Princes of the Universe, Part I

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

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  1. Clovis

    Clovis Charlemagne's Grandfather

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    What are the canucks? Hockey, basketball team? What city? The name sounds familiar but I can't place it.

    Edit: Oh, I see, you're from Vancouver, so it must be hockey.
     
  2. Clovis

    Clovis Charlemagne's Grandfather

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    Sisiutil, you from B.C. too? I see "Pacific Northwest, but that could be anywhere from Oregon to Alaska.
     
  3. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Yes, Vancouver. I find it's a good idea to be a little vague on the big bad Internet. ;)
     
  4. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 11 – To the Victors



    Two days later, Lucius found himself summoned to the command tent. Caesar was there, along with several clerks and his senior legates, and the general Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior. Lucius acknowledged his late friend’s father with a meaningful nod, and the older Catulus returned it with a nod of his own and a sad but affectionate smile, remembering, as he always did when he saw this remarkable young man, how Lucius had stood alone above his only son’s body, protecting him from the enemy as he lay dying.

    “Ah, Lucius Rutullus,” Caesar said with a smile. “Come in, sit down,” he said, beckoning the junior legate into a chair placed in front of his desk, then glancing at the scrolls in front of him. “What you see before you is the price for being made Consul-for-life,” he said with a rueful grin. “Paperwork, masses of it. My task today is to determine what to do with the not-inconsiderable amount of gold the army claimed as booty during this war.” Caesar looked up from his scrolls. “What do you think I should do with it?”

    Lucius blinked, his brows raising in surprise. Since becoming a junior legate he’d grown used to having his opinion solicited on matters of tactics and strategy on occasion, but he was taken aback now that Caesar was asking him, for the first time, to weigh in on a political issue. Normally, he would have been cautious. But for months now, he’d been struggling with those troubling thoughts about the morality of the war and the plight of the Aztec people. He thought of Cuicatl in particular, the orphaned Aztec girl he’d taken under his wing. He leaned forward, his lone eye suddenly alight, his voice impassioned as he spoke.

    “The money belongs to the Aztec people, Caesar,” he said firmly. “They’ve suffered greatly as a result of this war, even if they are better off now under Roman rule than they were under Montezuma. If it were up to me, I’d reinvest the money into rebuilding Aztec infrastructure.”

    “Would you?” Caesar asked, his voice neutral.

    “Yes, Caesar,” Lucius said, no hesitation in his voice as he spoke to the immortal who had led his civilization for millenia. “We have a moral imperative to do so. If you need to convince the more self-interested parties in the Senate and Plebeian Assembly, consider this argument: the investment would pay for itself. Former Aztec cities will be contributing taxes back to the Roman treasury much earlier, and in much greater amounts, if the infrastructure is put in place to support local enterprise.”

    Caesar smiled, glanced around at his senior legates, who were also smiling, then he clapped his hands. “Oh, well said, Lucius Rutullus! That old saw is true—the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

    Lucius couldn’t help blushing in reaction to being so favourably compared to his illustrious ancestors. Yes, blushing—he, the battle-scarred veteran!

    “You’d do well in the Senate, my boy, with speeches like that,” Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior said. “We could certainly use your support there, to get measures like this through. Aren’t you almost thirty now? Nearly of age to wear the purple stripe, eh?”

    Lucius pressed his lips together. “Sir, I won’t be entering the Senate. I don’t meet the financial qualifications.”

    “On the contrary,” Caesar said, then handed Lucius one of the scrolls from his desk.

    Lucius took the scroll, frowning, and read its contents. It consisted, essentially, of his service record, except beside each item was a number, and at the bottom, a total of that number, expressed in talents of gold. And it was a very large number indeed.

    “There must be some mistake,” Lucius muttered, his voice as tight as his lone eye was wide.

    “I should say not!” one of the clerks suddenly interjected. A reedy man with a receding hairline, he was visibly offended by Lucius’ unintended implication that there could be a mistake in his figures. He leaned over and peremptorily snatched the scroll from Lucius’ hands, then scanned it.

    “Lucius Rutulllus Lepidus,” Caesar said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips, “may I present Quintus Servillius Caepio. Not much of a soldier, but one hell of a book-keeper!”

    “The Servillii do not make mistakes,” Caepio sniffed, ignoring the amused grins of Caesar’s senior staff, “not when in comes to counting money. Even if it isn’t our own. Especially if it isn’t our own. A matter of family honour, you understand. Now let’s see here… Six years’ service, achieving rank of junior legate. Participant in the Battle of Tlatelolco, the Battle of Tentihuacan, the Battle of… really, these names!”

    “We’ll be changing them,” Caesar assured Caepio with an amused grin.

    “The Battles of et cetera and et cetera,” the clerk continued impatiently. “Recipient of the grass crown, oak crown, mural crown—thrice, that one, good thing you have what looks to be a strong neck, what with all these crowns your head has to bear—the hasta pura, several armillae and phalerae, oh, and compensation for the loss of an eye, of course.” His lips moved as he discreetly added up the corresponding figures. “Correct to the last denarius, I assure you,” Caepio concluded, and handed the scroll back to a still-shocked but much chastened Lucius Rutullus.

    “You are only half correct about the war booty,” Caesar told him. “Half will go towards rebuilding formerly Aztec lands, once those of us present get the Senate, the People, and the Treasury to agree, and I’m sure we will. It will be more than enough; the population of the former Aztec Empire is much reduced, you see, and frankly, Montezuma kept them abhorrently backwards. So it won’t take as much money to rebuild, because in many cases, there was never anything built in the first place. Additional infrastructure can be built at a less-rushed pace. So the other half of the gold I’m splitting amongst the veterans of the campaign, based upon length of service, rank, action seen, awards earned, and so on.”

    “The Senate will have no choice but to agree to that,” Quintus Lutatius Catulus Senior said, “unless they want rioting in the streets!”

    “Yes, I’m sure it will prove to be a popular measure,” Caesar agreed.

    “Most of the men will waste the money on wine, cheap entertainments, and loose women,” Caepio sniffed.

    “All of which are taxed,” Caesar pointed out, smiling, “so the treasury gets its due one way or the other.” Once the laughter died down, Caesar returned his attention to Lucius. “Your record is by far the most illustrious of all those serving in the Aztec campaign, my young friend, hence the figure at the bottom of that scroll. More than enough to qualify you for the Senate—which is where the wise, steady voices of the Rutulli belong.”

    “I don’t know what to say,” Lucius said honestly.

    Caesar nodded. “Well, I have something else to say,” and he rose from his desk and walked towards the flap of the tent, beckoning for Lucius but no one else to follow. Once they were outside and out of earshot of anyone save themselves, Caesar leaned in close. “Of course you know that to qualify for the Senate, you need to have land, which is what you’ll need to purchase with that gold.”

    “Of course,” Lucius said, though in truth he hadn’t thought that far ahead.

    “Yes, well, I just happen to know there’s a bit of prime real estate about to come available on the market,” Caesar added, sotto voce. “A certain hill, just north of Teotihuacan.”

    “A hill?” Lucius said dubiously.

    “Mm-hmm. A hill,” Caesar said, nodding. “With a mine.”

    “A mine…” Lucius said, beginning to understand Caesar’s meaning now.



    “A gold mine,” Caesar whispered, then winked conspiratorially. “Literally. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years, my boy, it’s this: gold begets gold, if it’s managed properly,” he said. He then frowned thoughtfully. “Caepio’s an interesting fellow, don’t you think?” Lucius merely frowned in response, puzzled by this apparent non sequitur. “His service ends around the same time your does. I’m not sure what he’ll be doing when he becomes a civilian again.” Caesar shrugged, considered the seed well-planted, and continued. “Think well upon my advice, Lucius. The gold on that slip of paper will get you into the Senate. The gold in those hills will put you in the Consul’s chair.” Lucius looked shocked; Caesar frowned. “Oh, don’t be naïve, son! Of course a man has to qualify based upon merit, but it takes money to run a campaign, you know.”

    “Of course,” Lucius said, though he realized he knew nothing of politics, but he was going to have to learn. “Thank you, Caesar,” he said just as his leader was turning to walk back to the command tent.

    “Oh, don’t thank me, Lucius Rutullus,” Caesar said, turning back to face him. “Thank you. On behalf of Rome. You earned it. All of it,” Caesar assured him. “And were your ancestors here today, they’d tell you the same thing. Dismissed,” he added with a wave as he ducked back inside the tent.

    Once inside, Catullus Senior cast a questioning glance in Caesar’s direction. “So do you think we can count on him?”

    “For the most part, I believe so, yes,” Caesar replied. “Though I daresay he’ll be his own man rather than nestling snugly into the folds of our togas. I’d expect nothing less of one of the Rutulli.”

    Catullus Senior grunted. “They’re starting to call him ‘Aztecus’, you know,” he said, his voice neutral.

    Caesar cast an appraising glance at his friend and colleague. There seemed to be more grey in Cutullus’ hair since the death of his son, less light in his eyes. He was still the most talented general Rome had—aside from Caesar himself—but to the immortal it seemed as if some of the man’s former drive and energy had vanished after that sad event.

    “How do you feel about that?” Caesar asked. “As the field general in the Aztec theatre, by rights, that cognomen should be yours.”

    Catullus Senior shook his head. “Were it any other man, I might resent it. But after what he did for my boy…” His lips pressed together and he shook his head again. “No, the honour is his. I’m just a general. He’s the hero.”

    ***

    Lucius Rutullus, of course, had never considered himself a hero. Despite Caesar’s undeniable wisdom and experience, Lucius’ mind had not been set to rest on certain points that still plagued his conscience. Only one man stood a chance of doing that, and while Caesar and Catullus Senior conferred in the command tent, Lucius left the Roman camp to go see him.

    Fortunately, Mencius was still in Calixtlahuaca, ministering to the Confucians there who’d never thought to have a genuine priest among them, let alone the High Priest himself! Lucius found him at the site of the town’s future Confucian temple, holding forth in the open air. A few marble benches had been placed on the as-yet empty, grassy site. Seated upon them were Mencius and several Aztecs who appeared mildly surprised and abashed in response to his words. He had to set them straight on certain points of orthodoxy, of course; they’d developed a couple of strange, or, he generously allowed, misinterpreted ideas because of their isolation.



    “I assure you, the Master would never have condoned human sacrifice,” he calmly but firmly told them. He spotted Lucius out of the corner of his eye, then smiled at his devotees and nodded respectfully. “Now you must excuse me. A friend has just arrived who requires my counsel.”

    “Your Nahuatl is excellent, Master,” Lucius told him once they were alone. “And your perception remains undiminished.”

    “I have lingered here in Calixtlahuaca not just to minister to our long-isolated flock,” Mencius told him. “I’ve been waiting for you, my young friend. I saw your need in your eyes that day the city was liberated. So now that you have finally sought me out, tell me—what is on your mind?”

    Lucius sat down heavily upon a marble bench next to the elderly priest.

    “You remember my circumstances when we first met?” he asked Mencius, who nodded. “Well, they are now almost completely reversed. I now have the means to enter the Senate, and to possibly even go further than that. I’ve made a name for myself on the battlefield which will fuel my political career. I might even…” He paused, wondering if even speaking of his most fervent hope was bad luck. “Claudia…” was all he managed to say in a reverent whisper.

    Mencius nodded. “She’s a widow now,” he said. “She hasn’t remarried, you know, even though it’s been…what… nearly four years since her husband died? I think we both know why.”

    Lucius shook his head. “I wish I shared your confidence, Master,” he said. “I just can’t help feeling that… that I don’t deserve it. Any of it.”

    Mencius looked at him and nodded yet again. Lucius glanced at him; he’d expected the High Priest to chastise him and contradict him, but he did not, and Lucius realized that he was grateful. He also realized he’d underestimated just how wise the High Priest was.

    “Tell my why you feel that way,” Mencius said evenly.

    “Because of everything. The war. All the death I’ve meted out. But mainly… because of Catullus,” he said, then told Mencius everything. How he’d wanted to hate Catullus but couldn’t; how he’d promised Claudia he’d look out for him; how they’d become the closest if unlikeliest of friends; and how, finally, he’d failed his friend, and his beloved, and himself, inside the gates of the Aztec capital. By the time he finished, tears were streaming from his remaining eye.

    “I can’t help wondering, what if I could have saved him, but didn’t?” Lucius said, his voice ripe with agony. “What if there was something more I could have done, but didn’t do, because… because… some part of me, some ugly, vicious part of me thought that if he died, then Claudia and I…” His voice cracked, and his head fell into his hands. “He was my friend. And now he’s dead, and I…”

    The big shoulders heaved, and Mencius reached out and lay one hand upon them.

    “I have heard,” Mencius said, “that you fought like a demon over your friend’s wounded body. You even lost an eye in the fight.” Lucius nodded. “Those do not sound like the actions of a man who wanted his rival dead, Lucius Rutullus. Those sound like the actions of a gallant comrade and a loving friend.

    “We all carry evil in our hearts,” the priest continued. “Do not judge yourself by that. Judge yourself by what you do. If we owe anything to the dead, it’s life itself. Live your life, Lucius. Don’t merely exist; live. After all my years on earth, that’s the one thing I think I’ve learned for certain.”

    Lucius sat silently with the Confucian High Priest for several minutes, turning over what he’d said in his mind. He began to nod slowly, the rose quickly to his feet.

    “Thank you, Master,” Lucius said, pausing just long enough to shake the High Priest’s hand before he marched out the door.

    “Oh, to be that young again!” Mencius said as he pushed his creaking body up from the hard marble bench.
     
  5. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    man.... now i cant wait for the next installment.....
     
  6. rabidveggie

    rabidveggie King

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    Another excellent chapter, however it kind of sounded like Caesar is conspiring about something.
     
  7. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Nah, just shoring up political support back home. Remember, he's not a supreme autocratic ruler anymore. In fact, I'm hoping to have some fun with that simple fact in future installments... starting with the next one.
     
  8. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    hehe, a touch of civil disobediance (anarchy) is always fun...
     
  9. biggamer132

    biggamer132 King

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    Sisiutil, I'm starting to suffer symptoms of withdrawal. Will the next installment come soon? :(
     
  10. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    How does tonight grab ya? :D I need to go back into a save and grab a couple more screenshots, hence the delay.
     
  11. Ultimate_Waffle

    Ultimate_Waffle The soul devourer.

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    Well, it better come soon, or else I will devour your soul!:mischief:
     
  12. Clovis

    Clovis Charlemagne's Grandfather

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    :bump: :coffee: :coffee: :coffee: :coffee: :gripe:
     
  13. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 12 – Anarchy

    Unfortunately for Lucius, he was not dismissed from his duties immediately. He had plenty of time for his self-doubt and his self-recrimination to re-emerge. So he still did not write to Claudia. After all the time that had passed, he wondered if a letter from him would be welcome; and as more time passed, the task became harder to accomplish and easier to delay. He’d been told since he’d first met Claudia that he wasn’t good enough for her, and a lifetime of hearing that message was not easily set aside.



    Caesar, meanwhile, busied himself returning order to the former Aztec Empire, but also found the time to send a series of proposed laws back to Rome. There, they would be discussed first in the Senate, then in the main legislative body of the Roman Republic, the Plebeian Assembly. In the latter body, the proposed laws would be promulgated by one of the newly-elected Tribunes of the Plebs, one Septimus Scaurus Rufus, a Caesar adherent to his very bones. In his previous positions, Septimus Scaurus had proved himself an able administrator. a masterful politician and orator, however, he was not, and this was no doubt partly to blame for what happened.

    The first measure Septimus Scaurus introduced, to invest half of the war booty into rebuilding Aztec cities, gained ratification with relative ease. There was, inevitably, some grousing, but most of the businessmen that comprised the top three of Rome’s five classes could see the sense in it. With Aztecia open to them, they anticipated a new, large market for their goods. The sooner the people there had the money to buy them, the better. The men who ran the treasury saw the sense of it as well. Besides, all concerned expected the remainder of the war booty to come home to the treasury.

    When Scaurus introduced Caesar’s next law, which distributed the remaining war proceeds among Rome’s troops, the grumbling was louder. Outside of the higher classes, however, the proposition was extremely popular; support for the troops was running high among the people after a very successful war that had been fought, it seemed, with no small amount of moral justification. Catullus Senior’s prediction proved correct; neither of Rome’s representative bodies were willing to oppose a motion with such popular support, and it passed into law with the reluctant blessing of both the Plebeian Assembly and the Senate.

    However, this put the men in both government bodies into a recalcitrant frame of mind. Those not completely within Caesar’s camp quietly decided amongst themselves that whatever his next proposition might be, they would present stiff and formidable opposition. Therefore, when the lex Fides Libertas was introduced a veritable political storm erupted. This law, which would allow all religions equal footing within the Empire, would have been controversial enough on its own; but with the political forces in Rome in a resistant mood, the opposition was fierce. Meetings in the Well of the Comitia—the open-air meeting place in the Forum Romanum for the people’s assemblies—degenerated into shouting matches, and the following meetings to discuss the proposed law in the Senate followed suit, with Caesar’s adherents fighting a pitched rhetorical battle against his opponents.



    To make a rapidly-deteriorating situation even worse, one ambitious Tribune of the Plebs saw the unrest as an opportunity to rise to prominence. With Caesar and most of the other prominent political leaders absent from Rome, Lucius Appuleius Saturninus seized his chance. Speaking from the rostra in the Well of the Comitia, he spoke to the crowd and appealed to their worst instincts.

    “People of Rome, listen to me!” he shouted indignantly, and people obeyed; Saturninus was tall, dark-featured, and handsome, and was an excellent orator, having earned several years’ experience in Rome’s law courts before embarking on his political career.

    “For centuries we have tolerated the heresies of other faiths!” Saturninus said. “For generations we have defended Confucianism against the threat of infidels! For years we have fought a holy war to defend our brothers and sisters of the faith! And now look at what Caesar and his patrician henchmen propose! All faiths are equal! Confucianism—the one true faith, the one Roman faith—is but one among many, no better than the others! Are we to tolerate this debasement of our beliefs, of our culture, of what makes us Roman

    The stirring and rumbling of the crowd in and around the Comitia spurred Saturninus on. That some of the patricians in the Senate were opposing the measure was immaterial. Saturninus intended to wed whatever resentment of the new law he could stir up to the underlying resentment that many plebeians harboured towards Rome’s most privileged class. As for the fact that Confucianism had been founded by a man of Chinese descent, not a Roman, of course Saturninus deliberately avoided mentioning it. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Septimus Scaurus watching him, his face livid in response to Saturninus’ demagoguery, but without the oratorical skill to oppose him. Saturninus suppressed a grin and turned on the man.

    “Look at this man, a fellow Tribune of the Plebs!” He said, pointing an accusing finger at Scaurus. “A plebeian? Ha! He’s a patrician puppet if ever there was one! They want to shove this new law down your throats, like bitter medicine, with him as the doctor. Well, it’s not medicine, it’s poison, and Septimus Scaurus is a quack! Make no mistake, my friends—all we hold precious, all we hold dear, is threatened! This will be the end of Rome as we know it!”

    All it would take for the full fury of the crowd to be unleashed, Saturninus knew, was for one person to cross the line from talk to action. Thus he had arranged for one of his adherents to be within the Well of the Comitia with a good-sized rock hidden within the folds of his toga. That last phrase was the signal; as soon as the words left Saturninus’ mouth, his confederate threw his rock. It struck Septimus Scaurus right between the eyes; he dropped to the ground like a puppet whose strings were suddenly cut.

    Saturninus was taking no chances. He wanted a revolution, and he got it. Scaurus’ fall was the signal to the other men he’d arranged to have planted in the crowd, most of them ex-gladiators, enforcers from the various crossroads colleges, and other ruffians drawn from the stews of Rome and the waterfronts of Antium and Ostia. They rushed the rostra, attacking the other Tribunes of the Plebs. Carried away by the ugly emotions Saturninus’ rhetoric had inspired, many others in the crowd joined in. Of the ten Tribunes of the Plebs, eight managed to escape only with severe beatings and considered themselves lucky; poor Septimus Scaurus, however, was beaten to death by the crowd. Saturninus, the hero of the hour, emerged unscathed, and was carried triumphantly out of the Well of the Comitia on the shoulders of his hired thugs. They carried him home, where he met with the two other ringleaders of his rebellion.



    “I’ve already received word from Antium that an uprising is underway there,” Gaius Servilius Glaucia, his friend and chief confederate, informed him. “We’ll hear news from the other cities over the next few days, but we have agents stirring up the people everywhere.”

    “Excellent!” Saturninus said from his dining couch, draining his wine cup and signalling to a servant for more. “First thing we do is wipe out the Senate and all patricians—with one notable exception,” he said with a nod to his other guest. “Without their traditional leadership, the people will be looking for someone to guide them. That role, of course, will fall to me.”

    “What about Caesar?” Glaucia said, his face folding into a frown. “He still has his legions up in the north.”

    The third member of their party spoke up at this point, shaking his head while a confident smile played upon his face.

    “Caesar is a spent force,” Marcus Phillippus Cinna said, brushing the long lock of dark hair that fell from his forehead out of his eyes.

    Cinna had largely lain dormant since his disgraceful dismissal from the battlefield a few short years before. His father had threatened to disown him. A bribed servant and the administration of some untraceable poison into the senior Cinna’s dinner one night, however, ensured that he never got a chance to change his will. Cinna, an only child, received his full inheritance of money and estates.

    His wealth, however, was not enough to overcome the shame of his military disgrace. The story had spread throughout the empire, it seemed. He couldn’t walk anywhere in public without hearing people sniggering behind his back, or looking down their noses at him. So Cinna had retreated into his mansion and brooded, dreaming of a day when he could exact his revenge on all those who had wronged him. As time passed, that list grew very long indeed.

    Thus, when Lucius Appuleius Saturninus had appeared in his study and offered his services to Cinna, the disgraced patrician had taken him up on his offer. Saturninus’ political career had been floundering because of a lack of funds, which Cinna now provided. In return, Cinna worked behind the scenes, but pulled all the strings. The lex Fides Libertas had presented them with the perfect opportunity to make their move, and they had seized it with a vengeance.

    “He’s served his purpose; he’s united the continent under Roman rule.” Cinna said to his two companions. “Now his time is done. Even an immortal cannot resist the will of the people.” Cinna paused. “The people… are sovereign,” he intoned solemnly, then laughed.

    “Yes, the whole ill-bred, uncouth lot of them!” Saturninus added, laughing derisively with Cinna. “Trust me, Glaucia; by the time Caesar and his legions are finished tidying up Aztecia and complete the long march home, our goals will be accomplished. We will be installed as the new leaders of the Roman Empire. Caesar will have no choice but to stand down, and the legions no choice but to obey the orders of their new leaders.”

    “Exactly,” Cinna said. “You forget, Glaucia, that Caesar has great respect for the will of the people, and for the law.” Cinna chuckled and swirled his wine within his cup. “The sentimentality of a foolish old man.”

    Glauica nodded, but held his tongue. He wasn’t so certain that a 5000-year-old immortal could be dealt with so easily.

    ***



    Two days later, Lucius Rutullus found himself summoned to the command tent yet again, which was located on a wind-swept plain just south of Calixtlahuaca. Once inside, he was greeted by several grim faces.

    “You’ve heard?” Ceasar asked him curtly when he walked in, waving the junior legate to a chair on the other side of a table from his own. Beside him sat Catullus Senior, looking equally grim, his lips pressed together in a hard line.

    “About the riots?” Lucius replied. “The camp is buzzing about it, Caesar.”

    “What’s the mood of the men? How do they feel about all this?” Caesar asked.

    “They’re with you as always sir,” Lucius informed him confidently; he’d spent most of the morning making the rounds, gauging the legionaries’ opinions of the unrest in the Empire’s main cities. “They’re soldiers. They’re used to action. And everyone has loved ones back home. They want to do something about it,” Lucius added, his voice fervent, indicating he shared their feelings on the matter.

    “So they shall,” Caesar said, his voice hard and decisive. “The garrisons in the Aztec cities can maintain the peace here. The remaining Legions will return to Roman territory and re-establish order. You are to take the Fourteenth and return to Rome to do just that. Try to do it with minimal bloodshed; these are fellow Romans, Lucius. They’re being misled by a demagogue. This storm will pass. It’s our job to minimize its effects.”

    “The entire Senate has gone into hiding,” Catullus Senior rumbled from beside Caesar. The general’s hands were shaking. “The mobs were dragging patricians out of their homes, into the streets—killing the men, raping the women…” his voice trailed off.

    Sitting in front of him, Lucius’ face went pale as a single word, a name, flashed into his mind.

    Claudia..
    .

    “I would not trust Rome to anyone else, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus,” Caesar said to him. “Take the Fourteenth and march to Calixtlahuaca’s dock on the double. The galleon Minerva will bear you and your men back to Rome. I’ll be right behind you as soon as I’m able to get away.”

    “Sir!” Lucius said, already on his feet and heading out.

    ***



    Claudia Pulchra sat in her study, trying to go over her household accounts, but found herself unable to concentrate. Frustrated, she stood up from her desk and took to pacing. She was impatient with this debilitating agitation she was suffering from, but she couldn’t help it. She felt like an animal in a cage.

    When the riots in Rome had begun several days ago, most of the senators and other patrician nobility had decided that discretion was the better part of valour and had promptly left the city. Most of them had country estates outside of Rome where they hoped to safely wait out the unrest until order was re-established. A few patricians, however, refused to budge, to be forced from their city, the city their ancestors had founded and guided to greatness, because of common rabble led by a demagogue. They would not be intimidated; they would remain and make a stand, for better or for worse. Claudia was among them.

    Nonetheless, those who remained weren’t so arrogant that they didn’t take precautions. Several patricians had, as Catullus Senior had heard, been subject to the full wrath of the mobs wandering Rome when the riots had first started. Noblemen had indeed been dragged from their homes and torn apart by the crowds, their wives and daughters passed around by the ruffians and subjected to their lust. So the few patricians who had remained had boarded up their windows and doors, had armed their servants, and had hired ex-gladiators and retired soldiers for protection. Some of their new guardians had been among the rioters not long before taking on their new duties, but at times like this, one couldn’t be fussy.

    Claudia’s father had urged her to leave Rome for their family estate on the coast, south of Ostia.

    “You’re a woman and you’re by yourself,” Marcus Claudius Pulcher had pleaded with his eldest daughter. “You’re not safe here!”

    “No one is safe here,” Claudia had countered. “Even so, I’m not alone. I have the servants, and the house is secure.”

    Her father had shaken his head. “You should leave,” he insisted.

    “Are you leaving?” she’d asked him pointedly.

    Of course Marcus Claudius Pulcher, twice Consul, would not quit Rome, and realized that he would therefore lose this argument with his daughter. Not for the first time, he regretted that she was so well-versed in rhetoric. He couldn’t even persuade her to leave her own home for the added security of his.

    “And leave my house to be looted by the mob?” she’d responded to the suggestion. “I think not!”

    So she had remained in her home, though she was nervous and, yes, afraid. She had been careful not to let on to her father or to her anxious servants that she felt that way. Thus far, the mobs had avoided the highest, wealthiest homes on the Palatine Hill, as though they were somehow sacrosanct because of their grandness, or because the oldest and most prestigious of Rome’s founding families lived in them. Or maybe the ruffians were just too lazy to climb all the way up the hill, Claudia reflected ruefully. Still, she knew better than to expect this state of affairs to last.

    And what will you do
    , she asked herself, when they batter down your door? When they drag you from your home, out into the street, tear your dress from your body and pass you around like a common whore? She shuddered, then forced the unpleasant image from her mind. It won’t happen. It can’t happen!

    “Domina!” her steward, Titus, was calling to her from the hallway. “Domina!” he came bursting into her study without knocking, that simple act telling her something was very wrong indeed.

    Claudia forced a calm expression onto her face. “What is it, Titus?” she asked, proud that her voice was even.

    “A group of men, Domina! Heading up the Palatine! Up our street!”

    The middle-aged man seemed on the verge of tears. He wasn’t even carrying one of the few spears or swords she’d managed to obtain to arm her staff. He was a house servant, not a warrior. Not for the first time, Claudia questioned the wisdom of her decision to stay in the city, especially when she now realized that her servants would suffer as much as she if the mob chose to ransack her home.

    You’re a proud, foolhardy, stupid woman,
    she chastised herself silently, then pushed the thought aside; the decision had been made, and it was now too late to take it back. She would have to live—or die—with the consequences.

    “They may pass us by, Titus,” she said. The man only shook his head, wrung his hands, and blinked away tears. Sympathetic to his fear, for she felt no small part of it herself, she reached out and placed what she hoped was a steadying hand on his shoulder. “Whatever may come, we will face it together. Remember that you are Roman, Titus. Remember that above all else.”

    Taking some courage from her words and from her show of strength, Titus took a deep breath, steadied himself, and nodded.

    “Alert the rest of the staff. Have everyone take up the arms that have been provided.”

    She paused a moment, considering. She suddenly recalled something she’d read in Caesar’s account of the Spanish campaign. A good general always ensures that his troops have a course for retreat, should it prove necessary.

    “Have one of the maids stationed by the back door,” she said. “And another one by the rear windows. If necessary, we can escape through them, and make our way to my father’s home.”

    Titus actually favoured her with a smile, so impressed was he by her clear thinking and grace under pressure. Not for the first time, he considered how lucky he was to be the chief steward of this beautiful patrician widow.

    “I will, Domina,” he said, then turned to head for the door. There, he paused. “Your husband, I think, would have been very proud of you at this moment.”

    The compliment did little to comfort Claudia, however; it just made her wish that her husband was alive and present so that he could take command of the situation, not her. What did she know of fighting? She’d read about it in a book, that was the sum total of her experience of conflict. She blinked away tears as she wished that one of the two men she had loved were present—preferably both of them. For she had come to love her husband in the short time she’d known him—a love of affection, if not passion. But Catullus was dead, and Lucius was away in the north, and she hadn’t heard from him in years.

    And yet, the thought of both men stirred something in her mind. She had arranged to have her servants armed, yes—but what about herself? Her hazel eyes suddenly blazed. She would not be hauled off by the mob and made their whore; she would go down fighting! She left her own study and marched across the courtyard garden to that of her late husband. There, there was what she needed, hanging upon the study’s walls.

    Outside in the street, Saturninus was leading a throng of men over two hundred strong right up to the top of the Palatine Hill. Prior to this, he had steered away the rioters from this exclusive district to ensure that the home of his patron, Marcus Phillippus Cinna, remained safe. But now he and Cinna were confident that they had the mob firmly under their control; it was time to demonstrate to all patricians that none of them were safe.

    He reached the top of the hill and picked out the house which Cinna had told him would be his first target. His eyes settled upon the home of the late Quintus Lutatius Catullus Junior, now home to his widow: Claudia Pulchra Primia, one of the most beautiful women in Rome, if not the most beautiful. He smiled wolfishly.

    Don’t worry, Claudia Pulchra
    , he thought to himself, you won’t get raped by my men like those other patrician women we caught. Cinna wants you for himself. He felt his blood stirring as he thought of taking her, bound and tearful, to Cinna’s house, there to watch whatever his patron had in store for the beautiful widow. For Saturninus liked to watch.

    Cinna had personal reasons for choosing Claudia as his target. She was the beloved of the two men who had shown him up: Lucius Rutullus Publius by taking command of the Fourteenth Legion—his Legion!—during the battle of Tlatelolco, and Quintus Lutatius Catullus Junior by taking command of the Fourteenth after his disgrace. Cinna was eagerly looking forward to meting out his revenge on her. He had several things he planned to do to her—things that even the prostitutes he regularly hired had balked at.

    “This one, my friends!” Saturninus shouted, pointing at Claudia’s house. “We sack this one first! But remember what I told you—its mistress is an enemy of the people! She must be captured and taken unharmed so that she may be tried in a court of the people! I’ll have any man who disobeys this order flogged, is that clear?”

    His men nodded knowingly. So Saturninus wanted the woman for himself, they figured. Well, that was fair enough; as their leader, he was certainly entitled to his pickings of the spoils. They were sure there’d be plenty of comely serving maids to be passed around amongst themselves.

    The mob formed up in front of Claudia’s door, shouting and cheering, while a battering ram was carried forward by the strongest men in the crowd. They lined up the heavy wooden ram with the door and slammed it forward. The heavy oak door of the house withstood this first assault; it shuddered and bore an ugly mark, but it held.

    “Again!” Saturninus shouted, and the men wielding the battering ram drew it back.

    But they never brought it forward, for to their surprise, the maimed door suddenly opened. And out of it stepped a goddess.

    She was clad in a gleaming helmet with a high crest and held a long spear in her right hand, its blunt end resting on the pavement. A belt with a dagger and a sword in a scabbard was girdled about her slender waist. Her left arm carried a legionary’s large, convex rectangular shield. Her long woolen dress was immaculately white, her skin glowing, her hazel eyes blazing with righteous fury. She was the living embodiment of Minerva, the ancient Roman goddess of wisdom and war.

    She lowered her shield and let its bottom edge rap loudly upon the pavement, a sound that made every man in the suddenly shocked and silent crowd jump.

    Ecastor, that thing is heavy!
    Claudia thought as she set the shield down with a relief she was careful not to display to the mob before her. Instead, she maintained her look of dignified rage, took a deep breath, and roared in a stage voice, just as Lucius Rutullus had taught her how to do when they were children.

    “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!?” she demanded of the men standing before her. Her voice, high and clear, reverberated off the stone walls around and behind her. “LEAVE THIS PLACE AT ONCE! RETURN TO YOUR HOMES!”

    For several long moments, the crowd did and said nothing. The ancient beliefs in the old gods had been supplanted by new faiths, yes; but Romans were by nature a superstitious lot, and in their habits and customs they paid obeisance to the old gods every day. They had never thought to be confronted by one of them in person!

    Behind her, in her house, Claudia’s servants watched the confrontation nervously through peepholes in the heavy shutters they’d nailed into place over the windows only a few days earlier. She had given them a simple order: if she fell before the mob, they were not to fight, but to flee, out the back door to her father’s home.

    “This house and its contents don’t matter as much as your lives,” she’d told her weeping servants, “and neither do I.” She wished she’d realized that several days ago. But it was too late for self-recrimination now.

    “ARE YOU DEAF?” Claudia shouted at the crowd. She took a step forward, lifting the heavy shield and setting it down with a loud thump, and was pleased to see the crowd flinch yet again at the sound. This just might work…

    Saturninus, though, suddenly saw his entire revolution slipping away as a result of the actions of this one woman. He knew enough about how the mob’s mind worked to understand that if they retreated now, news of this incident would spread, and would grow from story to legend in short order. Who could stand against the old order, the men he was leading would say, when the ancient gods themselves spoke through them? He knew he had to do something, had to regain control of the crowd, of his crowd.

    “Claudia Pulchra!” he said, stepping forward. “Dressing up in your late husband’s armour doesn’t fool us! You are a patrician and an enemy of the people! Your property is forfeit! It belongs to the people!” he shouted, his face reddening as he yelled at her.

    “The people?!?” Claudia shouted back, her dignified voice rich with contempt. “You do not represent the people, you jumped-up worm! The good people of Rome, patrician and plebeian alike, are locked away in their homes, afraid of you and your cut-throat mobs! And if the rest of you had an ounce of good sense, you’d leave here at once and go emulate them! Do any of you want to face Caesar’s wrath when he returns? For return he will, and a reckoning shall surely follow!” She was pleased to see many of the men in the mob shudder at that unwelcome but very likely possibility.

    Saturninus turned several different shades of purple. How dare she! How dare she oppose him in this manner, assuming the mantle of a goddess, speaking to them as eloquently as he could himself! A mere woman! He turned to the crowd.

    “You there! Take hold of this harpy while rest of us enter…”

    He was unable to complete relaying his orders, however. Claudia knew that she could not kill a man, even one as odious as this rabble-rousing demagogue. But she wasn’t above hurting him. Thus, she had raised the spear she held and brought the flat side of its iron tip down sharply upon the top of Saturninus’ head.

    “OW!!” the erstwhile leader of the people exclaimed, clutching his head and turning to face his nemesis.

    “You will not enter this home!” she told him, and the crowd.

    “You rotten, stinking, cunnus!”

    Claudia’s eyes opened wide at the coarse insult. She brought the spear down again, even more heavily, so much so that this time it broke when it struck Saturninus’ skull. His eyes rolled up into his head, and he unceremoniously fell to the pavement like a dropped sack of grain.

    The men standing around him glanced down at their fallen leader uncertainly, then cast equally confused glances at the woman opposing them. A critical moment had come; Claudia knew it down to her very bones. The crowd wavered, hesitated. Then, as her stomach lurched, she saw the fear vanish from the coarse features of its roughest-looking members and knew that in spite of her valiant effort, she had lost.

    “She’s just a woman,” a tall man with an unshaven face and long, unruly hair snarled. His narrow eyes looked her up and down, and a lecherous grin appeared on his face. An angry murmur swept through the crowd.

    Claudia swallowed hard. She threw the ruined shaft of the spear aside and drew her late husband’s gladius from its scabbard and held it forward. She grunted as she lifted the heavy shield and did her best to assume a defensive stance, her left arm trembling from the weight of the shield and, she knew, from fear as well. As a youngster, she and her girlfriends had watched the young men drilling on the Campus Martius, and she now struggled to remember what she’d seen. At the time, she’d never considered the possibility of emulating the young men. No proper Roman woman would! She had been more concerned, like her girlfriends, with watching their favourites go through their military exercises.

    And Lucius was always my favourite,
    she reflected as the mob of angry, lustful men shifted before her, collectively moving like a cat about to pounce on its hapless prey. Not for the first time in the past few minutes, she wished that her childhood sweetheart was there at her side. But he was not; she was utterly and terribly alone.

    “Very well then,” she said, quite proud that she maintained an even tone quite devoid of the terror she felt. “I suppose I’ll only be able to kill—what, two? Three? Maybe four of you before you overwhelm me. So, who among you is ready to die?” she asked as she forced an eager smile onto her face.

    She realized then that the cowardly, hesitant looks on their coarse faces at that moment would likely be the last thing that she ever enjoyed in this life. She hunkered down behind her dead husband’s heavy shield and waited for them to make their move.
     
  14. zuryne

    zuryne Chieftain

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    Great update, Sisiutil. I assume then, Lucius will come to Claudia's rescue at the last possible minute, like a true hero ?
     
  15. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    Apr 2, 2007
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    this chapter has only left me wanting for more..... NOW!
    ..yet another great chapter Sisiutil!!
     
  16. rabidveggie

    rabidveggie King

    Joined:
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    Argh! Why did you have to end it like that? Now I'll be wondering what happened to Claudia until the next post. :(
     
  17. Ravers

    Ravers Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2004
    Messages:
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    Fantastic writing Sisiutil, this is easily up there with the greatest stories ever posted on these boards.

    Now please write some more or the mob will be knocking on your door:mischief:

    Seriously though, thanks for writing this:goodjob::goodjob:
     
  18. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    ...or not. That would make for a real tear-jerker of a tragic ending, wouldn't it?

    Yes, I'm evil.
     
  19. biggamer132

    biggamer132 King

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    What a shame. :(
     
  20. Clovis

    Clovis Charlemagne's Grandfather

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2005
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    299
    Location:
    Michigan, U.S.
    He's playing with your mind,don't listen to him.

    Either that or I'm in denial, I refuse to believe the obvious. :wallbash: :please: :shake: :aargh: :ack: :old: :run: :stupid: :sarcasm: Hey, I can fit one more in!:deadhorse:
     
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