Coffee Break Read – Roman Murder

“This is a terrible shock to us all, I don’t know how it could be. They were fine when they arrived early evening, ate quietly – the men here and the lady upstairs in her room. It is not anything we have had happen here before and I can’t imagine how it could be. This is so very, deeply disturbing.”
Dai nodded along sympathetically and brought the topic to the point.
“So they came in last night, rooms were pre-booked in the name of,” he checked the entry in the book – handwritten. “Deliciae Parnassa Devotius?” The man nodded. “Yes. She came all cloaked and hooded. Could barely see her face beneath the fur.”
“And her escort were Roman – are you sure?”
“As sure as I can be. They spoke like it and they both wore one of those.” He gestured to the broad silver ring of citizenship on Dai’s index finger. “They ate their food and went up to their room soon after.”
“Did they say or do anything you recall whilst they ate?”
Aderyn frowned and shook his head.
“Not aside what you might expect – the weather, having to travel at Saturnalia – that kind of thing.”
“Anything about their employer?”
“Not a word as I heard. I can ask the staff of course, or you can.”
“Did they talk to anyone else? Any other guests?”
“Well, it being Saturnalia and all they were the only guests. Most of our trade comes from those who have business at one of the medical or care facilities on Ynis Mon. Romans don’t like to stay there overnight and we make a good stop-over before they run back to Londinium. But trade has not been so good lately, what with the latest economic downturn and -”
Dai cut across him.
“Did they talk to any locals?”
The old man shook his head again, a worried frown on his face.
“Not that I know. You lot are going to pin it on me though, aren’t you? Just like the last Submagistratus did over the contraband they they found in the cellar of The Fox and Radish. You don’t care who gets the blame long as someone can be tried for it. They took Geddy Haps and had her executed for it within the week. And she was as innocent as they come.” His voice was rising in pitch as he spoke and some heads turned from the game towards them.
“Won’t happen,” Dai said in the brief space when Aderyn paused to draw breath. “The man you speak of is himself disgraced and dead. There will be no miscarriage of justice on my watch. You have my word.”
“The word of a Roman?”
“The word of a Llewellyn – and a citizen.”
The old man reacted to his name, which was not so surprising. The family was very well known throughout Cornovii and beyond.
“A Llewellyn you say? And a citizen? How can that have happened?”
“When this is all dealt with I will happily come back, sit by your welcoming hearth and buy us a jug of your finest ale to share as I tell you the tale of it. But for now I need your honesty – so we can find who did this and what has happened.”
Aderyn met his gaze in silence for a moment then nodded.
“Of course. My apologies, dominus, I – I -”
“You were overwrought,” Dai provided and rested his hand briefly on the old man’s shoulder.
“Bard?” Bryn’s voice came from the direction of the stairs up. “You need to see this.”
“Excuse me a moment,” Dai patted Aderyn’s arm and got up. Bryn was waiting for him at the top of the stairs. “What you got?”
Bryn directed him along the passageway and into a room with closed green and grey embroidered curtains, sewn-on deer leaping through stitched-in leaves. The two men looked asleep – or would have if their skin had not been such an unhealthy shade. Peering at one, Dai asked; “Poison?” Then he looked at the other and felt the blood drain from his own face. “I know this man he is -”
“In the employ of Lucius Ambrosius Caudinus,” Bryn finished for him “He’s one of the Magistratus’ guards. Just got the ID confirmation. I wanted your permission to ask the Magistratus what his man was doing out here last night.”
Dai held up hand, his mind racing.
“These are Caudinus’ own people – ex-military that he hires for his non-official needs. They were travelling with a lady.”
Bryn’s expression shifted as he followed the logic.
“Then the lady was -”
But Dai was already running down the steps two at a time, pulling up a picture of the last family gathering he had attended with Caudinus on his wristphone as he went.

From Dying as a Druid by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago

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