Posts Tagged ‘history’

Ashes to ashes – Metrius – Post 24

March 27, 2018

burnt village

The last mile was a hellish ride, nightmares plaguing his mind. He could picture Alkaterina, killed by the animals he had seen back in Rome. The thugish brutes who fought for Romulus raping and pillaging the village he called home. They would slaughter his friends and family alike, like cattle whose necks were slit open by the farmer’s blade. He painted pictures that burned in his mind; roofs aflame and victims with their guts spilled. And all the while Kephalos would watch and laugh, mocking in his suffering at Romulus’s side.

They stung into him, making tears weep from his weary eyes, and he felt the felt the pit open in his stomach. He could not live without his love, his wife Alkaterina, and now Kephalos was taking her away from him. Just as his mentality was pushed to his limit, so was his body’s endurance with muscles that pleaded only for rest and an end to the ride. It felt as if he was being stabbed, so worn was his body, but again and again he urged the horse onward. Would he be of any use when he got there, probably not, but he had to know and he had to know now.

Carrying him down into the valley where his village sat, the track wound down between the slopes of the hilly countryside. Since he was young it had been his voyage home, loving faces waiting for him and warm meals with his parents and sister. He remembered traveling home with his father from fishing, a small trip they regularly took to the rivers nearby. There were plenty of waters that were rich with fish, and his father had taught him to spear them. In the evening they had roasted the golden scaled by the campfire, skewering them on sticks that held them above the flames. Stars shining above them, they had strolled the path that even now he rode down.

There was no more home. Instead, what lay before him was the blackened shell of his village. Smoke rose from charred remains, ashes caked the floor and floated down through the air as if it rained death. The ground was littered with bodies, mutilated by the men who had slain and murdered without remorse. A dog whimpered, dragging a broken leg behind it. There was nothing left.

Sliding off his horse, Metrius thumped to the group, twisting his ankle and sending him toppling to the floor. His arm striking the ground a sharp pain bolted through his elbow but he did not feel it. Instead he scrambled up once more, half running and half walking towards his home. Stumbling he cried out, calling out for Alkaterina in desperation.

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Dread – Metrius – Post 23

March 25, 2018

end of the trail

The threads of the rope ran furiously over the sharp rock, sawing back and fore. Heating they began to split, one by one, and with each quick glance over his shoulder Metrius was a little bit freer.

Stamping its hoof impatiently, the horse he had stolen stood obediently nonetheless, and he was glad that the animal had not tried to bolt back to Rome. He had raced into the darkness of the Latin lands, praying that he could outwit any of Romulus’ scouts who might be searching for him, but none had come. Did Romulus want him to spread the word of Rome’s power? Did he want the other tribes to fear the new might that claimed the land? Deciding the question did not need an answer he concentrated on freeing his hands once again.

Every bit of him ached but he had refused to stop. His thighs had wanted to give in and let him fall from the mount, so tired were they from his journey as Potitus’s prisoner. Yet he knew he had to reach home, had to get back to Alkaterina and make sure she was safe. Frustrated by the ropes that still held his wrists together, he had finally decided that the Romans had been outwitted and that he could take a few minutes to remove the bonds.

Animals rustled in the dark, hunting their prey, whilst a screech owl called out like some demon from the underworld. The thought of death sent a shiver down his spine and, finally freeing himself, he climbed up onto his horse again. In the sky the stars winked and looked down upon him, watching him break into a gallop again and drive the sweating mount harder along its path. He would reach home by the end of the night.

*

He felt drained, the horse now walking rather than drumming along as it had for so long, and each judder shook through him. Head dropping forward, his eyes slowly closed, with each shudder throwing him from sleep and keeping his gaze fixed on the sun as it rose before him. It’s warmth was beginning to fill the valley, cast light upon the river that he had followed all night, and the trees and foliage began to show their colours. The trickling of streams became bouncing waters and the soft sound of muffled leaves became shrubs and bushes that dotted the landscape. The nocturnal animals went to ground once again.

Rubbing the weariness from his eyes, battling his body’s demand to cease the fight, he shook his head and tried to focus on the horizon. It was only a mile or so now, not far from the ones he loved, and he could be satisfied that they were safe and take to his bed. He would rest with Alkaterina, sleep with the one he loved, and be close to the protection of his friends and neighbours.

But the plume of smoke that rose, thick and grey, told him the story would not end this way. His heart sank, daunting fear sinking through him, and he knew that Kephalos had already struck.

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Death in the Night – Metrius – Post 22

March 24, 2018

burning village

“Romulus?” The name bewildered her. She had heard of the leader of the Latin Romans, even knew of the raids that were on the increase. Every now and then there would be confrontations between Sabines and Romans but it wasn’t a surprise; you didn’t travel alone in such lands. This was different, this was a raid on a village.

Gallus moved quietly toward the window, each step eased carefully so as not to catch Alkaterina’s eye, “With a bit of encouragement from Kephalos.”

With a sudden jerk of life, Alkaterina darted toward the way out, dodging to the left as she sprung away from the window and heading for the doorway instead. Caught off guard, thinking her plan had been to make some insane lunge for the closer exit, Gallus just about managed to lunge and catch hold of her arm. The tight fingers locked on, knuckled white and she span and swung out with the knife blade. Its point barely missed him, making him lean back and let go, and then she was bolting away.

Past the drapes and through the doorway, out into the night beyond, Alkaterina froze. The village was ablaze, roaring red flames that danced on the faces of killers. With thick smoke rising, Romulus’s men were making quick work of the village. They carried torches aloft, lit more huts so that the dried dung caught and the flames licked higher.

In front, a man she knew was cornered against a wall, waving a sword before his two attackers closed in and plunged spears into his chest. He called out in agony, clutching at one of the shafts protruding from him, before the killers moved on. Another young woman was having her hands bound, her eye black and tears streaming down her face. Her cheeks were red and her cloths covered in soil. It was a scene of death and chaos and horror.

Gallus’s hands grabbed her from behind and this time she could not break free, “Let me go! You’re monsters!”

The hands did not release her, clamps gripping her so tightly that she knew she would bruise. She did not care. Instead she pulled and struggled, trying to strike out, and she kicked backward so that her heel connected with the Latin’s shin.

In reply, he let go with one hand and struck hard and fast across her cheek. There was nothing held back, no easy going for a woman, and the blow made her head spin. She staggered back, lights flashing in the sky around her, her head swirling and unable to steady itself. Another blow hit her in the stomach, causing her to drop the knife, and the air was thrown from her lungs.

“You’re coming with us now. This village is your past.” Gripping hold of her once more, Gallus tugged her through the mayhem, barely allowing her to keep up. She slipped and fell, landing hard on her knees, but she was yank onto her feet and thrown into the arms of someone else.

With rope twisting tightly around her wrists, she could only watch as all her loved ones were killed around her.

“The Sabines will go to war over this.” She murmured, whether to herself or to Gallus she did not know.

Gallus’s smiled, “Romulus counts on it.”

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The Trader’s Route – Metrius – Post 13

March 9, 2018

etruscan

With sun beating down, Metrius tried to keep up the pace as his four captors rode either side of him. His hands were bound, the tough fibers biting into his wrists, and the constant tugging had rubbed his skin raw. They had not ridden hard, just enough to make his muscles ache and his brow sweat. Though he was nowhere near to collapsing the image of finding himself being dragged along sliced fear through his mind and kept his legs moving.

The path had long since joined on to a rough track, ruts cut into the soil where carts had pulled their loads. Metrius knew of this route, a road leading up to lands in the north, and he knew they were heading for Rome. The musty smell of horse hair filled the air as the large shapes towered next to him. More than once he had been knocked by a sandal covered foot, ‘accidents’ that were accompanied by laughter.

Their first sign of Rome was a train of mules coming in the opposite direction, three in all and each tied to the one in front. The animals bobbed their heads, pacing onward to whatever journey they were undertaking, their backs laden with goods to sell. At the head of the train stood a well dressed man, probably a merchant, and he gave Romulus’s men a nod as he passed them. With the band of riders standing to the side as the trader past, Metrius gladly made the most of the moment’s respite.

“Have you been to Rome recently?”

The question surprised him and he looked up at Potitus, for that was the name of the scarred leader, “What?”

Potitus snorted and shook his head, turning back to the road and commanding his horse onward again, “I said, have you been to Rome recently?”

Conversation was the last thing from Metrius’s mind, the journey having been strenuous as the skies became darker. The hilly landscape became harder to make out, greens becoming greys as light faded. In the night, the Tiber river still twisted it’s never ending journey but now it was hidden from view. Owls hooted their call, guarding their territory, and a coolness settled upon Metrius’s shoulders.

“It has been a while.” And it had, at least twenty years when he had travelled to the region as a boy with his father. He had been amazed by the number of dwellings then but it was probably the imagination of a child and how it paints the picture that no adult can see. He remembered his father telling him how there were seven settlements set around the hills, guarding the ford that allowed passage across the Tiber. Etruscan merchants would travel down to cross its banks and would pay a healthy penny to the people of Rome.

Potitus did not bother looking back at him, “It has changed. Romulus creates a new land amongst its hills and the power of the Romans grows. Your people would do well to think about that.”

Holding back a retort that would only lead to punishment, Metrius bit his lip. There was time for revenge and resilience and there was a time to wait for the moment.

“People flock daily to its security, build their huts and look to Romulus to lead them. When you see the place that Rome has become you will want to be part of it. The moment I saw it I knew I was Roman.”

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Metrius – Post 3

February 23, 2018

spear cavalrySeating himself upon a large boulder, he placed the staff down on the ground to his side. Feeling the fresh air fill his lungs, he drew the leaven bread from his bag and broke the soft meal to keep some for later. Crumbs dropped to the soil around him, soil that his animals had fed upon many times before, and he wondered how many times he would be here again. Before him sheep grazed on the dry grass, oblivious to the dangers around them that Metrius would protect them from.

The sound of horse hooves made Metrius jump to his feet, the noise causing alarm as he rarely heard others so high up. His hand slipped to a sling that he carried by his side, but before it was within his grasp the horseman rounded the corner and upon recognition he relaxed his stance.

Riding the horse was a man named Theocydes, a friend who worked the wool these animals would give. There was a look of panic about him, and his slight form seemed overly tense. More worrying still was the spear that was strapped closely to his back. Clinging tightly to his ride, he tugged the reign to get the animal to stop as the others behind him followed suit.

“Metrius! Thank god!” There was much relief in his voice and it was evident he had been looking for the shepherd. Metrius looked up at the others, all people from the village, and could see the grim expressions in dark faces. Something was seriously amiss.

“Theocydes, what brings you here?”

Looking down from his mount the weaver bit his lip in anxiety, clenching the reign tightly. He fidgeted in his seat, not wanting to answer the question, but the obvious agitation in Metrius’ face finally stopped him from evading the answer.

“It is your best friend, Metrius, he has been taken.”

Immediately Metrius could feel his heart begin to race, his chest tighten and breathing come more forced.

“What do you mean? Taken by who?”

The uneasy glances that were passed between the men made him all the more uneasy.

“Kephalos.”

People of Mariad

May 28, 2017

A few more days to go till I publish so I thought I’d share a bit of the world that has formed itself in my head. Remember that you can try out my work on Amazon kindle here with my first short story, Into the Desert. Its currently free so give it a try! You can also keep updated with recent happenings on my website www.hywelgriffiths.co.uk.


Mariad – This is the main location in the book. It is a small kingdom (about the size of Wales) which is cut off from the rest of the world (when you consider the Great Desert to its north is the size of the Gobi desert this tells you how small it is. However, they are relatively advanced in their technology (having cannons) and up to a 18th century way of thinking. It is cut off from the Great Desert in the north by the Feld Mountain range. The same range cuts them off from the lands to the east though there is a small pass known as the Eastern Gate.

Mariad once had plentiful supplies of gold, iron and other metals from its mines in the north east but these have now almost run dry. Once plentiful and trading with the east and west, they can no longer produce such resources and mainly trade in timber (from the Tyriad Woods) and agriculture. There are several small rivers that run down from the mountains but the main one is the river Aben that runs from the mountains in the east, through the kingdom and out into the Tyriad Woods. It is this river that is now used for trade as movement along the Eastern Gate has been banned.

The Eastern Gate is a pass that leads (unsurprisingly) east through the Feld Mountains. A large castle protects this pass, built after the invasion by the Valra who managed to decimate about two third of the kingdom before being halted and fought back with the aid of the Elves.

In the south, before the coast, lies a cursed wood known as Darkwood. It was, and probably still his, a home of the supernatural and a source of deep magic that Khazar uses to create his army of zombi.

On the coast there are a couple of major ports, used for trade, but there are also numerous fortresses with cannon that can keep at bay any attacks from the sea. Navel powers in this world are not great so there is little worry that someone will attack from the sea.

Abendale is one of the main cities of Mariad and has a huge timber trade in the Tyriad Woods. This is carried out in balance with nature, replanting in order to maintain their resources. The city itself was actually built amongst the trees, much in tune with the local ecosystem. However, most of the city was burnt down when Khazar attacked it (in Demon Rising) and now all that remains is the poorer district, south of the river Aben.

There are several watch towers around the Feld Mountains to look out for invasion where it is most likely (for example where the Tyriad Woods meets the Feld Mountains in the west). However, even though the mountains are thinnest here there is still no obvious pass and so invasion is highly unlikely if not impossible.

The capital is Ancora, a huge city that lies to the north. The city’s ‘castle’ is actually carved from the mountain and it is here that the King rules the land. Since the death of the last king, the current elected Lord (Emile’s father) has ruled and refused to give up power. With the next in line still disputed, ruling is supposed to be given to the three brothers in turn but instead one was ‘sent’ to the east as an emissary and the other was killed. Although Emile’s father has not declared himself king (as he knows this may cause a rebellion by the supporters of his brother in the east) he has become the defacto ruler (and a poor one).