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. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Statesboro, GA
    Have you forgotten me?! I have to boast and say that I've been with the ALC from the beginning.

    Also, I like how you took Jesus' quote in Matthew 22:21, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s," and changed it since you're Caesar. Neat.
     
  2. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter 6: First and Foremost



    He stepped out from behind a tree and looked down the hill’s slope, across the plain. He scowled at what he saw.

    There, perched comfortably beside Lake Tiber, lay Rome. Just outside of it, to the city’s east, was its prize: a rich, terraced farm of rice paddies that fed the city. But that was not all; he strained his eyes and could just make out something new: a mine it appeared to be, just south of the city, like the one he’d seen outside of Antium, long ago. A tiny belch of flame and smoke periodically escaped from the mine.

    This pleasant view of a nascent city and its citizens plying its nearby resources did not please the man who now glanced at the scene. Far from it. The plunder the Romans took from the land, and the comfort in which they lived, enraged him. He turned away and marched a few paces back into the woods to his companions.

    “Romans,” he sneered as he rejoined them, then spat upon the ground as though just uttering the name itself was distasteful. “Bah! We were here long before them, and we’ll be here to spit upon their graves!”

    He spoke loudly, for his voice had to carry to the hundreds of men in the forest clearing. They gave a low, rumbling cheer at his words—loud enough to show their enthusiasm, but not so loud as to carry to the city a few miles away.

    Ragnar looked about the clearing at the men he led. They were strong and fierce, armed with bows and quivers full of arrows, as well as razor-sharp fighting knives in their belts. The Romans would no doubt regard them with disdain, even horror. Good, Ragnar thought.



    “They call us ‘barbarians’,” he said. The crowd rumbled, knowing the term was meant as an insult. To the Latin-speaking Romans, the Goths’ language sounded like ‘bar-bar-bar’—utter gibberish, hence the name. “Very well. We’ll show them the meaning of the word!”

    His men again cheered; though restrained, their was no mistaking their enthusiasm.

    “Tomorrow,” Ragnar said, smiling wolfishly from behind his long blond beard. “We strike tomorrow. We will pillage their land, raze their cities, feast upon their food, and take their women for our own pleasure!”

    Another cheer, louder this time, and longer, as the men vented their anticipation, their bloodlust. Would the sound carry? Would the Romans be alerted? Well, what if they were? The result would be the same. Rome would fall. Ragnar himself looked forward to killing their leader, Caesar, with his own bare hands. Immortal, was he? He’d see about that…

    Later, Ragnar sat around a campfire with a few of his lieutenants. Most were also blood kin.

    “You spoke well, Ragnar,” one of them with long, dark brown hair and eyes black as coals said. “Every man here would die for you, you know that.”

    Ragnar nodded with satisfaction. “Good. But I’d rather have the cursed Romans do the dying, Gorrum.”

    “They die like any other man,” Gorrum replied. “I have killed several myself,” he added, his mouth twisting into a malicious smile.

    “And they killed several of us in return,” another man said. “They have axes of bronze now. Very formidable,” he added with a shudder.

    Gorrum glared at Drugan. “As are we. Our arrows will bring them down from a distance,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Besides, their precious axemen are away in the north, guarding their border with Spain.” He chuckled cruelly. “They won’t be expecting us. From what I understand, Rome is garrisoned by a few club-wielding warriors—no match for our bows!”

    The older man, his dark hair and beard streaked with grey, nodded in agreement with him, but without enthusiasm. Drugan had the respect of the clan due to his advanced years—advanced for them, at least. He also had been, along with Gorrum, one of the few to survive an earlier, aborted raid the year before. The fighting had been close and vicious, but the Roman axemen had prevailed—barely. The few surviving men of the clan had escaped back into the southern woods and told their tale.

    In a way, Ragnar had to admit, the Romans had done something the clans of the southern tundra could never do on their own: the encroaching Roman civilization had forced the clans to cease their in-fighting and unite to oppose them. They had shared their knowledge, of archery in particular, and had formed this massive force. Many of the tribe leaders had wanted to attack the Japanese to the east, but Ragnar had persuaded them that Rome, with its richer lands, was not only the bigger threat, but also the most enticing target.

    “My brother died in that raid,” another man grumbled, his anger plainly simmering beneath the low tightness of his voice.

    Ragnar clapped his hand on the man’s shoulder. “Many of us lost kin that day, Brugundius,” he said. “Tomorrow, they will be avenged, a thousand times over.” Ragnar nodded again and smiled grimly. “Tomorrow, the Romans will know the wrath of the Goths. Their club-wielding warriors will fall beneath a hailstorm of arrows. We will sack their city and kill them to a man.”

    Brugundius nodded, then glanced up at the sky. “I can hardly wait for the stars to set,” he growled.

    ***

    At dawn, the large raiding party was standing in the trees just east of Rome, where Ragnar had eyed their target the previous evening. They could see a few Romans working the rice paddies to the city’s east.

    “First we pillage the farm,” Ragnar said to those nearby. “And deny them their precious food. Then, we sack Rome itself!”

    The men around him growled and chuckled roughly in agreement. Ragnar turned to the assembled horde and raised his voice.

    “ATTACK!” he shouted.

    With that one word, the raiders were unleashed. For days they had restrained themselves, keeping quiet so as to catch the Romans unawares. Now they gave full voice to their fury and bloodlust, screaming in furious rage as they ran towards the rice paddies.

    Ahead of them, they could see the Roman farmers suddenly stop what they were doing and turn towards them. The workers then turned and fled as a group, but kept hold of their hoes and rakes, seemingly for protection; indeed, the men who made up the rear of the fleeing group were running backwards, their tools held before them to ward off attack as they ran back to Rome.

    “Let them run!” Ragnar shouted over the din of his warriors. “We’ll catch them and kill them in the city soon enough! Destroy the farm!”

    Shouting and laughing eagerly, the warriors swarmed over the water-soaked paddies. They took began to kick at the low earth walls that held the water feeding the growing rice in place, allowing it to spill out over the nearby grasslands.



    Drugan, his mouth set in a grim line beneath his beard, approached Ragnar as both men watched the Warriors clumsily and slowly damaging the paddies.

    “That was an orderly retreat,” the older Goth said. “They were expecting us. They didn’t even drop their tools.”

    “What of it?” Ragnar said. “The farm is ours. Soon the city will be as well. You’re too gloomy, old friend.”

    “Perhaps,” Drugan muttered. “But I have a bad feeling about this…”

    Ragnar’s bushy eyebrows knitted together in an annoyed frown, and he stalked away from his pessimistic comrade. He began to shout encouragement to his men as they continued to damage the Romans’ precious farmland.

    Then he heard it.

    At first, he was barely aware of it. The sound came from a distance, from the city, and was barely noticeable over the din of the horde and their wanton acts of destruction. Gradually, though, all the Goths heard the sound, and slowly, they stopped to listen.

    It sounded like… drums? Yes, several drums, being beaten in a regular rhythm. And another sound accompanied that, in perfect tempo with it: footsteps, hundreds of them, marching in unison.

    Ragnar, along with all the Goths, turned and looked at the road that led to Rome. What he saw made him feel as though something cold and slimy had just rolled over in his gut.



    The sun shone off their metal helmets, so brightly that the Goths had to squint against the glare. Before them, the approaching force held large, tall shields, covering them nearly from head to toe, and decorated with eagle motifs. Their shins and arms were sheathed in metal greaves, their bodies covered by plated metal armour over their tunics. Dust rose from the rode behind them as they marched in precision towards the horde. There had to be several hundred of them—well over a thousand easily, but with the men in such a tight, square-shaped formation, it was hard to tell.



    Ragnar shook off his initial trepidation. He glanced around and could see that his fellow Goths were as intimidated as he. These was no mere handful of undisciplined warriors with clubs, nor a collection of brutish axemen; this was something entirely different. They all knew it. The Goth leader knew he had to rouse his men, firm up their courage. It was what a leader did, what his father had taught him.

    Ragnar forced himself to laugh. “Don’t they look pretty?” he shouted to his comrades.

    The Goths turned to look at him. Taking his show of bravado at face value, they found encouragement in his words, and laughed derisively as well.

    “Have no fear, men of Goth!” Ragnar shouted. “We’ll show these green troops what fighting is really about!”

    The Goths responded with enthusiastic, blood-curdling shouts. They took their bows from where they were slung over their shoulders and pulled arrows from their quivers. They now eagerly awaited the fight with these fresh-faced Roman troops.

    Within the approaching Roman legion, the men were also mentally preparing themselves for battle.

    “Steady, boys!” the Primus Pilus, the ‘First Spear’ who led the Legion in the field, marked by the high plume on his helmet, shouted to his charges. “We’ll show these barbarians what for! Stay in formation and remember your training!”

    Two thousand strong they were: a legion, Rome’s first, comprised of twenty-five centuries, each made up of eighty men and led by a centurion. Twenty of the men in each century were non-combatants: cooks, baggage-handlers, metal-workers to repair weapons and armour and the like. These men were safely ensconced, at the moment, in Rome.



    At the centre of the legion marched Caesar, clad as they were in helmet, armour, and greaves. Only the bright red cape he wore indicated his high rank as their General. How could he not accompany them, his boys, on this, their first battle? He’d been hoping for just such an opportunity.

    Despite the encouragement of the Primus Pilus and their months of training, Caesar could sense the nervousness in the men around him. This would be their first fight, and though their weapons and training were far superior to that of the horde they faced, and their numbers nearly equal, these young Romans were, as the barbarian leader had accurately surmised, untested in battle, and Caesar was all to aware of it. Would the formation collapse? Would the legion—the 1st Legion he called them, for that was what they were, in so many ways, Rome’s best—turn and run at first contact with the enemy? That couldn’t be allowed to happen.

    Caesar knew that these young men needed something more than mere words to encourage them. But what…? Then he smiled. He knew just the thing.

    “Let’s have a song, boys!” he shouted out above the din of marching feet. “A song, hey!”

    Some of the troops turned to glance at him in surprise. Seeing their leader’s face beaming joyfully as they marched into battle roused their spirits.

    The Primus Pilus smiled. “The bar-bar song, lads! Full voice, now!”

    As one, the 1st Legion began to sing.

    Oh, the bar-bars hide their pricks in trees
    Their wives have beards down to their knees
    When they come crawling close to Rome
    The First will send them crying home…


    Caesar laughed. It was crude and uncouth and exactly what they needed. They were only a hundred paces from the barbarians now.



    The Goth archers, at random, began to raise their bows and take aim. At that same moment, as if in anticipation, the lead Centurion shouted an order, and the singing ceased.

    “Shields… UP!”

    The men on the outside of the square were called the hastati; they were the youngest and strongest men in the Legion, most still in their teens. At the Centurion’s command, they held their shields to the outside, tight against one another, while the older men on the inside raised them over their heads. The Legion now resembled a moving, armoured building more than a group of men.

    The Goths let their arrows fly. The slender missiles hissed quietly, like airborne snakes as they few towards their targets. The arrows reached the encroaching Roman Legion and either bounced harmlessly off the shields or struck them and held fast, but none penetrated the tight formation.

    The barbarians were only some thirty-odd paces away now. The Primus Pilus shouted another order.

    “Present… ARMS!”

    As one, each hastati on the outside of the square drew his gladius—his short stabbing sword, forged from the finest iron, drawn from the mine just south of Rome—and inserted it through the spaces between the shields. The square now bristled like a porcupine.

    From beside him upon the hill, where he was watching the approaching Roman force, Ragnar heard Drugan gasp.

    “We’re done for, Ragnar!” the older man hissed. “We must flee!”

    Rage overcame Ragnar’s fear. He lashed out and struck the other man across the face, sending him sprawling back onto the ground.

    “Bite your tongue, you cowardly fool!” he shouted at the fallen Drugan. “We are Goths! We run from no one!” He turned to the other men and pulled his short, curved fighting daggers from his belt, holding one in each hand. “ATTACK! KILL THEM ALL!” he shouted.

    The Goths shouldered their bows and pulled out their knives. They then roared and launched themselves at the Legion.

    “HALT!” the Primus Pilus shouted, and the Legion, to a man, obeyed. “BRACE FOR IMPACT!”



    Every man in the square shifted his footing and bent his knees, preparing for the shock of several hundred men colliding with the leading face of the shield wall. The older men on the inside of the square—called the principes—kept their shields raised protectively over their heads with one hand while with their free sword hands, they gripped the thick leather belt of the men around them, especially those of the hastati, to hold them in position.

    With a thundering crash, the attacking barbarians collided with the leading edge of the shield wall. The square shuddered and rippled, but it held. The hastati thrust their short swords forward, stabbing at the men who screamed wildly and swung and stabbed their knives against their shields. The heavy shields reverberated with each impact.

    But the shields held, as did the line. And the stabbing swords did their work. The war shouts of the barbarians gradually turned to death cries, and the eagles on the Romans’ shields became covered with blood.

    Yet still the barbarians pressed their attack, surrounding the Legion and attacking it on all sides. The sounds of battle and the angry and pained screams of men on both sides filled the air. The enemy was not broken, and the hastati began to tire. The barbarians sensed this, and pressed their attack, swinging their knives wildly and screaming in red-hot rage and insatiable bloodlust.

    Now the Roman formation showed its true strength, for the square was not in fact a tight, inflexible formation of soldiers in rank-and-file. The men were positioned in a quincunx—patterns of five, like those on dice, repeated over and over again within the formation. As the hastati tired, the centurions leading them barked orders, and the youngest men in the Legion retreated through the gaps in the men behind them. Then the principes—men in their prime, in their twenties and thirties—stepped forward to relieve them with astonishing precision. The barbarians suddenly found themselves facing fresh, strong, confident troops in the front lines.

    Still the battle raged on. Minutes which seemed like hours went by. Protected in the midst of the square, but effectively blind as well, Caesar became impatient.

    “Damn it, how long is this going to take?” he said. He grabbed the Legionary nearest him. “You there. Drop your shield.”

    “Uh… what?” the man said, startled. He was steadfastly holding his shield over his head, as he had been trained to do, for protection.

    “That’s an order, soldier. Lower your shield to the ground. I’m going to stand on it, and you’re going to lift me, so I can see what’s going on. You there,” he said to another Legionary, “give him a hand!”

    A moment later, Caesar was raised up above the formation by the two soldiers, hands boldly akimbo on his hips, his tall, gaunt figure surveying the battlefield. Several of the barbarians saw him and shouted angrily. One picked up a rock and threw it at him. Caesar nonchalantly ducked out of the way, and the rock bounced harmlessly off of the roof of the shield wall. Caesar smiled at his would-be attacker, then quickly raised his left fist and forearm while his right hand caught the inside of his elbow as his arm rose—a crude but profoundly expressive gesture.

    “All right, lads, lower me down,” he ordered. He’d seen the disposition of the enemy’s forces, and had registered his opinion of them to boot. “Centurions!” he shouted when he was back on terra firma. “Their numbers are greatest to our west. Move that way, and cut them down to a man!”

    “You heard Caesar, boys!” the Primus Pilus shouted. “Let’s finish these bastards off and send them back to their woods!”

    The order was given, the Legion began to move, and the air filled even more than before with the scent of spilled blood and the screams of dying men.

    For all his rage and bravado, Ragnar was still a leader, and he knew when a fight was lost. The numbers of his force were rapidly dwindling, while the Roman square seemed has strong as ever, and was working its way through his men like a hot knife through butter.

    “Retreat!” he shouted. “Retreat to the forest!”

    Exhausted and bloodied, the remaining Goths heard his order and struggled to obey. Some stubbornly remained to fight, the vengeful Brugundius among them. They fell to a man. More barbarians were cut down as they tried to run by the shield wall, but passed too close to escape the bite of each soldier’s gladius.

    As the enemy began to flee, Caesar could feel his men’s triumph, but along with it, their dangerous urge to run after the enemy to finish them.

    “Hold your formation!” he shouted. “Any man that leaves the square, I’ll flog him within an inch of his life! PERSONALLY!”

    The combination of the threat and their training held the men back, and they watched, laughing and cheering in triumph, as a pitiful handful of the barbarians straggled back into the forest from whence they came. The majority of the Goth warriors lay dead or dying at the Romans’ feet.

    “Good work, boys!” Caesar shouted. “Now let’s march back home to Rome. The grog’s on me!”



    The men cheered again, in anticipation, in triumph, and, in no small measure, in relief. They had gone through their first test in battle, and they had won. Rome was safe, but even more important, their victory bode well for the future of their civilization.

    As they marched back into Antium, the Primus Pilus—Lucius Scipio, a swarthy, stocky man from Antium—walked beside Caesar and addressed him.

    “Well, that was a dandy little training exercise,” he said.

    Caesar smiled. “Is that all it was?” he said, though he knew, better than any, that it was true.

    “Against that rabble?” Scipio responded. “Begging your pardon, Caesar, but my mother-in-law by herself would be more trouble than that bunch.” The man actually shuddered at the thought of his fearsome relation, and Caesar had to laugh. “Terrible woman! But that’s beside the point.” He glanced at his leader; Caesar could see the hunger in the man’s eyes. “I’m anxious to see how these lads do against a real enemy,” he said. “Aren’t you?”

    Caesar smiled, albeit somewhat grimly. “More than you know, my friend,” he said. They’ll get their chance soon enough, he thought. For earlier that day, he had just received news of a new Japanese settlement that encroached on the borders of Rome itself, claiming land and resources that belonged rightfully to Caesar’s nascent but steadily growing empire.

    Tokugawa, my old friend, you’re pushing your luck, Caesar thought. And now I have just the thing with which to push back…



    From his vantage point within the forest, Ragnar, blood running freely from a gash on his forehead so it stung his eyes, watched the Legion marching away. Those standing near him would later swear they could hear his teeth grinding themselves down to the gum line.

    So the Romans have sharp, heavy knives to stab us with now, eh? he thought angrily. Well, next time, we’ll have something sharp and heavy to greet you with. I hear the Etruscans in the far east have forged broad axes of bronze…

    “This isn’t over…” Ragnar snarled at the Roman’s backs, then he disappeared into the forest.
     
  3. TheArchduke

    TheArchduke Feeling at home..

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2004
    Messages:
    652
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Ah, the first legion. Very nice story, especially as it only covers a barbarian attack on a rice field.:)

    Now it is probably time to show the other vic.. neighbours around you that the roman way is the better way. Best to start off with Tokuwaga.
     
  4. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Yeah, I was kind of hoping for something more dramatic like barb Axemen going after Rome's only iron mine, but that's what the game threw at me.

    As for the neighbours... quit reading my mind! ;)
     
  5. douglas_21

    douglas_21 Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2006
    Messages:
    81
    It would be cool to see movies of this...you could post a link to them or something. You wouldn't have to do it in Civ 4, maybe put diplomacy scenes in Sims 2. Just an idea to make the story more involving.
     
  6. carl corey

    carl corey Deity

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2006
    Messages:
    2,007
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Cluj-Napoca, Romania
    Hehe, he's already working hard enough to get us this and the ALC series. Somehow I don't think turning it into a movie is his high priority. ;)
     
  7. Nuka-sama

    Nuka-sama See ya! It has been a fun decade!

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2006
    Messages:
    9,461
    Gender:
    Male
    This is a great story Sisiutil
     
  8. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Sorry, but I have no idea how to do that, I have no time to do that, and I have no inclination to do that. Sounds like a heckuvalot of work!

    Plus I am a fan of the written word. If the story's not involving enough, then I need to improve my writing. If you have any suggestions in that regard, please pass them along! :D
     
  9. Mikekem

    Mikekem Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2004
    Messages:
    8
    Hi Sisiutil,

    I just caught up on this and I think it's fantastic. I can't wait for more updates. I'm going to run along and catch up on you ALC's now. Keep up the good work.
     
  10. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Chapter 7: The Sun also Sets



    In his throne room he sat, waiting, his face impassive as always. It wouldn’t be long now. The shouts and screams, the horrible sounds of battle, were dying down—literally. He could hear voices rising in triumph, victory cries ringing through the open windows.

    The triumphant cheers, he could hear plainly, were in Latin.



    How had it all gone wrong? Tokugawa wondered. He’d had such great plans for his people. He was sure that being blessed by the gods with immortality had been a sign of their great plans for Japan, and for him as its leader. He glanced behind himself, at one of two flags hanging upon poles that flanked either side of his desk. A red sun blazed upon a snow-white background, so like the morning sun that blazed above the frigid waters east of Kyoto every morning. It was a fine flag for a great nation. Or a nation that would have been, could have been great.

    But all along, at every step of the way, he had been there. Caesar. His cursed scouts raced ahead of his warriors, finding smaller tribes and gaining their allegiance for Rome. Rome’s trained warriors—HA! Tokugawa had to laugh bitterly, since most of those warriors’ experience had come from fighting animals. But it had been enough, enough to allow them to survive two raids on his slaves, despite the archers who had engaged them immediately afterwards. He had finally resorted to ensuring all work parties had an armed guard. A senseless waste of resources, but Caesar had made it necessary.

    Then things seemed to change. Tokugawa sent a group of settlers out, and they’d founded Japan’s second city of Osaka just to the north of Kyoto, and in a resource-rich location: fields of wheat to the south, herds of cattle to the northeast, and to the northwest, a rich deposit of copper! And he’d beaten Caesar to it!



    The Japanese immortal shook his head and sighed heavily. He should have know the Roman would take it as a challenge, as deliberate provocation. Osaka was now a Roman city. Pisae, Caesar had renamed it, stamping the identity of Rome upon it as he did upon everything he encountered. He’d taken the city with those terrifying troops of his—those Legions, with their tight, precise formations, their broad shields, their short but brutally effective swords…







    How he wished he’d had troops like that! Oh, of course he respected the Romans, even admired and envied them! He’d ordered his advisors to research along similar lines, to come up with a military unit that would give Japan just such an advantage. They’d come back with half-baked ideas that would have taken several generations to come to fruition, and that was time Japan did not have.

    Once again the Japanese ruler glanced behind himself at the flag. Then his dark, narrow eyes looked out a nearby window, where the sun was just beginning to rise over the sea beyond the palace’s terrace garden, the bright orb as red as his nation’s flag depicted it… as red as the blood of his soldiers that ran in the streets like rainwater after a deluge. At that very moment, all at once, the noise of battle died down, and everything around him seemed quiet and deceptively peaceful.

    The moment of quiet stretched out. A word, then a phrase, flashed into Tokugawa’s mind. He frowned. Now? He thought, then shrugged. Why not now? He pulled a blank sheet of parchment out of his desk and grasped a quill, which he dipped into a well of octopus’ ink. He then put quill to paper and began to write.

    A red sun rises
    Water drips from bamboo leaves
    In the mist, loons cry


    He stared at the words he’d written, then nodded. Not bad, he thought with a measured amount of pride. Not one of my best, and certainly nothing that competes with Bashō, but not bad, especially under the circumstances.

    Tokugawa then heard heavy footfalls coming down the hall towards him. He felt that familiar, tingling feeling in this neck and temples. So he was here, and it was time. He set the sheet of parchment and the quill aside. His hand, instinctively, went to his side and grasped the sword-hilt there. At least all that research on metalwork had yielded one worthwhile thing, the first-of-its-kind weapon at his side. It was his one remaining hope, along with whatever skill he possessed. For even if Rome triumphed over Japan, if that civilization suddenly found itself without a leader…



    The door opened and Tokugawa rose from his chair. Through the open doorway strode Caesar. He wore the same uniform as his soldiers: a metal helmet with cheek-straps and a protruding peak at the back, above the neck; layered armour plates worn over a dark red tunic; a leather kilt; metal greaves upon his forearms and shins. Only the back-to-front plume of bright red feathers and the long red cape hanging from his shoulders marked him as the commander-in-chief.

    At Caesar’s side hung his own sword, the short but strong and sharp gladius, in its leather scabbard. His left arm supported the tall, broad Legionary’s shield.

    The Roman leader nodded towards Tokugawa, who returned his wordless, curt greeting. Caesar turned and quietly gave an order in Latin to the Legionaries behind him, who then closed the door, leaving the two immortals alone.

    “We won’t be disturbed,” Caesar said to Tokugawa.

    “How romantic,” the Japanese leader said drily.

    Caesar’s thin smile indicated he was not in the mood for jests. “You knew it had to come to this,” he remarked.

    “Of course,” Tokugawa said grimly.

    Caesar drew his gladius from its scabbard and held it, its blade jutting out from beside his shield, its point aiming at Tokugawa.

    Tokugawa glanced at the short stabbing sword and smiled. He drew his own blade from its scabbard and held it before him, two hands upon its long handle. A katana, it was called in Japanese: single-edged and with a long, graceful curve.

    “Mine is bigger,” Tokugawa said.

    “Size isn’t everything,” Caesar responded.

    The two men stepped towards one another. Tokugawa raised and swung his katana towards Caesar’s right side. The Roman leader arrested the thrust of his gladius and instead deflected the blow. Sensing an advantage, Tokugawa thrust his sword tip over the top of Caesar’s blade. Caesar stepped back and used his shield to ward off the thrust.

    Tokugawa pressed his advantage. He drew the blade back and feinted to Caesar’s left, which he easily protected with the shield. Then Tokugawa swung the sword over his head again at Caesar’s open right side, and again the Roman leader stepped back to avoid the blow. Tokugawa kept repeating this pattern, with subtle variations such as thrusting his sword tip over the top of Caesar’s shield. He kept driving Caesar back towards the door, hoping to pin him there with nowhere to retreat.

    Just as Caesar was about to back up against the door, he suddenly planted his right foot behind himself and hunkered down behind his shield. Tokugawa’s next blow struck the shield, and Caesar immediately pushed himself forward. His shield deflected Tokugawa’s sword, and then slammed into the Japanese leader’s body, winding him. Tokugawa now stepped backwards, suddenly off-balance.

    “All right,” Caesar growled. “You’ve had your fun.”

    And like his unstoppable Legions, the Roman leader marched forward, advancing on Tokugawa. The Japanese immortal swung and stabbed with his katana, but Caesar ably blocked every cut and thrust with either his shield or his own sword. One thrust went horribly awry; the blade of the katana was caught, momentarily, in a gap between the metal eagle emblazoned upon Caesar’s shield and the shield itself. Caesar felt the sword catch and pushed the shield out to his left. His gladius suddenly thrust forward and stabbed into Tokugawa’s mid-section.

    The Japanese immortal, shocked by the sudden change in fortune and the burning pain in his gut, took several steps backwards. As an immortal, he healed quickly; if he could just avoid Caesar for a few moments, he could recover…

    Caesar was having nothing of it. He kept marching forward, giving his opponent no time to recuperate. Tokugawa swung weakly at the shield, his blade bounced off it, and again he felt the hot stab of metal piercing his belly. Another step back, a feint which Caesar saw coming, and this time the gladius swung diagonally across Tokugawa’s chest.

    Tokugawa’s dark eyes opened wide. His kimono was cut open, exposing his chest, which splattered blood onto the garment. Caesar brought his sword down hard and knocked the katana from his opponent’s hand.

    The Japanese immortal wavered, then dropped to his knees. He glanced up at Caesar, who now set his shield aside and was raising his gladius for the final blow.

    “You were… a worthy… opponent,” Tokugawa stammered. He could feel the blood rising in his throat and choked it back. “My sword… I leave to you.”

    Caesar smiled grimly. “I would have taken it anyway.”

    “I know, but…” Tokugawa began to say, and Caesar completed silently what the pain would not let his opponent finish: But in giving it to you I claim this one last remaining shred of my dignity. He had to admire the gesture, even sympathize with it.

    “There can be only one,” Caesar said.

    He swung the gladius and severed Tokugawa’s head from his neck. The head fell to the floor, the body slumped there after it.



    Caesar took a step backwards. According to the vision he had experienced so long ago, when his immortality had become manifest, he would now experience the quickening—the transference of his fallen opponent’s knowledge and power. He had never experienced it before. He wondered what it would be like. Probably painful, he decided.

    Like a low, hissing whisper it began; a mist appeared around Tokugawa’s body, then rose, swirling, like an ethereal snake seeking the victorious immortal. A low rumble like thunder resonated within the room, and without it. Then a flash, a bright arc like lightning leapt from the corpse, then another. The mist swirled around Caesar now, and seemed to act as a guide to the lightning, for its next flash leapt from Tokugawa’s body directly to him.

    Caesar’s supposition had been correct. When the quickening found and struck him, it hurt like hell. His entire body tensed as mystical lightning arced around it. His gladius dropped from his hand. He tossed his head back and his helmet fell off, clattering onto the marble floor. Caesar yelled.

    And still it would not let him go! The lightning swirled around Caesar’s agonized body as the immortal roared in pain. Around him in the throne room, exquisite clay pots rattled, then exploded, their shards flying about the room. Nearby, two metal poles behind the throne held two flags of Japan. The lightning leapt to them. Sparks erupted from the poles, and the flags burst into flame.

    Then, as quickly as it had begun, the quickening died away. The lightning ceased, the swirling mist faded. Caesar took a rasping, painful breath, then dropped to his hands and knees like a puppet whose strings are suddenly cut. He knelt upon the marble floor and drew rasping breaths into his aching lungs. He felt incredibly weary, as though he’d run a marathon after not sleeping for a week.

    Shaking, the immortal raised his head and glanced around. He looked over to where Tokugawa’s body had been. It was gone! Both the severed head and the rest of the corpse had vanished as if they had never been. All that remained were the katana and the empty kimono.

    “Well that’s… convenient,” Caesar muttered as he shakily pushed himself back to his feet.

    The doors to the chamber burst open, and several concerned Legionaries burst into the room.

    “Caesar!” one of them exclaimed. “Are you all right?”

    “I’m fine, as you can see,” he answered, though his face was ashen and his limbs still trembled. Jupiter, that was draining!

    “…and Tokugawa…?”

    “Is no more,” he said, his icy blue eyes darting over at the empty kimono.

    The soldiers followed his gaze, and their own eyes opened wide. They glanced back at Caesar warily.

    “Oh, don’t worry, I didn’t eat him,” he said impatiently. “Now stop gaping. One of you fetch the commander of the local garrison, if he’s still alive. I wish to speak to him.”

    Though still slightly stunned, the soldiers left to do Caesar’s bidding. Following orders was far easier and even more comforting than speculating on how a grown man could vanish without a trace.



    Caesar picked up Tokugawa’s katana and its scabbard. He slowly walked over to the Japanese leader’s desk, where he sat down and laid the sword on the flat surface before him. He studied it wearily for some time.

    A fine blade, he thought. Not practical for the Legions, but well-suited for individual duels. Tokugawa nearly had me; smart remarks aside, the gladius is too short for that sort of fight. From now on, I’ll use this sword. Caesar took a deep breath and smiled wolfishly. I cannot wait to see what that lunatic Montezuma thinks of it…

    Caesar then noticed, upon the surface of the desk, the lone sheet of parchment with the figures upon it—those strange, oddly beautiful characters that made up the Japanese alphabet, symbols which he had not had the time to learn. He sensed more than knew that it was in Tokugawa’s own hand. He grasped the sheet and stared at it. Last will and testament? Caesar speculated. It seems too short for that. Final orders? He frowned as if he could make the meaning of his foe’s last written words leap from the page, but of course nothing of the sort happened. He tossed the parchment aside. I’ll have one of my people translate it later, he thought. It’s probably nothing important.

    In a heartbeat, Caesar was back on his feet, his usual strength and tireless vigour returning. After a brief rest, he reflected, the bulk of Rome's Legions would be on the move again, for reports had reached him of yet another barbarian city, this one almost due east of Kyoto--no, Brundisium, he corrected himself, for that would be the city's new name. He would capture and quell this den of thieves and cutthroats just as he had Ostia, to Rome's north. Yes, the north, Caesar thought, grinning in anticipation as he remembered his plans for the Spaniards and Aztecs.

    He was out the door a moment later, the mysterious sheet of parchment all but forgotten.

     
  11. Nuka-sama

    Nuka-sama See ya! It has been a fun decade!

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2006
    Messages:
    9,461
    Gender:
    Male
    Yay! You killed Toku :lol:

    I wonder how Ceaser will use his new toy :mischief:
     
  12. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Statesboro, GA
    I love how you transition well from the civilized style you use to comment on your ALC games to the brutish style of Princes. Even Caesar himself is this dichotomy-- a cunning and thoughful leader of the Romans, but also a bit of a barbarian with the immortal curse.
     
  13. Nuka-sama

    Nuka-sama See ya! It has been a fun decade!

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2006
    Messages:
    9,461
    Gender:
    Male
    Need new update
     
  14. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Please be patient. ;) I realized the story needs a new chapter here, as yet unwritten, for the following chapter to have more impact. So the next update may take just a little longer...
     
  15. Nick014

    Nick014 Deposed Despot

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2002
    Messages:
    248
    Location:
    Central PA
    Anxiously awaiting the continuation
     
  16. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Well, the good news is that the current ALC match is nearly done, and I'll take some time to move this story along before starting the next one... and I have taken several days off over the holidays. :goodjob:
     
  17. TheArchduke

    TheArchduke Feeling at home..

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2004
    Messages:
    652
    Location:
    Vienna, Austria
    Late Comment as I had some busy weeks.:)

    As with the others I like your style of writing. It seems however that Tokuwaga (as the isolationist he is) was a push-over. Nice how you included your early raids in the story btw. Seems like he never stood a chance.

    And with Monty and Isabella being both nutcases and buddhist, this continent should be conquered throughly while you still got the troops to pull it off. So I would advise a bit more of buildup (construction for some catapults) and then send the legions off to those two. I would worry about your economy later.
     
  18. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Thanks for the comments. Unlike the ALC games, I'm not aiming for any sort of strategic analysis here--though I certainly appreciate the advice! My main and only goal is to tell a story.
     
  19. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Statesboro, GA
    An update, an update! Half my kingdom for an update!
     
  20. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Messages:
    6,899
    Location:
    Pacific Northwest
    Only half? Richard III offered all of his for a horse...
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page