“The Heirloom” is an ongoing story written by myself and Art at Pouring My Art Out. I wrote part 2. To read part 1, written by Art, click here.
Junius Julius was the son of a merchant trader. His mother died in childbirth, which caused his father to be more lenient with him than he probably should have been, as he was compensating for Junius’ motherlessness. Junius became an apprentice to his father from a young age and, once he was 13, he took sole responsibility in the task of journeying to meet with the traders in order to procure his father’s inventory. Junius was something of a pain in the ass, so his father was grateful for the times he was away.
The route Junius traveled was long, and though he frequently encountered rogues and buggers, he enjoyed the freedom, independence, and solitude. Being alone was along the lines of anonymity, enabling him to cause trouble with little recognition. This attitude changed following an incident that incited him to procure the protection of a companion. Junius didn’t tell his father what happened because he would never admit to being a victim, and neither did he want to lose his opportunity for continued travel. Thus, after escaping from a group of men who attempted to abduct him and sell him into slavery, he decided upon a different approach to his labors.
The vagrant he enlisted had skin like a dried up apple and his face resembled a goat, including the facial hair. He was aged by sun and weather, not by years, for in fact he was not much older than Junius himself. Junius passed him many times along his trade path, sharing bread and wine with him on occasion, when time was of no importance. Junius never bothered to learn the man’s name, but called him Atuatuca, which was the region from where he originated, having been of the Eburone tribe.
“I need a partner,” Junius told the vagrant. “I have a plan that will make us rich.”
“Sure,” said Atuatuca. “Why not?” He added rhetorically.
Together, they established the noble practice of thievery. It takes a lot of skill to be a thief, or a lot of stupidity. Junius was both skilled and stupid.
Alas, even they themselves were sometimes victims of thieves. This was not convenient. Junius and Atuatuca stopped traveling with their stolen goods, and instead carried only the wares from the tradesmen. They stashed most of the purloined merchandise in a cavern in the hills. The rest they would take as a means to trade for food or just to satisfy the other thieves, in order to protect the merchant inventory from pilferage.
Their exploits entailed robbery and sometimes murder, if murder happened to be the more practical method to steal, or if they happened to be bored. Junius was a disturbed individual. Truly, he was a psychopath. He found pleasure in the slashing of throats after pleas for mercy. One result of their criminality was Junius’ father’s prosperity, so that made it ok.
A long, long time passed. Word of Junius and his strange Germani friend had spread, and upon one of their ventures, Junius was apprehended by the proper authorities. Fortunately for Atuatuca, he had been relieving himself, in one way or another, behind the shrubbery and wasn’t caught. He didn’t come out during the ambush. Perhaps he thought he could be of assistance in helping Junius get freed. He may have avoided capture in order to notify Junius’ father. Either way he wasn’t finished with what he was doing in the shrubs. Hence, he hadn’t come.
As a consequence of his arrest, Junius was forced to fight as a mercenary in the Gallic Wars, ironically against Atuatuca’s people. He was one tough and sadistic son-of-a-bitch, which was a plus, until his battle skills got the attention of a gladiator trainer, who drafted him. The wars were a waste anyway, as they all tended to be.
Junius endured the gladiator matches, fought to the death, but he knew it was a matter of time before the death would be his own. Desperate for freedom, he persistently attempted to bribe anyone who had the power to help. However, despite his articulate entreaty, no one would believe the tale of wealth tucked in a cave.
He’d beseech them, “Listen, man, I seriously got tons of stuff worth a shitload, hidden out in the hills, it’s all yours if you set me free.”
They’d respond, “Yeah, right.”
His attempts were a lesson in futility until his final battle. With a brutal slash that debilitated him, the crowd wavered about his fate,
“Don’t kill him!”
“What to do, what to do!”
“I’m not sure, really!”
Junius had been a favorite of the people, voted “Most Likely To Behead”, and the majority was hesitant to see him die. Taking advantage of the crowd’s indecision, one guardsman withdrew him from the coliseum. Having considered the fact that Junius was sought for thievery, yet no valuables were recovered, the enterprising guardsman resolved to accept his offer.
However, when Junius brought him to the place where the treasures were supposed to be hidden, the cavern was empty.
“What the f—” Expressed Junius.
In response to the guard’s threat against his life, Junius promised him he would get more. They would meet back at the cavern in one month. The guardsman was assured he would defecate in his tunic at the sight of what Junius would bring him.
Junius then ventured onward to find Atuatuca, who had returned to the site where Junius had encountered him time and again on the trade path. Atuatuca explained that the cave was robbed, and Junius was grateful to know his friend had not betrayed him. Otherwise, he would have had to kill him and he needed him to acquire more. For his purposes, he chose to trust rather than to believe Atuatuca would be deviant in any way.
As the day drew near, and their collection was unsatisfactory, Junius decided to locate artisans and craftsmen who were known to work with precious stones and metals. This is how he found Titius Veranus, a man of great talent, but known of only within small circles, and too humble a man to increase his status. Junius attacked after nightfall within the isolation of a dark alley. The one item he was able to take, as he heard someone approaching, was a pouch from around Titius’ neck. In the pouch was a course green stone set in a vine of silver in the form of an intricate but modest ring.
When the time arrived to meet with the guardsman, Atuatuca hid in the bushes. He and Junius got a little greedy when they eyed their new collection and opted to murder the man. Screw him, they thought. They hadn’t expected the guardsman to return with two other men. There was a scuffle and Junius was stabbed to death. The guardsman and his men left with the stash.
It happened too fast for Atuatuca to intervene, or he may have once again been too busy relieving himself in a bush. Perhaps he has a thing for bushes.
Free of ties and aspirations, Atuatuca decided to leave Rome. He wasn’t certain where he would go, maybe back to his people, maybe wander on a solitary pilgrimage. He traipsed off into the night, reflecting on wealth and poverty, since even in wealth, he lived an impoverished life, as all the valuables were of no use while in obscurity. Then he recalled the pouched ring around his neck, which Junius had passed off to him.