Marble equestrian statue of Emperor Gaius Caligula (made AD 1 – 50) in the Great Court of the British Museum
When they arrived at Gesoriacum (also Bononia), a Roman port city on the English Channel important for Classis Britannica, where Caligula stayed over, before he travelled to the island, Julia saw a light house built based on directions of Caligula. Julia had already seen some port cities in her life, but she was always impressed by the great architecture and technical progress of the Romans.
When Octavian stepped into the wagon, Julia retreated to the furthest corner as she usually did. He was convinced that she was scared of him and he didn’t intend to hurt her at all. He noticed some bruises on her arms that she got after he pushed her away twice, and he was ashamed of it. He didn’t apologize, because he simply couldn’t find suitable words. However, Julia wasn’t scared, but rather ashamed that she wasn’t able to say Octavian how sorry she was for her silly resistance.
This time, there was no routine in Octavian’s acting. He stayed in the middle of the wagon watching Marcus Lucius sleep.
-We’ll go to the ship directly. – He said silently.
-A ship? – She seemed to be worried.
-Yes, it’s the fastest way to get to Eboracum. – Octavian confirmed and started at her curiously. He wondered what scared her more: he or the suggested means of transport. – If we would stay here, on the land, we would have to stay in the camp over night. The probability that we could be demasked is higher here. On the ship, you’ll get a cabin and have your privacy. Ina few minutes, my men will come here and you’ll get a litter carried by local slaves. We’ll put Marcus Lucius on it and you’ll get the second litter.
Octavian’s had a determined look, but not as cold as usually. Julia wondered what happened to him in the last days.
-I don’t need a special litter. I’ll go next to him.
Octavian wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t intend to argue with her. He nodded once and stepped closer to Marcus Lucius. Within seconds, he woke the wounded man up and described the situation to him. Marcus Lucius showed his understanding of the plan.
-Are you doing better? – Octavian asked quietly, almost too quiet for Julia to hear.
Marcus Lucius nodded slightly. There was a special code between the two of them. Maybe it was due to the fact that they both learned under the command of Appius. Maybe it was just a sign of their special predisposition to understand each other.
Julia stood just a few steps away and didn’t understand the communication between them. She waited for the litter and then, as it was brought, she observed how Octavian helped to lift Marcus Lucius and shift him on the litter. Then he came to Julia and took her widest ribbon away. She wondered whether she should start struggling or let Octavian do what he wanted to do. As he went away with the ribbon, she was confused. She wanted an explanation, and got it in form of his action. Octavian put the ribbon on Marcus Lucius’s head and covered his face with it. The material was transparent enough to let him breath, but it didn’t allow strangers and uninitiated people recognise the face. Even though the litter had a kind of baldachin protecting Marcus Lucius from the unknown witnesses, Octavian wanted to double the protection. It wasn’t just about the one wounded man, but about possible collateral damages involving many people, who were important to Octavian.
He, personally, accompanied the litter to the ship and noticed how insecure Julia’s steps became the closer she came to the water. It was possible that nobody else noticed her tentativeness, but Octavian saw the girl already a couple of times in different situations and was able to judge whether she felt good or not while doing something. Even if he was just few meters away from her, he was able to feel her tension.
Therefore, he wondered what happened next. As Julia’s fragility increased and her legs became shaky just some centimetres in front of the wooden, provisory bridge between the ship and the land, a hand came out of the material curtain of the litter’s baldachin. The strong, determined fingers grasped Julia’s dainty hand. Marcus Lucius hold her carefully, but decisively. She wasn’t able to see his face, she wasn’t able to speak with him, but they communicated in the most secret way every human being could use: it was intuition and empathy. Or, you could say it was Marcus Lucius’s highly developed, sharp sense of observation.
Julia didn’t oppose and she didn’t change her mimic. However, Octavian saw a sign of relief in her eyes. She looked anxiously around every now and then, but her step became steadier and less shaky. She held Marcus Lucius’s hand as strong as she could. It was hard for her to let lose when Marcus Lucius had to be brought to the cabin and lifted onto the bed there. She was unsteady and waggly again, leaning on the wooden walls of the ship, thinking about every step. The ship wasn’t sinking. It almost didn’t move, but she acted as if the end of the world would come any moment.
Octavian made sure that Marcus Lucius laid safely in the bed and wasn’t recognized by anybody, then he sent away all guards and slaves from the room. They passed Julia on the stairs and greeted her for goodbye. She didn’t answer and kept grasping on any kind of stable surface. She trembled and was convinced she would vomit immediately. As the last person passing by, Julia saw Octavian. He didn’t pass her, but stretched his hand out to her. It was a peaceful offer, but Julia didn’t easily accept it.
-I don’t need your help. – She sounded proud.
-You do. Come along. – He answered in his typical cold way.
She refused again. He remembered that he had mostly pushed her away or ignored her, so she had a good reason not to accept his offer, but she was indeed in need. As neither his statement nor a kind of order helped, he added what Marcus Lucius told him in the cabin just a moment ago:
-It’s Marcus Lucius’s will.
It was like ‘open, O sesame’, a magical phrase in the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” from One Thousand and One Nights. Julia stood frozen for a moment showing disbelief, then, she stretched out the hand and allowed Octavian to help her. His hand was rough as Marcus Lucius’s. Surprisingly enough for Julia, Octavian was warm and pleasant to touch. She wondered when the resources of ice melted and changed into a pleasant surface.
Octavian accompanied her to the cabin’s door. He was pleased by her touch. Even though she didn’t look at him and rather followed the wooden bars, he savoured her closeness. She smelled good, even though she didn’t wash herself for days. Her hands were dainty and he could feel her bones. He wondered whether she was so bony from the moment he met her. She didn’t look well, but it could be caused of her anxiety of being on a ship. He couldn’t understand it, but he knew even soldiers who were scared in such situations.