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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers
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Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-03-10 02:08 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers:

A group of men were waiting in the shadows outside. They rushed the Batavians without warning. They were fast, and good, but were not veterans of a hundred battles. The Batavians were. Glam and Wolf, two of the Guards, did not even bother to draw their swords. They merely rushed under the sweeping fists of the attackers and grabbed them by their thighs. One quick lift and the men were dashed headfirst upon the ground to lie still. Dieter was pummeling a third who bore a staff- he held the staff fast in one hand and was pounding the man’s chin with the other. The other two Batavians sparred with three others. That left Marcus alone in the center, struggling hand to hand against a bear of a man. The man circled, forcing Marcus to turn with him, and then he smiled.

Thus far it was a rough-and-tumble fistfight, despite the presence of the staff. No laws or rules of hospitality had been broken, despite the violence of the attack. But that was about to change.

Marcus knew there was someone behind him, ready to strike. He suddenly and without warning buckled his legs, dropping quickly to the ground , leaving the surprised giant standing befuddled for a second. That man caught the full force of an axe crashing into his chest. He crumpled, falling forward atop the prone Roman. The axeman himself died a moment later as he raised his lethal weapon to bring it down upon the trapped Rutilius. A gladius jutted from his spine as he fell forward onto the heap.

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Other parts of The Eagle and the Wolf series :
The Eagle and the Wolf Part I- Remember!
The Eagle and the Wolf Part II- Tyroes in the Forest
The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IV- Mushrooms and Murderers
The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf’s Jaws
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VI- Doom and Despair
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VII- The Cauldron
The Eagle and the Wolf Part VIII- Broken Hearts and New Chances
The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
The Eagle and the Wolf Part X- Trials and Triumph
The Eagle and the Wolf Part XI- Return to Vetera

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 01-22-2013 @ 01:05 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-03-10 02:15 AM EDT (US)     1 / 52       
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Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus arrived in Rome three weeks after departing with his retinue from Mogontiacum. He had spent a wonderful week there with Gnaeus Pinarius Cornelius Clemens, the governor of Germania Superior, and the Imperator’s nephew Titus Flavius Sabinus, legate of the I Adiutrix, then left happy and contented for his beloved Rome.

He left happy, but he did not arrive happy. He had three weeks along the winding, cold, and wintry Via Mala and then down the Via Flaminia to think over what Cornelius Clemens had told him, and reconcile that with the memories of Titus Sabinus. The two related two entirely different views upon a man he had wanted to blame for last summer’s fiasco- one fitting with the findings, the other completely the opposite.

Cornelius Clemens had two paternal cousins who were brothers and a maternal cousin in Germania Inferior. All three Cornelii served under Vorenus Carnifex, a renegade legate who somehow arranged for permission from mad Nero to raise a private army, off the books, and trained that army as legionaries. Cousins Sextus and Decimus Cornelius served as legates in that private army, while cousin Livius served as a tribune under his cousin Sextus. All three met their ends in battle against a weakened and starving barbarian tribe who somehow managed to utterly annihilate the entire army. Only two officers of that army survived- a camp prefect who skedaddled all the way to Samarobriva at the outset, and a young tribune who had befriended the tribe- Marcus Rutilius.

To Eprius, it was clear. Rutilius had told the Germanics of the forthcoming attack, and they planned a huge ambush. The auxilia were torn to bits, and Rutilius escaped the destruction he arranged to become a hero. His escape was proof of his collusion. His subsequent dealings with Civilis- he was seen entering the rogue prince’s city and that man’s subsequent rebellion was further proof of his treason- everywhere that young man went, trouble for Rome followed. Every Roman he encountered, he betrayed and allowed to be killed- Lupercus, Flaccus, Herennius Gallus, Vocula. In the end, though, he stood beside Cerealis and condemned Civilis to oblivion.

Titus Flavius Sabinus had an entirely different viewpoint about him. He was an energetic legate who knew Roman warfare well enough to make a legion of former marines the premier legion of an eight-legion army, which he ended up commanding in a major battle. He sacrificed his own time and money for the benefit of his men, and worked tirelessly for Roman interests- even when they were at odds with his own.

So there he had his dilemma. A paragon on one hand, a villain on the other. Two views of the same man. Eprius had his own view, constructed from these two views combined with his own findings- the man was an opportunist. Titus Vespasian was right to break the province in twain- eight legions in the hands of an opportunist was dangerous. And with Helvidius Priscus praising him openly to the masses, a very dangerous man who could have made himself Imperator.


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“Married life looks like it agrees with you, Marcus,” Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus said as his quaestor entered his office at Vetera. The brown hair streaked with red of the governor was brushed poorly, leaving the hair as wild as any Gaul’s. But his amber eyes were much older than his forty three years. At least his quaestor was looking well, prompting the comment.

“Claudia is a wonderful woman, lord,” Marcus Rutilius agreed. “One can hardly ask for better.”

“Noble, rich, pretty, and pregnant,” Cordinus recounted. “All desirable traits, but though she is a Roman citizen, she is still of Ubian blood and has not enough powerful ancestors for my tastes. Still, for a Third-Class man made senator such as yourself, an excellent choice.”

Bigot, Rutilius thought with a laugh. He knew Cordinus’s Romano-centric view of the world was popular in the Senate, but out here he has learned to accept people for what they do, not who their ancestors were.

“I take it you did not call me away from her to discuss our marital relations,” Rutilius said instead.

Cordinus shook his head. “No, we must discuss our plans for the winter and spring.” He leaned back, shoving the scrolls and tablets aside to make room for a leg upon his table. “Eprius scolded me quite forcefully just before he left. He was correct to do so- I bamboozled him and made him look like a fool. To a phony like him, that is a horrible sin. But while he scolded me, he let slip a few items I would discuss with you.”

He took his leg from the table and leaned forward. “Our task from this summer has not been rescinded. I have a bad feeling that we will be ordered across again. I do not want a repeat of the last time. I was arrogant and a bit stupid, thinking our barbarian foes would be simple, stupid savages that die like flies upon our swords, then we simply wipe them from the earth. I was wrong- they are much tougher than anything I had ever faced, and are both crafty and wily.”

“One should always respect one’s foe,” Marcus reminded him gently. “Had they been so simply destroyed, Drusus, Germanicus, and Varus would have destroyed them all eons ago.”

“True, true,” Cordinus admitted, waving his hands as if shunning the subject. “Lesson learned.”

Rutilius nodded. It was a tough lesson for a man coming from the East, where Roman foes went into battle already defeated in their own minds. At least now he knew what the savages here were capable of doing. Now, to the point. “So, we are going across again. Will Rome be supplying more guides?”

Cordinus laughed inside his head. One of the things that he had wanted to ask when Eprius let slip the coming campaign was that very question. “I do not know, but I don’t want to rely on men thousands of miles away for intelligence of an area less than ten miles away. Here is where you come in, Marcus.”

He drew back a curtain revealing the map of Drusus, sixty years out of date. “Obviously this is wrong, and only shows the area around the Lupia River. On the other hand, we got in replacements so our legions are now at full strength- which leads me to believe we will be going. So, you will have a two-fold mission, Marcus, one which suits you well.”

“I am all ears.”

“I am not sending you over there to fill in the map,” Cordinus said with a laugh, ”if that is what you are thinking. Those bastards have tried three times to murder you- I will not oblige my enemies by feeding you to them. No, I want you to travel the province as you did when I was laid out. At each castrum, inform the legate of our suspicions and have them begin a training cycle to gear up for it. And while you are in each town, talk with traders, hunters, trappers, and anybody else who might have information about the lands across the river. I want locations and numbers of villages, size and disposition of warbands, notable landmarks, and if we are really lucky, where the bloody Eagles are.”

Marcus drank in the mission and studied the empty map. “You want me to fill this in from gossip and recollections? Will I have to go across and confirm this, or is the word of our sources good enough?”

“If the words come from Romans, I will accept it,” Cordinus admitted. “Words of barbarians, however, I tend to distrust- especially after the fiasco this summer past.”

“We have another problem, lord,” Marcus noted, pointing to Noviomagus. “I am still officially the legate of the X Gemina there,” he continued, then moved his finger to Colonia and added, “but I am living there.”

Cordinus nodded. He was thinking of that problem as well. “I have three solutions. One is to promote Cadorus to legate. He is the acting legate now, so there will be no ripples in the command. Two, I promote Titus Faenius of the VI Victrix to legate and assign him to the Xth, as he is senior. Or three, I send Messala to the X and give you his VI Victrix, which is closer to you anyway.”

“Promote Cadorus,” Rutilius stated almost immediately. “He knows the legion, and being of barbarian blood himself will help keep the Batavi happy. We have good relations with them and the Cananefate at the moment, and promoting Cadorus will send a positive signal to them that we wish to keep those relations. Pushing a Roman of the Romans upon them, especially if he is one of those who thinks nothing but Old Roman blood matters- may harm us when the legions move out in the summer.”

“I was thinking to send Messala myself,” Cordinus admitted. “But your plan makes good sense. We want no rebellions when the X Gemina marches this summer. Paullus and the XXII will be stretched enough covering the sector as it is. Good idea.”

“I will return to Colonia to set the upper part of the province in order then commence on this mission, lord,” Rutilius acknowledged.

“Give your wife my regards,” Cordinus said. “And make sure your task is done before she gives birth.”

“Aye, lord!” With that, Rutilius exited the chamber before the governor could add more to his list of tasks.

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-03-10 08:21 AM EDT (US)     2 / 52       
Very good start to the new chapter. I was worried that you were taking a long hiatus.

I posted my chapter not long ago so maybe the War Stories Clan can be activated along with Edorix and Co.

But keep up the good work!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-03-10 02:01 PM EDT (US)     3 / 52       
War Stories Clan? I like the sound of that.

I haven't posted in a couple of days as I have been building a website and founding a religion, but this seems like reason enough to comment.

Comment: Yay!

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-06-10 01:37 AM EDT (US)     4 / 52       
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Ulfrich, one of the twin kings of the Bructeri, sat crosswise in his stool, slovenly drinking last year’s beer from a dirty mug. Around him were ten other men, remnants of his warband from the summer. He cursed as he swilled- ten men, out of a warband ninety strong. He had gotten his ass kicked but hard this past summer.

Udo, his twin, sat upon the throne. He too sat oddly, but unlike his brother who so sat due to his laziness and depression, Udo sat that way to relieve the pain of the healing wounds in his buttocks. It was a tremendous insult to be wounded in that place, and he had suffered that indignation not once but twice. So while Ulfrich drank and brooded and healed from his honorable wounds, Udo plotted and brooded and healed from his dishonorable ones.

“They will come back again,” Ulfrich muttered into his beard. “And this time they will finish it. We are out of good ideas on how to stop them, and too shattered from our attempt to repel them again. We are doomed.”

“We lost a lot of men this past summer,” Udo agreed, “but I am not going to roll over and die to please some sheet-clad fool.”

“Speaking of which,” Ulfrich said as he tried to stand. He failed, and plopped back into his chair. “Have you heard anything from your Eagle friend about their summer plans? It would be nice to know when we are going to die, don’t you think?”

“No, nothing, nor do I expect to,” Udo replied. He rose, cursed his twin’s drunken clumsiness, and strode to ease the pain caused by sitting too long. He looked at his brother, healed but broken, and sighed. He needed to make him active. It hit him. “Ulfrich, how many men do we have left?”

“Counting my Companions?” he slurred. “Forty two.”

Udo crossed quickly to his brother and hauled him upright. “How many warriors do we have, brother?”

Ulfrich sobered a bit at the rough treatment. “We have about six thousand left, out of a warhost once sixteen thousand strong.”

“And how many Bructeri men are not in the warhost?”

Ulfrich saw what his brother was aiming at. A full tribal mobilization. It would kill them over time, but could possibly save them in the summer- if the men were trained and ingrained with the vigor of a warrior. He grinned, “Another eight to ten thousand, brother.”

Udo released him to fall back into the chair in disgust. “So few? We once teemed in the tens of thousands!”

“That was before Uncle joined Seval in battling the roaches across the river,” Ulfrich reminded him. “He halved our strength, and we lost the rest this summer past. Damn that lucky roach! Had only my dagger cut deeper...”

“Had only the Witch not bought off Wenzel, nor warned Rutilius of Nevel,” Udo cursed. “This is all her fault. Has nobody seen her since her flight from the tower?”

Ulfrich shook his shaggy head. “No, brother. She disappeared into the land of the Sequani and has yet to resurface. Erwin is silent, and Georg has stopped bringing us news of the goings on in the Eagle nest. Nevel and Fredrik are dead, leaving only your friend in Rome to alert us to any threat. And he is silent, as you said.”

“We have nobody left to send to spy,” Udo said bitterly. “But we must know.”

“There is Halla,” Ulfrich remembered. “She is a vala like the Witch, and is more often right than wrong. We could try to consult her.”

“Halla... She is Marsic, is she not?”

“Aye, and was once a rival of Veleda. It is said her prophesies are always of our times- recently past or soon to come, unlike the Witch who saw the entire spectrum of history past, present and future. She successfully predicted the revolt of the Batavians, and then their demise. But she was wrong in their fate- she prophesied their utter obliteration, yet the peace left them relatively intact.”

“She also predicted our uncle would die, if I recall,” Udo remembered. “It was her words which brought us to the King’s Hall in time to be elected king in his place.”

Ulfrich snorted. “That took no Second Sight. Uncle charged across Father Rhein into a gap between two legions, the rear one armed with bows. No genius needed to see him die upon arrows.”

“Rutilius commanded that legion, did he not?”

Ulfrich nodded. “Aye. That Roman has been very good at pruning our family tree.”

“Halla said to me, ‘Your uncle will die wet, pierced by wood. His slayer would become mighty and plague you, unless you become king yourself.’”

“He died wet from swimming the Rhein, shot full of arrows, and you became king, though Rutilius still plagues us. She was wrong, brother.”

“Rutilius became mighty,” Udo corrected. “As she predicted. And he plagued us. And we are kings. They shall come again. The Romans must, because we are too few to bring the war to them. So they come again, and we shall kill them this time. Properly. And then, brother, the slayer of our uncle shall plague us no more.”

“How do you expect to slay his three legions?” Ulfrich snorted. “With but our six thousand? Twelve, if the tribe rallies?”

Udo smiled. “You forget the Chauci, and the Marsi. They lost men this summer, but they did not lose half their strength four years ago as did we. They have many, and they have pledged to come. We need but delay the Romans when they come, to allow our brethren the time they need to come to our aid.”

Ulfrich snorted. “Bah, they are still too few. Tis better we flee when the roaches come.”

“You coward,” Udo sneered. “We shall fight, for our land and our people. And our brethren shall come. I shall send forth envoys far and wide, once again, and tell them of our plans to defend our forests and our people.” He spun about to face his brother. “We have sent envoys before. We shall do so again. But it is not enough. You, brother, Slayer of Eagles, shall call out the tribe. Arm them. Then I shall train them, make warriors out of our men. Harden them by rebuilding the fake villages burned this summer.”

“And me?” Ulfrich wondered. Battles were his domain, campaigns that of his brother. Udo was infringing on his turf, and he did not like that at all.

“You, brother, shall do what you do best- hunt. Find me the Witch if you can, or bring me Halla if you cannot. A king’s word may be ignored. The visions of a vala, however, are ignored at one’s peril. We need us a vala, that our pleas for aid are heard. Find me a vala, brother, while I make the warhost ready.”

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Vespasian yawned.

To those around him, it looked like an owl preparing to devour a mouse- or given the size of Eprius, a rabbit. It was definitely not the kind of gesture the proconsular investigator deemed conducive to his report. But what could he say or do? It was the Imperator of Rome who he was boring with his report. So he read onward, reporting the faults and errors made in the recent campaign and hoped at least some of the blatant errors would be punished.

The Imperator turned to his son, the consul. “I concede that your choice was a better one,” he whispered. “Sending a prosecutor as an investigator results in this.”

“At least he brought us some facts we did not know,” Domitianus replied in the same whispered tones. “I do not know if Fulvus would have found them.”

“And in summation,” Eprius said finally, using his Forum voice to emphasize his displeasure at the reception his exhaustive report was receiving, “Cordinus seemed a decent enough peacetime administrator, but has no head for warfare. His campaign was flawed, his judgment worse, and only luck prevented the army for being destroyed.”

Vespasian rose awkwardly- his bones stiff from listening for two hours to the litany of charges and complaints that should have severe consequences, but by imperial order were only to be reported. The displeasure of the former prosecutor for the muzzling was evident- but in deference to imperial honor, was reserved for this room alone. In the Senate, his report was a glowing account of Roman ability defeating thousands of barbarians once again.

“I must ask, lord, why you sent me there to dig and scratch and bring to light the flaws that almost cost us a province, when it is evident you intend to do nothing about it?” Eprius asked.

Vespasian clapped his friend upon the shoulder, and let his hand remain there. “Titus, old friend, you produced a wonderful tale of poor judgment and criminal negligence, which was not your task. Your task was to find the facts. You presented those facts as a basis for your charges and allegations. That was all I required- and all you should have brought me.”

Eprius bowed. “My lord, you sent a prosecutor. A prosecutor seeks facts and analyzes them for court.”

“I have just admitted to my son that my choice was faulty,” Vespasian said by way of apology. “I remembered the detailed research you did for your cases, and how thorough was your fact-finding. I should also have remembered what you do with facts, but had forgotten. But you cannot help it, Titus- it is in your nature.”

He quirked an eyebrow to Eprius. “You did double-check those numbers, Titus?”

Eprius puffed up like an angered peacock. “Of course, Imperator. Do you think I would dare to bring falsehoods or incomplete facts to your attention? I would have failed worse in my duty than Rutilius Gallicus had! Three legates confirmed it. They had piled the German dead into heaps of twenty, and there were fifteen hundred piles.”

A leer crossed the owlish face of Rome’s mightiest man. “No German tribe numbers enough to leave thirty thousand dead without being extinct,” he said. “This can only mean one thing. My plan, Titus- it is working.”

“And which plan is that, Imperator?” Eprius asked innocently.

His charm did not work on one who knew him well, and Vespasian knew him very well. “That, my dear friend, is for the coming summer. Come, we must toast this news, and your return. A pity you just missed the Saturnalia, but we shall not disappoint you.”

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Marcus had a lot on his mind as he mounted his horse for the trip home to Colonia. First was his mission- gather intelligence. He had already started on this- before he left Vetera, he had penned off four letters, one to each legate. They were to interview anyone who had ties across the river- traders, merchants, hunters, explorers, anybody who had ever been in the area of interest. From these interviews, they were to build a consensus of the area and create from that a map, detailing the number of villages, their names and populations, and how many warriors were available. They were then to send their findings to him in Colonia, where he and his new aide would put them together. Three of the letters went out with the post. The fourth he hand-delivered to Decius Paullus there in the castrum before mounting up for the ride home to his wife and their children.

Thirty five Batavians and one Roman rode with him, his aide and his German Guard, of which he was extremely proud. Though he paid the Guard good wages, each was a volunteer, and new volunteers were tested to the utmost before being selected to enter the ranks of the guards. He had once eighty volunteers, men chosen by the Batavian prince Claudius Victor for their loyalty and ability, but he let those who wished or had family to remain behind in Noviomagus when he moved to Colonia. Fifty five came with him to Colonia, though twenty of those were left behind in Colonia to provide security for his family.

“Tell me, Dieter,” he asked his guard commander. “Why do we not have eighty men again? Too few volunteers?”

“We have had some,” the Batavian replied. “Some cannot ride, others ride too well but cannot fight. Most we just do not know, and we never let a man in that we do not know.”

“And how many Ubians do you know?”

Dieter scowled. “Fair point, lord. But you still draw breath, and that is because Batavians guard you. We once guarded the Imperators of Rome. What have the Ubians guarded except their own city, which they lost to Frisians?”

“A lot of Ubian men died fighting for Rome, and were not here to guard their own civitas,” Rutilius reminded him. “They are every bit as loyal as the Batavi- more so maybe, in that they remained loyal to Rome when all else was lost.”

Dieter scoffed. “Loyalty to a city is one thing, lord. Loyalty to a man is different. I give less than a rat’s ass for the whole of Rome. The buggers can burn the place down without me losing a second’s sleep over it. But you, lord, I would give my own life, if it would save yours. As will any man in your guard. Can the Ubians match that?”

“Give them a chance and they may,” Rutilius replied with a smile but no laugh. “I do not want to have to send to Rome for ex-gladiators to fill the ranks. The ‘German and Sandwarrior’ Guard just does not sound well.”

Dieter hung his head low and laughed. “You are correct. I shall recruit more. But first I will send word to Claudius Victor. Maybe there are some Batavian veterans with no families who would join. If any posts are still open, then and only then will I turn my eyes to the Ubians. The Batavian Guard sounds more exclusive that the Batavian-and-other-German Guards, does it not?”

Rutilius laughed. “Yes, it does.”

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-06-10 04:58 AM EDT (US)     5 / 52       
An very intriguing chapter!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-06-10 07:24 AM EDT (US)     6 / 52       
Great chapter. I look forward to the bloodletting!

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-10-10 01:40 AM EDT (US)     7 / 52       
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It was a cold December day when Marcus and the Batavians returned to his home in Colonia. Claudia had the family waiting on the portico when they rode up the lane to the house. Little Quintus was waving madly at his adopted father, while Little Publius was a bit more reticent- raising a single hand and waving once, shyly, but the smile on his face was worth more than a hundred silly waves. Between the two boys stood Claudia Sacra, the quaestor’s wife, with a huge smile upon her face and a belly that was growing heavier by the day.

“Hail, woman,” Marcus called proudly from the saddle with a wave. Somehow, this familial greeting of hers here on the portico more than made up for having missed the Saturnalia.

The blonde woman blushed and smiled, but bowed her head in greeting her husband. He dismounted easily- almost as naturally as a Batavi- and crossed the intervening space to mount the portico and kiss his bride as was proper. Afterward he greeted the children, then led the family inside while the Batavians took care of the horses, leaving the chief maidservant alone upon the portico in the cold.

Dieter also dismounted, handing the reins of his horse and that of Rutilius to Glam, who took both mounts and the Guards toward the stables and barracks beyond the main house. When the dust from their passage dissipated, Dieter stood alone before the main house, while the chief maidservant Milika stood alone upon the portico.

“Hail, woman,” the Batavian said lowly.

“Hail, husband,” the maid replied shyly. Her blue eyes barely looked higher than his knee. The two moved toward each other and embraced with a kiss. “Careful, lord,” Milika yelped at the strength of his embrace, “or you will squeeze our child out long before he is ready.”

Dieter dropped the maid and stood before her, his eyes examining her slender figure with the concentrated focus he would use in judging horses. He saw little out of place, and raised his questioning eyes to her.

“My last moon did not pass,” she said simply. “It will be another moon or two before I am sure, but I have seen enough of these things to know. You shall be a father, Dieter Straightback, come the harvest.”

“I hope to be here for his birth,” Dieter said, sadness tainting his voice. To Milika’s sudden fear, he added hastily,“ Marcus has a new task, one which involves much travel. I will be with him.”

“Take good care of him, Deets,” she said with a nod. “And remember to make sure he is here in Colonia in the spring- when Claudia is due.”

“His second, her second, their first,” the Batavian said with a grin. “And ours almost the same. They shall grow up together, Roman and German. Friends, I think.”


Dinner was a recap of the events, excluding his new task. Claudia knew of it and was not pleased, but knew enough not to stand in the way. Instead, she talked about her lands, the two reports she got from Claudius Victor pertaining to his lands, and how Milika was acting more a nanny than a chief maidservant. Marcus, for his side, was pleased the boys had a lot of attention, and were becoming fast friends. He had Marple growing up; now these boys had each other, though Publius was more the father figure to Quintus than brother. All the while they chatted and ate, both Ubian and Roman had their minds on the upcoming campaigning season and what preparation that would entail.

Claudia broached the subject first. “I can ask the merchants in town what they know of the Bructeri lands. Some of their contacts are bound to have traveled there.”

Marcus nodded. “Good idea. I have my legates doing the same in their areas. I was thinking of starting in Bonna and working my way town by town north, asking the traders and travelers myself, to fill in the gaps the legates might miss.”

“You would do better starting by the sea and working your way upriver towards Bonna,” Dieter advised. “Over by the sea lives a man who knew everything concerning the Bructeri lands and the people who dwell upon it- including their numbers, allies, and rivals. He could teach you much.”

“And who might this source be?” asked Rutilius, although he already had a suspicion, which was proved correct a moment later.

“Seval, our ex-king. He was close with the Bructeri king during the rebellion, before an arrow from your legion at Vetera ended that man's reign permanently. Seval, as you know, was banished shortly thereafter, and fled to the Cananefate. Visit Niall, then Seval. Then Claudius Victor. You will learn much of their numbers.”

“Their numbers were considerably shortened this past summer,” Rutilius reminded him. “I do not know how much I can learn from him.”

Dieter shrugged. “I do not know either, but wearing a topknot in your hair is not a Bructeri custom. Many of those whose blood stained our swords this summer wore their hair in topknots. I do not know who does, but Seval might.”

“I do not know either,” Rutilius admitted. “We shall seek out Seval and talk.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“I must admit, Aulus, that this dinner was exquisite,” Eprius uttered after consuming three complete steamed doves and their accompanying side dishes. “I must also admit that you invitation took me by surprise.”

“How so?” Caecina replied. Like his guest, he was laying on his side on one of the three couches surrounding the table his slaves kept filled with delicacies. And like his guest, he was sipping watered wine- not guzzling it like his other guests had done the night before. A temperate man, this shall not be easy.

Eprius dangled a grape before his mouth, then slid it in and chewed, spitting the seeds out. “Really, I am just back from a horrendous trip to the northern reaches of the Empire, crossing the Alps in the beginning of winter, and delivering my report to the Imperator, who scarcely paid attention. I worked hard and dug deep for that report, and he barely even listened to it. And just as I prepare to go home and sulk in self-pity, your slave comes with an invitation to dine. Your timing is impeccable.”

Caecina smiled his winning smile. Of course it is. I have sources. He thought that, but dared not put voice to those thoughts. Instead, he said, “I heard you were back in Rome, and wanted to catch up on events up north. I got kind of attached to the place when I served there a few years ago.”

Eprius guffawed. “What is it with that place that makes men love it so? It is cold, and the natives grossly large and as pale as moonlight. And gods above, how it rains there! No, Aulus, you may have the north and stuff it into a sack for all I care. I am a Roman, Rome is good enough for me.”

Aulus toyed with a sweetmeat dipped in a spicy sauce. “True, the weather and natives are awful, but there is always action there. Cross-river raids, simmering internal rebellions, the occasional brigand-chase. I tell you, Titus, a man can fall in love with the action.”

“Bloody little of that these past years,” Eprius noted. “This year we went across the river after them and pounded them good, but we were lucky. Other than that, the province had been as tame as a newborn lamb.”

“Germania? Tame?” Caecina laughed.

“Unfortunately, it is true,” Eprius continued, his hackles up at this unintended slight against his honor. “Cerealis laid a good peace upon the rebels, and the legate he left running the province when he ran off to Britannia has done a thorough job of implementing that peace. In fact, had it not been for that legate, we might have lost the province.”

“He sounds like a good man,” Caecina conceded.

“He is the linchpin holding that province together,” Eprius admitted. “It was too bad I needed a high-ranking scapegoat to blame the failures upon and chose him. He wiped the floor with me, Aulus. A Third-Class soldier risen to legate, no political experience, yet he anticipated my every move weeks before I arrived and covered himself well.”

Aulus cocked his head to the side in confusion. “If he was a good man who was holding the province together, why did you blame him for failure? That makes no sense.”

“Corruption, that’s why,” Eprius said, the frustration evident in his voice. “The real culprit is under Imperial Protection, because the Imperator considers him a ‘good influence’ upon that drunkard son of his. The crimes, Aulus, they demanded answering, but the goddess Corruption has followers among the Flavii too, it seems.”

“I can sympathize,” Aulus Caecina said, with true empathy. “I too served Vespasian well, and my reward is his hatred and exile from Senatorial business.” Something clicked in his brain. “This linchpin fellow. He holds the province together, since the governor is capitally-anally inverted, yes?” After the laughter of Eprius at the soldier’s phrase passed and he acknowledged the truth of the matter, Caecina continued, “what would happen if he was removed?”

“The province would fall apart,” Eprius declared openly. “The governor is a bigot and a lackey of the Neronian School- the kind who get cushy appointments due to the toes they lick rather than their abilities. Left to his own, he will fail horribly.”

“Then his culpability will be exposed to all,” Caecina finished. “And not even the Imperator can shield someone so blatantly exposed. Your goddess of Corruption will be forced to lose another follower.”

“It cannot be done,” Eprius sighed. “I had thought to blame this linchpin for the scandalous failures, but as I said, he protected himself well. And now Helvidius, my arch-rival, lauds this lowborn legate as a hero of the masses. If he is executed or murdered now, it will be a disaster. Local boy does well, only to be struck down by petty noble oafs who are jealous of his ability, that sort of thing. Apuleius Saturninus all over again, with the attending riots and looting. No, he cannot go down. Helvidius Priscus has protected him well.”

“We could promote him away,” proposed Caecina, taking the other route. “Give him a quaestorship in Palmyra. Problem solved.”

“That fool Rutilius Gallicus promoted him to quaestor before I got there. Like I said, this lowborn legate covered himself well.”

“There is always the enemy,” Caecina pondered further. “The Germans. They kill anyone. Should this linchpin die upon German steel, none can then fault us noblemen.”

“He is friends with the local tribes,” Eprius sighed again. “He can even pass for one himself- and has done so. Did you know that eighty Batavians- many from Nero’s old Guard- now guard this legate. Volunteered to do so, and consider it an honor. No German intent on mayhem can get near him.”

“Then send him to the Germans,” Caecina snapped. “If the Germani cannot come to him, send him to them.”

Eprius began shaking a finger in thought. “You might have something there, Aulus.” He smiled as he again contemplated this very ingenious solution. The hero will die a hero’s death, free of imperial or noble blame. And to make sure of it, he planned to meet with the one man who could ensure it.

“You have a good nobleman’s mind, Aulus Caecina,” Titus Eprius said as he was exiting the house afterwards. “You are a good friend to have.” Then he thought on that a moment, and added, “You helped make two men emperor in a single year. Yes, a very good friend to have.”

And with that, Eprius strode out the door. As he walked to his own home, he thought about the province without that damnably-able quaestor in it. His foe Rutilius Gallicus will then have to stand on his own two rickety legs. He wished he could be there to watch him fall flat on his face, but he knew he would rather be in the Senate that day the news arrived of its occurrence. He chuckled. A shame about Rutilius, but it was the only way to expose imperial corruption and bring Rutilius Gallicus down.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 05-10-2010 @ 03:05 AM).]

Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-10-10 02:49 AM EDT (US)     8 / 52       
Hooked, once more.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
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(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-10-10 04:38 AM EDT (US)     9 / 52       
Very nice Terikel!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-13-10 04:50 AM EDT (US)     10 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Ulfrich had his best warshirt on. Like his sword and helmet, it was burnished to a high gloss. His hair had been washed and the frizzy strands cut meticulously away until his head was covered in long, flowing perfect curls. His beard was likewise trimmed and styled, and his skin scrubbed clean of the ash and soot of his king’s hall. He was presentable.

“You look good, brother,” Udo admired. “A fitting king of the Bructeri.”

Ulfrich nodded. “Thank you, brother. I will be off to visit Calor of the Marsi, to acquire a guide to their vala. I think going as a king instead of as a warrior would make a better impression.”

Udo laughed. His twin was right- and thinking like a king for once instead of a warrior. It was a sign of progress he had looked long and fruitlessly for- and only now became apparent. His brother was maturing. And about bloody time, too.

Ulfrich spent two days traveling the bridges and paths of Bructeri lands until he came to the river separating Marsic land from Bructeri. He took the ford just upriver of the old Roman outpost- now an empty shell of itself- and crossed over.

“Who comes?” asked a voice from the forest.

“Ulfrich, king of the Bructeri comes,” he replied ritually. “And forty two of my companions. We seek an audience with your king, Calor.”

A figure stepped forward from the underbrush. He had a bow, and hunting arrows in a quiver. There was an axe in his belt, but no sword. A hunter. Ulfrich bowed his head to honor the hunter.

The hunter bowed his head in reply. “Travel due south,” the hunter instructed, “until you come upon a path. Head along that path toward the setting sun. You cannot miss our King’s Village.”

Ulfrich nodded, and headed off. Within a day he was bunked down in the guest room of Calor, with his warriors and Calor’s intermingled at the long table while the two kings shared the head at dinner that evening.

“The Bructeri thank the Marsi for their valor and blood shed this summer,” Ulfrich intoned. “Though we have not yet returned the favor, let it be known that we shall- whenever the Marsi need us. In the mean time, I must beg yet another favor of my fellow king.”

“Since when did you become so formal?” Calor asked with a laugh. “Ask, Ulfrich, and if it is in my power, I shall grant it.”

“I need to visit a vala,” Ulfrich explained. “Our own vala, Veleda, has fled after betraying the Bructeri. Her last known whereabouts are in the lands of the Celtic Sequani, far in the bowels of Roman territory, not far from where the Helvetii now live. I have heard that there was a vala living in Marsic lands. I would meet her.”

Calor raised his horn. “That explains why you are so prettied up, my friend,” he said with another laugh. “Halla. Yes, I can grant you passage and a guide to her abode- but not even a king can grant an audience to a vala should she not wish it. Valas are special to the gods, and must be treated with respect.”

That was why our Veleda fled, remembered Ulfrich, and removed from us the one chance we had of knowing what was coming.


Halla lived on the southern edge of the Marsic lands, almost upon the border of the Chatti. Her home was roomy, but not overly large- not overly imposing. It possessed a wide herb garden to its left, and a small shrine to its right. The house itself was built along Roman lines- which Ulfrich found strangely disquieting, and in stone, not wood. Around the house he could make out the remains of a stone wall, and other clumps behind the house spoke of outer buildings now fallen into disrepair.

The guide knocked his spearbutt twice against the outer gate to announce their presence. A maiden came forth from the house, turned toward the shrine and bowed once, then resumed her progress towards the visitors. When she finished the thirty pace trip, she bowed her head.

“The vala bid me welcome the lord Ulfrich of the Brutceri and bring him into her home,” the maiden said swiftly, then added, “The gifts his men carry may be deposited by the shrine.”

Ulfrich laughed. “Your mistress knows I come, eh?”

The maiden looked up. She had rather dark eyes for a forest dweller, and very pale skin. “She would not be the premier vala of these woods if she did not, lord. Now come, please. The vala is almost ready for her trance.”

Ulfrich dismounted and handed his horse to a guard. “Remain here,” he commanded, “and place the offerings by yon shrine as the maiden requested.” Then he followed the maiden to the house, amused by the interruption of her bowing to the shrine every time she passed it.

The interior of the house was dark, as he had come to expect of witches and valas, but whereas the tower of Veleda was dark because it let very little light penetrate its environs, the home of Halla was black in and of itself. He walked slowly, unsure of his footing, but the girl held his arm strongly and guided him efficiently through the darkness to where a single black candle rested upon a black table.

The flame lit up a woman, about forty years of age, plain but not unpleasant. She had reddish hair in two braids, framing her squarish face. Her eyes were closed, but Ulfrich instinctively knew that when they opened, they would be the same light brown as the maiden. He was not wrong.

“Welcome, Bructeri king,” she said as she opened her eyes. “You seek guidance and comfort, support for the summer months. These things a vala’s song can give you. But there is a price for what you ask, above and beyond the tokens placed before the shrine outside. Are you willing to pay this price, without knowing its exact nature?”

Ah, a test. He nodded. “Aye, vala, I will pay this price. I once captured two Roman chieftains alive for a vala; nothing you ask can be more difficult than that. Name it, and it is yours.”

Halla nodded. “A wise choice, my king. I shall make the proclamations and spread them concerning your plight- the Chatti and other tribes shall indeed heed your plea. I see much success in you- when the Chatti come, they will help you trap a Roman warhost greater than that of Varus. And between the rebuilding of your king’s hall and your brilliant leadership in trapping the Romani, you shall come and see me twice more, and lay with me in the bed above. That is what I ask, Ulfrich of the Bructeri- your seed. I see in you the seeds of greatness. In me you see the Wisdom of Wotan as gained by drinking from the Well of Mimer. Our descendants shall rule the united tribes, not as kings but as kings of kings. This is the price you and I must pay, my Ulfrich- to make me with child, so that our children can eclipse the both of us.”

“You are plain on the eyes,” Ulfrich said honestly and coldly, then his voice warmed and rose in volume, “but by the gods I see the power in you, woman. And that power attracts me as a flame does a moth. I shall come again, and when I do, we shall make those children that shall rule the tribes. But you do not have to wait until I return. I would bed you now, to bask in that powerful aura of yours for a little longer. A moth to a flame.”

Halla stood. Her body was revealed by the movement- where before he saw a large form wrapped in black, now he saw muscles rippling under her black gown. She was a large woman, but strong. There was very little fat upon her, though she must weigh close to his own weight. Her height matched his as well. She extended a hand to the king, who grasped it eagerly now that he knew she was no mound of suet. She smiled, and blew out the single candle lighting her den before guiding her man through the darkness to the chamber above.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-13-10 11:28 AM EDT (US)     11 / 52       
Looks like Ulfrich is in for a wild night.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-16-10 10:23 AM EDT (US)     12 / 52       
Poor Ulfrich... I hope he stays on his guard...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
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(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-17-10 02:00 AM EDT (US)     13 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“The most direct route from Colonia to Cananefate lands lay through the lands of the Baetasii,” the new aide Caius Avitus was explaining to Marcus Rutilius, who had once been chased by rebellious Germans from Cananefate lands all the way to Mogontiacum. “But in this case, lord, the most direct is not the fastest. There is a road along the Rhenus all the way to Noviomagus. And as you well know, movement along roads is much faster than cross country.”

“You don’t say?” Rutilius replied in feigned awe at that remarkable deduction. Caius was an excellent scroll-roller and post-sorter, but he lacked something when it came to operations. He was excellent with a sword and the pilum, but planning? The boy was lost.

Rutilius crossed over to the map his young aide was using. “There are countless beaten paths through this area here,” he said, pointing to the land of the Baetasii. “Each leads from one village to the next. In the winter, with the frost, these beaten dirt roads are as hard as our paved roads. This track here goes directly to Matilo, our nearest outpost to the Cananefate. If I and my escort ride this way, we can be there in seven days. Your route will take at least nine.”

Caius looked back at the map. How could I have missed that? He bowed his head. “I am sorry, lord. You are correct, of course. But what about these rivers blocking your preferred route, lord? Will they not hinder your advance, making the route I described actually faster?”

“Those rivers do not stop our merchants, now, do they?” Rutilius replied, a bit more sarcastically than intended. He mentally smacked the back of his own head, then continued a bit more gently, “Those rivers have two states, Caius. Frozen and fluid. Frozen we can easily cross by walking, and for fluid there are ferries. Most do not operate in the winter, because the frozen river allows free passage, but a few extra denarii would make them open in no time.”

Avitus bowed his head. “You are correct, lord. And if it is not so cold, you and your Batavians could have the horses swim across. The rivers are no major obstacle.”

“You are learning. That is good. But to be honest, I will be going with the fleet downriver, since I know- and you should!- that six vessels will be heading downriver in a few days to escort the supply convoy upriver. And you should also know that river travel is at least three times quicker than roadbound.”

He paused, then smiled gently. “I was never an aide, Caius, but I have served in the legions as a soldier,” Rutilius said softer still. “It is not easy to be an aide to someone who knows or has experienced far more. But you are doing well for a beginner. I will expect more as you grow into your role, but I am satisfied for now. Besides, I will be taking your route back, but the river to there. I will need to check on the units and talk with the legates. You will remain here, Caius, and deal with the mundane things until I return. You excel at that, by the way- much better than I could ever do.”

Caius was beaming as the legate left. And Rutilius knew that everything would be properly arranged when he returned. What he had said was no lie- Caius Avitus was indeed gifted when it came to administrative details.

Rutilius was correct. The ships put into port in Colonia on their way downriver, and had more than enough room to take him and thirty Batavians, including mounts, along. The naval bow in its case on his horse intrigued the river rats, who invited him to a little wager. Evidently these men were new to the fleet, but that never stopped a legionary- or a quaestor- from teaching them a little lesson. Thus he arrived in the Village Near the Water in the middle of a bitterly cold January after a five-day journey, with the carcass of a deer across his saddle and an extra sixty denarii in his purse.

A Cananefate warrior announced his arrival to the king while another led them to the longhouse serving as the King’s Hall. Rutilius entered with five of his escort, two of them carrying the deer between them. He saw forty men- less than half of whom were the king’s companions- gathered about the long table. The rest were a mix of farmers, fishermen, and traders come to bargain with the lone Germanic trader occupying the foot of the table.

“Greeting, Niall,” Rutilius called out in Cananefatian, He gestured to his guards, who brought in the deer. “I bring meat to your hall, for the enjoyment of all.”

“You kill a doe from our lands, depriving us of her future fawns, and call it a gift?” said a scowling warrior by the table. “There are few enough animals roaming our forests, Roman, without you having to kill a female one- a breeder.”

“Its gender was not important to the Cananefate,” Rutilius replied evenly, despite his internal uneasiness. “I figured its meat was.”

“Shut your mouth, Ataulf,” Niall commanded. “Show our guest respect.”

“He helps kill what little meat roams free, a female one at that, and we should respect this?” Ataulf moaned.

“I did not deprive the Cananefate of anything,” Rutilius declared.

“The proof is there in the hands of your warriors!” Ataulf exclaimed.

“Prove that it came from Cananefate lands,” Rutilius demanded sweetly. “You cannot, even if you personally branded every animal in your forest. But I have five witnesses here, plus my own word, that it was not slain on these lands. I shot it from the river between Vetera and the Nabalia- on Bructeri lands.”

Ataulf laughed. “You and these five invaded Bructeri lands to recover a deer shot from a boat?”

“This one is looking for a fight, lord,” Dieter announced to Rutilius. He faced toward Niall. “May I slay him so we can proceed?”

Niall looked to Ataulf. “He is right, Ataulf. You accuse our guest of damaging our relations by poaching, while he has done nothing wrong. It is you damaging the relations. Shut you mouth now, or I will let this Batavian do it for you.”

“I prefer to fight my own battles,” Rutilius added. “If you wish a fight, name your conditions. Fisticuffs, wrestling, or with weapons? To first blood, or to the death? Or shall we engage in Ritual Insults? I hear that is a growing custom among men armed with sharp tongues and weak bodies.”

Ataulf jumped to his feet at the jab and placed his hand upon the hilt of his sword. Rutilius stood as he was, making no move for his gladius. He seemed relaxed, but Dieter knew better. If this Cananefate drew the blade, or the king allowed the duel, Rutilius would explode into action. He was merely being polite- awaiting the king’s permission before spilling the blood of one of his warriors in his own hall.

“Sit down, Ataulf!” Niall commanded.

“Sit and keep that wagging scrap of filth you call a tongue still,” another warrior added, ”or I shall come over there and personally rip it out.”

Ataulf nodded sullenly. His hand slipped from the hilt, and he gradually resumed his seat. Niall gestured for a warrior to take the meat to the kitchen, and then for Rutilius and his guards to come to him. As a mark of his honor, he bade Rutilius sit at his right side. This had the added benefit of placing the table between him and Ataulf.

“Forgive him, Marcus,” Niall said in a paternal tone used to calm both parties and himself. “He has suffered much at Roman hands in the war. His wife was used poorly, his son killed, his uncle and brother massacred.”

“He does know that the Romans who did those terrible things are dead at Cananefate hands?” Marcus asked, adding, ”As are many others, for whom Rome has never sought vengeance?”

“What has Rome to avenge?” shouted Ataulf anew at this insult. “That we defended ourselves?”

Enough!” Niall roared. Ataulf cowered physically at the force in his king’s voice. “Rome can seek no justice for those that were slain then. Vorenus brought that upon himself and his men. But Rome can seek retribution for what came afterward. Do you not remember? After we slew those who came against us, we crossed the unmarked border into Roman territory and slaughtered all the inhabitants of a Roman post on Roman land. Yet Rome, in the form of Cerealis who was consul and in this man here, wisely let those deaths pass in the spirit of friendship. As should you. The war is over, and the man here at my right has proven himself a Friend to the Cananefate more than once.”

“That scythe you used to harvest your grain came from him,” said another voice, coming up fast behind the king, though causing him no alarm. He recognized it as the voice of Jorgen, the king’s son, and a good man. “As did the seeds you planted to have something to harvest. And the rulings that keep Roman hunters from poaching in our forests or traipsing across our fields came from him. And a host of other things, Ataulf. Decimus Cornelius was horrible man who took your family hostage, then slew the menfolk to make his escape. But we caught him, and his legion, and killed them all. The blood-debt has been paid, with interest. Leave it alone.”

“Welcome and well said, Jorgen,” Rutilius said as he rose to greet the king’s son. He noticed the young man still wore the gladius he gave him after breaking out of the dungeon of Vetera. Jorgen was but a boy then, but he was a man now. War can do that.

Jorgen shrugged. “I probably could have used better words,” he said, “but these fit.”

“I see you still wear the sword I gave you at Vetera,” the quaestor said, a question hiding within the words.

Jorgen turned so that his left side was in the light. The hilt of another sword became visible. “I carry two swords. One from the man who gave me life,” he said, gesturing to Niall, “and one from the man who gave me freedom to go with that life.” He nodded to Marcus, who nodded back. Then he sat at his father’s left side and gestured for a drink.

Marcus and Jorgen caught up with each other while Niall ate his fill of the venison just coming out of the kitchen. It had been years since the two cell-mates of Lupercus had seen each other- mostly because Jorgen was out training with the warhost when Marcus had business with Niall, or was out in the dunes when he stopped by socially. Jorgen had grown quite a bit- he was tall for a boy just coming into puberty back then, and now he was a man almost as tall as his father- and as broad across the shoulders though lacking in depth.

“So, Marcus,” Niall said after wiping his face and pushing his plate away. “What brings you to our village in the middle of the coldest January in many years?”

Marcus put down his tankard. “Two things, the first of which was to check on my auxilia.”

“You missed them,” Niall laughed. “You sent us men who were already half-trained, Marcus. All we had to do was polish what they already knew.”

“We did recruit among the tribes,” Rutilius admitted.

“They left three weeks ago for Traiectum- together with our own warriors- for maneuver training and drilling under your VI Vasconi. Your man Aulus Horatius there- he is good. Not as good as we two, but good. They should be done in time to serve with our warhost when we meet the X Gemina for our mock battles before the spring rains. Will you be commanding again this year?”

“I am quaestor now, Niall,” Marcus reminded him. “I gave my legion to Cadorus, an Iceni nobleman with much experience. He should put up a good fight. If he does not, you have my permission to royally kick his arse. The lessons you teach him may hurt his pride. The lessons you don’t will kill my men. So please, Lord of the Cananefate, teach him hard now.”

Niall nodded and laughed. “We shall. And the second thing?”

Marcus leaned closer. “We will probably be going back across the river, if not this summer, then sometime soon. We failed this year because we knew very little about the other side- no maps, no order of battle, no anything. Just the word of two guides who were Bructeri spies. I wish to change that. I do not want any man crossing that river without knowing full and well what lay upon the far side. And to learn this, I must speak with those who know. You have among you one who had close ties with the Bructeri. It is with him I wish to speak.”

Niall nodded. “You speak of Seval. Alas, we cannot help you. We gave him refuge in a home emptied by the war. He stayed there, and often wandered the dunes. Sometimes with young Jorgen here, sometimes alone. One time he did not come back. He has not been seen since.”

“Cacat,” Rutilius whispered.

“Shit is right,” Niall muttered in reply. “Labeo asked us to keep an eye on him, to prevent him from trying to regain the Batavian throne. In this we failed.”

“Labeo sits strongly upon the Batavian throne now. Seval is no threat to him, so that can be forgiven. But my problem remains. Is there any among the Cananefate who know of the Bructeri, or their lands?”

Niall shook his shaggy head. “We know the coast, and Frisian lands, and of course those of the Batavi. Maybe a bit of the Baesatii to the south, but we Cananefate do not travel much. I am truly sorry.”

Rutilius clapped a hand onto the king’s shoulder. “Es macht nichts,” he said. It doesn’t matter. “We will find out anyway, without him.”

“We could try talking to the merchant over there,” Dieter reminded him gently. “Look at his hair.”

Rutilius looked to the end of the table, where the trader was discussing matters with several men- including the angry Ataulf. The man had his hair in long blonde locks down the left side of his head- the side facing the door from which he had entered, which Rutilius had first seen. But the hair on the right side was braided into many small braids and then swept back into a ball resting on the side of his head. It was not very unlike the balls and knots of hair on those bodies near the outpost.

“Good point,” he agreed, and rose. Ataulf saw his rising, then his movement in his direction. He cursed softly to his comrades then exited before the king threw him out. He knew there would be an altercation, and Niall had already made it clear whose side he was on.

The merchant looked up at his arrival. He saw before him a German in Roman regalia, a sight that puzzled him. From the name, he had expected a short, dark man with thick lower legs and a huge hump on his nose. Instead, a tall, fair man with a pointy German button in the middle of his face stood facing him. And spoke German.

“I have not seen this hairstyle before, merchant,” Rutilius said in the Chatti dialect. “Though I have seen something similar. From where do you hail?”

“I come from the dark forest just north of the mighty mountains,” he replied in a voice that rumbled like thunder. “I am Aethelric, a Suevi, and this knot upon the side of my head signifies I am a free man.”

“Ah,” said Rutilius. “And a knot atop the head? Does that signify a slave?”

Aethelric snorted his beer and let loose a great laugh. “Do not ever say that to a man wearing a Suevi knot atop his head!” His laugh lasted long, but eventually passed. “No, Roman. Slaves wear their hair loose, or no hair at all. Warriors wear their knot atop their head, while traders and other free men like myself, who earn our way without the use of weapons, wear the knot upon the side. Do not ever name as a slave a man with a knot atop his head, if you wish to keep yours.”

“It is good I find this out now,” laughed Rutilius, “instead of in negotiations. Such a blunder could well ruin an otherwise profitable deal.”

The trader nodded, then took a second look at the Romans. It was not often one of the upper echelons admitted fault, and less admitted they had learned something from a German. And the discussion itself... in the native tongue, not imported Latin. Roman magistrates never used other than that sing-song lilting Latin.

“I have been trading up and down Father Rhein for twelve summers now,” Aethelric mentioned. “From the headwaters in my homeland, and finally now to where he mixes with the sea. Never in my time of travel have I come across a Roman nobleman who bothered to learn our tongue, much less use it.”

Rutilius smiled. “My mother was a Chatti. And I have been governor of this province and deputy governor twice in the last five years. I am sure you have heard of me.”

“Marcus Rutilius: left a tribune, returned a legate, and since been in the King’s Hall,” Aethelric repeated. “Yes, lord, I have heard of you. But it has not been mentioned that you speak our tongue. It is that I find unusual.”

“Marcus speaks our tongue as well,” Jorgen said, moving up to the side of Rutilius. “And does it not too badly, either.”

“No wonder the Cananefate are so favored,” Aethelric said with a slight bow. “One wonders.”

“The Cananefate and the Batavi have indeed been favored,” Jorgen said. “And not only because Marcus and I escaped from prison together. They are favored because the Great Cerealis, the consul at the time, wished it so, to bring a lasting peace after the war. Marcus implemented that peace to all. And we have prospered ever since.”

“What did you do during the war?” Rutilius asked of the trader.

“Wars are bad for business!” Aethelric said with a gesture tossing the whole idea out. “I spent the war south of the Alps, expanding my contacts and suppliers until the war ended. I made several good friends among your kind, Romani. Some high-ranking ones at that.”

Rutilius nodded at that, and made his excuses. He returned to the king, and on the way noticed that Ataulf had indeed departed. Good riddance! Jorgen joined him by Niall. The rest of the evening was spent drinking sparingly, swapping tales, and general carousing. Marcus told of his marriage, and of his son coming to Germania. Jorgen told of his prowess with the sword and spear, and that Seval once complimented him as being able to ride ‘like a Batavian.’ He took that as a great honor.

“It is indeed,” Dieter said, coming to his lord. “Marcus, the men are tired. It would be best if we retired now, before their tiredness turns to irritability and fights break out.”

“You are correct, Dieter,” Marcus said as he rose. “My lord, again it was a pleasure to share your company. And Jorgen, I am still amazed how much you have grown. You make me proud to be your friend, and I cannot imagine your father being any less proud of you being his son.”

Both Cananefate bowed their heads in thanks, and Marcus took his leave. Jorgen left with him, a royal guide to where his men were lodged. But they did not get there immediately.

A group of men were waiting in the shadows outside. They rushed the Batavians without warning. They were fast, and good, but were not veterans of a hundred battles. The Batavians were. Glam and Wolf, two of the Guards, did not even bother to draw their swords. They merely rushed under the sweeping fists of the attackers and grabbed them by their thighs. One quick lift and the men were dashed headfirst upon the ground to lie still. Dieter was pummeling a third who bore a staff- he held the staff fast in one hand and was pounding the man’s chin with the other. The other two Batavians sparred with three others. That left Marcus alone in the center, struggling hand to hand against a bear of a man. The man circled, forcing Marcus to turn with him, and then he smiled.

Thus far it was a rough-and-tumble fistfight, despite the presence of the staff. No laws or rules of hospitality had been broken, despite the violence of the attack. But that was about to change.

Marcus knew there was someone behind him, ready to strike. He suddenly and without warning buckled his legs, dropping quickly to the ground , leaving the surprised giant standing befuddled for a second. That man caught the full force of an axe crashing into his chest. He crumpled, falling forward atop the prone Roman. The axeman himself died a moment later as he raised his lethal weapon to bring it down upon the trapped Rutilius. A gladius jutted from his spine as he fell forward onto the heap.

Niall and his guards emerged from the long hall a moment later as Rutilius sloughed off the dead men and regained his feet. The scene they witnessed was this- Marcus Rutilius was covered with blood and stood over the body of Ataulf, with the gladius still stuck in his flesh. Bjorn Brucker’s Son was laying under him, eking blood into the huge pool beneath him. Five Batavians were pummeling two Cananefate farmers into bloody ribbons while five other Cananefate lay groaning upon the ground. Niall looked from the groaning to the dead, then raised his eyes to Rutilius.

“Forgive me, my friend,” Niall said lowly to his guest as he observed the carnage. “I did not think the fool would go to this length.”

His men felt for life among the fallen, most finding it except among two- Ataulf and Bjorn, the men at the bloody Roman’s feet.

“Ataulf was very clever for a fool,” Niall declared. “A fisticuffs match is considered a fair challenge in Tyr’s eyes, and one which does not violate our hospitality. It is for entertainment, or the settling of disputes without killing, thus those engaging in such a holmgang are exempt from prosecution. It is our way, which he knew, and probably knew you did not. You brought steel into play during challenge, a mortal sin. He gave his life to force me to sentence you.”

He drew a deep breath, and let it slide out slowly. “Marcus Rutilius, you have been a friend to the Cananefate, and are not familiar with our ways, yet the law in this matter is clear. We must demand were-geld for Ataulf and Bjorn, a thousand pieces of silver for each, and declare you outlaw to Cananefate lands for the period of one year per life, a total of two. You may not seek shelter within Cananefate lands, and any who find you within our lands may slay you out of hand. Because you have done much to help our tribe, I can reduce this to a half-year, but not more. You are cast out of our lands, and may not return until the sentence has passed. Do you understand?”

Rutilius nodded. “Must I leave now, in the night, or may I depart in the morning?”

“I am truly sorry, my friend, but you must depart at once. Such is the law.”

“And if he did not murder these men?” asked Jorgen, coming from the shadows.

Niall turned. “The tale is there in the fallen, son. These malcontents waited outside the hall, on land of the village common, thus did not violate my hospitality. They started the brawl there, then it drifted here, where these two died upon the sword of Rutilius.”

“Look to the right hip of Rutilius, father,” Jorgen said, pointing for effect. “His sword is still there. He did not kill these men. Ataulf killed Bjorn with an axe,” he continued, turning so that his own right hip was exposed to the light of the torches. “And I killed Ataulf from over there.”

Niall’s eye was drawn to the empty scabbard on his son’s hip. He had stupidly assumed the only gladius in the village belonged to the Roman, it being a Roman weapon. The haze of adrenalin surrounding this brawl had blinded him to the sword his own son carried- a sword that was now in the spine of Ataulf. He raised his eyes from the empty scabbard to lock onto those of his son.

“Marcus and his men were fighting with bare hands, as per custom, Father,” Jorgen announced. “Ataulf brought steel into it. I killed Ataulf to stop him from murdering our bare-handed guest.”

“It is good that you phrase it so,” Niall admitted. “For in stopping him, no matter how justified, you have still struck down a man from behind. Striking dishonorably- no matter the reason- carries a penalty of one year outlaw as well. This is the law, which not even I may change. I may cut the sentence in half for your rescue of our honor and our guest, but cannot dismiss it like I may the were-geld. You do understand, do you not, Jorgen Niall’s Son?”

The young man nodded.

The king turned to his guest. “Marcus, you are cleared of any taint in this manner; your status among us as it was. Now I must ask you a favor.”

“If it is in my power, Niall, it is done.”

The tall king smiled wanly. “Look after my son during his outlaw.”

“As if he were my own brother,” Rutilius agreed. “Done.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-17-10 04:50 AM EDT (US)     14 / 52       
Ataluf is a fool. But at least Rutillus can teach Jorgen the ways of war. Good chapter!

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-17-10 01:43 PM EDT (US)     15 / 52       
Beautifully done.
“... Or shall we engage in Ritual Insults? I hear that is a growing custom among men armed with sharp tongues and weak bodies.”
Irony?

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
CaesarVincens
Ashigaru
posted 05-17-10 02:01 PM EDT (US)     16 / 52       
Very nice chapter, Terikel.

Veni, Vidi, well... you know.

Extended Cultures, A modification of RTW.

Si hoc legere posses, Latinam linguam scis.
ɪf ju kæn ɹid ðɪs, ju noʊ liŋgwɪstɪks.
Aftermath
HG Alumnus
posted 05-18-10 08:29 PM EDT (US)     17 / 52       
As entertaining as ever, you've honed your craft well

A f t y

A A R S

:: The Sun always rises in the East :: Flawless Crowns :: Dancing Days ::

"We kissed the Sun, and it smiled down upon us."
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-20-10 01:54 AM EDT (US)     18 / 52       
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The Senate was quiet as Gaius Helvidius Priscus rose and walked gracefully to the floor before the reigning consul, Domitianus. The young consul watched the older ex-praetor approach, and thought back to the interview he had witnessed between his father and this man earlier in the day.

Vespasian had called Helvidius Priscus to his domicile, in an attempt to dissuade the staunch republican from again extolling the traits and deeds of Rutilius in Germania while contrasting them to those of the Imperial governor. The cock-up in Germania required heads to roll, but the man responsible for it was an Imperial favorite, and a surprisingly good influence on the once-wild young man who has finally grown into a decent consul. Thus a scapegoat was needed, and Rutilius chosen, until Helvidius seized upon the lowborn Rutilius as a paragon of Republican ideals and used his actions in scathing attacks upon the Emperor and Imperial ways. As the man was a brilliant orator, his views were gathering support, making the scapegoat untouchable and the imperial favorite a villain. This had to stop.

“Do not attend the Senate this day,” Vespasian had commanded. “Let this one pass, Gaius.”

Helvidius shook his noble head. His fine features were aquiline, his nose with a proper Roman hump in it. He had been opposed to the rule of Rome by a single man since he first learned of Roman traditions, and though he was always vocal and adamant in his Republicanism, he had been appointed a quaestor by Nero himself, then a tribune of the plebs, then sent as governor to Achaea and Armenia. Everywhere he was sent, he gained the confidence and respect of those he governed- a rare trait. Vitellius abhorred the man, but still made him a praetor.

Before stumbling across Rutilius and Cordinus, Helvidius was most known for his support of restoring at public expense the destroyed Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus- burned with Vespasianus’s brother Titus Flavius Sabinus III inside, just after the above-mentioned Rutilius had rescued Domitian and cousin Titus Flavius Sabinus IV from the Vitellian Praetorians. Now Helvidius had a new toy, a dangerous one, and one which fulfilled his ideals to the utmost while displaying the perfidy of the emperor toward the man who saved his son and nephew.

“It is in your power to exclude me from the Senate, in your capacity as censor,” he finally replied. “But as long as I am a member of the Senate, I must due my duty to Rome and attend its Senatorial sessions.”

Vespasian sighed, knowing he could do nothing about that, except invoke his Censorial powers- which would then force him to review the rolls of the entire Senate. That would cost him far more time than he had available, which Helvidius knew. Damn it!

“You may enter,” he said finally, admitting the irritating man was correct in knowing the emperor could not forbid his entry. “Enter, Priscus, but say nothing.”

Helvidius crossed his arms. Something was up, something sneaky. Yet he had his honor, and Vespasian the power. “I shall not speak first, Titus Flavius. But if I am called upon to express my stance on a matter, I cannot remain silent, as well you know.”

Vespasian knew it quite well, hence this discussion. “You will be asked to vote. Keep it to Aye or Nay, and we shall have no problem.”

Helvidius nodded. What was being asked was now within the bounds of honor. “Aye, Titus Flavius, I shall cast my vote and say nothing more. Unless questioned- questions demand answers.”

“Your opinion will be asked. You know that.”

“And I must then say what I think is right,” Helvidius replied. His will and ideals were as carved in stone as Cato of old.

Vespasian decided to lay down the law. “If you impeach my hand-picked magistrate before the Senate, embarrassing both me and him, I shall have you killed. You are warned.”

“Am I immortal, to fear death so?” Helvidius replied cynically. Now he had the old owl against the wall. “We each have our part, Titus Flavius. Yours is to command, mine to obey. Yours is to banish, mine to depart in sorrow. Yours is to kill, mine is to die- but not in fear.”

“I am not asking you to fear me,” Vespasian growled. “I am asking for you to show respect- for once in your life.”

Helvidius cocked an eyebrow to the emperor. “Earn it, Titus, and I will show it.”

“Get out!” Vespasian commanded. Two praetorians hurried forward to hustle the stiff senator out of the emperor’s presence.

That was this morning. Now, after the speech of Eprius explaining how the situation in Germania was resolved without a catastrophe, each member of the Senate was asked to approve an ovation for Cordinus for punishing the Bructeri tribe and ordering the province. Both consuls had approved the measure, then both attending praetors, then the three ex-consuls, and five of the six attending ex-praetors. Then the consul called upon Helvidius, the last attending ex-praetor, for his opinion on the matter. And that brought Helvidius Priscus down to the Senate floor.

“I cannot in good faith approve this award for the actions committed,” he said solemnly. He left it at that, fulfilling the command of Imperial Vespasian.

“Why not?” called a voice from the back. Helvidius smiled as he recognized the voice of Gnaeus Mallius. He was now asked through no instance of his own, and therefore free of his bonds of honor to break the imperial decree- which had no legal basis anyway.

Helvidius drew himself upright, standing proud and noble before this collection of worthy peers. “I cannot vote in favor of this ovation for Cordinus because he simply has not earned it.”

He strode to the center of the floor and addressed the Senate directly. “Cordinus was a fool who followed orders from Rome into the deep forests of Germania- literally, and without sound judgment. His forces fought two battles- of which he commanded neither. Rather, it was his legates- one in particular- who fought the battles and won them. All Cordinus did was get his forces across the Rhenus and then get stabbed.”

He opened his arms. “Of course, Cordinus was brave. And did not vary in his orders, which is why it is proposed he be awarded this ovation. It was the command of Titus Flavius Vespasianus that sent him into those forests, against that tiny tribe, and to follow the express directions of two local men- who were both spies of the enemy.”

“This matter was not revealed to this body,” he continued. “Our fine proconsul Eprius, a prosecutor of senators, sits there beside himself with rage. Why, one might ask? The answer is simple- he found the truth, and is forbidden by imperial order to spread that truth among us. Instead, he gave us platitudes of Roman military might overcoming the enemy, and other such nonsense. These lies he did spread willingly and knowingly, because he was told to by the man many here refer to as the Imperator.

“Now, from where does this term arise? Our forefathers used it to hail a general who had defeated his foe. Verily, one of the qualifications for a triumph was that the soldiers hailed their general as Imperator on the field. Nowadays, we reserve that revered honor for a man who rules us all by force of arms, and wishes to pass this title on to his children.

“Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix was indeed lucky. He was hailed Imperator on the field of Nola, and awarded the Coronoa Graminea by the very troops he saved. He served as quaestor to Marius, the praetor in his day, then consul, all in the proper year. Then he committed a foul act in trying to restore our great city from the men who had seized it- he marched on Rome itself. He acquitted himself well thereafter, restoring the res publica before retiring as a decent Roman nobleman should.

“But he had set a dangerous precedent. Any general who felt slighted by Rome could march upon her to become her ruler. Fathers of the Senate, Rome was never meant to be ruled by a single man! Our constitution expressly forbids it, except in time of dire need. Fabius Maximus was made dictator, then Sulla took the title- legally, elected by the Senate. Then Gaius Julius Caesar did it as well. But Caesar was another matter.

“Our Rome was in turmoil, our Senate corrupt, and we of the Senate spent more time tearing down what was needed than attending to Rome’s needs. Caesar followed Sulla and marched on Rome, and the genius of the man was such that he did indeed fix many of the problems plaguing our Eternal City. As a reward for doing what was right, the corrupt and sycophantic members of our precious Senate voted him Dictator for Life- and then murdered him to plunge our Rome into turmoil once again.

“Augustus rose from the ashes and took power. As his predecessor, he was also a brilliant man, and exactly what Rome needed in those darkest of hours. He rebuilt our Rome, but in doing so, changed her. He was voted into our public offices- often several at the same time- and served long and well. He brought us prosperity. We honored his achievements by allowing his family to carry on his work.

“That family died with Nero, whose own mental disease led to yet another general rising up against this hereditary rule- Sulpicius Galba. Galba was in turn murdered by Marcus Salvius Otho, who suicided when he lost against another usurper-Vitellius. Vitellius was slain just outside, on the Gemonian Stairs, by Marcus Antonius Primus, a supporter of our Titus Flavius Vespasian. Now Titus Flavius styles himself Imperator, a man with no tie to Augustus of old. He is simply yet another man who came with his legions and made himself master of Rome, appropriating for himself the powers and offices to which previously all of Rome had elected men of this body to perform.

“Thus Titus Flavius has no true standing in Rome. He was never elected- only appointed. Granted he is a senator, and a former praetor, and had even been consul- appointed for all of two months. He sits in the chair of Augustus by might, not right, and sends forth his minions. One of these minions, Cordinus, is now in trouble. So what does our usurper do? He sends a fact-finder to investigate, then quashes the findings which proved that the minion was incompetent. And for this incompetence, it is proposed here that the minion be granted an ovation.

“So no, Fathers of the Senate, I cannot in good faith to our Rome approve this measure. The man was sent north to make war by a man without the legal basis of a Roman election to do so. He was not successful- rather his subordinates were. And when his incompetence was brought to light, it was banished to the darkest depths and an ovation in its place proposed- by the same man who stole our Rome. Thus I vote nay.

“Further, I would beg of this body to re-examine this event, and reconsider your votes in this matter. I must ask you to do so, for I shall no longer be here to be the Conscience of Rome. I was commanded by Titus Flavius Vespasianus this very morning not to attend, but when I said I would, he bade me hold my tongue. He asked a promise that after I voted, I say nothing more. To this I replied I must answer, if a question is posed.

“He then asked me to show him respect, to which I answered that respect must be earned. Should he step down from that artificial office he stole, and stand for election as a consul of Rome should, then he would have earned that respect. Should he remove from himself all extraneous powers and retain only those for one office, he would have earned that respect. Had he been born into the family of Augustus Caesar, he would have already had the respect and dignitas generated by his ancestors. But he is not.

“He then threatened my life, as if the life of a Roman Senator was his to take at a whim, against all precepts of our constitution and state. The most he can do is banish me by having a phantom trial by you, my peers, in which I am found guilty of treason. Yet I am not treasonous- I am loyal, utterly loyal, to our Rome. But you are not, and thus I will be convicted and exiled. So tonight, Fathers of the Senate, I pack my things and shall proceed to Armenia, where I once governed in the name of Rome. Yes, I return to a province I once ruled. That is evidence that I have acquitted myself well there, and not plundered the place as did governors of old. Good bye, and fare well.”

Helvidius exited the Senate in a dead silence. The Senators sat upright, eyes and mouths open in stunned surprise at his tirade, and knowing what will happen next. Helvidius Priscus was correct- he would be exiled- or slain. Either way, he was gone.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-20-10 08:30 AM EDT (US)     19 / 52       
Wow if I wanted to bow out of public office that is what I would want to do. A tear trickled down as I read Helvidius' speech.

So is this good or bad for Marcus Rutillus?

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-20-10 11:15 AM EDT (US)     20 / 52       
Most impressive. Stop stealing my comments, LoH!

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 05-20-2010 @ 11:16 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-24-10 05:25 AM EDT (US)     21 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

“We need to talk, Aulus. Now,” commanded Domitian as he burst into the Aventine home of Caecina. “Chrysos, bring me a wine. Pure. Now.”

Caecina nodded to his slave, who scurried off to obey the command. “Come in, please,” he begged the consul. “Tell me what has my friend so upset that he barges into his friend’s home like a swine in heat?”

Domitian turned sharply on him, rabid froth forming around his lips. “The fool! Helvidius! He imploded on the Senate floor today- and you put him up to it, didn’t you!?”

Caecina’s eyes went wide. “I assure you, I know nothing.” Then he smiled. “But by the gods, I would have loved to have seen it! Tell me, Titus, what happened. Everything. Omit nothing.”

Domitian took a slurp of the goblet handed him by the returning Greek slave, then in surprise at its quality, another. “There was a vote today, on awarding Caius Rutilius Gallicus an ovation. Helvidius was ordered to stay away, which he knew was an unenforceable order. Then he was ordered to keep his mouth shut, and vote only Aye or Nay. He promised to do so, unless asked to explain. Mallius cried out for an explanation. And Priscus gave it to him- all of it, all damning to my father and to me. And worse, Aulus, he used information I had shared with you in private. What he said could only have come from you- and you got it from me. You betrayed me, Aulus.”

“I did no such thing,” Caecina said solemnly. The sincerity was so thick it dripped from his words. “Gaius Helvidius has been in this home, several times. We are friends, and he is a great orator. But he is also a bit of a wolfshead. A rebel. Would I, trying to get in your father’s good graces, share state secrets with a rebel? Please, Titus, grant me more brains than that.”

Then he turned the tables. “Gaius Helvidius is a brilliant man, Titus. How do you think he won high offices from men who abhorred him? He could very well have bribed someone in the home of Eprius to get that self-same information- you got it from Eprius, after all. In fact, I would not put it past Helvidius to do just that. It is a good way to keep an eye on the dealings and doings of your enemy, is it not?”

Domitian thought that over and had to agree. Helvidius could have gotten the information from the source itself. In fact, it was liekly, as Aulus said. “I apologize, Aulus. I did not think this through. Of course you are right. I am almost certain of it.”

“It is good,” Caecina agreed, letting the matter drop. “Now, what exactly happened?”

Domitian told him, omitting nothing about the tirade, not even when Caecina broke into tears laughing.

“What is funny about this?” Domitian demanded. “He is saying our whole government is a fraud, and that my father is a thief who stole the empire!”

Caecina fought down his laughter, and had his slave refill the goblet of his guest. “The funny thing is, my friend, is that he is totally correct. A fool for saying so in public, but correct.”

“He is not!” Domitian shouted.

“He is, consul,” Aulus retorted. “Tell me, Titus. Do you think you would be consul at your tender age of twenty-four, had your father not appointed you? The constitution of old stated a man cannot run for consul until he is in his forty-second year, forty if he is a Patrician, which you are not. Further, a candidate must have served his twelve campaigns- of which you have served in none, served as quaestor- which you had not, and as praetor- again, which you have not. You wear the regalia of a consul because your father defeated Vitellius, who defeated Otho, who slew Galba, who forced Nero to fall upon his sword. Nobody has been elected consul without the say-so of the emperor since before Gaius Julius Caesar- thus constitutionally, we have had a fraudulent government ever since. And Helvidius, the old Republican, just reminded everyone about that.”

“He will die,” Domitian noted, “friend of yours or not. He has talked himself into the grave.”

Caecina burst into laughter again. “I don’t think so. He is untouchable now.”

“How so? My father will order his death!”

“Your father cannot touch him without proving Helvidius correct,” Aulus reminded him. “Let us say he has him slain- this proves to Rome that any who mention the constitution can be slain, and that your father stole a throne that ought not to exist. Your father is doomed. If your father banishes him, same thing. I don’t believe the people will rise up- they aren’t that stupid. But the generals in the legions, and the legions themselves... If your father did it, why not them? Did you know the father of Helvidius Priscus was a primus pilus? He has strong ties to the legions.”

“So? His father was one primus pilus. There are many legions, each with its own primuspilus and each loyal.”

“You really are naive, you know?” Aulus said in a patronizing tone. “Military men stick together. It is the basic building stone of the legion, which you would know had you ever served. Teamwork, depending on each other, holding the life of your colleague in your hands- these things bring men together. It brings the legions together.”

It finally dawned on Domitian as he pondered those words. Aulus was right- his father could not touch Helvidius.

“What do we do?” he finally asked.

Caecina slumped. The battle was over, and he had won. “We do nothing. Let it pass, and his tirade will become just another boring Senate speech in time. Any action taken now will aggravate the situation. So we let it be, and later, when this is again forgotten, then your father can act.”

Domitian thought it over. Damn, Aulus was right again. He drained his goblet, handed it to the slave, then took Aulus by the hand. “I shall pass on your advice. If it is well received, I shall ensure my father knows it came from you.”

With that, the young consul left to return to his father.

He was not even to the end of the block when Caecina was grabbing the nearest slave and ordering him to “bring that idiot Helvidius here at once- and incognito! I do not want that fool seen in my house.”

A half-hour later, A cloaked man was escorted in and put into the study, where Caecina awaited him. When he saw the cloak pull back to reveal Helvidius, he almost flew at him.

“You idiot!” he screamed, “You blithering, stuck-up, old-fashioned moron! Do you know how close you came to having an imperial dagger thrust between your ribs? And in mine as well?”

Gaius Helvidius Priscus stepped back from the feral attack, his eyes wide. “What do you mean?”

“Your ranting in the Senate this morning, fool,” Caecina spit out bitterly. “You talked about the true findings of Eprius- knowledge that you gained here in my house. You risked us all!”

Priscus shook his head. “I never use some tidbit I have not confirmed,” he said. “I learned of it here, true, but confirmed it independently. You are safe, Aulus, as is your plan to disrupt the province so badly that you alone can fix it- and gain command of four legions- eight if you count those under your crony Cornelius Clemens.”

“But you reminded Vespasian about that upon which his power resides- the legions. He will make double-sure that they remain loyal to him, not to their general. You have killed our plans.”

“He is too obtuse to think someone else will do as he did,” Helvidius said flatly. “He thinks he is the King of Rome by divine right. He did not forget that that right died upon Nero’s sword- he pushed it down and buried it in his own mind. He thinks himself quite safe, you know.”

Caecina shook his head now. Vespasian knew damned well how he got to be Imperator- it is not something five years would push aside. He will be cautious. It was time to concoct a new plan, one which Catonian imbeciles could not expose. But first to be rid of this one. “You know far too much of my plans, Gaius. And with your Catonian stubbornness, that makes you a liability. I think our collusion in this effort is at an end. You are simply too big a risk now.”

Helvidius nodded. “I can see how you would think that. I prefer to look upon my actions as a nudge, sending our plans forward. You cannot restore the republic without legions, I cannot do so unless the people –and the legions!- know the truth. Now our plans can go forward.”

“You will be watched, maybe even banished. Again,” Caecina reminded him. “That effectively removes you from our circle.”

Helvidius shrugged. “So be it. I shall be departing for Armenia soon. I shall take the long route, overland, and stop by every Roman conclave between here and there. When you make your move, Aulus, you will have the support of Cisalpine Gaul, Illyricum, Pannonia, Thracum, and Asia in addition to your Germanias.- as well as the legions they have. One request, though.”

“You are about out of favors,” Caecina reminded him, though he was mollified now that he thought over the benefits of what Priscus proposed.

“When you become consul, and restore the republic,” Priscus said, “call me back from exile.”

Aulus nodded. “Agreed.”

With that, Gaius Helvidius Priscus exited the home of Aulus Caecina, never to return.


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Rutilius and his band sailed east up the river in silence. The needless hatred Ataulf harbored led to his own death, yet that death and its aftermath cast a pallor over what should have been a joyful visit. Instead of enjoying travelling, Jorgen watched in sorrow the water pass by, and with it his lands- upon which he may not set foot again until after the Midsummer fires. He was an outcast, outlawed for a righteous killing, yet outlawed all the same.

Traiectum came into view. Jorgen sighed once. He was now in Roman territory, a Cananefate no more until the harvest. He blew one deep breath then joined Rutilius by the gunwale. They would be going ashore this day to review the auxilia- and the Cananefate training with them. It would be his last chance to see his countrymen in action for a while.

The visit to Traiectum was a quick one. Aulus Horatius had things well in hand, and his centurions and decurions were already drilling the auxilia and guests in proper Roman discipline. Jorgen joined his countrymen in the lessons while Rutilius discussed provincial matters with Horatius.

“Hail, quaestor!” Aulus greeted warmly. “Have you come to watch boys become men upon our fields? Or is it a social call to myself and Titus Faenius?”

“Faenius? What is he doing here?” Rutilius exclaimed. Last he knew, Titus Faenius was the tribunus laticlavius of the VI Victrix in Novaesium.

“Ah, you did not hear,” Aulus realized. “There have been a few changes in the auxilia since they were recruited. Some of my boys were promoted, and others from the legions were also promoted and transferred in to officer these recruits.”

“Faenius was one of them, I assume,” Rutilius said.

“Aye, lord,” Aulus affirmed. “He is commanding the VI Vasconi Mixed Auxilia. Pietrus, the old commander, was sent to Pannonia to command a milliaria- a big bump up for him. The IV Nervorum there, currently outfoxing the Cananefate auxilia, is one of your new units. They are looking good for untrained auxilia, but I expect nothing less when a legionary primuspilus is their commander. I think you might know him. Lucius Palla, of the X Gemina.”

“I know Lucius Palla very well,” Rutilius reminded his district commander. “I was his legate.”

Aulus blushed. “Yes, of course. Silly of me to forget that. That group of cavalry over these, the Cananefate one, are exercising against another new auxilia, the III Gallorum Treveri. I expected them to do well as they are mostly Treveri and excellent horsemen, but the Cananefate tore them to figurative pieces yesterday. They are commanded by an Aeduan Roman- Tiberius Claudius something or other. Cingex maybe. Gallic names confuse me.”

“He is getting his unit stomped because Oddmund leads those Cananefate. He is their best,” Rutilius noted.

“You know him, lord?”

Rutilius removed his helmet and pulled his hair back to reveal a scar. “His shield bashed me out of the saddle by Vidar’s Altar. Luckily it hit my helmet, but the force he used caused the helmet to mash the skin beneath. He proceeded to eat our legion after that.”

Horatius whistled. “I doubt Claudius will be able to teach him anything. I’ll put my A Team against him. Dago might provide some competition.”

Rutilius nodded. “Dago is a good officer. You might also want to call Oddmund aside and have him teach, allowing another to lead his ala.”

“Good idea, lord,” Aulus admitted. “The last unit of ours in the training cycle is the I Longiniana Gallorum, whom we call the Long Gauls. Baesatii, Tungrians, and some Remi. They are commanded by your old cavalry commander, Lucius Albius. The governor deemed him ready for an independent command, and thus far he is doing well. His unit behaves well together, and he is the only one who came close to giving that Oddmund fellow a defeat.”

Aulus and Rutilius watched the mock battles end with mixed results. The Cananefate infantry was driven off, but so were the Roman cavalry. Already the centurions and decurions were whistling the recall for their comments and review.

“Come sir, maybe you saw something our boys missed,” Aulus said. “A few words from a respected general always do wonders for morale in any event.”


Rutilius and Jorgen spent three days in Traiectum, teaching, learning, and practicing before it was time to move on. The next stop was Noviomagus- a painful one for Rutilius, a joyful one for several of his guards, and after that, reporting to the governor at Vetera.

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-24-10 06:56 AM EDT (US)     22 / 52       
Very good chapter. Now we see the true intentions of the rebel senators.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-24-10 07:04 AM EDT (US)     23 / 52       
Another excellent instalment.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-27-10 01:57 AM EDT (US)     24 / 52       
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Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus stuffed another sweet-sour morsel into his mouth with relish, then licked his fingers of the sticky sauce. Besides himself, there was the outgoing consul Domitianus as guests around the table of Aulus Caecina.

“I must say, Aulus,” he said as his pudgy fingers finally left his mouth, “this dinner is exquisite! I must thank you again for inviting me. It was a surprising invitation.”

“How so, Titus?” Caecina asked. “Around this table are the consulars of Rome still in residence. Cerealis is in Britannia, Verginius Rufus has withdrawn from the public eye, Quintus Volusius Saturninus is ill again, Cocceius Nerva is out touring the East, and Pedius Cascus is sick on Sicilia again. That leaves just the two of us and a coming consular, who shall be leaving office in March. We consulars need to stick together.”

“True, true,” Eprius agreed. “”The Senate has far too many praetors and ex-praetors- junior men. It needs a leavening of experience.”

“And with my father issuing the consulship to himself, my brother, and me, there are very few men who shall become consulars,” Domitian added. “Sometimes a man will be made a suffectus, like my colleague Catullus Messallinus, or serve a full term like Cocceius Nerva a few years ago, but mainly it is a familial honor now.”

Eprius sat up. “It sounds as if you do not approve.”

“I do not,” Domitian agreed. “My father is the Imperator. None can deny that. My brother will become Imperator when my father is no more. They do not need to be consul. Nor do I, in fact, though I will never rule.”

“There is one who denies the Imperator...” Eprius mentioned.

“Helvidius Priscus?” Domitian asked.

“Do not worry about him, Titus Eprius,” Caecina assured him. “He left for Armenia. Self-exile. And good riddance.”

“At least that was what he said in the Senate,” Domitian added. “Though I have heard nothing about his whereabouts since.”

“Maybe the hideous cretin crawled under a rock and died there,” Eprius added with a snort. He rinsed his mouth with some of Caecina’s excellent wine then drank the goblet empty.

“Anyway,” Domitian continued, trying to steer the conversation back on track, “The Imperator and his heir cannot rule the empire alone. They must have men they can trust to administer the details, to command the legions, to govern provinces. And as long as my father and brother hold the highest office unto themselves, they are depriving themselves of experienced consulars simply by not creating any. So I am opposed to this.”

“Would you do anything differently?” Eprius snorted in derision.

“Yes, I would,” Domitian replied angrily. “I would hold true elections, and have Rome choose the consuls. And then I would let them serve out their full term. In this manner, I as Imperator would have created a wealth of experience within the Senate upon which I can draw, and not be limited to the confines of my own family. Rome is not a family enterprise- it is the city of the Romans.”

Eprius sat back. His eyes narrowed. “You sound like a firebrand, a rebel.”

Now Domitian snorted. “You asked what I would do,” he replied bitterly. “But I shall never rule, so I will never get the chance. Now I turn the table upon you, Titus Eprius. If you were made Imperator, what would you do differently?”

Eprius was caught flat-footed. He had half-expected the question to come from Caecina, but to be asked such a potentially treasonous question point-blank by the reigning consul- and son of the Imperator- was unexpected. He thought carefully, and hard. It was like walking upon a path of eggs while being whipped, and threatened with crucifixion or worse should an egg break. In the end, there was actually only one thing he could say.

“If your father left me as his heir and thus I became Imperator,” he said very carefully, “I think I would do as you yourself have described, young Titus. I would try to rebuild the sea of experience within the Senate walls, that those men can be of further help in ruling this vast realm of ours.”

Domitian smiled sweetly and reclined. He held his goblet out for refilling, and a slave hurried over to perform this common rite. Then Domitian nodded to Caecina. “Your turn, Aulus.”

“There is but one thing to do should I be made Imperator,” he said with a wolfish grin. “I would appoint myself Dictator, rip down the Principate, restore the constitution, then resign.”

Both Domitian and Eprius stared at Caecina for a long while, then both burst out laughing. After a few seconds, Caecina joined them.

“Really, though,” he said when the mirth subsided. “I would do as you lords have said- rebuild the experience in the Senate by allowing others to occupy the consul’s chair.”

“You had me going there for a moment,” Eprius said as he drained his wine. “I was laughing outside, but groaning inside- not another Helvidius!”

The others laughed. Eprius rose, thanking them for their company, then thanked his host for inviting him. A slave escorted him out. Gnaeus Mallius came from the study a few minutes later.

“He is a cautious one, Aulus,” he reported. “But he may make a fine addition to our little circle. Did you notice how quickly he left after your little exercise in Roman needs? We should approach him, but obviously not while young Titus is around- the familial connection frightened him, I noticed. His laughter, and the mention of republican ideals both sounded forced and false. Only the hatred of Helvidius came across with the ring of truth. He really does loath our former comrade.”

“Aye, there is no love lost there,” Caecina agreed. “Still, had Domitianus not been here, he might have opened up more.”

“I agree,” Domitian added. “I spooked him, but I feel he may be ready to see a return to the Republic one day soon. A fool like him will receive accolades from now on- nowhere to go as long as my family retains its lock on the consulship. And he knows this, but refuses to say so for fear of offending the Imperator and his family of godlings.”

“It is on me then,” Caecina decided. “I shall give him some time, and continue pouring delicacies into that obese belly of his. Then, when we are alone, I shall approach him as a possible member of our group.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-27-10 04:23 AM EDT (US)     25 / 52       
Ah so they were probing Aulus of his loyalties. Good installment.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-27-10 06:55 AM EDT (US)     26 / 52       
All this Roman politics confuses me. Let's kill some Germans.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-31-10 01:50 AM EDT (US)     27 / 52       
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Noviomagus was a mixed experience for Rutilius. Froydis was not in residence- nobody had seen her since she left with him for Colonia- and her absence wounded him. She was a true friend, and they had been very close before he was transferred to Colonia. He had thought about asking her to marry, but the transfer came and that made Claudia the better choice. He was happy with his wife, but she did not reach into his soul as had the small Cugerni woman Froydis. He had made his choice based upon his duties and responsibilities, rather than following his heart.

On the other hand, Marcus Salvius was still on the rolls of the X Gemina, whipping sorry excuses for legionaries into true soldiers. He had grown up as best friends with Salvius, and his friend had been his aide during the season past, when Rutilius led the legion across the river and fought at least two independent battles- coming out the big winner each time.

Also present was Quintus Cadorus, the new legate. He had been an Iceni nobleman who became a warlord before joining the auxilia as a tribune commanding three local auxilia. But when Flavius Vespasianus decreed auxilia may no longer be commanded by their own officers, he was granted Roman citizenship and transferred to the X Gemina where he learned the art of running a legion from the premier legate of the province.

“Greetings, quaestor,” Cadorus announced upon his entrance to the visiting officer’s quarters. “You do not know how proud it makes me to be able to say that.”

Rutilius rose and shook his legate’s hand. “You do not know how proud it makes me to see my former second-in-command leading a legion. Well earned, my friend.”

“I am surprised to find you here, Marcus, and not up in the dignitary’s suite where your Batavians could stay with you,” Cadorus continued, brushing off the praise with his usual gruffness.

“They are all visiting their families, and I need not more space than this room.” He turned as Jorgen rose from his stool by the window, where he had been watching the cohorts drill. “Forgive me. Cador, this is Jorgen, son of Niall. We shared a jail cell in old Vetera together. Jorgen, meet Quintus Petillius Cadorus, the warlord who gave old Boudicca of the Iceni many of her victories.”

Jorgen took the hand by the wrist in the German manner, before remembering his manners and gripping the hand itself in the Roman way. Cadorus laughed, and shook in the barbarian manner.

“I took the liberty of arranging dinner in my quarters- your old ones,” he said. “I had invited Salvius, knowing you would like to catch up. Cooking for five is not more difficult than for four, so I shall invite Jorgen as well. Just after sundown?”

“That would be fine,” Rutilius agreed.

“Oh, and these came for you. From Colonia,” he said, after his aide handed him a bucket of scrolls and tablets. “One of them smells very sweet. Must be from this mystery woman you married.”

Rutilius shrugged. “You were busy with the legion...”

Cadorus winked to Jorgen. “He is right. But still, he runs off to Colonia and gets married, with only Salvius of his entire legion invited. We still rag him about it.”

Marcus held his hands in surrender. “All right, Cador. I shall bring my family north to visit you and the X Gemina.”

“Family?” Cador shouted in ecstasy, though his face was a mask of horror. “There are more of you? Gods help us all!” Then the mask evaporated and he was beaming. “Your seed must work fast, Marcus!”

“My ten-year-old from Rome has come to live with me, if you must know,” he announced haughtily as Cador’s emotions plummeted, then added cheerfully, “And Claudia is due to deliver our first in June.”

Cadorus nearly ripped his hand from his shoulder in pumping it in hearty congratulations. “You will name him Cadorus, will you not? After the best legate in this entire army?”

“Ouch,” Marcus whined, half in jest as he tried to restore circulation to his wrist and hand. “Actually, we have yet to decide a name. My family usually runs the Lucius-Marcus-Publius cycle for firstborns, with Decius and Sextus as secondary names, while in Claudia’s family all men bear the name Gaius.”

“Bah, you Romani are so formal,” Cador laughed. “I will send my aide to fetch you at dinner.”

And with that, Jorgen and Marcus were left alone. Jorgen glanced out the window onto the quadrangle where the men were drilling, then heard the pop of a seal being broken. That brought his attention back to the post.

“What is that?” he asked, dropping proper Latin for this native tongue.

“Work to do,” Rutilius sighed, answering in the same tongue. He opened a second, then a third. All were reports from the legates concerning anything Bructeri. Avitus must have sent them forward to him here, knowing the agenda. “Concerning our foes across the water. I had asked for these to be handed in by the end of the month. My aide sent them to me as soon as he got them, it seems.”

“Your aide knew you would be here, on this day, and has these things awaiting you?”

Rutilius nodded. “The Roman Postal Service is very efficient, as is my aide.”

“Did he know your entire route? When and where you would be?”

“He would be a lousy aide if he did not,” Marcus affirmed as he read the scrolls. This cannot be right! There were many, many more!

“And when exactly did he know you would be coming to visit us in Near-the-Water?”

“This trip was planned weeks ago, though the final details of the route I would take and when exactly I would be where were not made until ten days ago or so.” He put down the scroll. “Why are you suddenly so interested in mundane administration and logistics?”

“Because I had to kill a man of my tribe to save you from dying under his axe,” Jorgen retorted. “Ataulf was always an ass, and sometimes a violent one, but he had never drawn steel before. Not even in the war. I do not think he even owns an axe, other than the francisca- which your smiths made, by the way- we gave him. Yet he comes to our village from his farm near the Ams, trades some leather articles with the Gallic trader, then some meat to that Suevi trader three days or so later, then tries to pick not one but two fights with you the day you arrive.”

Marcus sat still, thinking. “You think he was there to kill me? An assassin?”

“He was violent and foul-tempered, but no murderer at heart,” Jorgen noted, then smiled. “Father said a good king knows as many of his people as he can. Anyway, Ataulf is no murderer, yet he tries anyway. And those others- they had suffered during the war, surely, we all have. But they never showed a sign of vengeance before.”

“You think someone instigated,” Marcus said. When Jorgen’s face revealed his total failure to comprehend that word, he said simpler, “Someone made them mad enough to act.”

“I do,” Jorgen affirmed emphatically. “You are popular among our tribe. You make fair bargains, you treat us with respect, and you take no sides in an argument before hearing all evidence. You gave us food when we were starving, you let us earn tools and goods while teaching us. Our whole tribe benefits from you, yet seven of us tried to murder you. Not hurt you, not shun you. Murder. Someone definitely put them up to it. I am thinking the Suevi- Aethelric.”

“He would be my first suspect as well,” Marcus agreed, but only partially. “But the Suevi are not as hostile to Rome as other German tribes- at least one king even fought for the Flavians at Bedriacum a few years ago. Still, he is worth checking into. I’ll have my aide start looking into him.” He looked away, then back at his scrolls and tablets. He held one up to Jorgen. “Can you do sums?”

“Of course,” the Cananefate beamed proudly. “I can even write. What do you need?”

“Look these over,” Marcus requested. He held the tablet out to the young man, who took them and studied them. “Do these numbers look right to you?”

Jorgen looked down and thought for a moment before agreeing they were good.

“Now look at these,” Marcus said, handing over a second tablet. Jorgen could tell Marcus was in a hurry when writing it- his M’s looked more like V’s with shadows, but the sums added up. “Fifty thousand on the first, fifty eight thousands on the second. All added correctly, as far as I can see.”

“The first was the sum of male populations of a Germanic tribe,” Marcus said. “The second was the sum of men from that tribe killed in action these past four years. Tell me, Jorgen. How does a tribe lose eight thousand more than it had? They must be extinct, yet we know they are not.”

“Are you sure all of the dead were from that tribe?” Jorgen asked almost innocently. His little grin gave him away. He shook off the urge to tease Marcus, who was deadly serious. “Seldom does a single tribe go to war- especially against Rome. When we Cananefate fought, we found the Batavians willing allies. When the Batavians fought, many tribes joined them. Large tribes like the Chatti or the Suevi might make a foray alone, but here in the north, smaller tribes band together. You are talking of the Bructeri, yes?”

Marcus nodded.

“They are friendly with the Frisii, the Chauci, the Marsi, and the Tencteri,” Jorgen remembered. “At least they were a few years ago. Trade rights, hunting rights, safe passage, that sort of thing. They were also big allies to the Batavians under the war, though that dried up when Labeo took over from Seval.”

“So you think many of these fallen men were not Bructeri,” Marcus concluded.

“The numbers do not lie, Marcus,” Jorgen affirmed. “A tribe cannot lose more men than it has. The Bructeri definitely had help, and from the numbers of fallen, a lot of help- a lot of which fell too. The Bructeri will not be popular among those savages for a while, I would think.”

“Me either,” Marcus agreed. “Come, it is time to join Cadorus for dinner. Tomorrow we are off to Vetera so I can report my findings to the governor- so make sure you do not drink heavily this night. Being hung-over is not the impression you want to make on the man who decides right and wrong in this province.”

“I remember Lupercus and Vorenus,” Jorgen reminded him. “I know just how perfidious Roman kinglets can be.”

“Perfidious?” Marcus laughed, and slapped his Cananefate friend across the top of his head in jest. “I was far from perfidious when I was governor. And where did a barbarian like you learn that word?”

Jorgen ducked the slap and laughed. “From Burnix, a Gallic trader. You erudite Romans are not the only ones who can speak well. Besides, for all your education you still landed in that jail cell with me.”

Marcus laughed again, holding his belly. “It’s time to eat.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Cadorus and the X Gemina bid farewell to their former legate the next morning. The new primus pilus, a hoary veteran who Rutilius remembered as the commander of III Century, I Cohort of the X Gemina presented him a silver-mounted vexillum depicting the legion’s Eagle as a tribute to him. Jorgen did not know the significance of the little Eagle, but Dieter was beaming with pride when his charge accepted it, tears forming in his eyes. After that, a river pinnace took them upriver to Castra Vetera.

There was a small convoy of wagons in a laager by the fortress. Dieter pointed them out to Jorgen while Marcus proceeded inside the fortress proper. “Those are sutlers and merchants, come to trade their goods with the legionaries in exchange for souvenirs from the summer campaign- for sale to ignorant and cowardly fools south of here to boast about their Roman prowess. They are fools- this legion did not cross the river this summer.”

Jorgen pointed out the few barges that were being used as a quay. “Will any of them be crossing the river on those barges?”

Dieter saw them and nodded. “Merchants go where there is money to be made- hated foe or not. Those monkeys over there have minerals and pretty rocks- worthless except for decoration here; worth fortunes in Romeburg. I dare say many will cross in the winter, bringing iron bars for Germanic smiths to work, spun and woven Gallic wool bolts of cloth for the women to work into clothes, copper pots from Britannia and Northern Italia, and other things. They buy them cheap where they are made, and sell them for much more where they are rare.”

Jorgen nodded with wide eyes. “Impressive that a warrior like yourself knows so much of mundane commerce.”

“Not impressive that the son of a king does not know this,” Dieter retorted in a verbal barb. “Especially one as poor as your tribe. You have fish, fur, and wool in abundance- learn their values and how to press traders for more and you will not remain poor.”

“I am already learning,” Jorgen assured him. “But how does a warrior learn such things, without resorting to doing it himself?”

“There is nothing shameful in trading, if one is a warrior that is no longer allowed to participate in war,” Dieter reminded him. One glance at his stiff back, followed by a memory of his service to the Batavians during the war and the Flavian edict forbidding officers to command men of their same tribe, and one could easily piece together that Dieter was out of service involuntarily.

The Batavian saw the knowledge dawn upon the Cananefate. “A man has to eat.”

Jorgen nodded. He returned his gaze to the wagons, and especially the females among them. “And women like the status of being married to wealthy men,” he added, pointing out the women.

Dieter nodded with a sly smile. “Some women are attracted to gold like a bee is to honey. But do not fool yourself, young man. Not all are as pretty as Licinia, daughter of Decimus, or that blonde over there.” With this last comment, he jerked a thumb over to the outermost wagon near the impromtu quay.

“Ah, Nelda, very pretty,” Jorgen said wistfully. “And you are right. Of all the women I have seen with merchants, few match her beauty.”

“You know this woman?” the Batavian asked in surprise.

“One does not easily forget such beauty,” Jorgen reminded him. “She came with her husband, the Gaul Burnix. You remember him, do you not, from Near the Water? They left the day you arrived. You must have seen them.”

Dieter shook his head. “We arrived by boat. Wagons fare poorly in water.”

“Ah,” said Jorgen. It was true. The wagon carrying the lovely Nelda departed overland, just after Marcus docked.

Later that day, they would watch as Burnix and his lovely wife worked their wagon onto a barge to be ferried along with three other merchants to the far side. With a little luck, two wagons may make it back- three if they were very lucky. Having all four return would never happen- a merchant’s occupation was dangerous in foreign lands.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 05-31-10 05:02 AM EDT (US)     28 / 52       
Nice hint of menace at the end.
... copper pots from Britannia and Northern Italia, ...
Not much copper in Britannia. Tin around Land's End, iron all over the place but particularly in West Cantium and North Catuvellaunia, and lead dotted all over the place and particularly in the West and North-centre. Copper... just a little in north Cambria (on Mona and near Viroconium). I don't think copper pots were an important export from Britannia...

I got an Ordnance Survey map (basically the leading UK map authority) of Roman Britain and wanted to show off.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 05-31-2010 @ 05:09 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-31-10 08:10 AM EDT (US)     29 / 52       
I don't think so either. But traders and merchants tended to pick up things in one place and sell them or trade them in another. British pots would be uncommon elsewhere- maybe the pattern or decoration appealed to the merchant, who thought he could pawn it off at a profit elsewhere. Then that got traded, and again, and again, until it ended up on the wagon of a trader in Germania Inferior.

The same with pots from North Italia- not their normal export article, but hey, a man has to eat... So it is not unreachable to think that pots from one place could be sold in another- especially as the intended market area is not known for its wealth in metals.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 05-31-2010 @ 08:11 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 05-31-10 10:50 AM EDT (US)     30 / 52       
Pretty good chapter. Jorgen can learn many things while he is with Marcus.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-03-10 01:25 AM EDT (US)     31 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

South to Bonna and then east toward the rising hills another king was drinking his ale and chewing a bone laden with meat in his hall. His warriors lined the long table before him- each a hardy man, wrapped in leather and bits of mail, with trimmed beards but long hair- and that hair was tied up in a knot atop their heads. From a distance, one would think they were Suevi, but the colors of their tunics and leggings told anyone familiar with the Germani that this was a Chatti stronghold. The fires in the hearth did not shed much light, and the constant opening and shutting of the central doors did not allow the use of candles, so large torches were anchored into strong stanchions along the wall to provide the warriors with light by which they could fight or frolic as they pleased, to the enjoyment of their king.

The Chatti were renowned among the Germani for their fierce discipline. It is said their discipline matched that of the iron roaches from south of the High Mountains. This discipline came into play when a cloaked figure entered the hall. It was a slender figure, and not very tall. Elfin, almost, and wielding a staff. The warriors closest to the door noticed the apparition and leapt to the attack, but ceased in mid-stride upon command of their king. The cloaked figure threw back its hood, revealing a black-haired woman, but she did not otherwise move- not even a flinch at the swords stopping inches from her neck. Such a reaction was one of a woman who knew the steel would never touch her. Such arrogance... He knew immediately what kind of woman had entered his hall.

“Bring the vala here,” the king demanded. The two guards sheathed their swords and made to take the arms of the woman, but she was already moving forward. The two men shrugged and followed.

“I am Veleda,” she said, stopping a few feet before the king. “I shall give you words and a scroll, then depart. What you do with either is up to you. But remember that the future of many tribes rests upon your decision.”

“I have heard of you,” the king replied, stroking his beard. “You are from the North, yes?”

“I am of the Bructeri, and once considered a queen among them,” Veleda admitted proudly, then added, “But no more. My birthright was stolen by two interlopers, who have since outlawed me. But I am not here to speak of myself. I came to speak of the future of the tribes.”

The king bobbed his head. “Then speak, vala.”

“I have seen the interlopers send envoys to the Chatti, and these envoys have spoken with several kings. They come to beseech the Chatti to aid them this summer. I come to ask the Chatti to ignore their words.”

“Explain,” commanded the king.

Veleda sighed. Men could be so stupid sometimes. “It will bring a disaster upon the tribes- several tribes, including your own- if the Chatti venture north to aid the Bructeri this summer. The Bructeri, my people, have brought a Roman retaliation upon themselves. It shall look like an invasion, but they come merely to raid, then retire back beyond Father Rhein. I have journeyed upon the Stream of Time, king. I have seen two outcomes of this Roman action. One is the Chatti go north to fight and die beside the Bructeri. The future of the tribes is set back three hundred years by this. The second outcome is that the Chatti do not venture north. Rome is checked by a sudden defeat at German hands, and the tribes spread across all of northern Gaul within our lifetimes.”

She looked the king straight in the eyes, locking gazes. “The choice is yours, Horobard.”

The king sat back in his chair. “You give me much to ponder, vala.”

“Ponder all you wish, Horobard,” she replied bitterly. “You have listened to my words, before these men. I am honored. But you shall do what you wish regardless of my words. So is it with kings. “ She handed him a scroll of leather, tightly bound. ”There will come in the late summer a woman like myself who can read this. Give it to her.”

Horobard took the scroll and examined it. It was of leather, expensive and luxuriantly-treated leather, but bound with a simple rawhide cord. The leather had been prepared and rolled with extreme care, he noticed, while the cord had not. He cocked an eye toward the Bructeri seeress.

Veleda was already walking to the door, but she called out over her shoulder, “You can open it if you wish- that is why the cord is of cheap cowhide. But remember my words.”

And with that, Veleda exited the hall of Horobard into the cold, wintry night.

The Chatti king waited an honorable amount of time for the seeress to exit his village, then let his curiosity get the better of him. He ripped the rawhide cord and unrolled the scroll. He took one look that the runes that were there and cursed. The letters were neither Latin nor Germanic. They must be in some secret language only the Witch knew, and shared with other witches. He would just have to wait until the late summer, when the second witch was supposed to arrive. Then and only then would he learn what Veleda had written.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus Rutilius reported to the governor, handing over his findings. Cordinus was in a good mood this day, and took the report- even though it was early- with a rare smile.

“You seem rather happy, lord,” Rutilius commented.

“I should be,” the governor said with a smile. “I have just heard from Rome. My governorship has been prorogued, despite the reverses this summer. I have another year to make good what went wrong. And with this report,” he said, holding the small bucket with its scrolls and tablets, “the chance of success is much increased- especially if it is accurate.”

“It is as accurate as interviews and collated reports can make it, lord,” Rutilius replied. “But as with the guides, it is not to be used blindly. One must interpret, and think.”

Cordinus waved his quaestor away. “I have learned that lesson,” he grumbled, though cheerfully. “My chest still aches in the cold.”

Marcus caressed the blemish over his own chest, still visible on the silvered cuirass though the armorers had done wonders to repair the hole. “I know the feeling, lord.”

“I have more good news,” the governor continued. He handed over a scroll. “Your copy of the lex curiata officially making you a quaestor, complete with imperium and lictors.”

“Lictors?”

“Aye,” Cordinus said with a smile. “You may have noticed I now have eight in place of the normal six. That’s because two of them are yours. They brought the scroll. You will also notice that Eprius- that prick- did as he said. He procured your lex curiata himself.”

“Lictors... I am honored,” Rutilius said with a bow.

“I am going to start on this report,” Cordinus said. “You visit with your friend Paullus, but do not leave the fort until I am finished. I know you are in a hurry to return to your wife and family, Marcus, but I want you here in case I have any questions. It should only be a day or so.”

“Yes, lord.”

It was not a day or two, but three days Marcus waited for the governor to finish reading the report of his findings. He used the time to talk with his civil servants- the lictors- and find out what they could and could not do. Then he informed them of how he worked and what he expected of them. It was on the morning of the third day the summons from Cordinus came. Marcus told Dieter to have the party packed and ready to travel by midday, then reported to the governor. The governor’s aide put him in the dining room, where a table was piled high with festive food- definitely not the normal fare. Cordinus himself arrived shortly thereafter and plopped down upon his couch. He gestured to Marcus to take the couch next to him as he dug in to the feast.

“The wife’s birthday,” he explained between mouthfuls. “I always celebrate it, even if we are apart.”

“She is still in Rome, I take it?” Marcus asked. He glanced over the dishes- but nothing appealed to him.

“Yes, poor thing. Running my accounts into the ground. Mmmm! You must try these sweetmeats,” Cordinus said. He offered a plate heaped with sweet-sour glands to his deputy. “They are delicious!”

“No, thank you lord,” Rutilius replied. “I am a flesh-eater only- preferably beef or sheep.”

“Bah,” Cordinus flared. “Barbarian food. Cattle are fit for leather, fat, and sinews only. Only a barbarian or the poor would bother to eat those smelly beasts.”

“Pig is not too bad either- sweeter than beef, less harsh on the palette,” Marcus continued, easily ignoring the barb in the governor’s opinion. He knew now well what was jest and what was said in earnest. This had the jesting tone, so was easily ignored. “In some places they even eat the organs of the animals as well as the flesh. Personally I prefer the meat itself.”

“Chicken and fish are the only animals fit for the Roman palate,” Cordinus repeated, then shrugged, “maybe lamb, too. And of course, delicacies like these sweetmeats- no matter their origin. Snail?” This last was said as he held up a dish of snails boiled in a garlicky butter sauce. Then a gesture to a third plate, “Mushrooms? These forests teem with them, I was told. Lovely!”

“They give me gas and the runs, lord,” Marcus said, blaming his refusal to eat the wretched food on his digestive tract. “A salad is good enough for now. My report?”

Cordinus munched down his current mouthful. “Ah, your findings. They appear to be thorough. Tell me of how you assembled such an in-depth report in so little time, Marcus. Oh, and please do not be offended if I eat while you speak, Marcus. The hour is late and I have not had a thing to eat since yesterday noon in preparation for this feast.”

Marcus nodded, and described the means he used to gather the numbers, his collating of the information, and the information itself. Everything pointed to the Bructeri being extinct, yet he knew from the numbers that chased his forces from the forests that they were still plentiful. He concluded that other tribes must have been fighting alongside the Bructeri, and that many of the dead were from these allies, not the Bructeri themselves.

”Very thorough,” the governor said after the report was finished. ”But inconsistent. And strange. We killed more of them than existed. Your conclusions seem correct however- they must have had a lot of allies dying for them, or they would have ceased to exist. As it is, they are most likely very weak. Your map is rough, but better than the sixty-year old one we had. I think we shall have an excellent chance of destroying them this summer. And finding our Eagles and that awful witch who is hiding among them. All goals completed. I love it.”

“It depends how well the Witch reads the future,” Marcus reminded him. “If she truly has talent, she will be gone long before we arrive- like the way she fled her tower before we arrived.”

“She is a charlatan, like all those phonies,” Cordinus snorted in disgust. “Rome has many of them as well, from the East or Aegyptus or Syria. The desert seems to spawn crazies. These forests as well. Pay her no mind. She shall pay for murdering our men, and my friend. I shall crucify her myself. It will take her days to die.”

He pushed the plate from him and reclined in utter satisfaction. “I shall pass your report on to Rome, and see if they can dispatch an arcanus or two to confirm the report. In the meantime, Marcus, go home to that pretty wife of yours. You will not be called upon until after your child is born, so make the most of your time now.”

“Aye, lord!” Marcus said. He rose, saluted, and departed before the governor could change his mind.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus and his party were half-way to Gelduba when the first cramps hit Cordinus. At first it was but a minor discomfort. Then it became an uncomfortable bloating. When he started coughing up blood, he began screaming for the doctors.

There was little they could do, except determine the cause of the internal pains. The governor had been poisoned- but they could not tell by what. Only time would reveal if the poison was lethal or not- time and the governor’s will to live.

By the time Marcus was drinking wine with Messala in Novaesium, swapping stories and exchanging ideas, the last of the poison was flushed from the governor’s system in a flood of bloody diarrhea. He was drained, but would live. It would be a long recovery. Long enough for him to determine that his newfound favorite, his very own quaestor, must have poured some substance upon the foods he thereafter refused to eat. The words his colleague wrote after trail came back to haunt him:

You were warned, yet failed to heed the warning. Now you see for yourself the type of man your legate is. You both went into a cesspool of shit, and he usurped your army and fled Germania like a rat to come out smelling like roses- with you pouring him the perfume. Be careful, my dear friend, be very careful. You are still in that cesspool; he is not. He might end up stealing your province too, leaving you with the odium of failure and himself the laurels of victory. I write this as a friend, that you may nip this cretin in the bud before his opportunism can come into full bloom.

That ingrate will pay,
Cordinus thought to himself as he picked up a stylus. Repay my kindness with poison, to gain my province by deceit? I had thought you better than that, Marcus. I trusted you. No more! And he began writing to Rome, stating the facts given him in that treacherous bastard’s report, the conclusions, and the aftermath. He made no bones about mentioning his own suspicions as well. There. Now it is up to Rome. Let Vespasian deal with the traitor. I have washed my hands of that ingrate.

He would never know that in his wonderful mushroom stew of which he was so fond, lay not one but two species of mushroom. One was the common Agaricus bisporus, a harmless, edible, and quite tasty mushroom from which many salads and stews were made. It would later be known as the portabello mushroom or ‘champignon des Paris’.

The other species was the Amanita verna, known later as the Fool’s Cap. In later years, it and two others would be lumped together into a family called “destroying angels” – lethal in most cases.

Cordinus joined the very few ranks of those who had dined upon Fool’s Cap and lived.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-03-10 04:31 AM EDT (US)     32 / 52       
So Cordinus misunderstood that the poisoning was an accident. Oh dear for Marcus.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-03-10 04:40 AM EDT (US)     33 / 52       
Who is to say it was an accident?

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Ischenous
Ashigaru
posted 06-03-10 06:18 AM EDT (US)     34 / 52       
I'm not sure who is more unlucky, Cordinus who keeps nearly dying or Marcus keeps getting the blame for everything going wrong.

Calling all new people. USE THE SEARCH FUNCTION before asking a question. Thank you.
Alert the APOCOLYPSE is coming!!!!!!!

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOM(Itcame)
"TWH Guild Award (Best Duo/Trio) -Ischenous/IJ"- Tryhard. Why he chose that nomination, I don't know...
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-03-10 06:54 AM EDT (US)     35 / 52       
My interest is piqued once again...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-07-10 01:35 AM EDT (US)     36 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus Rutilius knew none of this. He deposited his lictors with Avitus in the provincial office and was on the portico to his home just outside Colonia, trying to speak to a frightened child that the big, nasty German beside him was actually a friend when the postal rider flew by on his way to Rome.

It was strange, really. Little four-year-old Quintus saw the strange German with Papa and paid him little or no mind. He rushed forward when he father approached and hugged him fiercely in a warm welcome. Claudia, the child’s mother, did the same. But little Publius, all of ten years old, had only frightened eyes for the large blonde with a sword on his hip. The strange part was that Publius was good friends with Dieter and the other Batavi- all Germans, and his step-mother Claudia was Ubian- also German. Yet the sight of the Cananefate Jorgen scared him stiff.

“Dismiss the Guard for the evening,” Marcus said to Dieter. “No sense wasting your time while I try to talk to the boy.”

Dieter nodded, held out his hand to Milika the Chief Maidservant, and disappeared with the others towards the cottages behind the house, leaving the family and the Cananefate visitor alone on the portico.

“He is a friend, Publius,” Marcus was saying. “From the time before I came to Rome to adopt you. He is not even twice your age, by Mars!”

But Publius did not hear the words. His mind was spinning back to the time he stood beside his real mother, who faced a blonde maniac covered in blood who was carrying the corpse of a dead boy into his home. That Germanic smashed the dead boy’s face with a hammer repeatedly- turning it into a pulp. Then the German carried him out of the house, away from his mother, to a dark street where he heard his father die under the swords of cheering men. That blonde Germanic was Rutilius, whom he later came to know as his father and the man who saved him. But the sight of Jorgen- a young Germanic with no beard- brought those terrible memories of that awful night back to the surface.

Jorgen knew the child was intensely frightened of him, but not why. Not even Marcus knew what horrors were coursing through his adopted son’s memory and freezing his brain. But Jorgen knew what to do. He came forward and knelt before the boy, so that his height no longer created the illusion of towering over him. Then he held out his hand.

“I am Jorgen, son of Niall.” He said gently, using his best Latin to help calm the terrified boy. “I would not be here had your father not rescued me. He saved me from a horrible fate, and later saved the entire province. Many of us, including myself and all my people, owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He is a great man, your father, and my friend. I would be very proud if his son would be my friend, too.”

He smiled, and the boy smiled back. Tenderly, and with trembling hands, the young lad put his hand forward to clasp that of the German. His trembling caused his hand to miss that of the Cananefate and grasp his arm instead. Jorgen clasped the boy’s arm and laughed. The two were greeting in the Germanic custom.

“Well done, young warrior,” Jorgen said, beaming with pride. The smile was contagious. Publius smiled back, then clasped the arm in earnest.

“Welcome,” the boy said lowly, then repeated the greeting with more strength as the terrors fled and the warmth of the Cananefate flowed. “I am Luc-, I mean Publius. Publius Rutilius.”

Jorgen nodded. “I am very pleased to finally meet you, young Publius. Your father has told me much of you. Of both of you,” he added, counting in Little Quintus. “I hear you are a good horseman, Publius. Maybe we can go riding together some day?”

“I would rather go hunting,” the boy replied. “Dieter says I ride like a Batavi, which he claims is a good thing. But nobody will let me hunt. I am ten years old, and know nothing of weapons. They won’t let me.”

“They shall let you, in time,” Jorgen said with a nod. He leaned closer, and whispered conspiratorially, “I wasn’t allowed either, until I was thirteen summers of age. I’ll make a deal with you. If you pass thirteen and your father and mother still will not let you touch weapons, I shall sneak down here and teach you myself. Deal?”

Publius smiled broadly and nodded. “Deal.”

Publius was so excited by the secret deal that he grabbed his brother and ran inside to tell him the secret too, leaving the adults- who heard every word anyway- alone on the portico.

“I was hoping he would never have to touch a blade,” Claudia said. “I wanted him to go into business, to avoid politics and soldiery totally. But he is a Rutilius- it is in his blood.”

“In this world, my wife, a man who does not know weapons is a dead man,” Marcus reminded her. “Or a very poor one. Jorgen is correct- we need to start training the boy to defend himself.”

“You are correct, I know,” Claudia admitted. “Come inside, Jorgen of the Cananefate, and spin me wonderful tales of my husband in action. I only get to see the administrative side- boring but comforting. You have seen him in action. So please, come, and let me know more of the man I married.”

Jorgen smiled and nodded. “You made a fine choice there, my friend,” he said to Marcus as they entered the house. “I hope when it comes time for me to marry, my wife is even half as proud, strong, and loving as yours appears to be. Very well done, Marcus!”


Jorgen settled in to one of the guest rooms for the evening after the dinner and its subsequent conversation. The food, of course, was wonderful. Claudia tried her best to have her chef prepare a decent Roman meal, but even the only two true Romans at the table both preferred the hearty, salty beef slices over the exquisite cuisine of spicy steamed fish, curried jellies, and other strange things. The delicacies sat relatively untouched, while the Germani at the table- and both Romani man and boy- tore into the meat and salads as if there was to be no food tomorrow. The only other food that was touched was the Jaegersaus- a fine brown sauce made with gravy, pepper, herbs, and mushrooms- that both Jorgen and Dieter used to decorate and spice their steaks.

By midnight both men were hurling the undigested contents of their stomachs into the chamber pots. Luckily, the Fool’s Cap mushrooms mixed with the portabellas were weakened by their five minute sauté, the subsequent rinsing for the sauce, and were no longer fresh: their toxins had broken somewhat down. Further, neither man consumed very many of them. Still, it put a damper on the festive spirit of the occasion as the chef-cook pleaded their forgiveness, and was seen as a bad portent of things to come.


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Vespasianus was getting bored again. Once again, the outgoing consuls had come to him with their latest reports and requests, and once again he had to listen to frivolous drivel that could either go away on its own, or blow up in his face. His decision on these matters would determine whether the outcome is the prior or the latter, thus he was forced to pay attention whether he wanted to or not. Had I known being the Imperator came with this much horse-shit, I would have let Vitellius stay Imperator and enjoyed my waning years in my villa. At least his friend Titus Clodius Eprius, who sat beside him, was not giving the boring news- though that might have been entertaining. His son’s drivel was not.

Some of the briefing was a rundown of how well the Empire was doing. Most of it was the fervor his heir Titus Caesar was riling up by shacking up with the Jewish woman. Jupiter! Did the boy not realize that any offspring by her would not be considered Roman, and that the Romans would never accept a non-Roman Imperator? Was he trying to destroy this dynasty before it is even established?

“And then there is Germania,” Messalinus concluded. Domitianus had briefed him well, and let the junior consul bring up this particular matter. “We have a very detailed report from Rutilius Gallicus, assembled by his quaestor. It states the despite the reverses of the summer, the Bructeri should be effectively extinct. They are not, however, which forces one to assume that other Germanic tribes had sent many warriors to the Bructeri, and these men, then killed in battle, were counted by our forces as Bructeri.” The junior consul shrugged as he opened the second scroll, then held it out to the Imperator. “They have a nice map of the area, though.”

Vespasianus could care less about the map. He was focused on the consul’s summary. Other Germanic tribes had sent many warriors to the Bructeri. By the gods, his plan was working, despite the reverses! He was so caught up in this thought that he almost missed the next item.

“The quaestor then apparently tried to murder Rutilius Gallicus through poison,” Messalinus continued. “He was left alone and unguarded in the feast hall while the aide of Rutilius Gallicus went to fetch him. He refused to partake in the feast, and afterwards Gallicus fell violently ill. The doctors say he was poisoned. He can only conclude that his quaestor, apparently seeking a battlefield promotion, dripped poison over the food.”

“The quaestor is Marcus Rutilius, is it not?” Titus Eprius asked. He turned to Vespasian. “Cornelius Clemens labels that man an opportunist and ambitious. Helvidius Priscus lauds him a Republican of the Old School, while I myself have blamed this summer’s dismal effort on his lack of diligence. He has the brains to figure out that we will be sending the legions across again, and already knows that Rutilius Gallicus will be leading the army. If he fears a repeat of last time, that would give him motive to replace the governor with another- meaning the governor has to die and do so in such a way that it does not appear as a mutiny or his own efforts. Left foolishly alone and unguarded with the food the governor was about to eat gives him the opportunity. The final element- means- well, he has been known to coddle up to those barbarians. Any of them could have slipped him a noxious substance with which to dose the dinner of Gallicus.”

“I have never met the man,” Vespasian admitted. “But Mucianus speaks highly of him. As does Quintus Cerealis." He turned to Domitian to ask, “You as consul have had dealings with this quaestor. What is your assessment of this man?”

Domitian held a placid face, but inside he was beaming. Many plans were coming together, and would if he said the proper words. He chose them now carefully. “Marcus Rutilius appears to be a man who holds the common good above his own. But as we know, appearances can be deceiving. Every time he has ‘sacrificed’ himself or his future for someone else, he has been heavily rewarded for it. I would not put it past him to deem another foray into Germania under Rutilius Gallicus a disaster in the making and against the wishes of Rome. Should he so decide, he would indeed take steps to avoid that- including the murder of his superior.”

“The man is an opportunist,” Eprius repeated in support of Domitian. “He saw an opportunity to take over the province, and took it. If he is not appointed, then another will- myself and Aulus Caecina are the only ones qualified. We are both experienced governors and generals- any expedition under either of us would succeed. Either way, Rutilius would be pleased. Himself, or an experienced general. The army cannot lose.”

“He tried to murder my appointed governor,” Vespasian summed up. “Son, cut the orders. I want Marcus Rutilius brought to Rome for trial, then beheaded like a common criminal. I shall not tolerate lowborn half-breeds poisoning my senators.”

“That would lead to riots in Rome, lord,” Eprius said in objection. Vespasian saw the firm belief in his friend’s eyes and responded with a questioning glance. Eprius caught the subtle hint and continued. “Helvidius Priscus, lord. Before he went into self-imposed exile, he lauded this Rutilius in the Forums as a Third-class hero risen high on merit, despite the machinations of senators against him. He is a hero to the masses, this Rutilius is, one of their own who rose high. If you bring him to trial here, with only senators and knights as jurors, you will reinforce the message that the senators will never allow the low to rise. That effectively limits the poor to remaining poor, with no hope. They will perceive violence as the only option.”

Vespasian laughed. “I have six cohorts of Praetorians in the city. They shall not riot for long.”

“The Praetorians abandoned Nero and Galba,” Eprius reminded him. “And stood by as Otho killed himself. They fought well for you at Bedriacum against Vitellius, but only because Primus humiliated them. Who is to say that in a large-scale riot of fellow Romans, they do not simply stand aside? Or worse, join them? They are, after all, of the same classes as the people, and the man you would behead.”

“Titus Caesar commands the Praetorians,” Vespasian grumbled. “They adore him. They will remain firm.”

“And you are willing to risk your entire dynasty on this assumption?” Messalinus asked.

Vespasian shot him a dirty look. “You believe the Praetorians- my personal guards- would desert to rabble wailing over the death of a single half-breed?”

“I did not say that,” Messalinus corrected. “But I would not want to risk my life, and that of my sons- especially when the heir is busy creating hybrids of his own- in case I was wrong. I asked if you would, lord.”

Vespasian saw the difference. He had risked his family once- on the chance that he was more popular a ruler than the oafish Vitellius. Had he lost, his line would have been extinguished. Maybe not- Vitellius was always gregarious and clement. But his generals were not, and they would have been running the Empire. Vespasian had the support of the legions, but those legions were all along the borders or elsewhere far away. The only troops near Rome were the Praetorians. If they sided with the people... Messalinus was correct.

“What other choice do we have?” the Imperator asked. “This man must die, that others are not tempted to follow his path.”

“Have him slain, or assassinated,” Domitian said offhandedly.

“If the assassins are traced back to this house, it will have the same results as a trial in the Forum, or worse,” Eprius said. Caecina’s plan flowed back into his thoughts. Bloody brilliant, that man is! But he did not mention it now- he was waiting for the Imperator to ask for his thoughts. He baited his hook with a final phrase: “This Hybrida is quite safe, I am afraid. There is little we can do.”

Vespasian took the bait, as both men knew he would. “You say little, not nothing. What would you have us do, Titus?”

Eprius glowed. “We have this report he created, and his proven intentions to disgrace or murder his commander. And we have this problem that if we do anything directly, we risk our future. So, we act indirectly.

Vespasian shot him an angry look. Eprius caught the message hidden within and continued. “We send him across the Rhenus into German lands- alone, no or few soldiers- to confirm his reports. He looks like a German, enough so that he could pass for one. He speaks the local babble as well. That makes him a perfect infiltrator. He also has battle experience- he can estimate numbers. He is uniquely qualified for this mission.

”One of two things come of this. One is that he dies over there. Our problem is solved. The second is that he succeeds, and brings the information his governor needs to succeed as well. For us, a win-win solution.”

“He tried to murder my governor!” Vespasian roared. “If he succeeds, he comes out a bigger hero than he is now!”

“Not so, lord,” Eprius countered. “He will come back tamed, knowing that if he dares try anything like that again, the next mission would definitely kill him. And then we reward him with a transfer to another province- somewhere boring and poor, like Galatia, or dangerous like on the Parthian border. He may have poisoned your governor, but he did not succeed. We have no body to present to the crowds. Hopefully, if he dies across the river, the crowds will have no body to rally around á la Marcus Antonius and Caesar Dictator.”

“A third option is that he refuses,” Domitian said. “In which case he is tried and slain for disobedience of a direct order. Again, our preferred outcome. And the masses cannot complain, because he did it to himself.”

Vespasian thought it over. It seemed an ideal solution- let the Germans handle his problem for him. Any way it went, would be good for the dynasty.

“Write the orders, son,” he said. “Word it so that there is no choice but to send this Rutilius, and no chance for the half-breed to refuse or escape.”

He rose, and walked to the door. There he stopped, and turned about. “I want to see that by bed time, and I want those orders on the road tomorrow.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 06-07-2010 @ 02:19 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-07-10 04:09 AM EDT (US)     37 / 52       
Poor Marcus. He is being caught up in a game of Roman politics.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-07-10 09:28 AM EDT (US)     38 / 52       
Not in as boring a way as it could have been though. Much better than standing trial in Rome. I look forward to the fulfilment of prophecies...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-10-10 02:26 AM EDT (US)     39 / 52       
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Two days after consuming their own luckily non-fatal doses of lethal mushrooms, both Jorgen and Dieter were up and about, if pale, and well enough to accompany Marcus to Colonia to catch up on the administration of his portion of the province. Outside the gate, the guards accompanying the quaestor suddenly spurred forward, intent on shielding their charge from the two men battering at each other with sword and shield. Both combatants stopped their melee and stood side-by-side as the Guards approached, swords and shield ready for battle.

Dieter called the Guard back into ranks and rode forward. Marcus and Jorgen joined him.

“You know these men, Dieter?” the Roman asked.

“Axel and Aelric,” the Batavian replied, nodding. Then he raised his voice to the two men. “What the hell are you two morons doing?”

The men lowered their weapons and smiled. “Hail, Dieter!” they called in unison, then the larger of the two, Axel, explained. “Glam said we needed work on our swordsmanship, so we were practicing. Sorry for the alarm- we thought with the snow and all, that nobody would be out in this area so we could train in peace.”

“Who are they?” Marcus repeated. He was not looking for names.

“Two Ubians, lord,” Dieter explained. “They wanted to join your Guard, but failed to qualify. Glam said they ride well enough, but their use of swords was horrible. He sent them away.”

“So we practice every day,” Aelric added. “And are doing quite well, considering the pounding Glam gave us last time. We figure by next week we can try again.”

“What did you do in the war?” Marcus asked. They were both young, but maybe they had seen some action. Experience was always welcome.

The two young men looked at each other, then down at the snow. Aelric spoke first. “Nothing, lord,” he said weakly, as if ashamed. “I had yet to earn my sword. When the Batavians came past our farm, my father ordered us to hide. I shamefully admit I did. Even when they killed two field hands who resisted, I stayed put. I would avenge that stain, lord. I am no coward.”

“You were weaponless and ordered to hide,” Rutilius summarized. “And untrained. If you had confronted a warband, you would be brave and dead. Luckily for you, you obeyed- showing discipine, and stayed alive. What about you, Axel?”

The second Ubian looked up proudly, now that his friend had been ‘forgiven’. “I was too young for the warhost, so was left behind. I went to the burg, having nowhere else to stay once our farm was burned. I worked the quays until the Frisians came, then kept low about town until we rose up. Then I helped kill four of them, and joined in the assault on the Stadthaus where I killed a fifth.”

Marcus nodded, then looked to Dieter. “How understrength is the Guard?”

“Thirty five under.”

“And how many Ubians?”

“None.”

“I like their determination,” Marcus decided. “Glam says they can ride. Their swordsmanship from what little we witnessed was horrible, but you can train them if they have the spirit and the willpower. It’s bloody cold here, Dieter. They have the spirit. This practice they do shows their dedication as well. There is little more they need, no?”

“I shall give them a second chance,” Dieter conceded. Rutilius was right- any idiot willing to spend time in this cold swinging a sword was dedicated to his cause. He raised his voice to the two aspirants. “Get your horses and join us in the Marktplatz. I am going to give you a lesson, then a second chance, while the lord handles his business.”

The two men whooped with joy and disappeared toward the distant city, to the laughter of the Batavians.

“I too need a job for the next half year,” Jorgen said as the men faded into the distance. “Could I join this Guard as well?”

“He can fight and ride,” Dieter admitted. “His loyalty was proven in Near the Water, and we have no Cananefate yet in the ranks. But he is the son of a king. Will he accept orders given by a mere ex-tribune?”

“I shall obey any orders given by those placed above me,” Jorgen swore solemnly.

Dieter turned to the quaestor. “I have no objections.”

“Nor do I.”

“Welcome to the Guard,” Dieter told Jorgen. “Your first task, once we get you outfitted with a proper horse and warshirt, will be to smack some skill into those other two recruits.”

Jorgen grinned broadly. Mock battles are not nearly as bloody as true battles, but they could be immense fun- especially to a boy grown to manhood in war.

Once his charge was brought safely to the edifice serving as the provincial administrative center, Dieter ordered Glam and his men inside to guard Rutilius while Amalric’s squad was to await the arrival of the two recruits. In the meantime, he took Jorgen to the armory and bought him a proper warshirt, on the account of his master, of course. Jorgen objected to this charity, but Dieter smacked him down.

“Lord Rutilius equips and mounts his guard,” he replied haughtily to the objection. “It is not charity. If you wish, you can repay him out of your wages, but he insists that his guards are properly equipped and trained- as do I. Now shut you mouth, trooper, and don this helm as well.”

That finished, Dieter picked up a few wooden swords and shields from the armory as well, then led his new Guardsman toward the market where the other two recruits had already arrived.

“Welcome to the Batavian Guard,” he said to the three non-Batavians. “It matters not from which tribe you come, or which loyalties you had in the past. All that matters now is that you are loyal to Lord Rutilius, and to me.”

He paced before the three as he continued. “Lord Rutilius has commented to me about his Guard. He is a Senator, a general, and now a magistrate as well. Such men are important to Rome, and when they visit places outside of Rome, they usually have a huge escort of gladiators and other bully-boys with them. Some even travel with circuses and wagons full of prostitutes and drag-queens for their carnal pleasures. Not so our lord!

“His Guard shall be of warriors, the best of the best. He does not seek us out- we seek him out, and beg to serve in his Guard. Only the best are chosen, and the rest discarded. We are not for display, or parades, or for pleasure. We guard his life, and fight by his side in battle if need be, or stand cold shifts outside his home, protecting his family from those who will do him harm through harming them. Our pride is that he can do what he does unhindered- for he is one of the few men honored by both Rome and the Tribes, and has earned his honors through hard work, diligence, and perseverance. He and I both expect the Guard to live up to his ideals with the same. Are you mutts willing to do that?”

Jawohl!” the three exclaimed. Dieter nodded.

“Now, Lord Rutilius could have chosen the gladiators or former Roman Legionaries to be his Guard, but we volunteered, and since have proven our worth. He has told me himself that in battle, none can beat a properly-led Roman legion. In this I believe my lord is a bit misguided- it has been proven wrong many times. But he also said that in small skirmishes, with fluid situations and dynamic changes, none adapt or fight better than we of the tribes. In this he is correct. Man on man, we Germani are the toughest in the world. Thus we of the Guard are Germani. The best of the Germani are we Batavi, naturally, thus the guard is exclusively Batavian.

“But Lord Rutilius has pointed out to me that no nation or tribe has a monopoly on individual attributes. Good men can be found anywhere, in any tribe. We Batavians are the best horsemen in the Empire because we train at it since birth. We Germani are the best warriors in the world because we fight constantly, and under different conditions. The Romans are the best in battle because they train constantly, and have discipline. In this Guard, we combine all three- we ride, we fight, and we learn discipline. We train constantly. If you make it into the Guard, you will be better than the Batavi. You will be Guardsmen. Are you ready for that?”

Jawohl!” the three exclaimed again. Dieter nodded.

“Jorgen, son of Niall,” he called, signalling Jorgen to step forward. He handed him the three wooden swords while another Guardsman brought forward the shields. “Your first task will be to engage in mock battle against these other two recruits. You will fight for five minutes, or until one of you is on the ground. Thereafter, each of you will tell me what happened, why it happened, and how you would do it better. Then we go again. Now, FIGHT!”


While Dieter was letting Jorgen show the Ubians that all his tripe about equality was just that (Cananefates may not be Batavians, but in his mind they are not far from it and far better than mere Ubians), Marcus Rutilius was inside the quaestor’s office grilling his aide Avitus.

“Who knew about my trip to the Cananefate, and when,” he demanded. “I told none but my Guard and my wife, and then only that I was leaving soon. The day before I told them where we were going. That is not enough time for a traitor among them to pass on the knowledge- assuming one of my closest wanted me dead. They do not. That leaves you, Caius. Who did you inform?”

The aide looked shocked. He obviously had no idea why the quaestor wanted to know such mundane things, but he knew from the tone something bad had happened. “Nobody, lord. I swear.”

Rutilius saw the terror in the young man’s eyes. And the confusion. He explained about Ataulf, and his conclusion that the fool had been set up. Someone knew of his destination ahead of time, and that someone had to have learned of it from here.

Avitus turned white as the snow outside. “I swear by Jupiter Optimus Maximus and Juno his wife, lord. I revealed your plans to nobody outside this office or our official duties. I wrote to Rome of your journey, and only Rome- as required. Oh, and to the governor, of course. But none other!”

Rome was far away- too far for any to plan something like this on such short notice. But Cordinus... The man had always had it in for him, ragging him, picking fault with everything. Much of that had gone away after he was stabbed, but there were still the little jibes and barbs. The man was a bigot, and those kinds of men do not change overnight. He had both the time and the means- though it meant stooping to hiring foreigners to do his dirty work.

He shook his head. The man had also been sincere. He stuck his neck out for him, and that one does not do lightly. No, Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus did not betray him. But someone did- and that someone wanted him to think it was the governor. So, who would profit from this? A court flunky from Rome wanting a posting here? A German planning a rebellion, and trying to divide the leadership first? Or maybe a legate trying to get a promotion? There were many possibilities, but Rutilius shrugged them all off. He was good friends with the legates- and they were happy with their legions and wanted little else. It was not them. The Germans were content, and happy with the peace- all remembered the last time a rebellion hit. Plus there was simply too little manpower for a rebellion to get anywhere near success. Rome was too far away, and postings could be made anyway, and at the Imperator’s whim.

Two things remained in his mental sieve. One was jealousy, and the other vengeance. Froydis was nowhere to be found, but she knew he traveled often to the village Near the Water. She noticed things, so maybe she noticed that he often went there in the winter. She could have easily talked a fool like Ataulf into suicide. But he remembered that night together, after he told her of his decision to marry the Ubian Claudia. They made powerful love that night- not something you do and then try to have your partner murdered. Then she accompanied him to Colonia to meet her rival- and accepted her. Again, not something one does then goes for murder. If anyone, she would have had Claudia murdered. So it was not Froydis.

That left only one option. Vengeance, and the Bructeri. They had tried to slay him before, thrice. What is another attempt, especially if it should succeed? They knew his habits well enough to attempt a slaying in the middle of a crowded market, and the skill to wipe out his Median Guard on the road to Vetera. His trips westward were common knowledge, though the timing varied. It could be... It could be they had someone waiting, plotting, instigating, until he arrived, as he inevitably would. That Suevi, Aethelric. He had been there a week, for the first time. And he was seen talking with Ataulf. It had to be him.

“Caius,” Rutilius spoke after the long temporizing. His voice surprised his aide, who was praying silently that the contemplation would reveal other alternatives than his error or betrayal. “I sent a letter asking about a Suevi trader. Aethelric. Do you have any results yet?”

Caius burst into action. He rummaged through several scrolls, then found one and handed it over. “I interviewed three other merchants, lord. Aethelric is known from Augusta Treveroum to Mogontiacum to Mediolanium, his usual route. Sometimes, if he is curious, he will go other routes, like to Lugdunum or Parisi within our borders, or far to the East when on the other side of the Rhenus. He has been active for over twelve years, and apparently honest. All three merchants I interviewed seemed to think that was unusual enough to mention.”

“Where on the other side does he trade?”

“He trades among his own, the Suevi, and among the Chatti north of him, but mostly he sticks to our side of the Rhenus. He has a villa near Augusta Trevorum where his family resides, but mostly he lives in his wagon.”

“If I may, lord, I know this trader,” Glam said, interrupting. “He was a warrior before turning to commerce. He fought for the Suevi against the tribes to his east, then for the Romans in Pannonia as a mercenary. He finished an officer. If he wanted you dead, lord, he would do it himself. He is not the kind of man who would let a proxy do his killing for him. He would consider that beneath him.”

Rutilius cursed. It wasn’t Aethelric. Still cursing silently, he began grilling Caius Avitus in detail, trying to figure this out. Someone wanted him dead, and that someone had been in Near the Water, or knew he was going there. But who?

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-10-10 05:21 AM EDT (US)     40 / 52       
Good chapter, Terikel! I wonder who is behind this....

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-10-10 10:58 AM EDT (US)     41 / 52       
I have a suspicion... but I won't say it in case I'm right. But he is not Roman, nor Germani, nor neither...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-14-10 06:12 AM EDT (US)     42 / 52       
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A loud crack signaled the end of another round in the Marktplatz. Aelric was standing proud, while Jorgen lay writhing and holding his helmet on the cold, snowy stones of the Marktplatz. Beside him writhed Axel, also holding his helm. Dieter stood above all three.

“You men were told to be alert,” the Batavian repeated. “Yet in the middle of your sixth duel, your eyes were only on each other. Only Aelric here saw me coming, and that is why he is not on the ground with you. Battle is a cauldron, lads. The only ones who come out of it alive are those who alert. Stay alert! Stay alive! Had this been a true battle, both of you would have been killed while I dispatch Aelric in peace. Aelric! Focus!”

Aelric ripped his eyes away from a young woman and focused on Dieter. “Sorry, sir. I thought I saw Trudi, a past love.”

“Keep your eyes off of a woman who is not threatening your life and on the weapons that can end said life, boy,” Dieter shouted. Aelric hung his head low and apologized. Dieter walked around him, noting the sincerity. Then he looked up and saw the Trudi Aelric mentioned- a young woman who currently helped old Mathilda in Claudia’s kitchens. Mathilda had already bought the food needed for the week. So why was Trudi in the market, especially on a day when there was no market?

“What was your relationship with this Trudi, Aelric?” Dieter demanded.

“We were lovers under the occupation, sir. We were to marry, but her father returned from the war and forbid it. She went to serve Lady Claudia rather than marry the mangled warrior her father had picked for her.”

“And you think a position in the Guard would make her father more amenable to your own desires?” Dieter finished. “So it is loyalty to a woman that brings you to me, not loyalty to Lord Rutilius.”

“Lord Rutilius gives men a chance, Hagthor does not,” Aelric replied. “Trudi is gone, sir. Hagthor saw to it that we would never be. But I can begin anew, under a great chieftain. Lord Rutilius is that chieftain, lord. Trudi living on the same manor is just a bonus, sir.”

Dieter smiled. “That is true, lad,” he said. “Now, quickly, fetch the wench and bring her here. I have a question for her.”

Aelric acknowledged and bolted off after his old girlfriend. The two returned moments later.

“Why do you buy food now, on a day when there is no market, and a few days after Mathilda stocked the pantry?” he asked, pointing to her basket filled with herbs and dried greens.

“Mathilda was grievously upset with me,” Trudi explained. “It was I who was responsible for the herbs and other delicacies for the dinner which made you and the Cananefate sick. Mathilda determined that it was the herbs in the Jaegersaus which made you ill, so she threw out everything of those ingredients and bade me buy more. So here I am.”

Dieter nodded. It made sense. But Aelric looked into the basket as well.

“Why did you buy those mushrooms?” he asked, pointing to a few that were longer and skinnier than the others. “Those kind make you barf your brains out, while the others are tasty.”

Trudi turned whiter than the snow. “What do you mean?”

“These,” Aelric said, pulling out the poisonous mushrooms. “These are awful. Several of us ate shrooms during the war- there was nothing else. Those who ate these got sick, or died.”

“I did not know!” Trudi shrieked. Her fear was tangible- but it was a fear of what her mistake was, rather than a fear of what shall be. “Mathilda says buy mushrooms, so I buy. I ask for the best, and got these. I swear, I do not know mushrooms at all!”

“I believe you,” Dieter said calmly, trying to extend that calm to the terrified maiden. “Just tell me where you got them. Who sold you these?”

“There is a small courtyard by the river. Sometimes merchants unload their wagons there, forming an unofficial market. I got them from the Gaul. He apologized for the last batch, saying they must have spoiled. His wife gave me these for free.”

“I know this market, lord,” Axel said. “Come, I will lead you there.”

“Jorgen, tell Marcus we may have a clue about the one who poisoned us,” Dieter ordered. “Take Trudi with you and have her tell him what she just told us. Amalric, we are going merchant hunting.”

“Don’t we need Trudi to tell us which merchant sold her the poison?” Jorgen asked. His question earned him another smack.

“Pay attention,” Dieter admonished. “The girl said ‘the’ Gaul, not ‘a’ Gaul. That means there is only one. Actually, cancel that. Aelric, you take your ex-girl to Lord Rutilius and explain. You saw her, you get the honors. Jorgen, you join with Amalric’s men and listen to him. Axel, lead on.”

A few minutes later the Batavians descended on the unofficial mini-market. There were three merchants occupying the quays dealing and selling. Two of them were Roman. The third was a Gaul. His guards were disposed of rather easily- Dieter had his men inform the Romans that the Gaul was suspected of dealing poison. The Roman merchant guards, hearing this, went to check on this with the Gallic merchant guards, who reacted violently to the accusation. The Batavians charged in among the ensuing battle and grabbed both the Gaul and his auburn-haired wife.

The Gauls, outnumbered and pummeled into submission, watched helplessly as their lord was hauled roughly from the wagon, as was the lady. Another Batavian rummaged through their wagon, and returned with two boxes. One of the boxes had edible mushrooms, the other the poisonous ones. He also had a few very small boxes of an evil-smelling powder.

“Hello, Burnix,” Jorgen said, recognizing the Gaul. “I thought you crossed the Rhein into Bructeri territory with the other wagons.”

“He changed his plans when he saw us ride into Vetera,” Dieter surmised. He held up the man’s wife, who was fidgeting and cursing against the abuse. “You remember Nelda, do you not?”

“She is no longer blonde, I see,” Jorgen noted. “But still just as pretty.”

“I knew her as a red-head,” Axel said. “When we were kids, before the war. Her father made the best arrows. My father always admired the skill of Erwin the Fletcher, just as I admired the beauty of his daughter.”

“Nelda, Erwin’s daughter,” said Rutilius as he came upon the scene of the mischief. “Once the auburn-haired filly my aide Salvius was so infatuated with in Noviomagus, now auburn again. A lot of things just became very clear.”

“She was in Near the Water, too,” Jorgen reminded him. “She left just as you arrived.”

”And she was in Vetera,” Dieter added, “evidently trying to cross the river to escape, but changed her mind and came south to Colonia when she realized Ataulf failed. She gave Mathilda poisoned mushrooms to serve us.”

“I never eat the things,” Rutilius admitted. “They give me stomach problems. You were better off using an axe, my dear.” He turned to Burnix. “Tell me, Gaul, you married an assassin and a poisoner. You were seen in at least three places where people have been attacked or poisoned. You, a Gaul, and Romanized. Why?”

The Gaul said nothing.

“What is this nasty powder?” Marcus asked.

Again the Gaul was silent.

“Dieter,” Marcus said. “Make him eat some of that white powder. I do not think it is salt.”

Burnix squirmed, and resisted heavily, but he did not otherwise make a sound.

“Stop,” Rutilius ordered. Burnix looked at Nelda with longing eyes. It said volumes. Rutilius saw the look and decided to deprive him of his strength. “Give her the powder. I suspect it is poison, since she uses poisonous mushrooms. Let us see what effect it has on her.”

Dieter brought the noxious powder toward the woman. “You were prettier as a blonde,” he said as he circled behind her so that she could not blow the powder on him. “But you are rather striking with this color. Did you change it so that we would not recognize you?” He brought the powder closer to her lips. She ceased struggling, but held her breath.

“Stop!” Burnix screamed. “The powder kills if eaten, drunk, or breathed. Let her live, and I shall tell you all.”

“You pathetic weakling,” Nelda sneered. “They shall kill us both anyway. Tell them nothing!”

“She is right,” Rutilius admitted. “You are already guilty of poisoning two men- though they did not die- and of attempting to do it again. The trial I shall hold shall be quick and simple, the verdict already in your hands. What you must decide, Burnix of the Treveri, is if you want to die quickly, like a man. Or watch helpless as the men your wife poisoned take physical satisfaction as compensation. Nelda is very pretty- I am sure my men will be satisfied after only four or five bouts with her. After which, we shall crucify her- she is not a citizen but is a murderess. She shall take days to die, in agony, while you, Burnix, shall watch every moment of it. Then, when she has finally died- used, tortured, and ugly from the wind and snow, you shall suffer the same. The choice is yours- a quick beheading for the both of you and then cremation, or crucifixion and having your bodies left out for the crows.”

“He is bluffing!” Nelda shrieked. “Romans have their laws. He cannot do what he said.”

“I am the law here, Nelda,” Rutilius reminded her. “But if you wish a trial, so be it. Dieter, you are prosecutor. Jorgen, the defender. The charge is attempted murder by poison. Begin.”

“They did it,” Dieter said plainly. “They had poison in their possession and in the wagon, along with more poisoned mushrooms. They gave them to Trudi, who gave them to Mathilda, who used them in the sauce. Neither Trudi nor Mathilda knew one mushroom from another, and depended on the knowledge of the Gaul. Done.”

“Give me something,” Jorgen asked of Nelda and Burnix. When they remained silent, he spun a wonderful tale of coincidences and circumstances, which Dieter then blew apart with a few well-placed words.

Marcus looked to the other merchants and their guards who surrounded the impromtu court, and to the city watch which had finally come to investigate the commotion. “You men are the jury, What say ye?”

Both merchants, their guards, and the vigiles nodded. The evidence was there; no other verdict was possible. “Damnatio.”

Marcus looked at Burnix, and then Nelda. “The jury finds you guilty. Sentence shall be as I said earlier, to be carried out at once. There, Nelda, you have had a proper trial. You are now officially a convicted murderess. Try not to bruise her too much, Dieter. Jorgen will want something fresh when you are finished with her.”

“We shall take turns,” Dieter said with a wolfish grin. “That way she stays fresh enough for both.”

Nelda began squirming in earnest now as the Batavian began carrying her towards her wagon. Burnix knew from his wife’s reaction that she now believed this Roman would do exactly what he said he would do.

“Is the offer of a quick death for us both still open?” he asked in a gasping voice.

Rutilius nodded. “It is open, and will remain open, until Dieter penetrates your wife. After that, her fate is sealed.”

“Then spare her that humiliation, lord,” the Gaul said, hanging his head. “I shall tell you what you wish to know.”

“Jorgen, tell Dieter to wait,” Marcus commanded. “But to hold her there, out of sight. Burnix has something to say. His words shall determine if Dieter may continue, or not.”

Burnix slumped in defeat. Nelda was a lovely woman on the eyes, but inside she was more evil than that white powder. Her father, Erwin, had sold him the prettiest woman of his tribe, and he had been happy to accept. And then he found what came with her- an undying hatred of Rome and all things Roman. Her hatred threatened to consume her, and him, until now when it finally did. Still, he had come to love her. He could never give her much, but at least now he can give her the peace of a quick death. He talked.

His words answered many of the questions Rutilius had. Erwin had indeed been a Bructeri, but the grievous wounds on his ears were not earned in battle- they were a gift from a Roman official who did not appreciate his arrows winning an archery shoot years ago. It seems Erwin was told to doctor his arrows, but failed to listen, thus the penalty. That official had since been replaced, and the new official had tried to make amends- but Erwin was far too bitter to listen. He was determined to bring down the Romans, one way or another.

His hatred was passed on to his daughter, whose mother had been sullied by Roman auxiliaries during the last days of the reign of Nero, around the time Erwin’s ears were mutilated. Her rape was one of the reasons the Bructeri so eagerly joined the Batavians when they revolted. When Erwin became a spy, he sold his daughter to a weak Gaul, so that she may gather information on Roman doings. Burnix, whose Treveri tribe had suffered mightily in the revolt, agreed to the bride price, and its condition that at least twice per year he swing by Bructeri lands to report what he had learned.

Erwin had died, and the Roman invasion of Bructeri land pushed Nelda over the edge. She no longer wanted simply to watch and report. She wanted to hurt those who had hurt her and her people, who had murdered her father. They had gone to Near the Water because it was known that Rutilius- the man who led the Roman soldiers out of the Bructeri trap- often visited there in the winter. She had talked Ataulf into believing Rutilius benefitted greatly from Cananefate and Batavian suffering- look how his holdings grew so large almost overnight. Adding salt to the wound, she spoke of how his charity had brought the Cananefate back on to their feet- and into his debt. Whole tribes were his clients, his slaves. And he was the one who started the war in the first place. To sweeten the deal, she told him that the man who slew Rutilius would be man enough for her- she would leave Burnix for the slayer of Rutilius. It did not take any more than that to turn bitter Ataulf into a killing machine.

They had then traveled to Vetera, to cross the river. Enroute, they stopped in the forest near Albaniana, where Nelda found some mushrooms growing despite the cold. She knew from her mother that this variety was poisonous- a plateful would kill even the strongest of men.

“And if one dresses a cutlet with a sauce made with these?” Jorgen asked.

“One would get very ill,” Burnix replied. “But not die. Cooking weakens the poison, and a sauce would have less than a lethal dose. Nelda gave your trollop, and the one in Vetera, a Roman recipe for a delicious raw mushroom stew- fatal if consumed.”

“And Mathilda disregarded the advice and made a cooked sauce with it, saving our lives,” Jorgen concluded while the Gaul nodded. The implications of what else was said was forgotten- for the moment- amid the revelation of his near-demise over a plate of food. “Plus we did not eat enough to kill us.”

Burnix continued his tale of deceit and woe. At Vetera they were going to cross into Bructeri territory with the other merchants. It was time to report their findings. But Nelda saw Rutilius and knew Ataulf must have failed.

“Wait,” Rutilius ordered. “I did not go to the docks. How were you sure it was me?”

“You are one of two Roman generals in the province,” Burnix said flatly. “Red cloak, silver cuirass. But of all the Roman generals, you alone wear the helmet of an ordinary trooper. Rutilius Gallicus has a blue horsehair crest upon his, while Cerealis had red horsehair. Red cloak, silver cuirass, and simple helmet meant you.”

He then continued on. After seeing Rutilius enter the fortress, Nelda pulled them out of line and over to the town springing up near the fortress. There she candidly interviewed customers, grocers, and merchants until she found one that sold delicacies to the fortress. It was easy for her to slip the poisoned mushrooms in with the good ones.

Then, in case those did not do the job, she commandeered them passage to Colonia to try again, if necessary. She quickly found out who bought food for the Rutilian household and made her suggestions, until it was proven that you were still alive. Then she tried again- and did not tell about it. She wanted to stay to confirm. And that is what got them caught- waiting to hear the effect of her special shrooms.

“Nice story,” Rutilius said when it was over.

“It is the truth,” Burnix said. “This I swear, by Lugh and Mannanan and Jupiter Optimus, and by Wotan One-Eye and even Loki. By any and all gods, lord, I swear I have spoken the truth.”

Marcus had seen men broken before. He knew of the abuses of the district commanders before his return as governor. Vorenus had initiated the war against the Cananefate, but the district officials in Batavi lands were just as bad. Their conduct was indeed one of the major causes of the revolt. As for the rest, even he had to admit that twelve years on the border, five of them as governor, acting governor, deputy governor, or quaestor, did make him somewhat predictable. He had to travel the province- from Bonna on the one end to Near the Water on the other, and travel it often. It would be easy to waylay him in any of a dozen towns he must visit. They had gotten lucky. And so had he.

“A quick death is earned,” he decided. Amalric did not hesitate or give the prisoner any inkling. The Guardsman separated Burnix’s head from his shoulders with a clean slash, ending the Gaul.

“And the Bructeri woman, lord?” the Guardsman asked. “Clean as well, or after Dieter and the Cananefate lad get some payback?”

“He kept his word, Amalric,” Marcus reminded him. “So I must keep mine. A clean death for her too. Immediately, that none may be so tempted. She has suffered enough in her short life.”

“Aye lord,” the Guardsman replied.

A minute later he returned from the wagon, wiping his sword and giving a nod. Rutilius bade both remaining merchants write up their account of this day, then bid the guardsmen report to Avitus so he can write up their accounts. Then he confiscated the wagon and had the vigiles dispose of the corpses by burning or burial- their choice. The vigiles, shivering in the cold winter air, decided on the former. The ground was solid rock in this cold.

“Dieter,” he said, pointing to the two recruits from the morning. “I was wrong. There is another thing a Guardsman must be- he must be alert and notice things. Those two displayed that. Without it, we would not have pieced this mystery together, and a poisoner would still be loose among us, preying on us and whoever we dine with. Those two have earned their wages for the day.”

Dieter nodded. “Agreed, lord. We shall make them honorary Batavians. Jorgen too.”

Rutilius smiled as Glam escorted him back to the headquarters. Some things never change.

Then he sighed. Cordinus was going to have a lot of reading to do. There were a lot of depositions to write, and his own summary to create. At least this was case handled (mostly) according to the law, and the last threat to himself and those around him eliminated. He could now look forward to spending some true quality time with his wife and family.

Or so he thought.

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 06-14-2010 @ 02:25 PM).]

Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-14-10 10:58 AM EDT (US)     43 / 52       
My favourite update so far I think. Loved the whole court scene thing.
The Roman merchant guards, hearing this, went to check on this with the Gallic merchant guards, who reacted violently to the accusation.
Another masterstroke. I actually laughed out loud when I read that... despite it not being particularly funny...

If I fail my exams and am thus refused a place at Cambridge cos I'm reading this story it's all your fault.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
/|||| ||||\

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 06-17-2010 @ 03:21 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-14-10 11:18 AM EDT (US)     44 / 52       
Next chapter shall be quite interesting to see.

It was very well written and we find out who spiked Cordinus. Although it would have been harsh if Rutillus went back on his word and had his wicked way with that red headed women.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-17-10 04:17 AM EDT (US)     45 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Cordinus read with eyes growing ever wider the report of Rutilius concerning the Gaul Burnix and his treacherous woman Nelda. The supporting documentation- depositions from the Roman merchants on the scene, and the account of the Ubian city watch commander- were incontrovertible. His eyes fell on one line from the deposition of Sextus Silvanus that was not repeated in the summary- Nelda had sold poisoned mushrooms to the governor’s chef.

He laid the report down slowly, shocked. Then he picked up the latest dispatch from Rome and read it again. The first time he had perused it, he was confident and relieved- the traitor would get what he deserved. Now he read it again with dread- a loyal subordinate was being rewarded for his diligence with a suicide mission.

And his words, issued in anger, were the cause of it.

But the orders came from Rome, no matter the root. There was no going back, no tailoring of the orders to make them more survivable, no amendments in any other way. Marcus Rutilius was going to go across the river and confirm with his own magisterial eyes the details in the map and intelligence report he himself created, and do it before the offensive resumes in the summer.

The orders mention his suitability for this mission- his complexion, features, knowledge of the local language, and expert battle history. While lauding his qualifications, the orders also say that all Roman forces in the province are to be trained to a peak for this campaign, which requires that they be in full strength and not risked in battle until the campaign. An ala of Thracian cavalry auxilia from Germania Superior was ordered to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippennsi for this mission. Other than that Greek cavalry- albeit an excellent choice for a scouting mission- Rutilius was on his own.

Damn!

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus had absolutely no inkling of any of this. He was with his wife, admiring her growing belly housing their child, and enjoying the romping of the two boys Quintus and Publius as they played ‘Legionary and Barbarian’ throughout the house. His idyll was shattered when a Guardsman came bursting into the study.

“Lord, there are many soldiers coming,” the Guard said. “At least four centuries, the perimeter guards say. They left the main road to Bonna and are coming up our road as we speak.”

“Claudia, round up the children and pack some clothes, just in case,” Marcus commanded calmly. Then he looked to Aelric, who had been assigned hall duty but had entered with the messenger. “You find Dieter, and bid him prepare a defense of the main house, with attention to an escape route to the river if needed. I will go with Asgeir here to view this rabble myself.”

He got no further than his portico when he recognized the advance herald of the approaching troops. It was Papius, a Samnite decurion in the governor’s Household Guard. Beyond him he could see the rest of the Samnite horsemen under their tribune Vibulus moving forward, with the ex-gladiator bully-boys bringing up the rear. The entire Guard, he realized. A moment later followed the realization of what that meant- six lictors clad in red tunics, bearing their fasces with axes inserted, preceded a single horseman leading the footmen.

“Asgeir, tell Dieter the approaching forces are guarding the Governor. It appears we have a visit from Cordinus himself.”

A few minutes later this assumption was proven correct. Cordinus dismounted amid a mass of Samnite infantrymen, who immediately set up a perimeter. The cavalrymen, once assured the footmen had the governor secured, rode off to begin patrolling the lands around the villa. These were joined by hastily-clad Batavians, who would act as guides and interpreters.

“Welcome, lord,” Marcus said in greeting. His surprise at the visit was apparent. “I was not expecting such an occasion. Please, do come in. I will have our household staff make ready a chamber for your use and some refreshments for yourself and your men.”

“I will not be staying long,” Cordinus said flatly. “And my men will be bunked down with me in the city’s visitor’s barracks tonight. I will be returning to Vetera in the morning. After I discuss a terrible mistake with you. Compounded.”

Rutilius escorted his commander and a handful of Samnites inside and to the study, where Dieter and a squad of Batavians were already waiting. Trudi and another servant girl rushed in with carafes of wine freshly decanted from new amphorae, while a third brought in some chipped cheese and sliced bread- the only thing that could be prepared on such short notice. The girls looked to Claudia, who looked to Marcus, who shook his head. The guests would not be staying long- no more food was needed. The girls understood and bowed out of the room, leaving Claudia and the men alone.

“I bring bad tidings,” Cordinus began. “I am truly sorry to bring this now, so close to the birth of your child. You must understand that I have no choice in the matter.”

“Our child is a proper Roman, governor,” Claudia said honestly. “He will understand if his father has work to do and might miss his entrance into this world of ours.”

“You really do have a lovely wife,” Cordinus admitted. “I applaud your choice, and hope she forgives me for the bad news.”

“For what?” asked Marcus, rather more rudely than he meant it. First a terrible mistake, and now this. Something bad is coming.

Cordinus took no offense. Had he been in Rutilius’s sandals, he would be bouncing off the wall by now. But he was not in those sandals, he was in his own, and feeling awful. Awful enough to make a lightning journey to Colonia to tell his quaestor personally, instead of making him come to Vetera. But there was no ducking this. Cordinus manned himself up with a stiff draught from the wine- unwatered- and laid out his suspicions and Rome’s response.

“It was the only conclusion I could come to, given the facts at hand,” he pleaded. “You had been alone with the food, unsupervised, and refused to eat of it. Thereafter I was diagnosed as being poisoned.”

Marcus cursed, but nodded. “Given the facts at the time, I probably would have thought the same.” Then he added bitterly, “especially if my quaestor was a half-Roman descendant of these barbarous animals who put a knife into my lungs earlier.”

Cordinus nodded and hung his head low. “I am bigoted, it is true. And your lack of ambition- while steadily rising in fame, honor, and glory- makes you incredibly paradoxical. An enigma. And you know I dislike mysteries and riddles.”

“But now you know better, concerning the poisoning,” Rutilius continued. His point was made; it was time to move on. “I did not know there was a poisoner at work either, until two of my guards fell ill. Then two recruits put us on the right track, and she admitted having tried to poison me at Vetera. I had thought I was immune to her toxin. I did not realize the poison was in the mushrooms, which I never eat.” He patted his stomach, explaining simply, ”Gas.”

“You were the target, not me,” Cordinus admitted. “I know this now, having read the depositions. But where your murderess missed, Rome scores.”

He wasted no more effort trying to dodge. “Rome has issued orders, Marcus. You are to cross the river and confirm the report you worked up. Villages, numbers, populations. Rome does not want us to be caught with our leggings off again, but cannot afford to send any arcani or other scouts. Rome orders you to go verify your report.”

“I would like to take Lucius Albius and his I Longiniana Gallorum from Gelduba, as well as the III Gallorum Treveri from Aciburgium,” Marcus said, thinking aloud. “Both alae can move quickly, and with two alae, any trouble we cannot avoid we can trample.”

“Both are in training cycles now,” Cordinus relied with a shake of his head. “They are under Cadorus, exercising against the Cananefate over by Traiectum by your orders, and must not cross the Rhenus, by orders of Rome.”

“Then I must go heavy infantry. I will need Palla’s IV Nervorum, five cohorts from the XXII Primigenia, and if I may, your Samnites.”

Again Cordinus shook his head. “You misunderstand, Marcus. All units are either involved in training cycles, or about to be. Rome was explicit- no formations from this province shall be authorized to cross the Rhenus before the campaign begins. They did however, detach a Thracian ala from Germania Superior to escort you. Light Greek cavalry- quick to run, worthless in battle. Those are the type of troops the Imperator decided would suit a scouting mission in Germania.” That last was bitterly spat out.

The implications sank in, to the dismay of Rutilius and the rising ire of his Guards.

“The Imperator has never served in Germania,” Rutilius reminded him. “But he had served in Britannia, where Thracian cavalry performed well enough. Light cavalry would be my choice for simple scouting- but he asks more than that.”

“The Imperator himself cited your unique qualifications for this,” Cordinus continued. “You look Germanic, can speak the language, and your exploits during the Batavian Revolt speak highly of your skill in traversing hostile lands. If the Bructeri are as depleted as the report assumes, you should have no trouble sneaking about a couple of villages, confirming their populations, and returning unseen.”

“It is a suicide mission,” Marcus said at last, “for any but me. The Imperator is correct- sending strong forces across at this time to perform reconnaissance would alert them to our coming, if we are to go across again. A single ala would not create such an alert. And of all the officers within this province, only I could sneak about and understand what I overhear. He is correct- someone must confirm this report, and none are more qualified than I. How much time does the Imperator give me?”

Cordinus was relieved at the easy acceptance of the orders. He had seen his mistake translated into a death warrant for his quaestor, while Rutilius saw it as a necessary task for which he alone was qualified to perform. That point of view was correct, yet he could not shake the feeling that these orders would never have come had he not related his own suspicions to faraway Rome.

“You must return before the summer campaigning begins,” Cordinus stated. “Other than that there is little mentioned concerning a timeline.”

Rutilius nodded. “I shall require a month to arrange things here, then I shall be off to the other side. I think around the Nones of April, five market intervals after the new consuls take office, I shall go. I plan to be back by the time the buds turn into blossoms around the Ides of May. That should give you enough time to work out a plan with whatever I uncover.”

“Marcus, be careful,” Cordinus pleaded.

“Always, lord,” he replied evenly.

Cordinus rose. “I am off for Colonia for the evening, then will travel back to Vetera. If you need anything, anything at all, let me know.”

Rutilius rose with him and escorted the governor from his house. Cordinus was shaking as he rode away, the quaestor noted. He was visibly upset at these orders. Why? They made perfect sense. He found out why when he returned to the study and saw the faces of his Guards.

“You are thrown to the wolves, lord,” Dieter said. “Bodily, and alone. Greek cavalry? The monkeys over there will trounce them so easily! How can you not rip that man’s head off? He cursed you publicly, tried you for treason, busted you out of the legions, and all but accuses you of murder. And you stand there like nothing happened.”

“He cursed me because he was an ignorant fool then, and his trial for treason saved me politically later. He busted me out of the legions by promoting me to quaestor, and his suspicions- though groundless- were faultlessly logical.”

“And the first part, lord?”

“Rome needs eyes over there,” Rutilius replied with a pleading look in his own eyes. “Eyes it can trust to see and interpret, and ears which can understand what is said. Only two people in the entire province have the military background qualify for this, Dieter- you and I. And you no longer serve Rome- you serve me. Thus I am left.”

“Dieter is right, my love,” Claudia added. “Rome casts you aside, yet you stand there, an island of calm, while the rest of us fear for you. What do you know that we do not?”

Marcus shrugged. “Ever since the visit of the proconsul, it has become more and more apparent that we needed more information. We had requested arcani, but those men are evidently needed elsewhere. The hatred Eprius harbored for both the governor and myself was so strong as to be tangible. Needs plus no Arcani, add in a spice of dislike and you have a recipe for sending a quaestor across the river to check.” He picked up his goblet and swirled the contents once before draining it. “I have been expecting something like this for some time now.”

“So when do we go?” the big Batavian asked.

We do not,” Rutilius replied. “You are staying here to guard my family. You are the only man I can trust to guard those most precious to me. I will go. But I will not go alone. I want six guardsmen to go with me. Six, or less. More than six would be not work.”

“I shall pick the best six,” Dieter confirmed. He knew better than to argue with Rutilius, no matter how dangerous the situation or how much sense his advice made. What was it Seval once said, it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission? “We shall be trained to a peak within that month, lord.”

“I am leaving by the end of the week,” Rutilius replied, to their immediate shock.

“Why so early? You will need a month to plan!” Claudia and Dieter said at the same time, their words mixing to sound like a garble of “Why will so early month.”

Marcus slammed his goblet back onto the table. The smack of its landing silenced the room. “Enough!” he shouted. “Has it not yet dawned upon you? Think back to when Cordinus first arrived, then go forward. He has been stabbed, poisoned, ordered to follow spies, and now ordered to send me across. Every move he made was reported to Rome, who sent new orders or proconsuls or did something else to try to embarrass him.”

“There is a spy in his retinue,” Dieter determined. “A Roman spy.”

Marcus nodded. “Someone in Rome wants me out of the way. Cordinus came to this province with an attitude. He thought the world of himself, but had very little actual combat experience to back it up. And he was already poisoned against me- one of four bastions of support he would have had here. When he lost me, he lost the other three legates as well. He was ordered to follow the guides, vouched for by Rome. Who in Rome knows these men?”

Dieter thought back, then shook his head. “Seval would know, but he is disappeared.”

Claudia nodded. “I see your point, husband. You are saying this man who came crying here tonight is being set up by his own, and you stand in the way of his fall. Thus you must be removed.”

“Aye, wife,” he replied. “It is not about me. Someone wants to hurt the governor- they sent him here ill-equipped to deal with this province, and turned him against those who would help him. Then they ordered him across the river under the command of two traitors, thinking we legates would abandon him and thus he would fail. And that same someone now wishes to rid the governor of my support before the summer comes. And I am quite sure that someone has a spy in the governor’s retinue.”

“That is why you told him a month,” Dieter said. “Very clever. He will take his time dawdling on his dispatch to await the plans you will send, which then goes to his master in Rome, and by the time new orders arrive to further hamper you, you are already gone. You cannot be betrayed.”

“You are missing something, Dieter,” Claudia said after a moment. Marcus began to smile as his wife spoke. She really was a good match. “The man who vouched for the Bructeri spies. The man in Rome who spies on the governor also has contacts on the other side. He would use these contacts to alert the Bructeri that my husband- who they have already tried several times to murder- was alone and unprotected on their lands.”

“Exactly,” Marcus said with a nod. “So what we need to do is think back who was here within the last five years who had contacts with Germani, specifically the Bructeri. It has to be someone high enough to make high contacts there, and someone they have met and therefore trust.”

“Aelric, fetch me Jorgen,” Dieter commanded the guard, before explaining to Marcus, “A king’s son. He would know.”

Marcus nodded. Jorgen was duly brought in, and briefed. His eyes flew open at the allegations and orders, and his demeanor changed to that of one angry young man.

“The fools!” he cried. “Did they not learn from the last time? Rome itself lays open if Germania falls!”

“That may be the idea,” Dieter reminded him. “We know nothing of intent or ambition. We do know that whoever is hounding Marcus is doing so from Rome. So who was here within the last five years that is now in Rome, and was friendly to our tribes?”

“Vitellius was here and went to Rome,” Jorgen began, but Rutilius cut him off.

“I watched Vitellius die, so it was not him.”

“I watched Vorenus die, so it was not him either,” Jorgen remembered. “Flaccus is dead, too.”

“Herrennius Gallus, Caius Vocula, Numisius Rufus, Quintus Lupercus,” Dieter listed. “All dead.”

“Fabius Valens is dead, as is Fabius Fabullus,” Marcus added.

“Quintus Volusius just wanted to get out of here, though he lives,” Claudia added. “And my own Quintus Cerealis is in Britannia. Verginius Rufus?”

“Retired, of his own free will,” Marcus said. “He was offered the consulship by the Old Owl, but turned it down. Maybe he wants a come-back?”

“That leaves just the legates serving today,” Dieter concluded. “One of your brethren wishes to betray you.”

“No, they are here, not in Rome. Rome vouched for the spies.”

“There was a legate, of your old X Gemina,” Jorgen remembered. “He took off well before you arrived to relieve him. He went to Rome.”

“Secundus Acala?” Marcus asked. “He left so fast that he abandoned his legion to its prefect for three weeks. He was simply glad to be free of Germania and anything cold. I doubt he wants anything to do with this province, but still, he might. His second-in-command, Fufius, lies buried in Noviomagus, by the way.”

He paced, to the annoyance of his wife and Guard Commander. “This is getting us nowhere. We know who was here, but we know little of Rome. I see only the dispatches the governor sends to Colonia.”

“You need ears in Rome,” Jorgen deduced. “Do you have any high friends there?”

“Mucianus,” Marcus said, “though I once held a knife to his throat. Domitianus, the current consul owes me his life, but we called it even...” Publius! With Marcus out of the way, Publius is uncovered. Only Domitian knew the heritage of Publius- none other. He would definitely want Publius slain, and as consul, he has ties everywhere and through anyone. “This could be something else entirely. Damn it! Jorgen is right- we need ears in Rome.”

“You have ears in Rome, husband,” Claudia reminded him. “He just left, sobbing. His remorse is genuine- he truly likes and cares for you. And he must have many friends in Rome to receive this posting.”

“I cannot approach him now,” Rutilius replied. “We may have two ideas as to who is behind this, but we have yet to determine who the spy is. Until we do, I cannot approach him with our suspicions. The spy would report our suspicions and then go silent, lurking in the shadows until he can perform more mischief.”

“Bullshit and cowflops,” Dieter exclaimed. “He is here, in Colonia, with only his guard. Any potential spy is back in Vetera with his household. Approach him tonight.”

“And if the spy is among the guards?” Jorgen said. “I know little of Rome, but I do know that Rome fought the Samnites. The Guards are Samnites- they might harbor a grudge.”

“That was centuries ago,” Rutilius said. “Samnites are Roman now.”

“Samnites are Roman,” Dieter repeated, then added, “and so is the master of the spy. You are correct- it could be a guard.”

“Good point.”

“Go to your office, husband,” Claudia said. “Wake Avitus and have him call the governor in to a private conference- in his office. When they are alone, use the door connecting your office to his to switch places. Then you have Quintus Cordinus alone. No spies, unless he himself is the spy.”

Marcus walked over to his wife and kissed her. “That is a wonderful idea. Dieter, we leave an hour before midnight. You and I, none other.”

The plan worked. Caius Avitus was groggy, but when he saw his quaestor and the big German standing outside his door, he came instantly awake. A few minutes later he was dressed and on his way to the administrative building, where he sent the lone guard to the visiting officers barracks to fetch the governor. When he was on his way, Dieter and Marcus slipped inside to the quaestor’s office and awaited their arrival. It was not long before the voice of Cordinus could be heard on the other side of the door, demanding to know what was going on.

Marcus opened the connecting door and made a hushing gesture to his commander, then gestured for him to come. Cordinus relaxed and followed.

“You have a spy,” Rutilius whispered. “We do not know if he is a guard or in your household, but someone does not work for you alone.” He then explained the reasoning and deductions he and his family had come up with earlier.

“Verginius wants nothing to do with either Germania or anywhere,” Cordinus said bluntly. “He’s happy making wine in his villa and watching his lambs grow. And Acala... had I been governor then, I would have denounced him and stripped him of his senatorial standing for abandoning his legion so. But alas I was not, and Quintus Volusius Saturninus was far too lenient on him. Acala is now in his latifundia near Tarentum, happily enjoying visits with what he considers ‘civilized’ Greek philosophers.”

“I discount Volusius Saturninus,” Marcus said forcefully. “He seemed eager to leave- the cold and damp truly affected his rheumatism. Plus we were good friends. I doubt he would engineer a plot that would include putting me in harm’s way.”

“Quintus Volusius has retired as thoroughly as Verginius,” Cordinus agreed. “And he still speaks very highly of you. Despite the hounding you are getting in the Senate.”

“Oh?” said Rutilius. “What have I ever done to annoy the Senate?”

“Besides coming from the Third Class and being foistered upon them by virtue of that Corona Civica, nothing,” Cordinus informed him. His words held only a hint of cynicism. “The senators dislike you because one of them, a prig of a man named Helvidius Priscus, has been singing your praises to the high heavens- annoying the others. They might want to bring you down a peg just to shut him up.”

“Helvidius Priscus has never been to Germania, as far as I know, and I have been here for the better part of eight years,” Marcus added. “I am about out of suspects.”

“I am not,” Cordinus countered. “Titus Clodius Eprius, the man who tried to crucify you as a scapegoat. He was not in Rome, being a governor somewhere else, but he could have sent a spy north in preparation of his impending visit. He has already vowed vengeance upon me for embarrassing him. Leaving his spy here or corrupting one of my men to become a spy might be part of his scheme.”

“There was another legate here, who went off to be consul,” Marcus remembered. “Caecina. I know him as a rat who got locked up by his own troops for trying to turn his Vitellian army over to the Flavians before Second Bedriacum.”

“Aulus Caecina Alienus is a political exile,” Cordinus scoffed. “His betrayal of the man he himself put up for Imperator rankled the Old Owl. Nobody trusts a traitor. Caecina might as well be dead. He gains nothing by stirring up trouble here.”

“He is one of the few living senators that has served here and is now in Rome,” Rutilius reminded him. “Our list of suspects is short, and he must be on it.”

“Helvidius Priscus is your better bet,” Cordinus said strongly. “I know he has never been here, Marcus- but his agents have. He once had a very lucrative mercantile enterprise going up here- earned him a lot of money, and jeopardized his senatorial seat because senators are supposed to have their income from agrarian means. He had enough lands to provide that, thus held his seat.”

“And his enterprise?”

“Most of it was destroyed in the rebellion- the men in it either killed or fled,” Cordinus remembered. “He then transferred his efforts in Greece, to the annoyance of Atticus and other knights. But some of his men might still be here- and he did have contacts across the river. Most successful merchants do.”

“Motive?” Marcus asked.

“He has fought the imperial system at every turn, and been promoted despite that,” Cordinus added. “Anything that brings the imperial government into disrepute serves him well. And losing the border here drives us back to Italia- making ruling in the old way by single-year consuls easier to administer.”

Marcus nodded. It made sense. “Then you might want to have some of your longer-term staff check into your newer staff for connections to this Helvidius. In the meantime, I will be fulfilling the Imperator’s command and scout across the river.”

“Do not go, Marcus,” Cordinus pleaded. “Your mission is a death-trap, worse than the one at that awful Tower. This one is political- the dangers unseen. Let me write to Vespasian, and his son the consul, my benefactor. If they knew the reason behind this order, I doubt they would have issued it. Give me the time.”

Marcus shook his head. “You cannot countermand the Imperator without putting your own head on the chopping block. That may be what Eprius- who swore vengeance- wants. Besides, we need eyes across the river, and mine are best suited. I will be leaving within a week, and hope to be back before the Kalends of April.”

“You told me not five hours ago that you would be crossing on the Nones of April!”

“The spy, lord,” Marcus reminded him. “The spy would report that to his master, who would use that report to tell his contacts across the river where to find me. I intend to be exiting that land before they think I even arrive. I would not want to miss the birth of my child.”

Cordinus smiled, his first true smile since he read that awful scroll from Rome. “I can help. I would like to trade lictors with you. I have two, both named Acilius but no relation to each other, who might make your task easier. Both have been with me since I was a quaestor- no hint or taint of treachery among them. One is an expert cartographer, or was before he became a civil servant. The other was once a cavalryman, who served the other Acilius’s father. He followed Acilius Junior into the college of lictors out of loyalty. Both men have had a lot of training recently in the medical arts, and both would serve you better than the stylus-pushers Rome saddled you with.”

“I would like those men,” Marcus said with a nod. “But I am afraid I cannot give you mine- those stylus-pushers have been a tremendous help to Avitus in helping run the upper part of your province.”

“Take the Acilii,” Cordinus said firmly. “I can make do with four lictors for a month.”

Rutilius smiled. He knew what a concession the governor was making. They would both have technical command of four lictors- making them equals. A Senator from a family of Senators, and a battlefield-promoted Senator from a mixed-breed, Third-Class family.

Cordinus smiled back, his second true smile in so many minutes. Maybe this endeavor would work out well after all.

“I accept,” Marcus said. “Now, here is what I need...”

And with that, Marcus Rutilius laid out a wonderful plan to his superior. A plan, which had him crossing the Rhenus in a boat at night, with but a few men at his side, and from there hiding during the day to move and spy at night in the guise of a hunter. A careful plan, a well-designed plan, and one that was a total fabrication.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-17-10 04:39 AM EDT (US)     46 / 52       
A pretty good deception for a death trap of a mission. Sometimes Rutillus really has the bad jobs.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-17-10 05:07 AM EDT (US)     47 / 52       
Remains excellent, whichever thread you put it in...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-21-10 01:53 AM EDT (US)     48 / 52       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A week later, a merchant rolled in to Noviomagus. He set up his wagon in the market, stationed two burly guards to watch over the goods, and put his partner by the stands to handle business. Then he and his son went to the king’s hall to seek an audience, which took a while but was finally granted.

The audience was a private one, only two guards and the king faced the hooded merchant and his small son. The merchant approached as the guards toyed with the hilts of their swords, but a sharp command from Tiberius Labeo sent them from the room. The merchant pulled his iron ring from his finger and threw back his hood.

“Wotan’s One Eye, Marcus,” Labeo sighed heavily. “Why the disguise? You know you are welcome here anytime.”

“I do not wish it known I came to you, Tiberius,” Marcus replied lowly. “I have come to ask a favor, though I regret not having any to call in.”

Labeo waved the plea away. “Ask, my friend, and it is yours. Your edict has brought peace and respect to my people, and it is known that your wishes have put that wonderful legate Cadorus up in the castrum as lord. Ask what you will, it is yours.”

“I must go away for a while,” Rutilius said. “Somewhere dangerous. I fear for the life of my son, whom I am sworn to protect, while I am away. I would entrust him to you until I return.”

Labeo looked at the boy. He was quivering slightly, but he knew that effect was caused by a Roman boy viewing a Germanic king for the first time. Unseemly for the son of Rutilius, but understandable. “Why me, and not Niall, whose son you protect?”

“Many know of my connections to Niall,” Marcus reminded him. “If someone searches for him, they will go first to my home. When they do not find him there, they will go to Niall. There is little that does not escape you, Tiberius. Men searching Colonia and then Near the Water for a Roman boy would be noticed. That gives you both time and warning.”

Labeo looked hurt. “Our friendship is also well known, Marcus.”

“But I do not have your son in my household,” Rutilius replied. “Searching your lands would be a third-place choice for anyone wishing the boy harm, giving you the time to act.”

Labeo nodded in agreement to the wisdom. It was so. “I know of a place he can remain unseen. Claudius Victor knows of it as well- an uncle of mine, in Tungrian lands. He will be safe there.”

“I am always safe around Claudius Victor,” Publius Rutilius said gleefully, to the amusement of both men.

“Then it is settled, boy,” Labeo said. It appeared to him the boy no longer trembled, as if he had passed some unknown test.

“I wish also to store my senate ring with you, as a token of my trust.”

“Your give me your son, Marcus. Your trust is evident.”

“The ring is meant for Claudius Victor, should he need access to more funds while I am away. I ask you to guard it, but allow him to borrow it if the need arises. It is my signet.”

Labeo knew the importance. “I shall be honored to be its Guardian, and the Guardian of your son.” He called forth a guard, and asked that the boy be escorted to his chambers, and given a wench from the scullery to watch over him. Once the two had departed, he looked to Marcus. “Now, in confidence, where are you going, and why the cloak and dagger act?”

“I am going across the river, Tiberius,” Marcus said. He was entrusting the man with his son, his future. His life was of little more value against that. “And I do not want the monkeys over there to know it is I.”

“Are you mad, Marcus? They have tried several times to kill you, once only paces from this hall.”’

“Orders from Rome, and I am best qualified,” he replied. “I am going as a merchant, and have six guards with me. I will pose as a Cananefate to disguise my accent, and all of my guards are of the tribes. A quick visit with eyes open and I am back, mission fulfilled.”

Tiberius Labeo nodded. Such was life when the king lived far away and had no inkling of the effects of his decrees. He could never understand how Rome became such a power in these parts when their king was so far away. He sighed, then looked over his friend.

“Your disguise sucks, Marcus,” Labeo commented after a moment’s contemplation and observation. “You have a Cananefate cloak, and no longer the iron ring of a Roman Senator, but the mailed warshirt is one of a noble, not a merchant. You have on a Roman tunic under it, and caligae. Those will have to go. Get yourself some true trousers and fur-lined boots- they will fit your image better. And you are armed with the gladius of the legions. A Cananefate merchant might have access to a gladius- Wotan knows enough legionaries died there to equip the entire tribe- but that nobleman’s warshirt has to go. Or you need a second sword, one more fitting a wealthy merchant.”

“That was a second favor, one which I dared not ask.”

“It is no favor to trade your fine mail for a warshirt more fitting a merchant,” Labeo said firmly. “Batavia is served better by a living Rutilius than a dead one. I can also trade your gladius for a seax. It is about the same length, but has only one edge along the bottom of the blade- and the top bends down to meet it.”

“As long as I can stab with it, I will be fine.”

Labeo nodded. He reached behind his throne and brought forth his warsword. It was a frightful thing, half again the size of a gladius, and sheathed in a wolfskin scabbard. “This is my sword, which has seen much service. There is nothing striking about its appearance, bringing unwanted attention, though it is sharp and does its job of killing well. I would like to entrust it to you, that it may make or exchanges more equal.”

He watched as Rutilius hooked the scabbard onto his belt and shook his head. Reaching over, he corrected it. “The Germanic sword is worn on the left, not the Roman right. There, now with some decent deerskin trousers and fur-lined boots, you would be the picture of a successful Cananefate trader.”

“Many thanks, Tiberius,” Marcus said with sincerity. “I had not thought of the leggings or sandals. To think something so low could get me killed.”

Labeo was all seriousness. “One slip-up could get you killed, Marcus. You speak our language well, but not flawlessly. The Bructeri speak our tongue, so you must use Cananefate, or if you must use our tongue, do so with Cananefate mixed in, much like the garbage you spoke upon first coming to this town.”

Rutilius laughed. “I will try, Tiberius. And many thanks.”

When the audience was over, Rutilius returned to his wagon.

“Amalric,” he whispered, “Check over the men, especially the two lictors. Make sure every detail is Germanic- from the tip of their head to the toe of their boot. No Roman jewelry, sandals, tunics, etc. Every detail. Buy what we need.” With that, he handed over a small sack of silver coins, mixed with gold trinkets. “And trade whatever is left over for hack-silver or whatever is used for money over there.”

Amalric nodded and went to work. Rutilius crawled onto the driver’s seat of the wagon, then inside away from the cold. By this time tomorrow he would be far away from here, from his friends, and from whatever support the entire Roman Empire could give him.

He laughed inside himself. As if they would actually send any...


***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

End of Part IV.

Part V will begin in late July or early August (external pressures).

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 06-21-2010 @ 11:37 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 06-21-10 04:05 AM EDT (US)     49 / 52       
Great chapter and volume. Looks like Rutillus will be laying low.

General Rawlinson- This is most unsatisfactory. Where are the Sherwood Foresters? Where are the East Lancashires on the right?

Brigadier-General Oxley- They are lying out in No Man's Land, sir. And most of them will never stand again.

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-21-10 11:32 AM EDT (US)     50 / 52       
Great closing lines, typical of the style of your previous series. Just one thing which I have noticed in some of your previous stories as well...
You have on a Roman tunic under it, and caligula.
Caliga was the word for a Roman soldier's sandal, plural caligae. Caligula was a diminutive, and solely the nickname of the Emperor Gaius, not an actual word.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

/\
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(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-21-10 11:38 AM EDT (US)     51 / 52       
Another ten or fifteen times reminding me, and I might actually remember that.

Damn these old neurons! Only 45 years old and wearing out already...

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 06-21-10 11:41 AM EDT (US)     52 / 52       
Okay, so caliga was the word for -

Don't kick yourself over little details. Your overall degree of historical accuracy is very impressive.
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