Junior architect Appius Lacer had never been in such a bad mood before. All Roman gods! Just recently, he thought that Mercury himself was standing behind his shoulder, giving advice and securing his way to the noblest Roman patrician society. But here he was, years later, spending the inherited gold coins from his father, bribing every last servant possible. Appius hoped Paregoros was also standing behind his shoulder. He would need some comfort after the amount of Gold he spent already. I made the right decision, he told himself.
After what seemed like an eternity, Appius’s luck was about to pay off. He was finally invited to feast in the emperor’s palace! The chief imperial provisor’s third daughter was chosen to replace one of the Vestals. A major event. The emperor wanted to make this occasion as memorable as possible for the old servant. Of course, there were over four hundred guests in there, but Appius Lacer didn’t plan to waste the chance he was fighting for so furiously. The emperor should remember him!
And the emperor did remember him! Sort of. First of all, the wine turned out to be not so innocent as Appius believed. Second, the soon-to-be Vestal was too young and too beautiful not to get kissed by any man before she became the priestess of Vesta for the next 30 years. At least, this is what fermented grape juice whispered to the hot head of an enthusiastic architect. The rest seemed somewhat of a blur for a moment.
Despite the chaos that ensued, it looked like Mercury was on Appius’s side after all. The architect wasn’t killed on the spot. Servants simply pulled him through all the halls, throwing him into the mud in the backyard of the emperor’s palace with one recommendation – never come back to the palace.
It would take more than a bit of mud to discourage Appius. He isn’t the son of his father for nothing. His father, Hibernian fisherman who had managed to make an entire fortune selling goods to Rome in a span of a few months; this was nothing! Appius realized two more things, though: no more bribes to servants or fermented grape juice. A deadly combination, that. Instead, he should just bring something valuable enough not to just get accepted to the palace but to get honoured as a hero. He had everything to make that happen.
A few days had passed since that blurry evening, and Appius found himself idly looking out of the window, waiting for the messenger from the palace. Yes, here he was! Finally!
Appius met the messenger, taking the scroll and opening it with shaking hands. It was his own letter of apology, re-sealed with the emperor’s signet. Across his text, there was one single word written, enough to make Appius’ heart jump for joy:
Appius felt a small tear in the corner of his eye. What is this? A twinge of guilt?
Whatever. Hours later, the word approved was still on his mind. Looking in the mirror, he imagined the laurel wreath on his head. Every triumph required sacrifices, and the ones he was making were no different. He would gain the Old Vulture’s Nest to Rome.
[TO BE CONTINUED]