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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups
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Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups
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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 02-22-10 01:49 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part III- Downs and Ups:

Palla was busy as well. He had a stack of tablets in his arms as he struggled to lead a small parade of centurions to see the governor that very evening. It was late, the sun was down, and the small procession was moving slowly as if to a funeral. Each of the twelve senior centurions behind him was likewise burdened. Only the four Aquilifers, bearing their Eagles, and the four optios bearing torches to light the way were unburdened by stacks upon stacks of wooden tablets.

Vibulus escorted the centurions in once the governor heard of their arrival. Palla put his two stacks upon the floor before the governor’s couch, followed by the next centurion and the next until all were deposited before him. Then he stood with his peers at attention.

“What is all this?” the governor wheezed as he tried to sit up. The movement aggravated his injury, making him wince with pain. “Is this a mutiny?”

“No sir,” Palla said, speaking for all. “These are transfer requests.”

“Transfer requests?”

“Aye, lord,” Palla continued. “The men signing these request transfers to Britannia, Germania Superior, Gallia Comata, Hispana, Greece, Moesia, Pannonia, Raetia, Noricum, Syria, Aegyptus, and anyplace else that isn’t here.”

The governor looked over the stacks. There were dozens upon dozens of them. “Give me a summary, if you will, primus pilus.”

Palla looked the governor straight in the eye. “About every centurion in this army, every single one of the tribuni- except one- and all three remaining legates, sir. Most of the optios and all four Aquilifers as well. None of us want to serve in Germania Inferior any more...

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

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 @ 01:04 AM).]

AuthorReplies:
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 03-22-10 11:54 AM EDT (US)     51 / 74       
Terikel IS the mod brigade. He can write whatever he likes.

"Hairy zone"!

Great as usual. I so know where this is going with Froydis now.
CaesarVincens
Ashigaru
posted 03-22-10 03:21 PM EDT (US)     52 / 74       
Edorix,
You couldn't tell, or just weren't sure?

Terikel,
When I get home, I'm going to post the title of a book I think you would like. It contains 100 rare words, some of which are quite useful, others merely interesting or fun.

EDIT: Here's the book:

Endangered Words: a Collection of Rare Gems for Book Lovers

It contains such lovely words as peripeteia (a plot device that you enjoy), elozable (which many people are), and concinnity (which I think we all would agree is something your tales have).

Veni, Vidi, well... you know.

Extended Cultures, A modification of RTW.

Si hoc legere posses, Latinam linguam scis.
ɪf ju kćn ɹid đɪs, ju noʊ liŋgwɪstɪks.

[This message has been edited by CaesarVincens (edited 03-23-2010 @ 00:37 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-25-10 02:39 AM EDT (US)     53 / 74       
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Rutilius rode back to the city with his Guard in tow. His face was flushed and his temper shortening by the minute as he listened to his guards chatter on about ups and downs, ins and outs, and riding beasts with two backs for hours- all of which infuriated him. He had been seduced by a lonely woman needing her physical urges satisfied, and he was too confused about his own feelings to stop her. He was feeling weak, and his men were ragging him about it.

Enough was enough. He halted by whipping his horse about to block further progress.

“Guards!” he said sternly. “Stop it. I feel bad enough about what happened. Please do not rub salt in my sores with those snide comments and bad jokes.”

The Batavians halted, and all chatter ceased abruptly. A few minutes of absolute silence was endured with the legate’s eyes burning holes in the men, and their thoughts tumbling through their heads. Then a cheer erupted.

Dieter ordered the men to shut up, and resumed the march.

“They were not chiding you, lord,” Dieter said calmly, staring straight ahead. “They know better, and have more respect for you than for me.”

Rutilius turned to the Batavian with horror in his eyes. Dieter’s blue eyes twinkled back.

“Amalric and Aelle are very discreet and said nothing, lord. That maid, Milika. The one with the ever-running monologue. Shutting her up took a lot more effort, lord. And a long time. And she was very vocal...once she ceased talking. And in the servants quarters, lord, things are not as discreet as in the main house. The men were discussing my amorous endeavors with that woman, and knew nothing of yours... Until you just told them.”

“Oops.”

“Yes. Oops,” Dieter replied with a laugh. “As far as women go, Marcus, Claudia is a good pick. Noble, devoted to Rome, proven fertile, rich. Your age, abouts. A Roman citizen. She has a villa and a large farm where your son can grow up learning about both of the cultures running through your veins. From what Aelle said to me in private, she knows no bounds when it comes to pleasing her chosen mate. And she is beautiful. She is ideal. You could do far worse, and little better.”

He pulled closer to the legate and waved the men back a bit for privacy. “Licinia was a bit of a tart, but a fun one. Now she is going away to marry some noble fool in Romeburg. I don’t know what you have going with that Froydis woman, but she is a nobody. A Cugerni commoner with lovely eyes- of course I noticed. I also noticed that she was pretty. But Claudia is the much better choice. ”

Dieter understood the turmoil wracking him. “I know this,” Marcus replied after a moment, ”all of this. Licinia was wonderful, Claudia spectacular. Yet my heart longs for that Cugerni nobody who nursed me from Death’s Portal back to full life. I cannot explain it.”

“Bah,” cursed Dieter with a laugh. “You will get over it. Marry Sacra, and she will screw any thought of any other woman right out of your head. And better still, I can leave you in her tender but enthusiastic care while I teach Milika the advanced version of Batavian mating rituals. We will both be happy.”

Rutilius laughed, but inside he was even more troubled. His choices were piling up, and choosing was becoming even more difficult. But still, as his mind churned over the choices and their advantages, he found himself inside the shop of Karstein buying a short golden chain with his ingenious clasp. He finally broke out of his trance when Dieter led him back to the marketplace where Nepius had the cohort formed up for drills. It was time to get to work.


He would spend the next two nights again in the bed of Claudia Sacra, and again no promises were exchanged. It was simple sexual satisfaction for her, while to him it was more a testing out of a future wife. He found the bedsport immensely pleasurable, and her company outside the bedroom pleasant and witty. Dieter was right- she was ideal. By day he handled the gubernatorial duties in the town while his cohort gathered recruits, but by night he enjoyed what he imagined could be a married life with his future wife. He found the experience not unpleasant.

It was with a sad heart but a sated body that he ordered the men to form up for the march north. Their next stop would be Novaesium, where he would endure the tirade and awful wine of Messala for a night then off to Gelduba, where a small cavalry auxilia was stationed outside a town on the Ubian border. That town was surrounded by six large farms, two of them owned by Rutilius. After that, it would be another farm owned by Rutilius south of Vetera before sending the cohort and the recruits off to Noviomagus while he himself reported the provincial activity to the governor.


Cordinus was pleased with the report, and the decisions made by his deputy.

“I am impressed,” the wounded man said. His voice was stronger now, and the surgeons said their patient would soon be able to walk without aid, though riding was another matter. “Recruiting among the Ubii and the colonies was a stroke of genius. Do you think we will have four full legions come the winter?”

“Maybe,” Rutilius admitted. “I picked up three hundred myself, enough for the X Gemina. If Cadorus had similar luck, he might have enough to fill the VI Victrix and the Raptors as well. If not, I hope Lucius and Gnaeus can have some luck themselves. I have spoken of my plan, maybe they will follow up.”

“They’re good men,” Cordinus Rutilius agreed. He looked over his deputy with a grudging approval. “And so are you, Marcus. You have done well.”

“Thank you, lord,” Marcus acknowledged, unsure of this sudden praise. Then he remembered his own feelings for Froydis, and what Palla said about having steel inside one affecting one’s mind. Maybe the assassin’s dagger had cut through the crap coating the governor’s vision, allowing him to see clearly for the first time?

“What are your plans now, deputy?”

“I will drop these men off at Noviomagus, then proceed west to Traiectum and Matilo to check on things there. Maybe inform the Batavian and Cananefate kings of this summer’s events, so that they do not react to wild rumors and false notions spread by traders from Bructeri lands.”

“Wise,” agreed the governor, who added with a knowing smile, “and then back to Colonia?”

Rutilius blushed beet-red. “Maybe. I have some things at Noviomagus to arrange, but I would very much like to return to Colonia, lord.”

“She is a good woman,” Cordinus admitted. “Ideal for you; too German for my taste. If you intend to stay here in Germania, she would do wonders for your relations. I take it you are considering her for marriage?”

Marcus nodded. “She has a wonderful home, not too far from my own lands. She can raise my son in dual cultures, further improving him to take over when I am no more. And she has a son of her own, who has no father, her being a widow. The boys will have built-in playmates to grow strong together with, plus whatever babies we add to the family. ”

Cordinus laughed, and almost tore open his healing wounds. “Enough, cousin,” he said. “I am sure you two will be very happy. When you get around to actually marrying her, remind me to write up a writ exempting you from the statute forbidding legionaries to marry. It would be my pleasure.”

“Am I still bound to that?” Marcus asked. “Centurions can marry, and I have been both a centurion and tribunus before becoming a legate.”

“I must consult an advocate,” Cordinus admitted. “But I think you are right. Still, the writ from a governor would cover your young ass if you are wrong. Better safe than sorry, as you taught me.”

“Yes, lord,” Marcus said, hiding his grin.

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Ulfrich was hobbling about the hall, grumbling into his beard about the lack of female companionship for a man who was a lion in battle and a king of the tribe, honorably wounded in the defense of the Fatherland but still able to pleasure a woman. His act was getting old, but it was still amusing to those warriors clustered about the long table.

Udo laughed at his brother as well. “At least you are up and about complaining,” he laughed, “instead of lying in bed complaining. I call that improvement.”

“Aye!” cried a couple of the warriors drinking at the table.

“You are right, brother,” Ulfrich rumbled. “I am much better- as the scullery maidens know well. Last night the scullery staff, tonight the grain girls. A lion must be fed, by the gods, and my private lion is far from sated!”

“Enough,” laughed Udo, “Leave your lion in your pants and bring your head back into the battle, brother. I have news. Whilst you were recovering, the Chauci and Marsi and I sent forth envoys to the tribes as we did last year.”

“No need, brother,” Ulfrich barked while shaking his shaggy head heartily. “We kicked those beetles hard- they shall not come again!”

“Oh they shall indeed come, brother of mine,” Udo contradicted. “We kicked them hard, but they escaped relatively unhurt- unlike we who were nearly gutted by our victory. They shall call forth from that endless stream of men and steel in Romeburg more beetles, and when those arrive, they shall cross Father Rhein again. Rutilius is not done with us yet.”

“Bah,” roared Ulfrich. Udo made a mental note to cut down on the beer his brother was allowed. Though it lessened the pain of his wounds, it was affecting his already-weak judgment even further. “Rutilius this, Rutilius that. I am sick of that man. We broke Veleda’s prophecy, Udo. He has no power over me anymore.”

“I am not speaking of the warlord, but of the kinglet,” his twin reminded him. “The kinglet is gullible as we discovered, and vain. And this foray of his ended in disaster by Roman standards, though his army was not too badly hurt. He will reinforce, and come again.”

Ulfrich growled as he thought that over. “Aye, brother, he will. Good that you sent the envoys. What did they say this time?”

Udo grinned wolfishly. “The Usipi and Tencteri, bordering Rome themselves, will not. They are like frightened rabbits, hiding in their burrows. They are both weak, bordering Rome, and not much good for anything- though the Tencteri did cross into Marsic land and assault that wooden palace the Romans built.”

“Then why do you smile so, brother?”

“Because, dear Ulfrich,” Udo continued, “the Cherusci will come and stand by us as we did them in their struggle. Their cousins the Chatti as well- they ache to inflict harm upon Rome, retaliation for the defeat and enslavement of their settlers twenty-odd years ago. And as you know, where the Chatti make war, so do the mighty Suevii.”

“So when Rome comes again, they will fight a united Germania.”

Udo nodded. “Rutilius Gallicus will die when he next comes to these woods. I think his head might make a wonderful trophy to adorn these barren walls.”

Ulfrich grinned as well. “I shall collect it for you, when I am again whole. As my lion indicates by his constant growling, it shall not be long. I shall be strong and fit again, come the summer.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 03-25-10 04:50 AM EDT (US)     54 / 74       
Great chapter. The sexual innuendos made me laugh hard. Lion in his pants. Priceless. I have to use that as a chat up line.

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 03-25-10 08:24 AM EDT (US)     55 / 74       
It was with a sad heart but a sated body...
Good!
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 03-29-10 02:21 AM EDT (US)     56 / 74       
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Rutilius had been true to his word. He had Nepius lead the cohort and recruits up to the castrum and the X Gemina, with instructions to Milus and Palla to await Cadorus if he was not already there, then order armor and weapons for all recruits. Training may begin immediately. He took pride in saying that the boys could already march and do basic battle drills, and ensured Nepius knew to rub that a little into Palla’s face. He himself continued on to his holdings to the west, to Traiectum, and to the Village near the Water to perform his duties there.

He dined with Niall, recounted the summer’s event with the Cananefate king and his son, then discussed the benefits of the training his men had gained versus the Cananefate during the winter. The dour king actually looked pleased, and his son enthusiastic. Then he headed back to Noviomagus, to the moment he dreaded but knew he must face. But first, he tracked down Claudius Victor and had a decent chat with his steward.

Claudius was all smiles. “We are doing very well, Marcus,” he wheezed with a broad grin. “Our horse ranches especially. We bought up three hundred that came on the market- cornering it, and many of the mares are already with foal.”

“Were they Bructeri horses?” Rutilius asked.

“Ah, a keen ear you have, Marcus. Yes, they were Bructeri. Bought at auction. A strong breed, and new to our breeding circles. New blood always quickens the mares faster for some reason, old blood less so.”

“I captured them,” Rutilius said proudly. “In that first battle across the river. We killed five thousand or so, and captured three hundred horses. No men, though- they preferred to die fighting. Brave fools, but now dead ones.”

“You must have killed their chief early on in the battle,” Claudius wheezed. His old throat wound would not allow him much more than that sometimes. “It is a terrible disgrace for us to survive a chieftain in battle. Many times a man will run away to fight again- but never if his chief fell.”

“A shame,” Rutilius replied. “Many died uselessly. They should have run when they had the chance, or surrendered to be sold to the plantations in Italia. They could have lived.”

“But not without honor,” Claudius Victor replied. “And life without honor is no life.”

“True.”

“Your horses were bought at market prices, which were high,” Claudius continued. “But they are higher now. A good investment, and with the foals they produce, next year you shall be very wealthy indeed. Your farms are doing well- I moved some men and equipment about during the summer- some fields were ready for planting earlier than others, while others needed weeding. The men and women did not seem to mind working together on other’s crops- providing they got help in return. I arranged it so, and all are happy. Look for a sharp increase in revenue this fall after harvest.”

Rutilius smiled broadly. “Have my banker reinvest a quarter of the surplus profits into the farms- the regular profits remain untouched. I will need them. Buy whatever animals and equipment they need. Another half- after being duly registered for my senatorial income- may be distributed as a bonus among the farmers- each family to receive an equal share. They earned it.”

“And the last quarter?”

“Split that between yourself and Dieter’s men. They are paid to protect me. They followed me across the river into combat and performed well- and far above what they are asked. I think they earned a bonus, don’t you?”

Claudius shrugged. “They will not refuse it, but to them, war was a way of life. They would rather thank you for letting them see action again- if but in a private warhost- than take mere silver for doing what they wished to do anyway.”

“Good point.” Rutilius thought for a moment. “Use the extra money to buy better armor and weapons for the men, or decorate that which they would rather keep. And any who wish to change their mounts to anything I have in the stables, may do so.”

Claudius smiled broadly again. “That, my lord, is something they would definitely appreciate. It shall be done.”

The next day, Rutilius rode in to the town of Noviomagus. The town had not changed since he had left it in the spring, a few months past. The market was busier, with the early fruits and vegetables being sold, as well as the crafts created during the long winter. By the King’s Hall was a crowd of warriors fencing and maneuvering. They were pitifully few, but Rutilius knew them to be the Batavian militia. He sighed- those few warriors were all that remained of a once populous people.

Tiberius Labeo put his troubled mind at rest once he entered. Those men outside were only the latest to report- the others, some mounted, were in the countryside to the west practicing- and showing the warlike Frisii that the Batavians still had a fighting force to be reckoned with. Evidently it worked, for no incursions were reported, despite the legion being otherwise occupied across the great river.

After the King’s council, Rutilius asked Dieter to take him to the farm upon which they would reside when not on duty. The Batavian Guard commander obliged, and led the entourage out of the north gate to a horse farm just under the walls of the castle.

“Here, lord,” he said, opening his arms to encompass the ranch. “Upon this land we practice our trade, and breed fine warhorses for sale and use. In that house there lives Magnus, the landsman who runs the ranch, and his family. That long house over to its left is where most of the men bunk down. Those with families have separate cottages dotting the area beyond the main house.”

Rutilius took in the view. It was wonderful- the rise with the castrum atop was the eastern border, with the river coming out of the east and flowing into the sun before it. The town was to the left, leaving a fertile patch of lovely grass between legion and civitas- perfect for horses, and horsemen. Rutilius nodded approvingly.

“And now, lord?” Dieter asked.

Marcus sighed. He knew what was next before he returned to the quarters he left four months ago, the quarters in which he had kissed Froydis, Widow of Chlovis Son of Garm deeply and passionately. He had been dreading this moment all the while his heart had been aching for it.

“I am going in to town,” he said, his voice so choked with mixed feelings that it sounded flat. And dead. “I must see Froydis.”

“And tell her that it was nice, but now it is over?” asked the Batavian.

“I do not know if it is, so I refuse to say. I am keeping my options open, Dieter, since I am so knotted and tangled inside. We shall see if it is over or not, together. She and I.”

Dieter nodded. He had been in love, once. Affairs of the heart were complicated. “Fair enough, lord.”

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Ten Batavians formed a loose ring around him as he walked to the house where he knew Froydis resided and stopped. There was no candle burning inside, though it was bare dark and thus too early for bed. She was not home. He knocked and waited to confirm, but his suspicions were correct.

Was she with another man? His body reacted physically to the unbidden thought. His stomach knotted and his blood pressure shot up. Or had she moved away while he had been fighting across the river? At this thought his blood pressure dropped heavily, leaving his sad and depressed. Get a grip upon yourself, Marmot, he commanded himself.

He looked up to see the gates of the castrum before him. His Batavians, each one, walked past him and placed a hand upon this shoulder before heading home, their duty done. Marcus entered the castrum, and glanced at the praetorium where he saw a light burning. Salvius teaching the new guy his tasks, he realized, then shuddered. There would be time enough for paperwork tomorrow. Tonight he wanted a small dinner and a long sleep in his own bed.

There was light coming from his quarters, he realized. Salvius again. I hope he trains his replacement to be as good an aide as he was. He opened the door and stepped inside.

A low table was placed in the center of his quarters, two couches placed casually along the long edges. Upon the table were several different dishes, some greens, some meat, and some sauces. One crystal decanter held a full-bodied wine, the other water. A candelabrum holding three tallow candles illuminated the table. Two empty plates and two goblets completed the setting.

While the food was exactly what he wanted and expected, the woman standing behind the table took him completely by surprise. She was not so very tall, but was slim and strong. She had on a draping green dress that had bulges in just the right places, held together by a matching jade brooch clasped in gold. Her wheat-blonde hair was held up on one side by a golden comb that exposed a tiny ear, while the hair on the other side fell in flaxen waves to her shoulders. She had a pert snub nose, a strong chin, and two incredibly beautiful blue eyes that shone like the summer sky reflecting from a high mountain lake.

She was breathtakingly beautiful.

His heart clenched and knotted, his stomach tangled in clumps. “Froydis?” he uttered, not believing his eyes. How could he not have seen her like this before?

Her eyes twinkled. “Welcome home, Marcus,” she said in Latin. She waved a hand over the table. “For you, the hero returning.”

Rutilius stripped off his cuirass and let it fall. He scarcely took his eyes from the Cugerni widow as he did so, barely remembering to fluff out and wipe flat the tunic beneath the armor before plopping rudely down in one of the couches. Froydis chirped a giggle at his antics, then put a bit of everything onto his plate and served him. Then she did the same for herself, poured the wine, watered his in the Roman fashion, then sat.

Marcus took some food- very little and chewed slowly as he watched the woman across from him. So lovely, so innocent, so betrayed. The thought was unbidden, but it came. To cast it from his mind, he told her of his exploits across the river, and mentioned none of the ones from this side.

She told him of the gossip of Noviomagus, which widows have found men, who lost men, who is pregnant, whose farms are doing poorly, whose well. “You will be surprised to learn that Claudius Victor has increased your fortune tremendously, Marcus. He really is a genius when it comes to agriculture. He recently bought up three hundred horses at market value for you. In seven months to a year, he will have tripled your investment.”

“I know,” Marcus said huskily. There was a knot in his throat, preventing him from speaking normally. Oh what this woman does to me!. “I ran into him south of Vetera on my way to Matilo and Traiectum. You may not have heard, but Cordinus made me his deputy. So again I roam the province, doing a governor’s work for a legate’s pay. But I do not mind- I like to travel and could use the experience.” He looked at her and drank in her beauty as he breathed in her scent. “Although I am not so sure I want to travel so much anymore.”

“You have eighty Batavians with you,” she reminded him sweetly. “They will keep you safe.”

Well, that didn’t work. Through the rest of the dinner chat, every hint he put forth of his feelings toward her was neatly deflected, and any opportunity to draw clues concerning her feelings for him was quickly quelled. He was every bit as confused and discombobulated as he was when he walked in. He decided to try a different approach.

He stood up, and walked slowly towards her. She followed his advance with her eyes, a small smile upon her lips growing wider at every step bringing him closer. He bent over her, and kissed her gently. She kissed him back as she lifted a hand to cradle his neck. He used that to lift her up from the couch and carry her in both arms towards his bed.

She broke the kiss and placed a finger upon his lips. “Not yet, my darling. Not tonight.”

“You drive me mad with passion, Froydis,” he muttered. “Mad for you, for this.”

“If you need a good rutting, my raging bull, there are plenty of widows in the town below who would gladly and eagerly satisfy your lusts,” she said with a laugh. “For many hours, or even all night if that is what you need. But I cannot, not yet, not this night. For me it is enough to know that you love me, and that your heart is mine, as mine is yours.” Her voice tapered off lower, like water from a spilled bucket. “Our coupling, lover, when it happens, will make our love grow stronger. If we rush to bed now, it will only wither. I wish a strong love.” The last was almost whispered.

Rutilius stood rock still, then nodded. She was right, a strong love is what he too wanted, despite the raging hormones coursing through his system. He carried her back to the couch and gently lowered her back into her original location, then stepped away.

His face was flushed, and his chest heaving- with something other than exertion. Froydis stood, then stepped up upon the couch to bring her eyes almost level with his. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulled him closer and kissed him deeply. She held that for a long minute, then broke the kiss with a peck to his lips and looked deep into his eyes.

“What will be, shall be,” she whispered. “If it is meant, so shall it become. But not tonight. We must wait until the perfect moment, which unfortunately is not when the lion returns to his den, hungry and lusty from battle. Our time shall come, Marcus. I promise. And then, love of my life, we shall see if we are indeed meant for each other.”

Another quick kiss and she strode toward the door, leaving him standing before the couch.

“Welcome home, lover,” she said with a knowing smile. And then she was gone.

Minx, he cursed to himself. She toys with me. He bent down and picked a grape off the plate. He popped it into his mouth, then a slight noise caused him to turn towards his bedchamber door. It was ajar, and a candle burned inside. Marcus drew his dagger and eased over to the door, sensing danger. He peered cautiously through the crack, then put away his dagger and opened the door fully.

“Welcome home, lord,” said the brunette on the left side of his bed. “I am Heike, widow of Herman Son of Frikk.”

“Welcome home, lord,” said the redhaired woman on the right side of his bed. “and I am Brunelde, also a widow. Froydis told us that a conquering hero coming back from the wars would be randy as a goat-”

“And from the tower in your tunic, she was right,” completed Heike. She held her elbow against her ribs and raised a fist from the elbow while she smiled devilishly. “You would rip poor Froydis apart with that. Tis far better that you not vent your lusts upon her frail and thin body, but rather upon those willing and capable of taking it.”

“And that is us, lord,” Brunelda added with a broad flashing smile. She reached toward him, letting the covers fall. She had small but pointy breasts that Rutilius found interesting, like a dollop of custard fresh from a spoon. Heike was more buxom- grapefruits wrapped in flesh. Both were mid-twenties, so must have been married young and their husbands killed in battle. They were pretty without being beautiful, young without being inexperienced, and evidently horny without being satisfied.

Rutilius stood still, trying to make sense of this. Froydis winds him up then pushes him away- into the arms of these two whom she must have stashed in here all the while she dined with him. Thus she knew what she was doing, and maybe what he had done.... Or, he thought with a stirring inside, Claudia was correct and sex was simply an act of lust that is a part of- and at the same time separate from- love. One was a matter of the body, the other of the heart. The two could mix, or be enjoyed separately.

The women took his hesitation to be shyness rather than contemplation, and decided to take matters into their own hands. Heike threw back the covers- revealing both were naked awaiting their promised lover, and climbed out of the bed. Both had nice legs which tapered down from strong thighs, and wide, fruitful hips fit for child-bearing without being too wide. Brunelda, impatient for what she had not had in years, began stripping him eagerly, while Heike soothed his shyness away with a kiss.

She is not Froydis, but a gift from Froydis. Her comments about him ripping her apart with his lust came back to him- and from the stiffness being rubbed and fondled by the redhead, they were probably correct. She was a small thing, that Froydis, and his body was running rampant with lust after her kiss. In this condition, he probably could have caused her as much pain as pleasure, and that would taint their relationship forever. These two were her way of satisfying him while preserving what they had. Damn her, he thought viciously, the little minx was right again.

With that decision, he gave himself over to the tender ministrations of the lust-filled widows. His initial suspicion was correct- there was danger in the bedroom. The two widows thoroughly, eagerly, and willingly raped him all through the night.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 03-29-2010 @ 02:44 AM).]

Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 03-29-10 04:13 AM EDT (US)     57 / 74       
Beautiful descriptions in the first part, hilarious descriptions in the second - your usual brilliant standard, Terikel. Awesome.
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 03-29-10 05:57 AM EDT (US)     58 / 74       
Great chapter although that last sentence was funny!

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 04-01-10 03:06 AM EDT (US)     59 / 74       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Rutilius escorted the two women, now fully clothed, to the gates and bid them farewell. He still marveled at the change in them- undressed they were lusty and attractive, and now that they were fully dressed they could easily blend into a crowd and not be noticed. He wondered how many other women in the world could do the same- meek, unseen mice in the market square by day, beautiful tigresses by night. He sighed, knowing the answer was too many.

Once the women were happily on their way his demeanor changed. He walked determinedly toward the praetorium with mayhem on his mind, then abruptly stopped when he saw the new recruits getting their training under the austere glance of Top Palla. That should be my first stop, he thought, and marched smartly up to his primus pilus.

“We need to talk,” he said firmly. “Now.”

Palla started to smile, then he caught the serious tone in the legate’s voice. He turned over the training to the Pilus Prior of the cohort and drew the legate inside the praetorium.

“I take it you did not enjoy your present?” the senior centurion asked gravely. “The boys thought you would, and even I had to admit it was deserved.”

“They were fantastic, Top,” the legate replied. “No worries there. My concern is that three Germanic women were in my quarters unescorted and alone. Two of them were even strangers. That is a serious breach of security.”

Palla gulped. “But they were with that Froydis woman, lord. She’s a proven friend of yours, and even you had authorized her unescorted visits.”

Rutilius admitted that was so with a curt nod. “True, she nursed me back to health where our own surgeons would have killed me with their treatments. She may come and go as she likes. But alone, Top, and escorted within the walls of this castrum when not in my quarters. I don’t know those other two women at all. What if they were assassins, forcing Froydis to gain them access to the castrum? You may have let them into my quarters to murder me, without even knowing it.”

The centurion gulped again. Evidently he had been thinking with his little head, and not the big one. What the legate said was very true indeed.

“Luckily they only raped me,” he said with a leering grin. “But you never know if it was my battering ram or my neck they wanted. Be careful, Top. Take security seriously. And no more unescorted Germanics in the fort.”

“Except Froydis and Tiberius Labeo?”

“Those two, Claudius Victor my steward, and Dieter my guard commander,” Rutilius acknowledged. “These may be brought to my quarters and left alone there with a sentry outside the door, but I do not want anybody walking about the castrum unescorted. Nobody. Ever.”

“Understood, sir,” Palla replied.

“Now, where is Salvius? I am going to give him the same lecture.”

“”Salvius is out in the field, legate. Has been for three days, training with his century.”

That caught Marcus by surprise. Salvius was not training the aide. Then who was? “Who is my aide now, top? And who is teaching him the finer points of being my aide?”

“I’ve got three candidates for you. All good men, veterans, and due for centurion sometime soon. Two are signifers now, and the other is an optio,” Palla commented, then cocked his head toward the legate. “Sir, is there any truth to a vicious rumor I heard about you being the deputy governor again?”

Rutilius nodded. “Guilty as charged.”

“Then you might not like this,” Palla continued, “but it would probably be best for the legion. Take Marcus Salvius back as your aide. He knows the system, and he knows you. He worked really well as your aide based on the lack of complaints I heard from either you or him or anybody. Cadorus is a good legate-in-training, and very much like you with regards to ideas about command. Salvius has the rank for a governor’s aide, though he would resent losing his command.”

“You make valid points, Top,” Rutilius conceded. “However, Salvius earned his century. Let him enjoy it. Give me the names of your candidates, and I’ll look them over. Have Salvius train the man I choose. I don’t want to be dependent on Salvius for the duration of our time together, and I am damned sure he doesn’t want to rise hanging on my caligulae, but rather on his own merits.”

“Good point, sir,” Palla admitted. He handed over a tablet. “Those are your three, with a brief bio on each. Good luck, sir. This legion is going to need it.”

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

Augustus was drawing to a close. The legion and its auxilia helped the locals gather in their grain for the coming winter, their extra manpower much appreciated by the widows while welcomed askance by the few Batavian farmers. Rutilius was careful not to let any Roman soldier aid the harvest upon his own lands, lest his conduct be deemed inappropriate. Besides, Claudius Victor arranged the farms so well that they needed no extra hands.

The feast afterwards, given by Labeo as thanks, went well. It was mostly breads and meats, with some greens, nothing that really appealed to the Roman palate, but was accepted as a votive of gratitude none the less. And the beer, of course, was excellent. The feast helped bridge the gap between conqueror and conquered, Batavian and Roman, and helped solidify the two into a single community.

The Batavians appreciated the gesture, though there was an ulterior motive for the extra help. The harvested fields were now open training grounds, there being no more needed grain upon them. The cohorts could march about the countryside now, perform their drills and maneuvers that the enclosed quadrangle of the castrum was too small to allow. Drill and practice improved greatly, to the pleasure of Top Palla and Quintus Cadorus.

But not to Rutilius. He was not there. He and his escort of Batavians were making his rounds through the province, starting at Traiectum, then to Matilo, then the Village Near the Water. Here he had a council with Niall of the Cananefate.

“I trust you have a nice harvest this year, Niall?” asked Rutilius.

The tall king nodded. “Thanks to the farming tools, we had a much better harvest this year than the last three combined. And there is still grain in the fields to be harvested.”

“Ceres has blessed you,” smiled the legate.

“Ceres my ass,” laughed the usually-dour king of the Cananefate. “It was your tools and our hard labor. But if you wish to credit the gods, then I shall not stop you.”

Rutilius smiled in reply. “Is Jorgen in the fields, then, to be so absent from a Roman visit?”

“My son is roaming the land with Oddvar, learning the art of handling a horse as part of a group of men,” the king replied proudly. “Oddvar says he show aptitude. He should,” the king muttered, “having spent the last few years gleaning martial wisdom from Seval.”

“And how is our former king?” Dieter asked. Seval fled to the his allies the Cananefate, fearing a prophecy of Veleda that said ‘he, a king, would die a fugitive, at the hands of a former fugitive who would become a king.’ Cerealis fulfilled the first part in deposing the Batavian king who had overrun most of two Roman provinces and was making good headway into a third during that horrid Year of Four Emperors. Tiberius Labeo, his cousin, was a fugitive in that same uprising, and he was now the Batavian King.

“We have not seen him lately,” Niall admitted. “But he is not very welcome among the Cananefate- too many of us died in that uprising of his. He normally stays in that cottage between here and Chatvik, sitting upon a dune looking out over to where his friend Cerealis rules in Britannia, and dreaming of the past.”

“He can dream of the past all he likes,” Rutilius replied sternly, “as long as he does not try to recreate it.”

Niall and Dieter both nodded gravely.

The three chatted a bit more, then turned to the coming winter.

“Shall we again do mock battle as we did last winter?” Niall asked as the council drew to a close. “My warriors learned much dancing against yours.”

“Many of mine lived through the battles across the Rhenus due to dancing against yours,” Rutilius acknowledged. “But in truth, my finances are stretched. Many acquisitions lately, and a lot of expenditure. I do not think I can afford a rematch.”

“We need nothing except experience against veterans,” Niall countered, “and my warriors, they sit about and drink my beer all winter doing little else than making babies and farting. Far better for them to be in the open air, learning proper battle. You supply the food to feed them with, nothing more.”

Rutilius thought it over. He had a full legion now, with at least two cohorts worth who had never seen battle. And at least four auxilia cohorts spread throughout the province in the same situation- some were as green as grass, being raised but a month or two ago. Should Cordinus again cross the river in the spring, the experience of ‘fighting’ Germanic warriors would be a big plus.

“Aye, Niall, we shall do mock battle again, come the autumn rains,” he agreed. “In the mean time, may I send two auxilia to you? I wish them trained in the Cananefate way first, then I shall impose Roman discipline upon them.”

Niall thought it over. “You may send your sprouts to us, and I shall teach them as if they were my own. But only if you take a like number of Cananefate, and teach them the Roman way afterwards, when you do the sprouts.”

“Deal.” There was not even a second of hesitation. “I shall have them come to you soon, with their own weapons and supplies. They shall not impose upon you, nor burden your tribe. Your warriors, however, when they come to us- they shall be our guests. They must bring their own weapons, but they shall dine upon our hospitality.”

“You give charity, yet refuse the same,” Niall muttered. “Interesting. But it is fair. You have more to give.”

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

Vespasian read the letter from Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus once again.

Dearest Titus,

I have arrived at Colonia Agrippensi in Germania Inferior, after stopping for a week in Mogontiacum of Germania Superior. The weather is nice for the end of Augustus, it being hot enough to remind me of Rome, though the nights are too chilly for my tastes. The natives here are proud to be in our Empire, and the nobles amuse me with their pretentions of actually being Roman citizens.

I sought out the one your sources say was the mistress of Petillius Cerealis, but I had no luck. If she was in Colonia, she was well-hidden. Your sister will have to accept that this dalliance was the mere expenditure of sexual energy, nothing more, and with no lasting result.

It seems that this trip will be a long one, also difficult if not impossible. I interviewed the legate of the XXI Rapax, and intelligent man of Second-Class origins named Amensius. He was promoted by you personally, it seems, after displaying some valor on the field of battle. He gave testimony about the retreat that seemed to indicate he rather favored the decision, though it clearly was against their assigned orders. If the other legates and their tribunes also support the decision, then my investigation will be severely curtailed.

In a few days I will be travelling to Novaesium, to visit the second legate on my list. He is a proper senator and a pure Flavian, so maybe he can provide me with something of use. After that, I plan to track down the legate of the X Gemina and then confront Cordinus Rutilius myself.

I hope this letter finds you well.

I am,

Titus Clodius


Vespasian put the letter down. Amensius... Then he remembered the name- he was one of three tribunes he had promoted to legate at the request of his brother-in-law Quintus Cerealis. And the only one which came from a Vitellian legion- the V Alaudae. A Campanian, he was. He shook his head to clear it.

“Scribe,” he commanded. “Pen a tablet to Titus Clodius. Remind him that he is there to investigate, not prosecute unless the investigation warrants it.” He laughed, the first humor he showed in over a week. “The old windbag has been a prosecutor too long. Maybe Aurelius would have been a better choice after all.”

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“What a fool,” Gnaeus Mallius exclaimed. Aulus Caecina and his guests recoiled from the vehemence. “He spends his time chasing women and investigating unchastity, while more than enough of that occurs right here in Rome.”

“Eprius is a clever man,” Caecina reminded him. “But a vain one. And one who has prosecuted many senators under that slug Nero five years ago. He has forgotten his mission is to investigate an almost catastrophic loss of troops and reverted to character- sniffing out the guilty and punishing them. He will find nothing there.”

“He will find nothing, will he not?” asked Helvidius with a knowing glare.

“He will find something,” Caecina assured him. “Never set a bloodhound to search for a trail that does not exist- he will search forever and that serves us no good. No, the best way to deal with a bloodhound is to send him on a false trail.”

“You didn’t!”

“No, you did,” Caecina replied, turning to Mallius. “Your merchant friend, the one who sold those Chatti slaves. Rutilius Gallicus had asked the consul for guides. Catullus Messillinus, being the consul-elect, asked your friend Tullius who slaved in the area for some good men who were familiar with the Far Side. Tullius gave him three names of trustworthy men, and these names were duly passed up to Gallicus.”

Mallius turned grey. “Tullius knew little of the Rhenus- he ran his operations from Mediolanum. He asked me for some guides, and I turned to the one man I knew had served up there- you.”

“I gave you the names of three Germanic traders who had always enjoyed good relations with my XV Primigenia,” Caecina replied openly. “But in four years much can change...”

Mallius was mortified. “And I gave those names to Tullius, who gave them to Catullus in Mogontiacum, who gave them to Gallicus, who trusted them because they were recommended by consuls and merchants who dealt with them. By Jupiter, we have almost caused a calamity!”

“Oh relax, Mallius,” Caecina ordered. “We wanted them to fail, remember? So that I could go north and rescue the situation?”

“Which was rescued by the legates themselves, nullifying all your work,” concluded Helvidius. “Which is why you woo Vespasian’s wayward son now. Very clever, Aulus.”

“You should woo him as well, Gaius,” Caecina Alienus noted. “With Eprius investigating, he will come to blame Rutilius Gallicus for the problem. He will most likely impeach him, leaving the governorship open. There are no more proconsuls available except for myself, whom Vespasian hates, and Eprius, who is the impeaching official. That will open the position to praetors and propraetors- which means you and your colleagues. Make sure it is you.”

“Bah, Titus Flavius hates me- I refuse to call him other than his proper name,” Gaius Helvidius retorted. “I am a Republican to my bones.”

“You did the same under Nero, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius,” Mallius noted, “and they still awarded you high public office.”

“Nero was nuts,” Gaius recounted. “Galba was a Republican as well, until the power of being Ruler of Rome hit him. Otho was a shark, Vitellius a puppet. Vespasian is his won man, and a hard one. He will make his friends and relatives consul and praetor- but an outspoken Republican? Never.”

“All the more reason to woo his son,” Caecina said. “Let us bring him into our group. We might make a man of him.”

“As long as his father does not unman us,” Mallius grunted.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-01-10 04:49 AM EDT (US)     60 / 74       
Pretty good chapter! Are they going to go for another trip to the lands of the Bructeri?

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 04-06-10 01:38 AM EDT (US)     61 / 74       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Marcus Rutilius had a busy few weeks in September. He traveled the markets of the northern Tungrian lands, on the southern edges of the western province, then followed the Mosa to the border before travelling the inner roads to Bonna.

In Bonna, during a dinner with Amensius, he first heard of the Imperial proconsul sent to the province. His mission was still unclear, but he had a feeling that it bode the province no good. This was confirmed by Amensius.

“A proconsul,” Lucius began. “Vespasian sends a proconsul here on a fact-finding tour. You and I both know what that means.”

“That the Imperator wants to know the facts?” asked Rutilius, only barely cynically.

Amensius put his goblet down sharply. “You really need to brush up on your Imperial terminology, Marcus. A fact-finding mission is not a search for facts, it is a hunt for a scapegoat. Vespasian knows what happened and doesn't like it. This character is supposed to find the donkey the Imperator can pin a tail on.”

“Who is this guy? I thought Quintus Saturninus was the only proconsul he had left after the purges.”

“He was,” Amensius answered. “Until Titus Clodius Eprius came back from Asia. The man had been consul under Nero, and escaped both Galba and Otho by being governor out in Cyprus during the bloodbaths. He came back, and his foes in the Senate began hounding him, so Vespasian sent him to Asia for three years. He’s back now, and here he comes, fact-finding.”

“I do not know him,” Rutilius admitted. “Never heard of him, actually. I went straight from home into the army, and then here. Avoided the Forum Romanum and all of the shady characters that clustered there.”

“This one is as shady as it gets,” Amenius informed him. “He was so bad as governor of Lycia that the province brought charges against him after his tour. He beat it, then started prosecuting those senators who supported the charges. Got a few of them banished, he did. Good with words, powerful speaker. A dangerous shark, Marcus, and he smells blood. Make sure it is not yours.”

The rest of the conversation was dampened, and dribbled off. Rutilius wrote to Cordinus about the agent, including what background he knew and what Amensius thought of him. Then he was off to Colonia, to handle gubernatorial business and personal pleasure.

The governor’s duties were easily handled- only a few disputes to settle and they were civil- one divorce and two quarrels over the price of sheep. There was also a contract to let for the city, and with only one bidder, it too was easy. After four hours, his duties in Colonia were complete, and Dieter led him to the villa to the south of town where Claudia lived. He spent two days in her home, happily encased in her rapture, her fingers clawing him back into bed every time he tried to get up. Between bouts of lovemaking, she told him of the old boar who came to Colonia.

“He really was pathetic,” she sighed as she tickled his back. “He thought all he had to do was arrive in town with his entourage and the men would prostrate themselves before his greatness and we women would swoon to warm his bed. He had been consul, so he had status, but oh, lover, he was so repulsive!”

“I hear he is here to prosecute somebody,” her lover replied. “Amensius thinks it is the governor, or me.”

“He will find nothing to prosecute,” Claudia assured him. “You did no wrong, and he is more interested in bedsport than in law. Forget him, and make love to me again. Who knows how long it will be before we can share these pleasures again?”

Rutilius could not argue with that. With a smile and hardly a thought to a Cugerni widow to the north he dove back under the sheets to the Ubian's utter joy.

Duty called on the third day, sending him north to Novaesium and beyond. A letter from Cordinus arrived, calling him to Vetera as soon as possible. He could not ignore a governor’s summons, so bade a reluctant farewell to his Ubian lover and rounded up his Guard for the trip north. Dieter was in high spirits as well, a euphoric feeling that lasted until dinner in Messala’s quarters.

“What by Jupiter’s Brass balls is wrong with you, Marcus?” he cursed over his pickled fish. “You’re screwing a German woman- don’t give me that look, the whole province knows about you and that Sacra woman- when you know there is an imperial agent prowling about looking for someone to blame for the retreat this summer? Are you mad?”

“First off, Gnaeus, she’s one of our Germans- a Ubii,” Rutilius retorted. “Second, she is a noble, and unwilling to risk her standing among her peers by sedition or rebellion. And third, she is a Roman citizen. So what if her blood is German? So is mine. And yours is more Gaul than Latin as well. Does that make you any less a Roman, or a senator?”

“Yea, yea, yea,” Gnaeus replied. “I know those answers well, but I am not hunting a scapegoat. Eprius is- and you are setting yourself up to be nailed. Just a word of caution, for a man I respect, and consider a friend.”

“Point taken,” Rutilius replied. The he smiled slyly. “Do you know that this noble proconsul on his fact-finding tour has tried to seduce many a German woman in his visit so far, including Claudia? Some hero of Rome he is, eh?”

“If he is on the prowl, and getting snubbed, it means no good for you or Cordinus,” Messala added. “I give less than a rat’s ass about our beloved governor, but you are my friend. Maybe you should hire some prostitutes to tumble him, so that he is in a good mood when he presents his findings?”

“I don’t think I have that much gold,” Rutilius laughed. “Claudia said he was quite a boar- whiskers and all.”

That sent Messala into a spasm of laughter as well. The description was apt, too- Eprius had a bulging belly like Vitellius, and wore a beard as was popular in the east. His face was chubby, making his eyes seem small, and two of his teeth jutted forward just a hair. He did, in fact, resemble a boar- physically and in temperament.

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

Cordinus said much the same thing when Rutilius reported to him. Eprius was on no fact-finding mission- the facts are all known. He was hunting someone, and the governor had his money on Rutilius.

“That means I have to keep you out of his clutches,” Cordinus said bitterly. “He went to Noviomagus looking to interview you. If you wait a day, he will be on his way to Traiectum. Then you can sneak in behind him and pack your gear.”

Rutilius stood at that. “Why would I pack my gear?”

“You no longer have a choice, Marcus,” Cordinus informed him. “Before, you could choose to stay here or go to Colonia. Eprius is changing that. I want you to move to Colonia and govern the southern regions of the province on my behalf from there. I will rule the North and the West directly from here.”

“Are you well enough to ride and swim, lord?” Rutilius asked. “The West is rather wet, and many rivers to cross.”

“I am recovered enough to do my duties,” the governor affirmed. “I can walk, and can ride, after a fashion. My gladiators can hire a carriage if riding turns out to be too painful.”

“And just how does my being in Colonia keep me from the clutches of this imperial inquistor?”

“I want you in Colonia, Marcus, permanently, as my quaestor,” Cordinus replied. “I sent that useless coward Olnius home in disgrace. His post is now open. By promoting you to my quaestor, I prevent Eprius from censuring you. At least I hope I do. How can he censure someone who was promoted for doing that for which he was to get censured? He will look like an ass if he tries. To a blowhard like that, appearances are everything. You will be safe as my quaestor.”

He pulled up a scroll and handed it to his deputy. “A wedding gift,” he said curtly. “Colonia is better suited than Novaesium anyway.”

Rutilius accepted the scroll with a quiet word of thanks, and departed. After a few minutes, Cordinus picked up a second scroll from under his chair. He opened it and read again the words upon it. It was in his post after the trial, and he had read it a hundred times since then.

Hail, Quintus,

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


Hogwash! He rolled the scroll up and put it back into his bucket. He did what he did out of honor and friendship. He was not being manipulated by a Third-Class legate!

Was he?

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-08-2010 @ 02:28 AM).]

Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 04-07-10 03:54 AM EDT (US)     62 / 74       
Great couple of updates. Lucky Rutilius, lovemaking all the way across Germania with different women and Froydis's blessing to do it!
He could not ignore a governor’s summons, so bid a reluctant farewell to his Ubian lover and rounded up his Guard for the trip north.
There is in fact a past tense of "to bid", as thou no doubt still hast stored somewhere in that ancient silver skull of thine, and that is "bade": Rutilius bade a reluctant farewell to his Ubian lover.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-08-10 02:37 AM EDT (US)     63 / 74       
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Marcus Rutilius returned to his castrum with a heavy heart. His aide, a young signifer, tried to lighten the mood with a few jokes, but failed miserably. He ended up handing the legate the post, sorted in three buckets for personal, legion business, and junk from Rome before departing. The legate read the post, sighed, and decided to turn in without dinner. He had no appetite anyway, and the news he must break to Froydis on the morning was eating him up.

There was a legionary posted outside the door to his chambers, in discussion with his aide. He knew what that meant- inside was either Froydis, a welcome-home gift of some randy widows, or both. It was not what he wanted or needed right now. He said so to his aide.

“The lady said you might say something like that,” the aide protested. “And I was instructed to tell you that tonight is the Equinox, when all was in balance, and that I was to allow her to surprise you.”

“Do you always do as a Germani asks, Caius?” asked the legate.

Caius Avitus gulped, remembering the summer and what that led to. “No sir, but this one, lord... I would have to think hard before I refused the legate’s woman her wishes.”

“Me too,” Rutilius laughed. “You may dismiss the guard. I shall call for you when she is ready to depart. And Caius,” he added, “this time you did it right.”

The aide beamed brightly and scurried off, his legionary in tow. Marcus entered his chambers.

Froydis was there, of course, and the door to his bedroom was ajar, with a light burning inside. I wonder if she will leave her ‘gifts’ after she hears what I have to say, he thought cruelly, then shrugged. It did not matter. He was in no mood for bedsport anyway, not when his heart was being crushed by forces beyond his control.

“Welcome home, Marcus,” she chirped. She waved a hand across the low table covered with a few small plates and a basket with bread. “A small dinner, light on the stomach. Travel and no food can make one weary, and I doubt you wish to be weary this night.”

“I am already weary, Froydis,” he replied dully. But he accepted the dinner as intended. They ate in silence, eyes darting back and forth from the food to each other. She smiled often, a broad smile that lit up his conscience, while he hardly smiled at all.

“Tell me, lover,” she said at last. “What bothers you so that not even my smile can raise your spirits?”

Rutilius looked at her. He admired her slim neck, and the symmetrical face topping it. Her hair was carefully brushed and hanging loose about her face like a halo of gold, and her large eyes were haunting him with the love that filled them- a love he was about to crush like a roach beneath his sandal.

“I am being transferred to Colonia,” he said. “And pressured by peers, friends, and now my superior to marry. There is a widow in Colonia, a noblewoman- pretty, intelligent, rich, and kind. She fits the needs of a senator. For the sake of my son I have not seen in four years, and of my family line, I shall marry her.”

He stood, and moved to his bureau. From it, he removed a small wooden box. He turned, crossed to the Cugerni widow who sat stone-still except for the line of tears marching down her face, and gave it to her.

“Though my body goes there,” he said as he handed it over, “my heart goes with this box.”

Froydis opened the box slowly. Inside was the egg-shaped pendant he offered her once, now carved and polished to form a heart, laying amid a fluff of fabric. She howled, and threw the thing down.

“That was a gift you bought Licinia,” she screamed. “How dare you claim now that is for me!”

Rutilius laughed. It was not an empty laugh. “I thought you were good at noticing things,” he said.

His laughter infuriated her. She picked up the box again and pulled the necklace crudely from its holder. In doing so she noticed the chain- a very fine chain woven in gold- and much shorter than the one from which it hung earlier.

“I had that special-made for you, by the best jeweler in the province,” he added. “And before I received the orders to move to Colonia.”

Froydis examined the gift and its meaning. It was clear. She hung the necklace around her neck, then leaned forward into the arms of the man she loved. There, they both cried at the lost love for a good long time before their natural calm returned.

“If you were to have remained here, would you then have married me?” she asked in a desperate whisper.

He did not trust his voice, merely nodded. After a moment, when he had regained the use of his vocal cords, he added, “In the spring, when I could place a crown of thorn-free roses upon your head and kiss you under the open summer sky.”

“I too have a gift. For you,” Froydis said as she wiped away her tears. “I had expected us to enjoy it for a good many years, but I suspect we shall have only this one night.”

With that she rose, and held his hand as he rose. She led him to the door that stood ajar. She opened it, revealing a large, furry bearskin blanket adorning his bed. “It was meant for us, but shall be yours alone- or for you and your bride.”

He looked at her with wetness still blurring his vision. She laughed, and wiped away the moisture. Then she kissed him. He kissed her back. The embrace grew deeper, desperate. Their souls first touched, then merged. And during that magic moment when they were as one, their clothes disappeared, and then they were under that large, new blanket. Froydis was not as experienced as Licinia, or as aggressive as Claudia, but somehow the intensity of their melding together brought the act of lovemaking to an entirely new level of pleasure he had not known existed.

They rested after the bout, then repeated it, but slower this time, not as charged or desperate, and used what they learned from each other. Froydis climaxed like she never had before, and Marcus never knew such joy. In the morning, again, deeper this time, and with more passion. They both knew this would be the last time they were ever together, and wished to make a perfect memory to last a lifetime.

“The gods are cruel,” Froydis whispered as she curled about her lover. “They bring my soul-mate and I together, let us fall in love, give us this one night together, then rip us apart.”

“They are cruel indeed,” Marcus agreed. She fit so perfectly in his arm, like the arm was made to hold her and nobody else. If only this moment could last forever. “But they could have been far worse. At least they gave us last night together.”

“No, it was far crueler to have had last night, than not at all,” she retorted. “Without last night, we would have wondered about what might have been. Now that we know, losing it wounds us far deeper.”

He sighed. She was right. Again. He replied by holding her closer. After a while, though, he moved apart. He had to get moving. He had arrangements with the legion to make, and tribunes to brief. He started by dressing, and helping her to dress. Then a kiss, then he summoned a guard.

“I must begin packing now,” he said with a last kiss.

“So must I,” she replied. To his startled expression, she added, “you are not such a fool, Marcus Rutilius, as to think I am going to let the love of my life marry some other woman without ensuring his happiness first, are you?”

He did not repel the idea. Any excuse for spending more time with this woman was a valid one. But he had to warn her. “Claudia might no like that.”

“She may, or may not,” Froydis replied bitterly. “I do not care what she likes. I need to look this woman in the eyes. Only then will I know if she will bring you happiness.”

“I will not mind the company,” he said with a shrug. “And I enjoy every second we spend together. But I fear it will be a long, cruel, lonely trip back if she passes your scrutiny.”

“That will be my concern, not yours,” she said curtly.

He grasped her by the shoulders and turned her toward him, then slid his arms around her back and kissed her deeply once again.

“Your welfare will always be my concern,” he whispered when the kiss ended. “Such is it when you hold my heart in your hands.”

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Marcus Rutilius reported to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensi with his household goods, a chest of money, fifty five Batavian Guards, and one rather sad Cugerni friend. Dieter, his Guard Commander, had jabbered with Froydis throughout the journey, filling her in on Claudia Sacra- whatever Marcus may have omitted- and of his own relationship with Milika, the chief maidservant. Froydis, of course, drank in all the knowledge and grew more depressed for every hoof fall. Marcus had been correct- the Ubian noblewoman was an excellent match for one of his stature and responsibilities, no matter where his heart lay.

His first order of business was lodging his entourage and Guardsmen at the visitor’s quarters of the town’s citadel, then making a journey to the villa of Claudia Sacra. He was accompanied by five Guardsmen, Dieter- and Froydis. The Cugerni widow had heard much of this woman from two men now, and wanted, nay needed, to be sure that this witch who had stolen her man was indeed a worthy woman. She felt she owed Marcus at least that much.

Milika welcomed the visitors into the house cheerfully at first, then more cordially as she noticed the Cugerni widow. She minded her manners though, and brought them into the sitting room. There, she poured them their refreshments of choice, be it beer, wine, or water, then went to fetch her mistress without a further word.

“You scare the crap out of her, Froydis,” Dieter laughed. “Usually words babble forth from her as water over a fall, but today she hardly speaks, and when she does, its barely audible.”

“You are all known to her, I am not,” Froydis replied. “She is afraid of the unknown, as a good woman should be.”

Dieter laughed again. “You fear nothing, yet by all accounts are a good woman.”

Froydis shook her head. “I fear some things, especially the unknown. But not so many things are unknown to a woman who has traveled far and experienced much.”

Dieter allowed that was true, then stood as Claudia Sacra entered the room. The other men joined him, and Froydis, once noticing the woman’s entrance, followed suit.

Claudia was dressed formally, with a white linen dress that accentuated her lithe figure and long legs, wonderfully blending with the paleness of her complexion. Her blue eyes sparkled warm love at Marcus and icy daggers at Froydis, or was it an effect of the earrings peeking out from behind her cheeks? Her hair was down as Marcus liked it, straight flaxen locks with but a hint of curling wave, and her mouth held a smile that was either comforting or chilling, depending on the viewer.

“I was not expecting you back so soon, Marcus,” Claudia said in that husky voice of hers.

“I was not expecting to be back so soon either, Claudia,” the Roman replied neutrally. “My governor, and Rome, however, have a different view. I am to be stationed here in Colonia as deputy governor and quaestor.”

Claudia lit up as if a thousand candles sprang to life in front of her. “That’s wonderful news!” she cried in ecstasy. “Have you bought a home yet? If not, please, you are welcome to stay here. Will you be staying permanently, or is it just a few weeks?” She literally jumped up and down like a little girl who just got a piece of rock candy from her father, hands clasped in front of her and hair flying wildly about. “It matters not, lover, it is great that you do not have to be rushing off again so quickly. Oh by Frigg and by Juno this is wonderful news! We must have a feast tonight! No, tomorrow, so we can have guests. Where will you be conducting Rome’s business from? The Rathaus, or will Rome be building its own public edifice? Oh my, this is wonderful!”

“I think Milika’s jabberjaw is contagious,” Dieter whispered to Froydis. “It seems to have smitten her mistress as well. Claudia has not said so many words in one go in all the time I have known her.”

“I was merely ordered here,” Marcus interjected, silencing the ecstatic woman with a finger gently across her lips. “I have to decide myself what is best. As for now, we weary travelers would like to dine, and then you and I have a lot to discuss.”

“As do we, lady Sacra,” Froydis added coldly.

Claudia looked at Marcus with inquisitive eyes, then to the small woman. “Do we know each other?”

“No, we do not,” Froydis said, then smiled slowly. The smile began coldly, then warmed. “But that will change. We have, should you say, mutual interests. Once they are settled to my satisfaction, I will be moving on.” She glanced at Marcus with a nod, then back to the Ubian. “But I shall stay in touch.”

The Batavians moved off, leaving Marcus, Froydis, and Claudia alone while dinner was being prepared. Dieter and his five men made a circuit of the house, then of the perimeter of her household, then two went back to the house while Dieter and the other three checked out the barns and other outlying buildings. When all was deemed secure, they too went to the house in time for dinner.

The three in the sitting room chatted quietly about everything and nothing until the Guards returned, then ate quietly. The atmosphere was so thick it could be cut with a dull knife, with Marcus the uncomfortable man in the middle of two cats itching to fight. The food, however, was superb as usual, and the travelers starving, so luckily not much was said as the orifices needed for talking were filled with food being consumed. As the scullery maids cleared the dishes away, the teeth and claws came out again.

Rutilius stood, turning to the Cugerni woman. “I need to talk with Claudia now,” he said respectfully. He turned toward Claudia and held a hand out to the Ubian woman.

Froydis left her chair as if ejected and darted between the two. “Me first, Marcus,” she said sweetly, then took the hand of Claudia Sacra and led her from the room. In the hall, Claudia brutally ripped her hand free of the unwanted touch and gestured to a doorway leading to a private chamber. Once inside, she spun about on her competition and demanded to know what was going on.

“Sit,” Froydis commanded, as she herself sat down across a small table. The flimsy thing would serve poorly as a barrier should the other woman decide to settle their mutual hostility physically, but it was at least a veneer of civilization.

Claudia sat. She cocked her head toward the Cugerni and raised an eyebrow in anticipation.

Froydis got right to the point. “Marcus is going to ask you to be his wife.” Before the words could drown out any further conversation in a wave of euphoria, she added hastily, ”but you do not hold his heart. I do.”

That did the trick. Claudia’s surge of joy crumpled as if a boulder fell upon it.

Seeing that the Ubian remained quiet, she continued. “He does love you, Claudia Sacra, but as a friend, at least now. A dalliance with feelings, though I trust in time he will come to love you as a man should love a woman. My concern is that you will accept for honor, prestige, or status, and not for love itself.”

The shock of the moment rushed over the Ubian. Then it passed as the Cugerni’s eyes bored into her. She breathed deeply a few times, faced those terrible eyes with a stern glare of her own and replied, “I would indeed gain much honor, prestige, and status within my tribe and within Rome if I accept the proposal of marriage from a Roman senator who has also been governor. But I fell in love with Marcus Rutilius the moment I laid eyes on him, four years ago, though dared not to speak to him then as I was involved with someone. When that man left never to return again, I waited my chance to see him again. And when I did, I grabbed onto him with both hands. I gave him his freedom, woman, and kept our relationship casual, though my heart yearned for more. Now that patience and freedom will return my heart to me.”

Froydis searched, but saw no deceit in the Ubian woman’s clear eyes. She held out a hand, and Claudia accepted it with her own. Both held the pose for a long moment, then withdrew.

“You accept for love,” the Cugerni admitted. “I am satisfied.”

“Why is love so important to you?” the Ubian asked suddenly. “Many marriages do fine, especially among the nobility, without even knowing a taste of love.”

“My Garm married me because he needed a wife,” the Cugerni replied. “I married him because I needed a home. Neither of us for love. We were not happy. His sister married another young warrior, one whom she loved with all her heart. Together they were very happy. I would see Marcus happy.”

“I also accept for our unborn child,” Claudia admitted. “After three years without the touch of a man, I got pregnant on our first night together. He is due when the coming spring floods subside.” Her composure returned as she spoke of her expanding family, prompting a riposte to the Cugerni comment concerning his heart. “You say you have his heart, but he will marry me. Why is that so? He can have anyone he wants.”

“Think about him for a moment and the answer will come to you,” Froydis replied, and sat back.

Claudia knew this for a test. Did she know her future husband as well as this Cugerni nobody? Then she focused on Rutilius, and indeed the answer did come to her. The woman was right. “You love him too, don’t you? You two have shared the pleasures, but now he is sent here. You have not much more than your body and heart to offer him, though in truth he needs little else. I, on the other hand, offer the same, plus am independently wealthy, bring him good connections with the locals, have large lands where his son could grow, and status befitting a man who is a senator. You claimed his heart, but Marcus is a man of duty and honor. His duty to his son demands that he marry well, and that means me.”

She nodded with approval to the Cugerni. “You are right, Cugerni. He does not marry out of love, however he feels. But I hope you are right about the other thing- that he will grow to love me as a man does his wife.”

Froydis nodded. “He will. You two will be very happy together. I feel it.”

“And you, woman?”

Froydis sighed. “I have nursed him back to health, and fell in love with him while doing so. A seeress once told me I would find my soul-mate, but the path would be long, arduous, and painful.” She sobbed, then quickly and brutally crushed the display of weakness. “She was right so far- the path is long, and painful. I thought I had found him, but alas, it was not meant to be. Thus I move on.”

Now that the Cugerni was no longer a rival, Claudia pitied her. It could just as easily have been her crying there, with the Cugerni gloating at his side. “You are welcome to stay here, if you like.”

“That would hurt more,” Froydis snarled bitterly. “No, it is best for all if I return to Cugerni lands, or travel further south. My soul-mate is out there somewhere. If he will not come to me, then I must find him.” She rose. “I will send him in to you. Say nothing of what we discussed.”

Claudia nodded, then awaited her man as her rival departed. A few minutes later he entered, and sat where Froydis once sat. Less than a minute later Claudia screamed in joy and threw her arms around him, breaking the little table between them.

Froydis, who had gathered her few belongings already and was heading out the door, gave a small laugh, then slipped out into the night. Colonia was not far away, and she had a horse, an eye for noticing things, and a skill at healing. Maybe she would stay and set up a small shop? Or head north to Cugerni lands? Or even south, to where the legions call home. The world was hers, and though she hurt inside, she was also refreshed, as if a giant weight was lifted from her shoulders.

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The moment the two women touched, a Vision came unbidden, strong and in color to the mind of Veleda. She watched the vision unfold in rapt attention, then smiled inside. A painful time for you, little Froydis, and a joyful one for Claudia Sacra. But be strong, my friend, for the Fates are fickle. They could very well be reversed in the flicker of a mind’s eye..

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|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 04-09-10 04:33 AM EDT (US)     64 / 74       
Beautiful and tragic. My compliments as usual, Grand Master Skald.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-12-10 02:01 AM EDT (US)     65 / 74       
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Marcus Rutilius married Claudia Sacra on the fourth day before the Ides of October. It was a Roman wedding, but the lack of a Roman priest in the province to make the sacrifices to the gods meant it was a German wedding as well.

Rutilius looked splendid in his silvered cuirass, with all his decorations on and polished. Salvius had come down from Noviomagus to be the witness for the groom, and help polish and burnish until all glowed. He had brought with him Frieda, the widow of Floris Six-Finger, who was almost as excited about this wedding as the bride. Salvius had to dodge not a few well-placed jabs concerning this occasion and one featuring himself.

Then the bride arrived before the altar. Claudia was a vision of elegance and beauty in her cream-colored gown, her face half-hidden behind a Roman veil and herbs interwoven into her hair. Milika, her chief maidservant, was her witness as she- like Marcus- had no other family in the province.

The wedding was blessed with good weather for such an autumn day. The two came together and stood before the priest of Wotan, who would make the sacrifices to the gods asking for their blessings upon this union. The spices and myrrh burned hotly and brightly, signifying their acceptance. The old priest nodded, declaring that the gods bless the marriage.

Marcus turned to Claudia and handed her a waxen tablet. “This I bring as a bride-price, though there is none but you who may accept it. In it is title to two of my farmholds near Gelduba, that we may prosper together.”

Claudia took the tablet and handed him a waxen tablet of her own. “Within this tablet lies my dowry. I bring my estate, my villa, lands, and animals into our marriage, that we may be successful together. I bring you something else, husband. I bring our unborn child, who shall be born when the spring floods subside.”

After the tablets, rings were exchanged. The priest stepped aside, and let the Ubian chieftain come forward. He was the acting ruler of Colonia, and thus the only one present who could declare the marriage legal. He did so in a booming voice, and the couple kissed to the cheers of the gathered. The feast afterward was a raucous affair, but Dieter and the Guards kept it from becoming violent.

The feast lasted two days until the rains came and drowned the last fervor of feasting from the participants. The bridal couple themselves had barely shown their faces at their own feast, leading many to assume- and rightly so- that they were busy experimenting with marital bliss in the privacy of their bedroom. And with the end of the feast came the sending of the messengers.

One of these was sent to Rome with the provincial news and reports, while another peeled off before the city gates and headed down the road to Tarracina and Bovillae. Down that road, following very precise directions, Dieter Straightback and Milika came to the home of two very surprised grandparents and their adopted grandson, Publius Rutilius. It was time for the boy to come live with his father.

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The messengers went north again a day later, bearing letters. One of them was for Titus Clodius, and was sealed with the sigil of Domitianus.

Eprius eagerly tore the seal open when it was handed to him and unrolled the letter. He did not recognize the handwriting, but it was precise and ordered. A drop or two of dried wine stained the letter, confirming to him that it came direct from the hand of the consul himself, and not through a scribe.

Hail, proconsul,

I am writing to prevent a travesty of justice, and potential political embarrassment. I am writing this myself, so that no word of it reaches other ears, unless you yourself tell them. You are advised to burn this after reading and remembering its contents. It does me no harm if you do not, but could end your great political career on a sour note if you do not.

You have been away for three years. Much has happened since you went to Asia. I will try to give you what details I can.

Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus is my friend. He served in many provinces, and even under Corbulo. He is a Roman of the Romans, and will do his utmost to fulfill the needs of Rome. I entrusted him with Germania Inferior and persuaded my father to accept him as governor. He too knows Rutilius Gallicus well, and approved. The man has Imperial protection.

Beware the other Rutilius. The first time I met him, he was dressed as a German. Verily, I thought he was one. Later, I saw him covered in blood and carrying a little boy he rescued from the beasts of Primus’s army during their sack of Rome. He did not respect me, which earned him my enmity, but he saved my life those nights. Cerealis and Mucianus both respect him and favored him. Primus feared him. My cousin, Titus Sabinus, befriended him. All say the same thing- he is savvy, cunning, dangerous- and utterly incorruptible. He is one of those old-fashioned Republicans who puts the ideals of Rome before any one man or family- even his own. You will find little fault with what he does, so look hard- but be honest. If you manufacture fault, you will pay dearly. He will make you.


The rest of the letter was bits and pieces of news and gossip from around the forum and Senate, most of which he knew already. He put the letter aside, took a sip of his wine, and scoffed. Who does this drunken little boy think he is? Telling him how to run an investigation, and poorly at that? He snorted, then crumpled the letter. At least he had some useful information out of it. Afterwards, he cast it aside. A moment later, he picked a new scroll and began to write.

Dearest Titus Flavius Vespasianus,

I have received a letter concerning my investigation. So far I must admit that the facts I have been finding reek of disregard for the imperial mission you gave this province. Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus had been remiss in his duties, and his legates outright treasonous, at least one in particular. That ape is now feeding fires in Rome itself.

Quintus Antonius Creticus tells me Helvidius Priscus speaks often in the Forum Romanum. This time the rabid dog is not hounding me or lamenting your ‘pretentions of grandeur’. No, this time the clever fool lauds the ideals of the lost Republic, especially as embodied in that treasonous legate in Germania. The legate was a Vitellian officer since promoted to legate, then governor, and now reduced to legate again. It is obvious he manipulated the circumstances of the army to his advantage, appearing the hero while sabotaging the task you granted Rutilius Gallicus. It smells to my investigative nose that he wishes to disgrace his governor so that he may again assume the position himself. When I find proof of this, I shall order him dragged in chains to Rome for a proper trial and thereafter execution. As Vitellius himself once said, “A dead enemy always smells good.” The fat bastard was a fool, but his men loved him, and still work against you. One less traitor is always welcome.

Helvidius seems to be remarkably well-informed- I only found out this snake of a legate had been awarded a posting as acting quaestor recently, yet Helvidius seemed to know it in Rome a fortnight ago. Someone is feeding that shark bait. Shall I reel him in when I return?

See the scroll I enclosed with this. It is from your son. In it he tells me not to prosecute his crony, that the man enjoys Imperial protection. Titus, if I find evidence of that man’s misconduct, am I to ignore it because the sitting consul is his friend, or am I to pulverize him for disloyalty to you, the Imperator? Please have a talk with him. I would hate to see your illustrious house torn from within.

I am,

Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus


He put the letter down and picked up the letter from Domitian again. He flattened the crumpled vellum out as best he could, then re-read it to ensure he missed nothing. And he took some notes upon a waxen tablet. Then he rolled it together with his letter to the Imperator and sealed it for posting to Rome.

Afterwards, he looked over his notes again. Thank you, drunkard, for supplying me with names of those from whom I can glean even more incriminating evidence against your favorite.

He now knew who was feeding the sharks of the forum their knowledge. He could not touch the sharks, but he could ensure they bit the hand from their handler.

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Rutilius enjoyed a few weeks of marital bliss, working by day to arrange the construction of a proper Public House for provincial matters and dealing with the complaints and matter of the upper half of the province, and enjoying his new wife and their life together by night. He seemed to have finally found his place in life, though a small part of him continually missed the flirtatious yet serious little Cugerni woman who haunted his heart.

Then Dieter met him in the town square. By his side was Milika, who came quietly forward with her hand clasped in that of a young boy. Rutilius barely recognized the lad, who obviously did not remember him. He approached him and smiled.

“Well hello there, little man,” he said by way of greeting. He tried to be friendly. “And just who might you be?”

“P-P-Publius R-Rutilius, lord,” the boy stammered. He remembered Rutilius well the moment he spoke. The man before him terrified him. The first time he saw this man, he was dressed as a German, covered in blood, and had just dumped the mutilated body of a boy his age upon his family’s dinner table. The last time he saw him was a few days later, when he was dumped at a nice old couple’s home and told to forget his past and learn his future, if he wanted one. Sometime between those two moments his father has died a horrible death- for all he knew, it was at the hands of this man. Now he was thrust back into that horrifying man’s clutches, though the man was now dressed and addressed as a Roman magistrate.

“Welcome to Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensi, young Publius,” Marcus said, holding out his hand to be shaken in the German custom. “I am Marcus Rutilius, your father. It has been a long time since we last saw each other.”

Publius first response was to howl that this man was not his father, but he remembered his grandmother’s words. That grandmother was the mother of Marcus, so he held his tongue. Instead, he peeped out, “A very l-l-l-long t-time, s-s-s-sir.”

“The boy is terrified of you, a Roman, lord,” Dieter said in Batavian. “Interesting. He was not terrified of Milika or myself, and we are both true-blood Germans.”

“The boy had been through a lot,” Marcus admitted, replying in German. “And much of my part in it was not pleasant.”

“Ah,” Dieter allowed. Then he switched to Latin. “He has already met Claudia, but only briefly. Shall I take him to your home, that he may get to know her better?”

Marcus nodded, then smiled at the lad and tousled his hair. “We must talk, young Publius. And later, when you know me as more than a bogeyman, we shall be friends, I think.”

Marcus took to the boy and showed him how to be a good Roman. He also hired a tutor, the father of a Roman businessman who wished to be near his merchant son, to teach him letters and numbers. And when there were no pressing matters of government at hand, he and the boy would saddle some horses and ride through the countryside. The boy had an aptitude for horses, and through their rides together, the gap between father and son grew smaller. It was a good life, Marcus thought.

And then a messenger came from Vetera, calling him to a formal audience on the Ides of December. He kissed Claudia good-bye, clasped hands with young Publius and told him to watch over his new mother, and summoned Dieter and a small escort for the ride north. He arrived in the evening two days later and settled his guards into the visitor’s quarters of the castrum before reporting to Cordinus.

“You wished to see me, lord?” he asked upon entering the governor’s private quarters.

The governor brushed his dinner aside and bade his quaestor sit on the couch next to his own. “Not I, Marcus. Eprius. He will be presenting his findings tomorrow, and wished for both of us, plus all the legates, to witness it.”

Rutilius caught the hint of seriousness in the man’s words. Cordinus feared something, and that fear was almost tangible. Hopefully the fear would be ungrounded.

“He does this the day before the Saturnalia? Is he mad?” asked the quaestor.

“Eprius is not mad, just very thorough,” Cordinus continued. “He interviewed every tribune in every legion, and most of the centurions as well. He also interviewed the legates. I assume you were able to avoid him?”

“I tried, lord,” Rutilius reported. “But he caught me overseeing the construction and repair of the quays near Bonna. It was unavoidable. But he asked little except for a report of my actions and decisions- which I had already given to you and were a matter of public record. I merely repeated what was already known- adding nothing more.”

Cordinus breathed a sigh of relief. “Good lad.” Marcus could almost see the relief flood into his governor, who quickly changed demeanor and the subject. “So tell me, quaestor, how is married life treating you?”

And with that, the two fell into discussions of the virtues of commitment, bonding, and women in general before turning to the pressing matters of the upcoming Saturnalia celebrations.

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

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-12-10 04:46 AM EDT (US)     66 / 74       
Should be interesting to find out Epirus' report.

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 04-12-10 09:33 AM EDT (US)     67 / 74       
Indeed.

I will also be interested to see if Publius gets any adventures. I remember a Star Wars extended universe book in which a couple of little kids had all sorts of accidental adventures and then saved the day.
When I find proof of this, I shall order him dragged in chains to Rome for a proper trial and thereafter execution.
Did you know that executing a Roman citiyen was almost always illegal? The penalty for treason was merely exile, if you recall, and usurpation is surely a lesser crime.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-12-10 11:37 AM EDT (US)     68 / 74       
So it was in the Republican times. In the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero certainly, many "citiyens" were deprived of life and limb without even a trial. merely a decree- this man must die. One of the characters is later going to get a sword through his spine by a praetorian carrying out the Imperator's orders- without a trial.

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-12-10 12:18 PM EDT (US)     69 / 74       
I daresay - but during Vespasian's rule? I dunno, but if someone intercepted that letter I think Eprius would be in pretty big trouble.

Damn German keyboards.
JohnWoo
Ashigaru
posted 04-12-10 06:30 PM EDT (US)     70 / 74       
A very excited 'HELLO' to everyone! It's been a while.
I'm happy to see that "The Eagle and the wolf" still continues.
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 04-15-10 02:52 AM EDT (US)     71 / 74       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The next morning, after the auspices had been interpreted as favorable, Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus delivered his findings to the assembled leadership of the province- its governor, quaestor, and legates. He stood behind the governor’s table as if it were a podium and unraveled a rather long scroll. He perused its contents for a moment, then closed it. He looked up over the officers.

“I have been sent here by order of the Imperator Titus Flavius Vespasianus,” he began. “I was commissioned with imperium proconsulare and tasked to find the facts concerning the actions of this past summer. This I have done, to the utmost of my rather large ability. I researched the service records of those involved, the reports and dispatches sent to Rome, the orders and data sent by Rome to this province, and interviewed most of the persons of interest. I also contacted others connected to the persons of interest in an attempt to build a better picture of these men, and provide a foundation of character upon which to assess their actions.”

He turned his head to look at Cordinus. You are one lucky man to have such powerful friends protecting you. A shame, really, for you should bear the blame for this fiasco.

“You, Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus, have been tasked to cross the Rhenus in force and recover the lost Legionary Eagles of the V Alaudae and the XV Primigenia, known to be in Bructeri lands. You were commanded to maraud and pillage that tribe until either the Eagles had been recovered, or that offending tribe had been erased. You failed to fulfill either task.

“Your crossing of the Rhenus was a text-book operation of success. Your execution of the orders after that shining moment, however, was severely flawed. I find this flaw to be the complete and utter trust you showed two Germanic men. But alas, I can find no fault with you. You were ordered by the consuls to trust those two men and follow their advice. Those men were untrustworthy, but that was not your fault. You showed an immense devotion to duty in your efforts, up until you were struck down by those same men you were ordered to trust. This shall be reported to the Imperator.”

His head turned to face Rutilius, the legate his rival Helvidius was hailing a Republican hero in the Forum. Too bad, Rutilius. I might have otherwise blessed your actions, had it not been for that snake and the fact I need a scapegoat of high rank and you have no patrons. “Marcus Rutilius, you assumed command of the army when Cordinus was incapacitated. You showed diligent loyalty and faith to your governor by remaining stationary while the man healed. For that you are to be commended. Thereafter, you again displayed good judgment in retreating from enemy territory when faced with unknown forces and an insecure logistical situation. Again, commendable.

“That retreat, however well-reasoned and of sound judgment, continued after your logistical base had been secured. You were no longer in logistical difficulties. Your continued retreat was a direct violation of Caesar’s Will and the task given. Your orders to retreat prevented that task from fulfillment, and thus I find you acted intelligently but treasonously. For that, I have no recourse but to have you placed in arrest and taken to Rome to be tried for Treason.”

Rutilius and the other legates sat shocked upon their stools. Not again!

“Now you see why I had that sham trial,” Cordinus whispered to a bleach-pale Lucius Amensius, who nodded slowly.

“You cannot do so, proconsul,” shouted Decius Paullus, rising from his stool.

“I can, and I must,” Eprius replied. “I was empowered by the Imperator himself to determine why his Will was not followed. I have done so, and the guilty must be punished.”

“A court of law determines guilt, proconsul,” Decius replied coldly. “Not a proconsul, or even the Imperator.”

“And a court shall be duly convened,” Eprius reminded him. “As soon as we return to Rome with the prisoner. Lictors, arrest Rutilius.”

“Not even the Imperator can try a man twice for the same crime,” Cordinus said as he rose to join his legate on his feet. “Marcus Rutilius was duly tried for that very charge upon his return from across the Rhenus. I prosecuted him myself, and Paullus here was the iudex. He was acquitted by a jury of knights and senators. Unanimously, I might add.”

Eprius blushed bright pink, emphasizing his porcine appearance. “There was no mention of this trial in his service record!”

“I had his record expunged of the charges after his acquittal,” Decius Paullus informed him. “I can have the records of the trial brought to you. Had you asked, you would have had them already.”

Had I asked of a trial I did not know existed and there had not been one, I would have looked just as foolish as I do now. The hidden trial rankled him. It smacked of a group tightening ranks around one of their own who deserved punishing, at the expense of his reputation and dignitas. So be it.

“This expedition cost Rome almost three thousand legionary lives, and brings back thirty prisoners for sale, captures three hundred horses and a few trinkets of worthless scrap. That is an utter failure. Pathetic. Someone must pay for that failure, and my findings determine that Marcus Rutilius is the man responsible.”

“Marcus Rutilius is also responsible for the deaths of thirty thousand Germanic warriors,” Cordinus replied coldly. He was elated that he was not the target of the investigation, but infuriated that the other Rutilius was. It reeked of senatorial balderdash. “He led our army to kill thirty thousand foes, while losing less than three thousand of our own. That is a success in any book. He displayed proper judgment in retreating under the situation as you yourself noted. Roman doctrine is to advance only when proper logistics are secured.”

Thirty thousand slain! Caesar will never believe it! “Nevertheless, it was the Will of Caesar to recover those Eagles. If you can produce the Eagles, I will amend my findings.”

Cordinus was furious. “The only ones who knew the location of the Eagles were the guides, who came to us highly recommended from Rome! We were ordered to follow their advice to the letter. And those guides were Bructeri assassins, luring us into the wilds of the Teutoburger Forest- you remember that place, do you not, Eprius?- where Varus and the XVII, XVIII, and XIX legions perished? They had another such ambush planned, and thanks to Marcus Rutilius, our legions escaped that trap. The man is a hero, not a villain, and you damned well know it!”

“Quite the little supporter, our governor is,” Messala whispered to Amensius, who was intent on the tirade and its recipient. “A huge turnabout from what he was doing in the forest, eh?”

“As I noted and said earlier, Quintus Cordinus, you are cleared of blame. Your failure was caused by an over-obedience to orders from Rome- and a lack of devotion to Caesar Vespasianus on the part of your legate. You were to maraud or destroy the Bructeri as well- which your lieutenant also failed to do.”

“That is my failure, not his,” Cordinus admitted. “Messala! Repeat the orders I gave to cross the Rhenus.”

Gnaeus Messala rose. “We were to proceed along the Lupia, capturing or destroying any Germani we come across, until such a point that we turn north toward another river, where we will assault the civitas of the Bructeri and there recover the lost eagles.”

Cordinus turned to Amensius. “Repeat the order I gave, legate!”

Amensius repeated almost verbatim the words of Messala.

Cordinus turned to Eprius. “I did not pass on the order to ravage and pillage the entire tribe yet- only those along our path. It was a matter of tactical necessity. I did not want my men diffused and dispersed punishing villagers until after we battled against the Bructeri host and destroyed it. My intention was first to meet and destroy the Bructeri warhost- which proved elusive- with my full force and recover the Eagles. Afterwards, when the enemy was depleted, I was going to turn my legions loose upon the tribe and punish it as per Caesar’s Will. But an assassin’s dagger almost ended my life as well as the expedition- and before I could pass on the rest of the mission. The legates acted well within the bounds of the mission they knew.”

“You should have mentioned this earlier, Cordinus Gallicus,” Eprius said lowly as embarrassment and the shock of the governor’s words sunk in. “This changes things.”

“I tried to tell you earlier, Titus,” Cordinus admitted. “You would not listen.”

Eprius stood silent behind the table as if it were a shield against the rising flush coloring his features, critically aware of the assembled men’s eyes burning into him while he coolly considered this development. This hero Helvidius lauds has indeed a great charisma, to make his former antagonist defend him so vigorously. And this bit about not passing on the entire command... Cordinus puts his own head in the noose to save his legate. Interesting.

“I shall have to amend my findings,” he finally determined. “Since that is your testimony on the matter, I must find that your legates- all of them- acted in accordance with accepted devotion to duty. My amended findings will reflect this.”

His findings presented, Eprius retired from the room in silence.

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

Later, in his private quarters, Eprius summoned Cordinus and scolded him for withholding information critical to his investigation.

“You embarrassed me,” Eprius seethed. “You will regret this.”

“I tried to tell you, proconsul,” Cordinus repeated, “but you would not listen. I gave you clues, though. Do you think I would promote a legate to my personal quaestor if I thought him a fool or a traitor? I may not be as wise in the ways of the Senate as you, esteemed Eprius, but I am no babe in the woods, either. You cannot blame this farce upon me.”

“I can, and I do,” Eprius retorted. “ You never mentioned he had been tried already. Do you know how foolish it looked that I condemn a man who had been exonerated? Your legate Paullus was correct- one cannot try a man twice for the same crime.”

“To be honest, I thought you knew already- I had sent a copy of the trial transcripts to Rome. Further, I assumed I was the target of your investigation,” Cordinus admitted. “The failure was mine, not his.”

“True, it was, and a catastrophic one at that,” Eprius reminded him. “A pity I am not at liberty to burn you publicly for it though. Domitian favors you highly. He bade me protect you. Vespasian favored you as well, eliminating prosecuting you as an option. But the scale of your bungling demanded a high-ranking scapegoat without imperial protection. Rutilius was it.” He faced Cordinus directly and locked eyes with him. ”You should have told me of the trial. And your amending of the orders. You saved him, but may have condemned yourself.”

“How so?”

“You have made an enemy in me,” Eprius reminded him sternly. “I cannot touch you- you have too many and powerful protectors, but I will hurt you. I will make it my duty to harm those around you who do not enjoy Imperial protection: your quaestor for one, young Amensius for another. Oh, and how can I forget your cousin, Lucanus Strabo? The bigoted little devilspawn is hardly old enough to enlist in the legions, yet you get him assigned as a tribunus laticlavius. There are just so many targets for my upcoming investigations and prosecutions that I really do not know where to begin.”

He moved closer, his breath tepid with seething anger. “I must submit a second set of findings directly to the Imperator. My true findings- not the platitudes for the Senate, or the burning of the man who saved your life and your army, but the true facts as I was commanded to find. Your expedition was seriously flawed. You put far more faith in those recommended guides than was deemed proper. You lurched blindly across the river and suffered a strategic defeat. Only the actions of your legates prevented a tactical defeat as well. Luck saved your army from your incompetence.”

Eprius snorted in disgust, his determination set in stone. “You shall never be consul. You will be lucky to pick up an assignment in Ancyra buying goats for the Eastern legions when I am finished with you. Have I made myself clear, Rutilius Gallicus?”

Cordinus muttered a curse under his breath. “Perfectly, proconsul.”

Shit.

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

Here concludes Part III.
Part IV will commence on a Monday in a week or two.

|||||||||||||||| 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 04-15-2010 @ 03:44 AM).]

Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 04-15-10 03:23 AM EDT (US)     72 / 74       
...I may not as wise in the ways of the Senate as you...
You missed out "be".
...a group tightening ranks around one of their own...
I loved that.

A truly excellent final instalment. I am desperate to know what's going to become of Cordinus, and I love the way you turned Eprius into the bad guy. I always liked the way this tale up to date actually didn't really have one, but now it does, I like it even better.

Great work, Grand Master Skald. Quite incredible.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 04-15-10 04:02 AM EDT (US)     73 / 74       
A good conclusion to Part III. Well done!

Oh yes my new update of my war story is finally up and running.

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.
BastWorshiper
Sensei
posted 04-15-10 09:46 AM EDT (US)     74 / 74       
I'm looking forward to Part IV.

"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.)
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