“Father!” Lucca climbed in through the window and rushed to kneel beside him. The sword, the gift he had been so proud of, stuck out of his chest.
“Lucca, oh Lucca. Auric has murdered me,” his voice was weak, and every breath made him wince in pain, “you must flee, he will be back with his men before long and you must not be here.” He stopped as his whole body shuddered.
“Mother!” called Lucca, “Mother, come quickly. Father is hurt!”
With a groan, Mikel said “Is there a blanket? I feel so cold. Tell your mother…” he gasped and his fingertips twitched at the hilt of the sword, “tell your mother to take this sword back to the king of the Celts… he will hide you…”
Then there was confusion and shouting and rushing about, as guardsmen and servants tried to help. Eventually the Decurion of the guard restored order, and banished everyone from the room. But by then it was too late. A servant returning from the marketplace brought word that Auric had his men stirring up trouble, and that they planned to attack the Governors’ Villa as soon as it became dark.
Francesca hastily wrapped a handful of jewellery and coins in a roll of cloth, then tied it as a sling across Lucca’s shoulder so that the roll sat under her armpit, invisible under her clothes. Then she took Lucca with a hand on each shoulder and looked into her eyes.
“You must go where your father wished, to safety. Quintus will escort you, and then return to his duties here. I will stay, with the Decurion and the loyal soldiers, and stop Auric. Once this pathetic attempt at rebellion has been stopped, I will send for you to return.”
“But mother, father said that we were both to go!”
“I know. Yet I cannot bring myself to run. I have the blood of Romans, and I cannot face the thought of living by the charity of barbarians.” She leaned forward and hugged Lucca tightly, then said, “Now go, there is not much time. Quick!”
“My goodness,” said Dawn’s grandfather, “look at the time! You have school tomorrow and it’s after midnight.”
“What? Wait! I want to hear what happened next!”
“That can wait. You need your sleep.”
“Sword! Tell him you have to finish the story!”
“I don’t have to finish the story as much as you need to not fall asleep in classes tomorrow.”
“The sword is right. You need to go to bed.”
“This isn’t fair!” wailed Dawn, “I was just starting to get really interested and now you won’t finish it!”
“This story is two thousand years old,” said the sword. “I won’t forget it in one night, now off you go.”