Pub Crawl, by Paul L. Mathews

 

“I need new fighters.”

Ajax, startled, almost wet his bed as Celsus shook him awake. Crying out like a child, he grabbed at Celsus’ thick arms.

“What?” he said, blinking. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m telling you I need new fighters,” said Celsus, stepping away from the bed and scratching his massive belly. “We’ve just lost Dordalus, Labrax and Petrus.”

Ajax frowned. What did he just say?

“What do you mean ‘lost’?” he mumbled, rubbing at his eyes.

“Lost. Dead.” An impatient tone crept into Celsus’ voice. “They were ambushed trying to sell insurance to Hegio…”

“Labrax is dead,” said Ajax. He frowned as he turned the implications over in his head. If Labrax was dead, didn’t that mean—?

“…Which means I’m in charge now,” said Celsus, celebrating with a loud belch and an even louder fart.

Ajax lay still for a moment and, blinking, turned way from Celsus. Instead he tried to focus on his wall. Maybe it’s a dream, he thought. Yes. That must be it. I’m asleep in my bed and Celsus is just a dream…

“Now get your lazy carcass out of bed and go find me some new men. Or women. I don’t care which.”

…And not a pleasant one.

#

He pulled his hood up and over his head, seeking some respite against the morning drizzle. If this were a dream, he’d had better ones.

“Try the Aquila first,” Celsus said.

“The taverna down by the Emporium?” asked Ajax.

“Yes.” Celsus didn’t bother with a cloak. If he were even aware of the rain, he didn’t seem to care. “It’s got a good selection of former soldiers and sailors, so you might be lucky and find a decent fighter who needs a denarius or two.”

“What about the one in the Palantine? The Suckling Wolf?”

“It’s worth a try, I suppose,” said Celsus in a tone devoid of any enthusiasm. “Nice enough wine, but it’s a bit posh.” He farted again, lifting his leg to gain maximum effect. “I don’t do posh, and I don’t like posh kids. They’re all either soft or lazy. Like you.”

Says the fat man sending me to do his dirty work, thought Ajax as he said, “I could try the Laurel.”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s that place near the Circus Maximus. Good for out of luck riders and gamblers who need a few quick denarii.”

“If you’re desperate, yes, but I’d rather you tried the Pomegranate first.”

“The Pomegranate?” Ajax’s voice rose an octave. “In the Subura?”

“You know any other Pomegranates?”

“But it’s full of weirdos! And the land lady’s practically a Gorgon!”

“So?” said Celsus. He frowned at Ajax, and the younger man could see the vein pulsing on the side of the brute’s head; a sure sign he was losing his temper.

“And the Sons of Orcus hang out in there! And all those other freaks who worship Orcus!”

“Exactly. Just the kind of cut-throat I need.” Celsus waved a hand at him dismissively. “Now stop wasting my time and find me some recruits before I drown you in the Tiber.”

“And what are you doing while I’m getting wet through and—most likely—being sacrificed to Orcus?”

“I’ll be having a drink in the Suckling Wolf. Come back in one piece and I’ll buy you a drink.”

#

Bolster your ranks with our Gangs of Rome fighter cardsBrought to you in singles or packs of three or five, these cards can be purchased in a random selection of origins, or you can buy sets from the Subura, the Aventine, the Palatine or Circus Maximus. Visit and recruit your new fighters now!