It’s going! Slow but steady – We’re making progress and nearly halfway there!
Enjoy the snippet after the break!
An hour later they stood in the shadow of a small cobbler shop’s awning, the late afternoon sun straining to reach them through the maze of houses and overhangs. Across the street, a large wall, perhaps ten feet tall, studded with small spikes, proclaimed what lay behind it to be of importance to someone.
“So, how will we gain entrance? I don’t think those guards are likely to let us in.” Aurelia said. She had anticipated a doorman, perhaps someone she could convince or bull her way past. Armed guards, especially professional looking ones, were difficult to bull past.
“We ask.” Alper said, walking confidently towards them. “Or we bluff!” He called over his shoulder as Aurelia hurried to catch up behind him.
The guards flexed their hands over sword hilts as the two approached.
“State your business.” One stated with a growl.
“We need to see the councilman. It’s urgent.”
“Urgent for you perhaps. We’ll check and see if you have an appointment.” The second guard spoke up, pulling a scroll from a large pouch on his belt. Passersby flowed around them as the one guard opened the scroll.
“You needn’t bother.” Aurelia said, catching onto Alper’s plan. “We’re unexpected. We just arrived from the east. Far to the east. All we need is a chance to talk to a loyal man of Rome.” She hoped the emphasis on the word loyal would get through to the gatekeepers. The two looked quickly at each other. Unspoken words danced between them like musical notes. Finally one of them nodded.
“ Go around back to the loading dock. Ask for Julius.”
They nodded their thanks, followed the wall to the next intersection, where they turned the corner. The side street was quieter, mostly fronted with townhouses and small gardens facing the same brick wall that surrounded the perimeter of the mansion. The mansion complex seemed to take up roughly an entire city block. Finally, the narrow chasm of the loading dock broke the brick facade. This entrance was sunken into the ground, with a specially grooved road designed to allow steam-wagons to back their loads directly up against the mansion’s back, making the normally back-breaking job far easier. Heavy steel gates were recessed into the wall, while a pair of covered guardposts flanked the columnated entrance. Pretty grand for a servant and supply entrance. Aurelia thought. The man must have money to burn.
Servants bustled about the loading dock, working on a steam-wagon that had evidently just arrived. Aurelia marveled at the speed with which the servants worked. Large boxes of produce and casks of unidentifiable liquid were hauled onto smaller carts and pulled into the depths of a large storage shed.
Another guard approached them. He pulled a repeater from a shoulder strap, cocking the bolt and arming the weapon.
“We were told to ask for Julius?” Alper said. Aurelia thought she could detect a hint of uncertainty in his voice, but she must have been mistaken.
The man nodded, calling over his shoulder. His repeater remained trained at them.
“Domino Julius! Visitors.”
A big, burly man with a magnificently waxed mustache turned from checking over some type of document with another servant. He examined the new arrivals, put his fingers to his lips and whistled. Within thirty seconds, another dozen guards had arrived.