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Vulpes I

 The clatter of the bronze plate as it hit the floor made him wince. The sound was harsh and metallic, a dead give away. His bare feet slapped against the marble floor as he scrambled up and stumbled on. Vulpes panted, his chest bursting. Suddenly his heart was behaving like the terrified little birds trapped in tiny wooden cages he’d seen in the market. Behind him the sounds of screams and destruction echoed. Vulpes pattered around the corner and through the doors to his mother’s chambers.

             It wasn’t until he was still, curled up on himself in the cramped space under the altar of the household gods that he finally stopped to think. As it happened, he hadn’t even paused, hadn’t blinked or even taken a breath. As the doors had swung open and Roberto burst in, already shouting, Vulpes turned to run. As he moved he saw the men enter, one appeared behind Roberto and slit the slave’s throat in a clean line.

            Vulpes was small for his age, but athletic. Still his brothers outdid him in every sport he attempted. His sister was the darling of the family, named Miranda, admirable, worthy. As Vulpes hugged his quickly bruising knee, he realised that she was there with the rest of them and that all the worthiness in the world couldn’t have saved her. His mind was full of remembrances, things he had seen in the square. The way an executed slave dropped, inanimate, more still than anything living could ever be. He imagined his mother’s eyes, open and starring as the blood ran down her throat. In his mind she was stretched back over the couch with food littering the floor. Her slender fingers touched the puddle of red wine, or blood, staining them in his mind.

             The house was achingly quiet. But his breath was a tornado in his own ears. Outside was stillness, inside- chaos. Vulpes felt his eyes stinging. He buried the ball of his hand into his eye socket, trying to dig out the tension building, trying to stop the tears that burned at the edges of his eyes. He was shaking, fingers like bat’s wings in the dark. The cupboard smelt like incense and wax. He was crouched up on a pile of altar clothes and candles. He tried to pray, his mind whirring with words that didn’t seem right. The prayers he knew well were suddenly swallows in the wind, away from his grasping mind.

             A voice. Footsteps, heavy. He knew they were coming. They found him quickly, wrenching open the cupboard. A towering figure swung into view, grasping him firmly in rough fingers. The immense, vicious individual dragged him out into the room from his tiny sanctuary, clutching him by the arms. Vulpes struggled as the large fingers dug into his skin. The man called out to the others in the stilted voice of a foreigner.

‘Here! Found the little rat.’

He restrained Vulpes easily, holding the whimpering boy as the men ransacked his mother’s things. A moment past before the door opened again.

             Vulpes knew him. He had seen him speaking with his father. He was a noble of some kind, a man whose money showed on him. The man walked towards him, a dagger hanging loosely in one hand.

‘I knew there was another one.’ He smiled, Vulpes felt like he had been kicked in the chest. He held back the scream that was building and glared at the man. Vulpes tried to imagine himself as a huge, strong centurion. He told himself he wasn’t afraid. The man put his fingers roughly about Vulpes’ chin and moved his head back and forwards, regarding him for a moment.

‘He’ll get good coin.’ The blond foreigner who was holding him growled. ‘Young. Pretty.’

‘Yes, probably.’ The leader agreed, ‘The girl will be worth more.’

He looked down at Vulpes again and smiled at the boy. He sheathed his dagger and crouched in front him. ‘He’s barely sniffling.’ He smiled up at the blond man who chuckled. ‘Your mama is dead, boy, your father too. One of your brothers tried to fight. He would have made a fine warrior if he’d had time to grow into a man.’ He smiled again, a hand on Vulpes shoulder, as if he was offering a compliment. The boy swallowed hard, staring directly into his eyes. ‘You father died screaming like a hysterical woman. Not surprisingly. How many years are you, son?’

Vulpes lowered his eyes to the floor. ‘Five.’

‘Five. It’s not so long since my son was that age. You look like your father, you know that?’ Vulpes suspected it wasn’t really a question. It seemed to be a fact that amused the man, nothing more. ‘So, child, tell me. You would rather die like your brother, brave and like a man, or be in bonds for the rest of your days?’

‘Do I have a choice?’ Vulpes spoke softly.

The man stood again, stretching his back and smiling down at Vulpes. ‘No. You, my boy, are what we call spoils of war, a trophy. I will look on you daily and smile to remember this day.’


             Suddenly, Vulpes was moving, being pushed and propelled out of the house. As he was shoved through the halls of his family home, Vulpes caught sight of his father’s body lying in a sticky mess of red. His voice finally broke free of his silence. The wild scream, a small animal, trapped and panicking. The burly individual who held him slapped him hard across the face, throwing him roughly over his shoulder. Vulpes choked on his screams.


            He was tied and then thrown into the cart, the rough splintering wood grating on his soft skin. From somewhere he heard Miranda crying. He scrambled to his feet and tried to peer out of the cracks in the wood, calling her name over and over. The foreigner banged his hammer like fist against the side of the cart, knocking him back. As he sat back, her voice faded from his ears.


            The house was beautiful, as large as his own and even more decorated. Wild animals and decorated patterns covered the walls in friezes and murals. Vulpes was dragged by his tied hands, tripping over his own bare feet as he moved through the halls of the grand villa. He kept his head low, staring at the polished floor. Someone tipped his head up, rubbing his face violently with a wet rag. His clothes were stripped off him and replaced with brown cloth. A matronly woman scowled at him as he raised his eyes to her face. 

He was taken to a courtyard. The sunlight flooded down through a glass dome roof, sparkling off the flat clear fountain in the centre of the courtyard. The tiles were beautiful, stone and glass in every colour. It smelt like flowers and sunlight, so out of place with how he felt.

‘Herminius,’ it was the leader of the men speaking. Vulpes couldn’t remember his name, if he ever knew it. ‘I have a present for you.’ As he spoke a young boy appeared. He was maybe two years older than Vulpes himself, dressed in the fine clothes Vulpes had been used to. He had dark brown hair and approached his father was a quiet smile. The man clapped his hand onto the boy’s shoulder, as he had Vulpes’. ‘Happy birthday boy, he’s called Vulpes.’

            Herminius looked at him for a moment, he seemed to be studying his face, then as he looked at his father and spoke, Vulpes felt something change.

‘Vilis Vulpes.’ Herminius said.

His father laughed and shook his head, ‘Don’t worry, he’s not all you’ll get.’ The man shook his head again as he walked away, speaking to the man who had dragged Vulpes in. ‘My son the wit. I tell you, you spoil children and they’re never satisfied.’

Vulpes was left staring at this boy as his father disappeared.

‘Come on then, Vilis Vulpes.’ Herminius said quietly. And at that moment, Vulpes finally understood. He wasn’t his father’s son anymore. He wasn’t his mother’s little fox. He was a slave, Vilis- worth very little.

 


Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
songborn
Feb. 16th, 2009 04:47 am (UTC)
Ooooh I like this.... who is Vulpes? New npc??
trickstergate
Feb. 16th, 2009 03:58 pm (UTC)
no...
I'm trying out this new thing...
writing stories that are not RP based!
LOL

Though technically, it is sort of Cloven's back history re-told into a roman period.

glad you like it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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