“No, no, please, aarghn!” cried the man desperately in excruciating pain as the hot poker once again was pressed firmly against his blistered belly. The man’s family - two children and his wife - sat on their knees, blindfolded by the side of the road guarded by an old and frail man, withered but strong in resolve, a heavy hood over his head.
“You know” said the other man casually, his signature torture voice the hooded figure thought as he watched his comrade ply his trade “it would be so much easier on everyone involved if you simply told me how much you owe, how much you took in bribes to avoid prosecution, who gave you the tribes, and who your accomplices are...” he said feigning concern.
The tortured man, his limbs spread and tied to wooden spokes, breathed heavily, numerous wounds all over his body, some bleeding profusely, others deep burns and charred flesh. “I... hurgh” he said slowly, blood spilling from his lips as he spoke “don’t... know... what you’re talking about...” he said exasperatedly.
His torturer, apparently concerned this was not the answer he sought, examined his captive closely. He was near dead, his stomach would soon collapse if he poked him again with the brazier, and he was nowhere near getting the answers he sought. A tough one, he thought, for a mere civilian, an old magistrate at that too! Thankfully, he left the best till last.
“It pains me to do this, but I am going to try and give you one more chance to die a nice, clean and painless death. Look pumpkin, you see that rather large and covered amphorae over there on the cart, that one there, do you see it, hmmn?” he said teasing him cruelly.
“I’ll tell you what’s not in it, wine!” he exclaimed, “not for you anyway. But what is in it is this, lampreys. Lots of them too!” he cried out manically. The bound captive struggled in vain against his tied hands, opening yet another wound in doing so. “Oh I wouldn’t do that” the bald torturer said shaking his head “they’re trained to feast on the human flesh you see” he said, drawing a look of terror and apprehension from his captive “they are especially fond of genitals too! I say, you’re rather well off, I’m sure you’ll make quite the banquet, they’re starved too you know!” he said matter-of-factly, cleaning his nails as he did so. The captive magistrate said nothing, looking him only with pure anger and widened eyes.
“No? Okay then, Palpatinus, fetch the lampreys then!” he said gesturing to his colleague. The magistrate struggled again “Noo! Please, no, kill me, kill me now, I’ll tell, I’ll tell! I don’t want to die like this!” he said giving in finally. Heh, the lampreys, they always did the trick thought Locutus. Such a shame too, they’d gone without a meal for some time now too, as just the mention of them made most of his captives give in.
“Well then, what are you waiting for!” Locutus scorned the magistrate. “How much do you owe in taxes, how much you took in bribes to avoid prosecution, and who gave you the bribes? Go on then!” he demanded impatiently.
“I took three millions sestertii!” he said exasperated “I took five hundred thousand as bribes, from Aemilianus the juror, and Elagabalus the prosecutor, please” be begged “I’ll give you and your friend there double that, just let me go, I beg you!” he said pleadingly.
“Have you written all that down Palpatinus? Yes? Good!” said Locutus pleased with himself. “What’s that? Oh, another bribe, my my, we are really deep into it this time aren’t we? You see old man, the point isn’t the money, the point is that justice is served” he explained casually “Now, in your case, I am all too aware this is a type of justice you are wholly unaccustomed to, and for that I do apologise for the inconvenience caused to your life...” he said mockingly “but in all fairness, we did try to simply have you prosecuted, as per the law, the rightful one that is. But you had to go and bribe the prosecutor now didn’t you?” he said shaking his head from side to side.
“So this is the lot for people like you, and trust me, there have been quite a few, why, just last week in Massalia, we had to throw one of your lot into the bronze bull over there! Oh he squirmed and squealed when we lit the fire underneath it, off course, to the peasants watching it it just sounded like a normal bull bellowing for a shag with his cow haha” Locutus said half laughing to himself.
“But then again he got what he deserved for tax evasion and corruption of the magistrates, oh the peasants and the pagi love a good spectacle, especially when justice is served” he said, eyeing his captive with a look of pity.
“In any case, we have orders to spare the innocents, so your family will be allowed to go. Cut them loose Palpatinus” His face could not be seen because of his large hood covering it, but Locutus knew he had just erased the smile on his friends face with this unfortunate news that the captives would be allowed to go.
“Well then, I suppose it’s off with you from the spokes...” Locutus said with a sincere smile, holding the visibly relieved man by the shoulder, who gave out a deep exhale “and into the amphorae with you” he said with a cruel grin.
“No! Please, you said you’d let me go! No please, please, anything, I’ll do anything argh, urgh, aaargggahha!! Hnngg, get me out, get me out!” the man cried and wailed and squealed as he was pushed into the amphorae and died a slow and painful death as he was slowly eaten alive by the starved eels. Birds were spooked and flew in throngs from betwixt the branches of the trees surrounding the clearing. Locutus exhaled deeply.
“And you were worried I was going to let him off too, weren’t you Palpatinus?” he said in jest to his colleague. “Yeessss....” his old, cloaked friend said slowly “you have been... known ... to partake in the virtue of .... mercy ... from time to time” he said in his raspy voice.
“You forget we serve a large purpose my friend. In any case, pen the letter to Julian, he will be eager to know what the situation in Gallia is” he said waving his friend away. “You lot” he said gesturing at the forty or so men that were milling about or sitting around the campfire “we’re moving, get on the carts and make for Lutetia, our next destination...”
Ave Flavius Claudius Julianus Augustus,
The situation in Gallia is as you predicted. With your absence, and the rises in revenue and state investment, so too has corruption risen. We have seen to it that there is enough money going around for public projects to lure out the more corrupt, and have dealt with them accordingly. Just today, I was forced to execute a magistrate for tax evasion, bribery and corruption. With the money he stole, a temple could have been erected, and he called himself a pagan too. No surprise it is to me my lord, that Christians ruin our empire, when our own people have turned their backs against the Gods, the state and their own people. I have rectified this.
In brighter news, banditry and desertion among the army has dropped dramatically. Never before have I seen Gallia so secure; traders once again roam the roads in droves, and farmers and peasants can be seen tilling the lands. You are greatly loved by the common people and the soldiers alike, whom hail your name loudly in public, and take pride in seeing justice being delivered swiftly. I need not say the senators, nobles and rich individuals do not share this appraisal.
In Britannia, the Picts have been destroyed and Attalus moves to muster a force to conquer Hibernia, without your official permission, I might add. In Germania, the Alemanni are once again strong, and Sigisvultus moves to contain them, yet again. I do not trust that man, and will be keeping an eye on him. Our next city to visit will be Lutetia. Hopefully, the situation will be better there.
Palpatinus Flavius Sidious