A half a solar year has passed since Breul and his men rescued Pliny the Younger from three men kidnapping him. Their agreement to keep it quiet and between themselves had been kept except The Younger had told his uncle in strong confidence. Pliny the Elder had been most generous in his praise and in reward which Breul attempted to turn down. Pliny also now counted the crew of construction workers in much higher esteem. He now would occasionally visit them all when they would be a day or so between projects to work on. He had even heard them referring to the area they lived close together in as Sellinium in and now referred to that community the same way.
Domatian had also been to Misenum during this time and been very generous to Breul and his men as well .He even felt some private pride himself at having made it possible for the group of not known legionnaires and their Centurion there when the attempt was thwarted by them.
The most important change to Breul however was that Selina found out at the same time of the kidnapping that she was with her and Breul’s second child. Now she was past her second trimester and little Basslius was now quite an active toddler becoming his father’s shadow when he was home and even his twin brothers when they were close to the house. Jenet was now even more like her mother and did all she could caring for her baby brother, up to and including showing him her mischievous side when they could get away with it and not be in trouble with their parents. Now she was more anxious for her mother to give birth to the baby than her mother was.
Lucius and Alypin were now married and Alypin was with their first child only a trimester behind Selina. They lived close to Tarquin and his family, Tarquin’s daughter Aphia had become as attached to Alypin as her own mother Mila since she had started to show her pregnancy.
There had been small earthquakes over the last 3 days, with one shaking the nearby areas late yesterday for a couple of minutes then a smaller aftershock some minutes later of the low rolling kind under the earth. It had scared most everyone, even though they were rather used to Vesuvius making itself known fairly regularly. The people believed it was Vulcan being either angry at something or just snoring in his sleep. There had not been any damage, not even a plate or cup broken during the event.
Breul and Selina had just lay down in their bed and Breul was massaging Selina’s now swollen belly gently and as he did the child inside kicked every now and then giving them both a reason to smile at one another. Finally Selina took her husband’s hand and brought it to her cheek and they kissed deeply for long moments as they cuddled even closer Breul snuggled up behind her his arm over her side as they preferred to sleep each night.
“I love you my sweet wife.” Breul whispered to her as they began to drift into sleep.
“You are my world my husband, know that.” Selina answered him as they did fall asleep.
The next morning Breul was up a little early as he did every day, now doing what he could around their house before he left for work. Selina had stopped pushing him out the door without his help as she knew he would help anyway to lessen her work to be done.
As the sun was starting to rise in the east, Breul and the other men started their morning’s walk to the construction site they were presently involved on. Everyone would attempt to get in an especially good day today as tomorrow was the festival of Vulcanalia that god who lived on Mount Vesuvius in the distant northeast overlooking where Herculaneum is and also close to Pompeii where they had all lived many years before moving here to Misenum and working on projects for Pliny the Elder.
Once at the site is was easy to see that many of the populous here were as much preparing for festival day on the morrow as they were going about the tasks they would normally be performing any other day. Many of the shops, bakeries, places to eat, drink and partake of other pleasures would be doing much increased business tomorrow on the feast day. It was the way of the Roman Elite who enjoyed the luxury of living in any of these ports where the wealthy and noble liked to escape the daily life of Rome itself.
When the sun reached midway in its path across the heavens and the men sat down to partake of prandium, the conversation went easily to the plans for enjoying the day of celebration on the next day. Breul and Selina were hosting the feast for them all at their home and all of the wives were busy making preparations even though Selina and Alypin were far into their pregnancies. Many would drift into town at one time or the other just to experience the more elaborate celebration, but all would spend most of their time in their own now beloved community of Sellinium as they and many now called it in honor of Breul’s wife Selina.
The day went along after that as most days went for Breul’s men, taking time to make sure the construction was done well, but getting even more accomplished today with tomorrow being a feast day and no work to be done. Once home the married men started getting any of their own tasks done for the feast of Vulcanalia the next day. Many visited back and forth making it a community effort especially around the home of Breul and Selina where the bulk of the day would be spent for them all.
After cena and once the children were asleep Breul and Selina retired to their bed as well. Sunup would come soon enough and although the day would be enjoyable with everyone celebrating together, it also would mean quite a bit of work still for most of them at times. Once in their bed they snuggled close to one another Breul up to Selina’s back with his arm over her and within minutes they drifted into sleep breathing in low quite rhythm and harmony.
During the feasting day of Vulcanalia; Claudia,Padilla, Atia, Mila and Paccia tried to do the bulk of the women’s tasks for serving or last minute cooking so that Selina and Alypin could be as rested as possible during the day, as both were heavy into their pregnancies. All of the inhabitants of Sellinium enjoyed the day feasting; a couple or some of the men like Magnus and Brutus drifted into the center of Misenum at times but returned to the community to spend most of their day. Aphra, Galla and Jenet spent their time between helping the older women, tending to Bassilius as he would let them and sharing in young girl’s conversation. The men at times played at games with Philo, Cato, Justinian and Julius. Eating went on the entire day with all the fare available that the wives had prepared.
During the evening after cena many sat around in conversation, stories and just friendly camaraderie. Pliny the Elder had sent servants early in the day with sweet breads and fruits as gifts to the men; Selina had sent them back to the Pliny’s with like measure of delicacies the women had prepared and their gracious thanks.
Everyone retired to their homes and beds a couple of hours after commisato that evening. Breul had lain in bed massaging Selina’s belly and talking to the child moving inside her. The two had embraced warmly before finally falling asleep in one another’s arms.
The next morning the men started to work at the present site as if there had been no feasting the day before. Once there they went about their usual tasks in the zeal they were known for. A couple of low tremors were the only signal to how drastically this was about to change.
As the men sat having their prandium of emmer, cheese and mulsum , a large quake began and as they looked off to the southeast across the bay, far in the distance they could see the large tall black plume with its Christmas tree shaped top erupting from Mount Vesuvius putting black pumice kilometers into the midday sky, it appeared to be blowing over Herculaneum and to the south toward Pompeii. The balck ash cloud with is firey sparks as they appeared at this distance were ominous. People all around the port were stopping and staring in its direction and then running here and there in abject fear of the god’s disapproval. A panic was starting even here in Misenum.
Breul told everyone to get things put away quickly they needed to head for their homes in Sellinium and take care of their families above everything else. Within seconds they were making their way among the hectic throng of people going in every conceivable direction. As the mass of activity began to lessen because they were at the outskirts and nearing Sellinium they could pick up their pace.
Once there all the married men went immediately to their wives and children making sure all were okay. then there was the battery of questions between them about what was going on. The erputing blasts were still going on at an explosive intensity none had ever felt before. Dishes and mugs setiing on sheves were shakin g off and breaking on the floors. Dust and debris was showering down into the rooms of the houses from their ceilings and roofs, as yet nothing appeared to be collapsing though.
“This is one of the reasons I was happy about our moving here Breul. We both know these quakes have happened before. But what is that heavens high black cloud?” Selina asked him.
“Vesuvius is erupting in full force this time my love. But it seems to be doing its worst in the direction of Herculaneuem and Pompeii, the areas near or to the south of the mountain. “Breul told her.
“So you think we are going to be safe, Husband?” she asked again a plea in her eyes.
“Unless the winds change or the blast increases, I think so. Now all we can do is watch and pray.” He answered.
During the next four hours all of the husbands and wives kept in contact with their friends, most of the time they were outside watching the progressing cloud of dark ash still continuing to obliterate the entire area from Herculaneum to Pompeii it appeared. Around mid afternoon a runner came to Breul and Selina’s house with a plea from Pliny the Elder.
“What does it say husband?” she asked him, just as several of the others came to where they were having seen the legionnaire hand Breul a note and waiting for an answer.
“Pliny the Elder is amassing the entire fleet for rescue efforts along the coast near to Herculaneum and to the south near Stabiae. He is asking if any here will accompany him.” Breul told her
“Will you go Breul, or who would you send in this disaster? I am afraid my love.” Selina told her husband.
“I know you are Selina, everyone is. However we here do not appear to be in much jeopardy, but no I will not go myself. I will send Brutus and Magnus, I will just go to the docks and talk with Pliny the Elder myself.” Breul answered her
“Thank you my husband, I don’t want to be without you.” Selina said cuddled up to his chest as he put his arms around her. Just then another of the shaking blasts shook the entire area of Sellinium. Then he turned to go find the two men.
It took about an hour for the three men to get to the docks. Pliny the Elder was appreciative of the two Breul brought, knowing they had been instrumental in the rescue of his nephew. Pliny was setting out ahead of the rest of the fleet in a smaller vessel, he wanted to make on hand observations he said. Brutus and Magnus went in his vessel with him. Once they had cast off, Breul went back to Sellinium and his family. Another blast occurred soon after he arrived back home.
The worst was still centered in the areas near Vesuvius and to the south and south west. It was now turning into evening and lights of fires could just be seen when the dark cloud seemed to settle some in between different eruptions. Many people were evacuating their homes even here in Misenum out of fear that the winds would change, or the eruption get more fierce.
Late that night after the third blast which did not put as much ash in the air but did seem to spawn more fires all around the base of the mountain especially near Herculaneum, there was a large ground swell wave of water in the bay, but it did not appear to do any damage in the port or area they could see in the night.
None of the fleet ships were returning yet from their rescue mission and Breul suspected it was because of the ash filled air and winds not making good conditions to set sail back across the bay.
By early the next day Misenum was all but deserted and the eruptions had not stopped as yet. Selina nor anyone had gotten much sleep, even the children were too nervous to sleep staying close to their parents and all their friends continually together and keeping each other as calm as they could.
The damage here in Misenum seemed to be nominal as best and the only injuries were from mobs of the people rushing to escape and in the melee knocked one another down or stepped over a fallen person in the street, no one was stopping to help anyone else up or out of the town.
There was more eruptions that occurred throughout the morning some had plumes in the sky and other were not as visible but seemed to cause many fires around the mountain in the distance.
By the end of the day Breul had counted what he felt were six distinct eruptions over the day and half it had been occurring, and the quakes, pillows of erupting smoke had abated. All the families started to ease a little still fearful of another one yet to come. But all were starting to clean up what rather small damages had occurred in their homes or around them, none of them had even been slightly injured, Breul told everyone they were extremely blessed in this, since it was easy to see that many fleeing the town would not be able to say this and only the gods knew how many had been hurt or died in Herculaneum, Oplontis or Pompeii.
It was far into the evening by the time Brutus and Magnus returned to their home and friends. Their report, listened to by all, was more than grim.
Pliny the Elder was dead, they had beached the small craft close to Stabiae rather than where he had planned along the coast close to where his friend Rectina and her husband Bassus lived although Brutus and Magnus did not know why. Then the small craft could not return to the sea as they planned so men took shelter inland and Pliny the Elder did not follow as he was having trouble breathing, even though the ash was not that bad where they were. Magnus had placed some material on a rock and Pliny the Elder sat there as they went to see what the crew was doing. When they returned the admiral was still sitting there, slumped over and dead some of the crew were with them. It had taken the rest of the night to return to Misenum.
Brutus and Magnus had gotten close enough inland to see and moreover hear from a few refugees that Pompeii no longer existed, between the ahs and pyroclastic flows during the 6 different eruptions the entire town was now completely buried not even the tops of house or the two story buildings could be seen. All were buried completely under what Vesuvius had decimated the area with its blasting. There was no way to even estimate how many had died. As they had made their way back to Misenum they found the same types of destruction at Oplontis and Herculaneum.
After hearing the report and with there being no more quakes recently, Breul left with the two men to tell Pliny the Younger what had happened. Pliny the Younger had returned to his mother’s home with her and all their retinue, but both he and his mother were devastated by the news and thanked Breul’s two men for coming to them with all that they knew after returning back to Misenum.
Breul and his men made the few repairs in Sellinium in short time over the next week, and before they were done a messenger from Domatian with orders to continue their work around the port until he sent news to the contrary.
A short 2 months prior an earlier disaster struck Rome’s elite and nobility, Vespasian had died of natural causes in a small house outside of Rome while on a trip and his oldest son Titus had been proclaimed his successor. Now Pliny the younger although heavily involved with the happenings at Misenum, was still only 17 years old and was exhibiting the first true signs of being a fanatic in his belief not only in the gods of Rome but in his zeal to persecute those of other beliefs, especially this fairly new Christian religion. The new admiral of the fleet Gnaeus Julius Agricola was not disposed to live in Misenum and left the operation of the port to subordinates.
This gave Breul even more reason to keep Selina, Atia and others belief well hidden from those not known to share their beliefs. This secrecy he impressed upon them with the sincerest of conversations to include their neighbors and even those of his own men who were faithful to the Roman gods.
About a month later Selina gave birth to her and Breul’s second child, a daughter they named Pompia after the now nonexistent town where they had met, fell in love and married. In infancy she looks as though she would mirror her mother and older sister in looks.
Breul and Selina could not be happier with their growing family, friends and life at this point in Misenum.