Houses of Rome

This is the Greatest Ludus, re-written for greater attention to historical detail and hopefully, greater depth. As with The Greatest Ludus, be aware this story delves into Rome's dark and seedy underbelly, where violence, bloodshed and sex wove together to form the Empire's dark side. Set during the Flavian Dynasty, two families will effectively go to war...

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4. Bad Tidings

"It is done." The gruff voice of Marcus Paulus seemed to linger in the air for a moment as he sat down opposite the wiry, gaunt-looking man across the table. Pale blue eyes met Paulus' own and a nasty grin spread over the other man's face.

"Good. I trust you will apply the appropriate pressure upon any other bidders?" His voice was soft, yet quietly threatening. 

"Of course. I trust I will be well-paid for my services?" The rings of office upon the other man's fingers did not deter Paulus from raising the question.

"Naturally. Provided of course, you do not fail."

Paulus spread out his arms. "Do I ever fail?"

"A fair point. Still, this is but the beginning. I desire things to proceed... smoothly. Without knowledge of my involvement."

"Your brother is one of the bidders. Keeping your name completely from involvement will be difficult."

The man smiled again. "I am sure you will do your best. Now, if you will excuse me, I have matters of government to attend to. Good day, Marcus."

Paulus tipped his head. "Good day."

****

It did not surprise Vibius to learn, via one of his underlings, that his brother was once again indulging his carnal needs. He stalked the pavements and pathways of Capua's cobbled streets as he made his way to the infamous House of Crispina, needing to break words urgently with his younger sibling.

The cowl that concealed his general appearance was uncomfortable but served a necessary purpose - a magistrate was not always the most popular person in Capua, especially when one visited a less affluent district. Beggars and peasants offered various wares - from hand-made trinkets of stone, pebbles and a little gold - to their bodies, hoping to entice him as his sandals smacked the cold stone paths. He was not impressed.

Upon his arrival at the House of Crispina, Vibius had another reason to be glad of his concealment. Though the bordello was far from the near-savage houses of ill-repute that littered Capua, a brothel it still was. High-class or not, it was not appropriate for a man of his standing to be found here (especially a married man).

So, as he knocked upon the big wooden door, Vibius was growing ever angry at his brother. The man knew no restraint, and his love for drink, gambling and women would one day bring not only him down, but probably Vibius as well. 

A tall, barrel-chested (and bare-chested) man of the Moors opened the door, dressed only from the waist down in dark black attire. His dark blue eyes seemed to evaluate Vibius, but a stern glare back at him soon brought a respectful bow of the head and the door opened fully to grant him passage.

The well-polished wooden walls of dark brown wood were adorned with golden and silver drapes and each door was framed with lines of gold. Every room was a private chamber, for guests to 'rent' out, and enjoy the company of their desired partner (or partners) for a time (and fee). Though the walls were quite thick, Vibius could still hear the sounds of passion, as men and women grunted, cried out and groaned with pleasure. He had to concede to himself that the sounds alone were not unpleasant, and he knew the establishment had a reputation for providing high quality goods. Still, he was married, and would not partake in such activities, no matter the temptations.

At the end of the first left-turn in the main corridor, the private chambers of Lady Crispina herself awaited. Vibius had been in her presence before - she was a woman of older years but unblemished beauty, and she ran a good business. The Moor led him to the door, rapped his knuckles upon it thrice, then, at her command, opened it, bidding Vibius entrance.

Her chamber was the erotic dream of any teenage boy. Metal cuffs hung from the ceiling (and were attached to the large bed in the right corner of the room). Vibius could only guess what the bottles were filled with on the wooden unit beside the bed, and the open doors of the walk-in cupboard held what were, to some, torture devices, and to others, the promise of wicked indulgence.

The Lady herself was draped in a near-seethrough white gossamer, that, when the light from the window behind her came in at just the right angle, was indeed seethrough. A full, luscious figure and warm brown eyes were complimented by lightly tanned skin and a gentle, rounded face that was unblemished by age. She sat on the lectus, reclining on the plump cushion, smiling as Vibius stepped in. 

"Thank you Ekwueme, you may go." She said, her voice at once pleasant and seductively low. The Moor bowed his head and withdrew, closing the door behind him.

"I take it you expected my presence?" Vibius wasted no time with preamble. 

"Oh of course - once your brother arrived I knew you would follow - won't you be seated? There is room for another beside me." She sat up and patted the cushion beside her. 

"I regret that I have no time to stay. I must speak with my brother."

"He won't appreciate the interruption. He is currently engaged with a rather delightful red head, I can only imagine what he is..."

"Yes yes yes, I get your meaning, it is obvious why he is here. I have come to remove him so I may speak with him about urgent matters."

Crispina's demeanour became haughty. "It is not considered good form to disturb clients, especially when they have parted with much coin."

"Then I shall find him myself, disturbing several valued clients if I must."

The Lady's eyes turned hard. "I do not appreciate your attitude Vibius."

"And I would remind you that I am the magistrate. Your little house is not immune to my reach."

For a moment it looked as though she was going to offer up a harsh retort, but then Crispina smiled, and waved her hand dismissively. "Oh Vibius, imagine the anger of Capua's finest citizens if you closed me down. Still..." She stood, and sauntered toward Vibius, hips swaying. "I must confess to being intrigued by what you will do to your brother." She reached out, and pulled on a chain behind Vibius. The door opened, and Ekwueme poked his head into the room. 

"You summoned me Mistress?"

"Yes, could you show Master Vibius to his brother?"

The Moor looked from Vibius to Crispina, then nodded. "Of course Mistress. Please, follow me."

****

Caius could have once been described as a handsome man. He was older now, and many years spent enjoying fine food and fine wine had seen his stomach bloat. The remnants of his finer physique were not completely gone, but the young woman now bent over the side of bed was grateful she did not have look at him too much.

He grunted and groaned and she moaned with him, not feeling especially aroused but not entirely failing to enjoy the experience. She wished that he would hurry his pace, either to grant her greater thrills or to finish.

As it was, the hammering of a fist against the door brought them both out of the moment.

"Fuck off!" Caius spat, not stopping.

"If you are not finished within seconds I shall remove you regardless." Came his brother's angry voice.

Caius paused, and snarled with frustration and anger. He parted from his partner, huffing as he hastily dressed himself. It would take all his self-control to not thrust a fist in his brother's face.

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