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You'll Know It When You See It (I)


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"Out of my way, plebians! Make a hole!"

The crowd parted like waves under the prow of a ship. Stares came Bestia's way - as they always did - and vigiles nearby reached for their implements. The woman's face was a mask of frustrated determination, her hair more tangled than usual. Old leaves trailed down to the ends of her curls, and on either side, twigs laid flat against her skull. It gave the impression of an animal with its ears laid flat, or a deer with its horns growing down. Her feet and legs were muddy to the knees and elbows, and her ragged, patchwork tunic was in ribbons at the bottom. Fresh scratches and bruises covered her face and arms, dry trails of blood streaking down. Fear and disgust painted the Roman faces around her at her state.

It didn't matter. Bestia came painted in the hues of earth and body for a reason, and that reason was prophecy. In the forests outside of Rome, in shelter only known to her, a message had come amidst drinking and dance. Intoxicated and thoughtless, Bestia throwing herself into shadows brought alive, she'd heard whispers. They came between the crackles of a fire heavy with offerings and the woman's ragged panting.

And then, in the corner, crowned with laurel leaves and holding the bottle of wine she'd poured, she'd seen his face. Bacchus. Her god, standing there in the skin of a leopard, half-realized and half-dream. The whispers came and drowned her then, and though his lips were unmoving, Bestia knew the words were his.

Now it was time to act on those words. Bestia marched up to the steps of the Senate, a white cock under her arm squawking and kicking wildly. She'd bound its legs and body with twine, but that didn't stop it from wriggling, crowing and trying to peck at her. The praeco, crowing out the day's news as he always did, trailed off to turn and look at her from his podium. "Madam!" he called. "Madam, please, Senate is in session and no man or woman is to - "

"Shut it, you fat bastard!" Bestia snarled back, looking over her shoulder at the praeco. "I have a message to deliver!"



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The praeco's attempted message was reinforced by the lictors at the door of the Curia. "You'll have to wait, the Senate is in session!"

As it turned out, the session was over sooner than usual (Aulus was not quite sure which god had managed to arrange that minor miracle!) and it wasn't long before he found himself standing outside the Curia doors, at the top of the flight of steps leading down to the Forum. He was wholly unprepared for the half-wild woman who accosted him there, bearing a white cock which she was holding upside down from its legs - the best way to carry live chickens, in Aulus' admittedly limited experience of such things.

Whatever his personal thoughts, his well-honed politician's sense of duty won out. "How may I help you?"



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