Chapter 4

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The emperorís birthday races in the Circus Maximus were the final obstacle to Adrianaís departure from the city. Blandly agreeable to the last, Quintus had not opposed her; the instrument of their divorce had been notarized in the presence of several close-mouthed witnesses, two days after the banquet for Palladius. The notary would have to be summoned again, after the distribution of property had been agreed upon. Then she would be alone.

Meanwhile, the chariot races would be a thunderous waste of time. With an impatient sigh, Adriana went to her attiring room and found that her maids had put out the wrong clothes for the morning: the headdress with sapphires, not the one with rubies; the gold earrings instead of the diamond ones; the blue-silk colobium rather than the pink; and a selection of jeweled shoes that were all impossible for the occasion.

She shouted at the girls and called them idiots. They hung their heads. "Ah, the Woman is impatient," they said when she was gone. "If only sheíd have her little affairs like the other Felicities, sheíd be easier to please." But they endured her displeasure without much complaining, because it was rare, and because she was careless about her wealth and easily plundered if necessary.

"I suppose you have every right to spite me by being late," Quintus said mildly, when she appeared with her attending eunuchs in the palace portico.

"You require me to be splendid, and splendor takes time," she said.

"Nevertheless, youíre late," Quintus said sweetly.

"My dressing table and my wine are dear to me," she answered with equal sweetness. "I canít avoid going to the races, so I must get a little drunk to endure them."

"You are splendid," Quintus murmured helplessly. "You turn night into day."

The twin litters floated down the Alta Semita toward the middle of the city. At the head of the Vicus Tuscus, the circus mob had backed up into the Old Forum. Apprehension was on the faces of many, as if an epidemic of cholera had been rumored, and no one knew where safety lay.

Pulling her litter curtain aside, Adriana watched the ragged crowd and tried to read their expressions. No doubt the disasters of the past week were having their intended effect. Tenements had continued to fall without warning. Half the monthís grain supply had exploded and burned in a Tiber-side warehouse. Tainted fish-sauce, sold on the cheap, had spread death in the Subura. The cityís professional criminals seemed to be focusing their attention on the lesser imperial administration. A sneak-thief had murdered Hermerus, Superintendent of the Imperial Post, in bed. Venustus, Superintendent of Arms Factories, had been stabbed to the heart in Trajanís forum in broad daylight. There had been no witnesses. No one in the emperorís circle seemed willing to consider that the catastrophes had been planned. Watching their faces, Adriana suspected that somehow the common people already knew what she knew, and realized as clearly as she did that nothing could be done.

Quintusís footmen cleared a path; the two litters joined the procession of aristocratic conveyances floating up the Clivus Palatinus to the hippodrome. In the reception chamber of the imperial box, a miniature palace, Adriana discovered to her slight annoyance that she would be seated again between Lady Sempronia and Lady Quartilla. Like everyone else in the room, the ladies had turned themselves out sumptuously in Persian silk, and gems that glittered softly in the mellow morning light.

"You seem severe today, Adriana," Lady Sempronia said, inclining her jewelled headdress with a look of concern. "I trust that allís well between you and Quintus?"

"Surely I can be candid with an old family friend," Adriana said. "Quintus is no longer my husband. Perhaps, in a manner of speaking, he never was. Certain formalities remain, but the breach is complete."

"Iím so sorry," Lady Sempronia murmured with intense satisfaction.

A single trumpet pierced through the noise of the crowd like a stiletto, announcing the emperorís court. The fortified doors of the reception chamber swung open into the imperial pulvinar; and a plumed usher conducted Adriana to her silk-upholstered chair. As she stood waiting for the imperial family she watched Quintus. He was avoiding her eyes.

A second trumpet-note lanced the air. The emperor and empress entered the box. The race-day mob dropped to its knees as Petronius Maximus raised a fold of his robe and made the sign of the cross. The crowd boomed its metric acclamations. Glory to Petronius Maximus, Augustus of Augustuses! God gave you to us! God save you for us! The emperor and the empress eased themselves into their silk-cushioned thrones. A shower of trumpet-notes at the east end of the racetrack announced a parade of the charioteers through the Triumphal Gate.

A gold effigy of the emperor, giver of the games, headed the procession in a handsome carriage surrounded by liveried attendants. The popeís personal representative followed, conducting a statue of St. Peter in a gilded litter. The charioteers themselves came last, muscled like jungle cats, beribboned with the colors of their factions and loaded with amulets. They had always been dear to the heart of Rome. Songs were sung about them; their exploits were frescoed on walls. Pets were given their names; great ladies bore their children.

As they passed, women pulled off their headdresses and threw them in the air. A group of youths produced horns and blew them. In the stands opposite the emperorís box, claques of Greens and Blues, dressed entirely in their colors, sang to the shrilling of flutes. The standing spectators swayed like a field of wheat, emitting bursts of sound, like the unison barking of massed dogs.

Closing her mind to the noise, Adriana let her eyes wander over the crowd. Did they feel anything of the numbing apprehension that she felt? Could they have their own ways of knowing what she knew?

Lady Quartilla tapped Adrianaís wrist. Her face was suddenly half-serious.

"My chief maid said the oddest thing to me last week. An astrologer of her acquaintance predicted that when Green and Blue collide at the races, the Vandals will take Rome. Since then Iíve heard the saying at least a half-dozen times. What do you make of it?"

"My house is vibrating to the same note," Adriana said, with a dismissive motion of her fan. "Some serving-girlís nightmare, doubtless."

From the Green stands opposite the imperial box, a solitary bird flew up and dwindled westward into the cloudless sky. Its flight was that of a homing pigeon. What message could it be carrying?

"Does it seem strange to you that Vice-Prefect Faustinus and Lady Flavia arenít present?" Lady Sempronia asked, craning her neck.

"They must be present somewhere," Adriana said. "Faustinus is always present, like rats in summer wheat. One waits in vain for an exception."

But clearly Faustinus was not present. Why?

The processional disappeared into the row of stalls at the west end of the hippodrome. Trumpets blew in concert. The crowd fell silent and strained its collective neck toward the gates through which the racers would fling themselves in a moment.

Leaning forward on his throne, Maximus raised a white napkin in his right hand and let it drop to the floor of the box. The races had formally begun; the gates of the stalls burst open. The crowd emitted a roar like the noise of a hundred collapsing tenements. Two, four, six chariots erupted onto the dusty track. The charioteer from the northernmost gate, an unknown performer in the tunic of the Blues, crowded the field to pass the three-pillared barrier and drew briefly ahead of the others.

Then, deliberately, he cut across their path.

The wheels flew off one of the Green chariots; the rest was a desperate blur. A stallion shrieked; chariots were strewn the width of the track in an explosion of hoofs and harness. A Blue chariot had disintegrated under the wheels of its neighbor, crushing its driver, who had failed to cut himself free. His horse lay on the ground, its body ripped open by the collision. A second horse, its chest pierced by a spoke, staggered and fell, bleeding in quick bursts from the broad wound. A Blue charioteer, the villain, was dying in the wreckage, his mouth distended in a scream that no one could hear. Torn to pieces, a Green charioteer lay in the splinters of his rig. A horse thrashed in a pool of blood, banging its tattered head against the ground; its harness-mate wandered aimlessly, its bowels dangling, hitting its legs with every step.

The emperor rolled to his feet; the crowd froze in a leaden silence, and in the silence, a disembodied male voice shouted words that drained the blood from Adrianaís face: Vandals on the Tiber! The crowd heaved, as if in a moment of mass vertigo. The words went from head to head, between a whisper and a shriek: The Vandals! The Vandals are on the Tiber! The Vandals! The Vandals! The Vandals!

In an electric moment Adriana saw the abnormal precision of the sequence, the crash and the flood of rumor, like two blows from an unseen fist.

"No, no!" she shouted involuntarily, rising from her seat, but the spectators were already stampeding to the vomitories, flooding the imperial box, overwhelming the guards. A fugitive elbow struck Adriana in the neck. She fell forward and knocked heads with a sheep-faced old woman clawing her way in terror toward where she imagined safety to be. Throughout the hippodrome the mob was in hysterical motion, eyes bloodshot with fear, brains full of dead horses and the gleam of alien swords, cross-torrents of people crushing the weak, colliding and dispersing, leaping from seat to seat in the blind search for an unclogged exit.

In the whirl of fugitives an old senator raised his hands to his bald head, purple with apoplexy, and collapsed against the marble seat behind him. A distinguished-looking matron toppled across three ranks of seats and struck a stone barrier with her face. The crowd trampled her as she tried to rise, blood rolling out of her nose and mouth. An old woman lay screaming and thrashing in her tangled robes. A child lay still on a flight of stairs, twisted all out of human shape; another, white-faced and choking, dragged his broken legs through the dust of the raceway.

Adriana felt Quintusís characteristic grip on her elbow, and for once she was glad to have it there.

"Come!" he shouted in her ear, clearing a path with his strong arm, and guiding her toward the great double-door that led away from the imperial box. She gathered up her robe and ran beside him, across great halls floored with white marble, down nightmare-long colonnades dwindling into pinpoints of gloom. The emperorís other guests ran with them, abandoning their dignity, jostling each other like cattle to get to the palace portico.

Smiling encouragement to her attendants, Adriana slid into her litter. Her bearers moved out into the sunlight, down the Clivus Palatinus and into the chaos of the Via Sacra, where masses of people trod on one another as they struggled toward the extremes of the city, hoping for a head start in the rush to safety.

The streets below the Palatine were a sea of frantic faces, arms flung out in a thousand directions, mouths distended, a crush of litters, litter-bearers, eunuchs, beggars, nuns, cripples, horses stamping, footmen roaring for the right of way. Small children cried in the dust-storm raging underfoot; old women were squeezed between frantic donkeys and passing wagons; senators cursed in immobilized litters; frightened animals snorted and kicked in a brown haze. With nothing but the curtains of her litter to protect her from the mob, Adriana sensed rather than saw the movements of her bearers, sometimes surrendering themselves to the crush, sometimes darting into openings that appeared in the mass of bodies and carriages.

A woman screamed; a horse shied and came down with its hoofs against the frame of Adrianaís litter with a sharp report of cracking cedar. The litter tumbled to the pavement. Dust was in her mouth; she was tangled in the torn fabric of the roof. Four of her bearers were on their backs. The soft, strong arms of a eunuch dragged her out of the wreckage and set her on her feet. Quintusís litter had vanished, along with the offending horse.

"Leave it!" she shouted above the roar of the mob, spurning the wreck with her foot, and motioning her attendants in the direction of the Quirinal. Forming a wedge around her, her bearers and eunuchs bullied their way toward the Basilica Aemilia, where a stampede out of the Vicus Tuscus carried them helplessly westward. Through a gap in the mob they took refuge in the Old Forum, where the body of Aetius had been exhibited, and the hands and head of Cicero long before.

"Youíre healthy, madam?" her chief eunuch inquired in a distressed alto.

She nodded. "Hurry ahead of us, Nonna," she said, patting the huge creature on a plump cheek. "Weíll follow up the Clivus Argentarius, God willing, and miss the traffic at the mouth of Subura. Have my porter ready to let us in, assuming thereís no mob in front of the house just yet. Have all my servants assembled in the central hall. Iíll speak briefly to them. Have my horse Ferox saddled and provisioned. Iíll ride alone to Nomentum at midday."

The eunuch bowed airily, his arms crossed before his face, and floated away up the street like a fleshy cloud. At the west end of the Old Forum, Adriana and her clustered attendants struck out against the cross-traffic that had begun to flood out of the slums. In an hour the poor of the city would be in full flight, dragging babies, chickens, lame grandparents, screeching pets, bundles of rags and rubbish.

She moved wearily uphill to the Quirinal and the palace that would no longer be her home. Nonnaís news had thrown it into a turmoil. Stable-boys, kitchen helpers, gardeners, and housekeepers milled in the central hall, watching Adriana with frightened eyes as she hurried to Quintusís private quarters on the west end of the building.

She knocked, entered Quintusís sitting-room, and met his eyes for the first time since she had left the hippodrome. His splendid, stubborn, weak face told her that he knew their life together had ended.

"I suppose youíll worry me by traveling as usual without attendants," he remarked, lowering his eyes and looking at the floor.

"Worry?" she smiled. "When you do me the honor of worrying, itís always about the wrong things. Iím going to ride Ferox, yes, by myself."

"Do as you wish."

"I intend to."

In the central court of the palace she spoke briefly to the assembled servants, committing them to God, urging them to consult their own safety rather than defend the contents of the house against the Germans. She assured them that she would have taken them all to Nomentum, were they not Quintusís responsibility now. She blessed them and left them whispering in little knots. Quintus could explain the divorce at his convenience.

In her own apartment she stripped the rings off her fingers, twisted her hair into a bun, and put on a plain white tunic, a pair of light riding-boots, and a belt carrying a sheathed knife and a few gold coins in a sack. She would bathe at Nomentum.

Quintus appeared in the doorway to her attiring room, in his customary schoolboy posture, his hands behind his back. His expression was mild and ingratiating; all his decency and weakness were gathered in his handsome eyes.

She considered relenting. He would be facing the Roman mob alone, facing the Vandals alone. Was it desperate and cheap of her to leave? No, she reassured herself, thereís nothing in Godís law or the emperorís that requires me to perpetuate a sham marriage, an unstoppered vessel from which the perfume has evaporated. She could not stay in the palace, that was clear. The divorce was final; the dissolution had been bona gratia. A decent and orderly distribution of property would add finality to finality. She would see to it on her return, if there were anything left to distribute.

"Are you in great danger?" she asked Quintus in a neutral voice, masking her concern.

"Not while Maximus and Eudoxia live."

Through the north window of the room she could see a light cloud of yellow dust rising in the region of the cityís Salarian gate. She imagined the noises accompanying the cloud: whip-cracks, roars of drivers, howls of crushed persons, the whistling shriek of ungreased axles, the hiccuping bray of terrified mules.

"Youíd be wiser to stay close to me," Quintus said. The tone was both pleading and petulant.

"This house isnít my home," she answered simply.

He shifted his stance with a rustle of silk and began a step forward, but held back.

"You will not forgive me?" he said stiffly.

"I forgive you seventy times seven," she said, spreading her hands. "I leave you with holy peace."

His weak lip stiffened, contradicting his troubled eyes.

"I salute you and commend you to God," he said stubbornly. "There remains the division of property, and the notarization."

She gestured at the seething city beyond the window. "Youíd stand a better chance of finding a notary in hell. We can see to it at your convenience, if thereís anything left to divide when weíre rid of the Germans."

"Go, then," he said, waving at her as if she were a little girl.

She bowed cordially and went to the door of her apartment, passing between a double row of silent maids.

"I love you, Adriana, whatever you may think," he called after her in a choking voice, like a hand outstretched to pull her back into the room.

But the door closed behind her, and she was gone.


At nightfall the emperor heard unfamiliar voices. The pricking of his skin told him that everything was wrong in the palace. The eunuchs of the Sacred Bedchamber had vanished. The corridors were full of unfamiliar servants. Half-robed after a late audience, Petronius Maximus went to the main entrance of his private apartments and peered into the vestibule outside. In the golden lamplight, knots of heavily armed guardsmen were talking in low voices.

The emperorís lips were dry. He moistened them with a nervous motion of his tongue, and bit them. His chief eunuch, the Provost of the Sacred Bedchamber, appeared from nowhere, with a strange look on his grey face.

"Whatís the matter, Cyrus?" Maximus asked.

"There is movement in the streets, Your Tranquillity."

A gentle tinkle of lyre-notes floated down the corridor from the empressís apartments and died on an unfinished cadence. The hum of conversation in the vestibule stopped abruptly.

"There is movement in the streets," Cyrus repeated.

"The people havenít left the city, as Our Clemency has urged them to do?"

"Many have stayed, Your Clemency."

"God damn the people," Maximus said, breaking out in a sweat, and swallowing his spittle as if it were wool.

Gathering a train of agitated house-servants as he passed, the emperor climbed to the highest point in the palace, a small window from which the main streets west of the Palatine complex could be seen, as well as the dark alleys around the Circus Maximus. He peered out the glassless window, straining his fat neck to see into the streets, reflexively clutching the hilt of his ceremonial short-sword. The sun was setting in a wash of scarlet beyond the great hippodrome. It seemed to carry a frightful message. The roar of the People reached his ears for the first time, drowning out the murmur of the eunuchs. Maximus was suddenly over-warm in his white-silk tunic. He could not see the mob-face but he knew its expression well: the cruel mouths, the dull eyes that lit up to see a bear die, a gladiator drop from heart failure, a criminal lose his head, a rat drag itself down a slum street, soaked in pitch and burning alive.

Somewhere in the palace, feet were tramping in unison as the imperial guards distributed themselves according to an officerís sharp commands.

"Can you hear trumpets?" the emperor asked, straining at the window. "I think I hear trumpets."

He could see the People now, writhing up the Clivus Palatinus, a snake with clustered torches for its fiery eyes, a skin of ten thousand shrieking mouths illuminated by torchlight, like a fire scattered by a blow, making the rising moon red. There was a dull sound in the air, like the pounding wheels of distant chariots.

The emperor stood back, took up a fold of his robe, and wiped cold sweat from his neck. In imagination he anticipated the sounds that would surely come: the crash of a gigantic bronze door falling flat on cold marble, admitting Babel; the complaint of steel against steel; the tramp of vulgar feet in the Sacred Apartments.

Maximus turned and looked at Cyrus the eunuch. The emperor flushed a little, his mouth weakening at the corners.

"I think perhaps if I went with all necessary speed to Ravenna Iíd be of better service to the State than here," he said.

"But what of the empress, Your Circumspection?" Cyrus asked.

"Ah. We must make sure that she is safe."

The emperor burst into Eudoxiaís apartment unannounced. The empress stood in purple shadow, surrounded by her maids, looking into the palaceís eastern garden, apparently enjoying the evening air. The screams of the peacocks in the garden had stopped; the nightingales had given up singing. The empress turned to Maximus, white and cool, completely detached. He wondered whether she welcomed death.

"Are your children somewhere in the palace, madam?" Maximus said irritably.

"Iím sure I donít know where," Eudoxia smiled.

A eunuch leaned and brushed the emperorís ear with his headdress, and said, "The gates, Your Magnificence." Maximus heard the pounding of staves and clubs against distant doors, and sharp, splintering reports followed by waves of human noise, sending barbarous echoes through the building.

"Look to your safety, madam!" he barked at Eudoxia. The timbre of authority had gone from his voice. He saw, or thought he saw, the light of torches in the garden, the eerie glow giving point to the voice of the mob. Yes, there it was again, a wave of sound lapping up the perfumed air as a wolf might lap blood. The blind beast with ten thousand heads was loose. Nothing would satisfy it but flesh to tear, blood to pour out, heads to carry on mop-handles.

The emperor pictured himself in flight and regretted the indignity: Maximus, the Presence, fleeing from town to town, pale and dishevelled, in search of a hiding place. He hurried back into the corridor. The court was in terrified motion now: ministers, advisers, guardsmen, eunuchs tumbling over one another, cowering, swooning, imagining themselves trodden underfoot and mangled past recognition.

Maximus whirled around, for an instant imagining himself deserted, and looked into the grey face of Cyrus.

"Your Serenity," the eunuch said in his odd high voice, "we appear to be cut off from the main entrance. I suggest the old stairwell to the street behind the Circus Maximus. It will be necessary to leave the palace in any case. We can reach the river in a few moments, and leave the city in a few more."

"Who is with me?" Maximus asked, looking around, mentally counting up his attendants. "Who?"

Cyrus bowed. A beak-nosed eunuch swore eternal fidelity and bent to kiss the cross at the emperorís throat. A guard-captain named Ursus gripped the hilt of his shortsword and muttered an affirmation.

"Rely on my judgment, Your Serenity," Cyrus said, without turning his face to the emperor.

The little knot of men hurried westward through the palace, ignoring the rows of white faces that turned toward them as they passed. The eunuch Cyrus gestured at various guardsmen; with a clash of weapons they followed. The palace seemed to be filling with sound, like water welling up in a sinking ship. A volley of stones crashed through a nearby window, followed by a shower of glass and a womanís wail. In the eye of his mind the emperor saw the mob pouring into the Sacred Precincts, choking the corridors with noise and flesh, trampling the guards to pulp. Terrors assailed him, tumbling over one another. Was Cyrus in earnest? Was the Presence being betrayed?

White-faced, Maximus followed the eunuch into a reception room at the end of the corridor. Cyrus took a torch from a wall-sconce. In a tiny apse in one corner, like an afterthought to the chamberís spacious design, the eunuch turned a key and opened a door. His smooth voice glided into Maximusís frantic consciousness, reviewing the plan of escape.

The voice was oily, confident, passionless. "An exit by force of arms is impossible. There are a dozen of us here, not too many to leave the City unnoticed by the Sublician bridge and the Aurelian gate, if we move quickly."

The mouldy stairway behind the door had given emergency access to the emperorís apartments for centuries. It wound downward interminably. Maximus reeled in the airless passage, fearing that he would fall into Cyrusís smoking torch, or be fallen on by the guards breathing noisily at his rear.

The single file halted abruptly. Cyrus put out the torch in a shower of sparks, stubbing it against the blank wall of the stairwell. The eunuch turned his key again; a door yielded with small groans. Far below the moonlit faÁade of the palace, the party filed out into an empty street shadowed by the titanic bulk of the Circus Maximus, black against the stars.

The fugitives moved westward in the semidarkness toward the cityís livestock forum. The emperor felt short of breath. His heart seemed to be in his windpipe. Was it unreasonable to hope that he could reach the river before the mob had exhausted its interest in the northern accesses to the palace, and had turned its rage outward again?

The question was answered as his suffering legs carried him into the livestock forum. The people were there already, straggling at first, then in a rush of bodies and torchlight. An indescribable moaning roar went up when the mob saw Maximus, repeated from end to end of the open space. The waves of sound battered against the emperor and his party, rolled up the walls of the surrounding buildings, and rolled out again, hollow on the night breeze.

"Go back! Go to your homes!" the emperor shouted.

Cyrus, in front, threatened the gathering crowd with the flat of his sword. The people pulled back in momentary confusion. The emperorís party gathered slow momentum toward the Sublician bridge, moving through the sea of angry faces like a lifeboat among sharks. The people raved and cursed, shook their fists, threw stones.

I must reach the bridge, the emperor repeated in his mind, and felt his legs move under him as if they belonged to another body. The buildings whirled; the earth rocked. The people, pressing against each other in masses of rage, ebbed and flowed like waves of the sea.

"Show us your German gold, Judas!" a man shouted, broken teeth in a pitted face, and others took up the cry rhythmically: German gold! German gold! A well-aimed dead rat fell at Maximusís feet. A foul egg spread itself over the forehead and neck of the guard next to him. A drunken butcher attacked Ursus the guard-captain with a cleaver; Ursus warded off the blow, which whistled down the flat of his shortsword and stripped the flesh off his thumb. The outlines of the Sublician bridge showed on the fringe of the torchlight. The guards laid about them, striking men and women with the flats of their swords.

In the last moments of his life Maximus moved forward deliberately, propelled by the hope that an unseen Hand might deliver him. But at the foot of the bridge Ursus gave a signal with his good hand; the guardsmen faded into the mob, and the emperor stood alone, sick with the realization that he had been drawn into isolation and abandoned.

All eyes were on him now, hateful, vindictive, fanatic. In the eyes of the mob Maximus saw the recognition that the Sacred Presence was merely a plump old man. A stone struck him on the head and made him dizzy. He swayed, and began to move on wooden feet across the bridge, blinking helplessly. The people seemed to dissolve into collections of body parts: corrupt complexions, eyes flashing with stupid resentment, throats roaring between coarse lips and broken teeth, graceless hands signing obscenities. From the distended mouths the eerie noise of hatred, with a life of its own, rose and hovered like a plague of locusts on the wing.

"Please!" Maximus heard his own voice cry out, disembodied. The people had begun to lay hands on him, and he knew that he would not be allowed to live. Sweating in rivulets, the emperor drew his ceremonial sword and covered himself with glory at the very end of his life. The jeweled weapon flashed twice in the torchlight; the startled mob recoiled, and a man on his knees crawled away like an injured beetle.

The emperor wrenched his blade from a dark form that lay on the ground, and raised his arm to strike again, but with a vast growl the mob closed over him. Maximusís voice split the air, an octave above itself. The voice died away; the crowd pulled back. Remains of the emperor were scattered on the bridge; the rest had vanished into the river. A pair of corpses sprawled against the railing. The pavement was slippery, like the floor of a slaughterhouse.

A baker, dusty with flour, picked up a severed hand that lay in the roadway. Holding it high, he manipulated the cords at the dripping wrist to make a claw of the fingers. The crowd roared and whistled. A blind beggar moaned in ecstasy. Two cripples wagged their stumps and pounded their crutches on the cobblestones. The mob was too drunk with blood and cheap wine to notice that the detached hand was not the emperorís, far too lean and gritty to have belonged to Petronius Maximus.

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