Story and his companions arrive in Rome in 44 BC, the day before the Ides of March. They encounter a very unusual soothsayer who delivers a warning to Julius Caesar and soon find themselves embroiled in intrigue.
Theater of Pompey - Rome, Italia Morning - March 14, 44 BC
Germanicus and Claudius followed Caesar's entourage into the Theater of Pompey, where today's entertainments were to occur. They sat in some of the best seats, those reserved for members of the Senatorial class. While Claudius was a mere slave, he did have the advantage of being able to share the excellent view of the stage due to his need to be at his master's side. Seated next to Germanicus and his group were Senator Publius Servilius Scaevola and his servants. The tall, bearded senator, in his forties but still with a youthful vigor, was a staunch Republican much like Germanicus, but the two had disagreed on supporting Caesar attaining more power. Scaevola had opposed making Caesar dictator in perpetua, feeling that it was too much power for one man to have. He had remarked that he had longed for the days when two consuls had ruled Rome side by side, so that no one man had complete control. Germanicus recalled those days as well, but he also recalled how nothing got done when the two consuls were at loggerheads with each other.
Decius Lupus did not have anywhere near as good a seat, but he still had a decent view of the stage.
The play was a production of the classic Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex. The troupe of players was also Greek, appropriately enough. The play was due to start in about an hour, so there was still time to mingle, chat, and eat.
Claudius did not much care for theatre. It was either a grim tragedy, or a jocular celebration of laugh, which was far worse. Pfah! he cursed the Gods for his form once more. Inside his head, obviously.
Head down, hood pulled over, he contemplated the wooden floors and his feet, and kept his ears open.
Scaevola returned Germanicus's smile. "The day finds me well, Tiberius Tullius Germanicus," he replied. "I trust you are well also? I too am pleased to see you. I always enjoy the holiday entertainments at the Theater of Pompey, and today is no exception. Oedipus Rex is one of my favorite plays, you know. It so excellently illustrates the folly of man: his folly in trying to defy fate and the gods...and the folly of having a king in the first place!"
"Yet it is not our choice, Germanicus," added Scaevola with a sly smile. "We did not vote for our champion. And even so, we are all bound by the will of the gods, and by the fates." He completely ignored the presence of Claudius, as most people did. Slaves were often regarded as mere furniture when their services weren't wanted at the moment, and there was plenty of reason to not look at him.
Another slave, this one working for the Theater of Pompey, walked through the audience distributing free bread. This one did get considerably more attention. He offered a piece to Lupus.
"Yes, Marth'ter" splutter Claudius bowing even lower and scuttling out of sight. A few of the Masters coins accompanied him. In truth he was glad to be away from Scaevola. Claudius trusted nobody, but some men had a cruel brutality to them, a trait he saw too often.
"The omens are so prominent, one does not need to be an augur to see them," replied Scaevola. "Though I suppose it would help to be one to interpret them properly. While I was present with you when the Senate voted, we did not vote the same way. The outcome of that vote too was fated. The past is past, and there is no changing it, any more than we can change what the gods have planned for the future."
It did not take Claudius long to find a wine vendor, who was only too pleased to take his master's coins in exchange for wine. He took care not to look at the deformed slave, but he carried out the transaction with efficency, clearly wanting it to be over as soon as possible.
"That is a question perhaps better posed to the augurs," replied Scaevola. "I know as much of the future as you do, Germanicus. I do believe that the Republic shall survive, and it shall increase in glory."
OOC,[b]Germanicus[/b] and [b]Claudius[/b], please roll Insight.
Conversations continued, but before long the noise settled down when there was some activity on the stage as the players began to take their positions. The stage had been decorated to look like a royal Greek palace. A crowd of people in Greek dress of an antinuqated style had gathered at an altar in front of the palace and upon the steps leading up to it. They carrried laurel branches in their hands. One man near the altar was dressed as a priest of Zeus, or Jupiter as he was known to the Romans.
OOC,[b]Claudius[/b]'s Insight roll (35% skill) during the conversation.
[b]Lupus[/b], you can clearly recognize [b]Julius Caesar[/b] and [b]Germanicus[/b], who are seated in the Senatorial area, as well as [b]Germanicus[/b]'s hideous slave [b]Claudius[/b], who would be hard to miss. There are several other Senators present there. You should make a Republic roll to see if you know who any of them are. There wouldn't be anyone else that you'd recgonize.
Scaevola raised his own cup in return and smiled. "May it enlighten you as well," he said, turning his attention to the performance.
The doors of the palace faced the audience, and now they opened. A tall, regal-looking man, no doubt Oedipus, stepped through them. He wore purple robes and a golden crown, leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that he was a king. He addressed the people, who waved their branches. The priest besought Oedipus to save the city, at which point he revealed that he had already been working on trying to find a cure for the plague that threatened it, and that he had already sent his brother-in-law Creon to consult the Oracle at Delphi. The priest then informed him that Creon was approaching.
Germanicus leaned back in his seat and tried to enjoy the performance, although his mind kept slipping back to the strange creature. He marvelled at the discovery, Rome was without a doubt the pinnacle of Order and Civilisation in the world and yet the Republic had never officially encountered this race before, although they clearly moved among the people of Rome.
He shifted in his seat.
If it had warned Caesar to leave town...and now Oedipus too...
Germanicus shook his head and had a healthy sip of wine, the tartness of the winter crop bringing him back.
Caesar wouldn't leave the City until they were ready to go campaigning against the Parthians. At least he'd be able to shield him from the evil that lurked in the streets of Rome tomorrow night.
"He said we were all cooked but we were all right as long as we did not know it. We were all cooked. The thing was not to recognize it."
A tall man, apparently Creon, with a laurel wreath on his head, approached Oedipus. Germanicus could not help but be reminded of Caesar's laurel wreath, though it did not seem to be a deliberate reference. The priest noted that the wreath was a sign that he bore good tidings. The two brothers-in-law embraced, and Creon did indeed seem to have good news, but he wished to speak in private. Oedipus told him to go ahead and speak his news in front of the people, so he did. The Oracle had told him that in order to cleanse Thebes of the plague, there needed to be an atonement for murder by shedding blood again. Laius had been King before Oedipus, and he had been murdered while on the road to Delphi, and the murderers - who were somewhere in Thebes - needed to be punished. Only then would the plague be lifted. Oedipus asked if there was anyone who had accompanied Laius who had survived who witnessed the murder, and Creon told him that only one man, who had fled in fear, had survived and said a gang of robbers had killed Laius. Oedipus asked why nothing had been done at the time, and Creon told him that they had been blocked by the Sphinx. Oedipus vowed to investigate and avenge the murder of Laius. Then he and Creon went into the palace, and the priest led the people away in another direction as the chorus came out onto the stage.
"Have you ever visited the Oracle at Delphi, Germanicus?" Scaevola asked quietly.
"Indeed I have been to Delphi," said Scaevola, taking a sip of his own wine. "I consulted with the Pythia. She is always right. Every word out of her mouth is truth. The difficulty is in interpreting her words properly."