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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 06-25-01 22:23 ET (US)     201 / 295       
Civis argued back and forth with Marcus and Titus. "I appreciate your concern, but there's no helping it. We cannot hide and sure as I'm talking with you they know we are here. The strangest part of this is they have not attacked us. It's almost as if they are waiting for us and will wait forever if necessary. But why? That is why I must find out what it is they expect." Civis said his piece and looked at the others for a counterargument.

Marcus and Titus looked at each other and shrugged as if one. There was no use arguing any further. Frankly, there was no other argument that made sense. Civis was right. The Ch'in were waiting for something. "Then I shall go with you," said Titus. "And I as well," said Marcus.

"No, not the both of you. The Tribune Titus must accompany me. It is his duty to do so. We shall have Accipiter join us and the old Ch'in villager too. Marcus, your place is with your Century; but thank you for volunteering. Please take charge of your unit. Take them and the others to safety if necessary. Do not attempt to rescue us. Look to the others first and foremost. Do you understand?" Civis looked at Marcus to ensure the Centurian understood. Marcus nodded, saluted and left to join the Century.

Accipter and the old Ch'in villager arrived shortly afterwards having been told by Marcus to join Civis and Titus. "Hee, hee! Going to meet the Emperor, I see," prattled the old Ch'in man. Civis frowned then buried his annoyance. No time for that now.

The four men rode over the crest of the hill and down towards the road straight for the Ch'in. Their pace was deliberate but casual. As they closed the distance between themselves and the Ch'in forces, a stirring began within the Ch'in. One or more of the mounted Ch'in began to move forward as the lines of Ch'in soldiers parted before them.

Civis and the others reined in their horses and waited far enough away that a thrown spear had only a slight chance of reaching them, yet close enough they could make out features on the faces of the soldiers. The mounted Ch'in continued to make their way through the lines and finally broke into the open past the first line of soldiers. They too casually rode forward closing the remaining distance between the Ch'in and the Romans. Within speaking distance the Ch'in halted. A Ch'in warrior on a horse next to another apparently important Ch'in with decorative armor bowed and then spoke to them. The words sounded exceedingly foreign, yet Civis understood them clearly. Accipiter at work again...

"You are of the place called Roma, my honorable master asks?"

"We are," replied Titus.

"My master wishes to know if honorable general of Roma army is present."

"Is your master present?" answered Titus. Civis' expression remained steady. 'Excellent, Titus,' he said to himself silently.

The Ch'in emissary hesitated. The armored Ch'in next to him gestured with a nearly indetectable nod of his head. The emissary saw this from the corner of his eye and responded to Titus. "My master is here among us. Will you answer my question now?

"The answer is yes. He is among us," said Titus.

The Ch'in emissary looked directly at Civis guessing that this armored soldier might be who they sought. Civis decided the time was correct and so nudged his horse forward and presented himself. "I am Civis Romanus, Commander of this mission and emissary of Caesar Marcus Aurelius, Ruler of the Empire of Roma." Civis bowed in the oriental fashion.

The decoratively armored Ch'in in turn advanced his horse as had Civis and bowed in reply. "I am Liu, General of the Emperor's Host. In the name of the Emperor I welcome you to the land of the Ch'in."

Civis bowed once more. "I am most pleased Great General Liu, that you have seen it appropriate to honor us by personally welcoming us to the great empire of the Ch'in. We knew not who these excellent soldiers before us called General or what was intended."

Liu nodded and smiled for the first time since the talking began. "They are the finest soldiers in all the land. Come, Commander, we have much to talk about, including the real enemy who waits for us all... Warlord Tang."

"May I signal my companions that all is well, General Liu?"

"Please... They may encamp where they wish. On the dust of my ancestors I pledge no harm shall befall them."

Civis bowed once more to show respect for the sincerity of Liu's pledge. Ancestors were intertwined with honor and truthfullness in the customs of the Ch'in much more so than intertwined in the customs of the Romans. This was a very serious promise given by Liu and demanded Civis' acknowledgement of this fact.

Civis turned in his horse and signaled to Marcus the predetermined sign that all was well and that Marcus could proceed with encampment at a distance. Sitting on his horse on the rise overlooking the meeting below, Marcus saw Civis' signal, breathed a sigh of relief and turned about to begin the process of setting up a Roman camp.

Civis and the others accompanied Liu to center of the camp of the Emperor's Imperial Army.

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 06-26-01 04:59 ET (US)     202 / 295       
The castle was busy as a disturbed colony of ants. Tang's houshold guard was gathering. Palanquins were brought out into the courtyard and horses whinnied.
Civi, dressed in splendid silks stood next to Tang, his black eyes surveyed the crowd of armoured horse and foot soldiers. Things were moving, and moving well.

A small pony, meticulously groomed and harnassed was brought forward and the posessed boy mounted, while at the same time the General mounted his splendid stallion. The two rode to castle gate and soldiers fell in behind them.

As they left Wu Ning came out of the main compound, followed by Sun Ying, who was tucked beneath the arm of a burly servant. The servant put the struggling girl into a palanquin and chained her ankle to one of the posts.

The astrologer climbed into the palaquin and soon it was moving beind the column of horsemen. Tang's footsoldiers followed, the wagon train behind them and finally another squad of cavalry.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-26-01 22:25 ET (US)     203 / 295       
Days passed as the now combined Emperor's Host and Roman Century marched southeast towards Warlord Tang's fortress. Meanwhile, Tang led his household guard and other officials northeast towards the Emperor's palace.

Tang looked around at the men and others who were accompanying him. Not many, he thought, not like a typical Warlord's army. But he didn't need an army. He had the long under his control. That was army enough for any man. Tang's confidence grew with each league that passed.

The Romans looked around at the strangely garbed and arrayed soldiers of General Lui who marched nearby. They seemed steadfast and hardy, small mostly; yet among them were some exceedingly tall Ch'in who mimicked in heighth some of the giants the Romans encountered among the barbarian northmen on their own distant borders. Such a disparity in size was unexpected.

Civis rode with the General. An unspoken curiousity was shared between them. Neither had seen the other in battle and wondered at great length about their skills and tactics.
General Lui surmised that the Romans were adept at archery, lance and sword. The armor the Romans wore suggested close combat was expected. Such heavy metal protection could not possibly be anything but a hindrance. Only great strength would counter the effect of the metal's weight, speculated the silently observant Ch'in leader.

Civis wondered how the lighter armor of the common Ch'in soldier could possibly ward off the heavy blows of an enemy swordsman. And these were a smallish people, on the average shorter than the average Roman. True, some were taller than even the tallest Roman, but these giants were widely scattered among General Lui's army and could not pose anything but an abbreviated threat easily overcome by the combined attack of two or more enemies.

But his experiences and knowledge of Roman military history gave him caution. Do not underestimate soldiers smaller in frame. The Gauls were not a tall people, but throughout history they gave Roman legions as good as they got. Many a Roman fell before a Gaulish assault. The great Caesar himself suffered near defeat in Gaul. Only superior Roman discipline and yes, subterfuge and deception, saved Julius Caesar in that campaign. No... These Ch'in are not to be underestimated... Just respected and studied.

As if sharing the same thoughts the two military leaders glanced at each other only to see the other glancing back. Their thoughts were clear if not expressed. In courteous acknowledgment of like thinking, Civis bowed oriental fashion only to receive the same honor in return. Neither could contain themselves any longer. Both completed their exchange of bows and burst out laughing... together. Thus was born the unspoken bond that would carry them both through the most gruelling days of their individual campaigns.

For the Emperor of all the Ch'in knew of the Roman mission and its purpose well in advance of its arrival in his land, thanks to the widespread network of spies and informants fostered by the Ch'in all along the Silk Road. And General Lui was specifically selected for the task of intercepting the Roman mission and guiding it to the fortress of Warlord Tang, where the foreigners were to prove their worthiness to meet the Emperor himself in his Golden Palace, should they survive their challenge. Either way, Tang would fall, or so the Emperor hoped.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-26-2001 @ 10:39 PM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-27-01 00:10 ET (US)     204 / 295       
High on the walls of the West Resort Palace, Tang sneered at the approaching army of Lui and Rome.
"Here we come," he whispered to Wu Ning, who stood by him, "and we can see how good the long is."

Slow and cautious, the joint force made their way towards the Palace. Just out of arrows range, they stopped.
As if earlier rehearsed, the Ch'in army began shouting,
"Kill traitor, restore throne!"
"Kill traitor, restore throne!"
.....
Then all of them silenced when Lui raised up his hand, and rode forward. Civis could only be amazed by their readiness of reaction to commands.
It was Tang who spoked first, he said something to a soldier nearby, then the soldier shouted it outloud for him.
"Traitor Lui! How dare you march your army into the Emperor his majesty's palace with all your weapons on? And how dare you bear the banner of the Emperor you traitor!"
Lui shouted, and his voice was like thunder, delivering pain into everybody's ears as they were too close.
"Tang! We have the secret order from the Emperor to save him out of your hands. Now, you're finished Tang! ATTACK!"
RUMMMMMMMMMMMMM, thousands of drum beatings gave enough courage to Lui's army. With a haste, all infantries charged to the wall of the marvelous Resort Palace. Out of nowhere, ladders of sky high were placed onto the walls, and men began to rush up towards the top like ants crawling up a tree.
"General Lui, if you don't mind me asking," Civis could no longer hold his curiosity, he found it strange from the beginning, "defending such undefendable Palace is understandable for the Emperor's sake. But why there's no army. I meant at least there should be some archers shooting at us right now, but there isn't any."
"I noticed this too, but we can't care for that much now.... somehow I have a bad feeling about this." Lui answered with a frown.

There was still no resistance while the men were half way up the wall. Then a figure appeared at the top, and Civis' eyes widened in a mixture of surprise, happiness and shock.
It was Civi.
And to Civis' greatest fear, his eyes were charcoal black, and an dark aura was radiating from him, twising and hurling with intense evil.
"Civi! Civi!" Civis tried to get his sons attention, but it seemed that his son intentionally ignored him.

Civi grinned, his eyes fixed on the men crawling up towards him.
"Crawl, you worthless mortal. Come on, crawl faster! Crawl faster! Ha ha ha....."
A burst of hellish laugher came from Civi's mouth while he raised both of his hands. Something looked like purple flame rised in his palms.

"General Lui! Retreat your army! Retreat your army! They are in grave danger! They'll all get wiped out!" Septi ran from the back to where the stout Ch'in general was.
"Who is this guy!" an unexpected anger was all the response Septi could get. "How dare you curse us with such misfortune."
"It's true, Civi... no, the evil dragon, is gonna kill them all!" Gasping, Septi tried to convince Lui, but a glance at the now posessed boy told him he was too late. Civi held his hands together, high above his head. Purple flame burnt violently in his hands.
Hardly anyone noticed that Gaius turned his head away with a miserable expression. His eyes closed in agony as if he don't want to see what's happening.
"Civi, no!!" Gathering all his mana, all his strength, Septi desperately raised his right palm. He hoped he could stop the evil dragon. A blue haze appeared around his palm. He inhaled hard, ready to lash out the whatever spell that came to his mind. As soon as the young magician was about to chant the right words, he was sent flying backward as if he was kicked hard in the chest.
"Ignorant mortal." Said Civi as blood came pouring out from the unconscious barbarian's mouth. Then he struck down his fists. Purple flame lashed out towards the helpless Ch'in soldiers, consuming anything standing in the way. But the soldiers weren't burnt to death.
The lucky ones fell to their death from their ladders while the others struggled and twisted under the intense pain that kept running in their bodies. Most of them drew their sword and cut their throat, hoping death will end the torture.
"Ha ha ha!!!!" Another hellish laughter, "Cry! Ignorant mortals! Cry out loud! Suffer, you mortal."
He glared at Gaius before he turned away and made his way back to the Palace. In his evil glance, it seems he was telling Gaius "You've lost, nosy messenger. You can't stop me. You can't save them."
The figure of the little boy disappeared from sight, leaving only echoes of his evil laughter and the moans of maiming pain.

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 06-27-01 09:28 ET (US)     205 / 295       
General Tang was looking at the little boy on the throne.
"Just what do you think you are doing, Tang?"
The emperor asked.
"I am taking you out of here. Liu has intentions on taking your thrice exalted life."
"I do not believe that. Liu is our most faithful servant."
"You will come anyway, brat."
Tang signalled to a handful of his soldiers, who ran forward. The Emperor's mouth fell open in amazement, then he signalled to his guard. A quick and fierce battle ensued and soon the body of the unforntunate Imperial guardsmen and a few of Tang's soldiers lay on the ground in pools of blood.

Tang strode forward and climbed the dias. He lifted the boy from his throne, by the neck of his robe. His other hand slapped the boys face.
"You will do as I say. Now move."

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 06-27-01 22:43 ET (US)     206 / 295       
Septi, only just recovered and still weak from his dream-driven self-laceration, lay on the ground blood pouring forth from his mouth, body heaving in convulsions. Unable to speak he could just barely form in his slowly deadening mind the words he wanted to say. "I'm sorry Master. I tried my very best. It was not enough."

His pain wracked body ceased to convulse and he felt himself lift from the ground and rotate in mid air. Septi could now look down on the scene below. He saw the fallen bodies of General Lui's men. He saw the horror on Civis Romanus' face that formed with the father's realization his son was the source of such destruction. He saw the pained look of defeat on the face of the great Ch'in general. Then he saw something else. He saw his body still lying on the ground, surrounded by his Roman friends; but his body had ceased to move and his eyes were open and glazed with the look of death.

Near Septi the air wavered and shimmered. A figure appeared followed by another. The first was the familiar face and frame of his ancient Teacher, his Master. The second was a tall white garbed radiant spirit with ebony wings and greenish lights where eyes should be; but the face of the tall spirit was indecipherable. He looked familiar, but Septi could not say from where or when. Septi bowed towards the figure he knew best, bodiless tears running down his face. "I have failed Master. The dragon has prevailed. I am worthless."

The Master smiled. "Not so, young one. You have indeed succeeded. Your mana has been well spent and your spell found the right target, albeit not the one you intended. You have awakened that which the long fears most. The girl shall finish the work you began. You have done well... indeed, very well." The Master's voice and figure faded away to be replaced by the now approaching spirit with green eyes and ebony wings. Septi braced himself not knowing whether to welcome or fear the spirit's approach...

____________________________________________________________

Sin Ying heard the criers call back and forth challenging each other to battle. She heard the great bellowing yell emanate from Lui's soldiers. She heard the clattering of ladders on the palace's high stone walls. The last thing she heard was Civi's deep growling laughter just before he cast the spell that cleared the walls and devastated the attacking soldiers.

"Civi, nooooo....!" she cried. Then something powerful struck her but did not move her slightly built frame. The talisman around her neck began to vibrate and glow. She lost consciousness within the moments that followed and awakened in what she thought was a short time later only to see familiar faces smiling down at her as she lay on the silk sheeted sleeping couch. She had absolutely no awareness that so much time had passed since Septi's spell had found her and her guardians and she were reunited once more. The most compelling question in her clearing mind was "who is this elegantly clothed Ch'in boy who stood before her between the two official looking Ch'in men?"

It was Accipiter who spoke first. "Sin Ying, you are in the presence of the Emperor of the Ch'in." Sin Ying had only the barest understanding but knew some form of reverence was called for. She struggled to rise, but could not. The boy Emperor spoke.

"Do not rise, girl named Sin Ying. It is I who should honor you. The people of the land of the Ch'in are even now being told of your heroism."

"Un.. Uncle Accipiter... What did I do?" stuttered the still groggy young girl. Gaius looked at Civis for agreement. The Roman Commander nodded. Gaius proceeded to tell the girl the story of the days of conflict...

____________________________________________________________

The essence of Septi's spell coursed through Sin Ying's body and she became something different. She was outwardly Sin Ying, but within she was a different entity... one that for eternity waged war against the evil that now possessed the Roman boy... That which had become Sin Ying collected itself to confront once more the long that had become the boy from Roma.

With a slight flick of her slender wrist, she shattered the manacle that held her arm fast to the ring in the wall of the palace's keep, rose to her feet and walked with grim determination to the cell's thick, metal braced door. One blow of her tiny hand knocked it into the far wall of the passage. She walked passed Ch'in guards frozen in place by a mere glance of her eyes.

There was no thought about the boy, only the long. If the boy should die, so be it... the sacrifice of a single mortal is a cost well worth incurring if necessary to rid this land of the evil of the long. This had happened in the past. It mattered not if it should happen again... only a single mortal... insignificant... must defeat the long... the long... the long...

Jayhawk
Eminence Grise
posted 06-28-01 03:34 ET (US)     207 / 295       
The phoenix spirit glided through the corridor. The wooden, covered walkway was richly decorated with green, blue and white paint. Gardens and a lotus pool could be seen on the sides, the yellow-tiled roofs told Kong No Lin she was within an imperial palace. Her new body felt both strange and somehow familiar. It was a long time since she'd clothed herself in flesh.

Her senses spread and she could see the soft sparks that were human souls, some bright, others dimmed by dark emotions. The dark miasma of the long she could sense close to the walls of the precinct, she also discovered another presence, this one bright as a lightning, somehow mixing black and gold and green. She wondered what that was, it seemed to be focused, finely focused.

"You!"
A voice sounded nearby.
She saw a spark, wrapped in red and black bands, the eyes of her body saw an old man, with a wispy beard wearing rich clothes and sporting clawlike nails.
Wu Ning looked at the girl and spoke.
"Sun Ying, go back to your room."
Then his face paled, his eyes grew wide.
"You..." he whispered, then began frantically to weave a spell. Silver sparkles left his hands and the two bronze dragon dogs on either side of the door came to life. Their fangs bared they approached the phoenix.

Kong No Lin gathered her power and two beams of liquid gold turned the bronze dogs into so much slag. Fire burst around her as Wu Ning tried vainly to destroy her mortal shell. The phoenix wrapped the fire around her, like wings and then spread them and wrapped the astrologer in their fiery embrace.

The old mage screamed as the fire lit his silks, his hair. She kept him there, burning, but not dying, for a few breaths, then showed mercy. Her hands plucked the light of his soul, unwrapped the darkness from around it and set the small spark free and on it's way to Heaven.

She stepped over the burned husk of Tang's astrologer and moved through the open doors deeper into the palace.

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 06-30-01 13:52 ET (US)     208 / 295       
In the front chamber, the phoenix found the evil long sitting at the dining table, alone.
With a clap of hand, the evil dragon called his personal guards. Knowing they couldn't stop the phoenix, but they serves as some entertainment at least.

"This is none of your business, mortals. Run, while you still can." Said the phoenix in perfect Ch'in language as the guards lined up against her.
Unwilling to do unnecessary kills, Kong No Lin summoned fire around her and shattered whatever furniture in the room.
Seeing such horror, the guards began to disperse and run.
"Useless mortal. I'm disappointed." With a flick of his index finger, the dragon sent the men out of the window, and fall to their death with Lui's soldier.
"Long time no see buddy. Seems like you never know what you're doing." Enjoyed the sight, the dragon turned to his greatest enemy.
"I'm stopping you."
"Pathetic. Can't you see? We can conquer the whole universe with our power! Why can't you ally with me? We can..."
"Enough! You can't convice me with such pervert ideas. Now, I'm sealing you, like I did hundreds times before."

Millions of years of experience told the dragon that he was no match for the phoenix. He launched himself high in the air, way above the whole Ch'in empire.
Gathering all his energy, the dragon began his evil laughter once more.
"Seal me. And this land vanishes!"
The dragon threatened while holding the enlarging purple flame above his head.
"If this land is the price for sealing you. So be it."
The dragon's eyes widened in surprice, "Since when did you become so... cold... my friend."
"If I don't seal you, never will come peace."
"Good! You sound cold. See if you are really that cold."
Sneered the dragon. Then he launched the purple sphere of flames at lightning speed towards the doomed land of Ch'in.
Numerous Ch'in as well as the Romans shielded their eyes from the blinding light as they watched the duel of Civi and Sin Ying.

Thought over and over, the phoenix came to her decision. She leaped towards the purple sphere, and using all her strength, she just managed to deflect it back to the sky.
"Ha ha ha! I knew you couldn't take it. You can't see you're beloved human die, can you?" Laughed the dragon while he gathered energy once again for another attack.

The phoenix could defeat the dragon in no time, but she has to save the land of Ch'in.
Wave after wave of purple flames she deflected, and wave after wave comes. The dragon obviously wanted to deplete her stamina, then move in to seal her. Once, and forever.

"Kong No Lin... seal the dragon. We came to help."
An old voice came up in the middle of the battlefield. Then two figures began to materialize, an old man, and a youngster.
"Will!!!" The dragon clenched his fist. Anger, driven by the desperate situation. He mustered all his energy.
"The messenger couldn't interfere, but we can." The young one, which looked like Septimus to the Romans, said while holding his right palm towards the dragon. The old man did the same.
Blue haze formed on their palms, and the purple flames was held in it's position, frozen. Then bit by bit, the flame began to disappear.
The dragon howled in anger, and launched himself at the two interferer. Claws struck down with the speed of lighting, but it went through as if it had struck nothing.
The two interferer was there to stay.
"Trying to kill a dead man?" Taunted the young one.
"What a fool you made yourself, now rest in peace!" The phoenix manuvered herself behind the dragon during the turmoil, the jade seal alrealy held in her slender hand.

"Not that easy!" The dragon launched himself at Civis, hoping his speed could outrun his enemy, only now.
If the expedition is killed, Caesar will think the Ch'in empire was hostile. Losing the greatest general ever, the Romans will go after Ch'in for revenge. Before that, they've got to kick the Parthians out of the way, as well as the Mongols. Millions after millions of live will be lost in the battlefield, which is exactly what the dragon wants.
"No! Civi, no!" The Roman commander shouted, hoping his son could hear it. But Civi already grabbed him with his steel like claws, and back up in the air.
"Civi. How can you do this to your father!" Moisture began to form in Civis' eyes. Not because of fear, but because he saw that his son did such massive destruction, and still want more and more suffer of human beings. All the years of teaching was wasted, his son lost every bit of humanity.
"I don't want it... dad... I'm so sorry..." Everybody's eyes widened in shock. The words came from Civi's mouth.
"Back off kid!" Civi, now the dragon, shouted in anger. Civi's soul began to rise once again to reclaim his body.
"Not now!!!!" Said the dragon as he stuggles with the boy.
"Now!" Chanted the old man in the air, telling Kong No Lin it's the right time to finish the trouble.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-02-01 15:32 ET (US)     209 / 295       
Warlord Tang watched in horror as the dragon soared into the air with the Roman in its grip, then stagger in midflight as if battling with something unseen. "Impossible! The long is invincible! It cannot be beaten! Yet it struggles?! How can this be?!"

Tang quickly surveyed the field from his vantage point high on the fortress palace of the Emperor. Little was left of Lui's army. Its strength lay dead or incapacitated on the ground before the fortress walls. He could see a small reserve of Ch'in near Lui... and the Romans. Nothing to fear there. Perhaps it is time for a bold stroke. He said something to his commanders at his side. They bowed and ran off to do as they were bid, one to marshall Tang's warriors, the other to bring the Emperor.

The Boy Emperor was presented to Tang, but held firmly in the grip of two muscular guards, one at each side. "Watch your Highness as I sweep the field of this Ch'in and foreign trash," proclaimed Tang with a sneer. The Emperor trembled within but did not let his fear show.

The 20-foot high ornately decorated solid wood gates to the palace fortress opened as Tang's host poured forth arrayed for battle. There was no ceremony. Tang's warriors quickly aligned themselves and on command marched forward to engage the remnants of Lui's forces. The Romans stood their ground mired in indecision. Lui order his reserve to form into battle lines to engage the forces of Tang... He saw they were badly outnumbered. He wondered, what would the Romans do. He had heard tales of their bravery but he had seen no hint so far; and their general was in the grip of the dragon.

The long felt the anger seething in the child whose body he had taken. It was more powerful than he expected and a growing distraction, making it difficult to handle the struggling Roman in his grip. One or the other, thought the long, not both. On impulse the dragon turned in midair and swooped down towards the ground. It loosened its grip on Civis and dropped him at only a meter above the ground. Civis hit the grassy surface and had the presence of mind to roll on impact. He lay on his back bruised and dazed, but conscious. Gaius Accipiter was there in an instant.

Accipiter's eyes were of an unusual hue as he leaped off his horse and layed hands at the temples of Civis head. It lasted only seconds. It had to... there was little time left. Tang's Ch'in were fast approaching though not yet in range to engage. Marcus rode up drawing Civis' horse behind him. His thought was to use it to carry the body. Accipiter stepped back and Civis immediately rose to his feet and shouted to an immensely surprised Marcus, "Close your mouth, Centurian! It's unbecoming for a Roman commander to look that way!" Marcus clenched his jaws and ceased to stare, though not halting his wonderment at this turn of events..

"Your orders, Sir?" he said, trying to mask his shock.

"Form up the Century, Marcus. We attack in support of Lui!"

"Sir!" Marcus pulled the reins and wheeled his horse spurring it to full gallop. Civis turned to Accipiter, nodded (no words were necessary) reached for the reins of his mount and quickly pulled himself into its saddle. Accipiter with him, they both galloped back to where the Roman Century and their companions were forming up for battle.

Accipiter split off and galloped to where Radko held the animals. Roulv Dania was there with a pained look on his face. Accipiter knew what was being debated. He said to the slave, "Now is the time, Roulv Dania, to put faith, duty and friendship in balance and make your decision. Only you can do this." Then Accipiter rode away towards a small hill where he saw the old Ch'in villager watching the event unfold.

Lui felt the first pains of despair when he saw Civis Romanus, his Centurian and Tribune Titus lead the Romans at full gallop to the west and away from the right flank of his defensive line and in a direction taking them away from the battlefield. Tang felt confidence for the first time that day as he saw the Romans ride away. "This victory is mine," declared Tang as he ordered drummers on the wall to signal the charge.

Drums beat and Tang's warriors surged forward. Lui's pitifully shrunken force reeled backwards under the impact of Tang's battlefresh warriors. This will not last long the confident Tang concluded... as did the forelorn Lui. The Warlord focused his attention on the battle below even as the battle between the phoenix, the mages and the long raged above.

The dragon soared upwards after delivering the burdensome Roman to the soil below. Within, the long turned on its child-antagonist and sent a powerful wave of pure evil to the place where he detected Civi's presence. Civi sensed its onslaught and sought cover, finding it barely in time. It washed over him but even in delivering a glancing blow, the power was enough to stun the boy's spirit and silence Civi for a time.

The long then turned its attention to the phoenix. Let the mortals battle... The outcome is irrelevant, for no matter who wins among the mortals, I shall triumph over them all... Standing on the rise, the phoenix within Sin Ying knew the final battle would now be waged. It prepared.

Tang heard a shout behind him from another side of the fortress. "They return! The Romans return!" Tang ran to the other side of the structure. "You fool, Tang!" he screamed at himself. "They maneuver to get behind you! Send out the reserves!" he bellowed.

The officer who called out the warning was standing near Tang. "Warlord... There are no reserves. We sent all of our forces to meet and crush Lui." Fear replaced confidence as he watched the Romans gallop onto the battlefield between the fortress and the rear of his forces.

Civis Romanus stood up in his saddle, sword unsheathed and raised and shouted his command, "For Caesar and the glory of Roma! Follow me!" The Roman Century moved in unison behind Civis, Marcus and Titus. Maganhard rode behind them amongst the auxiliaries. The distance closed quickly. Tang's Ch'ins heard the thunder of hoofs behind them and turned in wonder at where their cavalry had originated. They knew of no cavalry in the fortress. It was not Ch'in cavalry, they realized. It was the foreigners from far and away. For the first time, Tang's Ch'in felt the tentacles of impending doom reach around them.

Lui slammed his sword into the body of one of Tang's warriors at the same time he kicked another off his feet. But they were all around him... too many! Hoofs? Who? The Romans! Two more Tang warriors engaged the general and then a third. But one, behind him and about to strike the general, suddenly stared glassy eyed at Lui, dropped his sword and fell to the ground. A Parthian arrow protruded from his back. A second fell to an arrow in his throat. The third stood all alone now. General Lui decided the outcome with one sweep of his sword, sending the man to join his ancestors. Lui turned to see Romanus' slave setting another arrow into his bow and looking for his next target.

The Roman battle cry rose from 100 throats just as the charging Century collided with the rear elements of Tang's warriors. Romans tangled with Ch'in and warriors fell on both sides. Civis struck left and right in an effort to fight his way to the place where he saw Lui. The distance thinned between the two generals. Soon they battled side by side.

Tang lowered his eyes, no longer having the heart to watch the deaths of his warriors. It would be the long who would need to prevail now. He was their last weapon...
Unless... An idea occurred to Tang and he ordered the Emperor to be brought to wall of the fortress. At a command from Tang, the Emperor's two guards grasped the boy and lifted him to a stone at the very edge of the wall. From there the boy could be easily pushed over the side to fall to his death.

Tang's warriors were fleeing into the countryside pursued by Ch'in and Romans alike. There would be no escape. Both Civis and Lui heard Tang cry out, "Leave or the Emperor shall die!"

The phoenix and the two mages heard the mortal warrior cry out, but they were attending to only one thing... the long.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-03-2001 @ 02:51 PM).]

Proconsul Creaticus Dania
Angel
posted 07-02-01 19:02 ET (US)     210 / 295       
As Dania was on food he was not able to engage in persuing the fleeing enemies. Instead he started helping the wounded laying strayed on the battlefield making no difference between friends and enemies. To Dania a wounded man was in need for help regardless of their stand to each other. Suddenly he heard a loud shout from the fortress. Turning around he saw a little boy standing on the top of the wall, held by two of Tang's soldiers. Then he heard Civis shout to his soldiers to stop persuing the enemy.

Dania imediately understood something was terribly wrong and that it had something to do with the boy on the wall. As Accipiter was close by also helping the wounded soldiers Dania turned to him for getting an explanation.

"It is the Ch'in Emperor you see standing on the wall" Accipiter said before Dania opened his mouth for asking. "Tang is threatning to kill him if we do not leave, on the other hand what happens if we leave..." Accipiter turned his attention back to the man he was treating, unable as he was to interfere.

Dania surely understood the point of the unfinished sentence. Staying or leaving would mean the same. If they staid the Emperor would die, if they left he would die too, maybe not now, but surely later, the result being the same: Tang would become the new Emperor of Ch'in!
It was like the thought was almost shouted inside his head: No way! No way he would let this happen if he could do anything to hinder it!

Without thinking at it Dania turned around on the spot and started running against Radko who was about to tie the horses to some trees. "Radko, Radko. I need my bow."

"You need your bow, but you...ahh, you mean THAT bow" a surprised Radko said and pointed at a horse "I wrapped it in the red planket placed on that horse, the arrows are right here"

A few minutes later Dania was walking as fast as he could heading for Civis while assembling the bow.

"Civis, do as you are about to do as he demands. I need you to distract him while I help the Emperor."

Civis turned around at Dania with lifted eyebrows.

"Sorry Master, I forgot myself. I think the only solution is that I shoot the two soldiers holding the Emperor but I need someone to distract Tang so he doesn't see me and gets suspicious and order the soldiers to push the Emperor down."

Civis looked a moment at Dania thinking at the contest back in Parthia. "Hmmm, I think you are right. But I also think I know a better way. General Liu and I will walk closer to Tang and do like we want to negotiate with him, at least he can't expect us to leave without taking our wounded soldiers with us. Where is that old man when I need him? Ah, there! Come here I need you for translating."

While Civis, Lui and the old man started negotiating with Tang, Dania found a good spot for aiming at the two soldiers holding the Emperor. Standing there he found out he had a problem. The Emperor had to know what was going on so he was prepared for running for his life when the soldiers were hit. But how? Dania started looking around trying to get an idea. Looking back at the three people on the wall, he suddenly saw the Emperor secretly waving his one hand. Could it be? The Emperor slowly turned his head from side to side like saying 'No', looking directly at Dania and then looked away. "What, he doesn't want me to shoot? Well, it's our only chance so he better start prepare for running" Dania thought not knowing the Emperor actually said 'yes'.

Dania took a deep breath and said a short prayer. Then he place an arrow on the bow and held two others ready in the hand. Slowly he pulled the string, took another deep breath and then let the arrow fly, followed as fast as possible by the next. Both arrows hit their targets, the second hit it's target in the head, because the Emperor let himself fall down on the stomach and the second soldier bowed for catching the boy. As soon as Dania saw the boy start running away from Tang, he send the last arrow in the direction of Tang, but missed with a few inches as Tang saw what was happening and jumped down in security behind the wall while screaming like mad.

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 07-03-01 01:36 ET (US)     211 / 295       
The war between the evil dragon and the pheonix still waged miles in the sky, high among the clouds.

Having the boy silenced for a while, the evil long dived on the phoenix. He knew he couldn't get rid of the two mages, but strangly the two mages didn't move in to fight. Why?

The shock of impact bursted into a huge energy blast like thunder, delivering fear into every mortals heart.
Gathering energy in her right hand, the phoenix lashed out a blow on the dragon's forehead.
He dodged.
"What!?" The dragon found the boy's body refusing to dodge.

SLAM!
The sound of impact could be heard miles away, and the sheer shockwave dispersed the clouds underneath them.
As the dragon fell past the two mages, he merely caught an victorious grin on both of them.

First the roof, then floor after floor was shattered by the felling dragon.
"No!" The emperor stopped when the dragon fell right before him.
"Yes... you're my last bet!" Summoning his last strength, the dragon grabbed the unfortunate emperor and lifted him back to the roof.

The frightening evil laughter could be heard once again.
"Leave the boy!" The phoenix shouted downwards.
"Sure, but not after you seal yourself." Grinned the dragon as he demanded.
If the emperor's dead with no heir, the power vacuum will leave all the warlords battling each other for the throne... total war will be waged, and that's the last chip of gamble the dragon had in hand.
"Who cares!" Knowing what will happen in the future. Septi gathered energy to blast the dragon while Will moved.
The dragon's eyes widened in a mixture of astonishment, surprise and disbelieve.
"You... Argh!" And he found himself locked in position by Will, who moved behind him.
"Move now Kong No Lin! If you are to save the emperor!"
Shouted the young mage while the phoenix dived with all her speed towards the struggling dragon.

She took the emperor while the dragon desperatly wriggle to free himself from the powerful magical grip.
The huge white hot fireball smashed down.
"Eeeeeeaaaaaaaaa!!!!" The dragon yelled in despair while the fireball hit.
The shockwave of the explosion shattered numerous roof of Ch'in buildings.

The dragon once again dropped like lightning into the forest, and leveled whatever tree standing in his way.
Ripped of his strength and power, the dragon raised his head. Only to see the fleeing Tang with his remaining few guards.
"Hid me, take me away. I promise I can make you the emperor." For the first time, the dragon begged in desperate voice.
But Tang rode on.
"I can give you whatever treasure you what! Whatever! Take me away!" The dragon crawled towards the cold Tang, only to found him spurred his horse even more and rode even faster.
Tang left without looking back, and the dragon knew he failed, once again, like countless times before.

"Kong No Lin, better seal him before he flees." Said Will.
"No problem." Replied the phoenix in her calm and warm voice as she readied the jade dragon figure. The one identical to what bite Civi.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-04-01 18:55 ET (US)     212 / 295       
The spirit that was Civi saw his father stand in his saddle, call out to the Romans and then lead them into battle against Tang's Ch'in. He was told by others of his father's exploits, but he had never seen his father in battle before. The warrior within Civi was as proud as it could be to watch his father and the Century charge into Ch'in and fight their way to victory. He would be "his father's son"! The time for hiding was over.

Civi's spirit left its secure hiding place and made its tortuous way to the long's conscious presence. He felt the dragon crash to the ground after impact with the massive white fireball. It had no effect on Civi in his current state.

In the corridors of his own mind he slowly crept up to the shadowy image that was the long and saw through an unguarded portal that the boy emperor had been snatched away from the dragon's grip by Sin Ying (or that which appeared to be Sin Ying). He found a niche in which to camouflage his presence and took that time to collect every last bit of strength he could muster. Civi gathered it together like thread to be wound into a ball a cat could play with. Here... There... Ah, another... and another...

The power in his possession grew and grew until it was of a size that Civi felt was as great as he could manage. If it wasn't sufficient, he would accept defeat... but not until after he delivered the greatest blow his diminuitive size would possibly permit. Should he live or become a shade, Civi thought, his father would be proud of what his son tried to do; as his son was proud of what his father had done. Civi waited for his opening. He did not have very long to wait.

The grounded dragon saw Kong No Lin approach with the foul form of his imprisonment in the hands of the girl's body she commanded. The jade dragon dully shined with a light that pulsed from within its form. The long realized its plight and lacking power to attack instead wove a defensive screen to ward off the magnetic properties of the pulsing light. If not for the screen, it would be drawn into the statue of the dragon by the pulsing light and there be imprisoned once more. The long would not permit itself to be drawn out of the boy and into the statue under any circumstances.

Kong No Lin stepped closer and closer to the thing that controlled Civi. A power... I sense a power... No, two powers... One forming and one emanating. Very powerful, the both of them... What are they for? Who? The long must be weakened; how can there be that much strength? A voice began to call within her.

"Civi? Civi? Where are you, Civi? I am so lost... and frightened..." Yes, remembered the phoenix. It is the girl to whom this body belongs. She calls, but there is no time. I must confront and seal the long! That is my duty! It is what I must..."

An ethereal answer came from somewhere nearby. "Sin Ying, I am here... be quiet now... You will be free soon." The phoenix centered itself on the source of the answer. The boy! He is the one with the second power... and it is not the shield. A great wonder you are little one... A warrior to the core.

The long centered on the answer as well. Now he knew the real danger and it was from within. It adjusted its strength and reoriented on the boy's spirit as quickly as it could. The power of its shield dropped as it marshalled an evil bolt of disencorpment.

Civi realized the long would move quickly and the boy knew the time was now. As if it were a massive skin-covered playing ball, Civi grasped the concentrated power and with all of his might and will cast the spherical globe seething with energy straight and true at the nebulous blackened image that was the long. The collision with the long's disencorpment spell shook every corner of Civi's mortal body. For a moment Civi was mind-blinded by the intensity of the explosion of light and coursing bolts of energy.

Kong No Lin saw the odd expression form on the face of the boy's body, a kind of internalized looking with eyes glazing into a nondirectional stare. The phoenix felt the shield weaken and raised the jade dragon at the same time. Then the boy's eyes opened to a size almost too big and his body stiffened. It became white with light, too bright for any but the phoenix to bear. Then as quickly as it appeared the white light disappeared to be replaced by a grey-shaded shimmering essence surrounding the upright yet paralyzed boy's body. THE LONG!

The phoenix spoke the ancient Ch'in words and she sensed rather than heard the scream of pain and anger escape from the shade. It began to swirl in ever tightening circles like the dust of the desert in the grasp of a devil wind. Its filth ridden point lifted from the ground and reoriented on the jade statue in the phoenix's hand. Then, as if the bindings that held it in place were suddenly cut, the swirling shade was swiftly drawn into the statue. When the last little hint of its presence disappeared into the jade dragon, the pulsing light extinguished itself.

Civi felt alone once more within himself, but his body was near its limit. While the boy rushed in spirit to recapture every nuance of his former self, his body collapsed from weakness and lay motionless on the ground. Civi was left helpless to do anything more than become what he had been before he was bitten by the jade statue in his father's work place. For the first time in his young life, Civi saw a different shade near and about... the shade called Death. And it stared unbrokenly at him.

The phoenix struggled with itself. I shan't give up this mortal body and sleep once more, it told itself. I deserve reward. "Kong No Lin... Kong No Lin..." From whence came this gentle voice calling to me?

"You know me... You know who I am..."

"Yes... It has been many centuries; but I know you."

"You also know your duty as well as why and who you serve."

Kong No Lin gently placed the jade statue on the ground. "Yes, I know."

"Nothing has changed, Kong No Lin. It is as always. Now you must rest to be called again; for I am sure you will be called again and must be ready."

"It is as you say." The phoenix caused the girl's head to look down then be lifted once more. "I am ready." The phoenix placed Sin Ying's hands together and then emitted a sigh of resignation and compliance.

"You are most honorable, as always, Kong No Lin. Farewell, great warrior, until the next time." The phoenix departed in that instant. Suddenly, strength left Sin Ying and she collapsed to ground as had Civi. She would know only sleep until the time she awakened in the room in the Emperor's fortress palace.

High on a grassy knoll the old Ch'in villager looked down at his clasped hands, held together in the Ch'in fashion. His words, "... until the next time," floated in his mind like leaves on a gentle breeze. "It is over..." he said to himself, but softly, so that only Accipiter might hear and only in the special way they had of communicating between themselves. "The rest is up to you, Gaius Accipiter."

A distance away the earthen form of Gaius Accipiter looked over his shoulder at the old man on the high grassy knoll. "Till we meet again, Zen," was his silent reply as he watched the old man fade away into nothingness.

So too had departed Septi and his mentor Will, simply fading away; but at the same time rendezvousing somewhere above with the image Septi had seen at the battle's beginning. The shimmering white lighted image with the familiar face and bright green eyes collected them to himself and guided them in an uncertain direction. The incorporeal Septi could hardly fathom to where he was being led.

Lui's men held the fortress palace. A surviving Roman pulled up beside Civis and whispered something into his ear. Civis' face whitened with dread. The Commander grabbed the reins of a nearby Roman horse now emptied of rider, leaped up into the saddle and galloped off to see to his son... before the god Pluto should stake his claim on the boy's spirit. Roulv Dania, seeing Civis's hurried ride, also grabbed a horse and followed. They arrived at Civi's side at almost the same time. Both understood that the grey palor of the boy's skin signaled Death's approach.

Civis knelt by his son's side trying to think of something to say. It was Dania who spoke first. "The talisman, Master, give me the pouch of talismans." Civis, distracted by his son's condition, reached into his shirt without thinking and brought forth the pouch giving it to the slave. Dania opened the pouch and pulled out both objects. The image of a fish he placed on Civi's chest. The image of the tree of crucifixion he placed in Civi's unmoving hand. Then he bowed his head and began to say words to a god Civis had never heard of before.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-04-2001 @ 08:37 PM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 07-05-01 00:31 ET (US)     213 / 295       
"O mighty lord. The boy is dying. If it is your desire to call back the boy, please do so. But his father in the earth is devastated. You know, mighty God. Everything you do is good for us. We praise you anyway. Glory belongs to the father, son and holy spririt. For ever and ever, amen."
Dania whispered his prayer, his voice shaking with strong hope.

Nothing happened.
"Dania?" Asked Civis.
"Sorry... master Civis..." Dania's eyes looked down.
"No problem, it's not your fault. Maybe your God has other things in mind."
Gently, Dania collected the talismans.
"No wait! He's alive! He's still alive!" Yelled Dania in surprise as he sensed the boy moving.
The same joy came to Civis as well as he quickly checked the boy's pulse.

"Radko! Radko!" Shouted the overjoyed Roman commander as he moved to the fainted Ch'in girl.
"Yes, I know, take little master and look after him right?"
Radko shared the same happiness of victory, victory over both Ch'in, and Death.


"And here is where you end up, you've been unconscious for two days." concluded Gaius.
"How about Civi then?" Asked the worried Ch'in girl.
"Oh, he is pretty much the same as you, lying in bed."
"I want to see him, please take me to him." Sin Ying tried to sit upright, but the exhaustion is there to stay.
"Calm down, little one. You have plenty of time to be with him... If you want to~" Answered the Emperor with a mischievious grin.
"What about Septi then?" Asked the Ch'in girl, "Where is he?"
"Ha ha ha!" A laughter of a young man formed in the middle of the room.
"Septi!" Exclamated the girl as Septi materialized.
"Ok, I'm angry. You ask about Civi first. Septi? Who cares~" Teased the floating image.
"I'm not..." the Ch'in girl tried to protest.
"'I want to see him, please take me to him'" Septi mimicked the voice of Sin Ying, "Ha ha~"
The girl's face flushed like an apple. "I..."
"I understand." Nodded Septi. "Ok now, for the real thing."
"Good news and bad news." Announced the ghost. "Which one do you want first?"
"As you wish Septi." Civis worried as he heard 'bad news', he had too much.
"Ok then, good news is that the evil dragon is sealed nice and tight. Here." Septi held up the jade figure for everyone to see.
"The bad news?" Urged Civis.
"The bad news is I need help disposing it. You know, if I leave this anywhere, sooner or later somebody might get bite. You're very familiar with this aren't you Civis?"
Civis nodded.
"This is my last mission as an apprentice. After this, I'm qualified as a mage."
"Aren't you.." Sin Ying didn't know if it is good to point out that he was dead.
"Nope, I ain't dead yet. I don't deserve to die this early. I'm destined to live longer, if not for the dragon." Septi gave Gaius a quick glance. But the tall man purposefully looked the other way.
"So, I'm given a second chance. I can choose to live, or become a spirit like my dad. I chose live."
"This is the bad news, I suppose." Teased back the Ch'in girl as the rest of the room bursted into laughter.
"Laugh, little girl, if you can... Ahem..." Septi cleared his throat as his expression became serious. "I need Civi and Sin Ying to come with me to Tian Shan in order to dispose this thing."
"That's no problem, we can come with you." Relaxed the father.
"It takes ten years."
Civis felt like if he was stabbed in his chest. On one hand, he don't want to be away from his son anymore. On the other hand, he couldn't be so selfish to let loose the dragon. Ten years, he still had a family in Rome. Besides Civi, he still have Apolita and Apollonia to look after.
"In return, I can train them as magicians. They've got great potential."
"...." The Roman was struck wordless.
"I know it's hard for you Civis, take your time. No need to hurry."

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-11-01 16:00 ET (US)     214 / 295       
The boy Emperor of the Ch'in ended the discussion before Civis had time to answer.

"The heroes of the battle must accompany me to my capital city. It is my wish, dragon or no dragon. You may then decide what is to be done. We shall leave as soon as all are well and able to travel." He looked in the direction of Sin Ying. "The girl shall accompany me."

Civis frowned but said, "As the Emperor commands." His diplomatic mission took precedence at all times. He must obey Caesar's command first and foremost. This meant he must cooperate with the Emperor of the Ch'in to the greatest extent possible.

Septi's somewhat translucent mass solidified in that instant. He had made his choice and had been granted his boon. He lived once more, healed of all of his previous wounds. Indeed, he looked much more like a mage now and no longer the apprentice he had appeared to be in Tyre. His clothing was more intricately designed and richer in material content. He also seemed to have aged somewhat, having a more mature look about him rather than the youthful look he sported before the battle with the dragon and Tang.

Civi slept quietly, unaware of the great decision placed before him and before his father. The rest of the mission began the preparations necessary for travel to the Emperor's capital, the great Ch'in city of Chang'an that marked the eastern terminus of the Silk Road.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-11-2001 @ 04:06 PM).]

Micah Aragorn
Pleb
posted 07-12-01 04:12 ET (US)     215 / 295       
Titus Tarquintius pulled off the last of his armor but not with great ease as every muscle in his body seemed to cry out for attention from the days battle. He poured clean water into the basin and started to wash the gritty dirt and dried blood from his skin. It was hard to tell if the blood was his or from some other source. Cuts, scrapes, bruises seemed to be everywhere that any exposed skin had had the disadvantage of no armor to protect it.

As he washed away the days battle his eyes seemed to stare beyond the red stained water and an active mind sent visions of the unimaginable sights he had been witnessed to that day.

Had the child peering over the castle at the advancing Imperial Ch'in army and sending a deadly wall of flame towards it actually been young Civis?

Had the beast that had flown high above and seemed to be doing battle with strange forces be somehow linked to Civi?

And Sin Ying. What unknown power was released from her childlike body to combat the evil presence of the dragon?

Power, magic, demons, gods. Titus had been raised with the inception of showing homage to the Roman gods. But what he saw today was beyond his gods and his beliefs. Even the god of Roulv Dania was a mystery. Were the Romans right in seeking out the worshipers of Dania's god? Was there more to fear from such a god that dwelled among the citizens of Roma?

Image after image continued to flash across Titus' mind and with it question after question. He could barely feel the water he continuosly ran over and over his arms. In the distance a voice sounded faintly to be calling him. And in his minds eye he struggled to see the face that called to him. Again the voice. And again.

Suddenly his mind cleared and his vision became aware of the familiar surroundings but this time the voice he heard was quite clear.

"Tribune, are you alright?" Radko's gruff voice all too familiar to Titus. "Are you injured or require any attention?"

"No, I'm fine. Nothing that putting this aching body on a bed won't cure."

Titus straightened up and taking a deep breath that seemed to make every part of his body that was sore scream out he turned again to Radko and lying about his condition said," I'm fine. You should probably tend to some of the others."

Radko knew he was not telling the truth but didn't want to bruise the Tribune's ego as much as his body probably was already. Nodding he left Titus to seek others who may need attention.

Titus waited until Radko was out-of-sight and finding the nearest bedding layed upon it and was soon asleep dreaming of the days events.......

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 07-12-2001 @ 02:20 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-12-01 16:50 ET (US)     216 / 295       
Civis Romanus stepped away from the room containing his sleeping son and resting Ch'in charge (Sin Ying) only to see Titus limp off to his chamber in the Emperor's fortress palace. He said nothing but thought a silent hope that his Tribune was not seriously injured. He glanced down the hall to see that Radko was finishing his ministrations to Maganhard. The burly barbarian had sustained on his leg a deep gash that Radko was busy sewing together. Radko finished and walked past Civis on his way to attend to Titus. Maganhard pushed himself up from his chair and limped away to his tent pitched near the remains of Marcus' Century.

The Romans had lost 28 of their company to Tang's Ch'in. Ten more were wounded and 2 of these failed to survive. In all, the Century now consisted of 62 able soldiers and 8 whose services would be limited for a time. None of the original mission were lost, although Titus and Maganhard looked somewhat worse from the wear of battle. Civis decided he would leave them alone and seek out Roulv Dania. It was time to ask some questions. He found the slave packing away his Parthian bow and arrows among his meager belongings.

"Roulv Dania... We must talk," called out Civis once he was within the slave's range of hearing.

"Master Civis? About what, Master?" replied Dania.

"I need your answers to some questions... honest answers, Dania," said Civis.

"But I have always answered honestly, Master."

"Yes, but you will be put to the test once more. Dania, what is the nature of the two talismen, the fish and the tree? Are they yours? Did their powers save my son?"

Dania hesitated. Answering these questions could bring trouble to him. He studied Civis' face. No, there is no malice there. He simply wants to understand. I will tell him, but I don't know if he can understand. "Master, only the object shaped like a fish is mine. The other belongs to someone else, but I do not know who. Maybe one of the auxiliaries; maybe one alive or one of the dead. I do not know. They are both symbols of faith in the word of a man who lived some years ago in the Eastern Empire. He was called the Christ. I and others who believe in his words call themselves Christians."

"I have heard of these people. They are said to be traitors to Roma, but you show no such behavior. You have been loyal to this mission and a protector more than once to us. You have fought by our sides. Are you different than other Christians?"

"No, Master Civis. I am no different than other Christians. We follow teachings that say it is incorrect to harm others. Many times I have been faced with a decision to help or not help when danger threatens us. I think of the words and pray, and the answer has been the same. If friends intend no harm, but harm befalls them, my duty is to protect my friends as they have endeavored to protect me." Dania lowered his head, a small degree of shame and discomfort visible on his face. "Sometimes it means I must kill... I believe it to be right, but I'm never fully sure."

"The Ch'in of Warlord Tang were enemies of Roma. Surely you do not consider it wrong to have killed the men guarding the Emperor?" said Civis.

"But Master Civis, were they indeed enemies of Roma; or did we make them so by attacking them on their own land?"

"We were defending ourselves," countered Civis.

"They had not attacked a single Roman soldier until the Century was sent against them," replied Dania.

"Tang held Civi and Sin Ying," argued Civis.

"Civi and Sin Ying were not within Tang's immediate power, if you recall, Master," said Dania calmly.

"Yet you launched arrows at the guards and at Tang. Why?"

"I believed it would end the bloodshed sooner if I helped free the Emperor from Tang's control."

Civis studied Dania for a moment as the slave patiently waited for Civis' next question. Odd yet compelling logic, thought Civis. "Tell me then, what is the power in the Talismen that enabled them to heal Civi."

"There is no power in the fish or the tree... They are symbolic objects, nothing more."

"Symbolic of revolt against the authority of Caesar or Roma?" Civis pointedly asked.

"No, Master. The words in which we believe themselves honor Caesar by compelling Christians to 'render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesars'. We are compelled to faithfully serve the man who is ruler of Roma. We are then repaid with acts of persecution. That is why we are secretive about our faith in all things."

"Caesar has declared himself to be a god. You must honor him as such and worship him. It is decreed."

"Master... I have served you the best I know how. You have been fair to me at all times. I shall serve you faithfully as long as you so wish... It is the fact that Caesar declares himself to be a god, and not God that has declared him so, is why Christians will obey Caesar's earthly commands but not worship Caesar... In this we are firm, so do with me as you see fit. If these words are treasonous, then fit me to the 'tree' just as Christ was many years ago by Romans in Jerusalem. You found me on the branch of a tree; maybe it is appropriate for me to end my life on the branch of a 'tree'. I am yours to command." Dania placed his hands crosswise over his chest and bowed his head in a submissive pose.

Civis stared at Dania, thoughts awhirl in his troubled mind. This is an honest man, he thought. One who has been trustworthy at all times, even when taking matters into his own hands as with the lone scouting trip that lead them south towards this place. He returned my son to me somehow and takes no credit for it. He has never behaved in a manner contrary to the mission or spoke in opposition to Roma or Caesar... until now. But the only thing that he says he will not do is worship Caesar as a god. Roma has many gods. Caesar is but one. We do not all worship all gods equally. Dania worships only one, it seems. Yet he disavows Caesar's deity. That is treasonous...

"And you Civis, do you see Caesar as a god?" A disembodied voice, not Dania's, interceded into his thoughts.

Civis stopped. In the distance he saw a tallish man looking at them, his face too far away to be easily discerned. But Civis did not need to see the face closely. He knew its structure and the green color of the eyes that no doubt gazed upon them both at that instant. Now convinced of his own thinking, Civis looked once more at Dania.

"Raise your eyes to me Roulv Dania. I will not be the one to place you onto any 'tree'. The ranks of the citizens of Roma will need honest men like you if we are to survive as an empire or a people." With that, Civis turned and walked away from Dania to join the tall man in the distance.

The ranks of the citizens of Roma? What did Civis mean by that. Dania... a citizen? But that would mean...? Dania grasped the small image of a fish dangling from his neck beneath his shirt. He turned about and entered his tent where he could be alone. Dania fell to his knees and pieced together a halting, emotion-filled prayer of thanks.

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 07-14-01 02:07 ET (US)     217 / 295       
After four days of travel, the Romans finally reached the legendary capital of the legendary empire Ch'in. Miles away from the city, they caught the amazing sight of the Ch'in capital.
Every Roman jaws fell in astonishment, the Luoyang city was so big, way beyond the Roman concept of a "city".
The sheer size of the walled central area was about the size of four Roman city. And the surrounding suburb area and argricultural area was an endless sight of lush green blanket on Earth.
The city wall of Luoyang was so high that it is almost not climbable. Every inch atop of the wall was patrolled.

The Romans was approaching from the west, and they see three huge gates on the city wall. But the Ch'in Emperor ordered they turn south to enter via the middle south gate.
"This is our tradition, Roman commander." That's the explanation.
The two strong Ch'in warrior who carried the two yellow banner stepped forward towards the open gate and shouted, "Here comes our Emperor!"
Immediately, every single Ch'in, including by-standers and little children, fell on their knees and chanted,
"Wish your majesty ten thousand lives."
Then the carriage of the Emperor, instead of drawn by horse, was carried by eight strong men, was lowered a bit. The front silk entrance was opened a little bit, and the Emperor reached his hand out, palm upwards, then put back.
"Thank you your majesty." Said the Ch'in people as they stood up and back to their normal life.

A large group of orchestra was already there to greet their beloved Emperor. The whole lot of people headed towards the huge forbidden city, which they call a palace. But the Romans think it should be called a 'city' because the size of that palace is about the size of a small Roman city.
"Strange music..." Said Civi as he listened to the Ch'in music, which consist mainly of copper bells and string instruments.
"I quite like it." Replied Septi as he drawn his horse near the kids.
The greeting ceremony was held once more at the gates of the palace. This time, no villagers, just the harem and the guards.

"Housekeeper Chu, please take our dear Roman guests to their resting place." Ordered the Emperor.
"My pleasure, your majesty." Bowed the old man with snow white hair and beard. A dozen girl was summoned with a clap on his hand.

"It's very nice to meet you, Roman guests. In fact, me old man was very pleased to know that you actually know the Ch'in language." Smiled Chu as he took them to the guest rooms. The Romans were unmounted and their horse taken to the Imperial ranch.
The Romans don't know what to reply but a smile. Gaius eye flashed with a tinge of gold, then smiled benovelently.

The buildings in the palace was pretty much the same as those outside, except that they were much cleaner and much bigger. The Romans were amazed that the Ch'in could keep such big roofed house illuminated without too much torches.
The pillars and doors were richly decorated, so are the furniture.
"This area is yours, please don't hesitate to call the servant when you have any problems." Said Chu as the Romans reached a grand villa. The guards on the gates were like bronze statues, emotionless, motionless.

The servant girls took each Roman to their rooms. Each Roman has one big house with a bedroom, a washroom and a livingroom. Every house was guarded by four heavily armored guards with all sorts of arms.
"Excuse me." Said Sin Ying sheepishly as she cleared her throat.
"Yes?" Said the servant girl, who was busy making tea.
"Can I go to the next room to see my friend?"
"Of course you can, but I must accompany you as ordered"
As they stepped out of the room, two of the four guards followed them. Sin Ying tried to smile to them, but they were still emotionless.

Hours passed as the Romans enjoyed the lavish accomodation, and wondered the wealth of this empire. Little do they know that this empire is like an empty shell, ready to collapse with a slight shock.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-16-01 21:28 ET (US)     218 / 295       
Titus and Civis awaited the pleasure of the boy Emperor of the Ch'in. The young ruler did not seem to be compelled to meet diplomatically with the Roman officials any too soon. However, all words spoken to the Romans by Ch'in officials representing the Emperor were cordial and filled with implied expectation that such a meeting would occur in the near future. Civis simply had no idea what "the near future" might mean to a boy Emperor in the culture of the Ch'in.

There seemed to be great hurry and bustle all about the palace of the Emperor, yet events moved painfully slow. Gaius laughed when Civis mentioned this to him one evening.
"Civis, the Ch'in way is one of great effort at achievement in the most patient and methodical manner. Romans charge forward and only stop when a few of their comrades have begun to fall over the precipice. Romans stop to see where the precipice began and how far is the fall... and never concern themselves with how they arrived. The Ch'in study the 'precipice' from all angles and then collectively come to a conclusion and a decision on how to avoid its like in the future."

"That's not entirely a fair judgement of Romans, Gaius. I think you exaggerate some of our more impulsive actions and are using them for effect as overly extended examples." Civis was only mildly annoyed, because he knew the fundamental truth in what Accipiter said. But as a Roman, he did not appreciate the criticism of his culture, accurate or not.

Accipiter smiled. He enjoyed tweaking Civis' national pride and had done so on more than one occasion. "So why not venture into the areas outside of the palace and see for yourself how the Ch'in live and how they think," suggested the tall man with green eyes.

"Of course, why not..." Civis eyed Accipiter suspiciously. "When will you tell me who the old villager was who guided us to General Lui?"

"Changing subjects quickly, aren't we?" said Accipiter in response.

"So?"

Accipiter sighed. "I cannot. I was asked not to." Gaius looked unblinkingly at Civis as he said this.

"Another time, then?" Civis persisted.

"Yes, another time. Perhaps when we are once more drinking poppy-steeped wine in your villa outside of Roma."

"My villa..." Civis eyes took on a 'far off' look of longing. "Would that this mission was completed and I indeed was in my villa; and at my side was Apolita, Apollina and Civi and ..."

"Sin Ying?"

"Hmmm? Sin Ying? Oh, yes... of course."

"But just then you were not thinking of her were you, Civis," said Gaius Accipiter.

"No, I was not." Civis now felt somewhat guilty. Afterall, the young Ch'in girl was his charge.

Accipiter's face took on a wry expression. "Do not concern yourself about it. Her true place is beginning to manifest itself as each day passes... Civis, go see the people of this land so that you may come to know them and understand them better."

So that is how Titus and Civis came to be in the company of four Ch'in soldiers (dressed as common Ch'in) and to be walking about in the areas around the capital city of the Ch'in among the vast land's merchants and peasants who had gathered there that day.

He could not help comparing this land and people to the same in his own world. So many people, so little room. Even the most crowded areas of Roma were spacious in comparison to here. And wealth... Yes, here and there outside of the palace could be seen signs of wealth; but nothing like the wealth in his own world.

The vast majority of these people were poor; and not just poor, but very poor. It seemed the great wealth of the Ch'in resided in the palace of the Emperor and not to any extent among his subjects. Why... Even in Roma, where signs of poverty were visible, their still existed a substantial number of citizens who would be considered immeasurably wealthy if living in this land, but who would not be considered so in Roma.

Poverty was everywhere among the Ch'in; and those who failed to overcome its ill effects lay in various dark corners of narrow, crowded streets. Some were barely alive... some were not alive at all. And the very, very few who lay on the walkways out in the open were either stepped over or pushed aside to be collected, Civis surmised, at a later hour. Such an incredible difference between the few with wealth and the masses with little or none at all. Instinct told him that the ruler of the Ch'in had a great problem on his hands which trade with the Romans would help to soften.

Later that day, Civis and Titus exchanged observations such as these in the security of Civis' chamber. A knock on the door, a message delivered... They and Accipiter were cordially invited to share a meal with the boy Emperor of the Ch'in and to discuss (at last) the purpose of their being there so far from their own land. Civis and Titus discussed what they would say and then they retired to their respective sleeping quarters and finished their day, uneasy Titus nervously anticipating the following day's events and Civis dreaming of his villa, his family and a goblet of poppy-steeped wine.

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-19-01 22:53 ET (US)     219 / 295       
The boy Emperor sat motionless on the throne placed on the elevated dais. He stared straight ahead, looking at a point distant and above the heads of the three men standing before him. It was as if he took no notice of their presence. But this was as custom required; and the Emperor was well schooled in Ch'in regal custom.

A girl stood to the side of the dais. She was young, about the Emperor's age, and dressed magnificently in the most beautiful Ch'in silk gown the men had ever seen. The color of the clear blue sky filled the background behind the embroidered images of budding and blooming flowers of pink and white hues. The gown began at the girl's neckline with a small square opening that revealed only the very base of her neck. Then the gown flowed down her slender body ending at the top of her feet. These were shod in elevated platform wood sandles of a style unseen until now. The girl, Sin Ying, tried to remain aloof; but she couldn't help but flash a smile at seeing the three men once more.

The three men together executed a deep bow towards the throne on which sat the Emperor of the Ch'in. Accipiter was wearing his distinctive white robe. Titus Tarquintius was dressed in the gold breastplate and red dress uniform of a Tribune of the Legions. Civis Romanus chose that day to wear his ceremonial formal white dress uniform with a white breastplate inlaid with the golden image of the Roman eagle. Worn under his breastplate, his long shirt ended nearly at his knees and was accented with a geometric pattern of gold colored threads woven into the fabric of the shirt. At his waist, just as did the Tribune, Civis wore a short Roman sword. Guards in the proximity of the Emperor's throne unwaveringly eyed the two armed Romans, but with expressionless faces.

Civis spoke as he bowed. "We of the Empire of Roma appear before the Emperor of the Ch'in as requested. We humbly thank the Emperor for the singular, distinctive honor of being invited to be his guests at today's banquet."

For the first time, the boy Emperor took notice of the three men who were bowing before him. "Rise... You are most welcome to this Palace and to enjoy with me the humble feast which has been prepared." The three men straightened up from their respective bows as soon as the Emperor commanded. They bowed once more, but briefly, as the Emperor spoke his welcome and invitation.

The Emperor waved his hand and two men grasped the handles to the throne. The seat was lifted and the Emperor and the throne were carried from the room into an adjoining room filled with Ch'in dignitaries and then to a long, low table set with eating plates and utensils. Scented flowers floated in bowls of water along the center and length of the table. The Emperor stepped off of his throne and sat on cushions placed at the head of the table. He motioned to Civis to sit at the position nearest his right hand, for Titus to sit at the next position beyond Civis; and to Accipiter to sit at his left hand.

Then the Emperor frowned. He motioned to a nearby guard and spoke softly in Ch'in. The guard departed, but soon returned with Sin Ying at his side. At her appearance, the Emperor smiled and motioned to her to sit at Accipiter's side. Other Ch'in dignitaries were then told to be seated, including the stern faced Chief Advisor to the Emperor. Civis promptly studied the man's face and body posture to glean what he could about the man's attitude. One word found its way through his observations and into his mind: "Difficult".

The boy Emperor surveyed the table and noted that all were seated who were to feast that day. With a nearly undectable movement of his right hand, he ordered the feast to begin. Servants hurried to comply. Plate after plate of exotic, herb-laden foods were carried from nearby rooms and placed before the Emperor. One of the guards sampled each plate as it was presented. After a momentary wait the plate was offered to the servant aiding the Emperor. The Ch'in ruler would nod or make a motion rejecting the plate of food. If acceptable, a serving of the food was placed before the Emperor and then the plate was passed to Civis and to the others in turn.

Rejected foods were returned to the kitchen from which they came and accepted foods flowed down the table from guest to guest until all had taken their portions. Still, none had begun to eat. Civis watched Accipiter for protocol guidance and noted the tall man had not picked up his eating utensils. Civis and Titus did not as well. It was not until the Emperor reached for his utensils and began to eat that Accipiter in turn reached for his, as did the others at that moment. Civis looked down to find his untensils and saw... sticks! The area at the base of his neck warmed noticeably as the Roman realized he would have to eat his meal with the strange slender sticks used by the Ch'in. Gods guide me, he said to himself silently. Do not let me make a fool of myself with these eating twigs this day.

And so Civis made his best attempt to maintain dignity while using the very unfamiliar Ch'in utensils laid before him.

Micah Aragorn
Pleb
posted 07-20-01 04:50 ET (US)     220 / 295       
"Oh no! Not again", Titus thought to himself as he looked down for the eating utensils for his meal. A quick glance at his commander and Titus was relieved that he was not alone in fearing the fool at attempting once more to use the sticks of wood to eat with. It appeared that Sin Ying and Accipiter had no problem at all. But as always Accipiter never really seemed to have any problems come to think about it.

Once more both Romans quickly studied how the others were dining and noticed a slight trick that somehow had eluded them before. Those dining took parts of the selected food and placed it in a bowl of what now was known as rice. This bowl they would lift to their faces and with the wooden sticks push the food into their open mouths.

As Titus made his attempt at his new found discovery, Civis watched with curious eyes. Up went the bowl to Titus's mouth. Holding the sticks still ackwardly, the first piece of herbed meat entered his mouth along with the rice. And then again. And again. This brought a childlike smile to Titus' face and a look that seemed he had conguered the world. With that grin he turned to Civis who didn't seem that amused by his conquest and the grin quickly dissappeared. But Civis, always willing though relunctantly to try new things, repeated what he had seen Titus do and soon was enjoying the meal.

Titus enjoyed the taste of all the delectable foods he was sampling. Even the sauces that he tried enhanced the taste of the foods. But there was one that he had not tried yet and which most of the others seemed to shy away from. It was yellowish in color and with a single red dot in its center. Titus felt it uncivilized to try to smell the sauce and instead took a piece of the prepared meat and dipped it into the untasted sauce.

Titus brought the bowl to his face and pushed the sauce covered meat into his mouth. At first there seemed to be a slightly spicier taste than the other sauces.....from deep in his stomach the burning sensation started and followed its path up his throat to the inside of his mouth. His face flushed and his nostrils flared. His eyes seemed to open to twice thier size. He was now fanning his open mouth as the mustard sauce did its work. He sought anything that would help relieve the burning sensation. In the meantime, Civis and the others were looking at him with different views of Titus' predicament. Civis did look concerned yet not too pleased and the other Ch'in dignitaries were amused as the smiles on their faces would indicate. First Sin Ying could not hold back her laughter and then the young Emporer broke his stoic behavior and holding his hand to his mouth hid his laughter the best he could. All the while the Emporer's chief advisor sat with a non expression on his face.

Finally after many gulps of any nearby liguids Titus could still feel a slight burning sensation in his stomach but at least not in his mouth. He turned to Civis whose frowning face meant only one reply,"Sorry, Commander."

The Ch'in Emporer, his laughter now subsided spoke to the Roman guests. "You have certainly made this meal a bit more interesting my Roman heroes."

The chief advisor using this oppurtunity added, "Perhaps it is time to expand this interest into the purpose of your visit to us."

All eyes now turned to the foreign visitors and with concerned looks the others in the room were silent awaiting an answer..........

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 07-30-2001 @ 07:08 PM).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-20-01 22:43 ET (US)     221 / 295       
Civis cleared his throat. "Now that things have settled down a bit..." Civis raised his left eyebrow and looked meaningfully at Titus. "I think this is a perfect moment to share with you our purpose in visiting your great land."
The Chief Advisor's eyes moved from Titus to Civis as the Roman Commander began to speak.

"Firstly, we learned of difficulties in your land that accidentally involved my son and my ward, the young girl seated by Accipiter you know as Sin Ying. I was charged by my Emperor with the duty of seeing in what way we could be of service to the Emperor of the Ch'in. I think we have been of such service and so I feel it is correct to reply to my liege in Roma that we have accomplished his wishes."

The Emperor nodded his head and responded, "The Ch'in appreciate the help rendered in recent days and its most excellent timing. Pray continue... Is there nothing more?"

"There is indeed, your Majesty. We of Roma have suffered difficulties in our Eastern border, the lands that lie next to the Parthians." Here the Chief Advisor interrupted. "I am told the Muhnguls have been especially active these days."

Civis looked quickly in the Advisor's direction. Best not to upset the man; there is no telling how much influence he truly wields in the Ch'in Empire. "That is true. We have encountered them on at least one occasion. Do they affect your affairs here as well."

"Like a flea bothers the largest beast of the land," said the Advisor. "We have experienced their incursions, but they are of little consequence to this great Empire."

"Of course..." Civis accepted the statement knowing that the truth could easily be something different. "We seek the assurances of the Ch'in Court that should Roma desire to punish those who afflict or offend it, even if this should happen on or near the Silk Road, there will be no repraisals from the Ch'in. In return, the Emperor of Roma pledges his friendship to the Great Emperor of the Ch'in and promises to respect and protect all that is Ch'in, even to the western end of the Silk Road.

The Emperor's expression changed to one of curiousity. "Our land lies far, far away from Roma. Why should Roma feel it necessary to seek assurances from us?"
This boy is more aware than I thought, considered Civis. "Your Majesty, we do not worry about the security of the Ch'in. Your Empire is mighty and secure. The Emperor of Roma is fearful that something potentially beneficial to both may come to harm unless agreement of this kind is reached before the fact."

"What is beneficial to both the Ch'in and Roma?" the Chief Advisor asked.

"Greatly expanded trade in silk between our two Empires at prices that will both please the people of Roma and enrich the Empire of the Ch'in. We call these prices "favored" because they would make the wonderful silks of the Ch'in affordable to the people of Roma. Yet, so great would be the purchases that the Empire of the Ch'in would make much more profit on the volume than if prices remained as high as today."

The Chief Advisor looked at the Emperor, who returned his gaze with a somewhat confused expression. The other Ch'in dignitaries wore varying expressions of interest, approval, disinterest and disapproval. Interest in the proposal seemed the most prevalent, however. The Chief Advisor recognized the confusion in the boy Emperor's mind and so responded as if ordered to do so. "An intriguing proposal, Commander Civis Romanus. We must consider it in detail before we respond. One question please..."

"Yes, Chief Advisor?"

"Have you decided to permit your son and this girl to learn the magical arts and thus protect the Ch'in from the return of the long?" Linkage and immediate negotiation! And most surely a Ch'in test. Civis heard Titus' quick intake of breath and felt Accipiter's eyes focus on him. The girl's attention was completely absorbed in waiting for Civis' answer.

Civis hoped that the redness at the base of his neck and the heat rising around his face would not signal the discomfort he felt. He looked at Accipiter before answering, and then at Sin Ying. "As in the land of the Ch'in, we of Roma take the necessary time to thoroughly consider all things before a decision is made. We know far less about the long than do the Ch'in. There is much to be learned before a decision about my son and Sin Ying is reached."

Titus let out his breath slowly so as not to make it obvious he had held it while waiting. Sin Ying blinked but said nothing. Accipiter reached down subtly so no one would notice, gently grasped the Ch'in girl's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. The girl's mind raced on wondering what fate had in store for her. In time, she would learn.

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 07-21-01 01:41 ET (US)     222 / 295       
"Is there any other questions or duty which you must do Commander?" Asked the calm Emperor.
"Yes, as a token of friendship. Caesar, our Emperor, urged me to give this to the mighty Emperor of Ch'in." Civis then nodded to Titus, who in turn rushed out and nodded to Radko.
A suit of richly decorated armor, purple signalling that it can only be worn by the Emperor. Together with a jar of olive oil of the very top quality, were brought in front of the boy emperor.
"Ah ha!" The boy's eyebrows raised in surprise, whether the emotion is true or not, Civis couln't tell.
"We humbly offer this suit of armor, The Armor of the Emperor. And this jar of olive oil, which is the very best found in our Empire. As a gift to your majesty."
"Very good, Roman Commander. Please take my words of gratitude to the great Caesar. But, what is 'olive oil'?"
"Well, olive oil comes from olives, which is some sort of plant. Olive oil can be used to cook, but this jar of oil is richly scented with all sorts of top quality aromatic and fragant substance, and is used to rub on bodies."
"Ah ha, I see. I happily accept the great gift offered by the Roman Emperor."
Perhaps the gifts were unexpected, the Emperor whispered to one of the officials, who dashed out like Titus did.
After a couple of minutes, the official returned with a couple of servants.
"The gifts were truly unexpected my dear Roman guest. In return, and because of the haste of time, we Ch'in could only offer this. And we sincerely wish the great Caesar can forgive our recklessness."
The gifts were then brought before Civis.
"The first one is a yellow silk robe." The stern old man who looked like a chief advisor began to introduce the gifts, "It can only be worn by an Emperor, just like your purple armor."
"Aw... look at the decoration." Sin Ying couldn't help supressing her astonishment.
"Yes, anything belonging to the Emperor must be richly decorated."
In fact, what attracted Civis' attention was the dragon weaved on the silk robe. It reminds him of the tough situation, perhaps there's some purpose of the Ch'in by offering this.
"The next one is a calligraphy. It's a real one, written by the great calligraphy master Yim."
Civis couldn't understand what was written on the paper scroll, but by merely looking at the characters, he could feel the integrity of that Yim.
"I think you're interested in that calligraphy, Roman Commander." The Ch'in Emperor knew the trick worked once more. Foreigners are obsessed by calligraphy.
"Yes, it's truly magnificent. But what is written on it?"
"Well, the details are of little importance. We don't care what is written when we admire a calligraphy, but in case your Emperor askes, tell him that it is an article about a building in one of the Southern provice."
"On behalf of Caesar, I accept the gifts with great gratitude."

Seeing that his duty was done, Civis bowed to the Ch'in Emperor and was permitted to leave.

Back in his house, Civis couldn't calm his mind.
With a quite swish, Septi materialized in front of the troubled Roman.
"What's troubling you my friend?" Septi said, only to find the Roman greeted him with a look of slight annoy in his eyes.
"Oops.. sorry, I should've knocked. I was just... em... practising."
Civis let out a long sigh, "How can I trust my son to you if you behave this way Septimus."
"Well, you know that is not the main point."
Indeed, Civis knew. Civi would be safe with a man like Septi. Even safer than going all the way back, going across the battle worn middle East area, going across the hostile Partian Empire.
"I'd like to know, after ten years. Who's gonna take my son back to me?"
"I will, if he can't by himself."
"I don't understand."
"Well, if he can't 'swish' by himself, then I can 'swish' him to you. Is that OK?"
"I hope you're keeping your promise Septi."
"That means you allow your son to go with me??" A flow of happiness widened Septi's eyes.
"No, I still have to consider it more." Civis poured cold water on the young mage. "What about Sin Ying then?"
"Ha ha~" Septi laughed in mischief, "You should ask your son then~"

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-23-01 00:02 ET (US)     223 / 295       
Civis Romanus, lost in thought, paced back and forth in his chamber in the palace of the boy Emperor. So unaware was he, that Civis nearly tripped over the stylized block of wood the Ch'in consider their sleeping pillow. Civis could not understand or appreciate some of the Ch'in practices and the idea of resting his head on a wooden platform was so unappealing he was forced to make some alterations. Indeed, the servants were quite surprised to see the sleeping block buried in piled up clothing placed there as padding during the night by the restless Roman. The clothing was gone now and the exposed block once more stood at the head of his sleeping mat ready to be tripped over by the unobservant.

A voice called from the entrance to his chamber disrupting the pacing Roman. "Entrance requested, please." It was the Chief Advisor whose name, Civis had learned, was Chou Su Pang. Something important was afoot, Civis concluded, to bring the Chief Advisor to his quarters. "Enter, please," Civis replied.

The short, slender Ch'in entered and immediately bowed. Civis bowed in return. "This humble servant of the Emperor is grateful to be permitted to enter," said Chou. Civis understood no one as highly placed in the Court could be so humble, but it was the Ch'in custom to appear as humble as possible.

"The Emperor's Chief Advisor honors me with his presence," replied Civis, answering courteously in reply. "May I respectfully ask what matter brings him to my chambers." Civis pointed to a nearby cushion and invited Chou to be seated. The Ch'in dignitary sat on the cushion and Civis selected one across from Chou and sat down as well.

"The Emperor continues to consider your proposal," began Chou. Civis knew this meant that the Empire's advisors and other key officials were busy debating the proposal and had not yet redered their recommendation. Or then again, maybe they had and this was Chou's opening gambit.

Chou continued, "There is a matter that delays his decision." Here it comes, thought Civis. "There is information that might not be known to you that we believe will be of great interest."

"What information is that, Chief Advisor Chou?"

"The Emperor became most curious about the girl named Sin Ying, especially about her ability to defeat the long. At his behest, we have researched the background of the girl and discovered she is of noble lineage. She is the long lost child pledged to be the consort of the son of the previous Emperor. That is, she is pledged to be the consort of the Emperor who sits upon the throne today.'

'When the parents and the infant girl were summoned to the Court from the West, Muhnguls attacked the caravan and carried her off. We later learned that the Parthians destroyed the Muhngul raiding party and the infant girl was somewhere in Parthia near the great western ocean and your Empire. After that we lost track of her location."

Civis knew the rest from his own research. "Our records in Roma say Sin Ying was adopted by a childless Roman legionaire and his wife in Tyre. They journeyed to a village outside of Roma. The legionaire later was killed in a battle in the Northeast and his wife fell ill and died of disease, thereby orphaning the girl. She was placed in a legionaire's orphanage in Roma where I found her as she was trying to escape. I made her my ward when I discovered she had special abilities to soothe my son when the long strongly influenced his behavior. I brought her on this mission for this purpose as we sought a way to cast out the long."

"It is indeed good that you did or she would not have been here to make it possible for us to defeat the long. The Emperor is most anxious for the girl to remain here and fulfill the pledge made by her parents." Chou fixed his strangely different eyes with their epicantal folds on Civis' round blue eyes. "The Emperor says he is inclined to accept your proposal in its entirety provided the girl named Sin Ying stays with him in his palace after you depart for your land." Chou never blinked while putting across his proposal.

Civis searched for the right words. "Shouldn't the girl be asked about this choice of residences?" The Ch'in looked surprised and then his voice took on a stern tone. "In your land do children have the right to influence or overrule the decisions of their parents? Not so in this land. I remind you of where you are and in whose palace you presently reside."

A threat, it appeared. Civis strengthened his tone to match the Ch'in's. "The Emperor may be sadly disappointed should the long reappear and the consort on which he depends for protection not be willing to do what is within her power. Such as this might happen when persons are held against their will."

Chou's expression didn't change, but he involuntarily blinked his eyes as the implication of Civis' words made their mark. A courteous smile returned to his face. "Much to consider it seems, Roman Commander. Please accept my assurances that Sin Ying will be most tenderly and generously cared for; but as you believe you must, please consult the child and then send us word of your decision." Chou began to rise off the cushion. Civis did so as well knowing that the conversation was now ended. Both bowed to each other, then Chou walked towards the entrance.

Just before he left Civis' chambers he stopped and turned. "Commander Civis Romanus, please do remember that the girl is a Ch'in noble, not a Roman. What could be her life in your land?" Chou stared meaningfully at Civis,then turned and walked out of the chamber.

Civis watched him leave and then looked at the floor of his chamber. Civis whispered a silent prayer. "May the gods grant me the wisdom to see what is right."

Meanwhile, in another chamber, Sin Ying and Civi were together for only the second time since the battle with the long. Sin Ying sat glumly on the floor across from Civi. "What's the matter, Sin Ying?" the boy asked. Sin Ying didn't know quite where to begin...

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-23-2001 @ 00:52 AM).]

Cyber Paladin
Pleb
posted 07-23-01 02:21 ET (US)     224 / 295       
Sin Ying knew from the servant that the Emperor wanted her to be his consort, even be the queen. She told Civi everything, but yet the girl knew little about her lineage.

"No Sin Ying, no..." Civi reacted if he was struck by a lightning.
"I don't want either. But the servants say the Emperor always gets what he wants." Sin Ying's eyes began to shimmer with moisture.
"Why do the Emperor want you? Doesn't he got enough harem?" Complained Civi.
"I don't know, somebody said he want me because I could protect him. But I don't know, I didn't even knew what I did to defeat the long!"
"No, Sin Ying. Please, tell him no. I.... Tell him you don't want to marry him." Civi's voice shook with disappointment.
"I want to, but some servant warned me that the consequences of refusing a royal marriage is deadly. Deadly not only to me, but to my friends, everybody I know."
"What is this country? Tyranny? Why the king always gets what he wants? What's the reason for this?" Anger began to rise in the little boy.
"The long... the evil long..." The Ch'in girl began to sob, "it took too much from us."
"I hate it! I hate it! I swear to god I hate it!" Civi began to bang the table, so hard that it attracted some attention from the guards.
"Maybe... we should consider following Septi." Suggested Sin Ying, "This way we can get away from that Tyrant. And...." Her face began to flush a bit.
"And?" Civi seemed to calm down, considering the proposal to be able to work.
"And we can..." The Ch'in girl's flawless face was red like the most precious ruby. Her voice reduced to almost like a whisper, "be together."
"Be together! Good kids! Now you think I don't even exist or something?" A familiar young voice raised by the door.
"Entrance request." Emotionless words from the ever emotionless guards. Sometimes the kids wondered if the guards can remain that emotionless when they get killed.
"I think it's Septi." Civi said, "Please let him in."
It was indeed Septi.
"I wasn't eavesdropping, I was just strolling till I hear somebody, well, sensed somebody say 'be together'"
"You pervert!" Sin Ying, thoroughly red in embarrassment, punched lightly in the intruder's chest.
"But, as I told you before, consider thoroughly before you jump to your decision."
"We have. This way we gonna get away from that Tyrant..." Explained Civi.
"Oh my god, kids. Please please please watch your mouth. What is this place? This is Ch'in, HIS land. And the palace, HIS home." Interrupted Septi. "If you ever let the guards hear you saying this, you're dead."
"Sorry, well, that 'emperor', and we can be together." Civi just made it straightforward.
"Very simple huh?" Countered Septi, "Then what about your father? Will he permit you to go with me? Ten years, in a foreign place so far away that he can't watch over you? How about your mother then? Are you so cold to leave her worrying about you for ten years? They are not young. To be frank, they don't have too much time to spend with you already. Ten years, you'll lost your whole childhood with your family. And you Sin Ying, you already knew the consequences of refusing a royal marriage. Tian Shan is part of his empire, sooner or later he'll find us. The Ch'in way of pursuing enemy is unforgiving. And consider the life in Tian Shan. I'm not rich, I can't provide you with nothing, not from here of course, and not even from the orpanage. A bed with no soft mattress and food with no taste is all I am giving. It's no holiday there, we're WORKING. We've got to WORK EVERYDAY to banish that evil, and NO ONE CARES. You won't get your name written on history books whatever. No one really knows that the dragon even existed."
"....." The kids were caught off guard. "Er.... we really didn't thought that much."
"Grow up kids, you're not young." Said Septi in a soft voice. "Learn to think. I'm not discouraging you. In fact I really need you two kids. But ten years is not a short time. I don't want two regretting guys mourning over everyday."
"Well, let's consider about ourselves first. Do we really want to go?" Began Civi, "The condition there is rather... awful."

And they began to think for themselves as Septi watched with a sense of archivement.

[This message has been edited by Cyber Paladin (edited 07-23-2001 @ 02:34 AM).]

Civis Romanus
Angel
posted 07-23-01 16:03 ET (US)     225 / 295       
The chamber's sliding door opened suddenly and a stern looking, stocky Ch'in guard quickly surveyed the room. Septi, Civi and Sin Ying held their breath. Did he hear? Are we to be imprisoned? Why did we speak so loudly.

At last the Ch'in guard's eyes settled on Sin Ying. "Girl, you are requested to appear before the Emperor."

"Now?" said Sin Ying, her voice quivering ever so slightly.

"Yes, now. It is his command. Come!" Sin Ying rose immediately and walked to the guard, looking over her shoulder at the the others still in the room behind her. The sliding door closed and she and the guard were gone.

"He'd better not hurt her," said Civi through clenched teeth. "Or he will be sure to pay..." Septi looked at Civi.

"What do you think you can do about it if he should." Civi glanced at Septi who noted the hurt in the boy's eyes from the boy realizing he was virtually powerless to protect the girl.

"Maybe nothing now; but I will remember."

"Vengeance? Child, vengeance can be the undoing of an otherwise good man. Do not set your mind on a course without good reason. The girl has been nothing but honored here. Ask yourself, who is the one more hurt by these events, you or she?"

Civi said nothing. Septi was especially annoying when he was right. He was more annoying than usual today.

____________________________________________________________

AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE EMPEROR'S INNER CHAMBER

Sin Ying's guard put his hand out to signal that Sin Ying was to stop. The guard spoke to one of the soldiers at the entranceway in a whisper. The soldier nodded and entered the chamber then returned moments later. He put his hand up and signaled for the girl to enter. Sin Ying's guard did not follow. As she entered the chamber she heard the soldier clap his hands twice. From somewhere behind her Sin Ying heard the tittering of young women and the tinging of porcelain china being placed on trays.

Sin Ying advanced into the chamber only to come face to face with a beautifully finished ebony divider with moutain, river and forest scenes painted by some expert but unknown Ch'in artist. The beauty of the scenes caught her immediate attention such that she forgot for a moment why she was there. The commanding voice of the boy Emperor broke the spell. "Enter, girl. Do not keep me waiting."

Sin Ying's sudden intake of breath was followed by her hurried walk around the edge of the divider. She entered the chamber and promptly fell to her knees in a deep bow before the silk robed boy sitting on the high royal chair. The boy was not alone. The Chief Advisor was there as well. Again, the tittering of young women could be heard somewhere nearby but not visible.

Sin Ying sneaked a peek at the Emperor. The boy did not look at her, or at anything else for that matter. "Rise," he finally said. And she did as she was commanded.

The Chief Advisor clapped his hands and the room was quickly invaded with servant girls setting up a service of green leaf tea. Where there had been a low, empty table before, now there were bakery items and other delectable items to eat, along with a pot of tea and cups, only two cups she noted with surprise. As quickly as they arrived, the servants were gone and the three of them were alone again in the chamber. Still the Emperor had looked at no one in particular but only straight ahead at some unseen object seemingly suspended in mid air over Sin Ying's head. She looked up. Nothing was there.

Chou turned and bowed to the oblivious Emperor, then walked out of the chamber leaving the two children alone. It was only after the shooshing sound ended that signaled the closing of the sliding door that the look on the Emperor's face changed. He turned his head to look around the room and then at Sin Ying. "Do not be afraid, Sin Ying. I will not let anyone harm you." Then the boy's face broke into a large smile and he pushed himself off of the chair and onto his feet in one quick move.

Before she realized it, the boy was at her side and had taken one of her hands in his. Sin Ying was so startled that she didn't think to take it away. The boy's face was alight with happiness. Sin Ying stared and stared. Then the boy laughed. "Oh, I have surprised you! Good! It's more fun to surprise... but I hope not too much this time?"

"Uh... uh... no, I mean yes... I mean, NO! Not too much, but yes, I am surprised," stuttered Sin Ying. The boy laughed again.

"May your surprises be pleasant at all times, especially if I am their cause," said the boy. "Please have cakes and tea with me, Sin Ying." She, of course, could not say no; not because he was Emperor, but because instinctive feminine curiousity had taken hold where fear had once ruled supreme.

"I have something wonderful to tell you, Sin Ying," the boy said after pouring tea and offering cakes to the girl. "My advisors say they have discovered who you are and who your parents were. You are of noble birth, Sin Ying. You are the daughter of a loyal noble of the west. There is more that I cannot tell you yet, but soon you shall know."

The cup in Sin Ying's hand nearly emptied itself of some of its content as her hand began to shake with the impact of the boy's words. "Thank you for telling me this, your Majesty." But at these words the boy put up his hand.

"Please, Sin Ying, do not say 'your majesty' when we are alone like this. My name is Chen Li. Please say it aloud."

Sin Ying hesitated then said, "Chen Li..."

"See, it wasn't so hard, was it?" The boy laughed again. "Will you play games with me, Sin Ying? After I became Emperor almost no one would play." The boy leaned towards Sin Ying and spoke in a confiding voice. "I think they feared if I lost a game I would order the winner to be executed. They would always try to lose to me and then decline to play another game saying I was far superior to their modest abilities. HAH! Sometimes I lost quickly on purpose just to see how pale their faces would become, or how their clear speech would change to stuttering, or how fast they would try to leave the palace. I had to retire to this chamber so they would not see how hard I laughed. But it wasn't really fun or funny, I realized. It was cruel to make them feel so fearful. Very soon I felt badly and never again asked someone to play a game with me, until now. Sin Ying, may I show you some Ch'in games and teach you how to play them? I promise to do my best teaching you and playing each game with you."

Sin Ying's surprise mounted. Emperor he might be, but he was indeed a boy, just like Civi in so many ways; but not like him in others. He was older than Civi, closer in age to Sin Ying than was Civi. And this boy, Emperor or not, with his ready smile, had caught Sin Ying's interest to a degree she didn't even realize.

So they played a variety of Ch'in games. Sometimes Sin Ying won and sometimes Chen Li won. It didn't matter. Their laughter filled the room for hours. So absorbed were they that they didn't notice the small opening the size of a coin through which stared a single human eye belonging to a Ch'in dignitary who quietly watched the children at play. Chief Advisor Chou smiled to himself as he replaced the peephole's cover. There was every possibility, now, that his plan would succeed, he believed. And so he quietly walked the hidden pathway between the walls back to his chamber. As he closed the secret panel behind himself he felt confidence rise with each step he took.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-23-2001 @ 10:45 PM).]

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