The Rise of Caesarion’s Rome, Book One
Fantasy, Alternative History
Date Published: October 21, 2016
A single event can reshape a world—or shatter it forever.
Fifteen years ago, Caesar escaped assassination, and went on to be crowned Emperor of Rome. His son by Cleopatra, Caesarion, carries the blood of Mars, Venus, Isis, and Osiris in his veins—but will the power that the gods have granted him, be enough to secure his hold on Rome after his father’s death?
What of the powers his sister, Eurydice Julia, has begun to manifest, and her puzzling visions that hint at the sacrifices that the gods of both Rome and Egypt will demand of them?
Will they, together, be strong enough to forge a better world than the one their ancestors built?
Return to the world of Edda-Earth, where magic and science coexist and all the gods are real.
And always remember this truth: The end of all things . . . was just the beginning.
Recent Praise for Ave, Caesarion:
“. . . irresistible wit and superior characterization . . . . A scorching alternate-history adventure packed with romance and fantasy action.” — Kirkus
“. . . a fantastically complex, evocative and involving story that moves through . . . every nuance of the social, spiritual and political world of their times. [A]s gripping, involving, and as real as today’s modern world.” — D. Donovan, Midwest Book Review
On this warm summer evening, fifteen years after Julius Caesar had been crowned in the Forum of Rome, the Empire held its breath. Rumor—fleeter of foot than Mercury—swept through the city, from patrician homes to plebeian ones, whispering that Gaius Julius Caesar had suffered some manner of fit. It had long been murmured that he was subject to the falling-sickness, perhaps contracted in tropical climes, or meted out as punishment by the gods for having dared to ascend so far. More troubling, however, were Rumor’s sly additions to her tale: that the seventy-year-old emperor could not rise, and that his foreign-born wife, Cleopatra, would not leave his side, whispering spells and incantations to keep him alive.
The freeborn muttered in the marketplaces; the Empress might be a curse on Rome. Their beloved Emperor had divorced his third wife, Calpurnia, after his coronation, and had extended to Cleopatra and the Hellene-Egyptian House of Ptolemy Roman citizenship for “services to the Empire.” Italians who had only recently been granted citizenship spat at those words; her services, in their opinion, were those of a harlot, and the rights that their grandfathers had died for in the Social War had been granted to her for what lay between her thighs.
Few in Rome understood that the bread distributed by the government—the Annona—came at such a low cost to the state solely because Egypt’s fertile fields provided their plenty at the whim of their queen.
In the last light of sunset, five cohorts of legionnaires marched along the Via Flaminia towards the gates of Rome, accompanying two young men on horseback. The dirt and dust on their uniforms suggested a long journey, conducted rapidly. The senior centurion and all the men on foot were hardened soldiers in their thirties, members of the Legio X Equestris—the first legion levied by Julius Caesar. The Equestris formed the backbone of Caesar’s Praetorian Guard, the personal protectors accorded to many a general over the centuries. Hence the distinctive white crests on the helmets of their officers.
Of the pair on horseback, the elder, who wore the long white crest of a tribune of the Tenth Legion, didn’t look to have escaped his adolescent years; the younger, who wore no uniform, but rather just a tunic and cloak suitable for riding, looked barely old enough to have received his toga virilis. “Malleolus! Fall the men out,” the older of the pair called to the centurion, reining in. “Let them eat and bathe and see their families. But be at my father’s villa outside of Rome first thing in the morning.”
The centurion thumped his breastplate in acknowledgement, and the weary legionnaires gave a desultory cheer. But the centurion let the rest of his men file past, and then caught the young officer’s reins before he could thump a heel into his horse’s flanks. “I’ll be going with you, dominus?” Malleolus asked. It wasn’t quite a question.
The corners of the young man’s mouth kinked upwards slightly. “This is Rome.”
“Yes, my lord.” Solemn acknowledgement. “And fifteen years ago, seven men tried to murder your father. On the sacred soil of Rome.”
The young man put a hand on his shoulder, imperceptible through the armor. “I’m harder to kill than my father, Malleolus. Though I thank you for your care.” In the last rays of sunset, his eyes gleamed an unnatural shade under the shadows cast by his helm—the color of spilled blood. For Ptolemy XV Julius Caesarion Philopator Philomator—generally called Caesarion—was god-born.
His mother, Cleopatra, who had made her son co-ruler of Egypt with herself when he was no more than three, claimed that the blood of Isis and Osiris ran in her veins. His father had once minted coins that reminded the people of Rome that his house claimed descent from Venus. And none could deny that Mars had favored Caesar on the battlefield as well. Yet neither of his parents had shown the signs of divine favor as clearly as Caesarion did.
Malleolus released the reins, saying mildly, “I would sleep better tonight, my lord, if you’d allow me to follow you to the villa’s gates.”
A quick smile. “You’re going to insist?”
“I would never so presume. But I do ask, dominus.”
“For the sake of your good rest, then, yes.” A nod, and then the young patrician clucked at his horse, preparing to enter the city. But now his brother, young Alexander, caught the reins. “Caesarion,” Alexander said, his voice tight, “You’re not carrying a sword. You can enter the city legally. But . . . if you enter now, you’re giving up your right to a triumph.”
“I don’t care,” Caesarion replied impatiently. “Father had a choice once, between being accorded a triumph for his victories, and standing for election as consul. He chose the consulship. You pick the thing that’s more important. And seeing him before he dies . . . that’s more important.” He grimaced. “And ensuring that we’re here to deal with issues of succession, too. Gods. I hate thinking like this.”
Alexander shook his head sharply. Five years younger than his brother, he still seemed to have more political acumen. “A triumph will ensure the love of the plebeians. And you must have the mob behind you before dealing with the Senate.”
Caesarion’s expression tautened. “It’s strange, Alexander. I see your face, but I hear our mother’s voice when you speak.” An impatient shake of his head. “Every man who stood with me in Germania deserves that triumph. They all deserve that recognition, because without the men who followed me, the seventh Legion would have been cut off, surrounded, and destroyed in that damned forest.” His face settled into stubborn lines. “But holding a triumph instead of making my way to Father’s deathbed?” He regarded Alexander steadily. “Bad taste. It would look as if I valued his position more than his life.” He stared at the Porta Flaminia, and then turned his head and spat into the dust at the side of the road. “To Dis with the damned triumph. Let’s go home, brother.”
Centurion Ramirus Modius Malleolus trotted silently alongside the pair as they entered the city. They looked far too young to bear the weight of the Empire on their shoulders. But Caesarion will have to carry it. And in spite of the young man’s high rank and youth, he liked Caesarion. Uncannily, almost everyone did. The love of his father’s legions was mostly assured, but Malleolus had seen freedmen and slaves who served the legionnaires in their camps—men who hated anyone with a patrician name—smile when Caesarion addressed them.
He sighed, and kept his eyes on the people crowding the streets. No one had yet given them more than a glance, but someone had to keep these two youngsters alive.
Deborah L. Davitt was born in Washington State, but grew up in Reno, Nevada, where she earned her BA in English Literature. She received her MA in English at Penn State, where she taught college rhetoric and composition, and has since worked as a technical writer in industries including nuclear submarines, NASA, and computer manufacturing.
Her poetry has appeared in Star*Line, Blue Monday Review’s Storytime Challenge, Grievous Angel, Silver Blade, Dreams and Nightmares, Poetry Quarterly, and other venues. A short-story of hers has appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, and she has four novels published to Kindle–The Valkyrie, The Goddess Denied, The Goddess Embraced, and Ave, Caesarion.