Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Old Fool has found a new hill.

After a long pause, the Old fool is blogging again.  But on a different hill.  Please check out the new blog at

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Conservative = Pro-Life?  

Bill Post wrote this on FB recently:

The question: if life as in "pro life", more important politically than say "health care"? My argument will always be that one's stance on abortion tells me all that I need to know about one's heart. If it isn't THE most fundamental, important issue to your heart, I will then wonder about everything else. How can one be a "conservative" and not have "life" as one's most important political, spiritual and personal issue?

As way of disclaimer, I've only met Bill once and I never listen to radio of any kind - too many commercials and finding good music is just too damn hard - I'm too young to listen to the oldies channel  ;-)   

I am always concerned when social conservatives start playing the Abortion card.  I know it is a sine qua non issue for them and I try to respect that fact.  It is also a guaranteed losing strategy in Oregon.  Of all states, we have the most permissive rules on when a woman can get an abortion, despite nearly forty years of attempts to change those rules.  Holding to the position that a Republican must be rigidly pro-life in order to get the nomination has led to a loss of every statewide office and most federal offices.  So to cast my voice into the ring, let me play the devil's advocate by trying to lay out how a libertarian republican might answer Bill's question.  

We must hold innocent life sacred.  But should we be handing the government the ability to decide deeply moral issues on which we as a nation are still deeply uncertain and undecided on it?  

The question for me is not when does life begin but rather when do we allow the government to decide that one moral decision is superior to another.  I have trouble with the position that human life begins at conception for several reasons.  It treats human life the same as every other form of life; for it could be said that all life whether frog, pine tree, dog, donkey, or elephant starts at the moment of conception.  It also ignores the high rate of human miscarriages.  Numbers I have seen posted at ranging from 25% to 50% of all human pregnancies terminate naturally, through no fault of the mother.  The question for me becomes when does the soul enter into the body?  

On that question we Americans remain divided and uncertain.  Some would say that it comes with the formation of the unique genetic code that may become a human if the pregnancy doesn't naturally terminate (i.e. at conception).  Others would say that it comes with the successful start of pregnancy (implantation on the uterine wall medically speaking).  Tradition going back at least to Biblical times claimed it happened at the 'quickening' when the baby started to move.  Some claim it happens when the baby is capable of life outside the womb.  A very small number claim it only happens at birth.  

Where to draw the line w/ such divided opinions - some rooted in tradition that goes back thousands of years, others rooted in modern science, and still others rooted in religious beliefs?  One of the most fundamental flaws in progressive thinking is to equate the law with what is right and wrong.  If it is wrong it must be against that law and if there is no law against it then it must be acceptable.  This ignores that the vast majority of social regulation in a just and free society does not happen at the level of law and government but at the level of the family, the church, and other social groupings.  The law is not a guide for right and wrong; the law is that point at which the individual's actions are so wrong that society as a whole has agreed that that individual has given up some portion of his natural liberty.  Law is the point at which the society as a whole can punish the individual with whatever amount of force is necessary to bring that individual back into compliance with the will of the society.  G. Washington recognized this by saying that government is like a fire, a wonderful servant but a terrible master.  

While we must protect innocent life, that does not mean that we reach first to the progressive's favorite weapon of government regulation.  The libertarian republican answer would be that we start with teaching our youth right from wrong (even when state run schools seeks to make it harder), then we live the life our faith teaches us to lead (whatever faith that is), and in living that life we serve as examples to others and help them to avoid making bad decisions.  If called upon, we minister as our faith teaches and council the parents against the destruction of innocent life - but without the threat of punishment that underlies every governmental regulation and rule.  

Is my heart in the wrong place because I distrust the government to make moral decisions for the entire society when we as a society have not yet reached consensus on the issue? Do I care less about innocent life because I doubt the political effectiveness of a particular position based on a forty year history and advocate for alternative strategies (another posting) that can reach the same goal?

The answer to those questions depends on what do you mean by conservative....and that is another post for another time.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

T’was the night before Christmas,
He lived all alone,
In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

I had come down the chimney with presents to give,
And to see just who in this home did live.

I looked all about,
A strange sight did I see,
No tinsel, No presents, Not even a tree.

No stockings by mantle,
Just boots filled with sand,
On the wall hung pictures of a far distant land.

With medals and badges,
Awards of all kinds,
A somber thought came to my mind.

For this house was different,
It was dark and dreary,
I found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

The solider lay sleeping,
Silent, Alone,
Curled up on the floor in this one bedroom home.

The Face was so gentle,
The Room in such disorder,
Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

Was this the Hero of whom I’d just read?
Curled up on a poncho, the floor for a bed?

I realized the families that I saw this night,
Owed their lives to these soldiers who were willing to fight.

Soon round the world,
The children would play,
A grownups would celebrate a bright Christmas Day.

They all enjoyed Freedom each month of the year,
Because of the soldiers,
Like the one lying here.

I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone,
On a cold Christmas eve in a land far from home.

The very thought brought a tear to my eye,
I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

The Soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,
“Santa, Don’t Cry, This life is my choice,

“I fight for Freedom,
I don’t ask for more,
My life is my God, my Country, my Corps.”

The solider rolled over and drifted to sleep,
I could not control,
I continued to weep.

I kept watch for hours,
So silent and still,
We both shivered the cold night’s chill.

Then the soldier rolled over,
With a voice soft and pure, whispered,
“Carry on Santa, It’s Christmas Day,
All is secure.”

One look at my watch,
And I knew he was right,
Merry Christmas my Friend,
And to all a Good night. 

I found this in a very small newspaper published in a town few have ever heard of with the following added by the editor:

This poem was written by a Marine stationed in Okinawa Japan.  The following is his request; I think it is reasonable….

            “PLEASE…would you do me the favor of sending this to as many people as you can?  Christmas is coming soon and some credit it due.”

To this I add the following request, if my readers think it wise, this Christmas as you gather w/ family and friend, set an empty place at your table to represent all those who are away from their families and friends protecting us.  The news catching wars may be over or winding down, but as of Dec. 2012, official US Dept of Defense documents listed over 172,000 men and women standing guard over us in foreign lands, not counting the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. [1]   

So this Christmas, please remember these unsung men and women, far from home this Christmas. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Summoning of the Order, pt. 2

[Author’s Note:  Much of the material drawn for this chapter is based on the intellectual property of Atlas Games, in their game Ars Magica, 4th and 5th editions.  All such property interests remain with Atlas Games.  They have a lawful claim to a fair share, based on industry standards, of any financial profits that arise from my use of their property with the exact details to be worked out in future licensing negotiations.]

Two hours later the Primi gathered again in a different room.  A large oaken simi-circle table with a chair for each of the houses, marked with their symbol, faced a plain chair.  The chair sat in the middle of a circle of arcane runes carved deeply into the floor.  On each of the four walls of the room were deeply incised arcane runes.  The Primi spoke softly among themselves for a few moments and then in turn began casting spells.  Different sets of runes glowed briefly with each spell.  A few of the spells caused new runes to appear and then fade as the caster completed the spell. 
After casting all the desired spells, the Primi each took their respective seats.  When each was seated Antonius snapped his fingers and a soft bell could be heard just outside the door.  Jonathon opened the door just enough to peek around the door.  “Please show our visitor in Jonathon,” Antonius commanded firmly.  Jonathon’s head disappeared and after a few moments a very tall and slender person entered the room. 
At first glance he appeared to be a finely dressed nobleman.  As he entered the room his shape shimmered and shifted.  He grew to be of unnatural height and far too lithe to be a normal man.  His hair was the color of raw gold.  His eyes were a feline yellow and they narrowed to mere cat-like slits when he realized that his disguise had vanished.  With very slight movements of his head he took in the room, and then he smiled warmly and bowed, “Greetings noble magi.  I am Tuar Tel-Quessir and my people seek your help.”
“Fey indeed.” Varia inhaled sharply as he rose from his bow.
“Not quite but close enough for now dear Merinita.”  His voice was almost an angelic song. 
Antonius nodded and Julius rose from his chair.  “If you would please take the Chair of Truth we can begin master elf,” Julius stated flatly and motioned to the plain chair in the center of the room. 
The elf walked up to the edge of the circle of wards, looked down and examined each of the runes with care.  With a very feline smile he crossed the circle and lounged in the chair. 
In a deep booming voice, Julius began chanting and gesturing a spell as several of the runes encircling the chair began to glow.  The elf’s eyes watched Julius’ every gesture with a mix of curiosity and indifference.  Upon completing his spell Julius sat down and Varia rose.  Her voice also boomed as she gestured, this time casting three small objects that disintegrated into dust as they flew towards the elf.  The elf’s eyes narrowed again to mere slits, tracking the objects as they flew.  Several more runes on the floor beneath the elf started to glow.  When she sat down, Marcus rose.  Likewise, his voice was deep and booming as he gestured and cast three small objects in the direction of the visitor.  The objects likewise disintegrated mid air and several more runes beneath the elf started to glow.  As he sat down, Rafael rose and cast a fourth spell, his voice was deep and booming and he also cast three small objects that disintegrated mid air. 
“Powerful magics of containment I gather and probably something to guarantee I am not lying.  Should I feel honored or is this the normal way you greet guests?”  The elf seemed amused.
“Only when they appear without warning in the middle of one of our sancta sanctorum,” Antonius’ smile had no warmth to it.
“Fair enough I suppose.  I would have thought that as magi you would expect visitors to enter in a grand fashion but I do not know your customs.”  The elf shrugged nonchalantly. 
“It is rare to find one who can appear as you did unless they are sent directly from the King or Queen of the fey.  Since we can detect no sign that you are from either court, we must assume the worst.”  Varia apologized. 
“As I said, your description of me as fey is close enough for now.  I come not from either court but from another,” the elf began.
“Which court?” Seneca interrupted.
The elf’s smile was almost predatory and his shape began to shimmer.  “Do you think I server this….”  His smile vanished and his eyes widened as his shape didn’t change.
“I guess you do not serve that force.” Seneca smirked.
The elf lounged back in his chair and smiled wickedly, “Deception is the essential nature of that force after all.”  Seneca’s smirk vanished as he tensed and reached into a pouch at his waist.  Several of the Primi also reached for pouches on their waist. 
“Instructive, unconstructive.”  Talibah mutted.
“You say that you seek our help and yet you do not seem the supplicant but rather a threat that we should deal with in a very harsh manner.” Drucilla scowled as she pulled out several small crystals from her pouch.
The elf’s smile softened and warmed, “Please forgive me dear Mercere but I do so enjoy teasing and playing games with humans.  I mean no harm but sometimes the jest is too hard to resist.”  He spread his arms, palms upward and bowed at the waist.
Marcus chuckled, “There are some here who deserves such jests.”  Seneca gritted his teeth and Julius frowned.
“Let us stick to business shall we?” Arnbjórn softly growled.
“Yes let us.” Claudia nodded rapidly as the tension in the room eased a bit as crystals and other small items were returned to pouches.
“Please tell us of your court.” Varia cooed softly.
“We have written songs to make Virgil weep, built buildings that would cause your greatest cathedrals to appear as mere peasant’s huts, and crafted art that the greatest of your artists would be hard to begin to replicate but we have no defenses against the dark forces that Tremere so rightly worries about.  We seek knowledge and, if a deal can be struck, allies in combating those forces.”
“Deals with fey often prove to be unwise.” Julia leaned to her right rolling two small metal orbs around each other in her left hand.
“Only if you don’t keep your end of the agreement,” Varia glanced at Julia before turning back to the elf.
“We avoid those forces as much as possible; they are a crafty and dangerous enemy, often promising us what we most deeply crave in trade for some small favor that eventually damns our immortal soul.”  Marcus relaxed deeper into his chair.
“My people have no interest in your souls Tytalus.  We seek a fair trade for your knowledge of these dark forces and most importantly how you have managed to prevent them from taking physical form.  We also seek your skills in battle magic for while ours is quite powerful, we fear that it may not be enough against a new dark enemy that has been foretold.  We know that we must seek the help of your people to face this new enemy.  And so, I have been sent beyond the vale that separates our world from yours to seek knowledge and allies.”
“I think some form of exchange of knowledge would be of benefit if we truly are speaking of the same force.” Rafael leaned back into his chair and stroked his goatee. 
“If we are talking about providing him access to our libraries on the subject we might be able to arrange a book for book trade.  We would have to examine the knowledge you are offering, or at least some sample of it first.”  Antonius agreed.
“Vale.  Enlighten.”  Talibah muttered softly.
“Easier to explain the Engima dear Criamon but I shall try.”  The elf sat strait up in his chair.  “Our magic allows us to see into many different realms.  Each of these worlds is separated by a force of magic that we have learned to pierce.  I do not know if it is akin to your theory of the spheres or if it is something completely different.  All I can say is that there are many realms with many different peoples.  We have charted many of the realms and have learned much from each realm.  Some of that knowledge could be what we share with you.”
“If you have knowledge of many realms as you describe them, why choose our people?” Aoife leaned forward in her chair.
“We have visited many of these realms seeking allies.  None are as promising as your people.  In most realms the peoples have some of the traits we need in a prospective ally but most often they can not survive in our realm for the length of time we need them.  Those that can survive often are either too barbaric or violent, or they are too passive.  Some of them reproduce at such a rate that to allow them to settle in our realm would be to invite disaster whereas some would be even slower than our people at replacing lost warriors in a prolonged war.  When the dark forces come, we will draw upon them but we will need more than a few that can come for one or two battles.  We need an ally that can live permanently in our realm and can grow into force that can fight the war we expect to face.  Your people have the ability to survive and prosper in our realm, as you have in this one.  You also have a curious blend of violence and civilization that we find intriguing.”
“You wish us to be mercenaries for your wars?”  Arnbjórn frowned with an arched eyebrow.
“Not precisely.  We need allies for a very specific war that has been foretold by our greatest seer and to enlist those allies we are willing to give up a lightly populated section of our lands, an area roughly equal to this land your call Europe, from the great ocean to the west to the deepest forests of Novgorod, from Thul to the northern edges of the great southern desert.  All that you do in those lands would be of your concern and of those other groups of humans we are able to recruit.  We only ask that in trade for such vast areas you be willing to share your scholarship and ability to fight when the foretold war does come.”
“What other humans?”  Rafael sat up strait in his chair.
“We are in the process of selecting them.  We will select groups that have the necessary numbers to build a viable nation.  The groups we select will be small at first but with time they will grow and build a nation with a strong military and strong magical defense, with your help.”
“We will have to consider this request carefully.  Our Code forbids us from getting overly involved with mundane peoples.  They can be difficult to predict and demanding of attention.  And when they do not get the attention they seek, they often become destructive to our interests.”  Julius looked over to Antonius.
“I would very much like to see some sample of the knowledge that he proposes sharing in trade for our knowledge about demons as well as have time to discuss with some in my House this idea.”  Claudia adjusted her glasses.
“We also have a Grand Tribunal to attend to and those matters need take precedence over some offer that may or may not be accepted.”  Julia put the two metal balls back into her pouch.
“Let us meet here after the Tribunal to discuss this further.  I would favor news of this offer not reach others as yet.  While it is wise to seek counsel of our peers, I worry that some will urge jumping and looking after the fact.  Others will instinctively reject such a vague offer and then become rather determined to undermine any decision to accept it.”  Antonius looked to each of the other Primi.  Arnbjórn, Talibah, Drucilla, Julia, Julius, and Seneca nodded.   Claudia, Varia, Aoife, Rafael, and Marcus looked glum but also nodded.
“With the permission of all of you, I shall leave this place and return in one week with a couple of books that will serve as a sample of what knowledges we seek to offer in trade for your knowledge of dark forces.”  The elf rose from his chair, took a step forward and bumped into a wall that was not there.  “Huh?” he stumbled backward.
“Forgive us master elf, we need a chance to lower the wards that confine you.”
The elf muttered very softly but returned to his seat.
Antonius nodded to Rafael who began softly chanting and several of the runs on the floor ceased to glow.
“Please only extend your arm and see if the wall is still present.” Antonius instructed as the elf stood up.  The elf extended his arm and his palm stopped at an invisible wall matching the circle of ward.  Antonius nodded to Varia who softly chanted a few words.  Several more runes stopped glowing and the elf’s hand was able to push beyond the circle of wards carved into the floor.
“Some form of test I presume?” the elf arched an eyebrow.
“Naturally,” Antonius stood up and eased his chair back, just enough to step away from the table. 
“Assuming you are not a specialist in deception, as some of us have cause to fear, the last set of wards would have constrained even a very powerful demon or devil.  This is not conclusive mind you but it will ease some concerns.”  Julius followed Antonius’ example as did the other Primi.
“These forces are certainly ones my people fear as well and we hope that we can, at the minimum, learn from you.  With luck, the lands we have to offer will entice you to come and settle far from your current concerns.”  The elf turned and walked towards the door.
“What current concerns do you mean?” Arnbjórn growled.
Looking over his shoulder, “Do you think we would pass through the vale without examining the realm from our side and consider carefully the many things we can see?”
“We will have to discuss what you can see when next we meet in one week visitor.”  Rafael put his hand on Arnbjórn’s chest as the bear-man stepped forward.
“Gladly,” the elf’s faint smile held the promise of answers to questions best not asked. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Summoning of the Order

[Author’s Note:  Much of the material drawn for this chapter is based on the intellectual property of Atlas Games, in their game Ars Magica, 4th and 5th editions.  The Order of Hermes, the names of the Houses of Hermes, and many other ideas are the intellectual property of Atlas Games.  All such property interests remain with Atlas Games.  They have a lawful claim to a fair share, based on industry standards, of any financial profits that arise from my use of their property with the exact details to be worked out in future licensing negotiations.]

Anno Domini 1228 – Durenmar Covenant

            Hidden deep in the Black Forest, a strong fortress over looks a deep mountain stream.  Here, four hundred and sixty-one years ago, the Order of Hermes was founded.  This secretive society is made up of over a thousand of the most powerful wizards in all of Europe.  Every thirty-three years the leaders of each of the twelve Houses that make up the Order and a delegation from each of the thirteen regional tribunals gather here in a Grand Tribunal to settle disputes between the tribunals, hand down interpretations of the laws that bind the Order together, to share new magical innovations, and to discuss other issues that affect the whole Order.  The day before the Grand Tribunal officially begins the leaders of the twelve Houses, the Primi, gather in a secret chamber to reach a consensus on selected divisive issues so they can present a united front and insure some measure of order in a society made up of very individualistic and often quarrelsome individuals. 
            Late in the midmorning before the Grand Tribunal was due to commence, an elderly man leaning on a boy of about ten years made his way to the secret chamber.  As he slowly made his way to his seat, he looked around the room for what he knew to be his last time.  A large circular oaken table dominated the room.  Twelve high backed chairs, almost miniature thrones ringed the table.  Several smaller serving tables with pitchers of wine, and several platters of fine cheeses, meats, and fresh bread were aligned around the room.  On the back of each chair, above where a person’s head would be was carved a symbol of one of the twelve Houses.  He sat in the chair marked with a pair of crossed keys, standing on their bow with their pins in the air, the symbol of House Bonisagus, those who learned their arts from the Founder of the Order and creator of the Hermetic theory of Magic. 
            “Jonathon, please invite the other Primi to join me and then return to your studies,” he dismissed the boy.
            “Yes Master.” The boy bowed and hurried off.
            A few moments later a short Spanish woman with dark hair just starting to grey entered the room.  “Greetings Primus of Bonisagus,” she greeted him formally. 
            “Welcome Primus of Flambeau.  Please be comfortable.”  He returned her formality with a twinkle in his eye as she made her way to the chair marked with a pair of equilateral triangles forming an hour glass, the symbol for House Flambeau, the wizards of destruction.
            “How goes the Reconquestia?” he asked as she pecked him on the cheek before sitting down. 
            “It goes well for the Christian lords Antonius.  Not so well for the Moorish lords.  We have been able to avoid any open conflict with both sides.  Natural when a covenant comes under attack …” she spread her hands helplessly, “but our Jerbiton siblings have been very busy keeping the local lords to busy with each other to pester us too much.  There are some impressive research being done in Granada and I hope to visit the covenant there soon.  It seems that some accord has been reached with the Moorish sorcerers and some information is being shared.  We will have to watch it carefully and I’m thinking about asking Julius to send a couple of quaesitors with me just to make sure that some secrets are not being shared.”
            “If they are sharing…” Antonius raised his finger as a matronly woman entered.  He rose stiffly, “Greetings Primus of Mercere.”
             “Sit down before you hurt your self you old goat,” she snorted and smiled.  Julia chuckled as the woman took the chair marked with a messenger’s cap, the symbol of House Mercere, the messengers that carried news from one covenant to another, enabling the Order to remain vaguely united. 
            “It is good to see you again Drucilla.”  Julia reached out her hand.
            “It is good to see both of you again.  I was half expecting some novice to take Antonius’ seat this time and I am glad to be wrong.”
            “This will be my last Grand Tribunal as Primus of Bonisagus.  While final twilight is not something to look forward too, only the fool makes no plans.  I am considering my successor and I am looking forward to finishing Jonathon’s training and wrapping up a few projects.”  Antonius leaned back into his chair.  Casting a tired eye at Julia, “Please talk with Julius about taking at least one quaesitor and perhaps some hoplites with you.  Any Moorish sorcerer who has learned Parma will have to join the Order or die.  That is our law.”
            Julia nodded as a brown haired man of about thirty entered the room.  “Greetings Primus of Tytalus.”  Antonius sat up strait in his chair.
            “Greetings, Primus of Bonisagus.  Do we have a wizard’s march and no one told me?” He half smiled and fingered his dagger as he took the chair marked with the spiral of House Tytalus, the House of growth through conflict.
            “Not yet Marcus,” Antonius shook his head and then mumbled a few words while looking at one of the pitchers of wine and a goblet.  The pitcher filled the goblet and it floated over to Antonius’ out reached hand. 
            A bald woman with Arabic features and a host of arcane marks tattooed on her head, neck, and face entered the room and took the chair marked with an infinity symbol within a circle within a square; the symbol of House Criamon, the seekers of something they called the Enigma, a concept they could not, or would not, explain to other wizards.  She uttered no greeting and appeared to be deep in thought.
            “Greetings Primus of Criamon,” Antonius raised his goblet in toast.  She looked at him as if seeing a point far beyond the wall behind him. 
            “Hmmm.  Yes.  Greetings Antonius,” she paused and seemed to refocus her attention.  “It is good to be here.”  She seemed to drift back into her thoughts.
            “Talibah, I can not tell if you are being rude or merely lost in your Enigma.”  Marcus smirked.
            “Hmmm.  Yes.  Rude Tytalus.” She pinned him with her gaze as if examining a strange insect for the first time. 
            “Careful Marcus,” Drucilla put her hand on his forearm with a worried look.  He frowned and sat back in his chair.
            A thin scholarly man with a bald palate and long stringy white hair entered next.  “Greetings Primus of Bonisagus, fellow Primi.”  He smiled warmly as he took the seat marked with the scales of justice, the symbol of House Guernicus, the judges and investigators of matters that might violate the Code of Hermes, the oath the bound the Order together.
            “Welcome Julius, Antonius and I were just discussing a matter in Iberia that you and I need to discuss a bit later.”
            “Moorish sorcerers I’ll wager,” he made a couple gestures with his hands and another pitcher filled a goblet and it floated over to his outstretched hand.
            Julia nodded as a tall red haired woman with streaks of grey in her hair entered.  “Greetings Primus of Bonisagus and my fellow Primi,” she intoned with a strong Scottish accent. 
            Greetings Primus of Ex Miscellanea.”  Antonius nodded as she took the seat marked with a staff shaped like a lightening bolt, the symbol of House Ex Miscellanious, the House of those with no other home in the Order. 
            “Greetings Aoife.  How are things in England these days?”  Marcus smiled warmly.
            “Still too cold for your Norman blood I’ll wager but we are at peace save for some of the tribes in the hills of Caledonia and Cambria.”  She smiled sweetly as Marcus winced.  Drucilla and Julia chuckled while Antonius smiled ruefully.
            “You still blame us for William I see.”  Marcus shook his head. 
            “He did upset things a bit but his brats and their children are usually more concerned with France and the Holy Land to be too much of a nuisance.”  Aoife warmed her smile a bit. 
            Marcus started to speak as a young woman in her late twenties entered.  “Greetings Primus of Bonisagus, fellow Primi.  It is good to see most of you.”  Her voice was almost that of a song. 
Julia stiffened and almost rose when Antonius rested his hand on her forearm. “Greetings Primus of Merinita.”  She took the seat next to Aoife, the one marked with a tree in full bloom, the symbol of House Merinita, the explorers of all things Fey. 
“Still using glamour I see Varia.” Julia sniped.
 Varia smiled, her eyes cold as winter as a giant of a man in his late thirties entered the room.  His full beard, long hair, and northern fur dressings make him almost look like a bear on hind legs.  “Greetings Primus of Bonisagus.”  He rumbled as he sat down next to Varia.  His chair was marked with a simple cone, the symbol of House Bjornaer, the house of magi who could assume the form of animal ancestors and sought to understand their animal nature. 
“Greetings Primus Bjornaer.  All goes well in the Baltic areas I hope Arnbjórn.”  Antonius leaned forward a bit.
“The Teutonic crusaders pillage the lands and we have had to deal harshly with some who have threatened our coven folk but let us discuss that a bit later,” he rumbled and looked over at a serving tray.  Several slices of cheeses and meats flew on to a small plate and it floated over to him. 
“Be careful to not to draw the attention of the Church Arnbjórn.” Julius started.
“Let us discuss that later Julius.” Antonius cut him with a raised hand as a stocky man in his late forties entered the room.
“Greetings Primus of Bonisagus,” he respectfully bowed his tonsured head.
“Greetings Primus of Tremere.”  Antonius forced himself to rise and returned the bow.  “Is all well up north Seneca?” Antonius sat back down.
“It is well.  The Emperor has just launched his second expedition to the Holy Land and with luck it will be more successful than the last.”  Seneca looked around the room and his eyes narrowed a bit when he saw Marcus.
Marcus offered a thin wary smile as Senaca made his way to the chair marked with the astrological sign for man within a square, the symbol of House Tremere, followers of the belief that hierarchy and discipline were the only rational answer to an inherently dangerous and chaotic world. 
“Salve Bonisage!” boomed from a portly man in the finest cut of the most current fashions from Venice who entered the room with arms outstretched as if to hug everyone in the room at the same time.
“Salve Jerbiton.”  Antonius smiled warmly while several of the other primi cast skeptical looks at the man as he almost danced to the chair marked with a castle tower, the symbol of House Jerbiton, the custodians of art, culture, and diplomacy. 
“I see you are keeping up with Venice cuts this year Rafael, last year it was Roman or was it Milan?” Varia cocked her head to watch him pass.
“I came here from Venice so I dress as Venice would have me dress my dear feyling.”  He poured himself a goblet of wine and placed a few slices of cheeses and meats on a plate before taking his seat. 
“Any news of Italy and of the Pope we should concern ourselves with?” Arnbjórn rumbled.
“Just the usually political maneuverings of mundane politics good friend.  Gregory and Fredrick are arguing over Fredrick’s excommunication and I suspect Fredrick will leave for the Holy Land with out having it lifted.”
“To bad he is not taking those cursed Teutonic knights with him.” Arnbjórn grumbled.
“Their efforts would be better focused on the Turks rather than some harmless pagans in eastern Europe.” Senaca nodded. 
“I know of a few French knights who should be convinced to head that way as well.”  Rafael muttered softly as he sat down.
“The Cathars are not our concern Rafael.” Julia chided him.
“The Cathars are worse than the Moors and Turks, they distort the teachings…” Seneca began as a gaunt woman in her late sixties entered the room.
“Greetings Primus of Bonasagus,” she peered through very thick glasses.
“Greetings Primus of Verditus.”  Antonius nodded as she fumbled with one of the dozens of small talismans hanging in various places on her dress.  A goblet and plate of cheeses and breads flew ahead of her as she walked to the last chair.  It was marked with a hand with five rings on it, the symbol of House Verditus, the artificers and crafters of magical items.  “I hope all is well in southern Italy Claudia.”
“It is well and now that I have finished these lenses and their frame, I can see as I did thirty years ago.  I may even enchant them.”

For about an hour the twelve primi of the Order of Hermes chatted about minor things, sharing titbits of gossip, and otherwise caught up with as friends long separated.  Eventually the conversation wound down and after a few moments of silence Rafael spoke first.  “Antonius, I am worried about all the expeditions that have been launched in the name of the Church in recent years.”
“We cannot endanger the Order by challenging the Church, even a small portion of one of those armies could destroy many of the covenants in the Order.” Julius shook his head.
“My point exactly noble Guernicus.  What happens when they are done with the Moors or the pagans in the east?”
“While the Christian lords have made gains in Iberia, it will be a long time before the Moors are driven out.”  Julia shook her head. 
“Not to mention the various expeditions to the Holy Land have been less than successful.” Drucilla agreed.  “Ever since Saladin shattered them at Hatin and the second expedition failed to take Damascus, they have been mostly been driven back to a few cities along the coast and Cyprus.”
“You forget Richard’s campaign.” Seneca placed his goblet on the table and a pitcher floated over to refill it. 
“No, I don’t dear Seneca.  Yes he took Acre and a few coastal towns but he failed to even lay siege to Jerusalem.  He negotiated a peace that achieved peaceful passage for the Christians so at best you can call his campaign a partial success, …. from the Christian perspective.” Drucilla quickly added as Talibah looked at her.  “I doubt that Fredrick’s latest adventure will be any more successful.”
“Why should we be concerning ourselves with the Church’s Levantine campaigns?”  Claudia fumbled with a small bird’s claw and a pitcher floated over and refilled her goblet. 
“While the campaigns in the Levant are of little interest to any of us who do not have covenants over there,” Rafael nodded to Talibah and the Aoife, “The campaigns against the Cathars have unsettled an area where we have serious interests and most of our successes in building alliances with sensible church leaders.  I fear that if the northern knights and their allied clergy are successful over a hundred years of careful alliance building will be undone.”
“The Church and mundane nobles are tied up in many campaigns, not all of which go well for them.  Most of those campaigns will continue for a long time to come.  So long as we do not draw attention to ourselves I don’t think we need to worry overly much about the Church as a whole.”  Antonius sighed and sunk deeply into his chair. 
“I do not share that belief Noble Antonius.”  Arnbjórn rumbled.  “The Teutonic Order and its allies have been very troublesome for several of our covenants in the Novgorod Tribunal.  The fighting between them and the pagans has made collecting Vis and mundane supplies very dangerous.  Last harvest, I had to personally lead an attack to kill an entire group of them when they tried to destroy a village that the covenant I was visiting depends on for food.  The conflict has ceased for now but it will resume in the near future.”
“Arnbjórn, do you expect the covenants in the Baltic region to have to openly take sides?” Julius leaned forward, his brow furled and his voice heavy with concern. 
“I do not know Julius.  We have had very good relations with the Estonian nobles, some of them even welcome the covenants near them.  The villages tend to welcome us when we are in the area.  When we do have to fight we are as careful as we can be to leave no traces as to what happened.  While I hope that we don’t have to get drawn in, we have to defend ourselves and those we depend on.”  Arnbjórn again glanced over at a pitcher of wine and it floated over to refill his goblet. 
“Dragons.”  Talibah traced one of the tattoos on her cheek.
“Aye, no easy answers.  Best we try to avoid entanglements in mundane fights.  We must defend ourselves but taking sides must be avoided.” Aoife nodded in agreement.
“Sometimes war does not give us the choice.” Arnbjórn shrugged.
“Even if we try to keep a low profile, we have to defend ourselves when they come raping the lands that our covenants depend on for food and other basic supplies.” Marcus made a come hither motion with his left hand and the pitcher of wine that had just refilled Arnbjórn’s goblet floated over and refilled his goblet.  “Which means at some point the Church will notice that we are organized and that we are not just a handful of odd nobles.”
“The mundanes would be better off if they had a single strong leader as they did with the early Caesars or with Charlemagne.”  Seneca tugged at a thread in his robe. 
“Order creates chaos; short mundane lives.”  Talibah traced the largest tattoo on her forehead. 
Julia muttered something very softly as she too a drink.  Antonius threw a sharp glance at her as Talibah looked at her as if noticing an insect for the first time.
“New supplies of Vis are becoming harder to find, especially as fairy forests retreat in the face of more and more mundane villages.”  Varia mused softly. 
“It is becoming very hard to find places to locate new covenants without getting drawn into mundane politics.” Claudia nodded.
“Provencal is being cleared of many villages as we speak.” Rafael grumbled.
“Rafael, you have long advocated for closer ties with the Church and that we shouldn’t fear them.”  Julia’s smile took any sting from the words.
“Have you considered taking a lover Julia?”  Rafael winked back.
“Perhaps a few noble?”  Varia smirked.
Julia’s face flushed darkly but before she could respond, Arnbjórn’s fist slammed into the table, “ENOUGH!”  We are here to decide what to do about all the Christian expeditions that threaten to draw us in.  Every magi and every covenant is split over this.  We need to present a unified answer that is more than ‘avoid if possible.’” 
“Arnbjórn is right,” Julius frowned.  “We have only a short time and we have other issues to …”  A soft knock on the door interrupted him.
Antonius glanced around the room and after several Primi nodded he made an opening motion with his hand and muttered softly.  The heavy bolt holding the door shut slid to one side and the door opened just enough for Jonathon to slip in.
“This had better be very important Jonathon.”  Antonius warned as the boy approached as if caught red handed in some serious misdeed and sent to the headmaster’s office. 
“Please forgive me Primi.  Master, I was studying in your library when a strange fog started coming out of the fireplace.  I quickly checked and there was no fire and the flute was open.  As the fog started to fill the room I reached out to see if I could determine if magic was at work and a man stepped out of the fog.” 
“In your personal library?!!??”  Julia blurted out.  The other Primi seemed equally stunned and after a moment of silence began all talking at once.
“Silence.”  Antonius rapped the table with his knuckles and the sound of a gavel echoed through the room loud enough to silence all the Primi.  As they fell silent, Antonius looked again at his apprentice.  “Please continue Jonathon.”
Swollowing hard, “He claimed to be an elf lord and that he asked to speak with you by full name and title.”  Jonathon looked around the room, “each of you.”
Again Antonius had to gavel the Primi into silence with repeated rapping of his knuckles onto the table.  Turing to Jonathon,  Antonius smiled warmly, “You have done nothing wrong Jonathon, but are you absolutely sure he actually walked out of the fog and not through the door while it was obscured by the fog?”  Antonius peered deeply into the boy’s eyes.
Jonathon closed his eyes for a moment and mumbled a few quick words.  “I had to unlock the door when I left the chamber to come here.  I am certain that my back was to the door when he appeared but the fog was very thick at the time and I might have gotten turned around.”
Compressing his lips tightly together Antonius looked at the other Primi one at a time, “Thoughts?”
“Perhaps we should hear what this person has to say.”  Aiofe spoke first.
“If he can pass through the wards on this covenant and into your sanctum he must be exceptionally powerful and we need to take precaution before meeting with him.”  Claudia pulled out a handkerchief and began cleaning her glasses.
“We should use the Judgment Chamber.  Its wards against demons, fey, and divine are the strongest in the Order and the ward against lying was laid in a ritual lead by my parens, who specialized in detecting such things,” Julius nodded in agreement.
“I agree that we should use the Judgment Chamber but we need to erect additional protective wards, as strong as we can make them.”  Seneca drained his goblet.
“If he can pass through the Aegis protecting this covenant, no spell we can cast as individuals will touch him.”  Marcus scoffed.  “We should alert the rest of the magi here for the Tribunal and prepare to deal with this intruder harshly,” he gripped his dagger and seemed almost eager.
“I think we are dealing with a very powerful few, maybe even a personal servant of Oberon or Tatiana.  It would be prudent for us to be very polite.”  Varia frowned at Marcus.
“There are two other forces that this individual might represent, one that we would be powerless against – thus explaining how he penetrated the Aegis, and one that will require us to use our wits and good judgment rather than try to break his deceptions.”  Drucilla shook her head.
“Enigma requires knowledge; premature judgment foolish.” Talibah traced a tattoo on the back of her wrist.
“Let us take every precaution we can without alerting the other magi … for now.” Julia raised her finger.  “We should expect some ruse or deception, especially if we are dealing with fey or diabolic forces.”
Looking around the table again, Antonius spoke with closed eyes. “We shall reconvene in the Judgment chamber in two hours having made what personal preparations we each deem necessary but not to alert the rest of the magi for the moment.  I don’t want someone to take action prematurely.”  Each of the Primi nodded in turn and rose to leave the room one by one in the order in which they came in.
Turning to his apprentice, “Please so the man to a guest room and tell him we will meet him in three hours.  Then in two hours time meet us outside of the Judgment Chamber and I will summon you when it is time to bring him to us.”
“Yes Master,” Jonathon helped his master to his feet. 
“Off with you.  I can still walk unaided and I don’t want him to be in my sanctum when I arrive.”  Antonius shooed the boy off.
“What if he insists on waiting to meet you?”
“Tell him that we will meet him as a group so we can all hear what he has to say and that we would like him to be comfortable while we get ready to meet such an honored visitor.  If he still refuses, then I will just have to encounter him.”  Antonius frowned deeply.   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Journal of P. Licinius Crassus (pt. 3)

6 Aprilis 705 AUC
        I have not seen Tuar Tel-Quessir for over a month.  He left shortly after our dinner saying that he would tend to getting us permission to leave and work for his people.  I received a letter today from one of the King’s ministers in Ctesiphon.  He has asked Calvus to explain the offer to purchase us and take us to a distant land.  I consulted with Calvus and he wants the king to know that we have been approached and said that he passed the offer on to the king and that we are the dutiful slaves of the King and that our lives continue only so long as it is the pleasure of the King.  We have known that the King is not secure on his throne and this makes him more likely to respond negatively if we are not very careful.

15 Maius 705 AUC
        Spring is drawing to a close and summer will soon be upon us.  We have gathered a solid supply of grain and could march tomorrow if we felt the need.  The local notables have noticed our building of many carts and acquiring additional grain and have begun asking questions, answers of which will probably be sent to the King and his ministers.  Calvus placates them with plans for an eventual campaign to the north against the Dahae, a tribe of nomads north of the desert, assuming the king agrees to the plan of course.  Many of them have pledged additional troops and cavalry as well as funds expecting to share in the spoils.  I do not know how well that will work with the idea of a permanent relocation, or if they will insist on honoring their promises when we do leave.  They can be somewhat temperamental at times. 

4 Iunius 705 AUC
        Another letter from Ctesiphon arrived today.  Apparently the king has appointed a governor who will take over this fort and upon his arrival, with replacement troops, we are to march on the Dahae and add those lands to the domain of the king.  The minister ‘helpfully’ suggests that we march through the lands of the Khwarezm, along the Onyx river and ‘secure their friendship with the king.’  Well, it meets our needs and Calvus was unusually jubilant at the news.  We have had good relations with the Khwarezm king and his nobles.  We strongly respect their heavy cavalry; most of our own cavalry auxiliaries are Khwarezmites.  If we can march through their lands, it will greatly reduce any concern for water.  We expect the new governor at the end of summer.  I guess it is about time to have a long delayed conversation with my wife and her family…

2 Sextilus 705 AUC
        We informed the centurions today of the plan to take up a new commission as free mercenaries.  The reaction was surprisingly mixed.  While they welcomed the idea of their own villa and surrounding lands, the idea of leaving everything they had built for the last five years gives them pause.  Most of us have young children and a trek through the harsh lands to the north, while a challenge to a man may be lethal to women and children.  In the end they agreed with the plan.  I think the promise of triple wages and booty was more of an incentive than the promise of better farm land when they retire.    

9 Sextilus 705 AUC
        I have been inundated with local notables asking for more details.  They have of course withdrawn any promises of sending troops with us after learning that we are not coming back.  They have also been rather insistent that we return all the funds they have advanced us for grain and wagons.  They are uniformly opposed to the idea of us taking our wives and children with us.  I fear I have had to be rather firm in denying their demands, at least until I can discuss it with Calvus and the new governor.  I suspect they will just have to live with a bit of disappointment.
The merchant lords are most concerned about whether our patrols of the trade routes will continue.  I have assured them that the new governor would not be eager to see a return of banditry, that he is bringing a large replacement force so that the patrols will continue, and that we will not leave until he arrives so the patrols will not be interrupted. 
        I have my informants looking into the moral of the legionaries, and over all, the mood seems to be anticipation of the coming journey and the promise of new conquests.  I am certain that we will loose some legionaries who refuse to come.  They should only be the ones that we wouldn’t be able to rely on in the first place. 

14 Septembris 705 AUC
        The new governor and his army was sighted a few days ago.  Calvus has sent out orders to all the troops to assemble as soon as possible.  I have been in contact with my counterparts among the Khwarezm and they are open to the idea of us moving through their lands and may even provide us with additional cavalry against the nomads. 
We have had several messages over the last month or so as the governor has made his way here so there was no alarm when a force of nearly ten thousand troops appeared in the hills to the south and west of the town.  They are marching on the same road that brought us here almost five years ago.  Jupiter’s stones, has it really been five years since we arrived, survivors of a massacre and completely at the mercy of our captors?  We have built something very special here and I am starting to realize that I will miss this place.  I guess it is time to pack and to make final arrangements for the house and other property that my family can not take with us.  In all total, my wife, my two daughters and new born son, her brother, his wife, and their four children will comprise seed of the future Lucinii clan; a stronger beginning than the Trojans who founded our people in Italia, who had to acquire wives from the Sabines.

16 Septembris 705 AUC
        There will be a few days while we finish gathering the outer patrols and the new troops take up their positions.  We are doing the final checking of supplies and provisions as well as a head count for those who are traveling.  We had to limit who could come with us as just about every family of locals has several members of their family willing to strike out for new lands.  In total we have eight thousand legionaries, their wives and children, sixteen thousand civilians and their families.  Most of the civilians are the youngest sons of farmers and their wives and children.  We have a good number of artisans and craftsmen and their families.  In all total we have at least fifty thousand people, with all their animals, carts, and so forth.  I have sent letters to the Khwarezm of our numbers and plans to move further north and not just stop with a campaign against the Dahae. 

19 Sepembris 705 AUC
        The new governor is not pleased that so many people are leaving.  He had expected the legion and perhaps some camp followers, certainly not one in ten of the entire population for this province.  He is demanding a lot of gold in trade for us to take ‘his people’ from him.  I am not privy to the discussions between him and Calvus but I have heard him yelling at Calvus over the matter. 
Fortunately, he saw our legion drawn up in parade formation and he knows that his troops are no match for us if blows came to be struck.  I am worried that if he has second thoughts about letting us leave, and if he decides to give chase, we would be very vulnerable to raiding parties while marching.  We have some cavalry, enough to detect any serious force moving in pursuit but not enough to adequately guard against raids. Perhaps our alliance with the Khwarezm will help.  If it holds; a mass migration of this type can strain or even break relations.  I do not expect any answer to my letters before we are on the march. 

20 Sepembris 705 AUC
        A deal has been struck between Calvus and the governor.  We will leave on 3 Octobris, the fifth anniversary of when we arrived.  Apparently, Tuar Tel-Quessir has been with the governor and made promises for golden compensation sufficient to ease the governor’s concerns.  His people must either be exceptionally rich or exceptionally desperate to spend so much gold on a tribe of mercenaries. 
Where he came from and when he arrived no one seems to know.  He wasn’t with the governor originally but now he is here.  I am very glad that I still have that amulet I purchased for the dinner.  He is not alone either.  He has twelve companions, each could be his brother so closely do they look alike.  They will be our guides on our journey.   
They are checking our supplies for the journey and speaking in their own language.  Communication with them is difficult as they only speak fragments of the local language or our own.  They actually suggested that we tie all our people together in a single rope line so we wouldn’t get lost on the journey.  I am not sure if they are joking or they are really believed that we would get lost.  As if it would be possible to tie fifty thousand people together in the first place. 
They were surprised by our numbers.  Apparently they were only expecting the actual legion and a few camp followers, much as the governor seemed to have in mind.  I do not know if they are pleased or displeased at our numbers, only that they had a sharp discussion among themselves.  They would not speak about the subject after that sharp conversation.   

25 Sepembris 705 AUC
        Most of the good byes and fair wells have been said; now it is just the mustering of the troops and getting everyone moving.  With a mass of civilians with us, we will move very slowly.  I wonder how long it will actually take us to get to these new lands.  The Iastae are about the same distance as where we were captured if my sources are to be trusted.  There is little information on Iastae because there is little reason to trade with nomads that far north.  A force used to marching could probably cover the distance in a couple of months but with all these civilians and we will be heading into winter once we get beyond the Dahae lands. 
I have not been able to find out much about Tuar Tel-Quessir’s people.  His companions have taken over Biashim’S and strictly keep to themselves; they do not speak beyond bare necessities with the servants and answer no questions.  I can not shake a suspicion that something much stranger than I can imagine is a foot.  While I have reported this to Calvus and he has told me to keep probing for information, he doesn’t seem too concerned with it.  He did mention that Tuar Tel-Quessir has a much greater amount of money with which to buy our services than he had previously believed but wouldn’t say how he came to believe this.  Such concerns are going to have to wait. 

3 Octobris 705 AUC
        We started out today.  At first light the horns sounded and we began to march.  We barely covered five miles today and it doesn’t look like we will ever cover much more than that if we are to keep everyone together.  I’ve dusted off the old writing desk that I purchased before leaving Roma.  I am surprised that it is still in good condition. 
        We are planning on following the trade routes to the Onyx and then move north along it until it reaches the Onyx Sea.  We will move along the western edge of the sea until we come to the eastern lands of the Iaste at the north end of the Onyx Sea.  From there we will have to rely on Tuar Tel-Quessir and his companions for guidance. 

5 Octobris 705 AUC
        We were met by the merchants carrying a reply to my letters to the Khwarezm today.  My counterparts tell me that their king will allow us to travel through their lands but we must move as quickly as possible lest we cause concern.  A force of several thousand heavy cavalry will accompany us to the north end of the Onyx Sea and maybe even help us fight the Iaste if there is sufficient pay involved.  Will Tuar Tel-Quessir wish to add these troops to our new tribe? 
        Each night as we camp, his companions pitch their tents in a perfect circle and study the stars with strange instruments.  Being very interested in the stars, Legate Nigidius Figulus has tried to make conversation with them about their doings.  I do not know if it was the insult he gave to Tuar Tel-Quessir at the dinner, the companion’s lack of skill in our language, or Figulus’ somewhat brusk manner at time but they refused to explain any more than that they were too busy to speak with him.   After I tried, Tuar Tel-Quessir asked Calvus to instruct us to stop bothering them and that they were charting our course to their land.  I know that mariners often navigate by the stars but to do that while traveling by land is novel.  Usually land features make such navigation unreliable.  Maybe their strange tools have a way of compensating for those problems. 

21 Octobris 705 AUC
        The last couple weeks have been hard travel.  We have been joined by the heavy cavalry of the Khwarezm.  Two thousand warriors with a like number of camp followers now flank our long column on the march.  We reached the Onxy River and are now moving along it.  I have felt itchiness under my skin for the last couple days, something my eldest daughter has shared, making her rather irritable.  The medicus gave me an ointment for both of us but told me that they have had a number of people complain about it.  There is no rash and it seems worst at the deepest of night.  It has been enough that I have had to take walks in the middle of the night and have had trouble sleeping.  Tuar Tel-Quessir’s companions stopped studying the night sky and have started what they call a prayer or religious observation each night.  Their description doesn’t seem to translate very well across the language barrier but as usually they are rather reluctant to share information.  Their music is extremely beautify and somewhat haunting.  They only play it in the deepest hours of the night and softly enough that anyone who wishes to listen must come within a child’s stone throw of their tents to hear it.  It has been going on for about a week now and now that I think of it, the itchiness that my daughter and I have been suffering from started about that time.  I am sure it is mere coincidence, but I am going to start sleeping with that amulet of mine and see about getting another for my daughter.  
        During today’s travel a heavy set of clouds, dark with rain appeared on the western horizon and have moved quickly towards us.  Even now the late rain pounds upon our tent and I fear that we won’t be able to make much distance over the next few days. 

22 Octobris 705 AUC
        I have written this passage a dozen times and still I can not believe it.  I have managed to omit most of my panic and terror at the events of today but I am still terrified to my very core.  I have managed to put on a strong face for my wife and children but inside, the terror I felt as a boy who had invoked his father’s greatest wrath by childish deeds is but a shadow of what I feel. 
There can be no doubt that Tuar Tel-Quessir and all of his companions are venēficus and very powerful ones at that.  Today when we awoke to the morning horns, we found ourselves not where we expected.  Rather than find ourselves in the lands of the Khwarezm and closing on the Onyx Sea, we are in a deep forest adjacent to a deep and strong river.  Tuar Tel-Quessir said that via the magic of his people, we have arrived and that we are free do settle anywhere we wish and that all the lands along this river and any rivers flowing into it belonged to us now.  He urged us to make a fortification as quickly as possible and to not spread out too much until we had secured the area for several days journey in all directions for there would be some of the weaker enemies of his people in the area. 
        Most of today was spent mastering our terror at the sudden change.  Horatus’ discipline and that of his centurions was probably the only thing that kept us together.  Upon discovering the change, he sent for Calvus and quickly issued orders.  They quickly brought the legionaries into order with a bit of sharp discipline and calmed their fears with quick orders to make a fortified camp.  Seeing our troops moving to make a more permanent structure, the civilians have started to calm themselves.  We will have to calm our own inner fears in the days to come and figure out where we are and where we go from here.  By Juno’s landīca, I am terrified.  What sort of infernal pact have we made?