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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf's Jaws
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Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf's Jaws
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Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 08-09-10 06:56 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part V- In the Wolf’s Jaws:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ulfrich grinned.

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

“Shall I try to capture him alive?”

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

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

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

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

AuthorReplies:
Aftermath
HG Alumnus
posted 09-25-10 07:40 AM EDT (US)     51 / 57       
Masterfully done as usual Terikel.

The way you write captures the atmosphere of the period perfectly.

A f t y

A A R S

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

"We kissed the Sun, and it smiled down upon us."
Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-27-10 03:07 AM EDT (US)     52 / 57       
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The woman wiped his brow for the third time. This time, a drop of the sweat from the rag dribbled off the wet rag to land in his eye. The burning of the salt penetrated his stupor, causing his eyes to clench shut.

“Father, he reacts,” the woman shouted.

Her voice brought in the priest of Wotan. He moved through the small aisle between the two beds to where his daughter tended Udo. The bed to his right held the still body of Ulfrich, who was likewise horribly wounded but still barely alive. He paid the comatose man no mind, turning his full attention to the twin with the bandage around his throat.

“His eyes clenched,” the woman reported. “From a bead of sweat. He awakens.”

“And his brother?”

“No reaction yet, father,” she noted. “With a wound like his, only time will tell whether he will live, or not. The eye socket is completely ripped out, as you know, and I have been dutifully draining the hole to prevent infection. There is no sign of redness, other than that which a sword wound would bring.”

The priest nodded. Udo began to move, which caused the priest to put a firm hand upon his chest to hold him down.

“You are safe now, King Udo,” the priest announced to his waking patient. Udo had lost much of the bravado and coarseness displayed in his last visit. Having one’s throat cut would do that, he assumed. “You live, and were very lucky.”

Udo’s eyes opened. He saw the priest hovering over him, and a sliver of a face beside him. He tried to turn his head to get a better look, but the priest grabbed his head in both hands and forcefully held him still.

“You have a ghastly wound on your neck, Udo,” the priest informed him. “Try to hold still, lest you rip it open.”

Udo relaxed a bit, but his demeanor was still agitated. The priest let go of his head, but kept his hands nearby. “You are very lucky, Udo,” he said as the king’s fit subsided. “Most with you wound would have died- drowned in their own blood. Yet yours bled heavily at first, then not at all.”

Udo pointed to the fire, then to his neck. The priest understood.

“You cauterized it?” he asked in wonder. He was impressed- cauterizing a wound was extremely painful. “Yourself?”

Udo moved his eyes back and forth, mindful of the neck injury. He pointed to the ceiling, then to his neck.

“Ah,” the priest said. “Fire fell on your neck. Regardless, it saved you.”

Udo pointed to Ulfrich. His eyes asked for him.

“The men who brought you here say you dragged your brother out of the burning hall by yourself- very brave of you. But alas, he has slipped into a deep sleep from which he has not awoken. He may wake, or not. It is in the hands of the gods.”

Udo touched his eye.

“He lost the eye, and some of the bone around it,” the priest explained. “Sometimes these kill, sometimes not. Wotan survived losing his eye. You and your brother are here in his sacred grove- he may survive as well.”

The king pointed to the eagle above the altar.

“The Roman escaped. A thousand men searched, but your foe fled too quickly. We have men guarding the crossings of the river separating Bructeri land from Batavian, but so far no news. It is as if Loki came down from Valhalla and spirited the evil-doers away. But failing that, they must be hiding somewhere. And when they do turn up, they will be brought here as sacrifices.”

“Good,” mouthed the king. No air passed his vocal cords, thus no sound was made.

“Try not to speak,” the priest commanded sternly. “In a few weeks, when the edges are healed, I will tie a compress around the wound with a scarf. That should force the air out of your mouth, allowing speech again. But until then, Udo of the Bructeri, you must remain as silent as your brother. Or the Bructeri will lose their king.”

Udo understood. Lay down and live. Try to move and die. He laid still- he had far too much vengeance for which to live. Vengeance for his voice, vengeance for his brother, vengeance for his hall. And above all, vengeance for the humiliation he suffered.

Rutilius shall pay dearly. By this oath I swear!

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Castra Vetera dominated the local terrain even more than its predecessor had. The Old Camp was but stone lines in the ground by the river, while the new fortress sprawled atop the highest hill overlooking the Rhenus and the wild lands beyond. From the road leading from Noviomagus, it was indeed imposing.

The Thracians moved quickly inside, seeking the visitors quarters, while Rutilius and Jorgen made ready to confront Cordinus with what they had found. The lictors turned back from their position in the lead to speak with Rutilius before they, too, would enter the castrum and leave his service to return to their own positions in the governor’s retinue.

“Quaestor,” Titus Acilius said. He bowed his head formally and spoke for both lictors, “We are honored to have served with you, and wish to thank you for rescuing us from the Germans after our capture.”

“How could I do otherwise?” Rutilius answered directly.

“You could have simply abandoned us,” Acilius reminded him. “A magistrate’s life is worth much more than those of his lictors and servants combined. We would have been sold, or merely killed out of hand. You risked torture and certain death to free us. It is not something easily forgotten.”

“Yet you forget my vow to Niall of the Cananefate, to safeguard his son, who was taken with you.”

“Bah!” Acilius laughed. “You are truly remarkable, Marcus Rutilius Regicida, a Roman who actually cares about his word given to a barbarian. Not many magistrates would even remember making such a promise, much less risk their lives to carry it out.”

“Why do you call me that, lictor?” Rutilius asked, noticing the cognomen. “Though I did kill a Bructeri king, we Romans do not care to advertise the fact that we killed a man. Nations, on the other hand... In the summer, your magistrate Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus will be able to add another name to his list- Bructericus.

“The Quadii and your Batavians have been calling you Marcus Kingslayer since the tavern,” Acilius said, informing the quaestor of his new name. “They consider it quite an honor, in fact. I simply Latinized it.”

“Well, don’t,” Rutilius commanded, adding with a wink, “at least not formally. I’ll have a talk with my guards about it too.” He handed the two men a small sack. Both knew what was in it. It was a tradition for magistrates to give a donative to lictors who had served them loyally. Normally, it was after a year’s service, so seeing a donative after a few weeks was surprising.

“Lord! It has been but a few weeks! Donatives are usually given for a full year.”

“You men have been through more in those few weeks than most lictors in a full year,” Rutilius reminded them. “You have served Rome far and above the normal call of duty, and have volunteered to do so. It is not something I would easily forget. Take it, lictors. You have earned every sesterce.”

Publius accepted for the both of them, giving his thanks and repeating what Titus had said concerning honor and serving him. Rutilius accepted the praise elegantly, then gave the lictors a gentle nudge toward the fortress. The two moved forward, while Marcus mounted his horse. But he did not follow- he turned his horse to block those of his guards.

“I have a problem,” he said, facing his officers. His face was stern, and serious. That got their attention. “This Kingslayer bit you bandy about. It can cause me trouble.”

“It is an honor few men earn,” Glam replied, astonished that his lord was refusing the honor.

“There are so few kings,” Dieter reminded him. “So fewer still can claim the title.”

“It’s a Germanic custom,” Rutilius agreed, and pointed out. “But one which would be frowned upon in Rome, where we are ruled by a man we call Imperator but is in fact a king. He might get offended, and I am already not one of his favorites.”

“I will keep mine, though,” said Wolf Kingslayer. “If but to remind that fool in Romeburg that those on high can still be brought low- if they cross swords with the wrong man.”

“You may keep yours, but please, drop the honorific from my name,” Rutilius demanded in a voice that said he meant it, but was pleased anyway. The tone carried the message through- all three nodded. “Good, then let us enter this stone pile and report to the man with six names.”

Cordinus was waiting, and had been since the I ala Thracum had arrived. But he would wait a little longer. He expected a full report in the morning, after first giving his quaestor time to recover from what the Thracians said was a hell-raising ride.

Cordinus got his report in the morning, after the governor completed the day’s administrative duties and signaled he was ready. Rutilius, flanked by three of his bodyguards entered a few minutes later. Cordinus noticed immediately that Rutilius had not cleaned up much- he still stank of the forest, and his beard was growing back. Then he remembered that shaving was a Roman custom, and razors were Roman, Rutilius took nothing Roman with him, thus has no razor. Still, he could have borrowed one.

Rutilius took up station before the governor’s table, while Glam and Wolf took up seats in the back by the governor’s Samnite bodyguards. Jorgen took up his post behind and to the right of Rutilius. Once all were settled and ready, Rutilius began his report.

He unrolled the map, pointing out the towns and villages. There were many, each one neatly marked with a name and had the corresponding sums of men along the side. “Five years ago they had nearly one hundred twenty thousand warriors. I doubt they can press out nine thousand now. That is still nine thousand higher than we had thought, but we knew that to be false going in.”

He pointed to the civitas of the Bructeri. It was much further west than where the guides of the past summer had led him to believe. “Here was where the Bructeri held their court. There were many envoys from different tribes gathered here. Chauci, Marsi, Tencteri as you would expect, but also Quadii, Chatti, Suevi, and Cherusci.”

Cordinus shivered involuntarily at the mention of the Cherusci.

“Aye, lord, the ones who ambushed Publius Quinctilius Varus, killing him and the XVII, XVIII, and XIX legions. Those envoys were promising to aid the Bructeri. The Bructeri king actually thought we were Cherusci reinforcements dribbling in, letting me know he had others already.”

“Most of the villages we visited had less than one man for every seven women, and discussions with the locals- ostensibly seeking markets for our merchant goods, led us to believe the same ratio applied throughout Bructeri lands. During the past summer, there was an influx of Chauci and Marsic men, but that has since tapered off, those men leaving with the warriors from those tribes who had come to fight.

“So, the Bructeri are indeed weakened, as we had suspected,” Rutilius summarized in his conclusion after giving his full report. “But not nearly as weakened as we had thought. Many other tribes had rallied to their horse-tail standards, and are rallying still.”

Cordinus sat back. The report was exactly what he wished to see concerning an enemy. It had locations and numbers, scale of booty, and expected resistance. A perfect report. The mentioning of the other tribes was also perfectly fitting with what Rutilius had seen during the summer. It also fit perfectly with his actions of retreating- justifying them perfectly. The information presented was overwhelming- if it was true.

It was too perfect, this report. Too detailed. How had he gotten these sums? How had he managed to divine the purposes of the envoys? How did he even know they were envoys? Disparaging remarks ran through his mind- words of others, who had reason to distrust and dislike the man before him. Now he saw why. How did he achieve this level of detail?

Only one method clearly stood out, the only reasonable explanation. Cordinus would be a fool to discard that. Rutilius must have invented this, to disguise his own failure, and to use it to disguise his past cowardice from the summer when he retreated the legions from those forests. It all came down to that one word- perfect. The report was too perfect; therefore it must have been falsified. It was a fake, as was the man before him.

Worse than merely decorating his face with expressions of doubt, he actually used words to do so.

“Never have I seen such a report,” he muttered. “The details are too perfect, too detailed. Impossibly perfect. Thus it must be a forgery. You must have heavily inferred most of it, probably from watching traffic patterns from this side of the Rhenus, and dreamed up the details yourself.”

The doubt hit Rutilius like a steel pole. How could this man refuse to believe what was before his eyes? Did he not know the sacrifices, the blood and anguish that went into gathering this? Anger surged through him at the unspoken accusation of cowardice and dishonor.

“Be very careful, sir,” he said in a voice that was almost whisper. “Blood was spilled gathering this. Men died. Almost myself as well. We infiltrated, and gathered the information- sometimes to a high price. We did as Rome commanded.”

“So you say, Rutilius,” Cordinus reminded him. “I left you in Colonia and have not seen you since. For all I know, you could have holed up in one of those farms of yours and made all of this up- to the very last, perfect detail.”

“Your own lictor drew the map from information we gathered by entering those many villages and counting first-hand the men there,” Rutilius reminded him sternly. “Do you doubt him? Is he the type to produce a fake map on demand?”

“You were seen giving both lictors a sack of coins. You could have bribed them.”

“I rewarded them for service, as is only proper,” Rutilius replied righteously. “They experienced far more in those few weeks than most lictors on an entire tour. They are your lictors, sir. You gave them to me because they had skills you thought I might need. They did, and I used those skills. It is only right that I reward them.”

“Or bribe them…”

That hurt. Fury was rising now, and only iron self-discipline was keeping him from ripping the governor’s head off right there. “I do not need to bribe them. They had been captured by the Germani. I rescued them. Such builds a bond. I could not have rescued them had I been on my farm.”

He took a deep breath to clear away some of the anger building up. This was not going well.

“We went over there. We infiltrated, and gathered the information before you, at great risk to ourselves. And we got it straight from the horse’s mouth at times. I myself have talked to a Suevi envoy in a Cherusci village and another at a Chauci one, here and here. My men drank beer with Quadii and Chatti envoys here, in the Bructeri civitas, at the table of the king himself. Every sum and mark on this map is accurate, and paid for in blood.”

“Impossible!” Cordinus shouted. There was one thing that ate his self-control more than anything else- and that was when a junior, especially a Third-Class junior, spoke to him as if patronizing a child. That happened just now, and his temper flared as a result. “You and your men drank with ambassadors and kings? This is getting better and better. A magistrate sitting at a table with a Germanic king. Ha!”

“I was not there as a magistrate, but as a merchant, fool!” Rutilius shouted back. His anger finally exploded, ”Or do you really think me such a fool as to parade through their realm in a toga with two lictors bearing fasces leading the way? This is not Armenia, where the mere sight of a toga cows the populace! This is Germania! My disguise was polished and near-perfect- they did not doubt. I traveled hither and yon, without suspicion, learning and watching and reporting. It worked, damn you, until bandits raided our wagon and carried off three of our men- including both of your lictors! I managed to free them, but was recognized by the Bructeri king who had tried to murder me in Noviomagus and caught.

“They bloody crucified me! I hung there in silence while my men drank with those envoys, who were flushed with the victorious sight of a Roman senator hanging from a cross. Above the king’s chair in that hall, directly across from where I hung in a cross, was the Eagle of the XV Primigenia- laurels of a barbarian victory! The barbarians drank, and talked freely while I hung crucified above them. So do not dare to insinuate or even allude to me being a coward who did not bring you good information. The truth is there before you, lord, by the hand of your own lictor.”

“Lies and fairy tales! Give me proof!”

“You want proof? How is this? Rope burns, from the crucifixion,” He showed his wrists, where the ropes had eaten into his skin and rubbed them raw. That did nothing to budge the governor, so he then drew forth a dagger from his belt. Cordinus recoiled at that, and his Samnites lurched forward, but Rutilius waved them back. “And this is the dagger I was stabbed with, those months ago in Noviomagus. Look at it! Glam over there took it from the king’s body, after I slew him. This sword at my hip was in his hand.”

This admission changed the mood of the governor from rising fury to ridicule. He laughed heartily. “Oh Marcus, this tale gets even better for every word you utter! A classic work of pure fiction! You, with no army, danced into the court of the barbarian king, stole his secrets, talked with his ambassadors, then slew him in single combat? Alone, while hanging on a cross? Even you must admit this tale is fantastic to a fault- pure fantasy!”

“Rome ordered me to confirm the intelligence gathered earlier,” Rutilius shouted. “Me, due to my unique qualifications. You remember those, do you not? I speak German, and can pass for one. And I am a combat commander of proven worth- a senator risen to such by virtue of the Corona Civica. Rome needed eyes she could trust over there, so she sent me. Now you refuse to believe the results of the mission, due to the details of how I gathered it? You- and Rome!- needed that information. That is why Rome sent a magistrate over there in the first place!””

“Rome sent you there to die,” Cordinus retorted bitterly. “Or are you too stupid to realize that?”

“Oh horseshit!”

Cordinus smirked. “Oh come now, Rutilius,” he admonished. “If Rome had merely wanted a confirmation, she would have dispatched an arcanus or two. The Imperator ordered this mission personally- he wanted you dead! And after this presentation of vapors and conjecture wrapped as fact, I too have lost faith in you.”

“If the Imperator wanted my death, he could just have ordered me to fall upon my sword,” Rutilius replied. The impact of the statement had yet to penetrate his rage. “He did not have to create this elaborate and militarily necessary mission for something so simple.”

“It is not so simple,” Cordinus retorted. “Would you indeed have fallen upon your sword just like that? I know you, Rutilius. If you felt it in the best interest of Rome, you probably would. But if you did not... Problems. Huge problems.”

“How so? I am loyal to Rome.”

Cordinus smirked. “That is the crux of the problem.”

Doubt and confusion ran over his face. ”What?”

“The Imperator thought you had tried to poison me,” Cordinus explained, heatedly. “Remember? Rome frowns on junior magistrates attempting to assassinate their superiors. When I found the truth, I reported that as well- you had not tried to poison me. It was a conclusion based on false evidence. Yet the Imperator did not rescind the order!

“Of course not- he needed the information!“

“An arcanus could get that information easily. That’s what deep scouts do.”

“There were none available,” Rutilius reminded him. “The Imperator said so himself, in your orders. That’s why I had to go- I have the experience necessary to evaluate the information.”

“There is more at hand here than a simple information-gathering, you fool,” Cordinus said bitterly. “The Imperator thought you had tried to poison me, thus he wanted you dead, as would any ruler whose junior officers tried to murder their seniors. But then he ran into a problem, which led to bigger ones.

“He could not send an assassin or agent. Your Batavians would ensure that any Roman agents trying would get caught. The praises Helvidius sang of you to the masses in the Forum would ensure any botched attempt on you would lead back to him- ending his reign in an upheaval of blood. Not from the masses, though those pathetic beings would certainly riot, but from the legions.”

“Legions? What legions?” Rutilius retorted.

“You are a lion among the soldiers, but a babe in political woods,” Cordinus said. “Think on it! The four legions and their legates here are more loyal to you than to Rome- witness their reaction to that sham of a trial. They care not a rat’s ass for me, but would commit mutiny in their multitudes for you. The four legions of Germania Superior, which you once commanded, would probably do the same. Even Titus Sabinus- the Imperator’s nephew- would follow you. That is eight legions, Rutilius. And the II Adiutrix in Britannia? Easily! Nine legions, Rutilius! Nine legions think you are a hero and a godsend, a Roman of the Romans. Worse, you are a man devoted to your ideal of Rome, and a damned good orator when you need to be. Nine legions would follow you should you march on Rome, should you determine that the Imperator thinks more of himself than he does of Rome.”

“I would never march on Rome!” Rutilius shouted.

“Many men have said that,” Cordinus shouted in retort, “yet only five years ago, three senators did just that! Galba, who was murdered by Otho, then Vitellius, then Flavius Vespasianus himself- all of whom had far less than nine legions supporting their claim. Should you, the darling of the Army of the Rhenus, decide to become Imperator- who could stop you?

“Vespasian saw that even if you had not, and it frightens him. Thus you had to die, and not by the hands of Romans. If Roman hands could not do it, then it must be done at German hands, and since your Batavians are so bloody good at their job, it could not happen here. So it must happen over there. That must be the true reason you were sent, you bloody fool!”

“You accuse me of reporting lies, but spout off far worse ones yourself!” Rutilius laughed sarcastically. “And you wonder why the men here despise you so?”

“The men despise me because you have poisoned them against me, just like you had done before- against Vorenus, and then Flaccus, and against Cerealis, whose army you stole to command the final battle against Civilis.”

Rutilius laughed loudly at that. “I gave Flaccus warning of what was going on, then headed to Rome to do the same. And rightly so, as it turned out. Cerealis gave me command when he was too wounded to command himself. Get your facts straight before leveling accusations.”

Then he came closer to the governor, his eyes burning with rage. “I will tell you another thing, Quintus Julius Cordinus Caius Rutilius Gallicus. The men despise you, because of you- how you are, how you mistreat those who you should trust, and the utter faith you had in two Bructeri spies. You might have been an able administrator in Armenia, but this is not Armenia. You might have commanded well in North Africa, but this is not North Africa. The men dislike you because of how you act. I have worked hard to dispel at least two mutinies against you. That means, dear Quintus, that I am the only swinging dick in this entire province who actually supports you!”

“You cover treachery with a veneer of support and call it sincere? Ha!”

“Can you name the Cananefate king? Or even the Batavian? Who is Asgar? Who leads the Cugerni? Do you even know what the Cugerni are?”

Cordinus waved away the silly questions with a back-handed wave. The gesture infuriated Rutilius even more.

“Niall is the King of the Cananefate, Tiberius Labeo the king of the Batavi,” Rutilius continued. “Asgar is the current duimvir of the Ubians, and Alfred leads the Cugerni- who happen to be one of the four major tribes in this province. How can you govern a province when you do not even know the names of the local leaders? You are a disaster for Germania! Without me supporting you, you would have collapsed this province into revolt or worse. And you have the nerve to call me disloyal?”

“Ah, the righteousness of the correctly-accused. It never fails to manifest,” Cordinus replied with a laugh. “I almost wish the Germans had killed you.”

“So my comrades died for nothing; the entire mission was false,” Rutilius whispered. Then his voice raised in both power and tempo, revealing his ire at this latest betrayal. “And the information worthless- because you did not really want it. Well, dearest governor, the information contained is true. You can write to Rome, to the Imperator himself, and tell him that I did go across the Rhenus, as ordered. I did confirm the details of that report- and discovered much more information that Rome ought to know. And that I am back, alive, and still more loyal to the city who gave me life than the men running her!”

“I will most certainly not!”

“You will,” Rutilius retorted. “You accuse me of spinning a fantastic tale of intrigue and deceit, then spin one to me about an Imperator who is threatened by a mere quaestor. But there is a difference in our tales, dear Cordinus. There is no proof in yours that I am a threat to anyone, much less the Imperator. However, I have proof of mine.”

Rutilius held out his hand behind him. Jorgen, who was awaiting this signal but hoping it would not have to be used, stepped forward and placed in the open hand a large packet. Rutilius used the knife to open it, then sheathed the knife and lifted from its wrappings a large silver Eagle. The markings XV could be clearly seen in its claws.

“Fantastic, yes,” Rutilius admitted. “Fantasy-no. Unless of course you think I had this made while I was cowering in some farm. Look at it! Wolf over there cut it down from above the chair of the other Bructeri king- they were twins- just after he killed him.”

Cordinus sat stunned, staring at the Eagle. He knew it well, from his time as a tribune in that legion alongside Quintus Lupercus , down to the nick in the wing gotten when a clumsy Aquilifer tripped on parade in the Old Camp. That detail was not known- this could be no forgery.

“And the Eagle of the Alaudae is in the Sacred Grove of Wotan,” Rutilius continued. He pointed to a spot west of the civitas. “Here.”

Then he turned, disregarding the protocol of awaiting dismissal. “You can go there yourself to see it with your own eyes, if you still have doubts.”

Then he stormed from the room before his rage forced him into something rash- like killing the worthless governor Rome had sent to a delicate province. Behind him, Jorgen gave the governor a sour look, then followed his friend. Glam and Wolf rose as well, but stopped when passing the governor.

“I spoke to those Cherusci and Chatti envoys,” he said casually to the governor. “Acting cheery while my lord and friend hung as a cross above my head. It was not pleasant. You impugn his honor again, and I will kill you for it.”

“Unless I get to you first,” Wolf added. “I am Wolf Kingslayer. Regicida in your tongue. I killed Udo, the Bructeri king. Though I dislike the taste of it, I would gladly earn the name Praetorcida if you give me cause, praetor.” He paused. “But do not take our word for it. Ask your lictors. They were there when we freed Marcus.”

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

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 09-27-10 06:29 AM EDT (US)     53 / 57       
Wow that was an explosive ending. It'll be interesting to see what happens next!

Great chapter!

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

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

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 09-27-10 01:18 PM EDT (US)     54 / 57       
Marvelous. I do not like the sound of the word, but the meaning is that I wish to convey. Truly fantastic.
Regicida
Ahh...

Praetoricida, by the way.

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)

[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 09-27-2010 @ 01:19 PM).]

Terikel Grayhair
Imperator
(id: Terikel706)
posted 09-30-10 08:25 AM EDT (US)     55 / 57       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

A few hours later, a gentle knock at the door interrupted Rutilius’s angered pacing in his chambers. He hoped it was not the bakery below, complaining again that his pacing was causing dust to fall in their dough. It was not. It was Vibulus, the Samnite Guard commander.

Wolf and Glam rushed to block the Samnite. Their expressions were feral- they dearly wanted the Samnite to try something, anything, so that they could rip him apart after the dishonor shown by his lord to theirs. That this was the same fool who tried to murder Amalric- who had saved the foolish governor’s life over there was just icing on the cake.

Vibulus offered no such reason. He merely stepped aside, to reveal the governor behind him. Glam and Wolf backed off a pace, but Jorgen came forward.

“You have a lot of damned gall coming here after calling us all liars and cowards and usurpers,” the young Cananefate said belligerently.

Cordinus eye-balled him rapidly. “You have a lot of nerve addressing a praetor of Rome in that tone,” he spat back.

Jorgen smiled evilly. “I talk like that to any who so greatly offend me, regardless of their station- especially if they lack the manhood to back up their mouth. Just ask Segestes.”

“Who is Segestes?”

“He was a Suevi prince we met in a Cherusci village,” Jorgen replied. “He could break you in twain and eat your guts for breakfast. I had to put him in his place when he too impugned my honor. And again when his incessant babble made my dinner grow cold.”

Genoeg!,” Rutilius shouted. “Glam! Wolf! Jorgen! Stap terug, nu!

Cordinus stood his ground at the shouted command, but he did wince. It was a command in Germanic, angry, harsh syllables that cut into his ears- but the bellicose giants before him stepped back immediately upon their utterance. In that moment, he saw not a Roman senator ordering his bodyguards about, but rather a Germanic warlord commanding his sturdy housecarls. The power of the man, the instant obedience shown by the hardened warriors serving him... It was not natural, not Roman discipline. It was raw Germanic vitality, powerful and unstoppable. And it frightened him, deeply. His quaestor was truly a Germanic!

Rubbish! The man was thoroughly Roman. He knew enough of his background from his enemies that there was no doubt of his Roman birth and upbringing. Yet the Germanic command was still ringing in his ears. Then it gelled in his mind. All of it. He could now indeed see how Rutilius had done exactly as he claimed. If I who knew him as a Roman thought him a German, the Germani would have no chance but to believe as well.

One of the guards before him muttered something else in Germanic, which caused the other two to laugh and Rutilius to blush.

“What did he say?” Cordinus demanded. The demand was not as angry as it might otherwise have been; the tone was more used to depict curiosity.

Rutilius broke his blush with a laugh. “He said you have done it now. You made me so angry I babbled Cananefate to my Batavians- a sure sign I am furious.”

Cordinus nodded. “You have every right to be furious. I had called you a coward and a liar with no proof to back up my accusation, and this after you had furnished ample proof that your tale- and the report- were both true. I was just overwhelmed by the wealth and depth of the report- and how it was obtained, and when pressed by such information, I reverted to the cynical disbeliever I naturally am. Even you must admit that this tale is fantastic in the extreme.”

Marcus cooled a bit. Cordinus did have a point- he had been through an utterly unbelievable ordeal. Still, he had furnished proof, and accomplished his mission to the letter. Then he realized that this was a fumbled attempt at an apology- something he certainly did not expect from a senator whose family had been in the Senate for generations. Apologizing to lower-class Romans was something the elite simply did not do, and although Marcus was a senator due to his Corona Civica, he was technically still in the Third Class according to the censors.

Jorgen caught the look of forgiveness crossing his friend’s face and realized as well that this was the governor’s attempt at an apology. Marcus was forgiving the outburst- he could not. The man had violated his honor, deeply, and called his friend- a decent, honorable man- a thief, a liar, and a coward. Such demanded only one response- immediate death to the offender. But the offender was a governor, a Roman, and thus death in this case was forbidden.

“I can see that Marcus accepts your apology,” he said to the governor. “But I do not. You Romans are as sturdy as giants in battle, but as flighty as elves in your dealings with others. Capricious little shits, sometimes. Marcus has that trait sometimes, too, but he is only half-Roman and thus does it less than half as often. You, Cordinus, you are a true-blood Roman. You could just as easily change your mind again after you leave here. So no, I do not accept your bungled apology- at least until you prove you actually mean it.”

Wolf was harsher still. “Go away to Rome, little man,” he said in atrocious Latin. Marcus, who knew him better, realized he was deliberately butchering his Latin to make an impression. “Your kind do not belong here. Jorgen is right- you are as flighty as an elf. You have no concept of honor, nor do you even try to understand it. We need men here who know its value, who trust and can be trusted. You do neither. All you do is get good men killed and make a poor kinglet. So go away, little man, and let Marcus or someone else who understands honor safeguard your precious empire.”

Glam could not let this opportunity pass, either. “Go away, as Wolf said. You are suited for Gaul or Italia, or other places where you will not see war. Marcus applauded your administration skill, but I have seen you in battle. You are no generalis, and belittle those who can command for you. That makes you worthless in a province where fighting is required. So go away, before you get too many killed.”

“You men have every right to be furious,” Cordinus repeated, cowed by the harshness of the judgments passed upon him. Cowed, but also infuriated. They shall pay for this insubordination and insult, but not just yet. “And I shall prove my apology is sincere. Part of the sincerity is contemplation. I thought over the report, Marcus, and thought over what you had experienced. I also thought over what I had said about usurpers, marching on Rome, and the threat you personally pose. Much was just anger and paranoia spouting off, but some was truth. Rome had sent you there to be killed- I am certain of it now. Your return will cause ripples. I have no doubt. The loss of the ala- that cannot be explained away. Nor can anyone claim the Eagle was not recovered. And in the summer, we shall see the accuracy of the map. The Acilii both reported the same events as have you, and they have no reason to lie, despite the sack of denarii.”

“Do you really consider me a threat to the Imperator?” Rutilius asked. “I thought you knew me.”

“I thought I did, too, until that damnably detailed report you presented,” Cordinus conceded. ”Then it all came crashing down when I thought it was the result of cowardice and deception- the only rational explanation for such detail. I know now, after my contemplation, that you are nothing more than a loyal Roman doing the best your ability allows. It is unfortunate- and incredible- that your abilities are so far above the rest I have dealt with. But I do fear that there are men in Rome, men close to the Imperator, who see more. What I said about the legions is true as well- they love you, Marcus. Far more than they do me, or Vespasian. Should you decide to march, none would stop you and most would join you- especially if you were wronged by Imperial decree. Vespasian sees in you a younger, more vibrant version of himself. But he was an opportunist- and you are not. This I also discovered in my contemplation.”

He paused, then looked Marcus in the eye. “I also remembered that you had two motives for crossing the Rhenus. The report was but one. Do you recall the other?”

“I do, lord,” Rutilius replied. “It was to determine who the traitor was. And there is a traitor. Someone tipped off the Bructeri that I was coming. That someone- a Roman someone- cost Rome an ala of cavalry, and me several of my best guards. That someone will pay.”

“Who is it?” the governor demanded.

“It is someone with the ear of the Imperator, someone in Rome. I had thought at first it was you, or someone in your entourage as we discussed in Colonia. Thus I told you I would cross the river in a small boat and take up the life of a hunter. The Germani were not looking for a hunter, thus you and your retinue were cleared. The traitor is in Rome, and walks in Imperial circles- this I now know. “

“Then it is not Helvidius,” Cordinus said. “He went into self-exile before the order sending you across arrived. Plus the Imperator despises him.”

“I shall continue to investigate.” Rutilius promised. ”I will find proof. When I do, I will give you that evidence. And then that traitor in Rome will die. On this I swear. For now, the Kalends of April are upon us, and my son should be about ready to enter this world. I would like to be home in time to greet him.”

Cordinus gave his consent, then withdrew, taking his pet Samnite with him. After a few minutes, Jorgen looked at Rutilius.

“You lied to your chieftain?” he asked. “You know very well the traitor is closer to here than Rome.”

“There are two traitors,” Rutilius said coldly. “And one of them is definitely in Rome. It does not matter, though, for Cordinus would never believe that two men could betray Rome so thoroughly, not with what I have as proof- the words from two dead Germanic kings. So I throw him at the traitor in Rome, where I have few ties and he many. He catches that one, and I dispose of the other. And all this talk of me being a threat to the Imperator dies with him. Simple, and satisfying.”

“Would you share the identity of this nearby spy with me, your blood-brother?” Jorgen asked.

Marcus shook his head. “Not now. Maybe in time. I would not want you to end up adorning a cross for failing to achieve my revenge.”

“At least tell me how you know,” Jorgen pleaded. “You owe me that much.”

Rutilius laughed. “It was in the movements of the Bructeri. They stood by Father Rhein, where the Roman traitor had told them Dieter would land. Then they moved to the Witch’s Tower. There was only one man we informed that we would land there.”

“But he did not,” Glam pointed out. “Dieter landed a day’s sail past the Witch’s Tower.”

“I told none but Dieter to land a day’s sail past the tower,” Rutilius informed them. “Rome was told I would land on the Rhein, and three other men were informed of the movements- each that landfall would be made at a different place. Where the Bructeri stood would reveal the traitor. The Bructeri assembled a warhost in late winter to stand on the Rhein, then moved suddenly to the Tower, as Udo confirmed.”

It dawned on them. Jorgen put it into words. “They received word from Rome first, then word from a second traitor about the Tower. Thus a spy in Rome, and another- to whom you said you would land at the tower, gave that information to the Bructeri as well. ”

Rutilius nodded. “Enemy movements do not count as proof- especially to one such as Cordinus. He would investigate, maybe. Or simply ask. Either way, the traitor is warned and can cover his tracks, or otherwise make himself invulnerable. That will simply not do. But I know. I have my proof already. And when Cordinus catches the other traitor, I will make this one pay.”

He fingered the dagger in his belt.

“Personally. And permanently.”

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

Here ends Part V.

Part VI will commence in approximately ten days.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Legion Of Hell
Centurion
posted 09-30-10 10:36 AM EDT (US)     56 / 57       
A great ending to a riveting part.

So now we know there are two traitors seeking to supplant the Emperor and pin it on our hero. But the question is: who are they?

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

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

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Edorix
High King of Britain
posted 09-30-10 11:28 AM EDT (US)     57 / 57       
Nice catch, that trick of Rutilius's. Keep up the Great Tales, Terikel!

Have you yet finished writing the series?

• EDORIX •
~ ancient briton ~

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

(dis ma house)
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