Pompeii Passions

by ColumbusGuy

Chapter 1

This story first appeared on the Ancient Worlds webiste in conjunction with other writers. That site is now off-line, likely permanently. The host's servers were hacked, but the files for the AW site were unharmed as their own particular server was too old to be affected by the hackers. Sadly, the host company went bankrupt, so AW had no home, and I was told the entire site's coding needs to be reworked so it can be put on a modern server.

This particular story was set in Pompeii just before the eruption of 79AD, and was ongoing for about fourteen years. There were at least six writers involved in this story, but I can only reproduce my own parts – hence the summaries of the others' work. They were all talented writers, from Europe, America and even an Australia, I believe at one point. I miss working with them as we all became online friends.

This is my main character's start in a role-play story...it is set in Pompeii before the eruption of 79A.D.

Where I am representing other writers' material I use the following device:

My own writing, using normal, bold and italic text

One or more paragrpahs entirely in italics, paragraphs which summarise the work of the other authors whsoe work I may not reproduce, but whose work is essential to moving the tale forwards.

My own writing, using normal, bold and italic text

You can see that I use the stylised diamond seeparators to embrace anmd highlight the text of others

Where there is no pairing of the diamond separators around wholly italicised text then the separator represents whatever it means usually. most often some form of time or location jump

Philandros's Introduction

Philandros admired his reflection in the bronze mirror a last time before leaving his sleeping chamber: brownish hair with red highlights contained in a silver fillet, green eyes sparkling with amusement. His face was unmarked by any blemish, and had just a few freckles to accent its charms. Many days at the palaestra's ball courts and wrestling field had left his torso strong and nicely muscled...but not to the point of excess like some common gladiator. His skin was also slightly tanned...a feat which had been painful since he tended to burn rather than darken like most men. His mother had always put it down to the doric ancestry in his father's family...but who could say?

For the past five years, since he was thirteen, he and his mother had lived with his grandfather Solon Callias in his villa outside Herculaneum - since his father had vanished on one of his commercial voyages in the Pontus Euxinus near Colchis. Oh, mother's father was alright in his way, but a dreadfully proper and formal man who'd rather die than part with any of his precious coins. Really! What did the old man think money was for, if not to spend? This thought was a major bone of contention between Philandros and Solon, but no longer!

Today, Philandros would inherit his share of his father's estate, being now old enough - and he meant to take that money and get himself out of this village of elderly retirees and head for someplace fun - Pompeii perhaps? Though his grandfather thought him a spendthrift, even he knew that Rome was beyond his means...for the time being at any rate. Pompeii might be just the place for a talented young man to make his own fortune!

Philandros adjusted the drape of his chiton, made of finest lavendar-dyed linen, and adjusted the scarlet leather belt yet again. The silver fibula which held its left shoulder closed was set with a piece of Baltic amber, and went nicely with the shades of his hair. He next adjusted the laces of his grey boots, coming up past the ankles more than normal fashion dictated...but he found this more comfortable than the usual style which tended to chafe.

Judging all to be in order, he set off to join his mother and grandfather for breakfast...one of the old man's customs he did approve of! Today it would be eggs fried with cured ham, if you could go by the smells coming from the kitchens! Exiting his room onto the colonnade, Philandros took a deep breath of the morning air...roses and oleander were predominant, wtih a hint of the mulch used to keep weeds out of the flower beds. Several largish palms provided some shade, and he saw his mother and grandfather seated at a table near the central fountain. The two looked up as he approached, mother with a smile and an extended hand, grandfather with a nod of recognition.

Eudora Callias could have passed for an older sister rather than his mother, with her raven hair and blue eyes. Her figure was still good...having borne only the one child Philandros. Though several men had tried wooing her since her husband's death, she refused them all, devoting herself to her only son's welfare. Her father looked every year of his sixty two winters...his life had been spent early on at sea, until sufficient income had been accrued to allow him to send others out to take the risks. Now, his hair was white, skin dark and wrinkled by weather, and though not fat he could no longer be called thin.

Philandros took his mother's hand with a kiss, and nodded in return to his grandfather. "Be well, sir...and mother! The gods grant you a long life!" He put that note of charm into his voice which his grandfather detested so much, yet could actually find no fault with, and accepted a plate from the old steward as he sat.

Conversation was stilted at first, as was always the case...his mother doing her best to keep the waters calm between the two men. With rolls and honey being served, and a slightly fermented apple cider, Solon Callias put his knife down and cleared his throat. "You'll be wanting to know about the money, as it's your birthday?"

Inside, Philandros' heart leapt with joy - Damned right, you old skinflint! So I can get out of this awful town! Outwardly, the only sign he gave was to stare briefly at his grandfather's eyes..."If it's at all convenient, sir."

Eudora smiled: "Of course, we could invest it further, darling - that way, you could let it grow, and live off the interest. I thought...we could add on a section to the house just for your use!"

Philandros looked at his mother - he was certain she knew how much he hated staying here - what was going on? Had his grandfather somehow contrived to deprive him of his inheritance? Cold anger burned inside him at that idea - but then he recalled his father's will had been secured with the vestals at the temple - inviolate, and the testament had to be witnessed before them by the testator himself - Philandros calmed at that thought; no chicanery could be intended, for he had gone with his father himself the day the will was deposited!

Solon made a gesture, and a servant wearing the livery of the Temple of Vesta appeared from the tablinum bearing the casket which Philandros recognized as his father's deposit chest. He sat the dusty box on the table, and allowed them all to examine the untouched seals before he cut the cords and stepped back. Solon opened the box, pulling out a scroll in a sealed case, and handed it to his grandson.

Philandros looked at it, recognizing his father's writing on the outside, and slowly broke the seal, drawing out the scroll from its holder. With shaking hands, he opened it and read the familiar writing:

Dearest Philon

If you are reading this, you have reached your eighteenth year, and for whatever reason, I am no longer among the living.

There is so much I wanted to say to you...how much I loved you, how proud I was of your quick mind and practical outlook - features which would stand you well in the family business, how I hoped to one day have the pleasure of rearing grandchildren.

So, we come to this: I staked a lot on my last venture beyond Colchis - the returns would make us wealthier than Midas - and was an almost guaranteed success!

If you are reading this...it means that the gods played a cruel joke on us...I am gone, and most of the money with me! What remains, I devise to you...part now, and the second part on your twenty first birthday.

At present, I leave you the deed to a house in the city of Pompeii - it is yours free and clear with no debts - and the sum of 2,500 denarii in ready cash…

Philandros stopped reading, eyes blurring with tears and anger in his stomach! He couldn't live for three years on that sum! - not even for two!

He threw the paper down, not bothering to read the rest. His mother avoided his eyes, and he saw that she too was crying. His grandfather did meet his gaze, and his mouth was set in a grim line of disapproval.

"I loved your father as if he were my own son, boy...for the past five years I've watched you grow - grow into a disappointment to his memory. For his sake and that of your mother, I have overlooked your faults until now. You have inherited a nice town house...not lavish but sound - and a sufficient amount of money to set yourself up with a business, or through investment to have an income from the interest.

"For my part...without a change in your ways, you see not another aes from me." When he saw Philandros look to his mother, he continued: "No need to look to her, boy...she has spent nearly all of her dowry in supporting your extravagances these past two years and more!"

Philandros sank into his seat, stricken and pale. What was he to do? Where was he to go? How would he live? That last was the most important question...would he have to work?!

He missed the first words of his grandfather's next sentence: "...stay 'til the end of the week. After that, you can go to your new home in Pompeii, and spend your money however you wish. With all my heart, I pray to the gods that you will learn the error of your spendthrift ways - at that time I shall welcome you back with open arms - my only grandchild!"

Philandros could bear no more...he rose slowly and walked back to his bedroom, throwing himself down on the sleeping couch in a haze of despair. The tears he did not notice coursing down his cheeks - were they tears of anger, frustration or grief - only the gods knew, and they seemed to have abandoned him! Some time later, Philandros thought to hear a knocking at his door, but refused to answer. The voice of his mother came through the painted panels, pleading with him to let her come in. He ignored this too, and after a time, he heard her steps departing and faint sobbing. I can't speak to her - to anyone - just now...maybe later...maybe...never! Eventually the tears dried, and Philandros sat up.

He could hear birds singing in the peristyle, and evening sunlight came around the edges of the door to lighten the dimness of his room, if not his spirit. I will never again call that man grandfather! May my spirit wander in Tartarus forever before that happens! His thoughts turned to his beloved mother...and froze. It was clear she had known something of this, as had that man...yet neither had said anything to him of it...not in five whole years! Did his mother truly love him? How could she, to conceal something like this! Yet, she had apparently indulged him at her own expense for several years now....in the end, Philandros straightened his clothing, washed his face and went in search of his mother.

He found her in her sewing room, embroidering a border on one of his tunics, eyes swollen and reddened by tears. She looked up as he entered, and tried a smile with little success. "Love...it was wrong - that is all I can say! I pleaded with your father before he left to change his mind, but to no avail!"

Philandros thought...to get him to leave me it all?...but that idea was gone at his mother's next words. "Your father wished you to grow up with every chance at happiness - he insisted that we not tell you of the shortage of cash - ever - for he was sure of success! And, if it turned out wrong - you were not to be worried about money matters!"

He watched his mother's fingers ply the needle with dexterity, silent for a long time, pondering her words and his reaction to them. His father's idea? That made more sense than to believe deceit on his mother's part...but...what of grandfather? That man hated him, and had done so for several years now...there was no mistaking that!

Eudora saw the change in her son's expression, and was dismayed at its hardness, though not surprised. She knew what was troubling him from experience. "Philon...try to understand; my father had no sons of his own - he looked on your father as the son he never had - and you to be the assurance of a family stretching into the future. Then, at one stroke to lose his only 'son', and know there would never be another..." her voice trailed off into silence with a sigh.

Philandros' voice was strained nearly to breaking: "But...why?"

"His brother Timon...is why. You never met him, as he died before you were born; full of life, and fun and irreverence he was - close in every way as boys, they grew apart as they got older. Solon settled down to a family, yet Timon never did - he could not bring himself to settle down...with a woman."

For the briefest of moments, Philandros looked the puzzlement that he felt inside, then his eyes widened. Eudora nodded before going on: "Once Timon died, Solon was the only male of his line left, and he had sired only daughters. Adoption isn't the same as having sons...so he hoped for fine sons-in-law and grandsons to carry on; when the lung-fever took my two sisters it nearly killed him until I told him I was with child."

Philandros could follow the story from there...and in many ways understand the feelings this history had caused in his grandfather, but not how it could cause him to practically throw him out of his house!

"But, what have I actually done to deserve his hatred, mother? I know I am not always respectful..."

Eudora thought for some time before answering, her voice quiet and yet filled with passion at the same time. "He doesn't hate you - not really! What he hates is the idea that you will become like Timon - it scares him, and he hates that weakness in himself! His only way to deal with that is to distance himself from you - rightly or wrongly - until he can come to terms with these feelings...and you must admit, that you don't make things easier with your own remarks and irritations."

Thoroughly shocked by his mother's last words, he tried to think of just when his grandfather had started growing distant...almost four years ago...but when? His mother saw his face set in concentration, and spoke quieter still: "He saw you and the stable boy Gallus in the barns...the day before he had the boy and his family sent away...Gallus admitted that that was not the first time."

That day! It came clear to him now! Four years ago, when he was fourteen, and Gallus a few months older...some talk, some dares...and eventually the first experimental most-intimate touching of each other - yes, it wasn't the first time - that day...there had been other days with him where they had talked and told stories of mythical experiences with others, and even exchanged a few caresses...but that day of all days when they had actually made love...had to be the day witnessed by his grandfather!

"Mother..." he started, then stopped, unsure how to continue. "Mother - it's not true - entirely! That was the first real time...not since then have I ever....I don't think I like girls...but I can't say I will never...." His voice died, confusion jumbling his thoughts as much as it did his tongue...and he blushed to even think of talking about this with his mother!

Gods...he could never speak of this to his grandfather!

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