"Thou has been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the Sardius, Topaz, and the Diamond, the Beryl, the Onyx, and the Jasper, the Sapphire, the Emerald, and the Carbuncle, and Gold...thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast on the holy mountain of God; thou has walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire." Note: Each fiery stone of heaven is corrupted by the fallen cherub, Lucifer, the "Light-Bringer" who was Keeper of the Stones, and it acquires a different character and a guiding deadly creature of evil genius hidden within it.
That precondition corrupts everything man puts his hand to. A brain scan now to read people's thoughts? British scientist from University College London can now identify thought patterns by using functional magnetic resonance (fMRI). Chillingsworth's Ultimate Weapon, utilizing his brain scanning creation, is next to be developed. Terrorists can be identified by the fMRI, very soon now. The Ultimate Weapon is next, to not only identify but eliminate anyone who is a "terrorist," that is, anyone who opposes the coming World Government.
by Eben Chen
Beneath the waters so cold and deep
A once great ship has gone to sleep.
No stewards, no crew, no Countess of Rothe,
Their lives fill the dustbin that conquered the Goth.
REFRAIN: Lullaby, Lullaby, rest thy soul, child,
Till you die;
The wheat and tares together lie.
Fins fan the rust of staterooms’ dark decay,
Their gold and jewels in Time’s hand slip away.
No ship horn blast, no thundering steam,
A Ghost lies in pieces—a gray, silent dream.
So sleep on, Titanic, your unreaped souls
Await the great Trumpet and the wrath of Bowls.
Your voices were stilled when you drank the last wave.
An Astor beds with stokers, a reverend with the knave.
The city shyster turned the bed
The village matriarch was laid—-
The Rubaiyat of Khayyim with Grey’s pure, milk-white maid.
So sleep on, gray Dreamer, until the last Trump,
And the angels cast doom on the earth’s blasted stump.
REFRAIN: Lullaby, Lullaby,
rest thy soul, child,
Till you die;
The wheat and tares together lie.
Agent Letter, Outlines, Strategy
2. The Ten Stones of Fire (Starlike, Jeweline, Super-intelligent, Alien Entities), each performing as OP, or, Opposing Player, with the aim of conquering and destroying the Earths, I and II, and their respective universes.
3. Dr. Pikkard's Computer Wargame, represented by Wally, an electronically-created, free-roaming butterly who fights for humanity's survival against the Alien(s)
4. Human "Alphabetic" or A-Z Champions, also a subgroup called DUBESOR, or the Rosebud Champions
5. Yeshua, the A and Z, the Alpha and Omega, and the Aleph and Tau (also known as FC from the 21st Century onward, the so-called "Forbidden Category" that all politically correct societies vehemently rejected.)
Rufus Urbanus was upset, for the sake of his Honorius. Was this to be the memory of it bequeathed by a father to his son? If so, it was a bad journey! Rufus thought, feeling he should have gone alone and faced such things rather than expose his young son to them. Yet further on they found the real borders of the shrunken Western Empire still held firm, for the time being anyway. Beyond was Roman civilization as it had always been--glorious and proud and well-ordered--and they proceeded south on the Roman road directly to the Queen City itself. There young Honorius would see the sights that would forever blaze in his memory: Roma in her full glory and splendor, a city beyond description, the like of which the world had never seen before and would never see again after the barbarians broke through the borders and had their way with her.
Atlantis also had a Terminus. It had seemed too mighty too ever fall, just like the Roman Empire 10,000 years afterwards. But might and power could not save it. Yet it cast some fatal seeds as it gave up life. Though effectively destroyed except for a wandering, fractured, Topaz-bedeviled colony that could never find a lasting home away from home, Atlantis must have left shreds of its soul behind, which is the only explanation for the Roma's spectacular rise to a superpower and world state from its inauspicious beginnings as a cow town at a ford on the Tiber River. Once it achieved greatness and an empire, it became painfully clear that parvenu Roma needed something to cover up its rather smelly, brutish origins, so the best poets and historians were put to the task. The state annalist, Livy, did his best, tying together the threads of musty, rather dubious myths like Romulus and Remus, the orphaned twins, suckling a she-wolf until they were grown and later fighting it out, the wolf milk perhaps activating their rivalry, and Romulus slaying his brother and becoming the founder of Roma. A city founded on fratricide, two brothers who duked it out for the honor? Virgil the poet did a little better in order to attribute glory to Caesar Augustus's throne, person, and reign. A queen city needs a royal or at least a noble ancestor, so he wrote the great verse epic, the Aeneid, connecting Roma's founding with with Prince Aeneas, the noble son of Anchises who had fought for Priam the last king of Troy, thus borrowing from the Greeks some of their illustrious past to gild over Roma's humble cow yard and river crossing antecedents. Aeneas, according to the narrative Virgil adapted for his epic, fled from sacked Troy with his father, wife, and little son Ascanius and sailing by way of Carthage (and Queen Dido's loving arms) reached Latium, and became the ancestor of Roma's founders. None but simple-minded people seriously believed these fanciful accounts, but in the hands Livy and Virgil they gained a certain degree of plausibility, and Augustus sanctioned Virgil's epic, did he not? What did he have to lose thereby? And the Romulus and Remus story seemed to explain the city's name. So they stuck fast, some 700 years they reckoned since their founding date, and Roma now thought it possessed a proper and respectable foundation to explain its phenomenal rise to glory and power over all the other nations.
Atlantean soul-shreds never quite left Italia, even if Roma could not monopolize them forever. Other cities in Italia took them up and were catapulted to glory and power--Venetia, Florentia, even Ragusa on the eastern Adriatic and Illyrian coast chief among them, ruling with the scepter and authority and noblesse oblige of ancient Roma. Even at the time of Rutilius in the early 5th century, Roma had first sunk to being one of two capitals in the realm, Constantine's City, New Roma, claiming preeminence. And in Italia itself, Roma could no longer claim to be the capital of the Western Empire at least, for the imperial capital and court had moved to the safer venue of Ravenna near the northeastern coast. Yet for the old and great Roman nobility, there could be no true replacement for Roma--for it continued to represent, if not embody, all the things they honored and held dearer than life itself.
"All the world's people," said a poet, "are entwined under a single name--Romans. They are world citizens who share a common law. All are Roman citizens who share a common law. All are Roman citizens, peers in their world. They are Roman citizens whether they live in Africa or in Hither Asia or if they live on the banks of the Rhine River. All look to Roma. There is a single coinage. There is a single law. There are no frontiers. No major customs barriers. Travel is open and free. On the Roman roads, police guard against highwaymen; inns, taverns, and halting stations are open to all."
And a Greek poet was just as admiring, for he said, "In every deed, Roma has made real Homer's dictim--that earth is the property of all. You, Roma, have measured the whole world. You have spanned the rivers with bridges...tunneled through mountains to make level roads. You have filled desolate places with farms and made life easier by seeing that two things are supplied: law and order. Everywhere, O Roma, you have erected temples, gateways, schools, factories, aqueducts, fountains, and gymnasiums. It could be said in truth that the world which from the beginning has been working under an illness has now been put in the way of health...Cities are radiant in their splendor and their grace, and the whole world is as trim as a garden..."
Yes, the world owed Roma all this! It was true that other cities had impressive Roman amphitheatres (such as in Leptis Magna, Sarepta, Hippo, the Tripoli, Carthage, and others of like splendor on the north African coast) which were almost as big as Roma's, and cities with luxurious baths, aqueducts, and bridges, and roads that fully urbanized the most farflung provinces, but Roma remained the mother city that had given birth to all these wonders. City of the Imperial Topaz, the star-stone of fratracidal conflict, Roma, somehow infused and energized with the soul of lost Atlantis, created a world like unto none other, until, that is, it tore itself apart and the savage hordes of barbarians flooded in to take the spoils.
Rutilius was first inclined to turn the provincial Briton flatly down, and even use rather curt words to do so. Son of an imperial capital governor and imperial treasurer, Rutilius was far too noble in blood and had far too much on his busy mind to be concerned about than to take the time to read his work in progress to common people in transit, and thought it might be unsuitable a topic, an elegaic poem on Roma's Decline, to introduce to two mere boys. But the father of one of the boys, a civilized Briton, proved so gentlemanly in his request, insisting that it would educate the boys to the greatness of Roma, that he could not politely refuse. So when the ship touched at Zaelia Magnia, beyond Ostia and Pisa the first port city that possessed a decent enough forum for proclamations, speeches, and official business of state, he spoke to the captain, detaining the ship there, who was willing enough as they needed some supplies, which had been short in supply at Ostia, their port of embarkation.
Statue of Stilicho nothwithstanding, this city would have to do, as he saw no barbarians had gone through here as yet, and there remained at least the appearance that Imperial Roma was in charge and would always be. With Italia's roads in turmoil and a chaos of brigands and refugees and far too few police, and whole areas of the provinces in the north overrun by barbarians, he had to be satisfied with that much--and ignore the woman and child as best he could!
Realizing he couldn't hold the boys' attention for very long, he selected only about a dozen of so lines that he thought best captured the noble spirit of Roma and what she had achieved, and then he chose a spot and stood proudly like a speaker in the Senate giving a speech, his head and shoulders thrown back and his feet firmly planted.
Listen, fairest queen in all the world.
You are welcomed among the stars of heaven, mother of men
And mother of the gods.
to you we sing praise
And ever shall.
So long as the fates allow,
None can be wholly forgetful of you. Your works
Spread wide as the rays of the sun where curving ocean
Surrounds the world.
Africa has not set you back, with its scorching sands,
Nor the northern climes repulsed you, with its cold;
As far as living nature has stretched toward the poles
So far has earth
Proved accessible to your valor.
You have, O Roma, given the world
A single fatherland;
Even the unjust have found it profitable
To be taken under your dominion.
By offering the vanquished partnership in your own laws
You have made a city
Of once was once the world..."
He thought they looked a bit disappointed with his verses, and he was right. It really was unsuitable, and the boys were far too young and uncultivated to appreciate his fine sentiments.
"You think it too dull a subject for boys, is that it?" he asked them, somewhat annoyed at them for wasting his valuable time. "Well, then, what other things do you want to hear me tell about? We might as well not waste our outing."
The youngest boy, Honorius Ubanus as his father introduced him, who proved the brightest witted of the pair despite being a Briton with an accent, spoke up.
"Sir, that was good, very good. But do you have anything more, about the orphans Romulus and Remus and the she-wolf their mother? We'd love to hear about them if we could. We don't want you to quit now."
"But that story is just old wives' tales and nonsense, everybody knows that!" Rutilius scoffed, not accepting the Honorius's clumsy flattery. The boys' faces sank, so he quickly added, "But I have something far better. I have just recently returned from a trip to the imperial libraries and archives in Roma, and I turned up some things you might find most interesting..."
He didn't tell them how bitterly disappointed he was there on his latest visit. He had gone specifically to research the Sibylline oracles concerning Roma's destiny and fate. The Archives were in an uproar. The distraught librarians rushed to tell him everything. He found that Stilicho, just the day before, had sent troops, Roman-armored barbarians, and confiscated all the Sibylline Oracles and had them burnt. The loss was irreparable. The votaresses of Apollo had no other copies but these, put in the Imperials for safe-keeping in perpetuum. No commander, no emperor, no Senate decree, could overturn the ancient rules governing them--they were to be kept inviolate forever, and anyone who disturbed them in anyway incurred the wrath of the gods, in a thousand curses all carved in stone on a wall. Now they were ashes! The visions and prophecies of the Sibyl were gone forever, like the smoke of the incense that wafted up into the rafters above the tall Corinthian pillars! The priests who attended the holy books had tried to stop the desecrators, even at the cost of being slain if that was their fate. But they were dragged aside and some even beaten who blocked the door to the collection, which was the chief treasure of Roma.
This was the greatest outrage ever witnessed there, indeed, since the time of the first Gothic invasion and capture of Roma centuries before the imperial era. Why had he committed this wanton act of destruction of Roma's most valuable, sacred records and relics? Some said the ecstatic prophecies of the Cumaean Sibyl spoke too pointedly of events and even particular persons in his own administration. Hearing some quotations from the Sibyl was enough to frighten and enrage Stilicho, whose position in Roma among the best families was already tenuous, so he struck at the Archives and wiped out any suggestion he was a monster tearing down the realm by deferring to barbarians over the safety and welfare of Roma. How dare a priestess of Apollo of bygone days name him and his men? He silenced her voice.
Deprived so brutally of this primary source, Rutilius had no choice but to consult secondary sources for whatever visions and prophecies he might find, in hopes of finding enough material to write the destiny and future what he sought. Thank the gods, there were plenty secondary sources that the barbarian-fathered Stilicho didn't bother to molest!
The great Historian of Roma, Tacitus, another historian of note, Livy, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, not to mention Thallus, Phlegon, and Lucius. All mentioned the crucifixion. Lucien the Greek historian told of the death of Jesus, writing, "The Christians continue to worship this great man who was crucified in Palestine because he brought a new religion to the world."
He of course could find their writings voluminously collected in the Archives. And then there was a Jewish historian, Josephus, too, who wrote concerning Pilatus Pontius's procuratorship in Judea, "Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works--a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilatus, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him tot he cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things oncerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day."
And, being a former capital governor and secretary of state as well, he also was free to consult the whole mass of the the Imperial State Annals which included the recorded Senate proceedings, speeches, and acts along with the imperial edicts for the last six hundred years in great detail. There was no duller reading than the records of the Senate, it was commonly believed. But who had ever taken the time to really find out if that was true? Few, indeed! Having thought these would be mainly tedious, business-like accounts as others had characterized them, he found their view was mistaken.
Despite his grief over the burning of the Sibylline oracles, his readings of the imperial and Senate records turned up many curious things about Jesus the Messiah of the Jews.
He could tell the boys about them, too, for some of the Annals described gods that visited Roma in its earliest days, gods that came in flying ships all the way from the stars, it was reported. They used, not sails for propulsion, but powerful crystals that produced far greater speed. Were they Jupiter and the gods of Olympus? They did not call Olympus their home, rather they had a name for it the Greek philosopher Plato had also used: "Atlantis." Wasn't that a lost continent, a motherland of civilization, that had sunk and been utterly destroyed in ages past? Yet if these divine beings had come from there, it couldn't all have been destroyed. Where could he find more light on these beings and their powerful crystals? he wondered, and so he had plunged further into the Annals of Roma, exploring the earliest ones in tier after tier, climbing up and down the gilded ladders to obtain the ancient scrolls, as well as searching the ones written around the time of the gods last appearing, in the reign of Tiberius. That was the same reign when the Jewish claimant-king called the Christos challenged Roma's authority to Jerusalem and all Judaea, and for that he was crucified by the procurator, Pilatus Pontius, only to be found missing from his tomb, which his followers explained was evidence that he had risen from the dead!
Of course, the emperor, receiving the reports of this, was greatly disturbed (and Herod and the Jewish authorities too). Pilatus was recalled, for he had made such a mess of things, he couldn't be endured. He was sent off to Gaul, exiled, but satisfied everybody by committing suicide like a dutiful Roman should who has outlived his usefulness.
But all that was of no interest to mere boys, of course. Once he mentioned the flying boats from the stars, leaving that subject and continuing on to the reign of Tiberius where Christos was crucified, he could see the boys were growing glassy-eyed. So he turned back to the star ships of the Titans, for such the gods clearly were, not the Olympians after all. They said they, not the Olympians named to them, were ruling the earth, or had resided upon and ruled it once upon a time. As for Jupiter and his court, they said they had been overthrown as usurpers, and they were the rightful holders of the throne and its powers. The boys then hung on his words as he told them all about the various things the Titans did while visiting the earth in Tiberius's reign, and saw the boys' mouths hang open breathlessly, so he was very much amused. Their little outing from the tedium of the ship was proving worth the effort after all!
"Did you learn where the gods went after they departed from here, sir?" Honorius asked, as if he sensed that Rutilius had more to offer. "Where is it they live if it isn't Mt. Olympus?"
Yes, he had learned that too, in fact. But he hardly cared about the Titans now, as this had happened long ago, and it was the Christ and his crucifixion and his reputed resurrection that stuck in his mind, and which he could not get rid of. How could he communicate these things to mere boys? They were too private, he felt, as they touched upon certain questions of the soul and its destiny in the after-life, if there was was, that is. This matter of Christos rising from the dead reputedly--even Tiberius believed he had risen after it was reported, meticulously, to him! It was incredible but true, for he had it in the Emperor's own recorded statements and diary. Well, then he was forced to settle in his own mind whether such a thing could really happen. For then it would change absolutely everything! And if this preposterous Jesus of Nazareth was truly what he claimed to be--Son of God, ONLY SON OF GOD, that is, displacing all the Caesars who claimed the same thing--and truly rose from the dead, well, the whole world was turned upside down!
Everything else was mere information: Did Christos really work the stupendous miracles--healing lepers, giving sight to the blind, even raising dead people back to life--that were claimed? Every authority of note in the case attested to their validity. Even his chief enemies--the religious leaders of his own people--accepted these miracles as true events. Nobody had any grounds for questioning them, nor could they, as they were all done so publicly, and countless people were living at the time who witnessed them and were available to attest to them to everybody who asked in courts of law--and did, in fact, ask. So it wasn't the miracles that were germaine to his investigation, it had to be the "Resurrection," which was what the Jews called it.
Nevertheless, Rutilius did speak a bit about the miracles performed by the Christos in Judaea and elsewhere, while avoiding his own feelings and soul-searchings on the subject. His own religion, believing in the gods of Roma, was notoriously sparse in miracle-working gods who walked among men as the Christos was reported to do. He couldn't help that or change that, and so he felt it was best left without discussion. But Honorius, fortunately, was not asking about the gods of Roma and their behavior, which was rather morally questionable, to say the least. Honorius seemed to be just as interested in the details he gave them about the records dealing with Christos' life and miracles.
But then Honorius, like any boy who is too frank with his elders, asked him with childish candor, striking at the heart of the matter: "Don't you believe he rose from the grave, sir? Everybody knows he was crucified, so he had to have died, not just stepped off the stake, and nobody could do that after what they did to him. And then it had to be a real rising from the dead, or all those witnesses were liars and everybody at the time would have said so and hauled them into court and had them punished, right?"
The boy from the provinces was bright for his age, indeed! Perhaps, too bright! thought Rutilius. He hadn't encountered such probing and highly personal questions from noble Roman youth twice his age!
Yet in other respects, he was quite ordinary, being fascinated with the the exciting tale from the Annals of Roma concerning the gods' visit to Roma in ships that could streak through the sky fast as thunderbolt. So he sought to divert him if he could.
When he exhausted this information, however, the boy abruptly shifted back to Christos. Rutilius found himself forced up against a wall by this question, and he actually began to sweat! Again, Honorius put his question to him. "Don't you believe, sir, that Christos rose from the grave? That would change a lot of things in the world, wouldn't it?"
Since he couldn't put the boy off this particular sticking point, he ended the session abruptly and offered to draw the gods' flying ship if he could find a piece of parchment.
Honorius was excited, and so was his friend, and said no more about Christos. So Rutilius, heaving a sigh of relief, looked round for a source of parchment or writing paper, and found a shop selling books. Only the owner had recently pulled out of the business, leaving the door ajar, without even a lock to keep thieves from ransacking what was left inside.
They went in and found the racks virtually empty of books, and yet there were a few old discards, with some pages in them he might use for the purpose. One was a detailed account of the banquets of Nero and Elagabulus, listed with all their enormous menus and recipes! What senseless, vulgar extravagance! One banquet listed a meal started off with the appetizer, 400 brains of nightengales in a mint sauce with contained peas coated with gold! Then there were so many roses cascading upon the guests, that four guests actually suffocated.
Yet another was a poetical work by Commodus, the poetaster and degenerate son of Marcus Aurelius the Philosopher-emperor, praising himself as a god in the most fatuous way. Rutilius dropped this book into a litter of trash on the floor, which it deserved--as this emperor was the cause of the decline of the empire beyond any other bad ruler they had had.
He had read Dio Cassius who had written, "Commodus was a greater plague to the Romans than any pestilence or crime. He wanted to change the name of Roma and call it 'Commodiana' after himself. A statue of gold weighing a thousand pounds representing himself in combat with a bull was cast. He entered the arena to fight gladiators; he was armed with a sword and they only with a woman's wooden weaving batten. He surpassed all others in lust, greed, and cruelty; he kept faith with no one."
And, Rutilius thought, monstrous Commodus met a fitting end. A wrestler whom he had wounded throttled him in his bath!
Finding a more suitable book, that dealt with agrarian matters, he spread it upon the table, found an open space and with a piece of charcoal Honorius picked up in the adjoining room, used to make a warming fire in a brazier, Rutilius sketched the flying ship.
Honorius was literally brimming over with questions, while his friend stood by with wide eyes like a dolt, and Rutilius tried to answer Honorius as best he could, based on his readings of the Annals dealing with the subject. When he finished, he signed his modest effort and handed the entire book to Honorius, who seemed overwhelmed that he should be given it as he stood gazing at it.
While boys were enjoying their marzipan cakes from a Syrian confectioner, Rutilius left the bodyguards to watch over the boys. The captain had still not sent anyone to call them to board, so he knew he had time to look around a bit more, and so he looked in at a jeweler's, Terencio's by name.
"What arrangements can I make with you if I should be interested in these four?" he asked, keeping his voice devoid of the excitement he felt.
The jeweler was busy with his wife, son, and daughter were packing dozens of valuable things away into cloth-lined boxes and big wicker baskets, and he turned to the patrician, bowing.
"For you, sir, since we need to dispose of everything we can now, any setting you prefer--for only the price of the jem." "Oh, how about a man's ring in white gold, then a matching one in red gold, and the third can be set as the ornament with ebony on a nice gold chain of small links only for a lady's neck, and I wish the fourth to go in a setting of sapphires in gold for a man's fibula. Is that too much to ask?"
Terencio bowed even lower. "Certainly not! I have all I need to do it. My craftsman is the finest who handles the settings. But there is the matter of the, er, payment, sir."
Rutilius started off with a ridiculously low amount.
The jeweler did not even flinch, much less laugh. "Excellent! They are yours, sir! Can you wait for them, they will be ready in a few days, or should I have them sent by special courier to your residence? Where might that be, sir, for I perceive by your speech you are not from this city and are travelling?"
Rutilius told the man who he was, that he was a native of southern Gaul, and there was the problem that, as he was in transit, traveling by ship because the roads were overrun by barbarians, a courier would not be good enough, he would be captured and robbed on the way.
"So to make sure I receive the full consignment of jewelry I am paying for," he told Terencio, "I will gave instructions to a tabellarius escorted by an armed guard that I will send to your shop for the jewelry, and only then will the full payment be turned over. They will be sent to you by ship, so there will be no problem of being accosted on the roads. Agreed?"
This being said, and agreed to by Terencio, Rutilius was still so amazed by the low price he was paying, he had to inquire, even at the risk of the price being raised.
"How is it that so fine a set can be, ah, so modest in price? I have seen what Roma and Ravenna have to offer, and these are just as good, indeed, they surpass the capital's, and yet you ask less. How can that be? Are they truly genuine? I won't be fooled by glass fakes, either for that matter, for I will have them inspected if I have the slightest suspicion about them, and you will have to bear the consequences of defrauding a public official."
Terencio smiled and scraped, fervently assuring Rutilius that the jewels were all they appeared to be. "My reputation is a most established, excellent one, ask anyone around here, as my family has sold fine jewels and jewelry for generations, and I am only leaving..."
"Leaving?" Rutilius interrupted, his tone growing icy cold. "What do you mean by that? Have you given leave of your senses, man? Here you not just agreed to set the stones and to await payment, yet you speak of leaving? What is this all about, shopkeeper? You know the laws of Diocletian are still binding, those concerning your guild, do you not? Surely, you aren't considering fleeing into the mountains and joining vagabonds and robbers? I am empowered to arrest fugitives, and confiscate their possessions too. Surely, you aren't considering leaving your lawful work?"
The shopkeeper paled, bowing, and his brow and cheeks glistened with visible moisture.
"Yes, indeed, sir, I know the sacred laws, but I paid highly for my official permit of release from the Consul in Mediolanum for health reasons, which you can examine if you like. My health has been most badly affected, my bowels are slack, as I worry myself sick day and night how I--and though I love my country as much as anybody I can't afford to remain here a moment longer than I must, since the trade is so greatly diminished in these parts since..."
Rutilius sighed. "But what about our agreement? Aren't you going to honor it, or not?" "Yes, sir! I plan to send my wife and family and goods on ahead, with protection of course, and finish the remaining business I have here, selling the shop and house and several vineyards and a tabernae I have too if I can find buyers, and surely that will take several weeks. You will be able to contact me in that time, will you not?"
"Of course! If not, you shall know I have contacts, so just leave your address and I shall find you and pay you everything you are owed, and we shall conclude the business satisfactorily."
Then they returned to the subject that weighed heavily on both their minds.
"Oh, the barbarians, the barbarians!" sighed Rutilius, shaking his head. "All these odious tribes of unwashed, greedy, violence-loving Goths who constantly pour across our borders looking for the gods know what! They are tearing apart the whole realm, thanks to certain parties among us who seek their own interests and gain over Roma's security and are opening the gates everywhere you look!"
"Yes, indeed, they are ruining everything here in the Western Empire!" the jeweller agreed. "Some people claim they come to do honest work we Romans won't dirty our hands to do--but that isn't true, they are taking the jobs we find so rare these days, and our people are left without work, with these barbarians seizing everything for themselves and sending our Roman gold back to their families across the borders! But I hear things continue still very good over in the Eastern Empire, in Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantine's City particularly, and so we will be going over there, probably to Alexandria, since the ships dealing with the rich India trade touch there first on return. We have only to find a ship, for I hear they are few these days and are very expensive to board. The rates and charges for baggage are extortionate, which is why I must reduce my stock drastically. If a captain should inspect my baggage and find so many jewels, he would demand half of it for me to board, and I would have to give it! Yet I plan to open a new and even bigger shop than we have here on the street in Alexandria they call Golden Mile. We will sew the some of our money into our clothes and also buy letters of credit in the banks of Roma and buy new stones in Alexandria when I arrive there, where they will be cheaper too! If you see anything else you like, the price will be most reasonable!"
Rutilius relented, turning more graciously to the bowing, flustered shopkeeper.
"I am sorry to see you have to forsake the fatherland," Rutilius said, though he no longer thought of this man as a true countryman, since he was running away and not going to deal with the barbarian menace. "What if we all did as this fellow?" Rutilius thought. Yet there was no need to question it, he was going bankrupt in this declining city, no doubt. Best he sell out quickly, even at a loss, and set up new in a better, safer city as far away as he could get from Radagaesus, and now Alaric and his hordes! Who could blame him for wanting to leave as soon as possible, if there really was no future anymore for him and his family and business in that place?
They exchanged some small talk, though the patrician Rutilius was not particularly fond of small talk with inferiors, then Rutilius noticed the two boys had finished their treats and were chasing round Stilicho's statue and making a public spectacle, and he saw it was time to go. His four retainers escorting them, they returned to the ship, and the voyage resumed to southwestern Gaul.
Rutilius bowed to the older man. "I tried to do the greatness of Roma honor, sir, and hope it made some lasting impression on the boys."
Rufus Urbanus eyed his son closely, and Honorius had something to say. "What is it, son?" his father said. "We had a great time, pater. He told us some wonderful things, all about Christos and the flying..."
The father turned to Rutilius, brows lifted.
Rutilius groaned inwardly. No, no! he thought. Now he would have to explain everything to the father.
He quickly tried to assure the father that it really wasn't so wild and exciting as all that.
"The boy is overstating what I said to a degree, sir. You see, I was in Roma just before I set sail for our family estates at Nabo Martius, and did research in the State Annals and found some curious things, that is all, which I mentioned to the boys to amuse them if possible after I finished the reading of my poem."
Rufus's brows lifted further. "Oh? What curious things? Could you tell me also? I would be most interested to hear about them.
Since Rutilius did not think this talk between adults would be suitable for boys and they wouldn't understand most of it, he took the older man aside, and they discussed certain matters and questions with him. Since he was dealing with a man of experience and maturity, he could go into much deeper detail when relating what he learned from the Archives about Tiberius and his dealing with Jesus the Nazarene.
Even though Rutilius Claudius Numantianus knew he was dealing with a Christian, and the gentleman had a Christian's perspective on things, there were broad areas where they could talk with mutual understanding, since the two of them were Roman or at least debtors to Roma, its great learning and, philosphy, and its grand heritage. They both deeply cared for Roma's legacy and its welfare and maintenance as the lone civilization standing against the darkness and anarchy of the barbarian world.
Approaching Massillia, with a stiff headwind, the oars had to be used, and then they made slow progress into the harbor. An outbound ship came to their attention before they even saw it clearly. The smell gave it away. A slave ship bound for the marts of Malta and Africa, it carried its cargo of souls in the most foul conditions that no Roman gentleman would have countenanced, but it was something that they could not change--slavery was immemorial, and would always be practiced as long as the strong ruled over the weak and certain men aimed to make a profit in human traffiking. They themselves had many slaves, but always aimed to make their lot as bearable as possible. Roma was built upon slave labor, and it was unthinkable that Roma could exist without their cheap labor.
Honorius was standing by himself and saw the slaveship, and a rain squall caught them just as it was coming in view.
He went to the Forum first, where all formal business was conducted, the best place to receive the latest news.
The slave mart was hard by, of course, and his eye was taken by some slaves newly arrived. He had plenty slaves on his estates, but he was always on the lookout for younger ones who were sound of body and mind. These looked good enough for his uses, so he went closer to see if any might prove suitable. He thought he might purchase one or two, if the price seemed fair enough, and take them along with him to his estates, which were always in need of fresh stock of that kind.
His eye fell on three, and then when reading their tituli, his eyes widened with disbelief. They were all three from Narbo Martius-- but that wasn't all. He inquired immediately of the trader, and he said he had gotten them from dealers for the barbarian horde passing through that district.
Feeling somewhat afraid of what he might learn, Rutilius decided to ask the slaves themselves who they were and where they had lived at the time of their capture.
"The household of Governor Lonchonius," the youth replied.
"And you?" the trader continued, turning to the bigger fellow. "The cattle yard on the estate of Governor Lonchonius," he replied. "And you?" he finished with the woman. She didn't even raise her head, she was so beaten with her recent experiences. "I served in the household, I was a maid and scullery cook in the house of the Governor," she said.
Rutilius was beside himself. He did not know what to say. These were his slaves, on sale in this public mart! Stolen from the estates of his father and himself! What an outrage!
His mind whirled. He could go get a bailiff and confiscate these "stolen properties" immediately, but that would take some time, with the proper records being filed at the court, etc., and local officials would have to be present to ratify the seizure.
All this bother--and he had so little time if he were to find and hire a vessel to take him the remaining distance to Narbo Martius.
But what would he find once he got there? If his estates had been overrun, weren't the residences and outbuildings all burnt and their valuables all seized and carried off by the barbarians? He had to find out at once.
Too anxious to get the news, which he feared would give him a worse picture than he wished to see, he forgot his manners and dignity and interviewed the slaves directly, something unheard of.
"I will have you lashed if you are lying to me. Again, are you three the property of Lonchonius the Governor of Roma and Ravenna? Say!"
All three declared they were, and the trader grinned, exposing big gaps between his teeth. "They speak the truth, sir, look what fine-bodied slaves they are too--the barbarians were good to let me have them, so they could be restored to you--at a certain fair price of course, for I already paid for them with my good money, sire!"
"Yes, yes! You shall have your money. But I must have what they know first."
He turned back to the slaves. "What about the estates? What do you know happened to them? Are they unharmed?"
The youth shook his head. "They burned everything to the ground, sire."
Rutilius's face took on a sickly hue, like ash from a dead fire. He went over to lean against a pedestal without a statue (knocked down by some barbarian perhaps), and pondered the disasters to his family and fortune.
His father and he had spent millions on the new villa, and it had been years in building, and only was finished in the last few monthsw--only to be sacked, burnt and destroyed!
Just then Rutilius felt a surge of feeling for the barbarian savage. Why? He had no reason to feel any such thing. After all, this man and his race were destroying the empire, ransacking and burning his own estates that were the flower of Gallia. He deserved every bit of the hell he was going to experience very soon now after he was bought and transported with a hundred others like him to the Spanish or North African mines. Yet he felt the same powerful feeling he would feel for a brother! He couldn't resist it, though it went against all his Roman instincts, being akin to mercy.
He turned to his attendant. "Buy him also. But I don't want him in my employ! Free him also, and send him on his way. I don't want to see him ever again!"
He turned away, more disgusted at himself than at the Lugian. How could he treat such an animal with compassion? It was utterly wasted! He might as well try to tame a brute lion or boar than this creature of violence and destruction!
Rutilius went to a place aside from the busy market where he was a bit more alone, where he tried to clear his mind enough to think clearly what to do next.
He had to make sure--that it really was as bad as reported. He decided he could find out, not just depend on people's word, but the evidence of his own eyes. The condition of the road, the Via Aurelia, would tell him all he needed to know one way or the other.
He went to hire a conveyance and found all manner of carriages, from raedas and caraccas to sedan chairs. There was a great variety, he found. The proprieter told him that the previous owners were glad to get rid of them, since they were leaving their estates for good and wouldn't need them anymore. Some needed the money too to get away, since they had lost most everything when the barbarians first swept through and burned many of the villas and sacked the towns and cities as well in many parts of Cisalpine Gaul.
But Rutilius did not need anything elaborate, just a means to get to the main road where he could observe the traffic and tell from that what chance he might have of going westward with reasonable safety.
He could marshall a small army and fund it himself if need be, if he gave himself time to apply for troops, that is, for being a former governor of the imperial capitals and secretary of state, and being the son of the famed Lonchonius, he had access to imperial troops and boyguards. But that took time, and he didn't want to wait.
So he hired a simple sedan chair, and the rental agency provided the slaves to carry him for that day's excursion.
Soon he was on his way out of the city and heading for the main thoroughfare that took the main east-west traffic along the coast, the part of the famed Via Aurelia that led along the coasts of southern Gaul and down into Hispania, all the way to Cartegena on the midpoint of the eastern coast.
Rutilius gave the order for the chair to be set down, and he got out and stood watching the refugees. Every class was represented. Slaves, nobility, rich and poor-- the entire society of Roman Gaul was in flight! It was the most amazing spectacle. He tried to get someone to pause to give him some news of Narbo Martius and its environs.
But nobody wanted to stop, they only wanted to make it as far away from the northern barbarians as possible in the remaining daylight hours. Who could blame them? The terror the barbarians inspired was plain on all their faces!
Rutilius saw how completely hopeless it was regarding any journey westward. He would need an army to escort him to Narbo Martius and to his various estates--if he wished to return from there alive, that is. He returned to the chair, sat down, his head in his hands. Then he roused himself, and gave the command to return him to the city. He had seen what he had come for, and it was more than he could bear to look at any longer. Disintegration had set in too deep to patch over or stop, and the ground was cracking and falling away in huge wedges, all the way toward the heartland of imperial Roma, Latium. Obviously, even with Priscus Attalus as "emperor" sitting on the throne in Ravenna, and the dire Flavius Stilicho, magistum militum and the real emperor in the realm except in title, things would not get any better, no matter how many barbarian armies Stilicho hurled back toward the frontiers or bribed off with the last reserves of the imperial treasury.
What should he do? Where should he go? Return to Roma, or go to Ravenna bearing the bad news to his aged father and kill him with it?
Needing to sleep on it before he made any decision, Rutilius had the porters take him to a villa just outside Massilia in a nice suburb of the wealthy, where a former consul and praetor and a for-life senator, Secundus Sylvanus Fabio, resided. His father being a patrician and peer of Secundus Fabio, both speaking often and well of each other, he knew he would be most welcome even with no prior notice, if the family were in residence, that is, and not seeking rest or recreation at their various other villas in the south of Italia and elsewhere. As for the Urbanii, they would have to chance it if they continued on to Narbo Martius, he thought. He could only send word back by courier and warn them of the real risks, and advise them to seek some other route back to Britannica, by ship, not by land if they could find a ship. As for himself, he couldn't go home. He would send an agent in his place, who wouldn't be so conspicuous as the former governor of the Capital coming in state with bodyguards.
His ancestral home and estate no longer existed, thanks to Stilicho's policies admitting so many of the rapacious Gothic barbarians into his home province--only for them to break treaty and destroy everything in sight like bulls set loose in a pottery shop!
What a harrowing scene he had just witnessed out on the Via Aurelia! It gave him the chills. Carts losing a wheel or the wheel broken from being run too long and hard on the roads, their goods tumbling onto the roadstead, then masses of wagons and people and horses rolling right over the poor owner's possessions, even trampling him as he sought to keep his possesions from being destroyed!
Rutilius could do nothing for such wretches. No doubt that had happened to hundreds, as the stampede continued, drawing tens of thousands of frantic people to the roads, all trying to get out at the same time if they could.
Roma was literally falling apart, piece by piece, before his eyes! he thought. He had not dreamed he would see this catastrophe in his lifetime, as Roma possessed the greatest power and an invincible army and used to have the vast funds to put legions into the field against anybody who dared to defy the empire. But now the treasury was virtually drained, and so there wasn't the gold and silver to fund the legions or keep them where theyt were stationed to hold the borders against all the barbarians pressing against them. Yes, Roma was never able to match man to man the numbers of barbarians, but it didn't need to. Roma's reputation terrorized the barbarians and that terror kept them out and at bay, until recently that is! When they Goths and other savage tribes heard that Roma's leaders were at last losing their grip, unable to field a legion or more against them, well, they started flooding over the borders in Gallia, Hispania, and Africa--and once the barbarians lost their fear of Roman reprisal, it was all over, even though Stilicho still won battles against them when he could catch a mass of them together organized in an army.
Carried to the Senator Fabio's estate, Rutilius came to the imposing but scarcely defended gate, and his credentials were clear enough to the Lugian guards, which were the abominable Goths again hired as mercenaries for such needed posts!--would he ever be able to see Romans or Italians again in such positions? It disgusted him no end that even the Senator would hire the ruffians, but he thought maybe there were no suitable Italian coherts or even Syrians or Britons available and he had to turn to the huge masses of barbarians who gave Roma so much manpower nowadays.
"Ill?" Rutilius thought, as he was led to his rooms on the second floor. "Was the Senator so indisposed that he couldn't be seen at all? This jeopardized his plans, and perhaps he might have forget about a restful interlude at Fabio's and strike out at once to Ravenna to see his father, without giving him time to send any letters to him, breaking the bad news more gently about their Gallic estates after he had time to compose what he would tell him?
When he had bathed, dressed, and felt much better, he was brought a solid meal served with the estate wines, and every possible need was seen to by the household servants. Only then was the Lady Fulvia announced by a lady attendant. He left his chambers and out of respect for her went out into the hall to see her, and without after nod of her intricately coifed head she turned without a word and led him to a more private chamber to speak to him, in a room she used for a chapel, as she was seeking solace in the Christian faith (which he had heard rumor of in Roma), though her husband the Senator was not, being of Rutilius's beliefs about the gods, that they were good enough, as long as they refrained from meddling in men's affairs. Besides, like so many Romans, he favored Epictetus the Stoic, and with a touch or two of Epicurus.
Lady Fulvia smiled, a beautiful woman still in her later years, showing traces of beauty she was renowned for in her youth, despite her graying hair.
"How is your father, is he well?" she first inquired.
Rutilius told her that he was well enough for his age, and still able to attend to some of his duties at the court and in the capital.
Lady Fulvia continued, this time her look changing from the gracious hostess to one of concern and sadness.
"I am afraid, Rutilius, we cannot provide you with much amusement and diversion here, as Secundus is ill for days now and must keep to his bed."
"So I have heard, and you have my condolences," Rutilius replied.
Her hand went up to her emerald necklace and pearls, and played with it distractedly, and then she leaned toward him.
"You can reside here as long here as you like, be assured, and we will make it as comfortable for you as we can--in the circumstances."
"Yes, I have heard the region is in turmoil these days," he said. "In fact my familial estates in Narbo Martius--
But the lady seemed not to have heard and continued, cutting him off.
"Servants are running away from here, one or more every day, would you believe? We offered them freedom if they would stay on longer, but it doesn't seem to have helped, they are so frightened of the--"
She broke off, and Rutilius knew what she was reluctant to say, naming the barbarians that were ravaging Gallia east to west, and north to south.
"Yes, I understand," was all Rutilius could say, as sympathetically as he could.
She looked at him with bewilderment, even shock, as if the unspeakable were beating on the very doors of the house.
"This can't be happening! How can it be happening? Why, all our friends from this area have gone away--for good! We are about the only ones left, and... well, you see what condition we are in."
What could Rutilius say to that admission, it was evident that the lady was most distressed. All her life she had lived in luxury, Roman peace and safety, with every need and whim taken care of by well-trained slaves--but that was all crumbling and vanishing before her eyes. Roman civilization was all she knew, and only barbarism was left to take its place, and where could she find a place without Roma? How could this happen to Romans?
Rutilius could not explain the many causes, nor name the chief malefactors, such as Stilicho, as he knew the Fabios were of a group that believed in sheer expediency, with some of his class too, that even with his ties to Alaric and other Lugians, he was just too good a military commander to be put away. Yet even with Flavius Stilicho still winning major battles and crushing barbarians wherever he could get them to stand in a massed army he could attack, things were not improving, but rather they were falling apart!
"Can't you remove from here in the north, Lady Fulvia, if things become too, er, uncertain in this area? You have some villas and estates in Sicilia, I hear, and surely they would be safe and pleasant enough to reside in during the interim."
She seemed to come back to reality with a jolt. Her pride restored her clear thinking. "No, we cannot move--not at this time! We have a raeda of course, and some postilians and guards enough to accompany us, but the Senator is far too ill. He could never take the journey. So we must remain here, and try to make the best of it."
Rutilius looked at her with misgiving. How could they put off the inevitable? The barbarians were pressing in all around--soon the villas in the environs of Massilia would be sacked and put to the torch, occupied or not. When they finished with those, they might be emboldened to attack Massilia itself. If the Fabios didn't get out now, wouldn't it be too late at another time? It could be a few weeks, or even days, from the looks of things, before law and order disappeared completely from the region. What then? He himself had to leave the Fabios soon. He was planning to stay only the night and leave in the morning, in fact, so he tried to think of a polite way to say his visit would be unceremoniously brief.
But he did not have a chance to say anything about his leave-taking, as the Lady Fulvia saw a maidservant approaching and took the whispered message.
Lady Fulvia brightened, as she glanced at Rutilius.
"I was hoping for this. The Senator sends word that he is feeling a bit better, and wishes that his guest come to his bedside for a proper welcome. Would you? It would mean much to him, as we receive so few guests these days, it will break up the tedium of his day."
"Of course, I will go with you at once, Madame!" Rutilius smiled, and rose with the lady, and she then went ahead of him, a maidservant holding her arm.
They reached the Senator's sickroom at the end of the long corridor, with the rooms facing south to catch the sea breezes.
"Well, your father could do worse in a son!" was his reaction. "Now, what do you think? Are we finished or what? From the looks of things I hear about but don't see any longer, being tied to this confounded couch, the Lugii will soon be sacking everything, including this place of ours, right?
Rutilius couldn't deny it. But he tried to comfort the old, dying man of renown, just to ease his last thoughts a bit. "Well, sire, things may still turn around. A leader always arose in a calamity and victory came over our foes, and we triumphed. After all, sore calamities have before, when it seemed Roma was finished. Remember the Goths when they sacked Roma, then later Carthage, and...!"
The old man shook his fist, weakly, but it was clear he was angry. "Oh, stuff and nonsense! Don't speak such drivel to me, boy! I won't hear it. My wife--yes, use those honeyed words with her, as women can't bear rough and sensible man's talk. But the world of men, now, there we must speak as true men. Now what do you think we should do? I don't have time to indulge in sophistries! I don't believe in the gods, but I do know there is a time appointed for every mortal man, as I feel mine coming soon, in my very bones!"
After a full hour of intensive strategizing, the Senator had enough and sank back speechless, and his wife came and Rutilius left to return, himself drained and tired, to his rooms for the night. p> He sank gratefully into bed, but the night was not a good one for him at all. The shuttered windows shook and banged in a fierce wind blowing up from the south--wind off the howling storms of the deserts of Africa, carrying heat and choking red dust.
He couldn't sleep and tossed on his couch for hours. Then, exhausted, he sank into sleep and a dream came. It was so vivid and powerful it was like he was really living it, and it seemed a matter of life and death what he did in it.
He found himself walking past Roman milestones, a row of them, and they carried dates, the one next to the last carrying the present year. He saw etched on them events too, so he knew the years from those events, even if some dates were well before his time. But each milestone seemed to mark some critical juncture in the progress (or decline, it seemed to him) of Roma's fortunes.
The last milestone was blank. He stared at it, wondering what it might contain if the events were etched there as they were on the others.
"Is this one standing for what will happen? Is this our future? Is this our end? Which is it?
As if in answer, he next saw a cloud appear on the stony path before him. It was a dark little cloud, and then he realized the path was not on level ground but there was a sheer rock wall to the left and a sheer dropoff to the right. He had to go through that cloud if he continued on the path. Truly, there was no turning back for him, for he saw, with a shudder, the ground fall away behind him, leaving an abyss that was seemingly eating the path with each step he took forward!
When at last he struggled out of the cloud, he felt an overwhelming peace, such as he had never experienced before.
And out of the darkness the first thing he saw was the shining arch, which glowed all the more brightly as though it were beckoning to him.
What could it mean? He took his first steps toward it.
Crash! He fell abruptly from the dream into reality, and lay in the darkness, wondering what had happened. Then he heard more sounds, as if glass were breaking outside his door.
He had to find out what was going on, and rose. His bodyguards were in the slave quarters retired for the light, and the moment he opened his door and moved into the hallway, he sorely missed them, for he saw who was making the noise.
A Lugian guard from the gate was taking valuable things he wanted from the walls and niches and putting them into a bag, while dropping the rest to break.
"Put those things back!" Rutilius commanded the thief.
The Lugian saw him, and grunted, as if he were laughing.
He turned back to what he had been doing before, ignoring Rutilius.
Angry, Rutilius gave him a second command to stop, but the guard this time was annoyed enough to walk right up to Rutilius, staring at him with his cold blue eyes.
Rutilius's next words died, choked off in his throat. He could see the Lugian was fully armed and wouldn't mind killing him like he probably killed a fly, if he was annoyed enough.
"I'll inform the Senator and you will be whipped and imprisoned for this!" Rutilius wanted to say, but he didn't dare say it.
The Lugian's expressionless face turned to contempt. "Go back to your room and leave me alone to my business, Roman!" he commanded Rutilius.
Rutilius had never been spoken to like this in his life. He could hardly believe any man would dare to say such a thing to him, much less a savage barbarian! But times had changed! Changed utterly! Now the barbarians were issuing orders to noble Romans, and what could he do?
Feeling all his strength drain out of him, Rutilius never did reach for his sword and defend Roman dignity, as that would have been a mere gesture and cost him his life, he thought.
He turned and slunk back into his room and shut the door. Never in his life had he felt so crushed in dignity, and absolutely powerless in his own country too! It was an effront to his pride and his very sense of manhood, not to mention his Roman lineage and heritage extending back hundreds of years into the days of the grand lost Republic, and even beyond that to the Etruscan kings and overlords of most ancient Roma, it was said in his family.
Inside his quarters, he went to his bed and sat down, and he felt ghastly and wondered what earth he should and could do. Sweat covered him. He had been reduced to powerlessness and lost a major battle with the barbarians, it seemed to him. He had been beaten and disgraced beyond anything he had ever imagined could happen to a noble Roman on his own home soil.
But there was nothing to do, he realized. They had no fear of the Romans anymore, and had thrown off every last restraint fear had put on them. The barbarians had the upper hand, even in the house of the great statesman, Secundus Fabio!
It was best to let it pass, not even say anything. After all, Lady Fulvia had already told him that she knew of the servants' pilfering household things, and allowed it to go uncontested, lest she lose all vital personal service at a time when her ailing husband needed it most.
He could not abruptly take leave now, with Lady Fulvia left alone in the house with barbarians at the very gates and even beginning to ransack the house!
Surely, he thought, he must do whatever she wished to maintain her personal safety, until she could make it to one of her estates in the south or go into a holy place of seclusion, as he heard it was her wish once her husband was gone and she was a widow.
So he waited in his rooms, quietly, and the word came presently later on the day for him to come once the Senator was buried. He was not going to be cremated, as first he had intended. The arrangements were too difficult to be made in the troubled circumstances on the estate, so he had chosen burial instead on his own ground, without a mausoleum of any kind, a simple headstone instead to mark his grave site.
This was quickly arranged. The burial took place, as it should, soon, the next day in fact. Lady Fulvia sent word to Rutilius to accompany her, if he would, to the grave site where she would tender her last sympathies. She said there would be no priests of any kind, as the Senator was no a believer in any religion or rite, and wished only simplicity. So she would honor him in this last will of his. But she could pray for him, she said. She believed he had a soul, though he said he did not. If he had a soul, he once remarked to her, it had to be a donkey's, not a man, for he had bourne the weighty affairs of estate on his broad back many a year without complaint, so he must have a donkey's soul, to have done that, as any mere mortal man would have broken down long before him!
Lady Fulvia did not allow even her own female attendants to go with her to the grave site itself. They followed her only into the back of the garden, where it was mere gras and trees, not cultivated borders of junipers, cyprus, and rare imported trees, along with flowers. The Senator preferred the wild state of that part of the garden, he said, for his last repose. There he would feel the winds sweep in upon the coastlands from off the backside of the Africa desert--and he would feel free like the big-winged birds of Africa coming to roost in Gallia--that is, if he had a soul and could feel any such thing, he always added.
So Rutilius accompanied the widow. She waved him aside, however, and continued the last few feet alone to the grave site, and there she stood, without flowers, for several long moments. Whether she was weeping, no one could say. Then she turned back toward the house, her head bent, and silently they all followed. At the door of the entrance, she paused to speak to Rutilius. "I am ready to leave here. Can we go as soon as possible. We can take the raeda or even the caracca, whichever you think best."
He preferred to ride along with the guards and his own bodyguards, and he could reside in any taverna along the way or in lodges in any town or city they came upon that proved convenient.
This arrangement worked well, except that they were caught in a rainstorm after several days on the road.
In the downpour, he held up his cape to keep off the worst of the wet, but he wasn't doing himself much good. Then he heard his name called from the caracca, which had stopped on the road.
She asked him to take the towels and blankets they had for him to dry himself and make himself warm and comfortable while Lady Fulvia prepared to see him.
Presently, the widow came out alone from her sleeping room. He was somewhat shocked at her changed appearance, though he had expected something. She wore no jewels or gold jewelry, and her silk gown had been replaced with a dark widow's shawl and gown, and her eyes showed darker than usual, without makeup of any kind, but somehow she looked older and wiser and a different woman altogether than the somewhat supercilious, pampered darling of an aged wealthy spouse he had found performing as his hostess just a few days before.
She spoke first, fortunately, as he was at a loss how to begin as a man of his unmarried state with a grieving widow.
Now it was deserted--as this city was stuck in virtual reality, with scarcely an inhabitant to hold down Fort Nisqually that had been moved up to be the centerpiece of Point Defiance Park. He wandered around in the Park and looked in Never Never Land, which included both Mother Goose Land (a children's area with nursery rhyme characters) and the old, reconstructed fort.
Loving the feel of the earth beneath his feet, he retraced his path on the steep streets to the waterfront, which suited him more, being a sea-loving Greek.
A cosmic Carbuncle, the Vampire-Stone, moved from Earth II to Earth I, as things get too hot for it in its old haunts. The Time Portal serves to give it entrance, as it answers the call, not of distressed cells resident in Marty Yeager, freshly killed and hidden in the forepeak where they kept the anchor chains of the Titanic, but of unbelief and faithlessness residing in the statue of Karl Barth (which contained some timecapsuled papers and writings by the author), the famed theologian of the mid-20th century. Vampire-Stone and Karl Barth, it was a passionate same-sex marriage from the first. These two malevolences were meant for each other. Zeroing in on the emanations from the statue and its nearly decayed but lucite-encased writings, the Vampire-Stone found a habitat it could use as a base for exploiting and overwhelming billions of people during the Millennial Reign of Yeshua.
What kind of god was he? The titanium-encased writings were found in an exploratory penetration, and they gave a most complete answer, though it was hard for the Millennialists to comprehend, as the concepts were so foreign and new. That it was all written down in a dead language was difficult and slowed the process, so it was good the Millennium was just that: there was a lot of time to spend on such questions, and the researches themselves lived indefinitely, so they weren't impelled by sickness, age, or other considerations, but could and did spend more than a century on the project. Just as slowly, the meanings were deciphered as the entire text was reviewed by many scholars, and then a translation was made that could be shared with the public that was eager to find out about the discovery.
She had been translating the ancient script into her modern Welsh language, spoken over virtually the whole continent formerly called Europa and once divided, in Karl Barth's time, into France, Spain, Britain (U.K.), Germany, etc. Those nations and the godless empire that had bound them together under the Anti-Christ in one last violent effort to overthrow the rule of the Lord God had long ceased to exist, of course, and their names buried and forgotten hundreds of years ago, beginning at the time when the Messiah returned to rule the Earth at His Second Coming.
But Rowena was not thinking of these dead nations or the Anti-Christ and his prophet who had been cast into hell, so much as this remnant of tidy, ancient script before her, speaking of a defunct but once flourishing "Switzerland", a tiny mountainous country that prized its isolation and freedom among the snow and glacier- capped crags once called the Alps. But the ancient wiseman did not spend much time describing the land of the Swiss, though he lived and wrote there for many years, producing his greatest works. He was called by his own people and times a "theologian." Theologians were a special kind of scholar devoted exclusively to the study of holy books and the Bible in particular, both Old and New Testaments. Karl Barth was one such Bible-scholar, and his writings were focused on certain questions he asked and attempted to answer in many volumes on the general theme of how he thought it was best to approach understand the Word of God, called the Bible. The right perspective, in other words, was what he aimed to lay out in detail, in books that numbered 4 million words in total.
Rowena found all of this intense study and highly nuanced and detailed "theological" argumentation so amazing! That they were so rich in those times that certain men could devote all their time and energy to studying the Word of God--when it was readily available to every one in society, being the most disseminated and published book in those early societies. What drove particular men to become life-long Bible scholars? Was it love of the Word of God, coupled with a driving passion to discover all of its riches of meaning and truth?
She saw little such men, or evidence of such a love for the Bible and a desire to inquire into its meaning and truth in the society around her, indeed, as far as she travelled, which was to the world center and Messianic capital, Jerusalem, every year to attend the prescribed Festival and Feast of Tabernacles.
It was regarded as a tiresome duty by most people nowadays she knew to attend the Festival, as they did it only to escape the well-known penalties for not honoring it--poor harvests, scanty rainfall, disease among the flocks and herds, miscarriages among women and animals, etc. Of course, many authorities now explained such things as purely natural things, a sign of the deteriorating natural order under the iron scepter and rule of the world's overlord and king of kings, Yeshua the Messiah. But she wasn't so sure--her parents had instilled in her an old-fashioned reverence for God and the Bible, and even now, as a graduate from a secularist-leaning School of Exhumation (as digging up the ancient pre-Millennial past cultures was called), she tended to handle any artifact relating to the Bible and divinity with trembling in her hands and a certain awe deep in her heart.
She kept such things to herself of course, as she had written her thesis on subhumation in the acceptable secularist mode, without a single reference to God being the origin of life and the center of civilization on earth, whatever names it was called in its various divisions, or "nation states."
What unnerved her, however, and increasingly made her both excited and feeling as if she had stolen and eaten forbidden non-kosher candy, was the unbridled spirit and voice of post-Christian secularism she found in Barth's writings. It was so much like the secularism that dominated her own time and society, that she felt a kinship, a certain identification, with Barth, even though he was definitely of an alien culture and a dead, condemned, anathematized society and nation--one representing a proscribed, fallen, anti-Messiah civilization that met its total destruction and eradication when Christ set foot the second time on the Mount of Olives just outside the eastern Golden Gate of Jerusalem. Imagine, such cultures had practiced infanticide for profit, while killing elderly people to save the health care costs! How barbaric and inhumane and cruel they were, while constantly calling themselves civilized people of the highest order! It was clear they were beasts in human bodies--but with technology they had risen to heights that made them imagine themselves to be gods! That pride and arrogance caused them to defy Almighty God and the Son, the Messiah of the Jews, precipitating their greatest folly, declaring war on God to the bitter end, their own utter destruction.
So why was she so drawn to them, when they were clearly so depraved and misguided and self-destructive a race and civilization? Why did it excite her and unsettle her at the same time? She was looking at forbidden things, she knew instinctively and also by her childhood training showing her the whites and blacks of rights and wrongs. But yet she identified somehow, feeling and seeing at the same time a likeness to what they said and felt and thought in Barth's time to what people were now daring to feel and think and even speak about openly in society. Jerusalem's hold was weakening, and the powers emanating from the Davidic throne on Mt. Zion had been waning for many years in fact; people were becoming more and more liberated and gradually shaking off Messianic Rule from Jerusalem, it was clearly apparent to all who lived in the Welsh-speaking regions. Someone even had lately suggested people ought not to put so much value on the "slaughterhouse religion" being practiced in Jerusalem and particular in the Messianic Temple! It was a most daring thing to say, and Rowena, like most of her class who heard it, were shocked almost speechless. But once said, it became common currency in an amazingly short time. "Slaughterhouse Religion," that stuck fast to all that signified the Messianic Temple and everything that Jerusalem represented. The sacrifices of animals that went on there, all supposedly depicting for the Millennial Generations the Atonement achieved by the Substitutional Sacrifice in the Death and Crucifixion of the Messiah in 33 A.D. of the previous world order? Well, they--along with the Messianic Atonement for mankind's sin and rebellion of the past world--were now viewd by an ever growing number of the world's peoples and empires as products of a backward, retrogressive, messy "slaughterhouse religion." It was all rather poor taste, in other words, and beneath their refined sensibilities--and they increasingly resented being forced by severe consequences and penalties to take part in them as a civic duty under Messianic World Rule.
Billions of people now thought and felt unashamably and even outspokenly in the same way, that the Slaughter-House Religion centered at Jerusalem was oppressive and out of step with the times, though she, a more timid, old-fashioned sort of person, was gradually learning how to think and feel the same way while fighting a deep-seated tug in the opposite direction.
Why had she volunteered to work on Barth's artifacts? After all, if it didn't suit her, she could have chosen any of a hundred other exhumed periods of pre-Millennial cultures and nations. Why did she center on the Karl Barth find?
Something in the night, perhaps, coming from far stretches of space and stars, had bewitched her and drawn her to Barth? Wild tales of her ancient Welsh culture told of such things--and were passed on from one generation to the next in children's nursery tales.
An educated soul, even so old-fashioned as she was, so "traditionalist", with so much residual respect and reverence for the Messianic customs and Festivals, not to mention the Word of God, the Bible, still ought to be above childish, nursery-tale "bewitchment" or subject to the influences of similarly non-rational things. Or maybe she wasn't as educated and fact-centered as she thought she swast? She had to wonder about this. Perhaps, she ought to have stuck to animal husbandry, her natural gift, which led her to cultivating very fine, highly prized flocks of wool producing sheep, goats, chamois, and eveb some mountain-bred varieties of llama too. Weavers, merchants, and buyers from all over the world all knew her from her various, highly sought after woolens, which she wove herself on her specially hand-crafted looms of her own design. Why then did she leave her trade, which she found so satisfying and akin to her quiet-living disposition, for the vigorous, intellectual pursuit of Exhumation and Study of Ancient Pre-Millennial Cultures?
She couldn't settle on a satisfactory answer. She simply followed where she felt impelled to go. There was a drive in her that weaving and animal husbandry could not fulfil, and she thought it might be in mental development, study of ancient texts, and discovering just what the dead, ancient civilization had to teach those who followed.
Well, she ought to be happy then, at her work translating the ancient German of the Barthian texts into modern Welsh--correct? No, she was not happier. She was excited, even tantalized, but not happier. It was unnerving, unsettling, the further she delved into the meanings Barth was attempting to convey. Yet she couldn't stop, though her instincts all cried to her increasingly to stop and put the work away, let someone else have it who wanted it more than she did, but who would that be? She herself was more passionate about Barth than anybody else in the field at present. The circle of fellow Exhumers and Studiers was small and select, and she was ideal for the task--and so the Chief Exhumer had given her what she requested: the main body of work on the writings to translate, as much and as long as she wished to do the work. Others could come in to follow wherever she chose to leave off, it was understood, but she found she could not leave off. The writing was gripping her very soul-- tighter and tighter! She felt a Greater Power reaching out and the long, ghostly, pale, bluish fingers of the past, the Deadman's own bloodless hands, were digging into her and squeezing the very life out of her--yet she could not get free or drop the work, she was forced to continue, though she was growing very frightened, feeling it might well kill her before long if she didn't make a violent effort and somehow wriggle out of its vise-like grip and escape.
Was this what the ancients of the lost, dead civilizations before the Millennial Kingdom Reign called "addiction" or even "psychotic fixation" or the more vernacular "madness"? Whatever it was, she was helpless in its clutches, she found, and sensed it was too late to get free. Strangely, she no longer cared very much about her freedom. This attraction had turned into an intoxication, even to the point of rapture. In other words, Rowena was "hooked bad."
She knew children loved to climb their backs, and the beasts wouldn't shake them off, or grow annoyed and put their big feet on them. But still, it was not safe to do so, as the beasts uually had small heads for their immense body size, and that meant their eyes were small and their vision limited. Try and explain that to fun-loving little boys! She knew they would always be playing with the Grazers, no matter what their parents said--and take their chances one day the poor beast wouldn't see what he put his foot on. It was tragic when that happened, but it wasn't the beast's fault, and so they just had to be more careful to warn the children not to take such chances and hope they obeyed.
She herself was glad she hadn't children, and remained unmarried so long. What would she do with children? He loved her animals and now her work as an Exhumer. Everything she had done previously to Exhuming seemed inconsequental in fact. Barth was everything to her! Everything! She couldn't get enough of his wonderful philosophy! It was so liberating to her mind and soul. What puzzled her was how this spiritual giant could be writing so many books, and yet the world he lived in took such little notice. If only they had given him the attention he deserved! Wouldn't their world have been much better for it, and possibly have escaped destruction? Now it remained for her to bring him forth for people to read and learn all the things he taught.
What things? a voice seemed to ask her as she turned her feet toward the site of the diggings.
"Why, for instance, that God is infinitely transcendent, infinitely beyond human grasp and understanding. That thought alone could be the subject for an entire volume! It was a most revolutionary thought. It was earth-shaking, in fact. Imagine such a God as Barth conceived Him-- it would liberate the whole population of earth from the idea that God could be touched and spoken to and whom they needed to deal with on a human level. All that was quite impossible, and unnecessary. God was infinitely removed from humanity, being infinite being. Man was limited being, and therefore that was all he could possibly know--finitude and the humanly knowable world. There was a gap between God and man that nothing could bridge--nothing! Even God could not bridge it--as then he would cease to be less than Infinite Deity.
This thrilling thought took her all the way back to her quarters. She paused before going in her private office to touch the face of Barth, and the coolness of the stone made her tingle with joy. How much she owed this great man! He was setting her free from centuries and centuries of shackled thought and bondage to a knowable, personal, demanding Godhead. Now she could exist on her mundane human plane, and God would exist on his infinite plane, and she could contemplate Him, while remaining absolutely free, without being forced to worship and praise and give offerings and make the yearly pilgrimage to the Messianic Temple in Jerusalem at the the Feast of the Tabernacles.
Free as she now was, could she refuse to go? What would happen if she didn't? She had always gone out of duty and fear, but now she wanted to exercise her newfound freedom. After all, her intellectual integrity demanded that she not compromised what she discovered: man is a free agent in the universe, created so by God.
Which is the second in a line of stars
That seem a sword beneath
a belt of three,
I never gazed upon it but I dreamt
Of some vast charm concluded
in that star
To make fame nothing. . . .
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson,
“Merlin and Vivien”
Given enough rope, the current "administration" in the White House is
hanging itself with its own wanton abuses of power. The best solution to the
hijacking of the U.S. government, economy, the states, and society by a Karl Marx-loving group of displaced Windy City politicos is not to
shorten the rope now, but to give them all the rope they want and they will make a big enough
noose to hang them all themselves!
Chief Counsel to the Obama, he stands next to the God of Hope and Change, and his name means, "God With Us." How appropriate is that, except for one small hitch, this is no God by any stretch of the imagination. Their latest power grab is to take over the Internet services so they can suppress free speech on it and regulate the content as they please! Such hope and change they are bringing us--it is beyond description.