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Arrested Development

Postby Aldus Marius on Sun Jan 23, 2005 2:21 am

Marius allowed himself to be halted by Curio's plea. Halted, touched, and turned around; there were very few people in the Empire who would have attempted this, and even fewer would have survived the attempt with less than severe bruising and an abrasion or two. But Marius and Curio were old friends; and a friend may be permitted a thing or two. Wasn't that what the Warrator dispute was, finally, about? What was permissible between shield-brethren?

"Of course we should leave," he rasped. "That's what travelling people do." Especially with the government on their tails, he thought but did not say. More than ever he wanted to be away; the dancing of his dogs at the threshold, and their disappointment when he again faced inward, only reinforced his own restlessness, the thing that wouldn't go away until he was once again astride Peregrinus, devouring Roman roads by the mile.

"Come, fratres," he insisted, not harshly. "Any discussing of this can be done on the road..."
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sun Jan 23, 2005 7:18 pm

As Marius and Curio were talking, each about his own story, there was a reflection in the eyes of both men that was what Draco knew to be a schizoid feeling he, too, experienced with regards to Rome. He could tell that both men loved Rome as much as he did: who could not fall in love with a city where everything could be found, where amusement and entertainment were always cheap, and where both the most decadent rich men and the wisest poor philosopher walked side by side? But at the same time, who could deny his own ancestry? Who could deny the call of the ancient languages each one of them could speak?
But exactly what part inside of Curio was still British? Would the Britons not consider him to be a Roman? And how much was Marius's Celtiberian heritage not marred or altered, to put it politely, by Rome's long embrace? Draco did not think this a necessarily bad thing, but on days like these, when the emotional pitch was high, he sometimes hoped that things could be a little less complex.

He carefully listened as his travelling companions talked, but in the back of his head, he was still thinking of the man shadowing Curio, and of Tarquinius, who was somewhere out there in the wilds of Britannia.

Curio Agelastus wrote:Turning to the one who had thus far primarily watched as Curio and Marius spoke, Curio asked, "And you, Draco? Have you no words to say on the matter? Or perhaps Marius is right, and we should leave?"


Draco now rose as well.
"I would be happy to leave. I guess we will have more stories to tell along the road. We should better get moving, lest we run into one of Cato's henchmen, or be intercepted by them."
He thought of the sword in his backpack, and thought of the terrible powers that he might unleash if threatened, but spoke nothing of all this. For now, he was content with his position as learned but somehow inept little aristocrat.
Draco strode to the counter.
"If any of you haven't paid yet, I will make payments for all three of us now. I suggest we get moving quickly."
He looked back for a second, past Curio and Marius, to the open door and saw heavy clouds drifting on the horizon.
"And I hope you won't mind a bit of rain," he added.
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"...We won't melt!"

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Jan 26, 2005 9:19 am

An hour later they were on their way, the rain not bothering Marius at all, as he assured them in his drill-sergeant's sing-song that "We ain't made out of ice cream, we won't melt!" But then, of course, he'd had to explain ice cream, a habit he'd picked up along with cream soda; in his days on the Texian frontier he had often enjoyed them together. Unlike barbecue, his other favorite, he had no idea how to prepare the frozen delicacy, so could not describe it very well to the confectioners and dairymen who, with instruction, might have been able to provide him some. But the attempt took up much of their first hour on the road, and would be worth a few laughs until such time as his companions might grow pensive again...
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Ease on down the road

Postby Aldus Marius on Thu Feb 10, 2005 8:12 am

A few days later, Marius' friends were surprised to see him approaching a rather imposing-looking inn. It was late afternoon, after a couple of nights when the group had slept al fresco, and Mari's missing dog (how well he knew them!) had had a chance to catch up with her "amo". The reunion had gladdened hearts all the way 'round; Marius had since been in better spirits than at any time since his amici had found him in Rome.

Perhaps this was why the veteran had actually shouldered himself into his old armor this morning (broken down, it had fit in a saddlepack); fixed the transverse Centurion's crest to his galea, and now seemed bound and determined to spend the night in what increasingly looked like an Imperial mansio, a lodging-place for travelling government officials. The Wolf-pelt was stowed (Bonnie would have it for a bed this night); he still lacked a red tunic, but the white one made him look like a Praetorian.

It'd be the nicest place they'd spent the night in so far...if the staff let them in...
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Thu Feb 10, 2005 1:00 pm

Draco frowned at this. Surely, he was also longing for a bed at night instead of wet grass or waking up while it was raining on his improvised tent blankets, or lying awake hoping no bandits would come and rob them, but this mansion might just have been a bit out of their league.
He rode next to Marius.
"Amice, what are you planning to do? I don't want to sound cross or rude, but if you're going to impersonate someone else, they'll find out quickly, and the quicklier we draw attention to ourselves, the faster Equitius's goons can find us."
He drew a breath and looked from the impressive building to Marius.
"I suppose if my old man were still alive, he'd have a way to get us in, but unfortunately outside of Rome I don't have many connections. The social capital of the Dionysii has shrunk since the paterfamilias left."
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Mari's little secret

Postby Aldus Marius on Fri Feb 11, 2005 7:13 am

Marius seemed rather amused at Draco's misgivings. His eyes twinkled in a way they would not have thought possible a week ago, and his cheeks bunched up a little in the beginnings of a smile.

"Amici," he said, enfolding Curio in his banter as well, "a long time ago, as praefectus castrorum, I learned that sometimes--sometimes!--the best way to sneak into anyplace is to just march right on in like you belong. A camp, an inn, the admin tent...these see so many people, and not often the same ones twice, that one more stranger isn't even gonna make them blink.

"BUT!!..." and he dropped his voice a notch or two, "I have no intention of 'sneaking' us into that mansio. I don't have to; it was built for us; we belong there. Because..." and he looked around to make sure no other travellers were within earshot of their little group, "...I've got a secret of my own, and I've been meaning to tell you about it.

"You'll remember my little commission. That Cato chap wanted to relieve me of it. He could not have; not if I had handed it to him directly and watched him pitch it into the hearth would it have been any less in force. Why? --It is signed by the current Consul, and can only be revoked by him.

"It recalls me to the Legions--specifically, to serve as a frumentarius. I had to scratch my head about that one for a while, but I remembered what it was. There are actually a lot of ways to be a frumentarius. Some are messengers; some are spies. Some are of more sinister calling. But the basic mission of a frumentarius is simply to circulate within whatever Province he's in and gather information. He may learn the language, or join local societies, or befriend a chief. But mostly he observes...and remembers, or takes good notes. Anything that may be significant to the local garrison, he reports.

"All that being the case...I am in the Legions, so am authorized to be in uniform. I am a government agent, and you are my escort; so we are authorized to lodge in government facilities, at government expense.. And just because everyone is so friggin' terrified of a frumentarius--understandable, considering the shady business some of them are mixed up in--I really don't think we have to impersonate anyone, or worry about drawing attention, or that anyone who sees this scroll is going to tell me to get my dogs off the bed.

"Now do you see why Cato didn't want me to have it...?" And the old warrior grinned most mightily, indeed...
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Tue Apr 05, 2005 12:51 am

Curio smiled slightly at Marius' tale - he'd thought Draco the only one with political connections. "Very well then - let us enter." Curio dismounted, and looked expectantly at the others. It might have occurred to the others that he was a little more hesitant than usual, that he let Marius and Draco walk ahead of him. This was very unusual - Curio was no coward. And yet he walked but reluctantly. Once in the door, he paused and waited for Marius to do his frumentarius act; Curio could play no part in this.
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Postby Horatius Piscinus on Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:17 pm

The janitores in short tunics greeted the three of them with a silent bow and pliantly opened the doors to the guest house. There stood a young noble, proud and condescending at first, looking down his nose at Marius' well worn armour and soiled cloak. But when he saw the seal on Marius' scroll he took a different disposition and led the three new arrivals off in humbled silence, stopping only briefly to order the servants to prepare rooms for the guests. The servants scampered off like little children, only to be replaced by more servants. Merely a scowl by Papirius at the muddy trail left by the travellers had these servants fall to the floor and begin cleaning. Draco became self-conscious of the mud he brought with him, Curio felt natural in his earthy element, while Marius gave no hint of even being conscious of what he left behind.

Young Papirius led the little group to a room that had been rearanged into a triclinium serving as a meeting hall as well as sleeping quarters for a silver-haired Ovus Paccius. Two men stood on either side of Paccius who was seated on his couch. Near the entrance and beneath the hanging lamps, in Campanian fashion, tintinnabula chimed in the breeze to ward off evil spirits and also to muffle the sound of those speaking. Draco could not see as Paccius and Marius exchanged signs, acknowledging each to one another as frumentarii. Then the other two men who were present led Draco out of the room. Curio stood erect, his quarterstaff always at the ready, off to Marius' right and a pace behind. Then Paccius gave a glance of recognition towards Curio and signalled Marius to take a seat and share some of his bread and wine.

"Marius," Paccius began, "yes, I was informed of your coming. Our Horatius is off in the East it seems, but he sent letters ahead of you and asked that I provide whatever you need." Then he handed Marius two scrolls. "A compilation of some of the latest reports. Papirius is at least efficient in doing that."
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A Hard Act to Follow

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue May 31, 2005 7:32 am

Nobody had briefed Marius on this.

All he had wanted were comfortable quarters for the night, for himself and his companions. He hadn't planned on meeting anybody, much less having to learn a lot of protocol off-the-cuff. It was a good thing he'd remembered the odd gesture Piscinus had greeted him with when handing him the scroll; it didn't match the one this Paccius fellow gave him, but evidently it was the expected, the acceptable response.

One half of the sign fit inside the other. Issued separately a long ways apart, they were united here, hundreds of millia passuum northwest of Rome, by men who had previously never met. For some reason, this reminded Marius of Curio's symbol... He glanced back at Curio, meaning to mention it, and only then noticed that Draco was missing.

Silent hackles rising, he became even more alert than he had been already. He was out of his league in this situation; he would have to tread carefully until he could determine just what was expected of him, what was going on.

He thanked Ovus Paccius respectfully, accepting the proffered reports and apologizing for his dusty appearance. (His old tentmates used to quip that they always had a way out of camp, as Mari had brought most of the road in with him...) Bread and wine didn't sound bad, either, after a day's journey; and in present company, they were likely to be of good quality. He was careful with the wine, however; he'd had nothing but cream soda since he'd discovered the stuff, and was no longer used to alcohol.

Nibbling and sipping, then, he made small talk with his unexpected host, and tried to include Curio in his conversation. He said he hoped Paccius didn't mind if he consumed the reports at his leisure; perhaps they could meet in the morning and discuss them...?

But as to his immediate needs, he had only one: "...There was another man with me, the filius of one of my closest friends. He is under our protection. Could you tell me where he is now, and why...?" And though his tone was polite, he had the look of storms in his eyes...
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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Fri Jul 15, 2005 12:09 pm

As the two men flanking Draco silently went with him through the maze of corridors and finally into the wide gardens of the estate, he was feeling ever more queasy and separated. Although formerly praised for his bright mind by his friends in Rome, he didn't have the faintest clue as to why he was being led away. Perhaps they wanted to spring a trap for Marius and Curio, but if they did, then why would they leave Curio armed and dangerous - not to mention Marius himself! Perhaps that wanted to do something to Draco himself, but why? What could have been a possible reason? Surely his father had had some wealthy or mighty enemies, but Draco bore no resemblance to his father and had not even introduced himself to Paccius. He looked up into the sky and saw it was clouded, heavy with Iuppiter's wrath. Another ill omen.
"Why are you taking me away? And where?" he finally asked, when they strode through the gardens into the direction of a small path that led through the woods.
"You are the one who has a brother in Britannia, serving in the legions," said the man to his right, a scruffy looking guy whose rich clothing could not hide the fact that he looked like an aged street brawler. The other one looked more educated, but any less dangerous.
"That is not an answer to my question," Draco said darkly. He thought of the longsword he'd left behind in his luggage. They entered the woods.
"Shut up, Decime," the other man said to his companion, "and you, Dionysi, don't be so arrogant. Clearly silence is not one of your virtues."
The air was charged and smelled sweet, as it always did before a thunderstorm. Ominous as it was, it gave Draco a renewed shot of confidence. They turned left down the forest path and entered an open spot with long grass and red flowers. In the middle of the open spot, there was a weathered stone with some inscriptions on it. The three men now stopped.
"Do you recognise this?" the aristocratic-looking henchman of Paccius asked. Draco stepped forward and knelt at the stone, tried to read the inscriptions, which were in an old variant of Etruscan, and then shrugged.
"No. It doesn't ring a bell."
"Gaius, I told you he was an imposter. They all are," Decimus grunted. Draco turned to face the two others. The first drops of rain were coming down.
"This is an ancient sacred site of an Etruscan family thought now extinct," Gaius explained, restraining the other man, "That was, until one of dominus Paccius's associates in Rome came across a certain Marcus Dionysius, political gadfly and aristocratic philosopher. You see, dominus Paccius is a deeply religious man, trained in many mystery cults. He surrounds himself with people sensitive to the presence of gods, spirits and otherwordly beings. People who look out for those fortunate enough to have been blessed by the gods with special... talents."
Draco braced himself for defence.
"Our colleague in Rome wrote to Paccius that the Dionysii possessed the talent that is inscribed on this very stone."
Gaius now began to talk in Etruscan.
"Our lord built his domain around several of these stones, that describe how, in the beginning of our great civilisation, the gods had selected a few families to bless with the powers of the elements. They cannot be learned, only be passed down through family lines. That makes people like you and me dangerous, but also very useful."
"Useful for what?" Draco inquired.
"To exert influence in the innermost circles of Rome. Do you remember a certain Cato?"
"That idiot that wanted us to kill a candidate for aedilis."
"That was a bait to see if he was right about the Dionysii."
"Do you mean this is all a game? Is it Paccius's fault that Tarquinius is with the legions and that my father disappeared? Or are you simply going to kill me for not killing a plebeian upstart?"
"Cato was Paccius's contact in Rome. Had you complied, you and your friends would have been arrested and ultimately taken here to serve our lord. We have nothing to do with Marcus's disappearance, or the stupid fight your brother got into."
"You want me to become an assassin."
"Yeah," Decimus said.
"And if I don't want to?"
Decimus drew a short gladius. The rain had grown harder, and in the distance some thunder could be heard. Gaius stepped back. To Draco's surprise, he heard Gaius's voice in his mind.
This is not my fight to fight. You're on your homeground, with Iuppiter favouring you.
Decimus strode forward.
"The woods can be so dangerous," he said. Draco retreated. Gaius eagerly looked on. Clearly this was another attempt to bait out his hidden talents, but now he felt that he had no other choice than to use them. The urge to live was stronger than the urge to carefully conceal his powers. Judging Gaius the more dangerous of the two, although he did not guess what exactly his powers may have been, Draco pointed his finger at him. A crackling jolt of lightning leapt out and threw Gaius off his feet. Before Decimus could do so much as swing his gladius, a second lightning bolt pierced through the brawler and caused him to drop his weapon, choking and writhing in agony. A third flash illuminated the open spot, but that flash came from above. Draco briefly looked up and became aware of a third presence. He started to run into the direction of the villa, fearing his comrades were in danger.
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Thu Oct 06, 2005 7:33 pm

In reply to Marius' question, Paccius seemed unable to offer anything aside from delaying tactics and assurances that Draco was fine, that "He had to be shown something." Marius looked at Curio significantly, and then looked away again, keeping his eyes on those he was not familiar with. Curio's staff lay at his feet, and he decided not to draw attention to what had been his loyal companion through many journeys. Instead, he tapped Marius' leg under the table, then withdrew his hand under the cloak that he had refused to allow Paccius' servants to take. He drew back the cloak with a single finger, in a way that allowed none but Marius to see. His fingers curled round a small throwing dagger fastened to his belt. Only a brief motion, but enough for Marius to understand what Curio was getting at. Curio hid the dagger under the folds of the cloak once more, and stood up, effortlessly grasping the staff from the floor as he did so.
He turned to Marius and gave him a wry glance, "I'm quite impressed at how polite you have been, amice, but I think other things are called for here."
With that, he faced Paccius, and by the time his glance had reached Paccius, it had become a stony glare that increased in intensity as Curio spoke.
"I care little for your wealth. I care little for your exalted, if hidden, rank. I care even less for your blood. I am a savage of barbarian blood, civilised but barely by Rome's influence. I have nothing to do with Marius' commission, so I have no need to act properly, or step round important issues. It seems to me that, behind the polite facade, you have treated us abominably. You have led one of our comrades away without explanation and refused to answer our questions. I have no stake in this, my aim is entirely separated from this commission. I therefore demand some answers off you now, and if you will not provide them, I will go and look for my absent amice myself!"
Paccius' face remained entirely impassive, and he spoke but three words; "Are you finished?"
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And Mari said...

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Nov 19, 2005 4:44 am

> Paccius' face remained entirely impassive, and he spoke but three words; "Are you finished?"

Marius had an answer for that.

As the atmosphere in the triclinium became increasingly charged, the veteran actually began to feel at home. A demonstration of resolve was imminent; perhaps there would even be a fight. It was all the same to him. This Paccius fellow might have the look and bearing of a man of means, but underneath it all he was just another gutter-rat...just like Cato. So with his customary directness, he would deal with Paccius as he had dealt with Cato:

"Curio amice may or may not be done. I have not yet begun...

"Do you mind telling me, magister, what there was to show Dionysius Draco that you could not have shown the rest of us...? Or did you mean that he had to be taught a lesson?? I said the lad was under my protection, and I meant it. If anything has become of him--if a hair on his head has been put out of place--you will pay, Ovus Paccius. You will pay many times a night's stay in this mansio. Indeed, I think I can arrange first-class quarters for you at the nearest valetudinarium; the surgeons of the Legions will care for you most tenderly."

Paccius did not appear moved by the threat. "If that young man is indeed under your protection, you are remiss in your duty. If the sounds outside are any indication, we have already gotten everything out of him that we needed to know!"


> "I'm quite impressed at how polite you have been, amice, but I think other things are called for here."


It was only then that Marius noticed the sound of approaching thunder. He looked at Curio; they locked eyes. He'd save his feral grin for later:

"Honestly, mi Curio," he quoted from some obscure humor rag, "I fail to see any difference between your politeness and mine--!"

...and he advanced on Ovus Paccius, a man who had accused him of failing in a Duty, unaware of the enormity of the insult...
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Takeoff Time

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:24 am

Something was not right.

As the storm gathered outside the inn, Marius smelled something peculiar about it. He halted his advance just long enough to begin to tune in to the energies coalescing all about him. His was a thunder-spirit, the Picti had told him, and well he could believe it; storm-tossed was the Wanderer, when not merely windblown, and he'd done a fair bit of 'storming' himself. And now, in opening himself to the tempest, he came to feel that it was not entirely natural...

The voice of Paccius broke in, an almost oily purr. "You sense it too, don't you, Wanderer? ...You see, we suspected you and your friends of being 'sensitives'; we have uses for that sort of thing. Rome has uses for that sort of thing.

"Did you learn the art, Peregrine, as I did? ...Or were you born thus? --No matter; Rome needs your kind, and your fealty--as surely as your Centurionate--is owed to Rome. Will you cooperate? Or must you be forced, as your Draco has been, to..."

But Marius wasn't listening; and neither was the storm. It was not his storm, he knew; but he also knew how these things worked. He understood them from instinct, not out of a training manual--for his was an innate gift, only latent until his sojourn to Pictland. Beasts and the weather, his strengths; he could also get small bodies of water--ponds, creeks, streams--to do him a favor every now and again. So he knew what was coming a split second before Paccius did...and it was enough.

He pounced suddenly on Curio: "Get DOWN!!!" And they were under the mensa before the lightning struck, the brazier tipped over, and pandemonium broke loose.

Suddenly there were servants everywhere, running up and down hallways and stairs, checking rooms, evacuating the guests in not-so-orderly fashion. Marius saw the fire start just where they had lain at supper. He saw Ovus Paccius flee the triclinium in abject terror; his Wolf-self could smell the urine running down the man's legs. He held onto Curio for a little while longer; then, when his lorica got uncomfortably warm, he hustled his friend out of the building.

Draco was running towards them; his dogs waited outside in the rain. The fire in the triclinium wouldn't last long. Their horses were still in the stables, and even Peregrinus was not so extraordinary an equine as to be unafraid of fire; they had to be rescued, and they were, and since all they wanted to do was run like hell, Marius climbed on board and gave Pere' his head, checking only to see that his companions rode behind him...
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Fri Dec 16, 2005 3:54 am

Curio raced after Marius down the corridor, the flames hungrily spreading behind them. The servants had by this time fled the building, knowing the passages far better than the visitors. No doubt Paccius had also escaped in the chaos.

However, Marius, Curio and Draco were not alone in the building. As they passed one of the many small rooms that opened into the corridor, a man rushed out and crashed into Curio, carrying him to the ground. Curio's staff rolled away; not that it would have been of much use in a fight of such close quarters as this. A short sword loomed for a second, and was then thrust down at his face. Curio clutched his assailant's wrist with one hand, and wildly threw a punch with the other. It was only after the other man dodged that Curio realised who he was fighting; the man who had been tailing him for months.
"Who the hell are you?" Curio growled.
His attacker' lips peeled against his teeth in a grimace. "Do you still not know?" His blade pushed closer to Curio's face, despite all Curio could do to stop it. Resisting the impulse to add the strength of his left hand to prevent the sword from piercing his skull, Curio yanked a knife out of his belt, and slashed at the other's wrist, rolling out of the way immediately after to avoid the sword that fell from his would-be murderer's hand. Gripping his wrist, the man snarled, "You have survived one ambush, but will you survive another? Samarobriva shall be the next battleground."
He then disappeared into one of the side rooms, presumably to find another exit.

Curio, on the other hand, was already sprinting towards the door by which they had entered the buildling, hoping to find his companions before the collapsing timbers caught up with him.
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"On the Road Againn...."

Postby Aldus Marius on Thu May 25, 2006 5:10 am

The horses had slowed to a walk. It was well after dark, but this troubled neither the Wanderer nor the animals; he wasn't sure about the guests. The trio were easily twenty millia passuum north-northwest of where they had begun their flight, and now their mounts, softly blowing, were in need of a rest-break. Old Marius liked that idea too; it would give his friends a chance to cool off after covering that distance at an auriga's pace...and himself a chance to ask some questions, and maybe answer some.

He halted Pere' in a woodlot that looked to be the "back forty" of a large farm. Here they were unlikely to be seen by passersby, let alone attacked; the only risk was that of being discovered by any of the slaves, and the veteran planned to be long-gone before any of them rolled out of bed.

They could not risk a fire here. He extracted the makings of a field-supper from beneath his cloak, and offered some to his friends. "Can't handle rich food anyway," he quipped; then sat silently chomping what he'd managed to filch from Ovius Paccius' mensa...
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Postby Aulus Flavius on Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:31 am

“What do you mean he’s gone? The door was locked. Sealed tight!” Daimon hurried up an unlit hallway, lamp held high to see ahead. Beside him was Fausta. Together the two of them headed the Flavii estate here just north of Rome. If it could be called an estate it was a joke and a poor one at that. May as well compare Tartarus to Elysium.

“The kitchen staff came down with Borix to see he got his dinner,” said Fausta. An elderly woman whose mother had served the Flavii, her short grey hair was bundled up behind her head into a tight ball. “They were gone for almost an hour before some of the slaves plucked up the courage to see what had taken them so long.”

“And?” asked Daimon. The steward was in no mood for guessing games. Usually a calm and well-mannered man, the possible escape of his ward had set the usually taciturn Daimon on edge.

“And nothing. When they got there the door was open and the room empty. No sign of him or Borix and the rest.”

The room in question was underground. Originally a wine cellar the room had been converted over a year ago to hold his occupant. It was located towards the back of the house and in an unusual move most of the villa’s slaves were quartered towards the front.

It was the dead of night too. All of the household slaves were awake and positively wetting themselves. The small house guard had be roused and readied. Even the dogs where out. Two of the great hulking guards were behind them now. Greeks both of them, built like rocks and about as hard.

Daimon felt like he was walking onto Circe’s island.

They arrived before the cellar door. It lay open, but strangely there was no one about. They had been expecting some of the slaves who had come to investigate to be present.

“Who did you say came?” Daimon asked.

Fausta looked around nervously. “Philo and Barmedies. They should be here.”

Daimon tentatively stuck the lamp into the black square, trying to illuminate the room. He felt like he was putting his hand into a lion's mouth.

“You two in, now” he ordered the guards. The two of them drew their swords and descended into the cellar.

Nothing.

Two dim thuds echoed from bellow.

Fausta leaned over the cellar edge. “Kos. Ulix.”

Nothing.

Suddenly something. It happened fast enough that Daimon barely time to gasp and stagger back from the cellar. Something flew from the dark hole, a glint of steel, fast and hard enough to lift Fausta off her feet. The old woman collapsed to the floor with a sword embedded in her chest up to the hilt. Eyes wide in a slowly expanding pool of her own blood.

“Fausta?” Daimon already knew she was dead. The suddenness of it stunned him. The question was left hanging in the hair as Daimon looked towards the cellar door. It was almost as though the shadow seemed to bulge and vomit up some of itself. Like mist he simply seemed to float up the stairs.

“Daimon,” said a cold voice. Devoid of any emotion other then a cruel hiss, a sick smile spread over a pale face. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen my keeper. Sorry about Fausta, though don’t worry. I’ll put her to good use.”

Daimon was terrified. In all the time he had been here he’d never actually seen the boy. Fausta had but refused to talk about him. Now he knew why. He tried to make a dash for the kitchen but something struck his neck hard enough to crush it. The force of the blow drove the steward to his knees as he tried vainly to draw breath through a ruined throat. A cold hand clutched a handful of hair and yanked his head back.

Pitiless black eyes glared back at him. They were two pools of dark water, bottomless in their ruthless cruelty. Daimon would have whimpered if he were able to as tears ran down his face. “Almost, Daimon, almost” whispered the voice close to his ear.

There was a horrible ripping sound. Like someone tearing meat and the distinct sound of steel scraping on bone and cartilage. A blood soaked blade appeared, held across his throat. His vision was starting to blur and go dark at the edges. This was the end, and Daimon knew it. It dawned on him. This boy was killing him. He lost control of his bladder.

“And this is the race that gave birth to Achilles and the Spartans?” the voice sneered. “Pathetic.” The blade drew back, a slash across the throat and Daimon went wide-eyed into oblivion.

The body slumped forward onto the floor as the figure stood up. There was such a terrible mess in the cellar too, and this. Not the most auspicious beginning to a new life. But after a year locked in that cellar, a little revenge was called for.

Shouts were coming from further forward in the house. It seemed some of the other slaves had finally gathered up the gumption to come and investigate for themselves. The figure smiled, raised his sword, and like a howling Fury descended on the villa.

-

Aulus Flavius rode along a slight path. Overgrown and barely visible it was obviously some time since people had last passed this way. He was a tall man, dark hair and eyes, of lithe build and carried himself with a sort of air only patricians could really muster. His hair was cropped close to his skull.

He wore a dark green tunic, embroidered around the hem with vines and a think wolf fur cloak. Stout boots were strapped to his feet, the sort a man could walk to the edge of the earth in. He rode a plain black steed, saddlebags packed with supplies. A simple Spanish sword hung from a decorative scabbard at his hip.

For all his appearance Aulus Flavius was a gentleman out in the country. Except patricians didn’t travel alone. There was no sign of an entourage, slave, clients or the usual sycophantic baggage that seemed to attach itself to the average patrician. He was entirely alone.

The lands of Etruria were fairly tame. They’d be cultivated for centuries. Grapes for wine, grain for bread and olives for oil. Except for at the feet of the Apennine’s, Etruria was a fairly calm place.

Flavius was only half paying attention to the road ahead either way. The Via Aemilia Scaura wasn’t far from here. Once he was on the main road he’d pick up the pace in no time. He was so droll about the whole affair he’d opened up a copy of Titus Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things.

So when he horse suddenly reared up Flavius had to drop Lucretius and throw his arms around the bay’s neck to keep him from falling off. The panicked beast nearly bolted, and it took all Flavius’ skill to keep the horse from running.

A wolf! The animal had crept up right in front of him. He snatched his blade out and tried to position himself to skewer the creature if it attacked. But it didn’t.

Instead it rolled over and stood up.

It wasn’t a wolf. Rather a man wrapped in cloak. He looked part animal either way. Covered in dirt and filth, Flavius wondered if he had even heard of bathing, much less partaken of it.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

----

OOC: You of course are the filthy barbarian Marius :)
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Marius Uncurls

Postby Aldus Marius on Tue Jul 04, 2006 10:41 pm

OOC: I'm assuming it's morning...?

BIC: Old Marius awakened much later the next morning than he had wanted to. He had hoped to skulk off with his companions in the pre-dawn; instead his eyes cracked open in the first hour after sunrise. Whether having Ovius Pacchus' dinner in his belly had made him too cozy, or he'd been more worn-out by yesterday's adventures than he'd suspected, he had somehow managed to sleep in...if you could call break of day 'sleeping in'. In his line of work, you could.

He sat up, looked around. His three dogs slept on; Draco and Curio were still out of it too. Shaking his head, he glanced in the next-most-important direction...and found his buckskin Peregrinus had wandered off again.

Well had he named his horse, his friend! Pere' was always doing that sort of thing. He was never anywhere except precisely where he wanted to be. Fortunately, most of the time he wanted to be with Marius. Retired Centurion and retired cavalry mount had served together for eight years or more; and, as Pere' was a one-man horse, once his rider was discharged the Roman army had no further use for either of them.

Bene, Peregrinus had wandered off, probably in search of new grass. If so, he deserved it, Mari thought, especially after that marathon nightime gallop yesterday. Twenty miles of road had flown beneath the buckskin's hooves, and this was after (already) a full day's travel to the inn from which they'd fled. No other mount could have done this, and been so pleasant about it. Mari was willing to put up with his eccentricities.

But he still had to catch him. Grumbling slightly, the veteran got up a little at a time. He wasn't as tolerant of hard surfaces as he used to be. Stamping a bit against the cold, he turned a full circle where he stood in the middle of a woodlot, trying to discern what a horse might want and in which direction it might lie. The best grass was always by the roadsides, he decided. Not anxious to reveal himself any sooner than he had to, he drew his wolf-cloak around him and set out, cautious as always, for more open spaces.

He had not quite left the woods when he came upon a narrow way. It was scarcely more than a bridle-path, and looked seldom-used; but the soil, still damp from the morning's mists, held the impression of hoofprints. Peregrinus...? he asked himself; then noted the depth of the prints, too great to belong to a riderless animal. Another horse, then, unless Pere' had suddenly taken to two-timing. This he thought extremely unlikely; the Picts, notorious horse-thieves, called Peregrinus "The horse who would not stay stolen". The gelding would not even enter a stable unless Marius led him into it; how would he now be schmoozing up to strangers?

Someone else, then. Skulking about on this little linen-strip of a road, still some ways from the great viae, so early in the morning. Not good.

Marius was an agent of the government; he had been recalled to Legion service as a frumentarius. Everyone had his own definition of what that meant, but all agreed that a frumentarius was trouble. This meant that people left him alone, which was the way he liked it.

But he and his companions were also hunted men. They had refused to do dirty work for a certain dissipated Senator, who'd refused to take nullo modo for an answer, and had no doubt dispatched agents of his own to arrest the trio. Mari and friends had shaken pursuit once already, simply by not going to Ostia as most people would who wanted out of Rome in a hurry. Yet Curio had already run into a mysterious, hostile stranger twice on this trip. One of Equitius Cato's goons? --It hardly mattered; the "Marian party" had to be careful.

Marius extended his senses until they were wolf-sharp; then set off at a silent lope to try to get in front of the unknown rider--silent, despite the fact that he'd slept in his armor. After so long, he knew how to move in it without setting edge on edge, and he was the terror of the wild-boar population in his native Hispania. Only the slight crunch of hobnails on fine gravel could have betrayed him...if anyone had known to listen.

At last he drew alongside of, then ahead of, the rider. He was surprised to see that the man wore a wolf-cloak like his own; it didn't fit with the rest of him. The man was not of the Brotherhood, then. The tunic fairly shouted "Patrician", and there wasn't a single one of them in the whole lot (always excepting Pomponius Lupus, who had been inducted years ago by Marius himself).

The veteran had to keep this man from tripping over his friends. He stepped out of the fog, onto the path. The wolf-skin hugged him like his own. The stranger's horse, such a dark bay that it could be taken for black in the early light, reared up. And just as Marius was trying to figure out who the man was, the stranger hailed him:


> “Who are you?” he demanded.


Marius straightened up. His cloak parted, revealing the well-used and well-maintained lorica segmentata of a senior centurion, wearing only a little of the road. Gladius at his left hip, as it had been since he'd earned the vine-staff, he looked like what he was: Wolf and Iron; Force of Nature and Might of Rome.

"I might well ask who you are, traveller. You have the right of passage; that is what a road is for. But you have wandered too close to my castra. Come willingly and I will show you another way to the Aemilian Road." Then he relaxed a bit. "And Hei," he said, quirking a smile, "who knows, we may even find my horse..."
Aldus Marius Peregrinus.
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Postby Aulus Flavius on Thu Jul 06, 2006 5:17 am

Flavius bristled at the pleb’s gruff speech. The indignity of almost being unhorsed by man had the patrician on edge. He gently removed a hand from the horse’s reins and placed it on his thigh.

"I might well ask who you are, traveller. You have the right of passage; that is what a road is for. But you have wandered too close to my castra. Come willingly and I will show you another way to the Aemilian Road."

“I wasn’t aware this land belonged to anyone,” Flavius searched for a description that could best sum up the man before him. “Plebian. Although if you have a camp nearby I would appreciate the rest, it’s been a hard ride and I appear to have lost the way.”

The last was spoken with a slight sneer, daring the pleb to make a joke of it.

“I am Aulus Flavius of the Flavii,” he announced proudly. “If you are willing to afford me food and shelter I shall see you well rewarded pleb. Perhaps even help you find your wayward horse. Nox here is as sturdy a mount as I’ve ever owned. I own many horses.”
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Sed Marius

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:56 am

Marius' eyes twinkled with an amusement born of recognition. The stranger was obviously bent on making their respective stations an issue between them. The veteran had had many first-year tribuni militum just like that; but almost to a man they'd proven to hold more piss than vinegar the first time a wave of hostiles swarmed over the vallum. They tended to recant once they figured out just how often their lives and their testicles could wind up in the hands of a senior Centurion; Flavius' pose didn't bother him a bit.

"I have only one horse, Citizen; but he is worth all the rest. Quality over quantity, you know; yours is a fine animal all right, in peak condition too. One might think he'd be steadier; perhaps if you'd spent some time with him...?

"I'm afraid you would not find my patch of earth all that restful. Perhaps calling it a 'castra' was giving it too much credit. The turf-walls and ditches we make every night get called castrae just the same as the fortresses on the Rhine. My little encampment isn't even that grand; and if I make your nostrils flare, my companions are definitely not fit for the likes of you. (I'm the clean one!)

"But I can steer you towards better lodgings. You don't look like the sort who'd enjoy sitting in a hollow in the middle of the woods. We left a very fine mansio about a day's march behind us; but you're headed the other way, aren't you?

"I can take you to the Aemelia," he repeated. "Everything worthwhile will be on one side of it or the other." Then his features darkened. "And you may keep your reward," he growled. "You folk tend to demand what could be freely given. I am not a bribeable entity..."
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Postby Aulus Flavius on Mon Jul 10, 2006 3:08 pm

"I have only one horse, Citizen; but he is worth all the rest. Quality over quantity, you know; yours is a fine animal all right, in peak condition too. One might think he'd be steadier; perhaps if you'd spent some time with him...?

Flavius frowned at the pleb. What was this creature but a horse? One amongst countless others that Flavius and his family had owned. He thought no more of the beast he was riding then the sword by his side or the provisions in his saddlebags. Why form and attachment to this one particular horse? Nox was a worthy beast but not one Flavius would lament loosing.

“Thankyou for the advice pleb. I will be sure to spend more time with my horse,” the sarcasm dripped off each word. Flavius adjusted himself in his saddle. Tired though he seemed at bantering words with the pleb, there was a nervousness about him that wasn’t apparent at first. He kept glancing over his shoulder back the way he had come.

"But I can steer you towards better lodgings. You don't look like the sort who'd enjoy sitting in a hollow in the middle of the woods. We left a very fine mansio about a day's march behind us; but you're headed the other way, aren't you?”

“I seek passage to the north if at all possible,” Flavius pulled out his purse and rattled it. “You may be eager to hand out free advice pleb, but I would be willing to pay for an escort north if you’re travelling that way.”

Another glance over the shoulder.
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