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Marius’ Mules IV – Conspiracy

with 2 comments

Currently available in Kindle format, with other eFormats and paperback in production for release shortly

Synopsis:

55BC and Caesar’s army gathers in the north of Gaul, preparing to drive invading Germanic peoples from Gaul and to traverse the dangerous northern ocean bringing
punishment to the tribes of Britannia for their assistance of Gaulish rebels.

But Fronto’s troubles don’t stop there. As his burgeoning relationship with Lucilia steps to a new level, so do his responsibilities at home, a situation exacerbated by the disruptive influence of the villainous Clodius in the city, causing trouble and endangering those about whom Fronto cares most.

With two troublesome new centurions, a selection of worthless and argumentative senior officers and the suspicious deaths of a number of notables, Fronto’s year is about to take a turn for the unexpected.

——- Excerpt from Marius’ Mules IV ——-

Prologue

Publius Curiatius pulled the cloak tightly about him, trying to wrap himself in nonchalance as he sidled from the door, his business with Caesar’s major domo complete. The general himself remained in Illyricum until nearer the campaigning season’s start, but his household thrummed with activity and intrigue at all times, whether the master was present or not.

The street in the Subura was remarkably empty for the time of evening, though the sounds of carousing flowed from nearby streets and alleys. Two men stood huddled at a corner, exchanging some shady goods; a prostitute with a bored expression displayed her wares outside one of the lower class establishments and an ex-soldier with a disfigurement sat in the shit of the gutter swigging from a cheap jar of wine.

The district was usually a lively one, and not for the highest class citizens. Yet Caesar still maintained his house there, where his family had always dwelled, despite his sisters having turned their nose up at the Subura and plumped for better class locales.

Pulling the hood of the cloak down to help disguise his features, Curiatius shuffled along the street quickly, his fine sandals already ruined by the muck and filth of the street. Not far and he would be able to throw open his own door and hurry inside to the safety and warmth of the triclinium and the meal that would be waiting for him.

Turning, he moved into an alley just in time to see the tavern shutters slam closed. He shrugged as he hurried on. This was no time to go frequenting cheap bars. Not for the first time tonight, he wondered whether he should have brought guards with him, but the head of the household servants had been explicit that he should come alone.

“A bad time to explore the Subura” a voice called out from behind. Curiatius turned, his heart lurching, to see a cloaked figure silhouetted at the alley end whence he had entered. The only detail he could make out other than the shape of a cloaked man was the sword that extended from his right hand, gleaming in the reflected light from the street. “The time all the taverns start to get bawdy and dangerous. Gentlemen should be safely in their own homes now.”

Curiatius felt his bladder weaken and turned back, hurrying on into the gloom of the alley.

Another cloaked figure stepped out of the next crossing in the alley, again in silhouette, again with a blade extended from his right hand.

“Tut tut tut. You are a busy boy, aren’t you?” the shadow offered.

Curiatius skidded to a halt, his bladder close to giving up the ghost. “I’m not worth the trouble. I have no money on me but I will be missed.”

“I think you overestimate your importance, Publius Curiatius.”

They knew him by name? This was no random mugging. Curiatius backed against the wall at the alley’s side. “Whatever you want, I can pay you well to leave me alone!”

“I thought you said you had no money?”

He was suddenly aware that the two men were now moving forward, converging on him. Panic began to set in as the first warm trickle issued down his thigh, staining his toga. Turning, he moved a few feet along the wall to the recently-closed tavern. It may be shut to new custom, but the night’s visitors were still inside, carousing at full volume.

“Help me!” he yelled, hammering on the shutter with his fists. “Help!” But the noise inside was immense and no one was paying any attention to him.

“Hel…” Curiatius’ voice tailed off as he looked down in surprise at the foot of tapering Noric steel projecting from his chest. He gasped, a gobbet of blood bursting from his mouth to spatter the shutter. With a meaty sound the blade withdrew. Surprise somehow overcoming the shocking pain that was already beginning to build to unbearable levels, Curiatius collapsed to the dung-stained pavement and fell, rolling onto his back, blood pumping from the exposed and exploded heart both up and down through the hole, spreading out in rivulets between the cobbles.

His killer bent low, engaged in light conversation with his partner, and wiped the blade – an exquisite gladius with an ivory grip and orichalcum hilt embossed with divine images – clean on his finest toga.

The young, ambitious equestrian felt the life ebb from him and wished with his last few ounces of strength that he’d never even heard the name Caius Julius Caesar.

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Written by SJAT

October 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Enjoyed the series, any idea when next installment will be available?

    Like

    Joe

    April 27, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    • Hi Joe. Book V: Hades’ Gate is released late next month. Just tweaking it for release now. 🙂 Nice to hear from you and pleased you enjoyed them. Post MM5, I’m on the sequel to The Thief’s Tale and on a side project collaboration with Gordon Doherty. It’s all go, but it’s all fun. Have a great weekend.

      Like

      SJAT

      April 27, 2013 at 3:31 pm


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