IE6 is not supported at this time. Please consider upgrading to Internet Explorer 9, FireFox, Apple Safari, or Google Chrome.

Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven



You must be logged in to post messages.
Please login or register

Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum
Moderated by Terikel Grayhair

Hop to:    
Welcome! You are not logged in. Please Login or Register.57 replies
Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf's Jaws
Bottom
Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf's Jaws
« Previous Page  1 2  Next Page »
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-09-10 06:56 AM EDT (US)         
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf’s Jaws:

“Rutilius will come in the spring,” the Tencteri repeated. “From Colonia, where he lives, and he will come by boat. He is to have a warband of horsemen with him, but no Eagles. This was all that was known.”

“Ulfrich, we must prepare a warhost with which to greet our guest,” he said slyly. “Place eyes upon Father Rhein, so that you have warning before he arrives.”

“That will not be necessary now. He was to come around the time the birches bud,” the Tencteri added, “But that may be delayed if Father Rhein is engorged by the spring floods. Rutilius has been here many years- he knows the river almost as well as we do.”

“He will come earlier,” Ulfrich snorted. “No man knows how long Father Rhein will be swollen. He will come before the spring floods.”

“If he knows the Rhein, I concur,” the Tencteri added.

“Give the merchant a handful of gold and see him out,” Udo comanded to a house-wench. He turned to Ulfrich. “This is indeed great news, brother. Let us celebrate tonight. Tomorrow you will gather a warhost of spearmen, hunters, and riders to give our guest a proper Bructeri welcome.”

Ulfrich grinned.

“But not too soon,” Udo warned. “Let him enjoy our landscape and forests for a day or two, so that his boats are no longer at hand for a quick escape. Lure him into our jaws, brother, then snap them shut and end his threat once and for all!”

“Shall I try to capture him alive?”

Udo shrugged. “If you can, do so. We can kill him here, at our leisure, while he can gaze upon the silver eagle you took from Lupercus- knowing he will never have it. But brother, if he should fall in battle, that too is an acceptable fate. Do not risk your life to spare him an extra day or two.”

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

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-09-10 07:07 AM EDT (US)     1 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Seven riders escorted a covered wagon north, which itself was trailed by two footmen. It appeared to the naked eye to be a simple merchantman and his escort, the kind seen exiting the Empire several times per year to trade for goods among the tribes. The escorts were armed, and the footmen had bows. The merchant himself, dressed well but not richly, drove the wagon. The number of guards was about right for a merchantman. There was nothing special at all about them at all to say they were other than what they appeared to be.

A second glance, closer, revealed a difference. Their appearance was good- mailed shirts of a professional guard, long swords suited to horse battles, helmets of various makes as one would expect. No, looking at them individually told one only that these were merchants on the road. What tipped off the scrutinizing viewer was their actions- merchant guards tend to cling around the wagon they guard. These roamed further afield, almost out of sight of their charge. And worse, they rode right past the turnoff to a small village only an hour’s walk away. No true merchant would ever pass up the chance at lodging indoors and making a few denarii while doing it.

So when the woman walking up the trial saw the tracks keep heading north, without even a pause, she knew they were not the merchants the farmers and villagers said were passing north. She had immediately an idea who this merchant was and where he was headed. A few other tracks confirmed her suspicions. That hooked horseshoe off to the left was on the dapple-grey horse favored by Amalric the Silent. And the white fur on the thistles over there could only come from the brown horse with the white socks favored by Glam, son of Reidar. The irregular pattern of nails in the hoof confirmed it. And of course, the brown-tailed stallion favored by her former lover for riding. Only it had that prancing step when ridden by another, which was shown there on the ground nearest the wagon.

Froydis rose up and smiled to herself. Now what was Marcus Rutilius doing here pretending to be a merchant? She knew it to be him- Glam and Amalric were two of his guards- well-known here in Batavian lands, faceless in foreign lands. She thought over it, and like normal, the answer came to her. He was going to cross the Nabalia! What a fool! Froydis could not let that happen- no matter his purpose of going there, the only outcome she could see was his death in those hostile woods. She loved him too much to allow that to be his fate.

She hurried. With any luck she could catch him before he reached a ford or a bridge, and then, maybe, if she was lucky, talk some sense into that hard Roman head of his. He had already stolen her heart- she could not allow him to let his own be spitted by his enemies over a roasting fire. So she hurried, as if the demon-dog Garm himself was on her heels.

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

Marcus Rutilius knew nothing of this. To him, his team was the perfect appearance of a simple merchant trying to make an honest living trading. He had a trader’s wagon with all its authentic merchantman furnishings- courtesy of a poisoner in Colonia. He was dressed in a merchant’s armor- courtesy of Tiberius Labeo, king of the Batavians, and cloaked in a fine Cananefate cloak. His mother ensured he spoke her native tongue, and his years in the western part of the province gave him the tongue of the Cananefate as well. His blonde hair was growing long and shaggy, and his beard- two weeks old- was filling in nicely. To any who saw him, he was a simple merchant riding point for the wagon.

Off to his left was Glam, son of Reidar. Glam was a veteran of the border, and served the Batavians well during their failed revolt. After that, he sold his sword to merchants, then became a farmer. But scratching dirt held no appeal for him, so he was soon looking for a lord to whom he could sell his sword. He found that lord in Rutilius, and was one of the original eighty Batavians who volunteered to serve in his guard.

Amalric the Silent was another. He was off to the right of Rutilius, keeping an eye open for the river he knew would soon be coming closer. He also kept an eye out for roving bands of men. The winter cold forced many bushes to lose their leaves, making ambushes easier to spot. Like Glam, he was a veteran of the Batavian cohorts which did so much damage to the Empire. And like Glam, after the war he puddled about doing nothing until a Bructeri lowlife tried to assassinate Rutilius in the market square of Noviomagus. He joined the guard then, vowing never to let some foreigner deprive Rome of its best legate.

Publius Acilius drove the wagon. He was a lictor, but had once been a cartographer. He was the only one of the crew who could handle a wagon- cartographers carried much equipment with them and were often on the move. He traded that life in to serve Rome as a lictor when his father’s company, where he worked, when bankrupt under Nero. He had been with Cordinus, the governor, to many lands, and always kept a record of it, which was why Cordinus assigned him to Rutilius for this expedition. By his side was Wolf, Son of Ragnar the Hunter, who kept his francisca ready to hand and a dagger in his boot as well.

Titus Acilius, no relation to the wagon drover, was also a lictor who had served Cordinus long and well. He was a former cavalry auxilia, which was why he was currently on the spare horse of Rutilius off on the far right flank.

Hermann Otgar’s Son was another Batavian guard, on the far left. Closer in to the wagon rode Harald Forkbeard and Dagthor the Strong. Their stories was similar to the others.

The two footmen were not Batavian, however, which was why they were walking. Jorgen of the Cananefate carried a bow for missile support, but was also a hardy warrior in melee. Jorgen was the son of Niall, king of the Cananefate, though currently exiled from his lands for killing a man- though justified- from behind. His partner, Aelric, was a Ubian, and a new recruit for the Batavian Guard of Rutilius. He was giving tips to Jorgen about archery while they walked and Jorgen gave the Ubian tips about swordplay in return, though each kept an eye out to the flanks and rear of the miniature cavalcade.

They never saw Froydis, who was running along the more direct route along the river.

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

“There is the first ford, lord,” Amalric reported when his horse reached Rutilius. “Shall we cross here, or check further north?”

Rutilius looked over the crossing. The dirt road parted the trees to the river, where one could see it crossed another before reaching the river. The river widened a bit here, indicating it could be more shallow, and the continuation of the track beyond was proof that men had used this point to cross the Nabalia before. He also knew that further north was a broken bridge that may now be repaired. It was there he and Cerealis had taken the surrender of Julius Civilis, ending the Batavian revolt.

“We need to check this out,” Rutilius decided. “Then we go north to find other sites.”

Amalric nodded, and trotted off to the wagon to relay the instructions. Acilius brought the wagon forward, while the outriders closed in upon it with military precision. A camp would be set up to dry the leggings and clothing of the volunteer crossing, while the others would be unlimbering bows and javelins to cover him from harm. But those preparations halted when a figure emerged from the right-hand track and turned promptly toward them.

Marcus reared his horse back in surprise, to keep it from trampling the woman who so suddenly appeared. Glam and Amalric closed tighter in alarm, until they recognized the plain brown cloak and red shawl of the woman. They slowed to a canter, then a walk, as they neared.

“What do you here, woman?” Marcus asked, his voice a little louder and harsher than he intended. He recognized Froydis at once, causing his heart to race, but not as fast as her so-sudden appearance did.

Froydis gave a small laugh. “One could ask you the same, Marcus. To my eyes, it appears you are going to cross into Bructeri territory with nothing but these few warriors at your side. So tell me, lover, why do you wish to die so hideously?”

“What does she mean, lord?” asked Publius Acilius. He could understand the Germanic tongue spoken here, but could not speak it, thus he asked in Latin, to the chagrin of his fellows.

“She means that the Germani over there,” Glam replied, pointing across the river, “would boil some of us alive, roast others in wicker cages, and make the last one watch before they skin him out to make a nice present for their gods.”

“Which they would do if they heard you sing out like that in the tongue of the Romani,” Amalric added. “You understand our tongue well enough. So for all our sakes, be a mute.”

Publius blushed at his error, realizing now just what consequences such a loose tongue would have. He gulped once, and nodded twice.

Marcus stared into the woman’s eyes. Those large, lovely, pools of blue, sometimes so deep as to be purple. Now he saw more than love in those pools- he saw a trace of fear. Of what? But he knew three things about the Cugerni widow who stood before him. One was that she loved him fiercely. A second was that she would not betray him- she was immensely trustworthy. And third, she was very, very good at noticing things. This last he put to the test. It always amazed him how much she could deduce from simple things most other people missed. She brought that talent to a form of art.

“You tell me, Froydis,” he said in challenge.

Froydis knew this game. She looked over the wagon and the men, their horses, their gear, and themselves. Then she said, “You are going across the Nabalia into Bructeri lands disguised as merchants. Your appearances are almost perfect, though the strides, discipline, and power of your horses scream warhorse to any who pay attention. The wagon you acquired from Burnix, I see- his markings are still visible here and over there.

“You have at least one Roman with you, two if that stiff-spined warrior next to Dagthor is a former cavalryman and not simply an injured Batavi like Dieter. The calluses on his hands and fingers, and on that of your drover, combined with the way each favors a shoulder, tell me they are used to carrying a load in their hands which they rest upon that shoulder. Each also has a long-handled axe- the rider on his saddle, and the drover poking out from under his seat. Those are not war-axes, but not wood-cutters either. I assume, since the one is Roman and the other possibly, that those are Roman axes. The only Romans who carry Roman axes are lictors in foreign provinces, and since you are quaestor and are authorized two lictors, these must be them.”

Her glance traveled to Glam and Wolf. “Those two, plus Amalric, I recognize from your guards. So you have some true warriors with you as well, which means this is not a courtesy call to discuss peace. The wagon gives it away- you are going as merchants. Merchants have easy access to any village- they are welcomed for whatever news and or goods they may bring. Going as merchants is good cover for one who wishes to travel hidden in the open. Hiding in plain sight is a very successful tactic for spies. So, Marcus, you are going to spy on the Bructeri.”

She looked up into his eyes. He could feel her concern. “You are doing this because of last summer, and because you will be going back this summer. You know more now than you did then, but need good information. So you go to get it. But tell me, Marcus. Where is your woman?”

“Claudia is in Colonia,” he replied, impressed with her deductive skills. “I am sure you know that already. She is due to deliver out first child before the summer.”

Froydis smiled and shook her head. “I knew she was carrying your child before you did,” she reminded him. “But I was talking about your entourage here. Every successful merchant has a woman in the group, either wife or daughter. Roric has Traudl, Burnix has Nelda, Decimus has Licinia, Aethelric has Eadgyth, Gunther has Berta- all have someone. Where is yours?”

Marcus cursed. The woman was right- merchants always have a female. He blushed. “We have none.”

Froydis nodded. “Then you will be studied closely, fail the test, and be slain,” she said bluntly. “Or you can take me along and be successful.”

“I would not risk your life so recklessly, Froydis. I still care very much for you, though I married another.”

Froydis wept to the skies. “He says he loves me still, and because of this love, he condemns himself to death and me to eternal sorrow. Do not be such a fool, Marcus! I travel this land alone, looking for the true love Veleda the Seeress promised me. I thought I had found it in you, but alas, so close. It was not to be. Yet my heart is still in that chest of yours, next to your own, and shall remain there until I find that love I was promised. In the mean time, I must keep your heart beating or risk destroying my own.

“Now,” she said, turning cold and angry at the same time, “I am coming with you, whether you like it or not. Your lictors know little of trading, I assume, being lictors. Your warriors might know a bit, but the fact that they are warriors now instead of merchants says they deplored trading. You know little yourself, paying a full denarius for a mere dozen arrows. Good arrows, I admit, but still? A denarius for a dozen? Please!”

“And you know values and prices?” Marcus asked. There was very little sarcasm in his voice, despite the words. “A Cugerni farmer’s widow who dabbles in healing, but never asked a fee?”

She laughed. “Do you remember the day we first met, lover? Before I helped you bargain with that spy Erwin, I had settled a dispute between two merchants. Peacefully, and to everybody’s satisfaction. I notice things, remember? And I remember them. I can quote you an honest price on most any object I have ever laid eyes on. And I am a woman. I will be your merchant’s woman, handling the chores of the woman, and negotiating prices at the markets while your men do their thing and you watch over me, hand on sword, like a good merchant in hostile territory.”

Rutilius blushed. He had not thought of what to do once he got into a village, other than count its menfolk. He had assumed they would come to him, he would quote a price, and the two would trade. So simple. And it would have gotten them all killed.

“You are correct once again, Froydis of the Cugerni,” he said honestly. “Climb onto the wagon. It seems we have no choice but to take you along, as you say.”

Froydis smiled and nodded, then bounded up into the wagon. Her small hips fit precisely between those of Publius Acilius and of Wolf, but the Batavian jumped down to catch up a spare horse from the two hitched behind the wagon.

“I shall escort Rutilius in the lead,” he announced. “He shall need a runner, should we see anything.”

The others nodded at the wisdom, but Froydis laughed.

“The merchant Rutilius,” she giggled. “He would be dead within minutes. Have you not a Germanic name?” When Marcus blushed again, she knew he had not considered the possibility of changing names. How typically Roman. “You are the merchant lord Marek,” she decided. “Marek, son of Rutger. Now, lord Marek, please lead us onward.”

“We were first going to check out this ford,” he reminded her. “Then head north.”

“This ford will come to your waist all the way across at its deepest,” she said, pointing to the day-old tracks on the dirt road. “No cast–off water should it have reached the chest or arms, and the wagon wheels went dry rather quickly- suggesting they were not wet to the hubs.”

“I like this woman,” Glam said suddenly. “She kept me from having to go into that icy water.”

“I like her too,” Amalric added.

Marcus smiled broadly. “The Guard has spoken. Lord Marek may now officially invite the lady Froydis of the Cugerni into our company of merchants as an equal partner.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-09-10 08:53 AM EDT (US)     2 / 57       
Yay!

Why does Froydis make me think Sherlock Holmes as soon as she opens her mouth?

A very promising start.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 08-09-10 10:44 AM EDT (US)     3 / 57       
A very good start to the chapter.

Indeed Frodyis is very observant. I await more chapters!

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 08-09-10 11:46 AM EDT (US)     4 / 57       
Every Monday and Thursday, as before.

|||||||||||||||| 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
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-12-10 01:49 AM EDT (US)     5 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The bridge was intact and the day still had sunlight, so Marcus decided to head north to see if the third crossing of the Nabalia was likewise useable. It was a bit further north, just outside Batavian lands and into Frisian domains, but it was out of reach for the day. Rutilius called a camp in a small clearing near a stream, and the scouting merchants settled in for the night.

Glam handled the guard roster. Two men would patrol the encampment, roving far outside the firelight with their eyes peering outwards so as to retain their night vision. Every two hours they would go in, wake the next two, stoke the fire, then turn in. Everyone had a turn, except the commander and Froydis. Marcus needed to be sharp, and Froydis was useless with weapons. Thus those two shared a tent while the others hot-bunked out of the other four.

Marcus rolled out his bedding and crawled in, expecting Froydis to do the same in her bedding. Instead, she crawled into his.

“What are you doing, Froydis?” he asked lowly. “You know I am a married man.”

“From this moment until we return from the other side, lover,” she replied easily, “I am your wife. There is a tension between us that should not be between a merchant and his woman. Others may pick up on it, and under closer scrutiny, see through your disguise. That would be your end, and that of those who follow you. So, dear husband, we must erase that tension. You and I shall share the pleasures each night until that tension passes, and again any time it arises. Any who stray near our tents in the villages expect to hear the sounds of passion for a merchant and his wife, thus we must make them.”

He knew she was right. Again. Yet he was married to another, and he took vows seriously. Froydis knew, of course, what was going through his mind. She stroked his chest as she curled up closer to him, then whispered in his ear, “Did you not enjoy our coupling back in Noviomagus so much?”

“You know I did, minx,” he said roughly, pulling her close to kiss her. It was a savage kiss, deep and passionate, that burst a dam inside him. He was married to Claudia- tall, blonde, intelligent, caring noble Claudia- but his heart had belonged to the little Cugerni woman who had spent weeks by his side healing him after a Bructeri assassin had stuck a dagger in him. That one night of pleasure they shared- the night he announced his betrothal to Claudia- had slunk around in his memory and had to be forcefully held in check. But her kiss, her scent, awakened that memory. Frantic adrenaline coursed through their systems, and then they were once again reliving that wonderful night- this time not only in their minds, but with their bodies as well.

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

“I have news from the north,” Gaius Mallius said as he sank into one of Aulus Caecina’s luxurious couches. “Gnaeus Cornelius Clemens was out training with his men, again. The men are in top form, and though they love their commander, they are angry.”

This caught Caecina’s attention. “How so?”

Mallius beamed broadly. “It seems that once again, all their hard work will be for naught, that’s why. Their section of the border is as placid as a wind-still lake, while in Germania Inferior the boys will be crossing the river again. All action up there, none for our Clemens.”

“Rome suffered a reverse there,” Caecina pondered. “It only makes sense to go back and rectify it.”

“Then why the training cycles in Germania Superior?” Mallius asked.

Caecina spat a chunk of wine-colored phlegm at his doltish friend. “Idiot,” he muttered. “Legions are always training- especially border legions. This is no news.”

“Well,” huffed Mallius. “At least one unit will be seeing action- and that right soon. An auxilia of Thracian cavalry was detached to be sent north. Rumor has it they will be performing a scouting mission, and led by a legate, no less.”

Caecina had not risen to consul by being foolish. He could add, and knowing the abilities and petty jealousies of the players in Rome, he could put V and V together to get X faster than most. He sat bolt-upright on his couch.

“From where did you hear this?” he demanded.

“From Messalinus, just after he celebrated his handing over of the consul’s fasces to Titus Vespanianus Junior. The Old Owl is again senior consul, and his prodigal son Titus the junior consul.”

Caecina knew well that the Flavians had again appointed themselves consuls. He had heard it from the outgoing senior consul- Domitianus, the wayward son of the Imperator, who was so peeved at not having his reign prorogued that he emptied a full amphora of wine by himself. But this little detail had escaped mention- until now.

“Did Messalinus give a reason for this scouting mission?”

“I had asked,” Mallius replied. “But he refused to say much. Only something about serving justice.”

Caecina cackled gleefully. “Eprius, you sly son of temple prostitute!”

“Care to share, Aulus?” Mallius asked, completely lost.

Caecina stifled his laughter, but it took a while. “It is not a legate leading that ala- it is a quaestor. The quaestor, in fact, who stands in the way of Germania Inferior falling apart. The man who is single-handedly and unwittingly keeping me from being asked to restore the province. The man who is preventing me from being given command of four legions, which when added to the might our friend Clemens wields with his highly-trained and angry legions in Germania Superior, can give us the power to remove that Imperial Wart from power and restore the republic Helvidius goes on about. And, of course, allow us to run for consul ourselves.”

“Rutilius Gallicus?” Mallius asked. There was no way the Imperator was going to send his governor across to the enemy with naught but an ala of Greek cavalry. It was a suicide mission.

“Not Rutilius Gallicus,” Caecina reprimanded, and sternly at that. “Getting Cordinus assigned to Germania was the first step. That buffoon would ruin the place thoroughly, making it necessary to send me to fix things. He went, he tried, but someone propped him up and gave him some damned fine advice and guidance. Now that someone- another Rutilius- is being sent across the border, effectively removing the support to Cordinus. At the machinations of Eprius himself, if I read my players right.”

“So this obstacle to the Return of the Republic is being sacrificed,” Mallius said slowly as the understanding dawned on him.

“Sacrificed is a bit strong,” Caecina conceded. “Put in harm’s way is better. But we can make it a sacrifice.” He leaned closer to Mallius. “Find out what you can about this operation, then report back tomorrow. Together we will ensure this Obstacle is eliminated.”

Mallius drained his wine and departed. He returned the next day, as commanded.

“Your suspicions were correct,” he said. “Rutilius has been accused of poisoning his superior, but with no evidence, he cannot be tried. Helvidius was singing this man’s praises for so long that the People of Rome would take any trial without evidence to be a farce and a sham, and probably riot. The Imperator was hamstrung, until Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus provided him an outlet. This Rutilius was ordered to perform a reconnaissance of the other side, and to do it by the Ides of May. He was given only the Thracian ala as an escort- pawns easily replaced, and better- easily killed. They are to be transported by river and disembark on the other side, then scout about.”

Caecina thought on that. It put a small crimp in his plans, but not much. Greek cavalry. “Those Thracians are fast, which could give him a chance to perform his task and escape unhindered. Especially if the Germani do not know about it. When is he to depart?”

“I heard the Kalends of April,” Mallius replied. “Though he might be later, spring floods and all.”

Caecina smiled evilly. That cockroach had irked him for the last time. “Use your connections. Let the Bructeri know they will be getting a visitor in early April. Better yet, send the word through the contacts of Helvidius. Gaius Priscus is currently in exile. I do not think he would mind his name being used to further the goals of the Republic, do you?”

Mallius smiled cruelly. “He deserted our cause to simmer in self-exile. To Hades with him.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-12-10 05:44 AM EDT (US)     6 / 57       
And so shows the political brutality of Rome.

Great 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.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-16-10 01:59 AM EDT (US)     7 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus was learning the validity of Froydis’s observations yet again.

They had camped by the former broken bridge, which was now repaired. Twice travelers came by the little campsite, then wandered off mumbling about Burnix being an ass and a liar. This prompted a quick trip to the local village and the purchase of some pigment and oils to cover the tell-tale marks distinguishing the wagon as belonging to the Gallic trader.

A third encounter- after dark- brought Marek the Merchant semi-clothed from his tent to deal with Ricgard, Son of Hein, who wished to trade a stack of his copper pots and his mule for two of the horses. Froydis, listening in the doorway with but a blanket wrapped around her torso, laughed at the offer, and countered with the pots and three mules for the two horses.

Ricgard, a merchant himself, bowed away from the offer, though he did proclaim it a fair trade. He was satisfied that the newly painted wagon was indeed staffed by a veteran merchant. Business across the water was not for the novices. He even said so, provoking a knowing smile from the small woman.

Even with all this preparation and drilling, their first encounter was almost their last. The wagon and its escort crossed the Nabalia by the bridge, leaving the Empire behind and entering the raw Bructeri lands. Publius Acilius was a fair drover for the wagon, and the riders were spread about as was their custom. They followed the tracks of the wagons which had gone before, and when Froydis noticed a new set joining in from the south, she pointed it out and the wagon turned to backtrack them. Where one merchant had been was usually a market for the next- who took back the useless trinkets of the first in trade for useless trinkets of his own.

The wagon had come from no village. The sun was going down, a dull red glow in the western sky. The smell of smoke reached Rutilius and Wolf in the lead, confirming that there were people ahead. But on the far side of a distant clearing rose no walls of a Germanic village- just thirty tiny spots of light. Campfires out in the open, and about a hundred tents could be seen illuminated by their glow.

“Tell the wagon to turn around,” Rutilius ordered. He recognized an encamped warband when he saw one. “I’ll stay here to see if we were spotted.”

Wolf walked his horse back and a few minutes later, Rutilius joined him.

“Nobody noticed,” he said.

“The axles are well-greased,” Wolf replied. “No groan or moan to give it away. We were lucky.”

They were luckier still. An hour further along the original trail they came to a true village. The gates were strong, but opened as the wagon approached. A helmeted warrior peered over the wall.

“You are late for the market, trader,” he said. “But we do not mind. Come on in.”

Rutilius nodded, wondering about the helmet, but the others showed no hesitation. Four riders went through, then the footmen leading the horses of the wagon, then the remaining horsemen. The gates closed behind them as a warrior appeared before them to escort them to the village center. Here Publius Acilius made his near-fatal error.

He commanded the horses to halt, but did so in Latin.

The guard raised his spear in alarm at the tongue, but Wolf laughed at him.

“The horses were acquired over there,” he said between laughs, using the slang of the border to indicate the Empire. “And the beasts were too stupid to learn proper commands in such a short time. Such is the life of a trader, eh?”

The guard smirked, but relaxed. He had indeed seen such occurrences before, his being the first village from the bridge and the draft horses from over there better than the local variety here that was more suited to hunting and warfare.

“We will try to teach them over the next few days, but you know horses,” he continued. “They can be more stubborn and stupid that the roaches themselves.”

Now the guard laughed. “This is true, brother,” he said. “Bed down here. The square is yours for the night. For how long will you be staying?”

Froydis answered this one. “For as long as the trading is profitable, clearly,” she said with a smile. The guard nodded.

“We have honey leftover from the last market, and some woodcarvings that are popular over there,” he added. “And plenty of handicrafts.”

“We are going further, maybe to the Cherusci,” Froydis replied. “They have enough honey and make their own wood. You do not happen to know what they do desire, would you?”

He pointed to the copper pots hanging from the wagon and clanging in the wind. “Metalwork is always welcome, as are steel blanks. Especially now that we are gearing for war.”

Rutilius shuddered. He was here on a scouting mission, ostensibly in preparation for a second push to recover the lost Eagles of the V Alaudae and XV Primigenia, but nothing official had been heard. Yet the Bructeri were already preparing for war, as if they knew already.

Veleda. It has to be their Seeress. She foresaw their coming to her tower, and booby-trapped it before fleeing. She gave them warning last year. Now she does the same, before we ourselves even know we come. She is indeed powerful.

“You can tell from the reaction of my husband that we want nothing to do with war,” Froydis said easily, and with a small laugh. “He is no coward, but wars are terrible for business, which is why we travel east- away from where wars may be fought.”

“Many have died,” the guard admitted solemnly, then added in a lighter tone, “and that is many less to buy your wares.”

“See why we abhor war?” she chided gently. “Now, to business if we may. We have some goods we know are wanted, and some of which we are not sure. How were the harvests this autumn? Are their any villages in the area planning a wedding celebration or other feast? Do you know if the noblemen here have yet acquired a taste for foreign wine as the ones further south, or are they still addicted to their beers and ales?”

The guard answered as best he could, knowing he might be rewarded with a small flagon of the trader’s beer for his honesty. It was the same with every trader, it seemed. The local gossip they heard turned into business opportunities later. He knew what was being done with the tidbits of gossip, he just could not put it together himself as could a merchant. Which is why I am a warrior and not a merchant, he sighed.

Froydis thanked him by tapping a horn of Burnix’s Gallic beer and sent him on his way once it was drained. The Acilii had the tents up by the time the guard departed, and the Batavians came together to discuss the guard roster and their findings.

“Fifty homes, half of which are dark and appear abandoned, on the east side,” Glam reported. “Each large enough to hold four families or so.”

“About the same on the west,” Amalric added.

“And only about three hundred men in the forest two hours walk away,” Wolf reminded them.

“We’ll get a better count in the morning,” Rutilius decided. “Until then, standard guard roster and enjoy a night within walls for once.”


Froydis awoke in the night. Her senses told her it was close on to midnight, the gentle snoring of Rutilius told her he was fast asleep, yet the gentle footpads of the guards circling the tents had stopped. She reached under the covers and began fondling Marcus, who came awake with a start.

“Shhh,” she whispered. “Quiet. Make love to me now. Quickly.” When he began a gentle protest, she gripped his member harder. “No backtalk. Just coupling, Now. As if your life depended on it, for it does.”

Marcus reached for his dagger, but she grabbed his hand and placed it upon a bare breast. His instincts told him to trust her, yet they also told him she might be taking advantage of the situation for her own satisfaction. But the urgency in her voice... He caressed the breast then started his mating ritual in earnest.

They were well on their way to a climax when footsteps could barely be heard coming closer to the tent. People making love have incredibly poor hearing concerning outside events when their partners are breathing heavily with excitement and the blood is pounding in their ears. Froydis was giving small groans as the pleasure mounted.

Outside, Wolf stopped at the doors to the tent and looked to the five men who had asked to meet with the merchant at such an hour. They were hard men, armed with swords at their waists, and hands that rested threateningly upon the hilts of those scabbarded swords. Their expressions were not ones of welcome, more of hostility.

“My lord is busy,” Wolf said as the sounds of passion grew louder. “As you can hear. You will have to wait.”

The leader of the village, a bear of a man, grunted, but held his ground. And waited. And as the rhythm emerging from the tent grew quicker, his hands and those of his men began easing on the hilts of the swords. By the time Froydis gave a gasp at her climax and Rutilius gave a grunt signifying his own, the men outside were standing still, almost relaxed, small smiles on their faces, and hands well away from the hilts.

“Now, trader?”

Wolf shook his head. “Let them enjoy the afterglow for a few minutes, lord. Then I will fetch him for you.”

The lordling nodded. And waited.

After a few minutes, Wolf knocked discretely upon the tentpole. “Lord Marek, Heilthor, Lord of this burg, wishes to speak with you.”

“A merchant’s day is never over,” was the whispered reply inside the tent, then louder, “Ik kom.”

Rutilius threw on his Cananefate cloak and belted the Batavian seax onto his belt before coming out. His cloak, and the thick blonde fur now gracing his face, coupled with the seax to set his visitor a bit more at ease. The scent of recent sex was still upon him, making the lord a bit uncomfortable.

“Marek, Son of Rutger, from the village of Near the Water in the lands of the Cananefate,” he said in his best Cananefatian, then tried again in Chatti- mixing but a few Cananefate words in.

The local lord nodded and held out his open hand. “Heilthor, son of Audun, lord of this burg.”

Marek shook the hand in the Germanic fashion. “What can ik do for you?” he asked.

Heilthor looked a bit embarrassed. “I shall not bother you again, Marek, Son of Rutger. The watch reported letting a foreign merchant in, two days after the market was held. We thought you might be Roman, or Frisian- tribes with whom we have had problems recently. The fool did not say you were Cananefate with a mixed escort, with whom we have no quarrel, only that you were foreign.”

“Ik should have sought thee out when we first arrived,” Marek admitted. “But the hour was late, and Ik had no wish to disturb thee at thine dinner, or other pleasurable activities.”

Heilthor blushed. “I shall send over a barrel of our finest ale, as recompense for disturbing you so late, Lord Marek. Enjoy your stay in our town.” With that, Heilthor circled a fist above his head and waved towards his own home. The rustling of warriors retreating in the dark could be heard, and the lowering of Batavian bows in reply. Then he himself withdrew.

Marcus returned to the tent. He found Froydis laying on her back picking his flesh from her nails and smiling. She had heard the exchange, and noticed the change in tone of the local lord’s words.

“I told you,” she whispered. “A merchant who enjoys the pleasures with his wife is far more trustworthy than one who is not.”

“Ja ja ja,” he muttered and he rejoined her under the covers. “And I have learned something new as well- merchants always report to the local lord upon entry. I had not known this.”

“Nor I,” Froydis added. “Unless the merchant sends a partner to the local lord- such people flow constantly around a marketplace and are thus impossible to identify as agents or partners of a merchant until afterwards. Well, we live, and love, and learn. Welcome to Life, lover.” With that, she rolled over to go to sleep, exposing her slender back for him to caress before dropping off into the bliss of sated sleep.

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

The next day was spent as a typical trader. The sides of the wagon were opened to display the wares, an escort was put at either end, and Froydis handled the negotiations while Marek looked on. Some few men stopped by to trade for knives, or sandstone for sharpening weapons, or leather for scabbards, but most of the people coming to trade were women- almost nine out of ten. They traded sewn trousers, leathern boots, and braided knots, among other things like ceramic pots of jellies, jams, and honeyed fruit.

Most of them were pregnant, Rutilius noticed. He said nothing, but could not help but notice. It intrigued him, though- the village was nigh onto empty of men, yet so many were carrying children.


The other guards were roaming the village, helping a smith here, or a farmer with a bale of hay there. The smiths were the busiest- repairing swords, making axes, and shoeing horses. And those women scurrying to and fro on their daily business could not help but to smile at the fresh men come to visit. Some few would stop and stare, while others came brazenly up to them and chatted.

The two Acilii remained in their tent for most of the afternoon- they would be pulling the guard shift all night and needed their rest. This turned out to be a good idea. During the day, those wandering around- as well as the two by the wagon- were asked to dinner by Bructeri widows. Most would be returning to the tents after the dinner, then sneaking off to their hostesses when the sun was deep in its nightly sleep.

In tender discussions after the satisfying of the widows, it was learned that almost two thirds of the local men had been killed during the wars of the last five years. Many left behind wives, but few left behind children. The women were thus alone, and lonely. The Batavians of the Guard did not mind at all.

In their own tent, Marek and Froydis cuddled up to one another under the furry blankets and chatted in low tones.

“Something intrigues me,” he whispered. “From the market we learned that most of the men have been killed in battle. The three hundred we saw in the woods came together recently- obviously for battle preparation- yet those three hundred or so was the combined strength of several villages, so maybe fifty or sixty came from here- a village big enough to hold five hundred men. Yet many of the women are with child.”

“Homecoming,” Froydis whispered in reply.

“Eh?”

“Homecoming,” she repeated. “After a large battle, especially one in which the men of a tribe have been slaughtered, the grieving widows throw themselves at the survivors. Each mates with as many as she can, in the hope of conceiving a child to avenge her fallen man. It is an old and time-honored tradition that helps a tribe regenerate quickly. It seems the widows here celebrated a Homecoming after the battles this summer past, judging by their bellies. The numbers of four-year olds running around suggest another Homecoming in the war which killed my husband.”

“Ah,” Marcus whispered. “Barbarous, but effective.”

“You are too civilized, my darling,” the woman replied, pulling him atop herself. “Tribes need warriors to survive. Warriors take six years to grow up from children. Children need ten years to grow from babies. Thus to make a tribe strong, one must have babies. No babies, no tribe.”

“As I said, effective.”

She pulled his head closer and kissed him. “I see Rome has so many men that she does not need a Homecoming to remain strong. Rome has millions. This tribe, my love- it dies. Not even a Homecoming every year can make them strong before they are absorbed- either by Rome, or another tribe. Now, enough talk of dying tribes. Let us work on starting our own...”


The one-wagon caravan rolled out the following morning, emptied of some goods, reloaded with others, and packed with all kinds of worthwhile information concerning the village, its manpower, its situation- and those of the surrounding villages, which could now be by-passed to go further into uncharted territory. Each evening, Publius Acilius would open his scroll and make marks upon it relating the day’s travels and what information was gleaned.

This cycle was repeated at four more villages over the course of the next week, creating a rather detailed idea of the status of the Bructeri tribe. Their findings were, to say the least, surprisingly similar to those in the report sent to the governor and Rome. Rutilius thought back over the past week and the orders bringing him here. As much as he disliked it, the Old Owl was most certainly wasting his time in ordering a confirmation.

The report was correct.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
RomulusofEpirus
Ashigaru
posted 08-16-10 03:59 AM EDT (US)     8 / 57       
I havent started reading this, but one question. Do i have to read the other stories top get this one?
also, sorry for spamming, but can someone comment on my war story?
sorry.

The Dutch-Moroccan Wars
War without France would be like... World War II- Unknown
Researcher for Dark Ages: Roman Revival (now i have something to be proud of lol)

[This message has been edited by RomulusofEpirus (edited 08-16-2010 @ 06:53 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-16-10 04:46 AM EDT (US)     9 / 57       
Unfortunately, yes. This is the fifth part of a multi-part tale.

The others are listed in the OP, in order.

This series is actually a sequel to my previous 12-part series that began here.

Happy readings!

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-16-2010 @ 04:50 AM).]

RomulusofEpirus
Ashigaru
posted 08-16-10 04:50 AM EDT (US)     10 / 57       
looks like ive got a lot of reading to do

The Dutch-Moroccan Wars
War without France would be like... World War II- Unknown
Researcher for Dark Ages: Roman Revival (now i have something to be proud of lol)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 08-16-10 05:00 AM EDT (US)     11 / 57       
Ah so the drumbeat of war rages in the lands east of the Rhine.

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 08-19-10 02:59 AM EDT (US)     12 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Ulfrich burst into the kings’ hall he shared with his twin, giddy with excitement and dragging a Tencteri merchant with him by the arm.

“Brother!” he cried to Udo, who was lounging uneasily on the carved stool he used as a throne. “Brother, listen to what this man has to tell!” Ulfrich turned to the Tencteri and commanded, “Tell him, Bock, what you just told me.”

“Lord, I was trading among the Chatti for minerals and jewels, of which their lands have plenty, in order to bring them to the Chauci, who have little of either,” the merchant explained, simultaneously rubbing his arm strongly trying to restore some circulation cut off by Ulfrich’s grip. “I ran into an old friend, Istrachios, there. He is a Greekling, but a fine man for that. He has a silver tongue, lord, and contacts ranging both far and wide through many lands, making him a respected and especially adept merchant.”

Udo looked down at the Tencteri. “Money-grubber,” he cursed lowly, “I am less than interested in Greeklings or the ways of hoodwinking a man to part with what he holds dear. If there is something of import in this long tale of yours, I would suggest you get to it.”

The Tencteri gulped. “Yes, lord. Istachios had word he wished to send north, and as I was heading that way, I agreed to bear his message. He said to tell you that the Eagle King in Romeburg, in his wisdom, has decided to send forth a high-ranking magistrate to your lands to investigate a report he had received which states that your tribe is extinct. For this mission he chose a quaestor, who will be accompanied by two lictors- men in red robes bearing rods and axes, and will have as an escort a warband of Greekling horsemen.”

“So he sends a scout,” Udo scoffed. “Like I care.”

“Brother!” Ulfrich roared. “Did you not hear? The Eagle King sends Rutilius! And with but a small escort of flimsy riders. He hands us the Dam that Stops the Germanic Flood!”

Ulfrich sat up at that. “Marcus, or Caius? Which Rutilius does he send into our clutches?”

“I have heard no names, only that a quaestor was selected.”

“Quaestor... that would be a chieftain, not the kinglet. Brother! He sends us Marcus!” He turned viciously to the Tencteri. “Did your Greekling friend give any details about his coming?”

The Tencteri quivered. Udo’s wrath was well-known- and feared. Rumors say he slew a Chauci king in honorable combat, then decapitated the man and held the severed head up to his own anus, nose first, in the ultimate insult.

“Rutilius will come in the spring,” the Tencteri repeated. “From Colonia, where he lives, and he will come by boat. He is to have a warband of horsemen with him, but no Eagles. This was all that was known.”

“Ulfrich, we must prepare a warhost with which to greet our guest,” he said slyly. “Place eyes upon Father Rhein, so that you have warning before he arrives.”

“That will not be necessary now. He was to come around the time the birches bud,” the Tencteri added, “But that may be delayed if Father Rhein is engorged by the spring floods. Rutilius has been here many years- he knows the river almost as well as we do.”

“He will come earlier,” Ulfrich snorted. “No man knows how long Father Rhein will be swollen. He will come before the spring floods.”

“If he knows the Rhein, I concur,” the Tencteri added.

“Give the merchant a handful of gold and see him out,” Udo comanded to a house-wench. He turned to Ulfrich. “This is indeed great news, brother. Let us celebrate tonight. Tomorrow you will gather a warhost of spearmen, hunters, and riders to give our guest a proper Bructeri welcome.”

Ulfrich grinned.

“But not too soon,” Udo warned. “Let him enjoy our landscape and forests for a day or two, so that his boats are no longer at hand for a quick escape. Lure him into our jaws, brother, then snap them shut and end his threat once and for all!”

“Shall I try to capture him alive?”

Udo shrugged. “If you can, do so. We can kill him here, at our leisure, while he can gaze upon the silver eagle you took from Lupercus- knowing he will never have it. But brother, if he should fall in battle, that too is an acceptable fate. Do not risk your life to spare him an extra day or two.”

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

Caius Avitus knew little of anything anymore. He was the aide to the quaestor in title only it seemed, and the deputy governor himself in practice. He handled all the daily administration of the upper half of the province by himself, and sent those scrolls requiring signatures or decisions to the private residence of the quaestor outside of town. A few days later, the scrolls would come back, sealed, and be sent on to their recipients. Marcus Rutilius, the quaestor, would usually pop by every week or so to handle those personally. Now he required all cases to be brought to his home, and refused to visit the office.

Caius had been a good legionary, which was why he had gotten the posting. He could read and write, which was why he had been selected as optio. He fought well, and was disciplined. He had a skill at letters and tactics, but his planning and logistical talents were still early in their development. Some things he simply could not project or contemplate.

His current task was one of them. He was to greet an inbound fleet at the quays, and hand the prefect of the cavalry ala it carried a scroll, then order a Batavian Guardsman to guide the ala to a campground north of the city where Rutilius would meet them and brief them on their mission. Strange. Why could the quaestor not be here himself, or even show up to the regional office to supervise a bit?

Strange things were afoot. And Caius Avitus could not imagine why. Axel, the Ubian recruit to the Batavian Guard, knew the reason, but wild horses would not drag it out of him. Too many lives of people he liked and admired were on the line. So he stood in the cold wind, awaiting the fleet with Avitus, and kept his mouth shut while the aide pondered the apparent desertion of his lord.

The fleet came into sight, and began maneuvering to the quay. There were six ships in all, slender riverine galleys, and each was packed to the gunwales with horses and their handlers, both of whom were more than happy to step off the ships and back onto dry land where they could stretch their legs and feel solid earth under them once again.

The tribune came forward. “Ave,” he said with a salute. “Tribunus Xandros, I Ala Thracum, reporting.”

“Ave,” Avitus replied. “Caius Avitus, quaestor’s aide, welcome to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensi. This man here will lead you to the Quaestor Rutilius, who awaits you in a field north of the city.”

Caius looked over the fleet with questioning eyes. The ships really were packed in tightly transporting the ala. “I was told there would be twelve ships in all,” he said, “with at least four of them pulling livestock barges for the horses.”

“I wish,” Xandros agreed. “Damned cramped aboard with the ala crammed inside these six. It was a really tight fit. Did your lord tell you how much time we have before we have to get back aboard?”

“At least a few days,” Avitus replied. “He wanted to evaluate your unit and brief you on what to expect.”

“Good,” Xandros sighed in relief. He gestured to his men to disembark- and pronto, before someone changes their mind. “Damned horses aren’t worth a damn for a few hours after that boat ride.”

This was a problem Caius could do something about, and do it well. “We have livestock barges in our harbor, currently not in use. I’ll arrange for them to be put in the water and secured to your galleys before you return.”

Xandros breathed another sigh of relief. “Good man. I’d hate to watch your quaestor get us all killed because the bloody horses cramped up from the tight confinement.”

Avitus shivered. He knew little of horses, but he knew the effects tight confinements had upon his human body. But humans can push through pain and think of ways to alleviate it- horses can not. Did Rutilius think of that effect? He had to know.

“Axel, let the cavalry work their limbs loose here for an hour, then meet me at the north gate. There are some things I need to arrange, and questions for the quaestor I need answered.”

Axel groaned internally, then nodded. Scheisse. What now? His orders were explicit. Bring the horseborne north, and only the horseborne. Under no circumstances was the fussy little Roman with the thick wrists to know anything other than that Marcus is at home.

He had an hour and a problem. The home of Marcus, the Sacra estate, was twenty minutes away. A wolfish grin, a quick ride and help with the problem would be at hand. He returned in time to see the ala forming up for a march. He walked his horse to the head of the column and dismounted there.

“We shall exit the west gate,” he informed the tribunus. “I have heard that the road north is clogged by a farmer bringing some pigs in for slaughter and sale. This way, please.”

At the west gate he called a halt, ‘to await the quaestor’s aide.’ Half an hour later, he had the city watch send word to the north gate that the ala was at the west gate, awaiting his arrival. Fifteen minutes after that, and a cold glare from Avitus, the small column exited the warmth of the city for the cold, openness of the land beyond, and once upon the road, swung north toward Two-Tree farm.

It was a brisk trip, but the horses were glad to finally exercise their cold and cramped muscles. By the time the turn-off to Two-Tree came into view, the Greek horses were lively and fresh again. Axel led them up the way, until the farm and its barren fields could be seen. A man on a white horse, clad in a silver cuirass and sporting a flowing red cloak, could be seen overseeing the maneuvers of forty horsemen as they charged with lances leveled at the target dummies set up on the field. A single trooper was coming toward them, halting the ala.

“Caius Avitus?” he called as he neared. The aide rode forward. “For you, sir, from Lord Marcus.”

Avitus muttered curses under his breath at the familiarity the Guard took to their master. ‘Lord Marcus’ indeed. It was Lord Rutilius, or the Quaestor, you insolent savage. Despite that, he reached forward and took the scroll. He noticed the seal- it was indeed the signet of the Quaestor, and it was still warm from the sealing. He opened it and read slowly. His eyes widened as he read.

Caius,

I have been given a secret mission- to scout the lands of the Tencteri for a push against them this summer. Tell nobody. To all but you, I am here on the farm, sick with a fever, but will recover. I need you to remain in CCAA to run the province while the ala and myself are away. So return. Again, tell nobody. I am counting on you.

M. Rutilius


Caius rolled the scroll up quickly and cast about. Nobody was near enough to have glanced at the contents, much less had the time to decipher it. But the trooper was still before him, holding out his hand.

“I am to return the scroll to our master,” he said. “No evidence, you understand.”

Caius nodded. There was fear evident in his eyes, but not a fear of his own life- but rather, concern for someone for whom he cared. He had been a legionary here on the border for five years- he knew what dangers lay ahead. He gulped once, then handed back the scroll. “Guard! I am returning to Colonia immediately. If you need anything, I shall arrange it. Tribune, your fleet will be ready to carry you when you return.”

The tribune nodded as the aide rode away. Axel let him get a bit down the road before leading the ala to where the silver-cuirassed man supervised the others. Another man, this one obviously a local, rode forward. He introduced himself as Claudius Victor, steward of Lord Marcus, and asked the tribune if he or any of his men knew anything about their mission, or the man they would be escorting. When the tribune shook his head, Claudius gave him a brief biography to include familial descent, then led them over to where Dieter Straightback stood, clad in the armor and cape of a Roman general.

“You men have probably not heard of me before,” Dieter lied easily and loudly. “But I grew up in the poorest section of Rome herself, a half-blood surrounded by Germanic slaves toiling daily for the people of my father. I rose above that hybrid fate when I joined the legions. I have been a centurion, a tribune, a legate, and am now a magistrate. My childhood and eight years here on the border give me an atrocious accent, but I care not. The Corona Civica I won north of here makes me a Senator, far above my origins. And it makes me a frikkin’ war hero, assholes, so I will tolerate no horseshit from any of you!”

That last bit was aimed at a few Thracians who were smirking in the back ranks. They quickly sat upright upon their horses at the sharp use of harsh language and paid bloody good attention thereafter.

“We are going across the river to scout and plunder,” Dieter shouted. “You are to be my escort. But first I need to know what sort of lowlife cockroaches the Imperial Owl sends to me.” He pointed to the target dummies on the field. “Those represent Germanic bowmen and axemen. They are attacking us. Tribune, take them out!”

The Thracians were caught by surprise at the order, but obeyed the imperative without question. They kicked their horses to a gallop and plowed into the targets with lances lowered, and swords drawn in the rear ranks. The ala reformed beyond the targets, facing Dieter.

“They are still standing!” he bellowed.

Again the Thracians charged forward. This time their formation was better, and their impact upon the targets harder. Still, they left much to be desired.

“Not too shabby, that second time,” he said in praise. “Now, let me show you how it is done. Guards! Targets!”

Forty Batavian Guardsmen emerged from behind the long barn where they had been stationed. In perfect order, they rounded the building, dressed their line, lowered their spears, and charged. It was as if each horse was a copy of the other- such perfection in motion- and then the targets were hit by the spears as the horses passed. Once through the line of targets, the Batavians whipped around smartly and hit the targets again. This time the targets fell. Dieter was watching with pride beaming from his eyes, and the Thracian tribune Xandros let slip a single tear- watching the Batavians move was like watching liquid beauty flow effortlessly upon the foe and drown it. If only his men could perform so beautifully!

Dieter was not watching his countrymen perform their circus tricks. Instead, he was watching the Greeklings. He saw the awe and admiration bloom in them, and smiled inside at what that meant. Parade-ground soldiers. Vespasian sends parade-ground pretty-boys to do the work of real men. Claudia was right- Rome did want her husband dead. He had seen enough, though maybe there was some hidden diamonds in that muddle of men. He gestured to three men who stood by watching. They acknowledged the unspoken order and disappeared into the barn.

“Gather around, you lot,” Dieter ordered the cavalry ala. “Dismount.”

As the ala dismounted, the three Batavians came back carrying barrels of wooden swords. Each man took one upon command, and formed a ragged ring around the man in the silver cuirass.

“I need to evaluate your fighting skills,” he shouted to the ala. “I have seen your riding and charge, now I shall see how you handle a blade. Each of you has a wooden sword. Pair up, and start fencing. My staff and I will observe, and in some cases, step in to get a better feel.”

The Thracians obeyed, tentatively at first, but as Batavians came in among them and dropped a few who were just playing, in earnest. Dieter roamed the field, fencing a bit, but mostly watching. Eventually four men were deemed the best of the ala. He separated these out to stand opposite Claudius Victor and himself.

“You four are the champions of the ala,” he said. “Come. Four of you against the two of us. Attack.”

The Thracians came on, circling the two men. Both Dieter and Claudius stood apart, their backs a good pace and a half from their partner’s, their mouths whispering to each other their evaluations. Claudius had the best- he said the tribune would initiate, with his opposite member going next, then the other two joining in, and it was so.

What happened next went too fast for the Thracians to follow. Shieldless, the two Batavians did not await the rush of the Thracians. When the Thracians began their move, the Batavians rushed their opposites and got up under their long cavalry slashes to punch their opponents to the ground. Whipping about, they smacked down the other two in a whirlwind of flashing wood before returning to the originals who were just rising.

“Avoid battle and you may live,” Claudius said to Dieter in their language. The Thracians, not understanding Batavian, merely gawked at the ease their four best men were demolished.

“I think you are right,” Dieter replied. “But I must go, or our lord may not return hale.”

“Das ist wahr,” Claudius sighed in reply. That is true.

“Get up, you four,” Dieter commanded. “Take your mounts into the barn, and set up your tents outside. Tonight your decurions and commander will dine with me in my tent, where I shall lay out the mission. Tomorrow, men of Rome, and the next day we train, so that what I have witnessed today will not occur when steel instead of straw is arrayed against us.”

Two hours later, the decurions were briefed, and sent back to the ala to ready the men. The seriousness on their faces told the auxilia that they were indeed to pay attention, to learn fast, and above all that danger looms. The tribune stayed behind, on Dieter’s request.

“We are alone,” Claudius Victor wheezed as he entered the tent after returning the decurions. “You make speak freely.”

The tribune, puzzled, looked to the quaestor for some kind of idea. He saw but a big grin, that quickly died.

“I am not Marcus Rutilius,” he admitted. “I am the Commander of his Guard, a former tribune of cavalry as are you. The quaestor himself is already across the river, performing his mission. You and I, Xandros, are to keep up the appearances that I am the quaestor, in order to deflect unwanted attention.”

“You think the enemy has spies about,” the tribune deduced quickly, “but that I am not one of them. Are you sure?”

“We are sure,” Claudius whispered. “The spymaster is in Rome, but none of you have had contact with Rome since arriving in Germania Superior.” To the suddenly-questioning glance of the tribune, he added, “we too have our spies.”

“We tell you the truth now, that you may act correctly should someone break my cover,” Dieter continued. “We are indeed going across the river, this entire ala, and maybe into the arms of a Bructeri ambush. We shall try to prevent that, of course. But I doubt most of us will make it. Whoever the spymaster in Rome is, he sits very high up and has many connections. He will have informed the Germani.”

“So my ala is being sacrificed,” Xandros cursed. “That rat Clemens, I will bet. He has never liked us- always giving us the worst jobs while coddling those overgrown Gauls of his with the cushy ones. He must have known of this mission, and its probable outcome, which is why he sends us.”

“I will remain here,” Claudius said. “If you or my master are indeed betrayed, I shall root out the villain and cut his throat myself. On this you have the word of a Batavian prince.”

Dieter nodded, and Xandros held out a hand. “I would rather you came with us, Claudius. We could use a man as good with a blade as you proved yourself this afternoon. But I am glad you stay- to avenge us, if need be. We Thracians, though I myself am Macedonian, are very big on vengeance.”

“Your men ride well, Xandros,” Claudius replied. “If things work out like we plan, you will not have to lift a sword or lower a lance at all. Just ride like the wind- which we all know you can do.”

Xandros laughed, and nodded. “For honor, glory, and battlefield intelligence...”


Avitus was true to his word. Six livestock barges were tied to the ships that would carry the Thracian ala, creating the necessary room to give the ala a flying start when they offload. The ala embarked, along with Dieter and twenty Batavians, and was soon plying the river heading north toward Bructeri 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
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 08-19-10 03:59 AM EDT (US)     13 / 57       
Good chapter. Although Rutillus might be a bit worried when he sees Bructeri warriors cut off his escape route.

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 08-23-10 01:56 AM EDT (US)     14 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The fields around Traiectum were littered with broken warbands and lifeless cohorts. A battle had taken place, the sixth one in so many days, and the current battle was still going on. Around the commander of the X Gemina some men still stood fighting, surrounded by a horde of Cananefate warriors. Those hardened Germani parted upon the sounding of a ram’s horn, in time to let a charging wedge of heavy cavalry come barreling toward the small ring of Roman legionaries.

A trumpet sounded, three long blasts, and the cavalry came to a halt. Around the core of legionaries, the Germani lowered their wooden swords and blunt spears, and further afield the dead rose to converge on the Eagle.

Cadorus left the safety of his men to approach the Cananefate king, who watched the battle from his horse over by the hill. The king saw the Roman commander moving toward him, and moved to meet him while the men sorted themselves out under the sharp eyes and hard sticks of the centurions.

“You handed me my ass, King Niall,” Cadorus readily admitted. “I thought I had you there, but those men from the trees over there... I had not expected them.”

“Your men reacted well to their presence,” Niall said in small praise. “They locked shields quickly. But alas, had I not suckered you into moving near them, they would have been wasted there. Then it would have been my ram’s horn toning the surrender, not your trumpet. As it was, once you drifted near them, it was all over no matter how fast your men reacted.”

Cadorus bit his lip and thought it over. He had been winning, or thought he had, while all the time the canny Cananefate had been luring him to a ground of his choosing where he could annihilate the Romans. Better here in practice than on a real battlefield.

“There are still several more hours of sunlight left, King Niall. Shall we have another go?”

Niall grinned broadly. He liked this legate- Rutilius had trained him well. “Aye, Cador. Sort your men out over there, I shall do the same here. And then we shall try again.”

The second time went much better in Rome’s favor. The Cananefate, no tricks this time, came at the smaller Roman force with a rush. A quick trumpet blast and a few notes, and the cohorts formed wedges to withstand the assault. Much like the time Suetonius had this used against him, the wedges absorbed and channeled the attackers into pockets where his men, behind their huge shields, could easily stab them down. Niall knew the game was up when he saw that, and tried to retreat, but Cadorus beat him to it by ordering the march. Three blasts of the ram’s horn followed, and the two sides separated again.

“I thought you knew better than to charge Romans in the open,” Cadorus said bitterly. “I expected better.”

Niall laughed. “I was not the commander,” he said, pointing to a red-faced man among the cavalry. "My cousin Oddmund commanded. He thinks little of maneuver. To him, all that is needed is a good solid push. You taught him better.“

“I would rather maneuver against you,” Cadorus admitted with a bit of edge in his voice. “From you I can learn how not to get my men killed. Against your pale shadow over there, I learn only that my men can absorb a Germanic charge. That, I already knew.”

Niall laughed. “On the morrow, attack that hill. I shall command its defense personally. You have taught Oddmund well- he shall not dismiss Roman foot soldiers so easily again. He is a cavalryman, you see, and one of the best. But like most mounted warriors, he thinks his horse can win battles by itself. You proved him very wrong. In doing so, you save my tribesmen in future battles- true battles, where blood and not alone sweat are spilled, as I so save your legionaries.”

Cadorus nodded at the wisdom. He was here to teach as well as learn- something he had forgotten. “Come to my tent after the feast tonight, King Niall, and we shall discuss the lessons learned- and those still left to teach.”

The tall king nodded. “It shall be an honor, Cador.”

That night, the men feasted, while the officers and chieftains discussed the day’s events. Both came to the same conclusions- these mock battles were worth the price, and both sides learned much in the way of warfare while living to tell of it. There was still another week dedicated to the mock battles before the X Gemina would return to its quarters and the Cananefate to their marshy bogs, and in that week, much would happen. Towards the end, Cador was winning as often as he lost, and Niall learned that this particular Roman had a genius for fluid battle, once the skill was awoken. His sore shoulders- earned the hard way- told him this legate was a damned good one.

Cador, for his part, enjoyed the strategy sessions he shared with the Germanic king. He was learning much, and sharing what he learned, yet he was still uncomfortable. Rutilius was paying for these exercises out of his own pocket- and had not shown up to review them. Strange that, especially since the exercises did not take place on Cananefate land, meaning it was one of the few times his friend Jorgen could legally meet with his father.

Niall noticed the absence as well, but like Cadorus, refused to speak of it. His son was outlaw, and shall remain so until the Midsummer Fires. Thus he could not bring the subject up, nor comment upon it. It created an unease between the men, but a solid round of drinking and a few rounds of maneuvers helped dispel it.

But it never quite went away.

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

The one-wagon caravan traveled onward through the forest. It was cold, and wet. It had rained for two days now, and the winds varied from a gentle breeze to a gust worthy of a god. Up ahead was a village, similar to the dozens they had already passed. Yet it was also different- the primarily green colors of the cloaks and trousers had been replaced by primarily brown, while the hair of the men and women making their way through the late winter weather was more red than dark blonde. All of this combined with a slight change in landscape to create enough doubt that Marek halted his wagon out of sight of the village.

He left Wolf to maintain a vigil while he went back to the wagon to explain his findings.

“Those are not Bructeri colors,” Glam agreed. “Maybe Chauci?”

“They are Cherusci,” Froydis determined. “The Chauci wear their hair in a side knot, similar to the Suevi further south. Plus the Cherusci are more red of hair than other tribes in the area. Add that to their predominance for brown clothing- easy to make, and captured Roman garments often fade to brown- and the river we crossed means we are in the tribal lands of another. That puts us squarely in Cherusci lands.”

Publius and Titus shivered. Cherusci. They slaughtered the three legions of Varus.

Amalric was more elated. “We can learn much here, lord. These Cherusci- they do not border Rome, and from the looks of the village, are not preparing for war. Their tongues may wag more free.”

Hermann and Harald nodded. “No guards, other than the single one by the gate,” Harald pointed out. “And no weapons while herding cattle through the fields. These people are not ready for a war.”

“Amalric does have a point,” Dagthor agreed. “We can learn much more, faster, from a people not on the guard.”

“And the storm harrying us these past two days is letting up. Maybe we can dry out our clothes by the community fires?” noted Wolf.

As his guards all seemed in agreement, and the others nodding, the decision was easy.

“One night,” Marcus conceded. “Learn what we can, dry out then we go west again.”

Marek, being a trader out of season, found the market for his goods not glutted in the least. Sales were high- the Cherusci had plenty of goods to trade, but lacked or wanted what he brought. Froydis ensured they got good prices, and Wolf and Dagthor ensured the buyers behaved. The others, as was their normal habit, wandered the small village ostensibly in search of other traders. There were none, of course, but that did not break the habit. There were, however, far more men than they had been used to seeing- almost one-to-one in relation to the women.

Marcus and Glam reported to the local lordling, who also invited the merchant lord to dinner that evening. War was on the horizon, he said, and he wanted the freshest news he could find to prepare for it. That night, as the storm abated, Froydis and Marcus attended the small feast thrown by the lord that evening. Jorgen and Aelric accompanied them, as it was proper for a merchant lord to travel with guards. It was not much of a lavish event, being so quickly and unexpectedly thrown together, but any excuse to have a feast was good enough. They were not the guests of honors though- that honor was awarded an envoy from afar, a bear of a man with the hair knot atop his head, not upon its side as was the custom of a Suevi merchant or the Chauci.

“Where is he from?” Marek asked of Froydis, using low tones to disguise his feeble grasp of transrhenae tribal hairstyles. “A Suevi warrior, correct?”

Froydis nodded. “A nobleman,” she added. “Look to the amount of gold he wears, the richness and strength of his weapons. And of course, his armor- silvered mail, from Gaul. Only a high noble or a king’s relative would waste good silver so.”

The local lord, another large warrior called Erich the Strong, was currently involved in an arm-wrestling match against the Suevi. Both the warriors of the Suevi envoy and the local boys were cheering their lords on, while the Batavians of the merchant coolly observed. Erich looked to be winning, having the Suevi’s arm bent back from half-upright, but with a mighty surge, the Suevi struggled back to regain his starting position. Then he sucked in a deep breath and grunted, sending Erich’s arm hurtling down toward the table for the win.

“Alas, Segestes, you have proven stronger than I had imagined,” Erich admitted. “None have before beaten me.”

“You do not have many Suevi visitors, I imagine,” the Suevi said with a laugh. He scooped up a horn of ale from a passing wench and drained it. “Line up your womenfolk, Erich, it is time for me to claim my prize for besting you.”

Erich groaned slightly, but gestured for the maids and servants to line up. Segestes looked them up and down, then swept his eyes across the table. They stopped briefly when they reached Froydis, who held the arm of the merchant next to her. He sighed, realizing she was a married woman, and continued on. He finally returned to the maidens and selected one of them.

“Traudl,” Erich announced. “A fine choice. A widowed mother of two young warriors, she is proven fertile, and has a gentle heart. Traudl, you may take a seat at the main table, to the left of Lord Segestes.”

That last surprised Marcus, who had thought the woman would be carted off to the sleeping chamber of the victor immediately. Had this scene taken place in the Golden House of Nero, it most certainly would. But here in this small village in the forests, the prize was not virtue or bedsport, but companionship- anything more would be up to the man and woman. He realized with a start that Germanic women had far more rights and privileges than did their sisters in Rome, who were mere chattels with which to satisfy lusts and bear children, for the most part. Now he understood his mother’s fierce independence and her peculiar ways, and was proud of the stubborn woman.

Dinner was served by the expedient method of bringing out a bed of coals and placing a roasted, spitted pig upon the stakes framing it, then having the guests carve what they wish from the carcass while the remaining maidens brought forth dishes with greens, small loaves of brown bread, and horns of beer. Marcus and Froydis joined the line before the pig, knives in hand, awaiting their turn to cut. Jorgen and Aelric were still in their positions, awaiting the turn of the servants and guards.

“Do you have any blanks of steel in your wagon, trader?”

The question caught Marcus unaware. “Nein,” he stammered, finally placing the voice. It was the Suevi lord, Segestes. The lucky Traudl stood silently beside her champion, her arms holding his in a lover’s solace. “What few we had managed to acquire we have already traded among the Bructeri.”

“Ah,” Segestes said with a nod. “Those poor sods have more of a need for them than do these people, what with the war and all.” He stopped to look over the smaller man. “I do not recognize your tribal colors. Tell me, are you a Frisian?”

Marcus laughed. “Ik am of de Cananefate,” he said, remembering Labeo’s warning about speaking pure Chatti. “Marek, son of Rutger, from Chatvik, just north of Near the Water.”

“I am Segestes, son of Aethric, lord among the Suevi,” the Suevi replied. Marcus recognized almost perfect Chatti in the Suevi language. The two must be very close. “My home is my saddle.”

“And thy saddle brings you to a small Cherusci village north in the forests?”

Segestes laughed. “No.. Well yes actually. But it is my father’s commands which sends my saddle here. There will be a war soon, I have heard.”

“So you travel here to join it. Foolish,” snorted Marcus, in his best trader’s impression, and paraphrased a Suevi trader he had met in Jorgen’s home. “War is bad for business.”

Segestes snorted in his ale, then bellowed in laughter. “Typical merchant- always thinking with your purse.” Then he sobered, remembering that phrase. “Have you met Aethelred, a man of our tribe though a merchant like yourself?”

Froydis tightened her grip on his arm. It was a signal. Danger! Aethelred was indeed a merchant, a Suevi merchant, but he traded mostly on the Roman side of the Rhein. What was Segestes doing? Testing for knowledge of a trader, trying to determine true origin, or merely asking about a countryman?

Rutilius decided honesty was best. “Yes. He came to Near the Water this winter. A fine man, who told me never to ask a man with his hair in a knot atop his skull if he was a slave. We Cananefate wear no knot, as you can see, nor do our neighbors. The custom was quite new to us. In fact, Lord Segestes, it was he who suggested we Cananefate come off our little island and explore the world to the East. Dus, hier ben ik.” Here I am.

Segestes nodded. “I have heard he was going to the Great Sea. From your tale, he made it. So, merchant, you met him in Roman lands. Tell me, why does a Germanic merchant from Roman lands travel so far east, when he can travel the placid lands of the Empire?”

Marcus smiled. “I come from Chatvik,” he reminded the Suevi lord, his tone revealing a bit of insolence and irritation, as if annoyed by the constant belief that all of his tribe’s lands were under Roman rule. “A little village north of the border. I had crossed the border to go to Near the Water, where I met your friend.” To the German’s confusion, he added, “The border of the Empire runs through our lands. Not all of the tribe lives over there. As to why I came east instead of going south...”

“That was because of me,” Jorgen said, coming to Marcus’s aid. He had moved closer when he saw the big Suevi take an interest in Marcus. “I am outlawed for a season. I can seek no shelter among my tribe, and the lands to our south are plied heavily by Romani traders. Over here is less so- we would have better luck.”

Segestes noted the youth, his clothes, and his swords- two of them, one long, one Roman. “And you are?”

Ik ben Jorgen der Dapper,” he replied proudly. “I have earned my name on five battlefields, using this little sword before my father gave me the longer warsword.”

“And an outlaw,” Segestes added. “What for?”

“Murder. I struck down a man from behind. It was justified, thus the single season’s outlawry.”

“Jorgen the Brave,” Segestes snickered, translating the Cananefate name. “Outlawed for striking down a man from behind. Not very brave, lad.”

“I had little choice,” Jorgen said, though with less pride. “He was about to murder a friend of the king.”

“He threw that little sword twenty paces to drop the man about to axe the king’s friend,” Marcus added. “The victim-to-be was pinned under a corpse, his would-be killer standing above him raising an axe for the chop. Jorgen killed him before he could finish the action.”

“You got outlawed for that?” Segestes roared in disbelief. “You should have been rewarded, not punished!”

“Our tribal laws are very strict,” Jorgen replied. “Striking a man from behind is murder. There must be a penalty. I knew that when I threw the sword. But since it was justified, the were-geld was waived and the sentence reduced to a single season.”

“You knew the penalty, accepted it, and threw the sword anyway,” Segestes summarized. “You have indeed earned your name, Jorgen der Dapper.”

By now the line had been reduced to where Rutilius and Froydis could carve their dinner from the carcass. Rutilius let Traudl and Froydis go first, then shared his carving time with Segestes, who followed them back to their seats and sat beside him, with a gesture to poor Traudl to return to her own seat. This raised an eyebrow by Marcus.

“Had your woman been alone this night, she would be sitting where Traudl now sits,” the Suevi said bluntly. “But I would hear more of Aethelred.”

“I met him that once,” Marcus replied. “In Near the Water, this winter. Several traders had come to Near the Water, and since my heart was decided on travel and trade, I went to speak with them. I learned much, and left a few days later. I have not seen him since. Sorry.”

“What brings you here, Suevi lord?” Froydis asked. “You have told us your saddle, but this is rather far north for a nobleman to ride on a whim.”

“There was an envoy who had come to the Chatti,” Segestes answered. “He claimed the Romans would be coming against the Bructeri again this year, and pleaded their aid. The Chatti had decided to help when a Bructeri vala came and warned them that helping the Bructeri would set the tribes back centuries. So the Chatti asked us our opinion, and my father dispatched envoys to many tribes to seek theirs. I am one of them.”

“I know of only one Bructeri vala,” Jorgen said. “Veleda.”

“There are more valas, but only one Bructeri,” Froydis agreed. “It is said she is never wrong.”

“It is also said she hates the Romans with a heart colder than winter,” Rutilius added.

“I do not know,” Segestes admitted. “I too have heard of her. Veleda, the black-haired Witch, Queen of the Bructeri. I have also heard she had a falling-out with the Bructeri Kings- they are twins- so her motives are unclear. Thus the long rides of my brothers and myself.”

“Traudl looks bored,” Jorgen noticed. “If you wish more than pleasant dinner company from her, I would suggest you regale her with some of your exploits, before another does. She is a fine-looking woman, and single...”

Segestes noticed the glimmer in the Cananefate’s eyes and quickly made his excuses to return to his chosen lady. Jorgen sat down in his place and began digging into the food he had been holding while the Suevi had been chatting.

“What?” he asked of the others. “My food was getting cold. I want to sit and enjoy it warm. And if he wouldn’t keep her company,” he said, gesturing to Traudl, “I would have. She’s eye-candy,” he admitted.

Marcus and Froydis looked at poor Traudl and smiled. She was indeed pretty, but the two traveling merchants had no eyes for other partners. Especially not now, when their lives depended on their being tight.

That night, pondering the events, Rutilius decided he had been wrong. The tribes gather for war. As much as I hate saying it, The Old Owl was not wasting my time in sending me here after all. Our legions must know the enemy strength- and it will be stronger than imagined.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-23-2010 @ 03:34 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 08-23-10 04:55 AM EDT (US)     15 / 57       
So war is on the horizon much sooner than previously thought!

Did Roman legions really practice large scale mock battles with wooden swords and shields, 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 08-23-10 11:40 AM EDT (US)     16 / 57       
Their drills are bloodless battles, their battles bloody drills.
You tell me.

|||||||||||||||| 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
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-26-10 06:04 AM EDT (US)     17 / 57       

The boat rocked with the wind. Everything was drenched from the constant rain. And the cold night air penetrated every living being and cooled it to the core. A rainy winter night- not the best time to be on a narrow river galley heading downriver, especially if one had a spasm-locked spine.

Dieter emerged from under the make-shift tent the men had built and wandered over to where Fleet Captain Titus Piscius was steering the ship. He stretched as best he could, but the stiff metal cuirass he wore prohibited most movement. He was locked into the metal clamshell as effectively as he was trapped on this horrible boat.

“Fleet captain,” he said as he approached. A gust of rain nearly blinded him, but he had already half-expected the storm to do something like that. “Are you sure it is wise to continue in this weather? Most captains would put in to a port, or even park the boat to await better weather.”

“You are correct, lord,” the fleet captain said with a happy voice. “Most captain would. But I am not most captains, neither is my crew. We are to bring you safely to your destination. That happens best if the enemy does not see you, aye?”

Dieter had to agree with that. Given the nature of his mission, it would indeed be best to arrive unnoticed- and unhindered. But the dark of the night, the blinding rain... Getting lost or shipwrecked would also be a major setback- and one which would cost more than his own life or those of his men. It would also cost the life of his lord, already on the other side.

“How can you see in this muck?” he asked. “Why not simply park until daylight, when you can see again?”

“You beach or anchor a galley, landsman,” Piscius laughed. “You do not park it like a wagon. As to continuing on, even you agreed that was crucial. As to knowing where we are in this soup, I have been on this river every day for almost seventeen years now, sir. Rain, sun, moonlit night- no matter. Only Father Rhenus knows himself better than I know him.“

“Maintaining our timetable is crucial,” Dieter agreed. “Crashing onto the shore would delay that.”

The captain laughed. “We are in the middle of the river, about ten miles from Vetera,” he explained. “The river here has some bends, but is mostly straight. The rains have wind- trees make a lot of noise in the wind. See that fellow on the prow? That’s Vulipius- best ears in the fleet. He is giving me signs every once in a while that we are nearing a bank. The man next to him has a weight on a string- he is measuring the depth of the water. If either notices us nearing a bank, they give a signal.”

Dieter saw the men- barely. One was kneeling, evidently monitoring the weighted cord. The other was holding onto the prow with one hand, and had the other cupped around his ear. But he did not need that, Dieter thought. Even without cupping an ear, he could tell the rustling of the trees in the wind was about equally strong on either side, and the pelting of the rain also evenly distributed. He began to see how Piscius was able to navigate without sight- one simply had to rely on the other senses, and a deep knowledge of the river.

“And the other ships?”

“There is a pinhole lantern hanging on our stern,” the captain reminded him. “A tiny light. The others have the same- and each galley simply follows the light of the one before.”

“And distance? How do you judge speed on a river that flows?” the Batavian asked. He did not trust this running-in-the-rain-at-night sailing, but he was less worried about it now than before.

The captain asked him to wait. Twenty minutes later, he said, “Here, stand with your legs apart, as if the boat was your horse.”

Dieter did as commanded. He loosened up as if riding, and let his hips roll with the rhythm of the waves. Abruptly the ship took on a new rhythm, one more tilted toward the left side.

“We hit a confluence,” Piscius explained. “Where another river dumps into the Rhenus. This is your river, lord. We turn here.” He raised his voice to his oarsmen. “Steerboard- oars down and drag water. Portside- full speed ahead!” As he gave his commands, he pulled hard against the rudder. The ship swung about slowly, heading across the rain, and not into it.

“This is the danger area,” the fleet captain reminded his passengers. “Here the Germani are most alert. Once past here, the river is weaker and the Germans less alert. Smooth sailing.”

As he spoke, the rains ceased. This was Germania Inferior- if you do not like the weather, wait ten minutes. It will change. It did. The shower passed by, and the trailing clouds thinned enough for the light of the nearly-full moon to pass through. Dieter could see again- Father Rhein in its broad glory continuing north, while the galley and her fleet began a slow turn into another river, less wide but more placid as the trees lining her banks took the brunt of the wind.

“There will be another shower along shortly,” the fleet captain added. “The sky is clearing now, but I see more clouds coming in. Here is where it will get hairy.”

And so it was, as the small fleet rowed its way up the Lupia. Showers came at almost regular intervals, only to drop their load and pass on, letting starlight hit the raindrops. Nothing was seen or heard, only the rustling of the trees guiding the captain and the rain spatter covering everything. Until Vulpius sent word of something ahead.

“Take your seat, quaestor,” Piscius ordered. Then to his men, he commanded double speed. “There are not any Roman vessels on this river at all, and any German out in this soup is up to no good.”

The galley picked up speed. Within a minute a thunderous crash erupted from the prow, then transformed into a squeal before passing on. A brief, human yelp was heard, then nothing. The galleys pressed on, then slowed to normal rhythm once again.

Vulpius reported. A small vessel, two men in it, had been crossing their path. It was now sunk. No damage to the prow, all clear ahead.

“Sucks being out on a night like this,” the fleet captain muttered. “At least we got to have some fun. And another tally for our prow.”

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

Not too far from where Segestes and Marek had been discussing merchants and war, a king sat and pondered his latest move. Was it wise to send Ulfrich to ambush Rutilius? Or should he have given that task to another? Rutilius was wily. Worse, he was lucky. If any Roman could pass through the gauntlet he was building, it would be that cursed man. He thought over the Witch again, and what she had said. Rutilius would be the doom of both of them, despite their efforts. Did I just send my brother to his doom?

His thoughts were interrupted by a hunter. Hagar, son of Ruel held up two bound sticks up to his king. They were heavily wrapped in some sort of treated skin. “This is for you.”

Udo looked over, boredom expressed clearly on his otherwise refined features. “What is it?”

“I do not know, lord, but a man almost died giving it to me.”

That got Udo’s attention rather quickly. “Explain.”

“I and three others were hunting deer on the border with the Marsi when we heard a noise in the rain. We heard a man scream, then nothing. Later we heard moaning from the shore, so we went to investigate. That is when we found a man laying there, the wind-driven waves lapping at his legs. We dragged him from the river, but he was feverish and out of his mind. Babbling about trays and kings and witches. The only coherent thing he said was when he handed me that thing. He said ‘for the king.’ So I came.”

“Did he say who he was,” Udo asked, “or why he was there?”

Hagar shook his head. “He was shivering, lord, and crazy with fever. And very cold from the river. He mumbled like a madman, mumbling gibberish about kings and witches as I have said, but insisted on giving me that. The only clear words were, ‘for your king’.”

“Was he one of ours?”

“No lord, I know almost every hunter and warrior left in the tribe. He was not one of us. He had hair like ours, only bound up in a knot upon the side of his head. His trousers looked black, and his cloak had stripes of red through it. I do not know from what tribe he was.”

“Marcomanni,” Udo replied, recognizing the colors and style. “He has come a long way to give me that thing. Bring it here.” Udo held out his hand. Hagar brought the item over, and laid it in the king’s open palm.

Udo sat up. He recognized the object immediately now. A scroll! He quickly removed the thong holding it closed and opened it. Latin runes spilled across the page in steady lines, while squiggles and other arcane symbols dotted the parchment further along. Both were horribly damaged by the wetness, but still legible to one who knew letters and runes. Unfortunately, he knew neither. He turned the scroll upside down, thinking maybe he was holding it wrong, but the runes made no more sense that way than they did the first way.

Udo could not read. Nor could Ulfrich. In fact, the only one they knew who could turn the symbols into sound was the Witch, last seen in Sequani lands. This must be from her. Her way of mocking we she thinks stole her rightful throne. Witch! Then the words of Hagar hit him. Kings and a witch!

A spell! She works a spell on me!
Udo quickly hurled the scroll away.

“Get that thing out of here,” he commanded the hunter. “And if ill befalls me through opening that cursed thing, Hagar, I shall ensure you pay in blood.”

Hagar moved forward and took up the opened scroll. Curious, he glanced at what had so upset his lord. The runes made no sense to him whatsoever, but the squiggles and wavy lines did. He had seen something similar, in the camp of a Roman general he had helped pillage before the Gallic horsemen had regrouped and driven he and his fellows off at Gelduba, in the days before Seval lost that incredible battle at Vetera. The old king had called it a map.

He studied the drawing, seeing Father Rhein and the border between the Marsi and Bructeri fairly clear. There was a little drawing of a tower, with a cross by it. An arrow began there and continued west, toward Vetera where the old king had fallen.

Udo screamed, thinking the hunter enchanted by the Witch’s spell.

“My lord, it is but a depiction of our lands,” Hagar explained. “This line represents Father Rhein, and this is the Witch’s Tower. There is a cross there, and an arrow, but what that means, I do not know.”

Udo took the map and stared at it. Hagar’s words rang true- he could see the lines and the markings himself. It was no spell, but a graphic depiction of his lands.

“What exactly did the man ramble about?” he demanded to know.

“It was crazy talk, lord. Kings, witch, then drunken words like alla and trays,” the hunter repeated. “Then he said ‘for your king’ and collapsed.”

Some of that rang a bell. What was it the Tencteri Bock had said? A Thracian ala? A warband of horsemen. Ugh! He needed to discover the meaning of the runes. Scheisse. “Do we have anybody who can turn these runes into words?”

“Maybe a merchant, lord. They seem to be able to write sounds. None other that I know. Maybe the gods can do so, but no Bructeri alive can.”

“Where is the man now? Have you buried him, or does he yet breathe?”

“We took him to the high priest of Wotan, lord. If any could restore that man to life and health, it would be him.”

“Take me to the high priest of Wotan,” the king commanded. Maybe the gods, maybe then their servants as well. “If he does not know either, then that man died for nothing.”

Hagar bowed with a smile. He would be guiding his king through darkness on a night where the rain limited your vision to the end of your nose. If he should succeed, he would be the envy of all hunters! Hagar the Master Hunter!


The high priest of Wotan was an old man, with a flowing beard as befitting his stature and age. In his youth he had been a warrior, until a Roman plumbata had glanced from the shield of the man ahead of him and plucked out his left eye. Germanicus had gone on to win that battle, but the one-eyed youth had the brains to let the legions pass by before escaping. His wound, and his intelligence, made him the logical choice as apprentice to the High Priest. Now, sixty years later, he was the high priest.

He resided beside the Sacred Grove of All-Powerful Wotan, the One-Eyed King of Walhalla, a half day’s travel from the King’s Hall. But this fact was unknown to both Hagar and Udo, and the accompanying warriors. They thought the priest lived within the grove, thus they hastened inside, where they indeed found the priest before the altar, itself placed before the largest of the circle of great oaks.

Hagar entered the Grove with head bared, as was the custom, and stared at his feet in the presence of his god, even as he inched forward toward the priest. Udo felt no such restraint and barged right in, heading directly for the priest. There was no shivering, gibbering man on the altar as he had been led to believe, though beyond the altar hung a silver eagle- the twin of that hanging in the king’s own hall.

“What brings you here, to the Grove?” the priest demanded, angry at the blatant intrusion. “You have an offering to make, or have you come to visit that poor sod your fellows brought to me?”

That stopped Udo in his tracks. “That poor sod brought this to me,” he said, holding up
the scroll. “Unfortunately it is in Latin. None in my hall can understand it, but the fact that the man risked his life to bring it to me suggests it is important.”

The priest nodded. “I would agree,” he said, in a tone more gentle than previously used. Perhaps he recognized the speaker, or perhaps he was becoming curious about the scroll. “Come, King Udo. My home is nearby. Your man is there, tended by two maidens and my apprentice, while I pray to the One-Eye for the power to heal him.”

“My man?” Udo blurted in confusion. He cast a scathing glare at the hunter. “I was told he was a Marcomanni, from the south.”

The priest led the king and his companions out of the grove to the house where he lived. Inside, on the bed, lay a man with a Suevi knot on the side of his head. He was under several thick fur blankets, and the two maidens constantly mopped sweat from his brow while the apprentice to the high priest tended the soup kettle. The man’s clothes were hanging over a chair by the hearth- now that they were dry and in candlelight, even Hagar could see they were not Marcomanni black but rather Bructeri brown.

“Aedwin,” Udo exclaimed upon seeing the man. He backhanded a slap across the face of Hagar. “That is my royal cousin Aedwin, you dolt. And you knew every hunter and warrior. Ha. You do not even recognize a member of the ruling family.”

Hagar mumbled something about dark, rain, and no torches, before making his way out of the home. Inside, Udo knelt by his cousin, silently praying to the All-Father for the life of his cousin. He stroked his hand through his cousin’s hair- which did indeed appear to be in a Suevi knot, but upon closer inspection, he saw the dried blood and loose skin from a horrible injury tangled alongside his head. He tried to untangle the mess, to give his cousin some semblance of himself, but the injury was still fresh- and painful. Pain shot through the sick man’s body and kicked off a storm of adrenaline and other natural chemicals- all of which combined to bring him back to consciousness.

“Udo,” he whispered, recognizing the hand that caressed his mangled scalp.

“You are safe now, Aedwin,” the king replied. “You are in the Sacred Grove of Wotan, being treated by the High Priest himself.”

“I came as quickly as I could,” Aedwin persisted. “Veleda... The witch.. she was in Chatti lands, talking to Chatti kings. She told them not to come.”

Udo waxed furious. “Was she heard?” The words dripped fire and brimstone, though were uttered through the whistling of breath slipped slowly out.

Aedwin tried to shake his head, but the pain was too much. It did keep him awake though. “No, but Rutilius comes. With a Thracian ala. I was told. You must know.”

“I have heard,” Udo assured his cousin. “Ulfrich is now by Father Rhein, awaiting him. We have a special welcome planned.”

Aedwin struggled violently at those words. “Not on Rhein!” he screamed in a whisper. “News from Mogontiacum... in the scroll. The tower...”

The stress was too much. Aedwin collapsed from the pain and the horrors he had endured on his journey. The priest hurried over, but there was little he could do.

“Your cousin is dying,” he said unnecessarily. “He has had a fever for days, and this nasty head wound did not help any. Nor did his being pitched into the river. I am sorry, Udo. I doubt he will last the night.”

“He dies giving me this,” the king said, holding up the scroll. “He dies for nothing. We lack the ability to read it.”

“Let me see it,” the priest declared. Udo held it out to him.

The priest took the scroll. He examined its outer layers, noting the thong and the broken wax of the seal. Then he opened the scroll. It was a long while, standing there, until he finally coughed.

“My knowledge of Roman writing is limited,” the priest admitted. “I know some letters, but few words, and these letters are soggy and smudged from the water. I can make out a few, though- an r, a couple of u’s, a pair of i’s, and this might be a t.”

Ruh. U. Ee. Another ee. And a tuh. The sounds made no sense. “Are they in order? The sounds?” he asked.

The priest tried again. Ruh. U. Tuh. Ee. Luh or tuh. Ee. U.

“Rutilius!” shouted Udo. He snatched the scroll back from the priest and stared at it. It all made sense now. He stabbed a finger at the figure of the tower, then traced the arrow back toward Roman lands. “Rutilius will land here, by the Witch’s Tower, then head back toward his own land.”

He spared a glance toward his dying cousin, then knelt and kissed his burning forehead. He rose, and said to the priest, “Burn him as a hero when he is no more. His sacrifice has given his people hope.” He handed the scroll over as well. He no longer needed it, now that he knew what knowledge it contained. “Burn him with this.”

Udo turned from the priest to glare at the hunter. “Hagar, son of Ruel. My cousin lies dying here, and my brother rests in the rain by the Rhein. Rutilius will not come there where my brother awaits him. He will come south of here, by the Tower. Race to my brother, Hagar, and inform him. Rutilius may land, but he must not escape.”

Hagar was already broken by his misidentification of the royal Aedwin. He would not fail again.

“I shall relay your will to your brother king,” he swore. Or I shall die trying.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-26-10 09:23 AM EDT (US)     18 / 57       
Good chapter. But how did Aedwin get the map detailing where Rutillus was going to land?

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 08-26-10 11:10 AM EDT (US)     19 / 57       
That is a rather good observation.

I am not going to tell you. Yet.

I guess you will just have until that part of the tale comes around...

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-26-10 03:00 PM EDT (US)     20 / 57       
Finally caught up on the last four chapters. It remains, in my limited Gaulish, a dagon scetlon - a good tale. I say good because I do not yet know the superlative.

This was Germania Inferior- if you do not like the weather, wait ten minutes.
As one who lives among the Tungri, I can vouch for the gospel truth of that statement.

Legion Of Hell, I wonder the same thing...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-30-10 02:39 AM EDT (US)     21 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The fleet captain approached Dieter, pointing out a stone tower along the river bank, shimmering in the morning light. “There you are, lord. The Stone Tower. Do you want to disembark on that flat stretch to the left, or direct upon the dock some nice German built for us?”

“Neither,” Dieter replied coldly. “Sail on. Tomorrow morning you can let us off wherever we may be.”

“My orders were to bring you here,” the fleet captain retorted. “I am not authorized to go further.”

“I am a quaestor, fleet captain,” Dieter lied easily. “I authorize it. I want a day between myself and whatever forces lay in wait here.”

The reply of ‘further upriver is unknown, and shallow’ died on the fleet captain’s lips.

“You suspect treachery, from us?”

Dieter pointed to the gouges and repaired holes in the armor he wore. “Many times people have tried to kill me. Most knew ahead of time where I was going. Yes, fleet captain, I suspect treachery. I always suspect treachery. And I am cautious, thus still alive to plague my enemies. Continue rowing.”

The fleet captain nodded and complied. But he could not help adding, “Our orders came from the governor of Germania Superior himself, by command of Rome. There can be no treachery.”

“Did he hand-deliver them to you personally?” Dieter asked.

“The orders came as they always do,” the fleet captain replied. “From Rome, to the governor, to the admiral, to me.” Then he paused. “By messengers between them, of course. Not personally.”

Dieter nodded. “Thus there is ample opportunity for a treacherous underling to relay this information to spies. This mission is highly secret- worth a lot of money to whoever tells the Germani. Are you well-paid, fleet captain?”

The fleet captain snorted, then laughed. “Not enough to risk my ass for this shit,” he agreed. “I see your point. One more day then we put your ashore.”

Dieter leaned back with a satisfied smile. “Thank you. When we get back to the Rhenus, I shall look you up, and hand you a sack of five hundred denarii, for the extra effort.”

“Then I will definitely make sure I am there to pick you up again,” the fleet captain said with a smile. “And lord,” he added, “make sure you get there. I would hate to lose a bonus to those hairy heathens over here.”

Dieter laughed. “Agreed.”

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

Rutilius and his crew traveled south, stopping at another Cherusci village for the night. This village was smaller, and the people happier to see a merchant than the first. Acilius noted the population data, while the Batavians noted to their dismay that the man-woman ratio was almost even here. They would be sleeping in their tents that night.

Thereafter the party moved west. The first village they came to was populated by men in brown shirts, dark plaid trousers, and wore topknots in their hair.

“Many of these fellows died in that great battle this summer past,” Wolf observed.

“Chauci,” Froydis said. “Enemies of Rome, friends of the Bructeri. Yes, they would come in droves to battle a Roman invasion.”

“We go in,” Rutilius decided. “They’ve seen us already, and it would be strange if we passed them by. But we be careful- all of us. Make sure the Acilii know not to speak.”

The orders were passed, and the wagon headed toward the gates, which opened upon their arrival. Inside, Rutilius took Jorgen and Glam to report to the local lord while Froydis directed the setting up of shop in the square, and the routine began. After so much practice, it was natural.

The local lord was an old man, crusty with age and sporting a beard that would make a hill dwarf cry with envy. He readily granted market rights, and bade the merchant and his guards stay for lunch- he was as hungry for news outside his village as he was the mutton stew his daughters prepared. The other men in the hall were his sons and his warhost- all of thirty men strong. Rutilius stayed, and exchanged news of the world outside the village for tips and sales information inside it.

Then night fell, and the wagon closed. Publius Acilius took up a roving guard while Titus and Rutilius brought in the guards one by one to assemble what information they had collected. It was not a pretty picture. There were many men seen making axes, or sharpening weapons. Wood was shaved and cut into poles then hardened- future spears, while smaller, thinner pieces were fletched and fired- arrow shafts. There were not as many men as women, making the Batavi happier than they had been, though there were many more than in Bructeri lands. And noblemen with odd colors and styles had been seen recently passing through- including a Bructeri.

“Envoys,” Rutilius noted. “The Germani are indeed preparing for war.”

“Next time we come,” Wolf said with a grin, “let us bring blanks of steel. We will make a fortune!”

“Those blanks would turn into weapons, which could end your life, or a friends. Is that what you wish?” Rutilius replied.

“Bah!” scoffed the Batavi. “They do not know how to wield them well anyway. Let them make swords of the blanks. Then we come in, take them away, and sell the finished product for much more money elsewhere. I tell you, lord- we would make a killing!”

Rutilius was unaware of how much of this was greed, and how much was jest. This showed on his face.

Wolf smiled broadly. “I tease you, merchant lord. One does not give weapons to children- they would hurt themselves.”


The next morning they packed up and headed toward the west gate for the trip home. They did not make it to the gate before a housecarl stopped them.

“My lord wishes a word with you, merchant,” he huffed, still out of breath from the dash from the lord’s hall. “He has a favor to ask.”

Rutilius nodded, then dismounted. Beckoning Jorgen, he walked back with the housecarl as an escort to where the lord awaited. Beside him were two men carrying bundles. The fletchings of arrows could be seen poking out of them.

“I apologize for the delay, merchant,” the lord said. He seemed sincere. “But I noticed this morning that you are heading west. I would ask a favor.”

Rutilius knew the routine. “If it is in my power, lord, I will grant it, as exchange for the hospitality you showed my company yesterday.”

The old lord nodded. “Many of our hunters have gone into Bructeri lands, to familiarize themselves with the ground. Many left without a full supply of war arrows, taking only hunting arrows- and not many of those. I have since learned that the Bructeri fletchers cannot make enough arrows- there are simply too few fletchers left, and what are left have been summoned to the hyrd.”

“And you wish me to take these bundles to your warriors?” Rutilius surmised.

“By the gods, no,” laughed the old man. “I have no idea where they are, thus you cannot know where they are. That would be like asking Silent Vidar to sing praises.” He paused, then continued. “I would like you to deliver these to the Bructeri king. He knows where my men are, and can send them on. Would you perform this small task for me, merchant lord?”

Rutilius looked down at his boots. “I cannot, lord.” He looked up and in the lord’s eyes, trying to keep his face looking properly sorrowful. ”For the simple reason that we do not know where he is, either. We have traveled Northern Gaul over there and through the Frisii and Cherusci over here, but very little in Bructeri lands. My men and I are from all over- Cananefate, Batavians, a Cugerni, a Gaul or two. But no Bructeri. I am truly sorry.”

“Do not be,” the lord said, relieved at the honesty. “Travel west, as you intended. Cross the river, then travel toward the setting spring sun, angling toward where the Marsic-Bructeri river border meets Father Rhein. Within two days after crossing the river you should come upon a small village- the former Bructeri Kings preferred to roam, but the two oafs now on their throne have settled in a hall in that village I mentioned. You will notice many envoys, as it is a busy time for the tribes. You cannot mistake it. There you will find the kings and can deliver these bundles.”

Rutilius smiled broadly. “In that case, my lord, I will gladly try.”

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

The I Ala Thracum was making good time. They were a day from the river already, travelling on paths cut by travelers through the forest where their tracks were sure to be seen and maybe reported. It is all part of the plan, thought Dieter as he rode. He kept a weather-eye on the Thracians, ensuring they followed his command to the letter. Some of his countrymen had been detailed to accompany the turmae as they dispersed, doubly ensuring his knowledge of the ala was current. Marcus should be halfway home by now. Pulling the Bructeri warhosts here gives him the opportunity to escape unseen and unknown.

The thought that he himself might not escape never crossed his mind.

A pair of horsemen came back down the path. He recognized them as Hrolvath of his Guard and a Thracian auxiliary.

“A party of warriors ahead, lord,” the Thracian reported. “A hundred or so strong, with bows and axes. A few swords, but no shields and few spears. They appear to be practicing for war.”

Dieter smiled cruelly. “Well, then we give them some true experience. Decurion, call in the ala. We close in, form up, then charge. On my order.”

The decurion smiled back. Finally, some action!

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

“Otto!” called a hunter. He pointed to the horsemen coming into sight. “It looks like those Bructeri horse are coming back.”

Otto called his men together and had them form up as he had tried to explain. He handed the formation over to his brother Sigismund before turning to the hunter who reported. “Come, Jos, let us see if those horseborne wish to train with us.”

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

“They are forming for battle,” Hrolvath reported. “Shall we strike now, while they are yet unformed and their bows unstrung?”

Dieter shook his head. “Two of them are coming forward. Tell the ala to keep their mouths shut, but be ready to act. I will handle this.”

Otto and Jos approached, and immediately noticed the armor worn by the Bructeri horsemen- it was of metal, and flowed like skin. Envy hit them at once- the Bructeri must be a rich people to afford so many war-shirts. And that silvered one, he must definitely be a noble. Maybe a cousin of the Bructeri King? Or the king himself?

Honored by the thought, they approached with respect and weapons down.

“I am Otto Arjan’s Son, of the Chauci,” he said by way of introduction. “We are training for the coming war, where we shall fight by your side, noble lord.”

I highly doubt that, Dieter thought but did not say. Instead, he said, “Nice of you. Now what do you want from me?”

Otto was a bit put off by the gruffness, but he had heard that Ulfrich of the Bructeri was a gruff man as well as a great warrior. The location, the attitude, the appearance- all fit. This was definitely Ulfrich. “King Ulfrich, we Chauci would be honored if you would join us in a war game. I have just taught my band how to form a defense line. It would be an incredible honor to have you charge us, to let the men see how it feels to have horsemen bearing down upon them. I would test their discipline.”

Dieter looked over the ragged line. It was four men deep, not nearly dressed as well as it should, and had axemen in the front line with the few spearmen in the second with their spears poking between the axemen. The men themselves were eager and a bit awed. The title the fool used... He thinks I am the Bructeri king!

He could not keep in his smile at this stroke of fortune. He looked down at the hopeful hunter and nodded. “Aye, noble hunter. We shall be glad to charge thy line.”

The Chauci hunter thanked him and dashed back toward his men, his face glowing with pride.

Dieter let him get far enough away that his Latin commands would not be heard. Then he called the decurions over. “They wish us to charge their line- a discipline issue. Their spears are in the second rank, the bowmen of the rear ranks still have their weapons unstrung. Form up over there, facing them, then we charge on my signal. Keep your weapons up! At least until the last few yards- then snap them down. Through the line, then whip about. Any man losing his lancea in the first run can go to swords. Understood?” when all decurions nodded, he added, “Now move out. We will not be so lucky again.”

The ala formed a solid block as wide as the defenders. The Chauci noted the speed and precision with which the ala formed and nodded in respect- these were indeed warriors! The Romani will have no chance this summer, with men like these fighting them.

“Otto!” Dieter called out. “Do you wish us to approach as a block, a mob, or in the Romani Wedge?”

Otto’s respect just doubled. The Bructeri King’s posse could form in three different formations! “I shall leave that to you, dear King!” the hunter called back. “Approach as would the Romani.” Around him, his men were nearly catatonic in awe as the King’s Posse formed a wedge within seconds, where once a block stood.

“Make ready, Chauci friends!” Dieter called between laughs. This was almost too easy. “Here we come.”

He lifted his sword high, then lowered it swiftly. The wedge lurched forward as if cast from a catapult, closing in upon the awe-struck Chauci. Of those, some held their spears tightly, while others, panicking at the mass of horseflesh closing in on them, broke ranks.

The formation dissolved into a mass of panicked men. And the Thracians were not even close!

“Halt!” Dieter shouted, bringing his wedge to a screeching halt twenty paces from the Chauci. “Hrolvath! Take the men back to the station and form up again. You, Otto! What kind of cowards do you bring to battle? Your men broke even before we were in range of the francisca!”

“Please, lord!” cried the Chauci. “Give us another chance!” To his junior leaders, he frantically barked orders to reform the line. “This was our first time against horsemen. You see how desperately we need the experience. Please, bitte!, another chance.”

Dieter looked down at them again. These were no hardened warriors, just simple hunters and farmers off to war because they think it will be fun to join in a massacre of Romans. He had pitied their first, futile attempt to stand fast, and thus called off the planned slaughter. There was no honor in this. But while he pitied them, these non-warriors playing at being men, he knew he could not avert what he now had to do. Their own eagerness to partake in bloodshed doomed them.

“Form your line, Otto,” he ordered curtly. “I shall waste more of my precious time upon you. We shall approach closer this time, though, and I truly pity the fool who steps out of formation this time.”

The men roared in approval and excitement. There would be none out of formation this time, by Wotan. Their blood was up. They would stand fast.

Dieter turned away from them, lest any see the tear forming in his eye. This was not war. This was necessary slaughter. Still, it had to be done. Other, more important lives were on the line. He took his place with the ala and raised his lancea.

“This time for real,” he said in Latin.

He slashed downward, spurring his horse forward. The wedge followed instantly. A triangle of charging horseflesh, lances lowered as they came closer, closer to the Chauci spearwall, which stood fast, secure in the knowledge the horses would stop. But yet, there it was. A third of the front rank, once proudly brandishing their axes, turned to flee the incoming cavalry. They tangled themselves in the spears of the second line, and in an instant, the Chauci ranks were a chaotic cluster of writhing men.

And then the ala hit them. In some places, two or even three men were impaled on a single lancea. Where horses hit men, bodies were tossed into the air to slam against either ground or tree. Then the ala was through all four lines. But that was not the end of the carnage- not by a long shot. The ala wheeled around and drew swords, then came again. And again, and again, until at last no man stood standing.

The ala had suffered no casualties in the lop-sided battle. Dieter had the tribune form them up to continue onward, and sent the cavalrymen forward as if nothing had happened. He alone paused, looking down at the terrified face of the young but now quite dead Jos, who would now grow no older, and at the utter surprise on the face of Otto’s severed head. Fools. You should have stayed on your farms in Chauci land.

A single tear fell, then his eyes dried. There was still a mission to perform, and leaving these bodies here to be found was one way of helping that mission along.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-30-10 04:33 AM EDT (US)     22 / 57       
... sporting a beard that would make a hill dwarf cry with envy.
Loved that.
Any man losing his lancea in the first run can go to swords.
A lancea is not a lance; the lancea was a kind of javelin much like the plumbatum. A cavalry spear was called a hasta.

Dieter is a great character by the way. Loyalty even in the face of his own humanity and dishonour.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 08-30-2010 @ 04:35 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-30-10 05:58 AM EDT (US)     23 / 57       
The light cavalry spear is what I was looking for. Lancea fits, like what this guy is carrying, maybe a bit longer. Fit for stabbing, fit for chucking.



Light cavalry, remember?

(By the way, the hasta was an infantry weapon. The clibanarii and other heavy spear-armed cavalry used the contus, but I really don't like that term, if you know Dutch expressions)

|||||||||||||||| 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 08-30-10 06:16 AM EDT (US)     24 / 57       
The hasta as an infantry weapon was earlier; my source has the hasta as a cavalry weapon during the Principate, although I cannot trace that to a primary source. I do think the Greek kontos might be better for Thracian cavalry than the lancea (or, I suppose, the hasta), which was after all primarily a throwing weapon.

Anyway...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 08-30-10 06:40 AM EDT (US)     25 / 57       
I felt sorry for Otto.

Although Rutillus must have been happy when he got the location of the Bructeri king's lair!

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 09-02-10 01:57 AM EDT (US)     26 / 57       
**** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Domitian was upset.

He was walking on the Aventine, returning to his own home from that of Caecina, drunk as usual but not in the happy way he usually was. Tonight the smell of baby-piss and used diapers would permeate the halls and he had not drunk nearly enough to kill the odor. On top of that, this latest news had cost him a supporter, and would probably cost him a friend before the summer had run its course.

It all began with the wine- that lovely dark Falernian with which Caecina loved to ply him. That led to a discussion of Sicilia, which was wracked by the storms that would grant it its wonderful harvests in the autumn. That in turn led to a debate about the relative merits of invading Dacia to secure the Pannonian border versus a diplomatic solution for the same. And that led to a discussion of security in general, which of course led to Germania Superior and the angry legions there, training but otherwise doing little good while the veterans of Germania Inferior were allowed to conduct cross-river raids as they please.

“They are not, you know,” Domitian had blurted out. “They are under very strict orders not to do anything, actually.”

“Your time as consul is over, Titus,” Caecina reminded him. He refilled the young man’s goblet for the third time this afternoon. “As a privatus like us, you are no longer privy to the inner secrets of the ruling consuls, despite your being the one’s son and brother of the other.”

“That is cold, Aulus,” Domitian replied. “I know what orders the Germanias have. I wrote them, so I know. And my father does discuss imperial business around his house, where many of the slaves were my friends when I lived there and he was away. We are still friends, those household slaves and I. We chat. And so does my father, who thinks I am worthy of attention now. So take your attitude and stuff it up your arse, you cocky know-it-all-who-does-not.”

“Oh really,” Caecina said with a smile. “I have heard that the legions of Cornelius Clemens are approaching mutiny, what with all the hard work they do and no action. This, while the legions of Cordinus go into action across the river time and again. And now the auxilia of Germania Superior are being transferred to Germania Inferior- telling the legionaries that this summer again will be no action for them, while Cordinus gets all the glory. Again.”

“That cannot be,” Domitianus retorted. “The orders were for Cordinus to dance about and make noise- but under no circumstances send forces across that river. And above all, do not take any forces from Germania Superior!”

“Well, he did,” Gaius Mallius said pertly. “An ala of Thracian cavalry was transported upriver to Colonia, and from there would be making a cross-river raid along the Lupia- upon the orders of Cordinus himself.”

“With full approval from Rome, I might add,” Caecina added, drilling the point in deeper.

“And with a Roman magistrate commanding them,” Mallius added for effect.

That caught Domitian’s attention. “What?” In his cups, he had forgotten the orders he himself had written several weeks ago. Verily, what with the report from Cordinus about the poisoner being caught, he had thought the orders countermanded. There was a rather heated discussion concerning this. He was not informed of its outcome.

“Our Rhenus Fleet picked up a group of Germans and a Roman magistrate in Colonia,” Mallius explained. “He was to be the commander of the raid. Cordinus does not want to use any of his own units, so he borrows one from your friend and ours, Cornelius Clemens. He weakens his friends to strengthen himself- some friend he is!”

“Eprius,” Domitian whispered, almost to himself as pondered the information. Rutilius was innocent. This was known, yet he had evidently been sent anyway. A sacrifice? Apparently so- to hurt Cordinus to satisfy the wrath of Eprius, with the added benefit of furthering the plans of Caecina. “Eprius had something to do with this.”

He left shortly thereafter, walking the Aventine. The fresh evening air helped fuddled wits returned to their strength, and he recalled that Rutilius had created a report of probable German strength, that Eprius knew about it, and that someone had tried to poison Cordinus. The main suspect at first was Marcus Rutilius, who was duly ordered to confirm his report, with but a single ala as an escort, to make it look like a true mission and not a disguised suicide. He also knew that Cordinus had cleared his quaestor of any wrongdoing, but Rutilius had been sent across the river anyway. Eprius would see to that, as a means of hurting Cordinus, whom he now loathed.

Domitian knew two other things that nobody else did. He knew Marcus Rutilius would never use poison- the blade was more his style. The poisoner was most likely a lackey of the man who poured that wonderful Falernian. Rutilius was as innocent of those bogus charges as Cordinus claimed. And two, he knew the true lineage of the adopted son of Rutilius. That boy was a threat waiting to come to fruition. With Rutilius across the river and most likely not coming back, this was the perfect time to rid himself of any future problems. Thus he penned his own letter to his own man in the north. His letter was brief- a single word. Strike.

He had learned one other fact that led to his decision to pen that letter. There had been a message sent north by Helvidius Priscus before he had departed Italia. It traveled his network to the Mogontiacum, and from there across to the wild tribes. That message was short, as was his own, but it was vital. It simply said to the Germans that Rutilius was coming, and when.

Why Helvidius would sacrifice his own paragon was unknown, but the proof lay bleeding before him. Once he had sung the praises of Rutilius, now he has him effectively murdered. The only reason that came to mind was Vespasian, his father. He was senior consul now, and if a magistrate was ordered into foreign lands and slain there, it was a black eye on the Imperator and on the senior consul. His father would have two black eyes, the Republicans a martyr, and Helvidius his uprising as the masses took to the streets.

And four legions in Germania Superior, doing nothing, but under the command of a good friend to both himself and Caecina. When Cordinus crosses the river this summer, he projected, Cornelius Clemens was all that stood in the way of a German avalanche should Cordinus fail- which was likely without Rutilius shoring him up. Clemens could also just as easily do nothing- and let Cordinus and his legions be massacred. With the rest of Rome scrambling to shore up the limes, he could march south, depose Vespasian, and restore the Republic. Or worse, depose Vespasian, kill his sons, and become Imperator himself, as his ancestor had done.

Damn!

He had been foxed.

The boy would no longer matter.

He crumpled the letter and burned it. The boy could continue to breathe, as long as this larger threat remained. After all, he had given Rutilius his word- that had to count for something. Rutilius held up his end of the bargain, and would probably die continuing to do so. The boy could always die later, if his adopted father should return and break his word.

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

Amalric and Wolf came back to the trundling wagon in a hurry.

“Marek, we have found the hall,” Glam reported. “Right where the Chauci said. About two hours ahead along this trail.”

“Are there any trails around this village?” Rutilius asked. When both men nodded, he pointed to Amalric. “Lead the wagon along those trails. Set up camp about an hour to the west, off the road, then keep an eye out for us. Wolf, pick up Glam and Jorgen. We four will continue along, and see this village for ourselves.”

“You do not intend to deliver the arrows?” asked Amalric.

“Don’t be silly,” Rutilius replied. “Give war supplies to an enemy? I could be crucified for that.”

Amalric breathed a sigh of relief. Honor was a wonderful thing, unless it got you killed. Handing your enemy the means to do so might fulfill honor, but it was stupid. He was glad his lord was not stupid.

“But I will refill by own quiver from that lot, and we shall take the bundles with us,” Rutilius continued. “If asked, it will be a perfect reason to enter the town.”

Amalric smiled in earnest now. Honor and smarts- his lord’s plan covered both.

The wagon and its escort split off from the four and followed Amalric around the village, while Wolf, Glam, and Jorgen accompanied Rutilius forward. Within an hour they came to a small ridge, with a large clearing beyond. On the other side of the clearing was a small village dominated by a large hall in the center.

“There live the Bructeri Kings,” Wolf said, pointing. “There is the enemy.”

Rutilius studied the village- its low walls, its high gates, its utter lack of true fortifications. He also studied the people in the fields getting ready for the spring planting- women mostly. Very few men. But there were plenty of men to be seen- men wearing different colors, different styles of clothing, and different hair. Braids on some, top-knots on others, loose on a third. He knew these were men of other tribes- envoys. And not a few Bructeri men hustling in and out- couriers, or returning Bructeri envoys. The king down there was a busy little bee indeed.

What was I thinking? Marcus thought. The lure of seeing the king’s hall was great enough to bring him this far, but... This was beyond a bit dangerous. The Bructeri kings had tried thrice to murder him. Evidently they could recognize him, while he had no idea how they looked. Beyond dangerous? This was bloody stupid. They would see through his thin disguise rather quickly.

“I erred,” he said at last. “I cannot go down there, not where the enemy knows me but I do not know them.”

His guards sighed in relief.

“I want one of you to come with me back to the wagon. I would like the other two to scout the town,” he said. “I will not order it, as it is very dangerous, but it would be helpful to know what the king looks like and what his plans for the summer are. Two volunteers, but I hold it against no man if they decline.”

Glam and Wolf looked to each other and nodded. “Jorgen will go with you, lord. We shall visit the burg.”

Jorgen made to protest, but a quick word from Glam about his youth and the word of Marcus to Niall ended any discussion. The Batavi knew the mission, and that this task was most likely an essential part of it. Besides, they could gather much information about the entire tribe in this one little burg than in weeks of traipsing about in the cold and rain. The sooner they had their information, the sooner they could get their charge back to the Roman side where he belonged. Thus it was, to them, simple.

“Do not spend the night,” Marcus ordered. “I want to move away from here two hours past midnight, when these monkeys are deepest in their sleep.”

Glam nodded. “Agreed. Now get gone, lord. If anyone sees you, you were tasked to take those arrows to the Chauci band west of here.”

Rutilius smiled at the hidden concern, and the clever use of his own disguise against him.

“It shall be done,” he said.

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

Glam and Wolf covered the last few hundred paces of open field to reach the village walls. They were not impressed. There was a small ditch before the walls, evidently a cheap imitation of the Roman legionary encampment- but not nearly as deep or as wide. The wall itself was more of a fence- chest high, and from its looks, designed more to keep sheep in than enemies out. There was a gate, and a man working it, but like the walls, it was not designed with warfare in mind.

“So they know little of storms and sieges,” Wolf said lowly as they entered the town. “Why would they need it?”

“It is not Batavodurum, true,” Glam replied. “Not even a fourth of it. Yet you would think these monkeys would have learned something in all their years of envying us.”

Wolf shrugged at the truth. What did it matter to him? He was more concerned with the loud and many sounds of hammers striking metal, and of molds being pried open. There were at least four smiths in this tiny town, and each seemed to be very busy. A few houses, then a fletcher, then the woodworker. Another smithy, then a shrine. More houses. A general market. And that was it. The entire town.

Except for the large structure dominating its center. Obviously this was the king’s hall, but it had more the look of a tavern. There was even a board hanging from above the entrance with a crude painting of a slaughtered swine upon it. Glam decided to play upon that. He and Wolf left their horses in the fenced enclosure nearby and wandered into the ‘tavern’.

The atmosphere inside was dark, as befitting a tavern. Two long tables went down the long walls of the hall, each lined on both sides with long benches. These benches were mostly filled by men of varying ages and tribes, as far as their appearance went. A pecking order seemed t be in place- nobles seated closer to the far end, warriors and heroes in the center, and visitors of no status here by the cold entrance. The nobles were easy to identify- clad in gold-chased armor, or rich furs with jeweled clasps. They also had a footman or two waiting on them.

The walls were still decorated in the tavern manner, with farm implements hanging from the farm-side wall, with trophies taken by hunters dotting the empty space between spades and forks. The other wall sported trophies as well- armor and Roman weapons taken in battle. A head or two could be seen shriveled in the cold air- officers, their humped noses still plainly visible.

But it was the decoration on the back wall which caught their attention. There, upon a large, slightly raised platform, rested a high-backed oaken chair whose occupant could look down the length of the hall as a king surveying his household. And a king’s chair it indeed was, though no king sat upon it. The silver eagle, the Roman numeral XV clearly visible in its talons, hung serenely above the chair as if it belonged there. Only a king would have such an emblem, and only if that king was a slayer of legions.

Mission accomplished, Glam thought. This little, bitty town is the Bructeri civitas, and there is the Eagle for which my lord searches.

Es ist schön,” said a voice beside him. Glam turned, hand dropping to the hilt of his warsword, while the man standing there laughed.

“Yes,” he replied, letting his hand rest on the hilt, “it is beautiful.” He turned to face the man fully. He was of normal size, with dark trousers, a green-red checkered shirt over a fine mail, and a bearskin cape around his shoulders. His hair was braided, but the braids themselves collected on the right side, high up. A noble, from a southern tribe. “I did not think we had any of these left, after Hermann went down before that Roman avenger.”

“Drusus Germankiller had taken back two of the Eagles we had taken from Varus,” the nobleman said. As he noticed the garb of the two, he added, “And then your king’s grandfather helped the Romani recover the last one.”

Glam shot him a questioning look, while Wolf smothered a chuckle. In this light, their Batavian clothes could easily be mistaken for Cananefate colors.

“Our king’s grandfather guarded Roman Kings, as an matter of honor,” Wolf said bitterly, then added proudly, “and when the Roman King betrayed that honor, we went to war, And almost won. The Romani exiled our king, and we went into exile as well.”

“Unpacified Batavi,” the nobleman said, the surprise in his voice sending it up an octave. “I thought Civilis the only one. And how is my good friend?”

Wolf shrugged. “We do not know. He had been living among the Cananefate whose tribe to whom you thought we belonged. But he has not been seen in many moons. We heard he had escaped his exile there, and may have come east to join in another slaughter of Romans.”

The nobleman clapped his hands then reached out to clasp the shoulders of the Batavi. “This is great news,” he said in rejoicing. “Seval comes. A canny war leader at a time when the tribes so urgently need one!”

“We do not say that,” Glam retorted. “We say only that he is no longer among the Cananefate. We search for him, and thought he may have come here.”

“He was our king, once,” Wolf added. “And in our hearts, still is. If he is here, we would offer him our swords.”

The nobleman shook his head. “I have not seen him. Come, sit with me. I would hear what you know of our mutual friend.”

“We do not sit with strangers,” Glam replied, but with less bitterness than earlier.

“And we have told you all we know- he was there, and now he is not,” Wolf finished.

“A friend of Seval is no stranger to any Batavus,” the nobleman retorted proudly. “I am Aethwain, a thane among the Quadii, and once a mercenary who served with Seval against the Frisii.”

“He speaks true, Glam,” Wolf admitted. “We thought this a tavern. Now we are invited to drink. And a friend of our king is a friend of ours. Come, let us sit and drink with this new friend.”

Glam relented. “You are correct. I am Glam, son of Arn. This is my sword-brother, Wolf the Hunter. Lead on, noble Aethwain. We would hear of your exploits with our king, back in the day.”

The men sat, and others served them steins of beer to wet their tongues. Aethwain told of his mercenary days, fighting the Frisii, and occasionally also the Bructeri, when they came across the river. That was years ago, and since then, he had taken the money he had earned and returned to his tribe, where his experience and wealth made him first a lord, then a thane.

“Our fortunes have gone the other way,” Wolf told. “We served in the Batavian cohorts under Steinar Strongarm, cousin to Seval and a great man in his own right. When Nero turned on Seval, and in turn was overthrown by that old fart Galba, we began to lose our desire to fight for Rome. Then Galba dismisses us in disgrace, so we headed home. Otho killed Galba, then Vitellius moved against Otho. He offered us riches and honor to return, but the weasels serving him refused to pay. So we continued on our way home.”

“A foolish legion tried to stop us,” Glam picked up. “The I so-called Germanica. We destroyed them. Glam and I had wished to take their Eagle, which was laying there, but Steinar refused. Rome always comes for its Eagles, he said. Better to show them a bit of respect and leave it there, so we did. Then we fought at Gelduba, Novaesium, Vetera, Gelduba again where Steinar was killed, against the current king Labeo at the Crossing of the Mosa, and at Vetera again where we lost heavily.”

Aethwain was satisfied. These were indeed Batavi, and indeed bitter at their defeat, though proud in the fact that it took eight legions to crush them. “That Eagle there is but one of two,” he said, “from the legions you had penned at Vetera. Seval had forced the cockroaches into surrender, and told them to head south.”

“We know,” Glam said. “We were there. Our officer was the one who handed to Lupercus the guarantee of safe passage, while Wolf and I and the rest delivered those walking skeletons food to give them the strength to walk from our lands.”

“They never made it, though,” Wolf added. “They were slaughtered in the woods just south of there, despite our king’s word. The gods turned against us there. The Romans think Veleda ordered it, but she too is among the vanished.”

“Ha!” laughed Aethwain. “Veleda had no love of Romans, but she would not care of the fate of those two legions either. She had the True Sight, that one. They still speak in awe of her around here. It was not her who ordered such- you saw the Roman reaction. Do you think she had not? It was she who advised Seval on how to lure them out. She also advised clemency, which you know Seval gave.”

“So the Romans do not know all,” Wolf replied. He nodded. “And now they come to punish the Bructeri. And as Steinar would say,” he pointed a thumb at the Eagle over the throne, “The come for that as well.”

“Ulfrich, the junior king, came here with both,” Aethwain said. He leaned closer to the two. “I heard he slaughtered those two legions and captured their kinglets as a wedding present to Veleda, but they somehow escaped, leaving him nothing but the Eagles. She laughed him away. Personally,” his tone dropped by half, “I don’t like the fool. Udo, his twin, is sharp as a tack, but Ulfrich shines only in battle, not in war, if you understand.”

Both Batavi nodded. The man was a warrior, but no general. “He took two Eagles, but displays only one. Is he the type of man to put the other atop his bed, to impress another sort of conquest?”

Aethwain laughed so hard into his beer it bubbled back up. “No, after the Romans crushed your tribe, he sacrificed the other to Wotan, to regain his favor. For four years it has worked- the Romans left the Bructeri in peace. Now they come again. Wotan favors the Bructeri- can we others do no less? So we come.”

“We might just join you,” Glam said. “We shall search for Seval for another two weeks, Aethwain. If we do not find him by then, I shall offer you my sword.”

“Same here,” Wolf added.

Aethwain nodded. “I shall be happy to accept.”

An hour later, the two Batavi excused themselves from the table. The night was getting no younger, and they had yet to find a bedmate or shelter for the night. Aethwain bid them farewell, as did some of the other envoys- the Tencteri, the Chauci, the Cherusci, and even the Frisian nobleman bobbed his head. And then they left the former Slaughtered Pig behind, found their horses, and exited the little burg that wanted to rule the north.

They thought they were clever, and unseen. They were the first, but not the second. One could not blame them, though. Bructeri hunters in the woods through which they passed could be very stealthy.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-02-10 03:55 AM EDT (US)     27 / 57       
Glam and Wolf covered the last few hundred paces of open field to reach the village walls. They were not impressed. There was a small ditch before the walls, evidently a cheap imitation of the Roman legionary encampment- but not nearly as deep or as wide. The wall itself was more of a fence- chest high, and from its looks, designed more to keep sheep in than enemies out. There was a gate, and a man working it, but like the walls, it was not designed with warfare in mind.
I think of Maiden Castle and I am proud.

Great finish to that chapter. Keep up the good work.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 09-02-10 04:57 AM EDT (US)     28 / 57       
Ah so that is why Rutillus was sent on an apparent suicide mission. Clemens is in charge of four legions in Germania and when Cordinus fails then Clemens can strike against the Emperor.

It's starting to make sense.

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 09-06-10 03:12 AM EDT (US)     29 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus and Jorgen followed the track south around the village, stopping occasionally to move a bit closer to view some interesting bit of fortification or merely see the terrain from that point of view. Then they would return to the main trail and continue following the ruts their wagon had made in the mud. Night was falling, calling an end to the scouting and forcing a hustle upon the riders if they wished to reach the wagon before the stars came out.

In the dwindling light, the trail was more and more difficult to follow. The two had to concentrate on the tracks, and in doing so, nearly missed the approach of forty men along a trail coming in from the south. Both men moved aside to let the horsemen pass, but the leader of the horsemen called a halt before the entourage had passed.

“Ho there, travelers,” he called. The tone was friendly, but the next ones were less so. “What do ye here alone with night falling? Are you lost? Or escaping the civitas and the king’s justice after some roughhousing?”

“What does that matter to you?” Rutilius replied with the same crude manner the horseman used towards him. He could do not less- the appearance of the man shocked him to his core. Before him was the man who had stabbed him in Noviomagus! Yet the fool showed no inkling of recognition, so he continued a bit milder. “We are passing through, and yielded the path as good manners bid. Answering questions is not part of the rite.”

“Watch your mouth!” another horseman shouted. “And show respect!”

“Where is the respect he is to show us?” asked Jorgen loudly, when Rutilius went strangely quiet. “He asks our business, as if our journey matters to him. We have not even had a proper introduction.”

The leader of the horsemen laughed. “Back off, Oscar,” he said, “these two travelers are well within the rights of hospitality to deny questions to unknown riders accosting them in the coming dark.” He looked over the two, their cloaks dark and germane, their beards blonde and short. Their hair was loose, but there were many in all tribes who preferred not to wear the knot or the braid. Their eyes were blue, and their swords long. Under the cloaks he could see the salmon-skin of chain mail. Warriors, good ones at that- or merchants.

Again, Rutilius felt no hint of recognition. The market was dark. Maybe he simply does not recognize me?

“Introductions are in order,” he announced. “I am Udo, king of the Bructeri, whose hall you seem to be avoiding.” He left his previous questions unspoken, but both men knew he now had the right to ask. Kings have that right.

“I am Jorgen Niall’s Son, and this is my companion Marek, son of Rutger,” Jorgen replied after a moment. “We are merchants, who are now seeking our wagon before the darkness becomes total.”

“We went to your hall seeking you, King Udo,” Marek added. He felt comfortable now- his disguise was evidently working. “We came from the lands of the Cherusci, and passed a Chauci village. The lord there asked us to bring these arrows to you, as you alone know the whereabouts of the hunters of that village.” With that, Marcus lifted the bundles from his horse and made to hand them over.

“They will not be needed,” Udo replied coldly. “The hunters lay south of here, slain to a man.”

“It was not us,” Jorgen said sullenly. “We came from the east.”

Udo laughed. “There, my friends, you see Cherusci hubris. It was not us. As if two men could slay eighty! You Cherusci are indeed legends in your own minds. Have you come for the campaign this summer, Cherusci heroes?”

“We shall come,” Rutilius promised. “We would not miss it.”

“Good,” Udo said with a nod and a smile. “The Cherusci come. You shall see something spectacular this summer. I shall best your Herman. He and three tribes destroyed three legions in these woods seventy years ago. This summer, we Bructeri shall have five tribes with us as we trap and kill destroy four legions.”

“That will indeed be interesting to see,” Marek agreed. “I would not want to miss such a battle.”

“Nor I,” Jorgen agreed. “We shall come in the summer. Maybe you will need Cherusci warriors to beat a Cherusci legend.”

“Maybe I will,” Udo agreed. “Oscar, accept the arrows. There are other Chauci bands that may have a need of them.” He nodded to the merchants. “I shall look forward to seeing you two again this summer.”

The king and his guards rode off, leaving Marek muttering under his breath, “Be careful what you wish for, king. You just might get it. And next time, my arrow shall not fall short.”

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

The encounter with the king cost them some precious light, which meant their circumvention of the civitas to reach their wagon took much longer than expected. It was almost an hour past midnight when Amalric the Silent suddenly appeared beside their horses.

“You are late, Marcus,” he whispered. “We were beginning to worry.”

Jorgen startled worse than Marcus, who was used to the tall Batavian’s soundless way of movement. “Wotan’s One Eye, man! Do not sneak up on us so!”

“You do not need your sword among friends,” Amalric whispered, gesturing in the starlight to the sword now in the Cananefate’s hand. Jorgen blushed invisibly in the night and returned his sword to its scabbard.

“Glam and Wolf came back an hour ago,” Amalric reported. “They say we are to leave within an hour.”

“That is indeed my wish,” Rutilius affirmed. “That village we bypassed was the civitas of the Bructeri king. We met him on the way here, which is why we are late.”

“Were you followed?”

Marcus gave a derisive snort. “You have trained us well, Amalric, my friend. We were not followed.”

Amalric nodded. He waited, and the utter lack of any hoof-falls revealed that Rutilius had told the truth- he and Jorgen were not followed. They turned to follow their guard to the wagon, but the sounds of a battle erupting from the camp beyond made that unnecessary.

Rutilius drew his sword, and with Jorgen, rode forward as Amalric raced ahead on foot. As they closed on the camp, someone threw an armful of wood onto the fire, for it suddenly blazed up. The light cast from the fire illuminated a great circle around the wagon, and within that circle could be seen at least a dozen men ravaging the small camp. Dagthor lay immobile near the fire, dead or dying, and one on the Acilii was down on one knee with a Bructeri sword to his throat. Froydis and the others were nowhere to be seen.

Marcus saw there were too many for an assault, though Jorgen did not seem to think so. His horse galloped toward the struggle, his sword aired once again. Rutilius, however, did not join him, even though he would need support. Rutilius dismounted, taking his bow and strapping on his quiver. Then he quickly strung the bow and began taking aim.

Two more raiders came into the firelight. One was tossing the other Acilius about as a man wrangles a steer, while the other was wrestling Aelric into the light, holding him from behind while keeping a dagger to his throat. All three looked up at the charging horseman, while two others came from around the wagon with axes ready for throwing.

Rutilius had his targets. One, two, then both axemen were on the ground, arrows through their chests. Three seconds later, the man holding Aelric fell, an arrow through his forehead.

“These buggers have archers!” screamed a raider. He himself fell a second later, the arrow going clear through his neck to spray fine, red mist out the other side. He fell, but the warning had been given. The raiders grabbed what they could and began running.

Rutilius dropped another two, then Jorgen was upon them. He looked about for other targets, but the raiders had melted back into the dark woods. Cursing, he dropped his bow fully strung into its case and mounted up to follow. He dared not risk wounding Jorgen in the dark, so the only support he could give was physical. He charged in.

Jorgen had gone past the firelight, but when Rutilius arrived- seconds later- he was gone. Four raiders lay dead, proving here was where Jorgen caught up with them. Amalric came up behind him, almost getting chopped before Rutilius recognized him, and pointed to the distance. Horses- more than one- could be heard galloping away. A bloody axe was found in the hand of one of the bodies, and a dented helmet with blood on it nearby. The helmet was Jorgen’s- he would not easily part with it.

“It is over,” Amalric reported. “They are gone.”

“See who made it,” Rutilius ordered. “And see if any of these,” he said, kicking a body, “are still alive.”

Ten minutes later, he knew the results. Two raiders were still breathing, one had caught an arrow, while the other had a nasty sword-wound to the head. Both Acilii were missing, as was Jorgen. Dagthor and Hermann were dead, killed in the opening wave of axes. Glam, Wolf, and Harald had driven off the raiders who had come from the rear of the wagon, while the Acilii had fought those from the front. Froydis crawled out from under the wagon, rather muddy but otherwise unharmed. Some of the trade goods were missing.

“So what do we do now?” Wolf asked.

“We track them,” Rutilius swore softly, “And either get our people back, or murder the bastards who killed them.”

“Those are tasks best left to daylight,” Amalric replied.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Rutilius agreed. “Fix up the camp as best you can. Make sure everything is ready to move at a moment’s notice. Harald, can you still ride?”

The Batavian nodded. “They cut my leg,” he replied. “They did not cut it off, thus I can still ride.”

Rutilius smiled in the starlight. “Jorgen and I ran into their king, Udo. He mentioned the Chauci hunters to the south were slain to a man- eighty of them. I think Dieter is not too far away. Can you find him, and let him know – and him alone!- where we are and our situation?”

“Easily,” Harald replied. There was no cynicism or sarcasm in his voice as he added, “I can find a warband in these woods.”

“Good man,” Rutilius acknowledged. “Now to the prisoners.”

The two wounded raiders gave nothing up, at first. They were both badly wounded, and wanted nothing more than to die struggling, so that they may be picked up by lovely Valkyries and taken to Wotan’s Hall in Valhalla. Torture or other forms of inflicting pain were welcome.

Rutilius broke them by binding their wounds and having Froydis mumble some mumbo-jumbo over them. “My witch curses you to Nifelheim,” he told them. “Cowards you are, and shall suffer a coward’s curse. No everflowing beer, no lovely Valkyries.”

That made all their suffering for naught, if they believed. They did. In short order they were “uncursed” and duly slain in struggle to grant them their afterlife, and Rutilius knew everything he needed to know. Glam and Wolf had passed near a camp of hunters in the dark. The hunters had followed the two men, intent on slaying them and taking their riches- armor was seen, and swords. As they moved in, they saw the wagon and knew them to be merchants. Since they outnumbered the merchant guards by a fair margin, they decided to enrich themselves grandly and so attacked.

“And the prisoners?” Rutilius had asked.

There were to be no prisoners. No witnesses, just another merchant wagon disappearing into the forest, they had said. If prisoners were taken, it was a change of plans. Their best guess, sworn on their eternal souls, was that the prisoners would be taken to the Sacred Grove of Wotan nearby, to be sacrificed (and so silenced) or sold to the High Priest as future sacrifices. Or, they would be taken to the king for a monetary award. Rutilius felt the latter more reasonable, and so slit their throats.

“It is worse,” Amalric added once the wounded had their pain mercifully ended. “Both Acilii were taken- and Publius had the map on him. We need it back, or all of this was for naught.”

“They got off too lightly,” Rutilius muttered as he looked down upon the still bodies.

Amalric nodded. “So, what do we do now?”

“We get our people back,” Rutilius said with bitter determination. “What else?”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-06-10 05:07 AM EDT (US)     30 / 57       
Epic.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
BastWorshiper
Sensei
posted 09-06-10 10:33 AM EDT (US)     31 / 57       
I have been enjoying this immensely. Thanks, Terikel.

"It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.
Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen." -- Jerome K. Jerome

"Some people become so expert at reading between the lines they don't read the lines." -- Margaret Millar

ERADICATE CONDESCENSION! (That means don't talk down to people.)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 09-06-10 12:45 PM EDT (US)     32 / 57       
Pretty great chapter. The plot thickens!

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.
Bulba Khan
Ashigaru
(id: stormer)
posted 09-07-10 09:52 AM EDT (US)     33 / 57       
Wow, I just read all of it today and yesterday and i've got to say you're still living up to the name of master story-teller.

I feel the same way I did after playing Stronghold 2 for about 15 minutes, like it was my birthday and all my friends had wheeled a giant birthday cake into the room, and I was filled with hopes dreams and desires when suddenly out of the cake pops out not a beautiful buxom maid, but a cranky old hobo that just shanks me then takes $60 dollars out of my pocket and walks away saying "deal, with it".
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-09-10 02:29 AM EDT (US)     34 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Amalric returned to the wagon an hour after dawn. He had found tracks leading east- directly to the Bructeri village, with nothing deviating from that path.

“They went to the village. To the king.”

Rutilius swore softly. “Then so must I.”

“Do not be foolish,” Froydis pleaded. “The Bructeri king has ordered your death. You cannot simply walk into the Wolf’s Jaws and expect to come out unbitten.”

“I am a much different man now than before,” he replied, touching his beard and then his chainmail. “He may not recognize me. And if he does not know I speak Germanic, then he will not suspect me at all.”

Froydis studied him closely. The determination was there- he would not budge. He owed his guards and followers as much loyalty as they did him. And then there was Jorgen- a friend, a Guardsman, and the man he had sworn to Niall to protect. It was clear. Jorgen had risked his life saving his many times- it was not a matter of honor, but one of duty to a friend. She knew it, and he knew it. But there was still advice she could give.

“Take the Ubian with you,” she said, conceding. “Glam and Wolf may be recognized, and Amalric may be recognized as a Batavus, which could cause you problems. A Ubian guard would be seen neutrally.”

“Good idea,” Rutilius agreed. “Glam, how is Aelric’s swordsmanship coming along?”

The Batavian shrugged. “He cannot fight as well as Wolf or I, but he can easily defeat any two of these monkeys here.”

That was high praise, coming from him. Rutilius gestured to Aelric to mount up.

“Any more advice, woman?” He asked.

She drew him down and kissed him deeply, then whispered, “The Bructeri king is rumored to be a coward at heart. Be brave, and you shall have your way. After that, do not dawdle. Cowards have a way of seeking to avenge their own cowardice upon others.”

“I shall not tarry,” he promised.


It did not take long to reach the little village he had seen earlier, nor to roam it. The horse Jorgen rode was in a pen, along with two other horses- evidently the ones stolen with the Acilii. If the horses were here, it was likely the men were too. He gave his horse to Aelric and dismounted before the former Slaughtered Pig Tavern.

Two men stopped him and demanded his business.

“I have heard the king of this tribe resides here,” Marcus said in his best Chatti. “I have business with him that concerns his tribe.”

He had expected to be let inside, to see with his own eyes the way a Germanic king lived. But this was not to be. One of the men went inside, and soon a crowd of men came out. One of them came forward- the arrogant ass from the trail.

“Ah, Marek Rutgerson,” he said, remembering the brief encounter on the trail. “I see you came to our little town anyway.”

“Hail, King Udo of the Bructeri,” he replied. “I have come to report a crime, and plead that you have it within your power to bring me justice. Failing that, vengeance.”

“I am listening,” the king replied, noncommittally.

“A band of brigands raided my encampment in the night,” Rutilius explained. “They did not take much before they were either killed or driven off, but they did take three of my horses and three of my men. I would have them returned, and the brigands punished.”

“These three?” Udo said, gesturing to a small cage just off the main market. Rutilius could not see it from where he was, but a slight movement brought it into view. At his nod, Udo continued, ”they are spies. Two are Roman, the other is your colleague. We found this on one of them”” Udo held up a scroll. “”It is a map of our lands. Rather well drawn, as well, with lots of little runes by each one.”

“Of course you found my map,” Rutilius replied angrily, remembering the words of Froydis. “It is a merchant’s map. Any trader with any brains would always map out his projected market. It is an invaluable mercantile tool. Most do it by memory- mine is not so good. So I learned to read- and hired a man to make the marks for me. It works. We have lived well.”

“It is a military map,” Udo countered, unravelling it and holding it before the trader. ”Showing our villages, our populations, and our trails.”

“It is a merchant’s map,” Rutilius retorted with determination. “Showing the markets, their sizes, and routes depicting how to get there.”

“It is for war,” Udo shouted, ”You have two Romans with you. They are spies.”

“It is for commerce, you buffoon,” Rutilius shouted back. “The Roman knows how to make the marks, which was why I hired him when I passed Arenicum. The other is a Gaul with a Roman name, if you look closely. Gauls are loyal- and this one is a fine cook. Good food, at least what smells good- increases sales. It is a merchant trick.”

That struck home as the king remembered the strong scent of spiced chicken whenever a certain trader passed through. That trader always did well and lived well. A merchant trick... Like mapping out one’s markets...

“This is pointless, King Udo,” Rutilius continued, his voice raging with anger he did not feel. ”Bandits raided our caravan. You give honor to those bandits and imprison my partners. So be it. This will become known, and merchants everywhere shall avoid this town, and maybe this tribe. Bructeri? No thanks- they have no respect for traders. Let’s take our goods to the Chauci, or the Cherusci. They trade well, and with honor.”

“Enough,” Udo said, angry and bitter that the events could be so succinctly summed up into a horrific breach of Germanic law. “The Bructeri respect the law of hospitality and travelers.”

He thought further, analyzing what the threat he at first thought of blowing off actually meant. No traders, no steel, no goods that the Bructeri themselves could not produce. His lands had much wood, cattle, and pigs, but few mines. Traders also carried news, and messages. His spies and their networks ran through traders- if the honest traders stopped coming, his spies would be exposed. Woden’s Beard! That he could not risk. ”You may have your men, and your map, in exchange for your word that you shall not spread word to avoid us.“

“Hand over my men and my map,” Rutilius ordered, knowing he now had the upper hand. ” And I will ensure my pet Roman makes the marks for this village, its size, its relative value in goods and services, and that merchants should have a larger escort in this area. That gives fair warning to my colleagues, while at the same time letting them know this town has a rich market and its king is just. Fair enough?”

Udo did not think pushing the merchant would get him anywhere. The man had him by the balls and knew it. “Fair enough. Free the prisoners.”

Two housecarls opened the cage where Jorgen and the Acilii were penned, while another three fetched the horses stolen from the merchant. The prisoners hobbled to their mounts, and with a nod from their lord, mounted up and began walking their horses toward where Aelric awaited upon his own horse. Another housecarl brought Rutilius his precious map.

“And the bandits?” Rutilius asked pointedly, pressing his luck but acting the part. “They too shall be punished?”

Udo nodded. “They cannot have gotten far. I shall have my housecarls personally punish them.”

“They killed two of my men in taking these three. I want them dead, as is my right.”

Udo nodded. The hunters were idiots anyway- the Bructeri were better off without them. “You have my word.”

Marcus nodded. “I accept the word of a king.” He turned his horse to ride away, then looked back. “You have treated us fairly, King Udo. My colleagues shall know of this.” Then he continued on toward the west gate. The king’s voice stopped him.

“Marek?” Udo called. Rutilius stopped his horse and turned back to the king. “Something bothers me. You said on the trail you were Cherusci, but yet now you speak with a Cananefate accent and wear Cananefate colors.”

“You said I was Cherusci, lord, not I,” Rutilius corrected, with a laugh. “I had said we had come from Cherusci lands, but had not added ‘where we had been trading’ as it seemed obvious.”

“Ah,” the king replied, satisfied. The falling darkness had made his Cananefate cloak appear to have Cherusci colors. Marek had shown tact in not pointing out the mistake before the king’s men then, and did so now only by direct order. He must be a good man.

Rutilius nodded and waved farewell, then turned his horse toward the west gate to rejoin his freed partners. Aelric had dawdled, awaiting his liege, while Jorgen led the two lictors as quickly as possible out of the village. Jorgen and the Acilii had just cleared the gate when a small troop of cavalry came in, forcing the two trailing men to wait. There was a well-dressed lord in the middle of the group, and Rutilius could not but help to stare as King Udo rode passed him, entering the village. Either a magic trick, or there are two of them. Then it came to him. Twins. No wonder Udo did not recognize me on the trail or in his square- his twin tried to strike me down. Udo, or rather Ulfrich, paid the merchant little mind as he rode to meet his twin- a broad smile upon his face.

“Udo!” the twin king shouted once he had entered the square and spied his brother. “We caught Rutilius, right where the Roman said he would be! One hundred forty men he had, but no more! If he can scrounge up thirty he would be lucky.”

“He escaped?” Udo roared. “You had him, and let him escape! How could you fail so totally when utter victory was within your grasp?”

“I destroyed his warhost about his ears!” Ulfrich boasted. “He is a slippery one, though. And his horse swift. He fled west.”

Rutilius had heard enough. Dieter and the cavalry ala had been caught by a force of Bructeri warriors and had been slaughtered. A shame, but he knew the risks. And Dieter was still alive and free- he would be fine.

“Marek!” Udo called, noticing the merchant had hung back to listen. “You can inform your colleagues that Bructeri lands are now even safer!”

“Maybe,” Rutilius shouted back. “But wars are still bad for business!”

While the king laughed at the familiar merchant’s saying, Rutilius turned his horse to go. Ulfrich looked up at the reply, and his face screwed up as he tried place something in his mind that did not quite fit. He remembered glancing at the merchant, recognizing him as no danger, and searching for his brother to tell the grand news. The merchant... Chainmail, warsword and seax, blonde loose hair, blue eyes, bearded, otherwise normal. He carried a bow in a case... The arrows in his quiver, however- a mix-match of sorts. Arrows with long Chauci fletchings, shorter Batavian fletchings, and... Twisted fletchings, that impart a spin on the arrow for truer flight. Erwin’s fletchings. And the voice- he remembered it now, from the time in Batavodurum when he had stabbed the legate. Rutilius!

“Get him!” Ulfrich roared to his men, who leapt at the command while he himself turned viciously to his brother and spat. “You cast shit upon me for having Rutilius slip through my battle lines, brother, yet you stand here and entertain him yourself before letting him ride out of our village! Bah!”

Ulfrich then bolted after his men. The chase was on. Aelric was already outside the walls when Rutilius burst through the gates at full speed, forty hardened horsemen on his tail. Aelric was Ubian, but not slow. He kicked his horse to full gallop and followed his lord into the forest.

It was there that Marcus Rutilius made a typically Roman error that would cost him dearly. It was the same error that had unhorsed Jorgen to cause this visit. He turned his head while his horse raced on, trusting the beast to avoid the trees on its own. He needed to gauge the distance between himself and those following in order to determine whether an attempt to change directions would be seen or was indeed viable. In doing so, he could not see the branch under which his horse rode. The beast had avoided the trunks, but cared not what was above. The branch impacted on his head and ejected him from the saddle to lay broken and bleeding upon the ground.

Aelric slowed for a heartbeat, but his lord was motionless and the many Bructeri horsemen close. Cursing, he kicked his horse in the ribs again. The Bructeri circled the body, and that was the last Aelric saw of his lord.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-09-10 03:59 AM EDT (US)     35 / 57       
OH NO! Will the Bructeri twins have their wicked way?

Although that was a schoolboy error by Rutillus in getting himself captured that way.

A very suspenseful 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.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-09-10 05:27 AM EDT (US)     36 / 57       
Rutilius is not a horseman on par with the Batavians, though he is a better rider than most Romans. Still, one little slip at a crucial time is enough to cost a life, is it not?

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-09-10 07:30 AM EDT (US)     37 / 57       
Indeed. As you have seen on my war story as well.

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 09-09-10 11:58 AM EDT (US)     38 / 57       
I don't think I've actually known Rutilius to make a mistake in any of your tales yet, Master Skald. There's always a first time... I wonder if I am more stunned than he.

And by the way, I can actually not wait until Monday for the next instalment. I hope your Sepia Joust entrant may make it easier to stand the wait (mine is coming along in a rather lopsided way).

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-10-10 04:00 AM EDT (US)     39 / 57       
He's made plenty- social ones, marital ones, security ones, tact ones, and big ones like refusing to declare loyalty to Vespasian, holding a dagger to the throat of a consul, bitching out a legate before his officers when he was but a tribune, etc. He has also had a few stupid ideas as well- but those he usually pitches in council, where others can point it out. He has a good group around him, which prevent him from executing the mistakes.

On the horse, it was not a mistake to gauge the distance between him and his pursuers to determine the viability of changing direction. It was a rookie mistake to not check the coming terrain first, though. Regardless, he paid for that and will probably never do that again.

A shame. I liked him.

|||||||||||||||| 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
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-13-10 02:05 AM EDT (US)     40 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It hurt.

Everywhere.


An eye opened. He had a wonderful bird’s eye view of the King’s Hall from the inside, looking down its twin rows of long tables, the benches filled with Germans of many tribes. At the far end, Udo sat on the wooden throne, watching over his housecarls.

Movement was impossible. A huge weight was upon his chest, pressing him down. From this he knew he still had his armor and clothes on. His arms were bound outstretched, with the weight of his body feeling like it was pulling the arms out of his sockets. Rutilius knew then that he was in a world of shit.

He was standing on a small ledge above the portals of the King’s Hall. From the way his arms were bound, he knew he tied up in the fashion of a Roman crucifix. The bastards were crucifying him.

“Ah, he awakens,” Udo noticed. His call brought a series of derisive laughs from his assembled warriors. One of them, the king’s twin, rose up and walked down the hall to stand beneath him and stare at him for a time. Then he took a ladder and placed it against the wall next to the prisoner. When Rutilius turned his head, he could see his arms were bound by rope around his wrists, and these were secured to iron rings higher up. Then he saw the face of the man who had nearly gutted him in Noviomagus, only inches away.

“I had wanted you hung up by pegs driven through your wrists, naked like a slave,” the twin king muttered lowly. “A worthy trophy- a Roman senator nailed to our wall. But Udo thought different. Your armor and weapons make a fine trophy- how better to display them then to have the man from whom he took them serve as their stand?”

Rutilius rolled his head away from the rancid breath of the Bructeri kinglet. In doing so, he discovered his head wound had been bandaged, and that a helmet- a Roman helmet- had been placed upon his head. And he had been neatly shaved in the Roman manner.

Ulfrich held a skin of water to the prisoner, and let him drink from it. Rutilius drank eagerly, while Ulfrich laughed.

“We do not want you to die so quickly, Roman,” he boasted. “I want you to die slowly, very slowly. My life has been hell ever since my dagger went into your gut but failed to find your life. This to me is sweet vengeance.”

“Enjoy it while you can, barbarian,” Rutilius cursed. “It shall not last long, and neither shall you.”

Ulfrich laughed heartily at the empty threat. “It shall last far longer than you wish, Roman. I had wished to dance upon your grave, but alas that shall never be. You shall hang here, for all eternity, a once-living display of Bructeri prowess, and thus have no grave. But do not dwell upon that. Dwell rather upon this- you shall die here in this hall. Your comrades shortly thereafter. Your soldiers shall come here and die as well. And once they are gone, we shall overrun the border all the way to the sea. I shall lead them, and my first stop will be a farmstead near the Ubians. I hear there will be a very lonely woman there, wanting comfort. Her children will be slain, of course, but she herself shall enjoy my lusts for as long as she remains pleasing to my eyes. Then, when I am tired of her, I shall slit her throat. This shall happen, as surely as you hang here. Ponder that, Rutilius.”

Rutilius was struggling against the ropes, apparently in anger. Ulfrich was pleased. He did not notice, however, that the Roman had determined that the ropes holding him were run through rings above, but tied to pegs lower down. Nor did he realize he just informed Rutilius that he knew of the coming offensive- one Rutilius himself had only recently deduced. The Germans confirm they have spies in Rome.

“I see you understand the pain,” Ulfrich continued. “Do you feel that ledge upon which you stand? That is for your comfort. I was told crucifixion- what a horrible word- kills slowly by having the body pull the ribs apart by hanging, preventing breath over time. You will not die so quickly. Your own body will force you to stand on that tiny ledge for as long as it can- preventing the hanging death. Only when your strength is gone, and your body unable to hold itself up, will your own weight and that of the armor you wear slowly tear you apart. Then you will die. But we shall give you water, and food sometimes, to keep up your strength. We want this to last a long, long time.”

Udo came over while his brother gloated. He had a scroll in his hand, which he opened. “Such a nice map. It documents your travels through our land quite nicely.” He looked at it, shook his head, then looked up at his prisoner. “You were very clever, Marek. You appear to leave from your home aboard ship, and land at the Witch’s Tower, after a careful operation to make it seem you would cross Father Rhein directly. You fooled us, by the way- Ulfrich had a long and hard ride from the Rhein to catch your decoy. All the while, you had been travelling our land as a common merchant, fooling everyone.”

Udo gestured, and a housecarl came forward with a torch.

“A military map, as I said,” Udo said, recalling their last argument. He held the torch to the scroll, watching playfully as the fire took hold and began running over the papyrus, consuming it and rendering the work of weeks to ash. “Too bad.”

A normal man would have been broken, a weak man crushed, and a strong man angered. Rutilius relaxed.

“What? No reaction?” Udo asked. Ulfrich smacked the Roman, and nearly got bitten for his effort.

“He has fight in him yet, brother,” the king on the ladder replied. He dismounted the ladder, but left it in place to facilitate later gloating.

“Good,” Udo said with a nod. “Come, Ulfrich. Let us enjoy some Cherusci ale while we enjoy viewing our newest decoration.”

The kings returned to their seats on the far end of the hall. They did not see the tiny smile on their prisoner’s face, nor did they pay any attention at all to the two Batavians sitting and drinking with a Quadii thane. But Rutilius had seen them, and knew help was coming.

Ulfrich was wrong. It would be Bructeri blood staining the floor of this hall tonight, not Roman.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-13-10 06:27 AM EDT (US)     41 / 57       
The next chapter and possible rescue attempt will be very interesting.

Great 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 09-13-10 11:03 AM EDT (US)     42 / 57       
Too short!

I wonder for whom waiting will be more painful out of me and Ritilius (I know I made that joke in my last post but whatever)...

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-16-10 02:15 AM EDT (US)     43 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The chieftains and envoys drank long and hearty of the Bructeri ale, celebrating their capture of a Roman senator and magistrate. Not even the bad news about the escape of the crew of the ‘merchant wagon’ could dampen their spirits. But they did lift those of Rutilius. The wagon had been found, and dragged in to the village to be plundered in earnest, but the crew of the wagon was not to be found. That gave him hope. Since Glam and Wolf were among the guests inside, the others were doubtless not far away.

Around midnight, the housecarls tried to disperse the festive nobles and champions back to their dwellings. A few objected, and Udo, feeling the rush of success, cried, “Let them feast! Let them enjoy the our trophy while he yet lives.” The housecarls, not being allowed ale while on guard, sullenly returned to their station by the walls and portals. Only one guest rose to leave after that, and he was quickly challenged by the king.

“Why do you depart, Batavus?” he asked of Wolf. “Have you Batavi so little stomach for our fine beer?”

“We Batavi consider it rude to piss against the inside walls of a king’s hall,” Wolf replied brazenly. “So I go outside. But have no fear, King Udo the Clever, I shall return in a few moments to help drink your storehouse empty.”

Udo chuckled at the Batavian’s words, and gestured that he was indeed correct to perform that bodily function outside. Wolf acknowledged the wisdom and went outside. On his way out, just under the door, he whispered lowly and in Latin a single word. Soon. A few minutes later he kept his word, entering the hall and rejoining his companion.

Two hours passed. The flowing alcohol and the late hour began to have the desired effect. Men began wandering off to their quarters, or to their tents, or to the beds of whatever woman they happened to woo that evening, or simply fell into a stupor right there at the table. Udo remained on his throne, fast asleep despite his determination to enjoy every precious second of his prisoner’s suffering. Ulfrich was more vibrant. As the hero of the day, he had his choice from among the prettiest of the Bructeri noblewomen widowed by their decoration. He chose three and walked off with them arm in arm, through the door to the right of the throne, the one that led to the royal bedchambers above. Udo lifted not a hand in greeting, nor uttered a word of congratulations to his brother. He was deep asleep.

Aethwain made his departure shortly thereafter, wobbling off toward the portal. He glanced up at the Roman hanging there and sighed. “I would have given you a quick death, an honorable one. It is too bad for the fools here that you are too clever by far.”

Then he exited the portal. Glam looked up from his beer- his fourth for the night- while Wolf- who had drunk even less while affecting to drink much more- made a mess of trying to walk to the portals. Two of the four housecarls still awake came over to catch him before he fell. They knew the wrath of Udo should he be so stupidly awoken from his well-deserved slumber.

There were only sixteen other men still awake in the hall, all engrossed in whispered conversation over half-empty horns of ale and beer. The three remaining serving girls loitered impatiently along the side wall, awaiting the call to refill. Glam felt a moment of pity for them- two of them were rather pretty. It was too bad they would not live out the night.

The two housecarls reached Wolf and caught him before he collapsed. Steadied now, the large Batavian thanked them, then allowed them to bring him to the portals where his antics were less likely to wake the king. They opened the portals and escorted him outside, where he promptly regained his balance and swept their heads together in a rather sickening crack. The men fell to join two others laying in the shadows.

“Aethwain!” Wolf whispered urgently.

The Quadii thane came forward from the shadows, sixteen of his men at his side. “We are ready. For ten suits of Roman mail, we would take on more than just these buffoons.”

“Send some men to Jorgen, who is around the back,” Wolf demanded. “He and the Acilii are to kill the housecarls who may come to their king’s aid from the longhouse next door.”

Aethwain gestured, and eleven men peeled off to join the Cananefate planning mischief in the rear. Five stayed with him- the assault force for the front door.

Aelric and Amalric moved out of the shadows. Like two of Aethwain’s men were now doing, they were now clad in the shirts and cloaks of fallen housecarls. Aethwain’s two men remained on post outside the door, while Wolf signaled Amalric and Aelric- the two closest in appearance to the two housecarls he had brought out- to begin their task.

Laughing lowly to each other, the two Guards moved to the sober housecarl to Glam’s front. The housecarl noticed their approach and manner, and thinking they would share the humorous story with him, leaned forward to hear the tale. He gave a small gasp instead of a laugh, then slid gently to the ground in the hands of Aelric while Amalric removed the dagger he had inserted between the housecarl’s ribs.

It was quietly done, but the murder did not go unseen. Drunken eyes had witnessed the guard’s slow fall, and thought it just another drunken warrior passing out until the owner of the eyes noticed the red smear along the wall.

His drunken reaction was too slow. He stood, fumbled with his weapon with one hand while pointing to the murder with the other. His mouth made words, which were incomprehensible to the others and drew little but laughs. Aelric and Amalric drew their swords as if they were true housecarls moving to subdue drunken fools before they could wake the king.

The sole remaining housecarl reacted to the drunken noble’s attempt at warning as had the two, but not to the murder beyond. Like those he thought his comrades, he too began moving forward to accost the drunks before their antics could wake the king. He found a francisca between his eyes instead as Glam spun about and hurled.

The housecarl crashed to the floor, his momentum bringing him to rest half-hidden under the table.

Udo opened an eye at the unexpected noise. He saw little out of place in the hall, dark as it was with fewer torches lit now than earlier. He saw his housecarls dealing with some drunks, and his prize trophy hanging wearily from his ropes. All was in order. His eye closed.

Something was odd. Half-asleep, he could not place it. It was a bitter internal struggle, but he forced the eye open again. The drunks were subdued, quiet now, as he had expected, but the guards were clustered now by the portal.

Then he saw it. His trophy, his prize. It was being lowered to the ground.

Udo sprang awake.

“Alarm! Housecarls! To me!” he bellowed in earnest.

Wolf and Aelric left Rutilius to the hands of Glam and Amalric and moved to their secondary objective. Marcus was safe in the hands of the mercenaries- but the Eagle of the XV Primigenia hanging there above the throne, was one of the summer’s objectives. Here was a chance to grasp it, to give the campaign of the past summer some meaning. Such a chance would not come again soon. They ran forward.

Around them, drunken men stirred at the cries. Udo, seeing death in their approach before, made a desperate choice between fight or flight. No piece of silver was worth his life. He bolted for the scullery door, which led outside.

The scullery blew into flames upon his approach. The windows and shutters had been closed, and the back door closed and braced shut from the outside. A pile of kindling had been plied with oil and then left burning in the abandoned scullery, slowly consuming the air in the room, and slowly spreading upon the spilled oil. The sudden influx of air from Udo opening the door created a firestorm in the scullery, and blocking the all aid from coming in that way.

Udo was trapped. Wolf grinned. He left the Eagle to Aelric and turned to cut down a much bigger trophy.

Two housecarls burst into the long hall from the stairway behind the throne, where they had been upstairs on duty outside the king’s bedchambers. Behind them could be heard more, but those were men hastily awoken by smoke and alarm, and had little but their trousers and swords. Only these first two were properly armed and armored, and thus presented the bigger threat.

Aelric handled them beautifully. He leapt down from the throne where he had been cutting free the Eagle above it, landing in his feet like a cat between the housecarls and Wolf. Many times he had been rejected for the Guard due to his abominable swordsmanship. Now, after months of tutelage under Jorgen Niall’s Son, he was more than a match for two Bructeri housecarls. He deflected the sword of the first into a smashing blow across the face of the second, then lunged a quick stab into the gut of the first before slicing the throat of the second.

Both men fell, but they were almost immediately replaced.

“Fall back,” Wolf ordered, fencing with Udo but commanding the Guardsman. “Get the Eagle and run, lad.”

Aelric did not obey. He was slicing down foes almost as fast as they set foot past the doorframe. Never before had he felt like such a warrior hero. What he considered his cowardly actions during the Great War were washed away in a river of Bructeri blood, and he was not about to let the Redemption end. Then Ulfrich came through the door.

Aelric hit euphoria. He was warmed up, his battle skills hone to the point of being awesome, and now he had a Bructeri king at sword’s point. This was the man reputed to have tried low murder against his lord. Nothing could stop him.

Ulfrich saw a single housecarl between him and his brother, who was fighting desperately against a Batavian. Again he heard the command, “Fall back, damn you!” and again he saw the man before him ignore it.

Ulfrich was stronger and more experienced in battle than the men who served him. He parried the young Ubian’s thrusts and slashed mightily against the young fool’s head. Amazingly, the youth deflected the blow and drew a line of blood from his arm in an astonishing riposte.

Aelric was unstoppable. He pressed forward, forcing the Bructeri back toward the door. Then he simply stopped, a curious expression covering his paling face. Ulfrich pushed the dying young man off of the dagger in his left hand and bolted for his brother.

Wolf saw Aelric suddenly stop out of the corner of his eye and knew the young fool had gotten himself killed. Playtime was over. He swept his sword in a shallow arc neck-high then bolted down the center of the hall, through the wakening drunks and away from the king and his closing brother. Behind him, Udo dropped his sword and clutched his throat. A curtain of blood came out from under his hands to form a red crescent across the top of his shirt.

Amalric and the men of Aethwain were handling the drunks. Not many were slain- neither Guard nor mercenary wanted bloodfeuds with entire tribes for the slaying of an envoy, though many fell with bumps and cuts that would take long to heal. Drunken men fight poorly, and those aroused from slumber even more poorly. Soon it was but a few still standing when Wolf plowed into them from behind.

Ulfrich saw his brother fall, the killer get away, and Rutilius on the verge of escape. His king’s hall was afire- probably at the instigation of Rutilius- and the omen of doom upon him. There was little he could do, but roar out a battlecry and charge. The remaining housecarls formed a small wedge behind him and followed.

The king would be upon them before they all made it out the door, Rutilius realized. This limited the Roman’s options. He had gotten caught while he rescued his men. He would not allow them to face Bructeri justice for rescuing him. Honor was tough; these decisions tougher still. He counter-charged the Bructeri king.

Rutilius met Ulfrich in a titanic clash of steel-on-steel. Ulfrich had the advantage in swordplay with long weapons, while Rutilius had the advantage of two weapons in hand- the warsword of Labeo in his left, and the seax in his right.

Ulfrich had faced men with two weapons before. It was simple. One simply beat down the larger weapon and avoided the smaller, shorter weapon by staying out of its reach. He had not counted on Rutilius being left-handed, but the principle still applied. He swung a mighty blow toward the larger sword, with which he intended to batter aside in order to follow up with a back-slash across the neck as the Batavian had done to Udo. Fitting, that.

It failed. A housecarl- a true one- battling Glam had lost half his face. His fall tangled the king’s sword, leaving him open for a Roman jab with the Batavian war sword. The stab never materialized, giving him a moment’s respite. He did not know if it was because a lack of skill, or a lack of will. Either way, the man before him was weak. That made it easier.

Around him his few remaining sword-mates were still fighting, but it was plain that the Quadii mercenaries and Batavian Guardsmen would win- they were simply much better than his own warriors, and had consumed far less beer. This infuriated him, and the extra adrenaline gave him an added boost. He ducked a clumsy slash of Rutilius’s war sword to bring his own weapon swiftly upward- knocking the heavy weapon up and away from his vitals. And then he fell backwards, the short seax stabbing deep into his left eye and tearing itself out through the bone and cheek to its left. One second he was a raging bull of combat; the next he was a hunk of meat laying still upon the floor. He had forgotten the most basic tenet of fighting Romans- they are mostly right-handed, and prefer stabbing with a short sword.

The fall of Ulfrich coincided with that of the last of the housecarls and guests. The silence of the hall was broken only by the heavy breathing of the victors and the crackling of the fire exiting the scullery to consume the hall.

“Get the Eagle,” Rutilius commanded. ”I cannot bear to leave it here after staring at it most of the evening.” He turned to Glam, and clasped him solidly upon the shoulder. “Put Aelric’s corpse on the throne,” he said. He kicked the body of the king at his feet, and added, “and curl this up at his feet.”

Glam gave a quick grin, then obeyed. Rutilius stood still, surveying the hall. The back side was afire, and the flames encroaching. All resistance in the hall was brutally quashed- only his men remained standing, along with a few his men had hired. The area was secure. Then his attention was crudely ripped from his trophies by the wheezing of the Quadii thane Aethwain, who lay gasping on the floor with a sword-stab in his chest. The blood frothed there- he would be dead before the hall burned completely. The dying man beckoned the freed prisoner to him. Rutilius knelt down by his savior.

“You are surrounded by good men,” the Quadii wheezed. The stab to his chest had punctured his lung. Unlike Cordinus, who had suffered the same, there were no medici nearby, nor would the man have the chance to heal. He would die, and knew it. “Good men, but you serve worthless fools, who have even worse men around them. One of them, close to the Eagle King, has betrayed you. Ulfrich bragged about it. Still, you have been good enough to Germania these past years to earn even my respect.”

“That means much,” Rutilius agreed. He lifted his seax. “You are dying, lord. Shall I end your pain?”

“I would ask something of you first.”

“Name it,” Rutilius replied in the ritual words, “and if it is in my power, it will be done.”

“My men,” Aethwain coughed. “They are outlaws now, you understand. But they did this willingly, for you, and for me. Will you accept them?”

“I will provide for them,” Rutilius promised. “I can always use men good with weapons, and for the wounded, I have farms and other places that could use good men.”

“Good. You will pay my men what yours promised?” Aethwain whispered, through clenched teeth as the pain hit him. “Ten warshirts, Roman-made?”

“I promise,” Rutilius said solemnly.

Aethwain grinned. ”Then strike, and do it right. I do not wish my spirit tarnished by this malfunctioning body any longer.”

Rutilius struck, a single heavy chop to the neck. Blood spurted once, then ceased. Aethwain was no longer in pain.

“Come, Marcus,” Glam said, lifting his lord to stand. “The fire, it spreads, and though Jorgen and the Quadii outside are quiet, I doubt the Bructeri are not aware of what we do. We are not yet far from here.”

Rutilius acknowledged the understatement with a coarse grin. He glanced at the throne, where young Aelric lounged proudly in death, a Bructeri king at his feet like a dog, and flames licking the walls and ceiling beyond.

“Fare well, Aelric of the Ubii,” he whispered. Then to Glam, “Lead on.”

The Acilii and six Quadii were outside, holding several horses. These were joined by the four survivors from inside.

“The housecarls are dead, lord,” Titus Acilius reported, “But the battle was heard. I fear the word got out. We heard men rousing and arming.”

Another small herd of horses came from around the burning hall. With them was Jorgen, and holding his own horse was Froydis. She too would not be left behind. He walked over to her, intending to mount the horse, but instead she handed him his bow and quiver. He sent her a questioning look, but her eyes were already raised to where a band of warriors was forming up into the spearwall, with those in the back pointing to the small crowd of Germani before the king’s hall, and the smoke issuing from the building beyond. They knew something bad was happening, but not what.

“Wait,” Froydis pleaded in that voice of hers which was more like a command. “He comes. Wait for it...”

Rutilius waited. Around him his men mounted their horses, motioning for him to hurry. Then he saw what he was to wait for. A man emerged from the crowd with a bow, a hunter by his clothing and hat. Rutilius recognized the man as one of the king’s guests. Hagar, Son of Ruel. It was he who had stumbled upon Glam and Wolf returning to the wagon that led to the capture of his men, which in turn led to his own capture. Udo had promised him death for attacking the merchant wagon and killing Dagthor and Hermann. Rutilius smirked. So much for Udo’s honor.

Hagar. A talented hunter, with a bow.... He could easily empty most of the saddles before they could clear the end of the street.

His own bow was still strung. The arrow fell naturally into its place; the string gripped in three fingers and smoothly drawn to his cheek in the Oriental style favored by the Imperial marines. A brief moment, aiming, then a smooth release.

The hunter had merely whipped up his bow and fired from the chest-high draw, as was common in the West. A good practice in battle, where men are packed tightly in large blocks and rate-of-launch more important than aim, it was a poor choice here where the target was smaller and the chance of missing greater. The arrow flew true, however- a testament to the hunter’s skill- directly toward what the shooter thought was the mounted leader of the small band. Despite its speed and surprise, Jorgen caught it easily upon his shield.

The arrow of Erwin flew true as well. It left Rutilius’s bow on a near-flat trajectory, spinning rapidly as its twisted feathers caught the air, and closed the hundred paces in less than two seconds to impact squarely between the eyes of Hagar, Son of Ruel. Half of the oaken arrow stood out from the man’s forehead, a quarter protruded from the back of his head and was adorned with his hat, which it had taken with it upon exit.

His fall acted like a signal. The group surged forward down the main street, spears raised high in an adrenaline flood, then leveled at they closed. Three times more the bow of Rutilius sang its song, and twice men fell with thick naval arrows in them. The third, a Chauci war arrow, bent horribly when released and flew off into the night. That is why I insist on thick arrows, or oak, Rutilius thought to himself.

Another, smaller group came from the other end of the street, where they had been gathering and waiting to ambush the intruders should they flee. Since the Batavians stood fast while the other Bructeri band attacked, they had no choice but to come forward. Ninety against twenty was made one hundred twenty against twenty. It was to be a Batavian sandwich.

“How much longer before we can seek Valhalla?” Glam asked sarcastically.

Rutilius mounted his horse and slid the bow into its case. “I guess now.”

“Wait,” Froydis commanded again. “Do you not hear it? Listen!”

The Germans came on, but there was an unmistakable clatter from across the pasture where the captured wagon still stood. Then, like wraiths from the night, horsemen leapt over the pasture’s back fence and lowered their lances. Thirty of them there were, charging, leaping lancers, and their last leap put them square into the flank of the larger Bructeri warband. At their head was a tall man in silvered armor, and by his side was a familiar Batavian cavalryman who wore a bandaged wound on one leg and a shit-eating grin upon his face.

The impact of the cavalry into the flank of the spearwall utterly and irrevocably shattered it. Dieter dropped his broken spear and pulled his sword. Around him, the remnants of the I ala Thracum did the same. The charge of the small band led by Rutilius sealed the lopsided battle. What few Bructeri remained melted back into the shadows.

“I am forever saving your ass,” Dieter roared to Marcus above the whinnying of horses scenting blood. “Can we stop this horseshit now and leave this cursed place?”

“Aye,” Rutilius agreed. “The gates are secured?”

“Gates hell,” Dieter laughed. “The walls of this burg are less than yon fence. Simply ride, then jump!”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-16-10 05:43 AM EDT (US)     44 / 57       
And so falls the two Bructeri kings.

So they have the Eagle but are behind enemy lines.....this should be very interesting!

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 09-20-10 03:29 AM EDT (US)     45 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The once-proud Slaughtered Pig Tavern, converted by decree into the king’s hall of the Bructeri, burned fiercely in the night. The flames had penetrated to the thatch roof, and those dried and tarred straws went up in voracious flames. The Bructeri survivors assembled outside, watching their pride burn, and occasionally helping a man who came stumbling out of the smoke to safety. None thought of entering that inferno.

Inside, another man still struggled. Burning beams cracked and groaned, telling him he had little time. He was halfway through the great hall, dragging his load behind him as one did a sack of milled wheat, when the aft section of the former tavern collapsed in a rumble of fiery destruction. The throne of the kings, with its Ubian occupier, disappeared in a sea of flame. The fall also gave the wounded man a tremendous push. He could not scream, but he could move. And move he did, slowly, stopping only to catch a searing breath or put out a flame wherever an ember had fallen upon him or his brother.

Udo emerged from the door, dragging Ulfrich behind him. The elders, seeing the king alive, rushed to his aid.

“He lives,” whispered the king. The aspirated air passed not through his mouth, but rather through the gaping hole torn in his windpipe. Like Claudius Victor at Gelduba, his throat had been cut, but not deep enough. The heat and searing smoke had helped cauterize the wound, preventing him from drowning inside his lungs, but he would never again speak normally.

Ulfrich had lost an eye from a terrible sword wound, yet the brain beyond was unpunctured. Concussed, but not penetrated. Udo was correct- the king lived.

The single remaining eye opened. “Udo,” he said with a smile. “You live.”

Udo nodded. His voice refused to work any more.

“We live,” Ulfrich said weakly. “It is enough. We shall avenge this another day. But for now... we need to rest, brother. It hurts...”

Udo held his brother tightly, but went slack in doing so.

Ulfrich looked up at his brother, and saw the awful wound to his neck. “I shall avenge you, brother,” he swore silently. “Rutilius shall pay for taking you from me. This I swear by Woden, Wotan, or Odin, however he wishes to be called, and by Donar, and all the gods of Valhalla. He shall pay.”

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

Dieter led the ala and the party in a desperate race north. Only once did he stop, and that was to issue an order to cut up their bedding.

“You will not be using it any more,” he said to those who objected. “We shall ride until we are back in civilization where you can get more, or we will be dead. Now cut, damn you!”

The bedding was cut into four pieces, per horse, and then folded and bound around the hooves. After the brief stop, he had them clean up the scraps, pack them away, then moved like lightning again. Those looking behind noticed that the hoofprints left by the horses were no longer as visible as before- and upon a ground covered with leaves- invisible. It was as if the horses floated over the ground without touching it.

Upon reaching a stream several hours later, they marched west in the stream’s silty bottom for several hours, before discarding the now-soggy bedding and racing off to the southwest. The trip lasted all night, and the journey continued for the next day as well. Only a few times did he allow the group to stop during daylight, and only then when he had found a defensible meadow where the horses could graze and drink.

On one of the infrequent stops, he unbuckled the clamshell cuirass and handed it back to Marcus.

“Here,” he said. “I took good care of it, but it is yours again now.”

Marcus took the armor and donned it. While he was buckling it up, he asked why Dieter drove them southwest, when the fords are obvious west-north-west.

Dieter sighed. Had being crucified addled his lord’s wits? “Pretend you are a Bructeri. Your quarry flees on horseback to Rome. How do you catch them?”

Rutilius nodded. It had been a long two days for him. He replied wearily, “I would block the fords and bridges, and sweep my army toward them.”

Dieter nodded. “Exactly. We head southwest, toward where the Bridge of Cordinus once stood. If we are there by nightfall tomorrow, which we should if we hurry, then six vessels of the Roman river fleet will be there to carry us over.”

“And if they are not?”

“Your horse is Batavian,” Dieter replied as if the question was silly. “It can swim. And if it cannot, it will learn from mine, which can.”

Rutilius chuckled. Swimming the river with the horses was an option- but only if a quick raft could be constructed. Even Batavian horses would tire and drown crossing the Rhenus while mounted. Still, if the fleet was there...

“Mount up,” Dieter ordered. He now had the old warshirt of Rutilius on. “It is a long swim if we miss our date, ladies.”

The troop mounted and moved out. Around dusk, Dieter called a quick halt to let the sky darken further and the stars come out. Rutilius used this time to stretch his tired legs and loosen his aching shoulders. Froydis came up behind him and commanded him to sit. He sat, and she began massaging his neck and upper arms where they emerged from his armor. He needed more, but this was all he was going to get. It was enough- the strains and aches began draining away.

“I was worried about you,” she said as she worked on his tense muscles. “When Aelric told of your capture, I had feared you slain instantly. Had I been the king, I certainly would not let a dangerous enemy live longer than necessary.”

“Then I am grateful Udo and Ulfrich were such fools,” he replied. Her hands were working magic on his neck. He could feel the tension melting away. But at his mention of the kings, she ceased her magic.

“Udo and Ulfrich?” she spat. “Were you on such good terms, then, Marcus?””

“Being crucified is an intimate affair,” he laughed lowly. “The drawing close of death brings men together. Besides, I could not help but overhear their names. Not that it matter anymore- Wolf cut down Udo, and my seax here stabbed down Ulfrich. They shall bother us no more.”

“Ah,” she said, the relief evident in her voice.

“Tell me, woman,” Marcus said. “When the Bructeri were closing in there, as we exited the tavern where Udo held his court. You handed me my bow and bade me await the moment. How did you know such a moment was coming?”

“Dieter is correct- hanging by your arms cripples your brain,” she laughed. “I notice things, remember? It is the one thing at which I am exceptional.”

Rutilius had his doubts about that- many nights under the bearskin blanket of their tent had taught him that she was very exceptionally good at other things, too. That bearskin blanket was left in the wagon- another debt the Bructeri owed him.

As if she read his mind, her hand left his neck to smack his gently across the back of the head. Then she smacked him a second time. “You should have seen him, too. A man wearing the hat of a hunter and carrying a bow, hustling through the crowd. Had you shot before he emerged, he would likely have put his first arrow into you, and you with no shield.”

“You were on horseback, Froydis,” he reminded her, rubbing his head playfully where she had smacked. “My eyes were not much higher than your waist.”

She relaxed, and began rubbing his neck again. She kept going until Dieter called the mount-up. Rutilius rose, and thanked her for her efforts- his neck and arms were indeed much better. She drew him down to a deep kiss, then leapt upon her horse and chided him to do the same. Then the group was off again, trailing the Batavian in what little starlight filtered through the trees.

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

Rome was coming alive with the spring. The new consuls were installed, and to nobody’s surprise the Imperator was the senior consul and his heir Titus the junior. They began their term with fanfare, and parades, and games. A new term was begun, and it shall be far different than the last one. Promises were made- what had gone wrong the year before shall be corrected.

Domitian watched his father and brother take up the fasces with envy in his heart. He was the outgoing senior consul; it was his failures his brother and father promised to rectify. His failures- but caused by their orders. He simply carried out what they had commanded. A glorified office boy, with the trappings of Rome’s highest official office.

Helvidius was right to quit Rome, he thought. Rome deserves better than to become the personal property of a single family. It is a shame he is in Greece now, headed east. We could use a staunch Republican about now.

While Domitian cursed his fate, others cursed his family. Again the Imperator, thought Eprius. And again young Titus, that man who wasted good Roman seed upon that Jewish princess, diluting Flavian blood and creating a horde of half-blooded bastards. He shivered. Vespasian was old. One day soon, Titus would be emperor. And after him? Half-breed Imperators? Rome led by foreigners?

And from the house bordering the Forum, Aulus Caecina cursed as well. Another chance to create future leaders was wasted, and another chance to be redeemed had past. He would never get command of Germania now. He would have to think of another way to topple that Old Owl and regain what was rightfully his.

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

The horsemen emerged from the forest to see the Rhenus spreading before them. It was a broad river, and deep enough to swallow cities. A dangerous river, but one which separated civilization over there from barbarism over here. It was a beautiful river too, with the setting sun reflecting upon it, but the most beautiful upon it were the six river galleys not a mile away, holding station in mid-river and awaiting the return- and promised bounty- of the provincial quaestor.

Less than an hour later the horses were loaded onto the barges and the crammed aboard the galleys. The fleet captain moved the galleys away from the shore, and began setting course upriver toward Colonia.

“Belay that,” Rutilius commanded. “Set your course for Noviomagus.”

“We have our orders,” Titus Piscius, the fleet captain replied. He remembered the man in the silvered cuirass from the summer- this one was a legate, as he recalled. Admirals still outrank legates and it was an admiral who gave him his orders, so it is upriver he was heading. “We are to deliver you to Colonia.”

“You now have new orders,” Rutilius repeated. “Noviomagus.”

Piscius looked from Rutilius to Dieter, whom he remembered as the quaestor picked up in Colonia. Quaestors outranked admirals. “My lord?”

Dieter grinned broadly and held his arms outstretched in a gigantic shrug. “He is the quaestor, fleet captain. I am but his loyal bodyguard. I would do as the lord commands.”

Piscius cursed loudly, then laughed gently. “Turn about, lads. We are heading downriver.”

Satisfied, Rutlius moved away to let the fleet captain command his little flotilla while he checked on his men. The Acilii were sitting side by side, watching the river pass by and Bructeri lands fade away. They looked up at his approach, to which he knew he must admit defeat.

“I lost the map,” he said sadly. “The king burned it before my eyes to torture me with our failure.”

Publius Acilius laughed, prompting a like response from the older Acilius. “That was just a draft anyway, lord,” the former cartographer replied easily. “The real map lies here,” he explained, holding up another scroll. ”In my notes, which I still have, thanks to Titus here. He salvaged them from the wagon before we abandoned it. I use cartographer notes to construct my maps, which I will do once I have a good table and some fine quills- as I had planned to do once we get back to civilization. So he burned nothing, really.”

Rutilius grinned broadly. His mission was a success after all. He wandered further down the galley, and found Dieter and Glam by the prow.

“Dieter here says the Bructeri warhost was holed up to the west of their civitas,” Glam said as Rutilius approached. “A shame, that.”

“How so?” Rutilius wondered. “We circled around them and left them far behind. They troubled us no more, and after the coming summer, will trouble us less still.”

“Well lord, I really don’t like that side of Father Rhein,” Glam admitted, jerking his head over to the east bank he had been pensively studying.. “But we will have to go back. Cordinus and Rome will demand it. We have unfinished business there.”

“The Bructeri are very few now. It will be a short campaign, no matter how many come to their aid,” Rutilius reminded him.

“Its the Eagle, lord,” Glam continued. ”Not the one Wolf hauled down out of the king’s hall, though- that one is safe. It is the other one.”

“The Eagle of the V Alaudae,” Rutilius recalled. “They still have it. But not for long.”

“I know,” Glam replied.. He was smiling now. ”Those drunken fools loved to gossip and tell tales about everything, you know. I heard quite a lot while you were hanging in your cross. Among the tidbits was a gem you would like to hear, concerning Ulfrich, the turd you slashed down. He tried to use it to buy back the favor of the gods his actions in gaining it had cost him. That eagle, lord- it was given to the High Priest of Wotan, who lives near the Sacred Grove- smack in the middle of where the Bructeri warhost was deployed.”

“You mention this now so that I would not be tempted to turn back and recover it?”

Glam nodded. “Yes, lord.”

Rutilius nodded. He too disliked that side of Father Rhein- yet if he had known where the second eagle was, he would indeed have risked them all to recover it. As it was, knowing its location would be enough. He had one located, and recovered the other.

Cordinus cannot help but be pleased, and Rome cannot help but be satisfied. It was a very successful mission.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-20-10 06:25 AM EDT (US)     46 / 57       
The Bruceteri kings live?

The gods are truly on their side!

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 09-20-10 05:09 PM EDT (US)     47 / 57       
A mastery is made,
Fell deeds awake.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-23-10 01:47 AM EDT (US)     48 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The galleys went downriver first to, and then past, Castra Vetera to dock along the quays of Noviomagus. A fleet coming in was always a grand event to the Batavians, who thronged to the quays to greet the ships- and maybe earn a sesterce or two by helping to unload the cargo. This cargo, however, was brought by warships and unloaded itself. The throng melted away at the sight of the dirty, smelly soldiers disembarking- no bronze to be earned here today.

Rutilius was among the last to disembark. He watched the survivors of the I ala Thracum form up for the short journey to the castrum above, then thanked fleet captain Piscius for his support and devotion, and continued doing so until Dieter returned with Claudius Victor- and a sack of denarii.

“As promised,” Dieter said, fulfilling his part of the bargain by handing over the sack.

“Then we are done here,” Piscius agreed. He accepted it without counting. Some things, he had learned, you simply accept on trust. The word of a German was one of them. He nodded to Dieter, then again to Rutilius. “Until the next time, quaestor.”

“Dieter tells me you had a lot of fun over there,” Claudius wheezed. He noticed Froydis and the Quadii, then returned his gaze to Rutilius. “You seem to have collected more souvenirs than scars. Your wife might not find that so pleasant.”

“Froydis saved our mission, on more than one occasion,” he admitted. “And the Quadii... They saved my life, at the risk of their own. They are outlaws from over there, and welcome over here, anywhere I own some land. For tonight, take them to the Farm.”

The Quadii heard that and did not like it one bit. Their leader came forward. “Aethwain was a good man; we could not hope to serve a better. Your men spoke well for you, and the actions of the Bructeri misfits were an insult to both German and Roman. They swayed his heart, and in doing so, swayed ours as well. But we will not hold you to his promise to see us safe. We are warriors, not farmers. Thus the honor you showed our lord is enough. And the armor, of course.”

“Of course.” He turned to Claudius. “I need ten sets of auxilia armor, Roman-made, to pay a debt. Can you arrange that with Cadorus, and have the sums withdrawn from my account?”

Claudius nodded.

Rutilius looked back to the ten surviving Quadii of a warband once two dozen strong. “You need lodging, and as long as you are my guests, I will provide it. The Farm is over there just under the castrum, where my Guards stay when I am in town.”

“So you do not intend to make us scratch dirt?”

Rutilius chuckled. “No, we call it the Farm because it also serves as a horse farm. I promised your lord I would look after you- decide yourselves what you wish to do, and I will use whatever influence and powers I have to make that come true.”

“They are not Batavian,” Dieter said. “But they fought well saving you, lord, and their loyalty is not to be lightly dismissed. I could be persuaded to allow them into the Guard.”

“Are you sure you can live with that?” Rutilius chided.

Dieter laughed. “These men followed their lord into outlawry to save a blood enemy, because of loyalty. Even after he went to Valhalla, they serve him still. Yes, Marcus, I can definitely live with having men like that in the Guard. I will even make them honorary Batavians.”

“I’ll help,” Glam added. Wolf and Jorgen chimed in as well. It was unanimous among the officers of his Guard.

“Men of Aethwain,” Rutilius said, turning to the Quadii, “My officers tell me there are openings in my bodyguard, and they would open these positions to those of you who would serve me as well as you had Aethwain.”

The Quadii smiled. “We would like nothing else, lord. Aethwain died in battle by your side. Could we ask anything less for ourselves?”

Rutilius nodded to Dieter, then withdrew to find Froydis. Ten Batavians and a Cananefate formed a shield around him. They did it so naturally, with no commands, that it was a thing of beauty- inspiring admiration in the Quadii, who still felt that way about Aethwain. Glam led the Quadii to the Farm, while Dieter and Claudius Victor went to the castrum to arrange the armor. Rutilius and Froydis were alone amid a circle of Batavians, walking to the house she used to share with two other widows, and now shared again.

“There is no chance you will spend the night, is there?” she asked, hopeful yet knowing that the answer was not as she wished. They were back in civilization now, and he again a married man. Their time together had passed.

“No, Froydis,” he said. She detected a longing and much sorrow in his voice. He was torn, and she knew it. She left well enough alone. “A day or two to arrange things, and then back to Colonia in time for the birth of my child.”

“You will be staying in the castrum, then,” she replied. “You will be safe there. I must admit, Marcus, it was very enjoyable being your wife these past weeks. Claudia is a very lucky woman.”

Marcus blushed deeply, causing her to smile that wonderful smile of hers again. The twinkle in her eye almost melted his resolve. Almost. But it was better for all that what happened on the other side of the Rhenus, stayed on the other side of the Rhenus. He did, however, kiss her goodbye. A quick kiss, that she turned into a deep one. And the she was gone, into the shadows of the doorway, a glimmer of lamplight in the darkness bearing her smile, and then out of sight.

Marcus continue don to the central square, where the hall of the Batavian kings was located. The doors opened as the king’s guards recognized the visitor, and he was escorted into the private chamber where Tiberius Labeo handled sensitive business. The king joined him shortly, smiling broadly at his friend’s return.

Marcus handed the king his swords, still in their scabbards. “Your warsword, Tiberius, and your seax. Both have served me well. The seax there ended the rule of Ulfrich, king of the Bructeri.”

Labeo grinned broadly. Then he handed Marcus a gladius. “And here is yours. It never left its scabbard. Claudius Victor picked up your signet a few hours ago. I assume he still has it.”

Rutilius nodded- he knew.

“I will have Dieter return the warshirt tomorrow,” Marcus promised, concluding the exchange. “How is my son?”

Labeo’s grin never faltered, in fact, it grew. “I hear good things of him, Marcus. You know he stutters. Strange, I am told, that he does not stutter in Germanic.”

“He is speaking Germanic now?” Rutilius answered in surprise. “Which dialect?”

“Batavian, of course,” Labeo said with a laugh. “Not that Cananefate babble you sometimes speak. And he can read well in Latin, though making the runes is harder for him.”

“He reads as well?” Rutilius was astounded. He had only been gone a few weeks.

“There is a fine tutor where he is now,” Labeo allowed. “He taught me to read and write. Now it seems your son as well. He was of age to learn the runes, you know.”

Rutilius nodded. “May I see him now?”

“Alas,” Labeo replied. His smile fell for the first time. “He is not here. But I can have him brought to your home in a few days. You said keep him safe, so I put him where no harm could come to him.”

“I am grateful.”

“Your Germanic has improved greatly, Marcus,” the Batavian king noticed. “Lots of practice, I assume.” And from there, the conversation passed to familiar matters and general catching-up, until Rutilius had to go. There was still business in the castrum to attend before settling in for the night. Both men offered their hands, which were shaken, and then Rutilius left.

Jorgen and the Acilii were waiting outside when Rutilius emerged. From somewhere, the Acilii had procured red tunics and new birch rods, which they had bound up with leather thongs and inserted a francisca borrowed from Jorgen. Once again, the two men were lictors of Rome, ready to carry the fasces for their magistrate. They joined Marcus inside the circle of Guards and marched to the castrum, where legionaries of Rome welcomed them in, and the Batavians melted back to their homes.

The next day, the Acilii barely left their chambers, while Jorgen and Rutilius were deep in conference with Quintus Cadorus. The Iceni wanted to hear all, and know all. After Rutilius and Jorgen had recounted their events, Cadorus told of the training with the Cananefate and how that went.

“I’ll bet Oddmund was angrier than a hive of kick-over bees,” Jorgen laughed upon hearing of the fateful charge. “He had won several battle for us with his cavalry. It must have been a shock to lose like that.”

“It was,” admitted Cadorus. “He was not pleased. I thought I was going to have to cross swords with him right then, after Niall’s verdict.”

“Speaking of crossing swords,” Glam said, pulling forth a war sword and a dagger. “These are for you, Marcus. The sword of the Bructeri king, and the dagger he once stabbed you with, both pilfered from his dead body.”

Cadorus whistled lowly. Marcus had not only survived his recon mission, he had avenged his stabbing here in Noviomagus. Nice work!

Marcus accepted the dagger silently. He thrust it, scabbarded and all, into his belt. But he refused the sword. “Give it to Wolf- he too killed a king.”

“Its yours, lord,” Wolf grinned. “You need a proper warsword for cavalry work, and that Roman toy at your hip is only good on the ground. Besides ,I have my trophy from the other king.” He held up the sword of Udo.

All of the Germani and Iceni in the room were bobbing their heads at those words of wisdom. That decided him.

“Good point,” Rutilius said with a laugh. He accepted the blade and put it with his gear. The dagger, however, he still had on his body. He drew it from its sheath and stared at it, turning it over in the dying sunlight. It was eight inches, hardly a weapon of choice, yet more than enough to bed-rid him for the better part of a month.

“That the dagger that laid you low, lord?” Dieter asked.

Marcus nodded. “Such a little piece of steel, yet more than enough to take a life. I think I shall have it gilded, and hang it over the mantle in my home.”

Dieter laughed. “A good plan.”

A knock interrupted them. The late afternoon sun was setting, so Cadorus expected his evening meal. Instead, two lictors came in. One unrolled a scroll and placed it upon the table.

“I have finished!” Publius proclaimed proudly. “The Bructeri lands, as accurate as any could make them. And to scale, as well.”

Both legate and quaestor pored over the map. The villages, their names and populations, and the trail network connecting them shone forth, along with terrain markers such as rivers and hills. Titus Acilius pointed to a mark near the one depicting a town.

“That, lord, is the Sacred Grove,” he said.

“Where the Eagle of the Alaudae resides,” completed Publius. “I thought you might want it drawn for you, for when you present this to the governor.”

“Magnificent work,” Cadorus exclaimed. The detail on the map was positively gorgeous, and the sums along the side very handy to have as well. Even without knowing cartographer marks, Rutilius could see the hills and forests with their intermittent streams come alive on the parchment.

“I have not seen better,” Rutilius admitted, then added, “But I have seen its equal. The detail, the strokes... You made the map we had last summer!”

“Indeed,” Publius said proudly. “Quintus Gallicus asked me to copy the map of Drusus before we left Rome. I am proud to say that I made an exact copy, but ashamed that my source was so wrong.”

“A lot can change in sixty years, especially if the Germani intend to change it,” Rutilius replied. The quality was really outstanding. “How could your father go out of business producing work like this?”

“Lack of customers,” Acilius said with a shrug. “Titus Oppius was our competitor, who had invested in Greek slaves years before. Those men were artists, and their labor cheap.”

“Ah,” Rutilius admitted, that explained it.

The Acilli withdrew, and dinner arrived. Cadorus was told the transaction for the armor was complete, and Marcus received a message from Dieter that the Quadii were pleased with the goods, and showing signs of being accepted by the other Guards. Their acceptance brought on an influx of volunteers from the Batavi as well. The Guard should be up to strength before the summer campaign begins. Rutilius wrote back that they had the time- he would be travelling with the Thracian cavalry to Vetera, and then with the navy to Colonia- he would need only what Dieter thought reasonable. The rest could stay to train up the new Guards.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 09-23-10 04:11 AM EDT (US)     49 / 57       
Another good chapter.

Keep it up! It shall be interesting to see what the Bructeri do next.

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 09-23-10 12:53 PM EDT (US)     50 / 57       
I get the feeling things are winding down. Somehow I can accept that - and yet I hope I'm wrong. I think this has been my favourite part of the Eagle and the Wolf so far.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
« Previous Page  1 2  Next Page »
You must be logged in to post messages.
Please login or register

Hop to:    

Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven | HeavenGames