The Adventures of Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius
The Old Friend Incident - Part II
By Douglas E. Gogerty
Gaius asked around about his friend's owner. His name was Tiberius Pomponius Velus, and from most reports he was a fine upstanding plebeian citizen. That was a problem for Gaius. If this man was an honest hardworking citizen, Gaius would have qualms about killing him. Even if it cost his friend his freedom. However, Gaius knew that appearances could be deceiving.
A completely different picture unfolded when speaking with Tiberius's slaves. Each spoke of his cruel nature. Every one of them remarked on how quick to anger he was. They all told tales of incidents where they were nearly beaten to death. To his fellow citizens, Tiberius was a man of honor and dignity, but to those poor unfortunate souls who were owned by him, he was a monster.
Nevertheless, this was quite common in Rome. Most agricultural slaves were regularly beaten. This was particularly true since the war against Spartacus. Many masters wished to prevent another uprising by being even more cruel. It was the nature of things. However, was it enough to warrant death? Tiberius was not acting that differently from the other Roman citizens. If Tiberius's actions were enough to warrant death, then most Roman citizens deserved to die. Gaius was not about to take on the entirety of Roman citizenry.
It was obvious that Gaius would need more information to go through with the assassination of his old friend's master. If Gaius were to believe that the Fates wanted Tiberius dead, Gaius would have to know about some dark secret not easily observed. There was no easy way to determine this in the given time frame.
Thus, from what he had observed, Gaius was not going to be satisfied that the Fates wanted Pomponius dead. Thus, he began making his way to where he was scheduled to meet his old friend. He was going to tell him that he could not do the job. However, before he got there, someone met him in the street.
"Are you Ferrarius?" the individual asked.
"I am called Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius," replied Gaius.
"We need your services," the man stated desperately.
"I am a guild master -- not a smith. You could never afford my services."
"Please," begged the man.
"I will come, but I will make no promises."
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank You!"
Gaius followed the man to a large estate overlooking the ocean. There was a pile of pots, pans, and cutlery on the ground.
The man pointed at the pile and said, "Could you fix these?"
"Hah!" laughed Gaius. "You could never afford my services, but in an emergency I would consider helping. I would never consider this work an emergency."
"But you are a smith..."
"I purchased my freedom long ago, so I would never have to smith again," Gaius lied. "There are local guilds for this type of work. You should contact one of them."
"But my master..."
"Your master had better make a deal with a local guild," interrupted Gaius. "There are guild rules that need to be followed. I cannot help unless a set of guidelines are met. Fixing tableware is not permitted."
"My master is -- in -- a disagreeable position -- with the local guilds."
"Sadly, that is no concern of mine."
"But could you not help us just this once?" begged the man.
"No," replied Gaius firmly.
Gaius turned around and began to walk back to the center of town. As he walked away, he heard a disturbance behind him. He turned to see someone beating the man who had brought him to this estate. Presumably, this was the slave's master punishing him for failure to procure someone to smith the damaged kitchen equipment.
"Hey!" yelled the man.
Gaius continued walking.
"I said hey!" called the man again.
Gaius continued walking.
"I am talking to you barbarian!" shouted the man.
Gaius continued walking. However, this time the man ran up to Gaius and grabbed his arm. Reflexively, Gaius stepped behind the man. He freed his arm, and put the man in a headlock in a smooth quick motion.
"What can I do for you?" asked Gaius calmly into the man's ear.
"Why have you not fixed that pile?" the man asked.
"I am not a slave," replied Gaius. "More importantly, I am not one to be bossed around."
"I will have your head for this," threatened the man.
"Excuse me?" asked Gaius.
"You should not handle someone of my import in this manner -- you freedman barbarian."
"You are correct," replied Gaius as he snapped the man's neck. "You may now tell your friends what they should do to me."
The man's lifeless body tumbled to the ground as the slave stood there in shock.
"He should not have accosted me," Gaius explained to the slave.
"You were well within your rights," replied the slave in astonishment.
"There will be questions," sighed Gaius to no one in particular.
"No one will miss Tiberius Pomponius Velus," replied the slave.
"What?" asked Gaius.
"I said no one will miss Tiberius Pomponius Velus..."
"That was Pomponius?" asked Gaius.
"That was him. The world became a nicer place today. Thank you."
"It is what the Fates wanted," replied Gaius coldly.
"I guess so."
"Tell Caprimulgus that his planned worked," Gaius stated as he turned to walk away.
"As you wish."
"Also tell him to never speak to me again," Gaius stated over his shoulder.
"It will be done."
Gaius believed that he had been tricked into killing Pomponius. It seemed clear that Pomponius's hubris was out of control. This was the type of thing the Fates regularly called upon Gaius to take care of. Thus, it was clear in Gaius's mind that it was what the Fates wanted. However, being brought to this conclusion in this manner was not to Gaius's liking.
"The Fates will have their way," stated Gaius as he left Formia.
The local magistrate had heard the story, and Gaius had been cleared of any wrongdoing. He was free to continue on his journey towards Campania. However, Tiberius Pomponius Velus left provisions in his will for the continued use of his slaves. Caprimulgus and the rest were not freed. They continued on in their positions under Tiberius Pomponius Velus's younger brother, Sextus. In this way, Gaius believed that the Fates punished both the hubris of Pomponius and the trickery of Caprimulgus.
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