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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

jasondroth24

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Prologue

The Shrine of Bellona, Along the Via Flamina, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

The poor lad flinched just in time to dodge the boot that was destined for his face, the Overseer striding past him, “Out of the way, you little runt” came the harsh voice of Oppius Tursa as he strode into the shrines porch. Young, Veximius suddenly sodden as his bucket toppled over, spilling dirty water everywhere. He had been busy scrubbing hard at the long green smear of pigeon droppings, that had fallen under the eaves of the shrine.

“Fodius, get up that bloody ladder” the Overseer pointing to a very dodgy set of poles, strung together with leather, ‘clean that soot of the pillars, it looks as black as Pluto’s arse up there.’ One of the slave teams, who was obviously the man, Fodius grabbed a bucket and made for the ladder.

The Consular elections over with, Oppius Tursa was but one off half dozen contractors employed by the Senate to come out into the dawn light and clean the whole of the cities main thoroughfares ready for the days festivities. In the coming afternoon, the Senate would formally be opened for the new session, following a display of considerable pomp an pageantry, but before that could happen the filth that covered the sprawling metropolis needed to be cleaned away; already teams of soldiers were removing drunks and beggars back to their home in the slums. With a handful of slaves in toe, Oppius and his team were cleaning the Via Flamina whilst is business partners team was busy in the Forum erecting garlands across the roof-tops.

The House Off Yohsua (the Moneylender) Rome, 2nd of October 450C

“Yoshua my brother you have done it again!” Amran strode across the little courtyard, his voice joyous as he approached the table at which his brother sat, ‘every bloody time you bet the winning horse!’

‘I have not been betting on any horses’ came the curt reply, ‘you have the wrong brother, I am sure. Gambling is not my pleasure’ he peered up from his wax tablets for but a moment before he continued his etching.

Amran struck his elder brother gently on the shoulder with his fist, his face beaming, ‘Don’t play dumb, Hashem does not approve of false modesty. Publius Sempronius and Publius won you sod! And won by miles, you put your money of the winning team.’ The younger brother, had always been a buoyant spirit, today’s news lifting his mood further, for now the two most powerful men in Rome, the Consuls-elect, where indebted to his brother for a considerable sum.

‘I put my money on the only team that ever could have won or even should have won, it was a guaranteed return’ Yoshua’s usually cold, methodical mind not betraying even the slightest hint of relief or joy despite weeks funding the two senior politicians election campaign from the families purse. Failure would have meant any hope off reclaiming the funds would have cost even greater expense. Already rival financiers would be preparing their court cases, to lock their debtors, ergo the defeated candidates, into their contracts.

Plonking his backside down on the long wooden bench, Amran dragged a plate of flat bread toward him, nudging his brother jokily as he reached for the jug of olive oil to moisten the crust. ‘You can look a little happy you know’ his brother sullen demeanour suddenly dampening his own mirth. Seriousness crept into his tone, mixed with pride, ‘once again you and your funding has kept our family and our associates, in Rome’s good grace.

Yoshua snorted suddenly, ‘we will never be in those brother, make no mistake of that’ he reached for his own piece of bread, laying down his pen, ‘they still don’t trust us, regardless of how much they owe us.’ He broke of a chunk carefully, ‘We are still outsiders and foreigners to them.’ Indeed over the years, Yoshua, the elder brother had invested much time and coin in financing the various factions political schemes purely to encourage such disdain, in the hope of buying his people a peaceful life.

Dipping his bread, into a earthen bowl of crushed chickpeas Amran shrugged, ‘I do wonder if Hashem deliberately set you in a foul mood at birth, or else our mother squeezed too hard pushing you out and it has damaged your mind.’

‘You spend too much time with them’ he snapped, ‘you should spend more time with your own and remember how to speak among civilised people!’ he spat out the barb. Their mother had died near fifteen years ago now, and Yoshua still revered her like some sacred icon.

‘Forgive me brother’ Amrans tone suddenly sincere, realising he had over-stepped the mark, popping the chunk of bread, dabbed in humus and olive oil into his mouth.

The Swallows Rest Taverna, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

The stench of sour wine clogged the air and the whole tavern bustled with activity, in one far corner a band of veterans were beating the table with their fists and boisterously singing a marching tune, with twenty more curse words than it had ever had on campaign.

Smoke swirled around the rafters, rising from the fire pit at the taverns heart, the path of the serving girls twisting and coiling around tables dodging wondering hands. Under one table a foul tempered dog, snapped at an unwelcome boot.

Like many of the drinking dens of Rome it was packed full of veterans and citizens all night celebrating as the results of the Consular elections spread out across the city. Here, most voices were raised in joy, for the former General and now Consul-elect, Publius Sempronius Sophus, a hero of the Italian Wars was their man, each man believing their vote had carried the day. Few here cared for the old warhorses running mate and Co-Consul, Lucius Migellus but none would speak ill of him. Elsewhere, in other taverns no doubt, the mood would be sullen and quiet, fights erupting in the rougher sinkholes, as a waisted vote for a failed candidate meant five more years backing the wrong team; no Roman welcomed defeat warmly.

“I tell you Caius this is the start of something special” a heavy hand landing on Caius’ shoulder, as Varus continued his lengthy speech, anyone would think he had been a candidate. ‘From now on we veterans will get the recognition we deserve and those soft-arsed scum who voted for Lucius and Gnaeus can have five years of being used as a piss-pot.’

Caius smiled, sipping his wine deeply rather than answer, listening to his old friend using the other candidates fore-names one would assume he knew them personally as associates. He had to agree in part with his companion, that indeed the last five years had been hard for his ilk, veterans who had fought long and hard during the first Italian war had essentially been put out to pasture without any form off support from the state, despite the growing wealth of the merchants of the city.

Varus waved at a young, mousey looking girl with dark hair and eyes to match, seventeen summers old at the most, ‘MORE WINE GIRL!’ he bellowed across the din before turning back to his speech. ‘Give it six months and I tell you all will be to the good, you mark my words! On Jupiter’s stone Marcus will set everything to rights!’

Lucca jumped in, a young man and friend to both of them, ‘I was thinking of joining up!’ he stated flatly, ‘when they begin recruiting again, like they said they would!’ During the campaign, Publius had pledged to raise two new legions, a chance for the cities young men to have employment, coin and purpose.

‘Ha, ha! A fine idea lad!’ Varus beamed, ‘you will make decent sword fodder! You have a good arm’ Varus laughed, squeezing the younger man’s bicep. He suddenly shifted, elbowing Caius in the ribs, ‘Those Etruscans won’t know what hit them aye my friend’ he winked, ‘when this one decides to play the new Achilles’ he winked to his companion, as the slave girl returned with more wine.

‘Lets just wait and see’ Caius voice hushed, ‘we are less than a day in to their term, everyone can make promises, getting them through the Senate will be a different matter entirely! Publius speaks of war, but that’s not entirely up to him!’ The middleman, having an interest in politics, understood the complex web that under-pinned the Consular elections, promises made to win votes with the citizen tribes did not always sit as comfortably with the nobility. Publius Sempronius was a fine man and yes he was a veteran himself, but he was every bit a member of Rome’s ruling elite.

Varus suddenly scoffed, gulping down a full cup of wine in one go, clearly mumbling insults into his cup, Lucca sipping his own drink carefully. ‘You mark my words’ came the firm reply, ‘he promised jobs! He promised a new legion! He promised glory to Rome!’ Varus took on a nearly mindless mantra as he listed these few promises without thought, ‘I served the General during the last war, if he said we would win, we won! If he said we would fight, we fought! He says he will make Rome glorious, and he will!’ There would be no dissuading the elder veteran; loyal to a fault, he trusted his former commander implicitly and thus for him and many others like him, the notion that the dogs of war where already loose and the Etruscans would be the target was fact not simply possibility.


The House of Senator Atticus Hilarius (Cloth-merchant), Rome, 2nd of October 450C

Laelia leaned against the door of the atrium, her husband sat on a little stone bench feeding a handful off birds fluttering about his feet for the crumbs he offered. She was resplendent in the finest robe she could have found, made from her husband’s own cloth companies’ stock and hand embroidered with beautiful needlework by her servant. Her hair was pinned high, in the fashion, and a scattering of tiny pearl-headed pins held it in place. She looked radiant yet reserved as befitting the moment.

Atticus sat in his brilliant white toga, the red-trim and careful pleating looking very fine, his balding head trimmed even further back than nature intended, added to his dignity. “You look nice” he offered, from but a glancing look.

“Are you ready?” she replied impatiently, the dumb expression returned by her husband, raising her hackles slightly, ‘We have to go, whether you want to or not we have to go’ she moved into the atrium, taking his hand gently. Having backed the loosing candidates in the election, Atticus was naturally feeling deflated and an invitation to celebrate amongst his rivals was not one the top of his to-do list. ‘Publius has had the decency to extend a invitation to us, see it as the opportunity it is and let us make the most off it.’

‘All he wants is to deepen the humiliation of his opponents and feed his own ego with false friendship’ he spoke more to the birds than to his wife.

Shrewd as ever, Laelia had her answer ready before he had even finished speaking, ‘False friendship has its uses, better an uneasy amnesty than open hostility…’ she sighed, ‘now come on! I am told they have spent a small fortune on food and if nothing else we can line our stomachs from Publius purse’ she sighed again, irritation creeping in as her husband failed to respond, ‘Gnaeus Flavius is going and he lost the bloody election, not you! We should at least go and show our faces.’

Clapping his hands and brushing away the crumbs, the little birds fluttered of in sudden surprise, ‘FINE! Lets get on with it, if only to give my ears some peace.’

As a member of the Populist faction of Senators, Atticus had hoped that victory in the elections would guarantee them trade protections, new opportunities and the chance for real political power, defeat however, meant a quiet different outcome. Publius Sempronius and his colleague, had won the vote promising military intervention in the north, paid for with new taxes raised from the merchant classes and financial incentives for freemen and citizens which would open up fresh competition amid the trading companies and commercial guilds, contracts after all would likely be awarded to their own friends. Such was the nature of Roman politics, it was not simply a matter of high statecraft and grand politics, it was at times much more petty than that, and the benefits of the Consulship offered the chance to dispense favours, largesse, contracts and minor benefits to those loyal associates who had staked their fortune on the winning side.
 
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Nikolai

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Chapter 1: A new Era dawns

Laelia (Wife of Senator Atticus) – The Capitol Hill, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

Weaving between the icy figures of Rome’s noble maids and matrons, Laelia tried to find a friendly face and just ahead of her she had spotted the gentle smile of Honoria Prima, her friend and wife of the old goat, Senator Phillipus. All around her the wives of Rome’s ruling elite were dressed in their finery, powdered, pinned and primed to perfection despite the early hour, looking out onto the main road leading up from the city to the capitol.

Few acknowledge her and fewer still actually spoke to her as she moved through the rank and file, toward the front of the temporary platform. She was not, as her name attested born a Roman, her family coming from Capua, once a free city and now a province of the Republic, but if that was not enough to condemn her in the eyes of these women, the fact her husband had fought long and hard to support the loosing candidates most certainly did.

“Salve sister, how are you?” her hand reached out tentatively, a gentle smile greeting her as she and Honoria embraced. The two women had accepted their position amicably enough; Laelia would never be truly welcome amongst the patrician families and Honoria had a husband whose reputation as a drunk, a philanderer and a heavy gambler proceeded him.

“It is good to see you” the two separating, uncaring who was watching them, Honoria’s voice lowering, ‘I was worried Atticus’ would lock you both up’ she smiled, ‘you know what he is like for being overly dramatic!’

Laughing aloud suddenly, Laelia had to try and smother her mirth, ‘Oh he wasn’t for coming at all! He didn’t sleep much last night, but we cant not come and show our faces!’ she stated flatly.

‘A setback, that’s all it is’ Honoria beamed, turning slowly to look at the road, trumpets were sounding at the end of the street and crowds were beginning to flood up the side of the buildings, ‘just a setback! But he does so like to worry doesn’t he!’ her voice jolly. ‘Perhaps at the party tonight, we can find him an opportunity or two, something to distract his attention?’ her husband may have had a bad reputation, but Senator Phillipus had friends, an these friends could be persuaded to offer a hand to a man with money.

‘That would do him the world off good!’ Laelia laughed, ‘He thinks he is doomed or cursed, ha! He really isn’t designed for politics, why he ever decided to get involved’ she cast her eyes around her carefully, ‘in this whole sordid business I will never know!’

Roman politics was a dodgy affair for certain, whole fortunes where often stacked on the outcome of one election, everyone hoping to retrieve their loss and double their profit when their man won. It was most certainly not a game for the faint of heart and those who backed the wrong team, could if they were not flexible enough find themselves and their businesses toppling into destitution within days. The trick was, so it seemed, to lodge enough support (material and immaterial) behind a candidate and simply absorb the loss if it came and wait for the next time. Atticus Hilarious was just such a man, he had pledge a third of his fortune in helping Gnaeus Flavius, an it had been lost, but unlike many who put their toes in the pond, he had taken the loss personally and feared the retribution of his foes. Laelia understood, despite her youth, this was just one stage in the game and now it was time to change tactic, perhaps change friends or simply smile and carry on, they were after all not the only ones to back the losing side.

Junia Prima (Wife of Publius Sempronius Sophus) – The Capitol Hill, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

For goodness sake smile you miserable woman, Junias eyes rolled, turning away from Fabia Seconda, wife of Publius Sulpicius Saverrio, her husband’s running mate and thus Co-Consul. The poor woman hadn’t broken so much as a smile or a grin for the better part of an hour, for one so young it was not seemly. I suppose, if I had a husband with a face as hard as Saverrio’s I wouldn’t smile much either, she mused to herself.

Junia nodded gently and forced a few words out of her mouth, repeating an near mindless mantra of gratitude’s as yet another well-wisher stepped forward to embrace her before fainting back amid the crowd of women. Silence fell suddenly, the senseless chatter and prattle ending as trumpets and drums announced the arrival of the Senatorial cortege into the square. Over to her left, Junia caught briefly the eye of Publius Cornelius Barbartus, Pontifex Maximus, chief officiate of the day’s proceedings flanked by a coil of acolytes drawn from all the Temples of Roma.




Behind Barbartus in the gloom of the Temple doors, the Chief Augur stepped forward, his face painted with thick red blood, in a garish parody of Jupiter Capitolinus. Down in the short flight of steps entering the piazza Junia spotted the square frame of her husband, Publius Sophus, mounted on horseback on the front row of the Senatorial procession.

This ritual was almost as old as the city itself, harking back to the time before the Kings were thrown down. Following the election of the new Consul’s, the patriarchs of Rome’s equestrian and optimate houses rode through the streets on horses gifted to them by state to the Temple of Jupiter, where the Consul-elect would take their oaths of office, followed by a flying visit then to the Temple of Vesta before the new Senatorial session was formally opened under the auspices of the Immortal Gods



“Ladies” the dry, hard voice of Publius Cornelius Barbartus sounded, ‘will you join me?’ he waved to his side, it was not a question however, the wives of the Consuls-elect were expect to enter the Temple of Jupiter with their husbands and act as witness to it, they in term perhaps symbolising the Goddess Juno, Queen of Heaven. Junia smiled gently, stepping forward whilst the rigid, lithe frame off Fabia Seconda joined them.

At the bottom of the steps the two Consuls, were dismounting their horses, along with a number of the senior officials, ahead of them the lictors, honorary guards, bearing their rods off office climbed the small staircase in solemn procession.

The Pontifex Maximus did not wait for the senators or lictors to reach the top of the stair, already he had turned to the Chief Augur, nodding for him to enter the temple, acolytes retreating into the gloom without a word, their faces hidden beneath heavy hoods, a chorus of chanting intoning within “JUPITER, OPTIMUS, MAXIMUS! JUPITER, OPTIMUS, MAXIMUS!”

What a bloody fuss, Junia mused. To her this whole thing seemed rather severe and grim, not exactly the jovial processions offered to Bacchus or Saturn, the expression however, on Fabia’s face made it quiet clear, she was a woman of some considerable belief; her eyes suddenly cast downward and her shawl coming up over her head in respect to the Gods in their Heaven.

Publius Sempronius Sophus- The Senate House- The Capitol Hill, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

Publius fiddled with his signet ring, thoughtlessly, his eyes and his mind wandering over the mob of Senators slowly but surely taking their seats ahead of him, at his side his Co-Consul, Publius Sulpicious Saverrio sat nervously straightening his toga as it creased at the knee. Today’s proceedings were but a mere formality, an extension of the days rights and rituals that confirmed them both as Consul’s of Rome.

Having offered sacrifice to Jupiter and Mars, then taking their oaths of office before the Fire of Vesta, this final act was the end point of a long, tiresome day; his wife Junia having already left for home, to ensure the nights festivities were in readiness. The lictors suddenly and without warning rapt their staves against the cold, floor of the Senate House, demanding silence. A sudden rush of activity seeing many of the more gregarious members of the House, rushing to find a seat amid their friends.

Rising slowly from his seat just below them, Lucius Papirius Cursor, Speaker of the Senate, made his presence known without so much as a word. A General and veteran of the Italian wars he was both feared and respected by both enemies and friends alike and in his new honorary position, he commanded considerable authority. He cleared his throat.



Publius leaned over ever so slightly to his comrade, his voice low, “Leave this to me brother, I will keep it short and sweet” he smiled gently but with firmness in his words, it was important that today off all days he made it clear that he was the lead man.

“Conscript Fathers!” Lucius had already begun, his voice even, he had no need to shout for silence descended in moments, ‘It is an honour to stand before you this day’ he paused giving the few stragglers coming into the chamber time to take their seats or else find a shadow to hide in. ‘Auguries have been taken, the auspices are good and with that in mind it falls to me to introduce to you your new Consuls-elect and open this new session.’ Taking a sidestep, Lucius gestured toward the rostrum, ‘Publius Sempronius Sophus and Publius Sulpicius Saverrio’ he pivoted, gesturing to the rest of the chamber, ‘I present to you the Senate and People of Rome!’ None moved, or clapped or so much as muttered at the comment, for each man sat within the hall accepted that they were Rome, not only the Senate of Rome but representatives off the Republic at large, they were the people who mattered.

A very brief silence followed, as Sempronius and Sulpicious eyed one another, before the former rose steadily, adjusting his toga as he stood, a smile on the older mans face as he moved to the front of the rostrum. A gentle nod of thanks to Lucius, saw the speaker return to a sedentary position. “Senators!” Publius opened, raising his arms to embrace the whole throng, his eyes carefully picking out and meeting the glare of those men who truly controlled the House, not every man, but those choice few who controlled the factions and nots of alliances. ‘I thought it was the honour of my life, the day that this place’ meaning the Curia, ‘nominated me to serve as a legate in the army of Marcus Valerius Corvus’ the newly elected Consul offering an open hand to the hero of the Republic, sat on the front row of seats directly ahead of them, the two swapping a smile, ‘then again I thought the honour could not be higher when the People of Rome elected me as Praetor’ he paused, casting a careful look to his Co-Consul, whom had held neither office and yet still risen high, ‘But neither of them were as great as the honour I feel today!’ he tried to sound humble, ‘To be voted by the People to be Consul of Rome, and in such numbers’ he couldn’t help himself from pointing out the clear victory they had scored ‘is the greatest honour any man can hope to achieve!’ He paused again, letting a gentle round of applause pass across the room, the occasional ‘Here, here’ and ‘well done’ breaking amid the crowd.

“We together” Publius gesturing to the Co-Consul, ‘Have made many promises’ dozens to be exact, ‘and there is a great deal of work to be done’ he paused for a moment, weighing the mood and catching the eye of a number of notable members. ‘And so Honoured Fathers we will begin in earnest, to set a new course for all Rome’ strength grew in his voice, ‘To the north and south there are those who would see what we have achieved so far torn down and cast aside! There are those who would seek to set the yoke of tyranny around our necks!’ again he paused, giving his audience time to take his words in, ‘But I say to you now, with the god as my witness; that shall never be!’ Muted cheers and a sporadic applause spread from one side to the other. ‘As many of you know’ he spun to the left of the audience, then swept his gaze to the right, catching key figures in his scope, ‘over the course of the coming days, we will be meeting with the Chief Augur and the Pontifex to discuss dates for the next set of elections..’ he let the statement float a moment, ‘nominations will then be taken. But I ask you, man to man, listen to the promises we have made and ask yourself if they are things you can support? If they are, and you wish to forward into the future with us, then let us begin our work.’

There was a short break off applause as the Senate realised the short speech was over, a few men leaning to the sides with hushed whispers. The undertone of that last remark was clear, side with the Consuls or be left behind.

Lucius, the Speaker nodded to the lictors and the sudden wrap of their staves told the assembly, the session was over for the day and the feasting could begin. Without another word the Senate was on its feet and the different nots of men began to drift either to the rostrum or to the door, many men’s fortunes would be made or broken this night.

Lucius Postumius Migellus – The House of Consul Publius Sophus, Rome, 2nd of October 450C

“More wine Senator?” the soft voice of the serving boy broke Lucius’ reverie, a pewter jug in the young mans hand. A flick of the wrist telling the boy to depart, he had had enough wine for one night.




On the far side of the guest filled room Lucius could see a swarm of senators crowding around the old war dog, Marcus Valerius Corvus, Hero of the Republic. His power was slowly waning, as old age and the lack of a formal office began slowly to chip away at his authority, but still the former General had considerable influence in the House and amongst the plebs. If anyone wanted to win one of the upcoming votes for political office, his endorsement would be worth its weight in gold, gold many would pay. Lucius noted the few men locked in conversation with the General; his old friend and Speaker, Lucius Papirius, then there was the rising star, Lucius Cornelius Scipio and most noticeably Gaius Junius Bubulcus, the man that almost everyone expected to become the next Censor and thereby one of the most important men in all Roma. A few irritating nobodies, clearly buzzing around seeking an invitation to join them.




“May I sit with you Lucius” the croaking, low voice came from behind, Aulus Verginius, richest man in Rome, slipped down onto the chair beside the Senator, not waiting for permission. ‘Junia has surpassed herself tonight, do you not think? Publius must have near bankrupt himself to pull this of but she has done well to make so much from what I imagine is now very little!’ Aulus sounded amused, by that statement alone it was obvious he himself had not been asked to fund the new Consuls election.

Lucius eyed Aulus Verginius thoughtfully, ‘Forgive me friend but I am in no mood for small talk’ all new that Publius was funded by Hebrew lenders anyhow, seeking to circumvent to circle of obligation which shackled itself to borrowing from fellow Senators. ‘No doubt everything, he has ventured to claim the Consul’s chair will work its way back to him.’




‘Doubtful!’ Verginius suddenly irritated that Lucius would not join him in tittle tattle. The elder statesman, glared carefully through the crowd to Marcus Valerius Corvus, ‘Anyone it’s a good party!’ he stated flatly, ‘lots of opportunities if one knows where to look, nay?’ obviously Aulus meant the three dozen strong mob of Senators, businessmen, land owners, soldiers and other figures, all whom would be using this feast to realign their own interests toward the future.

‘Is there a purpose to your visit my friend?’ Lucius refused to meet Aulus gaze, ever the old man was scheming and seeking to advance his own personal wealth.

The two men sat in silence for a moment, the older man staring into the bottom of his cup, ‘Grain contracts’ he sighed, ‘I thought we could at least have some small talk to begin, but if you want to get to it then I wish to discuss grain contracts!’ Aulus took a deep swig of his wine, before continuing, ‘You have friends with vacant storehouses I am told, men who have stacked their fortunes on the losing side and need some capital’ again he paused, ‘I can pay reasonably well if you could arrange a meeting.’

‘Ahhh’ Lucius was not in the slightest bit surprised at the suggestion, he had already heard of Aulus interest, but now it was confirmed. ‘I do indeed have friends with storage space’ he paused smiling, ‘however, my friend the import licenses have not been granted and I dare say the new Consuls will not be placing them before the House or the Peoples Assembly any time soon’ everyone new what Publius and his partner would prioritise; war with Etruria, that was their mood.

‘You can change that’ Aulus did not wait for a reply, rising from his seat and turning to move into the crowd, his voice dropping low, ‘You are a man of considerable resources and friends Lucius, I am sure you can change that!’
 
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stnylan

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This may or may not be apposite, but reading the above update I got the marvellous mental image of creaky chairs plotting against the table.
 

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Plots and schemes. All around. Rome is herself I see.
 

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Chapter 2: Opening Moves

Lucius Postumius Megellus – The House of Sempronius, Roma, 3rd of October 450C

I knew I had had to much bloody wine, by Bacchus my eyes! Lucius rubbed gently at his eye lids, a dull ache at the rear of the eye sent by the God of Wine, to remind him he was past the age of being able to drink a full skin of wine to himself. He stood waiting in the little atrium, all around him servants and household slaves were busy at work, cleaning Sempronius’ house following the feast. No doubt the lady of the house, wanted things back in order.

The business of state would not wait however, for things to be pristine and so here Lucius was at the break of day, waiting for an audience with the new Consul. No doubt during the last evening many new schemes had been hatched and loose promises had been made, but it was this first morning and over the course of the coming days which would see the political gears start turning proper.

He is bloody late, for Gods sake hurry up Marcus or else I will have to go in there alone! Lucius fiddled with the chain around his neck, beside him his personal secretary stood nervously, clutching a handful of wax tablets. Thank heavens, Lucius mind suddenly swooned with relief for he was a nervous man, as the figure of Marcus Fulvius Paetinus entered the house.

“Salve brother” the young, handsome man strode confidently into the room, his hands out stretched to embrace Lucius, ‘it is a fine morning is it not.’

‘Is it indeed?’ he paused as they embraced a brief moment, firmer friends and staunch allies as they were, ‘We shall see how fine when this charade is over.’ The two eyed each other ruefully, both new this meeting was important, in the next hour or so no doubt Publius Sempronius would pitch for their support in the Senate, in the hope of passing his legislation or even with the intention of marginalising his colleague; profit could be made for sure and their own faction strengthened, but not be false pleasantries had been exchanged.

“The Consul will see you now” came a sharp, nasal tone. An old servant, dressed in dour colours stood by the door, his hair line receding even as his arm extended to bid them enter. The two men smiled at each other, ignoring the man who had spoken as they both moved into the hallway beyond and strode toward the room at its end, where the Consul waited.


Publius Sempronius Sophus, Consul of Rome – The Consul’s study, Roma, 3rd of October 450C

“Please do sit down by friends” Publius smiled, rising from his chair and gesturing to the two seats on the opposite side of the table, Lucius and Marcus not waiting to be asked twice as the door behind them slowly closed. Behind the Consul, Senator Gaius Junius Bubuculus and Lucius Cornelius Scipio sat, both wearing warm but blank expressions. These two men, the former a time old veteran of Senatorial politics and the later, a rising star amongst the Optimate faction were here to be private witnesses to the discussions. ‘I hope you are both feeling fresh this morning?’ the Consul trying to sound relaxed and amiable, though all new it was nothing but pleasantries.

“We are well thank you Consul” Lucius answering for both of them as he took his seat. His eyes meeting the Consul’s, offering a half-hearted nodded to the two men sat to the rear as he pulled his chair forward. ‘What a fine house you have’ he glanced around, ‘it must have cost you a fortune!’

‘Not at all’ Publius brushed off the seemingly innocent remark, in Roman political life, even a seemingly empty statement could be loaded; comments on personal wealth especially. ‘It is the family home, passed to me by my father…. I was thinking it is about time though we upgraded.’ Publius turned ever so slightly, a slight cough from Senator Bubuclus urging him to proceed. ‘Anyhow’ he paused, scanning over his notes, ‘to business my friends’ locking his fingers in thought a moment, ‘we have things to discuss as I am sure you know.’

‘We are here to listen brother’ Marcus Paetinus tossed out, feigning stupidity, ‘though what help we can be I am not sure.’ The young Senator locked eyes with the young Scipio, smiling meekly.

‘You can be off great help’ Publius fixed Paetinus with a firm look, ‘both of you’ shifting to Lucius. ‘We have work to do my friends, great work’ he went on without pause, ‘but none of the things we wish to achieve can be attained without compromise and support from across the Senate House’ he breathed, the two men sat looking blankly, ‘You two command considerable weight in the Senate, you have valuable friends amongst the merchant classes and your voices can sway the whole mercantile faction in one direction or another.’

Lucius laughed, ‘I do not know who has told you such things, but I think they over estimate our ability’ he looked to his partner beside him, laughing innocently, ‘do you command such influence Paetinus, I know I do not.’

Bubuclus suddenly leaned forward in his seat, irritation on his face ‘Don’t play stupid,! We all now your worth what do you want Postumius? What’s your price?’ The elder statesman had a long history of clashing with the mercantile faction leader and he had no time for games. The two visitors eyed each other thoughtfully a moment, Lucius resting his lip on his crossed hands as he pondered briefly what he could get away with asking for.




The Consul glanced to his side, Bubuculus leaning back in his chair, stroking his beard. ‘Even if you only offered to support us on a vote by vote basis, I am sure we could make some moderate concessions in order to satisfy everyone.’ Coalitions within the Senate were the norm but considering that when the militarist faction and the civic faction combined only had enough to take half the vote, added support from another grouping was essential in order to push legislation through.

‘War is not our desire Consul’ Lucius stated flatly, ‘we see little real profit at this time for the conflict we know you have in mind!’ Lucius paused, running through his mind a list of possible requests he might make. ‘I would start by asking as a gesture of goodwill, a vote on import contracts’ his mind going back to his conversation the previous night, ‘grain contracts specifically!’

‘As you like!’ Publius did not even think on the issue it was so insignificant. These import contracts could be passed through the Senate, the Peoples Assembly, the Quaestors Office or any number of civic departments, one way or another without any concern at all.

“My friend Paetinus” he turned to his partner and grinned, a conversation held some time ago springing to mind, ‘Had hoped for the Governorship of Capua and its surrounding province.’ Wary looks suddenly passing from Bubuculus to Scipio.




“Agreed” again Publius did not hesitate, the appointment would need ratifying in the House, but he had the votes with the merchant faction on side to have it passed without worry. Paetinus suddenly squaring his shoulders, surprised but suddenly beaming, for he had in a moment gone from a Senator, to a Governor with the power of Imperium over thousands of citizens.

Lucius locked eyes with Bubuculus, smirking ‘I have a few names to add to the rolls and a couple I would see removed’ he left the question hanging, ‘If the future Censor would agree?’ the tone making it quite clear, that without the mercantile votes and this condition being met, then Junius hope of being Censor would never be achieved.

Publius squirmed in his chair for a moment, thinking ‘Send us the names and it will be looked at.’

‘And I fancy for myself a magistracy, perhaps on the board of traders or something linked to your tax reform plans’ Lucius stalled, he was asking a lot, thinking carefully on his words, ‘my friends would not be nearly as obliging if you were to suddenly tax them out of business.’

‘Is that all?’ Publius voice suddenly cold, ‘will that do for now? Will you support us?’



‘You will need to let me read through your proposals, but if you will look at our requests, I am sure we can find a favourable outcome.’ Deal done and signed, horses traded, the Consul and Lucius Postumius Megellus both stood and shook hands tightly.


Publius Sulpicius Saverrio – The House of Corvus, Roma, 23rd of October 450C

“I can mention the idea to Sophus if you want, but I am not sure it will go down well! He has made it quiet clear he has his own plans for our term…..” Sulpicius was suddenly forced to stop in his words, a raised hand from Marcus Valerius Corvus pausing him. The circle of fellow Senators, all members of the militarist faction squirmed slightly on their seats.

“I tell you this now Saverrio” spoke Corvus, his voice stern and cold as he looked up from his plate of grapes, olives and cheese, carefully propped up as he was on the one lounger in the room, ‘I have not spent the fortune that I have, nor called in the favours I needed too’ the old Generals eyes meeting a number of the other guests, ‘to be told you will mention it!’ Anger creeped into his tone; “Had I wanted it simply mentioned I could have done that myself! Anyone of these men here could have been in your place” Corvus marking out a number of other faces, all off whom could have been candidates for election to the Consulship.

‘It is not going to be an easy vote we understand that Consul’ Corvus’ son Marcus Valerius Corvinus, interceded, hoping to stave off his fathers obvious anger. ‘I can see you find the idea distasteful, but it does have merit’ the younger man looked at the Consul, in the eye, open handed and open faced trying to show his honesty, ‘Get the bill onto the Senate floor and it will pass, I can promise you that! And we shall all profit from it’.




The bill in question was indeed going to be controversial, but it would also be an incredibly lucrative business if it passed into law. It was proposed that due to a chronic lack of labour within the city of Roma itself and a need for slaves to work the farmers of the surrounding land, a series of licenses should be granted allowing for naval raiding along the Italian coast to seize slaves; the license to be gifted to a man of Corvus’ choosing and the ships to be supplied by the state. Slavery was not the issue, the problem was raiding neutral territories without a legitimate reason would be seen as unjust, uncivilised and barbaric in the eyes of the plebs.

‘As I have said I can ask’ Saverrio replied again, he was not a strong-willed man and obviously Sophus had made it clear which one of them was in charge, during the campaign. The trouble he had now was that the old General from who he had received the most support, was not a man to be frustrated.

‘You may go now, Consul!’ the old General quiet flat in his tone, the audience was over. ‘We shall speak again, no doubt!’ he did not make eye contact with the Consul, but as the man rose and moved to leave, a sudden thought crossed the veterans mind and he spoke allowed, ‘If you would be so kind as to mention my proposals when you see Sophus, I would be grateful’ he paused but a moment, ‘failing that, if I get it put to the Assembly or too the Senate, I shall expect your full support.’

Saverrio turned, swallowing hard, his nerves showing, ‘I shall most certainly try my friend, I shall try.’ A waving wrist shooing him out of the room.

The Lictors escorting the Consul left, the door closing firm and for a moment silence fell amongst the gathered veterans. ‘We will have to find someone else I fear to get our bill onto the floor, perhaps Papirius’ meaning the Senates speaker, ‘can find us someone to straw-man the motion.’

‘Or I could propose it myself, father?’ Corvinus suddenly chirped up.

‘No!’ Corvus stated flatly, ‘Your going to get the bloody command of those ships, an we are going to get the license for ourselves, you can not propose it….it has to be someone else’s idea.’ It made sense after all, the Senate was a nest of self-serving vipers, none wanting to see others profit and any suggestion of profit must at times be hoisted upon seemingly unwilling men.

Quintus Fabius Rullianus, the chief advocate of the militarist faction and the one seen as their public face suddenly leaned forward on his chair, ‘I will find us someone! In fact I already have an idea ..’ he pondered, checking the old General was listening, ‘Senator Atticus and his friend Hilarius’ no one spoke, for no one really seemed to recognise the names so he decided to elaborate, ‘next to nobodies really, they sit on the back benches. They are friends with Postumius, but both have found themselves out off pocket lately, they will not turn their noses up at the chance to recoup their loses.’

Lucius Cornelius Scipio—The Steps outside the Temple of Jupiter, Roma, 31st October 450C

Hands flew forward from amid the crowd as friends, supporters and would be benefactors offered their congratulations at Scipio’s success; he had won by a sweeping majority the vote to become Quaestor and thus one of the leading financial controllers of the Republic and its budget. Scipio noticed amid the crowd of well-wishers, a man to the rear stood against a pillar, a man who did not come forward nor wish him well; a jew more importantly and a reminder he had leant a sizable sum to win this election and thus was indebted



Down the flight of steps leading from the Temple, the people of Rome went about their business, the forum thronging with people who for the most part could not careless for the recent Senatorial elections; the people understood all to well that they were usually a done deal prior to voting day, the candidates thoroughly screened by the Censor and the Consuls to ensure their favoured candidates triumphed. The only election of any importance to the plebs after the Consular elections, was those for the Tribune of Plebs, an they were two weeks away.

“Senator Hilarius how good to see you” Scipio’s hand gripped tight the sweaty palm of the toga-clad weasel stood before him, ‘I had hoped to see you today’ he beamed, his face glowing with a broad smile, he gently tugged his arm back without releasing his grip, drawing the nervous looking Senator closer to him as his own voice dropped low ‘your name is floating around quiet a lot lately and I would so like to know why?’

‘Mm-mm-mine ?’ the poor mans voice failed him. ‘I can’t think why, for the life of me Quaestor I have nothing to do with anyone!’ his suddenly began to shake, droplets of sweat forming on his brow.

‘Ha, ha as you like it!’ Scipio smiled, he knew all too well that the various parties, were seeking support from the back benches in order to boost their position an secure authority for their man Saverrio, ‘the women of Rome talk my brother, an your wife talks a lot!’ Whispers and gossip travelled by many avenues through Rome and one piece of gossip had left the lips of Hilarius’ wife and made their way to the ears of Scipio’s own wife. The Quaestor released his grip, turning to embrace another well-wisher, but suddenly he pivoted, ‘Perhaps you would join me for dinner sometime?’ he smirked, ‘you and your good lady?’

‘Urm…..urm….well, urm yes that could be possible’ Hilarius was suddenly dumb struck.

‘That was not a request my friend..’ Scipio’s tone suddenly foreboding, ‘You will join me for dinner.’
 
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Nikolai

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Excellent update, I especially liked the horse trading sequence. :D
 

jasondroth24

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Chapter 3: Part 1- Negotiations


Laelia (Wife of Senator Hilarius) – The House of Sempronius, Rome, 19th November 450C

“It was very nice of Scipio to have us for dinner” Laelia stated cheerily, ‘And his wife is a charming lady.’ Standing beside the wall with her husband, she was dressed in a fine blue gown whilst her husband, wore a deep rouge tunic, fine sandals, his fingers bedecked in rings whilst a new gold chain hung around his neck.

Sipping his wine and his cheeks reddening, Hilarius was in fine spirits, “Very nice indeed and profitable for sure my love”. Who would have thought a few pieces of gossip shared by his wife with another Senators mistress would have brought them such an abundance of good fortune? In the days following their dinner with Scipio, the third-rate politician had been awarded a contract to import and store grain from Africa in one off his vacant warehouse, as well as being handed a position in the Quaestors office and a minor magistracy.

She smiled at him, finally glad that the prattle she had accumulated from the few matrons who did dare to befriend her had been worth its weight in gold. ‘I can’t quiet see what the excitement was if I am truthful, so Saverrio is friends with one of the Oglianus brothers, is he not allowed friends?’ innocence shining through.

‘No to tell you the truth I can’t understand that myself’ Hilarius pondered for a moment, ‘it must be some sort of scheme going on perhaps and any information is useful information’ he settled with himself; that must surely be it! Any news is useful news.

Suddenly a commotion seemed to start by the entrance and the gathering edged toward quiet, as the guests turned all at once toward the main doors, a few notable members whom Laelia recognised moving to join the two Consuls; their guest must have arrived.

This evening was a welcome dinner for the new Chief of Lucania and his entourage, whom were in Rome to discuss an alliance between their two peoples.

‘Well I for one will not look a gift horse in the mouth’ Lealia finished, sipping her cup and nudging her husband forward to get a better view of the newcomers.

Publius Sempronius Sophus, Consul of Rome – The House of Sempronius, Rome, 19th November 450C

Publius embraced the Lucanian Chief with a wide sweeping gesture, a false smile plastered across his face. “I bid you welcome to Rome brother and to my home!” He stepped back briskly, gesturing to the fine lady stood beside him, ‘My wife Junia of course’ wasting not a moment to move to his opposite side, ‘And my fellow Consul, Publius Sulpicius Saverrio!’ The second Consul stepping forward to embrace their guest, whilst Junia, with great dignity gave a slight bob of recognition. Placing a gentle hand on the Chiefs shoulder, Publius took charge of the greeting, not giving his colleague chance to interfere as he turned to the gaggle of Senators whom had crowded around, ‘Senator Junius’ he acknowledged the Censor, one of his closest allies, ‘Senator Corvus and his son, Senator Corvinus’ noting Rome’s greatest living hero and his heir, ‘Senator Scipio, our new Quaestor….Senator Rullianus….Senator Gurges’ he rattled off in quick succession the men stood in arms reach, other notable members preferring to stay at their cups or else smiling amicably from a reasonable distance.

Chief Numerius was a youthful looking man, slender built but with taught muscle made all the clearer by the golden rings around his upper arms, he had donned the dress of a Roman, opting for a toga off sorts but his face was bearded, whilst most Roman men preferred to shave away their facial hair. His wife, Aquillia matched him in frame and colour, her gentle blue shawl dropping down one shoulder, contrasting against the brilliant white gown.

“We are honoured to be here Consul” he nodded, smiling to both Sophus and Saverrio, ‘there is much to discuss I am sure’ he paused, ‘my people are keen to move forward together.’ As one of the larger and more stable tribes in southern Italy, the Lucanii it was hoped would tip the balance in any future conflict between Rome and Etruria, there people reputedly excellent warriors.

“Come let me get you some wine” the Consul moving the Chief away from the entrance, ‘there are many here who wish to meet you’ he beamed, his voice slick, pivoting briefly the Consul turned to his wife, ‘I am sure my good lady-wife will keep your own love entertained whilst we talk.’ Junia nodded without a word, gently taking the arm of Aquillia and leading her without pause into a gaggle of curious matrons whilst the opening salvos of diplomatic wooing began.




A round off faces stepped into view, men eager to shake hands with the visiting dignitary, but Publius was not for wasting time and he moved quickly to guide Numerius toward a quieter part of the room, waving away many of the advancing statesmen. “I am eager to get these negotiations underway you understand. Time is of the essence my friend and the sooner we can establish for ourselves an agreement favourable to both sides the sooner we can lay plans for war.’

‘I recognise the need to begin talks and formal negotiations is high on your list of things to do Consul’ he paused smiling, turning to shake hands for a moment with a random well-wisher, ‘the trouble is you seem to have decided an alliance is certain, yet I promise you now that is not guaranteed.’ Both stopped for a moment, Publius and Numerius sharing a long look, ‘the Chieftains of my people want certainty, they want to weigh up the benefits of war before we commit wholeheartedly.’

‘The benefits off war right now, would be Rome’s eternal gratitude!’ Publius stalled, thinking quickly, realising that Rome’s good will would not be enough ‘Until we have victory who knows what benefits we can promise you beyond that.’ The two men slowly slid down onto a lounger, a few of the Consuls most trusted friends closing in around them.

A servant stepped forward with a tray of fancies whilst another came forward with more wine, Numerius dismissed the first but accepted more of the second, ‘Unfortunately that will not do!’ the Chieftain stated flatly. ‘My warriors will not march to war for the promise of good will and kind words’ his tone plain and earthy, ‘my Chieftains have made it clear to me that we will need land in return for weapons and men’ he continued without breath, ‘we need guarantees that when a peace is brokered we to will have spoils to share from this conflict.’

Publius burst into forced laughter, trying to ease the obvious tension that had sparked between them, ‘Well off course Numerius, off course that goes without saying’ he gripped his guest tightly by the shoulder, ‘Rome seeks an ally not a servant, of course we would strive to share out the spoils of victory.’

‘By Mars you swear it?’ Numerius voice sharp and his eyes keen.

‘By Mars and Bellona I swear’ the Consul did not hesitate.

Mettius Pomponius, Ambassador of Sabinia-The House of Sempronius, Rome, 19th November 450C

“Be warned my friend, seeking the protection of Rome is not something to be taken lightly” Foedius, Ambassador of the Marsii tribes people spoke, his voice hushed as he leaned close to Mettius, a Clan Chief of the Sabanii and currently, envoy to Rome. ‘They do not offer their friendship freely, though at first it seems that way.’ Laying along the eastern edge of the Republics territories, between the mountains and the sea, the Marsii had fallen under Rome’s yoke during the last Italian war, seeking sanctuary from roving hordes of Etruscan warriors.

‘We have little choice’ the large, portly man stated without emotion.




‘No perhaps you do not’ came the thoughtful reply, regret in the Ambassadors voice, ‘but do not let them know that! When you meet with the Consul do not go begging’ strength and defiance sounding deep inside him. ‘If they think they can badger you into surrendering your territories and your rights they will do so.’ The Ambassador new all to well that the Roman’s took what they wanted, an nothing they offered was given freely, in the one hand they offered friendship and protection, whilst in the other hand they would demand absolute loyalty from their subjects alongside lands, monies, warriors and freedom.

‘If war comes’ Mettius paused, thinking carefully, ‘then Rome’s legions will seek to move through our lands, the mountain passes will be vital to them’ again he paused, his face pale, he hesitated, ‘what choice then will we have? Block the route of march and be annexed in quick time or else negotiate with them and preserve our freedom.’

Foedius did not reply instantly, thinking carefully how to advise his companion, ‘You must have guarantees!’ he was very clear, ‘Public guarantees! Written ones, sworn before the gods, nothing else will suffice.’

Mettius nodded, he had already been told by his Chieftain that anything short of a sacred, binding oath would not be accepted. If Rome would not swear on the fire of the gods, before witnesses and priests, if they would not sign a formal treaty preserving the independence of the mountain people, then the Sabanii would fight on the side of the Etruscans and open the mountain routes to them instead.

Publius Suplicius Saverrio – The House of Sempronius, Rome, 19th November 450C


“You wouldn’t dare!” Consul Saverrio spat, his voice sharp and panicking, as the realisation that he was trapped gripped him. ‘Do you know who I am you fool!’ his breath shallow, ‘Corvus will ruin you!’ he prayed his sponsors were as loyal to him as he had been to them.

‘I will ruin you first!’ Scipio’s tone was hard and his glare fierce. He had just dropped a bombshell of epic proportion on the Consul’s head and the feeling of exhilaration had strengthened his resolve, ‘But be calm my brother’ Scipio’ patting the Consul gently on the knee, ‘None of this has to come to pass if you do as your told!’

Saverrio bristled, shooing away the Quaestors hand, ‘You are no brother to me, you’re a scoundrel! A nobody! You are nothing! I will leave you in the dirt!’

‘Don’t be foolish now Consul!’ Scipio laughed. ‘Your being very dramatic’ he paused, taking a moment, curious faces turning amid the party to glimpse at them before turning back to their own business. ‘Is it really so much to ask that you support your fellow Consul and his candidate in return for your legislation passing through the house.’ Having caught wind of the proposal for a series of slave raids along the Etruscan coast at the same time as uncovering Saverrio’s sordid affair with the younger of the Oglianus brothers, Scipio had decided to act.

‘That wasn’t the plan’ Saverrio squealed, ‘it will not work! Please Scipio’ his voice suddenly pleading, ‘I have done nothing to you to deserve this!’

‘This isn’t personal’ the Quaestors voice cold, ‘this is politics! You want your legislation to get through the House and you have promised your friends that it will pass’ he breathed, ‘I am telling you we will get it through without any difficulty, but it will not be Corvus or his son, Corvinus that are awarded the post…support Senator Arvina when I amend the motion and all will be well’ he turned carefully, locking eyes with the Consul, ‘Keep your mouth shut or sound it against my amendment and I will have your balls on a plate and your wife will drag you through the courts!’
 

jasondroth24

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Chapter 3: Part 2- Debate


Lucius Papirius Cursor – The Senate House, Rome, 28th of November 450C

“The motion is carried and Publius Cornelius Arvina is formally appointed Admiral of the Fleet” Lucius declared to the whole house, the Speaker gestured to the seated Senator, rapturous applause spreading across the chamber. ‘May we all congratulate you on your election Cornelius’ the Speaker called over the clapping of hands. With this vote, Senator Arvina was given command of Rome’s fleets stationed at the port of Ostia. Instructed by senatorial decree to sail north along the Italian coast and raid the coasts of Etruria, taking slaves, grain, cattle and other valuables.

Never a lover of public attention, Cornelius rose cautiously from his seat to acknowledge the acclamation of his fellow Senators, nodding to the Speaker and the two seated Consul’s before returning to his seat.

Over recent weeks, disturbances along the border regions between Etruria and Rome had become more frequent, cattle rustling and skirmishes between villages sparking up thus raising tensions in the capital. Where many Senators had initially been reluctant to vote in favour of war, these transgressions had begun to swing the mood in favour of Consul Sempronius and his supporters.

Speaker Papirius raised his hands, urging quiet ‘If we may move onto the other business of the day’ he handed a wax-tablet to one of his acolytes and accepting another offered to him. His eyes quickly skimmed over the slate and he stepped forward, waiting for quiet, ‘The next debate to be opened has been proposed by the Quaestor, Lucius Cornelius Scipio’ the Speaker paused, seeking out the seated official amid his friends and supporters, ‘Does Senator Scipio wish to present his spending suggestions to the house now or after we have adjourned for a short break?’

Scipio rose from his seat slightly, but not taking a full stand, ‘A brief adjournment would be fine Conscript-father!’

Senator Hilarius– The Black Dog Taverna, Beside the Forum, Rome, 28th of November 450C

Hilarius had found himself quite without expecting it, a frequent member now of Scipio’s following, though not at all a vital member. He had duties in the office of the Quaestor, though of little real importance, he sat with Scipio’s supporters and occasionally got within ear shot of Publius Sempronius Sophus, the Consul by virtue of his new position.

With the Senate adjourned for a brief interval, Hilarius now stood quiet, trying to be unnoticed as the lead Consul, Scipio and their allies crowded around a wooden table, supping wine whilst they plotted their next move in today’s series of debates.

“Flattery that’s all it is” Junius, the Censor and one of Rome’s most influential men was speaking, ‘blowing bloody smoke up the old hounds arse, that’s what it is! And a waste of money to boot.’ He was referring to the next motion the Senate would be debating; a series of spending proposals to renovate the Senate House itself, alongside the erection of a statue to Marcus Valerius Corvus and his late master; Octavius Papirius Corva, father of the current speaker and former General of Rome’s legions. ‘Why we need to raise bloody effigies to men who were only doing their duty I will never know’ he growled.

‘Because Corvus will like it that’s why’ Scipio smirked. The militarist faction was not at all pleased that they had been beaten to the post by Cornelius Arvina in the last vote, having pitched for the position themselves, but this motion it was hoped would sweeten their mood. Noting Senator Junius dire mood Scipio continued, ‘The money could be spent elsewhere but if it wins us a few more votes and drags a few of them to our side then it is not wasted.’

‘Quite right Scipio’ Sempronius jumped in, ‘quite right!’ the Consul paused, smiling at his old friend as he poured a little olive oil on the chunk of spread he had just broken from the loaf. ‘We will find no profit in pushing Corvus away from us, he is a powerful man and many in the House listen to him still’ he was right obviously, for despite the fact Senator Rullianus was now seen as the de facto leader of the militarist faction, Marcus Valerius Corvus was a man of great popularity amongst the veterans and citizen body, he was wealthy and respected, annoying him and alienating his family would be a stupid thing to do.

‘If it keeps him happy and it earns us his vote the treasury can afford a little indulgence nay?’ Scipio was a clever man and always light in his mood. ‘The motion should pass easily enough and then we can move onto the nitty gritty of getting our alliance with the Lucanii through the house! Sort that out and get the bloody thing ratified and we are halfway there!’

‘FORCE THE MOTION THROUGH!’ Junius Barbartus snapped, growling through his beard, ‘All this manoeuvring and politicking’ he breathed, ‘if a Consul of Rome wishes to declare war it is within his power to do so!’ An expert on the Republican constitution, the old statesmen new the limits and methods a Consul had open to him, ‘Either pass it through the Peoples Assembly or use Consular-Imperium to declare war on the bloody northern bastards and forget all this; if we do this, then they will do that and then we can do this! Waste of bloody time if you ask me.’

‘Its November, Junius’ the Consul stated flatly, ‘we have time to waste for now, or else we would be going to war just as winter sets in and that is of no benefit to any off us….an besides’ Sempronius paused, chewing on his oiled bread, pushing it into his cheeks, ‘It is in my power to force a declaration of war through the House or through the Assembly, but a treaty of alliance is beyond me’ it was not, but then the implications of a formal treaty stretched onward into the future, potentially passed a sitting Consuls term and the Senate guarded jealously its power over foreign policy, there could be lawsuits and talk of tyranny by such actions.


Lucius Megellus Postumius – The Senate House, Rome, 28th of November 450C

What are you up to Scipio? Senator Postumius mused to himself, watching the young smirking Senator from afar, hiding amid a gaggle of his own supporters. His eyes wandered, squinting slightly as he looked toward the two sitting Consuls, what game is this is I wonder? Saverrio has not so much as breathed loudly all day, the second Consul was sat meekly on his stool, paying more attention to the floor of the House than a single word of the debate; someone it seemed had set him to silence.

“As if they are going to waste our coin on statues and mosaics” came the unhappy voice of Senator Vannius, a man whom had made his fortune breeding horses and rearing cattle. He did not raise his voice above a whisper and considering he had voted in favour of the motion, most of his colleagues simply rolled their eyes and ignored the comment.

Peddling trifles and trinkets that’s all it is, Sempronius and his lot are trying to woo Corvus and the rest into supporting his propositions of war! But if Saverrio would take the lead they could swing the debate in a more favourable direction surely. Postumius was weighing carefully the debates of the day, something had clearly spooked Saverrio to silence and in so doing he had held back, letting the Optimates push their own candidate into command of the fleets an gaining the upper hand.

“Did Junius accept your nominations Lucius?” the croaky old voice of Senator Ignatius crept in over Postumius shoulder from behind, the old wine merchant wreaking of the hard grapes he had obviously supped over lunch.

“Yes….” Postumius paused, obviously pained, his voice low, ‘on condition I support the proposed alliance with Lucania’. Few in the House realised that the sitting Consul had set war with Etruria as the end goal of all these votes and motions, as it was at present there was no serious cause for war with Rome’s northern neighbour, rumblings of discontent along the border region, a few squabbles amongst errant farmers and the occasional theft but nothing as yet that would spark all out conflict; that would change when the new Admiral began raiding the coastline, for no Chief wishing to remain in power could ignore such an obvious act of provocation.

“Well that’s a small price really isn’t it, an alliance with Lucania will open up new business” Ignatius paused, ‘we can get a good deal on trade tariffs maybe, they are good customers…….they like my wine’ he grinned.

Lucius did not even acknowledge the comment, all to aware that the real price was going to be much higher; first a vote confirming an alliance, then in short time a vote would come to propose war. Then the price would be the blood of Rome’s soldiers and no doubt extra taxes to pay for the conflict.
 

stnylan

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Roman politics are always so ... relaxing :D
 

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No no. Roman politics are war. Not a summer breeze to be sure. :D
 

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Chapter 4, Part 1 – Daily life

Callistope, Private-secretary of Aulus Verginius – Forum, Rome, 5th April 451C

Callistope, placed a careful line through one of the items on his wax tablet, a little pricier than I was hoping but it is nice enough. He handed the tablet to the young boy beside him, striding out of the shop front and back onto the street; he had just purchased a beautifully carved lounger from a furniture maker to be placed in the main atrium.

Having purchased a large domus on the Capitoline Hill, Rome’s richest Senator, Aulus Verginius had instructed his chief servant to refurbish the house and replace all the old furniture with new. “That’s a lounger, six chairs and a new dining table” he rattled the list off out loud, more to himself than any would be listener.

Serving the Verginii family for the better part of two and a half decades, Callistope was trusted with the most delicate off tasks, including spending considerable sums of money on his masters behalf. Casting his eyes along the row of shops and stalls, Callistope noted the rotund figure of Marcia, the families long time cook, haggling with a merchant, she was a fierce negotiator and the elder servant pitied the poor sod who offered her a bad deal.

The forum was buzzing with people; slaves, freeman, tribesmen and citizens alike had swarmed into the city to celebrate one of the many religious festivals that littered Rome’s calendar; this particular one dedicated to Mercury, God of Merchants and thus a most favoured time to go shopping since for one week only taxes and tariffs where lifted as an offering to the God. Considering the new taxes imposed from the Quaestors office this would no doubt be a welcome relief for many of Rome’s poor denizens.

“What else is on my list Polyperchon?” he turned slightly, to the young slave behind him, whilst his eyes fell across a table filled with sheep skin rugs and sacks of wool no doubt grown in the high hills to the east.

“The Dominus mentioned a new herb wrack and jars, master!” came the high-pitched reply. Polyperchon was fourteen summers at best, born and raised in captivity, he had been purchased six months early. It was hoped he would be trained up to serve the House of Verginii. Their master, Senator Aulus Verginius was seen by many too be Rome’s finest medical mind and so herbs and pastes were a major part of his work, though his fortune had been made by a enhanced greatly by a mix of trade contracts, smart investments and property management.

“Right!” Callistope looked around, trying to remember where the best herbalist stall had been the last time he came to the forum, hundreds upon hundreds of people crowded the square making it hard to see exactly what was being sold were. ‘Whilst I do that, you had best go to the tailors’ he pointed down a long, wide street branching off from the forum itself, ‘the Dominus has ordered a new toga for the feast tonight and I would not want to forget it, the Pontifex is a funny man, only the whitest of the white will do.’ Over the course of the week, numerous Senators and officials were hosting dinner parties and feasts to honour Mercury, their master had the pick of the lot and tonight, he was attending festivities held by the Pontifex Maximus one of the most important gatherings of the whole extravaganza.


Oppius Pullo, Dock-worker – The Harbour of Ostia, Italy, 27th June 451C

Gulls screeched overhead, Oppius watching carefully as three birds swept down from the breezy heights, one pinching a fish from a basket before other two followed it in hot pursuit, scurrying over the wooden wharf, their wings half-flexed as they chased their flock-mate, hoping to snatch his meal and escape on the wing. All along the sea-front mast heads, with tightly bound sails were being fixed in position.

“Those amphorae won’t move themselves you lazy bloody swine” came the harsh bark, of the ships quarter master; a vicious, weather-beaten man with darkened skin, by the name of Vibius Milo. They had been lugging amphora for the last hour, caged fowl, double dried bread and hard cheese already filling the ships innards. No one amongst the crew-men or the harbour staff seemed to know where the ships were destined to sail, but from the amount of supplies and the military men on the docks, it was obvious that it was a serious business and not just a simple trading expedition.

“I don’t like it I tell you, I don’t like it at all” came a muffled grumble from Oppius old friend Potinus. They were long time mates aboard the Hawk-eye, protecting the coasts of Roman Italy from pirates, but now they were to sail north and launch raids against the Etruscans. “Ten years I have sailed these bloody waters for Rome and now they want us to be no better than the Frentii, pirate scum, barbarians! That’s what we are about you know? Bloody piracy, verminous thieves we will be’ he spat the words, anger rising, ‘Neptune will damn us to the deep for this!’

‘Don’t be an idiot Oppius, its stratagem that’s all, the Gods will understand’ came the short, yet mild voice of the young sails-man, Varus.

The old sea-man raised an eye brow in sudden curiosity and the upstarts remark, ‘No that for a fact do you lad?’ he stopped himself, biting his lips as he hoisted up a crate and turned toward the gang-plank to take them aboard, ‘You explain that to Wave-rider when we meet him then won’t you?’

‘I didn’t say I agreed with it my friend’ the poor young lad suddenly panicking he had upset his friend, he looked around at his fellow oarsman hoping they would smile at him, an reassure him that he was right, there friend Potinus simply shrugged, unwilling to interfere, ‘that’s what they have said, the soldiers who are coming with us! The Admiral will raid Etruria to provoke the enemy into attacking us.’

Oppius paused at the top of the gang-plank, squaring his shoulders and standing up straighter, ‘I for one lad think there is more honour in simply declaring war! If the Senate wants war, then let them bring it to the People and they can say if they want war or not! Dirty tricks and piracy is not the Roman way!’ He turned on his heel, the conversation over.


Gaius, Farmer – The border between Etruria and Rome, 28th September 451C

WHACK, WHACK, WHACK! The thin crop lashed down on the heifer’s rump, “Get away you stupid beast” Gaius, moving slightly to swing his stick at the back haunches of another retreating bovine, ‘AND YOU!’ he roared, his voice near hoarse, ‘GET YOUR BLOODY ANIMALS UNDER CONTROL!’ he was calling to a young man sat on a low stone wall some distance away, clapping his hands and waving his stick he continued to chase the animals back, herding them with his dog down a small drainage ditch and up. ‘THIS IS MY LAND LAD!’

“I don’t see any signs saying it belongs to you” the young lad sprung up off the wall, grinning, ‘Besides they aren’t bothering anyone’ gesturing to the heard of cattle slowly calming themselves, lowering their heads to graze.

'Bothering anyone?’ Gaius pitch spiked, ‘they are grazing on my land! And that bothers me and mark me’ he begun swinging his stick, pointing it the dark haired youth, ‘Unless you are Mercury himself, and these are the magical herds of Apollo, its will soon bother you when I give you a lashing!’ All new the story of how Mercury stole away the sacred cows of the Sun-god and still to this day, had a fondness for cattle.

‘HA!’ the boy burst into laughter, slapping his knees, ‘Maybe I am Mercury? And if I am then you should be nicer to me good man!’ he was mocking Gaius, twiddling grass between his fingers.

Gaius, rolled his shoulders, swinging his stick so sharp through the air, it whistled as it went, ‘This is my land boy, given to me for service to Rome for killing men far bigger than you!’ Gaius was a veteran of the Italian wars, an this small farm, for to the north of the Eternal city had been given to him as part of his reward for exemplary service to Rome, saving a centurion from death on the walls of Capua days before the city fell to Republican forces.

“Does not the world belong to all men, gifted to us by the gods in heaven?” the young man was becoming slightly concerned he was about to have a hiding and so calmed his tone, ‘there is no marker between Etruria and Rome good friend, my cattle wandered here and I saw no harm in giving them an hour or two.’

‘Well your hour is up!’ Gaius stated flatly, ‘fuck off back to Etruria you little runt or you will find your stay on Rome land involves a long time under it’ he gestured to the drainage ditch, ‘cold as Hades in that there trench!’


 

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Chapter 4, Part 2 –Daily Life

Aulus Verginius – His Private Study, Rome, 14th of February 452C

“What do you think of these Callistope? Do you think we should go with four pillars at the entrance or just two?” Aulus looked over the plans in front of him, kohl etching on thick, rough faced papyrus. He had decided to splash out on a Temple to Diana in the city of Cures as a gift to the local people and as a sign of his own wealth, but he had yet to finalise his preferences.

The well-dressed slave, stepped cautiously forward, peering over at the drawings, Callistope had a freeness of voice that many slaves lacked, an to Aulus at times, his opinion really did matter “I would stick to just the two dominus, it is cheaper for a start’ he moved the papyrus sheet slightly to see it better, ‘And Diana is a Goddess who favours simplicity, no need to over-do it.’

‘Hmmm yes perhaps’ Aulus pulling another piece of papyrus closer to him, the one favouring the two pillared frontage, ‘I see you point….the money doesn’t matter but I do see you point….simple…direct….to the point.’
A sudden nock at the door disturbed their discussion though the old Senator did not bother to look up as one of his servants entered the room. ‘What is the matter Ruffio, I told you I was busy and did not wish to be interrupted until at least noon?’ there was no irritation in his voice, since Verginius knew what ever had caused his servant to disobey him would be off interest.

“Forgive me Dominus!” the slave entered, bowing low ‘You have someone who wishes to see you’ he paused looking up at Callistope with apologetic eyes, waiting for permission to continue which was quickly given, by a slight nod, ‘Publius Sempronius Sophus, the Consul-elect is here.’

His head slowly rising from the desk, Senator Verginius smiled wolfishly at his servant, ‘Do not keep the Consul waiting, show him in’ faint excitement in his voice, he nodded suddenly to Callistope, the unspoken command to fetch another chair, as the servant vanished back into the other room.

What on earth can he possibly want to see me for, The Senator mused.

It was but a heartbeat of moments before the doorway ahead of them was filled by the broad-shouldered figure of the Consul, his lictors visible in the hall behind. Sempronius was dressed in casual attire, his hair loosely curled, and a pale blue tunic belted at the waist, fine sandals on his feet, “Senator Verginius thank you for seeing me, how goes your day?’

“Consul, too what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?” Aulus sat up, leaning comfortably in his armchair, smiling cautiously, his failure to rise and offer a bow making it quite plain that the elder statesman saw no need to acknowledge their apparent difference in rank. Wasting time on pleasantries was not in the Senators nature; time waisted was money wasted and opportunities possibly missed, he gestured to Callistope who was coming through a side door with another chair. ‘If you would like to be seated……RUFFIO’ he called, ‘wine if you please for the Consul!’ he did not ask if the Consul wanted a drink, he would have one.

Sempronius instantly looked startled, ‘Senator Verginius’ he mumbled, he had never been fond of the old-man’s directness but he took a seat quickly enough without argument and composed himself, taking a deep breath, he proceeded, ‘I want your help.’

‘Off course my good friend, what is the matter?’ Aulus reached for a cup of honeyed-water, ‘I will help you how ever I am able to you know that’ he was playing stupid, since Veginius was well aware of the concerns and conflicts surrounding the Consuls current political direction.

‘Well yes quite’ the Consul stalled, uncertain as a long pause followed, ‘We have never been enemies Verginius’ he stumbled on the words, clearly what he had planned to say was easier dreamt than spoken. Suddenly the Consul rallied his thoughts and proceeded with a flash of confidence, ‘It is as you know my intention to settle Romes troubles with Etruria at the earliest opportunity’ again he stalled, acknowledging the smile of his opposite as a sign to continue, ‘thus far there has been little real opposition, but I fear as we move ahead things will not be so simple or straightforward.’

‘Indeed such things are never simple’ Verginius chuckled, ‘not every man wants to see you rise as highly as I would like to see you go’ he sounded sincere enough, though the sparkle in his eyes perhaps suggested differently.

“Gnaeus Flavius would not like to see me rise at all!” Publius stated flatly, ‘I have it on good authority that he plans to lay me low at the next meeting of the People’s Assembly!’ worry gripped the Consul’s voice and he failed to pause as he spilt out the worries he had. ‘That’s why I am here Verginius, he plans to move against me, to use the Tribunes veto against my plans for war! He will block Cornelius’ raids and sponsor a recall of the Admiral, then he will veto any call to arms I make and then that will be that…..’ he looked grief stricken, ‘any thought of ending Rome’s struggles will be lost, bogged down forever in the Tribunal.’

“And you want me to stop that happening” Verginius smirked, instantly seeing what the Consul was about.

“Yes! You’re the only one who can!” came the blunt reply.

‘It is true that I have a number of the Tribunes in my circle of friends, I could persuade them to challenge Flavius and stop him from blocking your proposals’ he paused smiling, ‘the question I have to ask though, is why would I? I have nothing to gain as I see it from war with Etruria….persuade me Publius’ the Senator beamed, smelling profit, ‘tell me why I should waste a favour or three, to help you achieve your goals?’

‘What do you want?’ his voice suddenly cold, Publius had his heart set on writing his name in history, he needed this war or else his term as Consul would be wasted and to add insult to injury, without victory over Etruria the debt-collectors would come knocking and his time as Pro-Consul would be spent fighting off a dozen law-suits from moneylenders.

Verginius suddenly lifted up the papyrus sheets still littering his desk, showing one to Callistope who had been stood quietly behind him the whole time, “Perhaps the four pillared frontages would be better Callistope? Etruria has some marvellous marble quarries, so I am told!”

‘I don’t follow you?’ the Consul suddenly confused, ‘What have quarries and marble to do with anything?’ his eyes jumping from the Senator, to the papyrus sheet in his hand and then to the nodding servant.

‘Nothing at all’ Verginius smiled, placing the sheet carefully down, ‘I will discuss with some of my friends how we can be off assistance and then when I see if I can arrange what is required’ knowing for himself it was a certainty that he could, ‘then I will send Callistope here, to you with my terms, is that agreeable?’

The Consul nodded, suddenly anxious that he may have placed himself in a very awkward bind, but haggling with Rome’s richest and possible most influential Senator at the time was not really an option.


Lucius Cornelius Scipio, the Quaestor – The People’s Assembly, Rome, 6th of March 452C

How changeable are plebs! Scipio mused, observing the proceedings of the People’s Assembly from the sheltered entrance to the Temple of Vesta. Not half hour before Gnaeus Flavius, the leader of the Populist faction and one of the Tribunes of Plebs had had the crowd feeding from the palm of his hand, all had seemed to be flowing in his favour, then Titus Vespasianus had risen from his chair. Now the mood was shifting and shifting fast against the previous speaker. He had received a lashing during Titus speech, accusations of un-roman behaviour, cowardice and duplicity had rung out across the crowd, grumbles and whispers had turned to open heckling and where an hour before the chances of the Admirals immediate recall had seemed likely if not certain, now the people were positively demanding conflict.

Members of the crowd, apparently from the borderlands, though in truth plants sent out by Scipio, had shouted out their fears of Etruria’s growing aggression, herdsmen and farmers claiming to have been raided or impoverished fuelling the growing chorus. Titus was an excellent speaker and Scipio could understand quiet clearly why Senator Verginius had cleared the man’s debts for him and sponsored his nomination and subsequent election; his oratory was exemplary, his morality flexible.

How cheap their loyalty is, he mused to himself, scanning the crowd, offer them a bit of land and a few scabby cattle and you can move mountains. He had to laugh at the simplicity off it, for the moment Titus had suggested to them that war with Etruria would see them all benefit from land, herds and plunder any thought of the moral argument against open conflict had begun to wither away as flowers wilted under the summer sun.

Scipio eyed the seated Gnaeus Flavius, he was fidgeting, noticeably uncomfortable, One thinks you may have moved to soon and pushed to hard my friend, it looks a little lonely out there on that limb. For weeks himself and the Consul, along with a number of their allies had been putting out the feelers for war, making promises and offering rewards to various Senators and officials in return for their support but no deal had been quiet as profitable or potentially ruinous as that which was now being verbally signed; Aulus Verginius had silently bent his influence and his purse strings in their favour and the voices of three Tribunes now urged the crowd onward.

Spying the far side of the forum, Scipio noted a series of cloaked figures moving away from the crowd and toward the back streets away from the meeting; spies of Marcus Valerius Corvus perhaps measuring the mood for tomorrows debate in the Curia, or else men sent by Virginius to ensure the job was being done properly.

Publius Sulpicius Saverrio, Consul-elect – His House, Rome, 19th of March 452C

Publius sat dumbstruck on a stool outside his wife’s bed chamber, the doctor was still inside packing away his things and word had already been sent to the nearby shrine of Dis informing them their services were needed.

“I am sorry for your lose my love” a gentle hand suddenly resting on the Consul’s shoulder, his not-so secret lover, Oglianus sat on the stool beside him. Fabia had taken ill earlier in the week, now dead from black blood flux; over recent months it had struck several noble houses, though amongst the urban poor it had been considerably more aggressive. Many had thought that it had passed, striking down the wife of Publius Sempronius Sophus in the previous autumn, Fabia perhaps would be one of its final victims.

Saverrios hand rested gently on his lovers, their eyes meeting for but a short moment; despite his love for Oglianus the Co-Consul couldn’t help but grieve for the woman whom he had been married to and living with for six years and the mother of his daughter. “I will see to the funeral arrangements in the morning, but not tonight! Let her sleep in her own bed one last time.’

‘You don’t have to do that!’ Oglianus did not hesitate, his voice soft but firm ‘I will speak with Cadimus and have him make the arrangements’ he paused turning his lovers face to him, ‘You are Co-Consul!’ he stated as if that said all that was required, ‘this is a delicate time for us, you have work to do and being made a widower will not be accepted as grounds for absence’ which was true enough, things at the moment were delicate in the extreme, war was slowly but surely being arranged and those who had invested in Saverrio’s success would not simply sit idle whilst he mourned for his wife.

‘Is your sister still looking for a husband?’ surprise suddenly crossing the poor mans face, he looked at his lover tenderly suddenly aware of the fate that would be sown for him if he was lax, thus forcing him to explain, ‘they will try and find me a wife! Before Fabia is even in the ground they will be hunting for some poor witch to bind me too, unless I find one myself!’

Oglianus looked a little shocked, but breathed deeply and thoughtfully before he replied, ‘Lets bury Fabia and then we will look at it! But not tonight my love!’
 

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Been a good and fun read so far. Keep up the good work as always @jasondroth24 !

Cheers!
 

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Chapter 5 – Roman Raiders

Admiral Arvina --- The Coast of Etruria just south of Valtuna, 21st April 452C

The Admiral paced swiftly along the central walk, keeping his head low and body bowed, “Steady as she goes men, keep those oars smooth!” his voice hardly above a whisper, he repeated the same words a few times before he reached the stern of the ship, a gruff, weather beaten man sitting quietly beneath the steering arm.

Fog lay thick across the water and only the faintest silhouettes of the other ships in the fleet could be made out, from the shoreline they would still be invisible. Most eyes that could spy them would be still closed, in sleep as the hour was only early. The ship gliding quietly toward the village.

‘Let us hope the gods are with us aye’ the Admiral whispered to the man he now sat besides, he did not relish the task ahead but nevertheless his duty commanded it. Arvina leaned carefully over to the soldier sat in front of him, a row of legionaries stretching all along the ships middle-planks from bow to stern, ‘Send the word down the line centurion, we will make land fall in short time!’ the soldier moving without a word to follow the command.

Twenty ships had passed into the small cove, aboard each of them legionaries with muffled swords sat waiting, a few scattered archers on each ships bow and the remainder of their forces being made up of hapless sea-dogs who manned the oars but now had cudgels and daggers between their legs ready to pounce once they hit the shallows. Their aim was to seize slaves and sow fear amongst the coastal settlements of southern Etruria, this being their first venture, though piracy and raiding was not the Roman way, the Admiral was determined that everything would go to plan. Reaching underneath his own seat he pulled out a short-sword, swaddled in lambskin to both protect it from damp and to cover the shine, so as not to give any sign of their presence away.

Listening ever so carefully to the sound of the water, the man sat at the steer suddenly nudged Arvina in the ribs, a man clearly of little understanding off nobility and decorum, ‘the waves have changed, the waters getting thin beneath us!’ were his only brisk words in hard Latin.

“Be ready!” he hissed to the centurion beside him. He too could hear the changing in the waters sound and knew suddenly that they would be plunging into the cold waves within moments.

Roman legionary, Marcus Acollo – The Coast of Etruria, just south of Valtuna, 21st of April 452C

SHIT THAT’S COLD! Acollo’s groin stung and his legs burnt with biting chill as he lowered himself into the shallow waters lapping onto the Etruscan shore. Turning from the safety of the ship he peered through the fog toward the sandy beach just coming into view, being forced to push of instantly as another legionary was dropping down the rope into the water.

He unslung his shield from his back holding it high above his head in one hand, sword in the other. Poor bastards wont see this coming, he mused as he took the first careful step, slippery pebbles beneath the surface or large rocks could end it all for them in a moment, all it would take would be one loud splash or an unexpected yelp of pain and the game would be up.

All around him, Acollo could see the dark shadow off mooring ships and the gentle disturbance and tinkle of mail as other soldiers waded forward, weapons and shield raised high. He took another set of steps, peering down into the shallow waters; the beach some ten feet away.

Suddenly a high pitched whistling burst out, all along the waterline the whistles of company commander, centurions and proximo’s signalled the order to attack, Acollo quickly kissed the amulet he had hung by a thong about his neck, checking his footing and launching into a run though the drag of the water slowed him a little. Without fear or pause he strode headlong toward the beach, his pace quickening as his fellow soldiers came into view, racing up onto the sands.

His feet hitting the earth proper he flew up the beach, his eyes wide and alert as he passed a wrack of fishing nets strung up, house lay ahead of them and cries of battle called out to the sleeping villagers to wake up and face their deaths. Dogs fled, gulls roosting on rooves jumped into the air startled and the sudden crash of doors being kicked open proceeded a chorus of screaming woman. Angling himself before a door of his own, he took a deep breath as he raised his foot to the panel and booted it wide open, barrelling into the dark single roomed hut.

The poor man laid in the bed was dead before he had chance to know what was even happening, his young wife drenched in the blood of his open throat.


Roman Legionary, Tertius Mumo– The Coast of Etruria, just south of Valtuna, 21st of April 452C

Clay pots fell to the earthern floor, the noise sounding exceptionally loud from inside the hut but nothing to the screaming outside and yelling from outside.

FUCKING PITIFUL!, Legionary Mumo mused tossing a handful of petty string beads not the floor; seashells, bones, seeds and carved beads mainly and even they would have given splinters. The home-owners had fled moments before he had entered the single roomed hut, escaping through a small panel in the wall and no doubt taking anything of value with them for some other lucky legionary to steal as he murdered them.

Mumo tapped his short sword gently against a rather large jar, WINE PERHAPS? He lifted the pot lid, but the pungent smell that came from within was most certainly not wine; fish oil or some other vile concoction, probably more likely to be a poison or a balm than drinkable.

He turned to leave, kicking over a stool and tossing a few more small bowls and little jars onto the floor for good measure. These people were poor beyond measure in truth, they were fisherman, farmers, hunters and herders and whilst spring was here and things were improving for them, it would be a few months yet before natures bounty. For people such as this starvation was only ever days away and though they offered their loyalty to the Etruscan Chieftains, they were probably regarded as vermin as much by the people of Valtuna as they were by Rome.

GO STEALING AND SNEAK THEIVING, THIS IS WHAT YOU GET ISNT IT? SPRING CLEANING! That is how Admiral Arvina had explained it to the crews, the reason they were here; Etruscan fisherman were encroaching on Roman waters, their herders grazing roman fields, their hunters entering Roman woodland! Thus this evil action, the taking of slaves and raiding peasant towns in their sleep was necessary for the safety and security of Roman families, plagued by vermin.

Etruscan woman – The Coast of Etruria, just south of Valtuna, 21st of April 452C

A hard hand slapped on the pony’s rump, tears streaming down the woman’s face and her heart pounding in her chest! “RIDE! FOR THE LOVE OF THE GODS RIDE AND DON’T LOOK BACK!” her breath was catching in her throat as she watched the little pony burst into a full gallop, her young son sat on its back, clinging to its mane. She turned suddenly, her face paling as a scream burst up from the town stead. “RIDE MY BABY!” she wept louder, all too aware that death was calling to her as her knees gave way and she fell to the floor. Her hands were covered in blood, red gore from her neighbour’s eldest son, whose bowels she had tried to catch as he fell through the door of her hut.

They had been woken less than an hour earlier to sudden screams, balling and bursts of flame as their houses were torched; out of the sea Rome’s men had come and with brutal ferocity they had ripped through the little village, any attempt at resistance squashed. Women had been weeping and screeching for mercy as they tried to flee, she herself was lucky enough to live on the slope just on the edges of the village. Those few feet of distance had allowed her time to grab her son and send him to safety, her husband rushing to defend their people, though she knew now he would most likely already be dead as she soon would be.

With her eyes fixed on the back of her son, she sent prayers up to the gods to guide him safely. He may have only been young, twelve summers exactly but he rode out into the hinterland often, being a good rider and the road to Valtuna was a clear one, the pony steady paced, the gods kind. Making her peace with heaven, she would before the end of the day be in Elysium with her husband and her long dead mother, she herself having fulfilled her duty of motherhood in her final act.

Panic over came her and her body fell limp as a hand gripped her loosely knotted her, “COME HERE BITCH!” the gruff voice called, yanking her over painfully onto her back. Though her eyes were already walking amongst golden grain she noted the boots of the legionary stood above her, despair gripping her heart as she realised, he was unarmed and death would not be hers; slavery was coming.