Sick kids (apparently) create a sick mom. So far my hubby hasn't caught it yet. It's only a head cold, but for about a day and a half in the middle of it when breathing is impossible and everything tastes like cardboard, the will to do more than get out of bed for snacks and bathroom breaks is completely M.I.A. My oldest had it last week and stayed home from school on her yucky day. My youngest and I have it this week, with my yucky day hitting on Tuesday and hers happening on Thursday.
All that busy-ish stuff aside, my little negative voice in the back of my head is trying hard to tell me that I should feel bad about this not being a Very Productive Week, so I'm going to put it in writing - right here in the blog where everyone can see it - that my little negative voice is wrong. If it was right, I wouldn't have all the above to tell you about, and this post wouldn't be here. Those little negative voices can be such little liars sometimes. I shut mine up by eating breakfast (I've discovered it gets louder when I don't eat, so now I'm trying to think of it as "feeding me is healthier than feeding a negative"... I guess I'll see how that goes.)
Hope you have a great weekend!
4. Ties & Binds
“Back away, Nazario,” Quintus cautioned the young man he was standing beside. The old Legionnaire didn’t want to move until Brasus unlocked their swords and stepped back. Unmarried and without any children of his own, the last thing Quintus needed was for his selected heir to be killed this morning.
“No need, Abelardus,” Avilius Victrix stated as he released the slave’s hair and walked over to his seat at the head of the table.
Quintus sheathed his own sword before taking the one out of Brasus’s hands to return to the proper owner. Avilius was watching the young freeman closely as Brasus helped the slave adjust the wrapping so the baby was again pressed to her front. The Centurions were waved away, no further words spoken to them, and Quintus followed out his commanders. The promised funding was already waiting for them at the front doors, so he took a firm grip on his corner of the chest and he and the other three Legionnaires carried the heavy box down to the waiting cart. They loaded and tied the box in place, not even bothering to speak from long familiarity with the task.
A friend that worked in the house hurried down the stairs as the Legionnaires lined up to leave, ducking his head to tell Quintus what had occurred in the short time since they’d left Brasus behind. Quintus only nodded and thanked him, hiding his relief completely, and then turned and followed the cart out of the yard.
Brasus stared at the old man. Somewhere in the moments since he’d been told to pick up the coins, he realized the rumors of this patrician were likely truths. The compliment regarding his paternal instincts and the question to confirm his status as single, both of which preceded the command about the coins, were suddenly weighted with broken glass. Brasus stooped to pick up the purse, taking the presented opportunity to wrap an arm around the slave he’d traded the colt for as he straightened. Avilius Victrix only looked amused at the gesture.
“I’ll allow you to purchase her price through labor,” Avilius stated. “I’ll allow for your use of her as a wet nurse during your internment as long as you do what I say, when I say.”
Hurried footsteps rushed away from the closed door, the sounds too quiet for Avilius to hear, but likely belonging to Quintus’s long-standing friend who had been in the hall when Brasus had been shown in. Brasus assumed a submissive poise and stared at the end of the table he was closest to, the wood grain becoming familiar. He currently had no options other than to comply. Returning the payment had already been rejected. Rejecting the offer would kill the woman, which in turn would kill his son.
“May I be allowed to send word to my father so he knows the length of my absence to expect?” Brasus asked, his tone politely civil.
“That will be seen to,” Avilius replied. He stood and came around the table, stopping to speak directly into Brasus’s ear. His whisper was barely more than a breath. “Strong fathers breed strong sons. You will wed, today, the woman I put beside you. Your next child by that wife will be my unrelated heir should my own son not return from whatever adventure he’s engaged in. If you tell anyone of this, I will slaughter every single one of your bloodline.”
Brasus stared hard at the table and tried not to throw up. He knew well the stories around the son that Avilius Victrix had lost, and enough of the politics around the Avilius family to want to stay far from being involved. Except now he was involved… deeply.
“I trust that my heir will be as well defended as yours,” Avilius continued, just as quietly, as he reached out and cupped his empty palm against the bulge in the wrapping that was the baby’s head.
Rishima learned the language quickly – she had always learned languages quickly, so counted that as lucky – and worked at the chores that she was tasked with every day. The work was shared among many women, a few of whom also had babes of their own, and almost seemed less than what had been required of her during her short marriage due to the others she worked beside.
Her madman entered servitude as well, and was beaten – often – during the first year despite having been wed almost immediately upon entering the Avilius home – into a marriage ordered by Avilius – where they now lived. She found out the situation slowly, piecing together details that anyone would tell her, of what had befallen and caused their internment together: her madman had traded the horse for her that day. Avilius had already paid for the colt, so a theft had occurred. Unlike her idiot husband, her madman had admitted his guilt and accepted the consequences.
He was working harder than she had seen any man do to rectify his fault in the matter, so she ensured he saw the face of his son every day because of that. Because so few men she had met would trade their own lives for a single child, she made certain that the child she loved as her own saw the man who was his father.
Somewhere during that year, her madman’s marriage became forced and unhappy. Many of the other slaves shook their heads in wonderment that they didn’t divorce, as was common in this culture when a marriage stagnated. Rishima counted that commitment to remain married as another quality of her madman. Rather than speak ill of him along with the others, she would simply tend to his meals and ensure his clothes were clean. His efforts made him a husband to be proud of, and the spoilt girl he had been wed to was a disappointment. She moaned about the house and yard, lamenting her fate and crying over no longer being a virgin who could serve at the temple of her choice.
Rishima’s opinion in the matter was not popular, however, so she kept the words in her thoughts from emerging from her mouth. She stored the whispered thanks and quiet praises from her madman in the corner of her heart and worked as hard as she needed to so that he was not punished any further on her behalf. Then, when the expected occurred and his wife began to often spurn him from their bed, Rishima was rewarded with gaining her madman’s attention as well. Their trysts were as hurried and secreted as his praises, leaving no belief that genuine affection was involved, but she convinced herself that shared pride in each other was a longer standing emotion. She’d seen affections waver and fly away many times, but pride in one another held people together.
Very early in their second year of servitude, her monthly bleedings stopped and the sickness from her first pregnancy returned. She was sick only for an hour or so in the afternoons, and for a couple of months rather than the entire pregnancy, but her belly grew rounder with each passing week. Her madman didn’t share in her joy of a sibling for the tiny boy who was quickly growing to be a small child, his concern of one dead wife plain to see, but little Magnus grew stronger with each passing day and Rishima was certain that she would mother this next child as well.
Her own pregnancy was likely half done when the monthly bleedings of Brasus’s wife also stopped. Rishima felt room in her heart grow for that child as well. She was accustomed to the culture of many wives and many children from all of them, but Brasus was the only one in the entire house who seemed to understand that she was excited for this new child – often more excited than he and his wife seemed.
This was a weekly blog updating on Fridays, but life got busy so now I pop in now and then to let you know I'm still chipping away at my stories. If you look back through the archive you'll find weekly 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! Check out my Short Stories section for free downloads of most of my writing, too!