In Britannia Salutem

477 AD
An unexpected meeting

Medraut made his way back to his lodgings thinking hard about what Pascent had said to him. If that old fool, na, Pascent wasn’t a fool, a relic who had outlived his time but not a fool, suspected his involvement in what was happening then it was likely that others would have as well.

Medraut sighed, they might not be content with just giving a coded warning. He signalled Bran.

“Yes, My Lord?”

“Increase the number of guards Bran. We may well be receiving some unwanted guests”

“Sa, My Lord. Is it as I feared and warned My Lord?”

“Possibly, Bran, possibly”

Bran nodded and faded into the background. Medraut smiled to himself, at least Bran hadn’t overstressed that he’d warned Medraut that this would happen, although he had done so repeatedly during the past few months.

Medraut entered his lodgings and stopped, something was wrong! Bran materialised beside him with his sword drawn.

“Stay here My Lord with your escort, I’ll see what has happened”

Medraut nodded. His escort closed ranks about him, all, including Medraut, drew their swords as Bran scouted warily ahead. As Bran went ahead he stopped and slowly sheathed his sword and raised his hands.

“A very good idea, Bran” came a voice from within a room.

Medraut started. What was she doing here?

A woman walked regally out of the room and stared angrily at Medraut.

“Get in here Medraut! We need to have words!”

Medraut sheathed his sword

“Yes Mother” he replied

“Don’t yes mother me young man. Just do as you are told!”

Medraut walked to the room

“Close the door” ordered his mother

Medraut did as he was told. He was stunned when his mother slapped him hard around his face when he turned back. He raised his hand to his face

“What was that for?”

“Don’t play the innocent with me, Medraut. Just be thankful that you are now too big to throw across my knees and give your backside the tanning that it deserves!”

“I thought that you were in Galava, looking after Morgana as her second child comes to term”

“I was, and still should be if news of your inept machinations hadn’t reached me!”

Medraut smiled ruefully

“I only just now realised how inept they were”

“What finally brought you to your senses?”

“A conversation that I just had with Pascent of the Silures”

Morgause snorted

“If he has worked out your involvement then so have others far more dangerous.

What on earth made you think that this stupid plan would work? Artos has made his feelings about the High Kingship plain more than once”

“The intention wasn’t that Artos would become High King although it would aid the plan if he did”

Morgause looked hard at him

“Seriously, who then? Amhar will have spent a year being weaned from her influence by the time that Artos returns. That letter from Armorica is obviously false, an attempt to get Eucherius to try and stall the retribution. It will be the November meeting of the Council before Artos can return at the earliest. Others will point that out to Eucherius before long.”

Medraut nodded

“Amhar becoming High King would also be an unintended, if also beneficial, side effect, especially if he has been removed from his mother’s influence. He would be a pale shadow of his father but better than he would otherwise have been.”

Morgause stared hard and long at Medraut

“Artos and Amhar unintended High Kings?”

Understanding dawned on her face

“Not them nor you! Your son!”

Morgause sat down

“You are trying to get people used to the idea of a High King. This plan working wasn’t necessary, you are planting seeds for a generation’s hence”

She looked at him

“I agree with your motives but your execution was more akin to your father’s than mine! I really thought that I had taught you better!”

Morgause grew thoughtful

“Very well, your involvement can’t be hidden especially given those who will be tasked with sorting this mess out. So we will have to put it in the best possible light.

Sit down Medraut. We have much to discuss!”
 
477 AD
Venta

Lucius leant back in his chair and yawned. He had spent the last few days going through the records recovered from the raid and had, as Eucherius had asked, sorted out a list in order of culpability. He had, unusually for him, done the work himself instead of palming it off onto either Ianus or even Christophorus.

He couldn’t even fully explain to himself why this was the case. Christophorus, he could rationalise that he hadn’t known him long enough to know whether he could fully trust him, however that was not the case with Ianus.

They had served together for more years than Lucius cared to remember. Ianus had always done the administrative work that Lucius loathed leaving Lucius free to do those parts of the job he did like. This had been the case all the way through the various roles that Lucius had held starting from when he had been a Decurion in the army to his present position as Praefectus of the Watch.

However for some reason Lucius had wanted to do this task himself. He didn’t know why but just felt that it was the right thing to do. He bent back to the few remaining records and started to read one. His eyes opened wide as what he was reading sank in. He actually began to shake, he wasn’t willing to believe it but unfortunately it made sense of various things that had happened over the years. Things that by themselves meant nothing in particular but when put together with what he had just read!

The problem was what was he going to do with this insight? He wanted very badly to forget it and carry on as if nothing had changed. However he was well aware of his ability to dissemble and Ianus knew him too well for him to be able to carry it off even if he had been able to dissemble well.

So he decided that the only thing to do was to tackle the problem head on and take the bull by the horns so to speak. He stood up and stretched. There was a knock on the door frame. He looked up Ianus was stood there. His expression must have given a warning as Ianus came in and closed the door.

“Ah, you’ve found it. I must admit to being surprised I really didn’t think that you would be that thorough given your past records with paperwork”

“You don’t deny it then?”

Ianus shook his head

“I respect you too much for that. We have served together for years and have saved each other’s lives on countless occasions.”

He sighed

“We have found ourselves on opposite sides of a political conflict.”

Ianus sat down and sighed again

“I know you well enough to realise that in actual fact you don’t really disagree with the position that we have taken”

Lucius nodded slowly

“Sa, Artos would be a superb High King and give Britannia some solidity and purpose. However he doesn’t want the job and the Council for all that it is too slow to make decisions has kept the peace for twenty odd years now.”

Lucius looked at Ianus

“However you find the concept alien to your world view. I won’t debate the point with you but just point out that for every good ruler there is a mediocre one and usually two or three bad ones”

He snorted

“And who is to say that Artos would be what you would classify as a good High King.”

Ianus spread his arms wide

“Artos would be what I would call a good High King. I do agree with you that others might not. They see him having left Eucherius, and before him Decidivatus alone to run his Lordship and think that he would do the same to them”

He in his turn snorted

“They forget that he left Decidivatus and leaves Eucherius alone because they do what he wants in a way of which he approves. Due in no small fact that Ambrosius trained him and Decidivatus trained Eucherius: and Ambrosius and Decidivatus thought the same way on virtually everything.

It would not work that way. He would not let them line their own pockets or seize land or dispose of those who disagreed with them as they would no doubt wish.”

Ianus sighed deeply

“I truly am sorry, Lucius.”

“Why? Oh you have papers in your possession that would implicate me instead of you”

Ianus looked shocked

“Na! For betraying you”

Lucius shook his head

“You have not betrayed me personally, nor the men that you lead. You have betrayed those who lead us”

“One man’s betrayer is another’s hero who has seen the light”

Lucius laughed

“And the victor always writes the records”

Ianus smiled

“Indeed. What are you going to do?”

Lucius sat and looked at him.
 
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477 AD
Venta

Lucius and Ianus stood at attention in Eucherius’ office. Decidivatus was also present.

“I have asked Decidivatus here as I would value his views on the current situation” started Eucherius.

Lucius snorted slightly

“Do you wish to say something Praefectus?” asked Eucherius in the mild quiet voice that he used when he was actually very angry.

“Really Eucherius!” added Decidivatus

“Although the esteemed Praefectus is not as quick on the uptake as my nephew or Christophorus, he is not stupid. Also he has been around the edges of power long enough to be able to read the signs”

Eucherius sighed

“Sa! He has”

He continued to glare at Lucius.

“That list of yours is very interesting”

Lucius said nothing

“You seem to have left out various people whom I know were involved”

Eucherius paused

“Interestingly they all seem to be those involved at a lower level of the conspiracy who all have roles that are vital to the running of the Lordship, and indeed other Lordships, the Religious Orders and some merchants. You have just compiled a list of those whom you consider can be sacrificed without actually damaging the economy, army and the political system”

Decidivatus smiled

“It gives us an interesting insight into how your mind works Praefectus. Unfortunately whilst I have to agree that losing those that you have listed would not affect the day to day running of Britannia in the slightest, that turns out not to be the case politically”

Eucherius nodded in agreement

“We cannot just arrest several Lords, those merchants that remain on your list and certain Commanders in the army, who, remarkably, tend to be the sons and nephews of various Lords on the list and who admittedly have not proved to be the most effective, and not create a situation which could easily spiral rapidly into a civil war”

Lucius said nothing. Ianus looked at the other two

“As usual it will be the little people, those who have no political clout who will be punished leaving the powerful untouched. Indeed those who actually brought this conspiracy into being!”

“They WILL be punished” interrupted Decidivatus

“Just not publically” added Eucherius.

Lucius frowned

“Are you saying, that as it is doubtful that anyone outside the circles of power will know anything about this conspiracy that no one is going to be held responsible?”

“Oh, not no one” replied Decidivatus

“Several will find their activities severely curtailed from now on and others will find their every move under constant watch. Yet others will find themselves transferred to less salubrious postings, or overlooked for promotion.”

“What about?”

“All you need to know is that the two at the top of your list are well having very different reactions to your actions. One is giving us everything that we ask, well most and in doing so trying to put himself in the best possible light. No doubt on the advice of his mother. The other is denying everything and is actually still demanding your head.

I would suggest that you be very careful for the next few weeks. She might take matters into her own hands”

“She almost certainly will” added Eucherius.

Lucius nodded

“Actually I have another meeting after this one which might reduce those matters a little”

Eucherius was surprised.

“They have agreed to talk with you?”

“As I believe that I have said already, the Praefectus is not stupid” answered Decidivatus.

He looked at Lucius

“You are taking a risk Praefectus”

“I don’t think so” replied Lucius.

“Obviously not, or you wouldn’t be doing so” stated Decidivatus

“However you will need to take great care”

“Is that all?” asked Lucius

Eucherius and Decidivatus both nodded so Lucius and Ianus left.

“I agree with Decidivatus” muttered Ianus.

“So do I” replied Lucius

“But what choice do I have?”

“None” sighed Ianus.
 
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477 AD New
Venta

Lucius was pushed not too gently onto a chair. His hands were bound and then the hood which had been placed over his head was removed as was the gag. He coughed slightly and looked around. There was nothing else in the room which was only very dimly lit by a single torch

“Not too trusting are you?” he rasped

A tall figure stood in front of him shook his head.

“You are certain that you were not followed?”

“Na, Master. We took a circuitous route and double backed often. There was no one following us, of that I am certain”

“None that you detected”

“Master!”

“The Watch has some very skilled personnel”

The figure cocked his head

“Not Conatus, he is moderately intelligent but this would not be his forte and certainly not Christophorus. He would have been capable except for his current indisposition. Of course, it will have been Strabo! His skills would more than make up for his advanced years”

The figure paused

“It would not have been to find our base of operations. You are bright enough to have worked out that we would not risk taking you there.

Na, it is purely to ensure that you leave this place in one piece”

The figure bowed his head

“I commend you on your prudence Praefectus. Keep a watch out for Strabo, do not approach unless he tries to summon more men”

“Sa, Master”

The figure looked down at Lucius.

“Now, you did not contact us to pledge your allegiance to our cause, nor to beg for protection from a certain highly placed female”

Lucius said nothing

“It will have to do with what happened to Rufio, your brother. That was not done on my orders. Well the raid on his property was but not having him so severely injured. He had not committed any crime against us, at least not wittingly, unlike your father”

Lucius coughed to clear his throat

“It didn’t seem to be the action of people who wished to manipulate affairs from the shadows. Nor did your involvement in the conspiracy. I doubt that you would object to Artos becoming High King as it would be more in line with what I can figure out about your beliefs, but you, or at least your followers dropped me enough hints and prodded me enough to raid that house.”

Lucius coughed again

“I assume that they had broken some rules or reneged on promises made. Anyway that is not important at the moment. What did my father do? Neither I nor Rufio knew anything of whatever he did.”

The figure inclined his head

“Na, or neither of you would be alive.

A valuable item was stolen and it is only recently that we managed to work out how it was done and where it was hidden. I sent people to recover the item, your brother as I have previously stated turned up at an inopportune moment.”

“I take it that it wasn’t where you thought it was. Hence the attempt on his house, which had been my father’s”

The figure now sounded angry

“Sa, now that was neither ordered, nor planned properly. Those responsible have been punished. There is no room for incompetents in our followers”

Lucius grinned

“We all have them”

“Sa, but with checks and balances. The fear of my wrath at their not finding the object overrode any other considerations”

Lucius pondered

“When did this happen?”

“The object was taken whilst you were still away in the army. You would not know anything about it.”

“So an object which not all would recognise as valuable but is so to you and your fellow followers was stolen by my father and hidden. Why?”

The figure shook his head

“He disagreed with some decisions that were made at the time. He felt that we should be more open in what we stand for despite that we have always, as you said operated somewhat in the shadows even before the Romans came.

Your father felt that we should be rallying the population against the invaders and openly advocating a return to the old ways”

The figure snorted

“That amphora has been spilled. We could not go back to the old ways. The Romans were here for too long and their systems and mores have embedded themselves in the people (albeit not to the same extent as in Gaul or we would not have the Lordships). Also not all they introduced was antithetical to our continuance. We had even come to arrangements with the Roman equivalents of us.

But there was a sizeable minority who had a cast iron certainty in what they believed. The leadership had drifted from the true path, they were not worthy of guarding the artefact. So the object was stolen”

Lucius frowned

“Why are you telling me all this, Gulielmus?”
 
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