Merlin – Prophecy: Death of an Empire

When great empires fall, only powerful and extraordinary men live to tell the tale. This is the epic tale of the fall of Rome through the eyes of Merlin.

My name is Pulchria. I am a citizen of Rome, and I don’t care if you believe me or not. For several years, I lived with wonders while now I survive by my wits and the grace of the street gangs, all of whom remember their time in the sun of the god’s favour.

The barbarians have gone now and Flavius Petronius Maximus is only a bloody memory. The mob tore him into a paste of red flesh when the barbarians came to the Field of Mars. So the last Emperor of the West died and we who are left live on, not knowing if today will bring our own deaths. I have lived too long to be afraid of knife, sword or the silken cords of the strangler. I have seen true horror.

I often think of the young Myrddion Merlinus who came to live at my insula for several years. He was a blessing and a curse, that beautiful boy, and I’m still woman enough to desire those long smooth arms and the beautiful hands that gave both life and death. I longed to run my hands through his black hair – I hunger to feel like a woman again, but time is a cruel thing and I am gown old and juiceless. Me, who once knew and loved the greatest men in the City of the Seven Hills.

In a brainstorm, young Myrddion begged me to sell my insula and run, for he saw the holy city burning and, as I knew, the boy had the gift of prophecy. I’ve often wondered if I should have walked away and left my sturdy boarding house to its fate.

But the boy understood. I gave him my slave anklet so he would feel my pride in what I had earned on my back and the humiliation and pain I had suffered. I couldn’t leave the bricks and mortar that I had bought with my freedom. I could not, although I am now old and fat. What would a barbarian want with me?

Like the wind, Myrddion was gone one day with his people in tow, leaving behind an orange tree in the atrium that grows taller and taller with each year that passes. I feed it night soil and I’ll walk to the fountain as long as these old feet can carry weight to bring clean water to it. Rome suffered terribly at the hands of the barbarians, but Rome is too big to destroy. Those thugs took the houses of the rich to pieces, stealing everything of worth, but what value was there to one more rotting insula lying deep in the subura?

As Osculus says, a thousand years would be insufficient to entirely destroy the greatest city in the world and criminals are always needed to keep the subura in line. The Kiss! What a name for Osculus! Except for his rotting teeth, he’s a sweet boy under his murderous inclinations. I think Master Myrddion was the only one whom Osculus feared. He’s admitted as much to me on many occasions.

‘That lad could see through stone as if it was glass,’ he often says. ‘He once he threatened me by swearing he’d tell my fortune. I almost shit myself in terror. We who live by the knife know what our fates are likely to be, so I swear I went white. He didn’t seem to notice, but perhaps Myrddion was being polite. He was always careful of the feelings of other people, whether rich or poor. One thing I’ll say for the boy, he was honest and decent. Yes, I learned a lot from Myrddion of Segontium.

He went to Constantinople from Ravenna, I hear tell. Osculus sent out webs of spies to find his fate, but other than information that our boy was hated by some of the greatest men in the Middle Sea, we’ve heard nothing. I suppose I never will know what happened to him, but I loved him like a son. Some men are born to carry heavy burdens and sweet Myrddion was one such man. If you hear of him in your travels, Sir, tell him old Pulchria of Rome asks after him and loves him still.