MINCHIATE: Eight of Swords

Crossroads

For the third time, Miriam was at a crossroads and wondered where life would take her. The first time, she’d been gazing out the window on a summer’s eve, and had witnessed her fiancé’s perfidy. She’d chosen the easy road then and had run away. The second time she’d stood between two signs when her car broke down on the ice. Life had whisked her away then, and her greatest adventure had begun. 

Now, she sat by the campfire Lucius had lit, helpless, blue eyes wide with wonder. The trees rustled in the wind meandering through the dark forest where Miriam had stumbled with Lucius, injured and exhausted, and where she’d tended to him. The moon shone through the thick branches and the stars lit up the night despite the tall trees. Miriam had never seen such stars. The fire crackled and hissed and cast playful shadows on his face; it glowed on her alabaster cheeks.  

Lucius told her to leave, but where? She’d arrived in a flash of light, maybe he expected her to leave in one?

“I must find my legion, whatever’s left of it,” he said, “I thank you for healing me, but I cannot take you with me.”

“I have nowhere to go,” Miriam answered in her broken, schoolgirl Latin. 

He gazed at her and took in her dainty form. With her short hair, maybe she could pass as a boy?

Lucius sighed; he handed her a silver dagger he pulled from his belt. 

“My father gave this to me,” he said, “it will keep you safe. Let me see you use it.”

Miriam took the dagger and pretended to stab the air. 

“Grip it well,” he said, and taking it from her, showed her how. She imitated his movements. 

“Very well, now use it on me.”

Miriam shook her head. 

Lucius growled and pulled her close. The violent gesture startled her and, by instinct, she slipped from his grasp, pushed him against a tree and placed the dagger at his throat. Their eyes met; Miriam saw no danger, but something between mirth and admiration. His warm smile lightened the fire-lit shadows on his face. 

“You’ve got fight, you’d be a great soldier, if…”

“If I weren’t a woman?” Miriam scowled. Her parents had brought her up to agree to men, to be demure and discreet, yet a fire of rebellion had always burned in her chest. That fire must have blazed in her blue eyes, because Lucius stopped himself. 

“You’re like no woman I’ve ever met. How did you get here?”

Miriam explained as best she could about the ice, the breakdown (she used the Latin word for cart), and the signpost. 

“I found this stone. Then I was here.”

She showed him the stone. Moonlight struck its crude R, and Miriam felt the earth shudder. The world around her spun and she felt herself drifting away from Lucius. His black eyes widened with surprise, his dark hand with muddy fingernails reached out. He grabbed her outstretched palm and gripped tight. He held on as the forest faded.  

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