R5 Festuscato: The Cad in Ravena, part 1 of 3

In 438, the Emperor of the East, Theodosius published a work which said, this is what Roman law is, like it or lump it.  It read full of morals.  In 438, with only minor incidents, most recently concerning young women, Festuscato turned twenty-two and Mirowen, who had not aged a bit, said he no longer needed a governess, he needed a conscience.  She knew he was a good boy, but he liked to push the boundaries.  She said he never got over being a rebellious eight, quick to wrestle in the mud and come home smelling of stolen oranges.

In 438, Festuscato headed north into Gaul where the western empire started falling apart, despite the great work of General Aetius.  The how and why of that actually began in mid-summer, 437 with a message from Ravena.

Over twelve years, neither Festuscato nor Mirowen heard a thing from Ravena, the capital, where Galla Placidia ruled over her son and everybody else.  Festuscato sometimes thought about General Aetius and his several, brilliant victories, and his even more brilliant decision to stay in Gaul and not get involved in Roman politics.  Aetius and his Hun friends had backed Joannes, the loser, but he was not the sort of man to repeat a mistake.

Sometimes Festuscato thought about Bishop Guithelm up in Londinium.  The British folk called it Londugnum.  He wanted to go there.  Between Mirowen and what British house servants he still had left, he became fascinated with the whole notion of Britain, what Rome called Britannia.  He called it Gerraint land.

“So, tell me, Julia.  How many Britons does it take to screw in a light bulb?”

“I’m sure I wouldn’t know,” Julia squeaked and slipped down beneath the covers.

Mirowen stomped in, no knocking, no warning.  “Rise and shine,” she said and drew back the curtains.

“Is it noon already?”  Festuscato squinted at the influx of light.

“No.  It’s morning.  You remember morning, don’t you?”

“Oh yes, the bright time,” Festuscato said, and drew the covers over his head.  Julia giggled.

“Hey.  You have a message from the capital, and Gaius is here to visit.”  Mirowen pulled the covers part way back.  She did not pull them further because she did not want to see.

“I’ll be right down,” Festuscato squeaked this time, and thought how glad he was that he had not been betrothed to some Roman.

An hour later, Festuscato sauntered down the stairs.  “I think this one can go out the front door for a change.”  He held his hand out in front of his chest.  “She has such nice, big—”

“I don’t want to hear about it,” Mirowen pointed.  Gaius stood in his clerical garb.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned.”

“So, what else is new?” Gaius responded.

“I will never get over you being a priest,” Festuscato said.  “Felix took up the mercantile business.  Lowest priced silk in the west.  And Dibs, poor fellow, took up the honorable profession of killing people. I hope General Aetius gave him a plum assignment.  But you…”

“Comes from Princess Mirowen forcing us to learn our letters, in Latin and Greek.  It was the only way to get you to learn,” Gaius said. “By the way, your philandering has reached the pope’s ears.  Every time he passes me in the hall, he just looks and shakes his head.”

“Glad to give the old fellow something to do besides count.  I mean, Xystus the Third?  He should be Xystus the Sixth, or maybe Tertius the Third.”

“Not funny, Festus,” Gaius said.  “But good try.”

“Ahem,” Mirowen coughed in her special way that got both boys quiet and listening. “Senator.  Your messenger is waiting.”  She pointed to the central court in the house.  Festuscato and Gaius moved along, but Festuscato could not help whispering.

“Probably a summons from the senate for missing too many meetings, or maybe for double parking.”

The messenger, a soldier, a centurion by rank, did not seem the normal messenger the senate would send, unless they were getting creative.  The man stood straight up and said, “Lord Agitus?”

“My, you look tired and hungry, I bet.  Sibelius. Drucilla.”  Festuscato called, and two remarkably young and beautiful women came immediately.

“Yes, Lord.” They dropped their eyes.

“Our guest has been kind enough to wait while I attended to business.”  Mirowen, Gaius and both girls stared at him.  “Well, bring him something refreshing to drink, and maybe some of those little ham sandwiches I showed you how to make.  Er, you aren’t Jewish, are you?  No?  Fine. Maybe whip up some scrambled eggs and sausage for me.  Business always makes me hungry, and try not to burn the toast.”  He turned to the centurion.  “I don’t know why they always have to burn the toast.  Now, you were saying?”

The centurion appreciated the females, and especially had one eye on Drucilla, which Mirowen noticed.  “Lord Agitus,” he began again.

“Oh, but I bet you were riding all morning,” Festuscato interrupted.  “Do have a seat.  We have few formalities in this house.  Sit.  Sit. That’s right.”  There were simple chairs, and a table with an umbrella for the outdoors which Festuscato had specially made.

“Lord Agitus.”

Festuscato took a breath to speak again, but Gaius touched his arm.  “Let the man speak,” he said.

Festuscato nodded. “I was having fun.  But I always listen to my priest, after my housekeeper, that is.  She is the scary one.”

“Like you ever listened to me,” Mirowen said and sat with the group.  “You have a name?”

“Julius, mum,” he said, with a smile for Mirowen before he turned to Festuscato with determination on his face.  “Lord. You are summoned to Ravena.  My century is here to provide safe escort.”

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