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Caesar IV Heaven » Forums » Story Archives » "A Disturbing Peace" - Story Thread
Topic Subject:"A Disturbing Peace" - Story Thread
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Civis Romanus
posted 10-22-01 15:10 ET (US)         




AUTHORS' NOTE: It is recommended that the story THE SILK ROAD , found in the C3H Story Archives, be read prior to beginning this story.



[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 01-11-2002 @ 09:07 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-22-01 15:15 ET (US)     1 / 64       

Civis Romanus, Chief Military Advisor to Caesar Marcus Aurelius, concluded his speech before the Senate of the Empire of Roma. "And it is for these reasons, distinguished Senators of the Empire of Roma, that I heartily recommend we maintain a posture of leniency and cooperation with the Parthians. We must not be drawn into unnecessary conflict with them at the same time we are confronting the barbarians in the Northeast. I thank you for your kind attention and await your questions."

The Senate Chamber erupted into dozens of voices all asking dissimilar questions. Other voices launched into immediate verbal debate with whoever was next or nearby that expressed a contrary view. The Proconsul silenced them all eventually by hammering with a wooden hammer on the table before him.

"Senators! Senators! All of you will have your opportunity to address questions to General Romanus! Now quiet down." One or two voices continued to be heard. The wooden hammer again resounded on the table's top. "I say again, BE SILENT!" The chamber was quiet at last. "Now, raise hands for recognition, please." Fewer hands were raised than voices previously. Very typical, thought the Proconsul. "The Senate recognizes the distinguished senator, Lucullus Severus."

A slender man of about 51 years of age, hair thinning on top and greying at the sides, grasped his toga and stood up. "General Romanus, do you believe the Parthians under their new king will, in fact, honor the agreement reached with regard to the Silk Road?"

"I do, Senator. But only if we maintain a nonthreatening posture. There is still much discord within Parthia and their King will want to deal with that first and foremost. I believe a Roman incursion would only serve to unite them. We do not have the benefit of the rebels assistance this time, for it is the rebels who control Parthia and have placed their king on the throne." Senator Severus nodded in understanding and sat down.

"The Senate recognizes the distinguished Senator, Marcus Valerius."

Civis turned to hear the Senator's question from the other side of the chamber. "The Legions of Roma are positioned nearby, General Romanus. Do you consider our Legions too weak to handle the Parthians?"

Civis frowned. "No Senator. I believe our Legions are as powerful now as in the past. However, in military matters timing is critical. Caesar perceives mounting difficulties in the Northeast to which some counterforce will be necessary. I have advised him as I do you, to not split the Legion at this time and force an engagement with the Parthians that isn't necessary." Senator Valerius had no further questions and so he reseated himself.

A very large, rotund Senator vigorously waved his hand to get the Proconsul's attention. "The Senate recognizes the distinguished Senator, Tiberius Publicus." Tiberius shoved himself forward and used his right arm and hand to ease the labor of elevating his vast bulk to his feet. "Romanus... (the omission of Civis' title was not missed by the others) Are you a coward? Or did your stroll on the Silk Road take your good sense away? Conqueror of the Parthians, they say? Guardian of the Parthians I say! How much are you being paid by them to protect them, Romanus?! How much of their vast wealth did they share so you could give bad advice to Caesar and the Senate?! I say the Parthians owe us dearly for all of the hardships our eastern citizens have suffered. One victorious battle is not enough. We should seek reparations and more. Yes, more! And one thing in particular, too. Romanus is a traitor to Roma and should be removed as advisor to Caesar. In fact, I shall do everything in my power to make it so!"

The hair on the back of Civis' neck stiffened and rose as the heat of anger flushed upwards from his neck to his face. A coward... a traitor? How dare he! Civis forgot himself and made as if to step towards the obese senator. Though he wasn't armed, four Praetorians sensed possible danger and quickly moved between the two men. Civis glared at the senator as Tiberius raved on. Then Civis turned to the Proconsul. "By your leave, Proconsul. I have no further business here this day."

"You may leave, General Romanus." The Proconsul's eyes watched the exceedingly angry soldier as he walked towards an exit from the Senate Chamber opposite of the place where Tiberius was standing shouting slurs in his direction. Two senators standing near by were quietly conversing with each other.

"Why is Tiberius so opposed to General Romanus?" said one of them.

"Don't you know? Romanus's treaty with Parthia cost Tiberius his stranglehold on the silk trade in the western provinces. It was very lucrative. Tiberius has no love for Romanus and would like to see him ruined."

"Does Romanus know this?"

"I believe so. Their villas are in close proximity to each other, but they haven't associated since Civis Romanus returned from his mission on the Silk Road and the impact of the treaty became known."

"I see... Well, this will be interesting to watch, don't you think, Senator?"

"Yes... It will be interesting, indeed, Senator." They left the chamber continuing to talk about various matters of mutual interest.

Civis called for his horse and rode silently back to his villa lost in uncomfortable thought.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-22-2001 @ 04:08 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
posted 10-23-01 15:23 ET (US)     2 / 64       
Titus Tarquintius inhaled deeply. The different scents of Roma intoxicated his senses and he knew why he was glad to be home. Had it been that long ago since he had been here? It was only yesterday that he had exited from the ship that had bore him from Egypt. He had been unable to come home after his journey on The Silk Road receiving orders that would take him yet to another distant and never before seen land.

Memories were still fresh in his mind of the adventure and wonder of the lands to the east. And of course, the dangers.A lifetime of stories to tell his parents and someday his grandchildren were revisited everyday and every waking moment and in his dreams. Some were pleasant and even funny remembering his first attempt to ride a camel and his first taste of Ch'in mustard sauce. Others sent a chill through his body making the hair on his neck tingle. The battle to rescue the young Ch'in Emperor was more nightmarish as a vision of that day's memories flashed again through his minds eye. So much death.

And what of Sin Ying? He hoped she was happy once more among her own people. Young Civis. Had his heart mended yet at the loss of his friend? Titus snickered to himself of the thought of these children and his apprehension, no fear, when he first had met them and would have to be a guardian with no prior experience at the whims of children. But he learned as he had on most of the journey. He had had a good teacher and his mind cleared for now of the memories as he rode through the streets of Roma to the Senate.

His grandfather, Senator Gallus Lucinius, had told him last night during the dinner prepared for his return that Civis Romanus was to speak before the Senate. The treaty with the Parthians was to be the topic of discussion. Titus hastened to the Senate to once more hear the voice and words of reason from the man that had taught him much and befriended him.

Amongst the crowded streets he could see a rider coming who has he passed through the people would move aside hurriedly recognizing his authority. Could it be? Yes,it was!

"Hail, Civis!, shouted Titus waving his hand in the air to get the riders attention. He gave his mount a kick to move at a faster pace and was soon upon his teacher and friend.

"Hail Civis," Titus said striking the chest plate of his armor in salute to Caesar's Chief Military Advisor.

"Hail Titus," Civis returned the salute.

With salutations over both lost their stern faces and smiled at each other bringing there right arms up in grasping each other as friends would do.

"When did you arrive?", asked Civis.

"Just yesterday. How's the family?

Civis answering back,"Fine, just fine! And your parents?"

"A little older but doing well"

"You must come to my villa and tell me about your experience in Egypt. I'll have supper prepared and I'm sure Civi would like to see you again."

"I would like that," graciously accepting the invitation.

"By the way, how was the discussion in the Senate", Titus noticed the change in Civis' facial expression.

"It seems my ideas have mixed emotions among our senators and especially for one. But here's not the place to discuss this." Civis once more smiled. "Let us go to my home and we will talk further over a goblet of fine wine".

Together they rode to the villa but Titus was aware of the look Civis had given about the Senate discussion, a look he had seen many times before on the Silk Road....

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 10-23-2001 @ 03:43 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-23-01 15:45 ET (US)     3 / 64       
Oops... Feeling guilty that he almost forgot, Civis made two stops along the roadway he typically followed on his way back to his villa. He bade Titus, with appropriate apologies, to wait for him as he made the first of his stops. It was a marketplace.

Apolita had asked him to pick up some foodstuff not grown on his villa. She had a recipe she wanted Cook to try. Cook was willing, but pointed out the ingrediants missing from the villa's larder. So Civis ended up with a small piece of papyrus and the needed items listed in Apolita's fine handwriting.

There was always some degree of fuss made by the marketplace owner and slaves whenever Civis entered the tent covered display of foods. Maybe it was because he was a celebrity, or maybe it was because Civis never haggled much over the price of the merchandise; he never really knew. What Civis did know was that the special treatment embarrassed him so much he was more than glad to quickly pick out what he wanted, pay the owner's price and then leave.

Titus again waited patiently as Civis completed his final errand. The second stop was more enjoyable for Civis since it was less crowded and this shop owner treated him courteously, but with no unneeded fanfare. The owner's name was Pliny. A famous name in Roma, but this man was not related to the others who carried that name famously. "Welcome, General. Nice to see you again," said Pliny when Civis entered the shop. "How may I help you today?"

Civis looked around the shop. Material for clothing was scattered all about the shop. There were inexpensive weavings for slaves and servants. Finely woven materials of local origin for togas. And in an isolated area, Civis could see varied hues and lengths of silk.

"Greetings Pliny... For Apolita, a length of white silk. Here are the dimensions she requires. What price these days, Pliny?"

"Ummmm... Two dinarii per meter, General."

Civis smiled to himself. It wasn't so long ago that the price was as high as five dinarii per meter. A benefit of his trip to the east before his very eyes. Now silk was plentiful and affordable to all but the poorer classes. So much silk was being sold that merchants were making more money on silk trade than ever before. The volume offset the lower prices. But competition for sales had become fiercer, too; and that is what upset the merchants who benefitted in the past from constricted supply and the high resulting prices.

This brought Civis' thoughts back to Tiberius. The soldier's mood darkened again after the brief respite found in the marketplace and in Pliny's shop. "Here is your purchase, General. May the gods smile on you and your family," said Pliny. Civis took the wrapped silk from Pliny and thanked him. Gods smile on my family indeed, thought Civis. I'll need more than the gods' benevolence to withstand Tiberius.

Civis stowed the silk in a secure place on the side of his horse and began the final leg of his journey to his villa. It would take him past the villa of Tiberius. Unlike years past, in these days following his return from Tyre, Civis no longer enjoyed the ride down this stretch of the road. He always felt uncomfortable in the presence of Tiberius' villa. His soldier's instinct thrust at him a warning of danger. Neither the presence of the nearby prefecture or the companionship of Titus, riding by his side, gave him a sense of reassurance.

Just as he reached the outermost perimeter of Tiberius' estate, Civis lowered his right hand to feel for the position of the hilt of his gladius, a precaution he lately had begun to take whenever he neared this area. He wanted to be sure it was in an accessible position should he ever have to reach for it in a hurry. Titus noticed the gesture, but was puzzled by its purpose.

"Is there something wrong, Civis? Are there footpads loose in the area?" asked Titus.

"No, Titus, not footpads. This is the estate of Senator Tiberius Publicus."

"Is he not a neighbor and a friend?"

"No, Titus. He is not a friend."

"What has happened, Civis?"

"Some wine first, Titus; and then we will speak of it." They rode on, deep into the estate belonging to Tiberius.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-23-2001 @ 03:57 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-24-01 15:45 ET (US)     4 / 64       
Half of the distance through the estate of Tiberius Publicus, Civis saw up ahead a man waiting by the side of the road looking with anticipation in his direction. Civis led Titus towards the roadside and approached the lone man. Civis' sword hand was firmly placed on the hilt of his gladius and even as he watched the movements of the man, he also quickly scanned the areas surrounding the spot for any signs of suspicious activity or movement. Titus, noting Civis' glancing from place to place, did the same out of instinct gained during their journey on the Silk Road.

The man spoke to Civis as the soldier came close enough to be within earshot. "Sir! Are you General Romanus, Sir?!"

"Yes, I'm General Romanus," answered Civis. The man seemed satisfied and prepared to deliver his message.

"My master, Senator Tiberius Publicus, wishes to meet with you at his villa, at 6:30 tomorrow evening. He will meet with you alone. He expects you to arrive promptly and unaccompanied for a piece of business he plans to propose. After dark, he will see to your safe return to your estate. My master says, if you have the courage to accept his invitation, the meeting will be well worth your time... Uh, that is what my master says, Sir. What shall I tell him?"

Civis quickly assessed the risk and recognized the implied challenge. His decision was predictable, thought Titus long afterwards. "Tell your master I will be at the gate to his villa at the time and day requested."

"Very well, General Romanus. I shall tell him you accept." The slave turned and began to run back towards the villa Civis could see in the distance from his vantage point on the roadside. Titus shook his head. "What is wrong, Titus?" asked Civis.

"This business doesn't sound right to me, and I don't even know why," replied the Tribune.

Civis smiled. "Come... My villa is very close to here and soon you will know all about the events since I returned to Roma. You will stay the full day until tomorrow, will you not?"

"Uhh... Well... Civis, I hadn't planned to do any such thing. I wouldn't want to impose..."

"Nonsense! You are never an imposition, Titus. Besides, Apolita would never approve of my bringing you to the villa and not asking you to spend the greatest amount of time possible with us. But a word of warning..."

"Warning? Why a warning? Did I already do something wrong?"

"Not at all, Titus. It's just that these foodstuffs I carry for her are to enable Apolita to try out a new recipe for supper. Only the gods know how it will turn out. And right now I don't know if the gods are in great joy or great fear for us!" Civis started to laugh, and to laugh all the heartier as he watched the expression on Titus' face change from bemusement to mirth as Titus joined in on the laughter as well.

"Well... (laughing) Let's not laugh too loudly for Apolita to hear," said Titus between guffaws. "She may ask us what is so funny and we will be obliged to tell."

"Yes, and that may hasten our end sooner than the supper she is planning," said Civis. They laughed all the louder over the next kilometer and continued their good humor to and thru the gate to the steps of the atrium of Civis' villa.

Micah Aragorn
posted 10-25-01 01:44 ET (US)     5 / 64       
As the two stepped down from their mounts a familiar face grabbed the reins from them," Radko,you grizzled old horsekeeper,how are you?"

"Doing well and still old enough to teach you a few more lessons," Radko's face turned from cantankerous to a sudden smile and he raised his hand in friendship to the young Tribune. "Good to see you again. You look well but a little traveled.

"Thanks I feel it."

From the entrance to the villa came the sound of small feet running and the instant cry of, "Father, Father, you're home!" Young Civis was racing to his father and behind him was his older sister, Apollonia. As he was about to put his arms around his father he caught a glimpse of someone standing beside him and immediately stopped his progress.

Titus kneeled on one knee to Civi's level and greeted the young boy," Hello Civis. Remember me?

The young Civis walked slowly to Titus looking apprehensive at first then took the last two steps quickly with arms extended out and hugged the Tribune. "Good to see you too", was all that Titus said as both the Tribune and the older Civis looked at each other and smiled.

As both men removed their helmuts and swords in the foyer of the villa Civis was shouting,"Apolita! Apolita! Where are you? Look who is here."

From the room to the right came the beautiful Apolita," I'm right here,Civis. Stop your shouting. I Titus is that really you. Of course it is!" Apolita walked quickly over to Titus and placed a kiss upon his cheek and Titus returned it.

"How are you? you look well. You will stay for dinner and tell us about your days in Egypt. You did invite him,Civis"

Civis answered,"Yes dear. For the night and tommorrow."

"Good. By the way you did remember to pick up the foodstuffs for the meal. Titus, I will need another's opinion on the nights meal."

As Civis gave the package to Apolita both Titus and he glanced at each other barely holding back the grin from their conversation on the way in.

Apolita took the food and looking at their expressions wondered what thoughts were running through their minds.

"Come Titus", Civis said watching Apolita leave to the kitchen area. "Let us wash the road dust away and then have that wine I promised......

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 10-25-2001 @ 01:59 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-25-01 16:03 ET (US)     6 / 64       
"Civis, I'm sorry to say I didn't anticipate an extended stay so I'm not carrying much in the way of a change of clothing," said Titus as he walked with Civis to a recent addition the soldier made to his villa.

"We have togas to spare, Titus," said Civis. "You will need nothing here except to wear your arrival clothing when you leave. So quit worrying and enjoy the stay. We're glad to have the company." As Civis and Titus approached the small building only recently constructed, two young girls walked out of its entrance loosely holding lengths of cloth to their bodies for modesty. They stopped dead in their tracks upon seeing Civis approaching with a young stranger.

At first the unexpected appearance of two men just outside the door froze them into inactivity, then their eyes wandered to the good looking stranger who stood slightly taller than Civis. Then they remembered their appearance. All of this occurred in seconds. A sudden intake of breath preceeded their grasping of cloth to ensure modesty. This culminated in two very pink faces staring out at them as the two girls curtseyed. "Greetings Master Civis... You surprised us."

"Not intentionally, Lydia. Go on now, both of you, before you fall ill from the change in temperature." The two girls hurried off, glancing over their shoulders at Civis and Titus. The two men could faintly hear whispered words exchanged between the two girls and their giggling as they walked swiftly to the servants' cottages nearby.

Titus turned his attention to the building. "When did you build this bathhouse, Civis?"

"Just after I returned. If there is one thing I learned to appreciate from our journey on the Silk Road, its the comfort that comes from a bathhouse." Titus nodded in agreement.

"But I see you let your servants use it, too. That is uncommon."

"A few extra measures of wood consumed over the course of a year to ensure good health and a pleasant attitude on the villa... Well worth it, I think. And the servants very willingly see to its care and upkeep at all times, never complaining about the chore of making the bathhouse usable. Ahhh... There's Julius! Ho, Julius! Are the fires set and the water right?"

A well built man, older by two years than Titus, appeared from around the opposite side of the building. He had soot on his face and he smelt a little of wood fire smoke. He neither smiled nor frowned, just answered forthrightly and matter-of-factly, "The bathhouse is ready, Master Civis. It has been used once already today without complaint."

"Excellent, Julius. You are free to go." Julius bowed and began walking towards the villa.

"I don't remember him from my last visit," said Titus as they both entered the bathhouse.

"No, he is newly arrived and was seeking employment. He seemed pleased with the conditions and stayed. He assists us with chores around the living areas. He's been very reliable and attentive."

The interior of the bathhouse was a miniature version of the great public bathhouses in Roma. At the entrance to the bathhouse was a dressing area with an entrance to the soaping area. It was here that various cleansing materials were applied to the body. This small chamber exited into the hot pool area. The heat of the hot pool came from wood fueled fires under the leak proof flooring of the pool. The warmth radiating from the wall was created by the hot gasses from the fires circulating through the wall and venting through a multitude of small openings in the roof. The facility could comfortably accommodate about four Romans at one time.

In the same room was the cold water pool which could hold one person at a time and was fed through underground wooden pipes taking advantage of a water source, a cistern, placed higher than the building. The water remained cold because the cistern was dug deep enough so that the sun would not heat the water at the lowest level. It is from here that the pipes carried the water downhill to the bathhouse. Completing the circular design, another exit led from the pool area to the drying chamber and from there into the second door leading into the dressing chamber. To carry away the effects of bathing, excess water flowed out of the pools in channels to a small creek that ran below the building and out towards a larger creek flowing on the estate.

Civis and Titus conducted the preliminaries and then settled into the warmth of the hot pool. It was now that Civis decided to tell Titus about the events since he and Apolita returned from Tyre to their villa outside of Roma.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-26-2001 @ 09:31 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-25-01 22:22 ET (US)     7 / 64       
Civis laid back in the hot water and sighed. "Yes, Titus, some peace at last. No long journeys, no wars to fight. Yes, the barbarians are restless, but at least I'm not called upon this time to lead the legions. There are good generals in the northeast who can do this. Yet, Titus... it seems to be for me something of a disturbing peace nonetheless."

"How is that, Civis?"

"We returned to Roma, Apolita, the children and I, and were feted by Caesar. All of the members of our expedition were treated very well, including yourself. I assisted Caesar with some of the rewards knowing my companions far better than he. Roulv Dania became a full citizen. Radko will be supported for life. Marcus is an officer now with his own Century. And the others have been well taken care of in their own way.'

'Caesar agreed with me that you should be given the chance to lead your own mission and so you were sent to Egypt, a place of which I have many fond memories, especially of Cleopat ... Well, that's another story for another day.'

'It seems, Titus, that our treaty made the people of Roma ecstatic with its promise of peace and less expensive silks; but I seem to have earned the enmity of a small group of merchants who profited handsomely from the silk trade as it was before the treaty was made. My neighbor, Tiberius Publicus, is perhaps the most dangerous of these since he is both a prominent merchant and also a Roman Senator." Civis paused to see if all of this was understood by his willing listener.

Titus understood the import of every word. "Civis, don't you think meeting Tiberius alone, in his villa, at 6:30 tomorrow night is taking on more risk than is proper."

Civis shifted his position in the hot pool of water sending small waves from his body to the pool's edge. "What would you have me do, Titus? Decline and appear to be the coward he accused me of being?"

A wave of surprise crossed Titus' face. "He called you a coward? The man's not even rational."

"Maybe not," replied Civis. "But he is a skilled politician. That fatted bull is possibly more skilled than me as I tend to be a little tempermental at times."

'A little?' thought Titus. But he didn't say this to his host. It wouldn't be politic, he knew. "Regardless, Civis. Shouldn't someone go with you tomorrow night at least to the gate? It won't be dark yet, but soon afterwards. Maybe I should go with you? Oh, my apologies, Civis. I don't want it to sound like I'm inviting myself for another night's stay."

Civis laughed. "I've already anticipated that Apolita will be petrified with worry. I think you will be here another evening whether you apologize or not." He saw words of protest form on Titus' lips. "You don't want the invitation in the form of an order now, do you, Tribune?"

"No General, it won't be necessary. But you will be careful. I've heard things in Roma that concern me, and with you, alone, at a 6:30 tomorrow evening with Tiberius Publicus on his own estate, an avowed enemy, there is good reason for caution."

"All right, Titus I'll..." Civis stopped speaking when he heard an unexpected noise, maybe sandals scuffing the floor, coming from the open door to the drying room. Then they heard fast footsteps as if someone was hurriedly crossing into the dressing room and out the entrance to the bathhouse. "Did you hear that?" he asked Titus.

"Yes. Sounded like footsteps. Someone must have been in there. I couldn't see anyone. Could you?"

"No," said Civis. "It was probably one of the servants' children. They play around here sometimes." Then he smiled. "Or maybe one of those two girls, Titus. They seemed particularly enamored of you." Civis winked at him.

Titus' face turned pink beyond the ability of the hot water to cause that effect. Civis laughed at his friend's discomfort. "Come Titus, let's finish the bath and see what Apolita is up to in the galley." The footsteps in the bathhouse were quickly forgotten as they both bent to the task of finishing their baths.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-26-2001 @ 10:08 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-27-01 10:27 ET (US)     8 / 64       
Deeply red wine gurgled into the goblets from the pitcher carried by the young servant girl, one of Civis' household helpers. She placed the pitcher on the small table between Civis and Titus, glanced briefly at Titus, smiled and quickly walked out of the room and into the hallway leading deeper into the residence.

"Another new face among the servants, Civis?"

"Yes, poor girl. She is greek; about 18 years we guess. Her father raised sheep near Athens and suffered a terrible accident. Lost his footing and fell down one of those rocky Greek hillsides. Lived a few days, but that was all. Her mother died in childbirth. Apolita and I were in the marketplace, waiting for our ship to refit for the final leg of our journey back, and we saw this girl on the labor platform. She was about to sell herself into indentured servitude or slavery or something like that just to pay her father's debts to the man offering her, or so one of the merchants there told us."

"Did you buy her?"

"No, not really. Apolita had that look about her that said 'Civis, do something' so I approached the Greek running the business that day and arranged for her removal from the offerings.

"I can imagine how you did that."

"No, it was an agreeable arrangement, though he accepted a discount on his claim when I discovered he had made a usurious change upwards in the interest he was charging her. The poor girl had never been taught anything except shepherding and knew nothing about managing money. So we brought her here to the villa as a servant, not a slave. She's very good around the villa. We've started a small flock and she's been teaching the boys how to shepherd them. The boys don't seem to mind taking their lessons from her, it seems. In fact, they appear almost eager for the chore. Her name is Hespera.

"How old are the boys?"

"One is fifteen and the other is sixteen."

"I doubt it's the chore that interests them the most."

"One could speculate that way. Regardless, it works to make the flock prosper, so where's the complaint, right?"

Titus laughed. "None by the boys, I'm sure." Both laughed. Then Titus' expression turned serious. "Have you told Apolita about tomorrow night yet?"

"No... I suppose I should. After dinner, Titus. When the children are gone from the table. I'll tell her then." Hespera, waiting quietly outside of the room, chose that moment to interrupt. "Master Civis, supper is prepared. The Mistress Apolita says come now." Hespera curtseyed and left the room.

"Well Titus," said Civis. "It's time for the sacrificial lambs to partake of today's experiment. I wish us both luck."

"What about a long life?" replied Titus.

"That wish may be tougher to fulfill." Both drained their goblets and rose to walk down the hallway to the supper table.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-27-2001 @ 10:37 AM).]

Micah Aragorn
posted 10-29-01 15:19 ET (US)     9 / 64       
Civis and Titus entered the dinning room and already seated at the marbelized stone table were the rest of the family members. Apolita sat at one end while the children sat together on the right side.

"Titus,please sit here", Apolita pointed to a cushioned seat across from the children. And Civis sat at the other end of the table.

As servants began to fill the cups with juice for the children and wine for the others Apolita confidently smiled in the fact she felt that this meal might be met with more approval than some of her other previous attempts to widen the palatable taste buds of her family. Although looking from one member to the next and even the expression of her guest one might gather a certain anxiety or level of preparedness for the nights meal.

The servants now brought out and put on the table foods that to Civis and Titus looked all together familiar.
Civis had not really looked at the items on the list that Apolita had given him to pick up at the marketplace and his desire to get away from there as soon as possible only added to the mystery of the foodstuff. The opening of the Silk Road had also brought other items to the western world.

While looking at the items set upon the table Apolita proudly began saying,"Even though Titus, your visit is pleasantly unexpected, you and my husband will surely appreciate what I have had Cook prepare for us. This should bring back fonder memories of your trip to the east."

Looking at each other with a sense that something finally jogged their memories, Titus and Civis now knew why the meal in front of them looked so familiar. It was food they had sampled on their journey to the land of the Ch'in.

"I hope you enjoy it. It took Cook and myself awhile to hopefully get it right." Apolita continued to smile with a face that radiated in confidence.

The last item that was put on the table in front of each family member was a small dish that contained a yellowish sauce with a small red dot in the the center of it. And Apolita explained that she was told that the sauce would expand the the taste of the foods she had prepared.

Titus,wide eyed and having a memory flashback, started to warn Apolita and the children about the sauces affect but before the first words could be spoke......

"Mother the sauce looks interesting", said the young daughter Apollonia as she dipped a finger into its center and put it in her mouth.

Together both Titus and Civis,who finally remembering what the sauce was, shouted towards the young girl,"Noooo! Stop."

But it was too late as everyone watching saw her petite face sear into a raging red hue and her nostrils flare as if at any moment a flame might appear.

"Mother!, Mother!," was all she could say as she fanned her opened mouth with a dangling tongue hanging out. The spiced flame rose from her stomach through her throat and burned the lips that had been used to suck the sauce off her finger.

She reached for the cup of juice in front of her and the one in front of young Civis and both were emptied within seconds. And still she sought more.

Apolita had jumped from her seat and trying to comfort her daughter was beside herself as to what to do. Finally she ran to the galley and bringing a pitcher of water was able to calm the flushed girl. All the while young Civis who at first was taken back by his sister's out burst was soon holding his stomach from the laughter he could no longer hold back at his sister's expense.

Finally things quieted down and the meal resumed. Needless to say the sauces in front of all were pushed away and untouched through the rest of the meal.

Supper was ate and stories of Titus' stay in Eygpt were discussed and compared to when Civis was there. With the meal finished and the children dismissed from the table Titus looked at Civis and both knew what had to be said.

"Apolita, the meal was excellent and well worth the effort put into it by Cook and yourself." Titus starting to stand up and looking in her direction," If you'll excuse me I..."

Civis put his hand on Titus' arm," Stay, I may need some support here." Civis' eyes met Apolita's and immediately she knew the next conversation would not be as jovial as during the meal.......

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 10-30-2001 @ 03:39 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 10-30-01 16:11 ET (US)     10 / 64       
Civis thought the best way to begin was to take a gulp of wine from his goblet, which he did while keeping his eyes on Apolita's face and her expression. He swallowed a little harder than typically and began.

"I must see a neighbor tommorrow evening," said Civis. Apolita had that 'So tell me the rest already' look in her eyes. Civis continued. "I must meet with Tiberius Publicus tomorrow at 6:30 pm at his villa." There... He had said it. Hespera and another servant were in the room removing plates and other dinner items. Hespera accidentally clanked two metal plates together. "Pardon, Mistress and Master," she said when heads turned instinctively in her direction. "I shall be quieter."

Apolita shook her head. "Never mind, Hespera. Continue what you are doing."

"Thank you, Mistress. I shall be done quickly." Hespera turned to the other servant, a man in his middle twenties, also a new face so far as Titus was concerned. The new servant glanced at Titus and Apolita, but his dark pupiled eyes seemed to linger on Civis. The General interpreted the look as a request for approval.

"Flavius, help her if you will, then you both will be finished for the night," said Civis. He turned his attention back to Apolita. "I must leave here at 6:00 pm and be at the gate to his estate at 6:30 pm. He requests that I be alone." The servants continued to collect plates, but without noise so as not to interrupt.

"But why alone, Civis? What does he want that you should go there alone?" Apolita asked.

"I truly don't know, but I suspect it has something to do with the silk trade. I must go, Apolita."

Apolita shook her head. "Titus... Were you there when this happened?"

Titus cleared his throat and glanced at Civis as he answered Apolita's question. "Yes, I was there. It is as Civis described it. I do not understand the motive either, Apolita. But I think I understand why Civis will do it."

"And why is that, Titus?" Tears were beginning to form in Apolita's eyes, the result of a conflict between fear and anger.

"Tiberius accused Civis of being a coward and a traitor today." Apolita's teary eyes opened wide and she put her hand to her mouth. Her face flushed pink.

"How dare he! Has he no eyes or ears or any thought at all?! Absurd! Doesn't he know what my husband went through to serve Caesar in the East?! Why give him any attention at all, the bloated goat!" (The servants tip-toed out of the room so as not to disturb anyone, their work there being done.)

"Apolita, I wish I could convince him otherwise..." began Titus, but he was interrupted by Civis.

"Apolita," said Civis somewhat sternly. "He called me a coward in front of the Senate of the Empire of Roma." Civis voice softened. "I must go at his request or I shall give him justification for his accusation. I expect he will be more than happy to relay the news to the Senate if I don't go there."

"I sense you have already made up your mind, Civis," she said, her heart sinking into the pit of her stomach. Civis nodded. "Take Titus with you," she pleaded.

"No. I must go alone."

"But Civis..."

"No." Apolita looked at him, her hazel eyes shiny with tears. She knew this man as well as she knew herself. The decision was made. Tomorrow night, she would see him when he returned or she would know she had become a widow. Apolita said nothing more. She lifted a cloth from the table, brought it to her eyes, pushed her chair back and hurriedly left the room for the solitude of their otherwise empty sleeping room. There would be little sleep for her that night.

Civis looked around the room noting the dinner plates were gone and Titus was still sitting there, saying nothing. "So..." began Civis with a smile. "I guess that wasn't too bad... was it?"

"Bad enough, Civis," replied Titus.

The smile on Civis' face wavered and fell. "Yes, you're right. It was bad enough." The two men sat there sipping on the remaining wine in their goblets, neither wanting to look at the other or say anything more. It stayed that way for awhile.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 10-30-2001 @ 04:15 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-01-01 16:01 ET (US)     11 / 64       
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful, the sun's rays reflecting like smaller imitiations of their source on the curved, glazed tile roofs of the scattered villas in the region. Fruit trees and vines, some laden with crops and others preparing for their annual yield, glistened with dew. Where the morning's moisture became to heavy for a leaf, small droplets collected, found a convenient channel, and became a tiny, brief rivulet that fell to the ground.

Civis was awake, dressed and roaming about earlier that morning than typically. Mostly it was because sleep, when it came the night before, was fleeting. By sunrise, Civis understood its futility and decided to make an early start on the day. In the stable, Radko too was on and about at that early hour; but in his case, this was quite normal.

"Good morning, Master Civis," said the servant when he saw Civis Romanus approaching.

"Good morning, Radko," responded Civis. "Please saddle the chestnut, if you will. I'd like to take it around the estate this morning. Oh, and tonight at around 6:00 pm I will need the stallion saddled and ready."

"It will be done, Master. It is a beautiful day is it not?"

"Thank you, Radko. Yes, a beautiful day. Hopefully staying that way even through the night." A few minutes later Radko brought the chestnut around, saddled and ready to ride.

The Stable Master stared after Civis as he mounted the chestnut. He knew his master to be introspective at times, but this was something different. It was not distraction nor contemplation that creased Civis' brow, Radko concluded. From his experience on the Silk Road, Radko knew this expression times before. His master was worried, deeply worried; but Radko had no idea why.

Micah Aragorn
posted 11-02-01 17:28 ET (US)     12 / 64       
A slight ray of morning sunlight shun through the drapes of the guest room seeming to know its way to a sleeping Titus. He had slept very well from a slight indulgence in too much wine during the previous evenings conversations with Civis. But he felt companionship was what Civis should have at that particular moment. He rose from the bed which was always better than the field bedding he was used to or had to get used to in the last year and part of this one. After washing away the effects of the night's sleep,dressing, and partaking of the breakfast Cook had prepared, Titus sought more jovial entertainment that would occupy his time and mind from the evening's challenge.

He had already been told that Civis had risen early that morning and was out riding and overseeing his villa's daily routines and no doubt working over in his mind that evening's meeting with his neighbor.

Titus made it a point to find young Civis and spend time with him. As the Tribune conversed with and watched as Civi showed him that he had not lost his vision or architectural abilitities to construct bridge after building after walled fortresses from the building materials his Father had bought or found for him. Titus was truely fascinated at the youth's natural abilities. Before both knew it most of the morning had passed them by and were it not for the growling in their stomachs might still be continueing to reshape Roma through the use of the building blocks.

After a light lunch Titus let Civi continue his quest for a better built Roma and sought to walk off the lunch which had made him slightly sleepy. As he walked the grounds of the villa he came across the two young and pretty girls that he first had seen coming from the bath house yesterday.Immediately they both again blushed a slight red hue and whispered into each other's ear all the while emitting that twittering giggling that usually accompanied females of their age. But Titus was, it always seemed, to be drawn to a pretty face and a shapely figure he had unexpectedly caught a glimpse of the day before.

Titus sat between the two and conversed with them, nay flirted with them,and watched as they fussed over who had spotted him first the day before. Titus was not all together unaware of his handsome features and from his eastern travels had acquired a deeper complexion that complimented his looks especially while wearing his uniform and inflating his young ego. But the hour grew late and Titus wanted to be there when Civis went about the evenings business and said his goodbye's to the young females and walked back to the villa.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 11-02-2001 @ 05:36 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-03-01 10:07 ET (US)     13 / 64       
Civis enclosed his upper body in the armor of a legionaire commander almost mechanically, instinctively, without thought. His thoughts were preoccupied by the task lying before him.

He reached for the belt that held his gladius and buckled into place around his waist. Years of wearing this article led to an unconscious, precise positioning of the belt and scabbord for maximum comfort and accessibility. The empty scabbord next was filled with his favorite gladius, the short Roman sword made famous and feared by the crimson and leather Legions of Rome.

Then he took an extra, unusual precaution. Civis reached for a throwing knife he carried only once in awhile. It's ivory handle fit comfortably in his hand as he once more became familiar with its balance. Glancing down he sought out the mother of pearl inlaid lettering in the handle. There it was, "CR", a gift to him from... from... That was so long ago... Oh,yes. It was his Commander's gift to him when he was given his first command of a Century. Yes, so long ago...

Civis took a deep breath of self-reasssurance, picked up his helmet and strode out of the room. He found Apolita waiting for him in the Atrium. No, he said, he wasn't hungry. No, he didn't want Titus to accompany him. No, he wouldn't change his mind. Apolita's tears still glistened on his armor in the soon-to-set sun's light when he mounted his white stallion and began the ride to Tiberius Publicus' villa.

A hand grasped Apolita's, brought it to his lips for a brief, reassuring kiss. "Whether he wants it or not, I will watch over him, Apolita; and bring him back to you," said Titus. "Radko has a horse waiting for me. He will ride with me as well. Will you need anything here?"

"No. Some of the servants are gone for their weekly rest day, but Cook is here and others are around if needed. See to my husband, Titus. I will be fine."

"We will all be back soon, Apolita." Titus turned and quickly walked out of the entrance to the villa. He ran with a steady gate, learned from legionaire training, to the stable where Radko waited. They both mounted their horses and rode in the direction of Tiberius' estate, but not by the road taken by Civis. They would have to remain hidden from all eyes in order to ensure Civis' promise would not be compromised.

What protection they could provide, they both knew would be strongest in the openness of the two estates. Where their confidence was less firm, was within the Senator's villa. This they could not enter. And it is there that Civis would be all alone and highly vulnerable. Radko and Titus guided their mounts on an intercept course that would bring them into Civis' proximity on the estate of the Senator.

Once or twice Civis halted his horse sensing that something was nearby, but not too close, moving in his direction but not towards him. He was on the section of road that bordered and passed through Tiberius' estate. The gate to the estate was only a few meters ahead. They must be watching me, he thought. Underestandable. I'm expected to arrive alone and so they wish to reassure themselves, I suppose, that in fact I am. Well, who am I to disappoint a Senator. Civis laughed a wry laugh and restarted his horse towards the gate.

A servant waited at the Gate. "Enter, please, General Romanus. Tiberius is awaiting your arrival. Please ride to the villa on this main road." The servant eyed the armor and weapons worn by Civis, but said nothing as he unlatched the gate and opened it wide enough to permit Civis to pass through on his horse.

As Civis rode towards the villa, he could hear the gate squeak on its hinges as the servant closed it behind him. The latch that fell into place with a loud metallic clang had a disquieting tone that stayed with Civis during most of his ride to the villa.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-03-2001 @ 10:32 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-04-01 11:14 ET (US)     14 / 64       
An armed servant stood watch at the villa's gate, a smaller version of the maingate through which Civis had passed moments before. Not a trusting soul, this Tiberius, thought Civis. But then, with his personality and gift for words, it was no surprise to Civis that Tiberius might be somewhat fearful. Again, Civis was not challenged for carrying a sword and was permitted to enter the Senator's villa.

A young servant girl guided him down the extended hallway to a room somewhere in the middle of the circularly constructed building. She smiled reassuringly, indicating that Civis was to enter the room through a double door. He lifted the door's latch and pushed both doors open, quickly placing his right hand on the hilt of his gladius as the double doors swung on their hinges.

A voice boomed out from somewhere within. "Ah! General Romanus! Enter please!" It was Tiberius. Civis stepped into the room, still with hand on sword. It then occurred to him that Tiberius said "General". Why the change in address now? Curiousity crept into Civis' thoughts, but not so as to suppress his soldier's instinct to review his tactical position before advancing.

The room was apparently on the outer ring of Tiberius' villa. The double door through which he entered the room was on the side of the room facing the inner hallway. To his right was a wall with a fresco of the Latin countryside. Before him was the outer wall with a doorway that seemed to open onto the grounds of the estate. To his left, reclining on a couch, an array of foods before him, lay the vast bulk of Senator Tiberius Publicus, his face half full with his latest selection from his evening's repast. A servant stood next to him, an empty tray in his hands.

Civis turned to face the Senator. Tiberius looked Civis over from head to toe. "Armed for war are we General? A might bit overly cautious I would say. There are no barbarians about to attack this or your villa that I know of, General." Civis didn't like the tone but said nothing. Tiberius continued his pseudo jovial welcome. "Perhaps you might like to make a Senator a little more reassured if you could, by placing your sword... and your knife... on the chair by the door over there... Yes, that's right, the door that exits from the building." Civis looked at the servant, saw no threat and made his way to the chair indicated by Tiberius, removing his gladius and knife as he walked. He placed the weapons on the chair and made note of the door as a possible escape route if necessary. Then he turned about and walked back towards Tiberius.

"Thank you, General. Need I say that one shout from me and this room will be filled with armed servants? Come, General Romanus, share the bounty of Roma with me." Tiberius waved his hand to indicate the foods set before him. Civis briefly looked at the fruits, cooked birds and other prepared foods. He spoke to Tiberius for the first time.

"More than enough for two men, it seems, Senator. I would prefer to advance to our business, if you wouldn't mind, and then return to my villa. I have other matters to attend to besides this."

"As you wish General Romanus." Tiberius made a motion of dismissal with his hand and the servant with the empty platter walked towards the double inner doors and closed them behind himself, leaving the two Romans alone.

Tiberius reached forward and grasped a roasted fowl. He tore off a section of the bird and noisily consumed it in a few amazingly large bites. Civis' stomach unsettled itself at the sight of Tiberius' grease covered hands throwing the now denuded leg and thigh bone of the bird over his shoulder and onto the marble floor behind him. Tiberius rubbed the back of his hand over his mouth to remove the remnants of the fowl besmearing his face and then wiped his hands on his toga before resuming his talk.

"Wonderful flavor... You are missing a fine meal, General."

"I will be quite fine thank you, Senator," answered Civis.

Tiberius shrugged. "General Civis Romanus, I have a proposition for you that will make you a rich man, far richer than you are today, and almost as rich as... well... almost as rich as me. Are you interested in hearing it?"

"Do I have a choice?" said Civis.

"Not in hearing it, I suppose; but certainly in deciding whether to accept or not."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-04-2001 @ 11:39 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-05-01 15:46 ET (US)     15 / 64       
"I suppose now is as good a time as any, General Romanus, to tell you our proposition," said Tiberius.

"Our proposition?" repeated Civis.

"Yes, our. I represent a group of... merchants, who partake of the silk trade with the east. Up until now, we have enjoyed, shall we say, special privileges with the government of Parthia, King Volgezes to be precise. It did not come without cost. But given the proceeds, the minor increase in cost to secure favored status in the trading of silk was well worth it."

He can take an awful long time to come to the point, thought Civis. "Isn't trade in silk still profitable?" asked Civis.

"Yes, but not like before. And we... merchants, have need of the more lucrative proceeds we enjoyed in the past for our purposes. Your treaty, if fully supported, will make it impossible to return to the old profits we once enjoyed."

"What purposes are those?"

"Perhaps some day we will share that with you, but for now we are prepared only to share this. I and those I represent want you to advise Caesar against the treaty and encourage war with Parthia for the purpose of placing Vologezes or one of his relatives back on the throne. In exchange for your... uhhh... temporary loss of face for advising against your own treaty, we will see that you enjoy a piece of the profits from the silk trade such that you will have more wealth than you could ever imagine."

"And if I decline your offer?"

"General Romanus, must we speak of such things? I am a considerate man. I believe a man of your stature and influence should enjoy all that the Empire has to offer. Am I being too selfish? If so and there is more I can offer, please speak its worth and we will give it every consideration."

"I mean, what if I decline all of your offers and proceed to advise Caesar favorably on the treaty?"

"Then, Romanus (Civis noted the word 'General' had disappeared once more) I fear you and your family will enjoy no more than the poor who live in the worst hovels in Roma or elsewhere, regardless of how long or what it might take to place you there. And I cannot vouche for how many of you will be left when the inevitable occurs. Am I being clear enough on this?"

"Very clear, Tiberius," said Civis, teeth clenched as he struggled to control his anger at his family being threatened this way. "Under the circumstances there is only one answer I can give..."

"Yes?" said Tiberius, smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of what he expected from the soldier before him.

Civis straightened up to his full heighth and in a louder than usual voice said, "May you and those you represent find your new home in the Realm of Pluto before this day is out!"

The smile on Tiberius' face crumbled into disbelief. Next, Civis saw a subtle shift in Tiberius' eyes, as if they were focussed elsewhere and not on him. Instinctively, Civis whirled and reached for the gladius that was no longer in his scabbord. Then a blurred, unrecognizable face appeared before his eyes from nowhere and a brownish oblong object descended upon his head before he could utter a single word. The room exploded into an array of speckled lights not unlike the nighttime sky, but far more animated.

Civis lay on the floor incapable of motion; he couldn't see, he couldn't speak. He could hear muffled sounds, like words being spoken, but he couldn't understand them as consciousness ebbed and waned rapidly. There seemed to be protestations, accusations, then he heard a muffled cry, a gurgling sound, followed by something that sounded like footsteps to and fro. Then he heard the double door to the room swing on its noisy hinges and many footsteps. A young woman's shriek of horror, a man issuing commands.

Civis groaned and was rewarded with a container of water emptied on his upturned face. He opened his eyes only to have his glances returned by four pairs of accusing eyes in the faces of men dressed as servants. The men compounded his expanding headache by grasping him by his chest armor, dragging him across the floor, lifting him bodily and roughly dropping him onto a couch positioned against the same inner wall where the double doors were mounted. Two of the men stood over him, sword in hand, obviously intending to use them if necessary.

The room spun so badly that Civis only barely managed to get his eyes to focus on the place where he last saw Tiberius. The Senator lay on his couch, eyes open and unmoving, his head tilted back in an unusual angle for a living man. By his motionless right hand a small wooden club lay on the ground, as if he had just dropped it there moments before.

But Tiberius Publicus, Senator of Roma, was not a living man. His throat was slit ear to ear with his breathing channel open to the world. Blood was puddled or running in long rivulets from the couch to all parts of the room. In the Senator's chest, buried to its hilt, was a knife. The handle was made of ivory. Inlaid in the handle in mother-of-pearl were the letters "CR".

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-05-2001 @ 08:11 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-05-01 21:52 ET (US)     16 / 64       
Titus and Radko dismounted from their horses under the cover of a copse of cypress trees a short distance from Tiberius' villa. It was no major problem removing a few stones from Tiberius' boundary wall to give their horses a low enough barrier to jump.

They caught up with Civis soon enough, but stayed hidden in the vegetation as much as possible. Fortunately it was dark enough such that their ebony colored horses (Radko knew his business excellently)could not be seen from the mainroad. However, on at least two occasions they observed Civis stop his horse and swivel around in the saddle seemingly on the watch for someone nearby. Quickly they reined in their mounts to be sure not to give their position away. It seemed to work, since Civis soon continued his ride towards Tiberius' estate.

The truly worrisome part occurred as Civis rode through the maingate and then stepped down from his horse and entered the villa. For the first time since they caught up with him, neither Titus nor Radko could see Civis directly. Both had no idea what section Civis would be led to, nor what would be awaiting him there. All they could do was stand and wait.

A noise far to their left caught their attention. A garbed figure, covered head to toe, lightly stepped towards a side of the villa in which Titus could see the barest outline of a doorway. The figure stood to the side of the doorway leaning in as if listening. Finally the figure straightened up and then reached out, gently opened the door and walked in, at the same time removing a small object hidden in clothing. These things were done in near silence.

Titus shook his head. A thief? A slave not wanting to be caught? A lover on an evening's visit? He couldn't imagine who or why, except that whoever it was had left the door open enough so that voices could be heard speaking from within.

Titus heard something about "Pluto" spoken quite loudly. He heard movement, sudden movement. Less than a minute later, the figure emerged once more, this time running across the open space between the villa and vegetation beyond. Before Titus or Radko could react, the figure had blended into the dark and gone in who knew what direction.

Then a commotion erupted at the front of the villa as a horse and rider was seen leaving the villa from the side farthest from where Titus and Radko had hidden. The horseman galloped straight for the maingate yelling for it to be opened immediately. He had to rein in his horse momentarily as the heavy maingate was slow to open on its ponderous hinges. Then the rider galloped off into the night, lantern in hand, towards Roma.

"I think we had best see what's happened, Radko," said Titus as they observed a servant running towards the same gate through which the horseman had just galloped. They mounted their horses and worked their way into the vegetation and towards the road so as not to give away the place from where they were coming. Another low stone wall made access to the road easy.

Radko and Titus arrived at Tiberius' maingate just as five uniformed prefects galloped up from the opposite direction, the villa's horseman in the lead, lantern in hand. The prefects were intent on passing through the gate first. Titus allowed them access but called out to the man who seemed their leader, "Why so much haste, Prefect? Is something wrong?"

The prefect called back as he galloped through the gate, "A murder Tribune... There has been a murder!" Titus' heart leaped into his throat. Who, he wondered fearfully. Who has been murdered? The two servants at the maingate had long since run towards the villa, following in the wake of the galloping prefects. No one was there to prevent their entering so Titus and Radko spurred their horses forward.

The entrace gate to the villa stood wide open as did the doorway into the structure. Titus signaled to Radko to hold onto the horses while he entered the structure. Radko moved the two ebony beasts to a position near Civis' white stallion. Stablemates, the three horses touched muzzles in some form of equine recognition. Radko waited as calmly as trepidation would permit. It was a struggle for him all the while.

Titus stepped into the villa only to see a portrait of living chaos unfold before him. Servants or slaves were running in all directions some carrying objects, others were empty handed. Cheaply clothed women were huddled in corners crying, other women were hurriedly carrying young children or were being followed by young children barely able to keep up with the pace of the woman leading them. A few women, well dressed, faces colorfully painted and smelling of exotic scents were carrying small chests in their hands or holding great handfuls of golden jewelry. They too were in flight, no doubt from some harem deep inside the villa.

Slaves, servants, men and women alike, when they saw Titus, would stop in their tracks and seek an alternate route. He realized his Tribune's armor that he wore "just in case" that night was causing their hesitation and flight. He ignored them as he made his way to a room in which he heard many voices, including that of the prefect who led the others through the gate.

Just before he entered the room he heard the very familiar voice of Civis respond to something said by the prefect. "... and that's all I can remember, Prefect. Nothing more." Titus entered the room in time to see the prefect, sword in hand, place its point against Civis' throat, Civis' head held back by the hands of another prefect. "There is more. Tell us or in Caesar's name I will make the point of this sword do the same work on you that you did to the Senator!"

"Unhand him, Prefect!," bellowed Titus. "Do you know who you threaten?!"

"This is no affair of yours, Tribune!"

"I shall make it my affair, Prefect, if you so much as nick the man's throat! Unhand him I say!" Titus pulled his own sword from his scabbord. The commanding voice of Titus and his apparent confidence unnerved the prefect. He hesitated, lowered his sword and then nodded to the other prefect to release Civis head. It was done roughly, Civis' already pained head bumping once against the plastered wall behind the couch. The room spun again as Civis struggled to constrain the bile rising from his stomach to his throat.

Titus pressed his advantage with the hesitating prefect. "The man you poorly treat there, is Civis Romanus, General of the Legions, Chief Military Advisor to Caesar."

The prefect seemed unfazed. "He is a murderor."

"Of whom?"

"Tiberius Publicus! There!" Titus looked across the room in the direction pointed out by the prefect to where the lifeless body of Tiberius still lay in its own bed of bloat and gore. Focussed so intently on Civis, Titus had not looked at anything else in the room until now. The Tribune's stomach turned once involuntarily before he regained control.

"Then this is a matter for Caesar, since his General is accused of murdering a Senator of Roma." The prefect was about to issue a retort then thought better of it. "And I shall remind you, Prefect," continued Titus. "There is chaos in this household you have failed to control: looting and all manners of unlawful acts being committed by servants and slaves. This will not go down well with the Senate when they hear of this... this... desecration of a Senator's villa." The prefect lowered his sword fully, its point looking directly at the ground. He looked at Titus wordlessly, then whirled about shouting orders to three of the other prefects with him. They hurried from the room, and over the course of the next 10 minutes or more, quiet slowly returned to the villa.

One of the prefects, not the one holding Civis' head earlier, returned to the room bringing with him a young woman, the same woman who had guided Civis earlier that evening. She carried a bowl and cloth. The woman sat down on the couch on which Civis also sat. She dipped the cloth into the water and gently began to apply it to Civis' purple and black bruised forehead all the while her eyes radiating fear and disgust.

The prefect who brought her in looked tentatively at the leader and then said to Titus. "I know General Romanus. He doesn't (indicating the prefect's leader with a movement of his head). He's new to the prefecture. Senator Tiberius saw to his appointment. I find this hard to believe, Tribune."

"Silence, prefect!" bellowed the leader.

"He is speaking to me, Prefect," said the Tribune. Titus redirected himself to the subordinate who brought the young servant woman to the room. "What is your name, Prefect?"

"Severus, Sir. Severus Antoninus."

A weakened voice was heard from the couch. It was Civis' voice. "Thank you, Prefect Antoninus... Thank you."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-05-2001 @ 10:05 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-07-01 16:11 ET (US)     17 / 64       
Hours later, heavy footed men in sandals could be heard trudging down the hallway towards the room in which Civis was being held. Crimson and leather dressed soldiers from the Garrison of Roma entered the room, their horses tethered outside in the vicinity of the horses belonging to Titus, Radko and Civis.

A Centurian led the detachment of four mounted soldiers. He surveyed the room, taking in its details quickly. He walked to the corpse of Tiberius and made note of the knife in his chest bearing the initials "CR". Then he walked to the place where Civis was seated and under guard by the Prefect Leader and Prefect Severus Antoninus. He ignored them and presented himself to Titus with a Roman military salute.

"Hail Tribune. I am Centurian Honoratus Pellus. I have received a vague report that Senator Tiberius Publicus has been murdered in his own villa by a Roman General. I can see that the Senator is indeed dead. Is this the accused?" asked the Centurian, pointing to Civis. It was Civis who answered.

"I am, Centurian." The Centurian was initially surprised to have Civis respond instead of Titus, but recovered quickly as he turned to face Civis.

"And your name, General?"

"Civis Romanus." The Centurian's eyes blinked rapidly and his mouth twitched as he struggled with the onslaught of yet another wave of surprise and concurrent thought about what to say.

"General Romanus... Uh... Forgive me, Sir, for not recognizing you... I mean, Sir? You're the accused? I mean, why did you... No, I mean... General Romanus, Sir..." The Centurian gulped, then recomposed himself. "General Romanus, Sir. Did you commit this crime?"

"No, Centurian, I did not." Relief crossed the Centurian's face, then he realized he couldn't simply accept Civis' statement at face value.

"If not you, Sir... Then who?"

"Whoever it was who tried to break my head with a club," said Civis. It was here the Prefect Leader interceded.

"He told me the same thing, Centurion; but the club was found near the hand of Tiberius. The Senator used the club to defend himself from the General."

"Who are you, Prefect?" asked the Centurian.

"Lucius Paramus, Leader of the Prefecture you passed on the way to this estate."

"Thank you, Prefect. I will hear your report later..."

"But Centurian, I..." Lucius was interrupted by the Centurian's firm look and assertive words.

"I will hear your report later, Prefect. This case is under the jurisdiction of the Senate and People of Roma. The Emperor will be keenly interested in what is found here and what you have to say, but it will be said at a later time. Am I being clear, Prefect?"

Lucius looked as if he were going to say more, then thought better of it. "Yes, Centurion. I shall be awaiting your request to meet."

Honoratus nodded. "You and your men may leave us now, Prefect." The prefects left promptly.

When the last prefect exited the room through the double doors, Honoratus turned to Titus. "Now that we have some quiet, Tribune, please identify yourself and tell me how you came to be here. Then I will hear the General's explanation..."

Civis was again mounted on his white stallion, Titus and Radko nearby, all being escorted back to Civis' villa by the Centurion and his detachment. Civis found himself to be under house arrest and confined to his villa on penalty of death should he try to leave. In Civis' still somewhat dazed state, the only thought actively rolling about in his mind was this: How do I explain all of this to Apolita?

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-07-2001 @ 08:57 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-08-01 22:15 ET (US)     18 / 64       
Honoratus Pellus, Centurian from the Garrison of Roma, rode off through the gates of Civis' estate to report his findings to his Commander and to Caesar Marcus Aurelius if so called upon. Left behind, encamped in the open area before Civis' villa, were the four legionaires who had accompanied the Centurian to the villa of Tiberius Publicus. These soldiers were tasked with maintaining continuous watch over the presence of Civis Romanus while he remained under house arrest. At all times two of the four soldiers would perform sentry duty on the grounds of the villa.

Apolita gently closed the door to their sleeping quarters behind her, walked down the hall and found Titus sitting in one of the chairs in Civis' study. Titus looked up, a questioning expression on his face. "He is sleeping now, Titus," reassured Apolita. "The physician says the contusion on his forehead isn't serious, though it will appear discolored for weeks and he will have headaches from time to time until it fades away completely." Apolita found a nearby empty chair and sat down with a sigh. "The man seems to find trouble like dogs find old bones. He just digs and digs and well... There it is."

Apolita studied Titus' face and the way his eyes were moving back and forth as he worked various thoughts in his mind. "What are you thinking, Titus?"

Titus pursed his lips before answering. "I'm thinking the key to this mystery of who murdered Tiberius and framed Civis is before my very eyes and I cannot see it for its clarity."

Apolita looked relieved. "At first, Titus Tarquintius, I thought you were going to say you thought Civis actually did this thing. I know he has a temper; but I could not imagine him behaving in such an... an extreme manner."

"No, Apolita. I am positive Civis did not do it. He was framed. But by whom? And why? These are the things I must find out. I was just trying to think of the names of those who would be willing to help me." He was interrupted as Hespera entered the room carrying beverages for Apolita and Titus. To Apolita Hespera offered a warm tea from leaves brought back by Civis from his journey on the Silk Road. To Titus she offered poppy-steeped wine, a delicacy that seemed to be growing in popularity among patricians and plebians alike. But before leaving the room, Hespera hesitated, turned around, and appeared desirous of saying something; but also reluctant to speak unless permitted.

"Yes, Hespera?" signaled Apolita that it was acceptable for the girl to interrupt them.

"Mistress Apolita, is the Master all right? Is he badly hurt?" said Hespera.

"He will be fine with some rest, Hespera. He is bruised and occasionally dizzy; but he will recover."

"I... I'm sorry he is hurt, Mistress. He is a good man, as are you a good Mistress to me. I... I wish him and you well, and for these troubles to go away. I..." Here something made Hespera stop, tears filling her eyes. "I must go. Permission, Mistress?" Her eyes were flooded now and tears were falling to the floor.

"Yes, you may go, Hespera. We will not need you for anything else." Hespera curtseyed quickly and in her haste nearly ran from the room.

"She's taking this rather hard for a servant, don't you think?" observed Titus.

"One would think so," said Apolita. "But she is a very young woman and might be easily upset by such things."

"And you, Apolita? How are you?"

"Ready to do the same as Hespera. A good cry just for the release." She finished the last of her tea and placed the cup on a nearby table. Titus noticed small lines on her face that seemed deeper tonight than before, and Apolita's eyes also were taking on the appearance of tears likely to fall. In a somewhat choked voice she said to Titus, "Rest well Titus Tarquintius; and if Civis hasn't asked I will... Help us, please. Help us all you can. I fear the worst for him... the very worst." She rose quickly from her chair bringing both of her hands to her face to hide it. "Good night, Titus" was all that she could muster up the ability to say as she walked quickly from the room and towards her sleeping quarters.

As was their obligation with legionaires encamped on the villa's grounds, Civis' servants brought food for the soldiers. Titus completed his morning's repast and said a farewell to Apolita. He left the villa with a specific purpose in mind. There was someone who he thought could help, and it was time to see the much older man about that possibility.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-08-2001 @ 10:18 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-09-01 22:04 ET (US)     19 / 64       
The Commander of the Garrison of Roma stood before Caesar Marcus Aurelius, Centurian Honoratus Pellus at his side. A look of surprised dismay was firmly planted on the face of Caesar.

"Commander, I find this very hard to believe. I had heard of some disagreement between the two men; but for General Romanus to do such a thing is so very much out of character." Caesar walked back and forth as he contemplated the situation. "Centurian, you say the Tribune Titus Tarquintius claims he saw someone outside of the room listening to the two men who then entered and left some time later?"

"Yes, Caesar. That is so."

"Then why couldn't it have been that unknown person who committed the crime?"

"It has been a thought of mine, Caesar," said the Centurian. "But we need some evidence that points to it. So far, all evidence points to the General."

"I see. Then Commander," said Caesar. "I think we should proceed a little less swiftly with prosecuting General Romanus than we usually do in cases such as this. Let's allow a generous amount of time to pass while someone does a thorough investigation of this crime and attempts to uncover every possible fact and circumstance... Do you understand what I mean by 'less swiftly', Commander?"

"Yes, Caesar. I now apologize in advance to you for the delays in scheduling a trial." The Commander smiled slightly, but suppressed it at the last moment. He was an admirer of Civis Romanus and was no more happy with the situation than was Caesar.

"You understand precisely, Commander. Now, please arrange to have Romanus see me as soon as he is recovered. A day or two from now would be acceptable. Maintain your guard on him and remind him that he is under house arrest. This may be for his own protection whether he sees it that way or not. And lastly, have this man see me too. I have an assignment for him." Caesar wrote a name down on a piece of scroll and gave it to the Commander. TheCommander saluted, as did the Centurian, and both left Caesar's chambers.

Outside of the door where two Praetorians stood guard, the Commander read the name on the scrap of scroll. He handed it to the Centurian so he could read it as well. "I'm not surprised, Honoratus. Are you?"

"No Commander, it makes perfect sense."

"Very fine then. Will you please ride to his residence and advise him that Caesar commands him to appear."

"Yes, Commander." The Centurian saluted and promptly left for the Garrison Stables to see about a mount for the ride ahead.

Micah Aragorn
posted 11-11-01 03:44 ET (US)     20 / 64       
The distance from General Romanus' villa to the city of Roma was not far in distance but the ride seemed to take much more than usual. Titus was playing over and over in his mind what had transpired that last evening. And for all the blanks he drew he knew the answer was hiding in plain site. He knew Civis to be innocent of the charge although it was his dagger that protruded from the chest of the deceased Senator. And that hooded figure standing by the side door and entering moments before the deed? How was this person involved?

As Titus entered the gates and proceeded through the streets you could tell that news traveled fast among the citizens of Roma. Especially when someone of importance and rank were involved. Heads turned to one another and whispers moved between mouth and ears as the Tribune rode to his parents home. He could sense the anger, the shock, the suspicious nature of the Roman people.

He needed to talk to someone. To clear his thoughts and voice his opinions and ideas. To seek advice as to how to proceed next. He knew where to seek it. His grandfather, Senator Gallus Lucinius, would be able to tell him how to proceed. Titus stopped first at the house of his parents to refresh himself and let them know what had happened, although he suspected they already knew, and would then seek out Grandfather.

Micah Aragorn
posted 11-12-01 02:58 ET (US)     21 / 64       
"Are you alright my son?",Claudia asked Titus as he made his way to his room to change his clothing.

"Yes, Mother! I am fine."

"Your father and I had not heard from you and when the news that Senator Tiberius Publius had been murdered and the rumor it was Civis Romanus who was the murderor......"

Titus turned quickly to his concerned mother and with a look of annoyance,"It is exactly that....rumor. He did not do it."

"And how are you so sure he didn't," voiced Lucius Tarquintius, Titus' father, as he entered from the room used as his business office. "It is said that his own dagger was found protruding from the Senator's chest. What more proof do you need?"

"Father, there are things about it that you obviously have not heard."

Seeing the annoyance in his son's facial expression but trying to convince Titus that what seems real usually is, "It was said that Tiberius Publius made many accusations about Romanus in the Senate after hearing him discuss what he felt Roma should do with the Parthians and their treaty. His mannerisms suggested he was not at all pleased with the Senator. What better way to eliminate someone who was tarnishing the General's good name."

Now angry at the suggestion of a planned murder Titus could feel the heat in his flushed cheeks while he answered to his father,"Father, you don't know what you're saying. Your talking on presumptions with little evidence of the facts. You forget that I rode with this man for nearly a year. I watched and learned many things about life that few learn in a lifetime and he gave me friendship which I would give my own life to protect."

"Maybe it's this friendship which gets in your way of seeing what any man is capable of when his existance is on the line."

"Father, you seem to have some dislike for the General. What has he done to you to warrant such dislike? Hasn't his treaty with the Ch'in opened up more routes for your business which should make you even more wealthy?"

"Titus, stop it!," Claudia shouted,"Your father nor I deserve that."

Titus realized his last words said were undeserved. The anger inside seemed to be subsiding. And with remorse in his voice," I am sorry Father...Mother you are right you don't deserve that. But Father why is it I detect dislike for the man who has opened more trade routes for Roma."

"Because, in his exuberance to further the growth of Roma, he has in fact started to slowly kill the established merchants, like myself, because we must now lower our prices and profits to compete in an ever increasing flood of readily available merchandise. I'm not alone other merchants have the same idea. In fact,Tiberius Publius, was one of those."

Titus now knew he would have to go back and talk to Civis about the conversation he had with the Senator. But it was imperative that he speak with his grandfather. In apologizing for his conduct and the shortness of his visit he took his leave of his parents and now rode to the home of his grandfather.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 11-12-2001 @ 03:13 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-12-01 21:49 ET (US)     22 / 64       

The well dressed man was startled when the man with a hood covering his unviewable face seemingly went out of his way to block passage. "You are in my way, Roman! Move yourself so that I may pass!" exclaimed the affronted patrician.

The hooded man merely laughed and grasped the patrician by his right wrist, while in the same motion he pressed a small scroll into the patrician's hand. Before the patrician could protest or call for assistance from a prefect, the hooded man was gone from sight.

The patrician looked down at his now freed wrist and the scroll he held. He carefully unrolled the scroll and read what it said: I know who all of you are. It will take 500 dinarii to keep me silent. Think it over. One of you will be instructed on how to answer.

The patrician's face went pale. He quickly looked around to see if anyone was looking in his direction. A few glances were directed his way, but there was nothing unusual in these brief looks. He walked backwards until his back was flat against the outer wall of the nearest insulae and read the scroll one more time. There was no doubt. Someone was aware. It would be necessary to take the risk and gather to discuss their choices. He would send for the others at once.



Apolita awakened that morning only to find that Civis was up and about. She threw on a garment for modesty and began to search the villa for his whereabouts. She found him outside talking to one of the legionaires.

"Civis? What are you doing out here? You're not quite well, might I remind you," she gently chastized him.

"Well enough, Apolita," he said trying to reassure her. "A little ache now and then. The rainbow acorn on my forehead looks worse than it feels. I will be fine."

"Well, come in anyway Civis. You're not supposed to be out here."

The soldier spoke to her with politeness and due courtesy. "No Mistress Apolita, it is permitted for General Romanus to be outside as long as he is escorted by one of the legionaires. It is the Centurion's orders, Mistress." The legionaire felt uncomfortable in the woman's presence and very aware of who it was he was escorting.

Civis smiled at his chosen one from the Isle of Celtia, "You see, Apolita. It is perfectly alright for me to be here. Besides, I'm enjoying my talk with this legionaire. He's recently transferred from the Legion of the East, the one who marched with me into Parthia. We were sharing talk about our campaign."

"I know enough about your campaign and about waiting for you in Tyre. I don't think anyone needs to be bored with it like I was bored both before and after. Now, General, get yourself back into the villa. Cook is preparing breakfast and expects your presence at the table shortly." Apolita put her hands on her hips and gave Civis a meaningful look which Civis understood perfectly well. He gave a shrug in the direction of the legionaire.

"Sorry soldier. It appears I am called to duty by a higher authority, greater it seems than that of Caesar... at least in this villa." The legionaire smiled and saluted in the Roman fashion, hand across breastplate. Civis followed Apolita back into the villa.

A second legionaire walked over to his comrade, the soldier who had been conversing with Civis. "It is hard to believe what he is accused of doing," he said. The first legionaire nodded. "I served with him in the Parthian Campaign. I never dreamed I would be guarding him in his villa, and the General being a murderor."

"An accused murderor, soldier."

"Yes, you're right. He is accused not necessarily proven so." The first legionaire turned to his recently arrived comrade. "You know, I would serve with him again... anytime... whether he's guilty or not, if he should ask."

"You're not the only one who would be willing," said the second legionaire. "There are many others who say the same. The barracks is full of such talk, along with surprise at this turn of events."

"One never knows in Roma what the next day will bring, does one?"

"No. One doesn't."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-12-2001 @ 09:51 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
posted 11-13-01 04:54 ET (US)     23 / 64       
The servant held the reins of Titus' mount as he got down.His Grandfather lived within the walls of the city of Roma choosing to be among its people and closer still to the Senate. He was by no means extremely wealthy but nor was he poor. He had followed in the footsteps of his father serving well in the military and gaining victory after victory while rising in the ranks and finally in the favor of the people of Roma and of Caesar to become a senator.

Gallus Lucinius was not fortunate enough to have a son born to him that could continue his family tradition but his daughter, Claudia, gave him a grandson who,with a little help, might still be able to continue the military and political side of the family.

The male servant asked Titus to wait in the foyer while he went to announce the Tribune's arrival. The servant soon returned and motioned Titus to follow him into the room where his grandfather was waiting.

Behind the marble desk beautifully trimmed with delicately inlaid gold sat his grandfather mulling over the papers or notes that were sprawled on it. He motioned to the servant standing alongside him that he was finished with his work and pushed the cushioned chair away so he could stand and greet his grandson.

"Come my boy. Come in! I'm always glad to see you", Gallus Lucinius said as he grasped the outstretched forearm that Titus offered in friendship and love of his grandfather. But even as he shook that arm and looked about his grandson's grim face it showed that this was not a simple family visit and Gallus knew why he was here.

"Are the rumors true, Titus. Was General Romanus found in the same room as Tiberius Publicus? His own dagger deep in the senator's bloody chest."

"Yes, Grandfather....he was. But it could not have been as it looked. Civis himself said he was not the murderor. To me that is enough to convince me of his innocence."

"This man has made quite an impression on you since your journey with him to the East." replied his grandfather.

Titus didn't answer but looked down upon the floor and to the sides of the room as if looking for the next words written somewhere there," I know he is innocent!".

"Then what is it that you seek from me, Titus?"

"Grandfather, I need to know what to do next to help the General prove his innocence."

The Senator looked into the face of his grandson saying, "You may find that task more than you can manage. The evidence is overwelming against him. Even this morning as the news spread among the Senate there were those that wanted immediate justice. They saw as I did the anger in Romanus' face at the accusations that Tiberius was making towards him."

"And you Grandfather? Are you convinced of the accusations by Tiberius Publicus." Titus replied.

His grandfather pursed his lips and raised one corner as if in thought and then answered,"I am not or was not a member of Tiberius' followers and of his ideas. But I am someone who represents the people of Roma and not entirely convinced that the Parthian treaty and the trade routes to the land of the Ch'in may favor us in the long run. As for the General's present predicament........I have not seen or heard enough to pass judgement yet."

Gallus Licinius walked over to a table that contained goblets and a pitcher. Pouring wine into each cup he offered one to Titus who accepted the drink and followed his grandfather to an opened window that looked out upon the city.

Staring out the window the senator started the conversation again."Have you spoken to the General yet".

"No. He was not cohearant enough to make conversation on his discusion with Tiberius."

"Then that should be the first thing you do, Titus. Get his side of the story." Titus knew this was true. There were things he still did not know about but would hasten to find.

"Grandfather, their was a mysterious hooded figure that was standing outside the entrance to where Civis and Tiberius were having their talk and disappeared inside a matter of moments before the Senator was killed."

"Oh....that's interesting. Maybe you should also seek the identity of this hooded figure. Although you may not like what you seek since it could be the General's accomplice."That possiblity Titus wanted to keep far away from his thoughts so as to not cloud or confuse himself.

The Tribune finished the drink and turned to his grandfather once more," Thank you Grandfather for your help, I need to visit Civis once again and talk to him."

The Senator turned to his grandson and replied,"Take care, Titus. May the gods help you find the answers you seek."As Gallus Lucinius watched the Tribune leave he couldn't help wonder wether his grandson might find more than he wanted to.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 11-13-2001 @ 04:59 AM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-13-01 16:07 ET (US)     24 / 64       
Tribune Titus Tarquintius intended to see Civis Romanus that very day after stopping briefly at his parent's villa. However, near the villa he once again encountered the Centurian Honoratus Pellus. The Centurian saluted and handed a scroll to Titus. Titus unrolled the scroll and read the message. He looked at the Centurian nodding his head in acceptance.

"It is understood then, Tribune. You will appear tomorrow at the 10th hour of the day?"

"Yes, Centurian. It is understood and I will comply."

"Thank you, Tribune. I shall communicate your answer." Honoratus saluted once more and directed his mount towards Roma.

There was no point in going to Civis' villa now, so Titus took the turn to his parent's villa and it is there he finished the day.


Evening shades danced against the walls of Civis' villa, cast there by the breeze-touched trees growing at the edge of the cleared area between the villa and the fields. Dinner had been spiced with some fresh foods brought from the market that day by Hespera or one of the other household servants, or... Well, Civis couldn't remember who it was that had brought the food items that day. But they were fresh and good to eat.

Supper was interrupted momentarily by the entrance of one of the soldiers standing guard against a possible escape by the General. The legionaire saluted when he was brought to the dining area. "Many pardons, General Romanus. Forgive this interruption but I was told to tell you this immediately."

"Proceed, Legionaire. I can listen as well as eat."

"Uhh... Yes, General. Caesar Marcus Aurelius desires that you appear before him in person at noonday tomorrow to respond to the charges brought against you. His messenger waits outside. We are to escort you to the palace should you agree to go."

"Agree to go? I have never disobeyed a command from my Emperor in my entire life. Tell the messenger I shall arrive as requested."

"Yes, General." The legionaire made as if to salute and depart, but Civis interrupted him.

"One more thing."

"Yes, General?"

"Here, take a few of these fresh fruits to your comrades. There's more than enough for us all."

"Oh. Thank you, Sir. Shall we have your horse ready at dawn for the ride?"

"Yes, thank you," said Civis. The legionaire smiled, holding up one of the fruits he had selected. "Thank you, Sir." The soldier managed to salute though it was a bit of a labored, awkward affair, his hand and arm being laden with fresh fruit. He turned and left the room allowing Civis and Apolita to finish their meal.


Apolita rolled over in their bed to rest her head on Civis' shoulder. Her auburn hair was unbundled and flowing like a dark but shiny sea over her husband's shoulder and onto her head cushion. Her hazel eyes refused to close for once again sleep was not arriving with any great speed. "What do you think the Emperor will do, husband?" she said in a low voice that was almost a whisper.

Civis was not asleep either. "This Emperor will do whatever is right and proper for the Empire, Apolita. He has demonstrated that to me before."

"But what of the Senate? Do you think they will see it his way?"

"At first, they will not directly interfere. Oh, they'll speak of prompt trial and punishment... But if Caesar wills differently they will yield to Caesar's will for a time, whatever it might be."

"And afterwards?"

"Afterwards, I had best prove my innocence or the "Tree" is all that will await me." Apolita shivered involuntarily at the thought of her husband becoming a victim of the Tree of Death.

"But what will Marcus Aurelius do? You haven't really said it."

"Because, my love, I don't know. Either my service will have a positive bearing, or some other consideration will cause the Emperor to act in some way. I will know only when I see him in person, tomorrow. No sooner."

"This is a nightmare. A terrible, horrible nightmare," the quivering in her voice suggesting tears were forming once more.

Apolita buried her face in his shoulder. Civis shifted position and placed his free arm around her to provide what comfort he could. "It will end," he said, trying to be reassuring. But he could not feel confident about what the end would be.

Sleep finally came, a tortured one for both.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 11-13-2001 @ 09:12 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 11-13-01 22:22 ET (US)     25 / 64       
Civis Romanus, dressed out in his finest ceremonial military armor, the white armor with the golden eagle on its breastplate, stood at rigid attention as the stern faced Emperor of Roma castigated him for his crime. The dressing down ended in a pointed finger and an order that he be prepared for the "Tree". Caesar Marcus Aurelius then turned his back on Civis and looked away as two strong armed Praetorian Guards stripped Civis of his weapons, grasped him by his arms and pulled him from Caesar's chambers.

Civis was speechless with shock. He couldn't respond to the accusations. He didn't know what to say to Caesar. He was summarily pulled away. And each time he gave the least indication of speaking, a guard placed a hand over his mouth to ensure he would not say a word.

He was propelled violently down the hall, one through which he had passed on many a previous occasion a free man in the service of his Emperor, and cast into the waiting arms of four Garrison legionaires. One twisted his arm behind his back as did another to his other arm. He was bound and pushed in the direction of the portal exiting Caesar's palace.

Twice he fell on the rough surface of the street that led to the Garrison Jail. Civis was yanked to his feet and ordered to move forward. At the entrance to the jail the soldiers pushed him such that his shoulder slammed against the entry post sending hot pokers of firey pain across his shoulders.

He had already had his trial and he was a condemned man, said Caesar. The Tree awaits him... and more...

The armor Civis wore was ripped off his body and his underlying garment stripped from his back and allowed to hang from his waist to his knees. He was tied to a wooden post.

WAP! WAP! WAP! Three times in succession the sharp metal tipped whip found his back, tearing pieces of flesh off each place where it struck. Ten more times the whip found its mark... A pause... Twice more the whip struck and two more rivulets of blood began to flow...

He carried the beam of wood all of the way to the public forum reserved for him and him alone. A tall beam of wood stood upright in the center of the plaza. A soldier kicked his legs out from under him and he fell heavily to the plaza's pavement. Suddenly he found himself bound by his wrists and arms to the beam he had carried, a hand near each end of the beam. Five times the metal tipped whip was applied to his chest and belly with all of the force the legionaire wielding the whip could muster. Blood flowed down his front now as well as his back.

In jerky movements, legionaires pulling on the ropes, the beam was elevated to the top of the upright beam and dropped into place with one sudden movement. The tapered top of the upright beam fit snugly into the carved out opening in the crossbeam to which Civis was tied. Roman engineering at it's best, thought Civis, his mind reeling with the pain.

His feet found no perch. There was none. He hung from the crossbeam by his arms. Nothing provided any support at all. Blood draining from his body trickled down his legs, to his feet and onto the colorful pavement of the public plaza. His breathing became labored. Harder and harder it became to draw a breath. He managed to elevate his head and lift his eyes only to see...

Apolita, Civi and Apollonia were dressed in the clothes of paupers. His children's faces were bruised and scabbed. Apolita carried a straw basket with holes in its side. The basket was empty. The children were begging from every Roman who passed by. They were given nothing but pushes, slaps and curses. Filth lay on the ground before them.

Civis tried to call to them. They looked up as if they heard his weak voice calling. All three smiled at first, then their smiles faded and turned to snarling expressions of hatred and contempt as they recognized who it was who called.

Apolita screamed at him. "How could you! We trusted you! We believed in you! Look what you've done to us! LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE TO US!" These last words were voiced as a hysterical screech. Then Apolita bent over and picked up a handful of filth and threw it at Civis. His children promptly did the same. Stung by the words and pelted with filth, Civis lowered his eyes and then his head so that he wouldn't see them any more.

Nor did Civis see the legionaire who grasped a spear, aimed carefully so as not to miss his mark and then cast it at him. Unbearable excruciating pain suddenly ripped through his middle. Civis screamed, his eyes opening wide with the shock. He looked down to see the spear protruding from his belly. With the last of his strength he raised his eyes to see who it was that cast the spear.

A figure in red and brown stood in the plaza, a tall legionaire, a familiar figure. He was laughing... He was laughing with a glee one reserved only for the most happy of occasions. Civis ignored the burning fire in his belly and tried to focus on the laughing legionaire. The man walked towards him, laughing all the while. Closer... Closer... Civis could clearly see his face, the eyes, the structure of his nose, the set of his chin. Recognition pored in.

CRASSUS! It was Crassus, his nemisis from the Silk Road. But no, it can't be! Crassus is dead. He is nothing but dust! I killed him in battle in Vologezes' palace. I saw his body burned! This is not true! It's not happening! NO! NO! CRASSUS! YOU'RE DEAD!

Crassus voice drifted up to Civis. "No Romanus, you're dead! Or soon will be! HaHaHaHaHa..."

"NO!" bellowed Civis as he sat bolt upright in his bed, an alarmed Apolita trying to calm him.

"A dream, Civis! You're having a bad dream!" she cried out trying to get him to hear. Sweat drenched and near panic, Civis only barely heard the comforting voice of his wife. He looked at her, his eyes wide with terror, remembering her last as the screaming woman who threw filth at him. Then the realization that it was not real began to firmly take hold and he began to respond to her words and to her warm, soothing hands. He quieted down and lay back on the bed but did not fall asleep.

A few minutes later, the very first rays of the morning's rising sun found their way meekly into their sleeping chamber. Civis rolled over and kissed his wife, then rose to put on his best military uniform... his ceremonial white armor with the golden eagle on its breastplate.

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