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Morning - March 14, 44 BC
Aricus wandered into the theater. He saw that he had already missed the beginning of the play, but he hadn't missed too much. The chorus was giving the exposition, and it was clear that they were performing Oedipus Rex. He recognized Caeasar, Germanicus, and other prominent Senators sitting in the best seats, but there was nowhere to sit near them. Then he spotted the cavalryman Decius Lupus, who had a vacant seat next to him.
The chorus pleaded with the gods to aid their plague-stricken city of Thebes. When they had finished Oedipus returned to the stage from the "palace." which was a mere (though highly decorative) backdrop. He addressed the crowd, asking anyone who knew the identities of the murderers of Laius, the previous king of Thebes, to come forward with the information, though the leader of the chorus said he knew nothing but suggested that he consult Teiresias the seer. Oedipus said that he had already sent messengers for him at the urging of Creon and was wondering why he had not already come. The chorus leader mentioned old rumors of travelers having killed Laius, which he had already heard. Then a boy led in an old man with a white band around his head that covered his eyes, signifying that he was blind, which the leader of the chorus identified as Teiresias.
"Greetings," says Aricus to Decius Lupus as he sits down next to him. Aricus does not know the cavalryman, but recognizes him from earlier when the ex-gladiator had words with Adelphus the seer. Aricus still wonders if others around him at the time had seen the serpentine visage of the seer flash before him.
These seers - whether in real life or in plays such as Oedipus Rex, they always seem embroiled in trouble. Aricus' mind wanders to the chase he gave to Adelphus. No old man could be as swift and sure-footed as Adelphus. All the more reason to be suspicious, and trusting of his instincts.
During a break in the play's action, Aricus speaks to Lupus: "In the Forum, did you see anything suspicious of Adelphus the seer?"
Germanicus is still conversing with Scaevola.
"Indeed, Athens never changes. It is reassuring to know her Grace will withstand the centuries, just like the Republic will."
He takes another sip of his wine.
"Hark! There comes Teiresias!"
"I'll drink to that," said Scaevola to Germanicus, hoisting his own wine and taking a sip. "Now let us hear what the seer has to say." He then stopped speaking as Teiresias finally reached Oedipus.
Oedpius besought Teiresias to help his city him and the city by sharing his prophecies, but Teiresias refused to speak, causing Oedipus to grow angry, accusing the seer of being complicit in Laius's murder, even going so far as to say that he would have thought Teiresias had done the deed himself had he been sighted. The blind seer then threw the accusation back in Oedipus's face, saying that Oedipus himself was in fact the murderer, causing him great confusion and consternation.
Germanicus is enjoying the play immensely and it almost has him forget about the circumstances on the Forum or the veiled threats to Caesar for a while. Almost. He just couldn't shake that encroaching feeling of something being amiss.
"Claudius, make sure to send an amphora of our Nemean wine to the actors after the play, they are doing a very good job."
He smiles at Scaevola.
"Good thespians should not go dry in the throat, I hear it is murderous for their muse."
"Hail, Aricus Callidus Gladio," said Decius Lupus. "I'm afraid I could not see much at all through the crowds. Did you see aught?"
Aricus hesitates giving voice to thoughts. Then decides there is no real harm in it.
"My eyes saw what mind struggles to conceive. Adelphus took form of a snake-man. It lasted but a few heartbeats. When I attempted to question him, he ran. I gave chase but the old man was possessed by Mercury, such was his speed."
"Sophocles cleverly hints at things to come here," said Scaevola. "I of course know the full story, but those who have never seen the play before will be in awe when the truth is finally revealed. Alas, one can only see a play for the first time once. Still, it is quite enjoyable and thought-provoking."
Germanicus nods and smiles dryly at Scaevola's remark. He was starting to enjoy this encounter less and less. Everyone knew the story of Oedipus, who had become king through patricide, and his eventual and very unpleasant fate.
"Indeed, those in the know have the upper hand, but only at first glance, Scaevola, foresight can be a doublebladed knife. Remember well the tale of Cassandra."
Germanicus leans back in his seat and beckons Claudius to come closer and whispers to him.
"I see down below in the crowd that former legionarius, Gladio, who greeted me in the forum. Tell him I would like to make use of his services tonight to guard my house while our honoured guest resides with us. And tell him to bring some more friends. Men of the sword, who are to be trusted."
"Yes, Math'ter. As you will, Math'ter" he answered through split and scarred lips.
He bustled through the crowd, whispering obscene words as he did so. It was not without a few disgusted looks, laughs, and taunts from the crowd who caught full sight of him. He fantasised about slipping his knife 'tween the ribs of them all.
He stumbled forward through the crowd, and came, in a rather ungainly manner, to the side of Gladio.
"My math'ter, Germanico, bids greetings and good fortune on you, Sir" he said, head down. "He humbly asks if you and your friends would consider employment for the night, as his guest" he added, hopefully of a less scornful reply. Plenty of swordsmen and Gladiators ended up with faces nearly as bad as his own.
On the stage, Oedipus deamnded that Teiresias leave his presence, at which the seer said that he would not have come had the king not summoned him. Oedipus retorted that if he had known Teiresias was such a fool, the seer would have waited a long time before being called. Teiresias turned to leave, saying that though the king thought him a fool, his parents had thought him wise. At that Oedipus told him to stop and demanded to know the identity of his father. Teiresias told him that today that would be revealed, and that it would destroy Oedipus. Oedipus told him that everything he said was like a riddle, at which Teiresias told him that Oedipus was best at solving riddles.
"Ah, the riddle of the Sphinx," said Scaevola, the hint of a smile breaking through his usually dour countenance.
Aricus considers the words of Claudius. It has been some time since he served as bodyguard, since taking his position at the Ludus, but Germanicus is a valuable employer and acquantance to keep.
"Aye, tell your master I will again bring sword and skill to protect the Senator," Aricus answers. "I do have commitment tomorrow in the sands of the arena. I am due back in the Ludus in four days time. These obligations aside, I am Germanicus'. What say you Lupus?"
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"Well, why not? I had promised my centurion I would take in some culture, which I have. Now something more fun. And with good company!" Lupus drains the last of his wine, quaffs his nuts and olives, and dusts off his hands. "I should be right honoured to serve the General the night, in company with Aricus."
Germanicus kept half an eye on his disfigured servant as he made his way through the masses. He had the less than comfortable feeling he'd be needing those men's swords before the night was through.
He turns again to look at Scaevola.
"A riddle all too easily pierced, do you not find, my esteemed colleague? A hindrance placed there by malicious Fates, no more than a few lines in the greater narrative. But a necessary hurdle to overcome on the way to greatness, nonetheless. "
Oedipus replied that Teiresias could mock him, but that he was truly great, at which the seer retorted that his success would be his ruin. Oedipus said that he did not care so long as he saved the city. Teiresias took his leave and told the boy to guide him away. Oedipus told him that he should go, so as not to annoy him further. At that, Teiresias made one last prophecy about the murderer of Laius: that he was a native of Thebes and not a stranger, that he will be blind though he can see now, that he will be poor though he is now rich, and that he will set off for another country with a stick to feel the ground. Then he proclaimed that the killer was a brother to those in the palace, but at the same time their father, that he was both husband and son to the woman who bore him, that he had sowed the same womb as his father and murdered him. Then the boy led the seer away, and Oedipus returned to the palace.
"That riddle proved more difficult for Oedipus to solve," said Scaevola. "When he does finally solve it, he will wish he had not."
"My marth'ter will be most pleased to hear it!" he mumbled.
A few moments later, by his masters side.
"Marth'ter" he whispered in his masters ear. "The swords are yours for the night!" he muttered.
Claudius did not like swords men, but then, he barely liked anybody. And at least, he hoped, the swords would be pointed the right direction.
"Indeed, he proved ill-prepared for that revelation. A lesson to be learned indeed."
Germanicus leaned over to listen to Claudius and gave a curt nod in recognition.
"Will you be attending the event tomorrow, Scaevola?"
The chorus of Thebans debated what the seer's prophecy meant, but they could not bring themselves to believe that Oedipus was the murderer no matter what he had said. He was their beloved king, the hero who had saved them once from the Sphinx and would do so again. Then Creon strode back onto the stage, looking upset.
After the mishapen Claudius departs, Aricus says to Lupus, "Tonight should be entertainment of another sort. We will move in high circles, guarding Germanicus. If only we could slay sychophants and fawners."
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Lupus pauses for thought. "Tell me Aricus, how did you come by all those old scars? Am I right in saying you were once a gladiator?"
"Not that I can talk mind, my face is more scar than skin these days. Dodged when I should have weaved, as they say."
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