The slave searches his pocket for payment to the old woman. She sees something shiny on his chest. Its disk shines a bright white in the morning sun. It blinds the old woman as he moves. She MUST have it.
The disk hypnotizes her... it tells her that she MUST have it no matter what the price. She is in its trance. The slave is talking to her but she does not hear him. He talks louder and she finally wakes up.
"HOW much for the blanket, old woman???" He shouts at her.
"You don't have to shout... I'm not deef!" Yells back the old woman. "The price is the gem on your chest."
"This worthless old thing??? Are you sure," he questions? The slave and master look at each other and smile. The disk has been nothing but trouble and they are ready to be rid of it. But... they are worried for the old woman. She looks like she has had a hard life. The slave wonders if the old woman can take what the disk casts at her. It has been bad luck ever since he stumbled upon it those many years ago. The old woman nods and he hands it over to her... Glad to be rid of it!
The old woman stares at the disk... She holds it to the light and it blinds her for a moment. She has never seen anything so shiny... Maybe it is valuable? She quickly puts it in her pocket as the guards come to collect their fee for the days stall rental. Everyone must pay their taxes... no one is exempt. She has not sold much today. She quickly puts the stone in her apron.
"And who do we have here??? Old woman... We are here to collect the tax." The guard laughs at her and pokes at her blankets. He is the mean one. She has had run ins with him before. This is NOT going to be easy.
"I am a poor old woman sir. I have not sold anything yet today," she lied, "Come back later and I will have the tax for you when I have sold some things." Her heart raced. Would he believe her?
The guard looked at the old woman. "YOU lie!!! I saw you make a transaction a few moments ago with that slave and his mistress. They gave you something. Pay up your tax," he ordered. He pulled at her apron and stole the gem from its pocket. "See HERE??? You lied." He raised a hand to hit her and she crouched to the floor. She was saved by his companion who quickly reminded him that they had many more vendors to collect from before lunch.
The two walked away with the one guard holding the disk to the light to check on its shininess. The old woman had made it without a beating... this time. She thanked the gods. (or should she have thanked the white disk?) She turned to the customer waiting to pay for a blanket and forgot about the disk... for now.
A few months later on the Ides of March the old woman was once again at the Theater of Pompey marketplace. She had survived the winter and she could see the spring blossoms around the fountain in full bloom. As she was setting up her wares she noticed a commotion in the portico. There was lots of shouting and screaming. The crowd did not seem to hear but she did. She stepped away from her blankets to see what was going on.
There was blood everywhere. Knives were being plunged and men were shouting. They did not see her behind the pillar. She was a small woman and easily missed. "Oh my... they were plunging knives into Julius Caesar!" She recognized a few of the killers’ faces. She gasped and then hid behind the pillar lest someone hear her. Luckily they did not. Should she go get the guards? Should she try and stop the mob attacking Caesar? She stood there frozen behind the pillar unable to move. She stood there until all was quiet in the portico.
It seemed like hours but she was sure it had only been moments. She slowly moved to look around the pillar. She saw Caesar lying on the steps in a pool of blood. A glistening caught her eye. Strange... Caesar was in shadows but still... something... glistened at her. She had better hurry before the guards came to see what the commotion was. She walked over to Caesar. There he lay... old... wrinkled... a broken man. She had no opinion of him one way or the other. Until... there... she saw it. On his chest was HER pin. The one that had been stolen from her months before. YES... she considered it stolen. The disk flashed at her again.
The old woman could hear noises... the guards were coming. They can't catch her here. She quickly bends down and snatches the pin from Caesars chest. No one will miss it. And if they do they would assume that one of the murderers have taken it. It was hers anyway. She cursed at Caesar and left him to die... alone. She held it in her hand and shoved it in her apron pocket as she returned to her blankets.
She watched as the guards hurried over to Caesar. No one had seen her. She was safe. A few moments later the guards were telling the vendors to pack up their things for the day and go home. They didn't want bystanders looking on and getting in the way. They asked her if she had seen anything and she held her head low and said no as she packed up her wares. They let her pass.
As she wheeled her cart home she smiled. It had been a profitable morning. She had her gem and no one would EVER take it from her again. Her hand felt the stone in her pocket. It seemed to warm her whole being. She shuddered off the last bits of cold in her body and smiled again. Somehow she felt her luck was about to change.