"Sic Semper Tyrannis"
Genre: Drama, Tragedy
Characters: Ensemble Cast
Summary: The Ides came, and the Ides past – around the players within, the world keeps turning on.
Notes: These were written for the 50 Sentence Challenge (hosted on another site) – white includes writing four stories a month, each for a different fandom. The stories produced are much as the title would suggest – fifty prompts have fifty sentences written to them, and from those snippets a story is formed. Obviously, this challenge will slaughter grammar, and bring out the seldom seen from the muse - but is a fun and curious thing that has already been incredibly interesting. If you wish to, you can track my progress in my profile.
For this set, Julius Ceasar was the obvious choice, and I had a very interesting time trying to convey the majesty and political intrigue of Shakespeare's play in a very constrictive formate. In the end, it was certainly worth it just for the learning experience it turned out to be - that was for sure!
I hope you enjoy my humble offerings to a most cherished work, on these Ides of March.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
The very thought of the ancient greatness that was the Republic of Rome being held in subjection by a king was an abhorrence that whispered in the minds of the people, even as he which they prided to call Dictator edged closer and closer to the title.
"What true triumph is brought from Caesar holding in subjection other Romans?" Marellus scathed, Flavius at his side nodding in agreement as they observed the crowds cheer for the defeat of Pompey just as once they had cheered for the victories of him.
In the years since the slaying of Pompey and the various battles won, Caesar had yet to return home – and the time away had done nothing but fix the image of the man as a God in the people's eyes – who had not the sight to see him as a mere mortal before them.
Upon the recently erected statues of Caesar in the Rostra, there had been placed laurel crowns – bound by white ribbon, the color of Roman royalty – and upon seeing so, Marellus and Flavius felt a rage burn low in them as they saw a physical portent of Rome's immanent bondage.
"My name is Caesar, not King," Caesar assured the crowd upon seeing the way the whole of those gathered frowned at the few men who offered him the title, his brow creased in a troubled way.
While the people cheered and rejoiced, several men of the senate looked down on the chaotic festivities that accompanied the triumph, their words hidden and their thoughts just barely daring to judge the one who returned as a conqueror in their midst.
"Already they call him Jupiter Julius," Cassius scathed, his words resounding low within Brutus, even as he tried to keep straight the lines between honour and duty within himself.
"I would die for the idea of Rome rather than sit by and see her torn apart," Brutus whispered, the acknowledgment – while the truest of them - only served to ignite the whisper of an idea that had started to rot at Cassius' mind, refusing to let go.
Cassius had sided with Pompey in the civil war – and Caesar's pardoning of him (for it was well known that the Dictator had an unwise habit of forgiving friends and enemies both; keeping them close like snakes amongst a quiver of arrows) only served to fuel Cassius' age old anger and abhorrence of dictators – an abhorrence that he could trace back to the time of Sulla himself.
Garbed in goatskins and splattered with sacrificial blood, Antony sped towards the gates of the Field of Mars with the other runners, being sure to stray close to Calpurnia in order to grace her with his touch, and a superstitious lift of her barrenness.
"The people offer you this through me," implored Antony in a grand tone of voice, smirking as he offered Caesar the crown entwined with the laurel; bidding him thrice to accept the gift – and thrice was he refused.
The Carista holiday allowed Cassius to approach Brutus and reconcile the bad blood between the two of them (for one had been favored more than the other after the defeat of Pompey, even though they had been promised equal); and speak of his discontentment to one who would see the only foreseeable end as a noble deed.
"Beware the Ides of March," was the murmured prophesy, said from a reedy voice that was all the whisper of grave winds and the howling of a dread spirit's promise.
"Leave me my battlefields and men killing men honourably – these politics make me weary," Caesar confided to Calpurnia as the festivities came to an end late in the night.
"Four days past the Ides, Caesar departs for his three year campaign against the Getae – he is a conqueror, and a man must do what man is made by the Gods to do – before then, Brutus, you must decide where your loyalties lie."
Just as Brutus hated the rule of oppression he feared would overcome Rome should his dear friend become king, Cassius hated the ruler that would take Rome - and his hate defined his very being from the far off depths of his soul to the harsh burn of his eyes.
Deep in the night before the Ides, the heavens split a warning to the earth below; unsheathing specters and unleashing violent tempests upon the dreams of those who knew and trembled before portents waiting to be fulfilled.
"Don't go," Calpurnia pleaded, her normally level and gentle voice alight with an unfamiliar passion to his ears, her eyes wild while lost to the vision of her dreams and the strength of her certainty that if he were to part from his side this morning, he would not live to return to her.
With trembling hands, Portia helped her husband strap his dagger to his left arm, carefully covered by his robes of state, her fingers loitering in the folds of the cloth as she breathed in deep – reminding herself of all that her husband strove to accomplish, and all that she was to stand by and let him risk his life for.
"It seems that I shall not be the only beast without a heart if I let such portents keep me from the senate today," Caesar made light of the divination of the haruspex, however much the news of the distorted sacrifice may have truly troubled him.
Cassius lifted his eyes to the solemn statue of Pompey presiding over them all, his form bowing as he would bow before a carved God, a silent prayer for success dropping from his lips to fall to the still unsullied stone below.
"The senate wishes to grant you a crown today," Decius said in a simpering tone, his eyes shrewd, "and yet, if we must wait for Caesar to grace us with his presence until a time when Calpurnia has had better dreams . . ."
Brutus shook his head when those gathered suggested that Antony be swept aside with Caesar – the murdering of his friend was righteous and just, anything more then that and they would be just another dishonorable bid for power, drenched in blood on their way to the pulpit of success.
Steadily the number of those gathered at Pompey's Theater grew and grew, as if was known that this would be the last time Caesar would preside over them until he returned from battle against the Gatae.
With his heart hammering in his chest, Artemidorus pushed past the crowd, desperate to give Caesar the scroll in his hand – and warn his sovereign of the legion of men who plotted against him.
"There is only thing more treacherous than Antony's sword in defense of Caesar – and that is his words," Cassius muttered.
"What violence is this?" Caesar twisted, and caught Casca's wrist in his hand as he felt blood flow from where the other man's dagger had nicked the side of his throat – cowardly approaching him from the back, rather than face him eye to eye.
There were not, and never would be, words within Brutus to describe the look in the other man's dark eyes as he twisted the blade deep – clasped in Caesar's embrace as if he were a fond son, and returning the affection and mercy with a death's stroke of his own.
"I that loved Caesar struck him so in the name of a higher love – a love for Rome and all that she can and deserves to be," Brutus insisted to Antony, the other man's eyes hard as he took in the bloodied form of his hero, dead before the statue of Pompey.
For now, they would see him as a coward or a flatterer – but they would know the truth once he was granted the chance to speak, determined as Antony was that his words would stab them over with many wounds until the Tiber herself could not handle the amount of blood that poured from them – just as they had so faithlessly done so to Caesar.
"Out of twenty-three wounds, only one was fatal, my lady," the physician said to the grieving Calpurnia, who had yet to let go of her husband's hand, or move to wipe the angry tear tracks from her face.
"And for the better," Marellus chuckled upon hearing, spitting on the ground in memory of the Dictator, Flavius fond with agreement at his side.
How did one explain how and why they had felled a God, Brutus wondered as he stood before the gathered citizens of Rome, breathing in deep as he carefully chose his words.
Controlling a crowd was a time honed art where one read the rise and fall of voices as one would read the current of the waves at sea – and so Antony let them murmur and swell before he cut into the crest, aiming his words to turn the maelstrom of people (even more fickle than ocean winds) in his favor.
Brutus did not stay to hear Antony speak – he couldn't – instead fleeing home in order to properly mourn there, his stomach rebelling against him, and his hands shaking as if possessed – he had never been a soldier, and he had never killed before; this was one deed that he'd never be able to wash his hands of, and that fact above all other tore at his normally peaceful soul.
Octavius was already waiting for him at Caesar's residence when he arrived, the stone crafted youth just barely smiling as he smelled the blood in the water – and the prospect of open power left before him.
"You must flee – and fight your fight upon another field, one of your time and choosing," Portia insisted when first she saw him returned, "for the people thank you not, and they wish for blood."
Servilia couldn't seem to catch her breath as she listened to the proof of her son's treachery with the rest of the crowd – her disbelief complete as she said a silent prayer in mourning to the man she had adored throughout her life – and an apology for Caesar drawing Brutus close on the sole fact that he was of her body born.
With a burning in her heart, Calpurnia watched as the foreign Queen stole her last goodbye with Caesar (she was not ignorant – she knew of her husband's affairs, and she knew that if it were permissible by law she would have been cast aside for the other long ago), and still, seeing the opulently beautiful woman grant herself a quiet mourning (that she would never be able to show before any other audience) touched a small part of Calpurnia, unadmitted and unexamined.
With careful fingers, Antony placed down the laurel wreath, sorrow heavy in his heart, and expectations for victory high and heavier still as he vowed to live up to the teachings of the one who had come before him.
"More Romans spilling the blood of Romans," Cicero scoffed, his old eyes harsh on the gathered remains of the senate – knowing, as cynical age would know – that by killing the tyrant, they had done nothing more than open up the way for a new one to rise.
Upon the plains of Philippi he would see the work that the Ides had started completed; no matter how the shadows awaiting them seem to cry with ghosts, or the harsh words of Antony and Octavious promise them nothing but a soldier's death – or the prospect of being dragged home in chains as yet another triumph marched across Rome's fair streets.
How many times had he watched the triumphs of returning heroes – secretly disapproving of the fanfare that killing brought – and ignorantly thought their trials empty in comparison to the more subtle warfare of the senate . . . but that was before he had taken to the battlefield, his opinions made in ignorance.
Troubled, Brutus looked on the financial difficulties of raising an army – refusing to sink to unscrupulous means, and refuted by Cassius, he finally let his temper get the better of him when dealing with his hard hearted brother-in-law.
"She's gone to Plouton – as all must eventually go," Brutus said to his men, his manner flippant and strong; where later he would take the time to properly mourn and shed tears for his dear wife – taken away from him by her own hand in the most gruesome of ways.
"The black part of your reflection," the spirit answered plainly, without prompt or ceremony – just as the ghost's likeness had done when living; and Brutus paled when he saw the scarlet decorating the specter's form just as it had when last he had seen him.
The Brutus of ancient times – the first consul of Rome who had removed from his throne Tarquinius, the last king of old – would have wept to see where his namesake had fallen forth, the nobleness of his deeds not lost until he drew his final breath.
"Caesar," Antony inclined his head slightly, his words a dry point between a mock and grudging respect as Octavius accepted the title as if it were owed to him.
With a bitter smile, Cassius looked down at the sword who stole his life away from him – the same that his hand had used to steal the blood of Caesar - and managed to give a rasping chuckle, "And Caesar – now you are avenged."
How strange, Brutus thought while he still could call his mind to order - just barely recognizing the ghost that watched his death with pitying and satisfied eyes – that Rome would not have a king after all, for the name of Caesar was now higher than that of king; the seemingly divine name now a title for those who would rope Rome in chains in the years to come – in mere moments, he'd know for certain if his old friend was laughing at this irony, for he too would join him in eternity.