Aquila:Rhine River Patrol - A Tribune's Secret
|This article is from the Nova Roma publication "Aquila".|
|Rhine River Patrol - A Tribune's Secret|
|Rhine River Patrol Story Index.|
The Tribune sat in the deep shade of a spreading oak tree with the remains of a sumptuous mid-day meal before him. Lobster shells and cherry pits littered the table and covered the large silver serving platter. Standing close to the edge of the table stood a large flagon half-filled with Falernian wine, while next to the wine stood a pitcher of cool spring water fresh from the spring house under the building behind him. He held loosely in his hand an elaborately carved wooden goblet and he appeared to be in deep thought.
The hot sun beat down on the large paving stones just outside the tree's shade line, but the thick foliage of the aging tree kept all sunbeams from peeking through to either the man or the table.The air in the small but very richly arranged patio was very still. Only the lazy buzzing of the bees in their mud house in the garden's corner broke the silence.
Tribune Mettallus was deeply troubled. His arrangements with the city people in Ostia was in serious risk of being discovered, and he was not sure what action to take to ward off the impending danger. The problem was that twice damned Commadore and his three ships under construction. With the man's arrival and his energetic pursuit of the building schedule, the completion date of the ships in the shipyard loomed much nearer than Mettellus ever thought possible considering his arrangements with material suppliers to delay goods till the last possible moment. This "arrangement" had cost him dear, but it would be worth it, if he could delay the ship's completion by a few months. This would not have been difficult with the old fool that was in command of the base, but this newcomer seemed to be a man driven. Then too, the Tribune's energetic plan to have the ships under construction assigned to the Roman Fleet at Ravenna was rapidly coming apart.
The diversion of those ships was absolutely vital to his plans, since a specialized tactical division of warships under a determined and actve leadership released against the Rhine Delta pirates would be disasterous for them and for his carefully laid plans. The oe bright spot in the present situation was that this newly assigned officer, from all he could ascertain, was totally ignorant of the the present situation, or he was stupid, or he was cunning beyond average considereation. The Tribune raised one dark eyebrow at the thought; the man certainly did not appear to be stupid. Also he was well thought of in Rome for some capture of a cargo in hand by pirates, of some high ranking officer. It mght even have been the Emperor. This much he had learbed from is associates in Ostia. This Commadore now pursued his assignment here in Germania as though his life depended upon the success of his ships!! The tribune smiled a grim smile and thought that his life certainly did depend upon his vessels, in one way at least. He fondled the sharp dagger that lay on the table.
How to deal with this problem, he asked the goblet in his hand. There was no immediate response. Murder the man??? No, murder was such a negative term -- arrange to have him disappear?? -- perhaps; that sounded much better. But there was a definite risk that someone would demand a detailed search for the Commadore, and in doing so discover the whole plan. No, he would have to be cautious in his action whatever it was to be. However, regardless of the terminology used, the man had to be stopped or disposed of if the Tribune's plan was to be completed without a whiff of it getting to the authorities. They were stupid to be sure, but once a problem was discovered they would pursue an answer, unless they could be diverted. He had to decide, and decide quickly how best to deal with this problem. He had already met this Commadore face-to-face once and it was clear that he would not in any way be amenable to joining the plan He appeared to be foolishly honest, and held the corrupt empire government and the apparently insane Emperor in the highest possible esteem. His actions in purchasing the woman slave to save her from a beating that she probably deserved, and facing down a bully-boy twice his size indicated a formidable opponent. He would have to be very careful in the handling of this individual. Very careful indeed!!!
"Your Excellency,"the words brought the Tribune abruptly out of his dark thoughts.
"I told you that I was not to e disturbed you fool!" the angry Tribune spat at the speaker, fingering the jeweled dagger where it lay on the table. This response was directed to a small Greek slave who was plainly terrified of this Roman officer in his spotless uniform.
The slave stood stock still, his eyes on the slowly turning dagger in the Tribune's hand. "Your servant has indicated most strongly that his message is of great import, Your Excellency," the frightened man replied shakily, bowing low before the angry officer and dropping to one knee.
The Tribune twisted hs face in irritation at the interruption. "Very well, show the man in and be damned quick about it," he said as he slammed the dagger on the table. The trinune's irritation at being interrupted was very evident from his furious words and gestures. The little slave flinched at the bang of the dagger on the table, scrambled to his feet and fled through the patio archway. A moment later a long shadow fell across the flagstones, in front of the table, and the Tribune turned in his chair to greet a tall raggily dressed man with a heavy beard. "This had better be good," growled Mettallus through gritted teeth.
"Oh, I think you will be very pleased with this information," was the smooth reply.