Servius Curius Proculus Vespillo
Servius grunted absently as the girl from earlier shoved past him, and he turned her attention to her, beginning an empty "Hey, be careful", only to stop short when he caught glance of her stare, then of the features of her face.
That made more sense. He thought of what other acclamation he could make of her, this Woman of Colorado, Killer of Centurions, Bride and Bane of Albinus.
How many times had he seen her? Seven or eight times? She'd been there when Lucius threatened to lash him to a cross. He didn't remember whether she'd seen him get flogged for daring to defy the man to his face during one of the meetings; Denver had been hard fought to secure, there were relatively few tribals in the region but the place was overrun by wild mongrels, ghouls and raiders. Eventually his Century had been sent to establish a a fortress in the side of a mountain overlooking one of the State Highways, north east of Denver and they had left Lucius and his camp behind (though they had stopped there again on their way to the Mojave, coming down the very road they had helped to refurbish for traders, a colony was established there of Settlers from New Mexico as the population there had expanded.
Colorado had been a very interesting place and he had many stories to tell of it that were not merely war stories. it had been quite the formative place in his life and there were memories there he'd like to keep and those he'd like to forget, and some he simply couldn't explain at all.
Now Lucius, Lucius had been a careerist at his core. He cosied up to anyone influential who so much as looked at his camp in a servile and disgusting manner that had made Servius half sick to watch, a man who fancied himself Lanius or a Legatus at the least but had the skills, bravery and commanded the respect to fill neither. Utterly paranoid, surrounding himself with yesmen.
Indeed, the first day Servius had delivered a message for Sedonus to Lucius and sat in on the warroom, the man had tried to butter him up...
A cold wind blew through the camp the winters night, snow drifting down on the High mountains where they had camped. Servius, Decanus of Old Sedona, wrapped in his paenula. He brushed through the opening of the commanders tent and peering around the brazier lit room. A long wooden table ran down its length, chairs on either side and at the head sat a powerful looking Centurion. His eyes examined the Decanus eagerly as he entered the tent, looking past him greedily... And then to him with a light note of disappointment in his gaze.
"Who are you, and where is your Centurion?" The mountain of meat that was Lucius demanded. Servius swept his paenula from around his front and approached the table. Lucius - and almost all his decani- were mountains of men
"Centurion Sedonus meditates, Centurion. The road is hard on his old form, and he conserves strength for the coming battle. I am Decanus Servius Curius Proculus Vespillo of Century XXV Sedona Major, Son of Gaius Curius Proculus Mexicus, Centurion V Sandoval Victrix. Centurion Sedonus has sent me to speak in his stead."
"Hm. But of course, Senex should rest. I have heard the tales of his deeds in battle. Very well, Legionarius, join us." Lucius gestured with a wave of his hand to an empty seat at the table, and Servius removed his headdress and placed it onto the table, sitting down carefully and lowering the mask from his face. Lucius barked sharply as he did, and for a moment Servius thought that he might have somehow offended the centurion - but it was directed at a slave girl instead. "Lupa stulta, Get our newcomer a drink!"
The young girl scurried across the tent quickly, avoiding looking to his eye. As she approached with a pitcher, Servius gave her a light smile as he quickly glanced her up and down. She had clearly taken quite the violent beating not too long ago, presumably at the hands of Lucius himself. Bad news, perhaps? She looked barely able to keep standing, exhausted from the day and the injuries. "Gratias tibi ago, amicus."
" Yes, sir." The girl managed meekly and timidly, as though afraid speaking too loud might result in some horrible fate. Servius narrowed his eyes slightly as she tried to move off, only to stumble lightly and drop the pitcher onto the floor. She hastily ducked down to pick it up and in doing so narrowly avoided being hit by Lucius helmet, which he'd tossed at her across the room while yelling. Servius didn't remember exactly what, but it was a string of profanity that had left him quite shocked. No sooner had she stood back up and looked back to the table in fear and whimpered out a "Sorry sir!" which for now sated Lucius fury. Servius pulled out the seat beside him and gestured to it
"Servus, quaeso conside." Servius said, which earned him a very horrified look from many of the Decani around the table. Lucius stared at Servius for a moment however, for now at least, seemed willing to tolerate this unusual turn of events with little more than a shake of his head. Apparently, the girl didn't understand latin, was too afraid of the repercussions or too suspicious of his intentions to take Servius up on his offer, for she scurried quickly away back into the corner of the tent and kept her head down once more.
"Bah, like her, Decanus? Don't be too friendly- that one of my little whores." Lucius said with a light chuckle, and Servius glanced to him for a moment before looking back to the slave as he drew his now filled cup back. He forced a smile onto his face and gave the Centurion a polite nod, trying to be as amicable as possible.
"Minime vero, Centurion. Just pleasantries."
"She's a good one. She had some spirit. Came in kicking and screaming, broke Gaius' Nose! So I broke her. Quickly too. Almost a shame, I wanted the fight." Lucius said after several moments of silence, taking a swig from his glass and then sitting back somewhat in the large wooden chair he called his own, looking to the girl. "Perhaps I'm being too selfish with her! How does Sedonus like them? Like her, young and pretty? Quiet type?"
Servius paused for a moment and shook his head "Sedonus... is a ascetic man. He doesn't spend time on the pleasures of the flesh." It wasn't entirely a lie- not that it was entirely the truth either for Sedonus had always been a very complicated figure, but the Legionaries weren't here for such matters and neither was Sedonus. He'd likely have been offended by the offer, to tell the truth; Sedonus could get his own pretty little slave girls if that's what he wanted.
"Ah... You have his ear, yes? He would have to trust you to send you here - you must be quite the officer in your own right. Tell me, Decanus, do you yet have a concubine? Officers should be breeding new legionaries, no?" Lucius asked somewhat suddenly, and Servius couldn't help but be taken aback by the forwardness of the question. "I have gathered many slaves to me in this region. You could have your pick of the pit. All hues of skin and hair now... and some virgins too. Can't promise they'll stay that way for long."
"Oh- Minime, Centurion, minime autem gratias."
"Not a concubine, then? Hm. If you were holding out for her-" With a subtle gesture in the direction of the slave girl who was cowering in the corner; he guessed that he was either going to point out again that she was off limits or else make another absurd proposition, either way Servius was not interested.
"Minime, Centurion, I assure you I am quite fine." Servius put an end to the sentence - whatever in the name of the gods it would have become - before it could get half way through, and Lucius puckered his lips, clearly not used to his various bribes falling flat so quickly. Servius himself sought to put an end to this avenue of conversation and back to topic at hand; That of war.
"As you wish, but let none say I am not a generous man." It carried an underlying hint of annoyance and Servius grimaced lightly, worried about offending a Centurion. Had Sedonus not said to keep the man on their side, if possible?
"Ita vero." One of the Decani said, another giving a nod of approval. Servius glanced to them for a moment and then back to the Centurion.
"Centurion Luci, I am grateful for the offer but I cannot accept. Sedonus would not approve. But might we proceed? The night is growing old- and cold, and me and the men of Old Sedona have marched long and far. We would all wish sleep on ourselves before the chill sets in." Servius said, quick to acquiesce yet do all he could to move the subject away. He did not wish to be caught in between this rock and a hard place.
"Ita, ita... This is the plan for tomorrow," Lucius gestured to the map lain out on the table in front of him, several figures arranged across it. Servius leant forward and examined it, taking a long drink of the water int he glass he held, swallowing and narrowing his eyes for a moment as Lucius continued. "Two of my Contubernium will take the north west road here and take this bridge, see it? It's half ruined but its a key path into Dog town and is the one the raiders have been using to cross. Sedonus will send half a contubernium to scout this location here-"
"No need for half Contubernium for such a task. We have Speculatores, Centurion Sedonus can have one dispatched."
"But how would we know one man is telling us the truth, Decanus?" Lucius asked as he stared straight at him. Servius had to take a moment to process the comment and then glanced towards Lucius in confusion. The look on the Centurion's face made it all too clear that he was unfortunately serious. It left Servius somewhat dumbstruck; Sedona had said the man had a reputation for paranoia and suspected even his own underlings, but this was beyond the pale!
"Legionaries do not lie about such things." Servius retorted. Lucius grunted and then let out a dark laugh, and was soon joined by some of his officers. Servius, however, remained silent. That was no laughing matter.
"Speak for yourself!" Lucius laughed for a moments before calming and shaking his head. He drained his glass and then slammed it down on the table, motioning impatiently for the Slave girl to come and refill it "No, I want a full four men. They'll scout out the area, I have reports of a tribe in that region and I want them found."
"The more legionaries, the more attention they risk drawing, it is safer for one man-" Servius was cut off by Lucius, who would hear no more of it. It was somewhat shocking how fast his demeanour had changed, whereas earlier he had been offering out slaves for sexual favours and whoring out his own concubine to Sedonus, now he looked about ready to tear Servius head off if he pressed the issue.
"Enough of that. Four men will do."
"Mea culpa, Centurion, autem minime. We will send a speculatores. If you want another three men with him, you can send them." Servius replied with a firm shake of his head. Lucius stared back at him, clearly bewildered and infuriated that he'd just been denied a request by a lowly decanus.
"The Answer of the Centuria Sedona Major will not change the more you ask, Centurion." The Centurion stared at him for a few minutes and Servius could see the anger at such a slight spread over his face; the Decani seated around the table were quiet, looking towards Servius with suspicion and anger; The very atmosphere of the room had changed in minutes and Servius felt now as though he was in mortal peril. But apparently, Lucius didn't feel it was worth risking favour with Sedonus over because he dropped it with a huff, snarling at the slave and shoving her away once she had finished pouring the glass. He took a long drink from it and set it back down.
"Fine. Then a contubernium will assist my own men at the bridge, Gaius you will take..."
It hadn't gotten much better from there and each subsequent interaction between the two seemed more and more heated than the last- he instead learnt to hate Servius, and Servius learned to hate him. Servius and the Optio Centuriae, Severus, had found many of his officers wanting and little more than mindless yesmen, and said as much to his face. No doubt Lucius had increasingly felt his own authority and prestige infringed by these two upstarts.
Yet Lucius barely threw an inch of fear into him and not for lack of trying. Servius had thought it annoyed him and had contributed to the growing hate the Centurion had of his liaison. Lucius had punished Servius where ever he had been able to, even if it was indirectly by being unreasonably harsh even by his standards on Servius own soldiers. Eventually, he had Three Hundred lashes dealt out for his insubordination... but when they had met Old Sedonus, Lucius had become more amicable to Servius after that encounter; It had been clear when Servius had arrived that Lucius sought the endorsement of Sedonus.
But Sedonus Major was infamously hard to impress, for he had lived a long time and seen many promising officers and legionaries come and go. Indeed, he was so old that he looked like a wraith of sorts, so stretched and leathery was his old skin (indeed, some thought he was part ghoul and slowly changing, rotting away.) Certainly, the man was in his sixties but had the physique of a man half that age, capable of bounding across the battlefield and slicing men up as though he were still in his prime. It gave rise to all kinds of rumours about his real age; there were stories among the slaves that he was one of the Fleshwalkers, powerful ancient Shamans of forgotten tribes with names older than each tribe of the Legion and older than the flames that had rained down from the sky. They said the town of Sedona, that had stood long before the great fires of the apocalypse, was in fact named after him, not he after the town.
To the best of Servius knowledge at least, he was just a man, who had adopted the name of his Centuria. A creepy and somewhat terrifying man, but a man none the less... Yet there was a difference between thinking this rationally, and thinking it while in the presence of Sedonus. His very demeanour seemed poised to set one against the idea, and he seemed very nearly to have a sixth sense and could predict the actions of his enemies with alarming accuracy.
And while Lucius had written off any superstitious explanations almost immediately, Servius never had. Lucius speaking directly to Sedonus spared Servius the remaining lashes. Servius knew not what it was that the two had said, whether it was some personal threat or some threat to his career. He knew only what Sedonus had told him; 'Lucius will be more amenable to your suggestions about our arrangements. You will remain my personal liaison to our good Amicus--and you shall continue to question his decisions where appropriate. Do not fail me, and do not bring shame to my name; You will show Lucius the respect demanded of his position, and you will not interfere with how his men seek to use their spoils. Are we clear, Decanus?'
'As clear as daylight, Centurion!'
Oh, how Servius wished Sedonus hadn't spared him, and almost sank into his seat the moment Sedonus mentioned his actions. Sedonus did nothing to punish Servius for the slight, but the fear of what he was going to? He had been on edge for weeks. Yet the next day Sedonus took three tent groups and went north west, and didn't return until ten days had passed. He had taken Severus tent group with him, and so for that time Servius was effectively left in command of XXV Sedona Major.
Now her, when last he heard she had killed Lucius and escaped. Quite the accomplishment, though blitz attacks are not necessarily the best indicator of ability. Her outburst earlier now made sense to him, clearly she carried the baggage of her past with her - either inherently, or else perhaps something had brought on a hallucination and it brought it back to her. Either way, he had the tact not to speak of it to her; he imagined her time as Lucius' concubine was not exactly something she wished brought to the forefront of her life, and likely the very reason why she had shoved him aside.
He measured up his next phrase for a moment. He did not wish to allow such a slight to slide but at the same time it was hardly fitting of him to cause friction within the group, or to poke an unstable woman and cause her to explode. After all, truthfully perhaps he did hold some responsibility for what had occured to her and it would be hardly right of him to respond to righteous indignation in such a way at a time like this. Hm.
In the end, he settled on something in between; Not conciliatory but amicable enough, while conveying to her that he clearly knew of her origins. He wouldn't press her on anything, he was a walking and talking reminder of the horrors of her past. He understood that clearly, and had no desire to allow it to cause more problems for the unit than was absolutely necessary.
"More than enough room for all of us, Woman of the Marchlands." He grunted as his eyes followed her, filled with curiosity. He watched her as she checked something from in her pocket, while looking over the Brotherhood holotag.
Indeed, now was probably a bad time to let any of them know he carried with him trinkets of their departed. Brotherhood holotags, dogtags... if there was a faction still wandering the wastelands openly, he wagered he had something of theirs in his possession.
He turned his attention towards one of the Brotherhood members who spoke latin to him, catching half of it and smiling.. So they did know some after all! Or at least some of them did, which he certainly wasn't opposed to.
"Salve, Phineas. Ego sum Servius Curius Proculus Vespillo, Centuria XXVI 'Fulminata Infamia', Legio V 'Malo Mori'; Caesar Pia Fidelus." Servius introduced himself back to the strange Cowboy Knight, to whom there was certainly more than he had first thought "It is an honour to meet you, Knight Phineas, I speak your tongue well if that would be more convenient for you. I am fluent in both Latin and English. Your accent and dialect, it is most peculiar. From where do you hail? Your words would speak as though you were a man of the far west, but the accent and the intonation of your voice clearly say otherwise."
Cowboy nights with music from before the great war, things in this city just got stranger and stranger. It was good to hear latin again, for he hadn't heard much spoken properly in a very very long time; the mans pronunciation was wrong, it was as some had taken to calling it 'profligate latin'- but to Servius' ears, so far from home, it was music and carried with it the calling of his home land. That home he still longed for, regardless of the time spent out here on the road heading east. All the motivation in the world couldn't stop him from wanting to hear latin again, to hear a marching song or a whispered story of the burned man. To walk in the pines near Flagstaff as he had as a child. He missed it dearly, he had to admit to himself. He had missed Flagstaff since the day he had been dragged away from it by those two burly legionaries whose grasps felt as unbreakable as steel.
The cowboys music was old, but not quite so old he wagered as the music he had heard on that holotape so long ago. He still carried it in his pack, perhaps he would offer it to their ears soon. But either way, for now he smiled and listen to the song and awaited the strange Cowbow-Knight Phineas' response. He could hardly make sense of some of the lyrics in the song, so detached was it from his experience of the world. Driving? He had seen functioning vehicles very few times in his life, and never had he personally had control of one. The idea was alien to him, he wouldn't even know how to begin using the Motor Wagons! It was as though looking at something from another universe, or from outer space that had fallen to earth and landed in a ditch only to be found by a human. It was completely and utterly alien to his experience.
And then he realised that likewise, the cowboy would not be able to relate to lyrics in any song (well, almost any song. Thanks to the NCR militaries apparent obsession with that damned Big Iron, Johnny Guitar and Jingle Jangle Mars Damn Jingle, Servius knew well enough how to sing those tunes and there seemed a degree of similarity between some of them and this new song about a MOtor Wagon) Servius could know and sing, so distant was their experience from each other in all likelihood. This song was from the old world, a world he would never know for it had destroyed itself in fire and ash. This cowboy? Soon he would know where he was from, but he was one of the brotherhood, men of steel and lasers and technology.