Author's Note: Anyone would like to be my beta reader?
Quindecima carta: Audio hostem
Quintus was not happy. His mission had been proceeding without the slightest problem, before the rain started. He had carefully located and circled the small Dacian village, mentally taking in its setting and defenses, making sure he marked its weak spots. After more than 10 years of practice, such missions were becoming downright boring, unchallengeable, and quite a nuisance when unpredictable factors such like the weather intervened.
Rain, just like snow, made it more difficult to successfully retreat, because the risk of being spotted would be too add to that, this time, he had been in too much of a hurry to get through with this petty mission, and had gotten too close to the village. So much to his displeasure, he was stuck in place for the time being.
A loud stomach growl reminded him that he had finished his provisions the previous day. He liked to pack lightly, and, in times of necessity, hunt if he ran out of food before making it to the big camp.
The very early hours of the morning, combined with the cold of the rain and the roughness of the high attitude were numbing Quintus into a pleasantly warm daze. His mind drifted to his parents' farm, green and sweet smelling, basking in the sunset glow of the Sicilian sun. One day, he knew, he would make it back for good, and marry a fiery woman, with amber eyes and sun kissed skin, and many children would be born on his land.
And suddenly, he knew he was in trouble, as his senses jostled him out of his dreamlike state. His hand enclosed tightly on the sword, as he rolled on his back, ready to strike, but it was too late. The blow struck him in the temple before he had the chance of seeing his opponents, and the world went pitch black.
Sema was tip toeing on the narrow streets of the village, the large caldron painfully digging in her blistered hands. The metal was rubbing against her cold, frozen hands, and she could feel the back of the shirt, wet by the heavy rain, sticking to her body. With every step she took, her soles sank into the growing mud, making it even more difficult to walk. The dark sky, filled with rain clouds, let no star shine through, and, deep down, she felt like she would never see the sun again.
It was in such cold nights that she could feel, inside of her heart, a deep hatred brewing, not for her husband, not for her fellow villagers, but for herself. Often, when she went to the river to gather water for the chores of the day, she could contemplate walking into it, slowly, caressing the water as she went deeper and deeper in, letting herself go, out of the nightmare, out of the pain that she called life. But then, the sky would slip open and the sun would come up and pull, her back, beating down her face warmly, and she would become aware of her surrounding, finding beauty and pleasure in the simple swirl of wind passing through her hair, carrying the fresh smell of jasmine.
As she turned a corner, Sama was surprised to notice a group of men walking towards her. Through the darkness, she vaguely recognized a couple of them, and her heart leaped in her chest. Normally, there would be a couple of guards walking through the city at night – but the group was larger, and she could spot some of the higher ranking men in the mids of it. That could only mean trouble.
Daizus spotted Sama, just as she took a step back, trying to blend into the darkness. She had her eyes downcast, just as usual, and was doing her best to appear as small and insignificant as she could. The Dacian hated the way in which the woman was treated, but he knew there was little he could do, because the ancient laws absolutely forbade any mixture in marital affairs.
"Hey, Sama", he called out, "what are you doing out in such weather and at this hour", he called out to her.
Unconsciously, she shrugged her shoulders.
I was just going to get some water for today, she answered back in a subdued voice. She really hated men, but some, like Daizus, were a tad more tolerable than others.
Suddenly, she realized that two of the men were dragging a body behind them, and felt her knees going weak. She rally hated seeing blood, wounds and dead bodies, especially after having to mend hers for so long.
"You should go home, the river's not safe. Come back when the other women are out, we will send some people to guard you all"., Daizus added.
I can't, she whimpered, I have to get water. She stopped herself from saying more, from revealing that she feared nothing worse than she did her husband, that a pack of hungry dogs attacking her was more comforting than a glance of Ariort.
Daizus gave her a stern look, that, he hoped, would hide his irritation. The last thing he wanted was to scare the poor girl even worse.
"Either you go on your own, or you will be escorted home."
"Al right, all right", she replied, her shoulders slumping in defeat. She was in a lose lose situation.
And as she move away, unbeknownst to eve her, a mischievous smile appeared in the corner of the mouth. She knew another way to the river, and that's the one she planned of taking once she was put of sight.
A couple of hours later, Daizus returned home, exhausted and worried. No Roman had ever came so close to their village before. He knew that it couldn't be a mere coincidence, even though he was still hoping that the Romans had a fluke.
Aemilia looked up and smiled, as the door creaked open, then yelped in pain. The cat she had been playing with had been startled by the sound, and had dug its claws in her tights, before taking off.
Daizus smiled and bent over to hug her, burring his face in the side of her neck.
"Are you all right, darling", she inquired softly, a bit uncomfortable with the display of raw vulnerability.
He muffled a yes, and hug her even tighter. Aemilia kept quiet, and hugged him back.
Audio hostem = I hear the enemy.