b'PrologueH isregulartripstothestinkingunderbellyofRome werebecomingtiresome,butrevengerequiredcol-laboration with the lower elements of society. Where better to meet than a tavern buried among the crumbling tene-ments of the Subura? The man gave a hand signal that sent his watchful slave melt-ing into the shadows. Then he ran a hand through his hair to ensure it was suitably unkempt, adjusted his rough tunic so it sagged over his belt, and walked into the warm fug of smoking oil lamps and spilled wine. At this place he was known as Vulcan. It was not his real name. Everyone in the tavern knew that, but they asked no questions. In return, he occasionally treated them to a pitcher of wine that did not taste like cheap vinegar. Both sides were happy with the arrangement.The proprietor handed him the latest note from his clever lit-tle spy then tilted his head toward a table tucked into an alcove at the far side of the room. Got a friend waiting for you tonight.He had no friends here. Which of the uncouth rabble he oc-casionally diced with would dare call himself a friend? The man pushed through the crowded room, considering the most effec-tive insults. He was two strides from the table when the seated figure raised his head. Hades! What was he doing here? Iwastoldthisiswhereyouliketocarryoutyourdirty business.Bile rose in the mans throat. He spat the acid from his mouth and strode to the table to prove he was not afraid. What do you want?'