Beckett landed in Egypt. He had come to see the legend herself. He had come to see Queen Cleopatra.
Beckett was taking his time looking for Caesar. Egypt was not what he expected. Beckett was in the harbor wearing his plain white tunic and sandals. He was starring at the tall lighthouse that over-looked the harbor. Beckett was a confused. He had come to Egypt, but it did not look like the Egypt he had seen in the movies. Beckett had expected to see small pyramids. But he quickly realized that Alexandria was not the City he thought it would be.
A hand fell on Beckett’s shoulder.
*Caesar will be pleased to see you.* Said a familiar voice. It was Sulla. *General Sulla, sir.* Beckett replied. He saluted.
*And what does Beckett think of Alexandria?*
*I’m a little confused, sir.*
*Why is that?*
*This is Egypt, right?*
*Where is all the Egyptian stuff? I thought there would be pyramids here.*
Sulla let out a laugh. *Where on earth did you get the idea that Alexandria looked like that?* He continued laughing. *This is Alexandria! The city founded by Alexander the Great. It is designed to display all the great architectural styles of the Greek cities. A tribute to the gods and might of Jupiter.*
*I have had some free time while Caesar consults his staff about the situation here in Alexandria. The royal family, who themselves are descended from Alexander the Great’s generals, seem to be having some difficulty organizing their affairs. Caesar is seeing that all is taken care of.*
*What is the problem?* Beckett asked.
*The Queen Cleopatra is in exile and her brother, the boy, King Ptolemy, is trying to find her and kill her so that he can rule alone.*
*What will Caesar do?*
*Caesar has sent for Cleopatra. He plans to negotiate a truce.*
*Where is Caesar now?*
*Caesar is surrounded by his friends and bodyguards. King Ptolemy is conspiring to have Caesar killed. Caesar is not leaving anything to chance.*
*Can we see him?*
*Of course.* Sulla led Beckett through the winding streets of Alexandria to the King’s Palace.
Beckett entered the palace Ptolemy. King Ptolemy was 12 years and something of a brat. He had banished his older sister, Cleopatra, from the kingdom, and was trying to have her killed. Sulla told Beckett that Ptolemy was now trying to have Caesar killed. Beckett and Sulla quickly found Caesar. Just as Sulla had described, Caesar was encircled by friends and advisors.
*Master Beckett has returned to help us negotiate peace in Egypt.* Caesar said upon seeing Beckett.
Beckett saluted Caesar. Beckett was now taking for granted the access he had to this great figure.
Beckett joined the party and snacked on the bread and fruits that were brought to the table. He could not quite bring himself to eat some of the other foods that were brought to the table. Dead animals on platters did not appeal to his stomach nor his taste-buds. Beckett was also in no hurry to sample the wine. He remembered to clearly what too much wine had done to his Uncle Frank at family gatherings.
The palace was an incredible sight. In the large chamber where Caesar and his followers feasted, were servants waiting to refill the Romans’ wine cups. Guards lined the large, stone walls. At the entrance to the grand hall were four large pillars. Darkness lay beyond. The large room was illuminated by torches.
The soldiers spoke of their personal experiences in battle, and as one Legionary began to speak ill of the Pompeian soldiers, Caesar interrupted.
*Do not be so fast to speak ill of Pompey.* Caesar began. *He is my dear friend and a true Roman. My hope is to meet him, embrace him and forgive him. The man was married to my beloved daughter, Julia. Do not forget.*
*My apologies, sir, I—,” the legionary began.
*Know your place, Legionary.* Sulla growled.
*Yes sir.*, the legionary hushed himself. He spoke no more the rest of the night. Beckett sat and listened to the stories being told. He wished he could somehow take part but what could he say? Beckett guessed it was two in the morning when one of Ptolemy’s advisors entered the room with one Roman Legionary. The Roman held a small bundled cloth in his hand. The advisor approached Caesar and whispered something into his ear. Caesar’s face seemed to instantly turn to stone. The Legionary gave the bundled cloth to Caesar. Caesar held the cloth in his hand for a moment and then got up and left the room.
The celebrations seemed to stop for a moment as Caesar disappeared, but quickly resumed, but the men were less enthusiastic. Beckett waited a moment and then followed Caesar’s path into the small, dark room.
The room was dark and illuminated by a single torch on the sidewall. The room was no bigger than Beckett’s bedroom. Except for a table where the bundled cloth lay unraveled, the room was empty.
Caesar stood against the wall. He was crying.
Beckett approached the table and looked down at the dirty cloth. He saw stains of blood on the cloth underneath the cloth’s contents, a single golden ring with a large symbol of an eagle on it.
*Pompey’s signet ring.* Caesar said as tears ran down his face. *My beloved friend is no more.*
*What happened?” Beckett asked.
*He was here. Here in Egypt. And he was killed when he arrived on shore. It seems someone thought that he was my enemy.* Caesar managed to regain his stature. The tears stopped. *He was my friend. And he was a good Roman.*
*What would you have done, sir, if you had found him first?*
*He would have been forgiven. Perhaps we could have built greatness for Rome together. The story of Rome as I know it, has been the story of friendship. Now, that friendship has been destroyed. What lays ahead for Rome now… I do not know.*
Beckett remained silent. What could he say? He sometimes tried so hard when Caesar was around to seem smart, but now it felt like the smartest thing to do was to remain silent. Beckett left the room.
Beckett returned to the party and sat down to his dinner plate. Shortly after, Caesar returned. He seemed to be hiding his sadness and anger well.
As the men continued the feast, another one of Caesar’s Legionaries entered the room with another large yet disheveled looking man. This man was carrying with him a large sack, which he carefully placed on the ground before the main table in the room. The conversations stopped. Silence took the room.
Beckett knew what would happen next and his heart raced with anticipation of this moment that would be was well-documented in the books that he read.
Caesar stood up from his table and the legionary spoke. *Caesar. I present her majesty, Queen Cleopatra.* With that the sack opened. revealing a small, skinny woman, wearing a tunic. Cleopatra stood up straight. She glistened from the hot sweat of being rolled up in a sack and smuggled into Egypt from afar, defying her brothers attempts to murder her. Slowly, she opened her eyes and sat upright. After remaining motionless for a moment, she looked towards Caesar. Her eyes pierced Caesar and she held him with that gaze. Beckett had stopped chewing his food. A half eaten grape sat in his mouth. He looked back and forth, and felt as the rest of the room and even time had frozen. Cleopatra’s gaze would not release Caesar. After what seemed like an hour, Caesar leaned over to Sulla on his left.
*Sulla,* he began. *Get the kid out of here.*
Sulla looked over to Beckett and gave him an apologetic look. He then stood up and escorted Beckett from the room. Beckett dragged his feet.
*No… but… I… Let me…* Beckett stammered as he was taken out of the room and pushed out into the dim light of the Egyptian night.