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Richard's Writings > The Birth of Rome > Chapter 14: The Glowing Child

Synopsis of Chapter 14: The Glowing Child

The next generation reaches maturity. Young Cneve and Young Marcus are the best of friends, like their fathers. Upon reaching manhood, Cneve takes his father's adopted name: Lucius Tarquinius. He marries Fabia and has a daughter, then a son. Tanaquil has a dream about a child who is destined to rule in Roma. She later meets the man she had seen in her dream as a glowing child. Her daughter Tarquinia falls in love with him and marries this man, Servius Tullius. The sons of Ancus Marcius return to Roma as puppeteers and express their discontent. Later they return and murder the king. Tanaquil insures that Servius Tullius succeeds her husband, with the support of old Marcus Junius, still in command of the army.

Excerpt from Chapter 14: The Glowing Child

Lucumo was working late one day when he was distracted by a loud commotion outside the Regia. He sent one of his lictors across the courtyard to find out what was going on. In the Forum just beyond the portico two shepherds were having a huge argument. A few volunteer guards of the Celeres looked on while the shepherds shouted, pushed one another, and waved their arms wildly.

"Here now, keep it down, the king is working," fussed the lictor. "Move on. Move on or I will start you with the rods of my fasces."

"The king is here?" exclaimed one of the shepherds. "I will take my grievance to the king!"

And so saying he rushed past the guards and across the courtyard, followed by the second shepherd, then the lictor, then one of the guards. They burst into Lucumo's office and surrounded him on both sides, shouting into either ear at the same time. They were dressed in typical shepherd garb and wore their hoods up. They carried long shepherd's crooks and one of them had a hand ax slipped into his belt. The ax was commonplace shepherd's gear, normally used to supply wood for the nightly fires that kept the wolves at bay, and the curved part of a shepherd's crook in skillful hands could pull back a stray or even sweep it off its feet if it showed a stubborn streak.

With Lucumo's attention dominated by one of the shepherds, the other took hold of his hand ax and plunged it into the skull of the king. The blow was swift and unexpected, and the ax went deep. Lucumo slumped forward, and the shepherds ran from the room, pushing the lictors and the guard aside. The guard shouted to his companions and they intercepted the shepherds as they tried to pass through the portico. One of the lictors ran up the ramp to fetch Tanaquil. Tanaquil in turn sent for the elder Marcus Junius, and a few other people.

A crowd had gathered outside the Regia, and more people were descending into the Forum. How the news had spread so fast was a mystery. The lictor accompanying Tanaquil fulfilled his purpose by pushing a path for her through the crowd, until they finally reached the Regia. She rushed up to her husband, pain on her face but in complete self control. There would be time for tears later. She had brought lotions and bandages and began to apply the ministrations she had learned from the physician Galen as a girl. She knew Lucumo was dead, but she didn't want anyone else to know.

Marcus entered the room, accompanied by Servius Tullius, Lucius Tarquinius, and Young Marcus. Tullius had asked Tarquinia to remain at home until he returned with accurate news of the situation. A lictor was sent to inform the people that Lucumo had been savagely attacked, was wounded, and was being treated by his wife. They were asked to pray that their king would recover as swiftly as possible. The other guards and gawkers were asked to leave the room.

"We have to act quickly," Tanaquil said tightly. "My husband is dead. We will have our vengeance later. Right now, we must preserve the city. We must have a smooth transition of leadership. Chaos and confusion could lead to our downfall. You know that the Etruscans and the Latins are just waiting for the chance to march against us. We must not show weakness. We must think of Roma first right now, we can grieve later. Lucius, you know what your father wanted?"

"Yes, mother."

"Cneve wanted Servius to succeed him. He had said this to each of us, I believe. Do you agree Marcus?"

Old Marcus Junius nodded. Tanaquil continued.

"Servius Tullius, are you willing to serve? Are you ready to become the next King of Roma?"

"I am, Mother Tanaquil."

"And you, Celerum Tribune Marcus Junius, are you willing to support this transition with the force of the legion, if necessary?"

"It is what Cneve wanted," Marcus replied. "Yes, Tanaquil, I am willing. For the good of Roma."

"Lucius, young Marcus, do we have your support as well?"

Both men nodded.

"I will speak to the people shortly. In the meantime, we must pretend that my husband is just wounded, and govern in his name. Marcus, please have some guards bring a litter and carry my husband to our home. I would also appreciate some guards to ensure our privacy. Now let us see who dares attack the King of Roma."

Half of the legion was now milling with rest of the crowd filling the Forum. Marcus spoke to a few of his centurions and arrangements were made to move their precious Lucumo to his home and guard his safety. The shepherds were in custody and it was all the soldiers could do to keep the people from tearing them apart limb from limb. Tanaquil marched up to them and recognized them at once.

"Ancus Marcius Priscus and Scaevola! You have dishonored the memory of your good father. How could you do this?"

Rage choked Tanaquil from saying anything more. Arruns had taken command of the Regia guards and ordered them to remove the murderers to the pit of Carcer.

"Make sure they stay in the pit, but do not harm them. The people will have their justice. Understand?"

The guards understood. They saluted and manhandled the two brothers to the pit at the foot of the Capitoline, throwing them in without ceremony. The pit was ringed with people who spit on the murderers and shouted insults and dire threats of horrible revenge. Dare to touch their beloved Chief? No torture could be terrible enough to satisfy their outrage.

Tanaquil addressed the people.

"My husband, your king, has been attacked. He was stunned by a sudden blow, but the weapon did not penetrate deeply, and I personally dressed his wound. He has already recovered consciousness and I sent him home for rest. I am confident you will see him again soon. In the meantime it is the wish of King Lucius Tarquinius that his people recognize the authority of Servius Tullius, who will administer justice and discharge the other functions of office. Now, please disburse. I will tell my husband of your prayers and good wishes, though he has always known what is dear to you. Please, go home."


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