Weekend Wind Down – On The Beach

Augustus MDCCLXXXIII Anno Diocletiani

There were, Dai decided as his two children buried him in the sand on the beach at Traeth Abermaw for the third time that day, far worse times of year to be placed on gardening leave from his job as Submagistratus of Demetae and Cornovii.
It was not that he was under real suspicion, that had been made clear several times by the Magistratus Domina Agrippina Julius Valerius Apollinara, but the fact remained that Caeso Maol had been an acquaintance of his and he had not only been the one to find the body, but he had also been in the next room when the murder took place and so it was simply a matter of propriety and perception (her exact words) that Dai should be kept out of the gaze of both the public and officialdom whilst his wife Julia, who happened to be the other Submagistratus of Demetae and Cornovii, found out who had actually done it.
However, just because he was not involved in the investigation did not mean that, up to his neck in sand, arms behind his head, he could not spend some time considering it. The murder had taken place at an informal gathering of some of the well to do men of Viriconium. Dai had gone along as the guest of Paulus Vinicius Cato, a lawyer friend, who had virtually begged him to be there in order to make a gods-awful social commitment into something bearable.
“You can not imagine what these dos are like,” Paulus had told him on the drive to the baths, “everyone trying to both show off how wonderful and independently successful they are and all at the same time trying to get the support of others for whatever their present pet project in self-promotion might be. I have to attend as half my clients go.”
Dai could imagine, and had imagined, and had been close to making some careful social excuse to avoid the misery right at the last minute, but Paulus was a good friend and it was not a bad notion anyway for Dai to mix a bit with the kind of community that were attending.
They were almost exclusively Romano-British, with names that reflected the fact. Most had the defensive pride which many non-native Romans developed, seeing themselves one step up from their British neighbours, but never quite able to feel they were fully equal to a Roman citizen from Italia itself. And, to be fair, Dai knew that was not entirely their own fault. He, too, straddled that boundary and grappled with being seen as too Roman by the British and too British by the Romans. But he was fortunate in that his family was one that carried a lot of respect in the area and he had good friends in Rome, being married to a woman the Praetor regarded as a foster sister.
But for those without such advantages allowing them to maintain and deepen their connections in both directions, being Romano-British put them into an uncomfortable middle ground and, as a group, they tended to keep together.
That evening’s gathering reflected a painful awareness of their cultural insecurity. It was held at the baths in Viriconium and then was to include a meal at Aureum Anatisa, the Golden Duck, a very expensive caupona, on the banks of the river. The Duck was one of less than a handful of exclusive sub aquila places in Viriconium, a building where the eagle above the entrance declared it was reserved exclusively for Citizens. But, ironically, the Duck was renowned for its excellent British menu. Dai had a feeling that the owners had cleverly, and cynically, carved their niche, by playing on the insecurities of these cross-culture families.
He had no opportunity to find out though, because whilst they were all having a post bathe massage before heading to the caupona, a scream from one of the staff had shattered his relaxation. The woman was screaming because there was blood trickling out from a changing cubicle and when Dai had pulled the door open, the body of Caeso Maol had literally fallen into his arms.
There would have been no suspicion of Dai at all had he not needed to use the urinal and left the main party for a few minutes shortly before the body was discovered. Which meant, in theory, he could have had time to kill poor Caeso. It did not help that earlier Caeso had been regalling the company as they sat in the hot room with tales from his schooldays—schooldays he had shared with Dai as they had happened to be in the same class—and not all the stories had been that complimentary to Dai, who had been a rather shy and studious nerd at that time.
So, expressing her profound regret at having to do so, the Magistratus had told Dai to take paid leave of absence and enjoy the summer sunshine and his children’s company until the matter had been resolved.
He had decamped for the week to Traeth Abermaw taking his daughter, five year old Aelwen and her three year old brother, Rhodri together with their nursemaid, Luned and a discreet individual called Duggan—though whether that was his first or last name Dai was not entirely certain. The Magistratus had insisted on Duggan accompanying them to ensure their security. Dai had initially objected seeing no reason to have a bodyguard on a family holiday in the place where he himself had spent many happy such as a child, but Pina had simply knitted her brows and given him a stern look.
“Until we know what went on,” she told him in a tone that was filled with the gravitas of her Imperial heritage, “we have no idea whether your being a witness might place you at an additional risk.”
He could not argue that and to be fair to Duggan, the man was so little in evidence that Dai sometimes wondered if he had neglected his duty altogether and sloped off to the nearest taberna. So he was a bit surprised when he heard Luned say the man’s name and opened his eyes to see the compactly muscular, steel eyed Duggan looking down at him.
“Someone named Cartival, dominus, says he knows you.”
Dai tried to sit up, but the sand the children had packed firmly around him did not give way.
“Er—yes, that’s Bryn,” he said quickly, feeling acutely embarrassed to be stuck immobile in the sand. “Bryn Cartival is indeed a friend of mine. Thank you, Duggan.”
The man gave a terse nod and Dai was sure there was a grin breaking out as he turned away, but perhaps that was just his own humiliation.
By the time Bryn had strolled over, carrying five dripping ice creams, Dai had managed to free himself from the beach, with the enthusiastic assistance of his two children and was dusting down the damp sand with a towel.

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

Glossary of Latin and Other Terms
Please note these are not always accurate translations, they are how these terms are used in Dai and Julia’s world.
caupona – an inn or hotel
Demetae and Cornovii – Wales and several English Midland counties including Shropshire
domin-a/us – Ma’am/Sir. Used to superiors both in rank and social status
Italia – we would call it Italy
magistratus – senior official with legal jurisdiction over an area
sub aquila – literally ‘under the eagle’. An eagle above the entrance of any building means it is Citizen access only – aside for those who might work there of course
submagistratus – a more junior official with legal jurisdiction over an area, under the authority of a magistratus
taberna – pub/bar
Traeth Abermaw – we would call it Barmouth Beach
Viriconium – we would call it Wroxeter. The area capital of Demetae and Cornovii

Granny Knows Best – Internet ‘Scientists’

Listen to Granny because Granny always knows best!

You know who you are. The boys and girls who do their research via Google as they evacuate their bowels in the mornings.
Which odd behaviour would be no more than your own business if you didn’t immediately fire up whatever brand of antisocial medium that is your particular poison and broadcast your findings as being the words of one with superior knowledge.
They aren’t. And neither are you. Think on.

You can’t cure Covid with infusions of black treacle.
You can’t change people’s sexual orientation by sending them to boot camp.
The royal family are probably not lizards.
Donald Trump did not win the last American election.
Ukraine is not run by nazis.
And it’s highly unlikely that a Covid vaccination is going to render you infertile (even if the rest of the world might wish it did).

In the end it comes down to the old chestnut of internet anonymity. You can sit with your underwear around your ankles and postulate anything you like without fear of consequences.
However. If you had to stand on a soapbox at Hyde Park Corner and defend your opinions against the slings and arrows of ridicule (or thrown missiles), you might have another think.
It’s the same in microcosm if you voice patently under thought and unresearched twaddle in the presence of a group of people in a pub (or wherever you may now meet your peers). Somebody is going to take you up on what you have to say and punches may ensue.

This, therefore, should be your mantra. If you are not prepared to stand naked in front of the world and defend your ‘scientific findings’ with reasoned argument and provable data, it might be a better idea to just finish your crap and get some breakfast without enlightening the world with the half-baked ideas you borrowed from some other eejit!

Darkling Drabble – 12

A darkling drabble offers a shiver of horror in a hundred words…

The vigilantes had been hunting her for three generations, though they no longer had any idea why. 

In a street of tamped earth next to a stockyard full of bawling beeves, they finally found her. Tiny, she was and as wizened as a season-dead black beetle, but the twin sixguns were rock steady in her hands.

The shooting commenced, and she pretty soon took four loads of buckshot which all but blew her in half.

Only she wouldn’t die. Just kept on shooting.

When they were all gone, she grinned toothlessly and turned back to her interrupted poker game.

©jj 2022

Coffee Break Read – One Zero Three

Picking up our packs we took to the kitchen roof, running barefoot and silent along the ridge in the darkness. At the far end of the kitchens, we dropped into the roof of a bank of sheds housing goats and chickens, before sliding down a convenient drainpipe into the darkest corner of the kitchen yard. From there, it was a relatively simple matter to scale a wooden fence and follow a dry ditch to the edge of the woods. Once in the woodlands, we climbed a big oak tree and settled ourselves in a comfortable crook in its crown, from whence we could command a view of the front of the building whilst remaining unseen.
Pulling on woollen socks, plus the fur-lined boots and thick coats our unknown benefactor had gifted us, we settled down to wait. It seemed to me that this raid was something outside what we had heard of before. There seemed to be many men, and much weaponry, involved. The moonlight was bright, and as we watched, a stream of servants issued from the kitchen end of the building. They were hustled off by a group of armed men. They lit out running, and we thought that the raiders had let them go. It was not so. There came a sudden yappity yap, which we realised was gunfire, and the running figures all fell to the ground. The gunmen strolled over to the bodies, laughing as they went, and emptied more rounds into the rows, just to make sure. Beside me, eight gave a low moan, and I gripped her hand tightly.
‘Shush.’ I murmured. ‘If we’re found that could be us.’
She gripped back, and I could feel the effort with which she kept silence.
Then two things happened, which at least distracted us from the callous killing of innocent serving women.
Firstly, we became aware of something, or someone, moving cautiously in the woodland below us. We froze. Then eight grabbed my shoulder in a death grip and pointed to the roof of the breeders’ place. A slight figure was racing along the ridge at breakneck speed. At first it was hard to make out who it was, and what it was wearing. I stared harder, then realised it was one zero three, and she was half naked. She reached the end of the roof, and, without abating her speed, ran gracefully along the garden wall. We held our breath. The wall top is only about six inches wide, and, she seemed to be very exposed as she ran. If anyone looked out of the windows at the back of the house, she was a sitting duck. It was a relief to see her drop to the ground, and roll into that same dry ditch we had entered from the kitchen quarters. She had further to crawl than had we, and it took many minutes before we spotted her head peeping over the earthy dyke. She gave a low tuneless whistle, which was repeated from a thicket of low-growing shrubs about twenty feet from our hiding place. We scarcely dared breathe.
One zero three leapt out of the ditch and sprinted across the moonlit turf to the concealment of the shadowy forest. We peered down and were able to make out another figure, and two horses. The other woman handed over a bundle of clothing, and we could hear our erstwhile companion’s teeth chattering as she dressed herself.
‘Is it not a bit cold for nude running?’
‘Very funny Clo. I’d not have gotten here in clinging bright pink draperies. Which is all most of the breeders are allowed. Even the two who run daily do so in pink breeches, pink shirts, and no shoes.’
‘I see. Have you found aught?’
‘No. Just more suspicions to add to the ones we had already.’
‘Well, whatever. We need to get away. Now. In case some enterprising type decides to search the woods, or strafe the trees, or set fire to them, or…’
The two women mounted up and set off cautiously, picking their way through the trees and undergrowth, careful to make no noise, and leave no trail. Neither looked back.

From The Barefoot Runners by Jane Jago.

Mrs Jago’s Handy Guide to the Meaning Behind Typographical Errors XLIV

… or ‘How To Speak Typo’ by Jane Jago

belive (imprecation) – the opposite to be dead

cocnern (noun) – unreliable dildo

defrentiate (verb) – to unfriend in a history group 

egnlish (noun) – language of ladies who lunch

extatic (adjective) – applies only to men watching porn – exceptionally happy

gate hred (noun) – man who sits in the road by the gatehouse exposing himself to passing women

hiar (verb) – of upper-class twits to rent a posh car

improtent (adjective) – of high value but sexually incapable 

jealsoy (noun) – thick salty sauce

legmue (noun) – knee that appears to be pulling a face 

lubmer (noun) – person who thinks he’d like to be a sailor but is sick when he puts too much water in the bath 

nuremous (adjective) – of families, possessing many rodentine offspring

obnexyus (adjective) – having a very long neck

raibb (noun) – a weapon that shoots death rays and pieces of potato

seeance (noun) – three old ladies with a ouija board and a bottle of port

tuaght (adverb) – of speech, clipped and mildly threatening

tuseday (noun) – day on which it is legal to kill annoying people

vergin (noun) – pure young woman who doesn’t eat meat 

vigenar (noun) – lady bits

yur (noun) – the way year is pronounced by any royal correspondent on television 

zologoist (noun) – supernatural creature that manifests itself during seances by farting

Disclaimer: all these words are genuine typos defined by Jane Jago. The source of each is withheld to protect the guilty.

Darkling Drabble – 11

A darkling drabble offers a shiver of horror in a hundred words…

Doug was a little, skinny man who sat in the window of his little, skinny shop mending clocks. He was a fixture in the city, and as reliable as the dawn. So the day he wasn’t there there, a hunt was called. But there was no sign. The city burghers sent for a finder who led them to a half-forgotten graveyard, where a moss-encrusted headstone marked Doughall Snaith’s last resting place.

The mayor had to be revived with smelling salts and burnt feathers.

“But who has been mending our clocks?”

“Who? Or What?”

The finder flew away laughing.

©jj 2022

Coffee Break Read – A Highly Flawed Genius

What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted…

“The final Future Data field trial started five years ago and was originally focused on one man, Avilon Revid,” the woman went on, this time giving a slight, supercilious nod to Cista Tyran to acknowledge her previous mention of the name. “It seems that was something of a mistake, in retrospect.” She paused and shot a meaningful look at Jecks, who frowned.
“Right. But at the time the evidence was highly convincing,” he said, a little too quickly.
“And faked.”
Five years ago? Playing catch up, Grim realised, that implied Avilon Revid had not died in the Specials and had — presumably — been released. Which was probably the most chilling piece of information he had encountered so far in this briefing. No wonder there was so much secrecy being padded around this. Politically sensitive was not in it. If word that Revid had been released ever became general knowledge, there would be a massive public outcry from Central all the way out to the Periphery and so many scalps demanded that even the top echelons of Central government would not be safe. He glanced at Cista Tyran and noticed she was looking thoughtful. He had a distinct feeling that it was not news to her.
“So we have an interesting situation in which a half-run field trial has caused a number of issues and left some highly irregular loose ends. Ends we thought had been tidied up, but which seem to have re-emerged onto the scene.”
The woman sat back clearly satisfied she had said everything that needed saying. Grim, translating the obscuring words, took them to mean that despite what the presentation had implied, there was evidence that Chola and Baldrik were still alive.
“Right,” Jecks said into the strained silence. “So we have the job of clearing up a potentially critical mess. Just because the Future Data project was aborted does not mean that the consequences it was predicting have also been terminated. In the original plan, there would have been a sweep of all those — ” He hesitated fractionally, but enough for Grim to notice that he had needed to find a different word to his first choice. ” — implicated in the project to ensure none of them was left at large, endangering the security of the Coalition.”
“People like Avilon Revid?” Grim found himself asking, feeling just a little appalled at what he was being told.
Jecks shook his head. “No. Not at all.”
“Avilon Revid is dead. He died in the ‘City in a turf war,” Cista Tyran said, as though it was a well-known fact. “But seriously, sir — it’s not like — “
“Right,” Jecks cut across her. “That is a very valuable point. Avilon Revid is not an issue for us to worry about anymore.”
“And Baldrik and Chola are?” Grim asked, faintly relieved to be assured that at least Revid had not survived to make this mess worse than it looked already.
Jecks gave a half-nod and looked at the unknown woman who cleared her throat.
“Kahina Sarava is a genius. A highly flawed genius. But that does not detract from the power of her mind or the quality of her achievements. We have to take very seriously the consequences that were foreseen by her work.” She gave a tiny nod as though she had just explained everything.
“So what you are saying is that even though this Future Data project failed to predict things correctly — you still think the things it predicted incorrectly might happen?” Cista Tyran asked, her tone sweet and convincingly ingenuous. Grim found himself warming towards her.

From Iconoclast: Mistrust and Treason a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook which is only 0.99 to buy for a limited period.

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