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PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2011 5:44 am 
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Unknown to the Roman "Vinters", they were being watched. From a far distance Hylaranus had seen and heard them speak. Not directly mind, but through the eyes and ears of an old friend. No one would really suspect a Kestrel ripping apart a water shrew of being a wizard's familiar. They were not uncommon birds, and it was long known that the beasts of the forest paid little mind to the amphibians. One of the side effects of the sacrifices was the apparent helpfulness of nature. The traditional familiars for users of magic however--and thus what they may have watched for were toads (not that watching for suspicious toads would be overly effective, normal frogs and toads were everywhere. Constantly watching for them would drive someone insane... and had more than once) snakes, ravens, and oddly enough Geese.

So, the Romans were definitely spies. The question was who were they sent to spy on, and would their mission run counter to or in conjunction with the interests of the Imperium. Hylaranus was not an agent of the state. If he were and found out such things he would be obligated to interfere, however he was more... of a Ghost. He was known, but not by name and not by face. So, he was free to act as he chose, and in this case he did not feel that the Romans yet necessitated action. They did however bear watching. If he needed to interfere at some point, he could, and would proceed to do so.

That they were currently spying on the movements of the military did not matter much. Traders moved across the border all the time, and doubtless the romans would find out eventually. The inevitability of it in fact made it common practice to simply inform the Romans when levy troops were being called up, or when a legion was moved. It kept them from panicking, and it was one of the ways peace had been maintained for a hundred years. The spies were just their way of confirming what they were told.

So he settled back into the water and followed the "vinters" from a hundred meter distance through the channel that bordered the road, with not even his eyes protruding, using his pet Kestral to keep visual tabs on them.

...

Marmoratus stood on the prow of a longboat, his honor guard of two longbowmen stood in the center, as halberdiers rowed the boat across the long river, crouched down straddling the gunwal, with one of their massive webbed feet beating the water in time, as their Centurion kept the pace.

As the boat pulled up to the barge, and the Centurion tied it up, the Roman delegation was already there.

"Ave Legatus" Marmoratus said as he stepped onto the barge, leaning on his staff and holding up his right hand "It is good to see you well, and in good spirits I trust?"

_________________
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
- Theodosius Dobzhansky

There is no word harsh enough for this. No verbal edge sharp and cold enough to set forth the flaying needed. English is to young and the elder languages of the earth beyond me. ~Frigid

The Holocaust was an Amazing Logistical Achievement~Havoc


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:45 pm 
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The Frozen Strait
It was a rather uneventful trip up to Selkie lands. The Spring weather meant the dangers of sailing were diminished, and although glaciers were always a concern, they were not particularly dangerous to a small fleet of watchful ships.

So when an entire fleet came out of the morning mists, the response of the small diplomatic envoy was immediate. Three of the Longships moved in front to serve as a barrier between the potential enemy and their precious cargo while the other three were behind, one ship in the center and the other two to the left and right and at their side. The Ogre diplomatic fleet waited to see what these Selkie would first do.

The First Hall
Agni Kolrson sighed in relief as the stone keep of the First Hall came into view. It had been a cold journey. Spring this year seemed to be taking its sweet time in getting here. His small honor guard came to a stop within view and sent one of their own men ahead to announce their arrival.

Agni waited with some impatience as the chosen man ran off. He stared at the keep and narrowed his eyes. Many good men who were now part of Hrafnheim had died against the First Hall. He would take no small amount of pleasure in burning it to the ground. But that was not his task this day. His task was to speak with this self-proclaimed Lord, Ragnvalder. He would whisper in the dark, oh yes. And then the blade would fall if he had anything to do with it.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:48 pm 
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March 18th, 662 Ab Urbe Condita
Campus Martius, outside the gates of Rome


The rumors began on the Ides of March, stories of traders from the west stating that they had seen a force of cavalry complete with mounted Lictors preparing to ride down the Via Flaminia back to Rome. But it was on the third day after the Ides that a messenger brought word to Quintus Caecilius Metellus Pius, President of the College of the Tribunes of the Plebs in that year, to come to the Campus Martius beyond the Pomerium. Being a man who paid little attention to rumors, this alone was the first indication that Metellus Pius received that Sulla had returned to Rome.

He left his home on the Palatine Hill at once, traveling alone, without even a slave to clear his path. At this hour, none stirred but a handful of night watchmen, not in this part of Rome. The cutpurses and prostitutes would be down in the Subura waiting for more likely targets. Nobody disturbed Metellus Pius as he exited the city via the Porta Carmentalis and descended onto the Campus Martius. Crossing it swiftly on foot, he came within twenty minutes to the small villa that belonged to Publius Licinius Crassus Dives, Consul of five years ago and friend to the Optimates. Crassus Dives was long in the habit of renting the villa out to any passing Imperium-bestowed magistrate who needed, for whatever reason, to remain in the vicinity of Rome for a time.

The villa was built like a temple, indeed it had originally been planned as one before the Lincinii took over the project, with a long series of stairs leading up to the raised platform on which the building itself was perched. Metellus Pius ascended the stairs at the double, moving towards a tall figure who stood at the head of them, holding a sputtering torch. The mulberry hair and pale face, as well as the great height of the torchbearer revealed his identity as clearly as anything else might have.

"Ave, Little Goat," said Lucius Cornelius Sulla.

Metellus Pius fought down the urge to say something intensely unwise at this nickname, a relic of the Graminian War that had been bestowed on him by Gaius Marius and his then-Quaestorian Legate, Sulla. Sulla's use of it here was just the sort of studied insult Sulla used on those who had dealings with him, a sort of challenge to Metellus to say something about it.

"L-L-Lucius Cornelius," stammered out Metellus, not even bothering to curse his stuttering tongue. Sulla didn't raise an eyebrow. Everyone knew of Metellus Pius' speech impediment. Metellus had spent the better part of his career ensuring that wise men knew better than to bring it up. This time, Sulla did not. "W-w-welcome back."

Behind Sulla, Metellus Pius could see a shadow in the shape of what looked like a man on horseback, but which he knew was nothing of the sort. The figure stood utterly still, like an equestrian statue, but the flickering of the torch cast its features into occasional visibility. Though he did not know the face, Metellus Pius knew who this had to be, for he had heard tales of Sulla's personal guard, a freedman Centaur from northern Terminia whom Sulla had bestowed citizenship on, as well as the fitting name of Lucius Cornelius Nessus.

"Your father is well?" asked Sulla. Another studied insult. Quintus Caecilius Metellus Graminicus, father of Metellus Pius, was one of Sulla's most obdurate enemies, an absurdly-conceited noble Roman who considered Marius a hayseed demagogue and Sulla a diseased pervert. His return to Rome after years of dogged lobbying on the part of Metellus Pius had not served to reduce that double emnity, even though Sulla and Marius were no longer on good terms.

"He is d-d-dying, Lucius Cornel-nelius," said Metellus Pius, managing despite the stutter to sound annoyed. "Everyone in R-Rome knows th-th-"

"Yes well I have just arrived," said Sulla. "And I require your assistance."

Business at last. "Wh-wh-what do you need?"

"First information. Is it true the Senate has ordered the Legions filled?"

"M-M-Marius prop-p-posed it on the Ides," said Metellus Pius.

"Then there's to be war," said Sulla. It was not a question.

"D-Drusus keeps saying that it's n-n-none of our affair. W-we don't have to go to w-w-."

"You don't visit a brothel, Little Goat, unless you plan to do some ramming," said Sulla, unwilling to wait for Pius' tongue to sort itself out. "Drusus is deluding himself. I assume Caepio - "

"C-Caepio accused Drusus of trying to s-s-sell the Republic to our enemies," exclaimed Metellus Pius with a monumental effort, if only to show Sulla that he too could be interrupted. "He ac-c-cused him of conspiring with the Swan Lords."

Sulla laughed. "Trust Caepio to wind up endorsing Marius while trying to attack Drusus, and to make a fool of himself in the bargain."

"C-C-Caepio is right," said Metellus Pius, "not about the Swan L-Lords maybe b-b-but - "

"Caepio is a fool," said Sulla, "and he is not why I returned. I need you to convene the Senate in two days on the Campus Martius. I still have Imperium and can't enter the city."

"You w-w-want the Command of the n-n-northern legions?"

Sulla smiled in that terrible feral manner that made people seeing him duck. "Worried Flaccus might object?"

"F-Flaccus doesn't want a war."

"War does not come about because people want it. If the Frogs and the Blood Mages are both arming themselves, we would be complete fools not to. In that much, Marius is right."

"If there's t-t-t-to b-be a w-war," stammered Metellus Pius, trying to push Sulla's grin out of his mind, "M-M-Marius will want it."

"Marius is past it," said Sulla. "I will have this command, whether he likes it or not."

"B-B-But you already have a legion"

"In Caelia," said Sulla. "I'm not planning on staying there forever. I left it with Pompeius Strabo to clean up the end of the campaign."

Something caught in Pius' mind. "C-c-campaign?"

"We will never be rid of the raiders on the Via Flaminea until we incorporate the entire steppeland into the Empire and give the Centaurs and nomads something to do other than raiding caravans. I've given Pompeius full Pro-Praetorian authority to incorporate all of the territory north of Caelia as far as the River Onoxus."

"W-Without asking the Senate?!" asked Metellus Pius.

"The Senate gave me Proconsular Imperium. I have the right to do what I must to defend Caelia, do I not? Besides, Strabo only has the First legion. He'll have to content himself this season with the immediate region."

"And wh-what will you c-con-tent yourself with Lucius C-C-Cornelius?" asked Metellus Pius.

That feral smile again. "Nothing less than I am due."

*------------------------------------------------------------------------*

Lucius Licinius Lucullus was a military tribune, not an incredibly exalted rank, but to look at him was not to get that impression. A noble of the highest blood of Rome's plebeian aristocracy, he exuded the air of a Licinian, a clan reputed, even by the standards of Rome, to be unusually haughty, arrogant, and conscious of their own station. He wore the Toga Virilis, a plain white toga folded and pleated over the left arm, leaving the right arm free to gesture in oration or to hold a curule rod. On his feet, he wore maroon shoes of cow leather, and on his finger, a ring of unmarred iron. Both were symbols of a Roman Senator, though at 25 years of age, Lucullus could not yet enter the Senate.

As Marmoratus boarded the barge, Lucullus stood from his curule chair, holding the folds of his toga in his left arm, his expression properly detached, as befitted the scion of a famous family of Rome.

"Ave," said Lucullus in even Latin. The Amphibian language was barely even pronounceable by human beings, and so Lucullus spoke in Latin, lingua franca for more than a century even this far north in Cirhennus. "I have come here at the request of Gaius Valerius Flaccus, Proconsul and Governor of Cirhennus and Noricum. He has commanded me to put to you the question of why your armies are mobilizing for war."

Licinii Luculli did not tend to skip around the subject.

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Havoc: "So basically if you side against him, he summons Cthulu."
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:20 am 
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Marmoratus smiled. He decided that he was going to like this man, if he would allow himself to be liked.
"I appreciate your forthrightness, and will answer in the same way. We are currently moving a Legion and support elements away from the border and moving them north east to engage in" he paused "aggressive diplomacy with the Selkies. They have been raiding out shipping and fishing fleets and we intend to tame them by whatever means necessary. Whether we use the carrot or the stick does not much matter. Our intelligence indicates that they have become a nuisance for you as well. This however forces us to move legions to cover gaps in our border defenses. So, we are mobilizing our Auxilla. In the interests of continued peace, we would be willing to accept observers to ensure that we are telling you the truth. I do this, because I have another matter to discuss."

Marmoratus pulled a sealed scroll from a case at his side and offered it to the Roman to be sent to the Senate, as well as an unsealed scroll with identical text for the Legate.

"Contained inside is a proposal for a mutual defense treaty against the Amatocoya. Should they invade either of us, the other would be obligated to assist in the defense of the other power. Should that include counter-invasion, when the Amatocoya are crushed their territory would be split along our present border. As a further stipulation, it includes a provision that we shall provide military assistance in the the next campaign of Rome's choosing regardless of whether or not action against the Amatocoya invade. Once these provisions are met, no enduring alliance shall exist unless it is decided by mutual agreement. I apologize, in my old age I tend to be a touch verbose"

_________________
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
- Theodosius Dobzhansky

There is no word harsh enough for this. No verbal edge sharp and cold enough to set forth the flaying needed. English is to young and the elder languages of the earth beyond me. ~Frigid

The Holocaust was an Amazing Logistical Achievement~Havoc


Last edited by Comrade Tortoise on Thu Mar 31, 2011 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:54 am 
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If Lucius Licinius was nonplussed by this sudden offer, he did not show it. Romans of his class made certain that they showed no such thing, not before a foreigner. Not before anyone.

"The Amatacoya have mobilized their armies as well," said Lucius Licinius. "The Amphibians march against the Selkie pirates openly while soliciting Rome's aid against the mountain lords. You will forgive me, Ambassador, if I have questions. You ask for an alliance against a foe that is other than the one you are presently marching to war with, and you do so in full knowledge that the instant the Senate debates the merits of this treaty, it will become common knowledge across the entirety of Terra Nova. Senate meetings are open to the public, Ambassador. We hold our deliberations in common, for Romans do not fear to conduct the business of the state in the full view of our fellows and enemies."

He looked down the unsealed scroll once again, perusing its contents quickly before looking up again.

"Ambassador, I was not sent here to dissimulate with you. It is well known in Rome that your armies are larger and mightier than any force the Amatacoya could bring to bear against you. For them to assault you, openly, without allies, would be an act of suicide less certain only than an assault on us would be. Neither of our empires are threatened with destruction by the Amatacoya. And should you choose to, you could destroy them yourselves without need for our assistance. Unless, of course, your armies are less mighty than rumors claim."

"I can think of three reasons for which this is being sent to the Senate, Ambassador. One is that it is you who wish to war with the Amatacoya, and you wish to obtain the Senate's blessing in this endeavor, lest we take your aggression against a neighbor to be evidence of ill-will against us. The second, is that you believe the Amatacoya have allies or forces which render them proof against your own assault or resistance, and thus feel you require our aid. If that is so, Ambassador, then the Senate would be fools indeed to make a binding alliance against a nation whose forces we do not know the extent of and whose allies are opaque and unknown to us. The third reason, is that you plan to wage war against the Selkie and the Amatacoya at the same time, and require our assistance to permit you to do this, in which case the Senate will require, as a matter of elementary care, some notion of why it is that, all of a sudden, our northern neighbors, with whom we fought the greatest war in the history of our Republic, have elected to mobilize their armies and wage war against all of their neighbors at once."

In truth, Lucius Licinius Lucullus could think of a fourth reason, but this one he elected to leave unsaid.

_________________
Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair...

Havoc: "So basically if you side against him, he summons Cthulu."
Hotfoot: "Yes, which is reasonable."


Last edited by General Havoc on Sun Apr 03, 2011 12:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 03, 2011 5:07 am 
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New Territories

There were a dozen nomads on the rise. A unit that was part of a civilized army might keep to its orders and retreat or shoot him, but these weren't civilized troops. Running from one man would be unmanly as would shooting him down from a distance. Not that they would have much chance of killing him if they tried. The Witch King had supplied him with very nice armour and protective amulets. Of course, they could always get lucky.

"Hail," said Ivar as he approached. He used Norsca, the language of the men and ogres of the North and one of the more common trade tongues of the plains. The nomads were mostly young men, just the kind of people who got stuck with the boring jobs. "How are you boys?"

"You are standing on the lands of the Dawn Wolves," said a boy of about eighteen.

"Really?" Ivar asked. "No one told me," he said feigning ignorance.

"You are trespassing on our land, building on our plains," the boy growled.

"Well that's unfortunate," said Ivar. "If someone had told us we wouldn't have built without permission." Another lie, if a polite one. "What's done is done. I can't say that I have a quarrel with you so we can fight if you want but for me it wouldn't be honorable. It's a small piece of land, poor grazing land at that." And deliberately chosen for those reasons, among others. "How about I compensate you for our actions?"

"How about I gut you?" growled another young warrior.

"Don't be a fool," whispered one of the older men in the tongue of southern tribes. "Only one man in all of Irovar bears the mark of the dragon."

"You could try," said Ivar quietly. "But if you do you'll be matching your local bog iron against Irovar steel. Or you could come back to my camp, enjoy my hospitality, leave with a gift of Irovar steel, and then return to your chief without having a started a war or blood feud without his permission or approval."

"Irovar steel?" said the older warrior with more than a trace of eagerness. Greed, as always, made its mark.

"My hospitality with all the food and drink you can hold and yatagans with damasced blades," said Ivar. "My word as a warrior."

And he intended to keep it. The yatagans would be good blades, but not as richly decorated as the ones meant for the chiefs and the table would be full. The nomads would have all the beer, wine, and hard liquor they could handle and then some more. They were young men mostly and young men were sensitive about their honour. It would be easy enough to lead them into drunken boasting and at least one of the dozen would be a fool even when sober.

No one had come down to trade and no coalition of tribes had assembled to fight but they were being watched. Perhaps there was a great army assembling far away, perhaps the chiefs of all the great tribes were meeting, perhaps something else entirely. Something was in the works and Ivar intended to find out. Hopefully at least one tongue would wag too much tonight.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:16 am 
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The Arch-Magister let no expression cross his face as the Roman spoke. He responded in a perfectly even tone. The reality was, he had anticipated this. The Romans, for all their strength were almost a fragile people. They were horrified easily, and bore some rather fantastic grudges and irrational prejudices. Maybe it is because until recently, there was only one species in their empire. When Ostia was taken, Marmoratus had personally bound some of the greater spirits that destroyed the city that day and he left very specific instructions to them and his troops to preserve any written records. The romans were so very good at keeping those. He also did not mention the escape clause. In the event that either party aggressively attacks the Amatocoya without the treaty being first activated by an Amatocoyan attack on either signatory, then the treaty is non-binding unless the attack was through mutual agreement. It had bearing on Lucinius' speculation that there was a plan to wage war first and invoke the treaty.

"I am of course well aware that a treaty of this nature would be debated publicly. It suits our diplomatic needs, as it would make clear to the Selkies that they cannot rely upon someone attacking us from the flank as we engage them--should they refuse diplomacy. It also discourages the Amatocoya from attacking either of us--instead giving them a larger incentive to select another target.

He paused, as if considering what to say before continuing

"There are fourth and fifth reasons why we seek this treaty with you. The fourth option, which I know you thought of because almost every Roman thinks it, relies on a fundamentally flawed assumption. The idea that we do not learn from our mistakes, and are blood thirsty to a degree beyond rational interest. War with Rome is a bad idea, which is why there has not been an attack across your border in a century. We gain absolutely nothing from your territory, we cannot live there. We drink and to some extent breath through our skin, which necessarily means we dehydrate very quickly as I am sure you learned a century ago. We simply cannot survive for six months out of the year in the climate much farther south than our current border. Well, I suppose we could survive, but we would be relegated to living full time in the water, and that does not make for a strong position during the campaign season, and economic productivity would be poor at best. There is also the obvious blood bath. We would rather not have to send our soldiers into the waiting maw of a legion. The casualties on both sides of a conflict would be catastrophic and would destabilize the entire region. It is unthinkable unless we were hard pressed.â€

_________________
"Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
- Theodosius Dobzhansky

There is no word harsh enough for this. No verbal edge sharp and cold enough to set forth the flaying needed. English is to young and the elder languages of the earth beyond me. ~Frigid

The Holocaust was an Amazing Logistical Achievement~Havoc


Last edited by Comrade Tortoise on Mon Apr 04, 2011 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2011 3:41 pm 
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So when an entire fleet came out of the morning mists, the response of the small diplomatic envoy was immediate. Three of the Longships moved in front to serve as a barrier between the potential enemy and their precious cargo while the other three were behind, one ship in the center and the other two to the left and right and at their side. The Ogre diplomatic fleet waited to see what these Selkie would first do.


The pirate fleet spread out around the Ogre ships surrounding them as the flagship a heavy cog pulled up. Grinning, tanned and hairy Selkie faces beamed over the gunwales of the ships at the Ogres. They had met Ogres in combat before and were frankly unafraid when fighting them at sea. Especially given the numbers different. The Grand Admiral stood at the prow of his ship Frozen Hell decked out in a uniform that would result in his assassination in Rome on the grounds of bad taste alone. A bright red coat clashing with an orange silk shirt and bright yellow pants topping it off with a massive black hat that had an amazing feather that seemed to glow slightly in the spring sunlight.

"Ahoy and avast! Ye be in the waters of the Selkie Kingdom now! Strike your sails laddies and identify yourselves or be considered hostile aliens on a mission of malcontent and mayhem!" He declared in a booming voice easily heard across the waters. The nearby pirate crews exploded into cheers at that demand.

Quote:
"My hospitality with all the food and drink you can hold and yatagans with damasced blades," said Ivar. "My word as a warrior."

And he intended to keep it. The yatagans would be good blades, but not as richly decorated as the ones meant for the chiefs and the table would be full. The nomads would have all the beer, wine, and hard liquor they could handle and then some more. They were young men mostly and young men were sensitive about their honour. It would be easy enough to lead them into drunken boasting and at least one of the dozen would be a fool even when sober.


The warriors followed him cautiously, there was some muttering once they entered the walls of the fort and a bit of rubber necking but for the most part they kept their mouths shut until they saw the blades and the food. A murmur of appreciation arose from the group and more then one young man eyed the booze.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:33 pm 
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frigidmagi wrote:
The pirate fleet spread out around the Ogre ships surrounding them as the flagship a heavy cog pulled up. Grinning, tanned and hairy Selkie faces beamed over the gunwales of the ships at the Ogres. They had met Ogres in combat before and were frankly unafraid when fighting them at sea. Especially given the numbers different. The Grand Admiral stood at the prow of his ship Frozen Hell decked out in a uniform that would result in his assassination in Rome on the grounds of bad taste alone. A bright red coat clashing with an orange silk shirt and bright yellow pants topping it off with a massive black hat that had an amazing feather that seemed to glow slightly in the spring sunlight.

"Ahoy and avast! Ye be in the waters of the Selkie Kingdom now! Strike your sails laddies and identify yourselves or be considered hostile aliens on a mission of malcontent and mayhem!" He declared in a booming voice easily heard across the waters. The nearby pirate crews exploded into cheers at that demand.


The response was swift. The colors of the Kingdom of Hrafnheim flew high. A blood red spear piercing a coiled golden snake through the head on a black backing. Additionally, below the flag was the sign of precious persons aboard.

A tall ogre with raven feathers tied into his hair, a sign of priesthood, stood atop the deck and stared out at the large cog. "I am called Steinn Sindrisson, I come as a diplomatic envoy from the Kingdom of Hrafnheim to the Selkie Kingdom. The ogre's voice carried out just as well across the empty water between them. "We were somewhat surprised by the size of the honor guard you have brought to meet us! We should have expected as much from the mighty Grand Admiral!" The ogre smiled at this, though the marines aboard the ship only chuckled a bit.

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The First Hall
Agni Kolrson sighed in relief as the stone keep of the First Hall came into view. It had been a cold journey. Spring this year seemed to be taking its sweet time in getting here. His small honor guard came to a stop within view and sent one of their own men ahead to announce their arrival.

Agni waited with some impatience as the chosen man ran off. He stared at the keep and narrowed his eyes. Many good men who were now part of Hrafnheim had died against the First Hall. He would take no small amount of pleasure in burning it to the ground. But that was not his task this day. His task was to speak with this self-proclaimed Lord, Ragnvalder. He would whisper in the dark, oh yes. And then the blade would fall if he had anything to do with it.


Ragnvalder squatted on a stone carved throne, there were panels of narwhal ivory inset on the arms and legs of the throne, engraved with axes and ships. Alongside the sides of the long hall crude wooden tables had been set up with the jarls seated and being feasted. The envoy and his guard were not invited to sit. Ragnvalder himself was gnawing on a joint of beef, he finished it noisily and tossed it to a pack of dogs laying around the fireplace.

"Well, what does your jarl want?" He asked.

Quote:
A tall ogre with raven feathers tied into his hair, a sign of priesthood, stood atop the deck and stared out at the large cog. "I am called Steinn Sindrisson, I come as a diplomatic envoy from the Kingdom of Hrafnheim to the Selkie Kingdom. The ogre's voice carried out just as well across the empty water between them. "We were somewhat surprised by the size of the honor guard you have brought to meet us! We should have expected as much from the mighty Grand Admiral!" The ogre smiled at this, though the marines aboard the ship only chuckled a bit.


"Oh this, Priest Sindrisson? This isn't an honor guard your grace. The boys wanted to go fishing and I obliged them. Course since we were in the neighborhood so to speak, why not bring everyone to the meeting? Isn't that right lads?" The crews answered with a cheering bark.

"And what does the old ogre want with an old sailor like myself?" Asked the Admiral after the cheering died down.

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Ivar swaggered over to the head of the table and gestured for the nomads to join him. The swell of sweat roasting pig filled the room as two men carried in the roast on a platter and for a moment Ivar almost gagged. The remembered the dragon's acrid breath and the sickly-sweat smell of men burning alive, screaming, as they were consumed by the burning spray of the dragon's venom.

He pushed the memory aside and called for servers to bring in strong northern bear and cider. Unwatered eastern wine was brought as well, an import brought via Carthaginian and ogre hulls to the shores of Irovar. Only a few parts of the country could support a decent vine crop. The heavy foreign wine was best mixed with water and if it wasn't it would get you drunk very quickly. And that was without talking about the hard spirits.

Ivar himself was drinking just beer and boasting. Boasting, of course, had to be answered by boasting and with so many young men they would have to boast about what they knew more than what they had done. Ivar extended his horn to be filled as plates with sliced beef and cuts of lamb appeared and servers with jugs of wine appeared at the elbow of every nomad.

This was one of the more pleasant ways to fight a war.

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frigidmagi wrote:
Ragnvalder squatted on a stone carved throne, there were panels of narwhal ivory inset on the arms and legs of the throne, engraved with axes and ships. Alongside the sides of the long hall crude wooden tables had been set up with the jarls seated and being feasted. The envoy and his guard were not invited to sit. Ragnvalder himself was gnawing on a joint of beef, he finished it noisily and tossed it to a pack of dogs laying around the fireplace.

"Well, what does your jarl want?" He asked.


Agni smiled some, his brown, nearly red, eyes scanning the room around him as his escort continued to stand around him. He was a son of the Bloody Hall. Ragnvalder may be of an ancient lineage that could date back to the beginning, but that meant little to the men of Rus. "My king wants many things." There was a not so subtle emphasis on the word king. "But it has been a long journey, Jarl Ragnvalder. If I could have some fine First Hall mead it would help my parched throat."

Agni's smile stayed very well placed as he waited.

Quote:
"Oh this, Priest Sindrisson? This isn't an honor guard your grace. The boys wanted to go fishing and I obliged them. Course since we were in the neighborhood so to speak, why not bring everyone to the meeting? Isn't that right lads?" The crews answered with a cheering bark.

"And what does the old ogre want with an old sailor like myself?" Asked the Admiral after the cheering died down.


Sindri laughed, the raven feather's shaking in his hair. "You must be fishing for Jormungandr to require such a fleet! Your brothers in the East would have more luck though. The frogs have him sleeping as sweetly as a hungry wolf." The ogre moved to the edge of the ship, dangling at the edge while the Drowned around him remained silent.

"My king intends to marshal his armies, as your keen hearing has no doubt told you. I come to clear the air of misgivings, lest miscommunication lead to danger for both our lands."

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"Unfortunately," said Lucius Licinius Lucullus, "I am not."

The Military Tribune looked stoically over the Amphibian Archmage before shaking his head and reconsidering whatever he had been preparing to say.

"Neither I nor Gaius Valerius Flaccus are empowered to conduct such matters of war and peace," he said evenly. "If you are truly an empowered magistrate for your people, and wish for this to be done, you must go to Rome and present your proposal to the Senate. The Senate meets usually within the Pomerium, across which you may not pass. You will need to settle outside the Pomerium and either depute a Senator to bring your proposal to the Senate, or convince the Senate to meet outside the Pomerium so that you may address them directly. I would not expect a rapid answer were I you."

"The Pro-Consul's brother, Lucius Valerius Flaccus, is serving this year as Urban Praetor. I will send word ahead to him that you are to arrive in Rome, and he will inform the necessary authorities. As you are a Magister, your domicile will need to be warded by the Abjurarii and the Vestal Priestesses before you are allowed to dwell there. I would recommend renting an appropriate villa near the Campus Martius."

Lucullus gestured to one of the soldiers that had accompanied him. "If you wish, I will furnish an escort of a half-century of men, though Rome's lands are safe and you should not require such a thing. You may also bring a retinue of your own soldiers if you wish. Rome has nothing to fear from anything you might bring."

It wasn't said as a challenge, yet it sounded vaguely like one. A typical Roman statement then.

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Cat wrote:
Ivar himself was drinking just beer and boasting. Boasting, of course, had to be answered by boasting and with so many young men they would have to boast about what they knew more than what they had done. Ivar extended his horn to be filled as plates with sliced beef and cuts of lamb appeared and servers with jugs of wine appeared at the elbow of every nomad.

This was one of the more pleasant ways to fight a war.


The feast went on for awhile before someone made a slip. Ivar had said something about meeting the chief of the local head tribe when one of the younger warriors let slip.

"Yah you could met the chief, but it wouldn't matter, word would still have to come from..." He didn't finish before his friends stopped him by throwing some of that excellent eastern wine on his face.

Charon wrote:
Agni smiled some, his brown, nearly red, eyes scanning the room around him as his escort continued to stand around him. He was a son of the Bloody Hall. Ragnvalder may be of an ancient lineage that could date back to the beginning, but that meant little to the men of Rus. "My king wants many things." There was a not so subtle emphasis on the word king. "But it has been a long journey, Jarl Ragnvalder. If I could have some fine First Hall mead it would help my parched throat."


"Guests get mead. Boys who sing for someone whose gotten above themselves aren't Guest. Say your Jarl's piece, then we'll decide what if anything you get." Ragnvalder said his eyes narrowing. The eating and drinking in the hall stopped and warriors started to twitch in their seats. This went beyond rudeness.

Charon wrote:
Sindri laughed, the raven feather's shaking in his hair. "You must be fishing for Jormungandr to require such a fleet! Your brothers in the East would have more luck though. The frogs have him sleeping as sweetly as a hungry wolf." The ogre moved to the edge of the ship, dangling at the edge while the Drowned around him remained silent.

"My king intends to marshal his armies, as your keen hearing has no doubt told you. I come to clear the air of misgivings, lest miscommunication lead to danger for both our lands."


The Grand Admiral ignored the reference and veiled threat regarding the east. The affairs of the other fleets weren't his concern.

"Is that so, Priest? Come aboard then and we'll talk, you, myself and the Captains." He said.

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"Huh," said Ivar and took a drink. "I was a chief's son, back in Irovar. Things are different than here, of course. Back in my father's day I carried his word and his honor with me since I was sixteen. If it came out of my mouth it was if it came out of his. I would answer to him if I disgraced myself, of course, but I was a man's age and carried a man's weapons and a man's authority. Anything less would be fitting only for women and slaves."

He took a drink of beer to let his words set in for a moment. "But different lands, different customs. I'm sure you're worthy sons of worthy fathers."

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frigidmagi wrote:
"Guests get mead. Boys who sing for someone whose gotten above themselves aren't Guest. Say your Jarl's piece, then we'll decide what if anything you get." Ragnvalder said his eyes narrowing. The eating and drinking in the hall stopped and warriors started to twitch in their seats. This went beyond rudeness.


The honor guard of Agni moved quietly into a more defensive ring around the diplomat as they warily eyed the other warriors. Agni himself was quiet, keeping his eyes on Ragnvalder and refusing to look away.

"The early spring weather must still be in my bones, Jarl Ragnvalder. Perhaps when I have spoken, if you would be so kind I could get a cup from one of your favorites." It was a not so subtle jab at Jórunnr's theft at Ragnvalder's expense.

"My King once again asks for your allegiance. In return you and yours shall receive all the benefits and protection of being a citizen of the Kingdom of Hrafnheim. Which I am certain would be of some small help against the Selkie raids you have no doubt been experiencing. You will be given a seat upon the Council of Lords. Any outstanding feuds shall be settled with wergild, and an exchange of tribute and ring-giving shall occur."

Quote:
The Grand Admiral ignored the reference and veiled threat regarding the east. The affairs of the other fleets weren't his concern.

"Is that so, Priest? Come aboard then and we'll talk, you, myself and the Captains." He said.


Sindri scratched at his bearded chin at this offer. "Very well, admiral. Myself and a few of our captains shall be over shortly." Some of the longships moved to allow several of the captain's over to the ship Sindri was on and then they awaited Frozen Hell to come near enough that they could board her.

The ogres seemed, for the most part, to be rather at ease as they climbed up onto the much larger ship. The Drowned looked around the ship with a detached professional approval of its construction. Sindri kept his eyes on the crew however.

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Cat wrote:
"Huh," said Ivar and took a drink. "I was a chief's son, back in Irovar. Things are different than here, of course. Back in my father's day I carried his word and his honor with me since I was sixteen. If it came out of my mouth it was if it came out of his. I would answer to him if I disgraced myself, of course, but I was a man's age and carried a man's weapons and a man's authority. Anything less would be fitting only for women and slaves."

He took a drink of beer to let his words set in for a moment. "But different lands, different customs. I'm sure you're worthy sons of worthy fathers."


"Strong words. Strong words for someone under the Witch King's Yoke. Not even a man from what I hear. Has you living like those damn Romans, doesn't he? What do you really know of being free anymore?" Growled another warrior down the table. He was older then the others and not as drunk, the reason for him doing scut work was easy to see. One eyed men don't often do well on the line.

Charon wrote:
The honor guard of Agni moved quietly into a more defensive ring around the diplomat as they warily eyed the other warriors. Agni himself was quiet, keeping his eyes on Ragnvalder and refusing to look away.

"The early spring weather must still be in my bones, Jarl Ragnvalder. Perhaps when I have spoken, if you would be so kind I could get a cup from one of your favorites." It was a not so subtle jab at Jórunnr's theft at Ragnvalder's expense.

"My King once again asks for your allegiance. In return you and yours shall receive all the benefits and protection of being a citizen of the Kingdom of Hrafnheim. Which I am certain would be of some small help against the Selkie raids you have no doubt been experiencing. You will be given a seat upon the Council of Lords. Any outstanding feuds shall be settled with wergild, and an exchange of tribute and ring-giving shall occur."


"So in exchange for becoming his thrall, he'll allow me to rule my own lands, if I pay him enough? Well... Isn't that... Sweet?" Ragnvalder snarled surging to his feet.

"Listen closely you silk shirted messenger boy! My line is as good as your Jarl's. He can keep his greasy paws off my rightful hold. My own have ruled here and always will and need no jumped up, stuffed Roman Lackey! I bow to no one."

Quote:
Sindri scratched at his bearded chin at this offer. "Very well, admiral. Myself and a few of our captains shall be over shortly." Some of the longships moved to allow several of the captain's over to the ship Sindri was on and then they awaited Frozen Hell to come near enough that they could board her.

The ogres seemed, for the most part, to be rather at ease as they climbed up onto the much larger ship. The Drowned looked around the ship with a detached professional approval of its construction. Sindri kept his eyes on the crew however.


The crew keep a respectful distance while eying the Ogres fearlessly. The Admiral had given them safe passage and they would have it. An grey haired crew men stepped forward.

"If your honors will follow me, I'll be guiding ye to the Cabin. Arrr" He said.

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"Hah!" said Ivar. He swirled his beer around in his drinking horn, spilling more than a little of it. "They say such things of great chiefs. If he is strong they say men are his slaves, if he liberates men they say he is weak. If he brings peace he is a coward, if he brings war he is a thief. If his reach is far he is a tyrant.

"But those are just words. A man who sits at the chief's table knows the difference between the truth and the words of the ignorant. Perhaps one day some of you will know this."

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Charon wrote:
The honor guard of Agni moved quietly into a more defensive ring around the diplomat as they warily eyed the other warriors. Agni himself was quiet, keeping his eyes on Ragnvalder and refusing to look away.

"The early spring weather must still be in my bones, Jarl Ragnvalder. Perhaps when I have spoken, if you would be so kind I could get a cup from one of your favorites." It was a not so subtle jab at Jórunnr's theft at Ragnvalder's expense.

"My King once again asks for your allegiance. In return you and yours shall receive all the benefits and protection of being a citizen of the Kingdom of Hrafnheim. Which I am certain would be of some small help against the Selkie raids you have no doubt been experiencing. You will be given a seat upon the Council of Lords. Any outstanding feuds shall be settled with wergild, and an exchange of tribute and ring-giving shall occur."


"So in exchange for becoming his thrall, he'll allow me to rule my own lands, if I pay him enough? Well... Isn't that... Sweet?" Ragnvalder snarled surging to his feet.

"Listen closely you silk shirted messenger boy! My line is as good as your Jarl's. He can keep his greasy paws off my rightful hold. My own have ruled here and always will and need no jumped up, stuffed Roman Lackey! I bow to no one."


Agni did not stagger back, or look shocked at Ragnvalder's outburst. "Is it, Jarl Ragnvalder? His line has united the ogres against the threats of this worlds as no other Hold has before. Were it not for my King," Agni turned to look at the men assembled around him. "You would all be bowing to damn Selkie. Working on the ships of those foreigners who would claim these islands for their own. We are not here to speak of Rome. For there is no need to speak of them." He turned back to Ragnvalder. "Only a fool does not think to learn from those who know more. But we are not so weak as the Serpent worshiping frogs, who have forgotten themselves to weakly parrot Rome. We are the sons of the Sky God and the Ocean God. We do not forget our roots. If Rome crosses the continent they shall learn that."

Agni snarled some. "As any would who stand against the Kingdom."

Quote:
Quote:
Sindri scratched at his bearded chin at this offer. "Very well, admiral. Myself and a few of our captains shall be over shortly." Some of the longships moved to allow several of the captain's over to the ship Sindri was on and then they awaited Frozen Hell to come near enough that they could board her.

The ogres seemed, for the most part, to be rather at ease as they climbed up onto the much larger ship. The Drowned looked around the ship with a detached professional approval of its construction. Sindri kept his eyes on the crew however.


The crew keep a respectful distance while eying the Ogres fearlessly. The Admiral had given them safe passage and they would have it. An grey haired crew men stepped forward.

"If your honors will follow me, I'll be guiding ye to the Cabin. Arrr" He said.


Sindri grinned at the man. "Of course, of course." The collected captains and the priest followed the man into the cabin. The Drowned looked entirely unimpressed by the fearlessness of the crew. Both sides considered themselves to be the masters of the sea. As far as The Drowned were concerned, if another lesson was needed, it would be given.

Sindri was dressed rather similarly to the pirate crew. Almost bare chested with rhino-leather leggings. The Drowned however, were not. The large ogres still wore thick chainmail and heavy helms on their heads.

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cat wrote:
"Hah!" said Ivar. He swirled his beer around in his drinking horn, spilling more than a little of it. "They say such things of great chiefs. If he is strong they say men are his slaves, if he liberates men they say he is weak. If he brings peace he is a coward, if he brings war he is a thief. If his reach is far he is a tyrant.

"But those are just words. A man who sits at the chief's table knows the difference between the truth and the words of the ignorant. Perhaps one day some of you will know this."


"A king is not a chief. A king is a master. A witch is not a chief, a witch is a master. You have both in one, which tells us all we need to know about that. Your actions do not match your words. You bring us here to get us drunk and hope to leech away information from us, much like a Roman would. If you would know something, remember the father you have boasted to us about and ask it plain. As men should." The old one eyed warrior took a drink from a bowl when he finished, his single eye never leaving Ivar.

Charon wrote:
Agni did not stagger back, or look shocked at Ragnvalder's outburst. "Is it, Jarl Ragnvalder? His line has united the ogres against the threats of this worlds as no other Hold has before. Were it not for my King," Agni turned to look at the men assembled around him. "You would all be bowing to damn Selkie. Working on the ships of those foreigners who would claim these islands for their own. We are not here to speak of Rome. For there is no need to speak of them." He turned back to Ragnvalder. "Only a fool does not think to learn from those who know more. But we are not so weak as the Serpent worshiping frogs, who have forgotten themselves to weakly parrot Rome. We are the sons of the Sky God and the Ocean God. We do not forget our roots. If Rome crosses the continent they shall learn that."

Agni snarled some. "As any would who stand against the Kingdom."


"Bah! It is the same excuse any tyrant makes when he chains free ogres. He has to because others would do it. We have always had threats from outside and we have always met them through the strength of free warriors, not vassals or slaves. I am a free warrior, and my ogres are free warriors. We do not need your Jarl's protection or his dominion. Go and tell your Jarl, that we are not slaves to any King. We are free and strong and he will learn that if he dares try to steal my land! Now get like the cur you are!" Ragnvalder roared.

Quote:
Sindri grinned at the man. "Of course, of course." The collected captains and the priest followed the man into the cabin. The Drowned looked entirely unimpressed by the fearlessness of the crew. Both sides considered themselves to be the masters of the sea. As far as The Drowned were concerned, if another lesson was needed, it would be given.

Sindri was dressed rather similarly to the pirate crew. Almost bare chested with rhino-leather leggings. The Drowned however, were not. The large ogres still wore thick chainmail and heavy helms on their heads.


The priest was guided to a large cabin with a massive round table taking up most of the space. There was a single ogre sized chair in the room, one clearly stolen from a Jarl's hall. Across it the Admiral lounged with a golden cup. The various captains, some still wet from a swim also sat in various poses of relaxation.

"Yar, there you be. Come Ambassador have a drink as my guest. Tell us what the mighty king of ogres has to say to the fleet of the north. " He said with a broad grin.

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Ivar threw back his head and laughed. "It serves me right," he said "that you should see through this old trick. It's from back in the old days, when every jarl was king as far as he could reach and it always paid to know what your neighbor was up to. A generous table was a common thing in those days. A poorer one than this one, of course, for we did not have the wealth we have now."

"But there were rules back that were understood by any many, drunk or sober. You have eaten my food and consumed my mead. You have come for gifts from my liege's forge and what have you done? You have sat at my table and you have called me a slave and my liege a tyrant!

"But you have asked that we should do things as my father did and I will." Ivar rose from where he sat and closed on the nomad. "As my father did in his day and my grandfather did in his and so on, back through the lineage of my family to the mists of the beginning."

He struck with the speed of a serpent. Iron hard hands closed on the nomad and Ivar lifted him up like a child and threw him across the table, over the heads of the men sitting on the other side.

"No one," he roared, "calls a jarl a slave at his own table!" He began to circle the table back towards the one eyed nomad. "No one insults his liege while drinking his mead! Get up old man. I will give you every thing you have asked for."

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The young jump up hollering and grabbing their knives. The old man had hit the ground with a roll and sprang to his feet as if he was made of rubber. His face split open in a wolves grin.

"Sit down! This is my own fight and no one else's!" He roared. He spread his arms and bent his knees and began moving right back at Ivar. He was an old man but not a weak one, and he moved like a panther surging forward.

The young men grumbled at this but let go of their knives.

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Ivar met older man's charge. "You have spirit," he said, "I'll give you that." The Iron Man was more than a head taller and fifty pounds heavier than the nomad. The one eyed man crashed to the ground.

"But I am a Man of Iron! I have broken armies! Not even a dragon can stand before me and live!" He lashed out with his boot, kicking again and again. The Nomad managed to roll to his feet only to be struck down by a merciless fist. "Who are you to drink my wine and break bread at my table and call me a slave?"

He seized the battered man and shook him like a cat with a mouse before tossing him outside the tent. "Perhaps you have forgotten who you are dealing with! In my grandfather's time we were strong but your kind still raided our farmsteads and slipped away. Even then you would not face us in open battle. Now you dare not even raid us for we have become even stronger under the reign of the Witch King!"

Ivar picked up the nomad and pinned his wrists behind his back. "But you wanted to do things in the old ways," he said as he dragged the man towards where the horses were kept. "In my grandfather's day we dealt out our share of death, on the field of battle and in the name of justice or vengeance. But for a man who called a jarl a slave at the jarl's own table?"

Ivar continue to drag the nomad. "You wanted the old ways you get the old ways. Die like a slave." He thrust the nomad into a watering trough and pinned him there with one hand.

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Magi wrote:
"Bah! It is the same excuse any tyrant makes when he chains free ogres. He has to because others would do it. We have always had threats from outside and we have always met them through the strength of free warriors, not vassals or slaves. I am a free warrior, and my ogres are free warriors. We do not need your Jarl's protection or his dominion. Go and tell your Jarl, that we are not slaves to any King. We are free and strong and he will learn that if he dares try to steal my land! Now get like the cur you are!" Ragnvalder roared.


"And who do your free ogres kill, Jarl? Other ogres? And for what? A flock of sheep and a strong ogress?" Agni spat on the floor. "That way serves only the Snake. If you wish to do that, I will not stop you from making your own ignoble grave." Agni turned, glaring at those who still stood with Ragnvalder, their complicity would make them just as guilty in his eyes and the eyes of the Sky God.

Quote:
The priest was guided to a large cabin with a massive round table taking up most of the space. There was a single ogre sized chair in the room, one clearly stolen from a Jarl's hall. Across it the Admiral lounged with a golden cup. The various captains, some still wet from a swim also sat in various poses of relaxation.

"Yar, there you be. Come Ambassador have a drink as my guest. Tell us what the mighty king of ogres has to say to the fleet of the north. " He said with a broad grin.


Sindri and the other captains took up various positions in the room, the Drowned seeming to relax slightly for the first time, though Sindri was still taking everything in stride. "Word has no doubt reached your ears that the Lord of Dragonstone is marshaling his armies to march. Though I doubt sea lords such as yourselves are overly concerned about where armies tread, my lord still wanted to assure you that our armies are not aimed at the fleet of the north."

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PostPosted: Tue May 03, 2011 5:24 pm 
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"Alkala-nu sarindiakesh! Satarania alepicas koromoronios Romanisak!"

The five thousand centaur warriors roared as one, rearing into the air and stomping their massive feet on the ground to kick up dust, brandishing great two-handed polearms and lances adorned with totemic feathers and, in a few cases, fractured skulls. Before their ranks rode a massive centaur, nineteen hands tall at the withers, his face half-obscured by a mask of bone and iron, a spear the length of a phalanx pike held above his head. Up and down before the line he rode, roaring in the common tongue of the centaur tribes of the steppes.

"Looks like he's managed to assemble them all," said one of the Tribunes.

Spurius Ligustinus Junior, Primus Pilius Centurion of the I Legion 'Primogenita' looked over to his commander to see what type of response this would get. Thankfully, it appeared that Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo had not even heard the report. The Pro-Praetorian Legate was seated on his horse, watching the passage of the Centaur chieftan back and forth, his eyes not flickering from the enemy army. Spurius breathed a silent sigh of relief. Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo was a hideous man in both look and temperament, roundly hated by the rankers, and tolerable only when battle arrived and his not inconsequential skill at command was allowed to suppress, for a time, his natural veneality and cruelty.

At length, a smirk appeared on Pompey Strabo's face. "Fifty centuries at least," he said. "Every tribe within a hundred miles must have responded to the call. A golden opportunity."

"You'd think they'd have learned by now," said Manius Acilius Clystemnius, the Praefectus Equestor. The son of a freedman Auxilia commander of the Westmarch whose own exploits within the legion had propelled him to a high rank by pure merit, Clystemnius' hate for Pompeius was no secret at all, not even an open one, and Sulla had convinced him to stay only as a personal favor. On the eve of battle however, all emnities were rapidly being forgotten, and Pompey Strabo even smiled a feral smile and nodded to his cavalry commander.

"Best that they all learn at once, Manius Acilius," he said. "See to the cavalry and await the signal."

Relieved perhaps to be removed from the presence of his commander, Manius Acilius rode off at once, towards the masses of Auxiliary and Roman cavalry formed up on the flanks of the six thousand-strong legion deployed in a rectangular carpet below them, rank upon rank of dun-colored soldiers in steel armor, swords in their scabbards, shields and pilia in hands, watched carefully by Centurions in cross-fletched helmets who strode up and down the lines whispering encouragement, every eye on the centaurs that lined the ridge beyond.

"Do you think they'll charge us?" asked a ruddy-faced young cadet at the commander's side with far more exuberence than good sense. Anyone else, and the Commander might have shouted the cadet down, or even cuffed him, but for his own son, Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo could be strikingly lenient. Not that the soldiers resented it. Indeed they positively seemed to adore the lad, laughed at his apalling conceit, called him "Magnus" or "Imperator" to flatter him, and laughed yet more at his inability (or perhaps simple unwillingness) to see the joke. How this was possible, Spurius could not even begin to fathom, but it was unquestionable. The rankers, the same ones who loathed the very ground that Gnaeus Pompeius Strabo walked upon, had taken to his fourteen-year old Contubernalis son, a boy somehow even more arrogant than his father, like ducks to water.

The legion made no sense sometimes.

"Father," said Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger, "may I join the Cavalry?"

If young Pompeius had asked if he could join the Extraordinarii and usurp the Consulship at the same time, his father could not have gainsaid him, everyone here knew. Spurius ignored the banter between father and son accordingly, and turned his attention back to the Centaurs moments before horns from the ridge signalled everyone to quiet.

"They come," said Spurius simply.

Pompey Strabo had many faults, but a lack of military sense was not one of them. "To positions," he said. And then the conference scattered.

The centaurs were an undisciplined lot, that much the most junior contubernalis could have determined. Their lines surged and withdrew as they hurled abuse at the ranks of Roman infantry and cavalry. Counting their infantry levies, the centaurs outnumbered the First legion by a small margin, but where the majority of the legion's strength was infantry, the centaurs forces were mostly cavalry, and heavy cavalry at that. The terrain was open, rolling hills, no bolt holes for the Legion to pin its flanks to. The Centaurs could not envision a possibility of defeat.

That, knew Spurius was the problem.

He reached the front ranks of the first Cohort just as the centaurs had finally finished rousing themselves to the necessary fever pitch. Warhorns and the cries of deep-throated chieftans formed an impenetrable cacaphony, over which it was possible to be heard only through close whispering. Up and down the ranks strode Spurius, whispering encouragement where necessary, his cohort deployed forward with its flanks anchored in echelon, the entire legion positioned in checkerboard formation. Swords in their scabbards, pilia in hand, the rankers stood their ground, pressed tightly together, and watched the centaurs forming up for the attack, looking like nothing more than a crowd of frightened human sheep, ready for the penning.

The centaurs charged.

Down the ridge they came in a great, thunderous wave, moving at an uneven canter, brandishing weapons capable of spitting two men on the same spear. A great demi-lune, a concave front of horse and humanflesh fused as one, their footfalls shaking the earth and drowning out their own warcries. Behind them ran a mass of lightly armed infantry, thralls pressed into war-work mostly, useless in a standup fight, but intended only to exploit the tremendous shock and collapse that the centaur horde would inflict, could not fail to inflict, not with five thousand head of centaur warriors charging as one towards a legion whose backbone infantry contingents were actually outnumbered by the centaurs alone.

From behind, borne on the wind, lofted over the roar of hooves and centaur cries, came a command:

"Artillery, FIRE!"

Vexilae dipped, and a perfect storm of fire exploded overhead.

No magical contrivance was this, but a storm of flaming shot, clay canisters of naptha and greek fire hurled by the onagers and catapultae positioned behind the army. Lobbed up and over the ranks of infantry, the canisters came to earth within the advancing wave of cavalry and exploded like the fireballs of an Amphibian warmage, sending centaurs rearing and crashing to the ground. Cruel bolts from the balistae, each three feet long and made of solid iron, over which burning pitch had been poured, sailed overhead like kestrals to impale centaurs through their armor, arresting them in mid-run as though they had struck a solid wall. Yet the artillery was nowhere near numerous enough to stop a charge this size, and the centaurs moved through it, roaring in defiance against all Roman perfidity.

Another cry, lofted above the din of the charge.

"Velites!"

The cavalry on the flanks had been massed with lances primed and horses readied to charge, as though the two thousand cavaliers that the Romans had brought to battle, human and centaur alike, thought themselves capable of handling three times their number in warlike centaurs. Yet at this command, the cavalry did not charge, but wheeled, moving off from the flanks at an angle, stowing lances and spears and drawing instead their terrible bows, the Arcus Alienigenus, a bow as old as the steppe itself. As one, the human and centaur cavaliers drew their bows, angled them upwards, and released two thousand arrows that spent barely six seconds in flight before plunging down upon the ranks of the centaurs like a storm of wasps.

Yet even as they did so, in the gaps left open on the flanks of the legion's formation, the ground itself seemed to move. From hastily dug burrows and sites of camouflage, a thousand small figures materialized as though conjured up by some spell. Dressed in tones of earth and grey, their faces smeared with oil and matted dirt, unarmored and unshielded, they stood nonetheless, not bothering to form ranks. Some were human, small humans, even by Roman standards, drawn from the southlands of Graminea or the forests of the Silviae Nubilus and Pluvialis. Yet the majority were smaller still, not humans but hobbites of the Suzatis and its surrounding territories, 'rat folk', as the Centaurs (and some Romans) often dismissed them, the little people whose nature was so unwarlike, and whose capacity to stand in a battle line was non-existent.

If the centaurs laughed as the Hobbit velites stood, the laugh did not last long. For before the centaurs could charge them directly, before they could do anything but stare and laugh, the Velites, hobbit and human alike, reached back with their weapon hands, took two paces forward in unison, and let fly a volley of slingstones.

And then the centaurs stopped laughing.

Bullets of lead, inscripted with latin phrases of sarcastic or scatalogical importance, pelted the centaur force in waves, even as a deluge of arrows poured down from above. The leading edge of the centaur force rippled like a field of grain struck by a stiff breeze, as centaurs fell at full run, bringing down their fellows behind as stumbling blocks. The stones had a range of four hundred yards and the power to stave in a skull at that distance, while the wicked arrows of the cavalry drove corkscrew wounds into their targets, bringing centaurs down by the score.

The centaurs too had archers, and with the range closing fast, they too were firing. A stream of arrows could be seen arcing up and towards the packed legionaires, as well as to the velites and cavalry. The latter two would see to themselves. The hobbits were too small to target effectively, and nimble enough to dodge around the arrows, provided they kept their heads. The cavalry had no such luck. Men and horses fell as arrows struck home, but a wave of the equestrian vexilators signalled the maneuver to counter. The cavalry divided, first by squadron, then by individual man and horse, a mass of cavalry becoming a loose cloud into which the area fire of the centaurs was all but wasted. Sections of centaurs peeled off the flanks to charge these elusive cavaliers, but the centaurs were armed and armored heavier than the Roman auxiliaries, and they effortlessly danced away from them. Spurius saw at least a dozen Centaurs roaring in anger as their quarries eluded them, only to be shot through the throat by the Roman cavalry-archers, who turned in the saddle to deliver a parthian shot.

But the legion itself could not outrun the centaurs, nor scatter to dilute the arrowfire already coming their way. For this problem, there was only one solution. Spurius signalled his vexilator to twist the cohort's standard, even as he took a deep breath and cried the command every man was already waiting for.

"FORM TESTUDO!"

The contiguous line vanished as the cohorts collapsed inwards, men inside raising their shields while those outside locked them together. In seconds, the legion had transformed into a series of shield-forts, walled off from their enemy in every direction. A sound like hail on a tiled rooftop told the tale. The arrows of the centaurs spent themselves uselessly against a solid wall of iron and wood. Some cries, where arrows had found weak spots in the shield wall, but mercifully few. Spurius' own cohort had only three casualties, two of which were in limbs. Meanwhile, the world outside was filled with the cries of falling centaurs as artillery, arrows, and slingstones slammed into them from every direction.

Yet this was no rabble of village militia, but a horde of warrior-centaurs, carried away by their own momentum, and the charge did not slacken but accelerated, the centaurs shifting to a full gallop, levelling lances and issuing a hideous, ululating cry as they raced at full speed towards their footborne quarry. Through cracks in the shieldwall, Spurius paced them as they approached to three hundred yards, two hundred, one hundred.

"Steady," he said, feeling the currents in the mass of men around him. "Steady..."

They held steady, even as the centaurs closed to fifty yards, then forty, and then -

All of a sudden there was a tremendous crash, as though the earth had torn open and hurled down mountains, and the men, who could not help themselves, opened their shield wall in time to watch the leading wave of the centaurs tumble to the ground as the last, terrible strategem was revealed.

Rabbit holes.

Thousands of holes, each a foot in diameter and a foot deep, each covered with a thin cloth and a sprinkling of earth for camouflage. The holes had been dug, laboriously, all night, mostly by the velites, the ranker legionaries pitching in where possible and assisted by the Magisters of the Confrero Pythagori, who broke rocks and loosened earth to be moved, basketful by basketful, all in the preparation of this final trap.

Centaurs stepped in the holes at full gallop and broke their legs or ankles instantly, collapsing to the ground as though shot by a crossbow, their terrible cries of pain sending a keening wail through the air. The entire front rank of the centaur assault force collapsed, tumbling at full speed to be trampled by those behind. In falling, they impeded their fellows, who tripped and fell in turn. The more nimble ones sprang high and leapt over the gathering mass, only to fall foul of more holes, planted all across the front of the legion in a belt thirty yards thick. Little else could possibly have impeded the momentum of that great charge, not arrows, not artillery, not slingstones, and not even a shieldwall. Yet this simple artifice of digging and groundwork did what all could not. The charging wave became a roiling, chaotic mass of centaurs, into which arrows and slingstones flew with some regularity. And by the time the centaurs had extracated themselves from this mess, their momentum was gone.

And by then it was too late.

"Pilia by ranks!"

The testudos were gone now, the troops back in their lines. Arrows still landed among them, but their helmets and banded mail protected the majority, and those that it did not protect wore shirts of tight linen or silk beneath their armor. These would not stop an arrow, but neither would they tear, being insteadcarried into the wound intact along with the arrowhead. The arrowhead, and whatever disease or toxin it might contain, would not actually touch the lacerated flesh, and could be drawn out by simply pulling on the sides of the cloth, with no need to rend and tear a wound still further. In any event, the hail would not last long, for the troops had only to lower their shields, step forward, and throw their javalins.

And throw them they did, and this last iron hail seemed to complete the disorganization of the centaurs, who cried as iron hafts plunged into them. Even those whose shields protected them found themselves encumbered by the heavy projectiles, the impact having bent them out of all proportion so that they could not be thrown back in the faces of the Romans. Two volleys of javalins slammed into the ranks of struggling, chaotic centaurs. And then, with a brilliant ringing sound that could not fail to warm the hearts of any true Roman, Spurius drew his sword, and heard an orchestra of similar rings from all around him, as four thousand legionaries did the same. He raised his silvered gladius high in the shimmering air, and belted out two words, shouted loud and clear and echoed by thousands of voices all around him.

"FOR ROME!"

And they charged.

Perhaps to call it a charge was disingenuous, for the centurions were no fools and did not permit the men to advance at a run over ground studded with holes that could break a man's ankle as easily as a centaur's. It was a march, a march of lock step, pace after thunderous pace, each step punctuated by the clash of four thousand swords against the metal rims of four thousand shields. The leading cohorts of the checkerboard marched without closing gaps, two thousand men in five wedges marching with a hundred yards of space between them. Some of the centaurs, freeing themselves from the struggling mass, charged into these open lanes, hoping to catch the cohorts in the flanks, only to find that these too were traps, for the second echelon of staggered cohorts was still in block formation and the freewheeling centaurs were now surrounded on three sides. The flanks of the cohorts simply turned to present a wall, and took such blows as the centaurs delivered on their shields, and stabbed with their swords, as they had been trained. And then the wedges at the head of the cohorts plunged into the seething mass of centaurs, and there was full battle.

Even here though, the Romans sought to impose order. Soldiers tired, and turned sideways, allowing the man behind them to step forward as they slid backwards through the ranks into the center of the cohort to rest. The second echelon soon had pushed up to the level of the first, forming a contiguous wall once more. The roman Gladius was not particularly well suited for a fight with cavalry, let alone centaurs, but it sufficed in a pinch, and for every centaur of front, the smaller Roman infantry could deploy two or three men. As centaurs fell, their fellows were hemmed in further and further, unable to swing their broad weapons or dodge blows directed at them from every quarter, as panic filled those yet unwounded, perceiving as they did that these human infantry did not panic, and did not falter, and did not yield, but stood their ground in the presence of their fellows and cut down their foes like so much grain.

The centaur army was vast, and its flanks outstripped the Roman line, pouring round it to get at the flanks or charge the Velites. But Strabo had thought of that too, and the Velites fell back upon the Triarii, posted not behind the legions as was customary, but at their flanks in a broad line. Maddened by their casualties and fear, the centaurs charged the Triarii spearhedge, formed in makeshift phalanxes cobbled together by their training centurions. Here the fighting was bitter. The Triarii were auxiliaries from all across the Empire, and their morale and training was not the equal of the incomparable legionaries. Cohorts buckled under the strain, spears shattered, men died with lances in their throats or battle axes cleaving their skulls. Yet on the whole the Triarii held, or at least held long enough for the centaurs to be fixed in position, at which point they became nothing more than large targets for men armed with cavalry spears.

Amidst the thick of the fighting, Spurius saw nothing of the Triarii, for his world was filled with the cries of men and centaurs, the clash of weapons on shields and armor, the howls of the wounded and the shouts of beings victorious or being overcome. He thrust upwards with his sword, finding a mark on a huge centaur that towered overhead with a helmet made of bone and antler. The centaur roared and bucked, but three more men scored against it, and he fell with a crash. In the space thus opened, Spurius saw another centaur, this one bedecked in a cloak of human skin woven with the pelts of antelope and horses, brandishing a sceptre of wood and bone and crying words in a tongue both alien and ugly. A handful of soldiers were clambering over the fallen dead to reach the enemy, but before they could close, the centaur turned and raised his sceptre before them. The human skull mounted atop it suddenly burst into flame, and lightning darted from the eye sockets. Reflexively, the soldiers raised their shields to protect themselves, but it was of no use, for the shields were rimmed in iron, and offered no protection. Three of the Romans died on the spot, one literally blown to steam, and two more fell to the ground writhing and convulsing.

The centaur shaman turned now towards Spurius himself, and what he would have done had nothing intervened, Spurius himself was never able to determine, perhaps nothing at all, for he was too far away from the shaman to stop him from firing another shot. As it was, Spurius turned to cry for a signal, even if it meant his own death, an alert to those who were watching for just this event, who had to be somewhere, for no legion ever fought without them...

All of a sudden, there was a horse beside him.

Not a centaur, a horse, and the difference was apparent enough to stay his hand. Spurius looked up and nearly cheered, as several of his men did, for upon the horse rode a Roman Magister Militus, and not merely a Magister but an Abjurarius, his iron helmet and chalcedony ring mounted with rock salt in the place of a gem making him obvious to any Roman. In one hand he held his horse's reins, and in the other, a rod of cold iron, carved with latin inscriptions of prohibition and banishment. How he had suddenly come to be here, Spurius did not even stop to wonder at. Only later would he realize that his men must have opened a path for him from behind, letting him approach the shaman in expectation of wonders.

The shaman raised his sceptre, and lightning flashed once again, but the lightning twisted in mid-air, and instead of striking Spurius dead, flew into the rod in the Abjurarius' hand instead, where it crackled and flashed through his fingers and then lay still. Roaring in anger, the Shaman turned on the mounted Magister, crying invocations to his gods in a gutteral language, but the Magister was speaking too. Dropping the reins, he reached to his side and withdrew a handful of sea salt, which he cast in a cloud towards the shaman, shouting as he did an oath in latin so archaic that only one word was intelligable to Spurius.

"VETO!"

The effect was not flashy, but to the eyes of a ranker of the legions, no less beloved for it. The flames that ringed the evil sceptre vanished instantly, as though it had been doused in cold water, and no amount of screaming or supplication on the part of the centaur could coax it back to life. In vain he shook his sceptre, screaming spells and magical incantations, but over his voice rose that of the Abjurarian Magister, repeating over and over the fatal word "Veto," his iron rod pointed like a spear towards the offending Shaman. At long last the Shaman threw the sceptre down as if in disgust, and drew a scimitar instead, howling as he rode towards the Magister. But this availed him even less. The Magister by now was surrounded by the surging legionaries, their shields raised to ward off whatever blow might be directed at one of their beloved Magesteri Militae. In the end, no blows fell, for in the ensuing chaos, Spurius had found a pilium not yet expended, and lifting it to shoulder height, he hurled it into the Shaman's chest, transfixing him through the sternum and sending him crashing to the ground to be finished off by a dozen Gladii.

Those centaurs who had escaped the slaughter were fleeing now, only to collide squarely with their own infantry. The bolder ones slashed left and right to cut their way free, but it was far too late. The Roman cavalry, having expended their arrows, had already circled round behind the enemy army and were even now charging into them from three directions with lances and swords. Spurius glimpsed Gnaeus Pompeius the Younger, riding like a ranker at the head of one of the cavalry wings, throwing down a chieftan of the centaurs with his lance and crying encouragement to the rest of the cavalry. On the other side rode a formation of Roman auxiliary centaur-cavaliers, their bodies human and equine clearly marked with painted eagles to prevent any mistaken attacks from the other Romans. The Roman centaurs sang as they gallopped in and out of battle, crying out the victory paean in their own language as they rode down their counterparts with commendable verve. Hatreds between centaur tribes ran as deep as the river Styx, and these very centaurs had been suffering the raids of the unincorporated tribes north of the boundaries of Roman Caelia. Still more cavalry was massing on the ridge the enemy had formerly occupied, watching for breakout attempts and preparing to ride down stragglers. Some of the centaurs would escape, there was no preventing that with the infernal horse-men, but Pompey Strabo, and by extension Rome, was tired of this on-again, raid-again war. Regardless of escapees and the occasional bold body that might cut their way free, the flower of the Centaur tribes would die here.

As the lines of Roman infantry marched on, implacably wading through the mess and chaos of the battle line, Spurius Ligustinus Junior let them pass, sliding off his steel helmet and holding it under one arm. Already the battle had passed that nebulous boundary, ineffable and indescribable but perceptable to any veteran soldier, when a pitched battle turned into an elaborate cleanup. Resistance there still was, some of it desperate and brutal, but the legions were marching with easy, careful paces now, their flanks anchored on the Triarii and the cavalry, and Spurius saw the hobbits of the legion's Velites picking their way through the body-littered field in which he now stood, finishing any enemy wounded, while gently bearing away wounded Romans for the care of the legion's surgeons and Vigoratae. Spurius turned his back on the battle to look up at the hill on which Gnaeus Pompeius still sat, watching the battle below from horseback, surrounded by pages, tribunes, and the artificitors of the legionary artillery. The great man's expression was calm, calm as it never was in peacetime. Not arrogant (a first perhaps), nor cruel (definitely a first), merely satisfied. The look of satisfaction that crossed a man's face when he had seen his enemy routed beyond repair by an army that was an instrument of his own will. A look that Spurius had seen many times before. A look that he would see tonight written across the faces of every man, hobbit, or centaur that formed a part of this, the First Legion of Rome.

A look of victory.

"Ave Victrix," whispered Spurius Ligustinus Junior, and replacing the centurion's helmet back on his head, he hefted his shield and sword, turned his back on his commanding officer, and walked back into battle.

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Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair...

Havoc: "So basically if you side against him, he summons Cthulu."
Hotfoot: "Yes, which is reasonable."


Last edited by General Havoc on Tue May 03, 2011 5:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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