Author's note: I wrote this piece after learning about Cleopatra's younger sister. I hope people learn that... Show full author's note »
Chapter 4 The War has StartedI stand, nervously. What will people think of me now? The whole place was crowded. It seems as though everyone of significant importance turned up for Anona’s engagement party. Her groom turned out to be from another senate family.
I knew what a fall of power would be like. I knew everything about it, from my sister to my brothers to my father. O, how I wished they could be here, with me. How I wish they could see me telling about my fate.
Why are you angry? The One asks. Because I’ll be laughed at. I reply. No you won’t. The Young reminds me. You are Queen Arisinoe, and no one can replace you.
No one but Cleopatra. I told him.
“Presenting the Princess Arisinoe of Egypt.” I smile lightly at the guard who introduces me. Everyone turns to me. Expectant, waiting.
I take a deep breath, then start my story.
“What do you think of this silk?” Cleopatra held up a sheet of sky blue silk. It was pretty, but she was avoiding the real issue, intentionally or not.
“Cleopatra, what are you going to do?” I asked her.
Her lips turned into a pout. “What do you mean?”
“The Romans are going to come. What are you going to do then? Bed their leader?”
“Oh, don’t worry. The Romans won’t be a problem.” She laughed.
“And after they’re gone?”
Her eyes flashed. “I will make my reign greater than before.” Her smile suddenly returned. “We’re sisters, why don’t we go shopping? As sisters.”
I hesitated, before giving my consent. She dragged me from shop to shop. Eventually, we came to a run-down stall. She brightly pulled me in, claiming the fabrics were of high quality.
“It smells.” I complained.
“Calm down. It won’t kill you.”
“Says who?” I shot back. Cleopatra raised her eyebrows. “I’m sorry.” I apologized. “I’m just tired. Shopping is exhausting.”
She smiled, then found a violet tunic, something anyone would be jealous of. But it didn’t fit in with all the drab colors in the shop.
“How much?” Cleopatra asked the wizened old man behind the counter. He named a price, which I cannot remember. Laughing, she said, “Here, I shall pay for it. Send it to the Princess Arisinoe’s rooms at the palace. You know where that is, don’t you? And also, wrap it.” The man bowed his head and accepted her pronouncement.
“You didn’t have to pay for it.” I protested as we left the shop.
She laughed, the jewels glittering on her neck and ears and arms. The men on the street were staring at her. She wasn’t pretty, but she wasn’t ugly either. “You’re my sister. I share all with you. But,” she said warningly, “I want to see you wear it for the feast tonight.”
I nodded silently, too terrified to speak.
The audience gasps at the last sentence. Anona stared at me silently. None of them could understand the fear of Cleopatra. The fear of having someone stare at you. The fear of knowing she couldn’t be disobeyed.
They’re all too innocent, too innocent to understand. But I continue on, even though it is a pain in my heart.
“You shouldn’t trust it.” My nurse was staring at the gown with disgust on her face. “Who knows what she might do with it?”
“Either way,” I said resolutely, “I will wear it. Cleopatra has ordered me too. And I shall.”
“I’m afraid, Princess.” My nurse said. I looked up at her. Fear was written all over face.
“There is nothing to fear.” I said lightly. I took the dress from her and put it on. A searing heat spread through my body. I fell to the ground. Someone was shouting for help, and I was screaming. The pain in my back was just too much to bear. I was scared and I thought I was going to die.
People lifted me up, all the while, I the pain was unbearable. I shrieked and fought. It hurt, so badly. I wanted to die, it hurt that bad. Eventually, I faded, and blackness overtook me.
When I awoke, I was lying on a bed. My bed. I wondered what had happened. Then I remembered the night before. I remembered the moment I put on the dress and the fire had burnt my back.
My nurse was lying down on the floor, sleeping. I heard a knock on the door. “Come in.” I croaked, because my throat hurt.
The One entered. I gasped. He was wearing armor, dressed for war. “What happened?” I asked him.
“Cleopatra tried to kill you.” He replied, his look murderous. I had never seen him look this angry before. His look softened when he looked at me. “She poisoned the dress, and forced you to wear it. She was going to kill you.” A hand crept up to my throat.
“Where is she now?” I asked. He looked away. “Brother, tell me!”
“I…I banished her.”
I started. Banishing someone from court meant the offence was serious. Banishing the Queen, that was even more serious. It declared Cleopatra a traitor, an enemy of the Ptolemies. And no one, no matter how bloodthirsty, wanted to be an enemy of the Ptolemies.
“So now it is war.”
“Now it is war.” My brother echoed.
Everyone was staring at me, their mouths agape. They didn’t realize how terrible it was, how terrible my life was. They simply didn’t know how scared I was.
They have never known true fear.