XXXII – Bert, Avanwy And An Annoying Terran

Passing through that long tunnel we emerged onto what appeared to be a city plaza. The place was huge. Flagstones of various colors made up the plaza floor, arranged in what appeared to be a detailed armigerous design I’d not seen before. The main theme seemed to be a large crimson bird, wings outstretched, overlaid and crossed by two of those glowing pitchforks . Seemed the little guys set great store by those glowing thingamabobs of theirs.

There were no nearby buildings as the open space spread out in a giant triangle, pointed away from us, for an incredible distance. Buildings could be seen in the distance where they skirted the edges of the plaza. Streets led off from the triangle’s points, disappearing into the city proper.

While I was staring like a slack-jawed idiot, the column had come to a stop. I realized this when I almost ran over Bert, who yelled and punched me a good one in my left arm. I, in turn, snapped out of it and, by reflex, almost made a tent-peg out of Bert. The two of us briefly glared at one another before calming down back to a semblance of normal.

As I looked around I noticed a drastic change in our ranks. With the exception of Bert’s clan, Tummi’s Valparta, and my Two hundred and four Titans, the rest of the Furry army had mysteriously vanished. Bert, always quick to explain, spoke up.

“Look surprised Varus friend? Simple answer. Tunnel through wall have other tunnels cut through and through it. Rest of army take off through tunnels for barracks in other parts of town. Simpler than dismissing whole army at once and having big mob going every which way, don’tcha think?”

I had to agree that it was an elegant solution, and I said so.

“Very clever Bert. Probably comes in quite handy for moving mass numbers of soldiers rapidly from point to point in case of attack. Am I right?”

Bert nodded his head enthusiastically.

“You catch on quick, Varus friend. Hope for you yet.”

I had to stop myself from trying to tent-peg him again. Catch on quick, huh. He was really asking for it.

Our discussion was interrupted by the arrival of a large body of armored troops. It was the nature of those troops that caused my men and I to swivel our heads and stare at yet another unexpected surprise. Those troops were men! That’s right. Men like me and my Titans. A soldier in black armor with a plumed helmet separated himself from the group and walked up to Bert. Looking down at the Valparta Chieftain, the warrior spoke.

“These the party we were sent to pick up?”

Bert looked confused and glared upward at the officer.

“What you talking about? Bert not send message. Was going to present them to the Merlyn myself! Please explain!”

The officer grunted and shook his head.

“Looks like we lost another messenger. That needs to be looked into. Regardless Bert; we sent someone to tell you we’d be meeting you when you arrived. Are you sure he didn’t show up?”

Bert growled.

“Where I keep him? In my pouch? No I not see him! Him not show up! Forest probably eat him! How should I know? You Terrans have problem losing people. Should work on that if I was you!”

The officer glared back.

“No need to get nasty. You can’t escort them anyway as you’re needed at a meeting of the city council. Seems you’ve been away a little too long again. Not exactly the way for a city leader to behave, is it?”

Now Bert was really pissed. He tried to make a snappy comeback, snarled, and left with his clan in tow. The officer chuckled.

“I live for that. The little guy riles so easy, it’s almost a shame to bait him that way. Still, he gets over it and we have a drink later. We grew up together y’know. He was a nasty little bugger, even back then. Oh, I should introduce myself. My name is Enoch and I’m Captain of the City Guard of Avanwy.”

While he spoke, Enoch’s Guardsmen discreetly surrounded us as we headed out of the plaza into the city proper. I was still having trouble grasping the scale of what I was seeing. Off in the distance and directly ahead of us was a large hill upon which sat the largest fortress I’d ever seen. It’s scale was greater than that of the largest Egyptian pyramid, with a central tower that seemed to reach almost to the cavern roof far above. Other lesser towers clustered around that giant, though none of them were nearly as large or tall as their titanic parent. There were massive battlements encircling the main structure, all of which were linked by a wall which appeared to be only slightly smaller than the ramparts surrounding Avanwy itself. Enoch seemed amused by my reaction.

“Nothing this big on the surface, eh? Guess the Stronghold of Ellatan would kind of unnerve someone new to all of this.”

The tent-peg idea was looking pretty good again. Enoch continued to blather on.

By the way . . . Varus is your name is it? Very Terran, that. You’ve been so enamored of the citadel that you haven’t really looked at the rest of the town. Valparta have an intense love of metals, as you can see.”

Enoch wasn’t kidding. We’d stopped part way up the hill which gave a great view of the surrounding lower town. The place positively glittered with metal. All kinds and colors were there in shapes too numerous to describe. It seemed that the Furrys built in whatever shape or size suited them. There was no regular skyline but, rather, a massive jumble of towers, domes, cubes, minarets, and whatever else could come to mind. And all of that architecture was made out of metal of some shape or another. I knew that I’d have to find a way to get to the lower town and get a really good look around.

Well, off we went again, back up that road to Ellatan and whoever was waiting for us inside. The major surprises weren’t over. Not by a long shot. If anything, human history was about to be rewritten in incredible ways.

Chapter XXXIII

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Published in: on March 25, 2011 at 9:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXXI – Old Conceptions Trashed

Bert took a moment to study the situation. One thing I could have sworn I saw was that the pile of lumber up ahead was actually, in a weird sort of way, staring back at us. The trees had twisted their trunks in our direction, branches extended, and seemed to be daring us to travel further down that road beneath them. Our little adventure underground was getting weirder all the time.

It was then that Bert flourished his spear and the drums started up again. This time, however, they were pounding out an intricate, short series of beats. In response, the outer files of Furrys on either side of the column, shifting their shields to their backs, reached into their side pouches, and pulled out three pieces of gear consisting of two short shafts and a double, straight pronged tip. The pieces were joined together leaving each Furry carrying what looked like a long hafted, double prong pitchfork. Each Furry so equipped twisted the bottom of the pitchfork shaft and something startling happened. Between the two prongs lightning sparked, remaining constant and dazzling bright.

What in Hades were those things!? That was the question I posed to Bert.

“Simple, Varus friend. Drums sometime not enough to make trees behave. Then Shock Staves come into play. Trees hate getting burned by power touch. ‘Course, there other ways of getting shrubbery to behave themselves. Look at sides of road under trees.”

The army had begun to move forward at a brisk pace, and as we neared the length of road directly beneath the trees, I saw what Bert was talking about. On either side of the road was a wide, white strip of something that let off the same fierce glow as the Furrys’ pitchforks. Also, between the road and those deadly looking white strips was a foot high curb made up of some kind of grey cement. Bert beat me to the punch.

“Glowy places use same force as Shock Staves. Anything land on those places wind up pile of cinders. Glowy places not particular about what they fry, so curbs there to keep anyone from leaving road. Smart idea, huh?”

I had to agree with the little guy. That road was the darndest thing I’d ever seen, but if it kept people alive, so be it.

The passage through the forest was swift and, mostly, without incident. The Shock Staves and other deterrents keeping the trees well at bay. That is except for one small branch that had somehow managed the impossible and gotten itself onto the roadway. It immediately went after a Furry drummer, sparking the little guy in the rear end. He ran up and down the column yelling “owowowowowowowow”, sparking branch in tow, until a Shock Stave blasted the branch onto the glowing strip. There was a sizzling sound and that was that.

And so we marched on. Out of the forest, where we camped three times before moving on in our last leg to Avanwy. Finally, on the fourth day, we reached the city. What I and my men saw left us literally speechless. My boys and I had prided ourselves in calling ourselves Titans. What we saw made us feel totally insignificant by comparison. I had expected Avanwy to be a large Furry town. Boy was I wrong!

Far from being a native village, the place was monolithic in scope. The army had halted a short distance from the main gates, where the fun began.

Bert strode to the front of the column and shouted a command in Valparta.

“Anatoc ta vocu docanna!”

Whatever he had said, the response was epic. The army’s clarions sounded an ear splitting verse accompanied by the deep roll of all of Bert’s drums. The Valparta troops gave a thunderous shout and slammed thousands of spears against an equal number of shields. The noise was deafening.

The response from the walls was not long in coming. Trumpets sang and drums rolled, accompanied by something I had not expected. The shrill tone of pipes!

Bert’s bunch, not to be outdone, pulled a rabbit out of the hat with yet another surprise. From further back in the column came the sound of answering pipes. How many musical instruments did Bert’s troops have anyway, and where were they getting them from? Those bags of theirs certainly didn’t seem deep enough to carry everything they had pulled out so far. The answer, however, would have to wait for another time. We were on the move again.

The army moved forward and, in response, the massive gates of Avanwy slowly opened. As we drew close to the city ramparts, the scale of things become very clear. Those walls towered far over our heads and the mammoth, now open, gates of the city dwarfed us into insignificance.

As we passed through, I could see what those gates were made of. Metal. Lots of deeply engraved metal. The gates had swung inward so that we could see the bright metal facings of each gate.

Literally thousands of engraved figures covered the surfaces, showing battle scenes depicting what seemed to be the city’s long, warrior, history. The core of each gate consisted of huge, non-glowing, timbers. I guess the Valparta had overcome their taboo against using massive amounts of wood. No doubt the timbers had been obtained during their battles against the encroaching forests.

As we marched through the gates, another thing struck me. The thickness of those titanic walls. We were, quite literally, walking through a tunnel of not less than forty feet of thickness. Whoever had taught the Furrys to build had taught them on a grand scale. It was that thought that sobered my thinking. The little guys had never seemed to me to do anything that was unnecessary. That meant that the huge architecture was necessary, not frivolous.

The crazy forests alone shouldn’t have made this amount of building necessary. What kind of enemy were they really facing? My chain of thought snapped as we entered the city proper. I was going to have to redefine my notions of size.

Chapter XXXII

Published in: on March 5, 2011 at 6:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXX – A History Lesson

(I’m back. I know I’ve been away for quite a while and I do sincerely apologise for the extended absence. Severe health problems and a dying computer complicated matters and distracted me from my favorite pastime. Telling stories. With my health much improved and a new computer, we should speed along more, or less, normally. Certainly (I hope) not like the length of this last absence. So let’s see what Varus, Bert, and crowd are up to now.)

Along the road we marched, drums pounding a steady rhythm and everyone in fairly good spirits. The drumbeat was precise and the beats were evenly spaced. Kind of reminded me of the beat used by galleys to control their rowers. As a military man I was kinda’ nervous about making so much noise where, only a short time before, a suspected enemy force had been lurking. I broached the point to Bert, who came up with a surprising answer.

“Drum beat not just for noise, but for trees. Big, green, glowy trees like steady drum beat. It sooths them and makes them more friendly. If friendly even possible. Need them relaxed if we to get through forest in one piece instead of many, nasty, shredded pieces.”

I thought about that for a moment and popped my next, obvious question.

“Okay, got that, but why are they after you?” (I couldn’t quite believe I was talking about smart trees holding a grudge.)

Bert gave me his usual big, sharp toothed smile and proceeded to explain.

“Tell story, but you have to be patient. Story kinda’ long and strange. Okay?”

I nodded my assent and Bert continued.

“Long long ago, longer than we Valparta care to remember, we get our start, or, how you say, beginning. That ages before now, and before rule of Great Lords. I get to them later. In first times, caverns much darker than now. Green glow came only from wall huggy moss and small bushes. Trees just trees and not nosey or nasty.

Lords tell us that why we have great big eyes. Easier to see in half dark. Anyway, at that time Valparta live in small caves or simple, wood huts. We never hurt or cut down trees. Take deadwood or dead standing trees. Never touch live ones. Then.

As I said, we simple folk who lived simple existance. Know little about fire and nothing about metal. Also, we not know, until after long time passed, that glow was slowly spreading. We normally forest creatures. Children play around trees and nothing happen. Yet.

Then, after much time had passed, we began to notice odd things start happening. The glow began sneaking into outer trees and nasty things happen.

First, forest playing children disappear. Villagers frantically search for little ones, but none ever found. After first disappearances, children forbidden to play near trees. Glow got stronger and crept further into forests until all trees glow, but that was not the worst of it. As glow grew stronger and brighter, outer trees attack nearby villages. They did this by sending glowing deadwood in to cause great harm.

After many deaths, we strike back with fire. Many trees burn and forests retreat for time being. Still, glow get brighter. It was about that time that Great Lord cities drop from above. Some villages crushed. We Valparta very very upset, but not know what to do about new threat.

Turns out, crushing was accident. Lords not know that some Valparta settled in their shafts. Big oops on both parts. Valparta and Lords arrange meeting, and confusion settled after much yelling and hand waving by us. Lords give big, big apology for terrible oops, and we become kinda’ friends. Not completely trust them just yet at time.”

I just had to interrupt.

“How does that get us to now?”

It was at that moment I realised I’d made a big mistake. Bert’s small, pointed ears flattened back like those of a cat, and his mouth opened wide to display even more of his dental cuttlery. The little guy was really pissed off.

“Did I not say DON’T INTERRUPT!”

I was genuinely taken aback by the little guy’s fury and thought it prudent to let him continue before he tried to bite me. Bert settled down and his story continued.

“As Bert was saying, we met Great Lords and life began to change for us. Mighty Ones teach Valparta about metal smithing – we turned out to be naturals at metal work – and the making of hotter fires. With this knowledge we learn to make metal weapons and shields. Next forest attack met with axes and armor. Trees retreat with a vengence.

Next, we remade our villages, over long time, with metals and stone instead of wood. As towns grow and we push back green, glowy forests, servants of Great Lords come to live with us. They say they do this so they can teach us directly and, also, to learn more about us and we them. Bert still not sure about truth of that.”

Bert’s speech died as he looked ahead. The forest was now very close at hand and Bert signaled a halt to the march. I was soon to learn exactly how the Valparta dealt with their glowing nemesis.

Chapter XXXI

Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 4:20 PM  Leave a Comment  

Another Missive from Ye Olde Editor

Due to a mix-up/miscommunication with Unnamed Computer Store, the Unnamed Tech Support person was given the wrong info as to what was to be done (install and network both computers and wireless printer), so he did not have enough time to do all of the above. Only my computer was installed (Yay!) and Michael’s will be done on Wednesday.

Abject Apologies are offered.

In the meantime, I get to contact Tech Support for both Windows Live and XBox Live to try to fix a mess I made with my log-on/joining of XBox Live. It is not going to be pretty, folks. But I am learning to navigate Windows 7 and my new computer. Hmmmm – maybe I ought to have a computer naming post. Nah – I can name characters but I fail at naming inanimate objects.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 12:03 PM  Leave a Comment  

A message from Ye Olde Editor (and author)

Due to mostly health issues (Michael has sciatica) preventing comfort whilst writing and computer issues (Ye Olde Editor’s hard drive is in it’s death throes and Michael’s computer needs to play nicer with others) working on the story has been a non-happening.

Michael’s back is getting better (Yay!) and new computers – which will arrive (hopefully) on the morrow and be installed by next Saturday – are a-happenin’! Plus Michael is getting a Dragon program which ought to allow him to increase his production since he will be able to dictate his story directly to the computer.

Massive, massive apologies to those still reading our authorial attempts. I am not very good about letting people know what is going on in my life, as it always seems, to me, to be very boring. If you are still reading this alternate history, thank you. If you are enjoying it, please pass the word. Or leave a note. A show of interest will generate more production.

Published in: on February 13, 2011 at 1:32 PM  Comments (2)  

XXIX – Valparta Soldiery And Another Roman Surprise

We stayed at the Valparta camp for another ten days while Bert’s scouts searched the area for that elusive red, spikey army. They never found them. All I could figure was that the unknown raiders had hightailed it out of the region when Bert’s army showed up.

I sure would’ve!

In any case, we all got a good rest which also gave me time to catch up on where Acteus’ bunch had been and what they did. Turns out they’d had a rougher time of it than we did.

There were several small skirmishs with Nephilim and their Elohim handlers. The Titans, being who they were (the finest infantry Rome had ever known), managed to shove the enemy’s teeth down their throats each time. But my boys took casualties. Four had died and there had been numerous wounded. Acteus’ group was a little worse for wear when Bert bumped into them.

Actually, Acteus had commented that, if Bert and his army hadn’t found them when they did, there would have been quite a few more dead from the running battle the Titans had been waging. As it was, Bert’s forces collided with the pursuing enemy in what turned into a one-sided slaughter.

The Nephilim and Elohim never stood a chance. Outnumbered a hundred to one, the creatures died where they stood. It was a short time after that that Bert had gotten wind of the red, spikey raiders and had gone out looking for them. He found us instead. All in all, everything had turned out all right for us Titans. So far.

On the tenth day, Bert came around to our camp to let us know we were marching very early the next day. With that news we started packing. We’d leave out our bedrolls for the night, but tents and other gear were properly stowed and readied for the next morning. Six hours later, we were wakened by Valparta shaking us and waving the ‘come along’ signal.

We packed up our bedrolls, grabbed our gear and weapons, and headed off in the direction indicated. Minutes later when we arrived at the rendezvous point, we stopped dead in our tracks at the sight which greeted us. The forward elements of the Valparta army had already assembled, and what a sight it was!

There was one column ten wide, already stretching back to the main camp over a mile to the rear. Raised at regular intervals over that formidable forest of spears were carried standards that nearly brought tears to my eyes. They were of Roman design.

Coincidence? Maybe. I was learning that just about anything was possible in this buried, twilight world. But, to get back to cases. Each one of the standards was made up of a pole with a cross piece near the top. The poles and crossbars looked to me like they were encased in gold and a cloth banner hung from each. There were multiple colors and shades of color with seemed to denote unit affiliation and status, and some standards (like those of Bert’s thousand kinsmen) were just plain decadent in their lavish style. Strange symbols decorated each banner symbolizing, I guess, the names or designations of each unit bearing that standard.

It was when I looked at the top of those numerous standards that my eyes bugged out of their sockets. I didn’t realise it at the time, but all of my Titans were having the same reaction. At the very summit of each standard there was a figure (apparently also made of gold) that I KNEW couldn’t, and shouldn’t, exist in this strange place.

At the summit of each standard resided a figure of a gold Wrinkly! Jewels in the Wrinkly’s eye sockets shone with a pale fire not unlike the crimson lamps of a mutt I’d left behind so long ago. Those Wrinklies were virtual mirror images of Tiny!! Another impossiblity I couldn’t explain.

It was while I was goggle eyed over the revelations shown me that an armored Valparta from Bert’s unit shook my arm (he had to stand tiptoe to do it), pulling my rapt attention back to reality. Turning my attention to my visitor, I saw that, in one hand, he was carrying a standard like, yet unlike, those others. He handed it to me and stood back, apparently waiting for something to happen.

I looked over that standard and immediately noticed the differences. This one was classic Roman. In place of the Wrinkly was a gold Roman eagle. Looking at the crimson standard I saw the gold image of Tiny’s face which was mirrored on every one of our shields. Fire glittered from jewels inset in place of the mutt’s eyes. It was indeed my Tiny. Gulping, I thanked the Valparta who nodded impatiently and waved for us to follow him.

“You get in line now! Bert waiting for you!”

Oh! By the way! I need to correct an omission that I’ve been unintentionally making during my description of the Valparta weapons. Every Furry present had a shield of some sort. The rank and file of the short Furries (citizen soldiers) carried hide shields of great strengh and light weight. Bert’s bunch carried metal, kite shaped shields of unusual design (horn shaped at the top trailing edge), painted clan colors with a Wrinkly face embossed on each shield.

Anyway, when we got to our position in the front of the line, I got another surprise. Stationed ahead of Bert’s column and behind a company of one hundred armored Valparta was a rather good sized group of Furries carrying drums and clarions. The Furries had a blasted band!

Bert came up to us and indicated a large open space in the front center of the column. It was flanked by two columns of armored Valparta on each side. While my men formed up in their designated spot, I had a few crisp words with Bert.

“Okay. What gives? We’re surrounded by you guys again. By now I’d think you’d trust us.”

Bert smiled that razor grin of his.

“Not case of trust. Actually, trust you very much. There are dangers ahead you know nothing about. Could get killed through ignorance. You die, Bert in big trouble. Boss at Avanwy not like you get killed. Take it out on Bert. So you stay where you are. You live to reach Avanwy. Bert happy.”

I couldn’t argue with his logic. So, we formed up with me taking a place by Bert’s side, and off we went. Jumped once when, as the army started to move forward, there was the thunderous roll of drums and Clarions sang forth their challenge.

We were on our way.

Chapter XXX

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 3:47 PM  Leave a Comment  

XXVIII – Discussion And A Possible Solution

Once everyone was settled in and I was at my own campfire, I called for an officers meeting. In short order, Acteus, Philos, and Marcus were gathered round the fire and ready for a lengthy discussion. I started things out with something that had been bothering my mind for some time. I stared at each of the other three men, trying to gauge if they were still as strong mentally as when we’d started out.

“Alright guys, here’s the situation as I see it. Simply put, we may be screwed, blued, and tattoed.”

Marcus interrupted. “H’come?”

I glared at him and continued. “If you’d let me finish, I’ll explain. Our original mission was to find and kill whatever monster, or monsters, were coming through the wrecked door to kill us. Right off the bat, things went wrong with said door disappearing behind us. Then we ran into another kind of man sized monster we weren’t prepared for. Should have turned around right then and tried to find another way home.”

Marcus interrupted again. This time Acteus and Philos glared at him. He ignored them both.

“What could we do? The damned doorway was gone, and I didn’t see any exit point nearby.”

Good point there.

“True enough. Anyway, we continued onward and smacked into the Valparta with whom we immediatly engaged in a spear throwing contest. Everything else, from that screwed up Eye to a Nephilim/Elohim free for all, has drawn us deeper and ever so deeper into unknown and, possibly, hostile territory. Solution? Find a fast way home and out of this mess, as we’re not equipped for the kind of odds we’re facing.”

Acteus looked at me and shook his head. “No good.”

“Why?”

“The Valparta, especially Bert, are not about to let us out of their sight. Also there’s this city of theirs, Avanwy. Maybe we can find some way of getting home there?”

I looked at Acteus like he was a confused two year old. Big mistake. He glared back, his face slightly red. I decided, for the sake of continued peace, to move on.

“Look. From what I’ve seen of the Valparta, they’re on the same page we are. Swords, spears, shields, whatnot. I can’t see what they’d have that could get us home any faster or easier than we could ourselves.”

Acteus was his old calm self again. “Tummy knew how to shut off the Eye. That has to count for something.”

He had me there. “Okay, granted. But just because he was able to shut that thing off, doesn’t mean that he knows how the Eye works.”

Philos jumped in. “Doesn’t mean he doesn’t either.”

These guys were thinking at full speed. No trouble with their minds that I could see. I continued.

“I guess the only way we’re going to know for sure is to go to Avanwy. I still can’t see these furry little guys living in, let alone building, any kind of city. Still, they’ve been full of surprises so far. Might as well find out what other tricks they know. I just hope we don’t live to regret it.”

The others nodded in agreement. That said, I ended the meeting and everyone, except Acteus, left. He hunkered down by the fire next to me, looking like he had something serious on his mind.

“Alright Varus. What was that little stunt you aimed at me a while ago? We’ve known each other for a lot of years and you’ve never done that before. What gives?”

I stared at the fire, trying to pull my thoughts together.

“Yeah. Sorry about that. Guess I’ve been under a lot of strain lately. Didn’t mean to offend.”

Acteus was also staring into the flames.

“I’ve seen you under tremendous pressure any number of time. Hades, you’ve commanded armies in tight situations and you never lost your calm. Howcome now?”

“Acteus, I’ve never led a command in a situation like this one. Hell, I don’t even know the ground rules. I screwed up back at the tunnel and nearly lost you guys. Plus, I don’t like this feeling of helplessness. Right now we’re at the mercy of Bert and his crowd. Who knows what this city of theirs is like. We could be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Gods I wish things weren’t so complicated!”

Acteus turned his face toward me.

“Look Varus. Maybe you’re trying too hard. Take things one step at a time and things’ll work themselves out. That’s what you used to tell me anyway.”

Damned if he wasn’t right. Positive, and careful, thinking just might be the key to getting home. Anyway, what did we have to lose.

Chapter XXIX

Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 6:06 PM  Comments (1)  

XXVII – More Mysteries Revealed

So there we were, watching Bert’s very impressive military force form itself up for the march back to their camp. I already knew about Bert’s thousand relatives, but the actual size of the entire Valparta army took me by surprise. In addition to Bert’s family, there had to be at least five thousand other Furries present. I knew this because the whole battle force was arranged in three massive marching columns that seemed to stretch backward out of sight.

Bert’s bunch headed the central column and it was there that me and my boys formed up. We were placed directly behind Bert and his officers in the place of honor. Actually, I think it was so that Bert could keep an eye on us. Whatever. It gave me an excellent opportunity to quiz our host during the march. I already had my first question ready which had to do with the overwhelming size of Bert’s army.

“Say, Bert. How come you’re here with such a large mob? Can’t have been just for fifty eight Legionaires and four hundred Furries. I gather you guys don’t fight your own kind anyway.”

Bert swiveled his hairy head toward me and smiled a smile full of very sharp teeth.

“You right Varus. We don’t fight our own kind. Didn’t know Tummi and others with you. Didn’t even know you here until we run into you. Heard rumors of strange, red, spikey army burning villages in this area. We mass up quick. Gather as many fighters as we could find to counter attacks. I had fear we would still be badly outnumbered, but had to try anyway. Imagine my surprise when we see you instead of red, spikey guys.”

Now I was really confused.

“Why, then, were you so ticked off at first?”

Bert scowled slightly, and I thought maybe I had overstepped a bit. Then he smiled and I breathed an internal sigh of relief.

“When Bert saw you, I thought maybe you brand new invasion from somewhere else. Was not happy at all.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Seven days ago we pick up another group like you. About hundred some odd fighters. Leader’s name is Acteus. Also, Marcus and Philos lead their own groups. They concerned about missing comrades lost somewhere. Said leader’s name was Varus. When I heard your name, realized you belong to other bunch.”

I staggered a bit when I heard Bert’s news. Acteus and the others were actually alive and, apparently, in a safe place! I very carefully asked my next question.

“Are they alright, and where are they now?”

“They healthy and, mostly, unhurt. Some small injuries from earlier fights. Your doctor take good care of them. Also, they camped with us at big camp.”

Hades! With that news I wanted to run to the Valparta camp I was so anxious to see my missing Titans. I passed the news down our line which cheered and whooped with joy. And so, it was with renewed vigor and high spirits that we headed off to Bert’s camp.

The journey was short, being only a few miles distant. Thus we made the trip in just over three hours time. When we arrived, I saw something else that caused me to re-evaluate the military power these guys had. Looking out over the plains we had just come from were cannons. Dozens of them by the look of things.

My own people had been working on a similar idea for some time. We just couldn’t get the darned things to work. I’d found out about it in Ravenna, when I made that city my headquarters for an attack against Rome.

Anyway, after a time we gave the whole idea up as a bad job and went back to traditional Roman artillary. Yet here they were. The Furries had apparently figured out how to make the things work. The artillary batteries present proved as much.

As we headed further into the enormous campsite, Bert’s army began to disperse toward different camps. Bert himself came up to us and spoke.

“Follow me.”

And so we did. We zigzagged between camping areas until we came to an area set right up against a tall cliff face. There were Roman tents in neat rows. Over two hundred of them at first glance. It was who was in front of those tents that gladdened my military heart.

The Titans were lined up in parade formation with Acteus, Marcus, and Philos standing at rigid attention in front of their troops. We were united again and things were starting to look up once more. An officer’s meeting would change my initial feelings about our good fortune.

Chapter XXVIII

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 3:12 PM  Comments (1)  

XXVI – Armor And Other Surprises

(Hello everyone, or at least anyone who has been reading this opus of mine. Anybody still out there?

Sounds of nature. Crickets chirping, etc.

Anyway, I know I’ve been absent for some time and I apologize for that. However, strange things have been happening to me the last few weeks. Sickness for one. Also, a strange series of events that parallel the last sentence of the previous entry. Prophecy? Don’t know, don’t care. Anyway, let’s continue on with the strange free-for-all known as Titan’s Travels.)

Reacting to my words, Tummi dashed off into the surrounding Valparta, only to return moments later with another, larger, version of himself. This character stood at least half a foot taller than his relatives and looked a darn sight meaner. His fangs were actually showing even though his mouth was tightly closed.

Another item set him apart from his people. He was wearing armor. Lots of armor. The suit was all metal and intensely engraved from the neck on down. He had a helmet hanging from his belt that even had a Roman style plume. Pretty impressive that. He also wore a sword much like the Roman Gladius and carried a pretty hefty stabbing spear.

He and Tummi stopped right in front of me and Tummi did the introductions. The other guy just glared.

“Him short name Bert. Leader of Valparta army from Avanwy. Him ticked off you show up. Make his day complicated. Thinking of killing you, but willing to be talked out of such thing.”

I looked at Bert and, for the first time in a long time, chose my words carefully. “Um, hello Bert.”

Glare.

“Look. Maybe we can sort this thing out general to general.”

Glare.

Bert’s glare was beginning to get on my nerves, and not in a good way. I tried again.

“Okaaaay. What would it take to calm things down and get a dialogue going?”

Glare.

By this time my own temper was spiraling upward. I’d had just about had it with short stuff and his glare. I put some teeth into my next words.

“Look buster! I’m trying to be nice here, but you’re not helping. Either join the conversation or get the hell out of my face!”

Tummi saw where things were leading and promptly stepped in to mediate. He turned to Bert and, with a lot of arm waving and gabbering, apparently was trying to get Bert to cooperate.

Something he said must have worked because Bert relaxed and smiled. A little. Anyway, his fangs weren’t so pronounced. I turned to Tummi and asked him about it.

“Okay Tummi. What did you say to him anyway. He looks like he just won an award or something.”

Tummi grinned back at me.

“Tell Bert might be to his advantage to compare weapon stuff with you. Also said is good thing to have you as friend. Better defense against Nephilim and Elohim. Bert like both ideas.”

I looked at Bert who was smiling even wider now. Definitately large fangs.

“That true Bert? You wanna’ be friends?”

Bert nodded and spoke up.

“Bert understand now. Thought you were trying to trick me before. You have nice weapon stuff. Different, but nice. Also, Tummi tell me you good at slaughtering enemies. Like that.”

Well, at least we were on speaking terms. Looked like there wasn’t going to be a battle after all. This was confirmed when Bert raised his spear over his head and, in a voice that could be heard by everyone, gabbered happily away.

The response was immediate. Both the Valparta from our group and the Avanwy army began wildly cheering while jumping up and down in a frenzy of excitement. My Titans sighed with relief at the turn of events. No battle meant continued futures for everyone.

Especially us.

The Valparta camp was a bit of a distance off and Bert’s army was a bit anxious to get back to it. As for me and my boys, even Titans can get a little weary. We were looking forward to a small break to rest up and get our collective bearings.

So it was that the Avanwy army formed up in marching order and headed back to their camp with us in tow. It was while this was going on that I got another brutal surprise.

Seems Bert wasn’t the only big, armored Furry around. Leading the parade were what looked like about a thousand of Bert’s relatives. All in armor from head to foot and armed to the teeth.

Seems we had lucked out better than we, at first, thought. Though they were shorter than us, that armored mob would probably have made short, messy work of us. Sure, we were the Titan’s, but fifty eight against a thousand armored fanatics? Nope. No way could we have survived against those odds.

As we began the march, another little surprise greeted us. Several of our own Furries ran up to us and asked for our backpacks.

Tummi explained. Bert had ordered these guys to run ahead and set up our camp for us. Seems Bert respected us as fellow warriors and wanted to show that respect in this manner. Who were we to argue?

So off the Furries ran with our backpacks while, somewhat lighter now, we paced ourselves to the speed of the Valparta march. Those guys might be short, but boy could they move.

My boys were looking forward to a little snooze time while I wanted to quiz Bert some more. Turned out his answers were a bit different than what I wanted or liked.

Chapter XXVII

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 8:33 PM  Comments (1)  

XXV – Watch Out For Those Trees!

“Off yer asses! Let’s move out!”

That was the order of the day. The last place I wanted to be was near that damned Eye.

The Titans were in formation before I could yell again. Good old Roman discipline. With the Furrys it was another matter. Tummi ran around and through his troops, jabbering away in that language of theirs. Quick as you could say ‘move it’, over three hundred Valparta were in their own formations and ready to go.

I was impressed, to say the least. Wherever those guys had learned their trade, they’d learned it well. Whitey was bringing up the rear for reasons he had explained to me.

*I will bring up the rear as I have certain . . . abilities that should serve us well if we are ambushed from behind.*

After what Whitey had told me and what I’d seen of his traveling skills, I was not about to argue with his reasoning. So, off we went.

As we began our ascent down the trail, another surprise reared it’s ugly self. The landscape had deceived our eyes in that the trail didn’t descend in a gradual, straight line. Rather, it wound down the side of an immense cliff face. Looking down we could see the valley floor off in the hazy distance.

This was going to take awhile. It took two days in fact.

Down we went on a trail that could’ve given a snake severe back pain. The two times we stopped to pitch camp, we rested on the trail itself and as close to the cliff wall as possible.

Finally, we descended to the valley floor that opened up onto a vast plain which stretched as far as we could see. The forest I had spotted up above was far larger than I had at first thought. In fact, my normally excellent vision had been totally deceived as to the actual scale of the land about us.

The trail we were on headed off in a straight line, which traveled off in the distance until it disappeared into the forest ahead. I had always hated forests for one main reason.

Ambush.

It had been my professional experience that enemy armies loved to hide in large forests. Forests offered a defending force several handy advantages. For example, it was exceedingly difficult, if not just plain impossible, to effectively use spears and longswords in said forest, while your enemy could stab the #$#@% out of you with a nice, effective short sword or Gladius.

Also, if the defending force really knew their hiding place, they could get you to run hither and yon until your normally clean battle formations were a mucked up mess. And speaking of formations, forget using a battle line in a forest. Trees tended to get in the way.

So much for my personal thoughts about miles of overgrown shrubbery. In any case, the road led into that glowing vegetable garden so there we must follow.

The pace of our march was rapid and by the second morning after we had reached the valley floor, we entered the outskirts of that titanic lumber stand. The initial day’s journey along the forest path was uneventful and I was beginning to relax a little, hoping for a quiet trip through to the other side.

Y’know, I should have listened to my paranoia a little closer that day. You guessed it. Our little curse was still with us.

Everyone had relaxed to the extent that some of my lads had quietly started singing an old marching tune. Something about a village and the farmer’s daughters. Tummi’s group, after listening intensely for a few minutes, took up the tune and, before long, the whole army was singing along happily.

Whitey, who was still taking up the rear, seemed oblivious to what was going on. I knew better. That guy never rested and it was unlikely he could get distracted. It was at that moment, when my guard was really down, that it happened.

Ambush.

Swinging down from those damned trees and pouring out of the underbrush stormed an army of Furrys, armed to the teeth with spears and loads of other nasty things. In seconds we were surrounded. Any thought of resistance quickly faded from my startled mind when I saw the numbers our ambushers were bringing to the field.

There had to have been thousands of the little guys compared to the few hundred we could muster. One thought did enter my mind however. Why hadn’t our Valparta known about those other Valparta?

I was about to put the question to Tummi when a small ruccus erupted in our own lines.

Two Furrys were frantically jumping up and down, waving their hands and shouting something in their own language. Then, one of the Furrys in the ambushing horde saw our Furrys and started doing the same thing. Tummi quickly explained.

“The two jumping up and down are brothers. Short names are Snooky and Pooky. They recognise Valparta surrounding us, while someone in that group recognise them. Appears to be cousin with short name of Renni.”

I pushed Tummi further.

“Okay. Who are these other guys then?”

“Others are from town of Avanwy. Three days journey from here. Snooky and Pooky’s home town too. Seems about a hundred of our group also come from there. Everybody from Avanwy excited and happy. They not kill us after all. Tummi hope.”

I wasn’t feeling as confident about things as my little friend and said so.

“Look! I need to talk to the boss Valparta of that mob and get some things straightened out. Last thing we need is for those guys to change their minds and slaughter me and my Titans. No siree! Ain’t gonna happen!”

What would happen next gave me renewed belief in miracles. Suffice it to say, those diminishing chances of survival turned around and went the other way.

Chapter XXVI

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 4:03 PM  Comments (1)