Princes of the Universe, Part I

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

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  1. wenamon

    wenamon Warlord

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    well wen amon was actually an ancient egyptian hero. A nomadic hero at that. I dont really know if that would help fit into your story at all. :)

    maybe as part of a long forgotten villiage of aegyptians?
     
  2. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Perhaps. I did manage to fit the Chinese into this story in a big way even though they're not one of the seven civs involved! :lol:

    All fun aside, I probably won't incorporate anyone from around here into the stories--I apologize if that disappoints anyone. The reason is that inserting things like that can interrupt the "fictional dream". It reminds you that you're reading a work of fiction and momentarily dispels the suspension of disbelief. Kind of like seeing the wires when Superman flies.

    I'll post the next installment tomorrow. I feel an urge to get this story posted and off my plate. Every time I sit down to revise it, I end up adding dialog, whole scenes, or even entire chapters! :eek:
     
  3. wenamon

    wenamon Warlord

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    lol... sounds like you're letting this little tale take on a life of its own Sisutil.

    I think you make a good point about the name thing though. Especially those like mine who don't really have roman names.

    eagerly awaiting tomorrow's update...
     
  4. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 4 – Claudia

    Those two words, unbeknownst to Caesar, opened the floodgates of Lucius Rutullus’ memory. Ever since he’d joined the Legions he’d been doing his best to forget, to put it—to put her—behind him. He’d hoped the army would keep him busy enough to keep him from thinking of her, and for the most part it had. But now, as he walked back to the barracks, a stream of memories flowed through his mind, unbidden but not entirely unwelcome.



    It had all begun nearly ten years ago in a small but meticulously tidy schoolroom just off the Forum Romanum, one of the few such rooms, for most of the tutors in Rome taught in the open air. But Akiro Matsugane could afford the luxury of his own room to deliver his lessons to the wealthy sons and daughters of Rome’s noble patricians. Yes, daughters as well, for every proper Roman wife was expected to be well-versed in the classics, rhetoric, and mathematics, even if she only used her knowledge to provide stimulating conversation at dinner parties and to ensure that the servants didn’t cheat her blind. And the informality of Roman education did not allow for separation of the genders.

    It was her hair he noticed first, because he was sitting right behind her. Auburn. Light reddish-brown. Though when the sun, shining through the open window, fell upon her hair that morning, it glowed reddish-gold. The sight took his breath away. Then she turned to look at him, and smiled, and he felt as though he’d been struck by a thunderbolt.

    “Hello,” she’d said. “I’m Claudia Pulchra Primia.”

    Her face was a perfect oval, her skin like cream. Her auburn hair framed her face, setting off her hazel eyes beneath their arched auburn brows. Her nose was lovely and straight and ever-so-slightly upturned. Her lips were bow-shaped, the lower just a little thicker than the upper, giving the impression of a slight pout.

    He’d been twelve, she eleven, only children; but as soon as he saw her he felt himself mature, in a moment, from a boy into a young man. He’d walked her home, carrying her bucket of books for her, keeping her safe from the jostling crowds of the Forum. Growing up in the Subura, from an early age he’d known how to navigate passage through a crowd of unruly adults. Once he’d escorted her safely home to her family’s mansion high on the Palatine hill, he’d handed her books to her and had tried his best not to look utterly dejected by how far above his station was her own.

    “You know what you are, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus?” she’d said to him.

    “No, what?” he’d said, bracing himself for a disparaging comment on his residence in the Subura, or his cheap clothing. But she surprised him, something she came to do often.

    “You’re a gentleman. The only one I’ve ever met, except for my father,” she’d said, then had flashed that heart-stopping smile at him before vanishing into her home.

    Well, that had sealed it. From that moment on, he was in love. For the next four years, he’d carried her books home dutifully. Her father obviously could have afforded to give her a private tutor, but Matsugane did not hire himself out privately, and Matsugane was the best teacher in Rome. Lucius was extremely grateful that this was the case, since he never would have met Claudia otherwise.

    Every now and then, she’d somehow lose the servant assigned to watch over her and meet up with him. They’d go fishing in Lake Tiber, or for walks along its shores. They’d glance through the marketplace near the Forum, he wishing he could buy her anything she wanted, even though there was nothing on display she couldn’t afford on her own. For her part, she never embarrassed him with an ostentatious display of her wealth.

    Shortly after he’d met her he’d taken up acting for a time, and he’d entertained her by reading his lines to her. Soon he had entire plays memorized and played every part for his audience of one, delighting in how he could make her laugh at one of Plautus’ comedies or make her eyes shine at the end of one of Seneca’s tragedies. Even after he gave up acting—far too unseemly a profession for a patrician, even one fallen so far down the social ladder—he continued to read and memorize plays, just so he could entertain her.

    Not all their time together was spent happily and innocently, though even those more serious moments drew them closer together. Two years after they’d first met, Lucius’ father had grown sick and died. To everyone else, Lucius presented a façade of stoicism and strength, showing he was ready to take on the burden of being paterfamilias, the head of the family. Only with Claudia did he let his true feelings show. The day after his father died, they had walked to one of their favourite haunts, a small, isolated beach on the far side of Lake Tiber. There, he’d lain his head in her lap and had wept miserably while she stroked his head and soothed him as sympathetic tears fell from her own eyes. Thus, a bond that went beyond simple childhood friendship was formed. They were close friends before, but they became practically inseparable after that.

    Of course other people saw them on their walks around Rome, and those people talked. If there was one thing Romans loved, it was gossip, especially if it concerned members of Rome’s most prominent families. At first, since they were merely children, their friendship had been rather charming and had seemed innocent enough. But as they grew older, the voices speaking behind their backs had grown more concerned. Something had to be done, had to be said.

    Thus it was, shortly after his sixteenth birthday and just a few months shy of her fifteenth, that Claudia’s father had opened the door when they’d arrived home from school one day.

    “Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, I presume?” Marcus Claudius Pulcher had said in a friendly tone.

    He was not a tall man, but was imposing nonetheless, not least because he had been elected Consul that year. His features were dark and handsome, ensuring he lived up to the family’s cognomen. His eyes in particular were dark and shrewd, giving the impression that nothing escaped their notice. He’d turned the full power of those formidable eyes on young Lucius Rutullus.

    “Yes, sir,” Lucius had said, requiring all his courage to stand and speak steadily beneath the man’s unwavering gaze.

    “I think it’s time I made your acquaintance, young man. Please, come to my study.”

    And there he’d sat, his guts churning, while Marcus Claudius Pulcher had asked about his family and their situation, all of which Lucius Rutullus had answered truthfully, though with a sinking feeling. Of course the Consul would know all this already; he was having Lucius recite it for didactic purposes.

    “It breaks my heart, Lucius Rutullus, that an old and prestigious family like yours has fallen upon hard times. It truly does.” Marcus Claudius Pulcher had said, his voice achingly sincere.

    “Thank you, sir,” Lucius Rutullus had said quietly.

    “Which brings us to the matter of my eldest daughter,” the Consul had said, gently segueing into what they both knew was the real purpose of this fatherly chat.

    How reasonable the man had been, how gentle, how considerate, as he explained so logically why Lucius Rutullus could never hope to be linked to his daughter. Lucius had to not only give up all hope of a marriage to her one day, Pulcher explained, but must also stop seeing her, spending time with her, talking to her… because, well, people talked. And they jumped to unfair conclusions; they presumed dishonour where they, being gentlemen, knew there was none. But people would keep talking, and over time, through repetition alone, lies took on the appearance of truth, didn’t they? Unfortunately, yes, they did. And if Lucius truly cared for Claudia, he wouldn’t want her future dimmed by a cloud of scandal, would he? Of course not. He had her best interests at heart, didn’t he? And fallen on hard times though they were, the Rutullii were still Romans through and through; Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, poor though he may be, was still a nobleman. And a Confucian as well! Thus, the Consul knew he could count on Lucius to see and to do what was right.

    Oh, if only the man had been an ogre, if only he’d raged and threatened and postured like a typically arrogant aristocrat! It would have been so much easier to bear, and Lucius would have felt justified in defying him, in visiting Claudia surreptitiously whenever he could. But he’d been so reasonable, so like his own father who had passed away only two years before. Worse still, Lucius had known that the man was right, even though that fact wounded him more deeply than he hoped he’d let on.

    So Lucius Rutullus had returned to his family’s tiny apartment in the Subura, to his small, windowless room, and, much to his shame, had cried himself to sleep. It seemed so unfair. He’d never done more than hold Claudia’s hand, though that simple act had thrilled him to the core of his being. He hadn’t even kissed her, much as he’d wanted to. And now he never would.

    It was a terrible blow to his heart and to his pride. He might have, as a result, given up all hopes of attempting to recover his family’s former position at that point. He might have given himself over to life in the Subura; he might have fallen in with one of the crossroads colleges and their neighbourhood protection rackets, but for four things. First, there was his mother, whose strength inspired him and whose heart he was loathe to break. Second were his two younger sisters, who revered him, and whom he was loathe to disappoint. Then there was his teacher, Akiro Matsugane; the pedagogue had come his family’s apartment at the end of that first day after Claudius Pulcher’s talk, when Lucius had failed to show up for class, and had sternly reminded him not to do so ever again. Finally, there was Claudia. He’d seen her the next day in Matsugane’s school and had done his level best to pretend she didn’t exist. She was having none of it.

    “You’re my best friend, Lucius,” she’d told him sternly at the end of the lessons that day. “If people don’t understand, they can go jump in Lake Tiber.”

    “But your father…” Lucius had objected, albeit weakly.

    “You let me deal with my father,” Claudia had said with a knowing smile that suddenly made him realize that she had her father wrapped around her little finger.

    Even so, something had irrevocably changed. They spent no more time alone together. Usually, in fact, they were far from alone, spending what time they could in one another’s company as part of a large group of young patricians, most of whom were distinctly uncomfortable around him. His home in the Subura and his obvious penury would have earned him more than just disdainful looks and muttered remarks if it hadn’t been for Claudia’s support. Even so, his situation gave him an air of scandal, even danger, and he was tall and handsome and some of the other young noblewomen seemed quite receptive to him. But of course he only had eyes for one of their number; though he now knew that he could never be with her, the other girls held no interest for him.

    The final blow had come three years later. Claudia had just turned eighteen and was of marriageable age. Of course a fine match had been found for her, to Quintus Lutatius Catullus Junior. Catullus Senior, it was soon revealed, would be Marcus Claudius Pulcher’s running mate when they both put their names forward to be Censors. Two of the oldest and most prominent Patrician families, headed by two of Rome’s brightest political stars, united by marriage! It was a perfect match, everyone in Rome agreed. With one obvious exception.

    He’d managed to pull her quietly and surreptitiously aside from their friends and the Forum’s market stalls into a sheltered alcove, just a few days after the engagement had been announced. All her girlfriends were atwitter with the news, of course, while her male friends were collectively disappointed. But none more than him.

    “There’s one thing I have to know,” he’d said to her fervently in that darkened alcove.

    “Lucius, don’t,” she’d pleaded, knowing what he was going to ask, knowing how her answer would only crush them both.

    “Do you love him?”

    He’d regretted asking the question as soon as the words left his mouth. Her face had creased as if she were about to break down completely. Then she recovered, the very model of a young Roman noblewoman. She took a deep breath, gazed into his eyes, and replied.

    “No,” she’d said evenly. “I don’t. It’s you I love, Lucius. I always have and I always will.” But she’d extinguished his greatest hope in the same moment that she’d fulfilled it. She’d shaken her head and looked at him sorrowfully. “I’m sorry, Lucius. So sorry…” Then she’d turned and fled back to their friends, leaving Lucius in that darkened alcove, where he had remained until night had fallen and no crowds remained to see him walk home slowly in shame.

    Of course she wouldn’t disobey her father. He was paterfamilias—therefore, as Roman tradition dating back centuries dictated, regarding his family, his word was law. Furthermore, her family was Confucian, like his own, and one of the central tenets of that faith was filial piety; while the concept principally dealt with the loyalty owed to fathers by their sons, of course it applied to daughters as well.

    That it was all so right and proper and according to both Roman and Confucian tradition and principles was of no consolation to Lucius at all. Her impending nuptials ended their friendship, or so it seemed. He quit her group of friends, knowing he would not be able to tolerate their questioning looks and their pointed remarks. He hadn’t seen Claudia or talked to her since that heartbreaking exchange in the alcove, not for several months. Not until just recently.

    He’d been walking home from the Campus Martius where he’d been drilling with the Fourteenth Legion, to which he’d been assigned shortly after enlisting. He’d thrown himself into the training whole-heartedly. Finally, he felt like he’d truly found his place in the world; he could serve Rome and live up, in some small way, to the memories of his ancestors. And the physical activity suited him, it kept his mind off other things, like his family’s hopeless situation, like his limited chances at reclaiming his birthright… like Claudia.

    He’d been walking through the Forum, barely noticing the crowds that parted before his tall, formidable figure, his tunic soaked with sweat, his polished cuirass covering his broad chest, a gladius slapping against his well-muscled thigh, a spear and helmet casually carried over one shoulder. Somehow, above the din of the Forum market crowd, he’d heard a voice whisper his name—a voice he’d recognize anywhere, for he heard it every night in his dreams.

    There she was, in the same dark, private alcove where she’d broken his heart a few short months before. It seemed a lifetime ago, but seeing her brought it all back as though it had happened yesterday. She looked radiant, her hair drawn back, her long dress accenting her figure.

    “Look at you,” she’d said, her hazel eyes wandering over his body, clad in his legionary uniform. He’d always been physically active, but months of exercises on the Campus Martius had filled out his form magnificently, and the shining armour only enhanced that.

    Even so, he’d felt embarrassed, could only think how he was covered in sweat and dirt and even a little blood. Not his own, though.

    “Claudia, you’re to be married a month from now,” he’d whispered. “You shouldn’t be here with me like this.”

    “I had to see you,” she’d said simply. “Before you left. I’d heard that you’d enlisted and I knew I just had to see you.” She looked up at him and even in the darkness he could read the mixed emotions upon her lovely face, how she admired what he was doing and the man he had become, and yet was afraid for him at the same time.

    “My gentleman,” she’d said, her eyes shining, raising one hand to caress his cheek, a sad smile upon her lips. “My gentleman soldier.”

    He’d shaken his head. “In a generation or two, no one will remember that the Rutullii were gentlemen once.”

    She’d actually clucked her tongue at him. “Tace! It’s bearing and behaviour that make a gentleman, not birth. And you are a gentleman, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus. In every sense of the word.”

    He’d looked into her eyes and had seen that so very Roman strength there that he’d always admired in her. But that very same, very Roman strength was also responsible for her being able to marry a man she did not love, and once again he felt his heart aching within his chest.

    “You shouldn’t be here…” he’d begun to say in a strained whisper, but then she had taken his face in both her hands and pulled him to her. Her lips had pressed against his own, and in a heartbeat her body was pressed against his as well. She’d wrapped her arms around his neck and he’d placed his around her slender waist, holding her against him as he’d yearned to do for years.

    She’d broken the kiss and had firmly pushed him away. He had wanted to say something, but was unable to speak. He’d thought himself strong after all those days of drills upon the Campus Martius, but he was shaking like a leaf. She, on the other hand, had stood firmly before him, her hazel eyes blazing with a ferocity he’d not seen in them before.

    “I can’t imagine a world without you in it, Lucius. Even if we’re not together.” she’d said. “Go. Do your duty to Rome. Make me proud of you. But promise me one thing.”

    “Anything,” he’d said, breathlessly.

    “Stay alive,” she’d whispered, urgently, passionately. “Come back to me.”

    “But you’ll be married…”

    She’d pressed one slender finger against his lips. He inhaled the perfume she’d daubed on her wrist. “Stay alive,” she’d repeated. “Promise me.”

    “I promise,” he’d said, then she was gone, deftly manoeuvring through the crowd in the Forum, a skill she’d learned from him when they had both been children and filled with hope for the future.
     
  5. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    nice sub-plot! a break from the ceaseless warring... but not too long a break i hope.... keep it coming!
     
  6. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Oh, no, fear not--lots of war to come! :D
     
  7. greenpeace

    greenpeace Peacelord

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    Wow, go job Sisiutil, I have spent so much time reading this... too much time I would say, its addicting like a drug, I hope it isn't illegalized :). Oh well, back to that project I've been laboring on.
     
  8. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 5 – Summon Up the Blood



    As Lucius entered the barracks, he did his best to put all thoughts of Claudia aside and focus on mentally girding himself for the good-natured jeers and natural curiosity of his comrades regarding his brief adventure with the Commander-in-Chief. When he walked inside, however, he found his fellow legionaries standing around a dark-haired man in full military gear that was too pristine to be anything but brand new.

    “Who is this, then?” the man asked, turning towards Lucius as he entered.

    Lucius could see the man was young, about his own age, in fact. He had dark, lanky hair, a shock of it nearly falling over his left eye. His clean-shaven face bore an expression of supercilious boredom, conveying that he cared not one whit who Lucius was, but felt obliged to ask since he’d appeared unexpectedly. Lucius quickly noted that the man’s brand-new military regalia bore the markings of a junior legate, and brought himself to attention.

    “Lucius Rutullus Lepidus, Fourteenth Legion, Second Cohort, First Century, SIR!”

    “At ease, Lucius Rutullus,” the dark-haired young man said. “So, where have you been?” he asked, still with that bored expression on his face, which now crept into his voice.

    Lucius assumed a more relaxed pose, but only slightly. “With the Commander-in-Chief, sir,” he replied.

    The man blinked in surprise, his studied boredom vanishing in an instant. “With Caesar?” he said, somewhat petulantly, making it plainly obvious that he’d never spent any time with Caesar but felt himself more entitled to do so than this mere ranker. “Doing what? Polishing his cuirass?” he said with a disdainful snort and a raised eyebrow.

    “Translating, sir,” Lucius answered. “He had a meeting with Montezuma and needed someone who spoke Nahuatl.”

    “’Nahua… what on earth is that?” Cinna asked, sneering.

    “Aztec, sir. What native speakers call the language.”

    The military tribune’s nose wrinkled. “You actually speak that barbarian tongue?”

    “Yes, sir.”

    “Well, it will soon be a dead language, won’t it, men?” the legate said, then laughed and glanced around at the other legionaries, apparently expecting the men to share his hilarity, though they did not. Lucius glanced at his comrades and quickly gathered that this new legate had clearly not won them over; far from it, in fact.

    “I am Marcus Phillippus Cinna,” the young man told him, tilting his chin up proudly. “Grandson of Cinna the Censor, son of Cinna the Consul,” he added proudly. “I am the junior legate in command of the Fourteenth Legion, as of today.”

    Lucius’ brows rose briefly. He didn’t remember ever seeing this self-important patrician performing military drills on the Campus Martius. But given his bloodline, he certainly had the clout to be appointed as a junior legate. The Fourteenth was a new legion composed mainly of fresh recruits; there were few veterans available to be distributed amongst the legions, since the only fighting Rome’s army had done since the fall of Spain had been to thwart the infrequent barbarian incursions from the frigid wastelands in the far south and the as-yet uninhabited jungles of the east. Therefore it was unlikely that the Fourteenth would be exposed to the thick of battle right away. That meant it was a safe place to tuck away this privileged but pampered young officer.

    “Lucius Rutullus Lepidus…” Cinna said, repeating Lucius’ full name thoughtfully. “Where have I heard that name before?” Lucius silently braced himself. “Ah! Now I have it,” Cinna said, an amused grin appearing on his thin lips. “Yes, you’re from that branch of the Rutullii who’ve found themselves destitute, aren’t you? Living in the Subura with the head count, I hear!”

    Lucius merely shrugged his broad shoulders. “It’s not so bad. Never a dull moment in the Subura,” he said, and some of his comrades grinned and chuckled knowingly. Many of them were head count from the Subura and had grown up with him.

    Cinna, however, was not yet done. His smile grew broader and a little nastier as he recalled another useful nugget of information. He was not so dense as to fail to see that Lucius was popular with his comrades. And his calm demeanour in the face of someone who was clearly his superior was irksome—as was his unfathomable association with Caesar. Cinna decided that it would be very enjoyable, not to mention useful, to bring him down a peg or two.

    “I recall hearing that you were puppy-dogging after one of Marcus Claudius Pulcher’s girls,” Cinna said, his eyes narrowing as he dropped this little tidbit.

    Not for the first time in his life, Lucius was glad of his brief stint on the less reputable stages of Rome. His face remained expressionless even as his gut clenched and he struggled to contain a very sudden and nearly-overwhelming urge to bury his fist in Cinna’s insufferably smug face.

    Instead he merely allowed an amused half-smile to play upon his lips. “Claudia Pulchra Primia and I were school chums, that’s all.”

    Cinna’s expression hardened. Time to bury the knife a little deeper, he decided.

    “Not from what I heard,” he remarked, in reaction to which Lucius merely shrugged. “It must have cut to the quick when Pulcher sold her off to one of the Catullii. Understandable, though. They’re very rich.”

    He drawled the last word out, letting it sink in. Yet still Lucius’s impassive face displayed no reaction.

    “It’s a good match for both families,” he said evenly. “I’m happy for her,” he lied. Oh, if only those two raging queens of the theatre who’d scandalously shared an apartment beside his family’s could see him now! They’d be so proud of the consummate acting skills they’d taught him.

    “Huh,” Cinna said, disappointed with Lucius’ muted reaction. But he couldn’t leave the topic alone. “Well, they’re married now. I suppose you heard? Yes, they finally tied the knot just before I left Rome. I suppose they’re busy trying to produce an heir to their combined fortunes,” he said with a licentious grin. If he noticed the sudden tightening along Lucius’ jaw line, he gave no sign of it. “I don’t envy Catullus. Oh, she’s pretty enough,” he said, turning to the other legionaries, who were watching this exchange raptly but in utter silence. “But those high-bred patrician girls are all dead meat in the sack, you know.”

    He laughed, and seemed to expect the rough-hewn soldiers around him to join in and appreciate this comradely bit of man-talk. The reason they did not was revealed when Cinna turned his head again, and found the taller form of Lucius Rutullus looming over him, his jaw firmly set, his eyes suddenly blazing.

    “I would advise you,” Lucius said in a low, dangerous tone, his arms crossed, their muscles bulging, his hands clenched into fists, “Marcus Phillippus Cinna, to refrain from making any disrespectful remarks about my friends. Especially when that friend is a lady. Do I make myself clear?”

    Cinna’s eyes were wide, and he instinctively took a step back. He glanced nervously at the other legionaries, hoping for support, but finding none. Their expressions were either blank or registered muted satisfaction that Lucius was putting him in his place. Cinna quickly realized that Lucius could beat him half to death before their very eyes, and to a man they’d claim that he’d simply fallen down.

    Fortunately for Cinna, it wasn’t the first time his sharp tongue had gotten him in a tight spot, and he had grown rather adept at extracting himself from those. He smiled affably, held up his hands, and laughed softly.

    “I beg your pardon, Lucius Rutullus!” he exclaimed in his most charming, soothing tone. “You must forgive me. I truly had no idea the girl meant so much to you.”

    “That has nothing to do with it,” Lucius told him, not placated at all. “She is a lady and is to be accorded her due respect, even when she is not present.”

    “Quite right, quite right!” Cinna remarked with a carefree grin. “It’s good to see the Subura didn’t purge you of all consideration for the rules of social conduct,” he said in a superior tone. He took another step backwards, away from Lucius. “Well! I must be on my way and introduce myself to the other cohorts in the Fourteenth.” He turned to address the assembled legionaries in the barracks. “It’s looking like Rome will be at war with the Aztecs before long. And high time, I say! You men can rest assured in the knowledge that the Cinnae have a military tradition as long and as proud as Rome’s. No Legion lead by a Cinna has ever lost a battle, and I intend to uphold that tradition! I’ll see you men on the parade ground tomorrow morning.”

    And with that, Marcus Phillippus Cinna, grandson of Cinna the Censor, son of Cinna the Consul, walked proudly out of the barracks, his head held high.
    One of the centurions, Gnaeus Decumius by name, came to Lucius’ side to watch CInna leave. He was tall and dark-featured, his nose flattened by one too many fights in the Subura, where he, too, had grown up, only a mile or so from Lucius’ home.

    “Well aren’t we the lucky ones, to be led by one of the legendary Cinnae,” he said, his voice dripping sarcasm. “Hardly an auspicious cognomen,” he muttered, then made a sign to ward off the evil eye, for Cinna was Latin for ‘ashes’.

    Titius Ahenobarbus, who was one of the Fourteenth Legion’s few veterans and its primus pilus—‘first spear’, its lead centurion—walked up to Lucius and Decumius, his head turned towards the door Cinna had just used.

    “You mark my words, lads,” Ahenobarbus said. “That mentula bears watching. A man like that will lead you into disaster. More blood than sense, if you ask me.”

    “For all our sakes, Titius Ahenobarbus,” Lucius responded, “I sincerely hope, this one and only time, that you’re wrong.”
     
  9. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    hmmmm, plot is building up nicely yet again....
    hopefully marcus cinna gets a spear in the groin... hahha...
    j/k
     
  10. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Bloodthirsty, aren't we? ;)
     
  11. tthf

    tthf Chieftain

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    lolZ, nah, playing warlords chinese unification atm, damn neighbour was giving me lotsa grief, but the tables are turning... hehe
     
  12. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

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    Decumius? Is that like Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions? If you want to put the Aztecs in their place, write him in somehow... and his dog. The dog was cool too. Great Story.

    Or, you could include Iason Savus Fetch.
     
  13. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    For the most part, I'm picking and combining various Roman names at random for the characters. I'm trying to choose the cognomen to be appropriate to the character, since they usually were.

    Only a few historical characters besides the leaders themselves will appear. One comes up later in this story, but only a real Rome expert/fanatic or a Colleen McCullough fan will recognize him. (Sostratus, by the way, was in fact the architect who designed the Great Lighthouse--but of course, he was not Roman. Conveniently, though, since his name ends with "-us" he sounds like he's Roman.)

    Thanks for the tip, however; I'm not familiar with Meridius and will have to look into his story.
     
  14. Norton II

    Norton II Emperor

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    Sostratus is probably just the Latinized version of his name. If he was Greek (which he most likely was), then his name was probably Sostratos. As for Maximus Decimus Meridius, that's Russel Crowe's character in Gladiator. IIRC he's very loosely based on an actual Roman general of Commodus' time, but the movie itself is historical fiction--Commodus was not killed by a gladiator.
     
  15. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Gladiator. Oh, well, DUH.

    I can't remember the bit about the dog from the movie, though--only saw it once, and a long time ago. Probably why the character's name didn't ring a bell.

    One scene I do remember is Crowe naming the horses depicted upon his cuirass to the young boy; I later found out the Latin names he calls the two horses mean "Silver" and "Scout". :lol:

    Just to clarify, I got "Decumius" from a very vivid character in McCullough's books--the head of the crossroads college in the Suburan insula where Caesar grew up.
     
  16. Nuka-sama

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

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    Make my name Nucleus Kidius, and make me a heroic General or something :)
     
  17. Fetch

    Fetch When in doubt, reboot.

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  18. Sisiutil

    Sisiutil All Leader Challenger

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    Chapter Eleven: Noble Men

    Part 6 – The Battle of Tlatelolco

    Events unfolded with astonishing rapidity after that. The Aztec Empire ended all diplomatic contact with Rome, its envoys withdrawing from open borders negotiations, and Aztec military units were seen gathering on the border. Rome responded by pre-emptively declaring war. The Fourteenth Legion marched north out of Madrid with six other Legions, accompanied by protective pike and mace units. As with Japan and Spain in centuries past, however, it was the Legions that would do the bulk of the fighting.

    The invasion force camped in a wooded area south of a bridge over the river the Spanish called the Rio Bravo and the Aztecs had named Xaltocan. On the opposite bank of the river stood the Aztec city of Tlatelolco. Montezuma responded to the Roman incursion by sending several units out of the city to attack the Roman force. However, the Romans had the dual advantage of being located on the far side of a river and being located in good defensive terrain. The Aztec attacks were thwarted.



    “It appears Fortuna has smiled upon us,” Caesar observed to his senior legates in the command tent that night, making reference to the ancient Roman goddess of luck. “Montezuma’s premature attack has weakened Tlatelolco’s defensive garrison. Tomorrow, our most accurate catapults will batter a breach in the city’s fortifications from this side of the river. They’ll remain here along with the wounded, protected by one legion, while the bulk of our force proceeds across the river to attack the city.”

    “Wouldn’t it be faster to just attack across the river?” one of his legates asked. “It’s pretty shallow along this stretch.”

    “Of course it would,” Caesar answered patiently, reminding himself that few in his army, from the senior legates on down to the mere rankers, had much experience with actual combat; fortunately, their training was second-to-none. “However, the men would be fighting with the river at their backs, leaving them little room to manoeuvre. Attacking from the opposite side of the river may be less expedient, but it will preserve more lives. This will be a long campaign; we’re going to need every soldier.”

    “Which legion will stay behind to guard the catapults and the wounded men?” This from Catullus Senior, whom Caesar regarded as the most able of his current crop of senior legates.

    “The Fourteenth,” Caesar answered immediately. “They’re the youngest legion with the fewest experienced centurions. And their military tribune is the son of that useless fop, Gaius Phillippus Cinna. Best to keep them safely out of it on this side of the river. They’ll get their chance for glory later in the war.”

    Of course the Fourteenth grumbled when they learned of their assignment.

    “Baby-sitting the artillery!” complained Marcus Phillippus Cinna to anyone within earshot. “A fine fate for a commander of my mettle!”

    This induced mixed emotions as well as some heavy eye-rolling amongst his troops. Though they were disappointed in not seeing any action, none of them were anxious to head into battle with Cinna leading them.

    The next day, the long-range accuracy catapults did their work, opening breaches in the city walls. Then the bulk of the Roman force crossed the bridge over the Texcoco. Roman catapults specializing in city attack and collateral damage lumbered across the bridge and were slowly hauled into position, the artillery troops adjusting every cable and gear on their fearsome machines. They were accompanied by protective units: pikes to counter mounted units, maces to ward off melee units such as the Aztecs’ colourful Jaguar warriors. The bulk of the troops, however, were the Legions, whose main job would be taking the city once the catapults had weakened its defenders.

    The troops deployed in a calm, orderly fashion outside the shut gates of the city. Despite their lack of recent experience in war, their confidence and morale was high. They were Roman legions, after all, the best trained, best equipped, and most successful fighting force in the known world. Caesar and his senior legates casually rode their horses across the bridge, glancing at the walls, chatting easily with the men. To the casual observer, the Roman army appeared to be preparing for mere war games rather than an actual battle. As they deployed, the Romans could hear rumblings from the ramparts of Tlatelolco. The Aztecs were nervous, but were also growing impatient.

    Inside Tlatelolco, watching from one of the ramparts, Montezuma had had enough. “Look at them! So confident! They look as though they’re on holiday, not going to war!” He turned to his own generals, who withered beneath his gaze. “We should have slaughtered them yesterday when we attacked them in the woods,” he growled at them.

    The Aztec generals glanced at one another uncertainly, looking to see which of their number would attempt to explain their understandable failure to their volatile king. Just then, a messenger came running up to the collected Aztec commanders, and they were all thankful for the interruption.

    Montezuma read the brief dispatch and then smiled wolfishly. “One of our scouts reports that the Romans have left several of their prized catapults on the other side of the river, in the woods, protected by a novice legion and a bunch of wounded men.” He laughed loudly. “Apparently Caesar thinks I’ll keep my forces inside the city to defend it rather than snatching at this easy prize.”

    His generals once again exchanged wary glances; that would, certainly, be the most prudent course of action. They gazed nervously over the ramparts at the massive Roman force deploying in preparation to invade the city, and knew that every available man would be needed within its gates if it was to remain out of Roman hands.

    Montezuma cast an appraising eye at his generals, reading their reluctance now matter how hard they tried to hide it.

    “You all think such an action would be foolhardy,” Montezuma said with a sneer. “Well, you’re the fools! And bunch of women besides! I’ll cut off his supply lines, and his avenue of retreat and reinforcement as well. Then we’ll slaughter his stranded army before the gates of the city, and I shall take his head and his empire. Chimalli!”

    One of his generals stepped forward. “Sire!”

    “Take a force of horse archers and charioteers out to annihilate Caesar’s precious catapults and his legion of children! At once!”

    “Yes, sire!” the man said, bowing low.

    As he turned to go, Montezuma caught him by the arm. “Do not fail me, Chimalli,” he growled, his face close to his subordinate’s. “Remember well the fate of Yaotl.”

    Chimalli swallowed hard. Yaotl had been the general leading the foray across the river the previous day. In truth, he’d really only made one mistake: returning to the city to face Montezuma rather than dying in the attack with his men. None of the senior staff had been able to sleep last night, not with Yaotl’s screams echoing throughout the palace.

    “You can count on me, sire,” Chimalli said, proud that he had been able to keep any sign of fear from his voice. He turned to walk away and personally lead the Aztec forces into battle.

    Moments later, the south-western gates within Tlatelolco’s city walls opened, and a seemingly endless stream of horse archers and chariots came galloping out, their guttural battle cries shattering what had been a peaceful morning. On nearly the opposite side of the city, the entire Roman force brought themselves to full attention, fully expecting the Aztecs to come out of the city to attack them at any moment.

    “What the hell is that madman up to?” Caesar muttered to himself when the city gates facing him remained closed and no attackers issued forth from them or from the many breaches in the city walls. He gave his horse a nudge in the ribs and rode south towards the river in hopes of determining where the Aztec units the Romans could hear were coming from and where they were going.



    “Merda!” Caesar swore when he saw the riders and chariots dashing down to a distant ford in the river near the southwest corner of the city. They could only have one target in mind. Caesar turned his horse and rode back quickly to his command base. There, he rode up to one of the young cavalry troopers assigned to bear messages between the various Roman commanders.

    “Get across the river on the double,” he told the surprised trooper. “Tell Cinna he’s about to come under attack. Wait.,” he said, pausing a moment to think of an able man within that legion. “Make sure you inform Titius Ahenobarbus as well. Then ride on to Madrid and warn the garrison there, just in case the Aztecs are heading further south. Go!”

    The messenger ran to his horse and sped off at a gallop across the bridge. He rode through the woods on the other side and found Cinna and Ahenobarbus together a few minutes later. He relayed his message to them and then turned to ride on to Madrid.

    “Time for you men to prove your mettle!” Ahenobarbus shouted to the men around him. “The Aztecs should be attacking our left flank within minutes. Let’s make sure we’re ready for them!” The men began to move immediately, Lucius Rutullus among them, following the lead of their veteran primus pilus.

    “This is my legion to command, Titius Ahenobarbus!” Cinna announced loudly. “Round up the men. We’ll march out of these woods and meet them on open ground.” That way, Cinna reasoned, Caesar and the senior legates would see him ably leading a legion in battle.

    Ahenobarbus looked horrified. “What? Leave defensive ground for the open field? Against cavalry? Are you mad?”

    “I am not mad, I am your commanding officer!” Cinna shouted, rounding on him. “Either you obey my direct orders or I’ll have you up on charges!”

    “Fellator,” Ahenobarbus grumbled once Cinna was out of earshot. Shaking his head, he nevertheless did as he was told. Within minutes, the Legion formed up and began to march out of the woods and its fortified position within them, leaving the catapults and the wounded behind with a few spearmen for protection. Since the Legion would be facing cavalry, they brought along their own spears, the pila with their small, sharp, leaf-shaped iron tips.

    “Looks like Ahenobarbus is going to be proved right,” Gnaeus Decumius mumbled to Lucius Rutullus, reminding them both of the primus pilus’ prediction of a few days before that the arrogant, inexperienced aristocrat would lead them into disaster.

    They formed up to the west of the woods, just in time to see the Aztec mounted units appear a little over a hundred yards away, the horses’ flanks still wet from fording the river, which made the dust they churned up on the flood plain stick to the short hairs on their legs. The Aztec general Chimalli could see scout’s report had been true. He was facing fresh troops—but too fresh, he noted, able to discern their youth and inexperience from how they moved and held themselves.

    “Mere children,” he said contemptuously. They’d even foolishly left the defensive terrain of the forest! For a moment, he pitied them. But only for a moment. He bellowed to his troopers, his voice and then several trumpets rallying them around him, and he shouted out fresh orders.

    “Look at that!” Cinna said confidently, watching the Aztec horsemen riding back from his front line with obvious glee. “They’re afraid of us!”

    Nearby, however, Lucius Rutullus Lepidus strained to hear the shouted orders of the Aztec general. “No,” he said, “they’re gathering for a charge. Brace yourselves!”

    Titius Ahenobarbus, one of the few veterans in the ranks, didn’t need Lucius’s interpretation to tell him what was about to happen. “SPEARS IN FRONT!” he shouted, and the legionaries, leaving their short swords in the scabbards at their hips, grasped their iron-tipped spears and thrust them forward, the base of each on planted firmly in the earth. The front line and flanks of the Fourteenth now bristled with sharp, extended spear points, capable of warding off a cavalry charge—provided the men held their ground.

    “They wouldn’t dare charge us!” Cinna said confidently. “We’ll cut them to ribbons! We’re Roman troops, the best in the world! We…”

    But Cinna’s speech on the virtues of the Roman legion was cut off by the blood-curdling war cry of nearly a hundred thousand Aztec horse archers as they shouldered their bows, drew their sabres, and prepared to charge. A moment later, the sound of a all those horse’s hoofs pounding and tearing the earth filled the air.

    “Edepol,” Cinna said quietly, his eyes wide as he watched what appeared to be every horse in the entire world riding down upon him. Their pounding hooves sounded like rolling, unending thunder. And then Marcus Phillippus Cinna, grandson of Cinna the Censor, and son of Cinna the Consul, promptly shat himself and fainted.

    “Oh, bloody hell!” Ahenobarbus cursed as the stench reached his nostrils and he turned to see his Legion’s commander laying on the ground, surrounded by his own filth. He shouted to two legionaries behind him. “Drag his stinking carcass out of here! Useless over-bred git! We’re better off without him! Now listen—“

    But the Fourteenth Legion’s primus pilus never delivered his next set of orders, for a horse archer’s arrow had lodged itself in his throat. He glanced at Lucius, standing beside him, with a puzzled look on his face that would have been comical were the situation not so dire. He put his hand to his throat, saw the blood upon it when he drew it away, then fell to the dusty floodplain without a further sound.

    It suddenly seemed to Lucius as if time had slowed to a crawl. He looked forward and saw the Aztec horsemen, screaming and thundering towards them, less than a hundred yards away now. He glanced at his comrades and saw one thing in their faces: fear. It filled the air and even their nostrils, carried by the sweat of each man’s growing panic, augmented by the stench of their cowardly commanding officer’s body waste. And it was filling their hearts, like poison.

    Across the river, Caesar’s face had gone as white as the toga he wore in the Senate. He recognized all too well the sight of men at arms about to break in a panic, but he had never seen it in his own troops before. Mercilessly, he chastised and blamed himself; the Fourteenth were too young, too inexperienced, he should never have left them to cover the rear by themselves.

    At that same moment, Lucius Rutullus, standing in the front rank in the face of the cavalry charge, saw exactly the same thing Caesar did, in a flash, in his mind’s eye. They would break, the entire Legion, they were a heartbeat away from doing so. Even the Centurions were wavering, fear discernable in their voices as they tried to rally the troops. But they would fail, Lucius saw in an instant. The Legion would discard their heavy weapons and armour so they could run faster, but it would only make them more defenseless. They would scatter within the woods in a panic, and the Aztecs would fall upon them mercilessly and cut them down to a man. They would die. Every last one of them. Then the catapults and their few protective spears would die, and Caesar’s would be cut off from retreat or reinforcement.

    In that moment, that critical moment, two words flashed into his mind. Two words that embodied a promise he had made twice over.

    Stay alive.

    And in that moment, in less time than it would have taken him to think about it, for he had no time to think, he knew what he had to do. And he also knew, again without thinking about it, knew it in his bones, that everything in his life had somehow, presciently, prepared him for this.

    Lucius drew a deep breath, turned his body, and roared in his most powerful stage voice over the growing din of the horse archer’s hooves.

    “STAND FAST!!” he shouted, his certainty erasing any trace of fear from his voice, and he saw a ripple pass through the Legion, with himself at the epicentre. “STAND FAST, YOU CUNNI!” he shouted again, saw them wavering between giving in to the fear that would kill them and obedience to the order that would save them. But obey him they would, he was determined, even if all the authority he had was the sheer force of his own will. “FIRST RANK! GET THOSE SPEARS BACK OUT! HOLD THEM FIRM!” he commanded.

    The men blinked in momentary surprise. Then, as one, the front rank planted their right feet behind them and thrust their spears out beside their shields to ward off the horses. The butts of the wooden spears they dug into the ground for leverage, should it become necessary.

    “SECOND RANK!” Lucius ordered, “SPEARS AT THE READY!” And the second rank obeyed, changing the grip on their spears, lifting them over their shoulders and preparing to throw them. “JAVELIN DRILL!”

    Lucius saw some of them grin, for they were soldiers, even if they were new to it, and they had been drilled and drilled and drilled again, mercilessly on the Campus Martius just outside of Rome and on the training ground in Madrid, day after day, to prepare them for just such a moment as this. They all knew what to do: the first rank would protect the rank immediately to its rear as they stepped forward and launched their spears. Then that rank would step back and retreat through the lines, and the third rank would step forward, and so on, until all the spears were thrown and the enemy lay dead in heaps and the Legion retreated back within the forest so they could laugh at the poor bastards from within their fortifications. All they’d needed was a strong voice in command, telling them precisely what to do, and they would do it. For they were Roman legionaries, the best soldiers in the world. They’d just needed somebody to remind them of it.

    “WAIT FOR IT…” Lucius steadied the second rank. The horses were forty yards away now, closing fast; but Lucius wanted the spears to strike with maximum and deadly effect. “NOW!”



    To the charging Aztec horsemen, it seemed as though the Legion before them was bristling like a porcupine which then coiled and suddenly shot its quills. The sky filled with flying bolts of wood and iron, and the air then filled with the screams of men and horses as the Roman spears found their mark. Man and beast alike found themselves impaled; some spears even pierced both rider and mount, joining the two together in an obscene mockery of the bond between horse and rider. Many horses fell, others went mad in their death throes and crashed into others, breaking the flesh and bone of man and beast alike.

    “SECOND RANK BACK! NEXT RANK FORWARD!” Lucius bellowed. The men were in position in an instant. “THROW!”

    Again the air filled with spears, and again more Aztec riders and horses died. They fell in vast numbers, those in the front first, where they became a barrier of flesh and blood to those behind them. Healthy mounts crashed into dying ones, stumbled over them, slipped on ground suddenly slick with blood, and the horses in turn threw their riders or became easy marks for more Roman spears.

    “REARWARD MARCH!” Lucius ordered, and the Legion began to back away towards the woods and safety. But they maintained their defensive formation, for the supply of Aztec troopers seemed inexhaustible. “NEXT RANK!” Lucius shouted again. “THROW!”

    What had initially been the second rank had now reached the rear and marched into the woods in an orderly fashion, but on the double. Meanwhile, the Aztec cavalry were hopelessly snarled now amongst the growing pile of their own dead and dying horses and riders. Roman spears still rained down upon them, though from a further distance and with slightly less effect. The horse archers had to settle for unslinging their bows and firing scores of arrows at the retreating Legion.

    “Head south!” Chimalli shouted to his riders. “We’ll outflank them! We…”

    Then his men heard a rumbling noise, and felt the ground shaking beneath their horses’ hooves. A huge dust cloud hung over to the road to the south. They heard the unmistakable trumpeting of an elephant, and every rider shuddered.

    “War elephants!’ Chimalli cried, his face going pale. Horsemen everywhere dreaded the huge, lumbering beasts that gored horse and rider alike on their long, dangerous tusks, and crushed those unlucky enough to fall beneath their huge feet.



    The garrison commander of Madrid, Rodrigo Diaz, was a most able and capable man. When he’d been advised of Caesar’s battle plan to take the city of Tlatelolco, Diaz had taken the precaution of moving a force of War Elephants and catapults up the road towards the border. For he had lived all his life in the shadow of the Aztec threat just a few miles to the north; he had interacted with Aztecs frequently, respected them as warriors, and was well aware of their appetite for unpredictable, even suicidal tactics.

    He’d also brought along some catapults, just to soften up any Aztec bold enough to venture south towards his beloved city. Thus, Caesar’s messenger had not had to ride all the way to Madrid to alert its garrison commander regarding the Aztec incursion south of the river; he met him on the road half-way there. The news delighted Diaz. What a glorious day this would be! He would show that Spaniards could fight just as well as their Roman brothers. And he got to kill some of those accursed Aztecs in the bargain. A glorious day indeed!

    As soon as Diaz’ advanced scouts spotted the Aztec horsemen, he deployed the catapults and had them launch their missiles at the Aztecs. Heavy rocks now rained down upon the horse archers and chariots, much to the delight of the beleaguered Fourteenth Legion. The Aztecs were now caught between the unexpectedly formidable Legion before them, the approaching War Elephants on their right flank, and the river on their left. They could retreat to the west, but to what end? To survive only to face Montezuma’s wrath?



    “We’re as good as dead,” Chimalli said, then nodded in acceptance. Better to die on the battlefield than in Montezuma’s dungeons, he decided. He rallied his men for one last charge at the Romans. The few remaining chariots he left behind; those cumbersome vehicles would be unable to manoeuvre past the fallen men and horses. The War Elephants would, of course, tear them to pieces. The general could not concern himself with that.

    Most of the Fourteenth Legion had retreated back into the woods, save for the men in the front rank, including Lucius. He remained there, shouting orders, holding forth the last spears in the Legion’s possession as a few dozen Aztec horse archers managed to struggle past their fallen comrades and make one last, bedraggled attempt to charge the remaining legionaries.

    “HOLD ON TO THOSE SPEARS!” he shouted, well aware that they couldn’t ward off cavalry with their short stabbing swords and daggers. He remembered a recommended tactic from his training. “Wait until the horses are close, then thrust at their mouths!”

    The horse archers came in close, so close the legionaries could see the whites of the horses’ eyes. As the horses drew near to the line of infantry, they began to balk. The horses could see the sharp spikes pointing towards them, and their instinct for self-preservation conflicted with their martial training. The Legionaries took advantage of the beasts’ sudden hesitation, thrusting their spear tips at the horse’s sensitive mouths exactly as Lucius had told them to do. The horses drew up instinctively in fear, many in pain. Their riders were suddenly unable to control them. The Aztec general Chimalli struggled to control his mount, the horse twisting to its right to avoid the sharp tip of Lucius’ spear—which exposed its masters’ undefended left side.

    Lucius did not hesitate. He changed targets from mount to rider and thrust his spear deep into the Aztec’s ribs. The man bellowed and then fell from the saddle, the spear still stuck in his side. His horse bolted away in a panic. The other horse archers shared a similar fate, and within a moment, the front rank of the Fourteenth Legion found themselves facing nothing but dead or dying opponents. To a man, their bodies suddenly sagged in both exhaustion and relief.

    Only then, with the battle over and his hand free of the spear he’d held for what had seemed an eternity, did Lucius notice that his arm was covered in blood. He looked and saw that his other arm was blood-soaked as well. Which struck him as curious, since the rider had not drawn near enough, he was sure, to shed so much blood upon him. Thus, he calmly deduced, the blood must be his own. Then he saw the arrows, one embedded in his right shoulder, another in his left bicep, two in each of his legs, though how any of them had gotten past his shield, and why he hadn’t noticed them before, he couldn’t imagine. Other arrows had not found their marks directly, but had passed close enough to cut him numerous times on his legs, his arms, his shoulders, and even on his face despite his helmet with its cheek-guards.

    Well, that explains all the blood, Lucius thought with detachment as he took a step backwards and stumbled awkwardly, his body weakened by blood loss. He would have fallen flat on his back, but his comrades caught him, dragging him back to safety within the cool woods to their rear.

    His next hazy thoughts were ones of disappointment, because he realized that he’d failed. He knew that the Legion had survived, but he also knew, as his head swam and he felt his body growing numb, that he had failed to keep the promise to his beloved and to obey the order of his Commander-in-Chief. Stay alive, they’d both told him, but he had not.

    “S-sorry,” Lucius muttered weakly, though no one heard him. The sun dazzled his increasingly unfocused eyes as it shone through the high tree branches that swayed in the breeze. As his comrades carried him deeper into the forest, though, the trees blocked out the sun, and it grew darker. But he quickly realized the impending darkness had nothing to do with trees and everything to do with the wounds he had received.

    He realized, just before he lost consciousness, that it was all right. Claudia was married advantageously, not a love match, but few Roman marriages were; and Caesar’s best catapults were safe, and his supply lines and avenue of retreat—not that he’d need it—were safe as well. They’d be fine without him, just fine.

    That thought was in his head as the darkness took him, and it left a weak smile upon his face that filled his comrades, gazing upon him, with a wonder that tempered their sorrow.
     
  19. biggamer132

    biggamer132 King

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    Wow. Talk about a bittersweet ending.
     
  20. carl corey

    carl corey Deity

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    Oh, you did NOT just kill him! Maaan... That will make everybody who wanted to be in your story think twice. :lol:
     
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