Upon a Funeral Pyre by Cycy Smith

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SUMMARY: A slightly odd take on the legend of Dido and Aeneas, just because I don't believe such a queen killed herself just for thwarted love. (and yes I know its a wierd idea)

You may have heard my name. You may have heard my story. I know that what I do here tonight will echo down the ages. I just wish I could see far enough, see clearly enough, to know what the outcome will be. I don't know whether my purpose will be achieved, all I know is that I have to try.

I am Dido, Queen of Carthage. I was driven from my homeland by my own brother but I have survived. More than that I have succeeded. Every day this city I have founded grows stronger and more prosperous. I am a woman in a man's world, I have faced many hardships, but I have always prevailed. With the gods' help I will prevail still.

I am Dido, Queen of Carthage. I must not fail.

All my life I have been blessed, or maybe cursed, with the Sight. It does not come at my command and until recently it truly was more a curse than a blessing. My visions have rarely come when they were most needed. They did not come in time to save my husband or myself from my brother's wrath. But this time I may just have a chance to change things. This time when the events I have seen are so far in the future that the men and women I know now will be less than shadows in the memory of the world.

Well maybe not. This is a time for heroes. The Trojan War, so recently and so tragically ended, has touched the hearts of many. I think the names of those who fought there will live on long after we are dust. Fierce Achilles, cunning Ulysses, honourable Hector, cowardly Paris. These are names that generation after generation will remember, until the men who once bore them have become legends. And Aeneas of course, he will be remembered too, my lovely, fierce warrior. Aeneas, pious Aeneas, the father of a nation. His is the face most often in my visions, his and his descendants, who will one day rule the Earth.

I knew he would come here long before he did. My visions showed me his coming, shipwrecked and desperate, to our shores. And they showed me what would come after, a new land won by marriage and the sword, an empire from his line, and a choice. My choice.

Always before my visions showed one path, not what might happen but what would happen, and no way to change it. These are different. I have seen myself greet Aeneas and his men and welcome them to our halls. That never changes. We become lovers. That never changes either. But what comes after...there are two different paths, two different visions. In both Aeneas sails away never to return but in one I wave him on his way from the beach and put him out of my mind, carry on with my life here. Carthage carries on growing slowly more prosperous and Aeneas founds his new nation, his new Troy. Then many thousands of years hence his nation has become the most powerful in the world. His descendants conquer land after land with very little trouble and build their empire with no real resistance.

Things get a little less clear after that point but battle after battle is fought, and nation after nation is beaten. Until one hot day in a country I have never seen, under a sky which is strange to me, soldiers of Aeneas' empire condemn to death a man with the fate of the world in his hands.

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