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Topic Subject:The Silk Road - A Story of Ancient Rome
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Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 02-11-01 00:19 ET (US)         
THE SILK ROAD
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.

PERSONAL CHARACTERS (AND ORIGINATING AUTHORS) :
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)

NON PERSONAL CHARACTERS (AND ORIGINATING AUTHORS) :
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.

OPEN TO ALL MEMBERS.

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

AuthorReplies:
Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-09-01 20:14 ET (US)     176 / 295       
Leagues passed under the hooves of their mounts as the Romans pressed on. Soon the talk turned to their next stop. Whisperings of "Samarkand... Samarkand... Samarkand" could be heard on the hot wind that blew from the east.

The Romans knew little of the great city except its reputation for luxuries and mystery. There was no other city between the empire of the Parthians and Kashgar as important or more exotic they said among themselves. But they did not know what exotic would mean until they themselves could see it they all agreed.

And so the talk continued. Civis did not think it appropriate to silence the men in the fashion demanded by the traditions of Roman discipline. This was not a campaign, it was an expedition of discovery. There would be a time and need for discipline later. Besides, he did not doubt the stamina nor will of the Romans. It was amply displayed at Bokhara in the face of that mob.

Civis instead thought about other things: Civi, Parthian stubbornness, the Ch'in. Most of all he wondered 'where was Accipiter'. Days had passed without a word. He had expected that. But not these many days.

A great wall of brown began to rise in the distance and approach. Its face was not clear or solid like the walls of a building. It churned and swirled even as it grew larger, closer. The closer it came the more ominous the portrait it presented. Yes... It seemed to be... No doubt now... It is a vast expanse of windblown dirt racing at them at unheard of speed... And there in front, galloping his horse as fast as it could go, was Accipiter.

The tall man was a full league ahead of the dirt strewn storm and in moments reached the startled Romans. "Quickly, follow me... No questions now!" shouted Accipiter when saw that Civis was going to speak.

Accipiter wheeled his horse and galloped it straight for the approaching sea of dirt. Civis shouted an order and the Romans hesitated. He shouted it again and this time they followed, but the fear in their eyes was obvious. The entire expedition galloped straight for the storm and whatever lay beyond.

The expedition collided with the dirt storm only moments later. Howling wind and stinging dirt raced past their ears impacting any skin that was exposed. The animals cried out individually, close to panic. Radko did the best he could to keep them under control, as did the auxiliaries try to keep under their control their own mounts.

Yet above the wind the voice of Accipiter, remarkably strong, could be heard by them all. "FORWARD... FORWARD... DO NOT STOP!" Unseen to all his eyes began to change color abandoning their familiar hues of green. They flashed gold with highlights of red and now and then a hint of blue.

Suddenly they were blinded... not by the dirt but by a brilliant flash of golden light. Everyone of them to a man or child slammed their eyelids together to ward off the blinding light...

Even before they could open their eyes they all knew something had changed drastically. The wind had subsided and the stinging of dirt particles could no longer be felt. They opened their eyes slowly, cautiously lest an errant particle of dirt surprise them and cause itself to be lodged in an unwanted place.

Civis looked about himself and saw the contours of a land completely different from that over which they had just travelled. It was lush, water filled and green. The ground was worked with intelligent intent by what must have been human hands, though no one could be seen anywhere near at that moment. Then Civis remembered...

He put spur to horse to quickly urge it to the side of his friend, Accipiter, who sat in his saddle slumped over and seemingly unmoving. As Civis approached the tall man stirred, lifting his head to turn and look at Civis. The man's eyes had become their usual hue of green once more, but there was exhaustion embedded in them as if great power had been suddenly drained and not yet replenished. It was Accipiter who spoke first as Civis approached.

"Civis, my friend. Welcome to the land of the Ch'in..."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-09-2001 @ 08:37 PM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-09-01 21:50 ET (US)     177 / 295       
A slight turmoil rised in the Roman auxiliries, but Marcus did a good job in silencing them.

"Uncle Jay, what was that!?" Sin Ying finally cried out from the tension they suffered.
Hugging the girl, Gaius said nothing.
Instead, it was Civis who answered.
"Sin Ying, it's just a sand storm."
"Then what is the golden flash?" Asked Civi.
"......"
"It was the sun, look." Septi tried to calm the kids down.
Everybody looked up, the sun shined bright with golden light. Everybody seemed to be convinced.
"OK now, let's move."
And the Roman expedition went forward once again.

In the evening, when they were camping, they saw a small caravan coming.
"Sir! A caravan is coming!" A Roman guard shouted.
After some suspection and inspection, Civis decided that the caravan is harmless, and allowed them to camp near the Roman expedtion.
"They looked like Mongols. I suggest we'd better watch out." Titus suggested, while the decision makers spied on the little caravan.
"No, they are Ch'in. They look like Mongol, but see, they are slimmer." Gaius said.
"Ch'in people... what!? Look at that!" Exclamated Titus.
Everybody's jaw dropped except Gaius'.
They saw the Ch'in people picked up their food with two little sticks. They seemed to have no problem with that. With a flick of the sticks, the food is dropped in their mouth.
"Ch'in people eat like that?" Asked Marcus.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-10-01 13:56 ET (US)     178 / 295       
Accipiter looked bemused. "Yes, Marcus. The Ch'in people find using two sticks is as easy as using their hands..." Accipiter watched Marcus manhandle a piece of fire roasted fresh-caught foul sending rivulets of juice down his chin, hands and shirt. "And a lot less messy," Accipiter added.

"Strange practice to my way of thinking," commented the Centurian.

"I've know stranger practices," replied Accipiter, who then looked away in time to see that Civis was approaching the campfire from his tent.

"And what is that balled up white stuff I see them boiling in water and then guiding into their mouths from bowls with those... those sticks?" continued Marcus.

"Hmmm?" said the somewhat distracted tall man.

"The white stuff, Accipiter. What is it?" pressed Marcus.

"They call it rice. It is a grain that grows in their land, like the food we call wheat. Except it grows in water like a short river reed. Our grain grows in the dirt and is watered as needed. Rice grows only when in water. That is why you see so much water around you. This is a rice growing area."

Marcus nodded as if he understood, which he did... but barely. "Shall we meet more Ch'in in Samarkand or Kashgar?"
Civis arrived at their sides just as Marcus asked this question. It was Civis who answered.

"We will not know the answer until our return, Marcus. Samarkand and Kashgar are both behind us. I have taken the readings and I believe this to be so. We are deep into the land of the Ch'in, many leagues from where we began the day.
Is that not so, Gaius?"

"It is so, Civis. And now, my friend, we must talk."

Civis motioned to his tent. "In there, Gaius, if you please. I suspect there is much to be said."

"There is indeed. I hardly know where to begin..." Marcus and the others nearby let the words 'behind them' sink in but could not put answers to questions among them. How did they come so far so fast? What was it about the sand storm that made this possible? And what truly was that brilliant flash of blinding light? The murmurings about sorcery and the gods seemed to carry the only plausible explanations, but the Romans found little comfort in these possibilities; for the gods were fickle and sorcery could be bad as well as good.

Civis and Accipiter walked to Civis' tent talking between themselves. Their discussion would last well into the early hours of the night.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-11-2001 @ 03:49 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
Pleb
posted 06-10-01 15:08 ET (US)     179 / 295       
Sin Ying stared at the Ch'in people as if looking at oneself in a mirror. Their facial features and skin coloring resembled hers and their dark black hair was worn long and behind them. She crept slowly unaware towards the camped caravan. With a watchful eye the encamped Ch'in allowed her to enter their camp since her features resembled theirs and not the westerners.

Titus and Septi moved at a distance behind her as a precaution but allowed her to continue to the first campfire where the Ch'in people sat and ate their meals with those curious sticks. Unexpectedly one of those sitting at the campfire offered Sin Ying a bowl containing flavored meat and what looked like a sticky soft white seed.

Sin Ying took the bowl and the two sticks and watched as the others ate. She noted how they held the bowl and the sticks and as if she had been doing it all her life ate the herbed meat and the soft white seed with little or no problem.

Once finished and feeling quite full, she motioned with the bowl as if to ask if she could take some with her. The Ch'in who gave her the bowl nodded and Sin Ying raising two fingers asking for a second bowl to bring. The Ch'in although frowning gave in to Sin Ying's childlike smile and offered a second bowl and sticks to the child. Sin Ying bowed courteosly and the bow was returned by the Ch'in.

Titus and Septi had waited at a distance and greeted Sin Ying. "Next time, Sin Ying, do not go into strange areas unless telling us so we may give protection to you." Titus spoke with a lightly stern voice to her but realized that sometime her curiosity would have taken her closer to the people she resembled.

In a humble voice Sin Ying replied, "I'm sorry Titus I will try to remember." "But look what I brought back," her voice regaining the anxious tone of new found discovery.

Together they brought the bowls and sticks to the others who were siting around their own campfire. Sin Ying held the first bowl to Titus and the second to Marcus and each took it apprehensively.

"You try it first Marcus," Titus suggested

Sin Ying showed him how to hold the sticks but the finished product looked more like he was gripping the handle to his sword. He tried to grab the rice but with little or no success. Finally he thought he had some and brought it to his mouth only to have the others watching rolling on the ground in laughter as the rice never got to his mouth or back in the bowl but lay at his feet and on his clothing. Again he tried with the same result. The others laughing so hard their stomachs ached.

Irritated at his friend's laughter and his ability to look foolish he turned to Titus," Think that's funny, do you, then you try it and show us how a master does it."

Titus stopped his laughing and with a sheepish grin took his bowl and sticks saying, "Watch a person who knows what he's doing."

Quietly behind Titus, Civis had been brought out by the loud laughter and stood watching the spectacle of egos.

Titus thinking himself not a fool tried the meat. Although he could hold the sticks better than Marcus upon getting the meat between the sticks he brought it to his mouth only to have the sticks slide in opposite directions and the meat fly up in the air and down the front of his tunic.Once more stomachs ached from the pain of so much laughter and even Civis could not restrain himself.

Titus angry at his ineptitude at such an easy plight,"Ah what a dumb way to eat any way. Uncivilized." The laughter continued.

Each took their turn at it with the same results filling the whole campfire with rolling laughing bodies that could not even eat their own meal because their stomachs hurt from the laughter........


[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 06-11-2001 @ 02:36 AM).]

Micah Aragorn
Pleb
posted 06-11-01 02:27 ET (US)     180 / 295       
Young Civis struggled to sleep in his tent. His moans not audible above the laughter from the campfire outside. Beads of perspiration formed on his face as the thing that was inside him forced it's way past the bonds that kept it deep in Civi's subconscious. It wanted freedom to perform the task it had been awakened so many months ago to do.......

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 06-19-2001 @ 02:40 PM).]

Jaguar
Pleb
posted 06-11-01 11:05 ET (US)     181 / 295       
Sin Ying suddenly turned and went directly to Civi's tent. "Uncle Jay, something is wrong. We've got to go to Civi. He really needs us."

Sin Ying ran on and entered Civi's tent. What she saw made her stop cold in her tracks. It looked like Civi was asleep and awake at the same time, and his eyes were black again. This time she didn't know what to do.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-11-01 22:50 ET (US)     182 / 295       
Civi sat on the edge of his sleeping cot staring straight ahead. His black eyes seemed focussed on nothing, yet he appeared to be communicating with someone... or something. There was an aura around him, but not of golden light. It was of the deepest violet, bordered in black and further fringed with the barest hint of an elusive cardinal red. The boy's face mirrored intensity, struggle...

"Oh hurry, Uncle Jay, hurry!" Sin Ying cried out. Then she exclaimed for the first time, "He frightens me!" But Accipiter didn't come and Civi's face formed a look of intense evil. He stood and then he spoke. His deep, unchildlike voice rolled across the tent like thunder...

"SILENCE, GIRL! Accursed annoyer! He will not come! My master will see to that!" Sin Ying cowered against the cloth of the tent, too frightened to advance or to leave. The boy raised his hands holding them together, palms outwards and still.

His nails! Sin Ying could not believe the length to which they had suddenly grown and how yellow they had become. It was an ugly, offensive color that one could associate with the guts of a fowl. Bile rose in her throat and she turned to flee the tent. She could not move! Her legs would not respond, her feet were frozen to the ground. But she could move her head and look around without constraint.

Now she became aware of great shouting outside of the tent and a ferocious bellowing from above... Then Civi spread his hands apart in a swift, definitive motion and the tent over their heads was rendered into shreds. A shaded light of shimmering grey descended upon them. What seemed like a shadowy, disembodied hand grasped Civi and raised him up and through the shredded roof. Then the hand reappeared and began to move towards...

"No, Civi, no!" cried out Sin Ying. "I have been your friend! Why are you doing this!" The giant substanceless hand extended its fingers and wrapped its palm around the body of the young girl. She felt no pressure from its grasp, but she was elevated nonetheless into the dark of the night just the same as had Civi. She looked all around for her Uncle Jay but she could see nothing. Then she heard screaming as if from afar... it was a young girl's scream of panic and fear. It took her a brief moment to realize that she was the screaming girl-child. It was then that everything became greyer still, and finally black...

"NO! NOT ARROWS!" screamed Civis as he saw the figure of his son ascend to the back of the flying, lizard-like worm with the wings of a great bird and the face of a hideously deformed lion. "YOU MIGHT HIT THE BOY... OR THE GIRL!" Civis could see that Sin Ying, screaming at the top of her lungs, was also being drawn up to the creature.

The multi-hued, scaled creature and its robed rider had appeared in the night sky only the briefest of moments after Sin Ying had run back into their tent. Civis and Accipiter had run towards the tent as fast as they could, but with the appearance of the creature their legs too would not move and neither could enter the tent to rescue the children.

The voice of the worm, a bellowing roar, then split apart the night and before their eyes the roof of the children's tent shredded and that thing on the back of the flying beast motioned as if to order something to rise. It was the children who responded and each in turn was elevated as if on unseen ropes to the back of the worm.

Civis, frozen in place, stood helplessly. He heard Accipter cry out in frustration, "Father! I must!... Mother! Do not deny this!" Then as the worm flew into the dark of the night with his son and Civis' young charge, Civis saw Accipiter lower his head. In the corner of one of his friend's green-hued eyes the Roman saw a glistening thing appear, leave its place of origin and trickle down Accipiter's cheek. "Yes, Father. Yes, Mother. I remember and obey." Civis saw no one else near, only the quickly disappearing beast in the sky above and behind them the involuntarily and equally petrified members of his expedition.

Civis blinked... Sunlight? He lay on his cot staring into the roof of his tent, its material illuminated as if by a noonday sun. He leaped from his cot and ran outside. It was indeed the light of day. All about the camp lay the members of his expedition, some stirring, some still in deep sleep. Only Accipiter seemed up, dressed and fully alert as he walked from Civi's tent and straight towards Civis. The Roman greeted his friend in a more annimated way than usual. "I am so glad you are awake, Gaius. I had the most unusual dream and it must be interpretted. In my dream Civi and Sin Ying were taken by a flying beast and..." The look on Accipiter's face halted Civis' rush of words in midstream. The objects in Accipiter's hand brought Civis nothing but dread.

Accipiter carried two objects. The first, the green statue of the dragon given to Civis by Caesar, had changed from its customary green into the color of pale ivory. The second object... it was... it was... a piece of shredded tenting material. Heart in his throat, Civis ran to Civi's tent. He entered and looked up. The roof was shredded and the children were not there. Civis ran back to where Accipiter waited. The Roman formed the words he wished to speak, but the words would not come out.

Gaius spoke then in the gentle manner Civis had heard him use on others. "It was not a dream, Civis. They are gone." The words burned even as the tall man's voice soothed him. This time something that glistened found the corner of Civis' eye. He quickly turned and sought solace within the interior of his tent.

Discipline took a hindplace to confusion and disbelief in Civis' camp as the soldiers and others awakened to learn that their mutual dream was not a dream at all and so they wondered anew about the strangeness of the land. Titus cautiously called into Civis' tent. "Commander... I think you should talk with this man."

"Talk with what man?" came the unmotivated reply.

"Uh, Commander... This Ch'in, Sir. He says he can help you find your children." Titus heard stirrings inside and stepped back. Civis, drawn and disheveled, appeared. He gazed upon the man Titus pointed to. The Ch'in man wore a round, wide rimmed straw hat with a crowning point at the top. He was old even as Ch'in go. He had long straggly thin whiskers that dropped a full headlength beginning at ends of his upper lip to the middle of his chest. He wore plain, peasant like clothes simply styled into a shirt and a pair of pants, the ends of each pant stopping above the man's ankles. He wore brief leather sandals and stood in them at barely five feet high. The old man bowed repeatedly and spoke in tortured latin. Civis looked towards Accipiter, there also. Latin, huh. Must be Gaius doing.

"You are Civis of the Romanus..." The man bowed again. "My humble self is named Chang Sung. I offer my poor person as servant. (Roulv Dania stiffened momentarily) Find children. You go home then. All make better and happy." The old man lifted his eyes only briefly and Civis saw something in them. He could not place the look, but there were hints of ancient knowledge, wisdom and strength. Civis felt compelled, but he couldn't understand or explain why.

He motioned for the Ch'in man to enter his tent. It was only a little while later that Chang Sung became a member of their expedition and the real adventure began.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-13-01 21:57 ET (US)     183 / 295       
The Ch'in man named Chang Sung found a comfortable place on the floor of Civis' tent and sat in the odd fashion of the Ch'in. Civis placed himself in his usual hinged campaign chair.

"Please tell my lowly self what seen last night," said Chang as soon as Civis was seated. So Civis began a description of what that morning he initially thought was a dream and now knew to be reality.

"Hee, hee, hee," cackled Chang in his somewhat high-pitched voice. "So you think you see these things?" Civis was minimally irritated by the laughter but suppressed his reaction quickly. "Yes, Chang Sung, these are the things I and all of the others saw."

"Only thing true is girl and boy child gone... Rest is in mind not in eyes."

"That cannot be, Chang. We saw the monster that carried them off."

"Hee! Monster! Ch'in dragon that flies? hee, hee!" Chang's face knitted into a more serious expression. "Tell me Co-man-der, were you awake or were you asleep?"

"Why we were awake, of course. But something froze us in our tracks and we saw the monster, err... Ch'in dragon fly them away."

"And afterwards?" persisted Chang Sung.

"Well we... I mean we..." Civis hesitated. "I don't exactly remember. It was then I was awakened by morning light on the top of my tent. That's all I can recall." Civis paused trying his hardest to remember anything else, but finally gave up. "It's true. I don't know how I came to be lying on my cot."

"Because Co-man-der, you never really left your tent nor saw what you think you saw. It was... how do you say this... Ah, yes... It was illusion. Did you partake of anything the caravan men shared?"

"No... we did not eat..." Civis paused as a recollection flooded back into his mind. "That's not true. We sampled some of their foods. In particular we all sampled what Ch'in call rice."

"Ahhh... Rice." The old Ch'in nodded knowingly. "Ch'in potion in rice. Makes one who eats rice sleep and dream. He cannot rise until morning. Caravan gone when you awake, true?"

"Yes," replied Civis.

"Not caravan. Disguise only. We know these men. They are soldiers of the Warlord. We did not know their purpose, nor could we warn you of their origin. To do so would risk lives of our sons. The Warlord tells us this. We disobey the Warlord and he will send his soldiers to slaughter our sons. Old men without any sons is not good for Ch'in village or people. So sorry, Co-man-der."

"I have lost my only son, Chang Sung. Is it any better for me?"

The old Ch'in's face fell. "No. Not good. That is why I help. One man by himself away from village perhaps does not do something that makes Warlord angry and hurt others in village. I have no sons... All dead at the hand of Warlord's soldiers. I am like the dead too. No loss to village should I leave. I decide to help, seek for you, find you here. Now humble self help... If you will permit." Chang Sung bowed with hands closed and his arms outstretched, placing himself into a subservient posture before Civis.

Civis felt pity and then embarrassment at seeing the old man humbling himself. "Your help is welcome, Chang Sung. I wish you to speak to my friend, the tall man with the green eyes." The Ch'in nodded. He heard of the man with eyes the color of emeralds. News of strangers in the area pass quickly from Ch'in to Ch'in, eventhough the messengers are seldom seen by their subjects.

Civis had one more question to ask. "Who is this Warlord you speak of and why should I be concerned about him?"

"Hee, hee, hee... Question you must ask and patiently have waited to do so... Hee, hee. The Warlord you ask of is named Tang." The old Ch'in's expression immediately became one of intense concentration. "It is Tang who has taken your son and Ch'in girl-child from your camp. He knows of your son's power and seeks it for himself. The girl-child he fears because she has the ability to free the boy. He chooses to take her as well so that he may know her location at all times and prevent her from ending the power possessed by the boy. He intends to become Emperor. Your son possesses the power that is the key."

Civis stared at the man then motioned to him. "Come, Chang Sung. We speak with Accipiter now."

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-15-01 16:05 ET (US)     184 / 295       
Chang Sung bowed and left the tent of Gaius Accipiter to join Radko and Roulv Dania among others of the mission. When the flap closed behind the departing Ch'in and the old man was out of earshot, Civis said to Gaius, "Do you think his story is to be believed?"

Accipter looked calmly to the place where Chang had stood relating to Gaius and to Civis once again what he believed to be the facts surrounding the children's disappearance. "Yes," the tall man began. "I have reason to believe what Chang says."

"What reason is that, Gaius?" asked Civis.

"I saw the children as they were taken."

Civis' face flushed red with immediate anger. "A friend to me and my family? That's what you claim? And yet you let my only son be kidnapped by a warlord's soldiers in a foreign land?! What kind of friend are you, Accipiter?!"

Gaius replied calmly and soothingly, "I was as you dreamt, Civis, frozen in place in a manner of speaking. You above all know my nature and how I cannot interfere in the acts of humans."

"Couldn't you have called out or summoned any of us Romans to assist?" argued a still incensed Civis.

"To what avail... They were all like you, unconscious and oblivious to events. They knew not whether it was day or night, fantastic monster or just mortal men who were within the camp. I assure you, Civis. I took no pleasure in feeling so unable to act."

Civis stared at Accipiter, a modicom of calm returning as he listened to Accipiter's words and soothing tone. "I suppose so, Gaius." said Civis. "I suppose you felt as frustrated then as I do now." Civis' face returned to its more familar coloration as the flush of anger receeded. "I should not have said those things to you just now."

"It is understandable, Civis... and easily forgiven. You are right that I did feel frustration; and it was only slightly diminished in that I had reason to believe help would be at hand. I truly believe this old Ch'in is its messenger. We should heed his advice in this matter. That is my counsel."

Civis studied the look in Accipiter's eyes and the tall man's expressive face. Then the Roman Commander looked down at his own sandaled feet and nodded his head to at least indicate acceptance if not full agreement. Then Civis rose and slowly walked to the tent opening, but before leaving he paused and turned around. "One last question, Gaius," began Civis. "Do you know this old Ch'in who guides us? I mean... you know... Do you have some kind of knowledge about him we... mortals... would not?"

The corners of Accipiter's lips twitched ever so slightly as if struggling to reveal the barest hint of a smile, yet strongly prevented from doing so. "He is indeed what you think, a childless elder Ch'in who has no liking for the warlord Tang. That is what I know." Civis seemed satisfied and saying nothing more departed Accipiter's tent.

"...And something more," said Accipiter quietly to himself when convinced Civis could not possibly hear.

Civis walked across the grounds of the camp lost in thought. Suddenly he stopped. There is something Accipiter did not tell him, he was convinced. But he couldn't fathom what. In good time, he concluded, he would learn what it is. "Marcus! Titus! We break camp and travel!"

The two men came running. "To where Civis?!" called back Titus.

"South! We visit a Ch'in named Tang! He has two Roman citizens falsely held! We go to claim them both!" Those in the camp who were within earshot cheered to a man and the once lethargic camp broke into hurried activity as they prepared to march south in the land of the Ch'in.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-16-01 12:37 ET (US)     185 / 295       
Sin Ying opened her eyes to see above her a canopy of draped silks in various hues. She lay on a padded mat on the floor of a stone-walled room. The grey walls looked cold, but the room felt warm. She tossed aside the silk linens that covered her as she slept, rose from her sleeping mat and saw that she was not alone.

A burly Ch'in man stood inside her room within a meter of the room's exit, its sliding paper paneled doors closed to block the view into her room. Where was she... and who was this man who spoke not at all yet looked with unfriendly eyes at her?

The Ch'in said nothing but suddenly moved when he saw Sin Ying gain her feet. He motioned to her to stay where she was, then turned to open one of the sliding panels. He clapped his hands loudly and three apparently female servants entered Sin Ying's room. Two were young women, maybe 19 or 20 years old, the third was a Ch'in girl of about Sin Ying's age. The two older servants carried a bowl, scented soap, drying cloth and other articles. The young Ch'in servant girl carried clothing that looked to be sized for Sin Ying.

Unnoticed by Sin Ying until now was a second chamber attached to the room and closed off by its own paper-paneled doors. In the room was a caulked teakwood tub, large enough to accomodate one person and certainly spaciously sized for the diminuitive body of a young Ch'in girl. One of the older servant girls motioned to Sin Ying to walk into what Sin Ying now concluded was a bathing chamber.

She did as she was told and now stood before the teakwood tub watching the servants fill it from a shallow trough of water that circulated from somewhere above. Oh, it must be bitterly cold she thought as she stood there dreading what would come next. The moment arrived after the servants closed the paneled doors to veil the view of their activities from the ever watchful eyes of the silent sentry in Sin Ying's sleeping room.

But the water was not icy cold like she feared. It was warm, only slightly warmer than the temperate warmth of her sleeping room, but comfortable nonetheless. How is it done she wondered. The girl-child servant saw the quizzical expression on Sin Ying's face and said to her something in Ch'in. Sin Ying felt comfort in the words sensing familiarity with the tone and rhythm, but could not understand their direct meaning.

Sin Ying touched the water with a finger and then patted it as if she were patting folded material and then held her hand up coupling it with a questioning expression on her face. The servant girl pointed to the water trough outside and then to the sky that was visible through the opening in the wall. She drew a circle with her small hands and then imitated something radiating from the circle. Finally, Sin Ying understood. The water was warmed by the heat of the sun and circulated to the room to be drawn for bathing.

Sweet scented soap was applied to her body and water poured over her head to wash the pleasant residue away. Cleaned of the dust of the Silk Road, Sin Ying sat in the tub wondering what next would happen. This she arrange herself.

While the servants were distracted by their preparations for an end to the bath, Sin Ying noticed a slightly raised object in the base of the tub near one of the curved walls. The bottom of the tub seemed sloped to this one point. There was a ring on the object. Curiousity getting the better of her she reached for the ring, felt it below the surface of the soapy water and pulled.

WHOOSH! The water drained away from the tub in a quick instant leaving Sin Ying sitting on the tub's teakwood bottom wearing nothing but a surprised expression. The servants turned around upon hearing the distinctive sound of draining water to see Sin Ying sitting there with the tub's cork plug dangling from her hand. The two older servants frowned irritated that their careful sequence of events was so summarily interrupted. The Ch'in servant girl giggled, then quickly stiffled the giggle with a free hand when she saw the other two servants frowning at her.

There was nothing left for them to do they concluded among themselves speaking in the language Sin Ying could not understand. So they fetched one last bucket of sun-warmed water, poured it over Sin Ying's head and invited her to step out of the tub and into a wrapping of drying cloths.

Now dry, Sin Ying was dressed in silken cloth that wrapped about her from the base of her neck to her ankles. It fitted her so snugly that she could not take long steps and had to imitate the abbreviated short stride walk of the servants to get from one place to another. They led her this way back into her sleeping room.

The silent sentry stood there still watching them as they re-entered the sleeping room. He remained silent but pointed to a small table across from the sleeping mat. Where there had been nothing on it before, now could be seen a selection of fruit, breads and a goblet of something to drink that seemed to be juice, but of a color Sin Ying had never seen before. The sentry motioned to her to sit before the table and partake of her meal.

The servant girls silently collected their items and heads bowed walked towards the paneled exit to the room where the sentry stood. Sin Ying looked up from her table to watch them leave. First the two older girls, then the young Ch'in girl. The servant girls passed through the doorway without hesitation. The girl-child servant paused and turned, then waved to Sin Ying. Sin Ying smiled and waved back. The sentry could not possibly miss the exchange and immediately registered his irritation.

The sentry stamped his foot on the ground and motioned the girl servant to leave immediately. The girl's smile changed to an expression of fear and she turned and ran to catch up with the other two. The sentry looked once more at Sin Ying and with a scowl on his face pointed to her table once more.

Sin Ying could not fail to understand his meaning and so she turned her attention to the food before her and ate her fill.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-16-2001 @ 01:13 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-19-01 15:53 ET (US)     186 / 295       
Young Civi had no awareness of Sin Ying's whereabouts, condition or plight. He didn't care...

His coal black eyes opened to the same morning as did Sin Ying's and to similar stone walls as did the eyes of the young Ch'in girl. But where Sin Ying saw a silent guard and sternly warning eyes and expressions, Civi saw numerous servants of both sexes and all ages eagerly waiting to serve his every need or want.

How appropriate, thought Civi, or more correctly, the thing that had become Civi. Such is my power and position that I should always be served in this manner. "Who is host to the Master in this palace?" Civi asked in the deep voice of the being who occupied and had become the boy.

An older male servant stepped forward and bowed low from the waist. "Please to allow me to answer question," he said in Ch'in. Civi looked him over and decided he was worthy.

"Answer, then," replied the Master in Ch'in, a language unknown to Civi.

"You are guest of Warlord Tang, humble ruler of these lands. He tells me bid you welcome, Master."

"Who are you?"

"I am called Chen. I am lowly Chief Servant of the house of Warlord Tang, Master."

"Then, Chen... See to my needs promptly so I am not angered. Food, bath, clothing... I will see your 'Warlord Tang' only after these matters are concluded... Do you have any questions, Servant Chen?"

"No, Master. What you request is quite clear. We shall provide these things promptly." Chen clapped his hands and other servants entered the room through the open paneled doors. Great plates of fruit, bread, boiled rice and cooked meats were brought into the room. Servants also brought decanters of juice from a variety of fruits and also warm tea. These items were deposited on a large, ebony black, round table capable of seating five people with room to spare. The last to enter the room carrying a food item was the same young girl servant who had only moments earlier finished attending to Sin Ying and was brusquely shooed away by the Ch'in sentry.

She placed her plate of Ch'in pastries on the table and turned to see that Civi's coal black eyes were focussed on her and her alone. A chill of fear and forboding crawled its way up her spine as Civi's unblinking eyes tracked her every move. It was therefore with the greatest surprise that even as she hurried to escape the boy's probing eyes, she heard a boy-child's voice call to her, "Help me... Help me, Sin Ying. I cannot break free..."

The servant girl stopped and cautiously looked at Civi over her shoulder. The boy's black eyes were still staring at her and as she looked at him over her shoulder, she could see Civi's lips draw up into a snarling grin. He raised his arms and crossed them in front of himself, hands and fingers outstretched. His obscenely long and yellowed fingernails pointed out like the tail feathers of a strutting foul.

Suddenly, Civi swiftly lowered an arm and pointed a finger directly at one of the servant women. The woman screamed and fell to the ground unmoving. The other servants immediately prostrated themselves in front of Civi. The girl-child servant stood petrified in fear, hand placed on mouth to stifle the scream she nearly released. Civi turned his head to focus his black eyes on the girl once more.

"Listen not to any but me, servant child, or you too will become as dust on the floor of this abode." Then Civi motioned for them all to leave, which they promptly did; and the dead servant, a comely girl of just 19, was carried from the room to be placed in the common burial place reserved for such as she.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-23-2001 @ 11:52 AM).]

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 06-20-01 03:42 ET (US)     187 / 295       
Finally...

In another room of the palace the Warlord was talking to his astrologer. Tang, a vast bulk of flesh, some forty years old, with greasy black hair and round eys set in a piggish face sat on a throne like chair. His armour on a stand behind him, his sword across his lap.
"So we have captured the boy. Have you freed the long?"
Wu Ning the astrologer bowed, his skin was dry as parchement, his hair white and stragly. Whisps of hair formed a droopy moustache and a scraggly beard. His eyes were dark and the nails on his left hand were long and yellowed.
"We have taken the boy and I removed the bounds the immortal and the sage put upon him. Be careful master, Sun Yeng Shi is not easily coerced. He's as likely to follow his own course as be bound to your's."
"Psaw, " the Warlord hissed, "he will do as I say or else I'll have him bound again.
And the girl? She will be comely when cleaned up, but that wsn't the reason you took her, I assume?"
"Master" the astrologer bowed again
"The girl is able to recall the boy from under the long's influence."
"So kill her."
"I advise against that, Master, we might need her to coerce the long."

Meanwhile, several miles south of the palace.
Accipter was talking in rapid Ch'in with the old man, while sharing a meal of spicy chicken, vegetables and nuts. Civis watched the two from his tent. Even knowing his friend for all these years, he was surprised at the ease with which Gaius handled the eating sticks.
He turned to Marcus and Titus, breaking some bread and took a bite. The food tasted like ashes since Civi was gone.
"Are the troops ready?"
"The troops are ready, sir"

Proconsul Creaticus Dania
Angel
posted 06-20-01 04:55 ET (US)     188 / 295       
Civis broke off another piece of bread but changed his mind and put it back on the table while making a strange grimace

"Has anyone seen Dania"

"No, not since we started taking down our camp" Titus answered

"And you are sure he is nowhere in the vicinety of the camp?"

"Almost sure" answered Marcus "But I've send some men out looking for him, but not farther away than they can get back here in a hurry"

Like this was a cue someone scratched the canvas of Civis' tent.

"Come on in" Civis said

One of the soldiers Marcus had send out searching for Dania entered the tent.

"What did you find out?" Marcus asked

"We have searched the area in a good distance around the camp but didn't find Dania. But we think he is heading southwards. Brulis, one of the younger soldiers found a tree with a fresh cut mark in it pointing south and then this" The soldier placed a little fishshaped piece of metal on the table.

"And you are sure he has not been taken prisoner?"

"Dania was on his own when he cut the waypoint. The talisman was placed in such a way that it would only be found by someone searching that place"

"Thank you, you are dismissed" Civis said while taking the little 'talisman' from the table

The soldier bowed his head and left the tent.

"Looks like Dania is on a little trip again like he did back in the Parthian desert. At least he could tell what he is up to instead of just sneaking away like that"

"-and would you allow him to go on his own if he told you?" asked a voice from behind as Accipiter entered the tent...

[This message has been edited by Proconsul Creaticus Dania (edited 06-20-2001 @ 05:12 AM).]

Jaguar
Pleb
posted 06-20-01 12:35 ET (US)     189 / 295       
THe food was different from anything else she ever tried before. At least, as far as she could remember. She was starting to realize that these people were her people.

When all the newness wore off, Sin Ying realized that the uneasiness she was feeling came not from the strange environs, but from another area in the house. When she concentrated on the feelings, she recognized it as the thing that was inside Civi. "What did the old man in my dreams call it again? A long? I think." Sin Ying was mumbling to herself. It felt much stronger than ever and she realized that whatever had held it inside Civi was now gone.

Sin Ying sprang up and started to run for the door in search of Civi, but the sentry stepped in front of the exit and would not let her pass, no matter how hard she yelled and screamed. This brought out more guards and she was forced back into her room.

Micah Aragorn
Pleb
posted 06-20-01 13:18 ET (US)     190 / 295       
At times his breathing labored under the effects of the internal injuries Roulv Dania had sustained. The slow healing process of those had kept him from his duties to the traveling Century and Civis Romanus for a period of time. A feeling of guilt and shame for the events that led up to his demise flooded his thoughts.

Upon having the dream or supposed dream of the kidnapping of the children, Dania felt what better way to make up for his inability to help than to either advance scout or even get the children back.

He knew Civis would never let him go. Least of all by himself. He wished no one else any harm at his expense.
But as he left a second mark signifying the direction he was traveling his loyalty to Civis Romanus was cause enough to at least leave a trace of his direction as the marked tree and medallion he left behind could signify.

He slowly put the bow he had been given in Parthia over his shoulder grimacing at the pain in his ribs that bodily movements would sometimes cause and looking in all directions of this strange land moved on.

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 06-20-2001 @ 01:27 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-20-01 22:52 ET (US)     191 / 295       
As Sin Ying struggled with the silent sentry a second pair of hands, one hand sporting the longest, yellowish fingernails she had ever seen, grasped her by her shoulders and roughly pushed her back into the room.

Wu Ning saw the girl was about to speak and brought a finger to his lips to signal silence. "Hush, child, if you wish to not be like your guard!" he hissed assertively.

Sin Ying looked suspiciously from Astrologer to the guard. "Why? What's wrong with him?" she asked.

"Haven't you noticed he does not speak?" Wu Ning continued.

"Yes... So?" said Sin Ying.

"He has no tongue. He spoke without respect once and the Warlord gave him a choice: his life or his tongue. You now know his choice." Sin Ying stared at the sentry her eyes slowly widening. Then she looked back at Wu Ning and lowered her eyes in resignation (for the moment).

"Behave and do as you are told and you shall have food and increasingly generous freedoms. Disobey or show any disrespect and you will lose freedoms and go without food. It is your choice. You have been warned." Wu Ning turned and with a nod to the sentry left Sin Ying's chamber, his silken robe making swishing sounds as he moved towards the door.

Sin Ying watched him leave and then looked once more at the sentry. A sudden impulse struck her and she said to the sentry, "I'm sorry you cannot speak. It must make some things very hard for you. I will not be trouble to you." Then Sin Ying returned to her small table and meager portion of food, buried her face in her hands and began to cry.

The sentry made no motion, but upon hearing the girl's words and seeing her cry, his otherwise harshly expressioned face softened ever so slightly and he felt the barest touch of sadness at the girl's plight. Then his sense of duty prevailed and he resumed his watch unmoving and remote.

____________________________________________________________

Roulv Dania hid himself as best he could behind the low pile of stones evidently cast there by the Ch'in farmers who cleared the land. The troop of mounted Ch'in rode closely by seemingly unaware of his presence. They passed him without incident allowing the slave to feel safe once more, that is, until the gruff voice behind him spoke out.

Dania turned, knees trembling to see the source of the voice...

____________________________________________________________

Civi rolled around on the floor lashing out at anything and at nothing at all. His mouth and lower face were wet with spittle and foam. His eyes were first black, then blue, then grey and becoming black again, changing repeatedly in this manner as the entities within fought for control of the boy-child's mind and body.

The battle was silent, wordless - the warrior child against the demon possessor - valiant youth against ageless evil...
The demon prevailed as the son of Civis Romanus retreated back into his protected place to escape the power of the demon and to consider his next attempt at recovery.

The Master hissed his anger at the interference from within and rose to his feet. These disturbances will not do, he thought to himself. I have my goal set and I shall not let this, this mortal child disrupt my plan. There will come a final reckoning and I shall deal with him once and forever. Now, as to this Warlord. It is time to deal with him directly. But subtly... yes, subtly...

____________________________________________________________

Civis Romanus looked down at the talisman in his hand. His horse continued in the direction first headed by command of its rider. He rubbed its shiny dull surface contemplating its design. The tree of crucifixion? Why carry such a talisman? No greater more painful punishment has been devised by Roma than the death delivered by this tree. Not even scourging is considered more cruel and even then it is used only as a preliminary punishment before the criminal is finally lashed to the branches of the tree and left to slowly die.

Titus and Accipiter, riding next to Civis, both looked at him as he rubbed and felt the surface of the talisman. It was Titus who broke the silence. "What have you there, Civis?" he asked.

"A talisman carried by someone who must be part of our expedition," said Civis. "It was found near the place where Roulv Dania was last seen in the camp. Some suggest he lost it or left it there."

"Strange object to carry. I hear it has significance to some who are considered enemies of Caesar." Civis looked up at Titus and then down once more at the object.

"I cannot believe that Dania is an enemy of Caesar."

"I did not say that Dania was an enemy; only that the talisman of the crucifixion tree is considered significant to some in this way." Civis did not answer Titus this time.

"There is symbolism in it for some." This time it was Accipiter speaking. "I am told it is a symbol of hope," he said.

Again Civis looked up, this time at Accipiter. "How can the tree of death be a symbol of hope?" asked Civis. Gaius looked at Civis his green eyes giving off ever so slightly a hint of gold in the daylight sun. "You must ask that of someone who carries the talisman, Civis, don't you think?"

Civis felt again the surface of the talisman. If indeed you convey hope, he thought, then let it be hope that Civi is alive and shall be found. But the talisman did not respond, and so Civis returned it to the small pouch at his side and removed from the pouch the other talisman, Dania's, brought to him by Marcus.

Civis held the stylistic figure of the fish by its chain and watched the sunlight play off its surface as the plodding of his horse and the slight breeze combined to make the figure rock back and forth and spin slightly. Accipiter watched Civis toy with the talisman and smiled ever so slightly. Then Civis shook his head and placed the fish talisman in the same pouch that held the tree of crucifixion. They continued in the direction indicated by Dania's pathmark.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-21-2001 @ 03:42 PM).]

Proconsul Creaticus Dania
Angel
posted 06-21-01 06:07 ET (US)     192 / 295       
"I said, what is a Parthian archer doing behind a pile of stones in Ch'in?"

The voice came from a strange looking Ch'in man higher and more stocky then any Ch'in Dania had seen until now -the man was dressed like a peasent but spoke a quite good Parthian with a touch of something familiar.

"Hey, you are no more Parthian then I am. Why are you dressed like that? Are you spying against Tang? How did you end up here. Are you a Roman? Nah, your nose got the wrong angle for that!
Oh, sorry I'm asking all the questions and not giving you a chance to answer them. By the way, my name is Lu'ci or originally Lucius. Who are you anyway, what are you doing here? -There I go again, babling away as allways and not giving anyone a chance to get a word in"

With all signs of a total surprise painted all over his face Dania answered -in Roman
"Well, for starting on the last questions my name is Roulv Dania and I'm actually spying on Tang. Who are you? As far as I can see you are Roman, but how did you end up here in Ch'in?"

"Roman I am indeed and a legionary by profession, -well now I'm just a simple peasent. How I ended up here is a long story starting 15 years ago. It's getting late. Let's go to my simple home and get something in the stomac, then I'll tell you my story. Afterwards you can tell your story."

With those words Lucius turned around and started walking in the direction of a small grove....

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-21-01 16:27 ET (US)     193 / 295       
"Sin Ying... Sin Ying... Sin Ying" The familiar yet distant voice calling to her woke the girl up from her emotion induced sleep. She lifted her head off her arms and the table top to see who was calling her.

The first thing she saw was that her sentry was gone. The guard with no tongue had stepped outside of the room and had closed the paneled doors behind himself. She was quite alone so far as she could see.

"Yes? Who calls me?" she said in a whisper so that she could not be heard by anyone who may be hiding in her room.

"What do you mean who calls you?! Who do you think it is, Caesar?" The tone and timber of the bodiless voice seemed familiar enough but Sin Ying could not believe what her hearing implied.

"Civi... You monster! Where are you hiding in here?" she hissed in feigned anger, heavily mixed with relief at hearing his voice.

"I'm not."

"Then how can I hear you?" said the puzzled Ch'in girl.

"You wouldn't understand or believe me if I told you. Just think of it as me being there with you and we'll be just fine... Oh! I have to stop... The Master is going to meet with the Warlord. I must be silent lest The Master discovers my talking with you. Be careful, Sin Ying. The Master is evil... he kills. I will call you again when it is safe. I... I... I miss you, Sin Ying." The voice faded away and silence once more filled the room.

"I miss you too, Civi..." she whispered. Sin Ying stood up and saw that a panel had been opened on the far side of the room. Stairs led down into an intricately designed and meticulously maintained garden of small plantings and flowers placed purposefully around or near small boulders, statues and other objects. She checked immediately and found that the entire garden was walled in and no door or exit of any kind was visible. Nonetheless, standing in the garden all alone was the girl-child servant who had brought her clothes just that very morning and had been chided by the sentry for overfamiliarity.

The servant girl caught sight of Sin Ying as she walked down the short flight of stairs. Too frightened to move and too curious to flee, the servant girl stayed where she was, hands shaking, as Sin Ying approached her. Not knowing what else to do, the servant girl fell to her knees and bowed deeply. Sin Ying reached out and gently grasped the servant girl's shaking hands and guided the child to her feet. "What is your name?" asked Sin Ying.

The servant girl cocked her head and looked with little understanding at Sin Ying. Then the servant girl's eyes moved to the left and right as if she heard something and was looking for its source. Then the servant girl spoke.
"My name, Su Ling," she said.

"You do understand me, then?" queried Sin Ying.

"No, not you. Understand voice... boy's voice. He said go here. I obey. He says words I understand... and tells me words to say that you understand."

"Does the boy have a name?"

"Yes... says name is Civi. Name you know. I ask 'Why Ch'in girl not know Ch'in words'?" Boy says you look Ch'in but are Loman. What is Loman?"

"A place far, far away. I come from Roma, a great city and empire."

"Loma? You tell me more about Loma?" replied Su Ling.

"Yes, when I can. But you must be careful and not be caught."

"I wish to know more about Loma. I will be careful. I must leave now. Boy says go."

"Goodbye, Su Ling," said Sin Ying. And she watched the servant girl disappear through a narrow opening in the wall of the building and close and lock a thick wooden door behind her.

Proconsul Creaticus Dania
Angel
posted 06-21-01 20:21 ET (US)     194 / 295       
As Lucius and Dania reached the grove, a Ch'in woman came out of a small hut and greeted Dania by bowing her head while holding her hands out against him palm against palm. Then she turned against Lucius and did something Dania had not seen a Ch'in woman do before. She gave Lucius a hug but then she blushed and quickly turned around and went inside the hut again followed by Lucius and Dania.

"Don't look so surprised Dania, she is my wife. It took me more then 2 years after we got married to learn her how to hug" Lucius explained while looking at his wife with love in his eyes. "There is water and a towel over there if you like to get washed a bit, I'll arrange for something to eat and then we can tell our stories"

While Lucius and his wife prepared for dinner, -something Dania had rarely seen before, husband and wife helping each other to cook- he used the time for looking at the hut. It was small but clean and arranged in a practical and comfortable way. It looked like it had original been just one large room, but later a wall had been build separating it into a livingroom and a kitchen. The table was placed at the wall which had a windowlike hole in it so things could easily be handed forth and back from the kitchen.

The livingroom had 2 small windows, and in the end opposite the kitchen a carpet was hanging from the roof -probably the bedroom. A small closet was placed at the entrence and a ladder led up to some planks placed over the joist. All in all a nice little house for a pair.

Dania got interrupted in his thoughts as different plates and bowls with food was handed through the hole and placed on the table. There were different vegetables of which Dania had not seen some before, and a chickensoup showing up to be very tasty. While they ate Dania told his story, in the beginning interrupted by Lucius who asked questions but soon stopped as he got caught by it.

Afterwards Lucius told how he had served as a Legionary under Aurelius Pius and at some skirmishes with the Parthians had been taken captive and pressed to swear loyalty to the Parthian king. He had then been transferred to the Eastern border of Parthia for protecting agains raids made by the Muhnguls. He had got tired of fighting for the Parthians and had deserted. Because of the deserts he had been forced to seek to the East and had ended up in Ch'in where he by accident had saved Tang from drowning. Tangs father had in gratitude -because Tang was his only boychild, given Lucius some land to call his own. A few months later Tang had murdered his own father and started a horrible reign of terror trying to become Emperor.

"If just I had let that monster drown back then" Lucius ended his story and slammed his clenched fist at the table.

"What was it you said your masters name is -Civis Romanus right? After what you have told about him I think I know who he is. He already had got quite a name 15 years ago. If anyone has a chance to make this terror stop it is him. I wish I could go with you but I have a family to take care of...wait, there is one thing I can do. Tangs castle is about 40 miles south of here, I know it quite well from the time when Tangs father still lived and we often played a game of Go. It's getting very late and you have a long journey before you tomorrow. Get some sleep while I draw a map that might help your Civis Romanus in his work"

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 06-22-01 04:49 ET (US)     195 / 295       
Wu Ning looked at the slight figure that stood straight up before the Warlord. His enhanced sight showed him a shade enveloping the child, holding it upright, wafting bits of smoke and a hardly discernable carrion stench.

He felt ill at ease in the long's presence, as if he was looking at his death. Tang did not seem to notice any of the threat that issued from the creature wrapped in and around the Roman child's body.

The child was strong though, to have resisted the long for all this time. The bonds that had been placed upon it had been strong. Wu Ning had only barely been able to break them, and somehow they had smelled familiar. A touch of the divine, mixed with something he hadn't smelled in a long time, a scent that brought his mind back to his days as an apprentice. It smelled like his old teacher's magic, which was of course impossible as the old man had died years ago.
Died as he himself had made sure he would.

Tang spoke,
"You will come with me to Xi'an, the Imperial city. You will show them who is their lord."
Sun Yeng Shi made Civi's body bow deeply,
"Yes" he replied, "I will show them who is their lord."
Tang looked content.
"Fine, we will leave this morning."
The long possessed boy bowed again and left the room. Sun Yeng Shi smiled, a smile that should not belong on the face of a seven year old boy.
Oh, yes, he thought, I will show them their lord, but yuo can rest assured you will be surprised.

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-22-01 05:04 ET (US)     196 / 295       
Civis noticed that Septi had been acting strange since the kidnap of the children.
He made a black sticky potion the day of kidnap, then he poured it into a bottle.
At first the Roman commander was so occupied to find out what the potion was, but the curiosity as well as worry grew as the young man, with his jolly mood all wiped out, keep boiling the potion whenever the expedition rested, then pour the mud-like liquid back.
Every now and then the young barbarian searched the nearby bushes, as if he was looking for something. But when somebody offered help, he strolled away.

"Septi, what is the potion you've been making?"
Civis could no longer hold his curiosity.
"Er.... em... well..."
Septi seemed tense, and his eyes evaded the piercing sight of Civis.
"Tell me."
The frustration that was pressuring Civis made him an impatient commander.
"It's ... er... personal medicine."
Septi remembered every word of Will, of not to reveal the "knowledge" he shouldn't have known, yet granted upon him.
Deeply frowned, Civis let out a long sigh and moved away.
"First the kids, then the slave, now the barbarian. Civis, how much is still ahead?"

The Romans moved on and on, with nobody dare breaking the silence with such tense situation. Finally, to the legions relief, the camp command was mustered.

The moon was round and full, shining bright on the Romans as if a reminder of hope.
Civis lashed out another long sigh, the frustration and pressure had been so great. Far greater than his military life total. In the battlefield, he risks only his own life, but now, he risks his son's. Yet so little can be done.

Later....
Septi woke in total darkness, yet a small dot of light hovers above him. He knows he's dreaming again.
"Here you are, son. Great doing about the potion."
It's Master Will.
"But Dad, I couldn't find that "tea" anywhere!"
"If it's so easy, what makes an adventure?"
The old man bursted into a laughter.
"Dad, I'm sorry. I'm in no mood for being joyful..."
"I know. The kids are kidnapped. But son, can you see? You've got help."
"You mean that old man?"
"Oh... Septi, you got eyes don't you? Learn how to SEE things, instead of LOOKING at things."
Septi didn't protest, he knew it's another "knowledge" granted upon him. He's in no mood for questioning either.
They talked about the situation for a while.
"Remember, when you feel you can no more take it, when you feel you can go no more. Give the potion a try!"
And the old man winked, then dissolved into the darkness.

After a while.
Out of nowhere, Sin Ying came and threw herself at Septi, crying loudly.
"Septi... I'm afraid I can never see you again.."
Sin Ying told Septi about her situation.
Trying to calm the girl, but the suitable words didn't came up. Or is there any suitable words? Unable to speak, all Septi can do is to hug the girl, and pat her on her shoulder.
"Sin Ying, you can make it. Survive! Be patient, we are coming. I promise, we'll save you, both."
Sobbing, Sin Ying nodded.
"Now, remember the recipe that Dad gave us?"
"Oh, yes... maybe we can give it a try."
"I did everything, but I couldn't find that "tea" anywhere."
Septi frowned, sighed.
"Tea? We've got plenty here."
"But how can I get it?"
Reminding her of her situation, tears began rolling out of Sin Ying's eyes, all the way down her round flawless cheek, dropping into the void.

Suddenly, five yellow claws appeared behind Septi and grabbed him by the throat.
"Ouch!!!!"
"Septi!!"
"Gakkk...." Powerful force circled the helpless man, and the grip tightened.
"Septi! Wake up!" A distant familiar voice.
"You shouldn't stand in the way, yound man. Now, the punishment you deserve." The chilling voice itself strike enough terror in the mortals heart. Thousands of claws then appeared in front, and thrusted towards Septi.
Slash! The first few cut through his arms, and blood spew out, disappearing into the void.

"Septi! Septi!" Gaius kept shaking the tortured barbarian.
"Argh!!!" Gasping, Septi woked up, but exhaustion stopped him from moving.
Blood found it's way out of the open wounds of Septi's arms, wetting the already soaked brown tunic.
"Radko! Come here, Septi's injured!"

Proconsul Creaticus Dania
Angel
posted 06-22-01 08:56 ET (US)     197 / 295       
Dania immediately fell asleep on the madras Lucius' wife had prepared for him as he was totally exhausted from fighting the pain in his body and from pressing himself to travel faster then he actually should allow himself his condition taken in consideration. Actually it would be more correct to say he collapsed than fell asleep.
_________________________________________________________________
The sun rose in the East and the first birds started greeting the new day, each in it's own way. Peasents left their small huts heading for their fields prepared for another days hard work. Dania had allready been travelling southwards for some time when he heard the noise of whistling arrows, the screams of wounded men and horses and the sound of swords hitting swords or shields. He started running as fast as he could in the direction of the battle. Arriving at the top of a hill a gruesome sight meat him. Total caos reigned in a narrow alley beneath him, dead and wounded Roman soldiers were laying strayed all over the place still under heavy fire from Ch'in warriors hiding in the forest on both sides of the alley. Then Dania somehow heard a voice saying: "TURN EAST, TURN EAST".

Again he arrived at the top of the hill and everything repeated itself including the voice he this time somehow saw saying "TURN EAST, TURN EAST". Then someone attacked him from behind and rolling on the ground he tried to reach his knife for defending himself.

"WAKE UP, IT'S JUST ME, LUCIUS" a voice shouted at him.

Shaking all over his body Dania started coming to himself and found he was laying on the floor with Lucius sitting on his breast holding a tight grip with both hands at Dania's right arm.

"Hey, you are among friends, put that knife down before someone gets hurt" Lucius almost shouted.

A short moment Dania continued fighting Lucius, then he realized where he was and relaxed.

"Are you allright? You started shouting like desperate while rolling all over the floor like you had a terrible nightmare so I tried to wake you but -boy that was close you'd got me"

Looking very embarrased Dania put his knife away "I'm very sorry, I didn't mean to do you anything. I had a terrible nightmare of Civis and his men falling in an ambush. You have treated me well and then I try to kill you. I'm very sorry..."
"That's ok," Lucius interrupted "no harm was done, but boy you are strong, I almost thought it would be my last day alive. But you better hurry, it's in the middle of the morning and some of the other farmers tell an army of strange looking men have just passed 2 miles to the west. I think it must be Civis Romanus and his soldiers. They are only slowly advancing so if you hurry I think you can reach them before midday."

A few moments later Dania was on his way carrying a small packet with the map Lucius had drawn and another packet with some food for eating on the way. He had tried to explain he wouldn't have the time for eating on the way but both Lucius and his wife had insisted and because the time was pressed he had accepted.

Just before midday Dania reached the top of a hill and saw he had bypassed the Romans who were slowly travelling southwards with two scouts riding in the front. As fast as he could Dania went down to the road and started running in the direction of the small Roman army...

[This message has been edited by Proconsul Creaticus Dania (edited 06-23-2001 @ 04:47 AM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-23-01 00:56 ET (US)     198 / 295       
Seeing a man with a bow rushing in, tension began to rise among the Romans.
"Archers! Ready!" Chanted the command by Civis.
Everybody with a bow, even the injured Septi, rushed to the left side, where the stranger was coming from. Arrows on the bows, bowstrings fully stretched, just waiting for the right word to come.

Biting hard on the lips, Civis knew both he and his expedition cannot afford a battle right now. If this man proves himself to be hostile, it is almost certain that a whole army awaits him in the oncoming hills, and this bowman is one their scouts.
They've already seen the tactics of Mongol army, seen enough to believe that a direct confrontation would mean total annhilation of the expedition. And the Ch'in can stand right next to the Mongols, and flourished into a prosperous country. It means the Ch'in army may be even stronger...
The battle has to be avoided at all cost... the first thing to do is to kill their scout.

Inhaling hard, Civis was about to shout give the fire command. But Gaius stopped him in time.
"No.. it's Dania! Roulv Dania. Your slave."
"That darned slave! ARCHERS HALT!"
Civis rode as fast as he could towards the runaway slave while Marcus commanded the Roman solders back to where they were.
Instead of a normal greeting which Dania had expected, Civis' face flushed with anger, and his voice filled with hatred and cold with stern.
"Now Roulv Dania. Who do you think you are? Didn't I made myself clear that you should never run alone again?"
Not riding too fast, Gaius already predicted what Civis would do. He approached the burning Roman, trying to calm him down with his soothing voice.
"I think he had his reason, let him explain."
But this time the soothing words didn't seem to be able to do their job.
"If you gets killed somewhere else, I don't care! But not in my team. Why do you always make others worry about you? Couldn't you at least tell me that you were leaving?"
Head down and eyes looking down, Dania already got used to being scolded by his masters. But somehow this time, he feels different. This time he was really hurt by Civis, whom he respected as a great leader. He was only trying to help. He didn't expect to be shouted at that way.
"Master Romanus, I'm sorry. But I..."
"Sorry! Sorry! I'm fed up with sorrys, can't you actually BEHAVE that you're really sorry with your repeated wrong actions?"
Civis was letting of the steam that filled within by the frustration he was having. He had enough worrying. Gaius knew his friend enough to not to calm him down while he was burning hot. So instead of trying to say something, he unmounted and stood by Dania, and hoped the Roman commander would understand the meaning of such gesture.
Not even letting the slave explain, Civis turned back to the expedition and have them continue moving.

For the first time in his life, some moisture began to fill Dania's eyes.
"I was only trying to help... I didn't know he'd be so mad..." Dania's voice began to shiver under such miserable.
"Cry Dania, it makes you feel better."
The pain, both physical and mental, finally overcame the barrier. And tears, like landslides, poured out from the slave's eyes. Crying out loud, Dania finally let out the emotion he had been hiding deep throuout his life of slavery.
Gaius watched benovelently, waiting for the mortal to lash out his final drop of tears, then handed him a piece of clean cloth.
"Come on, we've got to catch up."
With the most soothing voice, the tall man had the slave ride with him, darting towards the Roman army.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-23-01 12:33 ET (US)     199 / 295       
Civis seethed. "By the gods! If I were like Romans of old that slave would see nothing better than a marble quarry or a stand of trees for the rest of his life!" Titus stared at Civis with surprise. He had never seen Civis this angry about anything before. He knew better than to say anything.

"Give him a dull ax and a blunt chisel, that's what he deserves!" Civis ranted. Another voice broke in. Accipiter had caught up with Civis.

"You have the talisman?" Gaius said in his most soothing voice.

"Huh? The what? What about the talisman?" Civis was caught off guard by the unexpected question. His rage diminished ever so slightly. "I have two. Which one are you talking about?"

"The one some say is a symbol of hope."

"The 'Death Tree', is that what you are referring to?" replied Civis.

"Yes. Remember it and read this." So saying, Accipiter handed to Civis the map that Dania carried with him from the hut of Lucius. On the document Civis saw illustrated the landmarks and directions to the fortress of Warlord Tang. Also illustrated was a rough layout of the interior of the fortress, to the extent that Lucius had been permitted to see it in his brief time within. Civis looked up from the document to see Gauis' green eyes boring into him, slightly tinged with briefly appearing flecks of cardinal red.

"This was brought to you by Roulv Dania your worthless slave." Now Accipiter's voice took on an unusually stern tone. "Do not judge too quickly, Civis Romanus, lest you do so in ignorance of fact." Then Accipiter pulled on the reins of his horse and turned his mount to rejoin Dania where Maganhard and the slave were riding. Titus thought it best to look away as the red flush of anger on Civis' face changed to the pink of embarassment. An apology is in order, Civis realized, master to slave. This would take courage indeed.

Civis looked at the map once more. Something in him said where once was uncertainty now was direction. That same little voice said where once was despair, now came something different. Yes... it was indeed the hint of hope.
Suddenly, the Commander's mind cleared of tortured thoughts and strength of purpose took their place. Then, unexpectedly, he remembered Septi.

Civis pulled on the reins of his horse and guided it to the side of the column of auxiliaries. He spurred the horse forward and to the rear of the column. Septi lay on a litter there pulled behind a pack horse, attended to by Radko.

Civis pulled up next to the litter. "How goes it young magician?" Civis asked, a rediscovered smile forming on his face.

"Well, Civis. I... I'm sorry to be a burden."

"Not at all, Septi. You will be up and about in two days rest I am told." Civis looked at Radko for reassurance. Radko nodded his agreement. Septi said, "Civis..."

"Yes?"

"I know your son and Sin Ying are alive."

Civis frowned, not understanding how this could be. "How do you know this?"

"I do, Civis. I just do. I and the others... Trust us, Civis. We'll see your son and Sin Ying returned to us all, safe and well." Civis smiled. "I believe if it is possible you and the others certainly will. Rest now, so that you are well when the time comes." Civis pulled once more on the reins of his horse and guided it forward back to his place at the head of the column. As he passed Accipiter, riding near Roulv Dania, Civis smiled and touched his own forehead with two fingers close together as if to signal an unusual but friendly salute.

Civis looked in Dania's direction. "We shall talk soon, Dania. I have questions for you." Civis smiled and then put spur to horse to gain the front of the column. Accipiter looked at Dania and saw the puzzled look on the slave's face. The tall man's green eyes brightened somewhat and small highlights of gold flashed momentarily then faded guickly away. Accipiter smiled. Somehow and in some unknown way, Dania began to feel that all was better than he thought. He rode on with greater comfort in heart and soul than he had since his return to the mission.

Civis arrived at the front of the column just in time to see their two advance guards galloping back to the column. They brought their two mounts to a swift halt before Civis, Titus and Marcus. "Ch'in soldiers! Thousands! Mounted and foot! In front of us!"

Marcus asked the question all were thinking. "In which direction do they march?"

"They do not march, Centurion. They wait, I think, for us."

"Show us," said Civis. They rode to a rise overlooking the kilometers lying before them. Just as was told, thousands of Ch'in soldiers were arrayed before them. From nowhere an old man's voice rang out. "Hee, hee, hee!"

Civis turned to see that the peasant from the village had followed quietly behind them. "Stop the cackling, old man and tell us. Are these Tang's warriors?"

"Hee, hee... No, not Tang's," he answered. "They carry banner of Emperor." Civis did not know whether to worry anew or to be relieved. He and his fellow Romans were foreigners to all in this land, and small as his force was, it could be interpreted as a warlike gesture for him to be in the land of the Ch'in at all.

Civis thought as fast as he could. What shall I do? The answer came at brief length.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-23-2001 @ 01:42 PM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-24-01 23:38 ET (US)     200 / 295       
"Back behind the hills, into the bushes. Hide our tracks."
Turning back, the Romans moved silently back to the bushes, and some soldiers began to cover their tracks.
Knowing the political situation in Ch'in area, Civis hoped the Emperor's army were after Tang, not them. And there should be no way that the Emperor know they came, shouldn't it? Civis thought.

A couple of scouts were sent to observe every move of the Ch'in army. An hour passed, the army didn't move. The discipline in Ch'in army were superb. The army just stood in their place, every man looked the same, motionless like statues. Not even the horses moved a bit.
The morale of the army seemed very high, there was fire in the men's eyes.
Civis frowned as the scouts reported.
"Things seemed to be even tougher than I thought..."
The army do not use the same equipment as the Mongols. The infantry, about a thousand, carried a large shield, a spear, and a sword hung beside their waist. They were lightly armored. Some of them carried a long pole with a yellow banner with a white circle. Written on it is a Ch'in character.
"The Yellow Cloths?" asked Civis.
"No no. The yellow banner signifies the Emperor's army. Only the Emperor is allowed to use yellow things. The Yellow Cloths are rebels, so they use yellow also, but they ties the yellow cloth on their forehead." The old man answered with a smile, he didn't reveal his name. Instead, he insist that he be called "The Ch'in old man".
The cavalry were medium armored and placed on the two sides of the formation. They wear something looked like chain armor. Metal plates about a square inch were chained to form the armor. There were red cloth tied on a small point, on top of their full helms. They carried long sabers. A small buckler was carried on their back. The horses weared leather bardings.
There wear also bowmen, positioned in front. And they looked like they were ready to shoot. They used short bows, and there are about a thousand of them. They wear no armor.
"And their general?" Asked Civis.
The general looked somewhat like the cavalry, reported the scout. But both he and his horse was heavily armored, he has no shield. And he carried a long halberd.
"Halberd?" This time it was the old man who frowned.
"Yes, halberd. A long spear, with an axe like thing on the end of the shaft. But this general's halberd is different, the axe part is quite thin." Reported the scout.
"Is his horse red?" Continued the old man.
"I couldn't see very well due to the bardings, but indeed it was very strange, it's red."
"Then it must be general Lui!" Exclaimed the old man. "Luckily they didn't find you Romanus."
"What's wrong with this general? He's famous?"
"He's the strongest general ever seen in our country."

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