Et tu, Brute? (A What If? Historical Fiction entry).
|Alea iacta est|
"You are certain he is dead and that Caesar knows?"
"I am," came the reply. "As to the former, my man placed the herb into the boy's food himself and then, as you instructed, ran to seek aid when it was far too late. He says his comrades did all they could to console him, so distraught he seemed to them to be." There was a soft chuckle. "He left as soon as he deemed it proper and brought the news directly to me. For my part, I immediately had the news sent on."
"And what of our other preparations?"
"I saw a Senate messenger making his way to Caesar's house, even as I was coming here. Do you really think he will come?"
"His honor will not allow him to ignore the summons," said the other. "The die is cast."
* * *
"What reply shall I give, my lord?" the messenger finally asked Caesar. He was ill at ease, and not solely owing to being in the great man's presence. He was after all an official messenger of the Senate and was accustomed to the power wielded by the men he visited. None impressed him more than Caesar but there was, it seemed to him, a strange mood about the man, a sort of sadness completely at odds with the festive nature of the day. It was the Ides of March, a day for giving thanks to the god Mars for Rome's victories on the field of battle. Caesar was a famous general with many conquests to his credit; he should have been in high spirits. Something was wrong, but he could only wait and wonder in silence.
Caesar was lost in thought, trying to recall any omens or portents that, had he observed them, could possibly have allowed him to act and avoid the evil news he'd received less than an hour earlier. His grandnephew Gaius Octavius was dead, reportedly having fallen victim to some strange malady in Apollonia while studying. And now his wife, Calpurnia, citing this disastrous news, as well as some dark premonition, wanted him to remain at home.
"My husband," she cried, "I implore you to reconsider. Send word that you are ill, that you will consider the petition tomorrow. Only do not leave me!"
Caesar remained silent a moment longer, then stood.
"I have a duty to Rome and will not lie." He turned to the messenger. "Go and tell them I shall be there presently," he instructed, then dismissed him.
* * *
Casca nervously awaited Caesar's arrival, repeatedly checking to ensure that his dagger would not become tangled in his robes when he drew it. The Liberatores had decided that today, the Ides of March, would be the dictator's last. They had discussed a number of plans, eventually deciding to rid themselves of Caesar's growing power literally with their own hands, and Casca had been tasked with striking the first blow. Seeing Casca's agitated state, Brutus approached his fellow conspirator.
"Control yourself, man!" he snapped. "If Caesar observes your fidgeting, he'll know something is amiss." Brutus pointed to the far wall of the curia. "Wait over there; the rest of us will meet him outside the Theatre of Pompey and bring him here. When he begins to read the petition, circle around and attack him from behind. Do not fail!"
Marcus Spurius approached the two men. "You were right, Brutus; Caesar has entered the Campus Martius. It is time."
Brutus smiled to himself. In a few minutes, Caesar would be dead and the triumphant Liberatores would announce the salvation of the Republic to the people. It would be some time before Caesar's will was read, disclosing what Brutus had already discovered: in the event that Octavian died before Caesar, he, Marcus Junius Brutus, would become Caesar's sole heir. As he walked with the other Liberatores to meet Caesar, he considered each of them in turn for inclusion on the proscription lists he was drawing up. He was only forty-one years old, and intended to rule unchallenged for years to come.
[Word count = 674]