Discussion in 'Civ3 - Stories & Tales' started by Vanadorn, May 21, 2004.
I though I'd add a bit of eye-candy to look at until we start getting screenies
Wow! Thanks alot guys for the complements and kind words.
It's 4th of July weekend, so it's me and my daughter this weekend. I don't know how much I'll be able to add, but trust me, it's still got a ways to go and gets better along the ride!
Edit: THANKS MISFIT! Very cool looking!
Very good update... I don't quite understand it, though - did you discover a new continent, or are you still mapping the old one? Also, did you encounter everybody yet?
Playing Pangaea map - so it's the same continent. South of Maya on the western edge of the continent are the Iroquois. While sailing through them, they told me to get out twice. Didn't want another war to fight since they were roughly average to me in military and I was already in a fight with Egypt. Was contemplating what to do when I noticed that west of where sailing, the water squares went coast, sea, ocean, sea and was just visable in the fog of war. So since I could always make another galley and sail it around the southern edge of the continent, I decided to suicide galley this one and avoid pissing off Hiawatha even more.
I still haven't seen the Arabs or the Incas. Yet. Wait 2 more postings and one of them show up. A short while later, the other one makes contact.
Thanks again for reading!
“Caesar, I’m not sure I can help you in this.”
The Roman King ran his hands through his thinning hair. Looking up over the fireplace, he looked carefully at the picture he had recently commissioned of his wife and their 3 children. Their caring faces, the dress, the looks. He realized that he remembered them more as this picture showed then the foggy recollection of time spent with them.
“Constantine, I need help. The kingdom is fragmenting. My dukes are powerless and my vassals are robbing me blind.” Rummaging around his great desk, he picked up a scrap of parchment and shook it. “Here’s a request for funds to establish the Neapolis aqueduct.” He grabbed another page. “Here, here’s a receipt of tax from the Hispalis marketplaces, again running 6 of 10 lira’s from expected.” Another page. “Establishment of the Virconium 2nd Knights. Trade disputed between Sabratha and Veii. Populous uprising in Leptis Magna. Ioral’s treatsy on something called Pythagorean Engineering and the need for money to further research and establishment.” He let the pages fall from his slack hands and flutter to the pile of other papers littering his office.
Caesar’s senator and friend remained mute, watching as the tired emperor lowered himself to his throne. Caesar ran his fingers over the ancient wood, feeling the whorls and nicks in the arm rests, wondering if his father, grandfather, and back to the first emperor Romulus wood often sit here as troubled as he and mull as he was now. “The empire is larger than was ever dreamed possible. We have cities and peoples spread so far and distant, that most of them have never seen the glory of Rome itself! It would take me 2 years at least to tour every location that flies a Roman banner. And as we grow larger, our revenues shrink, our infrastructure fragments, our people grow discontent, and our neighbors grow leery.”
“Lord Caesar…Marcus…Please, I’m not sure that your plan will have the effect you require. A second palace? What would the purpose serve? Please don’t suggest that you are contemplating the division of Rome as a kingdom?”
Caesar shook his head. “Nay, good senator. Rome is and always will be eternal. What I am seeking as a second seat of government. Someplace with a select level of powers and abilities to enforce them.”
“So, a keep and a Duke or Viceroy appointed to enforce it?”
“No. Not another duke! Most of them are thinking themselves to be kings in their own rights.” He turned to the map and drew his finger along the heart of the Roman Empire. “Nay, I am seeking a second palace and trusted castellan to run it for me…for Rome…to control and curb the rampant corruption that has gripped the kingdom.” He wrung his hands together, trying to continue his thoughts. “Think…think of it as an administrative branch of the kingdom. Not an alternate one.”
Constantine looked across the map as well, settling his finger on Rome. “The lands north and east of our fair city have shown themselves to be of the poorest farmland. Being of mostly scrub trees and low rocky hills, the palace can be constructed there…”
Caesar waved his hand. “No, no. I will not have it here in Rome. There would be no purpose for it. It would serve only as an extension of this one.”
“So shall you build it far from here instead?”
“Nay, Zeus forbid. It would take forever to complete if not under the supervision of Rome, the senate, or myself. Plus, I’m sure that whatever baron, count or earl was lucky enough to be entrusted to its construction would divert most of the aid, supplies, and monies to his own local projects.” Caesar tripped his finger up from Rome, settling it on the next northern most city. “Antium. There it shall be built. The hills surrounding will provide most of the raw stone required, the populous has been most agreeable and understanding to Rome’s needs for centuries. Plus, if I am not mistaken, your family estate is in Antium as well.”
Constantine nodded. “Lord Caesar has a good memory.” He paused. “And my presence at this ‘construction’ is the favor you wanted of me?”
“Not exactly, senator.” Caesar gave the senator a frank look, holding his gaze with his own. “I was wondering if you would run this palace for me. I would like you to be castellan.”
“Oh, Caesar! Marcus, Marcus, no. Absolutely not. Marcus, no.”
“Why not? Name me one other senator as trusted and honest as yourself. Name one other man as well loved by the plebeians as you. Name me any noble, high or low, who I can trust to not abuse this position.”
“That doesn’t mean that I’m the best for the job.”
“The fact that you are not wanting it makes you the best man for this.” Caesar walked back to his desk and sank in his chair once more. “Constantine, I want you to help me run the Kingdom.” He stared at the senator. “What say you?”
Constantine shrugged his shoulders, sighing loudly through his teeth. “Lord Caesar, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll get your palace built. I’ll man it with whatever staff is necessary to perform the task you’ve laid before me. I’ll help you manage the accounts, commerce, and corruption of the Kingdom. And finally, when everything is in order, and only then, will I step down as castellan.”
Caesar laughed. “Senator, what makes you think that your hand or presence will eventually not be needed?”
He sniffed. “Because, one the plebian and the nobility learn that there are checks and guides in place, they will have to abide by them.”
“Still trusting of the common man not to look out for themselves?”
“It could happen, Lord Caesar. You’ve been dealing with the conniving of the noble circle for so long, you’ve forgotten that the people can be another way.”
“And you’ve been championing the downtrodden and poor for so long, that you’ve forgotten that the poor have nothing to begin with so any aid, regardless how small, is seen with gratitude and wonder.” He shook his head. “No, it is in people’s nature to take more for themselves if they are able to.”
“Not all men are like that, Lord Caesar.”
He stared down at his desk of papers, reports, requests, and complaints, pursed his lips and blew, rattling the top layer. “Unfortunately, Senator Constantine, enough of them are.”
“Don’ know what we’re supposed to do with it, Cap’n.” Kirus pushed the oddly wrapped bundle set before him with his finger and almost jumped as it unrolled, sending forth a small plume of pungent steam. “Ugh!” he recoiled. The steaming, gelatinous insides of the now recognizable giant beetle stared up at the deck master as he struggled to climb out from under the table at which he sat.
Thrium grabbed Kirus’ arm, stopping the started man and drawing his attention. “Kirus,” he muttered out of the side of his smiling mouth, “don’t make a scene and don’t insult our hosts.” Still smiling he nodded at the square jawed, proud men sitting before them.
The Furious Thundercloud had been following the new lines of the landmass in an northwesterly direction. Signs of irrigation and well maintained lands were visible between the swaths of jungles the Roman galley had sailed past. After a week of slow sailing in cold waters with little wind, Thrium had ordered the great vessel closer to shore. The natives of this land, similar in appearance and dress as the Iroquois north and the Mayans even further north, gave proof of some common ancestry. However, their homes, language and entire civilization proved itself to be radically different from their cousins.
From the nearby shores, small boats of bundled reeds had chased the ponderously moving galley down. The people were eager and excited to meet the Romans. Their knowledge of the local waters were excellent, providing the distant sailors not only a place to berth their ship, but also where to drop nets and replenish their stores.
Their language was oddly sounding yet musical as well, their words often trilling rapidly as they spoke. For 3 days, they ferried foods and waters to the Romans and attempted to teach the travelers their language. Although some of the men proved themselves to be quick learners, the Incans (as they referred themselves as) as a whole, picked up Latin much faster.
From what was discovered in conversations, the Incan people seemed somewhat backwards for all their brilliance and capacity to learn. They seemed primitive in some respects, unable to grasp some of the Roman concepts about city life back home, but anxious and eager to puzzle it out. All in all, the crew of the Furious Thundercloud felt happy and a bit superior in their teachings and talks with their newfound friends.
On the fourth day, Thrium and 9 of his men were invited to sit and eat with the local Sapa-rin and counsel in the Incan town of Vitcos. The Incans proved to have nice, yet simple villages. The people had rather chiseled features, wore a variety of colored clothes and feathers, and seemed genuinely pleased to meet the Roman’s Most of the buildings were constructed of lashed wooden frames and a mud that the natives referred to as adobe. The roads were wide and airy, yet teeming with traffic and livestock.
Sitting with the local ruler or governor, Sapa-rin-Inca Quataraz, and his own 9 council members, Thrium and his crew were sharing not only a local meal with the Incans, but conversation as well.
“Does, Roman-in Kirus, like not his ungutarima?” the Sapa-rin asked
“No offense, your Sapa-rin,” Kirus apologized, sitting himself back inform of his steamed insect. “It’s just that I’ve never even seen an ongart…ungurt…a cooked bug before. Just caught me by surprise.”
“Ah. Things seeing of new is a good thing. All Incans seek to knowing be of new things. Should be a good thing, not surprising or scary.” He tapped his own pill bug, unrolling it before him. Then, taking a hollow tube from the center of the table, he stuck it into the hot insides of the insect and sucked them in noisily. Snacking his lips he leaned back, smiling. “New things be can delicious if Roman-in tries.”
The rest of the Incans began eating their own portions greedily, while Thrium and his crew were much slower and guarded about the experience.
“Roman-aran Thrium,” Quataraz asked after pausing in his meal. “You have traveled 13 moons out? On your duganatar, on at water?”
“Duganatar?…oh! Our galley! Yes, we’ve been circling the land, finding places and people far from our home. Making contacts. Trading.”
The Sapa-rin seemed to struggle, trying to work his next sentence in a way that the Romans can understand. “In travels…Trading with…We have not much trading…Our neighbors trade much with Incans and we with them, but we have small to offer Caliph Abu. Little that Incans learn or make is valued with them.”
Thrium held his hand up. “Excuse me, Sapa-rin. Caliph Abu?”
“The Sapa of the bearded men is of calling himself Caliph Abu.”
Kirus leaned in, whispering, “Caliph? Never heard of it, cap’n. Does sound vaguely Egyptian to me. Though most Egyptians like to shave themselves though?”
Thrium responded, also keeping his voice low, “Does sound Egyptian, but only the priests, nobles, and warriors actually shave themselves clean. Caliph Abu is most likely a local Egyptian count or something.” Raising his voice again, he continued, “Well, Sapa-rin, I can establish some trades with you if you so desire. You will find that Rome is a better trading partner than your neighbors are.”
“I am thanking you Roman-aran.” He clapped his hands and a young Incan entered the hut. He had a handful of large palm leaves and a bag of feathers. Sitting quickly, the youth withdrew a feather, tapped it into a mixture of crushed berries, and positioned his now obvious quill over one of the leaves. “This is Empanador. He is a felanoshi…a drawer of words to be saved…”
“A scribe, Sapa-rin.” Thrium offered.
“Ssss…Kry…Ehb. Scribe. He will scribing our words to place all in the Scribe Hall Great in Cuzco, where Sapa-Inca governs.”
Thrium looked strangely at the rapidly writing youth. “This Empanador is going to write…to scribe down everything we say? Then it’s going to some scribe hall…Library? Library in your capital?”
Quataraz beamed. “Yes. All speakings of all Sapa-rin, Sapa-aran, and Sapa-byan is scribe down and brought to Cuzco. Once there, great thinkers and readers read words and make much understanding of things that is said. This helped and has helped and will helped Incans and Sapa-Inca to be more good. More good at harvest. More good at hunt. More good at build homes and towns. More good at rule. From the Incan Library Great, thoughts and learnings are taught to all Incans.”
The Captain shrugged. “I guess it’s ok. Just strange for us to have someone copying down everything I say.”
The Sapa-rin smiled. “As was said earlier. Strange is good when no longer new.” He reached for a second ungutarima, tapped it open, and asked, “Roman-aran, what is it you meant earlier about your Sapa-Roman being called King? And what does you mean when you called our ball field an…Ahr…Ree…Nah?”
Captain Thrium shrugged, thinking, What could be the harm in just telling them about this stuff? It’s not like they can do anything with that knowledge. Drawing a brief breath and happily pushing his still untouched beetle away, he began telling the gathered Incans about life in Rome and the wonders that he and his crew would be going home to soon.
All this is based off of your game, correct? Imagine the sailor's suprise when they meet the Arabs... it's a great story. Keep it up, Vanadorn.
Biggamer132 - Yes, I normally don't play Pangaea maps, but I was having such fun with this one, I kept going. BTW - the Arabs...not nice people. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Prospero rode slowly through the battlefield. Only the dull clumping of his tired horse’s steps and raucous calls of the sated crows sounded in the cold fall morning. The land was covered in the remains of the great Zulu defense. Burned and scorched timbers hinted where tents and defense works once stood. The jackals and wild dogs had grown fat and brave over their weeks and months since the battle, growling lightly in the Roman’s direction before returning to their scavenging of the fallen warriors.
What survivors once lived had moved on, either conscripted as slaves for the Undying Queen and shipped north, or fleeing the Egyptian invaders to find solace in Zimbabwe. Sadly, the fallen forces outside the fallen city of Bapedi could not partake of either choice, their mortal remains scattered across the once fertile Zulu countryside.
Prospero had not been here to see the battle, so his trained eyes had to fill in the story for him. He had performed his charge, warning both Intombe and Bapedi of the invading Egyptians. He then rode fast and hard to Rome and Caesar, telling the King of the attacks and the Zulu’s plight. He was then sent to circle the western trade roads, mustering every farmhand, wheelwright, cooper and smith between the ages of 14 and 30 to report to the closest lord or noble to be outfitted for war. Only once he had finished his task was he able to barter a fresh steed and race back to the Zulu lands to learn what he could of the battles that had taken place in his absence.
The dead of the Zulus had been left to the open air while massive cairns and shallow graves showed that the Egyptians had buried their own fallen. From what he could gather, some four to five thousand Zulu laid scattered across the plains, with most likely half to two thirds that number of Egyptians warriors were buried here. Upset carts, busted wagons, spoiled supplies, it seemed that even with fresh troops and support coming from Isandahlwana and Zimbabwe, the Zulu forces could not hold the lines.
Fallen spears were plentiful, their fetishes long since fallen off or carried away by crows to line their nests. Arrows covered the ground, most of the designs showing Zulu crafting and fletching. Prospero noted little in the way of iron weaponry, most likely the bodies scavenged for whatever goods were useable and sent back to Cleopatra’s smiths to be melted down and recast. He looked north, watching the rise of the hills and mountains the Zulus had called Zakuru’s Teeth. With the loss of both of Shaka’s northern strongholds, little iron would make its way to Zulu smiths. Without iron, the dark men would be forced to rely on mounted troops in leather vests and Impi warriors drunk on battle fever.
Prospero knew that Rome’s delay in committing itself to the attack on Egypt had cost the Zulu much. His horse stumbled over some detritus then found its footing again. He imagined the great Egyptian invasion sweeping down the valley, delirious with their recent victory and subjugation of Intombe. Their yellow flags waving, horses snorting, clad infantry and swordsmen yelling their battle cries; running as fast as they could to rain more misery on the Zulu nation. He imagined the excited defenders lines up across the roadway, their spears shaking, voices crying out to their spirits and ancestors.
He sighed, knowing in his heart that no Zulu would calmly stand, elbow to elbow with other warriors. He could imagine the defenders breaking ranks, countercharging the Egyptian advance. He could picture them screaming their battle cries, each one striving to achieve whatever personal glory they could. Loosely strung out, they would have collapsed under the Ivory Cavalry charge. Once broken into smaller groups, the slower moving yet better-armed ground forces would have finished the job. It probably didn’t take a day, the battle might have stretched on for 3 or 7 or 10 days, but the end result was to be inevitable, the proof of it laid out before him in fallen soldiers and eating dogs.
Prospero had ridden carefully around Bapedi, seeing the black and white flag of the Zulu’s no longer flew over the cities gates. Small patrols of nervous Egyptians, young, fresh shaven boys wearing loose fitting armor and carrying bows and spears, rode their dappled mares around the fields and forests outside the captured city, patrolling the lands for rebels and resistance. He was surprised to find no more troops wandering the farms, but assumed that whatever fighting units were left were either holed up behind the walls or had already marched on to whatever target Cleopatra wanted to strike next.
He was easily able to avoid notice in the enemy land and had arrived at this spot to see what had become of the great Zulu army. For some time, he rode the battlefield, picking out spots where the Zulu line had held and where it had crumbled fast, until the setting sun sank below the horizon and the details were lost to dusk’s embrace.
Giving the field a final look, Prospero turned his horse southeast and began the long and dangerous ride home.
Marakuru watched the red clad Roman ride away. He still clutched his spear tightly, the fetishes for the wind spirit and the earth spirit rattling loudly as if anxious to fly far and drink deep in the mounted man’s chest. Marakuru murmured a benediction to the angry little gods, letting them know that this was not a defiler of the dead, nor an enemy to be smote.
He had been shadowing the Roman rider for a day and a night, curious as to why the Roman was going to the great summer battle sight. At first he thought the Roman was going for trophies or spoils and he almost cast his spear then. But, he realized in time that the pale skinned rider was looking about, paying his respects to the dead in his own way. Marakuru felt that the Roman was like he, standing the presence of thousands of brave Zulus, allowing their spirits to bolster his courage and grant him strength.
It must have worked. After most of the day, the Roman sat straighter in the saddle and turned off in the direction of the rising moon, his face stern and his speed quicker. Marakuru offered a quick prayer to the night spirits to keep an eye on the Roman and if possible, to keep him safe.
Alone again, the young Zulu went back to patrolling the battlefield, keeping an eye out for any movement or stirring in the mass of fallen warriors. He had been praying to the Red Spirit of War for 40 suns and 39 nights. He had offered the spirit blood, flesh, and bone. He had waited for a sign that the Zulu war god had heard his prayer and would rise up the great host of fallen Impi and march the dead on Bapedi, the city of his birth, and chase the yellow demon Egypticans from it. The Roman, clad in red, was an excellent omen, a sure sign that the Red Spirit had heard Marakuru and was going to help his people.
He slunk lower in the grasses and watched the bodies, waiting for the voudoun to work its magic and raise the dead once more. He sat and waited, praying to the gods and spirits to make it happen. When his eyes grew heavy and he fell asleep, he did not see the savannah lions crawl out of the trees, sidle up to the bodies, and begin to feed. Instead, he dreamed he was charging the walls of Bapedi astride the shoulders of the Red Spirit, the Egypticans fleeing before them, and the people calling his name, “Marakuru! Marakuru! Marakuru!”
He dreamed of Zulu free.
“General Iuldias, Centurions, Captains, thanks for coming.”
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with us, Marc Antony. We know your time is limited and your information important.”
In the restored great room of a former lord’s manor house on the outskirts of Byblos, the leaders of every company and brigade had gathered to hear the reports of Rome’s agent about Cleopatra’s army and strength. The snows were already falling further south, promising winter and a cessation of hostilities against Egypt until the spring thaw. With the great Roman host gathered, the customary resistances in occupied cities was crushed quickly and brutally, offering the Roman army an opportunity to regroup and refit themselves before midwinter.
“Thank you, General Iuldias.” Marc unrolled a map of the local area, plainly showing the Serenic Ocean, the Narrow Seas, the conquered cities of Abydos and Byblos and the surrounding Egyptian, Zulu, and Roman countryside. Groans echoed from around the tables as they noted that the two northern most Zulu cities were marked as Egyptian holdings. “Yes, Romans. As you can see, the Zulu city of Bapedi has fallen as well. It was a great achievement for the Egyptians to accomplish this feat. The Zulu were well protected, forewarned, and had superior numbers.”
He walked to his bag and dug out a small bundle. Unrolling it, he tossed it onto the table, revealing the front part of an arrowhead. “This was taken from the battle grounds outside Bapedi. It is an Egyptian arrowhead. Note the thickness of the shaft; see the width of the head, as well as the heaviness of it. And yes, it is iron, although of low quality. According to the Zulu who brought this to me, the shaft’s original length was some 1 meter plus long.”
“What?” Lord Vegetius, commander of the Utica 3rd Pikers and an avid hunter in his own right snatched the arrow, examining it with his rheumy eyes. “Ain’t no way to shoot the damn thing! Longer arrow just falls faster. Got no more punching power, less in fact.”
“Lord Vegetius is correct,” Marc continued. “And wrong at the same time. It seems that Cleopatra has found a way to make longer, more powerful bows. Supposedly bows almost 2 meters long.”
There were murmurs around the table as the Roman commanders digested this. At a lull point, Lord Vegetius said, “A bow that long would be either too elastic and not fire, or too stiff and break.”
“I have not seen these bows, Lord Vegetius; only the arrow that it fired and the knowledge that the Egyptians can build such a bow and use it.” He turned his attention to the rest of the still muttering Romans. “Gentlemen, please. Your attention.” The noise subsided. “Thank you. This is indeed disturbing news. It tells us that still the Egyptians have superior scientists and alchemists than Rome does. It also tells us that we will have to be on our guard even more when the snows melt. An attack must come from Rome onto Egyptian soil, before the Undying Queen has an opportunity to gather more soldiers and weapons to use against us.”
“As you may or may not know,” he strode slowly about the table, hands clasped behind his back, chest out, chin high. “Egypt has signed a peace treaty with the Mayans. It was a costly battle for both of them, with neither side the obvious victor. This has allowed the Egyptians to concentrate more on Rome and Zulu. She has decided that Zulu was the weaker of us, and carved off a piece of their land. This now removes all raw iron from Zulu’s available resources and gives us a larger border with our aggressive neighbors.”
He walked to the map, tapping Abydos. “Here, we were fast, quick, and decisive. Abydos sticks out far into our territory, so reinforcements could only come from the sea.” He walked his fingers to Byblos. “Here, we blockaded the city from any aid and besieged it until the walls fell. Again, Roman determination and drive won the day. Byblos sits on the opposite side of the Narrow Sea; this gives us a finger, or beachhead, into Egyptian lands. Normally, I’d say we can strike out from here with minimal concern, but the fall of Bapedi is going to alter our spring campaign somewhat.”
“Cleopatra’s forces have been able to construct massive bridges to span the Mgombo River and its two tributaries. According to Caesar, Ioral should have plans for similar bridges sent up to us soon, perhaps only a few weeks or months. Do we bring our forces back during the winter, around the narrow seas, down the Syracuse highway, into Utica, and attack and liberate Bapedi?”
The commanders began talking amongst themselves again, some of them tapping the mapping forcefully, others waving their arms about, mimicking troop movements. “Gentlemen, please!” General Iuldias was holding his hands up, rising as he did so. “Please! This is not that difficult, nor needed for such drama and theatrics.” Once the table was silent again, he said, “The logistics involved with moving 50,000 plus men women and all involved with them on roads that will be covered in snow some 30 or so leagues is not an option. We stay here and strike out from this point.”
“I concur, General,” Marc agreed. “From this point, we have three choices to attack: Thebes, Giza, or a long trek to free Bapedi.”
Marc strode to the northern end of the map and laid his hand on Thebes. “Thebes. I have stridden the streets of this city and let me tell you it is tremendous. The plains to the south are home to the mighty elephants. The trumpeting can be heard for miles around. Most of the great beasts have been contained and tamed over the centuries. 300 square miles of land has been set aside as a preserve for these great creatures, ensuring and guarding most of their original and natural habitat.”
“The Ivory Cavalry is trained here, under the tutelage of the Order of Ra. Young boys, the most wild and strong are culled from the populous every 5 years, brought to the priests, and then set out in highly organized orders of militaristic horsemen.”
“No competition to the Knights of Rome!” Sir Gaius called out.
“Here, here!” “Huzzah!” were the answering cries.
“True,” agreed Marc. “Our own knights are superior to Cleopatra’s. Our armor is thicker, our horses stronger, and our men braver!”
“Huzzah!” “Pax Romana!”
When the cheers died again, Marc continued. “Thebes also has an large active harbor. There are ships there that can give our own galleys a fight on the water. So an invasion by sea is not an option. Her walls are broad and thick. Plus, she does have at least 3 companies of heavily armored pike men in her defense at anytime. This does not include whatever cavalry or whatever new archers she has that are massing there now.” He traced a line south from Thebes, following the road to Byblos. “This will be the gauntlet. This single highway running north will be crawling with bandits, sappers, traps, and troops; anything that Cleopatra can throw in our way to slow our advance and weaken us before we can hammer Thebes. With our contingent of forces, I feel that we can take the city, but the cost will be heavy.”
General Iuldias mused over the map and Marc’s opinion. “I agree, Marc. With Scipio’s Legionnaires, the 1st and 2nd Rome Knights and the 1st Veii Knights, we have a good attacking power. The rest of our army is mostly pikers, smaller companies of legionnaires, and the odd heavy infantry. Until Caesar can commit more knights companies and heavy infantry to our forces, I am loath to send good Roman boys to a needless death. Thebes will have to wait.”
“Begging the General’s opinion,” Etrusicus, Centurion of the 3rd Lugdunum Pikers stood slowly, “If we’re not to be riding on to Thebes, might I suggest we make it difficult for Egypt to ride against us? Allow my boys the chance to tear up the road system between here and there. A thousand men with twice that number of laborers should be able to reduce the poorly made roadway the yellow bastards use to nothing more than rubble choked deer paths before the snows touch the grounds here.”
“Eh? General Iuldias,” Vario Pellias, Centurion of the 4th Syracuse Pikers, gave Etrusicus a dirty look, “Etrusicus has a great idea. I can have the 4th Syracuse up and out there before the sun moves another hand in the sky. No need to send the 3rd Lugdunum since they’re still sporting some wounded from siege of this here Byblos.”
Etrusicus started pointedly at Vario’s still wounded leg. “Your own leg shows you to be hobbled, Vario. My boys can get the job done and I won’t be riding in a litter.”
“I walked here under my own power, Rusty Ass,” Vario’s dislike for the Lugdunumer was becoming more apparent as he dropped Etrusicus’ slang name from the troopers in front of the commanders, “and I don’t think there’s anything a Syracusian isn’t capable of.”
“Listen, you sorry viperous excuse for a has been…”
“Centurions, enough!” Iuldias shout broke off Etrusicus’ tirade before he could finish it. “If you both want the job that bad, then fine. I want both your companies ready to go in less than half an hourglass. I’m calling you on your claim, Vario. Get both your companies back to that damn Theban highway and reduce it to rubble. Dismissed!”
Both Centurions leapt to their feet, bowed deeply to Iuldias and the gathered commanders, and left to rally their men, glaring at each other as they parted.
Marc shook his head. “Lugdunum and Syracuse. Rivals and bickering over everything.” Laughter. “Anyway, back to business. No, Thebes is not an option. Now Giza,” he strode his hand westward to the Egyptian capital. “Now that is a prize. The jewel of Cleopatra’s crown. The seat of her government. Taking Giza would go a long way to collapsing her empire. We have similar problems as we would in attacking Thebes: strong defenders, large city, and strong walls. Plus,” he held up three fingers. Touching one, “At least twice the number of pikers guarding it.” A second finger, “To attack it would involve us crossing the Mgombo river…without the aid of bridges, slowing us down and removing the advantage of our cavalry. Finally,” the last finger, “It’s in some fairly hilly and mountainous countryside. That will give the defenders some additional advantage and also make our catapults forced to attack from the roadways. Not enjoyable options.”
“No, I think we should push on to Bapedi and free it. But not by traveling back through our own lands. I suggest we follow the Byblosian-Giza roadway as far as we could, and then launch an attack on Bapedi from within Egypt’s own borders.”
The commanders grew excited, once again the conversation buzzed through the table. “It is a bold plan,” Iuldias said, “but our supply lines will be thin, if at all.” He tapped the space between Bapedi and Byblos. “There is a lot of land here and a long way to good Roman holdings. If we get caught out too far from our own borders, or if Cleopatra decides to invade us, we will be hard pressed to stop her. And I am not going to split up our forces, we don’t have the men and doing so will blunt our effectiveness.”
He tapped the lands between the cities again, settling his finger on the northern bank of the Narrow Sea. “What is this notation mean, Marc?” Under his fingernail, a strange mark, looking like a pale pile of powder along with some other symbol, was visible.
Marc Antony leaned forward, scowling at the map. “I…I’m not sure, General.”
“Don’t know.” “Never seen it.” “Are you sure it’s a mark and not an accident?”
Doniath, Centurion and Captain of the Royal Roman Catapulters, rubbed his chin and said, “Pardon me if I’m speaking out of turn here, General.”
“No, go on Centurion.”
“I believe that’s the Iroquois marking for spice trees and plants.”
Iuldias stared at the catapulter. “Are you saying, that there is some untapped resource of raw spices just within our reach?”
“My family has been buying Iroquois spices whenever they appear at market. And I’m telling you, that’s the mark.”
“Doniath Palmyrus, if you are right, I want that area immediately secured and fortified. I commission you to search the area out and identify if it is indeed spices. Zeus’ Boils! An opportunity to get out from under the yoke of foreign trade! Palmyrus, draft up a letter to send to Lord Caesar detailing your find, whether good or bad.” He turned to Marc. “This is a solution to our problem. We can use this area as a forward base of Roman occupation, a further link in the supply chain as we march on liberating Bapedi.”
“General,” Marc said, “there is no road leading to this place, we will still have to march overland.”
“Damn it! I want every grumbling, whining, rebellious Egyptian that we’ve been forced to enslave brought up here, a shovel placed in each one of their hands, and get them to build our road for us.” Addressing the massed commanders, he continued, “Gentlemen, its been decided. We are going to move our forces to Palmyrus’ encampment. We’re going to refit and regroup, hold off any sneak attacks by Cleopatra’s yellow jackals, and then immediately after the spring thaws, we liberate our Zulu friends in Bapedi from under the Egyptian thumb!”
The Roman command left the table, talking wildly amongst themselves and moving off to give their troops the newest orders and battle plans. Marc bowed low to General Iuldias and clapped the Roman commander on the shoulder. “I’m off, General. I plan on sneaking back across the border tonight.”
“I don’t envy you, Marc. If you’re caught, the damn Egyptians will most likely torture you for weeks, cut off your tongue, gouge out your eyes, remove your organs, and mummify you.” He shuddered. “Not a way to go.”
Marc shrugged. “Can’t explain it, General. I’m not saying I want to be an Egyptian, just that I find them and their people so…so…so refined.” He sighed. “I haven’t felt so needed or alive as when I’m walking their cities, daring them to find me. And their queen…She’s beyond beautiful.”
Iuldias smiled. “A snake is beautiful too…to a robin.” He shook Marc’s hand. “Go then. Gather our intelligence and look upon the face of a woman who you would die for, but can never touch, taste, or love.”
“Maybe not, but I can still dream.” Marc released General Iuldias’ hand and left the Roman encampment to return to the gilded streets and homes of Egypt.
Whew! Hope that makes up for not posting for a few days. Hope everyone enjoyed the 4th as much as my daughter and I. This should keep everyone for a few days until I get the opportunity to write some more.
It was going to be very costly to seige either her capital or Thebes. With only a single army of Legionnaires and 3 knights at this time, no real guarantee of a win (regular legionnaires, attack 3, against fortified size 7+ pikemen - not a good idea). Money is tight, and most of the core cities are guarded lightly by spearmen - all new pikemen are sent to the front to consolidate the militia of new cities. Also, alot of rivers and still jerky road system was making the movement of troops difficult at best. I could have probably taken either city, but no guarantee i could hold it or launch another attack. So it's off to save Zulu from Egypt.
Unconnected spices! Whoo-hoo. Dyes, Gems, Incense and soon spices - the happy meter was working - good thing without many citys having arenas or Monotheism and cathedrals yet.
Love the new installments! Keep it up. Reading this has made playing my games different. I find myself adding little stories in my head to the moves I make (nothing so grand or well thought out as yours) and it has added another level of enjoyment to my games. Thanks
This story is great!really eases the tensions of work....
Great job Van!
Minimus braced the rope across his shoulders and dug his feet into the roadbed. Behind him, he heard the low groaning and snapping of the great oak tree as it began its slow, ponderous fall. Pulling harder, he was rewarded with another step and more groaning from the oak.
“Hold up there, Minimus!”
Wiping the sweat from his brow with his forearm, he called back, “Will do, Omani!” From behind, he heard the thwock as Omani and other members of the 4th Syracuse Pikers continued their axing of the tree. Looking up and down the roadbed, Minimus smiled to see the destruction of the Egyptian highway was proceeding quickly. Great trees had been felled across the road, blocking it and making it unusable. In some places, the ground had been oil soaked and set ablaze. Crews had been digging holes and ruts for over a week now.
“Okay, Minimus!” came the cry. “Try again!”
Once more, the beefy Roman reset his grip and pulled. His boots dug into the packed dirt. He felt his muscles flex. Blood flowed. His temples began to pound. Twisting his hand, he felt the skin on his palm itch under the coarse hemp. He panted, trying to throw his weight forward.
The trunk of the great oak crackled loudly this time. Minimus took two lurching steps forward, and two more as the rope grew more slack. “Run, Minimus! Tree!” The mighty tree was now falling rapidly, tearing through the nearby branches, snapping twigs off in all directions. Dropping the rope, Minimus turned north up the road and ran as hard as his thick legs could carry him.
With a lurching whoom, the tall oak fell across the road, smashing into the trees standing there, knocking a handful of the young saplings aside. It bounced lightly once, shaking the ground in all directions, and then settled into its new, fallen position. All the local troopers of the 4th Syracuse cheered, giving the thumbs up in Minimus’ direction. Emerging from the woods, Omani lowered his axe and gave his friend a playful jab on his thick bicep.
“Nice job there. Hey! There’s more muscle than fat under that skin.”
“Ah, go soak your ‘ead!” Minimus laughed, rubbing his arms. “I say! ‘aven’t had this much muscle on me in some time, eh?”
Omani smirked. “And you wanted to cut and run.” Taking a good look around, he added, “Ain’t no way the yellow bastards are going to use this road anytime soon.”
“Got tat right! It’s gonna take them a good 2 or 3 times the men ta fix wot we done…” Minimus frowned. Just over the rise to the north, a long single trumpet blast rang out. “Was tat an elephant? Wot’s it doin’ way down ‘ere?”
Other Romans were also listening, talking about the sound. “What the hell, in Mars’ gout bedamned foot hole, are you lazy turds just standing around for?!?” Vario, the Viper Centurion and commander of the 4th Syracuse, rode up. His leg was unable to support his weight for long from the wounding he received some weeks back, so he used one of his son’s horses, Sir Gaius, Captain of the 1st Rome Knights, to get around.
Snapping to attention, Minimus said, “Centurion, sir! We ‘eard a noise over the hill dere. Sounded like an elephant.”
“If it is, you huge worthless slime, I’m sure it doesn’t want to mate with you!” Raising his voice, he called out, “SCOUT!” A moment later, a wiry man in his 30’s came running up. Dropping his axe, he saluted. “At ease. Go check out the noise. I want your ass on that hill and ridge before I finish berating the rest of the ladies for slacking on the job!” The scout ran off, loping across the plains. “Damn it!” Vario continued, addressing the growing number of men, “Do you want those rotten Lugdunumers to wreck more decameters of road than us?!”
“No!” cried the troopers.
“Do you want Centurion Etrusicus, the Rusty Ass, to say his men are better?!”
“Can you imagine a pimple-popping, horse-raping, dirt-eating, Lugdunumer ever beating a Syracusian in anything?!” Vario practically snarled this latest rally.
“NO!!!” The host of Roman voices cried out long on this, many of the men menacing with their axes and shovels the 3rd Lugdunum Pikers working distantly in the south.
“Then I want to see mud flying and trees crashing! Work, you dogs, work!”
Cheering, the 4th Syracusians redoubled their efforts, pillaging more of the Egyptian road works. Minimus and Omani reentered the woods, grabbing whatever deadwood and brambles they could find, dragging it back with them. They continued this for some time. By the time this section of the road had been wrecked, the Romans began working their way south to newer, undamaged sections.
Taking a short break, Omani asked, “Hey, has anyone heard from the scout yet? And don’t elephants trumpet all the time? Haven’t heard it since the beginning?”
“Yeah, I think I saw the scout come running back,” one of the troopers offered. “Said everything was fine.”
“No, you idiot,” said another, “That was Jadicles relieving himself. Scout ain’t back yet.”
Omani was about to ask another question when the man next to him crumbled to the ground. A meter long shaft quivered in his back, the man dead before he finished falling. All around, arrows fell out of the sky, landing about the ground, troops, and trees. “What the…Run! We’re under attack!”
The Romans ran as hard as they could for the tents and trenches they had established last week. From behind, the Egyptian forces came charging out of the woods. A mix of archers and armored infantry, they gave chase, firing their great longbows easily into the fleeing Romans. The bladed heads tore cloth and flesh, dropping more Romans to the ground.
Minimus found himself falling back, unable to keep up the speed of the rest of the troops. The cries and hoots of the chasing Egyptians sounded louder and louder. What Romans did fall behind, wounded, were quickly cut down amongst cheers from the yellow attackers. Something tickled his ear and the man in front of him collapsed, a shaft slamming him between the shoulder blades. Unable to turn in time, Minimus vaulted over the falling soldier, stumbling to keep his balance after his feet hit the muddy ground. Glancing back, he was surprised to see no other Romans between him and the charging Egyptians, giving chase at less than 30 meters behind.
What men were still in camp quickly pulled on their chain mail shirts and brigandine armor. Pikes were grabbed, swords were unsheathed, shield were slung. Arrows were sent off into the charging Egyptians, most of them falling harmlessly short of the attackers, the Roman bows no match for Cleopatra’s. Vario rode up and down the encampment, screaming obscenities and trying to get his men in line.
“Minimus!” Omani leapt behind a mound of earth, rolling to the bottom and dashing off for his pike and shield. He kept glancing back, seeing his still lumbering friend trying to outdistance the closing Egyptian attackers. More and more of the enemy archers took aim at the large man trying to bring him down like a bear for sport. He was already bleeding from a variety of cuts and scrapes. Omani could see the grotesque bobbing of an arrow shaft flapping in Minimus’ shoulder, proving that he had been solidly struck at least once. Even wounded as he was, the Roman Piker refused to fall, the fear and adrenaline fueling his strength faster than the pain and blood loss was draining it.
Two of the fastest Egyptian infantry had closed to within a few feet of the fleeing man, their armor clanking, weapons waving. Feeling their presence right behind him, Minimus dropped to his knees. Stopping short, his body hit the ground rolling. Unable to dodge, both Egyptians tripped over the Roman’s flailing limbs; one lost his sword, the other winding up under Minimus’ body.
The beefy Roman grabbed the flanged mace, trying to yank it out of the armored soldier’s grasp. He twisted and pulled, all the while watching the other foe race for his fallen blade. The Egyptian jammed his armored knee into Minimus’ wide gut and shoved. Feeling his grip on the mace slipping, Minimus slammed his hand down the soldier’s helm and twisted violently. Screaming in pain, the Egyptian released his weapon, trying to keep his neck from breaking. The mace rose up and down twice, crushing the life out of the fallen soldier.
A loose arrow struck the ground next to Minimus’ hand. The racing horde was now almost upon him. He tried to grab for the Egyptian’s shield, but the dead man’s companion had reclaimed his blade and tried to skewer Minimus. Side stepping, he chopped his wrist down, disarming the warrior with a mace blow to his hand. The Roman’s other hand lashed out, catching the Egyptian across the throat. Growling, he lifted him to his toes and bashed the wriggling man on the head. He dropped the stunned warrior and tore his shield from his arm.
Holding the iron shield by its dangling strap, he flung it over his shoulder and ran towards his beckoning countrymen. More arrows whistled past him, some striking the shield, others trailing fire across his body.
From the Roman line Vario charged out, the shield cart hastily strapped to his mount’s saddle. A volley of arrows arced over the Centurion’s head, landing amongst the charging Egyptians. Slowing them down, an answering volley flew from yellow clad line, landing about the Romans with more force and effect, dropping 20 or so of the determined defenders. The Viper turned his steed to intercept the tiring Minimus, the cart clattering wildly behind him in the tall grass.
“Jump on! Jump you steaming pile of human scum!”
Minimus half leapt, half fell into the jostling cart, his massive weight almost upsetting the unsteady ride. Vario’s steed gave a whinny of protest and then picked up speed, goaded by Vario’s wildly kicking legs. Minimus twined his fingers into the woven floor of the cart, trying to keep his bouncing, sliding form from falling free. He felt more arrows fall about him, clanging off shields. One of them slammed through his hand, momentarily pinning it to the cart he rode.
Vario’s steed ran up the side of the embankment and leapt over the Roman’s crouched behind it. Minimus and his ride tumbled wildly over the hill, landing with a crash and explosion of broken wheels, flying shields, and the large man’s pin wheeling form dropping two Roman pike men and tripping a third. His hand had torn free of the arrow that had struck it earlier, and the arrow in his back had been broken and dislodged during his fall down the hill.
Falling from his aching horse onto his own wounded leg, Vario hobbled over to Minimus. “You ok?! Damn it, son! Mars eat you a new gut wound! Private Minimus, are you ok?!?”
Blinking wildly to clear the pain induced spots before his eyes, Minimus squinted, focusing on the Viper’s concerned and angry face. Nodding slowly, he answered, “Yes, Centurion.” Rolling unsteadily to his feet, he reached for a fallen shield and rose to his knees. “Private Minimus, reporting for duty, sir!” The soldiers of the 4th Syracuse cheered. “I understand there’s some Egyptians to kill.” Staggering, he leaned heavily on Vario's body and pulled himself painfully upright.
Omani pushed his way through, gave his friend a quick hug, and pressed a pike in his hand. “Minimus! Thank Zeus and Mars you’re alive.” Turning to Vario, he said, “Sir, Egyptian infantry approaching. We have no time!”
“MAGGOTS!” the Viper bellowed, his cry reaching the entire encampment. “If this worthless bag of puke can drop two Egyptian whoresons with no armor and no weapons, get shot up and thrown from a cart, and then stand up looking for more…I expect no less from everyone here.” The cheers of the Roman pike men sounded again, drowning under the war cries of the attacking infantry.
Dragging himself back into the saddle and drawing his own sword, Vario yelled, “4th SYRACUSE…ATTACK!”
As the Egyptians crested the earthworks, they expected to find their enemies demoralized and unprepared. Instead they found themselves facing hundreds of ready Pike men, howling their heads off and counterattacking their expected offensive. Pikes and swords lashed out, splitting breastplates and lopping limbs. The Roman forces, somewhat decimated from the Egyptian’s surprise attack had now found ground more the their liking. The defense works and barricades made the Egyptian line waver, unable to wash over the fortified Romans.
The battle raged on, the hours passed. With no cover for over a mile back to the woods off the road, the Egyptian army could not retreat for long to regroup before the Roman arrows would fall about them and leave themselves open for a rout against their rear. Meanwhile, the Egyptian longbow men, although deadly in the open, were easy targets with their line formation and lack of armor. To be safe, they were forced to stand outside the Roman archer’s range. But this distance gave the Roman’s more than enough time to seek cover before the yellow cloth yard shafts could hit their encampment.
By mid afternoon, the 4th Syracuse was down to roughly 600 fighting men, while the Egyptian forces, although suffering twice the number of wounded, could still field 1,200.
From the south, both sides heard the cries of, “Pax Romana! 3rd Lugdunum!” Charging against the Egyptian left flank, Etrusicus and his thousand pikes raced to join the battle. Egyptian arrows filled the air, raining pain and death amongst the Lugdunum pike men. The Roman attack began to waver, slowing as the dead and wounded fell screaming.
“Right flank! Roll south!” Vario ordered. “Left flank! CHARGE! 4th Syracuse!” Over 200 Roman pike men came screaming over the northern edge of the earthworks, stabbing and slicing with their weapons. Meanwhile, some 300 men ran south, shields high, linking up with the still approaching 3rd Lugdunum. Stronger now and better protected, the mass of troops fell upon the fighting Egyptians, catching strongly across the left flank and driving them into the firmly attacking Syracuse troops.
Riding his war horse up to the Lugdunum commander, Vario yelled, “What are you doing here, Rusty Ass?! Came to see how real soldiers fight?!”
Laughing up at him, Etrusicus called back, “Dirty Syracusian! The 3rd Lugdunum ARE real soldiers!” Both Centurions laughed. “The only thing Lugdunumers enjoy beating more than Syracusian boys, are Egyptians that attack Syracusian boys!” Howling at the Egyptian infantry he was clubbing with the weighted end of his pike, Etrusicus said, “Here that, you yellow bastard?! No one attacks Roman boys and lives to tell about it! FOR ROME!!”
Gathering up the Lugdunumer’s cry, Vario roared as well, “FOR ROME!!” The Roman troops all cried out, “FOR ROME!!” They fell upon the Egyptians, pouring their determination and hearts upon them. “FOR ROME!!”
Odd. Just in case people didn't know, there is a 15,000 character limit per post. I just got the warning (15122). Had to trim the odd sentence and description above. Guess the chapters are getting a bit long.
Misfit and Ironmikie - Thanks!! Nice to have fans.
3 cheers for Minimus! He's one of my favorites so far.
Once agan a masterpiece. You're a great writer, Vanadorn.
Barbslinger & Biggamer - Thanks! Omani and Minimus are enjoyable characters, I like finding a way to keep them in the direct thread. And I wouldn't say masterpiece - damn good maybe, but not a masterpiece. As for the great part, don't know for sure...I just like to write and tell a good story - the type that I'd like to read. It's been a very long time since I wrote constantly, and although I know I have improved since the beginning of this thread, I still have a way to go to reach my former level.
Either way - thanks again for your support and your kindness.
EDIT: Just took a quick scan - 47k words, 87 pages. In 6k words, it will officially be the longest single thing I have ever written. Grrr...Where was this focus in my life during my 20's? I never set out to be an accountant! *sigh* Well, next chapter hopefully tomorrow (either back to the Furious Thundercloud or Ioral's chapter. I'll know in the morning - it's late and I'm exhausted.).
I've been meaning to ask this for a while now ( but was too overawed by your story to do so): Does Private Minimus bear any relation to General Maximus, who appeared earlier in the story?
Just thought I'd ask
Great stuff, as usual.
Separate names with a comma.