Only Power, Chapter 7: The Games

The games were sure to be extraordinary.

Even Hadrian could attest to this—determined as he was to think otherwise. He had never attended the games and had never wanted to, but now that he had arrived in the arena, making his way to the Emperor’s box with a guard at his side, he quickly found himself getting caught up in the drama of it all. The tangible excitement, the bristling energy of the crowd, the imminent violence…

And Hadrian had a front row seat.


Full chapter here

 

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Conversations: II

“I have a theory – ”

“Here we go.”

She smiled. He glared.

She could tell exactly what was going through his mind. An internal battle about what was more important: yelling at her, or making his point.

The latter usually won out. “I have a theory,” he went on, speaking as though he had not been so rudely interrupted, “that when we die, our… soul, for lack of a better word, disperses into an infinite number of particles. Energy that bursts apart, each tiny fragment then somehow reconnecting with something else.”

“Like reincarnation?”

“No, no, no.” He shook his head, looking exasperated already. “That would mean your soul stayed intact, and just woke up again as something else. What I think happens is that when we die, our souls essentially explode, that we are all our own ‘big bang’. That when I die, maybe some part of me will find its way into another human, but maybe some of me will end up in a cat, or a frog, or a dandelion.”

“So… do you believe that is the case now, then?” she asked. “That right now, at this very moment, we’re all just… pieces of recycled souls, basically?”

“I do.”

She hummed thoughtfully, imagining human souls as patchwork quilts.  “Maybe some part of me will end up in a spider, next time around. I’ve always thought I would make a nice spider.”

“But not all of you would,” he instantly pointed out, like his bizarre theory was already proven true. “Some of you might be an arachnid, but maybe some of you could also end up as the fly.”

“You think it possible to be the predator and the prey, you mean?”

“Yes, exactly.” He nodded fervently. He always got so excited about his abstract ideas, it was almost easy to start believing them herself. “We are all things. The beauties and the beasts, the villains and the heroes… the weavers of the webs, and the very fools who get caught in them.”

Conversations: I

“What’s worse,” he began, “to regret, or to carry on unknowingly?”

She thought about that for a time. “…Are those my only options?” she countered. “Failure or ignorance?”

“Yes.”

A pregnant pause.

“Regret,” she eventually answered. “Regret is far worse.”

“And what makes you say that?”

His tone was light, mildly interested. She shrugged. “Well, I’ve felt regret, and it feels something terrible,” she said. “But ignorance? I’ve never felt that. Ignorance doesn’t have a feeling. And I’d rather be numb than miserable.”

Red

Don’t lie, it’s all right

There’s no need for truth tonight

I just want to keep painting this fragile fantasy

Let me

Let me

Don’t try, it’s all right

There’s no need for us to fight

I just want to float around in this snow globe fantasy

Let me

Let me

I’d break skies for you

Grab the heavens with my fingers, rip them open, tear the clouds

Bleed sunsets into your pretty head

Make you hear navy, taste violet, know red

I understand now

I understand

Nothing 

There was nothing in his kiss,

Nothing in the press of his lips to my cheek.

Nothing in his words.

In his smile,

His gleaming eyes,

Nothing.

I looked up and thought, 

‘Maybe.’

He looked down and said,

Nothing. 

Nothing.

Only Power: Chapter 4

The recently tailored robes fit, but Hadrian felt a stranger in them.

He’d stared at his reflection for a long time after initially donning the white, examining the boy in the polished silver who was no longer a boy at all, but a man.

Men in Ostium were considered mature enough to vote at the age of fifteen, and to serve in nearly any position of power by the age of seventeen. At eighteen years old, Hadrian was expected to fulfill his role as Senator, and to perform as aptly as his father had.

But Hadrian was not his father.

That much was clear by his appearance alone. Hadrian had contemplated this at length when he’d first put on the official robes, the clothing which all Senators wore to distinguish themselves from the commoners. His were white with green stitching, and fastened above his heart was his family’s sigil—a gleaming, silver serpent coiled around itself.

It may have been the same fabric which had once been draped around his father’s shoulders, but Hadrian Horatius could not have looked more different than Manius Horatius.

Manius had been tall and olive-skinned, a handsome man with smooth, auburn hair, broad shoulders, and a confidence that radiated about him. He was personable and friendly, an excellent speaker. Even those who despised him could not deny that he was charismatic, and probably hated him all the more for it.

Hadrian had inherited none of these traits.

He was nearly as short as his mother, with a thin frame and Lucia’s porcelain skin. His black hair was riddled with cowlicks, causing it to stick up on unevenly and giving one the impression that he had permanently just stepped out of a windstorm.

And all of this, perhaps, could have been tolerable. Hadrian might not have been so concerned with his appearance if the abnormalities ceased there… but then there were his eyes.

One was brown, a normal and benign hue. The other was not.

Hadrian’s right eye was a mixture of mottled colors, golden-orange near the center and a vivid, emerald green along the perimeter. His mother always said they reminded her of sunflowers and clover fields, or marigolds thriving within their foliage.

This iris alone was the single feature Hadrian had inherited from his father.


Excerpt from a continuing story of mine, Only Power.