It had been almost a week since Pliny the Elder had told Breul about the upcoming visit of Vespasian’s sons; Titus and Domatian. Breul now stood on a slight rise overlooking the area his men and wives now called Sellinium in honor of his wife. He smiled as he saw the now thriving group of houses with ever increasing families, Lucius and Alypin now ready to become husband and wife as well. With this feeling of home bursting inside he walked down the rise to his home, Selina and his family.
Later that evening Breul and Selina were sitting out back, little Basilius at his mother’s breast feeding hungrily and Jennet in her father’s lap twirling his hair as she so loved to do. Julian and Justinian were out front playing with Philo and Cato while Atia and Darius watched with Quintus now in Darius arms.
When all finally retired for the evening Selina lay in her husbands’ arms her head on his chest and one leg in between his. He had his arm around her and leaned his head to kiss her one last time deep and long before they would drift into peaceful sleep.
“I love you my wife, you alone have changed my life in so many wonderful ways.” Breul said to her as her head slipped back to his shoulder.
“Breul my love you and our children are my life. Know this husband my life is what is now wonderful.” She answered him and she closed her eyes.
The following morning Breul and his men with the three boys made their way into Misenum and their current project. As usual now passersby would slow and look at what the men were working on some would wave, some would just continue on. As the crew was stopping for Prandium another group of people neared the project but this time it could be seen that both Pliny the Elder and Younger were with them. As they got nearer Breul could see that they were accompanied by Titus and Domatian. Breul and Jovian both stood up immediately before the party was in front of them and greeted them formally.
“Admiral Pliny, Pliny the Younger and Honored Caesars you are most welcome at this rather disarrayed site we are working on.” Breul said to the entire group.
“I doubt that it is as disarrayed to you as it is to those of us not quite as accustomed to this entire demolish and then rebuild process. We but know the results we have seen you and your men accomplish time after time.”Titus said before anyone else could speak.
“Breul , you mind showing us all around? “ Pliny the Elder asked.
For the next hour Breul showed the entourage around explaining the overall plan and the stage at which they were. Jovian had bid his pardon and was working with the crew as the visit went on. Breul took great pride in introducing his twins and Jovian’s son Philo to Titus and Domatian. Once Pliny was ready and had praised Breul and his men purposefully the group left the site.
“I am sure there will be one expensive feast at the house of the Pliny’s tonight, everyone who is anyone here will be wanting to be invited before Titus and Domatian leave for Rome again.” Jovian said rather quietly. “Did Domatian say anything to you privately before they left?”
“No we had no time for him to say anything in private as yet. If he has a need to, I am sure he will before they leave for Rome eventually.” Breul said in reply.
“For truth Breul I am just as happy any more in our life here, I think we all are.” Jovian said matter of factly.
“I have to agree my Optio, but then there is duty, if it does call we will have to answer, it is who we all are.” Breul told his friend of many years.
“It is Centurian it is still the core of us.” Jovian said.
That evening after Cena ;Breul, Selina, Darius, Atia, Jovian and Claudia were sitting outside talking, watching their older children play and holding the smaller ones with a full sky of bright stars overhead. Bracius came through the house leading Domatian to where Breul was with everyone.
“Breul I have brought Caesar to you, he has found our small community but was looking for you.” Bracius said to him.
Everyone turned and the men stood up, even the twins and Philo stopped what they were doing to look at Domatian coming through to the back.
“Caesar, come in please.” Almost everyone said at the same time.
“Thank you everyone, I hope I am not interrupting anything private.” Domatian said. ”I slipped away from the festivities of my host, my brother is more adept to those events than I am and I doubt I would be missed even had I taken my bed early.”
“No Caesar, we are honored at your presence, may we offer you some Mulsum or Conditum?” Breul asked politely.
“Some Conditum would be most pleasant Breul. Could I beg your wife and guests for a moment or two of your time?” Domatian asked looking directly at Selina.
“Of course Caesar, we are but resting in the night air and enjoying the night’s spectacle above.” Selina replied, “May I make any accommodation for your leisure?”
“No dear lady, thank you. I will try and not keep your husband to long.” Domatian told her. “You are most gracious indeed.”
Breul led the two of them off then out the front of the house and to bench there around an olive tree in between the house and street. He and Vespasian’s youngest son now sat on the bench just as Domatian began to speak.
“Well Centurian I saw today that your cohort is beginning to grow. Three eager new young recruits to your ranks it appears have joined your men.” He said with a glint of humor to his eye.
“In some ways Caesar, Jovian’s son Philo and our twins Julian and Justinian have started being a part of the work crew. They also enjoy training with the men when we have leisure time for those endeavors as well. I hope this meets with Caesars approval.” Breul answered him.
“Oh I make no reproach Centurion, in fact such normal family and business dealings are a boon to your life and acceptability here I am sure. Your sons appear to be the kind to make a Pater proud in fact.” Domatian offered.” Here is some token of my approval for you and your men, please make your divisions as you see fit after I am gone.”
“Thank Caesar again for your generosity, but your support in attaining our commissions here more than keep us all compensated.” Breul told him honestly.
“I appreciate your candor Centurion, but do wish to add rewards where they are due. There is a man I am hearing about somewhere here in Misenum attempting to curry favor with Pliny the younger in an attempt I feel to get close to the Elder. Pliny the Elder is a favorite friend of my fathers. This man I would like you to keep an eye on, learn as much as you can and if in your opinion is a threat in any way to the Elder; either in life, wealth or honor, deal with him in a manner which cannot be retraced to the Pliny household or the empire. The man’s name is Antonius and he says he is of Hispania originally although there is some doubt in the fact of that.” Domatian told Breul at length.
“It will be checked to the best of our ability Caesar, the Admiral and his family will be protected at all costs. Do you wish my contacting you prior to any actions all.” Breul asked.
“I will leave it in your hands Centurion, the man himself is of no consequence to me, however if he is a part of some larger conspiracy then yes the more we find and quell the better, remember if you wish to kill a snake cut off his head. I will be back on a pleasure visit in a few months and we can talk then unless you uncover more than I have been given to suspect.” Domatian said.
“Yes Caesar, it will be as you have asked.” Breul replied.
“Good , well I better return to the Pliny’s , offer my appreciation to your wife for her indulgence and good wishes to your men and guests.” Domatian said as he stood to leave, Breul giving him a silent salute of the Legion as he did. Then Domatian was out on the street and turned walking back in the direction of Misenum proper.
Breul now back where his wife and their guests were, had answered everyone’s questions as judiciously as he could. He gave his friends Domation’s greetings and Selina his appreciation for the hospitality. Once all had went home for the night he and Selina talked more completely and he made the division of Domation’s reward for the men so he could hand them out the next day. He and Selina put their reward in the place where they held their own valuables hidden with Breul’s legionnaire’s equipment in the secret compartment of the bench now in their bedroom of this house.
The next morning Breul handed out the men their latest reward payments from Domatian before the work started. As he and Jovian talked about on the way in there were there pouches for the twins and Philo as well, Breul and Selina had discussed this last night while he was making the division of the group reward, Selina had been happy that her husband was going to start and include the three younger members of his crew. He and Jovian had decided during their walk in it was only right and that they should also share in some small way on the normal pay from the Pliny’s as well. This would give the young boys much earned acceptance as real members of the crew.
Once the payments had been disbursed and everyone was beginning the days tasks; Breul, Jovian and Darius discussed the rest of what Breul and Domatian had talked about the night before. It was decided that Darius would pick a couple of the men and begin to circulate through the Misenum night life and several would start to listen as they went about tasks occasionally in dealing with merchants and suppliers or other men delivering goods as they were needed and glean any word of this man called Antonius from Hispania. Finding where he was would be their first task. Then they could decide how to discern what surveillance or other investigation would be best in deciding if there was a plot or threat to Pliny the Elder or maybe his nephew.
Over the next two weeks Darius, Brutus and Magnus circulated around the Misenum places of evening entertainment. Darius would go right after work for a short while to different ones and have a mulsum but then go home to Atia and Quintus. Brutus and Magnus frequented more of the places longer and some Darius would no longer go to since his marriage to Atia. But nothing was coming to light at first.
Neither was much coming from talking with suppliers or deliverymen at the site. Breul was becoming somewhat suspicious of this man who seemed to not exist in the normal fashion in a roman town. A single man not found out drinking in the usual places, nor frequenting those houses where women could be seen for money. This did not really ring very true unless the man was hiding for some reason.
Then finally he turned up in a way Breul had not expected at all. The man was with Pliny the younger when he stopped by the sight one morning with a message from his uncle that he would like Breul to come to the Admirals headquarters the next day.
Now that Breul and his men had seen him, it would get easier. When Pliny the younger left that day Magnus followed him at as far a distance as he could the rest of the day before returning back to tell Breul, Darius and Jovian everything he had observed.
The man was staying on the outskirts of Misenum, or at least that is where he finally went after leaving Pliny the younger later in the day. Magnus told them where the man was staying so now they could watch him for a while and see what he might be up to.
The next day Breul and Jovian met with Pliny the Elder at his headquarters and they discussed the progress of the project they were working on and what the next one to start would be. Pliny expressed much satisfaction with all that was happening in both scheduled completions and the quality of the work being done. Breul and Jovian thanked him deeply. Pliny also made a payment on the progress to date.
When they returned to the work site the money was split among the crew for the work with enough kept to make any upcoming purchases for the next weeks. Julian, Justinian and Philo were now puffed up with pride in receiving coins for their work. Breul and Jovian were also teaching them letters and counting in the record keeping as a means of schooling them as they progressed.
Over the next week different members of the crew would take turns watching the house this Antonius was staying in and when he went out during the day would follow him where he went. At various times the men would change shifts so that there was never more than two of them away from the site and never the same man very long following or watching Antonius for very long. Even Darius and Jovian would take their time at watching him everyone except Breul did.
“He was hanging around watching Pliny the Elder again Breul. He is very good at this he does not let himself be seen and even changes his tunic or adds a toga to it several times during the day. I saw him trying to be friendly to a couple of the Admiral’s men today while they were having their prandium across from his headquarters at a place serving lucina and mullus. It looked as though he payed for their meals.” Brutus told Breul and Darius as he returned to the site just before the days work was done and they were headed home.
“That is interesting Brutus, I saw him do the same thing a couple of days ago near the Pliny’s house with a couple of Pliny the Elder’s guard there.” Darius said.
“Brutus do you think you would recognize the two men he ate with today?” Breul asked.
“Yes Centurian I would, do you want me to talk to them?” he asked Breul.
“Tomorrow, but make it casual, don’t raise any suspicion when you do.” Breul told him.
“I will be very careful Breul and will find out what I can.” Brutus said. Then all of them shut the site work down and headed back home to wives and children.
That night the twins, Philo and Cato decided to play at legionnaires in the fields beyond Galus and Paccia’s house for awhile. Jennet went to help care for little Quintus while her mother; Selina and Atia made cena. Breul and Darius were sitting out in the back with Basilius in Breul’s lap.
As the two close families were eating cena at the back of the house Magnus came to where they were and was asked to sit down and eat with them. After they were all finished and the men were drinking mulsum , Magnus turned to Breul and spoke.
“Breul just before I was relieved tonight this Antonius of Hispania had visitors for the first time. They were two legionnaires and they seemed nervous about being followed. Breul they were from Pliny the Elders men and one of them was a centurion like you. I asked Brutus to follow them when they left and see where they went.” Magnus told Breul and Darius, Selina and Atia heard the end of what he was saying as they walked in.
“Husband is this what Domatian Caesar has asked for you and the men to look for?” Selina asked.
“Yes my love it is and I think we have found that he may be right in his suspicion. The next few days may tell us for sure.” Breul told her as he passed young Basilius to his mother who immediately began fussing to suckle his mother now that he was in her arms.
“Magnus you go get some sleep now and we will all talk about this tomorrow when we see Brutus again. Thank you for the information and thinking clear enough to have Brutus follow these two men.” Breul told him.
As Magnus left, Jennet brought little Quintus to Atia who was also ready to be at his mother’s breast for sustenance. Jennet came to Breul who picked her up in his arms as well and she leaned her head on her pater’s shoulder.
Shortly after that Darius and Atia left for their own house passing the twins coming back in again and sitting close to Breul and Selina. Within a few minutes the twins and Jennet were in their beds and then Selina put little Basilius in his crib next to their bed. Selina and Breul held each other in their bed talking for a while which turned into them kissing each other goodnight as they lay down and moved close to hold one another while sleeping throughout the night.
The next morning once everyone was at the site and starting to work, Breul, Darius, Jovanian, Brutus and Magnus started comparing what they knew already. Lucius was not there it was his turn watching the man Antonius this morning.
According to Brutus the 2 men returned to their barracks last night after being with this Antonius for about an hour. They were the same two that he had seen eating prandium with Antonius the day before.
“Alright then we can assume that whatever this Antonius is up to either these men are getting involved out of some traitorous loyalty, or have lowered themselves to bribery. We must know which, if there are any more involved and what he is planning if possible before we decide what to do.” Breul told his men.
“Then I will still attempt to meet these two or at least one of them today if I can and it seem casual enough as we had already planned.” Brutus said.
“Yes and someone else will continue to watch Antonius today. The rest of us need to redouble our efforts here so nothing appears to have changed.” Breul added.
With this everyone went about the construction work for the day. About an hour before prandium Brutus left to be near Pliny the Elder’s headquarters when some men would be finding a place to eat.
It took Brutus two days to meet one of the men he had seen before but the conversation revealed nothing. Nothing had happen in or around the men watching Antonius either during this same time. Then on the third day late in the day just prior to cena Lucius came to Selina and Breul’s home. He came right to Breul told him something in private and then went right out again.
“What is it Breul?” She asked her husband.
“It sounds like something is about to happen Selina, the men and I may be gone a while.” Breul told her as he went into their room.
Once inside he moved the bench and moved it away from the wall and was starting to retrieve his pugio, Claudius, and all his Legionaries clothing and equipment. It was as he was doing this that Selina came into the room.
“Husband I have never seen you take those out of the chest except to clean them or hone the weapons. Is this thing going to be that serious do you think?” She asked him.
“I think so Selina all the men have been told to do the same thing. Please keep this very quiet and get the other wives to do the same.” Breul told her.
“I will my husband, you do what you must but you better come back to your children and me or I will never let you live it down.” Selina told him with a smile.
“I will never disobey my Queen Selina.” Breul said as he pulled her close and then kissed her lips.
After he had dressed in his uniform and put his equipment on, he kissed Selina again and headed out the door. Once in the street he and the men discussed the word that Lucius had brought. And decided to head for the house where Antonius had been staying by a short cut, this so they would not be seen by hopefully ant people wandering about at this time of night.
“So the two legionnaires walked with Pliny the younger to the house of Antonius. Then they and Antonius came out carrying a heavy rolled rug, put it in a cart. Then all headed out of town along that same road. What do you think that means Breul?” Jovian asked.
“I cannot be for certain but I think their plan has been to kidnap the Younger and hold him for ransom. Antonius probably took awhile to find two bribable men in Pliny the Elders service and be able to make his plan work. Now they will take him somewhere and hold him. We need to catch up with Magnus who was there with Lucius and is following them but watching for us. Did someone get Magnus gear and bring it?” Breul said and asked.
“Yes Bracius and Darius are carrying it as we go.” Jovian told him.
After about an hour they caught up with Magnus and halted long enough for him to redress he placed his other clothes along side of the road in a quickly dug hole that they put three rocks on piled on on another so they could retrieve them later.
“They were only about 100 passols ahead before you caught up Centurion and with the cart are not moving very fast.” Magnus told him and the others close.
“Good then when we get close we will spread out cut them off and take them before we are too close to anywhere we might be seen.” Breul said to everyone.
After about half an hour they were within sight of the cart and three men and were even more pleased since they had stopped under a tree along side of the road for a brief rest. As decided everyone split up circled and completely cut off the three from any possible escape.
“What is the meaning of this?” Antonius yelled as they surprised them. The two legionnaires spring to their feet gladius grasped in hands.
“I doubt we have need to explain much kidnapper. You two Traitors drop your weapons or kneel down and fall on them now.” Breul told them with venom in his voice.
Seeing how many men confronted them the Centurion took the honorable way offered him, knelt down, placed the bone hilt to the ground and committed suicide rather than face the disgrace. The milite with him went to lunge at Jovian and was immediately slashed and killed by Brutus standing close to the man. Antonius was now standing with a pugio in his hand and thrust it deeply into his own chest.
“Brutus you and Magnus free Pliny the Younger now. Some of you others drag these three off stack them together and places stones on them so the carrion can’t get to them.” Breul told them all.
While the three were being dragged off and magnus rerolled the rug and took it to drape over the bodies before stones covered them Pliny the Younger came to where Breul was standing.
“You Centurion I know you, you are the builder who came from Pompeii. How can it be you and your men are dressed like this? And how did you come to catch up with these three and free me so quick?” he asked in all sincerity.
“We have had a reason to be watching this Antonius Young Pliny and Mithas has given us this pleasure of finding you before you could be hurt or the Pliny household disgraced.” Breul said to him, our dress seemed to be appropriate as we all served together in the II Augusta long ago.
“I can see that by your fabila. I am most honored by your service and I will make sure you are aptly rewarded.” Pliny the Younger told them.
“Sir we are happy to have been of this small service, but I think it would be better if no one knew of this deed. There is nothing to be served by anyone knowing that they were able to capture you at all.” Breul replied.
“Well yes I can see your point. Thank you and I will not be divulging anything that could allow anyone to get any ideas or doubt my uncle’s security measures.” Pliny told him. “Will you be returning with me to Misenum then?” He asked.
“Yes sir at least as far so that you are safely close to your family’s home.” Breul said with some reserve.
“Thank you I would like to have men like you and yours around at any time.” He said.
“We appreciate the compliment sir, but we prefer to be builders in stone now. We had our day of battle and honor for Rome.” Breul replied with a slight smile across his face.
After the men were done with the bodies the entire group made a quiet procession back close to the house of the Pliny’s. Then Breul’s men made it back home just an hour before dawn in the eastern sky. The cart was pulled into the rear of Darius and Atia’s house.
As Breul came in Selina was there waiting for him with a cup of mulsum ready with a small loaf of emmer and two slices of cheese.
“It is done my husband?” she asked.
“Yes my love and by tonight your husband will sleep like our young son.” Breul said just before taking her in his arms and kissing her.