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Shifts of Fortune [Closed] Read 13420 times

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #30 on: September 21, 2013, 06:43:04 am »
Theron couldn’t explain the surge of dislike. He could normally laugh at Lucius’s audacious behavior, but this was different. What he was doing was different, a corruption that Theron couldn’t, wouldn’t, approve. It was also difficult, and that spoke to the power Lucius held. He ignored it, however.

Aemilia couldn’t. Confusion, pleasure, and irritation mingled, making emotion besides a mask of contentment difficult. She ate her food, observed as she always did, while remaining in contact with Lucius. It would have been easy to move aside, slide closer to Tarpeia. One word of discomfort and those claws would have dug into Lucius’s cheek. Instead, she focused on the food, the lemon water, half-wishing for the wine.

Cosimo spoke across the table to both of them, asking about the war and then asking her whether or not she was worried. It had already been made apparent that she was going along with Theron.
“Quite the honor,” he couldn’t help but point out.

“I’m not going as an officer,”
she reminded. She was not given that honor yet, did not expect it. The distraction was good, though it was never complete. Conversation turned to gardens. Aemilia could have told them all who's was best, but she did not involve herself though Tarpeia tried to boast that her garden was best.

The distraction of conversation wasn't complete enough. She wanted to shove Lucius away, deciding it was more annoying, more confusing, than welcome. His ankle brushed hers, calf to calf. Two instincts pulled and left her motionless. She wouldn't pull away, and couldn't return the gesture. A shiver was repressed.
‘Inappropriate.’

Lucius finally brought a topic up, calling attention to Theron’s ‘final order’. ‘That’s what you told him?’ No lecture. No trying to get on her good side…unless this was plot. If there was no blood between them, Aemilia could see how it would be a good match. Tying two of his inner circle together through marriage had advantages. She answered, "No, he has not." Though she gave Theron a look, asking him if that was in his plans.

Tarpeia looked delighted. Theron didn't answer the implied question from Aemilia,
“And here I thought you’d keep that quiet since you seemed so disinterested in the idea,” he noted.

“Oh, disinterested?”


Theron lifted a shoulder,
“The man still thinks himself young.”

“Oh please,”
Tarpeia found that amusing, touched Lucius's shoulder, “Marriage needn’t stop you, you’ll have plenty of servant women I’m sure, a wife, and all women expect their men to cheat during war time. It needn't slow you down. You may find your love life much improved when you're suddenly someone else's,” she laughed.

‘You’re one to talk, mother.’
Aemilia had to bite down that comment. Quintus drank half the cup of wine before him.

“Why, if you’re finally on the market, you could have any woman you wanted. You could have Sophia!”
Supposedly, the most beautiful woman to have ever existed, never mind that she was a scourge who wasn't loyal, “Or, Rabbit, who’s that goddess? The pretty one?”

Aemilia frowned at the question. She could give her any random name and her mother would believe it the appropriate one. She was half-tempted to give her the name of War’s consort, but she couldn’t.
“Eria,” Goddess of erotic love, the poets’ favorite, with a beauty that surpassed all mortal women.

“Yes, even her, Lucius,”
Tarpeia was quite enthused to try and find a match for Lucius. “Just say the word, and whatever woman you desire, she will be yours.”

‘You hardly know what you say, Tarpeia.’
Theron frowned, and was thankfully pulled away from such thoughts, though not in any good way.

“Were you planning to see me married, Theron?”
She did not look at Cassandra for her reaction.

Theron sighed. He didn’t like Aemilia’s tone at all, suspicious, unhappy,
“I had intended to tell you after the war, but yes. I was considering perhaps Winston’s son.”

“Spencer?”


“Is that the one he likes?”
Aemilia nodded. “Then yes.”

“He’s married.”


“Oh, that’s no hardship.”
Aemilia shot her mother a glare. This wasn't what Tarpeia wanted, and she took the look to mean just that. “I mean, I don’t quite approve of marrying her off to one of Winston’s children. Can’t we keep her among friends?”

“Isn’t Winston a friend?”
Theron smiled.

Aemilia stabbed the last bit of lamb on her plate, a sharp jab.
“Winston is a friend. Spencer is nice, however I will not be allowed to sit in the senate if I marry into that family. I am sure you believed otherwise, and thought to remove his family from opposing you by placing me there, but it will not work out in that way.” Her eyes met Theron’s. He could change the laws how he liked, but that would be dangerous. By allowing more than one person from a family into the senate, he’d be seen as filling it with even more of his supporters. His illusion would shatter; people would know him for the tyrant he was. “Find someone else," she looked down at the plate as she offered her stipulations, "a backbencher who does not care for politics but is wealthy, so I may maintain my position and not forfeit it to a husband.” Who she might want was irrelevant. Marriage was not a matter of love, lust, or any such thing. She had to remember that. She shifted in her seat to finally be rid of the contact with Lucius.

It was the fact she did not protest such a political arrangement that made Theron smile. Foresight. She still wanted to be in the senate, and he tended to forget that family thing—yet another reason why Aemilia had maintained the name Pullus rather than Flavius.
“Very well,” he agreed. “Tarpeia, I will also need you to consider my man, Iason. He needs a wife—a good, decent, woman.”

A wry smile.
“Why, I’d never match either with anything but a decent woman…unless they wanted otherwise, of course.”

Beau

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #31 on: September 21, 2013, 06:44:09 am »
Lucius listened and watched as his marital options were considered.  He found it interesting that Theron admitted he had plans for Aemilia as well.  He’d expected him to be more manipulative or even lie under pressure.  He didn’t for a moment believe that Winton’s son was the intended spouse.  Lucius could tell from Cassandra’s pointed look that she didn’t believe it either.

An eyebrow rose at Aemilia’s apparent acceptance of her fate.  She proposed a senate back bencher where she could serve and guide a family instead of a milk-toast man.  He’d expected a more romantic streak from her.  She’d moved away her leg away, and Lucius didn’t bother to try and touch her again, strangely disappointed in her lack of independence.

Lucius didn’t think love was necessary in marriage, but he’d avoided the encumbrance.  Women required a certain amount of attention, something he realized he had little interest in giving.  As for Tarpeia’s inference that he could cheat all he wished after marriage he simply rolled his eyes.  He saw no reason to put himself into such a position, and wasn’t looking to be blackmailed or pressured for indiscretions.

He watched Theron as the discussion continued.  More was going on here than met the eye.  He’d need to consider what it was. 

Even Iason was to be mated and tamed. Lucius picked up the goblet and couldn’t help the smile at the thought.  Tarpeia would have her hands full with that request.  He was pretty sure Iason would not accept any match proposed.  He was obsessed with certain priestess.  A decent woman was unlikely to turn his head. 

“Good luck with that,” Lucius said, a wicked look in his eyes that spoke of secrets.  He drained the glass and used his thumb to wipe a stray drop of the red liquid from his lips.  “I do however, look forward to talking to you on the matter more.”

And with that he said, “But for now, I’m afraid I must ask my host’s indulgence.”  He rose and bowed to Theron. “After such an excellent meal, and a long journey, I find myself rather tired.  I beg your leave to depart.”

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #32 on: September 21, 2013, 06:44:43 am »
Cosimo Catalina’s mind worked as others talked around him of marriage. Delusions had been cast aside when he saw how far it got his father. He would be wealthy. He had enough influence that way. However, he did fear becoming irrelevant; Theron’s wealth certainly eclipsed his own, and others were rising. Lucius might even be able to claim he was richer, and there were others who were closer to Theron who were quite wealthy. Winston somehow remained rich.

His gaze lingered on Aemilia longer than it should as he considered what she claimed to want. He could fit that description. The Catalina family would remain relevant, and not solely because of wealth. Besides, his wife gave him no heir. He could divorce her easily enough without harming his reputation. Still, he didn’t dare mention it right then so that his wife would hear. No need to disgrace her so, she’d done nothing wrong.

Aemilia had never been much of a romantic, at least not openly. Poetry did cause such thoughts to come to mind now and then, but reality had sunk in deeper over the past five years. Even before Theron, her mother, wonderful inspiration of what not to do, had put such ideas out of her head quickly through her actions more than her words. Her mother could talk of love—all of her relationships were for love of some sort, whether it was love of money, love of the man, or love of ‘family’ was questionable. Aemilia wasn't sure Tarpeia knew what 'love' was.


‘Poor Iason.’ It was going to be an interesting talk at camp. Aemilia would make sure the man was informed of this conversation, a little spite. She may have accepted her fate, but it did not mean she was happy with it.

Theron did have his hands full. Three people who wouldn’t be happy with the situation was bound to be tiring.

Lucius rose, bowed. Theron also rose as he asked to leave,
“You may depart, Lucius. I expect you’ll need your rest.” He had no reason to hold him here, and would be more at ease with him gone. He wouldn’t have to endure any more of his games, “Have a good night.”

“Do visit,”
Tarpeia encouraged, “We’ll have much to discuss on this business of marriage.” Obviously, if she found him a good match, she imagined she would be in his favor for doing so.

“Good night, Antonius.”
Aemilia bid her own farewell for once. She was not certain if she would see him in the morning before departing or not. It seemed better to say something now than not to. War came with its risks no matter how short or easy. She could be killed, as mortal as anyone else.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #33 on: September 21, 2013, 06:45:25 am »
Lucius let none of the conflicting emotions show.  He took Tarpeia’s hand and offered a traditional gesture of departure.  To Aemilia’s good bye, he offered a general farewell to the table.  “Goodnight good friends.”

Talk of fatigue was not an exageration.  He’d tired of the game.  His steps towards the door were determined.  The last thing he wished was for Cassandra or Theron to see him out.

However, it seemed he might not be leaving alone.  Only a few steps away from the door he paused as Quinton stood and mentioned. “We too should be going.”

One side of Lucius’s mouth twisted.  Wouldn’t it be amusing to spend the rest of his evening discussing marriage on the ride home with none other than the one he was supposed to avoid.  It seemed rude to hustle out when he was heading in the same direction.

“I’d welcome your company,” Lucius lied.

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #34 on: September 21, 2013, 06:45:55 am »
Quintus did not expect such looks of irritation from both Tarpeia and Theron when he spoke up. “I have a long day tomorrow,” Aemilia spoke up before either of them could. She didn't want to continue in the vein of the present conversation, the main reason she spoke in favor of leaving. Without Lucius present, plans for her would become central. Inevitable as it was, she didn't want to think of it, much as she preferred not to think of dying. “I would like to get some sleep before then. We are leaving tomorrow, correct?”

Theron had considered delaying it to the next day, but Lucius’s waiting form decided it for him. This was far too coincidental.
“Yes,” he agreed. “Then, I will see you early.”

“I will be with Winston.”
She said half because it was true, half because of the way his face scrunched up at the idea of taking her from there. Winston wouldn't forgive her if she didn't say good bye.

“Oh, but Theron and I have hardly gotten to talk.”
And he was leaving so soon, she’d hardly get to see what he had in mind for Aemilia, or what advice he could give about Iason. Well, Lucius knew Iason, she could always ask him while he stayed here in Sylvestre.

Aemilia was tempted to suggest her mother ought to stay, but it was a question of what topic she wanted for the walk home—and she'd prefer it if Tarpeia came along. Tarpeia's focus would be on Lucius, and the topic ought to stay on him. No room for too much discomfort, if Aemilia was lucky. She'd just get to hear all about what Lucius might settle for.
'Want.' he wouldn't be settling.

The Dictator smiled,
“I will write, Tarpeia. I will expect letters as well, from you and Lucius both.” Lucius already knew that much, of course, but he’d want updates on his courting besides the usual business—which hopefully would be stagnated by the obstacle Lucius would become. “You should have some time with your daughter before she leaves.”

Tarpeia glanced to Quintus, who rose then and pushed his own chair in. He wasn’t too pleased to have to be walking out with Lucius. The lie was returned in tone,
“We’ll walk together, then.” At least thugs wouldn’t be inclined to bother them with Lucius around. He'd welcome the safety.

Tarpeia made her way over to Theron and took one of his hands, bending down to plant a kiss on his cheek,
“Take care of yourself,” she insisted with a squeeze of his hand. He smiled and put one hand over hers.

“I will.” A moment passed and he slid his hands away from her.

Tarpeia straightened up and walked right by Quintus, only to take Lucius’s arm instead, coiling both of hers around his left arm. Quintus didn't even bother with a protest, but walked ahead and opened the door first. Apparently, he didn't want to walk behind or at their side. Aemilia waved to Theron, no ‘goodbye’ slipping her lips, before following the others out, hearing Tarpeia insisting on details of what sort of woman Lucius wanted, or if he had a specific one in mind. Her curiosity was far from sated.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #35 on: September 21, 2013, 06:49:28 am »
The night was clear and pleasant to walk.  Lucius might have considered the atmosphere ideal if the woman clinging to his arm was a bit younger and less…pariah like.  He could be social and joke.  He’d learned the value of conversation even if he preferred to use his hands rather than political words.   It seemed though he didn’t need to say much more than yes or no.

Did he like long hair?  Yes

Would he prefer someone unmarried?  Yes

Was age an issue? No. Younger was better, but only so there was less baggage and an opportunity for children.  If he was going to do this there should be some pleasure involved.

Lucius didn’t turn to watch Aemilia as they walked.  He knew where she was, but wasn’t speaking with her in mind, or for any sort of reaction.  He did however warn, “Cosimo Catalina seems to have an eye for our dear Aemilia.  I would prefer not to have his cast off wife, even though she is quite lovely.”

They would arrive at the Flavius home first.  Lucius wouldn’t ask Aemilia to walk with him further, on to his own home down the road, even though he was tempted to ask for a private word.  It would be out of character to do so and even dangerous if she walked back alone.  Lucius couldn’t really tell where the desire came from since there was no unfinished business between them.  He had no speech or pent up words. The feelings were no descript in nature.  Foreign in their lack of formation, manifested only by a look and a twitch of his fingers.

“Once again, I should bid you goodnight,” he said.

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #36 on: September 21, 2013, 06:51:39 am »
Aemilia listened to her mother chatter away and the answers. Down to appearances, her mother asked, though the important questions were about marital and age status. Obviously, Lucius would only be paired with someone equal to his social standing, no matter how difficult a task that was. The unmarried preference might make that difficult, but Tarpeia would manage. Aemilia didn't connect the dots that she matched the answers. It was expected, men generally preferred the young and never-married. No worries of other children, for one, nor other baggage.

Tarpeia even laughed when he mentioned Cosimo's wife,
“I wouldn’t marry you to her, you don’t want damaged goods,” he’d made that much clear, “I’ll find a suitable young virgin for you, don’t worry,” she promised, before her attentions were turned to Aemilia, “And it seems you’ve got the cream of the crop.” For what Aemilia wanted, Cosimo would be perfect.

Even Aemilia could admit that, though it brought no happiness.
“We shall see,” things might end up more complicated with his wife. Things might end up complicated because Aemilia really didn't like the inevitable. She could plot with Iason to complicate things, perhaps. Delay it, just a little longer.

“What’s wrong?”
Tarpeia disentangled herself just as they reached the steps to her home, taking Aemilia’s arm before the young woman could escape inside. Her eyes sought truth that wouldn’t be found, “Isn’t that what you want?”

“Yes.” ‘No.’
Need and want were different. It was what Aemilia needed, but nothing she wanted, “But it is not good to get hopes up. You should prepare otherwise,” though it was in character for Aemilia to respond in such a way, for once Tarpeia’s maternal instincts were working.

“You want someone else? I know, Cosimo doesn't have the best reputation....”
She guessed, but didn’t ask who she ought to steal for her daughter. She realized Lucius was leaving them. “Oh, of course! Good night, Lucius,” his home was not far, but she offered the courtesy, “Would you like one of my servants to escort you the rest of the way? It can be dangerous traveling alone at night,” not that such should worry him, and Tarpeia’s smile was teasing with that knowledge well known.

Quintus bid his good night from part-way up the stairs, and continued on.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #37 on: September 21, 2013, 06:52:15 am »
Aemilia seemed resigned to her fate. Lucius wasn’t so sure.  He’d go through the motions.  Open minded he might be surprised at the outcome, but if he’d been of a mind to marry, then Tarpeia was right – it would have happened a long time ago. 

The woman was like a bird.  It seemed that Aemilia now had some seed on her shoulder as Tarpeia moved to her side.  More fussing.  More distraction.  The wind pushed at Lucius, lifting his hair so that it crossed his face and shadowed his expression.

Did he want company on the walk home?

Strangely he almost answered yes to the offer of another warm body, servant or no.  He had no fear of the dark.  No lack of confidence in his skill.  He simply felt displaced, returning home after all this time and knowing the days ahead lay empty.

Quinton bid his adieu.  Lucius didn’t look in his direction.  His eyes lingered for a moment on Aemilia, remembering the spark of contact and anticipation he’d felt earlier.  The longing confused him.  His teeth clicked together on the futility of it.

“I’ll be fine alone, Tarpeia,” he said.  His voice was rich and low as it softened in the dark. He doubted she heard the double meaning, or that he was even fully in her thoughts.  She was busy feasting on her chick.

Lucius began to walk again.  This time, his body remained half-turned towards the Flavius household and its stairs, his stride a backwards one.  He moved, but his eyes stayed on those steps until the women disappeared from view.  Only then did face forward and walk briskly home.   He slept but didn’t dream.

The next morning, Lucius did not go to Theron’s home.  He had not been summoned and he doubted his presence required.  He did not go to Winton’s either, or to Cosimo’s.  No well wishes or warnings were to be offered this day.   As Magistrate, Lucius sent word by messenger that the Senate would convene tomorrow after Theron’s departure.  There was work to be done.  A celebration to be planned.  Lucius focused his mind on what lay ahead, and counted the hours until the war was over.

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #38 on: September 21, 2013, 06:52:49 am »
The double meaning went completely over Tarpeia’s head that day, though Aemilia heard it. ‘Same boat.’ Perhaps not quite the same, but at least they shared a desire to avoid what was inevitable, a forced and arranged marriage. Lucius would have an easier time with it. In the end, it wasn’t as abnormal for a man to be unwed. An unwed woman began to appear to the public like something diseased—for surely something was wrong with any woman who had no husband.

‘There is something wrong with you.’ The thought came as her gaze followed Lucius’s departure while her mother ushered her up the stairs, each step with a new question.

Tarpeia tried, quite in vain, to find out what Aemilia wanted. She was soon convinced to leave Aemilia alone as Aemilia snapped about needing to go speak with Artheno.
“Such a silly rabbit,” her mother sighed with a smile on her lips. Aemilia’s ‘superstitions’ were humored but not understood. All Tarpeia understood was that they were important to Aemilia, and somehow, that was enough.

It was her one saving grace.

Aemilia’s religion had no sanctuary—not any longer. Years before she was born, before the ‘new faith’, there had been temples. Aemilia had set foot on the ruins of the temple to Audra. She looked upon the temple to Sylvestro which had been converted to the new faith. She had collected ruined tablets of the stories and translated them, wrote them out. People chuckled at the primitive mythologies, and so Aemilia was never overt with her faith. Her rituals took place in the safety of the house, or its courtyard, the gardens and her room.

So it was that after Aemilia sunk herself into a cleansing bath, she went to a small shrine in the gardens, a general altar. One day, she imagined truly having a shrine for the individual faces of the divine, but that was not today.
‘Cosimo has some respect for the old ways.’ An impromptu thought that left almost as it had come. She took up a cone of incense from within the cabinet of the altar. The flowers within the bowl were set aside, an earlier gift.

Artheno didn’t care for flowers though. Artheno craved blood, and that was the purpose of the small knife she kept in the cabinet. The incense smoked as she spoke to him, carrying up her words, before the cut was made across her arm, and the blood allowed to fall into the bowl. He was promised more, fresh animal this time, if he would protect her blood, and the blood of her kinsmen, her countrymen, when they went to fight.

She left the side of her gods when the smoke vanished, bowing respectfully before returning into the house. She wrapped the wound tight after cleansing it. In the morning, she’d remove the bandage because the wound would draw less attention that way. A servant brought her wine when she requested it, as well as more incense. She stepped into her own room, where the most personal of her gods was.

Lepus.


‘Rabbit.’


It was shaped as a rabbit, the family god—Pullus incarnate. Her mother found it baffling that she’d have an animal deity, thought it quite barbarian. She’d once tried to explain how it was not literally an ancestor, but her mother couldn’t wrap her head around the nuances. Rabbit was forever the term of endearment since then. Near Lepus was that golden eagle she was infamous for using as a weapon. It had no name, for it did not speak to her—not yet. She always believed it was asleep, and had turned it into something sacred, if only in her own mind.

It would be packed, with the small Lepus, who was given a bowl of wine as offering and had sweet incense burned near him.

She fell asleep with the scent in her nose, and dreamed of the easy victory. She woke before the sun, and went about gathering her things. She was dressed as a legionnaire in short time, Lepus put in a small, decorative cloth and hung around her neck, hidden beneath the red tunic. The eagle was packed away, protected by cloth from everything else that ended up packed, but otherwise just another piece of equipment.

Her mother wouldn’t let her leave without a few kisses and that promise she always made about keeping the shrines clean, and burning incense now and then. Aemilia would never confess the odd happiness she felt at the offer. Sometimes, her mother’s heart was in the right place. Not often, but sometimes.

When Aemilia was able to break away, and lead her black horse to Winston’s place, she found they had little time to chat. Theron himself was soon present with most of the soldiers Lucius brought—Nerinder was curiously absent. Aemilia had no complaints about that.
“Aren’t you getting too old for horseback riding, Dictator?” Winston hoped the man fell and broke his head open. He'd never refer to Theron by any of his other titles.

Aemilia was atop her black horse as that question was asked, and Periander laughed,
“Not yet. Maybe in ten more years.” Aemilia rolled her eyes. Though she knew Theron was getting up there in age, she did have to admit he still wore his armor well. It seemed to take the years off of him, and put him back in his prime. “Take care of yourself, Winston,” he was more informal, and Winston scowled at the slight as the horses began to move. Aemilia waved her farewell before urging Rhiannon to catch up with Theron.

It would be three days before they reached the camp where Iason was, according to the soldiers, and that was if they kept the pace Lucius had set. Theron seemed to see that as a challenge.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #39 on: September 21, 2013, 06:56:02 am »
Nerinder sat at Lucius’s breakfast table.  Two days had passed since return to Sylvestre, but it was the first that Lucius had requested his presence.  Resentment still bubbled, “I don’t understand why you asked me to stay behind.”

It mattered of course; Lucius wouldn’t insult the man with a shrug.  Nerinder was a good fighter and entitled to victory even if he was a bit of an ass.  “I need someone to muck up after my horse.” Lucius said. A raised eyebrow from his companion and Lucius admitted, “Theron took Pullus with him.”

“That –“ The last word was bit off with a signal from Lucius.

“She is family,” the general warned.  He need not explain now why he asked Nerrinder to remain considering how poorly the two got along.  Let the man think it was him he was concerned over.  Lucius eat a grape.  Chewed slowly.  “Besides, I need your ears here in the Senate.” Lucius said, shifting the conversation to more ordinary things.  “Theron wants us to stall and I’ll need to know who on the floor is for or against.”

Spying Nerinder could do.  His loyalty was to Lucius.  Pride intact now he was willing to serve as always.  They plotted together a series of hand signals and list of usual suspects.  Soon it was time to walk to the senate for the convened meeting, the first of many Lucius dreaded.  He put a brave face on.  Wore his best garments and held his head high.

The Senate building was built from marble.  An extraordinary engineering undertaking that had been ten years in the making, but now had served the populous for close to a century.  Lucius wasn’t concerned about history as he marched up the steps, but rather the future.

He moved to the dais, a raised platform where Magistrates and Tribune’s would preside.  The faces were familiar, but would not be center stage today.  As Theron’s delegate he called the meeting to order.

“First order of business,” he said without preamble.  “The pending matter of land as payment for our men at arms.   A counter proposal of bushels of wheat and sheep has been proposed. Do I hear a formal motion to overturn the law as it stands today?”

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #40 on: September 21, 2013, 06:56:34 am »
Quintus did not get any joy from the senate. He did not derive pleasure from the fact that Cosimo neglected his usual seat, far to the right, where Theron’s supporters gathered, to come more to the center where Quintus sat. He would never dare sit to the left, where Quintus and his supporters sat, but his heart would not let him sit to the right, either. “What do you want?” Quintus asked as the man took his seat, interrupting a conversation.

“Nothing, merely to get to know you better.”


It seemed Lucius was right.
“It will do you no good, Cosimo. Aemilia does not heed me.” She’d used her mother and newfound friendship with Theron years ago to break the marriage engagement he’d gotten for her. “I am quite certain the one you need to know is Aemilia.”

“And you know her,”
Cosimo deduced. Quintus let out a sigh, “I merely wish to know more of her.”

“Theron has already promised her, hasn’t he?”


“Only if Aemilia agrees.”


“She will.”
He wanted the conversation to end and Cosimo to go back where he belonged. “If Theron approves, she will approve.”

A twisted little smile came to his lips, though he didn’t believe Quintus for a second. Good little girl though she was in public, he had heard Theron’s complaints when a letter from the Academy returned stating the trouble Aemilia had gotten into. Cosimo wasn’t privy to the details within, but it was how he understood Aemilia. She hadn’t exactly shown Nerinder the respect his position deserved. She picked and chose which authority to respect, and in what subjects.
“Well, then tell me what she likes, I’d not have her unhappy lest I end up like her father.”

Quintus sent him a withering glare, though it did little to even make Cosimo flinch,
“I’ll not have you imply such things about my wife.” Quintus didn’t want to believe that she’d poisoned Decimus Pullus, though that thought did come to mind now and then when he angered Tarpeia. He wanted to avoid that fate.

Fortunately, as Cosimo opened his mouth to say more, Lucius Antonius walked in.
‘Thank God.’ It was one of the few times he was happy to see the man. He averted his gaze to the man at center stage.

Winston Demos did the same, eying Lucius as if he were some animal. That was certainly how he perceived Lucius—little better than a wild beast. His loyalty to Theron and the legions that would march with him were the only things that kept him alive. Winston didn’t perceive him as an intelligent man. In this case, opposites repelled. Winston sat as close to the front as he was allowed. The seat before him was where the Tribune Valeria Celer sat, resplendent in all the markings of her office. To the right, that other annoying tribune sat.
‘More family.’ Theron wasn’t making it a secret that he was stacking the deck. Valeria would never sit in office again, though Winston was confident that Aemilia would be the next Tribune.

And yet the people believed all that Theron said, ignoring his actions.

And they believed this ‘hero’, his prized lion, as well. The Periander family could do no wrong. Even that wretched woman, Tarpeia, was seen as an ideal woman—naturally, they knew little, or didn’t believe, all the scandals about her.
‘They can do whatever they want, and the people don’t see the monarchy this is becoming.’

At least Lucius was always to the point.
‘You’re even bringing up the land?’ Winston was amused. He had to force Theron to acknowledge it through too many long-winded speeches and only then did he humor the idea of a counter-proposal existing. Using his Cane, Winston rose, “I proposed the counter-motion and so I do make the formal motion to overturn the law as it is today. There is simply no land to be given to the soldiers. We must overturn this outdated law until there is more territory.” And he hoped there would not be more territory for a very long time. Sylvestre was already getting too large to run properly, a fact being ignored by Theron as he went about his wars and conquests, wanting to be some new Katil and conquer the known world while leaving the lands he already had to rot.

“I second the motion,”
Valeria, as expected, chimed in.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #41 on: September 21, 2013, 06:58:20 am »
Lucius had a plan and it was easy to see that Winston fell right into it. One of the dinner attendees last night, a minor senator stood, saying, “A suspension of the law is what you are actually proposing?”

And that sentiment was echoed.  “I can see the value in that – a face saving amendment.  We have made a promise to the soldiers.  We should honor it in law, even if we cannot in means.  Offering something in kind would allow the senate to keep its word.”

Lucius called on others standing in turn. It appeared the consensus could be there, and the votes as well to not be so bold as to throw out the law just days before victory, but rather to bend the rule.

“Indeed, our soldiers have served well.  Many have died based on the promise that their family be cared for.  Widows, however, don’t require land, but sheep could be a dowry, and used to entice other husbands.”

Lucius waved to the next speaker, hoping the slight twitch of his mouth in a hint of smile over the last comment went unnoticed by Valeria.  Women were still seen as requiring men to care for them, even if Theron thought equality useful.

More debate ensued, but it was clear the subject of sheep and their potential resale value was more the subject now.  Lucius decided to summarize.   “A counter proposal of sheep as payment for services to soldiers has been proposed and seconded.  This payment would be until more territory is added to the realm.   May I have your votes, please?  All those in favor to stand.”

Lucius could not vote himself.  An official record keeper tallied the votes.  It seemed that Winston might have his victory.  Indeed the amendment passed, but the point was moot. 

“So recorded.” Lucius said.  “On to the next order of business.  The addition of territory following the subjugation of our enemies. Theron left yesterday to complete the victory and within a week will return with the spoils of war.  Do I hear a motion to declare a holiday and celebration on the First of September?”

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #42 on: September 21, 2013, 06:59:01 am »
Winston and Cosimo both saw it from their vantage points. It was Cosimo’s face and Quintus’s overly stiff reaction that gave it away to Winston. ‘So, it is true.’ Aemilia had come to tell him what occurred. He’d imagined Lucius must be feeling bitter over the slight, and this suggested it. He very much doubted this was what Theron actually wanted. Cosimo’s tension suggested that.

Indeed, when the vote came, Cosimo remained defiantly sitting even as others of Theron’s side rose. They trusted Lucius spoke the will of Theron, and that will was their own.
‘Sheep.’ Of course, plenty of those who disliked Theron followed the whims of Winston even if they had reason to disagree. What surprised Winston was that Quintus remained sitting, as well. He had been pretty sure Quintus wasn’t a fan of the land deal. His son already had the land from the previous war he had been in.

He could see Cosimo composing a letter in his head already, and Winston chuckled quietly to himself, just catching the indignant look that Valeria was casting to Lucius.


‘Of course. Holiday.’
Winston’s nose wrinkled at the idea. He made a mistake the first time he allowed the man his triumph. The power that Theron had secured came from his military victories, and the people’s love. Those spoils of war won him many friends. ‘And there Pompilius turned.’ Perhaps Lucius was getting tired of Theron’s fame, too.

Denying it now would be too risky. The mob would be upset, and Theron could manipulate them all too well.

It was another minor senator that seconded the motion, and Winston rolled his eyes as others chimed in. None imagined Theron would lose or that they were preparing too soon. Theron would win, and it would be soon. Ridiculously soon. How he managed it was a mystery. Winston still didn't understand how Theron had defeated his former friend, his former triumvir.

Others spoke up, and finally Winston rose again. It would not benefit him any to let Theron have his triumph, at least not directly. However, if he could heighten Lucius’s jealousies, that might serve him.
“Yes, let’s allow for a week of holiday. Perhaps even a month? Our grand general—forgive me, Consul—is leading us to victory, taking control at the crucial moment,” there was a cheeky grin, “no doubt the mastermind behind the strategy that will save us from our enemies. He knew he had to leave the safety of our walls to secure all of Sylvestre, and we must show him the proper respect for that. A holiday sounds perfect. It has been too long since we’ve seen a triumph, and last time it was tainted with bad blood—thieves in our midst.” Spurius had been an idiot to trust Tarpeia.

~***~

Day passed into night, and night into day. Theron had to rest, rather against his own inclinations. The fireside chats were entertaining. War stories dominated the talk, and Theron was caught up by the men about the events of the war. He asked questions about both Iason and Lucius’s leadership through the campaign.

Aemilia, as usual, was quiet. When Theron spoke with his men, when the public eye was upon him, she was not accustomed to speaking out. Even in the senate, she observed more than she spoke, even when she disagreed. She preferred to ask Theron about the methods to his madness away from others. She did engage a few times—the Eagle wasn’t exactly unknown, and another had to ask if she brought it along.

At least they seemed to think of it as a good omen. She took their verbal jabs well, took the first of three watches. Theron offered to take the second, with a third man volunteering for the final watch of the night. The night passed with no issues, and Aemilia was vigilant. Boredom didn’t distract her to other activities.

Eventually, the moon moved to position, and Aemilia approached Theron. A hand was placed lightly on his shoulder,
“Periander,” formality slipped in. He stirred, and she moved her hand away, waited for him to stretch out and open his eyes.

A lazy smile graced his lips,
“Hello, sweetheart.”

She tried not to return the smile,
“Your watch,” failed miserably.

“Tired?”

“Mm,”
Aemilia nodded. She was. They rode quite a while with few rests. Theron sat up. No tents had been set up, and he looked as if he were in pain when at last he sat up.

“It has been a while,”
he said, “Forgot how hard the ground was.” To think he’d lived this life for so many years, and enjoyed it. He almost wondered what possessed him to take this from Lucius, but the thought of the triumph upon his return and the celebrations were motivation enough. His power would be secure, but not secure enough.

Aemilia rose and offered her hand to help him stand, but he brushed it off and stood on his own. He looked up at the sky,
“Clear.” Aemilia nodded, though it went unnoticed, “Your arm. You paid homage again to Artheno?” Another nod, and he saw it out of the corner of his eye. “Such is not what Audra likes….” He was not quite a convert, though he rather liked the ritualistic aspects of the religion. Something about action made him comfortable, made him feel like he had control of the situation, even if he did not. He had his quiet battles with faith for his whole life, for his mother had been a devout of Aemilia’s faith. She had been a friend of the Pullus family.

“Audra is the mother, Theron,” Aemilia said. She had told him before, and he knew from his own mother, that he was considered one of Audra’s children. “You only have to talk to her. You are her child. She will listen and guide you.”

He doubted a goddess could be so easy to work with. He’d always heard stories of their tempers, their vanities.
“You know a thing or two more about mothers, Aemilia.”

She smiled at him,
“I know Tarpeia would tear your face off if you ever hurt me.” Theron blinked, taken aback a moment by what seemed to be Aemilia supporting her mother.

He laughed,
“Is that so? And so Audra would tear the faces off my enemies?”

“Yes.” Simple. “My mother and I aren’t what you’d call close, but she would defend me with her life, and I, her.”

“You would?” He found that interesting. “You don’t like her.”

“No, I don’t,” Aemilia agreed. She had moved to her bed, and began the process of stripping off the armor so she could rest in her tunic. “That is no bar to love.” Armor put aside, Aemilia moved to lay down.

Love made him think again of the issues back home. Of course, that issue was more lust than love, in his opinion. Aemilia had grown well.
“Aemilia.” She paused, sitting besides her bed. “Who is it you favor?”

She was grateful for the night.
“No one,” she lied, “I favor no one, Theron. The idea of marriage simply bothers me. It feels…right now it feels…like I’m giving in to the norm, following traditions that should be broken.” She took a breath.

“Tell the truth.”


‘Damn it.’
Aemilia glanced back over her shoulder at him. The fire lit his eyes. “You have decided to believe something, Theron. You only want to hear that. I know that look,” she played it off instead, “I told you the truth and you’re not believing me. Some traditions are meant to be broken.” Which traditions was another question. ‘Yes, disturbed.’ “I know what marriage is for, I know why, but you know what I wanted. Guilt would help.

Yes, he could still remember the conversation in the carriage, when she’d been stricken with fever. He had thought then she spoke from it, too, when she denied money, marriages, and so much else. She’d said one thing. Legitimacy.

So it was. She went to the academy. She studied. She learned. She would earn her place rather than be given it. He relented, decided it was one-sided.
“Perhaps you are right,” he shook his head. “I am hardly awake,” Aemilia nodded sympathetically and he waved her off, “Good night.”

“Good night,”
she echoed.

Theron managed to make it to Iason’s camp on the third night.
“A bed,” that seemed to have become his motivation rather than beating Lucius.

They were greeted by various legionnaires who were quick to escort their horses away. Aemilia snatched the saddle packs from hers—she wanted her things close.
“Pullus!”

She recognized the voice and spun around into an embrace,
“Casper!” Her grip was tight as she threw one arm around him.

He whispered,
“Arctero wrote,” there was a smile in his voice, “Something about a coup?”

“Triarius deserved it.” It had been a wonderful day, though she felt Casper’s hand trace the line of a scar on her upper back, just barely noticeable with her hair up. The tunic and armor covered he rest of the scars. “Worth it,” she added. Needless to say, she’d been punished for the disobedient actions, and for humiliating an officer.

“No doubt,” Casper chuckled, “Try not to give Iason trouble though, eh?”

“Aemilia.”


The two parted from their embrace, though remained close, Casper with an arm around her.
“We are going to see Iason now.”

“I’ll take your things to the tent,”
Casper volunteered. There hadn’t been much to do while the enemy was cornered and the general gone. Iason could have led them and won, taken the fame for himself, but he hadn't. “Gotta be careful with that eagle, right?”

Aemilia nodded and allowed Casper to take the saddle packs. He handed off a piece of parchment in the process,
“Hyperion,” he answered. “Retired and happy on his farm, but somehow he knew you were coming.”

Hyperion fancied himself an augur, and he certainly had skill with birds. He was also of the old faith, something the two had bonded over when they first met years ago. He wrote her irregularly, but Aemilia was always happy to see the updates of his life. She didn’t see Theron sigh.

He did not like how her eyes light up, how happy she seemed to be around all these soldiers.
‘You don’t want someone like Cosimo.’ He hadn’t broached the subject. The soldiers would side with her if she showed a hint of protesting. ‘You want a damn soldier.’ And so his doubts returned, though he sincerely hoped her eyes were on anyone besides Lucius. Casper wouldn’t be suitable, but there were plenty of other noble officers. The trouble would be that none of them were bound to let Aemilia have her way. 

Worries for another time. Silanus would be here somewhere, and he should speak to him for Quintus’s sake, Tarpeia’s sake. First things first,
“Come along,” he motioned, and Aemilia fell in step as another soldier took to leading them. Theron didn’t really need to be led. All military camps were set up in the same ways. Sylvestre was ever-efficient.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #43 on: September 21, 2013, 07:00:59 am »
Iason was busy checking the schedule of the day.  He planned to mount a few raids along the river simply to buy time and build annoyance.  “We’ll send a dozen over here,” he pointed out the location on the map to one of the other captains.  He would take his regiment and split them according to the strategy. 

“Will that be enough,” The captain said.

“Yes,” Iason answered, “The other men need to rest for the final offensive.” He believed Theron in route, and likely would only need to delay another day or two.  The raids supplied them with some additional food, each soldier told to take what they could carry and return.   Yesterday a bushel of apples had returned to camp, a welcome supplement to the dry rations.  Two of the bright red fruit sat on the corner of the sand table where Iason worked with his models and figures.  He liked the look and smell of them, often lifting one for a sniff, rather than taking a bite.

~*~

Lucius did not rise to the bait that Winston put before him.  He’d dealt with his personal feelings on the matter with Theron and he would not stoop to the petty level of the older senator.   Instead, he took the initiative.  “A month?”  His brow furrowed, “I’m sure even Theron would think such a proposal unnecessary and unmanageable, Senator.  You should consider the cost when you propose such a thing.  Theron should be honored, but we can keep the celebration to a week, in keeping with tradition.”  He looked around to see nods of agreement.

One senator stood.  “We will have captives for the arena.  Perhaps a challenge to the gladiators?”

“Excellent.” Lucius said.  He did like the lions.  “A feast as well.  In the past we have provided food for the citizens.  We will need some sheep and cows to slaughter.  I’m sure those here will all do their share.  Do I hear a motion for a week’s festivities?”

“So moved.”

“Seconded.”

Lucius allowed some minor debate.  One senator was concerned that slaughtering sheep would mean a shortage for the soldier’s payment.  Lucius was quick to point out, “There will be land to distribute.   There will be no shortage.  All rise in favor of a week of holiday beginning on September 1st?” 

The vote was counted and the motion passed. It would allow a week for battle and a week for transport.  Adequate time to prepare. 
 
He dismissed the senate from session after a few other administrative items were dealt with.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #44 on: September 21, 2013, 07:02:36 am »
Aemilia walked alongside Theron, the path all but known even though she’d never been here. The Academy taught them how to set up these camps, how to place things, how wide to keep the ‘roads’ between tents—useful, but tedious knowledge. With every soldier knowing it, it at least made the setting up go quickly. So, she was able to walk while reading Hyperion’s letter.

“What does it say?”
Theron was curious.

Aemilia shook her head. Her brows were furrowed. Augur indeed, he seemed quite worried about the future. Mixed omens.
“He seems to believe that another war is on the horizon.”

“Does he?”
A smile. “I’d say he and I are of one mind.”

‘Not the war he imagines.’ Aemilia couldn’t say she confirmed his suspicions of civil war, and she couldn't truly see the cause. Winston wasn't the sort to go to war, and she didn't know what other enemies Theron had who could raise up an army to do just that. The paper was folded up as they reached the tent. One soldier moved to enter before Theron.

“Captain—”


“That will do,”
Theron didn’t need an announcement, didn’t ask for one. He walked into the tent and put a hand on the guard’s shoulder. Their eyes met, briefly, before the soldier turned to exit. “It is good to see you, Iason,” warmth, relief. “And at work,” with apples. A smile grew on his lips. Theron could guess raids were taking place semi-regularly, depriving tent city of their food.

A map was laid out. Work never ceased with Iason. Theron noted the other officer and gave him a nod as he approached the desk,
“More raids?” An apple was lifted, tossed up, then tossed to Iason. Iason was often predictable, but he strategized well all the same.

Aemilia drew closer as well, though she kept off to the side, examined the map here, mentally comparing it to the one at Theron’s. This one did seem more complete, added to, no doubt, during this war. There were also apples. Tempting as it was, she didn’t reach out to take one.


~***~

Theron would think that overly extravagant, or at least, he would pretend to. A week was traditional, acceptable, “And will he then release the title of dictator as he should?” Winston spoke more to those around him as he sat, though it would certainly reach Antonius. Those near were quieter with their similar complaints. They all knew that Theron wouldn’t. There would be another war, another threat that showed why Theron needed that title.

Lucius’s dismissive manner was expected, but it would never stop Winston from trying. One day, he’d slip up.
‘There will be no land to distribute.’ When Theron returned, Winston would see to that, or he’d try. The vote had been to dismiss that idea. They would get their sheep. Theron didn’t need so many slaughtered.

There was little else of interest to Winston, and soon enough the senate was dismissed. He noted how Cosimo stayed near Quintus as the two men walked towards the exit.


“Theron won’t be happy. I don’t know what Lucius was thinking.”


‘Thinking for himself, perhaps.’
Quintus shrugged.

“Theron needs the land.”


“Sell him some of your own.”


Cosimo looked disgusted with the idea, but then reconsidered. He needed closer ties. If Lucius was mucking up, he could steal a place closer to Theron. Donating land for the soldiers would help.
“Yes,” he nodded slowly. “Perhaps,” he’d have to sort through the papers for the properties he owned, see what he could hand off without much loss to himself. “And then Theron gets to look generous for buying land for the soldiers himself.” Loyalties secured. Cosimo laughed. 

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #45 on: September 21, 2013, 07:03:38 am »
It was a liberty of course, but one he enjoyed, as Iason stepped forward and clapped Theron into an embrace of greeting.  His smile was genuine, tinged with relief.  “You made good time,” he commented.

He broke away from the simple hug and slap on the back, noting the other entrant to the tent.  “Pullus.  Greetings as well.”  A nod, but not the same familiarity.  With Theron he had years of familiarity.  They’d shared the stress of being near death.  He had no such bonding with Aemilia although he’d known her through Theron’s interest for several years.

“Where is Antonius?” Iason noted the absence and that the tent flap had fallen closed indicating no figure waiting outside.  When he’d been sent he’d suspected Theron’s motives in returning to the front.  Even if he’d planned for Lucius to remain behind he suspected the others personality and presence wouldn’t acquiesce.  He offered Theron a speculative look.  One long fingered hand combed his short dark hair, a habit he developed as though the brain could be massaged to work better.  Strategist that he was, leaving Lucius behind was not a move he would have risked.  Your knight could be captured and you put in check…  He kept his chess moves to himself and turned attention to the sand table, arranging other pieces on the board.

An apple was quickly taken.  Iason debated about taking the other in his hand to protect it, but the first was tossed back to him before he could protest.  In the end he gathered the knife from its position on the table and cut the other straight down the middle, and one piece in half again.  He the largest piece to Theron, and included Aemilia with a second piece.  He closed his eyes for a moment enjoying the smell one last time before he bit into his own.

Business returned.  They debated the timing of a final assault and the pros, cons and casualties for nearly an hour.  Then Iason nodded at the last decision made.  “Dawn then.”  The sun already set meant time was short.  “I’ll see to the details.  Rest if you can.  I’ll have one of the legionnaires bring you some dinner.”
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 07:05:57 am by Beau »

Krystal Itzume

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #46 on: September 21, 2013, 07:04:42 am »
The embrace was returned, of course. Theron treasured Iason, and felt kinship to him, even though he was outside the family circle, an oddity in that way. The man had proven himself, and he had more to prove for being an outsider. Theron knew it bothered Antonius. He had even hesitated to send the two off on this endeavor, but reasoned they could both get along well enough to win a war.

‘Even if last time we had to split camps.’ “Lucius will be staying back in Sylvestre to keep the senate in line,”
Theron answered dismissively.

Aemilia did not speak a greeting, but returned a nod of acknowledgement.
‘Demos.’[/color] Demos and Decimus, two auspicious names if Theron would only look. He seemed to only notice the Decimus/Decima connection. How he had laughed when he realized she and Lucius had such a similar middle name. Demos was, of course, Winston’s own surname, though it was Iason’s middle. Perhaps that was why Theron didn’t notice.

The apple was divided up,
“Thank you,” Aemilia did speak as she accepted her piece and bit into it. Fruits were her weakness, one she hid poorly. Theron also thanked Iason for sharing and looked to the board. Discussion ensued, and it turned as Aemilia expected. ‘Predictable.’ A dawn strike. As predictable as it was, so long as the others in tent city remained unaware that Theron was here, it would still catch them unaware. Dawn was the perfect time to strike. The enemies would falter. ‘Only issue is our movement.’ But such things were considered and discussed. Aemilia only interjected with questions. Iason and Theron were patient enough.

Of course, it was time to turn in when the plans were made. Dinner brought a smile to Theron’s face. He’d gotten quite tired of rations, and had wondered again at the reason for his outing here.
“That sounds good. I will sleep,” he reassured, knew it would be necessary. “Aemilia—”

She read his tone,
“I’ll be staying with the 11th,” she said before he could ask her to tag along. Part for his reputation, part because she’d simply missed the 11th. Casper and Hyperion were not the only two she’d kept in touch with. When she’d first arrived, it was the 11th that had brought her into the fold, and while plenty of those men from then had retired, many others stayed on for this campaign. “Casper took my things.”

He knew that, asked,
“And is it the 11th you’d prefer to find yourself in?” Theron had been a man of the 8th, like Pompilius, and like so many others who became great. Silanus was a part of it, though not a leader. The 8th was famous for its victories and its tragedies, for it was a capricious legion, and those who led it liked to do things in ‘heroic’ fashions. All or nothing.

The 11th was stable, solid.
“If I have a choice.” Aemilia imagined her place was to be in the 8th, to rise to Centurion, and eventually, Legate, before taking on higher positions over multiple legions like Iason, Theron, and Lucius.

Theron didn’t fight her on it,
“I will speak to Legate Cantor,” he answered instead.

Perhaps he knew there would be enough to debate later, and legion placement was not an issue worth fighting over.
“Thank you,” Aemilia inclined her head, almost a bow, “Karis,” a nod to him, then, before she walked out.

She did pause, though.
“Oh, by the way, congratulations, Karis,” she looked back over her shoulder, a slightly wicked smile on her lips.

Theron wasn’t getting off so easy, though she didn’t reveal why she was congratulating him. Iason was talked up as being smart, and certainly Aemilia believed that. The look Theron shot her wouldn’t go unnoticed as she flounced out of the tent, apple finished long ago.


‘Is that Winston’s influence or Lucius?’
Theron was never certain, though he was betting Winston. He was annoyed, though, much as he’d been annoyed when Lucius brought up the topic at dinner. Both of them could have waited for better times.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #47 on: September 21, 2013, 07:06:31 am »
Iason heard Aemilia’s parting words, but was struck by the expression on her face more than the phrasing. He knew instinctively he shouldn’t say  ‘thank you’ to the congratulatory remark.  Left alone with Theron he simply waited, eyes steady and tongue quiet.  If there was something he was supposed to know Theron would tell him.  He wasn’t afraid of silence.  He could wait with the best of them.

~*~

Lucius Antonious stood in the early morning light, sword at the ready.  Muscled flesh was tan and stripped to the waist.  He kept in top form by practicing each morning like the warrior he still was, even though he was now at home.

“Again,” he ordered.

The sparring partner was used to the daily beating.  His skill was high, but no match for the General.  Still he smiled through the cuts and the bruises, this a noble pursuit.  Steel rained on steal as they continued to spar even after an hour of heavy effort.   It wasn’t until the slave stumbled that Lucius thought to yield.  The blades contacted one last time, Lucius allowing his to force the others point to the ground.

The two made eye contact and this confirmed the battle was over.  “See to your wounds,” Lucius said.  He knew they were not deep, deliberately placed to inflict pain but not maim.   He liked a challenge and refused to fight with wooden sticks.   It took more skill than many possessed to be able to control the bloodlust he was known for, but Lucius liked to think as well as fight.   

His battle injured arm was still sore, and he thought it weak.  He tested the sword weight in his hand and felt the ache.  A towel rested on a nearby laurel tree branch.   The tall blond man collected the cloth and wiped his face, not needing to see the medic.  He’d taken no cuts and the one hit his opponent had scored only served as a faint bruise to remind him to be more vigilant next time.

A serving girl hurried down the marble steps from the house.  She bowed her head as she approached Lucius.  “A visitor is here, Master Antonious. A man is waiting in the parlor.”

“Waiting?” Lucius said.  He didn’t typically ask questions of the house staff, but his curiosity got the better of him.  “Who?”

She dragged her eyes away from Lucius’s chest and back to his face, appearing a little flustered. “He said his name was Cosmos.” 

Lucius frowned. He wondered if she meant something else.  “Cosimo Catalina?”

She curtseyed.  “Yes.  That would be it.”

The towel was casually tossed over his shoulder and Lucius started to walk back to the house.  He should change and follow protocol, but he didn’t respect Cosimo, and he was here uninvited.  If the man wanted his attention…

He’d deliberately chosen a house on the opposite side of town from Periander.  Their relationship spanned many years, but it wasn’t always warm.   Respect and trust reigned.   Battles and death bound them together.   Lucius would not have chosen to flaunt his wealth as his mentor did.   For him it was still new and something he wasn’t completely comfortable with.  He didn’t particularly wish to entertain Periander’s minions while the other was away.  “Bring him to the kitchen,” Lucius said.  He’d not had breakfast and the priority of water and food won over playing nice, or whatever  Cosimo wished to say.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #48 on: September 21, 2013, 07:06:52 am »
Theron knew of Iason’s ability to outlast anyone in silence, with that stare of his. He relented without much of a fight. He was going to tell Iason eventually, “It seems that I am not allowed to actually break the news as I would like in a tactful way,” he said. Three people who should be easy to find partners for, and none of them were interested in the idea. Already, he’d resigned himself to understand that Iason would not like the idea. If he did like it, he would have found a partner long ago, like Lucius. “Iason, I want to see you married, sooner rather than later. Tarpeia will be looking for someone for you back home, though if you have any preferences those can be worked with.” Regardless of their inclination towards marriage, Theron did intend to see it happen.

He half-expected to hear Aemilia laugh outside, but no such noise reached his ears. She had moved on to join the 11th, no doubt, to sup with them and learn what had occurred through yet another lens. 


Indeed, Aemilia had found her way to the where the 11th was based, and soon joined with Casper who took her to sup with some of the others in the tent set aside for eating. She made no mention of Periander’s orders, though Casper harassed her for them. They were not her orders to give, and for all she knew, the situation was going to change. She would let Iason or Theron have the honor of telling the camp of the final strike.

She did, however, fill him in on the details of Hyperion’s letter.


~***~

Cosimo expected to wait. He had come unannounced, and could hardly recall what had convinced him this was a good idea. Somewhere in writing the letter to Theron, he realized he had neglected to even deal with Lucius. For some reason, he felt that he ought to give the man a chance to rectify his error.


‘Stupid.’


He thought that now as he continued to wait, growing more agitated as time went on. When at last the servant girl returned he stood.
“Well?” His olive eyes reflected his impatience.

“Master Antonius has requested you join him in the kitchen.”


Not even the dining room. Cosimo’s face screwed up in confusion, before he sighed,
“Very well.” What else was he to expect? He didn’t have much interaction with Lucius, but everyone tended to compare him to animals. Lions, dogs, if it was a carnivore, it was Lucius. He was simple, primitive, a brute—of course he was in the kitchen, satisfying base desires, no doubt.

Cosimo followed the servant to the kitchen and stepped in to find Lucius barely clothed. His appearance suggested he’d been sparring, though he bore little injury. Did Cosimo stick to protocol?
“Magistrate,” yes, apparently he did, though the confusion never left his face. This was a highly unusual environment for the man. “I have come to offer to sell land to the state in order that it be distributed amongst the soldiers returning from the war, since we seem to have a…shortage.” Nervous twitch; a hand pushed back some of his brown hair, only over an ear. It wasn't much longer than that.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #49 on: September 21, 2013, 07:08:51 am »
“Ah,” Iason said to the news of his pending nuptials.  But there he let the matter rest; no real agreement or disagreement in word or deed. As he watched Thereon in further silence he suspected his commander might cover his gaffe by voicing the persuasive reasons for consent.  Procreation, power, companionship were all things that most men needed.  Iason was different, but Theron refused to see it.  He might wish for those things, but the means were not attainable.

It seemed, however, that he might need to make his thinking visible to avoid an uncomfortable situation in the future.  “I have already made a vow, Theron,” he used the man’s first name even though he would always be his commander first.  “I will not break it.  I will explain the situation to Tarpeia on my return.” His look warned Theron against meddling again. His tone firm even without further disclosure.  He reiterated, “Now, please eat and rest.  I will advise the men on your attack plans, see that the horses are made ready, and recall the raiders.”

He moved to the tent flap and lifted the canvas for Theron to proceed him out. Dawn would arrive soon enough.

~*~

Lucius knew exactly how he looked, and didn’t require confirmation from Cosimo although he found the man’s discomfort amusing.  The ice blue eyes narrowed as the shorter man spoke.  Lucius wondered if others were pulling strings.  He’d not thought the man before him to be terribly bright or politically savvy.

“Is that so,” Lucius said.  He let his back lean against the counter.  His hands reached for a piece of citrus sitting in the bowl near him.  Slowly he peeled the orange skin to reveal the flesh inside. Methodically the fruit was segmented, gently torn from the center. The juice dripped over his fingers and he lifted one to kiss and contain the sweet splash.

He could ask why Cosimo thought there was a shortage.  Hadn’t he told the senate there wasn’t one?  Instead he nodded and asked.  “And at what price were you thinking of making this gesture?”  The state could take his land if it so chose.  One side of his mouth twitched, the prospect of stripping away the man’s wealth and making divorce difficult in the forefront of his mind.  “I can only assume you meant donation, not sale, for surely you don’t intend to profit at the extent of the state…”
« Last Edit: September 21, 2013, 07:10:17 am by Beau »

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #50 on: September 21, 2013, 07:09:04 am »
Theron was the one to wait this time. Iason needed to say more, for Theron couldn’t read his plans from just ‘ah’. Fortunately, he did add more. Theron arched a light eyebrow at the words. “Oh?” He was not aware of any vows that would prevent Iason from a marriage. “Never mind Tarpeia,” Theron dismissed that thought. Tarpeia wasn’t known for respecting vows. “You will tell me what vows will prevent you from marriage, Iason.”

Theron did move to accept the exit from the tent,
“And do at least consider it.” Theron was not the sort to fully understand why a man would avoid marriage. There were advantages, even if his was merely a political alignment. He provided for Cassandra, if not with passion, with safety and money. She would be taken care of.

With that, Theron left Iason’s tent. He did not go straight to the commander’s tent that Antonius had abandoned, but to the Eighth.

It would always have a soft spot in his heart, and an hour or two reminiscing wouldn’t do any harm.


~***~

Lucius grated on his patience, but Cosimo waited as he indulged himself in a fruit. He let his lips lift in a half-smile, though his eyes showed no joy as the man made a rather pointed query. He did prefer dealing with Theron.

Theron could be pointed, but usually payment was referred to as a ‘gift’. Payment was always involved, though.
“I assure you, I will not charge the State as much as I would a private buyer, Lucius, but I cannot simply give these lands away.” Cosimo was not one to be afraid of proscriptions or land being taken away, despite his wealth. Winston would certainly be the first target of such things. “I will be losing money in the end,” Cosimo noted, though it would soon be rectified. “The lands I am considering are farm lands to the east. I make a rather nice profit off the slave labor there,” not as much as he made from cities on the shore or lands with mines, but a decent profit all the same. People always needed grain, more than they needed lobster.

“But I know soldiers need land, and farm land will allow them to provide for their families, so I can part with it for their sake,”
and he’d take the money gained from the sell to buy up a few apartments in Sylvestre, and sell the slaves before they ate away at his own funds while not doing any work. Perhaps he could sell them to the returning soldiers. They would want slaves to work the land, and slaves who already knew the lands would be useful.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #51 on: September 21, 2013, 07:11:44 am »
Iason took Theron’s request as something required, but not immediately due.  He nodded, but remained mum on his religious values and future plans.  Deep down he figured the confession might benefit, rather than harm him in Theron’s eyes.  If Aemilia was as important as he suspected, his own commitment to another would make it easier for Theron to trust him with her training if it came to that.  But, today was not the day to share or confess.  Iason only nodded and let Theron go on his way.

In the predawn light, the men were mounted and ready.  The eighth would lead.  Iason returned to the eleventh and placed his own horse next to Casper.  “Ready?” he asked, although he already knew the answer.  “To Victory!” he called, raising his sword. At Theron’s signal they would ride.

~*~
Lucius listened with moderate interest to the proposal.  Theron had not charged him with land purchase.  The motion in the senate merely a ploy to appease Winton and dispel rumors; Theron would point to it later to show his flexibility.  Added to that, the senate was now at ease, having options, although Lucius considered them only worth the paper they were written on.

Still, more land would improve the soldier’s fortunes.  Land was obviously more durable than sheep, particularly when many had no place to put it. The idea of Cosimo losing money only sweetened the deal. “Very well.  The state…accepts your generous offer.”

There would be paperwork of course.  Deeds to sign.  “We can meet again prior to the next senate session. I’ll have a proposal drafted for you.” He moved to the sink to wash his hands.  “If there is nothing else….”

It was just as well that he was dismissing his first visitor, because the servant returned to the kitchen and announced a second.  "Master Antonius, Lady Flavius is here."

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #52 on: September 21, 2013, 07:12:48 am »
The eighth always led.

Aemilia was, of course, alongside Casper, quite awake and quite alert. Her own bow was with her, her own sword with the belt around her waist. Her own armor. It was all quite nice. Casper was now the legate of the legion. She could recall when he was the centurion too easily. Apparently, she was part of the cavalry.
“I’m not with the archers, because…?”

“Because this isn’t a crucial fight,”
he answered. He was quite relaxed for someone about to head into battle. “We have this won already, and Arctero writes that this is where you need help—not that you’re bad at it, just a weak spot. We all have’em, Pullus. Even Antonius.” That seemed to settle her a bit. Of course, Casper had questions about Arctero’s judgment. He’d seen Aemilia fight on a horse, she’d thrown the bloody eagle while on a horse. ‘Well, ranged.’ Not so much melee fighting or with a spear.

Casper did straighten up when Iason returned to the group. Casper nodded, and the masses roared with Iason’s words in their throats.
‘Not subtle.’ Though, there was the feeling that it was unnecessary. It permeated. This was already won, even Aemilia felt it, but she was wary of the feeling. Victory was never assured. 

More shouts soon rose up, a hail of arrows leading the assault, impaling soldiers not quick enough to prepare themselves that morning. The eighth charged straight in from the flat plain, but the eleventh had been moved closer to the hill, hidden, until the right moment to take them by surprise.

That moment was announced soon enough. The eighth had made contact, and Casper only waited until the order was confirmed before charging forward himself with a shout, Aemilia immediately following. The overthinking came to a quick halt. Action had served her best before, and it would serve her well again.


~***~

It seemed Lucius could be reasoned with. Cosimo wondered which part of his spiel had convinced the soldier, or if he was just looking out for his men. Somehow, he couldn’t see Lucius abandoning the soldiers, even if he was annoyed.

The paperwork was fine by Cosimo.
“Very well,” there would probably have to be adaptations. Prices adjusted. “I shall send information on to you regarding the land.” Though he doubted it would even be looked at.

There was nothing else, but before he could dismiss himself a servant interrupted. Cosimo cursed under his breath. He had hoped to pay Tarpeia a visit after his meeting with Lucius. He had gone there first, actually, only to hear she was not available. He hadn’t received further information.
‘Very well, this evening.’ He’d tend to the busy work of getting together papers for Lucius. “Until then, Magistrate, do take care, and give Tarpeia my best. I can show myself out,” with that, Cosimo turned to depart.


Tarpeia reeked of incense. Twice she’d bathed in the smoke that day, first visiting the church to confess and make sure those clerics were praying for her daughter. She’d accept nothing less than all powers focused on Aemilia’s protection. She didn’t go to the church often. Holidays, and irregularly on normal days. She claimed to be a part of the faith, but it hardly showed.

Of course, she wasn’t exactly an adherent of Aemilia’s faith, though she had lit the incense and demanded the Great Mother look after her daughter. It was always and only to Audra that Tarpeia appealed to when she spoke to Aemilia’s gods, for only another mother could understand. The rest meant nothing to Tarpeia.

She had covered all the bases, though. She had done all that she knew to do—exhorted the gods. She didn’t care who protected Aemilia, so long as someone did.

Then, of course, she went about her business of preparing for Iason and Lucius. Names of young women were gathered. Tarpeia knew most of it by memory and had compiled a list of those who had never been married, and who’s chastity was unquestioned by most—it was always questioned by some, such was the nature of rumor—especially when the girls were pretty. The Tribune ended up on the list. She had been engaged, but never married. People spoke highly of her, and it might serve Theron well if she were put in line through marriage to someone such as Lucius.

Other names decorated the list, all pretty women, none older than nineteen besides that Tribune. Most decent women were married by that age, or had been married. Those that were single often had a child, former husband a soldier. Theron and his wars took many men from their homes, left many children without fathers. Tarpeia only recalled this when she looked at the lists.

So it was that she waited in Lucius's house, already making herself comfortable by laying down on a couch and asking for wine, the list rolled up and at the foot of the couch.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #53 on: September 22, 2013, 03:03:58 am »

Lucius watched Cosimo leave, but didn’t hurry to his next guest.  He saw a serving girl return to the kitchen to fetch a goblet and wine.  It was early and knowing the likely source of the request he raised an eyebrow, but didn’t stop the delivery.  He ate his orange and used the jug of water on the side board to wash his hands.

“Let Lady Flavius know…” and then he stopped.  He’d have to walk past her in the main room to reach his own bedchamber.  “Never mind, I’ll tell her myself,” Lucius said and went to do just that.  His visitor indeed looked comfortable.  Decorum demanded that he clothe himself properly “Tarpeia, I was not expecting you so early.  Please excuse my lack of preparation.  I will be with you shortly.”

Lady Flavius's body was artfully arranged in a flattering pose that he knew to compliment.  She looked comfortable, so he didn’t feel guilty asking her to wait a moment or two longer.  The servants would bring fresh baked bread and other breakfast items knowing that their master had not eaten either.  Indeed it didn’t take much for Lucius to wash and dress.  His hair was still damp as he returned to the parlor and the spread of food.

“I see that you have a list for me,” he said.  “Your efficiency is to be envied.”  Since it was there, he retrieved it from the couch, asking her opinion and recommendations.  He didn’t need to take them, but he was curious on one thing. “I see that Aemilia is not on your list.”  Lucius hid his interest by saying, “I hope you don’t think Theron would be the most suitable.  I don’t see him divorcing Cassandra even though she has not bore him a child.”

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #54 on: September 22, 2013, 04:21:09 am »
Tarpeia did not mind waiting a bit longer, especially when the wine arrived, and then the breakfast. She had the fruit bowl moved closer, and picked out all the ones she liked until Lucius returned and took the list.

Her opinions varied. She was nothing if not blunt on what she knew, though she did attempt not to berate them all. As a woman who believed in her own superiority, she had to see flaws in others to confirm that. However, this was to be Lucius’s wife—she made sure he knew which ones were the ‘best’ of the inferiors. Obviously, the Tribune was not on that list of ‘best’.

When he got through the list, he asked a curious question. She bit the strawberry she held in half and eyed him as he added on more. Though she wanted to smile, she instead sighed.
“While I may wish Theron would forsake that woman, I know it will not be for Aemilia,” family, illusions, scandal. In Tarpeia’s opinion, Theron was a coward too focus on public opinion. He had the power to do as he wished, and yet he insisted on this game of illusions. “Something about decency,” she waved it off. She had tried to talk to Theron, once, on the subject.

She’d decided not to bring it up again with him. Aemilia was still just as talkative about it—Tarpeia only had her hunches and rumors. She drew guilt from silence.
“Now, unless he has changed his stance on what is acceptable to do in public,” Tarpeia popped the rest of the strawberry into her mouth, finished it, “I hardly think it would be prudent to put Aemilia on that list. Besides, she doesn’t fit what you wanted—at least not in reputation.” It was likely Lucius noticed no women from the legions were on the list at all. Reputations followed legionnaire women, given the reputations of legionnaire men. That was, unless Lucius had only wanted to avoid children of other women, and didn’t care about promiscuous pasts—but when men said they didn’t want a woman with children, it tended to mean they wanted a chaste woman.

“But if that is what you want, you will have to talk to Theron. Perhaps he’s changed his mind,” the finger tainted with the strawberry juices was put into her mouth, the juices sucked off, before it was released with a pop “But then, he’d be marrying her, and not you.” And Tarpeia would favor Theron to Lucius. After all, Lucius was only the second-most powerful man in Sylvestre. Theron reigned supreme.

~***~

Theron reigned supreme still on the battlefield. Lucius’s estimates were spot on, even regarding losses. The camp was taken, the men quickly plundered what goods they could from it once there was no one to oppose. Theron didn’t bother to dictate order amongst them. The various Legates would end up doing that among their own legions, or else the Centurions would.

Pyres were being made for the corpses. They needed to be cleared away for the land to be used soon. The river remained free of poison, so it could be given up soon.

His eyes scanned the area for Iason and Aemilia as Centurions began to bring him head counts about how many were lost from their various centuries. He enjoyed an apple stolen from the camp as they did so.

He frowned when he did at last catch sight of Aemilia, and he held up his hand for silence from the Centurion speaking.

He had said no prisoners, yet she and Casper were escorting one.
“What is this?” He demanded.

Casper pushed the man down to his knees before Theron.
“This is a spy from Perthia,” Aemilia answered. She had recognized him trying to flee the scene, a friend of her mother’s…well, as much as anyone from a foreign nation could be a friend of her mother’s. He brought Tarpeia jewelry for information on Sylvestre, and Tarpeia fed him half-truths. “He acts as a merchant of jewelry within Sylvestre and is a frequent visitor of Tarpeia and Winston both.”

Casper nodded,
“I know him. Azata Madriyu.”

Theron knew the name, though he had never come face to face with him. Tarpeia mentioned the Perthian jeweler who sought her favor and was very interested in Sylvestre’s political dynamic. She had laughed at how easily the man thought she was bought, all the while showing off pretty turquoise things.

Aemilia did not need to say it overtly. Here was Theron’s beginning reason for war. Here was Perthia aligning with his enemies. A smile widened on his face. Azata immediately tried to defend himself, to say he was only there for trade reasons, wrong place-wrong time, before Theron laughed out loud at the fortune.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #55 on: September 23, 2013, 05:04:23 am »
“I said I noticed it,” Lucius said, quick to correct, “I didn’t say I disagreed. If anything it makes the list more credible, not to see a personal agenda fostered on me.”  He was in no rush, “I will give this some thought.”  He was inclined to pursue Tribune Cellar only because she likely would resist the idea.  He’d get what he wanted – to be left alone – and it wouldn’t be his fault.  In fact a smile formed on his lips at the prospect, and the likelihood that Tarpeia might even be blamed for the failure.  “Yes, indeed.  I’ll think on this no end.”

There were other things to do of course.  He’d need to convene the senate once more and stall on Theron’s pet projects.  He’d complete the contract with Cosimo and secure the lands at a price that would be painful for the other man.  He might even drop in on Winton to see what the other man was really up to and if his allegiance could be swayed.  Lucius’s list grew, but he shared little, knowing Tarpeia would only care about events that concerned her.

“The troops should return within the week.  You’ve heard of course that there will be a festival in Theron’s honor.”  He waited for her agreement and opinion on the celebrations.  “There will be a spectacle at the arena, prisoners and lions.”  His eyes lit on the last word – a flash of the bloodthirsty smile.  Antonious favored the beasts more than most spectators.  “Perhaps you and Quintus would care to join me at the event.  You could offer your opinion on the match I choose.  Theron might be convinced to attend as well and hear on your latest plans for Iason.   A casual venue for political conversation.  Will you consider it?  I would be most honored.”

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #56 on: September 23, 2013, 05:29:14 am »
Tarpeia laughed, openly, at Lucius’s attempt to defend himself. She made no issue of it, “Of course, no personal agenda fostered on you.” Mirth remained. No one would ‘notice’ such a thing if they were family. Silanus, though not blood related, would not have noticed that. There were lines. Tarpeia knew what they were, even if she frequently didn’t care.

It seemed he was thinking, though he revealed none of it. Tarpeia didn’t care to know.
“Of course I have heard, who hasn’t?” Rhetorical. She shook her head at the mention of lions. Him and Aemilia both, though she at least preferred tamer animals—birds of prey the deadliest things she owned, the deadliest things Tarpeia would allow in any house she resided in. It seemed she was being invited to the festivities, though. As much as she didn’t care for the bloody spectacles, she consented, “I suppose I could find the time to attend,” sitting as a guest of Lucius would be a position of honor, and she fully expected Theron would attend. These things were in his honor, it would not be prudent for him to skip the festivities.

And thus, Aemilia would be there, and perhaps Iason himself, though the man was such an enigma to her—hardly any decent rumors in the gossip mill on him.
“I will consider it,” she agreed in her mind already, but supposed she should humor the idea of consideration. There was always the possibility, much as she wanted to deny it, that Aemilia or Theron would not return. She’d want nothing to do with festivities then, even if the army was victorious.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #57 on: September 25, 2013, 06:31:03 am »
The days continued, boring like Lucius predicted.  He enjoyed sleeping in his own bed, and eating better prepared meals, but he grit his teeth during the nonsense at the senate and the administrative issues of state.  How Theron kept his sanity was a mystery to him.  He mentioned as much to Tribune Cellar.  She spent the next half hour regaling the virtues of public service and how Lucius should count himself lucky for the honor bestowed.   Lucius nodded in all the right places and then crossed her off his list.  Even though he might get a rise out of Theron by bringing her to the lion fest, it wasn’t worth the annoying chatter. 

Rumors spread about victory before the official word came.  A messenger came to Lucius’s home personally and he was prepared to send back a summary of the administrative minutia to keep Theron apprised of things.  He debated about riding out to meet the troops personally then decided against it.  He’d been asked to remain, and remain he would.

Lucius spent the final day of Theron’s absence preparing the parade.  Laurel leaves were strung together into crowns and musicians were assembled.  Gods would be honored.  All in all it would be a nice afternoon with the weather cooperating.  The only tarnish to the day was a augur who saw fit to share his latest vision in the entails of a cat.  Lucius acknowledged the evil omen, but quoted others more favorable.  Fortunately he could pick and chose what visions of the future took precedent.

Happy thoughts.

At the appointed hour he rode his horse out to the gate of the city.  With him were a number of women with rose petals and leaves to grace the street upon the arrival of Theron.  All he had to do was wait.

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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #58 on: September 25, 2013, 03:32:10 pm »
“Rabbit indeed.”

Theron smirked at Aemilia as she looked over, startled by the joking voice. There was a real, golden eagle on her arm, leather preventing it from digging its claws into her flesh. No rabbit would dare be in the grips of such a creature.
“I saw the first one heading back to Sylvestre.” He knew who it was meant for, and so he didn’t ask. “Who is this for?”

“Hyperion.”
She lifted her arm up and the eagle flew off, letter attached. Most of the eagles had been trained to fly to Sylvestre and back, but this one was Hyperion’s personal eagle. It had waited for a letter to take back. He had trained most of the eagles that were used as messengers anyway. His role as bird-trainer hadn’t been replaced. “You finally want to talk about Cosimo?”

“Nothing gets over your head.”
Aemilia smiled, but waited, “What do you think of him?”

“His reputation is poor so far as personal life goes,”
though some considered he’d left the ways of his younger years behind. “He is rich, but not politically ambitious—only monetarily. Assuming he does not become like his father, he would be acceptable.” It pained her to say it. Cosimo was what she needed, but nothing she wanted.

“And yet you do not like him.”


“That is not relevant.”


“It is,”
he sighed, “I do not want you unhappy.”

“Then you wouldn’t be insisting I need to marry now.”
Aemilia noted. Before he could speak, she interrupted, “I know why. I understand. I don’t like it, but I understand it, and so I’m willing. Our nation hasn’t grown up yet.” It was simple, she understood it. Something would be considered wrong with her if she wasn’t married soon. It didn’t matter that the marriage was a sham, that she was only doing it to protect future interests. That was how marriage worked anyway. Children, alliances, and power. Romance was left to stories.

“When did you get so jaded?”
He couldn’t help but ask.

Aemilia didn’t answer. She could pinpoint it, but there was no need. It was rhetorical, as he soon proved,
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

“I know.”


“You have been allowed into the Eleventh.”
She smiled, “They’ll be moving out again soon. You can…think a bit more about the arrangements.”

“Thank you.”



Night turned into day and the legions were soon packed and moving. It was slower travel with everyone, and setting up each night for rest, but soon enough they were close to Sylvestre. On that day, Theron went to find Iason and soon located him amidst the moving bodies. His horse fell in pace with Iason’s own. The pace was slow enough to allow conversation, and so he asked,
“Before we have to deal with Tarpeia, tell me of this vow you have made, Iason.”

He caught sight of Aemilia, now riding alongside Silanus of the 8th. He couldn’t guess the conversation from gestures, assumed it was not serious from their expressions though. They were not blood related, but the two had bonded well over mutual dislike over the marriage of Tarpeia and Quintus. Theron was often impressed with how hatred could bring people together.


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Re: Shifts of Fortune [Closed]
« Reply #59 on: September 28, 2013, 12:48:38 am »
Iason knew that Theron would broach the subject of marriage again, but he hadn’t expected that he’d do it in such a public venue.  Iason let the horse continue on and looked ahead, rather than at his commander.  The details likely weren’t relevant to Theron in any case – the man liked to get his way and wasn’t tolerant of those who didn’t heed him.  Iason’s privacy was more important than justification, so he simply said, “I pledged my life and actions to a deity.” He remained mum on the who and when, the reasons still too difficult to voice.  “While I do not now serve openly in the priesthood, I may when the wars are over and you release me from other duties and obligations.” He owed Theron a debt he’d agreed to pay, he would honor that word as well even though he’d been told you cannot serve God and Man. “I will not assume the mantle of family, only to leave them.  I’m sure you understand.”

There would be no 'we' to deal with Trapeia.  Iason planned to do nothing on the matter.  Ignoring Aemilia's mother had always worked in the past.  He'd not asked for her aid, so he felt no guilt in spurning what was offered.

The gates of the city came into sight.  Iason suspected Theron would say more – the man thought himself a deity in his own right.  Split loyalty may return to haunt him, but Iason figured his days with Theron were numbered in any case.  If the man chose to dismiss him now it may be to everyone’s benefit.  He was not afraid, and his shoulders were stiff and proud, chin up as he rode on.

Lucius could see the dust cloud of the approaching horses and troops. He’d dressed in uniform as well.  Other legionnaires who remained to guard the city were also clustered near the gate, ready to take their place in the parade.   Pits had been dug inside the walls.  Pig and sheep were roasting on large spits adding a fragrant smoke to the air.  The man would march through the main streets and return to the open pavilion for the first of many feasts.

A musician approached Lucius as he waited on his horse, “Magistrate, should we begin the revelry?"

The crowd was growing restless, unused to the slow progress of man with equipment.  They would need to be entertained.  “By all means,” he said.