THE STORY OF THE EMPRESS FLAVIA
 FLAVIA was very young when she married the Emperor of Rome. Life seemed full
of joy, and she had everything that her heart could desire. The Emperor
loved her dearly, and she was as happy as the day was long. It is true that
her husband sometimes flew into terrible passions and was often harsh in his
judgments when he was angry, but to Flavia he was always gentle and kind,
and she loved him with all her heart. He was not very clever, perhaps, but
he was straightforward and honourable, very different to the prince, his
brother, who always lived with them at the palace.
This prince was a handsome, clever young man and had great influence over
the Emperor, but his ways were crooked and crafty and his heart was bad.
It happened soon after his marriage that war broke out with the Turks, and
the Emperor was obliged to leave his young wife and put himself at the head
of his army.
It troubled him to think of leaving Flavia with all the cares of the state
on her hands. She was so young and would be so lonely in the great palace
without him. It was a comfort, however, to think his brother would
 be there
to help and cheer her, and in parting he earnestly prayed the prince to do
all in his power to help and protect the Empress.
But scarcely had the Emperor gone when the prince began to plan and plot how
he might get rid of his brother. If only by some happy chance the Emperor
should be killed and never return, what good fortune that would be!
The prince had long been envious of his brother. He longed to seize both the
crown and the beautiful Empress, but he was obliged to work cautiously.
First he began with Flavia. With a word here and a word there he tried to
make her feel ill-used.
"It is a pity," he said, "that the dear Emperor has such a terrible
temper. I fear you must often have suffered from it."
"That I never have," said Flavia indignantly; "he is always gentle with
"Yet he has left you all alone and unprotected," said the prince. "He
really need not have gone away so soon."
"He always does his duty," said Flavia proudly.
It was no use hinting to Flavia, and time was going on, so one day the
prince spoke out boldly.
"The Emperor will return no more," he said. "I am about to arrange that he
shall be accidentally killed, and then I shall seize the crown. Help me with
my plans and you shall still be Empress."
For a moment Flavia was paralysed with
astonish-  ment and horror, and could
not answer. The prince thought she was about to consent, and left her well
But he little knew Flavia. Scarcely had he gone out than she sent for the
officer of the guard and bade him arrest the Emperor's brother immediately
and see that he was locked up in a lonely tower outside the city where no
one should go near him except the gaoler. The officer looked astonished, but
Flavia did not tell him what crime the prince had committed; she could not
bear to think that the Emperor's subjects should know that his brother was a
base traitor. Then she wrote him a note in which she said that she hoped she
would never look on his treacherous face again.
But though the prince found himself locked up and his plans upset, he did
not despair, for he was very clever. First he pretended to be very ill
indeed, and begged that a priest might be sent to him. Flavia was
tender-hearted and could not bear to think he should die alone, so she sent
him her own father confessor, a gentle old man who was very easily deceived.
He very soon began to beg Flavia to release the prince.
"I do not know what crime you accuse him of," said the old man, "but he
seems truly penitent. He cannot remember anything that happened before his
illness, and, indeed, I think he has been quite out of his mind and did not
know what he was doing."
 Then the prince, too, wrote long letters, pretending to be terribly afraid
of his brother's anger.
"When he knows, he will kill me," he wrote over and over again as if in an
agony of fear. And he implored Flavia to set him at liberty before the
Meanwhile the news came that the war was over, and the Emperor sent word
that he would soon be on his way home. Flavia's heart was filled with
happiness, and in her joy she could not bear to think that the Emperor
should learn at once the story of his brother's treachery, so she sent word
that the prince was to be released.
At last the happy day came when the Emperor entered the city at the head of
his victorious army. There were great rejoicings throughout Rome, but
happiest of all was the Empress Flavia.
There was one face, however, that was sad and downcast. The Emperor's
brother went about with his melancholy eyes fixed on the ground as if he
were too miserable to look up. The Emperor looked at him keenly several
times and at last took him aside.
"Why dost thou look so sorrowful?" he asked; "tell me what has come to
The prince shook his head and sighed. "Ah, there is sorrow enough," he
said, "but I cannot tell thee what it is."
"I command thee to tell me at once," said the Emperor.
 "I dare not," said the prince. "Alas, it is a tale of treachery aimed
against thy own life."
"That is but what an emperor must expect," said his brother calmly. "Come,
tell me the plot and the names of the plotters."
The prince made great pretence of being most unwilling, but at last, when
the Emperor began to lose patience, he spoke out.
"How can I tell thee," he said, "when the one who plotted against thy life
was thine own wife, Flavia?"
The Emperor sprang to his feet and seized his brother's arm.
"Take care what thou sayest," he said; "such a thing cannot be."
Then the prince began his tale saying that he had discovered the plot and
begged Flavia to stop before it was too late. But as soon as the Empress
knew that her crime was discovered by him, she sent immediately for the
guard and ordered him to be arrested and shut up in a lonely prison,
refusing to tell any one of what crime she accused him.
"There, in that solitary prison, I have lain sick and sorrowful until
yesterday when the Empress ordered me to be released, doubtless fearing your
anger," ended the wily prince.
Even then the Emperor could not believe it, until the prince showed him some
letters, really written by himself, but copied from Flavia's handwriting, in
which all the treachery was told.
 Then the Emperor called the officer of the guard and demanded why it was
that the prince had been imprisoned.
"Your Highness," said the officer, "it was by order of the Empress, but
for what crime he was punished we do not know."
When the Emperor heard that, he flew into one of his dreadful rages and
declared that Flavia should be put to death.
The prince pretended to plead for her, but that only made the Emperor more
furious. He sent immediately for two of his most trusted officers and bade
them go at once to the Empress's apartments and conduct her to a villa some
distance from Rome. The way led through a lonely wood, and when they reached
the wood the officers were instructed to put the Empress to death, but to
pretend that she had died of an illness, so that no one might know of her
"And as a token that ye have done your duty," added the Emperor, "bring me
the ring and gold chain which the Empress wears, that I may know that the
deed has been accomplished."
Flavia could not understand why she should undertake this hurried journey,
but the officers told her it was the Emperor's will, and that he would join
her later. So she set out with them, feeling somewhat perplexed and unhappy.
They journeyed on for some time until they came
 to the edge of a dark wood,
and there the officers requested the Empress to alight from her horse, as
there was only a narrow footpath through the woods. The servants would take
the horses round by a longer road, they said.
This also seemed strange to Flavia, for she was not accustomed to walking on
rough roads, but she dismounted and went on with the two officers.
As the wood grew darker and darker, and the path so narrow that it was
difficult to push a way through the briars, the men began to look at one
"Wilt thou tell her?" said one.
"No, I cannot," said the other; "indeed I have no liking for this
business. The Emperor is often hasty in his judgment, when those terrible
rages seize him."
"Still, it must be done," said the first, and turning to Flavia he told her
that she had been brought here to be executed, since the Emperor had
discovered her treachery and how she had plotted against his life.
Flavia turned pale, but she held her head high and fearlessly.
"I am innocent," was all she said.
"I verily believe she is," said one of the officers. "I would that we
might spare her."
"If we spare her, the Emperor will not spare us," said the other. "It is
her life or ours. Remember how we are to take back her ring and her golden
chain as a token that we have obeyed his commands."
As soon as Flavia heard these words she quickly
 slipped off her ring and
unwound the chain from her neck and thrust them into the guard's hand. Then,
quick as thought, she turned and ran through the trees.
It was drawing towards evening and the light in the wood was very dim as the
trees grew thickly together. The men started to overtake Flavia, but the
foremost officer, catching his foot in the root of a tree, fell heavily to
the ground, while his companion, just behind him, fell headlong over him.
When they picked themselves up Flavia had disappeared, and though they
searched the wood all night they could discover no trace of her.
When morning dawned the men consulted together and made up their minds to
return to Rome and carry the ring and the chain to the Emperor, and allow
him to think that Flavia was dead.
By this time the Emperor's rage had spent itself, and although he was still
sure that Flavia was guilty, he began to wish he had not been so hasty.
"She is little more than a child," he said to his brother sorrowfully. "It
would have been better if I had shut her up in some convent where she might
have had time to repent."
So when the officers returned and silently offered him the well-known ring
and golden chain, he asked no questions, but made a gesture for them to take
the things away, for he would not touch them.
After that the Emperor lived but a sad, lonely life,
 and the name of Flavia never passed his lips. Only once, when a crowd of
poor people came to the palace door and he heard them lamenting that their
"little mother," as they called Flavia, was gone, he gave orders that
whatever charity the Empress had given should be continued in her name.
Now when poor Flavia had escaped from the two officers, she wandered about
the wood all night and in the early morning found her way out on to the
high-road once more.
Weary and footsore, her clothes torn by the brambles and her hands scratched
and bleeding, she looked no longer like an empress but rather like a poor
wayfarer. There she sat by the roadside and wondered what she should do
next. She knew that the road in one direction must lead to Rome, and she did
not know which way to take. Just then, in the dim morning light, she saw a
company of people and horses coming along. Some of the horses were laden
with merchandise, and at the head of the company rode an old man who
appeared to be the chief merchant.
He had a kind, gentle-looking face, and Flavia, feeling desperate, went out
into the road as he was passing and held out her hands to him as if to
implore a favour.
The old man stopped his horse at once, but bade his servants go on. He saw
that this was no common beggar, but some one of gentle birth.
"What can I do for thee?" he asked kindly.
 "Wilt thou tell me whither this road leads?" she asked
"That way to Rome," he said, pointing behind him, "and this way in front
to Ostia where I am going."
"Oh, wilt thou help me?" said Flavia, clasping her hands. "I am alone
and unprotected, and I, too, would go to Ostia. Wilt thou take me under thy
The old man thought for a moment.
"What is thy name, and how camest thou here alone?" he asked.
Flavia looked into his kind eyes and felt she could trust him.
"I cannot tell thee who I am," she said, "but the reason I am here alone
is that I was condemned to death and have just escaped."
"Lift up thy veil and let me see thy face," said the old man.
Flavia lifted her veil as he bade her, and the merchant looked at her with a
long, searching gaze.
"Thou mayest come," he said at last; "I see nothing but good in that
So he called to one of the men to bring a horse and lift the maiden upon it,
and they journeyed on together to Ostia.
"I will take thee home to my wife for one night," said the merchant
thoughtfully as they neared the town, "and to-morrow I will see thee safe
in a convent where the Emperor himself could not touch thee."
 Flavia thanked him gratefully, and also thanked God in her heart that she
had fallen into such kind hands.
But if the merchant was kind-hearted his wife was even kinder. She looked
keenly at Flavia and listened to the tale which her husband had to tell, and
when he talked of the convent she shook her head.
"Why not let her stay here with us?" she said. "I have never seen a
sweeter or a purer face, and it is useless to tell me she has committed a
crime worthy of death. Why, she is but a child, just the age our little
daughter would have been now had she lived to grow up."
The thought of the little daughter who had died made the merchant feel very
pitiful towards Flavia, but still he hesitated.
"Art thou sure it is wise to take a stranger into our house of whom we know
nothing but that she is accused of a great crime?" he asked.
"You know our Emperor," answered his wife; "when he is seized with one of
his sudden rages he is seldom just, and I feel sure this maiden is innocent.
Let her stay with us, and she shall help me to look after the child."
For the merchant and his wife had one little child, a son of their old age,
whom they loved very dearly.
So it was settled that the maiden should stay, and for a while all went
well. Poor Flavia began to hold up her head again and to feel as if there
 some peace for her in the world, sheltered as she was in that kind
home. But the peace did not last long.
The merchant had a younger brother who lived in the house, and this young
man, seeing Flavia's beauty, began to wish to make her his wife. Flavia told
him at once that he must not think of such a thing, that she was but a
servant in the house, and not fit to marry her master's brother. But when he
continued to trouble her she saw that she must tell the truth.
"Why wilt thou not marry me?" he asked.
"For the best reason of all," she answered at last gravely. "I am
At first the young man would not believe this, but afterwards he said even
that did not matter, for her husband was as good as dead.
Then Flavia turned from him in great anger, and he in his turn waxed furious
and warned her that she would soon repent of the way she had scorned him.
"Do as I wish or a terrible misfortune will overtake thee," he said.
"The good God holds the future in His hands," answered Flavia, "and He
will protect me."
After this it seemed as if the young man's thoughts grew blacker and more
evil every day. Very soon he began to arrange a dreadful plan to punish
Flavia, and ended one day by killing the poor little boy and
 then pretending that it was Flavia who had done the cruel deed.
Poor Flavia! at first she could not understand why they thought it possible
for her to commit such a crime, for she loved the child dearly. But when the
guards arrived to carry her off to prison and she asked them who had accused
her and they told her it was her master's brother, then she understood it
The judges before whom she was taken asked at once who she was and what was
her history. The poor old merchant could only tell what he knew, how he had
found her alone and friendless and accused of some terrible crime. Flavia
herself would tell nothing more, and everything looked so black that they
were sure she was guilty. So the poor innocent maiden was condemned to
death, with no one to help or pity her.
The judges shook their heads sorrowfully to think that one so young and
beautiful should be so wicked, and they declared it was fitting that a
terrible punishment should follow such a life of crime. So they ordered that
both her hands should be cut off and then that she should be carried out to
sea and left to die alone on a desolate rock.
But when Flavia came to herself on the little desert island alone and dying,
a strange feeling of peace began to steal over her. It was so cool and quiet
lying on that rock. The soft lap of the waves soothed
 her after the turmoil of the angry voices, and the gentle breeze seemed like
a friend laying a cool, caressing hand upon her aching forehead.
"I have found peace at last," she said to herself with a tired smile as she
turned and fell quietly asleep, thinking that all was over.
But that sleep was not the sleep of death. In the middle of the night she
awoke and looked up to see the kindly stars shining down on her and to feel
the cool wind gently stirring her hair. The soothing sound of the lapping
water was still the only thing she heard, and again a great peace seemed to
wrap her round and comfort her sad heart.
Then, as she lay there watching the stars, a light began to dawn in the sky.
At first she thought it must be morning, but it was not at all like the
light of dawn. Brighter and brighter it grew until it took the form of a
shining cloud, so white and full of dazzling light that it seemed as if the
midday sun must be shining from within.
Flavia gazed with wondering eyes as the cloud came ever nearer and nearer
until it hung over the rock on which she lay. Then the wonder of it seemed
to grow too great for mortal eyes. Like the petals of a white flower the
soft masses of cloud unfolded from within, and there in the centre of the
light stood the Madonna. Flavia knew that face at once, although it was far
more beautiful than any picture she had ever seen.
 The pitying look in the Madonna's face grew deeper as she bent down over
Flavia and gently spoke to her.
"Poor child," she said, "I have come to put an end to all thy sufferings.
There is nothing now but happiness in store for thee. Ere long thou wilt be
taken from off this rock and thy troubles will be over. But first I have a
gift to bestow upon thee."
And as she spoke the Madonna fastened two of the fairest, whitest hands upon
Flavia's poor wrists, and round the join she placed two bands of shining
gold. They looked the most perfect, the most beautiful hands that mortal
eyes had ever seen, and no wonder, since they were a gift from the Madonna
"O Madonna mia," said Flavia with a sobbing breath, "take me away with
thee. I am so weary of this world and all its troubles. I only want to be at
"Nay," said the Madonna, "I cannot take thee with me now, for there is
still work for thee to do on earth."
"How can that be?" asked Flavia sadly.
"Only wait and thou shalt see," answered the Madonna. "I have still
another gift for thee. When I am gone lift up that stone close to the
water's edge, and under it thou shalt find a bunch of sweet herbs. Take them
with thee, for they will cure all ills and bring much comfort to
those in sorrow.
 Now, my child, wait patiently for thy release, and farewell."
Then the cloud began to fold itself once more like a closing flower round
its shining heart. And Flavia watched it float away, growing dimmer and
dimmer in the distance, until it vanished from her sight.
Could it have been only a dream and was she still asleep? Flavia wondered
if she was dreaming, but she looked down at those fair white hands and the
golden bands and knew that the Madonna had indeed come to comfort and heal
her. Then she remembered the second gift, and, lifting the stone, she found
there the bunch of sweet herbs which the Madonna had promised. She pressed
them against her cheek to smell their fragrance and then carefully hid them
in her robe. And, strange to say, she felt almost as happy and light-hearted
as she used to feel when she was a young bride and Empress of Rome.
It was morning now, and as she looked across the blue water she saw a
fishing-boat coming towards the island rowed by two men, one old and bent
and the other with a bandage round his eyes. She called to them as they were
rowing past, but at first they did not hear. Presently, however, they caught
sight of her and came towards the rock.
The amazement of the fishermen was great to see a lady on that desolate
island. It was all the more strange because she was so beautiful,
 wonderful golden bracelets and fair, white hands. They thought
it must be some vision, until Flavia spoke to them and asked them from
whence they came.
They told her their home was in a little fishing-village some distance from
Ostia, and this pleased Flavia well.
"Wilt thou take me there?" she asked the old man. "I will find means to
The old man spoke some words to his companion, who nodded his head. He was a
young man and seemed to be suffering great pain when he lifted the bandage
from his eyes and tried to look at Flavia.
"Is aught amiss with thine eyes?" asked Flavia gently.
"We fear he will soon be blind," said the old man mournfully. "One eye was
cut by a stone thrown by a careless boy, and now the sight of the other eye
is almost gone."
"Stay," said Flavia, "perhaps I can help thee."
She took the bunch of herbs from her bosom, and after she had very tenderly
undone the bandage she laid the sweet-smelling leaves upon the poor injured
The work of healing was done in a moment. The pain vanished and sight
returned. Then feeling and seeing the miracle the two men fell on their
knees, and lifting the hem of Flavia's robe, pressed it to their lips.
 "My lady," they said, "tell us if thou art the Madonna herself?"
"Nay," said Flavia, smiling, "but these herbs are indeed a gift from
heaven. So give thanks to God for thy healing."
The grateful fishermen gladly now took her into their boat and rowed her
back to the little village, where they gave her the best of everything their
poverty could afford.
Every one who was sick or suffering came there to be cured by Flavia, and
the blessed herbs never failed in their virtue. From the poor she took no
payment, but from the rich she asked money, for she needed to live, and her
clothes, too, were almost worn out.
Ere long the work in the village seemed ended, and Flavia made up her mind
to depart. She had now bought a few garments, a plain black robe, and a long
veil which covered her from head to foot. No one, she felt sure, would
recognise her now, and so she set out to return to Ostia.
The fame of her cures had already reached that town, and people soon began
to crowd around the Saint, as they called her. Very patiently she listened
to all their woes and cured any one who came to her, just as she had done in
the little fishing-village.
One day when they had brought a sick child to her, and the crowd was
pressing round as usual to watch the miracle, she noticed a man trying to
 his way through the crush as if anxious to reach her. As he came
nearer and she saw his face she recognised him as one of the servants who
lived in her old master's house. She bade the people allow the man to pass,
and when he reached her side asked him what he sought.
"Wilt thou come with me at once?" he panted; "my master's brother is
dying. My master prays thee to come and try if thou canst save him."
"When I am finished my work here I will come," said Flavia quietly
The servant waited impatiently, but Flavia would not come until she had done
all she could for the sick child, and then she set out for the merchant's
"What ails thy master's brother?" she asked as they hurried along.
"No one knows," answered the man, "but he seems to have something on his
mind and grows daily worse and worse."
When Flavia reached the house she knew so well, she almost forgot to pretend
she was a stranger, but she allowed the man to lead her upstairs as if she
did not know the way.
There was a priest in the room into which they led her, and the old merchant
and his wife were also there. They were all standing round the bed on which
the young man lay.
The old merchant turned quickly to meet the
 stranger, and in a low
tone implored her to do all she could to cure his brother.
"I will do my best," said Flavia gravely. "But first I must ask if he has
confessed his sins, because my herbs can only cure those who are truly
"Oh yes, he has confessed only this morning," said the priest.
But Flavia knew by the calm way he spoke that the young man had not
She went up to the bed and quietly bent over him.
"There is one sin you have not confessed," she said.
The sick man began to tremble from head to foot, and the people around
thought he was dying
"Oh, help him!" cried the old merchant in an imploring voice to Flavia.
"I cannot help him unless he will help himself first and confess his sin,"
answered Flavia. "My herbs are powerless to heal until he does that."
"Then let us leave him alone with the priest," said the merchant.
"Nay," said Flavia, "he must confess before thee and thy wife and me."
The young man groaned, but feeling sure that he was about to die he made up
his mind to confess his great sin.
"I killed the child myself," he moaned, "and laid the blame on Flavia."
A great cry broke from the lips of the merchant's
 wife, and the master
himself gave a deep groan, but Flavia bent gently over the sick man and laid
the bunch of herbs upon his breast. Health and strength came back
immediately, but he turned his head to the wall.
"To think how that poor child Flavia suffered while all the time she was
innocent," sobbed the merchant's wife.
"Well, at least he shall suffer the same," said the merchant sternly.
"Call the guards that they may carry him off to prison."
"No," said Flavia firmly. "See, his life has just been given back by a
miracle. How would you dare to take it away again?"
"He has committed a crime and shall be put to death, although he is my
brother," said the merchant sternly.
"It is right that he should suffer seeing that he allowed Flavia to bear
the punishment of his sin," said the merchant's wife. "I shall never have a
moment's peace thinking of that poor young innocent maid."
"Let me entreat you to spare at least his life," pleaded Flavia.
"No, for Flavia's sake I cannot," replied her old mistress.
"But if I tell you that the maid you mourn for is alive and well," said
Flavia, "will you then be merciful?"
 "If you promise that I shall indeed
see Flavia some day you shall have your way," said the merchant's wife.
"That I promise," said Flavia, "and as to this man he shall go into a
convent where he will have time to pray and repent all the rest of his
So at last this was settled and Flavia went home well content.
Soon after this the news reached Ostia that a terrible pestilence was raging
in Rome and hundreds were dying daily. As soon as Flavia heard this she made
up her mind to go there and see if she might help with her wonderful herbs.
Night and day she worked amongst the stricken people, healing all those who
came to her, until the news of the wonderful cure reached the Emperor's
ears. Then came a call for Flavia to go to the Imperial palace. The
Emperor's brother was seized with the pestilence and the doctors said he
could not live.
"Send for the wonderful saint who would seem to work miracles," said the
It was with strange feelings that Flavia mounted the great staircase of the
Imperial palace. She thought of the day when she had entered so gaily as a
young bride, and that sad day when she had come down for the last time.
No one could see that her eyes were full of tears, for she never lifted her
long black veil, and only the
 servants noticed with wonder that she seemed to know her way without a
"In which room is the prince laid?" she asked, when at last they reached
the Emperor's apartments.
They led her to the room, and she entered very quietly and looked around.
The Emperor stood by the bedside and he turned as she entered, but Flavia
scarcely knew him, so old and sad had he grown. And when he lifted his eyes
there was such a world of sorrow in them that Flavia's heart ached with
pity. The prince, indeed, looked terribly ill and seemed in fearful pain,
but Flavia scarcely glanced at him, for she could think of no one but the
"I think thou needest my healing powers as much as he who lies stricken
there," she said in a low voice.
"Mine is no illness that thou canst cure," said the Emperor quietly. "It
is sickness of the heart, not of the body."
"But my herbs have wonderful power," said Flavia eagerly; "let me but
The Emperor motioned her towards the bed.
"I ask for nothing for myself," he said, "only cure my brother, for he is
all I have left."
"I cannot cure him until he has confessed a sin that lies heavy on his
soul," said Flavia.
"Then call a priest," said the Emperor, "and let it be done quickly."
"Nay," said Flavia, "he must confess it to thee and to me."
 When the prince heard these words he turned his face to the wall and groaned
"I would rather die than confess," he whispered.
But his sufferings began to increase so sorely that at last he could endure
it no longer.
"I will confess," he moaned. "It was I who plotted against the Emperor's
life. I accused Flavia to shelter myself. I am guilty. She was
The Emperor stood there as if turned to stone when these words fell on his
ear, but Flavia bent over the dying man and gently laid her herbs upon his
mouth, and the pain and fever fled away.
Then the low, stern voice of the Emperor sounded through the room when he
saw his brother was saved.
"Summon the guards," he said.
"Stop!" cried Flavia; "think well before thou takest a life which God has
but just given back."
"Alas!" said the Emperor, "I cannot undo my rash mistake, but I can at
least punish my brother as he caused Flavia to be punished."
Then Flavia began to plead with all her heart that he would spare the
prince's life, while the young man clung to a fold of her robe, feeling that
his only chance of safety lay with her.
But for a long time she pleaded in vain.
"If I ordered Flavia to be put to death when she was innocent, how much
more should I condemn this traitor when he himself owns that he is guilty?
"said the Emperor.
 "But supposing my wonderful herbs could bring the Empress back to life?"
said Flavia at last.
"Ah," said the Emperor sadly, "let me but once more see Flavia alive, and
there would be no room in my heart for anything but forgiveness."
Then Flavia slowly lifted her veil and threw it back.
"I am Flavia," she said simply.