The following is part 1 of an ongoing story that Art at Pouring My Art Out and I have just begun to collaborate on. We will alternate authorship, and the first part below was written by Art. You should go on over to his site and let him know what you think of it. He posted it a couple days ago, so click here to comment directly to him. He’s an interactive blogger and extremely personable so he’d appreciate that.
Anyway, this is a great thing we’ve got going, so hopefully you’ll follow the story, since I know you’ll enjoy it. We plan to post weekly, just a rough plan, but it’s been a pleasure brainstorming with Art. He’s a great guy, very talented, and if you’ve got any kind of sense of humor then you should follow his blog.
Now without further ado, here it is, part 1:
Titius Veranus took a moment to straighten his back as he sat upon the stool. It felt so good that he continued the motion, curving his spine past its normal, upright position. He threw his arms wide and stretched them back as far as they would go. He had been bent over his work table for far too long, and the strain in his muscles and joints had been building. He tried to maintain a more correct posture but he couldn’t resist and was soon slumped back over the small ring he had just finished crafting.
It wasn’t an overly expensive piece. The emerald, brought to Rome from the Upper Nile by his nephew, a fine young man who was growing ever more talented at tracking down gems and other precious materials, was not a large one, and contained several small flaws. Nor was the gem cut or sculpted in anyway, but remained rather in its natural state. It was now, thanks to the steady hands and eyes of the man who held it, set into a thin silver ring wrought to look like a twined grape vine. And this ring was destined to grace the hand of its maker’s wife.
No, it was not the gift he would give her could he afford something more lavish, but still and all, it would have brought a fair price could he bring himself to sell it. And truth to tell, he could only afford not to sell it because of a set of earrings bought just days before by a wealthy Senator for his mistress. Titius knew his wife would adore it, and knowing this brought a smile to his face.
He blew out the four lamps that surrounded his work table and shut and secured the shutters over the window. The light was fading from the sky over the city of Rome, and his eyes were not quite as sharp as they had once been. He was fully aware that soon enough he would have to recruit another cousin or nephew to begin the training as master craftsman and jeweler to sustain the business that his great grandfather had begun so many years before. He had other craftsmen as apprentices, but so far none had lived up to his expectations, and family was always preferable.
He bid goodnight to another nephew, a huge bull of a youth, and not one who had the nimble fingers of an artisan, but was more than adequate when it came to keeping the shop unmolested during the hours of darkness. The fact that this nephew was a former legionary who had been invalided out of the service of Rome for a bad leg wound that was now mostly healed, and that the ex soldier still wore his short sword at his belt, made Titus feel that the few materials he left in the shop were safe enough.
He wrapped his cloak about himself and began his short walk to the apartment building in which he and his wife and two daughters lived. The ring was safely hung around his neck in a small drawstring bag of soft leather. As he drew abreast of a darkened alley he had time only to note the scuffling sound of a sandal on the cobblestones before the knife entered his back, sliding effortlessly between two of his ribs and into his right lung. He lay on the cold stones fighting for breath as rough hands caressed him, searching for any valuables. He felt the tug at the back of his neck as the leather thong that held the bag around his neck was rudely ripped from him by force. He tried to yell for help but the warm blood flooded his mouth and he gave up, slipping into the waiting darkness.
Junius Julius, former mercenary and survivor of twenty gladiatorial combats before having his Achilles tendon severed and barely being allowed to live by the fickle Roman crowd, clutched the small leather bag tightly as he hobbled off into the night.