“Does the good Senator Metellus wish to address these accusations before the Senate considers it’s next actions?” Asked Rufus. Caius, doing his level best to appear in control, stood.
He smiled, trying his best to appear humoured by it all. “Good senators, what we have here is a desperate act on the part of desperate men to undermine the good legacy of my father and my house. Anyone may take ink to parchment and create fantasies, as, clearly, has been the case here.”
“You forget Senator Metellus, I knew your father. I prepared many speeches with him. I know his penmanship, and I know it well. These words were penned by your father; of this I have no doubt.” Replied Rufus evenly.
“Then it is a clever and well-constructed forgery, designed to pass the test of experienced eyes. It is a forgery nonetheless.”
“Is it? It is enough to prompt deeper investigation into your family’s history Senator. Will you submit to a proper and thorough investigation into this matter?”
There was a pregnant silence as Caius frantically considered his next move. It would simply not do for the Senate to search his home and offices. They would most certainly uncover evidence- not of the allegations upon the parchment- but of other misdeeds. Yet if he refused…
“I will of course submit to the Senate’s wishes. I have nothing to hide.” It was risky, but if he could somehow reach his home first, take care of things…
“Excellent. You shall remain here, whilst officers from this office carry out their searches. Whilst here, you will assist in the examination of…” Caius did not hear the rest of Rufus’ instructions. He had not expected to effectively be a hostage!
The smug look of victory upon the face of that bastard Titus Nepos did him no favours, yet as furious as Caius was, his own rage paled before his brother’s.
“You will die for this you fuck!” He heard Vibius scream from the balcony. He also saw the gleam of something metal from the corner of his eyes as he looked up, and his eyes widened.
“No Vibius, no!”
But it was too late. The blade Vibius had somehow secreted into the Senate was launched from his hand, flying through the air toward Nepos and Etruscilla.
There was commotion as guards seized Vibius and screams as blood trickled across the floor of the Senate. Caius could not see what had happened, but he decided it was for the best if he discreetly made to exit.
Unfortunately for him, there were several guards blocking the exits- almost as if someone had anticipated his move.
Upon the platform that Rufus stood at, Etruscilla knelt over her husband, with fearful eyes. Blood soaked his robes, and he was coughing up blood.
The blade, thrown by a man who had spent many years observing gladiators, was stuck in his abdomen, and it had pierced deeply. Nepos was shivering, and struggling to focus.
“M… my… Etruscilla… I can feel…. I… my love, I love you…”
“Hush husband! The medicus comes, you will be fine!” But she began to sob. There was blood everywhere and Nepos was going pale.
“I feel… cold…” He groaned, his face contorting in pain. Tears poured down Etruscilla’s cheeks.
Upon the balcony, Vibius was being led away at sword-point. Caius silently cursed his brother’s stupidity, as guards escorted him toward his office.
Slowly, his arm trembling, Nepos raised a hand to Etruscilla’s face. “I… I can’t… My wife… I love you…” Slowly, but inexorably, he was fading away.
“You cannot leave me Titus! Not now, not when our family name is finally safe!” She cried openly. The medicus arrived, and his face blanched at the sight. He looked up at Rufus, and shook his head.
“I will… never… leave you… I go to be… with my father… and mother… and we will… be….” He coughed, and spasmed. His face once more twisted in pain, and he moaned softly, before shaking once more, violently, before going limp. His eyes, once so bright, were now listless. Titus Nepos had passed from this world.
Had he been able to, Caius would have throttled his brother. Vibius had, as he had done more than once, acted rashly, letting his heart rule his head. As Caius was led to his office, and as guards and agents of the Senate began to remove parchment and papers, he could not help but feel that even in death, Nepos would inflict great suffering upon him and his own.
Vibius would be charged with murder. With so many witnesses, he would be convicted and the sentence would almost certainly be death.
With Vibius gone, his ludus would pass to a new owner. The source of income it represented would be lost- assuming Caius kept his own freedom, which looked doubtful at this point.
He wanted to scream with rage. He wanted to hurl himself against the injustice of it all. That little fuck Nepos had caused him much grief, and yet more was to come.
Instead, he kept himself calm. It simply would not do to lose control in front of the guards.
A short time later, after the initial examination of his documents was completely, Caius was arrested. The charges were quite varied, and the list would most certainly grow. His desires for his own personal empire lay in tatters.
In the aftermath of the chaotic events in the Senate Chamber, Vibius was indeed sentenced to death- his conviction of murder never in doubt. He faced death via arena- execution at the hands of a gladiator.
Praxites was the man given the honour of slaying Vibius. The former ludus owner surprised the Grecian with his skills, but it was not enough to overcome a fitter, faster and more determined Praxites. Praxites sliced several cuts across the belly of Vibius, spilling intestines across the arena sands, before cleaving limbs away, and finally driving his sword down Vibius’ throat.
Nimr, still a wanted man for defying his dominus and falsely accused of the murder of Marcus Paulus, had little choice but to flee the city. Lady Crispina, having considered it at length, allowed Ekwueme to leave with him. The two lovers escaped the city at nightfall, having said their goodbyes to Etruscilla.
The Ludus of Metellus was sold, its gladiators being sent to various other ludi. Munatius became the Doctore of the House of Nepos, and that house, now freed of the burden of illegal taxes, flourished.
Etruscilla discovered, shortly after the death of her husband, to feelings of sorrow and joy in equal measure, that she was with child. It was fitting that the monument she had carved in her husband’s memory should have him cradling a child in his arms. It felt right.
Every night, she would look to the stars, as the child within her grew, and speak to her offspring about their father. And one day, they would walk with their father again.