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Bloody Gold
Act 19: Gentile Publius, Censor and Editor
© 2024 James LaFond
JUN/29/24
Advent, Carnival, Seventh Day of Sepulcher
The dammed Jap sketch artists, working for David Enchigo, who obviously was in the awesome employ of Caesar, prohibited any conspiracy of worth. Why, Caesar held three copies of Great Scot & Mini Scot, pictographic sketch newspapers that brought all of the Plebes of New York into one’s lap.
Caesar was intimidating in his under-dressed military way. Only Augustus in London, wore a crown. The Seven Caesars—this the greatest of them—wore inverted crowns of brass and red tassels upon the shoulders of their jackets, a silver crown worked on the purple vest over the heart, the tall indigo dyed boots of leather cuffed in stainless steel crowns below the knee. Caesar’s hat was a mere billed cap, purple, billed in crimson, as was the cuffs and collar of his jacket. Gentile had mentioned to his uncle, that the modest dress affected by Caesars in his lifetime was unbecoming their greatness. His Uncle had assured him that it was becoming the increased greatness of the people, who longed more than ever for the Republic of antiquity and sought in a Caesar, a leader, not a ruler.
Tantallus had not returned with his prize, though it was clear, besopken by her presence in the ranks of the Scots seated across from them, that she was much less a prize now, her innocence taken in the bed of that profligate paragon of bloody Scots! His left-hand seat was thus occupied by the slave who normally stood behind him, Groat, the Thrall Trader. For Gentile, the Censor, sat at Caesar’s left. To Caesar’s right, astonishingly, sat not the Bishop of New York, but Cato McDonald, editor-in-chief of the Manhattan Daily News.
Behind them stood David Enchigo of the Kyoto Daily News, who, despite being a competitor of the Manhattan Daily, had worked out various distribution and pictographic schemes with McDonald. To the left of Cato sat Astor Blinkin, Minister of Industrial Agriculture, an innovation brought about by Caesar, who, despite being the inheritor of his office, was well know to be the shrewdest man in Rome.
As the trumpet sounded and the first round of combatants came forth, shadowed by the lictors with their lashing chains, Caesar was more interested in this morning’s issue of both papers, which alike had the image of Maddam McClellan, infamous whore of Rome and Mother to Caesar, peering forth in tears from her tower, having been informed that her two bastard sons had been set to duel, under the auspices of Church and State.
Caesar’s voice was sure and deep, “Dear David, thank you, and thank you Cato, for portraying my dear repentant Mum in such a rosy light. She is eighty years, and knows that nigh looms her greatest of fears.”
“Oh, yes, Minicus!” bawled Caesar, like one of the crowd, who were of a sudden, in their ten thousand voices, cheering for the brat gladiator spawn of the gutter.
“Gentile, my good Censor, is that truly your favorite guard dog as they say in these papers, had from a tax collector?”
“Yes, Caesar, he is named Brutus, has slain pitbulls and a Saracen in side-bet affrays up country in New Damascus.”
“David,” hissed their ruler, “you do have artists behind the bull boards?” [1]
“Yes, Caesar,” answered that cipher of Japan, not half as excitable as good newspaperman should be.
“Oh, and I see the darling object of the affray, surrounded by that unflinching wall of armored Scots at sand side…, sorry to wax so lad-like, Gentry, but it has been a while and I have followed the careers of my Bastard Half Brothers my life entire—they are my heroes, truth be told.”
Japs were sketching Caesar, writing his words in their pictoscript.
Gentry could not hide his concern over this breach of privacy, “Caesar?”
The deep voice penetrated like the steely eyes over the long straight nose, “Uncle John, if you please. Gentry, you are not perfect, but will do. A good Pleber you are. You have nothing to fear, and here, in these stands, if we play our parts rightly, we will have Ten Thousand fast friends. The earth is changing. Judgment is nigh. We now live in a New World Age of Celebrity, the astronomical colleges right shitting themselves over the skies. We are now cast like dice from Heaven in the celebration of our humanity; not as rulers, but as leaders, very friends to Patrician, Plebe and Mob. Oh, sorry about your dog, the mobs are 40-to-1 on the Brat of Scots—what?”
Caesar halted as the crowd grew silent in proper respect, yet a deep droning and sharp keening came from the Scots, who all alike droned in a low groan, an ominous tone distant and pleasing to their ear yet haunting to the soul. From that background of agony, sound keened the unmistakable voice of the Synchronus Twin, called the Siren, who sang in Caesar’s hospital for his wounded sailors since she was four years.
‘Brutus be dammed. I need to get with the celebrity plan!’
The lictor behind Minicus raised his chain and shook it.
The lictor behind Brutus, a hound thrice the size of the lad, unhitched its chain.
Brutus sat nervously.
“Fawkin’ what? Ye shit hound!”
‘Oh, no, the Japs caught that, in print forever!’
Minicus drew his broad dirk, hefted his shield on high and strode like a conqueror towards the dog.
There the great beast cowered, in puppy like heel, shuffling its forepaws on the sands.
Minicus stopped, before the cowering dog, sheathed his dirk, and turned to his weird orchestra, and gave the sign for silence.
He then walked towards the beast, which had covered its ears before its great spiked collar, and scratched its head. Speaking something to the dog and lifting its great head with his blade hand under that menacing collar, the lad stood next to Brutus, who now turned and stood, a head taller than the Brat of Scots.
There was silence.
Caesar then rose and spread his arms and bellowed, “Minicus Thrax, Brat of Scots—our Androcles! Do you know who I am?”
The little voice shouted like a very pipe, “Boss of that Boss there,” he shouted, pointing to Gentry with his little shield and gauntlet.
The crowd broke into laughter, with one loud mouth, drunk already, bellowing, “Caesar who?”
Gentry was simmering in rage, yet Caesar was posing for another newspaper page, smiling with laughter and spreading his arms for quiet.
When quiet washed over the arena, Caesar announced, “I would have Minicus Thrax sit with me!”
This brought applause, which cowed the dammed dog, who had stage fright. The Brat covered its sensitive ears and the lictor leashed the beast and led him off. Then, as Caesar waved the brat upward and the honor lictor opened the gate for the boy to take the stairs directly to the Censorial podium, the terrible little monkey ran, leaped with one foot onto the wall, a head taller then he, than ran upwards, upon the heads, and shoulders and seat backs of the spectators below—who happened to be patricians and their servants.
Within moments, Gentry’s head spun, as Caesar held the Brat’s hand high and waved to the crowd, a crowd which roared approval, even the insulted Patricians below clapping their hands and turning in reverence, in the pivoting seats placed there for that purpose.
Upon the slightly raised podium at the front of the greater open podium, set like a clam shell open above the Patrician’s, Caesar stood and motioned forward a tiny Japanese girl child, the least perfect one, as she had a cut on her cheek but barely healed. This girl was dressed all in an angelic white dress and carried a vase of white roses to the Miniature Gladiator. There she bowed and was helped up on the podium in her slippered feet by Caesar, who presented her like a toy bride to the toy gladiator.
‘This is fucking absurd!’ groaned Gentry within, only to be nudged by Groat, who gave him the look that meant, “Follow along with your betters, or pay a high price.’
Recalling his dignity as the Censor and Editor of the Munera, Gentry rose in applause and the entire ten thousand did likewise.
A tiny stool was brought by an officer of the Fleet—already strangely at hand—and placed next to Caesar, on his right, so that Minicus might share the Caesarian Dignity, with the toy girl kneeling at his feet and smiling.
David Enchigo’s flock of brats were all about sketching the scene. In notation, Caesar looked at Gentry, “In every literate Plebe and mob hand by sunrise, Gentry. A handful of crusading brutes are of limited military utility—but their heroics, to the common soldier and sailor, raise in the collective hearts of Fleet and Army, the moral fiber that sustains We who war, so that those who stay home, may enjoy your every adore.”
Groat poked him in the rib and Gentry unslackened his jaw, “Uncle John, these Civic rites are held to thank you, and your armsmen, for your Service to Rome!”
‘I’m quite glad Groat had me rehearse that—oh, the brats sketch me, as if I am a newspaper hero.’
“Oh, a vase of yellow roses presented to me—thank you, child,” Gentry managed to speak as the world discovered him in the light of the great gaslight bulls eye lantern that he had installed to highlight the deaths of those who opposed him, instead highlighting his supposed innocence.
He looked into the eyes of the child as it recited, “Censor,” and wondered, ‘Can I fuck it?’
Uncle John understood and leaned over with a sly whisper, “Not this one—though the Pope has authorized an expedition to fetch some Chinese; you will have choice of the litter… just play along, like a sing along.”
“Thank you, Uncle John,” now utterly owned in the knowledge that his deepest evils were understood by the most powerful man he would ever deal with.
Notes
-1. Foot deep slots fronted with oak boards against the stone wall of the arena, where bull fighters and riders might retire in safety.
This ends the open posting of SPQR.
Find the concluding chapters in our estore:
Death Served Cold
Act 20: Dray Porter, Lanista at Barelyman Sands
Noon, Carnival, Seventh Day of Sepulcher
First Born
Act 21: Nubio Atlas, Eunuch at Barleyman Sands
Noon, Carnival, Seventh Day of Sepulcher
‘Over a Damned Pictocan?’
Epilogue: John McClellan, Third Caesar, Imperator of North Pannonia
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