Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2220692-Babd-Catha
by jolanh
Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Fantasy · #2220692
Just me playing in the sandbox.
Pendragon Alliance Council Hall Albion, 250 AD

Tribune Antonius Tagma, entered and stood before the Pendragon Alliance Leaders. Each leader sat in front of the banner of their people Theodosius of the Romans, Boudicca III queen for the unified people Of Icenia, Nechtan king of the Picts, Vercingetorix of the Gaul, and Magnus the Good King of the Unified Norseman.

The air smelled of smoke from the fireplace, it crackled, as the council members murmured among themselves. Even with the fire going Antonius could feel the draft through his breeches, and tunic.

Antonius was already bored, “I assume you brought me here for a reason?”, he asked with disdain. His cultured tone challenged the authority he stood before.

The red haired Boudicca nodded, “Yes we heard of your latest victory over Marcus Aurelius, and his fire brigadiers. We would like to offer you a new position”, she said as her eyes roved over the handsome Roman Soldier.

Antonius scoffed and crossed his arms, “By new position you mean, training green soldiers and sending them off to die?”, he asked impatiently, the first time he stood before the council it was exactly what they had him doing.

Theodosius glared at his countryman, his gold leaf crown encircled his head, “That is enough Tribune, you joined the army, you do as you are told, end of discussion”, his hands smacked the table, the noise echoed around the chamber.

Antonius laughed sarcastically, and his fists clenched, “The last time I took the word of some leader at face value my wife and Children were killed. I was almost killed as well. So you will excuse me for my distrust”

Theodosius went to speak, but Nechtan put his arm down, his painted blue face looked out of place among the pink of the others, “What if we give you the best and brightest soldiers with the latest equipment from our finest tinkerers, like Damocles IV, and Merlin. Could we interest you then?”, he said, Antonius liked the Pictish king the best, he still loved to get his hands dirty once in a while.

Antonius cocked his head to the side, “I’m listening, but that does not mean I am going to take the position. I joined the army to kill Spartans, not be a political errand boy”, he was definitely interested now, but chances are who they picked for the unit was all wrong. Politicians were about what looked good on paper not what was practical.

Vercingetorix smiled as he stroked his beard, “We have just completed the Scald Crow, and she can be run by four people we chose you to lead Tribune. The finest design by Damocles”, he said smiling reassuringly.

Antonius sighed dejectedly, “just completed” could mean many things. In his experience it meant there were a lot of bugs to work out, and was more likely to get them killed than the enemy.

“Merlin also has worked his magic into new weapons, we assure these ones will turn the tide of battle, I tested a couple myself”, Magnus said with great approval, he played with the braids in his beard, as he poured ale into his golden drinking horn.

This was good news, “I will take your word for it Magnus, I know your people do not give out such compliments easily”, he said bowing to the king. The Norse were known for their Ulfberht metal, rumour had it armor made from the stuff could survive an exploding arrow. Not that Antonius wanted to find out first hand.

Theodosius, brought the discussion back to the nature at hand, “So Tribune Tagma do we have have our leader for the Babd Catha?”, he asked in a tone that demanded he be obeyed.

Boudicca smiled at him, her green eyes stared into his, “Please Tribune, nobody has the record or the experience to do the job” she gave him her most dazzling smile.

Since the death Catherine, and Cyrus, female attention had not held any interest for Antonius, however he played along, “I have the right to replace any troops I feel unfit for the job?”, he asked.

The council looked at each other and nodded, “I assure you Tribune ours is the finest we can provide. We held a tournament to see who would get the job”, Nechtan said honestly.

Antonius smiled, if the Picts were holding contests for the job, he would have at least one competent ally, “I have no reason to doubt your word good king”, he said with a grin when do I get to meet my men.”

Nechtan smiled, “I will take you now”, he said smiling. Theodosius glared at him but held his silence.

Antonius nodded, “I eagerly await to meet them and see the new equipment”, he said, if not to see how much work I have ahead of me, he thought.

As they stepped out into the cobblestone street, he could smell the wares of food stands, and sewage. Londinium was the fastest growing city in the alliance. They stopped at stand so he could feel the smooth tanned hides, he needed some new clothes made. He placed an order, and they carried on their way. He remembered the streets of Athens, and the sights and smells, he sighed heavily.

“I wish Theodosius was more interested in getting Romans home”, Antonius said, with heavy heart, his face marked with grief. “He seems more interested in holding onto power than anything else”, he added, as he stopped to drop some coins into a beggars cup.

Nechtan tried to comfort him, his blue face sympathetic, and his arm on the soldier, “I wish you were the leader of the Romans, at least you would do something for your people. Theodosius, is a political animal”, he said, as they entered what was now called, The Anglesey College of Natural Philosophy.

The students there were primarily male but since Females could become druids, they could become Natural Philosophers as well. Colleen Banba, was responsible for finding new ways to encourage growth from soil. Kait Mcdonnoch, distilled plants essence to make effective medicines. Antonius had a lot of respect for their Celtic allies, because they were giving everything they had.

The interior of the college was that of polished wood, with the exception of greenhouse area, which was dirt of course. They passed by people wearing their philosophers robes, and students hurried to class with their scrolls in hand. Several looked stressed out after reading their evaluations.

They came to a door that said, “Weapon studies”, Nechtan knocked, “Merlin are you in? I have brought the tribune with me, like you asked”, he asked loudly before they entered, “He says he thinks better naked. To each his own, but I don’t need to see his dangling bits”, he said with a chuckled

Antonius chuckled in spite of himself, “Yes I think I would have a hard time taking him seriously if I saw little Merlin standing at attention”, and then he laughed, as did Nechtan.

Merlin opened the door, his hair snowy white hair was poofed out for some reason, and he was wearing a conical hat of old with stars on it. His bushy eyebrows looked like white caterpillars walking across his forhead, and his beard looked wiry, and Antonius could have sworn he smelled burnt hair.

“Ahhh tribune, so good to meet to you in person finally...What is with those faces?”, he asked as he opened the door wide. Merlin had answered the door clothed, he had just forgotten to button it up the robe, and now little Merlin was giving everyone a good show.

Nechtan, and Antonius were laughing, “Guid gear comes in sma’ bulk,”, Nechtan laughed letting his thick accent shine. His golden torc bounced against his neck.

Antonius laughed, he knew what the Pictish king meant, “Yes it looks like an acorn on a bed of straw doesn’t it”, he said trying compose himself, but found himself laughing.

Merlin glared at them both, and then went red, once he noticed his robed was undone. He furiously closed it, “Haud your wheesht, it was wee bit oorlich this morning”, he said indignantly, as he ushered them in amidst the laughter of students.

“Aye right”, Antonius said trying to stifle his laughter, “Can we keep this in Latin, I am still learning how to speak your language”, he said honestly

Merlin nodded, “Of course”, he said as he pulled a lever, and the lights came on.

The smell of olive oil, charcoal, vinegar and electricity filled the air. The work space was filled with tables of blades in various stages of being made. On another were curious small glass vials with copper and zinc rods in them with metal tops and bottoms. There was a blacksmith forge in the back, where two rather large Norseman were busy hammering away.

Merlin motioned the two men to follow him, “I have something really great to show you”

Nechtan smiled, “I think you already did and it was underwhelming”, he said and started laughing anew. His brightly colored tunic shook with his laughter.

“Yer heids full o, mince your majesty”, Merlin said bitterly, as Antonius tried very badly to hide a smile. Merlin grabbed one of the curious jars, and headed to the weapon rack, and grabbed a gladius style blade, He pulled the pommel off, and dropped the vial in. “The vial holds an electrical charge, thanks to the specially made vinegar, and the metal rods in it”, he said a small lever appeared the moment he put the pommel back on.

They followed him to a stand with a suit of Spartan armor, “This blade is forged in Ulfberht metal, mixed with damascus steel”, he said, as he swung the blade back. “Now watch”, he said as the blade whistled through the air in a deadly arc the blade sheared the metal armor in two. This was not the end, as the blade bit into the wood, Merlin used his fingers to pull the lever down, and lightning erupted out of the tip of the blade, and the stand lit on fire.

Antonius was impressed, “The power of Zeus himself at my fingertips, and it sheared the armor like parchment. How many times can it be used?”, there had to be a catch to such power.

Nechtan smiled, “I would like to know as well, at first I thought the Nordic lout was just blethering, when he told me about it. Having seen it with my own eyes, I cannot help but be impressed”, he said, with wonder.

Merlin bowed in appreciation, “It can be done up to five to seven times depending on the quality of the vial. We tested it on fully loaded fire brigadier armor. It can cause small explosions, igniting the unfortunate person wearing it”, he paused enjoying the seriousness of his companions, “We call them Claimoh Solais, named after the Goddess Danu’s blade, rather fitting”, he added with a self satisfactory smile.

Nechtan nodded studying the blade closely, “A wise choice tinkerer, now what of armor. I promised this man the best equipment, and I hope I have not given cause for false hope”, he said expectantly.

Merlin seemed pleased, and gestured them to another area filled with armor, Antonius was underwhelmed to see standard legionnaire equipment, until Merlin swung the blade and it bounced off of it.
Merlin caressed like the thigh of a woman, “I know it looks unimpressive but that is the point, the metal mixture has been named Mithril, you can lift the whole thing with your pinky finger”, he said proudly.

Antonius could see one problem, metal conducted heat, and Greek fire burned forever, “So how do you solve heating problems?”, he asked, crossing his arms, he figured the old tinkerer had an answer.

Merlin smiled and pulled black block of wood, and set it on the table, “Ironwood, we have used Ironwood backing in the armor. It is extremely hard to light even Greek fire has difficulty doing so”

Nechtan nodded, “Merlin you are truly a scholar of our time”, he said as he pushed Antonius on the back.

Merlin flushed with pleasure, and seemed bashful, “Just you wait until you see what Damocles has wrought with his crew. I promise you it is far beyond what you have seen here”, he said as he began to disrobe once more.

Nechtan, and Antonius left with fits of laughter, remembering their earlier encounter with little Merlin.

They headed down the streets where the brothels were, and waved to the harlots as they passed. The smell of saltwater filled their nostrils, seagulls were singing their songs of the ocean, or were they arguing over fish guts? It was hard to tell sometimes. They came to the shipyard, where a young layman quickly sped off to get their host.

Damocles was was far different from Merlin his appearance was neat and clean cut, and his black hair was trimmed in Caesarian style. He wore the traditional goatee, and workmans tunic, with heavy breeches. He also had a mask with colored glass on his head. He spoke impeccable Latin, and Antonius felt a certain pride as he shook his hand.

“Tribune, nice to meet you. I hear you serve our cause well. I am only hoping to be half as useful to the cause”, he said excitedly. As he motioned them forward he gestured to various biremes and tiremes being built, “As you can see everything is in order, your Majesty”

Nechtan made a face, “Do call me Nechtan, my subjects do. I accept it from Merlin because he is eccentric, you are man well within your faculties. I serve my people not the other way around”, he said seriously, as they walked by men hammering and sharing jokes.

Antonius sniffed the air, and smell of wet cedar filled his lungs, a soft wind drifted over the ocean and hit him in the most pleasurable way. For half an instant he was on a picnic with Catherine, the day he proposed. He remembered the softness of her lips, the tenderness of her care...

Damocles snapped his fingers, “Tribune are you okay?”, he asked breaking Antonio’s reverie.

Antonius shook his head, “No, I was just remembering something pleasant, before it all went wrong”, he said sullenly.

Damocles nodded, “If it makes you feel any better I had to leave everything behind, including those I care about. I couldn’t tell anyone either, the Spartans would have killed them all children included. Its why I work so hard, even if I can’t return home, my hope is our people will one day” he said with pride.

Antonius was proud to have met this man now, “Well said my tinkering friend, well said”, as they came to the great doors. They were heavy wooden things, and men who them coming immeadiately began to open them. They groaned as they swung open.

Damocles stood in front of them, like some thespian he flourished his hand, “Gentleman I present to you my finest work, a vessel worthy of the term vae victis, a machine worthy of kings and lords, I give you the Scald Crow” he said grandly, as he bowed.

On metal stand was a two to four person bireme, it was metal plated, yet had no sail, and there were six wheels on it. As he got closer, he could see they were double width, and looked like something used to power a windmill. The bowsprit was a massive crows head with a great metal beak.

Antonius was impressed kind of, “I have no idea how to sail, I am supposed to command this?”, he asked dubiously.

Damocles eagerly strode up the ramp and into the cabin which was dead center, “It was designed so any idiot could drive it” he said as he waited at the top, “Well come on then, I promise you it gets better” he said.

Nechtan nodded and walked up, with Antonius in tow, “How fast does she go?”, he asked as he looked around the clean cabin with two steering wheels.

“We have no official way of clocking speed as of yet, but one of our more genius builders said it can do about forty knots at top speed, without sail. With sail it is faster than a horse, and she comes with reverse. He said as he pointed to a lever in the center of the cabin.

Antonius was beginning to like this assignment better and better, “Reverse? Even the Spartans have not figured that out yet, What about weapons?” he asked wondering what else his countryman had concoted.

Damcoles had them follow him on the freshly planed deck, he point to two small catapults and two larger ballista, and levers, “We have catapults capable of throwing stones, or Greek firebombs, about thirty of them. The ballista pull themselves

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