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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
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Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 01-30-12 10:35 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations

“I cannot thank you enough,” Plautius Silvanus repeated to Domitian toward the end of the party. “Your influence and patronage has returned my family to the honor it should rightfully carry. I pray to the gods that we retain this mutually-beneficial relationship, young Titus.”

Domitian nodded gently. “My brother had issued the orders to retreat too late, and my father’s original orders were so shrouded in secrecy that they were incomplete. Cordinus Gallicus did as would any Roman commander in such a situation. It was but bad luck that it turned out as it did- and good luck for you that it did not become worse.”

“Aye, your brother,” Plotius said, joining in the small conversation. “He likes to travel with his darling Praetorians, and leaves the running of Rome to men like you and I.”

“His Praetorians are the very best,” Plautius senior reminded his nephew. “Excellently trained, superbly equipped, utterly loyal. It is not without foundation that they are the premier troops of our empire.”

“I do not see why the Praetorians should be so favored,” Domitianus said in contrast. “They have eliminated more than one emperor, and been involved in shady dealings in the past. Though I admit my brother’s patronage of his Praetorians has made them a much better lot, I do see why the divine Augustus created a balance to their power.”

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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).]

Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 01-30-12 10:44 AM EDT (US)     1 / 86       
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It was a nice party with which to start off the new year. The outgoing urban prefect would not actually relinquish his post until the normal turnover in March, but the announcement was made as usual this day in Januarius. The prefect was a man who owed his post and restored honor to Titus Domitianus, and had been appropriately grateful by providing many services to the Flavii. Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus was a patrician, who had served Rome well. He was honored the previous February with a suffect consulship, one of the few times when the younger Domitianus was not asked to assume the office. He failed miserably to handle the German affair, and was duly replaced by uncle Quintus Cerealis and the bulldog Eprius, who did handle it. But to show that Plautius was still in favor, Domitianus had arranged for him to serve out his term of public service as the urban prefecture of Rome, where he did excel. And tonight he scored a second sign of favor with the naming of his replacement.

Silvanus wanted to make an occasion before being allowed to retire with dignity back to his villa in Caere until his services were again required. This night would serve adequately, he thought, and thus called together his friends and clients, and a few patrons, to dine with him in his Roman house on the Caelian Hill. Titus Flavius Domitianus stood proudly by his side as he announced from the scroll of office the name of his successor- a younger plebeian cousin by the name of Lucius Plotius. Domitian felt it appropriate that the old man would be handing off his office and responsibilities to a younger man of his same family. It was the way of Rome- power should run in the family. Though he himself had been honored with the title of consul several times now, it was always the lesser consul suffectus, and only once the honored title of consul ordinarius. That was now reserved for his father and his heir- his older brother Titus Flavius Vespasianus Junior.

Titus Junior was the shining one. Bright, bold, and a warrior, he was the light of his father’s eye. Domitian was cast into the shadows, a failure, a drunkard, and a boy who brought disrepute upon the noble house of Flavius. Titus was given honors, campaigns, status, and power. He was the one Father sent to deal with calamities and heavy issues, the one who would lead campaigns and drive off invaders. And when in Rome, he was prefect of the Praetorian Guard, his father’s personal guards and rumored assassins of his opponents.

Domitian scowled. While brother Titus hawked in the love of his father and all the glory he could get, it was the disreputable son Domitianus who actually ran the state, carrying out the orders of Vespasian, giving the credit for the successes to Titus while being forced to accept the unsuccessful outcomes as his own products. That will change soon enough, dear brother and Father. While you triumph and bask in the glory my work brings, I have been learning how to run an empire.

Plautius was acceptably grateful for the send-off, especially as it was Titus Domitianus who had secured his nephew as his successor. He saw the Plautii/Plotii clan having its honor restored in the many public services they provided, each one wiping away the stain of his early retirement from the consulship.

“I cannot thank you enough,” Plautius Silvanus repeated to Domitian toward the end of the party. “Your influence and patronage has returned my family to the honor it should rightfully carry. I pray to the gods that we retain this mutually-beneficial relationship, young Titus.”

Domitian nodded gently. “My brother had issued the orders to retreat too late, and my father’s original orders were so shrouded in secrecy that they were incomplete. Cordinus Gallicus did as would any Roman commander in such a situation. It was but bad luck that it turned out as it did- and good luck for you that it did not become worse.”

“Aye, your brother,” Plotius said, joining in the small conversation. “He likes to travel with his darling Praetorians, and leaves the running of Rome to men like you and I.”

“His Praetorians are the very best,” Plautius senior reminded his nephew. “Excellently trained, superbly equipped, utterly loyal. It is not without foundation that they are the premier troops of our empire.”

“I do not see why the Praetorians should be so favored,” Domitianus said in contrast. “They have eliminated more than one emperor, and been involved in shady dealings in the past. Though I admit my brother’s patronage of his Praetorians has made them a much better lot, I do see why the divine Augustus created a balance to their power.”

“You speak of the urban cohorts,” Plotius said.

“I do indeed. They serve as our fire brigade, our police, and as the city watch,” Domitian enumerated, “and as a force of last resort. They also share quarters with the Praetorians- yet no funds have been used to maintain their equipment, give them training, or even provide them with clothing beyond the very barest of minimums. This I would change, and shall, when I become suffect consul yet again.”

“That would be Februarius at the earliest,” Plautius said with some disappointment. “Your father rarely lets anyone else hold the fasces in Januarius.”

Domitian smiled coldly. “He delights in having the years named after himself and my brother, while letting men like you and I do the rest of the work. Well, I shall not wait while Rome has needs. Your men will have new clothes, and maybe some extra training as well before the Kalends of Mars. On this I vow, for the good of Rome.”

Both Plautii bowed in gratitude.

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Domitian lived up to his word given to the Plautii. A small caravan of carts and wagons pulled up to the gates of the Castrum Praetoria a week after Lucius Plotius assumed co-command as the rising urban prefect. His uncle had already retired to his villa in Etruria- close enough to be of assistance should it be needed, yet far enough removed that his nephew could feel the freedom to perform as he would wish.

The wagons were loaded with new tunics, axes, and buckets, while two of the carts carried massive vats for the transportation of water. Accompanying the wagons and carts were three wizened men of about fifty five years of age. One could tell by their bearing that they were once centurions in the legions of Rome.

Plotius left his office to greet the convoy. The three veterans were already directing the wagons to the barracks of the Urban cohorts. One of them noticed the approaching prefect, and turned to report.

“Lucius Hortatus,” he announced as the prefect approached. “Uniform tunics and fire-fighting equipment, compliments of Titus Flavius Domitianus. Vicinius, Populus, and I will be training your men in the art of fighting fire, as well as how to use the axe in crowd control.”

“Firefighters as rabble control?” asked Plotius, perplexed.

Hortatus nodded deeply. “Nothing can bring out the worst in people as can a fire. I’ve seen it a dozen times in my twenty six years of service, lord. It is not a pretty sight. But a century of axemen… Let us say that in the auxilia, axemen have proven their value many times over in battle. Nothing can tame a wild crowd faster than facing a century of axe-wielders who are covered in soot and blood.”

Plotius was impressed. His patron had indeed worked fast to procure these veterans and this equipment. Little did he know that the uniforms and equipment had been lying around in a storehouse, and all it took to break them free was a signed requisition. Still, Domitianus had the clout to have that requisition expedited, and the result was before him being unloaded.

“I’ll be handling the firefighting aspect,” Hortatus continued. “Vicinius there was a vigilus captain in Capua- very tough. Men like him keep those bloody gladiator schools in line! And Populus was a legionary primus prior- cohort commander in the X Fretensius in Judea. He spent the last twelve years commanding the most miserable bunch of bastards ever to don armor- and turned them into the best cohort in the entire east. He’ll do the same for your watch. Together we will make the Urban Cohorts rival those pretty boys across the parade ground in both usefulness and combat ability.”

Plotius was now fully impressed. His three cohorts were indeed going to get a much-needed overhaul. He would call his cohorts to parade, and address them personally before turning them over to the three veterans who would make their life hell but their pride swell. The urban cohorts of Rome would again be a worthy entity into which young men may enlist, and help keep Rome the best city in all the world.

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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
The Bald Eagle
posted 01-31-12 07:16 AM EDT (US)     2 / 86       
Glad to see a new installment!
I always enjoy your writing.
posted 01-31-12 10:10 AM EDT (US)     3 / 86       
very good

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
Legion Of Hell
posted 02-01-12 11:29 AM EDT (US)     4 / 86       
A great start, Terikel.

I can't wait to see where this leads.

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 02-06-12 02:16 AM EDT (US)     5 / 86       
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“We have a problem,” Titus Vespasianus said as he toyed with a wax tablet. It was late January, just a few weeks after he announced himself and his son as consuls. The praetors for the year were long ago established, and now this problem arose and complicated that matter.

He gazed out the window, noting with satisfaction the progress of his grand amphitheater, then turned his fierce eyes upon two of the three men with whom he was sharing this large chamber- Gaius Mucianus and Quintus Petillius. His eyes did not need to watch the third man in the chamber- his son, Domitianus, upon whom he began to rely more often with Titus Junior out hunting bandits and his lover Caenis in her grave. The young man lounged at the end of the couch of his father. “It has made me reconsider the governorships we decided in the autumn.”

“That serious?” asked Cerealis.

Vespasian nodded. “According to my son here, who read the reports of the arcani concerning the Agri Decumates, there should have been over two and a half thousand talents of gold and silver sent to the treasury. We received only thirteen hundred.”

“It is Germania, Titus,” Cerealis proclaimed with an exasperated gasp. “Germania is poor in everything but fighting men!”

“This was their richest province, and the Suevi were their most populous tribe,” replied Domitianus. “The Agri Decumates had large quantities of mineral wealth, wood, livestock, and slaves. This was known. Yet the Treasury received thirteen hundred talents. Cordinus Gallicus, on the other hand, invading a piss-poor region, sent nine hundred talents, mostly silver. Cornelius should have sent twice what he did at a minimum.”

“Many Suevi went north to fight Cordinus Gallicus,” Cerealis reminded him. “Cordinus Gallicus caught and enslaved them; Cornelius did not. It figures.”

“No, it does not,” Mucianus said. He began to see what the Imperator was thinking. “Not in those numbers. No, Cornelius must be withholding tribute to the Treasury and using it to line his own toga.”

“He is a senator and a governor,” Cerealis said with a shrug. “They are always looking to squeeze extra money out of their provinces.”

“But they should not squeeze it out of what they owe Rome. That is not allowed, not during my reign.”

“Shall I have Titus arrest him, Father?” Domitian asked hopefully.

Vespasian shook his head. “No. I have only reports, no proof. But I do want to do something to let him know I have my eye on him. It has to be gentle, though- as there is yet no proof.”

Mucianus sat his head upon a fist in thought, while Cerealis paced. Both men were deep in thought. Domitian picked his nails as he waited for the two to come up with one or both of the most obvious courses of action.

Suddenly Cerealis the consul stopped.

“Send me north, ‘to visit’ with him,” Cerealis said. “A serving consul visiting Germania in winter? It is unusual enough to make him nervous. And nervous men seem to have gold and silver falling out of cupboards and drawers when Rome asks to see balances and accounts.”

Vespasian laughed. It was true. One does not even need a consul to do that- a proconsul or even praetorian tribune had the same effect.

“That would not do,” said Domitian. Internally he was pleased- Uncle Quintus had come up with the most obvious of the two alternatives. “Your term as consul would be over before you could complete the journey up and back. You need to be here to hand over the fasces.”

“The boy has a point,” Vespasian conceded.

“Grant him a triumph,” Mucianus said in sudden inspiration. “He is a arrogant old fart. He will want his triumph to be spectacular, and pull no punches in putting on the best show he can. He will display his spoils to all of Rome- and you can ensure the treasury aediles are awaiting the arrival to catalogue the booty and determine the fair value due Rome.”

Vespasian laughed in earnest. “Oh that is a wonderful idea. Sneaky, but wonderful.”

“There is a problem with that, though,” said Domitian. And Mucianus deduced the other. How clever of the two old men! “If he was clever enough to hide it from Rome’s eyes once, he may be clever enough to move his hidden treasures to his home in Ancona, just south of Ravenna and forego displaying them at the triumph.”

“Then we place an agent on the road to Ancona,” Mucianus said with a shrug. “He informs us when and where Clemens moves goods to his villa, and the aediles swoop in shortly thereafter.”

Vespasian cackled. “Oh-ho, that is clever. It is so ordered.”

“Then there is this problem- once he crosses the pomerium to have his triumph,” Domitian added, ”he will lose his imperium- and province. We will need a new governor, and we are fresh out of worthy men.”

“Not quite,” said the Imperator. “Titus Flavius Domitianus, my son here, has been consul twice, yet has never left Rome. We will be sending him to replace Cornelius Clemens as governor.”

“Me?” cried Domitian, in sudden fear of leaving the comforts and high society of Rome.

“Domitian?” roared Mucianus and Cerealis in tandem. “No offense, Titus,” Cerealis continued, “but he has absolutely no experience in the provinces- not even as a legate or tribune. To give him command of a border province- especially one so recently embroiled in war- is the height of folly!”

“True,” replied Vespasian. “My son lacks experience in the provinces. How better to get him that very experience than by sending him to a province? I am not so foolish as to hang him and us out to dry, though. I intend on giving him a lieutenant that can guide and advise him as Cordinus Gallicus did when Domitian was consul the first time. This quaestor will be one who can command the legions- and will command if it comes to war- while my son is the nominal commander.”

Mucianus scoffed. “You appoint your son, while another does the true governing.”

Vespasian nodded. “Exactly. And my son will learn much from him, and thus be better suited to help his older brother run the Empire when I am no more. Thus I need a quaestor who is experienced in running a province, of proven military ability, and one who can train a man who outranks him and do it tactfully.”

“I searched, and found such a man. He is one I did not trust at first, though his ability and discretion have recently surprised me. He knows Germania well, and can advise both Gaius Mucianus and Titus Domitianus on the finer points of the place, if so needed.”

The two men looked at each other with blank expressions than at the Imperator, while Domitian smiled sweetly. Out of the doghouse at last. Aulus Caecina is going to be so pleased! He might not be going as governor, but as my quaestor we can both realize our inner dreams..

“Your protege, Quintus, and your legate, Gaius,” said Vespasian, giving a hint.

“Marcus Rutilius?” both men asked in wonder. The smile on Domitian’s face froze, but he was too much the consummate politician to let his surprise show. It was supposed to be Caecina!

“I thought you hated the man,” Mucianus said, flabbergasted.

“And distrusted him,” added Cerealis, “which is worse.”

“True on both counts,” replied the Imperator. “But my dislike of him was built upon a faulty foundation. One man accused him of treason and cowardice, but he was acquitted. Marcellus Eprius went north to investigate, and acquitted him as well- and you both know how far that prosecutor would go investigating. No, Eprius tried to pin the incompetence on your boy- and had his fat ass handed to him by a Third-Class for his efforts. He was accused of poisoning his superior, but catches the true poisoner before she could strike again. I sent him on a suicide mission to be killed by the Germani; he comes back with a report worthy of our best arcanus. Cordinus Gallicus leaves him a dozen auxilia and then gets four legions trapped; Rutilius went and rescued him-”

“-Which you promptly covered up by emphasizing the conquest of the Agri Decumates and having Helvidius killed, while muzzling the others in the know,” Cerealis said in defiant interruption.

“I could not let it be known that Rome almost lost another consular army in those blasted woods!” Vespasian was furious, but his wrath subsided quickly. “Your man averted a tremendous disaster, one which could have led to me being toppled from the throne, or split our empire asunder. And he did it discretely, so that I could cover it up. He earned my gratitude, and I am not so much an idiot that I cannot recognize diligence and duty in a man I once thought a mushroom beneath my caligae.”

”Plus he saved my life, at no small risk to his own,” added Domitianus. He masked well the disappointment and anger raging inside him. ”Back when Primus was assaulting Rome. He swept myself and Titus Sabinus from the Capitoline just as the Vitellian praetorians burst through our defenses and burned my uncle alive in the Temple. He then guided us to a safe house where we awaited your arrival, Gaius Licinius.”

“And he saved mine at Gelduba, where he earned that Corona Civica that put him into the Senate in the first place,” added Cerealis.

“Your boy has earned my grudging respect,” Vespasian concluded. ”And he did it the hard way. I like that. I want Marcus Rutilius in Germania Superior, to support my son by running the province and the legions while teaching my boy how. I can think of none better suited to that task.”

“We told you when you sent him on that suicide mission that you were making a mistake,” Mucianus said. “Rutilius is a solid Roman, loyal to the core.”

“His performance this past summer, and the summer before, has been exemplary,” Vespasian agreed. “I would reward that performance, and in doing so, gain a magistrate for that newly-acquired province that knows German ways and can be accepted by them. It would ease the transition from conquered to peregrini. Once I opened my eyes to him and had Titus check into him, my dislike for him melted away. I see now great things for this Third-Class Senator you both adore. I would reward that.”

Cerealis thought that over. One does not change one’s mind so easily. “That is rather a sudden turnabout, brother. You are a stubborn and solid ox- one of the many traits I so admire about you. An ox does not so readily change his course. So what gives?”

Vespasian gestured by circling a finger in the air to Domitian, who nodded. He rose, sweeping his eyes around the room before checking the hallway. He passed and checked the windows before resuming his seat with a nod to his father.

“Your man kept his mouth shut about a series of events that could have caused great harm. He also clued Cordinus Gallicus in about a conspiracy here in Rome.” When Mucianus began to interrupt, the Imperator hushed him down. “I know you think Eprius found it out, but Eprius had help- from Cordinus Gallicus, who we all know is a babe in the woods when it comes to trust issues. Jupiter’s Balls, the man got stabbed by his own guides! No, he never found anything. Your boy sniffed it out and gave him the evidence, as a loyal Roman should. Cordinus Gallicus then forwarded it to Eprius, which was how we caught Helvidius.”

“So you are rewarding him with a future governorship,” Mucianus said approvingly. “As you are Cordinus Gallicus with Gaul. No wonder you will not let the man be tried in court for incompetence!”

“He is bribing both Cordinus Gallicus and Rutilius to continue their silence on the matter,” Cerealis countered.

“No. You both misunderstand,” Vespasian corrected. “Cordinus Gallicus understands the situation. He is a wily politician, if a military imbecile. He kept his mouth shut and knew to keep it shut. Rutilius is a political baby, but a true vir militaris. I cannot have a governor who is pure military and no politics. He must learn political savvy before I reward him with a province. This he can learn from Domitian, who has become quite an effective politician. When Domitian comes home after a year or two, Rutilius will succeed him.”

“You are asking Marcus to keep his mouth shut to cover up his magnificent performance, which was caused by a political embarrassment,” Cerealis said. He grimaced. “In the hope that he will get paid for it with a province later.”

Vespasian nodded. “I will let the young pup see that his continued silence will see rewards. He seems a bright and loyal soldier. I intend to keep him that way.”

“So that is settled,” the two visitors said in unison.

“Not quite,” Vespasian said. “We have not yet decided how to handle Clemens. I like both the plans you presented. Quintus, cut some orders. I want Eprius Marcellus to pay Cornelius Clemens a friendly visit- as a proconsul on a special commission. You will hand over the fasces early- this month- and become a proconsular member of his entourage. Deliver personally my invitation to him to have a triumph, and ensure you have a lot of Treasury lictors with you when you do. You may take a treasury aedile or a quaestor with you as well, if you so desire. Two proconsuls- one of whom is a renowned investigator- visiting a governor? It will set off many bells. And you can slip away while Eprius pries and digs, without being noticed.”

“I am to visit Cordinus Gallicus and Rutilius, and inform them?” Cerealis asked, noticing the loophole in the plan.

Vespasian nodded again. “We will discuss in more detail later what is to be said and bargained, but that is the general idea. The trip of Eprius to shake up Clemens is merely camouflage for sending a trusted family member to Germania in the winter. That would raise eyebrows; searching for undeclared booty of that scale would not.”

“You want Cordinus Gallicus and Marcus Rutilius to know your intentions concerning the cover-up, without committing anything to parchment or tablet that could be intercepted by your opponents,” Cerealis deduced. “Words from my mouth cannot be captured and displayed as evidence.”

Vespasian nodded. “I had Titus detail a praetorian to bring the post north to Cordinus Gallicus back in September, ostensibly a written summary of his reports for him to sign. In fact it was a blank scroll. The message was in the mind of the praetorian centurion- my thanks for being discrete, and please continue to do so. Await further word. Well, Quintus, you will be bringing that further word.”

He explained his plan, and let the other two try to stab holes in it. They could not. Since the news of the north was limited to tablets and scrolls from governor to Imperator bypassing the Senate, the Senate knew only what Vespasian dared to tell them. He hyped up the news from Germania Superior and the Agri Decumates, but ignored Germania Inferior as if noting exciting was happening there. Now his silence on that subject can be misused, thus he must say something, which led to his plan.

“But the booty- the nine hundred talents, and the slaves!” noted Cerealis. “We cannot so easily dismiss the booty Cordinus sent.”

“Or the losses,” Mucianus added.

“What losses?” the Imperator said with a shrug. ”Rutilius rescued the legions without hardly losing a man. Business as usual, to the crowds of the Forum. We attribute the booty and slaves from Germania Superior, at least publicly,”

Vespasian pointed to Cerealis. “Accompany Eprius north to explain to Cornelius Clemens that he is still short. Rome is not pleased with greedy governors.”

Vespasian turned to Mucianus. “Gaius, have Rutilius brief you before he reports to Germania Superior. Don’t bother talking to Cordinus Gallicus- you both were correct, the man is a fool when it comes to Germania.”

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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
posted 02-06-12 04:42 AM EDT (US)     6 / 86       
Great writing as usual Terikel!

Proud Member of TWH since 2007 and AoKH since 2004
Seleucid AAR|Sarmatian AAR | Spain AAR
The Bald Eagle
posted 02-06-12 05:28 AM EDT (US)     7 / 86       
Rutilius and Domatian teaming up, interesting turn!
Let's see what kind of plot Domatian comes up with and how Rutilius wriggles himself out.
Legion Of Hell
posted 02-06-12 05:30 AM EDT (US)     8 / 86       
Finally the Emperor is giving Rutillus the respect that he deserves and Cordinus the criticism he so warrants.

Excellent chapter. I wonder how Rutillus will handle Domitian?

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 02-13-12 02:25 AM EDT (US)     9 / 86       
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The man Vespasian named to teach his son how to rule a province had far different things on his mind. There was a major festival planned for the Romans of northern Germania Inferior. Decius Paullus made the arrangements, and had Claudius Victor invite the X Gemina from Noviomagus to meet at Vetera in Cugerni lands eight days before the Kalends of Februarius. There, before two legions with which he had served, senator Marcus Rutilius married Froydis of the Cugerni in a thankfully short and simple ceremony. Paullus and Salvius served as the husband’s witnesses, while Niall and Jorgen of the Cananefate served as witnesses for the bride, who had no family of her own. Gnaeus Vipsanius Messala- recently appointed a pontifex upon the death of his uncle who had held the office- conducted the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was short. Marcus provided a dowry of one hundred horses and a farm of her own to run. Froydis, otherwise penniless, promised for her part to love her husband faithfully and be a good wife and partner throughout life to the best of her ability, and to raise little Decius as if he were her own, and show him no difference when she and Marcus made children of their own.

And then came the wedding feast, arranged by Claudius Victor. The cooks of the X Gemina and XXII Primigenia outdid themselves. They brought out rolls, cakes, and breads they had baked, along with a massive cake for the main guests. The legionaries themselves were treated to smaller cakes that mimicked the huge one, but were sized per half-century. It was clear the bakeries were in full-steam for at least the last two days.

Not to be outdone, the Germanics unveiled the roasting carcasses of several steers and wild boars they had prepared. There would be meat, both roast and stews that were now being brought forward. Fruits and vegetables were also plattered for the guests- produce from the area bought in for the legions, including local apples and a vat or two of the cherries so beloved by the legions and their bakers..

No wedding is complete without wine, at least no Roman wedding. The wine was provided by the groom, he having the best access due to his connections with the merchants and his own farms to provide the beverage. There were amphorae from Italia, brought north at great expense, others from Gaul, and not to forget a few produced locally. There were also many amphora of beer- a beverage beloved by both legionary and Germanic alike.

Paullus delivered the opening toast, opening the feast. Every man there raised either a horn of beer or cup of north Italian wine to wish the newlyweds health and fortune.

Messala approached the couple with a glass goblet in his hand a smile on his face. He lifted his glass, prompting the newlyweds to reply in kind, and wished them well. Then he drained his glass in a show of bravado that did not end as he intended- the legate began sputtering helplessly, to the laughter of the crowd. Rutilius smacked him on the back several times to dislodge the stoppage, prompting Messala to spit once again then stand upright with a green face.

“By Mars that was bland!” he said once he regained his breath. “Marcus, you definitely need a new wine merchant. As my wedding present to you, I shall share mine.”

“How did you take your wine, Gnaeus?” Rutilius tried not to laugh too hard, or show disappointment.

“One to three, as always,” was the standard reply, as if that was the most natural thing in the world.

Rutilius grinned. “That stuff is not as thick as Falernian, or our other wines from around Mare Nostrum,” he informed the legate. “It has no resins to preserve it, nor has it been thickened by other means. Nor is it as potent, however. It needs no water.”

“You mean you drink that crap straight?” His voice shot up a half-octave at the indignity of drinking wine without water.

Rutilius grinned. “This stuff you do. Here, let me pour you a goblet, and this time, sip it!”

A sip later, Messala was nodding contentedly. “You are correct, my friend. This stuff is quite nice without the water. Quite nice indeed. Fruity, yet no hint of resin or vinegar.” He was indeed suitably impressed, so much so that he added, “You must tell your supplier to bring me a few of these as well, on his next run.”

“I will have three amphorae sent to Novaesium for you,” Marcus promised.

Messala was aghast. “This is your wedding, Marcus! We bring you gifts, not the other way around. Just let your merchant know to bring me some as well.”

“My husband has no merchant for that wine,” Froydis said as she rejoined her husband, and in doing so ruined the scene to which he was building. “It is made from cherries grown on his farm near Traiectum. A speculator- you remember Quintus Herius?- wanted to start up a vineyard here with his grapes- our land is too flat and sandy for the most part, so his grapes died. He ended up managing a farm for Marcus instead of returning to Rome in disgrace. That farm had a large orchard for cherries, which did flourish in our land. He asked Marcus for those cherries not sold to the legions, and made this wine out of it. Marcus gets six amphorae a year as tithe.”

“Cherry wine?” Messala asked in wonder. He turned his glass to examine the liquid within closer. It was a brownish red, and thick enough to block light, but swirled easily enough in the glass. And the scent was indeed cherry. Then he glanced back at Marcus. “Cherries, grain, horses, rooftiles, leather… Is there anything you do not have your hands in?”

Rutilius laughed and shrugged. “Ask Claudius Victor.”

The boy once known as Publius Rutilius, but was now known as Gaius Claudius Aericus, or Eirik to the Batavians, looked on the festivities from the security of his new father’s tent. It was strange for him to see Rutilius truly happy, for all of his early memories of the man were tainted with blood and horror. Yet the man had risked his life and everything to rescue him from the clutches of those who would kill a boy to punish the father, and later, gave him voluntarily to a man better suited to be a father to the orphan, and one which could keep him safe. He could not like the man who rescued him, nor could he love the man who had been his father for five years, but he could and did have tremendous respect for that man. He had loved Miss Claudia like a mother, but she was now dead. Now his former father married another, one of whom he had heard nothing but good.

Eirik silently wished them both a good life together. But he knew it would not be a long one. His former father still had too many enemies to enjoy a long life with little Miss Froydis.

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Titus Polinus loved Nola. It was a Latin city, though close to Samnium. It had wide markets, good roads, was near to the great port of Neapolis and not to far from Misenum where the fleet had a main base. The navy was a great client of his- hemp from his fields were used in making the ropes every ship needed, and wood from his aspen forests were bought wholesale for the production of oars. Business with the fleets and other sailing vessels was going so good he was buying the linen company of Gaius Lucinius and converting it to the production of sails. The only downside he saw to his business was that he would have to move his office from Nola closer to his market. His wife would like that very much- Neapolis had much better markets than upland Nola, but his heart remained with the inland city.

Such musings led to his demise. He was driving a cart carrying six vats, four of which were filled with the special solvent used for the softening and strengthening of the hemp. That treatment made his ropes stronger and more durable than those of his competitors. Within the other two, however, were denarii- the down payment to Lucinius. He had four slaves with him, and two armored guards- his usual complement. He did not want this journey to appear as anything other than a normal journey, with his normal purse of forty denarii- used to feed and house his entourage on the four-day trip up and back.

The brigands came from nowhere. The scene was a field of hemp, tall, thin plants lining the road. One second it was clear, the next it was blocked by three men with spears.

Polinus ordered his guards forward. Three spearmen were no match for two legionary veterans with swords. He had never been a soldier, but he had seen gladiatorial games more than once. The swordsmen almost always killed the spearmen. This was an established fact, which he knew, and assumed they knew as well. So he felt confident in ordering his men to disperse the fools blocking his way.

The guards slid their shields from their backs and moved forward, flanking the wagon. They formed a line abreast before the wagon, between it and the brigands. One ordered the brigands to move aside. He did not ask nicely.

The brigands stood their ground.

“Move them,” ordered Polinus.

The guards moved forward to comply, and died. Two more men from each side of the road sprang forward now, catching the two guards in a vice. One villain went down, but both guards had their throats slit.

The slaves bolted.

The brigand leader brought down one with a thrown spear, but the others were very fleet of foot.

“Get the merchant,” ordered the leader. His men reached to comply, but Titus Polinus was a man who loved action, and visited the games often. He drew forth a gladius and began chopping at the men closing in.

The brigand leader threw another spear. Polinus tried to block it with his sword, but he was no gladiator and far out of training. The spear caught him squarely in the chest and knocked him back into his seat.

“Search the wagon, then leave it,” commanded the leader.

“Shall we not drag it into the fields?” asked one of the men.

Another rejoiced. He held up handfuls of coin.

“Your information was impeccable, Gaius,” said the brigand. “This vat is full of denarii. As is that one.”

“Good, we have our financing,” Gaius said bitterly. To his other man, he added, “I guess we are taking the cart now. But leave the bodies in the road. We want this found. Orders.”

The other made to argue, then thought again. Two vats, filled with denarii? If the orders bring in such wealth, he would follow them no matter how foolish they were.

“As you command,” he said.

Elsewhere, near Ausculum, a similar scene took place, but without the same financial reward as the crew of Gaius enjoyed. And a month later, another killing near the Brundisium almost caused a riot. The merchants began wailing, and demanding protection. The markets began failing as the merchants closed ranks, which caused unrest in the cities as previously-available items began getting more expensive, then drying up altogether.

All of this was brought to the attention of the urban prefect in Rome, who forwarded it to the Imperator. Vespasian cursed at the crime wave, and ordered his son Titus to detail a few more of his praetorians to tracking the culprits down and restore order to his troubled realm.

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The February wind had teeth that chewed through the furs and leggings of the horseman to caress his skin with cold. Even then, the slim-waisted horseman was far warmer than his obese colleague, who lay wrapped in linen and wool within the confines of the wagon that followed him. Around the horseman and wagon was an entire ala of heavy Baetic horseman, and trailing them was two cohorts of prime auxilia from the Dalmatian hills. Those men knew how to dress for the cold, thought Quintus Cerealis upon his horse. Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus, the nominal leader of this tour, did not.

“Mogontiacum is in sight,” Cerealis reported. A cloud of mist formed at each word. “You might want to get ready to greet Cornelius Clemens.”

Eprius poked his head out of the wagon. He took one look at the distant town, and was bitten by the wind in that very instance. He cringed, and ducked back inside. “I do not understand how you can ride a horse in this bitter weather, Quintus. Seriously, why did Drusus ever want to conquer such a dreadful place? The weather itself is an enemy of Rome.”

Cerealis laughed. “You were here last winter and did not complain.”

“It was not this cold last winter,” came the retort from under the blankets. “This is cold enough to freeze the river- a dreadful place!”

“I shall direct our entourage into the town myself,” Cerealis decided. “And meet with Clemens while you enjoy a warm bath. I hear the legionaries worked up a sort of bath house in which to soak away the cold. Maybe you should try it.”

“A grand idea,” was the shivering reply. “And see if the cooks have any warm soup while you are arranging things.”

A few hours later, the entourage entered the town. The auxilia prefect commanding the infantry led the wagons and soldiers to the visiting troops quarters, while Eprius was deposited by the ramskackle bath-house the soldiers had put together. Cerealis detailed his ala to the visiting cavalry barracks and led his eleven lictors to the praetorium.

He entered, still clad in his riding kit, with his eleven lictors trailing him. The clerk on duty noted the lictors and looked to the man leading them. He jumped to his feet as he recognized Cerealis- the general who had led him and his legion into this province six years earlier, when he was but a signifer.

“Consul!” he barked. “Welcome! We did not expect you.”

Cerealis smirked. News must travel slowly in the cold. “I am here to see your commander,” he announced. “And tomorrow begin a more formal visit.”

“At once, consul!” The centurion hurried to the doors leading to the governor’s offices and slipped inside. Surprised curses could be heard, then feet moving toward the door. It opened to reveal the centurion escorting Gnaeus Pinarius Cornelius Clemens.

“Consul!” gasped Clemens. He almost let his toga fall in surprise. The centurion had not been sipping too much of the local wines after all. “We were told to expect a proconsular visit to discuss the incorporation of the Agri Decumates into our province.”

“I handed the fasces over to Titus Flavius Vespasianus in January, shortly after his election as senior consul,” Cerealis announced. “It was in the message informing you of this visit. Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus is the proconsul coming to inspect your civilian and fiscal progress, while I am the proconsul who is going to inspect your military progress. Or did you not receive that message?”

Clemens almost collapsed as he recalled the letter. He had not paid much attention at the time, thinking the visit would occur in the summer as most high-ranking visits were prone to do. He would have plenty of time to prepare, or so he thought. The proof to the contrary stood before him in fur-lined German leggings.

“Aye, consul,” he stammered, using the wrong term of address as evidence of his profound shock. He was being investigated now! Oh Jupiter! What has Catullus done to me? “But the date of the visit was not mentioned...”

“It should have said we were coming,” Cerealis spat bitterly. “The lack of a date should have suggested we were coming at once. But enough of that. We will require quarters, and food.”

“You shall have my quarters, consul,” Clemens sputtered. “There are none better in this frozen northern wasteland. And my personal chefs shall provide you with a repast fitting men of your stature.”

Cerealis nodded his shaggy head. “Fair enough. Tomorrow, after Eprius has returned to normal temperature and obesity, we shall begin the official visit.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 02-13-12 12:41 PM EDT (US)     10 / 86       
Looks like there's a crime wave in the Roman Empire! But why?

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 02-16-12 09:39 AM EDT (US)     11 / 86       
Damn! I thought there was going to be one on thursday aswell excellent story so far.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02-20-12 02:43 AM EDT (US)     12 / 86       
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Gnaeus Cornelius Clemens paced the sitting room of his legate’s quarters as he pondered the visit of not one, but two proconsuls from Rome in the frozen heart of Februarius. What did he miss? What have they discovered? Why are they here?

“Stop that incessant pacing and sit down,” cried Sextus Caelius Calvus. The legate of the XIV Gemina was quickly regretting letting his governor share his quarters while his own were housing the proconsuls. “Read the letter once again. The purpose of their visit should be in there somewhere.”

“I do not need to read the letter from Rome again,” Clemens bawled. “I have memorized it! It says nothing more than that a proconsular inspection of the Agri Decumates operation and incorporation was planned. Even my sources in Rome know nothing else.”

“Nor do mine,” Caelius admitted. “I did not even know the inspectors were underway.”

“That is the crux of my problem,” Clemens wailed bitterly. “The Old Owl does not send a consular- or in this case, two consulars!- to Germania in the middle of winter without cause. That cause must be Catullus. Not his untimely death, mind you, but whatever he was up to before he died.”

“Which was... ?” Caelius asked gently.

Clemens cursed. “He was up to no good,” the governor admitted. “He had dealings with shady people, it was rumored, and I know he was dirty. An arcanus came to me just after the summer. He gave me a copy of his report. It was not pretty.”

“Do tell,” Caelius urged.

“Catullus had been part of a conspiracy,” Clemens admitted. “He was feeding military plans and troop rosters to the Bructeri and other Germans across the Rhenus, using commercial networks to move his damning documents. He is dead now, murdered, but his actions haunt me.”

“Because you were his governor?” Caelius said in astonishment. “You were betrayed as much as the emperor! Surely Vespasian could see that. But the traitor is dead. So why does Vespasian send his envoys now? Does he think you have a part in Catullus’s treachery?”

Clemens sighed and stopped pacing. He faced Caelius. “I would think so, was I him. I received a rather large sum of denarii to request Catullus as my quaestor. I was hoping for action here to help out my finances, which is why I petitioned so diligently and expensively for this particular posting. I took the money and the quaestor in case the action did not pan out- which for the first year seemed to be the case.”

Caelius Calvus laughed. “He was from a noble family. Any governor anywhere would have accepted both man and money. You have done nothing wrong, Gnaeus, so relax. You may be tainted by association, but you will come out squeaky clean. Look at what you have done since learning of this. Would a guilty man go to such lengths to secure his governorship? No, a guilty man would have taken his money and fled to the East.”

“I could be relieved for stupidity,” Clemens hissed. “How can a governor not know what his own quaestor was doing?”

“You were on the border, supervising the tie-in of the Rhenus defenses with those of the Danube,” Calvus reminded him. “You were handling road construction, border castella, tallying the booty, taking a census, distributing tasks and rewards... You were far too busy to run the rest of the province, which is why you had a quaestor. And probably why this proconsular inspection tour has two proconsuls- it is simply too much for any one man.”

Clemens breathed a sigh of relief. What his balding legate said was true- how could he catch Catullus in treason when they were physically separated by over a hundred miles of near-pristine rugged, mountainous woodland? Still, he was governor and Catullus had been his quaestor. His hand-picked, chosen quaestor. Who had been into some very dirty business indeed.

Then Calvus stood and turned to his governor. He looked Clemens directly in the eye, from less than a pace away. “Are you absolutely sure that you have done nothing yourself to warrant this inspection? You say you did not know Catullus was a traitor- which makes you oblivious to the goings-on of your underlings. That can be explained away. But if you did anything not perfectly legal, anything at all, they will find it. And then both you, I, and every legate in your army will watch our careers vanish into the sewers. So be honest, Gnaeus. Is there anything for them to find?”

Clemens shook his head. “Small things, of course, but those are a governor’s prerogative. And what senator does not have some dirty laundry somewhere? But out of the ordinary? No, nothing.”

Calvus nodded. “Then you fret for nothing.” He yawned, despite the tension still haunting the room. “I am off to bed. I suggest you do the same, lord- you will want to be fresh when the inspectors begin their tasks in the morning.”

Clemens nodded. Yes, I will want to be fresh. And to ensure anything I missed is caught and destroyed before it can be discovered by these infernal inspectors. It was going to be a long, long night.

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The official visit began after the inspectors had broken their night time fast. It was not a cordial visit- it began as frosty as the air outside. Titus Eprius opened the meeting by going directly to the point.

“Titus Flavius Vespasianus is concerned,” he began. “Germania as a whole is a poor area, wealthy only in men willing to fight. Yet of all the regions in this poor, under-developed land, the Agri Decumates was the richest. Within easy reach of even the most primitive societies lay deposits of iron and minerals, fine marble and other earthen goods, while the forests teem with game for furs and tallow. There is abundant water, and the meadows of these highlands are incredibly fertile. The Suevi who lived here traded and still trade with the Empire, making them among the wealthier of the tribes. In all, one would expect much booty to be taken by a sudden assault the likes of which you launched this summer past.”

Eprius narrowed his eyes. “They had no time to hide their wealth, or carry it off. It should have been there for the taking. This puzzled our Imperator, along with some other irregularities he asked us to investigate. You will notice the four men behind me, the ones with the purple sashes? They are imperial quaestors. They and their clerks will be looking into all accounts from the moment you received the order from Titus Flavius Vespasianus Junior to attack, until our arrival here.”

“Of course,” Clemens said with a bowed head. “Most of the records were kept by my quaestor, who you know is dead. I shall have his books brought to you at once.” He paused, gauging whether he should speak further. Maybe it is Catullus they are investigating, and not me. He decided to risk it. “These irregularities of which you speak. They are financial, yes?”

Eprius nodded.

Clemens sighed internally in relief. “I can account for every sesterce of imperial funds since I returned from the border to Mogontiacum. Before that, my dead quaestor ran the books and accounts. I shall have all the documents from both of us brought to your team.”

Eprius smiled. It was like watching a hog explode with the joy of seeing a mud puddle. “I am sure you will,” he added ominously. Every sesterce my big ass, he thought, looking about at the new paint covering new construction on the villa. That combined with the lack of decoration inside told him this was a recently-constructed building. He had seen no requisitions. Somebody paid for this house, and it was not you.

Clemens retired to gather the books. He breathed easily once the orders were passed. He had told the truth, as far as he knew. Whatever Catullus had been into, Clemens did not know of it, and had a wonderful alibi for not knowing- he had been in the field, supervising the incorporation of the new lands. He felt safe, until he ran into Calvus.

“We have a problem,” Calvus said ominously.

“I do not,” Clemens said, giddy with relief. “Catullus had been doing some dirty business behind my back. His folly died with him, and I am untouchable- I was in the field. So no, dear Calvus, we do not have a problem.”

“Oh yes we do,” he insisted. “Cerealis is poking around in the vicus. He has a few clerks with him, and is talking to a lot of people. One of my off-duty centurions heard him asking about the campaign this summer. He did not seem too pleased with the answers he was receiving.”

“My campaign was flawless,” Clemens scoffed. “Not even he could do better. It took him eight legions to pacify a single, small tribe. I used four to conquer a much larger tribe. And before that, he got stomped by British rebels- using chariots of all things! So what does he know? We have no problem, as I said.”

“The battles went rather well, where we had them,” Caelius Calvus admitted. “But he was not asking about tactics and strategy. More logistics and such.”

Clemens threw his hands in the air with a smile. “Catullus handled that. Not our problem.”

And with that, Clemens departed to his chambers, content and happy for the first time since the delegation appeared.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
HG Alumnus
posted 02-20-12 07:27 AM EDT (US)     13 / 86       
I'm ashamed to admit I've only just got to the end of 'The Cauldron', let alone started on VIII. I'll be doing some catching up I think!

A f t y


:: The Sun always rises in the East :: Flawless Crowns :: Dancing Days ::

"We kissed the Sun, and it smiled down upon us."
Legion Of Hell
posted 02-20-12 03:10 PM EDT (US)     14 / 86       
I have a feeling that Clemens' optimism is about to be burst badly.

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 02-27-12 02:28 AM EDT (US)     15 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It appeared over the next three days that Clemens was correct. Eprius and his quaestors pored over the books, noting things here and there, while Cerealis questioned the centurions and tribunes about the tactics. On the evening of the fourth day, Eprius called Clemens in to discuss some findings.

Clemens was ready for anything. He had three days to go over everything his office had ever purchased, and any funds that had been used. But he was not ready for what the fat proconsul had for him.

“It appears there is a good deal missing,” Eprius began. When Clemens began to explain about Catullus running rampant with the funds, the old boar quickly cut him off. “We have seen that all your funds are indeed accounted for, and that is a good sign in your quaestor’s- and your own- favor. It what is not on the books that is missing.”

“What do you mean, lord?”

“Your tallies of the booty taken from the Suevi, for one,” Eprius continued. “Very little. Too little for the wealth that is known to have been in that area. Your records total six thousand talents of booty taken, and four thousand five hundred distributed among the troops as per custom. Of the rest, you sent thirteen hundred to the Treasury of Rome as required. That is very little for such a region. Titus Junior took enough out of a single city- Jerusalem- to pay for his father’s amphitheatre and the Templum Pacis too- and that was just from the general’s share.”

“Germania is poor, proconsul! Everyone knows that.”

“Germania Inferior is poor,” Eprius corrected. “Germania Magna is poor. The Agri Decumates are rich in both fur, minerals, gold, and iron. It is not poor. Nor are the Suevi, who often served as mercenaries and traded with Roman merchants, all of whom praise the Suevi for their acumen in merchant deals. These tallies of yours are far too light for such a rich region.”

“We caught many slaves, but little else,” Clemens protested. “Money earned from the sale of slaves go directly into the purse of the commanding general- as it has always been. All booty recovered is in those ledgers! And Rome received her fair share.”

“We think not,” Eprius said, gesturing to the treasury quaestors with him. “This house, for example. New whitewash, covering new construction, and a lack of decoration. This reeks of being newly built. Yet nowhere is there documentation supporting its cost- no requisitions, no authorization, no nothing. One of the clerks spoke with your banker- you did not withdraw any funds to purchase this house, so you did not pay for it privately. Care to explain?”

“This house is a Public House,” Clemens retorted. “It is not my private mansion. Work that is needed on it was recorded in the ledgers- and paid for out of the funds allotted from Rome for the province. You should have seen that, proconsul.”

“We did not, nor can we find expenses between October and December of last year,” Eprius continued. “Nor the final appraisal of the booty taken- or its itemized list.”

Clemens swore softly. He knew immediately what had happened. But disclosing such a thing would ruin him. Still, it was a better fate than what was in store for him should he try to bury it further. And, even better, he could pin it on his dead quaestor!

He hit his forehead with his palm. “I think I know what has happened, lord,” he said slowly, his mind racing. He saw a way out. “Catullus was having the last of the booty appraised when he was foully murdered. There was some unrest when he passed, before I could return from the border to restore order and discipline. The missing ledgers should have been here, but he probably had them in the storage yard where the booty was tallied and appraised, where he was working on them.”

“And they just magically disappeared?” Eprius asked curiously.

“I was rather busy with other things at the time, lord,” Clemens admitted. “The soldiers had their shares already, and other duties to attend to at the time, as did I. I never gave it another thought, what with my quaestor’s abrupt departure from this life.”

“He had a riot on his hands and troops that had turned lawless,” Cerealis added. “It was total anarchy after Catullus was murdered. Even this house was pillaged, evidenced by its lack of furnishing and new construction. I consider such unrest in such a strategic city a good reason to put off finishing financial paperwork.”

Clemens cringed, but agreed. His career was over, now that the rampant lawlessness in his absence was discovered.

“If the troops had been issued their shares and order restored brutally enough,” Eprius concluded, “then none would have encouragement to seek to enrich themselves at Rome’s expense. At least for a time. So, Gnaeus Clemens, take me to your storage yard. Maybe the missing ledgers are still there.”

An hour later, Eprius Marcellus and Quintus Cerealis stood in awe. Inside the storage yard- a large barn, really, were three dozen wagons parked hub to hub. Each was piled high with closed chests. Each had also a small tablet on the driver’s seat, identifying the wagon. And on the last wagon were the missing ledgers. There was a revised appraisal value of nine thousand talents total on the final ledgers, minus eighty talents duly noted for the restoration of the Public House damaged and pillaged during the lawless period.

“Have our legionaries and auxilia stand guard around this building immediately,” Cerealis said to his aide. He whistled lowly. “Two thousand talents of silver and golden objects! It is a bloody miracle it is still here.”

“One thousand nine hundred twelve talents,” Eprius repeated. “The adjusted share due to Rome from the spoils taken this summer.”

“I do not understand,” Clemens moaned. “This should have gone to Rome months ago!”

“Maybe your quaestor had yet to issue the order before he died,” Cerealis mentioned. He did not yet want to nail this worm to the cross, thus he threw the cringing cur a bone. “All seems packed up, tallied, appraised, and ready for shipment.”

“The dates do match with your theory, Quintus,” Eprius agreed. “The last entry was shortly before Clemens reported him slain.”

Clemens breathed a sigh of relief.

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

“Do you believe that happy horseshit you were just peddling to our relieved host?” Eprius asked once he and Cerealis were alone in the sitting chamber.

“It is plausible,” the Imperator’s brother-in-law said. “But one does not simply forget nineteen hundred talents! My best guess is he was going to let it sit there, locked down tight like we found it, and leave it alone until his time in Germania is up. Then it will move with his household goods to his latifundia and simply disappear as if it never was.”

“Unless someone came looking for it,” Eprius reminded him.

“I am going to the field tomorrow, to check out further things,” Cerealis said as he stretched and let out a yawn. “Can you handle the rest here alone?”

“Aye, Quintus,” the obese proconsul replied. ”I will be tied up for a few weeks checking each and every crate. Go and have fun in the freezing field. I will make Clemens happy to have turned over forgotten talents, and probably joyfully bring out further wealth he has hidden away.”

Quintus smiled. If it was one thing Eprius was good at, it was sniffing about and turning things inside out. He could handle that well enough alone. As for himself, he had his own mission to accomplish.

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

Lucania was lovely, even in the winter. Jutting mountains covered in forest, with lush pastures in the valleys. Home to both wild boar and wolf, it was a rugged land upon which dwelled a rugged people. Those people were now dwindling in numbers, as more and more men joined the legions, causing farms to fall into decay with the lack of people to run them. That caused stagnant water to build up where irrigation canals once flowed, which in turn brought on an onset of malaria, which in turn caused more people to leave for better pastures elsewhere.

Still, it was a beautiful land. The Via Popilia cut through her, connecting Forum Popilii with Campanian Picentini and Salernum, while lesser roads wound through the mountains to link the ten towns or so of the western shore to the five near the eastern shore. Lucania was also a strategic province occupying the arch of the Italian Boot, linking the toe of Bruttium to the south with Calabria and Apulia to the west.

Being so beautiful with such forested mountains, and being so strategically located , and with such ample places for a small band to hide, Lucania was also rife with brigands and bandits. Which was precisely why Titus Popilius had hired forty former gladiators to escort his convoy of wagons from the Forum down to the port of Buxentum.

He had kept a weather-eye out for brigands. He had three mounted men ahead, thirty walking along his wagons, and another three mounted men behind. The remaining four ex-gladiators rode on the four wagons. He felt safe, but he died anyway.

He had encountered another merchant convoy, likewise guarded by heavily armed men. He hailed them, as per protocol, and was in turn hailed. The other convoy was heading north to the Forum, loaded with goods from the port. Popilius had cursed- the other merchant would get the better prices from arriving first. He did not suspect the other merchant of not being a merchant at all, but a bandit who had recently slain the true merchant and was moving his camp to another, more quiet district to begin new operations with hopefully better pickings.

It was over quickly. The brigands had appeared as fellow merchants, which caused the ex-gladiators to relax their guard. They had exchanged a few words of fellow misery with what they thought were their comrades, who then drew weapons and fell upon the surprised guards. Some of the gladiators were quick, but they were quick overwhelmed by brigands who slew the slow. In a matter of minutes Popilius and his guards were dead, dragged into the brush, and now an eight-wagon convoy was heading for a different stretch of road.

Further north and east, along the Apulian Via Appia between Venusia and Tarentum, a party of six travelers was found murdered. Four men and two women, probably slaves of the men from their dress, had been brutally slaughtered. The women showed signs of having been raped before being killed like their men, though one could not rule out having the men being forced to watch the despoiling of their women before being killed. It was very hard to determine anything with any precision due to the state of decay. Only the cold winter temperatures in the mountains had hindered the total decomposition. As it was, the bodies had been there since at least Januarius. Had it not been for their discovery by carrion birds prowling the winter skies for food, and their subsequent notice by the local populace, the bodies might never have been found.

These and other events brought a dark cloud over Italia south of Samnium. Men began banding together for self-defense and protection, and as usual for when bands of armed men gather, they began to irritate each other. Irritation turned more than once to open violence, prompting pleas for help from local leaders, which in turn resulted in the dispatch of a century of Praetorians to the area to investigate.

Centurion Publius Clivus was not happy with his assignment. He and his century were to scour the Via Appia from Beneventum to Tarentum and find the brigands to end their rampage. Other centuries were sent to Campania and Latium- those lucky dogs did not have to brave rugged mountains in winter. He did know of a woman in Heraclea who was rumored to have the most exquisite skills in pleasing men- but his assignment did not carry him anywhere near her or her town. He sighed- maybe a small detour on the way back from Tarentum...

“Decanus Silius reporting, Centurion.”

Clivus awoke abruptly from his daydream. He was not in Heraclea seeking to find out if Porcia was indeed so skilled. He was in Aquilonia, on a bandit hunt like most of his cohort. Ice from the atmosphere permeated his mood.

“Report, Silius.”

“We found that wine merchant,” Silius announced. “Herulius, the one who was buying sheep and wine in Potentia, but failed to return? He and his slaves are dead. We found their remains outside of Forentum, about two days from here. No sign of either wine or sheep.”

“So whoever killed him is eating and drinking well,” Clivus cursed. “And is probably holed up in some out-of-the-way tavern, keeping warm while we crawl over the mountains and forests in the cold.” He smashed a hand against his chair. “They have to have a base somewhere. Nobody can just appear and disappear like that!” He paused, and marked the finds on his map.

“Get me that update from Vorenus,” he commanded the decanus. “Over there, in the bucket. The tablet marked Salernum.” The decanus brought him the tablet, which he quickly perused. He noted again events on his map, then stepped back to get the full picture.

“Nothing!” he cursed.

“What did you expect?” asked the junior officer.

Clivus pointed to the map. There were a series of small x’s dotting the surface, each representing an incident. “I had hoped to find a pattern, like a big circle around their area of operations. But these bastards are cagey. They hit along our roads, but do not use the roads themselves. They appear from nothing, hit a merchant, and disappear. Thus they must be using trails and paths through the mountains and forests. That makes them local- duh- but they are not operating from a base.”

He sighed.

“Aemilius and two centuries are tied up in Caudium, putting down a riot. Drunius and Pirellus have their centuries in Nola, doing the same. Both towns are full of armed men- but not brigands. Just scared, angry men with swords leftover from the Socii War, pissed off at Vespasian for recruiting so heavily in this area to fill his legions for foreign wars that not enough men are left to defend their own families.”

“In Forentum I heard the same troubles brewing in Calabria,” Silius added. “Too many brigands, not enough men to scare them off. And any recruits that sign up are shipped off to Dacia, Germania, and Britannia.”

“Italia is running out of men,” Clivus said with a bitterness he felt double. “The only armed troops south of Patavium are we Praetorians, Silius. We are the best, but there are only so many of them. The bloody Urban cohorts of Rome could probably have helped- those firemen and vigiles have been training well lately, I hear- but they are needed in Rome. No, Silius, someone has to put these rabid animals down, and that means we Praetorians are the ones to do it.”

He reached for a blank tablet. “And there are not enough of us. So yet another report north to Junior, telling him once again more troubles, too much area, and too few contubernia. If we want a chance of catching these bastards, we are going to have to do it the Pompeian way- flood the area with men and squeeze hard.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 02-27-12 07:05 AM EDT (US)     16 / 86       
Looks like the homeland isn't so secure after all.

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 03-05-12 01:47 AM EDT (US)     17 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Quintus Petillius Cerealis rode into Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensi in the late afternoon. His escort of fifty cavalrymen was beefed up to two hundred with the addition of five turmae of Treveri heavy horsemen. One could never be too careful on the border, and CCAA overlooked the Rhenus. On the other side, in those dark forests that knew no bounds, teemed wild savages and strong warriors by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. He shook his shaggy head once again in wonder that the few forces Rome stationed here managed to hold that border secure.

A half an hour later he was riding back out again, with but his usual escort. This journey was not far- less than a half hour’s ride, to the house overlooking both the Rhenus and the town upon her western shore. There he found a veritable fortress, and within was one of the two men he sought.

“Welcome, consul,” greeted Quintus Cordinus Gallicus. “Welcome to Germania Inferior.”

Cerealis bowed curtly in greeting, and held out his hand. “Greetings, Quintus Cordinus Gallicus. Evidently you are not as current on events in Rome as you should be. Your office did receive the monthly news from Rome, did it not?”

Cordinus gulped as he nodded. Was there something important he missed?

“Then you should know that I am no longer consul, having laid down my office in Januarius and taken a commission as proconsul for a personal trip to Germania.”

Cordinus nodded. Oh shit! “Aye, proconsul. I remember reading of a proconsular visit to Germania Superior, led by Marcellus Eprius. I failed to make the connection.”

Cerealis nodded in understanding. “If the Imperial scribes wrote it so, then you are forgiven. You could not know that two proconsuls were assigned to investigate a matter to your south. I will ensure the clerks assigned to inform your province know to include all pertinent information, and not to summarize.”

Cerealis looked about, noting the lack of an atrium but in its place a Germanic foyer. He saw the large dining hall through its doorway to the left, as well as its large portico which he knew overlooked the Rhenus. To his right was the doorway to the kitchen, scullery, and servants quarters. Ahead, passing the stairs that ate up the left side of the long hall, were rooms used as studies, a den, and the room used to receive guests. Before the door stood a guard- in armor. He grinned.

“This place has changed much since the last time I was here,” he said as the two men shook hands. “The inside layout looks pretty much the same, though the outside is definitely more secure. Your work, I suppose?”

Cordinus blushed at the unexpected question, and comment. When had the Imperator’s brother-in-law visited this house?. The question raced through his mind while his mouth formulated an answer to the question. “No, proconsul,” he stammered, “The owner of the house had it built, after this farmstead was attacked by brigands. I borrowed it for my residence while he serves at Vetera.”

That explained why neither Claudia nor Rutilius had greeted him at the door, as a Roman couple would guests to their house. “I see. It surely is more secure, and stronger, than I remember it.”

“May I ask when the proconsul had seen it last?”

“During the Batavian Revolt,” Cerealis replied. “The lady of the house cared for me during my recovery from wounds received at Gelduba. We grew close.”

Of course! That was when he sired Little Quintus, the adopted son of Rutilius. How foolish of me to forget! He saw immediately he must bring bad news. “This place was attacked by brigands in the autumn,” he related. “That is why it is such a fortress now. There were casualties, some very dear.”

Cerealis grew cold at what the governor was going to say next. He remembered that awful letter he had gotten from Marcus. It was a jumbled heap, not clear at all, yet the tone was ominous. He knew something bad had happened, but the wording left plenty of doubt. Cordinus removed that doubt now.

“Claudia, the wife of Rutilius, was killed in the attack. As was her adopted son, Publius Rutilius and her natural son Quintus Rutilius,” Cordinus said as gently as he could. He tried not to let it show that he knew Cerealis was the true father, but did not know if he succeeded. “All three are buried in the monument Marcus had built behind the house. It is quite a beautiful garden. Would the proconsul care to visit it sometime?”

“Yes,” Cerealis replied thickly. Claudia and their son were dead. His suspicions were indeed true. His grief threatened to overwhelm him. “Now.”

“Of course.” Cordinus led his guest back out the front door, past the two guards on the front portico, and around the dining-hall side of the house to where the graveyard was.

The artists and sculptors had made a monumental final resting place for the family. Even in the dying light of the midwinter day, Cerealis could see the low, square-cut bushes forming a large circle of tended grass. Amid the grass were small stones in a circle, each adorned with a small statue and with a white stone–tiled path leading from it to the central stone. From that stone rose a statue of a woman holding the hands of two sons, one larger than the other. Cerealis could identify the likeness of Claudia Sacra immediately. The smaller boy must be his Quintus. Looking closely, her could see the same bushy eyebrows and square-jaw that he himself had. A tear slid down his face at the thought of the son he never met.

“I will leave you alone, lord,” Cordinus said lowly, politely excusing himself.

Cerealis waved the man away, and let his heart grow heavy as memories of his summer affair ran through his mind. The way she laughed, the warmth of her smile, the healing magic she performed on his wounds... She was a wonderful woman, and one who had given birth to a son- his son. And she had found the happiness she so richly deserved in a man of whom Cerealis thought highly- and one of the few he would consider allowing to raise the boy.

An hour later, he departed the gravesite, checked on his men, then entered the house. A Samnite was waiting for him inside, and led him to the receiving room where dinner was being brought out. The Samnite led him to the head couch as guest of honor. Cordinus joined him shortly.

“Proconsul!” Cordinus greeted warmly. He had changed from his tunica into a formal toga, complete with broad purple stripe of a senator along the edge. He did not seem to mind that his guest was still clad in cloak and tunic, with furry leggings stuffed inside sandals, though he did motion for the slaves not to put too much wood into the hearth. He eased himself onto the left hand couch, careful not to aggravate the scars over his lung and ribcage or disturb his toga, before lifting a plate of sweetmeats and offering it to his guest.

“A bit of Rome in Germania,” Cerealis said with a grin as he picked a few bits of meat from the plate onto his own. He took a roll and passed it to Cordinus, then dove into the rest of the meal. “I like it, though had Marcus Rutilius been here, I daresay we’d both be eating upright at the long table in the dining hall.”

“I am not so sure,” Cordinus said. “He eats with the Germans there, but has always led his Roman guests to this room. Not that other than I have visited him before we switched duty stations.”

Cerealis nodded as he ate. “Actually, Quintus Rutilius, I was rather surprised to find you here.”

Cordinus was sharp, and quick. “You had expected to find Marcus Rutilius here.”

Cerealis nodded. “But it does not matter. I was planning on going to Vetera anyway.”

To see me, and discuss my plans for the summer. Good. “I would have been just as glad to receive you there as I am here,” he said, with just a bit of oily smarm marring his tone. “Now that the Germans across the river have been taught a hard lesson, I can concentrate on bringing the province closer to Rome and our ways, and taxing the revenue generated. The X Gemina has built a pottery in Noviomagus, and I want the XXII Primigenia to do the same at Vetera. This province literally rests on a mother-lode of fine clay. And the hills in the southern portion- some of the best wine-growing slopes in the world. And the-”

“That will be the task of another man,” Cerealis interrupted.

“But I was to have four years as governor,” Cordinus said stunned. “I have been here but a year and a half, almost two!”

“Two disastrous years,” Cerealis reminded him. ”And teaching the Germani a lesson one year does not mean they will not come and teach you one the next. One must always be on one’s guard here, and be militarily competent. You are not. I am sorry, Quintus Rutilius. You are not going to be prorogued.”

It suddenly made sense. “You are here to take over?”

Cerealis shook his head. “Nay, I am merely bringing you the word. Gaius Licinius Mucianus will be the new governor. He will be coming in April to relieve you officially.”

Cordinus slumped. His bumbling had been too great even for his patron – the mighty Imperator- to withstand. His failure was now complete- his own, and by proxy, his lord’s as well. “Yes, proconsul. I assume I must report to Titus Flavius Vespasianus upon return to Rome, to explain my military failure?”

Cerealis grinned. “No, you will report to Lugdunum, in Gaul. My brother-in-law still favors you. He blames your legates for your failures, unjustly I might add.”

“As would I,” Cordinus agreed.

“But he sees a good administrator in you.”

A ray of hope broke through the blackness surrounding him. He was still favored!

“Gaul will be good for you,” Cerealis admitted. “There is but a single legion, but you have powerful provinces all around. You need not worry about war or battle. You can concentrate on administration and taxes- in which I hear you excel.”

“Marcus?” he asked.

The proconsul nodded. “He has a head for war and justice, but taxes and tablets are not his forte. He claims to have learned much from you, and in a way admires your skills in those areas he himself lacks. You two make a pretty good team, if you ask me, like a horse and cart. In this case, however, the cart is before the horse. It is too bad he was born later than you, Quintus.”

Cordinus saw with startling clarity the truth in the proconsul’s words. Had he been left behind and Rutilius sent across, the outcome would have been much, much different. He saw proof of that after the battle by the Grove, when he turned Rutilius loose on the Bructeri. Lightning warfare, fluid and volatile, and a form of warfare he would never quite grasp no matter how many lessons he had. No, the proconsul was correct- he was good for Gaul, where he was away from war. They talked more, until a yawn erupted from Cerealis, signaling the end of the gathering.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 03-05-12 05:48 AM EDT (US)     18 / 86       
The day Cordinus goes to Gaul will be a happy day for the Roman Empire.

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 03-05-12 05:56 PM EDT (US)     19 / 86       
Or will it?
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-12-12 08:51 AM EDT (US)     20 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A few days later, Cerealis and his escort entered the castrum of Vetera. Avitus had the cornicens blow a fanfare as he entered, to the delight of the proconsul. Marcus Rutilius stood before the praetorium awaiting his honored guest, with his officers arrayed behind him.

“Ave, proconsul!” Rutilius cried.

Cerealis laughed, then dismounted to approach the quaestor and extend his hand to be clasped as men do their friends.

“Do you realize you are the first man to greet me with the proper title north of the Alps?” Cerealis said as their hands clasped.

“You have eleven lictors with you,” Rutilius replied, “a proconsul’s escort. A serving consul has twelve.”

“Well met, young quaestor,” Cerealis replied with a laugh. ”The ability to count has once again been proven to help avoid awkward mistakes. You have come far since Mucianus first foisted you upon me as his personal legate,” he said, remembering their first meeting.

“As have you, lord,” Marcus replied. “Consul twice now, governor and conqueror in Britannia, and now a proconsul with a special commission from the Imperator himself. Yet you come to Vetera. One might assume from this that Titus Flavius Vespasianus sent you north as governor. Has he?”

“Yet you do not so assume,” Cerealis countered. “You know better, hence your phrasing. But to answer your question, no, I have not come north to govern. I actually came to see you.”


“Yes, you,” Cerealis continued as they turned to face the assembled officers. “First, introduce me to your staff, then we shall talk. And I want to meet this new wife of yours. Any woman who can make you forget Claudia in only four months has to be something special.”

The joy drained from the face of Rutilius. He sobered instantly. “I have not forgotten her, lord. I cannot. She was my wife, in my care, and I loved her. And she was murdered. Further, she gave me a baby boy, proconsul, and that baby needs a mother. Am I to neglect my familial duties to that boy on something as valueless as ceremony and custom?”

Cerealis bit his lower lip. “I had not meant to offend or hurt you, Marcus. My ill-chosen words were meant as a compliment.”

“Understood,” Rutilius said, recognizing the sincerity with which the consul spoke. Cerealis was about as devious as a stone wall, a trait that endeared him to his troops as a general and to his family that ruled Rome in the aftermath of the likes of Nero and Caligula, Tiberius and Claudius. An openly honest man was a rare and special one, to be treasured. And Quintus Petillius Cerealis was both utterly honest and usually an eloquent one.

“Proconsul, this is Decius Paullus, legatus of the XXII Primigenia,” he continued. “You should remember him as the tribunus whom we rescued from Mogontiacum during the Batavian Revolt. Next to him is...” And so it went, Rutilius introducing each officer in turn. “Messala and Amensius are still here, too- the one commanding the VI Victrix at Novaesium and the other the XXI Rapax in Bonna.”

“I remember them well,” Cerealis said. He shivered in the February cold. “Come, we can continue this inside. I had forgotten how bloody cold the north could be!”

Inside they dined, then Rutilius dismissed his officers and retired with his guest to his quarters. There he introduced Cerealis to Froydis.

“A very great honor,” said the Cugerni woman, bowing deeply.

“The honor is all mine, lady Froydis,” he said slowly and clearly, mirroring her bow. “Marcus tells me you put him back together after Claudia passed. He is a good man. Rome needs more like him, thus I and my city are deeply in your debt for restoring him so quickly.”

The words sounded corny and lame, but she saw the truth in them and heard his conviction in his voice. She nodded deeply at the tone and sincerity.

“A broken Marcus serves nobody,” she said simply. “We all need an operational Marcus.”

Cerealis nodded and turned to Rutilius, who was blushing. “She speaks excellent Latin, Marcus! And you neglected to warn me of her exquisite beauty, or those liquid pools of sky flanking the bridge of her nose.”

Froydis grinned at the compliment, and enjoyed watching Marcus shuffle uneasily for a moment before commenting how she had not been told of the eloquence and charm of the visitor. She settled the men into their couches, then withdrew from the room to let them discuss manly things. She knew everything she needed to know. Marcus was friends with the proconsul, and that was a mighty good friend to have. And he needed him.

“I take it this is not a social call,” Rutilius began.

Cerealis nodded. “Your suspicions were on the right path outside- there will be a new governor. But it is not I.”

“Who then?”

Cerealis grinned. “A man to whom you once held a dagger to his throat.”


The shaggy head nodded. “He is old, but not as old as Saturninus. I just got back from Britannia and served as consul suffectus, so I cannot govern just yet, otherwise I would be coming to stay. As to the rest... Most of the good men are already tasked out. The amphora is running dry, Marcus, and Cordinus cannot stay here. Not after these past two summers.”

“Does he know?”

Cerealis nodded. “I stopped by your house, looking for you. I ran into him. And told him.”

“How did he take it?”

Cerealis grinned. “Like a worm at first. He thought he was going to be stripped of wealth and exiled, but no. He will be going to Lugdunum, as governor. Away from war and anything resembling a battle. He should do well there.”

So Cordinus gets a new province, away from battle and Germani. The Empire will be well-served with that move.

“All of this could be done via a tablet in the post,” Rutilius reminded him. “Not that I dislike your company, Quintus, but it is exceptional that a proconsul would deliver mundane news personally and not through correspondence, especially in the middle of the coldest Februarius in living memory.”

Cerealis nodded. “I could not visit the grave of my son through the post,” he said lowly, “nor that of the woman who gave him life before it was so cruelly ripped away.” He lifted his eyes to meet those of the man whose wife she became afterwards. “I loved her too, Marcus. But I was afraid of Flavia, and so jumped at the chance to go to Britannia and leave all of this- and her- behind. I did not know that Flavia was already in her grave when Claudia and I met.”

“You needed to come and hear from me, personally, what happened,” Rutilius said lowly, deducing further the reason for the personal visit. “And to tell you of the son you will never know. Such is well worth risking an Imperator’s wrath. I understand, Quintus. You are quite correct. These things cannot be properly told through the post.”

So Rutilius told him of the attack, in detail, and how he and Froydis deduced that a Roman stood behind it. That Roman had yet to be caught, but he would be. And he would pay.

Cerealis listened to the tale and nodded in approval. His boy had died a warrior. “I saw the grave you had built for them. Impressive. And expensive.”

“I have a senatorial income now,” Rutilius said with a shrug. “So I spent it on my family.”

Cerealis grinned slightly. “Money well spent, lad, well spent.”

Rutilius sat up. “Quintus, I wish to show you something.” He stood, went to his table, and rummaged through a bucket or two before pulling out a small scroll. He crossed to the consul, and handed it to him. “Read this.”

Cerealis did so. “This is the letter you sent asking for troops,” he said, waving the scroll slightly. “I sent you eight cohorts in reply.”

“I gave this to Cordinus to forward to you,” Rutilius said. “A hostile agent lifted it from the outgoing post and packed it into the baggage of Cordinus. It never left Germania.”

“Then how did I read it?” Cerealis wondered.

“My question exactly,” Rutilius said. “Arrius says he saw this letter in your hands in Britannia, but it never left Germania. Obviously someone copied the letter and secreted one in the baggage and sent the other.”

“I recognized your signet,” Cerealis replied. “And it is this one. One of the two must be a forgery.”

“Do you still have the letter?”

The consul nodded. “When you are next in Rome, I shall have it delivered- or bring it myself. I hate mysteries.”

“I know,” Rutilius said with a grin. “So do I. And I am studying one now. I asked before, but you dodged it, so I will ask again more directly. What is so important that a proconsul with a special commission would leave Rome to travel through snowy passes along the Via Mala to visit a quaestor in Germania?”

“A valid question,” Cerealis replied. “Only a fool would traverse the Via Mala in winter. I am no fool. I left Rome as a member of the entourage of Eprius Marcellus to visit Cornelius Clemens in Mogontiacum. The tribute Clemens sent to Rome was far less than expected, and it was thought a personal visit from two special proconsuls would shake things loose. We had a few treasury clerks with us. Things shook loose.”

Rutilius smiled broadly and laughed. “I am sure they did.”

“So I was in the neighborhood, so to speak,” Cerealis continued. “Your letter- written in grief, I assume- concerning Claudia and my son left me hollow. I wanted to see for myself what was going on, and wanted to visit their graves if that part was not the figment of a stricken mind. And to tell you personally some other news you might want to know.”

This piqued his interest.

“Clemens was granted a triumph for his conquest,” Cerealis began. “But my brother in law knows the reason he succeeded was because Cordinus got his army trapped here by all the Germanics that would normally have been there. Clemens had a walk-over because your commander was so bloodily incompetent on the battlefield. And you, by your lonesome except for the eight cohorts I sent you, went and rescued him. I was made consul as a reward for sending you the troops. You too shall be rewarded. You will replace Catullus in Germania Superior. A promotion from a senatorial quaestor to one selected and appointed by the Imperator himself, for your superb rescue and discretion in handling the aftermath- as well as accepting the recognition of your deeds being quashed in the interest of public order.”

“Rome would explode if she learned of another massive defeat across the river,” Rutilius surmised. “Tumult and rioting does not serve Rome’s interests.”

“Rome could have lost Gaul, cutting her off from Spain and Britannia,” Cerealis added. “It could have been the end of the empire in the west, but for you. And if that happened, Vespasian would have been toppled. You saved him, and did not brag about it, Marcus, allowing him time to control the damage. He would reward you for that. A quaestorship in a border province, especially one so recently expanded, is a hell of a reward. Lots of opportunities to make money.”

“I care not for money, as long as I have enough to cover my needs and those relying upon me.”

“Same here, something which makes us two unique senators. Also, the Imperator conducted a census recently. You are no longer a member of the Third Class. Your income and your status now match, Senator Rutilius of the First Class.”

“I was a senator the moment you awarded me the Corona Civica after saving you at Gelduba,” Marcus replied.

“True,” Cerealis agreed, “you were admitted to the Senate, which made you technically a Senator. But you were still listed in the Third Class economically, which meant you would never speak in the Senate. Now your are a member of the Senatorial caste, as well as a Senator. You have been promoted past the back-benchers and others who inherited the title of Senator but never served a day outside of Rome. You, my friend, due to your crown, can speak before any who had not yet served as praetor. That is a very high honor for a man born into the Third Class.”

Marcus was stunned. And suspicious. Why had the Imperator, who had ordered him across the river to be killed not a year ago, so suddenly go out of his way to honor him?

The suspicion was evidently not as well-hidden as he had thought.

“Your discretion, your performance, your rescue of his son five years ago,” Cerealis said. “Plus the undiminished support both Mucianus and myself give you. Helvidius who did not even know you sang your praises, though that might have worked both ways by poisoning Vespasian. But Helvidius was a man who was honorable above all else. Even Domitian, who does not like you, spoke well of your honor. The clincher was a letter from your governor, Rutilius Gallicus, who praised your unswerving loyalty despite all he had done to tarnish it. Vespasian needs such men, and he needs one in Germania Superior. I am all he has left, and I returned from one governorship to be consul. It would be bad politically to send me off again, and demeaning to send a consular to be a quaestor.”

“Who will be the governor, if all good men are already deployed?”

“Vespasian is sending his youngest son, Domitian.”

“Domitian to a border province, which had so recently been engaged in expansion?” Rutilius wondered. “The man may have been consul twice, but he lacks common sense. He spent his youth in an amphora, by Jupiter! Sending a sot like him to such a volatile province is worse than foolishness- it is almost criminal negligence.”

“Which is why you will be his quaestor,” Cerealis retorted. “Vespasian thinks highly of you now. Cordinus received Germania as a province as a reward for his support to Domitian on the lad’s first term as consul. Vespasian wishes to give his lad experience in the provinces. Cordinus has proven singularly inept in provincial rule, whereas you outshone the sun. He would use that to better his son, and when Domitian returns to Rome a year or two later, you will succeed him as governor.”

“So he places me in the First Class to secure my loyalty,” Rutilius said rhetorically. “And bribes me with a provincial command in the near future to remain quiet. It does not matter. I serve Rome, and Vespasian is good for Rome. So far.”

Cerealis nodded. “I hear you. I am family, so blood runs thicker for me. But if he turned into a Tiberius or Nero, young Titus would ascend the throne rather quickly, brother or not.”

“I must return to Mogontiacum in the morning, but we will correspond further. I shall try to clue you in on how things in Rome are. You are a vir militaris, Marcus, but you do not know squat about politics, nor do you have any connections in Roman politics. Except me, and I have been out of Rome for five years. What has it been for you? Twelve years?”

“Almost fourteen.”

“That is an exceptionally long tour in a single province,” Cerealis said with a cringe. “No wonder he believed the tales.”

Rutilius shrugged. What could he do? He went where he was ordered, and where he was needed. For the past fourteen years, that was Germania Inferior.

Cerealis knew the deal. He had also heard from Cordinus the tales of Marcus ‘going native,’ and seen for himself the second Germanic woman he had wed. Hell, after fourteen years in a single province, it was almost a certainty some local customs would be taken up. That Moesian legion of Antonius Primus picked up the habit of hailing the sun in the morning during its time in Syria. At Bedriacum, after fighting all through the night, they hailed the sun as was their custom. The Vitellians thought they were hailing the army of Mucianus and fled, delivering the victory.

Cerealis cursed to himself. Not all native customs were bad. Some were down-right handy. And Marcus was indeed the man Rome needed in Germania- a man the locals trusted, who knew their customs, their honor, yet was firmly loyal to Rome.

“I will do as the Imperator commands,” Rutilius acknowledged, coming to the conclusion that this was indeed in Rome’s best interest. “And I shall try to teach his pup how to be a good governor.”

“And you can learn from him, too,” Cerealis added. “The boy has grown quite a bit since you pulled him off of the Capitoline ahead of the Vitellian praetorians. He was actually a decent consul, thanks to Cordinus. He will make a better governor, thanks to you.”

The matter was cleared up. Cerealis gave Rutilius a few tips about dealing with Rome and the tax gatherers, as well as advice about handling administration. In return, he picked the brain of Rutilius for details of Germania Inferior for Mucianus- such as who led which tribe, their internal standings, their relationship with Rome versus with him, and where any potential problems lay.

“If he doesn’t transfer Gnaeus Messala, he ought to make him the quaestor,” Rutilius said in closing. “Gnaeus has been here for five years now, and knows the province almost as well as I do. A piece of advice for Mucianus- get in good with the Cananefate, the Batavi, and the Ubii. The Ubii adore Rome and we Romans, the Batavi occupy an incredibly strategic piece of land and guard it with their own militia, and the Cananefate have the only warhost in the province worth a shit. They work closely with the Batavi, so if Mucianus gets in good with those two, his whole northern flank is relatively secure.”

“I’ll pass it along,” Cerealis promised. “I will be leaving in the morning, Marcus. I told you I was not supposed to come here at all, the purpose being to shake up Clemens, and Eprius was proving quite adept at that. I do not know how much time I have before the tribute Rome demands is ready, so I cannot dawdle.”

“A squadron of the fleet is docked on our quays,” Marcus said. “They can row you upriver to Mo-Go faster than you can ride.”

“Does the squadron have room for an ala of horse?”

Rutilius winced. “That is a lot of horse. We have barges. Give my aide a half a day and we can get you transport for all.”

“Done,” agreed Cerealis. “An ala is not much these days.”

“It is here,” Rutilis reminded him. “At least now.”

“I have four cohorts of auxilia, two cohorts of raw legionaries headed for Moesia after this, and two more alae of cavalry in Mogontiacum to escort the ‘recovered’ tribute. Even then I think it too small.”

“Why? Do you not trust the Imperator’s current hand-picked governor of Germania Superior?”

“I do not fear Clemens or his cronies,” Cerealis said as he rose. “But Italia is overflowing with brigands and robbers, if one believes all the reports streaming into the city. I saw what could be one band near Mediolanium, but it fled. Mysterious rumblings, if you ask me. Bad business.”

“Rebellious rumblings?” Rutilius asked.

Cerealis shook his head. “No, just strange ones. Conflicting reports, missing sums, and the like. Merchants attacked. Titus Junior and his Praetorians are making themselves nuts trying to track and slaughter all the little bands.”

“We both hate brigands,” Rutilius concluded. “It seems young Flavius Vespasianus hates them as well. I have a cohort’s worth of legionaries set to retire. I can have them escort you all the way to Rome, if you want, and disband them for outprocessing there.”

Cerealis smiled, then rose. “I think I will take you up on that,” he said, adding, “and give you one of the Moesian recruit cohorts in return. Have to keep the Rhenus secure, you know.”

He made a circuit of the small chamber as he spoke, then checked the guards in the hall before returning to sit next to Rutilius.

“First lesson in politics, Marcus,” he whispered. “Never accept anything at face value. Always look deeper. Like when you examine a battlefield- do not simply look at the lovely hills or green forests- look to where enemies could be hidden, or where you cannot see.”

“I take it this means you lied to me earlier?” Rutilius whispered in reply.

“I did, but only to confuse those who may have large ears,” Cerealis said. “You will indeed be going to Germania Superior as quaestor, with Domitian as governor. But I came here personally to tell you under orders. Not against them.”

“Vespasian sent you.”

Cerealis nodded. “You are never to mention the events of this summer, especially in writing. He wants this summer to have never been.”

“I won the Corona Graminea this summer,” Rutilius replied proudly and defiantly. “Paullus said I qualified for the spolera opima or some other such nonsense, but I turned that down in deference to the Imperator’s status. But I am not going to give up my Grass Crown.”

“Keep it,” Cerealis said, suddenly bursting with pride at his protege. “Such a gift, from the centurions, is one to honor and treasure. Just do not flaunt it, or wear it publicly... Spolera opima!” he gasped, as the rest of the words sank in. “Jupiter! You killed the enemy commander in single combat, before the battle?”

“I needed to buy time to let my allies get in position,” Rutilius said with a shrug. “That seemed the best way.”

Cerealis nodded. “It probably was.” He shook his head to clear away the tears of pride, then faced Rutilius squarely. He leaned closer so that the whispered words would be heard by him and none other.

“Your orders, from the Imperator’s mouth to your ears, and none other. This summer, Cordinus Gallicus in Gaul will be given command of the forces of this province and ordered to resume the punishing raids against the Bructeri. He will send these orders to you. You will be detached from Germania Superior to serve as liaison to his forces. You will send back weekly reports concerning your attack and of your progress across the river, which he will then forward to the Senate. Your reports are to be mundane, general, and progressive. You will report marching in, fighting some skirmishes, finding the Eagles, dispensing Roman justice to those responsible, and returning to base. Always victorious. No German ambushes, no massive battles. A simple raid.”

“We found the Eagles and already dispensed Roman justice,” Rutilius replied, suddenly furious. “True justice. I do not think going across the river again will do anything but show that Rome is an entity they cannot trust. It will bring generations of war- for no reason at all.”

“Relax, son,” Cerealis whispered. “And listen. Think over what I said.”

Rutilius did so. It dawned on him. He would be marching nowhere. He would simply be reporting imaginary progress. “I am to lie.”

Cerealis nodded. “You will not cross the river, and Cordinus Gallicus shall not command. Except on papyrus. You will make the reports, which Domitian will review and then forward to the Senate. To all concerned, it will be a boring raid- and they will never look further. The entire mess you managed to rescue will be as if it never was.”

Rutilius saw how that could indeed help the Imperator. And why he was given the position first as quaestor and then promised the position as praetor of Germania Superior. Trust and reward my ass. This was bribery and a massive cover-up. He said so.

Cerealis nodded. “He did not need to bribe you, but he does not know you. What he asks, he asks for the good of Rome. You and I, we need no other motivation. But he does not know you, thus the offer of the positions, title, and power.”

“Lesson two- know with whom you deal,” Rutilius said.

Cerealis nodded. “Indeed. Do I have your word that this will remain between us?”

Rutilius thought it over. Rome would be thrust into turmoil if the truth got out. Turmoil was bad for a city, and for those who lived in that city. He knew as well as Cerealis that he was forced by circumstances to keep this close.

“I shall say nothing, and make the reports as ordered,” Rutilius said with a nod. “But I cannot speak for Cordinus. His hubris would serve to keep mention of the summer’s events secret, but he is honest as well. He might speak.”

“I have spoken to him already. He agreed.”

That is why he was transferred to Gaul as governor. “I see. Lesson three- prepare your moves thoroughly, to cover every angle.”

“You learn fast, Marcus.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 03-12-12 01:40 PM EDT (US)     21 / 86       
Seems that the cover up will go ahead without a hitch.

Now they have to sort out the brigands running amok across Italia.

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 03-13-12 10:38 AM EDT (US)     22 / 86       
Wow, this is quite good.
One thing to say, the painting in the first post in this thread, I saw it in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, it was quite impressive, maybe 25 ft x 15 ft.
great story!

I really have nothing to say at this point.
Other than this.
Total War Games Played:
Je parle un peu de français
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-19-12 04:37 AM EDT (US)     23 / 86       
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Cerealis and his escort- including the retiring legionaries promised by Rutilius, disembarked from the river squadron just north of Mogontiacum, where his cavalry ala was waiting. The original plan- shipping the ala, would have left the infantry on a slow march that could not reach the capital of Germania Superior within the allotted time. The switch- putting the veterans on the ships and having the ala ride- allowed both to meet up just outside of the town on time- and without the need to scrounge up barges for the horses.

Also awaiting the ships was a small contingent of three turmae, which had been detached from the ala before it headed north. The decurion leading that vexillation moved forward to greet his proconsul.

“Ah, Marcus Fulvus,” said Cerealis as he saw the doughty decurion approach. “And how are the operations to the south and east?”

Fulvus shrugged. “The deployments seem competent enough,” said the old soldier. “I doubt I could do better, even with my twenty six years of service. The Raetians have extended their defenses to meet with the new ones, and the watch towers are well sited. A few of the roads I would have done differently- but that is a matter of taste. Overall, the border seems tight.”

Cerealis acknowledged the report, and turned to his head lictor, standing at the decurion’s side. “And our deception went well?”

The lictor nodded. “None of the boys manning the outposts and castella we visited suspected a thing. Luckily none of the boys there had served with you. They all thought Fulvus here the proconsul. He played his part well, lord.”

Cerealis turned to face the decurion. Both men were tall, with wide shoulders, narrow waists, and wore identical cuirasses. The decurion removed his helmet to reveal shaggy, curly black hair striped with grey, and handed the helmet back to its owner. Cerealis accepted his helmet and attached it to his saddle.

“Good, then we march around Mogo to come in from the south east, while the infantry here march directly in and report to Postumus. That will boost our infantry escort to three cohorts- more than enough to disparage the brigands operating in Italia until this is safely in the Treasury. Now, to brief Eprius, and play out the final scene we need here in the north.”

“I am really looking forward to heading home, sir,” Fulvus added. “I never did like this place.”

“It can grow on you,” the proconsul retorted. “But not in Februarius. Come, let us get out of this cold.”

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“Well?” asked Quintus Cerealis as he barged into the house he shared with Eprius. The other proconsul was alone, poring over ledgers and taking notes. “Still at it?”

Eprius sighed and picked up his wine goblet. After offering one to Cerealis, who declined, he drained his own. “On the last few now. So far, things are coming out exactly as written. A few discrepancies, mind you, but nothing glaring or out of the ordinary. And your task?“

“The defenses are examined, and all messages delivered.”

Eprius nodded. “Then tomorrow we can inform our worried host of his good news and thereafter go back to the sunny south where we belong.” He shivered. “And none too soon, either!”

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Rome was quiet. It seemed as if a dark cloud was hovering over the city, more than just the usual winter rain clouds. This cloud was darker, more intense, and felt by almost every person in the city. It was powered by the rumors filling the city of unrest in the mountainous south, and of merchants refusing to risk their lives and their goods. Trade was shutting down, making life miserable for those whose livelihoods depended on trade, namely the First Class. As the merchant princes ceased operations, the Second and Third Classes lost income as well, and the effect rippled down through the classes to reach every citizen. Something bad was on the way unless somebody did something to stop it.

An ominous knock sounded on the door of Aulus Caecina. His steward opened the door, admitted the visitor to the atrium, and detailed a maid to inform their lord that he had a visitor. He then brought the visitor to the sitting room.

Caecina entered the room angrily. He was having a noon-time session with one of Pomponia’s lovelies when the summons came. A senator, he could not put off the call of duty if it was a client calling, so he hastily dressed and stormed into to where his unbidden guest was waiting. His mood changed abruptly when he saw who had come calling without an invitation.

“Terentia,” he said in surprise. What was the widow of Burrius the knight doing here? “An unexpected pleasure.”

He meant it. Though Terentia was almost his age, she had that classic, ageless beauty few women are born with. Should one guess her to be a twenty year old newlywed, they would be in good company with many others who made the same mistake. For this visit, she had dressed casually in a flowing white robe whose pristine effect was marred only by the black sash she wore in mourning, but one which complemented her alabaster complexion and long dark curls of her hair. The Egyptian kohl with which she adorned her eyes only heightened the effect of her natural beauty.

“I do apologize for dropping in on you so unexpectedly,” Terentia said sincerely. “But I am at my wit’s end.”

Caecina sat beside he and feigned relaxation. How could he fully relax with the woman whose husband he had murdered to cover his own ass? He placed a gentle hand upon her wrist and said calmly, “Please, do tell me how I can help.”

Terentia breathed deeply. “My husband is missing, and has been since before the praetorians came snooping around. I know Titus very well- he did not, could not do what they accuse him of doing. But he is gone, leaving but a note.”

This was all old news to Caecina. It was he, after all, who set Eprius to sniffing about Helvidius, the patron of Burrius. And it was his former friend and conspirator Mallius who sent the damning documents north through the network of Burrius. But it was Domitian who had switched the casual warnings out and sent the Roman military plans in their place. Those plans had been intercepted and exposed, condemning Burrius and Helvidius.

“It does not matter what he did or was capable of doing,” Caecina reminded her in a soft tone. She was exquisite, too much so for a mere knight. “It matters only that the imperials think he did it, and they have proof. I really do not see how I can help.”

Terentia placed her other hand over his that covered hers. “Aulus, you risked your own life to give Titus the warning he needed to escape this injustice. You have proven yourself a friend of his, and of mine. Now I need advice, and find that his old contacts and partners turn me a cold shoulder, due to the false accusations. Only you know they are false, thus I come to you.”

“What is it you need?” he asked, his voice thick. He had not finished with Pomponia’s filly, nor had he taken the time to wash her scent from his loins. The effect of smell and beauty was causing stirrings within him that were rather inappropriate.

Terentia withheld the smile she felt forming. She knew damned well what effect she was having on this wealthy but virile man who had risked his life to try and save her husband’s. “I have been trying to run my husband’s businesses in his absence, but I am running into difficulties. Some are the result of the accusations, and some the result of the brigand problem to the south. The markets are drying up, our costs are rising, and certain senators are tending offers to buy the business- offers far under its actual worth. I need an influx of cash to keep running, but nobody will lend to the wife of a flown traitor.”

Aulus nodded. He had been in the same boat after Bedriacum. A political exile. But he had come out of it with the help of Caenis- he was now the praetor peregrini.

“How much do you need?”

“I would need nothing if the brigand problem went away,” she cautioned, “”but as it is I will be destitute within six months if I cannot find twenty talents to cover expenses.”

Ouch! “I had spent a large portion of my liquid assets in campaigning for my office,” Caecina reminded her. “I have the wealth to extend, but not in cash. I would have to sell some assets to generate the denarii you need, and that is a very large favor indeed.”

“Then I have a second proposal,” Terentia said, moving her hand from atop his to his knee. “As praetor you can have my husband declared dead. His note said he was fleeing and would most likely never return as long as he was a suspect. Helvidius is dead- killed because of these accusations. Thus Titus will never return. If you have him declared dead, his bank accounts would become mine. That would cover some of the costs. And as his widow and beneficiary, I would have the full rights to share my fortune with my new husband, who can salvage what I cannot- the legacy of my dead husband.”

Declaring a citizen dead was the purview of the urban praetor, but Bassus was a friend. He would do it... “New husband?”

She moved her hand a bit higher. The smell emanating from his loins was affecting her, too. The movement under his toga grew stronger, revealing her effect upon him. “You were the only true friend of Titus,” she said huskily. “And the only one who has not shunned me. Your political star is rising, Aulus Caecina, and your business sense as well. I know that you desire me- your body betrays you in that- and it has been a long, long time since I have enjoyed the pleasures. I would have you marry me to preserve our fortune. I can promise to be as faithful to you as I was to Titus, and as energetic in bed as those floozies who visit you three times per week.”

“You know about them?” he asked suddenly. They had always been so discrete.

“I know about them, and you may continue to entertain them,” she promised. “That is how desperate I have become. I would do anything- even sharing my husband with tarts from the Forum in our own bed- to avoid having to sell my dead husband’s businesses to the likes of Flavius Domitianus or his cronies, the very men who brought him down. That is how little choice I have.”

Her desperation hit him like a hammer. He nodded. “I will be in the Forum Romanum this afternoon. I will talk with praetor Bassus then.”

“I will make the other arrangements,” Terentia promised. “Come to dinner tonight, and all will be ready.”

“Tonight?” he gasped. “That is quite fast, is it not?”

She caressed his thigh once more then withdrew her hand. “The ceremony will need to be planned- a priest hired, and an augur. That will take time, true,” she said. “Tonight we dine and explore how to salvage the business once you arrange the declaration, and maybe explore other needs I have that need tending by a man with whom I shall share a life.”

Caecina nodded. He hardly dare trust his voice. “Until tonight, then.”

Terentia smiled coyly and rose. “Until tonight, Aulus.”

And then she departed. Caecina felt the stirrings within, and was suddenly glad he had bade Pomponia’s servant wait. She would now be gleefully earning her pay. Terentia had restocked hormones in his body he thought exhausted since the death of Caenis.

Outside the home, Terentia picked up her escort and moved quietly toward her own home a few houses further along. Her mind was set, and her body tingling with anticipation. Soon the Burrius fortune would be in her hands, and the men who brought her husband down would not benefit from it. She slipped into her atrium, dismissed her slaves, and retired to her bed chamber.

Gaius Mallius sat up from the bed and pulled the sheet back to allow her entry.

“How did it go?” he asked. He could tell from her scent that she was aroused.

“He will have Titus declared dead,” she reported as she crawled into her bed. “And I shall prostitute myself to him tonight to seal the marriage plans. I expect within a week we will no longer be able to meet here, dear Gaius.”

“I shall miss you, Terentia,” he said, caressing her curls with one hand. Then his hand slipped to her exposed breast and cupped it. He kissed it tenderly. “I shall miss you very much indeed.”

Terentia kissed him, and let her hands run over his body. “I gave him permission to continue to use the hussies,” she whispered as his hands moved lower. “He will be busy three nights per week. I do not intend to stay in the house while he entertains them. So you shall not miss me that much.”

She moaned softly as he began his ministrations to her body. “Oh Gaius,” she moaned. “Aulus has the better body, because he trains it constantly, but it is your touch for which I yearn. Are you sure I must marry him? I would rather marry you.”

Mallius continued working her body as he replied gruffly, “I would rather you married me, too, my dear. But if you did, then we would be happy together, and the man who brought your husband low would escape your retribution. You will only see vengeance as the wife of a prominent man- and Caecina is the only unmarried magistrate in Italia.”

She moaned softly under his touch. She felt her juices flowing, and he did as well. It would soon be time.

“Then I will marry him with no regrets,” she said, then added savagely, “Now give me what my body needs, while there will still be time left over afterwards to prepare this room for the next session!”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 03-20-12 02:43 PM EDT (US)     24 / 86       
Ah so Caceina is being played by Mallus. Let us see where this transpires!

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 03-26-12 03:06 AM EDT (US)     25 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The atmosphere in Mogontiacum was much improved with the coming of a warm wind from the south. The weather turned unseasonably warm, melting the snow to create small rivers where once frozen streams lay strewn throughout the land. The change in weather also saw a change in the mood of the populace.

Three men were very happy. Eprius and Cerealis were heading south, having fulfilled their tasks and found nineteen hundred talents of spoils to boot. The third happy man was Cornelius Clemens, who was as giddy as a man who had the key to Herod’s Harem.

“Have you heard, dear Calvus?” he said once he burst into the home of his legate. “A triumph! I am granted a triumph!”

“Congratulations,” the legate replied. “A rare event these days, if one is not of the Imperial family.”

“Titus Flavius earned his,” Clemens retorted angrily, at what he thought was a jibe. “The booty of Jerusalem- that one city- was far more than we earned from an entire province, and second only to the spoils of Paullus returning from sacking the Greek cities during the Punic Wars. Those Jews fought harder than the Greeks and Macedonians, and never knew when to quit. Stupid people, relying on only one god who thereafter forsook them.”

“Still,” Calvus continued, ”it has been a while since Rome celebrated a triumph. I do not think Cerealis had one for crushing the Batavi, nor did he receive one for subjugating the British.”

“The Batavi revolted- one does not get a triumph for putting down a revolt. Britannia, however, is another matter. He beat a few tribes there, but there is still a lot more work to do there,” Clemens reminded him. “Frontinus is doing well, though, and I hear Gnaeus Agricola- the governor of Gallia Aquitania- is petitioning to be sent back to Britannia. He served there before too, you know.”

“A legate, like me,” Calvus answered. That triggered another thought or two. “If you go to Rome for your triumph, who will be the acting governor?”

Clemens turned a bit sour. “Sabinus is to be my new quaestor.”

“Titus Sabinus?” roared Calvus. “He is too young to be a legate, much less a governor!”

“My words exactly,” Clemens replied. “But the proconsul was adamant. The Imperator wants his nephew to be appointed quaestor, vice Catullus who is dead. It seems he has high hopes for the lad, and he is family...”

“Then the I Adiutrix will be coming here,” Calvus groaned. “Bloody bowbenders.”

“Oh relax, Sextus,” Clemens said. “You will not have to put up with their silly ways.”

“How so?” Suddenly he saw why Clemens was so happy, and the reason behind the transfers Catullus had ordered at the end of the campaign. He had lost quite a few veterans, which had disturbed him, but Catullus had been preparing his legion for this moment.

“You were authorized to bring a legion with you,” he said in awe. “And that legion will be my XIV Gemina.”

“Big strong lads,” Clemens said with a nod. “And loyal. Very loyal to their general who brought them such wealth. We will be escorting my personal share of the spoils in order to make a grand display, which will not top the triumph of Titus Junior, but will be memorable nonetheless.”

“I hear the Old Owl will be dedicating his Templum Pacis- his Temple of Peace- in May,” Calvus added. “I assume you will be triumphing around that time?”

Clemens nodded. “The Old Owl is very wise. I am to be on the Campus Martius by the Ides of May, and ready to triumph upon orders- the day before the dedication, though that date is not yet set. The triumph will draw the crowds, as a triumph has not been celebrated since Titus Junior several years ago. Thus many will stay for the dedication as well, artificially boosting its importance in the history books. Very interested in history books, our Imperator is.”

Calvus nodded. “I like the dichotomy. He celebrates a triumph glorifying the power of Rome, and follows it with a dedication of a temple to peace. Peace through superior military power is what he is saying.”

Clemens nodded. “A nice message to those Judeans still causing problems, as well as those plaguing our allies in Armenia. Enough visitors will have contacts with people in troubled areas to forward the message.” He sat back on a couch and clasped his hands behind his head. “Very astute of him. Maybe the historians will write pleasantly of him after all.”

“Wait a minute,” Calvus said. “You will be on the Campus Martius? Not we?”

“Exactly,” said Clemens as he relaxed even further. “I and your legion will be on the Campus Martius. You will be here, as acting governor, with the XI Claudia and VIII Augusta. You have noticed, of course, that I have not returned the Gallic legion to its station at Argentoratum?”

“They are encamped east of here,” Calvus remembered.

“And they will have orders to come here,” Clemens informed him. “Sabinus will be quaestor as ordered, but he will be tasked to run the eastern part of the province. His former sea-pups will be based in Gontia, with the VII Claudia between him and here. You, my loyal friend, will rule Mogontiacum and the west, with two legions, as acting governor. Sabinus was appointed my quaestor, but nothing was said of making him the governor. I took that to mean it is up to me, and I choose you.”

It became suddenly very clear to Calvus, who began to twitch with what he knew was being laid out. Sabinus to the east- out of the way. Gaul denuded, two disciplined legions stationed here, straddling the only quick route to Rome from the north. The transfers, the dispositions, the legion of hardened, loyal legionaries heading to Rome...

Shades of Sulla!” he gasped.

Clemens sat upright. “I can count on you, can I not?” he asked directly.

“Of course,” the legate gasped. “But it will be the death of us all should you fail.”

“I cannot,” Clemens replied. “There is a Sibylline prophecy. Three Cornelii shall dominate Rome. Publius Cornelius Scipio did so in his day. Lucius Cornelius Sulla certainly did so. Cornelius Lentulus Sura tried, but failed. He was weak-livered and stupid- no worthy Cornelius that one. But Cornelius Clemens shall not fail. Besides, what stands between me and Rome?”

“The Praetorians, for one,” Calvus replied. “Sabinus and his two legions for another. And just up the road, Cordinus and his four legions.”

“I have it on good authority that the Praetorian strength in Rome has been halved,” Clemens retorted. “Halved, and dwindling. Something about unrest in the countryside and imperial consorts getting murdered. Titus Junior is deploying men all over Italia trying to track those elusive bandits down. Sabinus and his two legions are exposed on the Danube- any post to them has to go through you. And Cordinus could not fight his way out of a rotten canvas sack. You and two good legions could trash his entire army.”

Calvus nodded at that. “That’s true enough, but what about his quaestor? If he turns the army over to Rutilius like he did after escaping the cauldron, it could be rough going.”

Clemens sighed. Again that mischievous imp who had foiled so many of his designs? “Pay him no mind,” Clemens decided. “I have an arcanus investigating him. He will find something- they always do- and then he will be off to Rome to explain himself to a hostile imperator. If you have to face anyone, it will be Cordinus. Even Sabinus could beat that fool, should he so wish.”

Calvus cackled. “Then I bid you success, Imperator!

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

Caelius Calvus settled quickly into command of Mogontiacum and its two legions the moment Clemens and a strong detachment of his own XIV Gemina moved off. The remaining six cohorts would be moving south through Raetia to the Pass of Brennus, and from there down the Via Flaminia to join the governor near his familial estates in Ancona. The first four cohorts- already departed with the governor- would provide him and his household goods protection against the growing number of bandits and brigands in Italia. They too would be using the Pass of Brennus- Clemens had a firm hatred of the Via Mala since an unseasonably strong wind once blew one of his wagons off one of the many bridges to plunge down the three hundred foot deep gorge in the heart of the road. What he was carting away now was far more valuable, thus no risk was taken.

Calvus now faced a dilemma he had not considered. He had two full legions in his castrum, with six cohorts of his own legion encamped outside. He could not send the six cohorts on for another two weeks, or he would risk them discovering what was actually in those extra two dozen wagons of ‘household goods’, nor could he let his men simply rot in inactivity or that would lead to the same conditions Clemens encountered upon return to the winter quarters.

Calvus thought on that. Clemens had cracked down hard on the bandits, crucifying a few and scarring others with the scourge. He drove them from the streets, but never fully rooted out the evil of criminal gangs. He seemed content with merely casting them from casual view. Calvus did not know why, but assumed the governor had other business more pressing at the time. The crooks had grown less timid over time, and were even now emerging to cut a throat here, or steal a sack of army grain there, or press the honest merchants to pay protection denarii. It had to stop, and that quite soon.

Calvus grinned. He found a use for the legionaries, one that would enhance his reputation as a stern disciplinarian and a suitable candidate for a governorship of his own. But first, a little chat with the vigile prefect and his auxilia prefects while his centurions construct the crosses and erect the whipping posts.

There was going to be a new show in town. Law and Order would premiere in Mogontiacum with the setting of the evening sun tomorrow.

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

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
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Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
posted 03-27-12 09:58 AM EDT (US)     26 / 86       
I always knew there was a reason why you wrote about Clemens in your previous installments. Now I know why.

Although a prophecy can't be the only reason why he's trying to usurp the Emperor?

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 04-02-12 01:53 AM EDT (US)     27 / 86       
More likely that is just an excuse.

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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
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-02-12 02:05 AM EDT (US)     28 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“I finally found that meretor Glyppo.”

A burly man had entered the portside dive after the sun hid below the hills to the west. The air inside was dark with lamp fumes, whose soot also blackened the yellow walls with tiger stripes. The other burly men inside, with hearts as black as those walls, barely lifted their heads from their cups. Only one cared to look at him when he entered- the others minded their own business. He moved closer to that single man and uttered the words above.

The lone onlooker gestured for the newcomer to sit.

“And did he tell you why has he chosen to depart our little band, Hippos?” asked the seated man.

“Let me rephrase,” said Hippos. Like his namesake, Hippos was as big as a horse. And about as bright as one at times. I should have named him Mule, thought Burgis. “I found his head. His body is probably burned- or fed to the ravens. His head is in a glass jar with the rest of our merry band, decorating the marketplace of Colonia Claudia.”

Claudia, thought Burgis. I cannot escape that woman. Her name haunts me even months after she killed herself before my eyes.

“Glyppo was sent to Noviomagus- a far cry from Colonia.” He still could not even bring himself to mention her name.

“Somebody brought it- or him- to Colonia,” Hippos reported. “Either way, he no longer numbers in our little band.”

“That settles it,” Burgis determined. He had had enough of this cursed contract. It had brought his once-mighty band of brigands to an all-time low. He was once prince of a once proud band of over a hundred bandits; he now had only Hippos and Hamish remaining of the original crowd. So weak as he was, he could no longer prey on the merchants that now freely ply the roads and byways of the province where he once ruled as a bandit king. Now he was an enforcer for black market gangs and other petty criminals- when they had something for him to do. Otherwise he and his men were forced to find honest work on the docks, hard work for little pay, if they wanted to eat. Only the thought of ten talents of denarii- a veritable treasure to the small band- kept them going. Three new thugs had been recruited lately- men attracted to the smell of inbound silver. But to collect the treasure, he needed more than three men. And he needed the information Glyppo was to bring him.

He rose, and waved over the leftovers of his gang. Four men came to join him.

“Glyppo is dead and Clemens is gone,” he announced. “That means we no longer have even a remote chance of killing the man we were asked to kill, and no chance at all of collecting our pay if we do.”

Hippos nodded in agreement. Killing a well-guarded magistrate with no information of his movements or security was plain stupid to even attempt. But to attempt it with no guarantee of payment? Utterly foolish. Hamish, the other veteran bandit, agreed with him.

Two of the three new guys also nodded. They knew Burgis had been contracted to kill someone high up for a godly sum, and were in it for a fair cut of the gold. No cash, no clash. The third guy had an objection, though. He was a German, and thus had a funny sense of honor. Honor among thieves? He was a queer one indeed!

“I knew you would be the one to object, Ulf,” said Burgis. “But it is over. No pay, no play. That is how things work over here.”

“You gave your word,” said the one-eyed bandit. “You have taken some of his money. Your former comrades died, shedding their blood. Their spirits cry out to you to finish what you start, that they have not died in vain. That means you must finish it.”

Burgis slammed his hand on the table. “I must not do anything,” he hissed. “This band was once over a hundred terrifying men strong when we took the contract. Now the six of us remain- the rest deserted or were butchered by guards we assumed were the typical trash rich men hire.” He paused, knowing this line of reasoning was well suited to Roman and Greek brigands, but meant nothing to a Germanic one. So he tried a new tack, on which played more upon honor than gold. ”Further, the man who commissioned our contract refused to pay once already, which puts him firmly on the list of with no honor. Now he goes away- and takes his money with him. No Ulf, he breaks the contract, not us. He has no honor. It is over.”

“I gave you my word when I joined your little warband,” Ulf replied. His one eye shone fiercely in the weak light. “My word means much to me, Burgis. It is all I have left. I will kill this magistrate myself, alone. And the little Roman who pays for his countryman’s death shall die as well, should he try to weasel out of giving me my due. Even if I must go all the way to Romeburg to slit his throat myself.”

Burgis sighed. Crazy Germans. “You do what you have to do, Ulf. But for me, I am headed for greener pastures. Calvus is cracking down in town, and the cavalry is patrolling more vigorously than ever. Opportunities are drying up here, which means it is time for us to move on.”

“You move on,” Ulf proclaimed. “I will kill your man for you. Where is this Rutilius now?”

“Vetera, in the province north of here,” Burgis said off-handedly. “Have fun.”

Ulf grinned as he fingered his dagger. “I shall. This dagger,” he added, spinning it in the light, “it is not much with which to kill such a man, but it will do. But I go to fulfill your honor, Burgis. For this I will require a sword. The one you keep under your bunk will do.”

“Piss off,” Burgis said with a snort. His hand dropped to where his own dagger hung in its scabbard. “You can take that thing over my dead body.”

Ulf snarled and sprang, but Burgis was quicker. He was three steps back with his dagger out before Ulf disentangled himself from the table that fell over in his clumsy but swift lunge.

“It is the sword of a Bructeri King,” Ulf snarled. “You are no longer king, nor are you Bructeri. Hell, Gallic bandit, you are not even Germanic! I will have that sword!”

Burgis feinted to the German’s blind side then sliced viciously to the other. Ulf fell for the feint, but his incredible reflexes allowed him to evade the riposte without a scratch. He swept up a flagon from a nearby table and dashed its contents at the Gaul’s face before cracking it over the rim of the fallen table to shatter the top. Now he had two weapons.

Burgis kicked a fallen chair, then lifted it with his foot. He scooped it with his left hand, and broke the rest over the German’s shoulder. He had aimed at the head- but Ulf was both fast and furious. All Burgis retained of the chair was a stump of a leg.

This he used to good effect, using it to club the German again and again, all the while fending off the angry stabs aimed at his gut. The broken flagon caught him a vicious blow on his cheekbone, splitting it to the bone. Another thump from the makeshift club drove Ulf back.

Vigiles!” cried a man by the doorway.

The bloody brawl ended as abruptly as it began. Ulf limped toward the back door through which Burgis vanished. Around him, other men rose hastily and made a rush for other exits. Those who were not fast enough found themselves entangled in the nets and clubs of the half-armored men pouring in the front door. Ulf smiled and picked up the club Burgis dropped in his escape. He would do battle with these insolent and worthless men. Until he saw the sword-armed men behind the first wave of the local police. Auxiliaries in battle armor were on-hand to handle the truly troublesome.

Ulf turned and threw his weight against the flimsy wall of the dive. It was in the same condition as the rest of the place- poor. It broke under his assault. Another crash and he was through, narrowly avoiding the toss of a vigile net. Then he bolted as fast as his feet could carry him- away from the auxiliaries and their swords. His vengeance would have to wait. With that, he ran until he was far enough away from the lawmen that he could slow to a walk and blend in with the crowd and disappear.

Burgis had been quick. A professional criminal most of his life, he knew from the cry that his decision to leave was correct. The vigiles were poor warriors, lazy and good for nothing, and usually left the seedy sides of the docks to their own denizens. Thus if a group of them ventured into the Port Quarter, they would do so armed, armored, backed by auxiliaries, and on business. He had bailed through the back door among the first of the fleeing men as soon as he saw the ‘sentry’ turn to give the warning.

He packed his kit rather quickly, and belted the sword Ulf wanted to his waist. It was not a particularly well-made blade- his uncle could have made better, and it was rather gaudy with green glass in the middle of the dragon-shaped crosshilt and red chips in the mouths. A buffoon’s weapon. But Ulf’s parting words gave them value. This was the sword of a king. A Bructeri king. Maybe the man or his descendants would pay good money to have it back? Or at least offer him asylum from the long arm of Roman law.

Smiling for the first time in a long while, the Gaul moseyed back down to the docks but stopped short of where the auxiliaries and vigiles were cleaning out the last of the black market gangs and their hirelings. He found a ship heading downriver and boarded it, joining the crew and disappearing into the night.

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

While Terentia was satisfying her urges with Gaius Mallius on a frisk afternoon a few days after her dinner with Caecina, Aulus Caecina himself was fulfilling his promise. He strode down to the Forum, where Gnaeus Bassus Macrobius was supervising the construction of his tribunal. Bassus had one eye on the construction, and another on a tablet he carried. He was paying both equal attention, thus was taken a bit by surprise by the sudden appearance of his fellow praetor at his shoulder.

“Your edict?” Caecina said, pointing to the tablet. “I had thought you finished with that a month after learning you would be the praetor urbanus.”

“A few last minute ideas,” Bassus mumbled. “We will be taking office within a week and you know me, Caecina. I am never satisfied with anything, no matter how good it is.”

“I see family inheritance stands high on your list,” Caecina noted.

“Point five, yes,” Bassus agreed. “Very important to Rome. I want to ensure the citizens that their familial rights and fortunes shall not be subject to wanton confiscation. Its this Helvidius thing. People see an opposing senator killed without a trial and his fortune confiscated- then sold at low prices to a supporter of Vespasianus. The rumors are if it could happen to him, it could happen to them, too. Thus it is important to reassure them that I will do my best to prevent innocents from being condemned so that their wealth may be legally stolen.”

Caecina nodded in agreement, though he knew it a lost cause. What the Imperator wants, he takes. It has always been so. No mere praetor could change that.

“I may be putting you on the spot with that one,” he said. “A client of a friend has gone missing. Fled in terror, though he himself is innocent. He was used, you see, and had no idea that he was being used. No intent, so to say.”

Bassus looked askance at his colleague. “Your point? I assume you have one, and as you can see, I am quite busy.”

“Titus Burrius,” Caecina said succinctly. “He was a client of Helvidius. He has fled, disappeared, and left his business to his wife. She is innocent, but tainted with his odium. He has not been heard from since. Can you declare him dead, so that his wife may try to save her livelihood?”

“Burrius... Hmmm,” Bassus considered, then shook his head as he remembered the case. “He is still under investigation. A declaration of death would negate that. Sorry, it is out of my hands.”

“Do not be such a stickler, Bassus,” Caecina scoffed. “The case ran cold- the man vanished. His wife is suffering now due to his estate being in his hands. Declare him dead, and she inherits. Otherwise you will be condemning her for her husband’s unproven crimes- against your own edict. And if the man does show up alive, the quaestors can pick up their investigation where it left off.”

“It would help clear the docket to remove a dead man’s case,” Bassus agreed. “All right, Caecina. I will issue the declaration. Among the first when we take office.”

Caecina clapped him on the back. “Good man,” he said, and turned to leave.

“Have you packed yet?” Bassus asked.


Bassus shook his head towards the north. “You were in tight with the Old Owl’s brat, and now in tight with the man himself. I heard Gaius Licinius Mucianus is heading north to your old stomping ground in Germania Inferior to serve as praetor, replacing that brown-noser Cordinus.”

“I have heard that, too,” Caecina admitted. “It is true. I offered to go as his quaestor, but he preferred to prorogue the current quaestor. At least that is what I was told- but then I was offered the post of praetor peregrinus, which leads me to believe Mucianus turned me down due to his knowledge that I would be offered a higher posting.”

“Probably true,” Bassus agreed. He laughed. “He is a close-mouthed son of a bitch except when seducing women. I was talking about Germania Superior, though.”

“What about it?”

“You have not heard,” Bassus deduced. “Clemens won a triumph. He is bringing the XIV Gemina down along with the spoils. The triumph is planned in conjunction with the dedication of Vespasian’s Templum Pacis.”


“Yes,” Bassus continued. “And once Cornelius Clemens crossed the pomerium into Rome, he will lose his imperium and province. A small price for a triumph to be sure, but that still leaves a province with no governor. Or deputy governor- Lutatius Catullus the quaestor is dead. I thought that with your ties to the area, you may have been tapped to replace him.”

Old dreams rose from dead thoughts to swirl before his eyes. A province, with a large army, lay now open for the taking. The pipe dreams he shared with Helvidius and Mallius to wile away his political exile came back strong- and with no need to share. Helvidius was dead, and Mallius a nobody. If he could get the post, he might have a chance at bringing those dreams- idle wishes- to frightening reality. He still had the soldier’s way, and charm enough to cause most men to betray their own mothers to fulfill his will. Aulus Caecina Alienus, Imperator! His mouth watered in anticipation.

“Then again, you are praetor peregrinus, a much higher office,” Bassus continued. His words pierced the bubble and exploded his dreams once again. “It would be a step backwards to petition for a mere governorship.”

But Caecina was no longer listening. Germania Superior- one of the strongest supporters of dead Vitellius- was losing its governor. And there were damned few men qualified to serve. He could only think of one- himself. A suitable reward for helping that fat pig Eprius nail that his friend Helvidius.

Aulus Caecina Alienus, Imperator!

The thought would not retreat back into its hiding place. It needed to be vented, quantified, and qualified. But by whom? Caenis was dead and her advice and influence much missed. Helvidius was also dead, but his priggish attitude and Republican ideals were not missed. Domitianus, once a fellow co-conspirator? No, Domitianus had placed the damning plans in Burrius’s mail himself. He was willing to sacrifice an entire army to prevent Caecina from ever getting a command. He knew what the result would be. Mallius? No, he had broken ties with him at the request of Caenis, and been rewarded with influence, affluence, and power ever since. Catullus was dead. Clemens was once in their little group, but that was a long time ago. He broke out and served in faraway Lycia with Eprius before going to Germania. Now he was returning, about to be stripped of his province and power. Caecina laughed. As if he had done anything with it!

Caecina stopped suddenly. Realization dawned on him. He was alone. He had burned his bridges with his past, and his future died with Caenis. The only one left with whom he was any bit of friendly was Eprius Marcellus, who was away to the north on special assignment.

He set course for the house of Burrius. He would rather have gone to his own home, but today was one of the few that Pomponia did not send over a young flower to be educated in the ways of rapture. He was alone, at a moment when he did not want to be alone. If Terentia was to be his wife, she would need to know his motives and ambitions, so that she can help further them.

Besides, she was very, very good at pleasing him. If she had political savvy to match her sexual abilities, she would indeed make a wonderful wife. Burrius had made quite a good choice with her.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-03-12 03:18 PM EDT (US)     29 / 86       
The more I read this the more scheming occurs in the Roman Empire. :P

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 04-06-12 07:03 AM EDT (US)     30 / 86       
An excellent story so far,I'm looking forward to reading some more.Keep up the good work (now I can see why you are the Master Scald! : )

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-06-12 05:02 PM EDT (US)     31 / 86       
Why thank you, Alex the Bold! And you too, Legion.

Welcome to our forums. We hope you enjoy your time amongst us.

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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
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-09-12 06:27 AM EDT (US)     32 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Gaius Velleius Paterculus stared at the bucket of scrolls and tablets and sighed. He knew it was his duty to first sort the post for the legate by importance into other buckets, then summarize the dispatches of local information into a complete report. This was what Salvius did for his legate before he went off to become a terrifying centurion and the legate went off to become the quaestor. Velleius wanted to do his job as good as Salvius did- and maybe win his own century. He was a signifer by rank, in line for a vine stick and a brain bucket with a crosswise brush. But the problem was the sheer boredom of the task.

He would much rather be perusing the contents of the other bucket- the one with the dispatches and journals of the summer’s campaign. That was the raw sources, first-hand documents by the people involved. In there lay the passage from simple soldier to wealthy author, like his great uncle Marcus Velleius. All he had to do was serve his time and write a history worthy of the family name. He had ten years left before retirement and immediately thereafter publication. An easy stretch, more so if he were a centurion by then.

Velleius sighed and tore his gaze from the bucket of resources and riveted it back onto the bucket of post. He could kiss any chance of a vinestick goodbye if he could not even sort post correctly. So the signifer-turned-legion clerk buckled himself down and brutally forced his thoughts onto his task at hand and began working.

An hour later, he was done. The reports from the auxilia to the west we summarized and catalogued for the legate’s review. Post from Rome or Vetera with orders were in the red bucket, news and personal post in the green bucket, and bullshit that could wait was in the black bucket. All was ready. He lifted the three buckets and delivered the to the legate’s office. Cadorus was not in- he was walking the walls with the primus pilus, so he left the buckets by the desk and returned to his own small office. There he gleefully opened his ongoing scroll, opened his little jar of ink, readied his stylus, then plucked a new item from his personal bucket to begin his process.

The first he picked was a tablet, explaining the summer’s orders. The X Gemina was to move north to the ford over the Nabalia, encamp nearby but remain hidden, and cross on order. Velleius smiled as he remembered how the British auxilia were commanded to monitor the crossing. Those sly woodsmen were almost as good as the Germans when it came to remaining hidden in forests. They reported Germans every day, then none. That was when the Xth crossed the river to begin its glorious campaign of slaughter and fire. He catalogued this order in his scroll, and carefully noted the date of issue as well as the commander’s name before closing it and placing it in his bucket of ‘viewed and good’ materials’.

He took a second item, perused it, and put it in his second bucket- ‘viewed and useless’. This was a very large bucket and mostly filled- Velleius had been at this since returning to Noviomagus six months before.

The third item was a scroll. He opened it, and recognized the lands across the Rhenus almost immediately. But the arrows and markings were all wrong. There was a cross on the Lupia- but the Xth was to come across the Nabalia.

Then he noticed the words. They were very faint- so faint that had he been reading this by candlelight at night he might not have seen them at all. As luck would have it, it was lunchtime and he was sitting by the window. The words were badly smudged and the ink all but faded, but he could still make out most of it.

Rutilius will land by the Witch’s Tower on the Ides of ....

Velleius froze.

He knew almost every detail of the summer campaign by now, and never was it mentioned that Quaestor Rutilius would take part. In fact, from his readings, it was clearly stated that he would remain behind. And he did stay behind- and rescued the army because he did. He claimed to have marched there. Was this then a piece of proof that the quaestor had not performed as ordered? Was this evidence of betrayal, like that one merchant in town was asking quiet questions about?

This piqued his interest. He carefully studied the smudged remains of that final word. It was almost erased, but the etchings of the stylus were ragged and deep, despite the condition of the scroll. He eased some lampblack from the dead wick of his night-time candle and lightly rubbed the scroll. The black soot adhered to the parchment without penetrating the deep scratches, bringing the word out.


He snorted in disgust. The campaign did not begin until June, making this discovery useless for his research. He tossed the scroll into the ‘viewed and useless’ bucket and chose another item from the unviewed bucket with which to continue his masterpiece.

That evening, Legatus Cadorus returned to his office to catch up on his daily briefs. He read the important post first, then the others. By the time he was halfway through the boring and sundry items, he was half-asleep. Still four scrolls and tablets to go... He needed a break.

“Velleius,” he called as he rose and left his office. “This stuff is eating my brain and turning the rest of me to mush. Signal the cooks that I am ready for dinner, here in my office as usual. I am going to get some fresh air.”

Velleius acknowledged and bustled off to the kitchen. He returned to find the legatus looking over his catalog scroll.

“Dinner will be served presently, legate,” he announced. He poked his head forward to see how far the legate had come. “That is just the catalog of notes,” he explained, reaching for a second scroll. His eyes, filled with pride that the legate found his project interesting, never left the catalog. He pulled the scroll from what he thought was his third bucket- his completed works. “Here you have the first draft of the completed prelude to our campaign.”

He handed over the scroll and awaited eagerly the reaction of the legate. Cadorus was a learned man, and was quite eloquent. Velleius was sure the legate would be proud to read the quotes- the clerk had a good memory when it came to phrases and Cadorus was full of colorful ones.

Cadorus nearly jumped off the desk.

“Where did you get this?” he asked, suddenly violent.

Velleius recoiled at the vehemence in the legate’s voice. “I wrote it, finishing it this afternoon,” he stammered.

Cadorus spun the scroll about so his clerk could see it. “Really?”

Velleius sighed in relief as he recognized the scroll. He had grabbed the wrong scroll from the wrong bucket. That must be what angered the legate... “Sorry, lord. I must have handed you the wrong scroll.” He bent down to pick up the correct scroll- from the correct bucket this time, but the legate pulled him roughly back.

“Where did you get this?” he repeated.

Velleius pointed to the bucket of goods not yet viewed. “It was in there, legatus. In the bucket of correspondence you gave me during the Saturnalia.”

Cadorus cursed. Of course. He had heard his young clerk wanted to be a historian like his great uncle. He had been happy to dump all the correspondence he had into the bucket and give it to the clerk as a gift.

He cursed himself as he remembered where he himself had first acquired this scroll. The leather thongs tying the handles together was the key- few scrolls used that method of closure, but this one did. He had forgotten the scroll in the aftermath of receiving it- he was too busy fighting for his life, then chasing Germans. And afterwards, refitting his legion for duty, he had happily given all correspondence to the clerk- including the damning scroll from the high priest he himself had forgotten about.

“What is it, lord?” Velleius asked anxiously. It must be very important. A source worthy enough to give him acclaim and fame...

Cadorus rolled the scroll and fastened it closed. “It is a scroll that tells where Marcus Rutilius was going on Bructeri lands, and when.”

“Old news,” scoffed Velleius. He still had no idea of the importance of the scroll until Cadorus told him. “Though the tale we heard of the quaestor’s exploits would indeed make a fascinating history.”

“This was given to me by the Bructeri High Priest,” Cador explained. “This was not made after the fact- it was written before Rutilius left. This is proof of Roman betrayal, and by whom.”

Velleius stood shocked. He, the historian, should have put it together himself. He should have seen the big picture, like his uncle always told him. Historians must keep an open mind, not a narrow focus on the task at hand. Now he saw what his uncle meant- and how he had stepped in it yet again.

“Order the Remi to prepare for a march in the morning,” Cadorus ordered. “We are going to visit Marcus- and present him with this most valuable gift.”

Velleius saluted and ran to the Remi. Then we went to his own room and packed his kit for the brief journey. We are going to present him... the legate said. Velleius was very proud of himself now. He had found an obscure document that others considered very valuable. He had found a ‘first source’, and an important one.

He finished packing and issued himself an evening pass. He was going down the hill into town, and enjoy a cool glass of Batavian beer. He had earned it. And maybe he could run into that merchant again. Would it not be nice to rub that man’s arrogant opinions of Rutilius clean in the purity of truth. There were treacherous Romans about, but neither Rutilius nor Legate Cadorus were one of them. Of that the budding historian was sure. The author of the scroll, however, was. Of that too, he was sure.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-09-12 08:10 AM EDT (US)     33 / 86       
And now the wheel turns which will head to the person who tried to betray Rutillus.

And thanks for giving historians a mention! :P

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 04-09-12 02:20 PM EDT (US)     34 / 86       
A very nice chapter. It seems that the traitor is going to be exposed.

*laughs with evil satisfaction*

I liked the character of aquilifer-historian. It reminds me of someone...(his name begins with Ter- and ends with -ikel).

*heaves a sigh* I wish I could write like you.

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.

[This message has been edited by Alex_the_bold (edited 04-09-2012 @ 02:23 PM).]

Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 04-10-12 01:32 AM EDT (US)     35 / 86       
Terikel is obviously some famous writter in disguise, and yeah I wish too.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-16-12 08:52 AM EDT (US)     36 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Caecina walked down the street to his own home with mixed emotions. His head was swimming with plans and ambitions, yet clouded with responsibilities and doubts. Swirling about in that soup were unmentioned omens and portents, none of which bode any good.

For example, the other night Terentia had been eager, almost impatiently so, to take him to her bed. Today she listened patiently to his speech, seeming only to brighten when he informed her of the decision of Bassus to declare her husband dead. She went willingly enough to bed with him, but the passion and fire were no longer rampaging through her. It was more a demure concession to the libido of her future husband than the vulgar urges of her own loins. He wondered briefly about that- if she cooled off so quickly, maybe there was nothing upon which to build a new life. It may be simply a business proposition to her. She was married to a merchant, after all, and allowed him the use of Pomponia’s girls to satisfy his base needs when his lusts did not concur with her own.

He shook his head to clear it. She was a merchant’s wife, and this was business to her. It was a false marriage to arrange for the future of her dead husband’s life work, his legacy. Caecina was being used, a means to an end. It would end there. For his part, having a wife would allow him access to social events that could enhance his career. It would also give him the chance to father legitimate children to whom he could pass on his name and wealth. Terentia would be using him to secure the legacy of Burrius; he would be using her to secure his own legacy. Love and other unnecessary ingredients were not required.

He entered his home and had a slave bring a decanter of wine to his sitting room, where he intended to work out alone what he wanted and how to get it. Terentia confused him where Caenis had made things clear. He needed to think, to decide. He did not need to be interrupted, but he was.

“Gaius Licinius Mucianus would like an audience, my lord,” the steward announced. “Shall I bring him here, or to the portico? The weather is lovely today.”

Caecina jumped. Mucianus, here? Why?

“The portico,” he ordered. “Refill my decanter and bring it, with an extra goblet, to the fountain. Ensure the torches are lit, as night is falling soon.” He straightened his tunic, and hid away the tablets which he had open on his table. Then he hurried to join his unexpected guest in the fresh evening air.

“Gaius Licinius,” he said, greeting his guest with outstretched hands. “A totally unexpected privilege!”

Mucianus took the hands in his own, shook them once then dropped them. “My presence should not be so unexpected if you have been following the events.”

Here it comes.... Caecina was demonstrating a mountain of resolve in keeping his glee contained and invisible to his guest. It would serve him well.

“You should have heard that I will be taking over Germania Inferior from that incompetent ass Cordinus Rutilius Galllicus.” Caecina nodded as Mucianus continued, “and that his quaestor- a man who had served there long and faithfully- is being transferred.”

“I have so heard,” Caecina admitted.

“Well, that leaves me in a bind,” Mucianus continued. “You have served there before, have you not?”

“I commanded the IV Macedonica in Germania Superior, before being sent south to meet your forces coming from Moesia.”

“Not in Germania Inferior? A pity,” Mucianus continued. “I was hoping to pick your brain for details of the province- who are the local leaders, their tastes and habits, idiosyncrasies, and the like.”

“My legion was based in Mogontiacum, the capital,” Caecina added. “And much of the dealings I had with locals were further north, the Ubians and such. Good people. Solid and loyal.”

“I am afraid I may have wasted your time,” Mucianus concluded. “I need information that you apparently do not have.”

“The Ubians are the tribe settled around Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensi, the current capital of Germania Inferior, where Cordinus holds his court now,” Caecina said hurriedly. “It is not far from Mogontiacum, closer to that city than to its own downriver legions at the castrum of Vetera, which lies in Cugerni lands, near the Batavi. The Ubians trade in furs, and are starting to plant vineyards, last I heard. The sloping valleys and their temperate climate are conducive to viticulture.”

Mucianus stopped and smiled. “Maybe I will not waste our time after all.” He bade a slave fill his goblet and toasted his host. “That is the kind of information I need indeed. Please, tell me more. Let us discuss my new province in detail.”

They talked for an hour as the sun dipped below the horizon, prompting the men to retire indoors to the sitting room. There, Caecina continued recounting details of the north, until Mucianus nodded enough.

“You seem quite knowledgeable about the north,” Mucianus admitted. “It is a shame that Vespasian harbors such a grudge, though it is fading. You would have made a wonderful replacement for Cornelius Clemens.”

“I am quite fond of the place,” Caecina agreed. Then he noticed the past tense in his guest’s sentence. Would have made... “So Clemens is indeed being replaced? And the decision made? May I ask who will be going north to rule?”

Mucianus grimaced. “It is not yet common knowledge, but I shall tell you, in repayment for the information you so freely shared with me. Titus Flavius Domitianus will be posted there as governor.”

“Domitianus?” His voice nearly cracked in surprise.

Mucianus nodded. “I advised against it, as did Quintus Cerealis. But the Old Owl wants his boy to have experience outside of Rome. He will be well-guided though- the quaestor from Germania Inferior will be his quaestor.” He lifted his head to glare fiercely. “I had wanted to serve with Rutilius, ever since he held a dagger to my throat to keep a promise he made to a barbarian.” He chuckled in remembrance of the episode- he had not laughed, then. “A hell of a soldier, that boy. But he serves Rome better guiding Domitianus than swapping tales with an old man like me.”

He paused. “Domitianus asked for you as his quaestor. By name. That is a sign of your rising star, Aulus Caecina. Had you not already been favored with your praetorship, you would be heading back north with me in the spring.”

Caecina smiled. “I might yet accompany you north,” he said. “I am the praetor peregrinus. There are a lot of new peregrini up there to administer.”

Mucianus laughed. “Aye, you might be needed there.” He paused, then smiled. “I am having a farewell party at my house in a few days. I would like you to attend. I have a few men picked out to be legates, and would like your opinions of them- and of course for you to tell them the things you told me concerning Germania.”

Caecina considered that, but shook his head. “I may be tied up. I have some details for my upcoming wedding to arrange with my future wife.”

Mucianus scoffed. “Bring her along,” he advised. “If you are going to be in the inner circle, your bride-to-be will need to be as well. This would be a good opportunity for her to meet the people with whom she shall be socializing for the next thirty years or so.”

Caecina nodded. Politics was as much about who you knew and who your family knew as it was about how good you were. He learned this lesson the hard way. “We shall both be there,” he promised.

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

Gaius Mallius entered the old house on the Quirinal through the open servant’s entrance. He did not need to be quite so discrete- nobody had lived in the home of Caenis since her death. The estate was in probate, awaiting the proper execution of her will, leaving all her vast wealth to be divided between her two lovers- Titus Flavius Vespasianus Senior and Aulus Caecina Alienus, whom she named as a distant cousin by marriage and only living relative. It was blatant falsehood, but was overlooked by a man who knew his woman well enough to know that she had her reasons for what she did and they would be good ones.

“It is strange being here,” Mallius said to the dainty young man sitting quietly on the couch. “To think it was but three months ago we murdered her in Praeneste, and now we conspire within the very walls of her own home.”

“Shut up,” Domitianus commanded. His voice had steel in it. “We did nothing, and have never been to Praeneste. You will never mention that again. Nor have we ever met. Understood, or do I need to let certain arcani reports be discovered?”

Mallius nodded. Domitian had put him effectively back into his place. One word from the son of the Imperator, and the dreams of Gaius Mallius ever restoring his family to honor were dust. “Why have you summoned me, lord? Do you have more commercial information?”

“A bit,” Domitian informed him. He gave out the few details, letting his partner see where that would lead- and where to send his minions. “But that is not why I summoned you. You have heard that I am to go to Germania, have you not?”

Mallius nodded.

“I do not want to go.”

Mallius shrugged. “Then you have a problem, Titus. Your father wants you to go, thus you will go.”

“I think not,” Domitianus said defiantly. “I will not go.”

“Your father is Imperator.”

Domitianus sighed. “And still has a rather poor opinion of the son he has made consul twice. So he will send me to Germania to round off my political education in a safe environment. That is where you come in.”

“I am all ears, lord.”

“I must remove that safe environment in Germania. That is why I asked you to seduce Terentia, and set her up with Caecina. I assume her thirst for vengeance is being well-stoked?”

“As is her body,” Mallius added with a leering laugh. “She claims to be in love with me, and sleeping with Caecina only as needed, but I think she secretly enjoys both of us- as long as it gets her close to the man she blames for her husband’s ruin.”

“Mucianus was very clever, hiding his interest buying of Burrius’s enterprises under assumed names,” Domitian lied easily. After having framed Burrius himself, it was rather easy to persuade another to ‘act in the interests of Licinius Mucianus’. “Luckily for us, she saw through his thin subterfuge. Anyway, Mucianus will be throwing a going-away bash at his home soon. All Senators going to provinces do, and he is old-school. Caecina will be invited as an incoming praetor, and because of his betrothal, Terentia will be invited as well.”

“Terentia and Mucianus in the same house?” laughed Mallius. “That will be interesting to watch!”

“You will instruct her to be very civil,” Domitian demanded in words dripping with ice. “She is very pretty- Mucianus will definitely notice her. She is to seduce him. Do you understand? I want her alone with him, engaged in very physically-demanding activities.”

“She will stab him and scratch him,” Mallius argued. “She hates him for the underhanded way he framed her husband in order to buy up his properties! He is as much a Licinius as a true-born- devious, crafty, and above all, mercantile.”

“She will be civil,” Domitian repeated icily as he produced a small papyrus sachet from his tunica. “She will pour him some wine, add this powder to it, then she will screw him heartily until his eyes pop out- which should be about ten minutes after ingesting this powder. He will die a natural death, and in such circumstances that none will know it for the murder it is. Do you understand, Gaius Mallius? Can she do this?”

Mallius gulped. “What is in that powder?”

Domitian waved the tiny sachet. “Oysters, mushrooms, nightshade, and a bit of other herbs,” he said. “Some to arouse a male’s lust- though with Mucianus that is not difficult- and others to increase the bloodflow. It is a useful aphrodisiac among young men- I have used it myself- but it is fatal to older men. Mucianus is over sixty, almost seventy- with this stuff in his body and his body being intimately and vigorously exerted, it will cause his heart to burst. He will die.”

“He is one of your father’s most favored henchmen,” Mallius objected. “His death will be investigated!”

“And it will be found he died in the throes of passion, seducing yet another pretty young wife of a fellow senator,” Domitian scoffed. “The embarrassment alone, especially considering his position, will ensure the quick end of the matter.”

Mallius could see that, but he was still blind to how that will keep Titus Domitianus in Rome. His lack of comprehension caused a bored sigh from Domitian.

“Really, Gaius,” Domitian asked in utter contempt, “how could you spend fifteen years in the Senate and not learn the basics of how things work?” Then he spelled it out slowly, to emphasize the simplicity of the matter. “I must remove the reason for my father to send me to Germania.”

“Mucianus is that reason?” It was clear things were still clouded in the mind of Mallius.

“He sends me to Germania Superior because Mucianus will be in Germania Inferior,” Domitian explained. “He also sets a rather rude young quaestor to teach me the ropes of running a province, and to take over if I risk the province. As if a man who has twice been consul of Rome could not handle paltry local yokels in a backwards province! But if something comes along that they think I cannot handle- like a barbarian raid or other activity- the quaestor will delay our defeat until Mucianus comes to our rescue.”

“But if Mucianus is not there...” He saw the logic now. Vespasian would not risk his son, despite the low opinion he held of the young man. He would only send him to the provinces if there was an effective and trustworthy proconsul nearby to catch him should he fall. Remove him, and you remove the idea of exposure. “If Mucianus should die, then you would remain here.”

“Especially if the other two consular candidates were out of the running,” Domitian concluded. “Gnaeus Stilius Nobilis and Sextus Postumius Gratidius are his current favorites. Gratidius is about to be embroiled in a scandalous lawsuit concerning his activities in Judea. I could find no dirt on Nobilis, but with Mucianus dead and Clemens triumphing, Father would need good men in the north- not a wet-nosed winesot who has never left Rome. Thus he will be forced to send Nobilis to replace Mucianus. And since he does not trust him with the life of his winesot son, Father will be forced to keep me in Rome, where I belong.”

Mallius agreed. Germania did not matter- Rome did.

And here in Rome Domitian overheard bits and pieces of deals, which he passed along to him to decipher, and then pass on to his minions in the south. The brigands knew when and where to strike, and when and away from where to exit- Domitian also passed on praetorian routes and deployments. The greed of Mallius would ensure his full cooperation with the son of Vespasian. Failing that, fear would do- Domitian could squash him like a bug and the senator knew it. Together they formed a formidable team- like mutually-beneficial parasites.

Mallius smiled inside. Domitian had indeed established mastery over him through intimidation. He had already exposed one conspirator to imperial justice through his own treachery- Gaius Helvidius, a hero to the masses but a pain in the ass to those in power. He could easily do it to him.

Mallius had insurance, though, something which lent him strength. He knew something that Domitian did not, and he kept that secret very close to his heart. Domitianus did not know all the players in the game- one had departed the little circle of conspirators years before he joined. That departed man still kept in contact, and the plans of Domitian played well into the plans of the broken circle.

You might own me now, you oiled-up weasel, but you will not own me forever. I shall spit on your grave.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-16-2012 @ 08:57 AM).]

posted 04-17-12 11:01 AM EDT (US)     37 / 86       
Looks like Mucianus is going to be unpleasantly surprised.
*dancing in berserkergang*
I'm sorry, just got excited by roman politics and scheming.
Another excellent write-up Old One. Craving for more .

p.s.Write about some battles, please!!!

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Legion Of Hell
posted 04-18-12 09:21 AM EDT (US)     38 / 86       
So its Mallius and Domitian who conspire and have helped the brigands exact their terrible attacks on innocent merchants.

But I am very much intrigued to see what insurance Mallius has on Domitian, 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 04-18-12 09:39 AM EDT (US)     39 / 86       
Yeah, I was wondering too. Who's that mysterious conspirator?
*starts searching the previous stories for clues*

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-23-12 04:11 AM EDT (US)     40 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It was a long day’s travel for the clerk, who was not used to riding. The legate and the Remi cavalry had no problems, though. Still, he would rather have taken the ship upriver as he saw merchants and dignitaries do. Travel by wind and water beat the Hades out of getting one’s buttocks bruised by a trotting horse. So when Vetera loomed in the distance, Velleius let out a small sigh of relief. He thought his ordeal was almost over.

He was wrong. It was just beginning. He turned his trotting bruise-maker over to the Remi, who stabled it with the other horses in the visitor’s stables, while Cadorus checked in with the XXII Primigenia legate Paullus. Velleius helped the XXIInd clerk with the daily post while the legates discussed legatorial matters, until his legate came and yanked him out of the chair.

“Time to report, Velleius,” he said gruffly. “Come with me, and answer truthfully. That is all I ask.”

“Yes, legate,” the clerk promised. What else would a signifer clerk do, when confronted with legates and magistrates?

He was ushered in to a large chamber. Marcus Rutilius stood before the table, while Legate Paullus sat to the right of the table, relaxing in a Germanic high-backed chair. Two big Germans in armor hovered unobtrusively in the corners. Velleius quaked internally as he remembered the first trip across the river where the governor was stabbed by his own guides. But these were Batavians, he remembered, and the quaking passed. Cadorus plopped down on a bare-bones backless stool, and gestured for the clerk to take a seat on the cushioned one at his side.

“Ave, Marcus,” he said, pulling forth the scroll. “Have a look at what the young lad here found.”

Rutilius picked up the scroll. He noticed, as did Cadorus, the leather thong fastening the rods together. He flicked it off and opened the scroll. Since the clerk had blackened the faded portion, he could now easily read the words.

His eyes opened wide as he read, then narrowed.

“Where did you get this, and when?”

Velleius began to speak, but held his mouth when he noticed the question was not directed at him, but at Cadorus.

“It was given to me by the High priest of Wotan, when we were besieged around his Sacred Grove,” Cadorus replied. “He said it was for me, if my goddess grants me victory over Udo.”

“And you forgot about it?” Rutilius asked incredulously and with some annoyance.

“I had other things on my mind at the time,” Cadorus replied easily. “Like keeping about a hundred thousand Germanics from killing us all.”

Rutilius grinned. He knew the deal. He too would not pay a scroll a second thought either, given the situation.

“I did not open it then, as we had just moved in and were far from in a good position,” Cadorus continued. “I wanted our legion to be ready, and concentrated my efforts on that. To good use, I might add- we were attacked the next day.”

“I would not bother with a scroll in that circumstance either,” Rutilius confirmed.

“Cadorus saved our asses that day,” Paullus added. “The entire army. Had he not sent over four cohorts, my legion would have gone down. Had that happened, all four legions would have been massacred soon after.”

“I believe you,” Rutilius said with a dismissive wave. “Nor do I blame you.” He fixed his gaze upon Cadorus. “So when did you remember this scroll?”

The legate cast a glance at Velleius. “He found it.”

The clerk explained how the legate had been kind enough to lend him all correspondence for his histories, and how he had initially thought the scroll useless as it mentions April- out of the timeframe of the campaign.

“I wish you had read the thing in the summer,” Rutilius said with a sigh. “This was the proof we needed to nail a traitor- Catullus, of Germania Superior. But he is dead now, making the scroll useless as evidence. We cannot prosecute a dead man.”

Velleius was a bit confused. The scroll was not signed, nor was it sealed. Anyone could have written it. So how would this nail the now-dead Catullus? The confusion showed on his face.

“I knew there was a Roman traitor informing the Germani of our moves,” Rutilius explained, noticing the confusion on the clerk’s face. “So I sent my plans to those involved- but each one was told a different plan. The positioning of the Bructeri forces waiting to ‘intercept’ me would reveal the traitor. It was a ruse, though- I followed a completely different plan.”

“So the positioning of the enemy forces revealed the traitor,” Velleius noted. “Very clever.”

“But not proof enough for Roman law,” Ruitilius replied with a sigh. “But this scroll is. Or was.”

“Why did you tell Catullus, and not Cornelius Clemens, the governor?” asked Velleius.

“He told Clemens this plan, not Catullus,” Paullus explained. “But much like Marcus knows everything Cordinus does, Catullus would be informed of everything Clemens is told.”

“So Clemens could be the traitor as well,” Velleius pondered. “They both knew. How can you be sure it was Catullus, and not Clemens?”

Paullus shrugged, as did Cadorus. How did they know it was only Catullus?

“Clemens was in the field training his troops for six solid weeks,” Rutilius said. “My plan passed through his province during that time, and the Germans were alerted before he came back. Unless he received his post and would commit treason under the eyes of thousands of watchful legionaries- many of whom served under me back when I was the acting governor of a combined Germania, and were in the Battle of Gelduba where my II Adiutrix saved their collective asses- he could not have sent this north. I checked. The only one in the governor’s service who had knowledge and opportunity was Catullus.”

“Ah,” Velleius said, as it dawned on him. Deduction proved it had to be Catullus. Then he remembered something else about that mission. “The Bructeri were on the Rhenus, then moved to the Tower, where this arrow points,” he said. “Rheinwacht in the winter? That is not likely.”

“You have a clever clerk, Cador,” Rutilius said with a smile and a nod toward the Gemina legate. Then he turned back to the aide. “There were two spies. One in Rome, who told them I would be crossing the Rhenus from Vetera. So they deployed across from here. Thereafter they moved to the arrow on the scroll. The traitor in Rome had been caught and executed this summer. The traitor in Germania Superior was killed- probably by his own contacts who were getting either nervous or greedy. All nicely tied up.”

The questioning historian in him would not quit, though. He had started this ball rolling; it was up to him to bring it to a final rest. “How can you be sure that none other remain?”

Rutilius pointed to the buckets of correspondence Cadorus had the clerk bring. “Once the battle was joined, the Germans suffered many surprises. Surprises, son. That means they did not know. Their spies were dead. There were no more communications with the Germani since the death of Catullus. Draw your own conclusions.”

Velleius was not so easily put off. He wanted to be a renowned historian like his great uncle, and that required perseverance. “They could simply have re-routed their lines of communication around your area of influence. You cannot know of what you do not see.”

Rutilius smiled. “Like I said, a clever lad. But I know something your historian brain evidently does not. There have been no communications to the Bructeri. You see,” he added with a smile, “the new king of the Bructeri is a good friend of mine. He writes often, and has never mentioned post from other Romans. So I know nothing has been sent since Catullus went to the gods.”

Velleius felt something pulling at him, but he could not quite pin it down. Nor did he dare make more of an ass out of himself by beating on a dead horse. The quaestor had been more than kind in deflating with grace his wild suspicions- but perseverance in this case would be seen more as obstinacy- or worse, obduracy.

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

Little did Velleius know that he was indeed onto something. He had wandered from the castrum down to the vicus growing up nearby the fort, losing himself in his pacing. It was an old trick of his for when he was stuck in a mental rut- walk it out. When he got to the vicus, he turned about to walk back. That’s when he noticed the Suevi trader. They were once rare, but since Aethelric started traveling the Rhenus, more and more like him began. And now that their homeland is under Roman rule, a lot more. They lived upriver, but travelled its length- mostly by roads, with their wagons filled with wares. And this one had spent the previous night in Noviomagus.

Wagons are not that fast, but the river is. He remembered him from near the dock- maybe a waterborne trader? It happens. But he knew this one had a wagon. Wagons travel much slower than cavalry. Something was wrong. He turned to question the trader, but stopped. The man had turned to talk to another merchant, who like the first had the beard, side-knot, and blondish hair of a Suevi trader. In doing so, he let the other side of his face show. A horrible, livid scar ran up the man’s cheek to disappear under an ugly eye-patch. It was not the same man after all.

Damned Germani all look alike, anyway, he thought to himself. This was not the same man. He wandered back to the castrum, the merchant forgotten, but his problem still unsolved.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 04-26-2012 @ 01:25 PM).]

posted 04-23-12 01:56 PM EDT (US)     41 / 86       
Another great chapter in this amazing story. Well done
The clerk is going to play a vital role in the story after all.
Looks like someone is up to something and the romans are in for an unpleasant surprise...

p.s.Haven't you used that picture before, when Cerealis was returning from his visit to Rutilius?

p.s.2 I still haven't found who the conspirator is

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Legion Of Hell
posted 04-26-12 07:30 AM EDT (US)     42 / 86       
Velleius is someone I really like as he doesn't take no for an answer and always seeks the truth.

A nice addition to your epic saga.

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 04-30-12 09:57 AM EDT (US)     43 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The party was formal, a social event bidding a good tour of duty to a man who had served Rome loyally and fervently for the better part of fifty years. Gaius Licinius Mucianus was served as a tribune under Claudius during the invasion of Britannia thirty years earlier, and under Nero as the governor of Syria. He and Tiberius Alexander had talked Vespasian into revolting against Vitellius, and personally led the march of the Eastern legions to Moesia, where they were reinforced by new legions proclaiming for Vespasianus. He almost caught Antonius Primus to join in the Battle of Bedriacum, and chased that Flavian wolf all the way to Rome where he managed to stop the pillaging the other Flavian had started. He had risen through the cursus honorum as quaestor, praetor, and consul, all in their proper order and years, but had never quite made it to censor- Vespasian realized that true power was in that office and therefore kept it to himself. Now the old warhound was heading north to govern a crucial province. With any luck, he will pass on to his successor an ordered and fully Romanized province needing little in the way of hard work to administer, with the only threats being external.

He would be taking the cream of the senatorial families with him. These men will first serve as tribuni laticlavii under the experienced legates of the province, and then replace them to allow those old warhorses to return to Rome for a well-earned rest. The legates had been there since Cerealis put them there six years ago- far too long for any man to serve in one place.

But the legates must know the province, thus Caecina’s presence. Mucianus greeted his guest and bride-to-be, then led them both to the buffet before bringing Caecina further to the future legates.

“I must compliment you on your taste,” Mucianus said to Caecina as they walked. “She is exquisite.”

Caecina nodded. Terentia was ravishingly beautiful as she moved through the shadows and flickers of light along the buffet, and the yellow dress she wore made her positively glow in the torchlight. She had been distant and cool though, eroding any lusts her beauty arose in him. Thus Caecina was now more interested in the small group of men ahead than the luscious woman picking pieces of fruit from the table.

“Legates, I present you Aulus Caecina Alienus,” he said, introducing his guest to his circle of lieutenants. “Caecina has served in Germania, and is a wealth of information concerning the area, its tribes, its terrain, and its ways. You would be fools not to take this opportunity to learn more about our province. Ask away.”

With that he left Caecina and his lieutenants and wandered over towards where Titus Flavius Domitianus stood with a small crowd of fops discussing the latest coiffures and how to keep one’s hair looking good in windy weather. He passed some guests who congratulated him along the way, and chatted quickly with another few as he walked. His eye seldom left the circle of women near the buffet- left on their own while the men talked business.

The legates picked the brains of Caecina, drinking in each giblet of knowledge he recalled. He did not mind, though- he had been the very same when he was going to his first legion posting as an officer. He had wanted to know everything then, as these men did now. Thus he did not mind sharing his knowledge with the rising generation of Roman leaders. Who knows? Maybe these very men will serve him in good stead later? So instead of being callous or bored, he spoke with all the winning charm and oratory he knew soldiers loved, and told them tales of the north with such gusto and power that they could feel the moist fog of the north here on the Aventine. Terentia and her frigid mood were forgotten in the tales of raids repulsed and patrols discovering smugglers.

A junior senator tapped his shoulder.

“My patron would like a word, if it is possible,” the man said. Caecina followed his gaze to where the man stared, and saw a small crowd of dainties surrounding Titus Flavius Domitianus.

He is going to Mogontiacum, Caecina remembered. He must be following the lead of Mucianus and wants to gather information over his coming province, too. Caecina excused himself from the young men and sauntered over to where the son of the Imperator stood. He flicked a glance at the ladies’s circles, but failed to note Ternetia among them. He had not time to decide if she was absent, or his quick glance merely missed her among the press of Rome’s leading ladies, before he found himself before the imperial prince.

“Titus Flavius,” he greeted.

“Aulus Caecina,” Domitian said, returning the greeting. He waved away his cronies so that the two were alone. “I was surprised to note you here among this gathering, but then again, I know how much you wish to return to the north. So it should not have been such a shock.”

“I am the praetor peregrinus now, Titus,” Caecina reminded his former fellow conspirator. “There are lots of peregrini in the north- more so now that Cornelius Clemens has conquered the Agri Decumates.” He sighed, a portent of a man resigned to his fate. “But my place is here, in Rome, serving your father as loyally as possible.”

That brought a slight, almost invisible grin to the curly-haired son of the Imperator.

“I assume you wish to speak to me concerning the details of your new posting,” Caecina continued. “Germania Superior. I will be glad to share everything I know about the place and its people with you.”

“You have come quite far, quite fast under your previous mentor- or should I say, mentrix,” Domitian taunted. ”Too far, too fast, say some.”

“I was going absolutely nowhere under my own wings,” Caecina replied easily, though the reference to Caenis tarnished his otherwise buoyant mood. He decided to throw the taunt back to its giver. “And under your guidance I was only heading downhill. The change was a good one, for both my career and my personal attitude. Have fun in Germania, Titus. I shall enjoy the Roman air cleared of your presence.”

“You may have to wait longer than you think to enjoy my absence,” Domitianus replied. evenly. “I will be needed here, in Rome, to keep an eye over snakes like you. You may have shed your skin, but underneath you will always be the same snake who fed me wine in his home and discussed plans and theories concerning re-establishing the Republic over the bodies of my family. No, Aulus, I must remain here in Rome to watch over you. Germania will simply have to find a new governor.”

“That is not your decision to make, Titus,” Caecina reminded him. “The man we both serve made that decision.”

“He will change his mind,” replied Domitianus confidently. “And soon.”

“I doubt that,” said Caecina, who knew better than most the stubbornness of the Imperator. “It took me years to earn my way back into the circles of power. You have only days before you are to head north.”

Domitian looked to the stars and moon to judge the time. “He will be changing his mind in minutes, I think.” He peered into the eyes of Caecina defiantly and smiled cruelly. “I have not seen your betrothed in a while, Aulus. She is in dire financial straits, you know, and Mucianus is rich, and promiscuous. I am sure he would be willing to trade a few talents for a few hours. Would Terentia accept, to salvage her inheritance? Do you think that old philanderer is stuffing himself into her by now, as you once did my father’s mistress?”

Caecina stood shocked for a moment. A scream from the house broke the festive air and silenced all ongoing conversations. Caecina glanced at Domitianus, who smiled broader, then bolted for the house, along with a few of the guests closest to Mucianus.

Manius Acilius Glabrio, one of the protégés of Mucianus, was among the first to enter the room. Glabrio was known for his strength, and he used this renowned strength to lift the stricken body of Mucianus from the screaming female beneath him. Terentia slithered naked from beneath him quickly, then grabbed her dress to hold it before her.

Nonius, who had experience with medical conditions, took one look at Mucianus and sighed. He had seen this before.

“His heart has burst,” he said, pointing to the bulging eyes and deep red color on the body. He glanced at the shivering woman clutching her dress as if it were a baby. “A young filly and an old stallion. It happens.”

Caecina knew at once that Mucianus was dead, without even glancing at the corpse. He had no need to- Mucianus was nothing to him but a potential sponsor for a further career. He was useless now that he was dead. But he felt great sorrow inside. He could not rip his eyes from Terentia.

He did not need to say anything. The look in her eyes spoke volumes, as did the feral glare in his. It was over- the coming wedding, the salvation of her inheritance, whatever good she might have brought into their family. She was as dead to him as Mucianus. A cold stone grew inside him at her betrayal.

Terentia stared back at him, knowing she had hurt him. But there was more behind her facade than she was letting show. She was not shaken, not shocked, and definitely not traumatized by the death of the man in the throes of his passion. She was glad. Her husband was now avenged.

But she dare not let that show.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 05-01-12 02:41 AM EDT (US)     44 / 86       
That is a very nice addition to your amazing story Terikel.
It seems that the first part of Domitian's plan has worked and now Caecina has nothing...*yes!!!*
“I will be needed here, in Rome, to keep an eye over snakes like you. You may evenly. “I will be needed here, in Rome, to keep an eye over snakes like you. You may have shed your skin, but underneath you will always be the same snake who fed me have shed your skin, but underneath you will always be the same snake who fed me wine in his home and discussed plans and theories concerning re-establishing the wine in his home and discussed plans and theories concerning re-establishing the Republic over the bodies of my family. No, Aulus, I must remain here in Rome to watch over you. Germania will simply have to find a new governor.” Republic over the bodies of my family. No, Aulus, I must remain here in Rome to watch Republic over the bodies of my family. No, Aulus, I must remain here in Rome to watch over you
It seems that Domitian has some honour and love to his family after all.

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.

[This message has been edited by Alex_the_bold (edited 05-01-2012 @ 02:43 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 05-04-12 04:58 AM EDT (US)     45 / 86       
So Caecina has his posting revoked and Mucianus died after exerting himself with a lovely young lady.

What a way to go.

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 05-04-12 09:26 AM EDT (US)     46 / 86       
It's the way I would like to go, given the choice.

|||||||||||||||| 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 05-07-12 04:19 AM EDT (US)     47 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

This is ridiculously easy. The thought came unbidden to the man marching confidently through the castrum. Of course, anyone observing him would not see anything out of place. His lorica was of chainmail, his sword scabbarded on the left, and a vinestick was in his hand. The helmet he had picked up in the market that morning was now adorned with a cross-wise crest, and the cloak he had bought that afternoon was now a deep red. His caligae were correctly laced. To all appearances, he seemed a centurion making his rounds. Normal, boring. And thus so easily overlooked.

It was a welcome respite to the man from the scrutiny he had faced in Noviomagus. He had been there several times, and twice chased out by the local hotheads seeking his blood. It was true what the rumors said about Batavians. One crosses them in their own town at one’s own peril. It had cost him a pretty sesterce to learn the first time what could set them off. The second time almost cost him his head. He was glad to be in Vetera now, where the feelings were not quite as strong concerning certain Romans.

Entering the castrum at Vetera had been very easy- he had merely marched through the front gates, as if a soldier returning from leave in the vicus. He had perched in the shadows nearby earlier when a patrol went out, thus knew the password of the day when challenged. After that, it was walk the walls as if a centurion doing his rounds. The legion had recently absorbed a cohort of recruits, so any who did not recognize him would think him one of the new centurions. Nobody bothered centurions. So the man was not disturbed. Not even when he entered the praetorium.

From there it was simply return the salutes of the guards and keep going. He was deep within the command hall, almost to the office of the commander, when he stopped to listen. Nothing, not even the breath of a mouse. He nodded to himself and eased to the door ahead to listen again. Nothing.

He eased the door open and slipped inside. The room was empty but for a table in the middle of the room, a few chairs and a couch, and a few buckets behind the table. It was to these buckets the centurion moved. He dared not light a candle or torch, but he did not need one. There was plenty of moonlight filtering in through the windows. Besides, he knew for what he searched and could find it by touch- his source had made quite a fuss about its unusual closure. He found it and rose to put it in his belt pouch. He pulled his tunic taut, straightened his sword, and put his helmet back on. Again he was the epitome of a centurion, and thus far unseen. Now, egress.

He was halfway to the door when it burst open to allow three Germans in armor to enter. Two of the Germans had torches, all three had swords drawn. Behind them came five legionaries, with pila ready for the throw, who began spreading out to flank the Germans. Behind the legionaries stood Rutilius, Cadorus, and the clerk.

The thief had no intention of going through that many men. He cast a quick glance at the window, but judged that no option- below the window was the hard-packed dirt of the parade ground. From this height and with this outfit on, he would be lucky to only break his legs. The only true options he had was surrender, or die, neither of which would serve his purpose. But one would give him a later chance, the other none at all. He opted to surrender, and slowly raised his hands away from his weapon.

Rutilius and his legate came forward, followed by the clerk. The centurion cursed as he recognized the clerk. Velleius. He knew the lad had recognized him. He had probably figured out that the answers he gave to the historian’s questions led to more questions, which themselves revealed a wealth of indirect information. The centurion had been too clever for his own good.

“No pugio,” said Rutilius, pointing out the lack of a dagger on the man’s right side. He began counting out coins and handed them to one of the legionaries. “Good eye, Quirinus.”

The false centurion swore softly. Of all things in his kit to forget... And that Quirinus had picked up on it at the gate. He mentally cursed himself as he figured what had happened. He had been identified as a spy or assassin from the first moment, his every move was watched from afar, until he came to a place where he could be trapped. And he had fallen for it. He, an arcanus who had moved unseen through hordes of Germani, trapped in a stone prison by a lowly legionary with a sharp eye.

“You curse in Latin,” Rutilius said, hearing the phrase despite its being muttered. “Interesting.”

Velleius looked closer. “He speaks very good Latin, lord. I have conversed with this man before, in Noviomagus. Only then he was dressed as a Suevi trader, and asking questions concerning your horse farms.”

“What is it you wanted?” Rutilius asked, suddenly all business. “Your tour around the castrum suggests you know its layout, or learned it rather quickly. Your coming to this room and not the quarters above tell me it is official business you seek, not murder. You forgot your dagger, so you are no assassin. That makes you a spy. A very clever one.”

“A clever one who forgot his bloody dagger,” the spy cursed as he stared at the missing dagger. “To be caught by a bloody legionary with a sharp eye. Disgraceful.” He looked up at the quaestor. “You have very good security, lord. I never even knew I was being watched.”

“We get lots of practice,” one of the Germans said with brutal simplicity. His back was impossibly straight, and his face hard.

“Yeah, I heard that too,” the spy agreed. “Now comes the part where you demand to know my name and business, I resist, you beat me up, I resist some more, then you throw me in the brig. Can we just skip the hard stuff and go right to the brig? It’s been a bad night so far and I could really use the shut-eye.”

Rutilius nodded. “Strip him of his armor and take him to the brig. We will scourge him tomorrow morning. I believe the penalty for impersonating an officer is forty lashes, is it not, legate?”

Cadorus nodded solemnly.

Velleius gasped. “Forty lashes? That will kill him!”

Rutilius shrugged. “Look at him, Velleius. He speaks Latin like a man from the Subura, which makes him a Roman. His kit is fake, but a good one- he knows our ways, probably ex-military. He infiltrated our castrum, confirming that suspicion, and came to the hall where official business is performed. He is a spy, a Roman spy, and one that has been about asking questions about me by your own admission. Now, you tell me if this man fits the description of those from this autumn past?”

Velleius gulped.

A legionary brought the man’s sword to the legate, and handed him a scroll as well. “He had this on him, sir.”

Rutilius recognized the thonged closure and waved it at Cadorus. “Look what he wants.”

Cadorus shook his head, “Tsk, tsk. Trying to cover his tracks. Not a good thing.” He turned to Rutilius. “This man is obviously too stupid to be giving orders. An expert hireling, you think?”

The spy was still trying to absorb the forty lashes idea when these new words broke into his thoughts. “I think there has been a misunderstanding,” he said.

“No misunderstanding,” Rutilius said, equally as flat. “You asked questions, then infiltrated this castrum dressed as a centurion. Then you came into my office and stole an official document. You are a spy, with military training.”

“And usually a good one,” came the bitter reply. “Gaius Roscius, arcanus. I was tasked to investigate you to uncover your involvement with the civil disturbances and criminal unrest which followed the death of Quintus Lutatius Catullus in Germania Superior.”

“An arcanus!” laughed Rutilius and Cadorus together. Then Rutilius turned to stone, his voice to ice. “I went across the river, alone but for a handful of guards, to scout the Bructeri lands because there were no arcani available. Quintus Cordinus had his army trapped over there because there were no arcani to warn him of the Chatti movements. There were no arcani, Roscius. So why do you expect us to believe now that the Imperator suddenly has so many of them that he can afford to have one investigate a lowly quaestor on this side of Father Rhein?”

“Mogontiacum went to shit after the death of Catullus,” Roscius retorted. “It went bad really fast. Not the ordinary growth of black-marketeers and knock-head robbers either, but an eruption of organized criminal gangs. Even the auxiliaries and the vigiles were in on it. That smacks of organization and a plan, and who better to reap the rewards of the commotion than you and your governor? Clemens gets a tarnished reputation, and is dismissed in disgrace. Your governor’s follies are set aside, and he walks out smelling like roses. It fits.”

“Clemens is getting a triumph,” Rutilius pointed out. “Lots of roses there.”

“He was relieved of duty,” Roscius pointed out, “albeit in it superficially good way. He is leaving his province after eighteen months and is losing his imperium. Your governor is going to rich Gaul. That tells me I am right.”

“My governor is going to Gaul, which is rich,” Rutilius admitted. “But he is going there because he has no head for warfare, as the last eighteen months have proved. Whereas Clemens led a lightning campaign that secured a strategic area for Rome and is being well-rewarded with a triumph, no matter what happened afterward. Being granted a triumph is a general’s dream. I fail to see the connection.”

That hit home. Roscius saw clearly that the commotion afterwards did not impact on Clemens as that man had feared. Yet investigating the turmoil was not his mission; investigating the man who had caught him was, though the reasoning for it was now muddied.

“Have you found anything supporting your allegations?” Velleius asked.

Rutilius and Cadorus turned sharply to the clerk. Of course! The investigation was not concerning the motives, but the allegations.

“Well, have you?” Rutilius asked of the arcanus, if he indeed was an imperial agent. “The clerk brings up a valid point.”

“Nothing directly,” Roscius admitted. “I checked into your finances and holdings, and into your past actions.” He snorted. “I almost got killed in Noviomagus doing so. Another guy, not as quick to read a crowd, was doing the same. I assumed he too was Imperial, but he got himself killed in the market. A real agent would have seen where his questions were leading him and gotten away- like I did.”

He paused as inspiration struck him. He made connections and saw results. “You think I was one of those who slaughtered your family! And are now here to finish the job? Well, quaestor, you are wrong. I had nothing to do with that. Check with Titus Sabinus- I hear you two are close. During the time your family was attacked, I was with him in the eastern part of the Agri Decumates, tying in with the Danubian defenses of Raetia. If you insist, I will even gladly wait in your gaol until you receive confirmation.”

Dieter turned to Rutilius. “I do believe he is an imperial agent. Did you notice the way he half-answered your question, then moved off on a tangent to something else? Classic bait-and-switch. Roman agents use that quite a bit.”

“I found that he came here as a legionary owning nothing more than his sword,” Roscius said with a sigh. The scourge was still beckoning- only coming totally clean will avoid a date with that most painful object. “Fourteen years later, he is the richest man in Germania and in the top ten of all north of the Alps. Most of the wealth accumulated in the last six years- and all of it legal as far as I could tell. The locals love him to the point of killing for him, yet there is no Livian oath binding them to him. No network I could find- and I have set up a few of my own. So far, your boy was coming up fresh. And then Velleius here found a secret scroll, tells me all about it excepting of course its contents, and bolted here with you, Cadorus. I followed, thinking that scroll the proof I needed to confirm the allegations. So I tried to steal it before your lord could destroy it.”

“You think I would destroy it because it incriminates me?” Rutilius asked in amazement.

“You appear to have a vast and solid network,” Roscius said with a nod. “An invisible one with not a single thing written down. Germans use their memories far more than we Romans- to them, a verbal contract is as binding as one we write down. That means all physical proof of its existence had been eradicated. Except for this scroll. I meant to intercept it before it followed the same fate.”

“It could be that this network exists only in your own fantasy,” Rutilius reminded him. He handed the scroll to Roscius. “And that others planted it there to mislead you. Here is the scroll you risked your back to obtain. Go on, open it.”

Roscius did so. His mouth began to open, then his jaw hung in surprise.

“That is the plan I told Germania Superior I was going to follow when I went to infiltrate the Bructeri and scout their lands- your job, arcanus. The Bructeri have twice tried to slay me. Now, would I be stupid enough to give my enemies forewarning of where I would land?”

Roscius nodded. “Sure, if you were in cahoots with them. ‘Meet me here, my friends.’ That sort of thing.”

Dieter stepped forward. He glared at Roscius. “The Bructeri kings wanted his guts for garters. One is dead, and the other banished. This scroll tells where Rutilius would land. But it was not Rutilius who landed there with a Thracian ala. It was I, spy. And the Bructeri who came did not welcome me with open arms. You can ask two dozen Thracians. That is all of my ala that survived.”

“So you were trying to uncover a spy,” Roscius said with a nod. “Clever. You can stop searching. Your spy was Quintus Lutatius Catullus, the quaestor of Germania Superior. And he is dead- murdered just before the uproar.”

“Next you are going to accuse me of doing that too?” Rutilius asked. “I can assure you I had nothing to do with that, either. But please,” he gestured to the scrolls and tablets surrounding the office, “investigate all you want. I only ask that you doctor nothing, nor invent evidence. If you so promise, I shall have my guards bring you up from the jail cell every night when I am finished with my daily chores so that you can search freely.”

“But during the day I am to be in your jail,” scoffed Roscius. “Prisoner by day, arcanus by night?”

“You are the one impersonating an officer,” Rutilius replied coldly. He lifted a vinestick from under his desk. “It took many years of blood and sweat for me to earn this. I would be letting down the entire brotherhood if I do not enforce the Code of the Centurion. Or would you rather be scourged?”

“Good point,” mumbled Roscius.

“I thought you would see it my way,” Rutilius said coldly. Then he turned to Dieter, and his voice warmed. “The spy is interested in money. Claudius Victor should be due in from his rounds within a few days. Let the two speak.”

“That would not be wise,” Dieter advised, in Batavian. “Claudius Victor would kill him. He does that to men who threaten the safety of you or your family.”

Rutilius glared at the captured spy, then faced his Guard captain. He replied, using the same tongue, “He is an imperial agent investigating a crime. I am his suspect because I got incredibly rich in a relatively short time. Claudius Victor handles my farms, accounts, and businesses- he is the one who made us rich. Thus these two should talk if I want to remove myself from his suspect list.”

“You should not even be on it,” Dieter grumbled. “You are the most damnably honorable man I have ever met. Do you think I would serve any man who was not? I turned from my king to your service because he had no honor, and you much. Truly, Marek, how can these weasels not see a truth so blinding?”

“He has his reasons,” Rutilius replied after a moment. “And some of those are good ones. He says a crime wave erupted in Mogo-Town, a very organized one. He excluded those incapable or with no motive, leaving Cordinus and myself as viable suspects. Had I the same task, I would do exactly as he did. But do not tell him that. Let him sulk in the brig during the day, but give him four hours- under guard- per night to look through anything he wants. He is an imperial agent on a mission- I would not hinder that.”

“Yet you lock him up?”

Rutilius shrugged. “Ten days. He impersonated an officer and must be punished, or the real centurions here would indeed make an uproar. Discipline, and standards, mein Freund. Besides, it is better than whipping, nicht wahr?”

He then turned to Quirinus, saying in Latin, “Ten days in the brig. Dieter will escort him here for four hours every night. He is to have total freedom to search through what he likes here, but does not otherwise leave this room or his cell. Make sure your centurion details two men to guard the prisoner.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 05-07-12 11:21 AM EDT (US)     48 / 86       
Smart by Marcus. Better to use an expert arcanus to your own advantages than to have him lashed to death.

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 05-07-12 01:21 PM EDT (US)     49 / 86       
Again a very good update
It's good to see Roscius back again, for he's one of my favourite characters. A nice move by Rutillius to let an arcanus do the dirty job and then be his ally... Too bad he forgot the puggio... What an inglorious way for a spy to be discovered

What an amateur...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-14-12 01:51 AM EDT (US)     50 / 86       
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In his quarters upstairs, Rutilius poured himself a goblet of the fruity wine made from cherries grown on his farm near Traiectum, then one for Froydis. He almost topped his off with water in the Roman custom, but remembered in time that this wine needed no water. So he left his and hers untouched in the German manner. He turned from the table to settle next to her on the couch and handed her her goblet. Dieter helped himself to a horn of beer.

”Why are they investigating you at all?” the Batavian wondered. “Have they so little sense of honor themselves that they cannot detect yours?”

“I am obviously not a popular man among the leadership,” Rutilius retorted. “They may feel threatened. They feel public office is their birthright, not to be given to Third-Class peons like myself. If I can rise, so can others- and that threatens them.”

Dieter shook his head. “Good men rise, the weak fall. It is the way of things.”

“Not in Rome,” laughed Rutilius. “In Rome, family and ancestry mean as much or more than personal ability.”

Dieter snorted in his beer. “That is so stupid.”

Rutilius laughed and agreed, but explained that it obviously worked after a fashion. And good men do rise- how could we get such a large empire otherwise, and how could I be a true senator now if not?

Froydis shrugged her slender shoulders. “There are exceptions,” she agreed. “But the system itself is flawed. It will come crashing down, time and again. And each time it does, another strong man will rise and restore it.”

Dieter looked strangely at her. “Are you become a vala now, Froydis?”

The little woman with the large eyes twinkled and laughed. “No, but I do notice things. The Mallius who fought Boiorix was a Homo Novus- the first of his family to become consul. Likewise the Marius who defeated Boiorix. The great Speaker of Words Chickpea, the one with the bulbous nose. Cicero, I think it is in Latin. He too rose. When Marius went insane, the Roman way collapsed. Sulla rose and restored it. The system crashed again, and a Picentine senator of Gallic origin became the leader of the Romans. Then again the system breaks, this time against Caesar- he rose and established a new order. For generations his way worked, then it inevitably failed. Nero was weak and insane, Galba rose to challenge him. Then Otho, Vitellius, and now Vespasian. And over here, how many tribal kings are the sons of kings? Only the strong ones. Do you see now, Dieter?”

He knew some of the names mentioned, but most were simply words. Her idea, however, came across strong and clear. Rome had grown so large and powerful because it had been lucky. Whenever their idiotic way of choosing rulers put the tribe at risk, a great man rose up and led them to greatness again. It was still stupid to keep down good men because of birth, but he had seen the same in the tribes.

Rutilius for his part looked at his wife with new eyes. “I did not know I had married a historian,” he exclaimed. “How did you learn so much of our ways?”

“I am married to a quaestor who has among his library a collection of letters by a man named Lucius Annaeus Seneca concerning this very topic,” she pointed out, as if it was obvious. “And I spend most of my days in his quarters. Of course I read- it is one of the few things I can do without waking little Decius during his midday naps. So I read, I learn, and I remember.”

“And you think, too,” Rutilius said with a smile. He leaned forward and kissed his wife, then turned to his guard captain. “That is one of the many things I love about her.”

She finished her wine and rose. “Speaking of naps, it is time for bed. Do not spend too much time talking with this cavalryman, my love, if you wish to enjoy another thing you love about me.” With a twinkle still in her eye, she sauntered slowly over to the bedchamber door before quickly ducking within, to the laughter of the two men on the couch.

“I think I will join her,” Rutilius said. A beckoning motion from Dieter stopped his rise. “You do not believe her? I was reading that book myself the other night. It is still on my table.”

“I believe her,” Dieter admitted freely. “It is about the man in the dungeon I would speak. He is an admitted spy, an imperial agent, and could be the man who sent the dogs to slaughter your family. He was caught in your office breaking a sacred Roman tradition. Yet you give him a mild punishment and free access after hours. I would know why.”

Rutilius glanced about then leaned closer. He did not want to disturb his wife’s preparations for pleasure with words of business. “I have nothing to hide. I would show him this, but I must punish his breach of tradition.”

“So much I know,” Dieter affirmed. “It is why you believe his tale that I would know. You believe him. Your actions tell me so. Yet his tale makes little sense.”

“I do believe him,” Rutilius admitted. “And his tale makes sense- to me. I will tell you two things you do not know which lead me to believe him. The Eagle King favors me- I am soon to tutor his son in ruling a province. He would not allow this is if I were suspected to have ties to criminals. Thus the Eagle King did not send him. But he did not say by whom he was sent. I am thinking Cornelius Clemens.”

“A king does not use a spy to investigate an uproar,” Dieter repeated, “but a governor whose reputation was tarnished would seek to pin the blame elsewhere. It makes sense. So Clemens ordered him here, and well after the attack.”

Rutilius nodded. “The second thing is he claims he was with Titus Sabinus at the time of the attack. He must then know that Sabinus and I keep in touch. Any lie he told would be quickly found out. But Titus had already told me about this arcanus, in his letter after the campaign. He told me how an arcanus who called himself Roscoe helped his legion score the greatest victories. Our arcanus Roscius is his arcanus Roscoe. Thus Sabinus has already vouched for him being an imperial agent.”

“And you know this... how?”

Rutilius smiled. “A third thing you did not know. He has a Subura accent- a polyglot, like mine. I too grew up in the Subura. I remember an older boy who once beat me up. He was fourteen, and I but ten. Salvius and I had wandered into ‘his block’ and his buddies accused us of stealing a pastry from a market stall. We exchanged words, then blows. He sent us both packing, crying while his buddies laughed. After that, I determined I wanted to be in the legions, to learn to fight. The boy was called Roscoe by his pals.”

“And you remember him after all this time?”

“Not at first,” Rutilius repeated. “But that was the first time I had ever fought. The bastard ended up splitting our pastries with his buddies. We had bought three pastries for a quadrans earned by helping a lady carry her shoppings to her home on the Quirinal- the first coin Salvius and I ever earned. One hardly forgets one’s first introduction to violence, especially when one loses, or one’s first coin ever earned.”

Dieter grinned. “It must be satisfying to have your childhood tormentor in the brig.”

Rutilius smiled broadly. “It is.”

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

In his cell, Roscius was going over his capture and imprisonment. He understood why the magistrate felt compelled to punish him, especially if the code of the centurions was as strong here as he said. Of course it was- the XXII Primigenia was a tough veteran legion who had fought in three campaigns in six years- and the only one of the original provincial garrison from Vitellius still in service in Germania. They were a proud bunch, these legionaries, so of course they would be severely irked to have a spy use their uniform to infiltrate their home to investigate their quaestor. Rutilius probably put him in the cell for his own protection.

He turned his mind to what the Batavian said, and the interesting reply of the quaestor. He was intensely curious to meet this enforcer, this Claudius Victor character. That might be the organizer of the gang, leaving his ‘lord’ officially blameless. He decided to catalog what he knew.

Claudius Victor served Rutilius. Claudius Victor was a Germanic who would or has already killed to protect his lord. He handles the daily business of the network. And since he was Germanic, he did it in his head. No writing.

It was interesting that the quaestor spoke Germanic. He spoke it fluently, with an accent as expected- but oddly not a Latin one. And although he had jailed the arcanus, he said that he himself would probably have done exactly what Roscius had done. He came across as a totally honest man giving full access, and doing it in a way the Roman spy would not understand- which would lend credence to his tale later.

Roscius smirked to himself. Nice try, Rutilius. Velleius told you he met me as a Suevi trader, which means you know I speak the language of your little play-acting. You pretend to hide your honor in plain view so that I could find it all on my own- and not look any further. Yet your accent tells me you are from the Subura. Suburans are devious. I know. I am one of them, and far more devious than you. I will catch you, and watch you fall.

No thought of a small boy he had once chastised almost twenty years ago in a Suburan back-alley ever crossed his mind.

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It was a useless task to go through the provincial mail, yet Roscius did it because there could be a clue inside. But he doubted it- any evidence would be in the minds of the men involved, not in news summaries or other official documents. He had searched the private scrolls laying about and found nothing as well. They too, like the official posts, were also boring beyond belief. The only thing he learned from his fourth night of searching was that Rutilius wrote tersely and to the point, and that he was on good terms with both the Imperator’s brother-in-law, the Imperator’s staunchest supporter, and the Imperator’s nephew.

His attention span grew shorter and shorter the more he read. Finally he grew disgusted with fruitless task and turned to the bucket left behind by Velleius and Cadorus. In there was the scroll he had come to steal and examine. He had forgotten it in the aftermath of his arrest- he had seen it already, and knew its contents while there were many other documents yet unseen. Now he was done with those, allowing his attention to return to the thonged scroll.

He opened it again and examined it again, this time in the light of a fully lit quadruple candelabra.

“Rutilius will land here on the Ides of April.”

And a map of Bructeri lands showing a cross and an arrow pointing to the cross.

Interesting. Then he remembered the big German’s comment- the Bructeri kings wanted Rutilius’s guts for garters. The German seemed big on honor- but would he lie to cover his lord? Of course he would. But something in the memory of the incident struck a nerve. The German was angry that his lord’s honor was questioned- and that was not faked. Nor was his reaction. Both the Germanic guard and the Romans thought this scroll important- certainly Cadorus did, dropping everything to dash here with it. Rutilius seemed dismissive, but then again, if he knew the man it incriminated was dead, Roscius would likely dismiss it too.

He looked again at the runes. The smudge of lampblack helped illuminate the word April. But the lampblack went deep into the parchment. He looked closer.

“Gods damn it,” he muttered. He jumped up and grabbed a box of scrolls, rummaging through it until he found one with the signet he sought. Then he sat down and opened that one next to the map scroll. He grunted twice, then asked the guard to summon the quaestor.

“Of course it is urgent, legionary,” he grumbled. “What part of ‘get him here now’ did you fail to comprehend?”

A few minutes later, Rutilius and his Batavian guard captain came into the office. Roscius did not waste any time.

“Look here,” he demanded. “Tell me what you see.”

Rutilius read the scrolls. “I see a quarterly requisition for hay and grain from us to Germania Superior on the right, and to the left someone warning my enemies that I am coming, when and where, so they could arrange a proper reception at swords’ points.”

“You would see that,” the arcanus admitted. He looked to Dieter. “You try.”

Dieter looked, and replied the same as Rutilius.

“Shit, you both can read,” he said. Then he gazed at the legionaries guarding him. “Do either of you two read?”

One nodded, but the other shook his head. Roscius commanded that illiterate one to come over. “You look. What do you see?”

The legionary stared at the squiggles and lines. None of it made any sense. “I see squiggles and lines,” he admitted. “The ones on the right are thicker and rougher, while the ones on the left are smaller and darker, but none of them make any sense.”

Rutilius took a second look. It was true- he saw it now. They were two different hands writing there- one with an old, worn stylus, and the other with a sharp new one.

“The new one cut deep into the parchment to lay its ink,” Roscius confirmed. “And the lettering. The one on the right is a quarterly requisition from dead Catullus. He did not write your death warrant there on the left.”

Both he and Rutilius muttered simultaneously, “There is another traitor.”

The two men looked to each other.

Roscius spoke first. “You did not say ‘spy.’”

“And you did not accuse me,” Rutilius noted. “Learning the truth now? Finally?”

“I have seen enough of your writing in the past few days to know your hand penned neither of these,” Roscius admitted. “Nothing to exonerate you yet, but nothing incriminating either.”

“There is nothing incriminating,” Rutilius repeated. “But neither is there anything exonerating- one cannot have negative evidence of an event that never happened. But feel free to continue searching.”

“May I search your quarters?” Roscius asked. “Only a fool would leave incriminating documents in his office, where any literate legionary pulling guard duty could sneak a glance.”

“And only a much larger fool would keep incriminating documents in his home, where they can be tied directly to him,” replied Rutilius. “But I can see that you are as hard-headed as my governor. So yes, you may search there. I shall write a pass for you and two guards to go where you please, in the name of Roman justice.”

“Immediately?” Roscius asked impatiently. “I do not want to give you time to hide any evidence. You understand.”

Rutilius smiled. “Of course. Come with me.”

There was a lot of reading material in the quarters, Roscius saw at once. Over forty scrolls, some of them quite thick, were in pigeonholes along one wall. Rutilius gestured to them, then to his bureau where he opened the drawers to allow a view of the contents. The closet door was also opened, as were the cabinets in the bedroom. Roscius watched as every enclosure was opened for view.

“You stacked your drawers like a soldier being inspected by his centurion,” Roscius commented, impressed by the speed and efficiency of the preparation.

“I was a legionary before I was a signifer, and before I was an optio, and before I was a centurion,” Rutilius reminded him. “Then I was a tribunus militum, a tribunus laticlavius, legate of the II Adiutrix, acting governor, deputy governor, legate of the X Gemina, deputy governor again, and now quaestor.”

“All in this province?” asked Roscius. When Rutilius nodded, he added, “Ample time to build up a network.”

“He is a fool,” said Froydis to her husband. Little Decius was in her arms, having just awoken to the clamor of the armored guards moving about in the stone-walled quarters. “But he will change his mind about you shortly. He will read through your library, see that the books are indeed the books the markings say they are, then come across your journal. Once he reads that, he will begin to doubt when you had the time to organize a network. His meeting with Claudius Victor tomorrow will shed much light over how a legionary could acquire such wealth in such a short time. By the time you release him from prison, he will be a true friend. And much less foolish.”

Roscius shook his head in wonder. “Is she for real?” he asked of the quaestor.

Rutilius nodded stiffly, but his body visibly relaxed. “She is for real, and she is usually correct.”

“Then I shall start with your journals.”

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Claudius Victor gave his report the next day, then was brought to the cell to be interviewed by Roscius. He found this to be quite amusing- bringing a ‘suspect’ to be interviewed by a prisoner. Yet he answered the man’s questions honestly if hoarsely.

On his evening release, Roscius asked the guards to bring him to the quarters above.

“You were wrong, milady,” he said as Froydis greeted the unwelcome guest. Rutilius and his steward were further inside, engaged in a deep conversation concerning horse prices and the profit to be gained by driving a herd of six hundred to western Gaul for transport to and sale in Britannia.

She cocked her head to the side in curiosity.

“I am not yet released from prison, yet am already very much less foolish,” Roscius declared. He handed over the journals he had borrowed for perusal in his cell.

“Though you were correct that an interview with Claudius Victor would clear things up,” he continued. ”By the gods that man is clever! I wish I had someone like him managing my estate back when I had one! I’d be rich enough to jump from the Fourth Class to the Second, or maybe even the First!”

“He is very good at picking investments,” Froydis agreed. “And he is very loyal to the man who rescued him from a life of boredom.”

“I understood that immediately,” Roscius admitted. “As would I be as well.”

“You and my husband are quite alike, although different,” Froydis mused. “Both blonde Romans, both with the same accent though the manner of speech is different. Which dialects besides Chatti and Suevi do you speak? My husband speaks Cananefate and Batavian, and through Batavian is quite understandable in Chatti.”

“I only speak Suevi, milady,” Roscius said.

“Oh no, you speak Chatti as well,” Froydis continued, as Claudius Victor and Rutilius turned from their discussion at her words. “You told my husband that you were impersonating a Suevi trader in Noviomagus while investigating him, and that you were usually a good spy. A good spy does not ask questions- he directs conversations to where he wants them to go, but mostly he listens. The local language of Noviomagus is Batavian, which is almost identical to Chatti, and what would be spoken in the taverns and markets. One does not listen to conversations one does not understand, thus you must speak Chatti, which is close to Suevi but not close enough to be mutually intelligible.”

Roscius began to object, but Froydis cut him off. “There are four major languages along the Rhein, not counting Latin,” she said. “The Suevi at the headwaters, Chatti along the mid-length towards the mouth, Friesch by the northern delta, and Cananefate by the western delta. All are similar, but quite different, like Latin and Oscan.”

Roscius thought of objecting, but there was no point. The quaestor’s wife had caught him fairly in his own lie, using his own words and her local knowledge to nail him. Defeated, he sighed and nodded.

“You will learn very quickly, Gaius Roscius,” she concluded sternly, ”that you are best served by speaking the truth in our presence, as we do in yours. You claim to be an arcanus- my husband is one who must believe your tales of Germanic movements. He does this, with no other proof than that you say it is so. He and others like him move legions at your word. Falsehood has no place among the ways of warriors. You should know this.”

Roscius hung his head in shame. “I do indeed know this. I am too used to dealing with political officers- men who twist truths or blatantly lie to stuff their own purse while men like my partner Sollus risk life and blood. Your husband’s journals speak of another man- a vir militaris, like his friend Titus Sabinus. He would indeed know honor.”

“So he is no longer suspected of treasonous incitement to rampage, or whatever silly charge was brought against him?”

Roscius smiled. “No ma’am, he is cleared.” Then he growled lowly. “Just as I was in the east at the time of the attack, your husband likewise has a very good alibi. He was burying his dead wife, securing his son, and rebuilding his burned house when the troubles hit. The journals gave me the names of over forty legionaries who would probably swear on a stack of golden altars to every god in existence that your man was here in Germania Inferior, wracked with survivor’s guilt, and trying to piece his life together when the troubles erupted. He is most definitely clear.”

“I was there, too,” Froydis said bitterly. “I was one of those who helped put him together. I tried to piece together who would want his family dead, or who would gain from it. I was not then his wife, so I can vouch for him as well.”

She smiled sweetly. “See how much easier everything goes when one tells the truth to begin with?”

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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
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