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Bardic Circle - War Stories & AAR forum
|Topic Subject:||Sepia Joust II - The Memoirs of... Submissions Thread|
posted 31 August 2009 05:26 EDT (US)
The time has finally come.
This thread shall remain open for two weeks before closing. Upon its closure the Voting Thread (also known as the Scroll of Decision) will open in this self-same forum.
Remember, Submissions only in this thread.
Let the Joust begin...
|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
02 September 2009 02:46
1 / 2
Just recently, Papal scribes inventorying the library came across the copies and began studying them. They were
Leading linguists from all over the world jumped at the chance to study them, and translate them. It was found that the Latin scroll, true enough, was an account of an ancient battle, dictated to a scribe by the general as his personal memoirs. But the second, in that previously unknown code, was the major discovery.
Linguists, archaeologists, and cryptologists from all over the world worked for forty months to render it legible. What they found was a major anthropological and historical breakthrough. While the characters were a form of ancient Greek, the words they formed were not Greek- or anything like Greek. After months of study, linguist Patrick O’Callaghan joined the crew, and immediately noticed why the code was so difficult- for it was no code. It was an early form of Gaelic, his mother tongue, though written in Greek letters. That breakthrough enabled the team to complete the translations. Never had the academic world seen such a fusion of an ancient, unwritten language phonetically rendered by use of characters from a separate, unrelated language. The second scroll was the account of a Gallic warchieftain, the first written text from a Gaul ever found.
Below, for the first time, are the English translations of those two ancient texts.
I cannot believe the arrogance of those unwashed savages! They harry our neighbors incessantly, these Gauls, and steal their cattle. Granted the foul-smelling beasts are little more than producers of leather and milk, but by the gods, they were our beasts. Or rather as in this case, the beasts of our neighbors. These filthy savages have absolutely no right to come and steal what is not theirs.
There are rather many of them, though. Uncultured, unwashed, uneducated fools. They must breed like flies in those swamps from which they come. It was bad enough having those Gauls- the Insubre, I believe they call themselves, come into Etruscan territory, but now this new tribe (or so they claim) comes as well. Tis true that we did not mind their first arrival- they provided a wonderful distraction for our northern Etruscan neighbors, a distraction we used to great benefit expanding our own territory.
But now they come further south, to nearby Clusium, and even worse, near our own city. And from their siege of Clusium, they intend to stay. This must be stopped. Thus Quintus Fabius, Quintus Sulpicius, myself, and several others traveled to Clusium to demand they immediately depart these lands and return to whatever marshy bog spawned them.
It was a stroke of fate that the Clusians resisted the invaders, and when they saw that the invaders were many, appealed directly to Rome, and no other. Rome, who is not even their ally. Fortuna surely smiles upon us, for when the Senatus deputized us to go to Clusium and order away the barbarians, all knew what a power this would make Rome. No longer just the top of the heap in Latium, beloved Roma would become mistress of all of middle Italia, maybe one day over even all of southern Italia as well. This is a huge step for our state- those who are not even our allies acknowledge Roman superiority. Maybe one day we shall equal the Greeks in power and prestige.
But these Gauls must first go. They are an arrogant and rude people. We gave them the word of the Senatus and People of Rome, and they laughed. Laughed! They demanded that we, a lawful deputation invited by the Clusians, depart instead, back to our... what did they call it... rat-infested rockpile and leave the business of men to themselves and the Clusians. I have never seen Quintus Fabius so angry then He is a Fabian, of course, and considers his family one of the leading ones in all of Rome, and by that he means of the world. I have never seen a man who was not choking turn such a shade of purple and still live, when he heard the slaves translate the barbarian’s words.
I cannot believe the arrogance of those linen-wrapped southern fools! We and those dark little men who dwell among the stone houses here south of the Insubres, had been discussing as men do the price of passage for our tribe to lands further south. The men of Clusium decided they wished instead to contest our passage by force of arms, to which we of course gladly accepted. We drove them from the field of battle and now we have invested their rockpile. We were considering storming their pitiful walls to decide the conflict permanently.
Then, against all reason or sanity or even courtesy, a deputation of haughty little men dressed in curtains from another, nearby, collection of stone hovels comes and tells us to depart- as if they were the Sun and Earth in one. They butt their way into our contest, refuse to join in, yet act as if they are the judges who can award victory to one side or the other.
These haughty little men were amusing at first. They barely reach to our shoulder, yet they comport themselves as if they were given the kingship over the world. They speak of war and of battle, yet dress in linen curtains that can hardly block the strong sun of these parts, much less a well-thrown spear. And their footwear… Ha! They wear boots upon their feet that have more than half the leather cut away- how can they walk in those funny things?
After listening to their speech and threats and other comical diversions, we bade them return to that hovel that gave birth to such comedians and let the real men get on the dealings of men. You should have seen their faces when the slave that spoke their tongue finished. I could have sworn the purple-faced one would burst his heart or have his head explode. Yet as the sun set, they departed.
Today those monstrous barbarians learned a valuable lesson.
We returned to Clusium as the sun rose to again meet with the barbarians besieging our neighbor. Again, they insulted us when we told them the decree of Rome to depart the lands of the Clusians. Only this time they paid for their insolence- in blood. Quintus Fabius was confronted by one of the monsters, a giant who was shouting and frothing at the mouth as if rabid. Quintus wasted no time and drew from the sinus of his toga his dagger, and plunged it into the heart of the frothing fool.
Those unwashed savages fled at the sight of blood! One would never imagine that such large and well-muscled barbarians could be so easily cowed, yet Fabius was never one to dawdle when it came time to fight. And they did indeed flee, as if Mercury himself was carrying them away upon his winged sandals. Twas a grand sight watching those bouncing behinds disappear into the distance.
We think that is the last we will see of these Gauls. Fabius showed them Roman steel, and they fled like curs before a whip. When we return to Rome we shall organize a grand feast for Fabius, as a token of our gratitude for so easily and single-handedly driving off the barbarian horde from Clusian territory.
Unlias lies dead.
Today those sheet-rapped fools have committed the worst atrocity the gods have ever seen. They came again to discuss their ridiculous demands that we cease our trial of arms with these Clusians with the trial still undecided. They came to parlay, but they violated the sanctity of said parlay. Not only did they bring steel, they actually drew and used it. Utter blasphemy!
It began a little after the sun rose. The haughty little men from yesterday had returned, though they had been told to go away as this business did not concern them. The purple-faced one was there as well, and shouting at us as if we were insolent slaves disobeying our masters. Unlias had enough of the little man’s shouting and ranting, and went up to him. He gave the loud little man a measure of his own voice. Unlias had a powerful, deep voice that could ring bells from watchtowers. But no more. He came before the little Italian and when he drew in a second deep breath to continue the shouting match, the little man drew forth steel and plunged it into his chest- in the middle of a sacred parlay!
I must commend Brennus for his self-control. He was as livid as the rest of us by this foul breach of custom, yet instead of launching himself at these sacrilegious jesters and ripping them to shreds with his bare hands as we all wished to do, he ordered us to fall back. A full thousand paces from the sacred parlay we went- to where we may use violence without offending the gods.
It was very wise of the little men not to follow us. Had they done so, worms would even now be feasting on their innards. But they shall pay for this heinous act. Murdering the brother of our king, while in a sacred parlay witnessed by the gods? I do not think so much gold exists that can pay off that debt.
Brennus came to me last night. I was trying out this new way of writing sounds, trying to decide how best to put what had happened into runes. Brennus sat beside me, brooding, while I dipped the feather into the dark liquid and wrote. Then he says to me, “Cynglas, why do you make such strange marks upon that skin?”
I told him that the Greeks had a way of turning sounds into runes, and that those runes could be read and turned back into sound by anybody literate, at any time. It was a way of preserving knowledge.
Brennus scoffed, reminding me that is why we have the Druids. I knew what his reaction would be, thus did not allow the slight insult accompanying his words get under my skin. I replied to him in an even voice, “Druids die, my brother. Tales are lost. But this, Brennus,” I said, holding up my scroll, “this can last forever. Our tales, our deeds, all can remain alive for the memory of our tribe, even long after we ourselves are no more.”
Brennus grunted at that. He sat there while I continued writing of the negotiations, then he stood abruptly.
“Cynglas,” he said sternly. “Make sure you make the marks telling of Unlias. He was a great Senone, a great man. I would have my brother remembered.”
With that he left for the council.
The council this evening was intense, to say the least. It was decided that tomorrow we shall bury Unlias. Then we shall send a delegation to the rockpile of those haughty little men and demand twenty talents of silver, or five of gold, as were-geld for Unlias. We shall also demand the head of the man who would so blatantly offend the gods by drawing steel at a sacred parlay. And they shall pay it, or suffer our righteous wrath.
No man, be he tall or small, can be so stupid as to risk not only our wrath, but that of the gods, by refusing. They shall pay, and that shall be the end of it.
Last night we had a wonderful feast. Roasted waterfowl stuffed with eggs, lamb with a wonderful sweet and sour sauce, and even licker-fish from the Tiber. No expense was spared. All to honor Quintus Fabius, who with a single blow sent a horde of bestial barbarians screaming and fleeing.
The celebrations continued into the day. Not even the arrival of a deputation of those unwashed barbarians could dampen Roman humor when it was up. Verily, they added to the merriment, with their posturing, swaggering gaits, and big words. Every man in Rome knew what weaklings those fools were- running at the sight of a single bloody dagger. How
Their demands were ridiculous as well. They want twenty talents of silver, or five in gold, or we risk the anger of their false gods. We offered them the skeletons of the licker fish instead- hurled upon them by laughing plebs. And then they had the nerve to demand that we hand over Quintus Fabius, our celebrant!
Lo, but the laughter reached the heavens at that one! Romans in a happy mood surely have one of the best senses of humor in the world. We responded to their demands by holding an election- right then and there. Quintus Fabius and Quintus Sulpicius were both elected military tribunes with consular powers- the highest positions in our republic. That will teach these ignorant savages their proper place in this world- under our feet!
These people have to be the stupidest tribe we have ever encountered. And we Senones have encountered plenty since departing the cold ocean-side lands to the far north.
We sent Cingetorix, our best Speaker of Words, to them to explain our reasonable demands. Blood demanded blood, and sacrilege demanded were-geld. He made it known in that sing-song tongue of theirs that the gods were offended by their actions, and that we were mortally insulted. Our wrath could be bought off for the very reasonable sum of twenty talents of silver, or five of gold, considering the status Unlias had and his family that now needed to be supported. And by sacrificing the violator of the parlay, they could earn back the good graces of the gods they offended.
And what do the fools do? They rain fish bones upon Cingetorix, and give to the sacrilegious fool the highest place in their tribe. They heap insult upon insult, then dress it with disdain and spice it with scorn.
Our elders have tried their best to persuade Brennus to play the game of these dwellers of stone houses, and to raid their lands and take from them by honorable combat what is owed. But he would not listen. His brother Unlias lies dead by Latin treachery, our injuries heaped with scorn, and the Latins laughing at our pain.
So it begins. A war against these haughty little men. This shall be a war in the spirit of the Morrigan goddess of war, not a single battle under the auspices of Nuada. There will be no mercy until these little men give in to our reasonable demands. Cingetorix was sent again to their rockpile to tell them. We will not play their game. They shall play ours. We will have that were-geld, and that heinous violator. If they will not give them freely, we shall come and take them.
Brennus has spoken.
Quintus Sulpicius has proven himself a shrewd choice for the tribunate. He had ordered some horsemen to watch over the hairy horde besieging Clusium, in case the barbarians decide they wish to taste more Roman steel.
Today the scouts returned- and with joyous news. The Gauls were seen packing their belongings, and their awful tents, and began moving north. Our horsemen followed them a ways to see if they were actually evacuating. And they were!
Tonight shall be yet another feast, in celebration of our bloodless victory over these barbarians with their large mouths but small balls. And of course our delegation, including myself, shall be among the celebrants.
Today we packed up our camp. The men were angry, at first, thinking we were fleeing these little men without even lifting a sword to avenge Unlias. But it was Brennus, the brother of Unlias, who gave the order. And that made all the difference. If a man's own brother decides not to press for the were-geld, then no other man has the right to gainsay him.
We did obtain some were-geld. The men of the stone burg we had been besieging before the haughty little men came decided to pay us. Our carts were loaded with ten talents of silver and three of gold- a princely sum to depart their lands. Brennus showed our men these spoils to allay their skepticism at our departure, then led the journey north.
Rhun came back towards evening. He told Brennus in our council that the horsemen who had been following us all day had turned back. Brennus smiled, and promptly called a council.
His speech was magnificent. He told the clans how he had allowed the stone town to buy us off- which showed us how much they had and how little they were willing to part with. It also allowed them out of that stone-girdled rockpile- free to join with the men who killed Unlias. Brennus faced down the catcalls of our warriors and explained that was his will- that we lure them out of their terrible fortifications and into the open where we can butcher the lot of them.
Many began to smile, and applaud the cunning of Brennus.
Our tribe turned in its tracks. We were not heading to the homelands with our tails between our legs- we were now heading south, to teach irreverent people the errors of offending the gods.
We were going to find this tiny rockpile called Rome and make it our own.
The Clusians, though neither allies nor particularly good friends of ours, have proven themselves willing associates. This very morning a delegation of them appeared. They bring word that the Gauls harrying their lands and besieging their city have withdrawn, which we knew from the reports of the scouts sent by Quintus Sulpicius. But their scouts followed after ours had fallen back, and they saw the barbarians turn around. It seems they had enough of Clusian silver, and now want Roman gold.
He also mentioned that the men of Clusium, and other cities in the area, would offer men and arms to Rome for this struggle. Fabius laughed, but Sulpicius was more dour. He thanked the Clusians for their offer, and bade them assemble the allies near the border between Rome and Clusium, near Fidenae. There, in four days time, we shall bring the legions, unite them with the allies, and present such a force of disciplined soldiers that the barbarians will flee a the very sight of us.
The haughty little men decided to quit their civilized games and join us in righteous battle, to decide the question by trial of arms. They shall fight. This is good. Brennus has sent word to the clans. All are to bring their best men, and their shiniest weapons. We shall dazzle these fools with our brilliance and manliness, before crushing them into the dirt and taking our righteous vengeance out upon them.
It is Quintilius, twelve days before the Kalends of Sextilius. The air is warm this summer day, and the humidity stifling. Our men joined the allied contingents on the banks of the Allia, deploying on the Clusian side as a token of our utter disdain for these unwashed Gauls. Plus it gives our men the protection of the river to our right, so that the barbarian cavalry may not attack on our unshielded side, but Quintus Sulpicius did not bother to mention that to the men during his harangue. We number one hundred and fifty centuries- the largest army Rome (or even Italia, for that matter!) had ever seen.
Quintus Sulpicius is our commander this day. Quintus Fabius elected to lead our magnificent cavalry- eighteen centuries of the Equites, while Quintus Servius Fidenas and myself shall command the infantry.
We were told by Clusian scouts that the Gauls outnumber us by two to one. The Caerian scouts, however, report we outnumber them by the same margin. It matters not. Numbers do not matter. Steel, bronze, and discipline are all that matter, and we Romans and Roman allies have that in spades while the unwashed savages that come have only their ten minutes of courage before they shall succumb to the heat and dryness.
Sulpicius ordered us to deploy the legions on line. I, Publius Cornelius Maluginensis command one of the legions and the Latin allies of Clusium on the left. If they were no allies before, their being here in our ranks makes them allies today. Quintus Servius Fidenas commands the other Roman legion and the allies on the right flank, the position of honor as his family once ruled nearby Fidenae. He has his flank to the river and my legion is formed up on his left.
Our legionaries are brilliant in the summer sun. Their bronze helmets gleam in the sunlight, and their boiled leather cuirasses simply glow. Our spears have been sharpened, our shields polished. Greaves blind me eyes with their brilliance, and even our swords have been sharpened to wicked edges by the fabric. Never has an army been more ready for battle than this one.
Victory shall surely be ours. I shall write more after the battle, if my arm is not too tired from stabbing Gauls.
Brennus has admitted to me that these little men from that tiny Latin rockpile do indeed appear to be good warriors. Their armor gleams nearly as bright as our swords, and they look impressively stolid in that long, blocky battle array these southern people so proudly use.
It shall be a joyous day, this day. They number the same as do we, give or take, yet many of our warriors are horseborne. Our foot warriors fight naked above the waist. That is their way, even if they did own or capture armor. War was a man's sport- and men fight steel upon steel, and hand-against-hand. The best of them shall be promoted after the battle to fill the losses among the horseborne, so we know they shall do their best. They look magnificent in this bright sunlight, bronzed men with light hair, and eyes like slits of sky cut out from the heavens above. They are truly magnificent, these fighting men of the Senones, yet our horseborne are grander still.
Senone horseborne have always inspired fear in our foes. Our horses are large and powerful, their riders more powerful still. We wield the spear in the charge, its mass and momentum driving through whatever the foe would hold up to stop our charge. Then we cast away the broken or weighted spears and draw our magnificent swords. Senone warriors on horseback are respected by all- friends and foes alike, except for these haughty fools before us. They respect nobody, but they shall be taught the folly of such an attitude.
We shall be the ones to teach them. We have over a thousand horsemen, each with two kerns who hold spare horses. Should a horse be killed in battle, the kern shall rush forward with a replacement. Should the warrior be killed, his kern shall rush in and assumes his post in battle. In this manner our numbers shall always remain, while those of our foes dwindle until they are no more.
Disaster upon the Allia! Rome is undone! Most of our legionaries lie dead upon the bottom of the river, the rest scattered across the fields rotting under the hot sun. A few- very few- managed to escape that cauldron of death
It began well enough. The barbarians drew up in the long line with which we were accustomed. They looked like godlings, muscular and oiled. Their footmen had worked lime and clay into their hair, giving them the appearance of statues with spikes for hair. We, in our armor, laughed at their nakedness, fingering the edges of our spears and swords which we knew could cut through their naked skin like a hot knife through an olive. To my left, I remember Quintus Fabius laughing as he looked over the savages.
A hideous screeching erupted from their ranks as they grew closer. Our slingers darted forward and let loose a volley of stones. Many savages fell, dead or mortally wounded, and again our stout-hearted legionaries laughed at these pitiful fools who dared challenge Roman might.
Then they charged.
Our slingers scurried back between our ranks and we locked shields ready to take the impact of their charge. But the barbarians, evidently having seen a phalanx before, halted just before our spears and hurled javelins and rocks at our armored men. Our shields and armor took the brunt of their missiles, and again we were confident of victory.
But lo, it was not so. Their casting of missiles forced us to keep our formation tight and our heads hunkered down behind our shields. We were blind for those few, awful minutes- and those blasted barbarians knew it!
They used those precious minutes to charge their horsemen against ours. Quintus Fabius, my friend and colleague, was a brave man, but a foolish one. The Gauls swept his force aside and crushed it utterly, then turned against our open flank.
Within seconds of the first horse impacting against the side of our phalanx, we were undone. I ordered the centuries to turn, to face this threat I was just now seeing, yet the barbarians expected that. As our men changed facing, their sword-wielding infantry burst upon our men while they were out of formation.
A slaughter ensued. I tried to rally my men, but there was nothing to be done. No man assaulted by those monstrous warriors stood his ground for long- if he did, he died. I am ashamed to admit that I too ran. I stabbed at a large breast, had my ivory-handled sword knocked from my grip, and fled upon seeing the vicious smile of the bearded man who had so easily disarmed me.
I was not alone. Many of us fled. The Gauls herded us into the river, using horse and infantry together. Those who fell in crossing died where they lay- if no Gaul sliced his head from his body, then he drowned under the weight of his armor.
I was lucky. I kept my feet. And used them. Once across the river, I found what was left of the cavalry of Fabius- twenty-two men and thirty horses. I took one and rode for Rome. Someone had to tell of this disaster!
Victory the likes of which the gods have never seen! We crushed those haughty fools utterly, and suffered hardly any losses ourselves!
It was a thing of beauty watching Brennus this day. At first we were awed by the sight of those armored men facing us in the dreaded spear-wall. Their one flank was anchored upon the water, giving our horseborne there no leeway. Their other flank was heavily guarded by horseborne like ours. It appeared an impregnable position.
But that was to us. Brennus, however, smiled and saw the way. He had us form a line as long as that of the spearwall, three ranks deep instead of the six used by the foe. He then took the men left over and placed them in a triple line on the flank away from the river, behind the line facing the spearmen. Our own horseborne he divided in twain, and placed half behind each flank.
He was brilliant, Brennus was. He calmed us by telling us his plan- he was going to engage the fools straight up, and while they were thus occupied, those extra men away from the river will spill around the side of the spearwall. While this was happening, Conn by the river would take his horseborne at the gallop around our warhost and pile onto the fools Brywarch and the right flank horseborne would then be engaging.
We saw at once how that would go, and carried out the plan of Brennus to perfection. Lo, how it worked! The spearwall crumbled, and Conn’s charge came at just the right moment. These Romans shattered like pottery, and not a few perished trying to swim to safety.
We hounded them and their allies all through the night. I am tired now, so I will resume this at another time.
Rome was not pleased at my news, to put it mildly. Our largest army to date was so easily trampled and drowned by mere barbarians.
It seems I am the only tribune that made it back- Fabius fell on the field of battle, and Servius most likely drowned in that awful press of men into the Allia. Nothing has been heard about Sulpicius.
When I broke the news to the Senate, they consulted the Sibylline Books immediately. A disaster of this magnitude requires guidance from the gods. As sole surviving commander, it was up to me to make the donation required by the gods in order to interpret the books. This I paid gladly, for what is my fortune worth if Rome shall fall?
The augurs returned. The Senate was called, and ordered the priests to immediately begin moving the contents of the temples to nearby Caere. The godless heathens may slay us, may even take this proud city, but they shall not be allowed to desecrate our gods! Thus says the Sibylline Books- if our gods remain pure and we true to them, eventual victory shall be Roman.
We received word that more of our men survived the battle than thought. Those survivors did not come to Rome as had I and four hundred others, but had fled to Caere, and others to conquered Veii.
Our new cavalry commander, Lucius Aemilius, reported the Gauls a few hours away. I and the other survivors will be aiding the consul Marcus Manlius in fortifying and stocking the Capitoline fortress. As for the rest of Rome… We gave the word to the people in the forum. Those who wish to flee may do so, the rest of us shall defend what is left of Roman honor.
It took two days to loot the dead and burn them. Then we marched to this rockpile Rome to make those laughing fools pay for their insults and sacrilege.
We entered a desolate city. The gates were open, and the streets were deserted. A man with quick eyes might catch some movement through shuttered windows, but for all intents and purposes, this rockpile was empty of life. We marched in.
We came to an opening in the myriad stone houses. There was a grand house of sorts, with old men in robes sitting upon backless tools awaiting us.
We are struck speechless. Many of us were wheezing and trembling, trying valiantly to hold in their mirth as they saw the curtains and sheeting in which these old men clothed themselves. Brennus smiled, and Cerdix broke out laughing. The old ones huffed and puffed and yammered in that sing-song tongue of theirs. We responded in kind, and the slaughter began. We killed the old fools, and ran rampant over the city.
Rome is conquered, but her Capitol holds out. We are fortifying like madmen, and Marcus Manlus has assigned me the task of measuring, rationing, and guarding our food supplies. There shall not be much time to write, yet.
Brennus and I had been discussing how best to remove those cowards hiding behind the ramparts of the citadel above. As I discussed the merits of ladders and ropes, he watched a lizard run along the gutter, then spring up the wall to disappear into a crevasse. He smiled, Brennus did, and turned to me. Tonight, he said, tonight we become the lizard.
I must admit I was dumbfounded. But long after the sun set, I saw his genius. Brennus led the footmen himself to the base of the hill. There, he and ten men put their shield over their shoulders, and six men climbed upon them. Those six rested their shields upon their shoulders, and three more men went up. Those three threw poisoned meat over the walls then we climbed down.
Two hours later we did it again. There were no rock-dwellers upon the walls at this hour, and our scaling team made it to the top. Just as the first man was ready to climb over, those blasted geese started cackling like mad. The infernal chorus roused the sleeping warriors, and the grand plan of Brennus to take the citadel by surprise fell away.
Last night the barbarians tried to assault the Capitol. They were very clever about it, scaling the cliffs we thought unscalable. Our dogs- blasted creatures!- slept through their escapades, leaving us sound asleep thinking we were safe.
But Juno favored her favorite sons. Her sacred geese began cackling. The noise awoke the consul, who from the pen of the geese saw the Gauls climbing. He roused us from our slumber and we manned the walls, forcing the Gauls to retreat.
We do not know how much longer we can go on. We have heard rumors, shouted from the rooftops below, that Camillus is in Caere, raising an army. We wish him better luck than we had upon the Allia. Winter is upon us, and food is scarce, but we think we can hold out until summer. Hopefully Marcus Furius will be here by then.
Below, the Gauls have moved into the walls of Rome, sullying our proud city with their presence. With any luck and the favor of the gods, they shall grow soft so that a Roman army can destroy them and return Rome to the Romans.
Brennus has decided. Unlias lies now buried with honors under the floor of their central square, this wasted rockpile of a town being his mausoleum. As soon as it is warm, though, we shall travel onward. We do not mind. All of the pretty girls are greatly pregnant, and what few who could be called men that are left to this town walk with their heads low as if utterly cowed at the sight of a Senone. There is nothing more for us here. Merchants from the south brought us the word- treasure and plunder await a strong people there, and much land remains unclaimed, or disputed. Perfect for our people!
The old ones of this town had a meeting yesterday. They sent a delegation to Brennus, asking his price to leave their town. Finally, they see reason! It may take months of our presence, and learning our ways, yet in the end they saw that we would not leave until the were-geld for Unlias was paid. But Brennus was tough on them, for refusing to pay the were-geld when he demanded it. He told them the price was no longer twenty talents of silver, or five of gold. He was angry at these people for their pigheadedness and insults to our gods. He told them this, and that he had grown fond of this town and thus did not want to leave. In fact, he said with a smile, we Senones like the climate here so much we are thinking of settling down- here. So the price to get us to move on has to be much higher- like forty talents- of gold! The old men murmured and moaned, but in the end they swore to pay. They will assemble the were-geld and bring it to the open area in the center of town within a week. Our tribe will be well-paid.
Ha, these fools do not yet understand that we have
The fools got the message and quit their yammering.
The surviving Senators decided to pay off the Gauls. Rome is humiliated. There came no proud Roman Army to relieve the city, no force of Roman arms to drive them away. We must resort to foul money to procure our freedom.
To dash salt in our wounded pride, the barbarian kinglet used heavier weights than standard. Thus when our people put forth a talent, it weighed in as less than a talent. Much less. And when our Senators complained about this injustice, the chieftain threw his sword onto the scales and shouted “Woe to the Vanquished!”
He was correct- woe be to Rome, for allowing herself to fall to a barbarian horde. But we remain true to ourselves and our gods, and sleep secure that the prophecy of the Sibylline Books shall soon come to pass and Rome shall be free. We gave them more than enough gold, by Jupiter!
We have had enough of this foolish little village and its stupid inhabitants. There is nothing more for us here. They have paid us the were-geld many times over, and the head of the man who so ignorantly struck down Unlias at the parlay lies burned upon the field by the river battle. There is nothing more for us to do in this crazy town. Thus we depart.
Rome is free of the barbarians! Two days ago they were camped upon the forum, or lodged in our houses. Then yesterday they were gone. Just like that. The rumors of Camillus and his army in Caere must be true- why else would the savages so suddenly and abruptly retreat?
It does not matter. Rome has survived, and is free, as prophesied. More, we have learned from this. Never again shall this great city fall to a Gallic horde. Ever!
It was a stroke of fortune that the original finder of his scroll was a Greek slave who knew letters. He saw the word Allia, and sold the scroll to the Cornelii in exchange for manumission. The Cornelii stored it with the diary of their ancestor Publius Cornelius Maluginensis within a crypt in the wine cellar. The crypt was covered in a renovation three hundred years later and forgotten.
His house would later be sacked and rebuilt during the Marius-Sulla Conflict, then burned again when the Vandals come to Rome. Finally, in the 8th century, Rome decided on the location for a church, and in excavating the foundation, came across the crypt and its priceless scrolls.
Cynglas was indeed a far-seeing man, and because of his willingness to learn the skills of writing sounds into letters, this history of his people- and of murdered Unlias- survived the ages.
|||||||||||||||| A transplanted Viking, born a millennium too late. |||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Too many Awards to list in Signature, sorry lords...|||||||||||||||||
|||||||||||||||| Listed on my page for your convenience and envy.|||||||||||||||||
Somewhere over the EXCO Rainbow
Master Skald, Order of the Silver Quill, Guild of the Skalds
Champion of the Sepia Joust- Joust I, II, IV, VI, VII, VIII
[This message has been edited by Terikel Grayhair (edited 09-02-2009 @ 03:27 AM).]
High King of Britain
03 September 2009 12:55
2 / 2
This is a rare translation of a classical latin text. The original was inscribed on a wax tablet; the wax has long since vanished, but by painstaking care much of the text was discovered from scratches on the wooden boards beneath the wax. So here is our one and only first-hand account of the Battle of Atuatuca; Caesar’s Gallic War, January 52BC.
Months of gruelling training; months of marching North. My journal begins here, for today we have reached our Winter camp.
We spent most of the afternoon in building it: digging a ditch round the perimeter, raising a mound of earth behind it as a rampart, erecting a palisade of sharpened stakes. I thought we’d have done with that when we finished training; I guess I was wrong. I’d better get used to it. Even if I could get away with it, I couldn’t leave the army now. I have nowhere else left to go, and no other way of supporting myself and Flaminia. Especially Flaminia. We have nothing left in the world but each other.
It’s evening. I’m exhausted. A long day’s march, followed by an afternoon’s digging and building, all in this damned Gallic cold. Mars Belenos it’s cold! I wish I was back home, with my family on the farm on the banks of the Po.
No use complaining. I’d better get used to it.
I am a legionary of the sixth century of the ninth cohort of the XIV Legion. I joined up a few months ago in the Po Valley; most of the legion already has a couple of years experience, but some of the cohorts, mine among them, are recent recruits. Gaivs Ivlivs Caesar, proconsul of Illyria and the two Gauls, needs more troops to replenish his under-strength legions for his campaigns in Gallia Comata. It is a noble endeavour, to attempt to subject the barbarian Gauls to civilised rule. When I’m not moaning about the weather, I am proud to be a part of it.
My family is of Samnite origin. We were part of a group of colonists who were settled in the Po Valley a hundred and eighty years ago. Recently, we fell on hard times. We had to sell the farm to a rich senator, and moved into the city of Mediolanum on the other side of the Po. Famine and disease claimed the lives of my parents and baby sister; I would have wasted away if I had not joined the army.
My legion is camped among the Eburones, a tribe of the Belgae in Northeastern Gaul. It has been a poor harvest in Gaul this year; the army had to spread out over many different camps across Belgica. My cohort just came up from Cisalpine Gaul in late Autumn; we have not yet fought, but we are encamped with five cohorts of the VIII and seven others of the XIV who have. Caesar has just returned with most of the army from a campaign off the edge of the Earth: an island once rumoured not to exist: Britannia. A daring venture, but necessary, as the fierce barbarian tribes of the South end of the island were helping the Belgae to rebel. He did not meet with as much success as he had hoped, but he accomplished his goal, which was to stop them from sending aid to the Belgae, imposed tribute, and made an important ally for Rome in the Trinovantes, a tribe living on the Southeast coast just North of the Tamesis river.
All this I should have said in my last entry. Nothing much has happened today, except that I have discovered that a roman soldier never stops training. We have been practising in the camp just as we used to in the training camps in the Po Valley. Mars Belenos, it’s cold up here. The sun never seems to shine. I wish spring would hurry up.
Indutiomarus, king of the rebellious Treveri, has incited the Eburones to revolt! Ambiorix is king of the latter, in whose territory we are encamped!
I was on sentry duty, when suddenly a scattered band of men came running out of the woodland towards the camp as if the Furies themselves were on their heels. Even as I watched, a terrifying sight met my eyes; Gallic Warriors burst out of the trees behind the fleeing men, in hot pursuit. They chased the scattered band almost to the walls of the camp, but a volley of missiles from the ramparts drove them back, and they retreated back to the tree-line. The whole thing happened extremely quickly and quietly; eerily, almost.
In the general excitement, I’m afraid to say I left my post. I ran down to the gates to find out more. It turned out that the scattered band was the remnant of a group of foragers sent out to collect wood, but they had been ambushed by a much larger force of the Eburones. Barely any had escaped.
This was the first news we had of the uprising. The very men who had supplied us with grain and kept us alive were now our enemies!
A panicky shout from the rampart reminded me what I was supposed to be doing. I hastened back to my post.
Out of the trees was emerging a huge force of Gauls.
The alarm was raised; the whole camp rushed to arms. To be perfectly honest, the Gauls terrified me. Many of them were naked or stripped to the waist; very few wore armour. They looked frighteningly strong. Their swords were sometimes as much as twice as long as ours, and I saw some of them were about five feet long. They all had either red, black or blonde hair; easily the majority were the blondes, and their hair was unnaturally spiky, slicked back from their foreheads to expose their fierce expressions. They made a noise like a crowd in the amphitheatre, only a thousand times more aggressive and a thousand times more intimidating. Beating their weapons against their shields, howling war-cries, chanting magical incantations, supplications and prayers to the gods, they made a din to split the skull. To my shame, I was petrified. Then the men in the front row started to run towards us. Pretty soon, the entire army was in full charge. The charge that it was said was the most deadly part of a battle with the Gauls.
I would like to say that I fought bravely and slew many foes by my own hand, but the turth is, after they swarmed up the ramparts like tigers (as the expression goes), I only felled one before I took a blow to the head and had to be dragged off. It was the first time I ever killed a man.
I remember it with strange clarity; every detail is unnaturally set in stone in my head, especially considering I was knocked unconscious shortly afterwards. The Gaul was very tall; about the height of the crest on my helmet. He was still roaring a furious war-cry. His hair was slicked back and white-blonde, like the rest, and he had a large moustache. He looked about five to ten years older than me – in his mid-twenties, I would guess. He swung his massive sword twice round his head before bringing it down towards my skull. I lifted my shield to protect myself – the blow jarred my left arm – and then stabbed him in the diaphragm – just beneath his ribcage, above his stomach. He made no sound – just a sort of grunt. His word fell from his hands, and he looked up at me, in surprise. He seemed to make a half-smile, painfully. I grimaced back. Then the Gaul keeled backwards over the parapet.
They say the first time is the hardest. Killing, I mean. But for me it was just a reflex. I do not feel remorse, or guilt, or even pride. Just the knowledge that we were on equal terms, just two men, only on opposite sides of the battlements. He would have done the same for me.
I was knocked out a moment later, as I have written, but I got a detailed account of the battle from another. The Gauls could not drive us from the walls, and were beginning to waver after taking heavy losses. That was when a detachment of our Spanish cavalry, which had been sent out by a side-gate, charged them in the flank. They withdrew quickly, before a full-scale rout could occur. We had won!
The day’s activities were not over yet. Once the cavalry had returned to our camp, the Gauls began calling for one of our men to go and parley with them. Gaius Arpineius and Quintus Julius, a Roman knight and a Spaniard who knew Ambiorix well, were sent to discuss terms. I do not know exactly what was said; I wasn’t there. But supposedly Ambiorix made a series of excuses, exempting himself from all blame. He said he had been forced by his people to attack us, who feared that otherwise there would be terrible vengeance from the other Gauls; for it was alleged that all the other Gallic tribes were attacking the other Roman camps at that very moment, as had been secretly agreed. Now however, Ambiorix, having discharged his patriotic duty and fulfilled his oath – namely, to attack us – notwithstanding the result – was going to help us. He said a band of Germans, hearing of the uprising in Gaul, was crossing the Rhine to wreak vengeance on the Romans, and Ambiorix was offering to lead us to another nearby camp. Before nightfall, word had got round to all the men. Some believed Ambiorix, time-honoured king of the Eburones and trusted by Caesar, was to be trusted. Others, myself included, disregarded it all as so much cattle dung. The main reason for believing he was telling the truth was the fact that he knew that his tribe was far too weak to take on the Romans alone; it was logical he had others working with him.
At this point, our commanders – Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta and Quintus Titurius Sabinus – reached a disagreement. Cotta did not trust Ambiorix, like the majority of the men; he wanted to stand fast and wait out the revolt. Sabinus on the other hand was convinced that Ambiorix was trustworthy; all Ambiorix’s arguments seemed feasible to him, even likely, and he wanted to leave the camp and march to join another force somewhere else. If the Gauls were in revolt and the Germans on their way, they would be in a stronger position: united we stand but divided we fall. (He overlooked the fact that if Ambiorix was not telling the truth, neither of these things needed to be happening.) If not, and all was in fact safe, there would be no harm done.
They are still arguing what’s the best thing to do now. The sun set a long time ago. Mars Belenos, it’s cold. I’m with Flaminia right now; staring at the campfire, waiting for dawn. Waiting for the decision.
I barely slept all night. Eventually, the argument rose to such a pitch that the centurions had to intervene to prevent it coming to blows. They restrained the generals, and told them it did not greatly matter, whichever course of action we chose to condone; we simply had to come to an agreement and remain united. I’m not so sure I agree.
The argument dragged on for hours. In the end Cotta gave in. It was announced that we march at dawn. The men are all trying to convince each other that there is no danger in what we are about to do; Ambiorix is perfectly trustworthy.
The reason I’m writing this is because I wanted to explain what had happened, in case this is the last entry here. If so, you will know that I was right. I’m going to find Flaminia. If I die, I want to die with her face in my mind. I tried to send her away in the dark of night, but where would she – could she – go but back to the old life she swore she would never go back to again?
It was a disaster. We were surrounded and ambushed by the Gauls. Sabinus was treacherously killed along with most of the senior centurions during talks – idiot; to trust Ambiorix with his life even after he had been proved false. The Gauls charged and we broke. I remember, as all around Romans fled and Gauls chased after them, searching desperately for Flaminia; miraculously, in the chaos, we found each other. Hand in hand, we fled all the way back to the camp. Of eight thousand who set out that morning, by evening there were not a thousand of us left. We managed to hold out in the camp until nightfall. We were all completely exhausted; barely one of us got to bed without a wound of some sort. I sustained a long gash in my shoulder from a Gallic sword to make a hero proud, but I do not feel pride; only pain.
Cotta and the aquilifer both fell fighting. So did my centurion, Quintus Lucanius. Somehow, we managed to hold out till dark. Overnight, it was decided that we should all commit suicides so as not to fall into Gallic hands and become sacrifices to their bloodthirsty gods.
Was it cowardice, to cling to life as I did? To listen to Flaminia’s pleas? To remember the old farm on the banks of the Po, as all around me, men stabbed themselves or slit their wrists or fell on their swords and lay in their blood, moaning? To remember, in the midst of all that agony and horror, that life can be beautiful?
Of nearly nine hundred soldiers who survived as long as evening, not twenty by my estimate survived the night. Most fled to the nearby camp of Titus Labienus; but not me. I have seen enough; enough of war and what it drives men to do after a single battle to last me as long as I live. Those visions from that night at Atuatuca will haunt my dreams until my death, I know it. I am never going back to the army. Never. I escaped – deserted, I suppose – into the Gallic wild with Flaminia. I don’t know where I’ll go next. Back to Italy? Or Spain? Or far away, across the border, where Roman hands cannot reach? To Germania, or Britannia?
Flaminia was reading my writing; I doubt I will be able to make any more entries after this. Now she is asleep on my good shoulder. I’m sitting in front of our campfire, under the stars. It’s cold, but I must learn to live with that. Between us, we have nothing but the clothes on our backs and the skill in our hands. But before she fell asleep she told me this:
“It doesn’t matter what happens to us now, Sparrow. All we’ve got left in the World is each other; but that’s all that really counts. Together… somehow… we will find a way.”
And I hope – I pray – that she was right.
~ ancient briton ~
(dis ma house)
[This message has been edited by Edorix (edited 09-03-2009 @ 12:56 PM).]
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