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Aulus had no idea what the time was when a slave came banging on the door of the servants' quarters, bearing news that te Praetorian Prefect, Clemens, had proclaimed himself Emperor (which Aulus was aware of) and that he was out for the blood of anyone connected with the Junii-Silani and Flavii-Alexandrii (which Aulus most certainly was not aware of).

"I have to leave Rome," Aulus informed his anxious wife.

"Leave...?"

"I can't stay here, they know me, they know who I am, they know where to find me..."

"But what about me - what about Titus?" She held the baby up in wordless appeal.

"You'll be safer once I'm gone. But you should go too - we can't go together because I'll put you in too much danger. I have to go - tonight, when it's dark and we can be more anonymous."

Horatia laid the baby back against her shoulder. "'We', Aulus?"

"Two men, in tunics and cloaks - it's still cold, that won't look out of place. I can't take Linus, everyone knows he's my slave." They probably didn't, of course; nobody looked at slaves, but it would only take one person to see the slave's face and recognise him and the game would be up, and Aedile Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus would join his ancestors decade before he had anticipated doing so. He was only thankful that his father was still in the family villa at Baiae.

"Go to my father at Baiae; I'll leave enough money for that journey. You might have to walk, it'll help you stay anonymous. Take Linus, or one of the others - a plebeian family getting away from the riots won't look too strange, several of them still have families with farms away from Rome. Hide Titus in the slaves' quarters till you go - hide yourself there, pretend the family left for the country."

"And what about you? Who will you take?"

"I'll take Felix. He's about as anonymous as they come, despite his size, and people will think twice about troubling us. I doubt anyone will actually connect him with this household, anyway."

"Where will you go?"

"Where do you think? I will plan to make my way to join Quintus wherever he is and maybe we can stop this madness that has seized Rome."

It was a few hours later when Aulus, clad in a dark anonymous tunic, layered over two more, and with a cloak around him for both inconspicuousness and protection from the weather, clasped his wife and infant son in his arms, perhaps for the last time, and turned to leave his father's house from the anonymity of the slaves' side door, the taller shape of the house slave Felix following him. Aulus took a breath and grasped Felix' arm, drawing him level. "We can't be seen to be master and slave, not now. It's too dangerous. Call me... Davus. Call me anything you like, but do not let the word Domine pass your lips before we are out of here."

He did not dare to think what might befall him if the slave decided that he could maybe get his freedom by betraying his master.

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Until the moment he entrusted his life to Felix, Aulus Calpurnius Praetextatus was a distant figure in the young slave's life. A decade older and as far away in rank as two people in Rome could be, he barely registered in the household's everyday life in any other way than the promising son of the pater familas. He'd only recently returned to Rome and to the house, and Felix, who was mostly doing manual labor and errands, only crossed paths with him when it was absolutely necessary, and never spoke more than a polite greeting.

And now, they were supposed to flee for their lives together.

Well, Aulus' life, technically. But Felix had no illusions that whoever wanted his master dead would have no qualms about also killing the slave, if only out of mere convenience. It was not a good position to be in - but also not one he could say no to.

"It's an opportunity to prove yourself," said his father when he hurriedly said his goodbyes. 

"Be careful, and the gods bless you," said his mother as she gave him a bag of provisions. Aulus had his own personal satchel under his cloak, but Felix was carrying the larger portion of food and necessities, due to his larger size... and his position as a slave. He hugged his mother before he met his master at the side door, wrapped in a simple cloak that was almost identical to the other man's. For once, with the slave tablet gone from Felix's neck, it was hard to tell the difference between two young men. 

Aulus pulled him up to his side as soon as they were in the alley outside the door.

"We can't be seen to be master and slave, not now. It's too dangerous. Call me... Davus. Call me anything you like, but do not let the word Domine pass your lips before we are out of here."

Yes, domine.

"Understood." Felix nodded, his eyes darting around. It was dark outside, but the city of Rome never really slept, on account of the transport business being conducted at night, and... well, also because of the riots. Felix would have been surprised if they were the only dark-cloaked men headed for the city gates under the cover of darkness "Which way out of the city?"

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It made sense to head to the nearest gate. Too much sense; they were in the region of the Piscina Publica, anyone heading to the nearest gate would be bound to be caught because whatever else Clemens was, he wasn't stupid.

It would take time to circle around and get to any of the other gates, but with the crowds in the streets, that shouldn't be too hard to do. He didn't want to head straight to Ostia, either, for much the same reason - it was the nearest port and would therefore likely be under very close scrutiny by Clemens - and he had the praetorians in support, too.

"If we head to the Capena Gate," he said. It was the best route to the Via Appia, of course, and the way south - anything and anyone heading down the length of Italy travelled on the Via Appia at some point.

He wanted to keep away from the Palatine and further away from the Praetorian camp, and he wanted to get to a port where the two of them could take ship.

If they could only get out of Rome first!

 

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There was a pause as Aulus considered the safest route out of the city. People were everywhere, no doubt looking for members of the senatorial families fleeing the city. If the new man in charge has an ounce of common sense, he had all the gates watched, and the ports as well. Then again, they had quite a few people to round up, even with the praetorians at hand. There had to be ways to slip through, if one looked inconspicuous enough. Or bought their way out with the right guards.

"If we head to the Capena Gate,"

"The second best option after the Via Ostiensis" Felix noted quietly; it was not quite an agreement, just a statement. Clemens' people probably knew that too. People who were not dumb or panicked enough to run straight for the port would take the best road Rome had ever built, and head south, seeking another port to sail East from. "It has to be a busy road by now." Busy as in, easy to blend in, or busy as in picking fish out of a barrel. Felix was not one to argue the master's decisions. He simply stated facts.

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"If we look right, and keep our heads down, metaphorically speaking," Aulus said. They looked the part, both wearing plain tunics and rough cloaks, Aulus with his senatorial gold ring now threaded on a leather thong and worn around his neck under his cloak.

He shot the taller man a quick glance and a grin, both practically invisible in the darkness. "Less than a block away from the house and I can already tell you were wasted in...whatever it was they had you doing. Do you know a route to the Capena Gate that'll keep us off the main streets as much as possible?"

He was under no illusion that the main streets would be watched, as the gates would be, but the Praetorians had far less sense than the common legionary and would probably be counting on the average senator being as thick as two planks and taking the easy route.

Aulus was a soldier, he'd been an aedile for less than three months, which was hardly enough time to have begun to make a mark - and he didn't mind roughing it when necessary. This was a situation where it would be very necessary.

 

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"If we look right, and keep our heads down, metaphorically speaking,"

Felix nodded. 'Look right' could mean a lot of things when one was trying to get out of the city unnoticed, and a simple tunic would not necessarily do the trick. Keeping their heads down, that was another matter. As a slave, Felix spent his life keeping his head down, especially once he grew to be taller than most of his masters, but that was not the main reason people did not give him a second glance.

"Less than a block away from the house and I can already tell you were wasted in...whatever it was they had you doing. Do you know a route to the Capena Gate that'll keep us off the main streets as much as possible?"

Did he? Felix ran a lot of errands for the household, and he was familiar with this part of the city. He could find a way to the gates that veered off the main road... but they would still have to cross, in plain sight of the guards. After a pause, he nodded again, and took a turn into a side street, then an alley that slaves used when running messages between households. It was darker here, with blind walls on either side, but also a lot more quiet. It did not take long to get close to the Porta Capena. At the last turn, they could see the torches and braziers, an the praetorians standing nearby. Felix paused at the corner.

"Forgive me for saying this, but keeping our heads down might not be enough" he noted with a frown. In fact, it was possibly the most suspicious thing they could do. "If we go this way, we would have to walk out like we have nothing to fear at all."

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He had said 'metaphorically speaking', but Aulus could allow (even in these circumstances!) that Felix might not know what the word 'metaphorically' meant.

What they wanted to look like was a pair of citizens who were perhaps rightly nervous about what was going on but who had legitimate reasons to be where they were and doing what they were doing.

"Noted, and forgiven," Aulus said, his accent that of one of any of the lower-class citizenry who made up the ranks of Rome's legions. He had always been able to do accents; it had entertained the other military tribunes during his time serving under Quintus. He'd just never expected to have to do it in a life-or-death situation like this.

He pulled Felix back into the shadows. "'If we go out this way'? Do you know another way out?"

If he did, it might be better - but they'd still have to join others on the road, perhaps it would be better simply to blend in and walk out with the wagon-drivers and carters.

 

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"Noted, and forgiven,"

The way Aulus spoke changed, taking on the accent of the commoners of Rome. It was less eloquent, even sounded a little rough, and Felix wondered where he'd learned it so well. Every man of senatorial families had to serve in the military, the young slave knew that. Was that how the soldiers in the legions talked? Or did Aulus listen to the people of Rome's streets more intently than he seemed?

Either way, the accent was useful for passing unbothered. Not many members of the nobility could mimic it, even if their lives were threatened.

"'If we go out this way'? Do you know another way out?"

Did he? It was a difficult question. Yes, Felix had an idea of which way he would flee, if he were a member of the persecuted noble families. But could he presume to give life or death advice like that to his master? And what if he was wrong? He was just a household slave, not one very adept in strategy, or deception, or anything that had to do with getting out of a political riot alive. He was here to keep his master safe, not to voice half-baked opinions.

But what if not voicing them was dangerous too?

"It's this or... the Porta Flaminia" he ventured finally, trying to keep both options sounding equal. He knew how dangerous the Flaminaia sounded. They would have to cross the city and skirt the Palatinus and the Capitolium, leaving the city on the northbound road. It was a long detour, and not without dangers - but maybe exactly because of that no one would assume many noblemen would try for it. Besides, the Flaminia cut north across Italia. It was a trek across the mountains, with roads across valleys and forests filled with bandits. It was not the road any sane person would take, and definitely not the shortest to meet the Augustus in the East. Even if they went around and turned south instead of following through, it would be quite the distance to travel.

They had a direct road with obvious dangers, and a long road with somewhat more safety from the rebels. Felix waited for his master to make a decision. Either was he decided, Felix would follow his lead.

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The Porta Flaminia, and north. It was an insane idea. It was a brilliant idea. Anyone fleeing Rome would doubtless be heading south, to Ostia or Neapolis. Anyone leaving via a northern gate could not easily go anywhere other than north.

All Aulus needed was to get to a port somewhere and take a ship heading east. If he could make his way to Tarsus, in however many legs required, it would then be a simple enough journey north, overland, to Cappadocia. The trick then would be finding Quintus - one man might be hard to find, but a whole legion should be simple enough.

"That is the craziest idea I have heard in ages. Everyone's going south, there are Praetorians here... how many people will be heading north? Only carters and traders bringing goods into the city and leaving again before daylight. It's crazy enough to work," Aulus said.

They would have to skirt the Palatine, but they could keep to the west of the Circus Maximus, rather than walking straight into the lions' den, skirt the Forum Boarium and the Forum Romanum, round the back of the Saepta Julia...

He was not going to think where they would go once out of the city - planning too far ahead meant that you were not thinking of the here and now, which meant that your plans were more likely to fail because you weren't concentrating.

"Back we go, then. Keep an eye out for patrols - we don't want to run into anyone who looks like they'll stab first and ask questions later."

Aulus didn't particularly want to run into anyone asking questions, even, if he could help it.

 

@Chevi

 

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For a few moments Felix was sure that he'd something very stupid. Maybe Aulus would just send him back to the household, or throw him to the praetorians. He hung his head, ashamed for bringing up the idea at all. He did not need to hear his master say it was crazy to know that it was.

"That is the craziest idea I have heard in ages. Everyone's going south, there are Praetorians here... how many people will be heading north? Only carters and traders bringing goods into the city and leaving again before daylight. It's crazy enough to work,"

Felix blinked, looking up. 

Really?

He tried to see if Aulus was making fun of him, even though it would have been an exceedingly bad time to do so. There was no hint of amusement in his master's voice.

"Back we go, then. Keep an eye out for patrols - we don't want to run into anyone who looks like they'll stab first and ask questions later."

Felix nodded, after a moment of hesitation. Maybe he was right about the Flaminia? Either was, Aulus had made a decision, so they turned around, using the side streets to walk away from the Capena, heading for the other side of the city. They would have to go to the river and then skirt around the Circus the long way. Felix had run enough errands to markets and back to know the way. The Anphiteatrum and the Palatinus were brightly lit by torches and fires, and beyond them, the Aventine was a forest of houses and side streets. A fire hazard if there had ever been one, thought Felix, but good for walking through unnoticed...

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Aulus tried to match his pace to those people around him, wanting to blend in. Standing out would be death in this cauldron of uncertainty, with citizens all fleeing to their homes. That Aulus and Felix weren't heading home but were heading across the city to get away from the bloodshed that had started only weeks before was nobody's business but theirs.

Despite what was going on, there was a sense of normalcy as well as heightened awareness - trade had to go on as normal or the populace would starve, so the usual traffic flow of carts and wagons into the city had continued even in these uncertain times. Which meant that there would be a flow of traffic out of the city, too; wheeled vehicles could not be within the city limits during daylight. The Aventine was buzzing - when was it not?! - and they could blend in with everyone else, slowly but steadily working their way northwards towards the Porta Flaminia.

The difference was, the carters and others were going about their business in a tense strained silence, broken with quarrels in low voices. The cheerful banter that was usually present was, tonight, entirely absent.

 

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Felix walked alongside Aulus, matching his longer strides to his, as if they were two men, maybe friends or partners, walking the always-busy streets of nighttime Rome. The young slave kept an eye out for possible danger, but in this part of the city no one spared them a second glance, as long as they did not look like they were in a hurry. They walked deliberately at a normal pace, which was hard, with the urgency of running for their lives. Aulus had a quiet determination about him. He was intent on surviving this whole ordeal, and Felix had to be prepared to do anything it took to make sure he did. 

By the time they got close to the Porta Flaminia, most merchants had made their nighttime deliveries, and were on their way out of the city. Heading to the fields and villages of Latium, there was  a busy crowd of carts and people at the gates. Here, just like everywhere else, guards and some praetorians were keeping watch, occasionally checking in carts and under blankets, but not sparing much attention at pedestrians. As they neared the gate, Felix took a deep breath. They did not have time to walk back to Capena before sunrise, so for better or worse, this was the only way out now.

Placing one hand on Aulus' shoulder (it felt like a jolt of panic, touching his master like that), Felix walked on through the gates, talking in a cheerful tone.

"I'm telling you Davos, by the gods, that was more water than wine! We paid for drinking half the Tiber, from the taste of it. Next time, I'm choosing the brothel, you can't be trusted... good evening, officers... Look at us, having spent all that money on the drinks, and don't even get me started on the women! Your taste, my friend, thank you kindly, officers, is complete shit, and you will agree with me when you sober up..."

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Where had he come by this treasure of a slave, and how had nobody realised his value before? Aulus slung his own arm about the other's waist, playing up the drunk he was supposed to be - he didn't smell of drink but if he didn't breathe in anyone's face but Felix', nobody was going to know.

"But her tits, Marcus... you had better luck. Yours didn't steal your - hic! - money. Every damn as I slaved for, gone. But she looked divine..."

He took care to stumble, a little, he didn't want to bring them both crashing to the ground needlessly and ruin the whole charade. But surrounded by other people, all jostling to get out of the gate - pedestrians, carts, donkeys, mules, all shouting and swearing about the hold-up, nothing could be safer. Two drunk friends on their way home to sleep off a night's carousing, nothing could be more innocent.

"All right, all right, move along... You're going to have quite the headache later, move on, move on..."

He stumbled, as a drunk would, as his shoulder was shoved, and then... they were through the gate, out of the city. Past the choke-point of the gate, but a long way from safety yet, and nowhere near enough distance for them to drop the act.

 

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Felix's heart was drumming so loudly he thought he would choke on it. He could see the guards and praetorians up close, close enough that he could reach out and touch their weapons - or be run through with one, in less than a heartbeat. He was staring death straight in the face, and he was doing his best not to stare. Aulus leaned on him, picking up on the idea and playing the role of a drunk friend. He was clever enough to know what to do. They were a little too loud, a little too obnoxious, and very far from the image a fleeing nobleman and his slave would show. They were waved through the gates... and in a few moments they had left the city behind.

"You see a pair of good tits and you give away your house next... if you like them so much, maybe you should get a pair for home, eh?" Felix noted as they walked along, breathing a bit more freely. Eventually, the road would take a turn, and the gates with the guards at them, would disappear from sight. There was still quite a bit of traffic on the road, but more dispersed now as some traveled faster than others, and some began branching off to villas and villages. Felix hummed a drinking song he'd heard on the streets before, walking along with his arm around Aulus' shoulders, until it felt like no one way paying them any attention anymore. 

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"Did not give away the house," Aulus pouted, as the drunk Davus definitely would. "You tipped the table over." His feet were a lot more sure than the drunk Davus' would be, and he wasn't leaning on Felix as hard as he just been doing, but he had by no means straightened up fully - there was the chance that a guard would be looking right at them when they sobered up, miraculously fast, and then it would all be over anyway. He had thought they might be dead by this point, but they were not in the clear yet.

"If we go north, and east, to Aquileia," he murmured; Felix' ear was close enough to his mouth that he did not need to speak any louder than a murmur. "We need to end up at Tarsus, though I doubt we'll find a ship that's going directly there."

He had left with as much money as he had dared to bring along with him, while leaving Horatia enough for her own escape - hopefully hers would not be so dangerous; it was the senators allied with the Junii-Silani and Flavii-Alexandrii who were in most danger; by removing himself from the house, the danger must have decreased.

Except that Clemens did not, could not, know that he had left, or he would surely be hunted down. They were by no means safe yet.

"We'll have to rough it where we can," he warned his slave. Seeking shelter at roadside inns and minor farms would be a necessity in the rougher places, but he had to conserve his supply of cash for the longest part of the journey.

 

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They walked as if they were still drunk, but slowly sobering up in the cool night air. With the terror of crossing the gate slowly ebbing away, Felix felt like he was actually tipsy, his stomach threatening to turn. Aulus leaned closer to talk, and the young slave took another breath to steady himself.

"If we go north, and east, to Aquileia. We need to end up at Tarsus, though I doubt we'll find a ship that's going directly there."

Felix's grasp of geography was weak - he had never been outside the city more than  a few visits to close villas when he had to carry things. He knew Aquileia lay far to the north and by the sea, merchants came from there all the time with shining glassware to the Forum, but that was about that. He guessed it would take many days to get there on foot, weeks, probably. All the way up north to the mountains.

"We'll have to rough it where we can,"

Aulus probably carried money. Felix was not sure how much, but it would have to take them to a port, and then on a ship to the East, farther than he had ever been, farther than either of his parents came from. 

Felix glanced up at the mountains visible to the east, with a few lights twinkling like stars against the dark sky. He was not sure how long his luck would last with hazarding guesses.

"And if we go straight across the mountains?..."

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"Ancona." How had he forgotten Ancona? Two weeks' journey, rather than three, straight over the Apennines. "I hope you thought to put on decent footwear before we left," he said, unable to help the sudden levity. Would Clemens have sent men to the ports to close them? He couldn't; Rome relied too heavily on its grain imports, and nobody could close every port in Italy. Ostia would almost certainly be watched, it was Rome's port - anything coming by sea to Rome came through Ostia, anyone leaving Rome to sail across the sea went through Ostia.

"The eastern ports are more directly on the way, too; it'll cut our journey by sea by at least a week, though it'll balance out in the end. We won't have to sail right around the southern end of Italy first. I'm sure you'll prefer roughing it on land to having to cope with the same length of time in a ship," he said, straightening up, but fumbling a hand to his head in case anyone was watching the drunks making their way unsteadily along the road.

He'd have to give Felix a geography lesson - on the other hand, he seemed not to need it. Perhaps.

"If 'east' was a lucky guess, you were aptly named. I just hope our luck holds out."

 

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Aulus' face lit up for a moment as Felix hesitantly suggested another route to take. It seemed like a good sign. Felix only knew that they could get to another shore if they crossed the mountains - but his master knew the rest, enough to make a decision.

"Ancona. I hope you thought to put on decent footwear before we left," 

Felix glanced at his shoes a little sheepishly. He had decent footwear, for a slave anyway. They would be doing a lot of walking across mountains, so there was no guarantee that it would hold out all the way, but he would just have do deal with that problem when it presented itself.

"The eastern ports are more directly on the way, too; it'll cut our journey by sea by at least a week, though it'll balance out in the end. We won't have to sail right around the southern end of Italy first. I'm sure you'll prefer roughing it on land to having to cope with the same length of time in a ship," 

A shorter journey was good, by all means. Felix shrugged at the rest, once Aulus let go of him. "I wouldn't now. I have never been on a ship."

"If 'east' was a lucky guess, you were aptly named. I just hope our luck holds out."

They had been lucky so far. They crossed the city, avoided the guards, passed through the Porta Flaminia, and walked into the unknown under the cover of darkness - and now they would head to the mountains on foot, running from the rebellion and trying to find some distant goal, far away from everything Felix have ever known is his life. 

At Aulus' words, the young slave nodded, then turned around and promptly threw up.

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Well, that could only help sell the illusion they'd been nothing but drunk men on a spree, regardless of the terror being spread through the higher stratum of the population. Normally Aulus would have given short shrift to anyone throwing up who wasn't actually ill, but he'd pulled Felix away from a familiar life to wander around Italy with a master in fear for his life... They'd spent the night avoiding patrols of Praetorians out for blood, sneaked out under the very noses of a bunch more. Was it any wonder that Felix had been unable to keep his last meal down?

He looked up. There was a grove of trees, possibly an olive grove, off the road. It would do, for now; they could keep out of the way, rest a bit. "Over there, come on," he said, indicating the stand of tree that stood dark against the lightening the eastern sky. "I think we should rest for a bit."

Carrying on their journey at night in civilised Italy would look out of place, unless they were refugees fleeing for their lives and Aulus had no intentions of arousing anyone's suspicions. The more normal they seemed, the less attention they would draw, after all.

 

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It was embarrassing, to say the least, vomiting in front of the master like some kind of a sick dog. Felix felt the blood rushing to his face as he coughed, wiping his mouth as he fought to keep down whatever was left in his stomach. So much about being the stalwart companion of the fleeing nobleman. Such a shameful mess.

"Over there, come on. I think we should rest for a bit."

Felix nodded, too embarrassed to talk, and followed Aulus to the grove. They could wait for the break of dawn, and look like more respectable travelers. The olive trees provided shade and there was some grass under them offering a place to sit. Felix sat heavily, leaning back against a tree, and fished out a water skin from his bag, drinking. He carried another, better made one for his master that he offered now.

"I apologize. I think the escape just caught up to me."

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"You're not used to adventure, and danger," Aulus pointed out, dropping to the ground. He accepted the water skin, took a good mouthful and passed it back.

"How much geography do you know?" he asked, opening his own satchel and pulling out a loaf of bread. He tore a wedge off the loaf and offered the remainder to Felix, though he probably wouldn't want any, having just thrown up.

 

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"You're not used to adventure, and danger,"

"No, I'm not." Felix admitted. They sat in the shadows under the trees. Felix drank, and Aulus offered him a piece of bread. He accepted it; it would be a long day's journey on an empty stomach when they started out. They were traveling companions now, all their food and resources were shared. Of course Aulus had the claim on everything, including Felix's person, but he would have been a fool not to make sure his only bodyguard was also cared for.

"How much geography do you know?" 

"Not much" the young slave sighed, tearing off a piece of the bread "I know north from south and I know which way the main roads go, and I know the names of some of the provinces, but that... that is all of it I'm afraid. Everything seems very far once one is outside of Rome."

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Well, it would be something to pass the time, at least. Aulus found a twig and scratched a shape in a bare patch of soil, roughly in the shape of a leg and foot.

"This is Italy, like a bird would see it, from very high up," Aulus told his slave. "Rome is about here," he made a small cross, and then added another long line, starting at the top of the leg and circling right around the bottom of it. "This is the Mare Nostrum, the sea that brings our trade in. We need to get to a point all the way over here, eventually, in Cappadocia, where Quintus Flavius Alexander is."

It was a little strange, talking so frankly with a slave, but it was just the two of them and he'd had more than one chance to betray Aulus already, and hadn't done so.

"Ostia is here," he added, making another cross on the leg, this one almost right on the scratched line. "You may have gone there? But we are going to cross the mountains, the Apennines, and head to Ancona, in the East. There aren't many roads across Italy, so I don't expect it to be an easy journey."


Easier for two inconspicuous men on foot than for any messenger on horseback. The latter would have the advantage of them if they were taking the Via Appia, say, or the Via Flaminia.

 

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It was hard to see under the shadows of the trees in the pre-dawn twilight, but Felix could make out the general shapes Aulus was drawing. Felix had never learned from a tutor like the family's children did, and it was strange, having his master explain him something that a slave would never need to know. Like geography. 

"This is Italy, like a bird would see it, from very high up. Rome is about here. This is the Mare Nostrum, the sea that brings our trade in. We need to get to a point all the way over here, eventually, in Cappadocia, where Quintus Flavius Alexander is."

Felix nodded. How much larger was the empire, if even on a drawing Rome was simply a small dot on it? How far would they have to go to find Quintus Flavius Alexander?

"Ostia is here. You may have gone there? But we are going to cross the mountains, the Apennines, and head to Ancona, in the East. There aren't many roads across Italy, so I don't expect it to be an easy journey."

"How long will it take?" Felix asked, glancing at the drawing, then at the mountains, trying to judge the distance. Even if it was closer than it looked, climbing up and down was going to be hard work. "I don't mind the walking." he added quickly. He was still a slave, and he did what he was told, and he was not going to start complaining about any of it just because he was not currently wearing the tablet around his neck.

@Sharpie

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Aulus scratched another cross in the approximate position of Ancona. "You're in for a bit of a shock," he said dryly, looking at Felix' face in the twilight shadows of predawn. "About two weeks. There will be paths through the mountains, at least."

It would be easier on paved roads, of course, but paved roads were used by troops, and Imperial messengers, and they would be mounted.

"I doubt anyone will think to look for us there, and anyone following us will have to be on foot as we are; mountain paths are not the best footing for horses."

He lay back. "So. What drudgery have I dragged you away from for this crazy adventure?"

He did not generally chat with his slaves, but there was little else to do right now, and they could gain very little indeed by continuing to walk without resting. Besides, if Felix was to be his sole companion for this journey, they ought to be able to talk about something, and better the innocuous life of a slave than the seditious life of a duly elected Senator, who had simply hoped to serve his first term in a political office with nothing worse than a few rude graffiti sketches deriding the size of his cock because he'd shut down a caupona or two for not having the correct trading licences.

@Chevi

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