Titus was looking over the various deeds and paperwork. The two previous times he had to take over for Marcus as head of household, it was easier. Marcus always made sure he had a trained atriensis on hand to take care of this mess. But no, now the atriensis on duty was 'dead' by all reports, and the only other he knew of had been sent away to do hard labor generations ago. "This is so annoying..."
Methos looked around. The area had not changed much in the past five years, but there were no familiar faces. He'd risked some, coming back so soon after his alleged death, but if he was being honest with himself, he'd missed Rome. Ahead of him lay Marcus' estate, he only hoped that he was in. As he neared, he felt the presence of another immortal. Quashing a brief certainty that it had to be Marcus, he reminded himself that Titus could well be there. It wasn't a pleasant thought, but at least he now had no reason to even pretend to be subservient to the younger immortal.
Titus looked around at the feel of another, "Constantine?" He called out. It was impossible; his mentor had said he wouldn't return to the City any time soon!
Reaching the entryway of the estate, Methos finally saw someone he recognized, a slave from the kitchens. It seemed that Marcus' staff was at least partially intact. The slave approached him with wide eyes and took his cloak. He smiled at her and assured her that yes, he was fine, he'd just been traveling.
Titus made his way to the foyer, sword at the ready. Of course, the guard was dropped when he recognized the man, "Oh. It's you."
"And it's you. I don't suppose Marcus is at home then..." He sighed. Of course not, just his luck.
"Marcus went out on duty. He said not to expect him any time soon."
Frowning, Methos looked around. "And you're running the house in his absence?"
"Someone has to," he said, brow furrowed.
"Hmm." He glanced down a hallway and then back at Titus. "Having trouble?"
"I wasn't trained for paperwork," he remarked dryly. "But I'll manage to muddle through.
Methos laughed. "I'm sure you will. Good luck to you."
Titus huffed, still wary around the other man, "Marcus made another point about my manners, so if you'll excuse me..."
"Oh, don't mind me. I'll just have a look around if you don't mind."
"I've no say in the matter," Titus mumbled to himself, retreating to the study.
Chuckling softly, Methos wandered out into the courtyard for a moment before turning back inside. It had been foolish to come to Rome, he should have just passed right around the city and kept going.
Titus left the papers on the desk. Staring at them had made them frustrated now. Moreso now that his mentor's lover was back in town. He crossed quickly through the halls, telling some servant not to expect him for dinner.
Methos was in the entry hall, pulling on his cloak and wondering where he could go in the city, perhaps he should leave the city entirely.
He hesitated in his step when he saw him and paused. "...Leaving so soon?"
"Not really any reason to stay, is there?" Methos straightened his cloak and shrugged. "I was heading West anyhow, I shouldn't have bothered stopping here."
"You came looking for Marcus then?"
"What, you thought I'd come back for you? Why else would I risk being seen here so soon?"
"I haven't a damnedest idea," Titus shrugged. "He was sure you wouldn't return here, and told me that you and he already knew you had stayed here too long as it was. That is why he's not here."
He nodded. "Sensible of him. Where did you say he'd gone?"
"He had gone to the Britannia campaign. I'm not sure exactly where he's stationed. His correspondences are rare."
"When did you last hear from him?"
"A month ago. You're not considering going after him, are you?"
"It's a thought." He sighed again. "But a foolish one, admittedly."
"That's a terrible idea," he frowned.
"Well, then perhaps I go back west." He thought for a moment.
Titus sighed, "If you go after him, you'll only put him in harm's way."
"I do know that you foolish boy. Thank you for repeating yourself. I'd not have gotten it otherwise." Methos snapped.
"Pardon me, but you seemed to ignore me the first time!" Titus snapped back,
"Right, and I said I'd go to the island. West is a big direction."
"You're infuriating!" Titus huffed, "Marcus said he would have this be your home, but curse him for such a blind judgment."
"That is what he said."
He visibly relaxed. "I believe I will stay for a short while then. I promise I will not be here long."
"It makes no difference to me though you might alert the kitchen if you plan on staying for dinner."
"I'll go do that now. I apologize, I was hoping for a rather different welcome."
"Marcus can be surprising when he feels it."
"Indeed." Methos agreed, turning towards the kitchens.
Titus tugged at his robe and headed out to roam around the city.
Titus had instantly recognized a traveler as he walked with his cohorts down the city streets. They were the relatively the same age physically, though the stranger was truly half a century younger. Still, they were hardly alike. "Audelius!" Titus snarled, grabbed the man from his entourage and dragging him down an alley.
Remus had noted a few problems with the house accounts and was headed back to the estate after straightening them out when he heard voices and felt the unmistakable presence of more than one other immortal. Despite his better judgment he sighed and went to see.
"Audelius, you little cretin, you know damned well you're not allowed here anymore!" Titus growled, pinning the weaker against a wall.
"Get your hands off me, oaf," Audelius' voice was low, "I'm a citizen. I can walk where I please."
"Not in this city, you can't," Titus hissed as he felt Remus' approach, glancing over his shoulder quickly to identify him.
Remus sighed and crossed his arms. "Oh don't let me interrupt. Just thought I'd see who was in town."
Titus dropped the man and took a step back. "This man is unwelcome company, nothing more."
Audelius stumbled to retain balance, rubbing at his throat for show, "Marconus is a grunt with a temper. I had no quarrel here." He did well to look innocent of any previous antagonizing.
"I'm sure." Remus shook his head. "Children..." He muttered.
"I am not here to fight," Audelius said straight to Remus, "I'm merely here to visit."
"You're here to make trouble like you always do, Audelius!" Titus snapped.
"I would never!" He hid the smirk that he felt rising, "You had better calm down, Marconus. After all, dear Master Constantine's quite specific about fighting in the city. He is still alive, isn't he?"
"And I thought I was rash..."
Titus couldn't wait any more, knocking the other man hard to the ground.
"Titus!" Remus called out. "Don't be a fool."
"I'm fine." Titus was visibly trying to keep himself from tearing the other man apart. "Audelius, if I even see you in the same quarter as the estate..."
"I wouldn't dare," Audelius said with the most polite manners as he straightened up.
"I'm going back," he mumbled to Remus, trudging his way home.
Remus shook his head and glanced behind himself as Titus passed then back to Audelius. "I take it there's some former friction between the two of you. Mind you steer clear, especially if you're in the habit of insulting Marcus."
"I am not such a fool," Audelius said evenly. He dusted himself off and started to his companions, confused by the random attack.
With a sigh and another muttered annoyance at obnoxious militaristic types, Remus turned and headed for home himself.
Titus was pacing in the main chamber, trying to calm himself enough not to accidentally break anything within.
"And just what was that all about?" Remus demanded as he entered.
Titus glared, "Marcus Audelius is a snake. He was told before not to return and only breeches that whenever Marcus is traveling."
"I had figured out there was some hostility yes. But is it really necessary to attack the man in the middle of the city?" Remus sat down and eyed him. "I'm certain there was ways of dealing with such things."
"There were ways. There was Marcus. But I haven't his skills in knowing where everyone is at once and wanted the man gone as soon as I saw him."
Remus nodded. "Why not simply wait? What did he do?"
"Because! It's as if he has nothing else to do with his time. Whenever he comes into town, he seeks to cause as much trouble for this household as he can. I waited before, I had no wish to now."
"Brilliant, absolutely ingenious. Attack him in the streets with no preparation. So he makes trouble, make trouble back, why challenge the man on his terms?" Remus asked, seemingly disinterested.
"Because he is not worth that! He makes false accusations then disappears when it comes time to answer for them. He's a nuisance and the less he stays here the better."
"Far be it from me to tell you your business, but I'd be careful, the man knows his strengths and he obviously enjoys seeing you lose your temper."
"This man sees it so important to prove me incapable of being Marcus' protégé, though I don't possibly see what he has to gain." Titus was pacing a rut into the marble, "He attempted to cozy up to the man until Marcus made it quite clear he wasn't to be bothered with the likes of him. He has no strengths short of a fast mouth and can lift a sword with no more skill than a lame donkey."
"And this was how long? How much skill has he gained since last you saw him?"
He paused in his step and trailed off, "Twenty years ago or so."
"And I'm sure he's learned nothing in that time..." Remus laughed. "Come on Titus, you aren't that stupid."
He let out a forced breath, "You propose I wait for him to try something then?"
"I propose that you at least take enough time to see what he's capable of. Marcus might not be here but I'm an unknown to him, that should be enough for a few days at least."
He thought on it and resigned enough to sit down. He was stewing, obviously, but now he wondered exactly what a whelp like Audelius could possibly be capable of.
"Not all of us have very auspicious beginnings, Titus. Some of the cruelest and best fighters I have ever known got that way because they were underestimated at first. Do not make that mistake."
Titus sighed heavily. "I understand, though I doubt he's grown so much."
"Believe what you will then, why I'm even bothering I'm sure I don't know." Remus stood and headed off to the quarters he'd settled in.
He let the comment slide this once, concentrating more on Remus' words. Not that Titus had any skill for sneaking around, which was going to make his job of learning about Audelius that much more difficult.
Back in his rooms, Remus sat down again, brooding over Marcus' absence and his own foolishness.
Titus walked around the the city, warily now. He now truly wished for his Mentor's presence, which was always enough to keep the scum from the city. He nearly cursed himself for telling Marcus to stay away. Instead, he walked along in silence, trying to find ways to rid Rome of this particular problem, which he felt walking near.
"Hello again, Marconus," he smirked.
"Without your guards this time?"
"Oh I'm sure I won't need them this time," he said pleasantly.
Remus had been following Titus. The man was truly unskilled in any sort of stalking whatsoever. He kept just out of range of the younger man, casually strolling like many others on such a nice day.
"Stay away from me, Audelius," he hissed. "Bothering me in public is one thing but the minute I find you alone, you will be expelled from this city if I have to drag you!" Titus warned harshly.
"You're unfair, aren't you?" Audelius said pleasantly. "You're calmer today though. Get a good night's rest?"
"I do not like you, go away," Titus growled again.
Remus paused as he once again felt two presences nearby. That could really only mean that Audelius was still around, he only hoped Titus was able to keep his temper and his head.
It was an effort, and Titus knew it showed. But Remus, for all he hated him, was right on that one part. He couldn't let Audelius pull him into a fight in public. Even if it wasn't for Marcus' rules, it was unsafe in general. "Leave me!"
"I will when I so choose. I did have something to tell you. This little rivalry of ours will be over soon."
"You are not fit," Titus sneered.
Remus listened to them argue without moving any closer. They were both fools as far as he was concerned, but he felt now that he owed it to Marcus to at least try and assist his student.
"I'm no less than you!"
"You are. You're lazy incompetent egocentric who is irritated more that he's kept from a house of luxury than any true difference in skill." Titus glared and shoved him one way while walking the other. "You know what Constantine said. So stay away from me lest we both go against it."
At the very least it seemed that Titus was making an effort. Remus sighed, this would soon have to end somehow and he hoped that it would be with one or the other of the other immortals leaving the city.
Marconus rounded the quarter spotting where the rest of Audelius' men had gone before the frustration started to sink in, sending him back home.
Remus followed him, catching up before they reached the estate. "That was impressive." He noted.
"What was?" He looked over.
"You. Keeping your temper."
"Heaven forbid your words make sense this once," Marconus mentioned in some masked form of thanks.
Remus chuckled and shook his head. "So what will you do?"
"I don't know yet. I could wait until his rather lavish lifestyle turns on him, but he's usually already inflicted damage by that point."
"just what sort of damage do you speak of? He must have done some truly horrible things to the House..."
"Out of spite, when Marcus is gone, his men ... harrass the help. I know it sounds petty, don't think it lost on me. But we have trouble when he's here. Vandalism and slander. He's several times attempted to get me arrested and I think he means to take Marcus' estate."
Remus paused and stared at Titus. "That will not happen."
"It's why he comes when Marcus isn't here, since no one dare question him. He was an aristocrat before he died and has been bitter ever since Marcus refused to take him in for being useless and decadent and banned him from the city."
"Have you warned the house staff that he is around?" Remus asked slowly, glad that the man had never seemed to make trouble while he had still served in the household.
"Of course, when I had first seen him the other day." Titus' animosity towards Remus currently distracted by this other threat.
Remus nodded. "Good. I would not have any of the household caught unawares."
"Audelius is bothersome at best, but I'd feel more comfortable if he was gone before he became any worse."
"As would I. The more I see of the man the less I want to."
"He is like that," Titus agreed distastefully.
"The best idea would be to stay on the grounds, unless you have pressing business in the city that is."
"I'd rather see these attacks coming before they reach our grounds," Titus rationalized, making it obvious he'd be going out to do the same rounds the next day.
Remus frowned. "If you force him to come to you then he will be on unfamiliar territory..."
"If these grounds were unfamiliar to him, perhaps. He knows the layout of this house, at least generally. And I'd rather keep the battle from here away from bystanders."
"Then you will have to figure out where would be best." Remus paused. "If you are determined to see this through."
"I would rather not fight him here. I would simply have him leave. If Marcus wanted him dead, he would be."
Remus shrugged. "He seems in earnest."
"This I know too well."
"Well then do what you feel best." Remus shrugged and headed into the house.
Titus grumbled, looking behind him as if Audelius would jump out of nowhere before shaking off the feeling and heading into the house.
Titus adjusted the bracer on his left arm, double checking that his blade remained at his side. It was more than a bit of trouble for a simple walk around the city.
Remus was following him again, not trusting the younger and more impulsive man to be able to keep his temper.
He continued his round, every now and then looking over his shoulder. He had passed by those places he had caught Audelius' guards frequenting but couldn't find the whelp himself anywhere. He was starting to worry, that much was obvious.
Remus was worrying as well. Normally by now Audelius would have appeared to taunt Titus. A break in his routine could mean several things, only one or two of them pleasant options.
He had hoped Audelius had let the warnings sink in over the past couple nights and finally taken leave. It was doubtful. He still saw his men lingering about, though it was far from possible to expel someone merely on their suspected company.
Remus glanced around, wondering if Audelius had found a new haunt.
Titus had shook his head, making a wide turn home. Audelius was still there. Now he was sure he could feel him.
The other man had appeared, emerging from the direction of Marcus' household, a play made specifically to unnerve Titus. Audelius was successful in that at least.
Remus frowned. The little monster had gone to the estate. He hoped the staff had managed to steer clear of him.
The smirk on Audelius' face was a more sinister than it had the days prior, "Marconus."
"Audelius, if I find out you were on our grounds---" Titus seethed.
"Only for a moment! I found no one home. It was a shame."
Remus rapidly closed the grown between himself and the other two. He glared ad Audelius for a moment, fighting to remain calm himself.
Titus only glanced at Remus before returning his attention to Audelius and spat, "You are despicable! You are not allowed there!"
"I'm not allowed in a great many places!" Audelius sneered back, "Thanks to Constantine. But he is not here, now is he? And you will follow his wishes and not fight within these walls, won't you?"
"I believe trespassing is disallowed regardless of whether or not Constantine is in the city." Remus remarked calmly.
"He hasn't the authority to keep me from here," Audelius answered Remus sharply. "Regardless of how great a man he believes himself to be."
"I believe he speaks of Constantine's House," Titus narrowed his eyes.
"No matter. After all, I was there only for a short visit. Hardly malicious!"
"Malicious or not, you've admitted to it in front of two members of that household." Remus let his words hang there, the threat unfinished.
"Oh? And you will be the one to report me?" Audelius scoffed, taking only for a moment tucking away the realization that Constantine had another immortal under his roof. "I believed us to be able to settle this matter civilly."
"I thought reporting a transgression to the law was civil..." Remus noted.
"Don't involve yourself," Audelius hissed, getting caught in his own words, "This is between Titus and myself."
"Fine by me. Then leave the House out of it." Remus retorted.
"I would be glad to," Audelius said lowly.
"Good. Things get complicated enough without involving mortals." Remus commented, stepping back.
"I wouldn't dream of doing such a thing," Audelius smirked before turning his attention back to Titus.
"If this is between us, then we will be the ones to finish it, Audelius," Titus glared at him.
Remus sighed. There would be no avoiding this now.
The grin resettled on Audelius' face. "This evening then. To spare a Mortal's passing eyes," said this time as he glanced at Remus.
"Fine, then here again." Titus turned and headed directly to the house, wanting to make sure no damage was done during his walk.
Remus glared at Audelius for a moment before turning to follow Titus.
When he stepped in, there wasn't any real damage done which had gotten a significant sigh of relief from the young Immortal. The staff was nervous, but otherwise whole.
"so you're going to fight him?" Remus asked Titus after he'd reassured the staff that there would be no more disruptions.
"Marcus may forgive me," Titus grunted in a passive answer.
"Keep saying that and eventually you'll believe it." Remus told him.
"If he doesn't, I'll accept it," Titus shrugged.
"Right." Remus nodded. "so long as you're aware."
"It's not as if I enjoy defying my teacher," Titus pointed out, almost defensively as he drew his sword to inspect the edge.
Remus sat down and watched him. "Perhaps not. But it certainly appears so."
"Why?" He swung the blade back and forth to get his wrist limber before sheathing the blade again.
"You could just leave well enough alone. Or take a trip..."
He looked at him in utter shock, "You want me to run?! You must be joking!"
"It was merely a thought." Remus shrugged.
"That is impossible. I challenged him, I have to see it through," Titus nodded.
"Have it your way."
Titus glanced out the window, waiting for the sun to set, "Watch the house if you could. I doubt Audelius would be above sending his entourage here during our duel."
Remus nodded. "I'd not leave the house unprotected while you and Audelius go poke each other."
"At least you take this seriously," Titus mumbled.
Remus sighed and stood. "Let me know when you leave."
"Of course." Titus nodded, idly wondering if he should take a wider array of armements.
Titus had made a halfhearted call to Remus on his way out, already heading for the shortest route to the alleyway where he was to fight Audelius.
Remus had felt when Titus left the house and crept out behind him.
Titus looked around the alleyway, eyes narrowed as he searched his opponent out. He hissed softly "Audelius..."
"I'm here," Audelius announced as if to answer, sword already drawn.
Remus hung back, watching the two men from the shadows.
Titus wasted no time. He drew his sword and had the distance between them covered before it was risen. One loud cry and the sword was brought down, knocking Audelius back and already off his balance. He had been right in his first assessment in the other man's skill, Audelius was practically without.
Remus shook his head in disgust. Even after decades in Marcus' house without touching a sword he'd been better than Audelius was now.
He let Audelius take a swing at him, though he had dodged the blade easily, even when Audelius drew a hidden dagger, Titus caught his wrist and sent the man barreling to the ground.
Remus assumed then that the fight was over and sighed in relief.
He set the edge against Audelius' throat, kicking the other man's sword from his hands. "I warned you to not disturb Constantine's house or his City."
Remus wondered what was taking so long. If he'd been in Titus' place the other man would have been without a head long ago.
"You are lucky he did set down those rules. Leave Rome by morning or I will come and find you," Titus said, finally getting the stoic bit to his voice, though he was far from trying.
Audelius glared up at him nodding only to buy himself some time. The sword was taken from his neck and he straightened up. "I'll leave," he rescinded.
Looking on in disbelief, Remus found himself hard put not to stalk in and take both of their heads. This was ridiculous.
"I'm not joking," Titus said sternly as he sheathed his blade, heading to the main street.
Remus followed him closely. "What the hell was that?" He demanded.
Titus turned around and snapped, "I thought you were back at the house!"
"And I thought you weren't a total idiot. Seems we were both wrong." Remus muttered, passing Titus and hurrying back to the estate.
Titus glared at him as he stormed off, heading to a tavern instead of home.
Titus headed to a tavern, possibly the last one to be open late into the night. He had to stake out somewhere to make sure Audelius left before dawn like he said.
Remus got back to the estate without trouble and sat down to look over some books while he waited for Titus to arrive. After an hour he realized that the younger man was not coming. Fearing that he'd done something stupid, Remus resigned himself to having to go out again and set forth to find Titus in the city.
Titus looked around as the patrons began to file out, grimacing when he felt an immortal round the building. "If that's Remus..." he snarled under his breath. He took his goblet and drained the rest of it before storming out of the establishment, not noticing the aftertaste the wine had left.
Remus had checked at two of the taverns which stayed open later hours and the only public baths which stayed open late with no sign of Titus. He headed towards the last tavern open figuring that if he did not find the young man he could at least get a drink.
Titus hesitated at the doorway. They had more than a few hours yet until dawn, so he had no reason to expect Audelius gone so soon. Still, he'd rather not be stalked 'for old time's sake.' He felt the sensation move behind him and turned down a side street to track it.
Remus was halfway to the tavern when he spotted one of Audelius' mortal friends slinking down an alley. He followed as a matter of course.
Titus looked around, letting his eyes readjust to whatever light was available. He growled, "Audelius, you said you would leave."
Audelius sat on a barrel behind the tavern, grinning. "I did, but I never said when."
The mortal seemed slightly drunk, but this made him easier to follow. Remus shook his head at the foolishness of it. He hoped Titus was being at least somewhat sensible.
"I gave you until morning!"
"But it's not nearly morning yet," Audelius noted off-handedly.
"Does not matter. You won't take me seriously so we'll finish this now," Titus declared, drawing his blade again.
As the mortal stopped to look around, Remus felt two presences nearby and tracked them himself to find Titus and Audelius.
"Come at me then," Audelius smirked.
Titus growled, "You cocky waste of flesh!" He snarled. He raised his sword but felt his palms so sweaty that his grip on his sword slipped.
Turning the corner, Remus saw Titus lunge at Audelius and frowned. The man's normally steady movements were now clumsy and slow.
Audelius was reveling in it, making little show for modestly. Titus however was having more than enough problems staying on his feet and breathing at once, falling to one knee when it finally became too difficult. "What is going on..." Titus coughed.
"It looks like you'll be leaving before me, Titus." He wouldn't dare make his rival's mistake, immediately bringing his sword down on Titus' neck.
Remus winced. It hadn't even been a pretense of a fair fight. Somehow Audelius had managed to drug Titus, that much was obvious.
Audelius faltered in his step when the lightning halted. He grinned widely, enjoying the final victory over his rival.
"That was a mistake." Remus called out as he neared.
"This was private between Titus and myself," Audelius reminded. "This has nothing to do with you."
"He was a member of Constantine's House, as am I." Remus pointed out, drawing his own sword.
"That's it?" Audelius narrowed his eyes, realizing he was running out of options.
"Why should I have to explain any further?" Remus asked, stalking towards him. "You won't have any need of the knowledge soon anyhow."
His hand clenched around the blade, taking a reflexive step back as he came near, "Seems a waste..."
"Oh I agree, a complete waste of my time. But I've been bored lately."
"I don't have much of a choice then," he said through a forced if not weak smile.
"Not really no." Remus agreed.
He glanced in either direction, wondering where his men had gone off to, "I see..."
Remus swung as soon as he was within reach.
He raised up his sword to deflect it, but it was sloppy and weak. The sword was thrown clear and he was nearly knocked down. With the depth of his situation now clear, Audelius quickly resorted to his old devices. Begging and bribery, "I swore I would leave and I still plan to!"
"I'm well acquainted with liars Audelius. I don't particularly care what you swore or if you intend to abide by it. You die now." Remus brought his sword down.
Notes from original Chronicle: Remus returned to the estate but continued to live there. Marconus' watcher was reassigned elsewhere.