Blog Tour: Read an Extract from Vitellius’ Feast by @TraffordLj @BookPublicistUK

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AD 69. As this most dramatic year draws to a close, now is the time to choose a definitive side. Whilst Vitellius enjoys the trappings of power around him, machinations are afoot. In the East, Vespasian has his eye on the throne, but he needs help preparing Rome for his plans and, for his teenage son Domitian, protection from Vitellius' agents. 

Extract:

The following is an extract from Vitellius’ Feast, written by L. J. Trafford and published by Sphinx. The book is available from December 1st, priced at £12.99. For more information see: www.aeonbooks.co.uk/ProductAuthors.asp?PID=36829

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“Gods above! What a procession it was,” laughed the barman. “There were these eunuchs, a big gang of them all kitted out in loincloths, and they danced through the streets. Behind them were women. But not good women. If you know what I mean.” He aimed an exaggerated wink at Epaphroditus. “No, these were of the painted toga sort. Prostitutes. Our small town has never seen the like.”
The barman, a portly man in his fifties, leaned back in his chair and grinned. “It was fantastic for business. All those soldiers. All those girls. Even those little eunuchs can knock back a drink. I’ve got enough coin to upgrade my premises now.”
Just as well, thought Epaphroditus, taking in the grimy walls and filthy floor of the bar.
“The emperor?” he pressed, getting down to business. This business was the sole reason he was sat in such dubious surroundings, in some forgotten town, in a part of Italy far removed from the villas and palaces he was more familiar with. “The emperor was with the soldiers?”
“I’ve never seen an emperor before.”
“Did you see this one?” Epaphroditus asked.
The barman grinned from ear to ear. “Too right I did. I had him here in my bar! Imagine! An emperor! Huge big fat fella.” He pulled his hands far apart to demonstrate the bulk. “He ate up my entire supply of whelks! All by himself! Can you imagine? A barrel of whelks?”
“Thank you,” said Epaphroditus, getting to his feet. “Have this for your trouble.” He pressed a gold coin into a sweaty palm.
Outside he wiped his own hand on his cloak and sucked in a mouthful of clean air. Around him, the townspeople were clearing up the debris left by Vitellius’ passing army. They did so with smiles on their faces, even the slaves. Vitellius had left his mark on the town. But where was he?
They’d received notice some fifteen days past that the new emperor was hovering around the north of Italy. Epaphroditus had set off to intersect Vitellius’ army before they reached Rome. So far, all he’d encountered were a series of depleted towns and happy businessmen like the barmen. There was quite a lot of coinage to be made from 30,000 soldiers, and word had spread. Epaphroditus had passed many enterprising sorts carrying their produce in wagons, or on their backs, as keen as he was to ingratiate themselves with the new emperor.
That they were keen to meet the approaching army boded well. The secretary had not expected such jollity when the army had marched from Germania under the command of Vitellius’ two generals. Towns had been razed, women raped en masse, civilians slaughtered. Perhaps it was the presence of their emperor that had quelled Fabius Valens’ and Caecina’s blood-lust. Which suggested Vitellius had a better grasp on events than Epaphroditus had given him credit for when he’d been supporting Otho’s claim to the purple.
Alas, Otho was no more and there was one man left stand-ing: Aulus Vitellius. Who’d have thought it? Certainly not Epaphroditus. In all his dealings with Vitellius over the years in the courts of Claudius and Nero, not once had he imagined Vitellius had the ambition or the energy for such an auda-cious plan. That was why he’d initially assumed Valens and Caecina to be the instigators. But their behaviour since Otho’s suicide suggested otherwise. Epaphroditus had expected both men to appear with their legions at the gates of Rome keen to install themselves in power. But they hadn’t. They’d both dutifully and patiently waited for Vitellius to make his way from Germania to Italy. Which was contrary to everything Epaphroditus had thought he’d known about the bloodthirsty and avaricious Valens, and the handsome but empty-headed Caecina.
Part of the secretary’s desire to rendezvous with the emperor stemmed from a wish to get close to these two men and a firmer grip on their motivations.
“Bumped into a kid putting up some notices,” said Epaphroditus’ slave. “The emperor is putting on some games, it appears.”
“Where?”
“Bononia.”
Bononia was half a day’s ride away.
“Make sure my toga’s ready,” he instructed. “I have an appointment with an emperor.”



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