Chapter 3

Beat

My heart beating; a movement so wild it threatened to burst from my chest and leave me for dead. No matter my words, no matter the herbal remedy nothing could settle it. My body felt exhausted with its incessant pounding, never giving me peace.

Fear was a strange thing, how it affected the body with its iron grip … and the mind. It seemed my body was its chosen host, like a shadow never leaving my side. Always there, silently waiting as I fell into restless slumber, ever present as I awoke to its call.

As time wore on however frustration fought to champion fear. What had I to fear with his return? I was Emperor; he had nothing but his flesh, something I planned to remove him of. We would no longer stand as equals in the people's eyes, the scales would tip, Fate I knew would deem me more worthy.

Yet how had he survived? True, Fate had granted me my dreams of supremacy, the love of my people yet the man still lived. He had fought through battles, countless barbaric tribes, escaped the judgement of my army and now he proved unending in the arena. The man bled that was clear but was it possible for the body to bleed but still live on immortal? I considered myself a philosophical man at times, wise in history and the Gods but never had I pondered the concept of immortality more so then when I found Maximus alive and well that day. Even I had allowed him to live, the power to please my people overbearing my wish to cut out his heart. Perhaps immortality referred to more then the impossibility to fall to the sword or malady of the body. Perhaps it also meant that no man had the power over himself to kill the chosen being? Against Maximus all fighters seemed pitiful, the strongest man too slow, the sly to focused on scheming to halt his brute force. The power Maximus had over men and woman took over my thoughts, giving me no opportunity to concentrate on matters of state for any needed periods of time. The only question I sought an answer to was how to kill a man whose spirit was invincible and whose name could not be silenced?

My control was slipping despite my best efforts. Disloyalty was coming forth from the darkness and lies were said with the beauty of truth. As Emperor it was my duty to weed out the wrong, to end the malice of others; to correct the false deification of worthless men whose presence seemed to infect even those closest to me. I knew Maximus's return had stirred emotions in my sister that despite my curiosity I did not wish to learn. They had held each other in high regard and I knew despite her denial she had loved him once and he her. I hated them for it but it became clear it was meaningless; a fantasy that had sprung and passed quickly like the seasons, leaving memories that had once been warm but now turned cold to remember. Lucilla seemed as surprised as me at his return and despite her past aided me in dealing with the betrayal I had felt. Her words of judgement sealing the fate of those that had lied to me that night in Germania.

Her draw to him was inevitable however and I did not blame her. After all, my father could not deny the man, loving him as a son. He had been Maximus, my brother. In his frail mind Maximus and I had been equal. The betrayal of my father and his selfish plans bring only sad memories to my mind now, his weak exhausted mental state so pitiful. Why he had not come to me to discuss such vital dreams of our state, me who was most knowledgeable in such things, his true son and heir. Rome's heir. It was clear my father was failing towards his end, before I brought him the peaceful comfort of rest. He was after all my father.

My father takes up little of my thoughts now, no longer are there endless snide comments made by the faceless in the crowd reminding me of the man. His name now replaced ironically by the man he wished to succeed him in ruling. When his name was uttered, no matter when spoken like a whisper in the breeze, my heart would pound like the drums on the battle field; such unceasing force that disrupted sleep, when I ate and rejoiced in seeing my family. The fear soon turned from my fathers name to the dread of hearing the utterance of Maximus.

No, I had reached my full of such feelings and anxiety. I had to focus my fear, take back the control, attempt to understand what drove it. I was generous enough to be able to admit that Maximus held a power over me, the power to steal my every waking moment, causing a horrific transformation in my emotions.

True Maximus had a power all his own, whether the Demons favoured him or no I would prove that I was foe to be challenged with. I found his spies, his weaknesses and I had taken them proving that without his minions he was alone. His poisonous character polluting even into the ranks of the council but then old men are always easily corruptible. And so with the aid of Falco I once again stole his allies from him. He may believe himself to be immortal but like his family his friends were of living blood. He would learn that if he would not surrender, all those he held dear would suffer with him once again. Other men may see me as cruel but those whom aided Maximus were traitors to me and therefore a threat to Rome herself. I would kill any man whom threatened her and all I had done to make her stronger.

Walking under the gradually cooling sun I agitatedly tried to keep my mind busy and away from such thoughts. Moving helped ease the time until I once again saw Maximus in the arena the following day. My mind again grew dark. Who else could defeat him; was there in fact a gladiator willing to try to win his freedom through Maximus? Were the slavers even willing to risk sending one of there own men? A nice image of Maximus alone in the arena surrounded by a hundred lions, his own hands the only protection from the beasts came to mind. I couldn't deny the smile and chuckle that escaped my lips at the sound of screaming filling my ears, the roars of the lions mixed with the crowds cheers for my victory and for delivering such a display.

The sound of shouting and sharp bangs awoke me from my dreaming and as I turned the corner cautiously I found Lucius happily at play with a servant. It was a warm sight to my troubled heart that despite all the pain that I was suffering my dearest nephew was untroubled. A warm sight to me indeed until those words left his sweet innocent lips. My heart froze, cracking as if broken and now unable to work. In that moment I missed the beating, it had meant I was alive. Now I felt dead. Even Lucius loved Maximus the corrupted boy believing that the Spanish peasant would save Rome from danger. The kingdom did not need saving! No, if it was failing at all it was because of the weak selfish willed men like Maximus and Gracchus. No, Rome did not need to be changed. I had feared and attempted to uphold my will to support Rome but I realised despite my efforts I had neglected my family, those closest to me.

I took Lucius by the hand, a loving smile on my face as I took him inside. I would save Lucius from the darkness of others and if I could not then there was only one person to blame. One beautiful person.

My heart began to beat again when I saw her, furious at first until it slowly stilled. As she came before me and heard my short telling of the fate of Claudius to Lucius I knew she saw my knowledge hidden in my words. It was then my heart began to settle, calmed by the fresh wonderful knowledge that Lucilla's heartbeat was increasing. Finally fear had transferred itself from me to another. I was relieved but now I craved the time of lonely fear and despair to the betrayal and anger I now felt. I could still face the world even if the God's themselves turned from me as long as she was there.

Lucius moved slightly in my lap, his own heartbeat quickening as he saw his mothers tears unsure why she was acting so. He had told her it was just a story there was no need for her to shed tears she was lucky her family loved and adored her. No her fate would never end as a betrayer. After all I had the power to protect her. I had the power.

My heart was steady now, I had taken back my control and I would fight Maximus tomorrow for Lucilla, for Lucius and for Rome. I had finally realised that was why Maximus had failed to die, the God's had chosen me for the task. Only I had the power to shape the mans destiny.

I pitted Lucilla that night; I did not envy the pain that moved in her chest ready to destroy her, if she failed to make the right choice.


A.N. Blimey its been a while hasn't it. There's only one chapter left and I've written the ending already so fingers crossed i'll have it up soon. Thank you sooo much for all the new fav's and reads, words cannot describe how much it means to me knowing people like my writing :D Reviews always make me happy and can help me to keep on track as I know its been a while since i've had the time and energy to work on this. Let me know what you guys all think! :D