I haven’t been doing these lately, and I should have been, because it’s really the best way to keep myself accountable. So here’s a snippet from the third chapter of my work-in-progress, Aquae.
Positive feedback is always welcome! (For more about the story itself, check out this page.)
Julius’ voice broke suddenly through my thoughts. He was speaking in a way I knew to be dangerous: half smiling, but with a cool steel edge underlying his words, wielded precisely as a weapon.
“Keep your ledger straight, Gaius, and you’ve nothing to fear. I’m sure that’ll prove no difficulty for you.”
“He doesn’t want men who keep straight ledgers, Gallio,” said Gaius, who was an old man with a wreath of white hair circling his eggish head like a nest. There was a broad purple stripe running along the edge of his toga. He was facing me across the vast expanse of tables, but his beady eyes were turned to Julius, and I supposed Julius was the recipient of his scowl, too. His voice was surprisingly strong. “What does it matter if the ledgers are straight, so long as the men who keep them are loyal to him?”
“Are you not?” said Julius, swiftly as a lash, still smiling his knife-blade smile.
“I should hope,” said Gaius, undaunted, “that my loyalty entails more than my ledger-keeping.”
“I should hope so, too,” said Julius.
For a moment they looked at each other in silence over their dishes, and the talk running round the rest of the room seemed to draw back from them like a wave from shore, leaving everything cold and bare in its wake. Gaius lifted his chin a little. Julius was still. He wasn’t smiling now.
Beside me, my father stirred himself as though he’d just woken from sleep. He reached with his right hand for a nearby bowl of olives. The lamp-light flashed on the gold round his wrist as he reached. I saw the first part of the inscription: To Marius Cassius Viator, for displaying the highest degree of valor in action . . .
His movement shattered the icy stillness. Gaius turned his face away and coughed politely into his napkin. Julius slid his fingers round his wine bowl. He looked to my father as he drank. He smiled again over the rim of the bowl, and in the lamp-glow one would have had to look quite closely, as I did, to see the lingering coldness in his eyes.