Friday, 14 March 2014

Getting to know Gaius!

There are only 11 days to the launch of After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks so it has to be time to meet Gaius Livanus Valerius, tribune of the Legio XX ...and for a very short time tribune militum of the Legio IX, a secondment at a time when the Ninth Legion was marching northwards through the lands of the Votadini, and the Venicones- modern day Scotland.

In Book 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series Gaius Livanus Valerius takes Ineda of Marske prisoner and makes her his personal slave.

It isn't a popular choice for him to make, and he becomes very out of favour within his garrison fort at Viroconium Cornoviorum, but he has his reasons for not allowing Ineda her freedom.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter Four:

It was not long before circumstances improved more to Ineda’s liking. Escape was still as elusive, but her purpose changed when Tribune Valerius took her with him when he was posted to the encampment at Deva. Though the Cornovii had largely been subdued for some time, the rebuilding and improvements to the earlier abandoned wooden fortress had been delayed till shortly before their arrival. The troops needed to build it had been deployed elsewhere for many seasons, but the present Governor Frontinus had decided the time had come to release sufficient soldiers from other legions to build the new structure.
            Having seen a little of the assembly of the fort at Nidd, and having lived for so long at Viroconium Cornoviorum, Ineda saw many similarities, though the Deva garrison fortress was much larger. Situated on a headland, the river meandered below. It was also close to a natural harbour on the western coast and would dominate any sea traffic in and out of the area. The position was ideal for containing the Brigantes, the Setantii and the Carvetii to the north of it, and effectively kept the local tribes to the south of it under control, with little unseen intermixing of the tribes.
The new walls of the fortress were in place before they arrived but the construction of interior buildings was still underway. Manned mainly by auxiliaries, the noise behind the walls was deafening as building after building took shape. The whole interior was already so well laid down it was easy to walk around, the paved walkways being laid out in similar fashion to Viroconium Cornoviorum. She could not help being reluctantly impressed by the whole organisation within the Roman Empire. The function Gaius currently performed in supplying the necessary iron to make construction nails and other building supplies was being mirrored across the empire.
            Gaius. She now allowed herself to think of him as Gaius and even named him so as well when directly speaking to him. His persistence that she should do so had eventually wore down her reticence.
            A small measure of enjoyment was had as she learned more and more about Gaius’ world, her natural curiosity fed. She became a woman of two parts as well as one who wore two bratts. Day after day she was drawn more and more in to the life of a Roman, her former Celtic identity pushed into abeyance. It was only when some important insurgence happened that her Celtic loyalties came to the fore.
            “You have the white puss and swelling still under the wound, Gaius, and for full healing it must be drawn out. My grandmother would have made a paste of plantain and some other herbs, but I have none of these. Would anyone have such things at Deva? Already in a paste or the fresh growth?”
            Gaius had just returned from a short journey to Cambodunum, to the site of a permanent encampment. Governor Frontinus had marked out the area as an excellent site for a small fort and Gaius had started to send supplies. Unfortunately for him – though something which delighted Ineda – the supply wagons were being intercepted by local Celtic warriors and small skirmishes were frequent. The convoy he had personally accompanied had been attacked, but since the guard was heavy enough the Celtic assailants had fled after only a short foray.
            “How should I know such a thing, Ineda? My dealings at present are about iron and copper supplies, not plantain, whatever that is!” Gaius was bitingly terse, obviously annoyed that the pain was sufficient to bother him, all evident in the grimace he darted her way. Brushing her aside he clutched at the goblet of wine.
            Quelling anger at his offhand attitude, she bit her tongue to keep from being just as rude. A deep breath taken, she looked away from his wincing features and summoned control of her emotions. “You use herbs when you give prayers to your goddess Etain.”
            Only after drinking deeply from the cup did Gaius deign to answer, his gaze confrontational. His teeth crunched together, his lips pursed against the pain. “That is different from me knowing where they come from!” Quarrelling with him was not uncommon, but this incident was exacerbated even more by his hurting. “Why ask me? How should I know such things? Go from my sight if you cannot help me.”
            Gaius noticed the fleeting hurt she was unable to hide from her expression and glared at her all the more. Having come to dislike him less, being treated badly hurt her ambivalent feelings.
            “Ask Rubrius! He should know these things.”
            She had an idea who Rubrius was, was certain he was one of the superior surgeons, and was also fairly certain the surgeon would not spend time with her. But she did know one of his militis, a man friendly with one of Gaius’ clerks.
            Stomping off in high dudgeon over Gaius’ harsh behaviour, her temper was still roiling when she reached Rubrius’ quarters and requested to speak to his militis.         “I am told that Rubrius used the services of a healing woman to acquire herbs for some of his unguents? Is this true?” That she was rude to the man did not trouble her, though it would have in her more temperate moments.
            “I do not know her name! Tribune Valerius needs treatment for his wound. Where will I find this woman?”
            “Does he need our immediate assistance?” The man looked bothered. “We have many wounded soldiers to deal with right now, but I will ask Rubrius to tend to the tribune.”
            She began to feel harassed when the militis glared, though her words were measured with care. “The wound needs treated, but given the proper unguent I have the skills to deal with it. All I need are the correct essentials to make the paste. If the woman has plantain I can do what is necessary.”
            Though the man looked sceptical, he told her where to locate the woman named Orchil.
            Ineda felt the blood surge around her body. Orchil lived outside the walls of the fortress! Was this her chance to escape after being so long a prisoner behind the walls? Excitement mounted, her thoughts whirling.
            “What is this I hear? I am extremely busy!”
            Ineda roused quickly from her momentary distraction. The man striding towards her looked to be important and yet full of bluster as his words rattled on.
            “I am Rubrius and you are Tribune Valerius’ whore. I heard you say you wish to talk with Orchil, the herbs woman? And you say you can deal with the tribune’s wound yourself?” His disdain dripped from every word, his sneer accompanied by a lascivious glare.
            “With plantain I can. I have the other items I need to make a paste to draw out the white puss that is under the skin.” When Rubrius continued to stare at her without saying more, she named a few other herbs she knew were available to her.
            “Is that all that ails the tribune? I thought him to be much needier of my expert services. What you name should work well enough.” Dismissing her, Rubrius turned and bawled at one of his underlings. “Fetch a guard and personally escort this slave to Orchil. See that she returns safely to the fortress. The tribune would be most upset if his personal woman ran off. He would not wish to be the butt of any ribald jokes when evening comes, though I dare say many of the soldiers within would make haste to recapture her. There are many of us who have to do without the services of a private whore.”
            Before striding off, the man’s chin moved right down to her face. “Your beauty causes much resentment at this fortress!”
            Something of her grandmother, Meaghan’s, words of so long ago came back to her as she was marched to the dwelling of the old healer. Though she had no recollection of the actual phrase, she remembered Meaghan commenting that her healing skills would be needed after a long time of no use. She also remembered Meaghan saying something about always looking forward to the good and not to dwell on the bad. It was not the first time she had been referred to as the tribune’s whore, and most likely not the last but it hurt – badly.

            “Aye! I have what you need.” The old woman cackled as she went about collecting the items Ineda requested. “So, the tribune is not immune to a Celtic sword? Sometimes our Celtic brothers strike back successfully. I would that more of them were successful against this Roman scum that floods our land!”
            Stunned that Orchil would be so openly ridiculing, Ineda found herself lost for words. Gaius could have been killed, but she also rejoiced that there was still some resistance to Roman domination of Celtic territory. She was amazed that the old woman voiced her opinions so loudly but at least the soldiers who accompanied her were outside the roundhouse.
            Orchil grumbled ominously as she handed over the herbs. “Your whoredom status is known to all, Ineda of the Brigantes, but that need not mean you should be termed Roman. Those who refuse to accept the tyranny of Rome need the support of every Celtic heart. If your tribune had been killed what would you do then?”
            Ineda had no idea what to answer. Her confusion was total. Her mumbled words of thanks given she left quickly, in her agitation bumping against the wooden door post.
            “Come back when you have something useful to tell me so that I can pass it along, Ineda of the Brigantes! You are still of the Celtic people and always will be. Remember that.” Orchil’s words rang out as Ineda sped away.
            While returning to Gaius she deliberately put the old woman’s comments from her thoughts, thoughts that whirled her whole journey back. Orchil could not possibly mean what she was thinking? Maybe was even secretly hoping? Had the herbs woman indicated she could pass messages along to insurgent Brigantes? Orchil had also mentioned something troubling as well. What would be her fate if Gaius died? It seemed the dislike she felt from many of the soldiers that she encountered may not be because she was a Brigante slave, but more because Gaius had stirred resentment in keeping her as his personal woman instead of sharing her like a camp prostitute.
            During her absence Gaius had drunk more wine, the almost empty flagon a sure sign something was amiss. Soft snores greeted her when she tried to waken him but he slept on. The salve was fully ready by the time he stirred.
            “What is that mixture?” He winced in pain as he sat up, his arm jarring against the cot with his sluggish movements.
            “The unguent you need to draw out the white matter that lies beneath the skin. This paste will draw it out and clean the wound from beneath the skin.”
            Gaius seemed sceptical, though clearly interested in her movements as she used her stone pestle to transfer her mix from the mortar to a small pot. “How do you know this will work?”
            Encouraged by his tone she poured clean water from a jug into a small basin and then dipped in her wiping cloth. “My grandmother was the healer of our village. She taught me many things about tending ailments.”
            “We have skilled surgeons here at Deva who treat the wounds of our casualties.”
            Though his words could have been a rejection of her skills his tone said otherwise. It held a question, maybe a doubt about her expertise, yet also held a trust in her.
            “Aye! I know this. And they are very busy with other wounds just now, but if you prefer to wait for Rubrius, that is your choice.” Though she would never divulge what had happened, she was not confident the surgeon would even look at Gaius’ wound after what the man had said to her.
            Gaius holding out his wound told her his intentions. The glint in his gaze was trusting… and even… affectionate.
            “I trust you to heal me, Ineda. You have had many opportunities over many long moons now to have poisoned me, yet you have not.”
            She did not know what to think as she cleaned the wound. Uncertainty flooded her since she no longer knew where her loyalties lay. Gaius was her lover, and to all effects her hearth husband, even if no hand-fasting had occurred. But he was Roman.
            He was also the father of the babe in her womb that was soon to be born, though he had no knowledge of that as yet.
            She resolved to put Orchil’s taunts from her thoughts.


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