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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

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

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

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

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


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

posted 08-14-01 05:28 ET (US)     251 / 295  
Titus walked along with Marcus through the encampment inspecting and talking with the surviving legionaires.
Each one expressed their desire to be on familiar ground once more. They had seen enough for one person to last a lifetime. The stories they would tell to their children and grandchildren would equal stories about the gods.

"I do miss Roma myself,Marcus." sighed Titus."I miss the buildings and the villa I grew up in. The Market places and the thrill of the races. The quiet sounds of the countryside and the fine imported wines. Have you ever seen Roma Marcus?"

"Once, years ago. And for only a short time."he replied, "Most of my life has been spent on the eastern frontier in one campaign after another."

With a curious look Titus asked," Don't you wish you could just take off the armor and settle down sometime leaving the road dust and the scars of battle behind you.?"

A quick flash of Marcus' past lodged in his mind and for a moment he remembered the girl he had attempted to love and marry but whose father felt different about his status. The emptiness in his heart he had fought so long and hard to suppress was making its ugly way back to the surface and it was not something Marcus wished to deal with. " It's that dust and scars that make us what we are. It molds us and renders us its victims at the same time,Titus. Don't let serenity fool you my friend. It has hidden and sharp fangs that can quite easily leave a mark."

Titus cocked his head and squinted with curiousity at Marcus'words. "Have you no desires or future in your mind you would pursue? Have you no dreams?

"Dreams?",snickered Marcus. "Dreams are for just that,dreamers. What is real is what you can feel with your hands,"Marcus grabbed the hilt of his gladdius,"what you see is what is about you and what you sense is the air you breath. These are real and what you can work with. Not what may be in the unforseen future. I am content with what I am doing now. It's that which I try harder to mold into something so my future is secure."

With raised eyebrows and conviction in his tone Titus replied,"Didn't Caesar have visions of his future when he sent Civis Romanus to the Pathians and here?

Marcus stopped his walk and turned to Titus," Be careful Tribune! I am your friend and wish to remain so. Do not find me defining Caesar's dreams with the purpose of our Commanders mission. You may not like my answer."

Marcus started to walk once again and Titus still curious reached out and gently grabbing his arm stopped and turned him once more. "Didn't Civis come here to procur trade agreements so that Roma would be able to survive into the future because Caesar had a vision or dream that told him the future?"

With a slight shaking of his head and a sigh Marcus answered,"Think about it,Titus! Caesar knew that if he didn't ally with the Ch'in they could possibly be an enemy that Roma would have to fight soon and with the Parthians not receptive to trade talks why not sandwich them in between Roma and the Ch'in. Civis understands this.
Caesar has acted on a present danger to secure his future.
Even your Grandfather in the Senate would agree. Make potential enemies your friends to weaken the enemies you have now."

Titus understood and turning to Marcus jokingly said,"Maybe your the one who should be following in my grandfather's footsteps in the Senate. You seem to know more about such matters than I do.........Enough of this talk. Let us go to my tent and drink a toast to our new allies.....

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 08-14-2001 @ 05:48 AM).]

posted 08-14-01 15:56 ET (US)     252 / 295  
Civis made mental notes as the dinner progressed.

The grain the Ch'in called rice seemed to be the primary content of the meal. Here and there were other items. Most offerings were prepared from the flesh of fish. A few were prepared with pork and a few others from chicken or perhaps duck. The offerings were meager indeed, barely sufficient to suppress hunger. It was plainly obvious these religious men lived frugal lives. The Emperor's feasts were extraordinarily sumptuous in camparison.

"The Ch'in believe it is proper that one should 'eat to live' and not 'live to eat'. Some Romans would do well to adopt such a philosophy for many reasons, don't you think?" Accipiter looked at Civis to see if his point registered. It did, as always.

Civis' expression registered the usual level of annoyance with Accipiter. His Roman pride didn't like the verbal pinprick, but his sense of correctness knew that Gaius was right. Romans indulged in too much excess of which eating served as an example. Civis wondered what would happen to his people if the limitless supply of food and possessions were suddenly unobtainable. Would Romans be able to deal with such a turn of events? He remained unsure, and his lack of confidence was telling in itself.

The remaining bowls were cleared from the low table at which the Romans and Ch'in were seated cross-legged according to the Ch'in custom. A silence descended among the orange robed monks as if something momentous was about to occur. Civis maintained his silence. He looked at Accipiter waiting for the event to occur or for his friend to give some hint of what to do.

posted 08-14-01 16:13 ET (US)     253 / 295  
Marcus and Titus tapped their goblets together to signify friendship and then downed at least half of their content in great gulps. Titus suddenly had a thought triggered by Marcus' earlier words about the Ch'in and the Parthians.

The tribune's brows knitted in concern. "But Marcus, what of the Muhnguls? They lie between the Ch'in and the Parthians and the Muhnguls seem to be friends of neither. Did Caesar anticipate this?"

"Hmmm. I think not. I suspect their presence was unknown to Caesar and to Civis as well. I think even now the Commander is wondering what course of action to take with the barbarians should we meet up with them again. I know I knew nothing of them before now and know very little more since our encounter months ago. In some ways, Titus, I fear the Muhnguls more than I fear the Parthians. I suppose it is because Civis, I and the others know the ways of the Parthians; but we do not know the ways of the Muhnguls."

Titus studied the deep red wine that half filled his goblet. He hoped he wasn't staring at an omen portending the shedding of Roman blood at the hands of the Muhnguls.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-16-2001 @ 09:53 PM).]

posted 08-15-01 05:53 ET (US)     254 / 295  
Civi'd been put to bed by Dania and was dreaming. In his dreams his building blocks turned into real buildings and bridges, yet there always seemed to be a piece missing and all his works would come tumbling down around him.

Civis Romanus waited. He looked around him and realised after a while that Septi was missing. He was about to ask Accipter whether that worthy knew where the young man had gone, when the door opened. A novice monk in orange robes entered his hair shorn. Quite recently as there was a distinct colour difference between the tanned skin on his face and the pale skin on the top of his head.

The young man carried a tray with thin porcelain bowls and a put filled with hot water. Silently he prepared tea and and when finished he offered the first bowl to the old monk. Accipiter graciously accepted the next. Then the young man offered Civis a bowl and to his amazement, the Roman recognised the face of their companion: Septi.

The young man winked and then, when Civis started to speak, he put a finger to his lips. Civis complied, his mind awhirl with what this could mean.

They drunk tea in silence.

When the last bowl was set aside Septi spoke.
"Accipiter, Civis Romanus, over the past months I've come to consider you as my friends. However, I will not travel with you back to the Roman Empire. My old master has spoken to me and I will stay with Li Dao for the next 8 years hoping to partake in his wisdom."
He smiled at the old monk, who smiled back, his eyes a-twinkle.

"Before you go, I have a last gift for you, Civis Romanus."
He beckoned Civis closer as he poured water in a larger bowl which sat on the low table. It's green colour was as rich as any Civis had seen before, leaf motives were circling the inside of the shallow bowl, their colour a slight shade different from the over all colour. They seemed to wave in the water and as he tried to see where they went his eyes caught hold of other leaves.
Olive tree leaves caught in the golden light of fall.

Beneath the leaves he saw the shape of a woman. A woman he'd recognise in the midst of a howling storm. A women that was more to him than his own life: Apolita.
His breath caught as watched her auburn tresses catch the sunlight, striking sparks it seemed. Apolita was weaving a tapestry, a scene with bright colours and shapes of animals and birds.

The vision moved closer then when Civis thought he was standing almost at her shoulder, she moved her head.
He caught a flash of her profile, her hazel eyes and then the vision dissovled.

His head shot up, he wanted to rage at Septi for loosing the vision, but when he saw the exhaustion etched in the young man's face his anger wavered. Accipiter's touch on his shoulder disspiated the last of it.

Civis reached out and touched the young man's hand.
"Thank you, Septi. You can't know how good it was to see Apolita again. Even for a moment."
Septi smiled through his exhaustion.
"You are welcome, Civis Romanus.
Now you should sleep. The days ahead will be long."

Angel Jayhawk
Eyrie • Caesar 4 Heaven • Children of the Nile Heaven • Stronghold Heaven • Caesar 3 Heaven • Emperor Heaven • Pharaoh Heaven • Zeus Heaven • My Deviations
Support your local Heaven • My Recommendations • EXCO • HALO
I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. — The Dalai Lama
posted 08-15-01 16:45 ET (US)     255 / 295  
Civis Romanus took informal inventory of his remaining mission: Seventy auxiliaries and their Centurian, Marcus Horatius; Maganhard, the barbarian legionaire; Roulv Dania, his slave, pro temp; Titus Tarquintius, the Tribune; and Gaius Accipiter, his friend and advisor. His son Civi rode at his side since the boy's customary riding companions, Septimus and Sin Ying, were leagues behind in their new homes. Radko minded the pack animals as before.

Not given to sentimentality under normal circumstances, parting from Septimus at the Buddhist monastery was unexpectedly difficult. Civis conceded to himself on reflection that this was selfish in part. By revealing to Civis the image of his wife, Apolita, Septimus created both a pleasant experience and also triggered a suppressed yearning. It was this yearning that created the difficulty.

Civis would have been happier if Septi had continued to travel with them so that from time to time Civis could ask him to repeat his spell. But it was not to be so; and because of this Civis suffered the mixed emotions of gladness for Septi having found what he seeked and sadness that maybe he would have no further opportunity to see Apolita until his return many months from now. I will just have to manage this like everything else, he concluded; and so the repression of wandering thought began anew.

Titus mustered the courage to ask the question bothering him ever since his conversation with Marcus. "Commander, we didn't sign a treaty with the Ch'in for trade alone, did we?"

"No Titus, and here is a lesson for a young student of military politics. Our objective was to gain favor with the Ch'in and conclude a treaty that would influence them to not interfere in matters on our Eastern border, regardless of what we do with the Parthians. Guarantees of price and availability of silk were secondary, but a plus if we could arrange it. The real objective was to isolate the Parthians."

"Was Sin Ying part of the plan?" Titus took his chances with this question, he realized. Civis could easily consider it impertinent and accusatory. Indeed, Civis swiveled in his saddle to look at Titus, locking his piercing blue eyes on the young tribune.

Civis answered in a measured tone, "She accompanied us because of Civi. She helped us with my son. I could not expect the Emperor to take such an interest in her. Nonetheless, her presence with us and with the Emperor shall help relations between the Empire, of that I am sure. It is a welcome benefit. But, Titus Tarquintius, I would never permit the child to come to harm under any circumstances. I felt assured she would not while under the Emperor's protection. And she is with her people once more. No, Titus, Sin Ying was not a token in a political game."

"I meant no offense, Commander. I had to ask these questions."

"No offense was taken. You asked an honest question and I gave you an honest answer. Take it and learn. Some day you may face a decision like mine and this experience will help you navigate your way to a proper choice."

"Understood, Commander. But one more question, please."

"Yes, Titus?"

"What of Parthia? What are Caesar's intentions?"

Civis did not hesitate. "To conquer Parthia."

Titus hesitated, surprise lingering in his mind. There was more to this mission than first revealed to him even by Caesar. "Who is to lead the conquest?" the young tribune asked.

Civis, unsmiling, blue eyes steady, turned his head and looked at Titus once more. It took Titus a short second to read the message in that look. "Caesar will permit you to see your wife and daughter first, won't he?"

"I serve Caesar. That is to be seen." Civis turned his head away from Titus and closed his eyes trying to remember the image he saw in the green waters of the bowl shown to him by Septi. Already the details of the image were fading from his memory and the colors were becoming a mix of whites and greys.

posted 08-16-01 02:54 ET (US)     256 / 295  
The small expedition rode on westwards, following the setting sun. To their right lay the high peaks and massive ranges of the Tien Shan, to their left the burning desert the Ch'in called the Takla Makan.

A few times their progress was halted by fierce sandstorms, which whipped the sand about the Romans like vengeful demons, hissing and screaming. Sometimes it seemed there actually were demons inside the storms and one or two of the soldiers were never found again, having for some reason or other wandered off during the storm.

At other times they met trade caravans coming in from the West. They told tales of increased Munghal incursions and heightened tensions in Parthia. Civil war seemed close possibly ripping the country.
Civis and Titus spent many an evening discussing the possible repercussions if this should happen.

Several weeks later the Romans arrived in Kupan, where they could once more, after days of dessication, enjoy the comforts of civilisation and lots of water. For the first time in weeks Civis felt clean again.

They travelled onwards past Kucha and Aksu then reached Kashgar, at the foot of the Pamir mountains. The weather had changed from the stiffling desert heat to rainy cold, with grey skies filled with skudding clouds.
In Kashgar they traded for horses, to replace the few mounts they'd lost. Accipter located a guide to help them cross the mountains and onve more the expedition set off.

Up they went, following the winding trails into the mountains. As they went higher, rain turned to sleet and finally to snow. The guide was beginning to look worried as the snowfall increased and Civis saw him in deep conversation with Accipiter, gesturing wildy. The latter rode back and said:
"We need to hurry, Civis. If this snowfall keeps up we might get caught on this side of the mountain."

Angel Jayhawk
Eyrie • Caesar 4 Heaven • Children of the Nile Heaven • Stronghold Heaven • Caesar 3 Heaven • Emperor Heaven • Pharaoh Heaven • Zeus Heaven • My Deviations
Support your local Heaven • My Recommendations • EXCO • HALO
I believe violence will only increase the cycle of violence. — The Dalai Lama
posted 08-16-01 16:10 ET (US)     257 / 295  
Onward pushed the Romans. Civis drove them forward no matter how much grumbling came from the ranks of the Auxiliaries. Always he reminded them that families and others waited for their return; and "return" meant marching ever onward to the west.

Horses lowered their heads before the driving snow and the men leaned into the icy wind holding their cloaks tightly about their bodies. Now and then a rider slumped forward in his saddle as the oppressive cold drove him into unconsciousness. With help from the others, most recovered, though the expedition never stopped moving forward.

A few failed to recover and slipped into death's grip falling from their saddles into the snow piled below their horses' hooves. A check for signs of life by a companion, and if none, the soldier was left where he fell. There was no time for anything more.

There soon were more horses than soldiers, so when a mount failed its rider, there were more in reserve. Radko mourned the passing of each steed as did the soldier who lost his mount. He was partial to these animals in general, just like the soldiers were partial to their own individual mounts.

They travelled over the highest point in the pass and began their descent into the plains lying below. Gradually the snow changed to sleet and then quickly to rain. Finally, the rain became intermittent and then stopped completely. Only then did Civis call a halt to the forward march of the expedition.

Exhausted men slipped from their saddles and landed on unsteady legs. Some were pale and shivering, caught in the grasp of illness. The camp was setup in much slower than usual fashion, but Civis said nothing about the lack crispness in their movement. How could he? He too suffered from the extremes of the mountain and its weather... as did Civi.

Over the final stretch, Civis carried the boy in his arms to keep him as warm as possible, Civi's horse following behind tethered to Civis' mount. Even so, Civis could feel his son shivering occasionally despite his best efforts at keeping him warm. Now he lay the boy down on his sleeping cot in his tent. He covered him and walked outside finding Gaius there waiting for him.

"Gaius, I can do no more for him..." was all Civis could muster up the strength to say. Accipiter understood, his green eyes looking first at Civis and then at the opening in the tent where Civi lay. As he entered the tent, Accipiter lowered his head, for the entrance was not designed to accept a man of Accipiter's unusual heighth, but to accept a man more like Civis' moderate heighth.

Civis watch him enter. What can be done will be done, he knew. Following a cursory look at the camp and its organization, Civis then found his own tent ready and waiting. He pulled aside the flap, entered it and located his sleeping cot. He neither sat nor lie on the lightweight sleeping platform, but more accurately collapsed on its surface. His last thought for the moment was a quick prayer to the gods for Civi and the survivors of his expedition. For the first time he included a brief word to the god of Roulv Dania, whatever that might be.

Civis left nothing to chance.


The Muhnguls saddled their horses. It was to be a raiding day. There was a caravan to be had. And someone brought word of a small party of soldiers dressed strangely like the men who came from the west many months ago. This time they were coming from the east and would likely meet with the caravan on the Silk Road. Could it be the same soldiers from before now returning? They had to know.

Among the black haired Muhnguls one unusual looking individual stood out. His hair was blond, his eyes were round and his face was pale. The Muhnguls accepted him because he had saved the life of their Khan. But he was not really one of them. Nonetheless, the pale faced man mounted his horse with the others and rode out onto the plains bearing the same murderous intentions as the others. Afterall, his father was dead and his brother was missing from a battle fought long ago with barbarians on Roma's frontier. Should he die among the Muhnguls, it wouldn't matter. He was a dead man already who simply rode with them until the gods decided the time of his taking.

posted 08-16-01 21:30 ET (US)     258 / 295  

A solitary figure wrapped his cloak about his body and pulled down a section of cloth wrapped around his head so that his face was hidden. He approached the horse trader.

"Who were those men seeking horses?"

"Strangers, that's all I know. We get lots of strangers through here."

"Is there a way to help you tell the difference?"

"I'm a horse trader... a businessman... not an oracle."

The robed figure reached into the folds of his wrappings and drew out a pouch. He freed two Parthian coins from within and handed them to the Kashgarite. "Will this help your business?" The horse trader looked at the coins, testing their weight and feel. They seemed legitimate enough.

"Romans... Heading west to Parthia and to Tyre. They wanted horses strong enough to make the trip and young enough to be resold there."

"Who leads them?" hissed the mostly hidden man.

"I heard one of them say something about a Commander named Romanus."

"Do they travel the Silk Road to the west?"

"Yes. And that is all I know, coins or no coins."

The robed man stepped backwards still facing the horse trader. There were still a few coins in his pouch and he did not trust the Kashgarite any more than he trusted the Parthians, his former employers. For he was entirely on his own and the money in his pouch was all that remained of his worldly wealth, dreams and pride. Vologezes had abandoned him after his failures and he was now cursed in two lands, Parthia and the Empire of Roma. And it was that cursed Romanus that was the cause of it all.

Now alone and free of the horse trader's prying eyes, he took stock of his situation: a sturdy mount, a reliable pack horse, adequate supplies, sufficient weapons. He could make the difficult mountain pass on his own. Romanus will have to stop in Parthia to meet with Vologezes one last time. Then would come his opportunity to advance ahead of the Roman; and on the road between Parthia and Tyre or in Tyre itself, he would finish the job he set out to do.

The horse moved nervously as the tall Roman put his weight on the mounting stirrup and seated himself on the saddle. The man checked the tethers of the pack horse to make sure they were secure. Then the Roman put heel to his horse's side and began the journey that would trace the path of Romanus and his expedition. He was only a day or two behind them, just where Crassus wanted to be for the moment.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-16-2001 @ 09:59 PM).]

posted 08-17-01 14:47 ET (US)     259 / 295  

The next day after nothing the condition of everyone Civis decided to move further down the valley and camp for a few days at a stream. The travel over the mountains had taken it's toll on the men. Further 7 men had died so there were now 63 left of the original 100 auxiliaries. Several of them were suffering from frostbites and/or had fewer. Not to mention young Civi laying in his tent shifting from shivering of cold and the next moment blushing from fewer.

They set up the camp at an oxbow where the stream was shallow. Using some of the excess tents they build a steamhouse where the ones with frostbites could treat their hurting limbs and faces. In the center of the steamhouse was a 'bathtub' made up by a hole in the ground covered with a tent and then filled with water. For heating the water they used rocks heated in a fire.

After giving a hand at setting up the steamhouse Dania went to Civis's tent.

'Master Civis. Asking for permission to enter'

'Come on in, Dania. Is everything in order?'

'Yes, Master Civis. Everything is as good as it can be. I have had a closer look at our supplies and I think it would be good for everyone if we could get some fresh meat instead of the dried. If you allow it, I'll go hunting taking with me one of the packanimals for carrying what I might hunt down. There seems to be plenty of game around here.'

'Sounds like a good idea Dania.' Having the Muhnguls in mind he added: 'If you see or meets anything strange out there, return to the camp. Don't start scouting on your own'

Slightly more reddish in the face Dania answered: 'Yes, Master Civis. I'll remember' with a bow he backed out of the tent and went to the horse he already had waiting outside the tent.

'Pheww' Dania thought by himself, 'he agreed'

He mounted the horse and started out in the wilderness making up the foot of the mountains...

posted 08-17-01 20:17 ET (US)     260 / 295  
The first thing Civis did each day was check on Civi. As usual, Accipiter had seen to the boy's wellbeing and applied just the right "touch" to place the youngster firmly on the road to recovery. Civi wasn't well yet, but it would be only a matter of time before he was.

Rested now, Civis was more actively involved in checking on the condition of the camp. Dania had spoken truthfully (as always). The camp was in as good a condition as could be expected. Yes, the possibility of fresh venison would be welcome by all. Civis saw his slave riding towards the foothills and wished him a safe hunt and quick return.

Scouting... Yes, he had admonished Dania not to go scouting on his own. Nonetheless, he knew the slave would keep his eyes and ears alert for any sign of danger to himself or the camp. But it was important that they take the precaution of a formal scouting of the road ahead. He saw his Tribune and Centurian talking a few paces to the left. Civis quickened his pace and joined them.

"Greetings, Titus and Marcus," Civis began. "We will be travelling to the west soon and need to scout the territory between here and Samarkand. I would like for the two of you to select three of the most healthy auxiliaries and lead a scouting party towards the west. You might want to bring Maganhard with you. Fan out in pairs to the southwest, west and northwest. Use three days time to scout and return." Civis gestured to the camp. "Many of the men will need the time to rest and recover, so I expect we would not be advancing until then anyway. Leave as soon as you can. Take no chances and come back in one piece. Good luck, Romans." It was clear to Titus and Marcus what must be done... and so they carried out their orders.


Dania hid himself behind a boulder positioned downwind from the prey he stalked. The antelope-like creature was busy nibbling on some of the sparse grass that covered the area like a patchwork. He slowly placed an arrow in his Parthian bow and prepared to launch it at the grazing beast.

Just to check distance and windage, Dania elevated his head ever so slightly so as to focus his keen eye on his target, but yet not give his presence away. Too late... he was seen; but not by the beast.

A man wrapped in cloth, who had just crossed the mountains from Kashgar, stood behind a broadly trunked tree watching the slave work his bow. He stood quietly in his place hidden from Dania's view and made no move to intervene. Neither Dania nor his prey knew the other man was there. Crassus was satisfied that he was unseen and unnoticed. It was what he wanted at the moment.

posted 08-18-01 05:50 ET (US)     261 / 295  
With a steady hand Dania let the arrow go. The animal raised it's head as it heard the sound of the flying arrow and made ready for running to safety -too late. The arrow hit the animal which made a jump right up in the air, directly through the heart and killed it on the spot.

From his hidingplace Crassus followed how Dania shot the animal. It was pure luck he had stumbled over this officious slave of Civis. Crassus's right hand sought for his knife but stopped himself in the move -not now, later when he had taken care of Civis. Suddenly he saw Dania stop on his way to the dead animal and begin turning around. Had this stupid and incompetent slave seen him? He withdrew a bit more and took forth the knife -just in case. No, the slave had just lost his knife at the boulder he had been hiding behind. As Crassus saw Dania begin break open the animal he slowly withdrew from the tree he was hiding behind and found a better place at a further distance from where he more safely could keep an eye on the slave without being seen himself. That way it would be a lot more easy to find where the Romans had their camp.

With fast hands Dania prepared the animal for transporting it. He had taken out all innards and cut off the lowest part of the legs for making the animal as light as possible -no need to carry parts of the animal they wouldn't eat anyway. Then he took it on his back and walked down to the tree where he had left the horse.

A short time later he continued the imaginary circle he was following in a good distance around the camp, riding in circles for covering as big an area as possible. In a small valley he found the remnants of a camp where several, maybe up to 100 people had settled for a night or two. Carefully he examined the camp and the surroundings. Then he got up on his horse again and continued his tour.

Early in the evening Dania returned to the camp and rode directly up to Civis's tent where he met Radko on the way out.

"Welcome back Dania. How did your hunt go?"

"Thanks Master Radko. I've got a few antelopes I think it is, and then I got a strange looking deer, it is pink."

"Pink? Are you making jokes with me?"

"No Master, it is pink, or more correct is very reddish in the color. Well, I better report to Master Civis, I'll come help you with the animals afterwards"

Dania scratched the tent and was given permission to enter.

Civis was sitting at his table making notes while sipping of a goplet of wine diluted with water.

"Well, did your hunt succeed?" Civis asked slightly distracted by his writing.

"Yes Master, we now have fresh meat for the next two days. I also found signs that the Muhnguls are in the neighbourhood, or at least have been. Southwest from here in a small valley I found the remnants of a camp. Maybe 100 men but not more, they left about two days ago and went further southwards."

"Hmmm, Muhnguls you say?"

"Yes Master. I found this in the camp...Dania placed a broken arrow on the table...I also found some thrownaway cloth that looks Muhngul."

"Thanks Dania, anything else?"

"Yes Master. There is someone hiding out there keeping an eye on the camp. He has been following me all the day but I've not been able to get a sight of him. He is wearing Parthian shoes but is too heavy to be Parthian."

"Thanks Dania, that was all. You may go now." Civis said with a thoughtfull expression on his face.

posted 08-18-01 18:13 ET (US)     262 / 295  
Crassus skirted the Roman encampment with measured steps, leading his two animals behind him. Night had fallen and on the plains, on a moonless night, sentries would see little unless directly in front of their eyes and lit with torches. Crassus took advantage of this and moved ahead of the encampment to find an opportune site between there and Tyre to do what he planned.

Pleasant words came Dania's way from the soldiers who were grateful for the change in menu. Cooks among the soldiers revelled in the opportunity to serve up a plate of fire roasted venison in place of the dried meats they had brought with them from the land of the Ch'in. And this grain called rice had its merits, but easily bored the Roman pallate.

Meanwhile, the scouts sent by Civis were actively engaged in fulfilling their mission...

posted 08-20-01 05:31 ET (US)     263 / 295  
Titus and Marcus acted upon their Commanders orders and with the handpicked auxilaries Marcus and one legionaire headed northwest. Maganhard and another traveled to the west and Titus and the final auxilary searched southwest.
They had packed exactly three days worth of supplies as the encampments own supply was getting to be minimal.

Each party had scouted in their assigned direction with little or no discovery or occurances and at the midway point had started their return to the main camp. All but one of the parties would find its ride back as easy as the first part.............

"Massala, make sure the horses are well watered", commanded Titus not wanting to have them die of thirst on the return trip. Nor themselves for that matter and he told the auxilary to make sure the water bags were full.

They mounted the horses and proceeded to head in a northeasterly direction. They followed a well worn passage that had them under craggy rock and sand outcroppings which shaded them from the days heat. This area was dry and sparse of vegetation and the sooner Titus got away from here the better he knew he would feel. The path started to head up and over the next hill and the two scouts started to make the climb. As they reached midway up both pulled back on their mounts reins and looked at each other.

"Did you hear that?", Massala quietly said to Titus.

" Yes!",answered Titus. "Voices,but they don't seem to be getting louder so its not moving towards us."

"Stay here",Titus said to the legionaire as he had dismounted and was headed up the passage on foot.

At the top Titus crawled to an advantage point and looking down saw that the passage they were riding on descended into a small gorge. The gorge had a larger clearing a short distance and there encamped and fearing no one were a small party of Muhnguls. They seemed content to drink and discover what kind of treasures they had gained in the days pillaging of a caravan.

Titus knew it would be impossible to go through the gorge without being spotted and to back track and try and find a another way could take hours. Except....maybe, just maybe they might be able to follow the ridgeway above the gorge.It was rocky with unstable areas and what was worst was they would have to wait for cover of darkness. It was their only chance!

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 08-24-2001 @ 05:41 AM).]

posted 08-20-01 15:35 ET (US)     264 / 295  
That darkness soon came as they had started back in the late afternoon. Titus urged his mount up the path that led to the edge of the gorge. Behind him Massala did the same Their approach was quiet and slow as to not alert the band below them. Just below the top of the ridge a slightly worn path to the right seemed to lead to the ridge edge. The two riders followed it as closely as possible as the only light available was the three quarter moon that rested above in a clear night.

The path narrowed as it approached rockier terrain and soon disappeared all together at the beginning of yet another rocky outcropping.

Titus looked down and saw they were almost to a point just above the encampment below. The light from their fire was visible and showed the covered and sleeping bodies of its tenants. Titus turned to Massala and motioned to dismount. They would have to lead their mounts from here till they reached wider ground. Massala nodded in compliance.

Both holding the reins of their mounts continued. They would at times have to pull them to get across from one rock to the next. Titus' legs ached as his climb exerted every muscle. Their labored breathing became increasing as with each step the encampment moved ever so slowly by them. "One more step. One more step." Titus silently repeated to himself. And looking back at his partner he could see the same exhaustion and look of anxiety on Massala's sweating face. At one point loose rocks were dislodged and fell. Both Titus and Massala stopped their movement and their hearts seemed to stop also. Staring down at the camp they expected to see them stirring but the nights drink must have placed them in a state of unwakable sleep. The riders continued.

As the two finally got past the camp below, the rocks became less and the ground flatter. Once again a very narrow path which looked more like something small animals used became visible in the night light. Titus motioned to Massala to mount their horses and Massala put his foot into the he lifted himself onto the horses back the shaled rock beneath the horses back hooves dislodged and the horse began to loose its footing. It voiced its concern and fright and reared up continueing to bellow out from fright nearly sending rider and horse over the edge of the clift. Finally the footing became steady and Massala gaining control started his mount along the path.

But it was not without awakening the party below who throwing off their blankets and looking up at the noise above them could see no one, yet were urged to seek the source. Titus saw this and knew their only recourse was to get as much time and space between them and the Muhnguls. With that he looked at Massala and kicking his horse's side urged their already tired animals at a faster pace.

Below the party started to mount their horses and were galloping to the other end of the gorge. The path Titus was on finally widened and the top of the ridge opened up into a small flat plain. In the distance with as much as light would permit he saw a small stream that stretched north and south. Sending his mount with Massala following at a gallop reached the stream and headed north staying in the waters path to hide the hoof prints.

Meanwhile the the Muhnguls had reached the top of the ridge and were riding from one end to the other to discover the noise source. Finding horse prints they followed them and coming to the streams edge and crossing over found the prints to disappear. They talked to themselves as which way to go but decided because of the loss of light and not enough of them to split the party it would not be worthwhile to pursue it...........

Titus and Massala after continuing at a gallup up the stream finally settled down to a trot and finding a place to hide and yet observe they stopped. The horses frothed with sweat but eased into quiet as the riders pulled the water bags and pouring it over their heated and sweating heads drank long and much of it until sleep finally overtook them both. At first light they mounted again and headed back to their camp.........

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 08-24-2001 @ 05:44 AM).]

posted 08-21-01 15:50 ET (US)     265 / 295  
Titus suddenly reined in his horse and signaled to Massala to do the same. A noise... Hoofs... Two riders... Titus and Massala's free hands went to their gladii. Dim nightlight illuminated the faces of the two riders who approached. Titus didn't realize he was holding his breath until recognition and ensuing relief enabled him to let it out.

It was Maganhard and an auxiliary.

"You gave us something of a fright, Maganhard," said Titus. "We didn't know what was coming towards us out of the night."

The barbarian Roman grunted. "Night hasn't been a friend to me of late," replied Maganhard. "We weren't sure of you either. There are Muhnguls on and about this land. Some bands are small, some large. We didn't know until the moment we saw you if you were friends or not; but we haven't seen Muhnguls at night so we took a chance. We were lucky. There's a caravan... or what's left of a caravan down the road. They weren't very lucky this day."

Titus frowned. "We ran into the Muhnguls who visited the caravan. Not a large group... Not very friendly either." Then Titus asked the question on all four of their minds. "Heard or seen anything of Marcus yet?"

"Nothing at all. Should we look for them?" said Maganhard.

"No. If they go missing it shall serve as a warning to us about the northwest. But if their troubles are like ours have been, they may only be delayed. Our orders are to scout and return and take no more than three days time. We follow our orders."

Maganhard nodded in agreement. It was important for the information to get to the encampment. The messengers themselves were expendable. Every Roman soldier knew this. The four Romans urged their mounts forward towards the east and their encampment.

Meanwhile, northwest of the Silk Road...

posted 08-24-01 05:07 ET (US)     266 / 295  
Marcus pulled on the reins of his mount and came to a halt. The days travel had been long and the sun was taking its toll on both he and the auxilary.

"We'll rest here for a moment, Decimus." Marcus addressed the legionaire.

"Should I pull the water bag, sir?" Decimus getting off his mount to give the blood in his legs a chance to circulate and to give his backside a rest also.

"That's fine. But not too much.

Decimus took the bag from his mount and offered it to Marcus who told the auxiliary to drink first. When finished he then handed it to the Centurion whose throat was soothed by the liguid.

"Decimus, I will be ever so glad to get back to known civilization. I've certainly had enough of undiscovered land to last a lifetime."

Decimus replied without hesitation," It certainly has been a very interesting trip, Commander."

Taking one more drink each mounted their horses and once again headed back in the direction of their main encampment.

Marcus looked about the terrain they were traversing. It was not as sandy as the west or southwest areas and he was glad to have been given the northwest for just that reason.But this land was also not so forgiving. It was a combination of desert and arid plain. It did support vegetation and trees but the soil was not rich in minerals. It had a more sandy content which allowed water to sink through it like a sieve and an occasional creek bed would sprout, sometimes with water other times without.

"Commander, look ahead to the right." shouted Decimus breaking Marcus' concentration.

Marcus straining to look ahead through spotted trees and shrubs saw the lone hut and fences. Straining even more he could swear he saw.........yes he was sure.....goats.

Both riders cautiously moved their horses closer. All the while searching the nearby area for any sign of hostile activity. One hand on the reins for a quick getaway and the other hand on their gladii. They arrived at the main hut and were still searching the area when a figure appeared in the doorway and just to its right another but smaller one stood.

The taller of the two rose from the shadows and stepped into the sunlight. His features were similiar to the Ch'in but the attire he wore was more of the Muhngul style they had been witnessed to at a distance.

With his arms stretched out and his hands moving as if to brush some invisible dust away the man frantically shouted,"What are you doing here foreignors? Go away quickly while you still can. They may return any time!"

"We wish you no harm. Maybe only a chance to rest in the shade of your hut and possibly some information." Marcus being civil and as cordial as he felt he needed to calm the man down. But the elder Muhngul was not very receptive.

"You cannot stay here I say. You will bring the rath of my brethren to my humble house." The elder face was turning red from his attempts to move the strangers on.

Once again trying to calm the man down and assure him they meant no harm,"I only ask for a short shaded rest, perhaps a drink and some information."

This time the elder put his arms down and looking around finally agreed to allow them to enter his home and rest.

Marcus nodded his gratitude to the older man as he stepped through the door way into the hut. The smaller figure turned out to be the man's grandson.

The man offer each rider a cup of freshly drawn well water. The liguid was smooth and cool as it ran down their throats and settled in empty stomachs. Their supplies had finished that morning and hunger was approaching. It was with no hesitation that they ate also the bread substance that was offered them on the small table.

Marcus asked the older man why it was that he had been able to survive his own peoples destructive way and his land, goats and grandson were all still here.

"Several are in my debt, you see." The old man plainly and with a slight smile said.

"Why is that?" replied Marcus.

"A while back several of the raiding Muhnguls encountered a large Ch'in force and their wounds were plentiful. They stopped here in their retreat and with use of special herbs I was able to get them on their feet and moving again. There was one in particular who was different from the others. Seldom do you see a white male and with blonde hair ride with this group. But he was especially thankful for my help and made the others promise to leave us alone."

"You and your grandson were very lucky indeed," Decimus said.

"Yes, you are quite right," replied the old man. "But this stranger also said he wished his brother had been able to be saved as he was during such a battle."

"I asked the stranger what his brother's name was just for conversation sake. Let's see what did he say it was.....hmmmm.....Oh! Yes, now I remember...Maganhard."

Marcus began to choke on the water he was drinking while Decimus' mouth dropped open. Both turned and looked at each other in wide eyed surprise.

"Your sure that's the name?" Marcus quickly said.

"Yes I'm positve. Why?"

Marcus asked one more question," Does this stranger still ride with the horde?"

"Yes, but with a smaller group more to the south of here. But he regularly visits here and I am expecting them any day now. That's why you must go now."

The riders took the old man's advice and with thanks mounted their horses and once again headed for the camp. They both were unable to stop the conversation that followed them to near sighting of the camp. Their scouting trip was not without a discovery after all..............

[This message has been edited by Micah Aragorn (edited 08-24-2001 @ 12:03 PM).]

posted 08-24-01 15:35 ET (US)     267 / 295  
There had been another argument, another challenge and another fight. A man lay dead, a sword wound oozing blood through the opening in his leather jerkin. Over him stood a pale skinned, blonde haired warrior. He looked about the camp as if to say, which one of you next. The others read the message in his eyes and withdrew to grumble among themselves. Lifesaver of the Khan or not, the foreigner among them was not wanted or welcome. The dead Muhngul had been so bold as to say so, insulting the foreigner. The Muhngul had now joined his ancestors.

This is not good, concluded the blonde barbarian. Out here in the middle of nowhere these men might easily fall upon him as a group; murder him in the middle of the night; bury him and claim an enemy had despatched him. It was only the threat of his sword hand and a weakening fear of the Khan that kept them at bay for the moment.

The blonde warrior began to consider what steps he should take. Maybe it was time to renew his wanderings. He wondered what lay farther to the east. He made his decision.


Titus entered the Roman encampment, with Maganhard and the two auxiliaries closely following. Titus relieved the two horse soldiers permitting them to return to their tents and refresh. He and Maganhard sought out Civis.

"Muhngul war parties scattered about the countryside. Some very small, some large. None the size of our expedition. We found a caravan. Destroyed. Goods were carried off, the camels were taken or slaughtered. Travelers were left where they fell. We could not tell if any travelers were taken by the Muhnguls, though we did see women's goods in bags a woman might carry. There were no women to be found among the dead."

Civis listened intently forming the questions he wanted to ask. "What of Marcus?"

"We have not seen him. We tarried briefly waiting for him, but left in order to comply with your order to return in three days." Titus looked down at his feet uncomfortable with having to report no contact with Marcus. He looked up again, but saw no condemnation in Civis' eyes.

"You acted correctly, Tribune. Marcus will return to us... if he is at all able. Which direction do you consider safest?"

Titus and Maganhard looked at each other. "None to the southwest or along the Silk Road, I fear," answered Titus. "Each is fraught with danger, the greatest danger being that the Muhnguls might join war parties and seek us out so collected. We could be terribly outnumbered in any resulting engagement."

"Hmmm, so we might. What about the northwest?" Civis received a silent stare from the two Romans. "Of course, how could you know. I think we must give Marcus a chance to appear before we decide. The men are nearly ready to renew travel, and we should not wait here too long and risk discovery. We have been fortunate so far... Marcus. Where is Marcus? I believe he carries the answer we need." Titus and Maganhard could do nothing else but agree.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-24-2001 @ 03:40 PM).]

posted 08-27-01 16:10 ET (US)     268 / 295  
The blonde barbarian decided to leave in broad daylight so that there would be no question among the Muhnguls that he was indeed quitting their ranks. He knew this would sever ties with them, but he didn't care. Nor apparently did the Muhnguls, for they paid no attention to him as he loaded his horse with his few belongings and headed towards the east. In all of their minds, the next time they would meet it would be as enemies, nothing more and nothing less.


The Roman camp was alive with activity. Only moments before, Civis Romanus had ordered that the camp be packed and ready to move. Maganhard had already begun to put his things in order. Mired in indecision, he stared at Roulv Dania. Should he? Would it be the right thing to do?

Again that night dreams had disturbed the burly Romanized barbarian. This time it was not his father but one of the gods he was taught about when only a child. In his dream he found himself beating on the great gate to the god's northern fortress until finally a booming voice with a deep, yet feminine timber replied.

"W H A T D O Y O U W A N T M O R T A L ?" bellowed the voice.

"Entrance... to join my father and my brother!" yelled back Maganhard as loudly as he could.

"T H E O N E I S H E R E... T H E O T H E R I S N O T."

"Which one is here?"

"T H E F A T H E R..."

"Then where is my brother?!?"

"H E I S N O T H E R E."

"Where is he? I seek him, Holle!"

"S E E K H I M E L S E W H E R E... H E I S N O T A M O N G T H O S E W H O A R E H E R E."

Maganhard opened his mouth to ask another question when the gate opened and a great cloud of black birds flew out circled and descended upon him. He drew out his sword but could not use it, the birds being so thick about him. It was then that he awakened, bathed in perspiration, aware too that he had been flailing his arms and shouting. Roulv Dania was standing over him, attempting to awaken the soldier while avoiding the man's muscular arms as they struck at the air above them. Finally the barbarian was awake and calm.

Just before Dania left the man's tent he said, "What weighs so heavily on your mind need not be carried by you alone. To tell another of the burden might make the burden easier to bear. I study dreams, Maganhard. I can help."

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-27-2001 @ 08:38 PM).]

posted 08-27-01 21:08 ET (US)     269 / 295  
Marcus' horse was in full gallop. THWISSSHHH! THWISSSHHH! Arrows that missed slipped by his ears on their way to the floor of the plains. He rode with one hand on his reins and the other on his shield, holding it in place protecting his back. TWISSSHHH! THUNK! Their aim was better now. That one hit his shield.

He galloped alone. The auxiliary that had been his companion on this scouting mission lay a distance back with an arrow through his neck. The two Muhnguls that had fallen upon him had surprised them both from behind a rise in the land. His companion had fallen a short instant later with no chance to defend himself. The two Muhnguls were pursuing him across the plain.

Marcus galloped for his life towards the east, across the plain and to the only place of safety he knew, the camp of his fellow Romans. His horse was already slowing... Its breathing was increasingly labored... Its sides were beginning to lather. When the horse fell, so would Marcus. Then there would be nothing between himself and the Muhnguls who pursued him.

He could hear their horses' hoofbeats as the Muhnguls drove their mounts ever closer to Marcus' tiring steed. No more arrows now. Their quivers were empty or they had given up trying to penetrate the shield. Yes, louder still... One horse's galloping hooves... then the others... Then a third?

CLANG! Metal on metal! Sword against sword! The hoofbeats! Stopped! No sounds of pursuit! More metal striking metal... Then no sounds at all. Marcus thought briefly, then halted his horse. He gently turned the horse around so that he could see what had become of his pursuers.
There were none.

In the distance two bodies lay on the ground, the horses they once rode were running loose in opposite directions. One rider remained mounted... a third rider unseen before now. The rider resheathed his sword, not the sword of a Muhngul, but the gladius of a Roman. He was dressed in the Muhngul fashion, but the saddle on his horse was Roman. All of these things Marcus could make out as the unknown rider slowly, deliberately guided his horse towards Marcus. On instinct alone, the Roman Centurian held his ground, neither advancing nor retreating.

A safe distance away the stranger halted and raised his right hand. It was meant as a peaceful gesture. "You are Roman?" said the stranger in an odd dialect of Latin that had overtones similar to Maganhard's accent.

"Yes, stranger," replied Marcus, his hand close but not gripping his own sword.

"How came you to be here, Roman?" The stranger's words were delivered calmly, without threat.

"I ride with other Romans, stranger. Who are you?"

"Someone who knows Romans, Centurian." And as he said this, he removed his Muhngul headgear revealing long locks of brilliant blonde hair.

This was no Muhngul, concluded Marcus; but was he a friend? Marcus decided to take the chance and guided his horse forward to meet the blonde stranger halfway.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-27-2001 @ 09:17 PM).]

posted 08-27-01 23:44 ET (US)     270 / 295  
In the camp Maganhard sat there looking at Dania and wandered....after several moments of indecision as they both staired at each other Maganhard realized he had to tell someone and a Roman would not understand.

"Dania" he started..."I..I have been haunted my dreams. In my dream I keep see my dead brother...I see him alive and living among and fighting with strangers."

"DO you know that your brother is dead." interjected Dania.

Maganhard stopped and stared and Dania for a minute with a dumbfound look on his face. The thought had never occurred to him. "Well, I never did find the body but I was the only survivor of our legions fight with the enemy. I had to assume that he died along with anyone else. They spared no one. I only escaped though an accident of fate. I should have died there too."

"Maybe the answer is that your bother is not dead." commented Dania. He was trying not to let himself get in the way. He knew everything had a purpose, even if he did not understand it at the moment. 'God, don't let me get in the way of what you want to accomplish' he silently prayed.

Maganhard reached out and started shaking Dania. "That is what I fear Dania. Don't you understand!"

A shocked Dania could only stare at the distraught Visigoth. "Maganhard, I find it hard to think when you are holding me off the ground." he finally was able to get out.

Sure enough the upset Maganhard had stood up and was holding the shorter Dania off the ground. An embarrassed Maganhard apologetically sat Dania down.

After a few second Maganhard continued. "If he is alive I fear he is fighting with the enemies of Rome." He waited for a minute waiting to see if Dania would understand.


A shocked Dania could only look in horror at Maganhard and his last statement. This was one thing he was not expecting to here and all he could say is.” Why?"

A frustrated Maganhard just shook his head...

After an eternal pause he continued. "I guess you do not understand but for us Visigoths the most sacred oath is the one we make to our war band leader. It transcends even family relationships. If my brother is fighting for an enemy and I face him as a warrior of Rome I will have to kill him.” With that he sat back down and rested his head in his hands.

The burden of what was just reveled weighted heavy on Dania. He stood looking at the tired Visigoth praying for the works to say.

posted 08-28-01 06:40 ET (US)     271 / 295  
While Dania stood there looking at Maganhard shocked at the words and praying for help, the world around him began to change. The sounds became distant like they came from the opposite side of a valley and yet the sounds were very close.

The soldiers busy packing their tents and personal belongings were suddenly like a dream and at the same time nothing had changed. Dania almost fell when one of the horses dragged by a soldier got nervouse and started walking sideways but he didn't really noticed that it happened and that Maganhard took him at his arm and guided him to a more safe spot.

"Watch out Dania, you almost got kicked down by a horse -are you all right, you look strange, did you get hurt?"

"What? No I'm fine, nothing happened it's just that...."

"That what?"

"It's strange, people are busy around us shouting and bustling....oouuuchhh" Dania fell down on his knees and started shaking all over.

"Are you sure you are all right? I'll try find Radko so he can help you..." Maganhard said while looking around for the stablemaster.

"Nnngghh...'no, don't. I'm all right'....there is a stranger riding on a horse.....he saves someone...the other one is -is dead -I think. The saved one is also riding on a horse -he stops and turns around '-I know that man but who is it...can't see clearly, see his face'...they ride towards each other...the stranger has long yellow hair...the stranger looks like.....looks like you, he is your brother....he believes you are dead...he saves an old man from death...long ago...lots of fighting...blood, screams.....darkness and fear family.....nnoooooooooooooo" With a terrified look on his face Dania tipped forwards face down on the ground and started crying...

[This message has been edited by Proconsul Creaticus Dania (edited 08-28-2001 @ 04:24 PM).]

posted 08-28-01 22:21 ET (US)     272 / 295  
Soothingly, refreshingly cool water trickled down Roulv Dania's throat returning him to his senses. He felt an odd tickling sensation on his cheeks. He reached up only to find that dust from the plains had mixed with moisture from his eyes and had caked there. He brushed it away knowing it was embarrassingly real and unwanted.

Seeing that the slave had regained consciousness, Radko began to seal the goatskin water bag and Maganhard elevated Dania to a full, upright sitting position. The slave looked sheepishly from Radko to Maganhard, but he saw no signs of disapproval. Nonetheless he felt compelled to say, "I... I made a fool of myself, didn't I? Some interpreter of dreams, I am."

Maganhard smiled. "You are only the fool in so far as you have no idea of the fair exchange we just made."

"What are you speaking about, Maganhard? We made no such exchange." Dania looked at the barbarian incredulously.
Radko shook his head, rose and returned to his chores among the pack animals and supplies. Maganhard continued to smile. "We exchanged fairly indeed. You took away and bore my grief, replacing it with your hope. You made me see something in my dreams I refused to accept... That my brother may yet be alive and not necessarily bound to someone who might be an enemy. I assumed the worst. You showed me what such thinking could cause."

"I did that? All I tried to do was... Well, I wanted to..." Dania's expression remained puzzled. "I guess whatever I did helped... whatever it was." Dania said a quick and silent prayer of thanks for not having made matters worse for Maganhard.

Meanwhile, Roman sentries on the western side of the camp came to full alert at first sight of the legless images approaching the camp a distance away. Legless? No... It was only the heat of the plains rising upwards that distorted the approaching images into looking like riders on horses without legs.

One of the riders seemed familiar the closer he came to the camp. He looked Roman, at least his crimson and bronze uniform seemed to indicate he was Roman; but the other was not. Or... Was he? The horse and his clothes seemed from this part of the world, but his saddle was Roman. The sentry remembered the last time he saw clothes such as these. Muhngul. Yet why would a Muhngul ride a Roman saddle?

The other man, the Roman, he was closer now. Recognition!The sentry bellowed from the perimeter. "RIDERS FROM THE WEST! CALL THE COMMANDER! IT'S CENTURION MARCUS AND A MUHNGUL!"

Sandaled feet raced to Civis' tent with the news of Marcus' return. Dania was on his feet now, a little wobbly, but able to walk. Maganhard stayed at his side. Civis ran by without noticing his two companions. It was Accipiter who joined Dania and Maganhard as they made their way to the expected point of Marcus' return.

Maganhard sensed it even before he could see the Muhngul who rode with Marcus. A change affected his body, as if a thousand worms suddenly hatched in his gut and were making their way through his chest to his throat and into his shoulders and head. Veins stood out on his neck as adrenalin pumped throughout. Here and now he sensed a 'nexus' at a time and in a place unexpected.

Maganhard looked at Dania who seemed absorbed by the goings on and oblivious to the barbarian's plight. Next he looked at Accipiter, but the tall man looked elsewhere hiding his green eyes with their subtly sparkling gold highlights. So Maganhard looked ahead to see what could be seen.

It was indeed Marcus... and another, a Muhngul. He stared closer at the facial features of the Muhngul. Not at all like the other Muhnguls he'd seen earlier that week. In fact, the stranger didn't seem Muhngul at all. Maganhard stared even harder, focussed on nothing else until a voice nearby said something to interrupt his concentration.

The soothing, calming voice of Accipter broke in with these simple words, "There is a reason for everything... Prepare yourself, Maganhard." The barbarian looked at Accipter, puzzlement registering on his face. Then he turned his head back to study the stranger once more.

It was then the stranger removed his helmet to reveal his face and all of its features...

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 08-28-2001 @ 10:33 PM).]

posted 09-04-01 16:14 ET (US)     273 / 295  
Crassus knew his advantage. Travelling by himself, he could cover leagues at a pace faster than Civis and his expedition. His only limitation was his animals' and his own personal endurance. He was careful not to strain either. Lose the lives of your animals in the barren plains of the east, he knew, and your own life would be next.

So when he caught up with a caravan that had safely made the passage through the lands of the Muhngul and seemed willing to accept his company, he took immediate advantage. He became "The Stranger" so far as the disinterested caravan master and his camel drivers were concerned; but in the eyes of the beautiful Parthian who rode in the silk enclosed compartment above a particularly large swaying camel, he became the focus of her intense curiousity.

The woman was dark complexioned, late in her second decade of life, of age and in preparation for a marriage arranged by her father. She was returning now from a pilgrimage to the east, a requirement of her preparation. The trip would have been enjoyable except for the fact she loathed the man to whom she had been pledged. He was dull, unattractive and at 27 years of age, in her estimation, ancient.

Why couldn't it have been one of those wonderfully enticing boys who practiced swordsmanship in the yard of the villa near hers? Or that interesting Captain who visited her father one day, or... Hmmm. Or maybe that new, rugged looking man. The Stranger they call him; the mysterious foreigner from the east, who doesn't look like he's from the east at all. She couldn't resist.

She reached for the silk curtain that filtered out the noonday sun and with her bejeweled left hand pulled it back just enough to be able to see the robed stranger. He didn't seem to notice her spying and so she stared at the man, relentlessly absorbing every spot of detail her eyes could find.

Then, as if sensing the focus of her eyes, the Stranger turned his head and looked full into her face. The woman saw in the Stranger's eyes something heretofore no others in the caravan had seen... The fires of hell and an intention to see the flames spread. She involuntarily had a sudden sharp intake of breath and hurriedly closed the silk curtain. Oh my... Oh my... was all she could think. This is a dangerous man with dangerous ways!

Her heart beat rapidly... Her breathing kept pace. The obsession that clawed at her being now blossomed and took over her mind and body all at once...

The Stranger smiled to himself. Pretty girl... Maybe foolish... There are many leagues to go... There is sufficient time.


In the Roman camp:

Maganhard stared at the blonde stranger. I know this man, he thought. But how? When? Maganhard took one deliberate step forward, then another, and another. Maganhard nearly broke into a run as he quickly approached the blonde stranger who stood there talking with Civis, Titus and Marcus.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 09-04-2001 @ 04:22 PM).]

posted 09-04-01 22:13 ET (US)     274 / 295  
Maganhard mind was racing. He knew it was his brother but he also was sure it could not be. Who was this stranger? There was no mistaking he was a Visigoth. As he got closer the stranger looked up and looked Maganhard in the eyes.

The shock of it made Maganhard stop in his tracks as well as caused the other Visigoth to drop his helmet had had been holding under his arm. In that moment every thing Maganhard had thought over the past few month vanished. He stood there feeling everything yet nothing. All he thought was true became smoke vanishing before his eyes. His life hand been a lie yet more truthful that any part of his life so far. In the other Visigoths eye mirrored Maganhards confusion.

The only thing he could thing was HOW which he unknowingly spoke out loud.

“I wish I knew,” remark the Visigoth and in that moment Maganhard knew it truly was his brother, Altanard. He wanted to reach out and embrace him yet there were too many questions and no way to put them into words.

They stood looking at each other not saying a work both with the same question in their eyes. ‘how could you be alive’. Neither wanted to ask or find out as their worlds came crumbling in around them. Maganhard realized he gave into is grief and shame and assumed his brother was dead and really did not take the time to find out he had truly failed his father and his younger brother. How could he forgive himself let alone ask his brother to forgive him

Altanard could feel the Muhngul cloths weighing heavy on his body. All he wanted to do was thought them off. He knew leaving the Muhngul warband was wrong and violated the loyalty he owed the Khan but he never thought he would meet an accuser so soon and especially not himself. What would Maganhard say when he found out what he done? He would be within his rights to kill him for bringing dishonor on the family or worse he could abandon him to a life of solitary wondering.

Yet neither made a move to speak to the other they just stood there is silent agony watching each other in self condemnation, wanting to reach out yet unable to in fear that their imaginary condemnation would become real. The camp was just a faded shadow and everyone around them were ghostly accusers who where there yet far, far way in the mist of fading memory.

Everyone in the Roman camp stared in wonder at the two Visigoths. Altanard was shorter than Manahard but was slightly broader in the shoulder than him. They had the same mournful blue eyes. Every one stood watching and waiting. Who would be the first to speak?

posted 09-05-01 16:08 ET (US)     275 / 295  
Civis Romanus watched the drama between the two Visigoths unfold. He consciously decided to say nothing for the moment feeling it would be inappropriate at that time to wade into something about which he knew very little. It would be Accipiter who would make initial sense out of the situation.

"There is a distinct resemblance between you both that transcends anything Visigoth, if I am not mistaking," began the tall man soothingly. "Are you of the same place, maybe the same parentage?" Accipiter knew perfectly well what the answer would be, but allowed the two barbarians to reply on their own. It was Maganhard who answered hesitatingly.

"He is my brother, youngest in the family. He should be dead."

Altanard's face reddened. So that is what courses through my brother's mind. Does Maganhard know, he wondered. But Altanard said nothing.

Accipiter looked at Altanard's reddish face then responded to Maganhard. "But he is not dead. Why should he be?"

Maganhard's mind was working feverishly trying to reconcile the situation. "Well, he was in battle and I couldn't find him... We lost the battle... He should be dead."

"You lost the battle as well, Maganhard, didn't you? Yet you live."

Maganhard lowered his head. "Yes, I live."

"Did you fight then as you bravely fight now, such as before the fortress of the Ch'in?" persisted Accipiter.

"I did... but in the battle where I lost my brother I was struck in the head and fell into a ditch and covered with dirt and brush. I did not even see the battle end. All I saw was its aftermath. My commander lay dead, the man to whom I pledged my life."

A different voice now made itself heard. "You have erred on one score, Maganhard," began Civis.

"I... I don't understand, Commander," stammered the barbarian.

"You shall in a moment," said Civis. "Your pledge was not to the Commander. It was to Caesar. The Commander merely represented Caesar to you during military campaigns and battles. The commander gave you your orders. These came from orders given by Caesar. Your pledge still is valid, for Marcus Aurelius, Caesar in Rome, lives now as he did when you fought. You violated no Visigoth rule. You simply do not understand the Roman way in these matters."

Maganhard could say nothing. His mind was whirling. Is this true? Have my failures not been failures at all? And my brother... I said he should be dead. What manner of man am I to wish my brother dead for my own honor? Maganhard was finding it difficult to maintain his warrior's control.

Altanard looked down at his own feet and mumbled something barely audible. Accipiter caught the essence of the man's comment. "What troubles you, brother of Maganhard? Say it so that he will know," urged Accipiter.

"I should be dead! He is correct!" said Altanard, teeth clenched.

"But why, brother?" said Maganhard.

"Because I pledged myself to the Khan of the Muhngul and now I have warred against them, killed some of them and I am here in the camp of Romans instead of in their camp... I should be dead!"

Maganhard stood stiffly still, wordless with shock. Civis didn't know what to say. The onlookers were equally transfixed by the meeting between the two Visigoths. Accipiter's mind was working swiftly to find a way to calm this new storm of revelation. Even he admitted to himself that it would be no easy matter.

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