You can find the previous story at Reading it may add to your enjoyment of this one.

Roman Enlightenment, Part One


Many strange things happen in the universe. A tiny turn of events can change time, the way a rock tossed into a river can change the flow, causing eddies and back washes. A word said at the right moment, a gesture made too soon, or too late, and futures yet-to-be unravel, and re-knit in new patterns.

So it goes.

A goddess whispered to a small Roman boy, and he rose from his bed to perform an act of love and bravery. He went to free a woman who had taught him to look at the enslaved of his society in a new light. As he crept through the moonlight, prepared to risk the anger of all those he knew and loved, his elder brother lay awake, brooding, in another room.

*This is my life,* Lupus thought. *When I locked her in the shed she said 'this is my life'. Her life, and I am ruining it.*

He lay in his bed, staring blindly up at the ceiling. A small lamp flickered on the table, casting bizarre, dancing shadows. He remembered watching Mozelle one evening as she tried to make shadow animals in the shifting light, scowling when he laughed at the blobs she produced. Finally she'd fisted her hand with two fingers upright and parted in a vee, bouncing her hand to make the shadow hop. "Lepus." He had laughed, shaking his head, and she had frowned again. "Lupus?" He looked at her enquiringly. She drew one of the fingers into her fist, leaving the middle one extended.

He had cocked his eyebrow at her questioningly, reaching out to touch his fingertip to hers. "This means?"

Her smile had been sly. "You're too young."

Mozelle--odd, endearing, crazy Mozelle. He remembered his first glimpse of her as she tended his baby brother, Patenic, in the back garden. The family hadn't been expecting him home, and she had never seen him. When he climbed the wall, she'd thought him an intruder--a threat to her charge, and she had reacted with ferocious protectiveness. Lupus had found himself being faced down by an obviously frightened, but determined woman, who was wielding a large pair of shears, prepared to fight to the death for a child who was not of her own blood.

He remembered her with his other brother, Gaius--her endless patience and humor, her obvious affection. Gaius loved her--it was as simple as that. Lupus knew that it wasn't unusual for children to form attachments to the slaves who helped raise them, but this was different.

He remembered how Gaius had pleaded with him to do something to help her that evening when... it had happened. No one had witnessed the incident, but for anyone who knew Celsus, and especially for anyone who knew of his previous encounter with the slave woman, it had been clear. Celsus had attempted to force himself on Mozelle, and she had resisted. He had become violent, and she had defended herself, to the point of stabbing him. The bruises on her throat were witness to the fact that it had been self-defense. Unfortunately for her, that didn't matter under Roman law. Mozelle was a slave--Celsus was a citizen. She was automatically in the wrong, and he could, if he desired, demand that her life be forfeit.

He had, in a way. Oh, he didn't call for her execution, but he demanded that she be given to him. Lupus had little doubt as to what Mozelle's life would be like if she was left to Celsus' tender mercies. It would not be long before death might seem a welcome respite.

Gaius wasn't able to understand that there was nothing that Lupus could do. Gaius viewed the world with the simplicity of a child. Mozelle was good. She would never do anything purposefully to hurt someone else. Celsus Mallum had brought whatever had happened on himself. Why should she be handed over to a man who would delight in hurting her? She belonged to Lupus--he should forbid such a terrible thing. How could Lupus explain the pressures of family, government, and society that he faced if he tried to defend the slave in any way?

Lupus closed his eyes, wishing he could sleep. But Somnus, God of Sleep, had taken a personal interest in Mozelle. He'd been there when Discordia had thrown the woman from her own time to this one. He'd become rather fond of her, and he saw no reason for Lupus to find ease in sleep now. Let him wrestle with his conscience.

What turned the trick was the look she'd had in her eyes that last time she had moved to kiss him, and he had turned away. It had been sad, but not self-pitying. *For me. A slave pitied ME. It was as if she knew some great secret that I could never find, and she was watching me grope for it.* He sat bold upright in bed. *She loves me. I'm letting a woman who loves me be savaged rather than fight for her.*

Lupus got up and pulled on his clothes. *I have to do SOMETHING. I have some money put by. It won't last long, but I just need time to THINK. There has to be some way of resolving this without turning her over to Celsus. I'll take her and go to the country. She isn't branded. If I remove the collar, no one need know she's a slave.*

Lupus crept quietly through the house. He'd weighed his options, and had decided that he'd have to use the exit to the garden that was just outside his parents' sleep chamber. The only other exit was in the children's room, and he would have to literally step over Gaius and Patenic's new nursemaid if he chose that route. He knew that the slaves were softhearted toward Mozelle, they would still raise an alarm if they thought she was escaping. A slave accused of attacking a citizen made things difficult for ALL slaves.

He could hear his parents talking as he eased past their door. His father was saying, //"You were pleased enough with the woman when you acquired her, and she did her job well. I've never seen Gaius so content."//

//"It's her effect on Lupus that's the trouble,"// Dramilla said tartly. //"There would have been no problem if he had simply taken his pleasure of her, as is his due. But he was beginning to CARE for her, Lucius!"//

//"Well, she's a nice enough little thing. I don't see why..."//

//"You're not listening! REALLY care. Jupiter, couldn't you see it in his eyes when he looked at her? And he was so angry when Celsus wanted to sport with her. Honestly, would he have taken offense at such a simple matter of hospitality if she hadn't somehow seduced his heart as well as his body? This is a good thing. She'll be out of our house. In a few months the scandal will die down, and we can get down to choosing a wife for him. I want him safely bound to some respectable girl who will be an asset to us all."//

Lupus froze for a moment. *They're talking about me as if I were a slave they planned on breeding. Gods, is THAT how they see me? Is that how -I- sounded to Mozelle? Oh, we have a LOT to talk about.* He eased the outer door open. *But first I have to get her out of the city.* Lupus hurried around the hedge that separated his parent's side of the garden from the children's side. What he saw there froze him in his tracks.

The shed stood open, empty. Lupus stared into the yawning building, trying to understand. *She COULDN'T have gotten out alone. Which of the slaves would have dared?*

//"She's gone."// He turned to find Gaius softly shutting the door to his room. The little boy came to stand beside him, looking into the shed also.

//"Gaius--was it you?"//

The little boy nodded. //"I don't care if you're mad at me. I couldn't let him take her."//

Lupus hugged the boy, closing his eyes to hold back sudden tears. //"I'm not mad, Gaius, but I'm worried. She's out there all alone now, and it isn't safe. I need to go after her."//

Gaius grabbed his arm, glaring at him fiercely. //"You won't bring her back!"//

//"No, Gaius. I'm going to take her away till I can figure out what to do."//

His brother smiled. //"You were coming to free her! I KNEW it!"// He hugged Lupus. //"Oh, she'll be glad, Lupus! She wanted it to be you."// He shoved Lupus toward the back wall. //"But hurry! She ran toward the market, I think. Find her before the guards catch her."//

Lupus gave him a kiss. //"I'll try to come back, little brother, but..."//

//"I know."// There was something old in the child's eyes--old, and a little sad. //"It's all right. I love you, Lupus--you and Mozelle. Good-bye."//

Another hug, and Lupus ran and climbed over the back wall, hurrying in the direction Gaius had indicated. As he ran, he thought, *Where might she go? She knows so little of the city. Is there any place that might draw her? She said she was lost. Maybe she'd go back to where she claims she arrived? That was Dischordia's temple, wasn't it?*

He made his way toward the temple. When he neared it, he had to duck into a doorway to avoid a pair of guards, and his heart beat even harder. But he had hopes. *There's been no uproar, so maybe she hasn't been found. If I can just get to her in time...*

He had never been inside Dischordia's temple, feeling that there was enough chaos in life, and that trying to placate the goddess would have little effect. He slipped between the pillars, entering the dimness. It was lit by only a couple of torches on the wall behind the altar, and on the altar... He felt a mad urge to laugh with relief. *Only Mozelle could fall asleep while trying to escape.* He started toward her.


There was a burst of blue light, and the altar was empty.

//"NO!"// The scream tore from his throat without thought. He ran to the altar and fell across it, arms swimming across the smooth, bare marble. *It can't be! It CAN'T! Oh, gods--she was telling the truth! Something... something BROUGHT her here, and now she's gone back.* He sank to his knees, clutching at the stone. *She left me.*

Dischordia, standing unseen behind the altar, watched this performance with interest. *Huh. She's gone, and she's STILL causing trouble. I should have kept her around.*

Venus appeared beside the red-haired goddess. //"Pluto take me--he grew a spine."//

//"A bit late, but yes--he did."//

Venus sighed. //"What a shame. They could have been good together, if he could have just learned to see her as an equal. Now he'll never have the chance."//

//"Venus!"// The Love Goddess looked up in surprise as Lupus raised his voice. He'd thrown back his head and was looking upward. //"Venus, I was wrong! You gave her to me, and I was ready to give her away."// He winced. //"No, I won't be so soft on myself. I was ready hand her to a man I knew would make her life a living hell, all because I wouldn't stand up, like a man. I don't deserve it, Venus, but I pray--give me another chance! I don't care how, just let me show her that I can change."//

Dischordia grunted. //"Might have grown a spine, but he seems willing to give up his balls."//

//"Hush!"// Venus' eyes were bright, and perhaps a bit moist. She put her hand over her heart. //"I can feel it, Cordy. He doesn't understand it yet, but he's ready to try."//

//"What a fucking shame. It's going to be a bit difficult, what with her, oh, two thousand years in the future. But who knows? If he sires some brats, maybe his fifty-times great-grandson can find her."//

Venus shook her head, small jaw firming. //"No, I won't have it. He's prayed to me for assistance, and I'm going to give it. I'm going to send him after her."//

Dischordia laughed. //"Oh, that's rich. You don't know where she is."//

//"But you do. You could help me."//

//"Why should I?"//

Venus smiled sweetly. //"I have a feeling that Lupus won't easily adjust to a time where there's legally fixed social stratas. Think of him trying to adjust."// Dischordia's eyes started to gleam. Venus decided to cinch it. //"You're still a bit irritated with Mozelle, aren't you?"//

//"That wasn't much of an apology."//

//"She won't be able to resist helping him--she's protective of the helpless, and he's going to BE helpless. She'll be stuck with him."//

Dischordia grinned, rubbing her hands together. //"You provide the power--I'll steer."//



Mozelle curled up tighter, moaning slightly. Damn, it was cold. It had been so warm when she'd fallen asleep. She remembered how stifling it had been in the confines of the shed.

*The shed! I'm supposed to be running away! Oh, Jesus, I fell asleep. How could I fall asleep?! Who found me? Please, God, don't let that be a guard!* She cracked one eye open warily.

There wa a small group of people standing in front of her, gaping. All of them except the man in front, that is. He wore some sort of a uniform, and was frowning. "Lady, get down off that right now! That's an antiquity, you're not even supposed to be behind the velvet ropes! If you damaged it, you'll be in a lot of trouble."

Without thinking she replied faintly, "It's solid stone and probably weighs a ton. What could I do to it?"

Her eyes darted around the room. *The museum, not the temple. Oh, God, I DID dream it." She sat up, and felt chill marble on the back of her legs. Looking down, she saw that she was wearing a short, shift like dress. There was a coolness about her neck, and she touched it. *Metal. The collar. Not a dream. I might be crazy, but it wasn't a dream.*

The guard was speaking. "That's hardly the point. We can't have visitors just lounging about on the exhibits."

She stood up. "Well, I'm off it now. No harm, no foul, huh? Look, I've had a real BITCH of a night, and all I want is to go home." She started to push past him.

"Well, take your boyfriend with you."


"Does she always push you off the other side of the bed, son?"


Mozelle turned slowly, and felt an odd, swimming sensation. Lupus was standing up from behind the altar. "I don't fucking believe it," she whispered.

To be continued...