Tyrant's Fall Part 5

The day had been won.

As the rest of the team cleared debris and put out fires, Aeneid struggled with adrenaline crash. She became painfully aware of every bruise, cut and burn across her body, her entire left half shaking and spasming. The rush of emotions and realizations made her soul sink, driving her to the cold brink of tears. She had to keep moving or she would crumble under despair.

Aeneid stumbled towards the temple of Janus, her five companions following behind, the people of Rome gathering their collective wits. Everyone braved back to the Forum, witnessing the Crows as they claimed their place atop the Triumphant pecking order.

The reactions were mixed but exuberant: shouting, greetings, cheers and insults mixed in true Roman form. Lidia could just hear ringing, trying to ignore her swollen eye. She stared forward, confused. What had she been looking for?

Ah yes, the temple of Janus.

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She watched the looming stairs with her cyclopean stare, took a deep breath and slowly dragged herself across them. Each step she took was torment, her head too heavy, stomach and lungs protesting as this insane woman seemed unfamiliar with the concept of rest.

Aeneid turned around as she reached the top, looking back at the faces assembled to witness her moment of triumph. She smiled at the Roman men and women that had made this possible, that had rejected the toxic ideas that had infiltrated their made this possible, that had rejected the toxic ideas that had infiltrated their society during the post-war; raising her fist into the air, she shared their thanks.

She was finally here, standing in front of the heavy doors, her face against those of Janus. Cold bronzed green was never this warm, so accepting of her. Aeneid tugged the heavy chain that Quirinus had put around the gates, getting a feel for them. She struggled to keep her Triumph and her spark connected, gathering Aeneas’ strength and giving it another pull.

It shook.

Good. At least she could get the damn thing open. She caressed the gate, feeling the humming power of the symbolism within. Her heart raced, and not due to physical effort. She pictured her past, the long wandering, Attalus, Jing Ke, Lord Rama and the others. Of Crows old and new. The many abuses of power of Quirinus.

She had to let it all go away.

This would have to be a new chapter for her.

But it was not only for her, was it? She once again faced the masses of Humanity. That was Rome, that was what they fought for. Their new chapter.

They waited, curious, for what she was going to do. Was she really going to break the Peace of the Gods so that they could continue the War for Liberty? Aeneid looked around for her team, longing for their support. Orcus, as alien as ever. Diodorus, unusually supportive. Considius, way too pleased for someone that just had obliterated a Triumphant soul. Her eyes met Sextus’, the man as stoic and hard to read as ever; Lidia waited nervously, wondering if she had been toying with Sextus, pulling him out of the military just to drag him into another battlefield. He relieved her anxiety with a curt nod. Aeneid turned her head, satisfied.

Until she caught Arpineia’s expression.

The sheer disgust, hatred and disappointment. Lidia was being judged - and she had been found wanting. The most hurtful part was how familiar such expression was. She had seen it countless times times when her former companions trotted times when her former companions trotted around the world.

They wore it whenever they stared down a tyrant.

Aeneid faced the gate, shamed by the Vestalis. She caressed the icy cheeks of Janus, pondering what to do. She gave the chains another pull.

The solution was obvious, but it was quite the leap of faith.

She faced the crowd, looking at some point beyond them; facing the horizon of what they all could be.

Aeneid descended the steps that had cost her so much to climb.

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Many heads turned, a few following behind Lidia. That was it? She would just leave things as they were? Wiser folks turned towards the temple, gathering at the steps. They understood the invitation that Aeneid had laid before them: the opportunity to claim the Libertas they sought so much, on their own terms. Nobody was going to be drafted into this War. The fight would be waged at the personal front, by an army of volunteers struggling to live better lives and improve as individuals.

The People of Rome accepted.

The Gates of Janus swung open.

The other Crows and the crowd rushed into the temple. Everyone but Arpineia; she stood behind, starting at Lidia’s back as she left the Forum. Sparkles flickered between her fingers.