The autumn brought incessant rain to the seashore of Hibernia. Grey leaden skies hung low over the choppy waters, making the place look more vivid than usual. It was almost as if all the world’s colors fled from the unfriendly wildlands of Appius Lancer’s homeland.
Homeland… what a word! In all his life, Appius never considered this place to be his home. It was not more than a necessary temporary refuge to him, a place where he had to live part of his early life by some cruel curse of the gods! As long as Appius remembered himself, his true home in his mind had always been Rome.
A bright, colorful, classic, fascinating city from his mother’s – born-Roman – stories. The city of marble behind the stone walls. Magnificent spires that pierced the heavens. Tremendous thermae with sparkling fountains and hot bathes open for the ordinary public. High columns surrounding broad squares and people in shiny-white clothes, walking along the straight-as-an-arrow streets discussing literature, music, poetry, architecture. Yes, architecture. City of the greatest. City of the masterminds. His home.
His barbaric father only smirked at those stories his mother told. Sometimes, when she became incredibly poetic describing Rome, he said different ones. Darker ones. Stories about people being sold on a marketplace like livestock. Shady places where beggars would fight to the death for a stale meal. Clothes soaked in urine for days to get their white color. Dirty inns where barbarian merchants could buy themselves a wife for a handful of gold coins.
In the last story his father had told, his mother scowled and left the room abruptly. Appius remembered his mother was so angry she didn’t talk to his father for months. It was only until his father returned from Rome, bringing her what she’d been asking him for eons, did she change her tune with him. Precious colorful scrolls on Roman architecture. They were worth a small fortune.
Straight lines and clear forms of Roman buildings grabbed young Appius’s mind and never let go. His mother was right; Rome was a fascinating city. It was inhabited by only the most extraordinary people if they could construct such breathtaking buildings. This was when Appius firmly chose – to his mother’s delight and his father’s disappointment – that he didn’t want to be a merchant and instead wanted to become an architect. A famous Roman architect.
Together with his friend Marcus, son of a garrison commander, Appius built sand fortresses on the shores. One time, they even had to dismantle Marcus’s father’s old barn, using its parts as building materials for the fortress. Strengthened with wooden planks, the sand fortress turned out to be a true masterpiece! Sadly though, the boys’ fathers thought otherwise. To say the least, they weren’t happy.
The situation could have ended badly for the boys if Plinus Lacer didn’t interrupt. The ruler soothed the angry fathers, suggesting what he believed to be the best punishment. So, Appius, together with Marcus, was ordered to rebuild the barn, which they did. This process took them several months, plenty of arguing, and more than a few splinters. But they did. With a tower and a crooked clay Roman portico, yes. Since then, Appius considered this barn to be his first real building that he planned and constructed from scratch.
And now that barn, along with the whole Old Vulture’s Nest, was doomed to fall under Roman catapults. Not without Appius Lacer’s help.
I made the right decision. Did I?… First time since his return from Rome, though, Appius was not so sure.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]