inspired by "la forza" (THE STRENGTH) by Alba2 Rossini
Setting: Rome, about 100BC, immediately following the civil war in which Gaius Marius seized control of the city in a bloody coup. We begin in the ludus (gladiatorial training school) of Domina Zhusa and Dominus Waynium of the House of Jura, on a market day in early spring.
--- Begin ---
Domina kicked Svenius as he lay cowering on the floor in front of her. What a pathetic slave he was. Surely Dominus could have bought a better house servant in the market. Alas, with the recent civil war and its excessive drain on the family coffers, there was little enough money as it was, yet alone sufficient funds for high quality slaves. "Finish the preparations for tomorrow's feast. When Senator Trybillatus arrives to bestow patronage on our ludus, I want everything to be ready. The House of Jura must be worthy of the honours that the Senator will bestow upon us." With that, the Domina turned and walked back to her chambers, her house maids following.
Svenius waited until the Domina was out of sight before rising. Though he had no fear of her, he knew that her husband, his former lanista, would readily have him executed if the feast was not up to his high standards. The auger had predicted that tomorrow would be an auspicious day, so any problems with the ceremonies would be attributed to Svenius' failure, not the gods' displeasure. However, the preparations had been underway for many days and there was little that could go wrong. Just to be certain however, Svenius decided to pay a visit to the Vestal Virgins to ask for a blessing.
It was a warm and mild day and the Senate was not sitting, so the forum was lightly filled with advocates and money-lenders plying their trades. The wind blew softly through the columns and pillars, mixing with the low murmurs of voices and gently concealing the soft thumping of Svenius' sandals on the cobbled roads. As he arrived at the Temple of Vesta he was fortunate to find Lilliana tending the Goddess's flame.
"Hail Svenius, Defeater of Theocoeles! What brings you to the temple of Vesta?"
"Ah, good Lilliana, I come seeking a blessing. I wish to seek the Goddess's favour for the festivities I organise. "
Lilliana smiled -- a coy smile hinting of deeper thoughts and more significant purpose. Her eyes lingered on Svenius' well muscled body, lightly scarred from his many gladiatorial bouts within the arena. In his day, Svenius was a man to be feared, "The Brother of Death" as he was sometimes nicknamed. Now, having earned his freedom, he had lost none of his trim and powerful physique. Lilliana reached out and took his strong masculine hand in hers. "Come Svenius, let us retire to a private chamber to ask the Goddess for a blessing."
--- Several hours later, back at the ludus of the House of Jura ---
The Clitorian Guardsman thumped hard on the oak door of the ludus with the pommel of his gladius. "Open in the name of the Consul Insatius Morporcium Magnus." Inside, the house servants scurried around as the Dominus strode forth to see what was happening.
"Open the doors, you fools. The Consul is coming here. Our house has blessed with a visit by his greatness. We are truly in the favour of the gods." The servants opened the doors and 12 guardsmen marched in, lead by their Primus Pilum. In these days, with the threat of violence still strong, the Consul had taken to using guardsmen to replace his traditional lictors. Following the guards, the Consul strode in, clad in his purple-bordered toga praetexta.
"Dominus Waynium, I come seeking your house servant, Svenius. It has been discovered that he has defiled the Goddess Vesta by having congress with the Vestal Virgin Lilliana." His voice resonated throughout the ludus, carrying his tone of displeasure so that all knew of his anger. "My daughter Lilliana has been seduced by the gladiator and must face the ritual punishment of burial alive. Svenius is to be tried by the Ordo Equestor for his actions, though I would not investigate too thoroughly if he was to come to an accidental demise prior to that. I am here to apprehend the criminal and take him to the see the Urban Praetor, and failing that, to require that you do so, as my appointed agent, before the setting of the sun tomorrow,"
Waynium nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Yes Consul, your will shall be done. I do not believe that Svenius is within this domus, so I shall have him apprehended immediately upon his return."
"Good. Bring the scoundrel to trial and your life will be spared. Fail in your task and this ludus shall be burned to the ground and all who live within it crucified, whether slave, freeman, or Roman." And with these words, the Consul strode out, his guards following in their two files.
--- Outside the city walls. ---
Svenius and Lilliana trudged along, cloaks pulled over their heads, backs bowed beneath heavy baskets of grain. They had posed as a country farmer and his wife, returning home after coming to the city to purchase cheap subsidized Sicilian grain. Following the oxcart of the family in front of them, they shuffled down the Via Appia towards Pompeii at the base of Mount Vulvius. Where they would hide they did not know, but the city was no longer safe for them and they needed to flee.
--- May be continued ... ---
Domina and Dominus: The Mistress and Master of the house.
Ludus: A school where gladiators are trained.
Lanista: The Dominus of a Ludus -- a trainer of gladiators.
Auger: One who studies portends to determine if the "signs" are positive or negative.
Vestal Virgins: The 6 priestesses of Vesta, Goddess of The Hearth and Family.
Clitorian Guard: Legions were not permitted within the city, so a small force devoted only to Rome served as the police, riot squad, and army within the walls. Later replaced with the Praetorian Guard in the days of the Emperor.
Gladius: A short sword used primarily by infantry or gladiators.
Primus Pilum: Literally, "first spear" -- A Centurion responsible for at least a cohort of men.
Consul: In the days before the Emperor, two consuls were elected annually as the head of the government.
Ordo Equestor: The knights -- powerful businessmen who were not members of the Senate.
Via: A road, such as the Via Appia along the west coast of Italia.
Urban Praetor: The senior elected magistrate of the city's courts.