I had a revelation this week about the foul-mouthed, foul-tempered Tertius Severus Nero and why he is the way he is. Last weekend I wrote a scene where he scaled a building to reach an upper floor to see his dying father and explain on his return he would “become a better son”. Here is the first indication we get about his character. It is not pretty and at first glance he is the sort of person you want to avoid but I was determined to make him a sympathetic character. Read this part and see the discussion afterwards.
Nero slipped into the alleyway behind the shops. He thought he had made it when somebody whistled – it was one of the other shopkeepers and he was pointing at Nero. ‘Shit!’ the ex gladiator exclaimed and started to run. The knife seller turned, spotted him and gave chase. Nero was clearly the faster runner and quickly outpaced the chaser.
‘Oh no you don’t Nero!’ Two large young men stepped into his path and grabbed hold of him. He struggled as best he could but the two men were burly and much stronger. The physical resemblance to the knife seller meant undoubtedly that they were his sons.
The wheezing knife seller caught up quickly. ‘Nero you little shit.’ He bent over to catch his breath. ‘You. Dare. Threaten. Me? Beat him lads.’
Before either had a chance to set upon him, they were interrupted by the curious arrival of three individuals: two Praetorian Guards and a clean-cut looking man with a scar and something wrong with his ear. It was the latter that spoke first. ‘Break it up. This man is wanted by the Praetorian Guards.’
The two brothers looked to each other and then to their father. The older man shrugged.
‘Put him down on order of the Praetorian Guards. And then you can leave.’ When nobody moved he spoke again. ‘Now!’
The two men let go roughly and followed their father out of the alleyway. Seeing his chance, Nero began to run in the opposite direction. The man with the damaged ear must have been anticipating this because the other entrance to the alleyway was blocked with two more Praetorian guards. He collided with them and fell back, landing on his backside. Nero leapt to his feet and drew his knife, taking up a battle stance. There was no way he could fight off four fully armed Praetorians and this unknown man but he was going to try.
‘Calm down lad, we just want to talk.’ He spun around to face the man with the damaged ear. The two new guards used that moment to grab him but Nero started to wriggle and ended up on the floor with two embarrassed Praetorians struggling to keep hold of him.
‘Hold him down!’ shouted the man to the guards. They were trying but the wriggling Nero fought back with every inch of his existence. The other two guards came in at that point to help their comrades.
‘Get the fuck off of me!’ he shouted, continuing the struggle. ‘He started the fight.’
‘Nero just calm down, we’re not arresting you. We don’t care about your fight in the market.’
Initially toying with the idea of an estranged wife and / or daughter, I still hadn’t thought about what he might have done to deserve being spurned by everyone. I knew though that I wanted it to be a sympathetic motive – he is angry and not without good reason. His family have rejected him for something that wasn’t entirely his fault.
I doubt I will ever reveal it here but I am looking forward to exploring the limits of this character.