Even in the dim lighting, Valens could make out every smoothly cut edge that came together to form the lavish mosaic that spread across Gaius Horatius' floor. His villa was modest, and the tactician knew from experience that this was the most impressive room in the entire estate. Gaius was far from rich, but he still liked to conduct business like he might have been. Valens understood the pressures that came with being a country dweller in a position of power, so he always let the old consul parade around like he owned all of Remanus proper. He had been here for months, stripped from the field in order to work patrols around the city, guarding the bounty board, breaking up street brawls, and generally making politicians feel safe in their urban estates. It was not the sort of work he had signed up for all those years ago, and he itched desperately to get back to the border, fighting off the enemies of Remanus. Yet, he stood and waited. Gaius was a good patron and he didn't send the dark haired man off on fool's errands. He respected his time, and for him to call Valens in like this probably meant that he had something in mind. "Caecio," the white haired man said, carelessly, forgetting just how much the cognomen made the younger man wince, "Do you remember that bounty I posted a week ago?" It took him a few moments to cast his mind back. He had run all sorts of errands through the forum over the past seven days that he wasn't entirely sure he could call to mind the specific notice he'd posted. However, he ventured a guess, "Something to do with Aesernia, right?" It was a safe bet, as the man hailed from that backwater, and had always been known to do favors for those in the community. The consul stopped his pacing and approached the solider, nodding slowly. Valens was never entirely sure whether the old man was caught up in a rare moment of contemplation or simply drifting off to sleep when he nodded like that, but he always gave a respectful pause and let the man gather his thoughts. "I need you to collect it. Take it down and head out there yourself. The sooner the better, I'm afraid," Gaius' tone was noncommittal, but his face was as grave as Valens had ever seen it. Immediately, he offered a slight bow and went to remove himself from the stuffy room. He knew better than to ask questions. In fact, the monetary reward was being offered of his own coffers. If Gaius knew of several adventurers all dead set on claiming those denarii, then he probably just wanted to limit his losses. It was not unusual for privately-posted bounties to vanish overnight, after all. _______________________________________________________________________________________ Ianuaria stood at the board, chipped bow slung over her back and a traveling cloak drawn about her shoulders. Her eyes darted from notice to notice, realizing that so many of them were simply too bland for words. Pest control problems, retrieve banners from a local battlefield for a memorial, follow a trail to see if there's a nest... but do not engage the monsters within. The only one that stood out was the bounty put out for a creature stalking the countryside, as it had killed countless animals and even a human being. Sure, she probably wasn't ready to slay something like that, but it still piqued her interest. Just at the same moment as she reached out to bring it a little closer, hoping to better read the contact's name, she saw a hand dart out and grab it away, followed by a tearing sound. Turning over her shoulder, hair bouncing almost comically as her head whipped around, she saw a tall man dressed in dark brown military garb. He had torn the bounty neatly in two and was beginning to walk away when she called out, "I hadn't quite finished with that, you ass!" His brows quirked upwards, lips pressing together in an understated scowl, but he replied coolly, "Consul Horatius asked that the bounty be removed. He had word that several able-bodied men were already on the task." His emphasis was clear, as his gaze seemed to linger on her curled horns, and the faun rolled her eyes in contempt. "I'm good with a bow and arrow, and in the worst case scenario, I can set a poison trap for the beast. Just point me in the direction of..." she paused for a second, trying to remember the name of the place, "Aesernia, and I'm sure I'll get there before any of the others." Valens rubbed the bridge of his nose, but finally relented, "From what I hear, they have a few hours' head start on you. You'd better start running." Another glance down, this time towards her cloven hooves. Ianuaria was determined not to let this dissuade her, and she took off towards the gates of Remanus. Once it became clear to her that the soldier was following her, she began to speak, but he cut her off, "I was sent by the consul to kill the creature. He doesn't think it was right to ask untrained citizens to risk their lives for money against an unknown threat. It's damn decent of him, honestly. Too many people turn to bounties to help scrape by, and it really cuts down on the work that trained soldiers could be doing for the empire." He never stopped in his persistent stride, quickly overtaking the shorter young woman and led her out towards the path. The faun stood at a distance, "You said they had a head start? Then we should be going through the woods. It's a straight line over the foothills, rather than snaking around through the middle of rural nowhere." She took off at a jaunty pace, leaving the grimacing tactician behind to collect himself, ready to hunch through the woods, getting nicked by thorns all the while during the four hour walk to the small farming village, dotted with huts and, it seemed, an unspeakable terror.