21 Over the Hills

Over the Hills

Roads traced the course of the Rhine, skirting the spillways at the source in the alps, paralleling its rush and hurry to fill the long lake and then along its debouchure at the western end. These ancient tracks had been overtaken by the miracle of Roman technology. Marvels they were, these new roads, either boldly clinging to cliff faces or cautiously drawing their skirts away from an expanding river. Conduits, the roads, the rivers, all channeling wheat and glass and metals and slaves to feed the clamorous belly of Rome. Continue reading

20 By the Light of the Silvery Moon

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

At its apex, the moon appraised the Rhine valley, picking out the straight lines of human endeavor, the right angles of the latifunda1, the allées of trees leading to the farms, the terraces of grapevines, the road drawn toward the city of Confluentes2. The miniature figure of a horse had just enough wit left to carry its head at an angle the reins trailing to one side, as it tore in the direction of that city.

The sounds of terror shook the air and the scent of sweet horse blood and dung overlay the road. Soon this would be spiked with the sharper note of human blood and open omnivore gut.

The horse that didn’t get away still screamed from the pain the dragur had caused in his rush to get at the red cloaks. The pitiful noise not only woke the children but irritated Tod enough for him to turn and deal a backhanded slap that broke the beast’s neck, before he went back to pulling bits off the messengers. Continue reading

19 Into the Valley

Into the Valley

The children lasted until the moon had floated free of the haze on the horizon and risen half way in her journey. Honey rigged a sling with her stola and hefted the weary Andala onto her back. It was still warm enough that she was comfortable stripped down to her under tunic. Bless Fortunus, since he carried their packs the adults could carry the children.

The young jackass was extremely pleased with his adventure and had not objected to the girl-child’s kisses or her curious fingers – except when she poked them in his ears. The solemn boy-child was equally interesting and was of a very good height to whuffle which in turn led to an amusing hunch-and-wiggle. No end of entertainment on this walk. Continue reading

18 Fortunus

It was past day-meal by the time they rose. Bucky seemed to lapse into bemused silence whenever young Andy stopped chattering at him like a finch; even while chirping she never let go of her fistful of Honey’s tunic.

They trooped down to the latrine together squinting at the midday sun. Horse, Bird and Buck lined up staring at the wall in front of them as they pissed noisily while Honey held Andy’s hands so she could balance her little butt on the rim of the seat.

There was a rough bath a few steps from the latrine – no frescoed walls or mosaic floors for this tavern. Honey lit the lamp that had been left in its niche and set the stack of clean second-best tunics on one of the benches.

Thankfully the boy was old enough to clean himself with a soapy sea sponge – although Bird and Horse did keep a half an eye on him while they scrubbed each other’s backs and took turns rinsing with buckets of fresh water that was a little cooler than anyone would have liked.

C’mon guy, the water in the bath is still warm – you are all over goose bumps.”

Continue reading

17 Looking Glass Nights

Looking-glass Nights

With their arms wrapped around each other, Honey and Marten wandered out into the fields looking for a good place to watch the waxing moon rise over the river. Robins chirruped their evensong and ring doves cooed as they settled in for the night. By the time the pair had found a spot nicely screened from the town, the new dusk had pooled in the swales of the field. Honey spread out her stole and tugged Marten down beside her Continue reading

16 Mirror, Mirror

Even though the granny kept asking questions Honey stood and stretched her back while keeping an eye on the soldier. Sweet Mother, thank you; I didn’t think this was possible. She remembered telling Tod: “you’d make a great baby-daddy if you were still human.” There he stood, the same gray eyes, a little older, certainly darker, with a wonderful spark of humor quirking the corner of his mouth.

Horse was being pursued across the marketplace by a relentless street urchin.

“Citizen, sir, you won’t be sorry. My sister is very fine.” puff, puff “A real blond and very young.”

Eldjarn, the Horse rounded on the boy and firmly told him to get lost. “I’m not interested in your sister, your mother or your aunt!”

“Citizen, citizen! My brother is skilled in the lost arts of the east. He is the delight of many! Only three As.”

Horse growled down at him: “I don’t want your public toilet of a brother either! I’ve got business to tend to, mihi molestus ne sis!1” and tossed a clipped coin in the kid’s direction. Continue reading

15 The Last Sunset

The Last Sunset

200 CE

Tod wasn’t dreaming, not really; it was more as though he were mired in a rising reverie. He wondered if it were part of his healing, he seemed to drift off into downtime pretty often. Continue reading

14 Might Have Beens

Might Have Beens: or Living in the Subjunctive.

200 CE

If it hadn’t been for that spoilt twat ‘Tura, he would have lived out his days as a priest and leader for his clan. He and Artos (even after two centuries he remembered him) had talked long into the night about how they would do things when they were grown. There was no doubt in their minds that when the time came, they would be, if not heroes, just leaders and the clan would prosper. Continue reading

13 In the Shadows

In the Shadows

58 BCE

‘Tura hadn’t known much about being a vampire, her maker, Yaz, had been killed before he said anything useful. Not that he had a mind to tell her much since he was a grimly silent, arrogant, vicious predator with no interest in ‘Tura beyond sex and using her as bait. ‘Tura was no jewel either, quite the vixen, with multitudinous and voracious appetites. Never did bother to clean up after herself, which would be the end of her. Ha! Continue reading