The setting feeds Clodius’ substantial ego. He’s a physically unimpressive man with a weak chin, pot belly and small, soft hands that have never known calluses. The appointment to govern Britain came from Caesar as a sop to his wife, Clodius’ sister. The governor is expected to profit handsomely from the office and to kick a generous portion of the graft back to his benefactor personally.
Clodius’ building projects include a Mithraeum, which serves a sop to the army officers who want a temple of their own to express devotions to their bloody god. While Hadrian understands the need to keep the army happy, that interest is subordinate to his own financial share of the loot collected in the process of governing.
A short, but powerfully built man with a face like a basilisk, and intense eyes enters the water and calmly strokes to a place near Clodius’ bench. SPQR is tattooed on his shoulder, the mark of the Legion. Men who have congregated near where Clodius is seated move off at the arrival of newcomer. They know that he is a man to be avoided.
“Sire, you summoned me?”
“Yes, Lucinnius, I have work for you.”
“I am here to serve you and my Emperor.”
The problem with engaging Lucinnius to solve a problem or find an answer always rested in the certain fact that he served two masters. The person commissioning the activity and the Emperor, whose eyes and ears he remained.
“Do you see those men with the Phrygian slave girls?” Clodius pointed in the general direction of three men and women, frolicking. A man tattooed strangely oversaw their activities more as a guard than as a slave, waiting for a command.
“Yes sire. I have seen men with the druid before. They druid speaks strangely accented Greek and the men speak a foreign tongue unknown to me.”
Those are the people. “I need you to follow them, discretely.”
“Is that all?” Lucinnius’ skills were usually employed when a high-end assassination needed to be carried out such that it appeared to be an accidental death.
“For now, yes. The druid brings them in twos, threes or fours. Sometimes they breed with slaves, sometimes they kill a slave for sport with permission, but always they pay in gold, in quantities that far exceed the going rate for such activities. I am sure such availability of quantities of finely minted gold would also be of interest to our Emperor. They come and go by the road to Noviomagus (Chichester) on horseback. And Lucinnius, I have sent four other men to follow them, and none ever returned with a report.”
The men and their druid remained in Londinium three more days, staying at the best brothel in town paying with finely minted gold. One fleshy man killed an unarmed slave scheduled for crucifixion, provided by Clodius using a gladius.
Then on the morning of the fourth day, they mounted and road south toward the ocean on the Noviomagus Road, as the governor predicted. Lucinnius followed on foot, so as not to alert the horses, which snort and call to each other at inopportune times for a spy. Lucinnius could trot all day down the road at a steady pace. He had done it as a legionnaire following officers on horseback, in formation, but this time he had no armor or field kit to weigh him down.
A bit over ten legua outside of Londinium, the group turned off the road and took a traveled path that led to a stoutly built stone building and Lucinnius felt that they would spend the night. They brushed the horses, and turned them into a large, fenced pasture.
Two days later when none of them came out of the building, Lucinnius’ patience ran out. He forced the strong wooden door by prying on it with his gladius and made entry. The door had been forced before and he thought on the four men before him who were trusted with the same mission that he carried out.
Inside the building, there were floors of tightly joined stone and not much else. There were no men, no bodies nor was there any sign of habitation. The building had no windows and only one door. Lucinnius doubted that they could have crept past him. The only thing in the room was a strangely crafted metal arch which he walked through, and vanished.
If he could have read English, he may have noted the manufacturer’s label on the arch, Time Travel Tourism, Inc.