Touched by Fire
by

Rome sleeps, and the temple of Vesta tends to its fires in the night. It is time sweet Marcia was introduced to what truly kept the flames alive within the Vestal Virgins. Under the cover of darkness and in the glow of the fires, Aemilia and Licinia teach her what it really means to submit wholly to the goddess Vesta—and to them. (F/F)





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Editor(s): Lon Sarver
Cover Designer(s): Siol na Tine
Cover Art Credits: Adapted from photo © Ron Chapple at Dreamstime.com.
Production Editor(s): Erika L. Firanc
Proofreader(s): Todd Michaels
Length: Short Story (6,000 Words)
Chapter(s): 2
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Serialization Date: August 5, 2018
Archive(d) on August 19, 2018
Tags: , , , ,

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Marcia was kneeling, her long hair twisted into plaits and held against her head with ivory pins. Licinia had only caught sight of it free and flowing the once, when she’d woken Marcia from a dream, usually Maxima’s task, but she would never forget it, thick and impossibly straight. She longed to touch it, run her fingers through it and feel it but Aemilia had come up behind her, as if she was a spirit, and held her back. That was the day Aemilia decided they would invite Marcia to join them. It had been nearly a year since that day and now it was here, now she had to do her part.

“Marcia,” she whispered, stepping out from the shadows. Licinia was due to tend the hearth soon but not quite yet. It meant Marcia couldn’t leave without hearing her out at least.

“Licinia?” Marcia turned, her big brown eyes searching her out and her lips widening into a smile. Her cheeks were red from the heat of the flames but they were beautifully rounded by her smile. Licinia couldn’t help but grin back. “It is not yet your turn, surely.”

“Not yet,” Licinia admitted, kneeling down beside her. “I wanted to sit for a while. Perhaps we could pass the time by talking.”

Marcia smiled again, shifting on her knees to be closer to her. “I’d like that.”

Licinia tried to stop her mind from reeling; she tried to think about how Aemilia had talked to her that very first time. How she’d steered her gently away from Maxima’s lectures and made her see anything was possible, there was nothing wrong with how she felt.

She took a deep breath and hoped it would all come out in the right way. “It’s completely natural, how you’re feeling.”

Marcia was looking at her out of the corner of her eye, she could tell, but other than that gave nothing away. At twenty-two, she was a lot more confident and calm than Licinia had been before Aemilia saved her from the priest’s lies about Vesta. But then, she had been younger, with nobody else to look up to besides a goddess she couldn’t understand. Aemilia changed that.

“How am I feeling?” Marcia asked shrewdly, cocking her head to the side but not meeting her eyes.

“Confused, angry, afraid,” Licinia answered honestly, recalling how she felt. “Like they have a hundred answers to your questions but not one of them is the right answer.”

This time Marcia did look at her, the fire reflected in her eyes making her look like a goddess herself. “And what is the right answer?”

Licinia took her hand. Despite her calm complexion and her level tone, her palms were damp with sweat. “Whatever you want it to be. But if the question is ‘why can’t I love like everyone else?’ I can tell you now—the answer is you can.”

“But our vows, Vesta’s vows?” Marcia asked, desperation starting to peek through her careful caution. She needed the truth, she needed to see the light.

“Vesta loves you,” Licinia said simply. “She would not deny you the things you are made to worship. Family, love, her very fire. We are supposed to burn with it, not be left to the cold. She wants our love, Marcia, however we can give it to her.”

Marcia bit her lip, staring down into the flames. “How do you love her?”




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