Orly Internationale, Paris
The whirring of the camera’s shutter opening and shutting each time
a picture was taken was not noticed by all of the other people who split
around the young man who took the pictures in their hurry to get to their
gates for their flights. They did not see anything out of the ordinary;
they didn’t notice anything at all except the vast amount of gates that
still were between them and their destination. And for that, the young
man was glad that he blended so well in the crowd heaving a quiet sigh
of relief as they made their way around him.
The man pulled the camera down from his eye for a moment and shrugged
his sleeves down over his wrists again. For just an instant, a tattoo revealed
itself on the man’s left wrist: a blue circular one with what appeared
to be a stylized ram’s head in the center of it. Several smaller circles
lay within the larger outer band of the tattoo itself. He was a man who
belonged to something that was outside of most men’s knowledge or beliefs:
the Watchers. Those who knew about the immortals that walked among men,
observed them, recorded their lives and history for posterity. Those who
kept vigil over their secret society as well as the secret of the immortals
from the rest of the world at large: that was what the Watchers were and
did. And they had for centuries.
Greyson shifted in his hard plastic chair while his eyes panned about
looking for anyone who might bring him trouble. He pulled out his cigarette
case from his inner pocket of his coat, tapped down the tobacco in the
cigarette he had pulled out of it, then placed it in his mouth with an
He began to pat himself down for his lighter then felt a familiar bulge
in one pocket. Reaching in, he withdrew the object then held it up for
The ancient rosary he held gleamed from use over many years; his eyes
faded as he remembered exactly where he had gotten it from: prior to Waterloo,
after the battle was over and Wellington had won another small victory.
He had been caught behind the English lines and had not been allowed passage
through them despite any type of pleading or bribes he had tried. No one
was allowed under any circumstances to go on past Wellington’s armies.
He had found it near an abandoned cannon that had been mired in the snow.
And he had cursed loud and long at them for it too for he knew that
Darius was out there somewhere finally off Holy Ground after centuries
of hiding upon it. He knew because it was he himself who had given the
Cardinal a small fortune as a bribe to have Darius assigned to a hospital
or to a position as a chaplain to the French army and thus off Holy Ground.
He had had it all meticulously planned out: the confrontation, the baiting
of his centuries ago mentor, the death of the man he had come to hate because
of his actions on one particular day 2,000 years earlier. His hand gripped
it in a tight fist till the knuckles on his hand turned white. But Wellington
had other plans and had caused him to miss one of the rare opportunities
to get to the man who called himself a man of the Church now.
He sighed then glanced around as the man sitting beside him gave him
a nudge and took the proffered lighter from him. He lit his cigarette,
then blew a small smoke ring. He glanced over to the man who had given
him the lighter. “Merci,” he said as he handed back the lighter. “Un cigarette?”
He pulled out another pack and offered one from it to the other man. “My
The other man thought for a moment then took one, nodding his head in
thanks to Greyson. He lit it then smiled appreciatively at the flavor which
bit at his taste buds. “Bien, monsieur. Tres bien.”
An announcement blared overhead and Greyson stood to board his plane
back to Vienna and his home. He made a final glance around him then went
to check in; once done he boarded never noticing the young man with the
camera who followed him onto the plane.
St. Julien de Pauvre.
Darius tossed fitfully in his sleep until his eyes gradually opened
to the darkened room which served both as his bedroom as well as his office
space. He knew that sleep would not visit again that night so he got up
and slipped on his robe, which lay across a small armoire near the bed.
Sighing, he rubbed at his face to waken himself up completely then
slowly walked over to the desk after kneeling momentarily in front of a
small cross hanging on the wall near the bed. He sat at the desk and lay
his tired head upon his hands. Ever since the visit from Methos he had
had disturbing dreams of things he had nearly forgotten that had occurred
centuries before. Dreams which woke him in the middle of the night like
tonight with their vividness and clarity of people and actions long since
gone. Taking a deep breath, he raised his head and flipped on the small
light on the desk and began to shuffle papers about.
The jarring ring of the telephone startled him and caused him to drop
several papers on the floor. He picked it up while glancing down at the
papers on the floor. "Hello?"
A woman's sobbing was heard on the other end of the line. "He dead,
Father. He's dead! Murdered!" The sobbing continued but harder this time.
"Anna? Is that you?" Darius said in a concerned voice. "Andre--are you
talking about Andre?"
A small "yes" was heard from the other end of the line and his face
became knotted in pain and consternation. Another one. Gone. He knew without
having to say anything else who had done it.
He tried to be as calm as he could in an attempt to calm the woman
down. "Do you want me to send someone over, Anna? I can call the bishop
and have them send someone from your church. Would you like me to do that?"
"I cannot believe it, Father! Who would do something like this to my
Andre? Why would they do it to him--to me?"
"When did it happen and where?" At least she was talking and beginning
to become a little more calm, he thought to himself. It was something considering
the shock she must be feeling.
"At the airport there, in Paris. He just fell over and died right there
while waiting on his plane. The police are telling me he was poisoned."
Darius lifted his eyes up to the cross then said a small prayer for
his former student. "Anna, listen to me. Go to bed and sleep if you can.
I'm calling the bishop and asking to have him send someone over in the
morning, all right? Sleep, Anna. You'll need it and the strength it provides
you. Do you understand?"
A rustling sound came from the other end of the phone and he knew she
"Yes, sleep, I'm so tired. Goodnight Father."
"Night, and we will take care of things, don't worry." He hung up the
phone and then stood up. Walking over to the cross, he fell to his knees
in supplication. He cried out, "Why this? Why? They were all good people,
Greyson. They were innocent of what happened. Why punish them for what
There was no answer only silence. He pushed himself up off the floor,
crossed himself then walked out to the sanctuary to gaze out through the
simple stained glass windows to the street. How long would this continue,
he wondered? And for how much longer could he take seeing his students
killed one by one before no longer being able to resist taking the other
immortal up on the challenge to fight him?
And, he thought ruefully, I know what it would mean.
Wearily taking his horse’s reins, Darius turned to go back to the king’s
longhut. He clasped his arms about him to ward off the cold that chilled
him to the bone, and watched the stars twinkling sharply in the chill of
the night sky. “Home, “ he softly said to no one. “Home—but not for long
if I have anything to say about it.”
When he arrived back to the longhut, he warily watched the guard for
a moment then proceeded to enter the dwelling. All he could think of was
a warm bed, hot food and a cool glass of mead to quench his thirst. He
brusquely passed by the men and women still up listening to the bards around
the large fireplace as he headed towards his room but paused when he noticed
that the room had grown still when he entered it.
He swung around to stare at those who clustered around the fire; they
in turn stared back at him. Momentarily he wondered if anyone even remembered
who he was but he decided that it didn’t matter for the moment. All that
mattered was his body screaming for sleep and his empty stomach. “What
are you staring at?” he growled at them all then swung about and went to
One of the ladies turned to another and asked, “Wasn’t that the general,
“I think so. I do believe it was him!”, the woman answered.
The first woman scratched at herself as she mused at the information
then said, “I thought he was dead!”
“Obviously not dead, dear one,” one man joined in the conversation.
“I’ve heard he’s a hard one to kill…”
Three years later, Greyson rode with a massive contingent of men like
a prince towards a secret meeting. It was to be attended by all sides who
were interested thanks to his efforts during that time period to bringing
down the fall of the Roman Empire—or at least what was left of it. He had
used force, bribery and sheer coercion, slept with the wives of the powerful
men he needed on his side who had influence with the rulers of the people
he was visiting with at the time, and so much more in order to further
Many times it sickened him to do what had to be done but he never let
on that that was the case. He attended his duty to his father well and
followed the order of his commander to the last degree and then went further.
In one case, he was put to the test when with the Huns to decide a man’s
fate when he was questioned as to what his people did for punishment for
the crime the man had committed.
Greyson had stood up and without blinking an eye, decapitated the man
on the spot then sat back down and continued to eat as if nothing had happened.
There was stunned silence for a moment then the Hun leader broke out laughing
and welcomed him on the spot as a member of his tribe with all the rank
a visiting prince would have gotten. He had found himself drawn to the
horsemen of the steppes despite the fact that they were, in his heart,
And so it was that he had toured each of the groups as instructed by
his father to plead for troops and to promise a part of the richness of
Rome to each of them: the Ostragoths, the Huns, the Vandals. And it was
the Huns he now rode with as well as the Vandals so he could show them
the way to where it had been arranged for the meeting to take place. It
would be the first time all had sat down together outside of the Ostagoths,
all at the same table to discuss something.
Greyson slid his eyes over to watch his Hun companion as his eyes widened
at the site of the large tents and hastily erected longhuts that lay in
front of them. He pointed and spoke to him in the sing song dialect he
had learned while with them about what was about to take place. "You will
be required while among my people to not have your weapons, my lord. Remember,
you have been our enemy until now and there is no love lost between our
people. We, in turn, also will have no weapons as the others too who are
attending. Do you agree?"
A gruff, barking sound was made by the man riding beside him. He was
dressed in rich silks and furs. And with every step of the horse, a tinkling
sound was made from the several bells that were braided into the mane and
tail of the beast. His almond shaped eyes missed nothing, and his sharp
mind remembered every landmark there had been from their homeland to where
they were now. “I understand, but I do not like it.” The Hun ruler swung
his cool eyes onto his guide. “How many others are there like this?”
“Look for yourself—both of you.” Greyson said to the Hun and Vandal
leaders who looked about with a mix of curiosity and the calm assessment
of the opposing armies’ forces. He swung an arm towards the rough enclosure
that held several corrals of horses, thousands of them of different colors
and sizes but well suited for war. “Several. We shall have all that is
needed when you join us.”
He glanced around himself in appreciation of the hastily established
camp. Darius had only sent word a few months prior that the time had come
to bring their soon to be hoped for allies to a meeting so as to negotiate
and plan strategy for the assault upon Rome. It had taken a lot of doing
but he had at long last convinced them to accompany them to this clandestine
meeting between what had been until recently the bitterest of enemies.
The haunting sounds of the long, curling lur horns greeted them as
they came closer into sight to signal that they had arrived. Instantly,
it seemed as if thousands swarmed out from all the buildings, clustering
about to await the arrival of the visitors to their camp. Many gawked their
necks and heads about as they took in the brightly colored silks of the
men so the vast steppes from which they came and the well trained soldiers
who had come with their leaders, each one hand picked by the leaders themselves.
“We have our greeting party coming to bid us well I see,” Greyson said
as he pointed out the two men riding silently towards them. One sat as
if he was born on the back of a horse and the other looked like the true
leader of men that he was. Darius. He trotted up to his father and embraced
him tightly as he murmured, “Is it all in place?” to the other man.
Smiling, Darius whispered in his ear, “How could it be anything but?”
He then turned towards Alaric. For a moment his face flashed hard and cold
as he thought of what the past three years had brought him: the hardships,
the conniving, the additional troubles that had had to be overcome due
to Alaric’s orders.
He smiled at his king but his thoughts remained dark and murderous.
He had found out after Greyson left when he had woke the next morning,
that Alaric had refused to see him. He had in fact, been banished from
the king’s sight and all his titles and lands had been stripped from him
and his home knocked down by the command of the king. He was in all respects,
just an ordinary man once more a fact that he hated more than anything
else except for one thing—the king himself.
Immediately, he began to plan and take measures to bring himself back
to power. He set into motion plans which had led to the assassination of
his successor and the fall from grace of the next man who had dared to
usurp the position that Darius knew innately that was his and his only.
He knew that only he had the vast experience required that the others didn’t.
He knew that he would get back into power by whatever means necessary and
sway Alaric again to do as he wanted him to. It had taken time but he was
now fully back in command of the armies as if nothing had happened between
them at all in the past three years.
“Greyson, I see you have brought our visitors well to us.” Alaric’s
tone was flat, not at all welcoming. “Bid them well from us and ask them
to sup at our table tonight. We have much to discuss. “ He glanced over
at the noisy throng which milled about behind them. “Our brethren have
decided to join us already in our plans for Rome, in retaliation for our
humiliation at her hands.”
Greyson coolly looked at his king; it was obvious that there was no
love lost between them. “My lord, it is my pleasure to bring them to you.”
He glanced at his father before looking back at Alaric. Bluntly he stated,
“When do we eat? It’s been a long journey for all of us.”
Insolent like his father, Alaric thought to himself. His being away
hadn’t changed him at all. It had, in fact, made him even worse. “We sup
soon. Lead them into my tent and we shall break bread with them and quench
Greyson nodded in acquiescence then whirled his horse around to tell
his charges of the invitation. He was to serve as interpreter and as a
liaison between all the parties; he was well suited to the task. He had
learned much in the time away about how to manipulate people. He made an
excellent and skilled covert operations person. In other words, a spy of
the highest magnitude.
After riding back and extending the invitation he accompanied both of
the rulers of those he had ridden so far with. Introductions were made,
gifts proffered, exchanged, and accepted. Then all went into Alaric's tent
to begin discussing how the process of the destruction of Rome was to be
Darius' palm slapped hard on the flat oak table. "No! We will be the
first through the gates of Rome. We have precedent to do so; they shamed
both our gods and us with their one god and their ways. The time is right
I am telling you." His hand curled back into a meaty fist. "We will have
the honor but you also will share the goods. Between you, Rome will be
no more as we now know it. We will be free of her tyranny at long last
to do as we want!"
Through Greyson's interpretation the ruler of the Vandals spoke up.
"And if we allow you this, what is to say that there will be anything left
of the city's riches for us?" His eyes slid over each of the men in the
room as he tried to gauge the foreigner's responses and thoughts. "What
will we get out of it?"
"Yes, " piped in the Hun leader, "if there is nothing left then you
will have brought us here only to lie to us. We are men of honor and of
pride. If there is any treachery, we will avenge ourselves upon you in
such a way that our past history with each other will be nothing compared
to what will be"
Each of the differing factions eyed each other warily while the air
laid heavy in silence. No one faction trusted the other and the negotiations
had now been ongoing for hours without any breakthrough as to how it was
to come about regarding Rome's downfall. All were weary and short tempered;
the only thing that they seemed to agree on was that Rome had to be taken
with the time being right to do so.
More mead was poured. Behind hands that covered their mouths, were whispers
between each member of their factions between themselves, discussing things
of which were being talked about. Eyes snapped sharply to the front towards
Alaric when the sound of liquid was heard being poured out onto the table.
The Goth king stood, one hand holding a beaker of wine as he poured
it out on the table and watched as all eyes were directed at him. "Watch
carefully. This is the blood that we will spill once we get to Rome." He
paused for effect, noticing that not one person's attention wavered from
him as he waited for Greyson to translate his words in both languages.
"This is the color of Roman blood. It is the color the streets and roads
will be when we take the city and then you follow in our wake, one wave
Glancing over to the Ostragoths, he smiled ever so slightly. At least
they understood him and what he wanted to accomplish despite the fact that
they were as greedy as the others when it came down to the spoils of war--Roman
spoils of war, that is. But it didn't matter, right now. All that could
and would be negotiated out soon, provided they convinced the two other
kings to join forces with them. He continued. "Join us and you too can
see this color for yourselves and bring back to your homes, wealth beyond
your wildest dreams. What say you, my brothers?"
Greyson translated but was secretly impressed with Alaric's words.
He was sure that the men from the steppes would say yes to the offer. He
waited the same as the others for the answer but was taken off guard when
the Hun ruler stood up and replied with his answer.
"We will not do this for you." He turned and walked out, followed by
his party of men.
At this answer, pandemonium broke out. Many stood and walked out on
the others as they followed the Hun outside to his tent while others sat
in stunned silence. Still others talked noisily while Darius strode over
and grabbed his son and dragged him outside where they couldn't be heard.
"Go get them and bring them here. Promise them anything except being
the first in Rome's gates. Tell them whatever they want to hear but bring
them back and get them to say, "yes."" He roughly shook his son by the
shoulders to emphasize a point. "We need them!"
Greyson's eyes lit up as if they were on fire and he nodded in understanding
then headed in the direction of the Hun tent.
Darius watched him go and as he did, he murmured, "I need them!"
Over the next few weeks the negotiations dragged on between all four
parties. More than once one of the parties involved walked away when they
found that they could not do things as they wanted nor could not get the
compromises necessary to form a solid diplomatic bond between them. Nerves
frayed and tempers flared as they drug on.
Greyson began to wish that his father had never even thought of the
idea of having them help supply the manpower he needed to bring Rome to
her knees. He was exhausted from his stint as interpreter as well as spy
for his people.
Eventually though, all parties had come to the agreement that the attack
on Rome would happen in three waves with the Goths being the ones who would
get the honor of sacking Rome first. In their troops would be the best
Hun and Vandal scouts they had; the scouts were to report back to their
people the best way to be lead to Rome when their time came to attack.
Once the Goths got through with pillaging and sacking the city, there
was to be a lull between the next attack that was to be lead by the Vandals
in the second wave followed by the Huns in the third wave. It was a brilliant
plan, carefully thought out and planned; Darius knew that Rome would be
utterly decimated when finished. The thought of Rome on her knees brought
a smile to his lips and a chuckle of glee as he contemplated it again.
It was to be the completion of a dream that had burned in him since
the defeat during the last revolt seven years ago. And it would also be
a means to unburden himself of the one thing that kept him from grabbing
all he could and building an empire that would last for thousands of years
under his command.
He sighed wearily as he took another long swallow of the sweet honey
mead in his beaker and looked around at the celebration which swirled and
eddied around him. The Vandals and Huns were returning to their homes in
the morning; already scouts had been chosen and knew why they were to be
left behind in the possession of the Goths. This celebration was to honor
those going home and Darius was getting quietly drunk but remained ever
alert as always.
Greyson made his way over to his father’s table sliding a glance towards
Alaric and the other two rulers. “Good riddance I say. This is far more
than I had bargained for,” he complained. “I won’t be sorry to see them
“Stop whining like a small child!” Cold blue eyes turned towards Greyson.
“We have what we wanted out of them and they have what they think they
want. They each think they have won more than the other in the negotiations
when in fact, they have won little and lost a lot.” Darius jerked a chin
towards the others. “I was the winner this time and it is I who hold all
the power. Alaric will be gone soon enough and then the world will know
of me and tremble when I come.”
The younger man sucked in his breath while holding the other man’s
gaze. With a thumb outstretched, he drew it swiftly across his neck from
one jugular vein to the other. When his father nodded ever so slightly,
he chortled out loud. “Very good, father. Very good!”
As they continued on their journey southward, the army’s ranks begin
to swell as their brethren, the Ostrogoths took their places within Darius’
army. Word passed ahead of them that a mighty army was on the move and
that it was worthless to try and stop them. If you tried, then you would
die and your village would be sacked while your women were raped before
Darius’ heart felt as if it would nearly leap out of his chest if only
it could in pride at the size of the army that seemingly grew larger each
hour of each day they traveled towards their objective—Rome. All the years
in preparation for this to happen and become a reality, all of the careful
planning, strategies they had worked out and was now in place, all the
late nights of making do with whatever means of subterfuge was necessary
to get what they needed done. It now was all coming together into a force
no one had ever reckoned with in a few centuries. Not even Rome would be
able to withstand what was to come by Darius’ reasoning. And the thought
of that made him smile broadly in anticipation of what lay ahead.
The emperor paced back in forth in agitation pausing every now and
then to look far off into the distance to the north of Rome. Ever so often
he shook his head as he thought then discarded his ideas as to what could
be done to stop the great army his spies had told of that were heading
towards the city.
“May the One in Heaven look down upon us and show us mercy,” the ruler
said to the air. “We will need it.” He sighed and looked up towards the
sound of a bird singing in one of the trees he had in his gardens of his
villa that stood outside of Rome.
He was his father’s son in looks and bearing but didn’t possess the
ability to lead men like his father had for so many years. His father had
bestowed the emperor’s crown upon his half brother, Honorius, but had left
nothing for him when he had died a few years past.
During his brief reign, his brother had assassinated his guardian,
Flavius Stilicho, the great general of the mighty Roman forces as punishment
for leading a failed uprising against the tyranny he had forced upon the
populace at large. He had been so hated by the people that there had been
several attempts on his life until finally, one day, one of the attempts
accomplished it’s goal and he was buried without any outpouring of public
grief. In fact, a great celebration broke out in the streets when the news
filtered down from the Senate that their emperor had in fact, died.
The Senate had come to him in supplication and begged him to take over
governing the Empire for their was no one else who could be trusted enough
to do so. “My Lord Theodonius, we beg you to take up what your father left
as his legacy to Rome.”
“Speak not to me of my father, nor of my lately departed brother. Rome
has seen enough bloodshed in the last few years and has lost too many good
men to that so called legacy of my father.” Theodonius’ eyebrows met in
the mid-center of his forehead as he considered what they had proposed.
After a long pause that made the Senators fidget nervously, he glanced
at them. “There will no dissention upon my nomination?”
“We are unanimous. Say the word and the position is yours. We are willing
to do whatever you say, lord, but we beg you to say, “yes”.”
“Then I accept.”
Now, all of that seemed so long ago. Sighing once more, he looked back
towards the northern horizon and damned his brother for killing the one
person who might have been able to do something with the army that would
stop the Goths. There were others available to take the place of the general,
Constantine for one, but many had been sent to the eastern part of the
empire to help put down an uprising that was occurring. It left Rome vulnerable;
they had taken some of Rome’s finest soldiers and most of her army with
them. All that was left were some untried legions and fresh faced boys
who were serving their proscription time that was required under the law.
And he knew that if anything were to be thrown against them that was too
hard, the army would collapse, leaving Rome easy prey.
And that was something he didn’t want to allow to happen while he was
leading the Empire. He headed inside to pray for a miracle to occur and
for protection from the nightmare he knew would be made real if Rome were
to be sacked by the Goths. “May God save us all from that…” he murmured
as he went inside the temple located inside his home. “Have mercy upon
Darius waved merrily to the group of nuns who gathered their charges
as a mother hen gathered their chicks around her to protect them from the
rain. He watched, smiling the antics of the young children who were all
dressed in their school smocks and shorts as it began to rain and who didn’t
necessarily want to stop splashing in the puddles which were forming. Shaking
his head while laughing softly, he wagged a finger at one who had turned
to look at him in defiance before taking a last, large jump into the nearest
The Mother Superior bee-lined for the child immediately and scolded
him in front of the others causing the child to burst into tears. She glanced
up and bowed her head in deference and salutation to him then hustled all
of the children away in a single file with the help of the other Sisters
who accompanied her. Soon, the only thing that remained to say that they
had been there was the echoing of a child’s cries through the narrow streets
He turned, knelt and crossed himself before continuing on into the
chapel and from there into his combination living quarters/office space.
He paused, realizing that for the moment he was a free man—his time was
Glancing around, he listened to the pouring rain that pelted the lead
roof of the church. He made his way to the small window, opening it a small
crack to peer at the downpour. “April in Paris—it hardly ever changes through
the years!” he quietly said and then said a prayer of thanks for the bounty
the rain would bring.
He closed his eyes for just a moment and was instantly transported
to another April morning centuries prior to what he lived now in an altogether
different place and time…
Wind made the rain pelt harder into each man’s face as they slowly plodded
onwards towards Rome. They remained silent, each man determined to make
it one step at a time until the time came for camp to be made for the night.
The sucking sounds of thousands of feet being lifted out before plunging
back into the muddy muck of the earth seemed never-ending but not a man
complained about it nor seemed too concerned about what lie ahead of them.
Alaric galloped back towards Darius, pulling his horse up sharply to
prevent his mount from sliding into Darius’ own. He turned his horse about,
matching the pace that Darius set his own mount before looking over towards
what would be the horizon if one could see it.
Darius jerked away from him, his mount trotting a few steps beyond
the other animal so that no contact was made when the other animal slid
to a stop nearly in front of it. The general scowled and yanked at the
reins, pulling the horse back in line and said nothing to his king in greeting.
The silence continued for a few more minutes, each man testing the other
to see who would outlast the other before breaking into the strained formalities
that each used when speaking to one another. Finally, at long last, the
king broke the silence. “We shall make camp up ahead. The weather is too
bad to continue; the men need rest and food.” He pointed to a small clearing.
“There. That is where we should stop.” He sternly looked at his general.
“Do you understand me?”
He waited for the protest that was surely to come from Darius but much
to his surprise, nothing was said regarding the encampment. Instead, the
icy blue eyes of his general steadily locked onto his own; a small thinning
of Darius’ lips was the only thing that gave away any sign that the orders
were not taken well by the general.
A large crack of thunder made their mounts shy away from one another
but quickly they were gotten under control again. Darius glanced away from
the man who had stood in his way once to often then back at his king. “If
Roman soldiers can march forty leagues in their measurement units, my men
can do forty-five. These men can out-do anything Rome can do; they can
out-fight, out-maneuver and out-last whatever is thrown against them. You
should know that, Alaric. You have ridden with them so you know that they
are unstoppable and have no fear.”
Alaric glanced backwards over his shoulder at the ragged line of men
and boys who trudged heavily through the mud. Glancing back at the other
man, he shook his head. “They are unbeatable, that is true, Darius. But
they won’t be if they don’t get rest! You have your orders. Obey me.” With
that statement, he wheeled his horse around and cantered off towards the
other sub-commanders to give the orders to stop for the night. He didn’t
trust Darius enough to do it and knew that his highest ranked soldier would
ignore his orders if a chance arose to do so and follow his own devices.
Shooting a deadly glare in the direction of the king’s retreating back,
Darius pulled the bronze helmet off his head, held it under one arm, while
his hands freed the braids which kept his hair away from his face. He let
loose with a shrill whistle and pointed to the spot indicated by Alaric,
making a series of hand gestures to indicate that they were to stop for
the night. He noted with satisfaction that the other lieutenants all nodded
at this and began to arrange for the men to get ready to stop and rest.
Soon the army arrived at the spot and one by one they collapsed under
what little shelter there was from the rain. It looked that the meal would
be once again the cold, bug infested bread each man carried, a small portion
of cheese that was allotted to one and all, and mead to warm them as well
as to keep their blood flowing in the cold wetness. The air reverberated
with the sounds of weapons being discarded onto the ground as well as the
leather and wooden armor those who could afford it wore.
Greyson came over to sit and break his fast with his father, breaking
open his bread to pick out the bugs that were visible before biting into
it. Both ate in silence; they were more tired and hungry than both were
willing to admit. Closing his eyes in weariness, he tilted his head upwards
and opened his mouth to catch the rain. “Gods, but we have gone so far!”
he said after taking a long, hard swallow of the quenching rainwater. He
sat back up, broke off a piece of cheese, bit it, then thought for a moment.
"But if I reckon right, we must be almost there."
Darius roughly sketched out a map using a stick in the muddy mire that
was supposed to be the ground. “I figure we are here and that Rome is somewhere--here.”
He stabbed at a point that was further away by perhaps a handspan from
where he had indicated they were. He munched on his bread, took a long
drink of mead, and then pointed. “We may be as close as only a week away
He tossed the bread crust over his shoulder, and chewed thoughtfully
as his eyes scanned the gray skies. “What we need though, is dry weather.
If we are to succeed in entering Rome’s gates then we must have dry ground
in which to fight on and be in a position that will give us the advantage.”
Narrowing his eyes, he mused, “There are more than one road into the city.
If we were to blockade all routes in and out of the city and do it by cover
of night….” He cupped his chin in his hand while drumming his fingers on
his knees as he thought it out.
“If we were to do that, “ Greyson said, continuing his father’s thoughts,
“We could put a part of the army at the most vulnerable gate and wait for
the crack of dawn to attack.”
The older man nodded proudly at his son. “I see that you have learned
a few things in the years you’ve been gone.” His eyes returned to the makeshift
map in the mud and he frowned in concentration. “We would have to scale
the walls with a few men and take out the guards at their post who guard
the entrances and the signal fires. But we have to have a diversion to
Silence reigned for the next few minutes until involuntarily, the Goth
general yawned. He glanced sheepishly at his son then said, “Let me think
on it. Perhaps the rest will come in my dreams!”
Grinning at his father’s remark, the younger man nodded. “Sleep well,
father.” He stood and left without any further comment, leaving behind
Darius still staring at the map he had drawn on the ground.
Methos sauntered slowly through the crowded bazaar in the narrow streets
that infested the areas of the city that were not a part of the more planned
areas of it. The area where he was in was more haphazardly built than those
where the more public buildings and areas sat. Both the homes and the streets
they sat on were dirty and mostly dilapidated, with refuse flowing in the
streets. One had to be careful where one stepped; you never knew when someone
might fling out pottery bowls full of human waste from a window or dead
carcasses of animals. Rats scurried about in broad daylight with no thought
as to whether or not they would be seen.
He threw a denarii at one of the vendors who was selling figs at his
stall and waited until his small bundle of figs were wrapped up in a large
leaf and handed to him before he continued on his way. He missed nothing,
the cries of the vendors hawking their wares with each one trying to out
shout the others to bring customers to them, the small children who ran
about laughing madly in sheer delight as they chased one another. He also
saw the women who shopped for their households while the soldier who were
too old for active duty watched on to ensure that things ran smoothly.
One by one, the figs were eaten as he made his way through them all
and back onto the main streets of Rome and back towards his own small villa
he had rented for a small sum. Even here, the streets teemed with a lively
spirit as members of all the populace, from Senators to slaves intermingled
in the spring air. He had a good life here at last, one where he blended
in and was yet still visible to everyone. But to those who knew him, they
saw nothing nor knew nothing of him and called him behind his back, “the
He sighed in contentment as he made his way through his doorway, brushing
away the slave who rushed to his side and made his way out to the small
courtyard that sat in the middle of the house. On one side, a small bench
sat; he made his way and eased himself down upon it. Pulling a scroll out
of one sleeve, he opened it and began to read the Latin written upon it.
He was still learning so much of the past here. The thoughts and ideas
of the men who had great influence in Rome and had caused him to take up
his old habit of reading and speaking to the great minds of the times as
he had done in other times and places. He soaked up the information like
a sponge; he enjoyed the great debates between the learned men as well
as being an active participant in the debates themselves.
He looked up and away to the sky when he noticed a great shadow fly
across the ground. ”Birds,” he thought as he watched a massive flock fly
off to the north then went back to his reading once more. But the odd occurrence
nagged at him and after a few moments, he rolled the scroll back up and
stood looking off to the north, wondering just what might have disturbed
them so that they flew in such a manner. His instincts told him that something
was amiss, yet he could not tell what it could be nor did it give him any
answers that would calm him. He shook his head and decided to go to the
steps of the Senate to see his friends there; perhaps they might know of
something that he did not.
At least, he hoped they would.
Night came and the order went about the camp that no fires were to be
lit that night. Surprise would be needed to carry out the bold plan of
sacking Rome that Darius had devised and so once more, cold rations were
eaten again by the men. Alaric wandered about the soldiers, encouraging
them for what lay ahead, promising them things, bringing them hope and
fortitude for the morning to come.
Men spoke in lowered voices as they huddled around in small clumps
together, sharing the camaraderie of each other while they ate what could
possibly be their last meal. Each man’s thoughts drifted away ever so often
to the ones they had left behind in their homeland but each man would fight
to his death in the morrow if need be because it could be the beginning
of a new way of life for many of them. No more cold winters, no more snows,
just warmth and an easier life than what their families currently had.
After awhile, the army drifted off to an early sleep; some would be
required to rise when the night was deep and prepare for their part in
the attack while others slept on. Darius walked among the men, stepping
over the sleeping forms draped across the ground as he made his way towards
an isolated spot further away from the encampment.
A dim orange glow could be seen up ahead through the brush; it was there
that he made his way towards knowing full well who was waiting. As he stepped
into the small clearing, his face broke into a small grin. “I thought I
had ordered no fires?” He made his way nearer to the banked fire, sat down
and glanced over at the blonde who sat in silence beside him. “Of course,
there are always exceptions to the rules of anything, ” he continued.
Greyson turned his head to see the man who called him son better in
the dim light. “Maybe there is, but for now there is but one rule—win.”
He poked a small branch at the embers as he mused out loud. “Once more,
tell me again how this will work?” His eyes caught his father’s and held
Pulling his knees to his chest, Darius gave a weary sigh before dropping
his chin upon them as he closed his eyes and repeated as if saying a litany,
“There will be four groups of men who will act as individual armies. At
a given signal, each will set fire to the gates. During the confusion this
causes among the guards who man the walls, the men will take the ladders
and scale the walls, killing all men who react in Rome’s defense. No one
is to be left standing.”
He paused and opened his eyes to look off in the distant horizon as
he continued. “The king, the rest of the forces and I shall attack Rome
at the main gate and break through. We will make our way to the center
of the city then branch out from there. Not a single Roman who opposes
us shall see the next dawn; they shall pay for what they did to us seven
Greyson nodded as he understood the implications of the orders. Rome
would never be the same again after they had finished with it. It would
be totally decimated, a fact he had no qualms about making it happen. In
fact, he was already eagerly anticipating entering the city and feeding
on the fear their arrival would cause among her people. His face split
into a smile. “So it shall be done, my general.”
Darius stood up and stretched as he locked eyes with the other man.
“I will be first there. And the king shall be—“ he paused and coldly smiled,
leaving the thought unspoken but both knew what was meant. “Come, even
men such as you and I need rest before the big battle.” He motioned in
the direction of camp; Greyson stood and in silence both walked back to
their beds as they waited for the day to come.
In the darkness of the moon, the sentries who manned the signal fires
that were lit at the first sign of trouble on the roads to Rome found it
hard to do their duties properly. Their post life was boring; to alleviate
it they often gambled amongst themselves, betting all they had in a fierce
game of chance.
Tonight had been especially slow—the men who were on watch left every
once in a while to watch the games and bid on who the winner they thought
would be of the hotly contested games before returning to their posts.
Time and again they watched at their posts until boredom overtook them
and the shouts of the players lured them back again to the games where
they lost all track of time as they became engrossed in it.
A long ladder snaked its way onto the side of the high platform. Not
a sound was heard except the groans of the losers and the cheers of the
winners; within minutes a man’s head popped up over the edge of the platform
to see if all was clear. His assessment of the situation made him grunt
in satisfaction and soon he was standing upon it, keeping well within the
shadows so as not to be seen. He whistled; soon others joined him and they
made their way towards the sounds of the men playing.
Down below, a line of men carried away the kindling that was to be used
for the fires back towards the gates of the city. Before long, all was
gone, stacked neatly in bundles easily carried by the men who had been
recruited to do the laborious work.
A quick jerk of a knife slit open one guard’s throat from ear to ear,
the blood darkly flowing while the last gasp garbled out of his mouth.
He fell heavily but was caught on the way down by his assassin, so as to
not alert the other men on duty that they were under attack.
A nod at the other Goths sent the rest of the attackers out into the
open. The Romans were caught off guard; their heads jerked upwards with
dismay then fear fighting for position on their faces. That was quickly
replaced by a grim determination as they fought for their lives but one
by one they fell to the floor which by the time the assassins were through,
held ever-deepening pools of blood as each man’s bodily fluids became emptied
from their bodies.
A ragged but yet muffled cheer escaped from the Goths’ lips; the leader
of the group picked up a torch that was ensconced in a wall near him. Picking
his feet up over the bodies, he made his way back to the lip of the signal
platform and waved it once before snuffing it out.
Instantly, a man pointed to the light and called out to another man
who then leapt onto the bare back of a horse who had been in wait for him
so he could go to the position he knew Darius was holding. He was to be
the first of many that night to tell that the attacks on the signal fire
platforms had been successful.
All around Rome all resistance to the great army that both Alaric and
Darius led was snuffed out in a bloodbath which left no one alive. “All
roads lead to Rome,” Darius softly said then smirked, nodding with each
report he received. Meanwhile Alaric bestowed praise upon the messengers
with promises of riches once the city had fallen.
Both men’s eyes caught each other’s from time to time; their gaze bespoke
of the anticipation of winning the battle even though it had not begun.
Darius though hid his true thoughts behind the mask on his facial expressions
that he showed to the world. ”It will be daylight soon, dear Alaric. And
then, I will be rid of you once and for all.” He looked off to the east,
calculating how much time it would be before the rising of the sun. Nodding
to himself, he then smiled. ”Soon.”
Glancing over to his lieutenant, he raised an arm then dropped it.
Instantly, orders broke from the man’s lips to those around him; the orders
traveled down the lines as the army lurched itself to life to begin the
march to their final position; in front of the main gates that led into
Rome right on the Appian Way.
It was time for the reckoning and the vengeance they had waited three