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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Artgirl1999 said...
Jan. 12, 2013 at 2:05 pm
This is great! I love how you portrayed Cleopatra. i think she was just like that!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Jan. 14, 2013 at 11:29 pm
Thank you! I'm glad you see it that way.
BellaCharlie said...
Nov. 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm
I love the way you painted pictures with your words and the way you portrayed Cleopatra. Your writing is absolutely awesome!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Nov. 24, 2012 at 10:42 am
Thanks!  I do try to describe things well in my writing.
vballgirl99 said...
Sept. 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm
This is amazingly good writing! Your word choices and the imagery when you described Cleopatra, painted a perfect picture in my head!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm
Thanks!  I'm glad you liked it.
BlueSunset said...
Sept. 19, 2012 at 4:30 am
Amazing. Great use of vocabulary, impressive transition and everything is just perfect! You are definetly gifted! :D
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 20, 2012 at 8:30 pm
Thanks for your kind words!  You've just made my day. :)
Aderes47 said...
Aug. 28, 2012 at 10:24 pm
This is a great story! Keep it up!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Sept. 1, 2012 at 9:30 pm
Thanks for the encouragement! :)
Kanupriya said...
Jul. 15, 2012 at 5:51 am
WOW...u've done a fantastic jobs with words...nice baseline and plot...gonna tag it to my favs :)
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Jul. 22, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Thank you very much!  I'm glad you like it. :)
MarieAntoinette2012 said...
Jun. 1, 2012 at 7:53 am
Perfect! I knew who it was as soon as I read Octavian and Mark Anthony!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
Jul. 9, 2012 at 9:32 am
Thank you!  It's good that the subject was clear to you.
MarieAntoinette2012 replied...
Jul. 16, 2012 at 8:55 pm
Well, I'm a history nerd, so I'm really glad you took time to go through details. Some of the books I've read have had it all wrong, and I'm glad to see some one so dedicated to the truth.
HappySappy said...
May 2, 2012 at 8:30 pm
This is an amazing portrayal of Cleopatra. I love historical fiction and read it often, and I have to say that this piece was very well done!
CarrieAnn13 replied...
May 3, 2012 at 12:17 am
Thanks!  I'm always glad to hear from a fellow fan of historical fiction.  I'm glad you enjoyed it! :)
Regia said...
Mar. 13, 2012 at 10:44 am
Perfectly written. I loved your portrayal of Cleopatra. She was easy to sympathize with, realistic, and the entire story was so very historically accurate. Cleopatra was always one of my favourite people in history. Very well-written! 
CarrieAnn13 replied...
May 3, 2012 at 12:16 am
Thanks for commenting! :)  But I'm afraid that after I posted this, I learned that not all of it was historically accurate.  The character of Neferura is Cleopatra's actual handmaidens, Charmian and Iras combined.  And of course we don't know what Cleopatra wore when she died.
Regia replied...
May 3, 2012 at 8:20 am
:) Well, naturally, you're kind of expected to change small things like that when you write about history. But I don't think you really changed anything too major. The truth of the story and the important things were still there. 
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