Mini-Interlude 43 – Geta

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December 26th, 211 AD

Enough was enough. Caesar Publius Septimius Geta Augustus strode determinedly down the grand hallway of the imperial palace. An assortment of his closest bodyguards accompanied him, their presence a constant reminder that he was not safe even within his own home.

Not safe. Never safe. He was the leader of the most powerful empire the world had ever known, and he wasn’t safe in his own home.

Co-leader, Geta reminded himself then. His power was shared with his older brother, though ‘shared’ was a poor term as well. A better word would have been ‘split’. Their power and authority was split, just like this palace. For the past year, ever since their father had died, Geta and Caracalla had split their authority, their power, even the palace itself. Caracalla dwelled in one half of the palace, while Geta dwelt in the other half. Any doorways that would have linked the two sides had been walled up or otherwise blocked.

And even that wasn’t enough. Despite their separation, Caracalla had still attempted to have Geta killed more than once over these past months. They both kept their bodyguards with them at all times, neither ate any food that hadn’t been tested for poison, and Geta wasn’t sure about his elder brother, but he for one had not had a full night’s sleep in longer than he could remember.

Their conflict wasn’t exactly new, of course. In the years leading up to their father’s death, Geta and Caracalla had often been nearly at each other’s throats. Caracalla was named Caesar by their father when he was only seven, and Geta was six. Geta himself was subsequently also named as Caesar three years later. In that same year, however, Carcalla had been granted the title of Augustus. At the age of ten, he had been allowed to run the empire alongside their father.

The siblings’ rivalry and bickering had only worsened as they grew up, with Caracalla being the more athletic and outgoing between them, while Geta was more devoted to his studies and to enjoying the finer things that their station afforded them. He sought always to impress their father with the breadth of his knowledge and understanding of the empire, even as Caracalla continuously allowed his temper and impulsiveness to get him into trouble.

With the death of their father, Geta had become Caracalla’s co-emperor, despite his older brother’s early attempts to ignore that fact.

The two brothers had tried to settle the situation by literally splitting the entire empire in half. Under their tense agreement, Caracalla would remain in Rome and rule the western half of the empire, while Geta would take his people east, to Alexandria, and rule that half.

But the deal was not to be. Their mother, Julia Domna, had used the authority and power that she still held to block it from happening. Geta still didn’t understand why his mother had refused to allow he and his brother to divide the empire that way, and all attempts to change her mind had been fruitless.

Thus, the tensions between the two brothers had continued to worsen by the day, even by the hour. It was a situation that could not continue. And it wouldn’t. Geta was tired. His men were tired. It was time for things to stop. And he knew that Caracalla felt the same way, or at least similarly. His brother had called for a meeting, a private meeting where they would attempt to do what neither their mother nor their now-late father had been able to make them do: reconcile.

Geta wasn’t that foolish, of course. His brother had been caught attempting to have him killed only days earlier. He’d increased his guards when the plot was uncovered, and Caracalla appeared to have backed off.

Then this invitation had come. An invitation to meet in their mother’s quarters, allowing her to act as intermediary, so that the two of them could finally work out their differences.

That was the only reason that Geta was entertaining the notion: the presence of their mother. Even Caracalla respected her. With Julia Domna present, there was a chance, however slight, that his brother would behave himself.

Outside of the entrance (from this side, at least) into his mother’s room, Geta nodded to the men. With a gesture, he ordered them to stay put. Then he raised a hand to knock.

She answered the door, ushering her son inside with a brief look to his bodyguards before shutting it. “You are prepared to make peace with your brother?”

He nodded once. “Our feud has carried on for too long, mother. If Caracalla will make a genuine peace, I will accept it.”

Her eyes studied him for a moment, as though judging his sincerity (which was insulting, considering the fact that Caracalla should have been the one to prove himself), before she nodded. Turning, Julia led him across her quarters, just as a knock came at the other door.

“That will be your brother,” the woman announced. “Wait here for a moment.” She patted his shoulder, striding that way to let the other man in.

But it was not Caracalla who slammed the door open then, even before Julia could reach it. No, it was several armed men. Geta’s brother had yet again proven himself untrustworthy, ambushing him in their mother’s own quarters.

Julia herself was knocked backward, head hitting a nearby wall before she slumped to the floor. Geta barely had time to see her fall before the centurions were almost on top of him. Their swords were already driving for his chest. There would clearly be no peace talks. Caracalla meant to end their rivalry in a far more permanent way.

But Geta was no weakling, even if he lacked his brother’s taste for open warfare. As the first of the centurions reached him, the man stepped forward. He sidestepped the thrusting blade, catching the soldier’s wrist and twisting it while catching hold of the man’s arm with his other hand. Spinning, he tore the sword from the centurion’s grip while hurling him bodily into the next man. A single, lightning-quick slash of his blade took both men’s heads from their shoulders in a spray of blood.

That left two more men. Both retreated back a step, surprised by their target’s quick action. Yet they were too slow. Geta leapt after them, throwing his liberated sword through the leg of the nearest. As the man collapsed, Geta caught his sword as it fell from his hand. He drove his knee into the slumping man’s face, knocking him onto his back with the sword still stuck through his leg.

The other man was turning to retreat when Geta drove the new sword into his back. He released the blade, letting the man fall while turning back just long enough to pull his own sword from its place at his belt. A simple swipe of the blade finished the man who had fallen with the sword in his knee.

Geta had just moved to check on his mother, when the sound of his brother’s voice reached him through the broken door. “–if you are correct, it hardly matters when–”

He couldn’t hear more, but if his brother was there… if his brother was there, then Geta was going to end this. He was going to end it now.  Rising, he strode for the doorway, blade in hand.

At the doorway, he stopped, peeking through to make sure his brother was thoroughly distracted by whoever he was talking to.

That glimpse, that single peek, changed everything forever. Because as Geta peered around the corner of the doorway, he did indeed see his sibling there. But he also saw someone else, something else.

The man, if he could be called that, who stood next to Caracalla could never be mistaken as human. It was just under five feet in height, with some kind of black and dark blue bug-like exoskeleton, four legs spaced evenly apart to the front and back, and four arms on either side spread from its waist up to its shoulders. Its head resembled a fly, with enormous compound eyes, and similar mouth parts.

The sight was so shocking, that it brought Geta up short. As he stared, the fly… creature made a clicking noise before hissing the words, “You are making a mistake. This is–”

“Enough,” Caracalla interrupted, his voice harsh. “I have listened to your counsel for all these years, and yet nothing has changed. They are changing tonight. The feud with my brother will be over. I should never have listened to you.”

“Of course,” the fly-thing hissed, laying one of its many hands on the man’s arm while leaning up closer to his ear. “The final decision is yours, the men stand ready to follow your orders. But, Imperator, as I have tried to tell you for so long, your brother’s death presents a great… many…” He leaned in then, hissing his words into Caracalla’s mouth. With each word, the man’s usually scowling expression slackened, and he slumped a little bit more. Relaxing. The words from the fly creature were forcing him to relax, even causing him to sway just a little bit.

Magic. The foul, wretched creature was using some form of black magic to control his brother’s mind. And, from their words, he had been doing so for years. No wonder Caracalla had such a temper and was so… unpredictable. Any choice he made was undone by this filth.

Obviously, what happened here was that Caracalla had intended to make his peace with Geta. But this creature had discovered the truth and found a way to send the guards in to kill him first.

If his brother could be freed from this thing’s influence, then… then…

Geta thought no more. With a cry of rage and justice, he stormed into the corridor, rushing for the fly-creature.

Yet, before he could cross even half the distance between them, another body collided with his. There was someone else there, someone he had failed to see. As the body slammed into his, Geta was knocked sideways through the nearby glass window. The sword dropped from one of his hands, but his grasping, groping fingers managed to catch hold of his attacker. He felt… feathers?

Twisting in the air as they fell, Geta managed to get the man who had crashed into him underneath himself an instant before impact. Then they hit, and he felt a sudden, sharp and agonizing pain in his lower side.

Everything seemed to slow down then. A blink, and he saw the sword… the one that he had dropped. Somehow, it had ended up stuck against a rock with its blade facing upward. Geta and his attacker had landed on top of it, the blade piercing straight through the other figure’s chest before continuing on into Geta’s side.

Another blink, and he saw the man who had tackled him. Except… it wasn’t a man at all. The figure was just as not-human as the fly creature had been. This one, however, looked more like a bird, with wing-like arms and a beak. The feathers that he had felt covered the bird-man’s body. They had clearly been blue, though now most were stained with a mixture of the creature’s blood, and Geta’s.

Another blink, and he saw the bird-man’s eyes drift closed. Another, as he fell onto his back to look at the sky, and he saw his own brother standing there at the broken window, looking down at him.

One more blink, and he saw another figure, blurry and indistinct, limping toward him from the ground.

Then his eyes were shut, and remained that way for quite some time.

*******

“I should go back now, and free my brother from the influence of that creature,” Geta announced several days later. He stood in a small clearing, scowling at the man who sat across the fire from him. “I appreciate you dragging me out of there when you did. You saved my life and you have my gratitude for that. But my brother is still under its power.”

“You would be killed immediately,” the other man retorted. “I did not save your life just for you to throw it away once more. You want to learn how to kill those beasts, how to use the gifts that the bird-creature’s blood granted you? Then have patience. Your brother’s mind has been lost to their whispers. He has already proclaimed you dead. If you show up again, he will have you executed for impersonating yourself.”

Turning, Geta glared through the darkness. Darkness. He only knew it was supposed to be dark through context. Ever since the blood of the bird-man had mixed with his own, he saw through all darkness as if it was as bright as day. He could see further as well, and make out minute details from vast distances. Often, he lost track of what was happening directly in front of him, because his attention would be drawn to something far away as if it was much closer.

Still, it was an improvement from the first day, which he had spent with a splitting headache, throwing up more than he thought was physically possible.

“How much longer?” Geta demanded, staring at the man who had saved him. “As you say, they have already falsified my death. They even convinced my own mother that she saw me die right there in front of her. The beasts have control of my palace. How long until we can kill the creatures whose whispers have taken my brother and my empire from me?”

“Not long,” his rescuer, his teacher, promised. “When you are ready, we will take your empire back.

“But not until then,” the man who called himself Radueriel finished.

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26 comments

  1. Thanks for reading this little mini-interlude, you guys! And I’m sure two Alters both being around Caracalla at the same time that Radueriel was in the general area isn’t important at all. Totally inconsequential stuff, really.

    I’m also sure I messed up somewhere in portraying how things were back then, but hey, did my best. Any actual (or amateur) historians that want to help clean it up a little, feel free to make suggestions.

    Anyway, thanks again, and we’ll see you back here on Friday for the regular chapter. Tags for this one are: Caracalla, Geta, I’m Pretty Sure That Geta Jumping Any Further To Conclusions Would Have Required A Jetpack., Julia Domna, Radueriel, Yeah Geta – I Have No Idea Why Your Mother Would Stop Her Two Constantly Feuding Sons From Splitting The Roman Empire In Half. It’s A Real Mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Okay, so the foremost question in my mind here is whether or not Geta is still in contact with Radueriel and/or another Seosten. You said on SB that he’s in charge of offworld exploration and colonization now, so he could be complicit, a host, or still a pawn at this point. It’s impossible to say at this point.

    Also, to be clear, the Bystander Effect had already been cast at this point, right? Geta’s ability to see the insect man doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t active, since you’ve said repeatedly that sometimes the BE only asserts itself after a human leaves an Alter’s presence, but I’m surprised he was able to think that clearly.

    Were those two Alters an Aswang and a Lavinsi?

    I think they were either rebels against the Seosten trying to undo some of their work or con artists that wanted some power without knowing the Seostun were running things behind the scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Okay, so the foremost question in my mind here is whether or not Geta is still in contact with Radueriel and/or another Seosten. You said on SB that he’s in charge of offworld exploration and colonization now, so he could be complicit, a host, or still a pawn at this point. It’s impossible to say at this point.

    Good question.

    Also, to be clear, the Bystander Effect had already been cast at this point, right? Geta’s ability to see the insect man doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t active, since you’ve said repeatedly that sometimes the BE only asserts itself after a human leaves an Alter’s presence, but I’m surprised he was able to think that clearly.

    It was fully cast close to the turn from BC to AD, so relatively recently at that point, but yes.

    Were those two Alters an Aswang and a Lavinsi?

    No and yes, respectively. The bug thing is new.

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    1. Which makes Geta a Lavinsi Heretic. That says interesting things about how successful Flick’s lies to the Committee are.

      It also raises a question I’ve had about the Committee’s power sharing link. Does it share abilities each member originally had as Natural Heretics, or just the the powers they’ve gained as Edge-Heretics?

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  4. Honestly, this needs a rework. The only reason I know that Geta’s supposed to be clearly in the wrong about anything but trusting Radueriel is the SB thread.

    My initial read was that Geta was RIGHT about what was going on, because it’s not remotely clear that the Alters had been trying to moderate Caracella, that the missing word at the end of “But, Imperator, as I have tried to tell you for so long, your brother’s death presents a great… many…” is something like problems or complications or issues, not opportunities, and the guards were acting on Caracella’s orders, not the Alters.

    Radueriel is still a tremendous ass either way, because an Aswang and a Lavinsi vs Evil Cyborg Angel Hephaestus is not a fight, nor is some random ass bystander vs ECAH. Either way he could trivially beamspam the problem out of existence if he was an actual mentor rather than a puppetmaster.

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    1. I disagree. I don’t think it needs any rework, because it doesn’t matter if you pick up that Geta was wrong or not. It’ll be spelled out more later when you see the scene from a different angle.

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    2. I disagree that it needs reworking. It’s too subtle for that conclusion to be as obvious as the tags imply, but it still works perfectly fine as set up for a twist. You know, for people who don’t read these comments.

      Radueriel is still a tremendous ass either way, because an Aswang and a Lavinsi vs Evil Cyborg Angel Hephaestus is not a fight, nor is some random ass bystander vs ECAH. Either way he could trivially beamspam the problem out of existence if he was an actual mentor rather than a puppetmaster.

      I also think the fact that Raduriel or some other Seosten didn’t just do exactly that makes it blatantly obvious that they couldn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Personally I love the chapter the way it is BECAUSE it’s not clear whether Geta is in the wrong, whatever the author’s intention was. It can legitimately be read either way.

      Cerulean confirmed it’s not an Aswang, and Radueriel is almost 2000 years younger at this point, so we don’t actually know if he would win. It still seems likely because of the story logic that villains are powerful, but we don’t actually know.

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  5. Historian in training here. (Got my bachelor’s degree, currently aiming for the master’s degree…)
    First, about the tags… The funny thing is: The roman empire WAS split up later on, but with FOUR emperors… Eastern half and western half of the empire got one Augustus (senior emperor) and one Caesar (junior emperor) each.

    About Geta and Caracalla: I think this is as accurate as you can get here without extensive research… The sources are somewhat flimsy anyway and it’s ALWAYS risky to assume character traits for a person that’s been dead for almost two millenia.
    The only thing that made me go “wait, what?” was the glass pane. So I went ahead and looked it up. xD True, the romans HAD glas, but around the second century AD glas was mostly used for parfume bottles, trinkets and jewelry and drinking vessels (for rich people anyways…) Window glass did exist, but it was not common and it wasn’t nearly as see-through as ours nowadays… The technology for thin, transparent glass DID emerge around the 3th century, but it wasn’t far spread. Plus, the biggest producer of glass was egypt, making big window panes in rome for Geta to fall through even more unlikely…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a non-historian, it makes sense to me that if anywhere in Rome besides Egypt would have window glass, it would be the emperors’ palace. Or am I totally off-base?

      This chapter did such a great job of putting me in Geta’s mindset that I only half-realized the tag about splitting the empire was sarcasm. Since from Geta’s point of view, splitting the empire could allow him and his brother to do their own thing with an ocean between them and stop fighting. Before I got to the second half of the chapter, I actually wondered if a Seosten was possessing Julia Domna and trying to keep the empire from splitting to maintain their power or something.
      (Yes, I also realize that splitting the empire has its own problems, including the obvious possibility of civil war.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You’re not totally off base there, the emperors palace could be one of the first places to have those, but it’s still pretty unlikely. Geta and Caracalla didn’t have a new palace built for them… and even if they did, I doubt they knew about the antics of some egyptian glaziers. Like I said, the TECH for thin, transparent glass was developed around that time, but it wasn’t widespread in europe until the 12th century AD… New inventions don’t always spread like wildfire and romans were conservatives by nature.

        About the splitting of the empire: You’re right there, the splitting of the empire was indeed a rather sensible idea! …maybe not with THOSE two emperors specifically, though… ^^
        However, it was done later on and it DID WORK for a time. Even better, the western part of the empire may have perished in the 5th century, but the eastern part literally lasted for another thousand years after that…

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    2. Thanks for the input! As far as having glass in windows goes, my source was ‘Romae-vitam.com’, which said…

      Glass was also used to make mosaic tiles. Glass blowing and improvements in furnace technology allowed for the production of molten glass which led to the production of the first window glass. It is worth noting that Roman houses did not have glass windows up until the first century AD, rather they had holes with shutters with very few facing the street for safety reasons. These windows were often not very transparent, their primary objective being to only let light through.

      The fact that it said they DIDN’T have it *until* first century AD, to me, implies that they would have had it in important buildings by 211 AD.

      And yeah, the whole ‘not necessarily see-through’ thing is part of why I didn’t mention whether it was translucent or not when he went through it.

      Basically I googled it a few times and every source I looked at seemed to imply that it was at least *plausible* that they could have glass windows at that point.

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  6. “I’m Pretty Sure That Geta Jumping Any Further To Conclusions Would Have Required A Jetpack.”

    I found this tag to be very spoilerous. I find Geta’s conclusion in the chapter quite logical: if they were benign, how come nobody has heard or seen them before? They’ve apparently been there for years.

    The main reason why I would suspect otherwise, would be meta-reasoning: Cerulean so carefully omitted the specific words that would make it clear what these creatures were trying to do. Why would he do that, if not because Geta is wrong? I, personally, don’t meta-reason like that when reading fiction, and would have much preferred to find out the truth whenever it was made clear in-story.

    PS> I guess this is somewhat similar opinion to Alex Walters, except I like the chapter, but don’t like the tag about Geta jumping to conclusions.

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  7. If you were interested in the historical details: For Caracalla to get away with declaring a co-ruler who wasn’t simply a minion/figurehead of Caracalla’s at the time of his death well…dead, he’d need a damned convincing BODY. There have been numerous times in Roman history by 211 AD where political shenanigans revolving around claims that Personage X was dead, that some eyewitness testimony by other Personages would not be something the Senate would just ho-hum and pass by. The Roman Senate and whoever was over them (the mode of exact governance changes numerous times throughout the centuries) was always in a tug-of-war with said ruler.

    Their mother attesting to seeing Geta die would simply cement which camp she’d joined in the eyes of Senators, provincial governors of influence, prominent generals etc. Roman succession was always, ALWAYS the most delicate of times in the Empire. With a co-rulership like the one described, you’d have fully one-half of the political engine thinking to safeguard whatever power and influence they had as Geta’s men.

    Historically, the deaths of Roman rulers turned bloody and into a period of substantial political unrest (if not outright civil war) far more often than not when changeovers in who held ultimate power occurred.

    I believe (I invite others to correct me if I’m wrong) but the scholastically-inclined Geta would be aware it wouldn’t be as simple to declare him an imposter as Rad is making out. Now, that’s solved easily enough by some memory manipulation by Rad-Hephaestus…but you asked.

    Interesting interlude.

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    1. Hmm…presumably Radueriel would know all this, so maybe he supplied a body to Caracalla, and that’s why he’s so confident Geta would be seen as an imposter.

      Like

  8. Some Grammatical nits:

    One listens to ‘counsel’ rather than ‘council’, in the sense Caracalla was using the word.

    “I appreciate that you dragging me…” should be either “I appreciate that you dragged” or “I appreciate you dragging me”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So, my commission request for this one was “Geta and his fight against the Stranger that “took his brother’s sanity”. (Because Romans.)” Bit of a cop out there Cerulean since Geta never got to fight that particular Stranger here, only an accomplice. I guess this is partially my fault for thinking the one messing with his brother’s mind and the one he was a Natural Heretic of were one and the same. ^_^

    I do like how this one and the previous one tied into the current story, nicely done there.

    As for this particular entry I have nothing really to say about it other than it was well done and gave use a few answers and so many more questions.

    Liked by 1 person

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