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Remmy Meggs 

Grapes of Italy Chapter 11

 

It could have happened to anyone. It probably did happen many times before and even after Ettore had left this earth. For Ettore, he would not know that. He only knew it happened to him. Cyrus used the oils after the bath maybe that caused it. Maybe it was the many days of brutality Ettore had witnessed.

Ettore's body stiffened and shook. The feeling woke him up immediately. He realized he wrapped tight around Lothario. Ettore was breathing hard, and he felt good. For some reason he was afraid. What just happened? He laid still for several minutes, his mind racing trying to guess why his ding was in pleasure, his body was shaking, and why he was so upset about it?

His ding was throbbing and now he could feel it was still big and hard. It was big and hard between Lothario's legs. Ettore swallowed hard, and then checked to see if Lothario was asleep. Lothario had not moved the entire time. He realized he had what boys called a wet dream. Except it was not exactly a dream was it? He actually was holding Lothario, put it between the boy's legs, and tickled until the milk came out, all without Lothario knowing a thing. Ettore felt shame and remorse.

The telltale sign that Lothario would find is the dried milk that Ettore left behind. Ettore had to get rid of the evidence, but he could not move in fear of waking Lothario. He could not ask a slave for help because the slave would use the circumstances for blackmail. He reached between Lothario's legs to find out how much milk he had shot out. He found nothing but the normal oils and his silky throbbing member. It did not make sense that the milk was not present. Carefully and slowly, he moved his hands between the sleeping boy's legs to find the throbbing troublemaker. He found his thick shaft, and using a single finger followed the shaft up to...

Ettore bit his lip. His pulsing red top was just inside Lothario's behind. Inside, it was not between his legs, his throbbing stiff ding was inside Lothario. He must have shot his entire milk load into the other boy. Fear got the best of Ettore and his silky well-oiled dingy began to slowly subside, very slowly. An hour later he felt it slip out of Lothario. Good, it was almost dawn.

He backed away from Lothario; just enough to feel his own ding. Yes, his red top was wet with boy milk. He leaned up and looked at Lothario again. The boy had not moved and his breathing had not changed. Ettore slipped off the divan and pulled on his tunic. He lay on the floor pushing pillows around to get comfortable and he went into deep thought.

He had to ask someone he could trust about all of this. He needed someone to talk to about Lothario. He heard Cyrus and Anthony waking up. He pretended to be asleep as the boys cleaned the tent and went to bathe. As Ettore's boy mind went through all of the horrible scenarios it could muster he silently whimpered with the pain in his soul.

Anthony washed quickly, "Hurry Cyrus we have to get clean water and heat it yet." Anthony said as he stepped out and dried off.

Cyrus ignored him at first then said, "We have over an hour yet, what is the hurry?"

"The sun may move faster today than yesterday." Anthony suggested.

Cyrus gave Anthony a worried look then he smiled, "Do you think they are coupling?"

Anthony pulled on his well-worn tunic, "Who?"

"Our masters you fool!"

"No need for name calling. They might be but what does it matter. Lothario is younger than any of us; I doubt that he is interested in that sort of thing yet." Anthony said as he brushed his hair back.

"They were in the same bed all night and at some point Master Ettore slept on the ground." Cyrus thought aloud.

"The bed isn't exactly made for two people. What does it matter anyway Cyrus?"

"It would just be nice to know."

Anthony shook his head, "I am going to the river to get water. You better help me, or you will be left alone to do your duties for Master Ettore."

Cyrus stepped out of the tub and dumped the water, "There are you happy?" He waited until it emptied and he righted the tub. "It does matter. Master Lothario can be deadly, and Master Ettore is scary, but when they are together they both are more relaxed. I was thinking of how safe we are."

"Oh, well I guess they can be just as mean and cruel as any other master, but they seem sweet enough when they are around us. One nice thing about them is that you can see what they need before they know it themselves. Well, except for the chairs at the games yesterday, no one could have known they would do that." Anthony smiled as he picked up two buckets and started toward the river.

Without dressing Cyrus picked up another two buckets and caught up to Anthony, "You heard him say to kill all the enemy soldiers and not take captives. He didn't care what they did, just kill them all."

Anthony felt sorry for Cyrus, "You are saying this because they were Etruscan soldiers?"

"Partially I guess. I could have had brothers in that battle, or other relatives."

Anthony stopped at the riverbank and filled the buckets, "Master Lothario lost family and so did Master Ettore. We all lose someone in war. It is not that my heart doesn't break for you Cyrus, but we are blessed in a way. Since we are slaves, we don't know who has died that we are related to, well unless our families were to find us and tell us. In a way being a slave really is like a dog. We do our job, be good at it. We get fed, we have decent beds..."

"Si but if we want a girlfriend and she has a baby they belong to the master."

Anthony frowned as he continued walking, "Fine then tell her not to get a baby! It is as if you do not want to be happy. I have known you for five days and you are always whining about something."

"I am not whining. I just wanted someone to talk with. But it seems you are too rich to talk to a lowly one." Cyrus grumbled and walked ahead.

"I am not falling for your `feel sorry for me' whining." Anthony yelled ahead. He put both buckets of water into the bathtub, and then went to get more. Cyrus was ahead of him and still not speaking. In all, Anthony retrieved sixteen buckets of water. Four of those he had heating on a fire. He prepared his Masters bath well.

It was going to be a good morning, until Anthony saw the Centurions come up to the tent with about sixty men. The two guards stopped them, "The Tribune has not awoken yet."

Centurion Pao frowned, "We would like him to let us move his tent and belongings to our Cohort."

"I am sure he would like that, but not until he wakes up, has his bath and eats." One guard replied.

The two men began arguing as Anthony set out the oils for his master. The commotion got Ettore's attention and he stepped outside the tent, "What is it now?"

After it was explained to him he grinned wide and looked at the guard, "The other day did you see Lothario pour cold water on me?"

The guard nodded that he did, "Well I have to get even. Therefore, here is what I want to do. I want them to move everything to the Cohort's area, except for his bed, slave and bath. He always sleeps late, so it will do him good to have the sun wake him for a change."

Centurion Pao smiled, "I think we should wait, now that I think about it." The idea of him getting in the middle of their pranks discouraged the move.

"No no no. You wanted to move him so here is your chance. He will sleep through anything." Ettore smiled.

Anthony did not like what he was hearing, "I will just wake him up." He said as he started to enter the tent.

Ettore grabbed him quickly and held him tight, "Si, I thought you would want to do that."

"Somehow Optio I have a feeling I will get blamed for this if he wakes in a bad mood!" Pao grumbled, "We shall wait."

"Well it was your idea, I am just helping. So let's get everything moved... quietly." Ettore ordered. The two guards stared at each other, not sure of what they should do. Ettore already had an answer, "The two of you stand guard and make sure no one steals anything." He looked down at Anthony, "You promise not to yell, scream, talk loud, or in any other way try and wake your master?"

Anthony shook violently. Ettore frowned, "You are such a bad sport. Gag him and tie him up and take him to where you are taking the tribunes tent."

The guard protested, "Sir, I have not been with Tribune Lothario long, but I do know your joke is getting out of hand. He may think it is funny you got away with this, but he won't think it funny if his boy is mistreated."

Don Nico and Fedele sat eating breakfast with several of their men when Don Nico saw a fully functional General's tent moving through the camp. The tent, poles and stakes were completely erect. Fedele started laughing, "It must take hundreds of them to do that!"

"What is so funny, that is my tent?" Don Nico stood to watch it moving along.

"It's the Fourth Cohort Nico, they just want their Tribune with them." Fedele almost giggled.

Don Nico put down his plate, "It's barely dawn, and he sleeps late. What are they up to?"

"I bet it is Ettore at the heart of that." Fedele laughed, "It is just a joke I am sure."

"Si and why didn't his guards or that boy sound an alarm?" Nico said as he grabbed his sword and walked off.

Fedele stood up, "Guards follow the General, and don't laugh at him either, he is not in a great mood this morning it seems." Fedele looked at Tomasino, "Breakfast was beautiful Tomas. Would you go get our horses?"

Tomasino nodded and ran off. Don Nico saw the fresh bath water, his son sleeping on the divan, and not a person in sight except for some soldiers who had just woken. Fedele ran up to Nico, "It is just a joke Nico, let them have some fun. He is trying to be a man he can handle this. Just leave them be." Fedele urged.

Nothing else was left at the campsite. Fedele pulled Nico away from the sleeping boy. Nico looked at two of his guards, "You two stay here and keep an eye on him, but don't interfere with anything else that happens." Nico moved along with Fedele not happy about what was going on. He turned directions and headed for the Fourth Cohort, just as Tomas came up with the horses. They mounted and strode over the camp looking for the tent.

Finding it, Nico stopped and watched an animated Ettore talking about the plan. The boy Anthony not gagged, but was tied up. Soldiers were placing everything as it was in the tent before the move. Several Centurions were standing around with about twenty other men. Some very festive and others looking like the gates of Hades were about to open.

When Nico and Fedele rode up to the group, Ettore was facing the men, he did not see them. The men saw Nico and the group became silent as Ettore continued talking. When no one laughed, he stopped and turned around.

"I think this is the stolen tent that Lothario reported Consul Nico." Fedele said, "And it looks like we found the kidnapped slave, and the two missing soldiers as well as the armor and clothing."

Nico turned around and looked at several soldiers nearby, "Arrest these men, untie that slave, and put the men in irons. Then bring them to me."

No matter how much Ettore yelled and screamed or tried to explain, Nico and Fedele ignored him. When Anthony was untied, he ran over to Consul Nico, who pulled the boy onto his horse. Ettore yelled out, "I was just playing a joke on Lothario!"

The men turned their horses and rode off slowly listening to the boy cry out, so the other men could hear him. Nico was smiling and turned to another of his guards, "Go down and tell the two watching Lothario to let you know when he wakes up. When he does, go release those boys, they are half scared to death as it is."

Fedele laughed, "You haven't changed in all these years."

"They deserve it!" Anthony said from behind, "I tried to tell on them but Master Ettore grabbed me and tied me up and he had a gag in my mouth until we got to where they wanted us. It was horrible."

"He is paying for it right now little one, the joke is on him." Fedele continued laughing.

They rode up to Lothario who was just stretching, not realizing yet that his tent was missing. Anthony slid off the horse, got the hot water off the fire, and carefully poured it into the bath. Lothario looked around and saw two guards, Anthony and his father's escort. Then realized all his possessions were gone. He stood up and picked up his pee pot and went, not caring who was watching, "Anthony, where is everything and where is Ettore?"

"They stole everything and put it on the other side of the camp where that Fourth whatever they call it is at. They took me too but your father saved my life."

Lothario raised an eyebrow, realizing that someone started a joke, "That bad was it? Did he gag you and tied you up?"

"Si Master, and he drug me off so I couldn't warn you!"

Lothario looked at his father, "Papa, you look like you are in trouble, what have you done to continue this?"

Fedele had a belly laugh and looked at Nico, "I told you to leave it alone."

Nico grumbled uncomfortably, "I turned it around. They should all be in chains by now, thinking they are heading to the slave market to be sold."

"Who?"

"Ettore and two guards and that gang of boys you call your officers!" Nico shouted as if his son did not realize how pathetic the situation was.

"That would be good for all of them. If they had to do what I do for a week they would be good forever!" Anthony said as he helped Lothario into the bath.

Nico smiled and raised an eyebrow, "It wouldn't even take a week, if they actually thought they had been sold and had to go through a few days of training."

"Papa, please no. Too many things could go wrong and too many could be hurt. A mistake could mean someone is sold by accident and it could take months to free them."

"Maybe just Ettore then? He is the one that instigated it." Nico sighed as he asked.

Fedele grinned, "He couldn't know that we let the others free, so we would have to keep him and his boy away from the others."

Lothario started giggling, "You both are so bad!" He looked at Anthony, "Did Ettore or anyone else actually hurt you?"

Anthony rinsed off Lothario's back, "No but they scared me half to death!"

Lothario looked at his father, "Then maybe it would be okay for Ettore and that Cyrus to be put in a slave wagon for a few days. Maybe even a mock auction where Don Moretti is the highest bidder. That will scare Hades out of them!"

Nico nodded, "That is not as much fun, but I will arrange it."

Anthony dried Lothario and the Tribune called for his horses. "We will use the bath water to wash them, before we go confront the thieves." Lothario laughed, "That will make them even more afraid."

Anthony smiled, "Si master, you and your father are good at this."

"So is Don Fedele, but Anthony if he says he is going to whip you, he is not joking."

The boy frowned, "Si master. Master Ettore said that you joke around a lot, but when you give an order you expect it to be carried out, without hesitation."

"Did he also tell you that when he gives an order you can't tell if he is joking or not?"

Anthony looked at the ground, "No master. So how are we to know when he is serious?"

"He won't hurt you like I might do. Just do what he says. He will tell you if he was playing with you. It is something you have to get used to. Mostly he just likes to scare people." Lothario explained as he finished washing Mars. He went to Thunder and started washing him.

"Do you like me master?"

"Of course I like you. You do your work. You are learning things, so it is aggravating for me sometimes, but I know you are still learning. I am still learning about the military things although Fedele and father have taught me well. They just never taught me to take orders. So we all have things to learn, even about each other." Lothario smiled.

Anthony began brushing Mars, "Why do the horses do what you tell them? How do they understand what you are saying?"

"I got the horses when I was little and just talked to them all the time. The two mares always follow the stallion, not so much me. The stallion is the one that actually follows me. I am not sure how he understands what I want. Trained for war, I saw them and papa gave them to me. I didn't let anyone else touch them for a long time. Then one day I saddled Mars and since then he has been with me almost every minute. It was only this last year they let someone else touch..." Lothario grew quiet and tried not to tear up.

Anthony looked over and recognized the pain, "I understand. It is okay to cry. I do it all the time."

Lothario wiped down Thunder and moved to Lightning, without saying anything. A few minutes later, he began again, "That is the story behind the horses. Now tell me about you."

"I was a free born and like most families mine were poor. I am not sure how poor but they sold me to take care of debts. I was small so I wasn't good for much. I have had several owners. I have done several jobs. The last one was for an old man. I had to bathe him and dress him all the time. He died, and they said I wasn't needed anymore. Your father saw me at the auction and bid twenty-five coin. No one bid against him. I guess I am still not worth much. Then they brought me to you and told me what a hero you were and to do well so you wouldn't cut my head off... and other parts."

"Who told you that?"

"Some soldiers told me that. They said you were a born killer and did it just for fun. From what I saw you do the other day, I am sure they are right. Not even the men want to get near you." Anthony said nervously.

"Did they say anything good about me?" Lothario asked.

Anthony thought for a long time before smiling, "Si, they said you are nicer than most masters, and you wouldn't kill me unless I didn't obey you."

Finished, Lothario looked at the soldiers watching, "Would you get me carrots for the horses?"

One of the soldiers nodded and ran off. Lothario looked at Anthony, "Well then, you have been around for a few days. What do you think of me?"

"I am going to do anything you say." Anthony smiled, "I don't think you are as mean as they say you are. I just am not going to take chances with you."

Lothario laughed, "Well what they were talking about had to do with the war and people obeying orders. Not my personal staff, there are things worse than dying that I can do to you. I suppose you just better do what I tell you so you don't have to find out what branding, toe cutting and arm ripping are all about." Lothario laughed more, "I am teasing you, so don't worry about it. Now once you are done brushing the horses we will go over to where they put the tent and start part two of fixing Ettore up."

Pao looked at Ettore, "I should cut your skin off Ettore. You got me into this mess, and here we are being sold at a slave auction to some officer that wants to have sex, and then he will sell us as soon as he gets to go home."

Ettore shot back, "You are too ugly to have sex with, they will use you to clean up their stables. You just keep talking like that. When Lothario finds out I am being sold like a commoner he will be right here to get us both out, then you will be in trouble with me!"

"You think he will save us after what you did to his slave? Did you hear the boy whining to the Consul? You had him tied and gagged! I am sure Lothario will hear about that. How forgiving will he be then? He won't see this as being a practical joke. He will see it as actual theft, desertion and stealing his own boy for your purposes. We will be lucky to see him at all, much less save our asses."

"They even separated us from the other men."

"Of course they did. So the stories won't match up. They have no idea what happened so the men will plead guilty if they get a chance at all. We haven't even seen them since this morning. They are probably with some other slaver that will offer more money." Pao spat out, "We should have just waited until he woke up and we wouldn't be in this mess." Pao looked around, "Notice the three of us are the only ones in this cage? We ended up with the poorest slave trader in the camps."

That did not last long however. Within a few days there were six men in the slave traders cage. Then it was time for the auction. "What is my father going to say?" Pao asked.

Cyrus looked up, "He won't say anything. He will pretend he doesn't know a thief. You will get used to being sold; I have been sold several times. It won't get any better. One that can afford me will be very mean people."

Ettore was dismal. He had not even seen Lothario. He expected to be saved the first few hours, but there was no sign of him. "I guess he didn't see anything funny about this."

"No one else would either. Look, the masters and their slave trainers are showing up. It won't be long now before we are beaten." Pao cried.

The slave trader came up to the cage and looked at his six men, "When you go to auction, they will be touching you all over. If you do not let them inspect you or give me any other grief during the process I will beat you have to death. It will take months for you to recuperate. I hope I make myself clear." Then he walked off.

 

"Maybe we will be lucky and one of the officers in the Cohort will buy us." Pao hoped.

"More like an officer of another Cohort will buy us to make an example out of us." Ettore replied.

Officers were everywhere. The two noble boys felt like they were a piece of meat being sold for food. They were the last of the six to be sold. Although the first three went for one hundred coins, Don Moretti paid ten coins for Cyrus. Cyrus grabbed by a big man, ended up chained, and smacked around until they got back to Moretti's side.

Ettore shook, "That is the worst of the slave owners to the South in Lothario's area of the state."

Pao said nothing as they pulled him from the cage and put him on display. He was embarrassed beyond belief to be standing there letting strangers touch him all over. Then the bidding began. Twenty-five coins Moretti bid. The auctioneer told how Pao could speak Latin and Roman and would be a good supervisor. No one else bid, no one showed an interest at all. No one even waited for Ettore to go to auction they began leaving.

Three men were left standing when it was time for Ettore. Ettore looked helplessly for Lothario to show up. Don Moretti bid fifteen coins. Ettore did not care what the bid was, but it did not do his ego any good to hear it either.

Just as the bidding was over a boy's voice yelled, twenty coins. Ettore looked up and saw a boy wearing East Indian silks in an Egyptian style bid. Ettore had never seen the boy before. Moretti looked at the boy and growled.

Auriel had watched the bidding. Then he started calculating the cost of a good horse and a saddle. Yes, the horse meant he did not have to walk or beg for rides, but to have a personal slave to take care of him would be cheaper, and at the price of these slaves, he could afford it and maybe still have enough to get a horse in Rome. Moretti had never seen the boy before, but knew by his dress he could not begin to outbid for a slave.

After Moretti raised the bid three times he looked at one of his Centurions, "Get some men, grab that boy and get him out of here."

Just as Ettore had some hope, the auctioneer gave the bid to Moretti for twenty-two coins. The slave master pulled Ettore off the stage roughly, chained him to the others and took him to the big fat Moretti. "This one can clean up the household waste." He said to the slave master. Then Moretti led the way across the camp, while the slave master half dragged the boys.

They were led to General Moretti's tent where hundreds of soldiers milled about. Moretti said very loudly, "These slaves are disgusting examples of human beings. They are more like animals. They are dirty and they stink."

Then the slave trader pushed the three into the tent behind Moretti, "Surprise!" Fifty voices echoed.

Everyone started laughing and patting the boys on the back as the slave master released them from their chains. Anthony gave them food and water. Consul Nico stepped forward, "For the three of you, I hope you have learned your lesson, and I hope it was a very painful lesson that you will remember for eons."

Ettore pulled the water flask from his mouth, "This was all a joke?"

The large group laughed. `Si," Moretti laughed, "And out of your next pay you owe me for what I spent on buying your freedom!" Then he became serious, "Practical jokes are fine. However, to play one on your Tribune, Generals or other officers in masse like the three of you did, is inexcusable. Let this be a lesson to all of you. If Lothario did not have such a soft heart, these three and others would be toiling in some field the rest of their days, or worse."

Ettore and Pao fell to their knees crying in happiness. Cyrus just looked confused. Anthony went to the boy and took him outside to explain.

Don Fedele spoke, "Although I think this was taken too far, I do hope it did some good. Once you have settled, some of the camp workers have prepared baths for you, and Anthony has gathered your clothes and personal possessions."

Lothario said with a deadpan face, "Never touch my slaves again. I will understand the three of you being angry with me for a long time. I hope it does not affect how you act on the field. Ettore I have had you moved to your own tent, until such time you get over this. Pao, you are lucky you are still a centurion, I don't suggest you push your luck, and regardless of who proposes anything to do with me, make sure you think it out and sound the alarm. Secondly, we will be leaving the legion to go to the Fourth Cohort's new home. After thirty days training, I will release you for another thirty days for leave." Lothario left the tent without fanfare, gathered Anthony and rode off.

-         * -

Several days went by before the full realization hit Ettore. He was without his love, he had no horse, and he was more or less an outcast. Luckily, a horse trader came to camp with fresh horses, and he was able to procure one before the Cohort was ready to leave. The horse saddle and armor were expensive, and not as nice as he was used to being with Lothario, but it more than suited his purpose.

He was at each staff meeting, and although Lothario spoke to him as a soldier, there was no personal communication between the two. On the morning of the third day, Lothario was called to the Consul's tent. Ettore watched from a distance, as Don Fedele, Don Romano and Don Moretti entered for a meeting with the Tribune.

Two hours later Lothario came back, tear stained. He ordered the troops into formation on the road, took his place and the now five hundred men, wagons, and supplies which began their trek to Consul Nico's villa to the South. There they would spend thirty days in training, before heading back to Rome for a much-deserved leave. Several wagons and soldiers followed the Cohort for protection but they would be turning off to Rome when the time came.

Don Romano rode on one side of Lothario and Ettore on the other. Scouts were ahead and to the side of the formation. Anthony and the bodyguards were right behind Lothario's group. Each Centurion headed his own men and their officers rode up and down alongside the ranks to make sure everything, and everyone was in proper order. Freemen took water and bread to the troops when called upon.

Lothario wished he had a timepiece, or at least a sun dial to tell how long they had traveled. He used the sun the best he could and called for a rest period. It was hours later before they found the next campsite. Already set up, the men left the formation and found their tents and supplies. The cooks and vendors were already at work cooking dinner.

Anthony helped Lothario take off his armor. Lothario announced that they would nap before dinner. Lothario rested on the divan and Anthony lay on the ground next to him on his favorite pillows. Then Ettore came in, "Tribune Lothario, may I talk with you?"

"You talk to me all the time Ettore, what is it?"

"Si, but I would like to know if you have forgiven me yet."

"Honestly Ettore, I thought the tent disappearing was great. But it was what you did to Anthony that is disturbing. I already forgave you, and maybe you have learned your lesson. If I don't abuse my slaves, then you sure as Hades have no right to. I do not want to go over this again Ettore. If you want me to trust you with my family and my men, then I need to know where you stand on everything. That will take time for you to learn, and for me to trust again. Don't get me wrong, we are still close friends, you are the closest person to me right now, but my faith is shaken."

"When will I be able to move back in with you?"

Lothario sat up and looked at the other boy, "When you can promise me that you will never keep one of my men or slaves from protecting me, and that none of my men or slaves will be hurt from your actions toward me, and that goes for my family as well. Now I am tired, and so are you. Take a nap before dinner; we have a long way to travel tomorrow."

When Ettore left, Lothario grinned. Anthony looked up at him, "Oh you can be so mean! But he deserves it I guess."

"He may not deserve it, but I am going to give it to him. It is one thing to play a joke, but when people get hurt it is not right. That is what he has to learn. Now I need to sleep. When you wake up get our dinner, but sleep until then." Lothario grinned, lay down and closed his eyes.

Ettore fumed back to his tent. Cyrus stayed away from him, until he was called for. "He sells me into slavery and I didn't even hurt that kid. Well I didn't hit him or anything. Then he buys me back through some scheme he cooked up. Embarrasses me completely, not just in front of the Cohort but in front of all three legions. Then he tells me I have a lesson to learn and I have to make promises I already made."

"You will make the promises. You will get on your knees if you have to. Maybe even kiss and lick his feet." Cyrus grinned.

Ettore frowned and looked at the boy, "Why on earth would I do that when he is in the wrong?"

Cyrus shrugged, "Because you love him?"

"Well maybe he should love me and do that stuff to me then!"

The boy grinned, "Si and he probably would, but you are the one that made this mess not him. I even tried to tell you to leave Anthony alone. Master Lothario gives him about anything he wants, and is always watching out for him."

Again Ettore frowned, "I suppose I don't take care of you?"

"I didn't say that, it is just that Master Lothario has the money and the time to give Anthony and you don't."

"He hasn't even been paid as a Tribune yet and I do have the kind of money he has, I just don't spend it like he does."

"That is why you ride his horses?" Cyrus asked.

"Ah I see where this is going. Anthony has sandals and nice clothes, has his own horse, and I use Lothario's things and you go without."

Cyrus shrugged, "Look at all the money you save. That must impress Master Lothario I am sure."

"Go to sleep you are annoying me." Ettore frowned and lay down.

Ettore lay in bed only a few minutes when he jumped up and put his sandals on. He ran out the door and headed towards Pao's tent. Pao looked up, "What is it now?"

"Where do I get a horse and supplies?" Ettore asked.

"It's nice to see you as well. What kind of supplies?"

"Clothing, sandals, oils, and horse of course and a saddle are some of the things I need. I have armor that the General gave me, it's mine. I just have nothing else." Ettore said.

"Why all the sudden interest in things like that? You have everything you want."

"I don't even have my own tent."

Pao laughed, "Well neither does Lothario. Actually, he isn't even supposed to be in a Generals tent. It doesn't actually belong to his family." Pao saw a glint in Ettore's eyes, "Whatever you are thinking I want nothing to do with it."

"No, just show me where to get the stuff I need."

Pao put his sandals on, "All right, come with me. They may be hard to find with the Cohort all stretched out like this but we will do it." Outside he asked, "Where is your horse?"

"Baboon if I had a horse I wouldn't want to buy one would I?"

"If you call me another name, I will have Lothario knock your head off." Pao mounted his horse, "Get up here I am not walking all over the place to find what you want."

"Sorry Pao, and thank you for helping."

Pao rode first right into General Fedele's camp. Fedele was sitting outside with some other men, he smiled seeing the boys "Well how can I help you young men?"

Ettore looked around Pao's body, then whispered, "Why on earth did you bring me here are you nuts?"

Pao slid off his horse, pushing Ettore off as well. He saluted by pounding his chest once with his fest, "Optio Ettore has a question about horses General."

Fedele looked at Ettore, "What is it Ettore?"

Ettore shook in his sandals. Fedele sighed, "Someone get Ettore a cup of wine so it settles his nerves, although I am not sure why he is so nervous."

"I am fine General." Ettore saluted, "I wanted to know where I could find a war horse."

"A little late to be looking for a horse since you leave in the morning. It is your luck that I bought four too many." He turned to his slave, "Take Ettore to my horses, and let him choose from one of the new ones." He looked at Ettore, "They are trained for war, and they are 350 gold each, if you want one. That is what I paid for them."

Ettore's eyes widened. Fedele frowned, "Well you could buy an untrained horse for the price of a trained slave, and when the horse retreated from fear you can get shot by your own men for desertion... It is your choice."

Ettore sighed, nodded and followed the slave. Fedele looked at Pao, "Why did you bring him here if he is so afraid of me?"

"He feels he has dishonored his name, and is trying to hide from everyone." Pao answered.

"That is funny because he has not dishonored anything. You are doing right, just keep with him." Fedele said.

As Pao left to follow Ettore he heard one of the men ask Fedele, "Are you sure having that boy as Lothario's second in command is a good idea? He acts as if he is eight; he is hardly the fast acting Lothario."

Pao couldn't see the expression on Fedele's face but he heard the answer, "Ettore learned a hard lesson today, most of you do not know that. He is just a little unsure of himself. Give him a few days and he will be the warrior we wish we would have been at his age."

Another man said aloud, "I am not so sure even having Lothario as an officer is a good idea. He has no fear, and he does not think things out before he acts. I know you raised him as a warrior general Fedele, but maybe because of that you don't see the child in him."

Fedele froze, staring at the wine in his cup. He waited until his temper subsided before he spoke, "I still see him as a little boy learning to walk. I see him in a crib. I see Lothario falling off his pony the first time he mounted. I see him holding his friends as they die in his arms." Fedele looked up at the man. The man drew back in fear as Fedele continued, "I see a warrior that would rather go out and fight the Etruscan empire on this own than to sit with you and me."

"While most of us would rather this war be over and go home as it is, Lothario is not satisfied. He wants us to continue and take over the entire Etruscan Empire before this season is over. That means he wants every Etruscan to be a Roman or dead within two months. He may cry like a baby, but Mars rides above him and below him." Fedele said referring to the boy's horse, "That boy Ettore is my counterweight. I may be able to control Lothario, but without Ettore I cannot keep Lothario focused on anything but war."

Fedele took a drink "It is not Lothario that has a problem. We are afraid to die. We allow several nations on soil we claim to own, but do nothing to take it. It is we that allow this country to suffer battles over small sections of land, letting thousands of Romans die just to get it back."

"We are the problem comrades, not Lothario and young men like him. Let our armies be trained like the Greek Spartans and a leader like Lothario would take over the world." Fedele finished.

Nico came out of the tent and looked at the group, half-jokingly he said, "I am sure you didn't mean that to sound as if I should be replaced by my son."

"Of course not but let's face it. In two months, we all go home. With Lothario, we would continue this war. Nico, most of us are too old to be doing this. We are needed only because we have the experience, but look what happened with the Fourth Cohort. Something we wouldn't ever think of doing. If Lothario would have had an entire legion, he could walk across Etrusca. Instead, we take back the land they took from us two years ago... knowing they are going to try to reclaim it as soon as they can. Then it all starts over."

Ettore chose his horse carefully. It was grey, since there were no white ones to choose from, nor were there good black ones. He chose a younger horse with fewer wounds than the others did. Si, the horse had seen its share of battles already, and to survive them meant he would be good for war. Ettore paid the slave, "What is her name?"

The slave looked at the boy curiously, "Normally war horses do not last long enough to have names Master."

Ettore sighed, "Si that makes sense I suppose."

"Most will have a personal horse and a war horse Master. If you are thinking of Lothario, he was just ten when he got his horses. He did not know a war horse from a pleasure horse."

"You call him by name?"

The slave frowned, "I did not mean to upset you Master, but I helped raised him. Si sometimes I call him by name."

Ettore turned his attention from the horse, "What do you think of Lothario and this war?"

The slave looked at the ground, "I think the death has made Master Lothario a slave. He is not the boy I know. He only wants revenge." The man looked up, "Maybe you can save Lothario master. Make him see there is more to life again, than just vengeance."

Pao looked at the two, "Come on get some reins on that horse and let's get the other supplies you wanted Ettore!"

The slave put reins on the horse and Ettore and Pao rode off to find someone selling clothing. Pao looked at Ettore, "What is it between you and Lothario lately? No one can tell if you are friends or enemies. Actually, they never could tell, but now it is as if you are both horrible people. Now you are going and buying a horse and new clothes?"

"I still have to buy another horse but I am not buying a warhorse. The clothing is for my slave Cyrus. Lothario's boy has the best of everything." Ettore explained.

"See but even mine has sandals and clothing. The only thing I have seen different is that Lothario allows his slave to be with him more than the rest of us do, and that his slave has a horse. Oh I see now, you don't want to look like you are living off Lothario anymore."

Ettore looked over to Pao, "Does it really look like I am living off of Lothario?"

"Si it does, but you are trying to change that now. People will notice soon." Pao smiled.

"I wasn't trying to. It is not as if I was trying to save money. I guess I just accepted everything without thinking."

They found the shoe vendor who was more than happy to help them, and to take Ettore's money. Take it he did, four times what the shoes would have cost in Rome. Neither knew the fair price so Ettore accepted the man's amount.

Then they went to find a clothier, who was not far away. This time Pao actually helped Ettore choose an appropriate tunic. Not fancy, but well made, and easier to clean, yet comfortable. The vendor watched them go over the clothing. It was obvious to him that neither knew what they were looking for. The man stood and offered his services. The boys listened, "First you have to look at your position in the community, and once you know where you stand, then you have to buy the appropriate slave clothing for your personal slaves, not those in menial work. I am presuming you both have new slaves and want to know how to dress them."

Both boys nodded, "You both have good ranks, so you don't want your boys and girls going around in rags, but you don't want to make them too obvious either. You want to use good wool with close stitching. You wouldn't want adornments on it, but your wool does not have to be white, beige or brown... of course the purple and maroons are out, but most other colors you can use." The man told them as he picked out several tunics.

"The white is easiest to get dirty, that is why so many slaves look so horrible. Darker colors like brown, blue, green would be good, and would not need to clean as much, except if they started to smell."

"I would like the dark blue." Pao said.

"I would like the brown." Ettore grinned, "Two of them for me, and a beige cloak, for someone say this tall." He motioned with his hands.

"Si I will need two as well and a cloak of the same color. It will be getting cold out at night." Pao chimed in. He is this tall." He motioned with his hands. His boy was much smaller than Ettore's lad was.

The vendor did right by the boys, and served them well with product and price. They mounted and returned to their respective camps. Ettore rode up quietly to find Cyrus getting a bath ready. "I brought food for you master. They served lamb today so I got you two portions. It is still hot. I will have your bath ready before dusk. You won't have time to bathe properly in the morning." Cyrus looked at the horse, "You bought her master? She is beautiful."

"I wanted to buy a stallion but I was talked out of it. When I told Pao and the slave that Lothario had one they looked at me as if I lost my mind. They told me that it's one of the few that could be used in such a way. Thank you Cyrus, I think she is beautiful too. Catch this!"

Cyrus caught the bundle, "Your clothing and sandals. Take a bath yourself before wearing them." Ettore slid off his horse, "Now you have more duties with caring for the horse, feeding, cleaning, and I will buy a personal tent tomorrow if I can and maybe a horse for you. These warhorses were a lot more expensive than I imagined, I doubt that you will need one."

Cyrus looked at the package and looked up, "Master thank you, but I did not mean for you to buy for me, I just meant that you should have your own horse and tent. Thank you so much."

Ettore smiled, "You are welcome. I will need a divan and rugs... I suppose most of my father's belongings are now mine. While I eat Cyrus, go find my father's slave, take an inventory of everything and bring me a list. Many things I may already have and completely forgot about."

Lothario tossed and turned most of the night. He would wake up in fits of crying, dose off and start moving again. Paolo, Giulio and Dino went through his mind, until daybreak he woke up screaming. Anthony woke and ran over to comfort Lothario. The guards came in to check on him. Lothario was shaking, "I will be all right. It was just a bad dream." He said to them. However, Anthony stayed close.

Once Lothario seemed to settle, Anthony went outside, warmed a cup of wine, poured honey into it, and stirred it slow. The tent guard looked at him, "Is he okay?"

"Si I think it was just a nightmare, he called out a couple of names. I think they were the friends he lost." Anthony went back into the tent and handed the cup to Lothario, "Here master this will help."

Anthony went back outside and warmed grape juice for him and the guard, "This will warm you some. The morning air is cold." He said handing a cup to the guard. Anthony went back and sat down on the ground next to Lothario.

The scream woke Cyrus and he went outside to see the silhouette of Anthony lighting the oil lamps in the big tent. There was some commotion and then things settled down. He turned and looked at Ettore. He had to decide whether to wake him or not.

If he did not wake up his master and it was important, he would be in trouble. If he woke him up, and nothing happened he would be in trouble. He decided to wake him up, "Master, Master Lothario screamed, there is a commotion at his tent; I thought you would want to know."

Ettore opened his eyes and then slowly sat. "My tunic Cyrus." He dressed and walked over to Lothario's tent. The guard nodded and he walked in. "Are you all right Lothario?" He asked as he sat next to him on the divan.

Anthony sighed, got up and went to get another cup of wine for Ettore. Maybe they would just lay down and go to sleep, there were still at least two hours before dawn. Cyrus was standing outside the tent. Anthony looked at him, then into the tent, "Master Lothario is the one that hurts, he has a right to complain, and never does he utter a word."

Anthony knelt down to make another cup of wine. Cyrus got two cups and looked at him, "That is not fair Anthony. I did not mean to complain. I guess I sound like I whine a lot, but I really do not mean to."

Anthony shrugged, "Then we will work on that so you stop sounding like you are complaining all the time." He stood and took the wine in to Ettore. He came back out with Lothario's cup to refill it, "They won't stay awake long and then I can get some sleep."

Anthony had no idea if Lothario and Ettore spoke, but when he went back into the tent the two curled up and slept. He invited Cyrus in, giving a silence warning. Cyrus fluffed some pillows to lie down. Anthony smiled, drank the warm wine himself, and extinguished the oil lamps. They all slept the next three hours sound.

_*_

The next morning the Fourth Cohort woke excited. The bustling woke Anthony first. He took care of his business then went outside to see the camp coming down. They were ready to get out of the war zone and go home. Anthony woke Cyrus first.

Cyrus looked at the sun; dawn had broken at least an hour before they woke. He ran to find Ettore's tent that once belonged to his father. He looked at the slave Dominus and asked to show him everything that belonged to his master, now owner of the tent, supplies, horses, wagons and other gear. Dominus only had one question, "Is master Ettore going to free me?"

"I am sure he will once we get home Dominus, but let's work on getting home first." The two began packing up everything. Some of the father's staff helped the boys load the wagons. Four wagons later and worn out, Cyrus led the slaves, drivers, and citizens of his household to Lothario's tent. The tent and belongings were completely packed by the members of the Fourth Cohort. Lothario and Ettore were sitting eating when he saw Ettore's caravan near, "Have your men take our supplies to the road, you sit and eat before we leave."

He and Ettore both stood up and watched the procession. "Cyrus, get a saddle and take the red horse, it is gentle. That will be yours. Dominus, you take the black horse, I give that to you. Come back and get me when everything is ready to go."

Anthony smiled, "It looks like you had more than what you thought you did master Ettore."

"Much more than I thought I did." He turned to Lothario, "I promise I will never hurt anyone close to you Lothario, will you take me back in good standing? Will you let me be with you as before?"

Lothario smiled and nodded, "That is all I ever asked. Of course, but remember to free Dominus when we get home. He deserves it."

They finished eating and Anthony cleaned up the dishes and the campsite. Then he readied the horses, without armor. Don Nico and Fedele rode up to the boys, "I am not dead yet son, so make sure you take care of my equipment, horses and men... I won't even mention the wagons."

Nico came off his horse and hugged both boys, "On the way home you two make up."

Lothario looked up, "We have papa." Then he turned and hugged Fedele.

Fedele hugged the boy tight, "I am not sure it is proper for a Tribune to be hugging the Generals. I will have to look for that rule when we get back to Rome."

Lothario stood back, saw Fedele's smile, and relaxed, "I hope to see you both soon."

Cyrus rode down to get Ettore. He was grinning ear to ear, and so Dominus as well, as they rode their own horses. "They are waiting for the two of you master, the men are very excited about starting the journey."

"Ettore, tell the first set of wagons to begin, they will need to set up for the evening long before we get there."

Don Nico frowned, "I sent them yesterday, as you should have. Remember that tomorrow."

Lothario turned red, "Si papa, it won't happen again." Lothario and Anthony mounted and rode with Cyrus and Ettore to the front of the column.

"You may think me a fool for saying this Lothario, but I just have to say it before anything else happens." Ettore choked up.

"What is it Ettore?" Lothario asked, not sure he wanted to hear bad news.

"I just have to say I love you, and not just in a friendly way." He and Lothario took their places at the front of the column and started the move. Ettore frowned, "Are you going to say anything at all? Like I don't welcome your advances or I am happy about it, or even I love you in return?"

Lothario patted Ettore's bare knee, "Let me think about it. We can talk on the way home."

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