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XXIII - Quadrants

XXIII - Quadrants

A Chapter by BL

Chapter XXIII - Quadrants

[]

Thamus stretched as far forward as he could, straining his eyes, ears and all his senses. He watched, he listened, he was alert and hyper-aware of his surroundings. He wavered precariously over the rushing tide beneath him as his landing boat made steady progress up the river estuary. Looking around and behind him he realised that the boat was somehow the lead boat of all the flotilla; somehow the tide had drifted them ahead of everyone else. Several hours previously they had entered the wide estuary from the south, but had somehow got drawn out into its wide open waters and now were lost in the mist that hung over it. The sea-river crossing had been rough, as one of many landing craft towed by the ocean going warships they had been glad to make sight of the coast some twenty or so miles later. But then...

‘Land,’ Thamus shouted. ‘La-and, LAND,’ A host of rowers looked to where he was pointing and sure enough there in a gap in the mist was a thin strip of green. They headed towards it taking strong strokes in the lapping waves and it became brown and green with features of grass and mud. There were windswept trees and long rushes. Excitedly the man on the stern waved his torch in a circular motion, giving the signal that a landing point had been found.

‘Thank the gods for that,’ Ducius growled, who was rowing heavily with his thick, muscular arms, he put all his power into his massive strokes and seemed to be moving the boat single handedly. As they approached the muddy banks they saw spearman and long, high rushes that created a solid barrier, making a landing difficult. They rowed on further until they found a tributary and saw it had rocky outcrops. As they approached the rocks, a group of native warriors appeared on the banks and launched a volley of spears and then rocks at them. The legionaries put their shields up, but some were too slow. One legionary was struck in the arm and another killed outright by a hit to the chest. But as in their training they carried on and hauled the shallow drafted boat onto land making it secure while under a big interlocking shell of their shields. The locals watched and threw other objects at them, but on seeing the second and third boats they reluctantly turned away. The boat’s crew, sections XNNI and XX headed inland as a group with Thamus at the fore. Thamus watched from a grassy knoll as the native warriors ran off into the maze of rushes.

‘This is no place,’ Thamus said mystified and horrified by what he saw. He looked at miles of muddy, boggy marshland shrouded in mists that hung over long bullrushes. There was no evidence of any proper land; now he knew why they had been told to go as far up as they could. He heard the hollering of the native soldiers as they disappeared and had a strong feeling they were being secretly watched. He stepped down and halted the men from the section who were forming up behind him, realising the error and the trap that lay ahead.

As he faced the men Amros arrived in a fourth boat. ‘Get these boats further up the river, there are no landing places here,’ he shouted. He gracefully alighted his landing boat as it drifted to shore and quickly waded up to Thamus. ‘There’s no hard ground here, no navigable routes through,’

‘Yes Sir,’ Thamus said. ‘I was checking our position and then... anyway we’ll move off,’

‘I’ve seen the maps of this hell hole so do it quickly, you’ve already lost a man,’ he said pointing to the legionary with a spear in him. He headed back to his boat looking warily around. Four of his men stood in the water at each corner of his boat, holding it to. He waded back aboard. ‘This will be recorded, Thames,’ he shouted over his shoulder as he tipped himself in.

‘Yes, Sir,’ Thamus said with a feeling of gloom knowing he may be disciplined or have his wages docked. If it was recorded it would be known around the learned population, potentially including the Emperor himself. He didn’t dare correct Amros about his name.

‘Don’t lose any more men. Folding retreat,’ Amros barked. His boat moved off smoothly and quickly, turning in the water and making no ripples as he had the advantage of expert oarsmen. His boat re-joined the flotilla on the main river estuary and headed upstream. ’Scribe,’

‘Yes Sir,’ a man with grey hair said meekly from the centre of the boat. He sat low down, hunched, poised with a piece of parchment on a small rectangle of flat wood and held a quill.

‘Write this. Aborted landing on river tributary by Section leader Thames of unit nineteen, section three. I can’t remember his other name,’

‘I’ll look it up,’ the scribe put in.

‘At least one man killed, name to be sourced.’ Amros said looking back as the three beached boats refilled themselves, readying to join the rest of the flotilla. As they made off a thick line of tribesmen stood on the waters edge and threw a co-ordinated volley of spears, some flaming.

‘Yes, Sir, but his name is Thamus,’

‘Please write what I say,’ Amros said and so the scribe made the alteration as instructed.

[][]

It was the morning of the day of Saturn, a rest day for some and a day when there was no council in the great senate. The heat rose slowly around the city of Rome, warming the crude brickwork and smooth palace walls indiscriminately. People started to stir and go about their daily business. The smell of bread wafted in the air from the bakeries and market stalls took shape out of pieces of wood and white canvas and were set up in the many squares.

In the Falconry a white bird pecked at seed carefully laid on a high ledge. The bird’s eyes were fearful, forever looking up at the skies for danger as his guard, a hawk had recently had its wing clipped by an arrow and so now he flew alone. To and from Gaul, flying further each time as the troops progressed north. Tired from his long flight the white bird wanted to sleep where it was, but fluttered down a level and took roost inside in the cool, dark shelter of the Falconry’s many seductively placed nests. And so he slept and as the day drew on and the light faded the shutters were quietly closed and cage doors were shut and all the Falconry was dark. From another roost Buddy watched the white bird and knew he would soon be called upon as the long distance trip to Gaul was now becoming ever more dangerous and required a bird of prey accompaniment, which he had. Some hours later a creaking ladder accompanied by a moving candlelight approached the white bird and the two wide eyes of the Falconer loomed up at him from below. The white bird didn’t move as the giant hand reached and took the canister holding the message from his talon.

Cicero read the message as soon as the servant handed it to him. ‘At last he’s reached the sea, the northern coast of Gaul. Move the blocks, Juli. and send a bird to that clown Severus to tell him to set sail on the first southerly wind. And send an escorted bird, Buddy, I want to make sure the message gets there,’ he barked.

Cicero watched the blocks move up and away from Italia on the map and it made him feel good, it made him feel safe. The wooden blocks measuring a couple of inches square were dark green with gold inlay. Each block represented a Legion and there were now ten placed on the edge of Briton. Things were largely on track, there had been casualties, but it seemed that the army was in place and ready to sweep further across the gloomy northern subcontinent. He hadn’t like what he’d heard about the attacks in Gaul; supposedly part of the empire.

‘Why haven’t the local troops dealt with these rebels?’ he yelled at his aide, Julianus.

‘I don’t know, Sir,’ Julianus said. ‘They just came out of nowhere,’

‘They should have had a clear path all the way to Briton with no casualties,’ Cicero remarked. He stared at the vista with a furrowed brow, his fists clenched. Julianus only had time to nod. ‘So much unnecessary waste, the Empire can’t afford it,’

‘That’s why we’ve got reserves,’ Julianus offered hopefully. He felt sick inside.

‘They cost money too and aren’t so affective,’ Cicero hissed leaning in to Julianus’s personal space and eyeballing him intently. ‘It makes us weaker,’ Julianus looked away, but stood up straight from the large map that was laid flat on the central table, not knowing what to do. He glanced at Cicero’s furious eyes and looked away.

‘Sir,’ he had seen his leader like this before and knew caution was the best option.

‘Well?’ Cicero said in a barely controlled whisper.

‘It does make us weaker, yes I agree, but we have few other options. We have to keep to the invasion plan,’ Julianus said in a semi-official tone. He remained standing up straight, his arms hung loosely by his side.

‘Come on I pay you for your opinion don’t I,’

Julianus hesitated, looking around at the map, at the view from the great balcony and at Cicero’s who was more passive, his eyes were relaxed. A flock of gulls flew by, screeching, carelessly dodging the high buildings. ‘They are people, Sir,’

‘Sorry, what did you say?’

‘I said they are people,’

‘Who are people?’

‘Our troops are,’

Cicero stared at the great map, his eyes glazing. ‘I know that and I am sorry for every man that loses his life. This was never going to be easy. What do you mean by that, Juli?’

‘You talked of them as costs, but they are people. That’s all I meant,’

‘How much do I pay you?’ Cicero said trying to remain calm again. He saw Julianus thinking and going to speak, his lips moving in confusion. He saw a man honestly calculating his own wealth.

‘I am very well looked after,’ Julianus said. He smiled tentatively.

‘Yes, you get a house in the walls of the inner city in a superior area, it has a well kept garden and a nice one too. You are supplied with a Mistress, several servants, a generous allowance and provisions are brought to your door. You are paid ten times a legionary and day by day your life is not at risk and you talk to me about bloody cost,’

‘Sorry Sir, I was merely pointing out that they are human beings and are not just a financial cost,’ Julianus said quickly, looking down. He didn’t like the way Cicero had said ‘supplied with a Mistress’, it was another indication that he thought of people as commodities.

‘Who cares about a few reserves anyway, I don’t wish to discuss it any further,’ Cicero said hastily. ‘Get me some wine somebody. Julianus felt bitter about Cicero’s lack of feeling, but then realised how selfish he was in his own life. He liked drinking and womanising, he loved his time off and his luxurious lifestyle, he knew he had to be careful otherwise he’d lose it, it would all go up in smoke.

A servant ran in holding a message and Cicero read it straight away. At last it was happening and now it was just a question of waiting. The Norselands were on schedule and soon, very soon those new territories could be worked in to the map of Europa. The message read that the new lands were under control. Cicero was beginning to think that he could withdraw troops from there and redeploy them elsewhere. Spaniard was a mess now which he had heard was more down to bad leadership than strong opposition. He was hoping that Severus could get Briton done to a basic level and then send more help later on. More messages, more birds.

‘I can’t believe that a country so close and similar to our own could be in such a mess,’ Cicero said eyeing the map. Julianus nodded. ‘I’m going to pull the troops back and re-group. I don’t think they know what they are, we certainly don’t know what we’re attacking. They come and go, shifting shapes in the sand.

‘We’ve plenty of generals. Send Portus so help,’

‘He’d love that,’ Cicero said, he banged his fist down on the map making the blocks bounce in the air and land in the ocean. ‘Why can’t things go smoothly? I’m not asking for much. The gods don’t favour me,’ he looked up at the sky as if they might be seen hiding behind clouds.

‘They do,’ Julianus said softly, trying to offer some sympathy.

‘You’re too loyal. Tell me the truth every now and then will you, Julianus,’

Julianus looked down at the map knowing the Emperor was serious as he had used his full name and hadn’t been drinking. He carefully put the wooden blocks back in position and as he did it relaxed him and gave him pure lines of thought. ‘With the Norselands secure I would send all the reserves to Briton to make sure that gets finished and when that’s done we can deploy whatever we need to Spania,’ he said, he looked up and saw Cicero was listening intently. ‘Keep Portus on hold, Sir,’

[][][]

Duerra was weak, old and had the look of a man who had had his run at life. He was the shadow of the man who had been before, but still proudly tried to maintain his old ways of power. To do this he would dress in battle armour at the great councils and wear his finest and grandest clothes when overseeing court. These duties took all his energy and he would very often collapse back to his private house afterwards, sleeping the rest of the day away. In his quarters he would stay lying down on a couch or retire to his massive throne bed, not going out for days at a time. He knew he was ill and didn't have long, but he kept a brave face, not letting anyone know. He was determined to stay strong so he could see through as he saw it the final task; the defence of Arun against imminent invasion.

‘Bring me my cloak,’ Duerra shouted through the thin wicker and mud built wall. The stocky figure of his man servant, Nico appeared in the doorway holding a dull brown cloak. "No, not that one, my purple one, I'm going on a walkabout,’ Duerra waved his arms about dramatically like a bird as though to circulate the air.

"Are you sure?”

"Yes, of course," Duerra replied angrily. "And tell the cook to bring me my broth,"

"You've already had your broth today," Nico said tentatively.

"Well, I know that," Duerra said. Nico turned and disappeared into the gloom behind, knowing only too well his fickle master's ways, he also knew the truth about Duerra's worsening condition and kept quiet about it.

Nico had been shipwrecked on the southern shores of Briton in one of the many storms the previous year had brought. He was from Italia and had previously been in the army, but after his honourable discharge at the age of thirty-five, due to injuries fighting on the Germanian front, had joined the Merchant Navy. He became a crewman on an old unseaworthy ship called the Tulip, which had a trading route to northern Gaul. The Tulip was a large bathtub with a square white sheet for a sail, it was not a sleek vessel that could cut through water seeking its own direction at will. It was a boat that relied on fair conditions and was advisable to put into port in rough weather and so stuck to the coast line. The Tulip was always overladen on her return voyages and would sit low in the water. Nico didn't like going to the far north as it was extremely cold for him, stormy and very often the ship would get blown off course and they would be lost for days or weeks at a time. On many outward runs the Tulip was taken by the winds and tides, getting caught in the stronger currents of the open waters. The cook brought in another steaming bowl of broth and placed it on the table.

"Thank you,” Duerra said sitting at the small wooden table and starting to eat with a large wooden spoon. He slurped his food, letting droplets spill on his lips and clothes. ‘One last show around and then it’s time to slip off,’ he said to himself, not realising the cook was still there.

‘It’s for the best, there’s nothing more you can do,’ the cook said half standing in the door.

Duerra looked up at him. ‘The road to Siluria will kill me, it’s not a proper road. I shouldn’t complain, I am lucky,’

‘Be gone by tomorrow,’ Nico said. ‘You know what I told you,’ Duerra kept eating with a confused look on his face. ‘Men have been sighted on the great eastern river,’
Duerra nodded slowly, smiling to himself knowing that Nico was concerned for his own welfare as he would either be killed in battle or captured and killed by his own people as s traitor.

‘Oh, yes, yes we will be going tomorrow, but we’ll be stopping at Yulla’s house on the way. I have every faith in the plans of Caratacus,’

‘So long as we get going and away,’ Nico said carving his hand strongly in the air, pushing it against some invisible force.

‘Staying the night there, I’ve been invited for a meal there and that will involve drink so we may as well make the most of it,’ Duerra said laughing.

‘Who’s doing the cooking? Yulla and her mum have fled,’

‘Her father or her brothers will organise something. I’m not too worried, we are at war. They’ll have servants,’

‘Might’ve fled,’ Nico stated logically. ‘Might as well push on. Duerra laughed and Nico started to too, forgetting his anxiousness. The laughing made Duerra look younger, more healthy, it gave him the look of a normal, healthy person who was full of life.

‘Might stay a couple of nights or more,’ Duerra laughed crashing his spoon down, his shoulders shaking up and down.

Nico smiled and uttered three short laughs, but then seriously said. ‘Whatever you decide, I will stay with you, you have been good to me,’ he walked out leaving Duerra alone in the gloom.

[][][][]

Caledonia is such a cold and dreary place with nowhere to feed or water horses. As soon as Bezon got there he wanted to leave. There was no hospitality, in fact there were no people about. An army would starve without food, even an army with gold to spend. The fifty or so of them that there now were marched south until they found a village and then of course they took it over, using all its resources. The horses ate all the hay and were continually brought to water in rotation. The bakehouse was made to run all day and a cow was slaughtered and roasted on the open fire, the inn ran dry of beer and wine after two days.

News spread of the band of men marching south to fight the invading army of Italia and men from the surrounding areas came out of the hills to check that the madness they had heard about was real. Most of them left again, going back to their remote little homes tucked away on the hillsides, but some stayed and joined the swelling ranks. Some of them were paid to do so, some were persuaded and others s cane of their own volition.

‘Get me a scribe, I want to send a letter,’ Bezon called through from the animal skins of his tent,’

‘What sort of letter?’ an unfamiliar voice called back.

‘A letter to be sent by a rider,’

‘What’s it about?’

‘I’m not telling you,’

‘Well it better not be anything important. Hardly any of those riders make their destination,’ the unknown voice said. It drifted in towards Bezon and he saw a large shadow loom up against the side of the tent. The shadow hovered near the opening and took the form in the shape of a broad, tall man. He had long ginger hair, fair skin and was wearing thick bear skin over his tartan and sword belt. He looked down at Bezon who was sat on his makeshift canvas bed with wild staring eyes that flirted around angrily. Bezon looked at him calmly and his eyes steadied some. ‘I will find someone,’

‘Thank you?’

‘Fred is my name, Frederick Maxwell of Galloway and I will pledge you fifty horsemen to ride you through my lands that are south of here,’ he said. Bezon looked at him and smiled.

‘Join is if you’d like a ride and an adventure,’

‘Aye, I might, but I have much to do here,’

‘It is beautifully warm in the south and the rivers are not frozen,’ Bezon said, he stood up next to Fred and was only half a head above his broad shoulders, he smiled looking wistfully into the distance. Fred nodded and slapped him hard on the shoulder making his knees bend.

(From Bezon)

Dear Yulla,

This seems like the most ridiculous thing in the world, but I must write to merely tell you that I, Bezon am alive. Can you believe it? and isn’t it the most wonderful thing? Life - I am alive and want to be with you. So please keep yourself safe and stay alive in this world too.

I would officially like to report to everyone that I know that I am not dead and am alive and well and that the news of my demise that you may have heard is totally untrue, and is no more than a rumour and a pack of lies. The sea did not take me on my long voyage to Italia and nor did the might of Rome itself. I am very much alive and am enjoying, via the roundabout route of Kerry in Hibernia living like a king in the very north of Briton, in the friendly country of Caledonia and am coming south as soon as transport is arranged for me and my men.

I hope you and your family are well. Please give my regards to your mother, Jenna and your father, Jon and also to your brothers Jacob and young Tom. Tell my father not to worry and that everything is on track. I hope my own brothers are behaving themselves, I know Alfos will be taking the lead with everything and will be under a lot of pressure. I wish I was there to ease the strain and share the brunt of the coming battle ahead. I hope I am not too late. If I am too late, I hope Caratacus has done his job and made a safe passageway for whoever cannot face the battle-storm that rages

I will write again as soon as I can, when I am further south. Everything is going to be all right, I know that when I look at the amulet and it’s blue light shines, even in the dark. I love you and have been thinking about you constantly. I know we will be together soon and I am longing for our reunion.

~ With all my love to you ~
Bezon xx

Bezon of Arun, second son of King Duerra of Arun.




© 2019 BL


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Featured Review

I really enjoy reading your works I have a single suggestion, though. Spend some time going back through your works and read them aloud. As you read aloud really listen to how you hear what you say. Listen closely and decide if what you verbalize sounds smooth, easy, and pleasing. Then, find a way to convey your words in a manner that when they are spoken you get the desired results. I find that reading in your mind especially as the writer we sometimes lose the natural language we wish to achieve in our works. This will give you strength and definition in your desired narrative. Keep pushing out your characters and world's. Keep weaving your stories. Thanks for sending me read requests. I'll see you around.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

I'm amazed by your clarity of thoughts and the design of this entire set-piece. This has a fluidity of a real writer and I would like to congratulate you on such an amazing write. There's no sophistication here, its a very nicely thought and written piece.

However I do wonder, such an effort and you don't want to publish it? Its actually worth publishing, but having it here will render it ineligible in most of the publishing sources.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

BL

2 Years Ago

Thanks for your review.

BL

2 Years Ago

No, I don’t want to publish it, I’m happy for it to be on here where it’s free for people to r.. read more
Abhishek Izy

2 Years Ago

Well just a suggestion, most of the people here write and review poem. Few lil few actually even loo.. read more
I normally don`t look at prose, but I liked this, and you have chosen a very liked and published genre. Keep at it !

Posted 2 Years Ago


well this chapter kept me interested,i would read the book on a rainy day like today and take an adventure

Posted 2 Years Ago


I really enjoy reading your works I have a single suggestion, though. Spend some time going back through your works and read them aloud. As you read aloud really listen to how you hear what you say. Listen closely and decide if what you verbalize sounds smooth, easy, and pleasing. Then, find a way to convey your words in a manner that when they are spoken you get the desired results. I find that reading in your mind especially as the writer we sometimes lose the natural language we wish to achieve in our works. This will give you strength and definition in your desired narrative. Keep pushing out your characters and world's. Keep weaving your stories. Thanks for sending me read requests. I'll see you around.

Posted 2 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 15, 2019
Last Updated on January 15, 2019
Tags: memory, dust, romance, Kingdom, peace, war, army, spy, battle, luck, empire, adventure, fantasy, fiction, hope, mystery, fear, power, love, lust, people, belief, story, violence, sex, invaders


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BL
BL

United Kingdom



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