Enjoy an exclusive guest post from KA Masters, author of “Per Aquas As Astra,” featured in our upcoming anthology ON TIME.
Aelius’ eyes fixed on the silver medallion that sparkled in his palm. Letting it drop through his fingers, he watched it dangle in the waning sunlight and marveled at the artist’s craftmanship.
Two portraits were etched into the silver disc, a prototype for the new year’s coin set into a jeweler’s chain. The one side boasted Hadrian’s proud profile and title; the other side was the nameless image of the youth that had stolen his heart and haunted his dreams.
Antinous’ cold and lifeless eyes peered out from the silver and into his soul. Antinous had been his consort, his soulmate, his widowhood. They had celebrated a honeymoon in Egypt, but Aelius had returned to Rome alone. The only person who had ever touched the emperor’s heart was now reduced to images in wax, and plaster, and stone.
As much as he delighted in seeing his lover’s tender features again, the medallion mocked him with its design.Their profiles had been sculpted on obverse and reverse, kept apart by the silver disc of time. Once separated by the gulf of death, Antinous was forever out of the emperor’s reach.
But inspiration struck him as he watched the medallion glimmer in the waning light. Thinking of the iunx, the love-charm thaumatrope that daydreaming girls would play to win their crushes, he thought to do the same. Taking one end of the chain in each hand, he spun the medallion around until the two images merged.
In the waning light of day, their profiles blended into a double-headed Janus: the emperor’s image looking forward, his dreamy-eyed lover’s gaze locked on the past.
The emperor continued to watch their fused image, mesmerized by the hope that it offered. Daylight turned into nightfall, and the lovers continued to shine in the hazy sparkle of starlight.
Several hours later, the presence of another interrupted his melancholy reverie. Breaking the silence and Aelius’ concentration, his son-in-law placed a tentative hand upon the emperor’s shoulder and asked, “Hadrian, are you well?”
“Aye,” the emperor replied. He quickly clasped the chain together and slid the necklace over his head.
“Hadrian, your presence is needed in Court,” Antoninus prompted.
“Aye,” Hadrian responded, taking a deep breath. He rose to meet his son-in-law, taking comfort in the fact that beneath his imperial trappings, the silver image of his beloved dangled over his heart.
KA Masters is a fantasy writer who specializes in twisted fairy tales and zombie-infested historic fiction. She attributes her passion for Greco-Roman mythology and Germanic folklore to her alma mater, Dickinson College. Her debut novel, The Morning Tree, was recently published by Indie Gypsy.
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