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From Behind these Bars (Lucius Longinus)


Chris
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July 73 CE - the Tullianum in the Forum Romanum

For most of his life, Lucius Silanus hadn't really had a home to call his own. He was raised in Asia in his youngest years, and after the death of his father and then mother, he moved on from place to place - living with his uncle Gaius Longinus and aunt Lepida in Syria, and then to Rome where he was taken in by his uncle Decimus, who was for all intents and purposes his father. He travelled with Decimus to Britannia for the man's proconsulship, and lived in the governor's palace there, only to return to Rome after Decimus' death. When he returned, he again took residence in the home of the Junii-Silani, where - at that time - his aunt Calvina was the caretaker of what was left of their family. Though she had been the oldest, she had only just returned to Rome from exile. Then came the riots and Clemens' rise to power, when Lucius, his siblings, and mother-and-law Juliana all escaped Rome to live in Africa. Calvina refused to leave Rome again, and was killed during the destruction of the family home.

After Quintus Caesar brought peace, Lucius returned to Rome with Flavia Juliana - the widow of Lucius' uncle Decimus, and the woman he considered to be his mother. With her help he managed to rebuild the family domus on the same land, almost to the exact same specifications as the original. What a shock it had been, then, when Lucius returned from months of service in the east to find that a cousin he hadn't even realized existed - Vitellia Calvina - had laid legal claim to his home during his absence, and using his absence as an advantage, had created a very strong case against him. With what wealth he had tied up into the home itself, Lucius was left only with what Juliana could lend him, and in the end, the case had settled in favor of Vitellia, stating that though Decimus had lived in the home, it had always belonged to Junia Calvina, and thus was the inheritance of her daughter.

Outrage. Disbelief. Two of the strongest emotions that coursed through Lucius. Two emotions that led him to set fire to the home he had exhausted himself to rebuild. Just when he'd thought he had a home, it was by his own hands that it had to be destroyed. Vitellia was quick to have Lucius arrested, and he went willingly to the Tullianum in the center of the Forum where he was held with others, nobles and common plebs alike, waiting for his trial. Though some had lost hope, Lucius was determined, despite his destitution. He still had connections. He still had allies. He still had friends...

@Sara

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Longinus strode with purpose towards the Forum. Since his return to Rome seven months ago, he had tried to avoid the place as much as possible. The crowds frayed his patience and the self-importance of its visitors irritated him. Still, needs must. He'd even dressed for the occasion - a rarity for a man who placed as much importance in his looks as he did poetry or theatre - but he wanted to impress on those at the Tullianum that he was not somebody to be trifled with. Money, of course, always greased these sort of situations as well and Vitus his secretary carried a small coin purse just for that reason. 

Entering the prison he squinted into the dim light. The sounds and smells of the place reminded him distinctly of the parts of his camps where new spoils were stowed; quivering in fear and (in some instances) quite literally pissing themselves. He shook his head, for the life of him he couldn't imagine his Tribune here nor what had driven him to such drastic measures. 

As he was eyeing the place Vitus had done his work and a few coins exchanged, Longinus was shown through to a dank, windowless room at the back of the building. Whistling to himself to keep the tension from building he glanced over his shoulder at Vitus who looked about as pleased to be here as any of the prisoners. "Try not to look quite so depressed Vitus, you're not the one in here." And as if on cue, the door creaked open and the familiar face of Lucius loomed into view. Painting a broad grin on to his face he moved to embrace the younger man and waved a hand that the guard should leave which he did. Vitus must have spent a small fortune on buying him off. "You know what," He grinned as he pulled back, "You've looked better, but you've looked a hell of a lot worse." 

 

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Longinus was a welcome sight.. though truthfully any sight at all in that dark cesspit was welcome. Held at arm's length by Longinus after the brotherly embrace, Lucius grinned quickly. "Ever a man imbued with positivity, commander," Lucius said, letting live the old habit of calling Longinus by his title rather than his name. Lucius shuffled his feet against the moist floor of the cell, and put himself into the sliver of light that crept in from the corridor beyond it. Though he knew it was only the light of a candelabra and not the sun, it still felt oddly refreshing to be draped in it, however momentarily.

"You've heard the details?" After the deed was done, Lucius prepared for the eventuality that he would be apprehended. Planning ahead, he had instructed his freedman Falcius to immediately call upon Longinus in such an event. Whether or not the man had taken time to investigate why exactly Lucius had been thrown in with common criminals was still unknown. "If not, all the better you hear it from me, I suppose."

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Longinus always seemed to have a natural buoyancy and energy about him, even in generally dire circumstances - of which this was one. Still, he chuckled and offered an incline of his head to the compliment. But it seemed the brief moment of levity was not to last and as he dropped his arms from his friend and pseudo-protege, he sighed heavily. Shaking his head, he eyed him with an arched brow. 

"Not all the details. That you set a fire in your own bloody house and now even the most avaricious of landlords wouldn't be able to rent it out for all its worth." He also knew that it probably had something to do with the confusing cousin who had laid claim to said land, but that didn't excuse his actions nor did it really explain it. 

With a jerk of his head to Vitus his secretary promptly left thereby leaving the two men alone. Longinus moved to sit on the rotting wooden bench that must double as a bed in this room and gestured for his companion to sit on the upturned bucket whose proper use he didn't want to think about. Shaking his head and running a hand through his hair he sighed and glanced at the younger man. "What on earth possessed you Lucius?" Of course his Tribune had his offer of help, unquestionably, but he wanted the truth first. He didn't know how seriously the younger man was taking this and much like their shared time in the military, Longinus still wasn't a man to let his juniors get away with mistakes without realising their gravity.

 

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Lucius thought to speak to the instability of the bench as Longinus postured himself over it, but the man sat and seemed stable enough before any words could form, so Lucius let it be. He followed Longinus' eyes to the bucket he hadn't yet had to use, but was certain had been used well beyond its value - if it even had one to begin with. Not one to squirm in the face of a little dirt - or shit as it were - Lucius took a seat and then a deep breath to begin telling the tale of how he'd ended up in the Tullianum.

"Well... I suppose rage possessed me," he answered honestly enough. If anyone knew of Lucius' bouts of rage, it was Longinus; he was there when Lucius, still then a boy of eleven years, took his father's gladius and slaughtered Scaevo, the Briton slave whom had gained Decimus Silanus' trust only to betray and kill him. "That domus had always been Decimus', for all I knew. I lived there before and after Britannia, and from all I could see it was the family home, and he, as the pater familias, was the owner. Turns out the truth was a bit more complicated. Any copies of the deeds and testaments that Decimus had were destroyed in the riots, so, I secured the land and rebuilt the home." Lucius stopped himself abruptly. "I don't know why I'm repeating all of this when you know it already."

"But, what you might not know, and what I didn't know, was that my aunt Calvina had inherited the domus. Her daughter, Vitellia, had a testament that proved she was the rightful heir to the land." What complicated matters even further was that Calvina had been exiled during Claudius' reign, and all of her possessions had been forfeited to the state, after which time Decimus was given the land as a caretaker - which is what Lucius' argument had been in the courts. Vitellia's defense was that when Quintus Caesar extended clemency, all previous charges were forgiven and reversed, which also restored properties to rightful owners. "Without any sort of physical testament myself, it was a hopeless battle, and she won the home I spent all of my inheritance on..."

He paused, rolling the tip of his tongue over the edge of his upper teeth. "Well, she won the land. I paid for the home. The walls, the decor, the furniture. So, she can have the land, and live there if she chooses, but not before paying to rebuild it as I did."

Lucius understood that his actions had been incredibly brash and foolish. In the moment he had only been pushed by rage and a desire for revenge. Sitting in that cell, he felt a different, quieter sort of rage. He still wanted revenge.

 

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Longinus listened with well measured patience, honed through years of tedious negotiations with savages. Rage was not uncommon when it came to young Lucius, and whilst he tolerated it in the field or Britannia, if he was still the man's commander he would have clapped him straight around the head at the thought he'd unleash it in Rome. The idiot. His face displayed uncharacteristic neutrality though as he listened. A cousin? Well...that was unfortunate. But then with how vast some Roman families were now, not altogether unexpected. 

He didn't say anything until the youneger man had finished, and instead rested his jaw on his fist, eyeing him coolly. He had a level head on his shoulders, and was already thinking about practical arrangements to make this better. In the short term, however, he sighed exasperated - finally breaking the silence - and added; "You petty, vindictive idiot." He shook his head and let a whistle of air past his teeth as he exhaled. 

Clapping his hands together as if to rouse some life into the dank cell he eyed his comrade. "Why did you not come to me? You know we could have financed the best, money-grabbing lawyer or pay off a few of the idiots to get your claim." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "And what next?" He would offer all the help he could, even if his friend was not as remorseful as he had hoped he would be, but he needed to ask for it. 

 

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Lucius shrugged and nodded in agreement when his commander named him for what he was: an idiot.

Perhaps he should have gone to Longinus to start with. "I went to Juliana," who was, as Longinus knew, the closest thing to a mother Lucius had ever had. "She lent me the funds needed for representation, a man her husband recommended. Cnaeus Proculinus. A waste of coin he was." Lucius had later learned that Proculinus had only served in the minor circuit courts prior to Lucius' trial against Vitellia.

Longinus had all the qualities of a good leader. He listened, he spoke straight and honest, and he was always thinking ahead. Lucius this time had a good answer for his question. "I think there are a few paths open to me. The most straightforward is to try to defend my actions with the simple argument that I destroyed my property, although it resided on 'her' land. To that end... I have a house servant, Alexia, who lives... lived? In my home. She was the slave of the architect I hired to build the home until I bought and freed her. His name is some long Greek contraption... Ante-something? I can't remember. But she would. He would have a record of the plans and payments."

He paused to think and collect his thoughts, and then gave his mentor a long, careful look. "But, there is another thought that continues to eat at me. Vitellia was all but non-existent until just now. Why? What's her motive? And come to think of it, I'm not entirely trustful of Proculinus, either."

 

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Longinus rested his jaw on his knuckles as he listened, narrowing his eyes. "Why a waste of coin?" He asked, intrigued. Surely Juliana would not send a useless lawyer to defend Lucius, her stepson? And he doubted Tuscus would recommend a man without promise. But regardless, he listened to Lucius' quandary and tried to work through the various options, arching a brow as he appraised them like any good tactician or strategist would. 

After some quiet when Lucius had finished speaking, Longinus sighed and moved his hand from his face. "I think you'd be in for a challenge to claim all you did was torch your possessions," He shrugged, "You risked fire damage to the neighbouring land if not the ground itself and Vitellia would likely argue that you shouldn't have built on it in the first place - so your possessions become hers by virtue of you building on her land." He was no lawyer, but he knew the cunning tricks of words they used to argue their cases and win their clients honour back. He moved a hand up to scratch the light beard he wore by habit of not finding a decent barber and considered his next words carefully. What could he do for his friend that would actually make a difference? His trial was around the corner and there were so few avenues open to him. After careful consideration as he glanced around the meagre cell and back to the man he called one of his closest friends. 

"I will speak to Alexia, where is she now?" It wasn't like she had a domus to reside in anymore, he thought with dark amusement, "And let me do some digging into Proculinus. I'm not going near Vitellia with a ten foot pole," He chuckled, "I don't want my balls ripped off - but I'll find out what I can. When's the trial for the arson?" Surely it couldn't be more than a few days away. That Longinus would speak on behalf of his friend as a character witness, went unspoken.

 

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"The trial is a week from now. Enough time to find Alexia, dig into Proculinus, and prepare some speeches." He paused, thinking of where Alexia might be. "As for Alexia. As I mentioned, she is a free woman, and has a brother called Lycus who is a baker in the Caelian subura. I imagine if she's not there, he can tell you where she is." What I wouldn't give for one of his pies right now, Lucius thought to himself.

"Proculinus... He seemed very prepared, confident, well-liked by the others present and before the proceedings began, I was sure I would come away the victor. But as the opposition made arguments, his confidence disappeared. His papers became disheveled. His voice weakened and he appeared he hadn't studied a day of law in his life." Lucius' eyes glazed over as he thought back to the day of the first trial. "I might think him an actor over a lawyer, for his show of hollowed bravado."

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Longinus was dutiful to his friends. Whilst not a man that enjoyed intrigue or politics at all, he'd suffer its machinations for those he was close to, fortunately for Lucius Junius Silanus. He'd spent the better part of the day in the Caelian subura until he had finally stumbled upon Alexia who was more than amenable to help. Pretty girl, he thought absentmindedly as she'd rifled through plans and papers until he had left her place with an armful of plans and documents and receipts of transactions that definitively proved Lucius had indeed paid for the building and his property, even if the magistrate concluded it was on another plot of land. It would help with his defence, for certain. The girl tagged along as he determined his next cause of action; tracking down Proculinus. 

He honestly had no idea where to start. It wasn't as if he frequented theatrical performances so wouldn't have known if he was a player from a qualified lawyer. His only idea came from Alexia, of all people, who drank the wine he'd bought her with a bemused frown on her face. "Wouldn't there be records?" Longinus arched a brow, "I'm not sure they keep lists of the lawyers in the city, think of all the poor sods condemned who'd want to get hold of it." He scoffed and shook his head, "No, no I mean there would be records of all of the previous trials, surely? And we could look through the archives, to see if a Proculinus has defended anybody recently - or at all?" It was not a bad idea, not bad at all - and a wide grin spread across Longinus' face. He made a note to tell his friend that should he win this trial, to keep Alexia with him for life. 

Unfortunately, however, the records were to be a more laborious task than simply finding Alexia herself. The only postive was that one of his clients was a lawyer and owed him. It took the three of them five days to comb through all the records they could, going back five years (given the time constraints) to see if the specific Proculinus that had defended Lucius had defended anybody else. Satisfied that despite all of their searching they couldn't find the man, the day before the trial Longinus was back at the tullianum, waiting to be admitted to see his friend - full of news. 

 

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After Longinus, Lucius' visitors were few and far between. Had he had any money to spend, he would have posted his own bail so that he could at least remain on house arrest prior to the trial. Without such funds, he opted to remain behind bars until the time came to bring him before a judge and jury once again. But, before that, he knew his old friend and commander Longinus would return with good news for him.

When the guard came to alert him that he had a visitor, Lucius stood with a soft grin, waiting to see Longinus. He saw Alexia first, and his grin widened.

"Ave, Dominus," she said with a quick nod of her head.

"Alexia," he said, "I see that Longinus was able to find you after all."  His eyes moved from Alexia as Longinus came into view shortly behind her. "Now, tell me what you've learned."

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Longinus beamed and embraced Lucius in a familial hug, his natural buoyancy not beaten by the drabness of the place. "What we've learned?" He whistled through his teeth and folded his arms across his chest. "No preamble with you Lucius, your poor lovers." He chuckled and then shook his head, inclining it to Alexia. "You want to do the honours?" She nodded politely, evidently not a huge fan of Longinus' crass sense of humour. 

"Myself and Senator Longinus collated all of the plans and receipts for the building work, we have them stashed away with a decent lawyer, Senator Longinus has paid for." He nodded. The man usually defended murder trials, this'd be a walk in the park. Besides, he'd compensated the man handsomely and it meant that he'd been able to secure advice from property lawyers to advise on the case. "And then we went with the lawyer to the courts to look through records and..." She went quiet and glanced up at Longinus to finish. He did so with gusto and a grin. "Your lad Proculinus has never defended a case in the city of Rome, or the provinces as far as we can tell. No lawyer in the city has heard of him, nor were we able to find any clients past or present. The man's a fraud at best, at worst he purposefully sent you down here." 

Alexia offered a tentative smile to him which he returned with a big grin of his own, and then glanced back at Lucius. "That the sort of thing you were looking for young Lucius?" 

 

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Lucius couldn't help but grin at Alexia's not so well hidden reactions to Longinus' rather frank speech. The grin remained etched into Lucius face even as Alexia spoke to him of what they had been able to accomplish. The grin faded with each word Longinus added. Though Lucius' suspicions that Proculinus was a fraud at best were confirmed, it also sent his mind racing to contemplate an added dimension to this plot he was uncovering. Was Juliana's husband Tuscus a part of it?

Lucius was quiet for a moment as he considered the information relayed to him, and what that meant for his case and beyond. It wasn't until Alexia dipped her head so that her eyes met his that Lucius snapped back into reality.

"Yes... it confirms my suspicions at least. But if Proculinus is a fraud, who put him up to it? What's he have to gain? And what's his connection to Vitellia?" He was thinking aloud now. "I mentioned," he started in a lower, rougher voice, "that Juliana's husband Tuscus was the man to recommend Proculinus to me. Was his suggestion merely him acting on a favor, or is there more to it..."

Answers had only unlocked more questions.

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