My main character, Brennus of Garrigill, who becomes Bran of Witton, the spy, in Book 2 (After Whorl: Bran Reborn) of the series, is being feasted/ interviewed as we get to know him in a fun post over at my friend Vonnie Davis' blog today. You can meet Brennus at http://vintagevonnie.blogspot.com/ so please hop on over and see what he's like.
Here we'll get to know my other two main characters in Book 3- Ineda of Marske and Roman Tribune Gaius Livanus Valerius. I'm going to be interviewing them in tandem - though they think they're being asked questions separately.
Hello, Ineda. Can you tell my readers a little bit about where you are now?
My master, Gaius Livanus Valerius, is still a tribune with the XXth Legion who are at the fortress of Viroconium Cornoviorum. That is such a mouthful of sounds that I make it easier and shorten it to Viro Corno. My master, I am afraid, does not like that so I only do it outwith his presence. Though, there are times when I am so exasperated by him that I do say it to annoy him.
What is the fortress like? Can you tell us a bit about it, please?
It is very large. I have not been allowed to set foot outside of it since I was brought here. When I was first set upon by the Roman patrol I was kept in the tent of the tribune and not allowed my freedom. It has been exactly the same at this fortress. All day long I have someone dogging my footsteps but I believe it might be better for these readers you mention to hear it from your own words.
That's a very good idea, Ineda. I'll ask you some more questions a bit later on today but till then, for my readers, here's an excerpt from Chapter 2 of Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks.
And later on today, Gaius Livanus Valerius will be in the spotlight, so pop back for that.
AD 74 After Lughnasad – Viroconium Cornoviorum, Cornovii Territory
“It is a fine day, is it not?”
As expected, Ineda received a scant nod but no conversation from the legionary officer as she passed him by. Though she persisted in greeting people, she was still regarded with suspicion, perhaps even derision, but she had learned to bear the treatment and did not let it sour her.
She looked around her as she walked to the market area, her latest tironis guard at her heels, Zosimus having been replaced when his novice period as a first level recruit was over. Whether or not Zosimus had made the next rank of militis she did not care about. His lugubrious presence was gone though the irony of his name had to be borne out. One likely to survive was what he had said when asked about its meaning. Holding back her laughter had been a trial since the lad had been fairly witless.
She had not bothered yet to ask her second tironis keeper what his name meant but this newest one was a young man of different sorts. He had only been her guard for a few days but she was not sure she trusted him. Only just come to the huge garrison fortress of Viroconium Cornoviorum she was surprised at how many people he knew already, his attitude vastly different from his forebear. She had a feeling he was answering to more than Tribune Valerius.
She was not surprised when he jumped into step alongside her since his orders were clearly to walk behind her, unless required for some task. His fervency to duty put her on edge, as much as his presence beside her. Just short of a lascivious look, his eyes admired too much when he had the opportunity to look her directly in the face. She put any doubts aside though, and probed. His readiness to answer was of possible use to her, though how she had not yet worked out.
“What would you have me do, Ineda?”
Not earning the title of lady did not trouble her. Her status as a slave hardly merited anything like that, though she often wanted her name to appear less familiar to all who spoke to her.
“Where did you come from? I mean before you came to Britannia and were sent here to this garrison?”
His light grey eyes twinkled, the quirk to his mouth one she had become used to even in such a short time. “You would not have heard of it.”
“How would you know such a thing?”
Though she guessed she was younger than him by a few seasons, he was a confident young man for his age. Her answer must have been firm enough since he replied, even though it was as if she asked a very foolish question.
“My people are of the Chauci.”
Ineda grinned. “The Chauci? Let me see…”
Lately, she and Tribune Valerius had come to an accommodation whereby he shared general information about the Roman Empire with her when they dined together. She listened to him and even sometimes commented on it. He improved her knowledge of Latin every day and she explained the Brigantian Celt he had difficulty over. Their conversations had become more…sociable. Not convivial but easier, the turning point having been after Tribune Valerius had learned about the death of his betrothed. She still deeply resented her captive status but found that searing hatred was difficult to maintain day after day.
She had begun to dislike herself, had felt the cloying detestation was changing her personality. Snapping and harping at everyone just was not her nature. She had come to a decision that even though she could do nothing about her captivity she would not allow it to destroy her spirit. Since she had made that judgment, she had forced herself to enjoy some aspects of her life.
Meaghan’s words made more sense now. She wore the bratt of acquiescence in Tribune Valerius’ presence and about the fortress, but underneath it still vowed to find a way to thwart Roman domination.
“What do I know about the Chauci?” She toyed with the guard who now strode alongside, all the while thinking of a recent conversation. Tribune Valerius had told her about a friend of his who conducted a similar role as tribune with a legion in the lands Velius spoke of.
“Your native language is of the northern Germanic tribes?”
Velius did not conceal his surprise, was extremely vocal about it when she went on to talk about the northern place his family still lived in.
“You will be no stranger to our cold damp weather, then? Tribune Valerius tells me the lands you come from are far colder in the winter than we have it here, and that you live close to sea access?”
Velius was delighted to tell her about his homeland, even confiding that his becoming an auxiliary soldier of Rome was not his own choice. There were many young conscripts from his tribe attached to the legions, the human tithe payment to the Roman coffers. Treaty agreements demanded their conscription.
Ineda sighed. His fate was really no different from many of the Celts of Britannia.
“I thought at first you must come from a Roman Family. Is Velius not a Roman name?”
He shrugged as though unconcerned, but she had an inkling he truly thought otherwise when his answer came after they had passed an oncoming group of soldiers. “It is the name that has been given to me by the legion.”
“What does Velius mean?”
A full blow grin showed his many strong teeth, large and predatory. “I have been told it means a concealing one.”
A laugh leaked out. Ineda thought it appropriate. “Would you rather I call you by your Chauci name?”
Velius’s head shook – his returning gaze gone flat and lifeless. “I am not that boy any more. Drastic changes make you someone else.”
Though she said nothing, Ineda heartily agreed with him. She was not the same girl who had journeyed with Bran, not the same person who had vowed to be a Celtic messenger for her king. It crossed her mind that someone in Velius’ position might be useful to local Celtic insurgence. Someone, yes, but probably not Velius. What she needed was to find a contact who could guard his tongue.
“My body debt to Rome has barely started but already I am stronger.”
Velius sounded proud and that confused her. A deep sadness crept over her. She too paid a different kind of body debt to Rome, though she desperately hoped her term of allegiance would not be as long as Velius’.
“Five and twenty winters is usual, is it not? Engaged to fight against all the enemies of Rome?” His short nod was sufficient, she already knew the answer.
Till later...and Gaius.
Well it's now later, Ineda, and time to meet Gaius. Before I let him have a word what do you think you could tell us about him?
Apart from that I hate him?That I wish he would set me free and let me return to my own people? That he is often a very bad tempered man?
Well, then, we'll just share a bit of his part in the novel.
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.