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Cinque Terre, Italy

Then, he came back to Julia and took her by the hand. She was cold, because she wasn’t properly dressed for a walk in the darkness of the cold city. Nerva gave her his cape and pulled her. She followed him through the streets of Londonium and didn’t ask any question as they finally stepped into a place that she wouldn’t visit on her own will. It was a cathouse, where the customers were already heavily drunken and the working girls were almost after-hours. Nerva held Julia’s hand strongly and she listened to his talk with an older, fat man, who gazed at her lewdly.

-Nerva, you even bring your own girl here! – The older man with the silhouette of a satyr didn’t yell. Nerva ordered him to go into a more private corner of the house. They were led to an empty, small room with a tiny, dirty bed. It didn’t smell good. Julia didn’t wonder that Nerva knew such people, even if she didn’t like the idea. She tried to stay polite and keep silence.

-You’ll get your girls, as usually. – The satyr suggested.

-No. – Nerva refused. – It’s important, so listen carefully. I need to hide her here.

-You bring a beaten, noble woman here and I should hide her for you? I am not a stupid man, Nerva. I won’t incur the locals. They are my customers. I live from their money.

-You really want to help in this case, if you will to live your life some further years. – Nerva said calmly, but Julia couldn’t recognize the tone. It was so strange and so iron. It reminded her of Octavian. If she wouldn’t know Nerva, she would be scared by hearing this tone.

-Who is it anyway? – The satyr asked with resignation. Apparently, he had unsettled scores with Nerva.

-It’s not your business. Your business is to watch for her and gave her anything she wants. Your business is to assure that nobody will get a note that she is here. If I will find out that anyone except me touched the girl, then you have a big problem. Understood?

The satyr nodded. He looked like a beaten dog, even if Nerva didn’t touch him at all.

-Bring bowl with warm water and a blanket quickly. – Nerva ordered. – Bring even two blankets. She can’t stay in such a pigsty.

As the older man left the room, Nerva smiled the way Julia knew and liked. It was a friendly smile.

-It’s not a palace, but you’re safe here. – He assured as if it would be obvious.

Julia didn’t feel comfortable here, but she didn’t say a word. Nerva took off his cape from her. He didn’t let her hand go. His grasp was strong, but not painful. It was the only good thing in this bawdyhouse. She looked how the older man carried a bowl with warm water. Then, he brought even three blankets. Nerva immediately took them and laid both of them in the bed, after he pulled away the old cover of the bed. The dirty material landed next to the satyr. Then, Nerva showed Julia to sit down there. She followed his hints. He kneed in front of her and with back to the older man.

-Philo, stay here for a moment.

The satyr looked like he wanted to slap Nerva, but it was clear that he wouldn’t dare. He stepped forward and asked:

-What now, Nerva?

Nerva took a piece of towel that the satyr brought with the bowl. He put it into the water and started to wash out the blood on Julia’s face.

-What do you know about Quintus Pompeius Falco?

The satyr trembled. The name wasn’t unknown for him.

-He never used the service of my girls and the service is unique. – Philo smiled dirty.

-Philo, I meant it seriously. – Nerva sighed. He wasn’t unfriendly anymore. – Please…

-Do I hear it correctly? You really said “please” to me? – The satyr stunned, but stopped mess around as he saw Nerva’s face expression. – Good, good, I tell you.

Nerva looked back to him for a short moment. He noticed that Philo sat down and looked how Nerva washed Julia’s face and her arms. The satyr started talking quickly, quietly. What he shared was supposed to stay secretly:

-He’s the big shot here. He was in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. Some say that he was kicked out after an affair with a soldier. Now, he governs Britannia. Britannia is not easy-taking province and not many dare to go more to the North direction as needed. It’s the pain in the ass of the empire. Hadrian doesn’t want to lose the region here. Hadrian and his politics of peace…

Nerva covered Julia with one blanket and sat down next to Julia. She laid her head on his shoulders and listened how Philo continued:

-So, people say that Pompeius should suppress a rising thought of Brigantes and Selgovae, Brythonic tribes of northern Britannia and southern Caledonia. He is good in brutal and short actions. As I said: Britannia is not an easy-going piece of land… He comes from a noble, respectable family that supplied many politicians of consular rank.

Philo stopped and gazed at Nerva.

-What do you want from him? It’s better not to cross his way.

-I’m afraid we did it already. – Nerva said sadly. – You’re a good man, Philo, so don’t ask. The less you know the better for you. Tell us better the story why he was kicked out to Britannia. What kind of insubordination could have such consequence? – Nerva smiled bitterly. He already presumed what he was going to hear.

Philo hawked the way Nerva did it sometimes when Julia didn’t eat properly. Julia stunned and kept silence. She wanted to hear the story.

-There was a man, who disappeared. – The satyr smiled back. – I heard already many versions of the story, but I really don’t know which one is the real one. It was the son of the great Maximus. Maybe you knew him, Nerva, because he was sent to Brigetio at Danube River. It’s only a stone’s throw from your Appius’s camp. Some say he killed his wife. Some say he is on his vengeance course and as long as he didn’t kill his wife’s killers, he won’t come back. Some say, he is already dead, because his wife’s murders killed him, too. His name was Marcus Lucius. Yes, Marcus Lucius, the son of Maximus.

As Julia listened to the story, she felt how the cold drops of sweat appeared on her back and she swallowed her spit slowly. Nerva didn’t react in any visible way.

-So, Marcus Lucius was the reason why Pompeius was banished from a quite calmly environment and sent to dangerous Britannia. I bet he doesn’t like this Marcus Lucius. – Nerva jeered.

-Some say, he hates him. He hates Britannia. He prefers the warmer surrounding. He liked Moesia Inferior much better. If I would be Marcus Lucius, I wouldn’t ever speak aloud my name. If he is not dead yet, then he is a dead man walking, Nerva. Don’t drag into the story.

The satyr stood up and left. He came back then with some meat and cake on a tablet. Nerva thanked and forced Julia to eat. She wasn’t able and as the first emetic reflex appeared, Nerva didn’t push her to do anything else anymore.

-Nerva, we’re already dead. – She whispered sorrowed.

-We’re not. – Nerva tried to cheer her up, but he wasn’t in a good way, either. He hadn’t any clue what to do next. They couldn’t take Julia to Pompeius, but he couldn’t not take her to Pompeius, either. Pompeius knew already, who they were and he would find them anyway. Finally, he knew that Nerva was a soldier of Appius.

-What will we do now? – Julia asked.

-At first, you sleep. We’ll think about it tomorrow.


-How did you get to know Philo? – Julia asked while her head landed on his chest. From his heartbeat, she deduced he didn’t like the topic.

-It’s a long story. – He said.

-We have time. – She insisted with a warm, relaxing tone. Nerva seemed to be tensed a lot and she didn’t dare to ask him anything else.

-I saved his small arse twice. – Nerva summarized.

-He’s a good man, isn’t he? – She said reminding the good manners of the short man.

Nerva laughed cordially for a while. Then, his laughter changed into a ridiculous, mad sound. He couldn’t stop. She felt as if she said a joke she didn’t understand.

-He’s everything but a good man. – Nerva answered finally. Then, his heartbeat increased dangerously. – Did he touch you in any way?

-He bounded my hands. He didn’t hurt me. You know, I tried to flee, he stopped me… In general, he didn’t do anything than needed… Why?

-Good. – Nerva sighed with relief. He wanted to be sure and after Julia’s answer, he was ready to go to sleep.

-Nerva, why did you ask it? Did he hurt anyone?

-You really don’t want to know the answer, girl. – He said coldly and thought about raped, poor girls with knotted arms and cut skin that were sold to Philo in consequence of families’ debts. He was the very first customer of services of girls that were brought to his cathouse. He didn’t like when a girl wasn’t hard to posses. He slapped such girls as long as they started to resist. As they tried to defence themselves, he penetrated them with devilish joy. As they stayed unprotesting, it took longer to achieve his goal. The way or another, there was no other man, who would be worse customer for his girls than he himself. Every insubordination of his female workers, he punished with mad, extremely painful rape. If it didn’t help, he cut off finger after finger, then arms and legs and let the victim die in his yard to teach a lesson. Therefore, he was called The Butcher sometimes. Mostly, the women harmed that way weren’t conscious anymore as their bodies laid outside and invited any kind of ugly, slimy worms and irritating flies. Philo loved to harm women as much as it was possible. He respected only people stronger than he and he knew some influential Romans. He delivered them girls from anteriorly good houses and let the rich men slaughter the girls unhurriedly, if needed and paid extra. Nerva saved Philo once as he didn’t know anything about the sadist and then, he saved Philo’s life for the second time, because it was the only way to stay alive in general. The debt has been settled.

-If we’ll speak with Marcus Lucius about your stay in the whorehouse, please don’t mention that it was Philo’s house. – Nerva was indeed scared what Marcus Lucius could do with him after knowing the truth.

Julia percepted his rapid heartbeat and the gloomy mood that was even darker than the surrounding around them. She promised not to say a word about Philo. She felt that she didn’t want to meet the satyr again.