Read Master and God Online

Authors: Lindsey Davis

Master and God

BOOK: Master and God
11.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Table of Contents

Cover

Also by Lindsey Davis

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Part 1: Rome:
AD
80–81

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Part 2: Rome:
AD
82–84

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Part 3: Rome, Alba and Dacia:
AD
85–89

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Part 4: Rome:
AD
89–91

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Part 5: Rome:
AD
81–93

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Part 6: Rome:
AD
94–96

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Author’s Note

Acknowledgements

Also by Lindsey Davis

The Course of Honour

Rebels and Traitors

THE FALCO SERIES

Silver Pigs

Shadows in Bronze

Venus in Copper

The Iron Hand of Mars

Poseidon’s Gold

Last Act in Palmyra

Time to Depart

A Dying Light in Corduba

Three Hands in the Fountain

Two for the Lions

One Virgin too Many

Ode to a Banker

A Body in the Bath House

The Jupiter Myth

The Accusers

Scandal Takes a Holiday

See Delphi and Die

Saturnalia

Alexandria

Nemesis

Falco: The Official Companion

MASTER AND GOD
Lindsey Davis

www.hodder.co.uk

First published in Great Britain in 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © Lindsey Davis 2012

The right of Lindsey Davis to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 444 70735 9

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

www.hodder.co.uk

Dedicated to the city of Rome

PART 1
Rome:
AD
80–81
Let the Games commence!
1

I
t was a quiet afternoon on the Via Flaminia. When a wisp of smoke wafted across from the river direction, sheered downwards and dematerialised against a pantile on the roof of the station house, nobody noticed. Rome, the Golden City, went about its business. The vigiles of the First Cohort continued their tasks.

The yard lay still; afternoons were dead time. The tribune was off at his own house. Nobody was doing much. The vigiles had been brought into existence to combat fires, but also covered local law and order. Most action occurred at night. Between lunchtime and dinner their duties were minimal, which was how the day shift liked it.

Titus, their new Emperor, was away in Campania. For the second time now, he was visiting the disaster area after Mount Vesuvius erupted the autumn before. Many people had feared the worst when Titus succeeded his father; despite his charm, Vespasian’s son was thought to be ruthless. Yet apparently he had overhauled his personality: renounced vice, promised to execute no more opponents, and even sent away his unpopular lover, Queen Berenice of Judaea, after she scampered to Rome hoping to become his empress. Now every time the wardrobe slaves dressed Titus in his sumptuous robes, he also stepped into a fetching reputation as a benign ruler. After the volcanic catastrophe his people, desperate for reassurance, were forgiving. Titus encouraged them by spending his own money on relief efforts.

At forty, he should have a long reign ahead of him but Vesuvius would obviously be its major event – so unexpected, so destructive, so
very
close to Rome. Campania was taking up much of his time. Still, if anything of moment happened back in Rome, his brother Domitian could be roped in as a substitute.

That was unlikely. The Empire and the city rolled along in the safe hands of officials. Though Titus rarely showed open animosity, most people assumed that he intended to prevent Domitian exercising power.

A couple more threads of smoke drifted above the Field of Mars. Rome’s usual hot blue sky was permanently grey that year so these cirrus-light wisps were indistinguishable. Again, no one paid any attention.

The depressing skies had deposited a fine film of dirt over everything. Throughout the Mediterranean the temperature cooled, after Vesuvius flung up millions of tons of ash, its plume blocking out sunlight as far away as North Africa and Syria. In Italy itself, the sea – Mare Nostrum,
our
sea – had been sucked dry then flung back upon the coast. Fish died. Birds died. When spring came, the once-fertile Bay of Naples area lay many feet deep under lava, ash and solidified mud. Instead of three crops a year in Campania, there were no crops at all. Prices shot up. Areas which traditionally fed Rome lay half dead. There was starvation; the populace weakened; an epidemic set in. Thousands were sick and many would die.

So it was already a bad year. Promises of lavish festivities once Titus inaugurated his father’s huge new amphitheatre barely kept up the Romans’ spirits. Only very expensive public games, with long holidays to enjoy the grunts and gore, would relieve their gloom.

On the station house roof, a dim pigeon spread a wing, vainly hoping to bask in sunshine, while its brighter mate simply sat hunched in the post-Vesuvian murk.

Two levels below, one of the vigiles sniffed the air as if a warning had reached his subconscious, but he continued unconcernedly sharpening fire-axes. All the other smells of Rome competed for his notice, from raw fish and bloody meat to frying food, crushed garlic and herbs; foul stinks from tanneries; wood-burning furnaces; incense and perfumes; whole aromatic warehouses full of fine peppers and cinnamon; middens; drains; pine trees; vagrants, mule dung and dead dogs.

The station house contributed its own odours of scorched ropes and dank esparto-grass mats. On busts of Titus and the old Emperor Vespasian in the shrine at the end of the parade ground, dry wreaths carried pot pourri scents of laurel and cypress. The station house was occupied at various times by a thousand men of lowly origin who engaged in hard physical work; they stank of smoke, sweat and feet, while most of them made powerful use of belches and farts too, using those in conversation like expressive parts of speech.

Few were talking now. Fire buckets were stacked around unfilled. The enormous gates stood all but closed, with only a crack left for access. Some men were catching a nap indoors, though a few lolled outside in the air. They looked up when one of their crime team returned. It was Scorpus, close-cropped and shrewd-eyed, limping since an old accident at a house fire, as so many of them did. He was trailing a young woman.

She must be bound for the investigation officer: Gaius Vinius Clodianus, son of an ex-cohort tribune who managed promotion to the Praetorian Guard; brother of two ex-soldiers; ex the Twentieth legion himself; twenty-three years old, five feet ten, a hundred and seventy pounds; generally competent, pretty well-liked. The men assumed he would hear the story, promise to look into it, deplore the cohort’s heavy workload, wink flirtatiously – then send the girl packing.

Sizing up the visitor, they reflected crudely on her youth, her figure and the fact that the lucky Vinius would interview her unchaperoned. She was decent-looking, though here being female was enough.

They all knew Vinius was married. Although he never discussed his private life, the marriage was rumoured to be in trouble (Vinius himself was ignoring their difficulties – which, for his wife, encapsulated the problem). His men assumed that he upheld cohort traditions by chasing other women, though not unmarried girls. They would lay bets on that, just as they were certain that Vinius would always choose the Chicken Frontinian off a menu board or that every time he was shaved he had his barber slap on a plain camomile wash. They served with him, so they knew him. Or so they believed.

As Flavia Lucilla entered, her heart sank. Several men whistled. To them it was appreciative; to her it felt aggressive. She was young enough to blush.

She had found herself in a large open space inside two-storey official premises. Colonnades ran down each long side; another similar courtyard opened ahead, then a third. Just inside the mighty main gates, she had passed between two large water basins. Pieces of equipment were piled in the yards in a way that looked haphazard although perhaps it made items quick to collect in an emergency. It was all alien to her.

She scuttled after Scorpus into the enquiries office, half way down the left colonnade, in one of many small rooms that lay behind the pillars. As they entered, Scorpus pointed an index finger at her in silence, then moved that finger through forty-five degrees to indicate where she was to take a seat. The gesture was not particularly offensive. ‘Gaius Vinius will take your story.’ The presumed Vinius barely glanced up.

Lucilla dropped onto the centre of a low wooden bench, otherwise unoccupied. She sat on her hands, arms straight and shoulders tight. Clearly, she was a nuisance and she had to wait. That suited her. By now, she wished she had not come.

The enquiry officer was not what she expected; for a start he was young, not some grizzled centurion. Seated at a rustic table placed crossways to the door, he had a good-looking profile and Lucilla felt he knew it. He was working on documents; other men would have had the cohort clerk do the writing, while they dictated. Waxed wooden tablets with a stylus lay in front of Vinius, but he was completing a formal list in ink on a scroll. She watched him sign it then replace the wet pen rather daintily in its inkwell; with this small fancy gesture he seemed to be half-mocking himself for enjoying such work. It suggested Vinius was eccentric; most investigators complained about time-consuming bureaucracy.

‘Here, Scorpus. Three to kick upstairs.’ His voice was lower and stronger than Lucilla expected. She guessed ‘kicking upstairs’ was not a literal command but shorthand for despatching wrongdoers to the Vigiles Prefect. Routine crimes would be dealt with by a thrashing or a local fine. Recalcitrant offenders would be passed to the Prefect of the City, who could send them for a full trial.

Scorpus skimmed the short scroll and, as he went out with it, commented, ‘Morena won’t be happy!’

Vinius shrugged. Then he waited, idly flipping through the waxed tablets. Lucilla noticed his wedding ring. His hands were clean and neatly manicured. He was blessed with thick, dark hair which he had had extremely well cut, so the young girl was startled by the erotic attraction of expert layering into the nape of his strong male neck.

BOOK: Master and God
11.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Last Command by Zahn, Timothy
Rocketship Patrol by Greco, J.I.
Mail Order Misfortune by Kirsten Osbourne
MemoriesofParadise by Tianna Xander
Black by T.l Smith
Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge
A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer
The Gift-Wrapped Groom by M.J. Rodgers