Death and Glory

The prequel to The Greatest Ludus, telling the story of Mamercus Nepos, grandfather of Titus- his rise, his fall, and his return to glory.

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2. Work and Play

For Mamercus his new role- effectively a promotion- was shaping up to be a mixed blessing after just a few days. Scripts and parchments arrived at his quarters regularly, requiring him to read every last word and make any and all necessary adjustments to the documents and numbers that came his way. Thoughts of the attractive young brunette that he had seen on that balcony had lingered but he barely had time to enjoy his own hands on his cock, much less anyone else's. Senator Metellus was keeping him firmly occupied with the task at hand.

Tiberius was of no help. Mamercus had suggested visiting a local public house for a celebratory drink at his promotion, but his friend had refused. 'I am too busy', was the now routine reply. Tiberius had also suggested that it would be a mistake for him to go out.

Mamercus, ever the listener, had listened to his friend's words- then ignored them anyway. He had enjoyed a night at one of the rowdier drinking holes Rome had to offer, watching as semi-naked women danced on tables and thrust their bodies at him, and taking great delight in watching drunken brawls erupt around him. He had inadvertantly triggered such a fight with his generous offer to buy the first five people to sit with him a drink- the last two had used one another as punching bags, and whilst they fought, another young lad took their place, which never of them took kindly to.

The ruckus that had erupted left several patrons with bloody noses and broken teeth- and come the end of the night, Mamercus himself was somewhat worse for wear, thanks to copious amounts of wine. He had awoken to what felt like the sound of noisy birds fighting in his head, and he had nearly- nearly- vomited his previous nights' food and drink all over his bed.

Somehow, despite his bleary-eyed state, Mamercus had performed his tasks well enough on his first day to impress the Senator, and he couldn't help but note how that irked Tiberius. His friend, who routinely buried himself in his work and appeared to enjoy no spare time, was gradually being outshone by a man who could drink all night, barely sleep, and then somehow operate at something vaguely resembling human the next day.

Still, Mamercus had only taken to one (well, two) additional night of drunken debauchery. He had visited a nearby brothel, keen to wet lips and cock, but none of the girls were available until much later in the evening, and thus he had been forced to satisfy himself with just wine.

Onward he went to the next task, making sure the Senator's Capua holdings had submitted accurate tax reports. Tedium was fast becoming the word of the day.

****

After two weeks of the monotanus work, Mamercus was becoming restless. He desired more than to simply write and read; Tiberius was of no help, offering only the same advice as before. So Mamercus decided to take matters into his own hands.

With the day's work completed, and the promise of a fresh delivery of more papers tomorrow, Mamercus promised himself an evening of fun. He threw off the plain and simple robes that he wore at his desk and clothed himself in his best- gold and red robes with a gold sash that exuded desirability (after all, they signalled money).

He made his way out onto the streets and decided to take in a bit of theatre- an open-air display of athleticism and daring in the shape of Syrian fire eaters was reported to be in the city and Mamercus was intrigued. He could not imagine anything more reckless- and he liked that.

The crowds were also aware of the impending show. They headed toward the main market square, voices babbling with excitment. Children chattered eagerly around the feet of their parents and Mamercus smiled. Tonight was what life was all about.

Then his eyes spotted her.

The vixen whose looks exceeded anything he had laid eyes on before was across the crowd, obscured by the crowd, yet unmistakable. Her long hair was now tied back and her light brown eyes shimmered in the fading sunlight. Her simple cream robes hid her figure, but he already knew how stunning she appeared.

Tiberius had warned him not to even consider pursuing her. Well, Tiberius wasn't around to interfere...

Mamercus made his way through the crowd, cutting a course for the gorgeous woman. He had to at least discover her name.

"I do not believe we had the opportunity to break words at our last encounter." He said casually as he sauntered up beside her.

The woman turned her head, momentarily surprised, then smiled. "You must be Mamercus. I saw you the other day. It is most unfortunate indeed we did not break words."

"I would enquire as to the name of the beautiful woman that I walk with." Mamercus put on his most charming accent

"Would you now? I am Rutilia Crispinus, daughter of Sextus Gellius Crispinus. You may be acquainted with him." She carried a slight haughtiness about her, perhaps befitting her station. Mamercus of course recognised the name.

Sextus Gellius Crispinus was something of a competitor. His business ventures were varied and many, and he had built up a not-inconsiderable fortune as a result. He rebuilt damaged properties (the rumour being that he damaged them himself to buy them cheaply) and sold them for a tidy sum. His attitute toward anyone that was not himself or his immediate kin was that they were a resource to exploit- and it was said he was fiercely defensive of his daughter.

Mamercus doubted for a second he would be officially permitted anything to do with Rutilia- which made her a tantalising prospect.

"I have heard of your father." Was all Mamercus would say, albeit with a wry smile. Rutilia flashed a smile of her own- her teeth were perfect.

"And I have a passing familiarity with you, Mamercus. Your friend Tiberius has informed me you are quite the ladie's man."

The crowds were surging forward, toward the acts, and starting to fan out. Mamercus could see flames flicking into the air and could smell burning cloth. The children gathered up ahead were cooing in delight at displays of daring that would shortly be within his view.

"I am told the displays of daring are most impressive." Spoke Rutilia. "I do enjoy being impressed by such things."

"Then let us hope they meet expectations." Mamercus offered his hand. "Shall we?"

She looked at him for a moment, indecision in her eyes. Perhaps his reputation both intrigued and concerned her- after all, Mamercus was a ladie's man.

Curiosity won out. "We shall." Rutilia said with a smile, and linked arms with him. He offered up his most dazzling smile in return (one that had persuaded many a woman to come to bed with him) and the two sauntered off toward the display.

Despite the swelling crowd, the combination of Mamercus' winning grin and charm and Rutilia's beauty saw many part for them. They appeared important and wealthy, and oozed presence. Mamercus could not help but be amused, for in fact he was neither- though if anyone recognised Rutilia they would know she certainly was.

In the square stood several olive-skinned men, robust and looking aggressive. They swept their arms wide and held up curved blades of steel that looked sharp enough to cut through bone with a single solid swipe. One of the men- a heavyset fellow with strong green eyes and no hair at all, grinned at the assembled crowd.

"Good people of Rome!" He boomed, with a deep voice that carried on the gentle breeze. "It is time to bear witness to feats so daring and reckless that I cannot promise we will all survive them! I can however, promise great entertainment!"

The crowd cheered and roared. Mamercus felt the tense energy bubbling around- behind the Syrians were beds of nails and hot coals, and flames leapt from torches. He had a feeling this was going to be good.

Rutilia squeezed his arm and he felt if he played the game right, things would get even better.

The Syrian who had spoke swept up one of the swords, grinned toothily at the crowd, and opened his mouth wide, holding the sword aloft. He pointed the tip down, then, keeping his eyes on the crowd, slowly slid the blade down his throat.

Half the crowd winced. The sword disappeared down the man's mouth, down to the hilt, which could only mean it was halfway down his gullet. One wrong move, one cough, and he'd slice himself up from the inside...

"Oh my..." Remarked Rutilia quietly.

"He can certainly take an impressive length." Said Mamercus playfully. Rutilia looked at him and stifled a laugh.

The sword came back out, slowly and carefully. "Ah, a fine blade, that should never be held in one's self for long, lest it rust! Now good people, shall we see what the limits of human endurance are?"

The crowd roared their approval- Mamercus and Rutilia amongst them. The ringleader pointed his sword at one of the younger men of the group, who bowed, and approached the bed of razor-sharp nails.

"My friends, this young man shall take it upon himself to not only lie on these nails, but bear my weight upon him and yet not suffer a single piercing!"

Mamercus could not quite imagine how such a feat could be performed. The young lad was not exactly a weakling but he was going to try and endure the weight of the rather large leader of the group, and Mamercus expected to see blood flow across the street any moment from now.

The Syrian laid himself down, slowly and carefully, arms at his sides. Mamercus was intrigued- he lay perfectly still, as the nails dug into his back. Somehow, the sharp implements did not impale him, which was impressive enough, but then his colleagues laid a plank of wood across his stomach- and the ringleader, to the cheers of the crowd, stood upon it, bringing his full weight down upon the younger man.

"By the gods..." Mamercus heard Rutilia whisper, and the crowd gasped. Despite the considerable load, the nails did not beak the man's skin. He looked uncomfortable, but he was still very much alive.

The ringleader waved his arms in triumph, then got up off the poor fellow, who likewise rose, to cheers from the crowd. The entertainment was certainly proving magnificent.

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