Only a Woman This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 12, 2011
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“My Lady, Octavian is here.” Neferura, my only loyal servant was in a panic. “It will only be a matter of time before he finds you here.”

“I won’t hide any longer. Bring my paints, my best red sheath and my most expensive jewelry. I’ve charmed two Roman men; there’s no reason I can’t charm this one too.”

Neferura bowed, then ran out of the mausoleum I had been hiding in for the past few months. Had it really only been a couple of months since everything had gone wrong? Our fleet was destroyed at Actium, Mark Antony committed suicide and now the Emperor had arrived in Egypt. If I couldn’t charm Octavian like I charmed Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, then I would soon return to my mausoleum as a corpse.

Neferura soon returned with all the things I had requested. She helped me wriggle out of my plain white sheath and into my sumptuous red one that left little to imagination. Then she brushed my tangled black hair, pinned it up and slipped my wig of a hundred ringlets into place. I sat very still as she outlined my eyes in kohl, used henna to redden my lips and covered the dark circles under my eyes with powder. From the small selection of jewelry she brought, I chose a silver circlet with a huge red jasper stone that hung on my forehead, bracelets of electrum, a belt of moonstones and rings of lapis lazuli. I looked at myself in the small bronze mirror Neferura brought and smiled. I looked perfect, as usual. Now all I had to do was make Octavian agree.

“You manipulated a good Roman man into turning against his own country.”

“Me? I am just a woman. What influence could a woman have over a strong Roman man?”

Octavian spluttered at my words; he was not buying into my story. And he definitely wasn’t falling for my body like Julius and Mark had. My intelligence only threatened him, so that definitely wasn’t helping my case. Time for Plan B.

“You need a powerful ally in Egypt; I can maintain control over my people. Let me remain Pharaoh and Rome will reap the rewards.”

For the first time in our meeting, Octavian smiled. “Cleopatra, you are an intelligent woman. Tell me why would I need a powerful ally in the newest Roman province?”

“You’re annexing Egypt?” I gasped.

“Of course. I have no wish to quell the rebellion of yet another tempestuous Eastern Queen.” He snapped his fingers. “Take her away, but do not harm her. I wish to display her at my triumph when I return.”

The Roman guards marched me at sword point to a tiny room in the palace that had been a guest room. Before they locked me away for good, I turned to face them and suggestively lifted my sheath to reveal my right calf. One of the soldiers hesitated, but the other pushed me into my prison and slammed the door behind me. To my surprise, Neferura was there, setting up a simple cot by the door. Seeing me, she bowed before speaking.

“I convinced the guards to let me tend to you. My Queen, what are you going to do now?”

“I am going to deny Emperor Octavian his greatest prize.” I smiled reassuringly to hide the fact I was ready to break down and cry. “I don’t care how you do it, but bring me an asp. I’m going to die with the honour that befits the last Pharaoh of Egypt.”

Neferura nodded and I could see the tears in her deep brown eyes. I walked over to her and pulled her into a hug, a huge breech of station on my part. But I didn’t care; I was about to die and I needed to thank her for her complete loyalty to me. I felt the tears run down my face, but I let them flow. After all, if I had my way, I was not long for this world.

After Neferura retouched my makeup, I was ready. She had smuggled the asp past the guards by hiding it in a basket of figs. I reached in the figs and nearly smiled in triumph when my fingers closed around the asp’s cool, smooth body. It hissed as I pulled it out of the basket. Good, it was already annoyed at being kept under the heavy figs.

Its eyes stared coldly at me as I stroked its head, enticing it to bite me. Finally, it struck my wrist with lightning speed. I bit my tongue to keep from crying out in pain. When the snake let go, I quickly dumped it in the fig basket and put the lid on it. I didn’t want it to slither out and bite Neferura, my only friend left.

Within minutes, my breathing became laboured. I lay down on the bed and carefully composed myself. I was going to die with dignity, the way a Pharaoh should. My last breaths were steeped in agony, yet I was strangely happy. I had thwarted Octavian, denying him his greatest prize.

But my happiness didn’t last long. The gods in Judgment Hall were calling for me, Queen Cleopatra, the last and greatest Pharaoh.

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This article has 255 comments. Post your own now!

owkey said...
Aug. 24, 2011 at 8:40 pm
Great stuff. I like how you take on Cleopatra from a completely different angle than what I thought of her. You porttray her as a a character I'd actually support, unlike history's version. Truthfully I'd like more imagery and stuff but that's just me :3 Keep up the good work.
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 25, 2011 at 12:11 pm
Okay.  I'll consider your suggestion.
IntrepidRose This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 24, 2011 at 1:25 pm
Lovely. It's well written. It refreshes my memory when it comes to ancient history.
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 24, 2011 at 1:26 pm
Thanks for commenting!
dancemaniac said...
Aug. 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm
once again...LOVED it(: you are great at pulling me in from start to end!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 23, 2011 at 8:53 pm
Thank you! :)
Emiri replied...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Aw! I just love Cleopatra's little servant, their relationship! I also respect your knowledge of this stuff. It's way bigger than mine. Congradulations, you are educating me! Thank you!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Oct. 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm
Thanks for commenting!
_Zavery_ said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 8:19 pm
This was really grasping, great story!   Five stars! *****
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 8:31 pm
Thank you very much! :)
writerfreak21231 said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 4:19 pm
WOW!!! this was a really good story! I just LOVED it!!! Thank you for telling me to read this!!! :)(:
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm
Thanks for commenting!  I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
Emmyluwho said...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 11:46 am
I loved the way you put this together. I admired Cleopatra and when I read this, I almost felt as if I knew her. Good job! Check out my story "Put On a Brave  Face"
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Thanks for commenting!  And I'll definitely check out your story. :)
xelawriter97 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 9:43 pm
Just one word: Excellent. As I've said before, I love your portrayals of Cleopactra! I think they're exactly what she would have thought, said, and done. The way you executed the story was brilliant. Great work! I'm a fan.
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Thanks so much! :)  I'm glad you liked it.
rage_against_the_machine said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm
This was great! Historic fiction has always seemed to me to be difficult to write, as you have to get the facts correct. I applaud your creativity and writing prowess. Excellent!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Aug. 21, 2011 at 8:39 pm
Thank you very much! :)
rubyrose1 replied...
Sept. 27, 2011 at 3:43 pm
Oh wow! I loved this!!! I really dont have anything negative to say about this at all except that  props to you for writing historical fiction!! Amazing
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 27, 2011 at 8:32 pm
Thanks rubyrose1!  I'm glad you enjoyed it.
Clear_Skies said...
Aug. 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm
This is great! I've always been fascinated by Cleopatra.
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