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Pax Romana

Discussion in 'Civ3 - Stories & Tales' started by Vanadorn, May 21, 2004.

  1. barbslinger

    barbslinger Gun blast'n shot drinker

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    Great story. I'm enjoying immensely. Keep up the great work. Is your plan to extort tech from a now weeping Cleo and then sell for a profit to the other nations?
     
  2. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    @ Barbslinger: No. I was going to originally extort tech from her (she had a 1 tech lead on me: Monotheism and Engineering vs. me being up on Chivary. Turns out, she also had Invention, buit I didn't know it at the time. - How the AI gets so much more tech than the human players I'm always amazed to find out.) but decided that I was going to spend a little time stomping her in the mud. An attempt to whittle her down to size, so to speak. Then, after 20 odd turns of war, go to peace, grab some tech, and sell it around. As you will find out - the best laid plans of mice and men. Give it a few chapters and you'll see my meaning.

    Thanks for reading!

    Next chapter: 30 seconds!

    V
     
  3. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    Pythagoras smashed the model under the heel of his boot. The wooden replica of the proposed bridge he was designing flew apart under the impact, sending wooden fragments everywhere. Seeing the destruction brought no smile to his face. Dejectedly he sat, not caring that his toga was getting both wet and muddy in the fake river he dug out and filled earlier.

    “It’s not working. It’s not working. It’s not working.” Over and over again the Roman magician cum architect repeated his sad litany. “The bridge fails. It fails every time. What good is a bridge that fails every time?”

    He reached inside his toga, pulling out his sweat stained and filthy notes. Carefully he stared at them, trying to match up the list of numbers of the left with proposed strengths of the bridge spans he suggested on the right. After careful research and rechecking his numbers, he nodded his head. “It should work. It should work. It should work.” Absently he scratched at his scraggly beard, digging at his chin hairs with his unkempt fingernails.

    “The anchor points are firmly placed 4 paces on firm land. The span points are spaced 10 paces apart across the river. The span paces are 2 hand lengths higher than the land. The bridge spans are double thick and firmly lashed. It should work – it doesn’t work.” Pythagoras had developed a twitch over the last 2 weeks; the right side of his face would squint and contract, pulling his expression into a grimace of pain. As each day progressed and his bridges continued to fail, the twitch became more pronounced. Today, the spasms lasted 5 or 6 successions and were beginning to lift his shoulder as well.

    He arced his foot out, catching the edge of his rucksack with his toe, and pulled it closer. Reaching in, he withdrew another handful of painstakingly precut replica hewn boards, the same type that Caesar’s soldiers would use in the fields. Staring at them, he picked up one and placed it between his thumb and forefinger. With his other hand, he pushed the board harder and harder until the stick broke under the pressure. “Snap. It goes snap. Snap.” He picked up a second, doing the same thing. “Snap. Snap. Snap. Always snapping.”

    After breaking a third and a fourth the same way, he grew agitated. Picking up two of them, he stacked them together and broke them again, this time having to use more force. “Again, they snap. Harder, but they do. 2 is better than 1. But 3 is not better than 2. 3 across is too much for the spans. Too much. Bridge bows down in middle, touches water, and breaks. Always it breaks.” He stared at the board across his fingers, watching the way his thumb and forefinger made a “V” under the board.

    “That would be good.” Again, he twitched. “Good. Good. Good. Having a span points at the end of every board. But no,” he sighed, “too many span points, too much material. Too bad.” Pressing his fingers together, he made the stick held between them bow up and down under the stress. At the height of one of the stress bowings, he tried to break the stick with his other hand. To his amazement, the stick did not break. Instead, it forced his other hand’s fingers apart. Taking note of this, he bowed the stick once more, and again found he couldn’t break it.

    “Is that all it is?” Taking careful measurements of the bowed stick with a piece of knotted string, he quickly recalculated his spanning numbers. Once again, he scanned down his list of numbers on the right hand side and mentally replaced the pertinent figures with his new theory. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Oh, yes.” Smiling, he dumped out his rucksack in the mud, pulled out the glue and string he packed as well, and set himself up to reconstruct his bridge.

    Still twitching, he muttered excitedly, “This time it will work. It will work. Work.” Unaware of his twitching face, his damp, cold clothing, the mud he sat it, or the lateness of the day, Pythagoras hastily struggled to get his model bridge built so he could present his findings to Caesar.

    “Oh, yes. It will work.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  4. Smellincoffee

    Smellincoffee Trekkie At Large

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    I somehow doubt the Caesar will be able to understand our friend Pythagoras' therom...
     
  5. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    “
    “Don’t know, General. According to our scouts and intelligence, Byblos seems better defended and more warned than Abydos did. That trick was only going to work once.”

    General Iuldias, the de facto leader of Scipio’s Legionnaires, swept his arm behind him, indicating the now distant city of Abydos to their east. “I know, Gaius. I know. Damn foolish Egyptians! Zeus take their children!” he swore. “Every time we picked up to leave, another resistance cell sprung up. Every one we crushed only fueled a different one.”

    Gaius nodded. “I remember my grandfather talking about the problems the empire dealt with when Rome was trying to keep the newly conquered Carthage cities from revolting.”

    “I heard of those stories. Pretty hard soldiering if you ask me. These are different times, different people.” Iuldias shook his head. “No, we did right by staying behind to show them Roman laws and the punishments they would receive if they broke them.”

    “It’s too bad we had to leave so many pike companies behind to keep the peace.”

    “Martial law is a tough choice, Gaius. But these are tough times. We can’t coddle-mandy the Egyptians and we can’t go soft on them. Give a little thought as to how bad things’d be if those yellow dressed jackals were on the advance and captured someplace like Syracuse. There’d be a line of slaves wearing red traipsing the long line back up to Giza or Thebes or someplace like that to build another pile of rocks.”

    “Hey,” Gaius said, “that reminds me. Why’d you leave the 6th Lugdunum Legionnaires camped outside of Abydos, anyway?”

    The Roman General snorted. “There’s nary more than a strip of land no wider than one or two miles separating the Narrows Seas and the Serenic Ocean. It runs some 8, 12 miles west of Abydos’ harbors. The 6th Lugdunum’s job is to not only support the pikers we’ve left there, but to stop any of Cleopatra’s crazed cavalry from sneaking past and striking our heartland.” He flicked his reins, bringing his horse into a trot that Gaius was forced to follow. “So they’ll get a few weeks of rest and relaxation until the new pike units from Veii and Sabratha are available to replace them, and then they can join us on the front.”

    Both men rode past columns of anxious Roman soldiery. Doughty pikemen, proud legionnaires, burly infantry, mounted knights, excited archers, and teams and teams of support personnel: tanners, armorers, blacksmiths, cooks, teamsters, farmers, scouts, launderers, fletchers, carpenters, and clothiers. The queue of marching forces numbered over 25,000, with most likely an equal number of non-combatants.

    Daunted at the mass of humanity under his direct and indirect control, Iuldias thought back on some words the venerable Scipio had told him before he was appointed general of his army. “Many leaders,” he had said, “too often forget about the conditions on the battlefields. Instead they concentrate on the broad scope of things: the neat positions of fronts, the ebb and flow of the battle, dotted lines on a map, showing where the borders may or may not be. They don’t care about the logistics that are required to make this happen: the housing of the men, scrounging the countryside for food, supply trains coming up from the heartland of the country, banditry and outlaws, wild animals, disease and fatigue, heat stroke, sagging morale. Your job, and a most thankless one that it is, is to handle all of this without complaint and without asking the Kings and Dukes and Earls of this world for any help in solving these problems.”

    Seeing the great line of Roman’s he commanded, he couldn’t find any fault with Scipio’s counsel. “Scribe!” he called, watching as the young man rode up.

    “Yes, General Iuldias,” he said, saluting the Roman leader with a clenched fist over his heart.

    “Be at ease, scribe.” The young man relaxed slightly. “I want you to take this message to Caesar in Rome.” The messenger withdrew a short roll of paper and a nub of a feather. Quickly filling his short quill with dried berry ink, he looked up expectantly to Iuldias. “Lord Caesar, Abydos is within Roman control. All signs of resistance quelled. 3 units of pikes maintaining martial law. 1 unit legionnaires guarding western front. Request replacement units to be sent as soon as possible. Request artisans sent to Abydos for construction of new temples and shrines for indigenous people. Proceeding to Byblos. Arrival at said city and attack upon expected within 2 days. Anticipating higher resistance and stronger defense. General Iuldias, Commander Roman Armed Forces.” Pausing, he watched the scribe finish his work with a quick flourish. “Do you got all that?”

    “Yes, General Iuldias.”

    Waving off, he said, “Then go. Get that Lord Caesar as soon as possible”

    The scribe saluted once more, placed the message in his saddlebag, and rode back east, toward Abydos and through it, towards Rome.

    Gaius grinned. “So general, checking in with Caesar?” He looked about, whistling at the multitude of people invading the Egyptian southlands. “You should have told him that we’re going to be short on oxen, food, and bandages soon. They could send it on the next supply train.”

    General Iuldias shook his head. “Supply train? That’s funny, Sir Gaius. Very funny.” He gave the young knight a frank look. “Let me tell you about caring for an army in field and how to be resourceful.”

    The two men conversed together, riding along the greatest mass of invading humanity that the world had ever seen, riding along on their way to the next Egyptian stronghold. A city called Byblos.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  6. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    “Cap’n, don’t think we’re gonna be able to outrun them. Not with our hull still busted up from the attacks those Visigoths launched 2 weeks ago.”

    Kirus was standing next to Captain Thrium on the bow of the Furious Thundercloud, sadly looking out at the great number of reed lashed and single log dug out canoes that was choking the cold waterways of the Serenic Ocean. The blockade of smaller ships had stopped the great Roman galley on its journey. Hundreds of copper skinned men and women lined the ice-crusted shores and easily half as many manned the boats swarming around the Thundercloud.

    “All right Kirus,” said Thrium, the fatigue of the long journey sounding in his voice. “Tell the men to stow the runners, lower the sails, and prepare to receive visitors.” He looked out at the boats around him and sighed. “I know they look like Mayans, but why by Neptune are the behaving so angrily towards us?”

    Kirus spat. “Don’t know Cap’n. Been a long since we’ve been home. Maybe things have gone sour between the Mayans and us since those days.” Seeing that any attempt to flee would be difficult at best, the deck master added, “I hope that’s not the case though. Don’t wanna end up on the wrong side of one of their altars or spend the last of my days choking on maggoty rice and digging trenches for them.”

    Thrium took in the Mayan weaponry, noting that most of what was visible were things like fishing gaffs and thin javelins, not exactly the tools to take down a mighty Roman war galley. “I think they just want to talk. And they’re not going to take “not right now” for an answer.”

    Most of the crew and legionnaire passengers had already assembled on deck. Kirus quickly walked the line of men, snapping orders and commands to the sailors and walking briskly past them to address the next seaman that didn’t meet his exacting standards.

    From over the starboard rail, a deep voice called out in recognizable Latin, “Yaximath, representative of the Great Instigator and King of the Mayans, Dozen Pythons, would like to come aboard and talk with the invading Roman vessel.”

    “Permission to come aboard granted.”

    The starboard ladder was unfurled and sent over the sides. A handful of burly deck hands stepped forward, helping the visiting Mayans on board. 5 of the copper skinned men stood unsteadily on the slowly pitching ship, staring about themselves with a gleam in their eye. Odd piercings decorated their bodies, the tallest of the 5 had what appeared to be a ring driven through his nose, large enough to rest against his bottom lip. He walked up to Captain Thrium and held out his naked hands for the Romans to see. “I am Yaximath. Thank you for talking with me.”

    Thrium showed his own hands empty as well. “No problem, Lord Yaximath. I am Captain Thrium, and this is the Furious Thundercloud. We’re some 10 months out of Rome and on orders from Lord Caesar to find other ports that are friendly to the Roman flag.” Notably he took in the host of boats surround his own and asked, “Are these ports still friendly to Roman citizens?”

    The Mayan kept his face empty. “The Mayan people and the Roman people have been friends for some time. We have helped each other since the days of our father’s fathers. But we are at war. A bloody war that has taken most of our young and our youths. We do not leave our borders open to anyone anymore, as per the Great Instigator Dozen Pythons.”

    Thrium frowned, “Dozen Pythons? What happened to Smoke Jaguar?”

    Yaximath and his retinue bowed their head. “Smoke Jaguar has passed from us to stay with the Feathered Serpent. His time on the 4th world is over, he now lives in the 5th. Dozen Pythons, Smoke Jaguars’ strongest and most able of his 5 sons, ascended the throne this past summer’s solstice.”

    “My condolences on the loss of your great king to you and yours.” Yaximath nodded in thanks. “Then you must know,” asked Thrium, “have the Roman people joined you in your war against your enemy? It has been some time since we’ve been home and news is something my crew has been starving for.”

    “The answer to your question is both yes and no.”

    “I…don’t understand.”

    “Your people have recently attacked the Egyptican peoples following an attempted theft of gems and an attempted attack on your Caesar’s life by the Egyptican Undying Queen. So in that respect, the answer is yes.”

    The crew of the Thundercloud cheered at hearing this news. Thrium held up his hand for silence.

    “However, your people have recently rebuffed my King’s request to help wipe out the Horse People Iroquois. These slayer of infirm and eaters of flesh have attacked the good people of Zulu and the call came to Dozen Pythons to aid our friends. Your King instead chose to not join in the attack on the Iroquois. So in that respect, the answer is no.”

    “I’m not a statesmen, Yaximath, so I cannot answer why Caesar didn’t attack the Iroquois. I can guess that it might be because we share no borders with the horse people and to attack him, we would have to march through the Zulu lands.”

    Yaximath smiled, “I am sure that is the reason, Roman.” His grin fell, “However, you now sail through our lands. Many of our people are already distrustful of strangers. Your vessel might be confused with one of the Horse People’s. I would ask that you return back the way you came.”

    “Yaximath, as you can see, our galley has already suffered under the attacks of an aggressor. Although returning home to Rome would be the best thing for all my crew, I cannot change or alter my Lord’s orders.” He looked about, trying to find some answer. Snapping his fingers (which startled the Mayans, as they had never heard or seen someone snap their fingers together), Thrium asked, “Is there some way we can arrange for you to allow us passage through your waters?”

    Yaximath shook his head. “No. That is a one sided agreement. Maybe if you were to do the same for us, I could persuade the Great Instigator to accept this.”

    Thrium groaned. “Yaximath, as hospitable as your people are, and pleasant your country is, any delay at this point would only keep me and my crew far from home even longer.”

    “We must wait, Roman. Passage for passage is something that requires more approval than my own to make happen.”

    Kirus leaned into Thrium’s ear and whispered, “Cap’n. No disrespect to ya and your negotiations, but what if you give this local sheriff here a portion of the sapphires and rubies we got on board from the mines outside of Veii? It’d grease the wheels and we'd be on our way.”

    Thrium smiled. Nodding to Kirus, the deck master and the cargo master went off to the hold of the Furious Thundercloud. They emerged a moment later, touting a half-sized barrel and placing it at Thrium’s feet. Kirus handed the captain a crow bar and stepped back.

    “Lord Yaximath,” said the captain, a smile once again showing, “I agree that passage for passage would require your great king’s approval, but, I would like to make a gift to you from the Roman people in honor of our friendship and our soon to be approved passage agreement.” He popped the top off the gem barrel and almost laughed as the Mayan’s jaws fell open in shock. “Perhaps if you were to accept these luxuries on behalf of me and my people, you could ratify the Rite of Passage for us now. If not,” he replaced the lid, drawing despairing moans from the assembled visitors, “then I guess I can present these to Dozen Pythons myself.”

    Yaximath waved his hands wildly before him. “Roman, Roman. Please. Roman Thrium, please.” He looked around at his men, all of which were nodding forcefully to him. “You are correct,” he continued. “Why wait months for a signature that is sure to come from the King on down. We will graciously sign a rite of passage with you, and we will also gladly restock your fine ship with whatever waters and foodstuffs your require to complete your journey.”

    Thrium bowed low. “The Mayan people honor us greatly with their understanding and friendship.” Glancing back, Captain Thrium was happy to see his crew and the legionnaires all smiling at him and giving him the thumb’s up sign. Returning his gaze to Yaximath, he asked, “So, Lord Yaximath, while we sign these agreements and spend the day with your fine people, what do you Mayans have to drink?”
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  7. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    Ioral shook his head sadly, “Are you saying he was killed? Why would someone want to kill him, he’s harmless. A little disturbed but harmless.”

    “Sorry, magister. The militia brought me the news earlier and I though you’d want to know.”

    “Poor Pythagoras.” Ioral, Lord Caesar’s personal magister and scientific advisor bowed his head low in memory of his friend Myelus’ youngest son. “Myelus, Pluto watch over him, always had a soft spot for Pythagoras. Used to say that one day that boy would change the world. Dunatis, did I ever tell you about the first time we ever fired his great catapult for Lord Caesar?”

    “Yes, magister,” Dunatis smiled, “About twice a week for the last 10 years I’ve worked for you.”

    Ioral leaned back in his chair, his head tilted and his gaze dreamy. “Yes, that was a great time. Myelus was so proud. I’ve never seen him more focused then when he was working with numbers. I think he’d be happy to know that his great inventions are still working after all this time.”

    “Magister, I am loathe to interrupt you, but the militia dropped off Pythagoras’ personal belongings as well. I thought you’d want to go through them.”

    Ioral rocked forward, frowning. “The militia? Ha! They’ve not been keeping the streets as safe as they can. There’s been more dissenters and criminals wandering about than I’ve noted in 4 months of Sundays.”

    “Things are getting difficult out there, magister.”

    The advisor snorted. “Difficult times do not give the plebian the excuse to break windows, steal food, and mug harmless men who’ve never hurt anyone.” He sighed. “Let me see poor Pythagoras’ effects. So where did this cowardly deed happen?”

    “At the Royal Gardens near the shrine of Venus. Seems that Pythagoras had dug a moat around the statue of the goddess and would show up there every day for the last month. Seems he was building bridges across his moat when a gang of toughs came up and attempted to rob him. There was a scuffle and Pythagoras was stabbed.” Dunatis handed Ioral a battered, mud splattered bag. “According to the militia, the statue was also damaged. Seems that during the mugging, someone knocked it off its pedestal, breaking its arms off.”

    Ioral shook his head, emptying Pythagoras’ sack. “A statue can be fixed, a life cannot.” He was pulling out great quantities of hand carved pieces of wood and miniature bridges. “Hmm. Seems that our departed friend had fallen into another one of his spells again. There are a lot of carvings in here. The demonic compulsions must have been driving his hard.” The bag held well over 300 separate pieces and a large sheaf of stained papers, covered in Pythagoras’ cramped handwriting. Laying the bag aside, Ioral untied the thong binding the pages together and began to scan them.

    Dunatis was pawing through the pile of carvings on the table, noting that on many of them, notches were carved at the short ends in such a way that another piece of bridging would fit perfectly against it. “Wow,” he said after a few minutes of assembling the different bits together. “This is ingenious. Magister, take a look at this. Magister?”

    Looking up, he saw that Ioral was hastily copying figures from the stained pages in his hands to a new page on his desk. Turning the pages, he scanned down another row of figures and quickly scrawled them down as well.

    “Magister?” Dunatis asked again. “What is it?”

    Ioral fingers tricked over the abacus, sliding the worn beads back and forth rapidly. Glancing at the position of the beads, he hesitantly wrote the figure down and compared it to the numbers he copied from Pythagoras’ pages. “What is it?” he asked back. “What is it? I’ll tell you what it is. It’s GENIUS. It’s absolutely, unequivocally, Zeus be damned, GENIUS!”

    “I don’t understand, magister.”

    Shaking the battered pages in his hands, Ioral laughed. “I don’t understand it either. I have absolutely no idea how he even came up with this. What a horrible CRIME those hooligan scum committed by killing him. They should burn in Tartarus after a long painful crucifixion up here for what they did.” Rising to his feet, he grabbed wildly for his cane, and whacked Dunatis in the chest with it. “Come on. Grab your cloak, and put those bridge pieces back in the sack. We’re bringing it with us.”

    Dunatis hastily dismantled the string of models he had assembled. “Where are we going, magister?” Sweeping the last bits into the sack, he slung it over his shoulder and snagged his battered cloak from behind his chair. He took two jogging steps, catching Ioral has he struggled to get his own cloak across his stooped shoulder.

    “Going? We’re going to see Caesar. We’re going to tell him how we can cross the any river we find. We’re going to tell him how to build arcs large as we can imagine. Hell, with these pages, I’m going to tell him that I can probably improve on Myelus' catapult design.” He shook the papers once more. “That, Dunatis, is the sound of progress. The sound of victory. The sound of GENIUS.”
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  8. Specialist290

    Specialist290 Terracotta Statue Man

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    If this isn't amazing, I don't know what it is :goodjob:

    The one thing that is bothering me in the back of my mind is the fact that personally I think Archimedes would be a better fit than Pythagoras. Of course, it's your story, and if you're saving Archimedes for something better, then I have nothing against that.

    You've heard this before, but I'll say it again: Good story. Please keep writing :)
     
  9. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    Oh yes, you will be seeing the fine Archimedes - but not right now. Soon, soon my loyal fans, soon.

    Thanks again for reading and enjoying. I'm having a blast with this. So much so, that I can't wait to catch up the story to where I last saved the game. I feel horrible that I have no screen shots to show, but who would have guessed.

    Once more, thanks again.

    V
     
  10. Smellincoffee

    Smellincoffee Trekkie At Large

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    Will Archimedes be showing up once you research Engineering?

    And don't worry about screenshots.... "Hail Caesar" has a big following despite that it hasn't the first screenshot.
     
  11. gazdeluxe11

    gazdeluxe11 Chieftain

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    great story, but watch your cases... wouldnt it be the vocative of 'magister' (magistre i think?) when he is being addressed?

    *shrug*

    fun reading. keep it up.
     
  12. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    I thought it might be something like that, but my knowledge of latin, greek, and french is about 12 years old and not to be trusted. I remembered magister, sooooo, that's what I put down. If someone knows for sure (gazdeluxe, do you?), I'll gladly change it. No skin off my back.

    Yes, right after engineering, as I'm going towards invention and gunpowder, Archimedes makes his way in. Didn't want him to wasted too early. And yeah, I've read Hail Caesar since the beginning, very trendy and fun to read.

    Thanks again for all the comments. Wow, 1140 views! 33,000 plus words! 63 pages if printed! This thing is only a month old.

    Back to the story in, oh....30 seconds.

    V
     
  13. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    “Brace! Brace yourselves, you stupid whoresons!” Vario Pellias rammed his shoulder into the beefy back of the useless pikeman under his command, Minimus. A split instant later, the surprisingly brutal cavalry charge slammed into his battle line. The clash of iron on iron rang across the Byblosian plains and was then lost in the tumultuous cry of the counterattacking Roman forces.

    “Get up! Get up!” He shouted, spurring his troopers into action. “4th Syracuse Pikemen, CHARGE!” All around him, the roar of attacking soldiers filled the air. Rapping Minimus on the back of his fat head, he yelled, “You miserable gut sucking collection of chewed up cat carcasses, get your giant ass up and charge those filthy Egyptians.”

    “Ay, ay, Centurion!” Vario watched scowling as the weakest man in his company gripped his pike and lunged forward into the mass of stopped cavalrymen. He was surprised to notice how skillfully Minimus was handling the 13’ weapon; subtly parrying the desperate swipes of the Egyptians, both his feet firmly planted on the churned up ground, the well timed thrusts and stabs he made, scoring 3 blows for every one of his nearby comrades’ 2. Only Minimus’ lanky friend Omani seemed to be of equal skill, guarding his friend’s right side and striking out with graceful swooping attacks that more often than not, dropped the still mounted spearmen to the ground.

    The battlements of Byblos offered better protection than Abydos did. But the swoosh-wham of the catapults firing behind him brought a smile to Viper Centurion’s face. For a week since leaving the captured Abydos behind them, the Roman invaders had driven every person, protestor, and peasant ahead of them towards Byblos. Then, the besieging host surrounded the walled city, trapping the citizens within and cutting off any support from without. After 3 days of setting up their 2-mile wide camp, the great Roman catapults began firing. One after another, great chunks of rock and stone flew at the mighty walls of Byblos.

    It had been 4 days since the great machines started firing, and the battlements were visibly cracked, weakened, and collapsing under the punishment. What defenders were inside no longer patrolled the high walls, nor did they dare strike out from what few sally ports still operated after General Iuldias’ army decimated both squadrons of armored infantry that tried to break free.

    The only real threat came from the main road north from Thebes. Two companies of pikemen were placed along the road there to act as a detriment to any reinforcing attack from Cleopatra’s heartland. Vario shook his head, still amazed at the crazed Ivory Cavalry of Egypt. They drove their mounts off road, across the intervening plains, and attempted to storm their way through the Roman hosts to bolster the wailing defenders behind Byblos’ walls. Spotting the threat early, Vario was able to muster the 4th Syracuse into a strong enough line, and blunt the charge of Egypt’s cavalry.

    The yellow dressed horsemen pulled back from Vario’s defenders, quickly regrouped, and charged his line again. “Steady boys, steady. Here come those crazy sons of guttersnipe again.” Scanning quickly, he yelled out, “Right flank! Tighten up you worthless puddles of horse vomit! Ready…PIKES!”

    Once more, the 4th Syracuse pikemen set their weapons and stopped the charge. It was less of a concern this time as less than half of the cavalry had been able to muster their strength for another melee. Vario growled, seeing that the right flank was still too spaced out, the men fighting individually instead of together. “Get that right tighter, damn it! 3rd line, roll right! I want that line held! Hold it!”

    The last row of pikemen broke off from their support of the main combatants and force stepped to aid the troopers on the right. The wavering line firmed up as the attacking cavalry were facing not one, but two or three thrusting pikes and swords each.

    Sudden pair slammed into the Viper’s leg. Looking down, he was horrified to see a hurled spear had punched its way through his leg greave and stuck itself into his thigh. Unable to bear his weight, the leg collapsed underneath him and he sat down abruptly. He caught a glimpse of a snarling Egyptian, still mounted, his empty hand and arm outstretched, missing the spear that was lodged in Vario’s leg.

    “For the Viper! 4th Syracuse and Rome!” Before the horseman could leap off his saddle and finish the job, Minimus broke back through the pike line and stiff-armed his weapon across the Egyptian’s chest. The power of the blow lifted the stunned rider free from his saddle and sent him pin wheeling to the ground. While the battered soldier was still rolling to a stop, Minimus’ friend, Omani, reversed his grip on his free sword and stabbed it through the Egyptian’s lightly armored chest. Blood gouted and Vario’s attacker was no more.

    Minimus ran to Vario’s side, placed his free hand over the wound, and in one quick motion, yanked the spear free. The Centurion’s body lurched uncontrollably from the pain. “Yeeeaaargghhssshhbbbb!” he hollered, grabbing the beefy soldier about the neck with both hands. “Mars’ Steaming Bowels!” he swore. Shaking his head to clear the pain, he pulled himself unsteadily to his feet, leaning on Minimus’ shoulders. Around him, the 4th Syracuse pikemen gave a cheer upon seeing their commander standing again and redoubled their efforts to punish and destroy the Egyptian cavalry.

    “Sir, you ok, sir?” “Sir, do you need a medic, sir?”

    Vario looked into Minimus’ and Omani’s concerned faces and smiled. “No, no, no. I’m fine.” Looking past at his dead assailant he added, “Nice work, boys. Won’t forget this.” Taking Minimus’ pike from his hand, he used it as a crutch, leaning his weight against it. Ignoring the blood running under his armor and down his leg, he twisted his face into a scowl and barked, “I also won’t forget the fact that the two laziest buckets of goat snot that I’ve ever been shackled with were standing around like washer women instead of doing their job. You two turds have serious stupidity issues if you think I’m going to ignore the fact that there are still yellow dressed, horse raping, ungodly Egyptians over there just…BEGGING! TO! BE! KILLED!” His face turned red, the veins on his neck standing out as he bellowed at the two soldiers before him and anyone else from his company in earshot.

    “Sorry, sir!” “Ay, ay, sir!”

    Both pikemen drew their gladii, bowed smilingly at Vario, and turned, hollering their allegiance to Rome as they waded back into the mass of pikes, swords, and horses. Standing tall, wounded and in pain, Vario watched as his troops, the 4th Syracuse Pikers, defended the besieging soldiers of Rome and couldn’t for the life of him think of another place he’d rather be than here.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  14. Mistfit

    Mistfit Deity

    Joined:
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    3,798
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    Northern Michigan
    This is the first thread that I check in the morning and the last that I check in the evening before I log off. Keep up the great work.
     
  15. gazdeluxe11

    gazdeluxe11 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2004
    Messages:
    31
    agreed misfit. gives me a nice break when i need one at work. the only suggestion i would make, is dont be scared to spend a while in each age! already at invention! draw it out a bit.

    but, all in all, great work.

    -john
     
  16. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2003
    Messages:
    1,507
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Sir Gaius leaned his weight forward, planting his iron shod boots firmly in the stirrups. His war steed, Anzarius, responded to his movement by putting on an extra burst of speed. The yellow clad cavalry filled his narrow view, their spears presented and ready. Gaius lowered his own lance to striking position and braced his weapon arm tight against his chest.

    Contact.

    The Egyptian spear shattered against his decorated breastplate, the iron head failing to penetrate. His own weapon buried itself in the horseman’s chest. The power of both charges forced the shaft through the Egyptian’s back as well. Gritting his teeth, he watched as the dying man was torn from his saddle. Gaius dropped the lance before the falling body could tear it from his grasp. Anzarius turned his head slightly, shouldering the lighter Egyptian steed as they raced by each other. It’s rider missing, the charge faltered, and its balance upset, the lighter horse lost its balance, tripping up another rider to its right.

    Wheeling his mount, the Roman knight watched as most of his fellow countrymen emerged from the back of the ruined Egyptian line. 3 of 4 fallen soldiers wore yellow. As his own troopers rallied around him, Gaius drew his sword and held it overhead. The autumn sun shone brilliantly on its blade. The entire 1st Roman Knights drew their swords as well. In one voice, they called out, “1st Roman Knights! For Caesar and for Rome!” Slashing his blade down and holding it before him like some armored avenging angel, Gaius kicked his heels into Anzarius’ flanks and cried out, “Charge!”

    “Rrrraaaaaaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!” The primal yell tore its way across the thundering attackers. Their armor clanking, banners flying, cloaks whipping; like storm clouds and iron winds, the Roman forces smashed into the demoralized cavalry line a second time. Swords flashed. Spears busted. Armor sparked. There a hoof kicked out, bearing an unfortunate soldier to the ground. Shields were raised, turned aside, and dropped from dying hands.

    The Roman offensive slid from a single attack to pockets of battles and then finally to individual knights battling overwhelmed defenders. By the time the call of surrender echoed across the spoiled ground, not one Egyptian in twelve still stood. Defeated, the once proud Ivory Cavalry dropped their spears and swords. Gaius ordered the survivors to be bound and hobbled. A quick count showed he still commanded close to 900 knights, with only 1 in 6 showing wounds.

    The teamsters rounded up whatever steeds were still healthy, putting the sword to those that were not. Wounded Romans were bandaged and litters arranged for them. Gaius ordered the Egyptian walking wounded to be bandaged as well, with the infirm or critically hurt soldiers to be put to death. The sun was low in the western sky by the time the grisly tasks were done and Gaius was able to turn his company back to the encampment outside Byblos.

    His return was met with “Huzzahs!” and “Well mets!” as they rode in with their charges in tow. After making sure Anzarius was fed and groomed, Gaius returned to his tent, tired, sweaty, and dirty. Two men were standing outside, one a little taller than the other who was beefy in the way that muscular fat men tend to look. Both were covered in minor cuts and wore tunics and pants that were stained and wrinkled. On seeing Gaius approach, the taller one said, “Identify yourself.”

    “Sir Gaius Pellias, Captain, 1st Roman Knights.” His brows furrowed. “And this is my tent. What’s going on here?”

    Both men bowed. “Private 1st class Omani, 4th Syracuse Pike men. This is Private 3rd class Minimus, same.” He paused, sharing a glance with his heavy friend. “We serve under Vip…Vario Pellias. There was an attack today. Bunch of cavalry from the Thebes hightailed it overland in an attempt to reinforce Byblos. 4th Syracuse stopped the charge. Centurion Pellias was wounded…”

    He never got further than this. Sir Gaius shoved both pike men out of the way and tore back the flap of his tent. He stopped in shock, expecting to find either the leechers and physicians around his father or worse yet, the Pluto priesthood and a pair of silver coins. Instead, the scent of opium and perfume filled the air. A low light lantern illuminated Vario Pellias, his father, lying on the floor with his clothing missing, and 3 equally undressed ladies cavorting with him.

    WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?!?!” Gaius hollered, spit flying. The naked women gave a squeal of panic, diving over the overturned cot to hide on the other side. Vario gave his son an angry look, not bothering to hide his own…condition.

    “What the…Damn it! Omani! Minimus! Get your sorry, soon to be dead, bodies in here!” As the two soldiers entered, they immediately came to attention, avoiding the direct gaze of their unclothed commander. “I gave you two useless turds an order. What the hell is wrong with you?!”

    “Damn it yourself, dad!” Gaius swore, lowering the tent flap. “Its my tent! I pushed past them! If they’d have stopped me, they’d each be missing a hand! What the hell is going on here? I thought you were wounded? What are they doing in here? TALK TO ME!”

    “Lower your voice you whining puke!” Vario squinted his face in pain, pulling the blanket over his leg aside. The wound was covered in a pale green poultice and bound with strips of grey cloth. “Yeah, I am wounded. Yeah, it hurts. Yeah, to kill the pain, I’m smoking opium. And yeah, I’m treating myself to a little fun after saving the backdoor of this stinking army with the blood of my men and me. So if you don’t like it, Captain, you can shove your head up you ass!” Pointing, he continued, “And another thing, don’t you dare berate or push past these men again. If it wasn’t for them, I’d be pissing in the river Styx right now instead of enjoying my earthly pleasures. Now, I know it sucks to share a tent with me but I’m going to get laid and doing it in front of the 4th Syracuse Pikers in my own cot is not an option! So if you’re not going to join in, then GET OUT! OUT! OUT! GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!”

    Gaius, Omani, and Minimus backed out of the tent, dropping the flap on the yelling Centurion. Looking at the two blushing soldiers, Gaius sighed. “So, you saved him?” Both men nodded. Faintly smiling, he asked, “If I give you each a promotion to corporal, could you promise to never do it again?” He shook his head. Looking around, he saw the wooden baths were not being used. “Sorry, bad joke. Listen tell the Viper…yes I know he’s called the Viper…that I’m going to scrape the crud off my body. I’m going to leave my armor here. If you get the chance, just make sure it winds up inside at some point.”

    “Yes, captain.” “Yes, sir.”

    Already unbuckling his breastplate, Gaius added, “By the way, thanks. Centurion Vario should be honored to have such soldiers as you at his command.” He clapped both surprised men on the shoulder, turned to the baths and tried to ignore the moans and panting coming from inside his tent.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  17. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

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    “I don’t care, Captain. I’m not going to let you kill us all!” Horani drew his dagger and lunged at Thrium’s gut. Sucking in his belly, Captain Thrium danced backwards, spinning away in an effort to dodge the seaman’s wicked slash. Even so, a line of bloody fire traced its way across his ribs.

    “Mutiny! Down with Captain Thrium!” The wild sailor ran at the retreating captain, trying to force the older man away from the rubber and over the transom. The rest of the crew seemed frozen in both shock and indecision. Thrium felt his heels bump against the stern rail. Dropping to a crouch, he watched the glinting knife blade and Horani’s bloodshot eyes, trying to gauge when the mutinous sailor would strike.

    Horani didn’t make him wait. Reversing his grip on the weapon, he brought it overhead and rushed in, driving the dagger down to the Captain’s chest. Thrium’s hands snapped up, catching Horani’s wrist in his grasp. For a moment the two men struggled. Horani’s hands began to shake and the knife blade pulled away from its murderous descent. Fear and determination twisted his face into a grimacing mask. The Captain slowly turned the knife blade away from his direction.

    Thrium’s knee snapped up, catching Horani by surprise. The knife clattered overboard, lost in the low pitching waves. A brief scuffle ended with the mutineer flat on his back and Thrium’s boot pressed against his neck. Stomping down, a crack sounded across the deck and Horani screamed in pain, nursing his broken arm.

    “Kirus, get this crap off my deck. Throw him in the brig.” Turning to the rest of the silent crew, Thrium continued. “Listen up. This ship is under my command. It follows my lead. This was known to all of you before you signed on. I want to go home too. And if that mean daring the deeper waters and sailing out of sight of land, then that’s what I’ll decide to do.” None of the crew said a word; they remained silent during Thrium’s speech as well as during Kirus’ cuffing of the mutinous Horani.

    Watching his deck master lead the whimpering prisoner away, Thrium continued. “It’s very simple, lads. We can’t sail back home; the current would drive us into the icy cliffs around Mountain Bay. We’ve already been warned twice to keep clear of Iroquois land. We’ve seen their own ships and I wouldn’t want to go toe to toe with them, especially with our own hull jerry rigged and patched. A third warning would involve arrows, rams, swords, and then us learning to breath water or a quick trip to their courts and a tomahawk to the brain pan.”

    “I know the seas. I’ve been sailing on them since I was old enough to crawl. I know currents, winds, and waters. Trust me when I say that there IS land to our west, we just can’t see it yet. If we sail due south on the morning tide out of the peninsula the natives here call Niagara Falls, we will find land again long before Neptune even knows we’ve strayed from home.”

    “But Captain,” one of the crew asked, “Wha ‘bout Ulysses? ‘Member when he dared to sail off and he and his crew were ne’er ‘eard from ‘gain!” Murmurs of assent rippled through the sailors and legionnaires.

    “Come on, lads. That was a very long time ago. Long before our grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfathers were even born. And that was with ships that couldn’t hold a candle to the Furious Thundercloud. We easily have 3 times the beam length and some 10 times the sail that even the largest curraghs had back in those days.” He shook his head. “It’s very simple boys, I miss my home. I know some of you have sweethearts and darlings back at Rome’s docks. I’ve heard of boys and girls that waved proudly as their daddy sailed away. I want to get home. Our job is simple; sail around the continent, map the land as we do, and find ports friendly to Rome and Romans abroad.”

    He pointed out at the choppy seas to the southwest. “If we do things my way, I can cut a month off our travels. But, it involves doing it my way. No more mutiny, no more complaining, and no more bull.” Kirus came back topside, nodding to Thrium and shaking a set of keys.

    Acknowledging this, the Captain continued. “I’ll put it this way. If you don’t want to sail under my command, I will personally turn the ship around to the nearest Mayan city, unload you there, replace you with an, I’m sure, braver Mayan crew, and continue our journey, by water, to Rome. You can follow the caravans home. And once there, explain to everyone how you abandoned your captain, your missions, your boat and crewmen, and your country because you were afraid to try something new. Something dangerous, for sure, but most importantly, a direct order from your Captain.” He sneered. “Try getting on a berth from that point on. And if you lie, and we sail home, I’ll personally make it my business to have you clapped in irons and led to Hundred Cross Hill myself.” He stared hard at his men. “Do I make myself clear?”

    “Ay, ay, captain.”

    “What?”

    Louder and together, the crew answered, “AY, AY, CAPTAIN!”

    “Better.” He checked the wind and took a quick bearing on the sun. “Then look alive, boys. I want the sail up full, I want every barrel, bucket, and box lashed to the deck. I want 20 men at all times securing the rigging. I want the runners prepped and a full team ready to row at a given’s notice. Kirus, I’m holding you responsible if everything isn’t ready in the next 5 minutes.” Grabbing the tiller, he swung it out and away, turning the great galley west southwest, and latched the guide chains in place, fixing the Furious Thundercloud’s heading.

    “You heard the cap’n!” bellowed Kirus. “Get your lazy asses in gear! If the cap’n expects it in 5, then I want it in 4!” For the next few minutes, the crew and passengers of the Thundercloud worked furiously hard. Every net was strung across the goods on deck and tied tightly to the railings. Roman sailors scurried up and down the main mast and rigging, fastening the red and white striped sail. Every loose bit of board and rope was stowed away. 68 of the strongest men, sailors and legionnaires alike, manned the benches where the great oars lay.

    During it all, the winds picked up the further the galley sailed from the safety of land. Every experienced hand on board could feel the mighty ship groan as the stronger ocean currents grabbed hold of the hull and sweep the Thundercloud out to sea. Those that could, watched the land shrink away on the horizon, the greens and browns becoming faded and washed out. As the day passed into night, even the lookout was unable to spot the Iroquois shores.

    Tensions were high that night. Most of the crew found sleep would not come. The waves of the oceans ran higher and stronger than anything the sailors had ever felt before. It had been hours since the depth finder had been able to strike bottom, even with extra line and a total run of 50 meters. Thrium remained at the tiller, his feet braced on the pitching deck, his arms locked on the rudder and chains.

    “Cap’n Thrium!” called Kirus as the deck master made his way over to him. “Do you need me to spell ya a bit? Go catch yourself some sleep before you pitch over from exhaustion?”

    “No, Kirus. I’m fine.” He looked down at his deck master’s hands and smiled as he saw Kirus’ wine flask was out and opened.

    “Then how ‘bout something to chase away the demons in your head?”

    “That, I will take.” Grabbing the slick flask, he took a long pull, almost choking as the acrid wine poured down his throat. “Neptune’s beard!” he swore. “What the hell is this? Vinegar?”

    Kirus took the flask back and drank from it himself, smacking his lips in enjoyment. “Well, it wasn’t when the voyage started. Sorry cap’n we’ve drunk all the good stuff.”

    Thrium took the flask back, sniffed cautiously, then shrugged his shoulders and drank again. Swallowing, he screwed his face up and returned the wine. “Thanks, I still don’t know if I needed that, but thanks.” Regrabbing the tiller, he asked, “Morale running low?”

    Kirus grimaced. “Low’s not the word, cap’n. More like frightened. Oh, everyone’s ready to do their part and get us through, but there’s talk amongst the men. They’re saying that this is a fools errand, and we’re just buying time on a suicide galley till Neptune tears out our hull and sinks us for sure.” He looked earnestly at Thrium. “You asked, cap’n, an’ I’m not one to mince words or say things the men said if they didn’t actually say ‘em.”

    “It’s alright, Kirus,” Thrium said, “I kind of expected that myself.” He leaned forward. “Listen, I’m telling you that by day break, we’ll be seeing land ahead of us and calmer waters as well.”

    “I hope so, cap’n. I hope so.” Looking about the tossing ship and beyond the rails to the roiling waves, Kirus added, “We’ll not be long on these waters if you’re mistaken. Hell, we’ll not be long if the weather turns as well! I can’t imagine being out here if Neptune and Zeus were spoilin for a fight and arguin up a storm.”

    Thrium nodded in agreement. In silence, the two men stayed, each one keeping the other awake long enough to pilot the bobbing galley through the night.

    As the eastern sky began to brighten, and the stars paled and fled away until only Venus still shone on the Thundercloud and her frightened crew, Kirus ordered the lookout back into the crow’s nest.

    The sun peeked over the eastern waters, Apollo shining from a place with no land visible as far as the eye can see. Thrium called up, “I don’t care where we’ve been, sailor. Turn your attention west. Do you see land?”

    Most of the crew was up and about, standing on the main deck, waiting to hear if they were doomed to die on the ocean waves or if they were saved by Thrium’s seamanship. The depth finder hurled his weighted line overboard and began counting knots as they slipped through his fingers. “One…Four…Seven…Ten…”

    The lookout squinted, trying to pierce the gloom of the still dim western horizon. “Fifteen…Twenty…Twenty-two…”

    “Well? Do you see land?”

    “Twenty-four…Twenty-six…Twenty-nine…”

    As the sun rose higher over the water, sending more of it’s light to race across the seas and pierce the gloom ahead, the lookout was stunned.

    “Thirty-one…Thirty-three…What the hell?” The depth finder felt the line in his hand slacken and catch momentarily and then pull from his grasp, a sign that the lead weight had struck bottom.

    “Captain Thrium! Land! I see land!” The lookout was pointing wildly. There, emerging from the morning fog and dawn shadows, the telltale green and brown smudge on the horizon promising land.

    “Huzzah! Huzzah for Captain Thrium!” The entire company of the Furious Thundercloud cheered, most of the men hugging each other and openly crying at the news.

    “Captain!” The depth finder cried out. “Basement at 33 meters!”

    Kirus clapped the visibly exhausted and relieved Thrium on his bicep, squeezing him and grinning. “Nice job, cap’n. Nice job.”

    “Thanks, Kirus.” The cheering Roman crew merrily continued their celebration as the Furious Thundercloud sailed closer and closer to the safety and security of land.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2016
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  18. Vanadorn

    Vanadorn Motorcycling Paladin

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Hippocrates ducked low, flinching as dust and rock rained down about him as he crawled through the tunnel. When the roof did not cave in, he grabbed his pick again and returned to his digging. Inch by inch, the Roman tunnel had snaked its way from behind a raised earthworks about 200’ south of Byblos’ walls to, according to the best estimates, just under the main square near the eastern gates.

    Hippocrates hated digging. He hated the grime under his fingernails, the scent of raw mud, the oppressing feeling of stone and earth above him. He hated everything about army life: the food, the company, the orders. But, he had very little choice in the matter; it was 2 weeks in the stocks or conscription in Caesar’s invasion.

    He liked to think of himself as smarter than everyone around him. He prided himself on the fact that his great grandfather was of pure Carthage descent, which made him 1/8 Carthaginian; something he felt was superior to everyone around him. Unfortunately, he had robbed the wrong merchant and the militia of Leptis Magna did not take kindly to thieves. Since they were recruiting actively throughout the kingdom, the fat Baron Zundrius gave him an option. Hippocrates knew that any time in the stockades was a death penalty, so he opted to join.

    Again his pick tore away another piece of Egyptian soil. Julian, Guyor, and Rhemis, the other men assigned to the far end of the tunnel, shored up the passage behind them and collected the fallen dirt, sending it back to the Roman end some 250’ away. He sneered. All three of his companions were of obvious lesser full Roman stock, most likely from someplace like Virconium or Caesaraugusta or someplace like that. He felt sorry for them in some way, knowing that they had no idea how pathetic they were.

    For the last 2 hours, he had been angling the tunnel upwards, trying to bring them to within a foot or two of the surface. From the muffled sounds coming from above, the Roman catapults were once again bombarding the walls and defenders of Byblos.

    The tunnel shook again, raining more debris on the miners. All four of them froze, looking up with a mixture of fear and concern on their face. As the light patter of falling stones began to trickle off, they all blew a communal sigh of relief. At that moment, a loud crack resounded above as a well placed catapult stone slammed into the wall, widening the fissure and collapsing the entire length of the defense. The fall of all that material ran through the ground above the digger’s heads, and restarted the collapse of the tunnel.

    “Run!” Rhemis hissed. The four men turned and began crab-walking as fast as they could through the low corridor, holding their hands up in an effort to stop the now constant rain of earth from burying them.

    With a groan, the tunnel above Rhemis just gave way; crushing the frantic miner instantly and blocking the way back to the exit. Guyor turned in the narrow corridor and tried to get clear of the falling tunnel. A large stone broke free from the ceiling and slapped down on his leg, the snap of broken bones quite loud in the confined space. Julian was knocked unconscious by a succession of flying debris striking him in the temple, leaving only Hippocrates mostly unscathed. After a few seconds longer of falling earth and Guyor’s screams of pain, the tunnel ceased its cave in and Hippocrates was able to take stock of the situation.

    Two of the 3 lamps were smashed, the last one still lit, showing only the dust-filled corridor running some 30 feet in total length. Hippocrates felt something wet on his forehead, reaching up, he realized he had torn his scalp of the ceiling at some point and blood was beginning to run down his face.

    Guyor continued to scream in agony. “Quiet, Guyor. Shut the hell up! The Egyptians’ll hear us if you don’t quiet down.”

    “My leg! Oh sweet, Juno, my leg!”

    “Shut the goddamn hell up!”

    “Ahhh! Argh! Rrrrrrr!”

    Crawling through the rubble, Hippocrates reached across Julian’s unconscious form to grab Guyor’s flailing hand. “Shut up! Shut up! I’ve got you! Shut up!” Bracing himself, he pulled the wounded man over Julian’s body and out of the wreckage that had piled on him. Guyor’s face was stained with tears as he struggled to keep himself from yelling out again.

    Taking a good look at his leg, Hippocrates blanched. The left leg was broken about mid calf, part of the bone sticking out of the skin like some grotesque spear.

    “How bad is it?”

    “Shut up, Guyor! It’s not bad.” Hippocrates reached for the loose shirts that they digging crews sometimes used to haul loose sand in. Finding one that was not that soiled, he took another look at Guyor’s leg. The shin was definitely shorter than the undamaged one, the difference in length accounting for the break. Carefully he crawled over Guyor’s weeping form till he was facing the wounded man’s feet. Feeling about in the dirt and dim light, he grabbed two lengths of support bracing and laid them next to the broken leg.

    “Guyor,” he said, “you’ve got a bad break but it shouldn’t be that hard to fix.” Guyor whimpered in pain and fear. “Stow it! Listen, I’m going to straighten your leg, that’ll put the break back in place.” He swallowed hard, trying to keep the fear and revulsion he felt out of his voice. “Okay now,” he gingerly grabbed the broken end, his palm cupping Guyor’s ankle.

    “One…” Taking a firm hold, he placed his other hand just above the break, leaning slightly into it in an effort to keep the leg from twitching. “Two…” Cautiously, he twisted the ankle so the foot was pointing straight up and the broken spur of bone was no longer tearing the wound. “Three!” With a single, steady movement, Hippocrates pulled Guyor’s leg straight, fascinated as the bone slid back under the skin. A moment later he felt a click as both ends of the break lined up and connected again.

    “Nice, Guyor, nice.” Looking up, he noticed that Guyor had also passed out, his face pale and his breathing shallow. Realizing that the man had collapsed from the pain, Hippocrates quickly cleaned the wound with some weak wine and water and bound the broken leg with both braces and the shirt to keep it steady. By the time he was finished, Guyor was shaking as if freezing. Hippocrates pulled additional clothing from the bag, covering the unconscious man in an effort to keep him warm.

    Once he had done all he could for Guyor, he turned his attention to Julian. He had a rather large bruise on his temple, swollen, angry, and blue. A quick once over revealed no other wounds but did show that Julian still lived. He rolled him onto his back and wrapped his head tightly in the last shirt from the bag. Dousing Julian’s head liberally with more water, Hippocrates took stock of his situation.

    With only a single gourd of water remaining and no food, survival seemed slim. Plus, he had noticed that the lamp was no longer shining as brightly and the air was beginning to taste stale and funny. He shook his head. The way back was blocked. He guessed some 20 feet of tunnel was choked with debris and earth. He listened, not only did he not hear digging on the other side of the cave in, he also didn’t hear the impacting blows from the catapults.

    For a time, he sat there, unsure of what to do. Then, grabbing his pick, he climbed back to the end of the tunnel and stared up at the earth above him. It was packed brown and clay like, offering no real clue as to how close he was to the surface. “It’s die down here or captured by the Egyptians,” he mulled. He shook his head and thought that as usual, he would have to be the champion again.

    The pick reached out, lodged in the clay, and then tore out a chunk. He swung again, and more of the ceiling fell away. As usual, someone of his blood, of Carthaginian blood, had to help out the weaker pure blood Romans. The pick continued its chopping, tearing away the roof and filling the ground around his feet. After a time he was able to ride up fully on his knees, and later still was able to extend his arms while swinging. The air was very strange, leaving a rusty taste on his throat and tongue. Every breath was labored now as he weakly swung the heavy pick above him.

    He rested more often and for longer times. Once, he realized that he fell asleep after a rather clumsy swing and woke up only when the pick landed at his feet. The light was low and glowing a flickering dull rusty color. Shaking his head to clear the cobwebs away, he reversed the pick, placed the butt end of the handle on the now loose dirt over his head, and shoved as hard as he could.

    With a noisy whoosh, the pick burst free of the ground, letting in sunlight and fresh air to the trapped trio below. Hippocrates felt strength returning to his limbs and squinted in the bright light filtering through the hole. Behind him, the oil lamp was glowing brighter as surface air filled the tunnel.

    As he chopped the hole wider and wider, he almost jumped in surprise as a Roman face peered down in shock at him. “General Iuldias! They’re here, they’re alive!” Hands pulled more earth away and Hippocrates was bodily yanked from what he had begun to think of as his tomb.

    “My…*cough* *cough*” he choked, trying to spit the dust from his throat. “My friends are still down there. Julian has a head wound and Guyor has a broken leg. Rhemis didn’t make it.”

    General Iuldias came up to him, clapping Hippocrates sharply on the back. “Glad you’re alive, son. Damn wall caved in over your tunnel, made a hole large enough for Zeus to stride through. Wasn’t much of a defense anymore to stop us. Byblos is ours. We’ve been trying to find you for the last hour.”

    The leecher came up to Hippocrates, checking the tired man out. He also looked over Julian and Guyor, taking note of their wounds and their dressings. After he was finished, he whispered for some time to General Iuldias. Hippocrates didn’t care, all he wished for was to go to sleep and never enter a tunnel again.

    Just as his eyes closed, Iuldias came back to him. “Son, Potimus tells me that you set that boys leg and dressed both their wounds. That true?”

    “Yes.” He said, exhaustion almost making him forget to add, “General.”

    Iuldias stared at him and said, “Son, I know you’re here because the stockade was waiting for you. But I think that sending you on another tunnel detail is a waste of good talent.” He placed his hands on Hippocrates shoulders, forcing the tired man to look into his eyes. “I’m assigning you to Potimus. You’ll be working with the leechers, medics, and herbalists from now on.”

    Hippocrates smiled slightly. “No more tunnels?”

    “No, son. No more tunnels.”

    Smiling broader, Hippocrates was unable to remain conscious any longer and fell asleep, happy that the goddess Fortune had granted his wish after all.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2016
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  19. barbslinger

    barbslinger Gun blast'n shot drinker

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    Beautiful read. I don't think I have never cheered more for a suicide galley. Even in my own games there is not that much emotion. I'm still concerned because I feel they are still one step away. I pray not, but Thirium may not be home free as yet. I hope he is a hero and son makes it to captain of all naval forces.

    Your story is incredible and I'm transcribing to a word document for my reader friends to check out. They can't believe the game I play, thinking it is 'just a game', but this may turn the tide.

    Thak you for this story that involves each little nuance of the game and creates a story for all of us enjoying this to behold.
     
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  20. Smellincoffee

    Smellincoffee Trekkie At Large

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    Indeed, fascinating. :)
     

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