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The wind was bitter as Fulcinia slipped through the kitchen doorway and into the courtyard. The high walls of the fort provided a little shelter, but the cobblestones were icy, and the sky was dark and heavy with the promise of snow. Walking quickly, she kept the small parcel of still warm bread tucked against her stomach and covered by her cloak. The guards at the gate didn't seem bothered by where she went or what she did, but Marius had started asking her where she disappeared to in the mornings, and it was only a matter of time before her husband asked one of the servants to spy on her.
The … Fulcinia hesitated to call them men of God, for their actions were every bit as barbaric as the savages they purported to save, paid her no mind when she entered the dungeon. At first she had been frightened of them; convinced that they would go running to her husband to inform him of her treachery as soon as she left their little piece of hell. The fear had proved unfounded, and it was with no small amount of disgust that Fulcinia realised that there was no room in their narrow minds for anything but the vengeful God they had promised themselves to. They thought her an emissary of His work, and, she thought as she padded down the stone steps as quiet as the stable cat, perhaps she was.
The smell hit her as it always did, heavy and putrid, but Fulcinia ignored it. Light was more of a problem: several of the torches had gone out, sending most of the dungeon into darkness. Re-lighting them cost valuable time, but imagining the poor souls trapped in the darkness gave her enough courage to take the time to make sure they were burning as brightly as they could.
Two had died during the night. An old man and a girl of perhaps ten summers. Fulcinia muttered a brief prayer as she hurried past their broken, twisted bodies. The girl had been a Woad child captured a month ago, the old man a villager who had been a little too vociferous in his condemnation of Rome. In the faint light they could have been merely a girl and her grandfather curled up together against the cold. Fulcinia shoved the thought away and hurriedly broke the bread she carried into pieces that would fit through the bars of the cells that contained the few remaining prisoners.
The little blond boy took it silently as he always did, the Woad woman more cautiously, although whether that was due to mistrust or the fact that her fingers were obviously broken, Fulcinia wasn't sure. Neither of them had uttered a word to her in the weeks that they had been imprisoned, and Fulcinia didn't blame them for their silence. Nonetheless she felt a little sick as she turned away from the young woman. Half starved and in obvious pain she might be, but there was a sharp intelligence in her eyes that implied that she was merely trapped, not broken.
The middle aged Woad in the far cell didn't acknowledge her when she approached him, but Fulcinia gave him the last of the bread anyway. Perhaps he would eat it when she was gone. Hurrying back up the stairs, she took a deep breath of the clean, frigid air and tried not to glance back at the innocuous looking doorway behind her.
When Marius had first suggested a torture chamber she had thought it merely one of his idle boasts; a silly whim borne of a man who missed the status and power he had enjoyed while in Rome. By the time she realised he was serious it was too late. Married off as a teenager, Fulcinia had no family to speak up for her, and her one attempt at petitioning her uncle for sanctuary had led to her letter being intercepted and scars on her back that were a silent reminder of what would happen to her if she dared disobey again.
Dipping her hand into her pocket, Fulcinia scattered the crumbs from the bread onto the grass at the back of the servants quarters. It was a decent enough ruse, she thought as robin fluttered down and flew off triumphantly with a bit of bread in its beak. The prisoners got fed, the birds got fed, and Marius merely thought her soft hearted and obsessed with Briton's wildlife.
A gust of wind scattered the breadcrumbs, and Fulcinia tucked her heavy, dark hair under the hood of her cloak. She was expected for breakfast, and she would play her part with a decade's worth of practice. For the sake of her son and for the sake of her sanity, she dared not hope for anything more.
A/N: Short chappy for starters - the rest will be longer. This story has nothing to do with anything else I've written and will get a bit AU as we go along. I always wondered about Fulcinia's character, so this is my take on her story.