XNIII - Hostage

XNIII - Hostage

A Chapter by BL


Chapter XNIII - Hostage 

In the gloom of dusk I saw the old wizard looking at a tree that a loud horde of crows had flown into. Birds shrieked, branches broke, leaves shook down and dust billowed up in the air. All seemed in disarray, he was taking it as a sign, the tree being Briton I thought, and as he turned to go a single white dove flew out of the tree like a rocket. It was bright white and glowed in the available light. He smiled at the hope it gave. I remember that as clearly as the fire is burning now.



Of the crew, twelve were taken alive as prisoners and sent to Rome. Bezon couldn’t save them all and five were sold into slavery straight away. The seven remaining men, including Bezon and Enda were made to languish in the palace cells until called upon by the Emperor.


‘What do you think they’ll do with us?’ Enda asked quietly in the gloom. 


‘Who knows,’ Bezon said mournfully. 


‘I expect you’ll be alright, you being the leader and all that,’ Enda said. As Bezon’s eyes adjusted he saw that Enda was smiling, his captain seemed to have a spirit that couldn’t be dampened. 


‘It’s usually the opposite way around, I expect I’ll be made a spectacle of,’


‘I was trying to cheer you up. There’s too much at stake for them to throw you to the lions,’ Enda said without thinking. Bezon shot him a fearful look and Enda recovered his remark by saying. ‘You speak their language don’t you?’


‘Yes, that’s partly why I was sent. I wish I’d never learnt that dratted language now. Anyway you are the ones who’ll be alright,’ Bezon said looking around at the men. 

‘What as slaves,’ a crewman said. 


‘There is no honour in a death or an end like this,’ Enda said staring at the small square of light given by the high grilled window above. At that moment there was the clanking of several pairs of heavy feet, the ringing of chains being unleashed and the jangle of keys. Doors echoed as they unlocked, opened and closed and then suddenly in a burst of light a guard took one step into the cell carrying a flaming torch. Another guard stood behind him with his sword drawn. 


‘You - come - now,’ the guard growled in heavily broken Briton. He grabbed Bezon under his arm, pushed him out of the cell and frog-marched him along the passage way and steps outside. The stone steps were wet and slippery and Bezon stumbled as his hands were tied behind him in heavy iron cuffs. As he climbed higher the steps were steeper and more narrow, but they were in broken half-light and there were spiral stairwells bathed in dazzling golden rays. The walkways he ascended became higher and grander until he was among massive marble pillars and statues glowing in soft warm sunlight. As he and the guards reached the corridor outside the inner sanctum of the Emperor’s State Rooms, guards faced them either side of a high wooden double doorway. After a brief conversation confirming Bezon’s identity they were allowed to pass through. They stopped in a large square room, two sides of which were open to a view of the city below. In the centre of the room was a large table, on which was a map of Europa.


‘Wait here,’ the guard said and closed the doors behind him. He smiled grimly making his ugly, scarred face look even more unattractive. For a few minutes Bezon was left on his own and took in the view of the houses below. Some of the houses were tall as though stacked on top of one another and they all had hard roofs, made of thin, smooth red coloured stone. The alleys between the buildings was narrow in most places, opening only occasionally where they met to form a square. In the centre of the square closest to him was a statue of a god like figure. The thick set figure, made of white stone wore a crown of painted gold and held a huge iron trident in his right arm. He looked out to the horizon, where a thin taper of the sea could be seen with ferocious eyes.


‘Neptune, god of the sea,’ a voice said and Bezon turned to see an older man dressed in fine robes. He was casually eating grapes from a silver tray. He eyed Bezon closely, taking in every detail of him.


‘He is magnificent,’ Bezon said knowing he was speaking to Cicero, the Emperor.


‘One of our lesser gods,’ Cicero said walking out onto a large sweeping balcony that edged the open side of the room that faced due west. Bezon followed. ‘And there is Ares,’ he pointed to a much larger figure further away, partly hidden by tall buildings. 


‘What does he govern?’ 


Cicero looked at him, ignoring what he’d said. ‘Why did you come?’ He turned away from the view and strolled lazily to the map table. 


After a brief pause Bezon replied 'To get a peaceful solution to the unrest in Europa' 


'You came as an ambassador?’ 


'...well...I' he stammered. 


'...and you brought your chest full of gold in your, if I must say a fine ship to buy an ambassador’s house in Rome,’ Cicero stated giving Bezon the best excuse he could see. 'For you and your house staff,’ The Sea Serpent had created a lot of interest, so much so that the shipbuilders of the boatyards of Ostio had taken its measurements and dimensions. 


'Well no that wasn't the...' 


'What then?' the Emperor snapped impatiently, knowing the real reason for the arrival. 


'I am an envoy of peace, coming here offering you a large amount of gold and agreeable terms for the amicable co-existence of our two kingdoms,’ 


'You have rehearsed your words well and you speak my language well, but I don't represent just a mere kingdom, I am at the head of a great empire and it’s a growing one at that. It needs to expand more and its fringes are reaching your shores. Briton will be a part of it one way or another,’


‘We don’t know that yet, the people of Arun and Briton in general won’t let anyone walk in and take over. There will be a fight and it’s only natural that there should be, it not a foregone conclusion,’ 


‘This isn’t a battle between kingdoms. Kingdoms are different from empires. Empires need to be fed or they collapse in on themselves and inevitably turn to dust,’ Cicero said interweaving his fingers. 


'It would seem I have had a wasted journey then' Bezon said and the Emperor looked at him carefully, wondering what to do with him. 


'I should keep you prisoner here, I was going to make an example of you or maybe take you with the legions and make you watch how real soldiers fight as they invade your lands,’ he said looking out at the view of the city, turning briefly to see Bezon’s reaction, but there was none. ‘But what should I do with you? What punishment would be fair? I can’t just let you go, can I?’


‘Release my men at least,’ Bezon said pleadingly. Cicero frowned and shook his head. 'Your invasion is an act of war and will be treated with justified hostility, but it doesn't have to be that way, there is room in the world for us both to live side by side. That is why I have come, to talk,’ 


‘It’s too late for that, my plans are already in action,’


‘Its never too late, you can turn your troops around’ Bezon said hopefully looking despairingly at the map of Europa, he realised his words were falling on deaf ears. ‘If my hands were untied, I’d move those markers. 


‘Uncuff him,’ Cicero shouted. A guard came in the room and quickly unlocked Bezon’s cuffs. Bezon rubbed his wrists and then moved the wooden markers shown as being in northern Gaul back to Rome. The guard stood at the back of the room.


‘Hmm, it won’t make any difference. You are fair-minded and naïve, but your islands need bringing in to the continent and updating. And we can bring you into the present by including you in a more civilised world. You can have a house in Rome, an ambassadors house, you can live peacefully there. This would be welcome,’ 

‘A house, a house, I don’t want a house here,’ Bezon said angrily. He waved his arms and stomped about, up and down looking at the map.




‘And we don't need any enforced improvements from outside, we can bring them in as they are needed, but we have everything we need.' 


‘There are no immediate gains, but in the long run your countries will be much better off,’ 


‘There will be immediate losses though and on both sides in the form of heavy casualties from the war that will ensue,’


'Your little world has had a nice quiet life up until now while over here in the east of Europa we have had over the centuries to fight an array of invaders. The Egyptians, the Thacrians, Carthage and most of Eastern Europa,’ 


‘Not really,’ Bezon said. ‘It has been anything but quiet. We have had our wars,’ 

Cicero looked at him angrily, not used to being defied. ‘Ares is the god of war by the way,’ 




After a great ceremony of humiliation and abuse the Sea Serpent was towed out of the harbour of Ostia, but before that four of Bezon’s men were executed. Bezon could only watch from the Serpent’s broken mast he was lashed to. He cried out in pain and anger as each man in turn was decapitated. A massive ‘Nnnnooooo’ came from Enda who was loosely lashed to the underside of the forestay; for some reason he had also been spared. A loud cheer went up from the crowd gathered on the docks as the four bloodied and lifeless bodies lay slumped on the ground next to their execution blocks. Enda and Bezon shouted abuse and foul language in Briton at the crowd and Cicero who was stood proudly on a high podium. The crowds laughed and jeered them, some threw rotten vegetables and eggs. As the Serpent slowly crawled out of the harbour Bezon noticed that there was another man tied to the stern of the ship, but from where he was he couldn’t see him. The Serpent had been smashed up so that it was unseaworthy and would be likely to sink in anything but a perfectly calm sea. Holes had been made near water level in its sleek hull, planks had been removed from its decks. The sails, oars and rudder had been removed. It was a floating death trap and was letting in water. Cicero’s speech echoed in Bezon’s mind, later if he was still alive he would relay it to Enda. 


‘We are sending them back, these begging men of Briton as a message to all, to every man in every kingdom and to the gods themselves so that every living thing can see our power and level of intent. We are not to be bought or to be bargained with or messed with. They can keep their paltry offer of gold that was a bribe and may it help in sinking them to the bottom of the ocean where they deserve to be. Ironically this will serve them justice and will be an offering to Neptune which if he receives will buy us fair weather in our crossing to Briton on those cold northern seas,’ 


Cicero’s words were crazy he thought, they made as much sense as the actions he had taken against them. He, Enda, the third man and the gold would be lost at the bottom of the sea and no one would benefit. The port of Ostia was distant now and they were way out at sea. Bezon put his head down and saw the amulet, still hanging around his neck was shining, it brought Yulla straight into his mind and in torment he wondered about her in so many ways. He thought of their brief time alone together and how sweet it had been. He wondered if she was with another as he was almost certainly assumed to be long dead. His thoughts went on and he was stroking her soft hair as he held her. ‘I hope you are happy, Yulla, have a good life and be safe,’


© 2019 BL

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Thankyou for the read request
I enjoyed this, well written and interesting.
This is the first I have read and wonder when the next chapter is to be introduced
I'll have to do some backreading

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2 Years Ago

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this book is getting better and better

Posted 2 Years Ago

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2 Reviews
Added on November 12, 2018
Last Updated on March 6, 2019
Tags: memory, war, peace, kingdom, romance, adventure, fantasy, fiction, hope, fear, mystery, dust, spy, battle, empire, army, luck, power



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