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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 4:49 am 

Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:41 am
Posts: 6473
Location: Cambs, UK
Indeed, there is much evidence to point to gun barrels originally being exactly that, barrels- wooden staves held together with iron bands, evolving into wrought/ cast banded/ hooped tubes, into cast tubes that we are familiar with today as "Napoleons". The guns recovered from the MARY ROSE are completely different from those being used 150 years later on the same sorts of ship (removable wedged-breech breechloaders with wrought-hooped barrels on semi field carriages). It took 150 years of near-constant war and experimentation to evolve these into the more vase-shaped designs that we are used to. This required the European metallugists to evolve and invent new techniques of casting and batching metal, and the blacksmiths and metalworkers to come up with means of finishing the bore to come up with something of the required strength and tolerances. Also, iron or bronze? One gives you duration of fire but heavy weight, the other lightness/ portability at fire duration expense...

None of these things are easy, quick or trivial. it took literally the finest minds alive at the time several centuries to evolve the design of black powder firearm into something that was of viable military use against disciplined opponents, and then another century of near-constant global war to work out the tactics that would allow their effective use. All the while developing the techniques that would allow them to be transported; the industry that would support their manufacture and continued use (try storing black powder safely, in itself it's highly non-trivial)...

Expecting any of this to happen quickly in a society that hasn't developed the technology itself (and become acquainted with its inherent dangers, foibles etc) is just not realistic.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured, tortured.
Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 7:19 am 

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Being used to much more outlandish scenarios from althist's ASB sub forum, I can live with the New Romans getting detailed plans. Just the transition from plans to functioning gun went way too fast.

A Missouri man had once written the Confederate[s] that all they had to do to get rid of the St. Louis Unionists was to destroy the breweries and seize all the beer: 'By this, the Dutch will all die in a week and the Yankees will then run from this state.'

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:02 pm 

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Chapter VIII

More Weapons
Date: December XXIII MDCXXX AUC / December 23rd, 877 AD
Location: The Fabrica

Ever since the ballista ignea were delivered, Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus has spent the last few days thinking how the technology of these new weapons might be improved or diversified. With sure purpose, he takes stylus in hand to write a message to Legate Germanicus to tell him of his ideas:

‘To the esteemed Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar Greetings. Ever since the ballista ignea were delivered to you, I have given much thought as to how this technology might be adapted to changing situations on the battlefield. Accordingly, I have devised a system of different-sized weapons that can bs used as the situation warrants. The weapons which I delivered previously are now called ‘Ballista Ignea Primus’. The others in this system are as follows:

Ballista Ignea Secundus
Bore: 3.75 unciae
Length of Tube: 5 1/8 pes
Weight of Tube: 1,200 librae
Weight of Shot: 8 librae
Powder Charge: 1.5 librae

Ballista Ignea Tertius
Bore: 3 unciae
Length of Tube: 3.5 pes
Weight of Tube: 550 librae
Weight of Shot: 4 librae
Powder Charge: 3/4 librae

Legate, it occurs to me that ballistae ignea can also be used in naval combat. Therefore, I have designed pieces which can be used aboard ship. These are called ‘Ballista Ignea Navalis’, and follow the same general principles as their land-based brethren; the exceptions being that the tubes are longer and heavier. The charges have twenty-five per centum more powder. In combination, these factors will give a ballista ignea navalis greater effective range.

The first of these is the ballista ignea navalis primus. This weapon’s tube is 9 1/4 pes in length and weighs 3,200 librae. It fires the same ammunition as the land-based Primus, and its powder charges weigh 3 3/4 librae each. The tube of the ballistae ignea navalis secundus is eight pes in length and weighs 1,800 librae. Its powder charges weigh two librae each. The smallest of these new weapons is the ballista ignea navalis tertius. Its tube is five pes in length and weighs 700 librae. The powder charges are one librae each. With a view towards arming fortifications with this new technology, I have designed new types of ballista ignea for placement thereon. The types are as follows:

Ballista Ignea Castrum Maximus ‘Iuppiter Tonans’
Bore: 7 unciae
Length of Tube: 25 pes
Weight of Tube: 13,000 librae
Weight of Shot: 64 librae
Powder Charge: 22 librae

Ballista Ignea Castrum Maior
Bore: 6.25 unciae
Length of Tube: 22 pes
Weight of Tube: 10,000 librae
Weight of Shot: 42 librae
Powder Charge:13 librae

Ballista Ignea Castrum Minor
Bore: 5.75 unciae
Length of Tube: 11 pes
Weight of Tube: 8,000 librae
Weight of Shot: 32 librae
Powder Charge: 10 librae

Due to the high cost of bronze, ballistae ignea navalis and ballista ignea castra would be produced in iron unless specifically directed otherwise. Trusting that you will find this information to be of interest, I have the honor to be yours in the service of Nova Roma:

Praefectus Fabrum’ 
Manpower Surge, Part II
Date: December XXVIIII MDCXXX AUC / December 29th, 877 AD

The previous two weeks have been filled with the activities of gathering the new recruits and issuing their equipment. The ranks are filled with men drawn by the promise of good pay, good rations and fair treatment. The six new cohorts are formed into columns under the guidance of veterans from the first two cohorts of Legio I Italica. They are marched off in good order to the training camp, where they join the two cohorts already there. As there is no room inside the main enclosure, the tents have to be set up outside the training camp’s moat and stockade. Immediately after arrival, Legio I Italica’s architecti begin to lay out plans for expanding the training camp into a full legionary fortress.

Date: December XXX MDCXXX AUC / December 30th, 877 AD

The new recruits to Legio I Italica meet with those who have already been training. The purpose is to familiarize the new men with the expectations of life in the legion. After the meetings are done, the six cohorts gather separately and elect from among their numbers those who will be their new centurions. The names of the men so chosen are forwarded to Legate Marcus for confirmation. With these administrative tasks out of the way, training begins in earnest.

A Day in the Life
Date: December XXXI MDCXXX AUC / December 31st, 877 AD
Location: a residential area near the Forum of Trajan

For Marcus Flaminus Justus and his family, this days begins like any other. Marcus and his wife Livia rise from their sleeping pallet and perform their morning ablutions, followed by the customary reverences to the Lares and Penates. This being done, they join the rest of the household for a light breakfast of eggs, bread, cheese and watered wine. The breakfast had been set out by the servants before Marcus, Livia and the rest of the family came down from their rooms on the second floor. Unlike others in Nova Roma, Marcus Flaminius Justus doesn’t believe in the institution of slavery. His thought on the subject is that ‘why should I order something to be done for me when I am perfectly capable of doing it for myself’. The household servants were purchased by him, and then immediately freed. They are paid a living wage, they are treated well and their medical needs are provided for. This kind of treatment has instilled intense feelings of loyalty and gratitude among the servants who realize that (if it were not for Marcus’ intervention in their lives), they could still be slaves somewhere else.

The servants clear away the breakfast dishes, and Marcus’ wife Livia and their two daughters then go about the various domestic tasks involved with running a large household. Marcus and his three sons meet in the atrium to discuss various aspects of the businesses that the family is involved in. Marcus is a very wealthy merchant, being involved in wine, olive oil and the making and sale of baked goods. Sextus (the oldest son), has charge of the winery; Valerius (the middle son), runs the olive oil works and Quintus (the youngest son) runs the bakery. The olives, grapes and various grains used in the three businesses are produced on the Marcus family estates outside of Nova Roma. These ‘latifundia’ collectively measure six thousand iugera in extent, and are all staffed by paid servants who (like the household servants) are very loyal to the family.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Marcus’ three sons go their separate ways. They are carrying lunches packed by the servants. First to leave is Quintus. He heads towards the bakery, which is very nearby (just opposite Trajan’s Forum). The breads, cakes and pies produced here are in high demand because of their quality. Quintus left first because he is expecting shipments of grain, honey and dried fruits. Next to go is Valerius, who heads for the olive oil works. A great many wagonloads of new, fresh olives were received late yesterday, and it is time to load them into the presses. Last but not least is Sextus. He is in charge of the winery, and takes a great deal of pride in running it well. Today, Sextus will be supervising of a new run of wine.

Upon arriving at the bakery, Quintus he sees a large number of wagons drawn up in front of the building, ready to deliver their cargo. He summons men from the bakery, and the crew unloads the wagons in short order. The tons of grain, the amphorae of honey and the baskets of dried fruits are stored away. Once this task is completed, Quintus goes to the front of the building and opens for business. Already, there are dozens of women, servants and slaves from the nearby districts of Nova Roma, lined up to buy the products for which the bakery is justly-famous.

At the same time, Valerius gets to the olive oil works and sees that his foreman has taken the initiative and seen to it that all of the baskets of olives have been unloaded. Soon, the presses are at work, and fresh, new olive oil begins to flow into large amphorae. Like the baked goods produced by his brother Quintus, the olive oil made by Valerius is in high demand because of its quality and purity. As soon as each charge of olives is depleted, it is removed and replaced. The oil continues to flow and the amphora are filled. When each is full, it is removed from the presses, then capped and sealed. The sealed amphorae are taken below-ground to stone-lined storage rooms. The cool temperatures here will keep the oil fresh until it is sold.

Of all Marcus Flaminius Justus’ three sons, Sextus is perhaps the most professional about running his part of the family business. Sextus’ two younger brothers are enthusiastic, but there are situations where this doesn’t serve them well. Sextus’ meticulous attention to even the smallest detail has made the winery the most profitable branch of the Justus family business.

Back at the family villa, Marcus Flaminius Justus is attending to various administrative tasks when there is a knock on the door. Marcus’ majordomo opens the door and is given a scroll tube by a messenger from the Domus Imperialis. Marcus brings the tube to his office, where he opens it and begins to read.

‘To the honored Marcus Flaminius Justus, greetings and felicitations in the name of the Emperor. Having been apprised of the quality and quantity of the consumables you produce, I am pleased to inform you that Emperor Marcus Aurelius has appointed you to the post of Chief Provisioner to the Imperial Household. All goods delivered are to be of the highest quality you are capable of producing. This appointment will have permanent force and effect unless the Emperor shall have cause to later revoke it’

--Lucius Antonius
Imperial Chamberlain.

After reading the scroll, Marcus’ face is creased by a huge smile. He calls out to his wife Livia and says "My dear, I have just received a message from the Domus Imperialis. Apparently, the Emperor is so impressed with the goods we produce that I have been appointed as Chief Provisioner to the Imperial Household".

Livia raises a hand to her face in abject surprise, while saying "This is most wonderful news, Marcus. What will you do now?"

"Livia, I will go immediately to the Temple of Iovi Optimo Maximo and offer a sacrifice in token of my gratitude for this great good fortune. We will tell our three sons about this when they return this evening. I can only imagine the surprise on their faces when they hear the news"

Elsewhere across the city, there is much rejoicing in the Household of Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius. Today, his oldest son Julius is to wed Aemelia, the younger daughter of Senator Claudius Appius Tuditanus. The ceremony to be performed is ‘Confarraetio’. Accordingly, the entire family of Senator Claudius is gathered as witnesses (aside from the ten outsiders required by ancient Roman law). Senator Gaius’ villa has been garlanded and decorated profusely, and a great feast has been laid on for after the ceremony. It is a mark of the importance of the uniting of these two families that Maximus Sextus Julius the Elder, pontifex of the Temple of Iovi Optimo Maximo will perform the ceremony, and that Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus is also in attendance. Once the actual ceremony is concluded, the gifts are exchanged. Princeps Senatus Quintus rises to speak.

"Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius, in honor of this great day, I have secured the appointment of your son Julius Aquilius Manlius as Tribunus Laticlavius of Legio I Italica. I wish him the greatest of fortune as he begins to ascend the Cursus Honorum. Now, let there be feasting, dancing and the making of much merriment. I have spoken!!"

Moving the Headquarters
Date: Ianuarius VIII MDCXXXI AUC / Ianuarius 8th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Legate Germanicus and Legate Marcus are meeting to discuss the readiness of the troops in Legio I Italica. Legate Marcus is the first to speak. "Legate Germanicus, now that I have a full ten cohorts on the muster rolls, I will remove myself and my staff to the training camp. The camp is being expanded into a full legionary fortress, so this move only makes sense."

"I quite understand, Legate Marcus. Let me assure you that it has been a genuine pleasure working with you here the past several months."

Just then, there is a knock on the door. Both officers pause in their discussions to see who it is. In walks the newly-minted Tribunus Laticlavius of Legio I Italica, who salutes and says "Hail, Legates. Tribunus Laticlavius Julius Aquilius Manlius reporting as ordered." Legate Marcus returns the salute and says "Greetings, Tribunus Laticlavius. Allow me to offer my congratulations on your wedding and your appointment as my second-in-command. Legate Germanicus and I were discussing the status of Legio I Italica just as you arrived. I have decided that, since the legion is at full strength, I will be moving my headquarters from here to the training camp. You will be accompanying me, so I give you the next seven days to prepare for the transfer."

"I understand, Legate Marcus."

Date: Ianuarius XV MDCXXXI AUC / Ianuarius 15th, 878 AD

Legate Marcus, Tribunus Laticlavius Julius and the rest of Legio I Italica’s command staff are assembled for the ride to the training camp. In the train are the Lady Aemelia (wife of Tribunus Laticlavius Julius) and her household staff. Legate Germanicus and the headquarters staff of Legio X Fretensis are gathered to see them off. For security, Legate Germanicus has detailed two full centuriae of legionaries as an escort. All is now in readiness, the customary salutes are exchanged and the order to march is given. There is no immediately-pressing need for haste, so Legate Marcus orders that a slow route-step be used. The weather here in mid-December is cool and rather crisp. There a are a few clouds in the sky, and just a hint of a breeze from the northwest. Despite the relaxed pace, Legate Marcus and his party make good progress. They arrive at the camp just before mid-day, and are greeted by an honor guard.

"Welcome to camp, Legate Marcus. I am Praefectus Castrum Decimus Annius Canus,a and I have had word of your arrival by messenger from Legio X Fretensis. Your quarters have been prepared, as have quarters for Tribunus Laticlavius Julius Aqulius Manlius and the rest of your staff."

"Thank you, Prefectus Castrum. What is the status of the recruits in training?"

"Legate Marcus, the training is progressing very well. The newest recruits seem to be competing amongst themselves to see who can perform the best. There have also been no disciplinary problems to speak of, either."

"Very good, Praefectus. Please see to it that our baggage is stowed away."

"Yes, Legate." Legate Marcus now turns to the head of his escort and says "You are dismissed, Centurio. Please return to Legate Germanicus and give him my complements."

"Understood, Legate." The centurio salutes, then gathers his men for the march back to Nova Roma.

All around Legate Marcus and his party, the work of construction is much in evidence. The surveyors have laid out the streets according to the plans drawn up by the architecti. These are in a regular grid pattern around where the Principia will be located. The camp’s gates have been sited, and the gorund is being trenched for the laying out of of sewers and water lines. One of the most immediate needs of Legio I Italica is for a reliable source of fresh water. Accordingly, work parties are constructing a branch line from the nearby aqueduct, and the foundations are being laid for a water filtration system. Legate Marcus is well-pleased by the progress he sees, and now occupies his mind with the task of setting up his headquarters.
Date: Ianuarius XV MDCXXXI AUC / Ianuarius 15th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Back at the camp of Legio X Fretensis, Legate Germanicus and Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus are discussing how best to coordinate the movements of their troops during the upcoming campaign against Marche and Umbria. Legate Germanicus begins by saying "Tribunus Laticlavius, from earliest times, one of the main problems encountered by any military force has been how to communicate effectively over long distances. On a local basis, communications have been done by messages carried on foot or horseback. The problem is that, as distance increases, the speed of communication slows down. Do you have any suggestions?"

"Yes I do, Legate. From my readings of Rome’s military history, I have seen that in battle, there have bene a great many instances where the movements of troops were directed by the use of flags. Why not apply this principle as a means of communicating over long distances? My suggestion is to set up a series of watchtowers at fixed distances from each other, perhaps five to eight mille apart, depending on the local geography. Each of these towers would be like the many fortlets along Hadrian’s Wall in northern Brittania. The tower would be forty cubits in height, with a lower half of stone and upper levels of stoutly-constructed timber. Each tower would have a wooden palisade, along with legionaries to do the signaling. There would also be a dozen horses at each message station in case the signals can’t be sent for some reason. Messages would be passed from tower-to-tower by waving a pair of flags. Messages can even be sent at night by using oil lamps instead of flags."

A look of sudden comprehension lights up Legate Germanicus’ face. He asks "Tribunus Laticlavius, how can specific information be passed along using your system?".

"Legate Germanicus, each letter in the alphabet will be represented by a particular combination of movements of the flags or oil lamps. What I propose would not have been possible in earlier days. The thing that makes it possible now is those new telescopes. Think of the possibilities, Legate. The speed of communication between two points is now limited only by how fast the information can be transcribed and relayed. As an example, the great Gaius Julius Caesar was once able to travel more than 330 mille in twenty four hours by the use of numerous changes of horse. A message sent by this system can travel the same distance in less than an hour."

Legate Germanicus grins widely, then claps Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus on the shoulder by way of appreciation. "That is a brilliant idea, Tribune. I don’t know why I never thought of it before. Now that you have explained it to me in greater detail, I think it of such importance that I will bring it before the Emperor immediately. In the meantime, well done!! I leave it to you to devise that system of flag or lamp movements you mentioned previously."

"I shall set to work immediately, Legate."
More Technology
Date: Ianuarius XVII MDCXXXI AUC / Ianuarius 17th, 878 AD
Loction: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Legate Germanicus is coming back to his office from reviewing supply requirements with his quartermaster, when he is greeted by Lucius Sulpicius Apuleius, Legio X Fretensis’ stablemaster.

"Hail, Legate. There is a matter I would like to discuss with you."

"Hail, Lucius Sulpicius Apuleius. What can I do for you?"

"Legate, this matter concerns a more efficient way of using the legion’s horses. In former days, when a horse was hitched to a wagon or chariot, the harnesses we used would put pressure on the animal’s throat. While these harnesses did work, they caused the animal discomfort and limited the amount of weight that could be pulled."

"Yes, Lucius. I have observed this. What do you propose?"

"Legate, I have been considering the problem ever since Iovi Optimo Maximo brought us here. My idea is a new kind of harness that will distribute the weight of whatever a horse is pulling to the animal’s shoulders and chest, rather than to its throat. I got the idea from the carrying poles used by milkmaids and the pack baskets used by our legionaries to carry earth from trenches that are being excavated. Neither of these two items has the weight bearing on the user’s neck. Rather, the laod is distributed to the shoulders. The new type of horse harness I propose is oval in shape, and is made of padded leather. It rests on the shoulders of the animal without touching the neck, and is held in place by leather straps that go around the shoulders and chest."

"Hmmm, a most interesting idea, Stablemaster Lucius. How do you intend to proceed with it?"

"Legate, if you are agreeable, I would like you and Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus to attend a test I have arranged on the parade ground tomorrow morning."

"Very well, Stablemaster Lucius. We will be there."

Date: Ianuarius XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / Ianuarius 18th, 878 AD

Three hours after sunrise, Legate Germanicus and Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus go to the parade ground, interested in seeing what Lucius Sulpicius Apuleius was talking about. Stablemaster Lucius is already there, along with a pair of wagons, two teams of two horses each and their drivers.

"Greetings, Legate. Greetings, Tribune. Thank you for coming here today. On my right, the team of horses hitched to the first wagon is using harnesses of the old style. As you can see, they bear directly on the necks of the animals. The horse team hitched to the wagon on my left is using harnesses of the type I have devised. Tribunus Laticlavius, please take note of the way the harnesses sit on the shoulders of the horses, rather than pressing on their necks., and also of the way the collars are held in place with leather straps. Note also that the wagons are loaded with the exact same amount of weight."

Stablemaster Lucius gives a signal, and the first wagon moves off on a course around the parade ground, first at a slow walk, then a trot and finally, a run. Less than ten minutes later, the first wagon arrives back at the starting point. The horses are winded, and their chests are heaving with exertion as they regain their strength. While the first horse team rests, the second team takes off to run the very same course that the first team just completed. Legate Germanicus and Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus note with interest that the second horse team is proceeding at a significantly-faster pace, and that the horses are also not winded nearly as badly as the first team was. The second team completes the course and draws up alongside the second team. Once it stops, Stablemaster Lucius begins to speak.

"Legate, you and Tribune Marcus can see the results with your own eyes. The new harness I have devised is more comfortable for the horses to use, thus allowing them to do more while expending less of their strength. I have calculated that a two-horse team with the new harness is able to do the work of three horses at the same time."

Legate Germanicus and Tribune Marcus exchange knowing smiles as Stablemaster Lucius goes on to say "Legate, if you order this new harness into production, it will significantly increase our logistical capacity. I need not tell you how important this is."

Legate Germanicus considers Stablemaster Lucius’ words for a brief moment and then says "You have convinced me, Lucius. I hereby order that all horse harness in Legio X Fretensis is to be replaced by harnesses of your design as fast as they can be manufactured. I will also send word to Legate Marcus of Legio I Italica informing him of your design. You will make sufficient harness for Legio I Italica also and deliver it as soon as it is practicable to do so."

"Yes, Legate."

Roman Artillery Doctrine
Date: Ianuarius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / January 19th, 878 AD
Location: The quarters of Lucius Decumius Franco, Primus Pilus, Legio X Fretensis

Primus Pilus Lucius Decumius Franco, having considered how best to employ the new Ballistae Ignea, now takes up his stylus to write down his thoughts on the matter.

"A Ballista Ignea is like any other piece of artillery, in that it can be employed against either enemy fortifications or bodies of troops. If used against enemy fortifications, the power of a Ballista Ignea can reduce them, thus making them easier to take by infantry assault. If used against enemy infantry, a Ballista Ignea will disrupt their formations by causing as many casualties as possible. Unless circumstances dictate otherwise, it is best if Ballistae Ignea concentrate their fire on one target, rather than having each piece fire at separate targets."

"The basic unit of artillery is the individual piece. Each piece is commanded by a decanus (who is called the Chief of the Piece), and served by a crew of nine miles gregarii who are trained to perform the various tasks of moving, loading and firing the piece. The Decanus gives all the necessary commands, while each miles gregarii has specific tasks to perform. #1 is the Sponger, #2 is the Powderman, #3 is the Shot Carrier, #4 and #5 are the Rammers, while #6 is the Primer and #7 through #9 are the assistants. When the decanus comands ‘SWAB’, #1 will take his sponge staff, dip it in a bucket of water, then swab out the interior of the tube to clear out any debris or to extinguish and flamign embers left over from previous shots. At the command of ‘LOAD’, the powderman and the shot carrier will go to the piece’s ammunition chest and take out a bagged powder charge and one round of whatever type of shot is called for. These will be carried to an inserted in the open end of the tube. The command of ‘RAM’ will have the rammers take up their heavy wooden rod and firmly seat the powder and shot at the bottom of the tube. The decanus, being chief of the piece, will now call out "PRIME’. The primer will use a long, thin bronze spike to pierce the powder charge through the touch hole. Then, he will take a flask of fine-grained Powder of Mars and pour some into the touch hole. The next command of ‘READY’ will have all members of the crew standing back. Once the crew are away from the piece, the decanus will call out ‘AIM’. Two of the assistants will go to the rear of the piece and work the elevating gear until the tube bears directly at whatever target is called for. The decanus will check the aim, and then call out ‘FIRE’. He will use his ignition staff (a wooden pole with a length of burning cord fixed to one end) to ignite the powder in the touch hole and so fire the piece. When the piece has been fired, the miles gregarii will wheel it back into position and await the next command from the decanus."

"Eight ballista ignea make up a centuria. This term was chosen because the unit is commanded by a centurio and that there are ten men per piece, thus making a total of 80. Additionally, there are twenty support troops such as blacksmiths and artificers. A centuria of artillery can be divided into two equal bodies of four pieces each. These are called ‘half-centuriae’ or ‘vexillatio’. Each legion will have one centuria of artillery assigned to it. The job of the centurio commanding the artillery will be to place the fire of his ballistae ignea wherever directed to by the Legate or Tribunus Laticlavius.

More Bang for the Sestertius
Date: Ianuarius XX MDCXXXI AUC / January 20th, 877 AD
Location: Hero’s workshop

Among the several projects that Hero has turned his attention to is how more efficiently harness the power of the Powder of Mars. To this end, Hero has reviewed the voluminous notes he took when he was experimenting with the Powder of Mars in November. He has determined that the more powerful blasts were produced by those containers which were strongest, namely bronze and iron. Of these two materials, iron is the stronger and therefore produced a more violent blast. With this information in hand, Hero uses one of the new magnifying glasses to examine the shattered iron fragments produced in his previous tests. Another discovery that he is able to make is that the blast wasn’t uniform, in that the pressures didn’t act upon all parts of the iron tubes with uniformity. This is shown by the fact that some of the iron tubes broke into just three or four irregular pieces, and that these pieces were sometimes greatly dissimilar in size. Hero considers how to obtain a uniform explosion and hits upon a solution. Drawing upon a comparison between the Aeolipile and the metal tubes used to contain the Powder of Mars, Hero reasons that the steam which caused the engine to rotate acted equally upon all parts of the interior surface of the sphere. The obvious solution would be to confine the Powder of Mars in a hollow iron ball.

With this objective in mind, Hero now devises a way to cast a hollow iron sphere. Up to now, metal castings have been solid; in the case of bronze statues, the bases are open. Hero quickly designs a two-part mold that will cast one half of a hollow iron ball. The idea is to cast two identical pieces, then forge-weld them together. The resulting ball has a diameter of three and three-quarter uncia, with a wall thickness of one-half of an uncia. The mold is designed so that when the two halves are welded together, there is a hold in one side of the iron ball, perhaps three-quarters of an uncia in diameter. This hole will allow Powder of Mars to be poured into the ball. Hero gives the design of the mold to his assistants and orders that a copy be made. Once the mold is made, two dozen pieces are to be cast. These will serve to make twelve complete hollow iron balls.

While this project is ongoing, Hero considers how to safely ignite the Powder of Mars when it is contained within an iron ball. Going back to his project notes, Hero sees that the cords he used to ignite those powder-filled tubes burned at a very fast rate. To slow down the rate of burning, Hero takes small quantities of fine-grained powder and uniformly mixes various substances in each amount of powder. He burns each batch of altered powder separately and notes which is the slowest. Obviously, the fastest rate of burning is from unaltered Powder of Mars. After hours of experimentation, Hero determines that the substance which best alters the burn rate of the Powder of Mars is ordinary sawdust. The type needed has to be very fine, almost like the flour used to bake bread. Hero pauses in his work, looks up and sees that night is beginning to fall. In his enthusiasm, Hero has completely lost track of time. Reluctantly, Hero puts aside his work for today and calls for his customary dinner. "Tomorrow will be a new day", he says.

Date: Ianuarius XXI MDCXXXI AUC / January 21st, 878 AD

Hero rises after the sun is above the horizon and quickly consumes a light breakfast of cheese, eggs and bread dipped in olive oil. This is washed down with a goblet of well-watered wine. Hero leaves his quarters and quickly goes to his workshop. Immediately upon arrival, he sees that two of his assistants are already waiting for him. There is a large basket on the ground between them, and in the basket are the twelve hollow iron balls that Hero ordered to be made. The two men bring the basket inside, set it on the workbench and depart. Hero pulls up a chair in front of the workbench and sits down. He takes one of the hollow iron balls out of the basket and examines it closely. The surface has a relatively-smooth finish (from the fine clay-sand mixture use to make the mold), and the measurements are all exactly as he specified. Satisfied with the results, Hero puts the ball back into the basket and puts his hand towards making the ignition devices. These will have two components. The first is a wooden plug with a narrow hole in the center. This plug will be of a diameter slightly more than the hole in one of the hollow iron balls Half of the plugs will have their interior holes filled with small amounts of tightly-packed Powder of Mars that has been altered so as to burn at different rates. These plugs will have both ends sealed with small amounts of liquid wax.

The other half of the wooden plugs are to be employed in a different fashion. Half of this remaining number will have prepared cords threaded through the holes in their centers. One end of each cord will be tightly knotted so that when the plug is pressed into the powder-filled iron balls, it will not come loose. To fill the holes in the other plugs, Hero takes the hollow stems of dried-out reeds and fills them with different mixtures of the altered Powder of Mars. These powder-filled reeds are clamped in a wooden form, then squeezed in a wooden press until the powder contained within them is solid. The plugs to hold them are modified so that when the reeds are inserted and twisted, they will be locked into place. All that remains is to fill each of the hollow iron balls with loose Powder of Mars. Hero quickly accomplishes this, then uses his wooden screw press to force the ignition devices into place. Mindful of the danger that these devices represent, Hero places them in a closed wooden chest, then orders his assistants to load the chest onto a waiting wagon. Hero and his chief assistant climb aboard the wagon and drive it outside the city to a location specially-selected for the test. A small wooden bench is unloaded from the wagon, and a lit oil lamp is placed upon it. Hero reaches into the wooden chest and removes one of the new weapons and lights the cord sticking out of the wooden plug. Hero’s assistant begins to count in a loud voice: 1, 2, 3. The cord catches fire and begin to burn quickly. Hero gives the iron ball a mighty heave, and it lands on the other side of a fallen tree some forty cubits away. As the count reaches eight, there is a great, loud noise from the other side of the fallen tree, like unto a peal of thunder. There is also a thick cloud of white smoke given off. When the smoke clears, Hero and his assistant rush to the other side of the tree and find that a small hole has been created by the force of the blast, and that numerous iron fragments have been driven into the tree with such force that the trunk would have to be chopped open to retrieve them. Before proceeding with the next test, Hero makes copious notes on what has been done up to now. These notes will serve as instructions on how to duplicate these weapons.

The next ball to be tested is one with a powder-filled wooden plug. Hero scrapes off the wax from the exposed end with a small knife, then lights the plug with the oil lamp. As before, his assistant begins to count as the ball is tossed behind the tree. When the count reaches twenty, the ball explodes. The third ball is one with a hollow reed fitted into the wooden plug. The reed is ignited and the ball is tossed behind the tree, where it too, goes off. Over the next half-hour, Hero expends the other nine iron balls in the same fashion, pausing only to further append his notes. When the last has been set off, Hero turns to his assistant Aulus Gellius and says "What do you think, Aulus?"

Aulus replies, "Hero, if I hadn’t been here and saw what we did with my own eyes, I would never have believed such a thing to be possible. It was as if Iovi Optimo Maximo himself was throwing his thunderbolts." Hero grins at his assistant’s excited state of mind as Aulus continues to speak.

"I observed that the cloud of smoke and fire created when those iron balls went off was much like a great tree. Trees grow from seeds, and by throwing those iron balls we in essence, planted them. Would it not be appropriate to call these new weapons ‘Seeds of Fire"? A thoughtful expression crosses Hero’s face and he grins widely. "That is an apt comparison, Aulus. I so name them.

The last things to be done are to put out the oil lamp and load the table back onto the wagon. Hero and Aulus Gellius drive back to Nova Roma. Aulus sees to the horses and the wagon, while Hero writes a report of his tests for Legate Germanicus.

Communications: Part II
Date: Januarius XXI MDCXXXI AUC / Jnauary 21st, 878 AD
Location: The Principia

As part of his assignment to develop a means of communicating via signal flags or lamps, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus orders the first two message stations to be constructed. The first will be placed right outside the walls of Nova Roma, and the second will be half-way between Nova Roma and the castra of Legio I Italica (at a distance of five mille). He further sends word to Legio I Italica that they should construct a message station of their own. These stations are to be of the same pattern in order to facilitate construction. First, there will be a stout, two-story stone building which will house the troops assigned to the station. On top of the building, there will be a four-story open-work wooden tower. The top floor of the tower is where the messages will be sent and received. The other levels of the tower will serve as places from which a watch of the local countryside will be maintained. The station will be surrounded on all four sides by a stout wooden palisade, with but a single gate. Inside this enclosure are buildings to house the station’s horses, provisions and other needed items. There is also a blacksmith shop and a carpenter’s shop to facilitate maintenance of the station.

The station’s most important pieces of equipment are the telescopes used to observe other stations and the sending of their messages, if any. The telescopes are also used to watch the surrounding countryside for the approach of enemies. For reasons of redundancy, the message station is furnished with two sets of telescopes. This second set will be kept in a locked chest in the station commander’s office. Of equal importance to the telescopes are the maps showing the message station’s exact position in relation to other stations and also to various landmarks; rivers, lakes, forests, etc. These maps help coordinate sending messages between stations, so that messages aren’t sent to the wrong destination by mistake .

One the orders have been given, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus turns his hand towards completing the system of flag or lamp movements used to send messages. To increase message security and reduce the speed of message transmission, Tribune Marcus decides to have each letter of the alphabet represent a particular word or phrase, and that messages are to start and end with the letter’Z’ as a means of authentication. Some of the abbreviations he devises are as follows:

A: Enemy Infantry
B: Enemy Cavalry
C: Advancing
D: Retreating
E: Attacking
F: Send Reinforcements
G: Locals rebelling

Under this system, a message like ‘Enemy cavalry advancing, locals rebelling, send reinforcements’ would be reduced to ‘ZBCGFZ’ Messages not prefaced or ended with the letter ‘Z’ are assumed to be invalid and will not be received or transmitted.

Weapons & Equipment Delivery
Date: Ianuarius XXII MDCXXXI AUC / January 22nd, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Legate Germanicus is attending to various logistical tasks for the upcoming campaign against Marche and Umbria when he calls for his second-in-command. "Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus, attend me."

"Yes, Legate?"

"Tribune Marcus, the Ballistae Ignea for Legio I Italica are ready for delivery. I want you to oversee their transfer. The fabrica and the powder works have produced a quantity of ammunition sufficient for training purposes, so that will be going along also. Additionally, you will also be taking along Legio I Italica’s new armor and brining back the old lorica hamata here for storage. I have assigned sufficient horses and rolling stock for all of this material. We are pressed for time, so I want you to leave in two days."

"Yes, Legate. What of security?"

"Tribune Marcus, I will assign the Second Cohort of Legio X Fretensis to accompany the wagon train. I’ll have you take along Optio Gaius Octavius Drusus as your second-in-command."

"As you wish, Legate. If you have nothing further for me, I will go and see to the loading of the wagons."

"Very good, Tribune. You are dismissed."

Tribune Marcus renders the proper salute, then leaves Legate Germanicus’ office. His first stop is to collect Optio Gaius Octavius Drusus. Together, the two men proceed to the Fabrica. As they arrive, the loading process is already underway. The ammunition chests for the ballistae ignea have been loaded with fourteen rounds of solid shot, seven rounds of grape shot and seven rounds of scatter shot, along with twenty-eight bagged powder charges. The loaded ammunition chests are secured to smaller wagons that are in turn, hitched to the ballistae ignea themselves. Next, separate, larger wagons are each loaded with a further 168 rounds of ammunition; one wagon per ballista ignea. This extra ammunition is contained in wooden boxes, twelve rounds each per box. Once the wagons are loaded, they and the ballistae ignea are taken out to the Fabrica’s marshaling yard to await the horse teams that will draw them along. On the other side of the Fabrica, the first of several dozen wagons are being loaded with the new armor for Legio I Italica. Satisfied with te progress thus far, Tribune Marcus sends Optio Gaius to the stables to ensure the horses are ready for the trip.

Date: Ianuarius XXIII MDCXXXI AUC / January 23rd, 878 AD

Just after sunrise, the expedition under the command of Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus and Optio Gaius Octavius Drusus is ready to move out. The wagons are loaded, the horses are hitched and the Second Cohort of Legio X Fretensis is standing by as ordered. Tribune Marcus signals to Optio Gaius, who calls out in a loud, clear voice ‘MOVE OUT’. It is but ten mille to the castra of Legio I Italica, so the supply train is expected to arrive sometime in the evening. The morning is cold, but not bitterly so, and the skies are almost totally clear. The wagon train’s steady pace tells off the mille until noontime, when a brief halt is called to rest and water the horses and to see that the men have their noontime meal. The march is quickly resumed, and by early evening, the wagon train arrives at Legio I Italica’s gates. Tribune Marcus orders Optio Gaius to stay with the wagons, while he goes to the principia to report to Legate Marcus.

"Hail, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva. I beg to report."

"Hail, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus. What can I do for you?"

"Legate Marcus, Legate Germanicus sends his greetings and has instructed me to tell you that I am delivering the twelve ballistae ignea for Legio I Italica, along with a supply of ammunition sufficient for training purposes. I have also brought along the new armor for your legion, and I am to collect the old armor and bring it back."

"Very well, Tribune Marcus." Legate Marcus calls for his headquarters staff and issues orders for the wagons to be unloaded. He also asks of Tribune Marcus "Will you be going back to your own castrum tonight?"

"No, Legate. It is too late for that. We’ll be camping outside your gates tonight and leaving in the morning."

"I thought as much, Tribune. I’ll set my cooks to work and see that your men have a hot meal. In the meantime, I will have you and Optio Gaius join my staff and I for dinner.

"Thank you, Legate. That is most welcome."

With assistance from the men of Legio I Italica, the wagons are quickly unloaded. The ballistae ignea are wheeled off, and the ammunition wagons are placed in secure storage. Finally, the new armor is collected and stored by Legio I Italica’s quartermasters. While this is going on, the drovers and the legionaries in the Second Cohort sit down to enjoy a hearty evening meal. Tribune Marcus and Optio Gaius are treated to a sit-down dinner by Legate Marcus. After they have eaten, they rejoin their men and tents are pitched for the night.

Date: Ianuarius XXIV MDCXXXI AUC / January 24th, 878 AD

Bright and early this morning, the men of Legio X Fretensis are ready to depart. The proper salutes are rendered by Tribune Marcus and Optio Gaius, and various farewells are made. A steady pace is kept, and the remaining wagons the castrum of Legio X Fretensis just after the sun begins to set. It as decide not to stop, and to therefore have the men and horses eat on the march. Tribune Marcus calls of the quartermasters to receive and store the loricae hamata, and then goes to report to Legate Germanicus.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:39 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:41 am
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Location: Cambs, UK
Now your shipwrights have to design ships able to handle multi ton dynamic spot loads, immediate recoil loads and breaching, dry and spark free powder storage.... A typical merchant ship of this era might be able to take a couple of 4 pounders as we would know them.

By the way, bronze guns for ships are generally an advantage if "hit and run" is required, it allowed the ship to carry its weight lower down and be stiffer in any wind. Of course if you're using oared galleys, you can only fit one gun in the bows and the ship needs designing around it, Mediterranean construction typically too light otherwise.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured, tortured.
Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 1:25 pm 

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On The Border
Date: The morning of Ianuarius XXVIII MDCXXXI AUC / January 28th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Legate Germanicus calls for Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus in order to address an issue that has been nettling him for some time.

"Tribune Marcus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"This so-called Catholic Church we have been hearing about has been in my thoughts for some time. They are the power in Europa and here on the Italian peninsula, at least until we arrived" Tribune Marcus' face creases with a wide smile as he hears Legate Germanicus mention this. "Their capabilities are largely unknown to us, and it occurs to me that they could give us some trouble. Therefore, I want you to detach the First Cohort and the Second Cavalry Ala and send them to patrol along the border between Tuscany and Lazio. They are to keep watch and inform me of anything unusual going on, to include attempts to cross over into our territory."

"Yes, Legate. I will issue the orders immediately.."

Tribune Marcus leaves Legate Germanicus' office and goes to see the commanders of the First Cohort and the Second Cavalry Ala. Within the hour, preparations are being made for the march. Rations and tentage are drawn from the Quartermasters, and all equipment is checked and re-checked. Three hours after the order is given, the First Cohort and the Second Cavalry Ala form for the march and move out. The border between Tuscany and Lazio is four days' march from the city of Nova Roma. The first three days of the march pass uneventfully. As is their custom, the legionaries and cavalrymen stop each afternoon and construct a marching camp, complete with moat and stockade. Even though they are still within Nova Roman territory, the guard details are mounted as if they are at war. On the fourth day, the troops arrive in the border area and begin to construct a more permanent camp. The location was carefully chosen so as to be near a source of fresh water. Almost as soon as the camp is laid out, patrols are sent out along the border.

The first patrol to be mounted is over-large, consisting of sixty cavalry and the First Centuria of the First Cohort. The orders of the infantry and the cavalry are to go out together along the border for a distance of ten mille, then the cavalry are to go out a distance of ten mille further. Both forces are to avoid contact unless absolutely necessary, while observing the geography of the region and noting any locations where enemy troops are likely to cross.

Date: Februarius III MDCXXXI AUC / February 3rd, 878 AD
Location: Rome, Cardinal Marinus' palace

Cardinal Marinus send word to the captain of the Papal Guard to come and see him.

"Captain Girolamo?"

"Yes, Eminence?"

"His Holiness is unwell. Until such time as he recovers, you will be taking your orders from me."

"Yes, of course, Eminence. How can I be of assistance?"

"Captain, I want you to take one thousand of your troops to the border between Lazio and Tuscany. You will patrol the border and keep any of our people from leaving. You will likewise prevent anyone from coming over into our territory."

"Yes, your Eminence."

And so, the word goes out to the various encampments of the Papal Guard scattered around the city of Rome. The men of the Papal Guard are better-equipped then those in the retinue of many nobles. Every man has a shield, a helmet and a mail hauberk. They are armed with a spear or lance, and either a sword or an axe. The arms and equipment of the officers is similar, except that theirs is of much higher quality. The force sent by Cardinal Marinus consists of two hundred horse and eight hundred foot. Supplies and equipment are gathered and the foot and horse are mustered for the march. Two days later, the order to march is given.

Date: Februarius IV MDCXXXI AUC / February 4th, 878 AD

Over the previous seven days, various Jewish people residing in the northwestern part of Lazio have taken advantage of their remoteness from Rome to pull up stakes and leave. Some are on foot, carrying all that they own on their backs, and others have a wagon or cart piled high with all of their household property. Still others are accompanied by whatever livestock they happen to own. Whatever their circumstances are, all are united in a vast dislike of the arbitrary and capricious way they have been treated by their overlords. Some of the biggest points of contention are the unjust and unfair levels of taxation laid upon them, plus the vile abuse suffered by some of their women. Despite the very real risk of incurring the wrath of the local nobility, what convinced the people to leave were the stories reaching them from the village of Machaise; stories of how the holy relics of the Jewish people have been returned and how they have been allowed to settle and building a new synagogue in peace.

By chance or design, some 250 families have found themselves travelling together on the road. Some families have but five members, while others have three entire generations. Later that morning, the caravan has just crossed the border between Lazio and Tuscany when they are spotted by a party of twenty troopers from the Second Cavalry Ala. The two decurions in charge of the cavalry patrol immediately bring their men down from their overwatch position to determine what the purpose of the caravan is.

The senior decurion Quintus Avidius Castus calls out "Halt in the name of Nova Roma. Who are you and what are you doing here?" There are some exclamations of fear and apprehension among the people as they are so confronted by the Nova Roman cavalry. After a moment or two of hesitation, an elderly Jewish man comes forth and says "Lord, I am Yosef Ben Obadiah Ben Shimon. We come here seeking the village of Machaise, where others of our people have settled and where the Holy Relics of our people now rest after being returned. Do you know the way?"

Decurion Quintus replies "Go to the city of Nova Roma. It lies eighty mille from here. Announce yourselves to the city authorities and they will direct you further. Before you leave, I must ask you if you have seen any troops following you?"

"No, Lord. We have seen none. For the first three days of our journey, we were afraid that we would be pursued, but this turned out not to be the case."

"Very well, Yosef. You may proceed."

"Thank you, Lord."

Date: Februarius V MDCXXXI AUC / February 5th, 878 AD

The day breaks cold and cloudy as Captain Girolamo assumes his position at the head of the column Without fanfare, he orders his men to move out. The column has been supplied for three weeks; the quantities of materiel involved are large and so the pace of the march isn't as fast as it would otherwise have been. The first halt is called just ten miles after they leave Rome. The sun is beginning to set, and Captain Girolamo judges that it wouldn't be wise to proceed any further today. He orders camp to be set up and sets a guard detail around the camp's perimeter.

Date: Februarius VI-X MDCXXXI AUC / February 6th-10th, 878 AD

Early in the morning, Captain Girolamo orders his men to strike camp and resume their march. The territory they are passing through consists of low, rolling hills and the occasional small river or stream. There are also large stands of trees. Here and there, there are small villages and hamlets. At the end of the second day, the column encamps outside one of these small settlements. Captain Girolamo goes to see the headman of the village to see if anything is amiss hereabouts.

"You, there. I am Captain Girolamo of His Holiness' Papal Guard. Have you seen anything unusual or out of the ordinary aorund here?"

"No, Lord. My name is Giacomo and I am the headman of this village. We have seen nothing new hereabouts. But, several traders and merchants have come through recently. They have told tales of strangers to the northwest and of odd goings-on in Tuscany. I have no men to spare, so I thought it proper not to go and see if these tales were true myself."

"Very well, Giacomo. My men and I are encamped outside your village. Send whatever wine you have, as I wish to be refreshed." Captain Girolamo tosses a small bag of coins as payment. He further says "We will be leaving at first light."

"Yes, Lord. The wine will be there within the hour." Giacomo feigns gratefulness as he retrieves the bag of coins from the floor. He mutters under his breath, saying "How dare that arrogant bastard treat me so, and in my own house, even." Giacomo walks off to see about the wine, mumbling curses as he does so.

The next four days of the march pass without incident. Captain Girolamo and his men are the border area between Lazio and Tuscany when they notice several small village that have been abandoned Rather than the people just walking off, it appears that the people packed whatever they owned, took their tools and livestock and just left. Captain Girolamo observes that the tracks all lead across the border into Tuscany.

Date: Februarius X MDCXXXI AUC / February 10th, 878 AD

Captain Girolamo and his men have arrived at the border between Lazio and Tuscany. He orders that camp be made and further disposes his men as he sees fit. Unknown to them, they have been under constant observation by the Nova Romans. The First Cohort and the detachment of the Second Cavalry Ala have maintained regular patrols so that no move by the papal troops goes un-noticed. In addition to watching the papal troops, the Nova Romans have further identified the half-dozen most likely locations where enemy troops are likely to try and cross over the border. Later that afternoon, troopers form the cavalry detachment are riding along the border when they hear a disturbance and position themselves to determine what is going on.

A group of people is trying to cross the border. They are largely on foot, with just a couple of ox-drawn carts piled high with their household goods. Almost before they know it, the people are intercepted and surrounded before they can cross the actual border. The Nova Roman cavalry patrol is close enough to actually see and hear what is happening. The papal troops have their swords drawn and their spears and lances lowered, surrounding the people with a ring of burnished, pointed steel. The officer in charge of this group of soldiers rides up and announces in a haughty voice "By orders of His Holiness Pope John, this area is closed. Turn around and leave. NOW!!" As this is going on, several people try to break and run. They are caught before they can go more than a few yards. Three men are run through with spears. With savage, feral grins, certain of the papal troops drag off five women from the party that tried to run. The women scream piteously as they realize what is in store for them. The men dragging the women away take much delight in the panicked fear in the women's faces, and give forth peals of uproarious laughter. The Nova Romans watching this are absolutely outraged. To their credit, some of them make ready to ride across the border and intervene. Before they can put spurs to horse, Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus orders them to and down. He says "I am as angry as you are at what happened, but our orders are to observe and report, not to interfere. Rest assured that there will be a reckoning, however." Decurio Quintus next orders "one of you must ride back to camp and report to Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus. Give his my complements and tell him what has happened here. Tell him also that I am requesting further instructions."

The first trooper to speak up is Lucius Sertorius. He says "Immediately, Decurio Quintus." He climbs into his saddle and rides off. Within an hour or so, Trooper Lucius is back at the camp of the First Cohort. He immediately seeks out Primus Pilus Lucius. "Hail, Primus Pilus. I beg to report."

"Hail, Trooper Lucius."

"Primus Pilus, Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus sends his compliments. He has entrusted me to tell you that a party of enemy soldiers intercepted a group of civilians as they tried to cross our border. Three of the men were killed by the troops and five women were dragged off to be passed around and outraged. Decurio Quintus judged that it was better to observe than to intervene. He also requests further instructions."

Primus Pilus Quintus' face is creased by an angry expression as he listens to the report. He tell Trooper Lucius "Return at once to Decurio Quintus and give him my regards. Tell him that he did well not to intervene, though he very much wanted to do so. Tell Decurio Quintus that he is to maintain his patrols. If any of the enemy are so unwise as to cross our border, he is to see that something permanent happens to them."

Trooper Lucius grins widely at Primus Pilus Lucius' words. He responds by saying "Yes, Primus Pilus." Trooper Lucius climbs back into his saddle and rides off as fast as he can go. Two hours later, Trooper Lucius is back with Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus. "Greetings, Decurio Quintus. Primus Pilus Lucius sends his regards and says that you did well not to intervene. He says that you are to continue our patrols and that if any of the enemy dare to cross our borders, you are to see that something permanent happens to them."

"Thank you, Trooper Lucius. Your efforts will be noted for the record."

Date: Februarius XI MDCXXXI AUC / February 11th, 878 AD

Captain Girolamo's men have settled into a routine of patrolling the border between Lazio and Tuscany. They have continued to turn back anyone they see approaching the border from their side. One cavalry patrol has just completed a circuit of their assigned are and are on the way back to camp when they see two people heading for the border. The first is a young woman and the second is a boy of perhaps ten or twelve years of age. Lieutenant Giulio Andreozzi, the officer in charge of the patrol calls out in a loud voice "Stop where you are!!" The two people hesitate for a moment, but take off running when they see horsemen coming after them. Lieutenant Giulio shouts "AFTER THEM. DON'T LET THEM ESCAPE!!!" In their haste to obey the command, the cavalrymen fail to pay attention to their location and charge across the actual border. Before the woman and the boy are able to get more than one hundred yards away, they are surrounded and captured. Lieutenant Giulio rides up and says "Woman, when I give an order, I expect it to be obeyed." These words are punctuated by a slap across the woman's face. She falls to the ground and begins to sob uncontrollably.

The young boy (apparently the woman's brother) is so enraged at the treatment of his sister that he charges Lieutenant Giulio and begins to beat at him with his small fists. Lieutenant Giulio gives a small chuckle, then plants his boot in the boy's stomach. He calls for his men to take the two away, but almost as soon as the words are out of his mouth, a command rings out "HALT IN THE NAME OF IMPERIAL ROME!!" Lieutenant Giulio looks around in surprise and sees a lone Roman cavalryman sitting astride his horse some thirty yards distant. His next order is "Kill Him". Two of Lieutenant Giulio's men draw their swords and ride forward to teach this interloper a lesson in humility. They are only ten yards away when the Roman cavalryman raises his right hand as a signal. Suddenly, twenty men from the vexillatio of the Second Cavalry Ala come riding out from behind a small stand of nearby timber. A second signal from the Roman's left hand has a full centuria of legionaries spring forth from concealment on the flanks of the papal troops. The legionaries take up positions to keep the papal troops from escaping to the rear, while the Nova Roman cavalry position themselves to prevent any further advance.

Lieutenant Giulio shouts out "I am in service to His Holiness Pope John VII. Who are you to interfere with me?" The officer in charge of the Nova Roman cavalry responds "Who I am, you miserable sheep-buggering culibonia, is Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus of the Second Cavalry Ala, Legio X Fretensis. You are on Nova Roman soil and I saw how you treated those two people. I also saw how your men treated those people you captured on your side of the border three days ago. Lay down yours arms and surrender. If you do, you will not be harmed." As encouragement, Decurio Quintus' cavalrymen lower their lances and make ready to charge, and the accompanying legionaries heft their pila. Some even draw their gladii. Lieutenant Giulio sees that he is surrounded and outnumbered by five-to-one. Wisely, he commands his men to surrender. Once their weapons are on the ground, Decurio Quintus commands "Take them!!". This order has his cavalrymen and the supporting legionaries rush forward and remove the remaining equipment of Lieutenant Giulio and his men. Loud exclamations of protest are heard as the papal troops are forcibly relieved of their clothing, leaving only their breechclouts. Next, their hands are tied behind their backs and they are seated facing backwards on their horses. Lieutenant Giulio's outraged protests flow forth like water from a mountain stream. "What is the meaning of this?? You said we would not be harmed, you lying bastard!!!" Decurio Quintus grins widely and responds "I promised you would not be harmed. I never said anything about not embarrassing you." Another command has the enemy horses turned around to face the way they came. Their flanks are lashed and the horses take off at a gallop. Lieutenant Giulio and his men grab their saddles for dear life in order to keep from falling off.

While the papal troops are still within range of his voice, Decurio Quintus shouts after them in a mocking tone of voice "Remember this, the next time you think to try and come into our territory. You might not be so lucky." This exclamation is accompanied by gales of laughter from the other Nova Romans. As soon as Lieutenant Giulio and the rest of his men are out of sight, Decurio Quintus walks over to where the young woman and the boy are cowering behind a bush. He holds forth his hand and says in a gentle tone of voice, "Come out of there, you two. You have nothing to fear from me. From now on, you are under the protection of Legio X Fretensis."

Date: Februarius XII MDCXXXI AUC / February 12th, 878 AD

Lieutenant Giulio Andreozzi and his men have made their way back to their camp, and numbers of their fellow guardsmen have gathered to watch the spectacle of an entire cavalry patrol coming back without clothing, arms or armor. Lieutenant Giulio goes to Captain Girolamo's command tent to make a report, but sees that the Captain is already waiting for him.

"Well, Lieutanant? What do you have to say for yourself? Captain Girolamo's voice is as cold as ice, and the tone is so sharp it could cut steel.

"Captain, my patrol went out on the border between Lazio and Tuscany as you ordered. We succeeded in turning back many people who were trying to leave our territory. Yesterday, there was a group of men and women who tried to run past us. We caught them just before they went over the line, and while I was attending to those miscreants, a young woman and a boy ran past us over the line itself. Mindful of your order that no one leave our territory, my men and I pursued and caught them before they had a chance to go more than one hundred yards. It was then that we were ambushed by those so-called ‘Nova Romans'.

"Why did you not fight?"

"Sir, we were outnumbered by ten-to-one, so resisting would have accomplished nothing but getting us all killed. We were forced to strip down to our breechclouts and all of our arms and armor were taken. The officer in charge of the men who attacked us said that anyone else who tried to come across the border would get the same or worse."

"I see. You did well to preserve the safety of your command, Lieutenant. This insult to His Holiness' Papal Guard will not be forgotten or forgiven. I will issue orders that all of my troops will come to our location with all possible speed. Then, we will proceed across the border and teach those so-called Nova Romans a lesson in respecting their betters."

"Understood, Captain. I for one want to repay the slight I suffered." Lieutenant Giulio's face darkens with anger as he says this.

Februarius XIII MDCXXXI AUC / February 13th, 878 AD

All of Captain Girolamo's eight hundred foot and two hundred horse have gathered back at their base camp according to his orders. He gives them a description of what was done to their fellow troops, and as his words come forth, shouts and grunts of anger begin to rise from the men in front of him. "Men, we march to avenge the insult to our honor. If any of the enemy fall into our hands, we must make sure to give them a right-proper welcome" This last sentence causes chuckles of agreement to run through the ranks as the men visualize just what sort of ‘welcome' Captain Girolamo has in mind. Finally, the order to march is given, and the men move out. For the better security of his command, Captain Girolamo disposes his men so that half of his cavalry force is in front and the other half at the rear of the column. The foot is arrayed in the middle.

Februarius XIV MDCXXXI AUC / February 14th, 878 AD

Captain Girolamo's column is just ten miles from the location where Lieutenant Giulio and his men were ambushed. They think that they are alone and secure, but such is not the case. Already, they are under observation by Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus of the Second Cavalry Ala. Aided by the use of one of the new telescopes, he is quickly able to see the column of enemy troops and determine their speed of advance. Decurio Quintus calls for one of his troopers and says "Send to Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus. Tell him that there is a sizeable force of the enemy approaching, and that they will be here in one day. I ask that he and the rest of our troops come here with all possible speed."

"Yes, Decurio." The trooper spurs his horse and rides off. Just three hours of hard riding later, the trooper's horse clatters to a stop next to Primus Pilus Lucius' command tent. He immediately seeks the Primus Pilus out, salutes and says:

"Hail, Primus Pilus. I bring important news from Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus."

"Hail, Trooper. What goes?"

"Primus Pilus, Decurio Quintus says that a large enemy force is advancing on his position, and that they will cross the border in one day. He also asks that you and the rest of the troops and cavalry come there as soon as possible."

"Very well, Trooper. Thank you for your report. I want you back in the saddle as soon as possible, so, rest, eat and change horses. Once you are done, ride back to Decurio Quintus and tell him that we are on the way."

"Yes, Primus Pilus."

Word now spreads through the camp of the First Cohort of what is afoot. The legionaries and cavalrymen hurriedly prepare themselves and their equipment for the march. Three hours later, all are gathered and Primus Pilus Lucius gives them their warning order. The men move out, and the miles fall away as if the men have been sped along by the hand of Iovi Optimo Maximo himself. Eight hours of hard marching later, Primus Pilus Lucius and his advance guard are met by Decurio Quintus.

"Hail, Decurio. How goes it with you?"

"Hail, Primus Pilus. I and my men are well, and the enemy is still twelve hours away. I swear by the gods that a blind testudo could move faster than them."

"So much the better for us, Decurio. Here is what we will do. You and the cavalry will stay here. I and the First Cohort will take up defensive positions at the other end of a narrow, wooded defile some eight mille from here. Once all of our men are across that nearby bridge, your men will sabotage it so that if any great weight is placed upon it, it will collapse. When the enemy approaches, the Second Cavalry Ala will demonstrate as if they mean to charge. When the enemy have taken the bait and are upon the bridge, you will feign a withdrawl in apparent confusion. As you go, the wooden blocks that are in certain vitals locations on the bridge will be pulled out. The bridge will continue to stand, but will collapse in short order. When this bridge collapses, the enemy will have no choice but to detour three mille downstream of here. The bridge there is untouched, so the enemy will send cavalry to secure it. When the enemy is across it, your cavalry will stage an attack on their flanks so that they will pursue. As they press you, withdraw in our direction, being careful not to let them know that they are walking into a trap. Now, Men. To your posts and never forget that Iovi Optimo Maximo is watching us. GLORY TO THE EMPIRE!!!"

The men of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala hasten to obey Primus Pilus Lucius' orders. As soon as the First Cohort is across the bridge, the troopers of the Second Cavalry Ala set themselves to wrecking it. Stone blocks in specially-selected locations on the bridge are replaced with wooden wedges, these wedges to be pulled out with ropes at the appropriate time. This will fatally weaken the bridge, but not collapse it immediately. Twelve hours later, the sun is just barely over the horizon, and all is in readiness. The infantry are in the defile, and the ground before them has been sewn with caltrops and crows-feet. Meanwhile, the Nova Roman cavalry makes ready to receive the enemy.

Februarius XV MDCXXXI AUC / February 15th, 878 AD

Captain Girolamo and his force have arrived at the bridge just after sunrise. They see that the Nova Roman cavalry is milling around, apparently unconcerned for their safety. "Now, we have them!!", he exclaims. "The infantry will remain here until the horse have secured the other side of the bridge. Once this has been done, we will go after those miserable ‘Nova Roman' whoresons. FORWARD FOR THE GLORY OF GOD!!!"

At Captain Girolamo's command, his cavalry spur towards the bridge. The cavalry is in two blocks, each separated by twenty yards or so. The forward body of horse just reaches the middle of the bridge when a loud cracking and groaning noise is heard. Suddenly, the middle span of the bridge collapses and spills all one hundred of the horses and their riders into the water. Captain Girolamo and the second body of horse pull up short of the bridge's abutment. Their faces are filled with shock and horror at what they have just witnessed. Meanwhile, the panicked cried of the men in the river are slowly cut off as the weight of their armor drags them under.

As soon as Captain Girolamo and his men have stopped moving, the Second Cavalry Ala springs out of concealment on the other side of the bridge and begins to hurl the worst abuse and insults imaginable at the remaining men on the far side of the bridge. Captain Girolamo's face is purple with rage as he hisses "Make for the second bridge and secure it. As soon as we are across, those motherless dogs will pay for what they have done this day." Captain Girolamo and the remaining horse gallop for the second bridge, with his infantry following as fast as they can. Just 15 minutes later, he arrives at the bridge. Selected cavalry troopers dismount from their horses and carefully go across the bridge. They examine the stonework and timbers to see if they have been tampered with. Seeing no signs of this, Captain Girolamo orders his cavalry to secure both ends of the bridge and await the arrival of the infantry. Just two hours later, Captain Girolamo's infantry arrive at the bridge. Thus joined, they take off in pursuit of the Nova Roman cavalry. Incredibly, it appears as if they haven't moved at all. When Captain Girolamo's horse are within one hundred yards, they lower their lances and charge. The ground shakes loudly with the thunder of hundreds of horses' hooves. When the leading edge of the cavalry is just twenty-five yards away from the Nova Romans, several horses scream, rear and throw their riders. It seems that portions of the ground have been sewn with caltrops and crows-feet. Those men on the ground are quickly dispatched with javelins thrown by the men of the Second Cavalry Ala. Captain Girolamo is further enraged when the Nova Roman cavalry turns and rides off, rather than standing their ground and offering honest battle.

"What kind of motherless dogs are those people??", Captain Girolamo exclaims venomously. "When I catch those bastards, I will make them scream like damned souls. FORWARD, I say!!!"

Complications: Part II
Date: Februarius XV MDCXXXI AUC / February 15th, 878 AD

After a good hour or so of pursuit, Captain Girolamo and his men aren't gaining any ground on the Nova Romans. One thing that has been weighing on his mind during the chase is why the Nova Romans didn't stand and fight. This further leads Captain Girolamo to believe that they are trying to lead him into a trap. He now considers his options and orders a halt to the pursuit. The outriders are called back and the cavalry rejoins the main body. Thus concentrated, Captain Girolamo's force heads back across the border into Lazio. They are now in camp, and have been ordered to be extra-vigilant in case the Nova Romans decide to attack them again.

As soon as the Nova roman cavalry notices that they are no longer being pursued, they halt in place. To keep apprised of the enemy's movements, six troopers of the Second Cavalry Ala are detailed to follow them. They are given special instructions to remain out of sight and to avoid contact with the enemy at all costs. Thus ordered, the six cavalrymen follow Captain Girolamo's men over the border into Lazio. They are careful never to get any closer than one-half mille. To better observe the enemy, the cavalrymen have each been issued a telescope. Once the enemy force is back in camp, two of the cavalrymen are detailed to go back and report to Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus. The other four remain on station to observe and record anything that they see.

Half an hour after the two troopers are sent back, they arrive at the camp of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala. They ride up to Primus Pilus Lucisu' command tent, and the senior of the two men dismounts to give his report. "Hail, Primus Pilus. I have news."

"Hail, trooper. What goes?"

"Primus Pilus, the enemy force has gone back into camp. The other four members of my patrol have remained on station to observe their movements."

"Very well, trooper. Return to them and tell them that they are to remain there, and to keep watch until we arrive."

"At your command, Primus Pilus."

Once the two troopers have ridden off, Primus Pilus Lucius gathers the other centuriones of the First Cohort, along with the commander of the Second Cavalry Ala. When they are all together, he announces his plan. "Gentlemen, the operations against Marche and Umbria are due to start in the first week of Aprilis. It will not do to be separated form the main body of Legio X Fretensis, nor will it be proper to leave the border unguarded. What I propose is to strike the enemy so hard and frighten them so badly that they won't dare come across the border without benefit of much larger numbers. My plan has two parts. The first involves that long outcropping of rock which parallels the much of the road from the bridge five mille from here. There is a gap in the outcropping two mille from here that is about two hundred cubits across. In the left side of the gap, we will excavate a large rectangular pit. The pit will be set at an angle to the road. In the bottom of the pit, we will place four barrels of the Powder of Mars, cover them over with large rocks and conceal the pit. The second part of my plan will have the Second Cavalry Ala attack the enemy camp. Centurio XXXX, your troopers will strike fast and strike hard. You and your men will not stand and fight. Instead, they will do as much damage as possible, then retreat in our direction. The intent is that the entirety of the enemy force will follow you."

Centurio XXXX thinks for a moment, grins widely and says "I understand, Primus Pilus."

Primus Pilus Lucius goes on to say "When the enemy are within the gap in the rocks, I will order the Powder of Mars set off. The force of the explosion will shower them with rocks. This will, I believe, cause many fatalities and other casualties among them. The enemy will be so alarmed at what happened that they will make no further attempts against us." Just then, the centurio commanding the Second Centuria of the First Cohort speaks up. "Primus Pilus, I have an idea."

"Yes, Centurio Quintus Lutatius?"

"How about increasing the effectiveness of the trap by placing several barrels of tar and sulphur in among the rocks in the pit? When the Powder of Mars goes off, those barrels will be shattered, and it will seem like the rocks thrown out of the pit will be on fire. The enemy will think that the ground itself is rising up against them."

Primus Pilus Lucius pauses for a moment to consider Centurio Quintus Lutatius' idea. An evil grin crosses Primus Pilus Lucius' face. He says "I approve. The excavation of the pit will begin tomorrow morning."

Date: Februarius XVI MDCXXXI AUC / February 16th, 878 AD

At the crack of dawn, the men of the First Cohort set to work with a will. The perimeter of the area is secured by the Second Cavalry Ala. The picks and shovels of the legionaries thud into the earth, and their hammers and iron wedges ring as they split the rocks. Slowly, the outline of the pit begins to take shape. All of the earth from the pit is to be dumped into a nearby stream, save that needed to conceal the pit's mouth. The rocks and boulders are set aside for later use. By the end of the day, the pit is half-completed.

Date: Februarius XVII MDCXXXI AUC / February 17th, 878 AD

At first light, the work on the pit continues. Over the next twelve hours, the pit reaches its design depth of fifteen cubits, and its length and width of fifty cubits and twenty-five cubits respectively. When the excavation is complete, Primus Pilus orders that eight barrels of the Powder of Mars be placed in the bottom of the pit. On top of these barrels is placed a heavy layer of large rocks and smaller rubble. In order to set the powder off, a hollow wooden tube is set into one of the barrels and is itself filled with the Powder of Mars. The tube extends to the mouth of the pit, and its opening will be concealed. To keep the tube from moving in place or collapsing, loose earth and small gravel is packed around it. Next to go into the pit are six barrels of pitch and four large barrels of sulphur. These barrels are covered with a layer of earth and the rest of the pit is filled with rocks. The mouth of the pit is concealed with brush and the surrounding area is raked over to remove any evidence of human presence.

The second phase of Primus Pilus Lucius' plan is now put into effect. The men of the Second Cavalry Ala are sent forward to join the six men already on station. As soon as all one hundred and twenty men are in position, they attack. Captain Girolamo and his officers have just settled down to have their evening meal when the camp sentries call out "To Arms!! To Arms!! The enemy is upon us." These cries are accompanied by shouts and trumpet blasts from the Nova Roman cavalry, along with volleys of javelins. These were thrown so as to wound, not to kill.

In the course of this tumult, Captain Girolamo rallies his men and orders a full pursuit. He cries out loud "‘fore God, I have had enough of this. Those muling sneaking bastards have the temerity to attack my own camp!!. My orders to all of you are ‘Pursue and slay! PURSUE AND SLAY!!'". A savage collective growl rises from the throats of Captain Griloamo's men as they take off after the Nova Roman cavalry. In their anger and haste, Captain Girolamo and his men don't realize that the Nova Roman cavalry is making it easy to be followed. Six mille later, the last of the Second Cavalry Ala is through the gap in the rock outcropping. Ten minutes more sees Captain Giroloamo's force approaches the gap and sees dust rising on the other side. He draws his sword and cries out "Now, we have them. Forward, I say!! The lead elements of Captain Girolamo's troops are just within the gap when Primus Pilus Lucius' trap is sprung. The powder charge at the bottom of the pit is set off, and the resulting explosion is of such magnitude that the ground shakes as if from an earthquake. Vast quantities of rocks, boulders and other rubble come flying out of the pit at very high speeds. The barrels of tar and sulphur are instantly shattered, their contents mixing with the flying debris. This makes it seem as if the rocks and boulders are on fire. Captain Girolamo has no time to exclaim as tons of flying rocks come down upon his men. Those men immediately in front of the pit are killed by the blast, their riven bodies sent flying in all directions. Worse yet is the effect of the falling debris on Captain Girolamo's men. Hundreds are crushed to death or severely wounded by the falling rocks, and still others are trampled in their mad, panicked attempts to flee to safety.

Captain Girolamo's horse is struck and killed by a flying rock. In the course of being thrown from his saddle, he is hit in the left upper arm and torso by a blob of flaming tar. Captain Girolamo screams in agony and falls to the ground. Seeing this, two of his men risk the falling debris and run over to save their fallen commander. As he is dragged to safety, Captain Girolamo cries out loud, saying "What kind of men are these Nova Romans?? It is as if all the powers of hell are at their command!!" Captain Girolamo passes out from the pain of his injuries and is carried off. The senior surviving officer of the command orders a retreat. Once the much-depleted force is back in camp, a count is made of the surviving troops. Of the two hundred horse, there are but thirty left, while half of the eight hundred foot have been killed. Many of the remaining troops are wounded to some degree or another. Instead of being ordered to, the remaining men strike as much of their camp as possible Captain Girolamo is placed on a horse-drawn litter, and those men too severely hurt to walk are loaded onto wagons. The severely-diminished force now begins to make its way back to Rome. Some days later, the bedraggled remnants of Captain Giroloamo's once-proud force stream into their camp on the outskirts of the city. Dozens of men died en route from their injuries and were buried where they fell. Captain Girolamo's litter is brought before Cardinal Marinus. The captain's arm and torso are heavily-bandaged in order to cover the burns from the tar that struck him. Cardinal Marinus approaches, his face ashen with disbelief.

"What happened, my son? What of the troops I sent with you?"

"Eminence, I regret to say that my troops were largely destroyed. Half of my cavalry were lost in a bridge collapse. I elected to go to a second bridge and continue my pursuit of the Nova Romans. We were then attacked by elements of their cavalry. I gave chase for about an hour, but thought better of it as I believed we were being led into a trap. I ordered my men back to camp that afternoon. The sentries were again attacked by the Nova Romans. This time, I decided to pursue them until such time as they could be engaged and destroyed. I maintained a close pursuit, and was within fifteen minutes of catching them when the ground before me suddenly erupted with the greatest violence imaginable. The ground shook as if from an earthquake, and a vast quantity of flaming rock flew upwards and rained down upon my men. These burns you see were caused by burning tar. Truly, I say that these ‘Nova Romans' are in league with the infernal powers. Instead of standing and offering honest battle, they resort to tricks and stratagems such as these. As to how they caused such a thing to happen, I know not, your Eminence. All I can say is that there was a great cloud of stinking white smoke afterwards which smelled of brimstone."

"I see, Captain. I am displeased that so many men were lost. However, you did well to preserve the remains of your command and bring this news to me. For now, rest and heal your wounds, my son. We will speak more of this later." After Captain Girolamo's pallet is carried away, Cardinal Marinus retires to his study to consider the import of what he has just heard.

Complications: Aftermath
Date: Februarius XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / February 18th, 878 AD

In the aftermath of the destruction of Captain Girolamo's force, the command staff of the First Cohort and the Second Cavalry Ala gather to discuss what happened and to determine their next course of action. Primus Pilus Lucius is the first to speak. "Gentlemen, I believe I can say that the recent action is perhaps the most one-sided victory in all of Roman military history. By our efforts and stratagems, we eliminated more than eighty per centum of the enemy cavalry and at least half of the enemy infantry. In return, we suffered no casualties of any kind whatsoever. Truly, the favor of the gods rested upon us."

Centurio Quintus Lutatius, commander of the Second Centuria, speaks next. "Primus Pilus, you speak the truth. We can but hope that we will have further victories like this one. Unless the enemy is as unaware as they were these past several days, I very much doubt that it will happen again."

Primus Pilus Lucius replies "A cogent point, Centurio Quintus. Now, to our future courses. We will withdraw back to Nova Roma so that we can rejoin Legio X Fretensis. The preparations for the campaign against Marche and Umbria are nearly complete, and the Legion will have need of us. As regards the enemy force which was formerly arrayed against us, we have so put the fear of the gods into them that they won't dare to cross our borders again. Therefore, we will break camp. You gentlemen will each see to the disposition of your commands. Be ready to move out tomorrow afternoon."

Thus dismissed, the other officers of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala see to the tasks of breaking camp. The tents are struck, folded and loaded onto wagons, supplies are accounted for and also loaded on the wagons, and the few permanent buildings in the camp are un-roofed. On a more personal level, the legionaries and cavalrymen see to their personal equipment. All the while, a sense of mild anticipation is in the air over the impending march back home.

Date: noontime, Februarius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / February 19th, 878 AD

The men of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala are ready to march. The column is arrayed so that the First, Second and Third Centuriae are in the front, while the Fourth and Fifth centuriae are in the trail position. The wagons transporting the tentage, supplies and other equipment are in the middle of the column. Each centuria will march approximately sixty cubits apart, close enough to support each other in case of enemy action, but not so close that their movements will interfere with one another. The Second Cavalry Ala is deployed as advance guards and flankers. Finally, the order to move out is given. The cavalry is on high alert to guard against possible enemy action. The first day's march passes uneventfully, and the men stop to eat their evening meal and rest for the night.

Maintaining The Edge
Date: Februarius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / February 19th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

In the Emperor's office, there have been gathered certain persons of the highest importance to the Nova Roman war effort. In addition to Marcus Aurelius himself, these include Legate Germanicus, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus, Chief Librarian Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, Hero of Alexandria and Petrus, Scribe & Translator to Legio X Fretensis. When the last of these men arrive, the Emperor addresses the group.

"Thank you all for coming. You were not told of the reasons why you were summoned here because of the need for absolute secrecy. From the inspiration provided to us by Iovi Optimo Maximo through the Scrolls of War and Knowledge, and by our own efforts, Nova Roma is master of certain devices, weapons and technologies that exist nowhere else in the world. It is of the highest importance that we maintain control of them for as long as humanly possible, for allowing them into the hands of our enemies will empower them and endanger our technological superiority. The purpose of this meeting (which never took place and of which no records will be kept) is to discuss ways and means to guard against attemps to steal or gain possession of our technology. Without doubt, the greatest of our secrets is the Powder of Mars. We must safeguard both the formula and the processes used to make it. Legate Germanicus, Legate Marcus?"

"Yes, Caesar?"

"This matter concerns the both of you. The Powder of Mars will remain under the exclusive control of the Legions. No one will work at the powder mill or go anywhere near it, who you don't know personally and also who you can vouch for. You will take such measures as you deem necessary to carry out these instructions."

"Yes, Caesar. Your orders will be carried out to the limit of our abilities."

"Chief Librarian Quintus?"

"Yes, Caesar?"

"The Great Library is the central repository of all our knowledge. You also have exclusive control over the design and manufacture of telescopes. You will take such measures as you see fit to keep any and all unauthorized persons from gaining a telescope, as well as the methods used to make one. Anyone who is issued a telescope will take special care that it doesn't fall into the hands of our enemies. This will include crushing the tube flat and shattering the lenses into tiny pieces."

"Yes, Caesar, it shall be done as you order."

"Hero of Alexandria?"

"Yes, Caesar?"

"The need for your security is two-fold. First, you have intimate knowledge of all of our deepest technological secrets, since you were personally responsible for developing many of them. You are also our greatest scientist and engineer. Losing you would do irreparable harm to our research and development efforts. Therefore, your quarters and workshops will be under constant guard. Your security detail will be composed of men from my own personal guard, and these men will be known to you. There will also be covert guards that you will never see."

"I understand, Caesar. You may rely on me."

"I charge you all that, as part of these new duties I have assigned to you, all documents relating to the items and methods under your charge will be held under the strictest security. No more copies are to be made than is absolutely necessary, and no one is to have access to them who doesn't have a verifiable need to know. Princeps Senatus?"

"Yes, Caesar?"

"You are here because funding for many of these projects must come from the public purse, and thus requires an appropriation by the Senate. Disclosing the specific needs for such funds to the Senate at large is a security risk. There will be questions when the appropriations bills for these funds are voted upon. You will tell any who ask that, by virtue of the authority vested in you by the Emperor, you truthfully publish and declare that the purpose for the appropriation is necessary and wholesome for the public good. After that, no further response from you will be necessary."

Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus considers the matter thoughtfully and responds "It shall
be done as you say, Caesar."

"Gentlemen, this meeting is now concluded. I wish Princeps Senatus Quintus and Petrus to remain here, as there are additional matters that I wish to discuss." Thus dismissed, the legates, Chief Librarian Quintus and Hero of Alexandria leave the Emperor's office. As soon as they are gone, Marcus Aurelius speaks up again. "Princeps Senatus, your service to the people of Nova Roma during the affair involving Arbus Arabius was invaluable. It is for this reason that I want you to have oversight of an additional layer of security. A certain former female gladiator will be responsible for recruiting and training people from the city's underclass to serve as additional sets of eyes and ears, the better to guard against attempts at espionage. No one but you, Petrus and I will know of this."

"I understand, Caesar."

Marcus Aurelius turns to Petrus and asks "other than religion, how it is that the so-called 'Catholic' church is able to maintain its sway over such vast numbers of people?"

"Caesar, it is their control over knowledge and information. When the Western Roman Empire fell more than four hundred years ago, the light of civilization was lost. People were more concerned with staying alive and safe than they were with the arts and letters. The only place where learning was preserved was in the Church. Even today, few people outside of the church can read and write. Indeed, my late lord Ranulf could barely write his own name. The church is able to maintain control over knowledge because its scriptoriums are the only places where books are produced. Nova Roma calls these books 'codexes'. The trade of scribe is both complex and time- consuming because of the costs involved in correcting errors."

"I see. What would happen if people outside of the Chruch were able to produce their own books?"

"Caesar, the church's control over civil society would begin to slip."

"Hmmm. I have decided to let slip the 'secret' of the printing press. As you were a scribe and are conversant with all aspects of the business, I want you to see that the technology of the printing press is 'stolen' by our enemies. Don't let them think we are just giving it away, because that would make them suspicious."

"Yes, Caesar. That is an inspired plan. Have you other instructions for me?"

"Yes. Your knowledge of the customs, usages and politics of Italia and Europa in this day and age is unsurpassed by anyone here in Nova Roma. I want you to assist Princeps Senatus Quintus and a certain former female gladiator in matters of security. Your input will enable easier detection of attempts at infiltration by foreign agents."

"Of course, Caesar. You can rely on me."

After-Action Report
Date: Februarius XX-XXIII MDCXXXI AUc/February 20th-23rd, 878 AD

The men of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala are up with the rising sun. Their sleeping gear is stowed, a quick meal is eaten and the line-of-march is resumed. They are still buoyed by their victory over Captain Girolamo's men, and so they make unusually-fast progress. The next three days pass without incident, and the troops are within twenty mille of Nova Roma by the morning of Februarius XXIII. Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus orders that riders be sent ahead to inform Legate Germanicus of their return. Two troopers are selected for this duty from the Second Cavalry Ala. They spur their horses on ahead of the column, and by late afternoon, their horses clatter to a stop outside of the gates of Legio X Fretensis' fortress. They are immediately conducted to the Principia, where Legate Germanicus is attending to various administrative tasks. "Hail, Legate. We wish to report."

"Hail, troopers. What news do you have for me?"

"Legate, Primus Pilus Lucius and the men under his command are returning. They will be here before the end of the day. Primus Pilus Lucius has entrusted us to tell you that he has won a great victory against the forces of the enemy, and that he will give a full report when he arrives."

"Very well, troopers. You are dismissed."

Eight hours later, the sun is just beginning to set when the leading elements of the First Cohort and Second Cavalry Ala pull into Legio X Fretensis' parade ground. In typical Roman fashion, the ranks in the column are as straight as a sword blade. The men are given the command to rest in place and to refresh themselves at need. While this is going on, Primus Pilus Lucius seeks out Legate Germanicus to make his report. There isn't far to go, as Legate Germanicus is observing the arrival of the column form the far side of the parade ground.

"Hail, Legate. I beg to report."

"Hail, Primus Pilus. You may proceed."

"Yes, Legate. As instructed, my troops took up positions along the border between Tuscany and Lazio and patrolled it for a time. A certain body of enemy troops attempted to cross the border. They were in pursuit of some of their own people who were trying to cross the border and come here. These troops were from something called the 'papal guard'. Apparently, this 'guard' serves the ruler of the so-called 'Catholic' church. This force numbered two hundred horse and eight hundred foot. Certain of my men observed some enemy troops cross into our territory, then foully abuse two of the people they were following. A detachment of my troops intervened and rescued the two people (a young woman and her brother). The enemy troops were forced back across to their side of the line but subsequently returned in greater numbers. We were outnumbered nearly two-to-one, so we resorted to tricks and stratagems to lessen their numbers. First, we got them to chase us across a bridge which we had sabotaged for that purpose. The bridge collapsed and eliminated half of their cavalry by tossing them into the river below. The enemy commander was so enraged that he detoured to a second bridge that we had purposefully left untouched. When the enemy force crossed the second bridge, we withdrew, but made it easy for them to follow us. This device was used to lure them into a narrow defile. At the head of this defile, we had prepared a large pit loaded with several barrels of the Powder of Mars and a great weight of large rocks. In with the rocks, we also placed barrels of tar and sulphur. When the enemy troops were in position, the powder was set off. The resulting explosion was as if Iovi Optimo Maximo himself had struck with his thunderbolts."

"I see, Primus Pilus. What casualties were inflicted upon the enemy?

"Legate, just thirty enemy cavalry survived. Of the eight hundred foot, more than half were killed outright." The survivors didn't stand and fight. Instead, they fled as if the hounds of hell were after them."

"What of your own casualties, Primus Pilus?"

"Legate, I am pleased to tell you that I suffered no casualties of any kind. None of my troops so much as tripped and fell."

Legate Germanicus exclaims in surprise, then says "Well done, Primus Pilus. You shall be recognized for this. How ever did you come up with such a strategy?"

"Legate, we were outnumbered, and I knew that you would need us back for the upcoming campaign against Marche and Umbria. I didn't want to leave the border unsecured, so it seemed logical to strike the enemy such a mighty blow that they would never dare come across unless with greatly-increased numbers."

"Again, well done, Primus Pilus. Dismiss your men to quarters and tell them for me that I say they have done well. You and your officers will join me in the Principia for the evening meal."

"Yes, Legate. They will certainly appreciate a hot meal after days on the road eating nothing but trail rations."

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2016 5:41 pm 

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Chapter X

Unexpected Developments
Date: Februarius XXV MDCXXXI AUC/ February 25th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

The Emperor, Legate Germanicus and Legate Marcus are met to discuss various aspects of the upcoming campaign against Marche and Umbria. Over the course of the meeting, the talk turns to what is to be done afterwards. Legate Germanicus speaks up first “Caesar, what of the islands of Corsica, Sardinia and Sicilia? They were ours before, and so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be ours again.”

“Agreed, Legate Germanicus. In order to take them for Nova Roma, we must have a fleet of both galleys and transports. That is something we don’t have at present.”

Legate Germanicus replies “True, Caesar. All of our efforts thus far have been directed towards the upcoming campaign.”

The Emperor says “once Marche and Umbria have been subdued and brought under our rule, we will begin to re-establish the navy. There must be those who have come under Nova Roman rule who have familiarity with the ships and ship-building practices of this time. At the appropriate time, there will be efforts made to seek them out and recruit them. What say you, Legate Marcus?”

“Caesar, two things strike me immediately. First, the campaign against Marche and Umbria is likely to be more involved than we realize. The recent action against the ‘Papal’ Guard makes it virtually certain that the so-called ‘Catholic Church’ will take arms against us. So, too will any of their allies in the area. Second, I agree with the need to take Corsica and Sardinia. Sicilia must wait until we have taken all of southern Italia.”

Marcus Aurelius carefully considers what he has just heard and then makes his decision. “Very well, gentlemen. When the upcoming campaign is concluded, see to that plans are laid for a shipyard upon the coast of Tuscany. I am reminded of an episode from our familiar past, where Carthage had a great navy, and we did not. As you both will surely recall, we were able to overcome that adversity by dint of much hard work.”

Date: Februarius XXV MDCXXXI AUC/ February 25th, 878 AD

In the city of Genua, Hugh, Margrave of Liguria is meeting with his principal advisers to consider the import of what has happened in northern Italia these past few months. Marques Hugh paces back and forth as he addresses his advisers. “Gentlemen, it can scarcely be believed, but there is a new power calling itself ‘Nova Roma’ here in northern Italia. Some months ago, they seemingly arose out of nowhere. In short order, they destroyed the forces of Adalbert, Margarve of Tuscany and those of his allies in Emilia-Romagna. The older order was cast down and they took that territory for themselves. Travelers and merchants have come bearing the most fantastic tales of where these ‘Nova Romans’ came from and what they are capable of doing. Therefore, it is most meet that we send an embassage to these people to see who they are and whether they mean us good or ill. Hugh, my son?”

“Yes, Father?”

“You will be in charge of this embassy, and will have full powers to act in my name. My chief counselor Eustathios of Rhomania will accompany you, as will three of my scribes and such guards as are necessary for your dignity and security.”

“Yes, Father. It shall be done as you say.”

The very next morning, a party of horsemen sets out for Nova Roma. It is led by Hugh the Younger. Eustathios of Rhomania rides next to him, as do three scribes. These five are accompanied by twenty men-at-arms. All are mounted on the finest horses in Liguria. The men make excellent progress, and by the afternoon of the third day, they arrive at the gates of Nova Roma. As a sign of their peaceful intent, Hundulph orders that a white shield be raised upon a spear. Eustathios takes this, holds it high and approaches the city gates.

Date: Februarius XXVIII MDCXXXI AUC/ February 28th, 878 AD

The legionaries at the main city gate of Nova Roma are passing a somewhat boring day. They are monitoring the flow of traffic in and out of the gate, when one of them sees a small column of unfamiliar men riding up. Legionary Titus Flavius Bassus is doing a tour of duty on the wall. He calls out “Ho, there, strangers approach. Alert the Centurio of the Guard.” A second legionary runs off to alert Centurio Marcus Flavius, who commands this section of the city walls. Less than five minutes later, Centurio arrives and asks “Hail, Legionary. What goes?”

“Hail, Centurio Marcus. A party of strangers has approached the gate. One of them dismounted and raised a white shield upon a spear. I think this means they come in peace.”

Centurio Marcus thanks Legionary Titus, then goes to meet the strangers. He says “Who are you and why are you here?”

Eustathios approaches and replies in flawless Imperial Latin. “I am Eustathios of Rhomania. I am attached to the embassy sent by my lord Hugh the Elder, Margrave of Liguria. It is commanded by his son, Lord Hugh the Younger. We come under the white shield of peace and mean you no harm. May we enter the city?”

Centurio Marcus replies “I must inform my commanding officer of this. Please wait here until he arrives.”

“At your command, good sir”

Centurio Marcus send his fastest runner to the Principia to inform Legate Germanicus of this event. Less than fifteen minutes later, Legate Germanicus and his full staff arrive at the gate.

“Hail, Centurio Marcus. Who are these people?”

“Hail, Legate Germanicus. They claim to be an embassy sent by someone called Hugh, Margrave of Liguria.”

“Very well, Centurio. Bid them approach.”

Centurio Marcus raises his hand by way of a signal. Then, the entire party of strangers rides up to the gate.

“Greetings, my lord. I am Eustathios of Rhomania. We are an embassy sent by Hugh, Margrave of Liguria. My lord Hugh has heard many tales of you and your people, and has sent us to see the truth of the matter.”

“Hail, Eustathios. I am Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar, commander of Legio X Fretensis. Enter and be welcome.” At the mention of Legate Germanicus’ name and unit, Hugh the Younger and Eustathios exchange looks of awe, their eyes going wide with equal parts surprise and disbelief. The twenty-three horsemen are conducted inside the gate. Legate Germanicus motions them to follow him. The group slowly makes its way through the crowded streets of Nova Roma. All the while, their heads are on swivels, looking first this way, then that. The looks on their faces are of intense curiosity. One of the very first things that the ambassadorial party notices is how clean the city is. There is no litter, refuse or manure anywhere to be seen. The people going about their business are spotlessly clean, and all that can be seen appear to be in the very best of health. Just as surprising to the party is the quality of the clothing that all the people are wearing. Hugh the Younger remarks to Eustathios “I tell you in truth, my friend. I have never seen anything like this. In our own city of Genua, very few of the streets are paved, and those few only roughly. Here, the stonework on the streets is of such quality that it is worthy of being in the walls of my father’s council chamber. Eustathios mumbles his assent, as he is engrossed by the sights and sounds of the city.

The curious gazes in the ambassadorial party are returned by the people of Nova Roma as they ride through the streets. Finally, the party rides up to the Principia. Legate Germanicus calls a halt and says “Eustathios, tell your Lord that his men-at-arms may remain here in the reception area and refresh themselves. I will have wine, bread cheese and meat brought. Meanwhile, you, Lord Hugh and the three scribes will come to my office. We will talk there.

When Lord Hugh, Eustathios and the three scribes are seated aroudn the table, Legate Germanicus motions to a pair of his headquarters optios. They bring trays of wine, cheese, bread olive oil and meat. They set the trays down and the optios depart. Legate Germanicus says “Please refresh yourselves, gentlemen. I’m sure you must be famished from your journey here.”

Hugh the Younger responds in fluent (but not polished) Imperial Latin “I thank you for your courtesy, Legate. The main question on my mind is how in the name of all that is holy did you people come to be here? Last year, this place was naught but an open field, and now, here you are.”

Legate Germanicus answers Hugh’s question by saying “Young lord, that is a tale which is passing strange. An unknown time ago, the spirits of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Cassius Scaeva and myself were summoned back from the Land of the Dead by the will of our great god Jupiter. He told us that it was his divine will that the Roman Empire be restored to the glory of its former days. Then we were thrust forward to this time and place. To aid us in our task, Legio X Fretensis was also brought forward, along with the city you see outside.”

Hugh listens quietly as Legate Germanicus speaks. His eyes go wide as he recognizes the name of the emperor. “Pardon me for interrupting, Legate. Eustathios here was my teacher when I was growing up, and he taught me much about the glories of Imperial Rome. I have long wondered what life in Rome must have been like, and now I am beginning to see it for myself. My father Hugh the Elder, Margrave of Liguria has charged me with the task of finding out all there is to know about your people. I hope I’ll not annoy you with my questions.”

Legate Germanicus chuckles softly at Hugh’s earnest statement. “Think nothing of it, Lord Hugh. Perhaps we should begin with a more thorough tour of the city of Nova Roma. Optio Gaius Octavius Drusus, attend me.”

“Yes, Legate?”

“Pick a contubernia’s worth of legionaries to accompany me as escort. You will come along also.”

“Yes, Legate.”

The group makes its way out of the principia and back through the city gates of Nova Roma. On the way out, Hugh and Eustathios stop to collect the men assigned to them. The first stop on the tour is a great domed structure on the western side of a large open park. Legate Germanicus gestures towards it, saying “This is the Pantheon, a temple to all the gods of Imperial Rome. Here, prayers and rites are conducted to propitiate the powers above, so that they continue to smile upon us and bring us good fortune.” Eustathios asks “Legate, I saw this same building in Rome, some years ago. How did it come to be here?”

Legate Germanicus replies “Eustathios, it was copied and brought here by the will of Iovi Optimo Maximo.” Eustathios and Hundulph’s mouths go wide in stark amazement at what they see before them. The Pantheon’s gilded bronze doors blaze forth like a beacon in the afternoon sun, framed perfectly by the fluted marble columns of the temple’s portico. The exterior of the building is sheathed in polished white marble of the finest quality, so much so that Eustathios and Hugh are mute in admiration. Meanwhile, the three scribes are furiously writing down details of everything they see. Legate Germanicus speaks up again “The great rectangular building you see directly across the park from the Pantheon is the Temple of Jupiter/Zeus from Olympia, in Greece. Like the Pantheon, it too was duplicated and brought here by the will of Jupiter.”

The party continues to walk, eventually coming to the gates of a complex of buildings on the north end of the park. Legate Germanicus announces “This is the Great Library of Alexandria. Stored here is the collected wisdom of the ancient world, along with many great works of art, paintings and statues of all sizes, great and small.” The party continues into the compound and spends the next hour or so walking the grounds. Legate Germanicus points out the many monumental statues of Greece, Egypt and Rome that populate the enclosure. He continues his lecture by gesturing towards the southern end of the park. “That complex you see there is the Forum of Trajan. It is the center of government and business in the city of Nova Roma. Both the Domus Publicus (where the Senate meets) and the Domus Imperialis (the residence of Emperor Marcus Aurelius) are there. I have arranged a meeting with the Emperor tomorrow. For now, we will return to the Principia, where you will be my honored guests.”

Legate Germanicus and the ambassadorial party return to the Principia, where he treats them to a full Roman banquet. Along with the food, there is entertainment in the form of poetry, singing and dancing girls. After much feasting and making of merriment, Hugh, Eustathios and the rest of their men return to their quarters and bed down for the night. Hugh and Eustahios engage in excited conversation Eustathios speaks first “Lord Hugh, I tell you in truth that these Nova Romans have wonders beyond imagination. The temples, the library, even the city itself are the stuff of legends. Truly, your father was wise to send us here.”

Hugh replies “yes, my friend. Just think of it. Tomorrow, we will be meeting with the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, of all people. A man who we previously knew only from ancient writings and fragments of marble and bronze statues. For me, I am excited beyond words. Now, lets to sleep. We must be well-rested for the meeting tomorrow.”

Date: Martius I MDCXXXI AUC/ March 1st, 878 ADLocation: The Principia

The very next morning, Hugh the Younger, Eustathios and the rest of the Ambassadorial party rise from their beds, dress and perform their morning ablutions. Legate Germanicus’ staff has laid out their morning meal. Throughout the group, there is a sense of hushed anticipation for the upcoming meeting with the Emperor. Hugh is the first to rise from the table. He nervously smooths his outfit, then one of his men-at-arms peace-bonds Hugh’s sword into its scabbard. This sword was given to him by his father; it has a fine, watered-steel blade and is fitted with a gilded bronze guard and pommel, while the grip is wrapped with braided silver wire. Eustathios is armed only with a long dagger, and this too is peace-bonded. As a sign of good faith, Hugh’s men-at-arms leave their shields behind in their rooms, and their swords are likewise tied into their scabbards.

There is a knock on the door, and Optio Gaius Octavius Drusus enters. “Greetings, Lord Hugh. Legate Germanicus sent me to bring you and your staff. It si time to leave for the meeting with the Emperor.” Lord Hugh replies “Thank you, Optio Gaius. Lead on.” Optio Gaius leads the Ambassadorial party out the door to the main hall of the Principia, where Legate Germanicus and Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus are waiting.
Legate Germanicus calls out “Greetings, Lord Hugh. I trust that you and your men passed a most pleasant night?”

“Indeed we did, Legate. My thanks to your staff for looking after our needs.”

“Your kind words are most gratefully received, Lord Hugh. Now, shall we be off? The Emperor is waiting for us.”

“At your convenience, Legate.”

The Ambassadorial party falls in with Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus and their escorts. The group proceeds towards the Domus Publicus at a slow, deliberate pace as befits the dignity of the occasion. They make their way through the streets of Nova Roma, arriving at the Domus Publicus just half an hour later. The legionaries and men-at-arms in the escort are bidden to wait in an antechamber, while Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, Hundulph and the rest enter the Senate chamber through its wide-open doors. Marcus Aurelius is seated in his ivory curule chair at the front of the chamber. The entire membership of the Senate is present, including Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus. The Emperor calls out in formal greetings “Enter the House of the People and be welcome. I am Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Nova Roma.”

Hugh hesitates for the briefest of moments before he renders a credible Roman salute and responds “Greetings, Caesar. I am Hugh the Younger, Ambassador from the court of my father Hugh the Elder, Margrave of Liguria.”

The Emperor smiles, then promptly returns the salute, saying “Pray, be seated, Lord Hugh.”

“Thank you, Caesar. May I please present Eustathios of Rhomania? He is my father’s wisest councilor, as well as my teacher and my friend.”Marcus Aurelius acknowledges this and says “Greetings, Eustathios. Lord Hugh, I am given to understand that you saw something of the city of Nova Roma yesterday. Tell me, what did you think?” “Caesar, I was awed almost beyond words. Your city is like the stuff of legends. To actually see and hear things that I previously knew only from ancient writings was a great honor”.

Marcus Aurelius nods his head by way of reply “Lord Hugh, now that we have exchanged formal greetings, what can I do for you?”

“Caesar, my father has heard many tales of the goings-on here in Tuscany. He thought it both proper and expedient to send me here to see if those tales were true. If they were true, he charged me to establish friendly relations with you.” Over the next two hours, the Emperor and Hugh engage in a detailed, wide-ranging discussion covering topics of mutual interest. Occasionally, Princeps Senatus Quintus or one of the other Senators poses a question to Hugh, who quickly answers it.

Marcus Aurelius sits back in his ivory curule chair, chin in hand. He is observing the discussion between Hugh and various members of the Senate. When it is done, he speaks again “Lord Hugh. You have given me much to consider. Would you and your staff do me the honor of attending the theater with me tonight? There is a full program on, and I am quite sure you would enjoy it.”

“Yes, of course, Caesar. We would be delighted.”

“Conscript Fathers, this meeting is concluded. I thank you all for coming here, and also for your input.” Marcus Aurelius exits the Senate chamber, followed in turn by Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, Hugh and the rest of the Ambassadorial party.

A Night at the Theater
Date: The night of Martius I MDCXXXI AUC/ March 1st, 878 AD
Location: Nova Roma; the Theater of Marcellus

The seating in the Theater of Marcellus is full tonight. This is not usually the case, as it is the largest theater in the city of Nova Roma. The causes of this are special performances laid on by the command of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is hosting a foreign ambassadorial party. These people are to be seated with him in the Imperial Box. The Emperor took his seat first, as is his custom. Subsequently, he was joined by Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, Hugh the Younger, Eustathios and the three scribes.

Marcus Aurelius speaks as soon as the rest take their seats “Greetings, Lord Hugh. Greetings also, Eustathios. I can tell by your excitement that both of you have been anticipating these performances all day long. The first play we will see is ‘Alcestis’, by Euripides. The Great Library has the original copy in the author’s own hand. It is from this copy that the actors tonight learned their lines.”

Lord Hugh expresses the combined thoughts of himself and Eustathios when he says “Thank you, Caesar. Truly, you continue to surprise us.”

“Think nothing of it, young lord. Yours is the first diplomatic mission we have received since we arrived in this new world, so it is only right and proper that we endeavor to make a good impression on you. Now, let us be seated, for the performance is about to begin.” With this, those in the Imperial Box take their seats and pay rapt attention to the scene unfolding before them. Hugh and Eustathios take up their programs so that they can identify the Dramatis Personae as they enter upon the stage. These programs have a list of the titled roles, as well as a description of the opening scene.

ALCESTIS, the queen, wife of ADMETUS the KING
ADMETUS, King of Thessaly
EUMELUS, their child


At Pherae, outside the palace of ADMETUS, King of Thessaly. The center of the scene represents a portico with columns and a large double door. To the left are the women’s quarters, to the right, the guest rooms. The center doors of the palace slowly open inwards, and Apollo comes out. In his left hand he carries a large, unstrung golden bow. He moves slowly and majestically, turns and raises his right hand in salutation to the palace.


1. Dwelling of Admetus, wherein I, a God, deigned to accept the food of serfs!

The cause was Zeus. He struck Asclepius, my son, full in the breast with a bolt of thunder and laid him dead. Then in wild rage I slew the Cyclopes who forge the fire of Zeus. To atone for this, my Father forced me to labor as a hireling for a mortal man; and I came to this country, and tended oxen for my host. To this hour I have protected him and his. I, who am just, chanced upon the son of Pheres, a just man, whom I have saved from Death by tricking the Fates. The Goddesses pledged me their faith Admetus should escape immediate death if, in exchange, another corpse were given to the Under-Gods.

One by one, he tested all of his friends, and even his father and old mother who had brought him forth-and found that none that would die for him and never more behold the light of day, save only his wife. Now, her spirit waiting to break loose, she droops upon his arm within the house; this is the day when she must die and render up her life.

But I must leave this Palace’s dear roof, for fear pollution soil me in the house.

See! Death, Lord of All the Dead, now comes to lead her to the House of Hades! Most punctually, he comes! How well he marked the day she had to die!

From the right comes DEATH, with a drawn sword in his hand. He moves stealthily towards the Palace; then sees Apollo and halts abruptly. The two deities confront each other......

The voices of the actors as they begin to play their parts are of such sublime quality that the entire audience breaks out with a round of spontaneous applause. Among those who clap the loudest are Hugh the Younger and Eustathios. Though the volume of applause was great, the play continues as if it had never happened. The next two hours of the play passes with occasional cheering and ends with vigorous applause. After the play concludes, the actors exit stage right. Theatrical workers swarm out onto the stage in order to set up the scenery for the next play. As this is going on, Marcus Aurelius leans over to his right and speaks to Hugh the Younger, who is seated there. “Well, Lord Hugh, what did you think?”

“Caesar, that was....inspired. I have read this play before when Eustathios was teaching me, and I have seen it performed, but never with such passion and intensity. Your actors here make the best that I previously knew seem like rank amateurs.”

Marcus Aurelius smiles, nods his head and acknowledges the compliment by saying “Thank you, Lord Hugh. For those of us here in Nova Roma, this is just another performance. Ahh, the scena for the second play is set.”

Lord Hugh asks “What are we to see next, Caesar?”

The Emperor replies “Look to your program, Lord Hugh. The next play to be performed is a comedy called ‘The Clouds’, by Aristophanes”. Lord Hugh opens the program to read yet again as the actors come out on stage.

PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender


In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and that of Socrates, the Thoughtery. The latter is small and dingy; the interior of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each occupied.

sitting up

Great Gods! Will these nights never end? Will daylight never come? I head the cock crow long ago and my slaves are snoring still! Ah! Ah! It wasn’t like this formerly. Curses on the war! Has it not done me ills enough? Now I may not even chastise my own slaves. Again there’s this brave lad, who never wakes the whole long night, but wrapped in his five coverlets, farts away to his heart’s content.

He lies down

Come! Let me nestle in well and snore too, if it be possible....oh! misery, it’s vain to think of sleep with all these expenses, this stable, these debts, which are devouring me, thanks to this fine cavalier, who only knows how to look afer his long locks, to show himself off in his chariot and to dream of horses! And I, I am nearly dead, when I see the moon bringing the third decade in her train and my liability falling due....Slave!! Light the lamp and bring me my tablets.

The slave obeys

Who are all my creditors? Let me see and reckon up the interest. What is it I owe?....Twelve minae to Pasias.....What? Twelve minae to Pasias?.....Why did I borrow these? Ah, I know! It was to buy that thoroughbred, which cost me so much. How I should have prized the stone that had blinded him!....

Even in this early part of the play, great gales of laughter are rolling forth from the audience. The infectious humor spares no one, even those in the Imperial Box, who are laughing just as hard as anyone else. ‘The Clouds’ proceeds as ‘Alcestis’ did before it, with the audience paying rapt attention. When the second play is concluded, the theatrical workers rush out as they did before to change the scenery. Marcus Aurelius takes advantage of this to tell his guests of the third and final play. “Lord Hugh, the play we are about to see is the comedy ‘Plutus’, by Aristophanes. It is quite one of my favorite works.”

Lord Hugh says in reply “Caesar, I look forward to seeing it.” As soon as the actors come out on the stage, there is a burst of applause, followed by silence as they begin to play their parts.

CARIO, Servant of Chremylus
PLUTUS, God of Riches
BLEPSIDEMUS, Friend of Chremylus

The Orchestra represents a public square in Athens. In the background is the house of CHREMYLUS. A ragged, old blind man enters, followed by CHREMYLUS and his slave CARIO.


What an unhappy fate, great gods, to be the slave of a fool. A servant may give the best of advice, but if his master does not follow it, the poor slave must inevitably share in the disaster; for fortune does not allow him to dispose of his own body, it belongs to the master who has bought it. Alas! ‘Tis the way of the world. The god Apollo,

in tragic style

whose oracles the Pythian priestess on her golden tripod makes known to us, deserves my censure, for surely he is a physician and a cunning diviner; and yet my master is leaving his temple infected with mere madness and insists on following a blind man. Is this not opposed to all good sense? It is for us, who see clearly, to guide those who don’t; whereas he clings to the trail of a blind fellow and compels me to do the same without answering my questions with ever a word.

To Chremylus

Aye, master, unless you tell me why we are following this unknown fellow, I will not be silent, but I will worry and torment you, for you cannot beat me because of my sacred chaplet of laurel....

The exaggerated depictions and mannerisms of the actors as they portray their roles draw forth yet more uproarious laughter from the audience. As before, the occupants of the Imperial Box are laughing just as hard as anyone else. The rest of the play follows, and the audience shows its appreciation by tossing small bags of coins onto the stage. Now that the play has ended, the actors exit the stage, the scenery is struck and the audience files out of the theater.

Lord Hugh comes over to speak to Marcus Aurelius, a look of earnest appreciation on his face “Caesar, never in all of my days have I been so well-entertained as I have been tonight. I offer you my humble thanks”

The Emperor smiles, and replies “You are quite welcome, my young lord. I now bid you a good night; you can return to your quarters if you wish. Tomorrow, I would like to invite you to a public recognition ceremony.”

Hugh asks “Oh, Caesar? Who is being recognized?”

Marcus Aurelius replies “Young lord, a scribe by the name of Petrus was captured by troops of Legio X Fretensis during their actions against Adalbert, Margarve of Tuscany. He subsequently entered Roman service and has proven to be invaluable to us. It is he that is being recognized. The ceremony is being held in the Senate chamber at sundown tomorrow.”

Public Recognition
Date: Martius II MDCXXXI AUC/ March 2nd, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Publicus

Hugh the Younger and Eustathios of Rhomania take their seats in the front row of the Senate’s first floor public gallery; such seats being accorded to them by virtue of being the Emperor’s guests. This day marks a significant event, the first implementation of the Emperor's decree concerning citizenship. As an indication of its importance, the entire membership of the Senate is present, as is the Emperor himself. Marcus Aurelius is in his full imperial regalia as head of state. The public gallery of the Senate is full of other invited guests, among whom are the chief men of Nova Roma. Hushed murmurs of conversation are running through the crowd, silenced only when the Emperor rises from his ivory curule chair, advances to the podium and begins to speak.

"Conscript Fathers and honored guests, we have gathered here today to recognized the contributions of one whose service to Nova Roma has gone above and beyond the call of duty.

“Petrus, Scribe and Translator to Legio X Fretensis, stand forth!!” With the Emperor's words still ringing forth in the Senate Chamber, all eyes turn towards Petrus, who happens to be seated just left of center in the front row of public seating. Petrus rises from his seat and advances to stand directly in front of the podium.

"Petrus, your service to Nova Roma has been exemplary, especially during the recent affair when my safety and the safety of the state were endangered by the actions of Arbus Arabius. Therefore, by my authority as Emperor of Nova Roma, you are hereby awarded Roman citizenship, and to be recognized as such from this day forward. Princeps Senatus?"

"Yes, Caesar?"

"I ask the the Senate recognize this grant of citizenship, and that such recognition be noted for the record."

Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus stands up and says "Conscript Fathers, the Emperor has asked us to recognize this grant of Roman citizenship and that it be formally entered into the record. All in favor, say 'aye'"Forty-two voices join as one and shout 'AYE'. "All opposed?"; there is silence.

"Clerk of the Senate, the Emperor's request has been passed by unanimous acclaim. Let it be entered into the record" Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus now resumes his seat.

The Emperor continues to speak from the podium, saying "Petrus, please accept from my hand this token of my esteem." Marcus Aurelius hands over an elaborately-made gladius with an ivory grip carved in the shape of an eagle's head. The body of the scabbard is of scarlet leather, with scabbard plates of worked gold. The bands that hold them are of silver. The baldric matches the scabbard in color, and its fittings and clasps are likewise of silver. The sheer magnificence of this gift stuns Petrus into silence. "You are also awarded five hundred iugera of land, located anywhere you see fit within the domains of Nova Roma."

Petrus' eyes, which were wide before, now radiate equal parts amazement and gratitude. It is some moments before he can respond, but when Petrus' thoughts are collected, he speaks. "Caesar, Men of the Senate. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the honor you have bestowed upon me. Know that I shall always endeavor to prove myself worthy of it." Marcus Aurelius begins to applaud, followed in turn by the full membership of the Senate and finally by those on both levels of the public gallery.

Alea Iacta Est
Date: Martius II MDCXXXI AUC/ March 2nd, 878 AD
Location: The Papal Palace
“Il Papa… we’ve had a setback.”

The shrunken figure in the bed looks up at him. “Marcus?”

Bishop Honorius shakes his head. “No, Your Holiness. That’s not my name.”

“That’s not what I MEAN! It’s Marcus’s work!” The Pope pulls the blankets back over his head.

Honorius sighs. He’d been cooped in his bed for far too long, again. The bishop reaches over and pulls the curtains open, letting light into the room. John pulls the blankets down, looks out the window, and screams, pulling the blankets back up, but Honorius rips them off his head, pulls the Pope out of the bed, and starts slapping his hard with an open fist.

“A…” *slap* “Pope…” *slap* “does NOT…” *slap* “lay in BED…” *slap* “all DAY! Man up!”

“What’s the matter with you!” a loud voice roars from the doorway. Honorius turns; it’s Cardinal Marinus, clothed in considerable finery. The bishop lets the Pope drop to the bed, where he hurriedly covers back up, trembling as he does so.

Marinus strides into the room and gives the bishop a backhanded slap. Honorius staggers back.

“We do NOT burden His Holiness with news from the front!” Marinus hisses.

“He needs to know what we’re up against. If we’re not careful, Lambert could—”

“I know, fool! I’m counting on it.”

Honorius is aghast. “What?”

Marinus beckons. “Come, we need to discuss this elsewhere.” He gestures to a guard in the hallway. “Bring the Pope one of his favorite boys.” The guard nods and leaves, and Marinus and the bishop continue down the marble-floored corridor.

After a few seconds of silence, Marinus continues. “I’ve sent Stephen out to make contact with Cardinal Formosus.”

Honorius stops dead in his tracks. “Formosus? Are you insane? The man’s excommunicated!”

“You think I don’t know that? I’ve had my own qualms over this, but we’ve got no choice; their armies have formed an alliance with Hugh. We can’t afford not getting Lambert on our side. That’s why we need Formosus; he’s in Lambert’s favor.”
“But you can’t bring him into Rome now, not with His Holiness in such a state! You know we can’t countermand what God himself has decreed!”

“He is not God, nor is he a mouthpiece for God. If I have my way, he won’t be for much longer. I’ve been—”

The bishop throws Marinus against the wall mid-sentence, holding him there. He is enraged; Marinus, however, is deadly calm. Honorius spits, “You bastard, that’s treason! I could--”

“You could what?” Marinus’s voice is poisoned honey. “You wouldn’t dare. We are at war, after all.”

Honorius, in realization, is ashamed he can’t do anything. He lets Marinus go. The cardinal brushes his vestments, then beckons Honorius to come hither; the bishop follows silently.

Marinus finally stops. “It really is unfortunate, you know.” His tone isn’t convincing Honorius, but he continues. “Honestly, better a corrupt Pope who can take action against the forces of darkness than an honest one paralyzed with fear.”

Honorius nods. “I suppose. But you know, you might be making a deal that could destroy us all?”

Marinus laughs bitterly. “Oh, Honorius, you really need to bone up on our history. We’ve done worse.”

Going Home
Date: Martius III MDCXXXI AUC/ March 3rd, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Marcus Aurelius and Legate Germanicus are meeting with Hugh the Younger and the rest of the ambassadorial staff before they get ready to head back to Liguria. Lord Hugh begins by saying “Caesar, on behalf of my father, I would like to express my thanks for the kindness and courtesy with which I and my staff have been treated during our visit here. The sights and sounds of your fair city are wonders that I’ll not soon forget.

The Emperor nods his head in acknowlegdement of these compliments and says “Lord Hugh, the pleasure was all mine. It is my sure and certain hope that your people and mine will establish closer ties. When you return to Liguria, I will be sending my own embassy along with you. Legate Germanicus?”

“Yes, Caesar?”

“I will be sending Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius to Liguria as my ambassador. You will send along a suitable escort, plus a staff of three medici and three engineers to assess the public works and health of the city of Genua, and to see also if anything can be done to improve it.”
“Yes, Caesar. It will be done as you say.”

“Lord Hugh?”

“Yes, Caesar?”

“When my embassy accompanies you on your return home to Liguria, I will be sending along certain tokens of my esteem for your father. These are a dozen amphorae of my best Falernian wine, a gold wine cup, a pair of caligae from my own shoemaker, three tunicae and a toga. There will also be a silver-mounted balteus, an officer’s gladius with an ivory grip and a silver-hilted pugio. For you, there will be a silver-mounted balteus, a silver-hilted pugio and a second officer’s gladius.”

“Many thanks, Caesar. I appreciate these gifts, and I believe that my father will also. Have I your permission to depart?. We leave tomorrow, and I have much to do to prepare for the journey.”

“Of course, Lord Hugh. I wish you a safe journey.” Hugh and Eustathios leave the Emperor’s office, as does Legate Germanicus; he returns to the Principia to carry out the Emperor’s instructions. Once there, he calls out for a member of his staff.

“Optio Gaius Ocatvius Drusus, attend me.”

“Yes, Legate?”

“Effective immediately, you are promoted to the rank of centurio, to rank as such from this day forward. My first order to you is to take command of the escort I am providing to Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius. The Emperor is sending him to Liguria as an ambassador.”

“By your command, Legate. What will the escort consist of?”

“Centurio Gaius, you will have a half-turmae of cavalry plus two contubernia of legionaries from my headquarters detail.”

“Yes, Legate. I thank you for the trust you have shown in me, and I will not fail you. FOR THE HONOR OF THE LEGION!! ” The newly-promoted Centurio Gaius salutes and leaves the Legate’s in order to see to the supply and equipping of the escort.
On the Road Again

Date: Martius IV MDCXXXI AUC/ March 4th, 878 AD
Just after sunrise, the return expedition to Liguria assembles and is ready to move out. Hugh the Younger is seeing to his own men, and Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus is doing the same under the direction of Senator Gaius Aqulius Manlius. The combined column has eight wagons to carry the tentage and supplies, while there is a ninth wagon to carry the wine, diplomatic gifts, medical supplies and surveying instruments. Legate Germanicus and Legate Marcus are on hand to see them off. After a last-minute check, the order to move out is given. Hugh the Younger is in the lead, with Senator Gaius riding beside him. Following them are Eustathios of Rhomania and Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus. The third position is occupied by Lord Hugh’s scribes, and the engineers and medici assigned to Centurio Gaius. Hugh’s men-at-arms and the Nova Roman cavalrymen are disposed at regular intervals along the column to provide security. The two contubernia of legionaries are riding in the wagons.

A few minutes after departure, Hugh the Younger leans over in his saddle to speak to Senator Gaius. “Senator, I am pleased that you are coming back with me as the Emperor’s personal representative to my father’s court. I am sure that he will be pleased to meet you. I would also like to thank you for the courtesy that you and your fellow senators treated me with when I had that meeting with you.”

Senator Gaius replies “Lord Hugh, your kind words are most appreciated. When the Emperor appointed me as his ambassador, I felt honored beyond measure. I must also say that I am looking forward to meeting your father.” Hugh nods his head in acknowledgement, then reaches for a wineskin tied to his saddlebow. He takes a pull from it and offers the skin to Senator Gaius. Senator Gaius accepts the skin gratefully and drinks from it.

The column rides on, and the miles fall away with regularity. As the sun begins to set, they are some twenty mille from Nova Roma. By joint consent, Lord Hugh and Senator Gaius call a halt for the night. Immediately upon stopping, Centurio Gaius orders his cavalry and legionaries to make camp. Eustathios notes with interest how the Nova Romans go about setting up their camp, and suggests to Lord Hugh that his own men do the same. In short order, then tents are unpacked from the wagons and set up. As a matter of course, each tent is trenched to prevent the accumulation of rainwater should there be a storm. Supplies of wood are gathered form a neaby stand of timer, and fires are built for warmth and cooking. Hugh’s men and the Nova Romans regard each other with a guarded aspect, but relax somewhat as time goes by. Two hours later, the evening meal has been cooked and served out. Those men not detailed for guard duty relax, passing the time by talking amongst themselves and rolling dice with each other. Lord Hugh comes over to Senator Gaius’ tent, where the two men pass the time by telling each other of their homes and family lives. When Senator Gaius’ talk turns to his visits to Rome, Lord Hugh’s eyes widen slightly and his face takes on a dreamy aspect. He falls silent, listening to Senator Gaius as a student listens to his teacher.

When Senator Gaius finishes speaking, Hugh responds “Senator, listening to the way you describe Rome, it is as if I can see and hear it in my mind. I have visited Rome twice in my life, and the way it is now compared to the way you remember it is like comparing night and day.”

“True enough, Lord Hugh. In former days, the City of Rome was the light of civilization. Rome’s power bestrode the known world like a colossus, and our writ ran everywhere we chose to reach.

Date: Martius V MDCXXXI AUC / March 5th, 878 AD

An hour or two after the evening meal, the men drift off to their bedrolls. Soon, the only sounds to be heard in camp are the carefully-measured steps of the sentries. The night passes uneventfully, and the sentries rouse the camp just after sunrise. While the morning rations are issued and cooked, those men not otherwise occupied strike the tents and load them back into the wagons. While this is going on, Lord Hugh approaches Senator Gaius and says “I give you good morning, Senator. I trust you passed a pleasant-enough night?”

“I did indeed, Lord Hugh. Camping like this brings back many memories of my time in the legions. I served six years as a tribune before I entered the political arena, as it were. How far do you believe we will get today?”

“Senator Gaius, we are proceeding along the same route that I used to get to Nova Roma. I am more familiar with the route now, and we are making excellent progress. I estimate that we will make fifteen miles today.”

Senator Gaius replies “Well then, Lord Hugh, let us be off.” At this, the column takes up its line of march and moves out. The countryside they are moving through consists of low rolling hills interspersed with wide open tracts of farmland and occasional stands of timber. Twelve hours later, the column is halted inplace for the noon meal. To save time, fires aren’t lit. Instead, the men eat some of their trail rations and drink from their canteens or water bottles. Half an hour later, the men and wagons are back on the march. As on the first day, the second day passes without incident. When the sun is just about to set, the evening halt is called. This time, the column will be camped in a stand of timber along the banks of a small stream. The very first thing to be done is to unsaddle the horses or take them out of their harnesses. The riders and wagon drivers give their animals a good rubdown, after which they are fed and watered. Now that these tasks are completed, the tents are unloaded and set up. The stream provides a ready source of running water. The Nova Romans elect to bathe in the stream, even though the evening is very cool. In short order, the evening meal is cooked and served out. After eating, the men retire to their bedrolls. Before Lord Hugh and Senator Gaius do likewise, they confer about the day’s progress and the prospects for tomorrow.

A Meeting of Two Worlds
Date: Martius VI MDCXXXI AUC/ March 6th, 878 AD

There is a sense of intense anticipation in the air this day. For Hugh the Younger and his Men, it means that they are returning home. For senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius and Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus, it means their mission is about to begin. The camp is struck in record time, and the horses are saddled or hitched to their wagons. The column is already well on its way by the time the sun peeks over the horizon. To save time yet again, the men eat another part of their trail rations while in the saddle. Before noontime, the walls of the city of Genua are within sight. The column has been spied from afar, and so is met by a party of riders from the city. Foremost among these is Hugh the Elder, Margrave of Liguria. He rides up to his son and the two men exchange greetings.

“Ho there, my son. How was your journey?”

“Greetings, Father. It went very well. The Nova Romans are all that we have heard of, and much more. They treated us like honored guests rather than strangers. I have much to tell you of my experiences.” Hugh the Younger gestures to his right and says “Father, may I please present Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius? He is a senior of the Roman Senate and is the personal representative of Emperor Marcus Aurelius.” Hugh the Elder nods as Senator Gaius begins to speak.

“Hail, Lord Hugh. The Emperor has charged me with messages of his friendship towards you and your people.” Hugh the Elder replies “Welcome to the city of Genua, Senator Gaius. Shall we proceed?”

Thus joined, the combined column makes its way towards the city. As they approach, hundreds of curious onlookers look out from atop the city’s walls. The men and wagons make their way to Lord Hugh’s palace, where they stop in the courtyard. Hugh the Elder invites Senator Gaius, Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus and their staff to join him and his son Hugh the Younger in the Palace’s meeting hall.
“So, my son. Tell me of what you have learned.”

“Father, the truth of these Nova Romans and where they came from is stranger than even the wildest tales we have heard. Their city is like something out of ancient tales. It is clean and well-ordered, the fountains and aqueducts are all working, and the quality of the stonework in the streets is of such quality that it wouldn’t look out of place in your council chamber. All the people, even the average citizens, are healthy and well-dressed.” Hugh the Younger goes on to describe in great detail how the Nova Romans came to be, and Hugh the Elder’s eyes go wide in amazement. He turns to Senator Gaius and asks “Senator, is what my son tells me the truth?”

“Yes, Lord Hugh. I and everyone in the city of Nova Roma witnessed the phenomenon with our own eyes and ears. One moment, we were going on about our business. The next moment, a great golden dome of light suddenly appeared. When it faded, we were here in northern Italia.”

Lord Hugh the Elder leans back in his chair, a look of thoughtful contemplation on his face. After a few moments, he speaks again. “Senator Gaius, if this be true, and I have no reason to doubt that it isn’t true, this is one of the most momentous events in human history. This being said, there are those among my people here in Liguria and in other regions of Italy that are much given to superstition. They would regard the appearance of your people as being the work of the Devil.”

“True enough, Lord Hugh. The ridiculous ease with which troops under the command of Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar have destroyed our enemies so far has made people in certain quarters believe that we are in league with the powers of the Underworld.” Senator Gaius emphasizes this with a contemptuous snort. “I can most definitely say that this is not the case. Our enemies are just using that as an excuse to cover up their own bumbling incompetence.”

“I see, Senator Gaius. It would seem that the best course of action would be to not let anyone else know of your true origins. What of the charge the Emperor gave to you?”

“Agreed, Lord Hugh. The Emperor tasked me with opening friendly relations with your people.”

“Very good, Senator Gaius. I would see our peoples become friends, as conflict is a slave that serves no one very well. Before we move on, who are those men with you? That giant is most impressive.”

“Lord Hugh, that giant, as you refer to him is Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus. He commands the escort furnished to me by Legate Germanicus. Three of the six men are physicians and the other three are engineers. Their purpose is to assess the heath of your people and to assess the state of public works in your city.”

“That was most thoughtful of the Legate. Perhaps we should begin with a tour of the city?”

“A good idea. Lord Hugh. Before we begin, I have a number of gifts for you. The Emperor sent them as tokens of his esteem. First are twelve amphorae of the best Falernian wine, from the Emperor’s own cellars.” These are carried in by members of the escort detail. “Next, we have a pair of caligae from the Emperor’s personal shoemaker, three tunicae and a toga. Last but not least are a silver-mounted balteus, an officers-model gladius with an ivory grip in the shape of an eagle’s head, and a silver-hilted pugio. The last three items are duplicates of those presented by the Emperor to your son.” The sheer magnificence of the belt, sword and dagger causes Hugh the Elder’s eyes to widen in surprise.

“Senator Gaius, I thank you for these gifts. They will have an honored place in my personal collection. Now, let us be off.” The group exits the meeting hall, with Hugh the Elder, Hugh the Younger and Senator Gaius in the lead, followed by Centurio Gaius, the medici, the engineers and a contubernia of legionaries as escort. Hugh the Elder begins by saying “Liguria is a small state, especially compared to the other regions of Italia. My family has ruled here for one hundred and thirty years, and in that time, we have had to contend with some rather unfavorable attention from our more powerful neighbors. Plus, Ligurian territory has been repeatedly crossed by those seeking to do battle with those selfsame neighbors. In March of last year, troops under the command of Boso, Duke of Provence landed on our shores without so much as a by-your-leave. The were on the way to contend with one of the counts of Piedmont over some perceived slight or other. I didn’t have the strength to oppose the landings. All I could do was to see that their march across Liguria was as quick as possible. I had similar problems with Adalbert, former Margrave of Tuscany. Since you Nova Romans destroyed him, that is no longer an issue.

The party is now out and about in the city of Genua. Hugh the Elder points out the various landmarks, such as its fine harbor and the fortifications that crown the city’s promontory. He says “Genua’s city walls were originally Roman in construction. Two hundred and thirty-seven years ago, Liguria was invaded by Lombard troops under the command of their king Rothari. Our major cities were taken, and the walls of Genua were slighted so that the city couldn’t be used as a strongpoint for resistance. One hundred and thirty years later, Liguria was annexed by the Kingdom of the Franks and my ancestor Ademarus became the first Count of Genua. At this time, the walls of the city were rebuilt and extended.” Senator Gaius and the three engineers observe that parts of Genua’s walls are still in their original Roman condition, while others (the new walls and the parts of the old walls that were restored) are not. In these parts, the quality of the craftsmanship seems rough and unpolished when compared to the Roman stonework.

Senator Gaius observes to Lord Hugh “You have a good harbor here. What trades are carried on?”

Lord Hugh replies “Senator, skins, timber and honey are the principal businesses. We also have a moderately-sized fishing fleet.”

“Lord Hugh, where does the city get its water?”

“Senator Gaius, due to our being right on the coast, we can’t sink wells inside the city because they would soon be contaminated by seawater. Therefore, we rely on wells in the countryside, plus a few patched-up aqueducts. The fountains you see in the city squared haven’t worked in centuries.” Senator Gaius turns to Annius Verus, the engineer in charge of the detail and says “Well, Annius, what do you think?”

Annius replies “Senator, it is my considered opinion that, given assistance from Nova Roma, and a sufficient workforce here, I could have all of the city’s aqueducts, fountains and sewers back to Roman standards in six months.” When Lord Hugh hears this, his heart leaps in exultation, as Genua’s inadequate water supply is a problem that has been nettling him for some time. Just as Lord Hugh is considering what Annius Verus has said, one of his palace servants rushes up with an alarmed look on his face.

A Medical Emergency
Date: the mid-morning of Martius VI MDCXXXI AUC/ March 6th, 878 AD

“My Lord Hugh, please pardon this interruption, but you must come at once. Your daughter Hilde has had an accident.” Lord Hugh’s face turns pale and takes on an alarmed aspect as he asks “What happened?”

“My lord, Hilde was riding her horse when suddenly it reared and threw her from the saddle. In so falling, she struck her head on a rock.”

Hugh the Elder is almost in shock as Senator Gaius speaks up, “Lord Hugh, I grieve with you over this terrible news. I believe we should continue the tour another time. I certainly hope your daughter is alright.”

Lord Hugh replies “Thank you for your sentiments, Senator Gaius” as he begins to take off at a run. Before Hugh the Elder can get more than a few steps, Senator Gaius calls out “I and the medici will come along, perhaps they can be of some assistance.” Lord Hugh calls back over his shoulder “Yes, of course. Now, let us be off.”

The two men and the medici take off at a fast run and arrive back at the palace less than ten minutes later. They proceed to the palace’s living quarters, where they find a large number of servants running about in confusion. The palace chamberlain comes up and says “My lord, please accept my sympathies on this terrible accident.”

Lord Hugh snaps out “Enough of that. Tell me how she is.”

My lord, I regret to inform you that she lives for the moment. Your priest has been into see her and has determined her injuries to be mortal. He has given her the Last Rites. A look of frenzied apprehension takes over Lord Hugh’s face as he runs to Hilde’s bedside. He begins to repeat her name over and over again “Hilde, Hilde....”

Senator Gaius reaches over and taps Hugh the Elder on the shoulder, saying “Lord Hugh, I grieve with you at this terrible time. Can my medics examine her? They may be able to do some good.” Lord Hugh nods his head wordlessly as Senator Gaius motions to the chief medic, who in turn, calls out to his two assistants “Run to the wagons as quick as you can. Bring back the medical kit and my instruments” The two men run off as if they were being carried on the wind.. The chief medic comes to Hilde’s bedside and carefully examines her. Hilde’s face is swollen, and the area around her eyes is blackened from the impact she took when she fell. A small amount of blood is running from her nose, and she is moaning softly every so often. Just as the two assistants come back with the medical supplies, the chief medic stands up and makes his pronouncement.

“Lord Hugh, your daughter has a severely-depressed fracture of the skull. Her brain is beginning to swell up, and if the pressure isn’t relieved, she will not live past this afternoon. The chief medic’s words cause Lord Hugh’s face to flush with panic. His eyes dart back and forth wildly as he fights to maintain control. “Is...is there anything you can do?”

The chief medic replies “Lord Hugh, I have seen injuries like this before and I have treated them. Hilde’s scalp must be opened. Once this is done, I will relieve the pressure and repair the damage. Have I your permission to proceed?”

“Yes, yes, of course. My servants are at your disposal.”

“Good. Tell them to boil water in several pots and cauldrons and to have clean cloths ready to hand, as many as I have need for.” Lord Hugh snaps his fingers and the servants rush off to obey the stranger’s commands. The chief medic administers to Hilde a small quantity of a precisely-formulated extract of opium to relieve any pain she is suffering. Then, he orders the head of Hilde’s bed elevated so as to make it easier to work on the girl. He and the the two assistants thoroughly wash their hands and forearms, and carefully shave the top of Hilde’s head to give direct access to the scalp. A pot of hot water is brought, along with several clean cloths. These are used to wash Hilde’s scalp. The operation that follows involves incising her scalp and rolling it back to exposed the damaged areas of bone in her skull. As this is being done, Lord Hugh gasps and Hugh the Younger starts involuntarily when the scalp is peeled back. The damaged bone is exposed and the broken pieces are very carefully removed so that they don’t cause any further injury. The edges of the hole (which measures just over three-and-a-half unciae across) are tooled to remove any jagged protrusions. The resulting hole is now round. One of the assistant medici takes a thin round disk of silver from the medical kit and prepares it by drilling six small holes that are equally-spaced around the edges. The disk is of sufficient size to cover the hole in Hilde’s skull, with a small area of overage on the sides. The disk is heated in boiling water for several minutes and set aside to cool. Then, one of the assistants uses a set of brass tongs to hand it to the chief medicus, who places it over the hole in Hilde’s skull and fastens it by the use of six small silver pins that are gently threaded into place. The operation is concluded by rolling Hilde’s scalp back into place and closing it with small silver staples.

Hugh the Elder asks “Is...is it over?”

The chief medic replies “Lord Hugh, your daughter will live. However, she is very, very weak. To recover, she must not get out of bed for at least the next two weeks. She must not eat any heavy food, nor food which is too sweet. After the initial two-week period, Hilde must absolutely NOT do anything which stresses the body for a period of six months.”

Lord Hugh nearly collapses in relief. Then, he asks “What was the purpose of that silver disk? The chief medic replies “Lord Hugh, that disk’s purpose is to cover the hole in Hilde’s skull and to protect her brain while the bone heals. In six months, the bone will be fully healed and I will operate again to remove the disk.”

Lord Hugh calls out to Senator Gaius and says “For what your men have done for me this day, you have my eternal gratitude. Let us return to the great hall and drink a toast to my daughter’s health.” Senator Gaius replies “I will be honored, Lord Hugh.” Hugh the Elder, Hugh the Younger, Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius and Centurio Gaius Octavius are now seated around a table in front of the main fireplace in the great hall. Servants are called and they bring flagons of wine and empty goblets. These are quickly filled, save for the one in Senator Gaius’ hand. This one is filled by Lord Hugh’s own hand as a mark of the gratitude he feels. Lord Hugh raises his cup in salute, saying “Senator Gaius, your medics have worked wonders with my daughter Hilde. Tell me, what other medical wonders do your people possess?

“Lord Hugh, have your people been afflicted with smallpox?”

“Yes, Senator Gaius. The most recent outbreak was just ten years ago. That cursed disease swept across Liguria and other regions in Italia like a wildfire. Here in Genua, it wiped out one-quarter of the population. We are still feeling the effects of the loss.”

“Lord Hugh, what would you say if I were to tell you that my people have a way of protecting against becoming infected with smallpox?” Hugh the Elder is absolutely thunderstruck at what he hears. He replies “Senator, if I hadn’t seen my daughter being saved in front of my own eyes, I would say you were being untruthful.”

“Lord Hugh, you have my word as a Roman senator that what I say is the absolute truth.

The treatment can’t cure someone who is already infected, but it will absolutely protect anyone from becoming infected in the first place.”

When Hugh the Elder has gotten over the shocking import of what he has just heard, he stands upright and says “Senator Gaius, I must have that treatment for my people. Ask anything you want, and you shall have it. Doubly so, as your medics saved my daughter’s life.”

Senator Gaius says “Lord Hugh, what I seek and what I believe you want also is a full, formal alliance of state.”

“You shall have it.”

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Chapter XI

The Alliance
Date: The afternoon of Martius V MDCXXXI AUC/ March 5th, 878 AD

Senator Gaius stands up and assumes his best Senate-floor pose. He announces in full, ringing tones “Very well. By the authority vested in me by Emperor Marcus Aurelius, and in the name of the Senate and the People of Rome, I hereby conclude an alliance with you. The people of Liguria are now ‘Foederati’, meaning that they are friends and allies of the Roman people. From now on, your enemies are the enemies of Nova Roma. Anyone who threatens you, threatens us. The Emperor previously proposed that Nova Roma construct a shipyard on the coast of Tuscany for the purpose of building a navy. Your people already have a good harbor, and are skilled at shipbuilding. I will recommend to the Emperor that the shipyard be constructed here, and that our first naval base be placed here. Nova Roma will pay for any ships that she needs, all that you need do is to furnish the men and materials.”

“Done. What of troops? When our enemies hear of this alliance, they will surely seek to attack us.”

“Lord Hugh, if it is acceptable to you, recruiting officers from Legio X Fretensis will come to Liguria for the express purpose of raising a full-strength legion. We will not sign up anyone who isn’t willing, and neither will we endanger your local defense. Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar is our senior-ranking military officer, and he will appoint a suitable commander for the new legion. As for the legion’s second-in-command, that is within my purview. Therefore, I declare that your son, Hugh the Younger, is appointed as Tribunus Laticlavius, the legion’s second-in-command. This new legion will be equipped from stocks that we have on hand back in Nova Roma, so you need not furnish anything.”

“What else, Senator Gaius?”

“Lord Hugh, the capacity of a people to defend themselves is directly related to how healthy they are. I see that a reliable supply of fresh water is a problem that troubles you. Accordingly, I will send back to Nova Roma for a team of civil engineers from Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica. They will come here and see to assisting you in restoring the aqueducts and fountains in the City of Genua back to proper Roman standards.”

“How long will the process take, Senator? Tell me also of the process used to protect against smallpox.”

“Lord Hugh, given plentiful manpower, the aqueducts and fountains will be up and running in six months. As for the smallpox medicine, it is given to an uninfected person by the means of a small, forked needle with very sharp tips. The needle is dipped in the medicine, and is jabbed into the skin several times. Protection from smallpox begins almost immediately, and it is at full strength within seven days. The medics tell me that they have enough medicine for five hundred people. If you agree, they can begin with you, your son and whoever else you wish.”

“Senator Gaius, let it be as you say. I and my son will be the first. What must I do?”

“Please remain seated, Lord Hugh. The chief medic will give you further instructions.”

The chief medic approaches with a wooden case in had; this case contains sealed glass bottles which hold the smallpox vaccine. “Lord Hugh, please roll up the sleeve on your right arm and remain still. I will now administer the vaccine.” The chief medic takes a small, forked needle out of the case and removes the stopper from one of the glass bottles. He dips the tip of the needle in the material and introduces it to Lord Hugh by jabbing him in the upper arm several times in quick succession. When the procedure is complete he says “Lord Hugh, it is done. You will have a slight fever for the next few days. After that, you will be immune to smallpox. Now, for your son Hugh the Younger” The chief medic motions for Hugh the Younger, who comes up and takes a seat. The vaccine is then administered in the same way.

Strengthening the Alliance
Date: The afternoon of Martius V MDCXXXI AUC/ March 5th, 878 AD

Lord Hugh, Hugh the Younger and Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius step aside while the vaccine is being administered to the rest of Lord Hugh’s family. Senator Gaius turns to Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus and says “Centurio Gaius, I want you to send two of your cavalrymen back to Nova Roma with news of our new alliance with Lord Hugh. I will give them a scroll containing an account of what has happened here.”

“Yes, Senator Gaius. They will leave tomorrow at first light.” Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus hastens off to select the two riders as Senator Gaius says to Lord Hugh “Those riders will be back in Nova Roma three days from now. My message will be delivered to the Emperor and six days after that, those civil engineers I spoke of earlier will be here.”

Lord Hugh replies “Senator Gaius, I will welcome this wholeheartedly. What of the recruitment effort you spoke of?”

“Lord Hugh, if you consent to it, Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus and the legionaries in my bodyguard will begin immediately. The party which will return from Nova Roma will have the recruiting bonuses for the new legion. As your son Hugh the Younger is Tribunus Laticlavius of the new legion, he will take part in the recruiting effort”

Lord Hugh says “Senator Gaius, I see that you Nova Romans aren’t ones to let the moss grow under your feet. I look forward to seeing how the recruiting turns out.”

Senator Gaius replies “Lord Hugh, I have no doubt that it will be successful. Now, if you will please pardon me, I will retire to my quarters to write the message that will be sent back to Nova Roma.” Senator Gaius goes back to his rooms and sits at the table that was provided for him. He sets out a small pot of ink and a blank scroll. He takes up a quill pen and begins to write. Half an hour later, the scroll is complete. Senator Gaius places the scroll inside a message tube and lays the tube upon the table.

The Departure
Date: Martius VI MDCXXXI AUC/ March 6th, 878 AD

Before sunrise, Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus and the two riders he has selected come to Senator Gaius’ quarters. Centurio Gaius knocks on the door. After but a few moments, Senator Gaius opens the door, bids the three men enter and says “Punctual as always, Centurio Gaius. You are to be commended. These are the two messengers?”

“Yes, Senator Gaius.”

Senator Gaius turns to the two cavalrymen and says “I want you two to return to Nova Roman with all possible speed.” He hands over the scroll tube to the senior of the two men and says “You will place this message in the Emperor’s hands no later than three days from today. You mustn’t let anything stand in your way, for there is much need of haste.” The rider salutes and replies “Senator Gaius, we will ride as if the wind is pushing us.”

Without any further discussion, the two cavalrymen leave Senator Gaius’ quarters and go to the stables where their mounts are already saddled and waiting. They mount up and ride off into the early morning sunshine. The cavalrymen make superb progress on the road; it is as if the hand of Iovi Optimo Maximo himself is speeding them along. Rather than the three days it was expected to take, the two riders get back to Nova Roma in just two days. Despite their rate of progress, the horses aren’t the least bit winded. Immediately upon arrival back in Nova Roma, the cavalrymen make their way to the Domus Imperialis where they announce themselves to the Imperial Chamberlain. Realizing the importance of the message they are carrying, he conducts them to the Emperor’s office. The Emperor is attending to certain business of State when he hears a knock on the door. He looks up from the papers he is working on and says “Yes?”

“Caesar, please forgive this interruption, but I have important news. There are two riders here who are carrying a message from Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius.”

Marcus Aurelius’ eyes widen somewhat in surprise as he says ‘Bid them approach”. The chamberlain brings the two men before the Emperor, then departs. The riders come to attention before the Emperor, their backs as straight and unyielding as a swordblade. They salutes they render are proper and crisp.

“Hail, Caesar. I am Claudius Appius and my companion here is Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo. We come bearing a message from Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius, your ambassador to Liguria.” Claudius hands over the scroll tube and says “Senator Gaius specifically told us to place this in your hands alone”

“Hail, Claudius Appius and Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo. Your dedication is most commendable.” Marcus Aurelius accepts the scroll tube, opens it and begins to read:

Notifying Home
Date: Martius VIII MDCXXXI AUC /March 8th, 878 AD

To the esteemed Marcus Aurelius Imperator Caesar, greetings and salutations:

‘I have the honor to report that, pursuant to the authority vested in me as your ambassador, I have this day concluded a full alliance of State with Lord Hugh the Elder, Margrave of Liguria. In regards to your previously-stated desire to have a shipyard constructed on the coast of Tuscany, the Ligurians already have a significant shipbuilding capacity. Upgrading one of their shipyards to Roman standards will certainly be less expensive than building an entirely new yard.

The engineers attached to the embassy have reported to me that the aqueducts and fountains of Genua are much in need of repair. I ask that you send a suitable team of civil engineers to aid in this work. I further ask that you send a like number of medical personnel so that the people here can be treated for their various ills. Most importantly, I have secured permission from Lord Hugh the Elder for Nova Roma to recruit the men for a new legion from among his people. With this in mind, I herewith submit the name of Hugh the Younger to be Tribunus Laticlavius of the new legion. In support if this,I request that instructors be sent to train the new recruits as they are signed on, that arms, armor and equipment be sent to outfit the new legion. Finally, I ask that a sufficient sum of money be sent in order that the standard recruitment bonuses are able to be paid.

I have the honor to remain yours in the service of Nova Roma’

--G. Aquilius Manlius

Claudius Appius and Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo stand by while the Emperor reads the message. Once he is done, Marcus Aurelius takes up his pen and composes a reply:

From Marcus Aurelius Imperator Caesar to the honorable Gaius Aquilius Manlius
greetings and felicitations:

I have received your message, and your dispositions are confirmed. Along with this reply, I am sending a staff of ten civil engineers, ten medici and ten instructors for the new legion. I am also sending the arms, armor, equipment and funds that you requested. The new legio is to be titled Legio II Italica; Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus is raised to the rank of Primus Pilus.


When the message is finished, Marcus Aurelius places the scroll in a message tube and seals it. He immediately calls for a messenger. The servant responds "Yes, Caesar?"

“Go at once to the camp of Legio X Fretensis. Tell Legate Germanicus that I want to see him immediately.”

“Immediately, Caesar.” The servant departs, then returns within the hour with Legate Germanicus.

“You summoned me, Caesar?”

“Yes, Legate. Thank you for coming at such short notice. I have received a message from Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius telling me that an alliance of state has been secured between Nova Roman and Liguria. He has also obtained permission from Lord Hugh the Elder for us to raise a legion from among his people. This new legion will be called ‘Legio II Italica’. Accordingly, please see that the surplus arms, armor and other equipment formerly used by Legio I Italica is loaded onto wagons and shipped to Liguria. When you leave here, go to the Imperial Treasury and draw out the sum of 360,000 denarii. These funds will go along with the arms & equipment in order to pay the recruitment bonuses for the new legion. As for the choice of commanding officer, I leave that to your own discretion. Consult with Princeps Senatus; I believe that there are a number of Senators with previous military experience”

“Yes, Caesar. Have you further orders?”

“Yes, Legate. As part of the alliance with Liguria, I want you to choose ten engineers and ten medici to go. These men will help restore the aqueducts and fountains of Lord Hugh’s city of Genua. To train Legio II Italica, I also want you to send ten experienced legionaries from Legio X Fretensis to assist Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus. These thirty men will go along with the wagons carrying the legion’s equipment. Make haste, for I want the wagons on the road in two days time.”

“Yes, Caesar.” Legate Germanicus salutes the Emperor and leaves to carry out his orders.

Marcus Aurelius now turns to Claudius Appius and Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo and hands them the scroll tube carrying his reply to Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius. He says “Eat and then rest for the night, for you both are to be back on the road tomorrow morning. When you get back to Liguria, give Senator Gaius the scroll tube and tell him that the people, equipment and funds he requested are coming by wagon.”

“Yes, Caesar”

Date: Martius VIIII MDCXXXI AUC / March 9th, 878 AD

Claudius Appius and Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo rise and are in their saddles before the sun is over the horizon. Due to the importance of their mission, they have been cautioned to avoid anyone not recognizably Nova Roman, By the end of the first day, they have made some forty mille of progress. To further enhance their security, they camp a few hundred yards off the road and also use only dry wood for their campfire. Using dry wood greatly reduces the amount of smoke produced. To make their camp less obvious, the two men decide against setting up their tent. Instead, they put out their bedrolls and conceal them with leaves and grass. Thus concealed, Claudius and Gnaeus pass a somewhat restful night and are back in their saddles before the sun rises.

Date: Martius X MDCXXXI AUC / March 10th, 878 AD

The wagon train ordered by the Emperor has been loaded and all is in readiness. In addition to the thirty support staff being sent along, each wagon has a pair of drivers. The wagons containing the pay chests and medical supplies are further guarded by two turmae of cavalry. The wagon train is commanded by Sextus Fabius, the senior drillmaster for Legio X Fretensis. Without delay, the wagon train departs and is able to make excellent progress. By nightfall, they are some twenty mille from Nova Roma.

Back in Genua
Date: Martius XI MDCXXXI AUC / March 11th, 878 AD

Claudius Appius and Gnaeus Sempronius Corbulo are finally approaching Genua. Senator Gaius Aquilius Manlius had asked Lord Hugh the Elder to have his men keep watch for the return of the two messengers. As it so happened, Hugh the Younger was accompanying one of his father’s patrols when he happened to see the two men riding up hard and fast. They immediately recognize each other and greetings are exchanged.

“Hail, Tribunus Laticlavius. We bring an important message from the Emperor. Please take us to Senator Gaius.”

“Hail, troopers. Please come with me.” Hugh the Younger immediately brings them to his father’s council chamber, where Hugh the Elder is meeting with Senator Gaius and Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus.

“Greetings, Father. Hail, Senator Gaius. The two riders you asked me to look out for have returned. Hugh the Younger motions Claudius and Gnaeus to come over. They salute Lord Hugh the Elder and Senator Gaius and begin to speak.

“Hail, Senator Gaius. We bring a message to you from the Emperor”. Claudius Appius hands over the scroll tube. Senator Gaius opens it and begins to read. He smiles widely and returns the scroll to the tube.

“Lord Hugh, I have good news.” “What is that, Senator Gaius?”

“The alliance between Liguria and Nova Roma is now formalized. My dispositions have been confirmed by the Emperor, and your son has been confirmed as Tribunus Laticlavius of Legio II Italica.”

“That is wonderful news, Senator.”

Senator Gaius turns to Claudius Appius and asks “What of the men, equipment, supplies and funds I requested?”

Claudius Appius replies “Senator, the Emperor has instructed me to tell you that a wagon train carrying all that you asked for is on the way here even as we speak. It should arrive in five days.”

Senator Gaius smiles widely and exclaims his pleasure over this news. He turns to Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus and says “I have good news for you also, Centurio. The Emperor has promoted you to the rank of Primus Pilus, effective immediately. You are to assist Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and the instructors in getting Legio II Italica trained up to standard.”

“Thank you, Senator. Please allow me to express my gratitude for the confidence that the Emperor has shown in me. I shall always endeavor to uphold this trust.”

Senator Gaius turns to Claudius Appius and says “The two of you are to be commended for your dedication to duty. You are relieved of duty for the next two days so that you can rest and refresh yourselves.”

“Thank you, Senator."

Future Weapons
Date: Martius XI MDCXXXI AUC / March 11th, 878 AD
Location: Hero's Workshop

To the esteemed Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar from Hero of Alexandria, greetings:

Mindful of the upcoming campaign against Marche and Umbria, I have undertaken to develop new types of weaponry based on the Powder of Mars and to further refine the ones that already exist. The first weapon I looked at was the Semina Ignis. In testing the original, I found that the fragments produced when the Powder burst the iron shell were irregular in size. This meant that the weapon couldn't be expected to inflict uniform casualties in a given area. I resolved the problem by testing two different designs for the hollow iron shell. The first one had a series of regular squares cast into the exterior surface, much like the pattern of stones used to pave streets. The second design had a smooth exterior surface; the hollow internal cavity of was cast in the shape of a dodecahedron. This version was cast in two halves which were furnace welded together. I produced several examples of each type and tested them to see which was more effective. After much experimentation, I found that the shell with the internal cavity in the shape of a dodecahedron produced better fragmentation. This is the version that I recommended to you for production.

The second weapon I looked at is the Pilum Igneus. I looked at my testing notes and saw that the original design is highly inaccurate, more suited to attacking large areas than small individual targets. To further increase its effectiveness, I devised a new type of launcher that had hollow tubes arranged in eight rows of twenty-five tubes per row. Each tube held but one pilum igneus. The ignition cords for each row were tied together so that the tubes would fire one after the other. Separate ignition cords linked the opposite ends of each row of tubes; all that needs be done to fire the weapon was to light a single ignition cord and all the pili ignea would launch in a very short period of time. The rack which held the tubes was mounted on a pivot of the same type used in bolt-firing scorpions; this refinement meant that the whole weapon could be aimed directly instead of just being pointed at an area.

More significantly, I have devised a larger version of the Semina Ignis. The range of the smaller one was previously limited by the strength of the thrower’s arm. This can be extended somewhat by using a staff-sling to throw them, but the weapon is still not suited for long-range use. This new version (Semina Ignis Maior) weighs twelve librae and is designed to be fired by the ballistae ignea. The Powder of Mars carried in a Semina Ignis Maior will be ignited after firing by a wooden plug filled with a specially-formulated type of the Powder. The powder inside the plug will burn down after a set period of time and then cause the Semina Ignis Maior to burst.

Finally, it seemed to me that I could increase the size of a pilum igneus to the point where it could carry a ten-libra charge of the Powder of Mars. The powder is contained in a cylinder made of thin iron sheet or fired clay that is fixed to the top of the weapon. To account for the much-increased size, the weapon is named the Pilum Igneus Maior. To employ it, I designed a launching rack like the one used for the smaller version (hereafter named Pilum Igneus Minor). This rack has four rows of tubes, with four tubes in each row. The rack can be aimed, just as the smaller version can. The powder charge is fired by the same type of wooden plug as in the Semina Ignis Maior.

As the campaign is very near to beginning, the only type of the foregoing weaponry that will be available for use are the Semina Ignis Maior, and these only in limited quantities. Once the campaign is concluded, there will be time enough to manufacture the weapons in whatever quantities are desired.

Warning Order Date: Martius XII MDCXXXI AUC / March 12th, 878 AD

Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

There is a knock on the door of Legate Germanicus’ outer office, and one of the headquarters optios answers it. He opens the door to see a messenger clad in the livery of the Imperial Household. His posture stiffens out of respect and he speaks. “How can I help you?”

“I have a message for Legate Germanicus from the Emperor. It is of high importance, so I must give it to him immediately.” The optio conducts the messenger to Legate Germanicus’ private office and then announces him.

The optio knocks and says “I beg your pardon for this interruption, Legate, but this messenger just arrived. He says that he has an important dispatch for you from the Emperor.”

“Very well.” The optio motions the messenger over to Legate Germanicus’ desk. He advances, salutes and begins to speak.

“Hail, Legate. I come bearing the message for you from the Emperor.” Without further delay, he hands over a sealed message tube. Legate Germanicus accepts the tube, breaks the seal and reads the scroll.

From Marcus Aurelius Imperator Caesar to Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar, commander of Legio X Fretensis, greetings:

I have consulted with the priestly staff at the temple of Iovi Optimo Maximo as regards the campaign against Marche and Umbria. They tell me the omens are favorably disposed towards us, and so I judge it to be the proper time to tell you that you and Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva are to prepare your commands to move out no later than twenty-nine days from today. All other considerations are of secondary importance.

May Jupiter and Fortuna smile upon us and give victory to Nova Roma.

Marc Aur Imp Caes

Legate Germanicus finishes reading the scroll and then rolls it up. He turns to the messenger and says “Return at once to the Domus Imperialis and give the Emperor my respects. Tell him that his message is received and understood, and that preparations will begin immediately.”

“By your leave, Legate”. The messenger salutes and departs with Legate Germanicus’ reply.

“Optio Marcus Junius Dubitatus, attend me.”

“Yes, Legate?”

“Alert the rest of my command staff. Have them report here in one hour. The, you are to go to the camp of Legio I Italica. Give my respects to Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva and inform him of the Emperor’s message.”

“Yes, Legate.”

One hour later, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus, Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus, Praefectus Castrum Lucius Balbinus Apuleius and Chief Medicus Titus Flavius Avitus arrive in Legate Germanicus’ office.

“Gentlemen, Thank you all for coming. I have just received an order from the Emperor that we are to prepare to move out to begin the campaign against Marche and Umbria.”

Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus asks “Legate, when does the campaign begin?”

Legate Germanicus replies “The Emperor says that we are to move out no later than twenty-nine days from today. This would make the day we actually move out to be the tenth day of Aprilis. Primus Pilus?”

“Yes, Legate?”

“When we are done here, summon all of the other centurions in the legion and tell them what has happened. Tell them to inspect their men and all of their equipment. Anything which is damaged is to be replaced immediately. Praefectus Castrum?”

“Yes, Legate?”

“You are to immediately survey the contents of the legion’s storehouses. Tally the amount of foodstuffs and other consumables that are on hand. I want to have at least sixty days worth of food for the campaign, so if there is less than that amount available, have the quartermasters secure what is necessary. I also want the Ballistae Ignea and the polybolos inspected and ready for action. Each of the Ballistae Ignea are to have four hundred and eighty rounds of ammunition, and each polybolos is to have one thousand javelins. Chief Medicus?”

“Yes, Legate?”

“Please coordinate with Praefectus Castrum Lucius Balbinus Apuleius. I want you to make sure have sixty days worth of medical supplies on hand before we move out. All of you are to report back to me in seven days to give me the status of the preparations. Dismissed.”

The assembled officers salute Legate Germanicus and leave his office, hurrying to carry out his orders. The first to begin work is Primus Pilus Lucius, who goes to each of the other 59 centuriones in Legio X Fretensis and tells them what is to be done. Each of them in turn orders the men under his command to lay out all of their gear for inspection. Each legionary does this by first laying out his bedroll, then arranging all of his arms, armor and equipment in regular order on top of it. The centurion goes to each contubernia is his command and inspects them, one after the other, in numerical order. The decanus of each contubernia accompanies the centurion during the inspection, and makes notes regarding any deficiencies or shortages. After the centuria-based inspections are done, Primus Pilus Lucius goes to each centurio and reviews/approves the records of their work.

At the same time, Praefectus Castrum Lucius Balbinus Apuleius and his own staff proceed to the quartermaster’s warehouses and begin the slow, laborious process of inspecting the contents. Over the next three to five days, every bag, bale, barrel, crate or other container will be examined to see if they are intact and that the foodstuffs contained therein are in good shape and fit for consumption. Shortages will be noted and more food will be stockpiled as necessary.

In the camp hospital and its associated storage buildings, Chief Medicus Titus Flavius Avitus and his assistants are conducting their own inventory. Due to the vital nature of the legion’s medical supplies and equipment, the inventory and cross-checking are even more thorough than the ones being done for the food supplies. Chief Medicus Titus is a remarkably foresighted individual. As a result of his careful planning and use of generous estimates, Chief Medicus Titus finds that Legio X Fretensis has more than three times the specified amount of medical supplies on hand.

A legion’s horses and wagons are an integral part of its ability to move, so Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus takes it upon himself to go down to the stables and inspect the legion’s horses and rolling stock. Upon arrival, he is joined by the stablemaster and his assistants, the horse wranglers and the wagon drivers. Together, they closely inspect every animal and wagon to see if all are in good shape for the campaign. The tack & harness is examined and checked for split or worn rivets, frayed straps and mildewed leather. Each individual wagon is looked at and tested to see if it is structurally sound. All deficiencies are noted and corrected.

Arriving in Liguria
Date: Martius XVI MDCXXXI AUC / March 16th, 878 AD
Location: outside of Genua

After five more days of routine travel, the wagon train commanded by Sextus Fabius arrives in Liguria. They are met by a joint patrol of Ligurians and Nova Romans led by Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus. The two men exchange greetings in the typical Roman manner.

“Hail, Centurio Gaius Octavius Drusus. I am Sextus Fabius, senior drillmaster of Legio X Fretensis. Legate Germanicus placed me in command of the wagon train bringing the arms, armor and equipment to Legio II Italica.”

“Hail, Sextus Fabius. We have been expecting you. Your arrival is most welcome. Please follow me. I have selected an area where Legio II Italica’s camp will be located.”

The wagon train follows at Centurio Gaius’ direction, and makes it way to a place just one mille outside the walls of Genua. This location was chosen for its proximity to the city, and also for its access to roads, timber and a good water supply. The wagons are directed by Centurio Gaius and Sextus Fabius to park in a regular formation. This is done so as to patrol the area more easily. “Sextus Fabius, I leave you here so that you and your men can set up your tents. I will ride to Genua and inform Senator Gaius and Lord Hugh the Elder of your arrival. I am sure that they will wish to come here and inspect the wagons.”

“At your convenience, Centurio Gaius.”

Centurio Gaius climbs back into his saddle and rides for Genua. A few minutes later, he passes through the city gates and makes his way to Lord Hugh’s palace. He seeks out Lord Hugh and Senator Gaius, and finds them in the palace’s main hall. “Hail, Lord, Hugh. Hail, Senator Gaius. I am pleased to report that the wagon train sent from Nova Roma has arrived in good order. I have placed therm in a meadow just one mille outside the city, subject to Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh’s approval.”

Senator Gaius replies “Hail, Centurio Gaius. That is good news indeed. Lord Hugh, perhaps we should ride out and inspect the wagons and their contents.”

“An excellent idea, Senator Gaius. Hugh, my son, you will accompany us.”

Lord Hugh, Senator Gaius, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Centurio Gaius ride out to where the wagons are parked. Sextus Fabius sees the party approaching and greets them. “Hail and well met. I am Sextus Fabius, senior drillmaster of Legio X Fretensis. I am in command of the wagon train sent by Legate Germanicus and I herewith deliver it to you.”

Senator Gaius replies “Greetings, Sextus Fabius. I acknowledge receipt of the supplies and equipment you have brought. What of the engineers and medical staff I requested?”

“Senator Gaius, they are here, along with the legionaries assigned to help Centurio Gaius and I train the recruits for Legio II Italica.”

Senator Gaius now says “Lord Hugh, If I have your permission, the engineers and medical staff will move to your palace and set up there. Once there, the engineers will begin to assess what is needed to restore the city’s aqueducts and fountains. The medical staff will also begin seeing to your people.”

“Yes, of course, Senator Gaius.”

Senator Gaius motions to Centurio Gaius Ocatvius Drusus, who in turn directs Sextus Fabius to separate out the wagons containing the engineering equipment and medical supplies. The engineers and medical staff climb aboard the wagons and make their way back to Genua. Lord Hugh and Senator Gaius ride along with them. Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Centurio Gaius stay behind to supervise the layout of Legio II Italica’s training camp. The wagons pull into the courtyard of Lord Hugh’s palace, and the engineers and medical staff are given rooms so they can begin their work. The medical staff are given one of the palace’s secondary halls to serve as a hospital, and the medical supplies and equipment are brought into it. Meanwhile, the engineers receive another hall for use as their headquarters and they do likewise with their own gear.

By the time that all of the men have been settled in, it is approaching late afternoon. So, Lord Hugh, Senator Gaius, the engineers and medical staff retire to the palace’s main hall for a well-deserved meal. Meanwhile, back at the campsite, tents have been set up to accommodate the instructors that will train the recruits for Legio II Italica. A larger, more elaborate tent has been set up to serve as a headquarters for Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Centurio Gaius Ocatvius Drusus. Once this is done, the approximate locations of the camp streets are marked with stakes, and the layout of the camp proceeds from there.

Recruiting Efforts
Date: Martius XVII MDCXXXI AUC / March 17th, 878 AD

In the late morning, the process of recruiting men for Legio II Italica begins. Lord Hugh the Elder sends out messengers among his people telling those who are willing to come to the palace at noon. These messengers are accompanied by one or more of the Nova Romans, and such is the curiosity of the Ligurians that by noontime, there are several hundred men gathered outside the palace gates. There are a number of tables set up to display various items of military equipment and other gear, and some of those legionaries who were assigned to Senator Gaius as guards are on hand in their full military kit. Several leather tents are set up to give an indication of what life is like in a Roman military camp. A temporary wooden speaking platform has been set up so that those who stand upon it can be seen by the crowd. Lord Hugh the Elder, Senator Gaius and Sextus Fabius are there, along with other legionaries in full dress.

Lord Hugh raises his hand to gain the attention of those gathered in front of the platform. They quickly fall silent and then Lord Hugh begins to speak “Men, our new friends and allies of Nova Roma have come here seeking recruits to join their army in defense of one and all. If you are willing, you have my permission to sign up. Senator Gaius?”

Senator Gaius steps up beside Lord Hugh and says “Men, if you sign up, you will be well-treated and cared for. You will receive regular pay and allowances, food and medical care. You will be well-trained and will travel far and wide in the service of Nova Roma. Should you remain in service for the full term of twenty years, you will receive one hundred iugera of land and a retirement bonus in cash. If you are still hesitant, any who sign up will receive a bonus of two hundred and twenty five denarii. This will be paid as soon as you enlist. Now, what say you?

The crowd gathered in front of the palace hesitates for some minutes, then the first man steps forward. He is very quickly joined by others, and soon the enlistment tables are thronged with volunteers. What convinced many to sign up is the recruitment bonus. For some of them, this sum is equal to more than a year of income. Others sign on because they have no better prospects. By the time the sun begins to set, more than one thousand men have signed; this is enough to form two full cohorts and part of a third. When all have signed up who want to, they are administered the military oath as a group. Senator Gaius now turns to Lord Hugh the Elder and says “this was a great start, Lord Hugh. Over the next several days, we will send out recruiting missions to your other towns, villages and cities. I don’t doubt that we will have the required number of men in short order.”

Lord Hugh replies “True enough, Senator Gaius. My son will certainly have his hands full in training them.”

While this is going on, Sextus Fabius and his assistant drill masters are organizing the new recruits into centuriae, and then the centuriae are organized into cohorts. A majority of the men can neither read or write. To address this problem, those who can read and write are given seniority and assigned the task of teaching those who can’t. The recruits are allowed to go home and gather their personal property, and are ordered to report back as soon as possible. The intent is that they will march to the training camp outside of the city. Since there is nothing in the way of permanent facilities as yet, the men will have the job of building their camp, such task to go hand in hand with their training.

Date: Martius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC /March 19th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

The inspections of the legion and its supplies and equipment are complete, and the officers involved meet back at the principia to give their reports. Legate Germanicus has been expecting them, so he greets them all as they arrive.

“Gentlemen, thank you all for your punctuality. I trust that the tasks I assigned to you have been completed?

Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus and the officers reply in unison “Yes, Legate.”

“Very well. Please deliver your reports. Praefectus Castrum Lucius?

“Legate, I am pleased to tell you that the legion is well-supplied with foodstuffs and other consumables. We have ninety days worth on hand, and I have ordered another sixty days of rations as a reserve.”

“Very good, Prefectus. Your initiative is most commendable. Primus Pilus Lucius?”

“Legate, I had the other centuriones inspect each and every man in their commands. They reported to me that there are no shortages. There were no deficiencies beyond a few split rivets, broken armor straps and torn stitching on some of the legionaries’ satchels. These weer all made good in one day. I double-checked by going over each centurio’s records and then personally-inspecting men from each centuria at random. All is in perfect order.”

“Excellent work, Primus Pilus. Chief Medicus Titus?”

“Legate, I am please to report that the hospital has one hundred eighty days worth of supplies on hand; this is three times the amount you specified last week.”

“Very well, Chief Medicus. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, I saw that you took it upon yourself to inspect the legion’s horses and wagons. What have you to report?”

“Legate, the rolling stock is all in sound condition and the horses are in good shape. The tack and harness is clean, well-oiled and ready for use.”

“Excellent. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, how stand the ammunition supplies for the Ballistae Igneii and polybolos?”

“Legate, we have half the specified amount if ammunition for the Ballistae Igneii and three-quarters of the numbers of javelins for the polybolos.”

“I See. Send orders to the powder works and the fabrica to rectify these shortages.”

“By your command, Legate.”

Date: Martius XX MDCXXXI AUC / March 20th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio X Fretensis

In the fabrica of Legio X Fretensis and in the powder works, the orders given by Legate Germanicus to make up the shortages in Ballista Ignea ammunition and javelins for the polybolos have been received and are being acted upon. The furnaces are fired up and molds have been prepared for the casting of the required number of Semina Ignis Maior, while the legion’s carpenters and blacksmiths begin to turn out javelins for the polybolos. At the powder works, the ignition plugs are made and stockpiled, and the powder magazines are readied for the filling of the Semina Ignis Maior as soon as they are available. The ammunition shortages are expected to be made good by the afternoon of Martius XXVI.

At the warehouses for quartermaster stores and medical supplies, wagons are lined up to receive the materiel that they will be carrying on the campaign. The wagons are driven off to the parade ground as soon as they are loaded. They are parked in regular order until it is time to assemble for the march.

Throughout the legion’s barracks, there is an intense air of anticipation for the upcoming campaign. The men are talking amongst themselves as they check, re-check and pack their gear. Armor and helmets are cleaned and polished, gladius and pugio blades are honed, and the heads of their pilae are sharpened. The younger legionaries are boasting to their comrades about how many enemies they will slay and how many decorations they will win; those who are older and more experienced keep their own counsel, simply hoping to be alive at the end of the campaign. When the centurions of the legion are satisfied that the equipment of their legionaries is ready, they take to exercising the men under their command. Gladii and scuta are practiced with, pilae are thrown repeatedly at targets with varying ranges and the men are marched and counter-marched. Tactics are planned and practiced so thoroughly that each legionary knows exactly what to do, even if there were no officers to command him.

On the archery ranges, the situation is much the same. The sagittarii practice with their bows, shooting at stationary and moving targets so as to better their aim. Some even take to shooting targets that have been thrown up into the air. The cavalry practice their horsemanship, striking with their lancea at targets both high and low. Spathae are plied liberally until each rider is able to hit targets both mounted and afoot with equal facility. An important part of the cavalry’s training is the use of their javelins. These are cast repeatedly at different-ranged targets both small and large. This is done while the horses are at the walk, the trot and at full gallop.

Finally, all is in readiness. The legion’s fighting skills have been honed until they are razor-sharp. All that is needed is the order to move out.

Date: Aprilis VIII MDCXXXI AUC / April 8th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

A tall robed and cloaked woman is seen entering Marcus Aurelius’ quarters. Those servants who see her and give any thoughts about it simply assume that she is there for the Emperor’s amusement. In point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Thesea Domina Greccia sits in front of the Emperor’s desk and speaks “You summoned me, Caesar?”

“Yes, Thesea. I have a task for you and the Sisters of Battle, one particularly suited to your talents and abilities. You and they are being attached to Legate Germanicus’ headquarters. You will accompany him on the campaign against Marche and Umbria. You and the sisters will use all of your skill and artifice to harass, discomfit and otherwise disrupt the enemy’s operations. Legate Germanicus has already received this order in writing, so all you need to do is to report to him.”

“Yes Caesar. It shall be done as you say.” At this, Thesea leaves the Domus Imperialis and goes back to her own villa. Once there, she addresses her fellow sisters and tells them of the Emperor’s orders. Together, they pack their equipment and clothing and leave for the encampment of Legio X Fretensis. Thesea and the sisters are in disguise so as not to attract attention. When challenged at the gate, Thesea presents a pass signed by the Emperor, then she and her group are brought to Legate Gemanicus’ office. As they walk towards the Principia, the camp is full of activity. The legion has received its warning orders and is preparing to move out. Upon arrival at the Principia, Optio Marcus Junius Dubitatus discreetly knocks on the door and says “Please excuse the interruption, Legate. There is a group of women here who have a pass signed by the Emperor.”

“Ahh yes, Optio. Please show them in.”

Thesea and the sisters are brought into Legate Germanicus’ office. The optio departs, leaving them alone. Legate Germanicus is the first to speak “Thesea, I received a written order from the Emperor only yesterday. Though I must say what is proposed is highly unconventional, I approve of its boldness. You and your companions will travel as part of my headquarters, and will have your own tent so that no one will disturb you. For all intents and purposes, it will seem as if you are here for my ‘companionship’. When we close with the enemy, I will give you further instructions.”

“Yes, Legate.” Thesea and the sisters leave Legate Germanicus’ office and are shown to their temporary quarters. By Legate Germanicus’ order, they are given a wagon to transport their property, along with a tent to be set up in the Legion’s encampment while they are on the road.

Operations Order
Date: Aprilis IX MDCXXXI AUC / April 9th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia, Legio X Fretensis

Legate Germanicus calls for his command staff and the staff of Legio I Italica to meet at the Principia so that he can give them their orders. “Gentlemen, thank you all for coming. The beginning of the campaign against Marche and Umbria is now at hand. Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica will move out tomorrow morning at dawn. We will proceed to a staging area in the east of Tuscany. I chose this area carefully because it is near to the borders of Marche and Umbria. Once there, we will construct a marching camp and proceed against our designated targets. Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, you and Legio I Italica will enter the territory of Marche. Your objective is to engage and destroy such enemy forces as you find available. Take care that you fight on ground of your choosing, and make the enemy come to you.”

“Understood, Legate Germanicus.”

“I and Legio X Fretensis will move against Umbria. We will have the same objectives as Legio I Italica. Gentlemen, let us look to tomorrow. Rest well, for it will be a long day. You are dismissed.”

The March
Date: Aprilis X MDCXXXI AUC / April 10th, 878 AD

Legate Germanicus stands upon a temporary wooden rostrum erected outside the main gate of Legio X Fretensis’ camp. Before him is arrayed the combined host of both legions, plus the cavalry, archers and wagons. He summons up his best parade-ground voice and thunders forth “LEGIONARIES!, FRIENDS!! WE GO FORTH IN THE NAME OF THE EMPEROR. FOR YOUR LAND, FOR YOUR WIVES AND FAMILIES, FOR NOVA ROMA.....FORWARD, MARCH!!! Legate Germanicus comes down from the rostrum and climbs into his saddle. Almost before his words have faded away, a great booming peal of thunder breaks overhead. This is surely a good omen, for it means that Iovi Optimo Maximo is watching. The legion’s standards are at the forefront of the column, lead by the Legion’s Aquila. Polished and gleaming brilliantly in the early morning sunlight, it is the object of every legionary’s devotion. Immediately following the Aquila are the Imaginifer and signiferi, accompanied by the bearers of the buccinae, cornu and tubae. These instruments are used to play notes and tunes in order to direct the legion’s movement on the march and also in battle.

For the first time in more than four hundred years, two full Roman legions are going off to war. Legio I Italica began the march from its' camp yesterday, so that it could join with Legio X Fretensis as Legio X moves from its' own camp outside the city of Nova Roma. On the line of march, Legio X Fretensis will be in the lead, as it is the senior of the two legions. The first five cohorts of Legio X Fretensis are in the front, followed by the Legion's artillery (twelve ballistae ignea and fifty iron-framed polybolos) and the wagons carrying the Legion's supplies and equipment. The second half of Legio X Fretensis is directly to the rear of the wagons. Legio I Italica follows Legio X Fretensis, and is disposed in exactly the same fashion. There is a short distance between the two legions, and it is here that the cohort of archers (sagitarii) is placed.

The cavalry arm of each legion was previously increased from a strength of four turmae (120 men) to ten turmae (300 men); the same force level they had in the days of the Roman Republic. The cavalry is arrayed as advance guards and flankers, both to scout the roads ahead and to give warning of any impending enemy attack. The great size of this combined force means that forward progress is slower than it would otherwise be. By the time that the sun begins to set, the two legions have moved just fifteen mille from Nova Roma. Once the cavalry has located a suitable campsite, the order to halt is given and a temporary marching camp is constructed. As is customary in the legions, the marching camp is protected by a moat and stockade. The guard details are drawn up, the evening meal is served out, and those men not on duty retire to their bedrolls. In the headquarters compounds of Legio I Italica and Legio X Fretensis, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, Legate Germanicus and their staff officers are attending to the various administrative tasks involved with moving such a large force in the field. In a separate tent, Thesea Domina Greccia and the Sisters of Battle are seeing to their equipment and practicing their moves.

Date: Aprilis XI MDCXXXI AUC / April 11th, 878 AD

The next morning, the two legions rise, break down the camp, pack their gear and eat their morning meal. As soon as the last task is accomplished, the men of each legion resume their place in the line of march. When all are assembled, the order to move out is given. The weather is cool, but not uncomfortably so; the sky is partly-cloudy and there is just a hint of wind out of the Southeast. This is ideal marching weather, and so the legions are able to make excellent progress. By the time the evening halt is called, a further twenty mille of distance has been covered.

Date: Aprilis XII MDCXXXI AUC / April 12th, 878 AD

After three days of travel, Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica have reached the designated staging area. The surroundings are scouted out by the cavalry, then the engineers and architecti begin to lay out the design of a semi-permanent camp. While the camp is being constructed, continuous patrols are made by the cavalry in the surrounding areas so that the legions will have warning of the approach of any enemy troops. Longer-ranged patrols are also made across the borders of Marche and Umbria in order to ascertain the disposition of the enemy’s forces. These patrols are also charged with the task of surveying the enemy’s countryside and noting the locations of important features likes towns, rivers and bridges. This is done with an eye towards selecting possible battlefields.

As soon as the legion’s tents are up, Legate Germanicus calls for his staff, and also for Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva and the staff of Legio I Italica. The purpose is to hold a council of war. Legate Germanicus opens the meeting by saying “Gentlemen, our legions are now in position. As soon as the camp is completed, we will move out. In the meantime, I am directing my cavalry to ride out and capture enemy prisoners for the purpose of gathering intelligence on what we face. Legate Marcus, I suggest that you do the same”

“An excellent idea, Legate Germanicus.”

“Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus, how stands the morale among the men?”

“Legate Germanicus, the morale among our men couldn’t be any higher than it is now. It is as if they are horses or war dogs straining to be let loose upon the enemy.”

“Very good, Tribune Marcus. Petrus, what do you know of the political situation in Marche and Umbria?”

“Legate, the region of Marche is controlled by Anselm, the Count of Urbino. He holds the territory as a direct fief from Pope John VIII. Any action against him will draw the pope’s troops against us.”

“I see. What troops does this Anselm have at his disposal?

“Legate, he has some five thousand men under arms. Of this number, perhaps one-eighth are cavalry and the rest are infantry. This is due to the landscape of Marche, which is very hilly and therefore not suited to large-scale use of cavalry. Anselm derives his wealth from the hills of Marche, which hold significant deposits of sulphur, copper and certain other minerals. The hills are thickly forested, so there is good timber to be had, also”

“Very well, Petrus. Tell me of Umbria.”

“Legate, Umbria was formerly known as the duchy of Spoleto. The duchy was conquered more than one hundred years ago by the Emperor Charlemagne. Thirty-six years ago, the territory was raised again as a Frankish border territory under the rule of Margrave Guido I. Umbria was divided between Guido’s two sons, Lambert and Guido II. Lambert resides in the town of Perugia, and is the Margrave. His brother Guido II is the Duke of Camerino and lives in the town of that name. Between the two of them, they have five thousand men-at-arms and two thousand cavalry.”

“Petrus, why the larger cavalry force?”

“Legate, though Umbria is smaller than Marche, it is a very rich agricultural area and has a great deal of flat, open ground. This makes it well-suited for the use of cavalry. It is worth noting that Guido II would like to re-unite the territory under his own banner, but as yet, he hasn’t moved against his brother Lambert yet. When we move against either of the two brothers, the other will come in against us.”

A Clash of Arms
Date: Aprilis XVI MDCXXXI AUC / April 16th, 878 AD
Location: Staging area, Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica

The construction of the semi-permanent camp is proceeding apace. The streets have been laid out in a regular grid, and the two perimeter ditches are being excavated. These ditches are eight pedes wide, five pedes in depth and are spaces eight pedes apart. The space between the two ditches is planted with sharpened branches, as is the inner surface of the outer ditch. The dirt removed from the ditches is piled up and packed down to form the camp’s wall. To increase the wall’s bulk and to further strengthen it, the wall is packed around rocks and boulders. To protect the wall against erosion by rain, it is covered with carefully-cut blocks of turf from the nearby fields. The stakes carried by the legionaries are tightly-bound into groups of three, with two points facing upwards and one point facing outwards. These assemblages are lined up at the base of the wall between the wall and the inner ditch. Timber for the camp’s palisade and internal buildings is cut down in nearby forests and the trunks are brought back to be trimmed and shaped as needed.

While the camp’s construction is ongoing, constant cavalry patrols are maintained in all direction from which the enemy can possibly approach. Patrols are also sent across the borders of Marche and Umbria for the purposes of gathering intelligence and capturing enemy prisoners. One of the patrols in Umbrian territory happens to be concealed in a stand of woods while they are observing a small mixed group of enemy foot and horse. The three decuriones in charge of the turma confer among themselves and decide to make an attempt to capture some of the enemy. The group in front of them is composed of twelve horse and twenty-five foot. Half of the cavalry turma is sent to place itself in front of the enemy to gain their attention, while the other half makes its way through the woods to cut the enemy off from the rear.

Biddulph, Captain of Horse in service to Margrave Lambert of Umbria is having a good day. Thus far, his patrol has been uneventful, and he and his men are looking forward to returning to their quarters. Suddenly, Biddulph’s second-in-command shouts “Sir, look to our front!! Strangers seek to block us.” Biddulph quickly looks forward, and sees a strange group of cavalry moving across his path. He calls out “Who are you and why are you in Umbrian territory? Speak quickly, I command you!!” The only response from the strangers is a chorus of derisive jeers and catcalls. Biddulph waxes angry at the insult, so he orders his horsemen forward to deal with the interlopers. The foot are ordered to hold in place. Just as Biddulph and his horsemen are closing with the enemy, one of his infantry sees another group of horsemen moving to cut them off and calls out “My Lord, we are assailed from the rear.”

The Nova Roman cavalry open the engagement by casting a flight of javelins that unhorse several of Biddulph’s riders. None are seriously wounded, but their horses run off. Then, the forward element of the Nova Roman cavalry raises their shields, lowers their lanceae and charges. Biddulph’s remaining riders do likewise. The ensuing clash is short, sharp and brutal, with swords rising and falling, cavalry spears and lancea thrusting forward to seek faces, throats and bodies. Biddulph’s infantry sees that their captain is in danger, but can’t move to help him, as they are under attack also. This attack consists of several flights of javelins that kill or injure half of the infantry.

Now that the numbers are more favorable, the Decurion in charge of this part of the Nova Roman cavalry orders his men to charge. The enemy infantry prepare to receive the charge, but several are struck down and killed by lancea thrusts. At close quarters, the combat shifts to trading blows with swords, axes and spears against Nova Roman spathae and lanceae. Seeing that the engagement is going badly against him, Biddulph orders his remaining men to retreat. Other than himself, there are only five of Biddulph’s horse able to flee. Of his infantry, nearly half have been killed or wounded. In the escape attempt, Biddulph and two of his fellow riders are unhorsed and captured, along with four of the infantry. The others are able to break through and escape.

At the conclusion of the action, the senior Decurion in charge of the Nova Roman cavalry turma rides up and surveys the battleground. The victory hasn’t been without cost. Five of his men have been wounded, and one lies dead across his saddle. Half of the Nova Roman cavalry dismount to secure the prisoners. Two of them bring Biddulph forward to be questioned, and he is so angry that insults and imprecations flow forth like water.

“You dung-weaned misbegotten whoresons! How dare you raise your hands against us!! This the territory of Lambert, Margrave of Umbria, and I demand to know who you are and where you come from!!!”

The decurion answers “I am Quintus Avidius Castus, of the First Cavalry Ala, Legio X Fretensis of the Army of Nova Roma and you are my prisoner. Cooperate, make no attempt to escape and you will be well-treated. If you try to escape, I’ll not answer for what happens afterwards.” Biddulph responds by spitting at Decurio Quintus and lunging towards him. This action is cut short by a well-aimed punch to the midsection that causes Biddulph to fold up like an old sack and drop to the ground. Decurio Quintus commands “Bind the prisoners’ hands and put them into their saddles. We are returning to camp.” The injured Nova Roman cavalrymen are seen to, and their deceased fellow rider is reverently wrapped in his blanket and tied to his saddle. Due to the exigencies of the situation, the Nova Romans are unable to care for the enemy wounded, so they are left to fend for themselves. A Clash of Arms: Part II Date: Aprilis XVI MDCXXXI AUC / April 16th, 878 AD Location: The border area between Tuscany and Marche

Ever since the legions arrived on the border and began to set up camp, elements of the cavalry attached to Legio I Italica have been operating across the border in Marche. They have identified three areas where it will be appropriate for Legio I Italica to cross. These are a pair of narrow passes in the Appenine mountains and a low, flat plain along the Metaurus River. At this time of year, the river is very low, and can easily be forded at this location. The men of the cavalry Ala surveying the area pause to make note on their maps when they are set upon by troops form the army of Anselm, Count of Urbino. Due to the superior horsemanship of the Nova Roman cavalry and also to their excellent horses, they are able to disengage and escape across the border into Tuscany. Anselm’s men call for reinforcements and elect to pursue the Nova Romans. By nightfall, some five hundred foot and one hundred horse have arrived. The commander of Anselm’s troops chooses to camp in place due to the gathering darkness, then take up the pursuit in the morning.

Date: Aprilis XVII MDCXXXI AUC / April 17th, 878 AD

The troops from Marche are back on the road as soon as the sun is up. Ther trail left by the fleeing Nova Romans is easy to follow. It is as if they are so afraid of being caught that they aren’t bothering to hide it. Little does the enemy know that this is being done on purpose. By early afternoon, the cavalry’s advance guard has reached the main camp and is immediately taken to Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva’s headquarters. “Hail, Legate. We beg to report.” “Yes, trooper, what is it?”

“Legate, as ordered, we were scouting along the other side of the border of Marche when we were set upon by a greatly-superior force of enemy troops. We withdrew in good order and suffered no casualties. However, the enemy called for reinforcements and began to pursue us. We managed to stay ahead of them, but I estimate they are only four hours away from here.”

“You did well to bring me this information, trooper. Of what strength is the enemy force pursuing you?” “Legate, they number five hundred foot and one hundred horse.” “Very well, trooper”. Legate Marcus calls out “Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius, ATTEND ME!” Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius comes at the run and answers “Yes, Legate?”

“Alert the First and Second cohorts to move out immediately in light marching order. There is a force of enemy foot and cavalry approaching. They are to engage and destroy the enemy at their convenience.” Primus Pilus Quintus hastens to carry out Legate Marcus’ order, and within the hour, he and the First and Second cohorts are moving out at a fast route-step. The idea is to have the enemy come to them. Two hours later, the cohorts arrive at a grassy, open field with stands of timber on the sides. Primus Pilus Quintus makes a snap decision and orders the majority of his men into the trees. The remainder are to set up a false camp and then, as soon as the enemy force approaches, they are to demonstrate as if they mean to stand and fight.

The legionaries not concealed in the woods set up a number of tents and light a number of campfires. The whole set-up is done in a thoroughly un-military fashion so as to give the impression that it was done in haste. Then, they sit down to wait. Just one hour later, the vanguard of the enemy force enters the field and pauses to dress their ranks. When the foot and horse are all together, they slowly advance. The legionaries in the fake camp act as if the approach of the enemy is by surprise and give overly-loud cries of alarm. Then, they rush to take up positions.

Senior Captain Monaldo is now a happy man. When he received word that strangers had crossed the border of Marche in arms, he was only too pleased to give pursuit. He thought that the strangers acted cowardly when they turned and fled, instead of offering honest battle. Now that they have gone to ground, he shouts out loud “Now, we have them. FORWARD!!”. Captain Monaldo’s cavalry prepare to charge; the horses are first spurred to a walk, and then a slow trot.

The infantry follow behind at their own pace. As the leading elements of the cavalry are but thirty yards away from the strangers’ camp, the infantry are fully-within the meadow. The strangers ahead of them raise their shields and then, suddenly, a loud shout rings out from the trees.....”PILA, IACE”. Hundreds of long-shafted iron-headed javelins come flying out of the woods, a veritable blizzard of spears seeking to hit faces, throats, bodies and other vulnerable targets.

Captain Monaldo barely has enough time to realize his mistake before his horse is stuck in the chest and he is thrown from the saddle. All around him, men are shouting and horses rearing and neighing in panic as they are speared. He shouts for his infantry to come forward in support when there is yet another volley of javelins. There is another shouted command coming from the woods

“GLADIUM, STRINGE.....PORRRRRO”. The next sound that is heard is the shouts and growls of hundreds of men as they come charging out of the woods. Captain Monaldo’s infantry is cut off from the flanks and the rear, and his cavalry can’t advance further because of the thick woods in front of him. He draws his sword and rears up to his full height, shouting “MEN OF MARCHE, TO ME!!!”

Captain Monaldo’s command draws his men into a somewhat-coherent formation as they prepare to face the enemy charge. There is no room to mount a charge of his own, so his cavalry drop their lances and draw their swords. The infantry heft their spears and axes, while those with swords draw them also. The two forces meet head -on and the clash is so violent that men on both sides are upended. Swords flash, making noises that sound like a nest of hornets that has been kicked over. Axes and spears are plied with a will, but Captain Monaldo’s infantry can scarce make any headway against the strangers’ huge rectangular shields. This, in turn, is followed by deft strikes from the strangers’ short stabbing swords. Everywhere, the men of Marche are falling, with opened throats and spilled abdomens. Captain Monaldo sees that he and his men are doomed. A stranger in fine armor comes foward and begins to speak.

Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius steps up and says “Lay down your arms and surrender. You have fought well, but your situation is hopeless.” Captain Monaldo’s face purples with rage as he shouts “You damnable heathens are the ones who should be surrendering to me. You come into the Margrave’s territory under arms and expect not to be punished for that affront?? HAVE AT YOU!!!” Captain Monaldo raises his sword on high and charges. Primus Pilus Quintus meets the charges with his own drawn sword and raised shield. Their blades dart out towards each other, almost faster than the eye can see. Primus Pilus Quintus receives a blow to the head that is stopped by the brow of his helmet; a second blow is caught by his shield. He deftly thrusts with his own sword, targeting his opponent’s face, throat and groin. Soon, a quick thrust to the neck and it is all over. Captain Monaldo falls to the ground, dead.

In the chaos of battle, some of Captain Monaldo’s infantry manage to break through the Nova Roman ranks and flee to the rear. Some of the Nova Romans begin to pursue, but Primus Pilus Quintus shouts for them to stop. He directs his staff to survey the field and number the dead and wounded on both sides. The men of the First and Second cohorts did not come through unscathed. Roman casualties were twelve dead and thirty-seven wounded, while the enemy was wiped out totally. The only survivors were the ones who fled.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 1:42 pm 

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A Clash of Arms: Aftermath
Date: Aprilis XVII MDCXXXI AUC /April 17th, 878 AD
Location: the camp of Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica

Decurio Quintus Avidius Castus and his cavalry patrol have returned to camp bearing their wounded and the body of their fallen comrade. The wounded are seen to by the Legion’s medical staff, and Decurio Quintus seeks out Legate Germanicus to give his report.

"Hail, Legate. I beg to report."

"Yes, Decurio?"

"Legate, I come bearing news. My cavalry turma proceeded across the border between Tuscany and Umbria for the express purpose of capturing enemy prisoners and gathering intelligence on the enemy’s countryside. We were in a small stand of trees observing a mixed enemy patrol of infanry and cavalry. I conferred with my two junior decuriones and decided to make an attempt to capture some of the enemy. The engagement which followed was short and sharp, but we were victorious. The enemy patrol was comprised of twelve horse and twenty-five foot. Of that number, we captured seven men; one of whom was Biddulph, the enemy commander. Five cavalry escaped, and all the rest were killed or wounded upon the field."

"I see. What of your own casualties?"

"Legate, I am grieved to report that one of my men was killed in action and five were wounded to varying degrees. The wounded are being seen to and the dead trooper is being prepared for burial as we speak."

"Worry not, Decurio Quintus. The fallen trooper is surely with Jupiter this day. As for you, you carried out your instructions to the letter, and your actions were in the best traditions of the Roman service. In other matters, it is good that you have returned at this time. Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva of Legio I Italica sent two of his cohorts out of here earlier today in a great hurry. It seems as if one of his patrols was set upon by a force of the enemy across the border in Marche. They disengaged without casualties, but were pursued back across the border of Tuscany. The First and Second cohorts of Legio I Italica were sent out to engage and destroy the enemy, and they surely must have joined battle by now."

Just then, there is a furious knocking on the door of Legate Germanicus’ office. A headquarters optio goes to see what the commotion is, and then comes back with an excited look on his face. "Legate, a messenger is here with news about the First and Second cohorts of Legio I Italica."

"Very well. Show him in."

The messenger is brought into Legate Germanicus’ office, then has to spend a few moments catching his breath. "Legate, please pardon this interruption, but the First and Second cohorts of Legio I Italica have returned. They have engaged and destroyed a large force of the enemy barely fours hours march from here. They took casualties, but do have some prisoners."

Legate Germanicus briefly considers the import of the message and says "Return at once to Legate Marcus. Give him my compliments and say that I will be there shortly."

Legate Germanicus gathers himself, then speeds out of his office. His staff is in tow behind him. Several minutes later they arrive at the main gate of the camp as the last men of the First and Second cohorts pass through the gate "Well met, Legate Marcus. What is your situation?"

"Greetings, Legate Germanicus. One of my cavalry patrols was scouting the border of Marche when they were attacked by the enemy. They disengaged without trouble, but were subsequently pursued across our border. I ordered the First and Second cohorts of Legio I Italica out to meet the enemy advance; they did so just four hours from here, The enemy force was crushed like wheat under a millstone, and we did capture seven enemy prisoners. However, my men suffered twelve dead and thirty-seven wounded. Anselm, Count of Urbino and Lord of Marche is undoubtedly aware of our presence by now."

"Very true, Legate Marcus. I would have preferred more time to prepare our camp before we proceed across the borders of Marche and Umbria in strength, but we must accept the wisdom of the Gods and act accordingly. I will alert Legio X to be ready to march forty-eight hours from now. I suggest that you do the same for Legio I. We will meet again tomorrow to plan our further strategy."

Date: Aprilis XVIII MDCXXXI AUC/April 18th, 878 AD

After interrogating the prisoners captured by the cavalry patrols, the headquarters staff of Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica are able to add a little more to the information already provided by Petrus, mainly a general layout of the land and the locations of the principal towns, cities and villages. A command conference is held between Legate Germanicus and Legate Marcus to decide what to do next.

"Legate Marcus, we must move without delay. The warning provided by those elements of the enemy that escaped will have certainly reached their leaders by now. Any further hesitation on our part will only allow the enemy to better resist our crossing into their territory." 

"Agreed, Legate Germanicus. I have already issued orders that Legio I Italica is to move out tomorrow morning towards our designated targets in Marche. I believe that you should do the same for Legio X Fretensis."

"An excellent suggestion, Legate Marcus. This meeting is now concluded. Let us both retire to our respective commands and prepare for the movement tomorrow."
The rest of the day is spent in rapid preparations by both legions for the march. Equipment is checked and re-checked, supplies are loaded, and dozens of other last-minute details are attended to. Finally, all is in readiness.

Date: Aprilis XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC /April 19th, 878 AD

Without further hesitation, Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica move out from their fortified marching camp at dawn. The camp is held by the non-combatant support staff, plus those legionaries which are recovering from the wounds taken in the two recent actions. Legio X and Legio I march together until the noon hour, when they stop for a quick meal. Afterwards, they separate and go their own ways towards their designated targets. Eight hours of further marching has Legio X Fretensis approaching the border of Umbria, while Legio I Italica is approaching the border of Marche. Every so often, the command staff of each legion stops and rides towards the nearest prominence and surveys the road ahead with their telescopes. As it is nightfall, Legio I Italica is ordered to halt and camp in place. The advance will resume tomorrow morning.

Let us cross over the River
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD

At sunrise, Legio I Italica wakes and crosses the border of Marche. As they did yesterday, the legion’s command staff rides forward to survey the ground ahead. Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco raises his telescope, then exclaims loudly at what he sees off in the distance. "Legate Marcus, I have spied the enemy!!"

"Where away, Primus Pilus?"

"Legate, I make them out to be just over three mille away. It appears as if they have gathered just on that plain just on the other side of the Metaurus River in order to oppose our crossing."
"Can you make out their numbers?"

"Legate, there appear to be some three hundred heavy cavalry and perhaps ten times that number of infantry."

"Very well, Primus Pilus. Send cavalry patrols to those two passes in the Appenine mountains. I would know if they have been fortified against us. In the meantime, the first through sixth cohorts will make ready to force a river crossing. They will be supported by six of the ballistae ignea and half of the polybolos. The other four cohorts will take the remaining six ballistae ignea and the other half of the polybolos and make for those mountain passes. They will not advance until they have been informed by the cavalry if the passes are held by the enemy. At the river, the enemy will most likely not engage us until we are at least halfway across. Either that, or they will attack just as we are completing the fording process. To guard against this, have the ballistae ignea and the polybolos arrayed along the riverbank. The crews are to engage targets of opportunity at their own discretion. For maximum effect, they will first load with semina ignis maior. If the enemy wishes to attack after we cross the river, the crews will next load with mixed grapeshot and scatter shot in order to divide the enemy and keep him off-balance."

"A sound plan, Legate. I will so inform the men." Without delay, Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco hastens to give the artillery crews their orders. The first six cohorts of Legio I Italica cautiously approach the river under the cover of their supporting artillery, but as yet, they haven’t opened fire.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Metaurus, a large portion of the forces of Anselm, Count of Urbino and Lord of Marche have gathered to oppose this intrusion upon their territory. This group is commanded by Anselm himself. The force numbers 300 heavy cavalry, 200 archers and 2,800 foot. After receiving word of the Nova Roman foray into his territory just three days ago, Anselm sent out word and gathered as many of his troops as possible at the ford over the river Metaurus. Mindful that the enemy might approach from other directions, he sent his son Arnulf and his captain-general Bodo to secure the two main mountain passes into Marche. They were given Anselm’s remaining troops, which consist of 325 light & medium cavalry, 75 archers and 1,300 foot. The two men conferred with each other and jointly decided that it would be prudent to strongly fortify both passes and await the enemy’s arrival, rather than taking the field against them.

Anselm turns to Adolfo, his second-in command and says "It seems as if those barbarians who came into our territory have returned and in greater force. Still, I see no reason to panic. From what I can tell, their numbers are inferior to ours." Captain Adolofo replies "Yes, my lord. I counsel caution however. We don’t know their capabilities just yet. Perhaps you should order some of your cavalry to scout further up and down the river in case those barbarians decide to try and cross elsewhere."

"Sage advice as always, Adolofo. It will be as you say." Patrols are quickly sent out to see if the Nova Romans have troops at any other point along the river. After ten miles of riding in each direction, no enemy troops are seen. The patrols return and inform Count Anselm of this. He is visibly relieved, and disposes his men to resist the crossing of the river. The 300 heavy cavalry are held back in order to ride down and crush any of the enemy that makes it across the river. These are Anselm’s best troops, superbly-trained and well-equipped with full suits of mail, large shields, conical iron helmets, lances, swords and either war hammers or hand axes. The horses are also of the finest quality, as befits the holder of a papal fief. The archers are sent forward and told to open fire as soon as the enemy force reaches the midpoint of the river.

On the Nova Roman side of the river, the cavalry dispatched to the two mountain passes have returned. Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva is informed that not only are the passes occupied, the roads through them have been most strongly barricaded. Thus, he orders the dispatch of the other four cohorts of the Legion, plus the six ballistae ignea and the polybolos. Legate Marcus and his officers are observing the movements of Anselm and his troops. It is immediately seen that archers are being sent forward, so Legate Marcus calls to his artillery commander.

"Centurio Quintus Fabius, do you see those archers moving on the other side of the river?"

"I do indeed, Legate."

"I want you to deploy three balistae ignea on each side of our line of march. They will be supported on the flanks by the polybolos. Just before our men get to the midpoint of the river, have the ballistae ignea open fire first with semina ignis maior, followed by mixed grapeshot and scatter shot." Centurio Quintus Fabius goes to carry out his orders. As soon as the artillery is in position, Legate Marcus stands up in his saddle and calls out in a loud, clear voice "FOR THE HONOR OF NOVA ROMA AND THE GLORY OF THE EMPEROR. JUPITER’S ARM STRIKE WITH US. FORWARD.....MARCH." The six cohorts move forward, and the First Cohort begins to cross the river, followed by the other five. At this time of year, the Metataurus is quite shallow, rarely running more than three feet in depth, so the water shouldn’t reach more than waist-high on the legionaries.

A Harsh Engagement
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD

At each of the two passes through the Appenine Mountains, the secondary Nova Roman force of four cohorts, six ballistae ignea and thirty polybolos is divided exactly in half so that each pass has the same amount of men arrayed against it. The road through each pass is narrow enough so that three wagons or six files of men could pass through side-by-side, but only by the narrowest of margins. Further complicating matters are the barricades which have been thrown across each road. The barricades are composed of wickerwork baskets of packed earth and piled stone, further braced with strong timbers. They are also defended by dozens of spearmen and slingers.

Centurio Tertius Numerius Marsallas is the senior officer in charge of this vexillatio of Legio I Italica. He takes up his telescope and surveys the pass and barricade against which the Seventh and Eighth cohorts of the legion will proceed. The he directs the Ninth and Tenth cohorts to proceed against the second pass, which is just half a mille away. Centurio Tertius calls out to his subordinate commanders and says "Gentlemen, those troops of Marche mean to try and impede our progress. The pass is far too narrow for the cohorts to maneuver widely, so I propose to have the ballistae ignea go forward and blast the barricade apart using mixed solid shot and semina ignis maior. The polybolos will be arranged on both sides of the ballistae ignea and will sweep the flanks of the pass to disrupt any of the enemy who think to strike at us. When the barricade has been destroyed, we will press forward through the pass and secure the other side. The Ninth and Tenth cohorts will be doing the same in their sector. When each pass has been forced and enemy resistance overcome, we will link up and march to the ford of the Metaurus River. If Fortuna is with us, we will be able to catch the enemy there just as Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva and the first six cohorts have crossed the river. Hopefully, we will be able to crush them between us as grain is crushed between millstones. If there are no questions, up and to your posts. Let everyone remember that you are from Nova Roma!!"

Shouted commands have the ballistae ignea and polybolos moved forward and placed into position. The ballistae ignea are charged with the Powder of Mars and semina ignis maior; the elevating wheels are worked until the barrels are pointed directly at the barricades. The magazines of the polybolos are loaded with barbed iron javelins and the torsion springs are adjusted and wound. First to go into action are the ballistae ignea. The command given is "FIRE BY PIECE". Such command has the chief of each piece bring down his ignition staff topped with a length of burning cord. The fine-grained Powder of Mars in each touch hole is ignited, and each ballistae ignea erupts in turn. The noise is so loud that it seems as if Iovi Optimo Maximo is striking with his thunderbolts. Great thick clouds of sulphur-smelling smoke are thrown forth as the ballistae ignea roll backwards upon their carriages. In the barest instant, three semina ignis maior strike the barricade much to the consternation, fear and outright panic of the enemy troops manning it. In an equally short time, all three semina ignis maior explode, blasting great ragged holes in the forward portions of the barricade. Such is the force of the explosions that rocks and pieces of timbers fly in all directions, along with not a few broken enemy bodies. Simultaneously, the crews on the polybolos begin to work their machines, discharging javelins as fast as the triggers can be pulled. Then, the process of reloading the ballistae ignea begins with wheeling the weapons back into position. The barrels are swabbed out and fresh charges of the Powder of Mars are rammed home, followed by iron round shot.

While the reloading is going on, shouts of panic, fear and general alarm rise from the enemy manning the barricade. Some of these are the cries of wounded men calling for aid, while others are general consternation at being attacked in such a fashion. Frondibert, the officer placed in charge of this pass by Count Anselm turns to his officers and shouts to no one in particular "What in the name of God Almighty are those things? I have never seen or heard anything like them in all of my life."

One of them responds "Sir, we must look to our troops. The enemy is approaching." Frondibert hears this and his face assumes a somewhat-calm appearance. He orders his men to take the best cover they can and prepare to resist the coming attack. All the while, iron-tipped javelins continue to fly from the Nova Roman polybolos. Of these, some miss, and still more strike home. Those that do hit inflict grievous injuries, for they are flung with such force that sometimes more than one man is pierced by the cruelly-tipped shafts. More importantly, the constant javelin fire is causing Frondibert’s men to keep their heads down. Consequently, almost no repair work is done on the barricade.

Now, the ballistae ignea are reloaded, back ito position and ready to thunder forth another volley. They are touched off in quick succession "BOOM’, ‘BOOM’, ‘BOOM’. The iron round shot with which they are loaded strike the barricade with unerring accuracy. Their impacts cause yet more damage, with the side effect of causing injury to Frondibert’s men by jagged fragments of stone and wood. The noise and smell of the powder smoke causes yet more fear and consternation in Frondibert’s ranks. His only response is to order his slingers to open fire. Pellets of stone, fired clay and lead fly towards the Nova Roman ranks. A number of men serving both the polybolos and ballistae ignea are hit and severely injured, and of these, three legionaries are killed. While under enemy sling fire, the ballistae ignea are reloaded with round shot and fired again. This third volley smashes the barricade so completely that it falls apart. The artillery commander orders a double round to be loaded and fired to clear the enemy away from what remains of the barricade. This double round consists of both grapeshot and scatter shot. The ballistae ignea are touched off a fourht time, and this time, the recoil is so tremendous that the pieces leap backwards almost twenty pedes; one of the weapons almost flips over. The effect of this double shot is absolutely horrific. Every man at, near or behind what remains of the barricade is swept away; all that is left are bloody fragments and grievously-wounded men.

Frondibert and his officers are struck dumb by the devastation. This hesitation lasts but a moment, as they fight to restore order in their ranks. Centurio Tertius Numerius Marsallas sees this and takes advantage of the confusion in the enemy force by ordering his men forward into the pass. One of Frondibert’s officers see this, panics and calls out "SIR, SIR!!. The enemy is attacking!! What are we to do?"

Frondibert snarls in response "What we will do is to STAND OUR GROUND!! I’ll not yield so much as an inch of ground while I yet draw breath!!!. Frondibert draws his longsword and gestures towards the approaching Nova Romans. He shouts "Form Ranks and prepare to receive the enemy!!" A signal is sent to Frondibert’s light and medium cavalry to prepare to charge at his command. The Seventh Cohort is through the remains of the barricade and is approaching the pass, followed at a distance of several dozen yards by the Eighth Cohort. The crews at the ballistae ignea and polybolos quickly hitch up their pieces and follow the Eighth. Frondibert’s men are arrayed on either side of the road. He draws his sword again yet again and shouts "FOR THE HOLY SAINTS AND THE ANGELS ABOVE...CHARGE!!" Frondibert’s spearmen advance as quickly as they are able to. The slingers do not go forward as they wear little to no armor. Instead, they attempt to aid their fellows by launching sling bullets at the Nova Romans. This time, very few casualties are inflicted as scuta are raised to block or deflect the incoming fire. The two forces close with each other, and what follows next is a whirling maelstrom of violence filled with flashing gladii and thrown pilae. Frondibert’s troops respond by vigorously plying their own weapons. Frondibert perceives what he believes to be a weakness in the Nova Roman ranks, but he is mistaken. He signals his heavy cavalry to charge. They drop their lances and spur their horses forward. Clods of damp earth fly from their horses’ hooves, and the noise of the charge echoes through the pass behind them. The Ninth Cohort readies their last flight of pila, but holds their fire until the enemy horse are within 100 cubits distance. Then, the familar command of ‘PILA...IACE’ rings out. The iron-headed Roman spears strike home among the charging enemy cavalry at the worst possible moment. Men are pierced through and are thrown dead from their saddles. Many horses are struck by the pilae and wounded. The horses rear and throw their riders. This mad dashing about by wounded animals breaks the momentum of the charge and causes the cavalrymen in the rear to draw up short.

Frondibert curses vilely, a near-blasphemous string of oaths escaping from his lips. He and his officers go to join their men as they come into direct contact with the Nova Roman front ranks. Frondibert’s force is limited in its frontage by the relatively-narrow area before the pass. Though the Seventh Cohort is outnumbered more than three to one, they have the advantage of a superior position. Scuta are hefted and gladii are drawn as the two forces crash into each other like armored waves breaking upon a rocky shore. In these close confines, superior Roman training and their razor-pointed gladii have telling effect. The swords of Frondibert’s men are long and somewhat unwieldy in close quarters. Additionally, the Nova Romans fight as a disciplined, well-trained machine, while Frondibert’s force fights more as individuals.

The commander of the Eighth Cohort sees that the Seventh is heavily-pressed and orders his men to move forward in support of their brother legionaries. Very quickly, their own pilae are thrown, causing more casualties and confusion in the enemy ranks. The Tenth draws their own gladii and joins the fight. Soon, enemy casualties lie heaped upon the ground. Frondibert is attempting to organize a fighting retreat when he is struck down and killed. More than a few of his men see him fall. Very quickly, the cry runs through the remaining enemy troops "FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES! WE ARE BROKEN!!" At that exact moment, all resistance from Frondibert’s troops ceases as they break and run. First to leave the field are those of his cavalrymen whose charge was broken up, followed by the remaining infantry still capable of movement. The fighting was so vicious that none of Frondibert’s men who didn’t flee remain alive upon the field of battle. The Seventh and Eighth cohorts raise their scuta on high and wave their gladii with abandon as the enemy flees. A victorious shout is heard, one that hasn’t been heard in these parts for more than four hundred years..."ROMA VICTA!!!"

Drill, Drill, Drill and a little more Drill
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio II Italica, outside the City of Genua

The recruiting drives led by Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh the Younger as well as Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus proved to be wildly successful, so much so that the legion’s authorized strength was met within two weeks. Still more men were gathered, and it was decided to fill out the ranks of the legion’s cavalry arm and sagittarii (archers). The ten new cohorts were marched to their camp outside the City of Genua where they erected their tents and were introduced to the basics of Roman military life. In addition to marching and weapons practice, the recruits were taught tactics. Those who could neither read or write were taught to do so by those who already could. A major part of the training of Legio II Italica was the construction of a permanent camp. This began as soon as the camp was laid out by the architecti. Each recruit was required to do construction work one day in three. The work schedule was set up so that it didn’t interfere with the process of molding the recruits into proper Roman soldiers.

On this day, Hugh the Elder decided to ride out to the camp to see how training was progressing. He is greeted by his son and also by Primus Pilus Gaius. Lord Hugh raises his right arm and gives the traditional Roman military salute, knowing that Hugh the Younger would appreciate it. "Hail, Tribunus Laticlavius. Hail, Primus Pilus. How fares the legion’s training?"

"Greetings, father. The men are adjusting well to their new circumstances, and there have been no problems thus far." Lord Hugh the Elder raises an eyebrow as he observes how much his son has changed over the past thirty days. Hugh the Younger has matured rapidly, becoming much more focused and aware of his own limitations. Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus speaks next "Hail, Lord Hugh. Your son is proving to be an excellent officer. He is taking his duties as seriously as any Roman I am familiar with. I am particularly pleased that he is more concerned with the welfare of his men than he is for his own." Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh’s chest swells with immense pride as his professionalism is publicly praised in front of his father.

Hugh the Elder now asks a more serious question "Given the obvious progress that Legio II Italica is making, how long will it be before they can take the field?" Hugh the Younger responds "Father, the legion’s training will take but two more months. The camp itself will be completed in thirty days. After that, I’ll match them against any who dare come against us."

"What say you, Primus Pilus?"

"Lord Hugh, I agree with Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh’s assessment. All they would need after their training is experience."

"Excellent, Primus Pilus. I also wish to compliment the work that the engineers provided by Legate Germanicus are doing. Already, work teams under their supervision have fanned out across Genua and are repairing the aqueducts and fountains. They have even begun to work on the sewers and public latrines. The people are so enthused about this that I am besieged daily with questions about how much longer it will take until the water flows again. Not having to go outside the city for water as was done before your people came will surely be a great benefit."

"Lord Hugh, your kind words are most gratefully receieved."

A Harsh Engagement; Part II
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD

Those of Frondibert’s men who hold the approaches to the second pass hear the sounds of battle coming from far off to the left and look over in that direction with questioning eyes, Their looks immediately graduate from curiosity to outright fear when they hear the sounds of thunder. Arnulf, son of Count Anselm, was given charge of the defense of the two passes by his father. Bodo is Arnulf’s second-in-command, and he was placed in charge of the troops sent to guard this pass. Arnulf paces up and down, trying not to let the apprehension on his face show as he attempts to raise the spirts of his men. "Steady there", he calls out. "Since when are you afraid of a little thunder?"

Just then, one of Bodo’s sentries calls out "SIR, Look to our front! I see the glint of arms and armor approaching in the distance". Arnulf and Bodo raise their hands to their eyes in order to get a better view of what the sentry has spotted. Their hearts sink as they see that they are greatly outnumbered by the approaching forces. Arnulf and Bodo immediately take counsel and decide that it would be foolish to try and hold the barricade against superior numbers. Arnulf considers his options and then issues his orders. "Bodo, detail some of your troops to man the barricade. They are to give the enemy an indication that they mean to stand and fight. As soon as they are pressed, they are to fall back into the pass immediately and join the rest of our troops. Half of us will make a fighting retreat in the confines of the pass, striking where we may and falling back when necessary. The slingers will be deployed on the slopes of the pass above the road. They will ply the enemy with sling bullets and stones; perhaps they can do some damage. Finally, I want you to send the cavalry to the far side of the pass. They will divide themselves in equal bodies and place themselves on both sides of the road leading out of the pass. As soon as our troops have left the pass, we will rejoin the cavalry and strike the enemy force on both flanks.

Bodo replies "A wise plan, my lord, and one that makes the most of our limited manpower. I believe your father would approve." Arnulf and Bodo part from one another as they hasten to set the plan in motion.

The Ninth and Tenth cohorts of Legio I Italica are fast approaching the pass, when their cavalry scouts reveal that the road just before the pass has been barricaded. Centurio Decimus Fundanus Flavilius is the senior officer in command of both the Ninth and Tenth. He takes the report from the scouts and orders the ballistae ignea and polybolos brought up. The deployment and loading goes the same as at the first pass, and the artillery commander gives the command ‘FIRE’. One after the other, the pieces discharge their shots in quick succession ‘BOOM’,’BOOM’,‘BOOM’. The iron round shot smashes into the barricade and sends large pieces of it flying in all directions. The ballistae ignea are supported by the polybolos, who open up with flights of javelins in order to further suppress the defenders. Arnulf has placed Bodo in charge of those few men at the barricade, and Bodo judges that it is now time for him and his men to evacuate. Taking advantage of the copious smoke given off by the Nova Roman weapons, and their relatively slow reload time, Bodo and his men take off for the mouth of the pass. The charges of the Powder of Mars have just been rammed down the barrels of the ballistae ignea when the artillery commander calls out "Centurio Decimus! The enemy at the barricade is fleeing!!"

Centurio Decimus acknowledges the news as the ballistae ignea crews load their pieces with semina ignis maior. The crews quickly swivel the carriages of the weapons so that they point directly at the mouth of the pass. Just as the last of the enemy troops has entered the pass, the order to ‘FIRE’ is given. One of the three shots goes a little high and to the left; it strikes the wall of the pass and explodes. A shower of rocks (and jagged iron shards) cascades down on the heads of the fleeing enemy troops and inflicts a number of casualties. The second shot overshoots the enemy and explodes approximately in front of the enemy troops. This time, only one fatality and three injuries are caused. The most telling shot is the third one. This round hits right in the midst of the enemy troops and explodes. Dozens of men are felled by the explosion, but some still stand. These survivors continue their retreat further into the pass.

Centurio Decimus orders his artillery commander to ‘Cease Fire’. The crews swab out the bores of the ballistae ignea, and the polybolos are un-cocked. A hurried conference between Centurio Decimus and his officers results in the decision to pursue the fleeing enemy troops. Accordingly, the Ninth cohort will be in the lead, followed by the Tenth. The artillery will be in the middle. The crews hitch up their weapons and the cohorts make ready for the march. As they move out, Centurio Decimus opines to one of his fellow centurions "I like not this situation. The enemy didn’t even stand and fight for their position. It seems to me that they gave up too easily."

Centurio Amulius Decumius Betto responds "I am of like mind, Centurio Decimus. Perhaps we should exercise caution in our pursuit."

"Agreed, Centurio Amulius. We will have our men march through the pass in two lines of two files each. All will be specially-cautioned to look out for ambushes. The optios present are ordered to carry these instructions through the ranks. Just a quarter of an hour later, the Ninth and Tenth cohorts move out in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. A few minutes after the rear ranks of the Tenth cohort enter the pass, the first attack takes place. It comes from troops and slingers placed high up on the walls of the pass. Centurio Decimus happens to catch movement out of the corner of his eye and just has time to shout a warning "HOSTILES TO THE LEFT AND RIGHT! PREPARE TO RECEIVE!!" as the column is showered with sling bullets and thrown rocks of various sizes. The legionaries on the left of the column raise their scuta to block the incoming missiles, while those on the right shift their scuta to the right arm. These moves are only partially successful, as several legionaries are struck and wounded. Loud clattering noises are heard as sling bullets and rocks bounce off helmets and scuta.

The attackers are out of pila range, so Centurio Decimus orders "ARTILLERY TO THE FRONT" Two ballistae ignea are brought forward and quickly charged with Powder of Mars and scatter shot. The tubes are elevated so as to bear directly on the attackers, who are continuing to pelt the Nova Roman ranks with projectiles. The familiar command of ‘FIRE’ is given, and the ballistae ignea leap backwards. The scatter shot rakes the upper reaches of the walls of the pass, and dozens of slingers and other troops are killed or wounded. Near misses by some of the speeding iron projectiles even cause some of the enemy to loose their footing and tumble down the steep walls of the pass. The two ballistae ignea are wheeled forward by hand to the distance of 150 cubits. All the while they are closely guarded by legionaries on the left and right. The loading process is repeated and the weapons are just as quickly discharged. This time, they were loaded with semina ignis maior. Even before the rounds strike home on the walls of the pass, it is noticed that the number of incoming projectiles form the enemy troops has been much-lessened. The semina ignis maior explode, showering their immediate vicinity with red-hot shards of iron. After this second volley, the ballistae ignea are stood down and swabbed out. The Ninth cohort goes forward to the guard position and halts while the ballistae ignea are brought to the middle of the column to rejoin the other crews.

When the artillery is back together again, the two cohorts resume their pursuit through the pass. Just about one mille further along the road, it widens out to a more open area with small stands of timber on either side. As the lead elements of the Ninth cohort pass by the trees, a great shout is heard, and hundreds of enemy troops rush from concealment. They attack the legionaries on both flanks, and the melee quickly descends into a chaotic brawl where swordcuts and thrusts are swiftly exchanged, and pila are thrown at very close range. The Tenth cohort sees that their brothers of the Ninth are heavily-pressed and rush forward to their aid. Arnulf and Bodo see the Nova Roman reinforcements coming up and realize the day is lost. Bodo says to Arnulf "My Lord, you must take the remainder of the horse and leave this place. I and the rest of the foot will stand here and delay the enemy as long as we can." Arnulf starts to protest, saying "NO!! My place is here with my men."

Bodo interrupts respectfully "My lord, your place is to take word of what has happened here to your father the Count." Arnulf starts to object again, but the words don’t pass his lips. He realizes that Bodo is right, then climbs into his saddle and rides off. His final words are "The Almighty be with you, Bodo. I will mention your bravery to my father."

Shortly after Arnulf leaves, Bodo is trying to rally his troops when a final rush by the Nova Romans overwhelms them and Bodo goes down. Of the troops of Marche which began this engagement, only 75 were able to escape unharmed. All the rest were either killed or seriously wounded. On the Nova Roman side, they lost 80 men with perhaps three times that number wounded to one degree or another.

The men of the Ninth and Tenth cohorts now pause to consider their situation. Their mission requirements are that they rejoin their fellows in the Seventh and Eighth cohorts, and then to head towards the far side of the Metaurus River. It is hoped to be able to catch the enemy troops between them and the other six cohorts. Still, there are matters to be attended to here. The casualties and the fatalities that the Nova Romans suffered have to be attended to. The dead are gathered up and reverently laid out in rows. The bodies are washed and cleaned, then wrapped up in their sagums. A space near the mouth of the pass is cleared and the dead are buried with all due ceremony, recognizing of course the need for haste. Each grave is marked by a tablet of wood containing the name of the legionary buried there, along with his unit and a brief history. It is to be hoped that the bodies can be later retrieved for formal burial back home. Of the Nova Roman casualties, those that can walk have their wounds treated. Those that are too badly injured to walk are likewise treated and carried in the wagons attached to the artillery train.

In a survey of the battlefield, more than a few of the enemy are found alive but suffering injuries of one form or another. The enemy officer Bodo is hound alive but unconscious, as are seven of his troops. They are all quickly taken prisoner along the wounded; their injuries are treated and then the men are guarded by the Nova Roman casualties. Before the Ninth and Tenth cohorts set off to join the Seventh and the Eighth, the senior centurio addresses the enemy prisoners "Men, you were taken in arms against us and you fought well. Make no hostile moves against us or try to escape while you are our prisoners and you will be treated well. Eventually, you will even be returned to your own side. Be warned, though. Anyone of you who raises his hand against us will be killed immediately and his body left for the crows." This warning drives any thoughts of escape from their minds; most are simply glad to be alive.

Just half an hour later, the four cohorts rejoin one another and information on the late actions is exchanged by the four pili prior (senior centuriones). Those of the Seventh and Eighth cohorts relate that their troops decisively smashed the enemy troops in front of them, while those of the Ninth and Tenth relate that they were able to force their pass. The enemy there made a fighting withdrawl and managed to inflict significant casualties.

Without further delay, the four cohorts set off in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. Their pace is speeded along by the anger and sadness that they are feeling over the loss of their brother legionaries. After a hard march of just over two hours, the four cohorts catch sight of their opponents just as they enter their own camp. As this happens, a loud commotion is heard from the Nova Roman lines across the river. Accompanied by great noises of thunder, it is now apparent that the river is being forded and the attack is beginning. Quickly, the Nova Roman casualties are assigned to guard the enemy prisoners. For extra muscle, five contubernia of healthy legionaries are attached. The others hasten forward to join the attack.

Let us cross over the River; Part II
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD

As directed by Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, the men of the first six cohorts of Legio I Italica are crossing the river. Legate Marcus is on the near side directing the crossing operations, and Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco is with the First Cohort in the lead position. Just as the front ranks of the First Cohort are nearing the midpoint of the river, both Primus Pilus Appius and Legate Marcus observe that ranks of sagittarii have been sent to oppose them and are now preparing to fire. Mindful of this, Primus Pilus Appius orders his men to ready their scuta for use, while Legate Marcus tells his artillery commander to load his weapons and prepare to open fire. Three of the six ballistae ignea are placed on each side of the crossing point, spaced twenty cubits away from each other. They are charged with the Powder of Mars and loaded with scatter shot. Immediately behind them (but not so close as to block the recoil), the polybolos are arranged in such a way as to cover any possible open spots in the field of fire. Their magazines are filled with javelins, and there are more which are ready to hand.

The enemy archers are under the command of Captain Adolfo. He judges that the Nova Romans are close enough, so he orders them to nock arrows and to draw the bowstrings back to firing position. Just as the bowstrings are half-way through their draw, Legate Marcus waves at his artillery commander with his sword. He, in turn, shout out the command "IN VOLLEY, FIRE BY PIECE....FIRE!!! Before the enemy archers can loose their shafts, all six ballistae ignea gout forth large volumes of thick gray smoke and launch their lethal payloads within a few heartbeats of each other. Hundreds of flying iron balls scythe through the archers faster than the eye can see. Instead of firing their own deadly missiles, more than half of Adolfo’s archers are killed or grievously wounded. The remaining archers are able to loose only one flight, consisting of a few dozen arrows, before they break and run. None of these arrows find their marks. Rather than counting the fall of men hit by his arrows, Adolfo is stricken by equal parts fear and amazement before he leaves to take counsel with Count Anselm. The remaining archers (some 80 in all) go with him.

The men of the First Cohort resolutely continue forward until they reach the other side of the river. Once there, they move some little distance away from the river and take up defensive positions. The other five cohorts follow and are similarly arrayed. Of the artillery, the first to cross are the polybolos. These are arrayed at various locations along the Nova Roman lines in order to cover possible avenues of attack. Lastly, the ballistae ignea and their ammunition wagons are brought across. Their movements are carefully controlled so as to avoid the possibility of getting the Powder of Mars ruined by contact with the river water.

Count Anselm and Captain Adolfo are observing the Nova Roman movements from what they think is a safe distance; the more men and equipment arrive on their side of the river, the more alarmed they become. Captain Adolfo is the first to speak "My lord, the longer we wait, the stronger the enemy becomes. I observe that those strange thunder weapons haven’t been reloaded, and that it likely takes some time to do so. Perhaps we should charge them before they are ready." Count Anselm responds "Captain Adolfo, your attempt to stop the enemy while they were in the river was unsuccessful, and we have but eighty archers left. Therefore, I will order the archers to concentrate their fire on the crews of those weapons. Having the archers stand together will just make them an easy target, so I will order to them form groups of no more than two or three men each, and to shoot from concealment behind rocks and trees. Now, go and tell them to be ready to fire on my command."

"Yes, my lord."

Just then, Arnulf and the men who escaped with him ride up. Their horses are lathered from the hard riding they have done to get here. Arnulf dismounts and comes over to where his father and Captain Adolfo are standing. Count Anselm registers a look of surprise on his face as he sees Arnulf approaching.

"What are you doing here, my son? I thought I told you to hold those two mountain passes?

"Father, I regret to inform you that I wasn’t able to hold them at either pass. We were outnumbered, and there were those damnable weapons of theirs. I made a fighting withdrawl, and the enemy had to pay in blood for every yard they advanced."

"I see. How many men do you have left?" Arnulf casts his eye downwards in shame and says "Father, the 75 men you see behind me are all that I have left. All the rest are dead or captured. I would have stayed behind with my men, but Captain Bodo insisted that I leave to tell you of what happened. I know not what happened to him."

"Well, what’s done is done. I wish it were otherwise. Still, I am glad to see you safe. As you can see, the enemy presses upon me even now."

"What do you wish me to do, father?"

"Arnulf, my son, you are to take station with the heavy cavalry and stand by to charge at my signal. Perhaps we can yet win the day."

"Yes, Father. God go with you."

Arnulf and his men spur off to join the heavy cavalry, while Anselm considers how best to resist the Nova Roman incursion. The two forces are arraying themselves for battle, Anselm, Count of Urbino and Lord of Marche on one side and Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva on the other. In that seemingly-interminable pause before the first blows are struck, the two commanders advance to the middle of what will soon become a battlefield. They are accompanied by their respective staffs. Legate Marcus is the first to speak "You who command the opposing army, hearken to my words. I am Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, commander of Legio I Italica. In the name of Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Nova Roma, I call for you honorable surrender."

Anselm responds with a look of incredulity on his face "Surrender? Me?? HAH!!!. You're the ones who should be surrendering, not I!! I am Anselm, Count of Urbino and Lord of Marche. My ancestors were granted this land by a previous Pope, and since then, we have held it against all comers. What kind of ruler would I be if I simply rolled over and gave into anyone who asks?? I care not what powers or weapons you may command. I further give you this one chance; leave my land now or suffer the consequences of your folly."

Legate Marcus maintains a calm demeanor as he listens to Anselm's words and his condescending manner of speech. When Anselm finishes, Legate Marcus responds "Very well. Since you refuse to listen to reason, the responsibility for what will happen next is on your head, not mine." As Legate Marcus speaks, his face assumes the look of a hunter who has finally cornered his prey. Anselm spits on the ground in disgust, then he and his staff return to their own lines. Legate Marcus and his staff do likewise, but their pace is slow and deliberate, as if they haven’t a care in the world. Just a quarter of an hour later, the legion’s corniceni, tubiceni and buccinatorii call the men to arms. The command given is ‘AD ACIEM’. Anslem’s troops respond by taking up their shields, hefting their weapons and preparing to move forward. Anselm is preparing himself to move forward when one of his staff officers rides up in a great hurry. He dismounts, salutes and says "My lord, you must beware. There is another force of the enemy behind us." Anselm looks over to where his officer is pointing, and what he sees fills him with alarm. The troops coming up arethe four other cohorts of Legio I Italica, who have lately defeated Arnulf, son of Anselm in the engagement at the passes. They have been pursuing Arnulf ever since he left the battlefield.

Anselm banishes the fear from his mind and his face assumes a hard aspect. He says to his officer "Fear not. Righteousness and justice are on our side. With the help of the Almighty, we will prevail. Forward, Men of Marche." Anselm gestures with his sword to where the remaining archers are concealed. They step forward and begin to pelt the advancing Nova Romans with arrows. This is responded to in turn by the disciplined fire of six hundred Nova Roman archers. This fire is both devastating and accurate, and it drives Anselm’s archers back into cover. Not a few fall while trying to do so. A signal from Legate Marcus to his artillery commander has the polybolos loaded and cocked. The lanyards are pulled, and dozens of javelins fly forth. They rake Anselm’s ranks, and his men begin to fall wounded or dead. Next, the crews of the ballistae ignea prepare their weapons to open fire. Each weapon is loaded with a charge of the Powder of Mars and a stand of grapeshot. Legate Marcus now orders ‘DOWN ON THE GROUND, MEN’ This command runs through the ranks with all possible speed, and as soon as the last legionary is down, the ballistae ignea are fired. Their deadly payloads wreak havoc on Anselm’s troops, and yet they are still coming forward. The ballistae ignea are run back into position, swabbed out and reloaded with scatter shot. Again, the ballistae are fired. The scatter shot tears great wide holes in Anselm’s ranks, and still they march forward. Legate Marcus orders his men to rise up and go forward. When the Nova Romans and Anselm’s troops are but sixty cubits apart, the now-familiar command of ‘PILAAAAA…..IACE’ rings out. The legionaries cast their deadly spears with practiced familiarity. The first volley is quickly followed with a second, and then the command ‘GLADIUM STRINGE’ is issued. Immediately, every man in the six cohorts draws his gladius and begins to tap it against the left edge of his scutum. The repetitive clanging of sword against shield edge creates a sound that is quite unlike any other. Instead of charging, the Nova Romans advance forward at a normal pace.

Anselm is angered at the losses he has suffered thus far. Still, his men are in good order. He draws his sword, waves it on high and shouts "MEN OF MARCHE….FOLLOW ME!!!" Anselm and his troops surge forward to meet the oncoming Nova Romans. The two forces collide with all the deliberate impact of a slow-moving avalanche. What follows is a discordant cacophony of noise; of swords on shields, swords on helmets and the shouts of men trying mightily to overcome one another.

To the rear of Anselm’s position, Arnulf is attempting to hold the line and prevent the other four cohorts of Legio I Italica from advancing any further. Here, the Nova Roman superiority in artillery is of no use because Arnulf is careful not to assemble too many of his heavy cavalry in one location at the same time. He’s also keeping his men close to the Nova Romans so their artillery can’t fire for fear of hitting their own men. Still, despite Arnulf’s best efforts, he is only delaying the inevitable.

Over the next half-hour, Arnulf's troops are slowly, remorselessly whittled down by attrition and sheer weight of numbers. Gradually, Arnulf and his remaining men fall back until they rejoin Anselm's forces. Arnulf comes over to Anselm and says "Most redoubted father, I was unable to halt the Nova Roman advance, though I did hold them as long as possible. See, they come upon us even now."

Anselm replies "Yes, my son. I fear you are right. These Nova Romans are as irresistable as the tide." Just then, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva calls a temporary halt to his offensive operations. He comes forward and says "Once again, I call for your honorable surrender. You and the men under your command have fought valiantly against us, and further combat would be pointless. In fact, it would accomplish nothing but your deaths."

Anselm considers Legate Marcus' offer for a brief moment, then regretfully shakes his head while saying "The honor of my family bids me to resist you as long as breath remains in me." Legate Marcus sighs in regret over what must happen now. He turns to Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius and says "Spare them if you can, Primus Pilus. Brave men like this Anselm are a rare commodity. Tell the men not to endanger themselves, however."

"Yes, Legate."

One quarter of an hour later, the truce is over. Anselm and Arnulf draw their several hundred remaining men into a circle and prepare to resist to the last. In response, all twelve ballistae ignea and sixty polybolos are pointed at the enemy and made ready to fire. The order is given, and an absolute maelstrom of death is created. The thunderous discharges of the ballistae ignea are interspersed with the malignant whirring of the javelins from the polybolos. Their combined fire absolutely devastates Anselm's remaining troops, who fall like wheat before a scythe. Eventually, it is all over. Anselm and Arnulf are among the last to fall. Arnulf is felled by a jagged fragment of iron that tears through his shield and strikes him a glancing blow across his helmet, while Arnulf is thrown down and stunned by the explosion of a semina ignis maior.

Now, the only sounds to be heard are the groans of seriously wounded men lying upon the ground. Legate Marcus orders the medical staff of Legio I Italica to go forth and see how many of Anselm’s men are still alive, and to tend their wounds. In examining the fallen, it is found that Anselm and his son Arnulf are still alive. Legate Marcus is informed of this, and he comes over to see them. Anselm’s rent shield and smashed helmet have been cast aside, and a medicus is cleaning and bandaging the head wound. Arnulf is unhurt, but is still groggy from the effects of the explosion. The look in his face when he realizes that he and his father have been defeated is telling. Arnulf looks up and sees Legate Marcus standing over him. He asks ‘Does my father yet live?" Legate Marcus says "He does, young lord. His hurts are being seen to even now. Your father should have surrendered when he had the chance. Of all the men you and he had with you, less than two hundred survive; most of them are wounded. I am pleased to tell you however that your man Captain Bodo is alive and uninjured." Arnulf’s face betrays a look of obvious relief at this news.

When Anselm has recovered his wits sufficiently to be able to speak, Legate Marcus says "Your son Arnulf is alive. His injuries are being cared for. He and the uninjured prisoners we hold will come back to our camp as hostages for your good behavior. You will accompany us back to your former capital city of Urbino and tell the people there not to resist us." Anselm is visibly relieved to hear that his son is alive, but his face is tinged with sadness over his defeat.

Wet Work
Date: Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD
Location: The border of Umbria

Meanwhile on the Umbrian front, the sun has already slipped below the horizon by the time that Legate Germanicus and Legio X Fretensis have crossed over the border. Accordingly, the decision is made to camp for the night. Various cavalry patrols survey the surrounding area in order to choose a suitable campsite. In the course of the survey, a number of the patrols spot the campfires of a large body of men far off in the distance. This information is immediately communicated to Legate Germanicus and his staff, who come forward to see for themselves. Legate Germanicus and his officers raise their telescopes to their eyes to get a closer look at what lies before them. He turns to Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus and says "What do you make of that?"

"Legate Germanicus, I am unable to give you precise numbers, but I believe what we are seeing are the campfires of a large body of enemy troops, perhaps several thousand strong. I further estimate the distance to the enemy camp at four mille."

"Very well, Primus Pilus. If I were the enemy commander, I would have patrols out and about. The very fact that the enemy is here in force means that they knew we were coming. Double the number of pickets on the perimeter, I'll not have us surprised or attacked tonight."

"Yes, Legate. It will be done as you order."

All around the immediate area, legionaries are occupied with the tasks involved in setting up their night camp. The tents are erected, and most importantly, guard details are mounted. Even though the camp is only temporary, it is set up with the same precision as a permanent base. Meanwhile in the enemy camp, Guarente di Palma, Margrave Lambert's Captain-general is considering his next move. He observes that the Nova Roman force intends no further moves this night, so he orders his troops to bed down. Watchposts have been set up all around the camp; some near to the perimeter and some far away from it.

Date: Late evening, Aprilis XX MDCXXXI AUC / April 20th, 878 AD
Location: The Front Lines

The time has finally come for Thesea and the Sisters of battle to go into action. In order to maintain their cover within the Nova Roman Army, they leave at night. Like ghosts or phantoms, they slip through the camp undetected. As a group, the Sisters make their way towards enemy lines. When the first guards and outposts are seen, they break up into small groups and go their separate ways. Thesea and two of the Sisters approach a watchpost. She sees that there is but one man on guard, and the other three men are asleep in their tent. A deep sleep is upon them, from which they will never awaken. Thesea herself slips quietly up behind the sentry and claps her left hand over his mouth and nose. Her right hand simultaneously draws a razor-sharp dagger and cuts his throat. To make doubly-sure the guard is dead, he is also knifed in the kidneys. The guard’s lifeless body drops silently to the ground.

Meanwhile, the other two sisters carefully approach the tent so as not to disturb the men asleep inside. They enter the tent and swiftly stab each man in the heart. Thesea and the two Sisters glide off into the darkness like ghosts, ready to eliminate more enemy sentries. All around the enemy perimeter, similar acts are taking place. Some of the enemy are stabbed or strangled with twisted lengths of bronze wire held between two wooden handles, while others are clubbed unconscious: their hands and feet are tied and they are tossed in a convenient stream or pond to drown. Thesea and the two Sisters that were with her are particularly inventive with two separate groups of sentries. The first group of three men aren’t on guard at all. Instead, they are asleep under a blanket against the chill of the night air. The middle of the three men has his throat cut without disturbing the other two. The other group of sleeping sentries is dealt with in a similar fashion, except that the man in the middle is undisturbed and the other two are beheaded. Their heads are set up looking backwards on their own chests.

Well past midnight, Thesea and the Sisters attempt their boldest and most audacious act yet. Thesea and two of the Sisters make their way to a copse of woods near the enemy commander’s tent. She strips off her clothing and disguises herself as a common harlot, fit only for use and abuse by men of quality. She staggers towards the commander’s tent, apparently in a drunken stupor. The two guards on duty outside the tent leer at her, but do not attempt to stop her. Captain-general di Palma is resting upon his bed and starts to rise as he sees her enter. Thesea raises her finger to her lips, says "shhhhh"and unfastens the clasp at her shoulder. Her clothing falls to the floor silently, and the nocturnal sport that follows is of such intensity that Captain-general di Palma quickly loses consciousness. When he is out cold, Thesea rises from the bed and wraps herself in a blanket. She goes to the entrance and says to one of the guards "My Lord the Captain-general is hungry. I am sending two of my girls to fetch a roast for us to cook." Thesea signals the two Sisters in the copse of woods to go. Meanwhile, the other sisters are at the enemy’s horse corral. They club the guards unconscious and enter the corral. They select the finest horse available (which must surely be the commander’s horse) and club it over the head, knocking it out. The unconscious animal is beheaded and the head is placed within a large cloth sack. The two Sisters sent by Thesea arrive and collect the head. They bring it back to the commander’s tent and give it to Thesea. She goes back inside the tent and peels back the blankets on the bed. Thesea places the horse’s head on the commander’s pillow, barely a handspan from his face. Thesea and the two sisters clean themselves up and leave the tent after a suitable delay. They tell the guards "My lord wishes to rest after his exertions. Disturb him at your peril". Thesea and the two Sisters rejoin the others and leave the enemy camp. Once they are past the perimeter, their disguises are removed and buried. Then, they slip quietly into the darkness.

By skill, artifice and utter ruthlessness, Thesea and the Sisters of Battle have slain more than one hundred enemy troops. As the sun rises the next morning, shouts of horror and alarm fly through the enemy camp on the early morning breeze. Captain-general di Palma wakes with a sudden start, then realizes what is in bed with him. His demented screams echo forth like a damned soul wailing in the pits of Hades. "GUARRRRDDDSSSSS. ATTEND ME!!!!!!!"

Date: The morning of Aprilis XXI MDCXXXI AUC / April 21st, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Guarente di Palma, Captain-General of Lambert’s army

This morning, Captain-General Guarente di Palma has summoned all of his officers to a staff meeting in order to hear their explanations as to what happened last night. Captain-General di Palma is furiously pacing back and forth as he berates his officers "Can any of you fools tell me what happened last night? How was security so lax as to allow intruders into the heart of our camp? Not only was my favorite horse butchered, but the head was brought into my tent while I was sleeping, MY TENT, of all places!! Well, I am waiting…" Guarente di Palma’s furious posturing masks his inner turmoil and fear, as well as a desire to hide the fact that he laid eyes (and a great deal more) on one of those responsible, and yet did nothing.

One of Guarente di Palma’s staff officers speaks up and says "My lord, preliminary reports are that a force of unknown composition attacked all of the guard posts on our perimeter last night. Of those men on duty, one hundred and ten were killed. Many of the killings were done in a most brutal fashion. The attacking force had to be substantial in size, because all of the outposts were assaulted in a short period of time."

The Captain-General’s pacing finally slows, then stops. He faces his officers and bellows out "I HAVE HEARD ENOUGH!! Pull in the outposts, all of them, do you hear?? They are to be placed within close visual range of our camp. The number of sentries is to be doubled, and no less than six men are to be awake at each post at any time. Anyone who dares to fall asleep while on duty will get fifty lashes to help keep him awake. I also want regular cavalry patrols all around the perimeter of the camp. Each patrol is to be composed of no less than four men. Now, get out, all of you!!"

The assembled officers have enough self-control not to break and run. Instead, they slowly file out of Windulph’s tent and hasten to carry out his orders. New sentry posts are set up, each being less than a half-bowshot away from the edge of the camp and from each other. At night, fires are to be built and kept continuously lit from dusk until dawn. The fires are placed so that the guard posts are between the fires and the camp.

Date: Aprilis XXI MDCXXXI AUC / April 21st, 878 AD; late afternoon

Rather than going back to the camp of Legio X Fretensis as was originally intended, Thesea Domina Greccia exercised her own best judgment and ordered the Sisters of Battle to conceal themselves until nightfall. As soon as the sun has set, she gathers them to tell of her plan to further harass and discomfit the enemy. "Alright, here is what I plan to do. We will separate into groups of four each. Each group will go its own separate way while maintaining cover and concealment. We will observe how the enemy patrols his perimeter this night, and perhaps there will be an opportunity for further mayhem." As soon as Thesea has finished speaking, the rest of the Sisters of Battle chuckle softly, then fall to readying themselves for action. Each of them strips off her clothing, and dons a short, padded tunic over which is placed a short-sleeved shirt of blackened mail. The mailshirts have been adapted for silent movement by threading thin strips of dark brown cloth through the rings. The Sisters wrap their legs with dark cloth, then bind the wrappings with leather straps. Preparations are complete as soon as the Sisters don their sandals and arm themselves. For the mission at hand, the Sisters’ weaponry consists of short swords, composite shortbows and quivers of arrows.

Each group of four Sisters stealthily makes its way to selected positions around the new perimeter of the enemy camp, and conceals themselves. All details of what they observe are carefully noted. These include (but aren’t limited to) how often the cavalry patrols make their rounds, how many guards are awake and asleep at any one time, and how often the guards on duty are relieved. Twenty-four hours later, the Sisters of Battle meet back at their rally point. Thesea greets each Sister in turn. When all are assembled, she addresses them all in a low, hushed voice "What have you to report?"

The first Sister to speak is Aemelia. She says "Thesea, after our foray last night, the enemy has drawn back their guard posts so that they are much closer to the main camp then before. I estimate the distance to be half a bowshot from the perimeter. Those idiots have built their watchfires so that that the guard posts are between the fires and the main enemy camp. Anyone who knows about such things would have put the fires between the guardposts and the camp. Having the fires in the position they are now will only serve to blind the guards to our approach."

The next Sister to speak is Drusilla. She relates that "I have carefully observed the enemy’s cavalry patrols outside their camp. They move at irregular intervals, and never number more than four men each. There are times at which one patrol is out of the sight of any other patrol. The information from the other nine Sisters serves to back up what Aemelia and Drusilla have already said. Thesea spends a few moments deep in thought, then comes to a decision "My Sisters, here is what we will do. Tonight after sundown, we will separate into groups as we did last night. We will arrange ourselves as widely as possible around the perimeter of the enemy camp and wait until the cavalry patrols are most widely dispersed. Each of our groups will target the nearest cavalry patrol with our shortbows. I caution you all that, since you are to aim at the throats of the enemy riders, your aim must be true. Hitting them in the throat will cause them to drown in their own blood and not be able to cry out. Once your arrows have been loosed, leave the area as quickly and quietly as possible. We will all met back at our secondary rally point." Now that instructions for the night’s work have been given, Thesea and the Sisters of Battle wait for darkness to fall.

Date: the evening of Aprilis XXII MDCXXXI AUC / April 22nd, 878 AD

Night has fallen, and all is apparently peaceful. There is just a hint of wind out of the northeast, and the only sounds to be heard are the occasional call of birds off in the distance, plus those noises from the movements of the several cavalry patrols and the sounds from within the camp. Just past midnight, the cavalry patrols are dispersed around the enemy camp to their widest extent. By unspoken agreement, this is the time that all four of Thesea’s groups go into action. Each of the groups waits until the patrol that they have chosen for a target is in a convenient location. Then, each of the Sisters draws an arrow from the quiver slung over her back and nocks it to her bowstring. These arrows are black from point to feathers to aid in concealment; the arrowheads (made from the finest tempered steel) are coated in lampblack, the arrow shafts are painted a dull, flat black and the fletching has been dyed black. The Sisters all draw their bowstrings to their maximum extent and take careful aim along their arrow shafts. Suddenly, the arrows are loosed. They fly forth and unerringly sink into the throats of their chosen targets. The only noises to be heard are a soft gurgling and a dull, muffled thud as each cavalryman fall of his horse.

Very soon, there is a veritable tumult heard from within the enemy camp. Each of the cavalrymen on patrol had a torch in his hand, and when twelve of the torches suddenly fall to the ground, a number of the sentries take notice. In the process of falling off their horses, two of the cavalrymen accidentally strike their horses with the torches that they were carrying. One of the horses has its mane singed, and the other is struck on the shoulder. In both cases, the animals neigh loudly and take off at a panicked run. Simultaneously, one of the other horses runs back into camp dragging a dead cavalryman. It seems that the body got tangled in the stirrups as it was falling. The first man on the scene looks over the body and sees a black arrow lodged deep in the throat. This man raises his torch on high and shouts out "TO ARMS! TO ARMS! WE ARE ASSAILED!! TO ARMS!!!" All over the camp, the cry is taken up, and men come spilling out of their tents and out of their bedrolls. Armor is quickly donned and weapons are picked up. Men are running in all directions, some are in groups and some are alone. All are seeking to find from where the attack is coming from.

Off in the distance, the members of each group of the Sisters of Battle smiles grimly to one another. Without the slightest hesitation, each group glides silently off into the night. They make their way to the rally point, where they gather for a brief moment and then head to the camp of Legio X Fretensis.

Let us cross over the River: Aftermath
Date: Aprilis XXI MDCXXXI AUC / April 21st, 878 AD

Ever since the battle was concluded, Nova Roman troops have scoured the battlefield seeking to recover the dead and wounded. The wounded of both sides are attended to with equal facility, while the men of Marche who were made prisoner are required to collect and bury their own dead where they fell. All of the enemy’s arms, armor and equipment is also gathered up and placed aboard Legio I Italica’s wagons. Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva and Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco are observing the activities while discussing their next moves.

"Primus Pilus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"As soon as we are done here, I want to you detail one centuria and half of the cavalry to escort the prisoners back to the staging camp. In the meantime, the rest of Legio I Italica will march on Urbino to take possession of it and the rest of Marche."

"Yes, Legate. What of Anselm?"

"He comes with us to tell those people in his city to lay down whatever arms they have and surrender peaceably. Now, go and see to the preparations to move out. We march in two hours."

"Very good, Legate."

Legate Marcus turns to Anselm and says "Legio I Italica is going to Urbino and you are coming with us. When we arrive, you will tell your people to surrender. From the action of yesterday, you know full well the power at my command. I would rather not have to use it against them. I will also remind you that your son Arnulf and Captain Bodo are hostages to your good behavior. Do I make myself clear?"

Anselm grimaces, but quickly acknowledges the reality of his situation "Yes, Legate. I will do as you ask."

Four hours later, the last of the dead have been buried; the Nova Romans in marked graves and those of Marche off by themselves in a single mass grave. The injured of both sides have been attended to, and those too badly hurt to walk are in the legion’s wagons. Finally, all is in readiness and Legate Marcus signals Tribunus Laticlavius Gaius Aquilius Manlius to move out. He in turn shouts out the order "AD AGMINE.......MOVE". The legion assumes a deliberate pace, neither too slow or two fast. The legion’s standards are in the very front of the column, immediately followed by Legate Marcus, Tribunus Laticlavius Gaius, Primus Pilus Appius and the rest of Legio I Italica’s command staff. Anselm is riding with the command element, being flanked by two cavalrymen to prevent any attempts at escape
Arrival at Urbino
Date: Aprilis XXII MDCXXXI AUC / April 22nd, 878 AD

Legio I Italica arrives outside the gates of Urbino. During the latter part of the march, they saw that more than a few people fled before them in order to take refuge in the city. The legion takes up position one-quarter of a mille away from Urbino’s walls. Then, Legate Marcus, Anselm and the command staff of Legio I Italica ride forward under a flag of truce. Legate Marcus calls to Anselm "Speak well and tell your people to open the gates. Much depends on what you say." Anselm’s face stiffens in shame at what he must do. He goes forward to the gates and calls out in a loud, clear voice "My good people. The army has been smashed and I have been made a prisoner of the Nova Romans. Open the gates, I say and offer these people no violence, I so command you."

After some minutes, there is no move to open the gate, so Anselm calls out again "Open the gate I say!!" Still there is no move to do so. Legate Marcus sees this and says to his staff "very well. Let us teach these people obedience. Primus Pilus Appius?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"Bring up two of the ballistae ignea and sight them on the gates. Blast them open, if you please."

"Very good, Legate" Primus Pilus Appius signals the legion’s artillery commander. In short order, two ballistae ignae are brought up and placed one hundred cubits from Urbino’s main gate. They are quickly loaded with semina ignis maior, and just as quickly fired. ‘BOOM’, BOOM’. The thunderous noises and great thick clouds of sulphur-smelling smoke are the cause of the shouts of consternation and fear that rise from Urbino’s battlements. The two semina ignis maior strike the gate nearly at dead center and explode. Great potions of the gate’s timbers are blown to flying splinters. The two ballistae ignea are run back into position, reloaded with solid shot and fired yet again. The first solid shot strikes the upper left corner of the gate, while the second shot hits the lower right corner. Their combined impacts smash what little is left of the gate timbers so badly that they fall away completely. Shouts of panic and fear rise from the city’s battlements as Legate Marcus and his staff look on with eminent satisfaction. Legate Marcus turns to Anselm and says "We are going to ride into the city to your former palace. Once there, you will summon all of the chief men and nobles of the city to meet with me. As they failed to open the gates when called upon, I must needs be harsher with them than I am inclined to be. We will be escorted by the First cohort, and my other troops will take up positions outside Urbino’s other gates. I warn you, Anselm. Should any harm befall me, or any violence be offered to my men, the rest of the legion will take this city by storm and kill anyone who resists. Now, let us go."

Legate Marcus’ matter-of-fact statement fills him with dread, especially since he saw with his own eyes how easily the main gate was smashed. He replies " I will do as you ask, Legate." At Legate Marcus’s signal, the First Cohort of Legio I Italica approaches. The First Centuria arrays itself around Legate Marcus and his staff, while the others take up positions on the flanks and to the rear. Thus protected, Legate Marcus and his staff ride into the city. As they ride, numbers of the people of Urbino gaze at them fearfully from around corners and from inside their houses and shops. On the streetcorners and in the alleys, people gather in twos and threes to look at the strangers who have so easily breached their defenses. In short order, the Nova Romans make their way to Anselm’s former palace. Legate Marcus and his staff go inside, and the First Centuria accompanies them as security. The other centuriae of the First Cohort take up defensive positions around the palace and on its walls.

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Chapter XIII

Taking Possession
Date: Aprilis XXII MDCXXXI AUC / April 22nd, 878 AD

In the late afternoon, Legate Marcus and his command staff have settled into Anselm’s former palace. Legate Marcus orders Anselm to send messengers to summon all of the chief men of the city and the various noble families to a meeting to be held tomorrow morning. Accordingly, servants are sent to all corners of the city. Legate Marcus tells Anselm that if any fail to heed the summons, they will be entirely dispossessed and expelled from the city. The messengers are received with much grumbling and anger at their various destinations. However, the people to whom the summons is delivered realize that they have no choice in the matter

Date: Aprilis XXIII MDCXXXI AUC /April 23rd, 878 AD

The meeting in Anselm’s former palace is set to be held after the morning meal. For one hour afterwards, the men who were summoned arrive in ones and twos. In order to accommodate the number of people expected to arrive, the meeting was moved to the palace’s great hall. By the designated time, there are dozens of men from every faction and group in Urbino. Legate Marcus and his staff are on a raised dais at one end of the hall; this dais was formerly used by the palace servants as a place for Anselm’s banqueting table. Off to the side, Anselm is guarded by a full contubernia of legionaries.

Legate Marcus begins the meeting by saying “I am the commander of Legio I Italica. Troops under my command destroyed your army and made your former lord Anselm my prisoner. In the name of the Senate and the People of Nova Roma, this city of Urbino and all of the lands of Marche are henceforth and forever after the sole territory and possessions of Nova Roma. The city treasury is hereby confiscated. All arms and armor beyond household utensils and farming tools are to be turned in to us. For failing to open the gates when called upon, the chief men and nobles of this city are fined one-half of all valuables they possess and two-thirds of all real property. All servants are to be paid a proper wage, and all peasants and bondsmen are henceforth free of any and all obligations to their former lords. If you choose to leave, you are free to do so. However, you may only take your personal property and such funds as are necessary to get you to where you want to go. Everything else will be forfeited to Nova Roma. The peasants, smallholders and free men of Marche will have title to the lands they work, and will be able to hunt and fish thereon. They will be confirmed in the possession of such by an annual tax of twenty per centum, paid in cash or kind on an annual basis. After that, whatever they produce is theirs to do with as they please.”

Legate Marcus’ pronouncements are greeted with shock and horror by many in the audience. Many give voice to their displeasure by shouting ‘NO!’, ‘This will not stand!’ or ‘His Holiness the Pope will hear of these indignities!!’ Some of them even raise and shake their fists, which action causing Legate Germanicus’ guards to draw their gladii and raise their scuta. The malignant hiss of steel clearing leather causes much of the audience to quiet down. Legate Marcus observes the grim proceedings with interest. As soon as those gathered in the hall are back in their seats, He comes to the front of the raised dais and says “Those of you who wish to remain here in Urbino are free to go back to your homes. Those of you who want to leave will be escorted to your homes, where you will gather your personal belongings and leave the city within twenty-four hours.” When Legate Marcus is finished speaking, about one third of the men in the hall get up and leave for their homes; these are the ones who have elected to stay. Those who remain in the hall are those who will be leaving. To these, Legate Marcus says “Very well. My men will take you to your homes and you will leave tomorrow. Should you ever attempt to return, you lives will be instantly forfeit.” To Anselm, Legate Marcus turns and says ‘You are going to Nova Roma, along with your son Arnulf and his friend Bodo. You will be maintained there with dignity and honor as befits your former status as Lord of Marche. However, you will never again be able to exercise any authority anywhere at all. Should you try to return here, your life will also be forfeit. Guards, take Anselm to the camp outside the city. See that he is sent under guard to our staging camp and thence back to the city of Nova Roma.”

A New Legion
Date: Aprilis XXIII MDCXXXI AUC /April 23rd, 878 AD
Location: The headquarters of Gaius Memmius, Praefectus Urbi of Lucca

Praefectus Urbi Gaius Memmius is at his desk attending to various administrative matters when there is a knock at the door. One of the headquarters optios goes to see who it is and returns a short time later "I beg your pardon for this interruption, Prefect."

"Yes, Optio? what is it?"

"Prefect, a message just arrived for you from the Domus Imperialis." The optio hands over the scroll tube and Prefect Gaius opens it.

'From Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Nova Roma to the esteemed Senator Gaius Memmius, Praefectus Urbi of Lucca, Greetings and Salutations:

‘It is necessary for reasons of State to increase the forces available to Nova Roma. Therefore, you are directed to raise a new legion from among the people of Lucca and the surrounding areas. This new formation will be titled 'Legio III Augusta', so named in honor of the first Emperor of Rome. The cohort you were given to command when you became Praefectus Urbi will be Legio III Augusta's First Cohort. You will choose the most senior centurion of the First Cohort to be Primus Pilus. To command Legio III Augusta, you are promoted to the rank of Legatus Legionis and will rank as such from this day forward.’

--Marc Aur CAES IMP

As Prefect Gaius finishes reading the scroll, a great, wide smile crosses his face. The optio notices this and says “Something amuses you, Prefect?”

“Not amusement, optio. It is pleasure. The Emperor has seen fit to honor me with the task of raising a new legion, and I am to command it.”

“Yes, Prefect. Then, this is a great day for you. Have you any orders for me?”

“Yes, Optio. Summon my staff and tell them to meet me within the hour. There are matters to discuss pertaining to the new legion.”

“Immediately, Prefect.”

Reclaiming the Past
Date: Aprilis XXIV MDCXXXI AUC /April 24th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Publicus

Marcus Aurelius has come in person to the Senate in order to discuss a matter of high importance to the Nova Roman State with Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus.

“Hail, Princeps Senatus.”

“Hail, Caesar. How can I be of assistance this day?”

“Princeps Senatus, as part of the campaign to reclaim territories formerly held by Rome, I ask that the Senate be called into session so that a Praefectus Urbi can be appointed for the city of Ravenna. In the year MCLV* AUC, the Emperor Honorius declared that the capital of the Western Empire was to be moved here from the city of Mediolanum, where it had been brought by decree of the Emperor Diocletian in the year MXXXIX** AUC. Since Ravenna was the last imperial seat before the Western Empire fell, I deem it to be of the highest importance that Nova Roma re-establish its connection to the city.”

“Very good, Caesar. I will send messengers to gather the members of the Senate this very day. Will you be attending the meeting, Caesar?”

“Yes. I will remain here while the session is called, as there is nothing that requires my attention elsewhere.”

Later that afternoon, the full membership of the Senate has gathered. As soon as the last man has taken his seat, Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus rises and speaks “Conscript Fathers, the Emperor has asked that the Senate be called into session for the purpose of choosing from among its members a Praefectus Urbi for the city of Ravenna.” Senator Titus Sempronius Gracchus rises from his bench and speaks up “I nominate Senator Publius Rutilius Rufus for the post of Praefectus Urbi for Ravenna.”

Princeps Senatus Quintus calls out “Conscript Fathers, Senator Publius Rutilus Rufus has bene nominated. Is there a second” Senator Flavius Petronius Ruso rises and says “I second the nomination.” Princeps Senatus Quintus says “Conscript Fathers, the nomination of Senator Publius Rutilus Rufus has been made and seconded. Are there any opposed?” There is silence in the Senate chamber for a moment or two. “Very well. As there is no opposition, I call for a voice vote. All in favor, raise your right hands and say AYE”. One after the other, the full membership of the Senate raises their hands. As each hand comes up, the vote is recorded by the clerk of the Senate. When the last senator has voted, the clerk hands the tablet to the Princeps Senatus, who read it and announces to the Senate at large “Conscript Fathers, in the matter of the nomination of Senator Publius Rutilius Rufus, the ayes are forty. As there is no opposition, I am pleased to announce that the nomination of Senator Publius Rutilius Rufus to be Praefectus Urbi of Ravenna is confirmed.. Senator Publius, step forward and hear the Senate’s charge to you.” Senator Publius comes to the floor and stands with his head held high.

Princeps Senatus Quintus now says “Senator Publius Rutilius Rufus, you are now Praefectus Urbi of Ravenna. You will go as soon as is practical and take up residence there. In the name of the People of Nova Roma, you are directed to undertake any and all actions which are wholesome and necessary for the public good. Make no unjust exactions and govern with a fair and just hand.”

Just then, the Emperor is on his feet in the first floor of the public gallery of the Senate. He begins to applaud Senator Publius’ elevation. Immediately, the applause is taken up by the rest of the Senate, who cheer their colleague loudly. Senator Publius gives a proper Roman salute as he beams proudly at being so honored.

After-Action Report
Date: Aprilis XXIV MDCXXXI AUC /April 24th, 878 AD
Location: the main camp of Legio X Fretensis

After several days, the tent which had previously been assigned to Thesea and her group by Legate Germanicus is again occupied. Those legionaries who happen to pass nearby hear the sounds of faint laughter from within. None of them dares to go and find out what the laughter is about because of Legate Germanicus’ order that the tent and its residents are off-limits to anyone but him. Legionaries who give this order a brief thought assume that the women therein are for the legate’s ‘Rest & Relaxation’. In point of fact, nothing could be further from the truth. After a period of several hours in which the Sisters of Battle rest, and attend to their ablutions, it is time for Thesea to report to Legate Germanicus. So as to maintain her cover, she disguises herself in a long dress and an ankle-length hooded cloak. Before she leaves the tent, Thesea draws the hood around her head so that he face is almost completely concealed. So dressed, Thesea goes to Legate Germanicus’ headquarters tent, where she presents a pass given to her days ago by Legate Germanicus himself. The legionaries on guard in front of the tent have been told to expect this woman, and so they do not question Thesea as she passes by them. The two guards give small, knowing smiles, and Thesea returns the smiles with a small wink and a smile of her own.

Once Thesea is inside of the headquarters tent, Legate Germanicus orders all of his staff to leave and not return for the space of an hour or two. The staff officers exchange grins as they leave. When Legate Germanicus and Thesea are alone, she drops the cloak and takes a seat in front of the Legate’s desk. Legate Germanicus does her the honor of pouring a cup of wine with his own hand. Indulgently, he waits until Thesea has taken a large pull from the cup before speaking. “Ahh, Thesea. I have been wondering when you and the Sisters of Battle would return. I trust that your mission to harass and otherwise disrupt enemy operations went well?”

“Indeed it did, Legate. The Sisters and I first struck at the enemy by simultaneously killing as many of the enemy sentries as possible. To say that most of the sentries were incompetent would be a mild understatement. In order to plant the seeds of uneasiness in the minds of the enemy, let me just say that the methods we used to dispatch the sentries were ‘inventive’. Then, I decided to show the enemy commander just how much of a buffoon he was by ‘entertaining’ him to the point where he lost consciousness. While the enemy commander slumbered unawares, two of the Sisters left the commander’s tent on the pretext of fetching a roast for me to cook for his refreshment. They went to the enemy’s horse corral where the other Sisters had killed the guards and stunned the enemy commander’s horse. The two Sisters who I had sent to the corral killed the horse and cut off its head. They brought the head to me in a cloth sack. I took the sack inside the tent and put the horse’s head on the enemy commander’s pillow next to where he was sleeping. Then, the two Sisters and I just left the tent and told the guards outside that their lord did not wish to be disturbed. We just walked out of the enemy camp through the main gate and rejoined the other Sisters at our hiding place. All of us took off our disguises and buried them. Afterwards, we just faded off into the darkness.”

Legate Germanicus listen’s to Thesea’s report with rapt interest. When she relates the part about just walking out of the enemy’s main gate, he grins ever so widely and says “By the Thunderbolts of Jove, I can only imagine the expression on the enemy commander’s face when he woke up and found the head of his own horse staring him in the face.” The very boldness and daring of this so impresses Legate Germanicus that he bellows out great gales of laughter. The guards outside the tent think that their commander is amusing himself with various forms of nocturnal ‘sport’, and grin widely to each other.

When Legate Germanicus has recovered his breath after laughing so hard, his face assumes a serious look as he asks “Thesea, do you know how many enemy troops you and the Sisters of Battle ‘dispatched?” Thesea pauses for a brief moment as she reckons up the total in her mind. Then, she says “Legate, in the first action, the Sisters of Battle and I eliminated one hundred and ten enemy sentries. This is an exact count.”

A look of amazement comes over Legate Germanicus as the full realization of what Thesea jus said dawns over him. “Thesea, do you mean to tell me that you and the Sisters of Battle did more?”

“We did indeed, Legate. On the night following our first attack, I saw that the enemy commander had drawn his sentry posts in closer to the perimeter of his camp. The guard force had been much-increased, and there were also roving cavalry patrols to contend with. We observed the movements of the patrols and picked an opportune movement to strike. I had previously divided the Sisters into four equal groups, and I had each of these groups space itself outside where the cavalry guards were patrolling. At the chosen moment, I and each of the Sisters loosed but a single arrow from our short bows. In the space of an instant, twelve riders were spilled dead from their saddles. The sentries must have seen the riders fall, because they were all carrying torches which dropped when they fell dead. The commotion thus created woke those within the enemy camp within a very short period of time. I had already told the Sisters not to fire more than one arrow apiece so as not to give the enemy an idea of where they were being fired upon from. Each of the four groups went its own separate way back to our rally point. We all rested for a short period of time, then made our way back here. Legate, I think it worth mentioning that this second attack caused the enemy commander to draw in his sentries even closer to their camp. The size of the camp was reduced significantly in order to make it easier for the enemy to guard. I can only hazard a guess as to how crowded the enemy camp is now”

This second part of Thesea’s report causes Legate Germanicus’ face to go slack with amazement. He stands up behind his desk and applauds long and loudly, saying “Thesea, what you and the Sisters of Battle have done is some of the boldest and most daring action that I have ever heard of. Rest assured, I shall personally bring this to the Emperor’s attention with my strong recommendation that you and they be recognized for it. Now, I believe that you have passed enough time in here with me. We should give the impression that you and I are, shall we say ‘getting on with it”. Thesea grins widely, then employs her acting and vocal skills to make noise of such intensity and volume that anyone passing nearby has no doubt as to what is going on. After an appropriate length of time, Thesea dons her cloak, but only fastens it half closed. The guards on duty outside the tent’s entrance grin ever-wider at Thesea as she passes them. Her hair is disheveled and out-of-place, seemingly from the ‘sport’ that she has just engaged in. Not long after Thesea’s departure, Legate Germanicus calls out to the guards and has them send his staff back in. When the staff comes back in, they see their commander sitting back at his desk with an enormous, self-satisfied smile on his face.

“And now, gentlemen, on to other business……”

Planning for the Future
Date: Aprilis XXV MDCXXXI AUC /April 25th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Having received a summons from the Emperor, Petrus wastes no time in responding. He dons his best outfit and sets out at once for the Domus Imperialis. He is shown to Marcus Aurelius' private office, where the customary greetings are exchanged.

"Hail, Caesar. I received your summons and came here forthwith. How can I be of assistance?"

"Hail, Petrus. Thank you for coming. For some time now, I have had a project in mind; one that will set the roots of Nova Roman society very deeply, as well as breaking the stranglehold that the so-called Catholic Church has on learning and knowledge. My idea is that there should be a scholae, funded and staffed by the state. The purpose of this institution will be to first teach people how to read and write, and then later on, to broaden their horizons. You once said to me that very few people outside of the Church can read and write. How better to undermine them, than by the use of a weapon which has no edge and which also can't be deflected or blocked?"

"Indeed, Caesar. That is a most inspired idea. May I ask what finally caused you to want this school established?"

"Petrus, those societies which last the longest are those which set their roots the deepest. For Nova Roma to endure and last out the ages, the roots of our society must likewise be planted very deeply and very firmly. A wise man once said that children are the future, so where better to plant the roots of a society than in the minds of the young? The young I am referring to are not only those in the city of Nova Roma, but those in the territories which have lately come under our rule. I called you here, not just to hear my idea, but to take an active part in carrying it out. You are a scribe, a man of learning and intelligence. You are just the sort of person I want to have running this school."

Petrus' eyes widen slightly in suprise as he begins to comprehend the full import of what the Emperor is saying. "Caesar, I will do anything I can to help. What will be my instructions?"

"Petrus, you will see to it that the children in Nova Roma learn how to read and write. Those in our other territories will be taught the Latin language. They will also learn mathematics, geography and the sciences. Part of the course of instruction will be the history of Rome, and of its laws and peoples. This school will be called 'The Latin Academy'. Those students who, in your opinion, particularly distinguish themselves will be chosen for further education. Just as important as the knowledge to be gained are the teachers. I specifically charge you to recruit only those who are the most skilled. To aid you in this, I have arranged for assistance from Chief Librarian Quintus Fulvius Flaccus."

"Yes, Caesar. This is a most worthy project, and I am humbled by the trust that you have in me. One question that immediately occurs to me is where the school will be held."

"Petrus, as yet, there are no buildings. Therfore, I will donate three villas to be used as classroom space and living quarters for the staff. Initial learning materials will be provided by the Great Library. Eventually, the academy will have its own complex of buildings near the Library itself."

On the making of Money
Date: Aprilis XXV MDCXXXI AUC/ April 25th, 878 AD
Location: the Treasury Quaestor’s office

Treasury Quaestor Quintus Frontinus and his staff are at work documenting various budgetary expenditures when a message is received. It is from the temple of Juno Moneta, where the Nova Roman mint is located. Treasury Quaestor Quintus pauses at his desk, opens the message tube and begins to read:

‘To my esteemed colleague Quintus Frontinus from Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer, Greetings and Felicitations. I write this to enquire if you and your staff are well, and to tell you that, pursuant to instructions received from the Emperor, I and my staff are ready to resume production of coinage. To this end, I have taken it upon myself to hire three engravers to produce the dies necessary to strike coins. I have, at present, twenty-four hammer men who will perform the actual labor. My assistant Titus Quinctilius Frugi has recently suggested an improvement to the coining process which I think worthy of mention. Previously, coin blanks were placed upon the anvil die (which had the coin’s obverse design). Then, the hammer die (which had the coin’s reverse design) was placed on top of the blank and held there by the assistant hammer man using a pair of iron tongs. The hammer man then raised his two-handed hammer on high and struck the back of the hammer die as mightily as he could. Due to variations from blow to blow, the blanks tended to move between the dies as they were struck. This tends to produce coins with off-center designs. Sometimes, the edges of the coins were rough and irregular almost to the point of cracking and splitting. Titus Quinctilius Frugi’s improvement involves a steel collar which is placed around the anvil die. This collar extends somewhat above the anvil die and serves to hold the hammer die in place. Coins thus produced will be well-centered and free of irregularities in their edges.

In total, the twenty-four hammer men I have are capable of striking a total of 60,000 coins per day; this assumes one working shift. The speed of production is limited by how fast coin blanks can be produced and how fast they can be struck. Currently, blanks are produced by casting them out of bronze and copper (for the sestertius and dupondius), or stamping them out of sheets of gold and silver (for the aureus and denarius). I can hire more hammer men, but this will only go so far. To address this problem, I have sent an enquiry to Hero of Alexandria asking if he can design machines to speed up the process of making blanks and striking them into coins. I expect to hear back from him in the next several days.’

Yours in the service of Nova Roma:
I am Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso

Fear & Consequences
Date: Aprilis XXVII MDCXXXI AUC/ April 27th, 878 AD
Location: the camp of Guarente di Palma’s army

Captain-General di Palma’s adjutant comes to the headquarters tent, salutes and says “Sir, I beg your pardon for this interruption, but there are goings-on in the camp that you must be made aware of. The Captain-General responds “Yes, adjutant?”

“Sir, I have observed that some of the men are refusing to take their armor off at night before they sleep. They seem to be afraid that they are in danger of being killed by those who attacked our guard outposts and our cavalry patrols. Just this morning, I observed a man who had fallen to the ground outside of his tent. He had been standing there awake all night long; spear and shield in hand. He apparently collapsed from sheer exhaustion. This man is the only one I saw in such a shape, however I am quite sure that there must be others in the same state as he is. When I walked through the camp last night and again this morning, I saw that many of our troops are jumpy and unsettled. They have taken to going nowhere alone, even inside the camp. Instead, they travel in groups of ten or twelve with weapons in hand. Another example of this unreasoning fear that seems to be running through the troops was one particular man who was assigned the job of chopping wood for some of his fellow soldiers. The wood was piled near their tents here in camp, and the work was underway when one of the man’s fellow soldiers thought to surprise him from behind. The man was so startled that he suddenly turned with his axe in hand and tried to strike the one who surprised him. Thankfully, he missed.”

Captain-General di Palma’s face is creased with a look of anger and concern as his adjutant goes on to mention a far more serious matter “Sir, seven deserters were caught as they tried to sneak out of camp this morning. Four of them didn’t want to fight against the Nova Romans because it was useless to contend against the powers of darkness, or so they said. The other three were just afraid.”

Captain-General di Palma crosses his hands behind them and paces in front of his tent as he considers what to do next. He asks his adjutant “How were the deserters caught?” The adjutant responds “Sir, the men told some of their fellows. One of these informed their commander, and he in turn arrested them as they tried to flee the camp.” Captain-General di Palma asks again “So, the act of desertion was witnessed?”

The adjutant says “Yes, sir. It was seen not only by their commander, but by the men who were assisting him in the arrest and also by several other troops who happened to be in the area.”

“Very well, adjutant. Our lord Lambert has decreed that there is to be only one penalty for desertion in his army, and that penalty is death. Form an execution party from among your best and most reliable men, make it as large as you need it to be. Take the deserters in hand and go to that large oak tree outside the main gate. Hang them all by the neck until they are dead and leave the bodies swinging at the ends of their ropes as an example.”

The realization of what Captain-General di Palma has ordered the adjutant to do sinks in as he acknowledges the order and says “Yes, Sir. Within a half-hour, the adjutant has gathered a detail of forty of his most reliable men. The group proceeds to where the doomed men are being held The adjutant addresses them all, saying ‘Captain-General di Palma has sentenced you all to hang by the neck until you are dead; sentence imposed after you committed the foul crime of desertion in front of several witnesses. The adjutant calls out to his troops ‘Take Them!!” Instantly, four men grab each of the doomed by the arms and pinion them securely behind the back. A wagon is brought up to transport them to the place of execution. The trip takes less than fifteen minutes, as the execution party has been specifically directed to go at the slowest pace possible; this is being done so that as many as possible in the camp can see what is happening.

The wagon is slowly driven up underneath one of the tree’s largest branches, which happened to be about fifteen feet off the ground. In the space of the next three minutes, seven ropes (each with a noose in the end) are slung over and tied to the branch so that there is no slack in each rope. The doomed men are each hooded with a cloth sack and the nooses are securely fitted around their necks. At a signal from the adjutant, the wagon driver claps his reins to the flanks of the horse team and drives the wagon out from under the branch. All seven of the condemned men stagger as the wagon moves and then they drop off the back of the wagon one by one. The pressure of the nooses around their necks quickly renders them unconscious. However, their agonal spasms continue for several minutes until each man expires.

Their duty being completed, the execution party returns to camp. Behind them, seven bodies are swaying slowly in the mid-morning breeze. The adjutant reports back to Captain-General di Palma and says “Sir, the hangings have been carried out as you ordered.”

“Good work. Adjutant. All such offenders will be similarly treated. You are dismissed.” The adjutant salutes Captain-General di Palma and withdraws. As soon as he is out of sight of the headquarters tent, he lowers his head in shame as the full enormity of what he was ordered to do weighs upon him.

On The making of Money; Part II
Date: Aprilis XXVIII MDCXXXI AUC/ April 28th, 878 AD

From Hero of Alexandria to Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso:

‘I have received your message, and in response to your question, the answer is yes. I can design machines to make coin blanks and to strike them into coins. To increase speed of production, the machines will be water-powered. The increased speed of production will necessitate the use of stronger material in the coin blanks. Currently, the pure gold and silver used to strike coins is very soft. This is not a problem for hand-hammering, but it is for the higher speed that using my machines will result it. Therefore, I propose that you go with an alloy of ninety parts per centum of precious metal (silver or gold) and ten parts per centum of copper. This alloy is stronger than the pure metal, and also has the advantage of giving coins that are more resistant to wear while in circulation. Send word to me if these proposals are acceptable.’


Date: Aprilis XXVIIII MDCXXXI AUC /April 29th, 878 AD

‘To the honorable Hero of Alexandria from Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer, Greetings and Felicitations. I have reviewed your message, and I find your ideas and proposal to be eminently practical. Please proceed with the design of the machines you mention and keep me apprised of your progress. As soon as the designs are ready, I will send an order for them to be made.’

Yours in the service of Nova Roma:
I am Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso

After composing this message, Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso seals it in a scroll tube and sends it off. He next turns to his assistant Titus Quinctilius Frugi and says “Titus, we must now turn our attention to designing the coins we will be striking. By decree of the Emperor, the design of silver, copper and bronze coins is within our purview, while the design of gold coins is at the Emperor’s discretion. Have you any ideas in this regard?”

“Gnaeus, in view of the recent alliance between Nova Roma and Liguria, I propose that the reverse of the sestertius feature a pair of hands clasped at the wrist. The inscription will simply read ‘Concordia S C’. The obverse will feature a portrait of the Emperor with the standard inscription ‘Imp Caes Marc Aur Cos III TR P PP PM’ around the edges of the field.”

“An excellent idea, Titus. How about the other coins?”

“Gnaeus, my design for the obverse of the denarius is identical to the obverse of the sestertius. The reverse will have an image of the temple of Jupiter, along with a pair of the god’s thunderbolts. The reverse inscription will read at the top of the field ‘Iovi Optimo Maximo’, while at the bottom there will be the phrase ‘Restitutor Pacator Orbi S C’. In regards to the As and the Dupondius, the obverses of each will be of the standard design. The reverse of the dupondius will have an image of the goddess Roma standing atop the world with a laurel wreath in her right hand and a gladius in her left hand. It will have her name at the top of the field and the bottom of the field will have the letters ‘S C’. The reverse of the As will have an image of the Senate building with the inscription ‘Vox Populi S C”.

“Those are inspired ideas, Titus. What do you think about changing the reverse designs ever so often?”

“That sounds good, Gnaeus. Doing so will help maintain variety in the coins we make. We should set the engravers to work accordingly. There is, however, a question that has been nettling me of late.”

“What question is that, Titus?”

“My question concerns coin clipping, and how to prevent or forestall it. It would not do to strike good-quality coins, only to have some criminally-inclined person shave off the edges.”

“A most worthy question, Gnaeus, and I have a possible solution. The edges of the coins we have made in the past are smooth and rounded. It seems to me that if the edges were engraved or marked in some manner, it would make it obvious if clipping were attempted. Any coins that show evidence of clipping could immediately be withdrawn from circulation. The steel collar which I suggested to you to aid in coin striking could have its interior surface engraved or chiseled in a simple pattern. When a coin is struck, its edges of the coin would be forced against the collar’s interior and the pattern thereon would be pressed into them.”

“Titus, the edge engraving you propose must be simple and uncomplicated. Otherwise, it would unnecessarily add to the time needed to make each collar set. The simplest of all shapes is a straight line. So, the engraving will be in the form of a series of close-set straight lines running from side to side across the edge of the coin. This pattern bears a certain resemblance to reeds growing along a riverbank. Therefore, I will the edge engraving ‘reeding.”

Titus responds enthusiastically by saying “Truly Gnaeus, you are a font of wisdom. I will so instruct the engravers. They do good work, so we should have the first pattern dies in a week.

Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso now sends an order to his metalworkers to cast all of the gold, silver and copper in the mint’s vaults into ingots of a size that is convenient to be hammered or rolled into sheets. The quantities of metal on hand are of such a size that the process is expected to take upwards of two to three week.

The Dawn of Battle
Date: Aprilis XXVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / April 29th, 878 AD
Location: the field between Legio X Fretensis and Guarente di Palma’s army

Captain-General Guarente di Palma’s troops have stood to, and have been ordered into formation by their officers. All throughout the ranks, feelings of unease and uncertainty are playing upon the minds of the troops. The previous attacks upon the outpost guards and cavalry patrols have shaken their self-confidence to the core, and what they now behold only serves to reinforce this fear. This morning is cool and there are but a few clouds in the sky. There is no wind whatsoever. In the distance, there appears to be a bank of fog rising; but this is not the case.

From out of the northwest, there is a great beast approaching. This beast is not composed of muscle, bone and sinew, but of men, armor, shields and weapons. The fog is no natural occurrence. Instead, it is composed of the smoke rising from burning cords attached to helmets and armor. These cords are those which are used to fire ballistae ignea. It seems that during artillery drills, there were enterprising members of an artillery crew who sought convenient places to keep lit ignition cords that weren’t otherwise being used in the loading and firing process. Accordingly, one of them attached a cord to the side of his helmet and another one attached a cord to the front of his armor. One of their fellows observed that, from a distance, the burning cords made is seem like they were on fire. This was communicated to the commanding centurio of the artillery and in turn to Legate Germanicus. Seeking to gain yet another mental advantage over the enemy, Legate Germanicus issued orders that every man in Legio X Fretensis was to attach pieces of ignition cord to his helmet or armor and have them lit before going into action.

To the superstitious troops in di Palma’s army, the otherworldly vision of what is approaching serves only to heighten their fears and anxiety. Hushed whispers quickly fly from man to man, and these are only partially-silenced by shouted commands from the officers. Compounding the sight are the sounds of thousands of sandaled feet hitting the ground with almost inhuman precision. The hobnails on the soles of the legionaries’ caligae make loud crunching noises when they strike against the rocks and gravel in the soil.




The effect of the sounds is further magnified by the calm stillness of the morning, and also by the fact that the approaching formation is moving without so much as a single shouted command. Some of di Palma’s men are nervously shifting in position. The others are hefting their shields or gripping their weapons ever-tighter. The Nova Roman advance finally stops some one hundred yards from di Palma’s lines, and the formation shifts from column into line within a few minutes. Without warning, ever man in Legio X Fretensis swiftly draws his sword and begins to slowly pound the rim of his shield with the flat of his blade. The rasping sounds made when the gladii are drawn are like the hissing of some monstrous serpent, while the clapping of the flats of their gladii against the edges of their scuta creates a sound that is most unsettling. Behind the rising smoke of the burning cords (and further concealed by the noise that the legionaries are making with their gladii and shields), the Nova Roman artillery is deploying into line behind the legionaries. First into position are the ballistae ignea. Each of the twelve pieces is placed sixty cubits apart in a line that is the same distance to the rear of the last rank of legionaries. The polybolos are arrayed in two groups of thirty pieces each on the flanks of the ballistae ignea. Each of these groups is in the form of a double line; the polybolos are thirty cubits apart in their lines, and the lines themselves are thirty cubits apart. Lastly, the polybolos are arranged so that the rear line faces through the spaces in the front line.

In order to secure the flanks and to provide support where necessary, the cavalry are disposed in two separate bodies; turmae I-V are on the right, and turmae VI-X are on the left. As soon as all units are in position, the clamor of gladii banging against scuta edges ceases. Suddenly, a near-unearthly quiet falls over the soon-to-be battlefield. Just then, some of the smoke from the slowly-burning cords drifts over to Guarente di Palma’s lines. The strong odor of brimstone in the smoke cause some of the cavalry horses to rear up at the unfamiliar smell. More than a few of di Palma’s men exclaim “This is the work of the devil, we are undone”. Still others stumble through half-forgotten prayers against evil.

Guarente di Palma observes the spreading scene and smells the brimstone in the smoke with his own nose. He curses to himself at the effect that it is having upon his army. Outwardly, he maintains a calm demeanor as he calls to his officers “Fear not, my men. This is but some device of the enemy. Take no heed of it, for we will fight on the side of the Almighty this day.” Di Palma’s cavalry are posted as a long, single line in front of his main body. This is done so as to enable charges to be made without being slowed down by moving around his infantry. The infantry are arranged in two large rectangular blocks just behind the cavalry. Guarente di Palma’s most powerful striking arm is his cavalry, so he judges the strength of his opponents by how many cavalry they have. He sees that the Nova Roman cavalry force is but a fraction of the size of his own, so di Palma loudly and contemptuously observes “See, they have but few cavalry, and those few are smaller and weaker than ours. His earlier doubts and fears are now dispelled, so Guarente di Palma’s heart leaps in exaltation as he believes (wrongly) that the day is already his.

As regards the field where the engagement will take place, the ground is fairly level. Legio X Fretensis, its artillery and cavalry are drawn up on one side, while Captain-General Guarente di Palma’s troops are drawn up on the other side. The distance between the two groups is eight hundred cubits by Roman measure. Captain-General di Palma draws hi sword and waves his cavalry forward. The horsemen begin to walk their mounts forward at a slow pace, and then to trot. Just before the cavalry reach the halfway point, they drop their lances towards the Nova Romans and break out into a full gallop. This action is given emphasis by the several war cries which ring out “ONWARD!”, “FORWARD!!”, “TO BATTLE!!” and “GOD’S ARM STRIKE WITH US!!!” To support the cavalry, di Palma orders his infantry forward at the walk.

Legate Germanicus sees this and orders loudly “DOWN ON THE GROUND, ALL OF YOU!!”, which command has all of Legio X Fretensis getting down into the prone position. Next, Legate Germanicus signals his artillery commander, who in turn calls out to the crews of the ballistae ignea “Fire by centuria, Ready….FIRE!!!” Ignition staffs are quickly put to the touch holes in the tubes of each piece, and all twelve of them go off almost simultaneously. The noise of the firing is like thunder, and great quantities of thick ill-smelling grayish-white smoke are given off. Each ballistae ignea has been loaded with a charge of grape shot and a charge of scatter shot. The men of Legio X Fretensis hear the volley pass overhead; the malignant whirring from the multiple iron projectiles is like the sound from the wings of some great insect.

The effect upon the heavy cavalry is nothing less than horrific. Within a brief instant, three-quarters of the charging horsemen are blotted from existence. Many are killed outright, while some of the wounded men fall from horseback and are subsequently trampled to death by their fellow riders. Some riders manage to escape injury, but are thrown from their horses and killed by the impact. Some of the horses are instantly killed and others are wounded to one degree or another. The riders of the killed and wounded horses are likewise thrown form their saddles. Magnifying the effect of the carnage are the piteous screams of wounded men and animals who lie where they fell.

Almost before the ballistae ignea have stopped moving, Legate Germanicus’ artillery commander orders his crews to “RELOAD”. The weapons are wheeled back into position and the tubes are swabbed out. They are reloaded with semina ignis maior and ordered to target the advancing enemy infantry. At the same time, the crews serving the polybolos crank their weapons back to their fullest extent and trip the firing levers. Dozens of iron-pointed shafts begin to rake the surviving enemy cavalrymen. Some of the shafts miss, while others sink deeply into the bodies of horses and men. Guarente di Palma’s grand cavalry charge, which was begun with such fervor and promise, is now broken as thoroughly as a clay pot thrown off a building. The surviving cavalrymen break off their charge, wheel their mounts around and make for their own lines. All the while, they are being targeted by the polybolos. Captain-General di Palma’s mouth hangs open in mute shock and amazement at the near-instant destruction of his cavalry. His officers are likewise stunned into silence. Adjutant Benicio silently murmurs to himself ‘We were fools to oppose such power. We can’t possibly prevail…’ Di Palma overcomes his shock and starts shouting for his officers to order the infantry to continue their march “Forward for the glory of God almighty, my men! If we close with the enemy, they won’t be able to use those damnable weapons for fear of hitting their own men”. Adjutant Benicio and the others hasten to carry out their orders.

The remaining cavalry prove to be a serious impediment for the infantry as the panicked horses and riders break through their line and head to the rear. Forward progress is much-slowed as the infantry dresses their ranks. Ahead of them, the field is thickly-strewn with the bodies of wounded and dying men and horses. Just as they reach the lines where the bodies are heaviest upon the ground, the Nova Romans open up again with their ballistae ignea. This time, the projectiles land among di Palma’s infantry and explode. Each burst sends numerous jagged shards of red-hot cast iron flying in all directions. The explosions tear great ragged holes in the advancing infantry, leaving killed and wounded men behind. In several cases, men were directly hit by the shot and literally blown to pieces. Compounding the misery are the polybolos, who have shifted their fire from the fleeing cavalrymen to the advancing infantry. Men are pierced through and through by the heavy javelins, and still others are pinned screaming to the ground. Guarente di Palma views the savage treatment handed out to his men with fear and dismay, but waves his sword from horseback and still urges them forward. Adjutant Benicio is aghast at this cavalier disregard for the lives of the infantry, but holds his tongue for now.

The forward elements of di Palma’s infantry are just past where the bodies of the wounded and dead horses and cavalrymen were lying, when the Nova Roman artillerymen open fire again with their ballistae ignea. This time, the weapons have been charged with a mixed double load consisting of scatter shot and iron round shot. The scatter shot tears great wide holes in the front ranks of di Palma’s infantry, while the round shots plow through the infantry as a whole, up-ending and dismembering many files of men. Still, they bravely press on.

Legate Germanicus and his command staff are observing the success of the artillery with grim satisfaction. They observe that the enemy infantry is still closing the gap, and it is likely that the ballistae ignea will only manage to fire one more volley before the enemy are too close. Legate Germanicus orders his artillery commander to load one more volley of scatter shot, then prepare to receive the enemy. The ballistae ignea are fired just as the front of the enemy is barely eighty cubits from the Nova Roman lines. At this close range, hundreds of di Palma’s infantry are killed or wounded in one form or another. Guarente di Palma is observing this from afar, and the naked cold hand of fear begins to twist itself around his mind. Still, he observes that his infantry are just twenty yards from the enemy, so perhaps they can still win the day.

Legate Germanicus signals to Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus, who calls out to the various centurions of Legio X Fretensis ‘PIIILAAAA……IACE!!” The first volley of javelins strikes with telling effect, as does the second. Those of di Palma’s infantry who manage to raise their shields against the incoming fire quickly find that their shields are now useless. The Nova Roman javelins have pierced the shields and bent in the middle. Rather than being so encumbered, the shields are cast aside and the infantry advance without them. The next commands shouted out are ‘AD ACIEM’, quickly followed by ‘GLADIUM STRINGE’ then ‘PARATI’. The final command is ‘PORRRRO’. This unleashes the entirety of Legio X Fretensis upon the advancing enemy ranks. A great thunderous shout rises from thousands of throats and the legion surges forward like an armored avalanche. The two forces collide with each other and the next quarter-hour is filled with the chaos of close-quarters fighting. Wickedly-pointed Roman gladii lick out like the tongues of steel serpents, seeking faces, throats and other vulnerable targets. Enemy swords, sears, axes and other weapons rise and fall. The end for di Palma’s infantry is in sight. He sees that some of his men are throwing down their shields and weapons and surrendering, while others not directly engaged are fleeing the field. The cold hand of fear which earlier rose unbidden in his mind, now threatens to overwhelm him. Guarente di Palma considers his options and decides to flee. He orders Adjutant Benicio to hold for as long as possible, then as he begins to wheel his horse around, Adjutant Benicio says “NO”. Di Palma is so startled by this unexpected defiance, that he halts his progress “WHAT DID YOU SAY??”

Adjutant Benicio angrily shouts back “You cowardly, detestable swine! Thousands of men have thrown themselves away for you, and now you want to save your own neck?? Without warning, Adjutant Benicio draws his own sword and strikes Guarente di Palma’s head from his shoulders. The other officers are stunned by the sudden death of their commander, and take no action against the adjutant. Benicio speaks up and says “I am no the senior officer on this field. Raise the white flag and tell our men to lay down their arms and surrender. I’ll not see more of them killed for no purpose.” The other officers still aren’t sure about what to do, so Adjutant Benicio waves his bloody sword at them and says “Move, DAMN YOU!!”.

Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus observes the commotion at the rear of the enemy force and sees that a white flag is being raised. He immediately calls out to Legate Germanicus and mentions this. The order to stop fighting is quickly carried throughout the ranks of the legion, and very quickly, the battlefield falls silent. This silence is broken only by the moans of the wounded and dying upon the field. Very quickly, Adjutant Benicio rides forth with the white flag in his hand. He speaks out in creditable Latin “Our Captain-General is dead. I surrender the remainder of my troops on the promise of fair treatment”. Legate Germanicus acknowledges the surrender with a nod of his head and says “Your troops fought with distinction. You and your officers may retain your swords. Your wounded will be treated by our medical staff. Come with me to my headquarters tent and we will discuss the details.” Adjutant Benicio nods his head and sighs with great relief that he has lived out the day.

Out on the field of battle, parties of Legionaries are moving to and fro as they number up the dead and wounded on both sides. Those who need medical treatment receive it, and those who are alive but beyond help are made as comfortable as possible. The surrendering enemy troops are peaceably disarmed, then set to work in caring for their fellows. When all is said and done, it is found that Legio X Fretensis suffered one hundred and fifty fatalities and a further three-hundred and fifty men wounded to one degree or another. The enemy casualties are far worse. Of their cavalry, a full nine out of ten were killed or wounded. Most of the rest fled the field. In regards to the infantry, they were very badly mauled. More than half were killed, and most of the rest were wounded. Those that were unhurt surrendered. None were able to flee. By questioning there survivors, it is found that much of the nobility of Umbria are among the fallen horsemen. This fact is quickly communicated to Legate Germanicus back at his command tent.

Adjutant Benicio is conducted into the tent, and is then bidden to take a seat in front of Legate Germanicus’ desk. He is surprised when Legate Germanicus pours him a cup of wine with his own hand. Adjutant Benicio’s face quickly assumes a questioning look as he asks “Why are you doing this?” Legate Germanicus responds “Call it a token of respect between honest fighting men. Where is your commanding officer?” Benicio says “I slew him with my own hand as that cowardly dog attempted to flee for his worthless life. I could stomach many things from him, but abandoning his own men, men who gave their lives for him, was something that I just couldn’t stand.”

“That is quite understandable. You and your men are now my prisoners, and you will be treated with honor. There are certain questions that I will require answers for. First, who was your lord?” Benicio replies “Legate, my lord is Lambert, Margrave of Umbria. He holds his court in the city of Perugia.” Legate Germanicus asks “Where is this city of Perugia?” Benicio responds, “Margrave Lambert’s city of Perugia lies a full day-and-a-half march from here.”

The next questions to be asked are of a strictly military nature “What forces does this Lambert have left to him, and how is the city of Perugia defended?” Benicio says “Legate, Margarve Lambert has one third of his total strength in and around his city. The other two-thirds were here on the field with the Captain-General and I.”

“What of the city’s defenses?”

“Legate, in addition to the troops I just mentioned, the city has a single-curtain wall with a battlement. The wall is perhaps thirty feet high, counting the battlement. It is also pierced at regular intervals by strongly-built gatehouses. The exterior of the wall is surrounded on all sides by a dry moat.”

“Very well. Your officers and men will be sent back under guard to my staging camp, and then onwards to Nova Roma. Since you witnessed what happened to your army, I will have you come along with me when Legio X Fretensis goes to Lambert’s city of Perugia. Perhaps you can persuade them to surrender without the unnecessary shedding of blood.”

“Yes, Legate. I will do as you ask.”

Settling In
Date: Maius I MDCXXXI AUC/ May 1st, 878 AD
Location: The city of Urbino

Tales of the arrival of the Nova Romans have flow through the city of Urbino like a wildfire through a field of dry grass. Now that the old order has been thrown down, numbers of the common people of the city are showing up at the palace (now renamed the Principia) every day, seeking to provide service to the legion in one form or another. Almost as significant as the arrival of the Nova Romans is the abrupt departure of two-thirds of the city’s nobility and men of quality. These people chose to leave the city and the territory of Marche rather than live under Nova Roman rule. Consequently, they were allowed to take only that property they could carry, plus funds sufficient to see them to wherever they wanted to go. Everything else was forfeited.

As part of Legio I Italica’s plan to more favorably dispose the people of Urbino towards the change in government, Legate Marcus ordered the legion’s medical staff to set up tents and pavilions in the Principia’s courtyard and provide medical care to all who need it. At first, people are hesitant to come, but when word gets out that the services are provided free of charge, the tents are thronged. Among the types of care provided are the setting of broken bones, the treatment of burns, the extraction of bad teeth and the performance of minor surgeries. Along with the provision of medical care, Legate Marcus has ordered the legion’s engineering staff to make a thorough survey of the city of Urbino, with a particular focus on its sources of water. Urbino was founded by the Romans, and was previously known as Urvinum Metaurense. The Roman-era aqueducts and fountains which supplied the city have broken down over the centuries due to lack of maintenance. So, the people of the city had to get their water from wells or from the river Metaurus itself. As soon as the survey is completed, one of the legion’s tasks will be to restore the aqueducts, fountains and public sewers to their former capacity.

In regards to public health and sanitation, one of Legate Marcus’ first edicts was to prohibit the dumping of offal, waste and refuse in the city’s streets. All such material is to be collected and taken outside the city to manure beds, where it will be used to make fertilizer. A secondary (and unspoken) purpose is to provide the source material for making the Salt of Mars (the main ingredient in the Powder of Mars).

Immediately after the takeover, the city’s treasury was confiscated. Along with this, Legate Marcus ordered a survey to be made of how much in the way of consumables was stored within the city, and what condition they were in. Legate Marcus’s staff reported back to him after the survey was done and said “Legate, at present, the city has thirty days of consumables in storage.” Legate Marcus replied “Very well. See that the supplies are increased so that ninety days are on hand. I want the city to be better able to resist a siege if such becomes necessary.”

Legio I Italica has also begun the construction of a more permanent camp outside the walls of Urvinum. The tents are arranged in regular rows, and the palisade is augmented with a dry moat and rampart of packed earth. The camp gates are reinforced with heavily-built bastions of timber and packed earth. Each bastion is armed with a pair of ballista ignea facing outwards. Along the camp’s perimeter, three-story timber towers are to be constructed; each of these towers will have a polybolos mounted on the top, and there will be a large supply of javelins ready to hand.

In matters of external security, Legate Marcus assigned rotating details of legionaries to patrol outwards from Urvinum to a distance of ten mille. Cavalry patrols are also mounted, and these operate out to a distance of thirty mille. The purpose of these patrols is both to survey the countryside, and to give warning of any hostile forces that may be approaching. Internally, Legio I Italica is the sole source of law, order and justice in Urvinum. Accordingly, Legate Marcus has set up a court within the Principia. This court will be run by residents of the city who have been vetted for trustworthiness, and will be advised by members of the legion’s command staff who have experience in the law. So that there will be a common frame of reference, Legate Marcus summons Anselm’s former chamberlain to meet with him.

The chamberlain, one Ulfbert by name, is escorted to Legate Marcus’ office. Upon arrival, he offers greetings and says “You summoned me, Legate. How can I be of assistance to you?

Legate Marcus replies “Thank you for coming. I have been told that when you were serving Anselm, you knew everybody who was anybody in the city. You also knew how things were done around here. I wish to know how the law was administered.” Ulfbert replies “Legate, most of Urbino’s legal code is unwritten. Anselm ruled by decree, and he had the rights of high, middle and low justice. Sometimes, he would sit in judgment over cases great and small. If Anselm was disinclined to do so, then his son Arnulf would sit in his stead. In civil and criminal cases, Anselm was biased towards the nobility over the commoners. He would tend to find in favor of a noble, unless the evidence supporting the case of a commoner was so overwhelming that he couldn’t do otherwise.”

Legate Marcus is fundamentally, a fair-minded man. He frowns when he hears how the law was conducted. Then, he says “I have heard enough. I am assigning you to work with my scribes. I want you to tell them all of the laws and customs of Urvinum and Marche, so that they can be written down and be referred to in the future; this will be done in order that the laws are the same for everyone. I don’t want one person to be able to say the law means one thing and someone else says the law means something entirely different.” Ulfbert replies “I will do as you ask, Legate.”

The Dawn of Battle: Part II
Date: Maius I MDCXXXI AUC/ May 1st, 878 AD
Location: The palace of Lambert, Duke of Spoleto and Margrave of Umbria

The few remaining men who managed to escape form the rout of Guarente di Palma’s army run into the great hall of the palace. On a throne at the end of the hall, a massive man is devouring a leg of chicken.

"Your Highness! Sir!"

"Be quiet, I'm eating," the man on the throne muttered. "What is it, you fools?"

"Sir... they... destroyed our army."

The man sits up ramrod-straight, and brushes away any chicken bits on his shirt. His face is ablaze with shock and not a bit of curiosity.

"Formosus! Stephen! Someone get them over here..." He waits for a moment, tapping his fingers against the arm of his throne while his attendants search for them in the back room.

Finally, they pull out a younger man, somewhat tired-looking and with a few days' stubble, wearing humble robes. The man next to him, however, is completely the opposite; dressed in ostentatious, gold-embroidered velvet and a giant conical hat, his greying hair cut short beneath the tiara, and all the sins of the world seemingly engraved on his face, he huffs angrily. "Your Lordship, what is the meaning of this?"

Lambert of Spoleto points wordlessly to the survivors, a calm but sly smile playing across his face. He motions them to speak, and they tell their tale.

When they are finished, Formosus and Stephen are gobsmacked. Formosus looks far angrier than Stephen, but after a moment, the anger gives way to a look almost of devious thoughtfulness; the wheels in his head are visibly turning, and quickly.

Lambert leans over. "Cardinal Formosus?"

Formosus snaps out of his reverie. "Your Lordship, it... may be wise to seek out an alliance with these... Nova Romans." He pronounces the name as though it's a foreign dish he can't get the hang of saying. "Perhaps our goals can be acquired though... other means."

Lambert strokes his massive chin. "And... what does this entail for our friend Stephen, here?"

Formosus looks over at the poor young man, then back. "Him? Send him away; if they find him here when they come for negotiations, we're--"

"WHAT?" Stephen is spluttering. "Sirs, Lordship, I came here in good faith, to request the Cardinal's help in this; you cannot-- OW!!!" He cries out as his arm is pulled behind him, and the protesting ambassador is dragged to the stables, where his horse is awaiting him.

Lambert, Formosus, and the bedraggled soldiers look upon the bizarre sight as it transpires; Lambert and Formosus not without satisfaction. When the screaming has died away, Lambert motions to the men. "Who is the highest-ranking man here?" The men look at each other, almost lost. One speaks up, "None of us, sir. We are all foot-soldiers. Our highest ranking man, under di Palma--"

"Yes, I know, killed him." Lambert nods, and looks to Formosus. "I certainly would like to meet this adjudant; perhaps... negotiate with him?" At this, Formosus scurries off.

Lambert smiles broadly. "If nothing else, we can organize a march on Rome, at long last."

Settling In: Part II
Date: Maius II MDCXXXI AUC/ May 2nd, 878 AD

To clearly communicate to the other towns and cities of Marche that there is a new power in the land, Legate Marcus assigns the Second, Third and Fourth cohorts of Legio I Italica to go out into the countryside accompanied by some of those members of the nobility who chose to stay rather than leave. The purpose is to see that there is an orderly transition, and that no one takes the opportunity to rise up and cause trouble. Before departure, Legate Marcus instructs his centurions to tell the leadership of any city or town they encounter that their gates are to be opened without delay. If the gates are opened, the nobility of the city or town has two options. First, they can stay and submit to Nova Roman government or they can leave. If they leave, all of their assets and property will be confiscated (save that which they will need to get to some place of their choosing). If the gates are not opened promptly, the same offer to the nobility is made, except that those who stay will be fined half of their liquid assets and will have to forfeit two-thirds of their land. In either case, anyone who returns without permission after being exiled is subject to immediate execution.

To give each cohort the extra muscle needed to carry out its mission, they are assigned a pair of ballistae ignea. Half of the legion’s archers and cavalry will also go along, to be employed where needed. In order to better carry out the mission, the three cohorts go their separate ways as soon as they leave Urvinum. Along with the two ballistae ignea assigned to each cohort, the archers and cavalry are divided equally among them. In terms of numbers, each cohort has fifty cavalrymen and one hundred archers.

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Chapter XIV

On The March Again
Date: Maius II MDCXXXI AUC / May 2nd, 878 AD

Legio X Fretensis is preparing to move on Lambert's capital city of Perugia. All casualties from the battle against Guarente di Palma's army have been treated, and the fatalities among the Nova Roma troops are being buried with all due ceremony. The fatalities from among Lambert's troops were buried in a simple mass grave while under guard from detachments of legionaries. Those casualties able to walk (both friendly and enemy) will be accompanying the enemy prisoners back to Legio X Fretensis' staging base. Those casualties too badly injured to walk will be placed in wagons, and will go back to the staging base also. The column will be escorted by half of the legion's cavalry detachment and half of the legion's archers. As soon as the column has departed, Legio X Fretensis quickly breaks down its temporary camp and forms for the march.

At the very head of the line is Legate Germanicus and the command staff of Legio X Fretensis. He is accompanied by Adjutant Benicio. Of the remaining five alae of cavalry, one has been detailed as an advance guard. The other four have been posted as flanking guards; two alae each on the right and left flanks. The Legion's artillery crews have been cautioned to be ready to go into action at a moment's notice, so they and their weapons have been placed just behind the forward quarter of the column. Most of the first day passes without incident, and forward progress has been good thus far. About four hours before the evening halt, Gaius Marius Metellus, commander of Legio X Fretensis' cavalry comes to Legate Germanicus and reports "Legate, my scouts have relayed to me that they have spotted certain bodies of mounted troops that have been shadowing our line of march for the last several hours Some of these are to our front and still others to our left and right flanks. They have not approached any closer than eight hundred cubits to any of my riders. To me, they seem like they're making a bad show of trying to conceal themselves. I can definitely report that none of my cavalrymen were spotted, however."

Legate Germanicus pauses in thought for a moment and says "Very well, Centurio Gaius. Thank you for that report. Pass on to your men that I say they have done well. Maintain the patrols as you have done previously and give the enemy no indication that we are aware of their presence."

"By your command, Legate." Centurio Gaius returns to his men and gives them their new orders.

Legate Germanicus calls a hurried conference among his officers and relays what Centurio Gaius told him "Gentlemen, it seems to me that some local lord means to oppose us in some way. I have ordered the cavalry to keep patrolling, and to apprise me immediately if anything changes. Meanwhile, I urge all of you to have your men ready for action at the instant they are needed. I hope this isn't necessary, but it is best to be prepared for all eventualities. What say you, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh?"

"A wise plan, Legate. I will go out among the centuriones of the legion and make sure they understand your intentions."

"Very well, Tribunus Laticlavius. Benicio, I will have your input now."

"Yes, Legate?"

"What troops are those that have been seen on our flanks and to our front?"

"I know not specifically whose they might be, Legate. They are likely from either my lord Lambert, or his younger brother Guido, Duke of Camerino. You see, Guido I, who was the father of Lambert and Guido the Younger, divided the duchy of Spoleto between the two of them a few years ago. Lambert received the city of Perugia and its surrounding territory, while Guido the Younger received the lordship of Camerino and its territories as his share. The division of the land was equal in extent, but Lambert‘s territory was the wealthier of the two sections. So, Lambert's army has always been larger than his brother's forces. The army which your legion destroyed was two-thirds of what Lambert has at his command. So, he has perhaps twenty-five hundred men left under arms. Guido the Younger's army is untouched, and numbers some five thousand men."

"Very good, Benicio. Should your information prove to be accurate, you will find me grateful. You are dismissed." As soon as Benicio leaves, Legate Germanicus orders Legio X Fretensis to continue the larch for another four hours, then to make camp for the night. After the evening halt is called, the men of the legio take special care to make camp exactly in accordance with Roman army regulations. The sentry details and cavalry patrols are most carefully maintained.

Just before midnight, Centurio Gaius Marius Metellus comes to Legate Germanicus' command tent with an important message.

"Yes, Centurio Gaius. What is it?

"Legate Germanicus, acting upon the instructions you gave me earlier today, I had some of my cavalry scout on ahead of us. They have reported back to me with the news that there is a sizeable force of the enemy approaching. This force numbers perhaps four to five thousand, and has halted for the night. If they rise at first light, it will take them about eight hours to reach us."

“Very well, Centurio. Thank you again for your most-timely report." Legate Germanicus sends his headquarters optios to bring all of his officers to his command tent. This takes but a few minutes, as all of their own tents are pitched nearby to Legate Germanicus' own. When they arrive, Legate Germanicus tells them of the situation and says "Gentlemen, the enemy means to march against us sometime tomorrow morning. We will have the legion up before dawn. We will march a further four hours, then we'll halt and prepare a ‘proper' Roman reception for our guests." This last comment by Legate Germanicus causes not a few of his officers to rumble with laughter as they imagine just what sort of reception he has in mind.

Date: Maius III MDCXXXI AUC / May 3rd, 878 AD

The very next morning, the legion is roused before the break of dawn. To save time, a cold meal is served and the tents aren't struck. The men and artillery are hurriedly lined up for the march, and they move out as soon as the last man is in place. Just four hours later, Legio X Fretensis arrives at the location which has been selected. One cohort of legionaries is detailed to go out onto the field and prepare the ground with crows-feet and caltrops, then to conceal these from observation. Next, the ballistae igneii are drawn up into the center. They are placed as they were in the engagement against Guarente di Palma's army, and angled so as to cover the widest possible field of fire. These are flanked in turn by the sixty polybolos, divided so that half are on the left and half are on the right. Next, the remaining archers and cavalry are detailed to serve as a mobile reserve, in case the line is forced at any point. The ballistee igneii are then concealed by screens of canvas that have been made to resemble tents. Lastly, all of the men in each cohort are placed in battle array, but then told to ground their arms and make as if they are in camp. To aid in this deception, numbers of small fires are lit throughout the Roman lines. Just two hours after the last stake has been driven, Centurio Gaius' cavalry scouts come riding in with the report that the enemy force is close at hand. Even now the men in the front ranks can see dust rising not so very far off in the distance. There are flashes of light that seem to be glittering off of shields and spearpoints.

Guido II, Duke of Camerino is in a fine feather this morning. Certain of the survivors from the rout of Guarente di Palma's army were intercepted by his patrols, and it is from these men that Duke Guido had news of that shattering defeat. He wasted no time in getting his forces ready to march, but gave no credence to the survivors' tales what he termed ‘weapons that strike like thunder, tales that are more suited to be told over a pot of ale or three in a tavern'. Duke Guido's forces consist of one thousand cavalry and four thousand foot The cavalry consist mostly of his noble retainers and their personal retinues, plus his own personal guard of two-hundred and fifty men. The men-at-arms are from Camerino and the surrounding villages, and are armed and equipped as each of them is able to afford. The wealthiest have mailshirts, helmets and round shields, while the armor of the poorer men among them runs to padded leather jacks sewn with stud or rings and caps of leather strengthened with bands of riveted iron. There are even some whose only protection are leather jackets boiled in wax, hard leather caps and simple wooden shields. The weapons are as varied as the armor of the men who carry them.

Guido's advance guard reports that they have encountered the Nova Roman camp, and that it appears that the enemy is just now getting up for the day. Duke Guido exclaims excitedly to his officers "Now, we have them! By the Almighty's grace, we have bene granted enough time to gather our forces and get them into a position to where we can hit the enemy before they are ready to receive us." Guido's sons Rollo and Borso have bene given command of their father's personal guard. They protest loudly, saying "Most redoubted father, we humbly beg for the honor of leading the first charge against the heathen foe. The wings of the angels above will speed our horses forth, and the hand of God will smite our opponents so hard that they will either crouch down in fear or flee the field." Being a rather indulgent sort, Guido gives his consent. So, Rollo, Borso and their personal retinues ride off to join the heavy calvary in the vanguard of the army. As they ride off, Guido muses to himself "Truly, I am blessed to have such sons to carry the family name and honor."

On the other side of the field, Legate Germanicus and his staff officers notice that there is a good deal of movement within the enemy ranks. Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh speaks up and says "Legate, I think their cavalry mean to charge and ride us down." Legate Germanicus briefly observes the enemy through his binoculars and responds "I believe you are right. Pass the word for the rest of the legion to make ready."

"At your command, Legate."

Just a few minute later, a great fanfare of trumpets is head from the front of the enemy army. This is accompanied by loud shouting and cheering. The enemy cavalry are on the move. According to their own practice, they urge their horses forward at the walk, and then into a trot. When the lances are lowered by Rollo and Borso's contingent, this is the signal for every member of the cavalry to charge at full speed. The noise from the hooves of one thousand horses striking the ground in near-unison makes a noise which rends the air like thunder and shakes ground like the steps of a giant.

The distance between the lowered lancepoints and their chosen targets in Nova Roman bodies shrinks rapidly, Four hundred yards, three hundred yards, two hundred yards, one hundred fifty yards.....Just as the forward most of the cavalry reach the one hundred yard mark, dozens and dozens of the horses scream in pain, rear and throw off the riders. They have just encountered part of the proper welcome so obligingly set out for them by Legio X Fretensis. Many hooves are spiked by the caltrops or impaled upon the crows-feet. Some of the horses are able to limp off, but many others in the first rank of the charge can't do anything but thrash around in pain. Rollo, Borso and their fellow riders are in the second rank of the cavalry charge. They are riding too close to the first rank, so their attempts to draw the reins of their horses cause them only to buck and rear. Some of them stumble over the bodies of horses and men from the first rank and fall to the ground. Men are thrown from their saddles, and still others are crushed by the frenzied thrashing of pain-maddened animals.

The momentum of the charge is broken as thoroughly as if it had run straight into a mountain. By common assent, the officers in command of the rear of the cavalry call out the command ‘COUNTERCHARGE!!'. The horsemen in the rear have just begin to wheel their mounts around when commands are given on the Nova Roman side that make them curse the day they born. The canvas screens which concealed the ballistae ingneii from enemy view are suddenly thrown aside, and the familiar command of "Fire by centuria, readyyyy….FIRE!!" is issued. This command causes the chiefs of each ballistae ignea to lower their ignition staffs to the touch holes in the barrels. Instantly, the ballistae igneii erupt with thunderous force. All of the weapons had previously been loaded while they were concealed behind the canvas screens. In addition to the standard charge of the Powder of Mars, each was loaded with a mixed double load of grape shot and scatter shot so as to cause maximum casualties among the charging enemy cavalry. At the range of just two hundred cubits, the deadly iron projectiles wreak horrendous carnage among the second and third ranks of the enemy cavalry. The weapons are swiftly run back into position by their crews and the tubes are swabbed out to extinguish any flaming residue. They are reloaded with a double-charge of grape shot. Legio X Fretensis' artillery commander now orders "Independent fire, readyyyy…FIRE!!"

This command allows the chief of each piece to select targets at his discretion. Accordingly, the ballistae igneii blast away at the remaining enemy cavalry, thus turning what was a rout into a full-fledged panic. Further unsettling the enemy infantry are the huge amounts of thick, sulfur-smelling white smoke that now hang over the battlefield.

As soon as the second volley has been discharged, the men of Legio X Fretensis sally forth from their lines on specially-selected paths through the fields of caltrops and crows-feet. Once they are past the obstacles and the wounded/dead cavalrymen and horses, they pause to dress their ranks. The centurions of the legion order their men to begin stamping their feet and pounding their shields with the flats of their gladii in a rhythmic fashion, all the more to un-nerve the enemy foot. While this is going on, Duke Guido and his personal retainers can only stare in amazement. He shouts "Who in the name of God are those people? Their weapons sound like thunder and slay like the hand of the destroying angel, and the smell!!! It is like what the infernal regions must be. Surely, they are in league with the Evil One."

One of Duke Guido's officers suddenly gestures towards the Nova Roman lines and exclaims "My Lord! We must look to our defense, for the enemy marches upon us even now." This warning shocks Duke Guido back to his senses, and he issues the appropriate orders to his officers. Now, Legio X Fretensis begins to advance at a moderate pace. The feet of the legion strike the ground with absolutely regular precision. As each legionary's feet come done one after the other, he claps the edge of his scutum with the flat of his gladii. To the rear of the Nova Roman lines, the crews of the polybolos have cranked their weapons up to high elevations and are preparing to shower the enemy ranks with deadly missiles as fast as the weapons can be worked. The two forces are now only eighty cubits apart. Each legionary now sheathes his gladius and prepares to throw his pilae. The command is immediately issued ‘PIIILAAAA…..IACE!!'. Each legionary grips one of his two pila just below the joint block and casts them at the enemy in unison. The iron-headed javelins strike with lethal effect, piercing men, shields and armor. Just as the second pila volley is thrown, Duke Guido orders his men to charge. They shout and yell loudly, then surge forward in rather uneven lines.

The disciplined men of Legio X Fretensis prepare to meet the charging enemy. The command ‘GLADIUM…STRINGE' is shouted, and thousands of razor-edged gladii leap out of their scabbards ready to kill the enemy. The men of the legion halt in place and raise their scuta, then the forward ranks of Duke Guido's troops break upon the Nova Roman shield wall like a wave upon an unyielding shore. The combat which follows is hard and vicious. Enemy swords, spears, axes and clubs rain down unceasingly upon the Romans with but little effect. The cramped conditions of close-quarters battle means that long weapons can't be wielded effectively, while the Roman legionaries are under no such restrictions. Their gladii pierce faces, throats, rib cages, armpits and other vulnerable targets, and soon enemy troops are falling by the score then by the hundreds. Compounding the misery of Duke Guido's troops is the incessant rain of javelins from the polybolos. These are so powerfully-launched that two and sometimes three men are pierced through by the same javelin.

The combat is surging to and fro over the battlefield, and now it reaches where Duke Guido's personal retainers are stationed. He and his officers draw their swords and defend themselves as well as they are able to, but in the end, their efforts are of no use. Duke Guido and his closest officers realize that their lives are in danger, so they wheel their horses about and try to flee the field. Duke Guido doesn't get very far before his horse is speared through the haunches by an errant javelin from one of the polybolos. The animal screams, rears and dies and in so doing, throws Duke Guido from the saddle. The impact upon the ground renders the Duke insensate. His other officers are either hewn down as they try to flee, or they are captured. The rearmost ranks of Guido's troops see him and his officers start to flee, and they further witness his fall. Suddenly, and almost without warning, nearly one thousand of Guido's troops drop their weapons, throw away their shields and flee for their lives. The men of Legio X Fretensis have been ordered not to pursue, so they stand in place. When they see their remaining enemy running off, they all raise their gladii and scuta above their heads and exultantly shout ‘ROMA VICTAAA!!'. The battle is now over.

Settling In: Part III
Date: Maius IV MDCXXXI AUC/ May 4th, 878 AD

Two days into the mission, the Second Cohort is approaching the town of Fano (known as Fanum Fortunae in the days of Julius Caesar and Augustus), located northeast of Urvinum on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The advance guard of cavalry assigned to the Second Cohort rides back to tell Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis that there is action ahead. Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius rides forward to see for himself. There is a large group of armed men assailing Fano's main gate and the houses outside of it. The combat is quite fierce, as evidenced by the shouts that can be heard some distance away. Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis wastes no time and orders the Second Cohort into action. The ballistae ignea are of no use in a sudden, close action. So, they are parked under guard some distance away while the rest of the Second is formed into battle array. The legionaries march forward at the double-quick until they are just two hundred cubits away to the rear of the attackers. At a slower pace, the Second Cohort creeps forward until the attackers are within the range of thrown pilae. Then, the familiar command of ‘PILAAA….IACE!!" is shouted. This single command has nearly five hundred viciously-pointed javelins flying through the air simultaneously. The pilae strike among the men attacking Fano's gate and wreak indiscriminate havoc among them. The shouted command of ‘Pila, Iace' was the only warning the attackers had, and it did them little good. All some of them had time to do was to turn their heads to see where the shout came from, before numbers of the men were killed and wounded by the thrown pilae. The next commands were ‘GLADIUM, STRINGE' followed by ‘PORRRRRO'. Almost before the second command is past Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis' lips, the men of the Second Cohort charge forward like an armored thunderbolt. They hit the attackers of Fano from the flanks and the rear, then begin to ply their gladii with ruthless abandon. Some of the attackers try to put up a fight, and still others try to flee for all the good it will do them. In every case, the attackers are swiftly put down. Within the space of ten minutes, all of them are dead.

This sudden intervention is witnessed from the walls of Fano with amazement. The guards and other citizens were just resisting an attack by a gang of outlaws, when the outlaws were attacked themselves and the city was saved from further damage. The rescuers draw themselves into a defensive array, but make no move against the town. Fano's mayor Giulio Argometto witnesses this with mixed feeling of gratitude and apprehension, then decides to go forward to greet the strangers who saved his town.

Under the direction of Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis, the men of the Second Cohort are disposing of the dead bodies of the attackers and stripping them of equipment when they notice a small party riding out of Fano to greet them. Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius is immediately notified, so he and his command staff ride forward. The first to speak is Mayor Argometto who says "Many thanks for your timely intervention, stranger. From your appearance, I gather that you are Nova Romans. I have heard of you, but I never expected to see any of you. May I ask why you are here? Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius responds "I am the commander of the Second Cohort, Legio I Italica. Forces under the command of my legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva threw down your former lord Anselm and totally destroyed his army. Legio I Italica is in possession of the city of Urbino, and the men under my command were sent out into this part of Marche to inform the towns and cities of the change in government. We were approaching Fano when we saw that it was under attack."

Mayor Argometto responds "Wherever you are from, I thank you again for your intervention. The men who were attacking us were a notorious gang of raiders called the ‘Black Band', so named for their utter and complete ruthlessness. We here in Fano and the surrounding areas had suffered their depredations for years. Lord Anselm was never able to deal with the gang effectively, and they had never been so bold as to directly attack us before. Their actions are passing strange. To show our gratitude, will you enter our gates and refresh yourselves?" Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius briefly considers the mayor's offer, but politely declines. "I thank you for your offer, but there are other towns and cities in this area that we must visit. Would you consider sending some of your men along with us to tell others of what has happened here?"

Mayor Argometto agrees wholeheartedly, saying "Yes, Pilus Prior. It is, after all, the least we can do." Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius smiles and says "Mayor Argometto, because your town opened its gates to us without the least hesitation, you and the nobility here are free to remain. You have my word as a Nova Roman officer that none of your property and valuables will be affected beyond the freeing of bondsmen and the paying of proper wages to (and decent treatment of) your servants.

Picking up the pieces
Date: Maius V MDCXXXI AUC / May 5th, 878 AD
Location: The battlefield

Over the last two days, the men of Legio X Fretensis have scoured the battlefield, seeking out their own casualties (which have mercifully been relatively few) and those from Duke Guido's army. The wounded from both sides have been cared for, the few Nova Roman dead buried with honor and the dead of Duke Guido' army turned over to their fellows for burial according to their own rites. The next tasks were to gather up all of the enemy equipment, arms and armor and to dispose of the dead enemy horses. The prospect of good source material for leather going to waste got the attention of an enterprising supply officer in Legio X Fretensis, so he ordered that the enemy horses be skinned and the hides be preserved for later use before the horses were buried.

Of Duke Guido's total force, one thousand men fled the field. There were 1,750 men captured; of these 1,750 men, some nine hundred were wounded to one degree or another. All the remaining men were killed upon the field of battle. In the holding area for enemy prisoners, there was a happy reunion of sorts when Duke Guido and his two sons were reunited. Rollo, the elder of the two brothers gives voice to his feelings when he says "Father, right-pleased am I to see you hale and hearty. When Borso and I fell in the charge of our heavy horse and were taken prisoner, we knew not where you were or even if you were still among the living". Borso exhales heavily when he says "Father, these Nova Romans are as relentless as a summer thunderstorm. They smashed our best troops as easily as a clay pot thrown against a stone wall. Their thunder weapons are like nothing I have ever seen or heard of before."

Guido carefully listens to what his two sons are saying, then responds "My sons, now that we are prisoners of these people our futures are unsure. I know not what they plan to do with us."Just then, Legate Germanicus comes by to observe how the enemy prisoners are doing. He comes over to where Guido and his two sons are standing. He addresses them and says "By the laws and customs of Nova Roma, you and your men are mine to do with as I please. I seek no more blood than has already been spilled. Therefore, you and your two sons will be taken to Nova Roma at the conclusion of the campaign against Lambert and there maintained in circumstances befitting your dignity and former status. Because you were unwise enough to oppose me in arms upon the field, all of your property, lands and money is forfeited to the Senate and the People of Nova Roma." In truth, Guido expected to be executed or imprisoned. Finding that this is not the case is something of a relief to him and his two sons. But, to hear that the property that Guido's ancestors built up and maintained over the centuries is now gone causes Guido to stagger momentarily before he recovers his composure.

Legate Germanicus now goes to where the enemy prisoners and casualties are being held. He walks up and down the rows of men, some of who shudder in fear at his passage. To some of them, he is a figure out of their darkest and most nameless nightmares. Others are still somewhat in shock at this turn of events. After viewing the enemy prisoners, Legate Germanicus comes to a decision. He stands upon a table and says in a loud, clear voice "Men, you are my prisoners and it is my right as commander of the legion to decide your disposition. I say nothing against your bravery, for you fought against my troops as well as you were able to. Instead, I want to offer you a chance to redeem yourselves. If you are willing, you can sign up for service in the legions of Nova Roma. After training, you will be treated as any other legionary. You will receive the same pay, benefits and medical care as any other man in the legions. Those who are willing to sign on will be taken to Legio X Fretensis' staging base, and then on to the city of Nova Roma itself. Those among you who are unwilling will be held until the conclusion of the campaign against Lambert, then released to go where you will."

After speaking to the prisoners from Guido's army, Legate Germanicus returns to his field camp. He sees that the prisoners from Guarente di Palma's army are about to depart, and orders that their departure be temporarily halted. Adjutant Benicio comes over and asks "Legate, may I ask about the reason for the halt?" Legate Gemanicus says "Benicio, I just made an offer of enlistment to the prisoners that were taken in battle against Duke Guido. The ones who are willing to sign on will be going with you and the rest back to Nova Roma. I would like to know how your own men would react if I made them the same offer." Benicio's eyes widen slightly at what he is hearing. He pauses a few moments to gather his thoughts before responding "Legate, this is most unexpected. I think many of them will take you up on your offer, for Lambert was not known as being a generous paymaster. I have much respect for the decency that you treated me with. Therefore, I'll be your first recruit." Legate Germanicus smiles widely, as this reaction was just what he was hoping to receive. He says "Benicio, I was as much impressed by the way you conducted yourself on the battlefield as by the way you comported yourself in your brief captivity. Therefore, by my authority as Legatus Legionis of Legio X Fretensis, I confer upon you the rank of centurion. You will have authority over all of your fellows who choose to enlist."

With the matter of what to do with the enemy prisoners taken care of, Legate Gemanicus and the command staff of Legio X Fretensis turn their attention towards resuming the march on Lambert's capital city of Perugia. As soon as the prisoners and their escort detail have departed, the legion quickly breaks down its field camp and readies itself for the march. From the information provided by Adjutant Benicio, Perugia is just eight hours further down the road. Legate Germanicus and the legion's command staff are in the very front of the line, along with Guido and a small escort detail. The first and second cohorts of the legion are placed in the lead position, with the ballistae igneii and polybolos following them behind. The other cohorts are in the trail position, and the remaining cavalry and archers are deployed on the flanks. The flanking guards have been given special instructions to look out for anyone that might be trying to shadow the legion's line of march. The march proceeds without incident, and progress is rapid. Seven hours later, the walls of Perugia are within sight of Legio X Fretensis' advance guard when the advance guard is met by a party of mounted men. This party has the white shield of peace raised high upon a long staff so that there is no mistaking their intentions. Three riders from the advance guard ride up and meet the second party. The leader of the second party says in passable Imperial latin "You are from Nova Roma, are you not?" The senior man among the three riders from the advance guard replies "I am Decurio Sextus Justus Flaminius of the Second Cavalry Ala, Legio X Fretensis. Who are you?" The reply is given "We represent Duke Lambert, Lord of Umbria. We come in peace and say that no harm or violence will be offered to any man of the legion. My lord Lambert wishes to meet with your commander at whatever place is convenient for him."

Decurio Sextus says "Very well. Wait here while I bring word to my commander." The one who represents Margarve Lambert replies "At your convenience, sirrah." Decurio Sextus spurs his horse as is off in a small cloud of dust. Just a few minutes later, he rides up to the command staff of Legio X Fretensis and says "Legate Germanicus, I beg to report."

"Yes, decurio?"

"Legate, my patrol was met by three riders who say they represent Duke Lambert of Umbria. They say he wants to meet with you at a time and place of your convience."

"Very well, Decurio. Return to where you met them and tell them that if they are who they say they are, Lambert will present himself to me outside the gates of his city four hours from now. Tell them that Lambert is instructed to have no more than three officers with him."

"By your command, Legate." Decurio Sextus rides off to where his patrol was met and delivers the message to Lambert's representatives. While this is going on, Legio X Fretensis resumes its march, but at a slower and more careful pace. They halt one quarter of a mille from the walls of Perugia and begin to make camp. The first structure to be set up is a tent where the meeting between Legate Germanicus and Margrave Lambert will take place.

The Feast of Evodius
Date: Maius VI MDCXXXI AUC / May 6th, 878 AD
Location: The temporary pavilion outside the gates of Perugia

The men assigned to Legate Germanicus' headquarters have just completed setting up the pavilion where the meeting with Margrave Lambert will be taking place. As a show of force, the entirety of Legio X Fretensis is draw up in regular order behind where the pavilion is set up. Their banners and standards are fluttering slightly in the early afternoon breeze, while the sunshine is gleaming off the polished surfaces and fittings of helmets and armor. To further intimidate Lambert and his officers, the ten ballistae igneii that are with Legio X Fretensis have been set up so that there are five weapons on either side of the meeting pavilion; these have been placed eighty cubits to the side and forty cubits to the rear of the pavilion. All ten are aimed directly at the main gate of the city of Perugia. As befits Nova Roman attention to detail, the tubes of each ballista ignea have been burnished so that anyone who looks at them will see his reflection in the surface. Just one hour after preparations for the meeting have been concluded, the gates of Perugia open up and a small party comes out. Duke Lambert is on foot, accompanied by his herald and Cardinal Formosus. Two of his officers, on horseback, follow directly behind him as escort. The party quickly makes its way towards the pavilion where Legate Germanicus is waiting. As is customary for such meetings, Lambert halts a short distance from the pavilion, while his herald advances to announce him in a loud, clear voice "I cry Lambert, Duke of Spoleto and Lord of Perugia. Have I the honor of addressing the commander of the Nova Roman forces here?"

Legate Germanicus responds "You do. I am Germanicus Julius Caesar, commander of Legio X Fretensis. By the authority vested in me by Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus, I declare this meeting open. Lambert will now come forward." Lambert's herald goes to his lord and says "Sire, the enemy commander acknowledges your presence and bids you come forward." Lambert, a tall man for his time, walks briskly, seemingly without fear, to the table set up for the meeting. Formosus is a foot behind him, head bowed and attempting (through very deliberate movements) to keep a golden tiara from slipping off his own head. Lambert and his party take their seats at the table. Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus and Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco are seated on one side, while Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are opposite to them. Lambert's herald is standing directly behind him. Behind where Legate Germanicus is seated, his personal guard of sixteen hand-picked legionaries is standing. A few of Legate Germanicus' guards mutter under their breath at Formosus' gauntness. "Looks worse than a skeleton's balls--" Legate Germanicus chuckles softly, then whispers ‘Silentium'; they all hear it, snap to attention, then clam up. He gestures from his seat, and a few brief moments later, Benicio (the former adjutant of Lambert's captain-general) approaches from off to the right. Formosus's face twists into a look of disgust for a moment as he sees Benicio approach; then it is gone. Lambert stares, placidly but confidently, at the two men across from him, then leans over.He licks his lips, then speaks, somewhat haltingly, in Church Latin: "My honorable legate, I must welcome you to the negotiating table. I have been told by my man Formosus that you have your... preconditions. So, too, have I."

Upon hearing Lambert's rather-arrogant greeting, Legate Germanicus leans forward in his chair and strokes his chin while he gathers his thoughts for a brief moment. Then he fixes Lambert with a stare that could freeze molten iron and says "You presume too much. It is I who welcome you to the table, rather than you welcoming me. Let me re-state the facts as they currently are. First, you sent your army against me. Though my troops were outnumbered by a significant margin, Legio X Fretensis still managed to smash your troops like so much fireplace kindling. No doubt you have questioned those few survivors who managed to flee the battle before being captured, and they will have told you of the power at my command. Second, the legion has taken large numbers of prisoners, and very few of them have shown any willingness to return to your service. This is especially true after the behavior of your so-called ‘captain-general' Guarente di Palma. That dog, that craven whoreson coward saw that the battle was going against him and he attempted to flee the field, thus leaving his own men to their fate. This so offended his adjutant Benicio that he struck di Palma down where he stood. I have taken Benicio into my service and conferred upon him the rank of centurion. Third, Legio X Fretensis is drawn up before the gates of your own capital city and those selfsame weapons that so ravaged your army are bearing directly at your main gate. It should be plainly obvious that I have the superior position."

Lambert sits for a moment, trying to keep his angry thoughts contained. After half a minute's silence, he smiles and says "My apologies, then. I had read of you in books, but I hadn't the slightest idea how arrogant you as a people were." This comment reaches the ears of Germanicus' bodyguards, whereupon several of them clap hands to the hilts of their gladii and make ready to draw them. Legate Germanicus notices this out of the corner of his eye and motions them to stand down.

Lambert goes on to say "You must know, of course, that the people of Italy will never be completely comfortable with your pantheon, do you not? The Church, as corrupt as it may be, is too strongly entrenched for that. I am, however, willing to offer a solution to that problem."

Legate Germanicus replies "What solution do you have in mind? I would point out that Emperor Marcus Aurelius has decreed equality of religion throughout the domains of Nova Roma. We have Christians under our rule, and numbers of them are even serving in the legions. Nova Roma has a large and flourishing Jewish community, and more Jews are moving here as time goes by. We in Nova Roma regard both faiths as being equal under the law. Now, as regards those preconditions you mentioned earlier, two-thirds of the nobility of your province fell on the field in action against Legio X Fretensis. Therefore, by right of conquest and also according to our customs, all property, lands and treasure formerly owned by the deceased are forfeit to the Senate and the People of Nova Roma. This is non-negotiable.

Lambert responds, in a strained tone of voice, "The property was not one of my preconditions. My wealth, however, once taken, may be spread amongst all the people of this area; I will not act against that." He taps his finger insistently as he says "of this area", putting emphasis that the Romans cannot ignore on the phrase. Germanicus stirs uneasily in his chair.

"If you go against my wishes, be my guest. I am powerless, it seems." Lambert folds his hands. "However, the poor people of this land, regardless of religious tolerance, are as frightened of Jews and pagans as you or I would be of a Biblical flood. They cling to their little patches of land and their religion because, according to the Pope and to the Church, that is what they have been decreed by God to have. But you and I know better. I am no friend of Rome, or of the Church, but I know a useful tool when I see one. To keep control of your lands, regardless of tolerance, you must have a Pope to keep those monks, those poor people, or, heaven forbid, bands of roving knights under control. Mental control. If you present a Pope among your ranks, they will swear loyalty to you without question."

Legate Germanicus responds "Lambert, Am I to understand that you wish to have someone amenable, shall we say, installed as Pope?"

Lambert smiles; he's finally getting through to the Roman. "Precisely." He gestures to Formosus. "Cardinal Formosus here is no friend of the current Pope, and he is loyal to me. If I were to swear loyalty to you, or become your ally, would you then assist me in installing him on the Papal Throne? Regardless of how he appears, I find him a wise and able administrator. He would be an excellent help in persuading the current populace of Rome to abide your rule."

Legate Germanicus considers Lambert's words for but a moment before he responds "A most interesting suggestion, Lambert. If I agree, you would swear loyalty not to me, but to the Senate and the People of Nova Roma. You would acknowledge Emperor Marcus Aurelius as your lawful ruler, and would henceforth be considered a Friend and Ally of the Roman People; your enemies would become our enemies. From what just happened to your army, and that of your brother Guido, you know precisely what would happen to those same enemies." As these words are spoken, a feral grin crosses Legate Germanicus' face. "Now, what say you?"

Lambert lets out a snort of surprised glee. "What say I? I agree to your terms wholeheartedly; were it not for my brother's monumental idiocy, you would not have needed to crush him. If Marcus Aurelius shall be my Emperor, then Formosus shall be his Pope. Are we agreed on that?" Legate Germanicus rises from his seat, leans over and places his hands on the table. He responds "We are agreed, Lambert. By the authority vested in me by Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus, I declare that you are an ally of the Senate and the People of Nova Roma. As a sign of good faith, I will release your brother Guido and his two sons Rollo and Borso. I had intended to send them back to Nova Roma as captives, but since we are now allies, this is no longer necessary. They are now your responsibility, and I specifically charge you to see that they make no trouble. Now that these preliminaries are out of the way, how do you want to proceed against Rome? I had always intended to move upon the city; our alliance has simply moved up the timetable."

Lambert grins widely. He stands up; he's perhaps an inch or so taller than Germanicus. "I wish..." He runs his tongue over his teeth for a moment, then continues, "...to crush Pope Joan, as I have always called him; he is no man. Would a seige be satisfactory, or do you want to proceed more quickly against the city?"

Legate Germanicus replies "Before I can answer that, I need to know what forces this ‘Pope Joan' has at his disposal, and whether or not there are allies he can call upon. My intelligence sources have also told me of other powers in the southern part of Italia that may have to be contended with. That being said, I am minded to move quickly. How long will it take you to ready your troops for the march? I assume that you will have to gather supplies, and that you will leave part of your troops here to maintain law & order while we are on the march. In the meantime, I will send word to Legio I Italica. They were going through the territory of Marche to bring the various towns and cities thereof under Nova Roman rule after Margrave Anselm was thrown down and taken prisoner. Legio I Italica will be instructed to move into a blocking position southeast of Rome".

Formosus taps Lambert on the shoulder and whispers into his ear; Lambert listens for a moment. His brow furrows, and he nods, then looks back at Germanicus. "Cardinal Formosus, with your permission, humbly begs to accompany our troops to Rome; however, he worries about my son, Guy, whom I have kept in the dark concerning the recent besiegement by your forces. Is it possible that some of your more... shall we say, ‘firm' men, could stay with a large garrison to keep him under control? He currently resides in an isolated dwelling on my estates."

Legate Germanicus considers Cardinal Formosus' request for a brief moment before replying "The Cardinal's request is granted, Lambert. How long will you need to make your own men ready for the march? All that Legio X Fretensis need do is to break down this temporary camp that we have set up before your gates, then line up for the march. As soon as we are done here, I will send a message to Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva of Legio I Italica asking that he likewise make ready and move out towards the position I indicated to you earlier. If they are where I think they are, they can be in position in a week after receiving my message. Now, as regards the troops you requested to keep an ‘eye' on your son Guy, I believe that one cohort should be enough. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"Please inform the men of the Ninth Cohort that I am detailing them to stay here as a garrison. Further instructions will be forthcoming."

"Immediately, Legate." Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus hastens to carry out Legate Germanicus' order.

"Will this be sufficient, Lambert?

"It will. But--" Formosus leans over and whispers in Lambert's ear again; a strange gleam comes into the Duke's eye. He glances at Benicio, still standing behind Germanicus, for but a moment, then back to the legate as Formosus finishes.

Lambert cricks his neck. "The Cardinal expressly wishes the former adjudant Benicio under di Palma to guard my son. If that can be arranged, my men available in Perugia, as well as, I believe, those survivors who surrendered to you, should be able to form a separate, ah... Legio, to accompany yours within a few days." He finishes with a smile.

Legate Germanicus responds "Lambert, Benicio is now in my service, and I have raised him to the rank of centurio. I will detail him to remain here as part of the garrison force. The survivors from your army and that of your brother Guido have already been sent back to Nova Roma, so they are not available. I suggest that you choose from among your own men who will stay and who will come along with us."

Lambert thinks for a moment. "Should be fairly simple... but I must have time to do it in. Time enough, I think, to feast over." He smiles. "Did you know that, in the Church's calendar, this day marks the feast of St. Evodius? He was a pagan who became Christian, as Formosus has told me. I don't hold much faith in Christianity, but our agreement, being today... a bloody big coincidence."

Germanicus is not sure how to take this yet, but he keeps silent.

"In light of this... would you consent, Legate Germanicus, to bringing your men within for a feast fit for the gods? Only proper, I think."

"Agreed, Lambert. Before we begin, I must see to the disposition of my men. For the sake of operational security, not all of my men will come within the city at the same time. My staff will organize a rotating schedule so that all will be able to partake, if not at the same time. Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius attend me."

"Yes, Legate?"

"Choose the best riders from among our cavalry arm. Dispatch them to Legio I Italica. Tell them to give Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva my compliments and ask that he joins me before the walls of Rome. Say that Legio I Italica is to take up a support position on the Via Appia southeast of Rome, and that Legio X Fretensis will be marching to a position between the Via Aurelia and the Via Cassia in order to threaten the city."

"Very good, Legate. The men will ride this very afternoon."

"Now, Lambert. Tell me of this feast you will be preparing."

Lambert grins. "How much into detail do you want me to go? It is a feast; probably may not be up to your standards, I'm afraid, but under the circumstances, my various cooks and such will try to whip up as many sumptuous dishes as possible. Please understand that there will be no... unpleasant suprises to be found in any of the drinks; since we are no allies, no malice should be expected on the part of anyone in my service." The Duke's eyes narrow. "I will personally see to that."

A few of the escort men behind him visibly gulp when they hear those words; however, Lambert seems to pay them no heed. Germanicus is impressed.

The Roman Campaign
Date: The afternoon of Maius VI MDCXXXI AUC/May 6th, 878 AD
Location: Lambert's council hall, Perugia

Legate Germanicus stands up from the table, pushes his chair away and comes over to Lambert's side. He says "Lambert, we have seventeen days to be in position outside of Rome. For now, let there be feasting and making of merriment. I now offer you my hand as Friend and Ally." With this, the two men clasp each other's hand at the wrist, in time-honored Roman fashion. Lambert replies "Agreed, Legate. My people will need some time to make the preparations for the feast. We should be able to start serving tomorrow evening. For now, would you and your staff care to drain a flagon or two of wine with my staff and I?"

Legate Germanicus considers Lambert's offer for but a moment before replying "Gladly. When we are at your table, we can also discuss strategy for the upcoming campaign."

"Agreed." Before Germanicus and his staff retire with Lambert and his people, he issues orders that Legio X Fretensis is to camp here on the field, and that the ballistae igneii are to stand down from their alert status. The centuriones of the legio are given leave to organize camp security at their discretion. Before too long, legionaries are seen moving here and there, being involved in the assorted tasks of setting up a marching camp. Though the Legion is in the territory of an ally, they still take the time to sart enclosing their camp with a moat and stockade. Work crews are sent to the nearby forests to cut down trees to be made into timbers for the stockade. At the same time, two cohorts are set to the task of digging the dry moat. This moat will consist of two ditches, each of which will be eight pedes wide and five pedes deep.

While the various work details are being organized, Legate Germanicus, Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus and Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco set off with Lambert and his people. They are acompanied by Germanicus' bodyguard of sixteen hand-picked legionaries. The group passes through the main gate of Perugia (which has been thrown open by Lambert's order), and just a quarter of an hour later, they enter Lambert's palace. All the while, Legate Germanicus' guards keep a watchful eye out for any possible threat.

When the party reaches Lambert's council hall, Legate Germanicus and his officers seat themselves on one side of a stoutly-built oaken table, and Lambert and his people seat themselves on the other. Four of Germanicus' guards station themselves outside the entrance to the hall, while the other twelve are arranged along the wall directly behind where Germanicus and his officers are sitting.

Lambert's council hall is a vast open room, with walls that measure thirty pedes in height. As an obvious sign of Lambert's wealth, the windows which pierce the walls at various locations are covered with glass held within iron frames by means of strips of lead. To further brighten the room, oil lamps and torches have been placed within sconces on the walls and set alight. Fresh rushes have been scattered all over the stone floor of the council hall in order to give the air a pleasing scent. Lambert gestures to a servant, and a short time later, other servants approch the table bearing several flagons of wine and trays caryying a number of silver goblets. The goblets are placed before each man seated at the table and a generous serving of fine red wine is poured into each one.

Lambert stands up from his chair, raises his goblet in salute to Germanicus and his staff, proclaiming, "To the success of our coming campaign!" Legate Germanicus and his officers return the gesture, then everyone at the table takes a mighty pull from his goblet and sets it down.

Legate Germanicus is the first to speak. "Lambert, your hospitality is much-appreciated. I and my officers are looking forward to the feast that you will be setting out. Now, let us be seated and attend to the matter at hand. As I said earlier, Legio I Italica will be in position as directed in seventeen days. Our march will take ten days. So, we have seven days to get ready. Of your remaining troops, I suggest that you leave half of them behind here in Perugia. The other half will accompany us to Rome. The Ninth Cohort of Legio X Fretensis will be staying behind as you requested. I must confess some curiosity, however, as to why you think your son Guy needs to be watched over in such a fashion."

Duke Lambert doesn't hesitate before replying, but his face is crossed by a fleeting look that might best be termed ‘nonplussed'. He says "Legate, my son is young and headstrong. I would not see him do anything rash. He also has certain friends and associates, and I would not see him co-opted by them into doing anything, well, precipitous." Germanicus replies "I quite understand, Lambert."

In response to Legate Germanicus' previous question about what allies Pope John may be able to call upon, Duke Lambert begins to speak, but is politely interrupted by Cardinal Formosus who says, "With your permission, Duke Lambert, I may be able to provide some of that information."

Cardinal Formosus turns to Germanicus and says "Legate, in the year 285 AD, the Emperor Diocletianus decided that the Roman Empire was too large for one man to govern effectively. Therefore, he divided the governance so that there were two Augusti and two Caesars. The Augusti were the senior partners and the Caesars were the junior partners. This ‘Tetrarchy' didn't last, and there was a civil war between the members of the Second Tetrarchy which was won by the Emperor Constantine in 312 AD; Constantine became sole ruler of the Empire in 313 AD and decreed that the legal religion of the Empire was to be Christianity.

"In 330 AD, Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Empire to the city of Byzantium, whereupon it was renamed Constantinople. This situation lasted until 395 AD, when Emperor Theodosius died and the Empire was divided between his two sons Arcadius (who ruled in the east) and Honorius (who ruled in the West). The capital of the Western Empire was the city of Mediolanum, where it had been moved from Rome in 286 AD by Emperor Diocletianus. In 402 AD, the capital was moved to the city of Ravenna by Emperor Honorius; it so remained until the collapse of the Western Empire. The capital of the Eastern Empire was the city of Constantinople (or Byzantium, as some refer to it) and so it has remained ever since. The Byzantines now have certain territorial holdings in the toe and heel of the Italian peninsula, and they are Christian. If the Pope is under threat, they will send troops to his aid. How many would be sent is unknown to me."

When Cardinal Formosus finishes speaking, Duke Lambert begins: "Legate, north of the Byzantine territories there is the Principality of Salerno and the Principality of Benevento. Salerno is ruled by Prince Guaifer and Benevento is ruled by Prince Adelchis. These two principalities comprised the former Duchy of Benevento, which broke apart after a civil war. Guaifer and Adelchis are continually at loggerheads with each other, but will not hesitate to send troops if the Pope is endangered. Given the animosity between the two, any cooperation between their troops is likely to be minimal. Another power that we are likely to contend with are the Saracens. They have certain colonies on the coast of southern Italia, and were concentrated in their Emirate of Bari, which was extinguished by Emperor Louis II in 871 AD with the aid of a fleet from Byzantium. They also rule the Island of Sicily, and are friends to no one but themselves. In regards to the situation in Bari, Emperor Louis II claimed credit for the success, much to the annoyance of the Byzantines. If Louis were to be dispossessed of Bari, the Byzantines would look favorably upon whoever did it."

Germanicus has listened intently to what both men have said; he replied, "Your information is most useful, Cardinal, and yours, Lambert. I will make some notes of it for future reference. Now, Lambert, how many troops do you have remaining at your disposal?"

"Legate Germanicus, I believe I have one thousand foot and two hundred horse."

"Very well. I suggest that you leave five hundred foot and one hundred horse here in Perugia. The remainder will accompany us on the march to Rome. As I said earlier, the Ninth Cohort will be staying behind here at your request. When we are on the march, I and the command staff of Legio X Fretensis will be in the lead position. You, Cardinal Formosus and your staff will accompany me. The First Cohort will be directly behind us, followed by your footsoldiers. The rest of the legion will be arranged by cohort at regular intervals, with the Tenth Cohort acting as rear guard. The artillery and supply wagons will be in the middle of our column for reasons of security. Our cavalry will be amalgamated and used as both advance guards and flankers. My archers will be tasked with the security of the artillery and supply wagons."

Duke Lambert replies "Very good, Legate."

Legate Germanicus directs his next question to both Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus: "When we get to Rome, how do you believe that we should proceed? In combination with Legio I Italica, our forces will have nearly ten thousand men."

Formosus starts to open his mouth, but a look from Lambert silences him. "Ah, Legate," Lambert smiles widely, "the tactics of an engagement are not, how do you say, my strong suit? Clearly you could have seen that in how you decimated the troops serving under my name in the field of battle?"

Germanicus nods. "Clearly."

Lambert keeps the venom out of his voice at this remark. "Then I, therefore, think it wiser for your men to handle the tactics, and to then relay them to my men who, after their own input, will carry it out forthwith."

Legate Germanicus frowns. "Lambert, my orders need no contradiction. If they come from the top down, there is no drift back upwards from the ranks; they must be absolute. Is that clear?"

The Duke strains a smile. "Quite."

Germanicus modestly smiles. "Lambert, let this be no snub. I must say, your wine is quite crisp and delicious, and the meal is…" He sniffs the air. "Rich and succulent."

Formosus raises his own cup. "I shall drink to that, good Legate." He takes a long pull, puts down the cup, and belches.

The Legate looks sideways at Lambert. "And this is to be your new Pontifex?" he whispers.

Lambert glares at Legate Germanicus, but says nothing. After a moment, he clears his throat and starts again: "Legate, my men shall join you in the fray, but I wish to see the outcome, not the mess that will result in it; therefore, I request your permission to, once we reach Rome, proceed to the back of the ranks, and so enter the Eternal City in triumph. I give you my word that we shall not retreat."

Germanicus considers for a moment, then nods. "You shall have it. I shall set a watch on your end of the ranks, nonetheless, at that point; you must understand my concerns, of course."

Lambert smiles. "But of course. I shall not protest their presence." He takes a small sip from his goblet, lips pursing, his eyes never leaving Germanicus.

The legate's face betrays nothing, except, perhaps, deep thought. Then he, too, smiles.

The Feast
Date: Maius VII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 7th, 878 AD
Location: The great hall of Lambert's Palace

With his instructions in hand, Duke Lambert's chamberlain orders his cooks and the palace servants to begin the slow, laborious process of preparing the vast quantities of food that will be consumed over the next several days. Numbers of cattle, swine and chicken are brought into Lambert's palace from the farms around Perugia. They are prepared, preserved and stored until called for by the cooks. The chamberlain next orders an inventory of the types and quantities of what beverages are in the palace cellars, so that there will be adequate quantities on hand. The bakers are also set to work making various kinds of bread. These include (but aren't limited to) rolls, buns and the large loaves that will be sliced and dried to form flat squares of bread called ‘trenchers' Produce in the form of vegetables of various kinds and eggs has been gathered. As the result of hours of hard work, the savory aromas of cooking begin to waft throughout the halls and corridors of Duke Lambert's palace.

The great hall of Lambert's palace is to be the site of the main feast, and it is here that Duke Lambert, Cardinal Formosus and Lambert's chief men will dine with Legate Germanicus and his officers. Accordingly, tables, benches and chair are brought in to accommodate the diners. At the head of the room, a low, raised platform has been constructed to hold a large table where Duke Lambert will sit with Legate Germanicus and the other highest-ranking guests. The others will be seated in rows of smaller tables arranged on the floor of the hall.

When it is time for the meal to be served, Duke Lambert sends word to Legate Germanicus. He brings along Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus, Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco and the rest of the command staff of Legio X Fretensis. The Nova Romans enter the great hall and note with interest the preparations that are going on. Legate Germanicus and the rest of his party are shown to their places at the high table by one of Duke Lambert's heralds. In turn, they are greeted by Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus; Legate Germanicus' bodyguards take their customary place behind their commander. Lambert raises his goblet in salute, saying "Hail and well-met, Legate. I trust the preparations thus far are meeting with your approval."

Legate Germanicus nods his head by way of acknowledgement and says "Very much so, Lambert. If those delicious aromas we smelled on the way in are any indication of the skills of your cooks, I will expect great things from them." Germanicus turns to Cardinal Formosus and says "Greetings, Cardinal. I trust you passed a pleasant-enough night?"

Formosus replies "I did indeed, Legate. My thanks for your enquiries after my welfare." With the social preliminaries now out of the way, Duke Lambert motions to his chamberlain. The chamberlain signals for the doors to the great hall to be thrown open. The people that come in are comprised of both Duke Lambert's men and a number of Nova Romans. Legate Germanicus has seen fit to invite men from the First Cohort of Legio X Fretensis to dine with him. The guests are brought to their places by palace servants and seated. From the viewpoint of the high table, Duke Lambert's men are seated on the left-hand side of the hall. Appropriately enough, the men of the First Cohort are seated on the right-hand side of the hall. This was done purposefully, so that the legionaries appear to be at Legate Germanicus' right hand. When everyone has been seated, palace servants enter the great hall laden with great flat trenchers of hard dry bread. These are placed on the table in front of every man, along with vessels for drinking and utensils for eating. Legate Germanicus' legionaries politely decline the offer of eating utensils and drinking vessels, as they have brought their own knives and cups.

The servants who set the tables depart, and return a short time later carrying flagons of wine, mead, ale and beer. Every man's cup is filled and raised, then the first of many toasts is drunk. Next, the servants and other kitchen staff begin to bring out various items of food. The savory, tantalizing aromas given off when the dishes are carried through the great hall are such that one legionary turns to his fellow diners and says "I'm rather looking forward to seeing how this food tastes. Those trail rations the quartermasters have been serving us lately were getting to be a little monotonous, don't you think?"

In short order, the trencher of every man present is laden with as much food as he thinks he can handle. Thick cuts of beef, pork and ham vie for attention with joints of chicken and mutton. Pots of various soups and stews are brought out and the contents are ladled into the bowls of any who calls for them. Various types of cooked vegetables are served, along with pieces of cheese. At various lengths along each table, there are placed bowls of nuts and dried fruits to be consumed at need.

At the high table, the feast begins with Duke Lambert serving Legate Germanicus with his own hand as a mark of respect. When Germanicus has been served, Duke Lambert again gestures to his chamberlain. The chamberlain calls for musicians to be brought in. Some of these seat themselves upon stools on the corners of the great hall and begin to play, while others stroll up and down the rows of tables and do likewise. For further entertainment, a wide-open space in the middle of the great hall was arranged while the table and benches were being set up. This open space is occupied by tumblers and acrobats. In front of the high table, strongmen and wrestlers ply their trade for the interest of all and sundry. Every so often, some particular feat of dexterity or strength shown by the performers draws applause or shouts of approval from the diners.

Legate Germanicus and his staff are observing the proceedings from the high table with studied interest. Duke Lambert sees this, leans over and says "what say you to the hospitality of my hall, Legate? Was it all that I lead you to believe?" Legate Germanicus replies "Lambert, I say in truth that you certainly didn't exaggerate. Your cooks would do credit to the followers of Epicurus, while the music, singing and other performances are well-worthy of the Emperor." Legate Germanicus continues to speak "Lambert, I thank you for your generous hospitality. My staff and I must depart, however. I need to see to the disposition of my troops before we march on Rome. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus Sempronius Gracchus has worked out a schedule whereby the men of Legio X Fretensis will rotate through this hall over the next three days for their own meal. I suggest that you look to those of your own troops who will be coming along, for we march seven days from today. But for now, I bid you a good afternoon."

"Very good, Legate. I will confer with you on the morrow as to the readiness of my troops."

Legate Germanicus and his staff return to Legio X Fretensis' temporary camp outside the gates of Perugia. He turns to Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus and says "you may begin the rotations at our discretion. Send the First Cohort through this evening, and then the others starting tomorrow."

"Understood, Legate. Have you other instructions for me?"

"Yes, Tribune. Send to the quartermasters and inquire about what levels of food and drink we have on hand. I want to have sixty days worth of consumables before we march. If there isn't this quantity available, we will need to requisition the needed supplies from Duke Lambert. As regards payment for the supplies, I will issue a note-of-hand. If Lambert doesn't have the necessary amounts on hand, we will obtain the supplies from the territory we took over from Guido."

"By your command, Legate." Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus departs the principia to carry out Germanicus' orders. His first stop is at the Quartermaster's tent. "Hail, Quintus Flavius."

"Hail, Tribunus Laticlavius. How can I be of assistance this day?"

"Quintus, I come at the direction of Legate Germanicus. He has asked me to enquire about what supplies of food and drink we have on hand. The legion will be marching on Rome in seven days, and we will be accompanied by our new allies here in Pergugia."

"Tribunus Laticlavius, I am pleased to tell you that I have that very information on hand. We have some thirty days rations on hand. This includes hard bread, dried fruits, preserved meats and wine. There is also sufficient grain for fifteen days worth of fresh bread. Before you ask, we have no beer. As you know, beer doesn't last for very long before spoiling. However, we have the necessary materials to begin brewing should we be in any location for longer than three days."

"Very well, Quintus. Legate Germanicus wants to have sixty days worth of supplies before we march, so make up a list of what is needed. I will take it to the Principia and have it countersigned. The list will be sent to Duke Lambert, and whatever supplies he can't provide will come from the territory we seized from Duke Guido. You may also tell your staff to begin brewing. We will be here for the next seven days, and I am quite sure the men of the legion will welcome a change from the watered wine they have been drinking."

"Exactly so, Tribune. If you would remain here with me for but a quarter of an hour, I will compose the list of needed supplies."

"Gladly, Quintus." Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus takes a seat while Quintus Flavius leans over his desk. He unrolls a scroll and weighs the edges down with his inkwell and a dagger. Quintus scribbles furiously on several sheets of parchment, then transfers the figures to the scroll. Less than a quarter-hour later, the list is complete. Quintus removes the excess ink from the scroll by dusting it with fine sand. The scroll is rolled up and closed with a length of cord. He hands it to Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus and says "Here you are, Tribune. The list is complete and itemized down to the very last detail."

"My thanks, Quintus. I will take this to the Principia immediately." Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus leaves the quartermaster's tent and returns to Legate Germanicus' headquarters. Germanicus sees him and says "This is something of a surprise, tribune. I had no expected you back so soon. What news from the quartermaster?"

Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus hands over the scroll and says "Legate, Quartermaster Quintus reports that the legion has thirty days of supplies on hand. The scroll I just gave you has the types and quantities of materiel needed to bring the level up to the sixty days you previously mentioned. I have also instructed the quartermaster to being brewing beer, as we will be here for the next seven days."
"Good work, Tribunus Laticlavius. I will sign this scroll and put my seal on it. Then, you will take it to Duke Lambert's palace and give it to his chamberlain. I'm quite sure the men will appreciate the beer." Legate Germanicus gives this last comment with a knowing smile as he signs and seals the scroll. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus accepts the scroll from Germanicus' hand, replies with a prompt "By your leave" then departs.

The Next Day
Date: Maius VIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 8th, 878 AD
Location: the great hall of Lambert's palace

Just about noontime, the legionaries from the First Cohort of Legio X Fretensis begin to make their way to the great hall of the palace. Stories about the bounty of Lambert's tables have already begun to circulate around the camp, so they are drawn both by curiosity and the mighty appetite they have worked up while building the legion's marching camp. They take their places on the benches and at the tables (these have been left in place from yesterday's feasting), and in a short time, the food begins to flow from Duke Lambert's kitchens. The palace servants are kept quite busy seeing that no man's trencher is empty and that their cups and mugs are filled with whatever drink they please.

Duke Lambert is observing the proceedings from the second-floor gallery of the great hall. He remarks to his chamberlain "Truly, I have never before beheld such appetites as I have seen this day. These Nova Romans have bellies with limitless capacity. No sooner is each man's trencher piled high with food, then it is just as quickly emptied."

The chamberlain replies "True enough, my lord. It is fortunate that your cellars and storehouses were full-to-bursting, otherwise we would be hard-pressed to supply this feasting."

Duke Lambert gives a slight chuckle then says "I have read that requisition from Legate Germanicus that you gave me yesterday, and I fear that with all this feasting, I will only be able to supply two weeks-worth of the requested rations. Send word to Legate Germanicus of this. Immediately, if you please."

"Yes, my lord." The message is conveyed to Legate Germanicus with due speed. He receives it and signs a note-of-hand to be given when the supplies are delivered. Legate Germanicus also dispatches men from the Second Cohort to Camerino in order to gather the rest of the needed rations. This being done, Legate Germanicus turns his attention towards planning various aspects of the upcoming campaign.

The next two days are filled with all kinds of feasting and merrymaking. It seems as if the men of Legio X Fretensis are eating and drinking as mightily as possible in order to fortify themselves for the march on Rome. Even so, the routines of camp life are maintained with scrupulous attention to detail.

On the making of Money; Part II
Date: Maius XI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 11th, 878 AD
Location: Hero's workshop

From Hero of Alexandria to Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer, Greetings and Felicitations.

‘I have taken the matter in hand of designing machines to speed up the coining process, and I can report that my efforts have been successful. The first machine is a rolling mill for making the sheets from which coin blanks will be stamped. Previous to this, your assistant has told me that the metal sheets were hand-hammered. This means that their thicknesses often varied considerably. The rolling mill consists of two heavy cast-iron cylinders held in a stout oaken frame. The cylinders are connected by a series of gears and actuated by a hand-turned crank. The gears and frame are designed so that the distance between the iron rollers can be very precisely controlled. To use the mill, the distance between the rollers is set to whatever is desired, then standard-size bars of gold, silver, bronze or copper are fed into the machine and the crank is turned. The ingot is squeezed between the rollers and the resulting sheet is of precise and uniform thickness over its entire surface.

The next machine is a stamping mill. This device is most-strongly built of heavy oak timbers reinforced with bronze strapping. It uses an extremely-heavy trip hammer above a tempered-steel punch. Below the hammer and punch is a table whose position can be adjusted by the use of geared cranks. In the table, there is fixed a thick, cast-iron blanking collar. This collar is in the shape of a short, hollow tube whose internal diameter is equal to the diameter of the coin for which blanks are being made. To use, a prepared sheet of the desired metal is placed on the table and the hammer is worked. The table's position is continually adjusted so that coin blanks can be stamped out from the entire surface area of the sheet.

The third machine is the coining press. This device is built entirely of cast iron, except for the coin dies (which are made of well-tempered steel). There is an attached hopper which feeds the coin blanks into the press where they are struck into coins. Each coin has to be removed by hand after striking, as I have yet to devise a way by which struck coins can be automatically removed. Of these three types of machines, only the rolling mill is capable of being operated by hand. The stamping mill and the coining press use such great weights that they must be worked by water power (in the same manner as a flour mill or rock saw). I have taken the liberty of designing methods to achieve this. The second scroll I sent you along with this message has plans for all three machines, plus instructions for making them work by water power. If you introduce these machines in the proper numbers, it is my estimate that you could raise daily production of coins by five- or ten-fold. Not only this, but each coin will be of a much-superior quality when compared to what was made previously.’


Date: Maius XI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 11th, 878 AD
The Nova Roman mint

Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso has just finished reading the message sent to him by Hero of Alexandria. He also looked over the plans that Hero sent. After the space of but one hour, he takes pen in hand and writes a message of his own:

‘From Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer to the esteemed Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus greetings and salutations. Please carefully examine the enclosed plans which I have just received from Hero of Alexandria. I have read them over and I find them to be eminently practical. Therefore, please make four rolling mills, four stamping mills and eight coining presses according to the specifications presented. The costs for these machines will be borne by my office here at the temple of Juno Moneta. Please rely with an estimate of the costs involved and the time necessary to make them.’

I am yours in the service of Nova Roma:
Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer

After the message has been completed and sent off, Gnaeus calls for his assistant. When Titus Quinctilius Frugi arrives, Gnaeus tells him "I have just recieved a message from Hero that says he has planned the machines we need to begin large-scale production of coinage. I have sent copies of the plans to Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus and asked him to manufacture the equipment."

Titus replies "that is good news indeed, Gnaeus. What do you wish me to do now?" Gnaeus replies "Titus, I want you to go to the melting room and tell the workers to alloy the gold and silver in the mint's stockpile to Hero's suggestion, that being ninety parts per centum of precious metal and ten parts per centum of copper. The gold and silver, along with the bronze and copper will be cast into ingots of a size that can easily be fed into the rolling mills."

"Yes, Gnaeus. When I get there, I will ask for an estimate of how long the alloying and casting process will take. I will return immediately and so inform you."

"Very well, Titus. Off you go."

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Chapter XV

The Next Day
Date: Maius VIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 8th, 878 AD
Location: the great hall of Lambert's palace

Just about noontime, the legionaries from the First Cohort of Legio X Fretensis begin to make their way to the great hall of the palace. Stories about the bounty of Lambert's tables have already begun to circulate around the camp, so they are drawn both by curiosity and the mighty appetite they have worked up while building the legion's marching camp. They take their places on the benches and at the tables (these have been left in place from yesterday's feasting), and in a short time, the food begins to flow from Duke Lambert's kitchens. The palace servants are kept quite busy seeing that no man's trencher is empty and that their cups and mugs are filled with whatever drink
they please.

Duke Lambert is observing the proceedings from the second-floor gallery of the great hall. He remarks to his chamberlain "Truly, I have never before beheld such appetites as I have seen this day. These Nova Romans have bellies with limitless capacity. No sooner is each man's trencher piled high with food, then it is just as quickly emptied."

The chamberlain replies "True enough, my lord. It is fortunate that your cellars and storehouses were full-to-bursting, otherwise we would be hard-pressed to supply this feasting."

Duke Lambert gives a slight chuckle then says "I have read that requisition from Legate Germanicus that you gave me yesterday, and I fear that with all this feasting, I will only be able to supply two weeks-worth of the requested rations. Send word to Legate Germanicus of this. Immediately, if you please."

"Yes, my lord." The message is conveyed to Legate Germanicus with due speed. He receives it and signs a note-of-hand to be given when the supplies are delivered. Legate Germanicus also dispatches men from the Second Cohort to Camerino in order to gather the rest of the needed rations. This being done, Legate Germanicus turns his attention towards planning various aspects of the upcoming campaign.

The next two days are filled with all kinds of feasting and merrymaking. It seems as if the men of Legio X Fretensis are eating and drinking as mightily as possible in order to fortify themselves for the march on Rome. Even so, the routines of camp life are maintained with scrupulous attention to detail.

On the making of Money; Part II
Date: Maius XI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 11th, 878 AD
Location: Hero's workshop

From Hero of Alexandria to Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer, Greetings and Felicitations:

‘I have taken the matter in hand of designing machines to speed up the coining process, and I can report that my efforts have been successful. The first machine is a rolling mill for making the sheets from which coin blanks will be stamped. Previous to this, your assistant has told me that the metal sheets were hand-hammered. This means that their thicknesses often varied considerably.

The rolling mill consists of two heavy cast-iron cylinders held in a stout oaken frame. The cylinders are connected by a series of gears and actuated by a hand-turned crank. The gears and frame are designed so that the distance between the iron rollers can be very precisely controlled. To use the mill, the distance between the rollers is set to whatever is desired, then standard-size bars of gold, silver, bronze or copper are fed into the machine and the crank is turned. The ingot is squeezed between the rollers and the resulting sheet is of precise and uniform thickness over its entire surface.

The next machine is a stamping mill. This device is most-strongly built of heavy oak timbers reinforced with bronze strapping. It uses an extremely-heavy trip hammer above a tempered-steel punch. Below the hammer and punch is a table whose position can be adjusted by the use of geared cranks. In the table, there is fixed a thick, cast-iron blanking collar. This collar is in the shape of a short, hollow tube whose internal diameter is equal to the diameter of the coin for which blanks are being made. To use, a prepared sheet of the desired metal is placed on the table and the hammer is worked. The table's position is continually adjusted so that coin blanks can be stamped out from the entire surface area of the sheet.

The third machine is the coining press. This device is built entirely of cast iron, except for the coin dies (which are made of well-tempered steel). There is an attached hopper which feeds the coin blanks into the press where they are struck into coins. Each coin has to be removed by hand after striking, as I have yet to devise a way by which struck coins can be automatically removed. Of these three types of machines, only the rolling mill is capable of being operated by hand. The stamping mill and the coining press use such great weights that they must be worked by water power (in the same manner as a flour mill or rock saw). I have taken the liberty of designing methods to achieve this. The second scroll I sent you along with this message has plans for all three machines, plus instructions for making them work by water power.

If you introduce these machines in the proper numbers, it is my estimate that you could raise daily production of coins by five- or ten-fold. Not only this, but each coin will be of a much-superior quality when compared to what was made previously.’


Date: Maius XI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 11th, 878 AD
Location: The Nova Roman mint

Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso has just finished reading the message sent to him by Hero of Alexandria. He also looked over the plans that Hero sent. After the space of but one hour, he takes pen in hand and writes a message of his own:

‘From Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer to the esteemed Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus greetings and salutations. Please carefully examine the enclosed plans which I have just received from Hero of Alexandria. I have read them over and I find them to be eminently practical. Therefore, please make four rolling mills, four stamping mills and eight coining presses according to the specifications presented. The costs for these machines will be borne by my office here at the temple of Juno Moneta. Please rely with an estimate of the costs involved and the time necessary to make them.’

I am yours in the service of Nova Roma:
Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, Chief Moneyer

After the message has been completed and sent off, Gnaeus calls for his assistant. When Titus Quinctilius Frugi arrives, Gnaeus tells him "I have just recieved a message from Hero that says he has planned the machines we need to begin large-scale production of coinage. I have sent copies of the plans to Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus and asked him to manufacture the equipment." Titus replies "that is good news indeed, Gnaeus. What do you wish me to do now?" Gnaeus replies "Titus, I want you to go to the melting room and tell the workers to alloy the gold and silver in the mint's stockpile to Hero's suggestion, that being ninety parts per centum of precious metal and ten parts per centum of copper. The gold and silver, along with the bronze and copper will be cast into ingots of a size that can easily be fed into the rolling mills."

"Yes, Gnaeus. When I get there, I will ask for an estimate of how long the alloying and casting process will take. I will return immediately and so inform you."

"Very well, Titus. Off you go."

Hearts & Minds; Part II
Date: Maius XI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 11th, 878 AD

Over the last week, the second Cohort of Legio I Italica has paid visits to the towns of Pesaro, Gradara and San Leo. The Third Cohort was assigned the towns of Ancona, Jesi and Loreto, while the Fourth Cohort drew the towns of Macerata and Ascoli Piceno. With only one exception, all of the towns peacefully submitted; largely due to the entreaties of certain men of Urvinum who were assigned to go along with each cohort by Legate Marcus. These men told the authorities in each town of the power at the command of the Nova Romans, and that to resist them would be the very height of idiocy. The exception was Ascoli Piceno. Here, the town's government refused to open the gates, and so they were forced open as they were at Fanum Fortunae. The garrison of the town came out onto the field and sought to battle the Fourth Cohort. In the space of less than one hour, the town's troops were wiped out. Even then, the town fathers didn't want to surrender. Accordingly, the Fourth Cohort marched into Ascoli Piceno and took the municipal buildings by force. As a result of the intransigence of the town government, all of the officials and the noble families who supported them were expelled and all of their property and assets were confiscated (save that which was necessary to enable them to reach wherever they wanted to go). Of all the towns taken by the troops of Legio I Italica, perhaps the most valuable after Fanum Fortunae is Ancona. This is because of its excellent harbor and associated shipyard. The town was occupied as a naval station in the Third Illyrian War, and the harbor was later enlarged on the orders of the Emperor Trajan.

Among the very first things to be done after each town submits to Nova Roman authority is a survey of the public works of each town. This survey will focus on the aqueducts, fountains, public latrines and sewers. The idea being to restore them to service as soon as possible; if none of these exist in any particular town, then plans will be made to build them. Next, Legio I Italica's medical staff will set up medical clinics to see to the needs of the people in each town and city. On a long-term basis, each town and city will have a water-filtration system put into place. This system to consist of beds of fine sand, crushed limestone and charcoal through which the water passes before it is consumed by the people.

Further Moves
Date: Maius XII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 12th, 878 AD
Location: a temporary camp outside of Asculum

Mindful of not wanting to over-extend the troops under his command, Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis of the Second Cohort calls a halt to further advances past the city of Asculum (Ascoli Piceno). He also sends messengers to the Third and Forth Cohorts that they should join him there. It occurs to Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius that, since he is located very near the terminal ends of the Via Salaria and the Via Flaminia, he should be reinforced by the other centuriae of Legio I Italica. Therefore, he sends a messenger back to Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva at Urbino to send as many troops as he can spare to guard against incursions from Abruzzo and Lazio.

Further Moves; Part II
Date: Maius XIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 13th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio I Italica, outside of Urbino

Legate Marcus has just come back to camp after a meeting with the town fathers of Urbino when he is met by a cavalry trooper carrying a message from Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis "Hail, Legate. I beg to report"

"Yes, trooper?"

"I come bearing news from Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius. He has entrusted me to tell you that the Second, Third and Fourth cohorts have completed their mission of informing the various cities and towns in Marche about the fall of Anselm and the change in government. He and the men of the Second are encamped outside the city of Asculum, and the Third and Forth cohorts have joined him. Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius asks that you send as many troops and as much of the artillery you can spare to join with him. He believes that there might be an advance of troops from Abruzzo and Lazio, and that reinforcements are warranted."

"Very well, trooper. Return at once to Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius and tell him that troops are on the way. Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco, attend me."

"Yes, Legate?"

"Alert the men of the First, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth cohorts that they are to make ready to move out at once. The Fifth and Sixth cohorts will remain here with me, as will two of the six ballistae ignea, twenty of the polybolos, four alae of cavalry and one hundred archers. The remaining artillery will go with you, along with the rest of the cavalry and archers"

"By your leave, Legate." Primus Pilus Appius salutes Legate Marcus and leaves to carry out his orders. Within the space of an hour, the men of the designated cohorts are busy packing their gear and getting ready to march. Two hours after that, the packing is complete, the wagons are loaded and the artillery is assembled. Primus Pilus Appius and his staff are in the lead position as he calls out in a loud, clear voice ‘FORWARD…..MARCH'

Date: Maius XIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 13th, 878 AD
Location: The Umbrian Front

Meanwhile, over on the Umbrian front, six mounted men approach the gates of Legio X Fretensis' camp. The six men are un-armored, and are armed only with short swords. The decanus in charge of the guard detail calls out "HALT. Identify yourselves." The lead horseman responds "Lord, I am Benedetto di Marino, and I come as the representative of Vitaliano Borromeo, Chief Counsellor of San Martino. I ask to meet with your commander."

Decanus Marcus Julius Didianus responds "Very well. Surrender your swords and come with me." The six men disarm themselves and follow as commanded. Decanus Marcus and three legionaries escort them to Legate Germanicus' headquarters tent. Decanus Marcus salutes Legate Germanicus and says "I beg your pardon legate, but these six men rode up to the main gate and presented themselves to me. They asked to see my commander, and so I brought them here."

"Very well, Decanus." Legate Germanicus turns to the senior of the six men and says "who are you and why do you come here?"

Benedetto responds "I represent Vitaliano Borromeo, Chief Counsellor of San Martino. We are a small, independent city-state located near the border of Marche and Emilia-Romagna. We have long been at the mercy of the lords of Marche and Umbria. Counsellor Borromeo noticed with great interest how you came flooding through this territory like a river, and he has sent me to peacefully surrender ourselves to you. We have no military, save that which is used for local law and order." Legate Germanicus rubs his chin as an indication of his curiosity and says "Well now. This wants talking. Will you and your men care to refresh yourselves? My staff have laid on a meal of bread, cheese, sausages and well-watered wine."

Benedetto smiles widely and says "Legate, we will be delighted." Legate Germanicus takes his seat at his headquarters table and motions Benedetto and his men to be seated. Legate Marcus says "Tell me of this San Martino. I though all of the territory hereabouts belonged to Anselm, the former Margrave?"

"Legate, San Martino was founded nearly six centuries ago when Marinus of Rab left that island and crossed over the Adriatic Sea to Italia. Since then, we have charted a middle course; neither opposing or joining any faction. Sometimes, this policy worked and other times it did not. San Marino can't oppose you, so we ask to join you in peace."

Legate Germanicus leans forward slightly in his chair, smiles and says "I have been empowered by Emperor Marcus Aurelius to say that, since you surrendered to us willingly and without any violence, your government will be left as it is. The one exception is that all bondsmen are to be freed. San Marino is now officially part of Nova Roma. I will send a survey party to San Marino to assess the state of public health and sanitation, and you and your men will go along with them."

"At your convenience, Legate."

Increasing Strength
Date: Maius XIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 13th, 878 AD
Location: The castrum of Legio II Italica

In his office in the Principia of Legio II Italica, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh pauses to write the Emperor a message concerning the development of the legion:

‘To the esteemed Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus from Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh of Legio II Italica Greetings and Felicitations. It is with sure purpose that I take pen in hand to apprise you of the progress that the legion is making towards becoming a fully-fledged unit in the Army of Nova Roma. The perimeter wall of the castrum is now complete, along with the streets and sewers. The castrum is well-supplied with water by a branch aqueduct from the main line which supplies the city of Genua. Of the castrum's internal buildings, the principia, hospital, storage buildings and cavalry barns are complete; all that remains to be done is to roof the last two dozen barracks buildings.

The legion's training proceeds apace. The men are faithful and hard-working, and in truth I could not have asked for better men that these. The legion is now fully-equipped, armed and armored, thanks to the equipment which was sent here via the good offices of Legate Germanicus of Legio X Fretensis. As regards the legion's artillery, I have commissioned the building of sixty iron-framed polybolos for the shooting of javelins. These were done from plans brought by the engineers detailed to assist me by Legate Germanicus

Noble Caesar, by virtue of my position as Tribunus Laticlavius, I am in temporary command of the legion while it is undergoing training*. However, I feel unworthy of taking the legion into the field without a more-experienced officer in place. Therefore, I humbly ask that you appoint a commanding officer for Legio II Italica. Another thirty days from the writing of this letter will see the legion's training complete. Once II Italica has a commanding officer in place, we will be able to take the field immediately.'

I am yours in the service of Nova Roma
Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh
Leg II Ital

*: agens in vice legate: acting in place of a legate

Once the message is complete, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh seals it into a tube and calls for a dispatch rider to carry it to the city of Nova Roma. Once the rider has left, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh turns his attention to other matters of the day.

Date: Maius XIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 13th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Among the several tasks that Emperor Marcus Aurelius has set himself this day is to send to the recently-installed Praefectus Urbi of Lucca for an update on the status of Legio III Augusta. Accordingly, he writes:

'From Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius to the esteemed Senator Gaius Memmius, Praefectus Urbi of Lucca and Legatus Legionis of Legio III Augusta Greetings and Felicitations. You will reply to this message immediately informing me of the recruitment and training of Legio III Augusta'


Another message to be sent out concerns the raising of yet another legion. The Emperor takes up his pen yet again and writes:

‘From Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius to the esteemed Senator Publius Rutilius Rufus, Praefectus Urbi of Ravenna Greetings and Felicitations. As part of the duties of governing the city of Ravenna and its surrounding territory, I hereby direct you to raise a new legion in the service of the Senate and the people of Nova Roma. This new legion will be called Legio IV, and will be given a title at the proper time. You are authorized to expend such state funds as are necessary to raise, equip and train Legio IV, as well as to construct a proper fortified camp. To command Legio IV, you are raised to the rank of Legatus Legionis, and will be considered as such from this day forward’


This message is likewise sealed and sent upon its way. With an eye towards seeing that both new legions are fully-equipped as soon as possible, the Emperor composes a third message:

‘From Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius to the esteemed Marcus Livius Drusus, Praefectus Fabrum, Legio X Fretensis. The training of Legio II Italica in Liguria is almost complete. Within the last thirty days, I have directed that two new legiones be raised for the service of Nova Roma. The first of these is Legio III Augusta, from the territory surrounding the city of Lucca. The second is Legio IV. This is being raised in and around the city of Ravenna by Praefectus Urbi Gaius Memmius. With an eye towards making sure that all three of these legiones are ready for service as soon as possible, you are directed to manufacture thirty-six ballistae igneii along with proper carriages, implements and sufficient ammunition of all types for training and field purposes. The costs of these weapons will be carried by the Imperial Purse. Send word when you have an estimate as to how long it will take you to make these weapons’.


This message is also sealed within a tube and given to a messenger. As the Fabricae of Legio X Fretensis is within its castrum just outside the city of Nova Roma, the message will be in the hands of the Praefectus Frabrum within the hour. The other two will take two to three days to arrive at their destinations.

The March to Rome
Date: Maius XV MDCXXXI AUC / May 15th, 878 AD
Location: Outside the gates of Perugia

This day begins well before sunrise. There is a sense of great anticipation in the air, for it is today that the campaign to reclaim the Eternal City begins.

At dawn, the order to strike camp is given. Every man in the legion is rushing back and forth to accomplish one task or another related to this. Some are breaking down and folding their leather tents, while others are loading wagons. Still others are unpacking, checking and re-checking their gear with a sense of nervous anticipation.

Two hours after sunrise, the camp has been completely struck. Then, the centurions of each cohort order their men into ranks in anticipation of being given the order to move out. One hour later, Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus come out of Perugia's main gate. Duke Lambert is accompanied by his officers, and Cardinal Formosus is attended by his own staff. All members of this party are mounted. Following them are the men chosen to come along on this campaign. By Legate Germanicus' suggestion, Duke Lambert has selected six hundred foot and one hundred cavalry. Legate Germanicus calls out to the Duke and says, "Well-met, Lambert. I trust you and yours passed a restful night?"

"As restful as could be, considering the little venture we shall soon undertake. Luck is on our side, Legate."

Legate Germanicus nods his head by way of acknowledgment. Them, he turns to Cardinal Formosus and says "What say you, my good cardinal?"

"Dear fellow, I slept as well could be expected under the circumstances. If Fortune smiles upon our endeavors, then I will soon be your Pope."

"And the road to taking the rest of the Italian peninsula will be that much shorter," Lambert chimes in.

Legate Germanicus stands tall in his saddle. He squints against the sunlight for a moment, then replies, "Well then, Duke. Are you ready to move out?"

Lambert positively beams as he says, "Yes, we are, Legate. Quite ready."

"Very well. Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"Pass the word, if you please."

"I shall, Legate." Tribunus Laticlavius Marcus looks over at Primus Pilus Appius Balventius Falco and nods. Primus Pilus Appius bellows out in a voice that could seemingly be heard for hundreds of yards in any direction. The commands he gives are "AD SIGNA", followed by "AD GLADIO, CLINA" and finally by "MOVE."

And so, the Nova Romans and their new allies set forth on their joint campaign. After an initial fanfare by the tubiceni and the buccinatorii, the legion's drummers take up a steady beat for all the legionaries to march to. Legate Germanicus and the command staff of Legio X Fretensis are in the foremost position, accompanied by Duke Lambert, Cardinal Formosus and their attendants.

The dissimilar backgrounds of Lambert's troops and the legionaries cause some confusion as Lambert's troops try to mesh themselves into the Nova Roman marching routine, but, after an hour or so, the differences between their pacing styles have largely been ironed out.

Cardinal Formosus leans over in his saddle to talk to one of his attendants. He says, "These Nova Romans impress me, you know, in spite of myself. They march as if a single body, rather than thousands of individuals going in the same direction. Such shall Rome be under me."

"Yes, my lord Cardinal." The attendant notes the look of anticipation on the Cardinal's near-fleshless face and smiles inwardly.

In the meantime, Duke Lambert is conversing with Legate Germanicus. "How far will we be going today, Legate?"

Germanicus responds, "We are on good ground, so I anticipate making at least twenty mille. There will be a break of one hour at noontime so that the men can rest and eat, and also for the cavalry horses to be fed and watered."

Duke Lambert nods as Germanicus continues, "Lambert, I must commend you on the way your cavalry are conducting themselves. They are riding as well as any of my own." Duke Lambert smiles at the compliment.

Out in front of the column at a distance of about one mille, the advance guard of cavalry is taking careful note of the roads and ground over which the rest of the column will be advancing. The idea is that alternate routes can be taken if necessary, and possible ambush sites countered.

On the flanks of the column, the purpose of the cavalry guards is to screen the column's line of march. They are moving parallel to the column at the distance of one-half mille. Occasionally, groups of two or three riders advance outwards to a distance of several mille; then return to join their fellows.

At the noon hour. Legate Germanicus orders a halt so that the men and horses can rest and refresh themselves. The advance guard and cavalry flankers are rotated so that they aren't compelled to do the same duty over again.

In keeping with Roman marching doctrine, the site where the column is halted has a perimeter set up around it. This perimeter is manned by groups of legionaries and archers. Those troops or cavalry not on guard duty or eating attend to personal needs like rubbing down their horses or changing their udones. As soon as the last man has eaten his fill, and all of the horses have been fed and watered, Legate Germanicus orders the march resumed.

Five hours later, the evening halt is called. Just as soon as the column stops moving, chosen details of legionaries begin to dig the ditch around the perimeter of the campsite. Others assemble their sudes in groups of three, binding them together in the middle to form a large, caltrop-shaped arrangement. These arrangements are then set into the ground between the camp and the ditch. Lastly, the camp's two gates are each protected by a pair of ballistae igneii. The emplacements for these weapons are formed by stacking wicker baskets filled with packed earth.

All the while, Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are marveling at the Nova Romans' attention to detail. Duke Lambert, seated on his portable throne, asks the legate, "Why not have the men pitch their tents and secure the camp with sentry posts?" He idly munches on a sausage as he waits for a response.

Germanicus replies, "Lambert, from time immemorial, the legions have always secured their camps in such a manner. The effectiveness of a body of troops can be directly related to the security of their accommodations. One of the reasons why Legio X Fretensis was able to so badly maul the troops commanded by Guarente di Palma is that he had poor camp security. Those sentry posts he did have were badly placed, and the troops who manned them were not very good. Having the sentry posts inside a secure perimeter greatly increases their effectiveness."

Duke Lambert swallows another bite of sausage and nods. He's getting the picture.

Legate Germanicus continues, "So that I am better-able to exercise command and control over the camp, my tent will be placed in the center. Lambert, I suggest that you and Cardinal Formosus have your men set up your tents next to mine. My compound will be guarded by the legionaries assigned to headquarters duty. You can, of course, arrange your personal security as you see fit. If you and Cardinal Formosus would care to join me in my tent for the evening meal, perhaps we can discuss what to do when we reach Rome."

Duke Lambert replies, "It would be an honor, Legate." Immediately, the two men follow behind Legate Germanicus to his headquarters tent. Left behind are their personal staff, who have been assigned the task of setting up the other tents.

Legate Germanicus' tent is divided into two sections. The rear section is Germanicus' living quarters, while the front section is used for meetings and other administrative functions. Here, a large trestle table has been set up and the headquarters options have laden it with sausages, cheese, bread, dried fruit and well-watered wine.

As a matter of courtesy to his guests, Legate Germanicus stands while Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus seat themselves first. Germanicus then announces, "Lambert, since you were kind enough to serve me with your own hand back in your meeting hall, I now return the compliment." With this, Germanicus fills each man's cup and hands it to them. Then, he piles their plates with food and places them on the table. Lambert smiles and nods in approval; he's enjoying this treatment.

Upon returning to his own seat, Legate Germanicus pours himself a cup of wine and raises it in salute to Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus, saying, "To the continued success of our endeavors."

After a few minutes of hearty eating, the Legate decides it is time to reveal a benefit of the Nova Roman alliance. He calmly puts down his wine glass and says, "Gentlemen, I have a question to put to you. Of all the diseases that trouble your people, which is the worst?"

Duke Lambert answers, "There are so many, Legate. It is hard to know where to begin. Cardinal Formosus, what say you to this?"

Formosus spends a few moments in thought before replying, "Without a doubt, the pox. The smallpox. The last time there was an outbreak, nearly four out of ten of the people died. Many of my serving staff, whom I greatly respect, were killed by this... miasma. Believe it was about ten years ago. Why do you ask, Legate?"

Legate Germanicus replies, "Cardinal Formosus, Nova Roman medical science is considerably in advance over what exists today. What would you say if I were to tell you that we have a means of preventing someone from ever developing smallpox in the first place?"

This statement is so unexpected that both Lambert and Formosus start choking on their wine, and have to be dealt with by attendants.

After a minute or so of spluttering, Duke Lambert is the first to recover. He manages, "Say you so? How? How is this possible?"

Legate Germanicus says "Lambert, our physicians in Nova Roma have been able to create something called a ‘vaccine', made from the disease called cowpox. When this vaccine is administered to a person who is uninfected, that person becomes immune to the disease within a very short period of time."

Cardinal Formosus blanches slightly as he says, "Legate, the implications of what you have just told us are... earthshattering. Smallpox has bedeviled us since time immemorial, so if what you have told us is true, the people will praise your name to the skies and beyond."

Legate Germanicus leans back in his chair and says, "Lambert, Cardinal Formosus, at the conclusion of the campaign to take Rome, I will send to Nova Roma for supplies of the vaccine. I will also ask for a number of physicians to come along. They will be in charge of administering the vaccine, and will also know how to make more. In other matters, upon our return to Perugia, I will have my engineers make a survey of the city and its public works. Lambert, I observed that your city had an old Roman aqueduct running into it, and also that parts of the aqueduct had fallen into disrepair over the years. They will see to its repair, and also to the repairs of the city sewers."

Duke Lambert replies, "Legate, I believe that will, ah... greatly ease the, uh, lives of our people. Up to now, they have had to draw water from wells within the city, or have had to carry buckets outside the city to get water from nearby streams and rivers. In either case, this has been...well, quite labor-intensive."

The discussions between the three men continue for some time before Legate Germanicus says, "Gentlemen, the hour grows late, and we must to sleep. We have a long day tomorrow, so I bid you both a good evening."

At this, Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus slowly rise from their seats at the table and withdraw. They are brought to their own tents, which are located close by to Legate Germanicus' headquarters.

Date: Maius XVI MDCXXXI AUC/May 16th, 878 AD

The next morning, the sounds of the buccinatorii blowing the call to wake up echo through the camp at the crack of dawn. Without the slightest bit of hesitation, the men of Legio X Fretensis rouse themselves from their bedrolls and stow their gear. Once this is done, a morning meal is quickly prepared and served out while the camp is being struck. Less than two hours later, the sun is just barely peeking over the horizon when Legio X Fretensis and its allies are ready to march. The advance guards and flankers resume their positions, and the combined force moves out. Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus rejoin Legate Germanicus at the head of the column, whereupon he greets them cordially, "A fair good morning to you, Duke Lambert and to you, Cardinal Formosus".

Date: Maius XVI MDCXXXI AUC / May 16th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

There is a rapid knocking at the door to the Emperor's office, and Marcus Aurelius looks up from the papers on his desk to see what the matter is. One of the Emperor's staff goes to the door and returns a short time later with a message tube in hand. He says "I beg your pardon for this interruption, Caesar. This message from Liguria just arrived for you." The man hands over the tube and waits for the Emperor's response. Marcus Aurelius opens the tube and spends the next few minutes reading the message from Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh. He turns to his staffer and says " This message is from Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh of Legio II Italica in Liguria. He says that the legion will finish its training and be ready for service in just thirty days. As the legio has no commanding officer as yet, he asks that one be appointed as soon as possible."

"Very good, Caesar. What do you wish me to do?"

"Go at once to the Domus Publicus and see Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus. Tell him that I want to see him immediately."

"At once, Caesar." The staffer departs and returns four hours later with Quintus Valerius Rufus. The staffer leaves the Emperor and the Princeps Senatus alone. Princeps Senatus Quintus salutes the Emperor and is the first to speak.

"Hail, Caesar. You wished to see me?"

"Hail, Princeps Senatus. Yes, I did. I have just received a letter from Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh of Legio II Italica in Liguria. In it he tells of the progress that the legion is making in its training. He also asks that a commanding officer be appointed. I have directed that your son raise a new legion in and around the city of Ravenna. I have also raised him to the rank of Legatus Legionis of Legio IV. But as Legio II has no commanding officer, I ask that you convene the Senate so that one can be selected." Princeps Senatus Quintus beams upon hearing that his son has been so honored. He responds "Many thanks for my son‘s promotion, Caesar. I will convene the Senate in two days and bring the matter before them at that time."

"Very good, Princeps Senatus. I leave you to attend to this matter." Princeps Senatus Quintus salutes
the Emperor and leaves his office.

Date: Maius XVII MDCXXXI AUC / May 17th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Thanks to fast riding by the dispatch carriers, responses to the two messages that the Emperor sent out on Maius XIII have arrived back at his office. The first one that Marcus Aurelius reads is from Gaius Memmius, Legatus Legionis of Legio III Augusta who writes:

‘To the esteemed Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus from Legatus Legionis Gaius Memmius greetings. In response to your latter dated Maius XIII, I can say with pleasure that recruiting efforts for Legio III Augusta are well in hand. Already, half of the necessary manpower has been signed on, and I anticipate having the rest within thirty days. Those who have already been signed on are undergoing training as I write this. The men are currently camped in tents, so I have had my engineers laying out the plan for a proper castrum’.

Yours in the service of Nova Roma
I am Gaius Memmius, Praefectus Urbi, Legatus Legionis Legio III Augusta

The second message the Emperor reads is from Publius Rutilius Rufus, Praefectus Urbi of Ravenna.
It says:

‘To the esteemed Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus from Publius Rutilius Rufus Greetings and Felicitations. Your message dated Maius XIII is received and understood. I have already begun to act upon your instructions to begin the raising of a new legion. I have detailed officers from my staff as Prefectus Urbi to go out among the population of Ravenna and its environs to begin signing on the necessary men. My only fear is that their efforts will be too successful. Your authorization to use state funds to design and build a fortified castrum is acknowledged. As for my elevation to the rank of Legatus Legionis, please allow me to express my deepest gratitude for the confidence and honor that your Imperial Majesty has shown in me. Know that I shall always endeavor to uphold it'.
Yours in the service of Nova Roma
I am Publius Rutilius Rufus, Praefectus Urbi, Legatus Legionis Legio IV

Date: Maius XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 18th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Publicus

Since morning, the membership of the Senate has been gathering at the summons of Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus. When the last member has taken his seat, Princeps Senatus Quintus gavels the Senate into session. He puts the gavel down on the polished marble tabletop and addresses the senate as a whole.

"Conscript Fathers, I have called the Senate into session this day by request of the Emperor. He has asked us to select from among our membership a suitable candidate for the command of Legio II Italica, which is currently being raised and trained in the territory of our Friend and Ally Hugh, Margrave of Liguria." The Princeps Senatus' brief address causes murmurs of conversation to run through the chamber of the Senate. He allows the discussion to continue for some little time before the Senate is gaveled back to order. "Conscript Fathers, I now open the floor for nominations." What follows next is much discussion between the members of the senate. At times, the talk is restrained and sedate, and at other times, loud and boisterous. Senator Lucius Calidus Vestorius is the first to raise his hand to ask to speak.

"Princeps Senatus. I ask to have the floor that I may speak to the rest of the members." Princeps Senatus Quintus gavels the Senate to order and says "The chair recognizes the Conscript Father Lucius Calidus Vestorius. Senator Vestorius, the floor is yours."

Senator Lucius replies "I thank the Princeps Senatus for his recognition. Conscript Fathers, I rise today to place in nomination the name of our fellow senator and esteemed colleague Tiberius Rutilius Cotta for the post of commanding officer of Legio II Italica. As you all know, Senator Tiberius served in a number of military postings before he retired and entered the political arena. He first was Tribunus Cohortis of a unit of Roman citizens raised for service in Germania under Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He was later promoted to be one of the five Tribuni Angusticlavii of Legio VII Claudia while that legion was stationed in Moesia Superior. Senator Tiberius ended his service as Praefectus Castrorum of Legio VII Claudia, and would have been further promoted to Tribunus Laticlavius of the VII Claudia had not the passing of his father Tiberius Rutilius Cotta the Elder required him to return home and become Head of the Cotta Family. Conscript Fathers, Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta is upright, honest and utterly devoted to Rome. Having him as commanding officer of Legio II Italica would be a credit to the Senate and the People of Nova Roma." His address being ended, Senator Lucius resumes his seat.

Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus speaks from his chair on the rostrum of the Senate and says "Conscript Fathers, our colleague Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta has been nominated for the post of commanding officer of Legio II Italica. Do I hear a second?"

A dozen or so senators from the first and second row of benches rises almost simultaneously and says ‘AYE'. One of their number says "I am Senator Titus Claudius Hibernicus, and I speak for my fellows when I second the nomination of Senator Tiberius as commander of Legio II Italica."

Princeps Senatus Quintus says "Very well. Conscript Fathers, the nomination of Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta as commander of Legio II Italica has been made and seconded. Are there other nominations?" After a few moments of silence in the Senate Chamber, Princeps Senatus Quintus declares that the nominations are closed. "Conscript Fathers, I now call for a vote. All those in favor of Senator Tiberius being made commander of Legio II Italica, raise your right hands and say aye." The entire membership of the Senate jumps to its feet and resoundingly shouts at the top of their voices "AYE!!!"

Formally speaking, Princeps Senatus Quintus says "In the opinion of the chair, the nomination of Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta to be commander of Legio II Italica, having been made and seconded, is passed by unanimous voice vote. Secretary of the Senate Lucius Siccius Dentatus, do you concur?"

"I concur, Princeps Senatus."

"Then, let the confirmation of Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta be entered in the record. Senator Tiberius, stand forth." Senator Tiberius comes to his feet and advances to the center of the floor. "Senator Tiberius Rutilius Cotta, by suggestion of the Emperor, nomination and confirmation by the Senate, you are now commander of Legio II Italica. You will report to the Emperor's office for further instructions." At the close of Princeps Senatus Quintus' speech, the entire membership of the Senate now rises to its feet. The chamber is filled with loud cheering and stamping of feet upon the marbled tile floor; it seems as if each Senator is seeking to outdo his fellows with the volume of his praise. When the applause has died down, Senator Tiberius says in a loud, clear voice "Conscript Fathers, I thank you for the honor which you have bestowed upon me. Know always that I will strive to uphold the honor of this august body and of the people of Nova Roma." Cheers break out again as Senator Tiberius leaves the chamber to go and see the Emperor.

Date: Maius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 19th, 878 AD
Location: The village of Machaise

In the village of Machaise, things are definitely looking up. So many Jews have migrated there from other places and lands that Machaise is fair on its way to becoming a fully-fledged city. The construction of the synagogue is proceeding apace thanks to the generous financial support of the Emperor, with the last of the foundation stones being only recently laid. The local economy is beginning to expand in order to support all the new residents. However, all this activity has had the unlooked-for side effect of attracting attention from certain, less-savory elements in northern Italia. It seems that Machaise's outlying thorps and hamlets are being raided by bandits who are seeking to take advantage of the transition in authority that has recently taken place. Thus far, there have been no fatalities. However, a few women have been subjected to vile abuse by the bandits. The local guard originally raised by Rabbi Isaac ben David in order to safeguard the Holy Relics has been able to stand off more than a few of the attacks, but they can only do so much.

To address the problem, Rabbi Isaac ben David takes up his quill pen and writes a letter to Emperor Marcus Aurelius:

‘To Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus from Rabbi Isaac ben David of Machaise Greetings and Felicitations. I write this to let you know that various of my people's settlements in the areas surrounding Machaise have been subjected to raids by bandits; women have been outraged and much property has been stolen. The local men which I raised originally to guard the holy relics of my people have been able to resist the worst of the attacks, but they are unable to do more. Caesar, I humbly ask you to send instructors to train the men so that they will be better- able to carry out their duties.’

Rabbi Isaac ben David

When the letter is complete, Rabbi Isaac folds it into a leather pouch and hands the pouch off to a small group of horsemen from Machaise who have been recruited to serve as messengers. They are instructed to ride to Nova Roma and deliver the message to the Emperor as fast as they are able to. The riders speed off, and four days later they are in the city of Nova Roma.

Beast of Murder
Date: Maius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / May 19th, 878 AD
Location: Outside the house of Guy, on Lambert’ s estates, Perugia

In the aftermath of the killing of Centurion Benicio by Duke Lambert’s son, the first emotion the witnesses feel is shock, followed closely by rage. Aide-de-camp Titus Sulpicius Quarto wipes his caligae off upon the sand and shouts to one of his companions, “Get our Decanus out here now!” To a second legionary, he says, “Get the medicus. This miserable sod has to have his arm stitched up before he bleeds to death. Legate Germanicus must decide his fate. Both of you, go! Now!”

Then, aide-de-camp Titus goes over to Servius Sertorius, who is still kneeling by the body of Centurion Benicio and sobbing quietly. He kindly lays his hand on the man’s shoulder and says, “Steady up, my friend. I know how you feel. We still have our duties to perform, you know.” Servius sniffles. “I know it.” He gets up, brushes the dust off of his knees, and goes over to his friend Caius, who embraces him without hesitation as he begins a fresh round of crying.

A few moments later, Decanus Publius Ostorius shows up on the scene, accompanied by a medicus. The medicus goes over to the still-out Guy, opens his bag and sets to work. The medicus probes the sword wound above Guy’s right elbow; these ministrations cause Guy to moan insensibly in pain.

The first thing the medicus does is to pour a liberal amount of alcohol over the wound to clean and sterilize it. The immediate effect of the alcohol wakes Guy up, causing him to start shouting more obscenities at the men.

Legionary Caius hears this, strides over and silences Guy with a hard kick to the jaw. Guy, stunned, coughs out a tooth, but Decanus Publius calls out, “Ho there, legionary. Aide-de-camp Titus, stand fast and tell me what happened here.”

Caius halts his next kick in mid-strike. Aide-de-camp Titus turns and says, “Decanus Publius, Centurion Benicio was his rounds of the various sentry posts. Legionaries Servius and Caius spotted something amiss in this house you see behind me, and went to investigate. Servius went forward to open the door and was surprised by this fat sack of merda bibulum you see lying here. Duke Lambert’s son had a naked sword in his hand and moved to strike. Centurion Benicio saw what was happening and managed to pull Legionary Servius out of the way. However, in so doing, he caught the point of Guy’s sword up under his jaw and into his brain. Centurion Benicio dropped immediately and was dead before he hit the ground.”

Decanus Publius mutters a few choice oaths under his breath. “You were right to call me here, good Titus. Legate Germanicus must be informed of this as soon as possible. I will send a dispatch rider to catch up with Legio X Fretensis and tell the Legate what has happened. In the meantime, bring a set of shackles. I don’t want this stunted worm to try and escape or harm himself. I also want you to set a double guard around this house. Call for as many troops as you need.”

“Yes, Decanus.” Titus goes forth to carry out his instructions, while Decanus Publius returns to camp and sends out a pair of dispatch riders.

Within the hour, two dispatch riders have been sent to find Legate Germanicus. They have been told by Decanus Publius to ride as if the Hounds of Hades are following them. In the meantime, a set of shackles has been obtained from the stores held by the cohort’s quartermaster. These are secured around Guy’ s ankles and around his un-wounded arm by means of rivets. The free end of the chain is then passed through an iron ring fixed in the end of a large stake. This stake was driven into the beautifully-decorated floor of the house’s front room.

To guard the prisoner, one contubernia of legionaries is detailed to remain inside Guy’s house, while three more are set around the house’s perimeter. Decanus Publius gives the legionaries their instructions: AYou are to allow no one into the house without my express order. Doing so will get the offender thirty days on bread and water. The prisoner must remain alive and unharmed until Legate Germanicus makes known what he wants to do. Is that understood?” The legionaries in all three contubernia nod reluctantly.

In regards to the body of Centurion Benicio, Decanus Publius orders that it be treated with all due ceremony and reverence. The body is cleaned, washed and bound tightly within Centurion Benicio’s sagum. To preserve it against the inevitable decay, the wrapped body is placed in a large clay storage jar and the jar is filled to the brim with strong wine. The idea is that the body will be returned to the castrum of Legio X Fretensis for proper funerary rites.

A Stricken Tent
Date: Maius XXII MDCXXXI AUC / May 22nd, 878 AD
Location: The encampment of Legio X Fretensis and Lambert’s troops

“LAMBERT!” Germanicus shouts as he strides into the Duke’s tent, shaking with fury. Lambert is frightened; he’s never seen the Legate this angry before. Germanicus’ large, muscled head is quaking with rage. His face is red and his lips are parted in a grimace. Germanicus holds an opened scroll in one hand; with the other, he smacks Lambert full across the face. Duke Lambert slowly picks himself up off the ground, obvious anger on his face. He wipes his lips with the back of his hand and says “What in the name of all that is holy did you do that for, Germanicus?”

Legate Germanicus replies “I have just received a message from the commander of the troops I detailed to stand guard over your son Guy back on your estates in Perugia. Troops which I might add, I left there at your request! Your son Guy murdered one of my officers in cold blood!!”Duke Lambert’ face betrays the complete and utter surprise he is feeling at the reception of this news. He says hesitantly ‘”Which, which officer was killed?”Legate Germanicus makes an Olympian effort to calm himself before replying. He says “Lambert, the officer who was killed was Centurion Benicio. He was making his appointed rounds of the various sentry posts, and had just come up to the house where Guy was staying. Two of legionaries saw something amiss through one of the house’s windows and went to investigate. One of them opened the door and was greeted by Guy, who had a naked sword in his hand. Guy moved to kill the legionary, and would have done so had not Centurion Benicio intervened. Benicio shouted a warning and pulled the legionary out of the way. In so doing, he took the point of Guy’s sword up under his chin and into his brain. Centurion Benicio’s men quickly subdued Guy. The only injuries he suffered were a sword-cut in the right arm above the elbow, along with a good swift kick to the side of the head.”

Lambert’s eyes go wide with alarm as the cold, clammy hand of fear grips his heart with fingers of ice. He pauses only a brief moment before saying “What do you intend to do, Germanicus?”

Legate Germanicus notes with obvious satisfaction the fear displayed in Lambert’s face. Gemanicus replies in a voice as cold and pitiless as the mountains “Lambert, Guy is guilty of both the attempted murder of one of my legionaries and the murder of one of my officers. By ancient law and custom, anyone who murders a Roman soldier will forfeit his life. My men showed remarkable restraint in not killing Guy where he stood. Mark me well when I say that, if it were not for the necessities of our alliance, Guy’s head would have rolled immediately, IMMEDIATELY, do you hear??”

Duke Lambert’s fear is soon replaced by anger as he thinks to himself ‘How DARE this cretin treat me in such a fashion, and in my own tent, no less!!’ Lambert’s anger quickly shows on his face, and Legate Germanicus counters Lambert’s spluttering outrage by saying “Duke Lambert, I understand how you feel. However, this doesn’t change the fact that one of my officers is dead at the hand of your son, Guy. One of the pillars of the strength of the legions is our absolute and unquestioning devotion to one another. If I allowed Guy to go un-punished, the men under my command would begin to question whether or not I have their best interests at heart, and quite rightly so. It falls within my discretion as Legate to determine what form that punishment will take. From questioning the prisoners that were taken after your army was defeated, I have learned that Centurion Benicio has a younger brother. This man’s name is Paolo, and he was serving as a man-at-arms when he and his fellows were captured. My judgment in the matter of the murder of Centurion Benicio is that you will tender unto me a sum equal to the pay that Benicio would have earned had he served his full term of twenty years of service. Benicio was being paid at the rate of fifteen denarii per day, so the sum you will pay is equal to one hundred thousand denarii; these funds will be deposited with the aquilifer of Legio X Fretensis until such time as Paolo can take custody of them. Additionally, you will sign over to Paolo a plot of land measuring one thousand iugera in extent. This plot will be located wherever Paolo sees fit.”

Duke Lambert’s jaw clenches again as he comprehends what Legate Germanicus is asking of him. Then, his tension relaxes as he realizes that his son Guy’s life hangs in the balance. He says “Very well, Legate. I agree to your terms.”

“Agreed, Lambert. Now, let us speak no more of this issue. Any discord between us can only serve to strengthen our opponents.”

Behind the Green Door
Date: Maius XXII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 22nd, 878 AD

Meanwhile, back in Duke Lambert’s capital of Perugia, things are going rather well for the four Sisters of Battle detached for special duty by Thesea Domina Greccia. They have looked through the districts of the city nearest to where the headquarters of the Ninth cohort is camped in order to find a building or two suitable for their purpose. After a day of searching, three run-down townhouses of rather large size are found. They are located right next to one another, and so the purchase is arranged. Albina, the leader of this group of the Sisters has written authorization from Legate Germanicus to call for whatever support is needed from the legion. Accordingly, she requests from the Pilus Prior of the Ninth cohort the services of three contubernia of legionaries who will serve as bodyguards and enforcers in the establishment that is being set up. Three contubernia of legionaries are promptly detached and Marcus Junius Flaccus, the senior decanus of the three, comes to see Drusilla for his instructions. “Greetings, Marcus. I suppose that you must be curious about why the services of you and your men were requested.”

“Well, yes, actually.”

Albina says “Legate Germanicus has ordered that a tavern/inn be set up for the entertainment and relaxation of the men in the Ninth cohort. This is the public purpose of this establishment. The true reason is to gather intelligence from any of Duke Lambert’s people who happen to partake of the ‘services' available herein. There will be wine, food, music, dancing, gambling and ah,’pleasurable company’, so to speak. The entertainers will be encouraged to ply Lambert’s people with as much drink as possible, then to discreetly and indirectly pump them for information. I am telling you this because you will be the head of security for this establishment and you have a right to know. Your men will be attired as civilians, but will still be under military authority.”

Marcus Junius Flaccus grins widely and says “I understand, Albina. Legate Germanicus’ plan shows much foresight and cunning. I will order my men to bring all of their arms, armor and equipment here forthwith. I judge from your demeanor that security is of paramount importance. Therefore, I will assist you in maintaining it by telling anyone who asks that my men and I have just retired from service in the legions.”

“I understand, Marcus. I leave the running of security to your own best judgment.” Decanus Marcus leaves to go and gather his men and their equipment, while Albina confers with the other three Sisters.

“Atella, Crispa, Gaia, we must now see to the repairs and furnishing of our establishment. I will hire craftsmen and workers from among the people here in Perugia. Their first task will be to join these three houses together. After which, any and all necessary renovations will be made to the interior. We will use part of the funds entrusted to us by Legate Germanicus to furnish the rooms as richly as possible. After that, we will hire a sufficient number of ‘entertainers’ and such other staff as are necessary.”

Atella asks “Albina, have you thought of a name for the establishment? It should be something noticeable, but not blindingly obvious.” Albina responds “a good question, Atella. When the buildings are renovated to my satisfaction, there will be one main entrance and a number of side doors which will serve as exits. The main door will be larger and more stoutly-built than any of the others. This main door will be our symbol, and will be painted a dark green color so that it will stand out. On further consideration, the name of our establishment will be the ‘House of The Green Door’.

A Promotion
Date: Maius XXII MDCXXXI AUC/May 22nd, 878 AD
Location: Duke Lambert’s tent

With the matter of the sanctions for Centurion Benicio’s murder having been attended to,Legate Germanicus turns his attention from the dispute with Duke Lambert to something which is far more pleasurable. He tells Duke Lambert “I want you to watch what I am about to do. It will prove rather instructive. Legate Germanicus calls for a certain staff officer who has been standing by, not knowing for what purpose he has been summoned “Optio Decimus Axius Draco, attend me.”

“Yes, Legate?”

“The Second Century of the First Cohort has been without a commander since your centurio fell in the battle before the Pass of Bocchetta, has it not?”

“Yes, Legate. I saw Centurio Lucius Aebutius Nerva fall before my very eyes. He was a good officer.”

“Optio Decimus, one of the greatest pleasures of a commander is to reward meritorious conduct among his subordinates. I have received reports from the ranks of your conduct during the battle, and all are in agreement that your service was exemplary. I have reviewed your service records going back to before the transition, and you have never put a foot wrong.” Optio Decimus heart swells with pride as he is praised before the legion’s command staff. But, what happens next takes him by complete surprise.

“Optio Decimus. Come to the position of attention!!” Optio Decimus immediately stands to, his chest thrust out and his back as straight and unyielding as a sword blade. “Optio Decimus, by my authority as commanding officer of Legio X Fretensis, I hereby raise you to the rank of centurion. You will immediately assume command of the Second Centuria, First Cohort. Furthermore this promotion will be back-dated to the day when Centurio Lucius died on the field. This means that your pay as a centurion started that day. You may see the Legion’s treasury quaestor to draw the pay that you are owed.”

Centurio Decimus stands mute and slack-jawed for a moment, his eyes wide with amazement at his sudden promotion. Then, he gathers himself, salutes Legate Germanicus in a manner that would do credit to a long-serving Primus Pilus and shouts ‘INTEGRITAS!!’. Legate Germanicus and the entire command staff of Legio X Fretensis rise to their feet and applaud Centurio Decimus’ enthusiastic gratitude. Legate Germanicus now hands over a small scroll and says “This document is your certificate of promotion and confirmation of your command authority. Go now and make yourself known to the men of your new command.”

“Immediately, Legate. Know always that I will strive to show myself worthy of the confidence and trust you have placed in me.” Centurio Decimus salutes again and leaves the command tent. Legate Germanicus turns once again to Duke Lambert and says “Lambert, that is how one gives respect and gets loyalty in return. With such men as Centurio Decimus under my command, the future of the legions and of Nova Roma is as secure as the roots of the greatest mountains.”

Date: Maius XXIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 23rd, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Sextus Antonius is one of the Emperor's personal staff, and he is approached outside of the palace by several men on foot. They introduce themselves as messengers sent by Rabbi Isaac ben David, and say that they have an important message for the Emperor himself. The leader of the messengers is invited to come to see the Emperor, while the others are bidden to wait in the antechamber. Sextus Antonius and the messenger go to the Emperor's private office and are quickly admitted. Sextus says "I beg your pardon for this interruption, Caesar, but this man just arrived from Machaise. He says that he has an important message for you."

"Very well, Sextus. Bring the man forward."

"Yes, Caesar."

Sextus Antonius brings forward the leader of the riders, then withdraws form the Emperor's office. The leader introduces himself, saying "Hail. Caesar. I am Josef ben Shimon. I come bearing a message from Rabbi Isaac ben David."

"Ahh, yes. How is Rabbi Isaac doing?"

"Well enough, Caesar." Josef hands over the scroll tube to the Emperor, who opens and reads it. As Marcus Aurelius' eyes cross the lines of text, a look of concern crosses his face. He tells Josef "Rabbi Isaac was right to send me this message. After you and your men have refreshed yourselves, you will return at once to Machaise and give Rabbi Isaac my compliments along with a message that I will compose. Now, my staff will see to your needs."

"Yes, Caesar." Thus dismissed, Josef ben Shimon rejoins the other men in his party. The staff of the Domus Imperialis conduct the men to the dining room, where they are provided with such food and drink as they are able to consume. While they are away, the Emperor writes out the message to be carried back to Rabbi Isaac.

‘To the estimable Rabbi Isaac ben David from Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius greetings and felicitations. I have received the message which you sent to me some days ago, and I am concerned for the safety and security of your people. Mindful of your request, I will send a half-dozen drill instructors to train your men in Roman military methods. I will also send sufficient equipment to outfit two full cohorts. These units will be titled Cohors I Judaica and Cohors II Judaica respectively. I leave it to you to choose the Primus Pilus of Cohors I and the Pilus Prior of Cohors II. When the units have been trained to the satisfaction of the drill instructors, I will send a pair of appropriately-styled standards'

Marc Aur

An hour or two after the message is completed, Josef ben Shimon returns to the Emperor's office and says "Caesar, please let me express my thanks for the courtesy with which your staff treated us." Marcus Aurelius replies "Of course, Josef. Now, I have the message for you to carry back to Rabbi Isaac. Do you have any questions?"

"No, Caesar."

"Then, I wish you a good journey."

After Josef ben Shimon leaves, the Emperor sends a messenger to the Praefectus Fabrum of Legio X Fretensis and tells him to draw from his reserve stocks a quantity of arms & armor sufficient to equip two full cohorts. The equipment is to be loaded on wagons and sent to Rabbi Isaac ben David in Machaise. He also tells the Praefectus Fabrum to manufacture two ballistae igneii secundi along with a sufficient quantity of ammunition. These are to be sent to Machaise as soon as they are ready.

Two days later, the requested arms & armor have been loaded aboard wagons and are ready to be shipped. As Machaise is some one hundred mille from Nova Roma, the journey is expected to take six days.

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Chapter XVI

Date: Maius XXVII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 27th, 878 AD
Location: the town of Machaise

Some eight days after departing, the riding party headed by Josef ben Shimon returns to Machaise, and Rabbi Isaac ben David (who has anxiously been awaiting their return). Josef immediately seeks out Rabbi Isaac, and the two men exchange greetings. "Greetings, Rabbi. I and the men you sent with me have returned. I personally delivered your message to the Emperor, and he charged me with the task of bearing his reply to you." At this, Josef hands over a scroll tube bearing the Imperial seal. Rabbis Isaac replies "the blessings of G-d be upon you for your diligence, Josef. Over the previous eight days, I greatly feared that you and your men had met with some mischance. Thankfully, that is not the case." As Josef stands by, Rabbi Isaac opens the tube and reads the Emperor's message. The contents cause a reserved smile to cross Rabbi Isaac's face. Josef sees this and asks "Rabbi, might I assume that the Emperor's message was what you expected?"

"All that and more, my friend. Not only is Marcus Aurelius sending us instructors for our troops, he's sending enough equipment to equip two full cohorts. Such bodies of troops will be more than sufficient to deal with the bandits who have been harassing us."

"Rabbi, does the Emperor's message say when the instructors and equipment will arrive?"

"It does not say, Josef. However, the Nova Romans are nothing if not punctual. So, I expect the material to arrive sometime within the next seven days."

"That is wonderful news, Rabbi. What will you do now?"

"Josef, go to my son Eleazar and tell him what has happened. Tell him that there should be a shipment of weapons, armor and equipment, and that he is to make a place for the material to be stored."

"Immediately, Rabbi." Josef ben Shimon runs off to carry out Rabbi Isaac's instructions.

Date: Maius XXVIIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 29th, 878 AD

Two days after Josef ben Shimon's return, one of Eleazar ben Isaac's men runs up to him and says "Eleazar, there is a caravan of men, horses and wagons approaching. I think it is the one you told us of, the one from Nova Roma. It is but four miles away from here"

"Excellent news, Jacob. Go and tell my father Rabbi Isaac. I will ride out and meet the Nova Romans, then bring them in." Half an hour later, Josef ben Shimon is approaching the caravan's advance guard. He says in polished Imperial latin "Hail and well met. I take it that you are the caravan of equipment sent from Nova Roma." The caravan leader replies "Yes, that is true. I am Publius Numerius Victor, and I and five of my fellows have been sent to train your men in the Roman arts of warfare. The equipment we are carrying is for them."

Eleazar ben Isaac says "You are most welcome. Please follow me, a campsite just outside the town of Machaise has been set up for you." Publius Numerius Victor gestures to his men and the drivers of the equipment wagons. They follow where Eleazar ben Isaac leads them, and soon they are pulling into the ground chosen for their camp. Without delay, tents are unloaded from the wagons; they are pitched and then the arms, armor and other equipment are off-loaded and stored under them. First to be taken out are the large cloth-wrapped bundles containing more than nine hundred scuta. The scuta are arranged in neat, orderly rows on top of lengths of cloth to keep them off the ground. Next are the sets of lorica. Each set has been oiled to protect it against rust, and like the scuta, arranged in regular rows. Instead of being on the ground, each set of armor is placed on a separate T-shaped wooden rack that has been hammered into the ground.

The various weapons are laid out on long wooden tables, except for the pila which are planted into the ground butt-first and point-upwards. The other equipment is likewise set out on long wooden tables. Of the remaining materiel, the furcae (carrying poles) are laid against the pila, and the legionary satchels are draped over the ends. The smaller pieces of individual kit (eating utensils, canteens, fire-starting kits, etc) are kept within boxes pending issue to their recipients.

Eleazar ben Isaac and Josef ben Shimon are looking over the seemingly-endless piles of equipment when Eleazar turns to Josef and says "I must wonder how the Nova Romans were able to turn out so much equipment in such a short period of time." The two men are walking up and down the rows under the tents, when Josef remarks to Eleazar "It is most remarkable to me how each and every piece of the various types of equipment is exactly like its fellows." They reach the tent where the items of clothing are stored, and their eyes blaze with pleasure as they see the tunicae and other pieces neatly bundled on tables. They are particularly pleased with the tunicae, which are colored the very-purest shade of sky blue.

Basic Initial Issue
Date: Maius XXVIIII MDCXXXI AUC/ May 29th, 878 AD
Location: The field outside of Machaise

Publius Numerius Victor leans over to Eleazar ben Isaac and Josef ben Shimon, then says "Now that the equipment is here, it is time for it to be issued. Have the men fall in by cohorts; they will be divided into centuriae at a later time." Eleazar and Shimon go out among the more than nine hundred men that have volunteered for service and begin to set them into ranks. More than a few of them move rather slowly, as they are unused to either being ordered about, or moving/working at anything other than their own pace. After the better part of half an hour, the men are gathered into a pair or more-or-less cohesive groups. These groups are gathered near to and facing the tents where the equipment has been placed. A temporary wooden platform and a number of trestle tables have been set up. Publius Numerius Victor is standing upon the platform, and his assistant instructors are at the tables. To help them in the issue of their equipment, Eleazar, Josef and several other men from Machaise are standing by.

"Gentlemen, I am Publius Numerius Victor and I am your senior drill instructor. My assistants and I have been charged by the Emperor with the task of training you all to be proper soldiers. This training will take three months, and among the tasks you will learn are marching in order, moving on the battlefield, as well as various other tasks that may seem inconsequential to you, but which are vital to your survival. Today, your equipment will be issued. Those of you who can write will sign a receipt. Those of you who can't write will make their marks and have them countersigned by your commanders." Publius now begins to pace back and forth on the temporary wooden platform as he thunders forth in his best parade-ground voice "LOOK AT THE MEN AROUND YOU. THEY ARE YOUR SHIELD-BROTHERS. WHEN YOUR TRAINING IS COMPLETE, YOU WILL COME TO REGARD THEIR LIVES AS BEING MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR OWN. REGARDLESS OF WHEREVER YOU GO OR WHATEVER YOU DO, YOUR THOUGHTS MUST BE FIRST FOR YOUR UNIT, THEN FOR YOUR FELLOWS, YOUR EQUIPMENT AND FINALLY, FOR YOURSELVES!!. FALL OUT TO RECEIVE THE ISSUE."

With Publius Numerius Victor's speech being completed, the assembled men are motioned to come forward by file to get their equipment. Each item is issued in order from stations at the tables set up for the purpose. When each recruit has received his full kit, that individual signs for it. After several hours, the last of the equipment has been signed for, and hundreds of men are fairly groaning under the weight of the bundles they are carrying. Publius Numerius Victor again steps forth and says "Men, you will be camping here for the night. Tomorrow, your commanders and I will go forth and select a proper campsite. We will march there and your training will begin. Part of the training will include the actual building of the camp, so I suggest you get some rest. You're going to need it. DISMISSED!!!

Date: Maius XXX MDCXXXI AUC/ May 30th, 878 AD

The very next morning, the assistant drillmasters rouse the men of the two new cohorts from their bedrolls just as the sun begins to peek above the horizon. While the men are occupied with putting away their sleeping gear and being served their morning meal, Senior Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor, Eleazar ben Isaac and Josef ben Shimon ride forth to select a suitable location for the training camp. Choosing the location doesn't take very long, as there is a suitable candidate just three mille away from Machaise. The chosen location is atop a small rise, so there is good drainage. A nearby stream and several springs will serve as a water source; construction materials will be furnished by the local woodlands. Satisfied with their choice, Publius, Eleazar and Josef ride back to the field outside Machaise to oversee the march. The men have finished eating, and are just beginning to shoulder their packs and other gear as the three are coming back. Within a short period of time, the men are placed in their files and called to attention. The order to move out is given, and just one our later, the column arrives at the location of the new training camp. The rest of this day is occupied with the design and laying out of the camp. Under the direction of Publius Numerius Victor and his assistants, the recruits pace off and mark the locations of the camp streets and barracks buildings. In the late afternoon, tents are pitched on the various sites where barracks buildings will later rise; work parties are sent to the nearby woodlands to select and begin to cut the timbers for the camp's palisade and interior buildings. Supplies of wood are also gathered for watchfires.

Date: Maius XXXI MDCXXXI AUC/ May 31st, 878 AD

Today marks the first full day of training for the men of the two new cohorts. The first exercises to be undertaken are learning the various marching commands, and then practicing them in a proper military manner. The mid-day meal is prepared and served out, then the men are ordered to lay out their gear for inspection. This is done by having each recruit roll out his leather ground cover and arranging all of his gear in such a manner that each individual piece is easily examined. When the inspection is complete, the gear is re-packed and stowed. The furcae are planted in the ground butt-first, and the leather satchels are slung from the crossbars along with the bedrolls, mess gear and canteens. The butts of the pila are likewise planted firmly in the ground and the scuta are leaned against the shafts. The rest of the day is occupied with the drillmasters demonstrating the basics of using a legionary's weapons. Selected groups of recruits are given double-weighted practice weapons and scuta. They are set alongside one another, then the drillmasters demonstrate how the weapons are to be used. Before practice begins, Senior Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor addresses the men, saying "In combat, the basic weapons technique is the thrust. A man's vitals are protected by flesh, muscle, bone and sinew. The broad edge of a sword may sometimes have trouble cutting through all of this. Raising a sword to deliver a slash not only takes more time than a thrust, it also exposes your armpit (and the left side of the man standing next to you) to return strokes from the enemy. In hand-to-hand combat, we Romans emphasize the thrust because it is quicker and more lethal than a slash or chop. To deliver a strong thrust, you must first grip the hilt of your gladius tightly, then bear forward with the point of the blade as mightily as you can. Your gladius has to be held so that the pont is straight out. If it is held at any sort of angle, this will lessen the strength of your thrust. Now, show me what you have learned so far."

This command causes the recruits who have been issed the training weapons to begin attacking heavy wooden stakes set into the ground for this purpose. Various areas on these stakes have been marked to represent vulnerable areas of an opponent such as the face, throat, armpits, abdomen and the groin. These targets are attacked by the recruits with varying degrees of skill and intensity. As they do so, Publius Numerius Victor and his assistant drillmasters walk among the men and observe them. Shortcomings in technique are identified, and proper ones demonstrated. Those men not armed with the practice gladii gather in small groups to observe and learn. Over the next three hours, the training gladii are alternated among all present so that each man has a chance to practice. When Publius is satisfied that the men are beginning to learn properly, he orders them to stop attacking the stakes and start on each other. To this end, he and his assistants demonstrate the correct way to hold and carry a scuta. They also show the men how to block or otherwise parry a blow with it. The rest of the day is consumed with pairs of men striving to overcome one another in personal combat. Their efforts are punctuated by the occasional loud grunt or yelp of pain as the rounded point of a practice gladius sometimes finds its mark.

Portis in Aeternam
Date: the morning of Maius XXXI MDCXXXI AUC / May 31st, 878 AD
Location: The streets of Rome

Wind shifts the dirt lining the city streets. As has been the case for the last several weeks, they are deserted.

No one dares exit their homes during the day, for fear of some unknown calamity. Children are kept from playing with friends; wives, from going to market. Entire stores of food sit within cellars, rotting and gathering flies. The Tiber runs brown with mud.

Guards stationed at the city gates are the bravest of the lot, yet even they nearly jump out of their armor at the sight of a rider in the distance. Clad in a dank brown cloak, approaching on an ass. The two guards nearest to the gates come closer to each other, flanking the entrance to the city.

As the rider comes closer, the soldiers relax. He is no menace to them; his cloak is ragged, his face matted with hair and dust. He is half-slumped over his mount; the only things keeping him up are the saddle, the stirrups, and whatever last reserves of strength he still has. The two guards tap their pikes together and take a few steps forward as the ragged rider finally reaches them and stops.

"Halt! What sort of man are you?" the first guard asks.

"Cardinal Stephen. I come from Lambert. I need to." he gasps, "see His Holiness."

The first guard looks over at his partner, who shrugs. "Lambert? If you say. OPEN THE GATES!"

With a mighty churning groan, the gates open wide enough for Stephen to pass. Stephen gathers enough energy to force a heel into the ass's side, and it near-gallops through the opening. The two guards turn to follow the Cardinal's progress around a corner as the gates close once more.

Then one of them scratches an itch in his codpiece, and they both turn to face the hilly expanse before them once more, faces devoid of thought.

Date: the morning of Maius XXXI MDCXXXI AUC / May 31st, 878 AD
Location: within the Papal Palace

A man stands watching from a balcony, observing the same progress the guards have just seen the last of. His eyes follow Stephen as he dismounts and somewhat painfully walks through the square past the equestrian statue that faces the Palace. The man's eyes narrow upon seeing the statue; he could have sworn the figure atop it had. but no matter. He must see to Stephen.

The man departs the balcony, his white vestments swishing behind him.

Sandals upon marble ring through the corridor. "Sir," cries Honorius. "It's-"

"I know who it is," Marinus says. He looks around him at the room. "Has anyone found the boy, yet?"

"Not yet, sir. But he can't have vanished in a day." Honorius follows Marinus's eyes going over the room; something in it causes him to blanch. "W-what should we do?"

"Follow protocol, as always." Marinus smiles. "Meet Stephen in the foyer and tell him to come to my apartment. Give me time to prepare."

Honorius looks wary, but he nods. "I'll try."

"Don't try; either do it, or don't do it!" For a moment, Marinus seems to have snapped. Then the anger passes; the ripples clear, and the water is calm again. Honorious shivers.

"Yes," he can only say, and leaves the room. After a moment, Marinus does likewise.

Location: The square outside the Papal Palace

A breeze picks up around the square again, blowing dust around the equestrian statue in a mad chase. The wind drops for a moment, then picks up with a new force, blowing into the bearded face of the mounted figure. There is a strange whisper in the wind, but it drops again.

There is a long, low creaking noise, like metal slowly being warped. Then, just as it ends, something strange happens. The bronze figure blinks.

Then, almost imperceptibly, its welded lips open with a sigh. Soon, words follow:

"Heredes regni, venite. Sto ad ostium et pulso."

The outstretched arm of Marcus Aurelius's equestrian statue slowly turns, and the hand balls into a fist.

Delays, delays, delays
Date: the morning of Iunius I MDCXXXI AUC / June 1st, 878 AD
Location: on the Road to Rome

Cardinal Formosus and Duke Lambert have noticed that the progress of the march to Rome hasn't been as fast as they had expected. Accordingly, they ride to Legate Germanicus' command tent, where Duke Lambert asks "Legate, there is a question that has been occupying my mind of late. I have seen that our progress towards Rome hasn't been as quick as I had expected. Pardon me for being blunt, but I thought you Nova Romans prided yourself on being able to move great distances very quickly. May I enquire as to the reasons for our slow progress?

Legate Germanicus replies "Of course, Duke Lambert. My apologies for being so remiss in not informing you." All the while, he is thinking to himself ‘there are none so blind as those who will not see'. "Duke Lambert, the reason for our admittedly-slow progress thus far is that my men have been constructing message stations by order of the Emperor. He has charged us with the duty of extending Nova Roman lines of communication wherever the legions march. When the stations are functional, it will be possible to send a message from one end of the Italian peninsula to the other within two hours. I need not tell you how useful this ability will be…."

Duke Lambert's eyes widen with surprise, as do Cardinal Formosus'. Duke Lambert asks "How is this possible, Legate? To move as fast as you say, messages would have to be carried upon the wings of angels." Legate Germanicus replies "It is very simple, we use a system of colored flags that are moved in particular ways to make up individual letters and words. When a message is to be sent, the station's crew alerts the next station up the line by signaling with a lantern. Then, the message is sent by using the flags. The personnel at the next station up the line receives the message and passes it along in the very same manner."

"Ahh yes, Legate. That system of yours sounds eminently practical. Now that I understand the reasons for our slow progress on the road, when do you anticipate arriving at Rome?"

"Duke Lambert, we should arrive in the vicinity of Rome on the third or fourth day of Quintilis. Unless I miss my guess, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva and Legio I Italica will already have taken up station to block access to the city from points east and south. If they aren't already there, they will be soon." Cardinal Formosus has never been the most patient sort of individual, so he starts to speak up about whether or not if it is possible to speed things up. Duke Lambert sees this and halts Cardinal Formosus with a sharp gesture of the hand. He says "Come, my good Cardinal. Let us retire back to our tent. Our servants should have laid on the morning meal. Legate Germanicus, would you care to join us?"

"I thank you for your generous offer, Duke Lambert. But, with regret, I must decline. There are many administrative matters that I must perforce attend to. I'm sure you understand."

"Of course, Legate. At your convenience."

New Technologies
Date: Iunius I MDCXXXI AUC / June 1st, 878 AD
Location: Hero of Alexandria's workshop

In the midst of his several projects, Hero of Alexandria takes up his pen to document the progress he has made thus far in developing new weapons for the Nova Roman war effort. In his journal, he writes "I have today completed the pattern piece for a new class of weapon fueled by the Powder of Mars. It has a tube that resembles a very short ballista ignea. I observed that when a ballistae ignea is fired, the short travels in a straight line, more or less. The range can be altered by changing the elevation of the tube. This new weapon is not designed to strike targets directly. Instead, it launches its projectile at a high angle up and over any intervening obstacles. From its resemblance to the common household mortar used to grind various hard substances into powder, I have decided to call this new weapon a ‘mortar'. A mortar isn't designed to fire solid shot. Instead, it uses a reduced charge of the Powder of Mars to fire a larger size of semina ignis maior, this one weighing eighteen-and-one half librae. The standard powder charge is one-half libra of the Powder of Mars, which will propel the semina ignis maior out to a range of nine-tenths of a mille passuum. The tube is mounted into its bed (a large block of oak with four iron handles on the sides) at a fixed angle. The range can be varied by using lesser amounts of powder. I have determined that the shortest practical range is one hundred and fifty pedes. This is achieved by using just one-eighth libra of the Powder of Mars. The chief advantage of this new weapon is that it is very light. In fact, it can be picked up and carried by four legionaries. When in position, the point of aim can be changed by just two."

"Ever since I created the incendium telli, I have searched for a way to increase their efficiency and destructive power. The arrows fired by archers use feathers bound to the shafts to stabilize them while in flight. I resolved therefore to use something similar to stabilize the flight of an incendium telli. The older model uses a long, thin wooden stick as a kind of tail. On the rear of the new model, I have attached four fins made of very thin wood. In tests, these wooden fins yielded better accuracy than the long wooden stick. A side benefit is that an incendium telli with these fins takes up less storage space. I have also devised a new method to manufacture casings for the incendium telli. The older models used a tube formed from thin wood, while the new model uses a case made from thin sheets of vellum or paper wrapped around a wooden form and glued together. This casing is both lighter and stronger than one made from wood. The powder charge is now carried in a cylinder of thin sheet iron, which serves both to contain the Powder of Mars and to provide fragmentation when the powder goes off. This cylinder is fixed to the top of the casing and is fired by a standard time fuze."

"In other matters, I have created certain new chemical substances the properties of which bear closer examination. The first of these was created purely by accident. Some time ago, I accidentally spilled some acid on my workbench. Then, I used a wad of clean cotton to clean up the spilled acid. I tossed the cotton aside without further thought and went on to other endeavors. Later that day, I was tidying up my workshop when I happened to pick up the cotton and throw it into the fireplace. Lo and behold, I was quite surprised when the cotton did not burn slowly as other cotton would have after being thrown into a fire. Instead, the cotton burned quickly, with great violence and intensity. Taking note of this, I remembered what had happened with the acid on the workbench and resolved to recreate the effects. My first efforts yielded cotton which spontaneously caught fire and burned into nothingness. I thought this property might be due to some contaminant in the cotton. I created a second batch, then dried it after washing it in cold, pure water. The resulting substance was stable, and did not ignite until I touched a piece of it with a burning splinter from the fireplace. This material burned with the same intensity as did the material I created accidentally."

"The next substance resulted from my desire to test various materials, mixtures and compounds thereof to see whether or not they had any properties worthy of note. I tested hydrargyrum(1), cuprum(2), argentum(3), aurum(4), stannum(5), plumbum(6), ferrum(7), sulphur and other materials both metallic and non-metallic. I boiled pieces of these materials in water, olive oil and wine. I also dissolved samples in strong acids and added measured quantities of water, oil or alcohol. The results were tested by subjecting them to heat, friction and impacts of varying intensities. After many long weeks of experimentation, I came upon a compound of hydrargyrum that had been dissolved in one of the three strong acids. The resulting liquid had pure alcohol added to it. What was created was a crystalline powder(8) that resembled table salt. I purified small amounts of this powder by washing it in cold water and filtering it through a clean, fine cloth. Little did I know what I had created, for when I sought to test its properties, the resulting explosion blasted a hole through the top of my workbench and destroyed the apparatus used in the testing. There was much force involved, as my workbench has a top made of solid oak a full three unciae in thickness. I did not escape injury, however. My ears rang for three days afterwards, and I spent some time picking splinters out of my arms."

"My next discovery is perhaps the most significant. There is a certain by-product of the soap-making process. This byproduct is a light, clear oil which is like unto water and is readily able to be dissolved therein. This oil has been used to make various medicines and applied externally to relieve the discomfort of dry, scratchy skin. It is also sometimes used in the preservation of foodstuffs for long-term storage. I took small, measured quantities of this oil and treated them with alcohol, acids and other substances both dry and liquid. I took careful notes on how each test mixture was prepared, paying particular attention to how much of each substance was involved in making it. After much repetitive experimentation, I came upon a compound of the oil which I made by combining it with strong acids. Due to the corrosive power of these acids, the vessel in which they were mixed with the oil was composed of plumbum. The first time I tried to make this compound, the reaction gave out quantities of brown fumes. Being much concerned that there was some disaster about to happen, I dumped the contents of the vessel into a half-barrel of cold water which I had placed nearby. The second time I deliberately made the compound, I set the vessel in a barrel of cool water. This time, the reaction proceeded without incident. The compound I created is a heavy, colorless oil. Exposure to its fumes or getting it upon the skin causes the heart to race. There are also headaches. These effects are minor indeed compared to its inherent power. I observed this power first-hand when I happened to drop a small amount of the oil on the floor. The oil exploded with great force and intensity, rather like the crystalline powder I had previously created. Resolving to further test the oil, I took a small flask of it, wrapped the flask in thick cloth and took it some distance outside the city. I contrived to drop the flask from a safe distance by suspending it from a tree branch by a length of cord whose knot could be undone by pulling upon it. From this knot, I ran another length of cord and took it with me behind another tree which I used for cover. When I was thus protected, I pulled the cord and the flask dropped to the ground. When the flask hit the ground, it went off with a loud, thunderous boom. The force of the blast snapped off some of the tree branches, tore out pieces of the trunk and caused a small crater in the ground. Because of the effects I observed, I named this compound the Oil of Jupiter".

1) Mercury 2) Copper 3) Silver 4) Gold 5) Tin 6) Lead 7) Iron 8) Mercury Fulminate

The Hammers of Judah
Date: Iunius IV MDCXXXI AUC/ June 4th, 878 AD
Location: The town of Machaise

After having been dispatched from Nova Roma on Maius XXVIII, a small caravan with an armed guard reaches Machaise. Upon arrival, the centurion in charge of the escort detail seeks out the training camp of the two Jewish cohorts and asks for Senior Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor. The two men exchange greetings, whereupon Centurio Decimus Papirius Octobrianus says "I have been charged by the Emperor with the task of conveying two ballistae igneii secundi into your charge. They are to be issued to the two cohorts you are training so that they can gain familiarity with them." Drillmaster Publius goes to inspect the two weapons as a matter of course. He notes that all the harnesses, equipment and implements are in order. When he comes to looking over the tubes of the ballistae igneii, Drillmaster Publius' eyes blaze with pleasure. Praefectus Fabrum Marcus Livius Drusus' workmen went to the extra step of polishing the bronze until it was so smooth that the surface of the tubes could be used as a mirror.

Drillmaster Publius exclaims "Hail, Centurio Decimus. You are most welcome. I'm quite sure the recruits will be pleased with their new weapons. Those bronze tubes are so finely finished that they are almost works of art in themselves." Centurio Decimus grins as Drillmaster Fabius continues to speak "If you have the transfer sheet, I will gladly sign it." Centurio Decimus produces the requested document from his belt pouch, whereupon Drillmaster Publius signs and returns it. He says "There you go, Centurio Decimus. You and your men must be somewhat tired from your journey. Would you care to rest and refresh yourselves?"

Centurio Decimus nods his head in acknowledgement of the offer and says "Gladly. It has been rather a long trip, I think." Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor says "Very well, Centurio. You and your men can rest here in my headquarters enclosure, and my staff will see to your needs. For now, would you like to see the new recruits going through their paces?"

Centurio Decimus says "I believe I would." From there, the two men proceed out to the training grounds outside the camp enclosure. Drillmaster Publius' assistant instructors are putting the trainees through various evolutions. What the recruits lack in experience, they more than make up for with their enthusiasm. Centurio Decimus observes the training routines for the better part of two hours, then says "Drillmaster Publius, you and your men are to be commended for your efforts thus far. I shall certainly commend them to the Emperor upon my return to Nova Roma. Now, let us return to your enclosure. I have worked up a mighty appetite this day, and an even mightier thirst." Centurio Decimus follows Drillmaster Publius back to his headquarters enclosure. In their absence, the staff has set up several trestle tables and laden them with bread, cheese, sausages and well-watered wine. Centurio Decimus calls his men in so he and they can eat.

Drillmaster Publius and members of his staff join in the repast. He says to Centurio Decimus "I have ordered that the ballistae igneii be placed under cover, and that the Powder of Mars and the supply of shot you have brought be likewise stored safely." Between bites of bread and cheese, Centurio Decimus replies "A sensible precaution, Drillmaster Publius. When do you intend to issue the weapons?" Sextus replies "Not for some time. I must first choose suitable crews for the pieces, and this will take some doing. Those who serve on a ballista ignea crew must be quick of mind and dexterous of hand, for employing such a weapon is far more involved than plying a gladius or bow."

Drill, Drill, Drill, a little more drill
Date: Iunius VIII MDCXXXI AUC/ June 8th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Cohors I & Cohors II Judaica

The training of the two Jewish cohorts proceeds apace. Though the recruits have been under arms for barely a week, already their enthusiasm is beginning to show. They have been formed into the various centuria and contubernia, and among these, a healthy spirit of competition has developed. It is as if the men are attempting to overcome one another in their attention to the training and their devotion to duty. All the while, Senior Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor and his assistants are continuing to note which recruits are doing the best at drill, and which are in need of more instruction. In supervising the training, Drillmaster Publius has taken careful note of which recruits are the quickest on their feet and who also have the sharpest eyes. It is these qualities that contribute to making a man a good archer, and so they are chosen. On the afternoon of Iunius VIII, Drillmaster Publius calls the selected men to a gathering outside his headquarters and says "Men, I have called you here because you have distinguished yourselves by your physical dexterity and your attention to detail. Because of this, you will henceforth be designated as archers. From this day forward, much of your training will involve practice with bows & arrows. You will also be taught how to estimate the range to your targets. Tomorrow, you will receive your bows and practice will begin. Dismissed." The gathered men disperse and return to their fellows. They relate what they have been told, and congratulations are offered.

Date: Iunius VIIII MDCXXXI AUC/ June 9th, 878 AD

At sunrise, the men of the cohorts rise to begin their training day. After the various morning routines have been accomplished, the assistant drillmasters march most of the men off to resume their training. Those who remain are the archer candidates. Drillmaster Publius comes out of his headquarters, greets the men and says "This morning, you will receive your bows. I specifically charge you to take care of them, because they will not only save your own lives in battle, but the lives of your brothers-in-arms. Now, I direct your attention to the cloth-covered tables next to my headquarters." They eyes of all present roam over towards the tables. Standing behind the tables are two of Drillmaster Publius' assistants. With a nod from Drillmaster Publius, his assistants pull off the cloth coverings to reveal unstrung bows in leather bowcases, along with many sheaves of steel-tipped arrows. The sight of all this equipment causes murmurs to run through the ranks of those assembled. Drillmaster Publius calls out loudly ‘SILENTIUM' before continuing.

"I will now show you how to properly string a bow." Drillmaster Pubius takes a bow out of its case and holds it up overhead so that all can see. The weapon is of composite-recurve construction, being made of horn backed with sinew. It measures four pedes in length. Though of plain appearance, the bow's sinuous curves are a pleasure to behold. Drillmaster Publius takes a bowstring out of the case and holds it up. The bowstring is made of sinew, wound with thread and waxed to protect it against damage from moisture. There is a small loop in each end of the string. Drillmaster Publius takes the bowstring and fixes one of the loops over one of the end of the bow. Then, he holds the bow in one hand and the sting in the other hand, being careful to maintain tension on the string. The end of the bow with the string attached is braced under Drillmaster Publius' right foot. He pushes down on the unstrung end of the bow with his left hand so that it bends downward. Drillmaster Publius takes the free end of the bowstring in his right hand and brings the loop over the end of the bow. Then, he slowly releases the pressure on the bow so that it flexes back to its full size. The bow is now strung.

Drillmaster Publius holds the strung bow up above his head. He says "You will now come forward by file and receive your bows. You will string them just as I have shown you. I further caution you all that you are never, under any circumstances whatsoever, to store your bows with the strings mounted. Doing so will damage the bow." The men come forward by contubernia one after the other, whereupon the two assistant drillmasters hands each man a bowcase. The cases are opened, and the bows are taken out. Some men pause for a brief moment to admire their new weapons. With some effort, and a little additional demonstration, all bows are eventually strung. Each man is handed two quivers of arrows; one quiver is designed to be worn on the back, and the other is designed to be slung from the belt. Each quiver contains 36 arrows. For practice reasons, each arrow has been tipped with a simple triangular broadhead. The trainee archers, numbering one-hundred twenty in all, are marched outside the camp to the field where practice will take place. On this field, targets have been attached to bales of hay set at various distances.

There are forty positions on the firing line, and the first forty men take their places. The others gather around to watch what goes on next. Drillmaster Publius picks up a spare bow and shows how to properly nock and draw an arrow. He takes an arrow out of a quiver and places it on the bow. The notched end of the arrow shaft is fitted ot the bowstring, while the arrow is secured on the bow with the index finger of the left hand. Before going further, Drillmaster Publius says "This is how an arrow is fitted to a bow. When you draw it back to be fired, you must use both arms, so that one doesn't do all the work. Raise the bow up to the level of your head, then simultaneously push the bow forward with the hand that holds it while drawing back the bowstring with the other hand. While you are drawing the arrow, lower the bow and sight along the arrow shaft towards the target." Drillmaster Publius does exactly as he has said. In one seemingly fluid motion, he sends an arrow speeding downrange. The arrow sinks directly into the middle of a target fifty paces away and quivers slightly after impact. The accuracy of the shot draws muted exclamations of praise from the trainees. He now commands "I want those of you on the line to do just as I have done. Everyone else is to pay careful attention to what is going on.

The forty archers on the line take arrows from their quivers and fit them to their bows. Due to unfamiliarity with the procedure, some of them actually drop their arrows. Those that do are approached either by Drillmaster Publius or one of his two assistants. The proper method is again demonstrated. When each man has an arrow nocked, the command to draw is given. Drillmaster Publius shouts out so that all can hear "READYYY......AWAY ARROWS". The bowstrings are released, and of the forty-arrow volley, just half strike the actual targets. The others either sink into the straw backing, under-shoot or overshoot the targets entirely. Those that hit the targets strike all over them. Two of the arrows happen to hit dead-center. Drillmaster Publius quickly identifies the men responsible for these two particular shots and praises their accuracy "Excellent shots, men." To the other archers, he turns and says "I want you to try and place your shots just as these two have done. In battle, you must aim so that your arrows hit the center of the enemy, for hitting them here will put them out of action more quickly than anywhere else. Continue!!"

The practice continues for the rest of the day. When each man has expended his seventy- two arrows, he and his fellows go down to the targets to retrieve them. Fresh targets are put up, and firing is resumed. During the firing, Drillmaster Publius and his two assistants walk up and down the firing line. Occasionally, they stop and give advice to men who seem to be having trouble placing arrows on target. They also make notes as to which recruits are ding the best and which are in need of more instruction. The practice goes on until each man has had an opportunity to fire each of his arrows three times. By the end of the day, the arms of the trainees are sore. No one complains, however. As the sun begins to set, they retire back to camp for the evening meal. All are filled with a sense of accomplishment at what has been done this day.

Drillmaster Publius confers with his chief assistant Sextus Fabius when they have returned to their headquarters. "Well, Friend Sextus. What say you to the progress the recruits have made this day?" Sextus answers "Publius, the men are certainly enthusiastic. Their accuracy on the range is lacking, but this is only their first day. Give them time, and it will most certainly improve."

Diplomatic Mission
Date: June 9th, 878 AD / Iunius VIIII MDCXXXI AUC
Location: The Great Palace of Constantinople

Emperor Basil I, Ruler of Byzantium, is conferring with various officials of his court in his council chamber. His rises from his chair, crosses his hands behind his back and begins to pace back and forth. While walking, he says "We have reports that there is a new power rising in the northern parts of the Italian peninsula. These people are called ‘Nova Romans', and are said to have sight which exceeds the greatest of eagles, that they have weapons which roar like thunder and strike like lightning, and that their physicians are said to be able to cure the worst of diseases. Our domain includes part of the Island of Sicily, therefore I judge it necessary to establish contact with these Nova Romans; the purpose being to determine whether or not they mean us good or ill. High Chamberlain Chalintzes, First Secretary Gemistos?"

The two named officials instantly look up and fix their eyes upon their sovereign. The High Chamberlain says "Yes, your imperial majesty?"

The Emperor says ‘This matter falls within the purview of both of your offices. Therefore, you, High Chamberlain, will choose from among your staff one who will be my ambassador to these ‘Nova Romans'. He shall have plenipotentiary authority to act in our name. First Secretary Gemistos?"

"Yes, your imperial majesty?"

"You will send sufficient staff along with our ambassador. They shall carry out all administrative functions of our embassy, and are specifically charged with keeping accurate records that we may know all that there is to know of these Nova Romans."

"By your command, your imperial majesty."

The next official to be addressed by the Emperor in council is Abramius Alyates, who is the Magister Militium (master of soldiers), or Strategos Autokrator (as the post is sometimes called). This man is the overall commander of the emperor's military forces. The Emperor turns to his military commander and says "General Alyates, it is known to me that war horses do not travel at all well by sea. Therfore, you will choose from among those troops assigned to the garrison of our city of Tarentum a number of men that is sufficient for the dignity of our ambassador and the security of the diplomatic mission."

General Alyates replies "Yes, your imperial majesty. It shall be as you say."

Emperor Basil I concludes the meeting by saying "All of you will report back to me when you have chosen the men to carry out this diplomatic mission. You now have our leave to go and carry out our instructions." Thus dismissed, High Chamberlain Chalintzes, First Secretary Gemistos, Magister Militium Alyates and the other council members stand up from their chairs. One by one, the officials approach the Emperor in order of the precedence of their offices. Each of them in turn shows his respect for Emperor Basil by rendering proskynesis, then taking three steps backward before leaving the council chamber.

Mission Preparation
Date: The afternoon of June 10th, 878 AD / Iunius X MDCXXXI AUC
Location: The council chamber of Basil I

In accordance with the wishes of the Emperor, First Secretary Gemistos, High Chamberlain Chalintzes and General Alyates have chosen the staff who will comprise the embassy to Nova Roma. As the ones selected are of a lower status than the Emperor's ministers, they present themselves before the throne by first making a formal 'Great Bow', then waiting for permission to speak. The first to be granted such is Philaretos, the one selected as ambassador. "Your Imperial Majesty, your humble servant has been chosen by the Great Chamberlain to go forth unto these 'Nova Romans', to see who they are and where they came from. Your humble servant acknowledges the honor of being chosen to carry out your imperial majesty's will and swears that he will strive to fulfill this embassy to the best of his ability." Basil I acknowledges this supplication with a nod of his head, then gestures for the man chosen by General Alyates to come forward. He does so, then kneels before the throne. The Emperor fixes his gaze upon the man and says "Captain Petronas, you have been chosen by General Alyates to command the guards that I am sending along with Ambassador Philaretos. I command you to safeguard his person and dignity, along with maintaining the security of the diplomatic mission he is being sent on. General Alyates?"

"Yes, your imperial majesty?"

"What troops have you selected to form the ambassador's guards?"

"Your imperial majesty, I have chosen a company of one hundred skutatoi from my personal guard. Such a number should be more than sufficient for the mission at hand, especially since the embassy will be travelling under your imperial majesty's flag."

"A most-worthy choice, General Alyates. You have our approval. We have a further command for you, which is that you go to the Imperial Armory and select pieces of arms and armor which shall be fit to be given as diplomatic gifts to the leader of the Nova Romans."

"It shall be done as you say, your imperial majesty."

"Now, we command you all to make haste in preparing this diplomatic mission. We are minded that it should depart within two weeks. You have our leave to go."

General Alyates and the other two ministers make an appropriate proskynesis before the Emperor's throne, and then depart the council chamber. General Alyates leaves the First Secretary and the High Chamberlain to go about their business. As commanded, he goes to the imperial armory (which is located in one wing of the Great Palace). The guards on duty therein stand to attention and salute their commander as he approaches. General Alaytes orders two of them to accompany him and the rest to remain on duty outside the door. General Alyates walks down the hallway accompanied by the two guards, then stops in front of the main storage chamber. Here are stored the finest pieces made by the best armorers and weaponsmiths in all of Byzantium. The first item to be chosen is an elaborate set of parade armor, one worthy of the Emperor himself. This armor has a cuirass of lamellar construction. Each of the pieces in the lamellar is of the finest polished steel, chased with silver and tied together with strong cords; the cuirass' two shoulder guards are of like construction. The armor's arming jacket is made of quilted leather, lined with fine linen. The jacket has full-length sleeves and a knee-length attached skirt of mail; the sleeves and the skirt have been gilded. To go along with the armor, General Alyates selects a steel helmet. The helmet's design is a round cap with a forward peak, a lamellar neck-guard, articulated jaw flaps and a strongly-riveted nasal bar. All the surfaces of the helmet have been fire-blued and inlaid with raised figures in brilliantly-polished silver. Satisfied with the choice of the armor, General Alyates proceeds to a nearby weapons rack and takes several minutes to look over all of the magnificent weapons arrayed there. His eyes light upon a steel officer's mace, of a size that can be used either by foot or upon horseback. The mace has an eight-flanged head, with each of the flanges being chased and gilded. The haft of the weapon is of steel, engraved with scrollwork and floral designs, then fully-silvered. The grip is wrapped with braided gold wire and the wrist thong is of braided leather.

To complement the mace, General Alyates examines a number of swords. He bypasses several which have ornate, jeweled hilts & guards. Instead, he chooses two weapons which are of plain finish, but of the highest-quality workmanship. The first sword has a long, broad blade with a spear point; the blade tapers slightly in both thickness and width, thus improving the balance. This weapon's sole ornamentation consists of the braided silver wire wrapped around the grip. The second sword is a saber, suitable for use by cavalry. It has a single-edge blade that curves like the new moon; the tip is also long and sharply-pointed. The saber's grip is wrapped with braided gold wire. The blades of both swords share the common characteristic that they are forged from watered steel. In the same room, there are racks with sets of horse barding. General Alyates chooses one set of such armor that is of scale construction. The individual scales each have a central ridge to strengthen them, and are also polished so that they almost shine like a mirror. General Alyates' final choice is an officer's saddle, made of elaborately-worked and figured leather with silver appliques. He calls the two guards who accompanied him and orders them to take the items he has chosen and to pack them carefully in an iron-bound chest. They are to deliver the chest to his office.

Meanwhile in the barracks of the palace guard, Captain Petronas is packing his gear. Along with sufficient items of clothing for the trip, he packs his best set of armor. This armor is lamellar, with bronze scales in the cuirass and shoulder guards. The mail sleeves and skirt are attached to the quilted leather arming jacket. To protect his lower arms and shins, plate steel bracers and shin-guards are included. General Alaytes gave him the authority to choose from among his personal guard the troops who will be guarding the expedition, and so, the skutatoi are picked first. These men are armed with a heavy spear for both hewing and thrusting. This spear measures just over eight feet in length. They also wear steel longswords scabbarded on their belts. Their armor is a long-sleeved coat of mail with a hem that reaches to the knees. Other protection is afforded by the shields that give them their name. These ‘skuta' are in the shape of a long triangle with a flat top and gently-curved sides. The body of the skuta is made of several thicknesses of different kinds of wood; these have been laid down and glued together so that the grain runs crosswise to each other. The shield is further strengthened with a riveted iron rim, a leather facing and a backing of strong linen.

In accordance with the Emperor's wishes, General Alyates writes an order to be carried by the ambassador, authorizing the embassy to receive its allotment of kataphractoi from the garrison in the city of Tarentum in southern Italy. This will further benefit of lessening the amount of cargo that will have to be taken along on the transport vessel. Kataphractoi are heavy cavalry who are also able to employ bows while they ride. Kataphractoi wear full suits of mail and peaked steel helmets with nasal guards, leather-articulated jaw flaps and steel-lamellar neck guards. Their shields are identical to those carried by the skutari, except that instead of padded arm grips, they have a central hand grip protected by a circular boss of hammered steel. A kataphractos is armed first and foremost with a steel-headed lance measuring twelve feet in length and a straight sword with a blade three feet long. Missile-firing capability is provided by a powerful, recurved shortbow. Secondary armament is either a steel-shafted horseman's mace or an axe; the axe is backed either by a peaked hammer head or a long curved spike. The secondary weapon is slung from a hook on the saddlebow

Without his war-horse to carry him into battle, a kataphractos is useless. Therefore, the animal wears protection in the form of horse barding. This barding is of leather-scale construction, with chain mesh in the most vulnerable parts. The forehead and the back of the neck are protected by metal lamellar.

First Secretary Gemistos is charged with providing the staff that will serve the ambassador and keep records of the expedition. To this end, he begins to select those people from among his staff. In addition to the six scribes for record keeping, there will also be servants for housekeeping and other domestic purposes. The First Secretary is mindful that the Emperor's eye is upon this expedition, so he is most careful to choose only those staff who are the most worthy. This process is expected to take the next two days.

More Complications
Date: Iunius XII MDCXXXI AUC / June 12th, 878 AD
Location: The city of Alotting, royal capital of Bavaria

Carloman, King of Bavaria and King of Italy has just come back from a hunting expedition when he is approached by Theobald, his Chief Minister. "Your majesty, there is a matter which needs your urgent attention"

"Yes Theobald, what is it?"

"Your majesty, the regular communications which the court has had from your Italian possessions have ceased. There is some new power which has arisen in northern Italy, and which has quickly thrown down the Margraves of Tuscany, Emiligia-Romagna and the Marche. I ask that your majesty give me permission to send agents to northern Italy to ascertain the truth of the situation."

"Very well, Chief Minister. You were quite right to bring this matter to my attention. Send as many men as you shall think necessary to accomplish the mission. Insure that we are kept apprised of whatever they discover."

"Very good, your majesty. It shall be as you say." Chief Minister Theobald accompanies Carloman back to the royal palace, where the two men part company; Carloman summons his royal physician and returns to his quarters as he isn't feeling well. Chief Minister Theobald goes to the council hall of the palace, where he calls for his staff and gives them the king's orders. A total of thirty men are chosen to go down to northern Italy and discover the truth of the situation. Chief Minister Theobald divides the thirty men into fifteen pairs and cautions them by saying "you are all to exercise the greatest caution on this mission. Take care that you aren't discovered, and return as soon as possible. The king needs accurate information so he can decide how to proceed." The agents file out of the council hall, then each pair goes its separate way.

A Little Acorn…
Date: Iunius XII MDCXXXI AUC / June 12th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Nova Roma, is considering how best to solve two problems that have been nettling him for some time. Ever since Nova Roma's arrival in this place and time, the coastlines of Nova Roman territory have been unsecured. This makes Nova Roma vulnerable to attack by sea. Additionally, the Emperor has wanted to return the islands of Corsica and Sardinia to Roman control. To address both of these issues requires a navy, and it is to this idea, that Marcus Aurelius bends his pen. He writes:

‘To the esteemed Hugh of Liguria, friend and ally of the Roman people, Greetings and Felicitations. To better secure the shores of Nova Roman territory, I desire that your shipyard construct a number of vessels to form the beginnings of a fleet. This initial order will be for twenty warships and forty transport vessels. Each transport will be of a sufficient size to carry a full centuria of legionaries, plus all the equipment and supplies they will need to sustain themselves for thirty days. The warships will be of bireme design, and will have two masts. For their armament, I am sending men from the office of the Praefectus Fabrum who will supervise the building of a facility to produce the necessary weapons. The cost of the vessels to be built will be carried by the Imperial Purse, as will the weapons fabrum.'


Once the message is complete, the Emperor seals it in a scroll tube and sends it on its way.

Further Preparations
Date: June 12th, 878 AD / Iunius XII MDCXXXI AUC
Location: The harbor of Theodosius in Constantinople

The ancient city of Constantinople, capital of the Empire of Byzantium and Mistress of the Three Seas is protected by the greatest fortifications the world has ever seen. The city is further blessed with a number of excellent harbors. Foremost among these is the Harbor of Theodosius; this harbor is protected by its own fortifications, for it is here that the home squadrons of the Byzantine Navy are based. In a certain section of this harbor, three ships are being made ready by express command of the Emperor. One of these is a transport vessel to accommodate the ambassadorial party being sent to Nova Roma, along with the embassy staff and an escort of skutarioi. The other two ships are bireme dromons whose task will be to escort the ship carrying Ambassador Philaretos, his staff and guards. The dromons carry two banks of oars on each side, with 70 rowers on the upper deck and 50 rowers on the lower deck. Each dromon is also fitted with two masts; the foremast carries a lateen sail and the rear mast carries a quadrilateral sail. The transport ship carries but a single bank of oars, instead relying upon two masts for propulsion. The rear mast carries a square sail and the foremast carries a large lateen sail. The hull of the transport has a wider beam and a deeper hold befitting its original purpose of carrying bulk cargo.

At quayside and aboard the three vessels themselves, the crews are occupied in making their ships ready for the voyage to Italy. Any necessary repairs are being made, and great quantities of consumables and other stores are being put aboard. In the late afternoon, Captain Apocauchus Kaspax of the transport ship ‘Wave Treader' receives a message from High Chamberlain Chalintzes that his vessel is to put to sea at dawn on the second day hence. Mindful of the urgency of the message, Captain Kaspax sends word to the captains of the two warships to inform them of the situation. The message from the High Chancellor also said that the Ambassador, his staff and the guards will be arriving tomorrow.

Date: June 13th, 878 AD / Iunius XIII MDCXXXI AUC

At noontime as expected, Ambassador Philaretos, his party arrive and the skutatoi arrive at the Harbor of Theodosius to embark on the ship that will carry them to Italy. Captain Kaspax has work parties standing by at the bottom of the ship's gangplank to load the ambassadorial party's baggage, along with the arms, armor and equipment of the escort. Captain Kaspax greets Ambassador Philaretos, saying "Welcome aboard the Wave Treader, my lord. With the blessings of the Almighty, a fair wind and a following sea, we shall surely have a speedy voyage." Ambassador Philaretos returns the Captain's greetings and says "My thanks for your courtesy, Captain. Let us be aboard, for the Emperor will brook no delay in our departure."

"Very well, my lord. My crew will see to your belongings. As for our departure, we sail upon the morning tide. You and your personal attendants will have my cabin, the rest of your staff will bunk down with your escort on the ship's lower deck."

"At your convenience, Captain."

With a nod from Captain Kaspax, those crew of the Wave Treader not detailed to work the ship shoulder the chests and bags containing the property of Ambassador Philaretos and his staff and carry them aboard. The Ambassador and his immediate attendants are shown to the Captain's cabin, and the baggage is brought inside. The other members of the party and the escort carry their own baggage aboard. The baggage is stored in the ship's hold, then the men are shown to their accommodations on the ship's lower deck. Higher-status members of the embassy's staff (along with the officers of the escort) have been afforded the luxury of actual bunks, while the lower-ranking men are given hammocks. Outside, the wind has freshened somewhat, and low, rolling swells have come into the harbor from offshore. The combination of these two influences has caused the Wave Treader and her two escort warships to gently swing at anchor. The air is warm and the skies are clear; the purest shade of bright blue. The shouts and cries of men on the docks and aboard the other ships in the harbor mingle with the calls of seagulls wheeling and diving overhead as they seek to catch fish swimming in the water. All is now in readiness for the embassy's departure upon the morning tide.

Reconnaissance, Part I
Date: the afternoon of Iunius XIII MDCXXXI AUC/ June 13th, 878 AD
Location: Liguria, the Principia of Legio II Italica

As part of the regular correspondence required of all Nova Roman commanders, Legate Tiberius Rutilius Cotta of Legio II Italica sits at his desk and begins to write:

‘To the esteemed Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus from Legate Tiberius Rutilius Cotta, Greetings and Felicitations. I have the honor to report that as of the date of this letter, Iunius XIII MDCXXXI AUC, Legio II Italica has completed its full regimen of training and is therefore ready to take the field as required.'

Tiberius Rutilius Cotta, Legatus Legionis
Legio II Italica

After this message is completed, Legate Tiberius Rutilius Cotta seals it in a scroll tube and sends it off by courier to Nova Roma. Then, he calls in Tribunus Laticlavius Titus Flavius Gracchus for a meeting. A short time later, the Tribunus Laticlavius shows up and says ‘You summoned me, Legate?"

"Yes, I did, Tribune. There is a matter of pressing tactical and strategic importance that I wish to discuss with you. In consulting with certain members of your father's court, I see that the local passes through the Alps into Gallia Transalpina have been historically used as land-based invasion routes into northern Italia. I judge it necessary to order a survey of these passes in order to determine the practicality of securing them from external attack. You will therefore select from among the troops of Legio II Italica such numbers as you deem necessary to perform a reconnaissance-in-force. You will also take command of the reconnaissance expedition. Now, I will have your thoughts on the subject."

"Yes, Legate. The passes you are referring to are the Colle di Cadibona, Colle di Melogno, Colle di San Bernardo, Colle di Nava and Col de Tende respectively. I recommend that we send the Second, Third and Fourth Cohorts, along with six alae of our cavalry, half of our archers and four of the ballistae igneii. The first passes that will be surveyed are the Colle di Cadibonia and the Colle di Melogno. The Second and Third Cohorts will undertake this mission, and will each have three alae of cavalry to probe deeper into the passes. The Fourth Cohort and the archers will stand by in close proximity to provide support in case the survey parties are attacked."

"A wise plan, tribune. Once the surveys are completed, order the construction of a message station at the mouth of each pass. You will also have a line of relay towers built between the passes and Genua so that word can quickly be passed along if some outside group tries to force a crossing. As regards your personnel suggestions, you have my authority to issue the appropriate orders. You are to dispatch the mission no later than two days from today."

"Yes, Legate."

Reconnaissance, Part II
Date: the morning of Iunius XIV MDCXXXI AUC/ June 14th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio II Italica

The Second, Third and Fourth Cohorts have packed up the supplies and equipment needed to keep them in the field for one month. The cohorts been gathered by the order relayed from Legate Tiberius Rutilus Cotta. They are accompanied by the detachments of cavalry and archers. Just before their departure, Tribunus Laticlavius Titus Flavius Gracchus meets with the Pilus Priori of the three cohorts and gives them their marching orders "Gentlemen, I can't over-emphasize the importance of this mission. The information you gather will be of the greatest use in planning the defense of the Ligurian frontier. I caution you to keep your eyes and ears open, and to note anything out of the ordinary. If we are assailed, we will not stand and fight, but instead will make a fighting withdrawl. Do you have any questions?" No questions are forthcoming, so after a minute or two, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh says "Very well, Gentlemen. Let us look to this day. Move Out!!"

This vexillatio of Legio II Italica is formed into a column of fours, and moves out in that order. The Second Cohort is in the lead position, with the Third Cohort in the middle and the Fourth Cohort as the rear guard. The wagons with the supplies and equipment are divided into two sections. For reasons of security, the first section is placed between the Second and Third Cohorts, while the second section is placed between the Third and Fourth Cohorts. The objective of this day's march is a staging area, located near to the mouths of the Colle di Cadibona and the Colle di Melogno. There are no obstacles encountered along the route, so twelve hours of hiking later sees the men of the vexillatio pull into the site selected for the staging area. It is an area of open ground, with several low hills nearby. There are patches of woodland to provide fuel and building materials, and there is a convenient stream for drinking water. Almost as soon as the vexillatio stops moving, men are detailed to lay out the perimeter of the camp. This perimeter will have the customary moat and stockade. Once this is done, the very next thing will be to place the camp latrines. Mindful of the need to keep the supply of drinking water fresh and clean, the latrines are dug downstream of the camp, while the bathing area is upstream of the latrines and downstream of the camp. The place from where the vexillatio's drinking water will be drawn is upstream of the camp. When the moat and stockade have been constructed, the men of the vexillatio pitch their tents, cook and eat the evening meal, then bed down for the night.

Date: June 14th, 878 AD / Iunius XIV MDCXXXI AUC
Location: The Harbor of Theodosius

It is now the time chosen for the departure of the Wave Treader and her two escorts. Aboard each vessel, the deck crews have taken in the bow and stern lines, and the rowers are seated at their benches. Shouted commands have the oars dropped into the water. The rowers bend to their task with a will, and the three ships are soon moving through the harbor. Aboard the Wave Treader, Ambassador Philaretos has woken up early to come up on deck and observe the departure. He greets Captain Kaspax and says "A right good morning to you, Captain. Your quarters were most comfortable. My thanks to you for having provided them to me and my staff."

Captain Kaspax replies "Good morning, my lord."

Ambassador Philaretos asks "Just out of curiosity, Captain, what course do you intend to set, and how long will it take to get to our destination of the City of Cosenza?"

"My lord, once we are out of the harbor, we will proceed across the Sea of Marmara and thence into the Hellespontos. Given a fair breeze of wind, it will take us perhaps a day to cross the Sea of Marmara. Going through the Hellespontos will only require six hours. Once we exit the Hellespontos and enter the Aegean Sea, I will sail west until we pass south of the Island of Limnos. From there, we will steer due south until the Island of Naxos is in sight. After that, our course will take us west-southwest across the Sea of Crete, past the southern tip of the Peloponnese and into the Mediterranean Sea. Once we enter the Mediterranean, it will be another five hundred sea miles until we reach the southern tip of Italy. All told, the trip should take eight or nine days."

"Only nine days, Captain? That is excellent. I had thought the voyage would take twice that

Captain Kaspax says "My lord, please bear in mind that my estimate of the travel time assumes that the wind will be with us for the majority of the voyage. It may happen that we get becalmed and will have to resort to long-term use of the oars. This will, of course, lengthen our travel time. Now, please excuse me, my lord. I must see to the running of my ship."

"Very good, Captain Kaspax." Ambassador Philaretos is left alone, to look out over the ship's rails across the surface of the sea. There is a low swell, and this causes the three ships to toss and roll slightly. High atop the Wave Treader's mainmast, the emperor's banner flutters proudly, while the two warships fly the Byzantine naval ensign.

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Chapter XVII

Reconnaissance, Part III
Date: the morning of Iunius XV MDCXXXI AUC/ June 15th, 878 AD
Location: The marching camp of the Vexillatio, Legio II Italica

At sunrise, the men of the vexillatio are roused from their tents. Their morning routines are quickly performed, then the Second and Third Cohorts move out to perform their mission. Each cohort is escorted by three alae of cavalry, while the Fourth Cohort is left behind to both secure the camp and to provide support if either the Second or Third Cohorts are attacked. The objective of the Second Cohort is the Colle di Cadibona. Both the Second and Third Cohorts march to the mouth of the pass, where they separate. The Third Cohort moves to the mouth of the Colle di Melogno. While the Third is on the way to its objective, the Second moves into the Colle di Cadibona. They are very careful to note the lay of the land, and any obstacles or avenues of approach that might hinder or help a hostile force. The three alae of cavalry assigned to the Second Cohort move on into the pass ahead of them in order to provide a better picture of its geography. The Colle di Cadibona is just over four mille in length, so the cavalry are very quickly able to go to the other end while noting down a detailed description of the entire length of the Colle itself. Once there, the three alae halt in place, while one of the three takes it upon itself to go beyond the entrance out to a distance of just one mille. This was done to provide a detailed description of the approaches. Two hours later, the three cavalry alae consolidate themselves back together and ride to re-join the Second Cohort. Thus joined, the Second Cohort and the cavalry escort march out to the entrance to the Colle and build one of the signal towers. Then, they ride back to camp to await the arrival of the Third Cohort.

While the Second Cohort is occupied in scouting out the Colle di Cadibona, the men of the Third Cohort are doing the same in Colle di Melogno. The very last task they accomplish before leaving the Colle is to build a signal tower identical to the one constructed by the men of the Second Cohort. Just like the first tower, the second one is staffed by two contubernia of legionaries and a half-ala of cavalry. Meanwhile, back at the marching camp, the Fourth Cohort is constructing a message tower inside the camp perimeter. When the Third Cohort has completed its survey of the Colle di Melogno, they ride back to the marching camp. Pilus Prior Gaius Flavius Cerialis of the Second Cohort sees his counterpart in the Third Cohort and approaches him to enquire how his part of the mission has proceeded. Greetings are exchanged.

Pilus Prior Aulus Quartius Faventinus calls out "Hail, Gaius"

Pilus Prior Gaius replies ‘Hail, Aulus. How did your men fare in your area of operations?"

Aulus replies "Quite well, actually. The Colle di Melogno wasn't nearly as long as I had expected. There are several places therein that are narrow enough so that just a single centuria could hold the pass against any force that might conceivably be sent to force it. Can I assume that things went as well with you in the Colle di Cadibona?"

"They did indeed, friend Gaius. In places, the Colle di Cadibona was narrow, though not so narrow as you said it was in the Colle di Melogno. The ridges that lined the pass on both sides are steep and overgrown with brush. In some locations, the slopes are so steep they are almost vertical."

"Indeed, Aulus. That would certainly keep anyone, friend or foe alike, from being attacked on the flanks in those locations. That information is well-worthy of being noted in our report. Now, let us proceed onto the next phase of the mission. I and the Second Cohort will take our cavalry detachment and go to the Colle di San Bernardo. You and the Third Cohort will go to the Colle di Nava. We will gather the same sorts of information as we did on our first two objectives. We'll also build two more signal towers."

"Agreed, Gaius."

Spies Like Us
Date: Iunius XV MDCXXXI AUC / June 15th, 878 AD
Location: The Colle di San Bernardo

Pilus Prior Gaius Flavius Cerialis and the men of the Second Cohort, Legio II Italica are well-into their survey mission in the Colle di San Bernardo when there is a rather unexpected encounter. Several contuberniae of the First Centuria have been detailed to go forward into the pass as far as possible and keep watch so that the various survey parties aren't taken unawares while they work. One of these contuberniae is on guard when its' commander Decanus Flavius Corbulo catches sight of an unknown body of men coming towards his position. By using his telescope, Decanus Flavius is quickly able to ascertain that the approaching men are twelve in number, and that they are taking care not to be seen. Their furtive moves quickly arouse Decanus Flavius' suspicions, so he immediately sends a messenger to apprise Centurio Servius Sulpicius Minor of the situation. He, in turn, informs Pilus Prior Gaius Flavius Cerialis; Pilus Prior Gaius tells Centurio Servius "Order your men to intercept the ones who are approaching. I mislike any such who would try to sneak up on us, and I would in truth know their intentions."

Centurio Servius replies "Yes, Pilus Prior. I will arrange a most-proper reception." Centurio Servius salutes, then leaves to carry out the Pilus Prior's order. Centurio Servius chooses three contubernia, and orders them into a position from where the unknown intruders can be intercepted. One hour later, the twelve strangers are coming around a bend in the main road through the pass when Centurio Servius makes ready to signal his men.

For the agents sent out by King Carloman's order, the mission thus far has been uneventful. By common consent, the thirty agents divided themselves into several groups. The first group is twelve in number, and it was decided that this group should remain together. The remaining eighteen men split up into three teams with six men in each. These three teams were told to proceed separately, so each of them went out on their own. The main group of twelve agents is proceeding carefully along the road through the Colle di San Bernardo. They have just gone around a certain bend in the road when a shout is heard from just up ahead.

Centurio Servius springs out from his place of concealment and calls out "HALT IN THE NAME OF NOVA ROMA!!" The intruders are taken completely by surprise, and they make ready to flee. Seeing this, Centurio Servius raises his hand to call forth the third contubernia so they can cut off the intruders' retreat. Every legionary raises his scuta to the ready position and hefts his pila in anticipation of the order to throw. Centurio Servius comes forward a pace or two and says "Who are you and why do you come here in such a fashion?" The leader of the team of twelve agents says in fractured Latin "I am Hermann of Bavaria, and I am here by order of his majesty Carloman, King of Bavaria. Who are you to oppose me in such a manner, you motherless dog?"

Centurio Servius' ire is instantly aroused at being addressed in such a dismissive fashion. He shouts loudly "I AM CENTURIO SERVIUS OF THE FIRST CENTURIA, SECOND COHORT, LEGIO II ITALICA. LAY DOWN WHATEVER ARMS YOU HAVE AND SURRENDER!!" Hermann of Bavaria purples in rage, and replies to Centurio Servius' demand with an obscene gesture. Herman's men throw off their dark, concealing cloaks; some draw their swords, while others unlimber short-hafted axes. Seeing this, Centurio Servius calls out "PIIILAA, IACE!!" Instantly, twenty-four cruelly-barbed pila arc through the air. Surprisingly, most of the pila miss their mark as the intruders are very quick on their feet. Of the original twelve men, only three are struck and killed. Centurio Servius orders ‘GLADIUM… STRINGE', whereupon his men draw their gladii and advance at a slow pace. Hermann of Bavaria sees the legionaries coming against him and his remaining men, and he tells them "Sell your lives as dearly as possible. We are the King's Men and we will not yield. FORWARD!!"

Centurio Servius draws his own gladius and says "Don't kill them all, we need a few of them alive so they can be questioned." The action that follows is short, sharp and vicious. Within the space of just five minutes, six of Herman's remaining nine men are killed. Their bodies have been pierced in various places by sharply-pointed Roman steel. Hermann himself falls with a ragged gash across his forehead. The other two survivors are belabored about the head with the flats of several gladius blades, and they fall to the ground unconscious. The action is over, and there have been no Nova Roman casualties. Centurio Servius and his men raise their scuta and gladii on high and simultaneously shout "ROMA VICTA!!!" This exuberance marks the first victory won by the men of Legio II Italica.

Now comes the unpleasant task of cleaning up after the battle. The bodies of the slain are stripped of all equipment, and all of them are quickly buried. The equipment is gathered for examination. The three survivors are likewise divested of their equipment. Centurio Servius orders his men back to camp as quickly as possible. He says "Pilus Prior Gaius will want to know about what happened here as soon as possible." The three survivors are revived by the simple expedient of having canteens of cold water poured on their faces. Hermann's wound is bandaged, and the hands of the surviving agents are tightly bound behind their backs. Two hours later, Centurio Servius, his three contubernia and the prisoners arrive back at the base camp of the Second Cohort. He seeks out Pilus Prior Gaius, salutes and says "Hail, Pilus Prior. I bring important news." Pilus Prior Gaius returns the salute and says ‘Hail, Centurio Servius. What goes?"

Centurio Servius says ‘Pilus Prior, I and the three contubernia assigned to me advanced as you directed. We took the intruders completely by surprise. They refused my request to surrender, so we were obliged to overcome them by force. The action lasted just five minutes. Nine of them were killed, and we managed to take three of them alive. I have the three prisoners and equipment gathered here for your inspection."

Pilus Prior Gaius replies "Well-done, Centurio. Let us look to see what manner of men were so foolish as to come against us." Pilus Prior Gaius and Centurio Servius walk over to where the three prisoners are being held and where the captured enemy equipment is gathered. On first inspection, the arms and armor formerly carried by Hermann's men isn't what ordinary travellers would carry. There are twelve short-sleeved shirts of mail; each of these has a waist-length hem. Instead of being worn on top of their clothing as is normal, these shirts were worn concealed underneath the men's coats. Furthermore, the mail was blackened so as to aid in concealment. Pilus Prior Gaius calls to Centurio Servius and says "Well, Centurio. It seems as if my suspicions are justified. Why would a party of travelers have such armor if they didn't intend some nefarious purpose?" Centurio Servius replies "Very true, Pilus Prior. See their weapons? Their swords and axes have been blackened in the same way as their armor. And their daggers? All of them have long thin blades more suited to skewering meat than for general cutting purposes."

Pilus Prior Gaius says "I see, Centurio Servius."

Centurio Servius continues to describe the captured enemy gear "The cloak we took from each man has been dyed in subdued gray and brown. I surmise that this is to hide the wearer from casual view at a distance. The hood of each cloak is designed both as a covering for the head and as a mask for the face."

Pilus Prior Gaius' face assumes a thoughtful aspect as he says "Indeed. Let us question the prisoners you took, centurio. I want to know what they were doing."

"Very good, Pilus Prior." The two men go to where the three enemy prisoners are being held. All are awake and in a foul mood. Centurio Servius comes up to Hermann and says "Speak up, man. Who are you to think that you could so casually sneak up on Roman legionaries? Where do you come from?" Hermann looks up with pure venom in his eyes and says "I told you before, my name is Hermann, and I am the sworn man of his majesty, King Carloman of Bavaria. You will regret what you have done this day, I can promise you!!" Hermann emphasizes his disdain by spitting in the dirt in front of Pilus Prior Gaius. This blatant disrespect earns Hermann a cuff to the side of the head from Centurio Servius, who asks again "Why are you here??" Hermann fairly hisses in reply "Why I am here is none of your damned business, outsider!!!" Hermann now turns his head and refuses to speak anymore. Centurio Servius raises his hand, as if to strike Hermann yet again, but a spoken word from Pilus Prior Gaius stays the blow.

"A moment, if you please, Centurio. Herman and his men are obviously spies, sent by this so-called King of Bavaria to ascertain the situation here in northern Italia. Where there is one such group, there are likely to be more. Send out word immediately to the Third Cohort that they are to be on guard against strangers in their area of operations. Tell them that they are to conclude their mission and return to camp as soon as possible."

"By your command, Pilus Prior." Centurio Servius immediately sends riders to warn the Third Cohort of the situation. Elements of the Third are halfway into the Colle di Nava when the messengers ride up to the command post of Centurio Marcus Sulpicius Scipio, commander of the
Third Cohort. The lead messenger draws rein, then says "Hail. Centurio. I bring important news from Centurio Servius Sulpicius Minor of the Second Cohort. He has instructed me to tell you that men of the Second intercepted and destroyed a party of enemy spies who approached them in the Colle di San Bernado. Centurio Servius further cautions you that that there may be similar groups in your area of operations. He also recommends that you complete your part of the mission and return to camp as soon as possible"

Centurio Marcus says "My thanks for your timely message, legionary. Return at once to Centurio Servius and give him my complements. Tell him that his message is received and understood, and that I and my men will be on the lookout for enemy personnel. We will come back to camp just as soon as the last drawings are made of the pass."

"At once, Centurio Marcus." The mounted legionary rides off in a cloud of dust, while Centurio Marcus' men continue with the final part of their survey mission. It is late afternoon, going on into the early evening hours. The sun is beginning to set when the final illustrations are made and the last notes are collected. The warning from Centurio Servius has been heeded, and all of the sentries from the Third Cohort are on alert. Despite this, no one is seen anywhere in the Colle di Nava. The sentries are recalled, and the Third Cohort reconstitutes itself. The last task to be accomplished is the construction of a message tower just by the entrance to the Colle di Nava. This is done in very short order; the requisite number of legionaries and cavalry are left behind to run the station, and the Third Cohort moves out.

Still More Complications
Date: Iunius XV MDCXXXI AUC / June 15th, 878 AD
Location: The council chamber of Hugh, Margrave of Liguria

In his city of Genua, Hugh, Margrave of Liguria summons Legate Tiberius Rutilius Cotta of Legio II Italica to his council chamber in order to discuss a matter of some importance. Legate Tiberius arrives a short time later and says "You asked for me, Lord Hugh?"

"Yes, I did, Legate. Thank you for coming. In a meeting I previously had with Legate Germanicus, I mentioned that we here in Liguria had had to suffer the unfavorable attention of lords who were more powerful than I am. In the past, the Margraves of Tuscany and of Emilia-Romagna have come across my territory while on certain of their campaigns. I hadn't the strength to oppose them as much as I would have wanted, and so I was forced to contribute both men and supplies for their ventures. More recently, I have had to contend with Hubert, Margrave of Turin. Five years ago, I had a dispute with him. We contended in arms, and unfortunately, I lost. Since then, I have had to pay Hubert an annual tribute. The tribute for this year was due to have been paid but three weeks ago. Since I and mine are now allied with Nova Roma, I no longer saw it necessary to continue paying the tribute."

Legate Tiberius says ‘I understand, Lord Hugh. Do please continue."

Margrave Hugh says "Legate, Hubert isn't likely to react at all well to my having stopped the tribute. He's stubborn, irascible and more than a little bit prickly. In fact, he will consider the stoppage of the tribute to be a personal insult."

Legate Tiberius thoughtfully considers Hugh's words for a moment, then says "What do you think his response will be?"

"Legate Tiberius, if I know Hubert at all, he'll send troops to help remind me of my ‘obligations'."

Legate Tiberius frowns and says "Oh he will, will he? I think not, Lord Hugh. You were quite right to inform me of this. Anyone who comes armed with hostile intent against Nova Roma or any of its allies will get precisely what they deserve. What forces does this Hubert have to call upon?"

"Legate, Hubert has some six thousand five hundred men under arms. Of these, five hundred are cavalry and the rest are foot. He must guard his other frontiers, so he can't afford to send his whole force against me. Hubert will send no more than 3,000 men. As to the exact proportions of the force coming here, I know not."

"Very well, Lord Hugh. I currently have seven cohorts of Legio II Italica available for service. The other three are currently occupied with a survey mission in the mountain passes leading into Liguria. I will have Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh order the men of Legio II Italica to stand to and be ready to march at a moment's notice." At this mention of his son's name, Lord Hugh smiles inwardly. "I suggest that you lay in such stores of equipment and supplies as you deem appropriate for your own men. In the meantime, please excuse me, Lord Hugh. I must look to the disposition of the Legion." Legate Tiberius leaves Lord Hugh's palace and returns to the camp of Legio II Italica outside the walls of Genua. He immediately calls a staff meeting and informs his officers of what Lord Hugh has told him. The first to speak up is Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh.

"Legate, my father speaks the truth about Hubert. I was on the field five years ago when we fought Hubert's army. He's a savage, intemperate brute, and his attitude has filtered down to most of his officers. I counsel that you take care that none of our men are captured, for they will get no mercy from Hubert or his officers."

"Very well, Tribunus Laticlavius. Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"How is the legion fixed for supplies?"

"Legate, at present, Legio II Italica has sixty days worth of consumables on hand. This includes fodder for both the cavalry mounts and horses used to draw the wagons."

"Excellent, Primus Pilus. Now, gentlemen. Let us look to the disposition of the legion. Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh, how do you believe that Hubert will come against us?"

"Legate, Hubert is, if anything, a creature of regular and exacting habits. As he did five years ago, he will send his troops down through the Pass of Bochetta. Once his men are on our side of the mountains, their officers will pause for perhaps a day in order to consolidate them. Then they will march on Genua. Hubert's troops will be divided into two equal bodies; each body will have half of the foot and half of the cavalry. For reasons of security, the baggage train will be in the middle."

Date: Iunius XVI MDCXXXI AUC / June 16th, 878 AD
Location: the palace of Hubert, Margrave of Turin

Hubert's palace halls know little of peace and quiet this day, for Hubert himself has been in a simmering bad mood all day long. Hubert has just received a report from the palace treasurer that the household is deeply in debt from expenditures on his troops, and also from his less-than-prudent personal spending. Even so, things in the palace are about to get much more unsettled. Hubert's chamberlain waits for an opportune moment to deliver a certain piece of information. Hubert is now sitting at his table; he pours a great draft of wine into his goblet, takes a long pull, then sets the goblet down half-drained.

Just now, the chamberlain, Abele the Wise approaches his lord with a look of trepidation on his face. "My lord Hubert, I beg your pardon for this intrusion, but there is news that you need to be made aware of."

Still in a rage. Hubert snaps "Yes, yes, YES, what is it, Abele?"

"My lord, five years ago, you roughly handled the troops of Hugh, Margrave of Liguria after you had that certain ‘dispute' with him. Matters were settled by Hugh agreeing to pay you an annual tribute." Hubert scowls and says "Tell me something I don't already know, you thrice-damned idiot!!"

Abele continues by saying "My lord, please excuse me for saying this, but the tribute for this year was due three weeks ago. As of today, it hasn't arrived. I have heard rumors through my contacts in Liguria that Lord Hugh has simply decided to just stop paying it." These last words cause Hubert to momentarily freeze in his tracks; there is a look of surprise and shock on his face. Then, the full implications of what Abele has just said sink in. Hubert now begins to rant and rave "THAT NO-GOOD, LYING, MISBEGOTTEN, DUNG-WEANED, THRICE-DAMNED WHORESON!! HOW DARE HE INSULT ME IN SUCH A FASHION!!!." Hubert's face is now absolutely purple with rage. He stomps over to the table and picks up his half-empty goblet. Rather than draining the rest of the contents, Hubert throws it against the wall with such violence that the bowl of the goblet is half-crushed from the force of the impact. The tirade of imprecations continues with ever-increasing vigor; each one more foul and vituperative than the last.

Abele hesitantly approaches his lord and says "Lord Hubert, do please try and calm yourself, Remember what your physician said about how you shouldn't upset yourself so." Hubert ignores Abele and continues to work himself into a monumental rage. Flecks of spittle fly from Hubert's lips as he angrily shouts "Summon my council, Abele. Tell them to be here within the hour. NOW, BE OFF WITH YOU!!". Abele scurries out of the council chamber and goes to bring Hubert's councilors. While Abele is away, Hubert is left alone to consider the full import of what Lord Hugh has done. The main reason why Hubert felt unconstrained by his financial situation is that he expected the tribute from Liguria to arrive on time. Now that it hasn't, Hubert will be unable to meet his monetary obligations for the rest of the year without making substantial cutbacks.

Not wishing to be the focus of Hubert's wrath, Abele took great care to hurry along the councilors to the meeting hall. Just three-quarters of an hour later, all have been assembled. When the last of them has taken their seats around the central table, Hubert begins to speak. "Chamberlain Abele here has informed me that no-good worm Hugh of Liguria has decides to stop paying the tribute that is rightfully due to me. I have called you all here to tell you what I am going to do. I am not going to stall or delay my response to this insult in the slightest. Captain-General di Roma?"

"Yes, my lord?"

You will call my troops to arms. I am sending three thousand foot and half of my cavalry south to Liguria. You will take personal command of this expedition. I want you to collect what is owed to me with interest. Tell your men that they can be ‘creative' as to how these collections are to be made. Let nothing and no one stand in your way. Is that clear??"

"Indeed it is, my lord." The prospect of being granted a virtual license to steal brings rather wolfish grins to the faces of the Captain-General and certain of his more rapacious officers. He asks Lord Hubert "When am I to march, my lord?"

Lord Hubert says "It isn't all that far to Hugh's city of Genua. I want you and the men on the road within the week.

Captain-General Armando di Roma stands to attention and says "Very good, my lord. It will be as you have commanded."

Meeting Force with Force
Date: Iunius XVII MDCXXXI AUC / June 17th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio II Italica, outside Genua

In the camp of Legio II Italica, there is much furious activity this day. Legate Tiberius Rutilius Cotta has issued a Warning Order concerning imminent enemy activity, and so the men of the legion have begun their preparations After the morning meal, every man, from the officers all the way down to the ordinary miles gregarii prepares his equipment for the march. Every piece is closely inspected, and anything that is worn or damaged is either replaced or repaired. The centurions of the legion report to Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh that all equipment is up to standard, so he orders that the legion's wagons be loaded with rations, supplies and all the other impedimenta of the legion that will not be carried by the legionaries themselves.

Meanwhile in the Principia, Legate Tiberius is making plans on how best to employ the legion should Hubert actually march on Liguria. Mindful that Legio II isn't at full strength because of the survey mission, he summons Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus. Primus Pilus Gaius promptly answers, saying "You called for me, Legate?"

"Yes, I did, Primus Pilus. I want the legion to have its full strength available if necessary. However, it wouldn't be prudent to simply wait for the three cohorts I dispatched on that survey mission to return to us here. Therefore, I want you to dispatch the fastest riders we have. I am issuing a recall order. Tell the messengers that they are to convey to the pili priori of each cohort that they are to gather their commands and make for the Pass of Bocchetta. The legion will be camping there in order to intercept Hubert's army."

"Very good, Legate. They will ride within the hour." Primus Pilus Gaius salutes Legate Tiberius, then leaves the Principia to send the messengers on their way.

Date: The morning of Iunius XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / June 18th, 878 AD

The men of Legio II Italica rise before dawn to finish their preparations for the march. By the time the sun is peeking over the horizon, the loading preparations are complete and the entire legion (along with their horses and wagons) are drawn up in marching order. Legate Tiberius and his command staff are at the very front of the column. He leans over in his saddle towards Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus, both of whom are astride their own horses close by. "I give you Good Morning, gentlemen. A fair day for a walk in the countryside, is it not?" Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh responds "Hail, Legate. A fine morning, indeed."

"Is the legion ready to march, Tribune?"

"As soon as you give the order, Legate."

"Very well. Let us move out."

"Yes, Legate. Primus Pilus Gaius?"

"Yes, Tribune?"

"The order is given."

"By your leave, Tribune. Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus stands tall in his saddle so that he can easily be seen. He shouts out loudly ‘MEN OF THE LEGION….FORWARD"; this preparatory command is quickly echoed up and down the line by the centurions. Then, Primus Pilus Gaius shouts the command of execution "MARCH". So, Legio II Italica is now on the march. Their pace is kept regular by notes played by the legion's buccinators and tubiceni.

At the same time that Legio II Italica is moving out, the messengers dispatched by Primus Pilus Gaius are just now reaching the men of the Second, Third and Fourth Cohorts. They are brought to Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis. They render a proper salute, whereupon the lead rider says "Hail, Pilus Prior. I bring a message of the greatest importance from Legate Tiberius."

"Hail, Legionary Titus Flavius Secundus. What message do you have?"

"Pilus Prior, Legate Tiberius has entrusted me to tell you that the three cohorts under your command are recalled immediately. Enemy action is anticipated, so Legio II Italica has marched. Legate Tiberius says that you are to make haste and meet him at the Pass of Bocchetta as soon as you are able." Pilus Prior Gaius replies "My thanks for the Legate's warning. We had already gathered ourselves together here and were preparing to move back to the legion's main camp. Three contubernia from the Second Cohort engaged and eliminated a group of armed strangers that were attempting to cross the border between Piedmont and Liguria. It seems that they were spies sent by their lord Hubert, Margrave of Turin. I have the three survivors and their equipment under guard. Legate Tiberius must be informed of this development as soon as possible."

"Yes, Pilus Prior."

"Ordinarily, I would have you and your fellows ride back and deliver the message, but I observe that your horses are well-lathered from the effort made in getting that message here to me. So, you will come along with me and we will all meet up with Legate Tiberius at the designated rally point before the Pass of Bochetta. For now, you can change out your horses with fresh mounts from the cavalry detachment attached to this vexillatio. It will be half an hour before we move out, so you will be able rest and refresh yourselves somewhat."

"Many thanks for your courtesy, Pilus Prior."The looks of relief on Legionary Titus Flavius Secundus and his fellows is almost palpable. A staff Optio leads Titus and his companions towards the vexillatio's cavalry, while Pilus Prior Gaius turns his mind towards the march. The distance between the Colle di San Bernardo and the Pass of Bochetta is some forty mille, so to meet the rest of the legion on time, a forced march will have to be undertaken. Pilus Prior Gaius considers his options, and communicates the appropriate orders to the Pili Priori of the Third and Fourth cohorts. There is now a great sense of urgency in the ranks, so less than half an hour later, the vexillatio marches. The marching situation for the rest of Legio II Italica is less involved that it is for the men of the Second, Third and Fourth cohorts. From the legion's castra outside the city of Genua to the mouth of the Pass of Bochetta, the distance is twenty mille.

Date: early evening, Iunius XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / June 18th, 878 AD

The measured pace of the men of Legio II Italica told off the distance from Genua to the Pass of Bochetta with speed. The legion arrives at the mouth of the pass, so Legate Tiberius calls a hurried conference with his command staff to decide where best to emplace the legion. Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus and Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh survey the field and give their opinions to Legate Tiberius.

Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh says "Legate, I have conferred with Primus Pilus Gaius. We believe that you should deploy the legion no more than one mille from the mouth of the Pass of Bochetta. Liguria is a very narrow territory, and we dare not allow Hubert's troops the freedom to maneuver. Doing this is what cost my father the battle that led to him having to pay tribute to Hubert for these five years past."

Legate Tiberius considers what he has been told and spends a few minutes in thought. Then, he says to his officers "Gentlemen, I have made my decision. We will deploy the legion one-half-mille from the mouth of the pass. Our camp will be where we stand; give priority to the construction of the moat and stockade. Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"You will deploy the polybolos' and the ballistae igneii in two bodies facing the mouth of the pass. These bodies will be placed so that any troops coming out of the pass will be caught in a crossfire. The legion will be arrayed in line behind the artillery, and our cavalry will be on the flanks in a supporting position. Primus Pilus?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"I have a mission for the archers. They will go forward into the mouth of the pass and take up positions on the slopes overlooking the Via Postumia. Once their positions have been selected, the archers will dig a series of pits. These pits will have barrels of the Powder of Mars placed at the bottom, along with barrels of sulfur and pitch. The pits will be filled with large rocks and concealed with brush. The pits themselves will be angled so that when the Powder of Mars is set off, the rocks, burning pitch and sulfur will be thrown onto the enemy troops in front of them. In the aftermath of the explosions, the archers will rake any surviving troops with flights of arrows."

"A very clever plan, Legate. It shall be as you order." Within a very short period of time, every man of the legion is occupied in carrying out the legate's orders. The moat for the legion's camp is quickly excavated, and the earth is piled up to form a rampart upon which the palisade will be placed. Timbers for the palisade are obtained by going to nearby wooded areas and cutting down small trees, then hewing them to the desired length. This labor takes place all throughout the night, with short rest breaks taken on a rotating basis.

Date: the morning of Iunius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / June 19th, 878 AD

Dawn breaks, and the air is warm and clear. The camp moat has been excavated, and the last section of the stockade is being emplaced. Forward of the camp position, the ballistae igneii and polybolos are deployed. To provide further protection against an advance of enemy troops, the ground in front of the artillery positions is thickly-sown with both caltrops and crows-feet. Additionally, numbers of small pits are dug. In each of these pits, an empty clay pot is placed upside down. The pits are concealed by filling the sides and top with earth. The idea is that when an enemy cavalryman reaches one of the pits, one of his horse's hooves will break through the pot, causing the horse to trip, fall and throw its rider. To guard against the artillery being seen by enemy troops, brush is planted to the front and to the flanks.

While the field is being prepared, the legion's five maniples of archers are carrying out their own assignments. A series of six large pits have been dug; each pit is of a size to hold two barrels of the Powder of Mars, four barrels each of pitch and sulfur and several tons of rocks. A device is emplaced so that the powder can be ignited at need from a distance, and the mouth of each pit is concealed with brush and raked earth. Two of these pits are on the floor of the Pass of Bocchetta near the Via Postumia, while the other four are on the slopes overlooking the road; tow are on each side of the pass. By Legate Tiberius' order, the pits have been placed so that when the Powder of Mars goes off, the showers of flaming rocks and other debris will strike the enemy troops on their flanks at an angle.

In later afternoon, the sun is beginning to set when the men of the legion take a well-earned rest break from the vast amounts of labor they have gone forth to. Just then, sentries on the perimeter catch sight of the advance guard from the Second, Third and Fourth cohorts. This news is immediately communicated to Legate Tiberius, so he is on hand when Pilus Prior Secundus Gaius Flavius Cerialis and his men arrive. Pilus Prior Gaius and the men of the vexillatio have just completed a long march, and the effort shows on their faces. He sees Legate Tiberius, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Primus Pilus Gaius approach. Before saluting and exchanging greetings, Pilus Prior Gaius orders the men of the three cohorts to fall out, rest and eat.

"Hail, Legate Tiberius."

"Hail, Pilus Prior Gaius. I see that you received my message to join with the rest of the legion."

"I did indeed, Legate. Rather than sending your messengers back to inform you, I elected to have them come along with me. Not doing so would have cost us precious time; from what you men told me, this is time we don't have."

"Quite so, Pilus Prior. As you can see, the men of the legion have been working all night long to make sure that Hubert's troops receive a proper ‘reception' when they arrive."

"When might that happen, Legate?"

For an answer, Legate Tiberius turns to Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh who says "Based on my own estimations, Hubert's men will be here in one day, two days at the most."

Pilus Prior Gaius replies "Thank you for that information, Tribune."

Legate Tiberius crosses his hands behind his back and looks out over the field before the pass. He spends some moments in quiet thought before speaking "Our defensive preparations are now complete. I am ordering that the entire legion stand down and rest in place until tomorrow morning. It won't do to face Hubert's troops with exhausted men. Have the sentries keep a clear eye in case the estimate for the arrival time of Hubert's army is incorrect." The stand-down order is relayed throughout the ranks, and the men of Legio II Italica fall out to enjoy a well-earned rest after the herculean labors they have performed.

Date: the morning of Iunius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / June 19th, 878 AD

Legio II Italica's defensive works are completed, and all is now in readiness for the arrival of Margrave Hubert's troops. Rather than allowing the enemy troops to advance through the Pass of Bocchetta unobserved, Legate Tiberius sends a small cavalry patrol through to the far end of the pass. Their orders are to watch for the advance of Hubert's troops, and to send word when they have been sighted. They are to avoid contact with the enemy at all costs. The patrol is dispatched just after sunrise, and the dozen cavalrymen in it are in position well before noontime. Each cavalryman is carrying a small telescope to extend the party's visual range.

The patrol is stationed in the midst of a small copse of trees just inside the mouth of the pass. The Decurio in charge of the patrol, Sextus Ovidius Eburnus, raises his telescope to his eyes and scans the countryside out in front of his position. For some period of time, he sees nothing and returns the telescope to its case. But suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, his attention is drawn by a glint of light off in the distance. Decurio Sextus draws his telescope from its case and raises it to his eyes yet again. He orders the other members of the patrol to do likewise, and to note what they see. The glinting that drew Decurio Sextus' attention is sunlight reflecting off the helmets and spearpoints carried by a substantial host of men. First to be seen are ranks of cavalry; following them is a body of infantry advancing by column-of fours. The progress of this body of men is causing a column of dust to rise in the warm, afternoon air.

Decurio Sextus estimates that the unknown troops are five to seven mille from his position, and that they are advancing at a slow walk. He further estimates the number of men to be at least five cohorts' worth, and that they will enter the mouth of the Pass of Bocchetta in two hours.

Decurio Sextus calls for two of his men and says "I want you to ride back to Legate Tiberius and tell him that there is a body of troops approaching my position, estimated to be five cohorts in strength. Say also that the troops will enter the pass in two hours, and that we will continue to observe for as long as possible before withdrawing." The senior of the two troopers replies "Immediately, decurio." The two cavalrymen ride off in great haste to deliver the message.

Captain-General Armando di Roma and his men have made what is, for them, excellent progress. Not only were they ready for the march in less than two days, their spirits have been buoyed by the lack of opposition and the prospect of the extra ‘compensation' to be collected after they get to Genua. The column's advance guard reports back to the Captain-General that they have sighted the entrance to the Pass of Bocchetta. Captain-General di Roma leans over in his saddle and speaks to his officers, saying "We should enter the Pass of Bochetta in less than three hours. We'll enter the pass in good order, then pause to gather our strength once we are on the other side." Captain-General di Roma's officers nod their understanding, then ride back to join their commands.

Two hours later, Decurio Sextus' five remaining cavalrymen observe that the approaching enemy troops are just one mille away from the entrance to the pass. Over the preceeding two hours, he has dispatched two groups of messengers back to Legate Tiberius to inform him of the enemy's progress. With the enemy troops close to his position, Decurio Sextus orders a withdrawl. He and his men are careful to keep the copse of threes between them and the enemy troops as they leave their position. Once they are around the first bend in the pass, Decurio Sextus and his men put spurs to horse and ride like the wind to rejoin Legio II Italica.

Date: early evening, Iunius XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC / June 19th, 878 AD

Captain-General di Roma's advance guard has entered the mouth of the Pass of Bocchetta, while the main body is temporarily halted in place. Before proceeding any further, the advance guard surveys as much of the pass as they can see from their position. Not seeing any enemy troops, they signal back to the Captain-General that it is safe to proceed. The advance guard enters the pass and begins to make its way along the old Via Popillia. Even though this road hasn't seen regular maintenance in more than four hundred years, it is still in surprisingly good shape. Having a proper road to ride upon speeds up the pace of movement considerably. By the time that the sun has dropped below the horizon, the advance guard has reached the end of the pass. Captain-General di Roma's force is one mile from the end of the pass when a messenger from the advance guard rides up to the Captain-General and his command staff.

"My lord Captain-General, I beg to report."

"Yes, what is it?"

"The advance guard has exited the pass, and they have caught sight of an unknown body of troops. They are drawn up in formation less than one mile away from the pass. It seems as if they mean to oppose our advance."

"I see. Of what strength are they?"

"My lord, there are less than five hundred men in position."

"Well, now. I was beginning to think that Lord Hugh wasn't going to put up any kind of resistance against us. I am pleased to see that we will have an opportunity to teach him yet another lesson in humility. Return to the advance guard and tell them that they are to secure a campsite one-quarter mile from the end of the pass. The army will join them there in two hours."

"Immediately, my lord." The rider gallops off to convey Captain-General di Roma's orders. The Captain-General turns to his officers and says "Gentlemen, the army will advance through the end of the pass and make camp once we have reached the other side. It will be too dark for further action by the time the camp is up and running, so we will hold in place until tomorrow morning. Then, we will go forward and teach Lord Hugh a lesson that he won't soon forget." As this last sentence is delivered, Captain-General di Roma's face is creased with a wolfish grin. The other officers of the command see this and respond with low chuckles and grins of their own.

The shadows are beginning to lengthen considerably by the time Captain-General di Roma's men have exited the pass. The army halts in place and begins to make camp. Not being overly concerned with having a regular camp layout, the Captain-General's men pitch their tents in whatever locations seem most convenient. Sentry posts are set up around the perimeter of the camp, and numerous watchfires are also lit. All the while, men keep casting their eyes towards the troops on the opposite end of the field in case a surprise attack is mounted.

Date: the morning of Iunius XX MDCXXXI AUC / June 20th, 878 AD

Captain-General di Roma's men passed an uneventful night. They rouse themselves from their bedrolls and attend to their morning activities. The officers of the army are summoned to a meeting in Captain-General di Roma's command tent, where instructions will be given for the upcoming action. Captain-General di Roma enters the tent and his officers rise to their feet and salute him. He acknowledges the salutes and responds by saying "A fair good morning to you all, gentlemen. Our opponents have made no move either to advance or flee the field. Therefore, they deserve whatever we will do to them."

Captain-General di Roma's second-in-command replies "Very true, my lord. Our troops are well-rested and well-fed, and they will do good service this day." Just then, one of the sentries bursts into the tent and says "My lord, forgive this intrusion, but I have important news. The troops across the field do not belong to Lord Hugh" Captain-General di Roma reacts with surprise and says "Whose troops are they?" The sentry replies "They resemble images I have seen graven on old Roman monuments. They wear armor in the old style, and carry large rectangular shield. For arms, they carry long javelins and short swords."

Captain-General di Roma says "Well, this is a most unexpected development. I have heard reports of people that call themselves ‘Nova Romans'. They have been causing a good deal of trouble in Tuscany and points south. They are said to have weapons which roar like thunder and strike like lightning, but these reports can scarcely be believed. Wherever they come from, it is of no importance. If they have allied themselves with Lord Hugh, they will be broken as easily as a clay pot thrown against the wall of a building." The meeting is interrupted by an unfamiliar fanfare of trumpets and horns coming from across the field, so Captain-General di Roma and his officers walk out of the command tent to see what is going on.

The Nova Romans are arraying themselves for battle. They have formed themselves into a series of six rectangular blocks of men, each block having eighty men in four rows of twenty men each. The blocks are on-line with each other, separated by perhaps ten yards or so. Captain-General di Roma surveys the scene and tells his officers "It looks like these ‘Nova Romans' are asking us to come over and pay them a visit. Who are we to refuse such a generous invitation?"

The Captain-General turns to his cavalry commander and says ‘Captain Ranieri?"

"Yes, my lord?"

"Place your horsemen in line between us and our opponents. When I signal, you may begin the advance."

"Very good, my lord."

On the other side of the field, Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus has ordered half of the First cohort into battle array. The other half of the First is with the rest of Legio II Italica behind the concealing screens of brush. Quickly and quietly, orders are sent to the artillery crews by Legate Tiberius to have them make ready to fire when the word is given. The magazines on the polybolos are topped off with sharply-pointed iron-headed javelins, while the crews on the ballistae igneii quickly charge their weapons with the Powder of Mars and a double-load consisting of one-half grape shot and one-half scatter shot.

Captain Ranieri has put his cavalry into a single line in order to cover as much frontage on the battlefield as possible. The riders are so close that they are almost boot-to-boot. Each cavalryman has gathered his horse's reins in one hand, while the other hand holds his lance. The lances are rather heavy, so to reduce the strain on the arms of the cavalrymen, the butt of each lance is held in a metal socket attached to the top of one of the stirrups. Captain Ranieri draws his sword from a scabbard slung from his saddlebow. He gestures towards the Nova Romans and shouts out in a loud, clear voice "AT THE WALK, FORWARD…….MARCH." This command has all two-hundred fifty cavalrymen urge their horses into a slow walk. Behind the horses, Captain-General di Roma has ordered his men forward at a walking pace. A minute later, the next command shouted is "AT THE TROT, FORWARD,…..MARCH"; which command has the cavalry moving forward at a slow canter. The Captain-General's troops are still following behind, but the distance between them and the cavalry is increasing as the horses continue to move faster. Another minute passes, then finally the command to charge is given.

Simultaneously, every lance is pulled from its socket and couched underneath the right arms of the cavalrymen. The horses all break out into a gallop, and the rumble of their hooves striking the ground is very much like thunder. The distance between the cavalrymen and the Nova Roman front ranks is rapidly decreasing as the horses gallop forward. Half of a mile……one-quarter of a mile….one-eighth of a mile. As the cavalrymen continue the charge, they shout their battle-cries to the skies and beyond. Just as it seems that Captain-General di Roma's cavalry are about to ride the Nova Romans into the ground, disaster strikes. The cavalrymen run into that piece of ground so cleverly sewn the night before with caltrops, crows-feet and buried clay pots. All at once, the fore-hooves of dozens of horses break through the ground that thinly covers the clay pots. The pots break and collapse, and this causes either the right or left front legs to break. The horses so affected scream, fall forward and throw their riders violently onto the ground. The horses not affected by the collapsing clay pots are not out of danger. Many of these scream in pain and rear upwards violently as one or more of their hooves are pierced by cruelly-barbed crows-feet or the needle-sharp points of iron caltrops. Many of the thrown riders are either killed or wounded by the impact on the stony ground. Those that aren't wounded or killed are stunned.

As soon as the enemy cavalry charge is broken up, Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus thunders out to the men of the First Cohort "DOWN ON THE GROUND ALL OF YOU, DOWN I SAY!!!. This command is given in a voice that would do credit in the far-off halls of Mount Olympus. As soon as Primus Pilus Gaius' men are prone on the ground, other men of the legion throw down the screens of brush that have heretofore concealed the presence of the polybolos and ballistae igneii. The centurio commanding the legion's artillery orders the crews of the ballistae igneii "FIRE BY CENTURIA, READY……FIRE" The chiefs of each piece lower their ignition staffs to the touch holes, and the twelve ballistae igneii instantly gout forth flame and great thick clouds of stinking white smoke. Each weapon's payload of deadly spherical iron projectiles speeds forth faster than the eye can see towards their intended targets.

The impact of the grape shot and scatter shot wreaks indescribable havoc upon an already-shattered cavalry charge. Captain-General di Roma was riding at the head of his infantry, just behind the cavalry charge. His mind was filled with thoughts of going onwards to glory when he was brought back to reality by the neighing of horses as they stumble and fall. He looks around to see the source of this noise, and is stunned to hear a rapid series of giant thunderclaps which seem to emanate from the Nova Roman lines. The very next minute, the very air itself was rent by the screams of wounded horses and the cries of wounded and dying men. Captain-General di Roma himself was nicked by a flying fragment of iron, and his horse bucked and reared due to the totally-unfamiliar noise of the Nova Roman weapons. He is an experienced horseman, and was quickly able to bring his mount under control. Cries of fear and consternation are running through di Roma's ranks as his second-in-command rides up and excitedly shouts "My lord, what in the name of God almighty was that??" Just then, Captain-General di Roma and his officers happen to smell some of the thick white smoke that has drifted across the battlefield from the Nova Roman position. The smoke smells most strongly of sulfur, and this brings thoughts of hellfire and damnation into the minds of the more religiously-inclined among them. A junior officer loudly exclaims "THE DEVIL HIMSELF RISES AGAINST US. WE ARE UNDONE!!" The officer quickly looks around him, looking as if he is making ready to flee. Captain-General di Roma sees this, rides up and grabs the reins of the man's horse while shaking them vigorously. He ays "Steady up, man! We are soldiers of Lord Hubert, Margrave of Turin!! We aren't some muling babies to be frightened of some thunder and smoke, FORWARD, I SAY!!!"

On the other side of the field, the ballistae igneii crews have rolled their weapons back into position and are in the process of reloading them. As before, the barrels are loaded with bundled charges of the Powder of Mars. This time, however, the projectiles are changed. First to be rammed home are rounds of grape shot. Then, a round of semina ignis maior is placed on top of the grapeshot. Next to the ballistae igneii, those troops who are working the polybolos crank their weapons up to the maximum elevation possible and make ready to fire. Legate Tiberius, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus are observing the advance of the enemy troops. Legate Tiberius says "Gentlemen, I think they mean to move upon our position. Primus Pilus, when the ballistae igneii have discharged their second volley, I want you to have the First cohort consolidate itself in the center of our lines. The rest of the legion will form itself in two wings on the flanks of the First. The idea is that the enemy will see us as being weak in the center and focus his attack there"

"Yes, Legate."

"Tribunus Laticlavius?"

"Yes, Legate?"

"I will command the right wing of the legion, while you will command the left. When the enemy advances, the First cohort will demonstrate as if they mean to stand their ground. I will give the signal, then the two wings of the legion will swing forward and crush the enemy between them, as grain is crushed between millstones."

"Yes, Legate. I understand."

"Now, to your posts, all of you. Jupiter's arm strike with us!!" Legate Tiberius signals his artillery commander to open fire. The twelve ballistae igneii again throw forth their deadly iron payloads. The smoke thus created adds to the pall which has already settled over the battlefield from the first volley. There are very few horses and men still standing from the ill-fated cavalry charge, and more of them are killed and wounded from the grape shot. The semina ignis maior which were loaded on top of the grapeshot find their marks in the mass of oncoming infantry.

Some explode directly in front of the first rank while others plow through the men directly; many files of men are knocked down and killed before the semina ignis maior explode and add yet more carnage to an already-chaotic scene. The polybolos crews fire their weapons, too. Dozens of iron-headed javelins are soon arcing through the air. These weapons are being fired indirectly, so their accuracy isn't what it would otherwise be.

Captain-General di Roma and his officers are attempting to keep order in their ranks and keep the advance going when they hear the dreaded sound of the Nova Roman weapons discharging again. Almost instantly, there are explosions in front of, above and among di Roma's troops. Some men are literally blown to pieces, and others suffer wounds of one degree or another. Compounding the misery are the javelins which come flying in. Many troops see them coming and manage to raise their shields to protect themselves, but the javelins are so powerfully-launched that they pierce shield and man alike. Captain-General di Roma turns to his second-in-command and says "Our only hope is to close with the enemy. If we get among them, those damnable hellish weapons won't be able to fire for fear of hitting their own men."

"My lord, what of the javelins raining down upon us?"

"What of them? How can they be any worse than being struck down by weapons from the very pit of hell? FORWARD, I SAY!!!"

Captain-General di Roma and his officers continue to lead their men forward, all the while coming under javelin fire. They are now past the area of ground that was sewn with caltrops and crows-feet. While moving through, they pass hundreds of dead and dying men and horses left over from the cavalry charge. Ahead of them, the Nova Romans are changing their formation. It seems like they are concentrating on the flanks, with only a small reserve in the center.

Keeping up the Skeer
Date: Late afternoon, Junius XX MDCXXXI AUC / June 20th, 878 AD

Captain-General di Roma's troops are continuing to advance, despite being under withering indirect fire from the polybolos. The Captain-General and his officers have placed themselves behind the front quarter of the army so as to better command it in the assault upon the Nova Roman position. Captain-General di Roma orders his front ranks to form into a wedge; they are now but fifty yards from the forward edge of the Nova Roman formation. On the other side, Legate Tiberius and Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh are observing the disposition of the enemy troops with marked interest. Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus is moving up and down the ranks of the First cohort giving last-minute orders to his men. The First cohort seems to be the focus of the enemy advance, so Primus Pilus Gaius calls out "RAISE SCUTA!!" The enemy troops are moving forward at a slow walk; when they are just eighty cubits away, Legate Tiberius also calls out to the rest of the legion to raise their scuta. The brightly-burnished bronze umbones in the center of each scutum are gleaming brilliantly in the morning sunshine. As soon as the enemy troops have come within sixty cubits, the now familiar command to ready the pilae is shouted forth "PIIIIILAAAAA…..IACE!!" In that instant, each legionary cocks his arm backwards, and gives his pila a mighty cast. Thousands of wickedly-barbed javelins are hurled through the air, making a malignant whirring noise as they fly.

Captain-General di Roma's troops are able to see the pilae flying at them because they are much-less powerfully launched than the javelins fired by the polybolos. Many troops are able to get their shields up in time to block the pila from hitting them. Troops that aren't able to raise their shields in time take a pila through an arm, a leg or the body. These injuries/fatalities cause the men so afflicted to drop in their tracks. Those pilae that do hit the raised shields make a loud ‘THOCK' as their barbed heads sink into and through the leather and wood. The temporary benefit of not having a javelin pierce some part of their bodies is completely outweighed by the fact that every shield that was hit by a pila is now completely useless. Each enemy shield has been penetrated by one or more pilae; after impact, the thin iron shank bends at some angle, while the barbed edges on the pila point make it nearly impossible to pull it out of the shield.

There is also the weight of the wooden shaft to consider. More than a few of Captain-General di Roma's men try to pull out the pila sticking in their shields, but are unable to do so. Rather than fall behind the advance while they further attempt to pull the pila out, they cast their now-useless shields aside and continue forward.

The point of Captain-General di Roma's wedge is now just forty cubits from the Nova Roman line. Before he is able to order a charge, a second volley of pilae lashes out and wreaks bloody havoc on the advancing troops. Even at this close range, some of the pila miss their targets. With no shields to protect them, many more troops are killed than are injured. Finally, the frustration of being so handled boils over, and Captain-General di Roma says to his officers "I have had enough of this. We will now charge; everybody goes. No one waits or holds back. MAKE READY TO CHARGE…..CHAAARRRGE!!!" This command causes a wild, almost feral shout to rise from the throats of Captain-General di Roma's men. They surge forward, like a great human wave. In response to this, Legate Tiberius thunders out the commands "GLADIUM…STRINGE…..MOVE!!" Before Captain-General di Roma's wedge can reach the center of the Nova Roman line, the rest of Legio II Italica moves forward at a deliberate pace, once which is neither as slow as a walk, yet not as fast as a run.

A few short seconds later, the two groups meet each other head-on. The un-evenness of di Roma's advance means that his troops come against the Nova Romans in a rather-unequal manner, while the troops of Legio II Italica come forward as a united front, their pace measured and disciplined from many long hours on the drillfield. Captain-General di Roma's troops are waving and brandishing their weapons wildly over their heads, while the men of the legion rhythmically strike the flats of their gladius blades against the rims of their scuta. Now the two forces meet in a discordant cacophony of violence. Spears, axes and other instruments of death thud loudly against scuta, while needle-pointed gladius blades lick out like the tongues of some immeasurable serpent.

The very first man to fall dead is one of di Roma's troops. He had raised his longsword to deliver a blow against a legionary directly to his front; this exposed his right armpit to a lethal thrust from the legionary to the immediate left. All along the line, armed and armored men are striving mightily to overcome one another. The First cohort now begins to push forward against Captain-General di Roma's. They break through the head of di Roma's wedge and encounter the Captain-General himself. He is accompanied by his staff officers and his personal bodyguards. This group is promptly engaged by Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus and his own bodyguards. A vicious fight ensues, lasting perhaps three minutes. Three of Primus Pilus Gaius' men fall dead and nine are wounded, while all of the Captain-General's men are slain. Last to die is Captain-General di Roma himself. He is attempting to make a fighting withdrawl when the largest man he has ever seen suddenly looms up in front of him.

Captain-General di Roma's eyes go wide in surprise as he says "What manner of beast are you? You're more giant than man." Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius replies "I'll be sure to take that as a compliment, you miserable no-good sheep-buggering culibonia." This insult causes di Roma's face to go almost purple with rage. Primus Pilus Gaius says further, "give me your name stranger, I'm going to kill you, and I want to remember this fight." Captain-General di Roma is now so angry that spittle is flying from his mouth as he hefts his shield, raises his longsword and advances. Di Roma, for his times, is considered to be a tall man, but Primus Pilus Gaius stands literally a head-and-a-half above him. He draws his own spatha and comes forward, a look of grim determination on his face.

Captain-General di Roma spits out "I am Armando di Roma, and I'm the one who's going to be doing the killing here, barbarian!!" This imprecation is quickly followed by a strike from di Roma's longsword that is caught by Primus Pilus Gaius on his scutum. Primus Pilus Gaius replies with a slash that just barely misses lifting di Roma's head from his shoulders. Instead, di Roma ducks and the slash just cuts off his helmet plume. The two combatants trade swordstrokes for a minute or two, then di Roma raises his longsword on high for a blow that is intended to remove Primus Pilus Gaius' left arm. Primus Pilus Gaius takes the blow on the edge of his scutum, and di Roma wrenches his blade free after it sank into the wood about an inch or two. The effort involved in doing so causes di Roma to become slightly unbalanced, so Primus Pilus Gaius exploits this tiny weakness by striking at the side of di Roma's head with all his strength. The blow is so powerfully-driven that the blade of the spatha snaps, but not before it slices off the top of di Roma's head. Primus Pilus Gaius takes up di Roma's own sword and cuts off his head. He takes the head by the hair and holds it aloft with the blood running down his arm.

Primus Pilus Gaius thunders out in a voice that sounds like Iovi Optimo Maximo delivering judgment from far-off Olympus "STAND AND BEHOLD, YOUR CAPTAIN-GENERAL IS DEAD!!" Those of di Roma's troops who are closest see the head of their former leader held up high in the hand of an armored giant; the cry goes forth "The Captain-General is dead, FLEE FOR YOUR LIVES!!!" Di Roma's troops look on with fear and apprehension, then break off combat and begin to run back towards the Pass of Bocchetta, first by the dozen, and then by hundreds. Primus Pilus Gaius casts down the several head of his opponent, and it rolls away; his chest is heaving violently with the exertion of the combat that has just ended.

Legate Tiberius observes the fleeing troops with grim satisfaction, knowing full-well what awaits them back in the pass. He orders Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh to send the signal to the archers posted up on the slopes of the pass; the order is relayed by signal flags. As Di Roma's panicked and disordered troops re-enter the Pass of Bocchetta, they are fired upon by hundreds of Legio II Italica's archers. These arrows are aimed not to kill, but to wound and cause the targets to hesitate and bunch up before continuing to run. The final phase of Legate Tiberius' plan is put into effect as large numbers of di Roma's surviving troops seek shelter from the arrows raining down on them from above. Certain of Legio II Italica's archers emerge from their hiding places and put fire to the powder trains leading to the pits which had been previously excavated. The powder trains ignite, and the archers that lit them quickly withdraw. The rain of arrows ceases as the rest of the arches take cover from what is about to happen. Di Roma's men look around nervously as the arrow fire ceases, then make ready to keep running. Just then, the pits erupt so violently that it seems as if Hades himself has come up from the netherworld to seek his vengeance.

All six explosions come within a very short time, so there is no chance for more than a few of di Roma's troops to escape. The explosions are deafening, echoing within the confines of the Pass of Bochetta like booming peals of thunder. Vast numbers of flaming rocks and boulders erupt out of the ground with great violence and rain down upon the heads of di Roma's surviving men. Those few that do manage to flee are seized with a mindless, unreasoning panic. To them, what just happened is something out of their deepest, darkest nightmares.

The Skeer: Aftermath
Date: early evening, Junius XX MDCXXXI AUC / June 20th, 878 AD

With the engagement against Captain-General di Roma's troops now concluded, it falls to the men of Legio II Italica go go over the battlefield and book the numbers of the dead and wounded. Details are sent all over the ground to strip the equipment, arms and armor from all casualties, and to gather up the wounded so they can be treated accordingly. Of the forces engaged in action before the Pass of Bocchetta, only seventy-five of di Roma's troops escaped out of a total of 3,250. One thousand were wounded to one degree or another, and the remaining 2,175 were killed in action. For the Nova Romans, they suffered just thirty fatalities and one hundred twenty injuries. Among the surviving enemy troops, those not seriously wounded are pressed into service to help collect the more seriously-injured of their fellows. Those sped too far beyond the ability of Legio II Italica's medical staff to help them are given a poppy extract to lessen their pain, then left to expire in peace. The other casualties are treated, with the most serious injuries coming first. Sword-cuts are cleaned out and stitched up, then the site of the injury is treated with a tincture of iodine to reduce the possibility of infection. Broken bones are splinted and wrapped so they can't shift and cause further injury. Wounds from arrows and pilae are treated surgically, and the incisions are cleaned and sewn together.

The few Nova Roman dead are gathered up by the fellow legionaries with great reverence; the bodies are washed and wrapped up in their sagums to await the proper funerary rites. To dispose of the dead enemy troops, the lightly-wounded enemy casualties are again pressed into service. This time, the bodies are collected, and several mass graves are dug. The bodies are bound up by their fellows in their own blankets, then lowered into the ground. In accordance with Roman military traditions, funeral pyres are built for each of the dead legionaries. The bodies are placed thereon and burned to ash. The ashes are later collected and placed in individual urns marked with the deceased legionary's identifying information. The urns are securely wrapped and placed in one of the legion's wagons for transport back to the castrum.

The attention of Legate Tiberius and his command staff now turn to the enemy equipment. The swords, axes, spears and other weapons are closely examined, as are the helmets and armor. The wagons containing the food, drink and other supplies of the defeated troops are collected and brought forward, where they are added to Legio II Italica's own stocks. After the examinations are done, Legate Tiberius turns to Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and says "though our casualties were mercifully few, this engagement was closer than I would have liked."

Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh replies "True enough, Legate. The troops we faced aren't the only ones in Hubert's service. When the ones who escaped get back to Turin, they will tell him what happened. He will gather the rest of his men, call for aid from his allies and come against us in greater strength. We must be prepared for that eventuality." Legate Tiberius considers what Tribunus Laticlavius has said, then replies "words of wisdom indeed, Tribune. The legion will rest here for two days, then return to Genua. The prisoners will be interned outside our castrum, until such time as I decide what to do with them. I am minded to recruit those among them who are willing."

"Yes, Legate. Have you further orders?"

"Yes, Tribune. Have the men construct a message tower here. Consult with Primus Pilus Gaius and choose a detail of men to be stationed here. While on the march back to Genua, we will pause every twelve mille and build another message tower. This way, if Hubert decides to attack again, we will have advance warning."

"Very good, Legate. It will be as you order."

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 12:47 pm 

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Chapter XVIII

Date: the morning of Junius XXII MDCXXXI AUC / June 22nd, 878 AD

The date for the departure of Legio II Italica back to Genua is now here. Preparations commence just as soon as the sun is above the horizon. Legate Tiberius and his officers busy themselves setting out the order of march and the selection of the guard details for the prisoners. Before noontime, all is in readiness and the Legion moves out. For reasons of security, the enemy prisoners are in the very middle of the column directly behind the legion's wagon train. The legion makes good progress on the road, and the first half is called twelve mille later. As is customary, the legion puts up a moat and stockade to better ensure their security. While the temporary camp is being built, teams of legionaries go out into the surrounding woods and cut timber for the new message station.

At the very same time that this is happening, the first survivors of the deceased Captain-General's troops straggle back to Turin. Most of them are ordinary men-at-arms, but there are some low-ranking officers among them. The survivors stagger back through the city gates, on foot and utterly exhausted from their ordeal. The people who so recently cheered their departing troops now look on in shock and fear as the story of what happened begins to circulate.

The highest-ranking officers among the survivors of the Captain-General's destroyed army is Anselmus, a junior captain who was a member of Captain-General di Roma's staff. With some trepidation, he makes his way to Hubert's palace in the center of Turin. Once there, he goes to Margrave Hubert's council hall and requests admittance. Captain Anselmus is conducted into the hall, where Hubert and his chief councillors are in a right good mood. They are enjoying a good meal while they discuss the imminent return of Captain-General di Roma and the army.

Chamberlain Maffeo approaches Hubert's table and says "I beg your pardon for this interruption, my lord, but one of Captain-General di Roma's officers is here. He says he has news of the gravest importance for you."

"Well then, my good chamberlain. Bid the man approach."

"Yes, my lord."

Captain Anselmus comes forward and introduces himself to his lord and suzerain. Hubert sizes the man up while taking pulls from his goblet. He says "Well? Who are you and what news do you bring me? I trust that Captain-General di Roma has persuaded that bastard Hugh to see his way clear and resume payment of his tribute to me" Captain Anselmus swallows nervously as he composes his answer, knowing full-well that his life may hang in the balance. "My lord, I regret to inform you that this is not so. Captain-General di Roma is dead and the army is destroyed. I saw him die at the hands of a giant in Roman armor. I and about seventy-five men are all that remain of the troops which you dispatched."

Margrave Hubert is so startled by what he is heard that he almost chokes on his wine. He manages to clear his throat as his goblet suddenly drops from his nerveless fingers. Hubert staggers over to the table and collapses into his chair. He covers his face with his hands and rocks back and forth for a few moments as the full import of what happened strikes his mind like a thunderbolt. Hubert takes a few minutes more to gather his thoughts, then he sits upright in his chair. There is a look of icy stillness in Hubert's face that belies the rage he is feeling inside his mind. Hubert fixes his gaze upon Captain Anselmus and says "Tell….me….everything. EVERYTHING, DO YOU HEAR??"

Captain Anselmus clears his throat before speaking, then says "My lord, the army moved out several days ago as instructed, and we made for the Pass of Bocchetta. We didn't arrive until it was almost dark, so Captain-General di Roma decided that it wouldn't be prudent to proceed further. Therefore, he ordered the army to camp overnight at the mouth of the pass and proceed onwards in the morning. After sunrise, we entered the Pass of Bocchetta in column formation. Once on the other side, our advance guard caught sight of a formation of enemy troops that didn't number more than five hundred. Captain-General di Roma the ordered a brief pause so that the army could reconstitute itself. His next order was for the cavalry to make a charge. We all thought this would be the end of it, for who in their right mind can stand up to a charge of heavy horse? The cavalry dropped their lances and spurred their horses forward. The enemy formation just stood there, not even bothering to take cover or flee the charge. All was proceeding well until the charge got within two hundred yards of the enemy line.

Then, the horses began to scream, rear up and throw their riders to the ground. Suddenly, the enemy troops dropped down flat upon the ground. Then, there were a series of great, loud booming flashes of fire from behind a line of brush directly to our front. These were accompanied by dense clouds of thick stinking white smoke that smelled of brimstone. What happened next to the cavalry was like a nightmare from Hell. One moment, the cavalry were charging forward, ready to grind the enemy under their hooves. The next moment, it was as if the Angel of Death came down and blotted most of them from existence. Whatever was thrown by those hellish blasts smashed both men and horses alike, as if they were the toys of a child. Some were blasted out of existence, as if they had never been. Still others were torn and dismembered in hideous and unspeakable ways. As bad as this was, it got much worse. Just a minute or two after the first series of blasts, there was another which killed the rest of the cavalry and caused some casualties among the infantry." Upon hearing this, Margarve Hubert's face goes as white as a sheet, as if someone had walked over his grave.

Captain Anselmus continues to tell of what happened to the army "before the smoke for the second series of blasts had even begun to clear, thousands of enemy troops sprang forth out of concealment and arrayed themselves before us. The numbers that we saw were at least equal to our own. Captain-General di Roma ordered the infantry forward. He was in the vanguard, and directed the advance towards the center of the enemy line, where he perceived a weakness. As we all went forward, we came under massed fire from ballistas. It was inaccurate, but even so, we suffered many casualties. Finally, we were able to close with the enemy and give him honest battle.

All seemed to be going well for us, when there arose out of the enemy ranks the largest man I have ever seen in my life. He was clad in armor that looked like it came off of the columns of an old Roman triumphal arch. Before engaging in battle, the giant told Captain-General di Roma that he was Primus Pilus Gaius Octavius Drusus, commander of the First cohort of the Second Legion Italica. The Captain-General bravely did battle with the giant, but was killed shortly thereafter. To add insult to injury, the giant struck off Captain-General di Roma's head and waved it towards us. The Captain-General's second-in-command saw this and said ‘We are undone, we must withdraw from the field or we will surely be destroyed.' He ordered a withdrawl, and we began to make our way back into the pass of Bocchetta. This turned out to be a mistake, because no sooner had we entered the pass, than we came under fire from archers hidden on the walls of the pass above us. Numerous casualties were suffered, and it only got worse for us from there. The arrow fire slacked off and so we thought the archers had left. Just then, something happened that will be burned into my mind for the rest of my life. The walls of the Pass and indeed the ground we stood upon rose up against us with the greatest violence imaginable. Great quantities of flaming rocks flew up into the air and rained down upon our heads. With my own eyes, I saw men crushed to pulp. I also saw men burned alive by burning pitch that came along with the rocks. It was as if the devil himself rose upwards out of Hell and joined battle against us. I saw and smelled the same kind of thick white smoke as I did on the battlefield. After that, all sense of order was lot and we fled for our lives."

Margarve Hubert's councilors are listening to what Captain Anselmus is saying, and they are engaging in angry, excited talk. Hubert himself is stunned almost to insensibility by the enormity of these revelations. It is some minutes before he is able to regain his senses, but when he does he says "How….many, how many survivors are there?" Captain Anselmus bows his head before replying and says "my lord, I regret to inform you that out of the three thousand foot and two-hundred fifty horse, there are less than one hundred survivors. To my knowledge, all of the cavalry were killed upon the field."

Margrave Hubert sits in his chair, his icy calm demeanor now giving no indication to the towering range building within him. The only indication of such are his hands, which are gripping the arms of the chair so tightly that his knuckles and the back of his hands are almost white. "Captain Anselmus, are you saying that almost half of my army has been wiped out??"

"Yes, my lord. I regret to say that this is so."

"Who are these people? They seem to be in league with the very powers of darkness."

"My lord margrave, before the Captain-General was killed, he named them ‘Nova Romans."

"Ahh, I have heard tales from travelers through my dominions. They spoke of a people with magical powers who seemingly sprang out of nowhere. I never gave these stories any credence, as I believed them to have come out of a pot of wine, not from the bowels of hell. Now, it seems that the tales are as true as has been told. My loyal councilors, hearken unto me!!"

At this summons, Hubert's look over to their lord from the table where they are sitting. The senior among them says "yes, my lord?" Hubert rises from his chair and begins to pace angrily around the council chamber. He shakes his fist and says "send out orders to gather my remaining troops here in Turin, save only those necessary to keep public order. I also want messengers dispatched to my vassals here in Piedmont and my allies in Lombardy. Say that a grave emergency has arisen and that I have need of their strength. Tell them that they are to come here with all possible speed."

"Yes, my lord. It shall be done."

Hubert now fixes his gaze upon Captain Anselmus, who is almost shivering in his boots. He says, "Captain, you will be of great value in planning my response to these ‘Nova Romans'. Lord Hugh of Liguria has seen fit to ally himself with them, so he must be made to pay for his folly."

Captain Anselmus breathes a sigh of inward relief the he gets to live and see another day. He says "Yes, my lord. I am at your disposal."

Outside Hubert's palace, rumors, stories and wild tales of the disaster that befell the army at the Pass of Bocchetta are spreading through the alehouses, taverns and wine shops in the city of Turin like wildfires through fields of dry grass. The demeanor of those telling the tales ranges from numbness to shock to gibbering idiocy. Each tale is wilder and even more fanciful than the last. Some of the more weak-minded among Hubert's people are beginning to think that there was no human agency responsible for the debacle. Instead, they believe that Satan himself sent his minions to strike down Hubert's army. They think "How else could the ground have erupted like that?"

In the meantime, Hubert's councilors are doing as their lord commanded and sending orders to Hubert's remaining troops. Likewise, messengers riding the swiftest horses available are sent to bring word to Hubert's vassals and allies. This being done, Hubert's chief councilor approaches and says "My lord, it will be a month before enough strength is gathered here for you to proceed with your just mission of vengeance. What will you do until then?"

"I will abide here and lay my plans most carefully. These so-called ‘Nova Romans won the first battle, but mark my words well. I will win the war."

"Yes, my lord."

Date: Iunius XXII MDCXXXI AUC/ June 22nd, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio I Italica, outside of Urbino.

The day has finally come for Legio I Italica to leave its camp and begin the march to Rome. The men of the legion rise with the sun, and begin the laborious task of breaking down the camp and packing all of their gear and other equipment for the journey. Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius and the legion's command staff are overseeing the operation with typical Roman efficiency. Within three hours, the legion's tents have all been struck and loaded on wagons (along with the other equipment not immediately needed for the march). Ever since the second week of Maius, the quartermasters of Legio I Italica have been gathering stocks of food and other consumables; both to replace what was expended in the legion's campaigning thus far, and to provision the legion for the march to Rome and operations after they arrive.

Before calls are made to assemble for the march, those legionaries not otherwise occupied in either breaking down the tents or loading the wagons are seeing to their own personal gear. The leather straps holding their loricae together are cleaned and oiled, the loricae and cassis are polished, and any necessary minor repairs are made. Among the very last things to be done is the drawing of rations from the legion's quartermasters. This issue takes less than an hour, with the legionaries who have loaded the wagons being relieved by their fellows so they can get their own rations. Just then, there is a loud fanfare from the legion's tubiceni and cornicens. This indicates that it is time to gather for the march. At a deliberate pace that is neither too slow or too fast, the legionaries first assemble themselves into their contubernia. Then, these are gathered into centuria and next into cohorts. Finally, the cohorts are stood to for the march in order of precedence.

The command staff of the legion takes its place at the very head of the column. They are all mounted on their horses as befits Roman officers. Overhead, the sky is clear, with no clouds to be seen anywhere. The air is warm (but not overly so), in a typical example of Italian summer weather. When everything is arranged to Legate Marcus' satisfaction, he rises up in his saddle to survey the great ranks of men arrayed behind him. He settles back down in the saddle, then turns to Primus Pilus Quintus Sertorius and says "A fine morning, is it not, Primus Pilus?" Primus Pilus Quintus replies "It is indeed, Legate."

"Is the legion ready to march, Primus Pilus?"

"Yes, Legate."

"Well, then. Let us move out."

Primus Pilus Quintus stands tall in the saddle so that all can see him. He calls out "MEN OF THE LEGION, FORWARD....MOVE." Primus Pilus Quintus signals to the legion's musicians to play the customary fanfare on their horns and trumpets, followed by a marching beat played by the drummers. First to move out is the legion's command staff, immediately followed by the standard bearers and then by the First Cohort. When this first element passes beyond the perimeter of what was once the legion's campground, the other cohorts begin to move, one by one. Legio I Italica takes up its line of march along the Via Flaminia. Despite not having had regular maintenance in centuries, the road is still in excellent condition. Therefore, the pace of advance is expected to be swift. The legion's cavalry force is deployed as advance guards and flankers so that no one can come upon the legion and not be intercepted. They are headed for Ancona, where they will take up the march on the Via Salaria towards the town of Castrum Truentinum (called Martinsicuro by the local inhabitants). Once at Castrum Truentinum, Legio I Italica will continue on the Via Salaria, thus approaching Rome from the northeast. Going by this route (rather than on the Via Flaminia) will add an extra day-and-a-half to the legion’s marching time, but is more indirect than the Via Flaminia (which leads directly to Rome from the North).

By the end of the first day, Legio I Italica has marched a total of twenty mille; even allowing for a mid-day stop to rest and eat. At the end of the day, the legion halts in place outside of Ancona, and details of legionaries unload numbers of pre-cut and pre-shaped timbers from the legion's wagons for the palisade of a marching camp. These are very quickly assembled, and the legionaries turn their attention to the digging of a dry moat to surround the stockade. Only after these security measures are complete, are the men of Legio I Italica allowed to put down their bedrolls and eat their evening meal. When the meal is complete, guard details are chosen by lot, then set out on the camp's perimeter.

Date: Iunius XXIII MDCXXXI AUC/ June 23rd, 878 AD
Location: The marching camp of Legio I Italica, outside of Ancona

Legio I Italica begins this day just as the sky is beginning to lighten in the east. As soon as the men are all awake, they stow their bedrolls and prepare a quick morning meal. The guard details are called in from the perimeter. They and others commence to dismantling the stockade and loading the timbers back on the wagons. The pace of breaking camp is sped up considerably because there are no tents to be struck and packed. An hour after sunrise, all is in readiness and Legio I Italica begins to march. As on the first day, a resolute pace is set and the mille begin to be told off with much regularity. While the legion marches onward, they pass a number of small villages, hamlets and thorps. The people in some of these settlements gather to watch Legio I Italica as it marches by. There’s even an instance or two of small boys following the legion for a short distance and attempting to march as they do. In other cases, the settlements are either abandoned or with very few people, and in still others, the people flee off to the hills in fear. None of these instances causes Legio I Italica to deviate in its course by so much as a half-step.

Homecoming, Part I
Date: early afternoon, Iunius XXIV MDCXXXI AUC / June 24th, 878 AD
Location: Outside the city of Genua

The combined column of Legio II Italica and the prisoners captured in the action at the Pass of Bocchetta have arrived back at Legio II Italica's castrum. The prisoners are to be quartered on the parade ground until such time as their disposition is decided. In the meantime, several centuria from the Fifth and Sixth cohorts have been detailed to guard them. Before the men are dismissed to quarters, Legate Tiberius addresses the troops "Men, before the engagement at the Pass of Bocchetta, you were untried. Now, you have won the first of many great victories. By your steadfast and gallant conduct before and during the battle, you have brought honor to the banner of the legion, the Senate and the People of Nova Roma. Know that I am immensely proud to command such men as you. DISMISSED!!"

The men of the legion now fall out by their centuria and return to their quarters. Before any other activities are permitted, every legionary inspects, cleans and stores his arms, armor and equipment. Any deficiencies and/or damage is noted for future reference. In the corrals and stables, the legion's horses and wagons are similarly attended to. The legion's polybolos and ballistae igneii are also cleaned, serviced and placed back into storage.

When the column was but ten mille away from Genua, riders were sent on ahead to inform Margrave Hugh of what happened. Legate Tiberius and Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh now proceed to the palace to give their report. Margrave Hugh is waiting for them in the palace's council hall "Hail and well-met, Legate. Greetings, my son. How do you fair this day?" Legate Tiberius gives the traditional Roman salute and says "Hail, Lord Hugh. I am well-pleased to tell you that Legio II Italica engaged a force of troops sent by Hubert, Margrave of Turin. In terms of raw numbers, Hubert's force was not greatly inferior to our own. The legion moved to intercept them at the Pass of Bocchetta, and there was a vigorous action fought there. Hubert's were smashed into oblivion; I don't believe that more than one hundred of them escaped. Of the rest, one thousand were taken prisoner and the others were slain on the field. I commend to your attention the actions of your son, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh during the battle. He brought honor to his family name and the Senate and the People of Nova Roma by performing his duties with the utmost devotion; He even slew two of Hubert's men with his own hand when a group of them tried to move upon my command position."

Upon hearing this, Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh's chest swells with pride at being praised in so public a manner by his commanding officer. Legate Tiberius goes onto say "Lord Hugh, there is another matter that you have to be informed of. I dispatched the Second, Third and Fourth Cohorts in order to survey the mountain passes between Liguria and Piedmont in order to determine which of them would be likely avenues of approach for enemy troops. While engaged in this mission, troops from the Second cohort intercepted a group of agents that had been sent by King Carloman of Bavaria. These men were killed after they drew steel and refused to surrender."

Lord Hugh says "My son's conduct is pleasing to me. He's always been most attentive to his duties, even when he was growing up. This matter of King Carloman sending spies into Liguria concerns me greatly. He wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't considering some kind of armed expedition, I think. Carloman has always been the suspicious type, so he wouldn't have sent just one group. Legate, I counsel you in the strongest terms to keep watch for others who may try to sneak across the border between here and Bavaria. My own men will do likewise here in Genua."

Legate Tiberius nods his head thoughtfully and says "Lord Hugh, as regards the action against Hubert's troops, what do you think his next action will be?"

Margrave Hugh replies "Hubert has always been bad-tempered and disputatious. He sent those troops to collect that tribute I had been paying him. When those who escaped get back to Turin and tell him what happened to the rest, he's going to throw an absolute fit. He'll perceive this as a personal insult, throw caution to the wind, gather the rest of his men and send to his vassals and allies for reinforcements. When Hubert thinks the time is right, he'll come against us."

"Very well, Lord Hugh. As to the prisoners taken by the legion, I am minded to enlist them into Nova Roman service." Margrave Hugh starts to object, but before he can continue, Legate Tiberius raises his hand and says "Lord Hugh, I know what you started to object to, and you need have no fear in that regard. These men would not serve here in Liguria. Instead, they will be sent to the castrum of Legio X Fretensis outside of the city of Nova Roma. There, they will receive the same training as any other legionary. Once their training is complete, they will be permanently posted in some other location."

Margrave Hugh makes a small sigh of relief and says "Very good, Legate. Let it be as you say."

Legate Tiberius turns to Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh and says "Tribune, there is nothing that demands your attention at the castrum just now. Therefore, you are granted two days of leave. Enjoy yourself; your conduct during the battle more than warranted it." Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh grins widely and says "Thank you, legate." just before leaving the room. Lord Hugh nods his head towards Legate Germanicus by way of thanks.

After Tribunus Laticlavius Hugh has left, Lord Hugh says to Legate Germanicus "now that you and the legion have returned, there is another matter I would like to address with you" Legate Germanicus' eyes narrow somewhat in anticipation; Lord Hugh sees this change in expression and grins. He says "Nothing quite so serious as last time, Legate. I have two nephews who have just recently come of age. They are determined to follow their cousin Hugh's example and enlist in Nova Roman service. They are excellent horsemen, and already have a fair bit of skill with the blade."

"What of their parents, Lord Hugh. What do they say?"

"Their father is my younger brother Adamo. I have broached the matter with him, and he has given his consent."

"Very well, Lord Hugh. What are the boys' names and how old are they?"

"Legate, the older of the two boys is called Testa, and he is nineteen years of age. The other one is his brother Nicola, who is seventeen years old."

"I see. Tell the boys that they are to present themselves to me at the Principia tomorrow morning two hours after sunrise. They must not be late."

"I understand, Legate."

The Arrival
Date: June 24th, 878 AD / Iunius XXIV MDCXXXI AUC
Location: The harbor of Cosenza

Ten days later, the Wave Treader and its two escorts arrive just off Cosenza. The crews of the pilot boats in the harbor notice the imperial flag flying from the Wave Treader's mainmast, so they move with speed to get the harbor pilots aboard the three vessels so that they can be brought dockside. Having been apprised by messenger of the arrival of these three ships, the governor of the city goes to the harbor to see who is aboard. Ambassador Philaretos and his staff have just debarked from the Wave Treader when Governor Phillipicus Cydones arrives, and so formal greetings are exchanged. First to speak is Ambassador Philaretos, who says "I have been sent by his Imperial Majesty upon a diplomatic mission. Stories have reached the capital about a people calling themselves ‘Nova Romans'. Each tale is wilder than the last, and so the Emperor has sent me to discover the truth of the situation."

Governor Cydones replies "I greet your lordship in the name of the Emperor. I have heard those same stories, and I have also wondered about the truth of them. As we have been lately pressed by the Saracens, I haven't had enough manpower available to send forth to find them. Ambassador Philaretos now says "that is what I am here for, Governor. I have here a signed order from the Strategos Autokrator in Constantinople authorizing me to draw sixty kataphractoi as an additional escort for myself and my staff. I have brought along one hundred skutatoi for security on this mission. I will also require sufficient wagons and horses to transport our baggage, equipment and supplies."

Governor Cydones looks over the order and frowns somewhat. But, as the document is signed by the Strategos Autokrator, there is no way it can be refused. Governor Cydones says "Very well, my lord. The wagons and horses will be ready in two days. For now, would you and your staff care to rest at my palace? Your skutatoi can come along and be accommodated in the barracks of my guards." Ambassador Philaretos replies "Gladly". While he is walking along with the Governor, he asks "Do you know where these Nova Romans may be found?" Governor Cydones says "my lord, they are said to inhabit the region of Tuscany, where they took power after throwing down the Margrave who ruled there. They have also seized Emilia, Romagna and The Marche. Lord Hugh, the Margrave of Liguria has formally allied himself with them, and there have been reports of much fighting in Umbria. To guide you on your journey, I will send one of my men who knows the lay of the land. I counsel you to avoid Rome at all costs. There has been unrest there in recent months due to squabbling between the Pope and various cardinals, and I would not see you delayed."

"My thanks for your information, Governor. Your advice is sound and I will follow it. For now, let us retire to your dining hall where I will give you all the latest news from the City and the Court."

Homecoming, Part II
Date: the morning of Iunius XXV MDCXXXI AUC / June 25th, 878 AD
Location: The Principia of Legio II Italica

At the appointed hour, two fit-looking young men present themselves to the Officer of the Day on duty in the Principia's antechamber. The officer looks up from his desk and says "Yes?" The older of the two men says "I am Testa, son of Adamo and this is my younger brother Nicola. We have an appointment with Legate Germanicus." The officer says "Yes, I have been made aware of your appointment. The Legate is expecting you, please come with me." Testa and Nicola are brought into Legate Germanicus' office, where they are promptly introduced.

"I beg your pardon for this interruption, Legate, but these two men are here to see you."

"Thank you, optio. You are dismissed." The officer salutes Legate Germanicus and returns to his duties. Legate Germanicus turns his attention to the two young men and says "I am pleased to see you both here, and precisely on time, too. This speaks well of your character. Be seated, gentlemen." Testa and Nicola take their seats in front of Legate Germanicus' desk. He begins by saying "I will ask you both a question. Why do you want to join Legio X Fretensis?" Nicola, the younger of the two, starts to answer almost impulsively, but is waved to silence by Testa, his older brother. Testa answers "Legate, I will tell you plainly. We wish to bring honor to our family name and attain glory for ourselves. Our father Adamo is Lord Hugh's younger brother, and as such, our prospects for advancement are somewhat limited. My brother and I thought that joining the legion would be a good say to remedy this." Legate Germanicus takes his chin in his hand and strokes it thoughtfully. He says "I see. Tell me of your qualifications."

"Legate, my brother and I are some of the best horsemen to be found anywhere in all of Liguria. If there are any better riders than we are, I don't know their names. We are already skilled swordsmen, and we know the geography of Liguria almost like the backs of our hands."

Legate Germanicus smiles at this open display of honest enthusiasm. He turns his attention to Testa's younger brother and says "Have the both of you discussed this matter with your father?" Nicola replies "Yes, we have, Legate. Our father Adamo has given us his blessing, and so we are ready to sign up as soon as you give us the word."

Legate Germanicus chuckles softly yet again and says "Very well. I will enlist the both of you as junior military tribunes. Your skills and knowledge exceed that of an ordinary recruit by a wide margin, so it just wouldn't do to sign you on as legionaries. Your titles will be Tribuni Angusticlavii, so named for the thin stripes that will be on your tunicae. You will be attached directly to my headquarters, where you will be under the command of your cousin Hugh the Younger. He is my Tribunus Laticlavius, second-in-command of Legio X Fretensis. Though he is your cousin, you will pay him any and all military courtesies and will regard any orders he gives you as if they came directly from me. As of this moment, you are now under Nova Roman military discipline."

The two brothers exchange wide grins and nod their heads. The older brother Testa says "We understand, legate."

Legate Germanicus says "Very well. I give you the rest of today to settle your affairs at home. You will both be back here at this same time tomorrow morning, when you will be taken to the quartermasters and be issued your arms, armor, equipment and quarters. I also have something for the both of you." Legate Germanicus opens a drawer in his desk and takes out a pair of small leather bags. These bags clink slightly as he tosses one to each man. "Gentlemen, as tribuni angusticlavii, your basic rate of pay is thirty denarii per day. Each of these bags holds the sum of one hundred and fifty denarii, or five days pay. Consider it an enlistment bonus." Both brothers vigorously nod their heads in thanks as Legate Germanicus says "you are dismissed." The brothers each render a creditable Roman military salute, then leave the legate's office.

The Journey Forward
Date: June 26th, 878 AD / Iunius XXVI MDCXXXI AUC

At the dawn of the second day, the horses and wagons requested by Ambassador Philaretos have been assembled. With assistance from Governor Cydones' men, the wagons are quickly loaded. As promised, Governor Cydones has one of his troops join Ambassador Philaretos' expedition. Captain Petronas has been all over Italy, and knows the geography very well. Just one hour later, the last of the baggage and supplies has been packed. As the expedition departs, Governor Cydones waves farewell from the back of his horse. Ambassador Philaretos pulls his horse up next to Captain Petronas and asks "How far is it to Rome from here, Captain? The Governor said that I should avoid Rome, so we will have to detour around it."

Captain Petronas replies "my lord, Rome is about three hundred and fifty miles from Cosenza. If we keep a pace of fifteen miles per day, it will take us twenty-four days to get there. The first part of the trip will be along the old Via Popilia. We'll take this road until we reach Naples. Capua is but sixteen miles north of Naples. From Capua, we take the Via Appia to Rome. There are smaller roads which go around Rome, so taking them will allow us to bypass the city by going to the northeast."

"Very well, captain. Let us proceed."

The diplomatic mission now sets its' feet upon the old Via Popilia. This road was constructed during the consulship of Publius Popilius Laenas in DCXXXI AUC. It shared the common design of all Roman roads throughout the Republic and later the Empire. First, military surveyors laid out the course of the road. Then, a shallow drainage ditch was dug on either side of the future road. Between the two ditches, the roadbed was excavated down to a depth of perhaps five or six pes. The roadbed measured between twenty and twenty-seven pes in width, depending on local traffic conditions. The bottom of the roadbed was smoothed out as much as possible, then overlain with a layer made of mixed clay and sand. This layer was compacted down my the use of heavy wooden poles. Above this first layer was the statumen, uniformly composed of crushed rock and pieces of broken brick and tile. On top of the statumen was the rudus, being composed of large gravel in cement mortar. The next layer was the nucleus, or center. The nucleus was composed of a mixture of cemented sand and fine gravel. The actual road surface was called the summum dorsum. This was made of large, fitted stone slabs that were either rectagonal or hexagonal in shape. In total, the top of the summum dorsum was one and one-quarter pes above the original ground surface. Additionally, the summum dorsum was designed so that it smoothly sloped from the middle towards the edges. This slope allowed rainwater to drain off into the side ditches through openings in the curb stones; these being placed between the edge of the summum dorsum and the drainage ditches themselves. Lastly, a bridle path was constructed on either side of the main road. This path was simply compacted and graded earth provided from the excavation of the roadbed. The purpose of the bridle path was to allow easy passage of carts, wagons and horses, while the main road was for foot traffic.

A matter of Business
Date: Junius XXVI MDCXXXI AUC / June 26th, 878 AD
Location: The villa of Senator Gaius Julius Falco

For Gaius Julius Falco, Senator of Nova Roma, this day begins as any other. He and his wife Flaminia rise with the sun, don their vestments and perform the rites of the Sacra Gentilicia. Prayers and libations are offered in due course before the shrine of the Lares Domestici. These conclude with the offering of a bit of the ientaculum (morning meal) to the Di Penates. This offering is made by Senator Gaius in his role as Paterfamilias and chief priest of the household religio; the offering is tossed into the villa's main hearth, where it is burned and the sacrificial smoke rises to the heavens above.

The Falco household is a great deal wealthier than most, so ientaculum here consists of bread or rolls dipped in either honey or olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, dried fruit and pickles. Once the meal is finished, the household servants gather up the dishes and the members of the family go about their morning business. Flaminia takes the younger children of the family in hand and give them over to their instructors, where they resume their daily lessons in reading, writing and mathematics. Flaminia herself teaches her oldest daughter Livia the arts of spinning, weaving, sewing, music and cooking. Senator Falco begins his day by continuing to teach his oldest son Gaius Julius Falco Minor the warlike arts of swordsmanship, how to wear armor properly and how to properly throw javelins. Two hours later, it is mid-morning, and Gaius Julius Falco Minor's practice is done for the day. Senator Gaius sizes up his son's progress and is well-pleased with what he sees. He says "My son, one day, you will be head of house, so it is time that you begin to learn how best to see to the clients we have. You will attend me as we are waited upon by our clients. In so doing, we show reverence to the customs of our ancestors and also that we are worthy of the dutiful devotion shown to us by our clients. Now, come with me. The hour is upon us."

"Yes, my father."

Senator Gaius and his son go to the tablinium of the house, where a marble table and two chairs have been set up by the servants. Standing by is one of the household scribes, whose task it is to take notes of the morning's business. Already, Senator Gaius' clients have begun to gather in the atrium. Here, they are ranked by status, with the less-important of them waiting outside the house under the eaves of the roof. The first to come forward is Sextus Rutilius. Sextus is neither the wealthiest or most important of Senator Gaius' clients. He was the first client that Senator Gaius ever had, and so is granted a status all his own. Sextus comes forward to the table when bidden and addresses Senator Gaius in time-honored fashion "Hail, Dominus. I come this day to pay my respects according to custom." Senator Gaius replies "Hail and well-met, Sextus. I trust that all goes well with you and those under your roof-tree?"

Sextus Rutilius nods his head to acknowledge Senator Gaius and says "All is well with me and mine, Dominus. All except my good lady wife Iulia. Early this morning, she and one of the servants were preparing the morning meal when she tripped and fell in the kitchen. In so doing, her left arm was splashed and burned by some hot olive oil which was being heated over an open fire. Iulia is in some pain, and she is being seen by a medicus. I fear it will be some time before she is able to resume her duties."

Senator Gaius replies "Ahh, Sextus, my friend. That was most regrettable. I pray the gods grant her a speedy recovery. I shall have my own physician come to see her. In the meantime, I present you with a small gift to help defray the costs you have incurred thus far." Senator Gaius gestures over to his right where Gaius Julius Falco Minor is seated. He says "this is my son Gaius, he is of a man's age, so I am teaching him what he needs to know about running a proper household."

Sextus Flaminius nods his head respectfully and says "Greetings, young lord."

Senator Gaius continues by saying "My son, give this man fifty denarii for his wife's medical expenses."

"Yes, Father." Gaius Minor opens an iron-bound wooden chest on the table before him. He takes out a small leather bag and begins to place it on the table in front of Sextus. Gaius Minor reconsiders, and instead places the bag directly into Sextus' hand. The contents of the bag clink slightly as it is handed over, indicative of what is contained within. Sextus Flaminius gratefully receives the bag and says "I offer you my thanks for this gift, Dominus. May the blessings of Jupiter and of Fortuna be upon this house now and always. Is there anything that you need of me, Dominus?"

"No, friend Sextus. Go and see to your wife. Tell her I send my regards."

"Yes, Dominus." The interview being concluded, Sextus departs. Before the next client comes forward, Senator Gaius turns to his son and says "I saw what you did when you placed the bag directly into Sextus' hand instead of putting it on the table in front of him. That was very well done, very well indeed." Gaius Minor responds to this public praise in a grave but dignified manner "Thank you, father." The next two hours is spent by Senator Gaius and his son seeing each and everyone of the clients who is waiting. Each of them pays his respects to the Senator and his son, and is in turn greeted in a friendly, cordial manner. Those clients whose further attendance is not needed are excused, each of them being given a small gift of money, dried fruit or cheese to mark their devotion. Of the several dozen clients which gathered at Senator Gaius' house, only ten are required to stay any longer. These were chosen by Senator Gaius to form his retinue as he and Gaius Minor go the Forum of Trajan to hear a debate between two learned practitioners of law. As it is very close to mid-day, these ten men are treated to prandium by Senator Gaius.

Date: Junius XXVI MDCXXXI AUC / June 26th, 878 AD

Meanwhile across the City of Nova Roma in the Merchant's Quarter near the Forum of Trajan, there is a meeting taking place between two prominent merchants of the city. The meeting is at an upscale wineshop, and it is between Marcus Flaminius Justus (purveyor of foodstuffs to the Imperial Household) and Lucius Septimius Flavius, sometime wine merchant and now smalltime businessman. The two men exchange greetings in the traditional Roman manner by firmly grasping their forearms at the wrists.

"Hail, Marcus Flaminius Justus"

"Hail, Lucius Septimius Flavius. I trust that all is well with you this day?"

"All is well with me. Thank you for asking, friend Lucius. I got the message from your servant about wanting to meet me here today, so I must confess to some curiosity for its purpose."

"Marcus, I asked to see you here today in regards to a certain business opportunity which has presented itself."

"Yes, Lucius?"

"This business opportunity concerns the sulfur deposits in our newly-won province in Emilia-Romagna. These were already in use in days of old before we of Nova Roma were brought forward in time by the will of Jupiter. I was awarded the concession to exploit these deposits by calling in a few favors and crossing a few palms with a certain amount of silver. What I ask of you is for the use of some of your wagons. I have but fifty wagons and horse teams of my own. I am planning an expedition to the mines to gather up a great deal of sulfur and bring it back to Nova Roma. It seems that the legions need it for some purpose or other."

"I see, Lucius. How many of my wagons and horse teams will you need?"

"Marcus, I am planning to bring back two hundred thousand librae of sulfur. This will require one hundred wagons and horse teams. I have fifty wagons and teams myself, so I would need fifty such of yours."

"Lucius, what terms do you offer and how long would you need them for?"

"For the use of fifty of your wagons and horse teams, I propose an equal split of the profits. As for the duration, the mines in Emilia-Romagna aren't very far away from Nova Roma. It will take the wagon train three days to get there, mainly due to the large number of wagons involved. Upon arrival at the mines, the wagon drivers will fill cloth sacks with sulfur and load it for the return trip. The loading process is expected to take just two days. The return journey will also take three days. So, the total time involved will be but eight days."

"So, fifty of my wagons and teams for eight days. In return for a half-share of the profits. That seems equitable, Lucius. When will you need them?"

"Marcus, my own wagons are ready to go. I propose to send the wagon train in two days."

"Very well, Lucius. Your terms are agreed to."

"Excellent, Friend Marcus. Let us eat and drink together to seal our bargain. I have called for a public scribe to draw up the contract. Once the contract is finished, we will take it to the law courts in the Forum of Hadrian to get it witnessed." Food and wine is brought while the scribe sets to work. When the contract is completed, both Marcus and Lucius review it to see that it is of right and proper form. After the meal is finished, Marcus and Lucius proceed to the law courts and seek out one of the clerks of court. The clerk reviews the contract and asks "Are both of you gentlemen satisfied with this document?" Marcus and Lucius reply "We are." The clerk says "Very good. Both of you will please sign it. I call upon Jupiter to witness that this contract is being executed in good faith by both parties."

When Marcus and Lucius have signed their names to the contract, the clerk of court does likewise and says "This document is now signed and witnessed. It will be lodged here until the terms are fulfilled, at which time it can be retrieved." Marcus and Lucius shake hands as a further sign of good faith, then depart.

On the Road Again
Date: Quintilis II MDCXXXI AUC / July 2nd, 878 AD
Location: a campsite outside the city of Naples

Early in the evening after the campsite has been set up and the guard details have been placed around the camp's perimeter, Captain Petronas comes to Ambassador Philaretos and says "My lord, there is a matter that we must speak of." The ambassador notes the mild state of alarm which is displayed on Captain Petronas' face and says "My good captain, something seems amiss with you. Is there something wrong?" Captain Petronas gathers his thoughts for a brief moment and says "My lord, have you been paying any attention to the speed with which our procession has been moving?"

"No, captain. I have not. I have been giving more thought on what I will do when we make contact with the Nova Romans."

"My lord, you will recall that when we first started out on the road, I said that it would take us approximately twenty-four days to get to Rome. This was based on my estimate of making fifteen miles per day. I ask you now to consider where we are. Naples is almost half-way from Cosenza to Rome. By my estimate, this distance should have taken us all of ten days, and yet, here we are in only five days." Ambassador Philaretos' eyes widen with comprehension as he replies "Are you quite sure, Captain?"

Captain Petronas replies "Yes, my lord. I have kept an exact count of how far we should have traveled, and we should only be seventy-five miles from Cosenza." Ambassador Philaretos exclaims out loud "Why then rejoice, therefore. If we are making better progress than you originally thought, it is surely because the hand of the Almighty himself is speeding us along. That, and this excellent Roman road we are travelling upon. So, let not your thoughts be troubled. If it was intended by God that we should have some misfortune befall us on the road, it would have happened before now."

"True enough, my lord."

"Is there anything else, Captain?"

"Yes, there is, my lord. Earlier this afternoon after we stopped for the day, I took the precaution of sending one of my men into the city of Naples to see what is going on therein. He came back some hours ago and reported to me that the possession of the city and dukedom of Naples is held by Sergius II. His brother Athanasius is disputing Sergius' lordship of the territory and intends to move against him soon. I counsel that we avoid going into the city of Naples unless absolutely necessary."

"A wise precaution, captain. I shall take it under advisement."

On Station
Date: Quintilis II MDCXXXI AUC / July 1st, 878 AD; early afternoon
Location: the site of Legio I Italica’s new camp

After much marching, the legion has arrived at the site for its new, semi-permanent camp. It is located just east of Rome, between the roads leading to the town of Gabii and the City of Tusculum. As soon as Legio I Italica halts, details are immediately told off to survey the site and begin laying out the camp. Other work parties unload the palisade stakes from the wagons, and stack them where needed. Additional timber is cut from nearby stands of trees. As this camp is intended for longer occupation than a marching camp, the palisade will be permanently-emplaced. There will also be two dry moats, instead of just one. The moats will be deeper than the one around a marching camp.

While the construction is going on, the entire Sixth Cohort is detailed for guard duty (along with half of the legion’s cavalry and archers). Furthermore, the legion’s polybolos and ballistae igneii are placed in positions that afford their crews the widest-possible field of fire. Among the positions where the polybolos will be emplaced are at the tops of the guard towers that will be constructed at the corners of the camp palisade, and on either side of the Porta Principalis Dextra. The earth excavated from the first dry moat will be packed down tight behind the palisade, and the earth from the second moat will be piled up and tamped down to from a low rampart in front of the palisade. As an extra measure of security, the pointed sudes carried by each legionary will be tied together in arrangements of three sudes each; these will be placed between the rampart and the inner edge of the first moat.

Date: Quintilis II MDCXXXI AUC / July 1st, 878 AD; early evening
Location: Rome, the papal palace

The movement of such a large body of troops as Legio I Italica couldn’t help but attract the notice of certain powers-that-be. It is in the papal palace that one of these ‘powers’ is apprised of a most-unsettling development. In the course of his duties, Cardinal Marinus is walking through one of the many corridors in the papal palace when he sees Jacopo, one of the pope’s personal attendants running towards him. Jacopo is oblivious to Cardinal Marinus’ presence until he almost runs into him. Cardinal Marinus sizes up the situation and says “Ho there, fellow. Stand fast. Where are you going in such an almighty hurry? Is there something wrong with his holiness?” Jacopo says in a most apologetic fashion “my lord Cardinal Marinus, I beg your pardon for not seeing you. There is nothing wrong with the holy father. I was on the way to his holiness to deliver a message of the utmost importance.” Something about the way Jacopo is carrying himself attracts Cardinal Marinus’ attention, so he says “What message could be so important that you are willing to disturb his Holiness in the midst of his illness?”

Jacopo hesitates but a moment before replying “Well, my lord Cardinal. It’s about the Nova Romans.” He hesitates somewhat before continuing, and this delay causes Cardinal Marinus to wax angry “Well, man. Out with it, I say. What about the Nova Romans?” Jacopo shrinks before the cardinal’s anger and says “My lord, the Nova Romans, the Nova Romans are here.....” Of all the things that Cardinal Marinus expected to hear, this is perhaps the very last. The news is so shocking, so totally unexpected that it strikes Cardinal Marinus almost dumb with amazement. When he recovers his wits, he grabs Jacopo by the shoulders, shakes him and says “How, where are they?”

“My lord Cardinal, an officer in the papal guard brought me the news only a quarter of an hour ago. He says that the Nova Romans are encamping just to the west of Rome. They are there in strength, he says.”Cardinal Marinus asks Awhat are their numbers? Jacopo replies ?my lord, the officer said the Nova Romans number nearly six thousand men.” The cold, clammy hand of fear clenches at Cardinal Marinus” heart as he hears this news. By a monumental effort of will, Cardinal Marinus is able to keep these feelings of dread from showing on his face. He now says “my good Jacopo, your devotion to duty is most commendable. You need not trouble yourself any further. I will deliver the news to his Holiness. You can return to your other duties.”

“As you command, my lord.”

When Jacopo leaves, Cardinal Marinus puts aside all of his other thoughts and proceeds to the papal apartments. In the hallways and passages nearest to the pope’s living quarters, there are numbers of palace servants, church functionaries and priest of all ranks standing by. The state of the Holy Father’s health is a matter of great concern to all present, therefore a number of church choristers have been gathered by order of the pope’s chamberlain to sing and pray for his Holiness’ speedy recovery. Cardinal Marinus enters the pope’s outer chamber and sees the pope’s doctor and several other physicians discussing his Holiness’ condition among themselves, and how best to treat it. The entrance to the pope’s bedroom is guarded by four men-at-arms from the papal guard. Before he enters, Cardinal Marinus asks of the physicians “how is his Holiness today?” The pope’s doctor says “my lord, his Holiness is more unwell today than he has been in recent days. He tosses and turns in his bed, and is unable to eat more than a very little. He moans and groans loudly, and sometimes repeats a name over and over again.”

Cardinal Marinus asks “what name is that, pray tell?”

“My lord, the name is Holiness keeps repeating is ‘Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus’. I think that the Holy Father must have some sort of fever of the brain, else why would he continuously repeat the name of one of the Emperors of Rome? I tell you in all truth, my lord. I have fears for His Holiness’ continued well-being.”

Cardinal Marinus thinks to himself ‘Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Aurelius, I might have known’. Outwardly, the Cardinal maintains a clam demeanor on his face as he says “You are quite right to be concerned, learned doctor. I will go in and see to his Holiness. Perhaps I can offer him words of comfort, or a prayer or two.”

The pope’s doctor bows slightly while saying “yes, my lord.” He steps aside, and Cardinal Marinus enters the pope’s private chamber.

Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: The ducal palace of Sergius II in Naples

Duke Sergius is in the great hall of his palace, where he has just sat down to his breakfast. Before he has a chance to take his first bite, one of the duke's councillors come up and says "My lord duke, I beg your pardon for this interruption, but there is something that you should be aware of. Yesterday, there was a stranger in the city who was asking many questions about the affairs here. Thinking he was a spy from your brother, I had him followed. He went to a camp in the woods outside the city. There was a small party of armed foot-soldiers and cavalry there. My man took no action and was about to leave when he spied a flag flying above the camp. This flag bore the image of a double-headed eagle. He thought this should be communicated forthwith, and so he returned here."

Duke Sergius pauses in mid-bite and says "A double-headed eagle, you say?"

"Yes, my lord."

"I can provide you the answer, councillor. That double-headed flag belongs not to my brother Athanasius, but instead to the Empire of Byzantium. If this group meant trouble, they would have come in greater numbers than they did. I will see these people for myself. Have my horse saddled and set up an escort of fifty of my troops. I leave within the hour."

"It shall be done as you say, my lord." The councillor leaves the great hall to carry out the duke's orders, while Sergius returns to his morning meal. Less than one hour later, Duke Sergius climbs into his saddle and rides off. He is accompanied by a mounted escort of fifty men. Shortly after passing out of the city of Naples' gates, Duke Sergius and his party come upon the Byzantine camp. One of the guards on perimeter duty sees them approach and says "Ho there, be you friend or foe?"

From the head of the column, Duke Sergius calls out and says "I am Duke Sergius and you are on my territory. What is your purpose here?"

The guard replies "Your lordship, I am a man-at-arms in the service of Philaretos of Byzantium."

Duke Sergius says "Very well, call your master here. I wish to speak with him." The guard does as he is bidden, and a very short time later, Ambassador Philaretos arrives on the scene. He says "Greetings, my lord duke. I am Ambassador Philaretos, and I am an emissary from his Imperial Majesty Basil I, Emperor of Byzantium and Lord of the Three Seas."

The Duke says in reply "Ambassador, why did you not make yourself known to me when you arrived? I could have given you a proper welcome in my city."

Ambassador Philaretos replies "My lord, I heard of the discord between you and your brother Athanasius. My mission from the Emperor admits of no delay, so I didn't wish to become involved. I ask your pardon for any offense that might have been given." Duke Sergius makes an expansive gesture and says "think nothing of it, Ambassador. How long will you be here? Perhaps I might have you as my guest this night."

Ambassador Philaretos shakes his head regretfully and says "my lord, forgive me, but I will not be able to accept your generous offer. I and my escort will be on the road again as soon as our camp has been struck." Duke Sergius nods his head and says "this mission of yours must be of some importance. May I enquire as to its nature?"

"Of course, your lordship. I have been charged by my Lord and Master the Emperor with seeing whether or not the tales he has heard of a people called ‘Nova Romans' are true or not. For some months now, tales have been reaching the Imperial court of a people who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and who have near-magical powers. Their weapons are said to roar like thunder and strike like lightning. The Emperor would know the truth of these tales."

Duke Sergius says in reply "I too have heard the tales of these ‘Nova Romans', and I consider them to be no more than wild stories spun by peasants who have indulged in too much cheap wine." Ambassador Philaretos nods and says "My lord, that may be so. But my master the Emperor has charged me with discovering the truth, and so I must obey him." Duke Sergius continues "Ambassador, since you can't stay the night, can I at least supply you with fresh provisions? You must surely have been on the road for quite some time."

Ambassador Philaretos smiles broadly and says "In the name of the Emperor, I will gladly accept whatever you can supply to my expedition." Duke Sergius says "Very well, Ambassador. My men will have the supplies here within the hour. There will be barrels of wine from my personal cellars, plus bread, smoked cheese, dried fruit and meat." Ambassador Philaretos smiles even wider as he hears what will be supplied to the expedition. He says "Again I offer you my thanks, my lord. Those supplies will make a welcome change from the trail rations we have been eating these past few days. I will make sure to inform the Emperor of your generosity."

Duke Sergius wheels his horse around and says "I wish you a safe journey, Ambassador. God grant that it be a speedy one." Ambassador Philaretos smiles and says "It has already been so, my lord. I believe that that the Lord's benificence will continue." The Duke leaves, and within the hour, several wagonloads of bread, smoked cheese, dried fruit and sausages are delivered. There are also a half-dozen barrels of wine, just as Duke Sergius promised. While the camp is being broken down, the food and drink is unloaded and stored away. Just an hour after the camp has been struck, Ambassador Philaretos, Captain Petronas and the escort are back on the road again.

What's In A Name?
Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis

The Acta Diurna reports from the Domus Imperialis that the Emperor has ordered the following decree to be published:

"I, Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus, wishing to note the progress made by the men of Legio IV currently undergoing training in our city of Lucca, do hereby decree that this legion is to be given a name. Henceforth, this legion will be called Legio IV Flavia, in honor of the original unit raised in MCCCXXIII AUC by Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus, of famous memory. To mark this occasion, I order that a gold Aquila be made. This standard will be conveyed to Legio IV Flavia upon the completion of its training.To further increase the strength of the Nova Roman state, I order that another legion be raised. This unit will be called Legio V."


Strong Foundations
Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: the City of Machaise

Machaise has developed to the point where it is no longer just a village, but a fully-fledged city. The seed was planted when the village of Machaise gained the protection of Nova Roma. The seed grew and bore fruit when the Jewish holy relics, long thought to be lost in the mists of time, were returned by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Free from persecution, the city of Machaise has continued to flower, drawing in Jews from all over the Italian peninsula, as well as from points abroad. A sign of the city's success is the construction of a new Great Synagogue, which will house the Holy Relics and serve as a center of the people's faith and devotion. Under the guidance of Chief Rabbi Isaac ben David, plans for the Great Synagogue were drawn up. These plans were put into practice when Emperor Marcus Aurelius generously donated the sum of one million denarii towards the cost of construction. This construction is proceeding apace, as the site for the Great Synagogue has been chosen and graded. The foundations are being dug by crews of eager workers. Stone is being quarried, and these rough blocks are cut to shape by the skilled hands of master masons. The finished blocks are stockpiled on the construction site, then lowered into place as needed.

To guard the city of Machaise, Emperor Marcus Aurelius urged that Rabbi Isaac ben David raise two cohorts of troops from among his own people. This was done, and the Emperor further aided the endeavor by providing arms, armor, equipment and a cadre of instructors. The two units are named Cohors I Judaica and Cohors II Judaica. Under the guidance and watchful eyes of Drillmaster Publius Numerius Victor and his staff, the recruits are making steady progress in their training regimen. Already, they are nearly halfway done with their training. Each day, the recruits continually strive to outdo themselves; this effort is manifested as a healthy spirit of competition between the two cohorts themselves, and within each cohort between the various centuriae and contuberniae.

In the life of the city, it has become quite the thing for various groups of people to go and watch their two cohorts as they train. Some prefer to watch the legionaries as they go through their evolutions, others like to see the cavalry charge back and forth, striking at targets with their spathae and long-shafted lances, and still others like to watch the archers at practice. The most popular, however, are the artillery drills. When the two ballistae igneii minor first arrived, they were much admired for their beauty. The bronze tubes had been polished to such a high degree that people standing nearby could see their reflections in the surface, just like in a mirror. When the pieces were being moved here and there, the sunlight glinted off the barrels as it would off the surface or a pond or lake in the early morning. When the two weapons were first fired, their thunderous reports were the source of much fear and consternation among the observers, as no one among them had ever seen or heard of anything quite like them before. After the first few shots, the people got used to the noise and smoke; they began to marvel at the range and destructive power of the new weapons.

Today, Drillmaster Publius is personally instructing a group of recruits in the finer points of Roman swordsmanhip and personal combat. He hefts his scuta, raises his gladius, advances towards the target and says "Men, you must learn to regard your gladius as if it were an extension of your own arm. Thrusting with it must be as natural to you as is pointing with your forefinger." Drillmaster Publius brings his scuta to the middle-guard position, then makes a series of lightning-quick thrusts with his gladius towards the target; first to the face, then to the throat, then through the chest to where the heart would be. The next thrust is into the abdomen, and the last one is up into the armpit. He says to the assembled recruits "In combat, you must incapacitate your enemy as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is why we Nova Romans favor the point of a gladius over the edge, as a shallow stab is frequently much more lethal than a chop or cut. A thrust is also faster than a cut or a chop. Now consider your scutum. Rather than being solely a means of defense, the scutum can also be an offensive weapon as well. Observe."

Drillmaster Publius grips his scutum tightly, then punches outward towards one the arms of the target. The wood is heard to crack under the impact of the scutum's iron umbo. "If that target were a living man, he would have a broken arm or a broken rib. You can also punch towards the head and quite possibly break the jaw or fracture the skull." Drillmaster Publius demonstrates this move by punching the scutum towards the target's head. The target's is a clay pot which shatters under the impact. "Lastly, in single combat, you can also just bash your opponent with your scutum. This is done by a wide swinging strike that brings the whole weight and momentum of the scutum to bear on the target. Lastly, if your opponent is down, you can kill him or at the very least, cause further serious injury by just chopping downwards with the edge of the scutum." Drillmaster Publius shows the effectiveness of this technique by bashing the target off its stand with the scutum and chopping the edge down upon the target's chest and face.

Drillmaster Publius now orders the assembled recruits to pair off and practice these moves just as they were demonstrated. He walks among the men as they go at each other, observing their technique and offering advice on how to improve their efforts. Very shortly, the still air of the drillfield is filled with grunts of effort and more than a few groans of pain as the lightly-padded tips of the wooden practice gladii strike home.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:12 am 

Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:41 am
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Location: Cambs, UK
Garrity, I'm not sure if it's of interest to you but recent finds in France have uncovered bronze Roman cataract needles, including one that's pretty much a hypodermic. One leading cataract surgeon went on record to say that the workmanship of it was fine enough for him to be comfortable enough to consider using the design in a present-day operation. The needle's tip was almost the same size as those used today.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured, tortured.
Bernard Woolley: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: By the BBC, Bernard.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 11:53 am 

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Craiglxviii wrote:
Garrity, I'm not sure if it's of interest to you but recent finds in France have uncovered bronze Roman cataract needles, including one that's pretty much a hypodermic. One leading cataract surgeon went on record to say that the workmanship of it was fine enough for him to be comfortable enough to consider using the design in a present-day operation. The needle's tip was almost the same size as those used today.

It certainly is of interest to me. Roman medical science surpassed anything that Europe had until the late 18th century.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 12:26 pm 

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Chapter XVIIII

Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: the shipyards just outside the harbor of Genua

Ever since the order was received from Emperor Marcus Aurelius to start building ships for the Nova Roman Navy, the shipyards of Genua have been fairly humming with activity. Carpenters, shipfitters and blacksmiths have been plying their various trades, and now some of the ships are beginning to take shape. Though of classical form, there are certain changes in the design of the galleys and transports being built. Instead of having the hull planking put together first with the ribs going in afterwards, the ribs are attached to the keel in pairs running from bow to stern. Once the ribs are all in place, then the hull planks are attached. Each individual plank has been steamed over hot water to soften it, then carefully shaped with the use of axes, planes, chisels and adzes; then it is re-softened and secured in place by the use of tree nails. When the last of the hull planks are attached to the ribs, the seams between them will be carefully sealed with a combination of tarred plant fibers and molten pitch. In the process of sealing the seams, a heavy wooden mallet and certain specialized irons are used to tamp the tarred plant fibers tightly into the seams between the planks. Then, molten itch is poured over the seam to make it watertight. When the outer hull of the ship is complete, then the interior decking will be installed. The hulls of these Nova Roman ships are being built as strongly as possible so that they will be able to carry great weights and still be able to withstand the rigors of traveling upon the open sea.

Nearby to the shipyard, another specialized facility is being built under Nova Roman direction. This facility is designed for the manufacture of Nova Roman naval artillery and ammunition. Along with forges, smithies and carpentry shops for the making of molds, the foundations for eight casting pits and four furnaces have been dug. The casting pits will be lined with well-fitted stone blocks and faced with clay.

All told, the first construction order is for twenty warships and forty transports. Eight of the warships are to be designated as heavy, in that they will carry heavier armament and be slower of speed. The other twelve warships will be of medium size, meaning that they will have lighter armament and be faster than the heavies. The forty transports are all of a standard design, with light weaponry. Each of them is intended to be of a sufficient size to transport a full centuria of legionaries, plus all the supplies needed for a period of thirty days. In terms of actual design, a Nova Roman heavy warship is designed to carry twenty ballistae igneii navalis secundus, arranged in single banks of ten weapons per side. There are two rotating wooden platforms on the main deck, one each fore and aft. These platforms each carry a pair of ballista igneus navalis secundus, and are designed to be able to rotate to any position except straight back. Below the main deck forward of the space for the rowers, there are a pair of ballista igneus navalis primus in fixed positions Aft of the rower's space, there are two ballista igneus navalis secundus (also in fixed positions). Secondary armament consists of eight swivel-mounted ballistae igneii minor, four iron-framed repeating polybolos and four catapaults. For propulsion, a heavy warship has a single mast plus two banks of oars per side (35 oars in the upper row and 30 oars in the bottom row); each oar is pulled by two men.

A Nova Roman medium warship is propelled by two masts, plus three banks of oars per side. Each bank of oars has thirty oars and each oar is pulled by one man. The banks are deliberately offset so that they don't interfere with each other. Main armament consists of six ballistae igneii navalis secundus (two each on the fore & aft rotating platforms and two on fixed mounts forward of the rowers' space. Secondary armament is four swivel-mounted ballista igneii minor, two repeating polybolos and two catapaults.

The transports are the same length as a heavy warship, and they are also wider. They are propelled by a single mast (as on a medium warship) and one bank of forty oars per side; eighty oars total. Each oar is pulled by one man. Armament is very light, consisting of four ballistae igneii navalis secundus (two each on the fore & aft rotating platforms) and eight repeating polybolos. The hold on a transport has a higher ceiling in order to be able to store larger amounts of cargo.

Far-Reaching Consequences
Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: the workshop of Hero of Alexandria, Nova Roma

From the journal of Hero of Alexandria:

‘I, Hero of Alexandria take up my writing quill to document the progress I have made in two recent projects. The first involves the aeolipile, which I invented years before the transition event. When I created the device, I intended it more as a diversion for someone of means than as a practical mechanism. The more I considered it, the more I began to realize that the basic principle behind the aeolipile could be harnessed to do useful work. I tested my supposition by attaching a brass rod to the middle of an aeolipile and fixing a small wooden wheel to the other end of the brass rod. I fastened a length of thin cord with a weight at one end to the wheel, then I lit a fire under the aeolipile's central sphere. A short time later, the aeolipile began to spin. This turned the wheel and so raised the weight off the floor. I tested the potential of the aeolipile again by removing the brass rod and wooden wheel and attaching another rod that had been bent so that there was a half-loop in the middle that was parallel to the axis of the rod. The free end of the rod was supported by a small, flat wooden stake with a hole in one end.

I placed the aeolipile/rod arrangement on my workbench and set a small pivot-mounted hammer under the half-loop. The, I fired up the aeolipile and it began to turn. For every rotation, the half-loop also rotated once. Every time the half-loop rotated, it struck the end of the hammer and caused the hammer to rise and fall. The importance of my discovery immediately impressed itself upon my mind, and so I resolved to further investigate it. It further seems to me that this reaction of the aeolipile may not be the most efficient was of harnessing the power of steam, so I will look into this also.

On a much more warlike note, I resolved to increase the accuracy and destructive power of the pilum igneus which I previously created. To get greater destructive power, I will use a charge of either the Cotton of Zeus or a formulation of the Oil of Mars mixed with powdered clay and sawdust to stabilize it. This new charge is set off by a small, double-walled copper tube in the nose of the pilum igneus. The inner copper tube is filled with the Salt of Mars and held in place by a thin lead wire. When the pilum igneus hits its target, the impact will break the lead wire and cause the small tube filled with the Salt of Mars to violently fly forward and explode.

As regards the accuracy of a pilum igneus, the version which I previously created used a long thin wooden to stabilize the weapon in flight. I know by observation that archers use feathers attached to their arrows to stabilize them in flight, so I decided to use this principle for the pilum igneus. I carved a number of square fins out of thin pieces of wood and tested various ways of attaching them to the tube. First, I simply fastened them to the outside of the rear of the tube by using pitch; this proved to be unsatisfactory as the fins snapped off the tube when the pilum igneus was fired. Next, I cut small, straight slots in the rear of the tube and fitted the fins into the slots. The fins were secured as before with pitch. Results here were satisfactory. I still wanted to further increase the strength of the joint, so I made up a number of pilum igneus where the slots for the fins were in the shape of a dovetail joint. There was a measureable increase in accuracy when compared to the pilum igneus with straight fin slots, so it is this configuration that I will recommend to be put into production.

In other matters, repeated testing has demonstrated to me that the Cotton of Jupiter is much more powerful than the Powder of Mars. Therefore, I will recommend to the Praefectus Fabrum that no more semina ignis of any type be made with a filling of the Powder of Mars. All future production of this ammunition will be filled with the Cotton of Jupiter. Existing stocks of semina ignis will be used until expended.'

Date: Quintilis III MDCXXXI AUC / July 3rd, 878 AD
Location: somewhere in the forests of the County of Capua

In a concealed campsite, twelve of King Carloman's agents are met to decide their further course of action. On their journey through Nova Roman territory, they have taken great pains to remain unobserved. They have even gone so far as to commit outfight murder against anyone who was so unfortunate as to have caught sight of them. Their instructions from the king were to pay attention and note down anything of military significance. Thus far, they have been admirably successful. The senior agent of the twelve assembled here is called Ricardo, and he says to his fellows "Men, I believe that we should make contact with Count Pandenulf and Pricne Guaifer of Salerno. They must be informed of the threat posed to their territories by the Nova Romans. Before we left Bavaria, the king gave me documents which would serve to prove our identities should it be necessary. That time is now. Let us break camp and be off; time is growing very short."

The twelve men break camp as quickly as they can, and carry their gear to a nearby copse of trees where their horses have been tethered. They pack their gear aboard the horses, then mount up and ride off. Six men (headed by Ricardo) are headed to the City of Capua proper, while the other six men are on their way to Salerno.

Date: Quintilis IV MDCXXXI AUC / July 4th, 878 AD

By dint of much hard riding, Ricardo and his five companions arrive at the gates of Capua itself. They come up to the gates and dismount from their horses. They ask to see the Captain of the Guard, and so, Captain Cividellus comes up to see what the matter is. Ricardo greets the Captain and says "We are emissaries from his majesty King Carloman, and we must speak to your lord and master about a matter of surpassing importance." Ricardo takes a scroll out of his belt pouch, unties the cord holding it closed and presents it to Captain Cividellus. He says "this document is proof that we are who we say we are." Captain Cividellus looks over the scroll and instantly recognizes King Carloman's royal seal. He replies "Very well. Please come with me. I will take you to the palace chamberlain, and he in turn will get you into see the Count."

Ricardo and his five companions follow Captain Cividellus out the door and head to the palace. Inside a quarter of an hour, they arrive at the palace and are shown into the office of Baldassare, who is Count Pandendulf's chamberlain. "Greetings, Captain Cividellus. What can I do for you?"

"My lord, these six men here are emissaries of the king. They are asking to see Count Pandenulf on a very important matter. The document I have here with me is proof of their Bona Fides." Captain Cividellus hands the scroll given to him by Ricardo Falcone. Chamberlain Baldassare looks over the scroll and says "The Count is holding court in his council hall. Please come with me." The scroll is handed back to Ricardo, and he and his companions follow the chamberlain out the door. A very short while later, they enter Pandendulf's council hall; the Count is holding forth with certain of his councilors on matters of law and justice. He sees Chamberlain Baldassare approaching and greets him by saying "Ho there, chamberlain. I am pleased to see you. Who are these strangers beside you?"

"Hail, your lordship. These six men are representatives from his majesty King Carloman of Bavaria.
They say that they are here to see you in regards to a matter of great importance."

"Very well, bid them approach."

Ricardo and his five companions come before Count Pandenulf's high seat at the great table in the hall; Ricardo bows his head as a measure of respect and says "Greetings, your lordship. I am Ricardo, and I am here as the emissary of King Carloman of Bavaria. This scroll is proof of my identity. Ricardo hands the scroll to Count Pandenulf, who looks it over and finds it to be in order.

"Well, Ricardo, what matter is so important that you and your companions traveled all this way south to see me?"

"My lord, this concerns the people called ‘Nova Romans'. I presume that your lordship has heard of them?"

"Yes, indeed I have heard of them. The tales are so wild that I considered them to be no more than what peasants tell over dice or a pot of beer. The Nova Romans are said by some to be in league with the powers of darkness, and that they have weapons of unimaginable power; hardly tales which good Christian men such as you and I can believe."

"Your lordship, I regret to inform you that the tales you have heard are more true than you can possibly realize. In his wisdom, King Carloman sent a number of agents southwards from Bavaria to ascertain the truth of the situation. My companions and I spent much time traveling through Nova Roman territory. They seemingly arose from out of nowhere, and very quickly took over all of Tuscany. In rapid succession, they conquered most of Italia north of Rome and south of the Alps. Their armies, which they call ‘legions' after the fashion of the Romans of old, move and fight as if they are limbs and members of one body. Despite fighting against odds, the Nova Romans have smashed everyone who has come against them with truly contemptuous ease; the effect is like an avalanche on a mountain village."

"Say you so, good sir? Do please tell me more. Who is their leader?'

"My lord, their leader claims to be the Emperor Marcus Aurelius." The mention of this name brings a look of familiarity to Count Pandenulf's face; just about every well-educated noble of this day and age has some knowledge of Roman history. Count Pandenulf says "Whoever he is, Ricardo, he is an impostor. Only one man has ever come back from the dead, and he certainly isn't the one."

"True enough, your lordship. However, the threat the Nova Romans pose to your domain and those of your fellow nobles can't be denied. I respectfully counsel you to take all necessary measures to defend your territory against them. Even as we speak, six of my fellow agents are traveling to see Prince Guaifer of Salerno. They will be telling him what I just told you."

"Very well, Ricardo. I will take your counsel under advisement. In the meantime, would you accept my hospitality? It is the least I can do for you, after all your efforts."

"Gladly, my lord."

Date: Quintilis V MDCXXXI AUC / July 5th, 878 AD
Location: the City of Capua

The six other agents gallop up to the city gates of Capua and draw their reins sharply. This causes their horses to rear up, scattering gravel and dust in all directions. One of the guards on duty outside the city gates gestures with his spear and says "What is the meaning of this?" The leader of this group of six men replies "I am Barthold, an emissary from his majesty King Carolman of Bavaria. I must speak to your master Prince Guaifer on a matter of the utmost importance. The guard hesitates somewhat, and so Barthold unrolls the scroll given to him by Ricardo "See here. This document bears the king's seal. Take me to your master, NOW!!" The guard deflates like a ripped sail and escorts Barthold and his five companions to Prince Guaifer's palace. Barthold seeks out one of the palace servants and asks "Where is the prince? I must see him immediately." The servant replies "Sir, his highness is at table in the great hall."

"Take me there."

Barthold and the other members of his party follow the servant to the great hall of the palace. Upon arrival, Prince Guaifer's herald accosts them in front of the doorway and asks "Who are you and why are you here?"

"I am Barthold of Bavaria, and I am here as a representative of King Carloman. I ask to speak with
the Prince on an important matter of state."

"One moment, please." The herald advances to the end of the high table, strikes his staff on the floor three times to gain the attention of Prince Guaifer "I cry Barthold of Bavaria, who does request admittance to your highness." Prince Guaifer looks up from his meal, gestures towards Barthold and says "Approach then, and be recognized."

Barthold stands before Prince Guaifer's chair, doffs his cap and makes a full formal court bow. "I am Barthold of Bavaria, and I come before you as a personal representative of your lord and sovereign King Carloman. I give you greetings in his name." Prince Guaifer acknowledges the greeting with a nod of the head and replies "Welcome to my court, Barthold. Pray tell, what news is there from Bavaria?"

"Your highness, I come at the king's command to warn you of a grave peril facing your dominions."

"What is this peril you speak of, Barthold?"

"Your highness, I am referring to the people called ‘Nova Romans'. Perhaps your highness has heard of them?"

"I have indeed heard of them, Barthold. I know of armed conflicts that have recently taken place in the north of Italia, but nothing that threatens me directly. Why do you say I am in peril?"

"If I may speak plainly, Prince Guaifer, the Nova Romans have already taken most of northern Italia between Rome and the Alps. They are preparing to move on Rome itself; I believe that they mean to take the whole of the peninsula under their rule."

"How do you know of all this, Barthold?"

"Your highness, King Carloman sent thirty of his most trusted men into northern Italia to discover the truth of the matter. Our mission was to survey what was going on and report back to the king. Twelve of us met outside of Capua and decided that the most prudent course of action before returning to Bavaria would be to tell your highness and Pandenulf, Count of Capua of the dangers you and he are facing. Six of our party went to Capua; I and my five companions came here to see you."

"Hmm, that is most interesting, Barthold. What of the other eighteen men?"

"I know not, your highness. Neither I or any of my companions have seen or heard from them since we left Bavaria. I fear that some disaster or other mischance has befallen them."

"I see. Barthold, you and your companions will join me at meat. We will eat, drink and talk further of these ‘Nova Romans."

Barthold bows again, saying "I thank you highness for your hospitality." Without further delay, Barthold and his five men are given a place at the table that is directly opposite Prince Guaifer's chair. The meal begins, and potables of various sorts are served out. Almost immediately, the talk turns to what Barthold and his companions saw during their journey through Nova Roman territory; the more that Prince Guaifer hears, the more alarmed he becomes. Barthold is in the middle of telling Prince Guaifer about the combat power of the Nova Roman Legions when the Prince interrupts "Barthold, I want to clearly understand what you are telling me. Are you saying that everyone who has fought against the Nova Romans has been defeated?"

"Everyone, your highness. No matter how large or powerful their armies were, everyone who went against the Nova Roman legions has been broken as easily as a clay pot thrown against a stone wall. I presume that your highness has also heard of their weapons of fire and thunder?"

"Only the briefest of tales, Barthold. Know you aught of them?"

"Not much more than you, your highness. I never saw these weapons in action, but what I did hear of them makes me wish never to face them in battle. By some unknown means, the least of these Nova Roman weapons are able to strike men dead where they stand at a range of ten times bowshot. They are also said to be able to make the ground rise up with flame and thunder against anyone who walks upon it. Of this ability, I know not how it is done. Suffice it to say that is has been done on more than one occasion."

"Well then, friend Barthold. If these Nova Romans be not demons, but rather men as you and I are, then the proper strategy to deal with them would seem to be to hit them on both sides simultaneously."

"A wise strategy, your highness. I also respectfully counsel you not to move against the Nova Romans without allies. Perhaps your highness might send to Pandenulf, Count of Capua, that your forces and his might strike a more powerful blow together than either of you could by yourselves."

"That is good counsel, Barthold. I shall consider it. I will say this however, even if Pandenulf sees fit not to join me, no Nova Roman will be permitted to set foot upon my territory as long as I draw breath." Prince Guaifer emphasizes his determination by pounding his fist upon the tabletop had enough to make his goblet and plate rattle."

On Station
Date: Quintilis V MDCXXXI AUC /July 5th, 878 AD
Location: The camp of Legio I Italica, just east of Rome

Ever since Legio I Italica arrived on the outskirts of Rome and completed construction of its semi-permanent camp, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva has paid special attention to the matter of perimeter security. Not only are there stationary watchposts all around the camp, there are also roving cavalry patrols. One of these patrols happens to be outwards a distance of one mille from the legion's camp when there is a most fortuitous encounter. Decurion Lucius Apicius Florus and his men are riding their rounds when he catches sight of a mixed body of horse and foot approaching. At the head of the small column, there is an unfamiliar standard being carried; a double-headed eagle. Decurion Lucius and his patrol ride over to see who is approaching. The strangers see this and draw rein, halting in place. Decurion Lucius raises his right hand in the traditional Roman greeting and says "Ho there, strangers. Might I enquire as to your purpose?"

The lead rider spurs his horse forward to within six long paces of Decurion Lucius. He halts and returns the greeting in passable Imperial Latin "Hail and well-met. I am Captain Petronas in service to Ambassador Philaretos of Byzantium. We come at the bidding of our master, His Imperial Majesty Basil the First, Emperor of Byzantium and master of the Three Seas. Our master has charged us with finding the people called Nova Romans." Decurion Lucius smiles as he hears this. He replies "Seek no further Captain, for you have found them. I am Decurion Lucius Apicius Florus of the First Cavalry Ala, Legio I Italica. The legion is encamped nearby."

Captain Petronas says "My lord Ambassador Philaretos will want to see your commander. Please take us to him."

"Very well, Captain. Follow me, if you please." Decurion Lucius and his patrol wheel their horses about and head back to Legio I Italica's camp. They are followed closely by Ambassador Philaretos, Captain Petronas and their troops. A very short time later, they arrive at the camp's main gate. Here, Decurion Lucius rides over to Captain Petronas and says "Please wait here, Captain, I will go and inform the Legate; he will be here shortly. Decurion Lucius' men wait along with the Byzantines, while he rides to the principia and asks to see Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva. The officer of the day arrives, and escorts Decurion Lucius into the Legate's office "I beg your pardon, Legate. Decurion Lucius Apicius Florus of the First Cavalry Ala is here to see you."

Legate Marcus looks up from the documents on his desk and says "Thank you, Centurion. You may return to your other duties". Legate Marcus motions Decurion Lucius to come forward. Decurion Lucius salutes and says "Hail, Legate. I bring you important news." Legate Marcus returns the salute and replies "Hail, Decurion. What news do you bring me?"

"Legate, my patrol and I were riding along the perimeter of the legion's camp when we chanced to catch sight of a small body of horse and foot approaching. They were carrying a standard that displayed a large, black double-headed eagle. I saw no hostile intent and approached to see who they were. Their Captain Petronas said that he was in service to an Ambassador Philaretos of Byzantium, and that the Ambassador had been sent by the Emperor of Byzantium to find us. Ambassador Philaretos and his party are outside the main gate even now."

"Indeed, Decurion. You did well to bring them here. Go to this Ambassador Philaretos and give him my compliments. Tell him that I will be pleased to see him immediately."

"By your command, Legate." Decurion Lucius does as he has been ordered to. He brings Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas to the Principia. The rest their party, the cataphracts and the heavy infantry, are brought to the center of the Legion's camp. There, the cataphracts dismount to rub down and water their horses; the infantry unsling their packs and rest in place. All the while, their strange appearance is catching more than a few looks from curious legionaries. Decurion Lucius escorts Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas into Legate Marcus' office; he is then dismissed with orders to see to the needs of the Ambassador's party.

"Hail, Ambassador. I am Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva, commander of Legio I Italica. I bid you welcome to my camp."

"Hail, Legate. I am Ambassador Philaretos of Byzantium. I have come at the express command of my lord and master, His Imperial Majesty Basil I, Emperor of Byzantium. He honored me with the task of seeking out the people called Nova Romans and seeing if what he has heard of them is the truth. I am pleased to see that my mission has not been in vain."

"Well met, Ambassador. I can assure you that the people of Nova Roma are as real as the ground we stand upon."

"Legate, might I ask who your ruler is?"

"Ambassador Philaretos, Nova Roma is ruled by Caesar Imperator Marcus Aurelius Antonius Augustus."

The Ambassador's eyes go wide with shock and amazement as he recognizes the name. Like all men of his station in Byzantium, he is very well-educated, and has more than a passing familiarity with Roman history. When he has recovered his wits sufficiently to be able to speak, Ambassador Philaretos says "Where….how did you come to be here?" Legate Marcus smiles somewhat at the Ambassador's discomfiture and says "Ambassador, that is a tale which is passing strange. If you would care to dine with me here in my headquarters, I will tell you as best as I am able."

"Gladly, Legate. May I ask that my men are provided for?"

"Of course. Decurion Lucius is doing that as we speak." While Legate Marcus and Ambassador are making small talk, a number of headquarters optiones carry in dishes of bread, cheese, olives, sliced meats and dried fruit. There is also olive oil for dipping and wine for drinking. When the preparations are completed, Legate Marcus fills his goblet with wine and raises it to salute the Ambassador. This gesture is returned by Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas. Ambassador Philaretos is the first to speak "Forgive me for being impatient, Legate. But I simply must know where you people came from."

Legate Marcus grins widely and says "Ambassador, what I am about to tell you may seem fantastic. Upon my word as a Roman officer, I swear that every word of it is true. An unknown time ago, the spirits of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar and myself were summoned back from the Land of the Dead by the will of Jupiter himself. The three of us stood before that most awesome of presences and heard his words. Jupiter said that we were summoned back into existence to bring back the greatness that was Imperial Rome To aid us in this great task, we were given Legio X Fretensis and the city that was formerly known as Augusta Verbonia. Then, he caused us to be thrust forward in time and space to northern Italia. We came into being in the province of Tuscany, and took it under our rule. In short order, we were further able to take all of Italia south of the Alps and north of the city of Rome. Legio I Italica is part of an ongoing campaign to take back Rome itself. In fact, Legio X Fretensis is coming down from the north to join us. Unless I miss my guess, they will have been in position for some time now."

These revelations strike Ambassador Philaretos with all the effect of a bolt from the blue. Awe and surprise are evident on his face. He takes a great pull of wine to steady his nerves before replying "Legate, that is surely the most fantastic tale I have ever heard. If the proof of it weren't here before my very own eyes, I would not believe it. I must go to your city of Nova Roma and meet the Emperor."

Legate Marcus replies "Indeed you shall, Ambassador. One of our most learned scribes has told us much about Byzantium, and how your state succeeded the Roman Empire of old. I view our meeting here today as the coming together of two branches of the same family after a very long absence. Emperor Marcus Aurelius will most certainly want to hear more of Byzantium from you. Legio I Italica isn't currently pressed, so I will detail a half-centuria of legionaries from my headquarters to escort you to Nova Roma. Will that be acceptable?"

"Perfectly so, Legate"

"Excellent. In the meantime, you and your men will guest here with me. I will re-supply you and then you can continue your journey at your convenience."

"Right gladly, Legate. If at all possible, I would prefer to leave no later than two days from now. Another thing, how far is your city of Nova Roma from here?"

"As you please, Ambassador. My quartermasters will see to the resupply of your men. In regards to your question about the distance from here to Nova Roma, it is two hundred mille. If your men move as ours do while on the march, it will take you just ten days to get there. Less even, if you take the Via Cassia."

"Legate, does the Via Cassia still exist?"

"It does, Ambassador. Part of Nova Roma's operations in Italia has been the repair of both roads and bridges. Fortunately, Roman construction is of such quality that, even after four hundred years of no maintenance, the roads and bridges we have come across are still in fairly good shape."

Building Blocks
Date: Quintilis VI MDCXXXI AUC /July 6th, 878 AD
Location: Hero's workshop

From the journal of Hero of Alexandria:

‘I, Hero again take my quill in hand to describe my latest project. After much notable success in devising new ways to destroy, I thought I would turn my attention towards something that can be used to build. In addition to concrete, the formula for which is already well-known, the most basic Roman building material is the brick. From the very beginning of Roma Antiqua, bricks have been made in a great many sizes, shapes and thicknesses. It occurred to me that brick-making can be speeded up if bricks were to be made in one standard size. Therefore, I devised a new type of brick that is lighter, stronger and more efficient in its use of materials. In fact, four or five bricks of this new design can be made with the materials formerly use to make just one brick of the old style. In form, the new brick is rectangular, measuring eight and one-quarter unciae in length, three and one-half unciae in width and two and one-half unciae in thickness.

The brick is both lightened and strengthened by rectangular coffers pressed into each of its faces. Then, three round holes are punched through the coffers from one side of the brick to the other. After this, the raw bricks are dried and fired in the ordinary manner. After firing, a brick of this new design weighs just six and one-quarter librae. Compare this to bricks of the old style, which could weigh twenty-five librae or more’.

At Long Last
Date: the morning of Quintilis VII, MDCCCXI AUC/July 7th, 878 AD
Location: the outskirts of Rome

At long last, the moment for which Emperor Marcus Aurelius and the rest of Nova Roma have been striving mightily has finally arrived. Legio X Fretensis has linked up with Legio I Italica on the outskirts of Rome. Thus joined, they are preparing to move on the Eternal City itself. As soon as Legio X Fretensis is on the scene, Legate Marcus Cassius Scaeva seeks out Legate Germanicus and greets him “Hail and well-met, Legate Germanicus. Legio I Italica has been here for some days now, and I had thought to send out scouts to find you. Now that Legio X Fretensis is here, that is no longer necessary.”

“Hail and well-met, Legate Marcus. I trust that you and the rest of Legio I Italica are well?”

"We are indeed, Legate Germanicus. May I enquire as to the reasons for your somewhat-late arrival?”

“Of course, Legate Marcus. The progress of Legio X Fretensis was slowed by certain developments in the territory of our friend and ally, Duke Lambert, here.” At this, Legate Germanicus gestures towards Duke Lambert, who is standing by with Cardinal Formosus. Duke Lambert acknowledges this by nodding his head and saying “I give you good morning, Legate Marcus.” Cardinal Formosus says “And I also, Legate Marcus.”

Legate Germanicus goes on to say “Legate Marcus, we were further slowed by the fact that Legio X Fretensis stopped every eight to ten mille in order to construct a message station. The last one is but ten mille from here. Now that we are here, I will order the construction of another station just outside of Rome. When it is complete, we will be able to send messages back to Nova Roma and hear from them within three to four hours at most.” Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are listening to the conversation between the two legates. As soon as they hear how fast it is now possible to send and receive messages, they exchange looks of muted amazement.

Legate Marcus says “Legate Germanicus, I also have the most amazing news to report to you.”

“What news is that?”

“Two days ago, my scouts encountered a small party of mixed foot and horse that were travelling under a flag that bore the device of a black, double-headed eagle. They enquired of the leader of the party, and found out that he was named Philaretos. This Philaretos is an ambassador, sent by Emperor Basil I, ruler of Rhomania. Ambassador Philaretos’ purpose in coming here was to discover for his ruler if the tales he had heard of the coming of Nova Roma were true, and to see if we meant Rhomania any harm. Mindful that you might have wanted to see the ambassador, I invited him and the rest of his party to abide with me for a while. Ambassador Philaretos regretfully declined my invitation, saying that the instructions from his lord and master would admit of no delay whatsoever. I re-supplied the ambassador and his men, then sent them on their way towards Nova Roma with an escort of fifty legionaries from my headquarters detachment.”

“I see, Legate Marcus. Not being able to meet the ambassador is regrettable, but understandable, given the circumstances. Duke Lambert, Cardinal Formosus, it seems that a new player has entered the game.”

“So it would seem, Legate Marcus. Before you of Nova Roma arrived in northern Italia, the Empire of Rhomania was the most powerful state in all the known world. It was inevitable that Nova Roma and Rhomania would encounter each other. That it would happen so very soon was entirely unexpected.”

“Legate Germanicus, please excuse me for interrupting, but now that our two legions have linked up, what will be our strategy for taking the city of Rome? Though it has been centuries since the last Emperor reigned, I am quite sure that the walls of Rome have lost none of their strength.” Legate Germanicus replies “Legate Marcus, this is why Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are here. The cardinal is Duke Lambert’s man, and he has pledged to me that if we support his bid to oust the current leader of the ‘Catholic Church’, Cardinal Formosus will use his influence on the church hierarchy and the people of Rome to see that they are more favorably disposed towards us.”

“I see, Legate Germanicus. I would point out that the supporters of the current regime may not be so favorably inclined towards us. They may even try something foolish or untoward.” Legate Germanicus says “A cogent point, Legate Marcus. I therefore counsel that we maintain the legions in a high state of readiness so that we can respond with overwhelming force to any situation that presents itself. For now, let us retire to my headquarters tent. We will have further discussions between ourselves and our allies here.”

“An excellent suggestion, Legate Germanicus. While we are thus ensconced, my Tribunus Laticlavius and my Primus Pilus will see to the better ordering of Legio I Italica.”

“Very well, Legate Marcus. Please follow me.” Legate Marcus and Legate Germanicus head off to the headquarters compound of Legio X Fretensis, with both Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus following close behind. While Legate Marcus is absent, the officers and men of Legio I Italica carry out their daily routines with exacting perfection. The legionaries strike their tents and roll up their sleeping mats. Some give their attention to cleaning, repairing and stowing their gear. Guard details for perimeter security are mounted, and those not otherwise occupied eat their morning meal. The idea is that once they are finished, they will relieve their fellows so that others can eat. Here and there, groups of legionaries are engaged in loading the legion’s wagons. The artillery crews are also seeing to their weapons, with the ballistae igneii crews paying particular attention to their own equipment.

Meanwhile in the headquarters tent of Legio X Fretensis, the planning session/meal is well underway. Legate Germanicus, Legate Marcus, Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are seated around a central table. The lower-ranking members of Legio X Fretensis’ command staff are standing by. In the center of the table, there is a large map that has been unrolled and weighted down at thee corners. This map was produced by Legio X Fretensis’ surveyors based on input from Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus. The map outlines the major streets and districts of the city of Rome, along with the city walls and the placement of the principal gates.

Legate Germanicus is the first to speak “Gentlemen, this map shows the city of Rome as it stands today. The walls are in the same places as I and Legate Marcus remember them.” He points towards the map with his dagger and says “The principal gates of the city are here, here, here and here. According to the information provided by Cardinal Formosus, the headquarters of his church is in the district that we knew as the Campus Vaticanus, so named for its proximity to the Vatican hill. Duke Lambert?”

“Yes, Legate?”

“If we are unable to effect a peaceful entry to the city, we will have to choose whichever gate is most applicable, then force an entrance. I would rather not have to do that, you understand?”

“I understand, Legate Germanicus. My man Cardinal Formosus has certain contacts in the city, and he will employ them accordingly. However, Pope John VIII has his own loyalists, and you can be assured that they will do what they can to oppose our efforts.”

“It is so noted, Duke Lambert. Based on your own knowledge of the city, at which gate should we focus our attention?”

“Legate Germanicus, that would be the Porta Principalis, as you Nova Romans would put it. The street from there leads directly to the Campus Vaticanus. Going by this route would enable you to avoid the more congested parts of the city.”

“An excellent idea, Duke Lambert. So it shall be. Before we enter the city, I will have all of our ballistae igneii drawn up before the Porta Principalis. If we have to make some kind of demonstration, I want it to be as powerful and impressive as possible. The polybolos and the catapaults will be stationed on the flanks to sweep the tops of the walls if necessary. “

Legate Marcus says “Agreed, Legate Germanicus. I counsel that our cavalry be tasked with perimeter security while the operation is ongoing. Our archers should also accompany the troops who enter the city.” Legate Germanicus replies “Very well, Legate Marcus.”

“Legate Gemanicus?”

“Yes, Duke Lambert?”

“What of my own troops?”

“Duke Lambert, it is my plan that your men should fall in with the First and Second Cohorts of Legio X Fretensis. We will enter the Porta Principalis in strength and make directly for the Campus Vaticanus. It will be the task of you and your men to interact with the populace and see that our progress is as smooth as possible. Legate Marcus?”

“Yes, Legate Germanicus?”

“The bulk of the artillery of our two legions will be staying outside the Porta Principalis, except for four ballistae igneii and their crews who will accompany us into Rome, I think it necessary for those four pieces and their crews to come with us in case we need to quickly reduce some strongpoint or other inside the city. I suggest that Legio I Italica construct a marching camp outside the walls of Rome, as it is likely that we will be here for some time. You may deploy the other artillery as you see fit, but make sure that you have good security on your flanks.”

“Yes, Legate Germanicus. It will be as you say.”

“Legate Marcus, Legio X Fretensis is ready to move. What of Legio I Italica?”

“Legate Germanicus, my men have been breaking camp since dawn. We are ready to move as soon
as the word is given.”

“Consider it given. We are but five mille from the walls of Rome. There is one thing I would like to mention, however. In days of old, no Roman commander could cross the city’s sacred pomerium at the head of his troops. If we were back in our own time, this law would most certainly apply to us. I think we may regard this law as being null and void because of the fall of Roma Antiqua. Do you agree?”

“I concur, Legate Germanicus.”

“Very well. Please return to your command. We march at once.” Legate Marcus rides back to Legio I Italica and sees that all is in readiness. He is hailed by Tribunus Laticlavius Julius Aqulius Manlius, who says “Greetings, Legate. What is the word from Legate Germanicus?” Legate Marcus replies “We move on Rome at once. Order the buccinatori and the tubiceni to sound the advance.”

“By your command, Legate.” The notes of command soon ring out loudly and clearly through the warm morning air. The men of Legio I Italica stand to arms. Tribunus Laticlavius Manlius receives a nod from Legate Marcus, then calls out “MEN OF THE LEGION, FORWARD..MARCH!!” Then, Legio I Italica moves out. It seems as if every man’s pace is perfectly in keeping with all the others. The legion moves slowly and deliberately; neither too fast or too slow. Within just a quarter of an hour, Legio I Italica joins with Legio X Fretensis. As soon as Legate Germanicus catches sight of Legio I Italica, he orders his men forward also. Just two hours of marching later, the walls of Rome are in sight. Legate Germanicus sends his scouts forward to ascertain if there is any opposition in the field. There is none, and the scouts report this back. Legate Germanicus’ heart fully leaps in exultation as he beholds Rome’s mighty walls. Legate Marcus and his command staff ride up to join him, and Legate Marcus asks “What are your orders, Legate Germanicus?”

“Begin the construction of a marching camp as we previously discussed, Legate Marcus. Deploy the artillery as planned.”

“Yes, Legate Germanicus.”

In front of them, the great gate of the Porta Principalis stands closed. Atop the walls, there is consternation in the garrison as they behold the armored might of two full Roman legions. The officer in command of the Porta Principalis calls for a messenger and says “send to His Holiness. Tell him that the Nova Romans are outside the Porta Principalis in great strength.”

“Yes, My lord.”

The messenger runs off as fast as he can go. It is as if his feet are carrying him on the wings of eagles. Soon thereafter, he arrives at the papal palace and seeks out the palace chamberlain. Breathlessly, he says “My lord, I have a message for His Holiness.” The chamberlain says “Yes, what is it?”

“My lord, more of the Nova Romans are here!!”

The chamberlain’s face falls as he hears this news. He asks “Where? In what strength are they?”

“My lord, there are at least ten thousand men in arms before the Porta Principalis.” The apprehension that the chamberlain felt before is as nothing to the cold, clammy hand of fear that seems to grip him now. The chamberlain hesitates but a moment before replying “Return to the Porta Principalis and tell your commander to take no action unless ordered to.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Outside the Porta Principalis, Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica have moved into position. Twenty ballistae igneii are now pointed directly at the gate. A full one hundred and twenty polybolos have been emplaced. The elevating gears have been cranked up so that the weapons can sweep the tops of the walls when called upon. On the flanks of the artillery position, the combined cavalry arms of Legio X Fretensis and Legio I Italica are deployed; that of Legio X Fretensis is on the right and that of Legio I Italica is on the left. The remaining four ballistae igneii are being held back for use within the city of Rome if necessary. Directly in front of the artillery, the crews are building defensive works. These will consist of ditches, a low earthen rampart and a short palisade. There are also sudes which have been bound together in groups of three, rather like large caltrops. These will be placed between the ditch and the low earthen ramparts.

While these preparations are going on, Legate Germanicus, Legate Marcus and the combined command staff of the two legions ride forward to observe the situation. Legate Germanicus is accompanied by Duke Lambert, Cardinal Formosus and several of their servants.

Date: Quintilis VII, MDCCCXI AUC/July 7th, 878 AD
Location: on the road to Nova Roma

Ambassador Philaretos turns to Gaius Oppidius Vindex, the senior decanus in charge of the escort and says "I have never been to this part of Italia before. Rhomania has certain colonies in the very southern part of the peninsula, and I have been there several times. I must confess to a certain amount of curiosity about the north of Italia, however. I see that the Via Cassia we are travelling on is still in good shape. Have you of Nova Roma aught to do with this?"

"No, my lord. Though it is the policy of Nova Roma that the legions repair any and all Roman roads they come across, we haven't repaired the Via Cassia because it hasn't come under our dominion yet. We repair old Roman roads in order to speed the movement of the legions, and also to facilitate the conduct of trade and business."

"I see, Decanus Gaius. How long do you anticipate the rest of our journey will be?"

"Lord, we are making excellent progress. If nothing untoward happens to us, we should arrive in the city of Nova Roma one week from today." Ambassador Philaretos' face brightens when he hears this. Today's travel has gone very well, and it is now getting on towards late afternoon. Decanus raises his hand to signal a halt, then he turns to Ambassador Philaretos and says "Lord, we will be camping here for the night. There is ample firewood from nearby stands of timber, and that stream over there will provide water for cooking and cleaning. What say you?”

Ambassador Philaretos says “The prospect of a good night’s sleep after a long day on the road greatly appeals to me, Decanus. Let it be as you say. I will instruct the captain of my guards to follow your suggestions in the making of our camp. Will that be satisfactory?”

“Yes, Lord. Just then, Decanus Gaius orders his five contubernia of legionaries to fall out and begin making camp. Captain Petronas of the ambassador’s guard does likewise. Certain members of each contubernia begin to set of their leather tents. Others go to the stream to draw water and still others gather firewood for cooking and heating. Captain Petronas men set up their own tents (which are made of cloth, not leather), and very soon the camp is a hive of activity. For security, the horses are corralled in the very middle of the camp. The wagons containing the rations and other supplies are divided into two separate groups; each group is placed at opposite ends of the horse corral. Lastly, the tents of the legionaries and Captain Petronas' men are arranged around the horse corral and the two wagon parks.

Now that the camp has been set up, the next task is to prepare and serve out the evening meal. Rations are drawn from the supply wagons and handed over to the men who have been assigned cooking duty. While the meal is being prepared, those not on guard duty see to their equipment. The men with horses un-saddle their mounts, and the horse teams are un-harnessed. The animals are rubbed down, then watered and given their rations of horse grain. While this is being done, the savory smells of cooking food and roasting meat waft through the camp from the cooking area in front of the officers’ tents. The aroma draws everyone who isn’t on guard duty. The men who are on guard have their meals brought to them. At first, the legionaries of the escort and the Ambassador’s guards sit apart from each other. Soon, however, they begin to mix. By the time the meal is half-done, they are all sitting together as one large group. Stories are traded back and forth, as are jokes both bad and obscene. The evening wears on, and by the time that the sun is below the horizon, the legionaries and the ambassador’s men are ready to turn in. Cloaks, bedrolls and other sleeping gear are unrolled in the tents. The night guard details are arranged, and the rest of the men are soon

The next morning, the guards arouse the camp’s residents at daybreak. A light morning meal of cheese, bread and olive oil is served out while the camp is being struck. Just one hour after sunrise, the camp is fully-struck and all gear and other equipment is back on the wagons. The horses are saddled and the horse teams are harnessed. In short order, the expedition is ready to move out.

Date: Quintilis XIV, MDCCCXI AUC/July 14th, 878 AD
Location: The city of Nova Roma

At long last, Ambassador Philaretos and the rest of the party have arrived at Nova Roma. The ambassador, his men and their escort wait just outside Nova Roma’s main gate while Decanus Gaius rides on ahead to the Domus Imperialis to announce the ambassador’s arrival. Very quickly, he finds the emperor’s chamberlain and requests admittance to the Imperial Presence. This is arranged, and Decanus Gaius is brought to the emperor’s private office where the customary greetings are exchanged.

“Hail, Caesar. I am Decanus Gaius Oppidius Vindex of Legio I Italica. I have highly-important news.”

“Hail, Decanus. What news do you have for me?”

“Caesar, some days ago, we of Legio I Italica were approached by a party of men under a banner that bore the device of a black, double-headed eagle. They made themselves known to us as being representatives of Basil I, Emperor of Rhomania. Their leader is one Ambassador Philaretos. The ambassador said that he was charged by his ruler with the task of finding out about Nova Roma, and whether or not we meant him good or ill. Ambassador Philaretos and his men await your pleasure outside Nova Roma’s main gate.”

“Decanus Gaius, I thank you for your duty well-done. Go to the ambassador and his men and tell him that I will be pleased to see him immediately.”

“Yes, Caesar.” Decanus Gaius salutes the emperor and goes to bring the ambassador as ordered. Within a half-hour, Ambassador Philaretos, Captain Petronas, the guards and the escorting legionaries enter the great open plaza of the Forum of Trajan. The emperor and certain of his officials are awaiting the ambassador’s arrival. Ambassador Philaretos stops short of where the emperor is standing, then he dismounts and approaches. When he is in front of the emperor, he begins to make a full, formal proskynesis. Marcus Aurelius motions for him to stop, saying “Ho there, what are you doing?”

Ambassador Philaretos replies “Hail Caesar. I am greeting you as I would my own sovereign Basil I, Emperor of Rhomania and Master of the Three Seas.”

Marcus Aurelius nods his head in acknowledgment and says “Ambassador, I thank you for that mark of respect, but more demonstrations of it are not necessary. Here in Nova Roma, we bend the knee to no one but the gods themselves.”

“Yes, Caesar.”

“I have heard that your purpose in coming here is to find out about us and to send that information back to your master. Is this correct?”

“Yes, Caesar. My men and I have been traveling for many days in order to get here, and I am very glad to have arrived safely.”

“Well-said, ambassador. I bid you right welcome to the City of Nova Roma. I trust that your journey went well?”

“Indeed it did, Caesar. My men and I were under strict instructions to avoid contact with anyone else other than Nova Romans at all costs.”

“You have performed your duty quite admirably. Please come with me to my office. I’m sure you will want to wash out the dust of the trail with some good wine. For now, my men will see to the needs of your staff.”

“At your convenience, Caesar. I do have certain items to give you. They were brought hither by the express command of Emperor Basil. It is my master’s intention that they be conveyed to you as tokens of his esteem and respect for a brother emperor.” Marcus Aurelius raises an eyebrow in curiosity and says AI look forward to seeing them, Ambassador. For now, please accompany me.”

Ambassador Philaretos follows the emperor into the Domus Imperialis. Just before he enters the door, he motions for some of his men to carry the chests containing the gifts from Emperor Basil. A short time later, Marcus Aurelius and the ambassador enter the emperor’s private study. Servants laid refreshments on a small side table, and were dismissed. Marcus Aurelius begins by getting up from his desk and pouring Ambassador Philaretos a goblet of wine with his own hand from a silver pitcher on the sideboard. The ambassador begins to rise, but the emperor motions for him to remain seated. Ambassador Philaretos is quiet shocked by this, as his own ruler Emperor Basil I (mild though he be) would never have deigned to do such a thing. Marcus Aurelius pours himself a cup, then sits back at his desk. He says “Now, ambassador. Let’s to business, shall we? Tell me of your journey here.”

Ambassador Philaretos gathers his thoughts and replies “Caesar, my men and I left the city of Constantine many days ago and made a long sea journey across the Sea of Marmora, the Aegean sea and finally, the Mediterranean. We made landfall at the city of Cosenza in southern Italia, this city being one of my lord and master’s possessions in that part of the peninsula. We made forth by land. Not knowing where you of Nova Roma were to be found, it was my intention to travel to the northern part of Italia, then to send out enquiries among the local inhabitants. Once we were in the vicinity of the city of Rome, my men and I chanced to meet troops from your Legio I Italica. They gave us directions and an escort, and were also gracious enough to resupply my men and I.”

“An interesting tale, Ambassador. Now that you are here, what think you of the City of Nova Roma?”

“Caesar, in truth, I say that though your city of Nova Roma be small in extent, its’ grandeur fairly rivals that of the City of Constantine.”

“Well-said once again, Ambassador.” Just then, there is a knock at the entrance to the emperor’s private study. One of the servants says “Caesar, I beg your pardon for this interruption, but the ambassador’s staff is here with several small chests.”

“Ahh, yes. They have been expected. Admit them immediately.”

“Yes, Caesar.”

Without delay, Ambassador Philaretos' men carry several iron-bound oaken chests into Emperor Marcus Aurelius' office. The chests are laid down on low benches around a central table. One of the Ambassador's men hands over a large bronze key; the men salute the emperor and the ambassador and then depart. Ambassador Philaretos unlocks the first chest and takes out an elaborately-worked sword with a matching scabbard and sword-belt. The blade is longer and wider than the blade on a spatha. It is forged of the finest watered steel, has five cores, a broad central fuller and a brilliantly-polished cutting edge. Ambassador Philaretos extends the scabbard hilt-first so that the emperor can draw the sword.

"Caesar, I invite you to draw the sword and test its balance for yourself. This weapon is from Emperor Basil's personal armory, and has been carried in battle by him on several occasions." Marcus Aurelius indulges his curiosity and tries a few practice swings. Even to his untried hand, the sword moves as if it were an extension of his own arm. Each slash sings through the air, the cutting edge of the blade flashing brilliantly as it moves. The contrast between the cutting edge and the core of the blade is as the contrast between a new moon and the night sky. The sword's only decoration is the braided gold wire which wraps the grip. Marcus Aurelius sets the sword down on the table and next examines the scabbard and swordbelt. The scabbard fittings are of elaborately-chiseled bronze, while the body of the scabbard is of tooled leather over thin wood. The inside of the scabbard is lined with close-sheared lamb fleece to cushion the blade and protect it against corrosion. Ambassador Philaretos says "Caesar, swords of this type are used to arm our heavy infantry. In contrast to this, I invite you to examine this second sword."

Marcus Aurelius hisses in pleasure as Ambassador Philaretos takes out a second sword and scabbard from the chest. As before, he presents the sword hilt-first to the emperor so that he can draw it at his convenience. Unlike the first sword, the blade of this weapon is curved like the crescent moon. It is single-edged, and has a long, narrow point. Marcus Aurelius swings it a few times and immediately realizes that it is quicker in the hand than the first sword. He asks "What kind of sword is this, Ambassador? I haven't seen its' like before."

"Caesar, this weapon is called a saber. It is intended for use by mounted troops. It is designed primarily for cutting, though it is perfectly capable of delivering a lethal thrust." Marcus Aurelius examines the hilt closely, and sees that the grip is wrapped with braided gold wire. The crossguard is swept forward above the back of the blade and backwards below the cutting edge. He returns the saber to its scabbard and lays it down on the table. The last weapon taken form the chest is an iron-shafted mace. Ambassador Philaretos presents it to the emperor and says "Caesar, this weapon is intended for use by both foot and mounted troops. It is designed to attack heavily-armored targets whose protection might otherwise defeat a blade. Marcus Aurelius holds the weapon up for a closer look and sees that the head has eight separate flanges welded to a central shaft. Each flange has pierced decoration, along with a centrally-placed blunt point that will enable better purchase against armored targets. The central shaft is round, and has raised designs chiseled into it. The raised portions of the designs are richly-gilded, while the low parts are blued. The weapon's grip is wrapped with alternating bands of twisted gold and copper wire. There is also a braided leather wrist thong.

Marcus Aurelius says "This is truly a magnificent weapon, Ambassador. From now on, it will be an heirloom of the throne. I and whoeverafter shall succeed me to the purple will bear it as a part of the Imperial state regalia, symbol of the power of the emperor."

Ambassador Philaretos now says "Caesar, this second chest contains a suit of armor and a helmet worthy of an emperor." He takes the armor out of the chest and begins to explain the design ‘The torso armor is of lamellar construction, each piece of which is tied together with strong cords. Unlike scale armor, lamellar doesn't require a leather or cloth backing." Ambassador Philaretos holds up the armor to catch the light better. Marcus Aurelius sees that the surfaces of the individual pieces are brilliantly-polished and chased with designs in silver. To complement the cuirass, there are a pair of shoulder guards of the same design. The next item to be taken out of the chest is the arming jacket. This piece is of thickly-quilted cotton, and has attached sleeves and a skirt of mail; the sleeves and the skirt are gilded. To complement the armor, there is a steel helmet. This helmet is a round cap with a forward peak, a lamellar neck-guard, articulated jaw flaps and a strongly-riveted nasal bar. The various sections of the helmet have been blued and inlaid with raised figures in polished silver.

Marcus Aurelius is stunned by the quality of the workmanship that went into these weapons. He says "Will wonders never cease, Ambassador? Those weapons are so fine that they could have come from the forges of Vulcan, himself." Ambassador Philaretos says "Caesar, I thank you for your most gracious comments. There is yet one more chest to be opened." The final chest is the largest of the three. The first item to be taken out and shown is an elaborate officer's saddle, made of tooled leather with silver appliqués as decoration. The emperor says "the leatherworkers of Byzantium are skilled indeed, if they can produce such quality. I have some skill on horseback, so I look forward to trying this saddle out."

Lastly, Ambassador Philaretos removes a set of horse armor and lays it out on the tabletop for Marcus Aurelius' approval. The emperor's eyes blaze with pleasure as he examines it closely and says "Ambassador, I see this armor is like the lorica squamata that men in the legions wore in former days." Ambassador Philaretos says "Yes Caesar, that is correct. This armor is called ‘barding', think of it as squamata for a horse. Each of the scales is made of bronze, and has a central ridge to strengthen it. This piece was intended for a high-ranking officer, but was never issued. There are similar sets of armor worn by the mounts ridden by my horseguards."

"I see, Ambassador. On behalf of your master Emperor Basil, please accept my thanks for the magnificent gifts you have presented to me. You shall have suitable gifts for your emperor in return. For now, I assume that you and your men will want to rest and refresh themselves. My staff will see to your needs. I will order that quarters be provided. There will be a feast held in your honor here in the Domus Imperialis tomorrow. I decree that you and your men are to have the freedom of the city. You may go anywhere in the city that it pleases you to, and you may speak to anyone you like. At the feast, you will meet the senior membership of the Nova Roman Senate. I'm quite sure there will be much to talk about."

"Yes, Caesar. I thank you for your generosity. I ask your leave to go and see to my men."

"Granted, Ambassador. Certain of my staff will go with you to arrange the provision of meals and quarters."

"Thank you, Caesar."

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
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Chapter XX

Date: Quintilis XV MDCCCXI AUC/ July 15th, 878 AD
Location: The City of Salerno

The six agents from King Carloman of Bavaria have been given leave by Prince Guaifer of Salerno to return to their master. Prince Guaifer has charged them to deliver a message promising alliance and mutual support against the threat posed by the Nova Romans. In view of the imminent threat posed to his domain by Nova Roma, Prince Guaifer sends to his nobles and other vassals that they are to gather themselves together and come to Salerno with all possible speed. The Prince's messengers take to the roads and spur their horses as if the demons of Hell were chasing them. They know full well the importance of the messages they carry, so they spare no effort in getting to where they need to go.

In the early afternoon, Prince Guaifer is conferring with his closest advisers when one of his servants comes running up. The servant falls to his knees and says "Your highness, your highness. I beg your forgiveness for this interruption, but his lordship Count Pandenulf of Capua is at your gates. Just a few minutes ago, the captain of the guard hear a loud blare of trumpets close by and thought the city was under attack. Instead a herald rode up and announced that Count Pandenulf was here and that he asked admittance to your highness."

"Say you so, fellow?? Well, then. Go and bring Count Pandenulf here immediately."

The servant bows his head and says "Yes, your highness." A short time later, Count Pandenulf and several of his officers are shown into Prince Guaifer's council hall.

"Greetings, your highness. I am here to lend my aid in combating the threat posed by Nova Roma. Two days ago, six men from the court of King Carloman of Bavaria came before me and told me of the deadly peril I face."

Prince Guaifer claps his hands together in pleasure while exclaiming loudly "Hail and well-met, my friend. Your are most welcome here. I, too met with six of King Carloman's agents, and they told me exactly what their fellows told you. Just this morning, I bid the agents return to their master and tell him that I offer my hand in alliance against our common foe. Only two short hours ago, I sent word to my nobles and vassals to gather all of their strength and come to Salerno as soon as possible."

Count Pandenulf responds "Your highness, I recognize the threat posed to our domains by those foul, demon-bred Nova Romans. I didn't wait to hear from you as to whether or not you needed assistance. I simply came here. My forces are gathering outside Capua, and I have left instructions that they are to come here and join with your own troops."

Prince Guaifer replies "my lord Count, you show commendable foresight. With our joined strength, surely we will be able to sweep the Nova Romans aside like so much chaff on the threshing floor. In the meantime, welcome, welcome!!. Perhaps you and your men would take refreshment with me and mine? There is much we must speak of before we begin our campaign."

"Your highness, I will most gladly accept your hospitality." Prince Guaifer bids Count Pandenulf to sit beside him, while the Count's officers take the other places at the table not occupied by the Prince's men. Prince Guaifer claps his hands to summon his servants to bring food and drink. While this is being done, the Prince asks "My lord, have you any information as to where the Nova Romans are today and what they are doing?"

Count Pandenulf replies "Your highness, some few days ago, I had word from my scouts that the Nova Romans were fast approaching the walls of Rome. If they aren't there by now, I am much mistaken. It seems plain to me that they mean to force an entrance and take the city. Judging by what they have done on various battlefields thus far, who knows what unimaginable horrors they will inflict on the inhabitants of the city? I tell you, your highness, we must make haste!!"

"My lord Count, it will take but seven days for the muster of my vassal nobles and troops to be complete. Three days more, and all necessary supplies will be gathered."

"Your highness, my troops will be here in seven days. It has always been my policy to keep more supplies on hand than were necessary, so it took no time whatsoever to issue them to the troops once they assembled outside my city of Capua."

"Truly, the Almighty's hand is upon us, that we have had such luck in being able to prepare. We march ten days from today. We will be fighting not just for ourselves and our dominions, but for His Holiness the Pope and the defense of the Holy Mother Church. With such sure and certain purpose behind us, we will succeed and drive the Nova Romans back down to the infernal regions from whence they came."

"Well-said, your highness, well-said!!" The two men stand up from their seats at the high table and face each other. Prince Guaifer and Count Pandenulf extend their right hands and firmly grasp each other's forearms at the wrist. The other men seated around the table raise their goblets in salute and drink from them deeply. When the goblets have been drained, the men draw their swords and raise them on high. Oaths are loudly and enthusiastically shouted "DEATH TO THE NOVA ROMANS!!", "GOD'S ARM STRIKE WITH US!!"

State Dinner
Date: Quintilis XV MDCCCXI AUC/ July 15th, 878 AD
Location: The Domus Imperialis, Nova Roma
Time: late afternoon

In the late afternoon, preparations are well underway for the formal state dinner to be hosted by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Food and drink has been gathered from the storage rooms in the cellars of the Domus Imperialis, and numbers of livestock have been slaughtered and portioned out for cooking. Great mounds of rolls, cakes and loaves of bread have been freshly-baked. While the food and drink is being prepared, other members of the Emperor's staff are busy setting up tables, benches and chairs in the main hall.

By the time the sun begins to set, all is in readiness as the Emperor's guests begin to arrive. Some arrive by chariot, and still others by covered wagons or litters borne by their own servants. Ambassador Philaretos and his staff are already here, as their quarters are in the residential wing of the Domus Imperialis. According to Nova Roman court protocol, Emperor Marcus Aurelius will arrive first and take his seat at the high table. Immediately behind him are Ambassador Philaretos and the members of his staff. The most important guests (Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus and senior members of the Nova Roman Senate) arrive next and are seated at the high table in order of precedence. Since Ambassador Philaretos is the Emperor's honored guest, he is seated at the Emperor's right hand, while Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus is seated directly to the Emperor's left. Lastly, the other invited guests (the chief men of the city and lower-ranking members of the Senate) arrive and are seated at tables arranged before the high table itself. Each seat has before it an arrangement of a well-fired & decorated oval clay dish and a silver goblet for wine. There are also small cups before each place to hold olive oil and honey for dipping.

While the final preparations are being made and the food is being brought in, Emperor Marcus Aurelius turns to Ambassador Philaretos and says "Ambassador, now that you have spent some time going about the city of Nova Roma, I trust that your curiosity isn't even close to being satiated."

Ambassasdor Philaretos nods his head in respect and says "Caesar, your city is more full of wonders that I expected. Just this morning, I spent many hours in the Great Library. I held in my own hands and read with my own eyes original copies of great tragedies and comedies by original Greek authors like Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes. To have held such history in my hands was truly a feast for the mind. I further visited the great temple of Zeus and saw the giant statue seated upon its throne. Though I am Christian, I could not fail to be amazed at the sight. The writer Antipater of Sidon named what he called the ‘Seven Wonders of the World; until you of Nova Roma came to be, all that remained of the Seven Wonders were the Great Pyramid of Egypt, the Lighthouse of Pharos and the tomb of King Mausolus. The Statue of Zeus was another one of the Wonders, and to see it with my own eyes after it had been lost for centuries was a great honor."

Marcus Aurelius replies "Ambassador. What did you think of the people?"

"Caesar, no matter where I went in Nova Roma, the people I met were open, honest and forthright. They were most curious about me and where I came from, so I indulged that curiosity and answered as many of their questions as time permitted. When it is time for me to return and report back to my master Emperor Basil I, I shall most certainly tell him that you here in Nova Roma mean us no harm. I will also recommend to his Imperial Majesty that a full alliance of state be concluded between Rhomania and Nova Roma. I think it rather obvious that such an alliance would be to the benefit of all concerned."

"It is well that you say this, Ambassador. A full alliance between your people and mine is my desire, also. Now, let us eat, drink and make merry. While we have been talking, the food has been brought out. From the delicious smells, it seems as if my cooks have outdone themselves."

"Yes, Caesar." In very short order, the plates of everyone in the hall are filled as high as one could want. Their goblets are filled with the very best wine from the Emperor's cellars. The combination of good food, good company and free-flowing wine makes for light and easy conversation. In the background, the Emperor's musicians are playing such music as is appropriate for a formal dinner. Eventually, Emperor Marcus Aurelius asks "Ambassador, a question that has just occurred to me is how long you wish to stay here with us."

"Caesar, I have seen only a fraction of what Nova Roma has to offer. With your permission, I should like to stay for another thirty days. I should like to go out from the city and see the roads, the farms, the fields. If it is possible, I would like to see a body of your legionaries go through their evolutions. I ask to see no secrets of yours, just to see things as a legionary or officer would."

"Of course, Ambassador. It will be my great pleasure to arrange for you to see as much as you like."

"Ambassador, you told me that your party took ship from the City of Constantine and then landed in the city of Cozenza in southern Italia." Ambassador Philaretos replies "Yes, Caesar. After we made landfall, my men and I came overland until we met certain of your officers and men of Legio I Italica. We were on the road for many days and nights."

"I see. When it is time for you to return to your master, would it not speed things up for you to have your ships close at hand? My ally Lord Hugh of Liguria has an excellent harbor in his city of Genua. Perhaps you should send word to Cosenza to have your ships sail up the western coast of Italia and make port there."

"Caesar, that is an absolutely inspired suggestion. I will do so on the morrow. The captain of my guards is well-known to the captains of the ships that brought us to Italia, so there will be no trouble in convincing them to sail to Genua."

"Excellent. I will have my best and fastest horsemen accompany your man on the journey. Since there will be no foot troops going, your man's progress will be swift."

Preparing for war
Date: Quintilis XVI MDCCCXI AUC/ July 16th, 878 AD
Location: The City of Salerno

Almost from the break of dawn, Prince Guaifer's palace and the city of Salerno without become a beehive of activity. Not only are the Prince's men gathering for a battle the likes of which none of them has ever even dreamed about, but the troops of Count Pandenulf are coming to lend their strength also. All manner of supplies, arms and equipment are gathered. That material in need of repair is attended to, and anything too worn-out or damaged is replaced. Vast quantities of food and drink are gathered in and stored for later issue. All the while, Prince Guaifer and Count Pandenulf are seemingly everywhere; giving orders here, making suggestions there. Throughout the city, the forges of the blacksmiths and armorers ring with the sounds of hammers against anvils as horseshoes are made and new weapons are forged.

The two nobles also confer with each other regularly. During one of these meetings, Prince Guaifer turns to Count Pandenulf and asks "My lord Count, how many men of yours are on the way here? You never did tell me." Count Pandenulf responds "I beg your pardon for that omission, your highness. There are twelve thousand troops on the way here, saving only a very few men I ordered to stay behind in Capua to safeguard my palace and several other strongholds."

"Those are impressive numbers, Count Pandenulf. A question does occur to me, however. Will not having so many of your men away from your domain imperil your rule?"

"Perhaps, your highness. It is my considered opinion that the threat we face from the Nova Romans is of such magnitude that we dare not hold back in the slightest. If we win the coming battle, it will be of no importance, only an unpleasant memory. If we don't win, then it won't matter; because we'll be dead."

"A cogent point, my lord Count. Like you, I shall not hold back any of my forces. This is no slight against you or your valor (which I know to be unquestioned), but Salerno and its surrounding territory are larger and more wealthy than your own domain of Capua. I will therefore be able to bring more troops for the upcoming engagement. In connection with my nobles and other vassals, I will have twenty thousand men to bring to bear against our hated enemy."

"Well-done, your highness. Our combined forces will number thirty-two thousand men. So great a force will surely prevail against those demon-spawned Nova Romans."

"I pray that this be so, my lord Count. In fact, the Bishop of Salerno tells me that he has ordered that Holy Masses be said in furtherance of our victory. You will be also interested in knowing that I have sent emissaries to Duke Athanasius of Naples and Prefect Pulcharius of Amalfi to ask their aid in our great endeavor. Duke Athanasius may prove to be most receptive, as he is also a bishop of the Holy Mother Church. Anything which threatens the well-being of the Church will rouse him to action."

"Your highness, what of Prince Guaifer of Benevento?"

"Count Pandenulf, Prince Guaifer succeeded his uncle Adelchis in May of this year when the latter was assassinated. If the truth be told, I think it likely that he was involved in the death of his uncle. Affairs in Benevento are still unsettled, and there is the likelihood of a localized civil war breaking out there. I would not look to them for assistance."

Seeing is Believing
Date: Quintilis XVII MDCCCXI AUC/ July 17th, 878 AD
Location: The home base of Legio X Fretensis, outside the City of Nova Roma

By special order of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas are given permission to go to Legio X Fretensis' camp outside the city and talk to the troops there. Ever since Legio X Fretensis began its campaign, the legionaries of the city guard of Nova Roma have been stationed there. Additionally, there are a number of drill instructors along with support staff in the camp. Two hours after sunrise, Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas are escorted to the camp, where they are met by Senior Drillmaster Quintus Flavius Valerianus.

"Greetings, Ambassador Philaretos. I am Quintus Flavius Valerianus, senior drillmaster for Legio X Fretensis. I received a message from the Emperor telling me that you wished to observe how legionaries are trained. There are four cohorts of the city guard in residence here, and I have two full centuria awaiting your pleasure on the drill field."

"Thank you, Drillmaster Quintus. Let us proceed at your convenience."

"If you will please follow me Ambassador, I am quite sure you won't be disappointed." Drillmaster Quintus leads the two men to the drill field, which is just outside the perimeter of the camp. As they arrive, Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas see that two full centuria of legionaries are standing at arms on the field. Each and every legionary are in their assigned contuberniae, seemingly at ease, but ready for action at a moment's notice. Seeing that Drillmaster Quintus and his guests are approaching, the two commanding centuriones call out loudly "AD SIGNA", followed by "MANDATA CAPTATE", and then by "DIRIGE FRONTEM". These three commands have all of the legionaries present themselves with eyes front and chests thrust proudly outwards. Every man's back is as straight and unyielding as a sword blade. In front of the two centuria, their standards are snapping loudly in the early-morning breeze. A gesture from Drillmaster Quintus has the two centuriones call out orders to their men to begin a series of demonstrations that show the capabilities of the legionaries in close-order drill, marching and various battle formations.

As Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas observe the legionaries going through their paces, Drillmaster Quintus says "We of Nova Roma have always believed that one of the keys to victory in battle is our faith in our comrades-in-arms. No one has to worry whether or not the man to his right or left will falter at a critical moment. Indeed, we consider it lacking if we aren't able to move smoothly, much like the fingers of one's hand or the limbs of one's body. Look to the drill field, Ambassador. Do you see how smoothly and uniformly the men are in the performance of their movements?"

"I do indeed, Drillmaster Quintus."

"This is another one of our secrets to our success on the battlefield. There are no extraneous movements, and so the energy of the men is conserved. This is done so that, when it comes time to draw our gladii and begin the test of arms, we can fight longer and harder than our enemies." The legionaries on the drill field continue to march, counter-march and do flanking movements as if they are getting ready to go into a real battle. Ambassador Philaretos sees this and comments "Drillmaster, I see that the men are going through their moves like the world is depending on them alone. Why are they so serious?"

"Ambassador, we of Nova Roma train as if we are going to fight. We also fight as we have been trained. I have always believed that the more we bleed in peace, the less we bleed in war. No one we have met on the field thus far, either here or before we were brought here by the will of Jupiter, has had the same skill and discipline as we do. This is why we win, even against greatly- superior odds."

Better Weapons
Date: Quintilis XVII MDCCCXI AUC/ July 17th, 878 AD
Location: The workshop of Hero of Alexandria
Time: Early morning

While Ambassador Philaretos and Captain Petronas are observing the legionaries of the city guard on their training maneuvers, Hero of Alexandria is seated at one of the many work tables in his well-lit workshop. On the table before him are sheets of paper, a small pot of ink, writing implements, measuring tools and a scale model of a ballistae igneii. Hero takes the model in hand, turning it this way and that way, all the while observing every detail. He puts the model down, picks up his quill and starts to write in his journal.

‘As I am much-interested in the workings of the ballista ignea which I have invented, I have resolved to further-increase their efficiency and ease of operation. The main reason why these weapons aren't more lethal than they already are is because of the time it takes to load them. In the time it takes a ballista ignea crew to load and fire just one round, an opposing archer can fire some twenty arrows. This isn't an issue at long range (since a ballista ignea so greatly out-ranges any other missile weapon). However, at closer ranges, a faster loading time might prove to be decisive. Just yesterday, I happened to be whiling away some of my spare time when I came upon an idea that seems to offer a solution. I took up a small dried pea and put it into the end of a thin, hollow bronze tube. I likened
this pea to the shot fired from a ballista ignea. I expelled the pea from the tube by taking a deep breath and sharply exhaling into the end of the tube. The pea flew across the room with great speed.'

‘I instantly observed that if it were possible to design a ballista ignea so that it could be loaded from the rear, the whole process of loading and firing could be greatly speeded up. The principle I decided upon was to design a type of ballista ignea with no fixed breech. Instead, the tube has a series of spiral grooves or threads on the external surface of the breech. This open end will be closed off by a strongly-built metal cap that has matching grooves on its internal surface. To load the weapon, the cap is removed, then the powder shot are loaded into the breech; the cap is turned until it is tight.'

Hero pauses for a moment, then makes some sketches on a sheet of paper. The first several drawings seem to displease him, so he crumbles them up and begins again. Finally, he arrives at a design which meets with his approval. Hero holds the sheet of paper with the new design up to the light to get a better look at it. Satisfied, he starts to write again.

‘Upon further consideration, I see that the process of un-screwing the cap and returning it to its place will take almost as much time as the loading of the powder and shot from the front of the barrel. As this will lead to no real hastening of the loading process, I approached the problem from a different angle. Instead of a series of threads around the exterior breech of the barrel, I moved the threads inside the barrel itself. Next, I changed the design so that instead of a continual series of threads, there are four slots cut into the threads; these slots running parallel to the line of the barrel. I changed the cap to a plug, so designed and cut that the threads are interrupted in the same manner as the interior of the breech. To seal the breech, all that one need do is to place the plug (or block) into the breech after loading the powder and shot. The block is given a quarter-turn to the right until it is tight.'

Hero stops writing again and strokes his chin in thoughtful contemplation for a few minutes. He takes the design he just drew and makes some alterations to it. Again satisfied, Hero starts to write once more.

‘I have identified a flaw in this design which would make it hazardous to use, if not deadly. As designed, this new weapon has no way of sealing the breech of the tube against the passage of flames from the burning Powder of Mars. To guard against this, I changed the design of the breech block to include a hole down through the center. To seal this hole, I incorporated an idea from my steam engine design. The hole is sealed by a metal disk on the end of a short metal shaft. The shaft is of such dimensions that it slides smoothly and evenly into and out of the hole. Between the interior face of the disk and the inner face of the breech block, I placed an arrangement of thick leather disks, These disks have a hole in the center which exactly matches the diameter of the metal shaft. The leather disks are greased slightly to aid in sealing the breech when closed. When the weapon is fired, the force of the burning Powder of Mars will cause the disk and shaft to move slightly rearwards, thus compressing the greased leather disks between the metal disk and the breech block. This pressure will cause the leather disks to expand slightly, thus sealing the breech and preventing the escape of the hot, burning powder.'

‘For use in small versions of the ballista ignea, this first design won't be a problem, because the breech block is of such a weight that one man can easily remove and replace it. For the larger versions, the breech block will weigh more than one or even three men can lift easily. Therefore I will change the design of the breech block so that it turns easily within a thick metal ring. In turn, this metal ring is attached to an angled metal arm. The opposite end of this metal arm is fixed to a hinge built into one side of the breech end of the tube. To ease the opening and tightening of the breech block, I incorporated handles into the outer end of the breech block. To open the breech block, the handles are grasped tightly and twisted so that the breech block is given a quarter-turn to the left. Closing the breech is simply the exact opposite of this procedure.'

‘I will now set my workmen to producing a working model of this design so that it can be tested. If the results are as successful as I hope they will be, I will recommend to the legions that it be adopted.'

‘In other matters, I have devised a means to increase the efficiency of the loading process. Previously, a bag containing a charge of the Powder of Mars was pushed to the bottom of the tube; the shot was rammed tightly down on top of the powder bag. This new ammunition has a kind of wooden bowl whose hollow end is designed to incorporate any kind of projectile. The projectile is held in the hollow end of the bowl by a cross-ways arrangement of thin iron straps that are nailed to the wood. The edge of the bowl has a groove that serves to attach one end of the sealed powder bag by means of a tightly-twisted cord. I will conduct experiments to test this design also.'

Trouble In Paradise
Date: Quintilis XVII MDCXXXI AUC / July 17th, 878 AD
Location: The House of the Green Door, Perugia

Ever since the House of the Green Door opened near the end of Iunius, this establishment has done an absolutely tremendous business. Part of the reason for its success has been its novelty. Certain strata of society in Duke Lambert's domain are well-familiar with fleshpots and other houses of ‘Ill-Repute' in Perugia. Likewise, they know full-well the vagaries of the many gambling dens in the city. What sets this house apart from all others is the fact that (to Duke Lambert's people), the Nova Romans are still somewhat mysterious and otherworldly. A number of recently-retired legionaries from Legio X Fretensis have come to work here, as have several women from Nova Roma itself. The novelty of seeing these people up close (instead of at a distance or on the battlefield) has drawn a great number of customers. This, plus the amazing fact (at least to the people of Duke Lambert's domain) that the games of chance and skill in the House of The Green Door are honest and not the least bit stacked against the players. Just as incredible are the Nova Roman women who work here. They are all clean, disease-free and will not roll their customers for their coin purses after they have drunk too much wine. These women are also said by many to be as skilled as succubi in the arts of the bedchamber.

Late in the afternoon, Decanus Marcus Junius Flaccus comes to see Albina, who was charged by Thesea Domina Greccia with the management of this establishment. Albina and Marcus have a professional working relationship. She sees him approach, and calls him over to her own table in the back of the main room "Hail, friend Marcus. What brings you to see me this fine day?"

Decanus Marcus replies "Hail, Albina. I bring word from the counting room. Thus far, the House of The Green Door has been enormously successful. Since we opened on Iunius XXVIII, we have cleared a profit of more than twenty thousand denarii. The customers we are seeing are from all walks of life, from the highest to the lowest. There have also a number of priests from the so- called ‘Catholic Church'. I have heard some of the locals talk about their church, and it seems that these priests are supposed to set some kind of moral example for their people. If this is so, why would they be here?"

Albina laughs uproariously and says "So much for setting a moral example for their followers. They are here because they are men and have the needs of men. I must wonder, however, if their superiors in this ‘Church' are aware of what some of their priests are up to. I sense an opportunity here, Marcus. Perhaps if it were implied to some of these priests that their superiors were going to be made aware of their activities, and further that such implications would be withheld if said priests were to keep us apprised of the goings-on in Perugia. After all, does not a priest in Nova Roma know much of what goes on in our city? I think the same principle holds true here."

After rubbing his chin in a brief moment of contemplation, Decanus Marcus says "That is a very clever plan, Albina. I should also let you know that Duke Lambert's son has been seen here several times in recent days. Sometimes he is alone, while at other times, he has been accompanied by one or more of his friends. He is a heavy gambler and an even heavier drinker. His appetite at the table in the main hall has been prodigious. Some of the girls you recruited to work here from among the local population have reported that he has been somewhat rough with them, but not so rough that I or some of my men had to get involved. I think he bears watching, though."

"That is a wise precaution, Marcus. Now, let us look to this day. The late-afternoon customers are beginning to arrive. Tell your men to be on the lookout as always." Decanus Marcus nods his head slightly and heads off across the House's main hall. As he goes, the sounds of female laughter and singing (some good and some that is not so good) intermingle with the excited shouts of men at the gaming tables. At close quarters, the sounds of dice clicking as they are being rolled on the tables are heard along with the clatter of drinking cups. Here and there, shouts of men enjoying the fortunate placing of a good bet are heard. There are also the curses of men who weren' t so fortunate. This state of affairs continues until well past the midnight hour.

Date: Quintilis XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / July 18th, 878 AD
Time: an hour past midnight

The clamor in the main hall of the House has died down to almost nothing. Albina notices a number of men who have entered in the past hour. These men aren't behaving as customers of an establishment of this kind should. Some take seats at the gambling tables, but pay little or no attention to the small copper coins they place on the table tops. Others sit at the bar, but drink next to nothing. Some of the House's working girls attempt to entice the men to coming to the rooms in the back or those upstairs, but none of the men accept. In her mind, this is suspicious behavior, so she nods slightly at Decanus Marcus. He in turn signals his own men to be ready in case anything happens. Marcus smiles grimly as he hefts his favorite weapon for dealing with unruly customers. This weapon is a lead-weighted wooden club with a braided leather grip. The lethal potential has been further enhanced by iron studs fastened to the head of the weapon.

Albina is sitting alone at her private table in the back of the hall, seemingly unaware of what is going on around her. Then, a well-dressed man approaches the table and says "Have I the honor of addressing the mistress of this establishment?" Albina replies "This is the House of the Green Door and I am the owner. What can I do for you, sir?"

The man replies, my name is Hugo and I represent an organization whose members run similar establishments to the one you have here. I wish to complement you on your great success thus far. I'd also like to extend an invitation for you to join us. This would forestall certain, shall we say less temperate members of the group from doing anything rash. It seems that these men have taken offense at your success. They have complained that your success is taking much business away from them." Hugo continues with a barely-disguised smile of condescension and says "my dear lady, I would so dislike to hear of something happening to you or your girls. You and they are quite pretty, and such comeliness is rare enough in these times Now, what say you to my most generous offer?"

Albina's training enables her to maintain a calm exterior. Inside however, her fury could melt lead. She says "Let me see if I understand you correctly, Hugo. You come here to my House to make me an offer I can't refuse because some of your boys are complaining of losing business to me. Is that right?"

Hugo drops his pretense of civilized behavior, sneers and says "Do I have to be any more obvious, whore??"

Without hesitation, Albina smiles disarmingly and says "I thought as much. MARCUS!!!!" Her shout brings Decanus Marcus and his men into action immediately. She kicks her table away from her seat and into Hugo's shins. He grunts in great pain as a slight cracking noise is heard. One of his shins is fairly broken. Simultaneous to this, Albina executes an upward tumbling leap over the edge of the table. She draws her dagger and lands directly behind Hugo, who is grimacing in pain. He barely has time to hiss "BITCH!! You're going to pay for that!!!" before Albina clouts him a mighty blow in the temple with the pommel of her dagger. Hugo collapses to the floor unconscious.

Elsewhere across the room, Hugo's men have barely had time to draw steel before they are overwhelmed by Marcus' men and Albina's assistants. Atella, Crispa and Gaia took out their strangling chains and quickly drew them tight around the throats of three of Hugo's men. The intention is not to kill, but to quickly render them unconscious. One of the men isn't as obliging, so he gets clubbed over the head with a wine bottle for good measure. Marcus' club is well-used, as he quickly breaks several arms and collarbones with it. Two of Marcus' legionaries break up an attack on Albina and Marcus by picking up a full barrel of beer and charging at full speed into a packed group of eight of Hugo's men. The barrel splinters from the impact, and much beer is sent flying in all directions. The fragments of the barrel fall away, and the legionaries here and elsewhere fall upon Hugo's remaining men with a vengeance. These men are accustomed to a life on the mean streets of Perugia, but they have never run up against such ruthless, disciplined fighters. A few brief moments later, the fighting ceases as Hugo and his men lie groaning on the floor.

Albina walks over to where Hugo is lying on the floor. She wakes him up with a well-placed kick to the ribs and says "Listen up, you bloated, overstuffed sack of merda bibulum. Go back to whatever cloaca maxima you crawled out of and tell the rest of your pipinnae that I don't take well to threats. Let this be a lesson to you." Albina takes her dagger and scores a wide, bloody gash across Hugo's left cheek and says "GET OUT, ALL OF YOU!!" Hugo is assisted by Decanus Marcus, who plants his hobnailed caligae firmly across Hugo's backside. His other men are handled in a similarly rough manner. The main door is slammed behind them; the last thing that Hugo hears are gales of derisive laughter from within. Hugo's face purples with rage as he shakes his fist and says "You haven't hard the last from me, BITCH!!!"

Back inside the House of The Green Door, various staff members are engaged in clearing away the detritus of battle from the main room. Albina says to Decanus Marcus "Well-done, very well-done indeed. I'll wager they weren't expecting such a warm reception."

Marcus replies "True enough, Albina. I must counsel you to be careful. Hugo doesn't strike me as they type of man who regards public humiliation at all well." Albina says "Never fear, friend Marcus. I, Atella, Crispa and Gaia are going to take a little walk tonight. Let's just say that Hugo and his friends won't give us any further trouble." Albina's face assumes a look that is so cold that it could freeze a full amphora of wine; Decanus Marcus chuckles malignantly because he knows full-well what Albina and her girls are going to do.

Date: Quintilis XVIII MDCXXXI AUC / July 18th, 878 AD
Time: late evening, two hours before midnight

After recovering somewhat from the rough handling they received at the House of The Green Door, Hugo and his men have retired to salve their wounded pride at various of the fleshpots and taverns run by their organization. Among them, no one is more angry than Hugo himself. Between vigorous pulls at a nearly-full flagon of cheap wine, he mutters the worst threats and imprecations he can think of. The mildest is "That filthy bitch dared to lay her hands on me?? Not only am I going to show her who really rules the streets, I will vent myself upon her before I send her off screaming into the shades!" Just then, nature calls and Hugo picks up a small oil lamp and stomps off down the corridor to find a convenient latrine. As he gets there, he stumbles and the oil lamp flickers briefly. In the ensuing darkness, Albina quickly and silently draws two thin-bladed daggers from within her waist sash of flat black cloth. Her face is concealed behind a mask of similar material, and only her eyes are showing. Albina's eyes betray a sense of satisfaction as one dagger is plunged through Hugo's left temple and into his brain. This dagger is twisted and stirred violently to ensure that Hugo is dead. As a further mark of contempt, Albina slashes Hugo's throat so deeply that the blade of her second dagger scores one of the bones in Hugo's spinal column. Hugo drops to the floor, with only a slight gurgle to mark his passing. Albina departs Hugo's lodgings as silently and stealthily as she entered.

Elsewhere in this same disreputable area of Perugia, Atella, Crispa and Gaia are going about their deadly work. Each of them has selected their target; the life of this person (whoever they are) is cut off as quickly and surely as the head of an executed criminal. Atella takes her man from behind by striking the back of his head with a small axe. The force of the blow cleaves the skull down to the top of her target's spine and lodges there. Atella turns and vanishes into the night as swiftly as she came. Crispa, in turn, has disguised herself as one of the numerous streetwalkers who are common in this area of the city. Seeing her target approach, she gestures to him from across the street and lures him into a dark alley for what he believes will be some nocturnal sport. He embraces her and then begins to fumble at his clothing. Without warning, Crispa draws her own dagger and quickly stabs the man once in the heart and once in the kidney.

Lastly, Gaia has chosen an entirely different way of killing her target. By close observation, she sees that he is a winemaker, and has various tubs, barrels and other pieces of equipment in his cellar. At the same time that the other killings are taking place, Gaia follows her target into his house. Before going to bed, the man decides to go down to the cellar to check the results of his latest pressing. This wine is contained in a large, open-topped vat which is just over waist-high. He takes a dipper and begins to raise it to his lips to taste the wine. Before the dipper reaches his mouth, Gaia clubs him unconscious, then heaves him over the edge of the vat face down. The sudden influx of wine down the man's throat causes him to choke and then begin to struggle somewhat. Gaia speeds his passing by taking tight hold around his legs and holding his head below the surface of the wine until he drowns. The body is left floating face-down in the vat. Gaia silently withdraws from the scene of the killing and makes her way to a pre-arranged rallying point. Albina, Atella and Crispa are already there and are changing back into their street disguises. Albina says "Sisters, I trust that all went well with you this night?"

Atella, Crispa and Gaia all reply in the affirmative. Albina now says "Let us return to the House. I think it will be long, if ever, that we are again troubled by anyone complaining about how successful the House is." Knowing chuckles are exchanged among the four women as they melt silently into the enveloping darkness.

Flintlocks, Etc
Date: Quintilis XVIIII MDCXXXI AUC/ July 19th, 878 AD
Location: The workshop of Hero of Alexandria, Nova Roma
Time: Late morning

Among the many projects to which Hero has devoted his attention are those whose purpose is to improve the equipment issued to the men in the legions. One of these projects concerns the re- design of the helmets that all legionaries and officers wear. Hero has read more than a few of the after-action reports filed from previous engagements. One thing that catches his attention are the reports of legionaries who were killed or very seriously wounded by lateral sword-blows to the face, and those who suffered blows that penetrated the helmet bowl. Hero calls for one of his assistants to bring him a legionary helmet so that he might examine it closely.

The helmet is brought and Hero turns it this way and that way, making sure to take in the smallest detail. After Hero re-reads the reports, he hits upon a solution and begins to write the details in his journal.

‘I have today devised a way to increase the protection given by the helmets that the legionaries of Nova Roma wear. By reading battle reports, I see that some legionaries have suffered serious wounds to the face. To protect against these, I will recommend to the Magister Fabricum that all legionary helmets be retrofitted with nasal guards. These guards consist of a T-shaped piece of tempered steel that is positioned so that the lower arm of the T extends down to just below the nose. The top of the T is riveted into place on the rim of the helmet above the level of the eyes. The nasal bar is triangular in section so as to be capable of deflecting blows aimed at the face.’

‘The reports also detail how there have been blows delivered to the heads of legionaries that directly penetrated the bowl of the helmet, thus resulting in death. The obvious solution would be to forge helmets with thicker domes. This is not practical, as the forging of a helmet is a long and involved process. Instead, the Magister Fabricum will be requested to add a pair of metal bars to the top of the helmet. These bars are in the shape of a large X and are riveted in place. Doing this will reinforce the helmet and make it more resistant to blows from edged weapons.’

‘Lastly, anyone with eyes can see that a legionary's shoulders and torso are well-protected by his lorica. There is, however, no protection from the waist to the knees except for the balteus (which only serves to protect the groin). I will propose that a hem of fine mail be added to the lower edge of a legionary's subarmalis. This mail will extend down to the level of the ends of the balteus and protect the thighs and buttocks.'

Satisfied with his work so far, Hero puts aside his pen and looks to one of his own personal projects. A constant source of annoyance to him is having to light a fire by using flint and steel. Though effective, this process can take a long time if not done properly. To speed up this process, Hero devised a small mechanism that can strike flint against steel. This mechanism consists of a curved metal clamp that holds a piece of flint in its jaws. This clamp is mounted to a flat metal plate and is drawn back against the tension of a powerful leaf spring. The spring acts upon a pivot which extends from the base of the clamp through the metal plate. To use, the clamp is drawn back until it locks into place. The tinder to be ignited is placed in a small metal pan attached to the top of the metal plate. This tinder is ignited when the mechanism is triggered; the clamp flies forward with great speed and strikes a flat piece of tempered steel that is shaped like a large letter ‘L'. This striking steel is held down on the pan by a second, small spring that is fixed to the outside of the plate. In the process of striking, the steel is knocked aside and a shower of sparks falls into the tinder. Just then, Hero is struck by a sudden flash of inspiration. If this ignition mechanism were to be suitably modified, it could be attached over the touchhole of a Ballista Ignea. He thinks to himself ‘Hmmmm. This device would make firing the weapon safer and more reliable…….' Accordingly, Hero calls for more ink and paper so he can draw out his ideas. While writing and drawing, Hero pauses for a moment as he considers what to call his new invention. The device is used to start small fires, so it could be called an ‘igniter'. Upon further consideration, Hero thinks that since it uses a piece of flint in a metal clamp that is locked back against a spring, he will call the device a ‘flint lock'.

The Breath of God
Date: Quintilis XVIIII, MDCCCXI AUC/July 19th, 878 AD
Location: Rome


The shout rings out past the gates and into the city streets. A number of guards playing dice on the walkways look up in surprise.

One of the guards stationed outside the gates runs into view; he's winded at just a couple of paces. He gestures wildly behind him. "Soldiers… an army! Marching over the Seven Hills!"

The lead guard puts his dice-cup down and stands up. "From the Bald?"

The winded guard's eyes widen. "No," he gasps, "from Hell."

Outside the gates, the legions continue apace towards the gates. The remaining guard keeps his pike pointed at these invaders.


Legate Germanicus puts up a hand. The assembled armed forces stop; the earthworks still continue apace around them, however, despite there now being no need for them.

Formosus rides up to the front. "Good sir, may I assist?"

Germanicus glares at him. "Don't put any of your own into the translation. Now, tell this man… what in the gods' names is that?"

A detachment of guards is running like chickens out of the city gates, screaming their heads off. Panicked, the lone standing guard drops his pike and follows suit on their heels. Germanicus motions for some of the footmen to grab them and hold them fast.

"Look!" Formosus gasps. In response, Germanicus turns back to the gates and… stops. Both he and Formosus stand awestruck at the sight before them now.

Coming out the gates is what appears to be a giant bronze version of the Emperor the Legate currently serves. Every detail is exact, save the horse, which, for a bronze steed, moves with all the agility of a regular courser. Its hooves ring like chimes as they strike the ground. Even the rest of the army seems awed by the advance, moving back a few paces in unconscious reaction. Those who can see it clearly whisper silent prayers in fear to Jupiter.

The bronze Aurelius finally stops a yard away from Germanicus. He raises a hand in friendship; Germanicus, still stunned, shakily does likewise. Then the statue does something even more astonishing; it opens its mouth and speaks in clear, ringing Latin:

"Heredes regni, sequebantur. Nuntius servio tibi nova Roma."

It then looks at Germanicus directly:

"Germanicus bonum, quid consilii?"

Germanicus can only splutter out: "Duis urbe quam in pace. Nullam vim esse oportet. Imperium securum. Hic ego præcipio vobis."

The statue nods. "Bonum. Sequere me!" Then, turning, it gallops back through the gates into the city. With a cry, Germanicus gestures to his troops.


The men shout all as one and charge through the gates. The Legions of Rome have re-entered their City once more.

Location: Outside the Papal Palace

None of Rome's current citizens have ventured outside during the army's long march through the streets. Shut in and half-scared to death, they peek both anxiously and wonderingly through boarded-up windows. The men of the legions, for their part, are, to a man, horrified by the decay of the city. While Formosus and Lambert stare about themselves gloatingly, Germanicus shakes his head in dismay. "Lost is the glory that was Rome," he murmurs.

The statue leading in front of him turns its head slightly. "What is lost can yet still be found, and will be found."

Formosus' horse, unconsciously reared on by its inexperienced rider, happens to come closer to Germanicus's own. Germanicus catches sight of the cardinal, sparking a thought in his brain. "Formosus," calls Germanicus.

Formosus is snapped out of his reverie. "Yes, Legate, what is it?"

"What do you intend to do upon your arrival? Surely you have some way of consolidating your power. What plot have you in mind?"

"Ah, Legate…" Formosus pauses for a moment. "The Papal throne should be very easy to take, since it has been absent a man for some years. Joan shall really have no choice but stand down once your…" he eyes Germanicus up and down, "…overwhelming force exerts pressure. Joan is weak; she'll crack like eggshell before the day is out."

"You speak in metaphors, I hope," Germanicus glares. "No violence is to be used against the people of this city – not even the Churchmen. Is that understood? Go back a few paces and tell your master such."

Formosus is deathly quiet – not a good sign. After a moment, he nods and replies, "Your will, my lord," and drops back on his horse until Lambert is sure to come by.

At long last, the martial procession reaches the Papal Palace. The bronze Aurelius dismounts and leads its horse off to a side-area, before coming back to stand before Germanicus.

The assembled forces on horseback all slowly dismount; the foot come in a great group to Germanicus. The Legate picks out a few men he feels are best-suited for this purpose, nods to the statue, and says, "Proceed." The bronze Aurelius walks to the Palace doors and pulls at them with both hands. The doors make a loud wooden crunch before they wrench open, coming off at the hinges; the statue deposits them on the ground as gingerly as possible.

Formosus and Lambert, who have henceforth been in furious conversation, quiet down as they proceed to the front of the forces. They silently dismount and join the group Germanicus has chosen. After a glare their way, Germanicus gestures to the statue, who starts forward into the darkened Palace; the rest in their group soon follow suit.

Location: Within the Papal Palace

A great ringing can be heard from the ground floor. Closer by, footsteps rapidly approach the Pope's bedroom.

The Pope ceases writing for a moment and looks to see who is coming around the corner. It's Philip, one of his attendants.

"Your Holiness, they've taken the—"

The Pope waves him to be silent. "I know. Tell Honorius I wish to see him immediately. Roust him out of bed and throw him into the corridor, if you have to. In the meantime, let me finish my bull."

"Si, il mio padre," Philip nods shakily.

The Pope turns back to his desk and continues writing as Philip runs back down the hallway. After another minute, he deposits his quill into the inkwell, removes his ring, and places a glob of hot wax upon the vellum. Then he presses the ring into the wax, forming the Papal Seal upon the parchment.

After rolling it up, he ties a ribbon of purple silk around the vellum and seals the outside with wax. Then he rises from his chair, places the roll onto the desk, and stretches. The Papacy has been hard work.

Meanwhile, the ringing noise grows still louder.

The Pope is halfway to the bed when Bishop Honorius finally half-tumbles into the doorway, still in his bedclothes. He breathes heavily as the Pope waits.

"Your Holiness," he gasps, "you sent?"

The Pope picks up the bull from his desk. "Give this to the men downstairs. They may find it… useful."

Honorius's eyes widen. "Sir," he cries, "they're already up—"

The frightened man breaks off as the ringing noise finally begins to clang its way up the hallway he is on, followed swiftly thereafter by more earthly steps. Honorius lets out a little cry and backs out of the doorway, out of the Pope's view. He can hear Honorius' steps gather speed to his left, before a sudden, louder cry. It sounds as though the bishop has fallen in a puddle on the marble.

A wry smile comes over the Pope's lips. Just like Honorius to piss himself while escaping.

The Pope turns back to his chair and turns it around to face the doorway, then seats himself just as two foot rush past his door to apprehend Honorius. A moment passes before a queer sight presents itself: The bronze of Marcus Aurelius walks through his doorway, followed by a well-built man dressed in ancient military garb and…

The Pope lets out a chuckle. Just who he was expecting; Formosus and Lambert. They look just as shocked as he'd expected them to be.

The military man turns to the other two and speaks in Latin; the Pope still understands, however: "This is your Joan?"

Lambert's shock gives way to anger. "No," he replies. "Where is the Pope?"

The man at the desk chair grins.

"Why, your graces," Pope Marinus I says, "he sits before you."

Date: The evening of Maius XXX MDCXXXI AUC / May 30th, 878 AD
Location: Within the Papal Palace

"Here, Your Holiness," the boy urges him. "This broth… will help."

The boy gently ladles the soup between Pope John's lips. He sips it weakly and smiles. "Sweet." He gives a little nod of thanks to the young man, who continues to feed him, slowly scooping up larger and larger white chunks from the broth.

Once the meal is finished, the young man tucks the Pope into bed and kisses his head.

"Buonanotte, miopapa."

John nods. "Jube, Domine, benedicere te." Then he rolls on his other side. The boy softly walks over to the other end of the room and blows a candle out, diminishing the light within the room. He then slowly backs out of the room.

In the hallway, Cardinal Marinus stands waiting, a long, bony finger affixed to his chin. The boy shows no surprise at seeing him there; on the contrary, he is anxious in his presence.

"How long is this supposed to take?" A low groan erupts from the Pope's bedroom; more like a grunt than a groan, in fact.

"A week, sir? Maybe more, or less; the brother apothecary didn't seem like he wanted to tell me…."

"Then I will make him tell!" Marinus turns and grabs the boy by the shoulders, before finding himself again and releasing the young man. He lets out a long breath and looks back into the room. Still no sign of any progress, whether good or ill.

Marinus's eyes flick across the room, like a lizard surveying a fly. Then his gaze seems to settle on something; after a moment, a thin-lipped smile slowly creases its way across his face. He chuckles for a moment, and turns back to the boy.

"Well," he sighs, "if no one else can get it right…" He walks into the Pope's bedroom. The young boy turns back around and averts his eyes to whatever will come next.

There is a whisking noise, as of linens being pulled back. A hoarse cry, and then a dull thump to the floor, followed by a lower moan. "Marcus… Marcus Aureli—"

A clatter interrupts the low words, and then a deep smash… like a hard egg being cracked. Several more of these follow, with a sound like a crazed chef beating eggshells to pulp. The sound seems to pound continuously, going on for long after the yolk has conceivably broken.

Finally, there is a hard breathing, and then a toppling sound. The boy finally turns around; it is a chair. The Holy Father's chair; that is all he can focus on without retching.

Marinus stands huddled over an unrecognizable bloody mass, a mass clad in the Pope's robes. The cardinal's features are lit by candlelight; the flickering catches what the boy thinks might be either awe or insanity, but it is gone between shadows.

The young man takes a step forward; Marinus looks up at him… and smiles. Then his face twists into one of horror. "MURDER! MURDER! THE LORD'S ANOINTED IS STRUCK DOWN!!!" He throws at the boy what he has been holding – a blood-caked lead puke bucket. Bits of blood and vomit splatter the boy's tunic as the bucket lands heavily upon his feet, breaking a toe.

Marinus follows the boy with his eyes as he cries out, backs away, and runs down the hallway; the cardinal knows where he is going. His face contorts once more as he hears guards and
other cardinals coming down the other way.


Date: Quintilis XVIIII, MDCCCXI AUC/July 19th, 878 AD
Location: Within the Papal Palace

"Know you not the Lord's anointed when he presents himself?"

The well-built military man and Lambert exchange looks. Lambert looks back to Pope Marinus. "What is this nonsense, Marinus? Where's Joan?"

The Pope's smile grows wider. "Dead and buried. His Holiness sadly succumbed to an illness precipitated by assassination."

Formosus's eyes widen. He and Lambert share startled looks, but the cocksure military man merely gazes down, unimpressed. He turns back to Lambert to speak.

"Don't bother; I can speak Latin as well as yourself, sir," Pope Marinus interrupts. He steeples his fingers as the military man considers him. "Now… what might you desire?"

"I am Germanicus Julius Caesar," the man declares, "Commander of Legio Decima Fretensis in the Army of Nova Roma. Our nation has returned to reclaim that which is rightfully ours, and restore order and freedom to the lands which had once been our Empire."

The Pope raises an eyebrow. "Julius Caesar?? Do you take me for an ignorant plebe, Lambert? I know my histories as well as you; Julius Caesar died on the Ides of March. Whenever that was…."

"You DARE mock my heritage, Pontifex? I am Germanicus Julius Caesar, son of Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus and Octavia, grandson of the praetor Tiberius Claudius Nero, Julia Augusta, Octavia, and Marcus Antonius Marci Filius Marci Nepos. Whatever histories you may have learnt, they obviously lied."

Pope Marinus looks like he is about to say something in outrage, but closes his mouth and holds his tongue. After a moment, he grins broadly. "Whoever you are… you hold no candle to the flame of the LORD." He holds up his bull.

Formosus smirks. "Bulls can be rescinded."

"Not this one." The Pope thrusts it out at the assembled company. "It declares forever these usurpers as enemies of Rome, and of the Church."

In the back, Honorius lets out another little cry as he is pulled sliding forward in a puddle of urine.

It takes another few seconds for the silence to be broken once more, this time by Germanicus. "Pontifex… Marinus. We come not as enemies of Rome, nor of the Church. We come to restore."

"TO RESTORE," the giant bronze of Marcus Aurelius thunders forth.

The Pope looks upon the bronze with more than a little fear. Then his gaze falls back onto Germanicus and the rest. Something seems to finally crack behind his eyes; the reality of the situation has finally broken through to him. Pope Marinus begins to tremble.

"And what about me? My throne?"

Lambert smiles. "Don't worry, my friend. You will be… well taken care of." He looks over the assembled company. "Shall we let this man retire? I feel he has had more than enough to… deal with over the past months."

Germanicus nods staunchly. "He will be dealt with in our time. For now, we must rest."

"Yes," a foot cries, "and celebrate!"

A cheer goes up from the legion. It spreads outside, and the whole city seems to throng with it.

The city-dwellers, those boarded within their homes, sitting in darkness, will soon see a great light blossom forth once more.

Quoda Divino
Date: Quintilis VII, MDCCCXI AUC/July 8th, 878 AD
Location: The hills outside Rome

With the army’s main commanders within the walls of Rome, the camp’s commander is currently Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus. As such, he calls for the centuriones of Legio X Fretensis’ to come to him for their instructions:

“Brothers, we are reinforced by Legio I Italica. Even so, we are deep within enemy territory and I would not have us taken by surprise. Therefore, I order that cavalry patrols be sent out to reconnoiter in all directions from which enemy forces might approach. The objective will not to be stand and fight, but to observe and report. If you are pressed, you will withdraw immediately and return here with your information.”

In the legion’s castrae, the cavalry maniples are given their instructions and sent on their way. For reasons of safety and security of the cavalry troopers, each patrol is one full ala (30 men). The senior Decurion in charge of each ala has been given the discretion to divide his men into two equal halves of 15 troopers each, should he deem it necessary and expedient; in this case, he has.

As it transpires, one of these patrols has been riding to the southeast of the City of Rome, when they make a most fortuitous discovery:

They see, out of the clear blue sky, a thunderbolt, twice the size of two columns, erupt into a conflagration towards the top of a hill. It disappears, but the form of a man swaddled collapses within where it was. Then a voice calls out in ringing Latin, booming across the plains, “Et primum novae. Commodus Verus est statim. Divi fratres regnum parare iterum incipiamus.”

Caught in this gust of divine wind, the patrolmen brace themselves to press forward. Their horses try to shy back, but they press them on, until finally, upon reaching the hilltop, the wind dies down. The lead trooper dismounts and approaches the man, but takes an involuntary step back when he recognizes this newcomer.

“…Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus?” the trooper gasps, making his way through what he remembers of the formal name as if he can scarcely believe it.

Claudius nods. “Th-th-the same, sir.”

“Hail and greetings, Caesar!” the man gasps, then snaps off a perfect legionary salute. The other troopers, getting off their horses, come to a clanking halt and do likewise.

“D-d-dear fellows,” Claudius smiles at all of them, “there is n-n-no n-n-need of th-th-th-that.” He holds within his arms a swaddled-up boy of perhaps 3 or 4. “I have been inf-f-f-f-formed of the situation by I-I-I-Iovi Optimo Maximo. He has sent m-m-m-me to help keep your R-R-Roma in line.”

“Is that who was speaking?” the lead trooper gasps.

“Dear boy, I have n-n-no idea. I did-d-dn’t hear anyone; just popped down – or is it-t-t up? – from the Underworld. Feel f-f-f-fresh as a daisy, too.” He grins from ear to ear. Limping closer to the head patrolman, he beckons him to stand up.

“P-P-P-Please take this boy,” he says, giving the toddler to the trooper. “He’s t-t-t-t-too heavy for me. He is Brit-t-t-tannicus, who Jupiter hopes will now be r-r-r-raised in an Agrippina-f-f-free env-v-v-v-v-vironment.” The soldier takes a step back, and Claudius raises a hand to bid him stop. “Yes, I know all about the circumst-t-t-t-tances of my death. D-d-d-d-dreadful boy, that Nero. Fortunately, I n-n-n-n-now have my wits – and health! – about me a b-bit m-m-m-more.”

He beckons. “I shall n-n-need a horse.”

A few minutes later, the former Emperor Claudius is bestride a horse, arms hugging the trooper sitting in front of him. Britannicus is being tightly held by another trooper, who is trying not to be charmed by the boy playing with the tassels on his pommel. There are about halfway back to the camp when they spot another fortuitous sight.

“Should we ride back to camp, or interfere?”

“Interfere; let’s give them a proper Roman welcome!” the head trooper grins. He turns back to Claudius and says “Tiberius Claudius, do you mind?”

“N-n-n-not at all, although I th-th-th-think I’ll r-r-remain up here,” he replies. “B-b-best for m-m-m-me to st-t-t-tay out of th-th-this one.”

The trooper nods, dismounts, and beckons for ten of his fifteen fellows to do likewise. They encircle their target, which is some yards away: Three grubby looking men beating a young man, who is clad only in the sandals and tunic he’d run out of Rome with.

“You,” punch, “stupid,” kick, “boy!” the first grubby man shouts. “Murderer!” Another kick.

“PLEEASE STOP!” the youth cries. “I did not—AUGH!”

“STOP, IN THE NAME OF NOVA ROMA!” the head trooper cries in Latin.

The three men turn, uncomprehending; the boy, who understands it, raises his head in shock.

“Who are you? Are you from the Pope?” the first grubby man growls.

The youth sees an opportunity. “These men were trying to kill me!” he yells in Latin. “I committed no crime; I am blameless!”

“Stop speaking barbarbar!” the first man yells, and kicks the boy.

That is all the provocation the patrol needs. Less than a minute later, the three men are lying in heaps; one is dead, and the other two have only moderate wounds, but are unconscious. A trooper pulls the two over to the side; the beat-upon youth is getting up, bruised and dirty but clearly thankful.

“Boy, what is your name?”

“Paolo, good sir. You are of Roma?”

The trooper grins. “We are. I think you ought to accompany us back to camp. We’ll be in deep ****, but you’ll help on our account, at least.” He motions to another. “Hoist the boy up to my saddle, if you please. We’re going to return to camp. I think the Primus Pilus will want to know about this. As for those two prisoners, bind their hands and take them along. Primus Pilus Lucius will want to question them.”

Just then, one of the two wakes up and starts shouting. “By what right do you interfere with me, son of a pig! I am Patricio di Jaeffi, in service to His Holiness! Free me, or you DIE!!!”

The lead trooper thinks for a moment, then decides it is not worth replying to the rude fellow. ”Knock him out,” he says to a colleague, who eagerly complies.

One hour later, the cavalry sub-ala approaches the castra of Legio X Fretensis. All about them, extensive field works and fortifications have been constructed. The legion’s artillery has been deployed in protected positions, with the ballistae igneii sited so that each piece can support the others.

The lead trooper rides up to his Decurion, Marcus Didius Julianus, who is not in a good mood. “What is this delay?”

The lead trooper points his thumb. “A boy, Decurion.”

Julianus raises an eyebrow. “A boy.”

“Yes, sir. And Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.”

It takes a full minute before Julianus catches his breath back from having almost choked on his own spit. When he comes to, he motions hoarsely. “Bring him to the Primus Pilus’s tent. And the boy. Now.”

As the former emperor, his young son, and Paolo walk down the Via Principia to the Primus Pilus’s tent, they are stared at from all sides by soldiers, many awestruck from recognizing the Julio-Claudian. At the end of the grassy lane of tents stands Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus in front of his own; he looks equally awestruck, but is vainly attempting to disguise it. He motions the group in with nary a peep; the cavalry maniple’s centurion and Julianus follow in through the flap.

Valerius takes an unsteady seat; the other two soldiers look likewise shaky. They resort back to formalities, but only haltingly, and in rote; all eyes are on the former emperor before them.

“Hail, Primus… Pilus. I am… Centurion Flavius Aetius, commander of Legio X Fretensis’ first cavalry maniple. This is Decurion… Marcus Didius… Julianus, and he has a… a matter of interest to… report to you.”

“Hail… Centurion Flavius, hail… Decurion Marcus; report… if you… please.”

“B-b-by your c-c-command, P-p-primus Pilus.” He tells the tale of Claudius, who sits meekly and silently. When he is finished, he stands before the Primus Pilus and hails him.

“Hail, P-p-primus Pilus.”

“You have no need to hail me, Tiberius Claudius. I must needs hail you!”

“If you like.” Claudius smiles wryly. “You have heard his tale, and what I told him; I therefore request immediate escort back to the city of Nova Roma, where Marcus Aurelius resides. I and my boy must get started immediately.”

After a long, awkward pause, the Primus Pilus realizes he must speak, and chokes out, “It shall be done.” Turning his head to the side so that he doesn’t falter in his speech on this, he orders, as smoothly as possible, “Centurion Flavius Aetius, you will detach two full alae of cavalry… from your maniple. Decurion Marcus Didius Julianus will be in command; Decurion Marcus will escort Tiberius Claudius and the young Britannicus back to Nova Roma. The escort is to proceed directly to the Domus Imperialis; the Emperor Marcus Aurelius must be informed. Immediately.”

When that is finished, the emperor smiles blandly. “F-f-furnishings? My inf-f-firmities do not permit me to r-r-r-ride a horse for any d-d-days’ worth-th-th of travel.”

“Ah, yes! Thank you for reminding me… Tiberius Claudius!” He turns his head again to calm himself. Centurion Flavius?”

“Y-y-yes, P-p-primus Pilus?”

“…arrange suitable transportation for our guest! Outfit a wagon with furnishings as befits Tiberius Claudius’ status. I want the escort on the road within the hour.”

“B-b-by your command, Primus P-p-pilus.” Centurion Flavius nervously salutes and withdraws to carry out Primus Pilus Lucius’ orders. With as graceful a bow as he can manage, Claudius turns and exits from the tent, leading young Britannicus by the hand.

The topic of the evening now turns back to the youth: Young Paolo. Primus Pilus Lucius, accompanied by Decurion Marcus and an Italian translator, goes to interrogate the two prisoners. They are accompanied by six legionaries from the headquarters detail, in case the prisoners decide to do something ‘unwise’.

The next hour or so achieves nothing by filling the Primus Pilus’ ears with curses and angry denunciations from Patricio di Jaeffi and the other prisoner. Their steadfast resistance to answering any questions (even after being ‘encouraged’) causes Primus Pilus Lucius to say, “I’m kicking this one upstairs, Decurion Marcus. I’ll send word to Legate Germanicus requesting instructions on what to do. In the meantime, keep the prisoners under close guard. Get me the boy.”

“Yes, Primus Pilus.”

The Primus Pilus returns to his tent, where the youth has been waiting this whole time; he is fast asleep. Lucius wakes him with a gentle nudge; Paolo is startled. “Ho there. I didn’t mean to scare you. Can you understand me?”

“Y-y-yes… who are you?”

“I am Lucius Novius Valerianus, Primus Pilus of Legio X Fretensis. My commanding officer is Legate Germanicus Julius Caesar. I already know your name, Paolo. Tell me what happened.”

Paolo smiles, as if it is the first one he has been able to have in a long time. “Thank you for saving my life, sir.”

“I am not the one who saved your life; my men did that.” Then he finishes, softer, “Please continue.”

The boy nods. “I am from the city of Rome, sir. I work for the Church.” He pauses for a moment; the Primus Pilus replies, “Please continue; I know to whom you refer.”

“Well… directly, I worked for the Holy Father. And…” His face blanches. “Mio Dio… I am afraid I have…”


Paolo turns to the Primus Pilus fully and swallows. “I was involved with the Cardinal Marinus. He bid me buy poisonous mushrooms from an apothecary.” He stops, afraid to go on.

Primus Pilus Lucius gently prods him. “What were they for?” A slight furrow is between his brows.

The boy finally breaks down crying. “He wanted to kill the Pope… and I watched him do it…. and I did nothing!”

Lucius sits back for a moment, slightly stunned. Then he puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “I promise you, whatever you did, you will not be charged for it if you provide testimonia against this Marinus. You did what you were ordered to do; that is the best duty of a Roman. I will send word to Legate Germanicus and request instructions; for now, there is a spare cot in my tent. Get your rest, and rest easy; one of the men who tried to kill you is dead.”

Paolo is a little reassured. “Thank you… sir.” He wipes the remnants of his tears. “I shall try.”

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:28 pm 

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Now that all twenty chapters of 'Men of Rome' have been posted, further updates will be on a individual basis.

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 Post subject: Re: Men of Rome
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2016 3:41 pm 

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Authors Note: due to a lack of communication, my fellow author Stolengood is hereby relieved from any and all further contributions.

Upon Law and Governance
Date: Quintilis XX, MDCCCXI AUC/ July 20th, 878 AD
Location: the meeting hall of the Domus Imperialis
Time: early afternoon

In the Emperor's residence, a meeting is taking place that will have profound implications for the future of Roman society. In attendance are the Emperor, Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus, Chief Librarian Quintus Fulvius Flaccus and Petrus, master of the recently-established Latin School. As each man enters the meeting hall, he renders the proper respect to the Emperor's person and takes his seat at the table.

Marcus Aurelius speaks first and says "Gentlemen, thank you all for coming here today. I asked for this meeting because there is a task which is necessary for the continued development of Nova Roman society." Princeps Senatus Quintus says "Caesar, may I ask what this task is?"

The Emperor replies "Princeps Senatus, the task I am referring to is two-fold. First, there is the matter of writing a constitution for Nova Roma. In the time of the Republic and into the days of Empire, the civil affairs of Rome were governed by Mos Maiorum, and laws which were written and un-written. This system served well for a time, but was easily perverted under the reigns of Caligula and Nero. To prevent this from happening again, there must be one supreme law of the land; a benchmark by which all subsequent laws passed by the Senate will be judged. What say you to this, gentlemen?"

The Princeps Senatus and the Chief Librarian briefly confer with each other, then Princeps Senatus Quintus replies "Caesar, this task you propose is a noble one, well-worthy of a Roman." Marcus Aurelius says "Well-spoken, Princeps Senatus. I asked you to join this project because you are perhaps the foremost legal mind in Nova Roma. Before Iovi Optimo Maximo saw fit to bring us forward to this time and place, you were a jurist and legal scholar of note. Your current experience as leader of the Senate has only served to sharpen your legal talents. Who better to head such a project than you? As such, you are empowered with the authority to put together a committee whose members will assist you in carrying out this work"

To Chief Librarian Quintus Fulvius Flaccus, the Emperor says "Your talents as an academic and researcher are widely-respected; you also have the full contents of the Great Library at your disposal. Therefore, I charge you to employ all of your skills in locating the information that Princeps Senatus Quintus will need."

The Chief Librarian nods gravely and says "Yes, Caesar. It will be as you say."

Emperor Marcus Aurelius turns his attention to Petrus and says "Learned Teacher, before you joined with Nova Roma, you were a scribe and counselor. In that capacity, you must have had experience with the laws and customs of the day."

Petrus replies "Yes, Caesar, you are correct. May I respectfully ask what my part in this project will be?" Marcus Aurelius replies "Petrus, by virtue of your experience with your former lord and with us after his demise, you are well-suited to serve as an outside observer, so to speak. You will advise the committee headed by Princeps Senatus Quintus."

Petrus bows his head and says "Yes, Caesar. I will be honored to serve in any way I can." The Emperor acknowledges this with a slight nod of his head, then goes onto say "Learned scholars, when we began this meeting, I said its purpose was two-fold. The second is that I desire for all the laws of Nova Roma to be gathered together into a single resource which can be referred to by the Senate and studied by praetors, advocates and scholars alike. This will also serve to prevent the law from being arbitrarily interpreted."

Petrus raises his hand for permission to speak; the Emperor nods and so Petrus says "Please excuse me, Caesar. From my perspective, this has already been done. The Western Empire collapsed in the year MCCXXVIV, and it wasn't until fifty-three years later that Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus Augustus, ruler of the Eastern Empire (now known as Rhomania), ordered that all laws and Imperial pronouncements (going all the way back to the reign of Publius Aelius Hadrianus) having the force of law were to be gathered together and codified into a single body. This work was titled ‘Corpus Iuris Civilis, and it now constitutes the framework of law and justice in Rhomania. The Corpus Iuris used the earlier Codex Theodosianus, the Codex Gregorianus and the Codex Hermogenianus as primary sources."

"Indeed." Marcus Aurelius leans back in his chair and strokes his chin contemplatively. He says "That is very interesting, Friend Petrus. You said earlier that the Corpus Iuris Civilis is in active use in Rhomania; I think it would be worthwhile to enquire of Ambassador Philaretos as to the practicality of sending scholars and scribes to Rhomania in order that they might study and copy the Corpus Iuris. From our standpoint, there has been no codification or development of Roman law since the Twelve Tables were set down in the year CCCIII AUC. It will be interesting, I think, to see how laws have developed over the centuries."

Princeps Senatus Quintus Valerius Rufus opines "Truer words were never spoken, Caesar. Were I not heading the committee charged with composing the constitution, I'd be first in line to volunteer to go Rhomania." The Emperor turns to face the Princeps Senatus; he claps him on the shoulder jovially and says "Fear not, Friend Quintus. To make up for not being able to personally go to Rhomania, you will choose the scholars who will go; Petrus will give you his input on the scribes who will be doing the copying."

"Thank you. Caesar."

The meeting is now at an end, so Marcus Aurelius says "That will be all for today. I give you leave to withdraw and begin the great work which I have settled upon you. Remember always while you are carrying it out that you aren't doing it for the honor of the Emperor or the Senate. Rather, it is being done for the people of Nova Roma." Petrus, the Princeps Senatus and the Chief Librarian bow their heads respectfully and leave the room. When the Emperor is alone, he pours himself a goblet of good wine, raises it towards the heavens and softly intones "Jupiter Best and Greatest, now it begins." Elsewhere off in the distance, a peal of thunder breaks over the low rolling hills and rumbles over the landscape; Marcus Aurelius hears this and smiles.

The Emperor drains his goblet in one long pull, then rings a bell to summon his maior domus. Lucius Aelius arrives promptly and says "You summoned me, Caesar?"

"Yes, Lucius. I want you to find his excellency Ambassador Philaretos and ask him to come here at his very earliest convenience. There is a matter of great importance I wish to discuss with him. Before you go, have the servants prepare to serve Cena in the triclinium. His excellency the Ambassador will be dining with me this afternoon"

"Yes, Caesar." Lucius Aelius bows to the Emperor and withdraws from the meeting hall. While on the way out of the Domus Imperialis, he seeks out the master of the culinae and says "the Emperor wishes for Cena to be prepared and served in the triclinium; the ambassador from Rhomania will be dining with him."

"Yes, Dominus."

The master of the culinae sets about his work in organizing the main meal of the day, while Lucius Aelius goes to find Ambassador Philaretos. Two turns of the glass later, he finds the Ambassador in the Mercatus of the Forum of Trajan, where is he meeting with the chief merchants of Nova Roma in order to discuss the opening of commercial trade between Nova Roma and Rhomania.

"Hail, Ambassador Philaretos. I am Lucius Aelius, Maior Domus to the Emperor. Caesar has asked that you come back to the Domus Imperialis and meet with him, as there is an important matter he wishes to discuss with you."

"Hail, Lucius Aelius. I am at the Emperor's convenience." The ambassador excuses himself from the group of merchants and says "Lead on, Lucius Aelius." The two men (accompanied by the ambassador's guards) proceed back to the Domus Imperialis, whereupon Lucius Aelius conducts the ambassador to the triclinium. The Emperor is already there, reclining upon a lectus.

Ambassador Philaretos bows respectfully and says "Hail, Caesar."

"Hail and well-met, Ambassador. I trust that your explorations of Nova Roma are going well?"

"Yes, Caesar. When Lucius Aelius found me, I was in the Mercatus of the Forum of Trajan, where I was meeting with certain merchants in order to discuss the opening of trade relations between our two peoples."

"Excellent. There's nothing that so strengthens the relationship between two countries like the conduct of business. Now, pray recline on the lectus opposite mine and I will tell you why I wanted to see you.'

Ambassador Philaretos seats himself and reclines in the Roman fashion. The Emperor calls for wine, whereupon a servant brings in an ornately-worked silver tray carrying two gold goblets and a pitcher of the best wine in the Imperial cellars. The tray is set down on the top of the mensa between the two lectii; the wine is poured out and the servant uses the tray to offer the goblets, first to the Emperor and then to the Ambassador.

Marcus Aurelius raises his goblet and salutes the Ambassador by saying "To Your Excellency's very good health." Ambassador Philaretos returns the gesture by saying "Caesar, may your tenure on the Chair of State be long and successful."

With the social preliminaries having been properly conducted, the Emperor says "Your excellency, I called you here to enquire if your master Emperor Basil I would be agreeable to receiving an embassy from Nova Roma."

"Yes, Caesar. My master the Emperor dispatched me here to Nova Roma to find out what your intentions are. Since your people mean no harm to Rhomania, my master would welcome the presence of an ambassador.

"Excellent. As part of the embassy, I will send along scribes and academics to copy down and study the law codes of Rhomania. My chief scribe and learned counselor Petrus informs me that nearly three hundred and fifty years ago, one of your master's predecessors, Flavius Petrus Sabatius Justinianus Augustus (of famous memory) ordered the compilation of the Corpus Iuris Civilis."

"Indeed, Caesar. The Corpus Iuris is required reading for all of the officials at my master Basil I's court. I have more than a passing familiarity with the work, because I was a practicing lawyer before I entered the Emperor's service."

"Very good, your excellency. I mention this because, for the good of the people of Nova Roma and the betterment for the Nova Roman State, I have ordered that a similar work be composed here. It will be interesting, I think, to compare the laws and legal works of later centuries to those of former days."

"Caesar, that is an excellent idea. To save time, why not send your embassy back with me when I return to Rhomania?"

"That is a good suggestion, your excellency. It will be done as you say. As quarters are likely to be cramped aboard your ships, I will send one of my ships along with you to carry my ambassador and
his staff."

While the Emperor and Ambassador Philaretos are talking with each other, servants from the culinae bring in the first course of the meal. Served on silver dishes, this course is composed of eggs boiled in wine, soft white rolls covered in honey and sprinkled with poppy seeds. There are also dishes of sweet olives and hearty venison pasties. When the food arrives, both men temporarily leave off their conversations to partake of it. Ambassador Philaretos says "Caesar, may I offer my compliments to your cooks? I smelled the food before it ever got here, and I say in truth that their efforts compare most favorably with my master's own kitchens."

"Thank you, your excellency. That was most kind of you to say so." Emperor Marcus Aurelius and Ambassador Philaretos begin their meal, pausing between bites to carry on a conversation about topics of mutual interest. The Emperor says "Your excellency, I have received a report from the senior drillmaster of Legio X Fretensis. In it, he compliments the good order and discipline that your troops displayed when they were observing troops from the city garrison going through their maneuvers."

"Thank you, Caesar. Your kind words are most gratefully accepted."

"Of course, Ambassador. This leads me to another topic I'd like to raise with you."

"At your convenience, Caesar."

The Emperor goes on to say "Your excellency, before very long, you will be returning to Rhomania and your sovereign, Basil I. I wonder if it would be possible to have some of your horsemen remain behind in order to serve as instructors. After all, it is plain to me that the art and science of cavalry warfare advanced considerably between the fall of the Western Empire and now."

"Caesar, I will be pleased to help you. In fact, I will have the captain of my guard and nine of his men stay behind to serve as instructors. He will be in charge of the detail, and the nine other men will be his assistants."

"Thank you, your excellency. To mark their new positions, your men will be given ranks within Legio X Fretensis' training establishment. The captain will have the rank of tribune, and his assistants will be ranked as decuriones."

‘Very good, Caesar."

Date: Quintilis XX MDCCCXI AUC/July 20th, 878 AD
Location: The Papal Palace, Rome
Time: Noon

Legate Germanicus is ensconced with his staff, along with Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus, in a side room off the papal audience chamber. They are conferring on what moves to make next, when there is a sudden interruption at the door. The disturbance is caused by the sudden arrival of the messenger from Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus, who says "Hail Legate. I am Gaius Statilius Quarto, lately come from the Primus Pilus with a message of the highest importance."

Legate Germanicus replies "Hail, Gaius Statilius Quarto. What is this message you speak of?"

"Legate, the Primus Pilus bids me tell you that there have been two singular developments outside of Rome. First, our great god Jupiter has chosen to intervene once again…"

Legate Germanicus is so shocked that he is temporarily frozen in place. Finally, he stammers out "Where….How…what happened? Tell me immediately!!"

"Yes, Legate. By order of Primus Pilus Lucius Novius Valerianus, cavalry patrols had been sent out in all directions from which an enemy might conceivably approach. A sub-ala was riding along when a great thunderbolt came down out of the sky and struck the ground before them. When the dust cleared, a toga-clad man was seen coming toward them; he was carrying a young boy perhaps three or four years of age. Two of the troopers dismounted and approached, only to recognize the man as Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus……."

Legate Germanicus is so stunned by this revelation that he sinks back into his chair and has to call for wine. He receives a goblet from a headquarters option and drains it in one long pull. Germanicus drops the goblet from a near-nerveless hand and says "Tiberius Claudius….my brother. By all the Great Gods of Olympus, this is the last thing I ever expected to happen. Truly, Jupiter Best and Greatest has shown his beneficence once again. Where is my brother now, Gaius?"

"Legate, Tiberius Claudius asked to go to Nova Roma and see the Emperor immediately. Primus Pilus Lucius arranged for an escort of two full alae of cavalry to accompany Tiberius Claudius on the journey."

"What of the young boy? Who is he?"

"Legate, the boy is Tiberius Claudius' young son; Tiberius Claudius Caesar Britannicus. He's all of three or four years old."

"My…nephew? My brother had no children that I knew of before my demise. Jupiter has blessed me once again. As much as I would like to see them both, matters here demand my attention." While the exchange between Legate Germanicus and Gaius Statilius Quarto is going on, Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus exchange looks of incredulity. No words are spoken between them, and Legate Germanicus goes on to say "Gaius, what was the second development you spoke of?"

"Legate, that same cavalry sub-ala that encountered Tiberius Claudius was riding back to camp when they happened upon three men beating a young boy half to death. The boy's name was Paolo, and he was a servant in the papal palace. Paolo escaped after witnessing Cardinal Marinus murder the Pope. Previously, Cardinal Marinus had tried to kill the Pope by having Paolo buy poison mushrooms and put them in the Pope's soup. When this didn't work, Marinus beat the Pope to death with a bucket…"

Duke Lambert and Cardinal Formosus are seated across the table from Legate Germanicus and heard everything the messenger told him. The Duke gasps loudly, his countenance registering shock at hearing of so vile a deed. Beside him, Cardinal Formosus' face shows like concern. Inwardly, however, the Cardinal is exultant at this development. He steadies himself and says gravely "Legate, we must see Marinus immediately. The sooner that murderer is removed from the throne of St. Peter, the better off we will all be." To Duke Lambert, Cardinal Formosus says "What say you to this, Your Lordship?"

Duke Lambert thinks for a moment, then replies "Before this, all I was prepared to countenance was the removal of Marinus from the Papal Throne and your installation thereon. Marinus would have been allowed to ‘retire' somewhere out of the way. This is no longer the case; murdering the Holy Father is the worst of all possible crimes, even exceeding that of regicide. Marinus must be called to account for his vile deed."

Legate Germanicus considers what he has heard and says "Very well." He turns to Gaius Statilius Quarto and asks "I want to see Paolo immediately and hear what he has to say in person." Gaius replies "Respectfully Legate, that isn't possible at this time."

"Why is that, Gaius?"

"Legate, Paolo was caught by three of Marinus' men and very badly beaten. One of the three is men is named Patricio di Jaeffi. The troopers from the sub-ala intervened, rescued the boy and killed one of his assailants. Patricio and the other man are under close guard. Paolo is resting in the Primus Pilus' tent, under the care of a medicus. The medicus says that Paolo is unable to travel, even for a short distance."

"Very well, Gaius."

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