The Waters of Sul
by Moyra Caldecott (Sample Chapters)

Contents | Chapter 4

Chapter 3

When Decius Brutus left Aquae Sulis sixteen years before, his name had been Kynan. He had stormed off, a young and bitter man, cursing Sul who had let his young and beautiful wife die, leaving him with two ugly and squalling infants he did not know and did not want.

"My life is over," he thought. "I don�t care where I go or what I do."

For a while he had drifted aimlessly, half hoping he would be killed in a brawl that would save him from the effort of living.

It was after one fight of many that he was thrown into prison by some Roman soldiers. There he was not allowed to languish, but was forced to exercise frequently and hard, and eventually trained to fight in the disciplined Roman way. The captain of the guard had spotted his potential early on and took a personal interest in his training. It seemed to Kynan that he was singled out for brutal treatment, but gradually the rigors of his situation paid off and he was told that he would enter an arena in Gaul and, if he won three battles, he would be set free.

Packed like a carcass of meat among other prisoners he was transported across the Channel to be delivered to a new set of guards and another stinking prison.

In the arena he fought savagely, determined to free himself from his captors, but his very success told against him. He became famous as the "British Brute" and was much in demand for the shows. When he had won three times his demand for the release that he had been promised was ignored.

In the end he realized there was only one way out and that was through the army. He took the name Decius Brutus and signed on for twenty-five years.

He had not intended to return to his homeland � yet here he was, in his late thirties, back in Britain, assigned to guarding the huge Temple of Claudius the God at Camulodunum.

He and his fellow guards found it something of a joke that the misshapen little Emperor was to be worshipped and a gigantic romanticized statue of him erected. But he knew that there were many locals who looked on it as an insult added to injury that they had to do obeisance and offer sacrifices to the man who had invaded their land and taken away their liberty. That was why, night and day, a guard was mounted on the effigy. Decius Brutus and his fellow officers were well aware that there was still a strong underground resistance to Roman rule despite the apparent outward calm obedience to an efficiently run administration. Though nearly twelve years had passed since Boudicca�s bloody revolution, the Governor was taking no chances. The slightest sign of disaffection was stamped on immediately, and, although it was unlikely the Governor really believed Claudius was a god, visible acceptance of his deification was made compulsory as a test of loyalty to the regime.

Decius had entered the army only to escape the arena, and his loyalties at that time were to no one. But over the years he had come to admire the Roman strength, sophistication and order, and to identify with their desire to rule the world. He had been present when Titus devastated Jerusalem, destroyed Herod�s magnificent Temple and carried off the sacred symbols of the Jewish religion to Rome. Much of what he saw touched his heart, but his belief that Romanization could bring peace and order to any region if the people would only cooperate, made him accept the massacre of trouble-makers as the necessary sacrifice of the few for the good of the whole.

He was alarmed to learn, when he was sent to Aquae Sulis to erect another statue of Claudius, that his own father�s name was on the list of local troublemakers to be watched.


When Megan arrived home late that summer�s day she learned that the centurion she had so fiercely ejected from her home was her own father. It was her grandmother, Olwen, who told her, for her grandfather refused to speak about the matter, but sat in a corner, slumped in his chair, sulking and occasionally muttering imprecations against Romans in general and his son in particular.

"Why has he come back after all these years? What did he want?" Megan asked.

"He came to supervise the erection of a statue of the Emperor Claudius," her grandmother said. "And he came to warn your grandfather not to cause any trouble," Olwen added, looking hard at her husband. This seemed to make the old man even angrier, and his growling and snorting became even more incomprehensible.

"What arrogance!" cried Megan. "I�ll give him trouble! He will regret coming back here as long as he lives!"

"Hush, child!" warned Olwen quickly. "You don�t know what you�re saying."

"I�m not a child, grandma, and I know what I�m saying. To come back after all these years in such a uniform � threatening such things..."

"He didn�t threaten. He advised."

"Oh, grandma, you�re so innocent! You don�t get advice from Romans � you get threats and commands and death if you don�t obey!"

"Your father is not a Roman, dear," Olwen protested mildly.

"As good as. Worse in fact. He has turned against his own people."

"Perhaps�" Ethne spoke for the first time, having come in only on the latter part of the conversation but guessing at once the context of her sister�s words. "Perhaps he can see that there is no way of getting rid of the Romans now so it is best for all of us if we can learn to live with them."

"And worship their stinking Emperor as a god!" Megan cried bitterly.

Ethne was silent.

Megan turned to her grandfather. "Where are they to put this slab of rubbish?" she asked, her lip curling scornfully.

"In the forecourt of the temple!" Owein snarled. "As though the sacred space is not desecrated enough."

"It won�t stand there long!" muttered Megan darkly.

"Megan!" her grandmother said sharply. "Your grandfather has his head in the past and his feet in the grave. I won�t have you throwing away your young life to follow his wild schemes."

"I�ll not throw my life away, grandma, but what kind of life is it when strangers can come who know nothing of our beliefs and traditions and make us dishonour our gods and honour our enemy on a pedestal."

"You don�t have to honour it," Olwen replied firmly. "You just let it be. If they want to play childish games and set up a doll as a god � we can humour them as we would a child � but go on honouring Sul and the others secretly."

"Can you really not see, old woman," Owein said impatiently, "the implications of that damned statue?"

"It will just be a statue, old man," Olwen replied. "A lump of stone. It will have no power."

"It will be a symbol," he said. "And a symbol is more powerful than a whole army of soldiers. Why do you think the Roman legions take such care of their eagle standard? It is, after all, just a bird on a stick. But when it is captured, a disciplined and well-trained army of men becomes a rabble and flees from the battle field."

"Well, all I know," grumbled Olwen, backing down somewhat, "is that if the Governor wants a statue of Claudius here, we will have a statue of Claudius here � and there is nothing we can do about it without getting into trouble. Why don�t we just ignore it?"

"They won�t let us ignore it, Grandma. They�ll make us worship it!"

"No one can ever make you worship something you don�t want to worship." Ethne said suddenly. "Worship is a secret of the heart. Words and rituals have nothing to do with real worship."

"Quite so!" cried Olwen triumphantly. But when Megan and Owein�s eyes met, a tacit agreement passed between them. They would let the matter drop for the moment � but neither intended to let it lie for long.

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