The Mind of Mercurius Caupo
Everything is different now.
By which I don’t mean myself. That I have been improved since my death is, I think, nothing to debate. But that Rome itself should have changed – it surprises me. Unnerves me. Or perhaps it never did. Perhaps I am just seeing it the way it was meant to be seen.
My cousin is with me. The Second Tradition apparently means nothing to Aunt Juliana – not that I should be surprised. She spilled her blood for the sake of a slave. And now that slave is free, and her blood is on my conscience; she may not deserve it, but by the Gods, she will respect it. That’s our blood in her veins, and I will not see it squandered.
We go to Luciana’s. I mean to show them the City, to show them its wonders. The Egyptian is unimpressed, as I knew he would be; he makes no secret of his particular tastes. Well; some men favor sheep over shapely virgins, and at least that turns a profit for the shepherd. Domecia is the greater concern – like a cornered beast, always ready to pounce. How many times have I not played with the thought of owning her, or someone like her – but fool! A shepherd I can be if that’s what Cassius needs for his clients, but I’m not fit to own a wolf. I realize that now, and it worries me.
We meet one of the shadowed brothers. Cassius told me there’d be ones like him. He thinks walking unseen makes him powerful; it shows, the smug bastard. Invisible men are also naked ‘neath their clothes. Darkness can’t conceal your heart, old man.
We arrive at a tavern, and a whore full of blood comes in my path. I sink my teeth into her flesh, and then Domecia is upon her. She hasn’t been fed? A hungry wolf? Aunt Juliana, you utter cunt. I have no choice; blood calls to blood. I must save her from herself.
I feel dirty doing this. Vulnerable. Love me, I whisper to myself, and my soul turns inside-out, and I become what she desires. A hollow god. Kiss my marble cock and worship at my feet, I’m clay and I’m sculpted for your pleasure. I am Venus and Mercury and Helen of Troy and like molten gold I pour into the mold and she is mine.
I recall my childhood statuette of Venus. I remember the unwashed Gauls snapping off her head. I see her broken form before me and know that Domecia is… a hundred, nay, a -thousand times more fearsome than they. When barbarians see something beautiful, they break it. We have to go. Zuberi patches up the mortals, and I’m moving, give her gifts, distract her, find anything beautiful she can break that isn’t me.
An old bazaar becomes my rescue. We wash her off in a fountain and I’ll buy her something beautiful to wear. And some books, for the Egyptian. At least I know how to do this.
Hunger. Hunger like fire. A Jewish slave becomes my salvation – the heathens can go fuck themselves. I take him into a stall and make him mine, and he’s repulsive but he’s food, he’s blood, and then I throw him away and oh gods the barbarian again help help help anything just don’t let her kill me oh gods she’s picking up the slave she is picking – up – the slave roll with it what would be logical be offended. I’m offended. Fucking heathen slave, trying to get frisky. His master beats him and Domecia calms down. She was trying to defend me.
She… was trying… to defend me.
She undresses in the alleyway and something reacts inside me. It’s the way she obeys me. I… love it. But it will wear off soon and when it does, I want her someplace safe. Indoors. In a den. We move toward a tavern, a different one. I believe I have no choice but to teach her. A wolf into a woman?
Stranger things have happened.