Ellianne Castus is a woman of wealth and prestige, growing up as an intelligent woman. She shares a rare close bond with her brother, but that is not enough to satisfy her desire for more from life. Her brother, desiring her happiness, takes her away to Egypt, the land of desert and foreign gods. There, Ellianne finds everything she desires and more. Her heart gets tangled with that of a eunuch's, her fate intertwined with a mysterious sheperd, and her wealth locked away by an inescapable fiance. Ellianne's passionate desire for life throws her into the very pits of adventure, love, lust, and jealousy.
Important AN: (4/22/05 – 7:01 pm) THIS IS NOT HISTORICALLY CORRECT! So please, don't come after me with your teeth bared.
Anyway, enjoy! Don't forget to review.
It was a rainy day of April when Tiberius Castus became a father of two. The day had been dark, and the rain had been pouring for an entire week without stopping. Some told Tiberius it was a sign of fortune. Some noted it was a sign of the gods' anger. Clodia, Tiberius' wife, replied confidently that the gods were merely weeping with joy for the coming of her child.
Clodia's labor was long and hard, but when her babes were born, they were both healthy. They were small, but they were as ripe as figs ready to be plucked. Tiberius named his son and daughter Fenius and Ellianne. They became the light of his aging life. It renewed hope again, for all 4 of his previous children had passed away at birth or at a shamefully young age.
To their relief, both Fenius and Ellianne were healthy and quite spirited.
"Fenius, you thoughtless fool, give me your bulla!" Ellianne whispered sharply, jerking the amulet around his thin neck. Fenius scowled at Ellianne.
"But it's mine!" He replied. Ellianne rolled her eyes.
"If you have your bulla, then they'll know it's you!" Ellianne explained.
Fenius blinked. "Oh," Fenius lifted the amulet from his neck and put it over Ellianne's. A bulla was given to a child at birth to protect the child from evil. Ellianne's bulla was worn on a leather strap, while Fenius' was with a chain.
Fenius and Ellianne, at the age of 5, looked so similar that they often traded spaces. With bronze locks curling over their brows, and honey irises gleaming in large, innocent eyes, they were exactly the same. The only difference was their clothing and bullas.
Fenius had a young passion for knowledge. He listened attentively when his father talked of politics and the arts. Fenius grew with a vast imagination, always creating and weaving his own tales of daring adventures. He was a true boy. But he was quiet and shy, careful with his manners and the way he carried himself. Ellianne was quite the opposite. She was loud and, most of the time, obnoxious. She was daring and always took charge. She, too, had a passion for knowledge, but she hated sitting around. She was impatient and often scolded for it.
"I don't understand why they won't let me go to the games!" Ellianne complained as she pulled on Fenius' tunic. Fenius shivered against the breeze, quickly pulling on Ellianne's tunic.
"It's because you're a girl."
"So? You're a boy!"
"That's why I can go. Some day, I'll be a man. Papa says I'll be an equestrian. I like that idea. I'll join chariot races and win lots of prizes!" Fenius proclaimed excitedly. Ellianne scowled and kicked Fenius, knowing Fenius will be able to do anything he wants while she'll be stuck at home birthing and raising children. She thought of her mother and Ellianne became even more bitter.
"You're not fit to be an equestrian. You're better off as a priest, with your nose stuck in the scrolls all the time." Ellianne teased. Fenius' face turned pink and was about to argue but Ellianne stopped him. "I'll meet you later in your room. Thanks for letting me go to the games!" Ellianne shouted, waving at him as she disappeared into the crowds. Fenius scowled, looking down at his tunic.
"I hate having to dress up as Ellianne," he grumbled, shuffling about and making his way back home.
Fenius, with a scowl on his face, made his way back home. "Ellianne! Where have you been?" Clodia exclaimed, spotting Fenius. Fenius' scowl grew deeper.
"I went to see papa off," Fenius grumbled a reply.
"Well, come along. I know you wanted to see the games, but you're much too young."
"Yes, mama," Fenius said, lowering his eyes.
Fenius spent the rest of his day soaking his hands and watching Clodia sew.
Meanwhile, Ellianne felt queasy as she watched the gladiator skewer the lion. Tiberius laughed at her. "Fenius, be a man! Open you eyes wide and look!" he said, slapping her on the back. Ellianne forced a smile. She swallowed. She had asked for this, so she was going to put up with it. Ellianne involuntarily winced as a lion bit into one of the prisoners released into the arena.
"Ellianne, we can't continue switching places," Fenius grumbled, now at the age of 10. Ellianne frowned, donning Fenius' tunics. Fenius frowned back at her.
"Why not?" She asked.
"Well, we're growing up! And I don't like lying to mama." Fenius muttered, looking away while blushing slightly. Ellianne laughed loudly.
"Silly Fenius," she exclaimed.
"But it's true. I'm taller than you, you know." Fenius shot back. Ellianne became angered, her ego slightly damaged. She shot him a glare.
"I can add better than you."
"I can write better than you!"
"I can read better than you!"
"No you can't!" Fenius shouted, tackling her. Ellianne and Fenius began to wrestle and soon started tickling each other. Overcome with laughter, they collapsed on the marble floor, staring up at the intricate carvings of the ceiling above them. Ellianne sighed.
"I guess I should stop cutting my hair, then," Ellianne said softly. Fenius smiled.
"Mama really dislikes your short hair." Fenius replied, laughing.
Ellianne sighed again, bringing herself up on her elbows. "Fenius, what do you plan to do after you become a man?" She asked, tilting her head slightly.
Fenius stared up at the ceiling with a smile. "I want to become a champion of the Circus, the fastest charioteer in the world!" he replied. Ellianne narrowed her eyes.
"Be a bit more realistic, will you? I'm serious." Ellianne growled. Fenius smiled, turning to face her.
"I was serious. But I'll do that just for fun. I want to become rich, like papa. I want to learn his trade."
"But we're already rich." Ellianne stated quickly.
"I know, but we could be richer. And I want to make my own money, too."
"What does papa do, anyway?"
"He controls trade. Don't you know?" Fenius replied. Ellianne sighed again. "I'll become successful like father, and even expand to other new and unknown lands. I'll be a strong man so that I can journey on my own."
Ellianne looked bored. "I don't want to grow up," she said softly, her eyes half closed. Fenius sat up with a grin on his face.
"I can't wait to grow up." He pulled Ellianne up in a tight hug. "I'll become a successful man, Ellianne, and you won't have to marry anyone or work hard because I'll make sure your life is happy."
"If you break your promise, Fenius, you'll have the gods to answer to."
True to his words, Fenius worked hard in studying with Tiberius. Fenius never missed a day with his father. Fenius even worked even harder with the horses. He had a love for them, even at his young age. Sometimes, Fenius was found dozing off at the stables with the horses. Of course, Clodia would make a fuss, but Tiberius would just shake his head with a laugh.
Ellianne watched Fenius grow. She was envious. Fenius could run, ride, say anything he wanted, and do whatever he wanted. Ellianne looked down at her small pink hands, glowing in the sunlight. Ellianne frowned. She hated how Clodia always made her soak her hands in perfumed water 5 times a day. "It will keep your hands soft," Clodia would say. Ellianne didn't like them soft. It only hurt more when she was working. "That's why you don't work," Clodia would scold. Ellianne looked out the window once more, watching Fenius practice his spearing with Tiberius. The sweat gleamed on his face and neck, his locks darkening as they soaked it all up. But on his face was a smile as Tiberius laughed, praising Fenius for his agility. Fenius looked around and waved at Ellianne as he spotted her watching. Ellianne waved back without enthusiasm, trying to smile.
Fenius was in his room staring at his chipped rudis. He was tired and his body was hurting all over, but he persevered. He wanted to become strong. For himself, and for Ellianne. He couldn't wait until he could show Ellianne how skilled he was at throwing the spear. Tiberius had told Fenius that soon, Fenius would be able to throw further than Tiberius himself.
Ellianne entered and Fenius looked up at her, smiling widely. She had grown her hair out, now, curling over her shoulders. He was proud of her beauty, and often bragged of her to his friends and tutors.
"What is it, Ellianne?" he asked, noticing the lack of smile on her face. Ellianne stepped up to Fenius with narrowed eyes. Fenius cocked his head.
"I want you to teach me to fight, Fenius." Ellianne replied. Fenius' eyes grew wide.
"You?" he exclaimed. Ellianne nodded stiffly. Fenius looked away, frantically trying to find a reason to turn her down other than the fact that she was female. He looked back up at Ellianne and saw she was dead serious. "Ellianne, you would've had to start training years ago! You're too old now. Anyway, I'm not done learning either. I can't teach you inadequate skills."
"I don't care. I can learn quickly. You know that. And I just want to learn the basics. The rest, I can do by myself with the books." Ellianne quickly replied. Fenius narrowed his eyes. She had been expecting that answer from him. Fenius realized that Ellianne had gone through this in her head many times and was expecting to win this one out. Fenius sighed, standing up and holding Ellianne's shoulders.
"Mother would be furious with you. Even father won't approve of this." Fenius warned.
"They don't have to know."
"Ellianne, if you know how to fight, how do you expect me to protect you?" He asked.
"If I don't know how to fight, how can I protect you?" She shot back, scowling. "Just because I'm a girl,"
"You don't have to know how to handle a sword to protect me, Ellianne."
Ellianne wrenched herself away from Fenius. "Fine." She whispered, storming out of his room. Fenius watched her walk down the row of columns. He lowered his eyes. He couldn't do anything for her. He raised his eyes again and found Ellianne gone. "Just wait a bit longer," he whispered, retreating into his room.
Tiberius and Fenius sat in the atrium, shaded by the great tree that stood firm in the center of the tiled courtyard. Tiberius held an aged scroll before Fenius, explaining to Fenius how the senate worked since Fenius was too young to attend. "The emperor is the Princeps Senatus. He's the one who can appoint senators and decide when to call up a senate meeting. Now, to be in the senate, one must have the money."
"Is that why you act as patron to the Castor family, father?" Fenius asked. Tiberius smiled.
"Yes. Castor has been with my family for years. They help me bring out issues that concern my business, and in return, I provide them with money whenever they are in need of it." Tiberius replied. Fenius looked up and smiled when he saw Ellianne. She was accompanied by Clodia.
"Father, some wine for the warm evening," Ellianne said, handing him a cup of wine.
"Thank you," Tiberius replied, taking it from her hands. Fenius saw that Ellianne's fingers were red, small cuts here and there. Her thumbs seemed to have blisters and her palm was bruised. Fenius looked up at Ellianne but she did not meet his eyes. As soon as she handed Tiberius the wine, Ellianne quickly hid her hands in her palus. Clodia sat down beside Tiberius, holding his hands.
"You shouldn't spend too much time outside," she said softly.
Fenius stood up and took hold of Ellianne's arm. "Excuse us," he muttered, pulling Ellianne along.
"Fenius, let go of me!" She shot at him once they were back in the house. When Fenius didn't reply, Ellianne stopped her legs from moving and yanked her arm from him. Fenius stopped and turned to face her. He grabbed her wrists and looked at her hands. Ellianne gasped and tried to wring them away from him but he was too strong. "Fenius!"
"What have you been doing, Ellianne?" He asked hoarsely, looking up at Ellianne. Ellianne frowned and turned away, not answering. She looked down at him as he covered her injured hands with his, kissing them. Her shoulders slumped, studying Fenius' face. His brows were creased sharply, his face that of one in pain.
"Fenius," Ellianne slowly called. He looked up at her.
"Have you washed your wounds?"
"I-I haven't had the time," she replied, uneasy under his stern gaze. Ellianne cried out in protest as Fenius pulled her along to their bath.
Ellianne sat still and quiet as Fenius washed her hands thoroughly but gently and bandaged them. He looked up at her and sighed. "You've been trying on your own, haven't you?" He said. Ellianne met his eyes.
"I told you I'd do it." She replied.
"Ellianne!" Fenius exclaimed, perplexed. "You must stop. There is nothing for you to gain."
"I'd know how to fight!"
"And then what? Disguise yourself as a man and go out to battle? The gods strike me down before I let you do something like that!" Fenius went on.
Ellianne frowned. "You have everything, Fenius. Why are you trying to stop me from having that too?" she asked him. Fenius looked hurt and he brought her bandaged hands to his chest, where his heart beat against it.
"You have me." He replied softly. "Is that not enough? Together, we can do anything."
Ellianne looked away.
"Just you wait and see, Ellianne! Please, wait a little longer for me. I'll make you happy again, as we were in the past, when our gender didn't matter, didn't determine what we did in our daily lives."
"What about now? And what would I have done to attain my own happiness? Nothing. Fenius, learning to fight would make me happy."
"Even if it hurts our parents?"
Ellianne wiped the tears from her eyes. "I hate you and your way of manipulating my wants, Fenius! You always make me seem the enemy."
Fenius smiled and pulled Ellianne into a hug. He kissed her brows. "Promise me you'll stop trying to learn to fight." He whispered into her hair, smelling of sweet roses. He felt Ellianne nod against him.
"I'm a selfish fool, aren't I," she murmured, burying her face in his chest. Fenius chuckled.
"No," he replied, for it was he, who was selfish. He did not want to lose Ellianne and he knew that he would, if she were to attach herself so to the outside world. Fenius hugged her tighter.
Fenius and Ellianne continued to grow. They shared a rare close relationship with each other, and even rarer happy life together with the entire family. Though they owned many slaves, they were treated kindly.
Fenius continued his education, learning combat and refining his riding and charioting skills. Tiberius was extremely proud of his son. Fenius was now 17, and he had now rid himself of the boyish tunic and proudly adorned himself with the clothing of a roman citizen. He went to the forums with his father and accompanied him to the baths and theaters. They shared a close bond, and Tiberius taught Fenius everything he knew of anything.
Fenius had grown swiftly, his shoulders broad and body slim from his training. He was much taller than Tiberius. Fenius had grown out his hair as well, though Clodia insisted on trimming it. His dark bronze curls gleamed in the sun and they added light to his honey-colored eyes. He had a strong masculine face, with an angular jaw and a slightly crooked nose from an accident. Fenius was often compared to Apollo by admiring onlookers. Already, Fenius caught the eyes of many families seeking a marriage for their daughters. Fenius was intelligent, strong, had great potential, and his family was more than successful.
But if there was one woman who caught and held his attention and devotion, it was his sister Ellianne.
He was devoted to her with all that he was. He cared for her tremendously and was often overprotective when her name was mentioned in a crowd or at a dinner party. But it was not something people looked down upon. Ellianne was envied not just for her beauty but for her brother's compassion and love as well. Ellianne, too, took good care of Fenius. She was there to support him and she always watched out for women who got too close to Fenius with underhanded motives.
Ellianne, also 17, was a blossoming flower. She had disciplined her wild personality and was able to control them more efficiently. Her hair flowed down to her thighs in curtains of bronze curls. She often spent her days in the peristyle, reading or playing the harp. She often went to the forums to listen to the orators speak with passion, inspired by their power and their words. Though Ellianne wished to further her studies, as Fenius was able to, Clodia strictly forbade it. Tiberius, also, eventually discouraged her from involving herself in politics, telling her it was a man's realm. But Ellianne grew to deal with it. She understood now that there were some barriers and boundaries that women weren't mean to cross. It was a sad truth, but Ellianne accepted. She saw it only pained Fenius and everyone else she loved whenever she tried to.
If there was one thing she found a passion in and was allowed to keep it, it was her love for plants. She was extremely educated with herbs and flowers and their atrium was always flourishing with all kinds of plants. She was also able to treat Fenius' wounds and energize him with aromatic herbs.
Ellianne and Fenius both made each other proud.
Ellianne was indeed a rare beauty. But Tiberius kept the other men away, for he had already chosen someone for Ellianne, and he did not want to complicate things.
"It's been so long since we've been to the forums together, Fenius!" Ellianne breathed out, looking around excitedly. Fenius smiled down at her.
"Does it please you so?"
"Very much!" Ellianne replied, beaming up at him. Fenius chuckled.
"You sound as if mother has had you cooped up in our home."
"It feels that way. While you're free to do as you wish, I'm home with nothing to do. She won't let me out as much anymore." Ellianne complained. Fenius kissed his sister's forehead.
"She's only worried for you. Imagine, you walking alone in these crowds. Anyone could snatch you away in a blink of an eye!" Fenius exclaimed, feigning shock. Ellianne laughed and elbowed Fenius.
"You look silly,"
"Castus!" A male voice boomed. Fenius and Ellianne turned around, spotting a man running up to them. Ellianne raised a brow, drawing her palus (shawl) around herself tighter.
Fenius smiled. "Leon Castor! A surprise to see you out of the arena," Fenius greeted, embracing the man. Leon grinned widely.
"I came to get some bread." Leon replied. Leon turned and reeled back as he spotted Ellianne. Ellianne blushed at the man's dark eyes. "Who's this goddess?" Leon exclaimed, robbed of his breath. Fenius smiled proudly, wrapping his arm around his sister's shoulders.
"This is my sister, Ellianne. Ellianne, this is my riding companion Leon Castor. We often race together." Fenius introduced.
"And he has yet to defeat me," Leon said with a wink. Ellianne smiled.
"I told Fenius long ago to be a priest. Fenius is not fit for the sports." Ellianne replied, looking up at Fenius with a gleam of mischief in her eyes.
Leon laughed. "It's not too late, you know," Leon said, patting Fenius. Fenius grumbled, his face red.
"If you'll excuse us, Leon, my sister and I plan on enjoying the day together." Fenius said. Leon chuckled.
"I'll see you tomorrow, then!" He shouted as Leon departed. Ellianne laughed.
"May I accompany you tomorrow?" Ellianne asked. Fenius looked shocked.
"I'd like to see you race. If you didn't know, I haven't seen you race before." Ellianne replied.
"By the gods' feet, you're right!" Fenius exclaimed. "Why haven't you?!" He asked, bewildered and insulted. Ellianne laughed.
"Absolutely not!" Clodia exclaimed, her face tinted pink with anger. Tiberius stayed quiet, nibbling on bread as he feigned interest with the birds perched on the window.
"Mother!" Ellianne cried out. "I want to go with Fenius tomorrow!"
"The races are not a lady's sport."
"I know plenty of women who go watch the races. Why can't I?" Ellianne complained.
"Because you are a cultured woman." Clodia explained. Fenius choked on his wine and quickly cleared his throat. Clodia raised her thin brows and Ellianne scowled at him.
"Help me out here, Fenius!" Ellianne shouted, tempted to throw something at him. Fenius merely shrugged.
"It concerns me not, silly sister."
"You wanted me to see you race!" Ellianne spouted.
"Tis true. But if our dear mother forbids it, then alas, you cannot. It would break her heart." Fenius replied. Ellianne gawked at Fenius as Clodia cooed over Fenius. Fenius grinned at Ellianne. Tiberius smiled, watching his daughter's reaction. "So," Fenius went on. "Ellianne can come to Egypt with me tomorrow instead of to the races."
Both Ellianne and Clodia were equally stunned.
"Tomorrow? Isn't that a bit too sudden?" Tiberius asked, sipping his wine casually.
"I have everything prepared already, father. There is a ship ready for us, and our estate has been completed two months ago." Fenius replied.
As the news sunk in, Ellianne covered her mouth with her hands with a gasp. "Egypt?!" She cried out, her eyes wide. "Egypt!"
Fenius grinned. "I had been planning on expanding father's business down the Nile. Our new home is in Thebes."
"Thebes! Egypt! Oh, gods! Those are places I thought I'd only be able to read about! I'd never imagined actually seeing it with my very own eyes!" Ellianne cried out ecstatically.
"Tiberius, is this true? You are sending away our children to Egypt? On their own?" Clodia asked quietly, concern etched across her face.
"It is time for Fenius to put to use all that I've taught him and make Rome proud. And I believe Ellianne still has a few lessons of her own that she can learn in Egypt." Tiberius replied. Ellianne beamed, engulfing her father with an embrace, placing kisses all over his face.
"Oh, papa!" She exclaimed. Tiberius laughed.
He had said the truth about Fenius. But with Ellianne, he wanted to give her as much freedom as he could before she was wedded off soon. He knew that the groom was an impatient man. Ellianne didn't have much time left.
Fenius supported Ellianne as they got off the ship. Ellianne held her head with a slight groan. She hated the boats.
Fenius had a litter ready for Ellianne while he rode on horseback.
Through the curtains of her litter, Ellianne got a good look at her new home. She fell in love. Towering palm trees loomed overhead, trees that she'd never seen before. Though it was a land of desert, there was much to feast her eyes upon. It was much warmer in Egypt, and she loved it. It was always cold in Rome, for her. She enjoyed the warm breeze and the sun of Thebes. And such exotic animals! Ellianne saw all kinds; long legged, long winged, short snouted, long tailed, long nosed, dark, and light. The land was so open, too. In Rome, she was encased with tall buildings and thick columns. But here, everyone was spaced out. There was plenty of room and air. And even the buildings looked airy. Ellianne absolutely loved it.
They stopped in front of a walled estate with an open pair of gates awaiting them. Fenius helped Ellianne off the litter.
The house was huge. It was like a palace. Columns of stone and marble greeted them. The walls were high, decorated with a style of painting that Ellianne had never seen before. Her new home was full of greens and warm colors. Back at home, she had only seen cold colors around her home.
Fenius watched his sister fill with awe. He smiled widely, wrapping an arm around her.
"Welcome to our new home, Ellianne."
Random Fact: Fashionable women of ancient imperial Rome used hair pieces made of real hair from their slaves to make their own hair look thicker and longer.
AN: (4/22/05 – 11:09 pm) GAH! I would write more, but this seemed like such a perfect ending for a chapter. So I'll stop here. I shall await your reviews until I go on with the next chapter, bwahahaha.
Tell me what you think! I must know!
Also, I'm still working on the last several chapters of A Rose Lost in Thorns but I couldn't help myself. I HAD to post this up. Lol.
-EDIT- (4/23/05 – 3:16 pm) finished revising and adding more content to the chapter. Hope it was enjoyable. I think I might've missed a few revisions. I spent more time adding more stuff instead of revising, hehehe. Anyway, tell me how it is.