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The might and power of Julius Caesar, the man who conquered the known world.
The beauty of Cleopatra, the woman who conquered the conqueror.
Together they could have forged an empire whose power had never been seen before. Tragically, it was not meant to be.
But what of the son who was born of their passion?
Gillian Bradshaw gives us a possible answer in Cleopatra's Heir, a riveting historical novel drawn from meticulous research and a unique historical premise. The young son of Julius Caesar and the fabled Cleopatra, Caesarion was seen by some as the hope of the marriage between Rome and Egypt, by others as the folly of a commander's lust for a wanton foreign schemer. For the new Roman ruler, Octavius, Caesarion is the threat that could topple his dreams of a safe and peaceful Roman Empire.
The brutal truth is that Caesarion could not be allowed to live. But what if he somehow managed to survive the inevitable assassination and went underground to hide his identity? How would he find a way to live when he has always chosen and honor, even though his life has been shadowed by forces greater than anyone should have to cope with?
Caesarion will travel the lands that he thinks he knows so well only to discover that he knew his people not at all. And only after that discovery, when he loses it all and is forced to confront his humanity, will Caesarion finally come to know friendship, honesty, and love.
And the essential truth that a man can be noble and true, bereft of land, titles . . . and even a name.
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Gillian Bradshaw's father, an American Associated Press newsman, met her mother, a confidential secretary for the British embassy, in Rio de Janeiro. She was born in Washington DC in 1956, the second of four children. They didn't move around quite as much as one might expect after such a beginning: Washington was followed merely by Santiago, Chile, and two locations in Michigan. Gillian attended the University of Michigan, where she earned her BA in English and another in Classical Greek, and won the Hopwood Prize for fiction with her first novel, Hawk of May. She went on to get another degree at Newnham College, Cambridge University, England in Greek and Latin literature, and she sold her first novel while preparing for exams.
She decided to stay in Cambridge another year to write another novel and think about what to do for a Real Job. However, while there, she discovered she could live on her income as a novelist and also met her husband, who was completing his doctorate in physics. Between books and children she never did get a Real Job, and she's been writing novels ever since.
She and her husband now live in Coventry. They have four children and a dog.
CHAPTER IHis side hurt. He was aware of that before he was properly awake: the pain stabbed into his mind even through sleep. He shifted position, trying to ease it, but that only made it worse. He rolled over onto his other side and drew his legs up, then lay still, muzzily aware of himself.It was bakingly hot, and he was thirsty. His tongue hurt. His head hurt. The pain in his right side was like a knife. He was lying on a heap of something rough and hard and uncomfortable. All around him was a dense, hot, purple shade, and a thick, choking smell of myrrh which could not quite drown the competing scents of blood, urine, and hot cotton.He fumbled weakly at the pain in his side, and was rewarded by an exquisite thrust of agony. He moved his hand away again, rubbing swollen fingers together. They were wet.I have had a seizure, he thought guiltily, and I must havefallen on top of something. Mother will be angry. I hope she doesn't punish the slaves.He felt for the fine gold chain around his neck, found it, hauled the little silk bag it held from under his tunic and pressed it against his nose and mouth. Peony root, cardamon, gum ammoniacum, bryony, cinquefoil, and squill: at least the latest remedy smelled nice. He drew in deep breaths of it and tried to remember where he was.Dreamily, he thought of his bedroom in the palace. The floor was always smooth and cool underfoot, even in the hottest summer, and the polished marble was arranged in varicolored patterns, purest white, golden, deep, red-veined green. The bed was of cedarwood, inlaid with gold; in winter the coverlets were of quilted silk, in summer, of brilliantly dyed cotton. There was cool water in an alabaster jar, and a fountain played in the courtyard ...... when he was younger there'd been swimming in the big bath-house, with its pools paved with lapis lazuli, and the water taps that looked like golden dolphins, and the painting on the ceiling of Dionysos covering the pirate ship with vines while the sailors, fleeing into the green waves, were transformed ... the water had felt so cool, so sweet, flowing across his naked flesh, swirling around his legs and arms ...Swimming will aggravate your condition.By Apollo, he was thirsty! Why was he lying here alone? Where were the slaves to fan him, anoint him with scented oils, bring him cool drinks in sweating goblets? Where were the doctors with their potions? Why had he woken up alone? Had he had the seizure somewhere private, where no one could find him? How long had he been lying here?It was so hot. He couldn't think clearly. He had to get out of this purple shade; it was cooking him.Caesarion sat up slowly, holding his sore side, and found himself inhaling purple cotton. He pushed it away feebly, then realized that it was a covering--the awning of his tent, of course; it kept the sun off during the day, it must have fallen down. He turned onto his left side and began to squirm his way awkwardly out from under it, still with one hand clutched protectively over his injured side. Rough sticks of firewood wobbled beneath him, then slipped. He rolled jolting down on top of them into a blaze of sunlight. The pain stabbed red-hot, and he lay still, panting in anguish. Above him the sky was cloudless, colorless from the fury of the sun.He was lying on something knobbly. He looked down and saw that it was one of the guards. The man's throat had been ripped open by a spear-thrust which had broken his jaw, and his tunic was thick with drying blood.Caesarion recoiled, scrambled off hastily, and stood on hot stone, staring down in horror, wiping his left hand convulsively against his tunic. Then his stomach contracted toward his throat. He sank onto his knees and pressed the silk bag to his face again, squeezing his eyes tight shut. No, he thought, No, please, not now, not so soon ... .Nothing happened. No stink of carrion, no overpowering sense of dread, no memories. Only scorching stone against his knees, sun on his head, and the scent of the remedy. The ground was too hot to kneel on. He opened his eyes and stood up.The dead guard was dressed only in his red tunic; his armor, weapons, and cloak were all missing. He lay upon his back,at an angle to the pile of purple-draped firewood. His arms had been at his side until Caesarion had fallen onto him and disarranged them, and one, jolted akimbo, still clutched a chunk of hard journeybread as an offering for the guardian of the Underworld. His eyes were shut, and one of the coins which had been laid upon them shone on the ground by Caesarion's feet. His name, Caesarion remembered, was Megasthenes; he was an Alexandrian of good family, twenty-two years old. He'd been specially selected for this mission because of his loyalty.That loyalty had laid him on his funeral pyre. Caesarion glanced up at it: a stack of firewood, bulked up with camel saddles and grain sacks, piled six feet high and draped in the purple tent awning. He remembered now. Last night (or could it have been the night before last?) he had woken in the dark to the sound of shouting. He had jumped from his bed, fumbled in the dark for his spear, hadn't been able to find it. Someone had burst into the tent with a lantern, and he'd almost struck out before he realized that it was his tutor, Rhodon, who'd stayed behind in Coptos to get news. Rhodon was fully dressed, his normally sleek hair dusty and disheveled, his face pale and his eyes wild. He set down the lantern and grabbed the spear Caesarion had been searching for--it had been propped up by the entrance to the tent. "Here!" he'd shouted loudly. "Here, quickly!"Caesarion had stretched out his hand for the spear--but Rhodon had leveled the point at him. "No," he'd whispered, and their eyes met and held. "Stand still.""Rhodon?" Caesarion had said, unable to take it in."You're not worth my life," Rhodon said, with intense vehemence."You're not worth any more lives. There are already too many dead who were whole and healthy." Then he shouted again, "Here! He's in here! Quickly!"Caesarion remembered screaming in outrage and hurling himself at the traitor--but after that ...Bright, unnaturally vivid fragments: a dead sheep lying on an altar while a priest inspected its entrails; a butterfly fanning its wings on the eye of a corpse; the sound of a flute. There had been an ... interval, and he had woken from it injured.He looked down at himself.A clotted mass of dried blood glued his tunic to his right side, and a fresh red trickle was crawling down onto his knee.I didn't manage to hit him, he realized heavily. He betrayed me to the Romans, and I didn't even manage to hit him--or die nobly. I had a seizure; I was stabbed sometime during the course of it; and I've been lying since in a deep stupor. They thought I was dead. They put me on the top of the pyre, with the dead guard--guards--around me.There was more than one guard, he saw that now. Another pair of feet stuck out from under the purple drapery beside Megasthenes' head. He walked slowly over to the still figure, bent stiffly to lift the covering. It was Eumenes, who'd commanded their small force. His left leg was almost severed, and there were stab wounds in his side and groin. His teeth were clenched and his face was set in an expression of agony; the coins on his eyes looked like beetles eating them. Caesarion replaced the covering with a shaking hand. His knees were trembling and he felt dizzy. He wanted to sit down, but the dead guards took up all the space on the edge of the pyre, and the ground was too hot.There was a third body beyond that of Eumenes. He stumbled over to it, inspected it in turn. Heliodoros, the Cretan, stabbed through the heart. Odd that the mercenary should have died trying to defend Caesarion; he'd made it clear all along that he was only in it for the money. How would he collect his wages now?He stood for a long moment, gazing at the mercenary's face. It was calm, the expression reflecting only a mild surprise. Heliodoros had been a handsome man who'd taken great care of his body, who'd combed his long black hair assiduously every morning and evening. Someone had combed it carefully now, and placed coins upon his eyes. His right hand clasped its chunk of journeybread, and his torn and bloodstained tunic had been carefully straightened. The body, like the other bodies, had not been washed--but then, the camp had been short of water even before an unknown number of the enemy arrived in it. The corpse had been properly anointed: scented oil gleamed on the calm face and made dark splotches on the scarlet tunic. At least Heliodoros and the others were getting a proper funeral.Caesarion lowered the purple awning and raised his eyes to stare vacantly beyond the pyre. Red cliffs, dark, dusty soil, and the merciless desert sky. The sun was high; it must be about noon. Three dead bodies on the pyre. There had been thirty-eight people in the camp, not including himself: two files of royal guardsmen; Eumenes; Eumenes' secretary; Eumenes' valet; Caesarion's secretary and two attendants. Where were all the others? Where were the attackers? Who had arranged this funeral, then abandoned it with the pyre unlit?It was too hot to light a fire now. Probably it had alreadybeen too hot by the time the pyre was arranged, and now they were waiting for nightfall. He turned and looked behind him.The camp his own men had made was still in place, clustered around the stone rim of the cistern which had been dug into the ground by miners a century before. A few scrubby acacias and dead thistles testified that this was a location which occasionally saw water during the winter, but now it was August, and the dry air shimmered like a kiln. The small collection of canvas tents huddled against the base of the near cliff, which provided shade during the worst of the afternoon heat. His own tent, in the center, looked oddly deformed without its upper awning--no, a corner was missing, and the tent had been pegged down lopsided. There were scorch marks on the cloth, just visible through the blur of heat-haze. Rhodon's lantern must have tipped over and set fire to it. The baggage animals--camels, mostly--were tethered a little farther along, and were lying motionless in the puddles of shade at the cliff foot. There were no new tents, but there did seem to be a few more animals, and a collection of military cloaks had been stretched out from the cliff face to provide a little shade, secured to the rocky soil by spears. Shields propped against those spears provided a little more shade, all the shelter that was needed in this hot land. They were tall, oblong shields, red, decorated with unfamiliar motifs. He began to count them, then stopped resignedly. Those were Roman legionary shields, and there would be eighty of them: a full century. A tall standard stood before them, the Roman eagle almost unbearably bright in the noonday sun.The Romans had traveled light, he thought, forcing a numband weary mind to reason about what he could see. No tents, just a few baggage animals to carry food and water for the journey. They had chosen the right equipment and right number for the task they had in hand. They'd known where they were going, and how many men they had to deal with.Rhodon must have sent them a message as soon as the rest of the party left him alone in Coptos. No--even before that: there was not time for a message to have gone from Coptos to Alexandria and a force of men to have sailed up the Nile in response. Rhodon must have sent his message when the royal party itself set off up the Nile. He had waited for the Romans in Coptos, led them up the caravan trail on forced marches--by night, since no one traveled the Eastern Desert by day if he could help it--and brought the enemy into the camp during the hours of darkness. Probably the attack had come just before the dawn, when men slept most deeply. He must have given the password to the sentries, so that no alarm was raised until it was too late. Then he had run to find Caesarion, because he knew that the men would surrender if their king were captured or dead.Eumenes, Megasthenes, and Heliodoros had fought anyway--but perhaps that was just out of confusion, because they'd been woken suddenly by their enemies and didn't know what was going on. The others had indeed surrendered. Rhodon could truthfully claim that he had saved them from exile or death, which was all that they could have expected with Caesarion. There were no Roman bodies on the pyre, which meant that the attackers had succeeded in their mission without losing a man. They would be pleased about that, and would treat their prisoners leniently; they had, in any case, no reasonto hate royal guardsmen who had no royalty left to guard. Probably Rhodon would be richly rewarded. Certainly the Romans ougbt to be grateful to him. He had eliminated a dangerous rival to their emperor, and secured them a chestful of treasure, without the loss of a single man.Caesarion pressed the heels of his hands against his sore eyes. Rhodon had taught him philosophy and mathematics for three years now, and he'd preferred him to all his other tutors. He had liked Rhodon--liked his mordant sense of humor, his honesty, his penetrating mind and elegant wit. You're not worth my life.No, he reasoned silently, passionately; no--but, Rhodon, it wasn't just me that you betrayed. It was all my ancestors as well; it was more! We in Egypt, we were last independent kingdom beside the Middle Sea. Now the Romans have it all. From this day the Greeks are a subject people. It should not have happened without a fight, Rhodon! It should not have happened through Greek treachery!But there was no comfort there: Caesarion had failed, too, as ever. He had not fought: he had had a seizure. Now he was standing beside his own funeral pyre waiting for someone to notice that they'd made a mistake.Were they all asleep? Hadn't they even bothered to post a sentry?He sighed, rubbed his mouth wearily, then stopped and looked at his hand: it was dirty with dried blood which had covered his chin. He moved his tongue furtively in his dry mouth, and, yes, it was stiff and hurt horribly. He must have bitten it during the seizure. A fine figure he would cut when the Romans finally realized their mistake. Here he was, "KingPtolemy Caesar," son of Queen Cleopatra and of the deified Julius--a dirty, bloodstained boy, barely eighteen, unable to speak clearly.Maybe Rhodon was right, and he wasn't worth any more lives. He set his teeth against the all-too-familiar ache of shame. He had always fallen short of what he should have been. It wasn't anything new. He was obliged, still, to continue the struggle. He could not compound his failure by giving up. If he hadn't believed that, he would have killed himself when he first understood that his disease was incurable.Dionysos! How stupid--he hadn't even died when he should. It was like some idiotic comedy, where the hero prolongs his death scene for so long that the rest of the cast pretend to club him over the head and set him on the pyre by force!Except that the Romans still hadn't done so.The Romans must have posted sentries. Romans always posted sentries. Antonius was very emphatic about that, and whatever else he was, the emperor Octavian was competent: he'd proved that by beating Antonius. There was no reason to think the ca...
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