He doesn't yet know that I will die in his arms.
There are a great many things he doesn't yet know, and a great many things he can guess at but will never know.
The night he left for war, I saw it unfold in my dreams: him bowing before a red serpent, and my body being ravaged by a golden eagle such as the Romans carry. I saw us both, in our own ways, descending to the very edge of madness.
I don't know which vision frightened me more.
Sometimes, when the gods mean to be kind, they are also cruel. I knew what the soldiers would do once they tore me away from him. That night, I shed my clothes in preparation and fortified myself with the memory of his lovemaking to make it easier. I thought that as they thrust into me and beat me into submission I could hold onto his love. But one man became dozens, one blow turned into twenty, and when I could no longer scream, when my body and spirit went numb with horror, I fled inside myself.
When the fight finally left her eyes…
In my haze, as the Syrian clasped iron bands around my wrists and throat and chained my spirit, as the blood and seed ran down my thighs, I heard those words. I heard them uttered by the first man who took me, and then I heard my husband's fury and anguish. I saw the ribbon fall at his feet. How he holds onto it! Keep it close to your thighs and think of me. Our enemies torment him with my suffering, until he no longer feels what they do to him.
Be strong, my love.
Had I not known what was to pass, what fury the Romans themselves were about to unleash, my spirit would have fled to the Underworld, and I would have died under the men raping me.
But no, he must see me one more time, and there must be blood.
He must never trust a Roman's promise.
As I climb into the cart, I know the driver will betray me, for he is the same man who has been searching for me for nearly a year. He will wait till I am asleep and drive his dagger into my breast. He will soak himself in my blood and pretend we were attacked. Yes, it will hurt, there will be blood, but I am the sacrifice the god demands, and I am ready.
I am growing weaker. There is so much blood. I know I will live until he opens the door and takes me in his arms. I know I will see his face and the serpents on his breast, and it will be a sign that he has conquered. I will die a fortunate woman, to know his love again. I will feel eternity shining warm on my face and hear his voice murmuring I'm here. No words will pass my lips. It isn't necessary. In time, he will know the truth, and then he will hear me utter the god's own command: kill them all.