Fabula Umbrae

Even after that commotion, I was still not fully alert again, and continued to sip wine, against my better judgement. It must have been the atmosphere of the party that encouraged me to do so, as if the habits of the other guests sought to become my own.

It is this part of the night that is the foggiest in my memory. I recall a tale, of no credit whatsoever, that will hopefully make just as little sense now as it did then, and not more nor less.

Trimalchio looked back at another man, Niceros, and said “Solebas suavius esse in convictu” (You used to be more charming at a party). He insited that Niceros share the story of his adventure, much to Nic’s delight. I knew what sort of story this would be, when Niceros said, “timeo istos scolasticos ne me rideant” (I am afraid that scholars might laugh at me), and that he hopes no profit is gained from telling his tale.

I will tell you now, that the moral of this story can be pulled from the storyteller himself, without the story having been told. For Niceros said, before beginning his tale, “statius est rideri quam derideri” (it is better to be laughed at than mocked).

We all leaned in to listen to the story of Niceros. Back when he was still a slave, he lived in a narrow street. He fell in love with the wife of an innkeeper and, upon learning her husband died, and Niceros’s master was away on business, he readied himself to set off for her town to visit her that night.

With the setup established, I am afraid I must only give you small pieces of this story. I had had much wine at this point in the night, and I admit it rearranged certain events in my mind, while omitting others. Please forgive me, readers. If the details somehow find me in the middle of my dreams, I will be sure to write it here for you. But for now, please enjoy what I can salvage of my thoughts.

Niceros took a soldier staying at his master’s place with him on the trek. As they were passing through the graveyard, the soldier takes a detour towards some tombs. Thinking nothing of it, Niceros sits down and begins to count tombstones. The soldier returns, naked, and places his clothes in a neat pile next to the road. He then proceeds to… circumminxit (urinate around) the clothes, after which he immediately transforms into a werewolf and runs into the woods. Frightened Niceros approaches the clothes, meaning to pick them up, and finds that they have turned to stone. Alarmed by this, Niceros runs around swinging his sword at shadows all the way to his girlfriend’s inn. Upon arrival, he finds that a wolf has been there and ripped the flocks to shreds. A slave managed to wound its neck with a spear. In the morning, Niceros arrives back at his home, and finds his master’s guest, the soldier, being attended to by a doctor. He has a wound in his neck.

Trimalchio assured us that Niceros never talks nonsense, and that this tale was truly terrifying.




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