November/December 2758 auc

Fr. Apulo Caesare C. Popillio Laena consulibus

Certamen Petronium

Five Roman Boats

Roman Town Houses

Mines and Quarries

Ancient Roman Travel Series

Rhine River Patrol

Recipe, Columella's Preserved Turnip

Philosophy Efforts I

Public Virtues: Nobilitas

"Aquila" Editorship




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Rhine River Patrol

Marcus looked first at the horrified look on the woman's face, and then followed her pointing finger. There hidden by the brush was the outline of a man' foot and leg. Marcus quickly brushed aside the ground cover and listened carefully at the man's chest. He heard the faint pulsing that his past experience and his command surgeons had assured him were signs of life. Marcus got his arms around the limp body and lifted him upright. As he did so, the man's head lolled against his own, and he caught just the briefest breath from the injured man across his cheek.
As he moved the man toward the horses the man groaned fitfully and Marcus could clearly see that the man's right arm was severely injured.
The heavy blood smears on his arm and ragged tunic told the story of the injury and the attempt to stop the blood flow. The mud pack that had been in place had flaked off probably from the fall in the brush, and the arm wound was now fully exposed. It was a nasty looking wound and one which may well cost the man his wounded limb. The muddy ring matched the splashed mud on the tunic, but the deep grey muck on the sandals indicated that the man had been involved in two different muddy areas.
His clothing being little better than rags might indicate that he was simply a poor itinerant farmer or laborer, but the good leathern pouch around his shoulder and the handsome sword-knife at his belt belied either of those possibilities. The man had the look of a slave about him, lean to almost starvation, slenderness even though his bones appeared to be heavy, and the heavy calluses on hands and feet told the story of hard work, and little nourishment.

If he was a slave, why was he alone out here far from the city or any farmstead?? Why was he armed -- unless -- unless he had acquired the weapon and the pouch at the cost of someone else's injury or life. That made it serious, really serious for the possibility tainted anyone associated with the man. Marcus was wondering at all this as he moved toward the horses with his burden, thinking hard about all the possibilities of this new discovery.

The woman however, for the first time since he had met her, seemed to take an interest in something. She dabbed at the man's mouth with a wetted rag from the canteen on her saddle, and attempted to wipe away some of the filth on the wounded arm. As she finished with those tasks she said in a determined voice looking at Marcus squarely." Help me get him into my horse," she said virtually making the request an order. Then the woman astonished Marcus by lowering her eyes, and adding, "Please Commander!" This so surprised Marcus that he almost dropped the limp body. She addressed him a second time by his rank and said Please! This had not happened previously, and Marcus thought that there is something definitely going on here!

"Just where do you propose that we take him," asked Marcus skeptically.

"I propose," said the woman mimicking Marcus' tone of voice,"To take him back with us to my room. This man needs help, he is hurt and looks exhausted as well. If you will not help me, I will do it alone." Her determination was very apparent in the sound of her voice.

"You are not thinking very clearly at all," said the Commander, still holding the man in his arms. "We know nothing about him, where he came from, or who he is. He may well be a runaway slave and if he is with that knife in his possession he is automatically under a sentence of death!!"

The woman looked at Marcus thoughtfully for a moment weighing his words, and then apparently coming to a decision, she reached over and
removed the man's knife from his belt. Holding the sword knife between her fingers she reached across and slipped the blade under the Commander's belt. "There ," she said with satisfaction, "he is no longer armed. Now will you help me or do you think to leave this poor man here in the brush to die?"

"No, of course not," returned Marcus angrily,"however the things that I have mentioned are nevertheless important whether you realize them or not. This is Rome. There are laws here, and we are possibly about to break several of them. Keep that in mind woman, as we may well regret what we are about to do!!!"

The woman looked down in submission and maintained her silence. Again Marcus was surprised, as this was not the woman's normal response to being corrected or cautioned.

"Here, you take his injured arm and try to protect it as much as possible, while I will try to lift him into the saddle," said Marcus as he shifted his hold on the man's body to a more secure one. The woman took the arm gingerly and held it as Marcus heaved the man up straight, and then with his hands under the man's armpits hoisted him high. Holding the man against the side of the horse, which thankfully stood firm, he maneuvered the man's leg over the saddle. "we should tie him in place so that he will not fall," said Marcus balancing the man carefully
between the points of the saddle and across the horse's withers. The horse
simply stood very still during all this and grazed at the green grass at the side of the road.

The woman immediately took the hem of her tattered cloak , and skillfully ripped a strip from the garment, holding it out to Marcus. "Will this be enough," she asked evenly. "I will tear another strip off the hem of my gown to tie his feet under the saddle."

Marcus was about to object, but then seeing the woman interested in something for the first time since her recovery from her wounds, he simply
nodded silently, noting this action for further consideration, and using the strip of cloth tied the man securely in the saddle. Taking the second strip of cloth from the woman after she ripped it from her gown he tied the man's feet as well.

I still don't like the idea of taking this man into town, If he is recognized we could well be----------."

The woman interrupted him by flinging off her cloak and throwing it over the man's head and upper body. Then she looked again at Marcus now clothed in only her slave's ripped singlet, and said firmly,"If we simply say that one of your servants," she spat the word out contemptuously,"took ill on the road, and has a severe chill, that will get us to my apartment!!" The woman's emphasis on the word "her" was very evident.

"Very well," said Marcus,"lead off. You will have to lead your horse, and I will follow."

"Yes," said the woman, looking up at Marcus as he mounted his horse, "I am quite used to performing a slave's work."


Marcus rolled his eyes heavenward in frustration, and kept the angry retort behind his teeth. The woman was finally interested in something and seemed to have some sort of goal, even though in pursuing the goal he had a feeling that they both were entering into a situation which would not be simply dealt with by getting the man some medical assistance.
He fingered the sword-knife in his belt. Perhaps some patience at this point would lead to a better understanding between them. Marcus looked at the woman's straight back as she marched off leading the horse with it's unknown and unexplained burden. He would go along with this to see where it might lead, as he also was curious as to the story this wounded man would have to tell, however, he thought, it certainly will not be easy, nor he thought darkly not particularly wise in the Roman world. He settled himself in the saddle for the ride back to town, drawing the sword-knife from his belt, and slipped it into the javelin quiver fastened to the rear of the saddle. No sense in being too conspicuous
he thought.

The trip back to the city was uneventful. They encountered no traffic on the road, and Marcus was tempted to try once again to gain some information from the woman.
He rode forward until his horse was matching the woman's pace.

"See here," he said gently to the woman,"we really cannot continue this calling you woman or slave. I need to know your name." He nodded to the unconscious man on the horse. "If you intend to help him back to health he will need to know your name, as well, and he will also have to understand that we are his friends. This silence between us will be disruptive to him, as he will not understand. He will, at best, be confused when he awakes, and will sense the tension between us. So, I ask that despite your apparent dislike of me that we put aside our differences, and act as though we are at least comrades."

The woman looked up at Marcus as she strode along and listened intently to what he had to say. When he had finished she thought for a moment,
and said, "my name is Stella, and my home was in what you Romans now call Germania Minor before the Romans came. My sister and I were taken captive, and the rest of my family was killed in the battle for the village. The village name is of no interest to you as it was completely destroyed in the battle. My sister and I were sold on the slave market, and the oaf who bought me tried to have his way with me. That is how you found me." Tears welled up in her eyes and she stopped in the middle of the road, and began to sob.

Marcus dismounted quickly and not knowing quite how to deal with thisnew development took the woman's hand. Surprisingly she did not object.
Marcus said very quietly, "I know that you have endured much, and I know that you resent being a slave. However, I suspect what you do not know is that I resent having a slave almost as much as you resent being one. Considering our current situation there is not a great deal that can be done about that situation at the moment. However, I need a
housekeeper. I will pay you a fair wage, and that wage can be banked against the purchase of your freedom. Your privacy is your own, and your body is your own. I promise that I will not violate either."

The woman looked up in surprise and her tear-stained face almost smiled. " Perhaps I have been too hard, and perhaps I have wronged you. If you will keep your pledge then I will gladly enter your service as a housekeeper. I now thank you for your many kindnesses Commander."

Marcus stood holding her hand for a moment, and he suddenly was struck with the realization that this woman was quite beautiful. The thought bothered him and he thrust it out of his mind. "Very well," he said gruffly, "we will continue on that basis you shall have your own apartment in my establishment and you will have this position with me. You must however, agree not to try and run away, until we can straighten this out, and deal with the Roman laws by which we are both bound." He squeezed her fingers gently. Stella looked down at the ground, and she said very softly,"I agree, you have my pledge as long as your pledge holds true." He thought he felt just the tiniest return of a squeeze from her hand before she withdrew it gently from his own. " We should continue now, I think," said Stella, as she turned away and again began
walking toward the city.

Marcus remounted mumbling to himself. Things just got better he thought, at least he hoped so. Now all we have to do is find out what we have in this unknown man, and maybe, just maybe I can get back to my duties with the Squadron. We, he thought,-- why am I now thinking in terms of we, he wondered gloomily. He tried to put that thought out of his head, but the picture of Stella's tear-stained face kept coming back to his thoughts. He shifted uncomfortably in the saddle. This is ridiculous he thought. She is, after all, just a slave. However, that
assurance to himself didn't seem to help very much.
They arrived in the center of the city at near dusk. They drew no obvious attention, as the city dwellers were used to seeing citizens whose intake of wine inhibited their ability to walk. So the townsfolk
greeted the small cavalcade with a few smiles as they entered the town, but the curiosity that they feared, did not develop.

Marcus took the lead now and moved directly to the military fortress just outside of the civilian vicus. There in the military offices and his apartments he would feel more secure.

The only person who took any particular notice of the group as they moved toward the entrance to the fort was a laborer sitting on a large stone just outside the West Gate. He was slowly eating his evening meal and beneath his lowered eyelids he missed nothing of what was going on around him. He took particular notice of the man on horseback who he recognized as the Navarch of the squadron of patrol ships then a-building in the shipyard. He took particular notice also of the covered form of
a man on the second horse. As the group stopped at the gate, the workman stood and walked slowly back into the city.

Marcus hailed the gate sentry and asked him to alert the surgeon that he had an injured man that he was bringing in. One of the guards immediately ran off to notify the medical staff. When the trio arrived at the entrance to the hospital, there were two large orderlies waiting with a litter, and a younger man, that Marcus recognized as one of the
junior surgeons.

The young man stepped forward eyeing the still form on the horse. "May I be of some assistance to you Commander?" Stella immediately froze at the sight of this new authority and looked to Marcus with pleading eyes.

To be continued


© NovaRoma 2005
editing by
Marcus Minucius-Tiberius Audens
designed by
Marcus Philippus Conservatus and Franciscus Apulus Caesar

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