care, but as they were human like me, I slew the wolf and brought
the twins to my wife, Larentia. I sometimes wonder if that was my
crime and why the gods have kept punishing me, the killing of the
adoptive mother of two infants before their eyes.
Larentia, being barren after a miscarriage, shared
my desire for children and welcomed the boys into our household.
At first, they shied away from her, as though unaccustomed to a
human caretaker, but they soon learned to accept her. They never
expressed the kind of affection regular children do, though, perhaps
a sign I should have taken closer notice of.
During these early years, I spent most of my time
looking after my sheep and providing for my family. Most of what
I know of their infancies, I learned from my wife, when she
expressed her concerns to me.
"There is something wrong with them, you
know," Larentia told me over dinner, not quite a year after
I brought them home. "They should be walking and talking by
now, or at least have taken their first steps and said their first
Washing the piece of bread in my mouth down with some
water, I considered her words. "Not all children develop at
the same rate," I told her. "Besides, they're still getting
over their time with the wolf. Let them be, I'm sure before long
they will be running around and spouting enough nonsense to wish
Half a year later, I was proven right, as they went
from crawling around on all four to running all over, seemingly
overnight. A couple of weeks after this, Romulus was nowhere to
be found. Searching all around, I couldn't seem to find him until
a hunch led me to the cave where I had killed the wolf.
There he lay, curled up and soundly asleep on the
same spot where I first saw him and his brother. Picking him up,
I carried him home to my wife claiming I had found him under a
nearby tree. She was apprehensive enough without knowing where the
child's instincts had led him.
Only a few months later, the boys both uttered their first words,
one shortly after the other. Somewhat mollified, my wife had no
further complaints, as they seemed to be fully capable of learning
to speak, only a bit slow in doing so.
Some years later, when the boys were not only walking
and talking, but also running around and getting into the occasional
scuffle, my wife again voiced her concerns.
"They fight all the time," she mentioned
one morning when we awoke to the sounds of some disagreement of
theirs. "I have tried to stop them, but they refuse to play
each other, not to mention other children."
"Oh?" I questioned, yawning. "Well,
not all forms of play appeal to all children. Perhaps they would
better enjoy something more competitive, like wrestling practice?"
"You and your sports," Larentia said with
a snort. "This is serious. If they can't play well with others
now, I fear they will join the bandits when they grow older."
Considering her words, I got out of bed and had a
word with the boys about not fighting each other. At the time I
thought they had learned their lesson, but now I think I only taught
them to fight where their mother and I couldn't hear or see.
Not long after their eleventh birthday, they took
notice of girls, or in particular, the oldest girl of a farmer living
not far from us. The girl took no notice of either, being four years
their senior, but this didn't stop their feud for her favour.
Even if we still never saw them fight, they frequently
came home for dinner with a black eye, scratches or torn clothing.
When Romulus one day came home with a deep bitemark in his shoulder,
next to the throat, I took Remus aside and told him in no uncertain
terms that the feud was over. He agreed.
The next day, Remus courted the girl to no more avail
than ever, but this time without the interference of his brother.
Their last fight seemed to have settled the matter once and for
all, with Romulus backing off completely, though his eyes could
tell anyone that he resented it.
The girl eventually married a young farmer, but the
situation between them seemed stabilized. Remus seemed more at ease
with life, sometimes even wearing a grin. As neither boy ever smiled,
this was remarkable enough that I took careful note of how his brother
acted in response.
Romulus was showing for him very unusual behaviour,
stepping out of the way when Remus approached, not reaching for
the food until after Remus had already stacked his plate and generally
This pattern remained in place and further evolved
during the next several years, until the time when their true heritage
was revealed. I watched the twins as their grandfather Numitor recognised
them as his rightful heirs and saw how Remus' features lit up with
pride. What worried me was how Romulus' eyes narrowed into thin
slits, looking towards his brother for a moment before returning
his gaze to the old king.
It may have been my imagination, but I believed that
his eyes momentarily locked upon his brother's throat. Shivers ran
down my spine, but I quickly convinced myself that I was mistaken.
Today I wonder.
After the brief but decisive war against Amulius,
they were both rather proud of themselves, both boasting several
kills and together having regained their grandfather the throne
of the Silvian house. I was apprehensive, though, as I had seen
who followed them into battle and recognised several local bandits.
It would seem the rumours I had been denying about their associations
were indeed true, which made me wonder if perhaps the rumours of
how they celebrated Lupercalia had some basis in reality.
With Numitor as king once again, the twins returned
to where I had raised them, bringing along not only their followers
from the fighting, but also a large party consisting mostly of young
men from Alban and Latin towns in the environs. As now recognised
as being of royal birth, they felt it only appropriate to have a
people to call their own, which would require a city to be founded.
Here problems arose, perhaps because Mars, their supposed
father, was not sated with the blood spilled already. Remus considered
the Aventine hill a superior site for the founding of a city, whereas
Romulus, as always, preferred the Palatine hill.
The brothers exchanged a hard look, then each withdrew
to his proposed location, to consult the auspices. I saw the six
vultures fly near the Aventine, then followed the messenger sent
by Remus to his brother, to tell him the auspices had spoken.
"Lord Romulus," the messenger said, kneeling
before him, "your brother has seen six vultures near the Aventine
hill. The gods have spoken, a site for our city has been chosen."
I could see the spark in Romulus eyes as he spoke.
"Indeed, but not the Aventine hill, for I just saw twelve vultures
arise from the Palatine hill," he stated in a hard tone.
The brothers both claimed their omen to be the supreme
one, no agreement could be reached and so both went about founding
a city on the respective hills.
Remus, ill-accustomed to his brother opposing him,
was frustrated about what he considered Romulus' stubborness. Several
times, he went over to the Palatine, attempting to persuade his
twin to, once again, yield, mostly through belittling him and the
start of what was to become a city.
"Little brother, don't you know that I'm always
right?", Remus asked Romulus one day. "We discussed the
matter once, if you would remember. Now give up on these burrows
and piles of rock and come help me found our city."
Romulus steadfastly refused to answer him, but I could
see his ire rising with each taunt. I feared what would happen should
Remus take things too far, which happened one day. I wasn't there
myself, but I've been told that Remus made fun of the outlines of
a wall by repeatedly jumping over it while telling Romulus how his
efforts were wasted.
I arrived on the scene shortly after this, having
been summoned by the roar with which Romulus tore into his brother.
I found my adopted sons rolling around on the ground
with Romulus gaining the advantage, aided by a wound in Remus' side,
inflicted by Romulus' now discarded dagger.
With a feral snarl, Romulus went for his twin's throat
and bit deep. Remus tried to cry out, but only managed a gasp before
Romulus ripped out his jugular. Shocked by the act, I froze before
the horrific scene, as Romulus let out a howl of victory. Getting
to his feet, he wiped away some of the blood from his chin before
addressing the crowd.
To this day, I cannot recall what he said, but his
brother's people accepted him as their new leader and the Palatine
as the proper site for the new city, which was named Roma after
my surviving son. I returned to the present when Romulus in mid-speech
stopped before me, placing his hand on my shoulder.
"The goddess of the Palatine hill," he was
saying, "Palatua Diva, will need a Flamen to conduct her rites
and keep our city safe and strong."
I couldn't quite grasp what he was saying, the enormity
of his previous act still had me shaken to the core.
"Faustulus has lived near here his whole life
and served the goddess well," he continued, "as can be
evidenced by him being chosen to rescue me, after I was left to
die. He will be the Flamen of Palatua."
Not being a man of much faith, this disturbed me,
although nowhere near as much as the death of one of my adoptive
sons, but Romulus' hand on my shoulder gripped me hard.
"No, Faustulus," he said. "Deny not
your piety, for I have witnessed it myself. With a flamen as dedicated
as yourself, how can we but prosper?"
With a grin showing a bit more of his teeth than I
was comfortable with seeing, after so recently having seen them
in use, he released me and continued his oration to his people.
I went home to Larentia and told her about the death
of our son, though I couldn't bring myself to tell her how it came
about. We mourned his passing, but were interrupted early the next
day when some of Romulus' followers showed up and brought me back
to the new city, where I was shown the proposed location of the
temple I was supposed to head.
I agreed with their plans, then sought out Romulus
and took him aside, intent on refusing the position. Instead his
gaze burned into me as he snarled quietly.
"I remember my mother, old man," he said,
"and what you did to her. You will serve as I tell you, in
Flustered, I protested my innocence. "I have
always treated Larentia with fairness and..."
"Not that cow," he cut me off. "My
real mother, whom you slew and stole us from. You will serve as
her Flamen and honour her memory, as it is the only thing that remains
Recognising the madness in Romulus' eyes for what
it was, I nodded, not daring to speak out. He stared into my eyes
for several seconds, before nodding sharply and walking back to
the men constructing his city.
I sat down, a feeling of anxiety for the future of
my home region rising in the pit of my stomach. In the distance,
a single vulture lifted from the Aventine hill.