Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Interrogation

‘Thank you for finally giving up trying to cripple my right hand man,’ Aquila noted drily to the short haired girl that sat opposite him.
Castor had suggested that it would be safer to have Vita bound, but Aquila thought that was unnecessary. It was not so much that the fight had gone out of her; more that she seemed calmer now. She almost seemed curious in what was going to happen next.
‘Why have you not taken me back to Miletus?’ Vita asked.
Aquila thought for a moment before replying. He tried not to smile. Normally when under interrogation by an Investigator people turned sullen and unresponsive or otherwise started to beg. Instead, here she was expecting him to justify his actions.
Well, Aquila thought, let’s try a direct approach and see where this goes.
‘I wanted to talk to you first. Magistrate Miletus has spent a lot of time and money tracking down a runaway slave.’
‘He’s a fool,’ Vita said,’ he could have had any number of girl slaves for what he spent on finding me.’
‘Ah. But you see, girl,’ Aquila leant back on the garden bench and folded his arms behind his head,’ Miletus is not a fool. There is something about you that is special. Now,’ he unfolded his arms and leaned forward,’ what might that be… perhaps you have a special talent in the bedroom?’
Vita blushed.
‘I’m a virgin,’ she said simply.
Aquila just nodded.
‘Where do you come from, girl? You are a bit pale in colour for the locals here.’
‘Mother was of the Brigantes,’ Vita said,’ that’s all I know about her.’
‘That’s a long way to travel,’ Aquila raised an eyebrow,’ this place is a long way from the cold North.’
‘I told you, I don’t know why. I always assumed that she was following the army as a lot of women do that. They’re hoping for somewhere to settle down with an old soldier. To get some level of social status somewhere warmer in the Empire. A lot of women are very dumb. ’
‘I think desperate is probably a more reasonable explanation.’
Vita shrugged.
‘Sir,’ said Castor’s voice from behind him,’ Sorry to interrupt but I have some disturbing news.’
Aquila turned.
‘Go on?’
Castor said nothing but gestured at Vita who was watching intensely.
‘I wondered if you minded me speaking about the bigger situation in front of the girl,’ Castor said, ‘I am not sure she needs to know.’
‘Oh just get on with it. I haven’t the time for protocol at the moment.’
‘Very well,’ Castor sighed,’ the good news is that Paulinus has returned with the legions.’
Castor coughed.
‘The bad news is that they are not going to defend the city.’
‘According to my sources they are holding their positions further up the Watling Street to maximise military advantage. They’ve given up on Verulamium, sir. They are leaving it to burn for the good of the province as a whole.’
Aquila thought for a moment.
‘Very well, we will leave at once. My Imperial pass will get us past the guards on the gate.’
‘I would prefer to tie up the loose ends here first, sir. Don’t worry about me. I have my own, more unofficial, arrangements for exiting the city before the mass slaughter begins.’
Aquila turned to Vita
’Well, you heard him, girl. We are about to be attacked by blood thirsty members of your own people. We have very little time and I think that I now have run out of patience.’
‘The Iceni are not my people – any more than you are,’ Vita retorted.
‘Indeed… So I guess that if you want to live you need to tell me what you know. Stop being evasive,’ Aquila sighed,’ or I’ll have to let Castor here play with his knife. But believe me, despite his skill, I’d rather avoid that.’
Vita suddenly looked a little pale.
‘I saw… documents. When Miletus took me into his bedroom there was an iron chest that was open. He shut it quickly… I don’t think he wanted anyone to see what was there,’ Vita paused,’ it was then I hit him on the side of the head with a Household god and ran for it.’
Behind Aquila, Castor began to chuckle at this.
Aquila ignored him.
‘What did the documents say?’
‘How do I know? I’m a slave, and a girl. I cannot read.’
‘What did they say, Vita. If you cannot read, why would Miletus be at all concerned? So stop lying and tell me.’
Vita sighed.
‘It was a mixture of documents, but some of them certainly looked like accounts, money lending agreements – that sort of thing. The numbers were large ones.’
‘As you suspected, sir’ Castor said.
‘Hmmm. Hearsay is not good enough. I need those documents. Castor, see to it.’
Castor came past Aquila and stood in front of the girl. A knife was loosely held in his left hand. Vita tried to recoil but here was no where really for her to go.
‘Vita,’ Castor said calmly,’ you have a choice. I will take you back to Miletus and you can get those documents for my employer here,’ he laid the knife gently against her neck, ’or I slit your throat now. What is it to be?’