Silent tears pour from a mother’s blue eyes. She lays a second bundle down on the cold wet earth next to the first. Each is wrapped tight in thin cotton. Her instinct is to make sure they are okay. To stop. To care for them. To make sure. To do what nature commands. She moves the dark brown linen away from their little faces. They have to know she has no choice, the Gods have demanded this. As she reaches out, her husband grabs her back, hard. His weapon clangs loudly against his thick leather armor, his crown slips on his head and he pulls her away.
Oh, to the Gods with her moan.
The babies cry. The sound punctures the cold foggy morning like a rusty spear.
Maybe they slept.
Maybe they woke when their mother’s shadow stopped covering them.
Maybe they woke when the dew-covered grass drenched the muslin cloth that their progenitor wrapped them in, soaking it through.
Or maybe it was the wolf-scented saliva that drips steadily onto their brows from the wild animal that pants heavily over them.
Hungry, yes, but not for food.
The wolf has yellow eyes, and yellow teeth and heavy milk-filled teats and four dead pups in the hands of a hunter three miles back the other way.
There are many ways to kill a man, but only one good way.
On their first victim, the brothers used their teeth, nails and feral strength.
They scream a wolf-taught war cry that echoes through hills. Their eyes stand red and bulge with blood rage. Their hands sink deep into the old man’s guts as they break the bones of his face, arms and legs.
Mercilessly, he dies more from fright at naked ten-year olds attacking him than the wounds they do.
The boys leave the silver haired victim naked and a bloody mess on the side of the road, and fight each other over his sword and blood-stained clothes.
A decade passes for the illiterate bastard generals. The feral animals that rule the seven hills that one day they call Rome and the next they called Remu. They fight over women and booty and clothing and one day a heavy rock is lifted into the air. A heavy rock from which there will be no taking back. A heavy rock which baptizes the great city forever.