|Slave to the Son of the Blue Shield
Author: Tronnie PM
AU Role Reversal: Esca, the son of the chieftain, is injured after a battle against a small Roman patrol. His life is changed when he finds himself saving the life of Marcus, one of the Roman prisoners from that patrol, and is later given him as a slave.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure - Chapters: 13 - Words: 26,812 - Reviews: 66 - Favs: 34 - Follows: 59 - Updated: 06-01-12 - Published: 05-01-11 - id: 6956973
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The familiar hills sloped down into the Brigantes' valley, and, as they crested the ridge, the sprawling cluster of huts and fields was a welcome sight. They each breathed a sigh of relief, though Esca's shoulders were still tense with contemplation.
Scouts noticed them immediately and charged at them on ponies before stopping short with recognition. They stared in silence until Esca nudged his horse forward and they parted like waves before him. Esca and Tanca shared a glance and a smirk, and then took off at a gallop, hollering and whooping, the scouts following them, also taking up the victory call.
It was only a short sprint, and wouldn't take long to catch up, but Marcus couldn't help feeling a little left out as he picked up his pace on foot. By the time he'd caught up, a crowd had formed around his friends, a mixture of stunned silence and jovial cheering. He saw Esca hold up the dagger in a fist above his head and pull Tanca against his shoulder roughly and affectionately. Marcus watched it all from outside the circle of people, as if watching a skit performed by players.
A woman he recognized as Esca's mother pushed forward and grabbed onto her boys, hugging and sniffling. Soon the men had ushered Esca and Tanca toward the large banquet hut, and the women had scattered into organized chaos as they bustled to prepare food. Marcus had learned enough about the Brigantes to know that a story like theirs would need the accompaniment of a party, feast, and all night celebration.
No one had looked at Marcus save for the passing, almost instinctual glance that determined he was not a threat. Soon he was alone in the square. Eventually he turned to tend to the horses, but found that they had already been taken care of. He sighed. For the first time in what felt like forever, he doubted his place among these people. Did they remember him? Did they still see him as just another Roman? He didn't even know what reception he would have if he followed the group into the hut.
He turned slowly and walked out across the other side of the village. After a while his feet had taken him to the edge of the lake where he and Esca had often passed the time while he tended to Esca's leg injury. He sat by the shore and chucked stones into its glassy surface until the sky darkened and the rhythm of drums and the flicker of bonfires found him.
He stood up and turned to head back, when he heard his name called from the top of the bank. It was Esca, and he could see the smaller man squinting into the darkness at him, backlit by firelight.
"What are you doing out here? Is this where you've been?" he said as he jumped down and approached him.
Marcus nodded. "I just…didn't want to interrupt."
Esca scoffed. "Interrupt? Your own party?"
Marcus put on a smile just to deflect the conversation. He didn't want to argue with Esca about the obvious fact that this was very much not his part.
"Marcus," unfortunately, Esca could read him too well. "I know you don't believe me. But it's true. I'll make sure they know it. And besides," he sat deliberately on the rock Marcus had been on, "I'm not going unless you are."
"What?" Marcus chuckled nervously, "Of course you are."
"What did you mean, 'maybe'?"
Esca was taken aback. "Maybe what?"
"You said 'maybe' when I said you'd be chief when we got back. Why?"
Esca dropped his gaze. "Nothing. I meant nothing."
"If you can avoid questions then so can I, Roman." He smirked and stood up, chest to chest with Marcus. "Now, come to the party. We have a story to tell."
The banquet hut was full to bursting, just barely able to hold every member of the clan; where normally it was only for the men, now the women—even the children—wouldn't be excluded, and so every inch of floor was occupied. It was a long rectangular structure with a long, narrow fire pit that ran up the center around which all the food was arranged and the whole ensemble ringed with the guests.
At the head of the pit were platforms covered in pelts and meant for the persons of honor. Esca sat on one, and Tanca at his side. There was a feeling of contentment from the crowd at the sight of Connovals again at the head, as if a wrong had been rectified.
They had come in amongst the commotion of arranging food and passing drink, Esca leading Marcus by the hand. He was now sitting to Esca's left, slightly behind him as the circle was a bit cramped, and was listening to him tell their story.
Esca was a good storyteller, using all the right tones and inflections, pausing for suspense, and eliciting responses from his audience in all the right places. Even Marcus found himself rapt listening to Esca talk. His thoughts added images to the words, and he was so lost in thought and the story that he barely heard when Esca pointedly said that he couldn't have done any of it with out Marcus.
Marcus looked up sharply, then out at the people, wary and curious as to their reaction. There were murmurs, and he thought he caught something like "…just the help of a slave…"
"Not a slave!" Esca's voice was sharp, and he stared down the man who had said it, though Marcus hadn't even noticed who it had been. "He is a free man, one of us, and he knows more about honor and loyalty than you."
Marcus was shocked, and so was everyone present. Esca's eyes were burning as if he dared the man to argue. Marcus didn't think Esca had any quarrel with him, but to ruin a friendship like that, just to stand up for him—it was a little too much for Marcus.
Someone spoke up. "What will you do now, Esca? Will you claim your father's place as chieftain? And what will he do?" A glance at Marcus. "If he is not a slave, or prisoner, what is he?"
Esca hesitated, and Marcus wondered which question he wasn't sure of. Another man spoke: "We need a chief, Esca, and it should be a Connoval. It could all be yours. You have certainly earned it. What say you?"
Esca looked at Marcus then, and held his gaze. Marcus realized he must know Esca as well as Esca knows him, because he understood what was being said by the look. Esca was looking at him as if his opinion would make the decision, as if whatever he said at that moment would trump the voices of everyone in the room. This was about being chieftain, and he realized it was what had been bothering Esca since the Wall. Marcus had never imagined that Esca would not take the position, but now he found himself wondering what would happen if he didn't. And the other question of what would happen with him, if he didn't. Or even if he did—Marcus realized he hadn't really given it much thought either way. In some vague way, he had always just thought he'd be with Esca, he didn't know what form that would take.
But Esca was asking him now what he wanted to do—what he wanted Esca to do. He took Esca's hand discretely and said quietly, "Do whatever you want to do. But please…let me stay with you."
Esca breathed a laugh—a shocked noise—and tightened his grip for a second. "Let you? Marcus," He leaned closer and closed his eyes, dropping his voice further. "I was willing to beg…"
Marcus smiled slightly and kissed the back of their entwined hands. "Well, you don't have to."
Esca stood up to make his declaration. "I will be chieftain, but Marcus will be beside me."
There was a sudden commotion as everyone reacted to this. It was obvious that no one wanted a Roman with their chief. Esca was angry and about to speak again when Tanca stood up.
"Quiet! This is Esca mac Connoval, show him respect!"
All eyes jumped to the youngest Connoval, most having forgotten he was there. Esca was looking at him with surprise and pride, but he turned back to the crowd shortly.
"That is my condition if you want me as chieftain. However, I have no desire to be a leader hated by his people, and less desire for Marcus to be hated by his people—which is something I will not tolerate, chief or not. So, in light of this, I have another idea now, something I have been debating with myself, and now believe it's what is best."
Everyone was watching and listening intently now, even Marcus who, along with Tanca, was looking at him questioningly.
"There should be a Connoval leading the Brigantes, but I am not the only Connoval left." Esca looked at his brother. "Tanca should be chief. If he wants it."
Tanca looked stunned, but he recovered quickly and stood up straighter. He nodded curtly. The crowd didn't seem to know what to say.
"Good. It is done then. Of course, since he is still young, I will be his advisor. But for the rest of the time," he turned to Marcus, "I will live with Marcus together with our own land and house. And he will be initiated as a Brigantes, and he will be respected and included; a son of the blue shield. This is what I claim for the return of the dagger and the honor of the Brigantes."
thank you all very much for reading this and sticking with me! Please let me know what you thought, I love reviews! (who doesn't?)
(I may write an epilogue, but I may not. so please don't bug me about it!)