One of the more colourful characters from my current work in progress is the playboy Valens. Rather likeable, but somebody who desperately wants people to like him, he has a reputation as a heartbreaker and these days he might be given labels of “love rat” and “marriage wrecker”. Deep down he is just a boy who hasn’t grown up yet. This is an encounter he has in a bathhouse when a betrayed Patrician husband finds him.
‘Whatever it is about you don’t want to mess with him, he’s a retired gladiator!’ said Vitellius who was climbing out of the pool now.
The man laughed audibly. ‘Yeah and I saw the little shit in the arena. He never won a fair fight – that’s why his school hastened his retirement.’ Not waiting for Valens to climb out, he bent down and lifted him out. Valens thought he’d put on enough weight in the last few months for the skinny jibes to stop, but clearly not. ‘He never learnt how to use his sword.’
‘That’s what your wife said last night about you,’ offered Valens
‘You little shit!’ the man took a swing at Valens but the younger man ducked out of the way and used a leg sweep to destabilise the heftier man. He staggered, toppled and fell into the steaming pool.
Seeing his opportunity, Valens turned on his heel and fled, grabbed his toga and bolted for the exit. But a large crowd pushing their way into the bathhouse blocked his way and by the time he made his way through, the man was out of the pool and charging across the floor towards him.
Valens was no longer as fit as he was when fighting in the arena and he soon ran out of breath. Trying to get dressed while on the move was also making it more difficult; the only thing worse to a Roman than being a man of low birth sleeping with a Senator’s wife was being naked in public.
He wrapped the toga around him, making sure that all of his bits were covered and ran toward the entrance. Behind him, the Senator continued to chase, shouting at the others to get out of his way. Soon, Valens was stumbling out into the street, toga precariously hanging off of him and charging through the crowds entering and exiting the baths.
It must have been a funny sight to the usually stoic Romans to see two semi-naked men racing through the streets. The strange tale took an interesting turn when the younger, nimbler man collided with two Praetorian guards who promptly grabbed him.
The wronged patrician smirked when he came upon the trio. ‘Thank you gentlemen. Now hand him over and we’ll be done with it.’
‘I’m sorry sir, I cannot.’
The man blinked in surprise. ‘Do you know who I am? This man has… dishonoured me.’
‘I’m sure he has sir but this is a matter for the Praetorian Guard and the Imperial Family.’
The man laughed. ‘Oh fuck!’ exclaimed the patrician and clapped his hands. ‘By the time the Emperor has finished with you you’ll wish I’d caught you instead.’ The patrician looked down at his semi-naked self and sheepishly made his way back to the baths to dress properly.
By the way, for those who still haven’t had a chance to look at last week’s password protected Snippet Sunday (protected because it is a sex scene), please just drop me an email and I will provide the password. Further details are also on the Sweat, Tears and Digital Ink Facebook page.