Patent Pending

Writing Prompt: Time Travel to 1750

1750

“All rise!” The bailiff’s shout announced the arrival of Judge Miller, ruler of Delaware’s small court.

Bill Demidov stood among people wearing everything from moth-eaten suits to threadbare rags. The judge, a short man in a long powdered wig, entered and sat. Bill swallowed his nervousness. It wasn’t every day you filed a patent application that changed your life.

To his left, a woman in soot-stained clothes coughed into a handkerchief. Behind him, Bill sensed workers from the factories and canneries eying his fine clothes and judging him. Thinking him soft.

He was not soft. All these people had to deal with was other immigrants and low wages. They had never labored under a hot sun on an island farming camp.

“Be seated!” the bailiff boomed, and Bill sat with the others in a massive creaking of seats.

The courtroom was drafty, the windows frosted. To Bill, the very idea of “cold” was bizarre — in his time, the tiny islands remaining on Earth no longer experienced “cold” — but he knew he didn’t like it. Cold was annoying. It chewed on your skin and made your insides hurt.

If all went right today, he would never return to the cramped working islands of 2182. People presented claims as Bill toyed with his pocketwatch that wasn’t a pocketwatch. The reason he was here.

Two tenants accused each other of stealing firewood. One man accused another of misrepresenting the age of a packhorse who dropped dead. A woman in fine clothes claimed another stole her prize hunting dog. Through it all, Judge Miller listened, questioned, and dispensed justice.

Before the judge got to his case, Bill heard the double doors at the back of the courtroom creak open. He turned with many others to evaluate the newcomer. Who was coming into the courtroom late?

It was a tall, thin man with gold-rimmed glasses and a fancy suit. He eyed those in the room like one would eye a paddock of growcows, then sat on the edge of a bench. Probably some rich man’s lawyer.

“Bill Garrison!” The bailiff’s voice boomed. “Approach the bench!”

Bill stood. This was the day he finalized his patent application, the single most important event in his sad life. He couldn’t screw this up, could he? The patent was reviewed and approved. This was a formality.

Bill approached the bench clutching his own small suitcase. All he had to do was present the paperwork and get the judge to approve it, and then he would have his patent. He would finally be rich.

“You have your paperwork in order?” Miller asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Bill said, reaching for his briefcase.

“Ah, uh, excuse me.” The man with the gold-rimmed glasses stood. “May I approach?”

“Why?” Miller sounded bored.

“My client, a Mister Franklin of Philadelphia, wishes to contest the patent filed by Bill Garrison.”

Bill’s heart sank. How was this possible? How had Franklin even learned he was here?

“Approach,” Miller said. “This might actually be interesting.”

“Your honor,” Bill started, but Miller raised a hand to shush him.

“Your name,” Miller demanded.

“Thomas File, sir.”

“Why are you in my court today, Mister File?”

“It is my contention,” File said, narrowing his eyes behind his thick lenses, “that Bill Garrison, a former employee of Mister Franklin’s, stole Mister Franklin’s work.”

“Now hold on!” Bill said, as that was ludicrous. “I never worked for Benjamin Franklin.” Two years in this muddy backward time was more than enough. “I’ve never even met him. Whatever this man claims—”

“Mister Franklin has been researching his pointed lightning rod conductor for more than four years,” File said, “and I have correspondence dating back to 1746. You first filed your patent in 1748, did you not?”

“Still filed before you,” Bill said, his stubborn streak kicking in. “If anyone stole anything, he stole my idea.” That was almost true.

File opened his briefcase. “Your honor, here is a diagram Mister Franklin drew for his invention. Note the date and details.”

The bailiff passed the document to Miller, who squinted and frowned. “What is this, a weathervane?”

“It’s a lightning rod!” Bill said, because he couldn’t let this frustrating little man steal his idea — or rather, his idea to steal this idea. “It protects buildings from lightning by channeling it to the ground, instead!”

“If you would kindly compare Mister Franklin’s diagram to that provided by Mister Garrison,” File said.

“What?” Bill frowned at him.

“You will find them identical,” File said.

For the first time, Bill smiled. This man was just making things up! The lightning rod design was his own — he had drawn it based on designs on the worker tents — which meant File had no case.

“That’s completely untrue.” Bill opened his briefcase and produced his diagrams. “If you’ll review my design, your honor, you’ll clearly see … that…”

Bill stared at the papers. The papers that weren’t his papers. These were Benjamin Franklin’s originals.

What were they doing in his briefcase?

The bailiff plucked the papers from his hands before Bill could do anything more than gawk.

“Now wait a minute,” Bill said, but Miller was already comparing. “Your honor, those aren’t mine!”

“That’s obvious,” Miller said, shaking his head. “Next time you steal your boss’s idea, Mister Garrison, you might consider blotting out the initials.”

“But I didn’t—”

“Your patent claim is denied.” Miller hammered his gavel. “Mister File, are you bringing charges?”

“No, your honor,” File said.

“You sure?” Miller looked dubious. “Didn’t he steal your client’s design?”

“In my client’s opinion, justice has been served.” File closed his briefcase and bowed his head.

“Very well,” Miller said. He glanced at his bailiff. “Next case!”

Bill hurried after File, who was already leaving. He caught up with the man outside the courtroom, grabbing his arm. “How did you do that?”

File pulled his arm away. “Do what, Mister Garrison?”

“How did you sneak those papers into my briefcase?”

Gradually, File’s flat face curved into a satisfied smile. “You really should be more careful with your things, Mister Demidov.” He produced a silver pocketwatch that wasn’t a pocketwatch. A pocketwatch just like Bill’s.

Bill gasped as the man used his real name. “You’re from…”  He lowered his voice. “The future?”

“Did you really think you could steal from one of the most well-known personalities of the 1700s?”

“He stole the lightning rod design from my ancestor!” Bill said, standing up straight. “Akinfiy Demidov designed the lightning rod years before Franklin filed his patent!”

“You can’t change the timeline because Benjamin Franklin beat your ancestor to court.”

“But he stole the design first!” Garrison said. “Who sent you?”

“Who do you think sent me?”

“No one knows how to build time machines! I only developed the design two years ago!”

“And your first action, having invented time travel, was to try to conduct patent fraud?”

Bill grimaced. “It was a first step! Did you steal my design?”

“Your design,” File said, “was uncovered in 2294, over one hundred years after you mysteriously escaped from your island work camp.” File opened a pocketwatch with luminous numbers and dials that looked much nicer than Bill’s own, primitive time machine. “We have, of course, made improvements.”

“But how?” Bill demanded. “I only left two years ago!”

“You must understand, Mister Garrison, that once time travel was invented, the concept of ‘years’ became irrelevant. Once we could defend the timestream, we would always defend the timestream.”

“What do you mean, defend the timestream?”

“Two-hundred forty years after you invented your device, President Ivanapolos founded the Bureau of Time Management to stop plots just like yours. Our experts believe tampering with the established timeline is simply too dangerous.”

“People know I designed a time machine?” Perhaps his fortune could be made in the future, not the past. “I’m famous?” Bill felt hope again.

“Your name is now taught in all orbital universities. You are known across the solar system, Mister Demidov, as the inventor of time travel.”

Bill couldn’t believe it. “Am I rich in the future?” Could this all be true?

“No, Mister Demidov.” File clicked his pocketwatch. “You are in jail.”

Bill blinked. “Huh?”

“Timestream tampering is punishable by life in prison,” File said, and that’s when the world dissolved.

When it returned, Bill’s word was a small cell with a soft-looking bed, a tiny window overlooking a blue planet covered in water, and a single metal toilet. Bill’s pocketwatch was gone. So was Mister File.

“Wait a minute!” Bill shouted. “You can’t do this to me! I’m the inventor of time travel!”

Vents hissed as gas filled the room, and then Bill didn’t feel upset. He felt happy. His little white cell was the best little white cell in the world.

He settled on his bed, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. He dreamed of warm skies and open seas. For the first time since he’d been born, he was content.

He forgot all about his time machine.

THE END

About the Story:

I’ve actually never written a time travel story due to the glaring scientific problems with it, not the least of which is the Earth, its solar system, and everything else moves in space, so most time travel stories would end up with you sucking vacuum. Historical fiction is one of my least favorite genres, soinitially, I wasn’t excited about this month’s theme at all. However, after toying with time travel plots, I did like the idea of someone using time travel to file a patent application before the original owner. It was silly and petty enough that I hadn’t seen it elsewhere, and then I just needed to find a patent.

After doing some cursory Google research on inventions patented near 1750, I came across the history of the “pointed lightning rod conductor” and the various claims about it’s inventor (whether Afinfiy Demidov or Benjamin Franklin came up with the idea first or independently) and found the perfect subject for my patent claim. Obviously, I’m sure this story is rife with historical inaccuracies (another reason I don’t write historical fiction often is because I am lazy :p) but I hope it was entertaining nonetheless.

Photo Credit: Tadie88 <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68748051@N06/32742605572″>26.01.17 Flash Gun..</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Advertisements

The Treasure of Saint Curio

Writing Prompt: Pirates!

Skull And Cross Bones Flag

Sailing the seas for plunder and fame was often a glorious adventure, but it did not come without perils. Having a loaded flintlock shoved in one’s face was one peril among many others, and it was one with which Captain Amaro de la Plaza was well familiar. That didn’t mean it annoyed him any less.

“Captain.” Amaro greeted Peter “Dogface” Davis with a tip of his own feathered cap. “Is the pistol necessary?”

“Don’t ‘good evenin’ me, you wily Spaniard.” Davis looked like a dog had chewed up his face and spit it out. “What are you doing in this cave? Answer me, or you’ll answer to God Almighty!”

“This cave” was a tunnel that flooded at high tide. Smoldering torches in wall brackets offered illumination, just enough to make Davis look crazy.

“Accepting Horatio’s invitation,” Amaro said in an airy tone. “You?” He hoped Davis’ finger didn’t slip.

“Why’d Horatio invite a pretty little sot like you out here?”

“A promise of treasure and glory?”

“My treasure,” Davis said, “and my glory. I should shoot you right now.”

“True. Yet wouldn’t your chances improve with a man watching your back?”

Davis scowled just a bit less. “You want to partner?”

“Fifty-fifty.”

“Seventy-thirty, or I shoot you right now.”

“Forty-sixty, and we work together to please Horatio.”

“One day,” Davis said, “I’ll smash that clever mouth of yours.” He uncocked his flintlock and holstered it with the others hanging on his chest. “Deal.”

Having now successfully not been shot in the face, Amaro cheerily followed Davis into a low sea cave. Captain Jean du Grammont waited inside, magnificent in a king’s silks. Horatio de Algier waited as well, dark-skinned and beautiful, and torchlight glistened on the gold in his nose, ears, and eyebrows.

“My captains, my captains!” Horatio called. “Today we shall crown one master among you!”

Captain Grammont offered a jaunty bow before rising. His perfect face would make an angel weep. “de la Plaza. Dogface. Did you have difficulty following the map?”

“Shut it, you briny peacock.” Davis spit again—the man did keep a remarkable reservoir of spit—and stomped into the cave. “What’s this ‘grand adventure’?”

“The treasure of Saint Curio.” Horatio beamed. “I’ve come into possession of his map.”

“You sun-dried monkey cock!” Davis worked his stubbled jaw. “You dragged me here for a sea shanty?”

“Is it no shanty,” Horatio said, in a melodic voice that had charmed many a man and woman into his bed, “and tonight, you shall compete for its location.”

Horatio had invited pirate captains from France, England, and Spain, but of course he had. That was, Amaro knew, classic Horatio. The best fence in the Indian Ocean lived for his games.

“As much as it pains me,” Grammont said, “I concur with Dogface. Saint Curio’s treasure is a legend.”

“You better have more,” Davis said, “or you’ll leave this cave with some new holes.”

“That would be … unwise,” Horatio said.

Amaro spun as a slab blocked the cave opening. Davis had flintlocks out faster than Amaro could blink, pointed at Horatio. “You mean to bury us, you coal-faced weasel?”

“Only if I die,” Horatio said, eyes not so merry now. “If I die, none of you shall ever leave.”

“A reasonable precaution,” Amaro added, “when tempers and pistols are involved. Let’s listen, shall we? Let’s hear what Horatio has to say.”

“I concur,” Grammont said. “Where’s your proof, dear man?”

“I hate the way you wankers talk.” Davis lowered his flintlocks and shot Amaro a not-so-subtle look.

Amaro shot a far more subtle nod back. Their partnership remained intact.

With the speed of a veteran cutpurse, three coins appeared between Horatio’s clenched fingers. He tossed one to Grammont, one to Amaro, and one to Davis, who dropped a flintlock to catch it.

Davis bit down and stared. “Real gold.”

“One of thousands,” Horatio promised, “that prove my map accurate.”

“This is the Vatican’s seal.” Grammont turned his coin in torchlight. “Could it be true?”

The gleam in Davis’ eyes revealed his belief. “So what’s tonight’s game?”

“Riddles.” Horatio beamed again. “Only the most clever captain shall claim Saint Curio’s treasure, and thus, only the most clever man shall leave with his map.”

“I do enjoy riddles,” Grammont said, as a gleam entered his own eyes.

“Bugger riddles,” Davis growled. “Let’s wrestle for it.”

“My cave,” Horatio said. “My rules. The first to answer three riddles shall claim the map, the treasure, and, of course, my contract. A ten percent commission.”

“Fair,” Grammont said. “l agree.”

“As do I,” Amaro added.

Davis just grunted. About as much as one could expect.

“First riddle.” Horatio preened. “What has one head, one tail, and no legs?”

“A coin,” Grammont said, before Davis or Amaro could so much as breathe.

“You snot-nosed pantywaist!” Davis glared. “You’re colluding!”

“I swear upon my dear mother’s soul,” Horatio said, “that I have discussed these riddles with no one. One point, so far, to Grammont.”

“Quite.” Grammont grinned wide.

“Second riddle. The more you take, the more you leave behind. What am I?”

“Booty!” Davis shouted.

Horatio merely smiled.

“The answer,” Grammont said, “is footsteps.”

“Two for Grammont,” Horatio said, cocking an eyebrow at Amaro. “Captain de la Plaza, has weather softened your tongue?”

Amaro shrugged. “You’re too clever for me, I’m afraid.”

“Next riddle,” Davis growled. “Now.” He shot Amaro another dirty look, one that said, You aren’t helping.

“What has six faces, but wears no makeup?” Horatio asked.

For once, Grammont only frowned.

“A dock whore!” Davis shouted. “A two-faced mutineer!” He grimaced. “A hydra!”

Amaro resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Where had Davis even heard of a hydra? The man obviously couldn’t read.

“No answer?” Horatio said. “A pity. What belongs to you, yet is more often used by others?”

“Ah,” Grammont said.

“Shut it,” Davis warned.

“My own name,” Grammont said, with hands on hips and a smile on his face.

Davis shot Grammont in the head faster than anyone could blink. He dropped the spent flintlock and pulled two more, one pointed at each of them.

“Treachery!” Horatio shrieked. “I will have your head for this!”

“Worry about your own head, you gold-encrusted leech.” Davis motioned with a flintlock. “Map, now.”

“No harbor will take your cursed ship. No pirate shall ever again parley with you!”

“I won’t need any of you,” Davis said, “once I claim Saint Curio’s treasure.”

Horatio glowered. “You violated my rules.”

“Technically,” Amaro added quietly, “he didn’t.”

“What?” Davis and Horatio glared at him.

“You said none would leave if you died,” Amaro pointed out. “As of now, you’re alive. Grammont isn’t,” and with that, he gestured to the warm corpse, “but you never said we couldn’t shoot each other.”

The evil grin that crossed Davis’ face was the best sign yet that Davis wasn’t going to shoot Amaro, too. He turned both flintlocks on Horatio.

“That’s right. You never said we couldn’t shoot each other. Give me that map, and you’ll get your ten percent. I swear.”

“Do as he says,” Amaro suggested. “Really, what choice do we have now?”

Horatio glared, but faced with the Davis’ ferocity (and, no doubt, reckless stupidity) he grudgingly handed over the map.

“The door,” Davis said.

“Open!” Horatio shouted, eyes narrow. “I expect my commission, Davis.”

“Oh, you’ll get that.” Davis backed from the cave, flintlocks raised. “Oh, and de la Plaza?”

“Yes?” Amaro smiled.

“You’re an idiot.” Davis cackled as he vanished.

Horatio sighed. “You’re quite useless in a fight, aren’t you?”

“I prefer not to fight,” Amaro said, “when I can avoid it.”

“Well, now you shall never fight for Saint Curio’s treasure.”

“True,” Amaro said, as he pulled another coin from his pocket. He flipped that coin, a different coin, to Horatio, who caught it instinctively.

Horatio’s eyes widened. “This is the Vatican’s seal.”

“Aye,” Amaro said. “It’s on all the coins Saint Curio stole.”

Horatio gasped. “You found the treasure?”

“How do you think you acquired that map?”

“But … I acquired this map from my best fence! She swore to its authenticity!”

“As I’m sure the thief who sold it to her did,” Amaro said. “The thief who stole it from me, after loose talk in a tavern inspired the biggest score of his meager life.”

Horatio stroked his chin, not smiling. “You deceived me.”

“I deceived Davis,” Amaro said, “and perhaps Grammont. Yesterday, three captains competed on the high seas. Now the pirates of England and France shall kill each other while Spain, ever blameless, shall benefit.”

Horatio ruefully shook his head. “You are a most interesting man.”

“And for your silence,” Amaro added, “you shall have your ten percent.”

Slowly, Horatio beamed again. “I have been considering retirement.”

“Oh, and those six faces?”

Horatio cocked his head.

“A die,” Amaro said. “One with twenty-one eyes.”

“You clever rat,” Horatio said. “You knew them all, didn’t you?”

“Aye,” Amaro said. “But I don’t care to be shot in the face.”

THE END

 

About the Story:

There’s not much to tell with this one, other than I’d never actually written a “pirate” story, so this was a fun exercise for me. The entire idea for the story (Amaro’s gambit to screw over the other pirates) came to me as I was trying to go to sleep one night, so I rolled out of bed, wrote down the outline, and wrote it the next day. By far, the most fun I had was coming up with the various ways for Davis to insult people.

As far as the riddles, I can’t take credit for those … they’re the result of a quick Google search.

photo credit: Dave Dugdale <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/37387065@N05/5065481797″>Skull And Cross Bones Flag</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

One Last Drink

Writing Prompt: Randomly Rolled Wikipedia Article

RomanCover

The man named Servius Tuccius Cotta approached the refugee camp with his head down. He had not been born the man he was now, but those names remained a part of him. Even with Batavia in revolt against the empire, those were still his names. He’d earned them, no matter who he served.

This battered camp was perhaps threescore tents and lean-tos, but many huddled in the cold and mud. People fled Tongeran when runners brought news of fighting between Julius Civilis and Claudius Labeo at the Mass river, and Tuccius suspected more would flee in the hours ahead. These were uncertain times.

He was an assassin by trade, a man who killed so others wouldn’t have to. He had tracked Labeo for the better part of the day, ever since the man slipped free of the Tungrian lines. Every last Tungrian had abandoned Labeo for Civilis, but Tuccius did not blame Labeo for that. He had planted the seeds himself.

Labeo’s distinctive tracks entered this camp, and circling the camp assured Tuccius they did not leave. Labeo’s fine boot prints differentiated his tracks, another mistake. That was the problem with men accustomed to luxury, even experienced cavalry commanders. They loved expensive boots.

Tuccius affected a limp as he entered the camp. His own cloak hung on his frame. No one gave a beggar a second look, and a beggar among refugees was a stalk in a field of wheat.

He passed figures huddled around sputtering fires, listened to coughs and moans from those who’d been injured or taken sick. A drizzle had fallen since dawn, beating on people and tents alike. Tuccius held out his bowl at each fire, muttering apologies, and each time, the refugees turned him away.

None of the refugees at these fires were Labeo. None wore the man’s fine boots. Tuccius moved on.

It was at a small fire at camp’s edge where he finally found a man whose frame and bulk suggested regular meals. Mud covered the boots protruding from his cloak, but the tips were distinctive.

Tuccius extended his bowl. “Please, I’m sorry. Anything you can spare.”

“Off with you, beggar.” The man beside Labeo glared, his face covered in mud. “We’ve nothing for you.”

“Don’t be cruel.” Labeo motioned Tuccius to the fire. “You may warm yourself by our fire.”

“Thank you, master.” Tuccius found a place between two other scowling refugees, both women, and sat.

One woman wrinkled her nose and scooted away, reacting to the dung Tuccius had smeared on his cloak earlier today. The other stared at the fire without speaking, barely breathing. She had lost someone today. Tuccius had seen that blank look on so many faces since Batavia rebelled against Rome.

Labeo’s cowl obscured his face. All Tuccius could make out was a strong chin, thick with stubble. This assassination must be quiet.

Many in Batavia respected Claudius Labeo for his actions at Nijmegen. They resented Civilis’s decision to exile such a useful commander, but killing him would have been an even bigger mistake, at the time.

Poisoning Labeo’s drink would be easiest—Tuccius carried a powder that would bring on the runs days later, when he was gone—but Labeo would be watching for poison. He could follow the man to the latrine ditch, but Labeo was a notable warrior as well. There was no guarantee Tuccius would prevail.

“What brings you here to us, friend?” Labeo asked. “Have you fled Tongeran as well?” He motioned to the others. “We are all Tungrians, here, and any countryman of ours is welcome.”

“I’m Marsaci,” Tuccius muttered. There were too many things he did not know about Tongeran, and presenting himself as a Tungrian invited questions he could not reliably answer.

The woman who had moved away wrinkled her nose. “We don’t need no stinking Marsaci in our camp.”

“Why?” Labeo asked. “A beggar is not to blame for this war.”

“It’s Labeo’s fault, you ask me.” The mud-covered man spit at the fire. “If that stubborn cunt hadn’t set fires all over Batavia, Civilis would have sent the legions running by now.”

“Perhaps,” Labeo said, and Tuccius heard no anger in his words.

“Bah,” the boiled man said. “Need to piss.” He rose and stalked from the camp.

Tuccius rose and followed him. “I shall not trouble you further.” The man who’d cursed Labeo was an opportunity. If he could convince an actual refugee to murder his target…

Tuccius found the smaller man at a makeshift latrine, dug by those among the refugees who knew defecating where you ate and slept was a wonderful way to start a plague. The refugee stood with his back to Tuccius, whistling as he aimed a golden stream into the ditch. Tuccius limped closer.

“Marsaci!” The refugee turned, his cock flopping before he crammed it back into his soiled breeches. “Come to contribute?”

“Did you mean it?” Tuccius asked.

“Mean what, beggar?”

“About Claudius Labeo being the cause of all this.” Tuccius made himself shudder.

“What’s it to you who I back? You heard something?” The mud-covered refugee leaned closer, eager for gossip. Without food, gossip was the only nourishment many had.

“I heard Labeo’s working for the Romans again, against Civilis,” Tuccius whispered.

The refugee scoffed. “Labeo’s a cunt, I’ll give you that, but he’s no Roman spy.”

“Really?” Tuccius said. “And a Roman spy wouldn’t disguise himself as a Tungrian refugee?”

“Say what?”

“Did you notice the boots of the man beside you, his bearing, his girth? He’s no beggar. I think he might be Claudius Labeo.”

“You think so?” The boiled man leaned closer. “Say, has Civilis got a reward for him?”

Greed and desperation made fools of all men. “As much gold as you can carry, last I heard. We could take him, between the two of us. We could split the reward.”

There was no reward, of course—offering a bounty for Labeo would be foolish when Civilis lacked the money to pay even his own soldiers—but this refugee wouldn’t know that.

The refugee pulled a small flask from inside his cloak. “You’ll help me? I ain’t killed no commander before.”

“I’ll help as I’m able,” Tuccius said. “I need the coin.”

“Then let’s drink to our new wealth!” The refugee raised the flask and took a long drink, Adam’s apple bobbing. He passed the flask to Tuccius. “To piles of Roman gold.”

Tuccius hesitated, but only a moment. The man had drunk before him, and this was too good an opportunity to scuttle. The water tasted foul. Soon after, they were off to murder a commander.

“Say there, beggar, what’s your name?” The refugee might be nervous.

“Tuccius.” No harm in giving his real name, and he needed to keep this man calm. “What’s yours?”

“Claudius,” the refugee said, as he straightened and turned.

Tuccius missed a step as mud roiled around him. “What?” His eyes watered and his throat clamped.

“Claudius Labeo,” the small, mud-covered man said. “The big man at the fire is one of my many loyal soldiers, but there’s no way you could know. My reputation is bigger than me.”

“But I…” Tuccius coughed and fell, trying to understand the fire consuming his belly. “You drank…”

“Did I?” Labeo smiled with teeth far too clean for the mud cloaking his face. “Seems a tongue could clog that spout pretty easily. Have you ever tried that, Tuccius?”

Stupid. Tuccius had been stupid, too focused on the boots, the cloak, the bearing. Claudius Labeo was not a big man with a fine cloak and fine boots. He was a small man, dressed like all the other small men in the refugee camp, and he had just beaten an assassin at his own game.

Tuccius’s eyes glazed over as his vision swam and the poison burned through his gut. Yet despite his agony, his fear, he respected Labeo’s gambit. There was no shame in dying to a man like this one.

“You were only doing your duty,” Labeo said, as his voice came from somewhere far away. “I won’t let you suffer. Go in peace.”

Tuccius felt cold steel against his throat. He would have thanked Labeo for that mercy, had he been able to speak, but perhaps the man understood anyway. Tuccius imagined his wife, his daughter, and home.

One day, he hoped, Civilis or Labeo would bring them peace again.

THE END

 

About the Story:

This month, every writer participating clicked a link that selected an article, at random, on Wikipedia. We then had to write a story incorporating that article. We ended up with some weird subjects, but mine was actually fairly straightforward. Essentially, I ended up writing historical fiction for the first time ever (or, at least, making an attempt).

I’ll admit it’s never been a genre I enjoyed, and I have no doubt this story is full of anachronisms and inaccuracies (I didn’t research much about Roman life beyond the Wikipedia article). Still, writing this was more fun than I expected, and without the article, I would never have learned about Julius Civilis, Claudius Labeo, and the intrigue associated with Batavia rebelling against Rome. That would make a good book in and of itself!

The original Wikipedia Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claudius_Labeo

More Information: http://www.livius.org/articles/person/claudius-labeo/?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/68801711@N00/27932908521″>Ampitheatre@Ephesus</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;