Festival of Romebywishfulthinking©
There are a number of legends from which it is said the modern Valentines Day has evolved. Some of which is the tale of Valentinus of Terni in AD 187 and the month of Gamelion (February) festivals dedicated to fertility and love. This story takes place in restrained and austere Ancient Rome where virtue and victory is inextricably entwined.
"Oh, to the heavens of the Gods, I love everything you do to me."
Lucia halted in the narrow passageway before the peristyle, as much from the strange words of her slave as the grunts and sighs that floated from the depths of the garden. The peristyle was the smallest of three atriums and surrounded by the bathing room, kitchen and study was little travelled at that time of day.
"Aye, Cass, you are indeed a lusty wench, fit for a king's sword."
A shiver raced down Lucia's spine at the husky praise. She leaned against the wall, not knowing whether to forge on along the columned passageway circling the garden or return the way she came. Soft sounds reached her ears, taunting her indecision with their loving urgency.
Lucia was not a complete innocent for all that she was the sheltered daughter of a wealthy banker. She knew her slave Cassia and her unknown lover were engaged in carnal acts reserved for the marriage bed. Acts that held an increasing forbidden curiosity to Lucia, who was soon to be betrothed.
To stay or go? Their loving was urgent, animalistic, teasing her imagination. Lucia softly placed her sandals on the mosaic tiles and peaked around a column, lured by temptation.
Lucia's breath caught as she spied her erstwhile slave sitting on the marble rim of the rectangular pool that gathered rainwater. Her soft white legs were wrapped around a muscular man. His body pressed urgently against Cassia's, the taut globes of his buttocks flexing, all the more fascinating to her golden eyes for their shocking strip of whiteness in such deep contrast to the tanned skin of the rest of his body. Cassia clutched at him with soft white arms, her Stola bunched about her waist and loosened about her full white breasts with their brown nipples. His large hand gripped her bleached hair the colour of the sun.
She felt an unfamiliar heat unfurl in the place where the man's body moved urgently against Cassia's. Was this what her husband would expect from her, Lucia wondered in shocked awe. She lightly pressed her hand there, feeling an answering throb. She gasped, drawing her hand swiftly from that secret place and looked about her for fear someone had discovered her licentiousness.
Heart racing, she slowly felt for the wall at her back and drew away from the shocking display before her. Lucia knew if her father discovered Cassia's illicitness, Cassia would be sold. Despite the distance in their classes, Cassia was the closest to a confidante Lucia had. It was Lucia's intention of asking her father for Cassia to be one of the slaves that made up her dowry. Would Cassia be happy without her lover?
As Lucia silently padded back the way she came, husky words carried to her above Cassia's muffled screams. "Wait for me on the morrow, in the vineyards by the old well."
Lucia all but ran to her cubicula and collapsed on her day bed, feeling feverish and strange and pondered what she had seen.
Envy and frustration were not easy bed mates. Lucia tossed and turned on her thin mattress, the leather straps creaking, and kicked the linens from her heated skin. Her dreams had been tormented by tanned hands sliding over her pale skin, leaving no inch untouched.
Soft sunlight filtered in through the slightly opened doors to the balcony, bringing with it the day of the festival in honour of Valentinus, of love and fertility. It was a day when toil was forgotten and wine ran free as the King's push on morality and decency was loosened. Unattached men in loincloths raced through the cobbled streets blooded from sacrificed goats. Unbound women in white stolas and loose hair would dance and slap the hands of the men as they raced toward the vineyards. By honouring Valentinus of Tierni in this way, it was said the town's pregnant women would deliver healthy babes and the belly's of the barren would swell with seed.
Lucia knew her envy of Cassia was not in the least because she was forbidden to attend the festival or remain in the vineyard after dark. The days following the festival was always full of the secret whispers of her slaves, who would hush when she approached out fear of being sold by her father.
But the thoughts that raced through Lucia's head, while indecent, were not impossible. Only the old or infirm would remain within the household during the festivities, and her father was far from home, negotiating her marriage contract in Rome.
Cassia was early, softly entering the chamber with a tray of fresh bread, cheese and honey and placing it on a table by the bed. Lucia ate her repast as Cassia opened the doors to the balconies overlooking the garden and straightened the sparsely furnished chamber, softly humming under her breath. Lucia watched her from beneath lowered lashes, envious of her fashionably blonde hair. Lucia was not permitted by her father to wear false hair or wigs or apply curling tongs, let alone dye her hair. Her long dark brown hair tumbled to her hips in thick waves that painfully corkscrewed at the end, neither fashionably straight or abundantly curled with tongs
Lucia was unusually solemn as Cassia fitted her feet with leather sandals and then draped her young body in a white stola, leaving one shoulder bare. The garment was edged in rich purple where it brushed the floor.
" Yes, my lady?"
"Are you...do you enjoy the festival?"
Cassia smiled as she tightened the stola about her lady's tiny waist. Her lady was sweet and possessed the fragile beauty that demanded men lay down their lives to protect her. Or they would if they saw her, Cassia mused, but she feared Lucia will go from her father's prison to a boorish old husband too old to please his young wife. It would not do to remind her mistress of the simple pleasures enjoyed by those surrounding her.
"It is pleasant, my lady."
Lucia swallowed, heat creeping over her face. "When the festival is at an end. Do you...do you return here or stay? At the vineyard I mean."
"It depends." On seeing her mistress's unspoken question, she continued "It depends on whether it is worth remaining."
"Oh." Lucia mulled that over. "And this year, do you think you will remain?"
Cassia nodded, fussing over her mistresses locks and biting back a smile as her body clenched in anticipation.
The shouts of laughter and merriment filled the air as half-naked men raced through the cobbled streets of the town. Goats and cattle with bells and ribbons tied to them roamed aimlessly, creating havoc in the crowded square and the streets that branched off from the heart of the town. Here and there sausages were roasted over open fires and skins of wine passed about.
Lucia moved unbidden amongst the throng of people, the hood of her green lacerna pulled protectively close around her face. Each step took her further and further from the safety of her domus.
The momentum of the people jostled her into the path of racing men. One man captured her hand, obviously spying the white dress beneath her cloak. She had laughed up into green eyes as his momentum dragged her a couple of steps in his path before she tried to tug her hand free. Her eyes widened in shock as warm lips pressed firmly against hers for a heartbeat before he once on his way again, his long legs striding over the cobbles before disappearing around the corner of the brick inn with its red tiled roof. The image of his broad muscular back and light blue loincloth was burned in her memory.
It was only as she moved among the people that she learned there was a prize. Hidden somewhere in the vineyard was the relic believed to be the toe of Valentinus of Terni. Whomever seized the velvet pouch containing the sacred relic would also find a silver coin from the coffers of the her father, enough to feed a large family for a two-month. The women in white would scatter through the vineyard, distracting the men from their task, for it was only the strongest of men that would ensure the town's fertility.
As the gates of the vineyard appeared, so did too Lucia's doubts. She should turn back, for the risk of discovery was now great. The chanting increased as the crowd swelled, and somehow Lucia found herself pushed closer and closer to the circle of women in white gathered beneath the gate's arms. There were not more than twenty women, young and old. Some faces were familiar to her, but it was Cassia at their centre that posed the greatest risk to Lucia. As she turned, fighting against the buffer of the crowd, she felt her lacerna caught between the press of bodies and tugged from her hair and shoulders.
"Aye, here's another," someone shouted near her ear, and she felt hands pushing her towards the gathered women. Her lacerna slipped fully from her shoulders, and she tried to grasp it as it fell and almost tripped over it in the squeeze of the crowd. With little ceremony she felt herself shoved towards the gates.
The stirring in the crowd increased, and so too the shouts. With screams and shouts, the women raced into the vineyard, scattering widely. The crowd parted as the men pushed through. Lucia gazed wide eyed behind her in a split second of indecision. Stand still, and be trampled, or run and find freedom among the vines. Lucia ran.
Lucia was all too soon short of breath and lost. She stumbled through the vines, hearing unseen men and women thrash about her, laughter and shrieks filling her ears. She twisted and turned, spying a flash of white skirt or bare leg here and there.
She had lost all sense of direction and was unable to spy the township. The vines on the wooden trellises rose high above her head, heavy with ripe fruit. The juicy globes were the livelihood of the township, making a heady mulsum wine with hints of cinnamon and thyme.
Lucia shrieked when arms wrapped about her waist from behind, lifting her off her feet. She squirmed and struggled breathlessly, shocked and angry at being held so intimately by a stranger, and a half naked one at that.
She was tumbled over a shoulder, her hair brushing the tops of his sandals. The blood rushed to her head, from the angle and not being so close to glistening male skin. Her struggles only earned her a large hand on her bottom holding her firm.
She didn't, couldn't speak. Ignorance held her tongue. She didn't know what his intentions were, or where he was taking her. Was this somehow part of the festival rites? Perhaps Lucia should have asked Cassia more about the "after", on a half laugh, half sob.
After what seemed an age, when the distant cries of men and women could no longer be heard, he eased her to her feet before him. Her chin was tucked against her chest, her hair a tumble about her flushed face. Her hands rested shyly against his hips for balance as her trembling legs threatened to collapse beneath her.
Lucia had never been alone with a man before, and had rarely conversed with one in her father's or brother's presence. This man, from what she knew of him, was tall and well defined, her head barely reaching his broad shoulders. And he smelt of laurel, soap and something uniquely masculine.
Fingers tangled in the thick rivers of her mane, gently pushing them back over her shoulders and smoothing it down her trembling back.
"Are you a maiden yet?" he asked her, his voice gentle. Lucia nodded, her forehead bumping against his chest. Still she was unable to look upon the fierce warrior that had captured her. For she knew the finely hewn body was not from working in the fields or the vineyard. And Lucia guessed it was only a warrior that carried a dagger tucked into his sandals. Was she to be his prize?
She felt lips press against the crown of her head, the side of her neck, her bared shoulder. Green eyes imposed themselves on her memory, and it was curiosity that finally gave her the courage to lift her chin.
He gazed down at her with familiar deep green eyes, triumphant, prideful, but with a tenderness that made her ache in her forbidden place.
Palms caught her chin, and his head lowered. His lips were firm against her hesitant ones, slow and seeking. Lucia forgot to breathe at first, her lashes fluttering shut. The vineyard and the celebrations were forgotten as her whole being concentrated on the lips caressing hers, the warm breath feathering over her skin, the scent and feel of him beneath her fingers.
A stolen kiss in her father's vineyard would not matter. He was a stranger to her, she would never have cause to see him again. He believed her to be a slave or a plebeian. The fluttering heat he caused between her legs would never be discovered by her future husband. When his tongue probed between her lips, she moaned softly at this unexpected invasion. No wonder Cassia gave naught to the thought of a man lifting her stola while on an errand from her mistress.
Cool air against the flushed skin between her breasts and belly was the only warning Lucia was given before a large hand was sliding beneath the linen of her stola. Lucia gasped as it settled above her belly, a thumb resting against the under swell of her breast.
Lucia felt heady and giddy, his strength and maleness surrounding her, consuming her as his tongue languidly stroked and teased hers. Somehow her arms had found their way around his waist, drawing him tightly to her as she kissed him the way he had shown her.
His thumb make distracting circles against the softness of her breast, soft, teasing, until finally his hand captured the fullness of her breast and pressed against the budding nipple.
Scared, excited, Lucia pulled back, struggling free of his arms. Before she could set her clothes to right she stumbled on the purple edged hem. She saw his arms reach for her and instinctively pushed them away even as she fell to land hard on her bottom at his feet.
Lucia dragged the edges of her stola together, fearing the sight she must have presented him. She saw the smile tug at his lips and frowned. His smile widened, and he held out a hand to her. She tucked her hand in his and he helped her to her feet, where she promptly presented him with her stiff back. Lucia had to resist the temptation to stamp her foot on his.
"Does not the race to discover the prize hidden with Valintinus's toe challenge you, sir?" She managed and she straightened her stola as much as she could without her slave's assistance.
"She speaks," he murmured, his front pressing to her back as heavy arms settled about her waist. Lucia imagined she could feel every ridge and dip of his loincloth pressed against the small of her back. She tried to wiggle from his grasp, but he would not be surprised a second time. "No prize matches the one I hold in my arms."
"You would have your way with me?" Fear and excitement clawed at her belly. But she knew it could not be. Fingers slid down to cup her between the thighs through the soft linen, and her eyes shot wide open, her heart racing.
"I would show you the way of loving a man, yes."
"I - no." Her head fell back against his chest as his fingers moved, stoking the sensitised flesh between her thighs. Her breasts rose and fell as she struggled to breathe, to think.
"You are promised to another?"
"N-no." Not yet.
"You love another man?" his voice was dangerously soft.
Lucia shook her head, unable to answer as he teased and tormented a tiny ridge of flesh between her thighs that made it impossible not to writhe against him. Her skin felt tight and pleasure danced between her thighs. She knew she should feel shame at the wetness dampening the cloth, but the demands of her neglected body were overpowering.
"Then there is no impediment to our loving."
"I must ...I can't give you my maidenhead."
His fingers eased from her body and she whimpered in distress. He eased her about, his hands on her shoulders as he gazed down at her with intent green eyes.
"I will not take anything you do not freely give. Tell me of your wish to halt and I will heed your command."
She gazed at him for what seemed an age, her lips swollen, her face flushed, the crowns of her breasts tight and aching. And between her legs, there was incredible need for something only he could give her and end this torment he had wrought.
He promised not to take that final barrier. He was a stranger to her, yet she knew she could entrust him with her maidenhead. He had done nothing to frighten her, his touch gentle yet firm. At her shy nod, a glimmer of what seemed like relief passed across his handsome visage before his head lowered and he sealed their bargain with a soft kiss. Yet she feared her torment will only grow unabated before this madness was ended.
When he kneeled before her on the dirt path and his hands captured her ankles bound with their leather ties, her brows raised in curiosity. "I do not have a blanket on which to lay us down and partake of each other at leisure," he murmured, his hands sliding up over the backs of her calves to tickle her knees beneath her stola. When his hands slid higher sliding between her quivering thighs, her heart began to thunder in her chest. A moan escaped her when fingers teased the line of her lips with a dusting of curls their only protection. Her hands found his shoulders as her legs were eased apart. Nothing could have prepared her for the touch of flesh against flesh at the juncture of her thighs. Her head dropped back, her lashes lowered against the fading glow of the setting sun.
The fingers explored her, coaxing, teasing, stroking. Everything faded but what was happening there. When something firm and damp settled there, delving between her lips to probe the heart of her, Lucia had never felt anything like it. And wondered only for an instant how anything so good could ever be considered indecent before her body flowered with pleasure. Her body arched, a drumming between her thighs, yet still his tongue wedged itself into her tight entrance pushing her further. Two more times his fingers and mouth impelled her over that before unknown crest, until finally she collapsed in his lap, her thighs straddling his, her mouth pressing absent kisses against his throat.
He eased the stola from her body, revealing her fully to his heated gaze. "You are exquisite, so fragile and perfect," he murmured, his large hand sliding up over her thigh and belly to mould her breast. He guided the crown to his mouth while his fingers teased its mate, pinching and rolling the rosy tip.
His other hand drew hers between their bodies, beneath the cloth swathing his loins. He groaned when her fingers found the hard length of him, wrapping around him as she marvelled at his girth. Was this what Cassia's lover pressed against her, making her scream so?
She felt herself lifted for a fraction of time as he hastily drew the blue cloth from him. Then there was no inhibiting her curious exploration. He throbbed against her thigh, her fingers trailing up the surprising length of him.
"How is it you fit against a woman?" she whispered, staring down at him in awe. It was huge and beautiful in an ugly way. And by the way it jerked in response to her touch while the rest of him remained tense and still, it seemed to have a will of its own.
"Here," he seemed to croak, the tips of two fingers pressing between her spread thighs. "A man enters his woman here, filling her. Her body's wetness lets him know she enjoys his touch and eases his way deep inside her."
There was no denying this stranger possessed a powerful allure. What he said filled her with an undeniable desire to feel exactly what he described. Yet she could not allow that final trespass, as much as her body ached to have him fill her. "And does my body tell you I enjoy your touch?" she whispered, stroking and squeezing him.