Marcus and Annilio - Chapter 2


Boating on the lake

This year, the summer days in the Chiemsee region are long and hot. Marcus often boasts to Annilio about paddling on the lake and, of course, she wants to do that too. Every time they meet, Annilio badgers Marcus to take her out boating. Finally, he agrees. One fine summer day, they head off to a bay on the western shore of the lake opposite the large island. There, a number of fishers usually keep their canoes made of hollowed out tree trunks drawn up on the shore. Marcus and Annilio ride there on a cart driven by one of the servants and pulled by a strong work horse. From afar they can already see the boats bobbling about on the water.

“The fishers will come to shore soon. Then I’ll arrange a boat for us,” says Marcus. “The fisher who always sells us fish has often lent my father his dugout. If I tell him that I’m Marcus, the son of Caius Terentius Praesentinus, he’ll surely give me his boat.” Secretly, Marcus is not quite sure about going out on the boat, but he doesn’t want Annilio to see it. Then he remembers to ask her a very important question. “Do you know how to swim at all?” He casts her a worried glance, but she relieves him of his fears.

“Yes, my brother Ario taught me how,” says Annilio. “My father thinks that everyone here should know how to swim. What about you?”

“Of course,” answers Marcus with a shrug of his shoulders. “I learnt it from my uncle Lucius Terentius Verinus. He lives by the sea. My father took me there once. It was a long trip over the mountains.”

Annilio is awfully impressed. As the children arrive at the bay, they see a fisherman pulling his dugout canoe onto shore.

“Good morning,” says Marcus, trying his best to appear all grown up.

“Good morning, Sir,” answers the fisherman.

“You know who I am?” asks Marcus surprised.

“Indeed, Sir,” says the fisherman. “You are Marcus, the son of Caius Terentius Praesentinus from BERUNUM, not far from here.”

“That’s right,” says Marcus. “We would like to lend your dugout, if you please.”

“Do you know how to use it?” asks the fisherman with a doubtful frown.

“Of course,” says Annilio with a grin. The fisherman looks askance at the cheeky red-haired girl. But after having pocketed a few coins from the servant, he agrees and helps the children launch the boat into the water. Two curved paddles are lying ready for use in the dugout.

Marcus has brought a bag along. “Look inside,” he says to Annilio. “There’s a fishing net and a fishing line with a hook and bait.” Annilio takes her place at the prow, so Marcus has to content himself with sitting at the back of the boat.


“Off we go,” cries Annilio and steers the dugout in the direction of a reedy bank stretching along the bay. “That’s where we’ll find the biggest fish.”

“If you think so,” says Marcus, grudgingly following her lead, “then let’s try our luck there.” It isn’t as easy as it looks keeping their balance in the wobbly boat, and at first they have some problems paddling in time and keeping a steady line, but soon they manage quite well.

“Isn’t our country beautiful?” says Annilio pointing to the mountains rising over the lake before them.

“Yes, it is particularly beautiful here,” agrees Marcus. “I also like it at my uncle’s by the seaside, but it’s even nicer here.”

The children spend quite a while gazing at the mountains. Annilio knows all the mountain peaks and point them out to Marcus, whispering their names respectfully.

Then Marcus remembers that he wanted to fish. He rummages in his bag and pulls out the fishing line with a hook and a wooden box with white grubs in it. Annilio watches with disgust as he fixes one of the grubs onto the hook.

“Yuck, look how it squirms,” she says with a shudder.

Marcus swings the line and throws it in a wide arc so that the hook lands in the water near the reeds. “Now all we have to do is wait,” he says softly. Annilio nods. They watch the water tensely. Suddenly the line jerks and Marcus has to hold on tight to not lose it. Slowly he draws in the fishing line with Annilio looking to see what he has caught. At last the fish comes into view – it is a small whitefish. Marcus pulls it out of the water and throws it into a wicker basket which the fisherman had thoughtfully left for them in the boat.

“Not bad,” says Annilio with a nod. Now it is her turn. She prefers to use the net rather than the hook with the disgusting grubs. The net has weights attached to it so that it sinks. With a big swing, Annilio casts it out into the water. Then she waits attentively with the line in the hand, ready to draw the net back in. Slowly, a few small fish swim over the net. Marcus makes a sign that she should pull in the net, but Annilio shakes her head. She waits until some larger fish appear, then she pulls the net line with a jerk and the net closes. “Got you,” she cries and draws in her catch. Two fine fish are struggling in the net: a carp and a young pike. “How about that?” she beams proudly. “Not so bad either, huh?”

Marcus nods. His father has told him that Celtic men are skilful hunters and fishers. Annilio is just a girl, but she’s also not so bad, and she certainly knows how to fish. Marcus’ sister Claudia would have probably ended up being fished out of the water rather than catching anything.

The sun is high in the blue sky as the children start heading back. Annilio paddles so fast that Marcus has a hard time keeping up with her. As they approach the mouth of a river, Annilio points to a construction of wooden posts and woven reeds. “Look, that’s how my people fish,” she tells Marcus. “We build fish traps. The fish swim through the funnels into a net and can’t get out. Then all we have to do is empty the net.”

Back at the shore, the children jump out of the boat into the shallow water. The fisherman is relieved to see them back safe and sound and pulls his dugout onto land. The servant is still sleeping under the wagon and the tethered horse is grazing quietly. Marcus and Annilio sneak up on the servant and wake him with a fish under his nose. Smelling the fish, he awakes with a start and congratulates them. “Well done, that’s a fine catch.”

On the way back home, Marcus starts thinking about what he’ll do with his fish. “I’ll give them to our cook and ask him to make a casserole with that tasty fish sauce called Garum that my father always brings back from IUVAVUM.”

“And I will put mine on a wooden skewer and roast them over the fire,” plans Annilio. That also sounds good to Marcus; he’ll have to try it sometime. For, as any Roman worth his salt, Marcus loves eating fish.

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