The Memory of Snow
secret place for contact?’ asked Janus. ‘Wait!
I need something to write on.’ He looked around and patted his tunic as if a
wax tablet and stylus would leap out at him from nowhere.
    ‘There are implements at the temple,’ sighed Marcus. He stood
up and cast a glance at the Commandant’s house. Was she in? He would make
certain he caught her later. But he might as well humour Janus for now. Perhaps
if Janus left a message, the Pater would contact him directly and he would stop
asking Marcus about his initiation.
    The two men left the fort and headed down to the temple. The
path was slippery with the rain that had fallen earlier that day and Marcus
knew the temple would feel damp and cold once they were inside it. It never
seemed welcoming when there were no people in it. Aemelia hated the place. He
had taken her down to it once, to show her what he believed in. She loved
Coventina’s Well and adored the Shrine to the Water Nymphs, so he thought she
would like the temple. He was wrong. She had refused to enter it, shaking her
head as Marcus paused at the door, ready to open it for her.
    ‘No, I do not want to come in. It is a horrible place,’ she
had said, pulling her arm away from his and walking deliberately away from the
temple and towards the Water Nymph shrine. ‘I shall wait here. Anyway, I am
sure women are not allowed in your temple.’
    ‘Well, no. They are not usually allowed in,’ said Marcus
frowning. ‘But I think the men would make an exception for you, just so you can
see what it is like inside. You are the Commandant’s daughter, after all.’
    ‘Yes, and we are a Christian family,’ said Aemelia. ‘Don’t
think I haven’t heard the whispered comments or the complaints about us. I am
invisible to a lot of these men. They think because I am a young woman I do not
understand them. But I do. They would rather we had not come to your
Carrawburgh.’
    ‘I don’t feel like that!’ cried Marcus walking up to her. He
took her hands in his and looked into her eyes. ‘Truly. I am happy that you are
here. Perhaps more happy than you know.’
    Aemelia had ducked her head, but not before he had seen her
smile.
    ‘I know you are happy, Prefect,’ she said. ‘As I am happy to
be here. But it does not make this awful building any more bearable. Even if it
is important to you.’
    ‘It is important to me. Of course it is,’ said Marcus looking
over his shoulder at the building. Then he turned back to face Aemelia. He
looked down at her, his eyes softening. ‘But not as important as you are. If
you feel uncomfortable here, I shall not go in. We can go back to the vicus and
find something to eat or drink. I don’t want you to feel like
that.’  
    Aemelia smiled at him and squeezed his hands.
    ‘Thank you, but you don’t have to avoid it because of me. It
is such a dark, eerie place. It just feels wrong to me,’ she said.
    ‘Sssh. No. We will leave. Don’t worry about it,’ said Marcus.
‘Come on.’ He dropped her hands and offered her his arm. She took it and smiled
up at him.
    ‘Thank you,’ she said. He smiled down at her and they began
to walk away from the temple, up towards the vicus.
    When they had disappeared over the hill, the heavy wooden
door of the temple cracked open. The Leo who had been making an offering to
Mithras had heard Marcus. He watched to make sure they weren’t coming back,
then closed the door and sat down inside the temple. The Corax perhaps needed
his next initiation now more than ever. He might mention it to the Pater, he
thought. Just so the Corax was gently brought back into the fold. It wouldn’t
do any harm.
    Marcus pushed open the door of the temple and looked into the
gloom.
               
    ‘Hello?’ he called. ‘Are there any servants of Mithras here?
Any men who are willing to do their duty to the sun god?’ Nothing answered him
except a black silence. He waited a moment until his eyes adjusted to the
darkness, then beckoned Janus

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