XVIII – Too Much Information?

It had been a curious and strange ride so far. But, even with what we’d seen and done, I was not prepared for Whitey the Seraph’s story, which he seemed really anxious to tell me. I had never liked bedtime or mystery stories so I was a little leery of what my mysterious friend might have to say to me. I hate it when a gut feeling tells me I’m right and reality proves it.

There we were. Me repairing armor and trying to look calm with Whitey the Seraph about to complicate my busy life further. I sat myself down on a nearby rock and waited for Whitey to speak. It wasn’t long in coming.

*Prepare yourself General. What I am about to tell you is the basis for many of your oldest legends. You must believe that what I say is the ungarnished truth. We Seraphim cannot lie nor would deceiving you benefit us in the least.*

Whitey stopped ‘talking’ and I notice that the Furry named Phred had ambled over and was sitting cross legged next to us. His large blue eyes had an almost hypnotic quality about them. Whitey had stopped when Phred appeared. Now he continued.

*Phred, as you refer to him, is here to translate the concepts I am about to reveal to you. Many of the events I will descibe do not have comparable references in your own experiences. Everything will be translated to you accurately and in full. Nothing of what I reveal to you will be withheld or edited. Do you understand?*

Like an idiot I just nodded my head. Phred had already started his part of the job because everything Whitey told me came across as vivid images inside my skull.

*Let us start with a statement of fact. Man’s knowledge of his beginnings and his rise from savagery are woefully incomplete, or the facts have been twisted all out of recognition. Accepting this reality will allow me to accurately tell you my story. Do you understand and agree to this?*

I nodded yes, still unable to get my tongue to work, or say anything.

*This world called Earth has seen countless ages of change. Some beneficial, others terribly destructive. What I will relate to you concerns a period many tens of thousands of years past when the race you sprang from was still a concept. Mere images in the minds of those who, as time wore on, dared to call themselves gods. In the time of which I speak, this world was known as Terra, and was the seat of a powerful and advanced society ruled by a higher order of Man known historically as ‘The Fourth Human Race’.

These men had come from outside Terra at least a million years earlier in search of a new home. Some time before, their world, a place known as Tellus, had been devastated by the fires of runaway technology. So complete had been the destruction that nothing lived, or could live, on it’s smoldering surface.

The few survivors fled in all directions from their ruined, scarred home, ten thousand of which came to this world Terra. Others fled across the stars to Tellus’ twin world, Rhodenitia, already inhabited by Fouth Race Humans. But that is another tale.

At the time of the migration, Terra was a wild, untamed world which had not yet been ‘graced’ by the presence of Mankind. This soon changed. Men came to this world and tamed it to their will. Or so they thought.

Great cities rose, pushing back the natural order of things, and men multiplied. Science was their god, and only a very few remembered the old ways of their people, or what had brought them to Terra in the first place. Governing this society where those who were called the Great Lords, and their vassals, the High Lords.*

From the sound of things, I was in for a long story.

Chapter XIX

Published in: on July 18, 2010 at 1:46 PM  Comments (1)  

XVII – Mythical Beings And Strange Conversations

After all the hubbub had worn down, I figured that the time would be well spent recovering from our latest adventure. Therefore I told my men that we would be staying put for a couple of days.

I think the men set a record time obeying my orders.

Within minutes I heard soft snoring coming from some of the tents while others set to repairing damaged armor and weapons. As for myself, I found a large rock to sit upon and contemplate all we had learned from the journey so far.

Looking around, I realized that we had come to the end of the tunnel. Doing the math, our marches had taken us an astounding four hundred leagues to tunnel’s end in a little over one week.

I knew that no Roman Infantry, including the much vaunted Praetorian Guard, could have accomplished the same task in the same amount of time. I was proud of my boys so I decided to add a day to our rest period. I’d tell them at evening meal.

For the first time I had a chance to really look around me and truly see where I was. The tunnel mouth widened out into a space so large that I could not easily see the far walls or cavern ceiling even with my excellent eyesight. All of the land about us was lit by that same greenish glow which prevented complete darkness from settling in. I was still curious about the day and evening cycle the plants kept, so I’d be sure to ask Lanni about it at the earliest opportunity.

Little did I realize that my question would be answered by a more informed source.

The next morning we were paid a visit by Tummi who seemed to be escorting none other than the white Seraphim. Entering our camp, Tummi kept a discreet distance as the Seraphim walked up to me and seemed to be casually studying me from head to foot.

Turned out the guy was my height and slightly more massive. Very impressive that. Giving off an aura of quiet confidence, Whitey spoke and his words echoed in my mind.

*Greetings General Varus. I have been waiting to speak to you for some time now. Your journey has been most impressive. So far. I had a wager with my three brothers* (he gestured toward the other camp and the three Seraphim therein) *that you would take at least one of your months before you would come in contact with the Valparta. It seems that I have underestimated your prowess in the matter. My red bother will pleased with his victory. He wagered you would arrive in less than three weeks. Such are the fortunes of wagers.*

It was taking some self control on my part to act calm in the face of his introduction, which was more than mildly unnerving hearing him speak with no mouth to speak from.

“Well, you know my name but I am more than interested to know yours. Lanni calls you Seraphim, but I’ve only heard that term in Judea when talking about something called angels. Sooo . . . what are you known by?”

The Seraphim looked at me with that blank face which made me want to jump out of my skin.

*I should tell you that one of us alone is called by the singular Seraph, while two or more are called by the plural Seraphim.*

Great! I’d insulted him without even trying. I found myself wishing for Caesar’s presence to get me out of this conversation, as I’m more of a hit first and ask questions later type of guy. As it turned out, Whitey wasn’t offended in the least.

*As to names, we Seraphim have no such designations. We are simply referred to by color, description, and/or number. I am known as ‘White’, ‘Air’, or ‘One’. You may choose which you prefer.*

Desig . . . huh? This guy was way too fancy with his words. I chose not to make an issue of it.

“Okay ‘Air’. Nice t’ meet you. What are your friends named? No . . . let me guess. Red for fire, blue for water, and the brown guy is earth I betcha’.”

The Seraph stayed silent for what felt like minutes

*Well done General! We did not think you would be so astute.*

As . . . what? Whitey was starting to get on my nerves with those big words of his.

“If that means what I think it means . . . thanks. I do my best. If it doesn’t . . . those are fight’n words!”

Whitey actually seemed to smile with no smile.

*Trust me General. It was a compliment. But, seriously. We need to talk about vital matters.*

I didn’t like the sound of that at all. What was this Seraph about to tell me?

Chapter XVIII

Published in: on July 4, 2010 at 3:16 PM  Comments (1)  

XVI – Furrys, Seraphim And New Friends

Well, the Titans didn’t get half as chewed up as I’d thought. There were some nicks and scrapes all around, but only one guy had been hurt. He’d been clipped in the left side by a Furry spear.

“Lot of blood but no serious injury.” At least that’s what the Doc said as he finished bandaging him up.

Our shields had gotten new decorations in the form of lots of spear shafts sticking out of them. The guys were busily at work pulling said shafts out and grumbling about the damage.

One soldier was heard to say “Look! Ruined!” as he held up his punctured shield for all to see. I walked over to him and a slap to the back of his head calmed him down somewhat. He looked shamefaced and immediately started to plug up the holes with a gummy material the Furrys gave us that they used to patch up their own shields.

When applied, the stuff dried fast and was as hard as the rest of the shield. One good thing came out of it. We had plenty of spears, plus almost all of our pilums back.

The Furrys didn’t seem to mind us keeping their hardware, however. Most likely they had a lot more things to throw in addition to the spears. It was amazing to me that such little guys could throw their spears with so much force.

One side note here. On closer inspection of the Furrys’ spears, I noted some interesting differences from our own. Take the spear tip, for example. I’d seen some nasty spear tips in my day, but these were really remarkable for their nastiness. Thin, barbed, and sawtooth sharp; I could understand the damage done to that one fellow’s side. If he had been hit one inch to the right it would’ve been just too bad for him.

Regarding the Furrys; size apparently didn’t mean much, because, in addition, the little guys showed us some really advanced, hand-held spear throwers. At that moment my respect for Furry ingenuity went up several notches.

However, they did complain about the pilums stuck in their shields, so we straightened the bent tips and pulled them out. Soft metal tips can be a wonderful thing.

So it went for the next couple of days. We and the Furrys became good friends, swapping war stories (the little guys had apparently seen quite a bit of action; all of it against the Elohim and Nephilim) and a lot of tall tales. We had the edge in the war story department.

Seems we lived more violent lives than the people underground.

It was on the third morning after the battle that we got introduced to the Seraphim. Four of them walked into the Furry camp, creating quite a stir. The little guys bowed deeply and stayed that way until their guests gave them permission to rise.

As to the Seraphim, they were real eye openers. They had two arms, two legs, and a head. That was where their resemblance to us ended. Take their faces for example. They didn’t have one. Except for a bump where the nose should be, their faces were missing everything a face should have. Eyes, mouth, etc.

Their bodies were also devoid of any clothes or anatomical features. The best way I could describe them was unfinished statues. What’s more, they came in different colors. I was told later by Lanni that the colors represented different elements of nature. In this case – red, white, blue, and brown – red for fire, blue for water, white for air, and brown for earth.

Some kind of energy played over their bodies in constantly changing patterns and gave me the impression that they had some kind of transparent wings. The shapes were never the same twice however.

When they spoke to us, I heard them in my head. More confusion over things I didn’t really understand. I found out after the fact that Lanni had been feeding me mental images to help me understand certain concepts I’d never experienced before. Just when I thought I had him figured out, Lanni managed to come up with a new trick or two.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized that our meeting the Seraphim marked a change from our original mission.

For good or ill, we were on the path toward a very different destiny than the one we had originally chosen.

Chapter XVII

Published in: on June 27, 2010 at 5:26 PM  Comments (1)  

XV – Elohim, Seraphim, And What The . . .

During that long and fruitful conversation, something kept nibbling at the back of my mind. It was one of those nagging, persistant thoughts that was just out of my reach. It was when the subject of protection came up (apparently these guys had quite a few enemies) that the nagging thought crystalized.

I immediately spoke up.

“Um, Lanni? Something just popped into my head and I need you to explain it to me.”

Lanni’s mind trick beat me to it.

“You want to know why we attack you first. Silly man. Reason is very simple. You came out of darkness and we mistook you for Nephilim or Elohim. Once we got clear look at you, we stopped attack.”

Lanni’s explanation was really good, except for one small detail.

“Lanni? The glowing plants all around us pretty much light up everything. There wasn’t enough shadow for us to be mistaken for nine foot monsters. Plus, we had a really serious spear throwing contest going on for some time. You mean to tell me it took you that long to realize we weren’t the bad guys?”

Lanni said nothing.

Had I gone too far and pissed the little guy off? The odds in another fight didn’t look like they were exactly in our favor. However, Lanni just sighed.

“Weren’t supposed to tell you this so soon. First, needed to make sure you weren’t sent by ‘them’. We watch path and defend it. No way of knowing for sure who is who. Fight told us what we needed to know. You stopped when we stopped. ‘They’ wouldn’t do that. ‘They’ would’ve killed us all rather than stop.”

Okay. Things were starting to get a little complicated. Who were the ‘They’ that Lanni was talking about? The little guys seemed genuinely afraid of whoever ‘They’ were. Also, who had assigned them the duty they were on?

Things were getting complicated, and as you already know, I hate anything complicated. Messes up my thinking processes. Figured I’d better ask.

“Lanni? Who exactly are ‘They’ you keep talking about, and why are they so darned dangerous?”

The little guy wasn’t having any of it.

“Can’t tell you. Told not to speak of it. Others will explain.”

I started to ask another question but Lanni put up his hand in the ‘shut up’ gesture and stared at me. Okay. Got it. That part of the conversation was over. Lanni decided at that moment to volunteer some other information.

“Seraphim should be here in couple of days. They will explain all.”

Wonderful. Another group thrown into the mix. Who were these Seraphim and why did Lanni put so much trust in them? As I went back to my lines to check on things, once again I found myself thinking of Tiny and home.

Chapter XVI

Published in: on June 20, 2010 at 1:16 PM  Comments (1)  

XIV – Furry Thoughts And Roman Confusion

In a matter of minutes I’d found out more than I was really prepared to digest all at once.

Okay, we had the name of the creatures we’d been sent to take care of, and that was a good thing. But that good thing came with a lot of attachments. In addition to the Nephilim, we were dealing with an undetermined number of furry, short, well armed guys who were apparently being backed by another bunch known as ‘The Great Lords’.

The name itself didn’t fill me with much confidence or comfort. I’d known people with the description of ‘great’ before. Believe me when I say that such people invariably turned out to be anything but great. More like kill crazy nut cases.

Still, I was trying very hard to keep an open mind about everything. After all, look where we were. In a huge underground tunnel the likes of which we’d never seen before, talking with a bunch of furry dwarfs about other people we’d never even heard of until recently.

Once the language barrier had been breached I felt it was a good Idea to introduce ourselves. Around our group I went, pointing at my men and saying their names loud and clear. Subconsciously I just didn’t seem to be able to wrap my had around the idea that our furry friends could really understand what I was saying. I kind of thought of them as super intelligent mutts.

Boy was I ever proven wrong. As the introductions on our side were finished, the other side stepped right in. I’d thought our names were difficult to digest, but what they introduced themselves as had my head spinning. Their leader spoke into the sudden silence.

“Welcome Romans. We are the Valparta. Simply put, ‘the people’. I am Lanniputonicudda. First Speaker of our clan. These others with me are Tumminastocudda, my brother, and Phredinomtullas, my fourth cousin.”


My mind went into a spiral and then tried to lock itself down. What names! I figured I’d better shorten them up a bit to save confusion and brain burn. This is how it went.

“Hiya guys. Uh, look. Would you mind if I shorten those names of yours to save discussion time and confusion? What say you?”

The head furry looked at his welcoming committee and nodded.

“We agree.”

“Alright then. Lessee . . . Your name is ‘Lanni’. The others are ‘Tummi’ (I heard snickers on that one which I silenced with a glare at my troops), and ‘Phred’. That should make conversation go a little easier.”

Lanni stared at me with those hypnotic blue eyes of his and smiled a very toothy smile. I hadn’t noticed, until then, how pointed his teeth were. It was while I was continuing to speak that a nasty thought hit me right between my eyes.

“Well . . . I’m glad we got that straightened . . . Hey! Wait a minute! How did you guys know we were Romans!? I sure didn’t tell you and you haven’t been talking to anyone else. Have you?”

Lanni smiled even wider.

“Your thoughts told us what we needed to know. We knew you before you spoke even one word. That is also how we learned your language so quickly. Do not your people have the same skills?”

I was flummoxed. If these characters could read minds, we were at a decided disadvantage. Most of my men weren’t mentally complicated or clever. I’d picked them for size, power, and skill. Nothing else.

“Uh . . . well . . . we’re not as good at it as our people back home. Us being the military and all that.”

I waited with baited breath for Lanni’s reaction. If he saw through my white lie, we would be in a heap of serious trouble. Lanni smiled still wider (How did he do that without cracking his face?) and nodded.

“I see. To save embarrassment, perhaps we should stick to verbal communication. That way, face is saved by all.”

I sighed with relief. That had been close. What else could these characters do that we needed to know about?

Chapter XV

Published in: on June 13, 2010 at 1:15 PM  Comments (1)  

XIII – Spears, Fur, And . . .?

And the day just kept gettin’ better and better.

Those @#@%$ spears kept coming in ever increasing numbers which put me an’ my boys in a very bad way. We couldn’t stay turtled forever, plus we were using the wrong shields for that type of formation. Needed rectangular scutas instead of the oval types we were carryin’.

As a result, some enemy spears got through our protection and winged some of us. I could hear the low cussing going on as some of the guys checked for battle damage while maintaining the turtle. We, of course, had immediately returned fire, and the air was thick with Roman Pilums and enemy spears we picked up and returned to their owners.

The exchange went on for what seemed like hours and we began to soak up casualties. Whoever those guys were, they were pretty handy with their weapon of choice . Just as I’d had enough of this #$#@ and was about to order a full scale charge, the spears stopped coming. We, in turn, stopped throwing and settled in behind our shields.

Of all the things I expected to happen next, the reality wasn’t in my play book. Out of those dangerous bushes, a small, furry hand waved what appeared to be a halt, as some sort of gibberish passing for the spoken word accompanied the hand signals. At that point I could’ve lived with a cease fire of any kind.

Out of those bushes appeared a trio of the strangest critters I’d ever set my eyes on, and believe me, I thought I’d seen most everything there was to see. They were covered from head to foot in what looked like short canine type fur. As they got closer, I was fairly certain they couldn’t be more than four feet tall.

This was confirmed when I broke formation and walked very cautiously up to them with Acteus and a trooper in tow. Sure enough, I had to look down at them while they strained their necks to look up at us. They all had blue, little round eyes that oozed innocence. Reminded me of Tiny.

All I had to do was remember the injuries my people had just received from these guys to set my head straight. The Shorties, as I called them, wore no clothes except a large sack hanging from right shoulder to left hip. No weapons were in sight. At least nothing that I though of as a weapon. At least the missile toss had stopped.

Then the next stumbling block popped up. Aside from hand signals, neither us nor them could understand one another. As I tried my best to verbalise the problem, the Shorties only exchanged gibberish among themselves then looked back to me. Just as it appeared we would never get past the language barrier the weirdness got weirder. Out of seeming nowhere, the lead Shorty looked up at me and, believe it or not, spoke.

“Why are you here?”

I stood there completely stunned. The little guy had just spoken to me in down home latin. Hoo boy! I had to answer fast so as not to seem rude. Gods only knew what else these guys had hiding in those bushes.

“Well . . . we’re looking for somebody. Big lizard type with large fangs and long claws. Smells pretty bad too.”

The Shorties gibbered among themselves and their leader looked slightly scared.

“Sounds like you met Nephilim. Very bad types. Kill for the thrill. Go home! You’re outclassed!”

Nephil what!? What had we stumbled into? I continued.

“Sorry guys, but we can’t get back home. The way is blocked.”

Shorty looked even more scared. He said two words that made no sense. At the time.

“Great Lords!”

What in Caesar’s name was going on here? I had cause later to regret that question.

Chapter XIV

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 12:47 PM  Comments (1)  

XII -Titans Zero – – Pygmies ?

Well, standing around a dead creature was not very good for our health, so the Doc grabbed Smelly’s head and off we went, where several rest periods found us well down the tunnel without further incident.

During one rest period someone brought up the fact that we didn’t have a group designation or name, so ideas were tossed around and discarded just about as fast as they came up.

It was one of the scouts, Jarod by name, who pointed out the obvious.

“Look; we have Tiny plastered all over our shields and our leader has a nickname which fits him. The Titan. Why not call ourselves Titans. Besides, look at all of us. Smallest guy in the group is Shorty (Shorty grumbled a reply which his mother would have swatted him for. His vocabulary was really quite large.) who’s six feet two in his bare (ugh) feet. Like it or not, we’re all Titans.”

There was a moment of silence in which we all looked at each other, followed by mass nods of assent. So it was that, for better or worse, we became ‘The Titans’. Feeling proud of ourselves, we continued our journey, on down the trail, still thus far unmolested.

Interesting note here. We had begun to notice something peculiar about our glowing plant life. It increased and decreased on a daily cycle, matching the approximent rise and fall of the sun in the outside world.

Try as he might, the Doc couldn’t understand why this was so. After scratching his head, Doc cut off some samples to study more closely, leading to another puzzle.

When cut, the flowers and moss stopped glowing, turning brown and lifeless in one’s hand. Okaaay. That was something new.

It was on our tenth rest period that things began to liven up.

We were camped in a small clearing just off the trail. Most were asleep, with some quiet murmuring here and there among the still awake. Guards were at their posts and all was peaceful and well.


The speed at which we woke up and moved almost brought tears of pride to my eyes. Actually, I was more concerned about the spear sticking out of some bushes nearby. It wasn’t one of ours.


Several more of those things landed among us as we formed ranks and immediately turtled. Surrounded and covered with our shields, with one lonely penant rising from the center, we had time to shake off the sandman and take stock of this new developement.

As we looked in the direction of the incoming spears, a rather odd sight greeted our disbelieving eyes. Little furry butts were scrambling into the distant bushes, while more spears came our way. I didn’t know whether to laugh or head for better cover.

Chapter XIII

Published in: on May 30, 2010 at 10:15 AM  Comments (1)  

XI – Curiouser And Curiouser

The Smelly on the ground was certainly a head scratcher. Something about the dismembered corpse didn’t seem right at all, as the body appeared to be out of proportion when compared to what we already knew about smelly’s nasty relatives. He was smaller somehow and less threatening than the giant versions we were used to.

Also the glowing vegetation around us gave everything a sickly green color. Not appetizing at all. The Doc was the one to put his finger on what was bothering me.

“Notice something odd about our dismembered friend?”

I stared at the corpse real hard. It was the thorough once over that made me start.

“He’s smaller. He’s not a full grown Smelly.”

Doc shook his head.

“Try again.”

Try as I might, I was stumped as to what he was seeing. Doc waited a few seconds for my response. Seeing that I was standing there with an expression somewhat like that of a confused steer, he harumphed.

“This is another species of Smelly! The size of the torso tells me it was only about six and one half feet tall as compared to the nine feet of his relatives. Also, it has no tail. In addition to everything else, this one stood straighter than the other ones who were bent slightly forward. I’d dearly love to get a look at the rest of our friend here. Chances are we’ll find more anatomical differences as well.”

Well, the Doc got his wish.

Walking down the tunnel toward us was Philos and two scouts, carrying what looked like a big load between them. A closer look revealed the load to be small Smelly’s missing parts.

Acteus glared at Philos with a look that promised nasty things later on. I couldn’t fault Acteus as no one was supposed to walk out of view of the rest of us. Still, I wanted to know what was so important that Philos would break discipline the way he had. He could have endangered us all with his stunt.

Philos managed to speak first.

“Boss! Look what we found! The rest of little Smelly!”

I fixed him with a basilisk glare.

“Don’t ever get out of sight again or I’ll kill you myself. And keep your voice down. Smelly’s butcher could still be fairly close by.”

Philos nodded as he and his companions dumped their prize in front of us. Sure enough, there were two arms, two legs, and one nasty looking head. All were in proportion to the piece we already had, so it seemed that the Doc’s theory had been born out.

Doc seemed perfectly happy with his catch until he looked at the head. I thought he was going to cry. Not a pretty picture when the guy was six foot four and one hundred ninety pounds. Instead, it turned out it was anger at what he had, or had not, found.

As we crowded around to get a closer look, the reason for Doc’s upset became clear. The simplest soldier could have recognised the problem immediately. The head cavity was minus a brain. Also, the head had a trap door sealing up said cavity.

Doc shook his head in perplexity.

“This can’t be right! It’s impossible! Illogical! Heads don’t have trap doors!”

I smiled at his confusion.

“Well, it seems this one does. Got an explanation on howcome?”

Doc glared at me.

“Unlikely as it may seem, it appears that our friend here is not natural. Like Athena’s Owl, somebody built him. Don’t ask me why as I haven’t a clue.”

An artifical Smelly. What other little surprises were waiting for us?

Chapter XII

Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 12:21 PM  Comments (1)  

X – Lambs To The Slaughter

The only thing I could think of to say was !@#@$#^!

Which was better left untranslated.

Along with the vanished door went our only means of retreat. And so, the order of the moment was “forward”. Question was ‘to where’. Our scouts had yet to return and the rest of us needed to get organised and move out.

The tunnel we were in was wide enough for a column of fifteen abreast, and the ceiling was at least fifty feet high which, thankfully, gave us room to manuever. Quickly forming up in order of march, we started off on our little adventure into the great unknown. I found myself wondering if the argonaut Jason or Ulysses of Ithica had ever faced a situation like the one we were in.

As for the tunnel, we had brought torchs to light our way. Totally unecessary. The walls were faintly lit by some strange plant life, which gave our path a twilight glow. Just the same, I couldn’t shake the feeling we were being led to the slaughter. The floor of our tunnel also had a suspicious look to it as it was totally smooth and level, unlike the dirt trails I was used to. There was also a thin mist in the air. Annoying but only a small inconvenience to be ignored.

Anyway, I hoped that was the case.

As we marched deeper into that tunnel, all my hopes that this would be a quick adventure faded into fantasy land. The feeling was reenforced when we caught up with our delinquent scouts and discovered why they had not returned. They were clustered around a large lump of something huddled on the ground.

Closer inspection revealed the lump’s identity. It was a smelly. A dead, mangled, and torn apart smelly, to be exact. A scout spoke up even before I had a chance to ask.

“Boss . . . seems someone got here before us. Looks like whatever it was had a quick snack, then took off.”

I nodded my head while thinking that the last thing we needed was something nastier than a smelly. My day was not going well at all. Our physician looked over the dead wreckage from top to bottom, then delivered his opinion.

“This guy was, quite literally, ripped apart. Dissected is more like it. The limbs and head were removed from the torso with surgical precision. Whatever, or whoever, our attacker was is far more dangerous than the guy we were originally chasing.”

My response was unoriginal and predictable.

“Y’ think? Just what we don’t need. A smelly killer with brains! All right everyone . . . Form back up and let’s get outta here!”

Little did I realise that that order would be the last routine one I’d be giving for some time to come.

Chapter XI

Published in: on May 16, 2010 at 2:45 PM  Comments (1)  

IX – Strained Nerves And “What The . . . !?”

The day of departure had finally arrived, much to the relief of everyone’s strained nerves. Our three centuries were formed up in the immense chamber where so much slaughter had taken place, two hundred fifty Praetorians, plus myself, more or less ready to face the unknown. Before us loomed that large, circular damaged doorway that led to who knew where, and against who knew what.

In the lamplight my boys were all but invisible in their blackened armor and shields, as intended. An army of ghosts from Rome’s past. Revived from death to fight one last campaign.

Beside me stood the Emperor (He really didn’t rate the title ‘Emperor’ as big brother had never seen action or had a triumph. Didn’t matter though as he was in charge and could call himself whatever he wanted. He, personally, still preferred to be just ‘Caesar’.) with the inner circle grouped behind him.

Tiny and Sarai were also present, Tiny looking more chipper than he had been for the last few months. I suspect the main reason was how we had decorated our shields. In addition to the crossed lightning bolts of the legions, each shield had on it, dead center, an image of Tiny, face forward, with his helmet on. Both lightning bolts and image had been done in grey so as not to make us moving targets. Even so, it seemed that Legion Mutt knew something the rest of us (except Sarai of course) didn’t.

Big Brother looked older than his years, and lines of strain creased his face. His blond hair had turned white, adding years to his appearance, but his step was still somewhat sprightly and his hands rock steady. There was no tremor in his voice as he spoke.

“Well . . . this is it Varus. The moment of truth. Part of me is afraid I’ll never see you again this side of life. In the past, you’ve managed to return from seemingly impossible situations. Please don’t break your streak.”

I looked down at Caesar and smiled a strained smile.

“Come on Quintis. Have you ever known me to miss a homecoming? Just stick a roast something at this entrance and we’ll be here post haste. Seriously, what will be will be, but I’ll say this about that. We’re not going on this little adventure just to get ourselves killed. Wait five years for our return. If we don’t come back by that time, seal up this doorway permanently and give us a good wake. After all, it may be that we go a little ways down that tunnel and waste whatever is giving you ulcers. Then it’s back home in time for dinner. Let’s just take this one step at a time.”

Caesar nodded his head and, with pleasantries out of the way, I gave the order to move out. Four scouts went in first to check for sudden surprises. After a brief wait, in the rest of us went. Three Centuries traveling at a brisk pace to cut down on the chance of being easy targets. When we were all in the tunnel, I turned to give Caesar the high sign to seal up the doorway.

There was one small problem. Where the doorway had been was now a solid rock wall. Our retreat had been removed in a strange, and currently unexplainable, way.

Chapter X

Published in: on May 9, 2010 at 6:25 PM  Comments (1)