It was a dark and stormy night, and Marcus Villius Sextus was sound asleep in his bed. Even the occasional clap of thunder did not wake him. However, he did awaken with a start when a tall stranger sat on his chest. A small oil lamp allowed the slightest amount of light into the room. In the very dim light, Marcus could see the stranger's thin muscular frame as he was stripped to the waist. After a crack of thunder, Marcus smelled the unmistakable odor of blood, and he noticed a shimmer from the crimson color covering the stranger's torso.
"Help!" cried Marcus. "Guards help!"
"Scream all you want," the stranger said in a calm and softly menacing voice.
Marcus stuggled to free himself from under the stranger, but was trapped. "Who are you? What do you want?" he asked.
"You sleep soundly -- like a man without anything on his conscience."
"I have done nothing wrong. Why should I not sleep soundly?"
"Does the name Aemilia mean anything to you?"
"Aemilia? I was acquitted of that."
"Ha ha ha," the stranger laughed menacingly. "While your generosity towards the jurors was satisfactory to them, the gods were not sufficiently swayed."
"From that curved sword over your shoulder, you are clearly not a Roman," replied Marcus. "What would a barbarian like you know of our gods?"
"Do not Romans fight with the non-Romans regularly? Would this not make these so-called barbarians tools of Mars -- the god of war?"
"That is a well rehearsed speech whoever you are," Marcus replied as he briefly increased his struggling.
"The name is Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius," replied the stranger in a whisper.
"Ferrarius? You were never a blacksmith!"
"I let my steel speak for itself," replied the stranger raising his dagger.
"Wait! Wait!" cried the pinned man struggling to get free. "If you spare me -- I can make it worth your while."
"The messenger of the fates will not be swayed by your bribery."
"Then... Then... I will improve my sacrifice to the gods! I can pay! I have resources!"
"Attempting to bargain after your lot is cast will get you nowhere as well."
Another clap of thunder erupted as Marcus attempted to avoid the drawn dagger. He struggled as hard as he could but was completely pinned under the stranger.
"Is there nothing that I can do?" Marcus begged.
"Your hubris brought you to this point," replied the stranger. "Only someone with great hubris would believe that you can bargain with the fates. I assure you that you cannot. Your best bet would have been to humbly accept your fate."
"Wait! Wait!" screamed Marcus. "You are not some god made flesh. You are just a tool of the fickle fates. I must warn you that I am under the protection of Marcus Licinius Crassus. He is a very powerful man, and he will avenge me!"
"Do you think this action was not cleared with him first?"
"Help! Help! Help!" Marcus cried as he writhed to avoid his fate.
The dagger plunged into the throat of his victim, and Gaius said quietly, "The fates are satisfied."
When the assassin was certain that Marcus was dead, he climbed off of him. Gaius took a deep breath and gave a heavy sigh. With this, he picked up the lifeless body and walked into the atrium of the house. As he emerged from the Cubiculum, he noticed a house servant standing there.
The servant asked, "What is to become of me?"
"Your master is dead. In all likelihood, you are now a freedman. You may choose to do whatever you wish."
"Free? That is exciting," the freed slave said in an unsure voice.
Gaius continue to carry the lifeless body towards the entrance at the front of the house. Getting in the way and pointing at the scabbard over Gaius's shoulder the freed slave asked "What kind of sword is that?"
"It is a shamshir. It is the sword of my people," Gaius replied as he continued to attempt to get past.
"It is not straight like a Roman sword. It is curved."
"A straight blade limits length when it comes to drawing the sword. The arm can go only so far away from the body. A curved blade reduces this problem. It still can be long and still quickly drawn."
"Interesting... So, when you killed the guards," the slave asked continuing to get between the stranger and the door. "Why did you not kill me?"
"I had no quarrel with you," replied Gaius with a glare in his eye. "The fates only asked only your master to pay -- and those that would assist him."
"Oh! Say, you are covered in blood -- are you all right?" the slave asked continuing to obstruct the exit.
"The blood is not mine."
"What will you do now?" asked the slave breaking eye contact and looking over the stranger's shoulder.
Gaius threw the body of Marcus Villius Sextus at the slave, turned while drawing his scimitar, and opened up the belling of an armed individual attempting to kill him from behind. The second slave dropped his short sword and attempted to contain his internal organs. Another slash from the scimitar opened up his neck and he fell to the ground dead.
The first slave collapsed under the weight of his former master's body, and was pinned underneath. He struggled to free himself, but was unable.
"I am sorry!" cried the pinned slave. "He talked me into it."
"You were free to choose your path after the death of your master," replied Gaius. "You chose poorly."
"So did you," replied the pinned slave.
The stranger wiped the bloody scimitar on the pinned slave's tunic and returned it to its sheath. Coolly, he pulled out his dagger, and peered over the dead man at the trapped slave.
"I am not a freedman," he responded with a quick thrust to the throat to the slave.
The stranger removed all of the bodies from the house. He laid them out side by side and exposed them to the elements. In this way, the scavengers and insects would have easy access to the dead flesh. Further, anyone passing by would know that a vendetta was served.
Once the bodies were outside, the stranger cleaned himself off with the water in the impluvium. He grabbed his lamp, and did a quick search of the house to make sure his task was complete. When he was satisfied, he grabbed his tunic and returned to his home.
Since Rome does not allow wagon traffic during the daylight hours, the streets of Rome were bustling. There was no solitary slinking away in the cover of night for this assassin. Thus, Gaius had to dodge the wagons and carts making deliveries on his way home from Marcus Villius Sextus's villa. On the other hand, it was not unusual for someone to be out and in the streets at that late hour. Thus, his presence did not raise any suspicions.
He made it back to the blacksmith shop with little difficulty. Waiting for him when he arrived home was a teamster with a load of wood. His crew arose and unloaded the wood after Gaius paid the man.
With this transaction out of the way, Gaius headed up to his apartment on the third floor. He had a very strenuous night. He eagerly made his way to his bed chamber, and disrobed. Wearily he climbed into his bed and quickly fell asleep.
However, his rest was short lived because just after first light he had a visitor. Titus Aemilius Mancinus anxiously entered the blacksmith shop. One of Gaius's servants awoke him, and he met Titus in the main room of his apartment..
"Is it done?" asked Titus.
"There are plenty of other resources to determine this besides disturbing my sleep," replied Gaius grumpily.
"I know," responded Titus apologetically. "I was -- am -- just too anxious."
"Marcus Villius Sextus is dead," replied Gaius.
"And -- his family?"
"The fates smiled upon them."
"What does that mean?"
"They were not at home -- and were spared."
"I want them dead! Dead do you hear me!"
"What would you have me do? Travel the four corners of the earth to chase them down?"
"Yes! I want them dead!"
"You could never afford such an adventure. Further, it was not part of the agreement."
"No!" Gaius said with a raised voice. He took a deep breath and continued in a calmer voice, "If the fates return them to Rome for their own revenge for this incident, I will take care of them. However, I will not go against the wishes of the gods."
"The gods be damned!"
"Watch yourself citizen Mancinus."
"I apologize," replied Titus.
"No need to apologize to me. The fates were kind to you in allowing for the elimination of Marcus Villius Sextus. I suggest you apologize to them and double your offer of thanks."
"You want to be paid double?"
"You misunderstand," replied Gaius in a calming voice. "My fee remains the same; however, you should make a sacrifice to the gods. If you had no thought of giving such thanks, you should make it a big offering or the fates may come after you."
"Are you threatening me?"
"Sextus did not have the resources to protect himself from the fates. Do you?"
"That is all I am saying on the subject. You may leave the remainder of your owed payment on the table and leave me."
"I will not be swayed by your threats!"
"As you wish," replied Gaius returning to his bed chamber.
Gaius did not bother seeing Titus out. Further, he did not bother removing his clothes. He just fell back into bed. However, Gaius did not sleep for long before another visitor came looking for him. Once again he met the visitor in his main room.
"You should not leave such large sums sitting around," began the messenger pointing to several coins on his table.
"Thank you," replied Gaius. "It was payment for a recent business transaction. While we do not often have this kind of money around, it is a part of the business."
"Very good," replied the messenger. "I represent Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus."
"Please send my regards to the Senator. It is an honor." asked Gaius.
"I will see to it. He has a proposition for you."
"He can speak to one of my guildsman for smith work. He does not need to consult with me."
"It is not about smithing."
"I see. What does the senator wish from me?"
"Tragic events occurred during the night at Marcus Villiaus Sextus's villa."
"Tragedy can strike any of us at any time," replied Gaius.
"This was a well directed tragedy."
"As you say."
"A vendetta was carried out on a person under the Senator's protection."
"Sometimes the fates will not be denied."
"Be that as it may, Senator Crassus was greatly impressed by these events."
"What does this have to do with me -- a humble blacksmith?"
"Can I be frank?"
"The senator is a man of much influence, and he knows things."
"Even men without influence know things."
"That is true. In any event, there is fine villa that is now unoccupied," stated the messenger.
"That is a tragedy," replied Gaius.
"My master is willing to offer this villa for certain jobs to be undertaken."
"What does any of this have to do with me?"
"I do not wish to be indelicate. Do I have to spell it out?"
"Obviously, you do."
"My master informs me of certain facts. He believes he knows how you supplement your income from the guild of smiths in your service. For instance, where this pile comes from. In fact, I am aware that your skills are much admired in certain circles. My master wishes to take advantage of these skills. In exchange, he offers you the villa of Sextus for simply accepting his offer. In the future, he will jobs for you to do. He wishes to assure you that it will be very lucrative business for you."
"Why would someone with these admirable skills wish to work for the Senator?"
"Do you not know who he is?"
"Of course I do. Who does not know the wealthiest man in Rome."
"His wealth and influence come with many advantages."
"If I were the one you seek, and I am not saying that I am, what kind of advantages could the Senator possibly offer?"
"I have been authorized to offer you whatever you wish. What advantages are you looking for?"
"Again, hypothetically, would the Senator offer the advantage of not doing a job if this person does not wish to?"
"I suppose within reason that could be arranged, but it would come with limits."
"If this alleged person decided to join you, would you give him the advantage of informing innocents that they should leave so they do not get hurt?"
"I would assume that would not be part of the bargain."
"For such a dangerous undertaking, the only advantage you offer -- this person you are seeking -- is material wealth."
"I suppose that is true."
"Do you suspect Senator Crassus is attempting to be in competition with the fates?"
"You are declining the offer?"
"I am not the person the Senator is looking for."
"You are not the person the Senator is looking for?"
"You can go back to his villa now."
"I will go back to his villa now."
Gaius declined the offer from a very powerful man in Rome. This would have to have influence in the life of Gaius. However, Gaius had been owned once, and he said he would never allow that to happen again. Thus, he showed the messenger every courtesy he could as he showed the messenger the door. It had been a busy day already, and he wanted to see if he could get some more sleep.
With the offer from Crassus's messenger still fresh, Gaius knew that the senator would increase his pressure. Marcus Licinius Crassus was not a man who would accept 'no' for an answer. Thus, Gaius believed that this was a message from the fates to leave Rome for a while. However, he did not know where to go. He needed a believable excuse to leave the city, but he did not have one.
However, before he could go anywhere, he had some business to finish with Titus Aemilius Mancinus. However, he did not wish to be seen going there. Being seen with Titus could put the entire Marcus Villius Sextus incident on public display. Marcus had many enemies, and it was best if Rome did not know who performed this vendetta. It was bad enough that Titus came to his home that day.
Gaius watched the house from a distance for most of the evening. When he was sure Titus was home, and when it was well after dark, Gaius stole into Titus's villa. Titus was fast asleep in his bed when we was awoke with a start as Gaius sat on his chest.
"I do not recommend you screaming," Gaius whispered.
"Who are you? What do you want?" asked Titus in a hush.
"It is your friend Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius."
"Ferrarius? Have the fates turned upon me already?"
"Calm yourself. While I am here on business, you will likely survive the transaction."
Gaius freed Titus of his position under him, and sat next to him on his bed.
"There was a misunderstanding between us that needs to be straightened out," explained Gaius quietly.
"No there..." began Titus.
"I did not mean to imply that you needed to double my fee."
"Please," responded Titus with his hand up. "Let me explain."
"When I went to your place this morning, I had every intention of doubling your fee."
"That is why I had that amount with me. I was impressed with how you handled the entire affair."
"There was no need to pay extra."
"Please. Sextus took everything that I cared about -- my daughter -- and essentially my wife. All I have left is my money, and wealth does not mean anything without my loved ones."
"No! My passions overcame me this morning. You were right. I felt the fates were cruel to me, but they were kind enough to allow me to get my revenge."
"The fates can be cruel," replied Gaius. "They were very hard on me until I went to work for them."
"I was in the moment this morning. I was blind to the good things they have done for me. You showed me the way, and I made several sacrifices to the gods today. In fact, I would pay you even more to give thanks to the fates."
"I cannot accept the excess you paid or any further gratuity."
"You have no choice. I will not accept what I gave you back."
"As you wish."
"The fates have convinced me to move on from this incident. I now plan to remarry, but in the meantime, I am going to purchase some new servants to help out around here."
"Yes, I dispatched an agent this afternoon to travel to Campania to purchase some new house servants."
"Naturally! They have the biggest and best slave market there."
"Perhaps I should travel to Neapolis."
"You should! A freedman like you needs a wife. You should go there and purchase one."
"If the fates permit it... For now, I will wish you a good evening."
Gaius silently made his way out the same way as he entered. When he reached the streets he began humming quietly. His business with Titus was successfully completed. Further, he had a destination and an excuse to travel. He would make the arrangement in the morning, and would depart the following morning.
Many would hire a wagon to travel the long distance to Campania. However, Gaius always traveled on foot. He put his necessities in a bag and slung it over his shoulder. Naturally, this included his dagger and his scimitar. It also included the money he received from Titus. It would go towards expenses along the road.
As dusk approached, Gaius found himself looking for a place to camp. However, an inn sounded quite inviting to him. He approached one that was strangely quiet for this time of year. When he asked about a room, the proprietor acted quite suspicious. Nonetheless, he was shown to a room for the night. Gaius ate his meal alone and went to bed early.
Gaius knew that the fates had brought him to this inn for a reason. All of the signs pointed to it. Thus, he kept his dagger and scimitar with him as he slept. All of his senses were alert as he lied in bed. The slightest sound awoke him. However, he would stay frozen there until sleep would take him again.
It was getting close to dawn when he heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps entering his room. He stayed still listening intently. He calculated that three men had just entered his room. He still remained motionless. One of the men made a grunt just as was ready to jump on Gaius which was his signal to move.
Before rolling off the bed with his weapons, Gaius threw his blanket into the face of the man attempting to jump on him. The blanket in the face startled the man on the bed and before he could do anything, Gaius had his dagger in his left hand and his scimitar in his right.
Gaius worked his way to his feet as the man struggled with the blanket on the bed. Once free, the man on the bed briefly looked at Gaius trying to figure out what had happened. In his confusion, he watched as Gaius thrust his dagger through the man's eye. As Gaius removed the dagger, he put his hand over his eye and began screaming.
With the wails of pain, Gaius rolled over the man in the bed to where the other men stood frozen in awe. In one fluid motion Gaius unsheathed his scimitar and opened up the belly of one of the men. His dagger was in the throat of the other one before either men could react.
While holding his intestines, one of the men looked over as his partner fell down dead. He tried to ask for mercy, but Gaius's dagger was finishing the job that the scimitar started before he could utter a sound. The man on the bed was still screaming about his eye.
Gaius calmly walked over to the man, only to notice that it was the man from which he obtained the room.
"You took my eye!" yelled the man as he saw him.
"You run a terrible inn," replied Gaius as he finished the man off.
Gaius went through the entire inn looking for other patrons. Each room he entered had a story to tell. There were bloody bodies in most of the rooms. The possessions of these travelers were piled in one corner of their respective rooms.
Eventually, he found who he believed to be the real staff for the inn. They too had been brutally murdered. The scene explained a lot of things. It was clear that the fates had finally caught up with these men. Gaius carried the bandits out into the open to expose them to the elements. He might have to explain things a local magistrate, but he knew he had nothing to fear. Further, in the near future, the fates would have something else for him to do.
With the incident at the inn, Gaius had to spend some extra time in the town. Being only a days travel from Rome, it was a bustling little place. There was a government mansiones nearby where official travelers stayed. A magistrate was summoned from this place to investigate the scene at the inn.
The investigation was short, and Gaius was free to leave. However, it took most of the morning. He would not make it to the next way station if he traveled that day, so he would have to leave the following day. For his trouble, the magistrate got him a room at the mansiones for the night. He would not have to sleep in the inn where the murders occurred. However, he had to find something to do for the remainder of his afternoon.
Gaius wandered around for a bit, and found a seat under a tree to rest.
"Are you Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?" a man asked as he took a seat next to him.
"Who is asking?" Gaius replied.
"I know who you are," the man answered.
"Is that so? Who am I?"
"You fought in the Third Servile War on the slave side, and you are now on the run."
"If that were true, the only way you would know is if you too were a slave on the run or a deserter from the army."
"Let us just say that I am acquainted with someone who is one of those."
"Very well, what do you want of this Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?"
"He has skills which would be a great help for me."
"And in return for this help, he gets what?"
"I keep his secret."
"What if he does not agree to your terms?"
"Exposure -- which could lead to his untimely demise."
"Let me make sure I have this straight. If he does this job for you, he gets silence from you, but if he does not, he dies. Do I have that right?"
"In essence you understand the situation."
"And what if I am not Ferrarius? What then?"
"You are him all right."
"I suppose I need specifics of this job in order to make my decision."
"Oddly, the target goes by the name Gaius Cornelius Carrarius."
"It is quite a common name."
"This owner of a small cartwright guild is a barbarian slave on the run like you."
"Fixing carts is a good trade at a place like this."
"Be that as it may, he has dared me to expose him. That is what I was going to do, when I heard you were nearby."
"What does any of this have to do with the job you want done?"
"You are thick barbarian!"
"As you say..."
"For my silence, I want you to permanently silence Carrarius."
"That seems like an awful lot of trouble for a person of such inconsequential importance"
"Do not worry yourself about the nature of the job, are you going to do it or do I expose you to your new magistrate friend?"
"I suspect you want it done tonight."
"You are on the move. It would seem odd if you lingered."
"Since I have no choice...."
"Good," replied the man as he arose and walked away.
The first thing Gaius wanted to do was find out about this cartwright. It should be easy enough. He just walked to the shop and asked for him.
"I am Gaius Cornelius Carrarius. What can I do for you?"
"I just spoke with a man who claims he knows who you really are."
"You go back and tell that scoundrel that I am not leaving. He can crow all he wants."
"I am not here to collect. He sent me to kill you."
"I find myself in a similar position as yourself. If I do not do as he asks, he will make it difficult for me."
"If you give into his extortion, he will just ask for more."
"I am aware of that. This is not my first dealing with such men."
"What do you want from me?"
"I want to know the person who knows your secret?"
"My secret? No one knows."
"There is not a single soul in the area that knows about your past?"
"Not that I am aware."
"Clearly, our friend has a list from someone. He has used his persuasive technique to extract some information from someone - an ex-slave or an army deserter."
"Not a soul here knows about my past."
"There are not a lot of people in the area. Do you know of someone who could be ruined if his secret were revealed?"
"There is Mettius Aedinius Primulus, but how could someone find out about that?"
"Secrets can have lives of their own. Do you know where I can find Primulus?"
"He has a villa east of here. He is powerful in the area, but he certainly does not know my secret."
"Perhaps, but he is my next lead."
Afternoon was beginning to break into evening when Gaius arrived at the villa of Mettius Aedinius Primulus. Mettius was lazily lounging under a tree until he spotted Gaius. At that point, he jumped up and started running.
"Help! Help!" he screamed as he ran and waved his arms frantically.
Gaius watched Mettius run away, and took his seat in the shade. Slaves from the fields came running to their master's aid only to find him being chased by no one. Despite his misgivings, he sent them back to work. Slowly and cautiously he returned to where Gaius was sitting.
"We meet again Primulus," began Gaius.
"Apollodoros -- my old friend. What are you doing here?" asked Mettius nervously.
"There is a name I have not heard for a long time," replied Gaius.
"Do you not go by that any more?"
"Not since the days with Spartacus."
"You were there? My memory is not what it used to be. So my friend, what is it that you want?"
"Someone in the area is blackmailing locals. They are using their secrets to obtain favors, money, influence, and the like. I naturally thought of you."
"I would never..."
"Succumb to extortion? That is not the Primulus that I know."
"What are you going to do?"
"Put a stop to it -- naturally."
"What do you want from me Apollodoros?" asked Mettius Aedinius Primulus.
"I am sure it was you who gave my name out," replied Gaius.
"And, I would like you to return the favor."
"What do I get in return of this favor? No one would believe anything a barbarian like you would say -- especially after I tell them what I know about you."
"In exchange for your information, will not kill you."
"That is a good joke -- you are joking -- right? Right?"
Gaius just coldly stared at Mettius. Mettius began to squirm and sweat began to bead on his face. He was going to try to outlast Gaius, but Gaius knew the coward of the Third Servile War too well.
"All right!" exclaimed Mettius after a few moments. "You win. The man goes by Spurius."
"Is that all you have? No praenomina? No cognomina? How am I to find this person?"
"You do not find him. He finds you!"
"He already has. Now, I want to return the favor."
"Listen -- I spend all my time avoiding him. I have no interest in where he lives or who his friends are."
"And you know nothing about places to avoid."
"He is powerful and has influential friends. They will destroy me or even kill me!"
"You are wrong. A person like this has no friends. His acquaintances will cheer his demise -- not seek vengeance."
"You do not know that. His business could be quite lucrative. He may spread his wealth around."
"Very well," replied Gaius as he got to his feet. "I hope you sleep soundly."
"What? What is that supposed to mean?"
"I will see you around."
"Wait. Is that it?"
"I guess so."
"So it is farewell then?"
"Yes for now," replied Gaius as he began walking away.
"You were satisfied right?"
"What do you think?"
"I really do not know anything."
"If you say so," Gaius said without looking back.
Gaius stopped and looked over his shoulder. "I am listening."
"Do you know that magistrate that investigated your little incident at the inn?"
"Good day to you Primulus. Sleep well."
"You never heard that from me!" Mettius yelled as Gaius began walking away again.
"I do not even know who you are," replied Gaius.
Mettius Aedinius Primulus slumped into the chair vacated by Gaius. Relief washed over him, but anxiety soon over came that. He thought a trip to the country was in order. He began making plans to leave in a few days. If there was going to be trouble, he did not want to be around.
It was dusk when Gaius made it back to town. He wandered around a little bit more, and then went to the mansiones for his evening meal. Gaius had a long day, and a good meal was most welcome.
While Gaius was eating, the magistrate entered. He was shocked to see Gaius eating his meal in peace. The magistrate watched him suspiciously for a few moments before beginning his own meal. He would occasionally look up at Gaius as he ate, but Gaius fully ignored him.
After getting his fill, Gaius got up and went to his room to rest. He had had a long day, and he had a long night in store for him. Thus, he wanted to get in a little rest while he could. At times he heard footsteps outside his door, but no one knocked or attempted to enter. The footsteps would just stop in front of his door, pause, and continue on a short time later.
Gaius rested for several hours and it was well into the night when he left his room. The magistrate peeked into the hall as he left, but Gaius pretended not to notice. Gaius walked outside for while. Unlike in Rome, it was quiet at this time of night. He took a seat under a tree, and reveled in the quiet sounds of the night.
A few hours later, the magistrate was awakened by a man sitting on his chest. He struggled and tried to scream, but Gaius was in full control of him. Gaius had one of his large hands covering the magistrates mouth to keep him quiet. In Gaius's other hand, he held his dagger which he showed to the magistrate.
"I have been doing this a lot lately," whispered Gaius admiring his dagger.
The magistrate struggled, but his struggles were in vain.
"You will listen first, and I will let you say something on your behalf. However, if you try to scream, cry out, or even talk loudly, you will be dead before you emit one syllable. Is that clear?"
The magistrate nodded.
"It has been brought to my attention that you have used people's secrets against them. Further, you have used these secrets to collect other secrets. In this way, you have a large collection of people from which to extort money, influence, and the like. A list in which I was added today."
The magistrate shook his head in denial as best he could.
"In your denial, you have confirmed my suspicions. An innocent man would be confused by such a twisted set of facts. Thus, I want the list."
The magistrate did not know what to do.
"Now, I am going to allow you to speak on your behalf. Do not bother denying the truth of these accusations. It would be a waste of your final breath. However, I will allow you to say anything you wish. Remember, anything above a hushed tone will be quickly squelched. So, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"You work quickly Ferrarius," whispered the magistrate. "or should I call you Apollodoros? Or, do you have other names? In any event, I am impressed with your skills."
"I indeed have many names, but thank you for your kind words. Now about that list..."
"Why would I give you my list? What could you possibly offer me to give you the list?"
"You are right," replied Gaius as he cut the magistrate's throat. "I would have spent my last words on something more repentant -- to each his own."
Gaius left the magistrates room as silently as he had entered. He went out to find the magistrate's cohort, and then he hoped he could still leave in the morning.
Gaius's wanderings around town were not for naught. He used the time to scout various locations. Therefore, in the darkness and stillness of the night, he walked directly to where his tunic hung. He used a nearby jar of water to clean off Magistrate Spurius's blood. The location was clearly a spot where nearby house slaves could clean up. It was perfect.
After cleaning himself up, Gaius needed to find the man that had hired him to kill Gaius Cornelius Carrarius. While in most instances this would be a daunting task, Gaius believed he knew where his quarry would be at this time. Again, his wanderings served a purpose, as he snuck up on his quarry.
"Magistrate Spurius is upset with you," Gaius whispered in his ear.
With a start the magistrate's minion returned, "Where have you been?"
"Is Gaius Cornelius Carrarius not there in his bed?"
"Well -- yes -- but I have been waiting here most of the night. Wait -- why is Spurius angry with me?"
"You did not inform him of your -- er -- cart repair business."
"He did not need to know. How did he find out?"
"He wondered why you were so anxious to see Carrarius out of the way and did some investigation of his own."
"I guess he was bound to find out. Wait! why were you discussing this with him?"
"He too is an admirer of my work. We had a nice conversation over the evening meal."
Gaius was worried about this particular lie. He did not know if anyone was watching them have their evening meal. Anyone watching would know that they had not spoken. However, he had to take the chance. If he could get past this lie, then his story would hold more weight.
"What else did you discuss?"
"Oh this and that."
"We talked about the value of this special list of his."
"What of it?"
"He was concerned that it was not safe in -- uh..."
"With me? He does not think it is safe at my house?"
"He did not really come out and say that as much."
"What did he say?"
"Quiet down," Gaius hissed. "You will give us away."
"Sorry," the man whispered. "What did he actually say?"
"He was just remarking about your new found untrustworthiness, and how he might look for someone he could trust."
"There were no names brought up."
"But he was thinking that it would be safer with you!"
"I said he was appreciative of my skills...."
"I would be glad to be rid of the thing."
"Nothing formal has been discussed."
"No! If you want it, you can have it."
"Calm down," Gaius said attempted to settle the man down. "This can be discussed when I come back through town."
"No! let us go now and get it."
"You said yourself that Carrarius is there in bed. He is not going anywhere."
"I know, but...."
Gaius's plan had worked. The magistrate's associate was sitting on a valuable item, and he was tired of guarding it. He was also upset about the apparent lack of trust with the magistrate. With his cart repair business about to lose a formidable competitor, he would not need the extra income.
The pair went to a secluded spot behind the man's house. There was a few loose blocks in the building's foundation. The man removed a block and pulled out a wooden box.
"This is it," the man declared.
"I do not...."
"No! You will take it."
"Very well," sighed Gaius. "Now, after my next job, I'll need someplace to clean up. I will also need a nearby place to hang my tunic. Do you know of someplace I could do that?"
"My servants wash up over there. There are some water jars you could use."
"Where?" asked Gaius.
The man walked to where a few water jars sat. Gaius removed his tunic and set it aside before following. At this point, the man wondered what was happening. The spot was quiet and dark, so he had not noticed that Gaius had removed his scimitar from its sheath.
"What are you doing?"
"I am preparing to remove a cartier from business."
"Why are you doing that here?"
"I do not wish to soil my clothes."
"Oh! I cannot tell you how happy I will be rid of that list."
"You have no idea."
"The fates have finally caught up to you."
"Do you have any last words?"
Gaius swung his scimitar and it opened the magistrate's minion up from his left to his right side. He stood there in stunned silence as his intestines spilled from his belly. A rush of pain filled the man's entire being. However, before he could utter a sound, Gaius's second swing opened up the man's throat. He let out a gurgling cough, but was unable to do any more than that. He fell over in a heap.
"I would have said something more substantial, but that will have to do," Gaius said with a grin.
Gaius used one of the available water jars to clean himself up. He grabbed his tunic and the box and headed back to his room at the mansiones. He made sure that no one saw him enter his room. He knew he did not have much time before dawn, but he would have a bit of a rest.
Gaius had planned to leave at dawn to give him plenty of time to get to the next way station. However, he awoke just after dawn. Despite the somewhat late start, he had a long conversation with the proprietor of the mansiones. Also, he had a small meal with the proprietor. The man gave Gaius some provisions for the road. The two men said their farewells as Giaus went on his way.
As he left town, he heard a blood-curdling scream come from the mansiones. His handywork had been discovered, but no one came to question him. Perhaps on his return he would speak with his old friend Mettius Aedinius Primulus, and find out what had happened.
In the early afternoon, he stopped and built a small fire to prepare his lunch. The small box and the list made excellent kindling for the fire. It had been a good day for the fates.
Gaius continued his journey southwards on the Appian Way towards Campania. He expected to be away from Rome for nearly two months, so his journey had just begun. The paved roads made the walking fairly easy, but there were other dangers lurking for travelers.
"The Fates have been kind to us," stated a man as he stepped onto the road.
"Aye that is true," said his companion.
The men walked up to Gaius and stood in front of him. They glared at him. Gaius stood there silently as the men blocked his path.
"What is the matter friend? Do you not speak?" continued the first man.
"Yeah, you do not seem too talkative," added his companion.
"All right friend," Gaius finally replied. "I believe you have misinterpreted what the Fates had in mind."
"What is that supposed to mean?" asked the first man.
"Yeah what?" added the second man.
Again, Gaius stood there silently.
"Apparently, he has had enough friendly conversation," the first man said to his companion.
"Friendly conversations make the time go swiftly," answered the second man.
"Okay talkative one," the first man said to Gaius "strip and give us your pack,"
"Be quick about it," added the second man.
Gaius removed his tunic, folded it neatly, and put it into his pack. He held his pack at arms length in front of him.
"You are a smart one then," stated the first man as he took the pack.
Before his companion could add anything to that, Gaius's dagger was in his eye. As he placed his tunic in the pack, he had removed the dagger. He had concealed it under the pack as he held it out. Thus, he caught them off guard.
The first man saw this action, dropped the pack, and began to run. Like a lion, Gaius pounced on the fleeing man. From over the running man's shoulder, Gaius plunged his dagger into the man's heart. He removed it as the pair tumbled to the ground.
The second man remained where he was screaming in agony. Gaius pushed him towards the side of the road. The man remained on his feet, so Gaius walked up to him from behind and slit his throat. He cleaned his dagger off the man's tunic, and walked over to his pack.
He looked himself over, and did not find a drop of blood. So, he removed his tunic from the pack and put it on.
"I do not think I would call that kind," Gaius stated as he walked away from the two highwaymen.
Gaius continued walking for a while before he came to a man on horseback. The rider was wearing a bronze Roman legion breast plate which had seen better days. He was not wearing any other legionary equipment such as a helmet.
"Apollodoros!" the man on horseback called to Gaius as he neared. "I should have recognized your handiwork."
Four men walked out onto the road behind Gaius as he approached the horse and rider. Gaius looked over his right shoulder and then his left to size up the men. He returned his stare to the rider.
"You are a bandit now Horatius," Gaius returned. "You are really moving up in the world. It is you Horatius -- isn't it? I have not seen you since you deserted. In any case, if you begin to run away, I will know for sure it is you."
"You and your slave friends took everything from me!" replied Horatius angrily.
"Like being enslaved was a ewer of joy for us."
"You deserted your comrades," responded Horatius to change the subject. "just like I did."
"Spartacus asked me to guide 10,000 former slaves safely out of Rome. When I returned, it was over. What is your excuse coward?"
"Be careful what you say Apollodoros," Horatius threatened as he lowered his spear towards Gaius. "We have you surrounded."
Gaius laughed at this, stripped off his tunic, and placed it in his pack. The men did not rush him as he unsheathed his scimitar and dagger.
"You have changed your weapon," Horatius remarked.
"This is shamshir. It is the sword of my people," replied Gaius. "I left your sword in the body of one of your comrades."
Horatius was enraged by this comment and thrust his spear at Gaius. The clumsy strike was easily dodged by Gaius. However, he dropped his dagger, grabbed the spear, and yanked it out of Horatius's hands. Calmly, with the spear in his hands, Gaius returned his scimitar to its sheath and retrieved his dagger.
With the dagger safely in his pack and the scimitar sitting on top, Gaius twirled the spear above his head and made a few flourishes with it. He placed the butt of the spear on the ground, and tested to point for sharpness. He just shook his head when he discovered how dull it was.
The four men who had been doing nothing during this exchange decided to draw their short swords. Cautiously, they closed in towards Gaius and Horatius. Gaius stood there unconcerned leaning on the spear.
"Give us your pack," Horatius eventually stated "and we will let you live."
Gaius laughed heartily at this suggestion, and Horatius's men closed in some more.
"I will not ask again," Horatius threatened.
With that, Gaius stopped leaning on the spear, swung it around, and smacked the closest man on the side of the head. That man fell to the ground hard. With another spin, he took the legs out from another man. He pushed the butt of the spear into the face of another man -- knocking him back.
He stuck the spear's point just below the sternum on the fourth man. The third man got another shot to the face with the spear's butt just before the tripped man got a blow to the head. With another sweep of the spear, all four men were on the ground.
"You would not harm an unarmed man?" begged Horatius.
"If you say so," replied Gaius as he thrust the spear into Horatius's throat.
Horatius tumbled backwards from his horse and struck the ground with a clanging thud. With that, Gaius went around and finished off Horatius's men. Once he was sure they were all dead, he checked himself for blood. Once again, he managed to avoid getting any upon him. Thus, he retrieved his tunic and put it on. He slung his scimitar over his shoulder and looked around.
While the two fights had not taken a great deal of time, they did have somewhat of a tiring effect on Gaius. Thus, he decided to take Horatius's horse to the next way point -- perhaps farther. After all, he was just two days from Rome, and he had killed nine people. It was going to be a long journey.
With a horse, Gaius could travel much faster than he could on foot. The down side of traveling with a horse was that it was expensive to stable overnight. However, if he could travel twice as far in a day, it would balance the expense at the end of the journey. However, with the way things were going, that would be a big if. After all the trouble he had run into so far, it was not unreasonable to assume that it would continue.
After Gaius obtained the horse, he made it to the first way station by late afternoon. He had made good time, but he did not want to risk going farther that day. Thus, he made arrangements to spend the night. Surprisingly, he did not run into any trouble at this location. By morning, his former nemesis's horse was well rested to continue the journey.
Just before midday, Gaius reached the next way point on his journey to Campania. There was plenty of time to make it to the next stop before nightfall. Thus, he decided to have a leisurely midday meal at the inn there before moving on. After eating a nice meal, he left the inn to continue his journey.
"Aslan?" a woman asked Gaius. "Aslan is that you? You have not changed a bit."
"Aslan?" replied Gaius. "I have not heard that name since I was a wellid, but I am not Aslan."
"Oh silly me," replied the old woman. "Aslan would have grown old too. However, you are the spitting image of an Aslan I used to know."
"Well, I am not from around here, so I doubt there is a relation," replied Gaius.
"Of course not, neither am I. I knew Aslan a lifetime ago, perhaps I confused you with your father."
"Well, perhaps that is true, but I never knew my father."
"What is your real name?"
"That I do not know either."
"Where are you from?"
"My mother used to speak of an area north of the Black Sea -- but -- I do not think such a place exists any longer."
"Do you know that for sure?"
"I had an opportunity to look for it, but I did not have much to go on."
"What was your mother's name?"
"I only knew her by her Roman name, and I do not even know if she was my real mother."
"So, how did you hear the name Aslan?"
"My mother -- the woman who raised me, used to cry that name out in the night..."
"Can we sit and talk awhile?" asked the old woman.
"Certainly," replied Gaius.
"I do not want to be a bother. If you are going somewhere..."
"Please. It is my pleasure."
While she was only perhaps twenty years older than Gaius, the woman was frail from many years of hard service and ill treatment. The short walk seemed to use up all of her energy. Eventually, the two found a shady spot to protect themselves from the midday sun. The woman seemed relieved to be off her feat even for a short while.
Gaius offered her some wine and some of his travel provisions. At first she refused, but then accepted them graciously. She ate as if she had not eaten in days. Gaius waited patiently as she ate her fill.
When her appetite was satisfied, she said "I am on my way home."
"How are you getting there? Perhaps I could help?"
"I am going the same way I got here -- by walking."
"I hope it is not far."
"Do not you worry yourself. I will make it."
"If I can help in any way."
"When I was a young girl," the woman began ignoring everything Gaius said. "my family raised livestock. We moved around looking for fresh pasture land. My father was quite the horseman. Our livestock would then be traded for other goods. At the time, some of our people prospered in the slave trade with Greece. This brought in wealth which meant there was money to be spent on our stock. We became somewhat prosperous for nomads. My father was satisfied with the way things were. He was not going to get involved in slaving. However, the land was fertile and our animals did well, so there was no need to change."
"That sounds like happy times."
"It was. I was quite happy."
"And then you met Aslan?"
"More importantly, that is where I met Aslan's brother Emre."
"My father started us off with a handsome dowry. Our stocks did quite well. More importantly, no one bothered us. With war and strife all around, we left them alone and they left us alone. We did not have trouble from the Romans, the Seleucids or any of the groups that seemed to cause trouble in the area. However, some people capitalized on these troubles by trading the captives to willing buyers."
"There are always those that wish to make money on the misery of others."
"There was lots of money to be made, but Emre and I stayed out of the troubles. I was going to give Emre a second child when our troubles began. Aslan had just gotten married to Bolour, but his wife's family refused to pay the promised dowry. He cared deeply for her, so he was reluctant to divorce her. Emre and I decided to take them on to help us. We were having a slight problem with bandits, and Aslan's help would be welcome."
"She was a beautiful young thing. With their help, we hoped to double our stocks and give them a good start. With Emre's help Aslan quickly discovered who was stealing our stock. It was a young man from a slaver family -- Bolour's family. The thief's father was enraged over the accusation. The two men showed the man their proof, but his Scythian pride would not believe it. A feud between the families erupted."
"Over some stolen animals?"
"Some people just enjoy conflict no matter how small and no matter what the consequences turn out to be. Late one night, these slavers came into camp and took Bolour and me away. She kept screaming, 'Aslan! Aslan!' Aslan came after us, and they slit his throat right in front of us."
"Did Emre come after you?"
"They had already killed him," she sobbed. "These slavers sold us, and we ended up in Rome as agricultural slaves. I am now on my way back home."
"Scythia is a long way from here," replied Gaius. "Let me help you."
"You already have," replied the woman. "I am home now."
The woman died on the spot. Gaius spent the woman's last moments with her, and they were happy moments.
"Where did you get this horse?" asked a young man as Gaius rode into the next way station on his road to Campania.
"She was given to me by a former associate," lied Gaius.
"I think you stole it!" exclaimed the man.
What could Gaius do? He obtained the horse from a man who was going to rob him. There was no reason to believe that that man obtained the horse legally. Thus, he could very easily be riding a stolen horse. However, he could never admit that.
"I assure you that I did not steal this horse," Gaius explained.
"Perhaps your associate stole it then!"
"That is none of my concern, nor is it yours. However, you can rest assured that if he did steal her, he will never do anything of the like again."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"If I say the man that gave me this horse will never steal again, you can count on that being the truth."
"You killed the man for his horse?"
"Not at all. He attacked me, and I defended..."
"So, he is dead!"
"He was a brigand, and he got what the fates wished."
"And you obtained a horse for free. That is very convenient."
"I would happily abandon this mare and continue on my way if you wish it."
"Oh, you will hand over the horse all right, but you will not simply walk away -- barbarian."
"Stranger, I have no beef with you. If this is indeed your horse, you may have her," Gaius said as he dismounted. "However, tread lightly or you may regret wagging your tongue in such a manner."
"You speak as if you are not a dead man already."
The man drew his short sword and swung it at Gaius. Gaius rushed at the man and the sword completely missed its mark. The man's arm hit Gaius instead. With a quick twist of his body, Gaius grabbed the man's hand and freed the sword. It fell harmlessly to the ground. With a quick push of his elbow, the man was forced backwards. Gaius bent over and picked up the sword.
"Citizen," began Gaius before the man could rush forward "I have no quarrel with you. As I said, if the horse is yours, you may have her. If it is not, leave us be. However, you have forfeited this sword."
The man thought about charging at Gaius to retrieve his sword. He thought it over quickly and decided not to take that course of action. "You have not heard the last of me!" the man said as he ran away.
"I had better have!" exclaimed Gaius after him.
The man did not even take the horse. It became clear to Gaius that the horse was going to be trouble. He could not prove where he got the horse, and he could not prove that it was not stolen. The horse could prove to be more trouble down the road.
Nevertheless, it had been a long journey, and the death of the slave woman saddened him greatly. However, he had given her happy last moments. He was pleased with that. Thus, when he was at the end of the days journey, he was looking forward to a quiet night.
He entered the inn for a meal and a room for the night. The available food smelled glorious when he entered the inn. A hearty meal would hit the spot. He exchanged the pleasantries with the innkeeper, and made the necessary arrangements for the night.
He hoped that the man that confronted him earlier would not find him again. He hoped the warning took hold. He did eat his meal in relative quiet. There were minor skirmishes during the meal, but that was normal for a place such as this. Apart from those incidents that did not involve Gaius, the meal was uneventful.
Unfortunately, after he finished eating, he was accosted by the man from his arrival. With four comrades, the man walked up to Gaius and ordered him to step outside.
"I informed you earlier that our interactions were over," assured Gaius.
"Not until I get my sword back."
"The only way you will get it back is through your heart."
"I do not think so," the man replied waving at his four friends.
"Listen," replied Gaius in an irritated tone. "You do not know me, or what I am capable of. Your pitiful group of friends does not change that. Thus, if you would like to see tomorrow, you will leave me alone."
"If you were so formidable, then you would not be stealing horses."
"You must be hard of hearing, so let me make this clear to you. There was a band of seven highway men pestering travelers on the Appian Way north of here. They will pester no one now. Their leader, an army deserter named Horatius, was upon the horse I acquired. Since him and his six allies would not need the animal in question, I took it."
"Do you expect me to believe that you single handedly killed seven men?"
"You may believe whatever you wish. I assure you that seven is not even close to the most men I have killed in one fight. You have had a taste of what I am capable and survived. Consider yourself lucky, and go home."
"My honor will not allow me..."
"Your so-called honor will result in your death and that of your friends. What good will it be to you then?"
"You will step outside, and prove yourself."
"I have nothing to prove. It is you who wishes to prove something. I wish to have nothing to do with it."
"You are a coward!"
"You should not tempt the fates lest you wish to meet them."
"You speak tough words, but can you back them up barbarian?"
"I fail to see why you wish to have an end of your life at such a young age. Is life here that unbearable?"
"You act as if you will survive this fight."
"No. I act as if I have experience in fighting. Your group garners no interest from me."
"You will fight us horse-thief."
It looked as if Gaius would not be able to avoid fighting the man and his friends.
Gaius did not wish to fight the five men. The leader of these men had been wronged, but he was attempting to right this with the wrong person. He and Gaius were allies in a sense, but the man would not listen to reason. The man wanted to fight someone, and unfortunately he had chosen Gaius.
"Oh cruel fates," cried Gaius. "Why do you test me so? Have I not proven myself worthy?"
Reluctantly, Gaius joined the five men outside. He was still going to attempt to convince them to not fight. However, he had the feeling that his words had little effect on the men.
"It is not too late!" Gaius began. "The fates can still change their minds on your destinies."
"Barbarian!" replied the leader. "Prepare to die."
The leader, who lost his sword to Gaius, waved his hands to indicate the men put their plan into action. The four men drew their short swords. Gaius left his weapons in his pack in the inn. He was going to see what he could do to convince these men that they had no quarrel with him.
Two men rushed Gaius immediately with another rushing in a delay as to not have them all arrive at the same time. The leader and another remained where they were as a reserve. The first two men arrived on opposite sides of Gaius nearly simultaneously.
Gaius side stepped their thrusts just in time. He rushed one man and grabbed his arm. He stepped in front of that man and parried the thrust of the other with that man's sword. With a quick flick, he hit the other man's hand with the flat of the blade.
"Look out!" Gaius yelled as he kicked that man.
The third man arrived and thrust at Gaius. With a block and that kick, the thrust went to where the second man stood. With a twist and an elbow, Gaius relieved the man he was controlling of his sword.
With a wave and a flourish, he relieved the third man of his sword. The second man had his sword tucked under his arm, and was rubbing his hand. He just stood there looking at Gaius. It looked as if he was puzzling on why Gaius just saved his life. The now swordless men moved back towards the group's leader.
The man in reserve pointed his sword at Gaius and cautiously advanced. Gaius glanced between the stationary man and the one advancing. The one rubbing his hand just stood there. Thus, the sword Gaius had grabbed from the one man he threw on the ground by the other sword.
The advancing man cocked his head at this move but continued to advance slowly.
"Get him!" shouted the leader.
The advancing man looked back and gave the leader a stern look. Afterwards he continued his slow advance with his sword out front.
Gaius continued to glance between the two armed men. The one remained standing there puzzling over Gaius's actions. While Gaius was looking away, the advancing man charged. However, instead of thrusting his short sword, he raised his sword above his head and attempted to hack at Gaius from above.
Gaius caught the man's arm on its way down and the force caused him to drop his sword. With a quick turn and a push, the man fell backwards. Gaius picked up the sword and put it with the rest. The man with the sword remained motionless for a moment. He then sheathed his sword, and turned and walked away.
"Where are you going?" asked the leader.
The man simply looked at him and continued to walk away.
"He realized that this was not his fight," replied Gaius. "If you think three unarmed allies are better than four armed ones, we can continue this. However, I do not recommend it."
"Honor says we have to finish this," replied the leader.
"It is finished," replied Gaius. "Honor does not dictate that you all must die -- a victor was chosen."
"I do not feel that my honor was upheld," shouted the man knowing that he was defeated.
Gaius left the swords on the ground and walked over to the men. "I am not your enemy. I vanquished your enemy. If you cannot see that, I will kill you right here. However, I do not wish to."
"Who are you?" asked the man.
"I have been known by many names. The name I go by now is Gaius Conelius Ferrarius."
"We were defeated by a barbarian blacksmith?"
"You cannot judge a person by what they look like or from where they hail. Experience is what shapes a person. While I can handle myself in a fight, I would not wish my life experience upon anyone."
"Okay Ferrarius -- the fight is over. However, you can keep the horse if I could get my sword back."
"Very well," replied Gaius.
Gaius entered the inn where his pack was sitting. He opened it up and retrieved the man's short sword. He walked out with it, as the man's companions gathered their swords and left. He walked over the the man and handed the short bladed weapon to him.
"Did you really kill seven bandits to get that horse?"
"I have no reason to lie about these things," Gaius said before turning around to go back into the inn.
As Gaius was walking back to the inn, he heard the sound of a sword being slowly unsheathed. He gave a heavy sigh, and readied himself.
Despite the man's best efforts, he could not sneak up on Gaius. He clumsily attempted to thrust the sword into Gaius's back, but the experienced soldier easily dodged the attack. With the sword and arm of his foe beside him, Gaius grabbed the sword, twisted it around and plunged it into the heart of the man.
"I was hoping that you would have stained my honor by making a liar out of me," muttered Gaius to the dieing man. "Alas, you got your sword back when I thrust it into your heart. It is truly sad."
The man fell to the ground in pain. The local people did not do anything to apprehend Gaius or aid the man. Gaius knelt down and held the man as he was dieing.
"How would your honor have enjoyed defeating someone in an unfair fight?" asked Gaius as the man breathed his last breath.
Another death on his hands, and Gaius was still a long ways from his goal of Campania. Furthermore, the latest death was causing some difficulties. In front of the standing court, the man's uncle brought an indictment against Gaius charging him with murder. Thus, Gaius would have to defend himself against the charges.
Gaius was placed in custody until his turn in court. He would be taken in front of the local Aedile who would act as judge. The killed man's uncle recruited several people to act as scriptores and they signed the complaint. The inscripto stated that Gaius killed the man without provocation after an argument.
"Magistrate, my name is Titus Sextus Genucius. I am here on behalf of my nephew Titus Decimus Genicius who was brutally murdered by one Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius. It all began with an argument over a horse. My dear nephew had lost a horse to thieves and he accused the mighty blacksmith of taking it," began the testimony of the accuser.
"My poor nephew's first attempt to retrieve the animal in question resulted in him losing his sword to Ferrarius. Later, when he attempted to retrieve the weapon, he got his sword back when the defendant thrust it into his heart. My nephew had no chance to defeat such an accomplished fighter, and lost his life in the attempt to retrieve his stolen horse and his stolen sword."
The three jurors sat quietly as the plaintiff described what happened to his nephew. He also outlined how he would show that the defendant, Gaius, was looking for a fight the entire time he was in town. After he finished his statement, Gaius got a chance to tell his story.
"I am a stranger in this place. I am travelling to Campania in search of help for my smithing guild. The road has been fraught with dangers and hazards. However, the fates in their fickle ways brought me to this place safely. Further, they gave me the mare in question. I do not question their motivations," began Gaius's response to the charges.
"When the deceased threatened me with harm in an effort to acquire the gentle animal, I offered to give him the mare. However, he treated me as if I were a bandit and attempted to take the animal by force. I disarmed him and sent him on his way. On the road, I had dealings with some highwaymen. Thus, I am somewhat experienced in the martial ways and dealing with armed assailants.
"Later, the man and four of his friends accosted me at my lodgings after I finished eating my evening meal. They challenged me to a fight. A fight in which I resisted participating. However, the accused spoke of his honor being besmirched. He would take no other result. The altercation was short, and I left his four companions mostly unharmed. However, in a show of good faith, I offered both the sword and the mare to the man. However, when I returned the sword in question to the Citizen Genucius, he attempted to use it upon me. In my defense, I reluctantly killed the man. In no way did I initiate the fight, nor did I wish to kill the plaintiff's nephew. The fates forced the issue upon me."
With the opening statements given. T. Sextus Genucius brought his witnesses. They were acquaintances of the dead man, and they had various descriptions of the fight in question. It was clear that several of the scriptores, who signed the indictment, did not see the fight in question. Upon cross examination, Gaius easily impeached these witnesses.
The three jurors listened intently to the prosecution's witnesses. Some of them gave a fairly accurate description of the events. However, they would miss key features and gave the benefit to their comrade over the stranger. The dead man had several acquaintances, but it did not seem he had too many close friends. The four that accompanied him on the day of his death did not appear for the prosecution. Gaius found this odd and began searching for the men.
During the prosecutorial testimony, a theme began to emerge. The Genicius family did not know much about horses. It was beginning to become apparent that the horse Gaius acquired from Horatius was not stolen from the individual in question. While Gaius still felt bad about having to kill the man, a different picture of the man was beginning to emerge from the witnesses. An image the uncle did not intend to paint.
When it was Gaius's turn to submit evidence, he did not know many people in the area. Further, there were not too many that would testify against the Genucius family. The family did not have any close friends, but the locals were loyal to the man they knew rather than the stranger in town.
The four men that came to the fight with T. Decimus Genucius were not to be found. It appeared that they were no longer in town. During the prosecution, Gaius looked all over for the men. It was beginning to look like they would not appear at the trial.
After a meager attempt at calling witnesses, Gaius was about to give up when one of the four appeared. It was the man that he saved from being accidentally impaled. Gaius called him to the stand.
"My name is Gnaeus Genucia Agricolus, I am a freedman once in employ of the Genucius family. I can testify that Decimus Genucius never had a horse stolen. In fact, he would regularly accost travelers and accuse them of stealing. Often, he would end up obtaining their horse or obtain a cash payment. This changed when he met the defendant."
Gn. Cenucia Agricolus went on to describe how Gaius was the first person to fight back. Thus, the deceased recruited him and three others to threaten Gaius. However, the plan did not work because Gaius would not frighten. Further, when the actual fight broke out, Gaius easily defended himself. It was Decimus's first defeat, and he was quite upset about it. However, he could not let it rest.
It turned out that the Genucius family had paid him a large sum to leave town and not testify. The former slave felt the Gaius had saved his life. Thus, he returned the money and decided to testify on behalf of the defense.
After the witness was cross-examined, the testimony stood. It did not take the jurors long to decide. Gaius was easily acquitted. He was free to leave.
Gaius had once felt bad for killing an innocent man. However, from the trial he learned that the man was anything but innocent. Gaius's faith in the fates and his trip was restored. He was considering turning back, but instead he pressed on towards Campania.
With all of the incidents occurring along his journey, Gaius was greatly behind schedule. It seemed that every way point, there was another delay. The latest stop which led to some time in court was putting him further and further behind. He had planned to make the 280 miles round trip to Campania and back in a month of traveling. There was no way he could make up that time on foot. Thus, he was going to continue riding the horse. It was the only way to make up the time.
Further, the mare was going to have to be pushed a little faster. While Gaius did not wish to mistreat the animal, doubling the distance he would travel on foot was not going to make up the time. This was particularly true if incidences, like the ones he became involved in, continue to occur. Thus, he would have to pass two way points on his daily journey. Hopefully, the mare could manage the distances.
Fortunately, the journey started off well. Gaius made it to the first way station well before midday. He would allow his mount to rest for a bit before continuing. Gaius entered the inn to rest and hear the latest news from other travelers.
After the rest, Gaius continued his journey; however, he was not going to make up ground today. Between the two way points he was stopped by a large number of armed men.
"Dismount Blacksmith!" shouted one of the men.
"I recognize you," replied Gaius staying on his horse. "You were a companion to Titus Decimus Genicius."
"You are correct. We are here to avenge his murder."
"Murder? The court found it to be self defense and not murder."
"We could care less what your court decided Barbarian."
"Ha! I guess you disagree with what Gnaeus Genucia Agricolus did."
"We were told to make ourselves scarce, and he did not."
"You were paid to make yourselves scarce...."
"As you say, but it just goes to show that you cannot trust a freedman."
"I did save his life from your friend's blade. Is he here as well?"
"As a matter of fact he is. Now quit stalling and dismount."
"I believe it is not in my best interest to comply," replied Gaius frankly.
"We can make you comply. We have you twenty to one."
"Actually, it is twenty to two," replied Gaius. "While she may not look like much, I am sure this mare could whip you in a fight."
"Barbarian, you are pretty funny for a dead man."
"I am far from dead."
The leader waved his arm to approach the mounted Gaius. Gaius pulled on the reigns to turn the mare. She turned so Gaius's right hand was facing the approaching group. While doing this, he drew his scimitar.
The men approached slowly, as Gaius continued to spin his horse. Gaius had his weapon on the outward side in which the horse spun. One of the men got close enough that Gaius landed a blow across the man's face. The man recoiled in horror as the blood steamed down his face.
At this, each of the men stopped their advance. They drew their weapons, and then continued to advance. Suddenly a man rushed in, but was out of Gaius's reach. However, as the man attempted to land a blow, the hind end of the horse pushed the man to the ground. Shortly, Gaius's mount stepped on the man with her front hooves. The man shouted out in pain. The hind legs followed as the mare continued to turn.
The two men who had fought against Gaius suddenly froze with fright. Several of the others continued to get closer to Gaius on his whirling animal. When a man got close, he either felt the sting of Gaius's razor sharp scimitar, or was pushed aside by the animal. If they were lucky, they avoided being trampled. However, many of those were then cut trying to stand as Gaius swung around.
After several minutes of this, seven of the men were either dead or gravely injured. The remaining men encircled the horse and rider, but were out of range of Gaius's weapons. Thus, Gaius stopped the spin.
"Do you give up?" shouted Gaius.
"What?" asked the leader in stunned surprise.
"Oh I know," replied Gaius with a smile. "You have not yet begun to fight. I agree, and it shows."
"Get him..." replied the leader as he was just about to rush Gaius.
The remaining men took his lead and took a step forward and then a step back. At this action, Gaius gave out a hearty laugh.
For several moments the men looked at each other wondering who would make the next move. They had their weapons drawn, but their leader seemed somewhat frozen with fright. Thus, they just looked around waiting for something to happen.
As the men stood there wondering what to do, Gaius whirled his horse around again. He stopped when he had selected a direction that was most free of injured men. Horse and rider rushed the man who stood in this spot. As the stunned man just stood there, Gaius swung his sword and caught the man across his chest. The skin pealed away and blood began to pour out. The man shouted in agony.
Gaius and his Horse turned and struck the stunned man standing next to him. By this time, the inaction had worn a bit off the combatants. Thus, they started to move. They scrambled around looking for a good place to be. As a few of them got close, Gaius started the twirl of his horse again. Hence, the men kept their distance. There were now eleven uninjured men attempting to encircle Gaius.
"Do you still think you can force me to dismount?" asked Gaius.
"You are still outnumbered," replied the leader who was still a bit shaky.
"Well you got me there," replied Gaius.
"It is not too late to give up!"
"The same could be said of you."
"Our honor will not allow us..."
"To admit defeat," Gaius said finishing the man's sentence. "Very well, since you did accept the payment of the Genicia family, we shall finish this."
The eleven uninjured men moved cautiously around Gaius. The remaining nine -- who had various injuries and some had already expired -- were further up the Appian way. They would no longer pose a danger to Gaius. However, the uninjured eleven were a different story. They were wary and on the lookout for what Gaius would do next. Being surrounded by eleven men, Gaius was not even sure what he would do next.
As the eleven moved around Gaius, he countinued to look for an opening. As the men moved around, Gaius slowly turned his horse in a circle. Occasionally, he would switch directions that the horse turned. However, for quite some time, no one made an aggressive move.
The leader of the group would occasionally make some sort of hand gesture. He directed where the men should go as they continued to surround Gaius. Suddenly, as if on cue, all eleven men rushed towards Gaius at once. Instead of his previous tactic of circling on his horse, Gaius just urged his horse to go the direction she was facing. Thus, singling out a sole attacker. That attacker held his ground and was pushed aside by the horse and trampled. He cried out in pain as his leg was crushed by the weighty horse. He was now out of action.
Once again, the remaining scrambled. They believed their advantage would be served if they kept Gaius surrounded, but their efforts kept failing. Now with Gaius free of their circle, they would have to attempt to flank him. Further, they had just lost another man and everything would be more difficult with the fewer number of men. Also, they were no closer to getting Gaius off his horse.
As the men regrouped and moved, they continued to attempt a surround him. However Gaius had no interest in being out-flanked. Thus in an effort to stop his adversaries' tactics, Gaius would charge at a man or group of men. If the men stood their ground, they either met Gaius's scimitar or his horse. Also, they would have to gather up and begin their flanking movement again.
After a few charges by Gaius, most of the attackers got out of the way. Nonetheless, three men fell in these encounters. The leader and his friend, who had seen what Gaius could do, were careful not to be in Gaius's way. Nevertheless, the group was slowly dwindling down. The once mighty group of twenty was now seven.
These remaining men were becoming very wary of Gaius's prowess. Having just watched him dispatch thirteen of their comrades, the remaining were greatly on edge. Their leader was having a difficult time keeping them from abandoning their task. He had doubts on the mission himself.
"If you were not such a coward," shouted the leader, "you would dismount your horse."
"Ha ha! If you were not such a coward," replied Gaius, "you would not have come after me with twenty men."
"At every turn you dishonor us."
"You are fighting for the honor of dishonorable men. I cannot add to this."
The men gathered around the leader, and they had a brief discussion. They had watched many of their friends fall to the martial abilities of Gaius. In Gaius's eyes, it was clear what they were discussion.
"Okay stranger," shouted the leader after the meeting. "we have decided that we will let you go."
"Alack and alas!" cried Gaius. "I am afraid the fates disagree with you."
"What?" they all exclaimed in unison.
"You have watched your friends and perhaps family fall at my hands. Many of you will not rest until you see me dead. Thus, at some point in the future, you will garner more forces to face me. I cannot allow that to happen. No my friends, you must all die today."
At those words, all the men ran. Gaius on horseback could easily track them down. He charged at one man and swung his scimitar across his back. He then turned to the next man running and killed him in a similar manner. One after another, Gaius chased down the men running down the road attempting to avoid Gaius's sword.
In order to avoid horse and rider, a few did not stay on the road. In this way, they finally got Gaius to dismount his horse. The leader of the group was one of the men that abandoned the road. He believed he could travel easier than a man on horseback. Further, he believed he could out distance Gaius once he ran in pursuit. In this way, he prolonged his life. However, no one could escape Gaius's blade completely.
Gaius ran after one man through the hilly terrain just off the road. Around the trees, and up and down the hills the men ran. Without slowing his pace, Gaius cut the man across the back. Down he fell. Gaius turned and went after the leader of the group. After a short chase, Gaius caught up to the man.
"Please! Please!" cried the leader of the group as Gaius approached him. "I will not tell anyone. I promise!"
"Why do people threaten other people's lives with such ease, but grovel for their own when the situation is reversed?"
"Please! I was just following orders."
"Ah! The excuse of the ages! You act as if you had no choices. You act as if you were fighting for the honor of honorable men. You act as if you did not know that the Genicia family were criminals praying on unsuspecting travelers."
"Please! I did not..."
Gaius was going to slice the man open with his scimitar; however, he drew his dagger instead. With a quick swipe, the leader's throat was opened and blood spilled out in great quantities.
"The fates are satisfied," Gaius stated quietly.
Gaius made sure all twenty men were dead. Some of the injured who had not yet succumb to their injuries, he ended their suffering quickly. He made sure that he accounted for all twenty of the men. Even one left alive would gather forces against him, so he had to make sure they were all dead.
When it was all done, he was tired and his horse was tired. Nonetheless, he had to push forward. He could not stay where he was. He needed to make it to the next way station. He would not make up the ground he wanted to on this leg of the journey. He hoped that once he reached the coast, he could make up ground then. However, he was sure the fates had more in store for him.
Gaius had been kept busy on the road to Campania. He was beginning to wonder if he would ever make it. The Appian Way was teeming with travelers and thieves. In fact, he had taken care of many problems, but he had not yet reached the coast. Upon reaching the coast, he would be slightly less than half way through his journey.
He had planned to be gone a month, and he was well behind schedule. Not to mention that every time he had hoped to begin to make up time, something occurred. It would be a struggle to catch up. Gaius was planning on riding hard to make the coast on this day. He arose early, and made it to the first way point by midmorning.
At this stop, his horse was tired and needed some water, so he would have to rest a while. He sat underneath an olive tree while his ride recovered from the morning's ride. He was about to rise and leave when someone approached him.
"I have been following you for quite some time," stated the young stranger.
"Is that so," replied Gaius.
"You make it easy," the stranger added. "There has been a trail of dead bodies for miles."
"What makes you think I am responsible for those deaths?"
"I know!" the young stranger replied confidently. "They have slowed you down enough for me to catch up."
"And you are?"
"My name is Nonus Iuventius Mordanticus. Now, prepare to die."
"Ha ha ha!" laughed Gaius as he continued to sit. "I have no argument with you young one. Now be gone while you still can still walk."
"You have met your match in me Ferrarius!"
"So, you do know me. Well, test your metal somewhere else! You are working in a hotter fire than you realize."
"I have been training my whole life for this moment. I know what I am doing."
"Clearly you do not know enough, or you would not challenge me. For the record, I have not trained since before you were born."
"I am good enough to defeat you!"
"I very much doubt that. You see, every move you know or could ever hope to know, I know how to counter it. Now, if you are fast enough, and strong enough, and you do not make any mistakes, then any fight between you and I could last up to seven moves. I will be impressed if that is the case, which I doubt."
"It will not last that long because you will be dead in three."
"Obviously, you have never killed a man or you would not speak so -- boldly."
"I may have never killed anyone, but I am a match for you."
"Listen," replied Gaius with a very serious look on his face. "I have killed many people, and everyone earned their deaths. Not one of them treated death as cavalierly as you. There are no time outs and no second chances. If you make one mistake against a competent foe, your insides are exposed for all to see."
"I am not afraid."
"You see, that is part of the problem. You should be afraid. You are confident about your own skills; however, you know very little of mine. You do not know how easy or difficult the fights along this trail have been. I am confident that my skills can withstand anything you have to offer. Yet, I am still afraid."
"Stand up and fight!"
"You are not listening. I do not fight -- just to fight. All my fights have purpose. Fighting you will serve no purpose."
"It will serve the purpose of telling people who I am."
"If you went around telling people I am the one who killed Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius, most would ask who?"
"Your reputation is well known."
"You would think so, yet people still try to fight me."
"I can defeat you."
"Even if that were true, it would not help your reputation. Those who had heard of me would speak of how old and tired I was. You would not strike fear into them. Respect has to be earned. The road to respect is long and arduous. There are no shortcuts."
"Get up and fight! Let me worry about the after effects."
"You still do not understand. If we fight, only one will walk away. If you think that I will let you live to challenge me again in the future, you think very lowly of me. If we fight, there is only death. Your death would serve no purpose. Thus, I will not fight you."
"You are a coward."
"Go ahead and spread that around. I will not mind. In fact, it could help me out a bit."
"Is there nothing I can do to make you fight me?"
"Become corrupt and take advantage of average people and the fates may allow us to meet in battle. However, they will likely take you down in some other way, so I do not recommend going down that path."
"If you will not fight, then perhaps you would let me study under you."
"I am not a teacher. Further, at some point you will feel the urge to test yourself against me. That can only end poorly. No, it is best that you join the army. They will teach you what you need to know. Further, your chance of survival -- is by no means assured -- but it is better."
"Very well Ferrarius -- fare well. Perhaps we shall meet again."
"Let us hope that is not the case."
The young Mordanticus walked away as Gaius watched. Cautiously, Gaius got up and mounted his horse and rode off. He hoped that he would not be forced to fight the young man because he saw a bit of himself in the young warrior. However, he would kill him if he had to.
Gaius made it to the second way point without incident. After a brief rest, he pushed on. After a few more hours ride, he made it to the coast. His journey was nearly half over, and he wondered how many more encounters there would be. He was sure he had enough.
The views around Terracina were well known. The area was very much coveted by many wealthy patricians who had villas in the area. Further, there were the famous mineral springs known as Neptune's waters. There were lots of places Gaius wished to see while he was there; however, he was behind schedule so things would have to be sacrificed.
Gaius left at dawn in the hopes of making up some time. He had just begun his journey when he noticed he was being followed. It was a group of six well armed men. When he slowed, they slowed. When he went faster, they kept up. They were definitely not travelers. Without a doubt, they were following him.
There was only one thing for Gaius to do, and that was wait until they made their move. He would know what they wanted soon enough. He would have to be careful. They could be setting him up for an ambush. He would ride with all of his senses on alert. If the soldiers behind him began to close in, he was determined to be ready.
He went along for a while when he noticed two men waiting along the road. The men behind him kept their distance. Nonetheless, Gaius was poised for whatever would happen next.
"Gaius Cornelius Ferrarius?" shouted one man.
"Yes," replied Gaius as he stopped his horse.
"Senator Marcus Licinius Crassus sends his regards."
"If you get the chance, you must return my good wishes to the Senator," Gaius replied as he noticed the armed men behind him had also stopped.
"We shall certainly do that."
"Very good! Then I shall be on my way."
"Not so fast Ferrarius -- or should I say Apollodoros?"
"You can say whatever you wish. No one is stopping you."
"The Senator was hoping that you would reconsider his offer."
"That is very generous of the Senator; however, I prefer the way things currently stand."
"You do not seem to understand the danger you are currently in."
"Apparently not, because I do not see anything dangerous."
"Do you not see the six men behind you waiting for our signal?"
"Those men? They are yours? They do not look dangerous to me."
"You are out numbered eight to one."
"Do not leave my horse out. She is very sensitive about these things."
"To joke in the face of mortal danger shows great hubris."
"I am in mortal danger?"
"The Fates will bring you down because of your hubris."
"I work for the fates. This is something the good Senator refuses to acknowledge. He cannot outbid the Fates."
"He can destroy all that you love."
"No he cannot."
"You feel nothing for the smiths under your employ?"
"Why would I care for slaves?" asked the lying Gaius.
"Do you not care for your dwelling in Rome?"
"Surely you jest! Have you seen that hovel?"
"We can expose you as a runaway slave Apollodorus!"
"You do not seem to understand. The Fates took all that I have ever cared about. Nothing means anything to me now. I do only what the Fates wish. Working for Senator Crassus would require me to stop working for the Fates. This is something I just will not do."
"No matter what you do or where you go, the Senator will track you down."
"I am sure that is true."
"Not to mention that you are an easy man to track. We just follow the trail of corpses that you leave behind."
"It is the nature of things when you work for the Fates."
"We have been instructed to not let you continue without agreeing to the proposal."
"There are two problems with that statement. First, I already said that I would never agree. Second, you are unable to stop me."
Before the Senator's messenger could draw his sword, he and the silent envoy were cut open by Gaius's scimitar. They fell to the ground with a thud.
Gaius looked back at the soldiers that were following him. They looked confused. They had not been given any sign to advance, and the leaders of their group were not longer visible. Gaius decided to ride towards them.
The confusion played into Gaius's hands. With their indecision, four of them rode away from the advancing Gaius. The remaining two were frozen with indecision. Gaius rode between the pair with his sword drawn but across his lap.
With a puzzled look on their faces, Gaius swung his scimitar and sliced them both open. With a few more paces, he smacked their horses on the rear. The dieing men on horseback went galloping off. After several steps from their horses, both men fell. Gaius watched over his shoulder.
The four men that galloped off, obtained their desired distance and turned around. They watched as their comrades fell from their horses. Three of the men drew their swords and charged at Gaius. The remaining man galloped away.
Gaius stood his ground as the three men rode hard towards him. Closer and closer the three men galloped. The mounted Gaius remained where he was. The three men roared at him. Gaius stayed quiet. At the last instant, Gaius pulled his horse to one side. He remained out of reach of the soldier's short swords. However, one man was within reach of his longer scimitar.
That man's arm was cut from his shoulder to his wrist. He dropped his sword and screamed in pain. He pulled on the reins, and his horse threw him to the ground. The remaining men, turned around and watched as their colleague tumbled off his horse. The impact with the ground and his head killed him instantly. His comrades once again charged at Gaius, and once again Gaius stayed where he was.
Both men had their swords in their right hand and the reins of their mounts in the left. Thus, as Gaius sat between the men, only one could possibly reach him with a short sword. Thus, Gaius parried the thrust of the man with the sword close to him and sliced open the neck of the other rider.
The remaining fighter witnessing this, attempted to ride off. However, Gaius took off right behind him. The tired mount was no match for the somewhat rested mare under Gaius. Gaius caught up with remaining soldier and cut him down.
Gaius was getting tired of all the battles with no reward. Thus, he gathered up the horses, and led them to the next waypoint. He made a tidy sum of money when he sold them to the local innkeeper. He was tired, but he decided to ride to the next stop along the way before resting for the day. He was going to be in trouble once Crassus heard the news, but he was not going to worry about that for the moment.
Gaius was beginning to resign himself to taking much longer on this trip than he anticipated. Further, with the threats he had gotten from his last encounter, his place in Rome may no longer exist. Thus, he should not have to worry about his trip taking longer than expected. He was not quite sure what he would find at the slave market in Campania anyway.
His excuse was to find more house servants, and this often implied finding a wife. However, he did not believe that he would actually purchase any slaves on this trip. However, if his shop was destroyed, he might perhaps purchase a smith or two. Nonetheless, his main purpose was to get out of Rome until the demands from Crassus died down. With his most recent treatment of Crassus's messengers, it may be wise for him to stay away longer than planned.
He was beginning to resign himself to experiencing some sort of adventure on a daily basis, when he made it to the first stop without incident. He also made it to the second waypoint without anything occurring. Certainly, something would happen before making it to his goal for the day. He was shocked when he rested at the inn on his final stop for the day, and he did not have to kill anyone. Moreover, he did not even encounter anyone who knew him or wanted to speak with him.
He was quite shocked at that string of non-events. It had been quite a long string of days with something happening, he was taken aback by the uneventful day. He was extra wary the next day. He was thinking that perhaps all his tasks had been completed when a distressed traveler came onto the road.
"Help!" the panicked man cried. "Help!"
"How can I help?" asked Gaius calmly.
"Some men are after me," the stranger replied.
"Why?" asked Gaius.
"I think they want to rob me."
"Is that so."
"Yes. So are you going to help?" asked the man looking around nervously.
"I will see what I can do."
"Great! Lets go!"
"We are not going anywhere?"
"What? I thought you said you would help me."
"I certainly will try, but what does that have to do with getting out of here?"
"They will be along any moment."
"And ... I do not want to be here when they come."
"What does that have to do with me?"
"You said you would help me."
"And I will, but what does that have to do with running away?"
"They will kill me."
"I guarantee that they will not."
"I hope the gods will keep you to that because here they are."
A group of twelve men came onto the Appian Way. Three of them were mounted, but the remaining nine were on foot.
"At last we caught up with you Servius," stated one of the mounted men.
"You best leave," stated Servius boldly. "I am under the protection of this man."
"Step aside stranger," replied the mounted man. "This is none of your affair."
"He has given me his word that you will not kill me. He has sworn by the gods, and he has defeated many opponents in groups larger than yours!"
Gaius looked at Servius with a cocked look of wondering. However, he continued to be silent. The mounted leader waved toward his men, and the men began to flank the pair of men. However, they did not attempt to completely surround the two men.
"You will not bluff your way out of this one Servius."
"We are not afraid of you!" shouted Servius. "We have been in tougher spots than this."
Again, Gaius looked at Servius with a raised eyebrow.
"Why is it that we have never seen you with this man before?"
"We fought together in the war. We were just catching up when you and your men arrived."
"War? Which war?"
"Why the Third Servile War of course."
Gaius stared hard at Servius. Had he known this man before? He did not recognize him, but he could have been in one of the ranks. Most of those that fought, knew him, but he certainly did not know everyone. He was trying to place him as the conversation continued.
"Yeah! Sure! What side did you fight on? The slaves? Were you two both close personal friends with Spartacus?"
"Of course not! We fought under the Consulship of Crassus. The senator will vouch for us."
"Enough of this!" shouted Gaius who now knew that Servius was bluffing. "It is true that I have given my word that you will not kill him. Thus, if you wish to say something -- say it and be gone."
"Your lapdog can speak," shouted the leader of the group.
"You should see him fight! I watched him as he personally killed forty men by himself."
"Get them!" shouted the leader.
The unmounted men cautiously moved towards the two men. They had their swords drawn. The men on horses stayed where they were. Gauis pulled his scimitar and put his horse between the advancing men and Servius. With a flourish of his weapon, the men stopped their advance.
"By the gods, I said you will not kill him!" shouted Gaius pointing his sword at Servius.
Gaius, spun his horse and the men looked towards the mounted men for orders. However, before anything was said, Servius's head was separated from the rest of his body. The body collapsed with a thud and his head rolled a bit away. The men stood there in awe as Gaius wiped his blade off.
"Your hunt for this man is over," stated Gaius. "You may go."
"Do you know who that was?" asked the leader.
"I only met him moments ago; however, his lies did not go unnoticed."
"There is a big reward for his head," replied the leader.
"Then take it with my compliments."
"May I ask your name?"
"No you may not," replied Gaius as he made his way past the men and continued his journey.