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Caesar IV Heaven » Forums » Story Archives » The Silk Road - A Story of Ancient Rome
Topic Subject:The Silk Road - A Story of Ancient Rome
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Civis Romanus
posted 02-11-01 00:19 ET (US)         
A Story of Ancient Rome in the time of Caesar Marcus Aurelius

TYPE (Genre): Epic Fantasy/Adventure. TONE: Drama/Comedy (nothing silly)
STYLE: Highly Descriptive. Rich Characterizations.
VOICE: 3rd Person Narrative w/Dialogue.
CONSTRUCTION: Multi-paragraph encouraged. No limit on post size.

CIVIS ROMANUS: 30ish Chief Military Advisor to Caesar. Master swordsman. Brown hair, blue eyes, medium heighth and build. Spouse of Apolita. Father of Apollonia and Civis the Younger. (Civis Romanus)
GAIUS ACCIPITER: Immortal Angel with sensitivity to humans. Tall with green eyes that flash hues of blue, gold or red when using personal powers. (Jayhawk)
MAGANHARD: Visigoth warrior, 6 ft., with sandy colored hair. Ice-blue eyes. Shaggy beard. Unkept appearance. Appeared in Damascus. (Benson)
MARCUS HORATIUS: 21 year old legionnaire. Cohort leader. Clara's merchant father demands excessive dowry. Joined travellers in Syracusae. (Caesar Alan)
RADKO: Stablemaster on Civis' villa. (Nutmegger)
ROULV DANIA: Runaway Christian slave of nordic descent. Appeared in Tyre. (Proconsul Creaticus Dania)
SEPTIMUS ODYSSEUS: Moderate heighth, grey haired young man of mixed Ch'in heritage. Apprentice magician who carries similar yellow medallion as Sin Ying. Joined expedition in Tyre. (Cyber Paladin)
SIN YING: Orphaned oriental girl in Rome with vague memories of homeland but no other recollection. (Jaguar)
TITUS TARQUINTIUS: 21 year old Tribune. Brown hair, brown eyes, olive complexion. Assigned by Caesar to accompany Civis on his mission. (Micah Aragorn)

APOLITA: Spouse of Civis Romanus. Celtic girl educated as a Roman on the Isle of Celtia. Thick auburn-colored hair and hazel eyes. A few years younger than Civis. (Civis Romanus)
APOLLONIA: 10 year old daughter of Civis Romanus and Apolita. Favors mother in appearance. (Civis Romanus)
CIVIS THE YOUNGER: "Civi" is the 7 yr. old son of Civis Romanus and Apolita. Favors father in appearance. (Civis Romanus)
CRASSUS: Former Roman legionaire and Cohort Leader in Damascus. Fled into Parthia following failure of conspiracy to assassinate Civis.
OSROES: Seleucid Parthian rebel leader.
VOLOGEZES IV: King of Parthia in the time of Marcus Aurelius.

Please do not use this thread for plot discussions or other communication among authors. Please conduct these activities in this DISCUSSION THREAD.


[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:46 PM).]

Civis Romanus
posted 02-11-01 01:01 ET (US)     1 / 295       
AEGYPTUS - Second Century AD

A tall man with green eyes wearing a long white robe looked out across the devastation that had once been Alexandria. Columns lay on their sides. Great geometric arches previously raised high into the sky now lay in shattered ruins on the ground. Waters from the Nile's delta lapped at the steps of its public buildings and its fabulous dwellings that had been there since the time of Cleopatra. So much destruction... What had taken decades to build was now gone in less time than it took a man to stride across one of the city's once busy streets. All because the earth would not be still.

A bird flying just overhead stopped beating its wings and remained suspended in midair. A few refugees walking here and there among the debris seemed halted in midstride. Nothing moved. It was as if all movement had frozen and time now stood still. In fact, it had.

The tall man turned to greet those he knew were coming. Two images formed before him made up of shimmering waves of brilliant light. One was taller than the other, broader at what might be called the shoulders, narrower at what might be called the hips. The other was shorter, narrower at the waist, rounder above and below, and glowing with softer light.

The tall man bowed as they manifested. "I honor thee, Mother and Father," he said.

The taller image replied first. "We praise you, our Son, now called Gaius Accipiter." The shorter image spoke immediately afterwards. "You appear troubled, my Son."

"Yes, Mother, I am. Is it truly necessary for the Olympians to visit such needless destruction on these mortals? The humans suffer enough by their own hand. Why add to their misery?"

It was his Father who answered. "This is not the work of the Olympians. Indeed, they may already be too weak to have had even the thought of such a deed. No, my Son, it is because the Olympians grow weaker that they cannot prevent such destruction. As the mortals who once honored them cease to do so increasingly, so too does the Land cease to obey them as before. First Pompeii and Herculaneum, and now Alexandria.'

'The Olympians see their demise almost too late. In their arrogance they thought themselves invincible. They did not understand that their power comes from mortal man; for should mortals cease to believe Olympians exist and possess the powers attributed to them, then in fact the Olympians will be without power and will cease to exist."

Gaius considered his Father's words. "What are the Olympians doing to save themselves?" he asked.

"They seek to take advantage of the barbarians to the far north and elsewhere where ignorance is in bloom. Already they have made some gains. They choose other names and other visages with which to influence the mortals they target. We have heard that one Olympian calls himself Odin, another calls himself Thor, the others have new names as well."

"It is not right they should exploit mortals so," said Gaius.

"We send our messengers among the mortals to give them a new thinking," said the Father. "We have had some success as you know. The thinking grows among them, at least it appears to within the lands of the Romans."

"Is this why you have come for me this day?"

"No... There is trouble in the world of the Romans and it is coming at a time far too soon. We fear the new thinking will die even before it can take root. Even now, this trouble manifests itself in Rome as an image wrapped in yellow paper made from grain in the land of the Ch'in. Chaos follows on its heals."

"But we are not to interfere...," but Gaius was interrupted by his Mother. "My son, it is your power to influence that is being called upon as in the past. Besides, We know you will have particular interest in this matter as it involves a friend and his family."

Gaius forehead knitted into a frown. "Civis? Is this trouble going to harm him?"

His Mother's head seemed to lower as if the words were painful to say. "It may... In truth I fear for his entire family... and his son in particular..."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-11-2001).]

Civis Romanus
posted 02-11-01 02:03 ET (US)     2 / 295       
ROMA - The Palace of Caesar Marcus Aurelius

Hard leather sandals of the type worn by the legionnaires of Roma slapped purposefully on the marble flooring with each confident step of the man who wore them. Their echos off the walls and pillars of the great hallway pre-warned the black-armored Praetorians standing guard that someone approached with whom they must reckon.

They saw him for the first time as he rounded a corner and entered their hallway heading straight for Caesar's chamber. He was a Roman of medium heighth, armored in distinctive white plating trimmed in gold. Prominently displayed on his breastplate was the raised golden image of a Roman Eagle, wings spread in flight. His head was uncovered as he held his white and gold helmet with its white crested plume under his left arm, leaving his right hand free to use his sword, another hint that his training in military ways was thorough and long.

The Praetorians could feel the man's piercing blue eyes focus on them, examining their dress, noting their posture, appraising their worth. He was close by now. They could see small scars on his arms, one longer scar on his left leg and a small scar on his forehead just below where his brown hair ended. They would soon learn if indeed it was who they thought it might be. Both Praetorians snapped to attention as he approached.

"Commander Civis Romanus, Chief Military Advisor, to see Caesar Marcus Aurelius, by his command," said the white armored soldier. Both Praetorians saluted in the Roman fashion, hand on breastplate, then the ranking guard replied, "Enter Commander, Caesar awaits your arrival." Civis entered through the door opened by the other Praetorian.

A man slightly taller than Civis stood near a table looking at an architect's illustration of a public building to be built somewhere in the Empire. He was a man in his late thirties. He looked up as Civis entered. The Roman's military eye took the measure of this new Caesar. He was not discouraged. There was a radiated aura of competence about him, and no small hint of confidence in his voice. This was no "make believe" Caesar. This was a man who could rule.

"Ahhhh, Romanus, you are here." Caesar nodded acknowledging Civis' salute. "Please, sit down... yes, there by the table." Civis found the chair pointed to by Caesar. "I have little time so will get to the point. There is a disturbance in the Eastern Empire. Something has stirred up the peoples there. They press us on the border, then turn north to press us again on the far northeast. I am told the Parthians are behind it, but I have reason to believe something is goading them along as well. I am told you are familiar with the Parthians."

"Yes, Caesar. Early in my career I commanded a legion on the border with Parthia. I knew their king well, old King Parthos. He is dead now. One of his sons rules in his place. I understand he is not friendly towards the Empire."

"Correct on all accounts, Commander. But let me ask this, are you familiar with the Silk Road?"

"Only Caesar, that it is without terminus and rumored to flow with riches beyond comprehension all carried in an exotic material that gave the road its name, something called silk. I know of no Roman who has travelled it."

"Then you will be the first," said Caesar. Civis was set to say something, then closed his mouth. Caesar Marcus Aurelius was not finished. "You will be assigned another Roman, a Tribune to accompany you. He will join you at your villa in a few days. You may select any others you choose. You will be given sufficient gold to pay your expenses and rewarded with the same upon your return. Travel by any direction or means you believe correct. Find out if the Silk Road exists and who controls it. Represent the Empire of Rome and your Emperor as you negotiate trade relations; but, Civis Romanus, Chief Military Advisor, I charge you to coldly and carefully appraise the military capability of those you meet. We may need to apply the persuasion only a Legion can bring to bear to achieve our purposes. And by all the gods, find out what is causing such discord in the East, then return to your Emperor and your family safely." With these final words Caesar Marcus Aurelius smiled for the first time since Civis entered his chamber.

"One more thing before you leave, Romanus... Take that, that object. The one wrapped in yellow paper. It came from an envoy of some petty warlord in the East. Odd looking little man with strange eyes... not at all like any I've seen before. I have no need for such things. Place it in your villa as a curiosity. I surely don't need it here. I'm surrounded by enough "curiosities" as it is." Civis thought he could see the implications in Caesar's words but decided to not take the chance of echoing Caesar's own laughter just in case he was one of those curiosities himself. Nonetheless, a smile came to his own face. Caesar's humor did not put it there. Civis' liking of this particular Caesar did the work.

Civis rose to his feet as he instinctively knew the meeting had ended when Caesar ceased laughing and turned to his architect's illustration without a further word. Civis reached for the yellow-paper wrapped object and for his helmet, saluted getting a hand wave from Caesar in return, then walked out of the door and into the hallway from which he entered the room only moments before.

The two Praetorians again came to attention, saluted and then returned to their original stance. They watched Civis walk down the hallway and turn the corner into the first corridor. Each looked at the other as if to say 'Well, that didn't take long. Couldn't have been very important, now could it?'

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-11-2001).]

Eminence Grise
posted 02-11-01 07:28 ET (US)     3 / 295       
Back at his villa, Civis sat down in his study. Stacks of scrolls were neatly wrapped and pigeonholed, a few maps of the Empire, with notes in Civis careful script graced the walls. A window looked out over the Atrium, with it's waterbasin and a few potted plants.
He could hear the voices of his children as they were playing tag in the corridor.

He sat down on the plain wooden chair and placed the package on his desk. It was heavy for it's size, about a span in length and half wide. He slowly took off the strange papyruslike covering and looked at what was wrapped inside.

A green stone serpent was his first thought. He turned the statue over in his hands wondering about the somehow greasy touch of the stone, the green shading into pink near the top of it. The 'snake'turned out to have legs, like a lizard, but with claws. It's face was more like that of a lion, but with strange barbels at it's mouth.

Such a strange thing, he thought andplaced it on the shelf behind his desk, where it found company of a small blue Egyptian statue of a hippopotamus, some ancient coins, and a two small shells, of a type unseen in the Mediterrenean.

The Silk Road, now what what he supposed to do there?

Civis Romanus
posted 02-11-01 19:48 ET (US)     4 / 295       
He sat on the plain wooden chair staring at the hand illustrated map before him. Distinct lines indicated the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. From there, linked painted points described the locations of the known cities in the east and the routes between them. However, the farther east he traced the land routes the less distinct became the topography and the less plentiful became the locations of the cities.

Beyond the western half of Parthia, the illustration faded into nothing. This was as far as the knowledge possessed by this chartmaker would guide him. It would not be enough. There was a need for knowledge going beyond the charts of the day. There was a need for someone who knew the routes better than any Roman alive or dead. Civis drew a prompt conclusion. He needed his friend.

His thoughts were pleasantly interrupted by the entrance into his study of a woman slightly shorter than he, pleasantly figured, with a celtic look about her pretty heart-shaped face. Auburn hair and hazel eyes completed this moving, living portrait of his spouse, Apolita of the Isle of Celtia.

"You have been given an assignment by Caesar, haven't you," she said matter of factly. "Is it in Roma, or is it to some distant province?"

"Distant," said Civis, eyes lowered.

"How distant, my love?"

"Very distant in the east... I find it to be a place beyond even our best mapmaker's knowledge."

"But why must Caesar send you? You have a family. Is there no other Commander he can send in your place?"

"Apolita, it is not for either of us to question Caesar's judgement. He has other commanders, true... Some are idle because they wait for their next call to battle... Some are idle because they are too old or too young... Some are idle because they haven't the ability nor his trust. In Caesar's mind I am not among these commanders it appears; and in my judgement, that is perhaps a good position in which to be."

Moisture began to form in the corners of Apolita's eyes. "I understand, my husband; but it nevertheless does not make me any happier." She drew a cloth from some unknown place within her gown and dabbed at her increasingly reddening eyes. "You will have help will you not?" she said.

"Yes, there will come to the villa a tribune in a few days assigned by Caesar. He will be my associate. The rest of the expedition I will have to arrange for on my own," said Civis.

Apolita tilted her head in that unique way Civis came to know as preparation for a strong but subtle statement. He sharpened his attention in expectation. "There will be more help you will need than just one of Caesar's tribunes." Civis knew what she meant.

"He doesn't know as I have not seen him since..." His statement was cut short by an obviously deliberate stare from Apolita. "So he may know, that is possible. But I truly haven't seen or spoken to him since he began his travels," protested Civis. "I don't know where he is and I cannot wait for him."

"Perhaps he will arrive before you leave. You say you have a few days yet to prepare? Then use them to their fullest, but do not leave any sooner than you have to," she said emphatically. Civis conceded the wisdom of her thinking... It was usually the case with her in these matters. "Now, my husband, I orginally came in here to tell you Cook has prepared dinner and our meal awaits us at the table. The children have eaten already and are playing their games. Come now." She offered her hand to Civis. He reached for it immediately both as a matter of courtesy and because he cherished it and her closeness and the warmth brought by both. As he walked towards the serving room he heard behind him his children playing a game of hide and find.

"No Brother, it is your turn to hide and mine to find," said the older between them, the girl named Apollonia. The boy, Civis the Younger, didn't mind. He preferred to hide anyway... so he could leap out and frighten his 10 year old sister nearly to death whenever he had the chance. It didn't matter that he invariably lost the foot race to the safe place. His pleasure came from seeing her leap into the air and run screaming in terror back from where the search began.

She began to count... He began to run... Where to hide? Where to hide? Then an idea occurred to him, a new place, his father's study behind the chart desk. It was to there he ran and it was there he found sharing his hiding place a strange green object with pulled back remnants of yellow paper still wrapped around the base. The 7 year old boy now consumed with curiousity picked up the object forgetting his purpose was to hide and frighten his sister. Instead, unknowingly as he grasped and handled the green object that looked like a strange snake, he would bring a terror into his family beyond anything anyone could have imagined from a simple game of hide and find.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-11-2001).]

Micah Aragorn
posted 02-12-01 02:46 ET (US)     5 / 295       
"Mother! Mother, where are you? cried out the young tribune searching the villa for his mother.

Hearing what seemed to be her son's frantic voice Claudia rushed from the terrace that overlooked the courtyard. "Titus what is the matter. What has happened?" The richly dressed woman with brown eyes and the signs of middle age in her once brown hair looked upon her son with curiosity at his newfound enthusiasm.

"Where is Father",said Titus Tarquintius. His eyes still searching the villa for his father.

"He has gone into the city to attend to business", replied his mother. "Titus, what is the matter! Now she was becoming preturbed at her son's silence.

Titus Tarquintius stood before his mother. His dark hair and dark eyes blended well with the sun tanned and olive complexion of his skin. He was handsome in his uniform as his armor gleamed and his red cloak flowed down his back nearly touching the floor. His 21 years had been somewhat pampered but the future his parents had planned for him had not stopped the military training and schooling from being difficult. His grandfather was a member of the Senate and he was demanded to follow in his footsteps.

He could no longer maintain his composure. "Mother, you won't believe this. Caeser, himself, has assigned me to accompany his Chief Military Advisor on a journey to a distant land."

"Civis Romanus?," her voice reflecting the surprise and curiosity. "Is he leading our legions into battle with the easterners?"

"No Mother. I am to meet him at his villa the day after tommorrow and accompany him along with a few handpicked others."

"But why must you go to such a foriegn area. And why would Caesar send his Chief Military Advisor to such an area?" his mother questioning with more of a concern for her son's safety than to question the action."

"Mother, I do not question Caesar's commands...only obey them. I must take my leave of you now to prepare for the journey. I only wish Father were here to tell him."

"Then go, my son, I will tell your Father and he will be pleased. Claudia put her arms out and Titus lovingly hugged her and placed a son's kiss upon her cheek. As she watched her son turn and depart a tear formed and trickled down the cheek he had kissed and fearing she might not see him again in a low voice said, "May the gods protect you, Titus....

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 02-20-2001).]

Eminence Grise
posted 02-12-01 08:19 ET (US)     6 / 295       
Young Civis played his small hands over the statue. It felt strange he thought and...did they eyes of it glow?

The child looked closer at the statue. The eyes of the small creature did seem to glow. Suddenly it writhed in his hands, small claws scratching tender skin and the head lashed out it's tiny fangs sinking in the boys wrist.

Civis junior shrieked and dropped the statue, that bounced of the floor and game to rest against the table leg. With large eyes he looked at his wrist two small drops of blood welling up from the punctures.

"Civis! I found you!" Apolonia cried as she rushed in the room.
"You shouldn't have cried out, silly"
Her brother didn't answer.
"Civi?" she asked as she knelt down beside him.
"It..." the boy mumbled drowsily, "it bit me?"
Then his eyes rolled backwards and his little body fell against his sister. Apolonia cried and shook him.
"Civi? Civis! Wake up!"
The boy was limp as a rag doll and didn't react to her shaking, nor her crying. His sister let him gently down to the floor, then ran, still crying, for her mother.

Angel Jayhawk
Eyrie, Pharaoh Heaven, Caesar 3 Heaven, Zeus Heaven

posted 02-12-01 12:28 ET (US)     7 / 295       
Sin Ying was walking back to the orphanage when she saw Civis Romanus walking deep in though carrying a package in a strange yellow paper. For some reason, the paper looked familiar. She hadn't seen it's kind here ever, but it brought back vague memories of people and streets that were not found in Rome. She wondered what was in the package and decided to see where the officer was taking it.

When Civis Romanus' path took him to his home, Sin Ying frowned and turned around to head back to the orphanage where she was originally going.

[This message has been edited by Jaguar (edited 02-12-2001).]

posted 02-12-01 13:31 ET (US)     8 / 295       
Radko looked over the stables. Rumors were filtering down from the villa that C. Romanus was being posted abroad again. That probably meant his prime quarter horses and some asses would be needed made ready for the voyage. Radko wondered if the trip would travel through his native Illyria, otherwise, he had no interest. He had spent years on the trail, both before meeting up with C. Romanus and afterwards, and was looking forward to spending his time tending his stables. Mentally, he made a list of which animals would be best suited for travel under load, and possibly a boat voyage. He wondered when his boss might be leaving, and thought of which of his stablehands he could afford to send along. It was a delicate process, he'd hate to lose some of his better boys and beasts, but if he did not send along top quality he'd have to hear it from the boss when he returned. Radko reached for the water bucket and contemplated the options.
Civis Romanus
posted 02-12-01 16:27 ET (US)     9 / 295       
"MOMMA! MOMMA! IT'S CIVI, MOMMA! HE'S HURT!" Apollonia was running down the corridor bellowing at the top of her lungs.
Apolita stepped into the corridor to intercept the young girl.

"Apollonia! Cease your shrieking this instant!" ordered Apolita. Apollonia quieted somewhat, but only just enough to take the edge off the shrillness in her young voice. "But Momma, Civi's hurt! A monster bit him!"

"Enough of your games now, child, and your make believe! Monster indeed!" retorted Apolita.

"I'm not playing make believe Momma. A thing bit Civi and he won't talk to me. He won't even move," said Apollonia, tears streaming down her face.

"Child, you had better not be trying to fool me," said the now more concerned mother of the two children. They play these games, but never have I seen her so distraught, thought Apolita. So she followed after Apollonia at a hurried, steady pace.

In the workshop areas of Civis' villa, not far from the stables, Civis undertook his typical stroll following dinner. The smith was hammering a new tool for the fields, the leather worker was making a new pair of sandals. In the distance he could see Radko at work with the animals. He was carrying a bucket, most likely to get water from one of the wells or the fountain to give to the horses or other beasts in the stable.

Neither Radko nor any of the others were slaves. Civis kept no slaves. His workers were given food, housing, clothing and a small allowance of dinarii. In return, he never had to worry about runaways, or the cost of buying new slaves. His workers stayed with him because they wanted to and chose to. They worked hard and productively. His villa always prospered. A beneficial, economical arrangement, he thought. What he really thought he could not say in public nor to Caesar. Civis abhored slavery. His thoughts returned to Radko...

I will need a man keen and skilled with animals for this journey. There will be pack animals, horses and exotic beasts... Maybe camels. Civis wrinkled his nose at the very thought of these humpbacked, spitting, stinking, uncooperative beasts. Yes, camels... Good reason indeed to have someone along who can handle them as it was the last thing Civis would want to do. Now there's an idea... One of his own animal keepers, maybe an assistant, or maybe Radko himself, if he wanted to go. Civis decided to ask... He would not order one of his workers into a situation such as this.

The Roman took three purposeful steps towards the stable only to hear the voice of his wife, edged in panic, call to him across the grounds. Civis spun on his heals and began to run towards the main structure almost immediately upon hearing her call. She's frightened! What could be wrong!

Civis arrived at the portico to find Apolita standing there, tears streaming down her face. "What is wrong, Apolita?!" he cried out between gasps for breath after the long run.

"Our son, Civis! He's hurt! He won't answer me! Civis, I think he's dying!" They both ran into the villa and Apolita led Civis to his young son's room. The boy lay on the bed, face pale, eyes closed, breathing labored. He lay with his right arm stretched out palm up. Civis could clearly see a widening purple discoloration surrounding each of two distinct puncture wounds. Dried blood stained the boy's arm. Apollonia stood at the foot of the bed sobbing.

"What did this?," said Civis to Apolita his teeth clenched in anger. Apolita handed Civis the green object given to him in yellow paper by Caesar. "Apollonia says Civi had this near him when she found him. See its teeth? There is blood on its teeth and snout."

"This was given to me by Caesar! Why would he give me such a thing? Why would he want to harm my family?!" Anger intensified in the soldier. Unconsciously, he placed his hand where his short sword would have been buckled and its hilt waiting. He found neither and so tightened his fist on itself until it turned red, shaking with the strain of its clenching, his anger growing rapidly. Then he heard a different voice coming from the corridor behind him. It was not Apolita's. It was a man's voice.

Apollonia turned her head as a new figure entered the room. He was tall, very tall. His green eyes quickly surveyed the scene, his senses drew in the emotional turmoil within. "It is not Caesar's doing... It is another's doing," said the tall man with the green eyes.

The daughter of Civis smiled in recognition despite her tears, immediately running to the tall man, arms opened wide.
"Uncle Jay... It's Civi, Uncle Jay... He's hurt. Can you help him... please....? She hugged him not waiting for an answer.

"We shall see, Apollonia. We shall see..." Gaius Accipiter looked at Civis and Apolita. They said nothing in greeting, their hopeful eyes speaking for each of them. They both stepped aside as the tall man withdrew the young girl's arms from around his waist and walked to the boy's bed to do what he could.

As he walked to the bed he saw the green object in Civis's left hand. His frown of concern deepened measurably. Neither thing was good... Neither the unconscious boy... Nor the green object in Civis's hand. If poison is involved, matters would become even worse.

First things first, he thought. First the boy, then the golem.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-12-2001).]

Cyber Paladin
posted 02-13-01 03:51 ET (US)     10 / 295       
A village in the East of Tyre, the starting point of the prosperous Silk Road

"Lad, that's your two denrii" Saying the butcher, handing two denrii to the slender young hunter, with long pony-tailed grey hair, who then nodded politely in appreciation to the reward. And turned away, heading for his home in the countryside, as if living in this remote village is not far enough from civilization.
"Septumus, next time try to get some wolves. I'll need the skin, you'll need it too." The butcher smiled, reminding Septi that his boots are wearing out. "No problem" That was the simple reply from Septi, whose blue eyes flashed waves after waves of warm and enthusiasm.

"Brother Septi! Brother Septi!" A kid dashed from behind Septi, who was on his way home. "Teach me magic, you promised" The kid pulled the edge of Septi's brown tunic. "Now did you do well in the school?" Septi smiled benevolently towards his little neighbour. "Yes of course." "OK, then I'll show you a little cantrip."
In the kids home, Septi was about to mock the flames from a candle on the table. He gathered energy from his mana...
"Husdaflu..... Argh!" Something was not right... a feeling too familiar to Septi... "It's it again." Septi swallowed some saliva, breathing hard, his skin looked paler under the brown hide.
"Come on kid. Brother Septi is not feeling too well~" Luckily the kid's mother freed him.

In Septi's wooden hut. The Britannica hunter sit on his bed, diving deeply into his thoughes. "It comes again..." He looked onto his medallion hung on his neck. It's made from yellow papyrus, given by his dead magic master Master Will. Holding the medallion on his hand, he gently feeled it. The texture, the shape, the power... which saves him everytime he fails to control his own power...
Going outside, looking onto the mountain where the moon's coming up. The image and words of Master Will appeared in his mind. He said to himself... "Far East, Dragon's blood.... Master, I can't..." Thinking of his own failure to go East... He said to himself again... "I can't..." Then there seems to be the encouraging voice from his master "You can, my son. I believe in you. Don't give up. You can. You can."

[This message has been edited by Cyber Paladin (edited 02-13-2001).]

Eminence Grise
posted 02-13-01 07:46 ET (US)     11 / 295       
Aythadis put Apolonia down on the bed next to her brother and touched his hand to her cheek.
"Let's see what we can do for your brother, Little One"

He sat down on the bed himself and placed his hands on the top of the little boy then slowly moved them down along his side, keeping a half inch of space between his hands and Civi's body. He felt the flows of life were all knotted up and twisted, all curled around the small wound in the boys wrist. Gaius lifted he hand to and bowed his head over the tiny punctured and concentrated. He could see the faint power lines that tied the boy to the small statue on the table. Unfamilar symbols seemed to flow down their path.

Gaius Accipeter gently placed the small hand on the boys chest, and wiped away the sweat beading on Civi's brow. The small boy seemed to breathe easier as the hand left his face. The green-eyed man, stood and picked up the small statue. The tiny 'long' glared at him, it's eyes glowing with an inner light. Raw power radiated from it, evaporating from the scales, giving the statue a greasy feel.

Ch'in, he thought, but why would they harm the little boy? He broadened his mind and saw the statuette flow down through the ages, where it found the hands of a dying monk. Rain poured down, puddles in the mud, curled with blood. A whisper, barely heard. A curse, damning whoever held the statue until it was returned to the monastery.

The tall man turned to Civis and his wife and met their anxious look.
"I'm sorry Apolita, I can't help Civi here and now, but I think I can find help."
He bowed his head then looked up again.
"Civis, his needs to be wrapped and kept safe in a chest.
Then it needs to go to Ch'in."

Civis Romanus
posted 02-13-01 21:25 ET (US)     12 / 295       
"Will Civi live?" were the first words spoken by Civis to his friend. There was no question about why Gaius was there. Civis knew the ways of "Uncle Jay" though he didn't know the means.

Gaius explained the situation. "The object strikes one person only and so long as that person lives, it will not strike again, though it retains the power to do so at all times. I have done what I can to block that which is trying to gain control of Civi. It is not a toxin. If it were I would be hard pressed to do any good at all. In this one way Civi is very fortunate. However, until we do what is necessary in Ch'in, the boy will be under constant assault within. He would never again be the son you knew. I have seen these situations a few times before. A person with two different behaviors. You can never be sure which behavior will manifest at any given moment. Usually, one is good... the other is evil. They war within and with others outside."

Civis said nothing more. He left the room and returned soon after with a small wooden chest under his left arm and crumpled yellow paper in his right hand that he picked up from the floor in his study. He placed the chest down on a nearby table and opened it with a key. He put the paper next to the chest. Civis held his hand out to receive the green object from Gaius. The tall man hesitated, then handed the object to Civis.

Civis could feel the greasiness of the statue, the discomfort it caused his hand, the displeasure it ripened in his mind and his soul... The anger rose in his chest, through to his shoulders and into his arms and down to his hands. His right hand tightened on the object, pressure ever increasing. His teeth clenched and began to grind. The muscles of his arms strained with tension. Destroy it, his mind screamed... DESTROY IT! DESTROY IT! DESTROY IT! Civis raised his arm to cast it against the wall.


Startled, Civis Romanus refocused on the source of the command and immediately forgot his intent to destroy the object.

Gaius Accipiter changed his voice to something more soothing, calming. "My friend... It must be returned to Ch'in intact if you want your son to be your son once more... Civis... Please wrap it in the paper and put it in the chest." And Civis did exactly that, sealing the chest and locking it with the key. There were two keys. He kept one and offered the other to Gaius. "Help us, please, Gaius. Will you accompany me east?"

Gaius smiled, "That is why I am here, Civis... Though I had hoped it would be under better circumstances." Gaius accepted the second key just as a young voice from the bed groaned and then whimpered. It was Civi. He had awakened.

"Unc... Uncle... Jay. Father... My arm hurts, father. The green thing bit me," Civi said as memories of what happened rushed back. His father dropped to one knee and gathered the boy into his arms, holding him closely, but not unbearably tight. He loosened his grip so that he could look into the boy's eyes. "You will be fine, Civi. Your Uncle Jay and I will see to it. We must leave for the east soon, but you will be fine. Then we will return. I promise..." Then he hesitated, surprised and dismayed.

Civi favored his father in appearance. Same color hair, same color eyes. Brown hair and blue eyes. But his eyes were no longer blue... His eyes were black, the pupils were invisible, lost in a sea of black. "It" was at work in his son.

"What is the matter, Father?" asked Civi. Civis controlled his impulse to withdraw suddenly from holding the boy. Instead, he carefully returned him to his bed and bid him to lie there and rest. Then Civis rose to his feet and strode out of the room. The sooner he leaves for the east, the sooner he would return and have his son back. Determined, Civis went about the business of preparation.


"No Radko, not one of your assistants... It's you I need on this journey," said Civis, almost adding a note of pleading to his voice. "Civi is ill and the cure is in the east where Caesar has ordered me to go. We need animals for travel and a man who knows these animals. Radko, will you please do this for me?"

Radko hesitated, considering. "The boy is truly ill then, Master Civis?"

"Yes, Radko... A slow but steady illness. Gaius tells me so."

"I must think on this, Master Civis. May I give you my answer at first light tomorrow?"

Civis sighed. "Yes Radko, first light tomorrow." Civis left the stable and left the man to his thoughts and his work. The Roman was unsure if his Stablemaster would help or not. He could only hope.

As he approached his residence, Civis saw in the distance a uniformed man astride a horse enter through the villa's bronze gates and direct his horse to trot up the path leading to the building. He was a young man who wore the uniform of a Roman Tribune. A very young man it appeared. Maybe 10 or 12 year's younger than Civis. Oh no, thought Civis. If this is Caesar's choice for my tribune, then I must indeed be cursed. A wet-nosed kid... just what I needed. Civis prepared himself for the worst as the young tribune, whistling a jaunty little tune he must have heard at some recent festival, closed the distance between them.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-13-2001).]

Eminence Grise
posted 02-14-01 05:51 ET (US)     13 / 295       
Gaius Accipiter sat down on the bed which held Civis' young son. Leaving the boy here was not going to work. If the evil manifested too strongly it would break the bonds he'd set on it and the boy would cause irrepairable sorrow to his mother and sister and the gods only new who else. They would have to take the kid with them on the trip to Ch'in, no matter what the dangers were they would encounter. The question that remained was how to convince Civis of this.

The tall man ruffled the boys hair, his touch soothing away the grimace far too old for the little face. He stood up and left. He needed to think.

Sin Ying had ran away from the orphanage. The matron had tried to kick her again and for no other reason that she 'looked crooked' at her. Tears traced their path down her grimy cheeks. She coulnd't help she looked different from other people, now could she? Why did people treat her so bad? Just because she was different?
Vaguely she remembered a time when she was with people that looked like her, that spoke to her in a language so much different from what the people spoke here, she was half convinced it was only a dream.
Only a dream of a better life, that would never be hers.

Her feet, maybe guided, had brought her to Civis' villa. She looked at the large house and wondered about what she'd seen that morning: that man with the paper-wrapped parcel that reminded her of her dream. Maybe he would not be so nasty to her? Glancing quickly to either side, she climed the wall of the manor and dropped down in the small orchard.

The place was so lovely, was she dreaming again? She pinched her arm and grimaced. No, she was definitely not dreaming. Pushing her long, dark hair behind her ears she snuck up to the house itself.

Sun Ying looked through the small window and saw a little boy lying on a bed. He looked to be as old as she, maybe a little older, or would he be younger, these people, so tall, were hard to judge. The boy seemed to have a troubled sleep and for no reason she could later recall, Sun Ying climbed through the window and sat down next to the little boy. Carefully she reached out and touched his sweaty brow. The boy winced then relaxed.
How strange, she thought, then she snatched her hand back as she saw an incredibly tall and dark-haired man enter the room.

Gaius Accipiter saw a little girl with dark hair, and large dark eyes look at him like a frightened kitten from where she sat next to Civi. The boy he noticed was sleeping more quiet than he'd expected. As a closer look told him the girl was Ch'in his eyebrow rose in amazement.

"Hello little girl, " he spoke as he sat down on the ground beside her, "'my name is Gaius Accipiter, but you can call me Jay. What's your name?"

posted 02-14-01 09:29 ET (US)     14 / 295       
Radko got out the grooming brush and went to work on his favorite horse, Kantos, a nine year old gelding. When he needed to think, he always brushed the horse, and talked out his dilemma with the animal. So far, the horse had never done much more than look at him quizzically, but somehow Radko drew strength from the very steadiness and silence that the horse projected.

"So, Kantos, it's a terrible mess, it is. Young Civis is gravely ill and C. Romanus needs me on the road again. I'm not as young as I used to be, and the villa needs a strong hand to guide its beasts. None of my stable hands are ready to take over. But, how can I turn down a child in need, Kantos. You know that's not like me."

Radko stopped brushing and looked into the horse's soft brown eye. The horse tossed its head uncomfortably.

"Ach, I know what is the right thing to do. I've just grown used to the comforts of a roof and hot meals. The mistress can hire another stable master, or perhaps one of these hands will prove a better talent than I give him credit for. If C. Romanus needs me, and feels the boy needs me, I can not sit idly by. Curse the god who gave me a conscience, Kantos, and his horse, if he has one."

The horse sensed the unease, and whinnied. Radko patted the beast's neck, then slowly made his way to the villa's shrine to atone for his blasphemous thoughts. He returned and rousted one of the more promising stable hands, Salap, from his straw mattress and did his best to fill him in on such details as he could. Radko was sure that the boy would forget nearly everything, but perhaps something good would stick. Finally, well after dark, Radko made his way to his own palette. As he lay in his bunk, he re-itemized what he would send with the boss. Radko guessed Kantos would be making one last trip after all.

[This message has been edited by Nutmegger (edited 02-14-2001).]

posted 02-14-01 11:02 ET (US)     15 / 295       
"M... M... My name is Sin Ying. I didn't mean to.. I am not sure why... I ran away from the orphanage and I saw the officer with the yellow wrapped item and the paper... Somehow I ended up over here and when I saw the boy tossing in his sleep, I just had to come in... I am sorry."

The whole time Sin Ying was playing with a little figurine that was hanging from a necklace. A sign of how nervous she really was, even though she seemed to be telling the truth.

Gaius reached out and calmed her nervous hands. "Don't worry, Sin Ying, I won't harm you. What orphanage are you from? Do they expect you to return?"

"I don't want to go back. The head mistress is really mean and I didn't do anything to deserve a beating. She always beat me."

Civi started to toss a bit and Sin Ying wiped his brow. Immediately the tossing stopped and he fell back into a deep and fitful sleep.

Civis Romanus
posted 02-14-01 12:06 ET (US)     16 / 295       
Now in his study, Civis handed the Tribune Titus a scroll with a detailed list of assistance the mission would need from the resources of the Emperor. They hadn't talked long. They hadn't the time. Titus knew the purpose of the mission but Civis purposefully did not tell Titus about Civi's affliction. No need to complicate matters.

The commander took brief moments to appraise the young Tribune. He was young for a tribune at his 21 years, but Civis recalled he himself was only 2 years younger when his father secured for him his first assignment in the Legions. Civis did not enter as a tribune, but through a series of fortuitous events and his natural abilities, he was soon given an appointment to the position. It didn't hurt that it was one of his General's favorite commanders whose life he saved single-handedly in that long ago battle with the Picts in Brittania.

This young man holding the scroll was about one inch taller than Civis, but much more slender in build. He had a confident air about him, but Civis had made no attempt to probe its depth. Titus seemed at ease with the mission, but there was something veiled in his seemingly cheerful disposition. The conversation focused on the mission because Titus would allow it to go nowhere else. Civis mentally shrugged his shoulders. There will be time enough and challenges enough to test the man's mettle on the trail. Caesar selected them both for this mission. There must be a reason.

Civis saw Titus to the horse path leading from his villa and sent the Tribune on his way with his scroll of requirements. As he entered the villa he met Gaius in the hallway. Attached to the tall man, her small hand in his, was a strangely complexioned waif of a child with unusual eyes. The girl stepped closer to the tall man as Civis examined her appearance - dirty face, tattered clothes, bruises on her arms and low on her legs. "She is an orphan. Her name is Sin Ying... And she is Ch'in." said Gaius.

Civis' eyes darted to Gaius's eyes at the mention of Ch'in. There was a message there. It said, "let's talk." Civis turned his attention back to the girl. He saw again the bruises. "Have you been hurt?"

The little girl nodded her head. "The mistress... She hits me. I ran away." The girl edged closer to the tall man. Civis' expression changed. There is no need for that... to strike children who cannot defend themselves. 'Cowardice and cruelty' were words that came to Civis' mind. Civis made a mental note about something needing to be done before he left.

The Roman knelt down on one knee to assume the same relative heighth of the child, then reached over to push back errant locks of hair from the girl's face. She grasped Gaius' hand tightly and crushed herself to him in fear. Civis smiled, "I do not hurt little girls, Sin Ying." Then he brushed the hair from her face noting just how dirty it was. "You will be safe here," he said rising to his feet.

Civis called to one of his house servants, a middle aged woman who had been part of the household for years. "Lucilla, please see that our little guest is washed, clothed and fed. She can have as much as she would like." Lucilla looked curiously at Civis and at Sin Ying, but said only "Yes, Master Civis" in reply. "Go with her now, Sin Ying, if you will. Lucilla will take care of you," said Civis to the girl.

Reluctantly, Sin Ying released her grip on Gaius' hand and accepted the hand of Lucilla. As she was led away, she looked back over her shoulder at Civis. The Roman thought he saw the barest hint of a smile, but it was so fleeting he couldn't be sure. Then he turned his full attention to Gaius. "Yes, my friend, we do need to talk."

Micah Aragorn
posted 02-15-01 06:05 ET (US)     17 / 295       
Fulfilling the list of provisions that the tribune had been given by Civis Romanus was an easy task. Romanus' name alone opened doors and by all means Caesar's seal on the scroll was an immediate obediance. At each place Titus asked for something those who would fulfill his demands were immediate in their task and humble in their demeanor.
The tribune was not used to such groveling by others but if this is what power proceeds fame and deity...he had no problem seeking the likes of the latter.

What better way to start than to be a part of something Caesar himself had commanded. He still wondered why of all possible people he had been chosen. But be it assured he knew that his grandfather who was very faithful to Caesar and often sided with was owed favors. And what better way to start his grandson in the pursuit of a Senate position than to send him along with Caesar's military advisor to learn diplomacy while seeking to learn the strengths and weaknesses of a possible enemy.

Titus knew that to get what he needed from this journey he must first gain the confidence of Civis Romanus. In his converstion at Romanus' villa he sensed that he was being quickly sized-up and would not let a first impression be his downfall. So he kept his mood jovial and his respect for the advisor apparent. Yet through the conversations he felt that Civis was not totally fixed upon the task at hand and had other thoughts that would intermitantly break his concentration as if something needed to be said but was being kept quietly in the background.

Eminence Grise
posted 02-15-01 06:49 ET (US)     18 / 295       
Gaius Accipiter sat down on the simple but elegant Roman chair, taking care not to lean backwards as this would result in him unceremoniously being dumped on the ground. He was turning a goblet, the wine untouched, in his hands.
"...and there I found this girlchild, who for some reason manages to calm Civi with just her presence. It might have something to do with the medalion she's wearing, it looks to be jade, but I can't make out the image on it. I do know it's old, most of the carving seems well worn. I didn't have the heart asking her if I could hold it.
Maybe later when she's grown to trust a little more."

Civis nodded.
"So we leave her with Civi?" he asked?
"No. I don't think that's a good idea"
"But she sooths him, how can I not have her here?"
"She'll be with your son, Civis, but the two of them need to come. My bonds on the evil within Civi will wear away with time and will need to be restrengthened periodically.
You would not want him near Apolonia or Apolita if the evil manages to break through it's bonds."

The Roman paled visibibly.
"I had'no idea it was that strong... Apolita will be sick with worry if I take Civi with me"
"You, and I, will be sick with worry if we leave him here. Even with the girl. No, I'm afraid she'll have to worry, but she also knows he's with you and she knows that you will do your utmost to save him."
The tall man touched his friend's hand.
"I know you worry, Civis, but I'm sure we'll find a solution"

posted 02-15-01 14:32 ET (US)     19 / 295       
Radko was up early. His mind was already working on the three-stage logistical gymnastics he would be playing over the coming days. Stage one: from the villa to Ostia. Stage two: the trip to Tyre. Stage three: from Tyre to someplace "east". All Radko knew was that it was further than he'd been before. How much further, he dare not guess.

First, he had to get supplies from the villa to the ship. He sent one of the stable hands ahead to Ostia to try and reserve the "craned" docking berth for when they arrived. He met with Apolita to draw supplies of cheese, salt meats, bacon, flour, honey, beer, wine and mead for people and the fresh water and grain for the animals to take on the voyage. Eventually, they would need more provisions, but the Romanus storerooms were well provided, and there would be plenty of other claims on their funds. There was always a strong temptation on voyages of this sort to purchase all animals when you reached your port of call. Radko knew this to be a serious mistake. Invariably, word spread like wild fire from the harbor master's office to the inns and stables that a Roman official needed beasts, and immediately the price of even the most run down nags would double or triple. (Some would attribute this to the generous stipends paid by the merchants.) Radko intended to arrive at Tyre with enough animals to theoretically transport his own goods, and then inconspicuously buy one or two beasts from each stable and inn, to avoid driving up the price. In practice, this meant that he would bring his best from Ostia, and supplement them at each stop along the way to Tyre. His "best", in this case, meant Kantos, and two asses named Portia and Vera. He would not travel without his favorite horse, and the two asses were the only two that would tolerate sea travel without incident. Finally, he knew he would have to meet with C. Romanus to discuss how much money they would be bringing. This would influence whether Radko brought tools to make objects from scratch or whether he thought he'd be able to buy things along the way.

Back in the stable, Radko gathered his few prized possessions and placed them within a saddle bag. He then packed his horse grooming equipment and began the process of loading materials onto wagons, wains and carts.

Civis Romanus
posted 02-15-01 15:57 ET (US)     20 / 295       
Civis Romanus took only one brief moment to further mull in his mind what to do with Civi. He rose to his feet. "It is decided, Gaius. Civi comes with us. The girl too. I will explain these things to Apolita. She will not be happy, but she will soon understand the need. Now I have some errands to run, so please feel free as always to enjoy the villa. I will return for supper."

Civis shook his friends hand and went to talk with Apolita. About 30 minutes later, Apolita still teary but in full agreement, placed a kiss on Civis' cheek. "Just come back to me when this is all done," she said. Civis replied, "I will do my very best, Apolita. There is no other place I would rather be."

Civis reached for his sword and began to buckle it on his waist. "Now, Apolita, there is something I must do. I must gain legal custody of the girl and pay a visit to the orphanage." Civis's expression took on a sterner note. There is something there that need's doing." A different concern now came over Apolita but she read the expression in her husband's face and decided to say nothing. It wouldn't do any good anyway.

Radko heard his name called from a place a few meters from the stable. He looked in that direction to see Civis mounted on one of his horses. He hurried over to see what his master required. "How is it going, Radko? Do you have our transportation animals arranged?"

"It goes well. I have animals selected and ready for transportation. But Master Civis, do we have sufficient funds to bargain with supply houses of Tyre and elsewhere?"
Civis smiled. "A good question Radko, as always. Yes, do not fear for funds. Caesar has provided generously and adequately. But be your frugle self as in the past. Caesar will be pleased to learn we have spent only as needed and our reward will be that much greater."

"Our reward?"

"Yes, Radko. Our reward. Have faith, my excellent stablemaster!" Civis smiled, waved and then at a full trot guided his horse to the open bronze villa gates and onto the road to the center of Rome.

An Hour Before Supper:

Civis handed the folded piece of sheepskin in his hand to Apolita. "Well there it is... Caesar's Magistrate of Orphanages granted us custody of Sin Ying. I also discussed the fate of the woman who beats the children. It turns out, Apolita, Sin Ying's orphanage was built to provide a home for orphaned children of the Legion. No one knew why Sin Ying was there, but it had something to do with one of the Legions of the East. The Magistrate is a good man, Apolita. He doesn't condone such treatment. And there were two legionnaires available who heard what had happened and were none too happy either. You see, both had lost their wives and should they fail to return from a campaign, their children would have been orphans and housed there too."

"But Civis, just what did you do?" asked Apolita, now becoming somewhat anxious about her husband's actions. Civis didn't answer immediately. His face shifted into a frown and as he began to unbuckle his short Roman sword he said ominously, "Exactly what I intended and exactly what she deserved."

"YOU DIDN'T!" exclaimed Apolita now so thoroughly alarmed she brought the palm of her right hand to her mouth.

"I certainly did... or more correctly, the legionnaires did," said Civis.

"But Civis..." said his wife.

"Never mind 'but Civis'. I said she got what she deserved. The legionnaires accompanied me to the orphanage and we gave the woman the writ from the Magistrate and her two choices.
First choice, go before the Magistrate and accept whatever he decided to do at the moment; or second choice, accompany the legionnaires to her new duties."

"What did she choose?"

"She knows the Magistrate. She chose the legionnaires."

"And what happened," persisted Apolita.

"Well... she is now the towel washer at one of the Legion's bathhouses and will be so for no less than three years." Civis began to smile despite himself. "Can you imagine what will happen to her when the rest of the Garrison of Rome finds out what she did to those young children? The towel snappings will reach an all time high. I suspect she'll have trouble sitting in a chair no matter where she goes... at least for the next three years." Civis began to snicker, then chuckle and then guffaw as he imagined the ongoing plight of the child beater.

Apolita's eyes grew wide as the import sank in. Then behind the palm of her hand, still covering her mouth, she began to smile. The corners of her hazel eyes began to crinkle as the smile grew bigger. Soon she too was laughing out loud.

In the midst of trying to regain her composure, Apolita said to Civis, "And I thought you had done something perfectly horrible when I saw you take that sword off."

Civis looked at her matter of factly. "But I did Apolita... Before the legionnaires took her to the bathhouse, she did meet my sword... the flat side, that is. Only once."

"Won't the legionnaires report what you did to the Magistrate?"

"Why? He told me to do it."

Apolita didn't know what to say. She mumbled something about Roman men and Roman law then told Civis his supper was ready and waiting.

The day of departure was now one day closer. The Tribune Titus was seeing to arrangements at the dock even as Civis and his family and his two guests, Gaius and Sin Ying, were sitting down to the day's supper.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 02-16-2001).]

Eminence Grise
posted 02-16-01 06:47 ET (US)     21 / 295       
The docks in Ostia were abustle and filled with slaves,sailors and petty merchants. Gaius Accipiter made his way to the berth of the Aquilo, a fast sailing merchant ship, that normally carried luxury goods. He was leading a tall black gelding and carried Sun Ying on his arm. The girl had wrapped her hands around the tall man's neck and tried to look everyway at once.

Next to the Aquilo he spotted Radko, who was overseeing the loading of the ship.
"Master Radko, an apt named ship. I hope he'll carry us as fast as the North wind he's named for.
I'd also like you to meet his cousin, Africus. Do you think you have space for one more horse?"
Radko looked at the horse and softly whistled between his teeth. Africus looked as quick as the southwesterly wind he was named after, long legs and a deep chest suggested the horse could run and run long.
"I think we can find a spot for him, lord Accipter."
"Thanks Radko."
He handed teh stablemaster the reigns and lifted Sin Ying a little higher.
"Come on, Little One, let's inspect our cabins"

posted 02-16-01 10:35 ET (US)     22 / 295       
There were so many things going on all at once, Sin Ying was a little lost for words. With Gaius carrying her, she could see that the people on the boat were busy loading provisions and looking for room for the animals.

Sin Ying had so many questions, but was too overwhelmed to say much. New clothes, for her at least. Even though they had been worn by Civis Romanus' daughter, Apollonia, the clothes were of better quality than anything she'd ever owned. The food was something else. There was so much and so many different tastes. Anything tasted better than the slop they fed her at the orphanage. And Uncle Jay was so nice. She wasn't so sure about many others yet, but he seemed to know what she wanted before she asked anything.

"Our cabins are down here. You ready to walk down the steps by yourself?"

Sin Ying nodded and Gaius let her down. "Will I be sharing my cabin with little Civi? Is he going to be ok? What's wrong with him?"

Radko watched as Gaius and the girl went to check out their lodgings and wondered where he had found such a magnificent animal. Sin Ying's chatter was nice to hear. She'd been very quiet around other people. Not sure what to think of her features and origins, Radko went back to work.

Cyber Paladin
posted 02-16-01 11:43 ET (US)     23 / 295       
That night, in the galley cabin.

"Good night, Sin Ying" Smiled Gaius warmly to the little girl, who said nothing but smiled back and noded. Gaius blown the candle, made sure Sin Ying's bed's OK. And went to his own room, leaving her with Civi, who slept in the other side of the room.

"Argh.... dad? dad?" Civi opened his eyes... "Dad?"
But he soon realised his dad is not there. Something's not right... what is this place.
Civi rubbed his eyes, but all he see is that he is lying on a grassland. The sky is black, sound like a storm is coming....
"What's happening?" All Civi remembers is that he was bit by the figure. Then everything stopped... until now.
Then all out of a sudden, something wriggled on his chest... Civi's hand unconsciously moved up to his mouth in horror, that thing, that figure is... flying.
It's enlarging, it's breathing, it's staring at Civi with nothing but pure evil in it's eyes.
It's moving, it's circling at Civis, who is frozen by the terror he saw. Bean-sized sweat begin to roll down his cheek. "Dad, help me! Dad!" Finally the boy shouted, but nothing seemed to have come out from his mouth. He lost his voice. The thing circled around the boy, and sized him in it's coil, the coil of horror, the coil of evil, the coil of death. It tightened it's grip, tightened, tightened.
The clouds seemed to stir in the sky, and Civi closed his eyes in pain, his head is feeling like exploding. "Argh!!!!!!!!" Civi's cry goes up like an arrow penetrating the air.
There's light! Civi can see there was light coming, from afar. It grew from a tiny spot to a ... shape. A girl's shape. As soon as she comes, the evil power torturing him seemed to fade into nothing. The stirring clouds retreated to far way. And Civi is freed...
"Goddess! I ... thank you... but, er... what's your name so that I can worship you?" Civi is still shivering from what has been happening so far.
The Goddess's voice was soothing, but Civi cannot understand what she says. Something like "Ch'in" "long" repeated quite often, but he has no idea what it is.
When the Goddess finished talking, she placed her hand over his forehead, and everything started dissolving... and Civi felt very tired, and he closed his eyes...

"Pank" The door was threw open, and the senior Civis rushed in with a candle in hand. Darkness cannot cover the worry on his face. Gaius followed in, they both saw Sin Ying holding her right hand on the boy's forehead. And Civi's the younger is now quiet and sleeping, with a barely noticible smile on his face.

[This message has been edited by Cyber Paladin (edited 02-17-2001).]

posted 02-16-01 13:39 ET (US)     24 / 295       
This was always the part of the loading that Radko loathed. Horses and asses do not do stairs, so the only way to get them on board was to place them in a sling and have the "crane" lift them and lower them below through a hole in the deck. Needless to say, the animals usually did not take the experience well. Some struggled terribly, and occasionally, one would break free and plunge either into the harbor, or on to the deck of the ship, usually with disasterous results. Radko stayed with the animals as long as possible, but you could never explain to a horse that it was about to be raised off the ground. Kantos was always skittish for days afterwards, but Africus was different. He took the harness without incident and stayed calm as he was raised and lowered out of sight. And his presence seemed to calm Kantos and the asses. It was a remarkable horse, indeed.
Civis Romanus
posted 02-16-01 16:12 ET (US)     25 / 295       
Civis watched the dock shrink in size as the galley pulled away from its anchorage. Civi stood next to him on his left side. Apolita and Apollonia became smaller and smaller, less distinguishable as the distance between them grew.

Gaius Accipiter was standing by him in the ship's stern as the galley passed a merchant ship arriving from some distant port. Strains of a melody sung by the free crew drifted across the waters into Civis's hearing. He turned, curious about the words he could hear being sung by the rowers of the merchant ship now moving past the galley's stern.

Civis turned his attention back to the distant dock and the now needlepoint sized figures of his wife and daughter. Without looking at Gaius, he said, "Amusing melody... Something I think about 'beyond Poseidon's throne'. That is a greek god's name, I recall. It must be a very old song."

"Indeed it is Civis...," said the tall man. Gaius eyes took on a faraway look as he recalled one of a million memories stored in his recollection. Then he grasped Sin Ying by the hand and led her to another part of the ship leaving Civis alone with his son.

Civi looked up at his father, the boy's eyes black with the effect of the statue's bite. He could see that his father's eyes looked different. Yes, they were the blue color now they always had been; but they seemed to shine a little differently. Strange... It wasn't raining or misty. There wasn't much ocean spray. Why did they seem moist? And why wouldn't his father look down to see Civi looking at him?

Civis could feel his son looking at him. Without looking down, he raised his left hand and placed it on his son's head, then spread his fingers like the teeth of a comb and lovingly stroked the brown hair that grew there. He did this until neither the dock nor his family that stood there could be seen anymore. Then he turned to make his way to his cabin, his son accompanying him. Titus, Radko, Gaius and Sin Ying watched them leave the stern but said nothing to either of them as Civis and his son passed by. It was the right thing to do.

The galley left the harbor and pointed itself south towards the port of Syracusae.

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