A streak of silver flashed from the folds of Leontine's tunic as she threw a dagger toward Valeria. The knife clattered harmlessly off a wall as Valeria ducked under its trajectory. With a dive and a roll, Valeria closed the gap between herself and Leontia before springing to her feet and seizing the startled Leontia by the throat. Gone now was Valeria’s denarius, and instead she held a dagger. Knuckles white as she clutched her weapon, she drew back her hand, ready to thrust her blade into Leontia.
“Only four of you this time?” Bruttia said as she put down her cup and wiped muslum from her mouth. “Your boss is either getting soft or running out of men.”
The four gangers paused and looked at one another, frowning. Then they looked at the assembled mass of drunks, whores and ne’er-do-wells that constituted the Pomegranate’s clientele. Maybe now, thought Bruttia, as they stand in one of the Subura’s most infamous tavernas whilst surrounded by the worst scum and villainy Rome has to offer, they realise they’ve bitten off more than they chew.
The Subura’s plebeians claimed the smell of Eurysaces’ freshly baked bread made the sun rise, Apollo himself eager to savour the baker’s new loaves. Indeed, Eurysaces—aware of this local legend and eager to please the deity—made a ritual of leaving one of his new loaves on his bakery’s doorstep every morning as an offering to the god. Granted, he wasn’t entirely sure Apollo took it, but it always vanished, nonetheless.
Marcus Scribonius Furius stood upon the rostra, gazing upon the crowd as they gathered before him in the Forum. His bald pate burned in the midday sun, brow tickling as sweat gathered on his face and soaked into his toga. Not that the heat is uniquely responsible for my perspiring so heavily, he thought as his nervous gaze flicked back and forth between the nefarious individuals which lurked on the periphery of the crowd.
He recognised them as street enforcers of the Hostilii clan. He bit his lip. How could he not recognise them? Their notoriety proceeded them by miles since they’d so brutally and so brazenly butchered Laelius, And the deeds since attributed to their leader, Hostilius; would they not shame even Orcus and his issue?
Felix licked his lips and rubbed his earlobe as the stranger unwrapped the gladius. Its blade gleamed even in the darkness of the alleyway, as did the bull’s head motif on the pommel.
“Do you like it?” asked Felix. His eyes widened as he tried to compensate for the gloom of the alleyway, but for nought. All he could see of the stranger—silhouetted by what light crept into the alley—was a bald head, a beard, and a cloak.
“I need new fighters.”
Ajax, startled, almost wet his bed as Celsus shook him awake. Crying out like a child, he grabbed at Celsus’ thick arms.
“What...?” he said, blinking. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m telling you I need new fighters,” said Celsus, stepping away from the bed and scratching his massive belly. “We’ve just lost Dordalus, Labrax and Petrus.”
Ajax frowned. What did he just say?
“What do you mean ‘lost’?” he mumbled, rubbing at his eyes.
“Lost. Dead.” An impatient tone crept into Celsus’ voice. “They were ambushed trying to sell insurance to Hegio…”
“Labrax is dead,” said Ajax. He frowned as he turned the implications over in his head. If Labrax was dead, didn’t that mean—?
“…Which means I’m in charge now,” said Celsus, celebrating with a loud belch and an even louder fart.