When in Rome - Cover

When in Rome

Copyright© 2023 by FantasyLover

Chapter 8

Day 115

I was antsy all morning, wondering what Lucius would decide to do about my challenge. I wasn’t worried about the fight if it even came to that. I was pissed off at Lucius and his sniping at me as he tried to assuage his wounded ego. I needed to embarrass him so badly today that he’d either accept the challenge or he’d quit challenging me, worried that I’d embarrass him even worse than what he might hope to gain from any petty victory.

I was also pissed off because playing childish games with Lucius was not among the important tasks that I had to accomplish in the short time I had to accomplish them.

We arrived at the forum earlier than usual so I could watch for Lucius. He finally showed up wearing a smug grin. At least he had his wife with him, as I had requested.

Stepping into the wrestling arena brought a cheer from the audience. “Good afternoon,” I addressed them. “Before we begin, I am here today to reply to a challenge recently issued me by Lucius. He challenged me to fight against two gladiators this time. It annoys me that a man who showed such cowardice in the face of the Carthaginians and ran home to his mother finds it so easy to challenge other men to fight for their lives.

“To prevent him from doing so in the future, I will accept his challenge so long as he is one of the two combatants I face. He now has a choice of accepting my challenge or showing that he is still a coward,” I said accusingly as I pointed to Lucius. Lucius paled and glared at me.

“Perhaps you would like to change the challenge to fight me alone until one of us is no longer able to continue, instead of a fight to the death--coward,” I offered derisively.

“Fine,” he huffed angrily, “I accept a fight until one of us is unable to continue.”

“Before I allow you to change the terms of the challenge, it will cost you,” I warned. “Because you have annoyed me with this challenge, if I let you alter the challenge, you must pay me 10,000 denarii and let me take my choice of half of your slaves. You must also agree to stop harassing my family and Celsus’s family, and to grant your wife an immediate divorce and return her dowry so that she no longer has to live with the shame of your cowardice.”

I could see that he was seething. His face was now bright red, rage red. I had just reminded everyone about his cowardice in battle, which I’m sure he had hoped people would forget. In addition, I had just put him on the spot in front of the entire town and made him back down. Then I demanded a huge payment to let him save his life, especially forcing him to surrender what he considered his most prized possession--his gorgeous wife.

While he glared at me and weighed his options, hoping to find a way to save both face and his own life, I noted that both Antia and Vibiana were holding a whispered conversation with his wife.

“Fine, tomorrow morning in the arena,” he finally shouted angrily as he turned to storm away.

“You need to grant your wife a divorce, first,” I reminded him. “The Magister is right here.”

Yet again, I was glad that looks couldn’t kill or I’d have died several times during this exchange. Grabbing her arm roughly, he dragged Cassia over to the Magister, making her stumble twice. Only his tight grip on her arm kept her upright as he dragged her towards us.

Ten minutes later, Lucius stormed away, alone.

Cassia grabbed Vibiana and hugged her tightly, openly sobbing in relief.

With my part of the show over, the ladies were finally able to begin wrestling. They even coaxed Vibiana and Cassia into doing the honors of covering them with oil. Both women laughed as they oiled the first two contestants.

Later, outside the baths, Cassia, Vibiana, and Celsus approached me and Cassia and Vibiana hugged me. “Thank you,” Cassia said emotionally.

While the women returned home, I searched the forum, finally finding someone who could supply me with limestone. I ordered a cart filled with limestone chunks. Then I hurried to the pozzolana quarry, not surprised to find most of the employees still working. I told Janus and Marius that I was having a cart of limestone delivered, and wanted it unloaded near the concrete pads that were being made today for the bat guano.

“Yet another thing on my things-to-do list,” I sighed, knowing that I’d have to build a small oven for burning the lime chunks. The quarry seemed just as busy today as before, but the addition of the new people that arrived yesterday seemed to have calmed some of the usual craziness.

Satisfied that I’d caused enough mischief for the day, I headed home, taking time to ride by the various projects underway on my latifundium. I noticed a large group of women and children walking towards us and realized that the families of the farmers from Rome had arrived. Fortunately, when I had looked yesterday, I saw that there were plenty of tents set up as temporary housing, including a large communal dining tent. I rode by the tents anyway to make sure they had enough food, cooking pots, and anything else they might require, making sure they knew their families were almost here. Marc assured me that they had everything they needed for right now.

When I arrived at home, I was surprised to find Cassia there. Vibiana’s acceptance of Cassia had led to Cassia selling herself in coemptio to Celsus. I had expected the three of them to have a long night becoming more familiar with each other.

“I wanted to thank you tonight,” she said in a silky voice that left me unable to protest, not that I wanted to. After she thanked me, the women gave her an extensive lesson in the use of the strap-ons, leaving her completely exhausted and fully sated.

Day 116

After a light breakfast and a short run, followed by a shorter workout to make sure that I was warmed up, I made my way to Puteoli in a procession that included Celsus, Vibiana, Cassia, Antia, Tacita, and Marilla. Celsus and I wore togas. The women wore their silk stolas. Celsus proudly rode next to me while each of the women rode on a pallet carried by Celsus’s slaves. His guards led the procession and my new guards-in-training brought up the rear.

Despite there being no phones in this time, word of the challenge had spread like wildfire yesterday. The road to Puteoli this morning looked like rush hour traffic from my original time with everyone heading into the city to work, except that everyone stepped out of our way.

People cheered and shouted words of encouragement as we passed them. Then they fell in behind us. By the time we arrived at the arena, our procession had become a parade.

Nearly an hour later, someone came to let me know that it was time. Barefoot and dressed in nothing more than the loincloth I wore when I fought Varius, I walked into the dirt arena and the crowd erupted in an excited roar. Once I reached the center of the oval, Lucius entered, dressed the same way I was.

This time the roar was one of disapproval with people calling Lucius names and insulting him. With an irritated scowl on his face, he stalked angrily towards me.

At the signal to begin, the crowd again roared in excitement as I stepped towards Lucius. He lunged at me, trying to tackle me. When I grabbed his wrist with my right hand to redirect him, I realized that he’d coated his body with oil so I couldn’t grab him. Unable to completely stop him from tackling me, I hit him in the side of the head with the heel of my left hand as he ran into me.

Stunned, he fell to the ground with me. I was up quickly and began kicking dirt all over him while he struggled to his feet. After taking a few seconds to recover once he was back on his feet, he tried the same tactic again. This time, I managed to grab his wrist enough to hold on and I fell backwards, catching him in the stomach with my feet and propelling him over me so that he landed hard on his back. Everyone in the arena heard his “oof” as he hit the ground and the air was forced from his lungs.

He took even longer to regain his feet this time, allowing me to kick even more dirt on him to absorb the oil. Once he was on his feet, he began scanning the floor of the arena frantically, finally hurrying towards a spot about a foot in diameter where the dirt appeared to be damp.

The crowd was all over him for stalling as he headed for the spot and started digging with his hands. When he stood back up, the crowd went crazy because he had pulled two knives out of the dirt. I held my hands up to quiet the crowd, but it took nearly a minute. Once they were quiet enough to hear me, I spoke.

“By picking up the knives, you just condemned yourself to a coward’s death,” I shouted. His reply was drowned out by the crowd’s roar of approval.

I could see by the grip he had on the knives that he knew how to use them, although I could have given him a few pointers. Grabbing two fists full of dirt, I waited until he was close and threw both at his face, a second apart. He turned his head slightly, not wanting to lose sight of me, and raised his left arm to shield his eyes.

When he did, I faked a lunge at him, making him swipe at me with the knife in his right hand. I ducked beneath his swing and swept his legs, sending him sprawling face-first in the dirt. He lost the knife in his right hand, but quickly switched the second knife to his dominant hand as he rolled over to face me. By the time he stood back up, I’d recovered the loose knife.

I held the knife in my right hand. After bouncing the knife gently in my hand a few times to assess the weight and balance, I approached Lucius and made a forehand swipe. Lucius countered by stepping towards me once my blade passed him, and slashing with his knife, a move that I countered easily with my left hand, lifting his right arm into the air which left him totally exposed.

His eyes widened in fear when he realized the position he was in and he screamed in pain a split second later when my backhand slash left a deep red groove across his chest. The cut drew copious amounts of blood and even more cheers from the crowd.

While Lucius gawked at the cut, I managed to capture his right wrist in my left hand. With his knife effectively neutralized, I whacked him in the armpit with the butt of my knife, paralyzing his arm like I had with Varius when I fought against him. Using the butt of my knife instead of stiff fingers, and by striking harder than I had when fighting Varius, I had guaranteed that his right arm would be useless for the rest of his, short, life.

When the knife fell from his grip, he tried desperately to dive for it. Instead of the knife, he caught my knee in the side of his head, knocking him senseless for several seconds. By the time he recovered, I had paralyzed his left arm and his right leg. When the realization hit him, he kicked at me desperately, albeit ineffectually, with his left leg.

“I fucked your wife three times last night,” I taunted him. “Tonight, Celsus will be fucking her,” I goaded as he continued to kick at me with one functioning leg.

“I’m glad that you brought the knives. Now, I will own everything that you have. I will be fucking the beautiful slave girls you spent so much money acquiring. What’s the name of your favorite? Oh, yeah, Zilia,” I said, pretending to remember her name. I already knew it because Cassia had told me as many things as she could that I could taunt Lucius about.

“Tonight, while Celsus fucks Cassia, Zilia will learn what sex with a real man is like. I’m going to fuck her every night until she’s pregnant. Until she’s pregnant, she’ll be performing in the forum where everyone can see her beauty and watch one of the other women fucking her every day,” I continued tormenting him. I didn’t intend to do most of that, but he didn’t know that, and wouldn’t live long enough to find out.

Lucius continued to kick at me, but I could see that he was either tiring rapidly or giving up mentally. After an especially weak kick, I grabbed his ankle and stepped close enough to jab the pressure point in the front of his left leg, paralyzing it, too.

With him unable to do anything but squirm and swear at me, I untied and removed his loincloth. Using the ties, I tied his right ankle and ran the loincloth behind his neck. Then, I lifted his left foot, and tied it securely so he was totally exposed to everyone in the crowd.

“Cassia asked me to do this for her,” I said as I kicked between his legs, eliciting a shriek of agony when my foot connected.

“Too bad I didn’t have steel toed boots on,” I thought to myself as he sobbed in anguish, trying desperately to move his arms so he could protect his nuts. I pulled a leather thong from inside my own loincloth. Originally, I’d planned to slip a noose over his nuts and tighten it, leaving it in place long enough to cause serious discomfort, and maybe even sterility.

“Cassia told me that you insisted on giving this to her frequently, even though she didn’t want it,” I said casually as I slipped the noose around his genitals. He howled when I tightened the noose and gave the thong a hard yank.

“Since you wanted to give it to her, I thought I’d give it to her permanently,” I said, continuing to pull on the thong.

“Noooooooooooooooo,” he wailed when I turned the knife towards the thong. His protest ended in a scream of pain when the knife began slicing. The scream was brief, stopping when he passed out. The crowd roared their approval when I raised the thong, still attached to the severed and bloody appendage.

I heard a separate roar of approval from behind me and turned to see that Celsus’s guards had entered the arena. They were shouting, “Woo, woo, woo, woo,” like I’d taught them to do when cheering one of our men who did something special.

The men rushed me, hoisted me onto their shoulders, and walked around the arena chanting, “Quin-tus, Quin-tus, Quin-tus.” The crowd quickly took up the chant. I hadn’t realized that Lucius had been so despised.

Some of the guards found Celsus and the women and joined with the guards who had remained to protect them. The rest formed a knot around me as they headed for the forum with a long parade of people from the arena following us, still chanting.

When we reached the wrestling arena that had been set up for the women, they finally set me down and my women quickly mobbed me, followed by Vibiana and Cassia. Celsus finally managed to reach me and fiercely hugged me. “As you can tell, Lucius was not well-liked,” he chuckled.

I was stunned even further when several wealthy men asked if their wives could wrestle today to help celebrate Lucius’s demise. The women seemed eager to participate so I agreed. I spoke with the six women and warned that the wrestling shouldn’t become fierce enough to hurt someone since we were only providing entertainment.

“And then my husband comes home and entertains me or one of the slave girls,” one of the wives chuckled. I had to find the husbands in the crowd to confirm that they approved when the wives insisted that I do the honors and oil them before their match. Each of them nodded their agreement. Since I paired each wife up with one of our wrestlers, the wives all lost their match. Our girls were more experienced and in much better shape.

After watching the reactions of the husbands when their wives were being fucked with the strap-on, I had a feeling that, if someone would start making and selling them, sales would be brisk. I noticed that most of the wives disappeared quickly with their husband right after their match, and not from embarrassment. Two wives remained behind with their husbands and each brought a young teenage daughter to me offering to sell her to me as a slave.

I was about to refuse the first man’s offer when I saw Celsus nodding vigorously. Antia was nodding, too, although far more subtly. When I saw that the mothers and the two girls seemed happy about the offer, I agreed and a coy Felixa became my slave. The second offer had Tatiana becoming my slave. After thanking the two men, I turned both beautiful young women over to Antia so she could explain our crazy household to them.

“Those two men are sons of Senators. They are very wealthy and well respected in this area. By agreeing to take their daughters as your slaves, you have joined their houses to yours, and through yours, to mine,” Celsus explained excitedly.

We all made the trip to my new-to-me domus (home), formerly the domus that Lucius had owned in Puteoli. It was nicely appointed and was probably one of the larger homes in the city. Felixa and Tatiana said that their families lived nearby. I assured both girls that they were free to visit their families anytime they wanted and didn’t need my permission. Felixa told me that all the neighbors would be happy that I owned the domus now. Lucius used to throw parties all the time hoping to attract new friends but only the city’s indigent attended, and only for the food.

Then we headed for Lucius’s villa that was just outside of town to the west, and not as far from Celsus’s villa as I had feared. The villa was almost as big as Celsus’s was, but not nearly as nicely appointed. Evidently, Lucius spent his money acquiring gladiators to fight for money and beautiful young slave girls to fill his bed.

Marilla addressed the female slaves, explaining what happened today. She made sure they understood that they would all be expected in my bed. When Antia nodded her agreement, I groaned mentally. While they were indoors, Lucius’s female slaves only wore a loincloth and it was much smaller than mine was. So many gorgeous, nearly nude women made the blood rush south from my brain, tenting my loincloth.

When I finally spoke with the gladiators, all six were eager to join my guards as freemen rather than continuing to fight as slave gladiators, even though Lucius had treated them well. They received a portion of the money he made on their fights and could buy their freedom at any time after two years. They could even marry and own slaves of their own in the meantime. The four who were married had chosen to save their money to buy their freedom and the freedom of their wives, who were also Lucius’s slaves.

Whatever else Lucius was doing at the villa, Cassia said that he was doing very well financially, so I told Silvanus, the steward of the villa, to continue what he was doing. When I had more time, I’d review everything. I asked Celsus if Cassia could check on the villa periodically for me and he agreed.

I found four blacksmiths busy in a large shop. When I asked what they made a lot of, one of the men grinned at me. “At least three of us spend all day making nails because somebody around here keeps buying them all,” he teased. I thanked them for helping to keep my pozzolana quarry in business.

I talked with Celsus and Antia. They both agreed that it would be best for us to move into Lucius’s villa until the villa at the new latifundium was complete. The house we were currently using was bursting at the seams with everyone who kept joining us.

5 months later

Day 262

Not even the gentle rocking of the ship or the groaning of the mast and ropes holding the straining sail could lull me to sleep. After the hectic pace I’ve set for the last few months, I had been looking forward to our voyage to confront Philip outside the city of Abydos.

I had felt like a juggler these last months, constantly balancing the time and attention I paid to each of my projects. Thank god, or should I say the Goddess, that the men I had running each business were extremely capable.

The four men I had originally put in charge of the pozzolana quarry were now running it full-time. They were busy hiring, training, and directing the still expanding workforce and their talents had solved many issues before they became problems. Now, nearly every ship that arrived in the port of Puteoli brought lumber, nails, and rope from ports all across the Mediterranean. The majority ended up loading empty crates or crates filled with pozzolana and/or pavers.

A steady parade of carts arrived to pick up pozzolana or pavers, especially with the construction of the new roads in this area. The roads from the quarry to the port and to the new military base were finished weeks ago and the road from the quarry to Neapolis was just completed a few days ago. The engineer in charge of building the road has visited the quarry several times, always thanking us for the pavers and commenting on how much faster this road was being finished compared to any he’d worked on before. He, too, was stunned at the smooth ride on the road and was sure that the city of Rome would soon be repaving at least the dock area and their main roads.

The pavers had necessitated him to use four times as many slaves as normal building the roadbed just to stay ahead of the crew laying the pavers. Before we started providing premade pavers, deliveries of stone pavers were sporadic, depending on how quickly the stonemasons could cut the stones and how close the quarry was. We, on the other hand, were turning out over three thousand pavers a day. Anticipating much more business when the government confirmed how much faster, better, and cheaper our pavers were, we were ramping up production to double that amount.

They had confirmed the benefits of completely filling the narrower space between the pavers, so the mortar was level with the edges of the pavers, which eliminated most of the clatter from carts bouncing over the uneven surfaces. Not only was the new road quieter, it reduced the wear and tear on the carts and was a lot easier on the butts of the cart drivers.

I’m sure you’ve driven over pavers at some point. Imagine that same vibration at a much slower pace while driving a vehicle with iron-rimmed wheels, no shock absorbers, and a wooden seat. It was so noisy along the docks in Rome when we were there that I couldn’t hear myself think much of the time.

My two new latifundia were in capable hands. The farmers from Rome were making the most of the opportunity they’d been given. Their first planting of wheat was growing like crazy and should be ready to harvest soon. Marc had done an outstanding job of running everything and the farmers didn’t even bother holding a second election for steward once they knew each other better.

Severus had done a yeoman’s job with my latifundium. The seeds from the tomatoes that I had coaxed to sprout and bear fruit had been planted and the crop started ripening a month ago. The cotton looked like it would produce a huge crop, as did our grain crops. Broad beans and other common crops that we planted for our tables were already producing bumper crops. The hemp was growing like crazy. I was still amazed that every seed we planted for cherry, peach, apricot, and apple trees had sprouted. The slopes of several craters were covered with those small saplings, as well as with young olive trees and grape vines.

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