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|Topic Subject:||The Silk Road - A Story of Ancient Rome|
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posted 02-11-01 00:19 ET (US)
A Story of Ancient Rome in the time of Caesar Marcus Aurelius
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:46 PM).]
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:46 PM).]
276 / 295
A different scent struck his senses as Crassus sat near a campfire he built to keep himself free of the increasingly chilly night air. It was a scent of something fresh, compelling, exciting... but foreign to the plains. He heard the stirring behind him and turned to see what it was.
The Parthian woman stood there. The gown she wore was illuminated from behind by another campfire built by some of the drivers. She was not particularly tall, but all was in place as it should be, or so the flickering flames revealed in silouette. The scent came from an exotic perfume she had applied only moments before.
The woman took a hesitant step in Crassus's direction. One step only she took and then she paused. She smiled. "Why do you sit alone, Stranger? The others do not," she said in Parthian with a lilting tone. Crassus merely stared. "Do you speak Parthian?" she asked. Still no answer. She began to frown. "Is there another language you know? Egyptian? Scythian? Greek?"
Crassus finally replied. "I speak some Parthian, but I speak Latin better." The woman's face lit up with pleasure simply because he responded.
"Oh! You are from the west! May I sit with you and hear about the west? I have never been there but want to know what no one has told me before. Can you talk to me about the Romans? I've never met a Roman. I'm told they are barbarians. Is it true?"
Crassus winced. This one does prattle onwards, but no matter. Something to put up with until the endgame is played... and then all this won't matter. "No, Romans are not barbarians; not like the Goths and others of the far north. We build great structures and roads, clever machines and great seagoing vessels."
She looked at him with an expression of satisfied knowing. "You said 'we'. Yes, you did say 'we'. You are Roman, aren't you." Her curiousity raged full flame. "What is your name, stranger from Rome?"
Crassus debated only for a moment and quickly decided to engage himself in the game. "My name? Why must you know my name?"
She giggled. "Because I must, that is why." Then she placed her hand on his knee, covered by his robe. "Tell me, Stranger, so that you will no longer be a stranger. What is your name?"
"All right, I'll tell you; but you musn't reveal it to anyone." He leaned across to whisper it in her ear. She leaned in to hear what he had to say.
She smiled, delighted by the revelation and the need for secrecy. "I am called Butara... Now, man of Roma, tell me more about yourself. There is much more of the night left and I want to know." Butara permitted her hand to rest a little longer on Crassus's knee and then slowly, delicately, she removed it. The desired effect was achieved, but Butara did not know that what she summoned was neither friend nor lover; it was a demon from the fires of hell she saw earlier that day in the dark eyes of Crassus. [This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-05-2001 @ 10:09 PM).]
She smiled, delighted by the revelation and the need for secrecy. "I am called Butara... Now, man of Roma, tell me more about yourself. There is much more of the night left and I want to know." Butara permitted her hand to rest a little longer on Crassus's knee and then slowly, delicately, she removed it.
The desired effect was achieved, but Butara did not know that what she summoned was neither friend nor lover; it was a demon from the fires of hell she saw earlier that day in the dark eyes of Crassus.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-05-2001 @ 10:09 PM).]
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Butara retired to her tent and allowed her two servant girls to undress and bathe her. Her ancient nurse was already asleep on her cot.
An interesting man, this Romanus, she thought, wondering about the face that was hidden beneath all those robes, wondering about the body that went with it.
Would he be deformed or scarred in some way? Would that be the reason he was hiding all about him?
What could he be? An heir wrongfully disposed, driven out f his inheritance? He smelled of danger, delightfully so, she thought as her servants dried her and scented her, then dressed her in the soft silks of her nightgown.
Thinking of this Romanus she fell asleep.
She wanted to scream again but gagged on the hand that held he mouth closed. The Roman's other hand ripped the silk of her nightgown, fondled, twisted, then tore a strip from it and gagged her. She felt his hands touch her where no man's hands had touched her, then she felt pain, unbearable pain and trying to scream, choking on the gag she fainted...
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I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. — The Dalai Lama
278 / 295
Gentle hands ministrating to Butara's injuries sped consciousness back to her battered body and mercifully dulled mind. Memories of her ordeal from every recess of her being flooded back as she became more and more alert. The servant's blood, the man's odor, his words, his face and especially his eyes. Pupils brown like the dirt of the plains yet burning with unbridled evil; whites with lines as red as wine. And the name... yes the name... Secret be cursed! She wanted to scream it so the world would know who did this to her; but she only had the strength to whisper it.
Consciousness slipped away briefly once more, to be revived again by the care provided to her by her remaining attendants and a member of the caravan trained in herbs and other medicinals. "Romanus, Master. Civis Romanus she said was his name." The Master of the Caravan could not believe his ears. "Are you sure? I have heard of this man... I did not know what he looked like, but I know of him... A Roman commander who travelled through Parthia with an expedition to the East. He was said to be returning... We welcomed him in peace to our caravan! And for what... to do such as this?!" The man's anger grew by leaps and bounds. "By the gods, the King of Parthia shall be told about this so that he may deal with this... this Roman pig!" The members of the caravan continued to care for Butara even while hastening their beasts forward as quickly as possible to reach the land of Parthia. They did not hesitate in telling local villagers and citydwellers what had occurred as they passed through these places on their way to the Parthian capital. ____________________________________________________________ Civis and Gaius rode together. Civis looked back to see that the Visigoth brothers neither rode comfortably nor near each other. The Roman turned forward to speak to Gaius. "A failed reconciliation, it seems." "So far that would seem correct," replied Accipiter. "But the journey is long and there is time. If only they would put aside their 'shields' just long enough to see each other clearly. But I fear that it will not happen this day or the next... maybe not at all." "At least we have avoided the Muhnguls. In that at least, Altanard's arrival was fortuitous." "Yes, fortuitous..." The walls of Samarkand rose in the distance, the first place of consequence that Altanard's detour away from the Muhnguls permitted them to find. As the expedition entered the gates of the city, residents eyed the uniforms of the Roman commander and the Roman auxiliaries with less than friendly interest. One of the more assertive citydwellers who knew rudimentary Latin asked one of the auxiliaries the name of their commander. "Commander Romanus," the auxiliary answered in as friendly a tone as he could muster. "Commander Civis Romanus." The name passed quickly up and down the crowd gathering along the edge of the main roadway through Samarkand. Indifference turned to hissed curses. Hands sought stones and pieces of splintered wood hitherto ignored by city pedestrians. The mood of the citydwellers turned ugly. Trouble was only moments away... [This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-07-2001 @ 03:26 PM).]
Consciousness slipped away briefly once more, to be revived again by the care provided to her by her remaining attendants and a member of the caravan trained in herbs and other medicinals.
"Romanus, Master. Civis Romanus she said was his name." The Master of the Caravan could not believe his ears.
"Are you sure? I have heard of this man... I did not know what he looked like, but I know of him... A Roman commander who travelled through Parthia with an expedition to the East. He was said to be returning... We welcomed him in peace to our caravan! And for what... to do such as this?!" The man's anger grew by leaps and bounds. "By the gods, the King of Parthia shall be told about this so that he may deal with this... this Roman pig!"
The members of the caravan continued to care for Butara even while hastening their beasts forward as quickly as possible to reach the land of Parthia. They did not hesitate in telling local villagers and citydwellers what had occurred as they passed through these places on their way to the Parthian capital.
Civis and Gaius rode together. Civis looked back to see that the Visigoth brothers neither rode comfortably nor near each other. The Roman turned forward to speak to Gaius. "A failed reconciliation, it seems."
"So far that would seem correct," replied Accipiter. "But the journey is long and there is time. If only they would put aside their 'shields' just long enough to see each other clearly. But I fear that it will not happen this day or the next... maybe not at all."
"At least we have avoided the Muhnguls. In that at least, Altanard's arrival was fortuitous."
The walls of Samarkand rose in the distance, the first place of consequence that Altanard's detour away from the Muhnguls permitted them to find. As the expedition entered the gates of the city, residents eyed the uniforms of the Roman commander and the Roman auxiliaries with less than friendly interest.
One of the more assertive citydwellers who knew rudimentary Latin asked one of the auxiliaries the name of their commander. "Commander Romanus," the auxiliary answered in as friendly a tone as he could muster. "Commander Civis Romanus."
The name passed quickly up and down the crowd gathering along the edge of the main roadway through Samarkand. Indifference turned to hissed curses. Hands sought stones and pieces of splintered wood hitherto ignored by city pedestrians. The mood of the citydwellers turned ugly.
Trouble was only moments away...
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-07-2001 @ 03:26 PM).]
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Feet striking paving stones with rythmic pacing began to echo up the street and off the walls of the plastered buildings. Soldiers from the city's garrison appeared quick marching in two columns. Civis and the military men of the expedition tensed until it became obvious the garrison soldiers were not in any recognizable attack formation.
In fact, the garrison soldiers split into two lines and began to take up positions between the citydwellers and the Romans. Now and then an errant rock flew over the heads of the Samarkand soldiers and missed or struck one of Civis' men. But in general, the appearance of the soldiers succeeded in suppressing what threatened to become a full scale confrontation.
"What has happened, Gaius?" asked Civis. "We have never been received such as this on our entire journey."
"I don't know, Civis. Maybe the soldier on the horse waiting for us just ahead will have the answer." There on a war stallion was the commander of the garrison called out to protect the Romans. He addressed Civis forthrightly and directly.
"You are the Roman commander named Civis Romanus?"
"Yes," replied Civis
"You and one other will follow me, please, to the chambers of the Elders."
"Why this reception from Samarkand? What is wrong?" pressed Civis.
"I am told to bring you to the Elders. Direct your questions to them, Commander Romanus." Civis frowned at the coldness in the officer's voice and motioned to Titus to follow him. Titus guided his horse to Civis' side and then followed to the place where the Elders had gathered.
"These charges are grossly untrue!" exclaimed Civis. "I know no such caravan or a woman named Butara! I have just now arrived here from the east, from the land of the Ch'in. I have not been away from the expedition in all of that time! My men will vouch for me!"
"I'm sure they will...," replied the Chief Elder in a voice dripping with sarcasm. "Nonetheless, you stand accused by a noblewoman of a family with considerable importance in Parthia, a family second only to that of Vologezes himself. You must answer these accusations before the King. Are you willing?"
"As I am innocent of these charges, I am most assuredly willing."
"Then, Commander Romanus, as a gesture of your agreement, you will accept into your expedition the man we send to you. He is a Captain of our Garrison, the man you met on the street this day who brought you to this chamber. Be advised, Roman. This Captain knows the woman you assaulted. He was a guest in their house. There is a bond between this Captain and the woman. He will not be a friend to you. He will accompany you to the court of Vologezes. Should anything happen to him, your guilt will be decreed and you shall never see Roma again. Is all of this understood."
"I never harmed this woman named Butara, nor any other woman I have known. The conditions are understood."
The Chief Elder, still without smile, further cautioned Civis. "That is for the King to judge. Now, Commander, I recommend you complete your business here promptly and leave our city at first light. We tire of your presence."
Guards escorted Civis and Titus to the exit portal. Garrison soldiers escorted them back to the Roman camp, also surrounded by city soldiers. Waiting there was the Captain. The cold stare he focussed on Civis did indeed imply that this man was not, nor did he intend to be, a friend to any Roman he should encounter, least of all to Civis himself. The Captain's name was Dusares.
The Romans departed Samarkand just as the sun lifted itself into the sky from a place in the land of the Ch'in. Civi knew his father was in some kind of trouble, but he didn't understand its nature. Shading his eyes, he looked carefully towards the east so as to not let the sun's bright rays hurt him. He wondered if Sin Ying saw the sun as something larger since she was so much closer to it. He couldn't remember if the sun was larger or not. Then he wondered if Sin Ying was happy. And lastly, he wished she were with them this day; for they all were so much happier in the days when they traveled to the east than they were now. He sighed and rode on.
The endless expanse of the Silk Road guided them westwards towards the capital of the Parthian Kingdom.
280 / 295
Vologezes, King of Parthia, spoke to Crassus in a voice tinged with hate and disgust. Crassus felt the pressure on his arms increase as his Parthian guards responded to the emotion they sensed in their king's voice. "Give me one good reason why I should not slay you on the spot, worthless Roman! You have failed every mission I've sent you upon. Banned you from this realm on penalty of death and you dare show your face here?! I say again, give me a reason!"
Crassus steeled himself. "Because I have delivered to you the opportunity to destroy Romanus and his mission on just cause."
Vologezes studied the Roman. "Release him," he ordered the guards at the side of Crassus. The guards reluctantly obeyed. "Your explanation had better be worthwhile, Roman."
Crassus straightened out his clothes and sent a withering look in the direction of each of the Parthian guards. "The girl is not well, I am told. The people say she is without speech or meaningful motion. She lives, moves, eats; but cannot communicate or care for herself. Is this true, your Majesty?"
"It is true, Roman... She is without ability to care for herself... Now! Your explanation! I am growing exceedingly impatient!"
"Yes, your Majesty. You seek Civis Romanus for this crime because he is the one the girl accused in her only lucid moment. It was I who placed the name in the girl's mind and in the knowledge of the Master of the Caravan. I was there."
"You imply Romanus is not the criminal. If you were there, then you can tell me who committed the crime."
"I cannot, your Majesty. I know not who harmed the girl. I found her afterwards, and as if a vision, I clearly saw how to take advantage of the situation." Crassus cleverly knew the right moment to fein the right emotion. "I share your Majesty's sorrow at the harm that befelled her." Then Crassus looked at Vologezes directly with unwavering eyes. "Yet... I know that matters of State sometimes cause harm to its own. In the eyes of a king, especially the King of Parthia, the well being of Parthia should override harm befalling a single person... and a girl at that," concluded Crassus with a wry smile.
"She is my brother's daughter, Roman..." Vologezes did not appreciate Crassus' implications. However, Crassus' point registered. Somehow, Vologezes had found it hard to believe that Romanus, this seemingly intelligent, skilled, military diplomat from Roma would do such a thing. Crassus now confirmed it wasn't likely Romanus had committed this crime. On the other hand, an opportunity was now presented to Vologezes that clearly put the initiative in his own hands... and the Romans could be discredited forever. Crassus was to thank for it... or so it seemed. And the girl is incapable of anything other than serving as a silent witness to the deed. Vologezes could name any name and that man would be assured of condemnation, regardless of who really had harmed the girl. Vologezes liked the possibilities.
"Roman, you will remain in the palace under guard until the outcome with Romanus is decided. Better hope, for your own sake, that Romanus is declared guilty and he and his accomplices are executed. Otherwise, it will be you who receives the pointed end of Parthian arrows."
Crassus bowed to Vologezes. "You will not be disappointed, your Majesty."
"That, Roman, we shall see," said the King of Parthia.
Civis Romanus entered the capital of Parthia days later. In two days he would be presented to the King to answer the charges brought against him. He knew without question Vologezes' intent. Civis spent the next day and its restless night reflecting on what might occur. He concluded his only effective weapon was the truth. Should it fail, there was no hope of escape.
Finally, thoughts of Apolita, Apollonia and Civi replaced those of his mission and Civis was able to sleep during the few remaining hours of the night.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-16-2001 @ 01:40 AM).]
Proconsul Creaticus Dania
281 / 295
The next morning when Civis woke up he found a letter on the little table at the side of his bed. For a moment he just sat with it in his hand looking at it but finally he opened it and automatickly let his eyes seek the last line for the name of the sender -Roulv Dania. The letter was clumsy written and filled with mis-spellings.
After reading it over several times Civis concluded the letter said something like this:
To my master Civis Romanus
Rumours among the other slaves say a roman is held captive at the kings palace. They also say the unlucky woman is in the capital and a relative of the king. She is sick and unable to speak. I know my master is innocent and my masters only chance is this woman. I have gone trying to find her and maybe help her so she can help you. If anyone asks about me, be very angry and tell I have run away and you are very dissapointed.
May the Just be with you, Roulv Dania
After thinking for a moment, Civis went out of his room and headed for Gaius Accipiter.....
282 / 295
Roulv Dania was only slightly surprised at the ease with which he gained entrance to the King's palace. Of course, dressing like a Parthian, carrying the Parthian bow he won in the contest and holding a scroll in one hand did lend credence to the purpose he added to his step. It added so much credence that not a single Parthian guard challenged him or his reason for being there.
Servants scurried all about the palace. Dania had years of experience at being a servant so it was with ease that he could separate those servants who served the well from those who served the ill. He found likely candidates and set his ear and eyes on watchful alert for any clue of Butara's location. He did hear some say that the girl was without speech or awareness, so Dania concluded the rumors were true. He felt in his pockets to ensure he had not lost the artifacts he placed there before he left the Roman camp.
Dania was led down many a corridor by a servant who it turned out was not on any assignment to see to Butara's needs. He expected this and quickly transferred his attention to the next likely possibility. After trial and error, he finally succeeded. After the servant left Butara's presence, Dania quietly and carefully entered the woman's chamber.
Butara still showed the contusions and other outward marks made by her attacker. She sat on a couch, eyes staring at the dinner of bread, cheese and fruit placed before her. Mechanically she reached for items of food and placed them in her mouth. There was little else going on within the woman. Certainly she was unaware of anyone else in the room, or so it appeared to Dania.
Dania reached her side after a few cautious steps. He reached into his pocket and withdrew the two objects he carried, or more accurately "borrowed" from his master and now carried with himself. He hoped his master would not be angry. Dania felt he had a good purpose in mind despite the possible wrongness of the act. He placed the two objects on the table near the food so that the woman would be sure to see them.
Butara's eyes shifted to the objects. One was the image of a fish and the other was two crossed lengths of what seemed to be wood. Her eyes travelled from the objects to the hand that placed them there. Then they traversed the length of the arm that followed the hand. Her eyes moved to Dania's shoulder, his neck and finally rested upon his face. She frowned.
It was then that Dania said the brief prayer he had prepared for this moment. "May the Light of Truth open your eyes and free your speech."
Butara stared at Dania, at first without comprehension. Then something changed, like a door opening to a room. Thought and reason flooded back into Butara's mind. She became aware... She knew the room, what was before her as food on the table, how she came to be there and what had happened to her on the plains in the place of the caravan.
A Roman... Yes, the man who won the contest... He travelled here from the West. He is a servant to... What was that name? The man they said he serves... Civis Romanus... Yes, that is the name.
Butara's eyes opened wide as the name 'Civis Romanus' released the final flood of memories. Dania watched the color drain from the woman's face, then saw it contort into what he knew would be prelude to a shattering scream. He reached out a hand and clasped it firmly against her mouth, then grasped her about the shoulders squeezing tightly to prevent her arms from flailing about or seeking to scratch and claw at his own body. He said in Parthian close to the woman's nearest ear, "Butara, I will not hurt you. Do not scream. Listen to me."
Dania nearly exclaimed loudly himself as the woman clamped down on the palm of his hand with her teeth. He said a quick prayer to distract himself from the pain and tried again. "Butara, I am here to help you. Please let me tell you how."
Gradually the wildness left the woman's eyes as she realized that Dania had made no other move to harm her. Her struggling calmed, both from exhaustion and from awareness that this man did not smell of the same nauseating scents that she closely associated with pure evil. Finally, Dania sensed yielding in the woman's frame and in the look from her eyes.
"I shall release you, Butara. I promise no harm will come to you. But you must promise to listen to me. Afterwards you may call the guards or do whatever you want. I will honor my promise regardless."
Butara looked at Dania's eyes. These are not the eyes of an evil man, she concluded. She would give him his chance. The woman nodded to indicate she would comply. Cautiously, Dania released her shoulders and then withdrew his hand from her mouth. Then he sat next to her on the couch and held his breath for what would follow... a call for guards or a question for his ears alone...
Accipiter's eyes ceased their flashing in hues of bright blue and gold. He let out a breath that he had been holding during the most critical moments of the encounter. From this distance it was not easy to touch those places in the mind of a woman where great hurt is buried. But he had tried, and so far it seemed he had succeeded. Butara is reawakened and alert. Beyond this he, Accipiter, can do no more. It will be up to Dania and Civis to do the rest. There is but one anomally left... the role of Crassus when the final act begins.
Accipiter's thoughts were interrupted by the voice of Civis Romanus outside of his tent. "Gaius - May I enter?"
"Enter, Civis," replied the tall man, his eyes their customary green once more.
Their conversation lasted only a few minutes. Gaius parting words still echoed in Civis' mind. "Go before the King, Civis. Answer his questions; plead your case. This you must do. I can say no more." The anger of being wrongfully accused and the pride of his position warred interminably within Civis with each hour that passed and with each step he took to the palace of Vologezes. The Parthian Captain at his side radiated hate. The presence of Titus and Accipiter on his other side gave no comfort.
And deep down... deep, deep down... there was uncertainty and fear... and yes, the seed of hopelessness.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-16-2001 @ 11:54 PM).]
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Butara stared long and hard at Dania, her expression progressing through anger, distrust, fear, resolution and finally, decision.
"Say what you intend to say. I will listen," she said.
Dania sighed in relief. "You must appear before the King and tell him exactly what happened. Describe the event in detail. Leave out nothing. Do this in a place where all, in addition to the King, will hear you."
"I will tell him the name of the man who did this to me," Butara said.
"Yes, tell him the name of the man; but describe him fully. Do not just give the name to Vologezes. There must be more given than just the name. You do remember how he appeared?"
"Yes, I remember (too well, she thought)... Why do you want this? He... Your master (she could not yet say the name 'Civis Romanus' without physical revulsion) will be condemned and put to death for sure."
"If you tell the truth, what justly will be, will be." Dania studied the woman's face. She is thinking. It is good.
"I have always spoken truth... In this and all other things. I will go to the King now and tell him."
"No! Butara, do not do this! It is important for the sake of truth and justice that you do a certain thing. Let me describe for you what it is and why..." Dania began his description and explanation. Butara listened with curiousity. She concluded there was no real harm in acting as Dania requested and there was no violation of her commitment to the truth. She agreed to his request.
Butara tilted her head and for the first time stared deeply into Dania's eyes. "You are an unusual young man, Roulv Dania, as you call yourself. You know I have the power to see that your master is condemned to death, yet you scheme so that I have the chance to do this very thing. It is strange indeed."
"I believe in the Light of Truth... and other things you would not understand. I place my trust in prayer and in those whom the answers to my prayers deem trustworthy. You will do and say what is right, Butara. I am told this and now, having met you, I am more sure than ever."
"You have my word. Now go, Dania. A servant or a party of guards may pass by at any moment."
Dania took the warning to heart, retrieved his two objects and made his way into the nearest palace corridor. He had not walked particularly far when he heard the tramp of military sandals against the stone floor of the palace. Dania sought the nearest pillar just in time to conceal himself from the men who were walking in the direction of the King's Hall.
The tall man in the group Dania quickly recognized as being Accipiter; the others were a collection of Parthian guards and dignitaries, including the grim Captain. He saw Titus Tarquintius and there, among the Romans and Parthians, he saw his master.
Civis looked tired and worn. The glow of his desert tan had faded away to be replaced by a poor, pale countenance. He did not look to Dania to be the same man who fetched him out of a tree so many months ago. Roulv Dania said a silent prayer for the gift of strength... and asked that the gift be given to Civis.
The men passed. Dania looked left and right to ensure the corridor was now clear. He stepped out from behind the pillar and began to make his way to the palace portal. A few steps... a few steps more... Yes, there's the portal. Almost there...
A shout rang out. "HALT!" Dania froze in midstride. Parthian guards ran towards him. Dania could think of nothing else to do since flight was impossible, so he stood where he was and waited.
"I know you... I saw you in the contest..." said one of the guards. "You're no Parthian. You're that Roman slave. Take him!" The guards stripped Dania of his bow and other incidental pieces of weaponry and armor. Firmly in their grasp he was pushed, dragged and otherwise propelled back into the depths of the palace. He did not know where they were taking him, but he knew it would not be to a plushly appointed chamber as in the past. He began to say the first of two prayers that entered his mind. One was for courage... the other was for forgiveness.
284 / 295
The King's Hall looked the same except the Parthians within its walls were far less friendly than before. Civis was unceremoniously directed to a large open space in the center of the Hall to stand before the dais on which rested the throne of Parthia. Long necked trumpets sounded forth signalling the entrance of Vologezes. With great dignity he seated himself on his throne and looked around the Hall. Finally he rested his eyes on the solitary figure of Civis. There was no welcoming smile on the face of the King.
"Read the accusations," commanded Vologezes. An advisor stepped forward and began the reading. "Civis Romanus, Roman Commander and Representative of Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Roma. You are accused of the following:
That you disguised yourself as a traveller and took advantage of the hospitality of a Parthian caravan to hide your identity and purpose.
That you murdered an innocent servant girl who attempted to stop the evil you intended to impose on an innocent woman.
That you assaulted and made forever unworthy a woman of noble birth, of great importance to this land, and a member of the family of King Vologezes, ruler of Parthia.
That you did these things despite pledges of friendship and other commitments made in your name and in the name of the Emperor of Roma that you purported to be signs of respect and honor between our two respective empires, the value of which to Parthia being now in question." Here the adviser paused to allow the ringing tones of his recitation to finish echoing through the hall. (Civis thought the timing of the pause might be for other, unsaid reasons). Satisfied he continued. "What say you, Civis Romanus to these charges?"
Civis looked around, first and foremost, at the faces of the Parthians in the gathering. There was no hint of curiosity or pity. He saw no signs of goodwill on the faces of the pairs of guards stationed at each entrance. He saw hardened looks on the faces of all men present. He shuddered at the thought of what the few women present might be thinking about him.
There was a robed and hooded man standing between two Parthian guards. He could read the expressions on the guard's faces clearly but he could not see the face of the man in the hood. His attention quickly returned to the question being asked. "I ask again, Civis Romanus. What say you to these charges?"
Civis saw his sword still in the hands of the Parthian Captain who took it from him immediately upon their entering the palace. Civis offered no resistance. He knew it would not have helped his cause anyway. Civis turned his attention firmly to Vologezes.
"I have not done any of the things of which I am accused." Angry murmurings and hissing through clenched teeth greeted his denial. These Parthians had already decided, he concluded. He will hold nothing back.
"Where is your proof?! Who is it that accuses me?! Let the accuser step forward!" shouted Civis defiantly.
Then appeared the worker himself. "She lay where she had fallen. Her clothing was torn assunder. She was bruised, bleeding, almost senseless; and... and... I cannot describe the rest. The servant girl lay nearby, a knife ended her life. It was only after caregiving that the Lady Butara said the few words she has spoken since. She said 'It was Romanus... Civis Romanus'. I heard it clearly and reported this to the Master."
The woman began calmly. "I am the Lady Butara's handmaiden. The hooded man struck me senseless after I saw him bury his knife in my... my... sister." Her control failed her in that moment. "Execute him your Majesty! He is Roman trash! He murdered my sister! He nearly murdered my mistress, the Lady Butara!" The servant broke down into tears and could speak no more. Nearby Parthians lended themselves to help the grieving woman back to her former place among the gathered.
The advisor thanked the two men and the servant. The advisor now turned to King Vologezes. "There is ample evidence, my Lord. Let us convict and execute this Roman."
Before Vologezes could respond the doors at the entrance to the Hall noisily swung wide and three guards entered the room dragging behind themselves a man in Parthian clothing. The gathered dignitaries separated, opening up an aisle for the guards to use as they approached the dais. As they neared Civis, the leader of the guards addressed him. "Stand aside, Roman. I bring your running dog of a slave to see the King."
Civis looked down at the abused body and face of his slave, Roulv Dania. He was alive but beaten. Welts and contusions were visible on his forehead and cheeks. Here and there blood had spotted his clothes where it had fallen from the cut on his lip and the jagged tear above the brow of his right eye. The guards unceremoniously dumped Dania onto the floor at the foot of the dais.
"Stand him upright," ordered Vologezes. "Why have you brought this man here?"
"Your Majesty, we found him in the corridor without permission or escort. We think he was on some foul mission ordered by his master. He would not say what his mission was despite the questions we 'asked'. Dania had been brought to his feet by the other two guards and stood on shaking legs as the third guard answered Vologezes' questions. He struggled to clear his mind of the effects of pain. He said a brief prayer and then spoke as loudly as he could, interrupting the third guard.
"YOU DO NOT KNOW THE TRUTH OF THIS AFFAIR!" shouted Dania.
"I'll teach you to interrupt a Parthian speaking to his King!" bellowed the guard as he raised his hand to strike Dania. Civis' hand shot to his waist only to remember he no longer wore a sword. At his quick movement guards all around the room tensed in reaction.
"HOLD GUARD!" It was the booming voice of Vologezes that stopped the guard in midstrike. "What is your name, slave? I remember your face from the contest but not your name."
"I am Roulv Dania, slave and servant to my master, Civis Romanus."
"Why did you enter the palace, slave?"
"To see that truth prevails and right is done by Parthian and Roman alike."
"Magnificent ideal slave, but unnecessary. The truth is known. Your master has stolen the innocence of a noble woman and insulted the Throne and the Empire of Parthia."
"The truth is known only to the woman, your Majesty; not to these others who testify." Great peals of laughter roared through the Hall with no less than the King himself contributing his hearty laughter in equal measure.
"You are not the servant to Romanus, Dania. You are his fool!" exclaimed Vologezes. Again laughter echoed off the surrounding walls. Finally it quieted enough so that Dania could be heard once more.
"King Vologezes, do you fear the truth so much that you would hide the Lady Butara from the sight and hearing of your subjects?" The King nearly rose up from his throne.
"You lie," said Dania matter of factly. "She can speak. You are hiding this fact from all who are present." Vologezes' face turned red as the fury within rose to a nearly uncontrollable level. Rational thought returned as he looked out upon the sea of faces staring at him, waiting for his response.
"You die where you stand slave if the Lady Butara utters not a sound. BRING THE LADY BUTARA TO THIS HALL!" Dania felt only the slightest sense of relief. His plan would reach the next step after all. Now it would be up to Butara. She will be the one who will decide their fate.
Dania stood on his unsteady legs unsure if he was or was not his master's fool. Civis could only wonder at his slave's words and behaviour. 'What have you done to us Dania' he repeated over and over in his mind as he waited for the arrival of the Lady Butara.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-18-2001 @ 03:21 PM).]
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Guards and servants escorting her, Lady Butara was brought into the hall on a seat supported by the shoulders of six slaves. She sat in the seat of the litter, eyes glazed, and staring straight ahead at nothing. Her face bore no expression. Her lips were straight, without curl of smile or pursed from fear or distress. The slaves placed her litter down so that the floor supported the legs of the chair.
Vologezes proclaimed her arrival. "Behold, the Lady Butara! Soiled beauty! Tarnished nobility! Victim of Roman evil!" All this time Butara made no motion or moved her eyes. "Speak to us, Butara. Tell us who it was that assaulted you!" Still Butara said nothing.
The woman sat in her chair, back to Vologezes and facing Civis, who stood about 5 paces away. Dania, nearby, felt his stomach rise into his throat as fear and disappointment asserted themselves over him. I have failed, he thought. She will not speak, or she lost the ability once more. We are doomed...
Vologezes exulted. "So, slave, you say the Lady Butara is capable of speech and that I, King of this land, lie... You condemn yourself by your own words! Bring the Roman!"
Guards immediately began to move towards Civis. Titus was restrained by other Parthian hands. Accipiter did not move, though his eyes changed colors somewhat, with hints of gold appearing in random frequency. None attempted to lay a hand on him.
"NO! Not that Roman!" exclaimed Vologezes. "The other... him!" The King pointed to the man in the hooded robe flanked by two guards. The guards placed hands on the hooded figure and gave him a moderate push towards the dais of the King. On his own, the figure walked to a place before the King, but behind and out of view of the still unmoving Butara. The hooded figure bowed. Vologezes gave a simple command. "Execute the slave."
The hooded figure reached up to the cord that secured the robe across his chest. He slowly untied the knot that held the robe in place. It slipped from his shoulders to reveal the uniform and armor of a Roman legionnaire and the gladius at his side. The hood slipped back revealing the man's face as the robe was fully removed and cast to the floor behind him. Civis heard words of recognition from Titus even as he and the others formed them on their lips. CRASSUS! Civis clenched his fists so tightly that they began to tremble from the force.
Crassus face broke into a sardonic grin. He placed his hand on his sword and prepared to remove it from its scabbard as he approached Dania. Just before he pulled it free a young, feminine voice suddenly was heard above the silent tension that filled the room. "The man who attacked me called himself Civis Romanus." All eyes turned to the origin of the voice.
Butara slowly raised herself from her chair and repeated her words. "The man called himself Civis Romanus." She took a halting step, then another halting step, and another; each step bringing her closer to the man in the Roman officer's uniform standing before her. Her hands shook, her heart beat rapidly, her brow moistened with anxiety and fear...
She studied the man intensely. His build was close... His shoulders broad enough... His characteristically Roman nose was similar. He seemed somewhat shorter... maybe today his sandals are different. Then she stared at his face. Not close enough... One more step closer... Only a single pace separated them. A small scar... I could have missed that... Same strength of purpose in his face... Military, like him... His eyes... His eyes... Piercing... Yet... It's not there... The evil is not there... Concern? Gentleness? For me? The eyes... This is wrong. This is not the man! His eyes are Butara whirled in place. "My King! This is not the man! It is another! No matter his name, this Civis Romanus is not the man who hurt me!" The King, stunned, sank back into his throne, indecision and confusion running rampant with the other expressions crossing his face. [This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-18-2001 @ 09:01 PM).]
Butara whirled in place. "My King! This is not the man! It is another! No matter his name, this Civis Romanus is not the man who hurt me!" The King, stunned, sank back into his throne, indecision and confusion running rampant with the other expressions crossing his face.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-18-2001 @ 09:01 PM).]
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Butara's eyes transferred their attention from the King to the slave, Dania. How dreadful he looked. Why must the guards be so cruel? And the other man in the red and brown Roman soldier's uniform. His posture: so threatening... His expression: so cruel, so vicious, so hateful... So...
The bile in Butara's stomach rose. The hair stood up on the back of her neck. She couldn't breath, she could hardly speak. Her face paled as fear seized her frame from head to toe. Those eyes... I know those brown eyes... Those horrifying brown eyes filled with pure evil!
Butara stared at Crassus, her own eyes widening to impossibly sized ovals. Her hands went to her mouth. She nearly screamed as recognition flooded into her mind, her soul, her very being. Knees trembling, she raised her hand and pointed a condemning finger at Crassus. "He is the man. It is his face I remember... His brown eyes...! He is the one who called himself 'Civis Romanus' and assaulted me!"
"Quiet woman!" bellowed Crassus. "You do not know what you are talking about!" His sword was free of its scabbard now and his hand gripped it firmly.
"I know you!" Butara cried out. "I cannot forget you... The look of your face... The brown of your eyes. You did this. You were the Roman who ruined me... Not this other man!" She turned to the other Parthians. "Look at his face! At the mark I put there with my nails when he... when he... YOU ARE THE ANIMAL WHO HURT ME!" Again she pointed her accusing finger at Crassus. The scar on his face whitened as his face contorted in anger.
King Vologezes voice rang out. He had no other choice than to speak these words. "Crassus of Roma, you are accused by the Lady Butara. Who vouches for you?" Nobody responded. Not a single Roman, Parthian... nobody. "Seize him!" Guards left their posts to do as commanded.
Crassus did the unexpected. Leaping from his position he seized Butara and placed his sword to her throat. "Move closer and she dies!" Crassus warned.
"Release her!" cried out Vologezes. Crassus merely laughed. "I will not! Important to the Parthian Kingdom is she? Then let me pass!"
In pain, but lucid; the hated stench of Crassus in her nostrils, Butara gathered up every ounce of courage she possessed. "Kill him, Parthians!" she pleaded. "I am dead already..."
A new voice responded. It was firm, determined, unwavering in its intent. "No Butara, this is no longer a Parthian matter... This is a Roman matter... Release her, Crassus. You will face me one way or another now... There is no need to harm her again... I am the one you hate... Me... Nobody else... I am the one who saw you humiliated. I am the one who cast you out of the Empire. I am the one who makes each day of your life unbearably painful. I am the one you hate, Crassus. I am the one you pursue. You know my name. Shall I say it for you? Civis Romanus, Crassus. Say it again? Of course... Civis Romanus... Civis Romanus... CIVIS ROMANUS!"
Crassus felt the hate well up from the pit of his merciless soul, rise to his shoulders, to his neck, his face and explode in his head. He bellowed the cry of a predatory animal and in one swift move threw Butara from his grip causing the woman to fall heavily onto the floor at Dania's feet. She lay there stunned by the impact. Dania reached down to comfort her. His Parthian guards were entranced by the brewing battle and paid them both no attention.
Smart move... He's hunting you and you have no weapon, thought Civis. A voice cried out momentarily distracting him. "Civis - your sword!" the Parthian Captain yelled as he threw Civis's gladius towards the weaponless Roman. Civis reached up to grab the weapon just as Crassus bellowed once more and charged. Civis' gladius fell to the floor of the hall.
Without sword, Civis could do only one thing. He tried to dodge the swinging sword wielded by Crassus. He succeeded in avoiding its blow, but did not succeed in avoiding Crassus. Thrown off balance by the missed swing at Civis, Crassus crashed into his dodging opponent causing both to fall onto the floor. Crassus' sword fell from his hand and clattered metalically on the stone of the floor, sliding along the stone to a place away and opposite of where Civis' sword lay, both weapons out of the immediate reach of the two combatants. It was Crassus who struck first...
He seized the prostrate Civis by the upper and lower edges of his breastplate, lifted him and threw him to the floor. Civis' nearly had the breath knocked out of him when he hit the stone of the floor. Crassus was on him again, the legionnaire's ham fists attempting to close around Civis' throat. Civis felt the digging fingers of Crassus hand close about his neck. He felt the constriction, the ever tightening grip. His own breathing became increasingly labored. He would be unconscious if he didn't act soon.
Civis grasped each of Crassus' wrists with his own hands. He countered the pressure by using all of his remaining strength to pull Crassus hands away from his throat. Slowly Crassus' grip loosened... slowly he pulled the legionnaire's hands apart. Then Civis gambled. In the quickest move he could muster, Civis released his own left hand from Crassus wrist, balled the hand into a fist and slammed it into Crassus' face... once, twice, three times.
The third blow whipped Crassus' head backwards and both hands released Civis' throat. Civis balled his right hand and slammed it into the other side of Crassus face even as the legionnaire tried to return to the attack. This blow knocked Crassus completely off Civis. Somewhat shakily, Civis forced himself to his feet, then looked hurriedly for his sword. There... on the floor. Civis staggered to its location as quickly as he could, picked it up and turned just in time to see Crassus, blood flowing down his face, do the same. Both now armed, they faced each other once more.
But Crassus wasn't ready to charge. Instead he tried a new ploy. "You die today, Romanus. You must... I have work to do and you're in my way... The Parthians don't care... Their King pays me well to do his bidding." (Vologezes face reddened immediately).
Crassus feinted to the right. Civis countered, but did not close the distance between them. Crassus laughed, his free hand wiped blood away from his battered face. "You made me pretty today. Nicely done. My pretty face... There are pretty faces all around you, Romanus... Look at them... (Civis refused to fall for the ploy) At home in your villa too, I am told. You think Butara was my first? Not hardly..."
Crassus took a step forward. Civis involuntarily backed up. A sign of fear or weakness, thought Crassus. The legionnaire pressed what he thought was his advantage. Disrupt his discipline, make emotion destroy Civis. Crassus continued his taunt. "Yes, indeed. I am told there is a daughter, Apollonia. A wife... Apolita? Yes, that's her name... Beautiful Apolita... No matter where they go, I'll find them, Romanus. I'll never stop the hunt till their names are added to my list. You know what list I mean... Butara does..."
Emotion clawed at Civis. His self-control was stretched by this man like no other before. Swordsman, I must think like a swordsman, he silently screamed at himself. The years of training... it's now they must take hold and hold firmly. Control... Control... Control!
Civis drew in a deep breath and struggled to bring order to his tortured mind. Draw him in. Make him charge. Counter and strike back. "I find you to be the same cowardly weakling as before, Crassus. Striking at women when any lone man puts you down. You are not to be feared... just pitied. Defeated by Civis Romanus... Is that your claim to fame? They laugh at you, Crassus; but you do not hear. You deafen yourself with your own, solitary, self-praise. Poor Crassus, once, twice, thrice a loser... to Civis Romanus. You... make... me... laugh."
So saying, Civis deliberately dropped his guard. He saw anger well up in Crassus's face once more. Crassus, in his fury, saw the opening and charged. Sword met sword in the center of the Hall, the clang of metal echoing off of every wall with every blow.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-19-2001 @ 10:58 PM).]
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Metal on metal, repeatedly reverberated as Parthians and Romans alike shifted and moved to stay out of the way of the combatants. Strike! Parry! Shift footing! Whirl! Strike again! And again... And again.
The battle raged on. Civis and Crassus perspired profusely in the heat of the Parthian day. Cuts and other abrasions mingled blood with perspiration on the floor of the King's Hall. Footing became treacherous. Not just once did one or the other slip to the floor only to scramble back to his feet just in time to ward off the other's deliberate blow.
Exhaustion was only a matter of time, then one or the other would begin to weaken and the stronger would have the advantage. Crassus was the younger man. Civis knew his skills were a match for any opponent, but age and countless campaigns had taken their toll on his body. What good is it to know instinctively how to wield a sword in defense or attack if the strength to do so were gone or fast ebbing?
They closed again. This time swords collided and stayed engaged. Crassus leaned against his sword trying to force Civis back. Civis pushed back with his sword against Crassus's sword with nearly equal pressure. Then it happened.
Civis' footing failed. Something on the stone of the floor-perspiration, blood, he did not know-caused his sandals to lose their grip. Civis' feet slid out from under him and he fell heavily to the floor sliding on his back, the middle of his torso directly under Crassus widespread legs.
For a split second, Crassus looked down at his opponent in surprise... but it was only the briefest of moments. Civis knew the death blow was next.
Crassus bellowed in perceived triumph and lifted his sword with two hands to strike Civis' head with a hearty blow of its sharpened edge. But even as Crassus felt triumph was near, he felt something else. The legionnaire felt six inches of Roman gladius penetrate his body up through his groin. Civis struck home the only blow left open to him as he lay flat on his back with nowhere to escape.
Crassus' eyes opened wide. His bellow of triumph turned into a scream of mortal pain. He dropped his sword and staggered off of Civis clutching the entrance to the wound. Then he toppled backwards and fell to the floor in a sitting position, eyes unfocussed.
Civis rose to his feet, his own bloodied sword still in hand. He closed the distance between himself and the fallen Crassus with deliberate steps. Through clouded eyes, Crassus looked up to see Civis standing over him. He saw the look of grim determination on the Roman's face. He saw the sword gripped tightly in Civis' bruised and bloodied hand.
"Mercy... Mercy, please," croaked Crassus.
Civis felt a momentary pang of conscience, but it was simply that... momentary. "Remember the name, Crassus, of the man who defeated you again, and is sending you to Pluto's dark realm. Civis Romanus, Crassus... Civis Romanus!"
With all of the skill he had ever mastered, Civis deftly swung his gladius and delivered its point across Crassus's exposed neck. Air passage and veins were ripped assunder, but the head of Crassus stayed attached. The legionnaire fell backwards and expired. The Hall was filled with silent, stunned onlookers.
Vologezes sat in his throne not sure what to do or say. His words were hesitant. "Parthians thank you for righting a great wrong. Justice is important to us."
Civis looked up from the dead body of Crassus and focussed his piercing blue eyes on the King. He said nothing but returned his gladius to its scabbard. Then he took up a position in the center of the Hall once more, facing the dais.
"There has been no justice here," said Civis. "There has been paid assassination, cruelty, subterfuge and lies. These will be the descripive words I offer about Parthia to my Emperor. Then, Vologezes, beware his wrath when he hears in full what you have fostered against him and his emissary."
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-19-2001 @ 11:03 PM).]
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Vologezes face transformed into a self-assured smirk. "Assuming you and what's left of your pathetic little army finds the way back to Roma without anything, shall we say, unfortunate happening to you." He chuckled at the thought of what could be done between his capital and Tyre.
"More threats... More tricks, your Majesty?" said Civis. "You are too late. Last night, while you plotted today's events, my men began slipping away in small groups from your city disguised as common Parthians. Each one carries a scroll I wrote. Each scroll gives the same account of our welcoming back to Parthia. You cannot possibly intercept them all. Marcus Aurelius will read my message and know what I have found, and what you have done."
"And what do you think he will do, Commander? What do you think he can do?" Vologezes struggled to control his anger. Civis saw this and felt rewarded. Let him stew in his own juices.
"That is for the Emperor to decide. I am merely his emissary. His answer will arrive soon enough. And now, King Vologezes, this meeting is at an end. I leave your presence for my camp and then west to the Empire of Roma. Oh... and the slave Roulv Dania, the man who revealed the truth... he leaves with me now. I expect you will have no objection." The King said nothing.
The Parthian guards who captured Dania did nothing to hamper the slave. Dania limped to Civis' side and stood there, Butara's whispered words still on his mind. These words she had said as he left her side to join Civis: "God be with you, Roulv Dania."
The party of Romans left the Hall, the hushed silence of the others present failing to drown out the sound of Roman sandals on stone flooring. Half way between the hall and the exit to the palace, Civis saw a figure in the shadows. He could barely make out the face of the Parthian who stood there, but enough was visible to convince Civis of his identity. It was one of the Seleucid representatives of the rebel named Osroes, one of the two men he met in the desert and with whom he forged the pact of alliance. The Seleucid nodded and smiled. Civis understood the gesture. Roma had allies within Parthia whose help will be given when the time is right.
"Roulv Dania," began Civis. "You have demonstrated the highest loyalty to the Emperor, to the Empire and to my companions and I. Your courage is unquestioned. Therefore, it is fitting that you be granted status in the Empire befitting this loyalty and in reward for your courageous acts on our behalf. I hereby grant to you your freedom from slavery and I place in your hands your Scroll of Freedom bearing the mark of my ring." Civis took Dania's shaking hands and placed in them a scroll he had written immediately upon his return to his tent.
"Master, I..." began Dania. Civis quieted him by raising his hand. "A moment Dania... There is more. It is my intention to petition the Emperor to grant you that which I personally cannot give. I will petition Caesar Marcus Aurelius to grant you full citizenship in the Empire. You are the kind of citizen we need to sustain the greatness of Roma."
"I... I...," stammered Dania. "I don't know what to say."
"Say nothing then," said Civis. "There is nothing you need to say."
"But I must ask a question. Does this mean I must leave your household?"
"It means, Dania, that you are free to choose your own path. You can travel the Empire and seek your fortune; or you can choose to join the others in my villa. You can do what you think is best." Civis laughed. "The gods know you certainly have the ability to take unexpected actions and make your own decisions. My companions and I noted this long ago." Civis continued to laugh even as Dania developed a sheepish look and his cheeks pinkened somewhat.
"Now," continued Civis. "Take good hold of your Scroll of Freedom and see to its safekeeping. Make sure it arrives with yourself and all of us upon our return to the Empire.
"I shall! I shall!" At last Dania allowed his happiness to show through. He left Civis' tent with a light step and made his way through the camp. There Civis watched his former slave leave his tent. Well deserved, he thought. Very well deserved. Now... There remains one other problem to resolve besides the journey home. What to do with Maganhard and his brother. [This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-20-2001 @ 00:10 AM).]
Civis watched his former slave leave his tent. Well deserved, he thought. Very well deserved. Now... There remains one other problem to resolve besides the journey home. What to do with Maganhard and his brother.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-20-2001 @ 00:10 AM).]
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"Forgive me for saying this Civis," began Titus. "But I didn't think you were going to best Crassus."
Civis feigned annoyance, noted Titus's reaction, then smiled. "I made it interesting, didn't I," he said. Titus nodded. "Far too interesting at times, Civis," said the Tribune. A disturbance at the rear of the short column that seemed centered on the supply cart caught both men's attention. They turned their horses about to investigate.
"Now what am I supposed to do about this, Dania," said a highly agitated Radko. I made no preparations for any unexpected travelers!"
Roulv Dania, no longer the slave, was doing his best to calm Radko down. "But it's not right to cast her out and send her back," pleaded Dania. "And no, despite what you think, I didn't arrange this. It just happened, that is all."
"What happened, Dania?" asked Civis a moment after arriving to see what the disturbance was all about.
"It's the girl, Civis," answered Radko instead. "She's a stowaway in the supply cart.
"That girl." Radko pointed to a petite figure wrapped up in a cloak so that only her eyes were visible.
"Civis, I can explain..." began Dania, but the girl's voice ended his explanation even before it began.
"Dania did nothing, Commander. I am the one who found your camp and this cart and hid in it. Dania found out I was a stowaway only when your servant here (pointing to Radko) discovered me and my hiding place." The girl let the cloth drop from her face. It was Butara. "Do not blame your men for any of my doings."
"Butara... I... We... What are you doing here?!" stammered Civis.
"I am a dead woman in their eyes. I have no family. I have no home. It was to be only a matter of time before my death became reality. Will you take me to Tyre? I have a few coins. They are Parthian, yes; but they will pay my way." She held her hand out to reveal a small pouch obviously containing a small cache of coins. Her dark eyes conveyed pleading, mingled with fear and trepidation; and began to shimmer from the wetness of brewing but not yet flowing tears.
For all of his skill, daring and courage in so many different ways, a woman's tears always turned Civis into pliable clay to be formed into whatever the woman desired. Apolita knew this very well and reserved it as a weapon for her personal use as required. Butara did not know this, but she reaped its benefit nonetheless.
"You... The Parthians... The King will... But... But... Oh bother!" exclaimed Civis. "I do not want your coins, Butara. Keep them for yourself and Tyre. Dania! She's in your care! See to her comfort and keep her out of harm's way! Understand?!"
"Me?" Dania said, hesitation coloring his voice. "But Civis, why me? I cannot..."
"Dania! You are a free man, but you're still part of this expedition. She is in your care! Need I tell you more?!" Civis face was red with irritation... mostly at himself for being such an easy mark. Butara flashed at him a happy, and very pretty smile, the bruises from her ordeal nearly healed. Civis reddened some more, this time from embarrassment. He could hear suppressed laughter coming from some of the nearby remaining members of the Century. He looked to his side and saw Titus grinning broadly. "You too, Tribune!" Civis wheeled his horse about and pressed it back to the front of the column. "Forward!" he bellowed, and the column reformed itself and began the trek to the West once more.
Civis fought to suppress his irritation. So to get his mind back on business he began to think about the men he sent off days before to bring his messages to Tyre and then to be relayed to Caesar. Marcus Horatius was among them. The Century had shrunk to such small numbers that it was no longer necessary to have a subordinate officer on the trek to the West. Besides, Civis felt strongly that if only one rider successfully made it to Tyre, that one rider would be Marcus.
Civi joined his father a little while later. "Is being a Commander always like this, father?" the boy asked.
"It seems so for me, Civi," said Civis.
"Sometimes... Sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to ever be a Commander, father."
"There are times, Civi, when I wonder why as well." They travelled for many leagues after this, side by side, silently close, father and son.
Later the next day another disturbance disrupted the progress of the column. This time it was Maganhard and his brother...
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-20-2001 @ 10:19 PM).]
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It would not take much for the sounds of an arguement to be heard in the desert like land. There were no other sounds to offset it. But Maganhard and Altanard easily broke the quiet of the surroundings.
"Yes you did. You did say it." the younger of the brothers bellowed out while pointing his index finger in the older's direction.
"No I didn't. You misheard me."
"Misheard you? Misheard you! No! Not at all. I know what I heard." Altanard's face reddened.
At Civis command Titus had been sent to see what was happening to slow their pace back to Tyre. He had already quessed at the commotion and arrived at the opportune moment to see the brother's moving closer and closer towards each other with malice in their faces.
"Hold your ground." shouted Titus from his horse. The brother's recognizing the authoritative voice of the Tibune stopped their advance and each stared at the second in command.
"For miles and days we have heard your constant battle of family honor and failed pledges. You have bickered between each other with no resolve" Titus' voice was well heard by the brother's and all that rode close by. Civis, riding slowly to the rear, was silent letting Titus handle the problem.
"Maganhard, is your brother alive or dead?" Titus asked.
"Well......why.......he is alive sir!
"And where is he alive?" Titus asked Maganhard
"Here....in front of me."
Titus then turned to Altanard and asked the exact same questions and received the exact same answers. Then addressing both brothers said,"What more do you need of each other. Each of you felt the sorrow for the death of one another during the battle. That was real. That was the bond that holds the family in life or death. You should be rejoicing in your reunion and strengthening that family bond. You cannot change the past but you can learn from it and change the future."
"Even Caesar knows that for Roma to exist it must embrace it's brothers and sisters and keep them as one. If they were to argue and fight among themselves the empire would slowly fall apart and Roma would cease to exist."
Maganhard and Altanard changed their stare from Titus to one another. Each looked into the others eyes and remembered. Remembered their lives before the battle and remembered their childhood of memories and remembered all the things that had bound them as one family. Slowly Maganhard raised his outstretched right hand to his brother and a slight moment passed as Altanard raised his right hand and taking his brothers hand in his shook it as friends while pulling him to his body and embracing each other as only family members can. Family was once again reunited.
Titus turned his mount around and headed back to the side of the commander. He was a little taken back to find that Civis had been witness to his solution to the problem. And without saying anything stopped where Civis waited.
With a look upon his face that a father has when his child has made the right choice or accompplished a hard task, looked at Titus and said, "You've learned your lessons well."
Once more the company moved on. And for once each man and child felt a little more secure than they had ever been since they had left Tyre.
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Several weeks later the party reached the edge of the highlands and could, for the first time in over year, see the blue glint of the Mediterranean, Tyre a jewel nestled at it's edge.
They'd picked up most of the soldiers between the Parthian border and Damascus. The groups of men, pulled between Civis' command and their love for their commander had delayed their way to Tyre to wait for the Commander.
Civis was at the same time annoyed with them for disobeying his orders and touched by their loyalty. With men like these, it was hard to imagine loosing any battle in the days to come, for Civis, in his mind was certain that war with Parthia would be the next thing on his list.
Maganhard and Altanard rode side by side, talking. A few nights after their aborted fight the two of them, invited for a drink by Dania, had become roaringly drunk together and, together had defended themselves against a bunch of Parthian rowdies.
Accipiter smiled at the two of them, then turned his eyes to Dania, who was riding next to the formerly Parthian princess. The former slave's eyes never seemed to be able to tear them selves away from the girl's eyes, and the Butara seemed more than willing to return his attention.
The tall man, breathed deep, smelling the salt on the air, the smell of the sea. Home, he thought, or at least as much as he was home anywhere.
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Sin Ying shifted in her bed, unable to sleep. A great feast was to be held tomorrow in her honour, all because she agreed to uphold the family's promise of marriage when both children became of age. She kept tossing and turning and fell into an uneasy sleep.
"Sin Ying." The voice sounded familiar. It was Septi's master and guide. "Sin Ying, come with me. We have to travel a ways tonight." "Where are we going, master?" "Well, who were you just thinking of? Don't you want to know how Civi and his father are doing? What about Accipiter? I am sure he'd be glad to have you visit for a bit."
"But they are so far away, master, how can we get there and back before morning? They are having a great feast in my honour that I will need to attend." "We aren't taking our bodies, Sin Ying. It is time you learned to travel with your mind alone."
And so they flew along the Silk Road until they saw the camp of Civis Romanus and his men. "Go ahead, Sin Ying. Have a look around and when you are finished, I want you to get Accipiter's attention. You'll find a way."
Sin Ying's first thought was to see how Civi was doing. She found his tent and found that she couldn't open it in this state. On impulse, she walked up to the fabric and right through it. It was a strange feeling and she could sense and see every fibre of the material as she went through it. Once inside, she saw that Civi was sleeping soundly and on this plane, there was something surrounding him. When she realized that this was his dream, she carefully stepped into the misty vapours that appeared to be surrounding him.
"Civi, I am ok. I want you to know that." "Huh? What?" Civi's dream about the events past was interrupted by a familiar girlish voice, yet different from what he was used to hearing. "Sin Ying? How did you get here? Is that really you?" "Yes Civi. The Master showed me how to leave my body and travel with my mind alone. I wanted to see you and know you were doing ok." Now the excitement crept back in her voice. "And they are having a great party tomorrow in my honour. I wish you could be there. The dress I am to wear is so beautiful, and the servants are all so nice."
"Really? Who is going to be there? I suppose Civi proceeded to tell her of everything that happened from the time they left. It took some time, but both children enjoyed it immensely. When it was time to go, Sin Ying withdrew from his dreams and kissed him on his forehead. The next stop was Uncle Jay's tent. If she could talk to Civi this way, she was sure that Uncle Jay could be talked to in the same manner. Except, when she got to his tent, there was no mist surrounding his form. Uncle Jay was wide awake. "Great, now what do I do?" Sin Ying mused to herself. "Hi Sin Ying." Startled she saw that Accipiter needed no dreams to see beyond the plane of everyday life. "Hi Uncle Jay. The Master showed me how to travel here without my body. I wanted to see how you and Civi were doing." "It is very nice of you to stop by, Sin Ying, but you have spent a lot of time talking to Civi. It's almost time for you to go back home." The two talked for a short while and were joined by the Master who smiled on Sin Ying and was impressed at how quickly she learned. When Sin Ying got back to the palace and her sleeping chambers, the Master showed her a little trick so she didn't need to feel as if she had not slept all night. The day of the feast went by in a blur. There were so many people and faces and the food was exquisite. All in al, she was getting used to this life and enjoying it to the fullest extent. In the back of her mind she knew that she could always check on Civi and that their bond was one that would never be broken. [This message has been edited by Jaguar (edited 09-21-2001 @ 10:48 AM).]
Civi proceeded to tell her of everything that happened from the time they left. It took some time, but both children enjoyed it immensely. When it was time to go, Sin Ying withdrew from his dreams and kissed him on his forehead.
The next stop was Uncle Jay's tent. If she could talk to Civi this way, she was sure that Uncle Jay could be talked to in the same manner. Except, when she got to his tent, there was no mist surrounding his form. Uncle Jay was wide awake. "Great, now what do I do?" Sin Ying mused to herself. "Hi Sin Ying." Startled she saw that Accipiter needed no dreams to see beyond the plane of everyday life. "Hi Uncle Jay. The Master showed me how to travel here without my body. I wanted to see how you and Civi were doing." "It is very nice of you to stop by, Sin Ying, but you have spent a lot of time talking to Civi. It's almost time for you to go back home."
The two talked for a short while and were joined by the Master who smiled on Sin Ying and was impressed at how quickly she learned.
When Sin Ying got back to the palace and her sleeping chambers, the Master showed her a little trick so she didn't need to feel as if she had not slept all night.
The day of the feast went by in a blur. There were so many people and faces and the food was exquisite. All in al, she was getting used to this life and enjoying it to the fullest extent. In the back of her mind she knew that she could always check on Civi and that their bond was one that would never be broken.
[This message has been edited by Jaguar (edited 09-21-2001 @ 10:48 AM).]
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As is the way with youth, Civi's jealousy had diminished as the distance between himself and Sin Ying lengthened. Her visit sparked it once more, ever so slightly; but it soon returned to its hiding place and diminished even more. He even forgot his vow made in anger in the land of the Ch'in.
Yet the experiences of this trip did succeed in altering his understanding of the depth of the differences among the people and places of his world. In the future, Civi's personality and life choices would reflect the lessons he learned from this journey. Sometimes it would be reflective of the bright side of his learning; sometimes it would be a mirror of the dark things that he experienced or witnessed.
But these things lie in the future for the boy. Ahead of him now were the great gates of the city of Tyre and next to him rode his father.
A great cheer rose from the men with him. Civis didn't need to turn and ask what for. It was the joy of returning to the Empire, building to a peak since their rapid passage through Damascus, and now bubbling over at the sight of Tyre.
Great horns blew from the parapets of the mainland section of the city welcoming the travellers to Tyre. It seems they were expected. It was in the forum that Civis learned why.
Marcus Horatius greeted him there. "Have you heard, Civis?" Caesar received your reports and our messages and has ordered Roma's finest legions to Tyre! This time we will deal the Parthians a mortal blow and this part of the Empire will no longer have to fear their harrassments or incursions! Caesar himself is leading them!"
"Who shall be their general?"
"Why... I don't know, Civis. It hasn't been said."
Civis' shoulders slumped ever so slightly as he lowered his eyes to the ground. "I wish I knew his name," said Civis with a sigh.
"Maybe one hasn't been named because it will be you," offered Marcus thinking he might cheer Civis up.
"That's what bothers me, Marcus. It very well could... and then I would be that many more month's removed from my villa and my family. No... thank you for trying, but there is little comfort in the thought, Marcus."
Civis's orders were clear. Caesar desired him to remain in Tyre waiting upon his arrival. His expedition was free to disburse as they desired. Roulv Dania is made a citizen of Roma. Tribune Titus is commended and ordered to remain with Civis for the time being. Marcus is promoted to Centurian and may choose his command.
Civis waited and watched to see what his companions would do,that is, those who were free to leave... Accipiter, Dania, Maganhard, Altanard, Radko, Marcus and yes, Butara too.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 01:27 PM).]
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Radko waived to Civis as he departed on the galley bound ultimately for Roma. There were chores on the villa that needed tending to and Radko felt his place was there.
Maganhard and Altanard, united once more, sought service in the Legion of the East. On Civis' recommendation, both brothers were assigned to the personal guard of the Legion's Commander.
Dania still pondered his future. Butara found modest accomodations in Tyre, conserved her personal wealth and stayed close to Dania, waiting for the new Roman citizen to decide.
Marcus Horatius eagerly awaited the campaign against the Parthians as a Centurian in the Legion of the East.
The Tribune Titus awaited orders.
Gaius Accipiter kept his own counsel, disappearing for long stretches of time, and reappearing once more. Civis Romanus hardly noticed as this was characteristic of his friend. But even Civis could not miss the change in Accipiter's demeanor when he next saw the tall man with green eyes.
"You are remarkably cheerful, Gaius. Is there something I should know about?"
"In time, Civis... In time," replied Gaius. Civis frowned. Another mystery. Wonderful. Then Accipiter remarked casually, almost too casually, "Caesar comes." That caught Civis' attention immediately.
"When, Gaius?" he asked.
"How do you know it's tomorrow; I mean, we've had no word..." Gaius stared at him, his expression neutral and unchanging. Civis remembered in that moment that it was Accipiter telling him of Caesar's arrival. "Never mind. We'll be ready. We've been preparing for days."
"I doubt you, Civis, are as prepared as you think," commented Gaius as he rose from the bench and left Civis' chamber.
"I think he says these things on purpose just to unsettle me," concluded Civis speaking in a low voice towards the now empty portal through which Accipiter had just exited the room.
Just as Gaius predicted, a messenger arrived in Tyre to say that the Legions were landing along the coast and the Emperor would be in Tyre the next day. Final preparations followed and the ceremonial welcoming of Emperor Marcus Aurelius began.
Civis watched the chariot of Marcus Aurelius enter the city and proceed up the main street of mainland Tyre. Other chariots followed, escorted by Praetorians from the Emperor's personal guard. But his still keen eyesight beheld something unexpected. Two chariots with Romans who were not soldiers... were not men at all.
One chariot carried a girl-child, early into the first bloom of womanhood, a face that seemed to be one he knew, even at this great distance. The other conveyed a mature woman with auburn hair, and what his increasingly excited soul suspected would be a lovely face with hazel eyes. Confused between the need for ceremony in welcoming the Emperor and his excitement at knowing Apolita and his daughter would be at his side once more, it was as Gaius said, Civis was not fully prepared for this surprise.
In the joy of the day, Civis hoped he had not behaved foolishly. Indeed, the Emperor did not seem to notice. Nor did anyone present do otherwise than to smile broadly when Civis' daughter hugged her father and Apolita placed a demure kiss on her husband's cheek and whisper in his ear, "I shall save the rest for later."
"Behold!" announced Marcus Aurelius. "I give you the General who shall lead Roma to victory over the Parthians!" The Emperor extended his open hand to indicate Civis Romanus. A great cheer arose from the gathered Romans. Now, at last, it was known to Civis who would undertake this task; and with Apolita at his side, and his family joined together once more, he was confident of its outcome.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:08 PM).]
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Civis Romanus and Gaius Accipiter both took sips of their respective goblets of poppy-steeped wine while seated in a cool interior room, one among many in Civis' villa near Roma.
Civis knew Gaius Accipiter's nature and felt free to ask questions of him no others would ever conceive of asking. "What does the future say of our battle with the Parthians Gaius?"
"Hmmmm... What would be expected. General knowledge of date and its outcome."
"Tell me, please."
"Alright, Civis... But you know this has disappointed you in the past."
"Proceed, my friend. You know I won't quit asking."
"As you wish." Accipiter knew the question would be forthcoming so he carried with him a certain item with words on it printed in a language no one spoke in the Empire, nor would any Roman ever hear spoken in their lifetimes. He reached into his white robe and withdrew the object he called a "paper".
Curiousity got the better of Civis. "What is that object, Gaius. It is not a scroll, I see."
"No, it is not a scroll. It is called a 'xerox'. People of the future make many copies of writings using a device that makes images of writings without being touched by human hands. This writing is a xerox from an Encyclopedia.
Accipiter cleared his throat and began to read.
"No mention of the General who led the legions? No retelling of how the Parthians were defeated? Of how their own forces turned on each other in the midst of battle, Seleucid against Parthian? Of how Roman legionnaires sought out Parthians loyal to Vologezes and spared Seleucids who wore the color yellow, as did the Ch'in in one of their revolts?" "No, Civis. I told you that would be the case." "There is no glory in the retelling. No excitement. No adventure." "Of course not, Civis. These are retellings by scholars. Did you expect something different?" "I had hoped." "Well... These retellings are always like this. Not even something of world wide impact is told with any emotion attached. Great wars are described factually (for the most part). Great men have their lives described in detail but the real man behind the name is never revealed. All of the Emperors of Roma that ever lived will become nothing but a list of names and dates in the future. Only a few famous generals will ever be remembered. Discoveries will be related in single statements of a few words. Bronze, iron, the chariot, steel, spaghetti..." "Huh? What? Spaghetti? What is that," interrupted Civis. "Oh... Something from the east that your homeland will make famous one day," said Accipiter. "Will we have anything to do with it?" asked Civis, a strange expression manifesting itself on his face. "Maybe, Civis...," said Accipiter. "But why don't we make that another adventure for a different day." "Fine with me," answered Civis; and both reached for their goblets, raised them to each other, and drank once more of their aromatic content. [This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:47 PM).]
"No mention of the General who led the legions? No retelling of how the Parthians were defeated? Of how their own forces turned on each other in the midst of battle, Seleucid against Parthian? Of how Roman legionnaires sought out Parthians loyal to Vologezes and spared Seleucids who wore the color yellow, as did the Ch'in in one of their revolts?"
"No, Civis. I told you that would be the case."
"There is no glory in the retelling. No excitement. No adventure."
"Of course not, Civis. These are retellings by scholars. Did you expect something different?"
"I had hoped."
"Well... These retellings are always like this. Not even something of world wide impact is told with any emotion attached. Great wars are described factually (for the most part). Great men have their lives described in detail but the real man behind the name is never revealed. All of the Emperors of Roma that ever lived will become nothing but a list of names and dates in the future. Only a few famous generals will ever be remembered. Discoveries will be related in single statements of a few words. Bronze, iron, the chariot, steel, spaghetti..."
"Huh? What? Spaghetti? What is that," interrupted Civis.
"Oh... Something from the east that your homeland will make famous one day," said Accipiter.
"Will we have anything to do with it?" asked Civis, a strange expression manifesting itself on his face.
"Maybe, Civis...," said Accipiter. "But why don't we make that another adventure for a different day."
"Fine with me," answered Civis; and both reached for their goblets, raised them to each other, and drank once more of their aromatic content.
[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-22-2001 @ 02:47 PM).]
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