Chapter 17 - A Gallo-Roman party

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Should I have been packing this computer instead of completing a chapter on it this afternoon? Yes.

But I didn't. And so this is the last chapter published in my old home. Wish me luck catching up on the delay!

Sorry for the length of this chapter. I wrote a large part of it ages ago, and I couldn't wrap up the gaps in between tighter.

Cornelis

There was a huge advantage to building Mesmer's greenhouses. No more need for private favours from rich army boys. Fionnan and Brenna hadn't needed the incentive, but Connor and Ryann were much more reluctant to prolong their stay at Mesmer, and so Cornelis used the argument to convince both them and himself. Phelan was happy enough to spend more time among a crowd that appreciated his easy smiles, and therefore had been no challenge. Cornelis knew there was a lot of common sense underneath Phelan's smiling exterior, and so he felt a little more confident over the path he had decided to take.

After all, it would grant them more time to accomplish the task Raghnall had set for him as well. It would be considerably more easy now, not having to stay on the Optio's good side.

Masha was delighted to hear about their involvement in the greenhouses, but apart from that, Cornelis rarely saw her throughout the day. A crowd of soft-spoken white-dressed young women seemed to have swallowed her, and whenever he did catch a glimpse of her, he felt her to fit the scene so seamlessly his own presence could only disturb her.

The plates of glass that would be used for the construction arrived, as announced, by noon. On two sturdy carts, each pulled by a giant ox. Not only the glass, but also the three Romans accompanying it were met with unnerving amounts of delight. Philip's claim that he wanted to keep his invention out of Roman hands seemed to be jeopardised already.

Biancus resembled the oxen pulling the cart, though Cornelis had to be fair, the oxen looked meaner. The second soldier, who looked every part the Roman Marcus did, disappeared soon after he had arrived, since Pimpernella claimed him for the preparation of the evening's festivities. All of them wore light tunics with high-strapped sandals. Biancus, in contrast to his fellow Optio, was fair-skinned with light eyes and sandy brown hair. With his broad shoulders and large posture, the only thing that kept him from passing for a Gaul were his cropped haircut and lack of pants. As Cornelis went to assist unloading the glass, Biancus happily explained to him, and the girls flocking around them, that both he and Anagallus were officially on leave and thus could stay for the feast, if they were welcome to do so. From the excited feedback their little audience granted, Cornelis could tell they were more than welcome.

He had sent Phelan and Connor off to supervise on Anagallus, the third Roman, with the instruction to gut him if he placed a sandal out of line. He trusted Phelan's judgement on what 'out of line' meant, and Connor to do the gutting. They were a good pair that way.

Ryann he had sent to watch over Masha, a task that didn't necessary fit her best, but she hadn't complained, and she blended in better than the rest of them. Brenna and Fionnan had taken two glass plates and disappeared into the kitchen with them, together with Philip. They would no doubt make a strange picture in between roasting hogs and the deer that Ryann had shot yesterday.

Marcus and Phyllis were on the wagons, working together to dust off the plates before they handed them to Biancus. It seemed to be a fairly pointless task, since the rain could take care of that as well as they did, but it had been the little druid's idea, so Cornelis could hardly fault them for it.

Working with Biancus was surprisingly easy. Whitin one hour he had learned that the Castrum's real Optio had a flock of younger sisters, and that he came from a family of farmer's before his dad was crippled. Biancus had chosen to join the army to protect his family from starving, and to some extent, Cornelis could sympathize. When your entire family's wealth rested in crops, good harvests were all that protected you from bankruptcy

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