Discussion in 'Civ3 - Stories & Tales' started by Vanadorn, May 21, 2004.
We will eagerly await your next installment. Until then, patience is the buzzword.
V, I haven't been on here in over 3 months but I came back just to check on this old story. I'm glad to see everything worked out well for you IRL and can't wait for you to get back to writing. Vie Victus.
Glad to hear things picked up for you again! Coming out of the Dark Ages into the Renaissance must be feeling good!
Even more important : That you're planning on writing more!
Also struggling with writing myself. Finding time is difficult, but forging ahead! Its really rewarding even when its only a short story for the kids to enjoy.
Looking forward to read more about the history of Rome!
Dum spiro, spero
It's great to hear you've taken some breaths of fresh air, Vanadorn. As much as I'd love to see this story continued, it's a lot better knowing that you've made it.
Still eagerly awaiting updates V
Vanadorn, I've read this story 3 times as a guest, and I have to say that it is the best story I have ever read. I just wanted to create an account on this forum to say that. Cheers
MAn, I was so excited when I had a look at this forum after about a year off and saw Pax Romana was on the first page.
Sorry to revive this, BUT there is hope...
Last Activity: Oct 24, 2013 09:40 PM
Saw that on V's page. Arise and bring us more of good quality literature.
We're always hoping!
Wow 10 years and I still come back to check for updates. I know V will finish this someday
I feel the same way Anonymous2U. I would love to know whaat happened to this fantastic writer of CIV history.
It's hard to believe it's been twelve years now since this was started. I can't help but recheck the thread every now and then, maybe hoping for a miracle. I guess even the eight years since the last story update haven't dampened my hopes.
When I started this tale so long ago I was a much younger man with a world of problems on my shoulders. My back was bowed with a seemingly unending amount of turmoil and I was looking for an outlet to send my creative thoughts.
This community was open to me, receptive to all, and listened to my tale with a wry grin and an ever growing number of appreciative audience members. I wrote hard for three years and then meandered around for another year before I put this aside and got on with the business of living.
Now I am an older man that I was before, but I still have a bundled packet of papers on my desk, filled with notes of a Rome that might have been and was at least for a time. And the completest in me is looking to bring this tale to an end.
I came back here five years ago, thinking I would finish the story then, but did not not because of anything bad, but because my life was full and rich and did not have any free time to come back to Rome.
But the wheel moves on. Here I am again and I have time. Time to visit here once more and reread what I’ve penned and see what is and was to come.
So here we go.
Next chapter…30 seconds.
Thanks again for reading!
General Vitellius took a long hard look at the countryside around him. It was mostly low rolling hills, what few bits of brush and tree that once dotted it had been either blown apart, burned, or scavenged by pickers and groundsmen for makeshift supplies and firewood. To the distant eye could be seen the unnatural straight line that might have demarked a field fence or a roadway; now nothing more than blackened churned mud.
The remnants of what was once irrigated farmland of the now long defunct United Arabic League along with whatever suburb or village was associated with it was nothing more than a memory. Excised with shell and bullet, lancing fire and Roman arms, it existed only as a nebulous no-man’s land somewhere many kilometers west of Mecca and an equal number of kilometers east of Baghdad.
This nothing stretch of blasted heath was the proud property of the Senate and People of Rome. And General Vitellius was watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, of his tired troops set up pickets, lines, and tents as they prepared to dig in.
“Here, General?” The man to Vitellius’ left looked about with disdain. “I mean, what in Pluto’s name? What’s the point?”
Vitellius hooked one hand into his greatcoat and pulled out a battered oil-skin pouch. He withdrew a squat Zulu-made cigar from within and then scratched a match to life on the side of one of his brass buttons. When the flame finished flaring, he lit his cigar and puffed it slowly until the end was cherry red and he was able to blow out a gentle billowing cloud of smoke. He tossed the match to the east and left his hand pointing in that direction. “Did you ever have to deal with foxes, Major Caidius?”
“Foxes, General? I don’t follow.”
General Vitellius took another drag on his cigar and let the smoke trickle from his lips as he tasted the rich scented tobacco. “Foxes, Major. Descendent from dogs but unlike dogs, foxes are clever little bastards. They prefer to sneak around their prey and nip them on the far side if given a chance. You leave a section of the henhouse open, and I guarantee you you’ll have foxes crawling around your chickens.”
Major Caidius nodded his head once but looked around with an aloof concern plainly showing. “So are we expecting foxes, General?”
Vitellius nodded. “There, out there, over the hills and past the broken land where we smashed every Saracen we could find over the age of 16 on our way to Mecca, past where you and I can see even with a field glass and a floating platform to help us, is the largest nastiest trickiest fox you’ve ever seen. And that fox, that piece of dung, is currently sitting on a big pile of conquered territory and has a huge army piled up with him. And he wants his army to do something.”
He took another drag of his cigar and let it linger before continuing. “Well, you foxy fox…not on my watch.” His brows beetled together as he looked eastward, ignoring the sound of the shouting Centurions as they had their troops unlimber wagons and dig trenches. Men and women who had roadbuilding skills were already pressed into service finding what former roadbeds still existed in the area and clearing them off to bring them up to Roman specifications. The place might be a dunghole now, but it would be like that for long.
“No, Major. We were not only at war with the UAL, but the Incan Empire as well. The same ‘wars’ our foxy comrades in arms, the Mayans, were associated with.” He tapped a line of ash from his cigar and let it fall to the wet mud. “And I for one don’t think we need Mayan forces with boots on the ground side by side with Romans to take on the Empire now that the Leauge is finished.”
He motioned behind him. “So every kilometer from the northern shore of the Serenic Inlet to as far south as I can stretch our horses, militia, soldiers, and roadbuilders; we are going to have a Zeus Damned Roman presence so that when Blazing Leopard and his baying band of thieving foxes try to sneak into OUR Incan chicken coop and steal any of OUR prize, they’ll find the Eagle of Rome standing here barring their way.”
“Begging the General’s offence, but two questions?”
“One, isn’t it a waste of Roman resources? And two, what’s to stop the Mayans from building ships and sending troops across the Serenic?”
General Vitellius looked at the glowing end of his cigar thoughtfully before answering. “One. The size of the Roman army has grown beyond the single scope and control of the Senate and People of Rome. It numbers active troops beyond counting, support personnel without end, drives over half the economy of our nation, and fights a war on two fronts the covers the width of a nation and I STILL have thousands of troops leftover to make a picket line that stretches across the breadth of three provinces. I could send these men into the field to gather truffles and turnips to feed the multitudinous throng or police every Thorpe from here to Luetitia and STILL not consider any use of every man under my command a waste.”
He chomped the end of the cigar between his teeth and played with it while turning his gaze to Major Caidius. “As for two. The Mayans don’t have much of a navy, never did. So let them build transports. Let them bunch up here at the border of our lands and hue and cry. Let them waste their resources to support the tens of thousands of troops festering the land around war-torn Mecca as they grow fat and lazy and indolent. So that one day in the future, many months from now, they launch some wallowing tub to load their troops onto and send it across the Inlet to beach at some Incan dungpot of a town in order to claim it as their own after massacring the locals, and they realize that when they get off their ship…that we’re already there.”
The Major said nothing at first, looking eastward with his CO while the Roman military continued to set up camp around them. “So,” he began after thinking on the General’s words, “you think the war with the Incans will be over that quickly?”
Vitellius plucked the cigar from his mouth, dropped it to the ground, and squashed it into the blackened mud with a single hissing squelch. “Two hundred thousand Roman soldiers, cavalry, artillerist, and naval troops and four times that number of support staff have suddenly found themselves freed up after years of war with a superior enemy. Imagine what a million plus angry Romans can do against the Incan Empire?”
“My concern for the Mayans is whether or not at that time I’ll have whatever appointed governor we put in place charge our ‘allies’ docking fees for gumming up our harbor with their transport tub.”
Major Caidius tried not to shudder as the cold sound of General Vitellius’ anger sent chills down the length of his spine.
Looking back I noticed some formatting error occurred with all the " and ' and ... and + marks in the story - they all have a ASCII constant looking number associated with where they used to be. So in order to refamiliarize myself I have gone back some 20 pages (to 103) and have been editing the posts. I'll continue to do that (up to 105 now) as well as write the next few chapters.
You can read it as it is, but it looks sloppy and silly. So I'm fixing it.
I don't believe it! I nearly fell off my chair when I read the notification in my email inbox. I can't wait to see how this pans out.
Adeptus Plutarch pulled the bit of satin sewn into the spine of the book free and dropped it between the pages he was reading to mark his place before closing the leather bound cover softly and sliding the heavy tome on top of his desk. He flexed the fingers of his left hand twice, noting the numerous spots that decorated the back of his flesh. “No longer a young man,” he muttered to the silence, only the faint metronome of the grandfather clock answering his voice. “And I would guess by the fact I am talking to no one, no longer a sane man, either.”
He chuckled softly and stood up, working the kinks out of his spine as he did so. His study was paneled in rich walnut with only a few pictures to decorate the three walls that did not have book shelves on it. He stopped in front of an older oil painting depicting Zeus sitting in audience on Olympus, the other gods seated on stone steps and tiers in the same manner as the Roman Senate. The artist had given the All-Father a beatific expression as he glanced out at his children, but there was a steeliness in his eyes; a reminder that he was not only the King of the sky and storms, but also the defacto ruler to all the others in audience.
“Like a king, a Caesar.” Plutarch lifted his aging hand and ran his fingers across the surface of the painting, feeling the miniscule rises and valleys of some long gone artist’s brushstrokes beneath his fingertips. “I see you, Zeus,” the former priest intoned to the still face of his god, “I see you ruling.” His fingers slipped free and fell back to his side. “Where are you, my Chairman?” he breathed softly, as if even muttering his concern was endangering the thought of the long missing Nero. He closed his eyes and offered a short prayer. “Mighty Zeus, guard and watch over your child Nero, as a shepherd watches over his flock. Keep him from harm through your great mercy.”
His lids opened and gave the painting a final glance before turning away. “I know you have no faith in the gods, my Chairman,” he addressed the walls as if Nero was here, “but as you have indicated before, with scorn and admiration, ‘once a priest, always a priest.’” He turned down his kerosene lamp until the chamber was dark before stepping out and closing the door behind.
Plutarch made his way to the stairs, glancing at the foyer and front door with a smirk. After the botched assassination attempt many months ago where his manservant had been killed in his office, Major Aziash and the Senate had agreed to upgrade many of his home’s defenses. The door was now 10 centimeter Egyptian Red Oak with a layer of commercial steel affixed to both sides. The locks were five-tumbler Grecian reforged; the deadbolt was a 12 centimeter center slide.
The glass was variable thickness leaded panes to disguise distances through the surface and Officer Dardanel had arranged to have iron louvered storm shutters built to his specification and reverse bolted outside every window to further confound any attempt on the Adeptus’ life. To Plutarch it felt a bit too much but he accepted the upgrades with quiet thanks.
“At least I don’t have to worry about any innocents being caught by accident.” That was another change he had to accept, no longer would his staff be allowed to live in his house. A second building had been erected at the opposite end of his property and his maid, cook, and new valet had been housed there. He would unlock the doors every morning at 8, and lock them again every night at the same time.
He climbed his stairs, right hand loosely riding up the railing as he trudged along. “Twelve step; sometimes it feels like ten too many.” His maid had left the lamps burning low before she left, giving the upper hall a ruddy glow. He turned up the wick on the closest lamp, bringing a bit more light to the hall, and then made his way to the bathroom.
He turned on the tap, the pipes gurgling before water spilled slowly from the faucet. The Adeptus wet his hands and then dabbed his eyes and forehead, rubbing his lids with balled up fists. He looked at himself in the mirror. “Getting old, my friend.” He ran his hands through his hair, noting how thin it was getting. “Many years. It’s wearing you down.”
He picked up his brush and ran it across the side of his head, combing his salt and pepper locks when he felt a scratch and pinprick against his scalp. “What the hell?” He leaned in, looking closer at the mirror as he dragged his hair back and forth; trying to see what was going on. There was a raw scrape about four centimeters long, thinly welled with blood that was growing thicker with each pulse of his heart.
Turning the brush over he looked at the bristles, running the course stubs with the flat of his thumb. About halfway through he felt something firm and unyielding an instant before he punctured his skin. “Damn it!” he cursed, pulling his thumb free and noting it too was bleeding. He sucked it between his lips, tasting the coppery blood as he sought to staunch the flow.
He grabbed for a hand towel and wrapped his thumb in it while he spat in the sink twice. Crisis averted for now, he gave the brush a closer look, noting a dark painted pin had been set in the handle, disguised by the bristles. “How in Pluto did that get in there?” he muttered, frowning slightly as he heard the strange timbre in his voice. “What’s going on?” Again, his voice sounded deeper, a strange thrumming echoing through it.
His eyes were welling up with salty tears and he could feel his pulse flowing through the veins of his neck. He grabbed for the edge of the counter as a wave of vertigo hit him, struggling to keep himself upright. “I…I…” he wanted to speak, but the words wouldn’t come. His thoughts were filled with cobwebs and he had a difficult time brushing them away. I should go lie down, Plutarch thought, turning away from the bathroom to make his way back to the hall.
There was a shuffling step towards the doorway but the doorway seemed to be turning to the right. Plutarch stumbled left, throwing himself forward in some vain effort to make it through the doorway before it fell all the way over. Instead, the Adeptus slammed his shoulder into the door frame, grunted, and then slowly rolled to his side and slumped out the door. He hit the carpeted floor with a heavy thump, his muscles not responding to his call to break his fall, the side of his head bounced bonelessly as he came to a stop.
“Gurggggh,” he called out, unable to get his voice to rise over a breathy whisper, incapable of getting his tongue to shape the words he wanted. His left hand crept forward, clawing at the carpet fibers in front of his face as they stretched out. He tried to grip the floor but his sweating palms failed to get any traction and he only succeeded in pulling out some of the dark blue hairs.
“Grrrruuugh,” he moaned, trying to call for help.
From his position he heard the door to his bedroom open and a shadowy figure stepped out in the hall. Lunsilla? Perthas? Is that you?! He feverishly thought, hoping some of his staff were still in the house somehow. Whoever it was stepped closer and through his blurry tears could make out as they crouched down by his head. They ran a finger across his sweating brow, pushing a lock of his hair out of his face. “Wuuagghhh?” he groaned, struggling to ask who was here.
“I wasn’t going to be here,” the figure said with measured accuracy, the voice raising chills down the ex-priest’s spine. “I figured, it’d be dangerous for me to be here.” Crap, crap, crap! It’s Pluto-Damned FELIX! Crap! “But I didn’t want you to think it was an accident. I didn’t want you to die without knowing it was me.”
Plutarch started sputtering, struggling to curse and cry at the Spymaster, but his seizing throat and spasming tongue prevented him from making any sense. Felix Zhinskius instead patted the now sweat-soaked heaving man on his back and mutter consolingly, “Relax. Relax. I don’t want you to over exert yourself. You don’t have much time.”
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way, Adeptus. Not at all. My job, my first job, is to the continuity and safety of Rome. Rome first. Romum Primum.” Plutarch could see Felix dimly as the Spymaster drew out his pocket watch and glanced at it. “But no, you had to get involved. You had to challenge me. The Senate, Major Aziash, daring to act against me.” He replaced his watch and leaned closed. “I am not a man to be trifled with.”
The Adeptus could only lie there now, unable to do anything other than breathe. His vision was tunneling, the edges of his sight had faded to black. His blood felt like sap, moving sluggishly through his body, struggling to make its way through his laboring heart. I’m dying. Sweet Zeus, I am dying.
“I too want Nero back. I too want my Chairman to be found. This country will run better under his control than under the wavering whims of one-hundred and twenty-two senators. And it will run better as well under his guidance than through the dissimilar edicts of seven well-meaning surrogates.” He grunted as he placed his fingers against Plutarch’s neck to feel the dying man’s feeble pulse. “But I am a realist first. Nero is not here. No one knows where he is or when he is coming back.”
“For that matter Cincinnatus isn’t here either, lost across the ocean as well. And while it would be wonderful to ‘leave the light on’ and hope that someone returns to take the helm of Rome once more, if it was going to happen, it would have already.”
“You, and your pithy talks, your infuriating essays, your dangerous guidance, and your singular dog-like devotion to the empty Chair, has already caused Rome almost irreparable damage. Damage that in time, can spell the downfall for our Empire.”
Plutarch felt Felix lean in and hiss directly into his ear. “I will not allow that to happen. Ever.”
The Spymaster leaned back and then pushed himself up. “So I will do what is best for Rome. You, good priest, will however die. But you will die knowing that Rome will endure despite your efforts. And you will die knowing that you made the mistake of challenging me and arousing my ire.”
He heard Felix make his way down the stairs, his vision no longer picking up anything beyond some grey shadows; he hearing becoming thin and wavering. But he did manage to catch Felix’ last words before he drew too far away. “Give my regards to Zeus. Now you’ll know if god really exists.”
A tear rolled down his cheek as Plutarch gave a final gasping breath and expired on the floor outside his bathroom.
Lunsilla couldn’t sleep again. The young maid was having a terrible month, her flow was heavy and there was a clenching cramp that she couldn’t shake. She made her way to the kitchen where she waited with gritting teeth to heat up a kettle of water on the pot-bellied stove. “Rotten,” she muttered to the dark. “Rotten luck.”
Not waiting for the kettle to whistle she used a woven holder and then poured the scalding liquid into a leather waterskin. Once filled, she knotted the end closed and placed the warming soft mass against her abdomen. “Ah! Thank the maker,” she sighed, her lids sleepy as she lounged against the kitchen wall.
She looked out from the dark room across the yard at Adeptus Plutarch’s house. The hall light was brighter on the second floor, signaling her employer had gone up to bed. “It’s got to be neigh upon midnight,” she whispered. “That’s late for you.”
As she contemplated the hour, her gaze was drawn to a shadowy movement on the bottom floor. One of the window shutters opened, followed by the second. She was surprised to see a figure crawl out of the window and pull the sash down. He (a man? Yes, definitely a man, but thin and wiry!) did something at the pane and then pushed both shutters closed again. He then did something with the shutters, sliding something between them before stepping away.
He turned to look at the house, Lunsilla’s blood froze as she felt his gaze move across the window. But after a moment he seemed to be satisfied and then slunk away, picking his way from shadow to shadow until he was lost from sight.
“What the hell was that? Was the Adeptus robbed?” She waited until she was sure the strange man had gone before dropping the bladder in the sink and tottered her way to Perthas’ room. “I hope everything’s ok.”
Just wow! So glad to see you're alive and well, and revisiting this amazing story! I've checked back every few months, but tonight I choked on my O'Doul's when I saw the story is back! Thank you.
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