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!