When in Rome - Cover

When in Rome

Copyright© 2023 by FantasyLover

Chapter 7

Aulus’s approach this time was so cautious that he just stood there and threatened me. “Are you going to use that knife or just wave it at me until your arm is so tired that you can’t even hold it anymore?” I taunted, drawing him in a step closer.

“Do I have time to take a nap before you decide to do something? Maybe I could eat lunch while you walk around in circles showing everyone how good you are at waving a knife. Is that how your mother waved a knife at your father to keep him away after you were born?” I continued taunting.

His face was growing redder and redder as the people watching us laughed at him. He glowered at his own men when most of them started laughing, too. Tired of the charade, I timed my move, stepped toward him, and faked a right jab. Because I moved when the knife was to my left, he slashed at me chest high with the knife, slicing from my left to right.

I easily redirected his arm, causing him to miss completely, and grabbed his forearm. Using both his momentum and mine, I set myself and rolled him over my hip. He landed flat on his back with a loud grunt, the knife falling from his grip as he lay stunned on the ground in a heap. I kicked the knife towards my men, pausing until I was sure that one of them picked it up.

“Rope?” I asked another of my men who grabbed a coiled rope from the supplies we bought today for the quarry. While he brought over the rope, I rolled my adversary onto his stomach. Using my own knife, which had remained in my belt sheath until now, I cut a length of rope and tied his hands securely behind his back. Growing up on a farm, you learn to quickly tie knots that stay tied.

A second length of rope secured his ankles and then I tied his ankles and wrists together, leaving him lying there hogtied. I was surprised at the cheering once he was secured. A woman darted out of the crowd and kicked him in the ribs. “My friend’s husband refused to pay Aulus when he found temporary work last month. Aulus and his two men went to their home and beat him until he couldn’t work for two weeks. When they finished, they made him watch while Aulus raped his wife,” she said angrily.

Now I was furious with my prisoner. He just went from being an abusive asshole to being an extortionist and a rapist. When I looked at him again, I could see that he was conscious.

“We used to tie male calves like this and then cut their balls off,” I said in an oversimplification of the actual process. “Cutting their balls off made the bulls more docile. Perhaps cutting your balls off will make you more docile,” I suggested threateningly. His already labored struggle to free himself went into overdrive, to no avail.

“Can you bring your friend’s husband here?” I asked the woman. “Then we can take Aulus to the Magister.” She agreed and quickly rushed off to find him.

While she was gone, I managed to hire forty-six men to work for me, including all the men in Aulus’s gang. I had a feeling that the two who had started to reach for their knives were the ones who had assisted Aulus with the rape and I wanted to keep them close. I also hired twenty-nine men who wanted to train as guards. They were former Samnite soldiers who chose the wrong side in the battles between Hannibal and Rome in the recent Punic War. When Rome won, several cities were punished severely. Often, the city leaders were executed, and many leading citizens were hauled away as slaves.

Beneventum wasn’t one of the cities that allied itself with Hannibal, but enough of the cities and towns in the area did that the unemployed came to this large and still-prosperous city hoping to find jobs.

Aulus quickly tired himself out from struggling and lay there panting and sweating. I went over and checked the knots, noting that they were still tight. As I looked up, three soldiers walked towards us, one wearing the garb of an officer. “Are you Quintus?” the officer asked as the other two men looked at Aulus and smirked.

“I am,” I replied.

“It is good to meet the man about whom I’ve heard so much,” he said, clasping my arm. “Are any of your men hurt?” he asked, looking towards my guards.

“Everyone is fine. The only person hurt was Aulus,” I replied, ignoring the fact that he thought my men had captured him.

“What do you intend to do with him now?” the officer asked.

“I’m waiting for a witness who can testify that Aulus and his men beat him badly enough that he couldn’t work and then forced him to watch while Aulus raped his wife,” I replied.

I could see that the news upset the officer. While women weren’t thought highly of in Rome and had no rights, raping a man’s wife was a serious crime. Women couldn’t even testify in legal proceedings, which is why I needed the woman’s husband to confirm the charges.

The woman had quite an entourage when she returned. “I brought three men who were beaten, along with being forced to watch their wives being raped,” she told me.

“Think we can borrow a cart to carry him over to the Magister?” I asked the officer.

“I’ll send one of my men to summon the Magister. Once he hears who we have, he’ll hurry over. Nobody in the city likes Aulus,” he said, motioning and sending one of his men to bring the Magister. By the time the Magister arrived, the crowd had grown huge.

“Sir, this is Quintus, the man who quarries pozzolana and makes the ingenious crates it goes in. It was also his idea for the women to wrestle in the forum each day,” the officer introduced me.

“What problem did you have with Aulus?” the Magister asked, barely able to stifle a smirk when he saw Aulus on the ground, still hogtied.

“My problem was a minor one, and I dealt with it myself. It seems, however, that Aulus has been causing other problems,” I said as I motioned to the first man who had been beaten and then forced to watch while his wife was raped.

Less than an hour later, after testimony from ten different men, the Magister found Aulus guilty. Since he wasn’t a Roman citizen and his crimes were severe, he was sentenced to death. His two cohorts were convicted of lesser crimes and sentenced to slavery.

“Normally for a crime this heinous, I would sentence Aulus to be crucified,” the Magister said. “Given the pain he inflicted on others, as well as what he did to the wives of these men, I sentence him to die a slow and painful death at the hands of Quintus. The execution is to take place immediately here in the forum so that all present and all concerned may witness it.”

“Sir,” one of the men from Aulus’s gang said to the Magister, “Aulus has two young female slaves chained up in his travel carriage. They will die with no food or water.”

“Can you provide for them?” the Magister asked me.

“Yes sir, I can,” I replied.

“Then I award Quintus all property belonging to Aulus and the other two men,” he ruled, making notes.

I thanked the man for thinking of the women’s welfare and sent him with Marilla and four of my guards to collect the two young women and the travel carriage, as well as the three men’s other belongings. Evidently, all three men lived together. Aulus lived in the travel carriage with the two women and the two men slept in tents outside, although they kept their belongings inside the carriage.

They headed for the low rent district of the city. My four guards rode their horses, forming a protective box around Marilla and the man guiding them to the travel carriage. They had their lances at the ready and Marilla was still wearing her sword, a fact not lost on the Roman officer who had greeted me in the forum earlier. The key to the shackles had been around Aulus’s neck on a thong, which Marilla now carried.

Meanwhile, I thought about Aulus’s fate, mulling over numerous possibilities before finally arriving at a decision. We dragged him to a nearby tree and I looped a rope over a sturdy branch. Then I wrapped it around his knees and several men helped me hoist him so that his knees were elevated but his shoulders still touched the ground.

Carefully, I cut along the seams of his tunic, from the waist to the armpit, and down the underside of each arm. Once that was done, I pulled his tunic off and tossed it aside. I was sure that some desperate family could repair it. His loincloth followed, leaving Aulus naked and thrashing in a desperate attempt to free himself.

For the next half hour, I let the women he raped play with him using stout switches. By the time they finished with him, his body was a bloody mass of crisscrossing purple welts. The women were grinning fiercely, proud of their handiwork.

I gave one of them a coin and she bought salt for me. Aulus was already hoarse from screaming while the women caned him, but he screamed again, sort of, when I began rubbing salt in most of his welts. His scream was more of a hoarse exhale. Realizing that I wasn’t going to handle his genitals, one of the women did it for me, receiving a loud cheer when she rubbed salt into each bleeding weal.

Then I had several men pull the rope again, lifting him completely off the ground. They retied the rope to hold him hanging like a giant ham. I spent several minutes landing blows on his chest and back, blows meant to cause deep bruising. Finally, two sharp blows using the heel of my hand on his chest bruised him even more severely and I felt ribs crack. Several similar blows on the ribs in the back did the same.

Next, I punched each thigh several times, treating Aulus like a heavy punching bag, making sure I covered the front, back, and outside of each thigh with painful, deep bruises. A hard elbow shot to each kidney intensified his pain level and probably started some internal bleeding if the previous blows hadn’t already started it.

By then, I decided it was time to wrap things up. Besides, it didn’t look like Aulus was having fun any longer. In anticipation of this, I had the knives belonging to his two cohorts heating in a nearby brazier until both were red hot. “When we tie the calves up like this, we brand them,” I said casually, more to the gathered crowd than to Aulus as I approached Aulus with the red-hot knives.

His weak but ineffectual struggle began anew, ending with nothing more than a harsh exhale instead of a shriek of pain as I pressed the blades against his chest, searing the skin.

“Then we castrate them,” I explained to the audience as I tied one piece of cording around the base of his ball sack and another tightly around the base of his cock. His quiet groan of pain accompanied the hard yank I gave the cording around his balls. I used his own knife to divest him of his balls, although the procedure was far different than what we did to the young bulls. Those we banded and let nature take its course. In this case, I did nothing to stop the bleeding.

“You won’t need this anymore,” I told him as the blade of his knife sliced once more, removing his offending organ, increasing his rate of blood loss. Yet another cheer accompanied the grisly denouement of his execution. Less than a minute later, there was one less abusive asshole alive in the world. I paid four of the men from his gang to drag his body off and bury it.

Then I found Marilla and the travel carriage. She eagerly agreed with my suggestion to find the baths. When I saw the officer again, I informed him that I was looking to hire retired soldiers as guards or even troops. The men needed to be good archers and had to know how to ride or had to be willing to learn.

“Is this for the new bows that we’ve heard reports of and the saddles you use with your horses?” he asked.

“We’ll be using those, but this is mainly for my private guards,” I replied.

He promised to send anyone he thought of to me. He also suggested hiring Samnites, as they were fierce warriors, but most had eschewed joining the Roman army.

When I left the officer and rejoined Marilla, I noticed that she had the two young slave girls with her. “Balbina, Septima, this is Master Quintus, although he simply prefers Quintus. You will find that he treats his slaves very well as long as they behave,” she explained to them. I was grateful to see that Aulus hadn’t abused these two beauties, and I had no idea how someone like him could afford either two beautiful slaves, or the expensive travel carriage.

My two new slaves joined Marilla in the women’s bath. On the way, numerous men and women made their way over to thank me for ridding their city of Aulus. Each one promised to spread word that I was looking to hire men and widows, and especially former soldiers who were experienced archers and willing to ride a horse using the new saddles.

“I also need craftsmen,” I told them, “including those who don’t have enough business. I will provide them with plenty of business.” I then recited the lengthy list of craftsmen I needed. “I’m also willing to buy slaves trained as craftsmen or pay freemen to work for me.

“I’ll be leaving in the morning for Capua, but I’ll only be there for one day. They can find me there or simply ask for directions to the pozzolana quarry near Puteoli. If they have children, perhaps they can ride in the carts of the man who brings crates of pozzolana here to sell. He seems to make one or two trips a week from Capua and the surrounding area to my quarry.”

I also asked about the presence of any caves in the area known to have bats and learned that there were two. I bought four carts I found for sale, complete with mules. Before leaving the forum, I purchased shovels, cloth bags, and buckets. I assigned eight of the men that I had just hired to load all four carts with the bat guano from the caves and to haul it to the pozzolana quarry.

To start our relationship on the correct foot, I bought food for them and paid them a week’s wages to tide them over. I explained that, if they worked longer than a standard workday, to let me know how much more when they reached the pozzolana quarry and I’d pay them the difference.

I told them that I expected a regular day’s work from each man and would allow them to work longer each day if they wanted to earn extra. I did warn them that I expected each man to take one day off each week, so they didn’t exhaust themselves. I put the man who told us about the two slave girls in charge of the group and assured him that he’d be paid extra for the responsibility.

As they left for the nearby caves, we headed back to camp. The men who stayed in camp had followed Marilla’s instructions for cooking the boar and we soon had enough roast pig for everyone, as well as other food we bought today. The men in camp even had two amphorae filled with boiled water that had already cooled. Many of the men and widows ate as if they hadn’t had a good meal in a while, which they probably hadn’t.

Our empty carts from the pozzolana quarry arrived shortly after we returned to camp, accompanied by the carts filled with crates of pozzolana. Four of Celsus’s trained guards had accompanied our carts. From the confident way the additional guards comported themselves and carried their weapons, I could tell that they had continued their training while we were gone to find the salt and coal.

I walked towards the pozzolana carts, waving, until the man in charge recognized me. He eagerly accepted my offer for them to join our camp, glad to have even more armed men than the eight he had with him. While we ate, I asked if he would keep his eyes open, looking for men and widows who wanted to work, and explained what I was looking for. He agreed to provide them a ride to the quarry and we’d pay him for any food they ate.

Once we retired for the evening, the two new girls were eager to have sex with me. I told them they had to have permission from Antia first. Then Marilla interceded on their behalf. “Antia told me that she would accept any women you chose as long as I agreed. They both want to be yours. I want both of them, and you do want to keep your slave who carries a bow happy, don’t you?” She asked in a sultry voice as she untied the drawstring of my pseudo-jeans and helped them fall to the floor.

Day 111

When I walked out of the tent just before dawn, one of the guards approached, reporting that four more widows had arrived in camp last night, along with seven more men looking for work. The guards said that each of the men seemed serious about the opportunity. None of them had been confrontational or smelled of wine or ale. In addition, fourteen men showed up to train as guards. They brought their own bows and the guards had warned them about the grueling training regimen they would go through.

After thanking him, I found Rufus, the guard who liked to go hunting. With Marilla accompanying us, we went hunting again, returning to the location where I killed the boars yesterday. We took two more guards and all the travois we made yesterday, as well as eight extra horses, just in case.

With two guards waiting near the road, Marilla, Rufus, and I made our way back up the stream. Marilla and Rufus each found a sturdy tree and climbed until they found a comfortable position. When they were ready, I tossed several handfuls of cut up fruit into the area and backed out, climbing the same tree that I used yesterday.

It took a little longer than yesterday for the first boar to make an appearance, but two more followed quickly, as well as six that looked to be part of this year’s litter. Each of the six smaller ones looked to weigh about a hundred-fifty pounds so there was obviously plenty for them to eat in the area.

Once I had the attention of the other two, I signaled to nock an arrow. I nodded and gave them a second to regain their target before releasing my arrow. It took a second arrow to kill my boar, although Marilla and Rufus were successful with a single arrow and each managed to kill one of the smaller ones while I finished off my original target. By then, the rest of the smaller boars had fled back to wherever they had been hiding.

When the guards responded to my whistle, they dragged the five boars closer to the road and loaded them onto the travois. Then we headed back to the camp. Everyone was ready to leave when we returned. We loaded the two smaller animals onto the packhorses to take with us and left the three larger ones with the cart’s drivers, telling them to trade two of them in Beneventum this morning for more food and wine.

Balbina and Septima looked sheepish when I reached the travel carriage to tell them goodbye. “Aulus wanted this carriage to live in so he killed Philotas, our previous master,” Balbina told me nervously.

“Philotas was a wealthy merchant from Abydos who bought expensive goods from the Magadha Empire (India) and the Seleucids, reselling them in the wealthiest cities of Macedon, Athens, and Sparta. After his last trip to Macedon, he returned home and had this travel carriage built. When it was finished, he sold his villa and filled the carriage with gold and silver coins, as well as the rare goods he still had. He planned to sell them when he moved to Rome,” Septima explained. “He was worried about Macedon’s recent attacks and wanted to move away before it was too late.”

“Aulus didn’t know about the gold and silver, or the rare goods, and we didn’t tell him. We knew that he was a bad person,” she continued apprehensively.

“After last night, we wanted to tell you, but you left early this morning. There are hidden compartments in the travel carriage where everything is kept,” Balbina said, gesturing towards the carriage.

“Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me,” I replied, pulling each nervous girl to me, and hugging her. Balbina showed me two hidden releases, the first under the wagon beneath the driver’s box. The second was on the left side of the driver’s box. When both were depressed at the same time, a hidden panel inside the carriage behind the driver’s seat was released. Inside were six bags, securely tied closed. Each bag of coins had sawdust added to it to muffle any sound the coins might make clinking together. The bags were crammed into a wooden box stuffed with rags to help muffle the sound further.

Septima showed me two more releases. One was beneath the rear of the carriage and the second was behind the fold-down bed attached to the inside wall of the carriage. When both were depressed at the same time, one of the floorboards popped up, allowing us to remove six more floorboards. They revealed a hidden compartment filled with silk, ivory, peppercorns, and cinnamon.

Pulling the bags of coins from beneath the driver’s box, three of the bags weighed nearly double the others and I assumed they held gold coins. The three heavy bags each weighed about twenty pounds, which was worth an enormous amount.

“We’ll take some of the silver coins with us to Capua and close the compartments back up for now,” I told the two girls. While my guards helped me load one bag of silver coins onto the packhorses, I let them know that only Balbina and Septima were allowed in the carriage, although children of the widows could ride inside during the day and could sleep inside at night with Balbina and Septima. I told Balbina and Septima to show everything in the carriage to Antia when they reached the villa and to help her unload and store everything inside the house.

With a final hug and kiss for the girls, a uniformed Marilla and I mounted our horses and joined our eight guards and packhorses as we headed for Capua. The carts would take two days to make it back to the villa. We’d be back in three days if everything went according to plan.

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