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Filippo Negroli (c. 1510-1579) was perhaps the most famous armorer in history. Steel helmet with mermaid

Filippo Negroli (c. 1510-1579) was perhaps the most famous armorer in history. Steel helmet with mermaid

While she stood without any movement, she noticed how soldiers and slaves from the other two wagons fought against the barbarians. She heard swords hit each other, causing such an iron-like, unpleasant sound. She heard screams supposed to scare the enemy or to give courage to the fighting people. She saw movements of the surrounding and she wondered why she wasn’t scared anymore. She felt totally nothing except complete indifference. A great question mark filled her mind. She wondered why she didn’t have any power to struggle or why she was not afraid of men attacking her.

While she analysed her strange perception, she saw a man on a horse coming into the fight. It was Marcus Lucius. At that time, she didn’t have a clue who he was. She admired the lonely rider in the red tunica betraying his affiliation to Roman army. He looked dazzled and tired, his clothes were dirty, but the closer he came, the more professional he looked. The movements of his sword were precise, accurate and faster than Julia’s eyes could follow. Every barbarian touched by Marcus Lucius’s sword fell to the ground with a scary grimace on the face. Marcus Lucius didn’t wear any armour. He didn’t notice the cuts he collected or he didn’t permit himself to feel the wounds. Julia reminded how he had looked at her. There was something in his eyes that fascinated her. It was just a very short moment, when their eyes met, but from this moment on, Julia felt like a normal person again. Her life became valuable to her, again. She got scared by the fight around her and screamed instinctively once or even twice. She wanted to run away, but the soldiers duelled with barbarians on her escape route and it was impossible to flee from there. She stepped back to the wagon and saw how two barbarians won over a legionnaire and came closer to her. Out of nowhere, Marcus Lucius appeared again and killed them within a few seconds. He stood in front of her and suddenly, he got a strange look in the eyes. He was tired and wounded. He was losing his consciousness while someone yelled his name.

He kept holding his sword, turned back to her and with his last strength, he protected Julia from further, attacking enemies. He started losing his speed and got hurt even worse. Julia empathised with him. She didn’t want him to die. He was the one, who tried to protect her, even without knowing her. He had to be a good man. She observed how his arm moved and how a group of further legionnaires finally approached from the direction of Aquincum. Julia recognized Appius, whom she had met during the stay in Aquincum. Maxentius wanted to show off with his new wife and stepped by his old friend, as Maxentius called Appius. They didn’t seem to be good friends as Julia noticed during a common dinner. Appius stayed reserved and politically correct. His face expressed nor joy nor unhappiness. Maxentius didn’t speak much, either, which wasn’t normal. Usually, Maxentius could talk for hours, which was exhausting, if you had to follow his thoughts.

Julia remembered how Appius yelled Marcus Lucius’s name and how fast Appius came to the place where Julia was standing. There was something warm in Appius’s tone. He knew the suddenly fallen soldier well. She kept looking at the stranger, who laid on the ground. His bleeding was strong. His eyes were closed. However, he smiled as if he would remind something outstanding. The corners of his lips trembled. Sweat drops appeared on his forehead. Appius bowed over the stranger and tried to talk with him.

The scene from the past reminded her at the latest bleeding she could stop during the present day.

-You… You look sad.

Julia thought she was dreaming, when she heard the whisper of another person’s dry throat. She trembled from the sudden shock. She didn’t expect Marcus Lucius to talk to her. He was looking at her and she caught his gaze. She wasn’t sure whether he knew who she was. He called his wife’s name sometimes when he was starring at her. It confused her. At first, she continued saying him, she is not Decima. She introduced herself every time he spoke to her with a smile. Then, after a couple of days, she gave up and ignored it. Octavian said that as long as Marcus Lucius was deeply wounded and hallucinated, it was possible that he mixed up names, people, occurrences. Octavian also said that Marcus Lucius could lose his memories and that it was possible that they were coming back with time. Now, Julia wondered why Marcus Lucius didn’t call her Decima again. He didn’t use any name. He simply gave a statement.

-How are you doing? – She asked shy and helped him to drink water.

He seemed to thank her with his look in the eyes. There was a kind of dashed fire that increased when he communicated with her. Preferably, she would have stepped back, when he was talking to her. However, he kept holding her hand for hours and every time she tried to take it back, his grasp became stronger. He didn’t want to let her go. She didn’t feel uncomfortable enough to go away, so she kept sitting next to him and let him hold her fingers. It made him calmer. It was important to her. She liked him, when he slept like a baby and breathed regularly. When he was calm, she could relax, too. She hasn’t felt so good since she left her home in her father’s villa in Naples. It was months ago. For more than a half a year, she was on the road. She wanted to rest somewhere.

She missed the places where she used to spend time. She loved to stay hidden in the part of the garden she called “her secret empire” and spent there any free minute. It was her ultimate getaway spot. She was her father’s only daughter. She had three brothers, who served in the army. Until Maxentius came, nobody was interested in what she did. She could stay in the garden for hours. She avoided any pressure by her mother and got out of the way of any requests, orders and further obligations, she didn’t like. This worked well up to the day, she had to marry Maxentius. From that moment on, everything changed. Her freedom was gone. She felt robbed and mugged. Every memory hurt and made her nervous. Her pulse raised and her hand started sweating.

-You’re not good.

She heard Marcus Lucius speaking for the second time and she noticed, she hadn’t answered his questions and he didn’t reply to her question. He didn’t say many words in the last two weeks, despite the rare, short moments of getting back his consciousness.

-I’m fine. – She said hastily.

She didn’t like the situation. She wanted to hedge and win a comfortable distance. Her voice sounded determined and surprisingly cold. He didn’t expect her to talk in such a reserved way. Therefore, he didn’t mention her chaotic pulse he felt while holding her hand or the sweat drops that appeared suddenly. Additionally, the years of living within a group of soldiers taught him to keep silence about uneasy topics. He simply knew she didn’t want to talk about anything. It was fair enough.

-How are you? – She repeated her question as she tried to bring the conversation round to another point.

-I’m fine. – He answered slowly. He wasn’t sure whether she noticed his pain, because he wasn’t sure how his face expression looked like. He tried to control himself, mostly he succeeded.

A serious, heavy silence filled the room. It was a strange situation, so both of them stayed concentrated on their own thoughts. They didn’t look at each other, but he kept holding her hand. She was able to percept his heartbeat then. She sat down on the floor and had to stretch her arm so that he could hold her fingers on his chest. She stared at the opposite wall and wished that Marcus Lucius stayed unconscious. She liked to take care of him, but it was easier when he had lost senses. She liked his smell, even though the medicine she got from Octavian stunk. Still, Marcus Lucius smelled desirable. She liked to touch his skin. Secretly she stroked him more than required to clean the wounds or to check his health condition.