Cecile, aged 15, the slave to a local rich merchant, has had a life of hardship. Born into the coastal city-state of Genoa, she has been a slave her entire life. Broken and given markings to show her status from an early age, she was sold for a low price. Upon being brought to the city of rome, she was obedient. She was so obedient that she was trusted by her master to watch the store during his sleeps, due to him sleeping odd hours. Despite her long time as a slave, she was beaten very rarely, though the times that she did receive beatings, they were never merciful. She stands on trial today for theft. She had stolen a dagger valued at 400 aurei, a very delicate and fine weapon rumored to be crafted by the gods themselves. Or at least that is what has been claimed. She claims that the dagger was given to her by the gods.
Aelia Revius, aged 16, a local blacksmith’s daughter who had began apprenticing under her father in secret, had an infection in her arms which resulted in their amputation two weeks prior. A sort of divine inspiration resulted in her managing to metal replicas using a mix of her muscles to control them and something she called ‘gods blood’. This ‘gods blood’ is made through heating water into steam and then turned into some kind of invisible, shocking force similar to when one rubs their clothes together. She is on trial for objecting to the gods in order to make these ungodly things that she refers to as ‘mechanarms’.
The two girls are to be brought before the royal court of the king himself, Julius Caesar, and to be tried for their crimes before him. To have an expert opinion, the Dictator Perpetuo has brought in his seer. Due to the seer making an appearance, this trial will lack a conventional jury and Caesar will serve as the judge. The jury will be made up of magistrates and consuls who will ultimately decide the fate of these two young girls.
Cecile stood there, looking over at the metal armed Aelia. She drew in a deep breath of air, the air smelled good in an unnatural way. Perfume. The smell reminded her of how underdressed she was. She was a slave, her clothing only made that fact even more obvious. Plain brown clothing tied by rope. Not a speck of jewelry. Hell, even Aelia was better dressed, her clothes were at least red and orange! But no. Here Cecile stood in a plain brown tunic and baggy tan pants.
The blacksmith’s daughter was dressed in red, accented with orange and a few metal rings made of silver or gold, crafted by her father or her mother’s jewelry that had been resized to fit for this occasion. Impressions. Impressions were important. And side by side, the two gave off vastly different ones. Aelia gave off an air of honor and loyalty, back straight as her strange arms hung stiffly at her side. Cecile was quite the opposite, hunched the faintest bit forward but smiling. Cecile noticed that and tried to straighten herself, only to lean forward again a few seconds later. She found her eyes kept gazing up to none other than Caesar himself.
He stood rightfully above them, he was the Dictator Perpetuo. Dictator as long as he desired. Ruler of Rome and all her many subordinates. Cecile had, at a time, dreamed of him or his son Augustus. Where some women would dream of wedding him, though, Cecile had different dreams. Of him abolishing slavery, or making the lives of the owned better. She… she knew it was wishful thinking. But it was where her mind went. He had power, he was the most powerful man alive, right? He could grant Cecile freedom with a flick of his wrist… but she knew he wouldn’t. Others? She cast a glance at the Senate that sat around them. The same. They wouldn’t alter their lives for her kind. No, they were happy with slaves because slaves made their lives better.
Even if that happiness came at the cost of others.
Cecile’s eyes went back to Caesar, then went to the man behind him. Well, man isn’t the right word. Pile of cloth over a man would be more accurate, for the person beneath wasn’t visible. White and black cloth was embroidered with gold, the mass of heavy-looking clothes obscured frames and features, masking the person from Cecile’s probing eyes. There was a slight shift as the hood area rose, face below still completely veiled by the overhanging fabric. Cecile blinked and averted her gaze back to Julius, who opened his mouth to speak.
“Cecile, before we begin today’s proceedings, and due to the nature of your accuser, I would like you to know that before the court today you will be scene not as a slave but as a human. You shall be treated no differently than any free woman would be.” Cecile wasn’t sure how to interpret that. Was it meant to be encouraging? That they would see her as a person rather than an object? Or was it meant to be an excuse? An out for if someone accused them of being unfair due to Cecile’s slavery? “As for Miss Revius. You should know that your appearance due to the crime against nature you committed won’t be held against you either. Though your crime will be judged.”
The way that the Dictator Perpetuo worded that, it made Cecile realize the truth. This wasn’t a trial. This was a ceremony. A ceremony for, at least Aelia’s, death. Was this really a trial? She looked at the Senate who were going to be their jury. Or was it merely a show? She looked forward and gulped, the wolves were watching a slave and a double amputee. Two less-than-humans. She gulped nervously.
“Now, Aelia, I would like you to know that you will, most likely, be slain within the next few weeks due to your mockery of the gods. Calling some invisible force ‘Gods’ Blood’ was certainly not favorable to the priests and worshippers of our pantheon.” Cecile glanced over at Aelia. Did… she mocked the gods? The metal-armed girl said something, but it was too quiet for Cecile to make out, so she merely looked back at the robed figure. It was easier, really, looking at a mountain-shaped pile of cloth than the most powerful man in the world.
Cecile took a sharp breath, as they began talking of politics. She was asked to tell her story and she did so truthfully. The knife appeared in her hand during a vision of some divine room. Aelia told of how the inspiration for her arms came when she looked at a trebuchet, clicking her head as if it was an obvious conclusion. Cecile gulped, she knew this would be a long procession but… she didn’t expect the voice. It whispered inside of her ear, telling her. Speaking to her. Giving her a plan involving her magic knife and the girl who stood next to her, all to happen “On my cue.”
All at once, the courtroom exploded into life, the man in thick robes moved to grab Julius Caesar and toss him forward and, for some reason, Cecile found herself acting out the plan, tossing her knife to the side for the metal armed girl to catch and begin stabbing Caesar with, repeated things that yanked blood from his system as she went to stab again, hitting vital spots every time. One stab in the midst of his spinal cord, another on his heart, third and fourth both on opposite sides of his neck. Blood spurted everywhere, making Cecile feel faint. Caesar turned, rolling over as his eyes started to cloud with death. His seer leaped down, massive robes billowing the faintest bit as their weight seemed to lift. The seer landed silently and walked up, his steps measured to ensure that Caesar was still alive during his final beating moments. He looked at the crowd, spells weaving in his hands. They would believe one another did it. All according to plan.
The seer spoke, his voice sounding a bit more hollow now that he was closer to Cecile. His robes seemed to shift a little and Cecile thought, for just a moment, she caught a glimpse of the man’s face beneath. His voice seemed to reverberate in the air as he spoke, though his robes shifted not underneath and Cecile now suspected she knew why. This wasn’t a man, but a monster. A skeleton concealed in robes. But, he was the one that offered to save her and Aelia. She looked at him, dagger returning to her hand before she looked at the crowd and heard the man’s words, not quite understanding them, or, at least, not the meaning behind them.
“I warned you, did I not, Julius. Beware the Ides of March.” And with that, Julius Caesar, the most powerful man alive, passed away.