Camilla stood in the corner of the room, looking warily at the blonde haired man standing before her, informing her that Mark Antony had sent him to escort her to safety. Titus Pullo stood beside his friend Lucius Vorenus, eyeing the girl with sympathy, as he sensed her fear. He smiled reassuringly at her, only to be rewarded with a tentative smile from her. She was a fetching lass, with light chestnut tresses hanging about her waist, and large hazel eyes that were now filled with caution.
"My lady, I do not mean to cause you alarm. But General Antony has sent me to take you to a place of safety. We must leave quickly so you must gather just a few things." She stood silently for a moment and then told them she would only be a moment, leaving to go gather a few personal belongings. Titus Pullo shook his head at his friend, causing Lucius to shrug in question. "Man, the girl is frightened. Strangers show up telling her she must leave her home in the middle of the night and how do you think she must feel. Show a little kindness." Lucius bowed his head. "You are right, Pullo. I wasn't thinking."
The girl in question had just come back with a small bundle of belongings. "This is all I need." She had changed into a simple dark green gown, and tied her hair back. Noting how lovely she was, Lucius didn't wonder at Antony's interest in her. "My lady, it is cold out. You will need a cloak. "He removed his own, and placed it around her shoulders. She glanced up at him with gratitude and moved closer to his side as if for comfort. Titus Pullo smiled at the tender light he saw in his friend's eyes as he adjusted the cloak around the young woman's slender frame. For once Lucius was concerned with something than his own guilt and misery, and Pullo was glad for this. A man came rushing up to them as they all entered the outside courtyard, and Lucius pulled Camilla protectively behind him, until he assessed that the man was no threat. The man, his voice hoarse with exhaustion, told the soldiers that men were coming to take the Lady Camilla. Lucius and Pullo looked at each other and Pullo said in a low voice that they had no choice but to take her to the collegium. Lucius knew there was no other way, and reluctantly agreed. As he held out his hand to her, Camilla took it trustingly and followed, feeling safely guarded by the two soldiers.
Lucius put his arm about Camilla as he led her inside the tavern in which he lived upstairs, and the noise stopped as everyone looked up at the man most feared. He raised his hand to them all and told them that the woman with him was under his protection and was not to be treated with anything but the utmost respect. The occupants of the tavern all nodded in agreement and went back to their drinking and lusting. Pullo's wife Eirene came up to them, and after embracing her husband, led Camilla upstairs, to get her away from the havoc of the tavern. Camilla looked pleadingly at Lucius and he nodded for her to go with Eirene, telling Pullo's wife to install her in his room. Watching the women go upstairs, Lucius and Pullo, pulled up chairs for themselves at a table that was hastily vacated for the two. Pullo signalled for drinks to be brought to them."So what do we do now, Lucius?"
"I'll send a message to Antony, and find out what he wants to do with the girl."
"I've been thinking on that, Lucius, and you know it's a shame for a lovely piece like that to become another of Antony's playthings. The Lady Camilla has an innocence that belies that of one of Antony's mistresses."
His blue eyes glinting with anger, Lucius took a swallow of his wine. "She is beautiful and has a gentle presence about her. In some ways she reminds me of..." his words trailed off but Pullo knew he was thinking of his lost wife. "I don't like the idea of giving her over to Antony either, but what choice do we have."
"Indeed." Pullo and his friend sat for a long time musing over their cups of wine. Finally, after all of the tavern customers had went home, a tall robed figure walked in through the doors accompanied by half a dozen soldiers. Both Lucius and Pullo knew without a doubt who the stranger was even before he pulled aside his hood. "Where is she, Vorenus?" Marc Antony growled at the blond man and his companian. Lucius rose out of respect for his commanding officer but a surge of protectiveness surged up in him with regards to the Lady Camilla. "I'll take you to her. She is with Pullo's wife. I must warn you that she is a bit frightened."
"Just take me to her and quit acting like a fishwife, Vorenus."
The door to Lucius' room opened to reveal the two women huddling together on his bed. Eirene rose from Camilla's side and crossed over to her husband. Camilla raised her tearstained face to Lucius and he gave her an encouraging smile, and stepped aside to let Marc Antony approach her. Putting his hand under her chin, Antony gestured for the others to leave. With a concerned look at her husband, Eirene hesitantly allowed him to propel her out of the room. When Lucius didn't leave, Antony swore at him under his breath. "I want him to stay." Camilla's soft voice startled both men and Antony glared at Lucius but nodded his head in agreement. "Do you remember me, Aurora?" Antony's eyes were soft upon her. She nodded her head. "You used to come with my father when he visited me." "Yes, Camilla. Why don't you tell Vorenus who your father is?"
Camilla trembled slightly as she turned to the blond soldier. He sat beside her, ignoring Antony's angry glare, and took her hand in his. "Lady Camilla, you don't need to be afraid."
Her voice became stronger and she met his blue eyes with her own hazel ones. "I am the bastard daughter of Julius Caesar."
"I am sure Vorenus, you understand this is something that cannot become public knowledge, or Camilla's life will be in danger."
Overcoming his surprise, Lucius nodded and released her hand. This lovely girl sitting beside him was the daughter of a man he had let die. One more regret against countless others...
"The only protection a woman has is that a husband can give her, and unfortunately..." Antony's voice stopped short.
"Unfortunately a well born noble would not condescend to marry a woman of illegitimate birth, even the daughter of Caesar, " the girl said in a low voice.
Antony traced her face gently. "I would marry you Camilla, but alas I am not in a position to do so. " Weariness crossed his face, and both Lucius and Aurora saw the heavy burden he bore. He moved away from them both and went to the door, lifting the hood over his head again. "I am sorry, Camilla. I will not be in a position much longer to protect you."
Lucius rose and faced Antony with wrathful eyes. "What is she supposed to do? She can't fend for herself."
"She, my good Vorenus, is now in your hands. I trust you will protect her. It is the least you can do considering what you owe her father." The door closed behind Antony, leaving Lucius and Camilla alone. They gazed speechlessly at each other, and a sob caught in Camilla's throat. "I'm sorry. I don't want to be any trouble." Lucius caught her in his arms and held her as she wept . "My lady, you are not any trouble to me. I will protect you and we will figure all this out. You aren't alone."
A short time later, Pullo opened the door and found the two lying in each other's arms, asleep on the bed. Antony had informed him of Camilla's identity, swearing him to silence. He smiled as he realized that Lucius now had purpose in his life whether he knew it or not. A sarcastic laugh came from behind him, as he closed the door. The woman Gaia came up to him, and rubbed herself up against him, laughing as he pushed her away. So the honorable, high and mighty Vorenus has been snared by a pale lily like that of your wife." Pullo seized her wrist cruelly and pushed her up against the wall. "Don't you dare speak of my wife or the Lady Camilla. Keep your evil talk to yourself or I will cut out your tongue." Gaia glared at him as he left her, rubbing her injured wrist.