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disappeared noiselessly. Titus sometimes found the slave’s efficiency an annoyance rather than a help. He got up and put on his robe, which was hanging over the back of the chair. Tying the waist he left the room, ignoring the fruit which Mago had brought. The last thing he felt like doing right now was eating. Some water, however, would be most welcome. Mago should have brought some but had not. Titus emerged into the hall and padded barefoot towards the kitchen. When Drusilla had been alive, she would never have allowed him to leave his bedroom unless he was fully dressed. In recent years he had let standards slip. Livia was sitting at the dining room table, dressed plainly and eating some fruit from a small plate in front of her and she looked up in surprise as Titus entered the room. He narrowed his eyes and she turned away, her defiance of the previous night greatly diminished by the rising of cheap puma the sun. ‘You have a nerve showing your face this morning,’ Titus growled at his daughter. ‘I did not think you would be awake so early,’ she said, pushing back her chair and beginning to stand up. That made Titus pause, but only briefly. It was true he slept later usually, especially if he had been drinking. He mentally reminded himself to not allow her to see him in such a state in the future. ‘Sit down. I want to talk to you. Calmly and as adults if possible, as puma shoes you are reaching that age now.’ He clapped his hands together loudly. ‘Mago, bring water.’ Mago emerged from the kitchen entrance hidden behind the pillar carrying a clay pot filled with water and a glass. He placed it on the table without a word and disappeared quietly. He could sense the tension in the air and puma trainers uk knew to keep away from it as much as possible. ‘Look at me,’ Titus ordered, and Livia did so, reluctantly. Her eyes were still red. She had obviously been crying recently. ‘Why don’t you wish to marry Welsh? He is better than we could have hoped for considering the circumstances.’ Livia shook her head in disbelief at what she was hearing. 301 THE REPUBLIC – CONSPIRACY ‘I hate him. He is a cruel man and he looks at me with… lustful eyes,’ she stammered, unsure how to mention the subject with her father. ‘It is only natural for him to look at you in such a way,’ Titus said reassuringly, ‘After all, you are his fiancé.’ ‘He is not yet my fiancé.’ Titus looked down at the table for a second, as he considered his response, before suddenly taking the glass from the table and hurling it across the room, narrowly missing Livia’s head before it struck the wall and shattered with an ear piercing crash. ‘You are impossible!’ he shouted angrily, ‘I have accepted Millennium Guard Welsh’s offer and you are therefore his fiancé. Most daughters would be grateful that their fathers were able to find them such a wealthy husband to keep them in the manner to which they have become accustomed, but you… you offer me nothing but venom. Millennium Guard Welsh will be returning again for dinner tonight and you will treat him with respect.’ Livia, her head again down, felt her body begin to shudder under the flood of her father’s wrath. She could fight him only sometimes. Other times it was unbearable. Titus, upon seeing this, only became even more enraged. ‘Your attempts to win my pity are worthless. I had thought to discuss this matter with you this morning when by rights you should have nothing to do with the decision, but now you have shown me how it must be. You will do as I tell you from this point on. You shall show both me and Hesdian Welsh the respect we deserve and if you do not then I shall cast you out onto the street where you can live out the rest of your days as a whore for all I care.’ ‘Mago! Shave!’ he called out as he s puma speed cat black lammed the dining room door shut behind him. Seconds later, Mago emerged again from behin puma trainers for men d the pillar, looking only once at Livia as he passed. It was the same argument they had had the night before and so many nights previously. The same threats over and over. Livia repeated her objections only to have them utterly disregarded by Titus, drunk or sober. The sense of hopelessness had infiltrated her life to the point where she felt she could not go on. 302 THE REPUBLIC – CONSPIRACY Titus strode up the steps of the Oratory, his anger only slightly faded. It was raining quite hard, and he had rushed through the streets, almost slipping several times. The bottom of his robe was muddy from the filth that swept along the gutters. The filth. Once, the Oratory had been a place that he would come puma trainers uk to and feel a sense of anticipation at the day ahead. A sanctuary from the rest of the trivial problems of his life. Once he had felt he had purpose as he entered the huge marble expanse of the foyer. Now it was a burden. Titus never attended the Oratory except on the compulsory days. Three times a week he was required to sit and he had already avoided it this week. He had no choice but to attend. The foyer, once a meeting place of Orators, standing around in small, huddled groups discussing strategies, was now almost entirely empty. The Orators all entered the Inner Chamber without even speaking on most mornings. Titus was no different. There was very little to discuss any more. The Oratory could no longer put forward proposals directly. Any proposal had to be first made to Marcus who would then consider the merits and if he believed it was worthy, he would pass it back to the Oratory to vote upon. Titus had never put forward a proposal to Marcus and almost certainly never would. He knew only too well the dangers of speaking to the Daos. As he sat down on the front bench, hitching the bottom of his robes up as he did so, he caught Janus Muro’s eye across the Inner Chamber. It was a tense moment that seemed to last a long time but was no more than a second or two. It was rare that Titus even saw Janus in recent years. There was an unwritten rule between them that Titus would attend the Oratory on the first three days of the week and Janus following that. It had never been decided that such a thing should happen, it was simply the way it had worked out. Following Marcus’ coup and the death of Drusilla, the two men grew further and further apart. This was for reasons of survival as much as any animosity between them. Janus had distanced himself from T discount puma itus quickly after Drusilla’s death through fear that being seen consorting with him might tempt Marcus to inflict a similar punishment on him. It was not a unique situation. All of the old alliances had been splintered. Gaius’ old allies, Ormand Nico, 303 THE REPUBLIC – CONSPIRACY Matthew Illius and Aro Harker were rarely seen speaking at all, although it was known that Illius and Harker remained on friendly terms. Damian Ceminus, Titus’ old Front Level ally, had disappeared entirely almost six years earlier. Titus had no idea what had become of him, and the one time he asked Janus, in the days when they still spoke occasionally, he had spitefully suggested that he was probably lying in a ditch somewhere with his throat slit. As for Gaius himself, he had survived longer than anyone could have predicted, and made more enemies than any other man Titus knew. Titus allowed himself another glimpse across the room at Janus. He looked old, even older than his sixty or so years. His cheeks seemed more sunken and his whole look was far more gaunt that it had been. Titus wondered if he had also aged so badly. Even ten years ago Janus had referred to him as ‘old man’. What would he call him now? Would he even give him a moment’s thought? The sig puma speed cat black ht of Janus put Titus in a reflective and mor puma insect shoes uk ose mood. He looked around the Inner Chamber with a heavy heart. Once, so long ago, they had commanded the attention of this room just by entering it. Now, nobody gave either one of them a second glance. Janus was not looking at him. He was not looking at anybody. He stared at his lap intently with a strange smile on his face. A sad and twisted smile that Titus couldn’t read. It didn’t last long. Just then, Gaius Fulvus entered, wearing Oratory robes that were fringed with purple silk. He looked much the same as he had except that his hair was a little greyer and his face a little rounder. Gaius entered the room with a superior smirk on his face as he always did, looking around at the morbid faces of the Orators with a degree of satisfaction that seemed to grow year by year. ‘All rise for the Daos’ Envoy,’ said a neutral and Titus, along with the rest of the chamber, wearily got to his feet. Gaius waited a few seconds and then slowly nodded his head, indicating that the Orators could again be seated. Titus felt nothing but contempt for the ludicrous pomposity of the ceremony. Gaius had not always been so confident in his new role. When Marcus had first taken control of Vissimo, he had not disbanded the Oratory as he had apparently assured Gaius he would. Instead he had decided to retain them and allow them to vote on proposals so as to maintain the 304 THE REPUBLIC – CONSPIRACY illusion of democracy. It was a fragile illusion but one that worked upon the masses. It was well known by the higher classes that to speak against Marcus’ ‘approvals’ was a foolhardy thing to do. Nobody had done so since Damian Ceminus had voted very vocally against Marcus’ plan to raise the tribute to be paid by the Surodan, which was already unreasonably high. His vote had changed nothing as it had been seven against eighty three, but he had meant it only as a symbolic gesture. The other six were only voting against the proposal as a token gesture. Marcus was not so foolish as to think the illusion could be maintained simply by having the entire Oratory vote in his favour. He expected a few votes against on occasion. Damian had gone too far however, despite Titus’ warnings, and had been too vocal in his disapproval. His disappearance had occurred not long after. Over the years, Gaius, who had at first brought forward Marcus’ proposals hesitantly, had grown far more confident. He had insisted that the Orators rise when he entered the Chamber, so as to maintain his authority. The five Personal Guards inside the chamber and the thirty or so that surrounded the building were enough of a threat that the Orators did not argue. Titus felt an almost uncontrollable rage as he watche puma grass cats d Gaius standing smugly in the centre of the Chamber. Gaius cleared his throat before unrolling a piece of parchment that he had tucked under his arm. ‘To business then, gentlemen?’ he suggested, a rhetorical question which elicited absolutely no response from the assembled Orators. Gaius sat down on an elaborate chair and small table which now occupied the main spac puma speed cat beige e in the centre of the Inner Chamber. This was another sign of the altered state of affairs. To sit down whilst addressing the Oratory had been considered a sign of disrespect and was under no circumstances tolerated. As it was now, nobody gave speeches of any great length and therefore Gaius had the floor for most of the day. He had, after the first six months, insisted he be allowed to sit, and obviously no one could argue with this. The only questions asked in relation to proposals were technical ones about implementation. It was never to suggest that something that Marcus had approved not be done at all. Titus rarely bothered. Any amendments that were made were largely ignored. The vote was 305 THE REPUBLIC – CONSPIRACY made on the repli cat iii puma unamended proposal and Marcus then had the right to alter it according to any suggestions at his own discretion. It was therefore possible that what was voted on in theory was not at all what was done in practice. This also mattered very little to Titus, as the entire procedure was a farce from the beginning. The only reason any Orators stayed was the pension they received and the fact that they retained their properties as long as they served until retirement. Most of the amendments were offered by Rear Levels who had been admitted after the coup had occurred and knew no other way of doing things. On his lighter days, it almost amused

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