What had he done?

Appius hastily walked from one wall to the other. How stupid! Who could have imagined that not Rome, the center of all civilization, but his old home village would bring him what he had been looking for so desperately? The timing couldn’t have been worse. No, the Old Vulture was wrong. It wasn’t a matter of weeks, but a matter of days, perhaps even hours, until the Roman armies would arrive at the village gates following his invitation, and start fight for control over this territory. And then the Old Vulture’s Nest would be doomed.

One thing Appius found out for sure. Kora couldn’t be the Roman infiltrator. Not a single architect in all of Rome was able to create what she did. Her drafts didn’t belong to a gifted person. Her drafts were a pure gift itself. And all of this was about to be buried under the village debris because of his betrayal.

Should he offer Kora the chance to flee? This wouldn’t work, he thought. She’s the same type as Marcus, Appius recognized; her mind wouldn’t change. She would rather sacrifice her life for the village she recently arrived at than leave people who needed help. By the gods, this was frustrating!

Yes, he did agree to pay a high price for the possibility to create within the most glorious city ever. Who would even notice that one Hibernian village got destroyed in the process, like an old barn of Marcus’s father? Heralds in Rome brought similar news by dozens daily. No one he knew would really care. The new silk stola of the emperor’s third wife got more attention than something like this. Here, however, it felt different. It felt real.

A tide of shame finally whirled up in what was left of Appius’ consciousness, and unexpectedly to himself he burst into tears. He should stop this conquest. By all means. At any cost. An impossible task!

A strange sound made Appius look outside the closed window. Predictably it was again this bird. Ah, whatever! On a strange impulse, Appius opened the window and let the hawk fly into the room. To his surprise, the hawk carefully landed on his shoulder and gently touched his cheek with its head, wiping his tears.

They met the dawn together.