warnings: Placidus being... well, Placidus, and a bit creepy, honestly.
Word Count: 1070
Inspired by motetus's awesome card here: http://i.imgur.com/G8DaOJV.jpg
In which the Tribune Servius Placidus goes undercover in a ridiculous fake moustache, and learns that Yorkshire girls should really not be messed with.
(When Marcus asks Placidus what he thinks of Britain, Placidus replies "The girls are well enough, and the hunting. For the rest - Roma Dea! I can bear to leave it behind me!". I wondered which girls he had met, and how...)
Normally I only really write gen, but frankly Placidus is not really a gen kind of guy, and he really wants to be in stories that are all about GIRLS and BOTTOMS. I'm counting myself lucky that things didn't get any steamier, honestly. This story fits with Claudius Hieronimianus's People although it is not dependent on it, and Placidus's hair is a bit less Greek in this one.
Placidus urged the shaggy pony onwards. Its hairy flanks were heaving hot beneath him, and the wild mane whipped his face as the small unshod hooves drummed the rough sheep-nibbled turf. Cold rain was beating on his shoulders and running down his back under the chequered cloak. He could not hear anyone following any more, but with the sound of the hooves on the wet turf and the rain, he was not sure he would hear the pursuit anyway. Best keep going. The rain was soaking into the ridiculous mouse-brown wig, and he pulled it off and flung it damply behind him. Now his ears were freezing, but at least his neck felt clean.
The sound of hooves changed as they clattered onto a straight well-surfaced road running across the tawny hillside. Which way to turn? There were no landmarks, no sign under the heavy clouds of which way was North or South, no other travellers in sight. Placidus stifled rising panic and pulled the pony’s head right at random. Still no sign of pursuit behind. Had he got away?
Ahead through the grey mirk, dark walls loomed.
“Roma Dea!” Placidus breathed, a prayer or a curse, even he was not sure which, and heeled the tired mare once more in the ribs and in through the Dexter Gate of Eburacum.
It had seemed like such a good idea, too, Placidus thought as he flung the reins of the panting pony to a slave in the stables, and squelched his miserable way to the bath-house. To dress as one of the natives, to ride out to the horse fair at the old hillfort, huddled among the wooded hills to the North of Eburacum, to listen out for the local gossip and any plans for insurrection or rumours of unrest.
And it had been working so well! When he had discovered that the chieftains from all across the North of Britannia had been used to bring their favorite mounts to compete at this fair near the place where the legionary fortress of Eburacum now stood, in the days before the building of the Wall, he had decided to take a risk, and on his own authority had sent word to the Wall to allow the Brigantian chieftains from the North of the Wall to pass through.
And they had come, or most of them had, anyway. Distant inscrutable chiefs from the blue misty distances of the North, riding South through the new Wall-gates, decked in twisted gold, with their spears reversed and carrying green holly boughs as a sign they came openly in peace. It was a marvellous opportunity to discover which old quarrels were still bubbling under the surface, which old alliances might rear their savage heads again in time of trouble.
It had, perhaps, been a mistake to go in person, Placidus admitted reluctantly to himself, as his body slave Phoebus took away the hideous, dripping plaid cloak, carrying it away carefully with an air of ceremony that it certainly did not deserve. Perhaps, Placidus thought as he shed the awful green chequered tunic and began to relax in the warmth of the tepidarium, he should have sent men more used to undercover work, and himself kept a distance.
And yet! The long moustache made of horsehair that Phoebus the body slave had devised, had proved such a perfect disguise! The tribesmen seemed happy to talk of things that they surely would not have shared with a Roman Tribune - cattle raids, taxation, ridiculous stories about the Emperor’s sexual preferences...
Placidus had been on edge to begin with, walking awkwardly among the horses and pretending to pay close attention to the nearest pony whenever someone seemed about to catch his eye. But this undercover business was easier than it looked, and with the old earth-walled fort filled with people from every hill and vale of Northern Britannia, everyone assumed that he must belong to some other group, and welcomed him freely - many even offering a drink of dark heather-beer in welcome.
The drinks had probably been a mistake, Placidus had to admit to himself. The racing had ended for the day by then, and the evening was closing in. Small, smoky fires were being lit, here and there inside the old earth ramparts, to ward off the mist that was hanging in the air.
And then the girls had caught his eye. The short dark haired one, all soft rounded breasts and hips, the top of her head barely as high as Placidus’s armpit, but holding herself like a queen. And the tall slender one, with the wild untamed cloud of hair that glinted copper-red around the edges in the firelight. The way the two of them talked and talked, and laughed together, loudly, rudely - as if they did not care who might be listening.
Who could have guessed that they would take offence so readily? Placidus shuddered at the memory. All he had done was the quickest of bottom-pinches, just in passing. Surely such tempting bottoms must have collected many a pinch, before now? Were these Britons all blind, as well as stupid?
And who would have thought that such a pleasingly soft, round-looking girl would have such a way with a dirk? If he had not jumped quite so quickly, or so far, Placidus was fairly sure that she would have gelded him. And then the tall one had torn away his horsehair moustache!
After that, the fat was right in the fire. Placidus had tried to lose the girls in the crowd, and succeeded only in rousing a howling mob to follow him, with the two girls leading them onward. They were still laughing, too, Placidus remembered, caught somewhere between horror and fascination. Laughing, with the firelight glinting from the bare knives in their hands.
He had never been so terrified. Piss stained his braccae as he ran, and yet, and yet - he had never felt more alive.
Somehow as he ran through the angry crowd, weaving between the fires, the tents and the hobbled horses, he had managed to grab the pony. It had no saddle and only a rough rope bridle, but Placidus managed the steed leap somehow - thanks be to Jupiter for the old Scythian tutor who had taught him that particular trick, long ago on the family estate outside Rome. He would never have guessed that he could still do it, particularly in a long British cloak. It was amazing how fear could lend you wings.
Placidus leant back in the comforting hot water of the baths. It was very good to be warm and safe - but he was not at all looking forward to having to explain this whole situation to the Legate, who would certainly have a number of very pointed things to say. But he could think of an apology tomorrow. In the meanwhile.... Placidus leaned back into the warm water and thought of wild Brigantes girls with knives hunting him, and of feeling more alive than he had ever been.