Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Recriminations

‘I can’t believe you just let him take her!’ Calgacus slammed his fist down on the table so hard it even made Senodo wince.
Exuperatus did not flinch and looked the red faced younger man straight in the eye.
‘There was nothing I could do,’ Exuperatus said simply,’ I couldn’t just run out and assault someone working for an Imperial official.’
‘I would have. To save her,’ Calgacus said.
‘That’s because you’re a young hothead and an idiot,’ Exuperatus held up his hand to stop the next protest,’ listen to me, please. I cannot say I was overjoyed to have her here in the first place, but she was a good worker and I’m sorry to see her go…’
‘I don’t think you are helping,’ said Senodo quickly, before Calgacus could explode again. He turned to the young builder.
’Calgacus, calm yourself, please, you won’t help Vita by raging at my friend and colleague here. Life had made us hard. We don’t feel it in the raw way you do, but it doesn’t mean we don’t care.’
‘Speak for yourself,’ Exuperatus spat, ‘I stopped caring about other people years ago.’
‘Will you just shut your smart mouth for once?’ Senodo bellowed.
It was not clear who of the other two men was more shocked. Silence reigned for a moment.
It was Calgacus that spoke in the end.
‘What happens to her now, do you think? Will they beat her? Torture her?’
‘I don’t know,’ Exuperatus admitted,’ depends on whether they think it would be fun to beat a little girl. From what little I’ve gleaned about the man Aquila I doubt it. The soldiers seem to think he is pretty straight. His man… I would not trust him, but I do not think he would go against any standing instructions.’
‘I would guess they would question her, and then hand her back to her master,’ Senodo said sadly,’ that’s when she will really be in danger.’
‘He’ll kill her, won’t he?’ asked Calgacus, his voice hollow.
‘I would,’ Exuperatus said.
‘Exuperatus!’ Senodo exclaimed.
‘What? I’m just telling the truth. Face it. She’s gone. We’re lucky we have not already been raided and carried off ourselves. If it wasn’t for the impending Iceni attack we’d all be nailed up in the Forum by now.’
Exuperatus got up from the table.
‘Right… That’s enough talking about the girl… We need to commend her soul to Hades and get on with our own lives. Which are about to be brutally cut short in a day or less when your savage relatives arrive.’
‘What are we going to do?’ Senodo said.
Exuperatus shrugged.
‘The plan hasn’t changed. We gather together the bare essentials – i.e. my money – and use our escape route out of the city, preferably before the attack hits.’
‘What escape route?’ Calgacus said quietly.
‘The one you said you had arranged. In the bath house construction site,’ Exuperatus snapped,’ don’t play me for a fool.’
Senodo put his head in his hands and shook it sadly.
‘No, it’s alright Senodo,’ said Calgacus,’ let’s make this clear gentlemen. My memory can be vague. Maybe the presence of a certain young girl might help me remember where I have hidden the way out.’
‘Don’t you dare try and blackmail…’ Exuperatus began.
‘But I do dare, Exuperatus,’ Calgacus said, and this time with a grim smile,’ because either Vita goes with us or none of us go. ‘
‘That wasn’t the deal!’
‘The deal appears to have changed,’ admitted Senodo,’ and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to take my chances with British tribesmen caught up in an orgy of triumphal bloodlust. So we at least try and help her, yes?’
Exuperatus said nothing but looked stonily at Calgacus.
‘You’ll regret this boy.’
‘Damn you both to Hades and may the harpies pluck out your eyes and liver.’
‘I’ll take that as a yes.’