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Remmy Meggs 

Grapes of Italy -- Chapter 18

"Lothario's ego is getting bigger than his brain!" Don Nico fumed as he walked back into the tent.

"You are going to lose this one Nico, no matter what you do. You need to make peace with both of them. Sure I can find suitable wives for them, and you can have them live in separate villas, but if you push them, Lothario will stop everything he is doing, and go with Ettore. So you will be playing right into what Ettore wants."

Nico turned back to Fedele, "What do you mean?"

Fedele grinned, "Ettore may not say much but I want you to think. Lothario does not have his own villa, he does not have his own house in Rome. To get away from you he would have to go to Ettore. Ettore wouldn't hesitate to take him in, and because of what you are doing, Lothario will never leave him. Is that what you want?"

"Are you telling me this is what Ettore is waiting for?" Nico asked.

"Maybe and maybe not, but it sets him up perfectly if you ask me. Lothario not in the service of the Legion, which makes them both safe, they both have money and livestock. It would be two years at least before Lothario's vineyards and seven years before his orchards produced, so he could leave those behind and take his livesock. Together they would become the wealthiest landowners in Roman history. Lothario knows enough to buy farms in other countries now, and with that Greek teacher of his, he can get a foothold in Greece as well, something you and I haven't been able to accomplish. What do you think of the Etruscans Nico? Don't you think they will say `Hail Lothario, thank you for sending our children home, you are welcome here. Here is land, do with it as you want.'"

Fedele grinned wider and continued, "They are probably not thinking of these things right now. In time they will."

"Then we need to find them villas close by each other, and soon. We need to get them married off, and yes, I need to make peace with Lothario before he leaves everything behind." Nico grumbled.

"Si, leave everything behind including you." Fedele sighed, "But when you say we are going to do all these things, you actually mean I will be doing all these things."

"You have never complained before Fedele." Nico stared at him.

"He was a child and easy to care for. He never asked for much, and what he did ask for you turned down for most of his life. Now he is a warrior, and in his mind he is a man. You have thrown everything at him at one time, whether he deserved it or not. Yet Nico, he is willing to give up everything, albeit including his money and livestock to be with Ettore." Fedele walked around the front of the tent watching the guards.

Nico turned to see if he could see Lothario in the distance before speaking, "Si, he didn't deserve to be Tribune at his age, or a Centurion for that matter, but he did deserve Citizenship."

"Si I am sure he deserved to be a senator too, one they will stab in some dark alley some night because he does not side with them." Fedele tone was facetious.

"No, he did not deserve that either, but Brutus had my ear and I agreed. `A hero' he claimed, and I was so proud I lost my senses." Nico ran his hand over the back of his head.

Fedele frowned, "Again you have made a mess of things." He picked up his belt and sword, "I will fix this somehow. From now on you need to think before you speak to him. It is you that have the ego problem, he could care less about any of this, and I am sure he is having nightmares about the things he has done already. Keep that in mind oh great Consul Nico." Fedele finished as he walked off to find Lothario.

Nico fumed as Fedele walked away. He turned to see his slave grinning, "Don't you say a word. I am not in the mood. Get me some wine."

As Fedele thought how to fix everything he walked around the camp talking to the soldiers. Most of them had already started drinking pretty heavily. He did spot Lothario and about twenty other men and boys playing football. Lothario was on the ground being helped up. He must have been hit hard for that to happen. Fedele was too far away to hear what was being said. He decided now would not be a good time to bother Lothario and Ettore. It was not often they could play anymore.

He continued visiting with the men from different cohorts as he passed by to where the boys were playing. When he got to Lothario's first cohort they stopped what they were doing, stood and saluted him. Then they glared at him. Fedele felt very uncomfortable, "If any of you have anything to say, speak up."

A naked Anthony wearing only sandals came running up to the men, "Five to One for the Guards!"

The men looked behind Anthony. Anthony turned to see Fedele, "Oh, you want to bet on Lothario's guards or the Centurions?"

"Does Lothario know you are gambling?" Fedele asked.

"No."

"You are gambling with the money you received today?"

"Si."

"Come here Anthony."

Anthony walked over to Fedele. Fedele looked at the boy's groin, "I see you have healed well. Why aren't you playing on Lothario's team?"

"He says I am bug meat. He said if I fall the bugs will get me again, but I am just as strong as Roman and some of the other boys." Anthony fidgeted.

"Si, you are. What happens if you lose all your money Anthony? What happens if you make too many bets and owe several hundred coins to the men?" Fedele asked.

The men turned their attention to the boy. A big man growled, "Anthony you do not have the money to cover your bets?"

Anthony's face twisted up, "Lothario and the guards can't lose."

Fedele looked at the field, "They are betting against Lothario because they are taking on older and wiser centurions, boy. You are betting on Lothario because he has the toughest group, but he also has half his men less than five feet tall! Not to mention they can't use swords in the game."

Anthony frowned and turned back to the soldiers that had bet with him. They were staring and not very happily. Fedele sighed, "Let me see how much money you have."

Anthony took off his pouch he had around his neck and poured the money into Fedele's hand. Fedele frowned, "Now show me your betting list." Anthony showed Fedele his arm where he marked names and how much. By now several of the soldiers stood up and surrounded Anthony. Fedele sighed, "Anthony, you have one gold coin, two silver and ten coppers, where did you get that kind of money?"

"The quartermaster gave it to me." Anthony took a deep breath and started to worry that he had done something wrong.

"The quartermaster gave you gold and silver coins?"

"Si Don Fedele."

"Does Lothario know about this?"

"Well Si, about the money, he doesn't exactly know I am gambling." Anthony said truthfully.

Fedele looked at the men, "No more betting with this child. If he loses I will cover your bets, but if he wins I expect each of you to pay up. I know it's not a lot of money, but the boy can't even count! The next time you gamble with him make sure his master is around to see that you are treated fair."

The most that was bet was five coppers, but you needed to multiply that by fifty men. The men were pleased that Don Fedele would cover the bets. They were a little upset that Anthony was gambling with no money to cover the bets. Fedele continued, "You all know he is a slave, how he got this money I am not sure, but you should have thought about that."

Fedele looked back at Anthony, "Do you have to go pee?"

"No sir."

"Then what on earth are you doing?"

"Practicing, Master Lothario wants me to sing and dance at the festivities tonight. That is how I was going to pay for everything." Anthony looked at the ground and his shoulders cowered as if he expected to get hit.

Fedele raised an eyebrow, "Why didn't you tell me that first?"

"Don Fedele you didn't ask me how I was going to cover the bets, you just asked how much money I had."

The soldiers started laughing. Fedele sighed and looked at them, "It seems we were all taken by the little tart." He turned back to Anthony, "This time you get away with this, I won't be so foolish the next time."

One of the men state a fact, "If he stole those coins the Tribune will go crazy."

Anthony turned quickly to the man, "I did not steal anything! Master Lothario was sitting right there as it was counted out to me. He told me to put it in the pouch and not tell anyone I had it. Now you all know and that is what he will be upset about."

Fedele patted the boys shoulder, "You have never lied or stolen, I believe you Anthony, but did Lothario pay the other slaves?"

"Well I know he paid those under his command." The soldiers verified what the boy stated.

"All of them have something General Fedele. I know in our cohort the boys, women and men slaves were paid a little. We thought it was unusual but Tribune Lothario always does strange things. That is why most of us thought Anthony could cover his bets." Another man explained.

Fedele swatted Anthony's behind, "Go play and don't sit in the grass, and no more gambling unless Lothario is with you!"

Anthony smiled and ran off. Fedele looked at the men, "Now someone explain to me what I have done so wrong that you all glared at me when I neared?"

The big man frowned, "Right before the game the Tribune and Optico were arguing. Optico Ettore was saying how they were wealthy, and they should just leave instead of putting up with you and Consul Nico picking on them all the time. They are great boys, better fighters, and have outsmarted even our best officers. And we are furious!"

Fedele rubbed his chin and sat, "Sit with me, let me tell both sides of the story."

Fedele was not stupid, he did not tell the men anything bad about the boys, except that when they were together it was hard to get them to obey orders, and they were always together. He told the side of the legion and how the legion needed to be reformed to make it strong again. He told how Don Nico maybe got a little carried away with the reformation, and that is why Ettore is so upset. "Lothario trying to be a good son wants to wait and see what happens. Don Nico is the Consul, and their General and regardless of what happens orders will have to be followed. I am doing my best to make this work out for all of us. It takes time, like Lothario, General Nico has a hard head sometimes. Don't tell either of them I said that."

He got the laughs he was hoping for and then continued, "Listen to me, they are the youngest officers we have, Si they maybe two of the best, but they are young, Hades, Ettore still trips over his feet and you have seen it. They lack the experience they need. General Nico, wants to separate them so they can have individual time to learn. He wants to make Optico Ettore, and Centurion Andio Tribunes. It is not as if General Nico is picking on them so much as he is trying to help them. The General's problem is that if he tries to separate them they will leave, and there is nothing any of us can do about it."

He stopped and continued, "It has been my job to sort this out. It would help immensely if you stood behind me to work these matters out, so we all benefit."

The men agreed, stood and saluted. Fedele nodded, "That is more like it. Now let's enjoy the game and how much money you will have left when Lothario's team wins."

Naevius looked worried and spoke to the boys, "They are ahead two points, and they outweigh all of you. So it seems that they are playing rough, I don't think they are trying to hurt us, but all of you are getting hurt. All of you are small, so here is my strategy. The men will run the ball, this is where they are getting you boys at. We will run it, and try and get the ball between their feet where all of you can get to it, or actually go under their legs, and maybe accidentally raise up and make them bend over in pain."

Spio was grossed out, "Their team is the naked team, that is gross!"

"That is my plan, does anyone have any better?"

Ettore was sweating and wiped his forehead with his tunic, "Si, we kick them in the peaches directly."

The boys all laughed. Lothario smiled, "That just might work. They are not afraid to hit us, knock us on the ground, and trample us when we are down. They do not play like boys play, so maybe it is time we got back at them. We may not be able to touch the ball with our hands but we have elbows to hit their balls!"

Naevius smiled, "Now you understand what I am saying, we are playing like boys, they are playing like men!"

Spio looked a little nervous, "Well I am not sticking my head between their legs either way."

The ball was in motion again and within a few seconds one of the centurions went down on his knees bent over in pain. Crispin growled, "Damn that hurt. Who was that?"

Lothario's team scored. Spio grinned, "The elbow works better."

Naevius and two others worked the ball down while the younger boys ran down the field. Keeping in mind that the ball was not full of air, Naevius kicked it right into the head of Aquil, who immediately fell. Ettore got the ball and kicked it to Erex, who scored just as Ettore turned using his fist to hit one of the centurions in the peaches. The score was tied.

From the sidelines Anthony was jumping up and down in glee even though most of the cohort was cheering for the much larger and more experienced Centurion team. Lothario looked at him and smiled, having no idea what the boy was so excited about. The Centurions had the ball and the big guards were blocking and kicking, finally getting it away and headed back down the other direction. Lothario stopped mid field and watched as Spio got the ball and ran it with a hard kick into the imaginary goal, knocking the blocker to the ground in the process. The Guards screamed and yelled happily as the game was called. They had won. The men of the first cohort began standing and counting money as a gleaming Anthony came to collect his bets.

Cyrus went right to Ettore with a towel. Lothario looked around for Roman and Anthony and did not see them anywhere. Lothario looked at Cyrus, "Anthony and Roman was just here, did you see where they went?"

Cyrus looked around, "No Don Lothario." He kept looking, "There is Roman with the second cohort."

Lothario frowned, "I'll get my own towel."

Pao came running over, "You are the only person I know with two personal slaves and you are getting your own towel."

Lothario did not turn around, "Well you have one, and I don't see him around either."

Anthony came running up to Lothario grinning from ear to ear. He was holding up a towel to carry his money. "Master see what I did?"

Lothario took off his tunic and dried the sweat off, "Si so you have been gambling with the money you received? Where were you when I needed you Anthony?"

Cyrus and Pao were snickering. Anthony pouted, "I wasn't gone that long, I thought Roman would take care of you."

"Si and do you know where Roman is?"

Anthony looked around, "No, but he must be close by."

Cyrus pointed, "Here he comes."

Roman also had a tunic full of coins and it looked like more gold and silver than Anthony had. He stopped when he realized everyone was staring at him, "What?"

Lothario gave up, "Go back to the tent. Roman help Anthony count his money and you both find safe places to put your winnings. Then get me a bath and take care of the horses."

Cyrus was holding on to Ettore's arm giggling as Pao openly laughed. As Ettore, Lothario and Cyrus walked back to the tent, Cyrus turned to the two gamblers, "You both think you're perfect, now look at you."

Anthony looked at Roman as they walked slowly behind the others, "You think he is mad at us?"

"More disappointed I think. He didn't seem mad." Roman frowned.

"Si disappointed at least. I don't think he minded the gambling I think it was because we weren't there when he needed us." Anthony said aloud.

"Oh I am sure he is going to say something to you about gambling since you can't count yet. He really can't say anything about me doing it. He will just be upset at me for promising to be next to him all the time and I wasn't. We can make it up though you will see. We will just try harder."

At the tent they laid out their money on blankets while the others were outside talking and drinking plum juice. Roman had Anthony separate his money by type. Roman did the same thing. Roman was impressed when he realized how much money Anthony actually had. Without counting it he looked at the boy, "I think you have enough there to buy your freedom."

Anthony frowned, "Freedom from what?"

"Freedom silly, you won't have to be a salve anymore!"

"You are free and still do the same things as you did before." Anthony declared.

"That is different. It is because I want to and I get paid, even if the army doesn't."

"So if I buy my freedom I can still be with Master Lothario, and get paid money?"

Roman smiled, "Si and you get paid every month."

Anthony looked at Roman's coins, "Then how much money do you have?"

"We will count both piles."

Anthony was still grinning, "Would I have any money left over if I bought my freedom?"

Roman started counting and explaining to Anthony groups of tens. "I think you might, but we have to count it to see. Ok now you count out ten coppers."

Anthony counted out the ten coins. Roman smiled, "Now if you had ten stacks of copper coins that equal's one silver coin."

Anthony frowned, "I have no idea what you just said."

Roman had the boy count stacks of ten coppers out, while he did the same. When they finished, Roman looked at the stacks, saw the silver coins and twenty gold coins. He glared at Anthony, "Anthony, how on earth did you win so much when you only had a few coins to start with?"

Anthony smiled, "I just started making bets."

"How did you get them to bet so much?"

"I told them five to one odds."

Roman sighed, "That means you would had to pay five coppers for each copper they bet if you lost."

Anthony giggled, "Some bet gold and silver too."

Roman sat on his behind, "If you would have lost, you could have lost your life over that kind of betting."

"Why?"

"Because you couldn't have paid them if you lost!"

Anthony grinned, "Why are you getting so upset Roman? I won!"

Roman stood and looked out the tent at Lothario. He turned back to Anthony, "You have more than enough to buy your freedom, a horse, new clothes, sandals and everything else you will need for more than a year."

"How much do you have?" Anthony asked.

"I only bet half of what my regular pay was. I have what equals to three gold coins." Roman swallowed hard, "Anthony you don't understand, they would have or at least could have killed you and nothing Lothario would have said could stop it."

"I will give you some of mine then!" Anthony stood up and hugged Roman.

Roman pushed him back, "Now you will not give me some of yours, and you will not give anyone else some of yours."

Lothario looked at the tent and saw a distressed Roman and Anthony, "What is it Roman?" Lothario asked.

"Master I think you should see something." Roman frowned, and then added, "Alone."

Ettore looked up as Lothario stood, "I hope Anthony didn't get bugs again."

Lothario went into the tent, "Is everything alright?"

"Si. I think you should look at Anthony's winnings though."

Lothario squatted and counted the coins. He grinned, "Very funny you two."

He stood up and started to walk out but Roman frowned, "Master it is not funny. He actually won that much."

Lothario stared at Roman for a moment and turned to Anthony, "You won that money gambling?"

"Si, I did good right?" Anthony was not so sure of himself anymore. Lothario's tone of voice had changed instantly.

Lothario looked at Roman, "Does he have any idea how much money he has?"

"No Master."

"Tie it up in the blanket. Put it in a safe place. I will sort this out after the celebration tomorrow, once we are settled in the house." Lothario had a half twisted grin.

"Si Don Lothario."

Lothario turned to Anthony, "No more gambling until you learn to count!" He went out and sat with Ettore and a few others that joined the group.

Roman and Anthony carefully wrapped up the money and put it in the bottom of Lothario's armor stand. Anthony looked nervous, "Am I in trouble?"

Roman smiled, "No you are not in trouble, and you just need to learn a few things. Next year you will be sixteen; if you are free you can become a citizen. Until Lothario says so, he is going to have you in school I am sure. That means that at least three hours a day someone else will be taking care of him. Come on, we need to get his bath ready before dinner." Roman sighed as he put his own coins under his pillow.

Cyrus saw them pulling the tub around to the side of the tent, and went to them and asked them to help him do the same. They both helped, and then the three went off to find water. When one of the vendors told them they would have to go to the aqueduct for water, they stared at each other. It was miles away. The vendor laughed and pointed to a wagon, "That man over there sells water, it is not expensive so don't try and get him down in price, he is not a wealthy man."

The boys walked over to the man who was dealing with others. When it was their turn Roman spoke, "We need two tubs full of water and an amphora of drinking water."

The man looked over the boys for a minute, "Can you afford three coppers?"

Roman frowned and looked at Cyrus, "Please ask Lothario for three coppers for water."

"I will ask him for two. Master Ettore will want to pay for his own."

The man looked at Roman, "You are not a slave."

"Si, I work for Don Lothario Praetorio."

"He doesn't give you money for such things?"

"Si he does, but I didn't think we would have to buy water, so I didn't ask him for any."

Cyrus came back with a silver coin and gave it to Roman. Roman handed the coin to the man. The man looked at it, "I am not a money exchange, I do not have enough water to take this."

Roman frowned, "How would you feel about driving the load to Master's tent and going back to Rome for more? Others will need water before we enter Rome tomorrow."

The man thought and smiled, "The price does not include the amphoras. I will want them back. You empty as many as you can and my sons will load them onto my cart and I can go get more."

Ettore finished his bath before Lothario and was dressed for the festivities for the evening. Since Anthony would be singing and dancing, Ettore let him use his bath water to clean up. Roman went around looking for the musicians to play. A man in a small cart was going from tent to tent selling wine.

Lothario looked at Ettore, "I think it is strange he can get that cart down between the rows of tents like that, with men walking and doing things, but if we bring the horses in we get in trouble."

Ettore laughed, "You get in trouble because when you call them all three come at once and run everything and everyone down."

Lothario sat and looked at the ground, "I guess off the battlefield I just cause trouble. There was a time when I hardly ever got into trouble. Now it is like every hour of the day something goes wrong."

"At least you don't trip over your own feet and look like a fool. I am so embarrassed when the men start laughing at me." Ettore stated as he poured juice into cups for the two of them.

Lothario raised his head up and was trying to stop giggling, "Si, when you put it that way you have it worse than I do." His giggle turned into a laugh,.

"I am happy to see it makes you so gleeful." Ettore handed Lothario the cup. He turned to Anthony, "Are you washing or rubbing yourself in that water?"

Anthony leaned forward and looked at him, "I thought I might do both like you do?"

"Damn cheeky boy." Ettore laughed with the others.

"Anthony I want you to wear one of my tunics tonight, I would like you to get Roman to braid your hair if it is long enough too. Maybe use some of my scented oil." Lothario smiled.

Ettore frowned, "Your tunics are the wrong color and too small for him. I will let him use one of mine, and unless you are going to sell him for sex, you might want him to use my oils."

Anthony frowned with a glare and looked at them, "I do not want to do sex!"

"Si, he just wants to rub it all the time." Ettore laughed.

"No, I mean I don't want to do what you do..."

Lothario gave Anthony a warning look and said, "Don't tell Ettore's secrets in front of other people."

Ettore blushed, he realized what Anthony was about to say. "Well you got me again Anthony. Now finish up and get out and get ready. Most of the camps have already started the festivities."

"I noticed all the women fancied up, coming from the city. I think they are here for sex." A boy walked by them smiling.

Lothario looked at the boy, but spoke to everyone, "I am sure that will aggravate Auriel to no end."

Valentine grinned, "Si, I have seen Ettore come from his tent many times, I guess he is getting his exercise in, and emptying his purse."

"Funny, very funny." Ettore frowned, "You must have been waiting in line Valentine."

Anthony came out of the tent. Everyone looked at him. He fidgeted a little, "Do I look bad?"

Valentine whistled, "Now I know why Lothario bought you. You are a beauty when you are cleaned up. At your age you are still able to sing?"

Anthony looked at Lothario to explain. Lothario frowned but spoke, "He is a beautiful singer and always will be. The physician told me that, and that is why I keep him close."

"A singer and dancer is not a very good job for a man that will be a Citizen Lothario. I hope you have other plans for him." Crispin looked sad as he spoke, "Seriously, have you made plans?"

Roman stood up and answered, "Si, Anthony is going to school in Rome. The teacher will teach him to read and write and mathematics. Then he will work for Don Lothario and keep order on all the farms."

Ettore looked at Lothario and whispered, "Where did that come from?"

Lothario shrugged, "It sounds good to me Roman."

Valentine frowned, "Do you let your slaves speak like that?"

Lothario sighed, "You can easily see by how Roman dresses that he is not a slave, why do you put him down like that Valentine?"

"He was a slave, I just keep forgetting. Roman, I apologize."

Roman smiled, "Si I was a slave, a good one, and I am freeborn. So is Anthony, he has just had no formal schooling. Master Lothario will take care of that. So being free born, I have a right to speak. The part of Rome I am from, I was head of a group of boys, ruffians Don Fedele calls us. Lothario took me away by my own fault, and I have learned better ways, but I still speak for myself. When I say things, it is not out of disrespect."

"It is getting dark, and I don't want Anthony getting dirty, he has looked forward to this." Lothario said as he stood. "Anthony, Roman has gathered the musicians into the big circle, go on down there and we will join you. Roman if you can take my chair, Cyrus take Ettore's chair. I hope you all join us, I would like you to hear how my angel sings and dances."

The top centurions left and promised to bring more officers with them. Thirty minutes later, and with over six hundred men and a few women watching, the musicians began to play and a naked Anthony began to sing and dance. Ettore looked at Lothario, "If he was going to do this naked, why did he need a nicer tunic and belt?"

Lothario did not take his eyes off Anthony, or his ears, "Just to make him feel good as he came down, and again to feel good when he is done."

Most of the soldiers were drunk or half drunk, they were not quiet at all, but most were watching the boy closely as he wiggled and danced perfectly, as if this was all he knew how to do. After his first song, Ettore stood up and spoke loudly, "This boy is the property of Tribune Lothario, please show the boy some respect, he works hard to please us all."

Some of the men muttered, and it became quieter, but not as quiet as Ettore thought they should be. Don Fedele and Nico could hear the singing at their campsite, but the noise of the men was almost imperceptible. "I think that is Anthony singing." Fedele announced to their group.

Nico smiled, "Si, it is, I hear him all the time when we have been home. When he is not busy that is all he does, sing and dance."

Fedele laughed, "He is pretty active at rubbing himself too as we both have seen."

The men around them laughed. Nico grinned, "Si but you were the same, maybe worse at his age." The men roared in laughter.

"Ouch, that hurts. Should we go down and listen?"

"I don't think we should. If we show up and the boy sees us he will be frightened and become too afraid to go on. He is with Lothario and Ettore and feels safe, let him enjoy the evening."

After three songs Anthony was done, and bowed to the applause. Men and boys threw money near him and he and Roman picked it up, there were several hundred coppers and a few silver coins on the ground. He grinned happy and announced, "The musicians will play until you are all too drunk to dance, so enjoy yourselves on this festive night, just remember Tribune Lothario expects us all to be sharp when we enter Rome tomorrow!"

The Romans did not really applaud, but they made more than enough noise making up for it. He walked over to Lothario and knelt, "I hope I did you great honor with my performance."

Lothario rubbed his hair, "Si Anthony it was a great honor for me, a great honor to be a part of this, and a great honor to these soldiers that were able to hear your voice. Now let's go home and sleep. The horses weren't groomed and that will have to be done before we leave in the morning."

Ettore frowned, "But the festival just started!"

Lothario touched his shoulder, "Si, you and Cyrus enjoy yourselves with our friends. I have duties to perform in the morning and I need to have a clear head."

Ettore didn't like it but he let Lothario and the boys go back to their tent with the guards. They all fell asleep quickly.

 

Roman woke Anthony and they took care of the horses at dawn, and after grooming them they put on the armor they had polished the day before. They prepared the baths, and not seeing Cyrus they went to Ettore's tent and woke Cyrus. He stayed out late with Ettore and was not very happy about getting up so early. Instead of taking care of his horse and Ettore's he got the bath water ready along with Roman and Anthony, even though Anthony reminded him several times about the horses.

Roman looked at Anthony, "Why aren't they breaking camp like usual?"

Anthony shrugged, "I think because many of the soldiers will come back out here after the parade. They will probably tear down tomorrow. Remember they have to pack everything tight to get it all into the training ground for the season.

Lothario woke and looked at Ettore, "I knew you would stay out too late." He stood, stretched and went outside and bade the guards good morning and saw the boys working on his bath, "The horses are taken care of?"

"Si Master, and well armored and saddled." Anthony grinned.

"Did you both bathe yet?"

"No not yet Don Lothario, we will use your water, we had our baths last night remember?" Roman explained.

"No actually I don't remember, but that is good." Lothario turned his attention to Cyrus, "Is something bothering you?"

"Si, the tub is half filled with cold water, and we are out of water!"

Several boys came up with amphoras and set them down. Without saying a word they picked up empty ones and left. Cyrus frowned, "We must be the only ones with water, because the soldiers are getting dressed and they don't look very clean."

Roman handed a cloth to Lothario to wash with, "There is water, the water man just ran out, he has a full cart now." He announced just as Fedele walked into the camp.

"I am happy to hear that because I came to get yours."

Lothario grinned, "I don't think so. They bought three carts of water in, there is enough for everyone."

Fedele grinned wider, "Si, but yours is already paid for!"

Lothario lifted his leg out of the water as Spio came into the camp with the daytime guards. Lothario laughed, "Fedele good sir, would you wash my legs, and I will consider giving you the used water."

Fedele grabbed the leg and pulled it, dunking Lothario's head under the water. He turned to his slave and Nico's slave, "Get four urns and take them back to camp." He tossed a silver coin to Roman, "That should pay for the water."

When they left Roman grinned and looked at Lothario, "We paid one silver coin for all the water we used yesterday and today, and he gave us silver for four amphoras, you made a profit of over sixty coppers. And Don Fedele was rude for pulling you under the water like that."

Lothario wiped his face, "I deserved it, but it was still funny. Did you see his face?"

Cyrus finally got enough hot water for the tub. He sat and watched Lothario finish dressing and the boys helped put his armor on. Cyrus finally said, "Master Lothario, will you wake up Master Ettore, the water will be cold, he will be nasty to me all day and I don't want to start out like that."

Lothario, without fanfare walked into the tent, "Get your lazy ass up soldier, you are making us all run late!"

From outside they heard Lothario turn over the bed and Ettore let out a yelp. Cyrus frowned, "Well I don't think this will help his disposition toward me, but at least he can't yell at me for this."

Lothario stepped outside and whistled for his horses. He didn't hear them coming, "Anthony where were the horses when you took care of them?"

In the distance Lothario and the others heard men yelling, then the galloping steps of at least a dozen horses. Anthony pointed, "They were way over there with a bunch of other horses." He pointed beyond Don Nico's tent.

Lothario and the boys heard the clang of metal plates and cups, cookware, men yelling to get tents back up. Ettore laughed as he stepped into his bath, "Looks like your stallion is bringing the horses for the entire legion with him. Gosh Lothario, you are in big big trouble!"

As they grew closer Lothario could see more than a dozen horses coming their way led by Mars. He looked at Anthony and Roman, "Get your money, as soon as they get here you both mount, we are not staying here for all the yelling and screaming!"

Mars stopped right in front of Lothario, the other horses weren't prepared and crashed into everything at the campsite, the guards were trying to calm them. Lothario ordered, "Everyone find their horse and mount, then follow us!"

Lothario rode out of the campsite, leaving Ettore and Cyrus. They watched as Don Nico and Don Fedele, looking very upset, came toward them. Cyrus swallowed hard, "I think we are going to get in trouble."

The guards mounted and rode out of the camp after Lothario as the owners of the horses followed the Generals. Don Nico looked around Lothario's camp. He looked at Ettore, "So he got away. Well guess what? You are going to have to borrow some slaves, because you are stuck with getting things back in order through all of my cohorts that were damaged, and you better be quick about it, we are supposed to be through the archway at eleven this morning!"

Nico turned to the horsemen, "Get those animals where they belong, and clean up the messes they made, Ettore isn't going to do it all!"

Ettore's mouth was wide open. He dropped his washcloth in the water and turned to Cyrus, "Lothario is going to pay for this one. It is not funny."

Cyrus looked around the empty and destroyed campsite; they were the only two around, "Well at least the tent is still standing." Then the right side of the tent caved in.

Ettore growled, "He is really going to pay for this. Go ask Pao and some of the others if we can borrow help for a while. I will finish up and get dressed. If I am late I will end up on watch for the next month with the Centurions!"

Pao and Valentine came to the rescue at once. Pao helped Ettore on with his armor, "You know my horse is dirty and I am betting yours is too. You sure made a mess of things this morning!"

Ettore frowned but Pao couldn't see it from behind, "Excuse me Pao, Lothario has the only stallion and that horse led all the other horses through the cohorts at full speed. Look what they did to our campsite, it is totally destroyed. Have a heart, it was an accident but it was Roman and Anthony that did it, and Lothario deserted us so we had to face the Generals on our own."

"Well at least our cohorts didn't get damaged except for your camp. So that is something. We will get everyone together that we can to help." He looked around and saw several were on their way including the soldiers, "So we better get busy, you can get even with Lothario another time."

It was late morning when the legion formed up. The wagons stays behind, it was only the horsemen and soldiers that would enter together. Lothario received many unhappy looks to say the least that morning. One Centurion even looked at mars and said, "Bad horse, very bad horse. You should be on the menu tonight!"

Lothario and Mars did not deserve the treatment they were getting. It was just an accident. According to Lothario's father it was an accident waiting to happen because he let the stallion run free all the time. General Nico rode to the front of the column next to Lothario, "You will lead us in, you are their hero today. Just keep it slow. We will be right behind you. Your guard will be at the side of you. I will tell you when to turn and which way to turn when the time comes. Remember you have an entire legion behind you, and you have to go slow. We don't want to stop and start again, so keep that horse under control."

"Si papa, I mean General."

Nico fell back next to Fedele. Fedele grinned, "I noticed that when he knows he is in trouble he always calls you papa without thinking."

Nico smiled, "Si, and that is when I know he is guilty of something."

"Or maybe he knows he upset you." Fedele added.

A centurion rode up to Lothario, "On your orders sir, the legion is ready to move."

Lothario turned around to his father. Nico nodded, and the procession began. Ettore was still angry about the morning activity and chastising Lothario for running away and leaving him to take the blame. Thousands of Romans lined the streets and rooftops. Soldiers on the ground were trying their best to control the crowds. When Lothario passed under the arch the entire Roman nation, that was present, went wild.

Nico maneuvered Lothario to the senate where the legion filled up the theatre. People were seated over and on the walls and roof of the buildings to see what was going on below. Don Nico dismounted and walked up the stairs to the second Consul and the very ill Consul Brutus, who was not sitting in the Consuls chair. Brutus smiled, "The chair is yours now Nico. You are home, and you are the one to take my place. Nico knelt and bowed before Brutus and stood and took the vacant chair.

The second Consul, Adrian looked at Lothario. "Come forward Tribune."

Lothario swallowed hard and slid off his horse. He handed the reins to Roman, "Don't let loose of him no matter what."

Lothario took of his helmet, held it under his left arm and walked up the stairs to the two Consuls. A man standing nearby read from a scroll the deeds of Lothario and his first cohort against insurmountable odds, and defeated over half the Etruscan forces with only eighty men, on their own. Lothario was not going to correct the man, but in his heart he know they bolstered the victory.

When that man was finished Adrian stood and gave a long speech, a very long speech. It had to do with heroes, of Roman Citizens, the power of might warriors. He did not mention the stupidity of Lothario rushing into a battle without thinking it out. When the man was done the crowd roared. Lothario thought that they were happy the speech was done.

Then the second Consul put a thin golden band on Lothario's head with golden leaves, the sign of a military hero. Don Nico stood and went to hug his son, "Now then, your mother is out there. When you get back to your horse, hand Pao the new standard for your troops. Have only your cohorts move out first, then release them. Don Fedele will take care of the others. Find your mother, Esta and the rest of the household, and you and your guard, Ettore, and your house go to mother's house and rest, until I get home.

The crowd had not stopped cheering. Although Lothario was only given one banner, the rest would be supplied later. He handed the new banner to Pao. Pao turned and had the old banners folded. Then the front banner was lowered and Aquil and Valentine attached the new banner, and it was raised. Lothario's troops were all, now honored as heroes.

They marched out and were dismissed to their loved ones. It was chaotic. The horses were confused; the soldiers looked for their families. Some of the soldiers made their way to the training barracks and others made their way to the camp outside the city. Lothario and Ettore saw Lothario's mother and Esta. Hugging, kissing, everything a boy would be embarrassed about happened in over ten minutes. Then soldiers came and asked everyone to make an opening so the rest of the legion could get through, their families were waiting as well.

Then Ettore got his surprise when his own mother came up and grabbed him tight with his household staff behind her. The streets were crowded and a Tribune and his cohorts came out of the theatre. Lothario looked at his guards and nodded to Esta, "We will follow her on foot. The streets are packed so stay close."

The large group headed up into the seven hills to the home of Don Nico. Once there it was announced that Ettore's home was right next door. The boys were ecstatic over the news. Of course Don Nico had no idea that had transpired while he was gone. Anthony and Roman looked everyplace on the property so they knew every nook and cranny available. They met other slaves and Citizens and a few free born and introduced themselves. Yes, they would both love it here. It wasn't as big as the villa, and most of the staff were different but it was nice.

The two were shown the stables where they took care of all Lothario's horses and Romans. Brushing themselves off, they washed their hands and face, and went into the house where Esta met them and pulled them into the kitchen, "He has a lot of guests, and Don Nico will even have more. They have to be taken care of but I am sure Lothario wants you to rest and have fun too. We have extra staff today and tomorrow, so I want you to take good care of Lothario and I will handle everything else."

Esta opened a drawer and handed Anthony a scroll. He looked at it and had no idea what it was. Roman sighed and opened it. Anthony looked at it, "What is it?"

The woman frowned and grabbed the scroll back, "It reads, `By my hand, I free Darius Anthony Bulario on the condition that he goes to school until his sixteenth birthday, at which time I will sign his citizenship papers in the name of Roma and all that is good. Signed: Tribune Augustus Lothario Praetorio.'"

Roman jumped up and down excitedly. Anthony did not understand. Roman grabbed the other boy at the shoulders, "By the gods Anthony, he has freed you, all you have to do is go to school until you are eligible for Citizenship!"

"But he signed it Tribune. That means it was made before we came here." Anthony was still confused.

Esta smiled, "He had it sent to us weeks ago for you, in case something happened to him. Now I have bought a few nice tunics for you. You will have money to buy your own in a few days, but you will no longer be a slave or be treated as one. Maybe you and Roman can go shopping together and get yourselves clothes you would like to wear."

Again Roman jumped up and down and yelled, "Thank you Don Lothario you answered my prayers!" Lothario was in the living room and heard Roman's outburst. He grinned and said nothing. Ettore frowned, "What was that about?"

Both boys came running in and pulled Lothario up hugging him. Ettore raised an eyebrow but wasn't sure if he should be quiet or scold them. He decided to find out what the excitement was about before he opened his mouth. Lothario hugged them both tight, "Si but you will need to find work. Maybe I can get you a job at the stable in town cleaning up the manure. Or I might be able to get you on at a restaurant that I like."

Anthony pulled back, "I thought I would still be with you!"

Lothario stated laughing, "I wasn't serious, of course you can stay with me!"

Ettore sighed, "You freed another one?"

Still holding on to the two taller boys Lothario nodded to Ettore, "Life is too short Ettore to keep wild stallions that love you in a cage."

Ettore thought about the horse Mars, "Si but that can cause even more trouble." Ettore looked at Cyrus who was looking at Anthony. He was not jealous, he was happy his friend got what he deserved. He worked so much harder than Cyrus ever did and Cyrus knew it. Cyrus stood and went to Anthony. He wrapped his arms around Anthony's neck, "I am so proud of you and thank you for being my friend even though I hurt you so many times."

Anthony hugged him back, "You will be free someday soon; I just know it."

Ettore rolled his eyes back but said nothing. "Now find me someone to get us all, no, first Anthony, I think Esta has something for you to wear, and new sandals, change into those, and I will find someone to get us something to drink and a snack before dinner." Lothario grinned.

Anthony and Roman ran out of the room. Ettore watched Lothario go hunt for household staff. He looked at Cyrus, "I think he has gone nuts."

"Si, but he is yours so he is your nut."

"I am going to smack you, smart ass!" Ettore laughed.

WC: 8569

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