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Affairs of State

Vespasian - Atlas

By Tomos JacksonPublished 10 months ago Updated 4 months ago 14 min read

Vespasian, servus of the Ecclaesia Salvatoris, strolled leisurely through the wide paved streets of the city of Atlas. He was in no particular hurry to reach his destination, not for reluctance to arrive but rather out of a desire to better view his journey through the magnificent heart of the Atlani Republic. Nestled within a valley surrounded from North West, East and South Eastern sides with the Spina Mountains that travelled the length of the Oremeian Peninsular that formed the realm of the Republic, the verdant mountains decorated with orchards and vineyards from the rich soil producing fine wines and delicious fruits and oils which were traded far and wide across Esgarond by Atlas's merchants.

The city itself ringed with tall walls and and formidable towers guarding inside the cobbled streets of the city, lined on either side with buildings covered in colourful murals dictating some history of the building or the inhabitants who reside within. Streets intersected into plazas the center of which fountains and markets sprang with merchants calling out their many exotic wares brought in from the city's docks to the South Western quarter.

Indeed Vespasian loved this city, the vibrant colours of the people the activity and the fullness of life displayed. It gladdened his heart greatly that he was able to live life that allowed such pleasures as simply walking and observing without the stresses and ordeals of a complex life of so many others, filled with pressures and deadlines that drove from the mind all sense of peace and any space for the simple pleasures of using the eyes that the Creator had given them.

Not that life as a servus of the Church was without pressures, far from it, and indeed many within the vocation that Vespasian knew found it to be very taxing, but being as he was a veteran of both the Atlani legions and the senate he found such tasks as were now his to perform to be of a comparatively low concern. What were the questions of the laity taken in weighty consideration and good time compared to the rushed decisions of the battlefield on which lives depend, and how teaching of the people in the ways of the Church varied from the political maneuvering of politicians both in and out of the senate?

Though he had left both of those lives with few regrets and with no desire to return he nonetheless knew better than most what both professions, that protected and maintained the Republic, sacrificed and endured in order to turn danger away often left unseen by the masses, or only casually noted, as if it were but a remark the weather, and so it was that Vespasian retained a great respect for certain members of both professions to whom he attributed the continued survival of this fine city and the Republic as a whole.

So it was that when Vespasian finally reached his destination at the domus of the senatorial Longini family he confidently rang the bell that hung outside the gates of the prestigious residence. the gate opened just he rang and a short but broad shouldered man, late in his middle years with the straight backed gait of a former soldier stood in its frame to see who rang, before stepping back an gesturing inside.

"Good afternoon servus Vespasian, my dominus and domina have been expecting you."

"Thank you Gellius. I trust you and your wife have been keeping well?" Vespasian replied stepping through into the outer atrium. Hedge rows lined both sides of the path leading up to the door into the house, and off to either side of the hedges small gardens were decorated with scultpted shrubs of various animals such as lions, horses and especially eagles, a sacred animal to the people of Atlas, as well as more exotic creatures such as the Draco-Equus, a horse like creature with the the head of a fabled dragon flaring nostrils trailing smoke and long tendrils streaming from a jaw snarling fiercely, teeth jagged and sharp, as well as a long tail at the back tipped with a spike that was said to be laced with a poison that could stop a man's heart instantly. Such creatures had never been seen in this part of the world, but were said to inhabit the lands far to the east, far beyond even the boundaries of the Dryadalis Empire.

"Quite well thank you for enquiring servus," Gellius replied as Vespasian took in these now rather familiar sights around him, "if you could follow me servus, the dominus was most eager to see you when you arrived."

"Very well, lead on my good man."

With that the two men entered in the domus of the Longini through another atrium in the center of which a water feature with murialed floor depicting the Creator's messenger, Custodia, leading humanity into the West in her Eagle form, fleeing from the devastation of the war that was raging between the Creator's servants and the traitors that turned on him, and from this room they passed into wider room, filled with recliners and chairs around tables as well as a central dais on which players could entertain guests. Finally from here they moved further into the domus and reached a large heavy wooden door on which Gellius knocked.

"Domus. Servus Vespasian has arrived and I have brought him as you requested."

"Enter." a voice replied from the inside.

The door opened and Vespasian entered into a much smaller room than the rest, the back wall was lined with shelves in which were laid scrolls and books a plenty, in the center a large desk again covered in scrolls and other correspondence that Vespasian recognized as the normal state of affairs for a senator. Off to the left side of the room turning from gazing out of the open window into the garden towards his Gaius Longinus stood arms open in greeting.

"Vespasian, its good to see you again old friend," his arms lowered slightly and half turned his head giving a mock expression of shock, "though I see you come in the garb of my enemies, say now, have they finally decided to finish me off?"

Vespasian laughed and went over to clasp his old comrade by the arm, "God forbid that the Church should stand on a position so weak that it would be required to undertake such dark measures."

"Take nothing for granted old friend, the Church has entered the mire of politics and so has become as besmirched as the rest of us."

"Well I thank God that I am no longer in a position to play such politics be it within the senate chamber or within the Ecclesiastical halls of Maia." Vespasian replied, eager to move on from this particular conversation. He was eager that his ecclesiastical position would not be a point of contention with his friend and did not wish to partake of a conversation that would involve taking sides.

"How fares your family?"

"Ah, well Flavia is out wooing the wives of other senators making them, and by extension, their husbands, more amenable to my position and our family. Tiberius is making a name for himself as an advocate of the people in his position as lawyer. His tact of choosing lower paying customers among the poorer members of society, while barely profitable for himself, has succeeded in significantly improving the opinion of the plebs as regards him and this family, so I am more than willing to continue supporting his efforts financially."

"I see." Vespasian said with a smile tugging the corner of his lips, enough to be seen through his greying beard, "so your whole family is out working while you lay about with your friends is that right Gaius?"

"Some things indeed never change old friend, not even with age." Gaius replied in the same humor. They both laughed good naturedly.

"Ah yes." Vespasian remarked, "It is good to see you again old friend. But how is Marcus? You have not said what he is about? Is legion life suiting him?"

Gaius nodded "Yes indeed. By all accounts he has distinguished himself well, though he has yet to see combat on any scale larger than raids made by the Dryads across the Furca river. Though I have heard that the Dryads have quietened down recently and indications are that they are planning something bigger in the near future."

"Has the news troubled the senate much?" Vespasian inquired.

"No, save for a few of the more cowardly or reactionary senators, the majority are confident in their newly minted Imperator to defend our shores. He's demonstrated an apt ability to do so in the past and we see no fear for the future."

"However," Gaius continued moving over to his desk and gesturing for Vespasian to take the seat opposite, "this does bring me to why I requested you visit me."

"Ah, I thought it might be too good to think you simply wished to talk old times, always at work you Longini." Vespasian replied wryly as he sat down.

Gaius gave him an apologetic smile, "I am sorry Vespasian, but the subject of the Imperator's request to the senate is becoming rather an urgent matter. He has appealed to the senate to raise more legions a few times now, and each time his requests, while not quite denied, have been simply ignored."

"I can see why the senate, comfortable in its own protection, might be unwilling to part with funds that could be diverted to other uses. But if this has been ignored for so long, why has it become an issue now?"

"Well this time Imperator Sertorius has thrown a new spin to his request. He is asking for permission to use his own considerable wealth to raise four more legions."

"I see." Vespasian went quite for a second and Gaius simply watched his old friend closely. Finally Gaius spoke "As I'm sure you are aware, the senate, and particularly Consul Varus were rather alarmed by this idea and given the relatively recent Legatus Uprising a decade ago I think you can understand why the senate might not want the generals of the Republic to command such large numbers of men directly again."

"But surely Sertorius's position of Imperator already gives him command over all the legions of Atlas? Why did they give him such power if they did not trust him?" Vespasian asked.

"They gave him the power precisely because they do NOT trust him my dear Vespasian."

"Excuse me?" Vespasian asked nonplussed for a moment.

A grin spread across Gaius's face at Vespasian's confusion, "Your time in contemplating God has made you forget about Man my old friend." Gaius sat forward as though lecturing a student, rather than talking to an older friend, "You see after Sertorius crushed the general's the senate needed to maintain the structure of the army that had served them so well in the past, but without the chance of this rebellion occuring again. So it was that the then senator, and now Consul Varus, rather than allowing the wealthy men of the Republic foot the bill they decided that they would simply tax its own citizens a set amount, raise the legions themselves and then place over them one overall supreme commander that they themselves appointed, an Imperator."

"You are teaching me a history I have lived Gaius. I was in the legions when this was occurring, and while we were hardly told everything, we had eyes to see the change in command."

"You speak of seeing and yet you do not divine what the meaning was." Gaius retorted, "You see now that the legion was under a senate appointed leader Varus ensured that the legions were now loyal to the senate from whom they received their pay, while their new Imperator was senate appointed and so could be moved around as the senate deems fitting."

Gaius sat back spreading his hands to either side, "so began the centralization of the powers that make up this Republic into the hands of the senate, an effort I do myself endorse, since such divisions only cause problems, hence my desire to see that the Church be brought within the legal purview of the senate, rather than having its own courts and its own justice putting a divide between clergy and state that can only harm our Republic."

"So if I have understood what you have said correctly," Vespasian responded, again hoping to steer away from that particular line of conversation to more agreeable ground, "the senate and Varus are worried that if Sertorius were to raise these legions using his own money, then that would mean that Sertorius would become another faction within the Republic, undoing the work that Varus did a decade ago? If that is so then why does the senate not simply deny him, citing the previous dangers as reasons why such a thing cannot come to pass?"

"Because Sertorius has made a convincing case that we need these men, not only to defend our borders but to widen them, and drive our enemies back from the homeland."

"The senate has never been convinced by mere argument before," Vespasian scoffed, "what makes Sertorius's case so compelling as to give them pause."

"Sertorius has threatened to go to Plebian tribunals and put his case before the people. He is very popular, and it is very likely that he can sway the people to force the senate's hand."

"So he has their attention at least." Vespasian said after a moment to collect his thoughts on the matter. "Forgive me Gaius, but why did you feel the need to tell me about this? You realize I'm not in the senate anymore?" he said pulling at his ecclesiastical robes as though Gaius might not have seen them otherwise.

"I know that old friend," Gaius responded, "but such skills never completely leave a man, particularly one such as I know you to be, I was wondering if you had heard any word from within your ecclesiastical brotherhood as to their position on this particular topic? Will they oppose Sertorius?"

"Oppose him?" Vespasian asked, "So I take it that you are in support of Sertorius's efforts to raise four legions under his personal banner? Why? I thought you supported centralizing the Republic?"

"As I said before, Sertorius makes a compelling argument. Furthermore I respect his military expertise on the matter, and if more were required on top of that, I know him to be an honourable man. He proved both his loyalty, honour and his military skill when he crushed the Legati rebels ten years ago. Finally I believe I can convince the senate to approve of Sertorius's four legions as long as we make them a levy, tied to Sertorius's tenure as Imperator. Once Sertorius is no longer Imperator, the legions disband unless the senate decides it wishes to keep them."

Vespasian considered Gaius's idea for a moment before nodding, "That should work. Sertorius maintains control to do what he think is required, and the senate has ultimate decision on the legions while not footing the cost. Everybody wins."

"Is this an opinion many of your superiors will share do you think?" Gaius asked, studying Vespasian closely.

Vespasian considered for a moment once again before answering. "I believe that the Church could be convinced that the defence of the state is a priority that requires all our support on the matter. I might even be willing to drop a few suggestions quietly here and there."

Gaius beamed brightly at this, "Excellent! Excellent Vespasian, I'm glad to hear you say so." Gaius stood up from his chair, and Vespasian followed more slowly. "Now that business is concluded, do you think that you could spare a few moments for a drink or two?" Gaius asked.

"Perhaps I could be tempted to have one, but not for too long. I do have duties and obligations to the faithful you know. You aren't my soul concern here Gaius." Vespasian responded offering Gaius another curl of the lip.

Gaius laughed, "Indeed Vespasian forgive me for taking so much of your time. Its just that I would make the most of seeing my old friend now that we rarely see each other save on social occasions."

Sharing another laugh the two men headed for the door into the outside atrium, where Gellius, who had magically vanished early on in the conversation, and yet now stood ready with a pair of goblets and a fine red wine to hand, awaited them.


About the Creator

Tomos Jackson

I love how inspiring stories and character can be. I try and replicate that in my own writing to not only give inspiration, but also to encourage the reader to consider important matters through a more enjoyable and digestible fantasy lens.

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  • Rachel Deeming2 months ago

    I liked this, Tomos. So, you have taken the essence of Rome in the form of Vespasian, a great military Roman emperor and with elements of that, have woven this new world of fantasy. I think your dialogue and generation of character is good. I walked with Vespasian into that villa although I think that you should get him to notice things when you describe the room. This paragraph "With that the two men entered in the domus of the Longini through another atrium in the center of which a water feature with murialed floor depicting the Creator's messenger, Custodia, leading humanity into the West in her Eagle form, fleeing from the devastation of the war that was raging between the Creator's servants and the traitors that turned on him, and from this room they passed into wider room, filled with recliners and chairs around tables as well as a central dais on which players could entertain guests. Finally from here they moved further into the domus and reached a large heavy wooden door on which Gellius knocked." - you give a little history lesson here and it detracts from where the reader is headed. It's not needed. You may want to share it but it is not useful for the reader to know it at this point. It may be something that you can share somewhere else but here, it is superfluous. But I thought this was good. The second paragraph I would look at again and check in your head how it reads. I think it could flow better - tense differences? Syntax not quite right. But if this was a start of a story, I would want to read more.

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