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.
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