kindness,” he warned.

“You mean we won’t get to run through burning buildings?” I could see he wanted to laugh, but instead he watched me intently. “What? Why are you staring at me?”

“I’m not staring. I’m observing.”

I smiled through my tears. “And what do you observe?”

He brushed his lips against my ear. “A brave young woman who has always fought for what was right, even when it was unpopular. A woman who can’t return to the land of her birth, but is welcome to cross the seas and rebuild Alexandria in mine. And a woman who has suffered enough in Rome and deserves happiness for a change. Will you come to Mauretania and be my queen?”

He drew back to look at me, but I held him closer. “Yes.”

“Just yes?”

I nodded and pressed my lips against his.



Selene and Juba were married in 25 BC, and, true to his word, Augustus gave Selene a magnificent dowry. The union of Kleopatra Selene and Juba II became one of the greatest love stories ever to come out of imperial Rome, and for twenty years they reigned side by side in an extraordinary partnership that began on the voyage to Mauretania. When they reached their new kingdom, they settled in Iol, renaming it Caesarea in deference to the man who had made them king and queen. Once this public declaration of loyalty was made, however, Selene began rebuilding their capital in the image of the greatest city on earth: Alexandria. Before long, their court became known as a center for learning, and the images that archaeologists have discovered at Caesarea (such as a basalt statue of the Egyptian priest Petubastes IV, a bronze bust of Dionysus, and a statue of Tuthmosis I), speak loudest about Selene’s true loyalties.

While Selene erected monuments in honor of her Ptolemaic heritage, Juba charted the lands around his new kingdom. In the process he was credited as being the first person to “discover” the Canary Islands, naming them Insularia Canaria, or Islands of the Dogs, after the fierce canines that inhabited them. He also penned the treatise Libyka and discovered an important type of medicinal spurge, which even today is called Euphorbia regis-jubae. Pliny wrote that Juba was “more remembered for the quality of his scholarship even than for his reign,” while Plutarch considered him one of the “most gifted rulers of his time.” Two, or possibly three, children were born to Juba and Selene during their marriage. Their son Ptolemy inherited the throne.


Despite his grave sickness, Augustus recovered and ruled for another thirty-nine years. Nearly everyone he loved passed on before him, including Terentilla, Agrippa, Maecenas, Octavia, and even Marcellus. At seventy-five, when it was clear that the end was approaching, he asked Livia to take his life by surprise. He wished to orchestrate his death just as he had orchestrated everything else. When Livia poisoned his food, Augustus died in AD 14. He left behind explicit instructions on how to govern Rome, even going so far as to describe the tax system in minute detail. His heir was Livia’s son, Tiberius.


Julia and Marcellus enjoyed their wedded bliss for only another two years. In 23 BC, Marcellus died suddenly, ending a brief life that would likely have seen him as emperor had he survived. He was buried in Augustus’s mausoleum, which can still be seen today in Rome. With no clear heir, Augustus ordered Agrippa’s immediate divorce from Octavia’s daughter Claudia, and the eighteen-year-old Julia was given to her father’s forty-two-year-old general and closest friend. Five children resulted from their marriage, but when Agrippa died in 12 BC, Julia became a widow again. This time, with fewer heirs to choose from, Augustus married Julia to her stepbrother Tiberius. But Julia rebelled, taking as her lover Selene’s half brother Antonius, the son of Marc Antony and Fulvia. When Augustus discovered this, he arrested his own daughter for adultery and treason. Antonius, like his father, was forced to commit suicide, and Julia was banished to the island of Pandataria. Only her mother accompanied her into exile, where they were forbidden from having visitors other than those specifically sent by her father. After five years, Julia was allowed to return to the mainland, though she was forbidden from entering Rome. Upon Augustus’s death, one of Tiberius’s first acts was to confine Julia to a single room in her house. She died of starvation.


Before becoming heir to the Roman Empire, Tiberius was ordered to marry Agrippa’s daughter Vipsania. Their marriage proved to be an actual love match, and for seven years they remained loyal partners, producing a son whom Tiberius named Drusus, after his own younger brother. But when Agrippa died in 12 BC, Augustus ordered Tiberius to divorce his pregnant wife and marry Julia. The shock caused the loss of Vipsania’s second child, but the divorce proceeded, and Tiberius never forgave Augustus. In the years to come, Tiberius haunted Vipsania’s doorstep, threatening her new husband, Gallus, with death. After several more encounters, Augustus forbade Tiberius from ever seeing Vipsania again. Upon becoming emperor, Tiberius declared Vipsania’s husband a public enemy, imprisoning him and killing him by starvation. After Julia’s death, he never remarried. Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have been crucified during the reign of Tiberius, which lasted twenty-three years.


After the sudden and devastating death of Marcellus, Octavia retired from public life, spending her time quietly doing charity work and raising her grandchildren. Her daughter Antonia married the renowned charioteer Lucius Domitius. Although the marriage was a deeply unhappy one, it produced three children, one of whom, Antonia, would become the grandmother of Emperor Nero. Octavia’s youngest daughter, Tonia, married Livia’s son Drusus, and the two of them enjoyed a happy marriage for nearly seven years until Drusus died in a riding accident. Their children were the famous general Germanicus, the beautiful Livilla, and the future emperor Claudius.

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