Good grief: February is ending next week. Wasn't it just January a couple days ago? I guess the past three weeks being crammed into a few days explains why I'm so tired lol. Then again, the being tired could also be the not sleeping well, but I doubt that could be the problem.
<insert wall of denial here>
I'm going to stick with a temporal compression having happened to me, which is totally more believable than reality, right? (And is my excuse for not getting as much writing done as I wanted to.)
To make up for not posting a part of my own story this week, I'm using today's space to show off work from a few other people I follow on Twitter. They're worth a look if you have the time :)
Hope you have a great weekend!
Hi! It's been "a week" this week. My littlest spent most of Sunday night (ie: the wee hours of Monday morning) vomiting and then all of Monday just feeling sore and yucky. My oldest was physically feeling okay, but was worried about the abdominal ultrasound she got to go to on Thursday (spoiler: she ended up thinking it was cool because the technician had a second screen he turned on for her to see her guts, and then she and I went on a "Valentine's breakfast date" before I dropped her off at school). I had my first regular therapist appointment on Wednesday morning and I'm still thankful two days later for the amazing therapist I've been assigned to (I don't know how I got so lucky, and I'm excited to go back in two weeks to start the work for getting myself feeling better inside my brain case). And then my hubby was brought low on Wednesday night (ie: the wee hours of Thursday morning) by whatever virus attacked the littlest one in our house.
6. Bronze Snare
The door opened and one man came out. Brasus blinked in surprise, his arm dropping to his side. Quintus checked the two men who were still laying there, confirmed one was dead and the other unconscious, and then walked over to stand with Brasus. The Legionnaire paused a moment to adjust Brasus’s toga, effectively hiding any bloody stains with a few quick folds and tucks.
“Walk with me?” Quintus asked. Brasus felt his temper spilling over.
“I did what he –”
“Walk with me,” Quintus interrupted the angry words. Brasus forced himself to bury his frustrations for the moment and allowed Quintus to lead him out of the yard. “Avilius Victrix provided excess funding for the Legion last week,” Quintus stated. “There’s a table set up for recruits,” he added.
Brasus didn’t reply.
“He also learned five years ago of his cousin’s husband and son. The son is a living relative of his,” Quintus continued conversationally. “Since his own son… disappeared, and having no other living children, that left an obvious choice. Until, of course, they had a falling out. Avilius found them lacking in…” Quintus paused, then shook his head and remained silent on the subject. “The man who was meant to perform the marital duties you undertook died from fever a few days before you decided to steal that colt.”
“You know?” Brasus stopped walking at stared at his father’s friend. Quintus paused in his steps and glanced back to nod. “Who else knows?” Brasus demanded. He’d upheld the deal of speaking to nobody of the agreement, and –
“As of this moment only you, Avilius Victrix, and I know of the agreement,” Quintus interrupted the thoughts swirling in Brasus’s mind. “And I only know because I was asked to carry the written order for your and Cassia’s child to be named his heir in the event his own son wasn’t returned.”
Brasus closed his eyes and tried to order his thoughts. Over the past two years, he had come to believe that his marriage to Cassia had been an additional punishment – something the two of them shared, although he didn’t know what her crime or insult had been – and the promise of naming the child as an heir was fallacy and just another game of the mind. But if Quintus carried the order, then the arrangement was true. That meant Brasus’s second son was the heir to one of the wealthiest and most influential men in all the Empire, and subject to all the politics and treachery that came with the inheritance.
“Volunteer for the Legion,” Quintus broke into his thoughts and Brasus looked to him. “Bring your woman and all of your three children to the camp. I’ll ensure you and I are –”
“What?” Brasus interrupted, too shocked at Quintus naming Brasus as the sire for all three children to bother trying to hide his surprise.
“You and your woman can lie very well, but the face of your daughter speaks the truth,” Quintus grinned.
“She has no resemblance to Magnus,” Brasus argued, tasting the bluff rolling from his mouth so easily.
“No, she doesn’t,” Quintus agreed. “However, she could be a twin to either of your sisters at that age.”
Brasus opened his mouth to reply but didn’t have words. Arguing with Quintus at this point would be useless. He’d obviously seen the baby.
“You’ve told Avilius?” Brasus asked quietly.
“Of course not,” Quintus stated with a small shrug. He ended the motion by hooking Brasus’s arm and pulling the younger man into walking again.
“Thank you,” Brasus replied after a few steps. He couldn’t imagine the punishment Rishima would be subjected to if her accepted lie was discovered.
“You will tell him, though,” Quintus added. “Once Avilius learns the depth of devotion that your woman has to protecting the children, he won’t argue with all three remaining in her care.”
“He won’t let us leave, though,” Brasus stated, his voice crumbling from despair. The realization of forever being trapped at the house of Avilius Victrix froze the rest of his thoughts from forming.
“Yes, he will,” Quintus replied, his voice completely without doubt. “Volunteer for the Legion, and I’ll ensure you and I remain in the same Century. He’ll allow you to buy her once he knows the lengths she’ll endure, as proven by what she’s already endured. You’ll be surrounded with men loyal to Ser– his son,” Quintus corrected quickly. “You already have more knowledge than you should of what your father and I do, as well, which makes your addition to the Legion even more valuable. There are also some things we do which you don’t know, and I believe you would learn better from being taught than from having to figure everything out on your own.”
Brasus looked at his father’s friend. His advice last time had led directly to two years of internment – for himself, his woman, and his children. And now a lifetime of servitude was required to ensure his son was safe…
“Why should I trust you?” Brasus asked.
“What’s the typical punishment for horse thieving?” Quintus replied with a question. Brasus stumbled on the answer – death – and somehow managed to keep his feet walking while his thoughts tumbled quickly enough to make him dizzy. “You have to trust someone, Brasus. At least until you know enough that you can trust yourself. Volunteer for the Legion, and then we’ll tell Avilius together what we’ve just discussed. He’ll allow you to buy her, you’ll see, and you’ll all leave his house with me this afternoon.”
Brasus nodded and simply followed where Quintus led him. They stepped to the table together, and Brasus signed his name easily when the page was presented to him. Quintus moved off to make the required arrangements for Brasus and his family, and to ensure that he and Brasus would be in the same Century.
“You’re volunteering, too?” a voice that was excitedly nervous asked from nearby. Brasus had to tilt his head back to look up at the young man.
“I am,” he agreed. The blond youth broke into a smile that matched his voice.
“I thought I was the only one,” he held out his hand to be clasped in greeting. “I’m Traversi,” he offered.
“Nazario,” Brasus joined the clasp. “We’re well met,” he offered.
“We are,” Traversi stated, his tone friendly. “Everyone else so far are conscripts,” the youth added, looking over his shoulder at the small group that had collected as he released Brasus’s hand. “They all think I’m mad,” he admitted, the nervous smile returning.
“Are you?” Brasus chided. Traversi shrugged and the smile shifted to a grin.
“That’s the most likely scenario,” he stated. “So I guess that means we both are.”
Brasus surprised himself with a laugh.
“That is the most likely scenario,” Brasus agreed. “I don’t recall seeing you before. You appear to be someone I would have noticed.”
“I do tend to stand out,” Traversi agreed with another shrug, completely aware of his height towering over everyone, and not caring as there was nothing he could do to change. “We only arrived a couple of weeks ago. My father – he buys and sells spices – brought me on this trip as he said I would do well to travel and spend time out of Rome.”
“And doing well is volunteering for the Legion?” Brasus asked.
“Uh, well, the Legion travels,” Traversi replied, suddenly looking more nervous than excited. He scrubbed his hands over his face as if washing. “To be honest,” he said, dropping his hands back to his sides, “I didn’t tell him that I was coming here.”
“Brazen,” Brasus hedged.
“Maybe,” Traversi shrugged again. “But, when you have a calling, you just have to do what you’re called to. Right?”
The final word was a question. A young man seeking validation and, if possible, acceptance from someone like-minded.
“That’s a much nobler pursuit than just having children to feed,” Brasus grinned up at him. Traversi laughed and shook his head, his whole body relaxing.
“Yeah, I sound smarter when I’m nervous,” he grinned. “You think that made me sound noble?” he asked hopefully.
“Up until this,” Brasus pointed at how Traversi was postured and the younger man grinned wider. “You very nearly did.”
Quintus arrived while Traversi was still laughing. Brasus parted ways with the younger man easily, both promising to meet up again on their return to the Legion encampment after they’d collected their things from within Verona.
“Making friends already?” Quintus asked as they walked away from the table.
“If I live past this afternoon, maybe,” Brasus replied. A small grin was lifting one side of Quintus’s mouth when Brasus worked up the nerve to look.
“You will,” Quintus assured him.
This past week was likely so creatively productive because, for the first time in many weeks, the kids and I are not actively sick. We're still suffering the lingering effects of runny noses and nagging coughs, but overall we've been doing pretty good. (Until today... my oldest is home from school today with a hurting tummy and a fever. So far no nausea, though, so fingers crossed she's only feeling icky and not sicky.)
This past week was also likely so creatively productive because it's really, really cold outside right now and I'm a winter-wuss so have zero incentive to leave the house unless taking the kids to / from school. And I mean really cold as in -20C to -30C (-4F to -22F) during the day and down to colder than -35C (-31F) at night. It's warmed up a bit coming into this weekend, but apparently only so that it could snow some more. My hibernation mode has been activated: warm clothes, lots of hot cocoa, and limited exposure to the elements. (Huh. This is kinda like my regular mode, actually... writers are a lot like vampires. Except we survive on coffee, tea, and hot cocoa instead of blood.)
Hope you have a good weekend!
5. Extending Relations
Rishima’s day came and she birthed the most beautiful tiny girl that she had ever laid eyes on. She’d been expecting the same torturous day that her son had given her when he came into this world, but everything was started in the afternoon and finished in the evening, and she slept with her new daughter on her chest that night. Magnus was jealous and silly, as all older siblings are, but within weeks he was a small man who helped and cared for his baby sister like only a mother could dream of when thinking of her son.
Brasus maintained the secret of his affection for his daughter closer than the secret of being her father. In respect of that, Rishima had lied – quite well, she was proud to say – when questioned and then beaten by Avilius for her to provide the name of her child’s father. There had been guests at the house around the time that the tiny girl had been conceived, so she laid the blame on one of their slaves. Brasus had tended her injuries himself, without anyone knowing he was there, and praised her higher than she had ever been complimented before. That night was the first time he got to hold his daughter, and she was already nearly two weeks old. The sight warmed Rishima’s heart every moment of the next many days.
The child his wife gave him four months later was a son. The new tiny boy was strong, but the wife was not. She was sick for days following the birthing, and Rishima found herself with the charge over that boy as well on his first day of living. At the end of a week, Brasus wrapped his wife in a warm blanket, and carried the wasted figure that she had become through the streets of Verona to deliver her to the temple that she had wanted to serve in. He had asked during one of their secreted meetings, and Rishima had found out for him, that women who were respectfully divorced or widowed could serve at the temple – not in the roles that virgins could, but they were still welcome. Her death imminent, he respectfully divorced his wife in the front doors of the temple, and she was inducted for service to her chosen goddess prior to passing into death.
Brasus paid for the induction and funeral services himself.
The expected penalty for not completing the chores he’d been tasked that day with was waiting in the yard when he returned. Brasus knew that Rishima would have all the children with her, and at this time of day would be away from the house. His new son was healthy, in spite of the babe’s mother dying, and he knew that Rishima would ensure that all his children remained well and healthy. She had proven that with Magnus already.
The four usual men that doled out his punishments slowly circled around him once he’d stopped in the middle of the yard. Avilius Victrix would be watching from somewhere nearby, as was his habit. Brasus spotted the old man glaring out a window from within the cool comfort of his home. The day was hot, as only the summer could be, and Brasus realized that he had fulfilled his only required task per the agreement of his servitude. Avilius would not take the baby from Rishima, or he would have done so already, so the children were safe. That meant this beating would be purely for dominance.
Brasus removed his purse from inside his tunic. The balance within hadn’t shifted throughout the two years that he’d been indentured, and that was something he knew Avilius was well aware of. Brasus weighed the purse in his hand as he measured the men encircling him, and then held out the payment of the colt toward the window where Avilius Victrix was watching. The side of the old man’s mouth crinkled into a grin, but that was all. Brasus didn’t know what further test he had to pass, or what further task he was meant to take on, but he did know that today he was too tired to care and wanted to be left alone. He set the purse on the stones by his feet and met the eye of each man that was preparing to attack him as he straightened.
“Don’t do this today,” he told them.
Quintus and his father had both trained Brasus from a young age, and his temper when he was too old to be a boy and too young to be a man had provided a couple of years to put that training into practice. Brasus had always learned from watching, from observing a task or activity and then methodically reviewing the memory until he committed the act to mind. From there, the matter was simple to have the act flow into the body because the muscles obeyed the mind. That was how he’d learned to ride horses so well, and learned reading and writing at school: by methodical attention to detail.
The men he had just warned only smiled in reply, expecting that he was attempting to plead with them. Brasus had been very careful these past years to only train his body from what his mind observed when he was certain he was not being watched.
“Not today,” he told them again. His voice took on an edge of command, something new to these men. Three of them became unsure and looked to the unspoken leader of their small group. The fourth man only grinned wider. Brasus shook his head and sighed, seeing his wife’s blood on his toga when he glanced down to affirm exactly where the purse was placed so that he wouldn’t trip.
“Get him,” the leader ordered.
They attacked in a clump, as they always did. Brasus grabbed the fastest one and threw him into the other three. They clamoured back to their feet quickly and stared at him with angry incomprehension. He had broken the rules. They attacked, and he got beaten. Those were the rules and he had just broken them.
They came at him again in a staggered line, not even trying to regroup before charging. Brasus didn’t bother keeping track of watching for opportunities or waste time planning his defenses and counterattacks, he took advantage of their weaknesses and left them scattered around the yard. The leader attempted to sit up and Brasus lounged at him, straddling his waist and gripping the collar of his tunic in a tight fist so he couldn’t turn to crawl away.
“Not today!” Brasus snarled at him, punching on each syllable and feeling the bone below the man’s left eye soften and shift on the final hit.
Brasus dropped him with a scoff and stood up to walk over to the purse, which was lying over from having been kicked or stepped on at some point. Brasus recalled one of the men stumbling and now assumed the purse was why. The ties had held and none of the coins had spilled.
Avilius Victrix was still looking out the window when Brasus straightened and held the purse out to him again. The old man chuckled cruelly, and then shut the wooden blind. There was no other expectation than for Brasus to rush the house and whatever men would be waiting for him there. Instead, he stood in the yard, letting the time stretch until his breathing had calmed and his pulse settled. Two of the men who had tried to attack him even recovered enough to rise and stagger away, around the house to the back entrance, as Brasus stood there with his arm stretched out, waiting.
A weekly blog updating on Saturdays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!