“THAT WAS very brave, what you told him,” Marcellus said.

“Or very foolish,” my brother put in angrily.

“Why? Isn’t it the truth?” I demanded. The three of us sat on separate couches, and Marcellus looked like golden-haired Apollo in the lamplight of our chamber. His strong, tanned arms seemed capable of anything. It was no wonder Octavian preferred him over his bitter stepson Tiberius.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the truth,” my brother warned. “You’re lucky Caesar didn’t hear you.”

I glanced at the door. Soon Octavia would appear and order us to bed. “What do you think will happen to that prisoner?”

“Exactly what my uncle said. His hand will be nailed to the Senate door.”

“And Agrippa will do it?” Alexander asked quietly. He had removed his diadem, and his hair tumbled over his brow. He pushed it back with his palm.

“Or someone else. But there is no one more loyal than Agrippa. He would strike down his own daughter if she threatened Rome. And they’ll catch this rebel eventually.”

“But why does he use the image of a red eagle?” I asked.

“Because the eagle is the symbol of Rome’s legions. He is trying to say that Rome is dripping with the blood of its slaves. The freedmen all think it’s very brave. But don’t ever use the name in front of my uncle. He thinks it glorifies the rebel’s cause.”

“But if the senators haven’t rebelled,” I asked, “how has the Red Eagle gone against the law?”

“By sneaking into the arenas and freeing gladiators. And by helping husbands and wives who’ve been separated by slavery escape.”

“Escape where?” my brother exclaimed.

“Possibly to their homelands. Gallic slaves were caught on the Flaminian Way a few months ago with enough stolen gold to return to Gaul.”

I glanced at my brother, who must have known what I was thinking, because he shook his head sternly. But what else was there to hope for? If this Red Eagle was willing to help slaves return to Gaul, why wouldn’t he help us return to Egypt? Alexander had heard Octavian’s warning just as well as I had. The girl is pretty. In a few years, some senator will need to be silenced. She’ll be of marriageable age and will make him happy. And neither of the boys has reached fifteen years. Keeping them alive will seem merciful. And when it wasn’t merciful anymore? When Alexander came of age and posed a threat?

Marcellus continued, “There is some honor in what the rebel does. It’s only an accident of Fortuna that we were born on the Palatine. We could just as easily be living in the Subura, sleeping with the rats and begging for our food. Or we might have been like Gallia, and sold into slavery.”

Alexander sat forward. “She wasn’t born a slave?”

“No. Her father was King Vercingetorix.”

“She’s a Gallic princess?” I gasped.

Marcellus nodded. “When she was a girl, she was brought to Rome in chains, and years later her father was paraded in Caesar’s Triumph and then executed.” He saw my look and added quickly, “That would never have happened to an Egyptian queen. Vercingetorix was the leader of the Gauls. A barbarian. My mother told me that when Gallia came here, she knew neither Latin nor Greek.”

“Then she isn’t twenty.”

“No. I should say more like thirty.”

My brother hesitated. “So then why did your uncle spare us from slavery?”

“Because your father was a Roman citizen, and you carry the blood of Alexander the Great.”

“Juba’s father wasn’t a Roman,” I pointed out.

“No. His ancestor was the warrior Massinissa. But my uncle must be thankful he didn’t make Juba a slave. Juba saved his life at Actium, and there were many days leading up to the battle when my uncle feared he would be defeated.”

Just as there had been many days leading up to the battle when my mother had thought Egypt could still be saved.

An uneasy silence settled over the room. Marcellus cleared his throat. “So I saw your sketch of Alexandria,” he said. “You are very talented.”

“You should see her other drawings,” Alexander added. “Show him your book of sketches, Selene.”

I crossed my arms over my chest.

“She has a leather book,” Alexander explained. “It’s not like anything you’ve ever seen. Go ahead. Get it,” he coaxed.

When Marcellus looked at me, I went to the chest in the corner of the room and took out my mother’s present. His eyes widened in the candlelight, and when he held the book in his hands, he asked in amazement, “What is this?”

“Calfskin,” Alexander said.

“All of it?” Marcellus turned the pages, and I don’t know what impressed him more, my sketches or what I had drawn them on. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he admitted. “Where did this come from?”

“The library on the Acropolis in Pergamon,” my brother said.

“The greatest library in the world!”

“The second greatest,” Alexander corrected. “And when our family stopped exporting papyrus to them, they started using calfskin to make books like these.”

“Books,” Marcellus said wonderingly.

“There were two hundred thousand of them in Pergamon, and our father made a present of them all to our mother. She was reading them, one by one. A different book every night.” He looked at me, and I knew he was remembering our seventh birthday, when we had been allowed to choose anything we wanted from Pergamon’s library. My brother had chosen a book on horses, and I had chosen an empty book for sketches.

When I looked away, Marcellus said quietly, “Queen Kleopatra was a remarkable woman.”

“Yes,” Alexander said quietly.

Footsteps echoed in the hall, and Marcellus stood. “My mother,” he said, returning my book of sketches to me. The door of our chamber opened, and Octavia’s face appeared next to an oil lamp.

“Marcellus,” she said sharply. “What are you doing?”

“Going to sleep.” He grinned back at us, then kissed his mother on the cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning,” he promised us. When he was gone, Octavia set the oil lamp on a table.

Alexander and I lay back on our couches and waited to see what she was going to do. Despite the heat, I covered myself with a thin linen blanket. She came and sat at the edge of my couch. When I inhaled, I could smell her light scent of lavender. My mother had always worn jasmine.

“How was your day?” she asked kindly.

I shot a questioning look at Alexander. “Tiring,” I admitted.

“It will be even more tiring tomorrow,” she warned. “I would like to prepare you for my brother’s Triumph, though it will only be for one day.”

“I thought it was three.”

“Yes, but you will only be a part of it tomorrow. In the morning, clothes will be delivered to your chamber. You’ll be expected to put them on, then ride behind Caesar on a wooden float. There may be chains as well. But I will not allow them to cuff your necks. That is only for slaves.”

“And then?” Alexander asked steadily.

“You will return for the Feast of Triumph. It will be larger than what you have seen tonight. But you must be prepared to see things tomorrow. Things that will make you very upset.”

“Will they spit at us in the streets?” I whispered.

“I don’t know. The plebs are very angry. They believe what they’ve heard about your mother and father.”

“Such as?” I asked urgently.

Octavia’s shoulders tensed. “Such as your father wore a Greek chiton and put away his toga while in Egypt.”

I raised my chin. “That’s true.”

“What else do they believe?” Alexander asked.

“That Antony instructed that he be worshipped as Dionysus. That he crowned his head in ivy and carried a thyrsus instead of a sword.”

I could see my father in his robes of red and gold, holding Dionysus’s stalk of fennel just as Octavia had described. “All of that is true.”

Octavia sat forward. “And did he really strike a Roman coin with your mother’s likeness?”

“Yes. Three years ago,” my brother replied. “What’s so terrible about a coin?”

When she didn’t answer, I asked sharply, “So is that all the Romans believe?”

She hesitated. “There were rumors of dinners on the Nile….”

“Of course,” Alexander said frankly. “Our mother and father had a club. The Society of Inimitable Livers.”

“And what did this society do?” she asked breathlessly.

“They had banquets on ships and discussed literature with philosophers from around the world.”

“Then they changed it to the Order of the Inseparable in Death,” I added, “when our father lost the Battle of Actium. Now all of that is gone,” I said. “Just like our mother and father.”

Octavia sat back and looked from my brother to me. She seemed to have trouble reconciling the Antony she had known as her husband with the Antony who had been our father. “So did … did your father spend a great deal of time with your mother?”

I realized what was happening and felt my cheeks warm. She had loved him.

Alexander answered quietly, “Yes.”

“Then he didn’t spend all of his time with his men?” It was me she was asking.

“No.” I was too ashamed to meet her gaze. “Are you glad that he’s gone now?”

“I would never wish death on anyone,” she said. “When he left me,” she admitted, “it was a great embarrassment. All of Rome knew I had been rejected.”

I tried to imagine how she must have felt, abandoned so publicly by my father. Antonia and Tonia, my half sisters, wouldn’t even have known him, since he had come to live with us permanently when they were just a few years old.

“My brother wanted him dead,” she confessed. “But I….” She hesitated, saying at last, “There wasn’t a woman in Rome who didn’t love your father.”

“They don’t love him now,” I remarked.

She stood up from my couch, then touched my cheek with the back of her palm. “Because they think he abandoned his people to become a Greek. But all of that is past,” she said tenderly. “What matters is tomorrow. Be brave,” she said, “and it will all end well.”

When she closed the door, leaving the oil lamp near Alexander’s couch, I turned to him and we watched each other in the flickering light.

“Our mother never came to us at night,” he remarked.

“Because our mother was a ruler, not the sister of one.”

“Do you think Father really loved Octavia?”

It seemed cruel to say no, but Octavia was nothing like our mother, and I couldn’t imagine my father ever racing chariots with her on the Canopic Way, or spinning her in his arms whenever she won. “Perhaps he loved her kindness,” I offered, and Alexander nodded.

“Marcellus has the same compassion, doesn’t he? And I doubt there’s anyone in Rome more beautiful.”

I stared at him. “You’re not a Ganymede, are you?”

“Of course not!” He blushed furiously.

I kept staring at him, but he blew out the light, and in the darkness, I was too tired to argue.

The clothes that were brought to our chamber the next morning were insulting. Alexander held up his linen kilt, and I crumpled the beaded dress in my hands.

“Is this what Romans think Egyptians wear?” I asked angrily. The hills were still pink with the blush of dawn, but I could hear that the villa was already awake.

“Of course,” Gallia said, and I could see that she wasn’t mocking me.

“A thousand years ago queens wore beaded dresses,” I told her. “Now they wear silk chitons!”

“That is not what I have seen in the paintings or statues.”

“Because they’re stylized,” Alexander explained patiently. “I have never worn a kilt in my life.”

“I am sorry,” she said, and I could see that she was. As a child, she must have suffered the same humiliation when she was paraded through the streets of Rome. “But this is what Caesar has instructed.”

I did not fight her when she took me to the bathing room. I could see that Gallia was unhappy, but when she helped me to put on the beaded dress and I looked in the mirror, my cheeks grew hot. The beads covered only the most important places; otherwise I might as well have been naked.

But when Octavia arrived, her hand flew to her mouth. “What is she wearing?”

“What Caesar ordered,” Gallia said indignantly.

“She will not be paraded through the streets like a whore!” She turned to me. “Have you brought other clothes?”

“Silk tunics and wigs,” I answered swiftly.

“And that’s what you wore in Alexandria?”

“With paints.”

“Then fetch them.” She closed her eyes briefly. “Better paint than this.”

Octavia watched while Gallia fit the wig over my hair, and she frowned a little when I showed Gallia how to extend the dark lines of antimony outward from the corners of my eyes. Gallia wanted to know about everything I unpacked. The henna for my hands, the moringa oil for my face, the pumice stone for removing extra hair around my brows.

“You are too young for that!” Gallia said sternly. “You will rub your face raw.”

“That’s what this is for.” I showed her the cream Charmion had used on my face every morning. She held it to her nose, then passed it to Octavia.

“And all women wear these things?” Octavia asked quietly. “Henna and wigs?”

“On special occasions,” I told her.

She glanced at Gallia, who said, “It’s not much different from the malachite that Romans use for eye shadow, Domina. The Egyptians just prefer more of it.”

When we left the bathing room and returned to the chamber, I suppressed a laugh. My brother was dressed in a long linen kilt. A golden pectoral shone from his chest, and a pharaoh’s blue and gold nemes headdress had replaced his diadem. When he turned, he crossed his arms angrily. “How come you get to wear your tunic, and I have to wear this?”

“Because Caesar wanted me to wear a beaded dress.”

He gasped. “Like a dancer?”

“Or a whore,” I said in Parthian.

Octavia cleared her throat. “We are going to the atrium now.” She smoothed her stola nervously. “My brother is coming here to make an offering. Then the procession will begin at the Senate. Nothing will happen to you,” she promised.

“You will be on the float behind Caesar,” Gallia explained. “And the plebs will never risk hurling stones if they think they might hit him.”

“But they might hurl other things,” my brother ventured.

Gallia looked to Octavia, who shook her head firmly. “No. You will be close to Octavian. I will see to that.”

I took my brother’s arm. In the atrium, Octavian and Livia had already arrived. They were instructing Marcellus and Tiberius on where they would ride during the Triumph, though Marcellus seemed to be more intent on smiling at Julia. As soon as we appeared, the conversation faltered. Agrippa and Juba stopped polishing their swords.

“By the Furies!” Marcellus exclaimed, and moved toward me. “Look at this wig.” While everyone turned to look, Julia watched me with unveiled disgust. There will be trouble with her, I thought.

“Where is the beaded dress?” Livia demanded, and I realized it wasn’t Caesar who had ordered the dress for me, but Livia. She wanted to see me humiliated. But when no one answered her, she repeated, “Where is the dress?” She advanced, but Gallia stepped in front of me.

“There was an unfortunate accident with the dress this morning. It appears that Domina’s cat mistook it for a plaything.”

“You arrogant little lupa. Move!”

Gallia stepped aside, but Octavia took her place. “The dress is gone, Livia.”

“Liar! I know you took—”

“You are speaking to the sister of Caesar, who does not lie,” Octavian said angrily.

Livia lowered her eyes in shame. “Forgive me, Octavian.”

“It is my sister you have offended, not me.”

Everyone watched while Livia turned to Octavia. “I am sorry,” she said, though her words sounded more bitter than contrite.

Octavia merely nodded. She hadn’t lied. The dress was gone, given to one of the slaves to sell in the marketplace. It was Gallia who had twisted the truth, and I wished my wig could make me disappear when Livia’s eyes settled on me. She will never forget this humiliation. She will blame me for this. Me and Gallia.

“Where is my speech?” Octavian demanded.

Livia produced it slowly from her sleeve. He took the scroll from her, and when he unrolled it, he nodded approvingly. “This is good.” I noticed he was wearing a steel corselet beneath his toga, and he shifted uncomfortably under the weight. “Agrippa, Juba, you understand not to move during the speech?”

“I will be on your left,” Agrippa promised. “Juba will be on your right. If a senator moves toward you—”

“Then you have my permission to draw your sword. We are a family,” he said sternly, looking from Octavia to Livia to Marcellus. “Family members protect one another, and the people of Rome must see this. The plebs look to the Julio-Claudii to understand tradition, unity, morality. And if we cannot be happy, what chance is there for a brick-maker to be happy? So there will be smiles, even from Tiberius.”

Tiberius made a purposely ugly grin, and Marcellus snickered. “How handsome!”

“I’m sorry I can’t be as beautiful as you,” Tiberius snapped at Marcellus.

But Octavian was not in the mood for banter. “Enough! Octavia, the Lares.”

Octavia reached into a small cabinet and took out a vessel of wine. She poured a cup’s worth into a shallow bowl beneath the bust of Julius Caesar, and, together, everyone in the room intoned “Do ut des”: I give so you will give.

There was a short silence. Then Octavian straightened his shoulders and announced, “Let the Triumph begin.”

I expected the Senate to be the grandest building in all of Rome, a place so enormous that every senator who had ever served could have sat within its marbled chambers. So when I saw that it had been made of concrete and brick, the lower half faced with marble slabs, the upper half with imitation white blocks, I asked Marcellus, “Is this it?”

“The Curia Julia,” he said reverently. “Romans call it the Senate.” Graffiti covered the steps, and some of the images were undoubtedly of Caesar. If my mother had ever found graffiti of herself, the men responsible would have been hunted down and sentenced to death. Yet Octavian hadn’t even bothered to order it removed for his Triumph. A single flight of stairs led to a pair of bronze doors, and Marcellus lamented, “We’re not normally allowed inside.”

“Why not?”

“Because we’re still too young, and women are never allowed within. But they’re making a special exception for you.”

I glanced nervously at my brother.

“And what will we do?” Alexander asked. The morning’s light shone so brightly from his golden pectoral that Marcellus had to hold up a hand to see him.

“Sit there while my uncle gives his speech. Then the Triumph will begin. I’ll be riding only a few paces ahead of you,” he said reassuringly.

“On a float?”

“A horse. To the right of Caesar.” The position of honor.

“Come.” Agrippa beckoned Alexander, and as we mounted up the steps, I glanced over my shoulder at Marcellus, who gave me an encouraging smile.

“This is the Senate,” Agrippa said as we entered. “There is no one inside because it’s still too early. But in a few moments, all of this will be chaos.” The wooden benches for the senators rose in tiers, and across from the door was a raised platform where Octavian would give his speech.

Alexander craned his neck to see the whole building. “How many senators are there?” he asked.

“Nearly a thousand,” Agrippa replied.

“And there’s room for all of them in here?”

“No. Some of them will have to stand in the back.”

We crossed the Senate floor toward the platform, and Agrippa held back so that Alexander and I could follow Juba up the three small steps. A statue draped in linen stood next to the dais.

Octavian looked at Juba. “Is this it?”

“The statue of Victory,” Juba said. “Sculpted two hundred and fifty years ago in Tarentum and completely unharmed. It is authentic.”

Octavian tore away the linen, and Alexander and I both stepped forward.

“Just like Nike,” I whispered in Parthian, “our goddess of victory. I wonder if these Romans ever come up with anything original.” My brother pinched my arm, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that when the senators filed into the building, they would be looking at a statue sculpted by a Greek.

As the senators arrived, they greeted one another with raised arms, and their voices echoed loudly in the chamber. Men in purple and white togas filled the benches, carrying scrolls under their arms and wearing wreaths on their heads. There were five chairs on the platform, and Agrippa instructed us to sit on his left, freeing his right arm in case he had need of his sword. Alexander seated himself next to Octavian, and on the other side of Caesar was Juba. Both men took their seats, but while Octavian studied his notes, Juba searched the crowd. No one coughed, or stood, or even bent forward to chase an errant scroll without Juba’s notice.

When there was no more space in the Senate, Agrippa cleared his throat. “It is time.”

Octavian smoothed his palms against his toga, and I wondered how he could be nervous. These were his people, his victory, his Senate. He unrolled the scroll that Livia had given him outside of Octavia’s villa, and I could see that his hands were shaking. But his eyes were filled with determination. He stood, and the room fell silent. Though it was early in the morning, the chamber was already unbearably hot, and I was thankful for the doors that were propped open so that the senators’ sons could watch the proceedings from outside.

“Patres et conscripti,” Octavian addressed the men formally. “If you and your children are in health, then all is well. For I and the legions are in health.” There was a roar of approval, though he hadn’t said anything of importance. But then he told them about his conquest over Dalmatia, his victory at Actium, and finally his acquisition of Egypt, which would remain his personal property and not a kingdom to be governed by the Senate. “For Antony shamed himself in the streets of Egypt. He shamed himself in the palace of Alexandria. And he shamed himself by allowing a foreign queen to give commands to our Roman legions. But that shame is over!” There was thunderous applause. I looked at my brother, whose face was as pale as his linen kilt.

“From this day forward, the name of Marc Antony shall be obliterated from the Fasti. His statues shall be removed from the Forum, and no member of the Antonius clan shall ever be named Marcus so long as there is a Senate in Rome.” The applause rose up again. “Finally, I propose that the birthday of the traitor become a dies nefastus, an unlucky day on which public business shall never be conducted!” There was a roaring cheer, and I assumed that Octavian’s proposal had passed. He looked behind him and smiled at Agrippa. The scroll in his hand was no longer shaking.

“In the wake of such victories,” Octavian went on, “some of you are wondering why there are no slaves. Perhaps you remember when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and brought back forty thousand blond barbarians. Now, every woman in Rome wants to be blond. But I will not have our women painting themselves like the whores of Egypt! If your women must paint, let them decorate your villas. Let them buy Egyptian statues. But we are Romans, and we shall look like Romans!”

The applause that met this statement was deafening.

“There shall be no temples to Isis within the boundary of Rome. Let Romans worship Roman gods. As for the Senate, I propose an increase in pay. What job in Rome is more important than leading its people and making the decisions that will affect their lives?” There was a hum of approval throughout the building. “This is the dawn of a bright new age. For the first time in several hundred years, we have peace, and there will be prosperity. With my own denarii I shall create not only battalions of fire watchmen but crime watchmen, and increase the number of people who are allowed free grain from three hundred thousand a year to four hundred thousand.” His voice boomed over the Senate, and I realized that this was part of his theater—a way of enslaving citizens to him without chains. “For every victory or personal triumph,” he continued, “I encourage you to contribute to the building of this new Rome. My commander Titus Statilius Taurus has already begun the first amphitheater constructed of stone. My consul Agrippa has put his own denarii into baths that have welcomed tens of thousands of men. Now, he will erect the Pantheon, the greatest temple ever built for our gods. Lucius Marcius Philippus is rebuilding the Temple of Hercules Musarum. What are you building?” he demanded. “On which monuments shall your name be written for eternity?”

I could feel the senators’ excitement. There was no talk of punishing those who had supported my father, no talk of anything but a new Rome. Octavian made a small, graceful bow. Then suddenly everyone was moving.

“What’s happening?” I asked Alexander.

“The Triumph has begun,” Agrippa replied.

Horns blared in unison outside the Senate, and an old man appeared at the bottom of the platform holding a pair of golden chains. “For the children,” he said.

I looked to Agrippa.

“It is only for the Triumph,” he explained, and when he instructed us to hold out our hands, tears betrayed me. He fitted them first around Alexander’s wrists, then turned to me, but didn’t meet my gaze. His daughter Vipsania is four years younger than I am. I wonder if he’s imagining her humiliated this way. He made sure the chains were loose around our wrists, and when a senator smiled at the picture we presented, I forbade myself from crying.

I was too ashamed to look at my brother as we followed Octavian through the double doors into the Forum. When I tripped over my tunic, Juba said harshly, “Keep walking.”

“I am,” I retorted.

“Then you can quit feeling sorry for yourself. You’re still alive.”

Outside, thousands of people were singing and dancing to the music of flutes. Soldiers attempted to keep the plebs away from the senators, who were organizing themselves in lines for the procession, but it was a fool’s task. Juba led us through the madness to a wooden float, which had been decorated to look like an Egyptian chamber, and began to mount the steps. In front of me, my brother stopped suddenly, and I followed his gaze. At the top, a wax figure of my mother lay on a couch with a cobra coiled between her breasts.

“Don’t look,” he said angrily. “They want us to weep in front of Rome.”

I bit my lower lip so hard I tasted blood, and Juba pointed to a pair of gilded thrones, where we were supposed to sit beside the likeness of our mother. “You will not move,” he instructed. “Or even think of escape.” My eyes flashed, and though I didn’t ask Or what? he added, “There are thousands of soldiers here today, and every one of them would love to claim that he killed one of Marc Antony’s children.”

I sat obediently and forbade myself from thinking of Charmion. She had hated the noise and closeness of parades, and her heart would have broken to see us sitting there amid the signs of all the cities that Octavian had conquered. Some of the men below were dressed as personifications of rivers the Roman legions had crossed, including the Euphrates and the Rhine. But what would have saddened Charmion the most were the women who had been chained together, naked except for signs on their chests that identified their conquered tribes.

Alexander surveyed the scene below us; then suddenly he turned to me and whispered, “No one is ever kept alive after a Triumph.”

“Then why give us rooms? Why let us stay with Octavia?”

“To keep us obedient!”

I searched my brother’s face. “Then what do we do?” Alexander lifted his kilt, and when I saw the outline of a knife, I exclaimed, “How did you—?”

“Shh. I took it from Marcellus. I told him I needed to cut the ropes on our traveling chests and he never asked for it back. We may still be executed, but not without a fight.”

When the Triumph began, it became a blur of people and soldiers. I was aware of the chariot in front of us, pulled by a team of four white horses and carrying Octavian with his wife and sister. All three were wearing wreaths of laurel, but only Octavian’s face had been stained with vermilion to remind the people of Jupiter, the father of the gods and administrator of justice. I watched Octavian smile through his dark-red mask, and wondered what role he would perform once the procession reached the temple. Would he be the executioner?

We passed the Temple of Divus Julius, where a speaker’s platform had been built from the prows of ships Octavian had captured at Actium. And while crowds of people screamed below us, I couldn’t hear anything but the sound of blood rushing in my ears. From the tops of porticoes streamed long crimson banners, and in a courtyard where children were playing games, a statue of the Egyptian god of death had been erected, with a collar below its canine head and a sign that read, BARKING ANUBIS HAS BEEN TAMED. There were other signs as well, rewards for slaves who’d gone missing or had been captured. Slave catchers, who called themselves fugitivarii, clearly thought that this was the time to advertise their services, and I wondered if slaves used public days like this to escape from their households. I looked down at the chains around my wrists, thinking it might be possible for us to escape. But Juba hovered next to Octavian like a hawk, studying the crowds with his sharp black eyes, watching, waiting.

When we reached the Capitoline Hill, the floats were surrounded by the cheering, drinking mobs as they groaned their way toward the top. The senators tried to push the men back, and soldiers made threatening gestures with their shields, but no one wanted to shed Roman blood on a day of victory. The crowds chanted, “Io Triumphe!” and when I turned my head I could see that, below us, the smaller floats carried treasures from my mother’s mausoleum. Gold and silver gleamed from open chests, and the sun was reflected from the beautiful wine bowls and golden rhyta my father had used when he was alive. We rolled to a stop before Jupiter’s temple, and for the first time I could see Marcellus and Tiberius on their horses. Both of them dismounted, but it was Marcellus who came toward us. I glanced at my brother, whose hand went swiftly to his knife.

“Marcellus would never hurt us,” I said.

“He will do whatever Octavian commands.”

But as Marcellus mounted the steps of our float, he looked from my brother to me and his color rose. “What is this?” he shouted. “Somebody take off these chains!” The same old man who had appeared in the Senate approached the base of our float with a key. “Today!” Marcellus snapped impatiently. As soon as we were free, he led us down the steps and shook his head understandingly. “It’s over now.”

But Alexander hesitated. “So what will your uncle do with us?”


“Today,” my brother replied.

“I doubt you will be the guests of honor, if that’s what you mean. He will probably ask Agrippa—”

“But are we to be executed?” I cried.

Marcellus recoiled. “Of course not.” He looked at both of us, startled by our solemn silence. “Is that what you were thinking?” When neither of us answered him, he swore, “My mother would never let that happen. You’re like her own children.”

“So was Antyllus,” Alexander reminded him, “and he was slaughtered at the feet of Caesar’s statue in Alexandria.”

Marcellus nodded gravely. He had been raised with our half brother Antyllus during the years that that Octavia was married to our father, and had known him far longer than we ever had. “This is different,” he promised. “You’re too young to threaten him.”

“And when we turn fifteen?” my brother demanded.

“He will marry you off. Until then, you’ll just have to suffer through school with the rest of us.” There was a blast of horns and Marcellus motioned quickly. “Hurry!”

Inside the Temple of Jupiter, men stepped aside when they recognized Marcellus, and as we made our way past the bodies of sweating senators, an old man held out his hand to me. “For you, Selene.”

I recognized the symbol of Isis on his belt at once. To anyone else, the knot would have been unremarkable, but I knew it was a sacred tiet. I looked around, but the temple was too crowded for anyone to see. Quickly, I took the slip of papyrus from his hand.

“A thousand blessings,” he said as I passed.

As we reached the altar I pretended to adjust the brooch at my shoulder. I unpinned it and, slipping the scrap of papyrus beneath, repinned it so that no one could see. Then my heart began to beat faster in my chest. I wondered what the message might be—rebellion, rescue, delivery from Rome—and when I looked up, I saw Juba watching me.

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