It had been more than thirty years since I fled Ostia. I had been slowly making my way west through the expanse of the Republic, consciously applying a tactic I had used for close to fifteen centuries: I remained a slave and managed to move from one master to another every ten or fifteen years. As a slave I could come and go barely noticed, lost in the teeming numbers of those in bondage whilst carefully choosing my next move. My greatest desire was to remain anonymous and unremarkable.
I felt it before I heard anything out of the ordinary. I knew I had caught somebody’s eye yet I continued my haggling with the young man selling round loaves of bread from a stand just outside his father’s bakery. I hoped whatever had drawn attention my way would simply move on. Alas it was not to be.
“You, girl,” a man’s voice called out as a hand touched my shoulder, “come here. The lady would speak with you a moment.”
I turned my eyes and saw he was not a soldier, though likely he had been in the past. Instead he wore the livery of a Senator’s private guard and the crest on his bronze breastplate was familiar. I nodded without saying a word and tossed a silver coin at the boy I had been haggling with, then left my basket with him as I let the guard lead me to a palanquin resting a few feet away, its bearers sitting at their ease, but sweating from their effort.
The palanquin was not overly ornate, but was clearly well made and comfortable, with thin curtains draped about it to obscure the figure reclining within. The guard drew one curtain aside and in that moment I met eyes I had last seen decades before. Eyes set in a face still proud and strong even if wrinkled and oh, so very astonished.
“Lady Vipsania,” I smiled as coolly as I could manage.
“You…” she whispered, the color draining from her face. She tried to sit up and nearly swooned to the point I thought I might be fortunate and she would suffer heart failure or apoplexy, but she steadied herself. “You!” she exclaimed more forcefully.
“Don’t do it,” I whispered, fixing my gaze on hers. “Do not make the same mistake Rufus made. You always thought him a fool, but his only failing was to be wrong. He thought I was powerful, convinced me I was powerful, but in the end I am merely cursed. Leave me to my fate or risk taking that curse upon yourself, just as Rufus did.”
I hated her, but never thought her a fool. In more private circumstances I might have ended her life out of spite regardless of consequence, but this was a very public place on a very busy day as the seasons turned from winter to spring. I could see her consideration of my words playing out on her face until finally she sank back onto her side and motioned to her man.
“Move on,” she snapped at him, “I am done with this one.”
And that was the last I ever saw of her, just over two thousand one hundred years ago.