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Sisiutil
Oct 16, 2006, 11:30 PM
Princes of the Universe, Part I

Table of Contents

Foreword (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#1)
Prologue (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#2)
Chapter 1: Fighting for Survival (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#3)
Chapter 2: The Brothers (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#7)
Chapter 3: First Contact (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#10)
Chapter 4: The Flight of the Dragon Clan (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#14)
Chapter 5: Render Unto God What is God's (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=1#19)
Chapter 6: First and Foremost (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=2#22)
Chapter 7: The Sun Also Sets (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=2#30)
Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 1 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=3#49)
Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 2 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=4#61)
Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 3 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=4#62)
Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 1 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=5#81)
Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 2 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=5#82)
Chapter 10: Good Queen Bess (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=5#94)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 1 - The Kong Miao (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=5#100)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 2 - Defending the Faith (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=7#121)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 3 - Crying Havok (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=7#130)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 4 - Claudia (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=8#144)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 5 - Summon Up the Blood (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=8#148)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 6 - The Battle of Tlatelolco (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=8#158)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 7 - Corona (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=9#174)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 8 - Comrades in Arms (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=9#179)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 9 - Within the Gates of Tenochtitlan (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=10#200)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 10 - Brothers and Sisters of the Faith (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=11#213)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 11 - To the Victors (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=13#244)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 12 - Anarchy (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=13#253)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 13 - Order (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=14#267)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 14 - First Business (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=14#280)
Chapter 11: Noble Men, Epilogue - On Nobility (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=15#281)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 1 - The Pitch (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=16#305)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 2 - A Passage to Mongolia (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=17#325)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 3 - Bearing Gifts for the Greeks (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=18#358)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 4 - The Incident at Argos (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=22#431)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 5 - The Chimes at Midnight (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=23#454)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 6 - This Other Eden (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=23#460)
Chapter 12: The Merchant, Epilogue (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=24#461)
Chapter 13: The Golden Age (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=189649&page=25#492)
Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 1 - Shortcomings (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6104570&page=33#646)
Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 2 - Family Honour (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6118242&page=34#673)
Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 3 - The Games of Boys (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6138142&page=36#706)
Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 4 - Weapons Check (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6174189&page=38#743)
Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 5 - The Games of Nations (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6185184&page=38#759)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 1 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6289502&page=41#809)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 2 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6306811&page=42#830)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 3 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6433540&page=44#874)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 4 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6482079&page=45#898)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 5 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6666114&page=49#968)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 6 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6962302&page=52#1032)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 7 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=6984212&page=53#1050)
Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 8 (Conclusion) (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=7084810&page=55#1094)

Due to size limitations, this thread has been locked. The remaining stories are in a new thread--which is where the links below now lead.

Princes of the Universe, Part II (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=7688141)

Chapter 16: Scipio's Sabre, Part 1 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=7688169&page=1#2)
Chapter 16: Scipio's Sabre, Part 2 (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?p=7688211&page=1#3)


Foreword

It’s been a running joke in the Civilization community. For a game that tries to include as many real-life historical elements as possible, one of the most unrealistic is the use of seemingly-immortal leaders who run their respective civilizations for 6000 years or thereabouts. After all, the real-life leaders represented in the game are all the more remarkable for the fact that they led brief lives like the rest of us—some briefer than others—yet still managed to create a lasting impression, for better or for worse, that has lived on for centuries after they died.

Still, Civilization is a game of what-ifs. What if Spain and the Aztecs had started as neighbours? What if Alexander the Great had been peaceful and devoted to diplomacy, or culture? What if Genghis Khan had possessed tanks?

And… what if the great leaders of history truly had been immortal?

There are, of course, several fictional worlds where immortals do exist. One of my favourites has always been the Highlander universe, especially that of the first movie and the TV series. In case you’re not familiar with Highlander, in that fictional universe, a small number of people in the world are, mysteriously, immortal. Their immortality manifests if and when they die an untimely, violent death. They cannot be killed, unless you sever their heads from their necks. An immortal who does that to another one then takes his opponent’s skill and knowledge—called “the Quickening”. The immortals hide their true nature from humanity, but cannot do so from one another—they have a sort of sixth sense about that. Thus, they live through the centuries and periodically fight one another with swords. Eventually, only one immortal will remain; and he or she, who survives all the battles through the millennia, will claim the Prize—whatever it is.

Now for the what-if, which is probably pretty obvious to you at this point. What if the leaders in Civilization were immortal in this same way? And, just to get one complication out of the way, what if their immortality was an open fact and largely accepted instead of hidden?

(I have tweaked this and a few other items from the Highlander canon to better serve the story. I have done the same with people and events from world history. I hope this does not detract from the story, especially for fellow history buffs and Highlander fans.)

Based on this idea, I decided to play through a game of Civilization IV, capture appropriate screenshots, and turn it into a story to share here. The game was played on a continents map at epic speed. I played a custom game at Prince difficulty level, because I had a rough story in mind and wanted leaders and civilizations which I hoped would lend themselves to it. In addition, I turned off all victory conditions except the one that made the most sense in order to emulate the Highlander universe: Conquest. Complete elimination of all rivals was the only way to victory, because, of course, in the end, there can be only one. An avowed Romaphile, I played as Caesar.

I should acknowledge, before I go any further, the obvious inspiration of Helmling and his Philosopher Kings (http://forums.civfanatics.com/showthread.php?t=160928) series. I am not trying to compete with him; rather, I hope to complement him. I’ve tried to take a very different approach in the story in order to avoid it being too derivative. In particular, The Philosopher Kings were very peaceful; the Romans, as you might expect, are not. Helmling, thank you for your example and inspiration. Dude, you seriously rock.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0001.jpg

Sisiutil
Oct 17, 2006, 04:27 PM
Prologue

He was trying to decide if he was dreaming or not.

Since he was obviously not awake, he must be asleep. Therefore he must be dreaming.

But it did not feel like dreaming, nor like sleep. No, this felt entirely different.
There had been pain, he remembered that. A great deal of pain, even if it had come upon him suddenly. Then blackness. And now, this strange state—not dreaming, not awake. Not alive, nor dead either? He couldn’t be sure.

Then, starting at the very edge of what passed for his consciousness, it began. He barely noticed it at first; it was like a whisper heard from a distance. But his attention was drawn to it, and he listened intently, until the voice was clear and accompanied by flashing images, startling in their vibrancy, surprising in their content… and in their implications, nothing short of astonishing.

It was then he realized that he was having a vision.

The vision finished imparting its secrets and then ended. Blackness again overwhelmed him. But then he began a slow climb out of the darkness, as though he were swimming upwards from the bottom of a lake, towards consciousness, towards light and life, towards joy and pain. And he remembered everything, and as a result, knew that the vision--and what it had imparted--was true.

Sisiutil
Oct 19, 2006, 08:21 PM
Chapter One: Fighting for Survival

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0004.jpg

Brutus was enjoying himself immensely.

This day had been a long time in coming, and now that it had finally arrived, he intended to grab it lustily with both hands and suck all the juice and marrow from it that he could. By the ancient laws of their nomadic tribe, he had seized the position of Chief, and the power that came with it. His word was law; his wishes, commands.

Oh, there were supposed to be limits on his power—tacitly understood rules his predecessors had obeyed and no doubt created. He would have none of that. He was the greatest Chief his people had ever known; he knew it even if they did not yet. A few petty rules were not going to limit his actions, nor his appetites.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0002.jpg

“More fish!” Brutus shouted, and more than one of the tribe’s women jumped to her feet and went to the fire pit to obtain more of the roasted river trout for him. He liked that, how they jumped in response to his demands.

One young woman did not jump when he bellowed, however. This did not surprise him. He watched her surreptitiously, out of the corner of his eye.
She was tall and slender, her raven-black hair pulled back and tied so it hung down her back. Her arms were crossed beneath her breasts, and she was clearly watching him with undisguised contempt. She sat at the edge of the circle, the central fire’s flames flickering and highlighting her features: high cheekbones, dark eyes, and sensuous lips. Her long deer skin tunic was decorated with the colourful stones the tribe had learned to mine from the hills they encountered on their travels.

Ravenna. Julius’ stepdaughter. One of the most beautiful women in this tribe or any other, Brutus thought. And taking her, as was his right, would be the final step in claiming the position that, since he was a boy, he had known would one day be his.

Brutus finished his fish and spat out a few bones. He wiped the juice from his lips and chin with his forearm, then stood up. He stretched. Many eyes around the fire watched him, several in adoration. He was magnificent, he knew. He was tall and muscular, and if his body sported a few scars from his encounters with lions or bears, they did not detract from his looks. In fact, he liked to think the battle scars enhanced his appeal. Men admired him and women desired him. Not without exception, of course; but he intended to deal with one of those exceptions immediately.

“I’ve had my fill,” he declared. “Of food. Now I need a woman.”

There as some uncertain, uncomfortable stirring amongst the tribe at this. The new chief’s intention, and desire, was clear. But things didn’t work that way…

“May I ask,” a female voice said, “what exactly you mean, oh Chief?”

Brutus turned towards the source of the voice: Sevilla, the tribe’s druid. The old woman had stood up from her seat near the cooking fire. She held her thin, small body upright with great dignity. It was quite a visual contrast: the young, powerful frame of the new chief, and the tiny one of the aged holy woman. Yet it was unclear, at this point, which of them was more powerful.

Brutus glowered at the old woman, though her interruption was not entirely unexpected. “I should think that is obvious. I have an itch, and I want it scratched.”

Some of the young men sitting behind him, his followers, guffawed. Brutus turned and smiled at them.

“You wish to take a mate?” Sevilla said, ignoring the crudity of his remark. “Very well. The rituals will be performed, and a woman will be…”

“NO,” Brutus interrupted her. The silence was heavy around the fire now. No one dared interrupt a druid, let alone contradict one. Their wrath, once earned, was implacable, the consequences dire.

Brutus, however, considered their rituals, divinings, and curses to be mere superstition, and had long ago decided that one of his first actions as chief would be to reduce the druids’ influence over his people.

“There will be no ritual that takes days to perform, no interference in my selection, and no vows of devotion,” he said. “I do not want a mate, old woman. I want my bed warmed. By her.”

He pointed to Ravenna.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0003.jpg

The young woman sprang to her feet, her face changing from an expression of contempt to one of fury. “I will do no such thing!” she said angrily. “You are no Chief, you are a barbarian!”

“I have claimed the position of Chief by the ancient laws of our tribe!” Brutus retorted in an angry bellow. His big, powerful frame stalked towards her. “My word is law! You will do as I say, woman!”

“Murderer!” she cried, and spat in his face.

Brutus paused to wipe the spittle from his cheek. The tribe was utterly silent now. He paused a moment to allow a bemused grunt to escape his lips. Then he lashed out and backhanded Ravenna across the face, sending the slender young woman spinning backwards until she fell to the ground. Before she could push herself up, he reached down and grabbed firm hold of her hair and raised her to her feet.

“Your stepfather is dead,” he hissed at her. “You have no protector now. You are mine.”

“You are wrong on all three counts, Brutus,” a calm, dignified voice proclaimed.

All eyes turned towards the speaker. As one, the tribe gasped. Some of them screamed. Even Brutus’ eyes went wide, and he released his grip on Ravenna. She stumbled away from him, just as astonished as the rest of her tribe at the sight before them.

He was tall, and, by the tribe’s standards, old, though barely past his forty-fifth year. His body was slender—sinewy, deceptively hiding his strength. His face was somewhat gaunt, his blue eyes alight with shrewd intelligence. His hair—what was left of it, for he was balding—was short and silver-grey. He had always seemed, to the tribe he had led for so many years, to resemble an eagle—utterly calm and dignified until stirred to action, then swift and decisive. Or so it had been until earlier that day, when Brutus had challenged him for the position of Chief in ritual combat, then killed him.

The old Chief was dead. So they all had seen, and so they had all thought. But here he stood before them, looking, if anything, more hale and hearty than he had for many years.

“Julius?” Brutus was the first to recover his voice, even if it was only a hoarse, disbelieving whisper. “But…but I…”

“Killed me, and assumed the position of Chief in my stead,” Julius. “But as you can see, your claim is nullified. I am alive.”

“That’s not possible!!” Brutus sputtered.

“Do you not believe your own eyes?” Julius said, spreading his arms wide. “I stand before you, alive and well.” He took a step forward and smiled gently at his stepdaughter. Her dark eyes, he could see, were welling up with tears. Then his eyes narrowed, became icy. He focused his gaze on his rival. “It takes a great deal more than a pretender like you to kill me, boy. Now be a good lad and fetch me some of that fish, if you haven’t been a glutton and eaten it all. I’m famished.”

Brutus’ lips peeled back from his teeth in an angry grimace. “If I have to do it a hundred times, I will kill you, old man!!” With that, he roared angrily and rushed at Julius.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0005.jpg

The older man calmly took a step back while his right hand reached towards the belt that fastened his tunic of animal skin about his waist. When Brutus reached him, he pivoted backwards to his left and brought his right hand forward, slamming it into his opponent’s chest.

Brutus stopped his headlong rush. His eyes went wide in confusion, then surprise. He stepped back from Julius and stared at his broad, muscular chest. The handle of a knife, carved from obsidian, protruded from the skin over the left side of his upper chest. Blood was spilling from the knife’s wound, which had punctured his heart.

He stared at Julius in stunned amazement. Earlier that day, the old man had moved so hesitantly, his body slowed by the ravages of age and the damage of many battles against men and beast alike. But he had moved so swiftly just now, like the Julius of old…

It was the last thing Brutus ever thought. He tried to say something, but only blood spilled from his lips. His eyes found Julius’, and he stared into those cold, icy blue eyes until his own clouded over, then rolled upwards. His knees gave out, and the big man fell to the ground, quite dead. The coterie of young men who had admired and followed him stared at his corpse in shock, then glanced at one another, uncertain as to what they should do, if anything.

“Well, that’s done,” Julius declared calmly. “If anyone else would care to oblige, I’m still quite hungry.”

“Father!!” Ravenna cried, and ran forward, wrapping a bemused Julius in her arms as she wept uncontrollably. The rest of the tribe could only stare in shock and disbelief.

It was Sevilla who found her voice first, which was no surprise to Julius. “Julius, I…” The old woman paused to cough the catch out of her voice, and to blink away tears. “How is this possible? We saw you die!”

“I did,” Julius responded simply. He gently pushed himself out of Ravenna’s embrace, though he kept one arm around her shoulders for affection and comfort.

He turned to his people and addressed them as he often had at tribal councils. He could see the fear in their eyes, the uncertainty that threatened to turn to rejection and anger in a heartbeat. His many years of experience as their Chief, and his own instincts, told him that now was a critical moment, perhaps the most critical of his life. He now knew that life, if the vision was correct, would span many years—centuries, even—still to come. He took a deep breath and spoke, and if he was awed by how much depended upon his next few words, he did not show it.

“My friends,” he began, “I see the fear in your eyes. Fear of me. And I understand. For how can a man, slain in ritual combat before your very eyes, now stand before you? How can this body, so mortally wounded earlier today, now appear so healthy and whole?”

At that, the removed his arm from Ravenna’s shoulders and pulled open his tunic, exposing his chest. The tribe gasped yet again; the mortal wound Brutus had inflicted upon him earlier that day had healed completely.

“I do not pretend to understand it myself,” Julius confessed. “But here I stand before you, returned from the dead. There can be only one reason why.” He paused for effect.

“What, Julius?” Sevilla begged him, her head of long, silver tresses still shaking in disbelief. “What reason?”

“As I lay there, neither dead nor alive, I visited the spirit realm,” he said, his voice sonorous now, its tone imparting the weight of his words. “I have experienced a vision. I have seen the future. I know now the destiny of our tribe; I have seen what we must do, what we must achieve. And I have been sent back, returned to life, in order to guide us to that destiny.”

The crowd was silent for a moment, taking in his words, clearly awestruck. Could it be? Their tribe had a great destiny to fulfill, and thus their greatest Chief had been returned from the dead to lead them to it? It still seemed impossible, but it made a strange, astonishing sense. They were all now wondering the same thing.

“What is this destiny you speak of, father?” Ravenna asked from where she stood beside him.

Julius smiled at her gently. He then glanced at the crowd. The fear was still there in their eyes. It probably always would be, for he was not like them, not anymore. He was immortal, and would outlive them all, even his beloved stepdaughter. Yes, men would fear him for that, but he could use it. Not all fear was evil.

But now, thanks to his words, he saw something else besides fear. In the faces of his people, of those he had come to know so well, he saw it, and he knew he had them.

He saw hope.

He took a breath and spoke to them. They appeared uncertain at first, still shaken by his alarming return from the land of the dead. But by the end, they were convinced—no, inspired.

Even the young men who had thrown in with Brutus were staring at Julius reverently, the body of their erstwhile leader all but forgotten where it lay on the cold ground. Julius glanced at them appraisingly. All they had needed was a purpose, these young men, something greater than the daily struggle for food, and now they had it. A pity he hadn’t seen it before. The conflict with Brutus might have been avoided. But then, would his immortality and his destiny have been made manifest?

No. Everything had happened for a reason. Brutus would be buried with the proper rituals and respect. His former followers, and those that followed them, would prove useful—vital, in fact. Their numbers would swell and grow, until they were legion. Hmm, Julius thought, Legions…

“We start tomorrow,” he said. “We will go from this place and find another, a better place that will become our home. We will wander no more. In this place we shall settle. There we shall start to build, and grow, and prosper. There, we shall begin to build…our civilization.”

carl corey
Oct 24, 2006, 04:07 AM
Hehe, I totally thought you'd use Brutus as the hero at first. But then it became pretty clear that nobody would want him as a leader and... I really should have seen it coming! :D Julius forever!

Good theme and good start. Can't wait for more. :)

TheArchduke
Oct 27, 2006, 12:13 AM
Nice story, I definetly follow.

But how about a screenie of the start position, too?:)

Fetch
Oct 27, 2006, 08:10 AM
This is going to be great. I can't wait for more.

Sisiutil
Oct 27, 2006, 09:10 PM
Chapter Two: The Brothers

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes_0006.jpg

“It is not.”

“It is TOO!!”

“IS.”

“ISN”T!!”

Julius sighed heavily as he listened to this, the latest in a series of very loud and seemingly pointless arguments.

The tribe was on the move, seeking the best place for a permanent settlement. Several locations which they had previously used in their travels had been considered, discussed, and passed over.

The tribe had been nomadic up until now, and thus had regarded any place they spent time as temporary. If it became uncomfortable, or unproductive, or even dangerous, they had simply moved on. Thus, each location they had used in the past had been rejected. This one became uncomfortably hot in the summer, that one exposed to bitterly cold winds in winter, this one was too close to a bears’ den when they emerged from hibernation in the spring, that one made people sick if you stayed there too long…

Now it was mid-afternoon, the sun was high and hot overhead, and the tribe was becoming tired and irritable. And to make things worse, Romulus and Remus would not stop fighting.

The twins, boys now ten years old, had always fought, it seemed. Based on the difficulty of her pregnancy, their mother contended that they’d started fighting in the womb and had not stopped since. It probably didn’t help that, as twins, many in the tribe treated them as though they were one person; thus the boys felt obliged to make it clear how different they were. The tribe often tolerated their squabbling, however. All because of the incident with the wolf.

While they were still toddlers, one day, the boys had simply vanished. Their mother had turned around for just a moment, and when she’d turned back, they were gone.

After two days of frantic searching, they’d been found. Their stunned rescuers had found the twins being protected and, astonishingly, nursed by a she-wolf. It had taken more than a little coaxing to get the boys back from their growling, adoptive animal mother. Sevilla, the tribe’s druid, maintained this was a sign that the boys were destined for great things.

It seemed as though their sole destiny at the moment, however, was great arguments over the most inane matters.

“You’re wrong,” Romulus said, his voice supremely calm and confident—smug, even, probably calculatedly so, just to irritate his brother.

“No I’m NOT!!” Remus insisted, more the slave of his emotions than his brother.
Remus gave Romulus a two-handed shove. Romulus frowned and pushed back. Then the two dark-haired boys growled and lunged for one another.

Julius had had enough. With astonishing speed, he turned around, marched towards them, and grabbed both boys painfully by their ears just as they began to grapple with one another. Romulus and Remus stopped fighting and howled in pain.

“That is enough, you two,” Julius said firmly.

“But he said…” Remus began, but Julius tugged his ear painfully and cut him off.

“I do not care what he said, or what idiotic thing you’re arguing about this time,” Julius said. “It’s been a long day and it’s barely more than half over. We are all tired and irritable and you two are not helping!”

His voice had risen as he spoke. The tribe grew silent, and the twins stopped struggling and arguing. Julius rarely gave in to anger, but on the few occasions that he did, his wrath was a terrible thing to behold. No one, including the impetuous twins, wanted to provoke him.

Julius sighed and released their ears. He turned and glanced towards the horizon. He could just see the tall, strong figures of the tribe’s young men further ahead, alongside a lake. They were scouting ahead, looking for other locations for settlement, as well as for danger, and stayed close enough to run back and protect the others if necessary. They wore only kilts of animal skin, and carried long, heavy clubs for protection.

The tribe’s chief glanced from these older boys to the two younger ones. He had given the tribe’s garrulous young men this purpose of being the tribe’s protectors, their warriors. They had taken to it eagerly. It occurred to him that Romulus and Remus would benefit from being given a purpose as well—something to do, something to preoccupy them so they wouldn’t quarrel.
“Listen up, you two,” he said in a gentler tone. “We are doing something very important. We are trying to find a place to settle permanently, not just for the rest of our lives, but for many generations. I need you to help us,” he said solemnly.

The boys’ eyes brightened. Their Chief, the man who could not be killed, had a task for them!

“How?” they said, almost in unison. “How can we help?” they asked eagerly.
Julius smiled. “As you may have noticed, we’re having trouble finding the right location. I want you two to run over to the lake shore where the older boys are,” he said, pointing to the tribe’s Warriors. “Once you’re there, have a good look around. Then come back and tell me what you think the best location for our first settlement would be.”

Remus smiled enthusiastically and was about to head off at a run, but stopped short when his brother, more calculating, asked, “What do we get?”

“I beg your pardon?” Julius said, frowning.

“If I come back saying we should go to one place,” Romulus explained, “and Remus says we should go to another, what does the winner get?”

Julius smiled. Of course. Everything was a contest to these two. And it was very likely, knowing the twins, that they would come back with two different recommendations. Very well, Julius decided. What could he offer them? He considered it a moment, and then the answer was obvious.

“Why, we’ll name the settlement after the winner, of course,” he said.

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The boys’ mouths dropped open in astonishment. What an honor! The tribe’s descendants would remember them—well, one of them—forever! With a competitive glance at one another, they took off and sprinted towards the lakeside. Julius chuckled as he watched them run.

“Thank you, Julius,” a female voice said. The Chief turned and glanced at Aurelia, the boys’ mother. She was a handsome woman, her dark hair worn short, her figure, beneath her tunic, pleasing. Julius smiled at her and nodded. “I never know what to do with them. Ever since their father…” Her voice trailed off sadly.

Julius’ face grew more serious and he nodded again in understanding. The boys’ father, Aeneas, had been their best hunter, fisherman, and protector. Two years before, a lion had ventured into their camp, seemingly intent on slaughter. Aeneas had taken on the beast single-handed and killed it. But he had been mortally wounded in the process. The tribe had gained a hero, but the boys had lost a father.

Aeneas’ brother, Aeolus, had tried to step in and be a father to his nephews, but even he would be the first to acknowledge that he could not compete with the memory of their father. Even after only a few short years, his deeds grew in the telling. Julius well remembered that there had been only one lion, and it was likely old, or sick, or both, to have risked wandering into a human settlement. Prey animals usually kept their distance from large groups of humans. But over time, as the tale was told and retold around the nightly campfires, the lion grew in size, ferocity, and number, until it was common to hear of Aeneas slaughtering an entire pride before succumbing to his wounds.

Aeolus walked alongside Aurelia. Julius glanced at him. He wondered why Aeolus had never taken a mate, especially once Aurelia had been widowed. Perhaps the man, with his stooped shoulders and wearied expression, did not consider himself attractive. Or perhaps, Julius surmised, it was one more area in which he did not wish to compete with his deceased younger brother. He was a good man, but he lacked…purpose. Yes, that was it, the key to it all, wasn’t it?

“Young men need a purpose,” Julius said, almost to himself. He frowned thoughtfully and turned to Aurelia. “Women always seem to be able to adapt to the world the way it is. Men want to make it better.”

Aurelia smiled. “Like what you’re doing with us now?” she said.

Julius smiled back at her. “I suppose,” he said. Then, more firmly, “Yes, Aurelia—there is a better way. I’ve seen it. You will too, or at least its first signs, before your lifetime is over.”

Aurelia frowned a little. The way the Chief said the words—it was as though he expected to outlive her. Yet he was nearly twice her age. Then again, he had cheated death, so perhaps he would continue to do so. She thought about all this, but said nothing.

The tribe moved forward, towards the lake. Julius could see the smaller figures of Romulus and Remus on its shore, beside the taller, stouter young men, looking this way and that, pointing and, no doubt, arguing. The tribe reached a forested area and paused to rest in the shade. The twins had vanished from the lakeside, and so had some of the older boys. Julius surmised that the twins had run off to examine their chosen locations, and some of the warriors had gone with them for protection.

A short time later, Romulus and Remus, each accompanied by several warriors, came back from different directions to where the tribe was resting. The boys ran up to the Chief excitedly.

“I’ve found where we should settle!” Romulus declared.

“No, I have!” countered Remus. His brother glared at him.

“Sit down, everyone,” Julius said to the boys and the warriors accompanying them. “I will listen to your reasons for each location in turn. Remus, you go first.”

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Delighted, Remus crossed his arms and looked at Julius confidently. “Over there, Julius,” Remus said, pointing to the northwest. “We should settle over there, on that hill on the other side of the lake. Marius,” Remus said, gesturing towards one man, “once told me that hills contain the best materials that we know how to draw from the earth. But that’s not all. When we approached it, we could smell salt on the air. So it’s near the ocean! We could fish there. We’ve seen other tribes who know how to make things—boats—that float on the water. We could learn to do that, and maybe we could use those boats to explore the coast!”

“I daresay we could,” Julius said. “I commend you, Remus. Your reasoning is sound. We could, indeed, settle upon the hill, near the ocean.”

Remus looked extraordinarily pleased with himself. He glanced at his brother, a smug expression on his face indicating that he clearly thought he’d already won.

Julius turned to Romulus. “Now, my lad,” he said, “what about you? Where do you think our settlement should be?”

“Right where you’re sitting, Julius,” Romulus said.

Julius’ icy blue eyes narrowed. “Really?” he said. “In the midst of all these woods? Forests hide wild animals, as you well know, Romulus. And we are too far from the seashore here to make working it feasible.”

“That is true,” Romulus said, “but the woods could be used to build things, couldn’t they? And we’ve seen that animals tend to stay away from more permanent settlements. There’s also the lake nearby to supply us with water, and remember that marsh we passed? Amelia,” he said, indicating one of the tribe’s women, “told me there’s an edible grain that grows there. If we're going to found a great city, we need to feed all the people who live there, won't we?"

"Indeed we shall," Julius agreed.

"And there’s one other thing…” Romulus added.

“What’s that?” Julius asked.

Romulus smiled. “Use your nose.”

Julius frowned for a moment, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath. What was the boy referring to… Ah. There. It was faint, but he caught the scent in a light breeze from the west.

“You smell it, don’t you?” Romulus said.

“Smell what?” Remus asked, a little dismissively.

“Spices,” Julius replied, though still dubious. “Very nice, but not nutritional, and difficult to harvest…”

“You’re not thinking ahead, Julius,” Romulus admonished him. “I’m sure we could learn, in time, how to harvest them properly. And whether something is practical or not doesn’t always determine its value. Spices make food taste better and yes, they smell nice, so people like them… value them. I’ll wager other tribes would be willing to trade us things in exchange for them.”

Julius’ brows rose in surprise. The boy was very forward-thinking, he had to give him that. Then he noticed the boy looking unusually sheepish as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

“Is there anything else?” Julius asked him.

“Yes! Er, no…” Romulus said as his face reddened a little. “That is… nothing more than a feeling. That there’s something else here, something we’re missing and don’t understand yet… I can’t explain it. But it’s there. And it’s… part of our destiny.” His bright young eyes blazed for a moment, then his gaze dropped to the ground as a sign of how overwhelming the feeling was.

Julius considered this, then nodded. “Instinct,” he said. “You can’t entirely trust it, but you should never dismiss it, either.” He sat silently for a moment, then laughed and clapped his hands in delight. “Excellent. Both of you, truly. You have made excellent arguments for your choices,” he said. The boys smiled at him. The Chief’s praise was rare, and therefore all the more valuable when it was bestowed. “But I can only choose one of these locations. Rest assured that our settlement will grow and likely come to occupy both. But we must choose one or the other to begin.”

The twins watched him intently, scarcely able to breathe.

“I have made my choice,” he said. “One of you will be happy, the other disappointed. But know that I am proud of you both.” Julius rose to his feet. He drew himself up to his full height, and when he spoke, he addressed the entire crowd as its Chief, his words weighted with import. “Our tribe has found its home. We shall settle there, beside this lake. We shall learn how to work with the land, how to live in health and prosperity. And our settlement shall be named Rome, after the young man who found it, son of our greatest hero.”

A cheer went up from the crowd. Romulus was beaming; the older boys were clapping him on the back in congratulations. Remus looked, as Julius had expected, dejected; his gaze had dropped to the ground, and his shoulders sagged. It was a critical moment; he would need this boy, and his loyalty, in the future. He walked over to Remus and put one arm around the boy’s shoulders.

“My lad,” he said so gently that only Remus could hear, “I know you are disappointed. But rest assured, even if our settlement is not named after you, that your name shall live on in story and song. For I have great plans for you.”

Remus looked up at his Chief. Julius could see his eyes were shining; so great was the boy’s disappointment that he’d been on the verge of tears. But now he looked at Julius with hope.

“You do?” he asked.

“Indeed I do. You have proven yourself to have sharp eyes and a perceptive mind. You speak well, though you must learn to be master of your emotions, not their slave. When you are older”, Julius told him, “you could use these skills to serve our people. This is only the first of many settlements we will found; we must find sites for the later ones. And as your brother said, we will meet other tribes, even other civilizations like our own. We will need people, talented people, to greet these rival tribes and find out all we can about them.”

“And…you want me to be the one to go out and find them? To be our scout?” Remus said.

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“I do,” Julius said. “The tribe we met yesterday offered to serve our settlement in that way. You could join them and learn from them. But when you’re older, as I said. There will be time, and you must sharpen your skills. For now, we must begin to build, and I will need your help with that as well. Can I rely on you?”

“You can,” Remus said, smiling proudly and straightening his shoulders.

“Excellent,” Julius said. “Now let’s see if those sharp eyes of yours can spot us some dinner…”

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Sisiutil
Oct 27, 2006, 09:12 PM
Nice story, I definetly follow.

But how about a screenie of the start position, too?:)
This was complicated by the fact that the entire first chapter took place before the starting position was encountered, as you can now see! :lol: And I'm still just on the first turn!

Oh well, things will start moving faster in the next chapter...

Oh, I should mention that the hut popped for the Scout--the slides (and the story) are a little out of order. Artistic license. Get used to hearing me use that phrase. ;)

TheArchduke
Oct 30, 2006, 03:45 PM
Nice story with the two brothers. Settling in place was probably for the best seeing nothing better nearby. You are hoping for a lucky iron or bronze as equalizer for the mediocre position?

Keep it coming!

Sisiutil
Oct 30, 2006, 09:27 PM
Chapter Three: First Contact

Remus reached the top of the hill before the rest of the scouting party. His dark brown eyes scanned the horizon. He saw movement on the plain below. A pride of lions were lounging in the shade beneath a lone, broad-branched tree, their tan hides nearly indistinguishable from the dry savannah grasses.

But Remus saw the lions. Julius had praised him, as a boy, for the sharpness of his eyes, and in the intervening years he had trained them to be even sharper. As a grown man, his eyes had probably saved his life, and those of his companions in the scouting party, on more than one occasion.

He scrutinized the pride quickly. There were three males, evident from their luxurious manes, and a dozen females. Two cubs played lazily on the grass. One of the males suddenly raised his head and snarled another male, who snarled back. Then the third male roused himself from his indolent doze, glanced over his shoulder at the other two, and roared a warning. The two males—evidently younger than the third—slouched submissively and became silent.

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Remus smiled in recognition of a familiar pattern. He silently named the two younger lions Remus and Romulus, and the leader, of course, Julius.
The leader of the pride then turned and glanced towards the hill on which Remus stood. He sniffed the air. Remus had been careful to stay downwind of the plain, however, so the lion—which he knew relied on scent more than sight—made no further moves. For now. Remus would advise the others in his scouting party to be wary; wild animals were unpredictable, and the scouting party was lightly armed—equipped for speed, not for battle.

The rest of the scouts came up behind him. Remus glanced over his shoulder at them and pointed to the lions.

“Well,” Antonius, a stocky young man with close-cropped brown hair and a broad but handsome face, said softly as he followed Remus’ gaze, “I guess we won’t be going that way.”

“Not today,” Remus agreed, also speaking quietly. Lions had sharp hearing as well.

Remus turned to his left. At the base of the hill, nearly opposite from where the lions lay dozing, was a grove of trees. He weighed his options. The trees themselves could mask other unseen threats. But they also provided protection. He made his decision.

“This way,” he said to the party he led, and they moved down the hill and into the trees.

The group moved carefully through the sun-dappled grove. Though they took care to move as quietly as possible, the dried leaves and twigs that littered the ground made that impossible. This was not necessarily a bad thing; many animals would make themselves scarce at the sound of a large party on the move.

They kept moving and noticed that the air became cooler. Soon afterwards, they saw that the trees were dusted with a frosting of snow. They had been moving south and quickly realized that the further they went in that direction, the colder the climate became.

They emerged from the forest into a land unlike any they had encountered thus far. Under their feet, the ground changed from soft plains grasses to barren tundra. Antonius began to wonder if they should turn around, since it was doubtful that a settlement could be founded in such a harsh landscape, and that was the main purpose of their expedition—to find sites for future Roman cities.

Remus stopped suddenly. He held up his hand indicating that the scouting party should do the same.

“What…” Antonius began to say, but Remus, with a gesture, cut him off.

The scouting party stood, silently listening. A moment later, they detected what Remus’ sharp ears had heard: rustling leaves and snapping twigs. Something else was moving through a grove of trees to their east, and was coming towards them.

“The lions?” Antonius whispered anxiously to his leader. His fingers touched the small axe he carried in his belt, seeking reassurance in its sharp obsidian edge.

Remus waited a moment before answering, listening intently. “No,” he whispered back. “They’re walking on two legs. They’re human.”

Antonius stared at his leader in mild amazement and admiration. How Remus could tell that from sound alone, he had no idea. The rustlings in the forest could have been humans, wolves, bears, or even elephants for all he could tell.

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A moment later, Remus was proved right. A group of about a dozen men emerged from behind the leaves and tree trunks directly in front of Remus’ party. They were dressed in animal skins, but carried heavy clubs, unlike the Roman scouts. Their hair was black and straight, their skin slightly golden, their eyes dark and almond-shaped. They stopped dead in their tracks when they spotted the other group of men. No doubt they were trying to assess, as Remus and his companions were doing, if they faced a threat or not.

It was not the first time Remus had encountered other humans. His group had discovered a few villages in their travels, and had, through Remus’ diplomacy, managed to win over the locals. They had even bestowed gifts upon them: gold, which was returned to the nascent treasury in Rome, or a map of nearby territory. One tribe near Rome itself had even shared their invaluable knowledge of farming.

But they had never encountered a group clearly scouting territory like themselves before. Nevertheless, Julius, his foresight remarkably clear as always, had prepared Remus for exactly this possibility.

Remus spread his arms wide, his empty hands indicating he offered no threat. A slight but welcoming smile appeared on his lips, and he bowed his head slightly in a gesture of respect.

He raised his head and watched for a reaction. The other men turned towards one of their group, clearly their leader. This man gathered his right hand into a fist. Remus tensed slightly, but gave no outward sign of reaction to this potentially hostile gesture.

The other group’s leader then placed his fist in the open palm of his left hand. He bowed forward, then straightened. On his face was an almost exact duplicate of Remus’ tentative smile.

Remus let out the breath he’d been holding, then slowly walked forward and spoke.

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***

“What do they call themselves again?” Julius asked Antonius.

“Japanese, Julius,” the stocky young man answered. Though he was not the tallest man in Remus’ scouting party, he compensated for this by being the swiftest. He had thus been chosen to relay news of the encounter back to Julius. “It took a while to learn each others’ languages, but we spent several days together and eventually managed to understand one another well enough. Remus seems to have a talent for it,” he added with no small amount of pride in his group’s leader.

Julius smiled and nodded. He had been correct, all those years ago, to see such potential in the young man. “And Remus thinks they’re different from the small tribes inhabiting the villages you’ve encountered?” he asked Antonius.

“He does. They claim to have a permanent settlement, like Rome.”

Julius smiled. “No one has a permanent settlement like Rome, Antonius,” he said with pride. “Or at least, in a few years, we will certainly be able to say that with confidence.” He glanced out of the door of the thatched hut he inhabited. He could see down the hill to the flat plains and grasslands beside the river. Rome was modest now, but he had plans, great plans…

Antonius, sharing his Chief’s pride in their new settlement and nascent civilization, smiled back. “Of course, Julius. Nonetheless, there are parallels. They have a growing settlement like ours, they are scouting its surrounding territory, and they have a leader they admire.”

Julius smirked briefly at the subtle compliment, but gave it little regard beyond that.

“And…” Antonius went on, but hesitated.

“And… what else?” Julius prompted him.

“It’s just…well, they claimed their leader…Tokugawa, they call him…they say he…”

“What?” Julius asked curtly, growing impatient.

“They say he was killed, Julius. In a fight with a lion. And then… then he rose from the dead!”

Julius watched Antonius carefully. The Romans regarded Julius’ escape from death as proof that they were a chosen people, destined for greatness. Julius had let them think that; indeed, he had used that belief to his advantage, to further his agenda. He studied the young man standing before him to get an idea how his people would react to this news. That they were not alone. That there would be other civilizations forming. That they may have friends, or rivals, out there in the world.

And most importantly, Julius wondered, how would they react to the news that there were other immortals, like their own leader.

“That sounds highly improbable,” Julius remarked slyly. “Why, I’ve never heard of such a thing! Oh no, wait, I have.” Antonius smiled and laughed softly, but Julius could see he was still disturbed by the story and its implications.
Julius rose from the plain wooden chair he sat upon and clasped his hands behind his back. He had long thought about how he would handle this inevitable moment, and decided to test his chosen approach on this young man, so typical of his people: strong, proud, and eager, but still lacking the confidence they would need to build a great civilization.

“Let us suppose, however, that the story is true,” Julius said, still watching Antonius carefully. “Suppose there are others in the world like me, immortal. Suppose these other immortals are also leading and guiding their people, to a destiny they believe is theirs alone. What does that mean, then, for our people, for our destiny?”

Antonius said nothing. He had no answer, and sensed this question was rhetorical as well, and so he remained silent. But he listened to his Chief intently.

“Can we not surmise,” he continued, “that another tribe, settling permanently, led by an immortal, and building a civilization, would serve to make us stronger? That they are here to urge us on to our destiny, either by assisting us or by challenging us? The meaning, once considered, is obvious. Whether in peace or in conflict, we will measure ourselves against them. And though it may take generations, we will persevere, and prosper, and triumph.”

Julius watched as Antonius drew himself up, his broad shoulders squared, his back straight, his eyes shining now with confidence and pride. Yes, Julius thought, the words I chose for this moment will more than suffice—for one man, and for all. This is how I will bring them this news. For though it is the first time, it will not be the last such encounter with a similar tribe and leader.

Julius knew this. He had known it for years. Thanks to the vision. There would be, he knew, other civilizations like Rome, stirring like a new-borne babe now, but growing, stretching out their hands to eagerly grasp the world. And behind them, guiding them, others like himself. Immortals.

Well. Not completely immortal. They could be killed, if one knew how, and again, thanks to the vision, Julius knew. He suspected the other immortals would know as well. If their experiences had been similar, they had no doubt been privy to the same vision. They would know the rules of the game. But there was no reason to share these troubling facts with anyone, not yet anyway, and perhaps not ever.

“Yes, Julius. Of course!” Antonius answered, his voice swelling with renewed pride in his people and their destiny. “I look forward to your first meeting with Tokugawa. It will be as if two of the gods had descended from the mountaintop and come to Rome to…”

Julius interrupted him. “Their leader is coming here? To Rome?” he asked calmly, but a little archly.

“Oh,” Antonius said, suddenly embarrassed. “Did I forget to mention that?”

***

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Julius briefly glanced at his clothing. He was wearing his very best cotton tunic, the cloth bleached white as bone by a combination of exposure to the sun and repeated soakings in urine. The dark brown belt about his waist contrasted with the bright purity of the tunic. From the belt hung a dagger—ceremonial, of course, but one could never be too careful—of bronze, much harder than obsidian, but rare. Copper, the ore from which bronze was forged, seemed more rare than gold. Julius’ belt also sported a gleaming golden buckle, and the tunic had several carefully-crafted gold motifs arranged upon the breast.

Julius grunted in satisfaction. Yes, he looked very much the Chief of a prosperous tribe on its way to becoming a civilization of note.

“You look splendid,” a female voice said, agreeing with his silent assessment.
Julius turned and smiled at the voice. “Good morning, Ravenna,” he said to his step-daughter. “And thank you.”

She was older now, of course, but still beautiful. She had taken a mate—a fine young man who was a splendid metal craftsman. He had, in fact, personally made all of the gold items decorating Julius’ clothing. They had four children—three boys and the youngest, a girl who ruled over her older brothers.

“Are you nervous, Caesar?” she asked him with an impish grin.

“Nervous?” Julius said gruffly. “Of course not. And I wish you’d stop calling me that.”

Though she was well into her forties now, Ravenna giggled like a young girl.
Shortly after they’d founded Rome, Julius and Sevilla the druid had had a long discussion about the importance of names. They had decided that, along with permanence of place, there should be some permanence of name and, thereby, of family. Thus Julius had decided that all Romans should have two or three names: a praenomen, or first name for friendly use; a nomen gentile, their family name; and, where warranted, a third name, a cognomen which would serve as a descriptor that could refer to some distinguishing trait or achievement of an individual or ancestor.

Julius himself had taken Gaius as his praenomen and Julius as his nomen gentile. He had not given himself a cognomen; Ravenna, however, regarded this as false modesty on her stepfather’s part. So she had teasingly dubbed him Caesar—which meant “fine head of hair” in their native Latin. Since Julius was partially bald—he regularly combed his thin hair forward to hide the fact, in a rare act of vanity—it was an ironic nickname, designed to get under his skin, which it did. The fact that the name had begun to stick made it worse. People had gone from calling him Caesar behind his back to addressing him that way to his face. Gradually, he was coming to accept it, since it seemed to arise out of genuine affection and familiarity rather than any sort of malice.

“Come on, you can put on the calm and collected front with Tokugawa and everyone else, but not with me,” Ravenna admonished him good-naturedly. “This is our first meeting with the leader of another civilization like our own. I’m nervous, all of Rome is nervous—you should be too!”

“Which is precisely why I can’t allow myself the luxury of that emotion,” Julius said. “The people need their leader, in this critical moment, to be serene and calm, even if they are not.”

Ravenna sighed. He had a point, and she knew that arguing with him got her nowhere.

Just then, a young boy, Julius’ page, entered the room. “He’s here,” he said, his blue eyes wide and nervous, a reflection of how the people of Rome were feeling, just as Ravenna had indicated.

“Shall we?” Julius said to Ravenna, and they stepped outside.

It was a bright, sunny day in early autumn. Julius could hear migratory birds chirping in the trees on the outskirts of their settlement. It had grown remarkably in a few short years, thanks to the plentiful food provided by the nearby rice paddy. There were plans to build a second settlement now on the sea coast to the southwest, where a large deposit of copper ore had been found.

Gone were the thatched huts they had first built; Rome now consisted of more suitably permanent buildings constructed from wood and clay. Some, such as Julius’, even had a second storey. And there were streets of inlaid stone, laid out in an orderly grid pattern, kept clean by regular sweeping and washing.

Julius, Ravenna, and a few of the chief’s attendants—and honour guard of three warriors and a few advisors—walked through the street towards Rome’s central square. Julius’ nose wrinkled at the stench originating from a chamber pot sitting out on the front step of one house. Sooner or later a slave would come by with a cart, filled with other reeking buckets, and take them far from the settlement for dumping.

“We need a better system of some sort to get rid of human waste," Julius remarked. "Suetonius, remember that,” he said over his shoulder to one of his advisors, one of several who would do his best to remember all the ideas that Julius came up with every day. That’s another thing, Julius thought, we need a better way, a more permanent way, to keep track of everything…

But that line of thought would have to wait. They arrived at the town square. Sevilla was already there waiting. The elderly druid had to walk with the assistance of a stick now, and two slaves held a leather canopy above her head to shield her from the sun, but her eyes were as intelligent and lively as ever. Julius and Ravenna smiled at her.

“Good day, Caesar,” she said in greeting. Was that an impish grin he saw, tugging at the corners of her thin, aged lips, when she used the teasing cognomen? Julius let it pass with nothing more than a briefly-cocked eyebrow, a nod, and a sidelong glance.

The party came to stand in the middle of the modest town square. Most of Rome’s citizens were gathered around its fringes, eager to see the foreign dignitary coming to visit their settlement.

Suddenly, the mid-day silence was shattered by a distant male voice coming from down the street, speaking in a foreign tongue, but plainly announcing the arrival of the Japanese leader. Julius could only recognize a few words; he was far too busy to have become fluent in Japanese. But the name Tokugawa he heard plainly.

It was then that he felt the oddest sensation: it started as a tingling feeling at the base of his neck, then spread, until his whole head and shoulders were tense and thrumming. He did is best not to show any discomfort, but he still winced slightly and gave his head a shake.

From down the street, the Japanese delegation approached. They were dressed in long cloth robes, belted at the waist, and wore sandals on their feet. In their midst was a tall man with a distinguished bearing. His face was lined, his shoulders square, his black hair pulled back into a knot at the back and top of his head. He wore neatly-trimmed moustaches. His dark, intelligent eyes were fixed, as soon as they saw one another, on Julius.

Just then, Caesar saw the Japanese leader’s cheek twitch and his eyes narrow, every so slightly, as though he were fighting off something that suddenly pained him.

So he feels it too, Caesar surmised about his immortal counterpart. Interesting. It seems that sneaking up on one another is not an option…

Tokugawa walked forward until he stood only two paces in front of Julius. He formed a fist with his right hand, pressed it into the open palm of his left, and bowed forward. Julius responded by also forming a fist with his right hand, but pressed it, closed fingers and palm inward, over his heart. Then he, too, bowed forward slightly.

<Welcome, Tokugawa, leader of the Japanese people,> Caesar said in carefully-practiced Japanese. Remus had become fluent in the language, and during his brief visits back to Rome from scouting, had coached his leader in its use. <On behalf of the people of Rome, I, Gaius Julius, bid you welcome.>
If Tokugawa was pleased by Julius’ greeting in his native tongue, he did not show it. His face remained impassive as he responded.

“I thank you, Gaius Julius,” he said in heavily-accented Latin, “for your welcome. The Empire of Japan is pleased to make the acquaintance of its lesser neighbours.”

Julius heard someone from behind him draw air through his teeth at the barely-hidden, off-hand insult. But Julius was amused, not angered.

“Well, perhaps you should go meet one of them, then,” Julius remarked, an amused grin turning the corners of his lips upward. Empire? he thought. Remus had, from a distance, managed to get a glance at the Japanese settlement of Kyoto; it was no larger nor more impressive than Rome.

Several of the Romans chuckled softly. Tokugawa frowned, then leaned toward one of his attendants, who whispered a translation in his ear. Julius watched a brief smile play upon the man’s lips, and something between a laugh and a grunt sounded in his chest. He looked at Julius appraisingly and nodded. Julius gestured towards some chairs, sheltered from the sun by a broad canopy, indicating that they should sit as they talked.

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The meeting of the two leaders was tense and frustrating, and not just because of the language barrier. Tokugawa was extremely cautious and refused to entertain any of Julius’ offers to trade knowledge or resources. Allowing passage to Roman scouts through Japanese lands was also out of the question, even in return for a similar courtesy from Rome. Julius sighed and hoped that not all other leaders would prove as truculent as this one.

The meeting ended soon afterwards, agreeably enough; they exchanged promises of peace, but little else. As he prepared to depart, however, Tokugawa, speaking through his interpreter as he had through most of the meeting, made an interesting remark.

“Your people, Julius…do they give much credence to this new creed of Buddhism?”

Julius’ brows rose in honest surprise. “I would have to say no, since this is the first I have heard of it. What is it, some new sort of religion?”

“The Spaniards…” one of Tokugawa’s attendants, eager to please, blurted out before his leader hissed him to silence.

“It is nothing,” Tokugawa remarked with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Mere superstition. I take my leave of you, Gaius Julius of Rome. May the peace last until there are no more foes left to conquer.”

With that, and a ceremonial bow identical to the one he had used in greeting, the leader of Japan departed.

Spaniards, Julius thought. The Japanese are on the south coast, so this other civilization is probably to our north. I’ll have to direct Remus’ explorations in that direction…

“What an odd remark,” Ravenna said when the Japanese delegation was out of earshot. “’No more foes left to conquer’? What did that mean?”

Julius turned to Ravenna, who stared at him enquiringly, hoping for an explanation. “It means that we must be careful,” he said, loud enough for his voice to carry through the square to all the gathered citizens of Rome. “The Japanese clearly want to be left alone, to build their civilization with no hindrance, and no help, from Rome. Very well. We shall appease them, provided they honour a matching bargain. For the people of Rome have a destiny, and we will not be gainsaid, nor fettered, nor hemmed in, not by friend and not by foe. We will strive to live in peace,” he concluded, “but I fear we must prepare for conflict.”

The crowd was silent and anxious. They had not anticipated, during these many years of building their settlement, that they might clash with another civilization. Yet now Julius was warning them of that very possibility.

Rome’s leader paused for a moment, then smiled reassuringly, like a father seeking to comfort a child. “But we have agreed to live in peace with our Japanese neighbours,” he assured them. “Conflict, if it comes at all, will not occur for many years…generations, even. We have time, my friends, time to grow, and learn, and prosper. Let us focus on that. Let us build Rome for our children, and our children’s children. Let us make Rome a shining beacon for others to follow, that they will seek not to oppose us, but to join us!”

The crowd cheered at that, and Julius nodded and smiled in response. In his heart, however, he knew that conflict would come. It was inevitable. No, these people standing here today would not see it, but he certainly would.

For in the end, as he knew now more than ever before… there could be only one.

Sisiutil
Oct 30, 2006, 09:31 PM
A little more artistic license this time, since the lions appeared after the Japanese. But I wanted to include an episode that captures the early scouting of the game.

I also have to confess that I didn't grab as many screen shots as I thought I did--or at least, I didn't grab the best ones to illustrate the story. So I've gone back to some of the saved game files I kept to grab better shots, though this may lead to a few discrepancies on the screen--a hut that pops for gold instead of a tech or vice-versa.

I apologize in advance for that, but my main goal is to tell a story rather than give a blow-by-blow, unwavering account of a game. If you want the latter, try my ALC games. ;)

DuseCutter
Oct 31, 2006, 02:31 PM
Great story!

All the books I read don't have any pictures. Any screen shots you provide are just icing on the cake.

I'm interested to see how this develops.

Thanks, Sisiutil!:goodjob:

Fetch
Oct 31, 2006, 03:27 PM
I think I like both ways of telling a story in Civ.

Sisiutil
Nov 27, 2006, 04:00 PM
Chapter Four: The Flight of the Dragon Clan

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Qin Shi Huang raised his pick and swung it down at the hard rock of the hillside. The sun was just rising in the east. As the morning light struck the exposed rock on the hill, it glowed softly as if lit from within. That was one of the unique characteristics of marble, along with the colourful veins running through it. The beauty of the stone made it valuable as a building material.
Especially to Qin’s Japanese masters. Which is why he and his fellow Chinese slaves were building a road on this hill north of Kyoto.

“Faster, you Chinese dogs!” the Japanese gang-master shouted. The man held a whip threateningly in one hand, and past experience had proven he was all too keen to use it. At his urging, then, the Chinese workers picked up the pace and swung their picks faster, though a little less effectively.

“I can do a job quickly or I can do it well, fool,” Qin muttered under his breath as the gang-master stalked away. “Pick one.”

Beside him, Zhu Yuanzhang chuckled softly. “Well said, Qin,” he murmured between blows of his own pick.

“For all the good words do us,” Qin replied grimly.

It had not always been thus. The Chinese had once been a tribe like the Japanese—small, granted, but proud. Qin Shi Huang’s tribesmen called themselves the Dragon Clan, and had long emulated the ferocity and independence of that mythical beast. But soon after the Japanese founded their settlement of Kyoto on the southern shores of their continent, a party of Japanese warriors had came to the Chinese village and had pressed all of its inhabitants into slavery to serve the growing Japanese civilization. Of course they had resisted, but in the end, it had proven futile. The Japanese were just too numerous and too strong.

In a different world, Qin reflected, we Chinese may have been a great people. But not this one…

Oh, the Japanese weren’t all bad. Qin’s sister, Ci, worked as a maid for a noble Japanese family who treated her well, even with respect. She liked Kyoto better than their old village and regarded her life as much improved. Certainly, it was a better fate than that of the Chinese women among Qin’s work gang, who served as cooks for the work team and as maids for the gang-masters… though their duties with their Japanese overlords did not end when the sun set. No, Ci was right to regard herself as lucky.

But as Qin heard the gang-master’s whip crack, he couldn’t regard his own predicament in the same optimistic light. Ci was too young to remember, but Qin’s older brother Hung had been one of the young men of this tribe who had resisted the Japanese who came to their village. Those brave young warriors had been slaughtered to a man.

“Brute,” he muttered quietly at the gang-master’s distant back. “Come over here and show me your back, and I’ll show you how fast I can swing this pick…”

“Great Mother!” Zhu exclaimed suddenly from beside him.

“What?” Qin said, glancing at his comrade. He saw Zhu staring down the hill to the northwest, his eyes open wide, his mouth gaping. Qin followed Zhu’s gaze and when he saw what his friend was looking at, his face took on a similar expression.

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A large group of men were running towards them. Their hair was long and a little lighter than that of the Chinese or Japanese on the hill. They wore long animal skin kilts over their loins and thighs. Their bodies were hard and strong, and most threateningly of all, they carried heavy clubs studded with sharp stones.

“Do they mean to kill us?!” Zhu exclaimed, panic creeping into his voice.

Qin shuddered involuntarily. They’d all to heard stories of wild bands of men wandering the wilderness, killing anyone they came across on sight. At first he’d thought they were simply stories their Japanese masters made up to keep the Chinese slaves frightened so they would not try to escape into the wilderness themselves. But then he had seen just such a group of men, and had found it necessary to run for his life from them as they attacked, screaming like wild animals and swinging their huge clubs.

But something about these men approaching them now was different: no wild screams, no undisciplined rush. These men moved with purpose, confidence, and… discipline. These were not wild men; they were something else entirely, even more so than the Japanese warriors who had captured his village.

“Drop your tools,” Qin said.

“What?” Zhu responded, his voice rising in panic.

“Drop your tools!” Qin shouted, to Zhu and his fellow Chinese slaves. “Drop them NOW! And raise your hands to show you’re not a threat!”

They only hesitated for a heartbeat, then did as he said. Their picks and shovels dropped to the ground, and the Chinese workers raised their hands in surrender.

“What? Pick up those tools!” the gang-master cried. “Pick them up and fight these barbarians off! DO IT NOW!!”

“NO!” Qin shouted. The men were running up the hill, only twenty paces away, then ten... “You fool! These are trained warriors! If we fight them, we’ll die!”

“You filthy Chinese coward!” the gang-master shouted, then struck Qin harshly with the back of his hand. Qin fell to the ground. “I’ll show you how to deal with this rabble!”

The gang-master ran forward, down the side of the hill towards the approaching warriors. He screamed and swung his whip towards them. One of the warriors boldly stepped forward. As the whip came down, he raised his arm and allowed it to strike. The whip cracked against his forearm and wrapped around it; the warrior grimaced at the pain, but that was the only reaction he showed.

He then grabbed the whip and pulled on it, hard. Still tightly gripping his end, the move caught the gang-master by surprise. He stumbled forward, off-balance. The warrior who had grabbed the whip then swung his club with his free hand. The club struck the gang-master square on the side of his face, and his head burst open with an explosion of bright red blood. The men in Qin’s work gang gasped, the women screamed.

Three other Japanese gang-masters had been watching and preparing to follow their comrade’s example and engage the warriors, but as their erstwhile leader fell, they glanced at one another, then dropped their whips, turned tail, and ran back towards Kyoto.

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Qin and his fellow slaves quickly found themselves surrounded by the hulking Warriors. But as Qin had quickly surmised, the men evidently meant them no harm provided they did not show any resistance. In fact, one of the warriors surprised Qin by kneeling down beside him and evidently checking to see if the gang-master’s blow had caused him any harm.

The warrior’s leader—or so Qin surmised—spoke, but Qin did not understand him, nor did any of his companions. The leader spoke a few more words, but still could not make himself understood. His heavy brow creased in frustration. He spoke tersely to his fellow warriors, evidently asking if any of them spoke any Japanese, but only received shaking heads in reply.

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Then one of his comrades shouted a warning and pointed south at the road to Kyoto. The warriors and their captives looked south and in the distance, saw a group of approaching Japanese archers.

The leader of the warriors muttered something, evidently a curse. He looked to the west, to another hill covered by protective trees, evidently gauging the distance and time it would take to move there. He sighed loudly, evidently deciding the distance was too far to cover in the time they had. Instead, he began barking orders to his fellow warriors, who quickly began to gather up the worker’s tools. The men then jumped into a shallow ditch the slaves had been digging and began to shovel earth out of it, forming a low berm on the side of the ditch facing the approaching archers. Evidently they would take cover there until the archers were close enough to engage in hand-to-hand combat.

As his subordinates prepared their rudimentary fortification, the lead Warrior turned to the group of Chinese slaves. He spoke to them again in his strange language, but this time managed to express himself. He pointed to the northwest, beyond the tundra and the clump of trees from which he and his companions had sprung their attack. He pointed in that direction and said one word:

“Rome.”

Qin, wiping blood from a cut lip, heard the word and finally and completely understood. He nodded his agreement and turned to his fellow Chinese.

“Come on,” he said. “We’re leaving.”

“What?!” Zhu exclaimed. “But…”

“Quiet!” Qin shouted. “We don’t have time! Those Archers will be within range any moment! Let’s go!”

Qin shoved Zhu and several other workers down the hill; a heartbeat later, they were all running away, heading northwest across the tundra.

“I don’t understand!” Zhu said between gulps of air as he ran. “Where are we going?”

“Rome,” Qin answered. “Or Roman territory, at least.”

He turned and glanced over his shoulder at a loud din coming from behind him. He could see arrows in flight at the top of the hill. Apparently the battle had begun in earnest. He turned away and kept running.

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Some time later, the Workers reached the forest and paused to rest, leaning against the rough tree trunks as they gasped for air.

“Do you really think,” Zhu panted, “we’ll be… any better off… as Roman slaves… than as Japanese ones?”

“I… don’t know,” Qin replied, equally breathless. “But…. I do know… we’ll never survive… here in the wilderness.” He paused to take a deep breath. “Animals or barbarians will make short work of us out here. And I also know that those Roman warriors are risking their lives right now to let us escape. I know I don’t want to spend the rest of my life serving people who killed my older brother and enslaved my people. So in the absence of a better option, yes, Zhu, I’m heading to Rome!”

Zhu took all this in, then nodded. He glanced around at the deep, dark woods and shivered with trepidation. “Let’s just hope we make it there alive.”

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***

Caesar stood and studied the flat, empty ground before him, comparing it to the plans laid on the makeshift table outside his tent.

“It will be a magnificent city,” his aide, Cornelius Marius, said. “And once we get that copper mine going…”

“Yes,” Caesar agreed. “That is our top priority.”

The Roman leader glanced over at the Settlers, who were living out of tents at the moment and were just starting to build their basic, stone-and-wattle homes that would form the beginnings of the new city of Antium. He then glanced out at the desert plain to the east of the city site, where the copper deposit had been found only a few years before.

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“How long before the work crews get here and start work on it?” he asked.

“They’re still building the road to Rome itself, Caesar,” Marius said, pointing to a hill northeast of the city where Caesar could just discern men swinging picks at the hard earth. The hill contained a large deposit of granite, and excellent building stone. Caesar intended to build a quarry there, but later; the road leading back to Rome was the priority at the moment, followed by the mine.

“The copper won’t do us much good if we can’t get it to where it can be worked.” Marius added, stating the obvious.

Caesar sighed. “I know, I know… but these reports of armed men wandering through the wilderness…they’re alarming. We’ll need more than mere warriors brandishing clubs soon. There just isn’t enough time, or enough men…” His voice trailed off; Marius said nothing, for he knew that Caesar was correct.

Just then, another man marched up to them. He wore a long leather kilt and carried just such a club as Caesar had been describing. He was a member of the local militia assigned to defend the new city; the fact that he approached and spoke to Caesar marked him as the leader of the detachment.

“Yes?” Caesar prompted the man.

“Begging your pardon, Caesar,” the warrior said. “But the lads were patrolling the outskirts this morning, on the lookout for those barbarians, and came across something I thought you should know about.”

“Lead on,” Caesar said, and followed the warrior towards a wooded area which would, one day, be the city’s southeast gate.

The warrior led Caesar to the rest of his unit. The hulking warriors were guarding a group of a about fifty men and about a dozen women. Their golden skin and narrow, almond-shaped eyes were characteristic of the people who lived in the southeast corner of the continent.

“Who are these people?” Caesar asked. “They look Japanese.”

“Not quite, Caesar,” the lead warrior said. “Septimius, here,” he said, nodding towards another warrior, “he speaks some Japanese. Near as we can gather, these folks are—were—Japanese slaves. They come from some village near Kyoto. They call themselves Chinese, members of the… ‘Dragon Clan’ in particular. This fellow here,” he said, pointing to a strong, stocky man seated on the ground, “seems to be leading the group.”

“So they’re escaped slaves?” Caesar said, not with a little distaste. Rome had slaves too, of course. For a slave to attempt to escape was, of course, a punishable offense under Roman law…if he was captured, of course.

The warrior chuckled. “In manner of speaking, yes,” he said. “Sounds like they had a little help from Suetonius and his boys.”

Caesar smiled at that. He had stationed Suetonius Severus and his contingent of highly-trained and experienced warriors just outside of Japanese territory. Their official assignment had been to watch for any threatening movement of Japanese troops. Privately, however, Caesar had encouraged Suetonius to watch for any opportunity to stifle or even sabotage Japanese development—even if it meant committing an act of war.

“So Suetonius stole these slaves out from under Tokugawa’s nose?” he said, grinning.

“Yes, sir,” the warrior confirmed, returning Caesar’s pleased grin. “From right off the top of that hill of marble, not ten leagues outside of Kyoto!”

Caesar threw his head back and laughed. Oh, Tokugawa must be furious! It was an act of war, of course; he would have to alert the militia in Rome. But for the moment, he could simply enjoy the feat. He’d tweaked that dour Japanese leader’s nose, and he'd tweaked it well!

“Where is Suetonius?” Caesar asked. “I want to congratulate him personally!”

“Oh, he sent word,” the warrior said. “A courier arrived hot on these folks’ heels. His warriors had to engage a whole mess of Japanese archers.” At Caesar’s sudden look of concern, the warrior sought to reassure him. “Not to worry, Caesar. They took some casualties, but their training and experience paid off. Those lads have beaten bears off, I’m sure a few archers were nothing. They’re holed up in high, forested ground north of Kyoto. Apparently the Japanese are cowering inside their city, afraid to make a move outside for fear of being attacked!”

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Caesar had to laugh again. Oh, brilliant! he thought. Well played, Suetonius! But then another thought struck him, and his face creased into a puzzled frown.

“Half a moment,” he said. “If Suetonius and his warriors remained outside of Kyoto…who escorted these slaves to Roman territory?”

“That’s the amazing part,” the warrior said, eyeing the seated slaves with respect. “They made it here on their own.”

Caesar’s icy blue eyes widened in amazement. “On their own?” he said, his voice full of astonishment. “Across miles of open tundra and forest, swarming with wild animals and barbarians? With women among them? Just to escape Japan and reach Rome?”

“Apparently.”

Caesar turned to look at the slaves as if seeing them for the first time. He beckoned the warrior named Septimius, who spoke Japanese, over to him. He then gestured to the man who had led the group of slaves through the wilderness to rise and face him.

“Tell him,” Caesar said, “that I am Gaius Julius Caesar, leader of Rome. I bid him and his companions a hearty welcome to Rome.”

“He says,” Septimius translated after he and his counterpart finished speaking at length, “that he is Qin Shi Huang, of the Chinese people. He says he and his companions were slaves of Japan, but only escaped when Roman warriors allowed, and, indeed, ordered them to do so. He asks that you be merciful and not punish them for their escape, as it was not their own idea. They wish to offer themselves in service to Rome.”

Caesar considered this. Here he’d just been saying how he didn’t have enough workers to do all the necessary jobs, and what should show up on his doorstep but a group of slaves, eager to serve his nascent civilization! He silently resolved to increase his sacrifices to Fortuna, the goddess of luck.

“Tell him I accept his offer,” Caesar said. “Also tell him that though he comes from slavery into slavery, I make him this promise: in recognition of his group’s bravery, though they will serve Rome as slaves, they will be treated with respect. Furthermore, in reward for a lifetime of service, I, Caesar, shall lift them out of slavery. Their descendants will enjoy the full citizenship of Rome.”
Septimius’ mouth fell open at that.

“Tell him,” Caesar urged the man, and the warrior roused himself and translated his leaders’ words.

The eyes of Qin and his companions widened at the generosity of the offer. Caesar watched with satisfaction as the Chinese man’s eyes glistened with tears. He suddenly fell to his knees before Caesar, and the Roman leader did not need a translator to know that the man was pledging his undying devotion to Rome in general and to its immortal leader in particular.

The men around Caesar were astonished. To offer the citizenship not just to foreigners, but to the children of slaves! It had never been done.
Julius Caesar, however, knew exactly what he was doing. With so few women among their group, only a handful of the men were likely to marry and have children, though he supposed some of them might find brides amongst the other female slaves of Rome. Besides, many Roman slaves also earned their freedom—if not full citizenship—after a lifetime of service. And he had, with one simple act, just earned Rome several subjects—later citizens—of whose loyalty he could be assured for generations.

In addition, word of his generosity would spread back to Japan. Even if no other slaves escaped to come to Rome in hopes of a similar deal, it would give Tokugawa one more thing to worry about, and keep the eyes of his troops nervously watching both within as well as without for threats.

“Come, my new Chinese friends,” he said to the weary but now-happy workers, Septiumius translating for him. “You have had a long and dangerous journey. We will give you food, drink, and a place to rest. Tomorrow, I need you to begin your service to Rome. We’ll start with a road out into the eastern desert…”

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carl corey
Nov 27, 2006, 05:06 PM
Niiiiiice. :D Well done to get the workers and excellent story too!

Sisiutil
Nov 27, 2006, 08:18 PM
Niiiiiice. :D Well done to get the workers and excellent story too!
Thanks. I actually stole two Workers from him in that game. The third time I was about to try it, he was escorting every Worker with an Archer. :lol:

Fetch
Nov 28, 2006, 07:57 AM
sisiutil- I'm so glad you've posted another update to your story. Kudos on getting the worker, too. Will we have to wait another month for ch. 5?

Sisiutil
Nov 28, 2006, 11:40 AM
sisiutil- I'm so glad you've posted another update to your story. Kudos on getting the worker, too. Will we have to wait another month for ch. 5?
Boy, I hope not. Followers of my ALC games know that I got busy with real life for awhile, and that affected my updates of this story as well. Things are becoming calmer once again, so I hope to update more often. Once the current ALC is done, in fact, I plan to leave those aside for awhile and focus on this story instead. :D

Sisiutil
Nov 29, 2006, 12:47 AM
Chapter Five: Render unto God what is God’s

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Drusus had to remind himself not to fidget.

He couldn’t help himself. He was broad of shoulder and chest, strong and fast, perfectly suited to a life of scouting. Caesar himself had spotted him exercising in the gymnasium with the other young boys and had personally chosen him for this life. Drusus had, literally, back-flipped when told of this. Every Roman boy dreamed of being a scout for their growing civilization, seeking out new territory and people.

Not that it was without hardship, which he’d known beforehand and experience had confirmed. His mother was inconsolable the day he’d left, as was his little sister, who adored him. He missed them terribly sometimes.

There was constant danger from animals; more than one scout had lost his life to a bear or jaguar. And lately, they’d been seeing, from a distance, groups of armed men wandering around in the wilderness, wielding heavy clubs like Rome’s own warriors, but looking much harder and meaner, if not as well-trained and disciplined. Dangerous. Especially to a small band of lightly armed scouts.

Nevertheless, Drusus was stout-hearted and strong, and he faced these dangers with a steady gaze and an even hand.

But, Almighty Jupiter, he’d never met a queen before!

He stole a glance at Remus. The lead scout was as calm as ever, as if encountering a monarch was an everyday occurrence for him. Oh, they had met, in their travels, leaders of villages calling themselves king or queen of this or that; but they were little better than tribal chieftans—upstarts.

This grand hall in which he now stood, however, pressed home the fact that Queen Isabella of Spain was no pretender. The impressive honour guard of archers reinforced this. And Barcelona wasn’t even the Spanish capital, merely an outlying city!

An attendant stepped forward, eyed them superciliously, and indicated that they were to follow him.

They walked into the hall and came to a stop in front of a raised dais. Upon this dais was a large, splendidly carved wooden chair—a throne. And in that throne sat what was possibly the most beautiful woman Drusus had ever seen.

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Queen Isabella’s hair was black as a raven’s wing, and long, framing her face. It contrasted with her skin, which was like the finest ivory, and unblemished. Her blue eyes, bright and piercing, studied the little group of Roman scouts. Her nose was straight and finely shaped, her mouth was full and sensuous and had a slight, captivating pout. Her fine clothing did nothing to conceal an utterly enticing figure.

But it was not just her physical beauty that took Drusus’ breath away. She had an air about her of supreme confidence; this was a woman who knew her exact place in the world, and it was an exalted one. She sat with her back straight, her chin uplifted ever-so-slightly so she looked down her nose at her visitors. Drusus had the distinct impression she’d look at an insect upon her dining table in much the same manner.

<Who are these strangers to our lands?> she asked in her native Spanish. Her voice was clear, its challenge implicit, and just a little flinty. It sent a shiver down Drusus’ spine. He struggled to listen and understand; the scouts had manage to learn some of the Spanish tongue from their guides, but none of them were exactly fluent yet. Well, except for Remus, who had a distinct talent for language.

As if to demonstrate this, it was Remus who answered the Queen’s question before one of her attendants could beat him to it.

<We are scouts, your majesty,> he said in accented but immaculate Spanish. <I bring you greetings and the warmest of wishes from Gaius Julius Caesar, leader of the people of Rome. We come to your lands seeking peace and friendship.>

With that, Remus bowed his head respectfully. Following his lead, his Drusus and his other fellow scouts duplicated the gesture.

The Queen sat in icy silence, seemingly considering the statement.

<Well spoken, Roman,> she said. <And who is this…Gaius Julius Caesar? Is he among your party?>

<No, your majesty,> Remus replied. <Our city is far to the south, only slightly closer to Spain than the lands of the Japanese.>

<Ah, I see,> the Queen said, her expression neutral, though she was clearly intrigued. <So you come seeking peace and friendship. Do you also come seeking enlightenment?>

Drusus, struggling to follow, wondered where this odd turn in the conversation was going. He watched as Remus considered this rather odd question for a moment.

<Perhaps her majesty could enlighten these simple Roman scouts regarding this enlightenment of which she speaks?> Remus responded, his lips curling upwards ever-so-slightly.

If the Queen was at all amused by Remus’ response, she gave no sign of it. <Spain is home to the celestial light of ultimate truth, simple Roman scouts,> she said, rather haughtily. <You would do well to cleanse your heathen souls of the blight of paganism, and return home to spread word of the divine Buddha.>

Of course, Drusus thought. Buddhism. They had heard of the spreading religion, but it had been mere hearsay. Caesar had instructed them to find out as much as they could not only about Spain, but of this new faith as well. Drusus couldn’t help wondering what the point was; Rome had a pantheon of gods. What use did they have for a foreign one?

<Even in distant Rome, we have heard of Buddhism,> Remus said. <We would consider ourselves privileged and honoured to be instructed in the ways of your faith.>

<Very well,> the Queen said, indulging her heathen guests with a slight smile. <We shall endeavour to correct your blasphemous ways. You will go now.>
The dismissal was as obvious as it was curt. Remus bowed, turned, and led his group back out of the hall.

“So what now,” Drusus asked. “We’re going to stay awhile, learn this…Buddhism, and save our misbegotten souls?”

“Pretty much,” Remus replied. “Just remember to be respectful.”

“Always, Remus!” Drusus said, but his leader gave the younger man a sharp look that told Drusus he would not tolerate any insults to their hosts.

***

A week later, Remus took his scouting party aside and addressed them privately.

“I know we’re all enjoying this welcome respite from our usual life in the wilds,” he said with a rueful grin, and many of the men chuckled. “I thought I should warn you, however, that I received a message from Caesar early today. He’s anxious for us to resume our travels. We’ve heard tell of another civilization, the Aztecs, who are believed to be located north of Spain, and he wants us to meet them and explore their territory. So be prepared to leave soon, at a moment’s notice, all of you.”

Drusus listened to his leader’s words and nodded his assent, but could not hide the look of disappointment in his face. He said nothing, however.

As the rest of the men left the brief meeting, Remus took Drusus aside. “You’ve been very quiet, Drusus,” he said. “During our stay here in Barcelona, you’ve grown more and more…well, subdued. Is something troubling you?”

“Troubling me?” Drusus said. “No, far from it. It’s just…”

“Yes?” Remus prompted him when he paused.

“This Spanish faith, Remus,” he said. “Buddhism. It just…well, it makes sense. As I sat there, receiving instruction in it, I became more and more convinced of its truth. I think the Queen was right. I am eager to go back to Rome and tell others about it.”

“Are you sure,” Remus said, gently but amused nonetheless, “that the loveliness of the Buddhist Queen did not have something to do with opening your heart to her faith?”

Drusus looked insulted. “This has nothing to do with the Queen,” he retorted.
Indeed, the small group of Romans had had only a few encounters with the regal, haughty Spanish monarch after that first meeting, and she had departed for the Spanish capital, Madrid. The Romans’ Spanish hosts had hinted at some grand project in the capital that the Queen was overseeing, but offered no details.

“I apologize, Drusus,” Remus said diplomatically. “I meant no disrespect.”

“None taken,” Drusus said agreeably.

“Still,” Remus said, “you must admit, she’s a very beautiful woman.”

“She’s amazing,” Drusus blurted out enthusiastically. Then, as his leader cast him a sidelong glance, he did something he hadn’t done since he was a boy. He blushed.

“She is indeed,” Remus agreed, saving his companion some embarrassment. “I became a little infatuated with her myself, married though I am. But she’s unattainable to men such as ourselves, Drusus. It would be best to put her out of your mind. If you truly believe in this faith of Buddhism, regard that as her gift to you.”

“I do,” Drusus said, his enthusiasm for his new faith evident in his voice. “It’s a gift I must share with others in Rome.”

Remus glanced at his companion, studying him closely, but held his tongue.

***

The next day, early in the morning, Remus pulled his team of scouts together yet again. “It’s time,” he told them tersely, his face grim. “Gather your packs. We leave within minutes.”

“Why the rush?” Antonius, one of the veteran scouts, asked their leader.

Remus shot a glance at Antonius that told his old friend he would rather that the question had not been asked. “We have a long journey ahead of us,” he said. “It makes no sense to waste daylight.” With that, he turned and strode away from them, heading off to gather together his own meagre belongings.

Drusus heard the tension in Remus’ voice, however, and looked questioningly at Antonius. The stocky scout merely shrugged and shook his head. “He gets like this sometimes,” Antonius told the younger man. “I sometimes think he can’t stand to be in any one place for too long.”

Shortly thereafter, the Roman scouts were on a road leading east out of Barcelona. Once they were out of sight of the city, however, Remus surprised them. The lead scout suddenly stopped, then turned to his right. He cast a stern look over his shoulder at his party.

“We’re heading south,” he said in a tone which indicated he would not tolerate questions or discussion. “We’ve been recalled to Rome. This way, hurry.”

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He headed off the road, into the dense jungle and up a hill, his companions close on his heels. They travelled, silently and wordlessly, for some time. As they journeyed, Drusus kept wondering about his strange direction they’d taken, and what it could mean. When they stopped for a rest in a shaded grove of palm trees, he approached Remus.

“I thought we were heading north to find the Aztecs,” he said pointedly.

“Obviously, there’s been a change of plans,” Remus said. He looked at Drusus, studying the young man intently. Then a slight smile appeared on his face. “Come now, Drusus. It will be good to visit home after so many years away, won’t it? Your family will be delighted to see you.”

Drusus, however, was not put off so easily. “Why have we been recalled to Rome, Remus?” he asked. Around him, the other scouts stirred, their attention drawn to the conversation by the insistence in Drusus’ voice.

Remus glanced briefly at the other scouts, then shrugged nonchalantly. “Who knows? A whim of Caesar’s. Ours is not to question why…”

“But it doesn’t make any sense!” Drusus said. “We’ve explored all the territory south of Spain. We’re wasting valuable time returning home. Why does Caesar want us home, away from Spain, unless…”

Suddenly, Drusus’ expression changed from one of puzzlement to shock. His brows, previously furrowed, rose upon his forehead; his eyes and mouth opened wide.

“It’s war, isn’t it?” he said.

Remus said nothing in response, but he stared steadily at his young companion, as if silently warning him to leave off this line of inquiry. But Drusus, like a tracking hound that had picked up a scent, could not abandon the idea.

“Great Buddha!” he declared. “We’re going to war with Spain, aren’t we?”

“What if we are?” Remus asked him quietly. The other scouts were gathered around he and Drusus now, watching the confrontation intently. Remus sought and found Antonius among the group and held his old companion’s gaze for a moment, conveying a silent message. Antonious nodded and slowly moved until he stood behind Drusus.

Drusus took a deep breath and slowly shook his head. “I will not fight against my brothers and sisters of the faith,” he declared. He took a step back from Remus, from the leader of the Roman scouts whom he’d idolized since he was a boy. “I’m sorry, Remus. I cannot return to Rome with you. I am a Buddhist. I cannot oppose that which I have come to fervently believe, nor those who also believe it.”

Remus sighed. “So you intend to return to Spain then?” he asked sadly.

“Yes,” Drusus replied.

“You’ll feel obliged to warn them regarding Rome’s intentions, of course,” Remus said without a hint of accusation or rancor in his voice. Drusus shamefully glanced down at the ground, but did not deny the statement. “Will you fight on their side, against your fellow Romans?” he asked sadly.

“I…,” Drusus said quietly, still unable to meet Remus’ gaze. “I hope not to. I will try not to, but...” He ruefully shook his head.

Remus smiled sadly at the younger man and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I understand,” he said quietly. “It must be hard for you, Drusus, to have your loyalties so divided.”

Drusus nodded. He looked up, and Remus saw that the young man’s eyes were shimmering with tears. “It’s as though my heart is torn in two, Remus!”

Remus nodded sagely. “Be troubled no more,” he said, then smiled. He glanced over Drusus’ shoulder at Antonius and nodded. He was still smiling reassuringly at Drusus when Antonius’ hand axe struck him at the base of the skull. Drusus’ eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open, but he made no sound as he dropped to the ground.

“It was very brave,” Remus said to the other scouts, “how he sacrificed himself, attacking those barbarian warriors so the rest of us could escape.” He looked at each of his men in turn, holding their gaze as each one nodded his agreement to the lie.

“Very brave,” Antonious said solemnly as he cleaned the blade of his hand axe and retuned the weapon to his belt.

“I know some of you found the message of Buddhism appealing,” Remus said, “but never forget that you are Romans first. To whose bosom we now return.”

With that, they turned and headed south into the jungle, leaving the body of their former companion behind. Some time later, they passed east of the new southern city of Seville. The scouts paused on a hill, careful to stay hidden within the jungle. In the distance, they could see several groups of burly Roman axemen approaching the nascent city on a hill.

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Remus shook his head. What on earth had possessed Isabella to make her put the city there, south of the jungle which Caesar regarded as a natural barrier between their two civilizations? Especially when she had so much room to her east into which she could expand. He caught a glimpse, just north of the city, of a few great grey beasts moving through the jungle, away from the huge group of heavily-armed men approaching the city. Was it to claim the elephants and their valuable ivory?

Perhaps. Probably. Regardless, she had forced Caesar’s hand with this encroachment into territory widely regarded as rightfully Roman, and now she would pay the price. From across the grasslands the scouts heard the trumpets cry and war drums start to pound their ominous rhythm. The battle had started. Though Seville’s archers would fight hard to protect their new city, aided by the high ground of the hill on which it was founded, he knew they could not stand against the sharp, heavy blades of the Roman axemen. Seville would fall, and Remus knew it would be razed to the ground, for he alone among the scouts knew that Caesar had planned to found another city in another location nearby.

Grimly, Remus scanned the territory around his party for threats. Seeing none, he urged his group of Scouts onward, back towards Rome and safety. The sounds of battle echoed in their ears, even after the fighting was done.

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***

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The old woman’s eyes fluttered open. She gasped softly, momentarily confused as to her whereabouts. Then she quickly regained her wits. Her violet eyes scanned her room and came to rest upon the gaunt but handsome visage of the man sitting beside her bed.

“Ravenna,” Caesar said, his icy blue eyes barely concealing his sorrow. He held her hand in his, and could feel the withered limb trembling

“No tears, father,” Ravenna said softly, her gaze steady even if her hands were not. “I’m not dead yet,” she added, a thin smile playing briefly upon her lips.

“Of course not,” he replied, but his sad tone conveyed what he could not say: that his beloved stepdaughter’s death would not be held off much longer.

This, Caesar knew, was the curse of being immortal: to watch those he loved die while he went on. Ravenna was not the first, of course. Sevilla, the ancient druid of their tribe, had died many years before. Romulus had perished while fighting off a barbarian raid. And there had been other deaths he had mourned as well, and Caesar knew there would be more, many more, to come in the centuries that would follow. But watching his young, vivacious stepdaughter succumb to the ravages of old age had been hardest of all. He had been struggling to harden his heart against the overwhelming sorrow that attended so many deaths. He had been achieving some success in that regard, but with Ravenna, he could not hold back his tears. They fell from his eyes silently, and he brusquely brushed them away. He took a deep breath and fought to control his emotions.

“I came to tell you,” he said, forcing cheerfulness into his strained voice, “that we are nearly ready to found our third great city. Northeast of Rome, on the floodplains, as we planned.”

“What…” the old woman asked, then paused to lick her dry lips. “What will you name it?”

Caesar smiled proudly. “Ravenna, of course. What else could I name it?”

He stroked her hand affectionately, but his stepdaughter did not return his caress. Indeed, her weathered face became grim, and she stared at him hard.

“A city founded upon bloodshed,” she said bitterly, recalling the razing of Seville. “And you named it for me?”

“Ravenna, please,” Caesar said. “This world is harsh, it’s inhabitants more so. If we rely upon the goodwill and charity of our rivals, we will cease to exist.”

The old woman sighed. “I know, I know, but still…” she said sadly as her voice trailed off. Then a thought came to her, and her violet eyes brightened as they looked pleadingly into those of her stepfather. “I want you to promise me something,” she said.

“Anything,” Caesar replied.

“The city you will name after me,” she said. “Promise me… that you will make it a centre for learning, and culture,” she said, squeezing his hand.

“That is what I planned from the start,” he said, smiling at her.

“And promise me,” she said sternly now, “that you will never build a single weapon or military unit there.”

Caesar balked at this. He knew that conflict with his neighbours was inevitable, and would need the full weight of all Rome’s cities thrown behind the wars yet to come. To not use one of Rome’s few cities for military purposes would be a tall order.

“Promise me,” she pleaded, her voice cracking, her eyes desperate.

The immortal leader of Rome took a deep breath. Behind his shrewd eyes, the gears of his mind were turning. Another city would be needed, then, and quickly. Perhaps on the northwest coast? Yes, another coastal city, like Antium, which could build ships, leaving Ravenna to focus upon the pursuit of knowledge. And even if the latter city never built a single weapon or trained troops, the advances it would discover could still be put to military use while allowing Caesar to keep this simple promise to his dying stepdaughter.

Caesar smiled and gave Ravenna’s hand an affectionate squeeze. “I promise,” he said. “Ravenna will never build weapons or train soldiers.”

Ravenna’s still-shrewd eyes narrowed. “You don’t fool me,” she said. “I’ve known you too long. You’re scheming a way around it.”

“I will keep my promise just as I have stated it,” Caesar said, more than a little defensively.

Ravenna smiled wanly and sighed. “That will be enough,” she conceded. “Just remember… I’ll be watching,” she added, as firmly as her weakened voice would allow.

“It is my fervent hope that you shall,” Caesar said. He bent down and tenderly kissed his stepdaughter’s wrinkled forehead.

When he straightened, she was gone, and Caesar wept. He remained by her bedside for several hours. When he emerged from the chamber, it was night.

The few slaves who saw him remarked later that he looked like a changed man--and not for the better. For rather than expressing sorrow, his features appeared hard and cold, so much so that many of the slaves, when they recalled his appearance that night, felt a tingling in their spines and a raw spasm of fear in their guts.

For Caesar had resolved himself. Rome had a great destiny to fulfill, and it was his duty to guide her to it. He would not allow himself, he had decided, to become so emotionally attached--so vulnerable--with one of Rome's citizens again. He could not afford it. The road ahead was long and hard and fraught with peril. Many would perish, as that poor misguided youth Drusus had, for the sake of the greater good.

The lives of all Romans, even those yet unborn, were in his hands. Some he would have to sacrifice. It was inevitable. He could not be sentimental about it. He would bury his stepdaughter and mourn for her, but she would be the last for whom he indulged in such feelings.

Or so he thought.

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Zande33
Nov 29, 2006, 05:47 AM
Excellent story!

Fetch
Nov 29, 2006, 07:12 AM
Boy, I hope not. Followers of my ALC games know that I got busy with real life for awhile, and that affected my updates of this story as well. Things are becoming calmer once again, so I hope to update more often. Once the current ALC is done, in fact, I plan to leave those aside for awhile and focus on this story instead. :D

Have you forgotten me?! I have to boast and say that I've been with the ALC from the beginning.

Also, I like how you took Jesus' quote in Matthew 22:21, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s," and changed it since you're Caesar. Neat.

Sisiutil
Dec 04, 2006, 08:12 PM
Chapter 6: First and Foremost

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He stepped out from behind a tree and looked down the hill’s slope, across the plain. He scowled at what he saw.

There, perched comfortably beside Lake Tiber, lay Rome. Just outside of it, to the city’s east, was its prize: a rich, terraced farm of rice paddies that fed the city. But that was not all; he strained his eyes and could just make out something new: a mine it appeared to be, just south of the city, like the one he’d seen outside of Antium, long ago. A tiny belch of flame and smoke periodically escaped from the mine.

This pleasant view of a nascent city and its citizens plying its nearby resources did not please the man who now glanced at the scene. Far from it. The plunder the Romans took from the land, and the comfort in which they lived, enraged him. He turned away and marched a few paces back into the woods to his companions.

“Romans,” he sneered as he rejoined them, then spat upon the ground as though just uttering the name itself was distasteful. “Bah! We were here long before them, and we’ll be here to spit upon their graves!”

He spoke loudly, for his voice had to carry to the hundreds of men in the forest clearing. They gave a low, rumbling cheer at his words—loud enough to show their enthusiasm, but not so loud as to carry to the city a few miles away.

Ragnar looked about the clearing at the men he led. They were strong and fierce, armed with bows and quivers full of arrows, as well as razor-sharp fighting knives in their belts. The Romans would no doubt regard them with disdain, even horror. Good, Ragnar thought.

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“They call us ‘barbarians’,” he said. The crowd rumbled, knowing the term was meant as an insult. To the Latin-speaking Romans, the Goths’ language sounded like ‘bar-bar-bar’—utter gibberish, hence the name. “Very well. We’ll show them the meaning of the word!”

His men again cheered; though restrained, their was no mistaking their enthusiasm.

“Tomorrow,” Ragnar said, smiling wolfishly from behind his long blond beard. “We strike tomorrow. We will pillage their land, raze their cities, feast upon their food, and take their women for our own pleasure!”

Another cheer, louder this time, and longer, as the men vented their anticipation, their bloodlust. Would the sound carry? Would the Romans be alerted? Well, what if they were? The result would be the same. Rome would fall. Ragnar himself looked forward to killing their leader, Caesar, with his own bare hands. Immortal, was he? He’d see about that…

Later, Ragnar sat around a campfire with a few of his lieutenants. Most were also blood kin.

“You spoke well, Ragnar,” one of them with long, dark brown hair and eyes black as coals said. “Every man here would die for you, you know that.”

Ragnar nodded with satisfaction. “Good. But I’d rather have the cursed Romans do the dying, Gorrum.”

“They die like any other man,” Gorrum replied. “I have killed several myself,” he added, his mouth twisting into a malicious smile.

“And they killed several of us in return,” another man said. “They have axes of bronze now. Very formidable,” he added with a shudder.

Gorrum glared at Drugan. “As are we. Our arrows will bring them down from a distance,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Besides, their precious axemen are away in the north, guarding their border with Spain.” He chuckled cruelly. “They won’t be expecting us. From what I understand, Rome is garrisoned by a few club-wielding warriors—no match for our bows!”

The older man, his dark hair and beard streaked with grey, nodded in agreement with him, but without enthusiasm. Drugan had the respect of the clan due to his advanced years—advanced for them, at least. He also had been, along with Gorrum, one of the few to survive an earlier, aborted raid the year before. The fighting had been close and vicious, but the Roman axemen had prevailed—barely. The few surviving men of the clan had escaped back into the southern woods and told their tale.

In a way, Ragnar had to admit, the Romans had done something the clans of the southern tundra could never do on their own: the encroaching Roman civilization had forced the clans to cease their in-fighting and unite to oppose them. They had shared their knowledge, of archery in particular, and had formed this massive force. Many of the tribe leaders had wanted to attack the Japanese to the east, but Ragnar had persuaded them that Rome, with its richer lands, was not only the bigger threat, but also the most enticing target.

“My brother died in that raid,” another man grumbled, his anger plainly simmering beneath the low tightness of his voice.

Ragnar clapped his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Many of us lost kin that day, Brugundius,” he said. “Tomorrow, they will be avenged, a thousand times over.” Ragnar nodded again and smiled grimly. “Tomorrow, the Romans will know the wrath of the Goths. Their club-wielding warriors will fall beneath a hailstorm of arrows. We will sack their city and kill them to a man.”

Brugundius nodded, then glanced up at the sky. “I can hardly wait for the stars to set,” he growled.

***

At dawn, the large raiding party was standing in the trees just east of Rome, where Ragnar had eyed their target the previous evening. They could see a few Romans working the rice paddies to the city’s east.

“First we pillage the farm,” Ragnar said to those nearby. “And deny them their precious food. Then, we sack Rome itself!”

The men around him growled and chuckled roughly in agreement. Ragnar turned to the assembled horde and raised his voice.

“ATTACK!” he shouted.

With that one word, the raiders were unleashed. For days they had restrained themselves, keeping quiet so as to catch the Romans unawares. Now they gave full voice to their fury and bloodlust, screaming in furious rage as they ran towards the rice paddies.

Ahead of them, they could see the Roman farmers suddenly stop what they were doing and turn towards them. The workers then turned and fled as a group, but kept hold of their hoes and rakes, seemingly for protection; indeed, the men who made up the rear of the fleeing group were running backwards, their tools held before them to ward off attack as they ran back to Rome.

“Let them run!” Ragnar shouted over the din of his warriors. “We’ll catch them and kill them in the city soon enough! Destroy the farm!”

Shouting and laughing eagerly, the warriors swarmed over the water-soaked paddies. They took began to kick at the low earth walls that held the water feeding the growing rice in place, allowing it to spill out over the nearby grasslands.

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Drugan, his mouth set in a grim line beneath his beard, approached Ragnar as both men watched the Warriors clumsily and slowly damaging the paddies.

“That was an orderly retreat,” the older Goth said. “They were expecting us. They didn’t even drop their tools.”

“What of it?” Ragnar said. “The farm is ours. Soon the city will be as well. You’re too gloomy, old friend.”

“Perhaps,” Drugan muttered. “But I have a bad feeling about this…”

Ragnar’s bushy eyebrows knitted together in an annoyed frown, and he stalked away from his pessimistic comrade. He began to shout encouragement to his men as they continued to damage the Romans’ precious farmland.

Then he heard it.

At first, he was barely aware of it. The sound came from a distance, from the city, and was barely noticeable over the din of the horde and their wanton acts of destruction. Gradually, though, all the Goths heard the sound, and slowly, they stopped to listen.

It sounded like… drums? Yes, several drums, being beaten in a regular rhythm. And another sound accompanied that, in perfect tempo with it: footsteps, hundreds of them, marching in unison.

Ragnar, along with all the Goths, turned and looked at the road that led to Rome. What he saw made him feel as though something cold and slimy had just rolled over in his gut.

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The sun shone off their metal helmets, so brightly that the Goths had to squint against the glare. Before them, the approaching force held large, tall shields, covering them nearly from head to toe, and decorated with eagle motifs. Their shins and arms were sheathed in metal greaves, their bodies covered by plated metal armour over their tunics. Dust rose from the rode behind them as they marched in precision towards the horde. There had to be several hundred of them—well over a thousand easily, but with the men in such a tight, square-shaped formation, it was hard to tell.

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Ragnar shook off his initial trepidation. He glanced around and could see that his fellow Goths were as intimidated as he. These was no mere handful of undisciplined warriors with clubs, nor a collection of brutish axemen; this was something entirely different. They all knew it. The Goth leader knew he had to rouse his men, firm up their courage. It was what a leader did, what his father had taught him.

Ragnar forced himself to laugh. “Don’t they look pretty?” he shouted to his comrades.

The Goths turned to look at him. Taking his show of bravado at face value, they found encouragement in his words, and laughed derisively as well.

“Have no fear, men of Goth!” Ragnar shouted. “We’ll show these green troops what fighting is really about!”

The Goths responded with enthusiastic, blood-curdling shouts. They took their bows from where they were slung over their shoulders and pulled arrows from their quivers. They now eagerly awaited the fight with these fresh-faced Roman troops.

Within the approaching Roman legion, the men were also mentally preparing themselves for battle.

“Steady, boys!” the Primus Pilus, the ‘First Spear’ who led the Legion in the field, marked by the high plume on his helmet, shouted to his charges. “We’ll show these barbarians what for! Stay in formation and remember your training!”

Two thousand strong they were: a legion, Rome’s first, comprised of twenty-five centuries, each made up of eighty men and led by a centurion. Twenty of the men in each century were non-combatants: cooks, baggage-handlers, metal-workers to repair weapons and armour and the like. These men were safely ensconced, at the moment, in Rome.

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At the centre of the legion marched Caesar, clad as they were in helmet, armour, and greaves. Only the bright red cape he wore indicated his high rank as their General. How could he not accompany them, his boys, on this, their first battle? He’d been hoping for just such an opportunity.

Despite the encouragement of the Primus Pilus and their months of training, Caesar could sense the nervousness in the men around him. This would be their first fight, and though their weapons and training were far superior to that of the horde they faced, and their numbers nearly equal, these young Romans were, as the barbarian leader had accurately surmised, untested in battle, and Caesar was all to aware of it. Would the formation collapse? Would the legion—the 1st Legion he called them, for that was what they were, in so many ways, Rome’s best—turn and run at first contact with the enemy? That couldn’t be allowed to happen.

Caesar knew that these young men needed something more than mere words to encourage them. But what…? Then he smiled. He knew just the thing.

“Let’s have a song, boys!” he shouted out above the din of marching feet. “A song, hey!”

Some of the troops turned to glance at him in surprise. Seeing their leader’s face beaming joyfully as they marched into battle roused their spirits.

The Primus Pilus smiled. “The bar-bar song, lads! Full voice, now!”

As one, the 1st Legion began to sing.

Oh, the bar-bars hide their pricks in trees
Their wives have beards down to their knees
When they come crawling close to Rome
The First will send them crying home…

Caesar laughed. It was crude and uncouth and exactly what they needed. They were only a hundred paces from the barbarians now.

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The Goth archers, at random, began to raise their bows and take aim. At that same moment, as if in anticipation, the lead Centurion shouted an order, and the singing ceased.

“Shields… UP!”

The men on the outside of the square were called the hastati; they were the youngest and strongest men in the Legion, most still in their teens. At the Centurion’s command, they held their shields to the outside, tight against one another, while the older men on the inside raised them over their heads. The Legion now resembled a moving, armoured building more than a group of men.

The Goths let their arrows fly. The slender missiles hissed quietly, like airborne snakes as they few towards their targets. The arrows reached the encroaching Roman Legion and either bounced harmlessly off the shields or struck them and held fast, but none penetrated the tight formation.

The barbarians were only some thirty-odd paces away now. The Primus Pilus shouted another order.

“Present… ARMS!”

As one, each hastati on the outside of the square drew his gladius—his short stabbing sword, forged from the finest iron, drawn from the mine just south of Rome—and inserted it through the spaces between the shields. The square now bristled like a porcupine.

From beside him upon the hill, where he was watching the approaching Roman force, Ragnar heard Drugan gasp.

“We’re done for, Ragnar!” the older man hissed. “We must flee!”

Rage overcame Ragnar’s fear. He lashed out and struck the other man across the face, sending him sprawling back onto the ground.

“Bite your tongue, you cowardly fool!” he shouted at the fallen Drugan. “We are Goths! We run from no one!” He turned to the other men and pulled his short, curved fighting daggers from his belt, holding one in each hand. “ATTACK! KILL THEM ALL!” he shouted.

The Goths shouldered their bows and pulled out their knives. They then roared and launched themselves at the Legion.

“HALT!” the Primus Pilus shouted, and the Legion, to a man, obeyed. “BRACE FOR IMPACT!”

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Every man in the square shifted his footing and bent his knees, preparing for the shock of several hundred men colliding with the leading face of the shield wall. The older men on the inside of the square—called the principes—kept their shields raised protectively over their heads with one hand while with their free sword hands, they gripped the thick leather belt of the men around them, especially those of the hastati, to hold them in position.

With a thundering crash, the attacking barbarians collided with the leading edge of the shield wall. The square shuddered and rippled, but it held. The hastati thrust their short swords forward, stabbing at the men who screamed wildly and swung and stabbed their knives against their shields. The heavy shields reverberated with each impact.

But the shields held, as did the line. And the stabbing swords did their work. The war shouts of the barbarians gradually turned to death cries, and the eagles on the Romans’ shields became covered with blood.

Yet still the barbarians pressed their attack, surrounding the Legion and attacking it on all sides. The sounds of battle and the angry and pained screams of men on both sides filled the air. The enemy was not broken, and the hastati began to tire. The barbarians sensed this, and pressed their attack, swinging their knives wildly and screaming in red-hot rage and insatiable bloodlust.

Now the Roman formation showed its true strength, for the square was not in fact a tight, inflexible formation of soldiers in rank-and-file. The men were positioned in a quincunx—patterns of five, like those on dice, repeated over and over again within the formation. As the hastati tired, the centurions leading them barked orders, and the youngest men in the Legion retreated through the gaps in the men behind them. Then the principes—men in their prime, in their twenties and thirties—stepped forward to relieve them with astonishing precision. The barbarians suddenly found themselves facing fresh, strong, confident troops in the front lines.

Still the battle raged on. Minutes which seemed like hours went by. Protected in the midst of the square, but effectively blind as well, Caesar became impatient.

“Damn it, how long is this going to take?” he said. He grabbed the Legionary nearest him. “You there. Drop your shield.”

“Uh… what?” the man said, startled. He was steadfastly holding his shield over his head, as he had been trained to do, for protection.

“That’s an order, soldier. Lower your shield to the ground. I’m going to stand on it, and you’re going to lift me, so I can see what’s going on. You there,” he said to another Legionary, “give him a hand!”

A moment later, Caesar was raised up above the formation by the two soldiers, hands boldly akimbo on his hips, his tall, gaunt figure surveying the battlefield. Several of the barbarians saw him and shouted angrily. One picked up a rock and threw it at him. Caesar nonchalantly ducked out of the way, and the rock bounced harmlessly off of the roof of the shield wall. Caesar smiled at his would-be attacker, then quickly raised his left fist and forearm while his right hand caught the inside of his elbow as his arm rose—a crude but profoundly expressive gesture.

“All right, lads, lower me down,” he ordered. He’d seen the disposition of the enemy’s forces, and had registered his opinion of them to boot. “Centurions!” he shouted when he was back on terra firma. “Their numbers are greatest to our west. Move that way, and cut them down to a man!”

“You heard Caesar, boys!” the Primus Pilus shouted. “Let’s finish these bastards off and send them back to their woods!”

The order was given, the Legion began to move, and the air filled even more than before with the scent of spilled blood and the screams of dying men.

For all his rage and bravado, Ragnar was still a leader, and he knew when a fight was lost. The numbers of his force were rapidly dwindling, while the Roman square seemed has strong as ever, and was working its way through his men like a hot knife through butter.

“Retreat!” he shouted. “Retreat to the forest!”

Exhausted and bloodied, the remaining Goths heard his order and struggled to obey. Some stubbornly remained to fight, the vengeful Brugundius among them. They fell to a man. More barbarians were cut down as they tried to run by the shield wall, but passed too close to escape the bite of each soldier’s gladius.

As the enemy began to flee, Caesar could feel his men’s triumph, but along with it, their dangerous urge to run after the enemy to finish them.

“Hold your formation!” he shouted. “Any man that leaves the square, I’ll flog him within an inch of his life! PERSONALLY!”

The combination of the threat and their training held the men back, and they watched, laughing and cheering in triumph, as a pitiful handful of the barbarians straggled back into the forest from whence they came. The majority of the Goth warriors lay dead or dying at the Romans’ feet.

“Good work, boys!” Caesar shouted. “Now let’s march back home to Rome. The grog’s on me!”

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The men cheered again, in anticipation, in triumph, and, in no small measure, in relief. They had gone through their first test in battle, and they had won. Rome was safe, but even more important, their victory bode well for the future of their civilization.

As they marched back into Antium, the Primus Pilus—Lucius Scipio, a swarthy, stocky man from Antium—walked beside Caesar and addressed him.

“Well, that was a dandy little training exercise,” he said.

Caesar smiled. “Is that all it was?” he said, though he knew, better than any, that it was true.

“Against that rabble?” Scipio responded. “Begging your pardon, Caesar, but my mother-in-law by herself would be more trouble than that bunch.” The man actually shuddered at the thought of his fearsome relation, and Caesar had to laugh. “Terrible woman! But that’s beside the point.” He glanced at his leader; Caesar could see the hunger in the man’s eyes. “I’m anxious to see how these lads do against a real enemy,” he said. “Aren’t you?”

Caesar smiled, albeit somewhat grimly. “More than you know, my friend,” he said. They’ll get their chance soon enough, he thought. For earlier that day, he had just received news of a new Japanese settlement that encroached on the borders of Rome itself, claiming land and resources that belonged rightfully to Caesar’s nascent but steadily growing empire.

Tokugawa, my old friend, you’re pushing your luck, Caesar thought. And now I have just the thing with which to push back…

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/PrincesCh6_12.jpg

From his vantage point within the forest, Ragnar, blood running freely from a gash on his forehead so it stung his eyes, watched the Legion marching away. Those standing near him would later swear they could hear his teeth grinding themselves down to the gum line.

So the Romans have sharp, heavy knives to stab us with now, eh? he thought angrily. Well, next time, we’ll have something sharp and heavy to greet you with. I hear the Etruscans in the far east have forged broad axes of bronze…

“This isn’t over…” Ragnar snarled at the Roman’s backs, then he disappeared into the forest.

TheArchduke
Dec 04, 2006, 11:05 PM
Ah, the first legion. Very nice story, especially as it only covers a barbarian attack on a rice field.:)

Now it is probably time to show the other vic.. neighbours around you that the roman way is the better way. Best to start off with Tokuwaga.

Sisiutil
Dec 05, 2006, 11:21 AM
Ah, the first legion. Very nice story, especially as it only covers a barbarian attack on a rice field.:)

Now it is probably time to show the other vic.. neighbours around you that the roman way is the better way. Best to start off with Tokuwaga.
Yeah, I was kind of hoping for something more dramatic like barb Axemen going after Rome's only iron mine, but that's what the game threw at me.

As for the neighbours... quit reading my mind! ;)

douglas_21
Dec 06, 2006, 07:29 PM
It would be cool to see movies of this...you could post a link to them or something. You wouldn't have to do it in Civ 4, maybe put diplomacy scenes in Sims 2. Just an idea to make the story more involving.

carl corey
Dec 06, 2006, 07:31 PM
Hehe, he's already working hard enough to get us this and the ALC series. Somehow I don't think turning it into a movie is his high priority. ;)

<nuke>
Dec 06, 2006, 07:33 PM
This is a great story Sisiutil

Sisiutil
Dec 07, 2006, 11:36 AM
It would be cool to see movies of this...you could post a link to them or something. You wouldn't have to do it in Civ 4, maybe put diplomacy scenes in Sims 2. Just an idea to make the story more involving.
Sorry, but I have no idea how to do that, I have no time to do that, and I have no inclination to do that. Sounds like a heckuvalot of work!

Plus I am a fan of the written word. If the story's not involving enough, then I need to improve my writing. If you have any suggestions in that regard, please pass them along! :D

Mikekem
Dec 07, 2006, 02:16 PM
Hi Sisiutil,

I just caught up on this and I think it's fantastic. I can't wait for more updates. I'm going to run along and catch up on you ALC's now. Keep up the good work.

Sisiutil
Dec 08, 2006, 08:41 PM
Chapter 7: The Sun also Sets

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In his throne room he sat, waiting, his face impassive as always. It wouldn’t be long now. The shouts and screams, the horrible sounds of battle, were dying down—literally. He could hear voices rising in triumph, victory cries ringing through the open windows.

The triumphant cheers, he could hear plainly, were in Latin.

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How had it all gone wrong? Tokugawa wondered. He’d had such great plans for his people. He was sure that being blessed by the gods with immortality had been a sign of their great plans for Japan, and for him as its leader. He glanced behind himself, at one of two flags hanging upon poles that flanked either side of his desk. A red sun blazed upon a snow-white background, so like the morning sun that blazed above the frigid waters east of Kyoto every morning. It was a fine flag for a great nation. Or a nation that would have been, could have been great.

But all along, at every step of the way, he had been there. Caesar. His cursed scouts raced ahead of his warriors, finding smaller tribes and gaining their allegiance for Rome. Rome’s trained warriors—HA! Tokugawa had to laugh bitterly, since most of those warriors’ experience had come from fighting animals. But it had been enough, enough to allow them to survive two raids on his slaves, despite the archers who had engaged them immediately afterwards. He had finally resorted to ensuring all work parties had an armed guard. A senseless waste of resources, but Caesar had made it necessary.

Then things seemed to change. Tokugawa sent a group of settlers out, and they’d founded Japan’s second city of Osaka just to the north of Kyoto, and in a resource-rich location: fields of wheat to the south, herds of cattle to the northeast, and to the northwest, a rich deposit of copper! And he’d beaten Caesar to it!

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The Japanese immortal shook his head and sighed heavily. He should have know the Roman would take it as a challenge, as deliberate provocation. Osaka was now a Roman city. Pisae, Caesar had renamed it, stamping the identity of Rome upon it as he did upon everything he encountered. He’d taken the city with those terrifying troops of his—those Legions, with their tight, precise formations, their broad shields, their short but brutally effective swords…

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How he wished he’d had troops like that! Oh, of course he respected the Romans, even admired and envied them! He’d ordered his advisors to research along similar lines, to come up with a military unit that would give Japan just such an advantage. They’d come back with half-baked ideas that would have taken several generations to come to fruition, and that was time Japan did not have.

Once again the Japanese ruler glanced behind himself at the flag. Then his dark, narrow eyes looked out a nearby window, where the sun was just beginning to rise over the sea beyond the palace’s terrace garden, the bright orb as red as his nation’s flag depicted it… as red as the blood of his soldiers that ran in the streets like rainwater after a deluge. At that very moment, all at once, the noise of battle died down, and everything around him seemed quiet and deceptively peaceful.

The moment of quiet stretched out. A word, then a phrase, flashed into Tokugawa’s mind. He frowned. Now? He thought, then shrugged. Why not now? He pulled a blank sheet of parchment out of his desk and grasped a quill, which he dipped into a well of octopus’ ink. He then put quill to paper and began to write.

A red sun rises
Water drips from bamboo leaves
In the mist, loons cry

He stared at the words he’d written, then nodded. Not bad, he thought with a measured amount of pride. Not one of my best, and certainly nothing that competes with Bashō, but not bad, especially under the circumstances.

Tokugawa then heard heavy footfalls coming down the hall towards him. He felt that familiar, tingling feeling in this neck and temples. So he was here, and it was time. He set the sheet of parchment and the quill aside. His hand, instinctively, went to his side and grasped the sword-hilt there. At least all that research on metalwork had yielded one worthwhile thing, the first-of-its-kind weapon at his side. It was his one remaining hope, along with whatever skill he possessed. For even if Rome triumphed over Japan, if that civilization suddenly found itself without a leader…

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The door opened and Tokugawa rose from his chair. Through the open doorway strode Caesar. He wore the same uniform as his soldiers: a metal helmet with cheek-straps and a protruding peak at the back, above the neck; layered armour plates worn over a dark red tunic; a leather kilt; metal greaves upon his forearms and shins. Only the back-to-front plume of bright red feathers and the long red cape hanging from his shoulders marked him as the commander-in-chief.

At Caesar’s side hung his own sword, the short but strong and sharp gladius, in its leather scabbard. His left arm supported the tall, broad Legionary’s shield.

The Roman leader nodded towards Tokugawa, who returned his wordless, curt greeting. Caesar turned and quietly gave an order in Latin to the Legionaries behind him, who then closed the door, leaving the two immortals alone.

“We won’t be disturbed,” Caesar said to Tokugawa.

“How romantic,” the Japanese leader said drily.

Caesar’s thin smile indicated he was not in the mood for jests. “You knew it had to come to this,” he remarked.

“Of course,” Tokugawa said grimly.

Caesar drew his gladius from its scabbard and held it, its blade jutting out from beside his shield, its point aiming at Tokugawa.

Tokugawa glanced at the short stabbing sword and smiled. He drew his own blade from its scabbard and held it before him, two hands upon its long handle. A katana, it was called in Japanese: single-edged and with a long, graceful curve.

“Mine is bigger,” Tokugawa said.

“Size isn’t everything,” Caesar responded.

The two men stepped towards one another. Tokugawa raised and swung his katana towards Caesar’s right side. The Roman leader arrested the thrust of his gladius and instead deflected the blow. Sensing an advantage, Tokugawa thrust his sword tip over the top of Caesar’s blade. Caesar stepped back and used his shield to ward off the thrust.

Tokugawa pressed his advantage. He drew the blade back and feinted to Caesar’s left, which he easily protected with the shield. Then Tokugawa swung the sword over his head again at Caesar’s open right side, and again the Roman leader stepped back to avoid the blow. Tokugawa kept repeating this pattern, with subtle variations such as thrusting his sword tip over the top of Caesar’s shield. He kept driving Caesar back towards the door, hoping to pin him there with nowhere to retreat.

Just as Caesar was about to back up against the door, he suddenly planted his right foot behind himself and hunkered down behind his shield. Tokugawa’s next blow struck the shield, and Caesar immediately pushed himself forward. His shield deflected Tokugawa’s sword, and then slammed into the Japanese leader’s body, winding him. Tokugawa now stepped backwards, suddenly off-balance.

“All right,” Caesar growled. “You’ve had your fun.”

And like his unstoppable Legions, the Roman leader marched forward, advancing on Tokugawa. The Japanese immortal swung and stabbed with his katana, but Caesar ably blocked every cut and thrust with either his shield or his own sword. One thrust went horribly awry; the blade of the katana was caught, momentarily, in a gap between the metal eagle emblazoned upon Caesar’s shield and the shield itself. Caesar felt the sword catch and pushed the shield out to his left. His gladius suddenly thrust forward and stabbed into Tokugawa’s mid-section.

The Japanese immortal, shocked by the sudden change in fortune and the burning pain in his gut, took several steps backwards. As an immortal, he healed quickly; if he could just avoid Caesar for a few moments, he could recover…

Caesar was having nothing of it. He kept marching forward, giving his opponent no time to recuperate. Tokugawa swung weakly at the shield, his blade bounced off it, and again he felt the hot stab of metal piercing his belly. Another step back, a feint which Caesar saw coming, and this time the gladius swung diagonally across Tokugawa’s chest.

Tokugawa’s dark eyes opened wide. His kimono was cut open, exposing his chest, which splattered blood onto the garment. Caesar brought his sword down hard and knocked the katana from his opponent’s hand.

The Japanese immortal wavered, then dropped to his knees. He glanced up at Caesar, who now set his shield aside and was raising his gladius for the final blow.

“You were… a worthy… opponent,” Tokugawa stammered. He could feel the blood rising in his throat and choked it back. “My sword… I leave to you.”

Caesar smiled grimly. “I would have taken it anyway.”

“I know, but…” Tokugawa began to say, and Caesar completed silently what the pain would not let his opponent finish: But in giving it to you I claim this one last remaining shred of my dignity. He had to admire the gesture, even sympathize with it.

“There can be only one,” Caesar said.

He swung the gladius and severed Tokugawa’s head from his neck. The head fell to the floor, the body slumped there after it.

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Caesar took a step backwards. According to the vision he had experienced so long ago, when his immortality had become manifest, he would now experience the quickening—the transference of his fallen opponent’s knowledge and power. He had never experienced it before. He wondered what it would be like. Probably painful, he decided.

Like a low, hissing whisper it began; a mist appeared around Tokugawa’s body, then rose, swirling, like an ethereal snake seeking the victorious immortal. A low rumble like thunder resonated within the room, and without it. Then a flash, a bright arc like lightning leapt from the corpse, then another. The mist swirled around Caesar now, and seemed to act as a guide to the lightning, for its next flash leapt from Tokugawa’s body directly to him.

Caesar’s supposition had been correct. When the quickening found and struck him, it hurt like hell. His entire body tensed as mystical lightning arced around it. His gladius dropped from his hand. He tossed his head back and his helmet fell off, clattering onto the marble floor. Caesar yelled.

And still it would not let him go! The lightning swirled around Caesar’s agonized body as the immortal roared in pain. Around him in the throne room, exquisite clay pots rattled, then exploded, their shards flying about the room. Nearby, two metal poles behind the throne held two flags of Japan. The lightning leapt to them. Sparks erupted from the poles, and the flags burst into flame.

Then, as quickly as it had begun, the quickening died away. The lightning ceased, the swirling mist faded. Caesar took a rasping, painful breath, then dropped to his hands and knees like a puppet whose strings are suddenly cut. He knelt upon the marble floor and drew rasping breaths into his aching lungs. He felt incredibly weary, as though he’d run a marathon after not sleeping for a week.

Shaking, the immortal raised his head and glanced around. He looked over to where Tokugawa’s body had been. It was gone! Both the severed head and the rest of the corpse had vanished as if they had never been. All that remained were the katana and the empty kimono.

“Well that’s… convenient,” Caesar muttered as he shakily pushed himself back to his feet.

The doors to the chamber burst open, and several concerned Legionaries burst into the room.

“Caesar!” one of them exclaimed. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, as you can see,” he answered, though his face was ashen and his limbs still trembled. Jupiter, that was draining!

“…and Tokugawa…?”

“Is no more,” he said, his icy blue eyes darting over at the empty kimono.

The soldiers followed his gaze, and their own eyes opened wide. They glanced back at Caesar warily.

“Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t eat him,” he said impatiently. “Now stop gaping. One of you fetch the commander of the local garrison, if he’s still alive. I wish to speak to him.”

Though still slightly stunned, the soldiers left to do Caesar’s bidding. Following orders was far easier and even more comforting than speculating on how a grown man could vanish without a trace.

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Caesar picked up Tokugawa’s katana and its scabbard. He slowly walked over to the Japanese leader’s desk, where he sat down and laid the sword on the flat surface before him. He studied it wearily for some time.

A fine blade, he thought. Not practical for the Legions, but well-suited for individual duels. Tokugawa nearly had me; smart remarks aside, the gladius is too short for that sort of fight. From now on, I’ll use this sword. Caesar took a deep breath and smiled wolfishly. I cannot wait to see what that lunatic Montezuma thinks of it…

Caesar then noticed, upon the surface of the desk, the lone sheet of parchment with the figures upon it—those strange, oddly beautiful characters that made up the Japanese alphabet, symbols which he had not had the time to learn. He sensed more than knew that it was in Tokugawa’s own hand. He grasped the sheet and stared at it. Last will and testament? Caesar speculated. It seems too short for that. Final orders? He frowned as if he could make the meaning of his foe’s last written words leap from the page, but of course nothing of the sort happened. He tossed the parchment aside. I’ll have one of my people translate it later, he thought. It’s probably nothing important.

In a heartbeat, Caesar was back on his feet, his usual strength and tireless vigour returning. After a brief rest, he reflected, the bulk of Rome's Legions would be on the move again, for reports had reached him of yet another barbarian city, this one almost due east of Kyoto--no, Brundisium, he corrected himself, for that would be the city's new name. He would capture and quell this den of thieves and cutthroats just as he had Ostia, to Rome's north. Yes, the north, Caesar thought, grinning in anticipation as he remembered his plans for the Spaniards and Aztecs.

He was out the door a moment later, the mysterious sheet of parchment all but forgotten.

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<nuke>
Dec 10, 2006, 12:38 PM
Yay! You killed Toku :lol:

I wonder how Ceaser will use his new toy :mischief:

Fetch
Dec 11, 2006, 12:27 PM
I love how you transition well from the civilized style you use to comment on your ALC games to the brutish style of Princes. Even Caesar himself is this dichotomy-- a cunning and thoughful leader of the Romans, but also a bit of a barbarian with the immortal curse.

<nuke>
Dec 11, 2006, 11:21 PM
Need new update

Sisiutil
Dec 11, 2006, 11:33 PM
Need new update

Please be patient. ;) I realized the story needs a new chapter here, as yet unwritten, for the following chapter to have more impact. So the next update may take just a little longer...

Nick014
Dec 16, 2006, 03:42 PM
Anxiously awaiting the continuation

Sisiutil
Dec 17, 2006, 01:10 AM
Anxiously awaiting the continuation
Well, the good news is that the current ALC match is nearly done, and I'll take some time to move this story along before starting the next one... and I have taken several days off over the holidays. :goodjob:

TheArchduke
Dec 17, 2006, 05:16 AM
Late Comment as I had some busy weeks.:)

As with the others I like your style of writing. It seems however that Tokuwaga (as the isolationist he is) was a push-over. Nice how you included your early raids in the story btw. Seems like he never stood a chance.

And with Monty and Isabella being both nutcases and buddhist, this continent should be conquered throughly while you still got the troops to pull it off. So I would advise a bit more of buildup (construction for some catapults) and then send the legions off to those two. I would worry about your economy later.

Sisiutil
Dec 17, 2006, 11:45 AM
Late Comment as I had some busy weeks.:)

As with the others I like your style of writing. It seems however that Tokuwaga (as the isolationist he is) was a push-over. Nice how you included your early raids in the story btw. Seems like he never stood a chance.

And with Monty and Isabella being both nutcases and buddhist, this continent should be conquered throughly while you still got the troops to pull it off. So I would advise a bit more of buildup (construction for some catapults) and then send the legions off to those two. I would worry about your economy later.
Thanks for the comments. Unlike the ALC games, I'm not aiming for any sort of strategic analysis here--though I certainly appreciate the advice! My main and only goal is to tell a story.

Fetch
Jan 24, 2007, 08:52 AM
An update, an update! Half my kingdom for an update!

Sisiutil
Jan 24, 2007, 12:04 PM
An update, an update! Half my kingdom for an update!
Only half? Richard III offered all of his for a horse...

BorgeoisBuffoon
Jan 24, 2007, 02:54 PM
Only half? Richard III offered all of his for a horse...

I'll toss half of mine to even it out. ;)

Seriously: it's quite rare to see very good stories lately, and although I know you have a schedule, even tiny updates are most appreciated in this excellent tale. I'm new to Civ IV but hopefully I'd be playing well enough to play a decent game and write up on it like you have with Rome here.

wenamon
Jan 29, 2007, 06:45 PM
I too hope this story comes back. It is very well told right from the start and now that I am caught up on it I am itching for another chapter. I especially like how you introduce new characters by zooming right up on their images from the game. authentic.

Sanovice
Jan 30, 2007, 06:12 PM
this story alone got me back into playing Civ4 AND got me to sign up here. update!! w00t!

wenamon
Feb 02, 2007, 01:09 AM
welcome sanovice. the wait continues for us all :(

Sisiutil
Feb 02, 2007, 11:15 AM
Next chapter this weekend. Promise.

<nuke>
Feb 03, 2007, 12:16 AM
Yes! Thank you. Ceasar will rise again :)

Sisiutil
Feb 03, 2007, 12:25 AM
Yes! Thank you. Ceasar will rise again :)
That could be interpreted as a double entendre, especially once I get to the chapter where he meets Elizabeth... ;)

<nuke>
Feb 03, 2007, 12:38 AM
Ohh, sounds cool

Sisiutil
Feb 04, 2007, 08:55 PM
Chapter Eight: Slavery, Part 1

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Sostratus Camillus sat upon a concrete bench outside his greatest achievement and sighed heavily. He ran his left had through his short, sandy blond hair and scratched absent-mindedly at the back of his neck. Then he let his hand fall to his lap.

“He’s not coming, is he?” he said morosely.

His brother Drusus glanced at him and shifted his helmet from one arm to the other. “He’s very busy in Rome, Sostratus. But I assure you, he’s very proud of you. I’m proud of you! It’s a beautiful building, an incredible achievement.”

Before them, aged scholars and young students traversed the marble steps leading into the Great Library of Ravenna. A small clump of them, a half dozen or so, had gathered off to one side, near one of the fruit stands near the base of the great stairway, their faces rapt and alight as they intensely discussed some esoteric subject. A constant stream of scholars entered and exited the great wooden doors of the building, holding scrolls as lovingly as a parent would a beloved child.

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Sostratus rose to his feet, his right hand gripping a gnarled cane, his face displaying the briefest of grimaces as he stood and put weight upon his misshapen right leg.

“He still thinks he should have exposed me,” Sostratus said.

“That is not true, Sostratus,” his dark-haired younger brother insisted, his shining armor clanking as he, too, rose to his feet. He placed one large hand on his brother’s shoulder. Though three years younger than Sostratus, he was nearly a foot taller and several pounds heavier—all of it muscle, it seemed—than his lame older brother. “Self-pity doesn’t become you, big brother,” he chided his sibling gently.

Sostratus smiled and nodded. “You’re right, of course. Can you stay for dinner?”

Drusus frowned. “Unfortunately, no. The 8th leaves in an hour. It’s a long march to the border.”

"Why would the Spaniards found another city so close to our borders?" Sostratus asked, shaking his head in disbelief.

"Who knows?" Drusus responded. "You'd think they'd have learned their lesson after we razed Seville, but..." The Primus Pilae for the 8th Legion shrugged his broad shoulders. "It's Isabella. She's either crazy, or she's eager for a fight."

"Do you think it means war?" Sostratus asked.

"Sooner or later, yes." Drusus answered, his jaw set firmly. "Rome has a great destiny, my brother. Spain seems determined to get in our way. The consequences are inevitable."

Sostratus turned, his thin face betraying his concern as he looked at his younger brother. Despite the armour and the masculine physique beneath it, he remembered the small, dark-haired boy Drusus had been, always running ahead of him and getting into one scrape or another. It seemed to Sostratus that he spent most of his childhood getting Drusus out of fights; a cane came in very hand under those circumstances, as several jeering boys had been shocked to discover. It came as no surprise to Sostratus when Drusus joined Rome’s constantly growing army.

“Be careful, Drusus,” he said.

“Always, big brother!” Drusus said with a grin. His gaze strayed so he was looking over Sostratus’s shoulder. Suddenly the smile vanished, and Drusus straightened his back as though he were on a parade ground. “Hail, Caesar!” he said, suddenly every inch the centurion.

“Hail, Drusus Camillus,” a low, sonorous voice intoned. “And this must be your brother, Sostratus?”

Sostratus’s eyes had gone wide at his brother’s reaction, and he slowly turned to face the man standing behind him. He had to look up into his face; Caesar was a good half-head taller than the average Roman, and Sostratus, with his clubfoot, was shorter than most. He’d never met the immortal Roman leader before; he’d both looked forward to a meeting one day, but had also quailed at the thought. Now here the man was, in the flesh, his tall, lean body draped in a purple-bordered toga, surrounded by a dozen attendants who all hung on his every word and order.

“It is, Caesar,” Drusus said, still standing at attention.

“At ease,” Caesar said absent-mindedly, and Drusus relaxed a little, but Caesar’s icy, blue-eyed gaze was focused upon Sostratus. Fortunately, the young architect had grown up enduring the harsh, appraising eye of a strict father, so he weathered the scrutiny better than many would have.

“Ceasar,” Sostratus said quietly, bowing his head respectfully. “It’s an honour…”

“The honour is mine, Sostratus Camillus,” Caesar said magnaminously. Sostratus raised his head and found that imposing, eagle-like visage had broken out into a broad smile. Caesar looked to his left, at the façade of the Great Library. He nodded with satisfaction. “It’s a splendid building you’ve built, young man. A perfect marriage of form and function. As much as Rome needs soldiers,” he said with a nod towards Drusus, “she also needs scholars—and architects to give both of them homes.”

Sostratus couldn’t help smiling with delight at the words. Oh, he’d known his library would be a marvel—a wonder! He’d designed it that way. But hearing his civilization’s leader describe it in such glowing terms filled his heart. After a lifetime of brutal teasing and snide remarks, the clubfooted young man felt vindicated. If only father would… he began to think.

“If I may steal your brother from you for a few minutes, Drusus?” Caesar asked.

“Of course, Caesar,” Drusus said agreeably, obviously proud to see a member of the family so much in the leader’s good graces. “I have to steal away myself.”

“Ah, yes, back to the 8th. Tell the boys I’ll catch up with them on the road.”

“They’ll look forward to it, Caesar!” Drusus said as he turned and strode away.
Caesar smiled at Sostratus and looked at him thoughtfully. “So tell me… now that your Great Library is finished, do you have another commission?”

“Well, apparently there’s a public bath to be built in Pisae,” Sostratus said. “I thought I’d put my name forward.”

Caesar frowned and shook his head. “A public bath?” he said doubtfully. “I think your talents would be wasted there. No, I have something much grander in mind, if you’re game.”

Sostratus took a deep breath. He recalled his excitement when his design had been chosen for the Great Library, reportedly by Caesar himself. Now he was about to receive a commission from Rome’s immortal ruler himself! He could barely contain his excitement.

“Of course, Caesar! What is it?”

Caesar looked thoughtfully to the west. “How do you feel about taking in some sea air?” he asked, grinning.

***
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Two months later, Sostratus was sitting in his new makeshift office in Antium, working at his drafting table. He dipped the point of his reed pen in a small bottle of octopus’ ink, then pressed it to the papyrus sheet again. He cursed softly when the point broke, then looked around for another.

“Damn it!” he swore. “Rufus!” he shouted, then drummed his fingers on the drafting table while he waited for a response. “Rufus, where are you!”

“Coming, master!” a voice shouted from the hall. “Coming, coming, coming…”

At long length, a man appeared in the doorway and shuffled over to Sostratus’ work area. His hair was dark brown and close-cropped, with just a few strands of grey to indicate the onset of middle age; he wore a simple linen tunic, tied at the waist with a length of rope. Old worn sandals adorned his feet.

“Rufus, I need more reeds sharpened,” Sostratus said. “I told you, I go through several a day.”

“Yes, master, of course, master!” Rufus said, then turned and started to walk back to the door.

“Here now, where are you going?” Sostratus called after him angrily.

The slave stopped and turned. “Begging your pardon, master, to finish preparing your lunch.”

“Lunch can wait,” Sostratus said. “I need the pens now.”

Rufus turned and walked back to the drafting table, shaking his head. “If you do not eat, master, you will not be able to work!” Reluctantly, he picked up a handful of unsharpened reeds and pulled a small, sharp knife from a small leather pouch that hung from his makeshift belt.

“You’re new to my service, Rufus,” Sostratus said, “but learn this now and remember it: I can go hours, even days without food when I’m working. The work comes first.”

Rufus nodded in resignation. “You know best, master,” he said as he began sharpening a reed while Sostratus waited. “I hear Caesar also does this—works for days without food or drink. My wife’s cousin’s father-in-law is a slave in Caesar’s villa in Rome, you see. I heard it from him.”

“Well, there you are. So it’s not unusual,” Sostratus said, plucking the sharpened reed from Rufus’ fingers.

“Yes, master,” Rufus said, sighing as he picked up another reed to sharpen. “But Caesar is immortal,” he added under his breath.

Sostratus glanced at his drawing of a tall, stone tower, which arose from, yet seemed part of a wave-drenched rocky promontory. The tower was topped by a huge lantern that would house a large mirror for use during the day and a huge, bright blaze at night. It would be visible for miles out at sea, and tremendously aid navigation to Rome’s main seaport. He permitted himself a little smile of satisfaction, and of anticipation.

“Once this is built,” Sostratus murmured, “I will be too…”

***

“It’s taking too long,” Sostratus said, his features scowling as he watched the workers heaving the heavy stones out to the rocky promontory. A sea breeze ruffled his sandy hair, which now had streaks of grey in it.

“We’re working as fast as we can,” the foreman, a burly, dark-featured man named Cornelius told him. “We already have the slaves working double shifts…”

“Then have them work triple shifts!” Sostratus said sharply. “Caesar wants this completed within five years. Five! It will take us two hundred at this pace! Get more slaves!”

“From where?” Cornelius said with a shrug. “Rome, Antium, Pisae, Ravenna—everywhere, everyone’s building! All that money we captured from Spain—it’s driving a building boom!”

“There’s your answer,” Sostratus said. “Spain, or at least the parts of it we’ve captured. There must be plenty of war prisoners and malcontents we can put to work.”

“Perhaps,” Cornelius said with a shrug, “but it will take time…”

“It will take more time without them,” Sostratus snapped. “See to it!”

Cornelius gave a resigned nod, then walked away, leaving Sostratus staring at the broad, square stonework that would serve as the foundation for the lighthouse. He shook his head and sighed impatiently. Two years had passed since he’d finalized his design. He’d hoped to be half-way finished by now, but the walls weren’t even higher than his own head!

“So this is how you’re keeping yourself busy these days,” a deep male voice said from behind him.

Even as he heard it, Sostratus’ blood turned to ice water in his veins. His stomach clenched, just as it had every time this man came into his presence, ever since he was a boy.

“Father…” Sostratus said, turning.

Quintus Camillus was well into his fifties now, and had the weathered features, grey hair, and paunch to go with it. But he looked as strong as ever; those arms still looked capable of gripping a shield and gladius, as they had in their youth, or a hickory switch, as they had frequently when raising his two sons. The elder Camillus’ thrusts and parries, however, were now restricted to verbal ones in Rome’s law courts.

The older man’s gaze was not directed at his son, but at the stone foundation a few yards away.

“What’s this supposed to be then?” he asked, waving at the stonework dismissively.

“A l-lighthouse, father,” Sostratus said meekly, then remembered his father’s constant reminders to stand straight and speak up, which he did. “A lighthouse, to guide ships.”

“A lighthouse?” Quintus said, looking at the structure dubiously. “It has quite a ways to go, then, doesn’t it?”

“Y-yes,” Sostratus said. He silently cursed himself; why did he only stutter in his father’s presence? There had been times when the old man had accused him of doing it deliberately, in order to irritate him. As if Sostratus would ever want to do that! “It’s the s-slaves… they’re hard to c-come by, and…”

“I received word from your brother Drusus,” Quintus said, a note of pride stealing into his voice as his gaze shifted northwards. “The 8th is advancing on that new city the Spaniards were cheeky enough to build east of Ravenna...Santiago, they call it. Looks like war. Great news, eh?”

“Yes, father… g-great news…” Sostratus said. “How is D-Drusus…?”

“Makes me wish I was a younger man, so I could be there with them!” the older man said, continuing to speak as though his son had said nothing. He patted his ample belly. “Oh well, those days are past. At least I have one son who’s serving Rome as I did.”

Sostratus felt the colour rising to his cheeks, but knew better than to voice the reply on the tip of his tongue. There is more than one way to serve Rome, father…

“He wanted me to come down, Drusus did,” Quintus went on. “See what you were up to. Not much, it looks like,” he said, casting a dismissive eye at the stone foundations once again.

“Thank you for m-making the journey, father…” Sostratus began to say.

Quintus waved at him, silencing him. “No need to make a fuss about it. I have a client here in Antium I needed to see anyway.”

“Oh. Of c-course.”

“So, when will this thing be finished, anyway?”

“Caesar wants it operational in f-five years.”

The older Camillus barked a laugh. It was not a pleasant sound. “Five years? I think our great leader is going to be disappointed!”

Sostratus ground his teeth. He’d had enough—more than enough. More than enough for a lifetime, no, several lifetimes. He designed buildings that would stand for hundreds, even thousands of years, that bespoke of the power and the majesty of Rome and her growing empire. Of course the legions were a part of that as well, and Drusus with them—but what did they really do, except kill? Sostratus built things! Yet in his father’s eyes, he was nothing more than a lame, useless fool, who’d only been kept alive because his mother had begged her husband not to expose her first born child, despite the imperfection that had been obvious even at birth.

“No, father,” Sostratus said firmly. “He will not be disappointed. The lighthouse will be completed on schedule, and it will be a marvel to behold. It will guide ships even in the worst weather, it will make Antium the world’s greatest seaport, and it will save the lives of sailors for generations!” He didn’t even notice that his stutter had vanished.

Quintus stared at his eldest son, whose blue eyes were blazing with an almost religious fervour, as if seeing him for the first time. He then shook his head and glanced back at the low foundations.

“Well, if you say so,” the advocate said. He suddenly grimaced and pressed his hand against his belly.

“Is something wrong?” Sostratus asked.

“Must be something I ate,” Quintus remarked. He inhaled deeply once the pain passed. “Speaking of which, I don’t suppose you have time for dinner tonight?”
Sostratus shrugged. “I… have to be on site quite late most nights. I suppose I could…”

“No matter,” Quintus said. “Some other time.” He turned to go, walking back towards the litter that would convey him back into Antium. “Do write and keep me informed on your progress, eh, Sostratus?”

“Of course,” Sostratus called after his father. “For all that you care,” he murmured once the old man was out of earshot.

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Mehmed100
Feb 05, 2007, 12:21 PM
Thanks for the wonderfully written story and an update. Keep up the good work!:goodjob:

carl corey
Feb 05, 2007, 01:11 PM
Quite the builders, these Romans, eh? :D And huzzah for the update!

BorgeoisBuffoon
Feb 05, 2007, 03:00 PM
A very enjoyable update. Cannot wait to see more-it was good to see you writing again!

wenamon
Feb 05, 2007, 06:09 PM
ditto...
wipe out izzy already will u?


seriously tho... this is the only story i look forward to getting updated. good job!

Fetch
Feb 06, 2007, 06:57 AM
Ahhh.... (stops twitching). How wonderful to get an update. Thanks Sisiutil.

Sanovice
Feb 12, 2007, 03:27 PM
i think you should publish this as a book because its amazing

Ashlord
Feb 13, 2007, 11:09 AM
If anyone want to read an awesome story about Rome, go to Civ 3 stories and tales and read Pax Romana by Vanadorn. Make sure you have about a month to read, it is over 2000 posts. That is a classic story/novel.

biggamer132
Feb 15, 2007, 12:27 PM
Wow, I just started reading this and it's a great story. I used to read Pax Romana too, but I left the boards for a while and it'd gotten so long I just gave up. :lol:

Nick014
Feb 16, 2007, 03:29 PM
I demand more!

Ravellion
Feb 18, 2007, 03:56 PM
I can't wait to see what happens next!

<nuke>
Feb 19, 2007, 01:00 AM
He hasn't updated in a while...

Sisiutil
Feb 19, 2007, 01:06 AM
Chapter Eight: Slavery, Part 2

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“Rufus! I need…”

“Here you are, master!” the slave said, appearing as if from thin air and placing a half-dozen sharpened reed pens at Sostratus’ elbow.

“Ah,” Sostratus said, picking up the reed and examining its tip, which was sharpened to an immaculate point. “Good. Now…”

“But first, you must eat, master,” Rufus said. He set down a plate with several slices of bread surrounding a bowl of hot, steaming soup. It smelled wonderful; Sostratus’ mouth watered and his stomach growled at the sight—and the smell.

“Just as soon as I…”

“No!” Rufus said insistently. “No ‘as soon as’. You need to eat now. Otherwise, you will be too tired to focus. You will then be unsatisfied with your work, making me run around scrounging up more papyrus and sharpening more pens, yelling at me the whole time because you are convinced that somehow it is all my fault.”

Sostratus looked at his slave incredulously. “How long have we been married?” he asked sarcastically.

Rufus laughed, but pushed the soup under his master’s nose. “Do you think I’ve learned nothing, serving you these last three years? I may be a slave, but I am not an idiot. Now, my wife worked very hard on this wonderful soup, and she will be very disappointed if I tell her that you did not eat it. You may be my master, but she is my boss. Trust me, I don’t want to make her upset!”

Sostratus smiled and took a sip of the soup; the beefy broth and hearty vegetables tasted excellent, and he felt refreshed almost instantly. He had to acknowledge that Rufus had a point. He did tend to overwork himself, often to the point of exhaustion, and then became more unproductive as a result. He glanced at Rufus as if for the first time; the man was his own age or thereabouts, and had the olive complexion and dark hair typical of many Romans. Sostratus began to wonder, for the first time, what was it about this man that made him a slave instead of free?

“How did you become a slave, Rufus?” Sostratus asked as he dipped some of the bread into the broth.

“My father,” Rufus said with a sigh. “I should like to be able to say he was a gambler, but that implies that he had some skill at it, which, sadly, he did not.”

“He went into debt?” Sostratus deduced.

“Indeed he did,” Rufus said. “So much so that he had no choice but to sell himself, his wife, and his children into slavery to pay off his creditors.”

“How long…?”

“I was six when this happened,” Rufus said. “I don’t even remember my life before I became a slave. You are the fourth master I have had, and though it sounds like something I would say to curry favour, you are in many ways the best.”

“How so?” Sostratus asked, intrigued.

“You have never beaten me,” Rufus said simply. “You work me hard, yes, but no harder than you work yourself. And you are doing great work,” he added, gesturing at the many detailed drawings of the lighthouse, his chest swelling with pride. “I am glad to be a part of it.”

“Thank you, Rufus,” Sostratus said quietly. He didn’t know what else to say; he was genuinely moved. It had never occurred to him that a slave could be glad to serve his master. In fact, before today, he’d never given slaves much consideration at all. They’d always been there, in the background, for as long as he could remember, quietly performing their assigned tasks.

Rufus smiled. “And you are the first master who has ever said those words to me,” he said. “Now eat!”

“Yes, mother,” Sostratus said with a sheepish grin, bemused by the irony of a slave giving orders to his master.

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***

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Sostratus tilted his head to look out through the wooden scaffolding. Over three hundred feet below him, waves crashed against the rocky shoreline. It had taken over four years, but the first two sections of the lighthouse were finally complete: the broad, lower square section first, then the more slender, octagonal second section. Each section, on its own, made up half the current height of the lighthouse. Now only the top, circular section had to be finished, which would house the light, the structure’s main purpose.

“We’re still behind schedule,” he muttered unhappily.

Standing behind him, Cornelius sighed and shook his head. “I thought we were coming up here to enjoy the view,” the foreman said, “and forget about the damned schedule for a just a little while.”

“I can never forget about the damned schedule,” Sostratus said. “It fills my waking mind and haunts my dreams.”

“Surely Caesar doesn’t expect the impossible,” Cornelius said.

Sostratus laughed bitterly. “You don’t know him very well,” he said. “Both my father and my brother campaigned with him. He led my brother’s legion on a forced march with him through the jungles north of Ravenna to reach Barcelona. Men were dropping like flies from the heat, the humidity, malaria, dysentery… but Caesar drove them on. He goaded them, inspired them, rallied them, rushed physicians and medicine from Rome… but he still insisted that they march and fight and take the city. Whatever the cost. Which they did.”

Cornelius coughed uncomfortably. “Speaking of costs…”

Sostratus sighed. “What now?” he asked tiredly.

“We lost twelve more yesterday.”

“Twelve?” Sostratus exclaimed, turning to glare at his foreman with shock and amazement.

“The scaffolding on the south side collapsed,” Cornelius explained, waving his hand in that direction, which was behind him. Indeed, now that he looked, Sostratus saw that no wooden scaffolding rose above the lip of that section of the tower. “It took the slaves with it, including two of our best masons.”

“Damn it!” Sostratus swore, slamming the heel of his fist against the stone wall. “You’ll just have to replace them.”

“That won’t be easy…”

“I don’t care how hard it is!” Sostratus shouted. “Get more slaves! Go up to Cordoba yourself and round up every Spaniard you see if you have to!”

“It’s not that simple!” Cornelius said testily, angry at having to endure this same confrontation with the architect for the umpteenth time. “The Spaniards make terrible slaves, as you well know! They’re a conquered people—they’re resentful and unruly and damned hard to motivate!”

“Isn’t that why you carry that thing on your belt?” Sostratus hissed, pointing to the leather whip that was hanging over the foreman’s thick right thigh.

“It’s a last resort…” Cornelius said through clenched teeth.

“I’d say were at the last resort stage!” Sostratus said with a bitter laugh. “Caesar expects to come return here from the Spanish campaign in six months and see this lighthouse operational. How do you think he’ll react if he leaves an on-going war for no good reason? Do you want to face his wrath if we waste his time? Because I don’t!”

“Of course not,” Cornelius said in a more subdued tone. Caesar’s rages were few and far between, and the foreman thanked Jupiter for that, as they were renowned to be terrible. He was not a man to disappoint, let alone cross. “It’s just…”

He raised his eyes and fell silent. Sostratus was glaring at him, his impatient expression plainly indicating that the architect was not interested in explanations, only in results. Cornelius had tried to warn him over the preceding years about the dangers of pressing the slaves too hard—how their resentment made them careless, even malicious, despite the fact that their own kind suffered for it. A new team of Spanish slaves had built the scaffolding that had collapsed the day before. Cornelius was sure they had at least built it sloppily, and he wasn’t ruling out intentional sabotage.

But to Sostratus, he knew from long, hard experience, these were irrelevant details. The architect was driven to have his vision made manifest, and on time, whatever the cost. And so Cornelius went along with it.

He sighed heavily. “I’ll find more slaves,” he said. “The Japanese tend to be good workers. Maybe…”

“I don’t care where they come from,” Sostratus said as he turned to walk back down the long, circular staircase of the octagonal tower. “Just get them here and get them to work.”

With those words and without a look back, he disappeared below into the cold, dark interior of the lighthouse.

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Sisiutil
Feb 19, 2007, 01:19 AM
Slavery, Part 3

“Rufus?!” Sostratus cried out. “Rufus, damn it, where are you?”

“Coming, master,” a voice called from the hallway. The dark-haired slave entered his master’s dressing chamber, the loose fabric of a toga slung over one arm. He paused in the doorway and bent over for a moment as his body was racked by a coughing fit.

“Jupiter!” Sostratus said, taking a step back from his slave. “Are you sick?”

“It’s nothing,’ Rufus said, his voice rough and quavering. “Just something I picked up. My wife says it’s all these late nights.”

“Well, I’m working the same hours, and I’m fine, so what does she know?” Sostratus said testily as Rufus draped the toga over his body, which was clad only in a tunic.

Rufus glanced at his master’s gaunt features, taking in the hair that was more grey than sandy blond now, and the eyes, which were sunken and blood-shot. But like any slave, he knew better than to speak his mind.

“Of course you’re right,” he said, then put the sandals he’d been carrying in his armpit upon the floor before Sostratus’ feet.

“Are these new?” Sostratus asked as he stepped into the sandals and noticed their unusual fresh, tight feel. One of them was custom-made to accommodate his malformed club foot.

“Of course,” Rufus said weakly. “As is the toga. Today is the big day. You should look your best for Caesar.”

Sostratus glanced at Rufus, and his expression softened a little. “That was very thoughtful, Rufus. I appreciate it.” He placed a hand on the slave’s shoulder.

Rufus bowed in response, but said nothing as he suppressed another coughing fit. Sostratus did not notice his slave’s distress; he was already out the door by the time Rufus straightened from his bow.

***

The architect stared up at his great achievement. In the falling dark, the great flame at the top of the lighthouse flared magnificently, as though it were a plume from the forge of Vulcan himself. It lit the surrounding countryside for miles, as well as illuminating the roiling sea. Upon that sea bobbed several Roman ships, all gathered close to shore for the ceremonial lighting of the signal fire. When the flame had been lit, the cheer from the sailors on the ships had been deafening. It was understandable; they, and their brethren of other nations, would be the chief beneficiaries of the great lighthouse. For centuries to come, everyone was certain, the structure’s guiding light would save countless lives.

A pity, then, that it had cost so many in its construction.

Sostratus had had little time to reflect on this, however. There were several dignitaries from Rome to meet, speeches made, omens taken, sacrifices ceremoniously offered to the gods. The architect, more used to working at his desk alone, was swept up in the grand event like a ship without oars or rudder on a roiling sea. At least they hadn’t made him speak. Now that it was over, he still felt like that drifting ship—except now he could feel himself sinking.

The first disappointment had been the absence of Drusus, his brother. He sent his regrets, but he had to remain on campaign with the 8th Legion in Spain. Drusus’ letter, arriving by a runner that day, also expressed regrets on behalf of their father, though Sostratus suspect that Drusus had hiimself included the lines out of a desire to comfort his older brother. Sostratus knew his father couldn’t be bothered to come down from Rome to Antium to witness a triumph by his lame-footed son.

The second disappointment followed shortly thereafter: Caesar had sent word that he, also, could not attend due to complications arising from the on-going campaign in Spain. He would return to visit the structure as soon as his busy schedule allowed. Sostratus had smiled grimly at this news; the rush to complete the lighthouse had been undertaken to satisfy a man who, being immortal, had all the time in the world to come and see it.

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Worse, though, had been the crowd from Antium. In contrast with the sailors’ enthusiasm, the citizens of Antium attending the official dedication of the lighthouse had been silent. Sostratus had tried to look into their eyes, but could not. Everyone in Antium had a family member or a friend who had worked on the lighthouse, and many of them had died in the process. The last few weeks had been the worst.

In the final push to finish the structure, citizens had been forcibly recruited from Antium. Speed resulted in carelessness, and many of the conscripted workers were unskilled. Several, upon climbing the structure, had been overcome by vertigo, so unused to such great heights were they. As the lighthouse neared completion, workers began to die like flies. Working so long and hard during the heat of summer finished several off; some died of heat stroke, while others, exhausted, missed a step or hand-hold and fell to their deaths from the tower’s great height. Other fatal accidents grew more frequent as the foremen pressed their charges to meet the ambitious building schedule.

Many of the slaves simply died of exhaustion. Their bodies just gave out under the strain of hauling great amounts of stone up over 350 feet. Word spread in Antium: working on the lighthouse was a death sentence. And still the foremen came, hauling off any able-bodied man they could find who did not have the connections or the gold to stave off forced recruitment.

And now, Sostratus knew without even looking, the wives, parents, children, friends, and relations of the deceased were watching him. They did not jeer at him, did not shout abuse or threats or throw rocks or garbage at him. That he could have borne. But their silence brought home to him not their anger, but their sorrow. He knew they blamed him, not Caesar, for the loss of their loved ones. But he had Caesar’s favour, and that made him untouchable. So they said and did nothing other than stare at him balefully, accusingly. It was awful.

The ceremony was complete. The delegation from Rome shook his hand as they made to depart; many even slapped him on the back as though he were one of their own. Which, in all the ways that counted, he realized he now was. A few yards away, the crowd from Antium began to break up, silently and sullenly turning away and making their way back to their homes.

Within minutes, Sostratus found himself standing alone in his toga and his new sandals at the base of his great lighthouse. He placed his right hand upon the stone wall at the base of the structure; it was cold and offered no comfort. Sostratus felt a droplet of water hit his face, then another. Within moments, a steady drizzle was falling.

The architect made no move to get out of the rain. He glanced at the stone wall and then drew his hand back and gasped. Liquid was running down the walls—but it wasn’t water! It was dark and viscous and deep red. Sostratus recoiled in horror. He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. When he looked again, mere rainwater was running down the stone wall in sheets.

“A trick of the light,” Sostratus muttered.

Unconvinced, he turned and ran back to his residence.

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***

“Rufus? Damn it, Rufus, where the hell are you?”

Sostratus was standing in the entryway to his residence, his sodden toga dripping water onto the marble floor, his new sandals waterlogged and very probably ruined.

“Rufus!” he shouted again.

From the hallway appeared a small woman with long, dark hair, tied simply so it hung down her back. A long, cheap linen gown covered her slender body. She meekly but quickly approached Sostratus and bowed.

“Where is Rufus?” he asked, wondering if this was his house slave’s wife; he realized that he had never before seen the woman, though she had lived under his roof and prepared his meals for over seven years.

“He…” the woman said, then glanced fearfully, and sorrowfully, over her shoulder. Suddenly, her face folded in grief, and she burst into tears.

Sostratus’s impatience vanished. He gently placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder and felt it shaking. “What’s wrong? What happened?” The woman looked up at him; her dark brown eyes, he could see, were red and puffy from weeping. “What’s wrong?”

The woman, evidently unable to speak, only shook her head and beckoned him to follow her. Sostratus followed her to the east wing of the residence, which housed the slaves’ quarters. She led him into a small room, bare except for a low table with a lit tallow candle upon it and a cot. On the cot lay Rufus, his body curled into a fetal position. Sostratus quickly moved past the weeping woman and knelt beside his slave’s bed.

“Rufus?” he asked gently. “What’s wrong?”

Upon hearing his master’s voice, the slave’s eyes sprang open. Rufus pressed himself up on one arm. Then his body convulsed as a violent coughing fit wracked his frame. He finished by coughing up a mixture of phlegm and blood. Sostratus’ eyes widened in horror.

“Jupiter!” he exclaimed. “Rufus, you’re sick! I’ll send for a physician…”

Sostratus began to rise, but stopped when he felt Rufus’ hand upon his forearm. The man’s touch was weak, almost limp.

“No need, master,” Rufus said, his voice a rough whisper that Sostratus had to strain to hear. “One has…already been.”

“A slave physician,” Sostratus said dismissively. “I can get you better.”

A sound escaped Rufus’ lips that was a combination of cough and bitter laugh. “So that my death will cost you even more money?” he said, smiling grimly.

“Hang the cost,” Sostratus said. “I won’t let you die!”

“But I will, master…” Rufus said weakly, lowering his head back to the cot. “My wife,” he said, glancing over Sostratus’ shoulder at the meek little woman who had led the architect to the room, “says it’s… all the long hours…” The slave paused to cough violently; his body shuddered as he forced it back under his control. “I think… she is wrong. But even… if she is right… it was worth it.”

Sostratus tried to speak, but his voice caught. His eyes blinked away tears. Some part of him was incredulous that he was mourning for a slave. No, not a slave, he corrected himself. My friend. And at that thought, he could contain the tears no longer, and they spilled from his eyes.

“Rufus… I’m sorry…” he said.

Rufus looked at him his eyes widening in surprise, then shook his head. “No… no!” the slave said. “We built it!” he asserted, his eyes suddenly livening with pride. “The lighthouse. The great lighthouse! A wonder of the world. We…”
He was cut off by another coughing fit.

“Yes, we did,” Sostratus said, struggling to keep his voice from cracking. “We built it. You and I. You and I and so many others, so many…”

“Take care of her,” Rufus said, weakly touching his master’s arm. Sostratus frowned, uncomprehending. “My wife… Selene,” he said, again glancing over his shoulder at the weeping woman. “She has no one, master. She’s… a good cook, yes?” Rufus smiled with no small amount of pride.

“Yes,” Sostratus said, forcing a smile onto his own face. “She is. And if you loved her, she must be a good woman. I’ll… I’ll keep her in my service.”

“Good,” Rufus said, “good…” He laid his head down on the cot and closed his eyes. All at once, a violent coughing fit shook his body. “Oh, I’m so sick of this!” the slave muttered. He took one more breath, then went still and breathed no more.

An unearthly wail from behind him startled Sostratus, and he moved back as Selene rushed forward and threw herself, grieving, upon her husband’s body. The architect was at a complete loss. Awkwardly, he reached out and placed what he hoped was a comforting arm upon the woman’s heaving shoulders. At his touch, however, the small woman leapt to her feet and turned on him, her face livid with rage.

“MURDERER!” she cried. “YOU KILLED HIM! DON’T TOUCH ME!”

“I’m sorry… I’m s-so sorry…” was all Sostratus could think to say, and he repeated it over and over as he backed out of the room. Selene turned from him, fell again upon her husband’s body and wept dejectedly while her chagrined master made his exit.

***

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Within days, Sostratus found himself sitting beside another bed, attending another deathwatch. The courier had delivered the summons the very day after Rufus had died. Sostratus had parted for Rome within the hour. I suppose it explains why he didn’t attend the ceremony, he had reflected on the journey, though with more bitterness than generosity. It’s just like him, he’d thought. He’s dying out of spite.

The physician had administered a potent sleeping draught; his patient had been in a great deal of pain, as a fatal disorder of the stomach was likely to induce. So Sostratus kept watch, alone, over an insensate man who could do nothing now but die.

“Well, at least you won’t interrupt me when I talk to you now,” Sostratus said to his father, one corner of his mouth twitching upwards in a bitter smile.

“You should be proud of me,” the architect said a moment later. “You were so proud of Drusus when he went into the legions. And of yourself and your glory days with them. So proud of your ability to kill.”

Sostratus leaned forward, his eyes suddenly blazing, his tone intense. “Well, you’re an amateur. So is Drusus. I’ve outpaced you both! How many do you think you killed in all your time in Rome’s Legions? Be honest now; I know how the maniples fight, attacking then withdrawing so fresh troops can come forward. How many? A hundred? Two hundred?

“Ha! I’ve killed at least ten times that many. I’ve bathed in blood, wallowed in it, father! Can’t you see?” Sostratus held up his arms. His voice rose in volume and agitation. “I’m covered in it. Covered in blood, up past the elbows! Aren’t you proud? Aren’t you proud of your son, the killer? Finally, at long last?”

Suddenly, Quintus Camillus’ eyes opened. Weakly, his head turned, and his drug-addled eyes regarded his eldest son. A son he looked at now not with affection, nor with the dismissive contempt Sostratus had so often seen there. No, this was another look entirely, one he had never seen his father bestow upon him.

Quintus Camillus looked at his son with horror.

And then, the piercing blue eyes went blank as all life left them.

Sostratus rose, pushing himself up on his cane. He knocked on the door of the room and the physician entered. The learned man walked over to the bed, inspected the body, then sighed.

“Your father is dead, Sostratus Camillus,” he said gravely. “I’m sorry.” Sostratus said nothing, merely nodded. “Did he have any last words?”

Sostratus shook his head. “Not for me,” he said quietly. “Never for me…”

***

Sostratus remained in Rome for several days, making funeral arrangements. He also took advantage of his time in the capital to seek out his next commission. As he departed the Basilica Romanus one day, a voice called his name, a voice that was familiar even though its possessor had only spoken to him on a handful of other occasions.

“Sostratus Camillus!” Caesar called from across the great covered hall. Rome’s immortal leader broke away from his gaggle of assistants and advisors and strode across the hall to the architect. He walked with purpose yet great dignity, his purple-bordered toga swaying about his tall frame as he approached Sostratus.

“Caesar,” the architect said in simple greeting.

“My dear young man,” Caesar said, gently placing a hand upon Sostratus’ shoulder. “Let me offer you my sincere condolences. One of my advisors told me of your father’s death yesterday, when I returned from the front.”

“Thank you, Caesar,” Sostratus said. He knew he was supposed to appear grief-stricken, but he could not be bothered to fake the emotion, even with Caesar. He stared back, clear-eyed, into his leader’s eyes.

“On a happier note,” Caesar said smoothly, “I have business in Antium, and I’ll finally have the time to see your magnificent lighthouse. Perhaps you’d care to accompany me to the city, and show me the great building yourself?”

The words came out as a request, but Sostratus knew it was tantamount to an order. Even so, he felt it was one he could not obey.

“I’m sorry, Caesar,” he said, his gaze dropping to the ground. “I don’t think I can look upon the lighthouse again.” He paused, sighed, then lifted his head and looked Caesar directly in the eye. “A great many people fell, Caesar, so that my great lighthouse could rise.”

Julius Caesar nodded. “I see,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s any consolation, Sostratus,” he said, “but as a military commander, I can tell you that in any campaign, sacrifices are sometimes necessary. To serve the greater good.”

“I suppose,” Sostratus said.

“In fact, that had me thinking,” Caesar said, smoothly attempting to change the subject. “The Spanish campaign has been a long and hard one, the foe more numerous and tougher than we faced when we conquered Japan so long ago. Once it’s done, I think some sort of monument to those who fell would be appropriate. I’d need someone to design it, of course.”

“A monument?” Sostratus asked, his eyes suddenly lighting up.

“Yes, if you’re interested.”

Sostratus was lost in thought for a moment, his eyes gazing south towards Antium. “Perhaps,” he said. “I’ll consider it. There’s something I have to do first, though.” He turned to look at Caesar again. “I think I will accompany you to Antium after all.”

***

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A few days later, Sostratus stood at the bottom of the great stairwell that led up into the lighthouse. He had given Caesar a tour; the immortal had expressed his admiration and appreciation, then they had parted ways. Now the architect laid out his tools. He had hammers and chisels of various sizes, along with a long scroll. He took up a hammer and one chisel, knelt before the stone wall beside the stairs, and began to work.

He began each day at dawn, using mirrors to bring light into the dark stairwell. He spent the hours on his knees, hammering away at the stone with great care. By the end of the day, every muscle in his body ached from the strain, as did his knees; his face, the entire front of his body, was covered with stone dust.

He would have kept working long into the night if he’d been left to his own devices. But to his surprise, Selene, Rufus’ widow, always came there at the end of the day to softly but sternly bid her master home, where she had prepared a meal. She had the other slaves prepare his bath and bed for him. At her insistence, he began to wear a kerchief to help keep the rock dust out of his lungs; he had begun to develop a cough, and it brought back unpleasant memories for her.

Every day he returned to the lighthouse, and every day he progressed higher up the stairwell. The lighthouse keepers passed by him on their way up or down the stairwell as they extinguished the flame each morning and put a great mirror in its place, then did the reverse every evening. It was those men who spread word of what the architect was doing in Antium.

Residents of the city began to come out to inspect his work. They walked up the staircase slowly, gazing at Sostratus’ work reverently. Some broke down in tears; a few, overcome, even wailed in grief, the sound echoing up the stairwell and spurring the architect on with his task. Few people deigned to pay any attention to him, but of course some did. Some citizens climbed the many stairs to find and embrace him; a handful came up to curse him, one or two to spit upon him. Sostratus bore it all stoically and went back to his work after every encounter.

A month went by, and early in the next he was approaching the top of the stairwell, nearly at the peak of the lighthouse itself. He spent two days working in the small, round room that housed the light, the room so brightly illuminated by the great mirror during the day that he had to squint to do his work. Then, after this “break”, he returned to the stairwell to complete his self-assigned task.

It was on the forty-second day that Selene found him at the top of the stairwell, putting the finishing touches on one more piece of work with a small hammer and an equally delicate chisel. She tapped his shoulder, as she usually did. He nodded and held up one finger. She waited patiently. Then she glanced at what he as carving into the stone and could not suppress a gasp.

Sostratus leaned back on his haunches and pulled his kerchief down from his sweat-stained face. He grasped a brush and cleaned the dust out of what he had carved. The letters were as elegant as the finest calligrapher could have managed with ink and paper. Sostratus had begun his career doing this, serving as an apprentice with a stone cutter who specialized in headstones; he felt like he had come full circle. There was, after all, no profound message or proud declaration that he had carved into the stone; just a name.

RVFVS GRACCHVS

“He was the last,” Sostratus told Selene. “So.. he’s the last.”

Selene nodded and wiped away a tear. She glanced down the stairwell. Before it disappeared into the dark, she could read the other names there, all of them carved by Sostratus into the stone with care and reverence.

The Romans kept immaculate records. It had been remarkably easy, therefore, to obtain the name of every slave who had died while building the Great Lighthouse of Antium. The length of the scroll containing their names had both shocked and shamed Sostratus, but had also strengthened his resolve. Their names would now be as immortal as the building itself. As immortal as Caesar, Sostratus reflected. For he had carved the name of each and every slave into the walls that lined the stairs which ascended to the top of the lighthouse. The names, so shockingly numerous, filled the entire stairwell from top to bottom.

Now that he had completed his penance, he could consider the building complete. He sat back upon the stone, exhausted; his head fell into his hands. He would have wept, but he was too tired for tears.

Selene then noticed that Sostratus had not confined his work to the stairwell. Around the lintel of the room at the tower’s pinnacle, she noticed for the first time, he had carved an epigram.

“This building,” she said, reading his words aloud, “is dedicated to those who perished during its construction. May this flame light a course,” she continued, her voice shaking with emotion, “to a day when all slaves shall be free.” A tear coursed down her cheek. “Some might consider that sedition,” she said softly.

“Let them,” Sostratus said tiredly. He gazed at the name of the man who had started as his slave and had become his friend, then looked up at the man’s widow. “He told me to look after you,” Sostratus said. “But I cannot keep you as a slave, Selene. Not you or any of the others. Not after what I’ve done. You are free. I’ll make it official at the basilica tomorrow.”

“And where would I go?” she asked him, smiling serenely even as more tears stained her cheeks.

“Wherever you want,” Sostratus said. “Back to your family.”

“I have none,” she replied. “Only you.”

Sostratus gazed at her in surprise. “I’m not… I’m not your family,” he said.

“Of course you are,” she said, touching the architect’s cheek affectionately. She gazed at the name of her husband where it was carved indelibly into the stone. “He loved you, you know. Adored you. He was so proud to be a part of this,” she said, gesturing at the lighthouse. “He made the same request of me that he made of you. He asked me to look after you. I promised him I would.”

Sostratus sat, gazing at her in wonder, for several moments. “You would… choose to stay? With me?”

“Yes,” she said. “As a free woman,” she said, her voice catching as she said the words for the first time in her life, “I choose to stay with you.”

“Can you… ever forgive me?” he asked, his voice barely louder than a whisper.

“I think,” she said softly, “that you must instead forgive yourself.”

With those words, Sostratus Camillus, architect of the Great Library of Ravenna and the Great Lighthouse of Antium, broke down completely. He threw his arms around Selene’s legs, pressed his head against her belly, and wept. His sorrowful wails echoed down the stairwell; the lighthouse keepers climbing the steps below heard him and paused for several minutes, respectfully waiting for him to stop. Selene merely stood, one hand caressing his sandy hair, now shot through with grey, and waited patiently for the storm of emotion to pass.

When his anguish at last subsided, she bent down and touched his cheek, feeling the wetness of his tears upon her fingertips. “Your work here is done,” she said. “Dinner is waiting. Come home with me.”

Together, they rose and walked down the stairwell, his hand in hers, progressing slowly because of his lame foot. As they walked, his fingers caressed each name he had carved into the stone, and his lips moved silently in prayer.

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Sisiutil
Feb 19, 2007, 01:20 AM
He hasn't updated in a while...
Oh ye of little faith! :p

carl corey
Feb 19, 2007, 09:17 AM
Wow... moving... You've almost managed to make me think twice about using slavery. Almost... ;)

biggamer132
Feb 19, 2007, 10:37 AM
Fantastic update. It's amazing how much a turn in Civ can represent.

wenamon
Feb 19, 2007, 08:25 PM
wow... that was amazing. Does this mean all future ALC games will now be slavery free? :lol:

carl corey
Feb 19, 2007, 08:57 PM
Uh-yeah right. :D

Sisiutil
Feb 19, 2007, 10:33 PM
wow... that was amazing. Does this mean all future ALC games will now be slavery free? :lol:
It is to laugh:

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I can imagine real people for a story, but I feel no remorse for numbers floating around inside a computer chip. :whipped:

biggamer132
Feb 19, 2007, 10:43 PM
It is to laugh:

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

I can imagine real people for a story, but I feel no remorse for numbers floating around inside a computer chip. :whipped:

Especially when they complain about how crowded it is. :mad:

Sisiutil
Feb 20, 2007, 12:49 AM
Especially when they complain about how crowded it is. :mad:
Ex-act-ly. "But I've built all these pretty little cottages out in the countryside for you! Get out there, you bums!" :lol:

I'm going to try to update more often--every weekend, even if it's only part of a full "chapter". This was a "hump" chapter, one that I realized I needed only after plotting and/or completing several of the other ones, and had to go back and write from scratch (including going back to the old saves to grab several screenshots--good thing I kept those files!). Several of the upcoming chapters, you see, are partially complete. So that oughtta help.

BorgeoisBuffoon
Feb 20, 2007, 02:13 PM
Oh, my. This was not only a welcomingly large chapter, but you've managed to impress me even more than usual. :)

Poor Rufus, and poor Antium. Hearing it's even the Romans who had to suffer in building up the lighthouse and not just Japanese and Spanish slaves probably brought it in how much this project would have cost in the long run for Sostratus. I'm glad he managed to have a change of heart over what happened.

Can't wait to see more!

kirbystarfan
Feb 20, 2007, 04:35 PM
Wow, that was moving...you are a natural storyteller. It's amazing how you can take a simple turn or two and turn a few hammers on a project into a full-fledged story.:clap: :thanx:

Sanovice
Feb 20, 2007, 04:35 PM
great stuff! im actually gettin in to tyhis story and can feel the emotions Sostratus is feeling.

<nuke>
Feb 22, 2007, 11:35 PM
Good update Sitsuli :)

Steel General
Feb 23, 2007, 08:53 AM
Excellent job so far!! Looking forward to more.

Sanovice
Mar 04, 2007, 07:32 AM
any updates in sight?

carl corey
Mar 04, 2007, 09:37 AM
He just finished one of his ALC threads. I hope he has some time for one update here. :)

Clovis
Mar 05, 2007, 12:36 PM
:bump:

All waiting patiently!

:gripe: or not!

Ashlord
Mar 12, 2007, 02:49 PM
:) Guess he didn't find time to be creative after his last ALC. Used too much up in that writeup, he must not have had any left for this story. Still waiting patiently for an update.:twitch:

Globetrotter
Mar 16, 2007, 12:53 PM
Awesome story! I love it :)

Sisiutil
Mar 19, 2007, 12:26 PM
Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 1

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“Ling! Good to see you!”

At the sound of the booming, familiar voice, Ling Lun’s slender, youthful face lit up with a broad smile. He dropped his two traveling satchels, spread his arms, and found himself enclosed in the bear-like embrace of his oldest and dearest friend.

“Metellus!” Ling said, stepping back out his friend’s welcoming hug. He cast an appraising eye over his friend’s imposing physique and the shining armour that covered it. “Soldiering agrees with you. I always knew it would.”

“I suppose,” Metellus Gnaeus replied. It was only their long-standing friendship and familiarity that allowed Ling to notice the subtle change in his friend’s tone and expression, how his smile became just a little forced for a moment. “But enough of that! Let me get out of this damn armour and we can share a meal, and some wine, and you can tell me all the news from Rome! You make yourself comfortable… Lucius!” he called to one of his Century’s attendants.

“This is my best friend in the whole world, Ling Lun. Find him a suitable billet. One that would suit Caesar!”

And before Ling could voice an objection to any sort of special treatment, his friend had given him a friendly clap on the back and turned to march away.

“This way, sir,” the attendant said respectfully.

***

An hour later, the two old friends sat down at a table in Metellus’ quarters. His position as the 7th Legion’s Primus Pilus—“First Spear”, essentially the lead Centurion for the entire Legion—meant he commanded better quarters than most. Though the simple Spanish farmhouse, which had probably been abandoned as Roman troops marched upon Madrid, was hardly palatial. But as any soldier would attest, it beat sleeping rough on the bare ground in the rain. The meal before the two old friends consisted of olives, cheese, and bread, along with a little mutton stew prepared by the Century’s cook.

“I hope you don’t mind camp rations,” Metellus said a little apologetically. “It’s simple, but it’s good and filling. We don’t get much of the delicacies that Rome enjoys up here in Spain yet.”

“I know,” Ling said with a grin, “that’s why I brought this.”

He reached into the smaller of his satchels, which he’d brought with him from his billet, and pulled out a bottle of wine. Metellus smiled broadly as Ling handed him the bottle.

“From Capua…?” Metellus said hopefully, his eyes widening as he looked reverently at the bottle.

“Yes. 1020, an excellent year,” Ling said.

To Ling’s astonishment, the eyes of his sturdy, courageous friend welled up with tears. The big man blinked them away.

“Jupiter,” Metellus said quietly. “The comforts of home. You have no idea how welcome this is, old friend…”

“Metellus,” Ling said, “what’s wrong? I know the campaign was long and hard, but…”

Metellus looked at him warily, then sighed. “It’s…” he began to say, then shook his head. “No. No, let’s not spoil the evening. You’ll find out soon enough.” Metellus smiled, though Ling could tell it was a little forced. “I want to hear all the news from Rome. Especially about your work! I hear your latest painting caused quite the sensation…”

***

The friendship of Ling Lun and Metellus Gnaeus, at first glance, seemed like an unlikely mismatch of two completely disparate personalities.

Ling Lun was the descendant, several generations removed, of that small band of Chinese workers who had been “liberated” from servitude in Japan by a band of Roman warriors centuries before. They had formed a small community within Rome itself, and were an accepted minority there…mostly. Some people were still unable to see past their golden skin and dark, almond-shaped eyes and accept them as fellow human beings.

Ironically, this all-to-human susceptibility to prejudice was what had brought the two friends together. Many years before, when he was a boy, some older Roman lads had been bullying Ling outside one of Rome’s many gymnasiums when Metellus came to his rescue. Even then, he’d been taller and stronger than many boys two or three years older than himself, and he had the courage of a lion.

Beneath that formidable exterior, though, was a sensitive boy who inherited a love of the arts from his mother. In the artistic Ling, Metellus found a friend with whom he could share his aesthetic enthusiasms, which his other, sports-loving school chums did not understand. Their friendship blossomed and had withstood the test of time, nearly a quarter-century gone by since they’d first met as boys.

For Ling, the intervening time had been exciting indeed. The most exciting development in the arts in generations had occurred, and within his own lifetime! There had always been music, it seemed—but a group of musicians and scholars in Rome had created a system whereby music could be written down. The development had formalized the field, allowing musicians to record their creations for posterity. Musical notation also made music more accessible to the masses. More and more people were able to learn to play an instrument, and some exhibited remarkable talent that might have gone undiscovered in previous generations.

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It was, perhaps, ironic then that Ling Lun had chosen to focus on the visual arts rather than music. But like strings on a lute that vibrated in harmony when one was plucked, the burst of activity in music had energized all of the arts.

Which is partly what had brought Ling to the recently-conquered city of Madrid. Partly, of course, he wanted to visit his old friend. But he also wanted to see, with his own eyes, one of the most astonishing human accomplishments ever created.

For years, Romans had heard of the Pyramids, but none had ever seen them. The fanatical Spanish Queen, Isabella, had closed her borders to Rome and its “heathen religion” of Confucianism centuries before. Now that Spain had been conquered and had become part of Rome, like Japan before it, many Romans were now travelling to the mysterious home of Buddhism to see the city, and its amazing wonder of the world, for themselves.

Almost at the start of their dinner together on his first night in Madrid, Ling asked his old friend to give him a tour of the mammoth monuments. He’d seen them from a distance, of course—one could not miss them; they dominated the cityscape from miles away. But the Pyramids were still cordoned off my Roman troops; visitors could only view the structures from a distance. Ling knew his high-ranking friend, however, could provide him with a closer view.
It surprised Ling, then, that Metellus was so reluctant to grant his request.
“It’s just a big pile of rocks, Ling,” he’d said, a little too dismissively.

Instead, Metellus had showed him around the rest of the city, introducing him to his fellow Legionaries and several of the locals as well. Some of them, understandably, harboured the resentment natural to a conquered people. The Romans considered the city to still be in a state of revolt, and Metellus kept Ling away from the more dangerous areas where the rebels were numerous.

But many Spaniards were gradually adjusting and becoming used to life under Roman rule. Some of the artists Ling met were even enthusiastic about the change in government; they were allowed far more liberties of expression, it turned out, under the more secular-minded Caesar than under the fanatically devout Isabella.

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Still Ling persisted with his friend in his request to see the Pyramids, and still Metellus resisted.

Finally, in frustration, Ling confronted his old friend over dinner one night.

“There’s something you’re not telling me about them,” he said firmly. Metellus only looked at him silently in response. “Don’t try to deny it. I know you too well. Not only that, something about them is troubling you. I know you put on a brave face with the troops, but with me? Come on, Metellus!”

His tall, stocky friend sat in silence, staring at the tabletop, for a very long time. Finally, he spoke, in a voice so uncharacteristically quiet and subdued that Ling had to strain to hear him.

“I’ll take you there tomorrow,” Metellus said. “But I warn you. The Pyramids…” He sighed heavily. “Something like that doesn’t get built without a cost, Ling.”
Metellus then rose from the table and left the room to go to bed, leaving his friend wondering what he meant.

***

The next day, Ling got his tour of the Pyramids. The sun shone brightly in the wide blue expanse of Spanish sky. As they approached the Pyramids, the glare off of the polished limestone and the structures’ golden caps made him squint and shield his eyes. He couldn’t believe how tall they were—as tall, they seemed, as Mount Etna, just outside of Ravenna! But they were man-made! It was astounding to contemplate.

Metellus not only took him to the Pyramids, he took him inside, to the once-secret chambers deep within the stone structures where the Buddhist priests conducted their strange, mystical rites. When they left the deep, dark tunnel that led to the chambers, the sun was higher and the gleam of the Pyramids seemed ever so much brighter.

“Amazing!” Ling said breathlessly. “I mean, yes, Antium has its wonders, too--the Oracle is beautiful, and Sostratus' Great Lighthouse is impressive… but this!” He had trouble finding words to express his awe. “They’re majestic. Beautiful. Amazing!” he repeated.

“You think so, do you?” Metellus said glumly. “Come with me, Ling. There’s something you should see.”

Ling followed his increasingly and unusually taciturn friend in silence. Metellus had as much appreciation for aesthetic beauty as he did, in spite of—or perhaps because of—his rough life as a soldier. How could he not appreciate these astounding monuments?

They walked around the far side of the Pyramids, which took a considerable amount of time, until they were on the side opposite the city of Madrid, to its west. Metellus pointed silently in that direction. A few hundred yards beyond the largest of the Pyramids, Ling could see a few soldiers standing guard over…nothing? No. He looked closer. There seemed to be a large, long, rectangular open pits in the ground at the soldiers’ feet. Why were they guarding those?

“What…is that, Metellus?” Ling asked quietly. A feeling of dark foreboding washed over him, though he couldn’t say why.

“The cost,” his friend answered grimly.

They walked towards the pit. Metellus nodded silently towards the half-dozen soldiers watching over it. They reached the pit’s edge and Ling peered inside. What he saw there took his breath away and made the blood drain from his face.

The pit was ten paces wide and about one hundred long. A fresh pile of earth on its far side indicated that it had recently been excavated. How deep the pit was, however, Ling could not tell.

Because the pit was full, nearly to the brim.

Full of bones.

Bones, and skulls, row upon row of them, long dead, their flesh decayed and gone to feed the worms. All that remained were these dry bones, the dirt of the mass grave still clinging to them.

“This is just the first one,” Metellus said quietly.

“The…first…?” Ling stammered. He could feel his gorge rising to his throat.

“We think we’ve found five more. Two for sure, we’re just starting to excavate them. The Spaniards themselves requested it. Many of their ancestors are in here. Spaniards prize their lineage, you know, no matter how lowly born. They’re hoping to identify the remains. I don’t see how, but hope springs eternal. Even in the face of this…”

“How…how many…?” Ling asked, though he was not sure he wanted to know.

Metellus sighed heavily. “We estimate at least five thousand, just in this one mass grave.”

And they think there are at least five more… Ling thought as he silently did the horrible math.

“I’m sorry you had to see this, Ling, but I think you had to,” Metellus said. “Yes, the Pyramids are impressive. But Isabella exacted a heavy toll for her monument. Heavy indeed.”

Ling nodded absently. He turned towards his friend, struggling to find words, something to say, something meaningful. But in the face of such wanton destruction of human life, such loss, nothing came to him. His mouth gaped. He struggled to breathe.

Then suddenly, he dropped to his knees, then forward onto his hands. His slender body convulsed and he retched. He felt his old friend’s big hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t feel ashamed,” Metellus said as Ling wiped the vomit from his lips. “It’s nothing the rest of us haven’t done.”

***

That night, Ling could not sleep. He kept going over it in his mind, trying to make sense of it. The Pyramids were an astounding human achievement, to be sure. But the price… the price! So many lives, snuffed out so a puritanical queen could have a religious monument like no other on Earth. Was it worth it? Were the great stone structures a fitting monument to the thousands of people who had died creating them?

He couldn’t make sense of it. It was too big.

And still sleep did not come.

***

“You look like death warmed over,” Metellus said, not without sympathy, the next morning. “Sleepless night, eh?”

Ling nodded his acknowledgement.

“Hrm. I’ve had more than a few myself,” Metellus went on. “I mean, I’m a soldier, Ling. I kill. I do it well. I do it for Rome, and for a living. But the men I come up against—well, they stand a very good chance of killing me, and living instead of me. But those people—they had no chance, none at all!”

“How…how did they die?” Ling asked.

Metellus shrugged. “They were worked to death, most like. The doctors…” He paused.

“What do the doctors say?” Ling asked.

“That the joints in their sockets had ground away nearly to powder,” Metellus said grimly. “That even their bones bear grooves worn by heavy ropes and chains…”

“Jupiter!” Ling said, shuddering.

“I’m sorry,” Metellus said. “You asked….”

“I know,” Ling said.

“Listen, I have to go to the new basilica today,” Metellus said, referring to the building that housed the courts and government offices and was common to all major Roman cities. “Why don’t you come along? It’s a handsome new building, and it would be good for you to stretch your legs, talk to some other Romans.”
“I don’t know…”

But after a few more minutes of gentle cajoling from his friend, he agreed.

***

The new Basilica Romanus took up one whole side of Madrid’s central city square. It was three storeys high; the façade of the lower two storeys was comprised of a series of sixteen high, broad arches. The upper storey was slightly smaller than those beneath it and less ornate. Inside the arches was a long, two-storey high hall set before a long, bare concrete wall. Set into the wall were doors leading to various offices and shops, as well as stairs to the upper two levels.

“I just have to see the governor,” Metellus explained, then rolled his eyes. “Something about how much were paying the locals for billets, and are we being overcharged… the man’s a damn bean-counter. These people suffered through the war. So what if they’re overcharging!”

“You go ahead,” Ling said. “I’ll wait for you here.”

Ling sat down upon a stone bench in the middle of the great entrance hall and stared at the blank concrete wall ahead of him. The large, empty space was cool, sheltered as it was from the heat of the summer sun, but light reflected from the pale, polished stone floor and lit the interior with a pleasant, soft light.

The young artist sat there for some time, his thoughts still tortured by the magnificence of the Pyramids and the horror of the mass grave. He could understand why the soldiers were keeping people away from the grave, out of respect for the dead. But no one knew about all those people, certainly no one in Rome. Had they died in vain? Would no one tell their story, make them as immortal as the monument they had died building…?

Suddenly, Ling gasped. He rose to his feet and stood staring straight ahead at the high, long, blank wall before him. His almond-shaped eyes were open wide as they ranged back and forth, studying the wall from one end to the other.
His friend found him, still standing and staring like that, a half hour later. Metellus glanced at the blank wall his friend seemed to be intently studying and frowned.

“Ling?” he said. “Are you all right?”

Ling said nothing, but nodded distractedly, his eyes never leaving the wall. Metellus followed his gaze, mystified.

“What are you looking at?” Metellus asked him.

“My masterpiece,” Ling said reverently.

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Sisiutil
Mar 19, 2007, 12:46 PM
Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 2

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Caesar finally made the trip to Madrid the following summer. He’d long meant to; the last time he’d been to the former Spanish capital had been at the head of a column of triumphant Roman troops. The city had been a shambles; the Spaniards had fiercely and bravely defended their city, though the fighting meant much of it had been damaged. To honour their courage, Caesar had allowed each captured Spanish city to retain its original name, unlike the Japanese cities that he had renamed.

A symbolic gesture, but it helps appease a conquered population, Caesar thought, reflecting on the resentment some Japanese still harboured and expressed by referring to their cities as “Kyoto” and “Tokyo” rather than “Brundisium” and “Pisae”. Why not allow the Spaniards to be both Spanish and Roman?

I like to think I’m learning a thing or two in my old age, he thought. Not that he was actually aging, of course.

As he entered the city’s gates, Publius Rutullus Lepidus, his appointed governor of Iberia, as the Romans called the conquered Spanish territory, came forth to greet him. A long-time and trusted confidante, Lepidus shook Caesar’s hands warmly, and his leader favoured him with a dazzling smile reserved for only his closest friends.

“It’s good to see you, Caesar!” Publius Rutullus said.

“And good to see you, too, Publius Rutullus ,” Caesar replied, then cast his eyes towards the looming peaks of the Pyramids. “And to see Madrid again, and behold its wonders,” he added in a voice he lifted to carry to the crowd, especially to the locals present.

“We’ve added another wonder since your last visit,” Publius Rutullus said quietly.

“Really?” Caesar asked. “Ah! Are you referring to that mural by that young chap, what’s his name…”

“Ling Lun, Caesar,” Lepidus said.

“Yes! I hear it’s quite remarkable, I should like to see it.”

“You will, and you should meet Ling as well….while there’s still time.”

Caesar frowned at that, but Publius Rutullus turned and led him forward before he could explain himself.

***

Caesar stood in the centre of the Basilica’s great hall, his cold blue eyes taking in the astonishing sight before him.

The mural was called, simply, Madrid. It occupied the entire wall of the basilica’s entrance hall, its full length and height. At its western end, as if indicating the direction of the monuments themselves, was a depiction of the Pyramids, the sun high above them, their polished limestone and gold caps gleaming even in the diffused reflective light of the great hall. A crowd of people were painted before the Pyramids in a mix of Roman and Spanish dress, many of them linked arm in arm in an expression of hope for brotherhood between the two peoples after many years of war.

As the mural spread across the wall to the east, the scene changed. An unfinished Pyramid was depicted; broad earthen ramps spiralled around it, and the tiny figures of people, small as ants, stood upon it. In the foreground was a depiction of these workers, dragging a great stone block on broad lumber rollers. Heavy ropes and chains connected the workers to the stone they pulled, the heavy cords cutting into their flesh until their blood flowed and stained their rough clothes and the ground at their feet. The mural depicted one man fallen from exhaustion, while a foreman towered over him, his whip flung back above his head as he prepared to strike and urge the poor wretch back to his assigned task.

The workers were dragging the huge stone not towards a Pyramid, but to a huge pit, the depiction of which made up the eastern third of the mural. The workers, still carrying the heavy ropes, were marching into the pit; each worker in the gang was painted as progressively more gaunt and desiccated, until those at the forefront were nothing more than walking skeletons with only bloody remnants of flesh hanging from their bones.

At the mural’s eastern edge, the skeletons lay down, row upon row of them piled upon one anther in a mass grave. And finally, at the very end of the mural, stood Queen Isabella, looking westward over her great achievement and her great atrocity with a smug smile and a cold, approving eye.

It was riveting, and Caesar could not tear his eyes away from it. He’d heard talk of it in Rome, of course. Most of the critics who’d seen it attested to its brilliance, though some sniffed and called it distasteful. But what none could deny, including Caesar as he stood before it, was its power.

Not even the local Spaniards. Far from it; the Spanish were among the mural’s greatest admirers. Spanish culture did not shy away from depictions of death or suffering; to them, death was simply part of the cycle of life. And for a Roman to have captured and depicted their great accomplishment and their great suffering under Isabella… Well, many Spaniards and Romans alike attested that the mural had almost single-handedly ended the revolt in Madrid, by showing its citizens that these foreign conquerors were capable of understanding and respecting them. Despite its depiction of suffering and death, the mural, ironically, gave people a sense of hope for the future.

Of all of this, Caesar was well aware, and his mind considered it as he stood, rapt, before the great mural. Then Publius Rutullus Lepidus coughed softly, stirring Caesar from his reverie.

“Caesar, may I present the creator of this great work, Ling Lun,” Publius Rutullus said.

He indicated a slight young man standing to his right. Caesar had to suppress a gasp. For Ling Lun looked like he had walked out from among the dying wretches he’d depicted in the eastern half of his great work. His body was gaunt and bent, his dark, almond-shaped eyes hollow and sunken. He could barely stand; a towering hulk of a man stood beside him, holding the artist upright, as tenderly as one would an aged relative. From his insignia, Caesar recognized the artist’s helper as the Primus Pilus of the 7th Legion.

How could this poor, wasted soul have created this great work? Caesar marveled. He’d heard that Lun had worked tirelessly, day and night, like a man possessed, but had thought the stories mere exaggeration. The sight before him proved otherwise.

Caesar raised his hand in the traditional Roman greeting. “Ave, Ling Lun. I am Gaius Julius Caesar.”

Lun weakly raised his hand in response. “Ave, Caesar. I am… most honoured… to make your acquaintance, sir,” he said, his voice a quiet rasp.

“The honour is all mine, young man,” Caesar said, smiling gently. “Tell me…”

But before Caesar could ask his question, Lun bent over, his frail body wracked by a violent, hacking fit of coughs. Through sheer force of will alone, he manage to quell it, and straightened to look his leader in they eye again.

“You are…not well, my young friend,” Caesar said, his face expressing his concern.

“I am dying,” Lun said matter-of-factly, though Caesar noticed a fleeting expression of pain flash across the face of his tall, sturdy companion. “Like…the poor souls in my painting, I fear I have… worked myself to death…” Lun said. Then a weak, grim smile curled his lips. “It probably didn’t help… that some of the paints I used… are toxic.” If Lun saw the look of shock that appeared on Caesar’s face, he did not indicate it; instead, he turned to glance at his great work. “But the colours… they had to be… just so… to capture the light that…”

Again, the young man’s body was shaken by coughs.

“I should get him back to bed, Caesar,” the tall Legionary assisting Lun said.

“Of course,” Caesar said quietly. Just before he went, Lun quelled his coughs, and Caesar spoke to him. “What you have bestowed upon Madrid and all of Rome is… extraordinary, Mister Lun. As I regarded it today… I was profoundly moved.”

Lun smiled, then nodded, but said nothing more. He turned to leave, his friend at his side.

***

Caesar could not get the images out his mind. Not the astonishing vision of the mural, nor the ruined body of the extraordinary young man who had created it. He tried to distract himself with work, as he usually did when sleep would not come, but for one of the few times in his long life, he could not focus his attention.

So much death…

Among them, of course, Queen Isabella’s.

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Fanatical to the last, the Spanish Queen had fought Caesar ferociously in this very palace, screaming and calling him heretic and infidel as she swung her fine Spanish rapier wildly at his broad Roman shield. Eventually he had tired of her vicious but ineffective attacks. He’d let her come in close, then he’d lifted his shield suddenly so it rapped her harshly beneath the chin. As she fell back, hopelessly exposed, he’d swung his sword across her abdomen, gutting her.
As she had awaited his final blow upon her knees, her cold blue eyes had looked up at him, full of malice and spite.

“You will… burn in hell,” she’d spat at him, blood spilling from her lips.

“Ladies first,” he’d said, then he’d finished her and had taken her quickening along with her head.

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He’d rested that night in this very chamber, in her own bed, and quite well. But not tonight.

Caesar rose from his desk and walked out upon the balcony that adjoined the luxurious lodgings. Though he was in the former Queen’s chamber, it was not her ghost that haunted the place and kept Caesar from his slumber. Nor was he truly troubled by the deaths of the Spanish soldiers who died fighting his Legions; a soldier knew such a fate could befall him, lived with it daily. No, he was haunted by the many thousands of Spaniards who had died building the Pyramids, and by one more soul, not yet departed, but soon to join all the others.

Lun is just one more. One more mortal. There are so many of them, and they die like flies. What of it?

“It’s not just him,” Caesar said quietly in response to his own, internal devil’s advocate. “It’s all of them. The woman was insane, her lust for blood knew no bounds…”

Oh, so that’s it. You’re comforting yourself with the notion that you’re not like her.

“Well, I’m not. She was a fanatic.”

Irrelevant. Haven’t you sacrificed mortal lives, by the dozens, by the hundreds, even, to serve your ambitions?

“Not like this. Not on this scale.”

Ah, I see. It’s a matter of degree rather than of kind.

“I am nothing like her!”

Of course not. You just keep telling yourself that. Maybe someday you’ll even start to believe it…

A gentle rapping at the door stirred Caesar from his internal dialogue.

“Yes?” he called. “Come In, the door is unlocked.”

The door opened and Publius Rutullus Lepidus entered, looking tired, sheepish, and more than a little sad.

“I apologize for disturbing you, Caesar,” he said. “I saw a light beneath your door, though, and…”

“Think nothing of it, old friend,” Caesar said. “What brings you to me at this late hour?”

“I just received word myself, and I thought you’d want to know…” Publius Rutullus said quietly.. “Ling Lun died tonight, not more than an hour ago.”

Caesar stood stock still for a moment, then took a deep breath and nodded. “So passes the last casualty of the Spanish campaign,” he said softly. “Thank you, my friend. You were correct, I did indeed want to know, as sad as the news is. He has family in Rome, doesn’t he?”

“I believe so, yes.”

Caesar nodded sadly. “I’ll deliver the news and my condolences to them myself. I’ll leave for Rome tomorrow. Good night, Publius Rutullus.”

“Good night, Caesar.”

Publius Rutullus left and quietly closed the door behind him. Once his friend had left, to his own great astonishment, for the first time in several centuries, Caesar broke down and wept.

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***

“This is astonishing, Caesar,” Publius Rutullus Lepidus was saying to him, a little more than a month later, in Caesar’s great office in the Basilica Ravenna in Rome. “Do you really mean to go through with this?”

“I would not have recalled you all the way from Madrid for a mere jest, old friend!” Caesar replied.

“But Caesar,” another of his close advisors, the grey-haired Portius Scipio, said to him, “what you’re proposing is… unprecedented!”

“That fact saddens me more than words can express, Scipio,” Caesar said. “But the time for second-guessing is over. Come. The others are waiting.”

***

A short time later, Caesar sat upon a curule chair in the centre of a large oval chamber, surrounded by three hundred prominent Romans, heads of the oldest tribes and families that had been present when the city was founded. The ancestors of every man in the room had, for centuries, served Caesar in some form or another, as military adjutants, as counselors, as diplomats, and in so many other roles.

“Conscript fathers of Rome,” Caesar addressed them, “yes, conscript fathers I call you, for that is what you are, not just those of you in this chamber, but your ancestors as well, fathers to Rome all, called forth to serve your city and your nation.

“As I have been called. Long have I led Rome, conscript fathers, to her prosperity and greater glory. I have done my utmost, I hope, to ensure that all our efforts serve the greater glory of Rome. This is why, I firmly believe, I was bestowed with immortal life by the gods, so that I might lead Rome to its destiny.

“But the citizens of Rome are mortal. They live, ever so briefly in my eyes, and they die, some… far too soon.” Caesar paused, then collected himself and continued. “I have been fond, profoundly so, of all Romans, and your ancestors. Granted, some have been closer to me, fonder to me, than others, but all Romans have a place in my heart.

“And yet I must keep myself a step removed. Some of you have known the terrible sorrow that comes to a parent when he loses a child. Imagine, then, my own immortal sorrow, for you are all my children, yet I must bury you all. So I have restrained by love of my fellow Romans for centuries. Therein lies a danger, that Rome’s immortal leader may grow too far removed from the concerns of his mortal subjects to rule them wisely.

“For this reason, I present to you, today, a plan for a new government of Rome, laid out in the documents you hold in your hands. Our growing and expanding empire will no longer—can no longer—be ruled by a single man, immortal though I may be.

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“Instead, what I propose is a more… representative form of government, where the citizens of Rome have a voice, and a hand, in the running of the state. This august body,” he said, sweeping his hand around the room, “this Senate, is part of that, comprised of the head of each family of the patrician class, will serve as a council of guides to the new government. The people of Rome shall also elect representatives to a governing council where the voice of the majority, not one man, shall rule. We shall work together, patrician and plebeian, to bring Rome to its bright, assured destiny.

“For myself, I propose to retain the position and title of Consul-for-life. But at my side will rule a co-consul, elected annually from the members of this chamber. Thus, Rome will have the best of both worlds: an immortal leader to guide it to its destiny with an eye to its glorious past; and a mortal leader to ensure that the concerns of mortal men are given voice.

“I should point out that our first point of discussion will be these proposed reforms. I expect, encourage, and daresay demand your input, contrary to my own vision though it may be. I hope to offer my unique perspective, my guidance, and whatever wisdom I have gleaned during my many years here on earth. Together, we will, through our on-going dialogue, formulate the best future for the People and the Republic of Rome.”

Caesar paused, glancing at the three hundred men gathered in the new Senate chamber, their purple-bordered togas marking each one as the head of the oldest, most noble families of Rome. One could have heard a pin drop in that oval-shaped room, and not just because of its excellent acoustics. To a man, they were stunned into silence. None had ever considered that the immortal Julius would share—would relinquish—his absolute power! But that was exactly what he was proposing.

“Have you nothing to say, conscript fathers?” Caesar gently prompted them.
A moment went by, and then Lepidus slowly rose to his feet.

“I yield the floor to my colleague, Publius Rutullus Lepidus,” Caesar said, and even that simple act, proving his sincerity, amazed the chamber anew. Caesar sat in the curule chair upon the rostra, the raised platform at the centre of the chamber. He looked at Publius Rutullus expectantly.

For a long moment, Publius Rutullus said nothing. Then he slowly raised his hands, held them open before him, and clapped. And clapped again, and again, until he was clapping passionately. Slowly, the other Senators followed his example, until every man in the chamber save Caesar himself was standing and applauding enthusiastically. Some cheered, many were smiling broadly.

Gradually the applause died down and the Senators resumed their seats.

“Well,” Caesar said, allowing a pleased smile to play across his lips, “thank you. Now that the self-congratulations are over, we have a great many items before us to consider, discuss, and decide.” He drew a scroll from inside the folds of his toga, beneath his left arm, and unfurled it. “Let us get to work. First, we must consider the proposed abolition of slavery and the implementation of a merit-based caste system based upon Confucian principles…”

So began a new era in the history of Rome… the era of the Republic.

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Ashlord
Mar 19, 2007, 02:49 PM
Very good addition to the story. I was wondering what would be the cause of death for Ling Lun and the toxic paint was something that I had not thought of. Also wondered if you would abolish slavery after reading Ceasar's reaction to the mural. Keep it coming.

kirbystarfan
Mar 19, 2007, 03:39 PM
Yay! An update! Well, that was quite moving. I had a feeling that Caesar would abolish slavery upon seeing that mural, but he representation surprised me a bit. Keep up the great work, and thanks for the extra long chapter. It was worth the wait.

biggamer132
Mar 19, 2007, 04:24 PM
Great entry. Hopefully we don't have to wait as long for the next one. :)

carl corey
Mar 19, 2007, 07:01 PM
Excellent! I've just realized how much this story depends on details like taking over the Pyramids, managing to build the Great Lighthouse, getting first to Music, etc. You've really managed to do wonders (eh...) by adjusting to the game itself. Makes for a great reading so far. Keep it going!

wenamon
Mar 19, 2007, 11:51 PM
another great update. I love the emphasis that you are placing on character development. I only have two concerns. 1) poor caesar seems to be growing lonely watching all of his dearest friends and associates pass away around him. Could we not build up an eternal girlfriend or something for him?
and 2) please update more frequently! I love this story you are writing and check this forum regularily only for this and a few strategy threads.
Great job!

Sisiutil
Mar 20, 2007, 03:23 AM
Yay! An update! Well, that was quite moving. I had a feeling that Caesar would abolish slavery upon seeing that mural, but he representation surprised me a bit.
Especially given that most historians hold that Caesar ended the Republic (though I'm sure he would have argued the point), and here I have him creating it. :lol: Artistic license is a great thing.

Excellent! I've just realized how much this story depends on details like taking over the Pyramids, managing to build the Great Lighthouse, getting first to Music, etc. You've really managed to do wonders (eh...) by adjusting to the game itself. Makes for a great reading so far. Keep it going!
Frankly, the whole idea was to use the game and specific elements within it as the springboard for a series of linked stories. In this case, I was inspired by the idea of certain uses of a Great Person that, essentially, do them in. :sad: I always thought there was, potentially, a poignant story behind the idea of a great artist who gives his life to create his masterpiece.

another great update. I love the emphasis that you are placing on character development. I only have two concerns. 1) poor caesar seems to be growing lonely watching all of his dearest friends and associates pass away around him. Could we not build up an eternal girlfriend or something for him?
and 2) please update more frequently! I love this story you are writing and check this forum regularily only for this and a few strategy threads.
Great job!
1) Quit peeking at my story notes. ;)
2) I'll do my best. I tend to get distracted by the ALC game, and off-line game I play while waiting for responses to the ALC, posting here... and, oh yes, I have a job and a wife, don't I? I thought I did... I was sure they were around here somewhere...

The next update may take longer because I suddenly got a flash of inspiration for a much better story that I originally had in mind. Unfortunately that means starting over from scratch. Please be patient, it'll be worth it!

Yakk
Mar 20, 2007, 06:08 PM
Just curious -- what civic changes?

Monarchy->Representation and Slavery->Caste system?

Sisiutil
Mar 20, 2007, 11:03 PM
Just curious -- what civic changes?

Monarchy->Representation and Slavery->Caste system?
Correct, sorry if that wasn't clear enough, but then again, I'm telling a story rather than giving a play-by-play account of a game.

Steel General
Mar 23, 2007, 07:50 AM
Another well-crafted installment! :)

<nuke>
Mar 24, 2007, 11:11 PM
good update :)

Sanovice
Mar 25, 2007, 06:20 PM
i like it!

Sisiutil
Mar 29, 2007, 10:13 PM
Chapter 10: Good Queen Bess

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“So she’s coming here?” Caesar asked.

“Yes,” Gaius Lucius Gracchus, just returned by caravel from the distant continent freshly discovered on the other side of the globe, answered as he helped himself to another grape from the bowl on the table. “She was insistent upon it, in fact. Well, in her own way…”

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“What do you mean, ‘in her own way’?” Julius asked, eyes narrowing.

Gracchus thought carefully as he considered his answer. He knew exactly what Caesar was asking: what sort of person is this Elizabeth, Queen of England? Already, he was seeking to prepare himself for their meeting.

“Well, she’s…very much a Queen, Caesar,” Gracchus said. “She’s quite beautiful, but extremely reserved. Regal,” he said with a nod.

Caesar, however, grunted impatiently. “As far as I’m concerned, Gracchus, “queen” and “regal” mean exactly the same thing, and “reserved” could be a way of saying you discerned nothing about her. And I don’t give a toss whether she’s pretty or not. Tell me something useful.”

“She’s…” Gracchus began to say, then threw up his hands. “Oh, you’ll just have to meet her yourself and see! I’ve never met anyone like her, Caesar.”

***

Caesar sat, waiting patiently, on the ivory curule chair high on the dais in centre of the chamber. His oak crown was upon his head, his purple-bordered toga resplendent, an ivory rod cradled in his left elbow. The Senators were fidgeting impatiently, but were doing their best to imitate their leader, who was sitting impassively, like a statue, as though he could wait there all day.

The Senate had convened outside of Rome’s city limits, in a spacious meeting hall built especially for this purpose, pleasantly situated upon the northern shore of Lake Tiber. The Curia Tiberius was rarely used, but was nevertheless painstakingly maintained, and was larger and grander than the Curia Hostilia, its usual meeting place situated in Rome’s forum. For the Curia Tiberius was where the Senate of Rome met with foreign rulers, for no king or queen was allowed within the sacred boundary of Rome itself. Given its purpose, the Curia Tiberius had to be impressive, and it was. The walls, the floors, and the columns supporting the high ceiling were all composed of the finest, highly-polished marble; the ceiling had been plastered and decorated with colourful frescoes. The meeting chamber itself was vast, but acoustically perfect, ensuring that even a pin dropping could be heard throughout.

The great oak doors of the chamber opened. A trumpeter, standing beside them, blew a brief fanfare. As Caesar and the Senators watched, Elizabeth, Queen of England, walked into the chamber. No, not walked; floated was a more accurate description. Her broad, hooped skirt and her graceful, regal bearing created that impression, even when she came down the marbled steps into the centre of the chamber. She seemed ethereal, otherworldly.

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Her appearance only added to the impression. Caesar was immediately struck by her hair: it was bright red, such as he had never seen before, and artfully piled onto her head beneath her crown. Two strands of that fiery hair decorously framed each of her ears. She was tall, nearly as tall as Caesar himself. Her face was thin but not gaunt, pale but not unhealthy. Her blue eyes were cool and, Caesar could tell, extremely perceptive. Her forehead was perhaps a little too high, her cheekbones as well…but her features, in combination, were pleasing to the male eye. She had a certain haughtiness about her—after his encounters with Queen Isabella, Caesar had come to expect that—but she seemed to carry herself without any hint of the late Spanish ruler’s arrogance.

And, of course, she was immortal like himself. The tense tingling in his neck and shoulders confirmed it. She would be sensing it as well, but she gave no outward sign whatsoever.

Caesar rose from his chair.

“Greetings, Elizabeth, Queen of the English Empire,” he said, his voice echoing sonorously in the oval chamber. “On behalf of the People and Republic of Rome, I bid you welcome.” He placed the fist of his right hand over his heart, and bowed.

When he raised his head, he saw the slightest of smiles play upon her lips ever so briefly. Caesar was suddenly struck by a desire to see that slender face alight with a full, delighted smile. He nearly gave his head a shake. Now where did that notion come from? he wondered, but knew the answer full well. He reminded himself to be careful.

“Hail, Gaius Julius Caesar, Consul of Rome,” she said, her voice light and lilting as she spoke the words in impeccable, almost unaccented Latin. “We bring you greetings from the English Empire.” With that, she daintily clasped the skirt of her dress and favoured him with an elegant curtsy. She then straightened and regarded him expectantly.

Caesar quickly stirred himself from his reverie. Stepping back, he held out his hand towards the curule chair, indicating she was to assume it and from there, speak to the chamber. After the merest moment’s hesitation, which almost made Caesar wonder if she would turn down the offer, the Queen walked—no, floated, Caesar reminded himself—to the dais.

She held out her right hand. He took it. Her fingers were slender and delicate, but strong. Like the woman herself. Caesar gallantly held her hand as she climbed the steps of the dais and lowered herself upon the chair. She arranged her skirt as she sat, so elegantly that one was barely aware she had done it. She sat in the curule chair as though she, not Caesar and the Senate, ruled here. She released Caesar’s hand, and he actually felt a stab of regret at that. He chided himself silently, then stepped back from the dais.

“Conscript fathers,” the Queen said as she began her address to the chamber, “it is our sincerest hope that this is the beginning of a long, close, and fruitful friendship between Rome and England…”

***

“It was a splendid speech,” Caesar remarked to her later.

“Thank you, Caesar,” she replied equitably.

They were eating dinner together, in his dining room in the Consular palace, which commanded a fine few of Lake Tiber. They were alone; they had lunched with their various ministers and attendants, but Caesar had always found that, one-on-one, people, including rulers, relaxed, opened up, and became more…well, human. Some wine—especially an excellent late vintage from Capua—was intended to help in that regard.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes10_03.jpg

Elizabeth, however, had not relaxed. Not that she seemed tense either; but she sat in her chair, her back straight, and maintained the same air of reserve she had exhibited the entire day. Caesar tried to draw her into conversation, but she did not venture far beyond pleasantries and vague statements of policy. And she kept using that royal “we”, which rather irked Caesar, who was so committed to republican governance.

Caesar sighed a little. He’d been so entranced with her earlier that day, when she’d entered the Senate and he’d seen her for the first time. But nothing, it seemed, broke through that reserved, icy exterior. Talking with Tokugawa had been easier, even if all the man had done was say no to everything. But he’d thought—or was it hoped?—that alone over dinner, she’d thaw… just a little, even if only regarding trade negotiations.

“What are you thinking about?” she suddenly asked him.

Caesar looked at her, surprised. It was the sort of question a teenaged girl asked her beau, not a query one expected from one ruler—especially another immortal—to another. “I beg your pardon?” Caesar said.

“You were lost in thought,” she remarked, then sipped some wine from a finely-crafted gold goblet. “I wanted to know what you were thinking about.”

Was it here? Had he seen it? The same fleeting grin she’d favoured him with earlier that day, when they’d first seen one another in the Senate chamber? He couldn’t be sure. But favouring risk as he always did, he decided to charge ahead. He decided to be honest.

“If you really want to know, your majesty,” Caesar said evenly, “I was thinking how long it’s been since I’ve dined alone with a woman.”

The Queen’s thin, red brows rose; Caesar’s answer spoke volumes, and he knew it. “We find that surprising,” she remarked. “We had not considered that the ruler of mighty Rome should ever be lonely, or lack for…female companionship.”

“I did not say I was lonely,” Caesar replied. “In point of fact, I prefer a certain amount of solitude in order to concentrate on my work. As for female companionship… well, when you live as long as we do, the fires die down after a while, don’t you find?”

She did not answer him. She only watched him. He thought he saw that little smile play across her lips again, ever so briefly. She daintily took another bite of her food.

Ah well, Caesar thought, perhaps honesty isn’t always the best policy. She’s probably still a virgin, this one, he considered crudely.

“I do not,” she said.

Caesar glanced at her in surprise. “Sorry…?”

“The fires burn as bright and as hot as they ever have,” she said evenly, but Caesar heard the intensity behind the words. “One does not survive, rule, and guide an empire for several centuries without a fire in the belly.” She paused, her slender face thoughtful, and let her words sink in. “That is, I think, the first lie you have told me, Gaius Julius. Perhaps you did so because you are lying to yourself, but I will thank you not to do it again.”

She had looked at him directly as she had spoken these words, and it was as though a mask had been stripped away, and the real woman was revealed: strong, bold, passionate, confident… and brilliant as the sun. It took his breath away. He barely noticed that she had stopped using the royal “we”. For possibly the first time in his life, he was speechless. She was staring at him boldly, her blue eyes fastened on to his. He felt a desire, a need, deep within him that he’d not felt in years…centuries, perhaps.

“Tell me, Gaius Julius,” she asked intently, as if reading his thoughts and daring him to express them, “what do you want?”

Caesar considered for a moment. No, he decided, he wasn’t going to tell this Queen exactly what he wanted at that precise moment; whatever else might be going on here, decorum had to be observed. But he considered briefly, then plunged ahead. Let the dice fly high, he thought.

“What I want,” he answered her, his intensity matching her own, “is for my nation to rise and become the pre-eminent power and culture in the world. I want Latin to be the language of choice in every corner of the globe. I want one world, one nation, with Rome as its center, its capital, its heart. I want,” he concluded, “to be the one.”

They sat silently, holding one another’s gaze, for a very long time.

“Well then,” she said, “there’s something we have in common.”

***

They finished their dinner shortly afterwards and the Queen retired to her room. Caesar went to his own, though he found it hard to sleep at first. He laughed softly as he realized the cause: frustration. He’d thought himself long past that. He considered sending for a woman, then reconsidered. With the Queen visiting and his indulgence in that area being so infrequent of late, word would spread and people would draw obvious conclusions. Besides, he thought, it wouldn’t be the same…

He yawned and, a moment later, was asleep.

***

The Queen spent the better part of a two weeks on the continent. Caesar gave her a guided tour, proudly showing her the all the ancient and recent wonders Romans had built. He took her to a hill just outside Rome’s sacred boundary which offered a splendid view of both the Hanging Gardens and the soaring spires of the Hagia Sophia.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes10_07.jpg

They went to Ravenna, where he proudly showed her the Great Library. He then took her to Antium to show her Stonehenge, the Oracle, and the Great Lighthouse. While there, they also paid a visit to the Kong Miao, the Confucian holy shrine.

“It is unfortunate that you have fallen under the sway of a heathen religion,” the Queen remarked, rather archly, at one point. But a sparkle in her eye and that by-now familiar little grin told Caesar that the words had been uttered to placate the Hindu priest in the English delegation.

“We all have our faults, your majesty,” he’d responded slyly, and was favoured with another brief, slight smile. If the sight made his heart beat a little faster, he was careful to give no outward sign.

They traveled to the east and visited the sun-kissed wine estates outside Capua. As Caesar and Elizabeth enjoyed the best wines the vineyards had to offer, their negotiators worked on several trade deals that would be lucrative to both sides.

“We must have a steady supply of these wonderful Roman spices,” Elizabeth insisted to her chief advisor, Lord Burghley. “I am sure that our supple English silk would be much appreciated in exchange…?” she said with a sly glance at Caesar.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes10_05.jpg

And then it was time for the English Queen to return home. As she boarded the English caravel that had brought her to Rome, she turned to Caesar to say her farewell.

“It is unfortunate that England and Rome are so distant from one another, Caesar,” she said evenly. “Though perhaps it is fortunate as well,” she added, one slender red brow rising.

“Indeed,” Caesar responded, understanding her meaning all too well.

“You should visit us in London someday soon,” she said. “We assure you that in England’s heart, Caesar would receive a most warm welcome.”

Again, the fleeting grin played upon her face. And did he see something else? A flash in her eyes that told him this was more than just a standard invitation for a state visit? She was so hard to read, this one. He had to pay close attention to every word, every gesture, every expression to get some sort of read on her. But there had been that moment, just the one, over dinner, when she had stripped the mask away and revealed just a hint of her fire, of her passion.

He liked her. He liked her very much indeed. When he’d met the other immortal leaders, the first and foremost thought in his mind had been when and how he would take their heads. But with Elizabeth, he pushed the possibility aside. An ocean separated them and their nations; it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

She turned and boarded the ship. Caesar watched her go. Yes, and it would be useful…instructive to visit the distant continent. He could visit not only England, but also Greece, and Mongolia as well. A good idea, for diplomacy, for trade… for so many reasons. None of them personal.

Or so he told himself.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes10_06.jpg

Helmling
Mar 29, 2007, 10:39 PM
Hi there. I just returned to the Stories after a long absence and I saw how massive your thread is. I started browsing through the most recent posts and was really impressed with your attention to detail and with how well you were accounting for in-game events.

So imagine how flattered I was when I went back to start from the beginning and read your forward! Thanks, and you seem to be rocking all on your own here. I'll catch up with your story as soon as I get a chance...but for now, I'm off to bed.

Yakk
Mar 29, 2007, 11:42 PM
Pump out those missionaries. :)

wenamon
Mar 29, 2007, 11:53 PM
great job sisiutil. looks like I did read your notes :)

IPEX-731BA5DD06
Mar 30, 2007, 11:11 AM
Great Eye for detail "Juliius Ceasar".....

Nice the way you blend in the games pictorial events into your story.....

Not much on our friend and feind....Motazuma.....what's happened to him....

Did he only sacrifise 49 slaves in your honour.............:cry:

And what will you do with those great prophets

Sisiutil
Mar 30, 2007, 09:36 PM
Great Eye for detail "Juliius Ceasar".....

Nice the way you blend in the games pictorial events into your story.....

Not much on our friend and feind....Motazuma.....what's happened to him....

Did he only sacrifise 49 slaves in your honour.............:cry:

And what will you do with those great prophets
Funny you should mention Montezuma. ;) And you'll see the fate of one GP at the beginning of the next story.

Speaking of which...

The next chapter kind of ran away on me. Not in a bad way, I hope. It just started as another chapter/short story, and then, well, it took on a life of its own and kind of turned into a novella! Because of the subject matter, there won't be as many screen shots, but I'm hoping you'll enjoy it anyway.

Sisiutil
Mar 30, 2007, 09:45 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 1 – The Kong Miao

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_02.jpg

He had been watching the young man for several minutes before he decided what to do about him.

The Kong Miao received anywhere from dozens to hundreds of visitors a day, of course. As the primary shrine of Confucianism, it was an object of reverence to the faithful and one of curiosity to the tourists. Mencius saw no end of visitors when he wandered the peaceful, immaculately manicured grounds of the shrine. Some got a polite nod from him, but he could grant them no more of his attention than that. The High Priest, as one would expect, was a very busy man.

So why should this one young man have arrested his attention this morning? Granted, the fellow was good-looking, but Mencius’ tastes had never run in that direction. The young man looked quintessentially Roman: tall, dark-featured, with jet-black hair in close-cropped curls. Clean-shaven, as was the fashion amongst Romans and had been for centuries. (Mencius, in contrast, wore a long, nearly snow-white beard.)

Perhaps it was how he was dressed that caught Mencius’ attention—or rather, how he wasn’t dressed. The young man, though obviously Roman, was not togate, wearing only a simple white tunic with no stripe that would indicate he held rank as a patrician or even a knight. Yet the way he held himself, back straight, broad shoulders thrown back, and especially with that muscular left arm of his held bent at a right angle, as if to support the folds of a toga, suggested that he was used to the dress of a high-ranking Roman—or had been.

Most of the mysteries the high priest wrested with would never be solved in his lifetime. The one standing before him, in contrast, should be relatively easy to resolve. That prospect—the unusual chance to deal with a relatively straightforward enigma for a change—made up Mencius’ mind. He walked over to the young man.

“Greetings, my young friend,” he said in Latin. “Welcome to the Kong Miao. My name is Mencius.”

The young man turned from his study of the Hall of Great Perfection and regarded the older man with piercing blue-green eyes. He blinked in surprise, then bowed low.

<I am honoured to make your acquaintance,> the young man said in Mencius’ native Chinese. He straightened. <I confess that I did not expect to meet the High Priest on my pilgrimage. This is an unexpected and most welcome honour.>

Mencius smiled beneath his neatly-trimmed beard, pleased not only by the young man’s most polite and proper greeting, but also to hear his native tongue spoken by one who was obviously not of that lineage. Even centuries later, some Romans still never let his people forget that they were descended from escaped slaves. Mencius could tell that this young Roman, however, held no such prejudices.

“You are Confucian, I take it?” Mencius continued in Latin, implicitly inviting his new acquaintance to speak in his own native tongue; it was only proper, since Mencius had initiated the conversation. The high priest gestured towards the Hall of Great Perfection, the centre of the shrine and the heart of Confucianism, and he and his new companion turned and casually strolled towards it.

“Yes, as my father was before me, and his father before him,” the young man said. “Forgive me, I forgot to introduce myself. I am Lucius Rutullus Lepidus.”

Now it was Mencius’ turn to blink in surprise. “Your name seems very familiar to me, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, but I cannot place it,” he prompted his young companion.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_03.jpg

And there it was, in the young man’s suddenly tightened expression, the slight sigh of sorrow and exasperation that escaped his lips. It told Mencius everything he needed to know before Lucius Rutullus filled in the details.

“The Rutullii have served Rome in general and Casear in particular for centuries,” he said proudly. Then he pressed his lips together and seemed to sag, just a little. “But the family has… fallen on hard times. Too many sons and not enough money or land to go around is how my grandfather, rest his soul, used to put it.”

Mencius nodded. He now recalled hearing of the fate of this young man’s family, one of the oldest and most Patrician, descended, legend had it, from Remus himself. Nothing dramatic had occurred—no sudden fall from grace—just a gradual erosion, over time, of the family fortune as it was split repeatedly amongst each new generation, until there was, now, no fortune to be split. Once the Rutullii had been senators, praetors, consuls, and provincial governors. And now…?

“I grew up in the Subura,” the young man told him in a matter-of-fact tone even though he had just admitted his once-noble family now lived in the seething tenements of Rome amongst the lowest of the low—the “head count”, as they were called. “That’s where I learned Chinese, and a few other languages to boot, from the neighbours in our insula.”

Again Mencius nodded. As a young priest he had ministered to those in the dense, crowded apartment blocks of Rome and Antium, where people of different nationalities and tongues lived cheek-by-jowl beside and on top of one another. That this young man’s speech and bearing indicated that he still clung to his Patrician background was remarkable. But Mencius said nothing; he knew that the young man’s pilgrimage was infused with purpose, especially since it must have been exorbitantly expensive for him to undertake, given his limited circumstances. All this talk was leading to something.

Lucius Rutullus stopped just outside the door to the Hall of Great Perfection. His eyes sought the priest’s, and his brow furrowed.

“All the master’s teachings,” Lucius said, “have, as I have been given to understand it, one purpose: to show us our place in the world, and how to accept it and live properly within that place. But I no longer know my place!” the young man cried, his arms spread in exasperation as he finally revealed what had brought him on this pilgrimage. He shook his head and looked at the ground. “I should, by rights, be planning my political career. I should be looking forward to entering the Senate in ten years, on my thirtieth birthday, as is my due. But I’ll never qualify. I should be holding my head high amongst my fellow Patricians. Instead I mingle with the head count.”

He glanced up at Mencius, who was listening to him attentively. “Do not misunderstand me, revered sir. I don’t look down upon those I live with and deal with every day. They’re my friends and neighbours; of the few Patricians I know, most can’t be bothered to acknowledge my mere existence. It’s just…” Again his spread his hands in exasperation, then let them fall and slap uselessly against his thighs. “I try to live up to the Confucian ideal, to be a noble man—not one through birth and blood, though I have that, but through thought and deed. But it’s hard, master. Very hard.”

“Is that all that troubles you, my young friend?” Mencius asked after a brief, respectful pause.

“No,’ Lucius Rutullus said quietly. He glanced at the high, gabled roof of the Hall of Great Perfection and sighed. “There’s… well, there’s a girl.”

“Ah,” Mencius said. “Permit me to hazard a guess: she’s a Patrician.”

“Yes,” Lucius admitted with a dejected nod.

“But her family’s circumstances are… different from yours,” Mencius said delicately.

“Oh, like night and day!” Lucius said with a bitter laugh. “Her name is Claudia Pulchra.”

Mencius couldn’t contain his reaction. He inhaled through his teeth. The Claudii were one of Rome’s highest-ranking Patrician families. The young woman Lucius Rutullus was referring to was the daughter of Marcus Claudius Pulcher, who had been Consul twice and was currently one of two men holding the esteemed office of Censor. From all reports, she lived up to the family’s cognomen, which meant “beautiful”, in both appearance and personality. Such was her reputation, and that of her family, that even the High Priest of the Kong Miao in Antium knew of her. But then, Mencius was a prudent man as well as a holy one, and ensured he kept one ear to the ground regarding the goings-on in the capital.

“You aim high, Lucius Rutullus,” he remarked.

“Too high,” the young man said morosely. “She’s engaged to another man.”

“Forgive me for asking, my young friend, but how did you ever chance to meet her? I would assume you move in very different circles.”

Lucuis Rutullus smiled grimly and nodded. “Quite so. But, strangely, we shared the same pedagogue. An esteemed Japanese tutor, Akiro Matsugane.”

Mencius’ snow-white brows rose high on his head. “Now I know why your name is familiar to me, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, and not just because of your esteemed heritage. Akiro Matsugane is one of my oldest friends. Our duties—mine here in Antium, his in Rome—keep us apart too much, unfortunately. But the last time I visited him in Rome… it must be, oh, four years ago—he mentioned you to me.”

“Did he?” Lucius said in mild surprise.

“Of course,” Mencius said, grinning now. “Did you never wonder, Lucius Rutullus, why one of the most esteemed teachers in Rome accepted you as a student though you could not afford to pay his fees? Which, as I keep telling him, I consider ridiculously exorbitant,” he added with the good-natured disdain one long-time friend often had for another.

“I always thought it was because he felt sorry for me,” Lucius said with a shrug.

Mencius snorted derisively, a most un-priest-like sound. “Does Akiro Matsugane strike you as the soft-hearted type?”

“No,” Lucius said, his hands rubbing together unconsciously as he remembered the many times his stern tutor had administered a leather strap to them in discipline. “Far from it.”

Mencius nodded. “He took you in because he saw great potential in you, Lucius Rutullus. Potential that would have been wasted otherwise. Potential that you have not yet fulfilled. But you are young, and there is all the time in the world for you to find your way.”

“But how, Master?” Lucius asked. “As a civil servant? I’ll be old and grey—no offence—before I climb that cumbersome ladder high enough to achieve anything even close to my family’s former prominence. And I don’t have a head for business either, I can tell you that. Normally, a man of my age would join Rome’s Legions and make a name for himself there, but we’ve been at peace for decades now.”

Lucius laughed briefly. “Would you believe I even tried acting? Yes, a Patrician Rutullus, on stage!” he said in response to Mencius’ surprised reaction. “There were two thespians living in our insula, and they convinced me to give it a try. They made quite a fuss over me.” He grimaced. “Too much of a fuss, if you catch my meaning, which is why it didn’t last.”

“You must be patient, my young friend,” Mencius said when the young man grew silent. “The world has a way of putting things in our path that we need. We usually regard them as obstacles, when in fact they are opportunities. And sometimes they are difficult to recognize as either. The Master said…”

But Mencius got no further, for from behind him, within the sanctity of the Hall of Great Perfection, a loud, keening wail pierced the air. Before the old priest had even turned his head toward the sound, Lucius Rutullus was running past him towards its source.

There, beneath the many richly-decorated pillars, the dark red walls, the high roof, was the central altar. At one side of the large, intricately-carved marble block knelt the source of the cry Mencius and Lucius Rutullus—and several other priests, now converging on the altar—had heard. He was an old man, his clean-shaven head and snow-white beard giving him the appearance of a holy man, while his long green robe, decorated with colourful feathers of blue, yellow, and red,, made him resemble some exotic bird.

His hands shook even as they clung to the altar like a drowning man to some piece of flotsam. Another loud wail of anguish and rapture erupted from his weathered lips, followed by a stream of what could only be loud, reverent prayer spoken in a strange, guttural tongue. Tears streamed down his withered cheeks and moistened that long, white beard. Lucius was already beside the old man, his strong arm attempting to be a comforting presence on that elderly shoulder. Mencius caught up to his young acquaintance and knelt down beside the aged, distraught worshipper.

“My friend,” the High Priest said, then waited patiently for the old man to notice him and for his reverent wailing to cease. “You are most welcome to the house of Confucius,” he said reassuringly. “Be comforted—you are among friends. Might I ask who you are, and from where you hail?”

The old man only shook his head and muttered incoherently in his strange tongue. Exasperated, Mencius looked at the other priests standing nearby, as perplexed as he, to see if any of them understood the man.

“His name,“ Lucius Rutullus said, “is Itzcoatl. He’s Aztec”

Mencius and the other priests started in surprise, both at the information and that this young Roman had somehow understood it. Rome was a mosaic of the various cultures of the continent, that was true, but the Aztec Empire had long been a closed book. One of the few things Romans knew about that mysterious land, home to a particularly fundamentalist strain of Buddhism, was that travel from it was forbidden to its inhabitants--on pain of death. Very few Aztecs made the hazardous journey to Roman lands, though evidently this man had—and, it seemed, so had at least one resident of the insula where Lucius Rutullus had grown up. The young man turned to the old man and spoke to him gently in his strange, mysterious language.

“He also says,” Lucius added, with no small amount of astonishment, “that he is a Confucian.”

With this remarkable declaration now translated, the old man broke down in tears yet again, leaving Lucius, Mencius, and the other priests staring at him in amazement and confusion.

Yakk
Mar 31, 2007, 02:03 PM
Fun update!

Anyone else see a strange floating grey block in front of some of the text?

Sisiutil
Mar 31, 2007, 02:23 PM
Fun update!

Anyone else see a strange floating grey block in front of some of the text?
Negative on the grey block at my end.

Maybe you've been staring at the computer screen too long. Time to get some sleep! ;)

wenamon
Mar 31, 2007, 02:31 PM
Fun update!

Anyone else see a strange floating grey block in front of some of the text?

no grey block here.

great update sisuitil. Its ok to deviate from the screenies for little excursions like this one. It fleshes out the story of the Republic for us.

Yakk
Mar 31, 2007, 04:07 PM
It is gone now. Sneaky Sisiutil did edit the post since I last saw it, so probably some random glitch caused it.

Sisiutil
Mar 31, 2007, 04:14 PM
no grey block here.

great update sisuitil. Its ok to deviate from the screenies for little excursions like this one. It fleshes out the story of the Republic for us.
Thanks, but be warned, this is the beginning of a BIG excursion--12 parts, 28,000 words--novella length. I thought it was going to be quick and easy to get Lucius to the end of his tale, but NOOOOOO...

Sisiutil
Mar 31, 2007, 04:20 PM
It is gone now. Sneaky Sisiutil did edit the post since I last saw it, so probably some random glitch caused it.
All I did was put in a missing line break! You probably just put your glasses on or something... ;)

carl corey
Mar 31, 2007, 06:40 PM
Wow, you're really going into writer mode, aren't you? I don't mind, as long as it's in someway tied to civ. :D Keep it going.

Sisiutil
Mar 31, 2007, 08:25 PM
Wow, you're really going into writer mode, aren't you? I don't mind, as long as it's in someway tied to civ. :D Keep it going.
Thanks. It's what I want to do for a living one day, frankly; this gives me an opportunity to practice and get some feedback.

Ultimate_Waffle
Mar 31, 2007, 09:29 PM
I think you'd make a great author. You just have to work on some of the spelling. There aren't very many spelling mistakes that you've made though. Keep up the good work ^_^.

IPEX-731BA5DD06
Apr 01, 2007, 09:38 AM
Sorry, but I have to say this, your ordering of the stories is out a bit, the kong miao should have gone in BEFORE Ceasar Killed and absorbed Isobela, and before the grand meeting of monarchs...well, bessie.;)

If your striving for perfection...little thing I know..but if you have the score of the people, who you've killed off in the story...it don't make sense...:confused:

So, either, hide the score...or reorder the story....

I must admit its got me in...like the ALC's.....its my drug of choice...
:crazyeye:

Me, I'm just a short tempered, frustrated prince player.... :cry:

carl corey
Apr 01, 2007, 02:23 PM
He's rearranged things before to fit the story, and I don't much care about the score as I don't even look at it. Hiding the score would be ok, but I'd rather have him write interesting updates than worrying about little details like that. To each his own I guess. :)

Sisiutil
Apr 01, 2007, 02:31 PM
I think you'd make a great author. You just have to work on some of the spelling. There aren't very many spelling mistakes that you've made though. Keep up the good work ^_^.
Thanks. I'm not sure what spelling mistakes you're referring to--if it's the additional "u" in words like "colour", "honour", and "neighbour", that's because I'm Canadian, and we tend to prefer the veddy proper British spellings of those words, doncherknow old chap, eh wot? ;)

Sorry, but I have to say this, your ordering of the stories is out a bit, the kong miao should have gone in BEFORE Ceasar Killed and absorbed Isobela, and before the grand meeting of monarchs...well, bessie.;)

If your striving for prefection...little thing I know..but if you have the score of the people, who you've killed off in the story...it don't make sense...:confused:

So, either, hide the score...or reorder the story....

I must admit its got me in...like the ALC's.....its my drug of choice...
:crazyeye:

Me, I'm just a short tempered, frustrated prince player.... :cry:
Good catch. The Kong Miao DID get built long before Isabella died. I just wanted to use a screenshot with a picture of it to set the scene, and the only one available, of course, is from when it got built. I mean, you can see the Great Lighthouse is still being built in Antium, so the screenie is, in fact, from the time period of Chapter 8. Rest assured, however, that the other screenshots I'll use in the story are from the time period in which this one is set. Sorry about the confusion. Maybe I'll replace it with a simple screenie of Antium from the proper year, more or less.

I would advise you to not get too caught up in the dates on the screen shots. It's the one thing I myself have to let go to write a story like this. Civ's timeline is not very accurate; it works for the game, but not for storytelling. I mean, once you get to the modern age, it doesn't take a whole year or more to cross from one side of a continent to another! And people in the ancient era of the game would, realistically, be dead long before the significant events I've portrayed occurred within their lifetimes. It's something I noticed Helmling struggled with as well.

Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 01, 2007, 03:54 PM
I don't even remember what the mistakes were, because it was such a long time ago that I caught them. It might not be you that made the spelling mistakes now that I think about it. Maybe it was somebody else?:confused:
Also, you say you like to use the British spelling of words? I say old bean! I must express my astonishment at your claim! Is this fact, or a CLEVER RUSE?

Sorry, I'm a bit weird sometimes...:mischief:

Sisiutil
Apr 01, 2007, 04:54 PM
I don't even remember what the mistakes were, because it was such a long time ago that I caught them. It might not be you that made the spelling mistakes now that I think about it. Maybe it was somebody else?:confused:
Also, you say you like to use the British spelling of words? I say old bean! I must express my astonishment at your claim! Is this fact, or a CLEVER RUSE?

Sorry, I'm a bit weird sometimes...:mischief:
Canadians have an inherent inferiority complex; it comes from living next door to a superpower. Retaining British spellings are one of the many small, somewhat pathetic little things we do that we think will somehow set us apart from Yanks.

Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 01, 2007, 05:04 PM
Well, anyway... Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading the next chapter soon.:goodjob:

Sisiutil
Apr 01, 2007, 08:48 PM
Okay, following IPEX-731BA5DD06's suggestion, I updated the screenshots. I went back into an old save of the game I had and grabbed some more appropriate ones. Be warned that this may make screenshots from later chapters a little inconsistent, since I may not have repeated all my steps EXACTLY as I did the first time through the game. But like I said, I'm telling a story with a few pretty pictures, not giving a blow-by-blow account of a game. If you want that, check out my ALC threads. :D

It was really strange, by the way, playing vanilla Civ IV again! I've been playing with the patched Warlords expansion pack for several months now, and I'd forgotten how many changes it made. It was weird looking in a city screen, for example, and having to get a calculator out to know when its next Great Person was going to appear! :lol: And I kept expecting my next Great General to generate (I was obviously bound for disappointment there).

At any rate, I now have a few appropriate screenshots for this very long part of the story, and I even got a couple of ideas for some interesting revisions of it. I hope to have the next part up in a couple of days.

Yakk
Apr 01, 2007, 09:21 PM
My favourate part of Canadian spelling? It is when we add us that aren't in British spelling to words - you know, just in case.

Sisiutil
Apr 01, 2007, 09:32 PM
My favourate part of Canadian spelling? It is when we add us that aren't in British spelling to words - you know, just in case.

:lol: Glad to know I'm not the only one who does that! :lol:

tthf
Apr 03, 2007, 01:38 AM
great story! keep it coming!

Sisiutil
Apr 03, 2007, 10:43 AM
great story! keep it coming!
The next part of the current story will be posted tonight. ;)

Sisiutil
Apr 03, 2007, 11:50 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 2 –Defending the Faith

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_04.jpg

“Where did you say he’s from?” Caesar asked.

“Some place called… Cal-ix-tla-hua-ca,” Mencius, the Confucian High Priest said carefully.

The High Priest stroked the dapper, neatly-trimmed beard upon his chin thoughtfully as he sat across from Caesar’s desk in the Consul-for-Life’s office in the Basilica Romanus. Not for the first time, Caesar reflected on how successful the descendants of that lowly group of captured Chinese slaves had become. Confucius himself had been a great-grandson of a Chinese slave; Ling Lun, the great artist, Lao Tzu, the scholar who had founded the competing yet complimentary philosophy of Taoism in Ravenna, and Mencius, the greatest Confucian scholar since the Master himself, sitting before him today, could also trace their lineages back to those humble roots. Every generation of their descendants seemed to find new ways to prove how they thoroughly deserved that treasured prize of full Roman citizenship.

The High Priest shook his head uncertainly. “At least I think that is how it is pronounced. These Aztec place names…”

“Yes, they’re tongue-twisters, aren’t they?” Caesar said, a bemused grin playing upon his lean features.

Mencius smiled and nodded once. “They probably say the same about the names of our cities,” he remarked.

“I suppose so,” Caesar replied. “Now tell me, old friend, why you’ve come all the way to Rome to see me regarding this humble pilgrim?”

The Confucian High Priest took a deep breath. Caesar’s chummy choice of words did not make Mencius forget the place of his faith within Roman society and its immortal leader’s grand plans. In Caesar’s shrewd, ice-blue eyes, he well knew, Confucianism was not a religious faith, nor a system of philosophy, but a tool—something to be used, then potentially—and herein lay the danger—tossed aside once its usefulness came to an end.

To the High Priest, of course, the complex ethical, political, social, and religious system of Confucianism was no mere utensil. He was therefore determined to work with Caesar to prove its utility and thus ensure its preservation. Which was why he had brought the old Aztec pilgrim to Rome, and why he chose his words carefully now.

“His pilgrimage—even his very existence, Caesar—has potentially vast political ramifications. As that is your area of expertise and governance, I thought it appropriate—no, urgent—that I bring this humble but significant man to your attention.”

Caesar smiled knowingly. “You’re far too humble yourself, Mencius. At least a third of all Confucian treatises delve extensively into political thought, and very intelligently. Rome’s caste system is based upon Confucian principles. Some of the best writings on the topic are yours, in fact.”

The High Priest nodded at the compliment. “All the more reason for me to bring this man’s existence—and predicament—to your attention.”

“Predicament?” Caesar asked pointedly.

“We have not had an open borders agreement with the Aztec Empire for centuries, as you know,” Mencius went on. “Yet somehow, Confucianism spread to this distant corner of that mysterious land. Itzcoatl is the first of his people who share our faith to make the pilgrimage to visit the Kong Miao, and I hope he will not be the last. However…” The High Priest paused and shook his head sadly.

“What’s the problem?” Caesar asked, even though he shrewdly knew what it was. He needed the High Priest to state it baldly, however.

“The Aztecs,” Mencius said, “are even more fervently Buddhist than their Spanish brothers and sisters of that faith, as remarkable as that sounds. The Confucian minority is, therefore, ostracized and persecuted, more so because the Aztecs believe that Confucian lay with Rome rather than with their homeland. Confucians are forbidden to exercise their faith; any caught with Confucian works in their possession are severely punished. In addition, a holy pilgrimage such as Itzcoatl’s is absolutely prohibited. It’s a miracle he made it all the way to Antium, and testament to his devotion. He could have been killed just for attempting to make the journey. We have even heard stories of Confucians being used as victims in ritual human sacrifice…” The holy man shuddered. “My Spanish counterparts regard that as a sacrilege and a heresy to Buddhism, yet the practice continues in parts of the Aztec Empire.”

“What would you have the Senate and the People of Rome do, Mencius?” Caesar asked, though he knew the answer to this question before he asked it as well. The way he phrased the question, however, was significant; he was reminding Mencius of the fact that Caesar no longer ruled Rome autocratically. Both the Plebeian Assembly and especially the Senate, which governed foreign policy, would have to be convinced of any course of action.

The High Priest returned Caesar’s shrewd gaze with one of equal clarity and perception. The two men understood one another; they may be on separate paths, with different starting points and end goals in mind, but each recognized that those paths were parallel to one another, and that they could and should act in one another’s mutual self-interest.

Mencius leaned forward and spoke fervently. “The Confucians of Calixtlahuaca need our aid, Caesar. We need to extend the protection of Rome’s might to this persecuted minority who share our faith. Montezuma must agree to respect their right to worship and grant them free passage to travel to the shrine in Antium. No one who meets this elderly Aztec holy man can deny this.”

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Caesar nodded and steepled his fingertips together thoughtfully. “I agree with you, of course. What you say strikes me as only reasonable. Montezuma, however, is not a man one can reason with. Or so I understand.”

“You’ve never met him?” Mencius asked in surprise.

“No, but I aim to change that, and soon,” Caesar replied. “And if Rome cannot convince him… then we may have to force him.”

The Roman ruler’s gaze was like cold and hard, like steel; Mencius knew that Caesar was likely looking forward to taking on his Aztec counterpart. The difficulty lay in convincing the Senate and the People to go along with it. How very convenient that Mencius, thanks to this lone Aztec pilgrim, had laid the means to do so very tidily in Caesar’s lap. And yet, Mencius did not seek reward for himself; the High Priest’s concern, as always, was with the preservation and proliferation of his faith.

“The Master said, ‘To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage’,” the High Priest said reverently. “I know from our history and from our friendship that you do not lack for courage, Caesar. Thus I know that you will do what is right. Our brothers and sisters of the faith are suffering. It falls to the Senate and the People of Rome to alleviate that suffering.”

Caesar’s ice-blue eyes levelled an even stare at the high priest. “As I recall, Confucius also had strict guidelines on how to recompense injury.”

Mencius nodded. “With justice,” he said.

tthf
Apr 04, 2007, 12:27 AM
w00t! March against Monty!

<nuke>
Apr 04, 2007, 12:59 AM
Are you going to attack Monty :eek:

tthf
Apr 04, 2007, 01:21 AM
that is inevitable, imho..

kirbystarfan
Apr 04, 2007, 07:24 AM
Well, obviously it's inevitable...the only victory condition is Conquest. Good luck with that though, even his ice city seemed well-defended. Then again, you have that mave territory, so...go for it!:)

Clovis
Apr 04, 2007, 09:19 AM
Well defended, but with obsolete units, IMHO.

Sisiutil
Apr 04, 2007, 10:57 AM
Settle down, guys, it's a story, not a strategy session! :lol:

I'm just setting the stage, anyway. In the next installment I'll return to the main protagonist for this storyline.

Clovis
Apr 05, 2007, 12:33 PM
Main protagonist as in: Julius Caesar?

Sisiutil
Apr 05, 2007, 01:40 PM
Main protagonist as in: Julius Caesar?
Caesar is the overall protagonist of the series, of course; but in case it isn't obvious yet, that troubled young man Lucius Rutullus Lepidus is the central protagonist in this particular tale. He appears again in the next installment and in all the others that follow. And there's a lot that follows. Like I said, this particular tale in the series took on a life of its own!

Sisiutil
Apr 06, 2007, 01:07 AM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 3 – Crying Havok

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The crowd of Caesar’s attendants and Roman civil servants standing before Madrid’s Basilica Romanus were trembling, their faces as white as their togas. They looked at one another nervously, their glances furtive and anxious. Yet none of them knew what to do, though all of them knew something had to be done.

For Caesar was in a rage.

“JUPITER’S BALLS!!” the immortal leader of Rome shouted. “This is unbelievable! And more importantly, UNACCEPTABLE!”

Listening to all this just outside the great hall of the Basilica was a most impressive honour guard: the entire, newly-commissioned Fourteenth Legion. Their armour shone in the Spanish sun, sending reflective flashes of light in all directions. Despite their Commander-in-Chief’s rage occurring right before them, the legionaries had enough discipline—not to mention a strong sense of self-preservation—to not show the least reaction. They stood at attention, waiting for the storm to pass.

Among them, standing in the second rank, was Lucius Rutullus Lepidus. As soon as he’d heard the old Confucian Aztec’s story several months ago, he’d understood the implications. The Roman army had, shortly thereafter, begun recruiting—just a precaution, the politicians said, though everyone knew better. Lucius Rutullus had leapt at the chance and enlisted. It was an opportunity for him to prove that the Rutullii could still serve Rome in some capacity, even that of a humble ranker within the Legions. So today he stood amongst his fellow fresh recruits of the Fourteenth Legion, chosen for this duty because of their youth and vigor. For Caesar was determined to impress Montezuma on this, their first meeting. The Aztec leader was expected within the hour.

But something now was obviously very, very wrong. Caesar’s rages were few and far between, and blessedly so, for they were terrible to behold, as Lucius Rutullus now saw. He could feel his fellow legionaries all around him steeling themselves as Caesar berated his hapless attendants, every soldier relieved that the leader’s wrath had not fallen on them, but aware that situation could change at any moment. So they stood at attention and attempted to be very inconspicuous—or at least as much as over four thousand men in full parade gear could manage.

“IDIOTS!!” Caesar was shouting, his pale blue eyes, normally ice-cold, now blazing with fury. His attendants trembled before him. “By Jupiter, I should have every last one of you FLOGGED!”

Several of the legionaries had to stifle laughter. None of them had any affection for civil servants, of course, and watching those high-ranking mandarins—normally so self-assured and supercilious—trembling in utter terror was a source of vast amusement. They had no idea what the problem was, but it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that these puffed-up quill-pushers were getting a dressing-down, and they got to watch. But they knew better than to give Caesar any reason to turn his attention upon them. So they all pressed their lips together tightly, stifled their laughter, and made not a sound.

As least most of them didn’t. “I hear the Queen of England was supposed to make a state visit, but cancelled at the last moment,” one of Lucius’ comrades whispered to him, attempting to explain Caesar’s mood in a gossipy way.

“Tace!” another legionary hissed at him, anxious to avoid incurring Caesar’s wrath.

Caesar threw his arms wide, his eyes lifted heavenwards. “Jupiter and Jehovah and Confucius and Buddha and the great Tao help me,” he said, calling on any and all of Rome’s sacred beings for assistance. “Could you not find one man in the entire Roman empire,” he said, “who speaks Aztec?!?”

Among the rankers, Lucius’ eyes went wide. So that was the problem! He could hardly believe his ears. His military discipline kept him in place and silent, but his mind was reeling. Was this it? Was this his chance? It seemed so, but he had no desire to risk becoming the target of Caesar’s wrath. So he hesitated.

He would later claim that it did not happen of his own volition, that it was unintentional. But happen it did. He coughed. Loudly. Right at a pause in Caesar’s diatribe.

Caesar whirled, turning suddenly towards the assembled Legion, his eyes still blazing, and Lucius felt every man around him tense. He didn’t have to be a mind-reader to know their thoughts: You’ve done it now, Lucius Rutullus. You’ve drawn the old man’s fire. We’re done for, but you especially.

“What’s that, you miserable bunch of cunni?” Caesar said, glaring at the soldiers fiercely as he fell back into the crude patois of the commanding general addressing his troops. Though he was togate, the troops had seen him in his gleaming cuirass and scarlet cloak often enough to be able to imagine him wearing it. “Does one of you mentulae have something to say?”

There was nothing for it. Taking a deep breath and ignoring the terrified and furious glares from the legionaries around him, Lucius Rutullus stepped out of his place in the second rank. He walked forward, in front of the assembled legion, and stood at attention.

“SIR!” he shouted, ignoring the horrible burning sensation in his gut.

“Back to the ranks, you miserable…” a Centurion growled at him, but Caesar angrily waved the man off.

“What is it, soldier?” Caesar growled impatiently as he closed in on the ranker, his teeth grinding. “Do you have something to contribute to this discussion?”

“SIR, YES SIR!” Lucius said, eyes fixed on a indeterminate point somewhere above and to the right of Caesar’s head. “I speak Aztec, sir!”

There was a long moment of utter silence as every man present seemed to hold his breath, even Caesar, though all were waiting for his reaction. When he finally did react, he shocked them all.

Several very tense heartbeats after Lucius Rutullus had spoken, Caesar’s rage evaporated. A broad grin broke out on his face, and he threw his head back and laughed. Every man present let out the breath he suddenly realized he’d been holding.

“You’re joking!” Caesar finally managed to say as his laughter died down. His right hand rose to his face to wipe away the tears streaming down it.

“SIR, NO SIR!” Lucius answered, eyes still fixed on that point just above Caesar’s head. “I swear it, sir!”

“Where on earth did you learn to speak Aztec, soldier?” Caesar asked.

“I grew up in an insula in the Subura, sir! An Aztec gentleman lived on the third floor. Used to babysit me and my sisters when we were little. He taught us his tongue; its proper name is ‘Nahuatl’, though, not ‘Aztec’. SIR!”

“Remarkable,” Caesar observed. “And providence has guided you here today. Come with me,” he said, all business, and turned to go. Lucius rushed to fall into step beside him.

“What’s your name, young man?” he asked. Lucius answered, and then had to abruptly stop, because Caesar had done so, and was staring at him in genuine surprise. “One of the Rutullii?” He asked. “Descended from Publius Rutullus Lepidus, twice Consul and Governor of Spain?”

“Yes sir,” Lucius Rutullus Lepidus answered, his helmeted head held high, though Caesar saw a little colour appear in the young man’s cheeks.

How on earth did that happen? Caesar wondered. How could the descendants of a family who had served him so long and in so many ways have fallen so far, so quickly? Living in the Subura? Serving as mere rankers in his army?

It happened because I let it happen, Caesar reminded himself. Or, more to the point, because I let them determine the course of their own lives. It’s not my place to interfere. Or so I keep telling myself. And yet, here’s this young man…

“Well, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” Caesar said, resuming his brisk pace once again, “your ancestors have served Rome and Caesar for centuries. It seems you’ve been given a chance to live up to their memory.”

“I doubt I could do that, but it would be my honour to make the attempt,” Lucius said.

“See that you do more than make a mere attempt, Lucius Rutullus,” Caesar said gruffly. “Now listen closely. Not only do I need a literal translation, I need to understand every nuance of what Montezuma says. And if possible, I need to know what to expect from him.”

“But I’ve never met Montezuma, Caesar!” Lucius Rutullus objected.

“Neither have I. But you have an advantage over me, besides the linguistic one: you’ve met Aztecs, or at least one of them. What are they like?”

Lucius Rutullus considered this for a moment. “Well, based upon my limited exposure, to the two Aztecs I have met—I’d say that they’re a very demonstrative people. Not reserved in expressing their feelings.”

“Good to know.”

Lucius glanced down at his military regalia, and then at Caesar and the other attendants, who were togate. “Should I change my clothes, Caesar?” he asked.

Caesar glanced at him, then smiled wolfishly. “Oh no, Lucius Rutullus,” he said, his pale eyes so fierce they induced a shiver in the young legionary’s spine. “I’d say you look perfect just the way you are.”

***

“Do you think,” Caesar muttered to Lucius less than an hour later, “that that’s a real shrunken head he’s wearing?”

Lucius Rutullus glanced at Montezuma, doing his level best to keep his expression neutral. The Aztec leader was certainly a sight to behold. His muscular chest was bare and shaved clean of all hair. His loins were clad with a long, pleated kilt. Atop his head was a resplendent headdress of long, colourful feathers; in the middle of this eye-catching headgear, just over his brow, was what appeared to be a shrunken human skull.

“Shall I ask him, sir?” Lucius asked under his breath.

A smile tugged at the corners of Caesar’s mouth. “I’d rather not give him the satisfaction.”

Finally, the augurs, both Aztec and Roman, indicated that they were finished and that the omens were favourable for the meeting, as expected. The two leaders, speaking through their interpreters, got the initial greetings and pleasantries out of the way, then got down to business.

“It has come to Rome’s attention,” Caesar said placidly through Lucius Rutullus, “that there is a small community of Confucians in the city of Calixtlahuaca.” He smiled a little smugly; Lucius had coached him on the pronunciation, and he’d executed it flawlessly. “Rome respectfully requests that these brothers and sisters of our faith be granted the right to practice their religion in peace and without persecution.”

If Caesar’s request had been voiced in the gentlest and most reasonable of tones, Montezuma’s reaction was the exact opposite. His dark eyes flared, then his cheeks flushed crimson. He leaned forward and yelled his response at the top of his lungs, his muscular arms gesticulating wildly.

“WHO ARE YOU, CAESAR, AND WHAT IS ROME, TO TELL THE AZTEC EMPIRE HOW TO DEAL WITH HERETICS IN OUR MIDST!?” Montezuma raged. “Their infidel blood is unworthy of staining our streets, but stain them it will, and SOON! I shall oversee the slaughter of your precious Confucians MYSELF! I will burn them in pyres and feast on their roasted flesh!”

“You will do no such thing,” Caesar said calmly but firmly, interjecting into Montezuma’s diatribe when the Aztec leader paused to take a breath. Lucius, translating, did his level best to convey Caesar’s words in the same even, emotionless timbre, despite the fierce glances Montezuma kept casting in his direction.

Caesar’s words and tone, however, only seemed to goad Montezuma to greater heights of agitation. Spittle flew from his mouth as he shouted his response.

“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!?” Montezuma yelled. “Montezuma rules in Tenochtitlan, Caesar, not you! YOU do not give me orders! YOU do not rule the Aztec Empire!”

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_07.jpg

“Not yet,” Caesar said quietly, but with an edge in his voice that cut through Montezuma’s mounting anger.

The Aztec leader took a deep breath and glared at Caesar. Then he smiled wolfishly—not a comforting sight. “So it is WAR, then,” he said, looking as though he relished the prospect.

“The future is unwritten, my Aztec friend,” Caesar said reasonably, his hands spread. “War if necessary, but not necessarily war. The Roman Empire is interceding on behalf of our Aztec brothers and sisters who share our state religion. What form that intercession takes is, really and truly, up to you,” Caesar concluded with a deceptively friendly grin.

Montezuma laughed derisively. “And what of your Senate, and your… what is it called… ‘Plebeian Assembly’ with whom you so foolishly share your power?” the Aztec asked with a sneer.

“Oh, I am here today with the full blessing of the Senate and the People of Rome, my dear Montezuma,” Caesar said, flashing his own wolfish grin at his counterpart. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that Rome is in any way weaker because of our unusual political institutions. Far from it. I sit before you today knowing for certain that I have the full backing of my people, while you merely presume it.”

“Bah! You know NOTHING of the Aztec people!”

“That, I suspect, will soon change,” Caesar said smoothly.

“We shall see,” Montezuma hissed, then rose from his chair and abruptly left the room. The Aztec envoys followed in his wake.

“That… didn’t go well,” Lucius Rutullus said once the Aztecs had gone.

“On the contrary, my dear young man,” Caesar said. “It went exactly as I expected.” Caesar frowned thoughtfully and glanced at Lucius. “What did you think of him?”

“Well, sir, “ the younger man said hesitantly, surprised that Caesar had asked his opinion at all. He assumed it must be because of his ancestry. He was mistaken. Caesar had always been an excellent judge of character, even before he’d acquired several thousand years of experience at it. “Remember how I told you the Aztecs are a demonstrative people?” Lucius said.

“Indeed!” Caesar said with a laugh, thinking of how demonstrative Montezuma had certainly turned out to be.

Lucius Rutullus shook his head warily. “Montezuma… goes far beyond what I’ve seen in other Aztecs.”

Caesar laughed derisively. “He’s a raving loony,” he said, then considered that statement. “Crazy, but not stupid. He wouldn’t have come in here, blustering at us about war, unless he felt he was ready for it.”

“Will it be war, then, sir?” Lucius asked. Though he did his best to keep his tone even, Caesar could hear both the eagerness and the fear in it.

“I don’t see how it can be avoided. We’re clearly at an impasse.” Caesar said, then glanced at the younger man and smiled. He rose and held out his hand. Lucius extended his own and the two men shook hands. “Well done, Lucius Rutullus,” he said. “I’d say your ancestors would have been proud of you today. Montezuma did his best to throw us all off, but you kept your head about you.” Caesar gave a brief quiet laugh. “And it was worth it just to see that surprised expression on his face when he first spotted you in full battle gear! Your presence, clad as you are, backed up what I was saying quite nicely.” Caesar placed a fatherly arm about the younger man’s shoulders. “You know, I could use a man like you on my staff. What would you think of joining me as a junior legate?”

Lucius Rutullus drew a deep breath. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. And it was all happening so quickly, so suddenly! Perhaps too much so. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself going back to the barracks and explaining his sudden rise to his comrades. Something about that bothered him. How could he be on the command staff of an army when he’d never fought a battle himself?

“I’m… honoured to be asked, Caesar,” Lucius Rutullus said respectfully. “And the offer is very tempting indeed. But, please understand, I don’t feel I’ve earned it just because I happen to speak Nahuatl.”

“I’m offering you the position for more reasons than just that,” Caesar said. “I see great potential in you, Lucius Rutullus. And not just because of your ancestry.”

“Potential…” Lucius Rutullus muttered thoughtfully. So many people had gone on about his potential. His father. His teacher, Akiro Matsugane. The Confucian High Priest, Mencius. Even Claudia. Claudia… how could he face her again, even if she was married to another man, if he’d spent a war safely behind the lines as a translator? Oh, he knew it wouldn’t matter to her. But it mattered to him.

“I’m sorry, Caesar,” Lucius Rutullus said. “But I think I’ll have to refuse the offer.” He shrugged beneath the weight of Caesar’s arm. “I joined Rome’s Legions to fight, not talk.”

Caesar smiled and nodded. He’d spent most of his long, unending life around soldiers. He liked them and understood them, and here was a true soldier. His ancestors would indeed be proud of him.

“Very well then,” Caesar said. “I admire your decision and I appreciate your candour. But let’s consider it a postponement rather than a refusal, eh?” The younger man looked at him, then nodded with an abashed smile. “Whatever is to come won’t happen just yet. In the meantime, soldier, I need you to get some of these useless mentulae,” he muttered, nodding back in the direction of his clerks and attendants, “speaking Nahuatl like a native. On top of your duties with the Fourteenth. Can you do that?”

“It will be my pleasure, Caesar,” Lucius said. He turned and favoured the slender-bodied clerks with a nasty smile. “I had a very strict but very effective pedagogue when I was a boy. I know how to… motivate a group of students.”

Caesar watched as his clerks actually blanched and trembled beneath the withering stare of this formidable young legionary and had to stifle a laugh. Oh, he liked this young man! Which, unfortunately, brought out his paternal instincts. War was imminent, and when the fighting started, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus had just elected to be in the thick of it. He’d be at risk, and Caesar found that fact—though inevitable—bothered him.

“Good,” Caesar said. “There’s just one thing more. A direct order from your Commander-in-Chief to keep in mind once hostilities commence and you find yourself in the midst of battle.”

“What’s that, Caesar?” Lucius Rutullus asked.

“Just this,” Caesar said, his expression and tone suddenly very serious. “Stay alive, my young friend. Stay alive.”

Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 06, 2007, 01:37 AM
An excellent addition to the story, if I do say so myself.

<nuke>
Apr 06, 2007, 01:39 AM
:clap: :clap: Bravo! Bravo! Wow, that was a good one. Could you maybe add me into the story :please:

Sisiutil
Apr 06, 2007, 01:55 AM
:clap: :clap: Bravo! Bravo! Wow, that was a good one. Could you maybe add me into the story :please:
:lol: Do you have a Latin version of your name that you'd like me to use? Johnus Smithus or something like that? :lol:

I'm glad many of you are enjoying this installment so far, especially since it's taking a while to get going. In many ways I'm setting the stage for the main action that's yet to come.

biggamer132
Apr 06, 2007, 09:38 AM
Awesome subplot!

wenamon
Apr 06, 2007, 02:11 PM
i too am thuroughly enjoying the sub plot.

and if you're looking for names to add to the story... ;)

Sisiutil
Apr 06, 2007, 02:27 PM
i too am thuroughly enjoying the sub plot.

and if you're looking for names to add to the story... ;)

"Wenamon" doesn't sound very Latin. Sounds kind of... er... well, I don't know, perhaps you could enlighten me!

Of course, we could just have fun "Latinizing" names. Wennamonius Brittanicus Columbius, for example. :lol:

Yakk
Apr 06, 2007, 03:04 PM
Yakkus Agustus
;)

Slaughter
Apr 06, 2007, 04:15 PM
Whew... Excelent history! So, Monty wants war, he'll have war!


Hmmm, so you want latin names? 'Filipe Augusto' is just right, very easy to latinnate.

Sisiutil
Apr 06, 2007, 05:05 PM
Whew... Excelent history! So, Monty wants war, he'll have war!


Hmmm, so you want latin names? 'Filipe Augusto' is just right, very easy to latinnate.
Yeah--Philippus Augustus! :goodjob:

There's really only one way to deal with Monty, isn't there? :trouble:

Slaughter
Apr 06, 2007, 05:40 PM
Well... I'm playing a game as Monty right now... So I'll say that as a YES. Everyone hate him anyways.

wenamon
Apr 06, 2007, 07:38 PM
"Wenamon" doesn't sound very Latin. Sounds kind of... er... well, I don't know, perhaps you could enlighten me!

Of course, we could just have fun "Latinizing" names. Wennamonius Brittanicus Columbius, for example. :lol:

well wen amon was actually an ancient egyptian hero. A nomadic hero at that. I dont really know if that would help fit into your story at all. :)

maybe as part of a long forgotten villiage of aegyptians?

Sisiutil
Apr 06, 2007, 11:15 PM
well wen amon was actually an ancient egyptian hero. A nomadic hero at that. I dont really know if that would help fit into your story at all. :)

maybe as part of a long forgotten villiage of aegyptians?
Perhaps. I did manage to fit the Chinese into this story in a big way even though they're not one of the seven civs involved! :lol:

All fun aside, I probably won't incorporate anyone from around here into the stories--I apologize if that disappoints anyone. The reason is that inserting things like that can interrupt the "fictional dream". It reminds you that you're reading a work of fiction and momentarily dispels the suspension of disbelief. Kind of like seeing the wires when Superman flies.

I'll post the next installment tomorrow. I feel an urge to get this story posted and off my plate. Every time I sit down to revise it, I end up adding dialog, whole scenes, or even entire chapters! :eek:

wenamon
Apr 06, 2007, 11:35 PM
lol... sounds like you're letting this little tale take on a life of its own Sisutil.

I think you make a good point about the name thing though. Especially those like mine who don't really have roman names.

eagerly awaiting tomorrow's update...

Sisiutil
Apr 07, 2007, 01:55 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 4 – Claudia

Those two words, unbeknownst to Caesar, opened the floodgates of Lucius Rutullus’ memory. Ever since he’d joined the Legions he’d been doing his best to forget, to put it—to put her—behind him. He’d hoped the army would keep him busy enough to keep him from thinking of her, and for the most part it had. But now, as he walked back to the barracks, a stream of memories flowed through his mind, unbidden but not entirely unwelcome.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_04.jpg

It had all begun nearly ten years ago in a small but meticulously tidy schoolroom just off the Forum Romanum, one of the few such rooms, for most of the tutors in Rome taught in the open air. But Akiro Matsugane could afford the luxury of his own room to deliver his lessons to the wealthy sons and daughters of Rome’s noble patricians. Yes, daughters as well, for every proper Roman wife was expected to be well-versed in the classics, rhetoric, and mathematics, even if she only used her knowledge to provide stimulating conversation at dinner parties and to ensure that the servants didn’t cheat her blind. And the informality of Roman education did not allow for separation of the genders.

It was her hair he noticed first, because he was sitting right behind her. Auburn. Light reddish-brown. Though when the sun, shining through the open window, fell upon her hair that morning, it glowed reddish-gold. The sight took his breath away. Then she turned to look at him, and smiled, and he felt as though he’d been struck by a thunderbolt.

“Hello,” she’d said. “I’m Claudia Pulchra Primia.”

Her face was a perfect oval, her skin like cream. Her auburn hair framed her face, setting off her hazel eyes beneath their arched auburn brows. Her nose was lovely and straight and ever-so-slightly upturned. Her lips were bow-shaped, the lower just a little thicker than the upper, giving the impression of a slight pout.

He’d been twelve, she eleven, only children; but as soon as he saw her he felt himself mature, in a moment, from a boy into a young man. He’d walked her home, carrying her bucket of books for her, keeping her safe from the jostling crowds of the Forum. Growing up in the Subura, from an early age he’d known how to navigate passage through a crowd of unruly adults. Once he’d escorted her safely home to her family’s mansion high on the Palatine hill, he’d handed her books to her and had tried his best not to look utterly dejected by how far above his station was her own.

“You know what you are, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus?” she’d said to him.

“No, what?” he’d said, bracing himself for a disparaging comment on his residence in the Subura, or his cheap clothing. But she surprised him, something she came to do often.

“You’re a gentleman. The only one I’ve ever met, except for my father,” she’d said, then had flashed that heart-stopping smile at him before vanishing into her home.

Well, that had sealed it. From that moment on, he was in love. For the next four years, he’d carried her books home dutifully. Her father obviously could have afforded to give her a private tutor, but Matsugane did not hire himself out privately, and Matsugane was the best teacher in Rome. Lucius was extremely grateful that this was the case, since he never would have met Claudia otherwise.

Every now and then, she’d somehow lose the servant assigned to watch over her and meet up with him. They’d go fishing in Lake Tiber, or for walks along its shores. They’d glance through the marketplace near the Forum, he wishing he could buy her anything she wanted, even though there was nothing on display she couldn’t afford on her own. For her part, she never embarrassed him with an ostentatious display of her wealth.

Shortly after he’d met her he’d taken up acting for a time, and he’d entertained her by reading his lines to her. Soon he had entire plays memorized and played every part for his audience of one, delighting in how he could make her laugh at one of Plautus’ comedies or make her eyes shine at the end of one of Seneca’s tragedies. Even after he gave up acting—far too unseemly a profession for a patrician, even one fallen so far down the social ladder—he continued to read and memorize plays, just so he could entertain her.

Not all their time together was spent happily and innocently, though even those more serious moments drew them closer together. Two years after they’d first met, Lucius’ father had grown sick and died. To everyone else, Lucius presented a façade of stoicism and strength, showing he was ready to take on the burden of being paterfamilias, the head of the family. Only with Claudia did he let his true feelings show. The day after his father died, they had walked to one of their favourite haunts, a small, isolated beach on the far side of Lake Tiber. There, he’d lain his head in her lap and had wept miserably while she stroked his head and soothed him as sympathetic tears fell from her own eyes. Thus, a bond that went beyond simple childhood friendship was formed. They were close friends before, but they became practically inseparable after that.

Of course other people saw them on their walks around Rome, and those people talked. If there was one thing Romans loved, it was gossip, especially if it concerned members of Rome’s most prominent families. At first, since they were merely children, their friendship had been rather charming and had seemed innocent enough. But as they grew older, the voices speaking behind their backs had grown more concerned. Something had to be done, had to be said.

Thus it was, shortly after his sixteenth birthday and just a few months shy of her fifteenth, that Claudia’s father had opened the door when they’d arrived home from school one day.

“Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, I presume?” Marcus Claudius Pulcher had said in a friendly tone.

He was not a tall man, but was imposing nonetheless, not least because he had been elected Consul that year. His features were dark and handsome, ensuring he lived up to the family’s cognomen. His eyes in particular were dark and shrewd, giving the impression that nothing escaped their notice. He’d turned the full power of those formidable eyes on young Lucius Rutullus.

“Yes, sir,” Lucius had said, requiring all his courage to stand and speak steadily beneath the man’s unwavering gaze.

“I think it’s time I made your acquaintance, young man. Please, come to my study.”

And there he’d sat, his guts churning, while Marcus Claudius Pulcher had asked about his family and their situation, all of which Lucius Rutullus had answered truthfully, though with a sinking feeling. Of course the Consul would know all this already; he was having Lucius recite it for didactic purposes.

“It breaks my heart, Lucius Rutullus, that an old and prestigious family like yours has fallen upon hard times. It truly does.” Marcus Claudius Pulcher had said, his voice achingly sincere.

“Thank you, sir,” Lucius Rutullus had said quietly.

“Which brings us to the matter of my eldest daughter,” the Consul had said, gently segueing into what they both knew was the real purpose of this fatherly chat.

How reasonable the man had been, how gentle, how considerate, as he explained so logically why Lucius Rutullus could never hope to be linked to his daughter. Lucius had to not only give up all hope of a marriage to her one day, Pulcher explained, but must also stop seeing her, spending time with her, talking to her… because, well, people talked. And they jumped to unfair conclusions; they presumed dishonour where they, being gentlemen, knew there was none. But people would keep talking, and over time, through repetition alone, lies took on the appearance of truth, didn’t they? Unfortunately, yes, they did. And if Lucius truly cared for Claudia, he wouldn’t want her future dimmed by a cloud of scandal, would he? Of course not. He had her best interests at heart, didn’t he? And fallen on hard times though they were, the Rutullii were still Romans through and through; Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, poor though he may be, was still a nobleman. And a Confucian as well! Thus, the Consul knew he could count on Lucius to see and to do what was right.

Oh, if only the man had been an ogre, if only he’d raged and threatened and postured like a typically arrogant aristocrat! It would have been so much easier to bear, and Lucius would have felt justified in defying him, in visiting Claudia surreptitiously whenever he could. But he’d been so reasonable, so like his own father who had passed away only two years before. Worse still, Lucius had known that the man was right, even though that fact wounded him more deeply than he hoped he’d let on.

So Lucius Rutullus had returned to his family’s tiny apartment in the Subura, to his small, windowless room, and, much to his shame, had cried himself to sleep. It seemed so unfair. He’d never done more than hold Claudia’s hand, though that simple act had thrilled him to the core of his being. He hadn’t even kissed her, much as he’d wanted to. And now he never would.

It was a terrible blow to his heart and to his pride. He might have, as a result, given up all hopes of attempting to recover his family’s former position at that point. He might have given himself over to life in the Subura; he might have fallen in with one of the crossroads colleges and their neighbourhood protection rackets, but for four things. First, there was his mother, whose strength inspired him and whose heart he was loathe to break. Second were his two younger sisters, who revered him, and whom he was loathe to disappoint. Then there was his teacher, Akiro Matsugane; the pedagogue had come his family’s apartment at the end of that first day after Claudius Pulcher’s talk, when Lucius had failed to show up for class, and had sternly reminded him not to do so ever again. Finally, there was Claudia. He’d seen her the next day in Matsugane’s school and had done his level best to pretend she didn’t exist. She was having none of it.

“You’re my best friend, Lucius,” she’d told him sternly at the end of the lessons that day. “If people don’t understand, they can go jump in Lake Tiber.”

“But your father…” Lucius had objected, albeit weakly.

“You let me deal with my father,” Claudia had said with a knowing smile that suddenly made him realize that she had her father wrapped around her little finger.

Even so, something had irrevocably changed. They spent no more time alone together. Usually, in fact, they were far from alone, spending what time they could in one another’s company as part of a large group of young patricians, most of whom were distinctly uncomfortable around him. His home in the Subura and his obvious penury would have earned him more than just disdainful looks and muttered remarks if it hadn’t been for Claudia’s support. Even so, his situation gave him an air of scandal, even danger, and he was tall and handsome and some of the other young noblewomen seemed quite receptive to him. But of course he only had eyes for one of their number; though he now knew that he could never be with her, the other girls held no interest for him.

The final blow had come three years later. Claudia had just turned eighteen and was of marriageable age. Of course a fine match had been found for her, to Quintus Lutatius Catullus Junior. Catullus Senior, it was soon revealed, would be Marcus Claudius Pulcher’s running mate when they both put their names forward to be Censors. Two of the oldest and most prominent Patrician families, headed by two of Rome’s brightest political stars, united by marriage! It was a perfect match, everyone in Rome agreed. With one obvious exception.

He’d managed to pull her quietly and surreptitiously aside from their friends and the Forum’s market stalls into a sheltered alcove, just a few days after the engagement had been announced. All her girlfriends were atwitter with the news, of course, while her male friends were collectively disappointed. But none more than him.

“There’s one thing I have to know,” he’d said to her fervently in that darkened alcove.

“Lucius, don’t,” she’d pleaded, knowing what he was going to ask, knowing how her answer would only crush them both.

“Do you love him?”

He’d regretted asking the question as soon as the words left his mouth. Her face had creased as if she were about to break down completely. Then she recovered, the very model of a young Roman noblewoman. She took a deep breath, gazed into his eyes, and replied.

“No,” she’d said evenly. “I don’t. It’s you I love, Lucius. I always have and I always will.” But she’d extinguished his greatest hope in the same moment that she’d fulfilled it. She’d shaken her head and looked at him sorrowfully. “I’m sorry, Lucius. So sorry…” Then she’d turned and fled back to their friends, leaving Lucius in that darkened alcove, where he had remained until night had fallen and no crowds remained to see him walk home slowly in shame.

Of course she wouldn’t disobey her father. He was paterfamilias—therefore, as Roman tradition dating back centuries dictated, regarding his family, his word was law. Furthermore, her family was Confucian, like his own, and one of the central tenets of that faith was filial piety; while the concept principally dealt with the loyalty owed to fathers by their sons, of course it applied to daughters as well.

That it was all so right and proper and according to both Roman and Confucian tradition and principles was of no consolation to Lucius at all. Her impending nuptials ended their friendship, or so it seemed. He quit her group of friends, knowing he would not be able to tolerate their questioning looks and their pointed remarks. He hadn’t seen Claudia or talked to her since that heartbreaking exchange in the alcove, not for several months. Not until just recently.

He’d been walking home from the Campus Martius where he’d been drilling with the Fourteenth Legion, to which he’d been assigned shortly after enlisting. He’d thrown himself into the training whole-heartedly. Finally, he felt like he’d truly found his place in the world; he could serve Rome and live up, in some small way, to the memories of his ancestors. And the physical activity suited him, it kept his mind off other things, like his family’s hopeless situation, like his limited chances at reclaiming his birthright… like Claudia.

He’d been walking through the Forum, barely noticing the crowds that parted before his tall, formidable figure, his tunic soaked with sweat, his polished cuirass covering his broad chest, a gladius slapping against his well-muscled thigh, a spear and helmet casually carried over one shoulder. Somehow, above the din of the Forum market crowd, he’d heard a voice whisper his name—a voice he’d recognize anywhere, for he heard it every night in his dreams.

There she was, in the same dark, private alcove where she’d broken his heart a few short months before. It seemed a lifetime ago, but seeing her brought it all back as though it had happened yesterday. She looked radiant, her hair drawn back, her long dress accenting her figure.

“Look at you,” she’d said, her hazel eyes wandering over his body, clad in his legionary uniform. He’d always been physically active, but months of exercises on the Campus Martius had filled out his form magnificently, and the shining armour only enhanced that.

Even so, he’d felt embarrassed, could only think how he was covered in sweat and dirt and even a little blood. Not his own, though.

“Claudia, you’re to be married a month from now,” he’d whispered. “You shouldn’t be here with me like this.”

“I had to see you,” she’d said simply. “Before you left. I’d heard that you’d enlisted and I knew I just had to see you.” She looked up at him and even in the darkness he could read the mixed emotions upon her lovely face, how she admired what he was doing and the man he had become, and yet was afraid for him at the same time.

“My gentleman,” she’d said, her eyes shining, raising one hand to caress his cheek, a sad smile upon her lips. “My gentleman soldier.”

He’d shaken his head. “In a generation or two, no one will remember that the Rutullii were gentlemen once.”

She’d actually clucked her tongue at him. “Tace! It’s bearing and behaviour that make a gentleman, not birth. And you are a gentleman, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus. In every sense of the word.”

He’d looked into her eyes and had seen that so very Roman strength there that he’d always admired in her. But that very same, very Roman strength was also responsible for her being able to marry a man she did not love, and once again he felt his heart aching within his chest.

“You shouldn’t be here…” he’d begun to say in a strained whisper, but then she had taken his face in both her hands and pulled him to her. Her lips had pressed against his own, and in a heartbeat her body was pressed against his as well. She’d wrapped her arms around his neck and he’d placed his around her slender waist, holding her against him as he’d yearned to do for years.

She’d broken the kiss and had firmly pushed him away. He had wanted to say something, but was unable to speak. He’d thought himself strong after all those days of drills upon the Campus Martius, but he was shaking like a leaf. She, on the other hand, had stood firmly before him, her hazel eyes blazing with a ferocity he’d not seen in them before.

“I can’t imagine a world without you in it, Lucius. Even if we’re not together.” she’d said. “Go. Do your duty to Rome. Make me proud of you. But promise me one thing.”

“Anything,” he’d said, breathlessly.

“Stay alive,” she’d whispered, urgently, passionately. “Come back to me.”

“But you’ll be married…”

She’d pressed one slender finger against his lips. He inhaled the perfume she’d daubed on her wrist. “Stay alive,” she’d repeated. “Promise me.”

“I promise,” he’d said, then she was gone, deftly manoeuvring through the crowd in the Forum, a skill she’d learned from him when they had both been children and filled with hope for the future.

tthf
Apr 08, 2007, 09:22 PM
nice sub-plot! a break from the ceaseless warring... but not too long a break i hope.... keep it coming!

Sisiutil
Apr 08, 2007, 09:23 PM
nice sub-plot! a break from the ceaseless warring... but not too long a break i hope.... keep it coming!
Oh, no, fear not--lots of war to come! :D

greenpeace
Apr 08, 2007, 11:32 PM
Wow, go job Sisiutil, I have spent so much time reading this... too much time I would say, its addicting like a drug, I hope it isn't illegalized :). Oh well, back to that project I've been laboring on.

Sisiutil
Apr 09, 2007, 08:38 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 5 – Summon Up the Blood

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_08.jpg

As Lucius entered the barracks, he did his best to put all thoughts of Claudia aside and focus on mentally girding himself for the good-natured jeers and natural curiosity of his comrades regarding his brief adventure with the Commander-in-Chief. When he walked inside, however, he found his fellow legionaries standing around a dark-haired man in full military gear that was too pristine to be anything but brand new.

“Who is this, then?” the man asked, turning towards Lucius as he entered.

Lucius could see the man was young, about his own age, in fact. He had dark, lanky hair, a shock of it nearly falling over his left eye. His clean-shaven face bore an expression of supercilious boredom, conveying that he cared not one whit who Lucius was, but felt obliged to ask since he’d appeared unexpectedly. Lucius quickly noted that the man’s brand-new military regalia bore the markings of a junior legate, and brought himself to attention.

“Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, Fourteenth Legion, Second Cohort, First Century, SIR!”

“At ease, Lucius Rutullus,” the dark-haired young man said. “So, where have you been?” he asked, still with that bored expression on his face, which now crept into his voice.

Lucius assumed a more relaxed pose, but only slightly. “With the Commander-in-Chief, sir,” he replied.

The man blinked in surprise, his studied boredom vanishing in an instant. “With Caesar?” he said, somewhat petulantly, making it plainly obvious that he’d never spent any time with Caesar but felt himself more entitled to do so than this mere ranker. “Doing what? Polishing his cuirass?” he said with a disdainful snort and a raised eyebrow.

“Translating, sir,” Lucius answered. “He had a meeting with Montezuma and needed someone who spoke Nahuatl.”

“’Nahua… what on earth is that?” Cinna asked, sneering.

“Aztec, sir. What native speakers call the language.”

The military tribune’s nose wrinkled. “You actually speak that barbarian tongue?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, it will soon be a dead language, won’t it, men?” the legate said, then laughed and glanced around at the other legionaries, apparently expecting the men to share his hilarity, though they did not. Lucius glanced at his comrades and quickly gathered that this new legate had clearly not won them over; far from it, in fact.

“I am Marcus Phillippus Cinna,” the young man told him, tilting his chin up proudly. “Grandson of Cinna the Censor, son of Cinna the Consul,” he added proudly. “I am the junior legate in command of the Fourteenth Legion, as of today.”

Lucius’ brows rose briefly. He didn’t remember ever seeing this self-important patrician performing military drills on the Campus Martius. But given his bloodline, he certainly had the clout to be appointed as a junior legate. The Fourteenth was a new legion composed mainly of fresh recruits; there were few veterans available to be distributed amongst the legions, since the only fighting Rome’s army had done since the fall of Spain had been to thwart the infrequent barbarian incursions from the frigid wastelands in the far south and the as-yet uninhabited jungles of the east. Therefore it was unlikely that the Fourteenth would be exposed to the thick of battle right away. That meant it was a safe place to tuck away this privileged but pampered young officer.

“Lucius Rutullus Lepidus…” Cinna said, repeating Lucius’ full name thoughtfully. “Where have I heard that name before?” Lucius silently braced himself. “Ah! Now I have it,” Cinna said, an amused grin appearing on his thin lips. “Yes, you’re from that branch of the Rutullii who’ve found themselves destitute, aren’t you? Living in the Subura with the head count, I hear!”

Lucius merely shrugged his broad shoulders. “It’s not so bad. Never a dull moment in the Subura,” he said, and some of his comrades grinned and chuckled knowingly. Many of them were head count from the Subura and had grown up with him.

Cinna, however, was not yet done. His smile grew broader and a little nastier as he recalled another useful nugget of information. He was not so dense as to fail to see that Lucius was popular with his comrades. And his calm demeanour in the face of someone who was clearly his superior was irksome—as was his unfathomable association with Caesar. Cinna decided that it would be very enjoyable, not to mention useful, to bring him down a peg or two.

“I recall hearing that you were puppy-dogging after one of Marcus Claudius Pulcher’s girls,” Cinna said, his eyes narrowing as he dropped this little tidbit.

Not for the first time in his life, Lucius was glad of his brief stint on the less reputable stages of Rome. His face remained expressionless even as his gut clenched and he struggled to contain a very sudden and nearly-overwhelming urge to bury his fist in Cinna’s insufferably smug face.

Instead he merely allowed an amused half-smile to play upon his lips. “Claudia Pulchra Primia and I were school chums, that’s all.”

Cinna’s expression hardened. Time to bury the knife a little deeper, he decided.

“Not from what I heard,” he remarked, in reaction to which Lucius merely shrugged. “It must have cut to the quick when Pulcher sold her off to one of the Catullii. Understandable, though. They’re very rich.”

He drawled the last word out, letting it sink in. Yet still Lucius’s impassive face displayed no reaction.

“It’s a good match for both families,” he said evenly. “I’m happy for her,” he lied. Oh, if only those two raging queens of the theatre who’d scandalously shared an apartment beside his family’s could see him now! They’d be so proud of the consummate acting skills they’d taught him.

“Huh,” Cinna said, disappointed with Lucius’ muted reaction. But he couldn’t leave the topic alone. “Well, they’re married now. I suppose you heard? Yes, they finally tied the knot just before I left Rome. I suppose they’re busy trying to produce an heir to their combined fortunes,” he said with a licentious grin. If he noticed the sudden tightening along Lucius’ jaw line, he gave no sign of it. “I don’t envy Catullus. Oh, she’s pretty enough,” he said, turning to the other legionaries, who were watching this exchange raptly but in utter silence. “But those high-bred patrician girls are all dead meat in the sack, you know.”

He laughed, and seemed to expect the rough-hewn soldiers around him to join in and appreciate this comradely bit of man-talk. The reason they did not was revealed when Cinna turned his head again, and found the taller form of Lucius Rutullus looming over him, his jaw firmly set, his eyes suddenly blazing.

“I would advise you,” Lucius said in a low, dangerous tone, his arms crossed, their muscles bulging, his hands clenched into fists, “Marcus Phillippus Cinna, to refrain from making any disrespectful remarks about my friends. Especially when that friend is a lady. Do I make myself clear?”

Cinna’s eyes were wide, and he instinctively took a step back. He glanced nervously at the other legionaries, hoping for support, but finding none. Their expressions were either blank or registered muted satisfaction that Lucius was putting him in his place. Cinna quickly realized that Lucius could beat him half to death before their very eyes, and to a man they’d claim that he’d simply fallen down.

Fortunately for Cinna, it wasn’t the first time his sharp tongue had gotten him in a tight spot, and he had grown rather adept at extracting himself from those. He smiled affably, held up his hands, and laughed softly.

“I beg your pardon, Lucius Rutullus!” he exclaimed in his most charming, soothing tone. “You must forgive me. I truly had no idea the girl meant so much to you.”

“That has nothing to do with it,” Lucius told him, not placated at all. “She is a lady and is to be accorded her due respect, even when she is not present.”

“Quite right, quite right!” Cinna remarked with a carefree grin. “It’s good to see the Subura didn’t purge you of all consideration for the rules of social conduct,” he said in a superior tone. He took another step backwards, away from Lucius. “Well! I must be on my way and introduce myself to the other cohorts in the Fourteenth.” He turned to address the assembled legionaries in the barracks. “It’s looking like Rome will be at war with the Aztecs before long. And high time, I say! You men can rest assured in the knowledge that the Cinnae have a military tradition as long and as proud as Rome’s. No Legion lead by a Cinna has ever lost a battle, and I intend to uphold that tradition! I’ll see you men on the parade ground tomorrow morning.”

And with that, Marcus Phillippus Cinna, grandson of Cinna the Censor, son of Cinna the Consul, walked proudly out of the barracks, his head held high.
One of the centurions, Gnaeus Decumius by name, came to Lucius’ side to watch CInna leave. He was tall and dark-featured, his nose flattened by one too many fights in the Subura, where he, too, had grown up, only a mile or so from Lucius’ home.

“Well aren’t we the lucky ones, to be led by one of the legendary Cinnae,” he said, his voice dripping sarcasm. “Hardly an auspicious cognomen,” he muttered, then made a sign to ward off the evil eye, for Cinna was Latin for ‘ashes’.

Titius Ahenobarbus, who was one of the Fourteenth Legion’s few veterans and its primus pilus—‘first spear’, its lead centurion—walked up to Lucius and Decumius, his head turned towards the door Cinna had just used.

“You mark my words, lads,” Ahenobarbus said. “That mentula bears watching. A man like that will lead you into disaster. More blood than sense, if you ask me.”

“For all our sakes, Titius Ahenobarbus,” Lucius responded, “I sincerely hope, this one and only time, that you’re wrong.”

tthf
Apr 09, 2007, 09:32 PM
hmmmm, plot is building up nicely yet again....
hopefully marcus cinna gets a spear in the groin... hahha...
j/k

Sisiutil
Apr 10, 2007, 02:20 AM
hmmmm, plot is building up nicely yet again....
hopefully marcus cinna gets a spear in the groin... hahha...
j/k
Bloodthirsty, aren't we? ;)

tthf
Apr 10, 2007, 05:39 AM
Bloodthirsty, aren't we? ;)

lolZ, nah, playing warlords chinese unification atm, damn neighbour was giving me lotsa grief, but the tables are turning... hehe

Fetch
Apr 10, 2007, 07:07 AM
Decumius? Is that like Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions? If you want to put the Aztecs in their place, write him in somehow... and his dog. The dog was cool too. Great Story.

Or, you could include Iason Savus Fetch.

Sisiutil
Apr 10, 2007, 12:31 PM
Decumius? Is that like Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions? If you want to put the Aztecs in their place, write him in somehow... and his dog. The dog was cool too. Great Story.

Or, you could include Iason Savus Fetch.
For the most part, I'm picking and combining various Roman names at random for the characters. I'm trying to choose the cognomen to be appropriate to the character, since they usually were.

Only a few historical characters besides the leaders themselves will appear. One comes up later in this story, but only a real Rome expert/fanatic or a Colleen McCullough fan will recognize him. (Sostratus, by the way, was in fact the architect who designed the Great Lighthouse--but of course, he was not Roman. Conveniently, though, since his name ends with "-us" he sounds like he's Roman.)

Thanks for the tip, however; I'm not familiar with Meridius and will have to look into his story.

Norton II
Apr 10, 2007, 02:37 PM
For the most part, I'm picking and combining various Roman names at random for the characters. I'm trying to choose the cognomen to be appropriate to the character, since they usually were.

Only a few historical characters besides the leaders themselves will appear. One comes up later in this story, but only a real Rome expert/fanatic or a Colleen McCullough fan will recognize him. (Sostratus, by the way, was in fact the architect who designed the Great Lighthouse--but of course, he was not Roman. Conveniently, though, since his name ends with "-us" he sounds like he's Roman.)

Thanks for the tip, however; I'm not familiar with Meridius and will have to look into his story.

Sostratus is probably just the Latinized version of his name. If he was Greek (which he most likely was), then his name was probably Sostratos. As for Maximus Decimus Meridius, that's Russel Crowe's character in Gladiator. IIRC he's very loosely based on an actual Roman general of Commodus' time, but the movie itself is historical fiction--Commodus was not killed by a gladiator.

Sisiutil
Apr 10, 2007, 03:25 PM
Sostratus is probably just the Latinized version of his name. If he was Greek (which he most likely was), then his name was probably Sostratos. As for Maximus Decimus Meridius, that's Russel Crowe's character in Gladiator. IIRC he's very loosely based on an actual Roman general of Commodus' time, but the movie itself is historical fiction--Commodus was not killed by a gladiator.
Gladiator. Oh, well, DUH.

I can't remember the bit about the dog from the movie, though--only saw it once, and a long time ago. Probably why the character's name didn't ring a bell.

One scene I do remember is Crowe naming the horses depicted upon his cuirass to the young boy; I later found out the Latin names he calls the two horses mean "Silver" and "Scout". :lol:

Just to clarify, I got "Decumius" from a very vivid character in McCullough's books--the head of the crossroads college in the Suburan insula where Caesar grew up.

<nuke>
Apr 10, 2007, 11:27 PM
Make my name Nucleus Kidius, and make me a heroic General or something :)

Fetch
Apr 11, 2007, 07:02 AM
Maximus Decimus Merrdius was based on several people of the time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximus_Decimus_Meridius

You should definitely rent Gladiator and watch it again. The dog is in the first fight scene. He takes out a couple of guys-- Goths, IIRC.

Sisiutil
Apr 12, 2007, 04:41 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 6 – The Battle of Tlatelolco

Events unfolded with astonishing rapidity after that. The Aztec Empire ended all diplomatic contact with Rome, its envoys withdrawing from open borders negotiations, and Aztec military units were seen gathering on the border. Rome responded by pre-emptively declaring war. The Fourteenth Legion marched north out of Madrid with six other Legions, accompanied by protective pike and mace units. As with Japan and Spain in centuries past, however, it was the Legions that would do the bulk of the fighting.

The invasion force camped in a wooded area south of a bridge over the river the Spanish called the Rio Bravo and the Aztecs had named Xaltocan. On the opposite bank of the river stood the Aztec city of Tlatelolco. Montezuma responded to the Roman incursion by sending several units out of the city to attack the Roman force. However, the Romans had the dual advantage of being located on the far side of a river and being located in good defensive terrain. The Aztec attacks were thwarted.

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“It appears Fortuna has smiled upon us,” Caesar observed to his senior legates in the command tent that night, making reference to the ancient Roman goddess of luck. “Montezuma’s premature attack has weakened Tlatelolco’s defensive garrison. Tomorrow, our most accurate catapults will batter a breach in the city’s fortifications from this side of the river. They’ll remain here along with the wounded, protected by one legion, while the bulk of our force proceeds across the river to attack the city.”

“Wouldn’t it be faster to just attack across the river?” one of his legates asked. “It’s pretty shallow along this stretch.”

“Of course it would,” Caesar answered patiently, reminding himself that few in his army, from the senior legates on down to the mere rankers, had much experience with actual combat; fortunately, their training was second-to-none. “However, the men would be fighting with the river at their backs, leaving them little room to manoeuvre. Attacking from the opposite side of the river may be less expedient, but it will preserve more lives. This will be a long campaign; we’re going to need every soldier.”

“Which legion will stay behind to guard the catapults and the wounded men?” This from Catullus Senior, whom Caesar regarded as the most able of his current crop of senior legates.

“The Fourteenth,” Caesar answered immediately. “They’re the youngest legion with the fewest experienced centurions. And their military tribune is the son of that useless fop, Gaius Phillippus Cinna. Best to keep them safely out of it on this side of the river. They’ll get their chance for glory later in the war.”

Of course the Fourteenth grumbled when they learned of their assignment.

“Baby-sitting the artillery!” complained Marcus Phillippus Cinna to anyone within earshot. “A fine fate for a commander of my mettle!”

This induced mixed emotions as well as some heavy eye-rolling amongst his troops. Though they were disappointed in not seeing any action, none of them were anxious to head into battle with Cinna leading them.

The next day, the long-range accuracy catapults did their work, opening breaches in the city walls. Then the bulk of the Roman force crossed the bridge over the Texcoco. Roman catapults specializing in city attack and collateral damage lumbered across the bridge and were slowly hauled into position, the artillery troops adjusting every cable and gear on their fearsome machines. They were accompanied by protective units: pikes to counter mounted units, maces to ward off melee units such as the Aztecs’ colourful Jaguar warriors. The bulk of the troops, however, were the Legions, whose main job would be taking the city once the catapults had weakened its defenders.

The troops deployed in a calm, orderly fashion outside the shut gates of the city. Despite their lack of recent experience in war, their confidence and morale was high. They were Roman legions, after all, the best trained, best equipped, and most successful fighting force in the known world. Caesar and his senior legates casually rode their horses across the bridge, glancing at the walls, chatting easily with the men. To the casual observer, the Roman army appeared to be preparing for mere war games rather than an actual battle. As they deployed, the Romans could hear rumblings from the ramparts of Tlatelolco. The Aztecs were nervous, but were also growing impatient.

Inside Tlatelolco, watching from one of the ramparts, Montezuma had had enough. “Look at them! So confident! They look as though they’re on holiday, not going to war!” He turned to his own generals, who withered beneath his gaze. “We should have slaughtered them yesterday when we attacked them in the woods,” he growled at them.

The Aztec generals glanced at one another uncertainly, looking to see which of their number would attempt to explain their understandable failure to their volatile king. Just then, a messenger came running up to the collected Aztec commanders, and they were all thankful for the interruption.

Montezuma read the brief dispatch and then smiled wolfishly. “One of our scouts reports that the Romans have left several of their prized catapults on the other side of the river, in the woods, protected by a novice legion and a bunch of wounded men.” He laughed loudly. “Apparently Caesar thinks I’ll keep my forces inside the city to defend it rather than snatching at this easy prize.”

His generals once again exchanged wary glances; that would, certainly, be the most prudent course of action. They gazed nervously over the ramparts at the massive Roman force deploying in preparation to invade the city, and knew that every available man would be needed within its gates if it was to remain out of Roman hands.

Montezuma cast an appraising eye at his generals, reading their reluctance now matter how hard they tried to hide it.

“You all think such an action would be foolhardy,” Montezuma said with a sneer. “Well, you’re the fools! And bunch of women besides! I’ll cut off his supply lines, and his avenue of retreat and reinforcement as well. Then we’ll slaughter his stranded army before the gates of the city, and I shall take his head and his empire. Chimalli!”

One of his generals stepped forward. “Sire!”

“Take a force of horse archers and charioteers out to annihilate Caesar’s precious catapults and his legion of children! At once!”

“Yes, sire!” the man said, bowing low.

As he turned to go, Montezuma caught him by the arm. “Do not fail me, Chimalli,” he growled, his face close to his subordinate’s. “Remember well the fate of Yaotl.”

Chimalli swallowed hard. Yaotl had been the general leading the foray across the river the previous day. In truth, he’d really only made one mistake: returning to the city to face Montezuma rather than dying in the attack with his men. None of the senior staff had been able to sleep last night, not with Yaotl’s screams echoing throughout the palace.

“You can count on me, sire,” Chimalli said, proud that he had been able to keep any sign of fear from his voice. He turned to walk away and personally lead the Aztec forces into battle.

Moments later, the south-western gates within Tlatelolco’s city walls opened, and a seemingly endless stream of horse archers and chariots came galloping out, their guttural battle cries shattering what had been a peaceful morning. On nearly the opposite side of the city, the entire Roman force brought themselves to full attention, fully expecting the Aztecs to come out of the city to attack them at any moment.

“What the hell is that madman up to?” Caesar muttered to himself when the city gates facing him remained closed and no attackers issued forth from them or from the many breaches in the city walls. He gave his horse a nudge in the ribs and rode south towards the river in hopes of determining where the Aztec units the Romans could hear were coming from and where they were going.

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“Merda!” Caesar swore when he saw the riders and chariots dashing down to a distant ford in the river near the southwest corner of the city. They could only have one target in mind. Caesar turned his horse and rode back quickly to his command base. There, he rode up to one of the young cavalry troopers assigned to bear messages between the various Roman commanders.

“Get across the river on the double,” he told the surprised trooper. “Tell Cinna he’s about to come under attack. Wait.,” he said, pausing a moment to think of an able man within that legion. “Make sure you inform Titius Ahenobarbus as well. Then ride on to Madrid and warn the garrison there, just in case the Aztecs are heading further south. Go!”

The messenger ran to his horse and sped off at a gallop across the bridge. He rode through the woods on the other side and found Cinna and Ahenobarbus together a few minutes later. He relayed his message to them and then turned to ride on to Madrid.

“Time for you men to prove your mettle!” Ahenobarbus shouted to the men around him. “The Aztecs should be attacking our left flank within minutes. Let’s make sure we’re ready for them!” The men began to move immediately, Lucius Rutullus among them, following the lead of their veteran primus pilus.

“This is my legion to command, Titius Ahenobarbus!” Cinna announced loudly. “Round up the men. We’ll march out of these woods and meet them on open ground.” That way, Cinna reasoned, Caesar and the senior legates would see him ably leading a legion in battle.

Ahenobarbus looked horrified. “What? Leave defensive ground for the open field? Against cavalry? Are you mad?”

“I am not mad, I am your commanding officer!” Cinna shouted, rounding on him. “Either you obey my direct orders or I’ll have you up on charges!”

“Fellator,” Ahenobarbus grumbled once Cinna was out of earshot. Shaking his head, he nevertheless did as he was told. Within minutes, the Legion formed up and began to march out of the woods and its fortified position within them, leaving the catapults and the wounded behind with a few spearmen for protection. Since the Legion would be facing cavalry, they brought along their own spears, the pila with their small, sharp, leaf-shaped iron tips.

“Looks like Ahenobarbus is going to be proved right,” Gnaeus Decumius mumbled to Lucius Rutullus, reminding them both of the primus pilus’ prediction of a few days before that the arrogant, inexperienced aristocrat would lead them into disaster.

They formed up to the west of the woods, just in time to see the Aztec mounted units appear a little over a hundred yards away, the horses’ flanks still wet from fording the river, which made the dust they churned up on the flood plain stick to the short hairs on their legs. The Aztec general Chimalli could see scout’s report had been true. He was facing fresh troops—but too fresh, he noted, able to discern their youth and inexperience from how they moved and held themselves.

“Mere children,” he said contemptuously. They’d even foolishly left the defensive terrain of the forest! For a moment, he pitied them. But only for a moment. He bellowed to his troopers, his voice and then several trumpets rallying them around him, and he shouted out fresh orders.

“Look at that!” Cinna said confidently, watching the Aztec horsemen riding back from his front line with obvious glee. “They’re afraid of us!”

Nearby, however, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus strained to hear the shouted orders of the Aztec general. “No,” he said, “they’re gathering for a charge. Brace yourselves!”

Titius Ahenobarbus, one of the few veterans in the ranks, didn’t need Lucius’s interpretation to tell him what was about to happen. “SPEARS IN FRONT!” he shouted, and the legionaries, leaving their short swords in the scabbards at their hips, grasped their iron-tipped spears and thrust them forward, the base of each on planted firmly in the earth. The front line and flanks of the Fourteenth now bristled with sharp, extended spear points, capable of warding off a cavalry charge—provided the men held their ground.

“They wouldn’t dare charge us!” Cinna said confidently. “We’ll cut them to ribbons! We’re Roman troops, the best in the world! We…”

But Cinna’s speech on the virtues of the Roman legion was cut off by the blood-curdling war cry of nearly a hundred thousand Aztec horse archers as they shouldered their bows, drew their sabres, and prepared to charge. A moment later, the sound of a all those horse’s hoofs pounding and tearing the earth filled the air.

“Edepol,” Cinna said quietly, his eyes wide as he watched what appeared to be every horse in the entire world riding down upon him. Their pounding hooves sounded like rolling, unending thunder. And then Marcus Phillippus Cinna, grandson of Cinna the Censor, and son of Cinna the Consul, promptly shat himself and fainted.

“Oh, bloody hell!” Ahenobarbus cursed as the stench reached his nostrils and he turned to see his Legion’s commander laying on the ground, surrounded by his own filth. He shouted to two legionaries behind him. “Drag his stinking carcass out of here! Useless over-bred git! We’re better off without him! Now listen—“

But the Fourteenth Legion’s primus pilus never delivered his next set of orders, for a horse archer’s arrow had lodged itself in his throat. He glanced at Lucius, standing beside him, with a puzzled look on his face that would have been comical were the situation not so dire. He put his hand to his throat, saw the blood upon it when he drew it away, then fell to the dusty floodplain without a further sound.

It suddenly seemed to Lucius as if time had slowed to a crawl. He looked forward and saw the Aztec horsemen, screaming and thundering towards them, less than a hundred yards away now. He glanced at his comrades and saw one thing in their faces: fear. It filled the air and even their nostrils, carried by the sweat of each man’s growing panic, augmented by the stench of their cowardly commanding officer’s body waste. And it was filling their hearts, like poison.

Across the river, Caesar’s face had gone as white as the toga he wore in the Senate. He recognized all too well the sight of men at arms about to break in a panic, but he had never seen it in his own troops before. Mercilessly, he chastised and blamed himself; the Fourteenth were too young, too inexperienced, he should never have left them to cover the rear by themselves.

At that same moment, Lucius Rutullus, standing in the front rank in the face of the cavalry charge, saw exactly the same thing Caesar did, in a flash, in his mind’s eye. They would break, the entire Legion, they were a heartbeat away from doing so. Even the Centurions were wavering, fear discernable in their voices as they tried to rally the troops. But they would fail, Lucius saw in an instant. The Legion would discard their heavy weapons and armour so they could run faster, but it would only make them more defenseless. They would scatter within the woods in a panic, and the Aztecs would fall upon them mercilessly and cut them down to a man. They would die. Every last one of them. Then the catapults and their few protective spears would die, and Caesar’s would be cut off from retreat or reinforcement.

In that moment, that critical moment, two words flashed into his mind. Two words that embodied a promise he had made twice over.

Stay alive.

And in that moment, in less time than it would have taken him to think about it, for he had no time to think, he knew what he had to do. And he also knew, again without thinking about it, knew it in his bones, that everything in his life had somehow, presciently, prepared him for this.

Lucius drew a deep breath, turned his body, and roared in his most powerful stage voice over the growing din of the horse archer’s hooves.

“STAND FAST!!” he shouted, his certainty erasing any trace of fear from his voice, and he saw a ripple pass through the Legion, with himself at the epicentre. “STAND FAST, YOU CUNNI!” he shouted again, saw them wavering between giving in to the fear that would kill them and obedience to the order that would save them. But obey him they would, he was determined, even if all the authority he had was the sheer force of his own will. “FIRST RANK! GET THOSE SPEARS BACK OUT! HOLD THEM FIRM!” he commanded.

The men blinked in momentary surprise. Then, as one, the front rank planted their right feet behind them and thrust their spears out beside their shields to ward off the horses. The butts of the wooden spears they dug into the ground for leverage, should it become necessary.

“SECOND RANK!” Lucius ordered, “SPEARS AT THE READY!” And the second rank obeyed, changing the grip on their spears, lifting them over their shoulders and preparing to throw them. “JAVELIN DRILL!”

Lucius saw some of them grin, for they were soldiers, even if they were new to it, and they had been drilled and drilled and drilled again, mercilessly on the Campus Martius just outside of Rome and on the training ground in Madrid, day after day, to prepare them for just such a moment as this. They all knew what to do: the first rank would protect the rank immediately to its rear as they stepped forward and launched their spears. Then that rank would step back and retreat through the lines, and the third rank would step forward, and so on, until all the spears were thrown and the enemy lay dead in heaps and the Legion retreated back within the forest so they could laugh at the poor bastards from within their fortifications. All they’d needed was a strong voice in command, telling them precisely what to do, and they would do it. For they were Roman legionaries, the best soldiers in the world. They’d just needed somebody to remind them of it.

“WAIT FOR IT…” Lucius steadied the second rank. The horses were forty yards away now, closing fast; but Lucius wanted the spears to strike with maximum and deadly effect. “NOW!”

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To the charging Aztec horsemen, it seemed as though the Legion before them was bristling like a porcupine which then coiled and suddenly shot its quills. The sky filled with flying bolts of wood and iron, and the air then filled with the screams of men and horses as the Roman spears found their mark. Man and beast alike found themselves impaled; some spears even pierced both rider and mount, joining the two together in an obscene mockery of the bond between horse and rider. Many horses fell, others went mad in their death throes and crashed into others, breaking the flesh and bone of man and beast alike.

“SECOND RANK BACK! NEXT RANK FORWARD!” Lucius bellowed. The men were in position in an instant. “THROW!”

Again the air filled with spears, and again more Aztec riders and horses died. They fell in vast numbers, those in the front first, where they became a barrier of flesh and blood to those behind them. Healthy mounts crashed into dying ones, stumbled over them, slipped on ground suddenly slick with blood, and the horses in turn threw their riders or became easy marks for more Roman spears.

“REARWARD MARCH!” Lucius ordered, and the Legion began to back away towards the woods and safety. But they maintained their defensive formation, for the supply of Aztec troopers seemed inexhaustible. “NEXT RANK!” Lucius shouted again. “THROW!”

What had initially been the second rank had now reached the rear and marched into the woods in an orderly fashion, but on the double. Meanwhile, the Aztec cavalry were hopelessly snarled now amongst the growing pile of their own dead and dying horses and riders. Roman spears still rained down upon them, though from a further distance and with slightly less effect. The horse archers had to settle for unslinging their bows and firing scores of arrows at the retreating Legion.

“Head south!” Chimalli shouted to his riders. “We’ll outflank them! We…”

Then his men heard a rumbling noise, and felt the ground shaking beneath their horses’ hooves. A huge dust cloud hung over to the road to the south. They heard the unmistakable trumpeting of an elephant, and every rider shuddered.

“War elephants!’ Chimalli cried, his face going pale. Horsemen everywhere dreaded the huge, lumbering beasts that gored horse and rider alike on their long, dangerous tusks, and crushed those unlucky enough to fall beneath their huge feet.

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The garrison commander of Madrid, Rodrigo Diaz, was a most able and capable man. When he’d been advised of Caesar’s battle plan to take the city of Tlatelolco, Diaz had taken the precaution of moving a force of War Elephants and catapults up the road towards the border. For he had lived all his life in the shadow of the Aztec threat just a few miles to the north; he had interacted with Aztecs frequently, respected them as warriors, and was well aware of their appetite for unpredictable, even suicidal tactics.

He’d also brought along some catapults, just to soften up any Aztec bold enough to venture south towards his beloved city. Thus, Caesar’s messenger had not had to ride all the way to Madrid to alert its garrison commander regarding the Aztec incursion south of the river; he met him on the road half-way there. The news delighted Diaz. What a glorious day this would be! He would show that Spaniards could fight just as well as their Roman brothers. And he got to kill some of those accursed Aztecs in the bargain. A glorious day indeed!

As soon as Diaz’ advanced scouts spotted the Aztec horsemen, he deployed the catapults and had them launch their missiles at the Aztecs. Heavy rocks now rained down upon the horse archers and chariots, much to the delight of the beleaguered Fourteenth Legion. The Aztecs were now caught between the unexpectedly formidable Legion before them, the approaching War Elephants on their right flank, and the river on their left. They could retreat to the west, but to what end? To survive only to face Montezuma’s wrath?

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“We’re as good as dead,” Chimalli said, then nodded in acceptance. Better to die on the battlefield than in Montezuma’s dungeons, he decided. He rallied his men for one last charge at the Romans. The few remaining chariots he left behind; those cumbersome vehicles would be unable to manoeuvre past the fallen men and horses. The War Elephants would, of course, tear them to pieces. The general could not concern himself with that.

Most of the Fourteenth Legion had retreated back into the woods, save for the men in the front rank, including Lucius. He remained there, shouting orders, holding forth the last spears in the Legion’s possession as a few dozen Aztec horse archers managed to struggle past their fallen comrades and make one last, bedraggled attempt to charge the remaining legionaries.

“HOLD ON TO THOSE SPEARS!” he shouted, well aware that they couldn’t ward off cavalry with their short stabbing swords and daggers. He remembered a recommended tactic from his training. “Wait until the horses are close, then thrust at their mouths!”

The horse archers came in close, so close the legionaries could see the whites of the horses’ eyes. As the horses drew near to the line of infantry, they began to balk. The horses could see the sharp spikes pointing towards them, and their instinct for self-preservation conflicted with their martial training. The Legionaries took advantage of the beasts’ sudden hesitation, thrusting their spear tips at the horse’s sensitive mouths exactly as Lucius had told them to do. The horses drew up instinctively in fear, many in pain. Their riders were suddenly unable to control them. The Aztec general Chimalli struggled to control his mount, the horse twisting to its right to avoid the sharp tip of Lucius’ spear—which exposed its masters’ undefended left side.

Lucius did not hesitate. He changed targets from mount to rider and thrust his spear deep into the Aztec’s ribs. The man bellowed and then fell from the saddle, the spear still stuck in his side. His horse bolted away in a panic. The other horse archers shared a similar fate, and within a moment, the front rank of the Fourteenth Legion found themselves facing nothing but dead or dying opponents. To a man, their bodies suddenly sagged in both exhaustion and relief.

Only then, with the battle over and his hand free of the spear he’d held for what had seemed an eternity, did Lucius notice that his arm was covered in blood. He looked and saw that his other arm was blood-soaked as well. Which struck him as curious, since the rider had not drawn near enough, he was sure, to shed so much blood upon him. Thus, he calmly deduced, the blood must be his own. Then he saw the arrows, one embedded in his right shoulder, another in his left bicep, two in each of his legs, though how any of them had gotten past his shield, and why he hadn’t noticed them before, he couldn’t imagine. Other arrows had not found their marks directly, but had passed close enough to cut him numerous times on his legs, his arms, his shoulders, and even on his face despite his helmet with its cheek-guards.

Well, that explains all the blood, Lucius thought with detachment as he took a step backwards and stumbled awkwardly, his body weakened by blood loss. He would have fallen flat on his back, but his comrades caught him, dragging him back to safety within the cool woods to their rear.

His next hazy thoughts were ones of disappointment, because he realized that he’d failed. He knew that the Legion had survived, but he also knew, as his head swam and he felt his body growing numb, that he had failed to keep the promise to his beloved and to obey the order of his Commander-in-Chief. Stay alive, they’d both told him, but he had not.

“S-sorry,” Lucius muttered weakly, though no one heard him. The sun dazzled his increasingly unfocused eyes as it shone through the high tree branches that swayed in the breeze. As his comrades carried him deeper into the forest, though, the trees blocked out the sun, and it grew darker. But he quickly realized the impending darkness had nothing to do with trees and everything to do with the wounds he had received.

He realized, just before he lost consciousness, that it was all right. Claudia was married advantageously, not a love match, but few Roman marriages were; and Caesar’s best catapults were safe, and his supply lines and avenue of retreat—not that he’d need it—were safe as well. They’d be fine without him, just fine.

That thought was in his head as the darkness took him, and it left a weak smile upon his face that filled his comrades, gazing upon him, with a wonder that tempered their sorrow.

biggamer132
Apr 12, 2007, 05:29 PM
Wow. Talk about a bittersweet ending.

carl corey
Apr 12, 2007, 05:41 PM
Oh, you did NOT just kill him! Maaan... That will make everybody who wanted to be in your story think twice. :lol:

Ravellion
Apr 12, 2007, 05:44 PM
Oh, you did NOT just kill him! Maaan... That will make everybody who wanted to be in your story think twice. :lol:I am not too sure he is dead. He could have merely slipped into unconsciousness. We'll have to wait and see!

But not for too long, I hope :)

wenamon
Apr 12, 2007, 06:09 PM
great great update here sisutil. This foray of a side story is definately turning out to be a worthy endeavour!

AFC69
Apr 12, 2007, 07:23 PM
Long time browser of the forums (many, many thanks to all the great posters over the years, too numerous to mention) but I only just registered to acknowledge what a truly fantastic story this has become. (I'm printing and keeping a copy of this novella as it's that good). I know you've already mentioned Helmling as your inspiration, but the more I read it, the more I feel you've taken the best of Eddings and Turtledove and made it into something unique. Keep up the great work!

tthf
Apr 12, 2007, 09:50 PM
great chapter! i'll bet our charming hero of the hour aint dead by a long shot...

Sisiutil
Apr 12, 2007, 11:10 PM
Long time browser of the forums (many, many thanks to all the great posters over the years, too numerous to mention) but I only just registered to acknowledge what a truly fantastic story this has become. (I'm printing and keeping a copy of this novella as it's that good). I know you've already mentioned Helmling as your inspiration, but the more I read it, the more I feel you've taken the best of Eddings and Turtledove and made it into something unique. Keep up the great work!
Thank you for the compliment!

It's interesting that you mention those authors, since I know of their work but haven't read them. My main inspiration for writing about Rome is Colleen McCullough, with Robert Graves a close 2nd. Though I know I'm not including nearly as much political intrigue as they do--that would make this story even longer!

As for the fate of Lucius Rutullus... stay tuned. ;) :D

Sisiutil
Apr 12, 2007, 11:56 PM
Oh, I forgot to mention--brownie points to whoever identifies the commander of Madrid's garrison!

carl corey
Apr 13, 2007, 04:54 AM
The great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Cameron Diaz?

tral
Apr 13, 2007, 06:33 AM
Could it be El Cid?

ConanKND
Apr 13, 2007, 07:18 AM
Lurker's Comment : Yeah, it's El Cid. I'm quite sure, stumbled by a historical comic book series. He's Rodrigo Diaz all right.

BTW, awesome story! I like it that you narrate the story by using diffrent people as a key character as time passes. Sossatrus, Lucius, and more to come. Good job!

Izipo
Apr 13, 2007, 07:58 AM
Thank you Sisiutil,
I registered mainly to say this. Your work is fantastic. Keep it up (and keep it coming).
Thank you again for a great story.
:goodjob:

AFC69
Apr 13, 2007, 10:41 AM
It's what I want to do for a living one day, frankly; this gives me an opportunity to practice and get some feedback.

I have to say that you're well on your way..........I've coughed up quite a large amount of money over the years for books (fiction and non-fiction) that couldn't hold a candle to this tale...... Robert Jordan himself should be looking over his shoulder ;)

Sisiutil
Apr 13, 2007, 12:09 PM
The great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Cameron Diaz?
:lol:

There's this thing called Google? You should try it sometime. All the kids say it's pretty cool. ;)
Could it be El Cid?
The brownie points go to tral! Congratulations! :D
Lurker's Comment : Yeah, it's El Cid. I'm quite sure, stumbled by a historical comic book series. He's Rodrigo Diaz all right.
You should watch the movie starring Charlton Heston and the stunningly gorgeous Sophia Loren. :drool: It's one of Martin Scorcese's favourite movies; as I recall, he undertook an effort to restore it a while ago.

It's fun throwing in an actual historical character now and then--besides the leaders, I mean--especially if they suit the role in the story, no matter how minor. I mean, who else would be commanding Madrid's garrison but El Cid? I've got another historical personage coming up later in this tale.

Thanks again to everyone for the compliments! I'll try to post the next installment tonight or tomorrow.

carl corey
Apr 13, 2007, 12:12 PM
There's this thing called Google? You should try it sometime. All the kids say it's pretty cool. ;)

Eh, what do they know anyway?! ;) And Googling something doesn't usually get me any points. It's more fun if someone actually knows the stuff. Plus, I liked my version better and nobody said it isn't in fact also true... :D

Sisiutil
Apr 14, 2007, 12:50 AM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 7 – Corona

He opened his eyes. A form loomed before him—a face. A familiar face, he noted as it slowly came into focus. A high forehead. Fair thinning hair combed forward. A handsome nose, a well-formed mouth. And the eyes—the eyes! Unforgettable. Ice-blue irises rimmed with black, intelligent and piercing. A face a little past its prime, but it must have made women swoon in its youth. But then again, had he ever been a youth? Could he even remember back that far?

“Caesar…” he said weakly.

“Ave, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” the leader of Rome said.

“I’m… sorry,” Lucius said.

Caesar frowned. “Sorry? Whatever for?”

Lucius, in turn, frowned back, his dark heavy brows creasing. Didn’t Caesar know he was dead? He had to know. Unless…

“I’m… alive?” Lucius said, his voice no more than a rasp. He licked his lips, which he suddenly realized were very dry.

“Barely,” Caesar told him. “You lost a lot of blood, my young friend. And gave us all a considerable fright,” he added, his voice in an admonishing tone, but his lips curling into a pleased—and relieved—smile.

Caesar glanced over his shoulder expectantly, and an instant later a nurse appeared with a cup of water, from which Lucius drank gratefully. The other senior legates were there in the tent as well, Lucius now noticed, much to his astonishment. Including Quintus Lutatius Catullus Senior. Claudia’s father-in-law, Lucius noted with a pang that registered on his face, which thankfully passed for something caused by his wounds.

“How long have I been…?” he asked, leaning back into his bed.

“Two days,” Caesar told him.

“That long?”

“Yes,” Caesar said. “Long enough for us to take a city almost empty of defenders. Tlatelolco is ours,” he said, smiling triumphantly.

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“Damn,” Lucius muttered. “Couldn’t you have waited for me?” he asked quietly, still weak.

Caesar threw his head back and laughed. “You’re going to be off your feet for a while, my young friend! Don’t worry, there will be several more battles to fight, since you’re still so eager for them. Now I know you need your rest, but if you have the strength, some of your comrades would like to see you.”

Lucius smiled weakly. “By all means, show them in,” he said in his strained voice.

Caesar rose and nodded to an attendant standing by the flap of the tent, and a moment later, five of the centurions of the Fourteenth Legion entered, looking very solemn. Most of them were a few years older than Lucius, but they regarded him with no small amount of reverence, even awe.

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“Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” the centurion Gnaeus Decumius said, then coughed, obviously a little uncomfortable with speech-making, “the Fourteenth Legion of Rome wishes to offer you a token of its gratitude and thanks. If not for your actions outside of Tlatelolco two days ago, taking firm command when your superiors had fallen, an entire Legion would have been lost. Perhaps even the entire army, had the Aztec horsemen in their vast numbers succeeded in destroying our best catapults and cutting off the main force from its path of retreat and reinforcement. But they did not, and the Fourteenth escaped with minimal casualties—thanks to you. Therefore, we offer you this.”

He turned to one of the other Centurions, and was handed a small circlet of long, coarse strands of grass that were curled and twisted together to form a corona—a crown. At the sight of it, Lucius’ tired eyes opened wide, and he gasped. His lips and throat felt very dry once again.

Like all armies the world over, the Roman legions had several decorations awarded for valour in battle. Many were formed of precious metal—bronze, silver, even gold. Ironically, however, Rome’s highest military honour was made from the humblest of materials: grasses torn from the field of battle where one man, through his bravery and decisive action, had saved an entire legion, or even an entire army, from certain defeat and death. This was the corona graminea—the grass crown, awarded only a handful of times in the thousands of years of Rome’s history. And it was the only award given by the legionaries themselves, not by their commanders, making it all the more precious and revered.

“No…” Lucius Rutullus whispered, disbelieving, in shock at the sight of the corona. The grass crown? Awarded to a mere ranker after his first battle? He could hardly believe it. But he couldn’t take his eyes off it, and in his amazement he forced himself into a sitting position.

Gnaeus Decumius took this as a signal and stepped forward, then gently and reverently placed the grass crown upon the dark, short curls atop Lucius’ head. He then stepped back, his eyes shining and a smile upon his face.

“I… I don’t know what to say,” Lucius muttered a moment later. The crown felt so light upon his hair, yet it made the head beneath it swim.

“Say you’ll be rejoining us soon,” Gnaeus Decumius said. “The Fourteenth needs a primus pilus, doesn’t it, Caesar?” He said, turning to the Commander-in-Chief.

“Primus pilus?” Lucius asked, and watched in astonishment as Caesar smiled and nodded. Promoted to first spear as well? It was too much. He felt dizzy, and eased himself back down onto the bed.

At a signal from Caesar, a nurse gently took the grass crown from Lucius’ head and carefully set it aside upon a table. The Commander-in-Chief then signalled to the centurions of the Fourteenth Legion, who obediently filed out of the tent, though not without a smile and a nod towards their esteemed, bed-ridden comrade.

Before he succumbed to much-needed sleep again, something was nagging at him. “Cinna?” he asked, glancing at Caesar.

The leader of Rome snorted derisively. “I’m amazed you’d concern yourself
with the fate of that sorry excuse for a nobleman,” Caesar said. “I told him to go back to Rome in disgrace. After he’d cleaned himself up. Don’t concern yourself with him any more, my lad. I’ll find a new commander for your Legion—a worthy one, I promise you! Now get your rest,” he said, just as Lucius’ fluttering eyelids closed.

“Speaking of who’s to lead the Fourteenth,” Catulus Senior said to Caesar once they’d left the medical tent, “might I offer a suggestion?”

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_07_03.jpg

feldmarshall
Apr 14, 2007, 01:15 AM
claudia's husband?

biggamer132
Apr 14, 2007, 05:28 PM
claudia's husband?

That was exactly the first thought that came into my head too.

tthf
Apr 15, 2007, 08:54 PM
i should think that it would be.... the irony of it all... serving under the man who married his claudia...

Joxer
Apr 16, 2007, 09:15 AM
Kudos!

Great read.

Sisiutil
Apr 16, 2007, 09:27 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 8 – Comrades in Arms

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It was over two weeks before Lucius was able to return to his duties. Caesar had given him a mahogany box to contain and preserve his grass crown, engraved with a depiction of the rearguard action in the Battle of Tlatelolco. As exquisite as it was, however, it didn’t compare as a prize to what lay within it it. Lucius found himself sneaking peeks at the grass crown every now and then, unable to believe it was truly there. The corona graminea usually went to generals, not rankers, and infrequently at that. But this one was his.

He walked back into the barracks that first day, the box under one arm, and stopped short when all his bunkmates rose and erupted into applause. His obvious embarrassment and humility, evident in the blush that rose to his cheeks, the abashed grin he wore, and the raised hand and shaking of his head as he silently pleaded for them to stop, only urged them on, making them applaud louder, cheer more vociferously. Men approached him to slap him on the back or ruffle his dark curls.

Gnaeus Decumius approached him, smiling broadly. “Welcome back, primus pilus,” he said.

“That’s going to take some getting used to,” Lucius remarked.

“Nonsense!” Decumius said, smiling. “I heard you call us all a lot of cunni before Tlatelolco that day. You’re a natural!” The two soldiers laughed; they had faced death together and had survived, and as a result found themselves sharing a comradeship that belied the short time they’d known one another. “There’s someone you need to meet,” Decumius suddenly said, and led Lucius over to another man.

The man turned and smiled, and Lucius noticed that though he looked a few years older than himself, he seemed to act a little younger—a little less sure of himself, perhaps, though it was a subtle distinction. He was handsome in an ordinary sort of way: chestnut coloured hair, wide-set brown eyes, a straight nose, a pleasant smile. His handshake was firm, his delight in meeting Lucius evidently genuine. He was just a couple of inches shorter than Lucius, meaning he had to look up slightly to greet him.

“So you’re Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, the hero of Tlatelolco! It’s an honour to meet you!” he said earnestly, shaking Lucius’ hand with enthusiasm. “Tlatelolco…” the man repeated. “Did I pronounce it right?” he asked with an abashed grin.

“Close enough,” Lucius said, smiling and finding himself warming to the man. He just seemed… likeable. He noticed that he wore the mark of a junior legate.

“Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” Gnaeus Decumius said by way of formal introduction, “may I present the Fourteenth Legion’s new commander, Quintus Lutatius Catullus.”

“Junior,” Catullus hastened to add. “And I hope to prove better at the position than my predecessor.”

“Trust me, Quintus Lutatius,” Decumius said with a roll of his eyes and smile, “that will be the easiest part of this job!”

The two men laughed, and Lucius joined in, but his laughter sounded hollow in his own ears. He felt as though he’d been kicked in the gut. Because standing before him, proving so obviously affable to the other soldiers, was Claudia’s husband. Now, evidently, his commanding officer.

For the first time since the battle before Tlatelolco, Lucius found himself wishing he’d died there.

***

He wanted to hate him. He tried very hard to hate him. He had every right to feel that way. The man had stolen the love of his life away. Catullus himself raised the subject, in the most delicate way, soon after they’d met. Obviously Catullus had been waiting for a moment when he was alone with his primus pilus to talk to him, man-to-man.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Catullus said to him as they walked back to their billets from the exercise field the day after they’d first met. “I understand that you know my wife… Claudia Pulchra Primia.”

“We… attended school together,” Lucius said, tactfully, he thought.

“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Catullus said, then paused, chewing on his bottom lip as he considered how to go about bringing up what has obviously an uncomfortable topic. “It’s just that, you know, a man hears things, and he begins to doubt, well, not his wife, necessarily… maybe he doubts himself. Do you understand?” he said, his eyes regarding Lucius with a pleading look in them.

Oh, he was so painfully sincere! It made him hard to hate him, despite Lucius’ best efforts to do so. Lucius had stopped walking, though, and had turned to level a hardened stare at his commanding officer.

“Claudia Pulchra,” he said, proud that he managed to keep a tremor of emotion out of his voice when he spoke her name, “is the finest example of Roman womanhood I have ever had the honour of encountering, with the possible exception of my own beloved mother. I know for a fact and assure you that she has never done and never will do anything to shame herself, her family, or her husband.”

Catullus seemed to mull this over and nodded slowly. “Thank you, Lucius Rutullus,” he said. “It means a great deal for a man to hear that about his wife—especially when they’re separated by duty and distance.”

Lucius found himself changing from trying to hate the man to trying not to like him. Even in that, he found himself thwarted by a surprising letter he received soon after meeting Catullus, from Claudia herself. She’d written it in a code that they had devised as children and only they could understand, a mix of the Aztec, Japanese, and Chinese he had learned in the Subura and had taught to her, the words spelled out phonetically in Latin letters, though, rather than their native alphabets. It was a sign that her words were intensely private and meant for him alone.
My dearest Lucius,

I trust this letter finds you well. I have never stopped thinking about you and worrying about you. I was so proud to hear that you’d won the grass crown, though I was not at all surprised. But I was so stricken when I also heard that you’d been wounded in the process. You must write back soon and tell me your condition—I won’t be able to sleep properly until I know that you’re all right.

By now no doubt you’ve met Quintus Lutatius. You can imagine my shock when I heard he’d been assigned to your Legion. I suspect it was a shock for you as well, and not a welcome one. I can’t imagine how you feel about it. This may sound strange, Lucius, but I beg you to consider becoming his friend. He’s a good man. I am fond of him—I like him, and I think you will too. He treats me well, Lucius, with respect and devotion. I hope that, at least, is some consolation to you.
But the only consolation Lucius could take from those lines was that Claudia had not said that she loved Catullus. It wasn’t much, but it was all he had. He read on:
If you cannot befriend him, I understand. But do this for me at least: watch out for him. He’s not half the soldier you are. Don’t ask me how I, a proper Roman girl so unacquainted with martial matters, should know this, but I assure you I do! Maybe it was all those afternoons my girlfriends and I spent watching you boys performing your drills on the Campus Martius; perhaps I managed to notice something besides how good you look in a cuirass and greaves.

Of course, if Quintus Lutatius is half the soldier you are, I should imagine he’ll do well indeed, but I will sleep better at night knowing you’re doing what you can to keep my husband safe. As I said, he’s a good man, and Rome needs good men like him. And like you too, of course.

At this point I suppose I should play the tragic, star-crossed heroine and include some declaration of my undying affection and heartfelt devotion, something that would make our beloved Seneca green with envy. But I think we’re both getting too old for that, and even if we’re not, I think it would just be painful for us both. All I can do is assure that I remain, as always,

Eternally yours,

Claudia Pulchra Primia
Lucius put the letter down to find his cheeks wet with tears. He silently chided himself. Claudia belonged to another man now; he had to learn to accept it., though he knew part of himself never would.

Her complimentary description of her husband was of no comfort to him. Oh, how he wanted to hear that Catullus was an ogre, that he was an abusive philanderer! But on consideration, he realized that he was glad he was not, as it only would have caused Claudia pain, and that was a thought he couldn’t bear.

But befriend the man? Did she have any idea how much she was asking of him? Despite Catullus’ affability, just being in his presence made Lucius feel like a hot poker had been stabbed into his gut. He managed to present a façade of even-tempered professionalism to Catullus, and that was the best he could do. Becoming his friend was out of the question. But the fact that he could not grant Claudia this simple request gnawed at him, and he delayed replying to the letter.

That Catullus lived up to his wife’s complimentary description was sore comfort at best. Shortly after Claudia’s letter arrived, some of the legionaries decided to partake of the delights on offer at a local brothel. They tried to goad Catullus into joining them, but he turned them down.

“I appreciate the invitation, lads,” he said, “but if any of you had ever met my wife, you’d understand why I’ll never go within a mile of a brothel!”

“She’s that bad, is she?” Gnaeus Decumius teased him.

“No,” Catullus said, a dreamy expression clouding his features, “she’s that beautiful.”

Lucius heard a strange sound after Catullus uttered those words. He realized it was his own teeth gnashing together. He silently struggled to gain control of his turbulent emotions.

“Well, at least you’ll have company,” Decumius said with a shrug. “Lucius Rutullus never joins us on our little excursions either. You two Vestals keep each other company now, you hear!” the Centurion barked, then marched out the door of the barracks, laughing.

“You have a girl at home too?” Catullus asked Lucius once they were alone in the barracks.

“Yes,” Lucius answered truthfully, though of course he didn’t mention that it was the same girl. He found himself yielding to a perverse desire to tear the old wound open and pour salt in it. “Any children yet?” he asked.

“Sadly, no,” Catullus answered. “Though we were trying like mad before I left!” Catullus remarked, laughing. Lucius had to suppress a wince at that.

“Will you divorce her if she proves barren?” Lucius asked in an emotionless tone. Oh, the stage lost a great actor when I gave it up! he thought morosely, hating himself just a little.

“Absolutely not,” Catullus said firmly. “She’s a prize beyond price. And I… I adore her, Lucius.” After a brief pause, he shrugged his shoulders. “I can’t really hold her at fault in any case. Please don’t repeat this to anyone, but It’s a dirty little family secret among the Catulli that our men seem to have trouble getting our women pregnant. I’m an only child, and not for lack of trying, my father tells me. If necessary, we’ll adopt.”

In response to which Lucius only nodded, one of his few remaining hopes dashed.

However, one hope kindled within him, though it was perhaps too malignant to go by that name. He tried to suppress it, to deny it, but like a malevolent spirit it goaded him, whispered to him when everything else was quiet. Men die in a war, the malicious voice in his head reminded him. You don’t have to do a blessed thing. Let the Aztecs take care of everything… And Lucius would toss on his bunk and try to shut out the spiteful voice inside himself.

Within a few weeks, Catullus got a chance to experience his first battle. The Roman army advanced upon the Aztec citadel of Teotihuacan. The city was surrounded by hills and nestled into a valley made fragrant by the aroma of the spice plantation wafting in over Lake Atlaua. Despite the pastoral setting, the city had girded itself for war; Teotihuacan sported high, formidable walls. Caesar stood before them and eyed them appraisingly.

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“Catapults,” he said simply. He then went back to his command tent, there to write a dispatch to the Senate describing the taking of the city before it had even occurred, so confident was he in his troops, their equipment, and their tactics.

Vini, vidi, vici, he began the letter. I came, I saw, I conquered. He reflected that it could probably be his motto.

As Caesar wrote his dispatch, the catapults began their work, the heavy rocks they hurled slowly creating a breach in the city walls. The catapults were then dragged closer to the city, the better to cause damage to the enemy forces within, though this put the slow-moving units in considerable danger of counter-attack.

Once the artillery crews’ work had been deemed accomplished, it was the turn of the legionaries. The Fourteenth was given the dangerous honour of being the “forlorn hope”, the first through the breach. But the catapults had done their work well, and the Fourteenth was in high spirits after proving themselves before Tlatelolco; they poured through the gaping wound in the city’s defences led by their new commander and their already-distinguished primus pilus. Catullus acquitted himself well, ensuring the men formed up in an orderly fashion as soon as they were through the breach, the better to withstand the counter-attack by the city’s defenders; and he led by example, fighting amongst them in the front lines, urging them on through his shouted commands and his valiant actions.

The fighting was fierce; though outmatched, the Aztecs were fighting for their homeland. Wave after wave of Aztec archers flung themselves angrily at the Fourteenth Legion’s front rank; wave after wave of Aztec archers died.

Then it happened.

The law of averages dictated that at least one of the Romans’ opponents would meet with some success. One Aztec spearman somehow managed to force his way through a gap in the shields; he suddenly appeared at Catullus’ left, his vulnerable side since the man was suddenly behind his shield rather than before it. Lucius was barely two paces away. He watched the Aztec slip in next to Catullus, then he saw the flash of the raised spear and Catullus struggling to find some way to bring his shield around to defend himself.

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Afterwards, Lucius would reflect that he hadn’t even thought about it. There was, after all, no time to think during a battle. A soldier doesn’t think, he acts, for the speed of thought is too slow. Lucius acted. After one quick, long stride he was at his commanding officer’s side. He thrust his own shield forward to deflect the spear. As he raised his shield to send the spear harmlessly overhead, he thrust his gladius into the spearman's abdomen, just below the lower edge of his armour. The gutted Aztec stared at him, wide-eyed, for less time than it took Lucius to blink. Then Lucius lowered his shield and slammed it into the man, knocking him down to die on the blood-soaked cobblestones.

Shortly after that, the first and most able city garrison was defeated. Other Roman troops stormed through the breach, and the Fourteenth was able to take a much-deserved breather. Catullus and Lucius found themselves leaning against a wall beside one another, breathing hard and sweating profusely.

“You saved my life back there,” Catullus said, then gulped down another breath.

Lucius stared at him for a moment, then shrugged. “We’re soldiers,” he said in between pants of breath. “It’s what we do for one another.”

Catullus nodded, then smiled broadly and gratefully slapped Lucius on the shoulder.

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Why had he done it? The thought plagued Lucius immediately after the battle. Soon, however, he realized that there was nothing else he could have done. Whatever personal issues might lay between them, Lucius and Catullus were fellow Romans, both patricians at that, and fellow legionaries as well. There was absolutely no possibility that Lucius would allow a fellow soldier—let alone his commanding officer—to be killed by the enemy, not while he had life and breath in himself to do something to prevent it.

Beyond that, Lucius knew, was Claudia herself, and her request. Whatever her feelings for her husband were, it was evident that his death would cause her pain. And that was something Lucius could never allow.

So later that night, he finally found the wherewithal to answer Claudia’s letter.

My dearest Claudia,

Thank you for your recent letter. I assure you that I am well. My wounds in and of themselves were not grievous; it was their number that laid me low for a time. But I am fully recovered and hope that news allows you to sleep better. While your concern for my well-being touches my heart, I cannot bear to think that I am the source of any upset on your part.

To say that I was shocked to find your husband in command of my Legion would be an understatement. My feelings for you have not changed and never will. However, they are my feelings and therefore my problem and I will deal with them as best I can. Furthermore, they have no place on a battlefield.

Your high regard for your husband is not misplaced. In the short time that I’ve known him I’ve witnessed his honesty, his integrity, and his virtue. I find myself liking him, and yes, I must confess that this surprises me. I must also tell you that you underestimate his ability as a soldier. He leads the men well and they respect him for it. As do I.

But I understand your concern, and I have never been able to deny you anything, as you well know. Let me take this opportunity, then, to pledge to you that I will do everything in my power to keep your husband from harm. I make this promise this for your sake, of course, but also for his. As I said, I find myself liking him, and he has the makings of an able commander. Besides, if he enjoys your good opinion, he must be a very good man indeed, and I am beginning to see evidence of that.

I will accede to your wisdom regarding statements of devotion, and therefore end this letter simply assuring you that I am now and always shall be,

Eternally yours,

Lucius Rutullus Lepidus

“Writing a letter to that girl of yours?” Catullus asked him when he saw Lucius handing the letter off to their century’s clerk for delivery to Rome.

“No,” Lucius said evenly. “Just a note to an old friend.” If the statement caused him any pain, he did not show it.

Catullus nodded. “Listen,” he said, “I know you and I don’t frequent the brothels like a lot of the men do, but I’m not above getting a drink. You?”

Lucius smiled. “Definitely! It’s thirsty work, this soldiering.”

“Good!” Catullus said with a smile and a nod. “I can tell you don’t want a fuss made over it, but you did save my life today, and I think buying you a drink is the least I can do to show my appreciation.”

Lucius’ grin broadened. No, he was nowhere near reclaiming his family’s lost position, grass crown or no. Worse still, he had lost the hand of the only girl he’d ever loved. Despite Mencius’ reassurances to the contrary, he might never find his place in the world. But he was a soldier in the best damn army in the whole stinking world and they’d just won yet another battle and he was alive to revel in it. And his commanding officer wanted to buy him a drink. It wasn’t everything he wanted from life—not even close—but it would have to do. For now, at least.

“That’s my favourite way to drink,” he said.

“How’s that?” Catullus asked.

“When someone else is buying.”

The two soldiers laughed, and Lucius marched off to find a drink with his new and wholly unexpected friend.

feldmarshall
Apr 16, 2007, 10:53 PM
thanks for the nice story sisiutil!

wenamon
Apr 16, 2007, 11:44 PM
another incredible update. Damn it sisutil, couldnt you have mad this usurper a beast of a man so that those of us reading could hate him thuroughly!! lol... lets hope our mini-protagonist gets some of those things he is going for in life before the end of his voyage.


keep it up man.

tthf
Apr 16, 2007, 11:45 PM
yet another engaging chapter!
this is some damn fine writing..

Sisiutil
Apr 17, 2007, 11:53 AM
another incredible update. Damn it sisutil, couldnt you have mad this usurper a beast of a man so that those of us reading could hate him thuroughly!! lol... lets hope our mini-protagonist gets some of those things he is going for in life before the end of his voyage.


keep it up man.

:lol: Oftentimes an inner conflict is more interesting than an external one. If I'd wanted Lucius' rival to be a mustache-twirling villain, I would have married Claudia off to Cinna. :eek: Making him a decent person instead makes things more difficult for our protagonist--and for the reader. I mean, you all want Lucius to end up with Claudia, but you also want him to do the right thing, and those two goals have now become irreconcilable. Writers are sadists, you see; they take nice people (including their readers) and put them through hell. :evil: :lol:

Lucius' story has six more installments to go. Assuming I don't get inspired to insert another chapter after I thought the story was done, which has happened three times already! :rolleyes:

feldmarshall
Apr 17, 2007, 12:00 PM
when are you going to post the next installment? :confused: :)

Sisiutil
Apr 17, 2007, 12:04 PM
when are you going to post the next installment? :confused: :)

My, but you're an insatiable lot! :lol: The next installment will appear in a day or two. It's nice to be able to post them this quickly, as opposed to the update-every-month-or-two I was doing for a while!

rabidveggie
Apr 17, 2007, 12:13 PM
Really only six more chapters? The Aztecs are still alive, the other continent is untouched, and you still haven't resolved the Lucius sub plot. Are you planning on merging the next few conflicts into one and spending another chapter on Lucius? :confused:

feldmarshall
Apr 17, 2007, 12:15 PM
oh :D i'm sorry sisiutil for asking too much. I just found this story couple of days ago, so i read this story nonstop without waiting. now i have to wait to read the next update, that's why i sounded too impatient.

PS when i saw your name in "last post by" just now i thought you posted the update :lol:

Sisiutil
Apr 17, 2007, 12:31 PM
Really only six more chapters? The Aztecs are still alive, the other continent is untouched, and you still haven't resolved the Lucius sub plot. Are you planning on merging the next few conflicts into one and spending another chapter on Lucius? :confused:
I said that Lucius' story has six more installments to go. The story of Rome has several more than that, I assure you! ;) As you aptly pointed out, Caesar's work is far from done.
oh :D i'm sorry sisiutil for asking too much. I just found this story couple of days ago, so i read this story nonstop without waiting. now i have to wait to read the next update, that's why i sounded too impatient.

PS when i saw your name in "last post by" just now i thought you posted the update :lol:
No apology necessary; eagerness for the next installment is the highest of compliments.

I was afraid that these response posts might be a let-down for those expecting the next chapter, but I like to respond to feedback as much as I can.

rabidveggie
Apr 17, 2007, 12:56 PM
Oh I probably should learn how to read then. :blush:
I'm glad theres still a lot left I want to read all the details in Caesar's final great victory. :D

carl corey
Apr 17, 2007, 01:54 PM
Writers are sadists, you see; they take nice people (including their readers) and put them through hell. :evil: :lol:

I'm glad theres still a lot left I want to read all the details in Caesar's final great victory. :D

Who says it's gonna be a victory?! ;)

AFC69
Apr 17, 2007, 03:12 PM
:lol: I mean, you all want Lucius to end up with Claudia, but you also want him to do the right thing, and those two goals have now become irreconcilable. Writers are sadists, you see; they take nice people (including their readers) and put them through hell. :evil: :lol:

Lucky for me I'm a complete scoundrel and have no qualms about doing the right thing...... :lol:

broncoblaster
Apr 17, 2007, 05:25 PM
Sisiutil, I just want to thank you. These segments are the perfect length for me to read. I dont get much free time from my daughter so these are welcomed breaks. Id love to actually sit down and read a book (besides homework) but until she gets older your story's are a great distraction. Hopefully you'll be writing these until shes 8-9'ish (4-5 more years). Keep up the great work!

Clovis
Apr 17, 2007, 07:05 PM
So are your chapters pre-written, is that why you can post them more often now?

carl corey
Apr 17, 2007, 07:24 PM
I think he at least has the outline of the story. He knows where he's going with it and it's all just one plot instead of several plots; parts of a chapter instead of different chapters.

Sisiutil
Apr 17, 2007, 08:08 PM
Sisiutil, I just want to thank you. These segments are the perfect length for me to read. I dont get much free time from my daughter so these are welcomed breaks. Id love to actually sit down and read a book (besides homework) but until she gets older your story's are a great distraction. Hopefully you'll be writing these until shes 8-9'ish (4-5 more years). Keep up the great work!
By then I hope you'll be buying my books from Amazon. :D And reading them to her at bedtime. Okay, maybe not; by the time she's old enough for stories like these she'll be too old for bedtime reading! :lol:
So are your chapters pre-written, is that why you can post them more often now?

I think he at least has the outline of the story. He knows where he's going with it and it's all just one plot instead of several plots; parts of a chapter instead of different chapters.

The truth lies somewhere in between.

I have a plot outline for the rest of the entire PotU series and several later chapters or at least scenes written out, some of them months ago. The current story came to me recently in a flood one day and I wrote it out in much the same manner. That happens to me sometimes. However, I prefer to take my time posting both types of installments because I tend to get ideas for revisions, both minor and substantial.

For example, the first version of this latest installment had Lucius and Catullus getting all chummy right after they met. As I re-read it, that just didn't wash, hence the very different version you see above. For an example of a minor revision, when I checked the screenshots, I saw that the 14th was up against Spearmen rather than Archers and revised that paragraph accordingly.

In addition, posting this longer story slowly is allowing me to get a few chapters ahead with the following stories. So that will hopefully mean no more month-long delays between installments! And as broncoblaster notes above, getting a little at a time suits a lot of the readers quite well indeed. For me, it gives everyone a chance to leave a little feedback, which is the closest thing to payment I'll receive for this. :D (hint, hint)

Mowque
Apr 17, 2007, 08:23 PM
well i think we payed you enough! now out with it, man!

Sisiutil
Apr 17, 2007, 09:19 PM
well i think we payed you enough! now out with it, man!

Gee, since you asked so nicely... :rolleyes: ;)

... you get to wait until tomorrow night. :lol:


Seriously, though, the ALC needs some TLC. Please be patient.

tthf
Apr 18, 2007, 02:54 AM
sisiutil, u have books on amazon?

....or is my leg being seriously pulled here?

but wouldn't doubt it if you had.. writer of your calibre.

Sisiutil
Apr 18, 2007, 11:55 AM
sisiutil, u have books on amazon?

....or is my leg being seriously pulled here?

but wouldn't doubt it if you had.. writer of your calibre.

Not yet, but I hope to one day, especially within the time frame mentioned above. Thanks for the compliment. :D

EDIT: I almost forgot to mention, though, that I have some other (non-Civ) stories posted HERE (http://www.fanfiction.net/~sisiutil).

Sisiutil
Apr 18, 2007, 09:38 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 9 – Within the Gates of Tenochtitlan

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_09_01.jpg


Nearly two years of hard fighting later, the Roman army stood before the high walls of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. The Roman forces were undaunted by its imposing fortifications; many of the legions had extensive expertise in city raiding now, including the Fourteenth. They’d gained additional experience fighting various battles in the open field against a variety of Aztec forces—spears, pikes, maces, horse archers—all of which had fallen to Roman steel. The Fourteenth may have begun the war as fresh-faced rookies, but the Legion now standing before the citadel of Tenochtitlan were battle-hardened veterans. And they’d never lost a fight.

“This is it,” Caesar said to his assembled army as they stood before the city gates. “The Aztec capital. Not the last city we’ll take, but after this, it’s mop-up duty. And then the entire continent will belong to Rome!” The cheers with which the Legions greeting this prospect were ecstatic, to say the least.

“Listen up, men,” Catullus said afterwards to the Fourteenth Legion—his Legion now, after leading them for two years, and their rapt attention and admiring looks confirmed it—“I want the Fourteenth to earn a new honour. I want us to be the ones who track down Montezuma and bring him in chains to Caesar! And I’ll give every man in this Legion an extra day’s pay and an extra day off if we do it!”

The legionaries roared with eagerness, and Catullus turned and favoured Lucius with a smile and a wink.

“They don’t need the added incentive, you know,” Lucius told him once the men had been dismissed. “They’d hunt down Montezuma just because you asked them to do it.”

“I know,” Catullus said with a nod. “But they’ve earned it. And I know they can do it. That’ll be quite a feather in our caps, won’t it?”

Lucius nodded, but did not smile. “I suppose, but we have a battle to fight first. I’ll have the centurions remind the men to focus on the fight and worry about Montezuma only when it’s clear that we’ve won.”

Catullus nodded his consent. “Good thinking. Always the primus pilus, eh?” he said, slapping his friend on his shoulder. “I swear, Fortunaherself placed me in your Legion, Lucius Rutullus!”

Then that old Roman goddess has a peculiar sense of irony, Lucius thought, but did not say aloud. “You still believe in the old gods?” he asked his friend.
Catullus shrugged. “It’s a figure of speech. I can’t say I ever give religion much thought.” He frowned, considering things for a moment. “I hope that doesn’t offend you. Are you religious?”

“Confucian,” Lucius answered.

“Ah, like my wife,” Catullus said, then frowned. “Strange how we’ve never talked about it before.”

“It’s not surprising,” Lucius said. “It’s sad, in a way. Every religion I know of preaches tolerance, but look at us now—fighting a war over it!” He shook his head. “It should bring people together, but instead, religion seems to set men apart. No wonder you and I haven’t discussed it.”

Silently, Lucius reflected that he and Catullus had more than enough that could come between them already, and it had been difficult for him to set that aside and befriend the man. He had not written to Claudia since that letter he sent two years ago, assuring her that he’d watch out for her husband. Any more communication with the wife of another man struck him as unseemly. He told himself that whatever he and Claudia might have once had, it was now over. And he thought that if he kept telling himself that, he might actually start to believe it one day.

“I see your point,” Catullus conceded, then smiled. “Even so, if two of the people I love and respect most in the world follow that faith, perhaps I should look into it as well.”

Lucius glanced at Catullus and grinned. “When the war’s over, I could take you to the Kong Miao in Antium. I might even be able to introduce you to Mencius.”

“The High Priest?” Catullus said, eyebrows rising. Even a non-believer such as himself kept appraised of who’s who in Rome’s state religion. “You know him?” he asked, obviously impressed.

“I only had the privilege of meeting him once,” Lucius said. “But he leaves an impression.” He paused and looked thoughtful. “Quiet, gentle wisdom.” He nodded. “Yes, that’s how I’d describe it.”

“I’d be honoured,” Catullus said, “and I know Claudia would be thrilled.”

Lucius flinched slightly in reaction to a sudden twist in his gut. He realized for the first time that when the war was over, his friendship with Catullus would require him to be in Claudia’s presence from time to time. How on earth was he going to manage that? It was one thing to resign himself to Claudia’s marriage as an abstract concept; how was he going to feel when he saw them together? I’ll just have to soldier on through it, the legionary told himself.

***

The next day, like a great synchronized machine, the Roman army went to work, bent on the task of prying open the Aztec capital. The catapults stripped the city of its defences, opening multiple breaches in the walls, then showering the city defenders with missiles to weaken them. After that, as usual, it was the task of the Legions to finish off the city garrisons.

The Fourteenth Legion marched, wary and watchful, through a southern breach in the walls. Like all city garrisons they had encountered, those of the capital would be dug in; they’d know every street, every alley, every house, every nook and cranny where they could hide and fire their arrows and ambush the invaders of their city. Conversely, the city raiders had to stay in their protective formation and deal with each threat as it arose before moving on to the next. It was dangerous work, but the Fourteenth excelled at it.

Nevertheless, they were more cautious than usual. When they’d captured the minor city of Texcoco, they’d fought a garrison of archers wielding longbows. The longer bows launched arrows with greater force—capable of piercing Roman armour, even shields at close range. They’d heard that a similar garrison was defending the capital. Hence their caution.
The Legion was marching in formation, shields raised, down an Aztec street that led to the city’s central square. Suddenly, the hairs on the back of Lucius’ neck rose as if to attention, his battle instincts honed now by years of experience.

“AMBUSH!” he shouted, and the leading rank and file tightened their formation, drawing their shields closer together, and just in time; a veritable hailstorm of arrows erupted from every surrounding window, doorway, and rooftop. The arrows were apparently shot from ordinary bows, because they clattered uselessly against the broad, strong Roman shields. The Romans stood their ground, waiting for the barrage of arrows to end, for the Archers to run out of ammunition and attack with nothing more than their long daggers.

This they did a moment later, in far greater numbers than the Romans expected. The shields and gladii did their brutal work, but the Archers seemed intent on breaking through the Roman line in an attempt to break it up completely. They threw themselves at the Roman shields, angrily thrusting their daggers over top and between any gaps; they even crawled on their bellies to try to infiltrate the Roman formation from below, only to find themselves stomped down by the hard hobnails in the bottoms of the Romans’ heavy, hobnailed sandals.

The Legion was assaulted from all sides but its rear, which stretched back through the city streets to the breach where they’d entered. They knew that all they had to do was stand their ground and wait for the attackers to exhaust themselves and diminish in number as the legionaries’ short stabbing swords cut them down.

But then disaster struck. Among the attacking archers, one appeared wielding the dreaded longbow. A single ill-fated missile, launched from that powerful new bow, got through a gap the raised shields. And of all the legionaries to find and strike, that one arrow, guided as if by sheer malice, found its way to one of two men whose injury would do the Fourteenth Legion its greatest harm.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_09_02.jpg

Catullus’ shout of pain and anger when the arrow struck home was heard by every man fighting in the front ranks, and they all recognized its source. His sword arm had been raised to ward off an archer’s dagger, allowing the arrow to penetrate deep into his right side, below his armpit, in the gap between the front and back of his body armour. His arm went limp and his gladius clattered to the cobblestones. The rest of his body followed it down.

“NO!!” Lucius shouted from nearby as he saw his friend and commanding officer fall. In that moment, he forgot that he was primus pilus, forgot that the men would now look to him to give them orders and shore up their courage. He was consumed with concern for his friend, and with the powerful need to live up to the promise he’d made to the woman they both loved to keep him safe.

He pushed his way through the crush of armoured bodies towards Catullus, heedless of the growing confusion and disorder that was spreading like a disease through the ranks. He sheathed his sword and reached down to his fallen friend, saw the arrow and the blood, and turned to the men around him.

“Get him out of…” Lucius ordered them, but spoke no more than that, for he was interrupted by a thundering crash that came from behind him, emanating from the front rank.

The Aztecs had somehow managed to lift a large stone to the top of one of the roofs of the buildings that lined the street, and they’d just pushed it over the edge. It had crashed down upon the front right corner of the Roman formation, killing two men instantly and injuring three more. Negligible casualties in the great scheme of things, but for a moment that stretched out far too long, it accomplished something far more terrible: it opened a hole in the Roman line, and before the stunned legionaries could react, the Aztec archers came screaming through that hole.

In an instant, the Roman’s front ranks disintegrated into hand-to-hand combat and utter chaos. The Roman heavy infantry were much more heavily armoured than their Aztec opponents, but the archers were numerous, and were fighting for their capital city and their homeland; they were ferocious, even fanatical.

“FALL BACK!” Lucius shouted. “FALL BACK AND REFORM THE LINE!”

Which is precisely what the legionaries proceeded to do, extricating themselves as best they could from their attackers and dropping back to re-establish order among their ranks. Lucius was about to join them when he realized that Catullus still lay at his feet, badly wounded. He couldn’t abandon him. Then he looked up and further realized that he and his wounded commanding officer were suddenly and utterly alone. The Legions had retreated several yards behind him, and with dozens of furious Aztec archers only a few paces away, his comrades might as well have been on the moon. The legionaries were shifting and struggling to reform themselves without his steadying presence, staring ahead, in shock, at him and the prostrate body of their leader.

Lucius turned to face the Aztecs, who paused to stare in disbelief at the amazing prospect of seeing a legion in retreat and two legionaries—both obviously leaders—ripe for the taking before them. Among them Lucius spotted the longbowman who had apparently wounded Catullus.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_09_03.jpg

“You won’t touch him, you bastards!” Lucius roared at them in their native tongue. “I’ll kill every last one of you that tries!”

The Aztecs rushed him while the longbowman reached into his quiver for another arrow. Lucius’ sword hand reached to his belt, but instead of clasping his sword handle, grabbed a dagger, which he threw with deadly accuracy at the longbowman. It struck the man dead in the chest, and he staggered backwards, his formidable bow clattering uselessly to the cobblestones.

Two archers were upon Lucius; he slammed his heavy shield into them, winding them both and knocking them to the ground. Lucius then drew his gladius and steadied himself, his feet planted on either side of Catullus, his shield held before him. Two more archers reached him, daggers raised to strike; he knocked one down by ramming him with his shield, the other fell after his sword emptied the man’s bowels onto the street. More archers came at him; he chopped at the hands holding their daggers, severing several at the wrist; he struck at their guts, leaving them staggering and clutching their bellies; he butted them with his heavy shield, winding them and leaving them to be crushed beneath their comrades’ feet. One archer circled behind him, but Lucius saw him, deftly changed his grip on his sword, and stabbed backwards into the man’s stomach before he could strike. Others in the rear shot their remaining arrows at him, or resorted to hurling stones, but these clattered uselessly against his shield or armour.

“What the hell are you mentulae waiting for, a written invitation?” Gnaeus Decumius shouted at the leading ranks of the Legion as they watched Lucius in amazement while he fought alone and held his ground over his fallen friend. “FORWARD!!”

The Fourteenth Legion rushed ahead in an orderly run, yelling a blood-curdling battle-cry, and slammed into the Aztecs that now threatened to overwhelm Lucius through sheer numbers alone. Just as his fellow legionaries surged around him, an Aztec archer, his teeth bared in an angry grimace, lunged at him. The man brought his dagger down at Lucius overhand; the blade struck the top edge of his shield and shattered. Its tip ricocheted off the shield and struck Lucius in his left eye. He cried out in pain, cursing, and dropped to the ground beside his fallen comrade for a brief moment before other legionaries hauled them both up and bore them back to safety.

Minutes later, they were both in the surgeons’ tent outside the city walls. The first arrow that had struck Catullus had penetrated deep into his chest cavity. His condition was dire, and the surgeons were focused on him. A doctor had found time to remove the knife shard from Lucius’ eye, but could not save the eye itself. Lucius lay on a cot, all but forgotten, the left upper side of his face swathed with bandages which were soaked with blood. A nurse gave him a tincture of poppies for the pain. Lucius felt his face, indeed, his entire body growing pleasantly numb, but the narcotic could not quell the pain in his heart.

Some time later—how long Lucius couldn’t tell—a surgeon came over to him.
“I understand you’re a friend of the man who was brought in with you?” the surgeon, a heavy-set man with short hair going grey, said to him.

“Yes,” Lucius said, his concern forcing him from his drugged torpor. “How is he?”

“I’m sorry, son,” the surgeon said, shaking his head and patting Lucius on the shoulder. “He didn’t make it.”

Lucius pressed his lips together and nodded. The surgeon left him. A moment later, his injured face become contorted with sorrow, and tears fell from his remaining eye. Those few who saw him and noticed him assumed he was weeping for his lost friend and commanding officer, but they could not know there was more to it than that. For Lucius was wracked by guilt, convinced that despite his heroic efforts and their terrible cost, he could have done something more, or something different, that would have saved Catullus’ life.

Worse still, he felt certain that he had failed not for want of courage, but because of jealously and avarice, because he coveted his friend’s wife. The malicious spirit in his head, so long suppressed, had finally won. But as a result, Lucius was certain, he had lost her forever. He had failed to keep his promise, had failed to keep Catullus alive, and had thus failed Claudia and failed himself. The pain of losing an eye was nothing in comparison; Lucius lay on the cot in the surgeon’s tent and lost himself to the deepest and most profound misery he had ever known.

***

Tenochtitlan fell that day, but Montezuma escaped. The Fourteenth Legion was far more concerned with the fates of their two revered leaders to go chasing after a beaten foreign monarch; his capital had fallen, and his own fate was assured. Once other legionaries had relieved them in the fight to take the capital, the Fourteenth hurried to crowd outside the surgeon’s tent and await any news. The medical staff were so busy, however, that the legionaries had to wait until Lucius himself came out of the tent, well after nightfall. The Legion uttered a collective sigh of relief upon seeing him, followed by a gasp and worried murmurs when they saw the blood-soaked bandages over his left eye. Lucius staggered under the pain of his wound, the drug still in his system, and the horrible weight of his guilt, though his comrades knew nothing of the latter.

Gnaeus Decumius stepped forward. “Lucius Rutullus,” he said. “What of Quintus Lutatius?”

An expression of abject misery registered on the unruined half of Lucius’ face, and he shook his head. The men around him uttered a groan of great sorrow which only added to the guilt gnawing at Lucius’ conscience. He left them and, even though his body was still reeling from the awful wound he’d received, he returned to his tent and composed a letter, which for all its brevity was nonetheless one of the most difficult things he’d ever done in his life.Dear Claudia,

It is with great regret that I write to inform you that your husband, Quintus Lutatius Catulus Junior, was killed in action here today within the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. He fought bravely and made no small contribution to our victory today. He was a most able commander and a good friend. He will be sorely missed, by the men, by Caesar, by Rome, and not least of all by myself.

I send you my deepest and most sincere condolences, and my humblest apology for failing in the task you requested of me. I was standing beside him in the ranks, only a few feet away, yet I failed to protect him. I can offer no excuse for my failure. I cannot imagine that you will ever want to hear from me or see me again, so you will not. I wish you all the best, wherever the future may take you.

Yours sincerely,

Lucius Rutullus Lepidus
And that, Lucius morosely decided, was that. He gave the letter to an attendant to be dispatched to Rome, then he returned to his tent. The narcotic was wearing off and his eye—or, more properly, his eye socket—was beginning to ache. He welcomed the pain. He felt that he deserved it. Even so, he fell asleep almost as soon as he laid his head down, and his sleep was dark and bereft of dreams.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_09_04.jpg

tthf
Apr 18, 2007, 09:51 PM
wow, talk about shaking things up... yet another twist to the tale.
I for one thought that both weren't going to survive that aztec onslaught, like a greek tragedy of sorts.

Sisiutil
Apr 18, 2007, 10:14 PM
wow, talk about shaking things up... yet another twist to the tale.
I for one thought that both weren't going to survive that aztec onslaught, like a greek tragedy of sorts.

Yeah, but I'm writing about Rome, not Greece. Or, at least not yet. ;)

tthf
Apr 18, 2007, 11:00 PM
@ Sisiutil, lolZ

Izipo
Apr 19, 2007, 05:51 AM
It's great,
Just great
:goodjob:

Clovis
Apr 19, 2007, 08:19 AM
So, is it a Shakespearean comedy, where all get married, or a tragedy, where they all die? We'll see what kind of author you are!

Sisiutil
Apr 19, 2007, 11:56 AM
So, is it a Shakespearean comedy, where all get married, or a tragedy, where they all die? We'll see what kind of author you are!
You're actually comparing me to Shakespeare?!? My blushes! :blush:

I'd like to think, then, that it resembles one of the problem plays. Those tend to be my favourites.

BorgeoisBuffoon
Apr 19, 2007, 11:59 AM
Oy. Haven't posted in a while, but...poor Lucius. Amazing story, man-you're keeping me on the edge of my seat here seeing the Roman lands expand and Lucius's heart break. A bit of a generic compliment, but a genuine one nonetheless. ;)

Clovis
Apr 19, 2007, 12:55 PM
Problem as in tragedy, I see?

Sisiutil
Apr 19, 2007, 01:22 PM
Problem as in tragedy, I see?

Not necessarily. The problem plays such as Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice are hard to classify as tragedies or comedies. In them a character is presented with a difficult situation or dilemma, almost an insoluble one, and must find a way out of it.

tthf
Apr 21, 2007, 09:16 AM
merchant of venice.....
shudders at memories of literature lessons once upon a time..

Clovis
Apr 21, 2007, 02:07 PM
Hey! I liked Shakespeare!

Sisiutil
Apr 21, 2007, 03:19 PM
merchant of venice.....
shudders at memories of literature lessons once upon a time..

Since I was formerly an English teacher, I may have administered those literature lessons. :D

I'll post the next installment later today.

Sisiutil
Apr 21, 2007, 03:35 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 10 – Brothers and Sisters of the Faith

Caesar may have called it “mop-up duty”, but it took a good amount of time to accomplish—just as long as the more difficult, early part of the war had taken. The Roman army split into two smaller forces, one under Caesar, the other under the bereaved Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior, now promoted to General. The Romans spent the next three years finishing off Aztec resistance and capturing the last Aztec cities.

Lucius Rutullus Lepidus was with the Fourteenth Legion for the duration, first serving as its commander in his fallen friend’s stead, which did nothing to alleviate the private guilt which tormented him—quite the opposite, in fact. Shortly thereafter he also became a junior legate, splitting his duties between Caesar’s command tent and leading the Fourteenth. The loss of his left eye did little to diminish his ability as a fighter, especially since he retained full sight on the side of his body which wielded his sword.

Sporting an eye patch over the most prominent of his battle scars, the sole living recipient of the grass crown became something of a living legend amongst the Roman troops. The story behind his earning of the corona graminea now had a sequel, concerning his gallant, lone defence of a fallen comrade within the Aztec capital. The Fourteenth became known as “Lucius’ Legion”—though if any man called it that within earshot of him, he caught an earful from the Legion’s dour and formidable commander.

Lucius had always been a thoughtful and sensitive man, and as the conflict wore on, he began to question the morality of his actions. He reflected that it was probably because he spoke the language of Rome’s enemy. He understood their shouts of righteous indignation as they defended their cities and towns, their cries of anguish when a beloved comrade fell, and their screams of desperation to their gods and their mothers as they lay dying of some horrific wound. To his ears, they sounded no different from his own comrades, and he could not help wondering what else they had in common. Surely they had mothers and siblings at home who worried about them—sweethearts, perhaps, as well.

Not that he ever let his thoughts affect him during battle. There, the choices were clear. Fight or surrender. Live or die. Rome or Aztec. Caesar or Montezuma. His choices were clear, his loyalties unshaken, and he never hesitated. It was after the battle was done that all the questions came to haunt him. Those thoughts and his memories of Claudia swirled together in his mind on those restless nights, because of all the people he’d ever known, she was the only one with whom he could have shared his feelings. It might have all been outside the realm of her experience, but she would have listened; she would have tried to understand. But that door, he thought, was closed forever.

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i193/sisiutil/Princes/Princes11_10_01.jpg

In the aftermath of the capture of Tlaxcala, a small city on the Aztec western coast, he came across a dying Aztec longbowman. He was about to pass the man by, leaving him to die like so many other enemy combatants, but the archer looked up, right into Lucius’ remaining eye, and asked for water so politely, as if he were a guest in Lucius’ home. Lucius took pity on the man. He knelt and gave him a few sips out of his own canteen.

“Why do you still fight?” Lucius asked the longbowman. “You’ve lost the war. Your leader is a fanatical tyrant. Yet still you fight us. Why?”

“This is my home,” was all the man said.

Lucius nodded in understanding, for if their situations had been reversed, he would have fought just as ferociously in defense of Rome. He remained at the man’s side for over an hour, holding his hand until it limply dropped from his grasp.

As he walked solemnly through the streets of the city afterwards, a frail voice had accosted him.

“Legion-man, you want good time?”

He looked towards the sound of the voice and his one remaining eye opened in shock. The girl who’d spoken couldn’t have been older than fourteen. She was thin—gaunt, really--and her brightly-coloured dress was frayed at its hems. She had the neckline of the dress pulled open to reveal the tops of breasts that were only just beginning to form. Her hair was long and dark as obsidian, her eyes the same, her skin golden. Her feet were bare. The expression her face wore was one of resignation rather than enticement. She trembled as he looked at her, but not out of fear; she was obviously hungry, which had no doubt driven her to this sorry fate.

“How old are you, little one?” he asked her in her native tongue.

The Roman Legions, like all armies in foreign lands, had learned some of the local language. With soldiers’ typical efficiency—and disinterest—they only learned enough to get by, and in heavily accented voices at that. As a result, the girl was quite startled to hear a Roman soldier speaking fluent, unaccented Nahuatl. So startled that she completely forgot to dissemble.

“Thirteen,” she answered.

His jaw clenched; she was nearly the same age as his youngest sister. “Do you have any family?” he asked.

She shook her head, and he saw her eyes shimmer before she glanced down at the ground. “All dead,” she told him.

He exhaled heavily. "What is your name, little one?”

“Cuicatl,” she told him.

That brought a sad smile to his face. “Can you sing?” he asked. Her name meant ‘song’.

She looked up and nodded, the resigned look returning to her face. She suppressed a sigh, imagining that the big Roman with the eye patch would want entertainment along with his… entertainment.

“What about sewing and cooking?” he asked.

Now she frowned, not comprehending, but she nodded her head again.

“Come with me, Cuicatl. I’ll give you a job, if you want it, that won’t require you to sell your body.”

He brought her back to the Roman camp and gave her a meal and a place to sleep.

“I’ve hired us a servant,” he told the other members of his century when they asked about her.

“A little portable R & R, sir?” one of the legionaries remarked with a knowing grin.

The ferocious look that comment earned him from Lucius made the man turn white and shiver.

“Spread the word,” Lucius growled at the man, but loud enough so everyone heard, “that any man who molests her, accosts her, or even looks at her the wrong way will answer to ME!” The whole century had practically jumped out of their skins at that, all save Gnaeus Decumius, now the Fourteeenth’s primus pilus, who was busy suppressing his laughter.

Her safety now guaranteed, Lucius put Cuicatl to work the next day. She cooked meals for he and the other members of his century, mended and washed their clothing, polished their armour, and did other jobs, for which he made sure she was decently paid by all she served. She could indeed sing, and did so as she worked, favouring those within earshot with haunting melodies in Nahuatl—age-old story-songs about star-crossed lovers and capricious gods. Of all who listened, only Lucius understood them fully, and in more ways than one.

When it came time for the army to move on a few weeks later, she was healthy and well-nourished, her spirits on the mend. He even saw her smile once or twice. She and Gnaeus Decumius had struck up an unexpected friendship, the burly primus pilus having installed himself as her second benefactor and protector, and he was teaching her Latin—or at least the rough form it took in the Subura. Even so, Lucius half expected her to stay behind in Tlaxcala, the only world she’d ever known. But when the army marched north, she was among the camp-followers walking with the baggage train.

***

It seemed fitting that the last city taken by the Romans should be the one that started the entire war in the first place. That it got left to last was understandable. Calixtlahuaca was a remote city, little more than a village, really, on the continent’s most isolated north-western reaches. It was surrounded by ice-covered plains and frigid ocean and not much else, save for an iron mine that comprised the town’s sole industry. That a place so humble should have caused a conflagration so great astounded all concerned. Montezuma had fled there and despite the city’s Confucian majority, he named it his capital. Then again, he didn’t have any other cities left to bear that honour.

The city succumbed quickly, its meagre garrison falling before Roman might within the space of an afternoon on a cool northern summer’s day. Montezuma himself fell to Caesar’s sword in personal combat shortly thereafter. The strange lightening and thunder that accompanied that event only added to the troops’ already-considerable awe regarding their immortal Commander-in-Chief.

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Lucius marched into the centre of the city with the Fourteenth Legion, with Caesar riding a white stallion before him. As they proceeded to the town square, the inhabitants came out of their homes to watch them. They were silent, their eyes wide with amazement. They were unable, at first, to actually believe that the Aztec empire was no more, and that mighty Rome had fought for over several years to conquer their land—all, ostensibly, to liberate them. Because they were fellow Confucians. Because they had suffered greatly at the fanatic Montezuma’s hands.

The only sound filled the air as late afternoon turned to dusk was that of the marching soldier’s hard hobnailed soles striking the cobblestones. That is, until one remarkable incident occurred. As Caesar entered the central square, a doorway in one of the houses nearby opened, and a little Aztec girl ran out. Caesar brought his horse to a stop and signalled for the Legions to do the same as the girl, no more than six years old, her dark hair in pig-tails, ran towards him. Behind him, Lucius tensed, expecting some sort of guerrilla attack. But nothing of the sort occurred.

Somewhere, in that frigid wasteland at the end of the continent, the dark-haired Aztec child had found a few brightly-coloured flowers. She stood beside Caesar’s horse, a shy grin on her pretty little face, and raised the makeshift bouquet up to the Roman leader. He leaned down from the saddle to accept them, and in that moment, his stern visage was transformed, and he bestowed the broadest and brightest of his smiles upon the child, who reacted by giggling and running back to her house.

Before she got here, the town square had erupted. People were pouring out of their homes, rushing towards the Romans, but not in anger. The citizens of Calixtlahuaca were cheering, they were exulting, they were weeping with joy, hailing the Romans not as conquerors, but as liberators. Every soldier, abashed and blinking away his own tears, was clapped on the back by some father or grandfather, hugged by some weeping matron, or kissed by a smiling girl.

Lucius watched it all in wonder. The dour mood he had been mired in since Tenochtitlan slowly began to fall away, and was erased completely when an elderly Aztec, his lower face covered with a long, grizzled beard, clasped his thick forearm with a trembling hand.

“Are you a Confucian, young soldier?” the old man asked, though something in his tone expressed a doubt that he’d be understood.

“Yes, most revered grandfather,” Lucius said in fluent, formal Nahuatl, accompanying his words with a respectful bow.

The old man smiled broadly even as tears rolled down his withered cheeks. “Oh, bless you, my boy! Bless you, and all Romans!” he said, and threw his thin, trembling arms around Lucius’ broad shoulders.

In an instant, Lucius’ dark mood evaporated as if he had not lived with it these last three years. Tears fell from his one remaining eye, and he embraced the elderly Aztec as though the man was his own father.

Then there was a stirring in the crowd behind them. The mob of citizens respectfully parted, the cheers diminishing and replaced by gasps of reverence. Lucius turned and saw why: as the crowd of Aztec citizens and Roman soldiers parted, a single figure stood there, clad in a resplendent jade-green robe and high round hat, his long beard snowy-white and immaculate. As aged as he was, his eyes were those of a both a youth and a sage, sharp and perceptive, wise but full of mirth.

“Mencius, my old friend!” Caesar exclaimed, jumping down from his horse and moving to greet the High Priest in a few long strides. They shook hands, then embraced and laughed.

Somehow the crowd knew who this man was. They pressed forward, but gingerly, timidly extending their hands towards him as if beseeching his blessing. Turning from Caesar, Mencius spent the next few minutes doing his best to greet every one of his faith’s liberated followers.

Suddenly his gaze fell upon Lucius. He nodded towards the legionary and greeted him.

“It is good to see you again, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” he said.

Lucius’ thick brows rose, astonished that the High Priest remembered him from that one meeting all those years ago. He bowed respectfully. “Likewise, Master,” he responded.

“We must talk later,” Mencius continued. “I am sure we have much to discuss.”

Lucius suddenly realized that the High Priest was correct; at that moment, he wished for nothing more than to speak with the learned sage and seek his counsel. But the crowd thronged around them indicated that would have to wait.

“I look forward to it, Master,” Lucius said, his eagerness evident in his voice, and he favoured Mencius with another bow.

“Lucius, I think I have need of your vocal skills for a moment,” Caesar said, beckoning the legionary towards him.

The crowd parted to let the tall, formidable-looking legionary with the eye patch through, awed that both the High Priest and the Roman leader had paid special attention to him. His own comrades were similarly impressed, but no longer surprised by anything when it came to Lucius Rutullus Lepidus.

“I need you to relay my words to the crowd,” Caesar told him simply, and Lucius nodded his agreement and understanding. Caesar turned to the citizens of the liberated city and raised his voice; Lucius, standing beside him, followed suit.

“Citizens of Calixtlahuaca, on behalf of the Senate and People of Rome, I, Gaius Julius Caesar, bring you greetings and salutations,” he said, then paused as Lucius translated for the Aztecs in the booming voice that was at home on either a stage or a field of battle. “As of this day, the Aztec Empire is no more; Montezuma is dead.” A rousing cheer greeted that news; the persecuted Confucians of Calixtlahuaca bore no love for their former leader.

“Tomorrow, a new day shall dawn, a day when all the citizens of our continent, be they Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, or any other faith, may worship as they choose, in peace, and without fear of persecution.” Another cheer; Caesar waited for it to die down. “You have suffered greatly, I know, citizens of Calixtlahuaca, and many of your loved ones have paid the ultimate price. I can think of no better way to honour their memory and your endurance than with a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Confucianism, the Kong Miao. So I say to you today that Rome offers to all the citizens of Calixtlahuaca, as a token of our affection for our brothers and sisters of the faith, a pilgrimage to Antium to visit the great shrine, fully paid for by the Senate and the People of Rome!”

Gasps of astonishment were followed by more cheering, and by tears of joy. Caesar grinned broadly, glad that his generous and heartfelt gift was appreciated. He turned to Lucius as the crowd’s cheers continued to grow in volume.

“Well, my young friend,” he said, a hint of sadness in his voice, “what do you say? Was it worth it?”

Lucius glanced at the crowd, a foreign people, but one to whom Rome in general and he, in particular, were bound by a shared faith; and beyond that, he saw the joy of a people finally, at long last, lifted from the chains of oppression. All across the former Aztec Empire, in fact, he knew that Montezuma’s former subjects were waking up to the same realization as Isabella’s had: that they would enjoy more peace, freedom, and prosperity as Roman citizens than they had under their former rulers. They would even have a say in how they were governed, which was no doubt most astonishing to them of all. And Lucius’ heart swelled with pride, for he was a citizen of Rome, the greatest city in the greatest civilization in the world, a civilization that now stood astride a united continent as proof of its unquestionable superiority. And in spite of everything the war had cost him, he knew there was only one answer he could give.

“Yes, Caesar,” he said, his voice shaking with emotion, “yes, it was worth it.”

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Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 21, 2007, 04:03 PM
Another great addition to the story. Although, technically, it appears as though the continent isn't yours yet. I still see a barbarian city on continent, unless that's just an older picture.

Sisiutil
Apr 21, 2007, 04:08 PM
Another great addition to the story. Although, technically, it appears as though the continent isn't yours yet. I still see a barbarian city on continent, unless that's just an older picture.

Oh, quibble. Barb cities don't count. You know Caesar's Praetorians will sweep them aside with ease. ;)

Clovis
Apr 21, 2007, 04:47 PM
What about ol' blood an' guts himself?

tthf
Apr 21, 2007, 08:13 PM
great chapter!

now, if only there was a lone aztec fanatic resistance fighter/ 'sniper' longbowman somewhere around that town square...

Clovis
Apr 21, 2007, 08:18 PM
What for, more tragedy?

biggamer132
Apr 21, 2007, 11:12 PM
So, what's next for good Lucius? A return to Rome, riches, and romance? :king:

BorgeoisBuffoon
Apr 22, 2007, 12:55 AM
Amazing. Good to see something of a happy ending for at least many, many people. I salute Caesar, Lucius, and all those who bravely fought on either side, and I am happy the Aztecs will hopefully have better times to come. :)

Actually, speaking of the Barbarian cities, seeing even a tiny mention of their soon-to-be-conquest WOULD be interesting, if I may offer a tiny and happily-ignored suggestion. I'm just all for seeing what you'd make of Ghurzan or Jute culture here. :p

Sisiutil
Apr 22, 2007, 03:26 AM
What about ol' blood an' guts himself?
Patton? Maybe if I do another one of these with the Americans... nah.
great chapter!

now, if only there was a lone aztec fanatic resistance fighter/ 'sniper' longbowman somewhere around that town square...

What for, more tragedy?

:confused: My thoughts exactly.

So, what's next for good Lucius? A return to Rome, riches, and romance? :king:

Nothing quite so simple. ;):D

tthf
Apr 22, 2007, 10:49 AM
for another twist of the plot...
hehe...

Clovis
Apr 22, 2007, 11:32 AM
No, actually I meant Monty. Doesn't Julius have to hunt him down and finish him off like he did to the last two?

Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 22, 2007, 02:46 PM
Caesar already finished him off... Sisiutil just didn't go into detail about their fight with eachother.

Sisiutil
Apr 22, 2007, 06:20 PM
Caesar already finished him off... Sisiutil just didn't go into detail about their fight with eachother.

I hope you weren't disappointed with that. This story is more Lucius' that Caesar's and I didn't want to distract too much from the main focus.

carl corey
Apr 22, 2007, 06:34 PM
Well, I don't know about the others, but I'm not disappointed by Montezuma's quick end. Lucius's story is still very intriguing and very much going on, and adding something about Monty would have been a distraction.

Clovis
Apr 22, 2007, 07:55 PM
Yeah, I don't mind it. I must have just missed it in there, somewhere.

tthf
Apr 22, 2007, 09:22 PM
true, although with a character like monty's it would have been some fight.. but hey, i'm not the one telling this riverting tale... great job sisiutil, keep 'em coming!

Ultimate_Waffle
Apr 22, 2007, 10:55 PM
I wasn't that dissapointed about it, I was dissapointed with the shortness of Isabella's death though... lol.

Joxer
Apr 23, 2007, 07:36 AM
I will be more interested in the demise of Elizabeth since our Caesar seems to have a crush on the red head.

Maybe a tryst gone wrong?

chopstyx
Apr 23, 2007, 11:34 AM
What a story - just spent the last 2 hours at work reading all the chapters so far!

Looking forward to future stories, especially as you enter the gunpowder age.

Sisiutil
Apr 23, 2007, 11:55 AM
Yeah, I don't mind it. I must have just missed it in there, somewhere.

It occurred in the paragraph immediately before the 2nd screen shot:
The city succumbed quickly, its meagre garrison falling before Roman might within the space of an afternoon on a cool northern summer’s day. Montezuma himself fell to Caesar’s sword in personal combat shortly thereafter. The strange lightening and thunder that accompanied that event only added to the troops’ already-considerable awe regarding their immortal Commander-in-Chief.
I may have Caesar recall that battle as a flashback, as I did with Isabella's demise. Provided it fits into the story.

rabidveggie
Apr 23, 2007, 12:37 PM
Well now that the continent is almost under your complete control do we get to see a d-day ish landing on your enemies beaches with an English/Roman alliance?

Clovis
Apr 23, 2007, 12:49 PM
So are you writing these chapters as you post them, or have you written it all before hand, and are providing it in readable chunks?

Sisiutil
Apr 23, 2007, 01:21 PM
So are you writing these chapters as you post them, or have you written it all before hand, and are providing it in readable chunks?
The latter. I find if I let the story sit for a few days, I often revise it for the better, or at least catch various grammatical and stylistic problems that I would have missed otherwise.
Well now that the continent is almost under your complete control do we get to see a d-day ish landing on your enemies beaches with an English/Roman alliance?
Patience. :D The Romans have won a great victory. They should get a little time to enjoy it, don't you think? Plus I like to build things up, and we haven't met (as readers) Genghis and Alexander yet. ;)

Yakk
Apr 23, 2007, 02:40 PM
Did you revolt to "Free Religion" with the conquest of the Aztecs? (it seems implied, just curious).

Sisiutil
Apr 23, 2007, 03:37 PM
Did you revolt to "Free Religion" with the conquest of the Aztecs? (it seems implied, just curious).
It certainly sounds like that was what he was advocating, didn't it? That, of course, would lead to a period of anarchy--which I have not yet portrayed in these stories. ;) :D Patience, grasshopper.

wenamon
Apr 23, 2007, 04:57 PM
are you going to get the next update up before or after the big game tonight sisutil? Its important for me to know so I at least have SOMETHING to be happy for tonight!

Go canucks go!

Sisiutil
Apr 24, 2007, 11:58 AM
are you going to get the next update up before or after the big game tonight sisutil? Its important for me to know so I at least have SOMETHING to be happy for tonight!

Go canucks go!

Obviously you're very happy today. Though that happiness may be tempered by the 'nucks upcoming opponent.

I'll post the next installment tonight.

wenamon
Apr 24, 2007, 02:38 PM
yeah the duckies arent gonna lie down I'd imagine. Sorry to detract from the story tho... lets get u back to work here Sisutil!

I mean, next update please!

Clovis
Apr 24, 2007, 02:43 PM
What are the canucks? Hockey, basketball team? What city? The name sounds familiar but I can't place it.

Edit: Oh, I see, you're from Vancouver, so it must be hockey.

Clovis
Apr 24, 2007, 02:45 PM
Sisiutil, you from B.C. too? I see "Pacific Northwest, but that could be anywhere from Oregon to Alaska.

Sisiutil
Apr 24, 2007, 10:39 PM
Sisiutil, you from B.C. too? I see "Pacific Northwest, but that could be anywhere from Oregon to Alaska.

Yes, Vancouver. I find it's a good idea to be a little vague on the big bad Internet. ;)

Sisiutil
Apr 24, 2007, 10:56 PM
Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

Part 11 – To the Victors

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Two days later, Lucius found himself summoned to the command tent. Caesar was there, along with several clerks and his senior legates, and the general Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior. Lucius acknowledged his late friend’s father with a meaningful nod, and the older Catulus returned it with a nod of his own and a sad but affectionate smile, remembering, as he always did when he saw this remarkable young man, how Lucius had stood alone above his only son’s body, protecting him from the enemy as he lay dying.

“Ah, Lucius Rutullus,” Caesar said with a smile. “Come in, sit down,” he said, beckoning the junior legate into a chair placed in front of his desk, then glancing at the scrolls in front of him. “What you see before you is the price for being made Consul-for-life,” he said with a rueful grin. “Paperwork, masses of it. My task today is to determine what to do with the not-inconsiderable amount of gold the army claimed as booty during this war.” Caesar looked up from his scrolls. “What do you think I should do with it?”

Lucius blinked, his brows raising in surprise. Since becoming a junior legate he’d grown used to having his opinion solicited on matters of tactics and strategy on occasion, but he was taken aback now that Caesar was asking him, for the first time, to weigh in on a political issue. Normally, he would have been cautious. But for months now, he’d been struggling with those troubling thoughts about the morality of the war and the plight of the Aztec people. He thought of Cuicatl in particular, the orphaned Aztec girl he’d taken under his wing. He leaned forward, his lone eye suddenly alight, his voice impassioned as he spoke.

“The money belongs to the Aztec people, Caesar,” he said firmly. “They’ve suffered greatly as a result of this war, even if they are better off now under Roman rule than they were under Montezuma. If it were up to me, I’d reinvest the money into rebuilding Aztec infrastructure.”

“Would you?” Caesar asked, his voice neutral.

“Yes, Caesar,” Lucius said, no hesitation in his voice as he spoke to the immortal who had led his civilization for millenia. “We have a moral imperative to do so. If you need to convince the more self-interested parties in the Senate and Plebeian Assembly, consider this argument: the investment would pay for itself. Former Aztec cities will be contributing taxes back to the Roman treasury much earlier, and in much greater amounts, if the infrastructure is put in place to support local enterprise.”

Caesar smiled, glanced around at his senior legates, who were also smiling, then he clapped his hands. “Oh, well said, Lucius Rutullus! That old saw is true—the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

Lucius couldn’t help blushing in reaction to being so favourably compared to his illustrious ancestors. Yes, blushing—he, the battle-scarred veteran!

“You’d do well in the Senate, my boy, with speeches like that,” Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior said. “We could certainly use your support there, to get measures like this through. Aren’t you almost thirty now? Nearly of age to wear the purple stripe, eh?”

Lucius pressed his lips together. “Sir, I won’t be entering the Senate. I don’t meet the financial qualifications.”

“On the contrary,” Caesar said, then handed Lucius one of the scrolls from his desk.

Lucius took the scroll, frowning, and read its contents. It consisted, essentially, of his service record, except beside each item was a number, and at the bottom, a total of that number, expressed in talents of gold. And it was a very large number indeed.

“There must be some mistake,” Lucius muttered, his voice as tight as his lone eye was wide.

“I should say not!” one of the clerks suddenly interjected. A reedy man with a receding hairline, he was visibly offended by Lucius’ unintended implication that there could be a mistake in his figures. He leaned over and peremptorily snatched the scroll from Lucius’ hands, then scanned it.

“Lucius Rutulllus Lepidus,” Caesar said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, “may I present Quintus Servillius Caepio. Not much of a soldier, but one hell of a book-keeper!”

“The Servillii do not make mistakes,” Caepio sniffed, ignoring the amused grins of Caesar’s senior staff, “not when in comes to counting money. Even if it isn’t our own. Especially if it isn’t our own. A matter of family honour, you understand. Now let’s see here… Six years’ service, achieving rank of junior legate. Participant in the Battle of Tlatelolco, the Battle of Tentihuacan, the Battle of… really, these names!”

“We’ll be changing them,” Caesar assured Caepio with an amused grin.

“The Battles of et cetera and et cetera,” the clerk continued impatiently. “Recipient of the grass crown, oak crown, mural crown—thrice, that one, good thing you have what looks to be a strong neck, what with all these crowns your head has to bear—the hasta pura, several armillae and phalerae, oh, and compensation for the loss of an eye, of course.” His lips moved as he discreetly added up the corresponding figures. “Correct to the last denarius, I assure you,” Caepio concluded, and handed the scroll back to a still-shocked but much chastened Lucius Rutullus.

“You are only half correct about the war booty,” Caesar told him. “Half will go towards rebuilding formerly Aztec lands, once those of us present get the Senate, the People, and the Treasury to agree, and I’m sure we will. It will be more than enough; the population of the former Aztec Empire is much reduced, you see, and frankly, Montezuma kept them abhorrently backwards. So it won’t take as much money to rebuild, because in many cases, there was never anything built in the first place. Additional infrastructure can be built at a less-rushed pace. So the other half of the gold I’m splitting amongst the veterans of the campaign, based upon length of service, rank, action seen, awards earned, and so on.”

“The Senate will have no choice but to agree to that,” Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior said, “unless they want rioting in the streets!”

“Yes, I’m sure it will prove to be a popular measure,” Caesar agreed.

“Most of the men will waste the money on wine, cheap entertainments, and loose women,” Caepio sniffed.

“All of which are taxed,” Caesar pointed out, smiling, “so the treasury gets its due one way or the other.” Once the laughter died down, Caesar returned his attention to Lucius. “Your record is by far the most illustrious of all those serving in the Aztec campaign, my young friend, hence the figure at the bottom of that scroll. More than enough to qualify you for the Senate—which is where the wise, steady voices of the Rutulli belong.”

“I don’t know what to say,” Lucius said honestly.

Caesar nodded. “Well, I have something else to say,” and he rose from his desk and walked towards the flap of the tent, beckoning for Lucius but no one else to follow. Once they were outside and out of earshot of anyone save themselves, Caesar leaned in close. “Of course you know that to qualify for the Senate, you need to have land, which is what you’ll need to purchase with that gold.”

“Of course,” Lucius said, though in truth he hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“Yes, well, I just happen to know there’s a bit of prime real estate about to come available on the market,” Caesar added, sotto voce. “A certain hill, just north of Teotihuacan.”

“A hill?” Lucius said dubiously.

“Mm-hmm. A hill,” Caesar said, nodding. “With a mine.”

“A mine…” Lucius said, beginning to understand Caesar’s meaning now.

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“A gold mine,” Caesar whispered, then winked conspiratorially. “Literally. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years, my boy, it’s this: gold begets gold, if it’s managed properly,” he said. He then frowned thoughtfully. “Caepio’s an interesting fellow, don’t you think?” Lucius merely frowned in response, puzzled by this apparent non sequitur. “His service ends around the same time your does. I’m not sure what he’ll be doing when he becomes a civilian again.” Caesar shrugged, considered the seed well-planted, and continued. “Think well upon my advice, Lucius. The gold on that slip of paper will get you into the Senate. The gold in those hills will put you in the Consul’s chair.” Lucius looked shocked; Caesar frowned. “Oh, don’t be naïve, son! Of course a man has to qualify based upon merit, but it takes money to run a campaign, you know.”

“Of course,” Lucius said, though he realized he knew nothing of politics, but he was going to have to learn. “Thank you, Caesar,” he said just as his leader was turning to walk back to the command tent.

“Oh, don’t thank me, Lucius Rutullus,” Caesar said, turning back to face him. “Thank you. On behalf of Rome. You earned it. All of it,” Caesar assured him. “And were your ancestors here today, they’d tell you the same thing. Dismissed,” he added with a wave as he ducked back inside the tent.

Once inside, Catullus Senior cast a questioning glance in Caesar’s direction. “So do you think we can count on him?”

“For the most part, I believe so, yes,” Caesar replied. “Though I daresay he’ll be his own man rather than nestling snugly into the folds of our togas. I’d expect nothing less of one of the Rutulli.”

Catullus Senior grunted. “They’re starting to call him ‘Aztecus’, you know,” he said, his voice neutral.

Caesar cast an appraising glance at his friend and colleague. There seemed to be more grey in Cutullus’ hair since the death of his son, less light in his eyes. He was still the most talented general Rome had—aside from Caesar himself—but to the immortal it seemed as if some of the man’s former drive and energy had vanished after that sad event.

“How do you feel about that?” Caesar asked. “As the field general in the Aztec theatre, by rights, that cognomen should be yours.”

Catullus Senior shook his head. “Were it any other man, I might resent it. But after what he did for my boy…” His lips pressed together and he shook his head again. “No, the honour is his. I’m just a general. He’s the hero.”

***

Lucius Rutullus, of course, had never considered himself a hero. Despite Caesar’s undeniable wisdom and experience, Lucius’ mind had not been set to rest on certain points that still plagued his conscience. Only one man stood a chance of doing that, and while Caesar and Catullus Senior conferred in the command tent, Lucius left the Roman camp to go see him.

Fortunately, Mencius was still in Calixtlahuaca, ministering to the Confucians there who’d never thought to have a genuine priest among them, let alone the High Priest himself! Lucius found him at the site of the town’s future Confucian temple, holding forth in the open air. A few marble benches had been placed on the as-yet empty, grassy site. Seated upon them were Mencius and several Aztecs who appeared mildly surprised and abashed in response to his words. He had to set them straight on certain points of orthodoxy, of course; they’d developed a couple of strange, or, he generously allowed, misinterpreted ideas because of their isolation.

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“I assure you, the Master would never have condoned human sacrifice,” he calmly but firmly told them. He spotted Lucius out of the corner of his eye, then smiled at his devotees and nodded respectfully. “Now you must excuse me. A friend has just arrived who requires my counsel.”

“Your Nahuatl is excellent, Master,” Lucius told him once they were alone. “And your perception remains undiminished.”

“I have lingered here in Calixtlahuaca not just to minister to our long-isolated flock,” Mencius told him. “I’ve been waiting for you, my young friend. I saw your need in your eyes that day the city was liberated. So now that you have finally sought me out, tell me—what is on your mind?”

Lucius sat down heavily upon a marble bench next to the elderly priest.

“You remember my circumstances when we first met?” he asked Mencius, who nodded. “Well, they are now almost completely reversed. I now have the means to enter the Senate, and to possibly even go further than that. I’ve made a name for myself on the battlefield which will fuel my political career. I might even…” He paused, wondering if even speaking of his most fervent hope was bad luck. “Claudia…” was all he managed to say in a reverent whisper.

Mencius nodded. “She’s a widow now,” he said. “She hasn’t remarried, you know, even though it’s been…what… nearly four years since her husband died? I think we both know why.”

Lucius shook his head. “I wish I shared your confidence, Master,” he said. “I just can’t help feeling that… that I don’t deserve it. Any of it.”

Mencius looked at him and nodded yet again. Lucius glanced at him; he’d expected the High Priest to chastise him and contradict him, but he did not, and Lucius realized that he was grateful. He also realized he’d underestimated just how wise the High Priest was.

“Tell my why you feel that way,” Mencius said evenly.

“Because of everything. The war. All the death I’ve meted out. But mainly… because of Catullus,” he said, then told Mencius everything. How he’d wanted to hate Catullus but couldn’t; how he’d promised Claudia he’d look out for him; how they’d become the closest if unlikeliest of friends; and how, finally, he’d failed his friend, and his beloved, and himself, inside the gates of the Aztec capital. By the time he finished, tears were streaming from his remaining eye.

“I can’t help wondering, what if I could have saved him, but didn’t?” Lucius said, his voice ripe with agony. “What if there was something more I could have done, but didn’t do, because… because… some part of me, some ugly, vicious part of me thought that if he died, then Claudia and I…” His voice cracked, and his head fell into his hands. “He was my friend. And now he’s dead, and I…”

The big shoulders heaved, and Mencius reached out and lay one hand upon them.

“I have heard,” Mencius said, “that you fought like a demon over your friend’s wounded body. You even lost an eye in the fight.” Lucius nodded. “Those do not sound like the actions of a man who wanted his rival dead, Lucius Rutullus. Those sound like the actions of a gallant comrade and a loving friend.

“We all carry evil in our hearts,” the priest continued. “Do not judge yourself by that. Judge yourself by what you do. If we owe anything to the dead, it’s life itself. Live your life, Lucius. Don’t merely exist; live. After all my years on earth, that’s the one thing I think I’ve learned for certain.”

Lucius sat silently with the Confucian High Priest for several minutes, turning over what he’d said in his mind. He began to nod slowly, the rose quickly to his feet.

“Thank you, Master,” Lucius said, pausing just long enough to shake the High Priest’s hand before he marched out the door.

“Oh, to be that young again!” Mencius said as he pushed his creaking body up from the hard marble bench.

tthf
Apr 24, 2007, 11:11 PM
man.... now i cant wait for the next installment.....

rabidveggie
Apr 25, 2007, 09:12 AM
Another excellent chapter, however it kind of sounded like Caesar is conspiring about something.

Sisiutil
Apr 25, 2007, 11:48 AM
Another excellent chapter, however it kind of sounded like Caesar is conspiring about something.

Nah, just shoring up political support back home. Remember, he's not a supreme autocratic ruler anymore. In fact, I'm hoping to have some fun with that simple fact in future installments... starting with the next one.

tthf
Apr 25, 2007, 10:15 PM
hehe, a touch of civil disobediance (anarchy) is always fun...

biggamer132
Apr 27, 2007, 02:43 PM
Sisiutil, I'm starting to suffer symptoms of withdrawal. Will the next installment come soon? :(

Sisiutil
Apr 27, 2007, 03:17 PM
Sisiutil, I'm starting to suffer symptoms of withdrawal. Will the next installment come soon? :(

How does tonight grab ya? :D I need to go back into a save and grab a couple more screenshots, hence the delay.