Chapter 3 - A curious village

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As it turned out, Cornelis was not able to keep his eyes open. Which meant the fish was shared between them, much to Phyllis's delight. A prolonged healing session always left her hungry. And sleepy. She lay curled up on the hay at the other side of the fire, sound asleep under a coarsely woven blanket. Although she was supposed to keep watch, Marcus knew that it would take calling upon the gods of several religions to wake her now. Nevertheless had she been alone, she would have stayed up, resisting the temptation to lie down. Phyllis took good care of her patients.

But she wasn't alone. He sat at the end of Cornelis's bed where the Gaul's long iron sword had been a few hours ago. A weapon he was not allowed to have. But that was not what had made Marcus confiscate it. Murder had been in Cornelis's eyes as they had settled on him the first time, beside Phyllis.

Marcus was used to less than warm welcomes when they went on missions. He was a Roman soldier, serving under Emperor Augustus Caesar. Gaul was conquered only one ruler before. Traces of that defeat still showed in Gaul. But they were at peace today. Emperor Augustus held power for over 30 years now. Gaul had been divided into Civitates that were reigned from Rome, and more recently, Lugdunum, a Gaul city. Most regions were recovering, and trade was starting to flourish again. Almost two generations had passed as well.

Marcus studied the sleeping Gaul. He was huge. He had to be at least 6.3 feet tall. Marcus wasn't exactly short himself, but he knew Cornelis would tower over him when he got back to his feet. Phyllis, who barely reached over 5 feet, was completely dwarfed in his presence.

With eyes light as a clear sky,  ice cold when they had managed to focus on the pair of them, blonde hair in long spikes and a small beard and moustache, Cornelis fit the classic description of a Gaul. Broad shoulders and a fair skin completed the picture painted in de Bello Gallico, which Marcus had once studied so eagerly.

He had to be a touch vain, Marcus assumed, with a vague smile. Cornelis' hair looked lighter than it probably was when not washed with chalk. Most Gauls wore their hair long. Groomed it well too. But the chalk was quite rare. Marcus had only seen it a handful of times before, usually during celebrations.

He had the impression there was little to celebrate in this village. Although surrounded by copious amounts of cultivated lands, courtesy of the Sequana river that curled around them, providing a trading route towards Lutetia while she was at it, the village seemed underpopulated. Marcus couldn't wait to investigate the rest of the village. Up till now, the outright mistrust and silent fury directed at not only him, but Phyllis as well, had kept him clinging to her side.

He had asked the rest of the guard to set up camp inside the village walls. There were ten of them in total, a much larger number than Marcus himself would have decided to take. But Quintus had insisted and Caitir had personally confirmed it was wise to do so. Marcus had no trouble speaking his mind to Centurion Quintus. However, when the leader of Mesmer abandoned her studies to speak to him, he listened. To his knowledge, the only people who ever argued with Caitir were Bonny, her adoptive daughter, and Phyllis. Phyllis had never had more luck than he himself changing Caitir's mind but she was far more stubborn.

Bonny had not argued. And so they had set for the village in a group of no less than 13 people. For one injured person. Marcus knew there was a story to discover here. Usually more healers came along to a mission. Bonny often accompanied them. And Phyllis could certainly use the extra practice. But for it to just be the pair of them was odd. As usual, Phyllis knew little more than he did. Though she had told him she believed Bonny actually knew Cornelis quite well.

As Bonny had checked Cornelis's injuries, and Phyllis's potions, she had been as silent and unwavering as ever. Bonny was so caring it was hard to tell how deep her personal affections went. Still, Marcus was inclined to believe Phyllis was right. Maybe she had healed Cornelis before. As he fixed Cornelis in place on his side, his weight pressed over against the tall Gaul which had been more of a precaution since Bonny or Phyllis seemed to have immobilized him, he had spotted countless long white scars along his back. The sight had made him flinch. He couldn't help but be reminded how Phyllis had saved him from that once. Of course she had been the reason he had almost been flogged in the first place.

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