Frioc and Medrod rode their mules with as much panache as sacks of turnips, but with a bit less dexterity, which allowed me to keep well ahead of the gormless twats and I soon managed to filter out their cries. I liked to keep well ahead of the others, but the new secretary seemed keen to keep up with me.

"Well Ant you make a fine figure on that stallion of yours."

"It's a mule." I replied, Badgers warnings about foreign secretaries started to swirl around my head.

"A'h I'm sure you would look magnificent mounted on a ....."

"Look at that girl over there, she looks pretty."

"That ... she must be at least sixty. Do you like old women Ant?."

"Well no ...."

"No I thought not a fine looking young man. So surprising that the family left you to look after the young mistress."

"She was perfectly safe with me."

"So I've heard."

Medrod had by now managed to stay long enough on his mule to catch up with us and he grinned at me nastily.

"Looks like our new sec has taken quite a liking to you. I think you may have scored there." he whispered.

"Shut up."

"No could be a good way up the slippery pole. Could make second ditch maker"

"Ha ha, oh sh**" said Frioc as he fell off his mule into a ditch.

I halted my mule and waited for them to sort themselves out..

"See you're not so bothered about our company now!" said Frioc emerging from the ditch.

"Shut up, just wanted to stop you breaking your fat neck."  

"So, we're o'k you can get back to your new friend. Give you two a bit of time on your own."

"Shut it."

"Oooo'h look who's got the hump."

I rode on trying to stay some where between the secretary and my other two companions. We covered a few miles that day, because whatever else you could say about him he had a lot more stamina than Corinthus and we were also unencumbered by the carts, so that we covered in one day what had taken three before. I think even our old centurion would have been impressed by his progress. It was late when we finally stopped and just camped up in a glade not far from the road.

Set off on the journey.

We finally set off on the the trip up to Silenius' old farm. It was me, Daedalos and as luck would have it, those two idiots, Frioc and Medrod. We left without any of the fanfare that accompanied my last trip to the north with Junia, just scrabbled off into the early morning gloom..

I say nobody, but actually our old cook bustled out to see us all off. Despite the fact she had been very 'off' with me since my return, she still shoved a little parcel in my to my hand of stuff she had scrounged from the kitchen.

"Here you go Ant." she said, "and mind you don't get into a load of trouble like last time."

"I won't, we're just going to sort out the farm"

"You were just going to mind the horses last time and look what happened! You should have taken more notice of me, maybe I'm not just such a stupid old woman."

"I know, but ..."

"But nothing, only bad things happen up north. Another thing Ant, don't go quarreling with them two. Master Daedalos don't know you yet, so he hasn't had time to make up his own bad impression of you yet, so try not to get in his bad books yet."

"I never try ..."

"No, but you nearly always succeed. Now be off with you, her lasyship is watching us."

I looked around and I was surprised to see Livia looking at me. She isn't one for being up in the morning for the best of reasons and to see us four off wouldn't normally make anybody's list.Livia gave me her most dazzling smile before turning away, but I managed not to fall off the mule, who had also been spooked by it. She must have been trying to be pleasant but it would certainly scare a few sheep. She beckoned  to Daedalos and they huddled over together and I thought I saw him glance over at me once. My paranoia soon eased as he walked over and gave me a  wide smile.

"I hear you are the horse gifted one as well as the expert on the north" he said, flashing his teeth.

"Yes, suppose so."

"Suppose so? You should shout out your talents young man, don't hide them. Our mistress has told me all about your skills." he said, giving me a cheerful slap across the back.

I watched him head off and thought that he seemed a bit over friendly and I just hope he doesn't have the same misconception about my penchants that Livia and Junia seemed to have about me. I have heard about what some of these secretaries get up to from old Badger. 

Five minutes later and that bloody hare shot across my path again. I'll have to remember to visit it when I come back.

I got called down to the villa to see the new secretary. As you can imagine I was pretty on edge with my master being away and Livia top dog and I've can the lies that have been told about me by some of the people around here. I must say that I was surprised by him. I'd never really talked to him before but I was quite impressed. He seems an O'k sort of bloke despite the disturbing green tinge around the edge of his smile.

"Ant," Daedalos said, "I need to go and have a look at Silenus' farm and get everything in order. The mistress says that it has to be done as soon as possible, so I'll need to get started as soon as possible. I thought you'd be ideal to come along with me as I can you're smart and you're one of the few people around here who know the place. On top of that, your recent actions show that you are someone who can be relied upon, whatever any one else around here says."

I think things are really looking up at last. Not only am I getting away from that old bat Livia but at last there's someone around here who actually appreciates my finer points!
Slept Badly. That evil cow Livia's unexpected good nature towards me obviously had a really telling effect on my nerves. I'm used to her ignoring me, shouting at me and demanding that I get punished or sold, but her smile was both unexpected and frightening (she does have one of those smiles that naturally unnerve people.)

I woke up sweating from my dream. I was running through moorland with people chasing me, Livia was standing there just laughing, then I fell down and down this bank and I was grabbed, which was when I woke up.

I was pretty worried getting up seeing as how she is now in sole command of the villa and I have had a pretty poor run of mornings lately.It was all just as peaceful as yesterday. Birds chirping in the the pale early morning sky and a light plume of smoke rising straight above the villa.
Badger is one of the few people who still seems willing to talk to me. Mind you I could do without breathing in his foul breath in my face. The rest of them are still treating me as if I had leprosy,  most because of fear of Livia but some are still peeved at me for either having an actual life for a couple of weeks or for 'not keeping Junia safe'.

Badger strangely just seems to think it is funny and keeps going on about 'pickle' and laughing when he sees me. I suppose he's pretty happy at seeing me get rid of Corinthus, (or least disappearing with Corinthus and not reappearing with him). Actually it's pretty useful because whenever he's harassing me, I just have to say "Corinthus" and the leathery old badger just settles back on his haunches, stares into space with a twinkle in those yellow blotched eyes and lets out a long sigh.

Corinthus' replacement arrived yesterday. He looked set in the suitable mold for his profession, with small weasel like eyes and long bony grasping fingers along with that unusual pale green complexion that they all have. As expected he has an aversion to sun-light and soon ensconced himself in a small dingy room, where he can stay. Although after Corinthus, I expect he'll be giving me a wide berth.

I was working with Abhlach the head gardener when he arrived. A cheerful old bloke who always gives me a friendly wave when he sees me. Then again I think that this is more to do with  Livia removing his precious apples trees for her latest drainage system coupled with Livia's new extra distaste for me rather than any sweetness on his part.

One good thing that I did find out from Abhlach is that Junia is off and out of my hair. Not that she bothered to tell me anything about it. She left early this morning with Gaius to Rome, or nearer afternoon by the time they were gone.

"Vita brevis, ars Longa" Gaius said as he left.

Life is short and the Arts are long, which I take to mean that Junia is going to be bored rigid with culture. I think her view is more that life is too short for Art. Not that by all accounts there was much by way of Art on Gaius' last trip to Rome.

Our cook smuggled some food to both of them before reminding me yet again that the last departure hadn't gone so well.

"See Ant," she said "At least she's in safe hands this time. I told you last time that nothing good happens up north and did you listen?"

Livia though bestowed one of her most dazzling smiles on me as they were leaving, which chilled me to the core."

Timeo Danaos et dona ferrentes!

It's been a week since I've been dumped back from the north and things have definitely not improved. They were about as pleased to see me as a cart load of dead carp that had been left in the sun for a month. Although these Romans would probably look on that at a delicacy!

Junia has of course avoided me like the plague since and I've hardly seen her let alone spoken to her. She's more than a trifle embarrassed by her 'familiarity' to me, although she's been talking up her role to her excited little pack of girlfriends. I never realized before how heroic she had been throughout the whole process and I don't think Fronto would recognize himself!

Since getting back I was given a good knocking by old Badger, well out of sight of the villa for not keeping her out of trouble and sent of to the far end of the land, so as Junia's mother didn't have to look at me and face up to the embarrassment of how her daughter was so 'in-decorum' as to wander round the rougher edges of the province with just me and a bunch of hard necked Roman legionnaires.

The two oafs have been particularly obnoxious today, they came over to see how I was getting on digging a ditch, a rare subject on which they're both experts.

"Hey Medrod!" Frioc bawled, standing right next to my ear, "Is it true they've finally decided to sell Ant? Mind you I can't see them getting as much for him as his old granny made from his mum!”

I gritted my teeth, hunkered down in the ditch and kept digging. I've heard this so often from those two prats.

“And she didn’t get much for her either! You know Frioc, I heard all about them selling him as well. Don't look like your little Junia is going to want to save your skin this time do it Ant?”

"Full marks for originality." I said, accidentally tossing some earth over their heads. "Don't think I've heard it all before."

"Ooh looks like we've scrapped a raw scab Medrod."

"I looked after her and got her back in one piece. Do you really think they're not grateful to me."

"That'll be why you're in the ditch then."

"Temporary Medrod, just letting me keep a low profile for a bit."

"Got a right low profile in that hole Ant."

"Just ask Badger, he's coming up now."

He wasn't, but his name had it's desired effect and the two pests scurried off leaving me alone in my hole.