After 416 A.D. Rome
Kairos 96: Senator Festuscato Cassius Agitus
The travelers stopped in the afternoon in Capua, three- or four-days shy of Rome. Though they had several hours before sundown, they opted to spend the night there. The inn seemed nice, and they only had one other customer, a merchant bringing goods from Brundisium.
“On the heel of the Italian boot,” Lincoln explained. “At the beginning or the end of the Appian Way. One end, anyway.”
“We got that,” Lockhart said. “We have been this way a few times.”
“Tell us about Festuscato,” Katie said. She looked at the other table where Decker, Nanette, Boston, Tony, Sukki and Elder Stow all sat quietly waiting for their supper. She looked the other way and saw only the merchant and his two mates. She figured they were safe to talk more or less openly.
Lincoln pulled out the database and reported. “Festuscato Cassius Agitus. A Roman Senator, first class. I figure we arrived in the first twenty years of his life or in the last twenty years or so. The middle twenty he spent in Gaul, Britain, the Hun Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire. He even visited the Holy Land before he went back to Gaul, kicked Attila the Hun’s butt, and retired with his new wife, some fourteen years younger, to his villa on the Appian Way.”
“That is a pretty good summary,” the merchant spoke up from the other table.
Lockhart, Lincoln, Alexis, and Katie all looked, and Katie spoke. “You know Festuscato?”
The man nodded. “Since childhood. It was me, Festus, Gaius, and Dibs. That is short for Diboronicuous. Festus shortened it to Dibs because he said otherwise, the boy sounded like a dinosaur. He never did explain what a dinosaur was; but anyway, he became Dibs. My name is Felix.”
“You grew up together?” Alexis asked. She scooted Lincoln down to make room. Katie did the same on the other side. Felix stood and instructed one young man to check on the merchandise and their wagon, then he and the other young man came to the table
“My son, Rupert,” Felix said, and explained. “His mother is a Frank.” Lockhart poured two cups of beer, and Felix turned to his son. “You see, Rupert. It is like I have been trying to teach you. If you have something the customer wants, in this case, I assume information, they will take care of you.”
“Father,” Rupert said. He seemed a young man of few words.
Felix turned to the travelers. “So, may I ask. Where did you meet Lord Agitus?”
“I suppose it would not do to call him an old friend,” Lockhart said, and Felix shook his head.
“All of the others,” Lincoln said.
“Our journey is through time,” Katie admitted.
“We are trying to get back to our own time period,” Alexis admitted.
Felix’s eyes grew big, and he spoke to his son. “Rupert. Go check on the merchandise and stay in the barn with the others.”
“You know the silk need to be kept dry and clean. Now, go on. Some things are not for your ears.”
The young man groused but got up and walked out.
“We don’t mind if he stays,” Katie said, with a glance at the others to see if they had objections.
“No, but Festuscato might,” Felix said. “He is very secretive about the other lives he has lived. Gaius, Dibs and I, and his wife, Morgan know, but that is about it. Mirowen knows, but she is living with the Geats, and anyway, she is a house-elf. General Aetius might have known, but he got killed, they say on Emperor Valentinian’s order. I don’t believe the emperor knew, but he got killed, too. People blame the current emperor, Petronius Maximus for that. Personally, I try to avoid politics. Too much backstabbing.”
“A good phrase,” Katie said.
“I think he means literal backstabbing,” Lincoln said, as Boston came over and took the spare seat.
“Who is your new friend?” She asked.
“Felix,” Alexis answered. “He is a silk merchant.”
“Ecclesiastical vestments,” Felix explained. “Fathers, friars, bishops, cardinals. Mostly wool and linen. The silk in this shipment will be used in the Pope’s new robe.”
“So, what happens?” Lockhart asked at normal volume.
Katie shrugged and looked at Lincoln. They all looked at Lincoln, who got out the database and read before he said, “Killed by a mob, when the Vandals sack Rome.”
“They are going to Vandalize Rome?” Boston said with a giggle, and in the timing of the little ones, the door to the inn swung open and a man tromped in.
Clearly, the man had ridden hard, and he said, “The Vandals landed their whole army at Ostia, unopposed. They are headed for Rome. Every able-bodied man is called to defend Rome. Beer.” He finished, pounding his fist on the bar.
People looked at Felix. He looked worried. He spoke softly. “My wife, and daughters, and young son are in Rome. I need to get them out.”
Decker stepped over to their table. “I see the Kairos has Vandals to deal with. I wonder what other monsters are involved.”
“Maybe he will pull a monster out of his hat,” Boston suggested.
Felix smiled. “I see you do know Festuscato, as you said.”
Festuscato brushed his wife’s plain brown hair back so he could gaze into her eyes—eyes that could not decide if they wanted to be light brown or green. Morgan’s eyes always looked mysterious to him, though full of promise. Right now, they were full of tears, but Festuscato chalked that up to her being pregnant. She was not the type to show fear in the face of an enemy.
“Why must you go?” she asked. She bit her tongue. She knew it was not only his duty as a Roman Senator, but also his job in the universe. Something of great historical significance would happen with these Vandals. He had to be there. Besides, Pope Leo himself asked.
Festuscato did not answer. He kept thinking about Morgan’s lovely eyes. His own eyes were lighter than most, but still a very dull and plain brown. He figured, if it was not for his red hair, his face would have no character at all. He kissed her, and she kissed him back like it was good-bye forever.
The two sergeants, Marcellus and Tiberius stood by their horses, talking quietly. They both had ten men to watch, but Marcellus, being senior, oversaw all the men. The Centurion Dibs led another ten, men that mostly worked with him in Gaul, and he commanded the full thirty—hardly a century, but Rome had fallen on hard times.
Tiberius pointed toward the tenant houses where the farm families lived, out behind the two-story Appian Way manor house where Lord Agitus and his lovely wife, Morgan lived. The last of those farm families headed into the hills. Tiberius repeated what Lord Agitus said. “Better safe than sorry,” and Lord Agitus was usually right about such things.
Marcellus looked at the four horsemen, the elves that Lord Agitus called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They were already mounted and waiting patiently. Even their horses waited patiently. Marcellus spent years working with the four, both in Gaul and Britannia, but they still seemed creepy sometimes. They painted little symbols on their helmets that covered their faces completely. Pestilence, War, Famine, and Death. It was the only way to tell them apart, though somehow, they found horses to match the description in the Holy Book. Pestilence sat on a white horse. War’s horse was chestnut red. Famine sat on a black horse and Death on a pale gray. Marcellus shivered, and heard a noise. He gladly turned his head to see Centurion Dibs and Father Gaius come out the front door of the manor.
“You need to go,” Gaius said. “The Vandals have already started busting the aqueducts to cut off Rome’s water supply. The Pope intends to confront them the way he confronted Attila, the Hun.”
Dibs shook his head. “Gaiseric is in his right mind. He is not sick and seeing things the way Attila was. Besides, Gaiseric is reported to be an Arian and thinks little of the orthodox faith. No reason he should listen. He might cut the Pope to pieces.”
“Faith,” Gaius said. “We must trust in the Lord, whatever happens.”
Dibs huffed. “I think your being made a cardinal has addled your brains.”
“Not entirely,” Gaius responded. “We do what we can, and trust God to do the rest. God will work everything out for good no matter what. You have to believe that.”
“I believe we need to do what we can.” Dibs stopped walking and turned to wait for Festuscato to finish kissing his wife. “I believe Festuscato may be able to do something, if anyone can.”
“God has used him before,” Gaius nodded. “That is why I convinced Pope Leo to send for him.”
Dibs nodded and turned to his horse. “Ready,” he said, while Gaius gave some last-minute instructions to the dozen priests and monks that would accompany the troop back to Rome. Marcellus and Tiberius mounted and got the men up and mounted. Festuscato looked at the sky.
“It might rain,” he said.
“It might,” Morgan agreed, and the two turned away from each other without another word. Festuscato slipped into his white tunic with a dragon painted on the front. All the soldiers wore dragon tunics, so they looked more medieval than Roman. Festuscato mounted and started down the Appian way to Rome. The troop fell in behind.
Morgan acknowledged Gaius when he came to walk with her. She called for Sibelius, her house-elf handmaid, but she was right there. Sibelius was never far, especially since Morgan was five months pregnant, and showing.
“Let us see what preparations Lord Atias and Lord Roan have made to fortify the house,” Morgan said. Atias was the elf king and Roan, the local fairy king.
“You must trust in the Lord,” Gaius said.
“I trust in God,” Morgan said, gruffly. “It is the Vandals I don’t trust.”