Martyr of the Flaminian Gate
Valentine's Day Story, released within the Heart And Soul Anthology (M/F)
February 12th 2011
A love that spans through the ages
In the times of the Roman Empire, it is declared that no solider would marry to distract them from battle, and their duties to their Emperor, Claudius Gothicus. Jacobus de Voragine hears these orders, but does not heed them. He seeks out a priest who would wed him and his love, Petronia. And that one decision of devotion causes them both unimaginable adversities. But there are some forces in this world not even the Emperor can circumvent. The priest, Valentio sees the good in the hearts of men, especially Jacobus. And gives him a chance of a lifetime: to love purely and freely, no matter who tells him he can’t.
Excerpt One (RATED PG)
269 AD, the Roman Empire
Valentio stared up at Claudius Gothicus from under the brush of his eyelashes with an unpleasant glint inspired from these indecencies.
The guard had forced the martyred priest to his knees, chained in shackles and presented to their ruler—though he wasn’t Valentio’s. The priest followed his faith in honour, love and God. But the Roman Emperor had deemed it necessary to eradicate what Valentio held sacred, and impose his own to replace it.
“Do you still persist in these foolish notions, Saint Valentine?” Claudius’s index finger danced along the rim of his wine-filled goblet. “Has your incarceration not been enough? You have had ample time to reconsider.”
The priest bit his tongue in an effort not to laugh at the label some called him, in all ignorance. A saint he may be considered—but none here had any idea what responsibility this imposed on him. Miraculous occurrences would always happen and missionaries like Valentio and those akin to him distributed some, but not all.
“I persist in nothing that is foolish—nor have I ever. I will not convert to your ways. If you so choose to follow in your own beliefs, fine. But extend me the same courtesy. I do nothing wrong.”
The guard around the Emperor laughed—with a clear fake ring to it. They did not wish to anger the very man who held their fate in his hands, the power to do unto them, as what was done in the priest’s position.
At least, some of them. A few among these strong and intimidating men had come to change their faith—no longer seeing Christianity as offensive: not like Claudius had deemed it. But they would not allow the Emperor to have this knowledge, for it would only get them prosecuted. Valentio did not hold them accountable for this.
No one but Valentio would be to blame for his predicament, whether that was true or not. He had given himself up in many ways, all to save another who proved himself worthy of his specific attentions.
“Valentio, I am fond of you—your fortitude and rigid loyalty. It is why breath still fills your lungs and your heart continues to beat beneath your breast. However, is it possible you like living your waning life in chains, in a blackened cell? Because until your dying breath and the last beat of your heart that is how you will stay, if you do not come to see my way of things. Do not mistake my charity in your recently continued life to be my foolishness. I will kill you without a second thought.”
Valentio felt the cold weight of the metal binding his hands and feet. No, he did not care for the atrocities and the belittling of being bound in such a way. There’d be little doubt it would be his impending death, if his soul-deep convictions remained unchanged.
Yet, none of it mattered. To alter such a thing would be to lie to one’s self about fundamental needs. And that was something he would never do.
It took everything within Valentio not to snarl and rail against the injustice of this. Why could Claudius not see there should be freedom in religion? That people should have a choice?
“Then so shall it be. I will not have another way of life, thinking and being forced upon me. I will not go against who I am to please anyone—nor will I find variance in who I am, just to survive a pitiful existence of dishonesty. I hold true to fidelity in my faith.” Valentio calculated his words, though near reaching the end of his rope. “Perhaps it is not me that needs to look inward and see who or what is wrong.”
Claudius’s eyes filled with anger. “You dare question my beliefs?”
“You question mine. One does not judge another, until one judges himself first.”
“I do not have to judge myself. I am ruler here—what I say is to be heeded as the utmost authority. You are trying my patience, and I will not have that. Do you wish to spend another fortnight in the cells below, perhaps to gain some common-sense before I decide what your end will be?”
“I will spend the time there—but I will acquire nothing but hunger and friendship with rats. There will come a time, Claudius Gothicus, that you will see my ways are not as depraved as you have come to believe. You will see damnation for what you have wrought—and it will not be me who kneels before you, manacled to what he values. We all have a higher power to answer. You are not and never been mine. I sincerely hope yours has more clemency than you do.”
Claudius laughed at Valentio’s words. “You imagine that the Emperor of the Roman Empire will genuflect before a mere priest of a Christian Church? Who has knowingly gone against my dictates and wed my soldiers? It is you, and only you who will be arbitrated for these heinous crimes against me.”
“Those soldiers have want of families—children. Do you not desire for them to broaden your domain, and strengthen your rule? It is not fair to deny them a most basic principle—something all men covet. They fight for you, give their lives for your campaigns. Yet you will not give them a loving touch waiting in their homes, when it causes you no harm?”
Claudius snorted with distaste. “They are my legions—borne to violence and bred with a devotion to protect my lands. That is a much greater good than siring a few brats—who along with their women will distract them from battle, taking their focus away from what ismost important.”
Valentio took the chance for a sideways glance to the guards—those same soldiers who were condemned to live out their lives alone, barring brief visits to bordellos and rare contact with females, whom cared nothing about them, except for what lined their pockets.
The priest’s gaze strayed upon one of those—but not too long—lest anyone notice.
Jacobus de Voragine.
No one could know they were still friends after all that had happened. All the horror and pain Claudius had put him through—all the agony Valentio allowed him to continue to visit upon him, while the priest plotted out the best way to bring about the events destined to the solider.
Even if it was the very last thing Valentio did—and more than likely, it would be—he would see Jacobus’s family restored.
“I have had enough of this,” Claudius said, his voice a strange mix of musing and anger Valentio did not care for.
He had been jailed by the Emperor and his actions for too long not to know this wouldn’t turn out well for him. His gaze strayed back to Claudius, while everyone else in the room held their breath in anticipation of what punishment would be handed out this time.
“Decide my fate. We all know in the end, you will do so anyway.” Valentio raised his bound hands to display this fact.
“And what do you think I will do?”
“Kill me for impertinence.”
Claudius Gothicus regarded his prisoner with something broaching respect in the face of what would come. “While tempting, that will not be today, Valentio. I think I will try one more thing before condemning you to such a conclusion.”
“And what would that be?”
“My loyal guard—those who always serve me without question, will take you out into the street and flog you to show my people what will happen when I am disobeyed. If you come out of it alive, we will convene again. To think of all your attempts to convert me will do you no good. I will teach you that it is better to listen than to ignore.”
Excerpt Two (RATED PG)
It was her. His Petronia in the flesh.
Her chestnut hair was sheared off, brushing her shoulders and gently curling outward at the ends. Petronia watched him like she didn’t know him, when all he wanted was to take her into his arms and hold her close.
To have thought her dead! And then to have the priest tell him all of that nonsense and being idiotic enough not believe him—to this! It was incredible, even to someone who had jumped damned near two-thousand years forward in time, just three days before.
Then Petronia snapped her fingers in front of his face. “You still in there?”
“Terribly sorry, my lady. My name is Jacobus de Voragine, and this is my daughter…”
“Aelia. We’ve met.”
“Do you know her?” Jacobus asked with hope. Valentio had promised she wouldn’t remember them at first, but something in her eyes said she wasn’t as ignorant as she put on.
A woman bustled past them, wafting Petronia’s sweet, seductive perfume his way. And that was all it took. His cock hardened for her right then and there. Thank the gods his pants were baggy enough to cover it! How would he explain it to her if she happened to look down and see his straining erection?
“No,” Petronia replied, an odd note to her voice, eyes downcast like she was uncomfortable. “But your daughter does look so familiar to me.” She shook her head, taking a half-step back. Jacobus held his breath, needing her to recognize them. “But I suppose many children took a like.”
Aelia looked up between them with a sweet, innocent expression before she took off into the aisles of clothes to play. His heart filled with joy to see her carefree and unburdened. It was hard to reprimand her and order Aelia back to his side when she wanted freedom she’s never had.
“Stay where I can see you!” Jacobus called.
Aelia giggled, weaving through the displays in figure eights, around and around again. He watched her, unsure what one would say to his unknowing wife.
“You sound so formal—dignified. And you stand so straight, like a general of some great army. Different from anyone I have met here.” Petronia said it as if it were praise. He turned back to her. “You haven’t been in Canada long, have you?”
“Only a few days. I come from a place that is so diverse in comparison to here. I am completely lost, despite promises on how easy it would be. There is so much to learn, and it’s quite overwhelming.”
“Aelia seems to have adapted.”
His breath held. “My,” oh, how he wanted to say our, “daughter has had to come to terms with a lot lately, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished. Her mother—died, I suppose.” Petronia’s brow lifted at that. “And then Aelia was cured of two maladies, only to be whisked away to this new land, where she knows nothing. I am pleased she does not struggle like I do, but I know it is still hard for her.”
* * * *
Petra winced at hearing the immense pain behind his words. Something about him tugged at her heartstrings, making her want to reach out to him and his daughter. Enough that she almost placed a comforting hand on his arm to try and dispel the darkness which had crowded his eyes as he stared off in the direction Aelia had gone.
“Children are resilient little people, who are capable of amazing feats.” Petra fidgeted, feeling nervous. Not of him per se. She just felt off-centre, like she’d known him forever and a day, but couldn’t recall a thing about him.
But that was impossible.
“Father!” Aelia called before she raced out of the store, back into the activity of the mall.
Jacobus launched forward to follow her, Petra close at his heels. His pace picked up as he weaved through the crowds, worry etching his features as the young girl stopped in front of greeting card shop. Valentine’s Day decorations adorned the windows in hues of red and shades of white. Pink streamers coiled across the ceiling in the store, with hundreds of holiday related items to entice the passersby to buy them for their loved ones.
“Are they not pretty, father?” Aelia pointed at the hearts in an array of Medias, which sat beside helium-filled balloons and stuffed animals. It was like she’d never seen anything like this before. “What are they?”
Jacobus’s stern appearance melted into affection at her excitement. “I don’t know. Decorations of some sort.”
“Haven’t you heard of Valentine’s Day?” Petra asked in surprise. But Jacobus’s confused look confirmed he hadn’t, not to mention that he winced at the reference. Why did he look so haunted?
“No. What is it?” His reply came out hoarsely.
Petra’s brow furrowed, wondering how best to explain it. She assumed it wouldn’t be as extravagant where he’d come from. Possibly, it would lean more toward the real origins of the date.
“Nowadays, it’s about buying gifts of chocolate, cards, stuffed animals and flowers to pass between lovers and school children, who pay twice as much for them.”
“But you know better, don’t you?”
“It is supposed to be in commemoration of Saint Valentine and the sacrifices he made. But today, too few remember that, only seeing flashy sales gimmicks.”
“And how do you know about this Valentine, if no one remembers him?”