The Beginning

“Octavia!”
The girl sat up out of bed and scrambled for the sword slung in its scabbard hanging from the peg by her bed. Then her father burst into the room.
“Octavia, you have to go. My horse is ready. You need to ride for Londinium.”
“Father, what’s-”
“The barbarians are storming the city. You only have minutes. Take your sword and go. Pray that your mother is watching over you right now. I’ll try to hold them as long as I can.”
“But-”
“Go!”
“Yes, Father.”
Octavia hugged her father tightly and then slung the sword baldric over her shoulder and ran. The blue roan horse her father prized for its endurance even when he was in armor was saddled and ready, with a pack that she knew had to contain her father’s armor strapped to it, and his shield with a cover on it. Both had been presents from her mother and now they were all she would have of either of them. Pulling herself up into the saddle, she turned the horse in place and galloped hard and fast out of the city of Camulodunum.

There were two things the girl knew to be true as she reined her horse up. First, she was most certainly not at Londinium. Second, she had no idea where she was at all. Dismounting, she decided to take this moment to put her father’s armor on just in case she ran into anyone. A Legion would be best, and she could explain what had happened. But if it was barbarians she found, she would need the armor and shield ready to keep herself safe.

Breccan stepped lightly in the woods, tracking a herd of deer. His bow was in his hand though he didn’t yet have an arrow on the string. His straining ears heard the sound of an animal pawing at the grass and he smiled slowly, creeping closer. He was not expecting to find a beautiful horse and a tall girl standing beside it, half in Roman armor with a shield propped up next to her. He dropped behind a bush, watching her warily. Did the Romans have women among their warriors like his people did? He’d thought not, but perhaps he was wrong.

She heard the twig snap and her head shot up, one hand already on the hilt of her gladius. Standing in the brush with a bow in his hand was a young man about her age. She tensed, knowing that if he was a good shot then he could get her from where he stood. She met his eyes and silently prayed to whichever gods might be listening that these weren’t her last moments.

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