Home » Uncategorized » Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Sacrifice

Scenes from a Roman Taverna: Sacrifice

‘But we cannot go without them,’ Senodo said as they moved through the town towards the construction site and a way out.
‘I know,’ Calgacus said,’ but we don’t even know they are alive, let alone whether they will know go to the baths. We were supposed to meet at the bar, remember.’
Adeodatus said nothing. He did not feel part of this story.
‘I should leave. Perhaps go to the North Gate,’ the boy said.
‘You will be killed,’ Senodo said,’ I do not think that is wise. Come with us, lad.’
‘But as a deserter my life would be forfeit,’ Adeodatus moaned.
‘Think of it as a strategic withdrawal. Matter of perspective,’ said a dry voice from the dark,’ most of my life has been spent repositioning things to stop me going mad or to get myself out of trouble. Having a variable sense of perspective is a wonderful thing’
The voice was quickly followed by Exuperatus stepping out of the shadow.
A bundle of young girl virtually knocked Calgacus flying.
The whirlwind then went onto leap up into Senodo’s arms, who managed somehow not to burst into tears. Neither of the two men was able to react to Vita’s embrace in anything other than silence and grins.
‘Right, that’s enough emotion,’ Exuperatus snapped,’ Calgacus, where is this much vaunted escape route of yours? Because we need it, and we need it now!’
Calgacus stopped grinning.
‘Thank you Exuperatus, I didn’t think…’
‘You usually don’t. Now shut up and show us the way out. We can talk about payment for the girl’s life later – when you have gotten us all to safety.’
The smile faded from the younger man’s face.
‘Very well, follow me, all of you.’
The small group jogged cautiously through the increasingly ruinous town. The Iceni attack had set most of the city ablaze and any moment they expected to meet an armed party. Those with swords kept a firm grip on them. But as they got close to the construction site it seemed much quieter.
‘No one lives here,’ Senodo said sadly,’ there’s no one to kill or rape or stuff to loot here. We should take advantage of that, I suppose. You have thought well Calgacus.’
The bad news was that the construction site itself had caught fire.
‘That’s not good,’ Calgacus admitted,’ I don’t think they fired this place deliberately. I think it has just spread to the scaffolding.’
As they watched, a section of the partially built bath house collapsed under the weight of the burning superstructure.
‘That hasn’t taken out our escape route has it?’ Exuperatus asked. His voice was level, but his eyes were a little wild.
‘No. But the rest will go soon. Follow me.’
Calgacus led the others down into the basement of the bath house and with a grunt pulled open part of the paving.
‘Just as well we are doing this before they got to lay the mosaics,’ he said,’ first one in. Crawl in a straight line between the pilae stacks and you’ll come to a clay blocked hole. You should be able to punch your way through. I’d like Vita to go –‘
Exuperatus had dropped into the hole and they heard him crawling along the rough floor, moaning about his knees as he went.
‘Damn him,’ Calgacus muttered.
‘It’s alright,’ Vita said,’ I promised to hold Senodo’s hand. He doesn’t do small spaces well, remember?’
‘Then go now.’
‘No,’ Senodo said,’ please, you and this boy go first. Vita will go in front of me. I promise on the souls of all I love that she will get through.’
Calgacus grimaced.
The girl was right, she had promised.
‘Very well, Adeodatus – get going.’
The boy looked confused.
‘But I… My oath to the Emperor…’
Calgacus thought quickly.
‘I order you to protect this girl. She may have information important to the safety of the empire. Now go. Make sure the exit is safe for us.’
The boy looked pathetically grateful and disappeared down the hole.
Calgacus kissed Vita and shook Senodo’s hand.
‘Follow me as quickly as you can before this all collapses in on us.’
And he followed the legionary.
Senodo looked at the dark hole in the floor with dread. Vita, seeing this, wrapped her tiny hand around his.
‘Come on. I’ll lead you through.’
Gently she led the big man down after her into the labyrinth of the hypocaust structure, down through a channel formed of the piles of tiles that held up the floor.
Their progress was slow. Ahead of them they heard noises that suggested the exit had been found and this spurred Vita on. She pulled encouragingly on Senodo’s hand.
‘Come on. We’re almost there.’
They were most of the way through when the burning scaffolding finally collapsed and took the floor and most of the floor with it.
Vita could not help but scream as the hypocaust collapsed.
Then she opened her eyes. She was still alive.
Senodo had let go of her hand and the reason for both that and her survival was obvious. The big man had braced his body against the floor above and he was the only thing now holding it up.
He looked at her with eyes full of sadness and yet, she was sure even in the darkness, there was a strange half smile on his face.
‘Go little one,’ Senodo whispered,’ I cannot hold this for long. I could not save my daughter, but I can save you. Give me peace, Vita.’
Her head told that she had little time and, and she reluctantly followed it. Blind from dust, the dark and most of all her tears, Vita scrabbled frantically along the remaining feet to the rough hole at the end. Reaching it, she threw herself through as the floor finally collapsed behind her.
Senodo closed his eyes. He was so tired.
He felt the touch of a girls hand on his face and thought for a second that he had failed and Vita had stayed with him.
‘I’ve missed you so much, father,’ Arduinna said.
Grinning Senodo reached out to embrace his daughter in his huge arms.
He would never let her go again.


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