A bit more of the opening scene from Chapter 1. Unedited and subject to change as usual. 😀
Alle followed Bryaxis through a confusing labyrinth of narrow hallways connecting row after row of identical, drab cells in the slave quarters. They dodged around debris and broken beams until finally the two reached the only staircase undamaged by the earthquake. The next level hadn’t suffered as much destruction and access to the top story was made simpler by a wide intact stairway constructed of sturdy stone. When they emerged to the open sky painted with streaks of amber and crimson, Bryaxis stretched out his arm, pressing his forearm against Allerix’s chest.
“Cover your head with your cloak. They consider this a sacred event,” Bry ordered before pulling his own mantle up to form a hood.
As they moved closer to the Roman’s household staff and slaves huddled together in hushed conversation on the expansive marble terrace, Alle spotted the distinctive profiles of Max and Simon and the scar-faced veteran, Varius. All had their heads covered and their mouths shut as they looked towards the fading sunset. In the distance loomed that gleaming hilltop palace Allerix had seen from the wagon when he’d arrived from the villa. He traced his forefinger over the contours of the imposing building soaring above the city, mesmerized by the illusion of its proximity.
His prey was tantalizingly close.
“Oh, Almighty Jove! Oh, sender of fortuitous flocks!”
At the front of the terrace by the ornate balustrade stood two Romans of roughly equal height swathed in folds of cloth, the edges of their white togas pulled over their heads. The man on the right held up a staff with a curved end, his other hand crisscrossing through the brisk air in slow, deliberate motions.
They mumbled strange words Alle couldn’t understand.
And more daft arm waving.
“What are they doing?” he asked too loudly.
Alle didn’t recognize the slave woman standing in front of him who shot him a scolding glare as she pushed her slender forefinger against her disapproving lips.
“Look.” Bry elbowed him before pointing to the sky above the palace and whispering, “Fortuitous flock, my sorry gelded arse.”