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Total War: Shogun 2 Heaven » Forums » Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum » The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
Topic Subject:The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations
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Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 01-30-12 10:35 AM EDT (US)         
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Excerpt from The Eagle and the Wolf Part IX- Ominous Revelations

“I cannot thank you enough,” Plautius Silvanus repeated to Domitian toward the end of the party. “Your influence and patronage has returned my family to the honor it should rightfully carry. I pray to the gods that we retain this mutually-beneficial relationship, young Titus.”

Domitian nodded gently. “My brother had issued the orders to retreat too late, and my father’s original orders were so shrouded in secrecy that they were incomplete. Cordinus Gallicus did as would any Roman commander in such a situation. It was but bad luck that it turned out as it did- and good luck for you that it did not become worse.”

“Aye, your brother,” Plotius said, joining in the small conversation. “He likes to travel with his darling Praetorians, and leaves the running of Rome to men like you and I.”

“His Praetorians are the very best,” Plautius senior reminded his nephew. “Excellently trained, superbly equipped, utterly loyal. It is not without foundation that they are the premier troops of our empire.”

“I do not see why the Praetorians should be so favored,” Domitianus said in contrast. “They have eliminated more than one emperor, and been involved in shady dealings in the past. Though I admit my brother’s patronage of his Praetorians has made them a much better lot, I do see why the divine Augustus created a balance to their power.”

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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 @ 01:06 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 05-14-12 12:55 PM EDT (US)     51 / 86       
Finally he is exonerated! Now let us hope we find out who the real traitor was.

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.
posted 05-14-12 02:01 PM EDT (US)     52 / 86       
Time to find the new traitor Also, there has been a disclosure of the Rutilius' past... I also liked the part where Rutilius revealed being beaten badly by young Roscius. What a strange change of positions...

Anyway, I was just wondering, what happened to the Bructeri vala? I think I know something, I'm just not so sure yet...Oh, BTW, another amazing chapter Keep up the good work

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-21-12 02:09 AM EDT (US)     53 / 86       
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The legionary hurried quickly through the dark castrum towards the lit praetorium. There were Germans at the gate, armed and evidently in a foul mood. They were, however, respectfully waiting patiently despite their mood and the light drizzle falling upon them from the black skies above. The group was large, about a hundred men, but no threat to the castrum. They were here on business, and content to wait in the rain for the permission to enter they knew they would receive.

A year ago these men would have been slain on sight. Bructeri warriors, at the gates of Vetera? They would have been pierced by many bolts and arrows long before they reached the front gate, even in this rainy gloom. But many changes can occur in a year. One of them was the newfound friendship between the two formerly bitter enemies. The right king can do that, especially if he is good friends with the local Roman magistrate, and Segestes was a good friend indeed.

Ten of the Bructeri were admitted and duly escorted inside. The remaining ninety turned back to head down the road to the vicus and its hostel, where they would await the summons of their king for his escort home. Eight men escorted the king and the tenth man to the praetorium, following the legionary guide. Segestes needed no guide. He knew exactly where to go- he had ruled this very castrum as its lord when Rutilius had gone over there to rescue the legions. He accepted the guide anyway, though there was not a man in the XXIInd who did not know and think fondly upon the man who enabled Marcus Rutilius to free them from the German trap.

“Segestes!” called Decius Paullus, greeting the king loudly once he was ushered in to the praetorian office. There was a gathering in progress, though it was just ending, actually. The legion officers rose at his entrance, then began to file past when they saw that tenth man was tied in ropes. Intrigued, they paused.

Paullus, freed from the tedium of command for the moment, hustled forward to embrace the visiting king and offer him a goblet of wine in welcome.

Rutilius was more reserved, rising as the king approached and offering his hand to his guest before gesturing to the beer. Segestes escaped Paullus and clasped the forearm of Rutilius in the Germanic way.

He gestured to the bound man in the center of his party. “I found this,” he said bluntly.

Rutilius looked the prisoner over. He had been beaten a while ago, but was otherwise in good health. From his round, scarred face and fair complexion, he thought him at first a Germanic, but the nose and chin were wrong. A Gaul. And one who had seen service in the auxilia, to judge by his tattoo and brands.

Segestes reached over and was handed a long package by one of his guards. Rutilius was pleased to note that the guard and one other were ethnic Bructeri, though the other six were originally Suevi. It was a sign that Segestes was trusting his new tribe’s men as equals of his own tribe- something a good king would do.

The king unwrapped the package to reveal a sword. “He had this on him,” he explained, “He claimed it was the sword of Bructeri kings, and he would gladly give it to us for sanctuary.”

Rutilius looked it over and nodded. Then he turned to the prisoner. “Where did you get this?”

The prisoner stared at his toes, but said nothing. Rutilius repeated the question in Batavian. Still no answer.

“He would not speak with me, either,” Segestes said, rubbing a fist. “We urged him, but he refused to talk.”

“It is indeed the sword of Bructeri kings,” Rutilius confirmed. “At least of one. This was taken this from Udo’s unconscious body a year ago, and I used it in battle against his brother moments later. My guards gave it to me, along with the name Kingslayer. I hung it in my bedchamber as a momento of their devotion. I had thought it destroyed in the fire that swept my home, though we found no trace of it in the ashes. Now it appears to have been stolen before the fire.”

His eyes flared at the prisoner, who dared not lift his gaze to meet those fierce orbs. “I vowed to crucify the men who murdered my family over their graves. Unless you tell me otherwise, prisoner, I am going to assume you are one of them as proven by this sword. Thus you will suffer that fate. So if you have anything to say, say it now.”

The prisoner remained silent, but Dieter suddenly exited the room. Rutilius continued to pry and prod the prisoner, who remained resolute in his silence, until Dieter returned, with Glam in tow.

The second Batavian took one look at the prisoner and nodded to Rutilius.

“That is the man I fought in your hall, lord,” Glam said. His words doomed the prisoner. “He set fire to the house to escape pursuit, after killing your wife. He even used that sword in your hand to do battle with me. There is no doubt.”

The prisoner chose this moment to speak up. “He lies, lord,” Burgis said. “I did not kill your woman. I never laid a hand on her. She slew herself.”

“You lie to escape my vengeance,” Rutilius said bitterly. Then he lied himself, to seal the man’s fate. “You cut Claudia down like a dog.”

Burgis raised his gaze to meet that of the Roman. “She stabbed herself in the heart, using her own dagger, before I could stop her.” He grimaced as he realized he had just put himself in the home, standing before the living Claudia in her last moments. It did not matter much now- that Batavian hard-ass he battled in the hall had remembered him. He was doomed, and knew it. “She was a strong one, lord, and did not hesitate to plunge the dagger in while watching me approach. Her eyes showed no fear, no anxiety, no emotion. She merely stabbed, then died. She haunts me still.”

Rutilius nodded. “She haunts us all. She was indeed a good woman- too good for the likes of you.” He turned to his guards, and bade them take the prisoner to the cells below.

“I wish to thank you, Segestes, for this gift of justice,” he said in Germanic to the king.

Segestes snorted in disgust. “Hel shall take that one. A thief, and a murderer. Had I known he was the one who slew your woman, Marek, I would have only brought you his head.”

“I am very glad that you brought him alive,” Marek replied evenly. “He was right- Claudia did slay herself- but she did so to avoid whatever fate he and his pack of brigands planned first. Only Glam and I saw her body afterward- before we covered her with her death shroud. Only two others knew she had stabbed herself- Froydis who figured it out from Glam’s words, and the man watched her do it. He knew. He was the leader of those bastards. He cost me my family, Segestes. It is only right that I be the one to send him to Hel.”

The Bructeri king nodded in agreement. “Such villains poison the air around them. Do not let him live too long, lest you too be tainted by him. I would hate to see that happen.”

“He will live long enough to die on a cross planted next to my family’s grave,” Rutilius vowed. “He shall die among the ghosts and graves of those he and his men had slain.”

Segestes nodded again. “Fitting, my friend. Maybe his death will appease the ghosts that haunt you still.”

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Burgis held his tongue thereafter. Four days went by with him being questioned in the evenings, then all night by the prisoner occupying the cell next to him, again by the guards during the morning, and again by the restless prisoner during the afternoon. To all he said not a word.

But he had spoken enough. Rutilius recounted to Froydis the few words the man had spoken. Glam and Dieter repeated their accounts as well, giving her a full account of the words.

She had no doubt that this man was the culprit. Glam identified him, without being told who he was identifying. He had the sword stolen from the bedroom where Claudia had been slain, and he admitted to watching her stab herself to avoid his plan...

“Before I could stop her!” she cried. “Are you sure that was his exact words?”

Marcus and the two Germanics nodded. “His exact words.”

“Why would he want to stop her?” Froydis asked. “If his attack had been successful, there would have been many, many women upon whom he could vent his seed. If his attack was failing, as the presence of Glam showed, he should be more interested in running away. Yet he wanted to stop her from suicide. Why?”

Discussing the attack was painful to both Dieter and Marcus. Memories of lost loved ones ran through their heads, turning their reasoning to mush. Luckily Glam, who had suffered less, was thinking clearly.

“He was a cold bastard, that one,” the doughty Batavian muttered. “He didn’t bat an eye when he ordered his men to engage our guards and their families. I don’t think he considered the men who worked the farm- they took down a bunch of his men, or at least tied them up until Amalric and I could get into the action. And he did not wince when we tangled- all business.”

“There was a dead guy in the hall by the chamber of Quintus, and he himself came out of your chamber,” Glam remembered. “He most definitely had a plan- he was doing a systematic search. I drove him off before he could finish, and Am killed the sods attacking the families- his diversion. He only fled then, when everything was lost.”

“He had wanted her alive,” Marcus deduced. “And not as a trophy, either. Kidnap?”

Froydis shook her head, spilling a lock of hair from her ponytail in the process. “He did not hesitate to cut down your children- which are more precious in kidnapping that spouses. Whatever his plan, it was not a kidnapping.”

“You told Marek he was to be there,” Dieter recalled. “They were not merely words to sooth him.”

Froydis nodded. “They were not. I believe they wanted both Marcus and Claudia. Their plan was a good one- and would have worked even with a full contingent of Guards present. It was dumb luck and the surprises of Amalric and Glam which destroyed their plan- and of course their underestimating the ability of Batavians on the ground.”

“A cold bastard like him,” Glam said bitterly, “would kill all. No witnesses.”

“I do not think he was working alone,” Froydis reminded the others. “I think he is a hireling, contracted to do this. We have excluded already most other reasons for the attack. Someone wanted Marcus dead, but found Claudia instead.”

“She was a target too,” Dieter cursed. “They would want to defile her before his eyes, before they killed them both- her first. I have seen this type of retribution before- in Britannia, before the revolt of the Iceni. It is a Roman punishment of barbarians.”

“You have gone somewhat native,” Froydis said to her husband, who did not deny the allegation.

Instead, he turned to his Guard captain. “What is the status of the Guard?”

Dieter thought for a moment, then replied, “We have one hundred twenty effectives armed, enrolled, and sworn, with another thirty candidates from the Batavian Cohort being vetted and equipped as we speak.”

“Hurry it up then,” Rutilius commanded. He rose, signaling an end to the discussion. “Issue the orders, Dieter. We will take seventy men and the recruits to my villa in Colonia in two days. Full field kit- we might be there a while, and Cordinus might not appreciate our presence. Especially when I plant this miscreant in Claudia’s Garden.”

“And the arcanus in the brig?”

“I had forgotten him,” Rutilius cursed softly. “Release him in two days. He will be going back to Mogo-Town with his tail between his legs and my name squeaky clean.”

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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
posted 05-21-12 06:39 AM EDT (US)     54 / 86       
Yet another awesome update by our Master Skald. Good job Terikel Have you ever considered publishing your stories? I know quite a few people who would enjoy them...

To write something about this update it seems that Justice isn't that blind after all... Lucky Rutilius

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.

[This message has been edited by Alex_the_bold (edited 05-22-2012 @ 08:16 AM).]

Legion Of Hell
posted 05-22-12 07:10 AM EDT (US)     55 / 86       
So the person who helped with the attack on Rutillus' land will face Roman justice.


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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 05-28-12 07:43 AM EDT (US)     56 / 86       
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Aulus Caecina roamed the streets of Rome in deep confusion and pain. He had wandered down to the Capitoline and climbed the hill to observe the temples, and even entered one. He was wounded, and looking for solace. The affair with Terentia had hurt him, and the more he thought of her blank expression when he discovered her naked with the corpse of Mucianus, the more baffled and hurt he became.

Mucianus was rich, but he was so old. He had an old man’s sagging belly, and wisps of white hair surrounding a craggy face. Physically, he had nothing with which to compare to Caecina’s own firm, sculpted body, wrinkle-free face, or lustrous black hair. Caecina was a senator, which by definition meant he was rich as well. He had a winning smile and eloquent oratory, and was considered by all to be quite charming- charm that Mucianus did not have. Nor was Mucianus any brighter- he was simply more experienced and of course, luckier in his social connections. Thus he could not fathom her reasoning for engaging in a dalliance with Mucianus.

Domitianus he could understand. He, at least, was young and fit, and glib. Had she been involved with him, he could understand it. He was physically attractive, sophisticated despite his drinking, intelligent, and compassionate when he wanted to be. But Mucianus? Coarse, old, a soldier’s soldier but a social buffoon.

Thinking of Domitianus brought him back to the words of the Imperator’s youngest son just before Mucianus joined his ancestors. Domitian had known. Not guessed, known that Mucianus was going to die. How? Poison was the obvious cause, but there was a witness that he was doing just fine until his heart burst in the saddle- a fate many an old man upon a young filly had shared. No, Domitian’s weapon was not poison. It was Terentia.

His pacing brought him to where the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus was in its final phase of reconstruction. He looked up at the giant statue inside, painted to resemble a large man. Mucianus was a large man. Domitian was a small man. Burrius was a medium man, and Terentia his wife. He cursed himself. All his lines of thought led back to Terentia, while he knew the wielder of the weapon was Domitian.

Domitian was the key. Domitian wanted Mucianus dead, in order to stay in Rome. Why? What did he know that Aulus did not? What is worth killing for?

Shouts from below brought him out of his reverie. Another patrol of vigiles was entering the Forum. That got him to thinking of other patrols- praetorian patrols, in the south and now the east.

A shadow moved, and became a man. Caecina relaxed when he saw it was Sevola, a former centurion in the IV Macedonica. Caecina had given him his discharge himself, just before he had been ordered to Bedriacum to defeat that slug Otho. Sevola was a veteran, and a good one. It was a shame he had been tainted by his service in Germania- service under Vitellius.

The ex-centurion noted the startled movement of his patron and bowed.

“Sorry to disturb you, sir,” he said. “I did not see you there in the shadows.”

“Likewise,” said Caecina. He returned his gaze to the Forum Romanum and let his thoughts roam. Sevola behind him began making some small noise, drawing the attention of his patron. “What is it you are doing here so late in the evening?”

Sevola sighed. “Falling a bit behind, lord. Came to work at sundown to finish up, and will stay until it is too dark to continue. I’d hate to lose this job because some idiot closed the road while I was fetching more stone.”

“That is good of you, Sevola,” he muttered, turning back to gaze over the city. Then he turned to the worker as inspiration struck him. Praetorian patrols, and Domitian in the city. “Do you still have your kit?”

“Some of it,” the ex-legionary replied. He set the stone he was toting down. “I’ve got my pisspot and sword, but had to pawn my lorica and medals in order to survive until I got this job.”

“You still have your sword?”

Sevola recoiled in horror, as if bitten by an asp. “Of course! They will have to pry my blade out of my cold, dead hand.”

Caecina smiled. “Good man. It may be needed, and soon.”

“Planning an uprising, sir?” Sevola said eagerly, almost too eagerly. “There’s a bunch of us veterans- all from Germania- who are sick and tired of the way the Flavians kicked us out and treated us like dirt, simply because their man beat our man. Tired enough to want to do something about it.”

“How many?”

“At least two cohorts worth here in Rome, more in Etruria, outcasts all,” the mason replied. “If you count the disgruntled from other provinces, men who were expelled from the legions due to politics of some sort, maybe four cohorts total. We’d join together if we had a good leader,” he added hopefully.

Caecina shook his head. “I am planning no uprising or revolt,” he said with a sigh. “I serve Vespasian now, whether I like it or not. But keep your sword handy, Sevola. And keep in touch. Something evil is coming. A storm. I can feel it in my bones. Good men need to be ready to stand up, and maybe earn their way back into the good graces of the victors. We are all Romans, after all.”

Semper fidelis,” the ex-legionary replied. Always faithful- but to Rome, not to whoever’s noble ass sat in the curule chair. It did make a difference. “I’ll talk with the lads and get them organized into centuries. If you call, we’ll be there for you, generalis.”

“Good man.”

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Quintus Cordinus Rutilius Gallicus was tired after a long day at the Public House. He was so tired that he nodded off in his carriage and almost fell out of it to land on the hard dirt road. He awoke with a start at the last moment and jerked upright back into his chair. Then he looked about to see if anyone had noticed his untimely nap and its abrupt conclusion.

His guards had their eyes outward, scouring the landscape for hidden enemies or other threats. The journey from the Public House in Colonia to the fortified farmstead that served as his home was a short one, and one that he usually relished. Now is was a major effort just to stay awake. His driver had his eyes straight ahead, guiding the single-horse carriage effortlessly over the smoothed dirt, and expertly avoiding the few soft spots that invariably develop after the rain. It was in avoiding one such patch that the buggy jerked, rudely awakening the governor and nearly dumping him into the mud below.

Behind him, however, he saw another group of armed men. These were mounted, and over a hundred men strong. His rearward guards were already forming up into a battle array, in case the mounted men had mayhem on their minds. They soon lowered their weapons as the men came closer and were recognized.

“Ave, praetor,” called the leader of the small band to the governor. “I did not expect you to be on the road so late.”

“Hail, Marcus,” the governor replied. “I did not expect you to be on this road at all. What brings you to Colonia, and leaving Vetera and the north on their own?”

“Decius Paullus has command of his legion, and temporary command of the north,” Rutilius replied. “I shall be returning shortly. I have some personal business to which I must attend. May my guards and I borrow the barns for quarters for a day or two? Our business should not last longer than that.”

“Of course your men may quarter in the barns,” Cordinus allowed. “They are your barns, after all. You and your officers may lodge in the main house if you desire, or in one of the deserted cottages, as you prefer.”

Rutilius was not yet ready to spend the night in the house where his wife died. Her spirit haunted him still. “We will take a cottage, lord, and try not to disturb you.”

“You are charging me no rent for this lovely, fortified domicile,” Cordinus said with a smile. “Which makes me technically your guest.”

Rutilius grinned wanly, then nodded. “Of course.”

The Batavians filed through the gate, turning right once into the farmstead proper and headed toward the barns. There were three barns in the row now, butting up against the wall with its catwalk extending onto the upper floors. Across from the barns was a double row of small cottages, homes for the workers. To the left of the gate, on a rise, was the main house and its tower. Even in the gloom of the falling darkness the Batavians could see the outlines of the two men manning it, eyes keen for movement along the scrubline over a bowshot away. Another tower rose from behind the last cottages- eyes prying the south and west where the Main Tower could not see as clearly.

“This place has changed,” Burgis commented as the men guarding him brought him through the main gate. “I would need a full cohort or more to take this place now, and even then it would not be pretty.”

“Shut your mouth,” Glam ordered curtly.

Between the cottage rows and the main house was a circular garden. Small slabs of polished stone dotted the grass between its stone paths, surrounding the statue of a woman and two boys in the center. Burgis gasped as he recognized the face on the woman.

“You will be seeing a lot of her in the morning,” Glam spat.

His barb hit and wounded the killer. Burgis knew what the quaestor had in mind, and this hard-case just confirmed it. He was to be crucified facing the woman he watched die.

As they chained his shackles to a post inside, bitterness and regret filled him. She had been a powerful woman, beautiful and strong. He knew that the moment he laid eyes on her. The next moment she was dead, by her own hand. He had wanted to stop her, for what he was to do required her alive, yet she was fast and unhesitating. One clean stab, and she was no more. He deserved to die for causing that. Yet on the other hand, he would have fully enjoyed carrying out his plan, and flourished in being paid for it. There was still a chance at freedom, though he would never feel that woman’s touch as he had hoped. But there were other women, and this Rutilius character had a habit of finding the most lovely ones...

Cordinus awoke to the sounds of wood being planed and smoothed. He opened his curtains and shutters to look down upon the cottage row. Before the barn were eight men with adzes, saws, planes, and other implements. They were shaping a tree into two thick beams. Two other men were digging a hole facing the statue in the garden. He gasped as he realized why they would need such beams and a hole. The confirmation was in the notch two men were carving into each beam. Such a notch- the size of the thickness of the other beam- had only one purpose.

He dressed hurriedly, then bid his aide to fetch Rutilius. Another was sent to prepare the morning meal, and do so quickly and enough for himself and a guest. He finished lacing his caligae, prudently stuffed with socking material, and hurried downstairs as fast as his position would allow. He met Rutilius by the front door moments later and invited him to the dining hall.

“Not the sitting room?” Rutilius asked pointedly. The dining hall was built to sit and dine in the German manner, while the sitting room had the Roman-style reclining couches.

“I find that breaking my fast in the German manner helps when the cook makes eggs in the German manner,” the governor replied. “Otherwise they do not glide down into my stomach as well, causing me to cough and choke. This solves that problem. But I still take my dinner in the sitting room.”

He bade Rutilius sit, and a slave to bring the food. The eggs were as wonderful as those made by Martha, scrambled with a tad of fresh milk added to make them smooth, and then fried in butter. Martha was dead, killed in the attack, and but maidservant Traudl had survived. Traudl was a wonderful assistant, but no chef. Evidently Cordinus had found a suitable replacement in Glam’s wife Gerd. The eggs were divine, especially when placed upon slices of toasted white bread.

“My compliments to your cook, governor,” Rutilius said as he finished off a large roll filled with eggs. He followed that with a fried sausage of local manufacture.

“Accepted,” Cordinus replied. “Now do you mind answering a question?” When Rutilius shook his head, he asked, “Who are you intending to crucify in the garden?”

Rutilius did not even blink. “The man who led the bandits that sacked and burned this house is shackled to a post in the barn. I am going to hang him up once my men have finished the crucifix, then I am going to stay and watch him die. When he is dead, I will cart his body down to the river and throw it in, take down the cross, then return to Vetera.”

“Where did you catch him?” Cordinus wondered. “He would be a tremendous fool to try anything with you or your family inside the fortress of Vetera, so it cannot be there.”

“Correct, though we did catch one fool breaking in. He was dressed as a centurion, but forgot his dagger. I incarcerated him for ten days for impersonating an officer.”

Cordinus looked concerned. “Ten days in gaol, for impersonating an officer? Does that not usually warrant twenty lashes?”

“Forty,” Rutilius corrected, “but he was an arcanus, so I let him off with ten days bread and water.”

Cordinus gawked, then clapped his mouth shut. An arcanus, investigating Rutilius. That made no sense with what Cerealis told us not a month ago. A late check-up perhaps? Then, the mention of the arcanus brought back knowledge of their ways. Rutilius has half-answered the question before taking off on a tangent. Paltry trick, he thought to himself, but one that often works.

“And the prisoner? Did he too try to infiltrate your security?”

Rutilius shook his head. He reached for the sword he wore. Cordinus noticed that his quaestor now wore a German sword on his left hip, his trusty gladius on the right, and his pugio in his boot. It was the German sword that came out to lay upon the table.

Cordinus noticed the emerald set in the crossguard, and the rubies at the tips of the them, held in the golden mouths of dragons. It twinkled grandly in the morning sunlight.

“My boys took this off the body of Udo, King of the Bructeri, after they slit his throat. I used it to deflect the sword of his brother before my gladius punched into his eye and dropped him like a pole-axed steer. It hung above the crib of my son- the reflections of light from the jewels fascinated him.”

“It is a very pretty object,” Cordinus conceded. “Gaudy, but pretty. The prisoner?”

“It went missing when the house was attacked,” Rutilius continued. It was painful, but not as much as previously. “I thought it melted and destroyed in the fire. But the prisoner had taken it. It was found on him.”

“I assume he did not walk into Vetera or its vicus with such a sword on his person. Which means he was either caught in Noviomagus, or somewhere outside our jurisdiction. So, where did you catch this man? I will not ask again.”

“He tried to trade this sword to Segestes, the current Bructeri king, in exchange for sanctuary. Segestes told me one of his guards recognized it as Udo’s sword, taken by me when I struck his brother down. Segestes knew it was in my home, so he brought me the man.”

“And now you intend to crucify this man, based on the word of a barbarian king and the presence of a stolen sword? I will not allow it.”

“The man admitted his part to me,” Rutilius stood, suddenly furious. What a stupid, petty, little man! “He admitted being in my house, entering my bedchamber, where Claudia stabbed herself as a proper Roman noblewoman being attacked would do. He killed my woman, Cordinus, and my son, and he is going to die over her grave as I vowed.”

“I cannot allow you to do that, Marcus,” Cordinus said sternly.

“You do not have to allow anything, Cordinus,” Rutilus shot back. “I am going to do this, as I vowed. You know how I feel about honor, and to what lengths I go to keep my promises.”

“This is not about promises and vows, Marcus,” Cordinus said sharply. “It is about law. I am the governor of this province, appointed by the Imperator, ratified by the Senate, empowered by a lex from the people. My word is law here, not yours!”

Rutilius glared fiercely, but Cordinus stood his ground. “I will not permit you to murder this man,” he said defiantly. “Not on the word of a barbarian. And murder it would be, Marcus, if you go through with this. Think, man!” He paused, to let the words sink in. “Bring the man to me.”

Before Rutilius could reply, Cordinus added, “It is not a request, Rutilius. I order you, as praetor to subordinate quaestor, to turn the man over to my authority.”

Rutilius was gripping the sword so tightly that his knuckles turned white. His body was trembling, shaking with frustration, and his temper was barely held in check. Yet his arm did not rise, nor did the blade, other than to return the sword to its scabbard. His years in the legion had instilled him with discipline, and that legacy was all that kept him from doing something rash.

“You will regret this,” he muttered. “He murdered my Claudia as if he stabbed her himself, like he did our son. Blood demands blood.”

“Not this way,” Cordinus replied, his own tension relieved a bit as the sword disappeared into its scabbard. “And not on the word of a barbarian.”

Glam brought the prisoner to the front door, where two burly ex-gladiators took custody. He noticed these gladiators were not Samnites as the previous batch, but they were former sand warriors. He smirked at the posers- Samnium must have run empty of gladiators after the last batch the governor had hired. There were two hundred of them in the governor’s guard- but most were barracked in Colonia and rotated duty here. Only fifty were on-site at any one time. The Batavians in the barn could wipe them out easily enough if push came to shove.

Cordinus had the prisoner brought to the sitting room. He noticed the shackles on the man’s legs and wrists, and ropes around the man’s torso pinning his arms to his barrel chest. Another was around the man’s neck, and held by the guard standing behind him. One jerk on the rope, and the man would be choked. Rutilius had been taking no chances with this one.

He sat down facing the man. “You are in a lot of trouble.”

Burgis nodded, knowing there were two guards behind him, one of which held the choke leash set upon him as if he were a dog.

“My quaestor wants to crucify you,” Cordinus continued. “His men are busy building the crucifix now.”

Burgis nodded again.

“He tells me you were captured by barbarians, and brought to him with a jeweled sword, which he claims was taken from this very house when his family was killed. He claims you led the attack.”

Burgis nodded again. “He claims a lot. Not all of it is true.”

“Ah, you do speak,” Cordinus said affably. “Tell me which is true, and which is not.”

“I was captured by barbarians, and sold to your quaestor as the man who led the attack on his home, a man he wanted very much. The barbarians even threw in a jeweled sword, emerald with rubies, as proof. Rutilius paid them two heavy sacks of coin for me, then brought me here to hang on a cross.”

“So he bought you,” Cordinus noted. “For two sacks of denarii? He must want you very much.”

“I do not know what coins they were, lord,” Burgis replied. “I do know the barbarians were poor- two sacks would be a fortune to them. One sack paid for me, the other for the sword they claim I stole.”

Cordinus thought that over, while Burgis studied him. The Gaul was correct in his assumption that the governor would consider coin a motive. His use of the word barbarian struck a chord as well- the man distrusted the uncivilized. He might be able to pull this off after all!

Cordinus for his part studied the prisoner. He could see the scars and poorly-healed wounds of a professional fighter, though the man was too slender to be a Gallic gladiator. Thracian maybe- but he had yet to see the man move unhindered. He imagined he would move like a cat- sleek, quiet, and swift. He saw several brands on the man’s upper arm- and not a few tattoos, but he was definitely a Gaul and all knew those animals gloried in painting their bodies.

“So you claim to be innocent, yet here you are, trussed as a pig ready for the slaughter.”

“Your quaestor, lord, he is crazy. His family may or may not have been slaughtered as he claims- I have no knowledge of this. I was a merchant guard who got separated from my caravan and was captured by poor barbarians who sold me to a vengeful man. They sold me to satisfy his vengeance and earn his favor. It matters not to him what is true- only what he believes is true.”

Cordinus pondered that. This man was evidently a warrior- his claim of being a guard separated from his group could be true. Sold by barbarians to a vengeful Rutilius, and fitted with the sword as proof of purchase? He knew the Bructeri were poor- his campaign of the summer ensured it. And Segestes doing the selling? It fits. Cordinus had wanted to sell the Bructeri king to the arenas himself, stopped only by Rutilius. Segestes would want to make that even. How better than to capture a scarred Gaul and sell him as the evil-doer?

“You have several brands on your shoulder,” Cordinus pointed out. “Two cancelled out, yet another not. D- a deserter.”

Burgis looked to his knees. “I was an auxiliary,” he said lowly. “We were in Moesia, under Vorenus Carnifex. He ordered us to raid a Dacian village, which we did, and slaughter the women, but bring him the men and children. I did not mind selling the men or children, but my conscience could not bring my body to slay the women. I set a coffle free instead, telling them to run. A decurion saw me, and tried to kill me for disregarding orders. I fled instead.”

“And were caught, thus the brand,” Cordinus pointed out.

“I fled to Belgic lands, to avoid any part of Moesia,” Burgis said with a shrug. “Vorenus was transferred a few years later to Belgica. One of his guards recognized me before I could flee. He branded me, then used me for his dirty work.”

Cordinus nodded compassionately. Governors and district commanders did have their perks, and much dirty laundry. Sometimes wet work was a better answer to certain problems than public action. Just look at how Vespasian uses his son Titus and the Praetorian Guard to inconspicuously rid Rome of men who would cause trouble if taken down in public.

“Have you ever done any other such work?” he asked.

Burgis nodded and looked properly shameful. “I fled Vorenus when he fell at Traiectum and went to Mogontiacum. There I was hired by Quintus Lutatius Catullus, who noticed my damning brand. He bade me do his dirty work, too. I served him faithfully until he died, then I hired on as a merchant guard. The rest you know.”

“You had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on this house?” Cordinus asked directly.

“Nothing, lord,” Burgis replied evenly. “I am not an innocent man, but of this crime I am not guilty.”

“What exactly did Catullus have you do?” Cordinus asked.

“Ferry scrolls about, check on projects, seek out information. That is public knowledge. In the shadows I stole for him, buried evidence, and killed for him. I also served as a sort of spy- I was known in crowds where a magistrate ought not to be seen. I arranged things for him. I made him a very wealthy man before he died. I could do the same for you, lord, if you spared my life.”

“I have no need for that sort of man,” Cordinus said stiffly. But Burgis could tell his pack of lies was getting to the man.

“Everyone in power has some dirty laundry, lord,” Burgis said. “They get to power through blood and ruthlessness, but under the surface, lord. Under the surface, where my kind lurks. The most successful float their empires upon seas of blood and carnage, but appear to the naked eye as the finest of fellows. You have done well being gifted a province. And maybe, if you are lucky, getting another. After that, you will return to Rome. Broke, if you are lucky, in debt if you are not. Why? Because your province is a poor one. How much have you made in your time so far? I am willing to bet the money you made on slaves on your very successful campaign will barely cover your expenses.”

The wince on the governor’s face told him he had guessed correctly. So he continued down that path. “Your quaestor, lord, is one of the richest men north of the Alps. Did you know that? How come he is so rich, while you are almost broke? It is because he has men like me working for him. He is strong, and ruthless, and has minions. You say you have no need for my sort of man. Thus you govern by your laws and edicts, while your quaestor fleeces the province and amasses a fortune.”

Cordinus knew Rutilius was recently added to the censor’s roll as a member of the senatorial class. Cerealis had mentioned in passing that he had qualified three times over. And ruthless? He shuddered as he remembered how carefree he had flung his legions at the Bructeri in the latter portion of the campaign. A born warlord, a bloody ravager.

“Maybe I do need your sort of man,” Cordinus considered. “What would you advise I do?”

“You bind me to you by an oath to Lugh and Jupiter, on pain of death,” Burgis replied. “I have never deserted a man to whom I was sworn. Then I enter your service, and check out your guards. Any with ties to the underworld I would remove, and replace with straight men having no connection to my world. This ensures your safety, that no spy or other false man joins your party.”

Memories of two Bructeri spies he had trusted filled his head. Those spies had stabbed him, giving him an awful ache every time a storm arises, or it becomes misty. In Germania Inferior, that is often.

“Then I would have you send me to find where wealth lies hidden and secure it for you,” Burgis continued. “And if that wealth belongs to another, secure it for you anyway. What do you think that hoarse Germani does for your quaestor?”

Claudius Victor had indeed accumulated a lot of land and wealth for Rutilius. An awful lot, and rather quickly.

“Of course, that could take a while,” Burgis said. “It can be done quicker, but then you would need to provide some legal protection.”

“You speak of murder?”

“Arranged accidents is the term I prefer,” Burgis said. “It all depends on what you want. I am your man, lord. Command, and I will obey. My life is in your hands.”

Cordinus curled his hand around his chin.

“I will think about it,” he said.

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

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
posted 05-28-12 10:45 AM EDT (US)     57 / 86       
Oh, no. Again this fool is fooled...

BTW, an excellent update again Keep writing

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Legion Of Hell
posted 05-30-12 03:46 PM EDT (US)     58 / 86       
Jesus Christ Cordinus is a little worm. I wish a gruesome death upon him!

Excellent installment, Terikel.

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

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

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
posted 06-02-12 00:55 AM EDT (US)     59 / 86       
By the way, I want to ask you, Terikel, if he campaigns and battles in "The Eagle and the Wolf" series are factual as in your previous series "Batavia in flames"...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-04-12 01:35 AM EDT (US)     60 / 86       
Alex: The fact that you ask this is a huge compliment. It comes across as true historical fiction, but that is what it is. This sequel series does indeed have many true facts and events (the deaths of Mucianus and Caenis, for example, did occur in these times though the means were fictitious), but the rest- to include the battles and major plot lines, are completely the residue of dreams that have plagued me. A sort of big what if?

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-04-12 01:50 AM EDT (US)     61 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Vespasianus was still mourning the loss of Gaius Licinius Mucianus, his closest friend and fellow rebel. It was Mucianus and Tiberius Alexander who talked him into seizing the throne from Vitellius, back when he was a simple proconsul subduing yet another Eastern tribe bent on suicide. Now he was ruler of the known world, quite alone, and growing more and more concerned with his legacy.

Mortality was bearing down on him. One by one, Death took from him those he loved. First Caenis, and now Mucianus. Though he himself was almost seventy years of age, it still caught him by surprise each time Old Age claimed a friend. Disease left a trail of breaking bodies and failing organs, and accidents most often left one lingering near death before one passes on. There was warning, time to adjust to the coming loss. Death in battle was violently abrupt, but somewhat expected due to the nature of the activity involved. Old Age simply struck down people, when and where it wanted, with little warning except the advancement of wrinkles and the gradual frailty of the aged as omens. There was no other warning and no chance to avoid the fatal touch. Death simply came while asleep, or in the baths, or in the case of Mucianus, in the saddle of a well-endowed young filly.

He snorted. At least you died happily, my adulterous friend. It was some small comfort. Poor Caenis, his mistress of many, many years, had no such luck. His surgeons told him she had died in her sleep, alone and cold in some chilly Latin inn in nearby Praeneste. He felt an immense guilt over her loss. She had spent her life alone, waiting for him. She never married, nor bore any children to keep her company while he was away. She waited patiently for him to return to her, but by the time he was free from his marital and familial obligations, his new imperial ones forbid his union with her. I should have married you, Antonia Caenis. You would not have died alone had I done so.

He cursed the Senate under his breath. That collection of pompous asses, dressed in their formal togas, still thought it ran this empire- or dreamt of doing so. The Senators themselves argued and cackled like chickens in a henhouse, each trying to out-do the other in stupidity. He snorted in disgust. He wanted to do away with the lot of them- the useless buggers- but he realized he needed them. They were Rome’s richest men, and a part of her history. Though they did naught but approve his legislation, that approval was necessary for the People to accept it. Thus he needed the Senate, and they knew it, and they used that power at times to pass otherwise harmless laws which came back to bite him in the ass. Like the one promulgated by Aurelius Fulvus- that the consort or wife of any man wishing to be consul must be a freeborn woman of pure Roman lineage. And that law prevented him from marrying Caenis, who for all her riches, cleverness, and class was born a slave.

He missed his lover. Her death robbed him of a sharp mind and solid counsel. He had since come to rely more upon his brother in law Quintus Cerealis, his trusted friend Gaius Mucianus, and his youngest son, Titus Domitianus to fill the void she left. He again felt his pride swell in how well his son was developing- caring, clever, responsible. So unlike the boy he was as a youth- carefree, drunk, lazy, and irresponsible. Much of that change could be accredited to Cordinus Gallicus, who tutored the boy, and surprisingly to Aulus Caecina, who carried on the tutoring privately. He knew how Rome the city worked, but Rome the empire was beyond him. Thus he must send the lad to the provinces.

Of course measures must be taken to ensure the boy survives his term abroad. He was to be given an experienced underling who knew the province and the ways of its inhabitants. He would be guarded by Rome’s finest, guided by the most experienced, and taught by the wisest. His quaestor would be a vir militaris who would keep him safe, and nearby must be a strong and loyal governor who could lend support and give advice as needed to ensure a proper province. Mucianus, former governor of Syria and veteran general, was such a man. He was to replace Cordinus and provide that safety net.

But now he was dead. Vespasian sighed at the thought, and again mentally subtracted his age from that of Mucianus. His own mortality was becoming a very real and terrifying specter indeed. What would happen when he was called to the gods? Had he done enough to ensure his legacy?

Titus Vespasianus Junior was his heir and everyone knew it. He had done everything necessary to ensure the Senate and the People knew he was qualified. Almost from the very beginning, he had treated his oldest son as more of an equal than an heir, a co-Imperator who merely needed to drop some unwanted letters from his title to be ready to assume command of this vast empire. He was the Imperial trouble-shooter, the roving marshal, the man who solved problems, and the favorite of the crowds. Titus was popular, powerful, and recognized. He would rule well when Death claimed the paterfamilias.

The Lex Aurelia forbidding him from marrying Caenis would likewise serve to disrupt the relationship between Titus and his Jewish princess Berenice. She was freeborn, unlike Caenis, but had not a drop of Roman blood in her veins. She was Herodian and Eastern- and the Senators despised those Eastern origins. His children by her would be half-breeds in their eyes, never full Romans or even citizens, despite whatever laws he pushed through. In order to secure the dynasty, Titus would have to push aside his lover and take a Roman wife to bear his children- and the Senators would prefer he took one of their daughters- and thus raise that family into the Imperial fold. Then the faithless bitch could put a knife between her husband’s ribs and a new dynasty is born. No, marry for love, my son, and to hell with the Senate’s laws!

Domitianus would never reign as Imperator, but Vespasian ensured that this younger son would not be lacking in status. He was tutored and trained to be consul, to administer his brother’s realm and allow Titus the freedom of movement a dynamic and beloved emperor needed to maintain his popularity and power. He was a good father to his daughter, and may in turn become an excellent uncle to his brother’s children, maybe even help raise the Imperial Family. He would be the pillar upon which Titus would lean upon for support, the Caenis to his Vespasian.

But the pillar was flawed. While Domitian was becoming adept at handling the affairs of Rome and the Senate, he had no experience or desire to deal with the provinces- and that was becoming more and more of a problem. Domitianus simply did not understand how Rome dealt with her provinces, and what the provinces did for Rome. He seemed to think that a province was little more than a subjugated city-state kept in line by a general and a legion or two, and a source of taxes and tithes for the city. In a way that was true, but there was so much more. He would have to learn that if he was to be an effective support for Titus. Thus Domitianus had to go to the provinces and learn firsthand how one is ruled and administered.

Vespasian rubbed his troubled brow with a sweaty hand. He gasped, noticing the sweat on such an otherwise cool day. Was this an omen? Was his own time shortly to expire? He breathed slowly, and deeply. The tension fled, leaving him once again to ponder his youngest son and how to keep him safe.

He could simply appoint a new praetor- but the bucket there was rather empty. There were very few men he could rely upon to assume command of four legions and guard his son without them considering their own advancement instead. Cerealis was one- just returned from Britannia and appointed consul suffectus. He could not be returned to the provinces without very many Senatorial eyebrows being raised in concern at the blatant nepotism. Eprius Marcellus was similarly recently consul, after two stints as proconsul and one as governor of Lycia for three years. Marcus Antonius Primus was a beast who thereafter descended into the amphora Domitian crawled out of. There were hardly any good men left untapped.

Sextus Postumius Gratidius was an otherwise good choice, but he had never served as either consul or even as legate. He had served as a procurator in Judea, where the X Fretensius was based, giving him legionary experience. He was among the two men Vespasian had chosen to take over his consulship, Gnaeus Stilius Nobilis being the other.

Vespasian sighed. His other choices were already enroute to their own provinces, or currently serving. All were needed where they were, or where they were going. The wars in the year of Nero’s death and the bloody infighting thereafter leading to his own supremacy had taken as bloody a toll on the nobility as it had on the common citizen, if not more so. Supporters of a losing general were often slaughtered by the victors. Then Vespasian assumed command, and in order to secure his line, took the fasces time and again. His only admission to the need of future leaders was the appointment of Domitian as suffect consul time and again. Now that lack of a good pool of men was haunting him.

Leaving the current governor is place was the standard course of action when a coming praetor dies before assuming command. But Cordinus had almost lost his entire army- twice!- in the two years of his rule. He could not be left in place. That put the Imperator between a rock and a hard place. He had to govern the strategic provinces with good men of which he had none left, or he had to entrust his youngest son with command of two provinces and eight legions when he had previous experiences in neither.

He could not allow that! He knew his younger son was shrewd, and despite his efforts he was not close to his darling older brother. It would not take him long to realize that if he could gain the support of those eight legions, he could usurp the throne from his brother. The two were a score of years apart- Domitianus was a baby when he brother was a full-grown man. Titus was the favored one, always has been. It was a dynastic necessity. Vespasian knew that if his own father given him eight legions just north of Rome, he would not have hesitated to march on his own dear brother to take supreme command of all of Rome. Domitian, far more distant from his brother than Vespasian ever was to his, would hesitate even less.

He could send the lad someplace else, like Gaul, but that would leave Cordinus in Germania. Unacceptable. Hispana had no legions and thus appeared a better choice, but it was an eternal hotspot where an inexperienced man could cause many rebellions and revolts rather quickly. Attica? The Greeks were civilized, and settled. No problems there except wine and lots of it. He shuddered. No, nothing Greek. Moesia and Pannonia had Dacian troubles, and further east there were the Parthians. Bithynia and Asia were alreayd prorogued. Judea was a procurator’s station, below his status as proconsul. And Britannia was in turmoil, though Frontinus was handling those upstarts quite well. Putting Domitian in command there now might well undo all his hard work.

A knock at the door interrupt his musings. It was Titus, his older son and heir.


Titus did so. “Have you been told what is going on in the Forum Romanum? Sextus Postumius Gratidius was just indicted for corruption! Bassus had heard enough evidence from the Jews and those citizens returning from the area to warrant a full trial. I am afraid our choice as suffect consul will have to be reconsidered.”

Vespasianus cursed deeply and soldierly. “How could this have happened, without us knowing about it? He was vetted, by the gods. You did the check yourself.”

“We knew him as a stern and strict procurator,” Titus reminded him. “The very qualities you wished him to bring to the consul’s chair, the very qualities you and I share. Yet he had a second set of qualities. It appears the man had more greed than Verres, though not as voracious or open about it.”

“I knew he tucked away a few goodies,” Vespasian snorted. “Any governor would, and often does. It is one of the perks of being a governor. But by the gods, the province had little to yield! Especially when we were done with it. You did not leave a single sestertius in all of Jerusalem when you finally took the horrid place, and the other cities in revolt were pillaged just as ruthlessly. What was there left for him to steal?”

“Virtue. Berenice told me he caused a bit of an uproar with his, shall we say, Greek ways. And being Greek, he was into art, as was Verres. Evidently he favored some local religious pieces as mementoes of his reign, and the locals just brought it to the attention of the urban praetor, who bound him over for trial. You remember how those Jews were about their invisible god and his belongings.”

Vespasian snorted. Again. “Jealous beyond the pale, and fanatical. Gratidius is an idiot. He should have known better. Now it will cost him the consulship, and damn us in the process.”

Titus agreed. “We cannot appoint him suffect consul now, not with this trial casting an odium over his term.”

The Imperator agreed, but wailed anyway, “The Senate will be in an uproar if we try. What else can we do? There are none left who qualify.”

“At least we had not announced it yet,” Titus replied with a taut laugh. An idea burst into his head. “Plautius Silvanus Aelianus- last year’s consul- did not complete his term. You gave his post to Uncle Quintus. We can appoint him. It will be a nice sign of favor for him, and help keep the turds in the Senate from squealing nepotism.”

“He flubbed the handling of the German Affair,” Vespasian countered. “And Quintus bailed him out. Is that the man you would send to the very province where the errors occurred?”

Titus shook his head. He had not thought of that angle.

“Anyone else?” asked the Imperator.

Titus shrugged. “We send Nobilis to Germania Inferior, vice Mucianus. We have cousin Titus Flavius Sabinus in Germania Superior as quaestor. Promote him to propraetor, and that problem is solved. Then we simply have to pick new consuls.”

“Your brother will have to serve as suffect consul, of course,” Vespasian said with a curse. “He will take over from me.”

“I can keep my consulship, if it must,” Titus offered. “Though I’d rather dump it on a senator.”

Vespasian agreed to the first and ignored the second. “That will work. Summon your brother. Hopefully he has yet to move his household goods off to Germania.”

Domitian had never packed. He had run the various scenarios through his mind already, and concluded that the only result from the death of Mucianus would be that he himself would remain here, in Rome. Thus he set in motion the scheme concerning Terentia, whom he knew an old goat like Mucianus would not refuse, and settled back to await the inevitable fruits of her labors. And the knock duly came upon his door, in the form of a praetorian messenger summoning him to the Imperator.

Domitian was ready. He had his hair perfectly done, and his best toga on. He was the epitome of a consul when he walked into his father’s office. Everything was working out exactly as he had foreseen.

Vespasian greeted him with an embrace, then offered wine and a seat upon his couch. The younger Flavius accepted both, with the wine unwatered- to his father’s disgust. But he did not guzzle; he sipped, and thereby won back some approval.

Vespasian explained in a few simple sentences his decision regarding the provincial dispositions and why. Domitian seemed to take the loss of his future province with grace, and accepted humbly once again the proffered post as suffect consul. It was a post he knew well after so many terms.

“Who shall be appointed governor of Germania in my stead?” he asked. His personal choices had been narrowed to two men- Aurelius Fulvus, and Plautius Silvanus. Both had served as governors elsewhere, and Plautius had served as consul. He had bound Plautius to himself through appointing his nephew Plotius as urban prefect, and furthered that bond by helping renew the urban cohorts of Plotius into a tough outfit. Plautius was the better choice- more experience, actual command time, and fervently loyal to the Flavii, or at least one Flavius in particular. Fulvus, on the other hand, was a tough young bastard and a sharp one. He spoke often in the Senate, and was not exactly friendly toward any faction- or to the Flavii. Putting him in Germania would rid Rome of him for a few years, ensuring at least one prying eye was no longer peeking into the business of Domitianus. Either choice suited Domitianus well.

“Our cousin Titus Sabinus shall assume duties there as governor,” the Imperator informed him. “He is currently quaestor, so it is not such a leap to make him governor. His Corona Civica won in battle made him a hero to his legions, and his performance in the campaign was excellent. And we both know his abilities as an administrator. He will be perfect for the job. Gnaeus Silius Nobilis will go to Germania Inferior, where the current quaestor can brief him and keep him out of trouble. Stilius is more malleable than Cordinus- if he listens, he shall do fine. In fact, mention that in his orders.”

Domitian had ceased listening after hearing the name. Titus Sabinus! The man was his own age, barely half way through his twenties. He was a legate a few months ago, and too young to even serve in that capacity. Now his father wishes to make him a governor, in command of four legions- the closest four legions to Rome? Why not make the pup consul, or even Imperator?

“I do not think Titus Sabinus would be a proper choice for that position,” Domitian argued more calmly than he actually was. He tried hard to sound rational and calm, despite the inner seething growling in his guts. “He is a Flavius, which guarantees his loyalty as much as my own, but he lacks the very experience in gubernatorial duties that I lack- and without the benefit of serving as consul suffectus many times. He is young, too young for such a posting.”

“He is no younger than yourself, who I was sending,” Vespasian pointed out.

“I have been suffect consul three times, Father,” Domitian repeated, a bit firmer this time. “I have plenty of experience in governing, just not in provinces. And I was to have a very experienced quaestor to support me- Rutilius of Germania Inferior.”

“We can have this Rutilius support Sabinus in the same manner,” Titus Junior countered.

“Titus Sabinus ran off after the Fall of Vitellius to serve then-legate Rutilius as a tribunus. Rutilius taught him to be a soldier, and as the love of the legions prove, Titus learned well. Rutilius has since been promoted to quaestor, and Titus to legate. You would promote Titus Sabinus over Rutilius, and then order Rutilius serve under him? That, brother, is a recipe for disaster.”

“Rutilius is a good soldier,” Titus Junior grunted. “He will follow his orders as any soldier would. He is utterly loyal to Rome, it is said. Well, Rome needs him now- to guide Titus Sabinus.”

Vespasian shook his head. “Your brother is correct, my son,” he said to his heir. “Mucianus and Quintus Cerealis spoke well of the man, but asking him to serve under a man he himself mentored is asking quite a lot. There are simply too many opportunities for a man so slighted to avenge himself.”

“We have little choice,” Junior repeated. “Rome is bare of qualified men.”

“And whose fault is that, dear brother?” Domitian accused. “For almost six years now, you and Father have served as consul. The praetors are either cronies or sons of cronies rewarded for their loyalty in our ascension, while the consuls are the same two men every time. We Flavii even have a lock on the suffectus- I have served three times, and now am asked to serve a fourth. The Senate is filled with men who have done little for Rome- because we do not allow them to do so. If Rome has a dearth of qualified men, it is because we made it so.”

Vespasian cringed at his son’s outburst. It was almost as if quoted from a scroll by dead Helvidius Priscus, who said the same thing many a time- but always in private. Now he saw the wisdom of Helvidius in spreading the offices, though at the time as well as now, the value of stability and loyalty weighed more.

“Enough!” Vespasian shouted. He ignored the sudden thumping in his chest- it will go away. It always did. “The Senate this, the Senate that. I am sick of hearing about the bloody Senate. The whole lot of them are anachronisms! Useless bits of history, nothing more. They will duly approve of Titus Flavius Sabinus. He is the only man we have, thus he is it.”

“We have others,” Domitian replied calmly. “It is just that you do not wish to reward these men for their service. Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus, for example. The man served a consul suffectus, and thereafter in the far lesser post of urban prefect. He served very well in that lesser post- a sign of his devotion to the Flavii. He is a consular- which double qualifies him for a proconsular commission. And he is now a privatus. We can call upon him to govern Germania Superior, and rest assured that he will do so well.”

“He was the consul in charge when Cordinus almost lost his army last summer, correct?” Vespasian asked innocently. He saw the barb hit home.

Domitian nodded. “Your orders were so shrouded in secrecy that none knew the situation or could plan contingencies, while brother Titus here gave the order to retreat too late. Cordinus could do nothing, and Plautius could do nothing about an operation you two were running. Blaming him for the mess is foolish, punishing him for the mess is irresponsible. Sending him to Germania would show all he lost no favor when you gave his consulship to Uncle Quintus again.”

Vespasian winced. His winesot son had managed to turn the barb onto its caster. Worse, the lad had a point. It did appear that he was punishing Plautius, when actually he wanted to simply reward Quintus.

But Titus disagreed. “You do not have all of the facts, brother. I coordinated our plans with the consuls who would handle them- including Plautius. He chose to visit his villa during the planting season- which is wise for a farmer but folly for a consul running a remote operation. He allowed- as I admit did we all- a spy ring to operate under his nose and not only acquire, but send to the enemy our plans. As we all are to blame, we cannot single him out, but we need not reward him for poor performance either.”

“Then how about another man,” Domitian continued. Sorry, Plautius, you live in the dog house now, and there you shall probably remain as long as my father and brother rule. “Titus Aurelius Fulvus. You remember his father destroyed an invading Roxolani warhost of nine thousand horsemen with just a single legion. The son was a tribune in that legion, and is considered by all accounts a stern and upright man. We even considered sending him to investigate Cordinus after his first disastrous campaign, if you recall. But you decided to send your crony Eprius instead, because Eprius had more experience, you said. You remember how that worked out. Fulvus Junior is of proper age and experience to be granted a province, and this is a proconsular province- sending Fulvus would expand our pool of consulars.”

“Would you trust this man with your life?” Vespasian asked of his younger son. He already knew the elder son was shaking his head. But Domitian nodded.

“Stern, upright, loyal. Just what we need,” Domitian replied. “And he stands well in the Senate, where we have been losing support due to constantly appointing ourselves to the consulship. The Senate needs new consular and praetorian blood. It will not get it if we will not even promote praetors outside of our clan.”

Vespasian snarled a cruel grin. “Then we pamper the old fools of the Senate once again. There is a problem with the harvest in Sicilia. This ‘stern and upright’ man of yours will be my propraetor assigned to sort it out, creating a new propraetor in the process. Then we shall send Stilius Nobilis to Germania as governor, creating a new proconsul.” Then he turned a feral face to his younger son who dared plead the causes of a Senate that had kept him from marrying his Caenis. His voice was iron over the whetstone. “You, son, are going to Germania Superior, with Rutilius as your quaestor. You will learn the value of our provinces, and how vital a proper one is to your brother’s empire.”

Domitian sat stunned. Not by the stern tone used, but by the utterly illogical decision.

“And the consuls?” asked Titus.

Vespasian shrugged. “You and I retain the offices,” he said bitterly. “At least for the time being.”

Domitian made to speak, but his father hushed him sternly. “It is done, son. It is for Rome, and that makes it right. I want you heading for Germania before the Ides of Aprilius.”

“May I leave on the Ides of Maius?” the younger son stammered. He was thinking quickly now, which always affected his speech. “I would not want to miss the dedication and opening of our Templum Pacis.”

“Or the glory of a triumph,” added Titus with a laugh. He turned to his father. “A few extra weeks will not matter so much. The northern legions are in good hands now, with nothing that can threaten them anytime soon. He will not be missed.”

Vespasianus nodded. “The Ides of Maius, son. And then you head north to your duty for Rome.”

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

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
The Bald Eagle
posted 06-04-12 09:53 AM EDT (US)     62 / 86       
Another excellent installment.
After all the careful deliberations about the balance of power, the true power shows itself when the old owl decides on a whim and a grin
Legion Of Hell
posted 06-04-12 11:00 AM EDT (US)     63 / 86       
Let us hope nothing happens till the Ides of Maius.

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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-10-12 10:11 AM EDT (US)     64 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

Cordinus had the prisoner taken away under his own guards and chained to a post in the garden. There three of his men would maintain watch over the man, to protect him from the Batavians and his own quaestor until he had decided the man’s fate. Then he summoned Rutilius to his study.

Rutilius came, stiff with fury, but obediently. Cordinus bade him sit, then told him what the prisoner had told him. He secretly enjoyed the way his quaestor shook with contained fury, secure that the fury would not take a physical form. He knew his quaestor well by now, or so he thought. Rutilius still had two swords on, and was still sweaty from the recent sparring with his guards. Cordinus had hoped the man worked some of his aggression out in the session, but apparently he had merely whetted his frustration.

“The man lies!” Rutilius roared. “I never paid Segestes anything, ever, since he had become king. And the rest of his tale? Pure bullshit!”

“Not so much bullshit as you would think,” Cordinus replied evenly. He was thoroughly enjoying watching his otherwise so calm quaestor squirm. “Vorenus Carnifex did come here from Moesia where he had been a legate. Here he was made a district commander, though with no legion. Your own history supports this- he made you a tribune in one of the four auxiliary legions he had raised privately, though with gubernatorial blessing, as shown by your own transfer from the V Alaudae.”

He tapped a stylus on the tablet where he had written his notes. “He then fled to Mogontiacum, where he was employed by Catullus in a variety of nasty tasks, including ferrying messages about. That word he used, ferrying. It interested me. Catullus sent intelligence to the Germans- over the river. That would require ferrying, while over here they would merely be moved or delivered. It could mean that the man was a part of the scheme.”

Rutilius was about to blurt that of course the man would be involved in such, but held his tongue. A light went off in his head, forming an idea. He saw where this was going- and it was not where the prisoner wanted it to go. He began to internally simmer down.

“Further, the man has many uses,” Cordinus continued. “He did dirty work for Catullus, making him immensely rich. He offered to do the same for me, and knew full well that I made little money on this tour of duty, despite the successes of the summer.”

“He knew an awful lot about provincial details,” Rutilius allowed. He was visibly relaxing now. “And not of his own province. Which means he had access to or worked for someone high up, like Catullus. We figured out that the attack on my family was aimed at me- and commissioned by someone with power but who was not in our province.” Then he tensed. “You are not actually considering his offer? You do realize that the man is lying to save his own skin?”

“Of course he is lying,” Cordinus admitted. “And of course I am not considering his offer. I told you before, I am the law here. As such, I am investigating. He has yet to give me enough rope with which to bind him to that cross your guards are building, but he has given me much to consider. The point is, Marcus, he is a bad man. But if I let you string him up on the word of a barbarian who has ties to you- especially a foreign barbarian!- you would be guilty of murder. If I investigate and declare him a felon, I can order you to execute him- covering your actions under the cloak of law. He is no citizen, which would require a trial. But he does have some rights, which neither you nor I can violate without proper procedure.”

“My man Glam fought him in the hall upstairs,” Rutilius pointed out. “Glam is a peregrinus, like the prisoner. He identified him, not Segestes. Segestes merely caught him in his lands and brought him to me, because of the sword. He did not know the prisoner had been in the house. And the prisoner confirmed that he had indeed been here during the attack. He admitted it to me. Do you question my word, or that of my guard?”

“Of course not,” Cordinus retorted. “I am trying to confirm your allegations. I need evidence from a Roman citizen with no direct ties to this case, or risk tainting the case. That would open up a chance for the likes of Eprius to bring corruption charges against myself, or you. I do not want to see you thrown from the Tarpeian Rock for murder by some weasel of an advocate looking to make a name for himself. So I need independent evidence, or to trick the prisoner into incriminating himself. So far I am doing the latter with some small success, if I do say so myself.”

“Search all you like, lord,” Rutilius said. “But he has already been tried and convicted in my mind. He had the sword taken from my house, was seen in that house by a trusted friend, and admitted to my face that he was there. In fact, Decius Paullus heard him do so. Would that satisfy the legality?”

Cordinus smiled. “If he admitted to it before Paullus, then we have an independent confirmation of the evidence we need. I will write to him at once. If he backs up the tale, then I will have my evidence and you will have a prisoner to execute. Then your ghosts can rest in peace, Marcus.”

It turned out that Cordinus did not have to send the tablet to Paullus at all. He escorted Rutilius to the front door to see him out, and was just about to gesture his guards to bring the prisoner to a second interview when the gates to the farmstead opened. A single rider rode in, was directed toward the main house, but dismounted before the prisoner’s pole.

“Hello Burgis,” the dismounting rider said affably. “So this is where you went from Vetera. Out of the frying pan and into the fire, eh? I always knew you’d end up chained to a pole.”

“Piss off,” Burgis retorted. He took a second look at the man and cursed as he recognized him. Gone was the Suevi top-knot and beard, but it was indeed the same man he once tried to recruit into his gang of thieves, and the talkative man who sat in the adjacent cell in Vetera..

“Who are you?” Cordinus called to the rider. “And how do you know my prisoner?”

“He is Gaius Roscius,” Rutilius informed the governor. “An imperial agent. He was investigating me.”

Cordinus did not react, other than to whisper, “You pull a stunt like this knowing an imperial agent was investigating you? How bloody stupid are you?”

“Stupid enough,” Rutilius admitted. “But that will change.”

“I am Gaius Roscius,” the rider confirmed. “I have post for your quaestor, lord. As to how I know yon prisoner... Let us say I have had run-ins with him before. What did he do this time?”

“He is the man who led the attack on this farmstead,” Rutilius said. “The man who murdered my family.”

“The man who allegedly led the attack,” Cordinus corrected.

“Woo-hoo,” Roscius exclaimed with a laugh. He looked with pity upon the prisoner. “Have fun trying to dodge the scourge on this one, Burgis. I just got out of the jail where Rutilius put me for impersonating an officer in the line of duty. I consider myself lucky- no lashes. You have no such hope.” Then, to the men on the portico, he added, “If there is a short list of people audacious enough to attack a magistrate’s home, Burgis here would be on it. But he’s a sly one- he knows there can be nothing good from bringing the law upon him with such a stupid attack. He would have to have been paid- and paid well.”

Cordinus, who heard the rider’s comments to the prisoner, turned aghast to Rutilius. “You imprisoned the imperial agent investigating you?

“I may have allegedly imprisoned the alleged imperial agent allegedly investigating me,” Rutilius corrected. “But I definitely did imprison the civilian who was caught in the act of impersonating a centurion within the confines of my own office. I had to- the legionaries saw him. I deemed it better than scourging him with forty lashes. So did he.”

“Burgis here is a slippery one,” Roscius said as he walked closer to the portico. ”He plied the bandit trade along the roads for many a year. The cavalry tried many times to catch him, but never could. “Last year he was acclaimed the uncrowned underground king of crime in Mogontiacum, according to the legends. Led a band of over a hundred bullies, deserters, brigands, and other riff-raff.”

“He told us he worked for Catullus,” Rutilius replied.

“That would explain his success,” Roscius admitted. “And why he dared this attack. Catullus was a crooked as Caepio. Anyway, here is your post. It is from your wife.” He handed over the scroll and turned toward his horse. He paused, and turned back to Rutilius. “How did you catch that bastard anyway? If he had done what you think he did, he would not be stupid enough to hang around in Roman lands. Especially with his buddy Catullus ashes in the funeral pyre.”

“The king of the Bructeri caught him,” Rutilius said. He explained about the sanctuary bid, and its result.

“So Segestes is now King of the Bructeri?” Roscius exclaimed. “A good choice. You’ll have a sweet border now, governor.”

“You know this barbarian kinglet?” Cordinus asked in surprise.

“I knew him as a Suevi prince,” Roscius admitted. “I lived in his father’s realm for several years, scouting and monitoring the Suevi. A strong one, and bull-headed, but fair. And honest. If you can get him to swear to peace, he’ll keep it.”

“Burgis claims Segestes sold him to me for two sacks of coins,” Rutilius said.

Roscius laughed. “Segestes is no slaver to sell men,” he said. The way he uttered ‘slaver’ cast a disparaging smear across the word. “And he has no need for coin. None of the free tribes do. If Segestes gave Burgis to you, he did so out of his own free will and would be mortified to accept coin for what he considers a good deed.”

“Would this Segestes do such a thing to curry favor?” Cordinus asked bluntly.

Roscius cackled at the ridiculous notion. “Curry favor? By the gods, that Suevi prince curries nothing. He is his own man, and a king now. No, Segestes would not enslave a man to curry favor. Nor would he rob a free man of his liberty, even for a friend.”

“It seems the imperial agent here has just vouched for Segestes,” Rutilius pointed out. “A Roman citizen, with no personal ties to myself or this case. The testimony of the Bructeri king may now be entered into evidence.”

Cordinus nodded. “The prisoner has been duly convicted. He is now yours to do with as you please.”

Burgis’s eyes shot wide, then rough hands grasped him. The ropes binding his arms and chest were removed, but were quickly replaced by those binding him to the cross. The shackles were left upon his legs, however, in case the prisoner managed to slip out of the ropes. One, two, three and the cross was raised, facing the garden. Four Batavians posted themselves around the cross. Dieter motioned one to go away- he himself wanted to stand guard over this one. His Milika, who was buried beside her lady near the center, would want her husband to watch her killer die. Even after so many months, he did not want to disappoint the woman who died carrying his child.

Rutilius joined him, two guards bringing up chairs for the men. Roscius had followed the governor into the main house- Cordinus evidently wanted a briefing on why an imperial agent was investigating his quaestor. When Roscius emerged a few hours later, he brought a crate upon which to sit and joined the two men before the cross.

“How long do you think he’ll last?” asked Roscius.

“At least a day,” replied Rutilius. “He is strong, but his legs are shackled. They’ll kill him quicker. I am going to have him brought down for a rest soon, before hanging him up again. I want him to feel my pain, and I want it to last.”

“I hear ya,” Roscius agreed. “He cost me more than a few friends, too.” He gestured to the statue behind them. “Is that a likeness of your wife and sons? Fitting that they watch him die,” he added, when Rutilius replied with a grunt meaning yes.

“Say Burgis,” Roscius called to the hanging man. “While we have you here, can you answer me a question? After you attacked this home and killed the quaestor’s family, did you stick around here, or did you go back to Mogo?”

The condemned man did not deign to reply to the obvious jab.

“Can you at least tell me how long you worked for Catullus?” Roscius said, pressing the man for information. “He’s dead, and you soon will be, so there is no reason not to talk anymore. Besides, you admitted to the governor here that you worked for him, so it is no secret.”

Burgis sighed. It hurt, and his shoulders and ribs ached from the constant pull of gravity.

“I’ll give you some water in exchange,” the arcanus offered.

“Water first,” the Gaul grunted. When Roscius climbed up and let him drink a cupful, he replied. “He hired me from time to time to do things for him. It began shortly after he came to Mogontiacum, about two years ago.”

“Was he the one who sent you to attack my home?” Rutilius asked.

The prisoner went silent. Only his eyes lifted, and those to look at the fair statue watching him die. Otherwise he was a statue himself.

“Then I must assume Roscius is wrong,” Rutilius said lowly, but loud enough to be herd by the crucified man. “I must assume that you were indeed stupid enough to attack a magistrate’s family on your own.”

“Glam, Amalric,” Rutilius called to his guards. “The prisoner has been up there for six hours now, and it is dark- too dark for him to see the faces of those he killed, or they his. Take him down and chain him to the post again. We will hang him up again in the morning.”

“You are a cold one, Rutilius,” Roscius said with a laugh. Then he stopped laughing, and thought about what he did to avenge his friends. The political ploys of Catullus and Company had gotten his friends killed- he exacted payment for that by gutting Catullus like a pig. If Catullus had killed his wife and children... He would do no less than the quaestor beside him just did.

Five men stood guard over the condemned man. As the sun rose in the morning, so was Burgis the Sequani raised back onto his crucifix. The muscles stretched and pulled from the previous crucifixion were still sore, making the new session that much more painful. Four hours after sunrise Rutilius and Dieter resumed their station on chairs set before him. And again, Roscius came to join them. So did Cordinus.

It was a pleasant day to watch a man die. It was a sunny morning for once, and the weather promised to stay dry, though there was a bit of a chill in the air. Burgis had the added discomfort of having spent the cold night out of doors in his loincloth- his skin was tense and covered in goosebumps, while his loins began to itch from the irritation of the previous day’s salty sweat mixing with the dew from the morning. He could not scratch that itch either, bound to the cross as he was.

“Are you going to take him down again today?” Roscius asked. He knew how crucifixion worked, having seen enough of it in Rome. The novelty of bringing a hanging man down for a break seemed merciful on the surface, but he knew it was excruciating when the rest break was over, and that the rest breaks themselves gave the lungs time to recover. The breaks were both increasing the pain and extending the duration. Rutilius was by all means a hard man, but nothing in his record or the investigation ever said he was a cruel man. This was cruelty beyond the pale.

“It depends on him,” Rutilius said after a while. “If he answers my questions truthfully and fully, I will let him stay there and die. If he keeps his tongue still, every six hours he comes down for a few hours before I hang him up again. Paullus is covering for me at Vetera- I can stay here and keep this up for a month or two.”

Burgis groaned.

Roscius smiled. The quaestor was up to something. He made a mental note not to get on this guy’s bad side ever again.

“So what did your wife have to say?” the arcanus asked, trying to start a normal conversation. “If you don’t mind my asking?”

“You rode from Vetera to here with her message,” Rutilius replied. “I guess that means you earned the right to know. She missed her second moon.”

“Congratulations!” Roscius said, clapping the quaestor on the shoulder. He looked up at the man hanging before him. “You hear that, Burgis? Rutilius here has a new wife, and she is pregnant. Your failure is now complete!”

“He had over a hundred men in his band?” Rutilius asked of Roscius, suddenly recalling the words of the evening before. “He only had sixty or so here. Where were the other forty?”

“I don’t know,” the arcanus shrugged. “I was with Sabinus tying in with the Danubian defenses. Ask Burgis. He would know. Hey, Burgis! Where were your other forty or so buttheads when you hit this place?”


“I’ll give you some more water, and ask the quaestor here really nice-like to skip your break. You might die then, and end this pain.”

Burgis was not yet ready to die. “Bring the water.”

Roscius did, and gave the prisoner two ladles full. Then he climbed down. “Talk.”

“My band split when we got the commission,” Burgis said. “The others- they wanted no part of killing a magistrate and his family, not even for a share of ten talents. They stayed in Mogo to take advantage of the lack of authority.”

“By the gods,” whispered Rutilius and Cordinus at the comment. The two men looked at each other, then Cordinus exited abruptly to the house.

“What is that about?” Roscius asked. “Ten talents is a lot of money, but killing a serving magistrate is a lot of hassle.”

Rutilius looked up at the prisoner in shock, as he replied to Roscius, “Catullus was dead when they got the order to strike. Catullus did not send them, as we had thought. But someone has- someone with a lot of power, money, and influence.”

Cordinus returned with a bucket of correspondence. Rutilius recognized them as personal letters received by the governor- he had forwarded enough of them before they switched duty stations. Cordinus pulled a few out and handed them to his quaestor.

Rutilius opened and began to read. The first several paragraphs of each letter were filled with advice on how to handle gubernatorial duties- and most of it was wrong. The following paragraphs were background on the legates- Messala was a decent enough guy but a man who would disregard orders in battle to go glory-hunting like he did at Bedriacum. Amensius was a third-class tribune raised to legate due to a lack of better men at the time. He knows little of politics- keep on his ass and keep him busy. Paullus was suitable by blood and experience to be a governor- be careful around him and do not let him stab you in the back. He was an angry man deeply bitter about being passed over after his heroism in the Batavian Revolt, but who hid it behind a veneer of affable calm.

And then there were letters concerning Rutilius. He was a two-faced bastard who said one thing and did another. People, good people, who trusted him always ended up betrayed and dead. Vorenus made him a tribunus. Sextus Cornelius accepted that tribunus as an officer, pairing him with Livius Frugalis. Rutilius sealed the death of all three. The brother of Sextus, Decimus, was legate of another auxiliary legion under Vorenus. The betrayal of Sextus by Rutilius allowed the Germanics to capitalize upon their victory by falling upon the second legion. It was slaughtered to a man. Shortly thereafter, Vorenus himself was slain- and Rutilius arrives alone and unharmed at Vetera, where Lupercus himself threw him in prison. Lupercus was besieged and killed thereafter.

Do not, whatever you do dear Quintus, do not rely on this snake! He killed three members of my family through treachery and cowardice. That he has risen so high for a mere legionary is a credit to his guile, and a disgrace to Rome.

Roscius, reading over his shoulder, could not help himself. “He does not seem to be a big fan of yours.”

Rutilius ignored the comment and looked at Cordinus. “This was why you were so arrogant and foolish? This advice?”

Cordinus nodded. “I have since learned better.”

Rutilius handed the scroll to Roscius. “Written by the triumphator, Cornelius Clemens. He was a cousin to the Cornelii killed in the Batavian Revolt, and evidently blames me for the deaths of his cousins.”

“You pruned his family tree quite efficiently,” Burgis gasped with a sick laugh. “I even told him so.”

“That tree pruned itself,” Rutilius replied bitterly. “And pruned a whole lot of other trees in the process. Vorenus built a private army in Traiectum. He was the hammer for when the Batavians could be enticed to attack Vetera. But he heard the Cananefate were in dire troubles with the flood and resulting bad harvest. He decided to enrich himself- by enslaving our Friend and Ally.

“The Cananefate beat us soundly. I was knocked witless from the saddle early on by Oddmund- the Cananefate cavalry commander, who charged into our rear while we were tied up with Niall’s infantry. We were slaughtered. Sextus Cornelius killed himself- he charged grounded spears, the idiot. I did not regain consciousness until most of my men were dead. When I awoke the battlefield was mostly clear except for the victorious Germani. I grabbed a cloak from a fallen Cananefate, and went running off yammering like they do. I made it back to the encampment- the only officer to do so, and ordered the prefect to collect soldiers during the night, but leave at first light headed south. His cousins got themselves killed. I had nothing to do with it.”

Burgis nodded. “I heard that version too. Mostly the high-faluting senators believe the first story, while the lower classes repeat your version.”

Cordinus blushed, but nodded. “Except Helvidius.”

“And he is dead, too,” Roscius said. Then he punched Rutilius on the shoulder. “At least nobody can blame you for that one, eh?”

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Potius walked in the shadows, making frequent turns and stopping occasionally to see if he was followed. He was not. He made his way along the riverside, before turning up the clivus leading to the Subura. He did not enter that poor district, but turned again toward the Aventine Hill rising to his right. From there he made his way along the alley between the homes of the senators and knights to the back gate of his master’s house.

He smiled to himself as he opened the gate. More than one fine filly had passed this way in recent months. His master was one lucky man to have such an arrangement with one of the best stables in all of Rome. Sometimes, when he was feeling particularly generous, he would allow one of his prize slaves to partake of the visitor in his stead. Potius grin grew wider. He was bringing his lord a gift that might just earn him one of those precious hand-offs.

One last look about saw him alone in the alley. He quickly passed within, careful with the bulge under his arm, and slid inside. He made his way to the main house and entered it silently. Then he knocked quietly upon the doorway of the study.

“Enter,” said Aulus Caecina. He barely looked up as Potius entered the room. The slave was a Roman, and as a debtor bought from a gladiator school where he was a poor fit, knew when he had a change of luck for the better. He knew his place, and that place was in loyal service to his master.

Potius pulled out the large sack under his arm and opened it. He reached in, and pulled from it a severed head. “Mephis, lord,” he announced as he displayed the head. “You will remember him as the trusted slave of your colleague Gaius Mallius.”

Caecina looked at the drained expression on the familiar face. “I remember Mephis,” he said bluntly. “I do not recall giving orders to kill him, though. I do recall asking you to find out what happened to Graco.”

“Graco is dead, lord,” Potius replied. “He had been tasked to follow Calliope, that snobbish pasty-white slavegirl of Flavius Domitianus. I found Graco’s body in a sewer; his neck had been broken. There was no sign of Calliope on the market or in the vicinity, so I came home to report. I was crossing the Forum Romanum. There I saw Herulios- a household slave of your old mate Gaius Mallius, fiddling with that low-hanging roof of the establishment of that rip-off Ignatius, where Calliope often did shoppings for her master. He found something there and passed it on to Tuvio, another slave of Mallius. When I turned to leave, I saw Mephis here watching me. He followed me, and attacked me in an alley.”

He barked a short laugh. “Mephis tried to snap my neck as he had Graco’s, but he forgot from where you bought me, lord. My school always did best his in the arena. I killed him unseen, and took his head as proof.”

Caecina was no fool. He put it together quickly enough. “So the slaves of Domitianus are passing secret messages to those of Mallius, messages worth killing over.” Through his mind raced the fate of Helvidius, and how Domitianus had so cleverly placed the blame for his own actions upon the hapless prig. It made his own wrists itch as if they were tied to a cross. It made his next decision rather easy.

“Forget about the slaves of Domitianus,” he ordered. “We now know they are passing messages to Mallius, and where they are doing it. Put our best watchers on the slaves of Mallius, especially those who are not familiar with those of Domitianus. You can get your head together with your fellows- both men have been here often enough in the past and can remember who was friendly with whom. I would know what the slaves of Mallius- or Mallius himself- does with the contents of those messages.”

“And if we find one alone, lord?” asked the slave.

“Leave him or her be,” Caecina decided. “Just watch. But if there is an opportunity to see what those tablets hold, you may try to grab one. Domitian writing to Mallius? The two did not get along well in our little circle, making it rather odd that they are passing hidden notes now. I would not be adverse to knowing what they have to say.”

Potius smiled. His master was pleased- he could tell by the inquisitive stance the man took. Oh yes, he thought to himself, the old boy is very pleased indeed. There will definitely be some Pomponian delight in the future. The thought was confirmed a moment later.

“Arrange an escort of twenty riders,” Caecina ordered. “I need to inform Sevola of this development in person. Oh, and Potius, if any ‘special guests’ arrive while I am away, please feel free to entertain her.”

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Note: Mondays are geting rather busy lately. So when I know a Monday will be busy, I will post on Sunday instead. If Monday is busy and I don't kow it ahead of time, the post shall occur Monday evening or Tuesday.

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 06-14-12 06:52 AM EDT (US)     65 / 86       
Boy they really did a number on Burgis. I like it!

But Mallius and Domitan in secret contacts is quite an interesting turn of events.

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.
posted 06-17-12 01:48 AM EDT (US)     66 / 86       
Finally caught up with this story and I have to admit that I liked the way you show more features of Rutilius' character. He's boh a just magistrate and a cruel avenger... I like that BTW, how many more parts have you written so far?

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-18-12 08:52 AM EDT (US)     67 / 86       
Thanks all.

Two more parts when this one is done.

Coming in next post: the next post!

(Actually, it will be the Ominous Revelations alluded to in the title)

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

[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 06-18-2012 @ 08:53 AM).]

Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-18-12 09:02 AM EDT (US)     68 / 86       
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Burgis died a few hours later, just as the sun was going down. His last words confirmed what Rutilius already knew. The killer had been bought by Clemens, though he had been working for Catullus for a while. Evidently Clemens learned that Rutilius had won even further honors, despite all he did to prevent it. He snapped, and ordered the killing. He had been reading the mail to Rome, and learned that Rutilius would be home for six weeks. Burgis was to strike then. An itinerary was also given, so that the killer could report to the employer after the deed was done. Clemens believed he owed it to his dead cousins to end the man who betrayed them. To Burgis, it was just another contract, though a rich one.

“So Clemens is the man behind the attack,” Roscius said that evening, in the sitting room of the main house. He looked out the window, where he could see the still form of Burgis still hanging from his crucifix. “He hired Burgis there, then failed to pay. Strange that- he had a lot of booty from his own campaign.”

“Burgis did not perform, thus did not earn the payment,” Cordinus said flatly. “He was to rape then kill my quaestor’s wife before his eyes, then kill him as well before burning them both. He failed. So why should he be paid?”

“Typical nobleman’s thinking,” Roscius scoffed. “Who hired him? Clemens. How do we know? Burgis told us. What would have happened had he paid Burgis for the attempt, not the success? Burgis would have fled with his money and we would know nothing. Had the man paid, he would now be unknown and his deeds laid at the feet of Catullus.”

Cordinus grimaced at the truth. The miserly Clemens left a trail of blood to his own door. Had he paid in full...

He stood up suddenly, and went to his office. Roscius shrugged, and poured himself some more wine. He offered the flagon to Rutilius, who waved him off while staring at the dead man hanging outside the window.

“How long are you going to leave him there?” Roscius asked.

“I’ll take him down in the morning and have him thrown into the river as I promised,” Rutilius said absently, emptily. The death of the man emptied him of the drive for revenge. His wife’s killer was caught and punished. The completion of that task left him floating, as if in a void. He knew it would refill with the desire to punish Clemens once the emptiness of this execution passed, but for now he was drained.

“There are few men who deserve this fate more than he,” Roscius said. He saw the pain on the quaestor’s face, a pain he himself knew well. Most good men have it when they have killed a man in cold blood as he had, even one who deserved it. “You have done the empire a service, even if it was only for this one crime he was punished. Your regret will pass. I know.”

“I have no regret,” Rutilius said plainly. “He murdered my family and many of our people, I crucified him as is only proper. No, no regret about this. Well, maybe one, but that one will be handled in time.”


Rutilius nodded. “I was getting to love this place, too.” He sighed, “Now I have to kill a triumphator to settle my ghosts. The Imperator will not like that, and will set more than one man like you after me. After I kill Clemens, my own life here is over. I wonder if Segestes has a place for me over there?”

“You will not have to run if you do it right,” Roscius said lowly. “You can play his game- hire a murderer. Or you can ambush him enroute about his latifundia. He lives near Ancona, I have heard, and has large estates in western Etruria. Lots of mountains, lots of forest in between those two. There is a bandit problem in Italia. His death would be blamed on them, leaving you free and clear. Unless you get caught, of course. But I doubt you will- you are far luckier than I have been.”

“You sound like you know a lot about murder,” Rutilius said lowly.

“Murder requires a lot of patience and watching,” Roscius replied, just as lowly. “I am an arcanus- I am paid to be patient and watch. I kill only when necessary.”

Cordinus came bustling in with several tablets. From their markings, they were intelligence summaries from Rome. Newsbriefs, mostly. He opened one of them.

“Clemens was granted a triumph,” he said bluntly. “He left for Rome with the XIV Gemina, and named Sextus Caelius Calvus as acting governor. In this one, two weeks before,” he added, pulling out another tablet, “Titus Sabinus was named quaestor of Germania Superior, vice Catullus. Why then would he put Calvus in charge of the province, when he had a quaestor?”

Roscius swore softly. “Calvus owes much to Clemens,” he said. “And there were a lot of transfers into and out of the XIVth in the last few months. None from the I Adiutrix, but plenty from the XI Claudia, VIII Augusta, and VII Gemina.”

“Titus Sabinus and the I Adiutrix are along the Danube, along with the VIIth,” Rutilius remembered. “That’s pretty far east, and over bad terrain. He must have put Calvus in charge due to him being in Mogontiacum, the capital.”

“Yeah,” Roscius agreed. “The hand-picked successor of a crooked governor in Mogontiacum, with two legions.”

Rutilius cursed. “The post runs through Mogo as well- even post to Sabinus on the Danube. He would hear nothing Calvus did not want him to hear. Us as well.”

“And the bandit problem in Italia- prep work?” Roscius asked.

“What the hell are you two on about?” Cordinus asked in frustration.

“Calvus is a good general, eh?” Roscius said with a curse. “And with two legions he has a nice blocking force along the road to Rome.”

“We have four,” Rutilius reminded him. “Six, counting Sabinus.”

“Sabinus can’t move if he doesn’t know,” Roscius retorted. “And I was sent to investigate you. If I had found anything, you would have been summoned to Rome, leaving Cordinus here alone. Calvus with two legions versus Cordinus with four? No offense, buddy, but I’d give that one to Calvus.”

“What the hell are you two on about?” Cordinus repeated in rising frustration.

Rutilius glanced at Cordinus. “Do you not see? Clemens is stealing a march on Rome.”

“A change of command,” Roscius confirmed. “And me being the stupid arcanus I am, did not see it coming. Instead, the Imperator’s eyes and ears were out investigating a squeaky-clean quaestor who should be hailed a hero, not a villain. He played it well.”

“Oh don’t be so ridiculous,” Cordinus laughed. “Cornelius Clemens is a loyal Flavian- that’s why he got the province. I know, I was one of the reasons he won the post- we both helped teach young Domitianus to be a good consul.”

“You also told me the Imperator thinks I am a threat to him,” Rutilius retorted. “Me, with no connections in Rome, a threat. You justified this by saying I had connections to eight legions, remember? Well, if Clemens could rid you of me, then he is in pretty good shape. He would have you and our army blocked from moving south- you might win, but our army would be hurt badly and in no shape to chase after him. Sabinus is cut off, and in terrain just as constricted. By placing two legions astraddle the road, he has effectively cut six legions from being able to render aid.”

“He took a single legion,” Cordinus reminded him. “One, and one with many transfers. You yourself taught me that it takes months to get a legion to work as a whole. They will not be a cohesive unit, and there are nine cohorts of praetorians guarding the Imperator who do work together. One hybrid legion against nine cohorts of elite praetorians? He would not dare!”

“How about against three or four cohorts?” Roscius asked. “There is a bandit problem in Italia, and Titus Junior has been handling it- using praetorians.”

“Shades of Sulla,” Cordinus gasped. A hostile legion... defenseless Rome, he could see the graffitti quite clearly. The hunch of the arcanus was correct. “We need to intercept that legion.”

“They have at least a two week headstart,” Rutilius reminded him. “And their starting position is at least a week closer to Rome than we are. And Calvus will be holding exercises this month- I would bet he is already blocking the road.”

“His legions are probably now being told how disloyal to the Imperator you are,” Roscius added. “Accused of this and that, sent on a suicide mission, and treated like yesterday’s garbage. My fault, too- Clemens sent me to investigate you for treason, and I went. That fact is by now well-known throughout their legions, lending support. As for Cordinus, he botched the campaign, leaving a march on Rome as his only hope of ever retaining power. If either of you march now, those legions would stop you- thinking you are the rebels and they are the loyal ones.”

“We cannot simply sit still,” Cordinus said with an audible groan.

And he was right. But what to do? He could gather the legions, but that would take time. He could let Rutilius command- he would destroy Calvus, but again valuable time would be lost. Thus militarily there was no option. Nor could he leave the border unguarded- there was a sort of peace now, but if the legions headed for Rome? A flood.

“We send a letter,” he decided. “The postal riders can get there before the legion.”

Rutilius shook his head while Roscius explained that all post goes through the mail room at Mogontiacum, which is sure to be controlled by a Cornelian lackey who would intercept such warnings and drop them in a convenient stove.

“Not all messages go through official channels,” Cordinus reminded them. “Some are delivered by merchants, others by riders who happened to be heading where the letter needs to be. Like the post you brought my quaestor from his wife.”

“I would stop all traffic,” Roscius said. “A bridge is out, or a road caved in. It’s too dangerous to proceed, et cetera. It will be fixed in a month or so- we have our finest lads working on it now. That sort of thing. What merchant or other traveler is going to doubt the word of a centurion or legate?”

“A fair point,” Cordinus conceded.

“I will go,” Rutilius determined. Word had to get out, even if the warning was not confirmed. Better safe than sorry, old Pappa Rutilius used to say. “I am familiar with the Via Mala- having crossed it twice, and know Germania Superior from my time as acting governor of both Germanias. I know routes around Mogontiacum that Calvus probably does not. I can slip through and around his legions with no hassle.”

“Calvus has been in the province for two years at least, probably three,” Cordinus said. “He would know the roads, and the new ones that have been built since. They would both be heavily patrolled by cavalry. They have a lot of Gallic cavalry, and you are known.”

“I know the roads, too,” Roscius added. “There are not many. I’d put cavalry on them as well, were I him. No, we are screwed. Travel over Lugdunum?”

“Too long,” Rutilius conceded.

“Your friend Titus Piscius was patrolling the lower Rhenus,” Cordinus remembered. “He stopped in on his way north. He should be putting in soon before returning to his base at Mogontiacum. Maybe he can ferry you upriver past the blocking force?”

Rutilius nodded. “The river gets right dangerous and narrow south of Mogo, but it could work.”

Roscius agreed. “We will take Cordinus here with us,” he added. “He has clout where you and I do not. They will listen when he speaks. I’d need the head of Clemens or something written to prove my words, whereas your words, Rutilius, are unfortunately worthless to imperial ears.”


Roscius nodded. “Us. I am going with you. The navy might get you past the legions, but I know the land once we are past. I’ll get you to the Via Mala, then you get us to Rome. Maybe that scroll Cadorus found will be enough evidence to support my claim.”

“I will write you a summary as well,” Cordinus added. “I cannot go with you- one of us must remain in the province, and I am the governor. I am also disgraced, but still favored. If I go with you, I would be abandoning my province and it will look like I am trying to protect my soiled reputation by tarnishing his. You are rising star, Marcus, and have nothing more to prove, what with your corona civica, corona graminea, and opportunity to claim spolia opima. You will be heard, despite what the arcanus thinks. I will give you a summary to carry, adding my weight to your words.”

Roscius whistled at the awards. “Can you prove any of that?”

Rutilius shrugged. “It does not matter- the Imperator will hear what he wants to hear, regardless of the source. However, the corona civica is a matter of record- given to me by Cerealis himself for saving him and the army at Gelduba. The corona graminea can be attested to by any centurion in Germania Inferior, while the spolia whatever was witnessed by eight cohorts of legionaries from Britannia.”

“A bona-fide war hero,” Roscius said with another whistle. “I think we might pull this off after all.”

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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
posted 06-19-12 03:46 PM EDT (US)     69 / 86       
Another nice update Terikel Good to see this saga reaching its climax after all...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Legion Of Hell
posted 06-20-12 07:23 AM EDT (US)     70 / 86       
The climax is near in which I cannot wait for what is going to happen!!!!

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
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-25-12 03:59 AM EDT (US)     71 / 86       
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Tiberius Plautius was not enjoying his retirement in Caere as he had desired. His latifundium was immense and sprawling, and delivered him more than enough income to keep him in the Senate. His villa overlooked the old Etruscan city of Caisra, to where Tarquinius the Proud fled when Marcus Junius Brutus exiled the king from Rome. Beyond the old city was the bay, a beautiful view. Wealth, views, and history- he should be relaxing in ecstasy.

But he was not. The city below his hills was but a hollow shadow of its former self; now it harbored more dead in the round-topped tombs of its necropolis than living within its walls. Trade was drying up, and with its withering those few remaining souls were left with little to do but work the latifundium above- and Plautius had slaves to do that work. Thus the city was dying, leaving Plautius a wonderful view but few with whom he could share this view. Still, the former consul of Rome took a simple pleasure in being the most august denizen of a town which once housed kings.

But not today. His steward had come with most dreadful news. Gnaeus Nonius, who owned the latifundium in the next valley, had seen men carrying logs at the run. Nonius had scoffed at the sighting, but the next day he was dead. News from elsewhere in Italia hint at brigands sweeping the land and strangling trade as merchants began banding together. This Plautius did believe- he remembered the reports from his time as urban prefect, and saw now the effect it had on Caere- it was dying as the merchants refused to travel to little, off-the-main-road towns. The brigand problem was killing his town. Of that, Plautius was certain.

Something needed to be done. He penned a petition to his benefactor Domitian, explaining the effects of the brigands on Caisra, and the historical importance of the old town. He begged for help, or at least imperial notice of the growing problem and what it was doing to the base upon which the empire rested. And he implored him to have some Praetorians check out the mysterious sightings of the loggers, and why they were mysterious.

Letter finished, he went to his balcony once more to gaze out over the old bay and the sun settling into it. This was his favorite part of the day, a serene descent of Apollo’s Chariot into the sea. Beautiful.

His eyes caught on a small group of travelers leaving the city. Travelers passing through Caere were odd indeed, what with the brigands prowling the lands and loggers carrying their products at the run. The travelers- thirty of them- were headed toward the latifundium of Nonius. The deduction was easily made- the sun was setting, and the only shelter within reach before darkness blanketed the land was the villa of Nonius.

He called his steward.

“Pollicus, make ready an escort for the morning,” he commanded. “I will be in my carriage, and I want at least twenty riders and another twenty footmen. We will be visiting the estate of Nonius directly after breaking our fast.”

The steward bowed. “It shall be as you command, dominus.”

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The estate of Nonius was a sprawling farm that literally took up the entire valley. Fields were planted up to the rock walls of the valley, and flanked on both sides the little stone road an ancestor of Nonius had constructed. Upon a slight rise to the northeast was the villa, a magnificent white structure contrasting starkly with the grey stone wall rising impressively behind it. Smaller houses for the guards and servants dotted the base of the cliff wall, with the quarters for the field slaves in a long overhang that was walled up as a human pen.

The estate was in mourning. Gnaeus Nonius had been a decent master, and only sixty years of age. His untimely death was unexpected, especially for his son Gaius, who in addition to this latifundium also inherited his father’s seat in the Senate. The twenty-five year old could kiss his political career good-bye now. An only child, he had no siblings who could run his estate while he served his term as a military tribune, or even as a Treasury aedile. Without those offices, he would never be appointed quaestor, without which he would never be praetor. If he lost his farm due to mismanagement or failure while abroad, he would also lose his Senatorial seat. Thus the early death of Gnaeus Nonius condemned his son Gaius to be a backbench Senator with no future other than running a farm and hoping his own sons would have the chance to improve the family fortune by serving Rome.

Aulus Caecina learned of the death that afternoon, after having ridden forty-odd miles in a single stretch from Rome. The rumors were confusing and contradictory- Nonius had been murdered, Nonius simply fell dead. Nonius had an arrow through his craw, Nonius was bludgeoned. Nonius was attacked by a bear. Bandits plundered his estate, looking for fabled jewels. Caecina counted himself lucky to be in the area when the rumors hit. As a praetor, he could investigate the matter and quash all rumors with the light of truth- and in doing so, remove the spotlight of imperial attention away from this dying corner of Etruria to someplace that actually could use some attention- like Apulia, Lucania, and anywhere but here.

He began his investigation with a simple polling of locals concerning what they had heard, what they had seen, and what they noticed. This he duly wrote into a waxen tablet, no matter how inane. Afterward he thanked the people, discussed with the local leaders a plan for self-defense in case it was indeed brigand trouble, and organized a local militia. Command of the volunteer militia would be handed over to a former centurion who lived nearby- a Marcus Sevola. He then rode to the estate of Nonius, hoping to reach the place before darkness made the trip much more difficult. It was this hurried entourage that Plautius Silvanus witnessed as Apollo completed his daily journey across the sky.

Gaius Nonius was distraught over his father’s death, as any son who loved his father would be. The rumors had not reached his ears concerning the manner of death, nor did he care for rumors. He knew the truth, which did matter, and was busy preparing the body for cremation and interment of the ashes in the family crypt. His father had not had a glorious Senatorial career, being relegated into the rearward portion of the Senate due to his lack of public service, but he had been a good father and gave his son the upbringing and education a good senator required. The only thing in which he failed was giving his son the time needed to bring the family back to the Senate forefront.

“Condolences, Gaius Nonius,” Caecina said in greeting the new senator. “Gnaeus and I served in the Senate together. He was a good man.”

“He was,” Gaius agreed. “His death may not be a blow to the Senate, but he will be sorely missed in these parts.” He paused, then asked why a serving praetor was so far out of Rome in these dark days.

Caecina did not flash him his winning smile- that would be seen as tacky, given the circumstances. Instead, he assumed a solemn face more befitting of the situation. “There seems to be a panic about, due to reports of brigands and the like. I have a few clients in the area, and was checking on them as a good patron should do. I found them organizing a local militia with which to defend this area, and helped them. I heard various rumors concerning your father, thus this visit to allay the fears. Can you tell me what happened?”

Nonius was perplexed. Rumors? Yet he explained what befell his father. “He was riding in his carriage, supervising the spring planting now that the frost has left the mountain soil. He had a stroke and fell over. The horse returned to the barn on its own, prompting our search. We found him a few miles upvalley.”

“And you are sure it was a stroke, no foul play?”

“Certain,” Nonius replied. “He was dead when we found him, but the right side of his face was drooping uselessly, and his right arm dangling oddly. Other than the cut on his head from striking a rock in his fall, he was unharmed. The cut was dry, by the way. Our medicus says that means he was dead before he hit the ground.”

“That clears up that matter,” Caecina announced. “I am sorry to have troubled you. I offer again my condolences on your father’s passing.”

Nonius nodded silently. “I shall cremate him in the morning. He so loved the mountain mornings, you know. I would be honored if you and your entourage bear witness at his funeral. It shall be a short one.”

Caecina accepted the hospitality. Dinner was short and simple- rustic bread with various cheeses and spicy meat, then Nonius invited Caecina to visit with his father, one last farewell. Caecina agreed as was only proper, and together the two living men visited the dead.

Caecina saw at once the tale of Nonius was true. The evidence lay right there on the sagging face of the dead man. A stroke felled the senator. Not a bandit, nor brigand, nor dancing circus bear. He examined the man closer, and placed a hand upon the dead man’s hand.

“Good bye, old friend,” he muttered. “We might not always have seen eye to eye in the Senate, but your opinion was always respected among those in the back rows. I shall miss your wit, and your keen eye.”

He handed the son a denarius. “For passage into the next life,” he said. Nonius nodded and accepted the coin.

“You were indeed a good friend to him,” Nonius admitted. “Strange that,” he added, “as he supported Otho, against whom you rebelled, and then Flavius Vespasianus.”

“We both supported Vespasianus,” Caecina corrected. “Only I was not as quick to assess the situation as was your father. I paid for that, but my support is true and remained so- and has been rewarded.” He gestured to himself, as if his praetorship was visible.

Nonius understood the gesture. He led the praetor back to the sitting room after a few minutes, where they spent the rest of the evening in remembrance of the man lying dead in the next chamber.

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

The funeral was held in the morning. A brief affair, it was a mere listing of the deeds and accomplishments of the deceased while he lived. It could be summarized with the phrase “he was a farmer father, and a good one.” Then Nonius lit the pyre.

The dried and oiled wood caught flame quickly, spreading the flames throughout the pyre and beginning the process of turning man to ash. The wood burned fiercely as wood was wont to do, and accelerated by the oil which burned hotter. Thick coils of black smoke reached into the sky, giving the ceremony a somber shroud.

Plautius was just turning on to the Via Nonia when he saw the pillar of dark smoke erupt overhead. Knowing the reports of brigands and the sightings of his men and those of Nonius, he assumed the worst. He gave the orders to move out smartly.

He and his riders stormed up the road, followed by his footmen at the run. He must save young Nonius from the fate of his father! That driving thought abruptly vanished when the main house came into view. The flames ate not of the magnificent structure, but of a pyre placed in the courtyard before it. Plautius slowed as he realized his error, and reined in his riders before they could disturb the ceremony. The Plautian party arrived at the walk, as befitting such a sad ceremony.

“My condolences,” Plautius Silvanus said, visibly distraught by his own intrusion.

“Accepted,” Nonius replied. “You are in time to watch my father complete his trip to Pluto’s realm.”

“I heard there were brigands in the area,” Plautius explained needlessly. “And saw riders approaching your home last evening. Today I saw a column of smoke and assumed the worst. My apologies.”

“Those riders would be my escort and I,” Caecina said, stepping forward. “We too heard rumors of brigands in the area- and more, that they have struck here. I investigated, and found no brigand. Gnaeus Nonius died of natural causes- a stroke.”

“There are more than mere rumors of brigands,” Plautius continued. “My men have seen others running in the mountains, carrying logs. Loggers do not run, nor do they carry wood at the run, nor do they run in packs. Loggers walk beside their wagons which carry their products, and do so in column. These men are brigands, praetor, and they are setting up a base in these hills. We are next.”

Caecina laughed. “Any bandit conducting a raid in this area would be treated roughly. Let me tell you a few things I have learned about bandits while fighting them. There are three types- the wolf, the bear, and the mouse. The Bear relies on his strength to destroy opposition. He is strong and powerful like his namesake, and takes what he wants by strength alone. The Mouse is neither strong nor clever- his asset is speed. He strikes, steals his crumb of cheese, and disappears.”

He sighed. “And then there is the wolf. Wolves run in packs, and gain strength and courage from their numbers. They are driven by their Alpha Male, who must reward his pack or risk losing it. Any dissent is utterly crushed.”

His eyes narrowed. “All three types have one thing in common. They are lazy. The Bear has his natural strength- he does not work to gain more strength. He merely uses what Fortuna gave him to take what he wants. The Mouse steals quickly and relies on deception and speed to escape- and then remains inactive until he is forced by his lack of supplies or money to steal again. And the wolves do the same- prey, feast, then relax until driven by hunger to strike again. None of the three would run-unless to escape- nor would they do hard labor- they steal to avoid honest work. Thus the men you saw could not be bandits.”

“I know what I saw!” Plautius replied adamantly.

“You know what you think you saw,” Caecina corrected innocently. “What you in fact saw were members of the local militia training their bodies to crush any brigand stupid enough to wander into these valleys.”

“We have no militia,” Plautius responded.

“You do now,” Caecina retorted. “You have a slew of veterans in this area. All are sick and tired of being forced to go further and further to buy items for their wives and children as merchants no longer dare venture into the less-populated areas. The bandit problem in Italia is growing, and the Praetorians are doing their best, but it is not enough. So local veterans are banding together to form militias- volunteer groups- to patrol their local environs and make them safe.”

His eyes narrowed to slits as he forced his will onto the former prefect. “Your own men are among those training. Soldiers must be fit to fight- thus they run with weight. They must be disciplined- thus they run in formation. They must be armed and armored- for which I have helped them with procurement. You have a militia forming, Tiberius Plautius, and no brigand problem worth a shit. With any luck, it will stay that way.”

“Why have I not heard anything of this before?” Plautius was evidently not convinced.

“Why have you not formed one of your own?” Caecina challenged. “There is one over in Veii, just under a cohort in strength. The one here, under former centurion Marcus Sevola, has eight centuries. You could probably raise another cohort of your own, or help equip this one like you did your Urban Cohorts.”

“That was not my doing,” Plautius admitted, “though I wish it was. Titus Domitianus- your old friend- broke the supplies and arms out of storage. It is he who also supplied the gladiators and veterans training the cohorts. He and my nephew rebuilt the Urban Cohorts.”

“And Sevola and others like him are doing the same here in the countryside,” Caecina reminded him. “The safety and security of Rome is the responsibility of us all, not a task for only the Praetorian Guard or the Urban Cohorts. I am doing my part- helping others to help themselves, and thereby lessen the burden on the Praetorians who are spread so thin as it is.”

Plautius nodded deeply. “You are correct, of course. This is a problem we must all help solve. I shall do what I can to support this local militia.”

“As will I,” Nonius added. He might see some action after all.

“I will inform Sevola of your decision,” Caecina said with a final nod. “And ensure he coordinates his training schedules with you to avoid further confusion. The last thing anyone wants are Praetorians sent to exactly where they are not needed, leaving some other helpless place open to attack.”

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

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
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Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
posted 06-25-12 06:09 AM EDT (US)     72 / 86       
A very nice picture of rural life in the early Roman , Terikel. It also seems that Clemens is going to have a hard time deposing Vespasian. A single legion against militias, Praetorians and Urbans... God help them...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-26-12 09:34 AM EDT (US)     73 / 86       
A single veteran legion, against a few depleted cohorts of Praetorians and greenhorn head-knockers who have never seen blood, beside unorganized militias that have never operated together?

God help who?

You will see, in the coming installments and parts...

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 06-27-12 09:03 AM EDT (US)     74 / 86       
Read the whole thing so far in two days. Terikel, I am in awe of your abilitys as a Skald.
looking forwards to seeing how it turns out

Dumnonii by birth, Hibernian by blood. Donnal an Fiáin, is the name my foes fear

"Always more enemies, and fewer friends. Blood gets you nothing but more blood.
It follows me now, always, like my shadow, and like my shadow I can never be free of it.
I’ve earned it. I’ve deserved it. Such is my punishment."- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 06-29-12 06:41 AM EDT (US)     75 / 86       

Question: You read the whole thing in two days. This part, the entire tale (all nine parts to date), or the entire saga (The first series and this series)?

Just curious, because that is an awful lot of pages!

PS- In my sig is a link to my page, where the parts are listed as links for easy access.

|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 07-01-12 03:53 PM EDT (US)     76 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

True to his word, Caecina went directly to the open meadow where Sevola was teaching his men the fine art of dueling. Wooden swords were the weapons of choice- handmade and crude, but twice the weight of a real gladius. The shields were ramshackle constructions of planks and straps, but they functioned well enough under the battering. Nearby, however, were the real things.

“Praetor!” cried Sevola upon identifying his visitor. “Back so soon?”

“Your men were seen,” Caecina warned his centurion. “Rumors reached the ears of the nobles, who assumed you were bandits preparing to strike here. I told them it was the militia training to keep just those kinds of bandits away.”

“Militia,” laughed Sevola. “I like that.”

“I like it too,” Caecina said with a smile. “And they endorsed it. You are now the official commander of the Caerean Militia. Coordinate your training schedules with Plautius- you will find that he will support your initiative and keep his mouth shut. He may even try to get you some armor and swords for those lacking, like his benefactor did with the Urban Cohorts.”

“The fire brigade and head-knockers?”

Caecina nodded. “The very same. It seems Domitianus has taken them under his wing, giving them new equipment, better armor, and decent training- by a combination of gladiators and centurions.”

Sevola turned deathly still. “The Urbans training for war, while the Praetorians are spread throughout the peninsula. This is not good.”

Caecina saw where that could lead and agreed. “We might have to move you closer to Rome. Domitian can move quick when he wants to, and I think things are shaping up to give him an opportunity. You’ll have to leave a century or so here, to keep up appearances and give the yokels Plautius sends you some work.”

“Three cohorts of souped-up headknockers, against our boys? It will be close, lord.”

“Our boys will not be alone,” Caecina reminded him. “As long as there are Praetorians loyal to Vespasian in Rome, we will support them. I have been working hard to earn favor with Vespasian, and it is finally paying off. My future under Titus, when it comes his time to reign, will likewise be bright. Domitianus as Imperator scares the shit out of me.”

Sevola remembered the attempts of Domitian to gain military support from Mucianus. He failed, but kept trying. That made a lot of men wonder, including Sevola. Why would a young man of his intelligence want to take command of the only army in Italia away from the man who just made the lad’s father Imperator? Nothing good could come of the takeover, but a lot of bad could. Purges, massacres, slaughtering of opponents and their families... He could pick up where Primus left off. Or try to make himself Imperator. Sevola shivered. “That scares me too, lord. We’ll be ready, and loyal. To Vespasian and yourself- but none other.”

“We both serve Rome,” Caecina added, borrowing a quote he heard Eprius mention once. “as does Vespasian.” Then he added with a snarl, “But his youngest whelp serves only himself.”

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

Titus Piscius had no intention of putting in at Colonia. He had had a pleasant cruise down past Vetera to Noviomagus, then back to Vetera for resupply. After finishing replenishing his water and food, he faced a long, hard trip upriver to Mogontiacum. Colonia was a good resting place, but that insufferably arrogant ass ruling the place got on his maritime nerves.

The sight on the docks, however, as he passed made him change his mind. Rutilius himself was waving him over. That decided the fleet captain, who smiled broadly. He signaled the other ships in his squadron to make to port. The square sails dropped and the rowers took up a new rhythm. The ships pulled smartly into line upon the quay.

“Nice seeing you again, Marcus,” the fleet captain said as he hopped onto the quay.

“We need a ride,” the quaestor said bluntly. “You provide the best service for the money.”

The fleet captain laughed. He turned to Roscius, “Last time I ferried his boys about, he paid us five hundred denarii. The boys are still talking about the party we had afterward.” Then to Rutilius, “Where to this time?”

Rutilius explained the situation concerning Calvus and the legions quickly, which entailed explaining a bit about Clemens as well. The old sea dog turned vicious.

“That old bastard... A legion against a defenseless city?” Piscius cursed. “And all the praetorians gone? I don’t see how I can help so much, though whatever I can do, I will.”

“I have sixty men with me, and Roscius,” Rutilius said. “We need to get around Calvus and his two legions. Can you do that?”

“Sure,” Piscius said easily. “Father Rhenus is not at his best south of Mogo, especially with the spring floods coming down out of the mountains. But he can take our boats all the way to Argentorate if needs be.”

“Think of Clemens as Imperator, and what he would do to remain as Imperator.”

Piscius remembered tales of previous hostile takeovers. Galba slaughtered the Neronian supporters, Otho those of Galba, and Vespasian those of Vitellius. Each new Imperator climbed into the throne over piles of corpses belonging to the other side, except Vitellius, who only slew the slayers of Galba. He doubted Clemens would show the mercy of Vitellius. He was a Cornelius- he would follow Sulla’s way. He shivered.

“Needs do be,” he said. “But that bastard has a legion- you but sixty men. How do you intend to stop him?”

“We have our ways,” Roscius said confidently. “You get us to Argentorate. We’ll do the rest.”

“I have sixty Batavians,” Rutilius answered, in a less aggressive tone than the arcanus. “and a horse farm near Argentorate. Eight hundred head of horse there, most of them in training for sale to the auxilia who always seem to need fresh, young horses. They are mountain bred as well.”

“The Via Mala was hit bad during the winter,” Piscius reminded him. “The passes may not be open. You’d do better to hoof it over to Augusta Vindelicorum and take the Pass of Brennus down to Ravenna. Better road, you’ll make better speed.”

“Clemens has been awarded a triumph,” Rutilius reminded him. “He will not be alone with his legion- he will have many wagons displaying the glory of his conquest. He will take the Brennus Pass. I want to get ahead of his legion, not run into its rearguard.”

“Good point,” the fleet captain admitted. “The Via Mala will cut at least a week, more likely two, from your voyage. If it is not snowed under.”

“We had a hard winter, meaning we are going to have a lovely summer,” Roscius said. He pointed to the open sky above. ”This weather here, if it is echoed in the mountains, means the passes are open.”

Piscius nodded. “The floods are higher than normal for this time of year,” he admitted. “You have yourself a ride.”

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

Short update this time, because the next one will be much longer.

|||||||||||||||| 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 07-02-2012 @ 03:32 AM).]

posted 07-01-12 06:45 PM EDT (US)     77 / 86       
At the time of the last comment, just this tale. However I havent got work for a few days so i will get cracking on the original tale of the saga

Dumnonii by birth, Hibernian by blood. Donnal an Fiáin, is the name my foes fear

"Always more enemies, and fewer friends. Blood gets you nothing but more blood.
It follows me now, always, like my shadow, and like my shadow I can never be free of it.
I’ve earned it. I’ve deserved it. Such is my punishment."- Logen Ninefingers, The Blade Itself
Bulba Khan
(id: stormer)
posted 07-02-12 08:07 PM EDT (US)     78 / 86       
If only I can advance time to next Monday.
posted 07-03-12 03:50 AM EDT (US)     79 / 86       
Another excellent update, Terikel, can't wait till next Sunday/Monday

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Legion Of Hell
posted 07-03-12 09:23 AM EDT (US)     80 / 86       
Cannot WAIT for the next installment because your extended chapters have been some of your greatest work.

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

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

Two high ranking British generals discussing the fortunes of two regiments after the disastrous attack at Aubers Ridge on the 9th May 1915.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 07-08-12 04:31 PM EDT (US)     81 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

The Via Mala was indeed open. It was wet, lined with slush, and had some mud splattered on its surface, but it was indeed open. And it was patrolled.

Roscius and Rutilius found this out the hard way. The party of sixty-two had disembarked near Argentorate, bought two wagons for the transport of their saddles and gear, then raced on foot the twenty miles to where Rutilius owned a horse farm. It was no trouble to cut sixty two horses from the herd and break them to the saddle- not with Batavians at hand. They lost a day, but gained mountain horses worthy of battle. A quick trip back to the town the next day saw rations and bedding arranged, and then they were off.

Shortly after their departure, they ran into a patrol of cavalry. Rutilius was in his merchant’s mail, while Roscius was in his Suevi garb. At that distance, the party looked like a warband of Germanics- and numerous enough to warrant the attention of a quarter-ala of good Greek cavalry. The Greeks came up behind the small detachment with a few turmae that had slipped around, then charged with the main force when the Germans turned at the ruckus. It would have been the end of the small band right there had it not been for the light blue pennants on the Greek lances.

“Ianias!” cried Roscius. “Halt your charge, you buggering Greek fool!”

The horsemen slowed, and at a signal from their commanding decurion, halted and lifted their lances.

“Ah, It is you, Roscoe,” said Ianias as if still in disbelief. “What brings you here along this road with such a warband of hostiles at your back?”

“Not hostiles, my friend. My escort,” the arcanus replied. “This is Marek, a merchant, and his men. I hired them to ensure I get to Mediolanium in one piece. I heard there was a bandit problem south of the Hills.”

“That is why we are here, too,” the cavalry decurion answered with a nod. “Bandits and brigands- the bane of the civilized world. And to prevent travelers from getting themselves killed on the road. The road, Roscoe, she is broken, we are told. Travelers to the south are advised to go east to the Pass of Brennus, or west through Augusta Praetoria Salassorum.”

“How does one break a road?” Dieter asked. He joined Roscius and Rutilius in discussion with the Greek officer.

Ianias shrugged. “I am no engineer. I was ordered to keep the travelers away for their own safety. This I do.”

“Who ordered this?”

“Legatus Calvus, of course,” Ianias replied with a smile. “He’s a good man. Do you know what he did once he assumed command from Clemens? He let the old man go a week away with four cohorts of the XIV Gemina, then he used the remaining six cohorts and all of us auxiliaries to sweep through the quay district of Mogo. You should have seen it, Roscoe. Those hard-asses there, the criminals? They flee like rats from a burning ship. He cleaned the place up right good- nobody gonna do to him what happened last time Clemens left the city and Catullus got himself burned up. He made the city proper!”

“So why are you here, in the middle of nowhere watching a broken road?”

“Mogo got quiet. Then the rumors start. The boys in the north- the ones who got humiliated last summer- were making noises. They are not pleased that our general got a triumph for his conquest while they did all the hard work by luring the tribes north. They made our success possible with their sacrifice, but got shit upon for it while our general goes to Rome with much booty. So they are angry men, those northern lads, and may come south to put their own buffoon upon the throne. Calvus, a loyal and good man, puts the legions in the field to stop them, if they try anything.”

“That still doesn’t tell me why you are here, and not up north keeping an eye out for movement. You are light cavalry, Ianias. Scouts. Scouts should be scouting, not playing tourist duty.”

“Public service,” Ianias said with a broad smile. “The road is broken. We try to tell people going south. There is another patrol to the south of the Hills, telling people headed north the same thing- go to the Pass of Brennus, or go over Salassorum. Besides, if the boys in the north did want to come south, I would not want to be among those who stop them. I hear their generalis- not that ape Cordinus, the other one- is very good. He dreamt up a legion out of thin air and attacked two hundred thousand Germani and won. I don’t want to face that kind of man. Neither do my boys.”

“I shall consider myself warned,” Roscius said with a solemn nod. “But no broken road is going to stop me. My guard and I are riding mountain-bred horses who need no road. No wagons, no hassle.”

Ianias shrugged. “You are an arcanus, Roscoe. You go where you want.”

Roscius thanked his Greek friend again, then led off the way. Rutilius fell in beside him, while Dieter remained to watch the Greek half-ala resume its stations along the hillside and forests. Then he rode to catch up to Rutilius.

“Two hundred thousand?” Roscius said with a laugh. “Next they will be thinking you Marius reborn.”

“Sixty five thousand,” Dieter retorted, “and we had four legions come to help. But yes, they are right to be fearful- the Batavian horses would grab those little ponies of theirs and rape them heartily while our riders strike theirs from their little square saddles.”

He faced Rutilius. “They are resuming their station,” he reported. “It looks like at least their commander thinks he was telling the truth.”

“It has begun,” Roscius said with a bitter tone of resentment. “The army is being turned against those who could stop Clemens. Just like we thought, only now we have proof. How much do you want to bet this road is not ‘broken’, nor are there any patrols in the south warning those headed north?”

“If Clemens was smart, he would burn a bridge or two,” Rutilius replied. “That would indeed ‘break’ the road. No traffic up or down, and only long roundabout ways.”

“He’d have to do a lot more than that,” Roscius corrected. “Stone does not burn. He’d have to hammer them out.”

“Interesting...” was all Rutilius has to say to that.

They climbed further into the mountains before stopping at a mansio near the top of the climb. The imperial postal station was deserted, giving testimony to the words of the Greek. While the people were gone, the supplies for the postal riders were still present. Dieter oversaw the restocking of the party’s supplies while Roscius scoured the place for clues. Rutilius watched him with a slightly scornful look.

“You know, Roscoe,” he said after watching the arcanus search through a pair of cupboards and cabinets. “This place has been deserted for no more than two weeks.”

Roscius turned and put his hands on his hips. “And when were you going to tell me this?”

Rutilius shrugged in his chair. “Not officially closed, mind you. Otherwise we would have been informed. But look about.”

“That is what I was doing,” the arcanus reminded him.

“No, you were looking in, and searching through. That is not the same. Look about you.” Then he sighed. “Listen, my wife has an exceptional memory. And she is very adept at noticing things.”

Roscius, who had been on the needle end of her noticing and remembering, agreed.

“She has been teaching me a few tricks. It is tiring, these things she does naturally, but they do work. For example, this station. No news from Rome that this is closed, right? There is an even layer of dust across the tabletops and counters, with uneven layers by the windows. The thickness is consistent with a fortnight’s accumulation. Thus this place has not been in use for two weeks.”

Roscius agreed with the assessment, now that he noticed the dust. “Okay, genius. I’ll buy that. But can you notice why the stationmaster is absent, and why no others have come through this way?”

“One cannot notice something that is not there,” Rutilius said. “But I see no blood or signs of struggle. Best guess- the stationmaster noticed traffic drying up and went down to the next station to see what was up or to order supplies. Or, having been told that ‘the road was broken’ went to Vindonissa to pass on his list of supplies. Maybe he was slain there, or died enroute, or is having a good time. Either way, he is not here.”

“And traffic from the other direction? From over the mountains?”

Rutilius shrugged. “This is not called the ‘Bad Road’ for nothing. Maybe with the fall of the Agri Decumates, the imperial post decided to go through the Pass of Brennus- it is now faster and safer than this road. With this road’s dangerous gorges and chasms, it might seem better to go another route- and safer, now that there is a road between the Pass and Argentorate.”

That made sense.

“Plus I noticed on the way in that the barn door was locked from the outside, but that a shutter over one of the windows was broken. The barn was empty.”

Roscius sagged and sank down into a chair. “This place was emptied then abandoned.”

Rutilius agreed. “Duly shut down until needed again.”

A few days later they came to a stone bridge spanning one of the deepest chasms the flatland Batavians had ever seen. Rutilius dismounted in the middle of the bridge, and motioned Roscius to do the same. Dieter and Amalric dismounted as well. Rutilius moved to the edge of the bridge and looked over the waist-high parapet keeping traffic on the road.

“See those bones down there to the right?” he asked the arcanus.

Roscius leaned over and saw some white specks below.

“Those are the bones of two mules,” Rutilius continued. “That green-grey mass beside them are the lichen-covered remains of the wagon the mules were pulling. Two men died when that wagon rolled off the bridge six years ago. Their graves are further to the right.”

Roscius leaned further over to see the gravestones. Then he got a much closer look when rough Batavian hands lifted his legs and dangled him over the edge.

“I told you before, I notice things,” Rutilius said conversationally. “And I remember, just as does my wife. I noticed in a report last winter that traffic along this route would be delayed for a week or so. That was last winter. You claim to be an arcanus who was working on the Suevii side of the river, spying. Yet you knew this bridge was stone, whereas I knew it to be wood up to at least two winters past. So tell me, Roscius. How does an arcanus working the far side of the Rhenus know about a new stone bridge in the Alps?”

Roscius was in a panic. Always leery of heights, he was now suspended above one of the deepest chasms he ever saw, and it was growing deeper by the second. His only lifeline was the hands of the barbarians holding his feet. He prayed his boots were tied tight this day. “Reporting! I came back to report to the prefect! Found him in Mediolanium. I swear by Jupiter and Wotan and whoever!”

“And then you went back to Germania to lead Titus Sabinus about?” Rutilius asked. His voice was laden with disdain. “You were in Chatti lands- that was where you saw the Chatti and Suevi moving north. So said now-Centurion Scato of the First Brittorum Auxilia Cohort when we were locked up in Vetera together. He said the legions would be on their way, because an arcanus came across and headed south. And you are familiar with Segestes, a Suevi prince who lived near the Chatti lands- far from the Agri Decumates where you were leading Sabinus. It does not make sense. So talk. And the truth please.”

“Orders,” Roscius said, gagging. His face was flushed bright red, and his eyes so wide they seemed to bulge. “From Titus himself. Find the traitor.”

Rutilius jerked his head to Dieter and Amalric. The two Batavians heaved the spy back onto the bridge, but held him fast as Rutilius disarmed him.

“You did not mention you were on imperial business,” Rutilius said reproachfully. “And with Clemens being the big hero, it must have been too easy for you to follow his direction to investigate me. He neatly side-tracked you and got you out of his hair, which in turn allowed him to complete his plans for his triumph. You were rather stupid to play into his hands-”

“You do not have to rub it in, lord,” the arcanus said, regaining his feet and his dignity. “I was played, and played well. But it took more than the words of a governor to get me onto your case. I am not that naive. And I did find that traitor- at least one of them.”

“Oh?” asked Rutilius. “Do tell. It must have been sometime between when you rode north over this stone bridge and when you joined Titus Sabinus. I can account for your whereabouts thereafter.”

“No, you cannot,” Roscius said grimly. “There are still things you do not know.”

Rutilius looked at the guard rail then again at Roscius. The meaning was clear. Roscius understood.

“I tracked the traitor to Catullus,” Roscius said, resigning himself to tell the full truth. “His name was eerily similar to that of a trading partner of mine, one who died in Mogontiacum five or six years ago. German arrow through the throat. His name was Caius Laurentius Catullus, and he was an honest merchant, as far as that goes. The postmaster in Mogontiacum is an obdurate fool who has since become corrupt as well. When he saw the letters for Laurentius Catullus, he forwarded them to Lutatius Catullus. Whether he did this intentionally or mistakenly I do not know.”

“Intentionally,” Amalric said. “Laurentius was dead, as you said. One does not forward the post to a dead man- one returns it to the sender.” To the look of surprise on the face of the arcanus, he added, “I served some time as a postal rider, back in the day when this was a wooden bridge with no railings.”

While Amalric spoke, things gelled in the mind of Rutilius. The apparent compassion shown when Burgis died, the timing of the attack, the admission that he had found the traitor- or so he had thought. The abuse of his dead friend’s name- and probably the loss of more than a few friends due to the traitor’s actions.

“You killed Catullus, didn’t you?”

Roscius nodded. “His crap killed a lot of good friends of mine. I was not about to let him escape justice by hiding behind legal walls and friends in high places. But he did not die by my knife alone- I first poisoned him with snake venom in his wine.”

“Viper venom needs to be injected, not ingested,” Dieter responded. “Drinking it does not kill.”

“Mix it with some other stuff and it can cause a hell of a stomach ache,” Roscius replied. He winked at Rutilius, “One really can learn a lot of useful stuff from the women of Germania, eh? Anyway, my intention was not to kill him. It was to interrogate him. So I slipped away from Sabinus on the pretext of checking on the road surveyors and made my way to Mogontiacum where I poisoned his wine then waited for the cramps to start.”

“And his slaves?”

“Same trick, different poison,” Roscius replied. “I dosed their food with a powder used to make their sleep very deep. Elephants could have crashed through the house and they would have slept through it, much less be awoken by the screams of their lord.”

“So his cramps started,” Rutilius said. “And then?”

“And then I offered some water, which I knew would dilute the venom for a time until the stomach absorbed the water. I used his pain as a prod, offering him water to lessen the pain if he spoke. And he did talk after a while. He named you and Helvidius as conspirators, then added two senators- Caecina and Mallius. Caecina served here- I doubt he would want his boys killed, plus he is a political exile- he gains nothing. Catullus said the plan started with a comment from him, whether it was meant as treason or not was unclear. Mallius was a nobody, a back row senator who never said a word in the senate.”

“Leaving Helvidius and me,” Rutilius concluded.

“Leaving you,” Roscius corrected. “I knew Helvidius, roundabouts. He was the patron of Burrius, who hooked me up with Laurentius Catullus, another client of Helvidius. Helvidius had contact with Laurentius, but it was always pure business. The man was a republican who wanted to restore the republic, but he was not a miserly man, nor a thug. He wanted to do it honorably- through the senate. Laurentius and I had a good thing going here until the Batavian Revolt. Then it all came crashing down- our entire set-up was gone, our company killed off one by one. Accidents, battle, siege. In the end, only Sollus and I were left- and we became arcani when post riding became tedious and boring. So when Catullus thought he was dying and named you, I figured he was not lying. That made it easy to believe the words of the big hero Clemens- you were dirty. So I investigated.”

“But first you killed Catullus.”

“But first I killed Catullus,” Roscius repeated. “He admitted to treason; I merely saved Rome the expense and embarrassment of a trial.”

“And you would have done the same to me,” Rutilius added.

“Had I found anything, yes,” Roscius admitted. “But you were clean. Catullus broke a cardinal principle of questioning under my poison- that dying men do not lie.”

“Horseshit,” laughed Rutilius and Dieter together. “Dying men will say what you want to hear, or whatever they think will end the pain.”

Roscius grimaced. “I didn’t think of that before. I asked for names, he gave me names. I assumed he was telling the truth, based on that saying.”

“He incriminated me because I had thwarted his plans, twice now,” Rutilius replied. “How better to rid his friends of my presence than to denounce me in such a situation to an imperial agent? You bought it. So would others.”

“Makes sense,” Roscius said. “And when Clemens confirmed the allegation, I believed it. Two sources saying the same. Is that not what you do, Rutilius? Hear, confirm, then act?”

Rutilius smiled and handed Roscius back his weapons. “Mostly,” he said. “Sometimes one simply has to act.”

Roscius belted on his sword. “Like just now?” He gestured to the bones below.

“No,” Rutilius replied evenly. “That was hear, confirm, act. I heard your tale and found the holes, confirmed that you were dirty, and acted to find out how. You came out clean.”

“I murdered a serving magistrate,” Roscius said. “You know that now. Keeping it a secret makes you as much a felon as me now.”

“You stepped on a cockroach,” Rutilius said with a wolfish grin. “And did Rome a service. I am going to kill Gnaeus Cornelius Pinarius Clemens with the very dagger that took the life of my beloved wife, a personal vendetta. So we are both felons. Now we do Rome another service, while she is yet the city we both love. Let us ride.”

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

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 07-09-12 09:00 AM EDT (US)     82 / 86       
Good to see Rosicus and Rutillus make up.

I wonder if they can save Rome from Clemens in time!

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.
posted 07-09-12 05:46 PM EDT (US)     83 / 86       
I was really pleased when Rutilius almost had Roscius murdered... I love sudden twists... Another amazing chapter, Terikel. Keep it up

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
Terikel Grayhair
(id: Terikel706)
posted 07-12-12 04:07 PM EDT (US)     84 / 86       
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

It was a busy day in the Forum Romanum. Today was the third market of the month for the Forum, and both slaves and free citizens were thronging to it with the last of the rain disappearing up into the hills beyond. Among those coming to select the choicest of foods and items was a small Attic woman with chiseled features and unusually pale hair. Her complexion beneath was so white that one could mistake her for an albino, but the brown of her eyes dispelled that notion quickly, leaving men thinking her more a witch than and slave. After the initial assessment, most men left her alone and avoided looking at her lest she curse them with some awful ailment, which was why she was often chosen to do the shoppings.

Calliope stopped at her usual place after acquiring the items her master’s cook ordered, and surveyed the crowd. She loved market days, where she could spend the pittance her master allowed her own what she wanted. Not many slaves were chosen to leave the house, but she was always one of them. She reached up to stretch her aching muscles before picking up her load and moving back up towards the Aventine. None noticed that the small wooden booklet that had been in her palm was no longer there. Or at least so she thought.

Tuvio noticed. He had begun crossing the market to where the witch was standing the second she raised her weary arms to stretch. He had his attention riveted on the spot, thus did not see the feet before him which suddenly lunged from the mass of the crowd surrounding him. He tripped and fell, then bounced up with fire in his eyes as he sought out the fool who would so deliberately rouse his rage.

He saw nothing but a crowd parting and a fleet-footed thief running hurriedly toward the Quirinal. Obviously the culprit. Tuvio set out at a run to teach the fool a lesson he shall not soon forget.

Behind him, Potius watched Calliope turn and start heading toward the Aventine. He watched as she disappeared from view, then turned his gaze to the rostrum where one of his fellows stood. The man began to scratch his knee as if bitten by a mosquito, which was the signal that Potius may move unhindered. He did.

The eaves had a little shelf built into them to hold the tiles in their place. Upon this little shelf his fingers found a small tablet. He scooped it up and disappeared into the alleys behind the store. There he noticed the outside was plain and the seal on the clasp. He laughed, and with his knife cut the seal from its place.

Inside was a short summary of several men. He recognized the names as prominent ones, as well as what they were doing and when they would be closing deals. Typical merchant drivel- hardly worth killing over, yet Mephis had done exactly that. He studied the names quickly, and what details he could before pressing the backside of the seal to the roof-tile above. The stone had been baking all morning; it was more than hot enough to melt some of the wax seal. Potius pressed it quickly to the tablet, completing the resealing and hurried to put the thing back before Tuvio had caught the lad he was chasing. He hoped Irianus was as fast on his feet and he was with them.

The lookout on the rostrum was now lounging against one of the ship’s beaks. All clear was the signal. Potius returned the tablet to its hiding place and eased through the crowd.

“Sextus Nomillus will be closing a deal with Publius Cottius of Napoli the day after tomorrow,” Potius recounted, remembering verbatim the first paragraph of the tablet. “They will be meeting in Tarracina, just down the road form here, where Nomillus will hand over the price of his purchase.”

“Was there anything else?” Caecina asked his slave.

“Another entry spoke of Stilius Nobilis, and another of Aurelius Fulvus. Something about an update. Oh,” the ex-gladiator remembered, “and it was sealed. A feeding dolphin.”

Caecina sat back, pleased. Gotcha! “It was a shame you did not simply steal the thing,” he said. “I would have liked to have that as evidence.”

“Begging my lord’s pardon, but no you would not want it,” Potius said. He had figured it out, just as his lord had, but took it a step further. “If you had it, then the information would only be useful to another merchant prince. If they have it, and you know, you can see what senator Mallius does with the information. It is like eavesdropping, or reading his post- you will know what he knows, but without him knowing.”

Caecina smiled. A plan began to form, using the gleaned information. “You have done extremely well, Potius. We will indeed read this nefarious post, preferably without the knowledge of those involved. Make it happen.”

Potius bowed, waiting patiently despite the implied dismissal. He was not disappointed.

“I am to have a visitor tonight,” Caecina announced, “but I will be too busy with these revelations to entertain her properly. If you would like, you may entertain her in my stead. Consider a treat for a job thoroughly well done.”

Potius beamed. Tonight it would be Fannia, his favorite. His good luck just kept on coming…

A few hours later, Caecina barely heard his slave driving Fannia into new heights of pleasure as he sorted through his desk yet one more time. Buckets lay strewn about, their contents splayed across the oaken surface of his table and across the mosaic of his floor. It has to be here! As Fannia reached her climax, so did Caecina. He pulled the elusive scroll from under the cabinet where it had rolled and opened it. There, at the bottom, were two seals. One was a feeding dolphin, the other an official Bull signet, but both belonged to the same man. Caecina himself had seen the second added to the first while the man himself confirmed both were his.

I have your rotten ass now, he thought triumphantly. Finally, you made a mistake!

It was well worth the price of missing out on Fannia’s fantastic figure, for the pleasure the scroll will give will last far longer any anything Fannia could deliver.

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

After the chasm, the road started tipping downhill. A day later, they came to another mansio, likewise abandoned. But the next day, they came to a third- and this one was occupied.

Rutilius gestured to Roscius to lead the way, then followed him with a squad of Batavians. He let Roscius do the talking, in case he needed to be ‘Marek the Merchant’ instead of Rutilius the quaestor. As it was, his identity did not matter. The five men in the small common room were being served by a sixth when the travelers entered.

“Head back south,” said the man serving the food to his colleagues. “The road is closed.”

“No it ain’t,” Roscius replied. “I and my party here just came over it.”

“You came here from the north?” asked one of the seated men. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the gloom, Roscius could make out the clothing of the men. These were the station-keepers of the abandoned mansios.

“He’s smart,” Roscius said to Rutilius. He faced the men again. “Imperial agent Gaius Roscius. My escort and I are headed to Rome. A detachment of cavalry told us the road was closed. Broken, their officer put it. But it was just fine.”

“I was ordered to close up shop and spread the word south,” said one of the seated men, now rising. “An imperial agent told me the roadbed had been wiped away in an avalanche of mud with the spring thaw. He would send word when the legionaries had repaired it.”

Roscius fished out a metal plaque. “Did he show you one of these?”

The station keeper shook his head. “He had a signed warrant from the governor, just as good.”

“You have been lied to. The road is fine- just patrolled by cavalry. With your abandoning the way-stations, the road was effectively closed- except to those who had their own supplies and shelter. Congratulations, you helped isolate Germania Superior from Rome. Worse- vice versa!”

“The legionaries who would repair the road are on their way to Rome now,” Rutilius added. “I take it they did not pass through here?”

The men shook their heads.

“They went over the Pass of Brennus,” Rutilius said with a sigh of relief. “We might catch them yet.”

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Here ends Part IX.

I will be away aviking for the next market interval, and thus will be offline Sunday and Monday. So I leafve you all with an early present.

The Eagle and the Wolf will resume in approximately one month, with Part X.

|||||||||||||||| 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
posted 07-13-12 02:41 PM EDT (US)     85 / 86       
Thank you for the present. I await Part X with relish!

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.
posted 07-14-12 06:49 PM EDT (US)     86 / 86       
A very nice finale for this part, Terikel. Looking forward to the next one. BTW, good luck raiding the local market...

Invincibility lies in defence, while the possibility of victory in the attack -Sun Tzu
Akouson me, pataxon de (hit me, but first listen to me)-Themistocles to Euribiadis prior to the battle of Salamis.
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