Princes of the Universe, Part I

Discussion in 'Civ4 - Stories & Tales' started by Sisiutil, Oct 17, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Princes of the Universe, Part I

    Table of Contents

    Chapter 1: Fighting for Survival
    Chapter 2: The Brothers
    Chapter 3: First Contact
    Chapter 4: The Flight of the Dragon Clan
    Chapter 5: Render Unto God What is God's
    Chapter 6: First and Foremost
    Chapter 7: The Sun Also Sets
    Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 1
    Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 2
    Chapter 8: Slavery, Part 3
    Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 1
    Chapter 9: Great Works, Part 2
    Chapter 10: Good Queen Bess
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 1 - The Kong Miao
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 2 - Defending the Faith
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 3 - Crying Havok
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 4 - Claudia
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 5 - Summon Up the Blood
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 6 - The Battle of Tlatelolco
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 7 - Corona
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 8 - Comrades in Arms
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 9 - Within the Gates of Tenochtitlan
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 10 - Brothers and Sisters of the Faith
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 11 - To the Victors
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 12 - Anarchy
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 13 - Order
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Part 14 - First Business
    Chapter 11: Noble Men, Epilogue - On Nobility
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 1 - The Pitch
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 2 - A Passage to Mongolia
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 3 - Bearing Gifts for the Greeks

    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 4 - The Incident at Argos
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 5 - The Chimes at Midnight
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Part 6 - This Other Eden
    Chapter 12: The Merchant, Epilogue
    Chapter 13: The Golden Age
    Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 1 - Shortcomings
    Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 2 - Family Honour
    Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 3 - The Games of Boys
    Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 4 - Weapons Check
    Chapter 14: Child's Play, Part 5 - The Games of Nations
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 1
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 2
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 3
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 4
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 5
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 6
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 7
    Chapter 15: Scipio's Spy, Part 8 (Conclusion)

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

    Princes of the Universe, Part II

    Chapter 16: Scipio's Sabre, Part 1
    Chapter 16: Scipio's Sabre, Part 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter One: Fighting for Survival

    Brutus was enjoying himself immensely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He pointed to Ravenna.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He saw hope.

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

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

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

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

    carl corey Deity

    Jul 17, 2006
    Cluj-Napoca, Romania
    Hehe, I totally thought you'd use Brutus as the hero at first. But then it became pretty clear that nobody would want him as a leader and... I really should have seen it coming! :D Julius forever!

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

    TheArchduke Feeling at home..

    Oct 26, 2004
    Vienna, Austria
    Nice story, I definetly follow.

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

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Jan 26, 2006
    Statesboro, GA
    This is going to be great. I can't wait for more.
  7. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Two: The Brothers

    “It is not.”

    “It is TOO!!”



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Indeed we shall," Julius agreed.

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

    “What’s that?” Julius asked.

    Romulus smiled. “Use your nose.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Is there anything else?” Julius asked him.

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

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

    The twins watched him intently, scarcely able to breathe.

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

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

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

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

    “You do?” he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

  8. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    This was complicated by the fact that the entire first chapter took place before the starting position was encountered, as you can now see! :lol: And I'm still just on the first turn!

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

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

    TheArchduke Feeling at home..

    Oct 26, 2004
    Vienna, Austria
    Nice story with the two brothers. Settling in place was probably for the best seeing nothing better nearby. You are hoping for a lucky iron or bronze as equalizer for the mediocre position?

    Keep it coming!
  10. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Three: First Contact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “And…” Antonius went on, but hesitated.

    “And… what else?” Julius prompted him.

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

    “What?” Julius asked curtly, growing impatient.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    A little more artistic license this time, since the lions appeared after the Japanese. But I wanted to include an episode that captures the early scouting of the game.

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

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

    DuseCutter Chieftain

    Oct 6, 2006
    NE Ohio
    Great story!

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

    I'm interested to see how this develops.

    Thanks, Sisiutil!:goodjob:
  13. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Jan 26, 2006
    Statesboro, GA
    I think I like both ways of telling a story in Civ.
  14. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Four: The Flight of the Dragon Clan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Drop your tools,” Qin said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    “Come on,” he said. “We’re leaving.”

    “What?!” Zhu exclaimed. “But…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “Yes?” Caesar prompted the man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  15. carl corey

    carl corey Deity

    Jul 17, 2006
    Cluj-Napoca, Romania
    Niiiiiice. :D Well done to get the workers and excellent story too!
  16. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks. I actually stole two Workers from him in that game. The third time I was about to try it, he was escorting every Worker with an Archer. :lol:
  17. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Jan 26, 2006
    Statesboro, GA
    sisiutil- I'm so glad you've posted another update to your story. Kudos on getting the worker, too. Will we have to wait another month for ch. 5?
  18. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Boy, I hope not. Followers of my ALC games know that I got busy with real life for awhile, and that affected my updates of this story as well. Things are becoming calmer once again, so I hope to update more often. Once the current ALC is done, in fact, I plan to leave those aside for awhile and focus on this story instead. :D
  19. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Feb 19, 2006
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter Five: Render unto God what is God&#8217;s

    Drusus had to remind himself not to fidget.

    He couldn&#8217;t help himself. He was broad of shoulder and chest, strong and fast, perfectly suited to a life of scouting. Caesar himself had spotted him exercising in the gymnasium with the other young boys and had personally chosen him for this life. Drusus had, literally, back-flipped when told of this. Every Roman boy dreamed of being a scout for their growing civilization, seeking out new territory and people.

    Not that it was without hardship, which he&#8217;d known beforehand and experience had confirmed. His mother was inconsolable the day he&#8217;d left, as was his little sister, who adored him. He missed them terribly sometimes.

    There was constant danger from animals; more than one scout had lost his life to a bear or jaguar. And lately, they&#8217;d been seeing, from a distance, groups of armed men wandering around in the wilderness, wielding heavy clubs like Rome&#8217;s own warriors, but looking much harder and meaner, if not as well-trained and disciplined. Dangerous. Especially to a small band of lightly armed scouts.

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

    But, Almighty Jupiter, he&#8217;d never met a queen before!

    He stole a glance at Remus. The lead scout was as calm as ever, as if encountering a monarch was an everyday occurrence for him. Oh, they had met, in their travels, leaders of villages calling themselves king or queen of this or that; but they were little better than tribal chieftans&#8212;upstarts.

    This grand hall in which he now stood, however, pressed home the fact that Queen Isabella of Spain was no pretender. The impressive honour guard of archers reinforced this. And Barcelona wasn&#8217;t even the Spanish capital, merely an outlying city!

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

    They walked into the hall and came to a stop in front of a raised dais. Upon this dais was a large, splendidly carved wooden chair&#8212;a throne. And in that throne sat what was possibly the most beautiful woman Drusus had ever seen.

    Queen Isabella&#8217;s hair was black as a raven&#8217;s wing, and long, framing her face. It contrasted with her skin, which was like the finest ivory, and unblemished. Her blue eyes, bright and piercing, studied the little group of Roman scouts. Her nose was straight and finely shaped, her mouth was full and sensuous and had a slight, captivating pout. Her fine clothing did nothing to conceal an utterly enticing figure.

    But it was not just her physical beauty that took Drusus&#8217; breath away. She had an air about her of supreme confidence; this was a woman who knew her exact place in the world, and it was an exalted one. She sat with her back straight, her chin uplifted ever-so-slightly so she looked down her nose at her visitors. Drusus had the distinct impression she&#8217;d look at an insect upon her dining table in much the same manner.

    <Who are these strangers to our lands?> she asked in her native Spanish. Her voice was clear, its challenge implicit, and just a little flinty. It sent a shiver down Drusus&#8217; spine. He struggled to listen and understand; the scouts had manage to learn some of the Spanish tongue from their guides, but none of them were exactly fluent yet. Well, except for Remus, who had a distinct talent for language.

    As if to demonstrate this, it was Remus who answered the Queen&#8217;s question before one of her attendants could beat him to it.

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

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

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

    <Well spoken, Roman,> she said. <And who is this&#8230;Gaius Julius Caesar? Is he among your party?>

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

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

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

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

    If the Queen was at all amused by Remus&#8217; response, she gave no sign of it. <Spain is home to the celestial light of ultimate truth, simple Roman scouts,> she said, rather haughtily. <You would do well to cleanse your heathen souls of the blight of paganism, and return home to spread word of the divine Buddha.>

    Of course, Drusus thought. Buddhism. They had heard of the spreading religion, but it had been mere hearsay. Caesar had instructed them to find out as much as they could not only about Spain, but of this new faith as well. Drusus couldn&#8217;t help wondering what the point was; Rome had a pantheon of gods. What use did they have for a foreign one?

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

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

    &#8220;So what now,&#8221; Drusus asked. &#8220;We&#8217;re going to stay awhile, learn this&#8230;Buddhism, and save our misbegotten souls?&#8221;

    &#8220;Pretty much,&#8221; Remus replied. &#8220;Just remember to be respectful.&#8221;

    &#8220;Always, Remus!&#8221; Drusus said, but his leader gave the younger man a sharp look that told Drusus he would not tolerate any insults to their hosts.


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

    &#8220;I know we&#8217;re all enjoying this welcome respite from our usual life in the wilds,&#8221; he said with a rueful grin, and many of the men chuckled. &#8220;I thought I should warn you, however, that I received a message from Caesar early today. He&#8217;s anxious for us to resume our travels. We&#8217;ve heard tell of another civilization, the Aztecs, who are believed to be located north of Spain, and he wants us to meet them and explore their territory. So be prepared to leave soon, at a moment&#8217;s notice, all of you.&#8221;

    Drusus listened to his leader&#8217;s words and nodded his assent, but could not hide the look of disappointment in his face. He said nothing, however.

    As the rest of the men left the brief meeting, Remus took Drusus aside. &#8220;You&#8217;ve been very quiet, Drusus,&#8221; he said. &#8220;During our stay here in Barcelona, you&#8217;ve grown more and more&#8230;well, subdued. Is something troubling you?&#8221;

    &#8220;Troubling me?&#8221; Drusus said. &#8220;No, far from it. It&#8217;s just&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;Yes?&#8221; Remus prompted him when he paused.

    &#8220;This Spanish faith, Remus,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Buddhism. It just&#8230;well, it makes sense. As I sat there, receiving instruction in it, I became more and more convinced of its truth. I think the Queen was right. I am eager to go back to Rome and tell others about it.&#8221;

    &#8220;Are you sure,&#8221; Remus said, gently but amused nonetheless, &#8220;that the loveliness of the Buddhist Queen did not have something to do with opening your heart to her faith?&#8221;

    Drusus looked insulted. &#8220;This has nothing to do with the Queen,&#8221; he retorted.
    Indeed, the small group of Romans had had only a few encounters with the regal, haughty Spanish monarch after that first meeting, and she had departed for the Spanish capital, Madrid. The Romans&#8217; Spanish hosts had hinted at some grand project in the capital that the Queen was overseeing, but offered no details.

    &#8220;I apologize, Drusus,&#8221; Remus said diplomatically. &#8220;I meant no disrespect.&#8221;

    &#8220;None taken,&#8221; Drusus said agreeably.

    &#8220;Still,&#8221; Remus said, &#8220;you must admit, she&#8217;s a very beautiful woman.&#8221;

    &#8220;She&#8217;s amazing,&#8221; Drusus blurted out enthusiastically. Then, as his leader cast him a sidelong glance, he did something he hadn&#8217;t done since he was a boy. He blushed.

    &#8220;She is indeed,&#8221; Remus agreed, saving his companion some embarrassment. &#8220;I became a little infatuated with her myself, married though I am. But she&#8217;s unattainable to men such as ourselves, Drusus. It would be best to put her out of your mind. If you truly believe in this faith of Buddhism, regard that as her gift to you.&#8221;

    &#8220;I do,&#8221; Drusus said, his enthusiasm for his new faith evident in his voice. &#8220;It&#8217;s a gift I must share with others in Rome.&#8221;

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


    The next day, early in the morning, Remus pulled his team of scouts together yet again. &#8220;It&#8217;s time,&#8221; he told them tersely, his face grim. &#8220;Gather your packs. We leave within minutes.&#8221;

    &#8220;Why the rush?&#8221; Antonius, one of the veteran scouts, asked their leader.

    Remus shot a glance at Antonius that told his old friend he would rather that the question had not been asked. &#8220;We have a long journey ahead of us,&#8221; he said. &#8220;It makes no sense to waste daylight.&#8221; With that, he turned and strode away from them, heading off to gather together his own meagre belongings.

    Drusus heard the tension in Remus&#8217; voice, however, and looked questioningly at Antonius. The stocky scout merely shrugged and shook his head. &#8220;He gets like this sometimes,&#8221; Antonius told the younger man. &#8220;I sometimes think he can&#8217;t stand to be in any one place for too long.&#8221;

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

    &#8220;We&#8217;re heading south,&#8221; he said in a tone which indicated he would not tolerate questions or discussion. &#8220;We&#8217;ve been recalled to Rome. This way, hurry.&#8221;

    He headed off the road, into the dense jungle and up a hill, his companions close on his heels. They travelled, silently and wordlessly, for some time. As they journeyed, Drusus kept wondering about his strange direction they&#8217;d taken, and what it could mean. When they stopped for a rest in a shaded grove of palm trees, he approached Remus.

    &#8220;I thought we were heading north to find the Aztecs,&#8221; he said pointedly.

    &#8220;Obviously, there&#8217;s been a change of plans,&#8221; Remus said. He looked at Drusus, studying the young man intently. Then a slight smile appeared on his face. &#8220;Come now, Drusus. It will be good to visit home after so many years away, won&#8217;t it? Your family will be delighted to see you.&#8221;

    Drusus, however, was not put off so easily. &#8220;Why have we been recalled to Rome, Remus?&#8221; he asked. Around him, the other scouts stirred, their attention drawn to the conversation by the insistence in Drusus&#8217; voice.

    Remus glanced briefly at the other scouts, then shrugged nonchalantly. &#8220;Who knows? A whim of Caesar&#8217;s. Ours is not to question why&#8230;&#8221;

    &#8220;But it doesn&#8217;t make any sense!&#8221; Drusus said. &#8220;We&#8217;ve explored all the territory south of Spain. We&#8217;re wasting valuable time returning home. Why does Caesar want us home, away from Spain, unless&#8230;&#8221;

    Suddenly, Drusus&#8217; expression changed from one of puzzlement to shock. His brows, previously furrowed, rose upon his forehead; his eyes and mouth opened wide.

    &#8220;It&#8217;s war, isn&#8217;t it?&#8221; he said.

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

    &#8220;Great Buddha!&#8221; he declared. &#8220;We&#8217;re going to war with Spain, aren&#8217;t we?&#8221;

    &#8220;What if we are?&#8221; Remus asked him quietly. The other scouts were gathered around he and Drusus now, watching the confrontation intently. Remus sought and found Antonius among the group and held his old companion&#8217;s gaze for a moment, conveying a silent message. Antonious nodded and slowly moved until he stood behind Drusus.

    Drusus took a deep breath and slowly shook his head. &#8220;I will not fight against my brothers and sisters of the faith,&#8221; he declared. He took a step back from Remus, from the leader of the Roman scouts whom he&#8217;d idolized since he was a boy. &#8220;I&#8217;m sorry, Remus. I cannot return to Rome with you. I am a Buddhist. I cannot oppose that which I have come to fervently believe, nor those who also believe it.&#8221;

    Remus sighed. &#8220;So you intend to return to Spain then?&#8221; he asked sadly.

    &#8220;Yes,&#8221; Drusus replied.

    &#8220;You&#8217;ll feel obliged to warn them regarding Rome&#8217;s intentions, of course,&#8221; Remus said without a hint of accusation or rancor in his voice. Drusus shamefully glanced down at the ground, but did not deny the statement. &#8220;Will you fight on their side, against your fellow Romans?&#8221; he asked sadly.

    &#8220;I&#8230;,&#8221; Drusus said quietly, still unable to meet Remus&#8217; gaze. &#8220;I hope not to. I will try not to, but...&#8221; He ruefully shook his head.

    Remus smiled sadly at the younger man and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. &#8220;I understand,&#8221; he said quietly. &#8220;It must be hard for you, Drusus, to have your loyalties so divided.&#8221;

    Drusus nodded. He looked up, and Remus saw that the young man&#8217;s eyes were shimmering with tears. &#8220;It&#8217;s as though my heart is torn in two, Remus!&#8221;

    Remus nodded sagely. &#8220;Be troubled no more,&#8221; he said, then smiled. He glanced over Drusus&#8217; shoulder at Antonius and nodded. He was still smiling reassuringly at Drusus when Antonius&#8217; hand axe struck him at the base of the skull. Drusus&#8217; eyes opened wide and his mouth dropped open, but he made no sound as he dropped to the ground.

    &#8220;It was very brave,&#8221; Remus said to the other scouts, &#8220;how he sacrificed himself, attacking those barbarian warriors so the rest of us could escape.&#8221; He looked at each of his men in turn, holding their gaze as each one nodded his agreement to the lie.

    &#8220;Very brave,&#8221; Antonious said solemnly as he cleaned the blade of his hand axe and retuned the weapon to his belt.

    &#8220;I know some of you found the message of Buddhism appealing,&#8221; Remus said, &#8220;but never forget that you are Romans first. To whose bosom we now return.&#8221;

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

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

    Perhaps. Probably. Regardless, she had forced Caesar&#8217;s hand with this encroachment into territory widely regarded as rightfully Roman, and now she would pay the price. From across the grasslands the scouts heard the trumpets cry and war drums start to pound their ominous rhythm. The battle had started. Though Seville&#8217;s archers would fight hard to protect their new city, aided by the high ground of the hill on which it was founded, he knew they could not stand against the sharp, heavy blades of the Roman axemen. Seville would fall, and Remus knew it would be razed to the ground, for he alone among the scouts knew that Caesar had planned to found another city in another location nearby.

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


    The old woman&#8217;s eyes fluttered open. She gasped softly, momentarily confused as to her whereabouts. Then she quickly regained her wits. Her violet eyes scanned her room and came to rest upon the gaunt but handsome visage of the man sitting beside her bed.

    &#8220;Ravenna,&#8221; Caesar said, his icy blue eyes barely concealing his sorrow. He held her hand in his, and could feel the withered limb trembling

    &#8220;No tears, father,&#8221; Ravenna said softly, her gaze steady even if her hands were not. &#8220;I&#8217;m not dead yet,&#8221; she added, a thin smile playing briefly upon her lips.

    &#8220;Of course not,&#8221; he replied, but his sad tone conveyed what he could not say: that his beloved stepdaughter&#8217;s death would not be held off much longer.

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

    &#8220;I came to tell you,&#8221; he said, forcing cheerfulness into his strained voice, &#8220;that we are nearly ready to found our third great city. Northeast of Rome, on the floodplains, as we planned.&#8221;

    &#8220;What&#8230;&#8221; the old woman asked, then paused to lick her dry lips. &#8220;What will you name it?&#8221;

    Caesar smiled proudly. &#8220;Ravenna, of course. What else could I name it?&#8221;

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

    &#8220;A city founded upon bloodshed,&#8221; she said bitterly, recalling the razing of Seville. &#8220;And you named it for me?&#8221;

    &#8220;Ravenna, please,&#8221; Caesar said. &#8220;This world is harsh, it&#8217;s inhabitants more so. If we rely upon the goodwill and charity of our rivals, we will cease to exist.&#8221;

    The old woman sighed. &#8220;I know, I know, but still&#8230;&#8221; she said sadly as her voice trailed off. Then a thought came to her, and her violet eyes brightened as they looked pleadingly into those of her stepfather. &#8220;I want you to promise me something,&#8221; she said.

    &#8220;Anything,&#8221; Caesar replied.

    &#8220;The city you will name after me,&#8221; she said. &#8220;Promise me&#8230; that you will make it a centre for learning, and culture,&#8221; she said, squeezing his hand.

    &#8220;That is what I planned from the start,&#8221; he said, smiling at her.

    &#8220;And promise me,&#8221; she said sternly now, &#8220;that you will never build a single weapon or military unit there.&#8221;

    Caesar balked at this. He knew that conflict with his neighbours was inevitable, and would need the full weight of all Rome&#8217;s cities thrown behind the wars yet to come. To not use one of Rome&#8217;s few cities for military purposes would be a tall order.

    &#8220;Promise me,&#8221; she pleaded, her voice cracking, her eyes desperate.

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

    Caesar smiled and gave Ravenna&#8217;s hand an affectionate squeeze. &#8220;I promise,&#8221; he said. &#8220;Ravenna will never build weapons or train soldiers.&#8221;

    Ravenna&#8217;s still-shrewd eyes narrowed. &#8220;You don&#8217;t fool me,&#8221; she said. &#8220;I&#8217;ve known you too long. You&#8217;re scheming a way around it.&#8221;

    &#8220;I will keep my promise just as I have stated it,&#8221; Caesar said, more than a little defensively.

    Ravenna smiled wanly and sighed. &#8220;That will be enough,&#8221; she conceded. &#8220;Just remember&#8230; I&#8217;ll be watching,&#8221; she added, as firmly as her weakened voice would allow.

    &#8220;It is my fervent hope that you shall,&#8221; Caesar said. He bent down and tenderly kissed his stepdaughter&#8217;s wrinkled forehead.

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

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

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

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

    Or so he thought.

  20. Zande33

    Zande33 Chieftain

    Nov 19, 2006
    Excellent story!
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page