The Burning of Lucius Demetrius Flavius
This story is a companion to my other multi-chapter 'Red Eyes and the She Wolf', which is written from Leah's point of view. This story is from Demetri's POV, but as he's been around a little longer than Leah it will take quite a few chapters to get to the point where Red Eyes begins. WARNING: DEMETRI IS NOT A NICE BOY, AND THERE WILL BE LOTS OF SEXUAL CONTENT, VIOLENCE AND DARK THEMES THROUGHOUT. Please do not continue if you are underage.
CHAPTER 1 – POMPEII PLAYBOY
I do not own Twilight, no copyright infringement intended.
Thanks to LightStarDusting and sheynondoah for looking over this chapter for me. Your notes made me smile
Lemons, natural disasters, and bad character traits.
"Tell your uncle that if all his wine is as good as that which we drank last night, we can certainly do business. I will send a man to you on Veneris to discuss things further." The overfed merchant slapped me on my back and smiled, then signalled to the stern looking man who would visit us in two days time. The usual ploy had worked well, and my demanding uncle would be pleased that my socializing had gained him another customer.
I often found the best way to promote my uncle's business was to show up to celebrate with a half-dozen amphorae of his best wine, and then proceed to spend an evening sampling the goods with potential customers. With my banter, pleasant features, and flattery I was likeable, and I had many stories with which to entertain. If my company was more conservative, the stories of my famous father's victories; if my company was more debauched, I regaled tales of my own conquests.
My father had been a military man and well respected amongst those in power. He had been close to Nero, and had been a good and honest commander. Unfortunately, these were not qualities that helped you keep your life in Rome, and he had been brutally killed for daring to question Nero's tyrannical acts.
He had wanted me to follow in his footsteps and join the army; while he was still alive he had taught me to fight—he was an excellent teacher. After his death, my education had been less complete than my father would have given me, but as for any young Roman, fighting was always in the curriculum.
My mother was the daughter of a nobleman, and even as she aged she was considered a very beautiful woman. I, too, had been blessed with her pleasant features. My uncle had quickly coveted his brother's widow, and once they were married we had both moved to Pompeii, where she now ran my uncle's house.
His first wife had been barren, and now that my mother was older it was unlikely she would conceive again. After my birth and while my father was alive, she had miscarried every child she bore. As such, I was very precious to her, and she indulged me terribly.
As my uncle's heir, I was given the task of learning the family business. While he still was the mind behind the operation, I was now the silver tongue and young legs.
To further his trade, he had arranged a marriage for me with the daughter of a prominent local politician. I, of course, had very little say in the matter, but I always respected my uncle's wishes. After all, he kept me in the manner to which I had become accustomed, and a hateful wife who I avoided at all costs was a small price to pay for the luxuries I enjoyed.
My wife was not very easy on the eyes, but her father was rich and influential. When we were first married, she had been highly infatuated with my looks, but things had gone sour quickly when it became apparent that I didn't place her as highly in my affections. Of course, my charms had allowed me close enough on occasion to produce a son, but since the birth she hadn't allowed me to come within five pedes of her. I knew that eventually I would have to attempt to impregnate her yet again, but her animosity did not faze me; I was more than happy to entertain myself elsewhere in the meantime.
As I left the merchant's home, I smiled at the prospect of my favored entertainment. I had spent most of the evening making sly glances at his young, blonde wife, and my plan for today had formed as I had lain sleepless and alone during the night.
My head was still a little cloudy from the large quantity of wine I had consumed, and my uncle's new business associate was equally worse for wear. I climbed on my horse and signalled to my men to drive the empty cart which had carried the amphorae here from Pompeii yesterday.
We would have to catch a boat from Misenum to Pompeii. My uncle had paid for our carriage on a boat that left at hora sexta, but I had other plans. I had left a large purse at the merchant's house intentionally; the top was filled with coins, and underneath a number of iron disks to make the bag seem fuller.
The cart would go on the boat as planned, but my forgetfulness would mean I had to return to the house to collect the bag. I patted the smaller purse around my waist and smiled. I could wait in a taverna until I was sure the merchant had left home.
Drinking was my second favorite pastime, and I had quite a thirst.
I mixed wine with water until the hour that I was sure that the husband had left his wife alone and went into the town about his daily business. I had an instinct for such things.
I left the taverna and rode my horse back up the hill. I made sure I pranced into the courtyard dramatically, and then yelled for a slave to take my horse. As I strode inside like a conquering hero, I caught sight of the dark slave girl who had also caught my eye last night. The wife was reasonably attractive, but the slave girl was undoubtedly more exotic, and I liked dark women.
This time, it was the wife that was more of a challenge. Maybe next time I could try the slave girl, or even better, both.
Another dark slave, this time male, greeted me.
"Is your master at home? I was almost on my ship when I realized that I had left my money here in the house. "
"I'm afraid he is at the baths, sir," the slave replied in his thick accent. "I will go and bring it for you."
"No need, I am in a hurry. I know where I have left it and I will collect it myself." I spoke loudly on purpose, so my prey would know that I was present. I entered the building and walked back to the room in which I had slept.
I retrieved the bag, and as expected, when I turned to leave I was no longer alone in the room.
"Lucius Demetrius Flavius, why are you in my home while my husband is gone?" The blonde leaned against the doorway and caressed the wall with her hand. Obviously, my glances and pleasant smiles all evening had not gone unnoticed—I had counted on this.
I grinned at her. My charm worked on women even better than it worked on my uncle's business associates.
I never ate to gluttony, so I had a boyish, lean physique, pale skin to show that I was not one for hard labor—very much a status symbol, and fair hair that I never cropped too close, as women liked something to run their hands through and tug. I always remained clean shaven, and I made sure that I looked a little more affluent than I actually was. It all helped create the illusion.
Sometimes, if I did not feel like making so much effort, I simply went to one of the many brothels in Pompeii. I did like a good challenge, however. Sex was a sport for me; I never turned it down if it was on a plate, but I did enjoy it so much more when I could make the act a little more interesting.
I took a moment to take in the blonde wife's figure, slowly, so her ego would be flattered that I found her attractive. She was nearing plumpness, another status symbol, but she was much younger than her husband. I estimated her age at eighteen, four years younger than myself. Her husband was a man in his forties, but this was often the way of things.
I had been correct in assuming she would welcome the chance to take a younger, much more attractive man into her bed.
A smile of delight crossed her full lips as she basked in my attention. I pretended to snap out of a lustful haze and smiled wider.
"I forgot my coins; it would not be worth coming back if I had sailed without them, but I remembered just before I was ready to board." I threw the bag up in the air to emphasis its size and then caught it. Her eyes followed it and noted how heavy it seemed. So, in her eyes, I was not just handsome and interested, I was also rich; I just needed to show I was a gentleman and my act would be complete.
"I'm sorry you missed my husband. He has already left," the girl drawled.
"I can't say I'm sorry. You have a much prettier face to say goodbye to. Now, I bid you farewell until next time, I must try and catch my ship." I made as if I was about to leave, but to exit the room I had to pass her in the doorway. I did not react as I saw her face drop and her expression change.
"Oh, you're leaving?"
"Well, of course, now I have my money, I..." I changed my expression to one of shock. "But surely you didn't think...I think you're very beautiful...but your husband..."
"Of course not, I didn't think you...don't be so silly." The girl shifted awkwardly and looked away.
I stared at her. "I'm sorry...I did not mean to hurt your feelings. I know I couldn't help but stare last night, but I'm really not that sort of man to insult another man in such a way. I..." I made sure I gave her a longing wistful stare, and sighed deeply. "I'm sorry, I—"
She stared back with an equally longing look, and I paused, purposefully. For a second, I remained still, until I groaned and suddenly caught her mouth with my own. I pressed her into the doorway and grasped her waist roughly. She gasped, but quickly responded by grasping my shoulders and kissing me in return.
I broke the kiss and turned away, looking as tortured as I could. "I apologize. I shouldn't have done that." The girl approached and stood in front of me. This time she initiated the kiss, and as I pulled her hips to mine, I smiled victoriously.
I walked her backwards, and then laid her on the very bed in which I concocted the plan I now turned into action. Pushing up her dress until I found my final aim, I explored with my fingers, and found she was already anticipating and ready for my entry. I wasted no time in lifting my tunic and burying myself between her plump folds.
She gasped and I ran my hands over her ample chest, before I wound my arm around her shoulders and recaptured her mouth. I began to thrust rhythmically, while the girl remained still and moaned, her hands motionless on my chest.
I hid my disappointment. I preferred it when my women were much more participatory.
I continued, until I found my release and then I collapsed onto her, panting and sweaty. I remained still for a moment before remembering there was a part to play.
I looked into her eyes, and then kissed her passionately. Pretending to be at a loss for words, I smiled and she mirrored my expression.
At that moment, there was a sudden motion of the earth and the room shook. I grasped the female below me to my chest, while the walls creaked and swayed. Thankfully, it was just a small tremor and no worse than we had become accustomed to in the area.
"That is twice today the room has shaken for me," I joked, and we laughed. "But you must excuse me...my ship."
"Please, come back soon," she whimpered, as I lifted myself from her and retrieved my purse from the bed.
"I will not be able to keep myself away," I lied. I kissed her again and then walked out of the room, pausing at the doorway for effect.
As I left, I saw the dark slaves going about their business and regretted my decision to go for the wife.
Once I was on my horse and heading back down towards the harbor, I laughed. This was becoming far too easy. Then I wondered how soon I would be able to get a crossing across the water back home, and if I had time for another cup of wine and some food at the baths before I would have to depart.
As it turned out, I had plenty of time. I removed the real coins from my decoy purse, and wandered casually into the baths. The merchant whose house I had just departed spotted me and approached me with arms wide open.
"Demetrius, you are still in Misenum! I thought you would be long departed by now."
"My cart left for Pompeii this morning. I thought I would stay and find a little entertainment at one of the local establishments."
The merchant guffawed and slapped me on my back. I had entertained him with tales of my adventures with the many prostitutes of Pompeii while we had gotten drunk last night.
"Come, you must join us. Have some wine with us and tell us all about it." I followed him to a corner, sat with his associates, and fabricated a story much more fantastic than what had occurred in real life.
Hours later, I was on deck.
I steadied myself by holding onto a rope while I hung my head over the side. The wine I had drunk at lunchtime had compounded my delicate state from the night before, and now I felt thoroughly seasick.
The sailors laughed at me but I was too ill to care, and I continued to empty my lunch into the water—until I became aware that the activity around me had stopped. I looked up wearily; the sailors were all staring into the sky.
I, too, stared in amazement at a thick, black cloud quickly rising above Vesuvius. It was too dense to be a storm and we wondered what it could be, as it rose higher and higher into the sky. It was a while before I registered that it was Vesuvius itself.
I leaped to my feet, suddenly sobered by the thought that my home and family was on the lush slopes of the volcano. There was a flurry of activity—I was not the only one with the realization—and the boat continued to sail forward with the intention of rescuing as many souls as we could.
As we neared the shore, rock and burning cinder began to rain down on us from above. Clouds seemed to roll down the mountain itself, at a speed I could not comprehend, smothering everything in its path. With much shouting and panic, the boat was turned around and slowly rowed back towards Misenum.
We could not get any closer without risking ourselves—rescue was impossible.
Much to my horror, I stared at the slopes and saw fires burning once the ground-hugging cloud had passed. I was certain that the vineyard was engulfed; I could only hope those I knew had escaped and found safe passage.
When we landed at Misenum, I waited on the harbor. With each boat that arrived safely, I pushed through the crowd, yelling for my uncle. He did not arrive that day, nor did my mother, or my wife and my child.
I tried to sleep on the dock once night fell, unwilling to miss the landing of another boat and the arrival of my family. There was too much commotion to manage more than a brief closing of my eyes.
Then the ground shook again, violently.
Instead of sleep, I settled for watching the orange flashes in the dark across the bay of Naples.
Another tremor happened at what would have been dawn, if the sun had not been eclipsed by cloud. I got up and spent some of my now precious denarii on some hot food and wine while I hoped another boat would return.
I drank myself into a stupor as I began to realize my waiting was pointless. I tried to find something within me that would reassure me that those I cared about were still out there, but I could not.
While I sat, watching the flashes of light in the thick clouds, the ground rumbled and swayed yet again. I convinced myself to leave the harbor in search of a friendly face. As I staggered away, I turned one final time to make sure there were no more ships appearing through the darkness, and noticed the water sucking out from the bay, much further than the tide would ever take it.
My wayward limbs propelled me away from the shore and up the hill. I quickly turned back and saw a wave unlike any I had ever seen, as all the missing water returned at once.
It violently crashed over the harbor where I had been seated, and instead of dragging itself back out to sea, it seemed to keep coming and the water level continued to rise, washing away everything in its path.
When it finally dissipated, I realized that if I had still been there I would certainly have drowned. In my state, it was unlikely that I would have been able to swim well enough to preserve my own life.
My horse was gone. Now, all I owned were the clothes on my back and an almost emptied purse.
Running my dirty hands through my hair in both relief and desperation, I recognized that coincidence had saved me by delaying my return to Pompeii yesterday, and by my decision to leave the harbor no later than I had. I hoped circumstance had been kind enough to save someone I cared about on the other side of the bay, but I realized that this was unlikely.
I stumbled away from the town and the coast until my fatigue got the better of me. With no destination in mind, I decided that wandering was pointless. I sat on a rock and watched others carry on.
The ash continued to float down and settle on me like the snow I had only ever read about. Now and again, I would dust myself off before I became buried. I stayed there for what seemed like an eternity, counting time by the number of people that passed by me. Husbands and wives, fathers and sons, uncles and friends—none of them mine.
Eventually, the grey, warm snow stopped falling and the sun came out. I did not leave my ashy seat. I remained there and I coughed until the physical pain outweighed the hurt and desperation.
My family was gone, and I was on my own. My uncle's vineyard, all the wealth I was to inherit, and my lifestyle of self-indulgence was destroyed by fire and ash. My mother would never again hug me to her bosom and flatter my ego. My wife would never scream at me for my blatant indiscretions, and I would not see my son and heir grow up.
I felt utterly alone and completely lost.
I sat and sobbed, while tears made streaks down my blackened face.
Veneris – Friday
Amphorae – a ceramic vase used for containing wine and other things (plural)
Pedes – Roman measure of distance similar to a foot (11.76 inches) (plural)
Hora sexta – roman time period, 11.15 to noon during winter solstice
Taverna – tavern and/or hot food shop
Denarii – Roman unit of money
Sources UNRV Roman Resource Website, and of course, Wiki pedia.