‘How did you find us?’ Calgacus demanded. It sounded hollow as he said it but he felt he had to take back some control.
‘Do you think yourself so clever? I’ve been tracking people all my life since I was a child. It was usually with an aim to relieve them of their valuables… So I have my methods,’ Castor grinned, ‘although this time I confess I saw you leave, but lost you in the woods. I’m a city man really.’
Calgacus noted now that Castor very deliberately placed himself the side of the room furthest from Exuperatus. It felt like the man was putting significant distance between himself and a potentially dangerous beast. The man was no fool.
‘What do you want?’ the old Gaul demanded coldly, his eyes following the newcomer and his hand inside his clothing, making no real attempt to hide the weapon he was holding under the fabric.
‘Why, sir, to thank you for killing an enemy of the Empire!’ Castor said cheerfully,’ and I am fairly certain it was you, Gaul. Miletus was a perverted little snob with ideas above his station. Not only was he embezzling left, right and centre, he had some interesting plans on changing his status in society.’
‘I don’t understand,’ Vita said. Castor looked at her and thought about what he now knew. Yes. It could be true. The girl was certainly precocious, and had the air of someone who could get used to being obeyed.
‘Ah, my dear, it is fairly simple. He fancied I believe to make himself a king.’
‘Rome has no kings!’ Adeodatus exclaimed.
‘No. It just has mad emperors,’ Castor laughed,’ but still loyally spoken, even for a deserter.’
Adeodatus flushed with shame and hid his face.
Castor looked back at Vita.
‘What do you really know about your mother, Vita?’
The girl thought for a moment.
‘Nothing really… She was a Brigantes, that’s all I know. Came south looking for a marriage but ended up as a slave. She never talked about the past.’
Castor noticed that Vita was trying unsuccessfully to hide something. He felt excitement building.
‘What is in that bag, girl? Show me!’
‘Now wait a minute,’ Calgacus began.
‘Shut up, boy.’
Castor pointed to the leather bag that Vita was still holding protectively to her chest.
‘Do as you are told,’ Castor sighed, calmer now,’ please. It is to your advantage.’
Castor could tell from the expressions that they had not expected him to say that. Good, he was still in control. The girl looked up at Calgacus for permission. Keeping a close watch on Castor the builder nodded slowly.
Vita took out the torc from the bag and placed it around her neck.
Calgacus did not hide his surprise.
‘That must be worth a fortune. Did you steal it?’
‘No!’ Vita protested,’ it belonged to my mother. It is mine.’
‘And you know, I think it is, too’ Castor said, tapping a document he had pulled from his own tunic.
‘Among the various records your former molester kept on his financial dealings I found this. It is a letter to the leader of the Catuvellauni. It requests that your mother is to be treated with due respect considering her status.’
There was silence for a moment.
‘Which was?’ Vita asked.
‘I don’t think that the intended recipient ever saw this,’ Castor went on,’ I think Miletus somehow intercepted it. Without it, your mother had nothing. Miletus controlled her.’
‘Please Castor,’ Vita asked again,’ who was she?’
Castor looked at Calgacus who had been gradually looking more and more aggressive. The agent decided the game – or at least this game – was now at an end. He had not come here to fight.
‘Your mother was the youngest daughter of the chief of the Brigantes. She, like you, Vita was a princess. I think Miletus wanted to take her as a wife and challenge for that status as a client king; when you mother inconveniently died, he considered doing the same to you.’
‘I’m not sure I would have made you scrub the floors quite so much if I had known I had employed royalty,’ Exuperatus said, eyebrow raised.
Vita ran her hands down around the curve of the torc.
‘What do you want, agent?’ Calgacus demanded.
Castor rested his chin on steepled fingers and looked at Vita.
‘Well… Although I do not have any interest in Miletus and his egotistical plans for grandeur I see grounds for considerable profit here. And you lot have nothing else now- no homes, no bar, nothing at all. I think you will agree that this little girl is something of an asset to all of us.’
‘So?’ Exuperatus said,’ what happens next?’
‘Well, I am up to suggestions,’ Castor said,’ but I think a trip North appears to be in order, don’t you think? I do love family reunions.’
And that is it… For now at least (well after 25K words I think I deserve a rest). Since my Open University module is now in full swing, proper essays will have to take the place of more fun stuff for a few months at least. But there is a long way to travel, and Roman Britain is a dangerous place. G.