St. Valentine Defeats the WolfbyMrMax59©
It's the year 432 AD in Rome. The pagan ways are dying out as the ascendant Christian beliefs consume the empire. After the emperor co-opted Christianity to his own ends and the leaders of the religion started taking the the pagan celebrations and labelling them Christian the followers of the old ways started fading away. Rome itself, the eternal city, was dying. Most of the old temples were either destroyed for their stone or taken and labelled with Christian names.
But one pagan group still lives. Fading slowly but in this year they still have a following.
Domitius was part of the Luperci - the senior priest, almost the only priest of the group, part of the inner circle that knew the secret rites of Lupercalia. The Christians had usurped the day of Lupercalis for some martyr - Valentine, Domitius remembered - and the nobles with their nose in the Christian scripture ignored the call to honor the wolf that enabled the founding of their city, their empire. The common people still celebrated, but just as a folly, a distraction from their daily grind for survival.
Domitius reflected on the public and private parts of the festival. The public knew of the sacrifice of goats and the running of laughing naked men swinging their freshly cut goatskin whips but few knew of the darker rites associated with the wolf. As a celebration of the fostering of Romulus and Remus the wolf in this context was the female of the species. She was the true mother of Rome. Her slaying of the mother represented the rejection of soft motherly love and the embracing of the wolfs cold and calculating hunters world. This was the truth that empowered the sons to create Rome and the greatest empire the world had known.
Today the men had run. The laughing procession had circled the old city and the women - maids and spinsters, those already heavy with child and those wishing for relief from the burden of barrenness - all stood by the wayside calling and waving to attract strokes the of the bloody whips that would, they hoped, insure their fertility and health in childbirth. Domitius doubted than many had any real belief anymore and they surely treated the event as a holiday, but the he knew the human soul was complex and some - many? - nurtured at least a sliver of hope.
Tonight, on the Ides of Februa - the 14th night of the month, the real ceremony would occur. A woman had been offered as demanded by the old ways - not a virgin, but proven barren. Domitius knew that this wasn't an act of piety by her husband, it was the discarding of a worthless appendage. Any wife who couldn't conceive a heir to property and siblings for labor gave nothing to the house.
Domitius continued his preparation. The group would be small but all needed to be in readiness. In years past they hadn't had a real wolf and had carried on with some stray bitch from the street. Now the wild was encroaching on their declining city and a woodsman who remembered the old ways had brought him the bitch wolf months ago. When he first saw the pitiful creature it was gaunt and limping from the snare that had caught it. Domitius had begged some coin from his patrons and the butchers had given him some leavings. The wolf had grown healthy and sleek in the ensuing months.
Domitius walked to the dark room where the beast was kept, locked behind iron bars. Being this close always made him nervous although he knew he was safe. It was the beasts eyes. They never left him and, despite his strength and size he knew they regarded him as a hunter watches it's prey. The eyes were particularly sharp today. The creature had known only water for almost a week and was hungry. Not weak with hunger, but suffering with a keening need that would goad it to ravenously consume the first meat offered to it.
He prepared the supplies to subdue the wolf so they could transport it and the other supplies to the alter.. At least they still had access to that. The former palace of Augustus above the cave had long ago been razed, the temple which guarded the entrance converted to a Christian church. But the caretakers of the small temple still knew the old gods and the old ways and hadn't told all the secrets of the ancient structure to it's new occupants. Of course there was a second entrance that was guarded by Domitius' home, and this is where the beast and some supplies were kept, but the altar where Romulus and Remus had been suckled remained accessible and unstained by the body and blood of the Christian sacrifice.
Lavinia went about her duties listlessly. Her purpose in life was gone, her life itself forfeit in a few hours. She had tried to be a good wife to Cassian despite his brutality. As the son of rich merchants with some claim to noble heritage his selection of her - a woman from the common people - as wife placed her almost below his notice. He had whored and drank and bullied and beat her but she had held firm to her vows. It was the lack of offspring to their union that had doomed her. She knew the weakness of seed was his, but to even voice such a truth was it's own death sentence for a common-born woman of Rome. Friends - other women whom she trusted - had encouraged her to find another who would fill her with seed so as to provide Cassian with a child, hopefully a son. But Lavinia was a committed disciple of her Lord Jesus, Christ of the world. The teaching of her church bound her to Cassian in body and soul and she would not leave the fold of her saviour to provide her vile husband with progeny, whether it was his or anothers. So she stayed, and now she was doomed to act the sacrifice in a dying pagan ritual. She cared not about the pagans, there had always been many gods in Rome, but she held to her faith in the one true God and if this was her path to the golden throne then she would walk it in faith.
The door to their home slammed open and she jumped, startled out of her reverie. Cassian strode in, glancing at his spouse preparing the noon meal.
"What are you serving me today, Porcia," he sneered. This was one of his more recent games, naming her the animal that her faith declared unclean. "A slice from your barren hams? Perhaps some veal with milk? Ah, it doesn't matter. Tomorrow someone else will serve me, someone better than you! But before I eat you will serve me one last time." Walking behind her he pushed her torso down onto the table and flipped her robe and dress over her hips, exposing her round white bottom and the cleft between her legs.
Lavinia kept her head down and didn't resist his abuse, knowing that any response could stoke his rage and result in a beating. She felt his cock prod at her dry slit, then withdraw as he spat on his hand and wet the stiff member. Lavinia couldn't stifle the cry when he entered her and started thrusting against her bottom. His cock was so small there was little pain, but from bitter experience she knew there would be no pleasure either. She knew he mistook her exclamation as a sign of pleasure and she added one more leaf to her forest of hate for him. Cassian suddenly stiffened, then shuddered, then stepped away from her bottom. Lavinia hadn't even felt his dribble of seed emerge.
"Bring me my meal," he snapped at her, stepping to the wine and pouring a full cup. He sat as she placed the plate before him. He bent to his meal without another word.
Turning from his ravenous slobbering over his food she went to the door.
"I'm going to the baths to prepare for tonight."
"Be back before sundown or I'll send dogs to find you!" her husband replied. "Or wolves!"
Laughing at his own joke, his raucous laughter followed her out the door into the afternoon sun.
Vincentius knew she would be leaving for the baths soon. He knew so much about her, more than an unwed man should know about a married woman. He had met Lavinia at a Service of Jesus on the day of the Nones, eight days ago. In his and Lavinias sect these services of the body and blood took place not in the emperors empty churches (empty of holiness but full of false worshippers) but in the home of a faithful elder of their sect. On that day he had seen her across the room, head bowed and was entranced by her beauty and calm nature. He knew that his lack of attention to the scripture and the elders words was rude but something about this woman caught him and would not let him go.
After the Service of Christ was finished, after the bread was broken and the wine poured, he contrived to place himself near her before she left. He greeted her in the common formality of their beliefs.
"Amor et pax Christi," he murmered. [Love and Peace in Christ]
"Pax et amor," [Peace and Love] she responded in rote. Her eyes were down and saw that the man who'd spoken to her had rough feet in a pair of military sandals, but his robe was that of a common man. She lifted her head to see who this man was and found a strong face gazing down at her with blue eyes that seemed as deep as the sea. She found herself lost in his eyes as he looked at her steadily.
"I... uhhh... haven't seen you with our group before," he stammered. Something about this woman thrilled his heart. It wasn't just her beauty, although that would be enough to stun a hundred men, it was her eyes. They carried a sad knowledge wrapped in a calm faith that he knew was well earned without knowing how. He'd seen those calm eyes before, in veterans of his legion. Men who had marched into the hell of battle and survived, by luck or by skill didn't matter. Once they'd done that enough times, sometimes once, sometimes a hundred, the calmness came to them and they fought like no others. They fought knowing that they would die someday but until then they would do their duty and deal death to any who neared them. He knew he had carried that look once, but it had passed from him when he had found sanity in Christ.
"My friend Mercuria has brought me," she responded calmly, breaking her too-long gaze into his deep blue eyes. She noted his blond hair and beard and massive chest and shoulders. "You are Nord," she stated as a fact. No Roman carried the coloring of the Northern tribes.
"I am Roman," he responded firmly. "My father was Victorian, proconsul of the Iron Isles of Brittania. He wed my mother there, a princess granted to him by the Nords in exchange for trade and peace. I grew up at his postings, came of age at Hadrians Wall, and marched with my legion into battle in Gaul and Carthago Nova and all over the empire, such as is left of it."
This military bragging brought a soft smile to Lavinias face and she gently teased him. "And what is a hero of the Roman empire doing dressed as a commoner in this humble home?"
Vincentius blushed with shame at his burst of words. He knew he overreacted to the common charge of not truly being a man of Rome. Usually he could control it but something about this woman released the passion in him. He couldn't stand the idea that she might dismiss him as a barbarian, worshipper of Lord Jesus or not.
Vincentius came back to the present when he saw Lavinia walking down the narrow street. He followed behind her, not approaching her this close to her home where so many might see him and report back to her husband. It wasn't that he intended anything dishonourable, but Mercuria had told him something so shocking that he had to investigate. He followed her to the entrance of the baths and went inside behind her.
He lost her in the maze of entryways and dressing rooms but he knew where to find her. He paid his admission and was shown to a cubby where he deposited his robe and sandals and stepped naked into the common room. His uncommon size and coloring earned him a few glances but most of the men and women ignored him and attended to their washing and soaking in the blue water. The vendors of lotions and sponges called to him but he ignored them and waded into the water toward the pouring spouts where heated water spilled into the pool. He stood under the spout, water gushing down his back and over his shoulders as he scanned the pool for Lavinia.
Finally, he saw her enter and carefully walk down the steps into the pool. She carried a sponge and found a bench where she sat in water to her waist and gently caressed her skin with the wet sponge.
Swallowing his nervousness, Vincentius walked across the pool and sat near her, partly turned away so none could accuse him of lechery. Naked bodies of women and men, even men with erections, were common sights in the baths with little notice taken out of courtesy one for the other. But there was something about Lavinia that took his breath away. Her hair was pinned above her shoulders and her slim waist and generous breasts extended above the water as if a sculptor had come to depict the ideal woman. The sponge caressed her shapely arms and womanly curves. He could feel his cock swell and he hoped Lavinia wouldn't notice his discomfort.
"Lavinia, may we speak?"
Lavinia had seen her not-Nord walking across the bath from the corner of her eye. She saw the beads of water streaming down his massive chest. The firm, muscled stomach that led to his lean hips and his cock. The sight of him, so different from the fleshy lump of her husband, inflamed her passion and her calm exterior hid wild, passionate thoughts. There was something about this man, this ex-soldier, that spoke to her, that ignited a flame within her that she thought had been long extinguished by her brutish husband. She felt a thrill in her pussy at his presence here that she had denied herself in their previous meetings.
But she was here to prepare for tonight, to be alone with her thoughts, to meditate and pray, to prepare herself for her ordeal.
"Any may speak in the baths as long as it is done politely," she answered, giving the common response to a greeting from an a stranger.
"Mercuria told me... about tonight." Vincentius felt an anger in him that he tried to suppress for Lavinias sake but that hew knew could boil over into rage at any time.
"It... you... It mustn't happen! It's a crime! I'll stop it, I'll kill..."
Lavinia interrupted him, shushing him and saying softly, "You'll do nothing of the kind. He is my husband, I am his property. He has all rights to use me as he wills, as any husband can use his common-born wife. If you intercede - in any way - you will be in the wrong and you will go to the whipping post. Or worse."
Vincentius knew the truth of what she was saying but he raged against it in his breast. That this most beautiful of creatures, this goddess in flesh should be used so harshly was beyond his ability to bear.
"Please, just let me try. Tell me where, and when so that I may join the ceremony and try to alter your fate."
Lavinia sighed with grief. He was offering the one thing she couldn't bear to accept at this moment - he was offering her hope. If she was to endure this she had to do so without imagining that it could end in anything other than pain and death for her.
"No. I'll tell you nothing. My fate is sealed and I go willingly to join our Lord Jesus at the foot of the golden throne. Please, leave me alone." She said the last a bit louder so that the bath attendants could hear. One turned toward her, ready to intercede if she was being harassed.
Vincentius collapsed in on himself, knowing that his quest was finished. If she did not see a purpose to being saved, how could he be the instrument of it. He slowly stood and walked away from her, head bowed in sorrow. Some people nearby shook their head, feeling sorry for what they imagined was a rejected lover.
He left the baths a broken man. A woman - the woman - who had touched his soul with her gentle strength had dismissed him. He was wandering through the streets, automatically returning toward his dwelling. Suddenly through the haze he heard his name in a high clear voice. He turned, hoping, but only saw Mercuria running after him.
"Well?" she asked breathlessly. "Did she tell you how to stop it? Did she agree to flee with you?"
"She sent me away. She is resigned to her fate through commitment to her husband, commitment to the teachings of the church."
"No! You must go to her again! You must help her during her time of need. Even if you flee Rome and I never see Lavinia again I can't stand the idea that Cassian will destroy her in this cruel way."
"How can I intercede? I don't know the location of the ceremony. Even if I did I can't gain access without raising an alarm. Without subtlety and cunning I can't hope to defeat them."
"Of course!" Mercuria cried. "The priest - the leader of the ceremony. His home is on the side of the Palatine hill where the temple is said to be. He always enters the room via a separate entrance - it must extend to his house! If it doesn't, all is lost, but I'll take you there to try."
The two hurried off through the streets as the sun sank and turned the afternoon into evening.
Dusk was falling on the streets as Mercuria and Vincentius stood across from a once grand but now fading house. The street was quiet.
"Go, Vincentius. The house is silent, now is the time."
"If I succeed we will meet you at the home of the elder. If we do not arrive before midnight then you must flee - I will have met the same fate as Lavinia."
He stepped across the street and into the shadows of the wall that extended toward the back of the house. With a glance over his shoulder he leaped up to clutch the top of the wall and easily scrambled over the barrier. He found himself on a walkway between the house and the wall that led toward the hill at the rear of the house. There he could see that the fence ran all the way to the bluff that rose behind the house, part of the Palatine hill that soared above the yard. All remained silent so he crept toward the building that was built against the bluff. It appeared to be an old stable that had been unused for some years but as he neared it he could see footprints in the dust and a low lamp shone through the gaps in the makeshift door.
After pausing to listen for any occupants he stepped into the hovel. A doorway led deeper into the building and he carefully stepped through. The next room was divided by an iron barrier with an open door. He could smell the presence - or past presence - of an animal but the room was empty. He quickly stepped through the other rooms without finding any tunnel or entrance. He returned to the cage room and stopped. At a whim he entered the cage and there, in the darkness of the rear corner was a low door, slightly open and fitted with a heavy latch. He swung open the door to reveal a black hole in the dark room. Quickly returning to the entrance he picked up the small lamp, adjusted the wick for more light and entered the low tunnel that extended into the hill.
The tunnel extended for 150 paces without side passages or turnings. As he neared the first turning he'd found he could see a glimmer of light so he found a ledge for his lamp and left it behind, still burning dimly in case he needed it to assist in his departure. Vincentius slipped to the corner and carefully peeked around. About 5 paces ahead an archway of fitted and shaped stone led into a large chamber. Just before the chamber was an alcove where a lamp burned and a man with his back to Vincentius busied himself with something at a shelf where lamps and jars were stacked.
Looking through the archway he could see that no others were in sight although he could still hear voices at some distance. He crept down the hallway as the man muttered to himself and then exclaimed in satisfaction as a brighter lamp flared up. Vincentius took this moment throw his arm around the mans neck and choked him to silence. Knowing that discovery could be his death he drug the man backwards around the tunnel corner and easily snapped his neck. He had no pity for one who would participate in this butchery. Stripping the robe from the man he threw it on and raised the hood, thankful for the shroud so common to priests of all faiths.