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Thread: Tales from a Past Life (Updated 23 Nov 2013)

  1. #1

    Default Tales from a Past Life (Updated 23 Nov 2013)

    More than 11 years ago, I used to be big into creative writing, and was considered fairly good by those who got to know me. For 4-5 years, I wrote quite regularly, it got to where I could write without so much as thinking of the details and produce works which were quite readable. Iinterest began to tail off, then the coup-de-gras came when I went off to school about 6 years ago, but when I graduated almost 3 years ago, that writing spirit never latched hold of me again, as I thought it would have. Luckily, I have saved a few of my past works, and now is as good a time as any to share, so here we go.

    Transfer to Illyricum

    I looked out over the bow of the bireme as the ship was sailing into the Adriatic, with the sun shining brilliantly overhead and sea void of any clouds; one had an unobstructed view of the Italian coast to the west, half a day up the coast from Tarentum, and to the east, a view of the Epiorite coast, less than two hours south of Dyrrachium, which was where I was being transferred from Hadrumetum. The ship may have been a good distance from the city itself, but I clearly noticed small pillars of light smoke rising from the shoreline where Dyrrachium was situated. It appeared that the town had received a bit of a bloody nose from some raiders looking for pleasure and plunder, and it looked as though my century would need to help wipe it clean.

    Turning to face the ship’s company that was on deck, I bellowed, “Romans…I want every Principes assembled and at battle-readiness in the next quarter-hour! Move, move, move!” Men rushed about to their quarters, hurriedly to get into their lorica hamata and galea and all assortment of equipment they would need to face a potentially hostile environment. In the midst of this organized chaos, I looked out serenely into the calm seas with the sunlight shimmering and sparkling off the water, my transversely-crested galea tucked under my right arm, I took in the few moments of peace and tranquility before we descended into the storm. Casually, I took the galea from under my arm and fitted it snuggly onto my head, tying the leather strap beneath each cheek piece together, so as not to let any ambitious pirate cur think he had Fortuna on his side by getting the opportunity to stave in my head. I had had enough of that nonsense when I was in Africa Proconsularis, when a Numidian came close to succeeding in that task in one of their many raids into Roman territory; however, I quickly dispatched him of any future mischief after getting inside his spear thrust and plunging my gladius through his face, deep enough to penetrate the back of his head.

    It was about this time through my recollection that the men were prepared and assembled, with every piece of exposed metal gleaming in the bright rays of sunlight that shone down on them, illuminating every surface which was not cast in shadow.

    Divided into two groups, standing on the port and starboard sides of the ship, I addressed them clearly and with intent whilst standing in between them, the black-red-white transverse crest of my helmet signaling attention from the plumes on theirs. “Romans…it appears that our friends in Dyrrachium are so pressed and in need of aid, they have kindly asked us, her brothers, to sail from the warmth of Africa, to help rid them of brigands and pirates in this cold, generally unattractive region of our realm,” I spoke seriously, with a hint of sarcasm. “With that much aside, they have asked for our aid and we will give assistance in whatever capacity is necessary to ensure the safety of Dyrrachium and its citizens. The legion acting as the garrison is much depleted from recent attacks from what I have read and we have been called on to help relieve some of the pressure. Let us fulfill our duty to the Republic and all will be well. Is that understood?”

    Like a ballistae ratcheted into place, the sounding of scutum snapped together, as only Romans could do, resounded across the ship’s small deck before each man spoke as one, “Yes sir!”

    As the ship approached the shore, an eerie mist had gathered along the water’s surface without the movement of a single ship to disturb, besides that of our own. I had the men remain on deck throughout, prepared and at battle readiness, in case whatever had attacked Dyrrachium came out of the mists to catch my century unawares. Through the fine mist, the captain carefully piloted the boat to the ports, skillfully avoiding the obstacles he perceived that could have been drifting in the calm waters. From the ship, one could clearly hear the laments of the wounded and dying, silently contemplating to myself, “Cursed Fortuna, she sends me here to protect this place, then turns on her heels to laugh before I arrive.” Moments after finishing my thoughts, the captain had found an open dock much to his surprise, I say much to his surprise because seemed it was more a case that the dock found him, by accident nonetheless.

    I am the first to disembark, quickly bringing my scutum to protect my left while effortlessly withdrawing my gladius from its scabbard as I sensed the unseen danger that could lurk just beyond the docks. Two at a time…four…three…five disembarked the bireme behind me until the entire century of Principes, five men across and sixteen ranks deep, were arranged to protect my left with their scutum up and gladii drawn. Without a sound, I subtlety used my gladius to signal the formation to advance, it pressed onward calmly but vigilantly from the docks. We progressed just past the wharves and docking facilities when we encountered the first person who did not sound as if Death were gripping them by the throat. I signaled the century to halt as approached the man, sheathing my gladius but keeping my hand drawn on its hilt, I asked inquiringly, “Citizen…what’s going on here? What has happened?” He looked around confusedly, seemingly in a trance of fear, he babbled in Greek, “Pirates…foul brigands, attacked the city wishing to loot and pillage. Madmen they were, madmen!” before running back to the docks, waiting for a ship of rescue that would not come. “Brigands and pirates, as I had anticipated,” again saying to myself, recalling the pillars of smoke I had seen from the ship less than two hours before. As the century progressed deeper into the city, I tended to notice how there was little panic in the streets, how more people were beginning the process of cleaning the streets of burnt wood and stones and fewer removing the bodies of the dead and dying.

    When the situation became clear and time of crisis had passed over the city, I had the century sheath their gladii, not wanting the citizens of the city to feel like they were in any danger. It was fortunate for our sake that from our vantage point and with the help of some small shops in that particular district of the city, I could make out the wooden towers of the fort, which were unmistakably Roman in design and architecture. It would be merely a matter of minutes before I could have my century safely within the confines of the walls and where I could be briefed by the commander of what had recently happened within the city.

    Once all that was done, I knew could quietly rest on a cot that rested securely on the floor, instead of the rolling quarters on a ship. For now, however, that could wait.

    To be continued…

    Original work can be found HERE

  2. #2

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Trouble on the Night Patrol

    The sky was heavily laden with clouds, dropping rain from the heavens as my century and I were sitting down to the evening mess, making crude conversation as is the tendency of soldiers who have nothing better to do than find something to occupy their thoughts from hours of inactivity and boredom. Some of the men were retelling stories they had recounted hundreds of times from the many places they had served and overly-exaggerating important events to make them sound more epic, others retold stories of the men they had killed in battle, others about the most attractive whore they had ever been with and these stories could be stretched out more than the day is long.

    They were mainly citizens from Italia, Corsica et Sardinia, and Sicilia, but there were also a handful of Carthaginians who had adopted Roman culture and recruited into the army. However, take away their homes, their languages or whichever land they may have once called home, they were my brothers and I was never afraid to treat them as such for they were my home. Leading them whenever and wherever, I would never tire of their stories or how they longed to again behold the rolling terrain of Italia, children grown and the taste of a lover’s lips, for my stories became theirs and theirs became my own. Whatever my thoughts were towards their feelings, they knew that duty and loyalty came before friendship, no matter how longstanding it may have been and that in my rank; I must put them aside to maintain order and discipline with the vitis, at the crack of a whip if the need called for it.

    In the midst of thinking this, it became evident to me that this could be put aside momentarily as we passed the time, watching as many patrols enter and exit as there were fingers on my hands, trudging through the darkened cobblestone streets and alleyways, before it was my century’s turn to send out two contubernales on night patrol through the dimly lit avenues of Dyrrachium.

    From then, the time passed by like an afternoon of continuous drill where time felt infinite, but the day was in fact melting away seamlessly into night, when men could rest their bruised, weary bodies and get some shuteye. Before too long, however, the time had melted away to when I needed to get the contubernales prepared and assembled near the large front gate as units were returning from previous patrols.

    Strapping on my galea, lightning blanketed the city in light for split-seconds before dissipating amidst the reverberation of boisterous thunder resounding across the heavens as the rain came down incessantly around the Principes assembled near the gates. The hinges of the gate creaked as its doors strained to open, finally opening enough to allow a patrol of Triarii to pass beneath its lintel beams, with the occasion sneer from a few veterans that glanced towards my men, instinctively skeptical of men they saw as green and unproven. The Principes shrugged off those gestures with the knowledge that they were proven legionaries in the numbing heat and boundless deserts of North Africa, who came to adopt in the few days since the century arrived the name of praise of those who resented our presence, “the sand diggers” as they had become known without much fondness.

    It wasn’t much longer until myself, an Optio and the two contubernales trod out from the fort, from which whose gates creaked shut as the patrol set out into the darkened night as the rain poured down on our bronze galea, droplets rolling down its sides through our hamata and onto our already soaked tunics as we moved out. The further we progressed, the more I felt cramped and lost across the erratic street patterns that the city was laid out in, running off in obtuse angles toward completely different districts of the city that were nowhere near your intended destination. No matter how philosophic or mathematically inclined the Greeks are, it quickly dawned on me that they were not the most efficient of city builders, if they organized their cities in such a jagged fashion, then it is no small feat how we Romans had pushed Pyrrhus out of Calabria and the Greeks lastingly from Italian soil. It wasn’t the type of organized city that Romans were used to, with straight, fairly wide streets that were laid out methodically, making navigation simpler and less of a headache. Besides the one growing in my head, the patrol was moving along, at pace, astoundingly enough without much difficulty since it was our first.

    With time, the further the patrol penetrated into the city, the easier it felt despite the rain coming down at a steady, consistent rate that only impeded our progress minutely. Lightning randomly blanketed the city in light and thunder predictably followed shortly thereafter the longer the patrol went along, causing some of the Principes to yawn shallowly because of the relative stillness throughout the city.

    The patrol rounded a soft corner onto a dimly lit street, a yellowish-orange glow reflecting in the small puddles that had formed in between the cobbles; the rain endlessly clinked off of galea...

    As if by reflex, I brought up my right hand in a fist, signaling the contubernales to halt, the Optio quickly followed suit, as I walked out ahead with shield at the ready to observe an oddity in one of the buildings a little ways up the street. Against the color of buildings, my red-white-black transverse crest stood out, even with the drenching rain coming down around us. The building I observed had something distinctly wrong in its appearance, for the front windows had signs of forced entry and the door looks as if it had been knocked from its hinges, rather violently it appeared. It was odd that I found this home to have been ravaged without any sign of scorch marks from fire or broken plaster and loose bricks from heavy fighting, clearly unmistakable on the businesses and homes in the districts of Dyrrachium that had been looted from the numerous pirate raids of the past. No, this home hadn’t those synonymous characteristics. Whoever was burglarizing this particular residence, they were still inside, indulging their fancy with whatever loot they thought they could find.

    I walked back calmly to the Optio, silently indicating to him through hand gestures to take a contubernium, stealthily and in silence, through the alleyway a few buildings down to block off any escape the criminals may try to make through any adjoining streets or alleyways, while I took a contubernium and entered the front.

    A bolt of lightning shot down through the heavens from Jupiter himself, illuminating the sky, giving everyone a sense of divine approval with the act that was about to be performed as we moved down the street, four ranks wide by two ranks deep on our approach towards the residence.

    Rainwater flowed down the plastered walls like small rivers upon entering the broken down door, sparsely being able to find the way around small household items and furniture scattered across the floor because of the relative darkness of the house. Through the occasional flashes of light seeping in from the street, the Principes and I managed to find our way past the small living area, hearing what sounded like speech coming from what ought to be the kitchen. I proceeded slowly, treading carefully with each step so as not to alert anyone to our presence, and as we grew closer, a faint amount of light could be seen flickering on the walls and along the floor.

    My first glimpse into the kitchen saw a woman frantically trying to fend off a dagger-wielding thug with a broom handle, who I presumed was the leader since he was the only one speaking while his fellow thugs were holding at dagger-point what looked to be her children and a female slave, laughing at them fiendishly as the three were cowering on the floor with fear stricken faces. In this short period, neither the leader nor his companions were aware that they were being watched.

    “Occumbo vestri ornamentum, aut audio vel vis ero adsuesco assuesco lenio vos ex lemma. Is est vestri sententia…” I spoke out with a calm, rigid voice with a hint of malicious intent. Each thug spun around, considerably startled by the sound of someone speaking authoritatively in Latin and held their daggers in a manner of preparedness. The leader, who wasn’t intimidated by the shadowy figure just within the doorway, could distinguish the crest on my galea and recognized it was that of a centurion by a burst of lightning outside that briefly bathed the room in light before vanishing. He then smiled, thinking he would soon make an example of me. By this time, the Optio had led his contubernium around the back and entered the home through a small storage room in the rear, effectively isolating the thugs to the confines of the kitchen. Upon seeing the circumstances, he immediately got into a defensive stance and spoke intuitively, “Quis es vestri ordo centurio Aemilius?” Like a statue, I stood firmly in a defensive posture, “Habitum vestri positus,” I spoke ensuringly, letting my Optio feel confident in knowing I had control of the situation. Looking out from behind my oval scutum, I had a difficult time trying to make out the face on the woman wielding the broom handle, for I could make out her slave and children since they were closer to the nearest lamp, but the light faded as it came to her. Squinting my eyes and looking closer, doing my best to put her face into focus...I thought, ”No, it can’t be her!” This was the same woman who had exchanged presumptuous glances with me not three days ago, what in hell had she gotten herself into to merit this?

    The leader scoffed, shouting an irreverent insult at me, “αρκετός από αυτό, αμαθήs γουρούνι, ώρα για σένα πεθαίνω!” before raising his arm and charging me with his dagger.

    Right then, a trance-like state came over me, like happens to many men adept to the ways of combat, when time progresses slowly and movement is more fluid, sword strikes more precise. My heartbeat and breathing were steady as he haphazardly rushed toward me, arm raised as if were holding a large sword or axe…the dumb bastard had forgotten he was holding a mere dagger. His subordinates looked on intently as their leader looked to be heroic in his attempt to strike me down. I stepped forward from the dim doorway, still keeping my face partially obscure, to meet him in the center but instead of giving him the opportunity to strike, I had a surprise in store for him. When it appeared I would do nothing, I flipped my scutum, on impulse, from the perpendicular to the horizontal, jabbing into his unprotected stomach as well as knocking the wind from his lungs. The fool had been too careless to observe the fact that I was wearing a galea, lorica hamata, grieves and wielding a gladius, with the added protection of a shield. Swiftly bringing my scutum back down to the perpendicular, I recognized a momentary weakness in his all of his offensive postures and promptly exploited them as he gasped for air. I brought my gladius in a clear-cut, downward arcing motion, severing his hand forthwith from the remainder of his arm. The leader’s newly freed hand hung there for a short time, blood gushing out from his wrist as he instinctively reached over to stop the bleeding while still slightly bent over from the jab to the stomach that had him wheezing for air. Trying to gather himself from what has transpired, he wanted to look around to see where his hand could have landed, but barely having gotten the chance to react, his chin was compellingly introduced to the taut leather and layered plywood that comprise the Roman scutum. Violent was the impact of shield to face, his body flew back and slammed onto the frescoes laid into the floor. He lay there, unconscious, as his subordinates looked at me in dread.

    Time caught up with reality as things began moving normally once again. When all was said and done, the encounter took barely more than five to ten seconds, though in my position, it had felt endless. I stood upright and faced the remaining thugs with my gladius pointed in their direction, who were just about shivering with fear at how readily I had dispatched their leader, they stood there clueless about what to do next: drop their weapons in futility or defecate on themselves.

    Speaking strongly and with an attitude of assertiveness, I told them, “Ego revolvo, aut occumbo vestri ornamentum vel visio eventus. Quod fides mihi, is vicis, Ego mos non tribuo vos ullus bene,” as a smirk appeared on my face. Without a second’s hesitation, they promptly threw down their weapons, only moments before the Principes moved in to bind them in chains.

    It wasn’t until everyone had cleared of the room and I was the only Roman that yet remained, I found the woman still welding her broom handle and her children and slave still in place on the floor amidst the flickering of the oil lamp. Realizing I was still holding my gladius, I put it in its sheath to let them know I did not mean them any harm.

    Extending my hand out to them, I spoke to them as amicably as I could, “Is est tutus iam, haud diutius est illic quisquam hic ut vulnero vos. Ego sum vestri amicus…”

    To be continued…

    “Drop your weapons, either listen or force will be used to relieve you from them. It is your decision…”

    “What are your orders, centurion Aemilius?”

    “Hold your position.”

    “Enough of this, ignorant pig, time for you to die!”

    “I repeat, either drop your weapons or face the consequences. And trust me, this time, I will not give you any options.”

    “It is safe now, no longer is there anyone here to harm you. I am your friend...”

  3. #3

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    This storyline is separate from the previous two, which came from the perspective of a Roman named Meridias Aemilius. This involves a different character, who goes by the name of Aniketos Metellus. who was a semi-romanized Greek from southern Italy.

    Origins of Mistrust

    I stood there, awash in the horrors and remains of the massacred villagers who had rebelled in the province of Venetia. Plunging my falcata into the throat of a rebel, feeling the spray of hot blood as it gushed outward, the muscles and tendons in my arm straining as I had delivered a clean, powerful thrust. A muddle of blood, soot, and sweat congealed on my skin and armor, giving me the appearance of blood frenzy; the look of one who is so akin to battle, the witness of unbeknownst sights and the lust of terrified screams of the helpless, would leave those without experience in battle with the impression that I craved it with an unrivalled passion.

    I rather envied these poor souls, people whose only desire was to remain autonomous and liberated from Rome’s grasp, because with every one of them I slew, I envision each as a Roman and with each that fell, I grew closer to regaining the world I lost so many years ago. For these villagers, they were not my enemy, but rather compatriots and in the sense, they and myself shared the same noble goal: To see Rome, in all her glory, majesty and might, brought low by the same people she once oppressed. With this massacre, their dreams had vanished but it is the dream that I secretly shared with them, one that I would forever carry with me and one the Romans could never tear down. These people had sought to establish their own city-state, free of the repression the Romans brought down upon them, sovereign in every sense. Rome, on the other hand, would have none of it and without delay dispatched three cohorts to hinder any further uprisings inspired by the one we were being sent to destroy. Along with the Romans, traveled a band of some 300 Samnite mercenaries to supplement the legionaries and act as a reserve should the necessities of battle call for it. But I, unlike the others, was not of Samnite birth, instead I was born of Greek stock in the city of Tarantas, and the circumstances for which I was there are a matter that will be left for another time.

    Again, I have found myself in the village of the rebellious villagers, only some 2,000 strong, in the midst of the slaughter. They had held delusions of hope that they would by some means overcome Rome’s might, though their dreams were dashed the moment legionaries entered the town. Roman pila showered onto ranks of villagers protected only by leather, taken down by the dozen before those fortunate to survive had to face sword and spear, along with flame to raze their village to the ground. A job that three cohorts were sent to do, was being accomplished by one and a group of mercenaries. Daedalus Caius Aurelius, legatus of the legion and commander of the expedition, had on a handful of times singled me out for my prowess with the spear and sword, envying my devotion to Rome in battle by serving well, he gave me authority over the Samnite mercenaries months before this “battle” was yet to come to fruition.

    Bodies lay strewn across the scorched earthen streets as legionaries and Samnites alike brought low every soul that remained alive. Flames that towered meters into the sky bathed my blood and soot encrusted skin in a wash of horridly beautiful light, while the ominous black smoke of the buildings rose like pillars in such quantities to block the sky and blot out the luminosity of the sun itself.

    While there were those who considered the slaughter of these unfortunate rebels as business, I saw it more as training, the ability to observe the tactics of my enemy and gather valuable knowledge that I would later use if I were to oppose him. With my abilities in battle, I had garnered the attention of Rome and been hailed for my loyalty to the Republic, given particular attention because she saw me as an asset she wished to keep. She, as well as I, knew of my past and knew how to keep me obedient; those who were family or lovers would be watched from a distance but kept within arm’s reach and only the threat of harm to them stayed my tongue from refusal.

    For now, I would be Rome’s loyal pet, for I had no other alternative. I would serve and slaughter in her name and that of the Republic, to further the might and majesty of Rome. This façade, this veil of deception and blackmail would only be kept aloft until one opponent was outmaneuvered and the other held every advantage. Each would present their false allegiance to the other until they were no longer of use.

    However, they would need the benefit of cooperation. At least… for now.

    To be continued…

  4. #4

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Origins of Mistrust: Part II

    The years seemed to flash before my eyes after the sacking of the village, the years following the crucifixion of my father. I sat on a charred stone with the sound of crackling embers of buildings of the once bustling village around me, as I remembered how I could have come to serve with the nation that destroyed the life as I had known it.

    With my father’s death, there was no way my mother could have supported my sister and I on her own, without an education or experience in a vocation. She struggled to raise us in the subsequent months, resorting to prostitution and working in a brothel for days out of the week just so she didn’t have to see her children go without food. It was what sapped the happiness from her that had been as familiar to me as the sun in the sky or the sound of the sea; my mother was always so full of vivacity and love, but now, life seemed as unforgiving as a storm. One afternoon when I had returned from school, I saw my family waiting outside our home, it left me perplexed to what was happening.

    I went up to my mother and asked, “What is going on? What is happening?”

    She knelt down to meet her eyes with mine, a tear rolling down her cheek and said, ”My dear Ani, we will have to go away for a while.”

    As a child, who did not understand, my eyes welled up at the thought of leaving my only home, I wrapped my arms around her neck and the only thing I could do was sob into her dress, my mother did her best to remain strong, though the sight of her child crying was nearly too much to endure. Moments later, she took Zoe and I each by the hand, leading us away from a familiar past into an unknown future.

    Now that I have had time to think the situation over, the decision my mother made for the three of us was probably the least desirable but best decision, for she was not thinking of her safety necessarily, rather she made the decision to give her children a chance of a future even if we had to sell ourselves into slavery to do it.

    That time was the bleakest of my life. Being bought and sold to numerous Roman aristocrats to serve in their households across Italia, enduring verbal tirades and physical beatings whenever we performed the slightest, most menial task incorrectly. There were a fair number of days where I had to walk around these villas with obvious bruises and just-healed scars from being whipped, being expected to perform my duties like nothing was wrong. Whenever my mother or sister was in the slave quarters when I returned, they did what they could to look after me but knew there was little they could do. Whenever a Roman became dismayed with us, we would be sold to another who needed slaves to look over their villa or tend the fields of their estate.

    Around the time I was sixteen, we were sold to an aristocrat who owned an estate outside the city of Capua. This particular Roman, Gregorius Laurentius, was a slight, unassuming man at first glance, but had the reputation of being a kind master who did well to treat his slaves with a certain respect. By this time, I had nearly grown to my full height and was of a moderate build, which had left me as an ideal worker for the olive groves located on my master’s estate. While working out in the groves one day, the master’s daughter, Callista, was frolicking around the estate with a carefree innocence. Although she was intermingled amongst slaves, they respected her father to a greater extent and in return, they would be mindful, kind and respecting of his daughter. It was rumored, even at the age of fifteen, she was having clandestine romances with a number of young men from wealthy families, though the innocence of her face would leave many unsuspecting of her activities. Along with her face, she had the curves of a woman, which would make her a suitable pick for marriage and desirable to almost any man who laid eyes on her.

    All right, getting back to where I was. She was walking around the grove with a carefree innocence early one afternoon, when she came around where I was picking olives and began speaking to me, though it took me a moment to realize it.

    “How are you doing today…” she paused to get a good look at my name, “… Aniketos?”

    I stood up and wiped my forehead before speaking, “I’m doing well enough, milady. Though, if you do not mind me saying, but, of the many places I have been, it has been generally frowned upon for someone such as yourself to be speaking to a mere slave.”

    She gave a girlish grin and remarked, “Be that as it may, I am your master’s daughter and I shall have what I please. I cannot speak with you very long, but I would like to have you around the villa this evening, I long to feel the warmth of a man and you, well, you’re the most pleasant thing I’ve seen in a while. Meet me near the back of the villa after dark, I will make the risk worth the chance of getting caught.”

    As instructed, I met her near the back of the villa after dark. She took me back into her room, engaging in coitus and other sexual experiences more than a couple times that night before I had to carefully make my way back to the slave quarters or else risk getting caught. Callista and I would perform such acts several more times before she was to be married off to a young officer in the Roman army. To this date, she was the most attractive woman I have had the privilege of being intimate toward, even with the years and women that have come since.

    My family and I would remain in the service of Laurentius for about three more years. However, one day stands out because it was the day, without notice, I was freed from my master’s service and left to fend for myself. Naturally, I needed to find some food and someplace to stay, the only sizable place that came to mind which I was familiar was Tarantas, so, without much time for indecision I traveled along the road until I reached the city. However, once I reached the city, I was a person without a trade and no way to provide for myself, and in desperate straits, one will resort to just about anything in order to survive. I wasn’t given much preference other than living the life of a thief and pickpocket, and once I got past the initial rush of adrenaline from the first weeks, I got to where I was reasonably good at the task and fell into a gang of other like-minded criminals.

    On one grayish looking day, with light rain coming down, I was out around the markets when I spied what I thought was a particularly juicy target. A nobleman was walking about and eyeing the fine goods the sellers had on display, I keenly shadowed him and his purse, which he kept in plain sight. I fixated my eyes on the mark, making sure to keep my distance until I was certain I intended on going for the prize. Getting closer, I skillfully kept myself away from any suspicious eyes and could already imagine making off with the purse, swollen with denari that were begging to be spent. I was committed to the target; no way I was going to let it go, with every second the target grew closer and closer. Within my grasp, I went for the purse, my fingers were inching toward it, tantalizingly close and... when out of nowhere, I was seized by two vigiles urbani. Whether the noblemen knew he would be a target or the vigiles got lucky and caught me while I was in the act, I will never know, but what I do know is that after I had the pommels of gladii jabbed into my stomach and knocking the wind out of me, I was dragged to the vigiles headquarters. When they couldn’t come across what to do with me, I was beaten some more for good measure before again being dragged across the city to the governor’s residence.

    I was taken before the Governor of Tarentum, a short, slender man whose name I cannot recall, who walked up to the vigiles before they dropped me onto the pristine looking marble floor. With my face beaten and blood dripping from my nose, the poised governor stood before me and began to articulate what should be done with me.

    “Ah… yet another criminal. What shall I do with them all? It is of no consequence what I do with them, for if I were to rid the city of pestilence like him; others would spring up to take their place and make my job progressively more bothersome. I will be generous to you boy… for I will give you one of two options. Are you listening?” he said to me, speaking in a condescending tone.

    Gathering what strength I could, struggling to lift my arms and legs, I got onto my hands and knees. To answer the governor, all I could manage was a simple nod.

    “Your first option, to spend several days in jail and after such time, you will be executed for being caught while attempting to rob an upstanding citizen of Tarentum. And your second option, should I be so generous as to grant you such an option; you are to be conscripted into the army and assigned to a unit of local auxiliaries to support Rome’s legions in whatever role they require. So… criminal, what say you?”

    In a barely perceptible voice, I said, “Conscription.”

    It turned out to be the best decision I could have made, because if I had not, I wouldn’t be alive now to think of old times and of what needs to be done in the future. But for now, the only thing that needs to be done is to locate some food.

    To be continued…

  5. #5

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    I apologize for switching back and forth between characters, this just happened to be how I wrote them. This post and the following will be from the perspective of Meridias Aemilius.

    For mature readers only.
    Preparations for War

    After having spent several months in Illyricum with little activity to speak of, the governor of Dyrrachium decided to transfer my cohort of triarii to Transalpine Gaul, around a place called Ticinum, a town located a few days march to the southeast of Mediolanum. It was a slightly wooded area, with rolling hills made golden by the light of the sun that blanketed them like a fleece shielding them from cool breezes that occasionally swept through the region. Along with the hills, small tributaries of the Padus and Ticinus rivers gently flowed, which gave it a type of serenity that I infrequently saw in my travels elsewhere, giving me pause to think of my home in Arpinum and how it looked much like this place. Nestled a short distance from the Anio River in eastern Latium, the city was a few days march from the Apennine Mountains, a now peaceful area that had once been the frontier when Rome and the Samnites seesawed for control of the mountains that split Italia. Three bloody, devastating wars followed, leaving tens of thousands dead on either side, though the suffering ultimately brought peace and the absorption of the Samnites into the Republic and left us as masters over much of Italy besides the valiant Greeks in the south and the Gallic tribes inhabiting the Po River valley, before they too were absorbed.

    Those tribes were just in their attempts to preserve their hold over this land, for it was equally rich in resources as it was in natural beauty. They knew the day would come when Rome would seek retribution for their sacking of our beloved city centuries before, for when it came, we Romans swiftly fell on their lands, pounding them just as a blacksmith hammers out iron. Sweeping them from northern Italy, the legions captured Transalpine Gaul, seizing huge territories and pressed toward the alpine border, where they would not cease until every last acre of Gallic lands was firmly under the dominion of the Republic.

    The following day the cohort and I would strike our small camp before we were to head to a legionary fort, several days march away from the city of Mediolanum. Weather became a minor hindrance along the way, for the seasonal rainfall happened to conveniently find us along the march to the great northern Roman city; fortunately the downpour minimally affected the roads. After striking camp roughly a kilometer outside the city, a few contubernales and myself went into town to hit up the taberna and brothels while the Optios and Centurions kept the remaining rank-and-file in order in the camp.

    Above all things, I would find my way to a brothel, for even a virtuous soldier needed release with a woman, preferably one who is well endowed in the chest and appealing in the face. It was fortuitous of me to happen upon a brothel with one such attendant, Floriana, while not as endowed as hoped, her breasts were firm and upright and a face that could effortlessly turn heads. Once I paid for her time, she led me back to her room. Bathed in yellowish lamplight, she drew the curtain closed as I undressed and lay on her bed, adorned with plush cushions and luxurious fabrics. Floriana hardly had time to make my acquaintance before she saw my hardened shaft eyeing her as she lustfully bit her lower lip. She leisurely and seductively untied the strands holding up her garment above the breasts and at the waist, letting it slip to the floor to reveal her slender and desirable bodice. Her complexion was near flawless and the olive color of the skin enjoyed a lightly tanned hue, the nether regions were cleanly shaven, the breasts were full and could, with no trouble, fill a man’s hands and held moderately shaped, supple brown nipples, which further added to Floriana’s desirability. With the lamplight flickering around us, Floriana came over to the bed, crawling a short distance before resting on her back beside me, indicating that it was only best for the woman to be the subversive partner during coitus. I placed myself between her legs and sunk my shaft deep inside, her body tightened with the feeling of a man’s phallus penetrating her youthful body while loud, passionate moans escaped her lips. Our bodies glistened with beads of sweat as we engaged in the act of coitus over and again while we experimented with different positions, climaxing inside of her more than a few times and giving her a couple orgasms in return. The scratches of her fingernails that were seen on my back acted as testaments to my abilities. Before parting Floriana’s company, we kissed and I promised her, to whet her appetite, I would give her a similar performance when I returned.

    I found my way through the city and back to camp, where I could see that more than a few of the men that accompanied me to the city had already returned, while several more took somewhat longer to get back. Getting back to my cot around midnight, I would sleep until daybreak, when the men would have their morning meal before striking camp to move out. My sleep was interrupted with the sound of crashing hasta and the snapping of tent poles with the sunlight breaking over the horizon. Rushing out of my tent, finding two miles gregarii having a scrum with one another, I watched for a moment before yelling “Vos es miles militis, factum amo is. Subsisto is somnium vel Ego mos,”* though both of them appeared to disregard my command with contempt. This disorder did not last one moment longer as I jumped in to intervene, receiving a wildly thrown punch in the face from a miles which hardly fazed me before I returned a swift jab to the face, followed by a hardened punch to the gut to knock the air from his lungs. His fellow miles, who he had begun the fight with, immediately ceased any further action. I firmly grabbed him by his tunica, authoritatively letting every soldier looking on know that this kind of rowdy conduct would not be tolerated, “Ego operor non tutela quisnam coepi pugna vel quis est eram super , Ego perfectus is,”* I shoved the miles away from me, “Custodiae custodie, Volo illa miles militis compes quod es futurus vapulus intus hora, facio an exempoator ut incompositus mos non increbresco hic.”* As ordered, the two men had been sentenced and were promptly flogged for their conduct unbecoming soldiers.

    The camp was struck shortly before mid-day and the cohort proceeded to march onward toward the legionary camp several days to the northwest of Mediolanum. It was there, I believed, that my orders said that a group of Samnites would be attached to the cohort to act as reinforcements and added security for the supplies we were to transport with our departure toward a legionary camp on the northern coast of Gaul.

    Oh… how I did not expect this to be easy.

    To be continued…

    *You are soldiers, act like it. Cease this foolishness or I will
    *I do not care who started it, I finished it
    *Guards, I want these soldiers shackled and are to be flogged within the hour, to make an example that disorder will not prevail here

  6. #6
    Rex Anglorvm's Avatar Wrinkly Wordsmith
    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    I'm surprised nobody had commented yet

    Very enjoyable work, I asssume these characters will meet? The preparations for war chapter might be a little 'adult' for some, but it was well written

    On a more serious note, I enjoyed the flow of your English narrative, but as a man with no Latin at all, I found that even though translations were given, the use of latin and greek broke up the flow of your stories.

    In all that is the only very minor critcism that I have, I look forward to reading more, and I would encourage others to comment on a great piece of writing

    Last edited by Rex Anglorvm; August 20, 2012 at 10:28 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    I appreciate the criticism and can see your point about where the Latin and Greek break up the flow. While I was in the process of writing these, I enjoyed including these languages to make them feel authentic, though it may not have been too practical, knowing the reader would need to skim down to the bottom to find the translations.

    It may surprise some, but these works aren't exactly recent. It's been 3-5 years since I wrote these, but they aren't my best work. When the writing community's servers, where I wrote these, went down one time, all of my earlier works were lost as I hadn't been wise enough to save them beforehand. After that, coupled with going off to school, smothered any further desire to keep writing as I knew I couldn't reproduce what had been lost.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Preparations for War: Part II - Rumors

    The camp was struck and the cohort marched onward, little about the incident that had taken place earlier that day was discussed. Those who had served and fought alongside me long enough knew how callous my punishments could be, with rumors spreading through the ranks that my ferocity had reached such heights during one happening near the African city of Cilluim.

    Around this time, the rumor claims, after a Numidian foray that partially succeeded in capturing the local food stores, a tribesman was caught in an adverse and complicated situation by having his mount impaled beneath him. Cornered as his fellow tribesmen fled with their spoils, he found himself hemmed in by several Romans, each with their weapons drawn, to prevent any type of escape. Silent were the following moments, warm desert breezes kicking up sand behind them, howling and unforgiving, while a mysterious figure appeared through the cloud as if it had been born from the earth by the anger of Mars. This dark figure came into view dressed as a Roman, evident by the transverse crest of his helmet, walking closer to this terrified tribesman while the other Romans parted as a gesture of respect to this entity as it found the Numidian cowering in fear. Signaling to a pair of soldiers, they forcefully propped the man to his feet, barely an arm’s length from the sinister, faceless Roman as an eerie calm fell across the area. With another signal, the soldiers parted and returned to the others, this shadowy Roman stared down the frightened tribesman, defecating and pissing himself at the thought of his fate. Next, surprisingly, the figure stepped away from the raider, who couldn’t believe that he was to be released and had a wash of relief come over him… as he took his first steps forward, the menacing Roman drew his blade and before the man could turn his eyes to react, a rush of blood, gore and bone sprayed outward while the head fell backward and the body crumpled into a lifeless heap of bone and flesh onto the dry, dusty earth. His drawn sword was quickly sheathed; the execution was ruthless, cold-hearted, and lethally precise. The soldiers parted as the figure walked forward, and once passed, they fell into line behind the mystifying form, marching with an unquenched passion that it was nothing less than a god walking the earth to guide them to victory.

    While soldiers embellish stories beyond reality and into lore, it can be used to as a tool to keep order and after such a lavish tale, none would dare cross me to the extent where they felt I would unleash a tirade only known to the Titans themselves. Whether truthful or not, only I and those veterans from Africa knew the explicit details of what took place that day, each would go to their death before divulging what happened to those who see it as myth.

    Afternoon crept into evening, the sun showing its last rays of light before the blackness of night covered the earth. Camp was made shortly before that time, and as soon as sentries were posted to keep watch, I detailed instructions to Centurions and Optios about the night watch before going back to my tent, doing my best to wind down after the day’s march before taking off and storing my armor. With the lights of Mediolanum visible in the distance, I envisioned how the city would look once we arrived. Is it true that the city could rival Roma in its magnificence? Was it as wealthy as it was told by merchants? Regardless, it wasn’t our mission to fall to whatever opulence the city may hold, rather to rendezvous at the legionary fort where the Samnite reinforcements were stationed. From my estimates, a march of that distance would require roughly two or three days, depending on the conditions that lay in front of us. Soldiers would gripe no matter what the distance, no matter what conditions they had to fight through, but they would follow my orders, despite the consequence of having to whip or chew their asses out if they refused. However these men thought, I know they respected me in view of the fact that I’d gone through thick and thin with many of them, doing whatever was required for victory.

    As sunlight appeared over the horizon, camp was broken and the cohort continued onward to the legionary fort to the northwest of Mediolanum. To avoid any delay by moving through the city, I ordered the cohort to move through the country outside and the pace of our march remained constant. Throughout the day, we moved steadily onward until we, at last, reached the legionary fort. The cohort erected their camp a few hundred meters away before I went to the Praetoria in the fort to see about the location of the reinforcements I had been sent to gather for our trek into northern Gaul. Once finding my way to the Praetoria, I was led into the presence of the legionary commander, Gellius Calvinus.

    I gave a salute before speaking. “Hello commander, Centurion Aemilius reporting. I was given orders to march here to receive soldiers before traveling through Gallia,“ I said, Calvinus had to scratch his chin momentarily before realizing exactly who I was talking about. “Yes, I believe I know whom you are speaking about. The group from southern Italia arrived recently; you will assume command and march for a legionary camp, where legions are assembling for preparation to war,” he spoke obtusely, “Be warned, there are rebellious Greeks in their ranks. Especially one named Aniketos, keep watchful gaze on that soldier.” I replied, “Very well, commander. I will be on my way then. Farewell.” before properly saluting Calvinus.

    Escorted through the fort by a Tribune, he led me to the auxiliary camp where the Samnites were stationed. About as soon as the Tribune exited the camp and was out of view, the aforementioned Greek that I was warned about came into view while the remaining soldiers kept on with their drilling and maneuvers. Stillness surrounded this man as he approached, a man only slightly taller than myself, possessing a moderate build, shoulder-length brown hair and a face with a stubble beard. This Aniketos as he was called, appeared gruff and unsophisticated, no threat to anyone but himself and his men, however, if I need to be warned ahead of time by the Legatus, then this Greek must indeed be trouble.

    When we came face-to-face, the clamor and noise of drill was hushed as we stared each other down, no hint of speech showing on either man's face. He saw me as derisive and pretentious, I saw him as brutish and loathing.

    It felt like only a question of when one of us would put a blade to the other man's throat.

    To be continued...

  9. #9

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    This next piece isn't really a short story, it's more of a semi-biography of the character Meridias Aemilius. As with any good character, they have plenty of backstory, which helps to give them depth along with emotional and psychological reasoning behind many of the actions they perform.

    While the tale may be a bit of a long read, no one's story can be told in a single sentence. I would also like to add, this biography was developed for Meridias from a completely different storyline than the one I've presented.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    My story starts off with my father, Gaius Sempronius Aemilius, centurion of a legion serving in Hispania 22 years ago. I was around the age of eight and I was on our small villa to the southeast of Rome, when news of the fate of a unit that had been ambushed by Iberians tribesmen had filtered back, when news came back that my father was amongst those killed while escorting a recently arrived Tribune, my mother was horrified. Here was this young mother named Daphne, 26 years of age with two young children, a boy, Meridias, 8, and a daughter, Sabina, 5. But let us start at a time long before this.

    It all started when my father married my mother nearly nine years before, when he was 24 and she was 17. Sempronius came from an influential and patriarchal family of Rome in the Aemilii family and Daphne, being the daughter of a modestly wealthy merchantman from the Greek region of Thessalia. They were the picture of happiness when they were together and looked as though their marriage had been blessed, and three months later, consummated their marriage with Daphne conceiving of a child. But Daphne knew that her husband’s duty was as a soldier and that he may be called away at any time to a place from where he may never return. Sempronius went on campaign in the first months of his wife’s pregnancy, but managed to return home weeks before the birth and when time came, the two welcomed a healthy baby boy into the world. The boy they named Meridias, a name that combined his Greek and Roman heritage.

    Years passed and Sempronius was repeatedly called off to war and each time, he returned safely home to his beautiful, lovely wife Daphne and young son Meridias. Along the way, they brought another child into the world three years later in the form of their daughter Sabina, and the family idealized happiness in every known form. This happiness though was not meant to last as everyone knows, and came when legions were being formed for a campaign to pacify the belligerent tribes of Hispania who still shunned Roman authority. It was ironically at this time when Sempronius sat down with his son and told him of the things he had seen when he had gone off to war, and compassionately asked that Meridias, who was around 7 years old, that when he came of age, not to join the army for he wished his son never to see the horrors he had seen. Meridias, barely contemplating what his father was speaking of, told his father he wouldn’t when he reached the eligible age.

    Months later, his father had embarked with his legion, along with three other legions, and Meridias, the son, with his mother and younger sister were left to wait and only wonder when Sempronius would return home from war, as he had always managed to do, time and again. Only this time, it was not meant to be, for about half a year after his departure, news about a century that had been ambushed in Hispania by tribesmen had filtered back to Rome, and news of Sempronius’ death reached Daphne, who was now left clueless about what to do with their villa and her young children, Meridias and Sabina, who knew nothing of what death was, only that certain people didn’t return after wars were won.

    It was on a night when Daphne was putting Meridias to sleep, that he asked his mother, “Mommy, what happened today? Why were you crying so much?” While holding back her tears, she told her beloved son, who was the epitome of his father, she told her son that his father had been killed and that he wouldn’t be returning home. Meridias, overcome with emotion, buried his face into his mother’s chest and began sobbing uncontrollably. This was around the time that Meridias, who had sworn to his father never to join the army to avoid the horrors that war brings, made a vow, that when the time came and he was eligible for service, would join the army to get back at those who had taken Sempronius from this world, and simultaneously, seek approval in the eyes of his now late father.

    About nine years passed after the death of his father when Meridias entered the military academy in Rome, and graduated when he was around 21 years old. In the months subsequent to that, young Meridias had married and was expecting child. Meridias and his bride, Gloria Cornelius, the two were an identical portrait of what his father and mother had looked like when they had gotten married, but tragedy lay in store for the lovers. It was weeks before he was to embark to Syria to join the army when Gloria went into labor and it would have seemed a joyous time for Meridias, who would have been a father, his wife a mother, his mother a grandmother, and his sister an aunt, but this was not to be. During the birth, complications arose, and his beautiful young wife, who Meridias had known a little over a year, died from the loss of blood, she lived long enough to deliver him a son. He named his son Alexandros, in honor of his Greek heritage just as Meridias’ mother had done for him. It seemed though the gods conspired against him, to keep him from having a family, for a week after he was born, Meridias’ son died in his mother’s arms in the middle of the night. In the span of a week, not only had the gods taken his lovely wife, but infant son as well, and Meridias felt like his life was meant for nothing but tragedy and despair.

    Weeks later, he departed Italia for Syria, where Rome was combating insurgency from the locals. Commanding the Army of Syria was Praetor Gracchus Caecilius, Meridias was given the rank of Primus Pilus. After serving under Caecilius for a couple months, Meridias was transferred to the Army of Asia, under the command of Sullas Cornelius, who was leading his army against the people of Armenia, who were being assisted by their protectorate, Parthia. Several months afterwards, Cornelius had turned traitor, leaving the overall command of the army to Terbus Curius, his loyal and commited Magister. It wasn’t long after his accession to Praetor and commander of the Army of Asia, when the Armenians laid siege to his army in the city of Amasia. When all five legions of the army were engaged, Meridias emerged from the city at the head of his legion, I Sardisica, he saw that the battle wasn’t going well for his comrades. The enemy pressed on every stretch of the line, and improvising at a moment’s notice, Meridias led the charge of his entire legion down into the heart of the enemy’s effort to break through the line’s center. With his actions and relieving stress from the line, cohorts from the legion of Terbus Curius were able to sweep into the enemy’s rear and bring on a full-scale rout, whereupon the Armenians got hacked to pieces.

    Several months after the battle of Amasia, the Army of Asia swelled into an army of roughly 40,000 men, and in the time leading to the ending of hostilities with the Armenian-Parthian alliance, it had sacked the cities of Megalopolis and Trapezus, the former where the traitor Sullas Cornelius was found dead and the latter being where Meridias received the Corona Muralis upon being the first Legatus to enter the city. After gathering all the legions, the army marched to the port of Ephesus and embarked back to Rome to be given a glorious Triumph by its humble citizens and gracious Emperor.

    A couple years later, Meridias was back home at his family’s villa to the southeast of Rome, after a campaign in Germania that hadn’t resulted in much besides raiding territory and taking prisoners for interrogation. For the first time that he can recollect, Meridias felt some inner peace within himself as he helped to harvest his family estate with a rarity in Roman society: freedman cultivating the land, since his father hadn’t looked upon slavery highly, which went against the norm around much of Rome and the empire. While taking an afternoon off on a day when the harvest was nearing completion, a messenger arrived with a summons from Meridias’ old friend, Terbus Curius, asking for his assistance with commanding the Praetorian Guard against the unrest that was spreading around Rome with Republican sympathizers. Upon his arrival, Meridias immediately made his presence known around the Campus Martius for his stoic demeanor and his strict, but lenient attitude towards drill. When Terbus was given the title Master of the Horse, it was Meridias who was given the task of commanding the Guard on an interim basis while his friend was off training legions in another region of Italia.

    After serving several months in the Guard, Meridias returned to his subordinate role under Terbus Curius, but news had traveled from the east about the invasion and destruction of Rome's territories at the hands of the empire’s long standing enemy, the Parthian Empire, who sought to further expand their sphere of influence and drive Rome from Asia once and for all. The Emperor, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, knew he needed his best commanders to lead an expeditionary force to drive the Parthians back across the borders and restore Roman hegemony over the lands that had been devastated by the enemy, and so he turned to the Master of the Horse. Under Terbus’ command, he chose the corps of intuitive commanders he had used to swiftly defeat the Armenians, those commanders being Pertinax Marcellus, Ironidus Valerius, and Meridias himself, along with a young legate, Lucius Augustus Maximus. After the assembling of the most able commanders Rome had at her disposal, they set out for Brundisium to embark for Ephesus.

    It took weeks to reach Cappadocia, where the Parthians had taken vast territories along with considerable portions of Syria, which had been taken as well. The early stages of the campaign were based on maneuver and tactics, to see which side could gain the most of each advantage the sides had to gain. This game was played for about three months time before the armies met on a plain outside the Syrian city of Samosata, a strategic position along the western side of the Euphrates. It was an epic battle if there ever was one, 35,000 Romans contesting 38,000 Parthians for the prize of Samosata on a surprisingly warm day in early fall. If the Romans won total victory, Samosata would be sacked and the better part of the Parthian army would be destroyed, allowing Rome to reclaim all her territories with relative ease. If the Parthians won a total or at least, a decisive victory, Rome’s efforts to take back her lost territories would have resulted in disaster for its most able general, Terbus Curius Malleus, and his faithful subordinates, and Parthia would lay claim to all of Cappadocia, then move south to confront the Army of Syria, under the command of Krellus Valerius. Once swept aside, the Roman coalition once numbering upwards of 70,000 men, would have been defeated and Rome’s Emperor being dictated terms to cede half her territory in Asia to Parthia. It would have been the supreme humiliation to Roman strength and honor. With the bitter struggle resulting in no gain for either side, the armies disengaged back to their camps, the battle had resulted in a much-disliked stalemate. The Romans were left to sulk in the cold of the Syrian winter while their enemies slept high and dry behind the walls of Samosata, safe in knowing they had successfully fended off the Army of Asia. That city would become the symbol for both sides, for Parthia, proving its worth against the vaunted Roman army and in position to create a vast empire stretching into Asia, for Romans, it would be a sign of their determination and gallantry in the face of the enemy, no matter what the cost.

    With the long but chilling winter finally passing months later, Terbus was devising a plan to assault the city of Samosata and remove the thorn that had been plaguing him and his army since the fall. During the winter, old friend and now Consul, Maximos Sergius had found his way into the Roman camps after being intercepted by the Parthians on his way before he could find port and sail back to Rome to report to the Emperor the current situation there in the East. As for the planned assault, Terbus would call on his old friends Meridias and Pertinax to send cohorts of their legions, V Alaudae and XXI Rapax, along with those of the legions of Lucius Augustus Maximus, II Parthica and II Sabina, and Terbus’ own, VI Victrix, in addition to X Equistris, would move in to assault the city and sack it, leaving no one alive. It was around this time, days before the assault was to take place, that Meridias felt apprehensive about whether he would return home to see his mother and sister, who for him, besides the army, were the only family he had remaining to him, and if Meridias lost both, he would be a solitary man in a world of few friends and many enemies. He then decided to console with Terbus about the decision he’d made about the upcoming assault on Samosata, Meridias had decided to go into the city with his legion. Terbus, always the mindful commander, was worried that his “war-fighter” as he had come to know Meridias, was risking his life in a battle in which he need not take place, but also knowing of Meridias’ grace under pressure, he was skeptical but accepted his legate’s request.

    Of all the legions assembling to assault the city, V Alaudae had taken the brunt of the Parthian attack near Samosata in the battle that took place there in the fall, having had his legion placed in the Roman line’s center, Meridias lost nearly three full cohorts. Not to say V Alaudae couldn’t fight, for they dished out as much as they received, punishing every attempt the Parthians made to break through the line’s center. What next transpired was something almost out of legend. Meridias, leading his veteran VII Cohort, marched slowly across the plain that separated the Roman camps and the city. No one knew what to make of it. For the Romans, they wondered why Meridias hadn’t coordinated the attack with anyone else, but for the Parthians atop Samosata’s walls, they were stupefied. They thought a lone cohort coming to attack them was either brave or foolish, nonetheless it was an awe-inspiring site. The men of VII Cohort pushed forward through the mud of the spring thaw. Soon enough, the cohort came under missile fire from the city and Meridias ordered his men into the testudo and ordered the men to press forward closer to the walls, while he did this, the defenders were no longer awe struck by what they saw and all units concentrated their fire on the lone cohort coming towards them. Standing in the third from last rank in the formation, Meridias heard a messenger riding in from the rear…he was from VI Victrix coming to tell him that cohorts from Rapax and Victrix were moving forward to assist. When the messenger had galloped off, it was no sooner that Meridias had finished speaking with his men about current events and ordering them forward, that an enemy bolt had found its mark in his shoulder, slamming him to the ground in agony. A Centurion and several legionaries rushed over to Meridias to ask if he were all right, being told while grimacing from the pain, he shrugged off his men saying he needed a surgeon immediately and ordered them to some improvising surgery right there and had them snap the arrow in half, Meridias would see a surgeon once they got back to camp.

    While this was going, a few cohorts had managed to move forward and were drawing closer to the walls, and while still in horrible pain, Meridias ordered his men forward towards the walls. The quagmire of the spring thaw had hardened and made traction and cohesion less of a problem as the cohort drew closer to the city’s defenses, which were by now frantically trying to throw back the Roman assault. Finally reaching the walls, Meridias saw the first of his men up the siege ladders, urging them to show no quarter to the enemy once they were met on the parapet. Cohorts from the other legions could be seen scaling the walls and meeting the desperate defending in small-scale pitched battles, though the legionaries seized the upper hand early on. Fighting was furious as the Romans slowly pushed the defenders back but who were holding on with every measure of devotion that they had for their city. During a key moment in the battle, a time when the Parthians were taking a toll on the attacking cohorts, a unit which had tunneled beneath the city’s walls had emerged from the cellar of house in the center of the city and henceforth proceeded to massacre all who fell under their gladii. Soon, the enemy was fighting from both front and rear, being pressed in a vice due to the attacking forces and the buildings in the city. It wasn’t long until the remaining defenders surrendered and the city of Samosata was set ablaze after the last of the cohorts had withdrawn to the safety of their camps to the northwest during the early morning hours.

    Once returning to camp, Meridias found his way to the surgeon’s station, and the surgeon, once seeing the arrow embedded in the young man’s shoulder, didn’t hesitate to perform the surgery. After its completion, Meridias laid there and rested until the early evening, for he knew that Terbus had announced a briefing around that time. Before the briefing which was to discuss the outcome of the assault ended, Terbus paid heed to Lucius and Meridias to stay after he had dismissed everyone else, he wished to speak to them both personally in his command tent. Both Lucius and Meridias knew they were going to be reprimanded for risking their lives in the assault, which saw the death of a key commander in the form of Quintus Flavientus, but oddly enough while he was reprimanding them, Terbus commended the two for being fine examples to their men by taking part in the assault. He said that the two legates would perform delaying actions against any Parthian attempt at getting into the army’s rear as they withdrew west to establish a more defensible position than was available near Samosata. This action to be performed by Lucius and Meridias would soon meld into lore as the two had to single-handedly delay the Parthian advance, they would soon become known as “The Ghosts of the Rearguard.”

    Meridias’ V Alaudae moved back from the main force that was advancing towards the mountains to set-up an easier defended position, he and Lucius were tasked with giving Terbus the time he needed to establish a strong defense before the Parthians resumed their advance. With his legion trailing the main force by about a day, Meridias divided his legion, already diminished in numbers, into two separate units. One unit was to continue to advance and the other was to act as a rearguard to screen V Alaudae from an attack in the rear. This action could have very well led to a catastrophe as his rearguard was met by a larger force than Meridias had ever dared imagine; complete with cataphracts, horse archers, peltasts, and hoplites. It wasn’t long that the Tribune Aurelianus, tasked with commanding the rearguard found himself threatened with encirclement by the mobile Parthian cavalry. Managing to get word out to the main force of the legion ahead of them, Meridias read the notice that Aurelianus had relayed to him and was forced to make a dire decision that could have unraveled the strategy that the Romans were constructing for the Parthians to fall into. He was faced with the dilemma of either leaving the rearguard to their fate and hoped that a few survived the massacre, or he could swivel his legion around and go to the aide of those who were in peril. Meridias made the decision to assist his rearguard against an enemy, whose numbers were unknown and as fate would have it, Lucius’ scouts found Alaudae’s rearguard the center of attention for the Parthian advance, making the decision to assist in attack as well. It was early morning when the three legions found themselves encamped on either side of a shallow valley, which provided enough concealment to keep them hidden from the Parthians, who were still occupied with surrounding Aurelianus’ rearguard. Stealthily sending scouts across the valley, Lucius and Meridias came up with a plan that would take place later that morning, which, if pulled off with the right degree of surprise would free the rearguard and force the Parthians into retreat, all without engaging them in pitched battle.

    Come early morning, the Parthian raiding party that was the size of a small army, who had felt so assured of victory only a half day before, found themselves flanked from the northwest and southeast by nearly 12,000 reinforcements coming to the aide of the embattled Aurelianus, but for all the Parthians knew, the whole of the Army of Asia could have been there to annihilate them. Parthian commanders, rather than risking a confrontation with a force whose strength they knew nothing of, ordered a full scale retreat of their force back to the main part of their army. With the rouse being pulled off almost flawlessly, Meridias and Lucius could have only thanked the gods for the miracle that they pulled off to free their brothers-in-arms, though they had no time to celebrate, their legions needed to fall back towards the safety of the defensive lines to the west. For if they didn’t get back, the Army of Asia would be left with no strategic reserve from which to call upon when the climactic battle with the Parthians came.

    Advancing through the night, the legions were tired and weary but knew they needed to continue marching forward through the fog that surrounded them, acting as a shield from a Parthian attack on the rear. Unknown to them, the legions had slipped past the defensive line through the fog, and when a Milite demanded to speak to the commander of an army he mistook for mercenaries, Meridias stepped forward and calmly explained to the Milite who they were and what their business was for being there. The Milite then let the column of exhausted soldiers pass through the checkpoint to let them strike camps beyond the defensive lines so they could finally get some much deserved rest. It wasn’t long after this that Meridias found the Principia of VI Victrix. Upon arriving, Meridias heard the voices of the two Consuls, Maximos and Terbus, bickering like little old ladies in the market, what the two were arguing about, Meridias had no idea. After breaking up the conversation and with the arrivals of Lucius and Pertinax, Meridias decided to give one of his most inspirational speeches, keeping the ear of all those who were in attendance to the early morning meeting, speaking to them with passion and conviction in his voice about the direness of the situation they were all faced with.

    The Battle of the Taurus Pass, otherwise known as Kommagene, took place days later. At a glance, the Romans would look outmatched with the numbers of cataphracts, horse archers, peltasts and hoplites that the Parthians brought to face them. The outcome looked bleak from the start, for six under-strength legions lay under the command of Terbus Curius Malleus, numbering some 25,000 men at best, not including the allied Amazonian cavalry, who were to face an enemy numbering some 60,000 men under the command of the upstart but determined commander Pacorus Arshankuni. When battle commenced, the Parthians first wished to tease the Romans by firing volley after volley of arrows from their horse archers into the deep formations of the legions holding fast behind their defenses. Pacorus wished for the Romans to become agitated enough to send units out into the open to be massacred piecemeal. His wish however fell on deaf ears for the legions remained unfazed and lived with the bruising impact of the enemy’s arrows. Growing impatient, Pacorus then ordered his fabled and feared cataphracts forward to batter the Roman front lines into submission. Thunder resounded throughout the pass with the charging of heavily armored man and beast, dozens falling at a time from the carefully positioned caltrops that were purposefully designed to stop cavalry, but these had little influence on the charge as tens of thousands of horses steamrolled towards the Romans, reeking death and havoc on the enemy. The Parthians kept up this onslaught until they could bring up their skirmishers and heavy infantry, in the meantime, Terbus Curius ordered Meridias and Lucius to take their legions and sweep behind the enemy lines, cut off reinforcements coming across the bridge, and then move against the Parthian rear. And once Meridias and Lucius got behind the Parthians, their legions had a field day as they destroyed the enemy’s left flank, obliterating their skirmishers and hoplites that were brave enough to stand their ground. With this new threat to his rear and hearing reports of Consul Sergius’ provincial legions advancing to the battlefront, Pacorus decided to fall back and lick his wounds, retreating to where he may perhaps fight the Romans another day.

    Though what was to come after the Army of Asia had moved out from the Taurus Pass was as unexpected as it was profound. Meridias deliberately went behind the back of Consul Terbus Curius Malleus to send word to the Emperor of the situation there in the East, but his letter was intercepted before it could leave the area. The past two years had been building to that point and Terbus had at it with Meridias, who had stated his case vehemently when the Consul had wanted their parting to be cordial, because the Consul was left with no alternative. The clash of wills was paramount, neither man wishing to admit one hint of guilt, but Meridias surrendered the contest and accepted his fate and was relieved on his command from the Army of Asia. He would return to Rome holding disdain, not hatred, for his former comrade and commander, pleading his case before the Senate and the Emperor himself, though feeling that after these encounters an air of arrogance and jealously rubbed off on those whom Meridias had spoken to.

    All Meridias wishes for now is to regain the respect that he once held and show the people of Rome he was, and always will be, a faithful son of the Eternal City.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Preparations for War: Part III – Confliction

    The two men stared the other down, neither desired to make the first move, while the tension between them began to gravitate others towards them. Ominously, as if summoned by the gods themselves, clouds gathered overhead, light rain soaking into the cloth of each man’s tunic. Meridias appeared formidable, looking like one prepared for battle, only lacking his shield for protection; while Aniketos, on the other hand, looked ill-suited to take on the centurion, for all he was wearing were a tunic with a belt around his waist. These men could not look any more different if one were to try. One man came from an upper-class plebian background in Rome; the other considered low prole, or lower class, from the Magna Graecia. The Roman wore his hair short, well-kept with a clean shaven face, the Greek wore his hair past his shoulders with stubble outlining his jaw and mouth. While similar in build and height, it was plain that any confrontation between these two would be short and vicious.

    Moments passed, the sound of water bouncing off Meridias’ helmet as the rain down was the only sound to be heard, other than the rain collecting in puddles on the now-soaked earth beneath each man’s feet. Aniketos and Meridias’ eyes stood locked in a test of wills, seeing which of the men would flinch first, as fate would have it, it was Aniketos.

    Bringing up a clenched fist, he attempted to land a punch on an unprotected section of Meridias’ head, but missed as the centurion easily dodged in response. Meridias quickly countered from his dodging movement by bringing a quick right hook that caught Aniketos off-guard, with the punch unbalancing his coordination. Stammering around the open space created by the onlookers, Aniketos regained some composure and charged at Meridias without a plan of attack, clearly showing his youth and immaturity. The centurion skillfully side-stepped from the Greek’s charge, Meridias delivered a sharp thrust of his elbow to the base of Aniketos’ neck. The blow sent Aniketos straight into the muddy earth, and although it was bludgeoning his body, his spirit desired to continue, even if he could not win. Walking over to his stricken foe, Meridias found Aniketos struggling to get to his knees, desperately trying to stay in the fight. Without sympathy, Meridias forcefully kicked the Greek’s stomach, effectively incapacitating him and ending the fight. Rain continued to come down around them as the crowd began to disperse, Aniketos laid there, battered and motionless, with Meridias standing nearby, motioned to a pair of miles.

    “I want this man thrown in the brig for insubordination,” the centurion spoke firmly, “he is to be kept there until I have time to discuss the matter to the prefectus castrorum, who will then decide his fate.” The miles gave a compulsory salute, acknowledging the order with a “Yes sir!” before picking up Aniketos by the elbows and dragging him through the mud, in the direction of the brig.

    Meridias stood there for a moment, to catch his breath and gather his thoughts. Removing his helmet, Meridias let the rain run through his hair and down his face, his mind went back to the fight with the Greek. He saw potential in this man, whose rage and ferocity, if taught discipline and maturity, could become a valuable asset, but would also make him a dangerous adversary. Meridias knew it would be advisable to keep the Greek at arm’s length, lest he desired a knife to his throat. In the meantime, all he wished for was a quiet place to get out of the rain.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Preparations for War: Part IV - Deception

    “By order of the legatus, I desire to see the Greek who was recently brought here. It is of importance that I speak with him” a hooded figure spoke to the guard, who saluted and opened the main entrance to the brig. With the sound of rain echoing outside, the guard escorted the dark figure down the hall of the brig to meet with a prisoner, and with this being a permanent base, this building was somewhat larger than that of a campaigning legion. Those consisting of the prisoners were mostly legionaries caught for committing minor infractions: cheating at dice, stealing and the like or serious acts: attempted murder or desertion. Now desertion, in the army, is enough to condemn a man to death, for the absence of that lone man could mean the deaths of several others who were not protected by that man’s shield and sword. Many others were or suspected of being enemy agents, brought to the camp by the civil authorities of neighboring towns and cities, as some lacked either the resources or facilities to house these people for extended periods. These agents were likely comprised of despondent Iberians, Gauls, or Germans, along with some Greeks who had occasionally found their ways this far north, though their nationalities were irrelevant as long as the quaestionarius got the answers he needed.

    Rain continued its assault outside, the downpour was getting heavier, evident by the sound it made on the thick pitched roof that made up the building. Bright, haunting glows of torches flickered and danced along the walls and floor while the two men continued down the hall, these fires burned every third cell so darkness would not overwhelm the interior space.

    Upon reaching the prisoners cell, the guard said “This is him, sir. Are you s…” was all he could speak before the figure interrupted, replying in an emotionless tone “Open the cell before I find cause to throw you in there with him. Understood?” Without a moment’s hesitation, the guard found the correct key then opened the cell. What the figure found was the Greek man called Aniketos, his wrists chained to the back wall of the darkened cell, dark enough to remove his hood without fear of being identified by the captive. The figure noticed that this Greek had not raised his head when he had arrive at the cell, nor when the guard had been coerced into opening the cell’s door.

    “Your attention would be much appreciated,” the figure spoke in a deep gravelly voice “for I secretly know your loathing.” Aniketos, with his head still looking down, replied in turn “And what do you know of my loathing?” before spitting in the direction of the figure’s feet. With a hint of eagerness, the shadow said “I was amidst the crowd, observing your battle with the Roman earlier this day. One astute in the ways of fighting could tell you were outmatched.” The figure saw this statement aggravated the Greek, as a touch of anger could be heard in his answer “One does not need to state the obvious, wretch.” As if to taunt him, the figure retorted “You are not his equal. You could not defeat him on your best day, unless you were capable of matching him.” “What would I have to learn from a coward, one who cannot show his face to a lowly man?” exclaimed Aniketos, coming at the figure before his chains grew taut, halting his futile attack. “That, my friend, is why you failed,” the figure spoke calmly, “lashing out without strategy rarely achieves the desired effect. But I can, however, tell you how lull him, bring down his defenses.” His eyes filled with rage, Aniketos asked, “Oh wise sage, how could I possibly accomplish that?” “Gain his trust, gain his confidence. Do counter what comes natural for you: do not fight. This Roman has pride…exploit it. This Roman has tradition, appeal to it. This Roman has weakness, find it. Do that, and one day, you shall prove yourself his better. Heed this advice, and you will see this day come to pass. Heed it not, and crucifixion will be the only thing that greets you. I leave the judgment to you.” The figure returned, before bringing the hood over his head and exiting the cell. He did this deliberately, for weight, to allow Aniketos to develop a rational conclusion of his own, without the outside influence of the figure to affect it.

    The exchange over, the guard escorted the figure back to the main entrance. Reminiscing over the encounter, the shadow had a smirk appear on his lips, believing the Greek had fallen prey to his words. Nothing would satisfy him more than to see this Greek get his chance at revenge, but something told him that this Aniketos possessed some intelligence beneath his brutish exterior and he would not be easy to convince. Given time and proper wording, the shadow knew he could leach his way into this Greek’s mind, to impart the idea of insurgence, to drive his vengeance.

    The man removed his hood to feel the soft rain soak into his hair, to roll down his cheeks. His hood flapped about, as a sudden gust of wind changed the rain’s direction. Putting the hood back over his head, Meridias smiled.

  12. #12
    Rex Anglorvm's Avatar Wrinkly Wordsmith
    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Another great set of updates. I'm still surprised about the lack of other comments, the quality of the writing is superb.

  13. #13
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!

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    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    I am sorry for the delay, but that was a lot of reading to catch up on!

    The writing, as Rex has been saying, is great and it has been a pleasure getting through this. +rep

    Can I suggest you post an advert for the Newsletter to try and garner more readers?
    Last edited by Shankbot de Bodemloze; August 27, 2012 at 03:08 PM.


  14. #14

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Quote Originally Posted by Shankbot12 View Post
    Can I suggest you post an advert for the Newsletter to try and garner more readers?
    How would I go about doing that?

  15. #15
    Shankbot de Bodemloze's Avatar From the Writers Study!

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    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life



  16. #16

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Recollection of the Past: Part I

    After meeting with the renegade Greek, Meridias returned to his quarters in the barracks, where he found a pair of soldiers rolling dice while sharing some watered-down honey wine. This pair couldn’t have been any older than their late teens, early twenties, spouting on about adventures and escapades they’d experienced before their army lives, Meridias smirked at how these boys would spin tales stretching into early evening about wildly-exaggerated events, which likely never took place. He wasn’t without sympathy, for like them, Meridias too was away from his family, and it was good to remind themselves of home, reminding them of who and what they would fight, and in some instances, die to protect. By presumption alone, Meridias could tell they hadn’t seen any fighting, because veterans always bear those telltale marks of battle: swollen knuckles, stiff knees, melted skin from cauterized wounds, along with many scars; these boys still possessed unblemished skin and remained wet behind the ears. From the moment he’d walked in from the rain, their posture tightened in Meridias’ presence, not wanting the centurion to believe there was any lapse in their attentiveness. After hanging his cloak on the wall, Meridias found a seat and dragged it over to the table where they were rolling their dice, striking up a conversation with the soldiers before he’d even sat down.

    “When I signed on for service, I was younger than both of you.” He didn’t wish it known that was scantly ten year prior. “Born in Heraclea, my father was a drunkard and my mother was little more than a glorified house servant, who f---ed her whenever it pleased him, it came as no surprise how I came to have three other siblings.” Meridias reached over to the bowl across the table, grabbing a few olives and tossing one in his mouth before continuing. “From that short description, prospects in Lucania weren’t good, that and my bastard father disowning me…” Meridias paused, tossing back another olive.

    One soldier, Caedicius Balbus, asked cautiously, “Why exactly?”

    “F---er was raping my mother,” Meridias replied, “and I threatened to cleave his balls off, while I held a knife to his throat, if he tried it again. Drunk bastard barely gave a s---, only thing he said was “You’re no longer my son!”, he pushed me aside and stumbled away, like nothing happened. I gathered what belongings I had and was gone by morning. Never returned, nor do I care about anything that’s happened to him since. A—hole was better off dead.” He came off cold and dismissive to the soldiers, but such were Meridias’ feeling towards his father, they could’ve been written in stone.

    The other soldier at the table, Vergilius Cotta, remarked “It was a good thing you did for your mother,” attempting to imply the nobility of Meridias’ actions.

    “Oh save it,” Meridias barked, “that woman deserved little better than what she got. I would’ve slit my father’s throat to spare her the anguish. Truth is, it would’ve been a mercy.”

    Caecidius enquired as to why he hadn’t gone through with it.

    “The b---- didn’t have anything else.” Meridias said bluntly. “Few talents besides the one she frequently provided my father, she would’ve died alone, in the streets, had I done it. I held the power to end it, to end that bastard’s life, but knew I’d be condemning her to an impoverished livelihood before she, too, would die. The only reason they’re both alive, to my knowledge, is by my NOT having done it.”

    Meridias casually snacked on another olive, letting Balbus and Cotta stew over the tale thus far told.

    “To escape an existence of potential vagrancy,” Meridias spoke, “I found my path to the army as an escape, filled with the naďve ideas of finding something better and all that bulls---. If I’d known what path Fortuna had set before me, I would’ve told the b---- ‘F--- off!’ and returned to Heraclea.”

    Cotta leaned into the table, asking plainly, “What changed your perspective?”

    Sitting up, Meridias brought his hands onto the table, clenching them together, he said in a gritty tone and contemptible expression, “Sentius Plautus.”

    Balbus and Cotta sat there speechless, not because they knew of him, rather they didn’t know what to ask.

    “Plautus was the meanest f---er of a centurion we Romans have ever known. This man singled me out from the moment I walked into camp as a recruit, making it his personal mission to beat my a-- into the dirt,” Meridias said, a hint of loathing in his voice.

    “’You won’t amount to a pile of s--- in my army, Aemilius!’ he’d say to me, before whipping my arm with his vine staff for missing the desired mark on the sword post during drills, striking the skin at just the right angle to make you bleed.” Meridias remarked, “After the first two weeks, it looked like my arms had been sliced by knives.”

    “Miss the ideal location to stammer an opponent during shield drills, Sentius would strike your legs. Take a misstep during marches, he’d literally drag your a— out of line and whip you on the road. Try mouthing off to him at any point, he’d rearrange your jaw without a moment’s hesitation, to serve as a reminder to never speak out of turn.” Meridias said, sensing a bit of fear from the young soldiers.

    “Plautus would’ve fit in perfectly with the Spartans,” Meridias exclaimed, “unfortunately for me, he was born in the wrong century and country. However, if there’s one thing I took away from those beatings, rather appreciatively, is that precision counts for everything. Precision is quick and clean, precision is life and death. From this day forward, precision is your very existence.”

    Taking down the last olive, Meridias stood up from his seat, saying to the young men “Take this lesson to heart, soldiers. Precision is what divides us from our enemies and what has won our people an empire, among many things. Strike with precision, leaving your opponent with no opportunity to return the favor. Do this well, and Rome will never again be challenged.”

    Thanking them for the company, Meridias flashed them a grin and quietly walked back towards the door, put on his cloak and strode back into the rain.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Recollection of the Past: Part II

    It had been mere moments since Meridias had stepped outside, and again, the centurion’s cloak had been soaked through to his tunic. The wind had picked up as well, small gusts coming and going as he walked briskly around the camp, relishing the steadiness of the rainfall as he passed the time before the night watch later that evening. Water echoed and bounced from the tiled roofs, the feet of passers-by splashing through puddles in the street as they walked along, the orders to soldiers resounding over buildings and through alleyways. For close to half his years, this familiarity to discipline and routine were all Meridias knew, never could he picture himself an ordinary pleb, going about the mundane tasks of daily life with a dishonest smile on his lips. These notions of precision and uniformity, drilled into his mind for months from Plautus’ wearisome lessons, had become so deeply engrained into Meridias’ personality and perceptions of non-military occupations, seeing himself without the orderly mannerisms of his present life were frightening for him to contemplate. Those boys in the barracks whom he spoke with, Balbus and Cotta, spoke of their memories of home with a palpable reverence, something Meridias could never match. Despite these thoughts however, he was not envious of them, for without any ties to his past, Meridias felt there was nothing which could be used against him should the moment arise.

    Astutely aware of the fear and respect his position brought him, Meridias keenly used that to his advantage. When his words ring through a formation, they come from experience, especially to the younger soldiers, and if precision were not taught to them as recruits, Meridias made sure they became adepts in the art. He stopped to rest on a balcony’s support beam to momentarily get out of the rain; a young woman effortlessly flowed around him, his senses having never taken notice of her. She glided through the rainfall, like she were dancing or trying to enchant him. Meridias’ concentration lapsed and once he blinked, the young woman was gone, the apparition fading into the rain like she had never been there at all. Beguiled, he couldn’t remember where it was he had seen a woman of that likeness, but the answer eluded him to no end.

    By this time, the rain had lightened and there were clear breaks in the clouds, enough to see the sun peeking through with a noticeable orange glow, meaning it wouldn’t be long before sunset.

    It reminded him of the months leading up to his enlistment. On an evening similar to this, Meridias chanced upon a girl who captured his heart, becoming the only such person he could claim he ever loved. After leaving his family’s country home, Meridias set out on the road to Heraclea. Roughly within week of his arrival, the coin that Meridias had brought with him was depleted, forcing him to scrounge up what he could to survive. For the next few weeks, he found what odd jobs he could to earn what meager pay they allowed him, aside from those where he’d been turned away. Sure, it let him keep food in his stomach and a roof above his head, but Meridias knew he was a couple steps from being a beggar in the streets. It wasn’t long before he found work as a delivery boy of sorts, running packages across town, but while it didn’t pay much than any of his previous odd jobs, it did let him see what sights there were to see around Heraclea. A month passed, when a day came that he needed to deliver a package to a resident of the city’s Greek quarter.

    When he was approaching the desired residence, obviously the home of someone of influence, he could hear the faint sounds of a girl laughing just over the retaining wall, peaking his curiosity as he reached the door to the outer courtyard. Once knocking on the door, small beads of sweat appeared on his brow before anyone opened the door, but no one answered. After knocking the door, Meridias heard the voice of a girl call out for someone to answer, perhaps the same one that he’d heard laughing only moments before.

    Meridias heard the door to the house creak open, a masculine voice immediately replying “Yes, lady Selene,” Meridias quickly took his ear from the door before the man opened it.

    The door swung open, an attendant saw Meridias standing there with the package, and asked with a hint of impatience, “What is your business here?”

    Meridias quickly corrected the stutter in voice, asking “Is this the home of Kleitos of Metapontum?”

    During this momentary exchange, Meridias tried to conceal his interest in the female voice he’d heard down the street, but in that effort, failed miserably.

    The man snapped his fingers in front of Meridias’ face, breaking his trance, “Well boy, what’s your business here?” he asked with a touch of irritability.

    Responding to this, Meridias said “I was asked to deliver this package to this residence.”

    Before handing over the package, the owner of the feminine voice walked into view in the background, and from the moment she walked into his line of sight until she walked back into the house, time came to a crawl. The young woman was unlike any Meridias had yet beheld; she had a slim figure with a graceful, oval-shaped face with smooth olive-colored skin, flowing black hair that curled down just past her shoulders, a finely shaped bosom, and toned legs, all wonderfully highlighted by the tasteful Greek dress she was wearing. The mid-afternoon light caught her essence in such a way as to be indescribable to all but the most well-versed poets.

    A few seconds later, things returned to normal. The attendant showed his appreciation by taking the package, then promptly closing the door in Meridias’ face without much concern. As he walked back to his employer, Meridias was whimsically dazed by the beauty from the house of Kleitos of Metapontum. By her youthful appearance, Meridias suspected she couldn’t be any older than himself, no older than her mid-teens. That trait alone would make her desirable, but along with her other superlatives, Meridias found her irresistible.

    This girl, this Selene, he had to find some way of meeting her. Devising a plan to achieve this goal wouldn’t be easy, given her father’s status, but he couldn’t pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, this chance to meet a goddess.

    To be continued…

  18. #18

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Great work, my friend.

    You have a knack for meticulous descriptive writing, and that is indeed a rare and commendable quality for aspiring authors, which further complements the quality of the story! I am impressed, and I would like to see more! Great job!

    You should consider submitting for the next Monthly Creative Writer's Competition!

    Your work would indeed be a competing force!

    I look forward to future additions of this interesting serial, my friend! I love the time period selection! It is no easy task to write in different time periods, but you indeed have a firm grasp on how to do it.

    I would just recommend that you revise each chapter and resolve some small grammatical errors that may have occurred.

    +Rep for a great chapter!

  19. #19

    Default Re: Tales from a Past Life

    Dance, thank you for the kind words.

    The meticulous framework that I write with all comes down to specifics. I like putting in subtle details, painting a picture with words of the characters and their surroundings, leaving the reader with a general impression of what the story's about and where its going. No one likes empty symbolism, and I don't like to leave the reader scratching their head By fleshing out characters and environments, they in turn become more memorable because they're not one- or two-dimensional, they become endearing to the reader from their traits alone.

    What makes the Roman era so fascinating is that it's a broad stretch of time, giving me the ability to write in any number of centuries. I've been studying and writing about the Roman period for so long, since the 9th grade, it can feel effortless sometimes and helps me in driving the stories along. It's of just as much interest to me to find where I can take the story, as it is for people to find it for themselves.

  20. #20

    Default Tales from a Past Life

    Recollection of the Past: Part III

    Remembering those days from the past, days of juvenile glee and innocence, brought an amused smile to Meridias’ lips as he walked at a slow pace back to the barracks. Through those fateful months, there were more days worthy of remembrance than at any point prior to joining the army. While that time has long since faded into the past, they would remain an indelible marker on his character. Transformed from a boy into a man, from the skinny frame of a boy to the toned, muscular frame of a soldier, from a face of smooth skin to light stubble, Meridias was nigh recognizable from the days of his early adulthood. With these thoughts passing through his mind, the clouds had quickly parted and scattered, bathing the rain-drenched streets of the fort in a blanket of faded yellow and orange hues, spreading the rays of warmth before the sun would disappear over the horizon.

    Several dozen meters away from the fort, Meridias felt that sense of something or someone inconspicuously brushing past him, eerily like that moment under the balcony. There she was, the same apparition as before, stopping Meridias in his tracks. It walked before him, calmly and unfazed, leaving the normally irreproachable centurion visibly startled and confused.

    “Why is this specter haunting me?” he thought to himself.

    At this moment, the figure turned her hood-covered head and glanced at Meridias over her shoulder, continuing to slowly walk further ahead of him. Shadow obscured most of her facial features, but he could see enough of her face to make the outline of the mouth. Meridias began taking several steps forward, trying to reach her, extending his hand to catch her, though her pace always kept her just out of his grasp. The echo of faint words escapes her lips before she faded from sight once more.

    “Why did you abandon me?” she said.

    He collapsed to his knees, sorrow pouring through his body. Meridias couldn’t fathom why this ghost was tormenting him, now haunting every step he took. With sunset giving way to night over his shoulder, Meridias silently hung his head, several tears rolling half-way down his face before falling into the shallow puddle where his knees now rested. As the feeling of remorse was filling his heart, what remained unclear was the identity of the specter. What exactly was she speaking of? Both she and her words were enigmatic, whether she was an embodiment of some forgotten part of his past or an actual person, it lingered in his mind like an unnerving itch about what it meant. The thought of being followed by a ghost unnerved Meridias, and an unnerved soldier may as well be dead, for without that nerve and instinct that keeps their adrenaline flowing, they’ve lost their edge and a centurion without an edge is no better than a pleb waving a stick. Picking himself up from his knees, he casually wiped off his legs and made his way back to the barracks to prepare for the night patrol.

    Once the night patrol commenced, Meridias was heading up a group of twenty to patrol the streets of the fort to dissuade any potential wrong-doers from any mischievous activity. Most of these patrols passed without incident, leaving the soldiers longing for the comforting warmth of their beds, but with a four-hour shift ahead, they had to remain focused until the patrol returned to the confines of the barracks. Every now and again, throughout this time, Meridias took notice of the female specter. Each occurrence, she was either walking by his side or several steps ahead, Meridias though couldn’t react to her presence or else something would seem out of line to the soldiers, he had to keep his composure. It was obvious to him that she was an imagining, a machination of his conscience, as there was no reaction from the others in the group. Meridias couldn’t figure whether she was taunting him like a game or she was leading him to discover some type of revelation, until he could confront her though, he had to suffer through these hauntings. The rest of the patrol passed without interruption from the specter.

    Throughout the night, Meridias’ dreams were occupied with visions of a female likeness; she led him through open fields dotted with flowers, laughing and giggling, the very picture of youthful innocence. Her face was never completely visible; even with this however, he could tell she was beautiful by what boyish naiveté remained inside him. Then, inexplicably, she lets go of Meridias’ hand and walked ahead of him, too fast for him to catch her, deliberately staying out of reach and vanishing as she reached a grove of trees. When he woke early the next day, the dreams were still vivid in his mind, as if the specter’s reminding him to not to let them go.

    A visage of his life ran before his eyes, like reflections in a pool of water, of every significant event that had taken place throughout his life, too many to properly organize. From those events, all of them, Meridias had to piece together what the meaning of her message was, how it factored into his past, why it mattered in the present, and what it meant for his future. This girl, woman, or whatever it may have been, had played a role in shaping who Meridias had become, she had clearly been someone of importance to him or she would’ve been lost to memory. But discovering who she was would have to stay a mystery for now, until he could find a balancing point with his new reality.

    Rising from his bed, Meridias yawned and stretched out his arms before getting prepared for the day. First, he put on his tunic then tied up his sandals. Secondly, he put on his leg greaves; it would be difficult with at any other point with full armor on. Thirdly, he pulled out his lorica hamata, adorned with a few decorations Meridias had earned over the years, slipped his arms through then his head, securing the necessary straps before putting on and tightening his belt. Even after the daily routine, Meridias still ensured the dagger was his on the right, sword on the left, because he had caught himself a number of times early on as an optio, double-checking the weapon placement, since it’s the opposite for legionaries. Lastly, Meridias put on his helmet with its sideways crest, tied the chin strap, grabbing his vine staff before heading out to the training yard to conduct drills.

    Still, the idea of the specter was foremost in his thoughts. Knowing what he already knew and what he had yet to discover, Meridias believed it was only a matter of time before she revealed herself again. Until such time, he had to conduct himself as any proper centurion would, with fortitude and discipline.

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