Winter in Gallia

Title: Winter in Gallia
Recipient: myfavoriteismike
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Not mine. I just borrowed them to play with for a little while and make this little gift. I am now returning them unharmed. (Except Crowley might have caught a slight cold. Ups!)
Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.

Author’s Note: It isn't quite The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which was the original prompt, since that wouldn't have made the word count as a pure fic and I am not an artist and wasn't sure I could have finished a proper picture book in time.

Winter in Gallia

It was a very cold day in the garrison town in Gallia, much colder than any the familia of Tribunus Marcus Aemilius Minimus had ever experienced at home in Roma.

Aziraphalos, the liberatus in charge of the librarium and the education of the liberi, rolled up his liber and conjured a brazier despite the fact that the familia's villa had a perfectly good floor heating to make absolutely sure that his young charges would not feel cold during today's lessons.

Then he waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Still the liberi didn't come. Where could they be? There was no water clock in the librarium, but it had to be well past their usual lesson time by now.

Aziraphalos went to look for them.

They weren't in their cubiculae.

They weren't in the peristylium which was covered in snow and very cold.

They weren't in the culina even though it was pleasantly warm there.

Then he heard happy shrieking. He followed the sound. It came from the atrium which was no warmer than the peristylium.

"Liberi!" Aziraphalos called on his way to the atrium. "Liberi! It is time for lessons!"

Then he saw them. Aziraphalos stopped in surprise.

"Lucius! Aemilia! What are you doing in the impluvium?"

"Sliding," little Caius answered happily. "Look!"

And he ran all the way back to into the tablinium and then rushed back past Aziraphalos with a squeal and jumped into the impluvium.

He did not really slide, though, because there was no room to slide with Lucius and Aemilia already in there. Instead the three liberi went down in a heap.

"Stop that!" Aziraphalos ordered. "You'll get hurt!"

"No, no, Aziraphalos," Aemilia said digging herself out of the heap of liberi. "It doesn't hurt. Try it and see!"

But Aziraphalos refused.

"It is time for your Greek lesson," he told the liberi sternly.

But just then Aemilia's younger sister, Aemilia the Youngest, came up to Aziraphalos and held out a small black snake.

"Look what I found, Aziraphalos," she said. "Is he dead?"

Aziraphalos could feel a very slight demonic aura from the snake, but it gave no other sign of life.

"He's all cold and not moving," Aemilia explained. "Please say he isn't dead."

"He's dead, all dead," Aemilia the Oldest chanted. "All frozen to death."

Aziraphalos gave her a stern look. They would have to have a private talk about saying mean things to one's siblings sometime soon.

But right now what had to be Septimus Antonius Crowlus, rich wine merchant, in his original and nowadays rarely used shape needed his attention much more urgently.

"Let me see, Aemilia," he said to the little girl and took Mr. Antonius Crowlus out of her hand. "I don't think that he is dead. He is just very, very cold. Snakes need warm surroundings to be able to move, you see. Let us all go to the librarium and warm him up and read a Greek text about snakes to learn how to help him."

So Aziraphalos and the liberi went to the librarium, but as soon as they were there Caius discovered that his clothes were soaking wet all the way down to the loincloth! And the oldest Aemilia discovered that her hair had come loose! And Lucius discovered that his socks were all wet! And the middle Aemilia discovered that her tunica was torn!

The youngest Aemilia didn't say anything, but Aziraphalos noticed a wet stain running all the way down her back.

So Aziraphalos sent the liberi to their cubiculae to change.

The little snake felt a little warmer after having been held in Aziraphalos' hand for a while, but he still wasn't moving.

So Aziraphalos fetched a spare woollen sock from his own cubiculum, put Mr. Antonius Crowlus into it and held him close to his chest.

But by the time Lucius, always the fastest dresser, returned the little snake still wasn't moving.

So Aziraphalos told the boy to find the liber with the text about snakes and held Mr. Antonius Crowlus in the woollen sock closer to the brazier.

But by the time the youngest Aemilia, clearly the one most eager for this lesson, returned the little snake still wasn't moving.

So Aziraphalos and Aemilia wound the scarf that Aemilia had brought for that purpose around Mr. Antonius Crowlus in Aziraphalos' woollen sock and held him close to the brazier.

But by the time the middle Aemilia, who really was a good little girl and usually eager to learn, returned the little snake still wasn't moving.

So they asked the cook to heat a stone in the fire and put Mr. Antonius Crowlus in Aziraphalos' woollen sock with Aemilia's scarf wound around him on top of the stone as close to the brazier as possible.

But by the time Caius, who really wasn't very good at dressing himself yet, returned the little snake still wasn't moving.

So they made him a hot bath in a bowl and then towelled him dry very carefully and put him back into Aziraphalos' woollen sock and wound Aemilia's scarf back around him and held him close to the brazier while the cook re-heated the stone.

By the time the little snake was back on top of his stone as close to the brazier as possible the oldest Aemilia still hadn't returned.

So Aziraphalos went to fetch her.

"Ah well," she said when he found her. "It was worth a try. I thought maybe you wouldn't miss me. I really don't care to know anything about snakes, you see."

Aziraphalos told her that was perfectly fine with him. Snakes were not necessarily part of a well rounded education. Then he gave her a difficult Greek grammar exercise to do instead and asked the cook for a round of hot spiced wine to refresh everybody.

And when a cup of hot spiced wine was held in front of Mr. Antonius Crowlus' little snake head there was a wriggle in Aziraphalos' woollen sock with Aemilia's scarf wound around it on top of the re-heated stone as close to the brazier as possible and a little forked tongue flicked out and lapped at the wine. And then there was a contented hiss and more wriggling and lapping.

"He's alive!" the liberi cheered.

Aziraphalos sighed and smiled happily and sat down to start his lesson.


Gallia – Gaul
familia – family, household (= including slaves)
Roma – Rome
liberatus – freed slave
librarium – library, study
liberi – children
liber – book
cubiculae – bedrooms
peristylium – peristyle
culina – kitchen
tunica – tunic
cubiculum – bedroom

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