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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances
Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances
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Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-11-11 08:59 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances

Marcus Rutilius barely made it to his command tent before Publius Arrius stormed in.

“Are you out of your frikkin’ mind?” the legate roared. “You are heading back across to Germania Magna? We just left that infernal place! And going back with but two ala of cavalry as an escort?”

“And four cohorts of Suevi warriors,” Rutilius added. “Don’t forget those.”

Arrius cackled bitterly. “Oh, how can I forget those? The very men who would solidify their king’s ascension by roasting a Roman magistrate in a wicker cage above the altar of their hideous one-eyed god. Gods forbid I neglect to mention them.”

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Other parts of The Eagle and the Wolf series :
The Eagle and the Wolf Part I- Remember!
The Eagle and the Wolf Part II- Tyroes in the Forest
The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers
The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf’s Jaws
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VI- Doom and Despair
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
The Eagle and the Wolf Part X- Trials and Triumph
The Eagle and the Wolf Part XI- Return to Vetera

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 01-22-2013 @ 01:06 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 10-24-11 04:37 PM EDT (US)     51 / 84       
Hmm, so if not Ulfrich then who led the attack against Marcus' house. And why did they try to frame the ex-Bructeri king?

Another good installment, Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
posted 10-28-11 12:51 PM EDT (US)     52 / 84       
I enjoyed this, especially the deductive discussion in the barn.

However, the dialogue between Froydis and Claudius at the very beginning didn't feel natural when they spoke of Rutilius' motives for bringing her. I don't have any suggestions. It just felt forced.
Her words struck a cord.

It's very nice to see pictures again.

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.
Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen." -- Jerome K. Jerome

"Some people become so expert at reading between the lines they don't read the lines." -- Margaret Millar

ERADICATE CONDESCENSION! (That means don't talk down to people.)
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 10-31-11 03:21 AM EDT (US)     53 / 84       
Chord fixed.

The dialogue may have seemed forced, but if you consider the character of the two involved, it makes sense that they speak that way. Claudius speaks as few words as possible- a side effect of having his throat cut in battle earlier. He had not told her why to come, he merely said something like "Marcus needs you. Come." She would need little else.

Seeing the destruction of the home would have been a surprise to her- and threw her off her game a bit. I felt this was accurately portrayed- a very observant woman taken aback by the sight, while a man of few words explains. Plus, both are barbarians, and both have a stoic outlook on things they cannot change.

Sorry if it came across differently. I will see if I can tweak it for my personal files.

Now, onto today's episode:

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 10-31-11 03:33 AM EDT (US)     54 / 84       
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Titus Flavius Vespasianus was enjoying a nice afternoon wine after a dalliance with his favorite mistress, a delightful vixen ten years younger than himself and more sexually energetic after her menopause than he had ever been in his prime. She was always eager to please, and their time together took away the pressures and tedium of running a world-spanning empire. She would make him feel like a real man, and had a mind as sharp as a gladius. Their bed-time chats, while basking in the afterglow of a glorious coupling, often helped him see clearly the solutions to imperial problems. His mistress Caenis would then unobtrusively depart after their lunchtime tryst, as she always did, which tipped the advisors and magistrates that the Imperator was now in a good mood to be approached with problems and decisions to be made that were not deemed wise to bring at the morning session. It was also the favorite time for his trusted cronies to visit, as Gaius Licinius Mucianus now did.

The consul entered the chamber next, laden with wax tablets. Vespasian groaned internally, but bid the consul sit by his side. Quintus Petillius did just that, and placed the tablets on the table before them. Vespasian carelessly over the tablets. Then he sighed and tossed them aside.

“What bothers you now, my friend?” asked Gaius Licinius Mucianus, after greeting Cerealis.

Vespasian waved a hand at the discarded tablets while he looked at both his friend and his brother in law. Mucianus, the one true friend he had in Rome, was the man who persuaded him to take on this horrible position. What on Earth had he been thinking? He was happy as the general in command in Judea, fighting and destroying those Jewish rebels. How could he let the governor of Syria- Mucianus, and that of Aegyptus, Tiberius Alexander- talk him into leaving his beloved army to make a grab for the throne? Had he known then what troubles it would bring, he would have told them both to go piss upon the wall. Hades, he did not even like Mucianus then, the arrogant fool.

“The Senate,” Quintus Petillius replied for him. “It is always the same. Titus asks them for advice, as an Imperator should, and they give him quackery and horse manure.”

“I don’t even know why we have a Senate anymore,” Vespasian sighed. “It is not like it has any political power. Tiberius and Caligula saw to that, and Nero finished what they started.”

“You know damned well why you need a Senate,” Cerealis scoffed. “Look back at our own family history.”

“It gives the rich something to do, to make them feel a part of the whole,” Mucianus added. “And thus less likely to use their wealth to finance revolution a la Cataline.”

“I was more thinking of a goal and ancient honor,” Cerealis replied. “But your answer works just as well.”

“The Senators are more interested in promoting themselves than in this empire of ours,” Vespasian sighed. “They bring me these suggestions for the new governors. But they have their heads up their asses. Take for example Valerius Paulinus in Northern Gaul. He has been there for three years, yet the Senate says I should prorogue him for another two.”

“The aediles report good taxes from that provinces, and little problems,” Mucianus replied. “Why should he not be prorogued?”

“You performed excellently in Syria,” Vespasian reminded his friend. “Yet after two years, you were brought home.”

“I left my province to lead an army that put you on the throne,” Mucianus reminded him with a smile.

“I do not like to leave governors in their provinces too long,” Titus Flavius said. “They become like little kings after a while, and that can lead to revolts. Remember Vindex? A Gaul ruling in Gaul, and after five years he turned on Nero. Verginius Rufus and Galba came down on him like a ton of bricks. I have no Verginius Rufus or Galba should one of my governors decide he wanted to be Imperator, thus I must move them around frequently. So Valerius Paulinus does not remain in northern Gaul. He comes back to Rome for a well-deserved ovation in the Senate.”

Cerealis shrugged. “You have a point. And Plinius Secundus? Pull him out of Hispana?”

“Yes, but he is a damned fine governor. Put him in Gallica Belgica, vice Valerius Paulinus. Maybe he can do for the Gauls and Belgae what he did for Hispana.”

Mucianus nodded and amended the tablet to reflect Vespasian’s wishes. Then he took another while Cerealis read.

“Frontinus in Britannia,” Cerealis read aloud. “You are advised to replace him with Cassius Glaucus. Hrmph! Glaucus? I see your point. The Senators are idiots. Frontinus is in the middle of a war- you do not replace a winning general in the middle of a war? How hard was that lesson drilled into our ancestors’ heads?”

“Fabius, Marius, Sulla, Caesar...” Vespasian groaned. “The list goes on. Yet the flunkies in the Senate came up with the bright idea of doing it anyway.”

Cerealis rubbed out the transfer orders. “There. Fixed. Frontinus stays where he is.”

And so it went, province by province, governor by governor, procurator by procurator until the entire provincial administration was set to their collective desire. It was not an easy task, nor one with which all three men agreed on every candidate, but in the end they did agree. Until they came to Germania.

“Ha!” laughed Cerealis. “They want to bring that cunnus Cordinus Gallicus back to Rome. They finally got one right!”

Vespasianus reached for the tablet, which Cerealis handed to him, and read it over. He closed it shut with a snap and threw it onto the rejected pile. “He stays in Germania Inferior.”

Neither Quintus Cerealis nor Gaius Mucianus could hardly look more surprised.

“Are you serious? The man is a walking disaster! Look at the problems he caused- not endured, caused!- last summer. And the summer before that.”

“He had problems with his legates,” Vespasian said lowly in reply. “They did not support him. They do so now. He will be good there now.”

“He had problems with his legates because he ignored their sound military sense,” Cerealis replied indignantly. “Neither you nor I would follow orders from Rome that conflicted with the local situation. We adjust and adapt, and get our mission accomplished. He did not, and that is why his legates gave him advice- which he then ignored.”

“They did not support him,” Vespasian repeated. “He even tried one for treason when he got back. The lucky bastard got acquitted, but still, it is proof he was betrayed.”

Mucianus snorted. “That’s horseshit and you know it, Titus. If Rome had assigned us guides in Judaea, against the Jews, and those guides led us into a narrow valley- would you go blindly in?”

Vespasian snorted in disgust. “I would send scouts in, at least, and try to avoid such an obvious ambush.”

“As would I,” Mucianus replied. “And as would Quintus here. Yet Cordinus Gallicus did not. He walked into German traps twice. Not once. Twice. And both times his legates bailed him out.”

“I was ambushed once,” Cerealis reminded him. “IX Hispana in Britannia. Once, but never again. Cordinus Gallicus did it twice.”

“So he is a military dunce,” Vespasian conceded. “But he is an excellent administrator. And now that the tribes have been dealt with soundly, he need not go to war again. Let him stay, and build upon what he accomplished.”

“The Germani are very much like the Judaeans,” Mucianus replied. “They will not quit fighting. You know this; I know this. We slaughtered the Jews wholesale in Judaea- your pet Jew Flavius Josephus wrote over a million dead or sold into slavery. And we still have three legions there. That’s in a plot of desert land scarcely larger that Crete.”

He rose and held up the tablet. “This tablet represents Judaea. My chest represents Germania. Do you see the difference in size? Now remember that Germania is a fecund forest, not a desolate desert. The tribes teem there, Titus. It would require the slaughter of millions upon millions and then garrisoning the rest with thirty legions to pacify- and even then you cannot be sure.”

“Your point? I assume there is one.”

“The point is that Germania is and will always remain a border province with a high risk of war. You cannot in good conscience leave in command a man known and proven to be a military dolt.”

“The man helped turn my wayward son into a true man,” Vespasian replied. “He was his advisor in his first term as consul, and shaped him up both politically and socially. He made a true Roman of a drunkard I had thought to discard into obscurity. He deserves the chance to prove he can govern well- outside of war.”

“I totally agree,” Mucianus said. “He can still be a governor- just not in Germania. Or anywhere else where war could break out.”

“He is a smart man,” Vespasian said stubbornly. “He’ll learn. Has learned.”

“Look, Titus,” Cerealis pleaded. “I know you think little of the Germans. Ragged savages easily beaten by Germanicus and all that. But you forget Varus, and the events of these last years. The Batavi revolted. You might not remember them, but they were a small tribe in Germania, one of the smallest and poorest. I went up there with eight legions to crush them.”

“I remember,” Vespasian replied hotly. How dare that curly-headed half-relative take that tone with him!

“Do you remember that those Germani destroyed four legions before he came?”

“Four? Legions?

“Four,” Cerealis confirmed. “The V Alaudae and XV Primigenia were defeated and driven into their castrum where they were then besieged and eventually slaughtered. And the I Germanica and XVI Gallica were defeated time and again and eventually surrendered- and then fought for the enemy!. In between they beat the IV Macedonica so badly we disbanded it. Out of the entire army of six legions, only the XXII Primigenia remained. Still remains”

“I did not know it was that bad,” the Imperator admitted. He knew it had been bad enough to send a strong force to suppress the revolt, but had not known the savages had destroyed four entire legions.

“Oh, it was worse than that,” Cerealis continued. “There were another four legions- a consular army- of privately-raised auxilia that were equipped and trained in the legionary manner. These four auxiliary legions were also destroyed.”


“Ouch indeed,” Mucianus echoed. “Those are the kinds of Germans you are so easily dismissing as being able to be kept in their place by the likes of Cordinus Gallicus. Now, you do know where Germania is, do you not?”

Vespasian shook a finger at his friend. “Do not insult me, Gaius!”

“I am not trying to insult you, my friend. I am trying to open your eyes to the dangers your crony can put you in. The Rhenus separates our Germanias from Germania Magna. Our Germanias protects Gaul- luscious, fertile, damned near defenseless Gaul. Should we lose the Rhenus- like almost happened this summer- the hordes of Germania Magna could come storming into luscious, fertile, defenseless Gaul. With Gaul gone, Britannia is isolated and we are cut off from Hispana and her mineral wealth.”

“The empire sundered...” Vespasian saw. Holding Gaul was key, and the key to holding Gaul was keeping the Rhenus barrier intact. If , of course.. “This scenario you describe could only come about if the Germani move as one, as a union. They are disparate tribes. They cannot unite.”

“They already have,” Mucianus pointed out. He searched the Imperator’s correspondence to produce a scroll from Cordinus Gallicus. “Here. He was trapped across the river while fighting the Bructeri, a minor tribe that has always been a pain in our ass. Among those penning him were Cherusci, Usipi, Chauci, Tencteri, Marsi, Chatti, and Suevi. Different tribes, all of them. It was the departure of the Chatti and Suevi to fight him that allowed Cornelius Clemens to capture the Agri Decumates so bloodlessly. Remember? That was your plan, Titus. To have the tribes move north- to unite for war.”

Vespasian allowed a moment of pride to show, before it was replaced by horror. He had counted on the Germans helping each other and thus helping him. Now he saw what could happen if those tribes remained united against Rome. A German flood surging against the Rhenus and beyond, isolating Rome. What was it Mucianus just said about those fecund forests? Millions upon millions of them.

Rome was doomed.

It showed on his face.

Mucianus nodded sagaciously. He had gotten through. “That is why you cannot allow a cunnus like Cordinus Gallicus Gallicus to remain in a border province. You need generals there. Tough ones.”

Vespasian agreed. “You are right. Unfortunately, I have little choice in generals. Ulpius Traianus is the only one I can think of left, and we are sending him to Syria.”

“You could bring Verginius Rufus out of retirement,” Cerealis offered. “Or even one of the Vitellians. I heard Clemens asked for Aulus Caecina by name- as quaestor. Caecina is a wolf, but was a damned fine generalis before he got involved in politics, and has been seen with Eprius, your fervent supporter, and others who favor your rule. He knows the province, too. He might be reformed, and usable. We know he is available.”

“He is reformed,” Mucianus agreed. “I’ve spoken with him a time or two, as have both of your sons. Pomponia swears by the man as well.”

Vespasian shook his head. “The man is a snake,” he barked. “Never trust a snake. What about Antonius Primus?”

“That beast hasn’t raised his head out of an amphora of wine since he cut off the head of Vitellius,” Mucianus snorted. “He’s a good general, but a beast. I’d rather you promoted Vipsanius Messala- the guy who gave Primus his victory at Bedriacum. He knows the territory as well.”

“Too young,” Vespasian said with a shake of his head.

“Then we are back to Caecina,” Mucianus said.

“No,” Vespasian said. “He did well enough making Vitellius Imperator at the First Battle of Bedriacum. But then he switched sides on the eve of the second. His own soldiers locked him up!”

“He switched to our side, Titus,” Mucianus said. “He saw the Flavian light. And his jailing deprived them of a general who could have beaten Primus.”

“He deserted the emperor he himself made,” snapped Vespasian. “He is going nowhere near any military command until I am damned sure he won’t do to me what he did to Vitellius. My reign is still fragile, old friend. Let him prove himself, then maybe I will consider him for a non-military political office. Until then, the man does not go anywhere!”

“Then send me,” Mucianus said. He threw his hands in the air. “It cannot be said I am too young, nor do I have anything other than total loyalty to my Imperator and friend. And none can say I am no general.”

Vespasian sat up sharply. “You would go to Germania?”

“If there were none left, I would have to.”

Vespasian saw no deception or recrimination in his friend’s eyes. He nodded. “Cut the orders, Quintus. Gaius will be going to Germania.”

Cerealis corrected the faulty orders. “There. Fixed. Gaius heads north.”

“And Cordinus Gallicus goes to Gallia Lugdunensis,” the Imperator decreed. “A peaceful province, but rich. He can make his fortune there, and with you on the border behind him, he can do it safely.”

Mucianus stood to withdraw. He had a lot of packing to do. Cerealis, his business here concluded, joined him.

Vespasian watched his old friends depart, then sat back and smiled. From under another stack of tablets he drew forth the recommendations for the governors of the coming year as decided by his closest advisors. Almost all matched what he, Quintus, and Mucianus had decided. The few that were different he set out onto the heating vent, and replaced them with the choices just decided. There were very few, but the one concerning Cordinus Gallicus was one of them.

He leaned back as the wax on the erroneous tablets melted back into clear plates. A test of loyalty and brains, and Mucianus passed with flying colors. He will make an excellent governor of Germania, just as I intended. It is a shame, though, that he thinks now so poorly of me concerning the Germani, but it is a small price for me to pay. And he too will pay a price. The old philanderer will have very few senatorial wives to rut with up there. Two birds with a single stone.

Nicely done, Titus Flavius Vespasianus,
he thought to himself. Very nicely done indeed.

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 10-31-11 02:14 PM EDT (US)     55 / 84       
As always an enjoyable read Terikel.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Legion Of Hell
posted 11-02-11 12:59 PM EDT (US)     56 / 84       
That ass Cordinus Gallicus is finally going to leave Germania? The best piece of news I ever heard!

I wonder if Mucanius and Rutillus have good relations with one another. I think they met each other in your prequel?

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-02-11 02:10 PM EDT (US)     57 / 84       
They did indeed meet in the first tale. Rutilius, dressed as a German, poisoned some wine with a sleeping drug to knock out the guards of Mucianus, then entered the tent to hold a knife to the throat of Mucianus.

After that, he did a favor for Mucianus, who rewarded him by making him his personal legate and sent him north with Cerealis, who came to favor him as well.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-07-11 05:40 AM EDT (US)     58 / 84       
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Rutilius was watching the ashes of the pyre smolder. He had the bodies of the attackers doused with salt as Froydis suggested, and had their heads removed. After that, he had the rest of the remains burned while the severed heads watched on, then they too went away- pickled in clear glass jars of vinegar, to be put on display near the market at Colonia. This last bit was again at the suggestion of Froydis- someone knew these men, and that someone might recognize them. It was a slim chance, but one worth taking as there were few other leads.

“You need closure,” called a female voice from behind him. Tender hands gripped his shoulders from behind and began kneading. “I can give you that, Marcus, if you are up to it.”


“I can walk you through the attack, pretty accurately, I think,” Froydis replied as she massaged his shoulders. “From my walks and examinations, I have a pretty good Idea of what happened. What you learn might help you realize there was nothing you could have done.”

“I could have been here,” Rutilius replied sharply. “With another twenty eight of the Guard- these fools would never have gotten near the house.”

“It would not have mattered. She and Quintus would still have died, and you along with them,” she retorted. “Then none would be here to avenge your loss.”

Rutilius shot her a sharp glance at that. It was true- had he perished here with her, neither Rome nor Ubian would be able to do anything. They did not have Froydis and her precious eyes, nor analytical brain. They would simply bury the dead and the gens Rutilia of Germania Inferior would be less than a footnote in the Annals. She was correct, again. Damn it!

“Show me,” he commanded. The words were harsh, but the tone gentle. Froydis released his shoulders and helped him rise from his squat. She led him down to the river, to the south, where she found broad imprints in the riverbank.

“They landed here,” she said, then led him west around his house then north. “They came this way, and waited here for some time. Probably waiting for the sun to go down, or a scout to return from viewing your home. Or both. I found tracks of a single man here coming from your stead, indicating a scout was sent or information from inside came to them.”

“My Guards would not jeopardize their families so. There would be no information given to others.”

Froydis nodded. “I concur, which is why I think they waited for their own scout. Either way, he came with information that the others thought gave them the go-ahead for their attack. They had thought you here, Marcus. Had they simply wanted to kill everyone, they would have attacked from more than one direction. There are tracks of over forty men here- more than enough to make the attack from four directions- giving those in the cottages no time or space to rally into knots. They would have been killed alone or in pairs. These men were neither shoddy nor opportunistic- they were professional killers. They made one great lunge- expecting a lot of resistance near the house.”

Marcus nodded. He saw that now, looking at their staging area. Froydis noticed the dawning of comprehension and continued her walk toward the front of the house.

“They attacked from here, due west of your home,” she explained. “This has the best view of the front portico and the cottages- their objective. In addition, the setting sun would be low and bright in your people’s eyes. The attackers used bows- this is within effective range- and killed those Guards who were armed and exposed. The accuracy of the archery- nine arrows loosed, nine hits- tells me these men were exceptionally skilled. Then they rushed.”

“They had a battle plan, Marcus,” she continued once they reached the site of his tent in the courtyard. “They took out your outlying guards, then rushed to place themselves between their objective and anyone who could stop them. They destroyed any opposition here in the courtyard first, then broke into three groups at a command. A military command, Marcus. One group swept along the front of the cottage row, while another took the back. Their intention was obvious- kill every living person they encounter and drive the rest away from their objective.

“Milika was among the first, then Berta, then Aeditha and her two children. Amalric rallied a few Guards there and stopped the frontal group, while Axel did the same behind. It was foolish, but I think Amalric knew that Glam was in the barn. His attack drew their attention to himself, giving Glam the opening to carve them up unseen, which freed up Amalric to help Axel. This they had not considered- that the Batavians would be as sturdy on the ground as they were in the saddle.”

“Then they did not study my men well enough,” Rutilius said bitterly. “Dieter is very picky about who he lets in. Candidates have to be as good or better on the ground as in the saddle. Plus these men were defending their families, giving them more motivation.”

“True,” she replied. His words made sense. Her tone now took on a gentler, more somber tone as she went on to the most painful part for him. ”But five had gone into your home, where you have ever only had three or four men, two of whom stood on the portico. They killed all in the house. Had you been there, you would have been killed, too. You are good in open spaces, but in those tight quarters, those killers were experts. As I said earlier, their objective was killing you. They attacked the house thinking you were in it. But your men fought harder than expected, giving the attackers a painful surprise. They then set fire to the house to discourage pursuit. It almost worked- did work for Glam, but not for Amalric and the others. They then boarded the boats where you found their beaching marks, and fled to a waiting ship.”

“Ship? Not simply to the other side?”

“A ship,” she repeated. “Remember the tribes here, and how they feel about you? The tribes there feel the opposite about Roman criminals. Criminals would find no solace there, only death. Alternatives? A ship, to take them far away very fast, to the south.”

“It makes sense,” Rutilius was forced to agree. He had thought the very same thing himself not a week before. “Death to the east, death to the west, death to the north. Only to the south would fleeing killers manage to find some sanctuary- and that within the Empire.” He cursed bitterly at the implication. It was indeed a Roman behind this.

“One other thing, Marek,” Froydis concluded. “Only five went into your home. Five, because they knew your guard set-up. Had you been here Marcus, you would have died with her. Nothing could have changed that. These were indeed professionals, and they were here to slay you. And they missed.”

That shook him up, but gave him a fierce hope. “Do you think they will return to finish what they started?”

Froydis nearly jumped at the ferocity in his voice. It was not fear that prompted the question, but rather a lust to spill blood. “Your vengeance will have to wait. I don’t think they’ll be back anytime soon, unless they can get more men of such skill together relatively quickly. Glam and the others cut the heart out of this gang, though their leader escaped.”

“I shall find him,” Rutilius vowed.

Froydis placed her arms around him and hugged him fiercely, despite the anger and ferocity ruling him this moment.

“I know you will, lover,” she said, forcing her head to rest against his racing heart. “And I will help you.”

Rutilius looked down at the woman hugging him, and kissed the top of her head gently. “Thank you, Froydis. For that, and for the walk-through. It did indeed help me.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It was the third market day after the feriae. As usual, the guests were escorted from the home of Aulus Caecina by his household slaves, who would then put out his dinner, pick up the small sacks of sesterces he gifted them, and disappear into the city to spend the night with loved ones, or a hotel, or sleep out on the riverside. The house was then deserted except for the senator, who quickly washed away the scent of wine and sweat from his body in expectation of another visitor- one with a refined nose.

He was not disappointed. The slender woman who stole into his house did so without being seen, only noticed as she entered his sleeping chamber. Without speaking, she disrobed and slid under the sheets to join him, then kiss him, and then to ravish him. The two moved without words until at last the woman gasped in ecstasy, breaking the silence. Caecina drove hard into her a few more times before he too groaned and collapsed in completion.

“Wow,” gasped Caenis. “That was great.”

“It was rather nice,” Caecina agreed. He was still panting after his exertions.

“You made love to me like you knew what news I bring,” she replied. “Good news.”

Caecina rolled from his back onto his side to face her. As she lay on her back in the light of a single oil lamp, he could see her breasts rising as proud little volcanos, in stark contrast to the flat valley of her stomach. Her few wrinkles were invisible, and her hair splayed out about her head. She was quite attractive in this light; it almost made up for the deeds she made him perform. But the woman emanated power, and roamed the circles of others with power. Altogether, he felt it a good bargain so far.

“The governorships have been decided,” she said. “Unfortunately, my influence and that of your other friends has not been sufficient. I am sorry, darling, but your name was not on that list.”

Caecina cursed softly. His dreams of office were snuffed. Again.

Caenis felt his pain. “There is always next year, my darling. A year in which you will have proven yourself a good man and a firm Flavian.”

“How?” he spat bitterly. “I have done everything expected of a firm Flavian- I donate to Flavian charities, I bring volunteers to work on Flavian constructions, I vote Flavian in the Senate. I am friends with high up Flavian advisors. I-”

“-Pleasure his woman thoroughly and often, which he can no longer do,” she interrupted. “I know, darling, but he bears an immense distrust of you. It is personal, I believe. And you repay a bit of that personal feud by sleeping with me, so that evens things even if he does not know it. But we have had some success.”

“Oh yes? I see none.”

“The list of praetors was also decided today,” she said. “Aulus Caecina Alienus, you are the coming foreign praetor of Rome.”

Praetor peregrinus?” he bellowed. “A legal praetor? How is this a venue to prove my loyalty and genius? I am a warrior, Caenis. A fighter. There lie my gifts, not in the Forum hearing cases.”

“Your military ability has been seen, and feared, I am afraid,” she replied candidly. “Had you commanded the Second Battle of Bedriacum, I dare say Vitellius would still reign. You could have easily destroyed Primus, whose battle plan was a disaster saved only by the haphazard attack of Fabullus- who had a worse plan. After ridding yourself of Primus, you would have had a strong and reconstituted army with which to face Gaius Licinius Mucianus.”

“I am reminded of that every day,” he grumbled.

“You made your bed. Now lie in it,” she commanded. Her body began to stir with those words. “You want to command again, to shine on the field of battle. Well, lover, this is how you do it. Turn the Forum Romanum into your battlefield, with your edicts being your plan, and the cases your soldiers. Show my other lover your talents off the battlefield, that he may see your loyalty is firm and send you onto the battlefield.”

Aulus considered that. “It does seem a likely testing field,” he said. Then he smiled. Praetors almost always went to the provinces after their terms. His silly dream of power was not instantly reached, but he was well on his way to reaching it. A year more in Rome, a year more of playing toy-boy for this intoxicating old tart who manipulated him better than he could manipulate others, and then he was off to the provinces- and an army. To hell with Mallius and Helvidius and their dreams of a restored Republic. I want power, and this woman is my best bet to get some. ”I will do my best to show my worth.”

“I am sure you will, lover,” she said, snaking a hand around him to pull him back atop her. “And when you have served fully and faithfully, I shall again speak into the circles of power of your deeds. You shall return again to your northern barbarians and beat them soundly.”

Caecina felt her grind against him, and it had a reaction. Though in truth the reaction had more to do with her words than her body. He was going back to Germania! Back to his army! So what if she had failed to secure him that lusted-after position this year. He would get it next year. Or better, Germania Superior, which was closer. Or Raetia, which was closer still, though with fewer legions. That did not matter. There were zero legions in Italia. A quick march, and all hail the new Imperator, Aulus Caecina Alienus!

The blood rushing through his system at such heady thoughts brought with it a raging hormonal shower. Power was indeed a strong aphrodisiac. He took Caenis hard then, and suddenly, powerfully, in a way she had not been taken in a long time. It was a brief coupling, but intense. Very intense. It left them both panting at the unexpected bonus round.

“I shall bring you good news more often,” Caenis announced, panting through a broad smile. “That was a surprise, and a welcome one. I have not felt so alive in years, darling.”

“Do you see what thoughts of command in Germania do to me?” he said with a teasing smile.

“I do indeed. I shall redouble my efforts to get you that particular command,” she promised. “I shall talk with Gaius Licinius. Maybe he will call on you to replace him early.” She smiled broadly. “That would be just wonderful,” she mused. “We shall have our dalliances all through the cold winter, and culminate in a passionate send-off before the summer heat makes it too uncomfortable. Perfect!”

“That sounds like a good plan,” he said, and kissed her.

As their lips touched and locked, his mind was racing. So Mucianus goes to my Germania. Vespasian’s chief henchman and major supporter. If he is going, then there must be none left in the Flavian pool. Maybe a bit of work could accelerate this woman’s plan, and get me out of Rome and away from her clutches even sooner. I must ponder this more. In the meantime, she does have a nice effect on my body...

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 11-07-11 06:40 AM EDT (US)     59 / 84       
I hope Rutillus has his revenge on those killers. But I must say Caeceina is using his female companion to his advantage.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-07-11 07:34 AM EDT (US)     60 / 84       
Or is she using him to hers?

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 11-07-11 07:35 AM EDT (US)     61 / 84       
But if she is then to what end?

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 11-07-11 09:38 AM EDT (US)     62 / 84       
why does rutilius keep getting called marek?

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-07-11 11:08 AM EDT (US)     63 / 84       
Its from his 'trader days' when posing as a Germanic merchant (Part V). The Germanics usually call him Marek, except when being formal. It is easier on their tongue than the Latin name.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 11-07-2011 @ 11:09 AM).]

Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 11-08-11 03:01 PM EDT (US)     64 / 84       
oh i see, thanks for clearing that up.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-14-11 02:06 AM EDT (US)     65 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Rutilius sat before the ruins of his home, pondering what he had learned the night before. His son died defending his mother- a budding warrior cut down well before his prime. And his wife avenged her son, before slaying herself as a true Roman matron. Her last moments were in battle, and she had acquitted herself well, and with honor.

He ran through their deaths, and the words of the Cugerni woman that had pointed to his own intended fate. They had talked through much of the night, discussing the pointlessness of his Survivor’s Guilt, and the inability of his presence to change their fate. Froydis insisted he was the target- he had enemies, he had power, he had wealth. Everybody both Roman and German had adored Claudia, and little Quintus was too young to be a threat to anyone.

Yet he knew those words to be false. Froydis was incredibly wise, and unbelievably observant, but there were some things she did not know. Marcus may have been the intended target as she concluded, but there were those who felt Claudia Sacra an enemy and her son a threat. Those, and his own enemies, all pointed to Rome.

Cordinus had explained how the Imperator had felt threatened enough by his existence to order him onto a suicide mission- in which he succeeded beyond all expectations. Claudia, on the other hand, had had an affair with Quintus Petillius Cerealis back during the Batavian Revolt when she was a young widow. Cerealis was the natural father of little Quintus, and also the husband of Flavia, sister to the Imperator. Rutilius had warned Claudia long ago of a Roman wife’s ire- her boasting of the parentage of her son might end her life. And Publius, his oldest son, had a hidden background that was a potential fire-bomb. Domitianus, son of Vespasian, knew this. He might organize an attack to rid a future potential rival. His men would be seeking Publius, whom Claudius Victor had taken hunting only the day before.

Three possible motives; three possible suspects. And each in Rome, each a part of the Imperial family. And each with the wealth and connections to hire a band of exceptional cut-throats to make this raid. The events and motives tumbled through his jumbled mind, turning this way and that, and keeping any other possibility at bay.

A fourth possibility- a closer possibility, but also from the south, cropped up. This was a man who had access to a rough crowd that had to be good with weapons or they would be dead. And he had an altercation with him. A slaver. That stupid guard captain who insisted on enslaving the free Suevi mercenaries he had engaged to guard the castra while he was with the last vestiges of Roman forces across the Rhenus trying to save the rest of the army. That man had been humiliated, and had access to the types of men needed.

Running steps drew his attention away from the ruins of the house where his wife and middle son died. He saw a guardsman approaching- one of Aethwain’s Quadii- who was pointing with his sword down the lane towards Colonia..

“Lord, a warband approaches.”

Rutilius followed the man’s gaze and sword, and indeed saw a warband approaching- four abreast in six blocks of eighty, with standards and wagons tucked into the middle.

“Stand down, Silo,” Rutilius said with a smile. “That’s a Roman cohort. Though I have no idea what it is doing here now, I shall go find out.”

He rose from his stool and walked with the Quadii Guardsman toward where his command tent was. He reached it at almost the same time as the cohort moved onto the lane leading to his house. Two horsemen departed the group to report to the magistrate. Rutilius recognized one as Quintus Petillius Cadorus, commander of the X Gemina, while the other was Gnaeus Vipsanius Messala of the VI Victrix.

“By the gods, Marcus!” Messala swore. “We heard there was family trouble and a fire, but never did we suspect this!”

“Neither did I,” Rutilius replied coldly. “Caius Avitus was most wise to blur the details. I might have broken my neck racing here had he been specific. But never mind that- what are you doing here?”

“We built a pottery on your Horse Farm property,” Cadorus said first, “to help the Batavians build lasting homes. But it seems your need outweighed theirs- they have roofs, you do not. So we brought the first load of X Gemina tiles here.”

“He passed Novaesium en route with four centuries,” Messala continued. “Two from the Xth, two from the XXIId. When we heard why, two of our centuries volunteered to come as well. As you know from the last winters, the VI Victrix are excellent axemen. And Lucius Amensius and his XXI Rapax Fabricii are sending two centuries of their famous carpenters as well. A blow like this, Marcus, it is a blow against us all. So we bring volunteers to help you rebuild.”

“I have already contacted architects for the rebuilding,” Marcus informed them, “and besides, I cannot use provincial funds or labor for personal use- it would leave me open for a lawsuit in Rome for corruption.”

“What funds?” asked Cadorus. “The materials were not bought- they were produced by a pottery on your own land. And the trees our men will cut are on your property here as well.”

“And what labor?” asked Messala. “All here are volunteers.”

A centurion departed his century once it was settled and came over to join the legates.

“We’re officially on leave, Marcus,” Marcus Salvius said, giving his friend a handshake followed by a deep embrace. “Every swinging pecker here. Rome ain’t paying for squat, neither is this province. We are on leave and can do what we want with our time while on leave.”

“And the wagons and drovers?”

Salvius took off his crosswise-crested helmet to reveal a solid bruise on the side of his face. “See this? This is from a drover. I have another on my chest, from a fellow centurion. Both were received when I said they couldn’t come help. We had fights, which Legatus Paullus turned into contests, to see who would have the honor of using three weeks of our personal leave to rebuild your house. The entire legion wanted in, after what you did for us over there.”

Cadorus nodded and added, “We had the same in the Xth. Everyone wanted to help, to repay a bit of the debt this army owes you.”

“My legion, too,” Messala acknowledged as well, then added proudly, “but we brought our fabricii.”

“Show-off,” Cadorus muttered. Then he raised his voice back to normal as he pointed to the charred ruins and declared, “In two weeks, there will be a house standing there again.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Cadorus did not lie. A squad was dispatched to Colonia to fetch the architects and their plans while centuries equipped with forest axes began clearing away the trees from which the killers struck. Never again would a crew of killers get within bowshot of their quaestor’s home without being seen! The trees were felled with a passion, then limbed and planed to be used to rebuild that destroyed by the men they once sheltered.

The artificers of the cohort shaped the wood into beams and planks, directing the legionaries in performing the work while the engineers of the VI Victrix studied the architect’s plans. The foundation was of stone, thus did not need any other work. The chimneys were inspected and declared sound, meaning there was little brickwork needed. Those two usually consumed the most time of construction, but since they were already in place, it was merely assembly work from there. Make the parts, assemble them. Within four days the framework was ready, and another eight saw the framework shrouded with planks and a tile roof set into place.

By the time the men of the XXI Rapax arrived, the heavy construction was completed. They had little to do but make the cabinets, doors, and other internal furnishings, as well as some furniture. A new bed was made, and the framework for chairs and a couch or two. The horsemen among them hunted to bring back animals whose skins would cover the skeletal furniture, while some of the legionaries trapped ducks and geese with which to stuff them. What could not be acquired was bought, using the quaestor’s account.

While the centurions and their men labored, the legates and the quaestor conferred. Rutilius did not mention the background of Publius, nor his fate, but he did indeed mention his suspicions concerning Claudia and Quintus being the targets.

“Flavia Domitilla was by all accounts a decent woman,” Cadorus remarked after hearing his friend’s thoughts. “She knew about Cerealis’s indiscretions, and put up with them as a woman does for her man who is in battle.”

“That was not the impression I got after Claudius Victor stole his flagship during the war,” Rutilius reminded him. “He was terrified that his wife would find out why he was not aboard and castrate him, as I recall.”

Messala grinned. “I remember,” he laughed. “We had to make up some story that he was off ‘inspecting the troops’ or some such nonsense just to calm him down. Otherwise he’d have torn open his wound even worse.”

“She saved his life,” Marcus pointed out. “Had he not been with her, he would have been captured and sent to Veleda as a prize, as his ship was. Claudius Victor was sure of it.”

“Is this the same Claudius Victor that works for you as your head steward?” Messala asked.

Rutilius nodded.

“No wonder the Germans here respect the hell out of you,” Messala continued. “You hire Romans like we all do, but also Germanic princes who once fought us.”

“And he married local as well,” Cadorus added. “Claudia was the same woman who healed Cerealis- and bore him a son.”

That set Messala off. He had not known that Cerealis was the father of little Quintus, though he should have. “A son? Flavia would definitely have them both slain. She would see the bastard son as a rival to her own son and daughter. A son, especially a Roman son since Claudia was also a citizen, would also have legal rights her daughter never would, splitting the inheritance among the legal and natural sons to cut the daughter out. She dotes on that daughter…”

“I do not agree,” Cadorus retorted.

“Legally, yes,” Messala replied. “I know Decius Paullus is our resident legal eagle, but I did my time in the Forum as an advocate. I know the law as well, and little Quintus was indeed a threat to the inheritance- bastard son or not.”

Cadorus shook his head. “You do not understand,” he said plainly. “Flavia could not have them killed. She has been dead for the past five years. Quintus Cerealis found out just as he arrived in Britannia.”

Scheisse,” Rutilius mumbled. Claudia and Quintus were not the targets. A good suspect was off his list, leaving only two potential targets.

The conversation died with that exclamation, but the thoughts kept tumbling through their minds. Rutilius especially wrestled with a problem. On the one hand, he needed to divulge a secret in order to gain their insight. On the other, revealing that secret would put the life he was trying to protect in danger. He looked at the others. Messala he could trust with his life, but he was a Flavian Roman to the bone. Would he value his friendship over his loyalty to Rome, or his devotion to the Flavians over his friend? Cadorus was no easier- he had no love for Roman rulers, but was devoted to Cerealis, who had married into the Imperial family. Marcus Salvius was outside working, and was utterly loyal to the man with whom he grew up, but was a simple soldier who knew less of Imperial circles than he did. The same for Froydis- highly intelligent about what she knew, but this was beyond her ken.

Someone wanted him dead. Froydis had made that abundantly clear. But she knew nothing of Publius. Should he risk exposing his son, on the off-chance these men could help him? Or leave his past in the shadows, where it belonged?

Decisions, decisions...

“Let us call it a night,” Rutilius said as he rose. He rose slowly; there was a lot on his mind.

The others rose with him, and Messala escorted him to the door.

“Marcus,” he said as he held the door, “Something is troubling you, and it is not this tragedy. Related, maybe, but something else. I just want you to know that whatever it is, all of us are on your side. The legates, the tribunes, the centurions, the legionaries, even the auxilia. There is not a man in this province that does not love you for what you did for us over there. We owe you, and helping you will help us repay that awesome debt.”

Rutilius nodded curtly. “I know, Gnaeus. But some things must remain my problem, for the good of the province and the men in it.”

With that, he departed the tent to seek out his own.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 11-14-11 09:02 AM EDT (US)     66 / 84       
Good chapter. The province sure seems to love Marcus a lot.

Hopefully we find out who tried to murder Marcus and ended up killing his family.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-21-11 02:29 AM EDT (US)     67 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“I see you are troubled, Marcus,” Froydis said as Rutilius entered his tent returning from the command tent where the legates had gathered.

“I see you still make yourself at home in my quarters, even unbidden,” he retorted bitterly.

The harshness of the observation surprised her. It is still too soon. Even after a month, he yet grieves. Maybe they had a true love after all.

“Some things are best discussed in private,” she said simply.

“Such as?”

“Such as some news I heard when in the market this morning,” she said. “Lucius Oppius Venator was in town, the merchant. He sells woven goods, and good pottery from northern Italia. Among his woven goods were pillows stuffed with goose-down. I thought you could use some to help furnish the house. Only two denarii for six pillows, and another sestertius for a cover.”

“Cheap,” he agreed. “Especially for handiwork from Italia. But trade goods and prices no longer interest me, Froydis, and you know that.”

She smiled sweetly. “Was it so horrible to be a merchant, to be my husband even if just for a little while, and forget all about plaintiffs and lawsuits, and judgments?”

His face gave nothing away. Nor did his words. “It was horrible to lose men in that attack, and to hang crucified in that hall, and to watch young Aelric die in battle when he could have lived had he obeyed- and not being able to do anything about it.”

“I see,” she said primly. It was indeed too soon. “So Lucius Oppius was in town, just up from Italia. Among his merchant babble concerning prices here and there, and the quality of this and that were some news concerning fellow traders. It seems Decimus Licinius is a grandfather now.”

“Good for him,” he replied bitterly. It would be many, many years before he became a grandfather himself now, and that assumed Decius lived long enough to marry and father children.

“Licinius himself was concerned, though,” Froydis continued. “She gave birth a moon and a half early. Gaius Valerius Flaccus was also a bit concerned, seeing as how his son came into the world a mere seven and a half moons after his marriage. But the little toddler is walking now, and speaking, and seems to be through the most troublesome time for a premature baby. ”

“That is nice to know,” he replied indifferently.

Something had to break things loose in his head. A slap would probably work, so she stood and slapped him forcefully across the cheek.

“Break out of your melancholy and think, damn you!” she said. She grabbed his head by the ears and shook it gently. “The grandson of Decimus Licinius, by his daughter Licinia, who married Gaius Valerius Flaccus not two moons after spending a night in this very tent the day you were acquitted of treason. She gave birth seven moons after her marriage. The baby was thought premature, but had no defects and was of normal size.”

Something clicked inside him. He cursed himself- he was not usually this dense. “She did not give birth to his premature baby. She gave birth to a full-term baby. My baby.”

Froydis sat back down. “And a year or so later, Daddy finds out that Junior is not of his blood. You are blonde, she was redheaded. Flaccus is supposedly dark. If you notice the way people mate and breed, dark hair is most often the result when a redhead and a dark-haired pair breed. Red or blonde or both when the parents are those. And Gaius Junior has a shock of light red hair with very blonde highlights. This gets him to thinking, and thinking leads him to dark thoughts concerning the probable father of his son, and the man who seduced his bride before her marriage.”

“She seduced me!” Rutilius objected.

“So have I, and I know it is not as easy as one may think,” Froydis replied, “though I am currently having trouble regaining what I once had. Anyway, who did what to whom is beside the point. What matters to that young nobleman was that it happened. Motive, Marcus, to have you killed. And your family as a bonus.”

“Why are you telling me this?” he wondered, “Flaccus lives in Rome, and has no connections to Germania.”

“His father-in-law does,” she replied. “And has access to such men as those willing to perform such a dastardly act. And motive. Flaccus has both, through him.”

“Bah,” Rutilius retorted. “Flaccus is rich, I was told, but soft. I doubt he would hit a dog that was biting him, much less organize a murder. And as to Decimus Licinius giving him any contacts here- ridiculous! The man himself gave his daughter that night with me, on her word that she would marry Flaccus and be forever faithful afterwards. She has upheld her end admirably- I have not even received so much as a note from her. And I have not sought contact with her, being busy falling for you then marrying Claudia. He has nothing for which to be jealous.”

“Oppius was talkative. He said Flaccus was recently in Patavium, though nobody reported seeing his wife there.”

“So he had a side-trip to get away from smelly diapers for a while. I did the same,” Rutilius said, then added bitterly, “only I lost my family for it.”

“Patavium is not far from the Agri Decumates, especially if one comes up through the Great Pass,” she pointed out. “And Patavium is known for its Gallic population, and is a slave-trading market- Greeks and slavers.”

That got his mind rolling. Patavium was to the south- and a lot closer in travel time than it used to be with the conquest this past summer.

“You had an altercation with a slaver this summer, did you not?” she asked. She had heard something about a slaver being shackled with his own wares, but had failed then to make the connection between that man and Marcus. She did so now. “The men who tried to enslave your Suevi mercenaries.”

“That was resolved peacefully, and honorably,” Rutilius remembered. “Once it was made clear that the men were free men and not prisoners, they were released.”

“Just like that?”

“Almost.” That stupid guard captain... “One slaver guard captain did not mind seeing free men enslaved. I had him taste his own stew. It was for a mere few hours, but you are correct- humiliation like that could last a lifetime. Still what could he do? A man at his station has not the means. He was a mere overseer, and his master Lucius Vettius Secundus was made very wealthy with proper Bructeri prisoners- absolutely no grudge there!”

“An overseer who has plenty of rough guards, who has a reason to harm you,” she pointed out. “But not the brains to plan such an operation, or the balls to carry it out. But a nobleman with a grudge... He can make an arrangement. They provide their own men, or offer to free some slaves for the act. A man’s freedom can be precious, and another’s pride even more so.”

Rutilius nodded in agreement. “I shall investigate this slaver for any connections to the jealous father, just in case.”

“In the morning, lover,” she replied, rising and causing him to do the same. She grabbed his hands and held them firmly. “Tonight you are going to lay by my side and hold me like I have not been held in a long, long time. I need it, and you need it. You need not make love, darling, but you do need to hold a woman again lest you lose the desire. So tonight you hold. Tomorrow you investigate. And tomorrow night, you confide in your friends whatever horrible secret is that is eating you inside.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Gaius Mallius sat in his study, staring at the imago of his illustrious ancestor Gnaeus Mallius Maximus, the first of the Mallii to become consul. And thus far, the only one. Gnaeus had commanded the legions in one battle- Arausio, and would have won a peace with the Cimbri had it not been for that patrician, Caepio. Caepio had his own army, and refused to obey the lawful consul, Mallius, a homo novus. He also saw that Mallius Maximus was coming to an agreement with the Cimbri that would end the Cimbrian threat to Italia.

He could not allow that. So he attacked the Cimbri camp, and did so utterly awful at it that the Cimbri wiped him out in less than an hour. Then they turned on the army of Mallius, which had been caught unprepared for battle in the midst of negotiations. Morale was shot with the easy destruction of Caepio’s forces, and the river to what suddenly became his rear prevented escape. The army was trapped and annihilated, and the elder sons of Mallius killed. Mallius himself escaped.

In Rome, he was tried for the loss of his army and exiled. Gaius Mallius thought over that sentence. Denied fire and water within eight hundred miles of Rome. Never before had such a sentence been given to a commander who had been screwed over by a colleague. The only satisfaction in the entire affair was that Caepio too was fined the same- and fifteen thousand talents of gold to boot.

Mallius swore as he rose. I shall avenge our name, Gnaeus Mallius. One day I too shall be consul, as were you. And I shall eliminate the patricians who stomped on our family honor, and anyone else who thinks they are better. With that, he closed the cabinet housing his ancestor’s imago.

He glanced out his window over the Forum Romanum. The crowds were dispersing with the closing of the market for the midday heat. On the Capitoline, the reconstruction of the Temple was nearing its completion. Caecina had men there, and others working on the Templum Pacis, another Flavian work. And on the great Flavian amphitheater. Mallius swore again. His best bet to regaining his family’s lost honor was now currying favor with those who made themselves kings of Rome.

The conspiracy was dead. It had died with Helvidius, who he now knew to be the glue that held the plotters together. Caecina had been drawn in with the promise of power, Helvidius with the promise of a return to the republic. Even Domitianus, son of the Imperator, had been drawn in with the lure of power- a second son, he would never have his father’s power. Now all were gone, dispersed, because his mercantile network had been compromised. He had bungled, and been deserted because if it. Helvidius died because of it, and Caecina had abandoned him because of it. Domitianus was cordial, but aloof. All he had left in his inner circle was a man far away and a scroll copied from the Sybilline Books by his ancestor.

He opened the scroll and read the prophecy again. Three, it said firmly. and two had already played their parts. He wondered if the third was his friend to the north.

“Dominus, a visitor,” announced the steward.

“Caecina?” he asked hopefully.

“No, dominus,” the steward replied. “Titus Flavius Domitianus. I showed him to your receiving room.”

Domitian here? Mallius jumped up and bolted for the receiving room. He found Domitianus there, sitting upright with his tight curls held perfectly in the latest fashion, while a slave poured him some of the house’s best wine. Unwatered. Mallius signaled the slave to pour another then leave.

“Titus Domitianus!” he cried. “What a joy to have you visit my humble house!”

Domitian nodded slowly, then gestured for his host to sit. The slaves were gone. They were alone. “I am surprised to find you at home, Gaius Mallius,” he said. “I had thought to hear you were away in the south.”

Mallius blushed. “I was, but have returned. Business is going good.”

“Does that business involve secret meetings with malcontents and former gladiators?”

Mallius blushed deeper, and began a loud protest which was quickly crushed by a gesture from the Imperator’s son.

“You had a spy in your midst,” Domitian related. “Notice the past tense. The spy is dead. But your business deals are not. Shady characters, those types of men. Can you trust them?”

“I have done nothing against your house, or your family,” Mallius explained. “But the underground... They hear things that we nobles do not. I used what I learned from them to make things better for them, for a profit, of course.”

“Of course,” Domitian replied. “Had you done as the other spy related in his report, you would have been greeted by Praetorians and my brother, instead of myself and my slave. You are quite safe, for the moment. But that will change soon, unless you listen to me and swear to obey.”

“My lord, what are you saying?”

“The spy reported shady dealings, and only that,” Domitian answered. “But another in Germania has sent a report. He had questioned your man Catullus in Mogontiacum. Catullus talked. Now the report has been made, and by accident delivered to me instead of Titus Flavius Vespasianus, my brother. The report was quite clear. You were in the middle of a conspiracy involving yourself and Caecina and Helvidius.”

“And you.”

Domitian nodded. “And me, though I was not named. Strangely, there was named one who had thwarted our plans at every corner. I almost let it pass, but that would destroy two of my closest friends, so I buried it. But now that the dust is settling over this affair, I would remind you that Helvidius is dead, Caecina has broken from our little circle, and with my strengthening relationship to my father, I will be consul again. Caecina has found favor among my father’s friends- his star is rising, as is mine. Helvidius has passed. You are all alone now, Gaius, a conspiracy of one that shall soon be none.”

Mallius grimaced and went white.

“Unless you choose to tie yourself to a rising star,” Domitian continued. “A rising star can pull you out of the morass into which you are sinking. Unless, of course, you choose to die in ignominy.”

“You know my purpose,” Mallius replied. “A dead man cannot be consul or restore his family’s honor.”

Domitian nodded slowly. “Good. Then we are still friends. As a friend, I shall require favors of you, in return for keeping certain names out of certain ears.”

“Ask away, Titus. I am in your debt, and favors between friends are the best kinds.”

Domitianus smiled. “Keep an eye on our former friend Aulus Caecina,” he ordered. “He may have left our circle, but he is still a snake. He can sense power, and I fear he has found a way into the circles of true power. That means he has help, and I would know from whom.”

“You no longer support him?”

“I no longer trust him, after what he did to Helvidius.” He smiled. “Oh yes, I know very well what he did. He tried the same on me, but I had outwitted him. I do not know why he sacrificed Helvidius Priscus over you- Helvidius was a much better man- but I think your ability to grovel and gain dirt on senators had something to do with it. He can bend you to his will far easier than he could Helvidius. And I intend to bend you to mine much better than he did, because as consul and son of the Imperator I can dish out true power.”

Mallius nodded. And then smiled. “I am your man.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 11-21-11 08:47 AM EDT (US)     68 / 84       
So Mallus is the man behind the conspiracies.....and was it him who orchestrated the attack that killed Rutillus' family?


General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 11-28-11 06:50 AM EDT (US)     69 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The cohort was putting the last touches on the house. There were shutters being fashioned, hinges being smithed, and the walls were being painted with whitewash. One century began with the fabricii on the barn, while another two were out with their centurions. These were examining the property as an attacker would, and making notes on where weak points lay. These would be corrected and strengthened before any legionary set his caligae on a road leading elsewhere.

While the men worked, Rutilius and the legates observed and supervised. Often a squad would be detached and sent into town to buy some supplies- this was always paid by the account of Rutilius, not the province. The quaestor was very correct in thinking that wolves circled him. Most would be looking for an excuse to lay charges, but he feared them not. It was the wolves that could and did bite that put him on edge. And if those wolves were snapping at his son... Froydis was right. The secret was eating at him, and these friends, these true friends, could help. He called the legates and Marcus Salvius to follow him to the gravesite, where they were left in solitude by the legionaries working. They knew by now that when the quaestor visited his family, it was a solemn moment and none wished to disturb him.

Rutilius knew what the legionaries were thinking. Not ten years before he was one of them, and appreciated the respect they showed him. He also took advantage of it now- this was the one spot where none could overhear what was being said.

“This ring of graves are those of our people who fell during the attack,” he said, with hardly any emotion in his voice. “They surround my wife and her son, who lie buried in the center. I would like it known that she and Quintus share that family grave with my oldest son, Publius.”

“What? Why?” came the questions. Rutilius raised his hand.

“There is a lot about Publius you do not know,” he said. “And some of that may have been why this attack took place. You see, I adopted Publius. He is not my natural son.”

Salvius perked up. “I never could figure out when you had come to Rome to sire a son and neither me nor Father knowing about it.”

Cadorus was more to the point. “You think the boy was the target, and wish it known he is dead to protect him.”

Rutilius nodded. “Yes. I made a promise to his father five years ago that I would help him in any way I could. I did this by saving his son, and adopting him as my own. I had thought the boy safe now, out here on the edge of the world, far away from Rome and her political games. It may be that this particular edge of the world was not a very good choice. Still, it was the only one I had.”

Messala looked at his friend. There was a deep concern written in the lines of his forehead. “Are you going to say what I think you are going to say?”

Rutilius nodded.

“You fool,” Messala whispered. “You are lucky you both were not slain out of hand! Gods above!”

“What are you two hiding?” Cadorus asked.

“Yes,” Salvius said. “What is going on that could bring murderers after a child?”

Messala groaned. Rutilius had let the cat sniff the outside air, and now it had to come all the way out of the sack. “Then who was strung up in Tarracina?”

“A boy I found slain in the fighting,” Rutilius admitted. “Same build, same complexion. I hit his face with a hammer to make him unrecognizable, and gave the body to Galeria in exchange for Publius and my promise to keep him safe.”

“Who the hell is Galeria?” Cadorus asked.

But Salvius had gone a shade of grey paler than the overcast sky at the name. “Galeria- the wife of dead Vitellius? That Galeria?”

Rutilius nodded.

“Then your little Publius was...” Salvius continued, “Lucius, the little stuttering son of Aulus Vitellius?”

Rutilius nodded again. “The treatment his father received at the hands of Primus’s troops was horrible. The man was treated with absolutely no respect, an Imperator brought low, and treated worse than any captured foreign prince or ruler. I felt revulsion at their actions, but expected no better of the troops who pillaged and burned a Roman town and left dead comrades littering the field of battle for days. I promised him I would do what I could, and that was to see his son live. They later strung up the corpse of the boy they thought his son. They hung a six year old. Frikking heroes my ass.”

“Who else knew of this?” Messala demanded, among a chorus of groans from the others. “The Vitellian outcasts in Rome? The ones making all the noise about being good men wanting to come into office again as is their ancient familial right? The ones Helvidius was championing, just like he championed you- he championed you right across the river, as I recall.”

Rutilius shook his head. “Only three men knew.”

“Two might keep a secret,” Messala groaned, “but three never can. An old saying, and one you well know.”

“Two of these three can keep a secret,” he replied. “One is myself, the other Claudius Victor. The third is Domitianus.”

“A Flavian!” whistled Cadorus, while Salvius groaned again. ”Hera’s Bountiful Breasts! This is bad.”

“This is horrible,” Messala agreed. “Domitianus, son of the Imperator, knows that the natural son of the previous Imperator is still alive and well, living in your villa.”

“I had just saved his life, and that of his cousin,” Rutilius said. “He owed me. His word of silence on this matter paid his debt.”

“You are correct,” Messala said bitterly. “The boy may indeed have been the reason for this attack. It is better that Publius join your wife and her son in that grave, whilst the boy lives on ignominy.”

“Does the boy know of his true father?” Cadorus asked. ”He has been your son for five years, and is still just a lad.”

“He has been with my parents for the past five years,” Rutilius replied. “They have been raising him as a Rutilius, and drilling the family history into him. He was rather young when I adopted him; he may remember, he may not. It was however, been reinforced that this is who he is and he had better remember that, if he wished to grow into manhood. Father can be quite stern when vital issues are on the line.”

“And lessons,” Salvius added, rubbing the back of his hands in memory of many a smack for playing when he should have been learning.

“I have kept him from politics and the military, as I promised Domitianus,” Rutilius repeated. “The boy would be no threat to the Flavii. On that condition, Domitianus gave me his word to keep the boy’s survival a secret.”

“That drunken fellator could have babbled into his cups,” Salvius snorted.

“He performed well as consul several times since the night I rescued him from Vitellius’s men and Vitellius’s son from the rapacious brigands of Primus,” Rutilius reminded him. “He has matured, and is no longer the fop he once was.”

“I say we agree that Publius Rutilius lies dead in that grave,” Messala announced.

The others agreed. Thus died Publius Rutilius, adopted son of Marcus.

Messala added the last brand to the pyre. “I’ll make sure to mention the deaths of your two oldest sons next time I write to my family in Rome,” he said solemnly. “Word will eventually reach Domitianus that the boy is dead, ending any further threat.”

“Thanks,” Rutilius said. “I’ll write the same to Cordinus for his official report.”

Salvius knocked and entered Rutilius’s tent that evening. He found the quaestor sitting with Froydis, nibbling on cheese and speaking in low tones. He approached anyway, and handed over a scroll.

“Avitus sent this with the post,” he said. “The boys coming back with the whitewash had it with them. You might want to read it now.”

“Still going through my mail?” Rutilius asked as he opened the scroll. He saw it was from Cordinus. His eyes began skimming what was written.

“Some habits die hard, and I was your aide once,” Salvius replied. “Read it, damn it! You are making the same mistake Avitus did.”

Chastened, Rutilius read in earnest. Most of it was boring- assizes made, taxes collected, reports of judicial decisions. The normal stuff a governor does. Then came the provincial news- most of which he had learned from Froydis who visited the markets often. Then came the news from neighboring provinces, then would come the Imperial news, if any. But he stopped at the neighboring provinces. His eyes shot open.

“It looks like being a quaestor is an unhealthy career choice,” he said. He noticed the date on the scroll- it had been sitting in his office in Colonia for three weeks. Avitus had sorted his mail, and thought this mundane- and thus could wait until such a time when his quaestor was up to reading the boring stuff. But he had erred- this scroll had news he needed to know immediately. He handed the scroll to Froydis. “What do you make of this?”

The Cugerni looked at the scroll, then to the paragraph Marcus pointed out. After a few seconds she shrugged. “I cannot read the runes,” she said. “The handwriting is atrocious.”

“The quaestor of Germania Superior has been murdered,” Marcus revealed to her, “and his household slain as well.”

“That sounds familiar,” she agreed. She thought that over for a second, but more information was needed before she could fully fit this piece into the larger puzzle. “Darling, what does a quaestor do, exactly? Besides being an assistant governor.”

“There are different types of quaestors,” Salvius informed her. “Some, like Marcus here, are deputy governors. Others are tasked to serve on the staffs of a general, or investigate crimes. They are mostly used by generals and governors to oversee the money-matters of an army or province. Cordinus is good at that part of the job, but sucks at handling the judiciary part where Marcus excels, so he switched roles.”

Something in the explanation struck a chord. “So quaestors normally handle taxes and tithes,” she deduced. “As well as handling the payrolls for the army. Four legions earn quite an amount of money, one would assume. That money would have to be stored somewhere, and as the two guards on the Public Building in town suggest, nothing of value is stored there. Here, however, there were usually twenty to forty hardened guards.”

“Cordinus holds that stuff at Vetera!” Salvius cried.

“Forty or more attackers got savaged here by fifteen Batavians,” Froydis pointed out. “They had mistakenly thought they could take them on and win. If they erred in that, it is not a long leap to imagine they erred in thinking that the provincial payroll was in this house. It could have been merely an elaborate robbery gone wrong.”

“Catullus had just gotten back when he was killed,” Rutilius read. “He might have just paid the legions, and thus have very little in his possession- but enough for the miscreants to gather in a few more hands and try again here- where they knew the legions had yet to be paid. Rich money poorly guarded, had it been here.”

“A payroll for four legions, plus auxilia?” Salvius whistled. “And guarded by only twenty men? I’d be tempted myself.”

So a robbery gone bad was again on the table. Scheisse! How can I catch my wife’s killer if I have no idea who he is, or even what his goal was?

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 12-03-11 10:18 AM EDT (US)     70 / 84       
So someone tried to nick the payroll for four legions and we learn of the reasons behind the attack on Rutillus' home.

Things just get better and better for Marcus!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
posted 12-04-11 12:06 PM EDT (US)     71 / 84       
loving this story. I love the whole series.

Please check it out With your support(and comments)i will show the orks who da boss and teach sauron a thing or two along the way ^_^men of the white tree a gondorian defensive AAR
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 12-05-11 05:39 AM EDT (US)     72 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The Argonautica was finally sailing again. It was a month of bitter solitude within the walls of his own home, and amidst his own family, but it was worth it. The river of words welled up inside Gaius Valerius Flaccus’s head once again and gushed forth in a surge of passion and emotion. Whenever he felt a dip, he thought of Licinia being raped by the monster in the north, and the rising anger and turmoil within him rejuvenated his vocabulary and renewed his vigor. That trip north was the best thing that had happened to his writing in a long time, despite the pain and sorrow the memories brought.

But then again, it was that pain, that anger, which gave such life to his words. The stanzas cranked out as if milled upon the stones of anguish, filled with such flavor and tone that even he was amazed at what he was producing. Truly, experience was worth a thousand times tutors when it came to breathing life onto a parchment.

He kept this source of fervor and inspiration to himself. If he told Licinia that it was her pain and anguish fueling his creativity, she would he devastated, no matter her strength of character. Likewise, should he divulge this to a friend, the secret would circulate and eventually return to his lovely wife. No, for all concerned, this secret was one he must keep and bear alone.

But all things must come to an end, and it was the same with this wonderful source of inspiration. It happened while he was furiously hammering out the final couplets to his fifth book. It began innocently, with a single knock at his study door. At first he thought it was Licinia again, carrying little Gaius in to watch Daddy work but actually interrupting it, but it was not. It was Kalos, his slave. He had visitors.

Flaccus was led into the atrium, where two men awaited him. He recognized them instantly- one was Aeson, his father’s slave, and the other was Septimus Postumius Lentulus, the chief overseer of his father. Both men greeted him warmly. He returned the greetings, bid a slave bring the men refreshments, then turned to Lentulus, he being the free man and thus of higher social rank.

“What brings you here to my house at such a time?” he asked Lentulus. “Should you not be in Etruria, on the latifundium of my father supervising his lands? And you, Aeson, should you not be tending him?”

“The lady Vettia is tending him now,” Lentulus replied. “He had a fall from his horse while returning from inspecting the lands by Resius.”

Gaius knew immediately what that meant. His father had not been inspecting anything other than the bottom of his wineglass, and with the way Resius prattles, probably for hours. “Is my father hurt?”

Lentulus shook his head. “Rattled a bit, but he should recover. The physicians say he should rest for at least a month.”

“Thus your mother asked Septimus to run the lands,” Aeson said, cutting to the point in a decidedly Roman way, unlike the Roman who was prancing about the subject like a Greek. “And she asks you to run the businesses, since you are here in Rome anyway.”

“Closer to the action, so to speak,” Septimus added.

Flaccus knew what and why. He had little head for business, but Licinia did- having been raised on the road by one of the foremost traders in the Empire, and coming from one of the most remarkable trading families in Rome. But he had the name, the lineage, and above all the gender to make the deals possible. Together they would make a nice team. And together they would come to grow together. He suddenly doubted his father fell at all- this seemed more like a set-up to bring harmony to his house.

But then he rejected that idea. His father knew how important the Argonautica was to him, and would not have him abandon that unless it was urgent. So it must be true. And it was only for a month. After that, his wife can have her space again, where she could avoid the touch of a man.

“Tell Father I shall do my best,” Gaius Flaccus said. With that acceptance of duty, Aeson handed over a bucket of scrolls and tablets.

“The latest news and tips from your father,” he said. “Study them, and you will be able to get the better prices and make the better purchases.”

Flaccus took the bucket- Jupiter it was heavy!- and had Aeson bring it to his study. The Argonautica was brushed gently back into its haven, and the new materials scattered across his table for perusal and study.

After his guests departed, Flaccus began reading. Most of it was numbers, which made his head hurt. Prices, costs, taxes, accounting... There was no rhyme nor reason to it. It was not like words, which he could hammer and twist into new phrases or glowing images. It was simple, cold mathematics- a subject he hated.

He rose with a start. Enough! He went to his wife’s chambers and knocked lightly upon the door. Aeditha, Licinia’s maid, opened the door to allow him in. As he entered, he saw a wife he never knew he had. Her hair was down, a sea of red flowing straight down her shoulders to frame her smiling face with whisps of fire. Her eyes were glowing green- and staring at her little boy who was smiling back and repeating the opening stanza of Book II of the Argonautica. The boy stopped upon his father’s entrance, and the smile lighting his wife’s face dripped away as she turned to face her husband.

Flaccus winced. He was a man, entering the room of a woman who had suffered so much at the hands of another man. Now a man was entering her room. He decided to be as short as possible.

“Give the boy to Aeditha and come with me,” he said bluntly.

Like a proper Roman wife, Licinia obeyed. He led her past his bedroom to his study, where he pointed to the books Aeson had brought.

“My father needs to rest for a month,” he explained. “He was drunk and fell from his horse. Physicians ordered him to rest, and for me to take over the running of his estate. Mother set Septimius Lentulus to handle the latifundium, and gave me the books with which to run the business portion. But alas, I am better with words than numbers. Can you make any sense of this?”

Licinia scooped up a tablet and glanced over it, then did the same with a scroll. Perusing it, she nodded.

“These are the accounts and costs endured for the last few months,” she said, pointing to the tablet. Then to the scroll, she added, “and this is a contract to supply eight talents of unspun wool to a firm that spins it and weaves cloth.”

A wash of relief swept over him. She did know business! “I am responsible, but cannot make headway against these cold figures,” he said. “I would like you to interpret them for me. You will actually run the business, providing me with information, while I use my words and persuasion to accomplish the deals necessary to keep it going. Do you agree to this, Licinia?”

The redhead nodded, and smiled a bit. A senator’s business! She was going to run a business, with her stuck-up husband as the face man. She could do this, had to do this. It was in her blood.

Flaccus saw a light shine forth from his wife as she dug into the scrolls and tablets. She was indeed a merchant’s daughter. He withdrew to the atrium to give her some privacy.

He came running back at a scream an hour later.

“What is it?” he demanded.

Licinia pointed to a scroll. This one was mostly words. He picked it up and began reading. News from the north, helpful information when deciding details such as prices and profits- and risks. Three-quarters of the way down the page he stopped and grunted once.

In Germania, the home of Rutilius had been attacked. The quaestor’s family- a wife and two sons- had been brutally slaughtered. In Mogontiacum, the quaestor had been gutted in his own bed, then his throat had been slit and the house burned. This puts a damper on collections, making these provinces a high-risk zone for operations for the next few months.

“Good,” Flaccus grunted. “Serves the bastard right.”

“What?” roared Licinia.

“It serves him right,” Flaccus repeated. “Rutilius was an evil bastard, and has now been brought to accounts for his actions.”

“You do not know of what you speak,” Licinia cried. Her face- moments ago alight with life and filled with happiness and glowing- was now the tear-stained visage of a harpy, complete with fangs and icy grey eyes. “Have you ever met him?”

“No,” Flaccus admitted. “But I do not have to. I met a man in Patavium, a slave captain named Hortius who served Lucius Secundus. He had been thrown in chains at the command of Rutilius. And before that, he was at the trial at Vetera, where Rutilius had been brought up on charges of treason. I think I know enough about the man to condemn him.”

“You know nothing!” Licinia shrieked.

“I know he was made acting governor when Cordinus Gallicus was stabbed, and abused his power to force your father to give you to him for a night. I know he raped you, Licinia, and fathered our Gaius in the process! I am glad he is dead. You should be, too!”

“Idiot!” she shrieked. “He did not rape me! I raped him, you moron!”


“I had set my heart on him as soon as I saw him,” Licinia admitted. “I was in love with him, and wanted to be his wife, not yours. You were not even in the picture. I had flirted with him, and even courted him. And when he remained a proper Roman magistrate and senator, I connived with his fellow legate and senator Gnaeus Vipsanius Messala to get him to think of marriage. And he was moving that way- towards me- when Father came with an announcement that I was to marry you instead, and live in Rome.

“We fought, my father and I, but one cannot fight against a father and win. So I accepted his announcement that I was to be your bride, but told him that I would not be happy. And that I would do my best to discredit our union. I would be a handful, or more. Father knew I would, too.”

“B-b-b-but you have been the epitome of a proper wife,” Flaccus stammered in reply.

“Thank Father for that,” Licinia hissed. “He gave me one night alone. One night with the man I loved, in exchange for my promise to be a faithful wife to you ever after. Well, Gaius Valerius Flaccus, I had my one night and I raped the living hell out of the man I loved- repeatedly, and joyfully during that one night I had. And ever since, I have been the proper Roman wife I promised to be- even when you spill your seed into that German slave you brought home from Patavium... Patavium?”

The word suddenly made her remember . Her analytical mind started connecting merchant dots. "You went to Patavium. And met a slaver who had been humiliated by Marcus- probably most deservedly, if I know my Marcus. “ Things clicked in her mind. Motive, and Valerian money. Opportunity. She advanced with fire in her eyes and a snarl like a tiger on the cringing man. “What have you done, Gaius? Is this your doing?”

The sudden attack caught him completely off-guard. He lifted his hands to defend his face against possible nails, and backed away from the wife he suddenly feared. “I have done nothing,” he cried. “Only talked. Hortius gave me information, and Martialis- who was in Patavium- figured the dates. Gaius is his child, not mine. I had thought you raped, that was why you seemed so reluctant to my touch. But I swear by Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Licinia, I have given no word for action to be taken! I swear!”

Her husband feared her. In that awful moment of fear-ridden cowardice, the balance of power in that marriage shifted decidedly and irrevocably to Licinia. She backed away from the cringing man slowly, in shock and in triumph. Her husband feared her. He was a coward- and as such his words rang true. He had not the balls to order the assassination of anyone. By Juno, he could not even ball a fist in his own defense!

“That had better be true,” she warned, just in case.

“I may have wished harm upon him, but I had taken no action and given no orders,” he repeated, stammering only slightly as the red-headed dragon backed away. Slowly the fangs receded and once again she was the woman he married- or so he thought. He too noticed the shift in power. She was no longer his; he was hers. “I had thought he had violated you.”

“Other way around,” she said with a cynical grin. “Besides, the only violations going on around here are your constant couplings with your German toy. Do you know how that makes me feel? I am attractive- the gods know how many suitors I had fended off while you were in Patavium- yet you dare not touch me, and prefer instead to command the hapless German into your bed whenever you want the pleasures. And before that, you pleasured yourself, as if I were not worthy.”

“I will not have this about me,” he said sternly. Her eyes flashed a brilliant grey that melted what little strength he had managed to summon, but he found enough to continue. “I had thought you raped, and scarred inside from the trauma. I did not realize your frigidity toward me was love for another. I thought I was being considerate.”

“You were being cold and brutish, husband,” Licinia replied coldly. “A fool. Giving me the impression you cared not for me.”

“Oh,” muttered Flaccus. His world was collapsing about his ears, had collapsed. Now a life-line came from the Destroyer of Worlds. He decided to grasp it. “So you do care for me?”

“I have grown to love you this past year,” she admitted, though not warm enough to give him the impression her newfound power in this marriage would fade anytime soon. “You accepted our child, and gave me as much time with him as I wished. You gave me freedom to be myself, and I returned that by fulfilling my vow to my father.”

“Oh,” Flaccus repeated. He stood idly, not knowing now where this was going.

Licinia came forward. He retreated a step, but she took him firmly into her arms. He did not resist, though he did not come forward, either.

“Stop struggling, you idiot,” she whispered. She then kissed him deeply, passionately. It was not the passion of love, but it was still passion. The poet knew not the difference at this moment, his mind still reeling from previous moments.

“You get rid of your German toy,” she said huskily. “Tomorrow. Free her, or sell her. I care not, but tomorrow night she sleeps no longer under our roof.”

“She will be gone.”

Licinia nodded. Then she held out her hand. Flaccus took her hand and she led him out of the study and towards his chamber. Flaccus did not resist. And as their clothes fell away, he pulled her into the bed. Licinia did not resist.

Of course she would not resist. The man she loved was dead in Mogontiacum, leaving only her husband to hold her heart. The same thought crossed both minds. In the head of Flaccus, it was followed by another thought. I now have a chance to fully win my wife’s heart.

Licinia smiled coyly as if thinking the same thing, but she was not. Marcus was not the quaestor in Mogontiacum. He ruled from Colonia, in the north. Marcus lost his family, the other quaestor his life.

My Marcus was still alive!

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 12-05-11 08:13 AM EDT (US)     73 / 84       
A good chapter especially there were several lines that made me laugh pretty hard.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
posted 12-05-11 03:03 PM EDT (US)     74 / 84       
well that effectivly means he was not responcible. i eagerly await the next chapter

Please check it out With your support(and comments)i will show the orks who da boss and teach sauron a thing or two along the way ^_^men of the white tree a gondorian defensive AAR
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 12-05-11 03:33 PM EDT (US)     75 / 84       
Well this means i will hibernate till next monday...

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 12-12-11 02:54 AM EDT (US)     76 / 84       
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The centuries had dispersed back to their parent legions, proud and happy. They had come to a charred ruin, and left a home worthy of a hero in its place. The house itself had always stood on a hill with a nice view of the river. Now it stood on a hill, enclosed with its new barn, cottages, and other buildings by a stone wall nine feet high, with an inner catwalk and occasional bastions were a scorpion could be mounted if needed. There were three towers on the wall- two by the gate, a third by the back side- where men could view the land for two bowshots around. The house itself had a turreted cupola adorning its gabled roof. It had always had a nice view of the Rhenus through the forests below. Now it had a spectacular view of the slope falling away to the river, which could be monitored for miles. Even the town of Colonia was now visible.

The legionaries had made damned sure that anyone coming to this house with malice on their mind would be seen and killed long before they could attempt any mayhem.

Rutilius roamed his new house with a deep gratitude for the men who built it. It was a solid home, stronger and higher than the one it replaced, while retaining that wonderful portico in front, and the balcony overlooking the river where he and Claudia had first displayed a shared interest in each other. At his side was Marcus Salvius, who remained behind to whip Caius Avitus into shape- such news as he overlooked should never have been pushed into the pile of less-important post. On his other side was Froydis, who had no desire to move on, at least not yet.

Each had their own reason for the tour. Rutilius was looking at his house through the eyes of a man who was trying to make a home of the house. Salvius was looking at it through the eyes of a military man- how would he attack, how would he defend? He saw nothing he and the other centurions had not already seen, but when a friend’s life was on the line, one was never too careful. And Froydis looked at it through the eyes of a woman- where a curtain ought to be placed to trap a draft, what decorations ought to hang where, and how the furniture ought to be arranged. The legionaries had done well- for men- but a home needed a woman’s touch.

A shout from above alerted them to an approaching group of riders, a warning that was echoed by the men manning the tower by the gate.

“Looks like we have company,” Rutilius said. “And that I have to get used to alarms being raised by any passing travelers.”

“Better alerted than surprised,” Salvius muttered. “I can get used to it real quick, if it meant my life.”

“Me too,” smiled Rutilius.

“Besides, it is probably just Avitus and your lictors coming to get their latest lesson,” Salvius added. “He’s a good kid when it comes to planning and administration- better than I ever was. But he sucks at prioritizing and being thorough.”

Salvius was wrong. It was not Avitus, but rather a delegation of Batavians, led by Tiberius Labeo himself. Rutilius arranged for them to be admitted, while Salvius and Froydis left him to go arrange the things they had seen.

“Your house has grown,” Labeo said with an approving nod toward the new edifice. “I could see it from the marketplace in town.”

“It has not grown by choice,” Rutilius retorted more bitterly than intended, but held out his hand to the king as a gesture of peace. “But it is a fitting tribute to my dead wife and sons.”

Labeo was a German, but a quick one. He put the newly-adopted boy of Claudius Victor together with the plurality of the dead children and figured out rather quickly that the oldest boy was not to be considered the son of Rutilius any longer, but rather that of Claudius Victor. It mattered not why, as long as both men wished it so and the boy as well. He was a clever lad, that Publius, and very taken with his new father.

“I saw the pickled heads in the marketplace. Grisly,” Labeo continued as he dismounted and shook the offered hand of his friend. He pulled a sack from his saddle and handed it to the quaestor. “You might want to add this to the collection.”

Rutilius pulled out a rather hairy and ugly head from the sack. He looked at the features, then shrugged.

“I do not know this one.”

“Neither do I,” Labeo said. “But he was killed in Noviomagus not a week ago- after asking questions about you. One of the veterans- you remember Eirik the Tall, yes?- got suspicious and followed the lout, who took offense and drew steel. Stupid of him, and as you can see, he paid for it.”

“Do you think he was part of the mob that slew my wife?”

“He is in no condition to ask, but I think so. He was seen with another fool who also asked questions, but who was fleeter of foot and quicker of thought than this one. He got away.”

“So you come to warn me,” Rutilius deduced. “My gratitude is great, but you could have sent a messenger.”

The Batavian king shrugged. “And pass up the chance to see this wonderful abode?” he asked indignantly. “The way the legionaries were bragging, they built you a copy of Mad Nero’s Golden House!”

Rutilius laughed, his first real laugh in a long time. “It is not that grand, but they did do a wonderful job. Come, my friend, my cellars are newly stocked with both beer and wine. Shall we see if their vintage is the same quality as the wares they replace?”

The visit lasted well into the night before Tiberius Labeo wandered off to the newly-furbished visitor’s quarters. They had talked of many things that night, chief among them was why the king of the Batavians had crossed Cugerni land to visit the quaestor in Ubian lands, instead of sending his cousin- who was also the chief steward of the quaestor.

“Claudius and his son are not currently available,” was the reply of the king.

“Ah,” Marcus grunted. “Hiding out.”

Labeo shook his head. “Traveling. A moving target- especially an unknown moving target- is harder to hit. He bid me replace him for two months. He assumed I would task our cousin Gaius Claudius Armandus, but he erred. I took on his tasks myself.”

“I am flattered that a king volunteered to serve,” Rutilius replied, “but also a bit surprised. I would ask favors, but never service of you.”

Labeo snorted. “You put me on that throne, Marcus. Sure you can say Cerealis did it, but he did it at your suggestion. And since then, you have supported me whole-heartedly. Together we have rebuilt the tribe. I paid a bit of that debt off with a cohort this summer, but I have a long road to travel before I can count that debt paid in full.”

“There is no debt to be paid, Tiberius,” Rutilius said. “Rome is served best by having a strong tribe guarding her northern borders. Together we made the tribe strong, you as her king, and Rome. I was simply a servant of Rome.”

“So you say,” retorted the king. “But I have served in the cohorts that once guarded Mad Nero, and since seen the men sent to Germania. Not many would go as far for Rome as have you, or done so so freely and without greed. No, my friend, you are indeed unique among the Romans. I owe you personally, no matter if what you did for us serves Rome.”

“So a king supervises my farms, while the prince travels the lands,” Rutilius mused. The words of Cordinus and the legates flowed back into his mind. ”The Imperator sees a younger version of himself in you. He fears your influence among the legions.” And from the legates, “There was not a manjack in the legions that would refuse you anything after what you did for us over there.” And now a king serves me directly.

“Out of some honor, admittedly, but mostly curiosity, as stated,” Labeo laughed. “Besides, we are friends, you and I. Friends do favors for each other without compensation required, though I must admit surprise when I saw how much compensation you could give. Wotan’s One Eye, my friend! I had no idea the amount of land you have managed to acquire. My cousin has put you in the Senate three times over now.”

“Really?” Rutilius muttered in surprise. “I was quite busy the last few years to properly run my lands, which was why I was so tremendously grateful to Claudius Victor.”

“He has amassed you a large fortune in a short amount of time,” the king repeated. “And maybe made you an attractive victim in the process.”

“Have you heard about Catullus in Germania Superior?” Rutilius asked. “A quaestor like me, he was recently murdered. We think the same people that did him in came against my home. Quaestors run the finances, especially military ones, you know.”

“So you think this was a robbery gone bad?” the king grunted. “They attacked, thinking with your recent influx of wealth and lack of time to pay the legions, the payroll was here in your house? Fools! Anyone with any ties to the army at all knows such wealth is never guarded by less than a cohort! And anyone knowing about your wealth would know that it is tied up in land. You cannot steal land.”

“Tied up in horses as well, which can be stolen,” Rutilius corrected. “But you do bring up an interesting point. We know at least some of the attackers were ex-military -at least one was a deserter, while others had marks of flogging on their backs. They would know no wealth was located here.”

“Which means this was an assassination, not a robbery,” the king deduced. “And from the man asking questions who donated his head to your collection, you were the one he sought.”

Labeo leaned forward to stare Rutilius directly in the eye to display his seriousness. “That man had friends, Marcus. You are still in danger.”

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Labeo departed a few days later. His escort had enjoyed their stay, and had scouted the surrounding area for potential trouble whilst the king and his friend discussed matters of importance to both. Chief among them was the way Cordinus was running the lower part of the province. He tried to be just, yet his bigotry still shone through. Labeo asked pointedly on that third day if Rutilius would ask Cordinus for a transfer to Vetera, in return for the governor transferring his seat to Colonia.

“You were sent away to the south because the province was so long,” Labeo stated, “but the true grounds were your very strong ties to the tribes there. My Batavians, the Cananefate, and even the Cugerni are themselves Friends and Allies of Rome. And you personally are considered a Friend and Ally to each of those tribes. Then you went and married an Ubian woman, bringing that tribe into your cult. Your child was sequestered among the Tungrians, and although you did not know this, they knew, and considered it a very high honor.”

Marcus was aghast at the revelations.

“I see you did not know this,” Labeo continued. “Such a political babe for a battlefield lion. Anyway, I tell you this because I want you to come back north, where you belong, and send that pompous ass back south, where he belongs.”

“I cannot order a governor about,” Rutilius protested.

“You can suggest it,” Labeo retorted. “He has been listening well whenever you suggest things, especially these past months. I have seen your Public House in the Ubian civitas here. A little work can turn it into a governor’s residence with his praetorians nearby. Maybe not as safe as he is now, surrounded by a full legion, but overall a governor should make himself seen. Talk with him, Marcus. You understand the tribes; he does not. Though even I am forced to admit the man does now try.”

“My wife and child lie buried here, Tiberius,” Rutilius replied. “I have recently lost them. Now I am to abandon them totally?”

“They loved you, Marcus. They will understand if duty calls you away. And it will not be permanent. Cordinus will one day go away, and a new governor will come. You will remain- I know you. You would demote yourself to legate to stay here, and failing that, become a privatus. Then you will return to this place to be with your lost ones. You will not scratch dirt though you may try, and you will travel about your lands as does Claudius Victor, helping and directing. Everywhere you go within this province, you will bring a sense of Roman honor. And the tribes know it. You are as bound to us as we are to you.”

“They should be more careful,” Rutilius replied bitterly. He gazed out toward where his family and their dead lay buried. “People who bind themselves to me usually get hurt.”

“That’s horse shit and you know it,” Labeo snorted loudly. “Sometimes bad things happen to good people. It is the way of the world. I myself was a fugitive who lost everything. Now I am a king. My cousin Seval raised himself from a prefect to a king, then lost it all- and he was an exceptional man.”

“I know,” Rutilius replied. “I met him once, in old Batavodurum. I had just witnessed the destruction of Traiectum by the Cananefate and raced east to warn our troops. Civilis put me up for the night, then sent someone to kill me. I escaped before that could happen.”

“He crossed you, and paid for it,” Labeo said with a smile, tapping the golden armband which proclaimed him the Batavian king. “And Udo and Ulfrich crossed you as well- they too are no more. Segestes is your friend- and now a king as well. You spared the Frisii prince- and now the Frisii thrive in a peace with Rome. Break out of your melancholy, you fool, and begin living again. Shit happens. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. But for those with you, more good than bad. Deal with it.”

He sat back from the tirade, and looked about. “A nice house, my friend, but one with a lot of fresh and painful memories. Come north, come home to Batavodurum or Noviomagus or whatever you wish to call it. Ask Cordinus for the switch.”

“I shall think upon it,” Rutilius promised.

And he did. And after he thought for a while, he muttered ‘merda, the man is right.’

A few minutes later he knocked on the door next to his room. Froydis opened her door cautiously, then more fully as she recognized her late-evening visitor.

“We need to talk,” he said.

“Come in,” she bid. She stepped aside to let him enter, then closed the door. It would not open again until the sun was high in the morning sky.

“Talk,” she said, directing him to the bed, the only piece of furniture in the room. She sat down beside him, then repeated her command a bit more gently. “Talk.”

Rutilius succinctly laid out the conversation with Labeo, ending with the king’s idea of moving to Vetera, or even Noviomagus.

“That is an excellent idea,” she said, agreeing at once. “You were a shell of a broken man this autumn. You have healed, slowly, but are confronted every day with reminders of that horrible day. Moving north would remove you from those reminders, and enable the healing to occur faster.”

“I miss her, Froydis,” he said. A sob wanted to break free, but he crushed it in his chest. “This was her home.”

The Cugerni woman drew him close, and held his head to her breast. “It was her home, but her house burned. This is your house now, my love. It was built for you by the legionaries, your men, and those men still need you.”

That penetrated.

She held him close, then kissed the top of his head. “Get away from this place, lover. Get away until the pain fades, and you can remember the love and good memories here without them crushing you again. It will do you good, and those who depend on you. Go north, where you belong.”

“Labeo said the same thing,” he said.

“Of course,” she replied. “He may have gotten his crown by blood, but he would not have been able to keep it had he been stupid. He is a good man, and cares very much about you- his friend.”

“My friends tend to get hurt,” he replied, again echoing a statement he made to Labeo not two hours before.

“People are always getting hurt,” she replied flatly. “It matters not if they are your friends or not.”

He smiled, though she could not see it. “Labeo said much the same thing.”

“As I said, a wise man. So you will try to transfer north?”

He nodded, and slipped an arm around her. That caused her to smile.

“Which do you suggest, Vetera or Noviomagus?” he asked.

“Vetera also has memories attached to it- both good and bad. You were imprisoned there, but it was also the scene of two great triumphs for you. Noviomagus has the advantage that you have a farmstead there, near the base, and is farther from the center of the province though closer to your Cananefate friends. Logic dictates that you should choose Noviomagus, but I am sure you will assume duties at Vetera. That is the center of the northern forces.”

“You reason very well,” he said, pulling his head up to her face. “If I go north, it must indeed be to Vetera, for the reasons you mention.”

She pulled his face closer and kissed him. Deeply. “You would live in my tribal home,” she said with a forlorn smile. “For Rome, and for me, even though you are not the leading magistrate in this province. You could choose Noviomagus, but you do not.”

He thought that over. She was right again- for Rome, and for her.

“Vetera it is,” he decided. “I shall send a letter tomorrow.”

She pulled him close and kissed him again. This time he returned it- passionately. “Tomorrow,” she whispered huskily. “Tonight we take care of other needs that have been neglected for far too long.”

Labeo, hearing their muttered talking followed later by the rhythmic ruckus the two made, sat up sharply then laid back upon the guest bed with a smile. His friend had taken a woman, finally. It was a good sign, one of recovery. Marcus was going to be just fine.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 12-12-11 06:56 AM EDT (US)     77 / 84       
But will Marcus be just fine.........

Good chapter although I'm intrigued what Cordinus is doing.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 12-19-11 02:31 AM EDT (US)     78 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Caius Avitus read over the report from Vibius Avidius again. Vibius had been close when they were growing up, though Caius went into the legions while Avidius followed his father into civil service. He was a clerk now, working in the customs house in Patavium, while Avitus was a centurion- though his current assignment carried more clerical duties -and much more responsibility- than did those of his friend.

Lucius Vettius Secundus had traveled from Vetera, where Rutilius had released his Suevi prisoners and imprisoned the guard captain in his place. He had gone south, to Gelduba, Novaesium, Colonia, Bonna, and Mogontiacum, where he picked up a load of Suevi women from a competitor who had too many. These and his Bructeri women spoke different dialects, further isolating them. That made his trip over the Via Mala even quicker than normal, which meant with far few losses on the trail.

He sold one lot in Mediolanium for a small fortune, then sailed the remainder on a colleague’s ship to Patavium where he sold the rest for another small fortune. He retired to his home in Ravenna for a two month break, turning the business over to his captain in the meantime.

Hortius was a former centurion, but one who had been busted from the legions. Insubordination was the word. He spent a couple of years in the arena- involuntarily; the man was a terrible gambler- but fought well enough to clear his debts. He bought his freedom, and found work as a merchant guard. He did well there when they were attacked by brigands, and his skill brought him to the attention of Secundus, who offered him a job. He quickly rose to guard captain.

Avitus put the letter down and took a sip of the local beer. Hortius had military training, and was friends with gladiators. He mingled with slaves- was one himself. It fit.

Then he read further. Hortius used his profits to buy one of the Suevi women. He spent the next six weeks training her to perform a slave’s duties for him. As of one week before the writing of this letter, Hortius was busily engaged with learning the process of making beer from her, while her growing belly told all that Hortius was going into the slave-making business as well. He was reported to be very happy.

Avitus read on, then suddenly threw the letter down. Merda! Hortius had the training and the mind, but not the desire. That last line haunted him- he was overheard talking to a senator’s son from Rome. He remembered the quaestor of Germania by position, but had trouble remembering his name.

Hortius was not the man behind the attack on Claudia Sacra. You simply do not forget the name of a man you hate. If he had forgotten the name, he had forgotten the reason, and forgotten the hatred.

Hortius was not the culprit.


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Marcus made good on his promise to Tiberius Labeo. He had thought about it, and talked it over with Froydis, who in the past few weeks had become more wife than lover, and more friend than comrade. She agreed with Tiberius Labeo: this house, though new, was built upon a site with memories that were too fresh and too painful. A temporary change of scenery would be good for his mental health, and Vetera- the scene of his surprising victory over Segestes the summer past and his war-ending triumph in the Batavian War, was a good location tied to good memories. The fact that he had served in the V Alaudae upon first arriving in the province as a legionary thirteen years before was but an added benefit.

Surprisingly, Cordinus easily agreed to the proposed switch. To be honest, the dampness of Vetera was inflaming his old lung injury, whereas Colonia was a bit drier- and thus better for his healed wounds. Plus Colonia was closer to Rome, and in a safer area than the exposed Vetera. He had learned his lesson well concerning warfare against the tribes, and knew that any action in the province was likely to happen in the north. And he knew that he was singularly unsuitable for such action. Thus the proposal of his quaestor to make Colonia the provincial capital and seat of the governor was met with a sigh of relief, and a curse that he had not thought of it himself.

The move was made effortlessly before the Saturnalia and all the mayhem around it could set in. Neither Roman wanted to be caught in transit by the upside-down world of that most-festive of Roman holidays, though it would affect Cordinus far more than it would Rutilius. Cordinus would have to serve his slaves, who for a day or two would be masters. Rutilius, who had no slaves, would trade places with his friends- and since friends are equals, he did not need to trade places at all.

Rutilius, having less goods to move, awaited the arrival of Cordinus in Colonia. The governor had moved an auxilia vexillation of cavalry closer to the city, and had a half-cohort of Sabine gladiators as his personal guard, flushing out the few Samnites that had survived the summer. A century of them would reside with the governor, while the other three centuries would form a rotating group based in the city barracks. The governor himself, upon arrival in the city, deemed the house of Rutilius the safest and most secure residence.

“The legionaries built it as a fort,” Rutilius said to the governor, “but it is still a farmstead. The Ubians who work the farm will still live in their cottages, though your men may move into those Batavian cottages that are now empty.”

Cordinus heard the words and read deeper. You may use my house as your palace, but the stead itself remains mine. Do nothing that insults or hinders my people.

“Can I trust them?” he asked. His voice was quite serious- he had bad memories of Germani getting close to him.

“You can trust them,” Rutilius replied, just as seriously. He knew why the governor asked. “They do not go into the Main House anyway- they are more than content to work the land, and the horses, and live their lives in their own cottages. They were Claudia’s people, and loyal to her. Many died defending this place not long ago. I would have their survivors carry on.”

“As would I,” Cordinus said earnestly. “They may continue their daily lives unhindered.”

The rest was merely details. The two men shared the house that evening, with Cordinus picking his host’s brain for details as to the house itself, the enclosure, and the people who lived in it. The next morning would be the tour through the Curia Publica in the town itself, followed by the staff assignments. Cordinus wanted to leave Caius Avitus in place in Colonia, but Rutilius argued against it. He needed Avitus, while the governor had his own aides and advisors. Cordinus agreed that Rutilius would need an aide of the quality of Avitus, but he would have one in Marcus Salvius- who happened to serve in the XXII Primigenia right there in Vetera, where Rutilius himself would be. Given that , Rutilius acquiesced. Avitus would remain in Colonia- a decision the young centurion would find much to his liking, and that of his new love, Traudl, who had survived the assault on the house by being fleeter of foot and quicker of wit than the larger and older Martha, whose bulk had blocked the attackers from reaching the maiden.

A few days later, Rutilius and his entourage- Froydis, his baby son, and the Batavian Guards- reported to Vetera. Decius Paullus greeted them at the gate, then hustled them inside the fortress.

“I was expecting you to come by ship,” he said. “On the same one that brought Cordinus away.”

“I am a horseman now,” Rutilius said with a shrug. “My Batavians made me one.” He glanced about, a habit he was picking up from Froydis. “You will have your centurions tidy up the parade ground, my friend, while your camp prefect beds my Guard down. Then we will talk and catch up.”

Paullus blushed as he saw the remains of festivities littering the place.. “The boys had a minor celebration,” he said sheepishly. “You can probably guess why.”

Cordinus was gone, and Rutilius was coming. “Yes, I can understand.”

Froydis looked over the parade ground, and then at Marcus. “Show me to your quarters, Marcus,” she said in Germanic, “that your son does not freeze in this cold.”

Ja,” he replied. He turned to Decius. “I do not believe you met Froydis, have you? Froydis of the Cugerni, I would introduce you to Decius Paullus, commander of the XXII Primigenia, a good friend, and once a tribune like myself back before the Great War.”

“An honor,” she said in Latin. Her speech was accented, but only slightly. “Decius, eh? Marcus thinks very highly of you.”

Paullus blushed. “We are friends.”

“He names his son after you,” Froydis replied pointedly. “Decius Paullus, meet Decius Rutilius. But quickly- he grows cold in this wind.”

The governor’s quarters were about what one would expect- large, roomy, lavish. And bare- when Cordinus moved out, he took everything with him. Luckily Rutilius did not need much. All his worldly possessions fit into a single wagon, with a lot of room to spare. All he needed was to throw his woolen blanket over a bearskin rug and he was set.

Froydis, of course, saw much more. The walls were thick against attack and cold, with the windows both shuttered and curtained. There was a fireplace in each room, and even a private chamber with its own glazed chamberpot in a finely-made cabinet. There were two smaller cubicles off the main one- slaves’ chambers. She suppressed a laugh- those will not be in use, not with Rutilius in command. And across from the slaves’ chambers was the Main bedroom, flanked by a study and a receiving room.

“This shall be your receiving room,” she said to Marcus. “Your son will have the one farther in, your office will be the room in between, and we shall have our bed there, in the master bedroom.”

When Marcus nodded, she went off to make the arrangements. The camp prefect, just returning from showing the Batavians their quarters, found himself confronted and commandeered by another Germanic, this one carrying a child. He barely got a word out before his legate nodded furiously, tacitly commanding the man to follow the woman’s directions. Once it became clear to him that this was the woman of Rutilius, he nearly fell over himself apologizing and trying to be even more helpful.

“Rather commandeering, Marcus,” whispered Paullus as Froydis and the prefect disappeared down the front stairwell. “Have you gotten married again? Without telling us, again?” he chided.

Rutilius shook his head. “No. And she was not being bossy. She is proposing the most logical arrangements for us to share, something I value about her. Nothing she has said is different from what I myself had been thinking. We are a good team, she and I.”

“Then why do you not marry her?” Paullus asked suddenly. “You married Claudia in Colonia, so I know you have no shame or other poor thoughts concerning marrying a non-Roman.”

“Claudia was noble, rich, a Roman citizen, and proven fertile,” Rutilius said. “She was a good match for a Roman senator and magistrate. Froydis, while easy on the eyes and sharper in the mind than most anyone I ever met, is neither rich, nor Roman, nor noble, nor proven fertile. She is a widow, and though we had lain together, never has she conceived.”

“You lie to me Marcus,” Paullus said with a tick of disappointment clouding his voice. “I know you. None of what you said matters a whit to you. You love her- I see it in your eyes- and you two make a good team. What slips past your gaze would not slip past hers.”

“I will soon be replaced,” Marcus said. “In Martius or so the new magistrates will be announced. Cordinus will be replaced; the Old Owl can not do otherwise and retain the respect of the senate. The new governor will bring his own quaestor, and I shall return to being a simple legate. Froydis may not be up to magisterial standards, but she is more than qualified to be the wife of a legate. I shall ask her hand then, and marry her in the autumn, when my year of grieving has ended.”

“Ah, the proper way,” Paullus laughed. “And so utterly full of shit. What if you are rewarded for this summer with a province of your own? What then? Will you put your heart on hold again, and risk losing her like you did Licinia?”

“I will not lose Froydis,” Marcus said sternly. “I would have married Licinia, true, but it would have been more a marriage of convenience and duty. I needed a bride with Roman connections, she was available. We had good times together, but it would still have been a duty, not love. Claudia was also duty, but that was a duty that became love. It still hurts.”

“All the more reason to marry this one,” Paullus said, pushing home his point. “She may not have connections in Rome, but that does not matter to a man who will be staying here, regardless, now, does it? You do not deny you love this woman, and I can see that she loves you. I have heard how you were upon learning of the death of your wife. You were broken and despondent. Salvius heard rumors from your Guards that they feared you would fall on your sword. I see no evidence of that grief and sadness now. This woman has healed you, Marcus, like she did when you were stabbed down in the market of Noviomagus. But this time she healed your soul, not simply your body. Every time you hurt, she patches you. You need her, Marcus.”

Rutilius thought that over. It was true. He had been stabbed, she fixed him when the legion surgeons would have killed him in their efforts to save him. When he would have been killed across the river, she was there to rescue him. When he would have been slain by a hunter, she bade him wait and he killed the hunter instead. And when he was torn by grief this past autumn, she patched him back together and gave his life new hope. Everywhere he ran into danger, she was there. Always there.

“I think you are right, Decius. I need her.”

“Then marry her, you fool!” Paullus hissed. “She left you once, when you married another, yet came back when you needed her. Twice now. If you send her away again, you may well lose her forever.”

“Why do you care so much for her?”

“I do not,” Paullus replied. “I care about you, my brother in arms. And it is obvious to all that you need a woman to take care of you, as much as you need to take care of a woman. I assume you two...”

Marcus nodded. “We are close in that way as well.”


“And she is as exceptional in that skill as she is in noticing things,” Marcus answered. “Absolutely no complaints, but one cannot build a marriage upon sex.”

“No, one cannot,” Paullus agreed. “Nor can one build a working marriage upon duty alone. Or love alone. Or money alone, though several try. They all fail in some way- leaving one or both miserable. But when duty, love, money, and sex intersect- a marriage has a very great chance of making both happy. You two have it all- and it would be a damned shame for you to let it slide through your fingers due to some obscene old tradition of having to wait a year. Did Sulla wait a year after Domitia died? No, he married Valeria Messala almost the next day. Did Aemilius wait when his Aurelia passed on? No, within a month he remarried- Rome needed him married so he could concentrate on his laws. You have a son, Marcus, who needs a mother. She is a mother, who needs a son. Together you complement each other, and Rome benefits. Why wait? Why put that off until some time when you may lose her?”

Decius did need a mother. Froydis had been filling in, running the string of wet-nurses to feed him, and caring for him as if she were his own. That was his heir, the boy who would grow to inherit what he built, to make Rome strong.

“You have a point,” Marcus conceded. “I shall consider this carefully. The Saturnalia is almost upon us. Afterwards I shall discuss it with her. Good enough?”

“That’s my boy,” Paullus said with a grin. “I’ll have a table and some chairs set up, since I know you prefer eating in the German manner. The legion’s cooks shall make you a welcome dinner worthy of a hero, and my own wine will help the atmosphere. We all want you to feel comfortable in your new home, even if it was designed for a man living alone.”

“It will be fine,” Marcus said. “Just clean up the parade ground. I severely dislike living in a sty. Barns are all right, though,” he added with a laugh.

“I will present the legion tomorrow for inspection,” Paullus promised, “in a spotless castrum. And after the Saturnalia, we shall clean it again. This place will shine for you, Marcus.”

The Saturnalia was far different from previous ones celebrated in Germania. Though junior legionaries commanded centuries while their centurions cleaned latrines, the drinking and other festivities were limited in their scope. No legionary wanted to be caught drunk or out of form to fight, especially with the quaestor in residence. Rutilius himself participated in the festivities- to the delight of the men- but neither drank nor acted outrageously. And the sentries pulling duty during this time kept a weather eye out across the Rhenus and on the watchtowers- the Germans knew of this holiday and had used it against the Romans before. All remembered the fate of Novaesium- and its embarrassing loss- five years before. That would never happen again, they swore.

Rutilius returned to his quarters after a long day of drilling and weapons practice as legionary trooper. His centurion, the most junior legionary of the X cohort, gave him good marks for his sword-and-shield drill, and a few bruises when the quaestor had not lowered his shield in time, and receiving a few himself when he had not raised his own in time. Now the quaestor was lugging his combat gear up the stairs to his residence, limping slightly but feeling much better than he had in months. He had to stand aside to let a few tribunes pass- they were decked out in baker’s kits, but he recognized them all the same. He knew the true cooks were probably out inspecting the warehouses- and maybe sampling the wine, as is an officer’s privilege, but they would not overdo it. He wondered how edible his dinner would be with Caesius behind the stove.

The door opened as he approached. He limped inside and shed his load behind the door- almost dropping it on Froydis in the process.

“Welcome home, Marek,” she said softly, with a giggle at the amount of equipment he had brought.

“Thanks,” he said. Then he gasped as he took in the sight of her. She was wearing her dark blue dress, the one of linen spun so finely and woven so tightly it resembled more silk than linen. He hair was swept back loosely and held in place by the ivory combs he had given her, allowing it to fall behind her ears and frame her neck in gentle flaxen curls. From her ears hung amethysts, and around her neck was the heart-shaped amber stone he had given her in Colonia. The effect made her wide, large blue eyes look purple in the candlelight- an effect he liked very much. In a word, she was beautiful.

She said nothing, but guided him to the table where the food was quickly steaming up the room as it grew cold. She seated him, then herself opposite him. She lifted a silver goblet and held it to her cheek, all the while gazing upon him with those liquid pools of purple.

Marcus raised his own goblet in reply, speechless at the beauty sharing his chamber and meal.

“I am told this celebration is one where the world turns upside-down,” she said. “By your deeds on the drilling field this day as a simple legionary under the command of a junior soldier, I think it true.”

Ja,” he mumbled. “Slaves become masters, masters become slaves. At least it is only for a few days, then the world returns to normal.”

“Then I must be quick,” she said mischievously. She raised her goblet to her mouth and sipped lightly, then rose to come around the table to where he sat. “Marcus Rutilius, I have been your friend, and your lover. Now I wish to be your wife. What say you?”

Marcus had been sipping his own wine, but now he sat up with a start. “You are asking me to marriage?” he asked in surprise.

“It is the Saturnalia,” she said, undisturbed. “Everything is topsy-turvy. When better should a woman ask the man she loves, since he does not ask himself?”

Marcus took her face gently between his hands and drew her close for a kiss. “Silly woman,” he said gently, “I was going to ask for your hand after the Saturnalia. Decius Paullus and I had discussed this very topic not too long ago.”

“I shall take that as a yes,” she said, and kissed him again.

“Yes. YES!” he cried in reply. “Of course it is a yes.”

“Good,” she said, resuming her seat across the table. “We can choose a date later. Tonight we feast, and then we make love, and in the morning decide the rest. I am not totally familiar with all of your Roman customs concerning marriage- you may have some explaining to do. For me, marriage is simply promises given before the gods and community that we shall be as one. I think we have already done that, and thus have been married since before we left Colonia.”

“Not formally,” he interjected.

“I am not formal,” she retorted plainly.

He grinned. “Neither am I, wife.”

He rose, and crossed to her to kiss her again. Then he moved to the doorway, and jerked the door swiftly open, so swiftly that Decius Paullus and two of his tribunes nearly fell into the room. Behind the two, he could see a literal sea of tribunes and centurions jammed into the stairwell leading to his quarters. All looked up anxiously at his abrupt appearance.

“She asked,” he announced. And with a large smile, he added, “And I accepted. Now begone!”

The officers gave a shout of joy and congratulations, then carried out the command as they departed laughing and cheering. Rutilius lifted up Paullus and gave him a firm handshake.

“I sense your hand in this,” he said, with poorly-faked seriousness.

“I have been pestering you for years to marry,” Paullus said with a grin. Then his smile faded as he continued, “and only stopped once you did. But you have a son now, Marcus. A son needs a mother, and his father a wife. It was in the best interest of Rome, and Rome’s quaestor. Could I do anything else?”

“You simply accelerated the inevitable,” Rutilius agreed, showing his friend he held no ill will for bringing up the subject of his dead wife. “Now scat, you old mongrel. I have a future wife to entertain.”

Later that night, Decius Paullus would pen off a quick letter to Gnaeus Messala. Success! he would write. Marcus will marry again. Do you remember the little Cugerni woman with the large eyes? She used the Saturnalia to propose. He accepted. You can have your connections in Rome cease scouring the city for potential brides now. He has found a fitting mate, and one who will serve him well in this barbarous backwater he loves so much.

Messala would curse when he read the letter, but not at Marcus. His ire would be directed at the gossipmonger and matchmaker Paullus. Fool, he would laugh to himself, the plan was to get him to marry Licinia. But he missed the target on her when she married another, and now with him tying a knot with the Cugerni woman, he was taking himself totally off the market.

Messala cursed himself as well, for forgetting to tell Paullus why he was so pushy about Marcus marrying. Oh well, he thought, all’s well that ends well. Licinia is now happily married to a man she can dominate easily, which suits her better than Marcus who would never bend. And Marcus too will soon be married to one who suits him just as well. Everybody happy. It will be a very good ending to this very unusual year.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 12-19-11 06:16 AM EDT (US)     79 / 84       
Awesome as always.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Legion Of Hell
posted 12-20-11 01:19 PM EDT (US)     80 / 84       
Awesome indeed.

You are a great storyteller, Terikel.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 12-26-11 09:42 AM EDT (US)     81 / 84       
Merry Christmas to our master storyteller, and is there one this monday?

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 12-26-11 10:55 AM EDT (US)     82 / 84       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

In Rome, other plans would have a much grimmer and worse ending.

Another woman was using the Saturnalia for her own ends. Caenis had received word that morning that one of her villas in Cumae had been robbed. It was a nice villa, nearby others who had not been robbed. It was also a villa she kept for use by visiting dignitaries and others who would appreciate a more cultured environment, to which end she had assembled quite a few works of art with which to infuse the villa with a decorum fitting an art-lover. Now that villa has been pillaged, and she needed to inventory what was left and if necessary, transport it to her home on the Quirinal.

But before she would go, she would need to take care of more personal needs. So she dressed in her widow’s gown, complete with veil, and made her weekly pilgrimage to the home on the Aventine where her lover would satisfy her one last time before the new year. The slaves were in the main rooms, feasting and drinking, while Caecina did his Saturnalian duty as their slave for the evening.

He saw her enter and slide through the hall to his bed, and knew the Saturnalia was now over, at least for him. His demeanor hardly changed, but grew hard enough that even the most drunk of house-slaves would feel better living it up in the hostel of the Subura. The larger-than-normal purse helped with the feeling, and soon the house was deserted but for the owner and his visitor.

Caenis was already in the bed when he entered. He disrobed quickly and joined her. She then took control, and directed the lovemaking from that moment onward. It was the Saturnalia, after all. Aulus Caecina was a prisoner of his elder lover’s passion and rapture as she used him to work out her own frustrations at the impudence of the burglars of her Cumae villa.

As they lay spent and sweaty in the afterglow, she whispered to him, “This will probably be the last time I can see you until the Janus turns. I must be off to Cumae.”

“Cumae?” Caecina wondered. He had been looking forward to visiting her villa there for some time now, after she had bragged about its fashionable decor- and looking forward to a week spent there with her, without the chance of gossipers from Rome noticing the comings and goings from the back door of his house. Especially so since she had planned on bringing Rufia with her. Rufia was the blonde servant of Pomponia who had been his favorite reward for pleasing the old tart. Between the two of them, they had drained him of the desire to conspire about anything other than what he needed to do to continue this happy affair.

“My house there was robbed,” she said simply.

He knew what that meant, and what tasks it entailed. He also knew that the roads to Cumae were about as safe as the rich villas there- that is to say, they are threatened by the same cretins who would pillage an aging freedwoman’s home. Bastards.

“Be careful, Caenis,” he said suddenly. His intuition was screaming danger.

“I will have an escort, lover, and shall only be gone for a fortnight at most. No worries. And while I am away, I have arranged for Rufia and Cluvia to visit you each day to ensure you eat proper... And to keep you in shape for my return.” This last was said with a mischievous grin.

“I shall do my best to enjoy both,” he promised. It was an easy promise to keep- both women were fabulous in looks and talent. “And to be in good shape when you return, to be able to make it a worthy festival.”

She laughed, and kissed him gently. Then she was up, dressed, and gone, leaving him exhausted and content on his back in his bed.

The next morning she was on the road to Cumae. The comments of Aulus worried her- it was not like him to take such a simple journey so seriously. She knew of the bandits, but her escort was twenty freedmen, some gladiators. She would be fine. Still, she wondered if she should have taken the risk of sailing to Cumae. The winds at this time of year did not favor sea travel, but galleys did not need wind to move. But storms at sea... She quivered. No, the road was better. You could always walk off a road to escape catastrophe- not so on a galley.

She reached Praeneste by evening, a short leg on her six-day route. Finding a hostel for her escort was easy enough, and one with a decent kitchen for her refined palate was a bonus. She went to bed tired, but content, dreaming of the return Caecina must already be planning for her.

There were plans for her, but not from Caecina. Two men entered her chamber that night. She recognized the one, but not the other until Domitian struck a light to ignite the oil lamp by her bed.

“What is the meaning of this, Titus?” she gasped. “And why do you bring Gaius Mallius- the most useless senator in the Curia- into my room at such an hour?”

“The useless senator has been watching you, dear Caenis,” Domitian said evenly. “You are my father’s mistress, and a very naughty lady. How did you manage to sink your claws so thoroughly into Aulus Caecina? I would have thought the man would use and then discard you as he had so many others, yet for several months now he has been your faithful lover. He dallies, of course, but he makes a special effort for you. I would know why.”

Caenis sat up, but held her sheet and blanket before her to deny them a glance at what Caecina found so fascinating. Then she smirked, knowing it was neither her looks nor her body that he craved and loved so, it was power and the influence she brought.

“Your expression says it all,” Domitian said plainly. “He loves power, always has. Here I was, thinking I was his champion, when all the while, it was you. You are peddling him power and influence in exchange for him filling your cunnus every week.”

His perfect grasp of the situation, and use of the vulgar term, brought a gasp of shock from her.

“You were like a wife to my father,” Domitian said bitterly. “He confided in you, and listened to your advice. He loves you more than he did my dead mother, yet you joyfully leap from his bed to that of Caecina. You are little more than a common prostitute, Caenis.”

“You know nothing,” she spat. “Wait until you have seen fifty seven years, and are faced with being alone. I am simply preparing for the future when my benefactor is no more, by grooming his successor.”

“My brother Titus is his successor!”

She sighed. “As Imperator, yes. As my companion, no. Titus has Berenice, a lovely woman, though most Romans abhor her for her Eastern origins. I have been sinking my hooks into Aulus because I see a man who will be kind to me as I age, and is willing to please me, in return for the rewards I send him. I would see him gain a measure of influence as that is what he desires, and what could make my own life easier. He will comfort me for the rest of my life, and when I am gone, he will have the status necessary for him to find a new wife. It is simple give and take, Titus Domitianus. Now get out of my room.”

“And my father?”

“Your father and I became lovers when I was a teenager. Then he married another. I stayed unmarried as she had poor health, but alas, he married another once she died. I stayed away, but also stayed unmarried- no man interested me. You father returned a widower after twenty years and we resumed our relationship- but he will not or cannot marry me as I wish.”

“So you couple like pigs in heat,” Domitian cursed.

“When he desires, yes,” she replied coyly, then added bitterly, “but that is less and less these days. What we once had fades, as does he. I do not want to live alone when he is gone. Dying alone is a horrible thing. So I keep him company, and prepare for the inevitable.”

“You shall not die alone,” Domitian promised. He gestured to Mallius, who came forward.

“You took Aulus away from us,” Mallius said. “We were going to make him consul, with Domitianus here as Imperator. But you destroyed that. You turned a brilliant conspirator into a docile lackey. You seduced him into playing the power game the proper way. He will be praetor next year, and consul after that. You saw to the first, we shall see to the second- but only if he comes back to us. Who has the power now, woman?”

“You mean your petty conspiracy?” Caenis laughed. “Where he would march down the Via Mala with four legions and make Titus Domitianus here Imperator? What fools you both are. If he marched down with four legions, Aulus Caecina would make himself Imperator- and slay the lot of you.”

She paused, then looked at Domitianus sternly. “But that plan will come to naught. I got him the posting as praetor peregrinus precisely because that praetorship has no troops with which to enact your inane plan, should he be so foolish as to try. After that, a posting as governor to Africa- one legion and no fleets. If he does well, he returns to Rome for a year then departs for a posting as governor to Judea- two legions, and no fleets. He shall have power, and influence, and status- and he will have done it the honest way.”

“Screwing my father’s mistress is not the honest way,” Domitian uttered bitterly. He gestured to Mallius, who drew forth the woman’s pillow from under body. Before she could move, he placed the pillow over her face, forcing her down onto the mattress, and kept the pressure applied until her frantic struggles waned then ceased. Even then, he held it down at Domitian’s request for another five minutes. Only then did he remove the pillow to expose the open, dead eyes of Antonia Caenis.

“Let us hope my father’s next bedmate has more fidelity and less brains,” Domitian said. “Come, Gaius, we must be away before the potions we put in the stew wear off and the men waken. It would not be wise to be found in the bedchamber of my father’s dead mistress.”

With that, the two stole off into the night, past the twenty sleeping men, and left the frail, thin body of Antonia Caenis to grow cold during the winter night.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Here ends Part VIII. Part IX will begin in a month or so.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 12-26-11 01:17 PM EDT (US)     83 / 84       
I feel sorry for the 'prostitute', Domitian really does want to overthrow his father.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Legion Of Hell
posted 12-26-11 01:27 PM EDT (US)     84 / 84       
Domitian craves power and he doesn't care how he does it.

A great ending to a wonderful part, Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
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